For many in Georgia, Russia’s annexation Crimea is reigniting fears about separatism rooted in ethnic conflict and Kremlin meddling. But now Georgians aren’t just worrying about the breakaway entities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, they also are concerned about the loyalty of the predominantly ethnic-Armenian region of Samtskhe-Javakheti.
While locals dismiss separatism concerns as nonsense, some say the speculation on the issue is indicative of a failure on the Georgian central government’s part to address complaints of the country’s Armenian-speaking minority in Samtskhe-Javakheti, which is roughly a three-hour drive south of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Officials contend progress has been made, but concede more can be done on the inclusivity issue.
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Paul Rimple is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi. Justyna Mielnikiewicz is a freelance photojournalist also based in Tbilisi.