Since the earliest phase of Russia-Georgia relations, common faith has been claimed as the basis of the two countries' relationship. The Treaty of Georgiyevsk in 1783, through which Georgia sought protection from the Russian Empire, marked Russia's entrance into Georgian history under exactly this ideological banner. The Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) has had a dominant position in reconstructing national identity since the 1990s, to fill the ideological vacuum after Georgia's independence from the Soviet Union. The official pronouncements of GOC leaders on national identity are interwoven with values and attitudes that feed a specific type of ethnic nationalism. The church identifies the West as a source for these changes that morally threaten Georgianness. The West is seen as undesirable because it embraces unacceptable values while moving away from traditional ones. In comparison to the sinful West, they consider Russia less of a danger to Georgian spirituality.