Seventeen-year-old Aziz Ganiyev lives in a mostly ethnic Azerbaijani area of Georgia, Kvemo Kartli, that has always had problems integrating within Georgian society. But for this Georgian-speaking teenager, an aspiring journalist, integration seems no problem at all.
Language has long formed a border between the country’s ethnic Georgians and ethnic Azerbaijanis. Traditionally, Georgian residents of Azerbaijani heritage often lived in mono-ethnic communities and among themselves spoke only Azerbaijani. With ethnic Georgians, they used Russian.
But Ganiyev represents a generation of Azerbaijani Georgians who want to change that past. Through special language courses, their knowledge of Georgian is expanding. Thanks to social media and the internet, the rest of Georgia now seems much closer.
As he watches friends celebrate the end of their studies (in a “last bell” ceremony, named for the traditional school bell) and considers his own future, Ganiyev wants it to come closer still.