Rooted in long-standing historical, religious and economic differences, Georgian animosity toward neighboring Turkey, Georgia’s fifth-largest investor, appears to be growing in the Black Sea region of Achara. Recently, politicians eager for votes in Georgia’s October 1 parliamentary elections have brought the sentiments to a steady boil.
The number of Turkish citizens entering Georgia nearly tripled during the first six months of 2012 (658,000) compared with the same period in 2011 (252,000), according to the Turkish consulate in Batumi.
For many, Batumi, a port city of about 125,000 people that has undergone a no-holds-barred beautification campaign, is their first port of call.
Turkish families stroll in groups along the city’s picturesque seaside boulevard or shop in Turkish fashion boutiques in the historic district, while Turkish gamblers throng the casinos.
But their presence, for some Georgian politicians and voters, is not always welcomed.
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Molly Corso is a freelance journalist who also works as editor of Investor.ge, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia. Paul Rimple is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.