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May 02 2012

Georgia: Beyond Tbilisi

Beyond Tbilisi says that local authorities plan to clean up a river full of garbage in June. The blog run by Transparency International Georgia hopes to report on issues outside of the capital and is available in Georgian and English.

April 24 2012

Georgia: Concerns over Lazika development

Writing on The PIK.TV blog, the channel's English-language editor, Tbilisi-based Nicholas Alan Clayton, comments on plans to construct a new city in Georgia. With little transparency in planning the Lazika development, recently referred to as an ‘instant city in a swamp' by the New York Times, the blog says that while many reforms since the 2003 Rose Revolution have been inspiring, this is not one of them.

April 04 2012

March 31 2012

Georgia: Tongue-in-cheek development forecast

A satirical video posted on YouTube takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the development of Georgia ahead of parliamentary elections later this year and a presidential vote in 2013. With the current president, Milhail Saakashvili, unable to run for a third term in office it foresees him following in the footsteps of his nemesis, Russia's Vladimir Putin, by becoming prime minister as Georgia joins NATO, regains the lost territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, hosts world famous rock bands in seaside resorts, launches a space programme, develops a small town to take the place of Amsterdam as a sex-capital, and much, much more.

March 30 2012

Azerbaijan: Novruz comes to an end

Novruz, the Persian New Year which is also celebrated in Azerbaijan, has come to an end and, using the example of the oil-rich country, Eastbook says that during the holiday it can often be difficult to conduct business or arrange meetings. Nevertheless, it notes that Azerbaijan's Embassy in Georgia was an exception.

March 27 2012

March 14 2012

Georgia: Bloggers assaulted

Shota tweets that two bloggers were physically assaulted allegedly by representatives of Tbilisi University's Student Union, itself reportedly controlled by the ruling party of power in the country. News of the alleged attack [GE] was spread on Facebook and in the form of a video report by Net Gazeti on YouTube.

March 07 2012

Georgia: The return of Vladimir Putin

time difference comments on the return of Vladimir Putin to power in Russia following this week's election. The blog says that even if much of the world is concerned by the development, the Georgian government must recognize the reality and not alienate itself from its powerful and sometimes mutually antagonistic neighbor. “Maybe it's time to balance politics and be more diplomatic?” the Georgian blogger asks on Twitter.

February 23 2012

Georgia: Online Campaign Targets Russian President's Facebook Page

With Russian soldiers stationed in Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a group of [ka] users proposed to mark the Defender of the Fatherland Day on February 23, by posting anti-occupation comments on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's Facebook page [ru].

Cyxymu [ru], a Georgian blogger who was the target of attacks on Facebook, Google Blogger, LiveJournal and Twitter, forcing the latter offline for two hours on 7 August, 2009, posted a photo on Facebook alerting many Georgians to the campaign.

More than 200 users of the social networking site then started to post comments and continue to do so.

Дмитрий Анатольевич, я требую вывода российских оккупационных войск из Грузии!

Dmitry Anatolevich, I demand the withdrawal of Russian occupational forces from Georgia!

An hour later comments started to disappear from the page, reported Cyxymu [ru]. Georgians, however, did not stop posting the comments and taking screenshots of Medvedev's Facebook page.

Facebook users later reported that the page was no longer accessible in Georgia, with some alleging it had been blocked. Later, when it was available, many comments left by Georgians users were found to have been deleted.

February 22 2012

Georgia: Assassination attempt on Abkhazia leader

ЖЖ Сухуми სოხუმი cyxymu [RU] updates its readers on another assassination attempt made today on the defacto President of Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region, Alexander Ankvab. The blog reports one bodyguard was killed, with another two wounded, in the fifth attempt on Ankvab's life since 2005.

February 21 2012

February 10 2012

Georgia: Allegations made online against billionaire opposition politician

As parliamentary elections approach this year in Georgia, to be followed by a presidential vote in 2013, allegations against Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire opposition politician, have appeared on the Internet. The alleged exposé of life in the Ivanishvili household by American teacher Patrick Downey, formerly employed by the businessman turned politician, have been met with skepticism from other expatriates in the former Soviet republic, and not least because of claims also made against Georgia in general, the U.S., and [his ancestral homeland of] Ireland. Downey had sought asylum or residency in the latter, according to a video blog, “[…] in light of recent uncontrolled and willfully ill-advised policies concerning the mass emigration of non-Irish persons to Ireland […].” Ivanishvili has responded by saying that Downey “is suffering from psychological problems.”

