Polish-Georgian Kinship: Defining a Vicennial

History does not remember much of the solid connections between geographically distant and ethnically contrasting people such as Georgians and Poles are. Adam Mickiewicz believed this could be explained by the theory of Caucasian origins of Polish nobility, while Stefan Zeromski, a “conscience of Polish literature,” always used to see captured Pole next to Georgian in Siberian exile. Over the 500 years, from perpetual struggle for independence, to present-day polarized electorate and COVID 19, this relation is shaking up towards the progress. This article presents the key occasions between the two nations within the last 20 years.

Since the opening of the Polish embassy to Georgia in 1997, states unveiled new paths en route to the cooperation and European integration. Relationships between governments are important, but relationships between people are the real foundation of proximity. Accordingly, it was promptly followed by the revitalization of cultural-scientific activities, since Tbilisi State University started to provide Polish language and history classes, while massive student exchange programs started to take place between Ilia State University and University of Silesia.

In 2004, Georgian embassy in Warsaw officially started to operate, while the Development Aid Program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland launched in Georgia. In its course of the 16 years, “Polish Aid” covered the areas such as effective governance, regional development or social welfare. Within the aid framework, Tbilisi also received humanitarian aid during the middle stages of COVID-19 pandemic.

During the World War II, 108 Georgians were fought in the ranks of the Polish Army. Some of them commanded fortified Cracow, others guarded the northern front of Polish capital, while during the 1944 uprising several of them, including 16 years old girl also lost their lives. They were all coming from the same combat campaign, led by Armja Krajowa. Notably, the deceased president Lech Kaczynski was deeply aware about the names and heroic deeds during the upheaval, since his father and the close friend of Georgian servicemen, Rajmond Kaczyński happened to be the officer of Armja Krajowa. Relationships between governments are important, but relationships between people are the real foundation of proximity. Forasmuch as shared endeavors during the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, in 2007 a memorial was erected to Georgian officers at the Museum of Warsaw Uprising. 

2009 marked another major occasion for two nations, which by some of the people was regarded as a modern Prometheism. A political project that was initiated by Polish statesman Józef Piłsudski during the early years of Bolshevism and which aimed backing Eastern European states, pressured by Russia. Warsaw (along with Stockholm) came out with one of the most decisive decisions in the history of the EU, which aimed to strengthen and deepen the relationship between Brussels and post-soviet countries, vital for the ultimate goal – the EU integration. within the 11 years, framework ensures support for the active engagement of Georgian civil society in political life, gender equality, good governance and other crucial fields for becoming a member of the European Union. Due to the Eastern Partnership, thousands of Georgian students were granted by the opportunity to continue education in leading European Universities. The specific goal set by Poland has greatly contributed to strengthen Georgians will and power for European integration, while the initiative stands as a central point among Georgian foreign policy priorities. Simultaneously, in the same year, the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation started to operate.

As once president Kennedy stated: “Nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors and remembers.” On the occasion of 90 years of anniversary, since the arrival of Georgian cadets to Pilsudski’s army, Warsaw hosted an opening of the Museum of Georgian officers in the Polish Army. In view of Paris became popular for the political refugees, but the servicemen found the new home in Poland, 2011 museum turned into the second Leuville-sur-Orge for Georgian people. At the same time, Caucasian region witnessed an unprecedented joint military drills that gathered NATO member states along with its Eastern partners. Since then, Georgian-Polish military cooperation significantly increased in scope as “Agile Spirit” became an effective mechanism to exercise the respond to crises situations with a heavy military hardware.

In April 2015, Polish minister of Foreign Affairs Grzegorz Schetyna flied to Georgia with his Swedish and Danish colleagues to sign the declaration of “Tbilisi Conference.” An interagency format, that provides Polish experience and assistance on the path to Georgian European integration. Meeting takes place annually in Tbilisi between the representatives of ministries and stands as one of the most effective mechanisms for sharing Polish practice towards the EU.

Yet another important demonstration of historic ties lies into the joint parliamentary assembly founded in 2018, which also happens to be one of the biggest assemblies in Sejm. The legislative body unit implies the institutionalization of relations and aims to further strengthen parliamentary cooperation by developing common positions on the topics of mutual interest. During the last 20 years, Warsaw and Tbilisi signed more than fifteen international agreements regulating cooperation between the countries in the fields of defense, economy, tourism, regional development, culture, education, healthcare and others.

2018 also marked the 100 years of anniversary since the two countries restored its independence and declared the republic. During the recurrence, Tbilisi hosted the opening of Polish Institute which aims the comprehensive development of Polish-Georgian relations in the field of public and cultural diplomacy. Since then, the institute supports best Georgian artists and provides Zygmunt Waliszewski prize award along with several thousand Euros. Polish institute also provides the free language and history courses, which stands as a unique opportunity for Georgian people, willing to study to Poland or deepen their literacy about two nations’ bonds. 2018 was significantly productive period for Polish-Georgian cultural diplomacy, while the milestone in the fields of politico-military cooperation also took place. Specifically, Polish embassy started to operate as NATO-Georgia contact point until the end of 2020. The mechanism that was launched by the alliance in early 1990’s, aims to support the Euro-Atlantic integration of post-Soviet states. For two years, the embassy was serving as a main channel for raising awareness on NATO’s role in Georgia. 

Year later, the new momentous chapter was written in the common history. Wroclaw became the first city across Poland, where Georgian consulate was established. Noteworthy, the official opening ceremony coincided 26 years of anniversary after the fall of Abkhazian Region. Consulate effectively assists immigration and proper documentation for Georgian citizens, while tends to deepen the relationship between the countries as well as cities. According to the city president, the goal of Wroclaw is to become a bridge between Poland and Europe and on the grounds of that framework, 2 months before the official opening of the consulate, the city signed partnership agreement with Batumi for developing the cultural-scientific relations. The agreement is an expansion of cooperation which since 2016 binds the regions of Adjara and Lower Silesia. Shortly after, the roundabout (rondo) of “Georgian officers of Polish Army” had been opened. Rondo is located 15 minutes away from the old town and stands as one of the symbols of the kinship.

Polish-Georgian common European aspirations were revitalized after regaining the independence in 1990’s but the vigorous kinship has never been under the shadow for six centuries.  Since the collapse of USSR, countries developed a series of cooperation fields what gave people an opportunity to free and defend their common past for conventional future. The success of people’s kinship relies on the historical commitment for serving each other and the two nations perhaps can claim the credits of how to preserve the historic bond come hell or high water. 

Besik Chubinidze

The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Foreign Policy Council.

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