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CEEC Reaffirms Need for Strong U.S. Leadership in Europe (August 8, 2016)

The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Central and Eastern European Americans, strongly backs the United States’ continued unconditional commitment to upholding the NATO Treaty as well as U.S. support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all Central and Eastern European nations. Our organization stands firm in its belief that America’s close cooperation with all NATO allies and partners is fundamental to ensuring U.S. and European security. The CEEC urges both the current and future Administrations to continue developing allied relations with all NATO members and transatlantic partners, and to take such action as deemed necessary to maintain security of the Alliance, including the European Reassurance Initiative.

The renewed aggressive behavior and actions of Russia against Central and Eastern European nations have raised the importance of NATO’s credibility and cohesiveness for regional stability. In February 2016, then-NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove stated at a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that “Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners.”  Earlier this year the CEEC sponsored a policy forum on NATO’s stance on Russia on Capitol Hill. A major theme of our discussion characterized Russia’s increasing aggression since 2008 not only in terms of fanning regional conflicts but as a fundamental assault on the post-World War II international order.

At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO stated it was fully prepared to defend the alliance and pledged an increase in military spending, in response to Russia’s unpredictable and aggressive behavior in the region. The CEEC believes the commitment by the United States to NATO countries should be based on collective defense, shared values, and democratic principles, as well as support for regional partners. We have, and continue to support the principle of NATO’s Open Door policy, for all willing and qualified nations.

The Central and Eastern European region is facing a multitude of threats from Russia. It is imperative for NATO members and partners to share collective knowledge in key security areas for combating a multitude of hybrid war forms, including cyber, media and economic manipulation, and destabilization in energy security. The CEEC supports U.S. continued commitment and leadership in addressing these threats.

The security of the United States lies in the peaceful expansion of democracy, not in the appeasement of aggressor states making imperial claims. Proactive U.S. leadership is vital to NATO’s continued effectiveness, to protect peace and security in Europe. The crisis driven by Russia in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine specifically, will not just go away. In an informationally interconnected and economically interdependent world, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geopolitical stability.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee passes 13 measures including H.R. 660, to Support the Territorial Integrity of Georgia

John “Tsotne” Dadiani, a member of the Board of Directors of the Georgian Association represented the Association at the mark-up and reports there was widespread support for the bi-partisan resolution co-sponsored by Representatives Gerald Connolly (D-VA), and Ted Poe (R-TX).  The committee members recognized that Georgia has pursued a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Russia over the territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.  Several of the members compared Russia’s actions which were reminiscent of the old Soviet Union during cold war days, and that Georgia deserves to maintain these territories, and to have free elections this fall.  While the measure was passed by the committee, some representatives expressed concerns that the resolution would antagonize Russia, and that Georgia was responsible for Russia’s actions in the region.  Several members said the US needs to improve relations with Russia.

Earlier in May, the Georgian Association recognized the efforts of the two Congressmen on behalf of Georgia’s territorial integrity by honoring them at its annual Independence day celebration.

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Meeting with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

The Georgian Association participated in a meeting on June 21 of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who is advising presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on foreign policy.  The CEEC reiterated its mission of coordinating mutual concerns of the member countries regarding United States policy toward Central and East Europe.  Among the topics discussed were the concern about the future of Russian aggression especially in the Ukraine, and continued occupation of territory in Georgia.  Sanctions imposed on Russia have not impacted Putin’s behavior in the region, and how the United States deals with the aggression will send a strong signal throughout Europe.  Also discussed were Brexit should it occur, refugee migration, visa waivers, and the need to strengthen NATO.  Secretary Albright welcomed the CEEC’s concerns and suggested a follow-up meeting in late summer.