February 08 2012

Georgia: Independent Media Gone Mobile

Following the removal of traditional newspaper booths in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, and out of concern that the independent media will suffer as a result, Democracy and Freedom Watch reports that newspapers are now being sold via mobile newsstands including those attached to bicycles. A video report [GE] is also available here.

January 03 2012

Georgia: Return of the Meskhetian Turks

The repatriation of the Meskhetian Turks to Georgia from Azerbaijan, Russia and Central Asia is not just a priority for the Georgian government, but also an obligation it has had to fulfill to the Council of Europe since becoming a member in 1999. Over 100,000 people were deported by Stalin in 1944 from the Meskheti region of Georgia, among them Hemshin (Muslim Armenians), Kurds, and Karapapakhs. By far the largest group relocated, however, were the Meskhetian Turks.

It is believed that at least 400,000 Meskhetian Turks now live outside of Georgia, although it has been unclear how many would return in a process that should have officially ended last year, but which might be extended. This has been one of the reasons why the process of resettlement has taken so long, especially as ethnic Armenians now make up the majority population in what is now the Samtskhe-Javakheti region. As a result, in order not to strain inter-ethnic relations, the Georgian government is settling Meskhetian Turks throughout the country.

East of Center recently touched upon the sensitivities surrounding the issue.

Thanks to Stalin’s paranoia, millions of Muslims and members of various non-Slavic ethnic groups in the Soviet Union were forcibly relocated to Central Asia during the ’30s and ’40s. It’s hard to think of any of these communities that has been victimized more often and so thoroughly ignored by the wider world as the Meskhetian Turks. […]

Clearly, however, Georgia is not capable of resettling that large a population anywhere on its territory, much less the underdeveloped Samtskhe-Javakheti region where the Meskhetians originally lived. And then there is the Armenian question, and a large dose of anti-Muslim feeling. […]

Salim Khamdiv of Abastumani village. Khamdiv was 14 when the deportation happened © Temo Bardzimashvili

However, in a two-year application period ending in July 2010, the Georgian government received only 5,841 eligible applications according to the European Center for Minority Issues (ECMI). This amounted to just 9,350 individuals. Ahıska Türkleri – Ahıskalılar explains what the Meskhetian Turks hope for.

We want to return our lands from which we were expelled unjustly. As of today, we have been settling down in 2000 different settlements at 9 different countries including USA. We have difficulty in getting citizenship, settlement permission and work permission in the countries where we live. Our culture and language is on the edge of vanishing. We want to return our country as Georgian citizens and to live in our lands from now on.

Osman Mekhriev (left) and Islam Niazov, elders of the Abastumani Meskhetian community, take a break from the holiday prayers during the end of Ramazan celebrations © Temo Bardzimashvili

Last year, Zaka Guluyev's Blog detailed the situation of some of those that have returned, mainly from Azerbaijan, to Samtskhe-Javakheti.

Muslim Arifov and his family has come back to Akhiltskhe three years ago from Saatly, settlement of Azerbaijan. Arifov says that now he feels happy coming back and live in his motherland Georgia. “My parents were unfairly deported from this region. Now I’m happy that I managed to come back and live in my home Georgia with my family.”

Two months ago Muslim’s relative Mehemmed Rehimov also decided to come back with his family from Azerbaijan and to live in his motherland Akhlstkhe. Mehemmed Rehimov says that Georgia seems better place to live in. “It’s very good sense to live in my motherland Georgia. two months already past after my coming to Georgia. I’m happy here with my family and I’m feeling myself very well”.


Ismayil Moidze, the chairman of the [Vatan Georgian Axhiska Turks] society says that, their organization was expecting more people to apply for returning. But he explains that many families refused to apply because […] many documents are required for applying [for] repatriat status in Georgia. […] That’s why many families decided to stay where they live”.

Rana Rajabova, a 24-year-old bride in the Azerbaijani village of Shirinbeili. Rana's grandparents, natives of the Arali village in Georgia's Adigeni region, were deported to Uzbekistan. Before the deportation they were told by the soldiers that they would return in 7 days, so no belongings should be taken. Her grandmother hid her gold jewelry at home with the hope of returning after a week, Rana's family has applied for the repatriation and says that they do not want to be "refugees." © Temo Bardzimashvili

Georgian Youth | Multiculturality | New Challenges looks at how the new arrivals are reintegrating.

