By ANI UDZILAURI, First Secretary of the Embassy of Georgia in Greece.
On May 26, 1918, exactly 105 years ago, Georgia announced its independence.
It was the first political step towards independence after the country’s whole century long colonial regime.
The Georgian National Council governed the Republic until February 1919 and then it was replaced by a Constituent Assembly.
The 1919 elections of the Constituent Assembly of Georgia were significant in many regards, though especially notable is the application of universal enfranchisement – Georgian election legislation granted frenchise to each citizen, regardless of gender and origin. Greek minorities, were actively involved in the Republic`s political life. Democratic Group of Georgian Hellenes contested the elections. Greek Alexander Mikhailov was a member of the National Council of Georgia. He entered the council through the ethnic minority quota as a result of the law adopted on 13 September of the previous year. It is worth mentioning that the well known political figure Ioannis Pasalidis was a member of the Georgian ruling Social-Democratic Party. He was elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1919. Ioannis Pasalidis’ signature adorns the Deed of Declaration of the Independence of Georgia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was established on 26 May 1918, the same day Georgia declared its independence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the main foreign policy entity of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. It held diplomatic negotiations on behalf of the government. The Ministry was accountable to the Parliament.
The main concern of the First Republic of Georgia was to gain the recognition and support of the European countries, which was not an easy task, considering the political reality of that period and the international developments in Europe. The political elite of the country realized that, without the support of Europe, it would be impossible to counter empowered Russia. The foreign service of Georgia worked hard to achieve these goals and, in most cases, succeeded. Therefore, the establishment of diplomatic representations in powerful European countries was of paramount importance for the Democratic Republic of Georgia as a newly-established independent country.
The leadership of the Republic of Georgia began to cooperate with the Kingdom of Greece in 1919, with the aim of recognizing its independence. The head of the first diplomatic mission in Athens was Alexandre (Sasha) Mdivani. His office was located in the Hotel Grande Bretagne on Syntagma square of Athens.
Alexandre Mdivani, during his short term in Athens, had dynamic cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the Greek Foreign Minister personally. Georgian diplomat submitted to the Minister a memorandum, consisting of 28 pages, which was compiled by himself and translated into French, with AN essential analysis of the history of Georgia, underling its favorable and at the same time challenging geographical location, emphasizing Georgia's ties with the West and the reasons why the rest of the states, Western and Eastern, had to recognize its independence. He warmly requested the support of the Greek Kingdom, as well as of the Ambassadors’ of other states, accredited in Athens, holding frequent meetings, as evidenced by the interesting archival material of the Historical and Diplomatic Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece as well as the National Archive of Georgia.
The same year, in the summer of 1919, the first Greek diplomatic representation was established in Georgia.
Ioannis Stavridakis was appointed as the Head of the Political Mission of the Kingdom of Greece in Tbilisi. The Greek diplomats’ main task was to solve the issues concerning the Greeks of Pontus. As evidenced by the archival documents, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia welcomed the Greek diplomat with honor.
The Greek diplomat emphasized to the Georgian minister that he appreciated the long-standing ties that the two peoples enjoyed since ancient times, expressed his hope that the decision of the Paris Conference would be positive for the people of Georgia, expressed his willingness to contribute to the establishment of mutually beneficial relationship. He also expressed gratitude for the favorable environment that existed for the Greeks in Georgia.
The Greco-Turkish war (1919-1921) increased the interest of the Greek government in the Caucasus region.
In the same period, alongside with the Political Mission, headed by Ioannis Stavridakis', Elevtherios Venizelos appointed Nikos Kazantzakis Director in the newly formed Ministry of Welfare, charged for the repatriation of Pontic Greeks from Caucasus region. Nikos Kazantzakis arrived in Georgia in 1919.
At the end of the 19th century, Greek consulates were established in Tbilisi, Batumi, Poti and Sokhumi.
Despite the positive mood and readiness for cooperation between the two countries, unfortunately, in 1921 the Republic of Georgia ceased to exist. The first Democratic Republic of Georgia existed for three incomplete years (1918-1921), as the occupation of Soviet Russia brought to the end the existence of democratic country. Despite its short lifespan, Georgia had a number of significant achievements. Its legacy left valuable experience to the modern Georgian state and became the subject of pride.
On April 9, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia declared the restoration of Independence of Georgia on the basis of the Independence Act of May 26, 1918.
Since 1991, Greek-Georgian relations gained a new impetus. And the relations between our two countries continue to be characterized by friendliness and good spirit. Greece was among the first countries to recognize Georgia’s independence in 1992 and to re-establish diplomatic ties with Tbilisi, which was shortly followed by the re-opening of the embassies in both capitals.
Today our relationship is a perfect example of how modern European democracies should cooperate. The two states have signed several important and mutually beneficial agreements in all fields of activities – financial, economic, cultural, educational, security, transport, marine and etc.
Greece continues its firm support with regards to Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Greece supports Georgia’s European aspirations.
The official visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, H.E. Mr. Ilia Darchiashvili to Athens held this year, on February 14-15 and his very constructive meetings with his Greek counterpart, H.E. Mr. Nikos Dendias in a particularly friendly atmosphere, as well as with the President of the Hellenic Republic, H.E. Mrs. Katerina Sakellaropoulou, is another clear proof of out two countries strong cooperation.
Undoubtedly, the presence of the Diplomatic Missions of our countries, as well as the presence of Greek minority in Georgia as well as the Georgian Diaspora in Greece played and continue to play very significant role in strengthening the cordial bilateral relations between Georgia and Greece.