Messages of Ultranationalist, Pro-Kremlin Groups on Dmanisi Developments

20 May, 2021

Massive violence erupted between locals in the southern town of Dmanisi of Kvemo Kartli region on May 17 following a shop incident that took place a day earlier. The Interior Ministry, riot police and government officials had to intervene to defuse the tensions.

The confrontation between Georgian citizens – local ethnic Georgian and Azerbaijani population – prompted hate groups to intensify their efforts both on social media and in Dmanisi. Citing distrust towards “liberal media,” ultranationalist and pro-Kremlin groups arrived in Dmanisi to cover the conflict and assessed the confrontation as an attempt to incite strife claiming that it was a provocation staged by ethnic Azerbaijanis.

Myth Detector has identified 14 Facebook pages, 3 groups (ერთობა, რაობა, იმედი - მხარდამჭერები, დიდება ერს სიკვდილი მტერს, ✅🇬🇪ერთობა🇬🇪✅) and 1 Facebook account who were discrediting ethnic Azerbaijani citizens of Georgia, on the one hand, and journalists, on the other.

Representatives of ultranationalist and pro-Kremlin groups were spreading the following identical messages:

  • It was a provocation staged by ethnic Azerbaijanis;
  • Georgia belongs to Georgia, others are guests;
  • “Liberal TV channels” have promoted strife;
  • Georgia is loyal towards ethnic Azerbaijanis;
  • Ethnic Azerbaijani locals of Marneuli will assist Azerbaijanis of Dmanisi;
  • Turkey will act as Azerbaijan’s ally once tensions escalate in Kvemo Kartli and we will find ourselves alone.

Pro-government experts as well as an anti-opposition Facebook page (ტერენტი გლდანელი) also accused journalists of an attempt to incite strife and stage provocations.

Speaking about the Dmanisi confrontation, the government official (Vakhtang Gomelauri) and the ruling party MP (Eliso Bolkvadze) mentioned partnership and friendship between Georgia and Azerbaijan, thus associating Georgia’s ethnic Azerbaijani citizens with the neighboring country.

Provocation by ethnic Azerbaijanis
Giorgi Gabedava, chairman of Georgian National Youth Alliance, said that the Dmanisi confrontation between locals was “a provocation staged by the Azerbaijani side,” while the posts published by ultranationalist groups (Fაქტები, კარდჰუ, პატროტული გვერდი) stressed that Azerbaijanis were armed with hammers and stones and one of them even tried to run down Georgians by his car. Giorgi Gabedava’s post was shared to the group “დიდება ერს სიკვდილი მტერს” (Glory to the Nation, Death to the Enemy); moreover, along with Facebook pages (კარდჰუ (Kardhu) and პატრიოტული გვერდი (Patriotic Page)), Giorgi Iremadze, founder of Patriot TV and president of pro-Russian organization Union of Young Eurasians, also shared the video showing an Azerbaijani local’s car running down the people to his personal page.


Georgia belongs to Georgians only
On May 17, Facebook groups and pages, as well as an account supporting nationalist and pro-Russian groups, published the posts, according to which Georgia, first of all, belongs to Georgians and others are simply guests. An identical post was also published in the group of supporters (ერთობა, რაობა, იმედი - მხარდამჭერები) of Georgian businessman Levan Vasadze’s newly founded movement “Unity, Essence, Hope.”


“Liberal media outlets” have promoted strife
According to the same ultranationalist and pro-Kremlin groups (Fაქტები, Georgian Page, დადუმებული ქართველობა, ქართული გვერდი / Georgian Page, კონსერვატიული პლატფორმა, ალილო მარნეულში), liberal televisions played an important role in inciting ethnic strife on May 17. In the opinion of ultranationalist and anti-opposition (ტერენტი გლდანელი) groups, Giorgi Gabunia, journalist of Mtavari Arkhi TV, deliberately attacked Georgian population when he mentioned “local Azerbaijani community” and “eco-migrants resettled from Svaneti” while discussing the conflict. Giorgi Iremadze, founder of Patriot TV and president of pro-Russian organization “Union of Young Eurasians”, also shared to his Facebook page the video posted by Georgian Page in Facebook group ✅🇬🇪ერთობა🇬🇪✅.