In Samstkhe-Javakheti, the regional association “Toleranti” provides families of repatriated Meskhetians with legal counseling, medical assistance and language support. In the frame of its 3-year project “Provision of humanitarian assistance to repatriate Meskhs and prevention of “self-repatriation”, the association noticeably organizes classes for young repatriated Meskhetians twice a week. Youth who attend the classes hope to improve their chances of success at school, where they receive tuition in Georgian, and to support their integration in the community.

Considering how motivated they are to learn Georgian, and as quickly as possible, this integration is usually 100% successful.


As many others however, one thing prevents them from totally feeling home in Georgia: they are waiting for an answer to their application for the Georgian citizenship, which they sent two years ago. Without citizenship, they are not fully-fledged citizens in Georgia, and therefore struggle to have access to basic services like medical assistance. They have no choice, though: just like the others, they have to wait […] – this means a life of uncertainty in the long-term…

Portraits of Abdullah Gamidov, his wife Khalida, and her father Zia Chumidze lie on the checker board in the Gamidov's house in Kant, Kyrgystan. Zia Chumidze was fighting at the frontline when the deportation happened and never made it home. © Temo Bardzimashvili

Where's Keith comments on the work of Georgian journalist and photographer Temo Bardzimashvili who has been documenting the return of the Mskhetian Turks to Georgia as well as their lives in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. Some of Bardzimashvili's work, “The Unpromised Land – the Meskhetians’ Long Journey Home,” was exhibited in Tbilisi, sponsored by the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), and accompanies this post with kind permission.

Delizia Flaccavento also posts photographs of a Meskhetian refugee community in Buffalo, New York, while ECMI says there is a “serious need […] to enhance public awareness on the right of deported persons to return and on the repatriation process […], in particular through the media and the educational system.”

January 02 2012

Caucasus: The Year in Review

As popular uprisings spread through the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, the Arab Spring also tried to take root in the South Caucasus. However, while opposition forces in the region sought to capitalize on the protests, especially hoping to benefit from international media interest in ‘Facebook Revolutions,' they failed to achieve similar results.

In Armenia, for example, the low use of social media in political activism was particularly evident. With the number of Facebook users standing at just 123,000 at the time, few signed up for the ‘Armenian Revolution of Reform' although, as testimony to the importance of traditional grassroots political activity, around 10,000 people did turn out to protest.

At the same time, in neighboring Azerbaijan, where the use of social media is arguably more evolved than in Armenia despite a slightly lower Facebook penetration rate, thousands signed up for protest actions planned for March. Yet, despite that declared intention to attend, barely more than a hundred youth actually took to the streets and found themselves easily dispersed or detained by police.

Ironically, Facebook and Twitter were better used to report on those detentions in the Azerbaijani capital, and the same was true the following day when another protest action was staged by a traditional opposition party.

There was also criticism of the protests from some bloggers, although demonstrations still continued the following month. By May, however, attention had already turned to Eurovision. With the annual musical competition, launched in Europe in the 1950s, no stranger to controversy in the Caucasus, the event was to become even more interesting when Azerbaijan unexpectedly won.

And, as bloggers and activists turned their attention towards staging the competition in Baku later this year, some naturally used the opportunity to raise some other more sensitive issues. One of those was the continued incarceration of journalist and prisoner of conscience Eynulla Fatullayev, with Amnesty International especially making renewed calls for his release.

Channel 4 anchor Jon Snow.

The UK's veteran Channel 4 anchorman, Jon Snow, led the campaign launched on Twitter, and two days later the journalist was pardoned and released. However, some online media observers such as Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman questioned whether the micro-blogging site had played as significant a role as it first might have seemed.

Indeed, despite Fatullayev's release, the year was also marked by the arrest of other activists in Azerbaijan such as Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and Jabbar Savalan, allegedly on trumped-up politically motivated charges, although the latter was pardoned in just before the end of December.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Georgia, Facebook resulted in the dismissal of a policeman identified through the social media site after the dispersal of striking veterans from the South Ossetia and Abkhazia conflicts. Even so, social media was perhaps better known for ridiculing opposition protesters in May or discussing the visit to Tbilisi by Sharon Stone and the appearance of a Georgian road sign in a Beyoncé video.

