Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Monday delivered a keynote speech at the opening event for the ITB Berlin international tourism fair that is showcasing Georgia as its Host Country in the German capital. Agenda.ge offers its readers the full speech of the Georgian official:
"I am delighted to welcome Mr. Robert Habeck, Vice-Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany; Mr. Dirk Hoffman, Managing Director of ITB Berlin; Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, my dear friend and Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization; Ms. Julia Simpson, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council; and, Ms. Franzisca Giffey, the Governing Mayor of Berlin.
Dear Friends, we are extremely honored to host you on behalf of Georgia in this beautiful city of Berlin. Welcome!
Within the Caucasus region, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, our country has been the heart of many civilizations for millennia, being the target of great empires and often serving as the subject of contention between them. Entire history of humankind is represented in Georgia. The country was forming and evolving in constant struggle, in the pursuit of development and freedom, and at the same time, in active interaction with other cultures. It is the cooperation of these cultures that gave rise to the intercultural and tolerant nature of which we, Georgians, are so proud!
Georgia stands out with its unique nature. It is hard to find a land with similar natural diversity and perpetual culture elsewhere. Almost all climate zones of the planet can be found in Georgia - from subtropical to those of eternal snow and glaciers. The Georgian nation with its character was formed in such an environment and historical process, with Georgian identity and culture, which is tolerant and respectful of all cultures.
Very few countries exist in the world that have a 3,000-year old history of statehood and a multi-thousand-year national culture. This very culture is one of the fascinating achievements of world civilization and is as old as humanity itself.
Indeed, our history begins from ancient times. The oldest human ancestor in Eurasia was discovered in Georgia. You may well be aware of Homo Georgicus - the first Europeans who lived on the territory of our country almost 2 million years ago and gave rise to the population of modern Europe.
The Georgians have always had a close connection with the ancient civilizations of the Near East or Mesopotamia. The oldest reference to Georgian political establishments can be found in Assyrian sources. The Georgian kingdoms of Colchis, Diaokhi, and Iberia became an integral part of world civilization.
In ancient times, we were an important center of the Western civilization. “Golden Colchis” - this is how the kingdom is mentioned in ancient written sources, next to such important cities as Mycenae, Babylon and Athens. Philosophy flourished in ancient Colchis. The philosophers of Ancient Hellas tell us about the Philosophical School of Phasis, where the Greeks received education themselves.
Archaeological discoveries and artefacts reveal a connection between the Hellenic myth about the Golden Fleece and our reality. Even the ancient Greek historians did not doubt this connection. It was thanks to Colchis, being the country of the Golden Fleece, that Georgia found its rightful place in European culture for the first time. The whole cycle of Greek mythology is dedicated to the campaign of Argonauts in Colchis, while the Greek myths are the main source giving rise to ancient and later European culture.
As I mentioned above, Georgia has been located at a geopolitical crossroads and the historic Silk Road has served as a connecting bridge between the continents. Europe and Asia, Eastern and Western civilizations met in Georgia. The country has thus become an original blend of cultures from these worlds.
Later, we were one of the first to adopt Christianity, which is one of the main fundamental values of modern Europe. Our country was one of the first to declare Christianity as the state religion, while the New Testament was translated into Georgian already in the 4th century.
Art and culture of the Golden Age in our history - the Georgian Renaissance - continued to establish highest ideals in the Middle Ages and have formed what is recognized as fundamental by Europe nowadays.
Georgia had a glorious King David the Builder, whose great merits and most prudent policies resulted in the unprecedented power of the country in the 12th century. A legend was spread all over Europe at that time about a mythical figure - Prester John (Lat. Presbyter Ioannes) - who exemplified the Georgian King David the Builder. Two large academies were created in Georgia to resemble the world-famous Mangana Academy of the Byzantine-era Constantinople, as Gelati and Iqalto Academies represented its Eastern universities.
