Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Under Russian Siege

Today it is 13 years since Georgian troops was evicted from Sokhumi, beaten by Abkhazian separatists, Russian Spetznaz troops, and Tchetchen terrorists lead by Basajev. It’s a day to remember the genocide in Abkhazia and the thousands of Georgian-Abkhazian refugees still living in Tbilisi and other places in Gerogia without any homes to return to. Maybe the memorial monument in front of the Georgian Parliament, reminding us of the 21 Tbilisians beaten to death with shuffles, and the thousands of others exposed to toxic gasses in a peaceful anti Soviet demonstration by Russian troops of April 1989, gives us a deeper and even more sinister back curtain to the recent development in the conflict between Russia and Georgia.

In the middle of Tbilisi the Headquarters of the Russian Troops in Trans-Caucasus are positioned well. Since the days before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian troops has been located all over the Georgia. Russia needs 4 years to pull 4000 troops out of Georgia, Putin says, and the process of withdrawal proceeds very slowly, after hard and neverending negotiations where the Russians demanded 11 years. Still the process doesn’t include the “peacekeeping” forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

When will UN understand what kind of “peacekeepers” they have put in charge in Abkhazia?
The Russian troops in Tbilisi stays. To have the “neighbors” soldiers placed in your capitol is called occupation. Further more, to have Russian peacekeeping forces in two breakaway-republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia also seems odd. Especially when Russian officials, yesterday Putin, states that Russia will support the break away republics in their attempt as soon as Kosovo is recognized officially. What Kosovo has to do with it, is a result of Russian logic not for mortal people to understand. The rethoric battle between Tbilisi-government and Russian officials now seems to escalate into a pre-war condition in Kodori Gorge region, from today named Upper Abkhazia, where the self appointed Abkhazian government hold military excercises close to the Georgian police in the region, stating that the Russian support in possible military actions is granted. A Russian general is in fact training the troops, and leads the “exercise”.

The Russians actively supports anti Georgian separatists
At the same time: From Moscow comes the message from separatist warlord Kvitsiani, which occupied Svaneti earlier this summer, but was driven away by Georgian police: “We will take back Kodori Gorge and fight the Georgian government”. Georgian intelligence has established that Kvitsiani is safe in Moscow and makes his broadcasts from a known address in the city. Finally Russians states that they will support. The daily Russian threats is supported by harassments of Georgians traveling through Russia. The Russian signing in Turky of an agreement recognizing Georgian territorial demands doesn’t seem to hold up in the daily bashing of Georgia defending their territory. The Cocoo’s nest in Tbilisi continues to be a symbol of Russian imperialism and unwillingness to accept Georgia as a souverign state.

But there’s more worms in the woodwork
Igor Giorgadze, an Georgian exile mulitimillionaire living in Russia; accused for treason and the attempted killing of Shjevardnadze in the nineties is on the move. He is wanted by Interpol, but lives protected in Russia. He is the man behind the Samartlianoba, the “justice” party. It is a pro-russian movement financed by him, and with an expressed goal to overthrow the Georgian Government. That is what he says on television in Moscow. In September 2006 there was mass arrests in Tbilisi, detaining members of this and other movements for conspiracy and an attempted armed plot against Saakashvili and the Georgian government.

Russian foreign politics ; the way of a former colonial power
For me it seems like Russia never really understood that it was only a part of the Soviet Union and therefore in no natural position to inherit the Soviet supremacy from the golden era. The sharpest knives in the Russian shelf, like Shirinowsky and foreign minister Lavrov, continue to condemn the free states in the former union, urging them not to resist Russian supremacy. “It’s for their own good”, the message is. To further underline this message, power lines suddenly collapses, and in mysterious ways Georgian mineral water and wine is found contaminated, and therefore cannot be imported to Russia. But there is also the same problem in Moldova with “contaminated” wine. Maybe it is due to the situation with the breakaway republic Transdniester, held by Russian supported separatists.

