Javakheti region in our neighboring Georgia is one of such places where people are not allowed to study in their mother tongue.
Javakheti is inhabited by ethnic Armenians. Like the people of Ajaria, Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia’s 3 officially “autonomous” regions, the people of Javakheti have not been able to exercise their cultural and linguistic rights since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
What follows are excerpts from an interview with Mr. Stepan Markarian, the Vice President of Javakheti’s Hzor Hairenik (Powerful Fatherland) party, who can hardly be accused of separatism or nationalism. The interview was published in Hayots Ashkharh dated 2 September 2008 [my translation]:
I believe the biggest issue that we have in Javakheti today is its isolation; its isolation from Georgia’s social, political and economic life. I think we should somehow help that the Javakheti region integrates completely into the Georgian life but for this to happen a serious issue needs to be addressed.
In Javakheti, a simple citizen may not be able to articulate clearly why he or she resists the process called integration. There is however a widespread dissatisfaction among the population, which leads to the following question, “how may Georgia’s national security get hurt by Armenian language courses?”
I don’t think anyone can present a convincing argument to show that Georgia will be ruined if Armenian is recognized as the regional language of Javakheti.
… As a result of such a stance on the Armenian language, Javakheti’s population resents learning Georgian. This is the attitude that they have adopted, “if you forbid our language, then why should we lean yours?”
However, speaking Georgian is a necessity. If you live in Georgia and do not speak the language, you are unaware of the laws, decisions, and are separated from the country’s social life.
… What are the ways to learn and master Georgian? I think you lean a language at school, at university, and not in the market. Armenians proposed to the Georgian authorities to establish a joint Armenian-Georgian university … but they refused.
… How can we believe them when they claim they don’t mind our studying Armenian? If they don’t mind, why don’t they create favorable conditions? [legalizing the instruction of Armenian]. In Javakheti 95 percent of the population is Armenian and there are few Georgians, and even they speak Armenian.