Speaking with Alt-Info on May 17, Dimitri Lortkipanidze, head of the Russian-Georgian Primakov Center, accused journalists of inciting ethnic strife:

“It is a three-headed media hydra [TV Pirveli, Formula TV, Mtavari Arkhi TV], which is regularly and deliberately inciting ethnic strife during a live broadcast [...] What I heard at TV Pirveli is nothing but what we heard from [Giorgi] Gabunia, who literally said: “… between Azerbaijani community and ecomigrants resettled from Svaneti” – do you understand what kind of segregation is taking place?! What are they doing?! Georgian citizens are being segregated in order to further fuel up tensions in the region.”

Pro-government experts
Pro-government experts focused on the role of journalists and opposition, not the government, in the Dmanisi conflict, accusing the media of conflict escalation. Pro-government expert Gia Abashidze said that the National Movement, in coordination with the media, always tries to dramatize the situation and trigger unrests and destabilization:

Gia Abashidze: “On escalation in Dmanisi – How did the shop’s CCTV camera footage appeared so quickly on Mtavari Arkhi (Main Channel), why did some subversive “journalists” immediately dub the confrontation as “ethnic strife, conflict?” We all remember the provocative arrival of Iveri Melashvili and the National Movement’s television in Gareji shortly before PM Garibashvili’s visit to Baku. I do not believe in unintentional coincidences, especially amid the rampage of Saakashvili’s sect in Georgia seeking to dramatize the situation and trigger uproar, unrest and destabilization. Law enforcers will react to the Dmanisi developments and all perpetrators will be adequately punished. But when will persistent actions of saboteurs be curbed?”

Another pro-government expert, Levan Nikoleishvili also claims that journalists played a huge role in escalation of tensions and since they do not like the current government, they provided biased coverage of the Dmanisi conflict:

Levan Nikoleishvili: “There were some other actors, certain media outlets again, who were rubbing their hands in anticipation of more serious tensions and they were looking at it not with concern, but with excitement.”

Pro-government expert Amiran Salukvadze slammed Formula TV journalist Vakho Sanaia’s humor posts published by him on his personal Facebook page at different times, calling them a provocative step and an attempt to incite strife. Salukvadze linked Sanaia’s old posts to the Dmanisi developments.

Soso Manjavidze, former member of the Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) portrayed Georgian media outlets as a threat posed to the country:

Soso Manjavidze, former member of the Tbilisi City Council: “The Dmanisi developments made it clear again that uncontrolled media outlets financed from outside constitute an existential threat to the country. Ultimately, media outlets and political parties serving the country’s enemies are leading Georgia to complete disintegration and only a blind cannot see this threat.”

Georgian or Azerbaijani citizens?

Speaking about the Dmanisi conflict, Georgian Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri focused on the strategic partnership and friendship between Georgia and Azerbaijan, noting that the government would not allow ethnic confrontation:

Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri: “We will not allow it [ethnic confrontation]. Ethnic Azerbaijanis are our citizens, Azerbaijan is our strategic partner, our ally, our friend and we should not allow it. Those who say that it is an ethnic conflict are the country’s enemies.”

Speaking about the conflict between Georgia’s ethnic Georgian and Azerbaijani citizens, Georgian Dream lawmaker, Eliso Bolkvadze echoed Minister Gomelauri saying that the issue would be solved in a friendly atmosphere between the two states.

Georgian Dream MP, Eliso Bolkvadze: “Georgia cares for every citizen. This conflict will definitely be settled. Investigation should definitely be launched and I am sure that the conflict will be resolved fairly. All perpetrators who staged or incited the conflict will be identified and the state will definitely address this issue. I am sure that everything will be solved in a friendly atmosphere between the two states.”

