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Historic and New Silk Road and perspectives for European Integration of Georgia

Historic and New Silk Road and perspectives for European Integration of Georgia

By: Nika Chitadze
       Director of the Center for International Studies
       Professor of the International Black Sea University
      President of the George C. Marshall Center Alumni Union, Georgia – International and Security        Research Center

Nika Chitadze - Photo 2017.jpg


Georgia is a small country on the crossroads of Europe and Asia. At the same time, together with the economic benefits for the country, which had and has its important geopolitical place between different civilizations, there were frequent confrontations for the gaining control over Georgia and Caucasus Region due to the fact, that modern territory of Georgia was located on one of the branch of the Great Silk Road. Historic Silk Road was functioning since 8-7-th Centuries B.C. till the middle of 15-th Century. After the collapse of Constantinople in 1453, the interregional Silk Road lost its function, and Georgia was in a very difficult situation, that spanned centuries. By the end of the 20th century, after the end of the Cold War, the issue of the Silk Road acquired a special significance, especially after approval by European Union TRACECA (Euro-Asia Transport Corridor) project in 1993 and after the Chinese President's Xi Jinping initiative for the granting the new life to the historic Silk Road within the project - "One Girdle One Way" in 2013.

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Historical aspects of the development the great silk road

The Silk Road can be considered to be a clear symbol of the links between the East and the West, which has become a natural extension of the spiritual, cultural and trade relations of millennia between these civilizations.

The development of trade turnover has led to the intensification of migration flows, reflected in artistic monuments, migratory flows led to the global change of the Eurasian ethnic map.
The transcontinental transit of the famous "Silk Great Trading Road" started in Sinzhiyan (China), and then part of the city of Kashgar to the south of the Mediterranean Sea, and the second to the Caspian Sea and then to the South Caucasus countries (Albania, Iberia, Colchis) Mtkvari River and Rioni rivers –was reaching to the Black Sea port city of phases, which were available to transport the goods by the sea to Europe. Via these ways, the first Chinese silk got the Europe (in the second century B.C.) and from that time this route was called "the Silk Great Trade Road."
Furthermore, for the determination the strong connection of Georgian kindgoms with the outside world, it should be mentioned as a great significance the discovery of bacterial silver coins in the territory of Iberia (today's East Georgia) in Tbilisi and Aragvi Gorge (Pasanauri).
The World famous Greek geographer Strabo (64-63 - newly 23-24) in his book "Geography" states, that one transport way from Europe to Asia included the route from Black Sea costs to the river Phasisi (Rioni). Scientists went to Iberia and visited its capital Mtskheta. According to Strabo, across the river at the time about 120 bridges were located.
There was another historic road that came from the Caucasus Albania (today's Azerbaijan and the surrounding area), into the Caucasus Iberia. This path was still in the rock, and then, according to Strabo, was a swamp that created the Alazane River (modern Alazani)
According to Strabo, there was a third way, from Armenia to the Caucasus Iberia. The road was crossing the banks of the river Mtkvari. There was a fourth way. According to Strabo and other authors, this route passed through the Tergi Gorge and the Aragvi River to the other side of the Aragvi River, from the Dariali Alan gate to the capital of Iberia Mtskheta. These four historic roads were connecting in Mtskheta, the capital of Kartli (Caucasus Iberia). One of the most interesting ways on the interregional level covered the territories between Iberia and Kolkheti from one side, and India and China from another side. It was a great international trade route.
As it was mentioned, This path has existed before the collapse of Constantinople. After 1453, economic and cultural ties between the countries fell apart. Georgia has been in a deadlock and Europe has lost interest in the road before the period of the disintegration of the Soviet Empire.

