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Georgia

Georgia, a country of 4,6 million in the Caucassus, has uniquely cordial relations with Lithuania despite the distance that separate the nations. When Georgia was invaded by Russia in 2008 Lithuania took a bold stance of supporting the smaller country based on human rights rather than realpolitik. Lithuanian foreign minister was the first to visit Tbilisi when the war was raging, soon to be followed by president Valdas Adamkus.

In return Georgia established several places to honour Lithuania. In the capital Tbilisi there is Vilnius Square. It artfully incorporates elements of Vilnius: "Stebuklas" ("Miracle") tile where one is expected to turn around 3 times for his wish to be granted (the original is in Cathedral Square of Vilnius) and wall with symbols such as the Iron Wolf or Constitution of Užupis (in Georgian). A fountain, benches and a playground are nearby and the square is surrounded by authentic 19th century district.

A fragment of wall with Lithuanian details in Vilnius Square, Tbilisi. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

More impressive is President Adamkus boulevard in Anaklia, a new resort town that have replaced Russian military base on Abkhazia border. Opened by presidents Saakashvili and Adamkus in June 2012 it is very modern with its fountains and palm trees impressively lit at night. Large pedestrian bridge connects two coasts of a river. As of now however the town is quite empty out-of-season.

President Adamkus Boulevard (Anaklia, Georgia) outside season (in November). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian-Georgian relations pre-dates the 21st century by far. They began in 19th century when both countries were annexed by the Russian Empire. Georgia became home for famous Lithuanians. Some of them were exiled by czar, some were hiding from persecution and others were combating their own disease at Georgia's mineral resorts. In ~1900 "Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Poles" made up 7% Tbilsians. There are still memorial plaques in Tbilisi for businessman Petras Vileišis (Aghmashenebeli 138), writer Antanas Vienuolis (Leonidze 8), 1918-1921 Lithuanian legation (Mardzhanishvili 45), In Borjomi mineral resort town there is a bust for A. Keturakis (in front of the old train station). Tbilisi St. Peter and Paul cemetery has a monument to the Lithuanians buried in Georgia.

Moreover, the popular Eurovision Song Contest (which is followed with sport-like fervour in Eastern Europe) Lithuania and Georgia typically exchange 12 points. This is the only pair of countries to regularly do this despite not being geographically or linguistically related. There have been collaboration between Lithuanian and Georgian TV stations in creating TV series and reality TV and there is considerable tourism between two "brother countries" despite their geographical remoteness.

Lithuanian-Georgian business relations are also strong. With situation in Georgia resembling that of Lithuania 10 to 15 years ago Lithuanian businessmen are using their own experience there helped by positive attitude towards Lithuanians. Two of the three major retail chains of Georgia are Lithuanian owned ("Populi" and "Ioli"). They sell considerable ammount of Lithuanian goods marked by Lithuanian tricolors and "Made in Lithuania" signs. It looks as if the shops would serve immigrant community but it is not the case - there are only several hundred Lithuanians in Georgia and most "Populi" and "Ioli" customers are ethnic Georgians.

Populi shop in Tbilisi (the close-up of Lithuanian motive on window is shown on the right). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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