Georgia and Russia: battle for the letter of "I"

For the first time after the tragedy of 2008 Tbilisi set to discuss on the level of prominent experts of Russia and Georgia how the two neighboring countries should keep existing. Analysts of Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MSIIR) of Russian Foreign Ministry Nikolay Silaev and Andrey Sushentsev were the most welcome guests of the Georgian media over the past several days and the most unwelcome ones for a group of picketers who were against "the Kremlin special mission".

The report of the MSIIR representatives is titled: "Georgia after the Elections and Prospects of Russian-Georgian Relations". Perhaps, it follows that before the Georgian parliamentary elections on October 1, the very prospects were vague, to say the least. Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili insists that the country shouldn't deviate from its course to the West. At the same time, he says that Georgia has been receiving "positive impulses" from Russia recently which allows speaking of "growing hopes" for settlement of relations with Moscow and settlement of Abkhazian and South Ossetic issues. Then, the President Mikhail Saakashvili's "United National Movement" party informed that Bidzina Ivanishvili entirely "re-oriented to Moscow".

The quintessence of the Russian political scientists' report is that "Russia and Georgia are not destined to continuing confrontation", that "the rupture is taken as an abnormal state and is subject to settlement".

It's clear that settlement of the issue of restoration of relations won't be quick. It will come late, if it comes at all. At best, the sides may define the red line and support it. The red line is crossed on the borders of Georgia with split Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

While the analysts were discussing, while politicians were arguing, while the picketers were quarrelling with "the Kremlin emissaries", I was reading the report and suddenly found out to myself a mismatch which may seem a trifling one at first glance but which contains the problem of problems. It's that very drop which reflected the sea. In the Russian version - which is (mind this) due to be presented in Georgia - Abkhazia's capital is called "Sukhum" and South Ossetia's capital - "Tskhinval". In Georgian and English versions, the letter of "I" in the names of the cities is put back - "Sukhumi" and "Tskhinvali".

It's not a regular captiousness, it's the essence - for what we fight for.

Still before the 2008 war, I was personally fighting for the letter of "I" with editors of newspapers in Moscow where I worked. I often managed to win. Besides, before 2008 August, the capitulation for my Moscow chiefs on this matter was not fundamental. That is to say - I wrote the names of the capitals of the mutinous provinces with "I". But the events taken place 5 years ago turned out my personal fiasco in this struggle.

I don't know whether I will manage to open my second personal toponymic front some time in the future. Experts, analysts and politicians didn't hint me about it during their disputes on "prospect of relations". I asked but my questions didn't embarrass them because it seems there is something more important than the letter lost after Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But everybody knows - as the call, so the echo.

That's why Georgia may throw down the gauntlet to the "occupants" who insolently swallowed the letter as a revenge before the settlement, that is - to call "Russia" "Rusia". After all, there are no double consonants in the Georgian language. It will be an adequate response.

by Mikhail Vignanski

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