But, with more than 700,000 Facebook users in the country, that's not to say there wasn't any political engagement online with the Georgian government particularly active in this area. In fact, with parliamentary elections scheduled for Armenia and Georgia this year and presidential elections in all three countries in 2013, the use of social media will likely become more important as citizens become more engaged.

In Armenia, for example, Facebook has been used to petition the capital's municipality to end the killing of stray dogs and to call for the dismissal of a controversial regional governor. Moreover, while these were genuine grassroots initiatives, there also continues to be substantial funding from the US Government and other international donors, although it remains to be seen to what extent such projects will succeed.

The first test will likely be the May parliamentary elections in Armenia, with Georgia following in the Autumn or possibly earlier, so stay up-to-date with the latest developments on Twitter at @gvcaucasus. Շնորհավոր Նոր Տարի. Yeni İliniz Mübarək. გილოცავთ ახალ წელს. С Новым Годом. Happy New Year.

November 16 2011

Georgia: Voting in absentia

Tamada Tales comments on a video posted on an online site of parliamentarians voting for absentee colleagues. The blog notes that while the practice is common elsewhere, it is taken to new levels in Georgia with one parliamentary faction leader even having his vote made by an underling sitting next to him.

November 04 2011

Russia/Georgia: The Dilemma of Politics Blogging for Cash

Paid bloggers and the phenomenon of “shady PR” has become a reality in the Russian online sphere and even received some coverage on a Russian television channel. Global Voices wrote about the issue in detail a year ago – although it seems that prices have increased significantly since then; one can also read about it on other websites (for example here and here).

A recent discussion on the blog of Yuri Yakunin, a writer and popular political blogger in Georgia, shows how tempting accepting money for writing a blog post may be on many levels. Yakunin’s post is interesting because it digs into the ethical aspect of the issue. The discussion reveals why it may be acceptable for some people to take the payment, and it also shows why the refusal to write a paid story can be viewed as stupidity.

“Am I an idiot?”

'Money under the mouse' stock photo from

'Money under the mouse' stock photo from

On October 17, 2011, Yakunin wrote [ru] on his blog:

Сегодня предложили написать статью за …. 300$ : – нужна статья про вашего президента и его министров о том какие они плохие.

Today they offered me 300 US dollars to write an article – they need one about your [Georgian people's] president and his ministers and about how bad they are.

The conversation started on Skype when someone named “Sergey” introduced himself as the manger of one of Moscow public relations agencies and made the offer.

Yakunin posted a screenshot [ru] of the chat to prove his words.

“What is in it for you?” Yakunin asked apparently smitten by such a generous proposal.
“I am paid for that”, Sergey explained. “And more than 300 dollars.”
“I see”, Yakuning paused.
“It is just I cannot find a blogger in Georgia”, Sergey seemed frustrated and a little surprised. “Everyone is for Saakahsvili [Georgia’s president].”
“You won’t find any. I am not Saakashvili’s supporter and I can write a lot of things but not for money”, Yakunin replied.

“Am I an idiot [for refusing the offer]?” Yakunin asked his readers. He second-guesses his decision several times in comments referring to his lack of money (he lives on a small pension) and the upcoming birthday of his son who wants a present.

“Write the article,” fellow blogger and reader temur25 replied [ru].

“If you don’t write it, someone else will.” “You don’t need money?” tipo-graff asked [ru].

“Write it. Everybody wins. You and the manager. And Saakashvilli, I think, will survive it,” Run-if-you-can wrote [ru].

But Yakunin stood by his decision: “I would [write it]”, Yakunin replied. “But a spoon of s**t in a barrel of honey or a spoon of honey in a barrel of s**t is still s**t. I don’t want my family to smell that.”

“But would there be any lies in the article?” continued run-if-you-can. “I understand you don’t like Saakashvili and you don’t support the official party line. So, what is the problem?”

“I am not talking about lies” explained Yakunin. “One can find in the comments here more than needed for this kind of article but I won’t be writing the TRUTH for money! I would write an advertisement [for money] but not something sacred.”

Tempting reality

It should be noted that many LiveJournal users did support Yakunin in his decision. But the fact that he – one of the best known bloggers in Georgia – feels he needs to explain himself and turns to his online community for support, indicates the climate of insecurity in which many prominent political bloggers in the country live.