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Shota Rustaveli and the Knight in the Tiger’s Skin* Part 1 of 2

         Just before the beginning of World War Il, Georgia solemnly celebrated the 750th anniversary of the appearance of the famous poem of the great Georgian poet, Shotha Rustaveli   “The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin.” Today in 2016, this poem, known to all Georgians, celebrates well over 800 years of existence and remains as beloved as ever. Who was Shota Rustaveli and what about this medieval epic poem called a masterpiece of Georgian literature makes it so relevant today?

         Looking back, as the poem was celebrating its 750th birthday, during a meeting of the Association of Georgian Writers held in the capital city of Georgia, Tbilissi, a Mr. Ingorokva, Professor of Literature at the State University of Tbilissi and one of the best qualified commentators on Rustaveli at the time, spoke about the poem and its author. In the prologue to his lecture he said: “Centuries separate us from the time of Rustaveli, but his immortal poem continues to stand as the magnificent work of an accomplished genius, and its influence remains as powerful as ever. The era during which Rustaveli lived and created was the era when Georgia reached the height of her political power and cultural development. It is impossible to understand Rustaveli’s great work without a deep knowledge of the magnificent, original culture of Georgia of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. And, in reality, where did the universal philosophy and the humanism with which the poem is impregnated come from? The answer, of course, is that the great cultural movement known as the Renaissance began in Georgia centuries before it came to Western Europe.”

       Professor Ingorokva was quite right. Rustaveli wrote a poem, which, like a mirror reflected the culture of Georgia of his day. The poem is first of all the expression, unique in form and style, of the great ideas of humanism on which as based the political and intellectual life of medieval Georgia.

         Who was Rustaveli? He was one of many great nobleman who surrounded the resplendent court of Queen Thamar the Great, who reigned in Georgia from 1184 to 1213. The Lord of Rustavi in Southwest Georgia, he took the name of Rustaveli which in Georgian means “one who comes from Rustavi.” There is not the slightest doubt that he was the man who wrote the “Knight in the Tiger Skin.” In the concluding lines of his poem the author says:

“..I sign my name,

A Meskhi from Rustavi.”

“Meskhi” in Georgian means a man from Meskheti, the province of Georgia where Rustavi is situated.

         When did Rustaveli live and when was his poem written? To these questions as well, the poem itself gives the answer. In the prologue, the author dedicates his poem to Queen Thamar and speaks of her as his contemporary. Now, the only Queen Thamar known to Georgian history is precisely the famous Thamar the Great, who became queen in 1184 when her father, George Ill, abdicated in her favor. This and other historical facts prove that Rustaveli lived in the second half of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th, the golden Age of the Kingdom of Georgia. His poem was likely written between the years 1184 and 1207. The exact date is not known and neither are the dates of his birth and death.

       After receiving a good education in Georgia, Rustaveli went to Athens (the Paris of his time) and completed his education there. He spoke several languages, he traveled extensively in Asia and Europe, he knew thoroughly the cultures, the arts, and the literature of all the civilized countries of his age. His poem is full of quotations from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophers, poets, and writers of classical Greece and Iran.

      It can be seen that Rustaveli was well prepared to play a part in the service of his country. He received an appointment as Great Chamberlain (some sources say Chief Treasurer) to Queen Thamar the Great. The tragedy of his life begins from this moment. The queen was beautiful and Rustaveli fell desperately in love with her. All his genius is given to the task of singing her beauty, her charm, and her virtue.

“Let us sing to the great Queen Thamar, says the poet.

“1 dedicate to her my chosen odes, Odes written with tears and blood. I sing of the one of whom I have always sung.

She is all my life, even though she has no more mercy for me, than a rock.

I sing her glory in the lines which follow. ‘ ‘

Thus the poet ends the prologue to his poem.

     What was his further fate? We have nothing authentic to go by, but Shota Rustaveli Jvari Monasterylegend says that the poet abandoned public life, became a monk, and spent the rest of his days in one of the Georgian monasteries in Jerusalem (formerly the Georgian Monastery of the Holy Cross, the church now belongs to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem). It was there that his tomb was discovered centuries later, along with a fresco and a simple inscription “Shotha Rustaveli”. His Wikipedia Biography notes that the fresco and accompanying inscription in Georgian were defaced in 2004. But the fresco was subsequently restored.

