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Will conflict or cooperation prevail in this ethnically diverse region?

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STORY
In Samtskhe-Javakheti, an isolated, predominantly ethnic Armenian region in the country’s south, the Saakashvili administration faces a critical test of its assertions that it can build a unified Georgia without shortchanging ethnic diversity. Georgian demands that Russia withdraw from its 62nd military base in Akhalkalaki, a key Javakheti town, may have recently dominated headlines on this issue, but tensions between local Armenians and the central government have been long in building.

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PROMISES vs. RESULTS
The Javakheti Armenians fear a withdrawal from Russia’s military base in Akhalkalaki will destroy their economic lifeline. How has the government promised to address the situation, and what are the results?

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AT A GLANCE
Population: 204,900
Size: 6,413 sq. km
Main Town: Akhaltsikhe (pop: 18,200)
Average salary: 83.4 GEL ($46) per month


Ethnic tensions have long plagued Samtskhe-Javakheti – as the fate of the Meskhetian Turks bears witness.

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GEORGIAN VOICES
"There is no work. People are hungry. Saakashvili has not made any changes."

Volodya,
Pensioner, Akhalkalaki

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"The more Russians, the better for us. We don’t need America."

Anonymous,
Pensioner, Akhalkalaki

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"Students need a good road to Yerevan. Most go to Armenia to study."

Hovik,
Market Trader, Akhalkalaki

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