Mingrelians - Sociopolitical Organization

Mingrelia, as part of the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (the words "Soviet Socialist" have recently been dropped) and the USSR, was controlled by the Communist party. The regions that comprise Mingrelia elected representatives to the Georgian Supreme Soviet and their own regional and city councils. Mingrelia has no separate representation or regional autonomy—unlike Abkhazia, Ach'ara (Ajaría), and South Ossetia, all of which elect "national" representatives to the All-Union parliament's second house (the Council of Nationalities—to be renamed the Council of Republics). Since the election of a non-Communist Georgian government in October 1990, the role of the Communist party in local affairs has seriously declined, replaced by other parties.

Social Organization. The class structure in Mingrelia is occupational. The urban-educated, upper white-collar class wielded most power in the region through the Communist party and other governmental or administrative structures. Education and white-collar work carry high status. Rural Mingrelian society is seen as somewhat "provincial," although rural families are respected for their preservation of the "traditional" way of life.

Political Organization. The important organizations in local affairs were the village, town, and regional soviets and the local Communist party organizations. The Georgian government recently announced the replacement of soviets with committees of various party representatives. In the past, village soviets contained many non-Communists, although at city and regional levels Communists generally made up the majority. Communists no longer dominate local government, either in electoral or administrative posts and are being replaced by representatives from independent political parties.

Social Control. Conflict resolution and the maintenance of conformity was the function of both informal organizations such as the family, village, and peer group, and formal organizations such as the Communist party, school, local soviets, and the courts. Courts operate at the regional and municipal levels. (There are also circuit courts, which may visit workplaces and different settlements.) All judges are elected and formerly were almost always Communist party members.

Conflict. Mingrelians have always been on the frontline of Georgian conflict with their Moslem Turkish neighbors; the region has been invaded a number of times by the Turks, most recently in 1918. There were also conflicts with other Georgian regions in the times of dynastic struggle and peasant revolts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the Soviet period, interethnic conflict has been minimal. The July 1989 events in the southern regions of Abkhazia, however, have considerably worsened Abkhazian-Mingrelian relations.

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