*the poem is also referred to as “The Knight in the Panthe’s or Leopard’s Skin”.  This articledraws largely from an article written by Simon Kvitashvili and printed in the publication “The Voice of Free Georgia, vol 5, April, 1954.

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The Georgian Association Congratulates the Georgian Service of the Voice of America on its 65th anniversary

The Georgian Service celebrated its 65thanniversary on May 26, 2016 at VOA headquarters in Washington DC.  Several dignitaries were in attendance including Georgia’s ambassador to the United States, Archil Gegeshidze, the Honorable Kenneth Yalowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, and the Honorable Kurt Volker, Executive Director, the McCain Institute for International Leadership and former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO.  The current U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly delivered a message by video.  Anna Kalandadze, Chief of the Georgian Service moderated the event.  The Georgian Association has been an active supporter of the Georgian Service–indeed several Board members’ fathers worked for the service for many years. And, the first director of the Service, Irakli Orbeliani, was a founding member of the Georgian Association.  Congratulations to the Georgian Service on its over six decades of fulfilling its mission of providing objective and timely news to the people of Georgia.

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The Georgian Association welcomes the release of Nadiya Savchenko on May 25

The Georgian Association welcomes the release on May 25 of Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot imprisoned by Russia for nearly two years. She was falsely accused of responsibility for the death of two Russian journalists in the war between Russia and the Ukraine.   The GA stood with the people of Ukraine and the European Union in denouncing Moscow’s disregard for human rights and the harsh and unwarranted prison sentence imposed on Savchenko.  The GA will continue to be a voice for former Soviet bloc countries in their quest for freedom and rights under international law.

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Georgian Association Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Regaining of Independence

Georgian Association Officials Lead Discussions on Georgia’s Security at Washington, D.C. Conference, co-hosted by Levan Mikeladze Foundation for the Caucasus Studies

On May 12, 2016, the Levan Mikeladze Foundation and the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies (SAIS) co-hosted a conference “Strategic Pillars of Security for Georgia:Trans-Atlantic Integration, Economy and Democracy”. Former President of the May 12 2Georgian Association Mamuka Tsereteli and President of the Levan Mikeladze Foundation of the Caucasus Studies Tina Mikeladze opened the conference on behalf of the organizers. The conference brought together in two panels noted scholars, policy analysts, program implementors and representatives of the U.S. Department of State. The Georgian government was represented by the State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Mr. David Bakradze, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs David Dondua. The Georgian Embassy was represented by both Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze and Deputy Chief of Mission George Khelashvili. The Georgian representatives expressed concern about the “creeping annexation” of their country and their disappointment at the lack of movement towards a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for NATO. For their part, a number of American panelists, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bridget Brink reiterated continued US support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

There was much discussion, particularly during a second panel moderated May 12 3by the GA President Elisso Kvitashvili, on Georgia’s ongoing need to implement internal reforms that some panelists believed would enhance Georgia’s overall security through greater legitimacy of the government. Several panelists decried the lack of job creation, poor social service delivery, and lack of innovation in the business sector as stumbling blocks to Georgia’s economic development. There was agreement that the West needed to devote more attention on Georgia especially in her role as a hub in the developing Silk Road Transport Corridor.

The conference was followed by a reception celebrating Georgia’s upcoming Independence Day.  This year, 2016, Georgia celebrates its 25th anniversary of regaining of independence. This year’s special guest of the reception was the co-chair of the Georgia Caucus in the House of Representatives of the US Congress Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va) who, together with Congressman Ted Poe (R, Texas) is a co-sponsor of a draft congressional resolution supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity. Congressman Connolly received a special award from the President of the Association Elisso Kvitashvili.

