Citizenship and Labour Migration in Georgia

This project is devoted to the investigation, documentation, and analysis of citizenship and labour migration in Georgia from a social anthropological perspective. During the 1990s the Georgian Republic experienced an economic depression, which resulted in part from the collapse of trade relations with the other Soviet republics and in part from the inadequate domestic and foreign policy of the newly elected leaders. This process has severely affected the agriculture and industry of the country. Furthermore, the ethnic conflicts in the early 1990s resulted in the closure of the borders to the north and made the export of agricultural products to Russia and other post-Soviet republics impossible. Members of collective farms became private owners, at least formally. But people had no means of using their new private property, either because it was difficult to become businessmen, farmers and shareholders in a short period of time or because they did not have sufficient technical, financial and material resources to commit themselves to production. There was a high risk of failure due to the lack of information about the market economy and prices. Some people were able to exploit their resources; others rented, sold or just left them behind and tried to find new ways of earning a living. Because there were few economic opportunities, the most common practice was migration either out of the country or to the capital for petty trading.

This project focuses on the effects that these migration processes have on citizenship regimes in Georgia. If large population segments are leaving the country, how does the state respond and how do the various consequences of migration influence state-society, ideas about citizenship and relations among citizens?

The project deals with several aspects of citizenship as they have been distinguished by T. H. Marshall. First, civil citizenship refers basically to the formal aspects of citizenship, which can be assessed by looking at the processes through which non-ethnic Georgian residents acquire Georgian citizenship and at the legal framework within which Georgian emigrants live and work in host societies. Political citizenship is concerned with the kinds of attitudes people have towards participation in political processes and with various forms of participation, including all voluntary activities that are intended to influence political decisions on different levels of the political system (e.g., party membership or electoral campaigning as well as strikes and demonstrations). Social citizenship refers especially to citizens’ rights to social services. Is the Georgian state able to guarantee social security for its citizens? How precisely does the provisioning of social services function? And what public measures have been taken for people who lost their jobs in the course of privatisation?

The field site in which these issues will be examined is the Imerety region in the district of Tkibuli. This district is especially interesting because of the high rate of out-migration. According to official statistics, in the district of Tkibuli the population decreased by 35.1 % from 1989 to 2002. The economy of this district is based largely on the coal industry, agriculture and health resorts, but the corresponding facilities and resources are unused or underused and in poor condition. Therefore, many people feel that they have no choice but to leave the district. The project will explore the relationship between these economic and social changes, migration processes and developments in citizenship regimes.

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