Georgia’s Shrinking Population Problem

GEORGIA –Georgia’s Catholicos, Patriarch Ilia II, has 4,600 godchildren already. That’s because the powerful religious figure in this small orthodox Christian country has initiated a policy of ordaining the third and more children of the families applied to the patriarchy in certain deadlines which is announced several times in a year started from 2008.

He’s responding to a dramatic decrease in Georgia’s population over the past two decades, which due to a decrease in birth rate and a dramatic increase in migration to other countries, has lost nearly 1.4 million since 1990. That’s similar to tendencies across the Caucasus and other CIS countries. The though in Azerbaijan the decrease happened later then Georgia and it happened quickly which is worse as Giorgi Tsuladze says, a professor of demography at Tbilisi Ilia Chavchavadze State University. In this case, it makes bigger gap in generations.

Georgia has historically suffered great population losses – the most dramatic in the 1700s, when the southern provinces of modern Georgia , due to invaders from the Ottoman empire were depleted to no more than 1.7 million, at best, and 750,000 at worst.

There are no Turkish invaders these days, but only modern lifestyle, which makes it harder for women to work and bear children.

Demographic problems of different level are in many countries around the world. Some west European countries have pro-natal policy which is directed to the increase of country’s birth rate. Such country is France, where the more children a family has the more benefits it gets from social funds. Compared to England which isn’t oriented on such policy, in France birth rate is about 10 percent higher, according to Giorgi Tsuladze Tbilisi Ilia Chavchavadze University professor, demographer.

He thinks that at present, the government is more oriented on other issues then the demographic one but Tsuladze says that even if they change the priorities, the policy isn’t capable to make a demographic boost in a short time.

What may be needed are the right incentives to have bigger families, and for Georgians, that may be religious leadership. The fact that religion is really important for Georgians in making decisions is also clearly seen from the CRRC (Caucasus Research Resource Center) research of recent years. The majority or nearly half the population in Georgia says religion factor matters whereas in Armenia and Azerbaijan it takes 26-27 percent only. 83 percent of the Georgia’s population says that they trust to the religious institution, whereas 30 percent takes president.

Despite the general demographic decrease, during last two years, there is distinguished tendency of growth in number of second and third children (The number of the third children increased by, 1323 in 2007-2008).

The chief manager of the Patriarch Fund, Irakli Kadagishvili says that the patriarch came up with this idea several years ago after discussing demographic problems with leading demographers of the country.

“This is a good stimulus to the parents. Mostly first two children are born in a short time after making families and as for the next children; parents usually hesitate to have them. Patriarch’s initiative was a strong encouragement for many couples to have more than two children as godfather and godchildren are relatives to each other”, explains Kadagishvili.

In spite of the positive effect of Patriarch’s initiative in demographic angle, Dr.Tsuladze thinks that this should be carefully studied. He says that international experience has shown such artificial incentives can stimulate the opposite effect. In general, when there occurs some financial and other kinds of factors as the stimuli of demographic increase it is followed by a drastic gap afterwards. For example if giving birth to third and fourth children is planned in next six years (this is called timing) and because of some factors you give birth along the next three years, the period after this, will be demographic gap. I cannot say exactly weather in Georgia’s case this can be problem or not but such growth in third and the next children should be studied deeply.”, says Tsuladze.

Kadagishvili says that the patriarchy would be willing to take part in the studies on this issue. He says that the initiative of Ilia II was a good stimulus but only this effort cannot make big change in the overall picture, so it cannot become the reason of a big gap in demographic timing.

Another obstacle for demographic growth in Georgia is families which have only one child and they don’t want to have more. Irina Abdushelishvili, 40, has got only a daughter now. “My husband and I are very busy with our jobs and my 10 year-old- daughter has been brought up mainly by my mother”, she says. So her childhood dream about having three kids, still remain as a dream only.


  1. Yes, our century created invader mothers. We are killing ourselves.

    Thanks Sopo, it's an interesting view, how peoples' mentality can be changed during the time, not only for Georgia but for entire world.

  2. Yes Ina. and BTW did you know that having one child is demographically regress, having two - is just substitution of parents and more then two - is already progress in country's demography. :) This is so simple but honestly I have never thought about it untill I started work on this story.
    Thanks for comment dear :*

  3. last year I wrote about it


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