A group of first year MAPSIR students, alongside Professors Alexei Trochev and Hélène Thibault, has just returned from their educational trip to Tbilisi, Georgia. The trip was dedicated to observing the Georgian parliamentary elections that took place on 8th of October. On that day, the students visited several polling stations in Tbilisi and observed the process, paying particular attention to pre-election campaigns.
Apart from scrutinizing the elections, MAPSIR students had a very busy schedule (including sampling some of that heavenly good Georgian food!). Throughout their weeklong stay in Tbilisi they met with prominent Georgian political scientists and discussed the pressing issues about political and social life in the country. Among the academics were Professor David Matsaberidze from Tbilisi State University who spoke about his work on ethnic conflicts, nationalism, and security. Another lecture was given by Professor Tatuna Maisashvili, also from TSU, who shared her expertise in journalism and politics. Students particularly enjoyed this lecture about Georgian mass media and their effect on political life in the country. “It was fascinating to learn that media in Georgia enjoy such a low level of regulation and a high degree of free speech”, said the students. Besides that, the students visited Caucasus International University and met with the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences Irine Ghvineria and the staff of the CIU’s Innovations and Strategic Development Department.
One of the trip’s highlights was a visit to the Tbilisi-based Women’s Information Center. This NGO focuses on female empowerment in Georgia and has been an active participant in the parliamentary elections and voter mobilization. On another day the students took a trip to the ancient city of Mtskheta, which used to be the capital of Georgia. There the group explored the country’s political and religious histories, the fusion of which is still present in the city’s numerous historic monuments.
Such a trip would not be complete without a cultural outing. The group went to see a play called Begalut at Tbilisi’s Marjanishvili Theatre. The very moving play told the tale of culture, family, and the tragedy of exile. The students said that they found the trip to be extremely culturally and academically beneficial, because they got to learn so much about Georgia’s rich culture and history and participate in lively discussions with professional political scientists, and that they were looking forward to come back one day.
Contributed by Karina Nigmatullina