Church-state relations in post-Soviet Georgia: “deprivatization” of Georgian orthodoxy

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2017
Keskin, Serhat
This thesis analyzes the relationship between the Church and State in post-Soviet Georgia, and goes on to discuss the growing power of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) and its impact on secularism, politics and society. It is argued that the power of the GOC, both in Georgian society and politics, is derived from its historical significance and from the role it played in the post-Soviet period. It is argued further that these factors, along with its presence in the public space, constitute a challenge against secularism and Western values. Based on the views of José Casanova, it is suggested that the “deprivatization” of religion experienced in Georgia differs from Western experiences. This thesis makes use of both a documentary research, including the 1995 Constitution, the 2002 Constitutional Agreement, statements of the Patriarch and high ranking priests, reports of national and international NGOs and organizations, and field researches conducted in Tbilisi and Batumi in 2015 and 2017. During the field researches, 30 in-depth interviews were conducted with the elites and experts. The field researches revealed that the failure of politicians in the post-Soviet period and their need for political legitimacy contributed to the growth in the power of the Church in the public sphere. Although the process of “deprivatization” of religion in Georgia does not necessarily comply with the three legitimate instances put forward by Casanova by which the Church enters the public sphere, the Georgian Orthodox Church has become a powerful institution in the public sphere. The findings have also demonstrated that although the separation of the Church and state is legally binding, the principle of non-establishment is not fully realized.