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Georgians Wary of Turkey’s Rising Influence in Batumi

A Turkish restaurant in Batumi. A section of the city’s historic center, once an Armenian quarter, is now dominated by Turkish restaurants, bars, and teahouses. Far more Turkish than Georgian is heard, and restaurant touts do not bother with any other language. (Photo: Joshua Kucera)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a speech last October in Rize, less than 100 miles from the Georgian border, to justify Turkey’s military actions in Syria and Iraq. During the address, he evoked the Ottoman Empire, arguing that Ankara’s interests coincide, at least emotionally, with those of the Golden Porte.
 
“Our physical boundaries are different from the boundaries of our heart,” he said. By way of example, he asked: “Is it possible to separate Rize from Batumi?”
 
The mention of Batumi, Georgia’s second-largest city, received scant attention from most of the world. But in Georgia it was cause for alarm about what, exactly, was meant by “boundaries of the heart.”
 

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Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at EurasiaNet, and author of The Bug Pit.

Georgians Wary of Turkey’s Rising Influence in Batumi

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