Anti-Western and pro-Russian disinformation narratives in Georgia

The 21st century is the age of information technologies, bringing enormous development to the world. However, in this process of technological evolution, special importance must be attached to the issue – how to get the right information in the right way. Unfortunately, alongside the development of information technologies, we also face a mass flow of disinformation, targeting certain groups of the population within the country, serving the pursuit of interests for interested external or internal actors. This, in turn, harms the proper development of the country, recovery of which may last quite a long period.

 Hybrid threats, such as propaganda, deception, sabotage, and other tactics have long been used to undermine Georgia’s aspiration towards NATO as well as the EU. Occupation is not the only threat coming from Russia. One can encounter elements of hybrid warfare on a daily basis, including but not limited to propaganda, fake news, and trolls. Ethnic minority groups are especially vulnerable in this regard. For them, the main source of information is Russian TV channels, as well as social media.

Hence, ethnic minority groups frequently are under the influence of Russian disinformation. Georgia needs to increase resilience and to realise the necessity to build the capacity for civil society to spot and resist disinformation efforts.

Georgia needs to increase resilience in representatives of ethnic minority groups living in the country, including local civil society members, opinion-makers, teachers as well as youth by equipping them with the relevant skills necessary for recognizing components of hybrid threats and to be able to counter them. Informed, consistent, and reliable ethnic minority groups will play an important role in countering anti-NATO propaganda in Georgia, which has risen in recent years. Furthermore, investing in the education and awareness of ethnic minorities will help Georgia become more resilient against the disinformation campaign that Russia carries out daily on Georgian citizens.

While the majority of Georgians in the region support the country’s eventual integration into NATO, Georgia’s ethnic minority communities tend to be less supportive of Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy. In the absence of strong resilience against disinformation, ethnic minority groups are vulnerable to the influence of  disinformation campaigns and fake news.

During the last few years, we can observe the rise of anti-Western and pro-Russian disinformation narratives in Georgia. According to the report published by Transparency International Georgia ( the Georgian government is not effective in combating such narratives and disinformation. There is no political will to tackle the problem. Although relevant departments have been established in various public agencies to work on disinformation and cybersecurity, accurate analysis of this challenge by the state, interagency coordination, and the effectiveness of specific state actions remain a problem. 

Due to the unavailability and fragmented nature of information on the performance of public agencies, it is difficult to get a common picture of the methods used by the government to counter disinformation. In many cases, their actions are either formal or reflect the political agenda of the ruling party.

Additionally, Public agencies are not effective in informing the public in a timely manner about Russian disinformation narratives and mitigating their harmful influence. Anti-Western, discrediting and disinformation statements by government officials against Western partners, ambassadors, NGOs, and strategic partners sow scepticism among the population toward the West, further dividing the society and strengthening Russian disinformation influences in the country. 

TIG is sure that through its unauthenticated accounts or fake pages, the ruling party deliberately spreads disinformation against opponents, as well as critical media and NGO representatives. To change the situation for the better, some of the country’s strategic documents need to be updated or developed to adequately respond to the growing problem of disinformation. In addition, there is no national strategy to counter hybrid threats, while the National Security Concept needs to be updated.  It should be notated that a large part of the recommendations made by the parliamentary working group on disinformation, and propaganda to public agencies in 2019, still remains unfulfilled.

One of the leading problems concerns the government not cooperating with NGOs and the media, which should be its main allies in the fight against disinformation. Also, it should be stressed that the measures taken to promote media literacy are not sufficient. 

It is obvious that the Georgian State should play a leading role in the fight against disinformation and have a declared political will to do so. As a first step to improving the situation of spreading disinformation, key leaders of the ruling “Georgian Dream” party and other public high-level officials should stop making anti-Western and discrediting statements against strategic partners and NGOs. The government should stop encouraging the spread of disinformation.

It seems that is essential to develop a publicly available document that defines common goals with timeframes for combating disinformation. This would include the responsible agencies involved as well as the criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of possible activities. The document should be updated as new challenges emerge.  

The public should be systematically and proactively informed about disinformation narratives to ensure that citizens are prepared to confront them and to reduce the impact of disinformation. Citizens should have detailed information about who is spreading disinformation in the country and how, the sources of their funding, and what the government is doing to address the problem.

Amid the war in Ukraine, the government should immediately respond to disinformation challenges, considering international experience and practice. It is crucial to update and prepare strategic documents on disinformation and security (National Strategy on Countering Hybrid Threats, National Security Concept) to respond to modern challenges and growing disinformation threats.

It is important to develop media literacy and equip citizens with relevant skills to detect disinformation. In terms of media literacy, continuous education should be a priority – citizens should be constantly informed about the methods of disinformation and how to detect it.

Moreover, Georgia’s sovereignty and growing economic dependence from Russia constitutes a threat to the country, as Russia has repeatedly utilized economic relations to politically leverage independent countries. Furthermore, the increased economic dependence on Russia is a threat to Georgia considering macroeconomics.

