English / ქართული / русский /

Journal number 2 ∘ Mirian Tukhashvili
Demographic Situation in Georgia-Turkey Border Regions

Expanded Summary

After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, substantial changes have occurred in Georgia’s political relationships with its neighbouring countries. Due to the good neighbourly relations with Turkey, the previously closed borders opened, a visa-free regime was established, major international railway and motor ways were built, the energy corridor was set up, an economic cooperation was activated and the economic integration of the cross-border regions previously completely isolated has started. The opportunity to establish mutual connections between cross-border labour markets has emerged. Under such circumstances, the study of regularities and specificities of the demographic development in the cross-border regions of both countries- Georgia and Turkey is of particular interest. On one hand, this is closely related to the landmarksocial and demographic changes developing in both of these countries.

For the purpose of the study, we intend to focus, within Georgia, on current Samtskhe-Javakheti region- the former cross-border and quarantine zone (excluding the Municipality of Borjomi)during the Soviet times and the Autonomous Republic of Adjara (excluding the Municipality of Kobuleti) and within Turkey- on Artvin and Ardahan provinces immediately adjoining Georgia as well as on the their surrounding and integrated, in economic terms, provinces of Kars and Trabzon. This area is characterized by a difficult terrain, contrasting climate, distinct vertical zoning and ethnic and demographic diversity of local population.

Because of the surviving demographic structure, the number of population of the Republic of Turkey is growingrapidly. However, the transformation of the reproduction system and the process of demographic transition to the model of a small family are developing at a fast pace. The fertility of women has been dramatically reduced and simple reproduction has been formed. In Turkey’s demographic development, the process of accelerated `Europeanization` can be observed. The rate of aging of population has increased. Median age has already amounted to 30,5 years. The rate of urbanization tends to be high, with three quarters of the population residing in urban areas (the major part of the populating living in large cities).

A sharp regional differentiation of the population reproduction regime has been one of the major peculiarities characteristic to the demographic development of Turkey. The total birth rate among the provinces varies from 1,53 to 4,38. The situation in Georgia’s border and adjoining regions is non-homogenous. The birth rate tends to be low in the Black Sea area, while high- in high mountainous areas. Only in the Kars province can be observed a birth rate that is slightly higher than the average indicator in Turkey. In the remaining provinces reviewed, the birth rate is much lower than the average indicator in the country and it amounts to the birth rate characteristic to European countries.

One of the main components that determines the dynamics of the population of the border provinces is an intensive migration of the population. Some 1800 thousand individuals born in the provinces reviewed, currently reside in other provinces of Turkey. This numberis higher than the number of individuals currently living in the above provinces. The population tend to migrate to large cities and relatively more developed western provinces of Turkey. The process of depopulation is very evident in the Turkish-Georgian cross-border mountainous provinces. Presumably, the preconditions of economic revival recently formed in these areas will influence the process of depopulation, reduce the intensity of migration loss and render the demographic dynamics more sustainable.

In the post-Soviet period, due to the fall in the natural population growth and high intensity emmigration processes, the number of population has decreased by 21% also in the area adjoining the border of Turkey. This decline was observed more vividly in the mountainous regions- Adjaria and Javakheti. In comparison to the period immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the natural population growth in 2016 decreased in Akhalkalaki Municipality 4,5 times, in Ninotsminda - 4,6 times, in Aspindza - 9 times, in Adjara municipalities- 2 to 3 times, while in Adigeni and Akhaltsikhe municipalities- the process of the natural population growth almost stopped. Intensive emigration processes have become a major factor of population dynamics.

The area of Georgia bordering Turkey is a territory witha biethnic structure. Individuals of Armenian background are densely populated in Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki municipalities, while the share of representatives of Armenian ethnic group constitutes one third of the total populationin Akhaltsikhe municipality. In the remainingmunicipalities, the absolute majority of the population is of Georgian ethnicity. The share of Georgian population in the overall Georgia-Turkey’s cross-border region constitutes more than three fourths. In the post-Soviet period, individuals of Russian ethnic group have completely migrated from the cross-border region,including the Dukhobors,many of which emigrated to Canada. The decline of thepost-Russian population has been influenced by the withdrawal of the Russian military contingent from Georgia during the post-Soviet period.

The demographic analysis of the population residing in Georgia-Turkey cross-border area has revealed that the demographic situation has been dramatically altered over the last few decades. Due to the dramatic reduction of the natural population growth and intensive migration of the population from that area, the depopulation process in the mountainous regions of both Georgia and Turkey has been progressing at a fast rate. The number of population remains to be relatively stable in the seaside region. The mountainous area of Adjara does not any more serve as a demographic donor for other regions of Georgia. Individuals tend to be reallocated from this area to other regions only from the rural areas exposed to landslides. Due to the reduction of the natural population growth, the intense migration from the mountainous cross-border municipalities of Turkey to the municipalities located in western Turkey has also slowed down. The international energy corridor recently put into service, with accompanying motor- and railway traffic will substantially alter the level of economic and social development of Georgia-Turkey cross-border regions, making the processes of integration in those regions more intense.It should become a subject of joint study by Georgian and Turkish scientists.

   Keywords: migration, demography, Georgia, Turkey, border region.