Russia has always remained and will remain “committed to centuries-old tradition of good neighborly and friendly relations with its close Georgian people,” Russia’s President, Dmitry Medvedev, told the Georgian community living in Russia.
In his written address to the congress of Georgians, held in Moscow on February 3, Medvedev said: “We sincerely want to see stable, independent and genuinely democratic Georgian state; the state, which lives in peace and security, which has friendly relations with other states.”
“Your meeting has special importance in the light of the fact that Russian-Georgian inter-state relations are going through serious test today,” the address posted on the Kremlin’s website reads. “I hope your forum will significantly contribute to formation of positive atmosphere in the Russian-Georgian relationships.”
“Close cultural and humanitarian relations are integral part of our joint history. Direct people-to-people contacts and relations between civil society organizations play important role in strengthening mutual understanding and confidence.”
The congress was organized by head of the Union of Georgians in Russia, Mikheil Khubutia. The Georgian television stations which covered the event extensively, reported the congress was held with the Kremlin’s blessing. Khubutia, who says that President Medvedev is his friend, told journalists on February 4 that while Russia can live without Georgia, it will be difficult for the latter to live without Russia.
Khubutia said in a recent interview with the Georgian television that he had invited some of the officials from the Georgian government, including Iulon Gagoshidze, the state minister for diaspora issues; the latter declined to participate. Nestan Kirtadze of the opposition Labor Party participated in the event.
In December the Russian daily, Kommersant, reported that President Saakashvili had an attempt to establish contacts with the Russian authorities through intermediaries and met with Khubutia in Munich in November for that purpose. There has been no official confirmation of the report from the Georgian authorities.
In his address, President Medvedev also said that “close relations” between the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches were of special importance.
A delegation of the Georgian Orthodox Church was in Moscow participating in the enthronement ceremony of Russia’s new Patriarch Kirill this week. Ilia II, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, was not able to attend the enthronement of Russia’s new Patriarch, because of the health condition. Ilia II left for Germany on February 4 for medical examination, the Georgian patriarchate said.
Patriarch Kirill told the Georgian delegation that relations between the two Churches should not depend on political developments between the two countries.
“Orthodox unity is not simple words,” the Russian Patriarch said. “We can help our nations by joint efforts.”
“We hope and his [Russian Patriarch’s] words confirm it that the Russian Church will still continue to support the unity of the Georgian Church and we hope that he will help us to achieve actual and not fictitious restoration of functioning of the Georgian church there [in breakaway regions], that will promote the unification of our country,” Metropolitan Gerasim of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who was in the delegation, told journalists after the meeting.
Issues related with the canonical jurisdiction of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – breakaway regions, which Russia has recognized – are yet to be resolved.
Before becoming the Patriarch, Metropolitan Kirill, who chaired foreign relations department of the Moscow Patriarchate, said in November, 2008 that canonical jurisdiction limbo in which these two regions remained was “the most painful and the most difficult issue, which may not be resolved today or tomorrow.”
He told Russia’s Vesti news channel in November that the Georgian church in fact was not able “to take spiritual care” of parish in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, because of the political situation. Metropolitan Kirill said “some kind of temporary, transition solution” should be found to this problem.