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How Russian Soft Power is Financed and Its Impact on Georgian Immigrants

"Despite my meager income, I am willing to support the Georgian cause - such individuals and media outlets that address genuine issues rather than candidate statuses and meaningless topics. I've heard fellow immigrants express similar sentiments. If you desire to strengthen our homeland, it's astounding what you can achieve. Our country yearns for people with a sense of national consciousness," says Maya Rusadze, a Georgian immigrant residing in Greece for 15 years.

Maya expresses his struggle to adapt to the host country. "Others don't perceive exile as tragic. I support my family, I'm employed, but I still couldn't fill the void left by the country."

An active member of the Georgian community in Athens, Maya creates petitions on various topics and maintains remote involvement in Georgian political and social spheres. However, he has lost trust in television broadcasts. He believes "people are weary of TV channels funded by non-governmental organizations." He places his trust solely in Altinfo and Georgian TV. "We stand on the brink of rebuilding as a nation. We must empower individuals committed to the national idea."

"They say Alt-info is owned by the Russians, and I don't like that, but their message resonates with me. Georgia has seen an exodus; the remainder should follow suit. If our land is left to foreigners, traditions vanish, and religious ordeals persist, how can we survive?" remarks Mariam Goguadze, a 60-year-old Georgian immigrant who left Italy after her employer passed away.

"The intensity heightens in emigration. Despite the pain and overwhelming feelings, you cling to everything. It was harder when I had no one to converse with. It was just me and my grandmother; I didn't even know the language. With the internet, I could connect with my family and relatives," shares Marika.

Marika discloses that beyond communication, she often financially supports those "advancing the Georgian cause." The conservative movement, Alt-info, and their leaders frequently raise funds for various activities. "It's not substantial, but I contribute with the minimum, and so do others," Marika states.

"There are idealistic people here who donate. During any of our engagements, numerous comments express a desire to contribute financially. Many businessmen, immigrants, and individuals have the means to assist us," says Shota Martynenko, the founder of Alt-Info, discussing the TV company's funding sources.

In September, the leaders of the conservative movement and Alt-info announced the formation of the "Anti-Maidan Movement" aimed at preventing a "planned coup d'état in Georgia by pro-Western groups." Organizers began collecting funds for organizing mass protests. Within hours, the accounts they opened were blocked by major Georgian banks. Koka Morgoshia, the leader of the pro-Russian groups, remarked that the banks' decision isn't alarming. "People are highly active and generously donate. Immigrants send money to their relatives, who then bring it to the office as 'cash'," claimed Morgoshia.

Tailoring Narratives for Immigrants

Georgia has seen 23% of its population emigrate. According to this year's NDI research, nearly one in six Georgian citizens has a family member abroad who regularly provides financial support. Last year, immigrants transferred $2.9 billion to Georgia, constituting nearly 13% of the country's economy.

As per data from the anti-corruption bureau, the conservative movement boasts the highest number of donors this year. Konstantine Morgoshia, a leader of the All-Russian Party, stated that their primary financiers hail from post-Soviet countries and Europe. "Relatives of immigrants also contribute significant amounts and more..." The conservative movement has received over 500,000 GEL in official donations since its inception.

Supporters of Alt-info, the conservative movement, and other anti-Russian factions also include everyday citizens. Among them are Georgian immigrants who, while remotely engaged, actively participate in the country's social and political life. Propagandists tailor narratives to resonate with their emotions, seeking financial support and backing.

Georgian immigrants often reside illegally in host countries, taking jobs as nannies, caregivers, or maids in households. They adhere to a demanding 24-hour work schedule with minimal time off each week or month. Social networks serve as their primary means of communication with family and relatives, often their sole outlet for self-expression and information exchange.

Considering the duration and distance of living abroad, feelings toward Georgian identity, land, and culture intensify among emigrants. Russian propagandists attempt to influence these sentiments to garner support. The issue of Georgian land holds particular sensitivity for immigrants, exploited by Russian propaganda to fuel anti-Turkish sentiments.

Alt-info and its affiliated political entity, the conservative movement, frequently employ names referencing Georgian identity and patriotic aspirations to disseminate their messages. Examples include 'Georgia and the World', 'Georgian Idea', 'Teachings of Holy Fathers', 'Tao News', and more.