Georgia was later ruled by a successor of David the Builder. Tamar was her name, though was referred to as King Tamar. A female ruler of Georgia in the 12th century stood out with her common sense and wisdom. She was not called a queen, but rather a king. It was during her reign that one of the first signs of a parliament appeared in the world. Many masterpieces of our architecture and art at large were created in Georgia under her rule and include one of the peaks of poetic art – The Knight in Panther’s Skin by Shota Rustaveli, which defined the mindset of Georgians for centuries.
The language in which this immortal creation is written is one of the most ancient among those spoken today. We call this language our native, as it serves as the main ground for our identity that shapes the Georgian soul, Georgian conscience and mindset.
Georgian alphabet is ancient as well. It is one of the most distinctive and unique, being given its final form by King Parnavaz in the 3rd century AD. Although, according to some reports, it existed from the 7th century AD. The oldest specimens of our writing are found both in Georgia and outside its borders. As a result of significant changes, the Georgian alphabet was formed into three types of alphabets, which are all recognized by the UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Indeed, we represent a small, freedom-loving, proud, and invincible Georgian nation. The cultural achievement of humankind and the pride of our country is polyphonic singing. Georgian polyphony embodies the greatest virtues of man: the freedom and uniqueness of each individual and, at the same time, respect for others, solidarity and quest for harmonious co-existence.
Perhaps, the Georgian spirit can be most vividly seen in our folk dances, which have their origins in millennia. Every corner of the country has its own choreography depicting travail, battle-field fight or grooving, and all of them are embraced with the love of life and freedom.
Traditions of polyphonic singing, folk dancing and gathering are linked with the Georgian Supra – fete, which is an integral part of our habitual culture and social existence. The Georgian Supra is unique in the world and can be considered as the first sign of a democratic society. It is a place where equal relations, public debate, continuation of traditions, as well as new ones are born. The rules of this ancient tradition, which are confirmed by the archeological discoveries of Vani Excavations (in West Georgia), are still practiced in our routine life.
And, of course, the culture of serving and drinking wine in Georgia is also tied closely with the Georgian Supra. All of you may well know Georgia as the homeland of wine. We are proud of the 8,000-year continuous tradition of making this divine substance, which is proven by archeological discoveries. The world scientific community recognizes that the oldest traces of winemaking, dating back 8,000 years, were discovered on the territory of Georgia, from where it then spread throughout the world, and had a great impact on the development of agriculture, culture of nations, biology, medicine and civilizations at large.
That is why the tradition of making Quevri wine was declared by UNESCO as a monument of world intangible cultural heritage. Georgia has over 500 oldest local varieties of grapes, which cover almost all regions of Georgia. Historically, in a wine country almost every family had their own small wine cellars. Vine and wine were elevated to the level of a divine, ritual, religious significance, so much so that they used to equal the Homeland with a Vineyard, being the highest epithet. Praise to the vine – a polyphonic song titled as You Are the Vineyard - became a a kind of national anthem. This is the prayer of a Georgian man, for whom his estate, the vine and the Christianizing cross of Georgians bound with vines stand at the same height. The history of Christianity does not know a similar and - at the same time - more poetic form of conversion to Christianity.
I am proud that I had a privilege of signing the EU Association Agreement with a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), and as a result, the public awareness and demand for Georgian wine on international markets sky-rocketed. The current Georgian winemaking echoes its 8,000-years of rich history.
These magnificent traditions have paved the road to our great enlighteners - Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani; King Vakhtang VI; the great reformer and European modernizer King Erekle II, and later - Ilia Chavchavadze. The great educator Ivane Javakhishvili endeavored at establishing a European educational system and founded one of the first universities in Caucasus in 1918. It became a bridge connecting Georgian intellectuals with Europe.