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Biographical sketch – Irakli Orbeliani, the first director of the Georgian Service in the Voice of America

The Georgian Association in the United States will launch a series of short biographical sketches showcasing some of the more illustrious members of the Georgian diaspora. Our first profile is Irakli Orbeliani, the first director of the Georgian Service in the Voice of America and one of the co-founders of the Georgian Association in the USA in 1932.

Irakli Orbeliani, who was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, on November 14, 1901, came from one of the most illustrious families in Georgia. Beginning from the 6th century AD, the princely house of Orbeliani gave to Georgia a remarkably large number of distinguished men: statesmen, soldiers, ambassadors, scientists, writers and poets. Irakli’s mother, the Princess Elisabeth of the Royal House of Georgia, Bagrationi, was the direct descendent of Georgian kings and throughout her life was a bitter, active and open enemy of the Russian rule of Georgia.  Irakli’s father, Prince Mamuka Orbeliani, was an officer in the Russian Imperial Guards, who gave up his commission and refused to serve the Russian tsar upon the exile of his wife for her opposition to Russia’s rule over Georgia.

Irakli was a great musical talent who performed many concerts in Europe and the United States before ill health forced him to give up his musical career. By then he had emigrated and become a citizen of the United States. In 1950 he accepted a request by the USG and became head of the Georgian Service of the Voice of America. Later he was appointed Chief of the South USSR Branch which comprised Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaidjani,,Turko-Tartar and Turkestani services. When the later three services were abolished in 1953, Irakli reverted to the Head of the Georgian Service where he remained until he died in March, 1954. The Georgian community in the U.S. at the time greatly mourned his loss lauding his brilliance and great personal charm. *

*taken from The Voice of Free Georgia, Vol. 5, April, 1954

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Georgian Association welcomes Latvian Foreign Minister’s remarks

The Georgian Association in the United States welcomes the recent remarks by the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs who met with Tinatin Khidasheli, the Defence Minister of Georgia on April 16 in Bratislava. The Latvian Foreign Minister expressed full support for visa-free travel for Georgian citizens to the Schengen Area as well as Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO. He noted that no third country has a right to veto NATO’s open door policy. Both ministers pledged to continue active cooperation in the defense sector.

 

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Georgian Association calls for active support of draft House Resolution, supporting territorial integrity of Georgia!

Dear Friends,

The Georgian Association in the United States welcomes the draft House Resolution H.Res.660 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the territorial integrity of Georgia, sponsored by the co-chairs of the Georgia Caucus Representatives Poe (R, Texas), and Connolly (D, Virginia).  The resolution condemns the military intervention and occupation of Georgia by the Russian Federation and its continuous illegal activities along the occupation line in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, and calls upon the Russian Federation to withdraw its recognition of Georgia’s territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia as independent countries, to refrain from acts and policies that undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, and to take steps to fulfill all the terms and conditions of the August 12, 2008, Ceasefire Agreement between Georgia and the Russian Federation;

To pass the resolution, representatives Poe and Connolly  need the strong support of their colleagues from House of Representatives. Therefore, the Georgian Association is announcing the week of April 18 as a week of advocacy for Georgian territorial integrity, sovereignty and security.

If you wish to show support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and security of Georgia, and to support resolution H.Res.660, please contact your representatives and encourage them to back the resolution. Visiting the local offices of your representatives is highly recommended. The website of the House of Representatives http://www.house.gov/representatives/  can be helpful in finding your representative and their contact information. You can also call offices of members of Congress in Washington. Below are simple calling instructions for your reference:

  1. Dial the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. The directory for the members of the House of Representatives is the second option.
  2. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the member’s office you request.
  3. When the person answers, simply say “Hello, my name is________, I live in_________(name your city), and I would like member of Congress ________ to support and co-sponsor the Poe-Connelly Resolution number H.Res.660 supporting territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.”
  4.    Often, the congressional office will ask for your name and address so the member may acknowledge your call by writing you a letter.  Do not worry that you will be asked to justify or explain the policy behind your phone call.