BST Caucasian House Project Breaks Down Georgian-Russian Barriers
The 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, placed an even heavier burden on an already strained relationship. As relations between the two countries deteriorated, xenophobic attitudes began to surface, propped up by mass propaganda campaigns in both nations.
To counteract the fallout from the war and promote open dialogue between the sides, the Black Sea Trust (BST) concentrated its cross-border program on bilateral projects between Georgia and Russia. In September 2011 BST awarded the Centre for Cultural Relations - Caucasian House a grant to implement the Georgian-Russian Young Professionals Dialogueproject, aimed at future cooperation between Georgian and Russian young professionals.
The organizers put on a 10-day Georgia study tour for the Russian professionals, which were made up of a diverse group of journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, civil activists, and NGO representatives. During the visit the Russian participants, joined their counterparts from Georgia and discussed the challenges facing the two countries, as well as ways of solving them. The group also met experts, civil sector and media representatives, and visited key offices and institutions of the Georgian government.During these meetings the participants received information on current political and social developments in Georgia, commented on implemented reforms and heard feedback on the processes. However, it was the Georgia anti-corruption measures and police and education system that turned out to be of particular interest to the Russian participants and became the most discussed topics during the meetings with various stakeholders.
The project drew a lot of interest from the Georgian public and received extensive media coverage from the Georgian media. In addition, Russian participants dedicated many articles and blog entries to their study tour to Georgia.
To capitalize on newly-made contacts and keep the process going, the young professionals formed a platform for exchanging ideas and receiving additional information on current social and political processes in Russia and Georgia. Furthermore, working groups formed during the project framework continue to develop shared ideas and action plans aimed at the promotion of Georgian-Russian relations and more in-depth dialogue within the societies of the two countries.