Georgian science as well as Georgian theater, cinema, opera and ballet, fine arts, prose and poetry are born from these traditions and are part of world treasures. We are rightly proud of the 1918 First Republic of Georgia with its exemplary constitution – a remarkable achievement of its time in Europe. It established a progressive democratic system, abolished the death penalty, established freedom of speech, expression and faith, and solidified the rights of national minorities, also, established the political, civil, economic equality of men and women.
I wish to highlight that Germany was the first country to recognize the de-facto independence of Georgia back in 1918, while being among the first to recognize our regained independence in 1992. We are also proud that one of the authors of the idea behind European unity, the co-creator of the European Union and its Constitution was our compatriot – Mikheil Muskhelishvili (known as Michel Mouskhely).
I believe all these facts demonstrate that Georgians were not only part, but co-creators of the modern European civilization. I must mention the unique nature of Georgia. The sight of our natural treasures amazes everyone - the wetlands of Georgia, by UNESCO's decision, were added to the list of 213 natural heritage sites of the world and earned a worthy place next to the Amazon Rainforest, the Grand Canyon National Park, the Yellowstone National Park, Mount Etna and the Swiss Alps. On a relatively small area, together with wetlands, Georgia boasts with unique high mountain ecosystems (Kazbegi, Tusheti, Khevsureti), semi-desert Vashlovani national park, where biosphere reserves have been created. In Georgia, the migration route of birds passes through Javakheti and the Black Sea coast, which is the third most important in the world.
That is why approximately 12% of the territory of Georgia is acknowledged as protected areas. Its history begins 110 years ago with the creation of the Lagodekhi nature reserve. The protection of natural treasure is actively continued and is given even greater and special importance nowadays, in the light of the challenge created by climate change.
Today, only a small part of the history and great culture of our unique country is represented here. We hope this will inspire you to visit Georgia and get to know better our picturesque nature, great history and culture - and most importantly - hardworking, open-hearted and infinitely hospitable Georgian people.
When meeting every single Georgian, or visiting every single family, one will meet a phenomenon that is the leitmotif of our entire history - Georgian hospitality. Those who have already been to Georgia are familiar with this phenomenon and know that Georgian hospitality is truly boundless.
As the Georgian expression goes, a guest is a Gift of God. We perceive guests as gifts sent by the Lord Almighty and give them the best we have. One of the most important works of the Georgian literature - an Epic Story of a “Guest and Host” by monumental Georgian poet and writer, Vazha Pshavela, describes this very tradition - an implicit, but binding rule for everyone in Georgia.
Of course, hospitality is a characteristic feature of every nation, but for Georgians it is an inviolable and untouchable living tradition that defines our identity, despite the changes in time and circumstances. This unique feature of the Georgian character has not disappeared even in the most difficult and dramatic periods of history.
We have a special role to play today as we are guests in Europe and, the same time, we are hosting you on behalf of Georgia. This is a huge honor!
Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests, I would like to thank you for coming! Let me note that Georgia strives to become a member of the European family streamlined with its rich and unique history and culture.
Irrespective of the fact that 20% of our country is still occupied by Russia today and Georgia is facing lots of challenges, we are one of the safest countries in the world, which is very important for any visitor, who wishes to travel in our country. Besides, Georgia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world; despite all these challenges, war in Ukraine, which is devastating and Russia’s unfair, unjustified invasion of Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable.
Georgian government and people of Georgia are doing their best to achieve the goal of becoming a fully-fledged member of the European Union. Today, when the European Perspective of Georgia has been recognized by the Council of the European Union, we are even closer to our civilizational choice than ever before. Current efforts of every Georgian are directed towards the day when Georgia will eventually secure its place on the map of Europe, which we deserve with our history and culture, our past and modernity; the day when we will proudly say together with you that we are hosts in Europe.
Once again, let me thank the German Government, Vice-Chancellor, the Governing Mayor of Berlin and organizers of ITB Berlin for inviting us. I would like to outline that in the course of the last year, we had unprecedented positive dynamics in our bilateral relations with Germany. The proof of this is Georgia being the host country of this remarkable event today!"