Migrants, Tourists, Relokanty, or Occupiers? Essay on Russians in Tbilisi, Broken Hospitality, and the Right to the City

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Liubov Chernysheva

Abstract

In the essay, I invite readers to trace my work with the concept of the right to the city to analyze how Russian citizens who have moved to Tbilisi, Georgia, over the past 10 years, including after the outbreak of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, are settling in. The materials collected during fieldwork in August 2022 allow me to question the universalism inherent in the right to the city literature and, from the perspective of the intersection of multiple factors—from economic status to their origin in the former metropolis—to consider the possibility of Russians who find themselves in Tbilisi realizing their right to the city. I consistently conceptualize Russians as “tourists” and “digital nomads” oriented toward the consumption of urban goods and as “migrants” who are attuned to but, in some cases, excluded from urban life by the local community.
To this analytical division, I “try on” the concept of the right to the city and show where it does or does not work. I conclude that, first, the concept fails to take into account the intersection of different characteristics that serve as the basis for inequalities that may arise within the group of potential subjects of the right to the city. I recommend being more attentive to the differences within the “Russians in Tbilisi” group and considering the switches between specific situations of manifestation of the right to the city. I also draw attention to the fact that the concept has an ethical dimension related to showing compassion to the subjects of the right to the city, which makes it problematic to work with in complex contexts such as the migration of Russians to Georgia in 2022.


Text in Russian

Keywords

Right to the City, Urban Citizenship, Migration, Tourism, Touristification, Expats, Digital Nomadism


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