Recently the Eton Slavonic Society hosted H.E Sophie Katsarava MBE, the Georgian Ambassador to the UK. Speaking to an audience of Eton and partner school students, she shared her experience as a Member of the Georgian Dream Party, and provided insight into Georgia’s ambitions, traditions, and international relations with Russia and the West.
Press Officer Sacha Murray-Threipland attended the event, and was lucky to join the Ambassador and a group of student linguists for dinner beforehand. He told us about his surprise when learning that, sitting at the head of the table, he had been made ‘Head of Toasts’, a position central to the rules of the Georgian dinner table which requires leading the table in multiple toasts throughout the meal! Here’s his report on the Ambassador’s address in Election Hall:
An important thing to remember about Georgia, Mrs Katsarava reminded us, is that as recently as 2008 it had a brief war with Russia. She explained that especially since Georgia gained their independence from the Soviet Union in April 1991 and adopted a pro-Western foreign policy, their relationship with Russia has been tenuous. She explained that their aim has been to become as independent from Russia as possible. This is particularly relevant to their trade and industry, which boasts widely acknowledged fine wines, most of which were delivered straight to the Russian market but which are now developing a following worldwide.
In recent years Georgia’s links with the European Union and NATO have strengthened, and there is an aim of one day joining NATO and perhaps the EU. Yet Georgia is also proud of its links with the East; “Georgia is the only country to have a free trade agreement with both China and the EU” and this is fitting considering their geographical location where East meets West.