Other sources 

According to ალტერნატიული ინფორმაცია (Alternative Information) and კონსერვატიული პლატფორმა (Conservative Platform), “liberal journalists” spreading disinformation were expelled from Dmanisi by locals:
Alternative Information’s post was shared by Facebook page “ალილო მარნეულში” (Alilo in Marneuli), which, besides the sermons of the Marneuli and Khujabi Eparchy, also spreads the posts supporting Levan Vasadze.
Facebook page Fაქტები (Facts) published two posts targeting journalists and accusing them of biased coverage:

Marneuli will assist ethnic Azerbaijani citizens of Dmanisi 
Nationalist pages  (ქართული ძალა, ყბადაღებული საზოგადოება) spread information claiming that Marneuli Azerbaijanis were going to support ethnic Azerbaijanis from Dmanisi, calling on the population to support the Svans living in Dmanisi. 


Government is loyal towards ethnic Azerbaijanis 
Two Facebook pages ყბადაღებული საზოგადოება (Notorious Society) and ქართული ძალა (Georgian Force) accused the government of having a loyal attitude towards ethnic Azerbaijanis, saying that the government should treat ethnic Azerbaijani citizens of Georgia like the Ingilos are treated in Azerbaijan. 
The phrase voiced in the media, where the Svans were referred to as “ecomigrants” and ethnic Azerbaijanis – as locals, has triggered discontent prompting nationalist pages (ქართული ძალა, კარდჰუ, ყბადაღებული საზოგადოება, ბექა ვარდოსანიძის ბლოგი•Beka Vardosanidze's blog, Fაქტები, დედოფალი, ალილო მარნეულში, სვანეთი და სვანები)  to express solidarity with the Svans living in Dmanisi.


Azerbaijan is a historical enemy striving to seize Kvemo Kartli

Nikoloz Mzhavandze, head of the Union of Human Rights Defenders, tried to incite historical traumas. He called Azerbaijan a historical enemy, accusing the country of seizing Hereti and Gareji as well as striving to grab Kvemo Kartli.

On May 17, Shota Martinenko, host of Alt-Info TV, said he fears that in case of further escalation, Turkey will assist Azerbaijan and Georgia will find itself alone.

Shota Martinenko, host of Alt-Info TV: “If a conflict is unleashed with Azerbaijanis in this geopolitical situation, what will protect us? Certainly, Turkey will be its ally and the amount and quality of armament, finances, human resources [Irakli Martinenko: nobody protects us] – everything will be on their side. Someone should supply you with arms and who will supply us and what will protect us?”

Giorgi Kardava, host of Alt-Analytics, said that youth mobilization is currently underway in Azerbaijani villages and a Karabakh scenario may again take place:

Giorgi Kardava, host of Alt-Analytics: “Youth mobilization is underway in the centers of Azerbaijani villages for about three or four months. Their gatherings are held every night. It seems that some tensions are anticipated. We all know what happened four months ago – a war in Karabakh that ended with Azerbaijan’s victory.”

Giorgi Gigauri, journalist of Georgian tabloid Asaval-Dasavali, linked the Dmanisi developments to a terrorist attack in Israel, noting that the demands about expelling Georgians were voiced in Dmanisi.

Giorgi Gigauri, journalist of Asaval-Dasavali: “Why did simultaneous terrorist attacks take place against Israel and Georgia… Calls were voiced in Dmanisi to expel Georgians… Georgian media outlets did not cover the violence by ethnic Azerbaijanis.”

Along with the ultranationalist Facebook pages, fake accounts also intensified their efforts on social media by leaving insulting comments against journalists and ethnic Azerbaijanis on various posts.

1.Geo Geo

Hides identity, left insulting comment against journalists Has only 15 friends.

2. Gaugmda Gaugmda

Hides identity, left insulting comment against journalists.

3. Gi Ga

Hides identity. The name quji.lipariti is indicated in the profile URL left insulting comment against ethnic Azerbaijanis

4. Jeka Jeka

Hides identity. Left insulting comment against journalists, has only 21 friends.

5,T'amara T'amo

Hides identity. Left insulting comment against journalists.

6. Ika Ika

Hides identity. Left insulting comment against journalists.

7. Ачи Ачи

Hides identity. Left insulting comment against journalists.

8. ლია ლია

Hides identity. Left insulting comment against journalists.

9. Gauqmda Gauqmda

Hides identity. Left insulting comment against ethnic Azerbaijanis.

10. მგლების ქვეყანა

Hides identity, Has liked the pages connected to the Georgian March. Left insulting comment against journalists.


By Ani Kistauri