Prospects of restoration of Silk Road after the Cold War

After the restoration of the national independence in the beginning of 90-th of the XX Century, Georgia gained an opportunity to be integrated to the international society.  
In the contemporary period, together with other parameters, the importance of the Georgia's geopolitical location can be determined by its involvement to the transport and energy projects. It’s territory is an axis of Europe - Caucasus - Asia transport corridor system. It also constitutes energy corridor, as well it is the shortest transit line which connects with each other the countries of Europe and Asia. Thus, Georgia can contribute to the functioning of New "Great Silk Road".
For example, by the involvement in the Transport and energy projects - Georgia is able to contribute in the transportation of the energy resources from the Caspian Sea and Central Asian regions via alternative routes. Georgia’s Black Sea ports (turnover of goods of Poti port is between 6-8 million tones per year, and future capacity of Anaklia port will be about seven million tones), the Baku-Supsa (capacity five million tones of oil) and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (capacity 50 million tones) oil pipelines, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline (capacity 8 billion cubic meters) and future gas pipeline project TANAP (Trans Anatolian Project with capacity from 16-32 Billion cubic meters of natural gas) represent the clear examples of the transit role of the country.
Together with above – mentioned transport and energy projects, Georgia is an active participant in such important transport project – as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. The initiative is intended to establish a transport corridor linking Azerbaijan to Turkey through the territory of Georgia by rail. At the same time, the next step is to connect China with Central Asia, Caucasus, and Europe via railway system - For example, in late 2015, the train took only 15 days to travel from South Korea to Istanbul through China. It is much more shorter period, than the transportation of goods by ship. The railway line is intended to provide transportation an initial annual volume of 6.5 million tones with the long-term perspectives to increase the volume of goods up to 17 million tones. 
Taking into consideration the above-mentioned realities, by the initiative of China, in 2014 The Silk Road Fund was created. Chinese initiative was interrelated to promote project "one belt, one road". The foundation's capital was $ 40 billion.

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EU Strategy toward the transport and energy projects and role of Georgia

As it was mentioned above, after the disintegration of USSR, world democratic community expressed its interest toward the post-soviet space, particularly toward the Caucasus Region. In this regard, for the implementation of the programs in the field of transport and energy, the TRACECA (Europe-Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor) project has been approved. In the framework of this project, the First conference was held in Brussels in May 1993, with the participation of the EU (European Commission), Central Asian (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan) and South Caucasus (Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia) states delegations.
There are five working groups in the framework of the TRACECA: Maritime Transport, Aviation Road and Rail, Transport safety and transport infrastructure.

Taking into account the importance of this project, In the framework of Eastern Partnership Program, in the beginning of 2019, European Union has released €12.845 Billion Euro, from where Georgia will receive €3.417 Billion. Among of this amount, the biggest part, €1 billion will come on the reconstruction of the central road of Georgia. For the Anaklia sea port  about €333 million will be allocated.  From this amount, about €100 million will cover the expenses for the road and railway construction from the different regions of Georgia till this Black Sea Port.

For the simplification the transportation of goods, it is planned to construct 96 bridges and 53 tunnels, which will shorten the time for transportation through the territory of Georgia for tracks and passengers for 40 minutes.  

From Poti port till the state border between Turkey and Georgia, the reconstruction of the road will be funded by €241 million.

Other important transport and communication system project is reconstruction of road from Georgian city Rustavi till Red bridge – State border between Azerbaijan and Georgia. For this project about 155 million Euro will be spent. In general, for the 10 road project with the whole length 280 km. €2.087 billion will be spent and on the 2 railway project with the length 90 km, €349 million will be released.

In general, in the framework of Eastern Partnerhip Prgram, the biggest part of the funding €4.453 Billion will be released for Ukraine. The smaller part, €732 million for Armenia.
At the same time, By EU financial aid, Georgia is a leader within this program by per capita with €916, which prevails for 3,55 times the amount of funds for Moldova, which is at the second place by per capita.
In general, transport and energy Projects in the framework of Great Silk Road will promote the further integration of Georgia to the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. In case of the projects realization, International community will be more interested in the stability of Georgia as a transit country. 


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