The report includes results of the monitoring of the assemblies and demonstrations of far-right groups from December 2020 to June 2021. It analyzes the trends identified during the monitoring and outlines key findings.
In the light of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during 2021, attempts to radicalize ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis living in Georgia through disinformation narratives coming from abroad were obvious. Disinformation was most often spread by far-right nationalist groups.
Imperfect and flawed policies in multiethnic regions
The monitoring revealed imperfect and deficient state policies in multiethnic regions. For the purpose of preventing conflict on ethnic grounds, no due attention has been paid to the investigation of alleged hate motives when a cross was stolen from the Gagi Fortress or when it was damaged after re-erection. Instead, the Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an investigation under Article 177 (theft) and Article 187 (damage or destruction of other person's property) of the Criminal Code of Georgia.
No attention was paid to the investigation of alleged hate motives in these cases. The Ministry of Internal Affairs completely ignored a number of indicators of intolerance during the investigation.
The monitoring also revealed a number of attempts by far-right extremists to fuel tensions with ethnic Azeri populations in Dmanisi and Marneuli municipalities. Representatives of the groups and their leaders personally visited these regions and tried to organize provocations and/or to cover events in the context of extreme narratives. On May 17, following the Dmanisi confrontation, the Georgian March, which arrived in the region immediately, was mainly engaged in fueling escalation. Alt-Info, an online media platform of the ultranationalist group, covered the event in a biased manned, in the context of ethnic controversy. The leaders of the group pointed out that "the ethnic Azerbaijani population pose a threat to the unity of the country and it is necessary for the Christian and Georgian populations to show a similar unity."
In connection with the Dmanisi events, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in its statement of 17 May 2021, actually confirmed the existence of stakeholders who were trying to artificially escalate a controversy into an ethnic conflict. Despite this, the State did not respond properly to these groups.
The passive role of the State in multiethnic regions and the deliberate neglect of existing problems hinders social unity and integration, promotes confrontation between various groups and provokes retaliatory attacks. Without proper response from the authorities, the spread of extreme narratives and radicalization deepens confrontation between local communities and creates serious threats of escalation.
Attempts to discredit the movement against the Namakhvani HPP
As in previous years, during the reporting period, far-right extremists sought to increase the number of their supporters by manipulating sensitive topics. In this regard, the activities of far-right extremists in connection with the Namakhvani HPP project are worth noting. On May 23, after the relocation of the Namakhvani HPP protests to Tbilisi, Guram and Alexandre Palavandishvili permanently attended rallies against the construction of the Namakhvani HPP, where they insulted and physically assaulted members of civil movements and LGBT community. These incidents facilitated the distancing of some supporters from the protests, sparked dissonance among them and critical views about the movement in the civil society.
* * *
Given the risks and dangers posed by the activities of far-right groups, monitoring of these groups remains of particular interest for the Democracy Research Institute. DRI has also been monitoring the activity of far-right radical groups on social media since the end of last year.
The Democracy Research Institute continues to monitor the finances and donors of the far-right violent group Conservative Movement/Alt-Info. In August 2023, the radical movement received only one donation.
Artificial barriers to getting a pass push people to pay bribes. This corrupt mechanism is a joint economic activity of the local municipal and security services and is a heavy burden on the economically poor Georgian population.