Adrees Latif / Reuters
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Alexey Yurenev / Freelance
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“The Legacy of Empire”
In rural regions of Georgia, a lack of social and economic integration has hindered immigrant communities since the end of the Soviet Union. People were forcibly relocated within the Union, facing competition with the locals, numerous migrants have failed to integrate after the dissolution of the Union and the foundation of new states.
On the Azeri and Armenian borders, religious minority groups whose presence in Georgia is a result of imperial and Soviet politics, continue to chafe against each other, uncomfortably co-existing in a foreign land. In Gorelovka, an uneasy peace persists between three communities that have involuntarily found themselves living side by side in a poor and windswept part of Georgia.
The Doukhobors, Russian religious dissenters who rejected the central tenets of the Orthodox Church, were exiled to Georgia in the 1830s and 1840s by Tsar Nicholas I. When a massive earthquake rocked the north of Armenia in 1988, people left their devastated villages in the mountains and moved to villages such as Gorelovka on the Georgian side of the border. 10% of the Georgian population that are Muslim and have lived in Georgia for centuries.
In the village of Davitiani near the Azeri border Molokans, a non-conformist Russian sect, was also exiled from Russia in the early 1800s. Since the 1990s, Molokan communities complain that they are being overlooked by the Georgian government. Many among the young, have started to migrate back to Russia or to the cities. Doukhobors have been herding cattle and farming in Georgia for generations but have found themselves increasingly marginalised and bought out by Armenian settlers. With little prospect of competing with the Armenian community, many Doukhobors are gravitating back to Russia. The Muslim population has also been squeezed by Armenian farmers in the region and local by-laws forbid Muslim cemeteries within the village limits so the Muslim dead have to be transported to be buried outside the village.