Antisemitism on the Rise in South Caucasus Nation of Georgia, New Tolerance and Diversity Institute Report Says

The vandalized wall of a Jewish cemetery in Tbilisi, Georgia, before and after it was cleaned. Photo: Israeli House.

March 17, 2022

Antisemitism is on the rise in the South Caucasus nation of Georgia, according to a new report published by the Tbilisi-based Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI).

“As Russia wages war in Ukraine, the step-up in the activity of pro-Russian violent extremist groups has taken an alarming dimension in Georgia,” the report said. “Appalling incidents of antisemitism have been reported. Also, several Georgian Orthodox clergymen have made hateful antisemitic statements that echo the messages coming from the Russian Patriarchate.”

The report noted that “unidentified fascist groups have launched an alarming antisemitic campaign against the late Vitaly Safarov, a young human rights defender killed on ethnic and antisemitic grounds in 2018, and his family.”

Earlier this month, the report said, “Vitaly Safarov’s mother became a target of antisemitic hate assault via social networks.”

“She received several phone messages of fascist and xenophobic nature from unidentified senders,” it added. “In parallel, a number of antisemitic profiles and pages have appeared on Facebook, using photos of deceased Safarov and spreading fascist, antisemitic messages, including calls to annihilate Jews.”

The report also detailed an antisemitic vandalization incident last month in which Nazi swastikas were spray-painted by unidentified perpetrators on the wall of the Jewish cemetery in Tbilisi’s Isani-Samgori District.

Furthermore, the report said, “Antisemitic statements of high-ranking clergymen of the Georgian Orthodox Church have taken an alarming dimension since 2020… Neither the Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarchate nor the government adequately criticized and condemned those antisemitic statements.”

On March 6th, for example, Orthodox Church clergyman Khareba Chikovani shared a Facebook post in which the author wrote, “Many of you must have watched the interview with a Jewish billionaire politician Igor Berkut recorded in 2017, in which he speaks about a project, New Israel. According to the project, the population of Ukraine shall be cut down to 5 million. Numerous discussions of this theory can be found on YouTube (old videos). What a coincidence. Zelensky is also a Jew and has close ties with Masons.”

And on February 27th, Giorgi Samsonadze, a Mtskheta-Tbilisi Eparchy priest, shared a Facebook post blaming the conflict in Ukraine on Jews with “curls.”

“In parallel with Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the Kremlin actively employs soft power — the Orthodox Church, media, and various civic groups to spread its propaganda messages,” the TDI report said. “Against these developments, openly violent, pro-Kremlin, xenophobic groups in Georgia, enjoying impunity despite violent acts committed by them, have stepped up their activity and pose a serious threat to the state security, sovereignty, and Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia.”

For more information on the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI), please visit: tdi.ge/en