Popularity and influence online often leads to “interesting” offers to monetize on the hordes of followers (again, see the Global Voices article mentioned above or confessions by russos here [ru]). The practice amongst Russian bloggers of accusing each other of taking money in return for writing a blog post rarely surprises anyone. One can only guess how many people actually take money without saying anything, or advertising their incorruptibility. Difficult financial situations and the enormous effort needed to attract thousands of blog readers play their role.

As some of the replies to Yakunin's post show, there is an assumption that someone is always willing to take the money  (“If you don’t write it, someone else will”). Unfortunately, the mere expression of a different point of view leads to accusations of being a paid blogger. “They think if you write about someone in a way different from the others, that means you are paid [for your posts],” Yakunin wrote.

Although largely viewed as a platform for expressing opinions silenced by traditional media, the Internet can easily become a tool for setting political agendas. But paying bloggers for promoting certain political messages is a slap in the face of freedom of expression. It is also a dangerous tendency that may well discredit the very principle of the marketplace of ideas, which in Russia and former Soviet Republic countries is still struggling with the legacy of repressive regimes.

September 26 2011

Georgia: Virtual Parliament Speaker Election

Ahead of a parliamentary election in Georgia set for October 2012, David Bakradze, Chair of the current Parliament, is currently the most active member of the ruling party on Facebook. His official page, with 27,526 likes at time of writing, includes photos of visits and meetings as well as of his family. Bakradze has also launched a game called Elections where each person liking his page can run for position of virtual parliamentary chair.

From David Bakradze's Official Facebook Page

The rules are simple: One can register as a candidate or vote for another, with those intending to run for the position able to fill in a brief bio and invite friends to elect them. The candidate attracts the most votes will become the virtual parliament chair with four runner-ups ‘elected' as virtual vice-speakers.

Bakradze is one of the most Facebook-friendly members of the ruling party. In August, 2011, Bakradze invited the most active members of his page to parliament for an informal meeting and a guided tour, and last month Bakradze invited ten more to his office. Bakradze told journalists that the game aims to attract the interest of youth in election and to encourage communication between the government and citizens.

Nevertheless, reaction from public seems to be mixed with some thinking that the initiative is good while others say that it's a waste of time. One comment on Facebook, for example, simply said that “soon we'll elect the president with “Likes” while others thought it “a step forward in the governmental penetration of Facebook.”

Chiti” (Bird), the Georgian equivalent of The Onion News weighed in with its own satirical coverage.

თბილისი, 21 სექტემბერი – სოციალურ ქსელ Facebook-ზე პარლამენტის თავმჯდომარის ინიციატივას, “ვირტუალური არჩევნები,” მხოლოდ სიმბოლური დატვირთვა არ ექნება. პარლამენტის აპარატის მიერ გავრცელებულ განცხადებაში ნათქვამია, რომ თამაშში გამარჯვებული ადამიანი, დავით ბაქრაძესთან ერთი დღის გატარებასთან ერთად ხელფასსა და პენსიასაც მიიღებს.

Tbilisi, 21 September - The Facebook initiative of the parliamentary chair - “Virtual Elections” will not have a symbolic meaning only. According to a statement by Parliament Apparatus, the winner of the game will spend a day with David Bakradze and also get a salary and pension.

At present, 760 people have joined in the virtual election and the ‘candidate' currently holding first place has 328 votes. More significantly, perhaps, the move marks continuing efforts by the Georgian government to harness the power of social media.

Democracy Now! 2011-09-26 Monday

Democracy Now! 2011-09-26 Monday

  • Headlines for September 26, 2011
  • Freed U.S. Hiker Shane Bauer: Iranian Guards Cited Guantánamo, CIA Prisons to Justify Mistreatment
  • Occupy Wall Street Protest Enters Second Week; 80 Arrested at Peaceful March
  • Martina Correia on Execution of Troy Davis: "My Brother's Fight Will Continue"

Download this show



this entry is part of the OccupyWallStreet compilation 2011-09, here,
 and a part of the Troy Davis execution compilation, here.

September 22 2011

Democracy Now! 2011-09-22 Thursday

Democracy Now! 2011-09-22 Thursday

  • Headlines for September 22, 2011
  • Democracy Now! Special Report From Troy Davis Execution: Did Georgia Kill An Innocent Man?
  • Freed In Iran: U.S. Hikers Urge Freedom for All Political Prisoners

Download this show


// oAnth:

see further entries on Tray Davis' execution and its circumstances (also in German and French) bundled at oAnth via tag, here.

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