Georgia and Pankisi Gorge (CIA Open Source Map).

Radicalization in Georgia: The Impact of the Chechen Wars

By Elena Pokalova

Sharing a border with a territory experiencing an insurgency poses numerous risks for the government. Neighboring violence can spill over to your territory, or insurgency can grow and engulf your citizens.

Such overt implications, though, are not the only possibilities. The impact can be subtle, if your territory serves as a safe haven or a transit zone for insurgents. The movement of people, ideas, and money can impact local populations through introducing new concepts and ideas.

As the case of Georgia illustrates, such impact can surface years down the road.

Georgian Fighters Appear in Syria and Iraq

The country of Georgia has had very few first-hand experiences with terrorism. As a result, it was surprising to see Georgian citizens appearing among ISIS cadres in Syria and Iraq. It was particularly puzzling why ISIS propaganda found supporters in this majority-Christian country.

Georgian Tarkhan Batirashvili, known as Omar al-Shishani, became the face of foreign fighters from Georgia. Batirashvili came from a small village of Birkiani in Georgia’s remote Pankisi Gorge. He previously had served in the Georgian military and even taken part in the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. However, his military career was cut short when he contracted tuberculosis and was discharged. After a short while, Batirashvili found a new calling in the fight against the Assad government in Syria, where he first appeared around 2012. Along with a group of fellow fo...