The FINANCIAL -- There
are over 4,000 Georgian emigrants in Kazakhstan, according to the
Kazakh Embassy in Georgia. The Georgian Diaspora in Astana incorporates
over 60 families. “Many emigrants had planned to return to their
motherland before the government change occurred in Georgia. Since the
October 2012 elections however, they have delayed their return,” head of
the Georgian Diaspora in Astana told The FINANCIAL.
“The previous government actively took care of us. Our children attended summer camps. A Sunday school was founded by the initiative of the Embassy. We were supplied with free textbooks. Our children were given an opportunity to study their mother tongue. The previous government did a great deal for us and we hope that the current one will continue to do this. My daughter graduated from the University of Tbilisi and my son is now studying there. I also planned to return to Georgia but then thought about how I wouldn’t want to be unemployed there,” said Zviad Abkhazava.
According to Abkhazava, over 15 families that had previously not meant to go back to Georgia, later returned during the reign of Saakashvili ’s government.
Zviad Abkhazava runs the Georgian Diaspora in Astana. He came to Kazakhstan in 1985 from Sukhumi. Initially he found it difficult to adapt to the foreign environment. “At that time Astana was like a small village,” he said. He gradually adapted to the situation however. He considers Kazakhs to be a special and friendly people. Due to this, it was easy for him to quickly get used to the unfamiliar environment.
“We are not made to feel like second-class citizens here. We do not face any difficulties neither in private relations, nor at work,” said Abkhazava.
Abkhazava graduated from the University of Kazakhstan. He has been working for 23 years at the railway there. Currently he is the head of the Georgian community in Astana. He is one of the owners of Agro Business Holding, which incorporates construction and agricultural business.
Agro Business started business in Georgia. “We planned to return to Georgia and therefore expanded our business to Georgia. There were favourable conditions created for investors under Saakashvili ’s government. Not only Georgians, but Kazakhs too have also showed great interest in investing money in Georgia. There used to be six flights per week from Alma-Ata to Tbilisi and it was always difficult to get tickets.
In Abkhazava’s words, there is a now a sense of uncertainty surrounding Georgia among their Kazakh partners. They are waiting to see what will happen. Many complain that Saakashvili betrayed them, promising that everything would be fine but was later left with a new government,” he said.
“In business it is difficult to invest millions in a country which has not determined its political course,” said Abkhazava.
“The main thing for us when arriving in Georgia is the safety of our family members. Presently, after several thousand prisoners have been pardoned, we have a fear that the number of criminals in the country might increase,” Abkhazava said.
He said that they have been contacted by Georgia and invited to invest there. “However, what they promise verbally is one thing and business - another.
Abkhazava runs the restaurant ‘Kolkheti’ in Astana.
“As a multi-ethnic country, Kazakh President Nazarbaev pays great attention to the protection of other peoples’ interests. Nazarbaev initiated the building of restaurants of different ethnicities. There are over 6-7 restaurants around Kolkheti representing different cultures,” said Abkhazava.
The starting sum of the investment for constructing the restaurant Kolkheti was more than USD 5 million. The Georgian restaurant is very popular in Astana. The establishment’s cooks as well as its musicians are all Georgians. 80 Georgians were employed in the construction of the restaurant.
The majority of guests are non-Georgians, as most of them are less wealth y. There are only 5 or 6 Georgians living in Astana who run big businesses. Kolkheti hosts over 700-800 persons daily. Khachapuri is the most popular dish.
Close to Astana there was a camp for the wives of those considered traitors of the motherland. 160 Georgian females were in this camp, mostly nobles. In honour of its ancestors, the community built a monument there.