In the report published by TIG ( among the specific findings of the research, the following should be noted:

  • In 2022, about 15,000 Russian companies were registered in Georgia, which is 16 times more than the number in 2021. A total of 22,400 Russian companies are registered in Georgia, and 66% of them have been registered since the start of the war in Ukraine;
  • 95% of the companies registered since March are sole proprietors. This indicates that a part of Russian citizens moved to Georgia to live and do business for a long time;
  • In 2022, Georgian exports to Russia increased by 6.8% and amounted to 652 million USD. Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, in March-December, the export increased by 3.2% primarily caused by a 5-fold increase in the re-export of passenger cars.
  • The share of the Russian market in the total exports of Georgia decreased from 14.4% to 11.7%. The Russian share decreased because Georgian exports to Russia grew at a lower rate (6.8%) than Georgia’s total exports to all countries (32%);
  • Traditionally, Georgia’s wine exports are highly dependent on the Russian market. In 2022, Georgia’s wine exports to Russia increased by 23% and amounted to 161 million USD. The Russian market accounts for 64% of Georgian wine exports, which is the highest figure since 2013, after the return of Georgian wine to the Russian market; in 2022, imports from Russia increased by 79% and amounted to 1.8 billion USD. The share of imports from Russia was 13.1% of the total imports of Georgia, which is the highest in the last 16 years.
  • Since the beginning of the war, the import of petroleum products (fuel) from Russia increased the most – 482 million USD (5 times more). The share of Russian fuel in imports was 51%. Import of food products increased by 45% and amounted to 442 million dollars; Import of carbon steel increased 8 times and amounted to 49 million dollars. Import of coal and coke increased by 157% and totalled 70 million USD; Although electricity imports from Russia increased by 46%, Russian electricity accounts for only 2.6% of Georgia’s domestic consumption. Imports of natural gas from Russia increased by 32%. Russia’s share in the domestic consumption of natural gas in Georgia is around 8%.
  • Georgia’s dependence on Russian wheat and wheat flour remains high. In 2022, the share of Russian wheat and wheat flour in Georgia’s total import of these products was 97%. 78% of wheat flour consumed in Georgia is imported from Russia.
  • In 2022, visitor arrivals from Russia grew exponentially, with 1.1 million visitors arriving in Georgia. In comparison to 2019, the number of visitors from Russia is still 26% less. However, 14% more Russian visitors arrived in Georgia in September-December 2022, compared to the same period in 2019.
  • In 2022, the share of Russian visitors in the total number of visitors to Georgia was 20% which is twice as high as in 2021. International visitor statistics is available since 2011, which indicates that the share of Russian visitors had never reached 20% before;
  • In 2022, Russian citizens opened more than 60,000 accounts in Georgian banks, and the amount of money placed in their current accounts and deposits increased almost 4 times compared to 2021 and reached 2.8 billion GEL;
  • A portion of Russian visitors are emigrants who settled in Georgia for a long period. This is indicated by the registration of companies, the opening of tens of thousands of accounts as well as the number of deposits made in Georgian banks by Russian citizens;
  • In 2022, remittances from Russia to Georgia increased by 5 times and amounted to 2.1 billion USD. The primary reason for such high growth is the Russian citizens who moved to Georgia, receiving money from Russia.
  • In January-September of 2022, Russian foreign direct investment in Georgia amounted to 33 million USD, which is 51% less than the same indicator in 2021. Most of it, 29 million USD was invested in the real estate sector.

The Georgian Government’s main goal for nearest future should be to reduce economic dependence on Russia to a minimum. To reduce the trade with Russia, the Government of Georgia should start working more actively and expeditiously to conclude free trade agreements with all strategic partners with whom we do not yet have such an agreement. Although such agreements will have positive effects in the long term, given the current situation, Georgia can more vigorously demand strategic partners to accelerate the process of signing foreign trade agreements.

The high share of the Russian market in Georgian wine exports is particularly alarming. As diversification of the wine export market is difficult and cannot be done swiftly, the government should have a strategy on how to reduce dependence on the Russian market in the coming years.

Subsidies from the state budget (grants, concessional credit, etc.) should not be given to businesses that increase economic dependence on Russia. The introduction of this rule will play an important role in reducing the Georgian economy’s dependence on Russia, which will increase the economic and political security of the country.

There should be a different practice for Russian citizens to register companies in Georgia. Before obtaining approval for company registration, the applicant should be vetted if they are in any way related to the said sanctioned companies or persons.

Andrzej Klimczyk,

Expert, Georgian Strategic Analysis Center, former Political Officer in the NATO Liaison Office in Georgia

Andrzej Klimczyk

Expert, Georgian Strategic Analysis Center, former Political Officer in the NATO Liaison Office in Georgia

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April 2023
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