The FINANCIAL -- There are no recent demographic statistics for Georgia. An official
census of the population according to ethnic groups has not been carried
out since the last one which was in 2002.
However demographers are warning about the high risk of ethnic conflict between Georgians and newly arrived ethnic groups in the country such as the high numbers of Iranians, Turks, Chinese and Indians.
“There is a high risk of ethnic conflict in Georgia as more and more locals are complaining about the country’s “guests”,” said Tsiuri Antadze, demographer, independent expert. “This is because of economic expansion, which is the most long term form of expansion and very dangerous in certain respects, as there is a big risk of Georgian discrimination in the country. That is why officials are not carrying out any research or statistics about this issue. The Government is not regulating these developments. Georgia has visa-free regimes with such countries which are not yet developed. This is very dangerous,” Antadze added.
“The number of Iranians and Turkish people in Georgia is increasing. They mainly settle in the Adjara region, Batumi specifically. They have bought many economic objects there. 85,000 Turks are registered in Batumi which is a large number for such a small city as that, the population of which comes to just 180,000 people in total,” she added.
“Iranians come to Georgia for economic purposes,” said Salome Tsnobiladze, demographer. “Hundreds of Chinese come to Georgia as well. They are mainly settled in Racha, where they own large portions of forest. The number of Indians has increased, and they are settled in such places where they own economic objects. They are involved in metallurgy, mechanical engineering, wood processing enterprises and live in Kutaisi mainly. A large number of ethnic groups have made their entrance in Georgia, bought economic objects and therefore control economical levers, which is dangerous for the country,” she added.
The current population of Georgia is 4 497.6 according to the National Statistics Office of Georgia. The first population census was done in 1989, according to which 5,400,841 people were living in Georgia at the time with the exception of the populations of the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. Out of this number 70.1 percent were Georgians, 8.1 percent were Armenians, 6.3 percent - Russians, 5.7 percent - Azerbaijanis, 3.0 percent - Ossetians, 1.9 percent - Greeks, 1.8 percent - Abkhaz, and 1.0 percent - Ukrainian s.
The second and last official census was done in 2002. The number of the population had decreased by then and was recorded at 4,371,535 people. But the share of Georgians in the population had increased and consisted of 83.8 percent of the whole population. According to the new data Azerbaijanis exceeded the number of Armenians and consisted of 6.5 percent. After them came Armenians with 5.7 percent, Russians - 1.5 percent, Ossetians - 0.9 percent, Greeks - 0.3 percent, Ukrainian s - 0.2 percent, and finally Abkhaz with just 0.1 percent.
Population by ethnic self-identification has not been officially census validated recently. Elene Maruashvili, Chief specialist of the Population Census and Demography Division at the National Statistics of Georgia explains that it has not been necessary to provide any new statistics as the demographic situation has hardly changed in Georgia.
Despite that however, independent demographers in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund census validated today’s de facto population of Georgia. Their statistics show that since 2003 the share of Georgians has been stably increasing and reached 84.5 percent as of the year 2011. Azerbaijanis still make up the majority of the foreign contingent of Georgia’s population and consist of 6.1 percent. Then come Armenians with 5.2 percent and Russians with their 1.5 percent, after them come Ossetians, Abkhaz and Ukrainian s. As well as these ethnic groups, Kurds, Jews, Byelorussians and others whose percentage indicators are very low compared to other groups also live in Georgia.
As well as the changes in the percentage distribution of the population, the statistics show that since 1989 ethnic groups have not changed significantly in Georgia. From 1989 to 2002 the same ethnic groups lived in Georgia. Experts have been seeing the entrance of new ethnic groups (Turks, Iranians, Chinese and Indians) in Georgia recently, but they cannot say exactly when these groups first started settling in the country.
Demographers found inconsistencies in the evaluation of the return of emigrated Georgians to their home country as well. “There is a huge difference between what the National Statistics Office of Georgia says and what we find,” said Giorgi Tsuladze, demographic expert of the Institute of Demography and Sociology. “The first wave of different ethnic groups left Georgia in the ‘90s. Because of bad social and economic conditions people started returning to their home countries or other economically strong countries. This is the only reason why the share of the Georgian population increased significantly, and not because Georgians had started returning to Georgia. However, some Georgians are really coming back to their home country. Lots of Georgians returned from Russia because of the fear factor during the pre- and post-war period. The official statistic gives a positive balance, but more Georgians appear to be leaving the country than returning here in actual fact. Georgians are mainly migrating for labour purposes,” he added.
As for Russians, following the August War their number in Georgia has not decreased, unofficially. “It is true that there is no official statistic which shows the population percentage of Russians in Georgia since the August 2008 war, but we can say that Russians did not leave Georgia en masse. Since the war the attitude of Georgians toward Russians has not changed. This is the reason why Russians never felt forced to leave the country,” said Tsiuri Antadze.