"We conducted an analysis of content posted on Alt-info and conservative movement YouTube channels in the past month using media speech. Due to coordinated inauthentic behavior and the spread of disinformation across social networks, the accounts belonging to these groups have been systematically blocked, affecting their recent activities on YouTube for a month. The content analysis unveiled primary narratives propagated by these groups:

  1. The European Commission's decision to grant Georgia candidate status is deemed detrimental to the country's national interests, raising doubts about the return of Samachablo and Abkhazia.

  2. European integration is portrayed as an unending process of adhering to directives imposed by the West.

  3. Allegations arise that joining the European Union comes with demands for instituting an 'LGBT dictatorship' in Georgia and persecuting national forces.

  4. Ukraine's loss of territories is attributed to European desires.

  5. America views Georgia merely as a vassal state.

Education systems are accused of promoting feminist upbringing methods that allegedly undermine the institution of the family.

How does Alt-Info receive funding?

Established on January 28, 2019, Alt-Info has consistently disseminated anti-Western and aggressive narratives. The Communications Commission granted authorization for its operation across the entirety of Georgia. The owners initially financed the TV company with 1.9 million over 2.5 years, but their income did not cover these contributions. Based on publicly available data, Alt-Info generated an income of 1,923,803 GEL over 2.5 years, with expenses totaling 1,283,943 GEL.

How does Alt-Info receive funding?

The exclusive funding source sustaining Alt-Info's television broadcasts is the owners' donations, totaling 1,914,712 GEL.

As per the television's founding document, Tsiala Morgoshia and Shota Martynenko initially held equal shares in the company. In 2022, Shota Martynenko transferred his share to Tsiala Morgoshia at no cost. Subsequently, Tsiala Morgoshia allocated 50% of the company's shares to Alexander Kardava, who concurrently assumed the role of director at Alt-Info.

Property of Alt-Info Owners:

Property of Alt-Info Owners

Property of Alt-Info Owners

The activities, real estate holdings, and information about the companies related to Tsiala Morgoshia, Shota Martynenko, and Aleksandre Kardava do not conclusively reflect their financial stability or the capacity to finance the company with hundreds of thousands of GEL.

  • Since 2010, Shota Martynenko possesses a single property in the city of Borjomi. Additionally, he holds a 49% stake in Georgia Tourism Agency LLC, established in 2016. However, this company isn't listed on the financial reporting portal, implying limited income.

  • Alexander Kardava's business engagements are primarily confined to his shares in Alt Info. Regarding real estate, current records show no property registered in his name.

  • Tsiala Morgoshiya has been associated with multiple real estate holdings over the years, but there's no documented history of real estate sales that could generate funds. Moreover, she holds shares in seven different companies, none of which publish financial reports, suggesting they don't yield substantial income for the owners.

Konstantine Morgosh represents Tsiala Morgoshiya in the financial chain. For an extended period, he has served as Tsiala Morgoshia's proxy, overseeing real estate transactions, company registrations, and various financial dealings on behalf of Masi. Despite not being an official sponsor of the company, Morgoshia affirmed in an interview with Radio Liberty: "I intend to continue supporting Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement."

Finances of the Conservative Movement

The Conservative Movement political party was established in December 2021 by the founders of Alt-Info. Until February 16, 2022, the party hadn't received any donations. However, on that day, 37 donors contributed a total of 43,075 GEL to the party. Following the ruling party, the Conservative Movement emerged as the political party receiving the largest political donations last year.

This year, there's a declining trend in donations to the Conservative Movement, and coordinated actions are less evident. Over 10 months, the party received contributions from a total of 41 donors.

The largest donor to the party is 28-year-old Zurab Kobakhidze, who contributed 61,793 GEL between 2022 and 2023. Open data reveals that Kobakhidze previously owned an 81-square-meter apartment in Didi Digomi, which he sold in May 2023. Notably, Zurab Kobakhidze does not own any land plots.

Another significant donor to the Conservative Movement is Kakhaber Elizbarashvili, who has donated 42,845 GEL to the party since 2022. Public registry data indicates that Kakhaber Elizbarashvili owns a 69-square-meter apartment in the city of Rustavi and an 875-square-meter plot of land in Gurjaani, specifically in the village of Shashian.

Similar to Alt-Info, the financiers of the emerging political party haven't recorded any business activities or real estate sales that would justify their substantial support for the favored political faction.

Alt-Info, the conservative movement, and other anti-Russian factions are sustained by financial backing that often remains opaque. The extent of Georgian emigrants' contributions to financing pro-Russian forces remains unknown. These extremist groups themselves regard emigrants as their primary financial and ideological supporters, disseminating largely fabricated content that particularly resonates with Georgians in exile.



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