Forget the stereotypes about sun, wine and song. The Caucasus is a sad place and, in this region, Georgia is the saddest of all, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Georgia may persistently rank as the most democratic and liberal country within the South Caucasus, but it also ranks among the world's top ten countries with "the lowest positive emotions," the poll found.
In fact, the thousand Georgians surveyed in June-July 2014 came across as just a little happier than residents of the world’s most melancholy place, Sudan -- a score of 55 versus 47 on Gallup's "Positive Experience Index." And no happier than those of Afghanistan (also 55).
The survey, though, turned another local stereotype on its head, too. With a score of 59, the region’s smallest country, Armenia, was rated as the happiest — or, rather, the least unhappy -- after answering questions like “Did you feel well-rested yesterday? Were you treated with respect all day yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?”
Azerbaijan, the largest and richest of the Caucasus three, finished only a notch higher than Georgia, with a score of 56.
Information on how the country-scores were computed, and on the geographic, gender and age-breakdown of the respondents was not immediately available. The Georgia survey had a margin of error of 3.6 percent.
Some Georgians have ascribed the results to a post-traumatic-stress-disorder-like malaise caused by the wars and economic misery they've suffered after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The government has not commented on the results, though, arguably, their arrival is not going to make officials smile or laugh a lot, either. In recent months, Western media outlets have begun to push Georgia as an attractive travel destination — one of 52 “must-see” spots for 2015, The New York Times claimed.
A reputation for depression is not exactly a draw.
Other Georgians, though, viewed the results skeptically, and said that the pollsters’ definition of happiness is all too Western and fails to capture cultural peculiarities, such as the tendency to hide or underrate positive emotions.
Ever sensitive to comparisons with neighbors, some argued that this Armenian drummer captures Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani moods, and the differences among them, better than any poll.
Georgia, though, should not feel singled out. The sad-or-glad poll showed a general post-Soviet ennui, with only Uzbekistan feeling quite upbeat.