The Russian method
Now this “contamination-procedure” is by no means a single Georgian event. Norwegian salmon has also been found “contaminated”, strangely enough shortly after the Norwegian Coastguard tried to stop the Russian trawler Elektron fishing illegally in the Norwegian zone in the Barentssee. The result was that the crew on the trawler kidnapped two of the Norwegian coastguards inspectors boarding the vessel., and released them only after harboring in Murmansk. The Russians exercise their territorial rights in a more firm way, as the killing of the crew on a Japaneese trawler accused of fishing in Russian territorial waters this autumn shows. Anyway, to avoid conflict the Norwegian coastguard did not fire at the Russian trawler although it did not respond to the coastguards repetitive attempts to stop it peacefully. Now the Norwegian Coastguard reports that Elektron is back in Norwegian zone fishing illegally again. And that is during the trial against the captain, now taking place in Murmansk.

So what happened with the Norwegian salmon?
The salmon was controlled by both Sweedish, Danish and EU laboratories, and found to be clean. No contamination what so ever. Not that it mattered much for the Russians. They now conduct inspections on every single fishfarm in Norway. And the procedure is strict and takes time. There is of course expected full treatment of the inspectors, including food and drinks at each plant.

This is foreign politics, peacekeeping and diplomacy The Russian way.

Georgian Online Magazine, 2004-2006:
Washington Post, 2004-2006:
Russian Online Magazines, 2004-2006: and
Norwegian Broadcasting, 2006
Aftenposten 2006. Norway

Monday, September 25, 2006

Focusing on peace and creativity

The Foundation for Development of Human Resources, FDHR and War Child Netherlands, WCN are hosting a regional seminar and conference in Tbilisi. The seminar gathers volunteers, paraprofessionals and professionals from the whole Caucasus region working with adolecence and children in regional Youth Centres. Creative Art Methodology combined with a peace building component is the core activity for the FDHR. Nino Shushania, the FDHR-organizer of the seminar sums up the events leading up to this conference.

Youth Movement for Peace and Creativity
This project is implemented by the Foundation for Development of Human Resources with the support of War Child Netherlands. It is already the seventh year of this joint collaboration. Previously, this project was intended to provide psycho-social support to street children, living in special shelters. The process of psycho-social rehabilitation was rendered through creative art workshops. There were four trained animators working on the field and they were supervised by professional psychologists. After the first year of the project target group of the organization was broaden, namely, there were IDP children involved as well. Animators were conducting the workshops at two of street children shelters – “Child and Environment” and “House of the Future”. At the same time field works were carried out in the IDP collective centre at Tbilisi Sea. Creative art workshops were conducted on these mentioned locations. At the same time War Child Netherlands was providing on-going training of animators, there was wide range of art approaches offered.

In 2001, the group of animators was extended with three psychologists
They were performing function of assistant and participated in trainings still provided by War Child Netherlands. Animators were enriching creative art methodology independently as well – there were internal trainings conducted based on worked out books, web-sites and so on. The scope of IDP collective centers’ locations was enriching as well. These are the locations were FDHR has been providing work during these years: IDP collective centre on Pekin street, hotel “Khibli”, second collective centre of Tbilisi Sea, hotel “Bakhtrioni”, State University dormitory, Electro Depoe factory, collective centre at Didube hospital, collective centre on Cairo street and many more. In 2002 and 2004 with initiative of FDHR and financial support of War Child Netherlands, there was organized interethnic seminars intended for experience sharing – first in Sochi and second in Adler. Representatives of Georgian, Abkhazian, South-Ossetian, and Chechen ethnicities participated in joint activities led by Dutch facilitators. After those events another dimension revealed in the project – it was Peace Building. In the year of 2005, the target group of the project was enriched again and the overall objective has changed too. Stemming out of conducted seminars, peace building component was spread on whole content. Target groups and locations became broaden: FDHR branch in the face of two trained animators, started to work in Kvemo Kartli region – Gori, were IDPs from South-Ossetia are living. They also started to visit conflict zone – Liakhvi Canyon and worked there with children from nearby villages.

The Joint Caucasus Animators Network; extending Creative art Methodology to even more regions in Caucasus
The peace building component was enriched more by involvement of ethnic minorities in the process. FDHR had begun working with representatives of ethnic minority population in different districts of Tbilisi town. Last year this work started to be implemented regionally: FDHR established collaboration with World Vision International; this organization has “Youth Centers” in different regions of Georgia and FDHR trainers were invited to conduct ToT with the staff of the Youth Centers. Thus creative art methodology developed within the organization during these years, has been extended at different regions of Georgia too – Ajara, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli. Another dimension of the project is providing methodological support to professionals – teachers, NGO representatives who works with children and para-professionals – students, those interested persons who work and who plans to work with children and adolescence. In the frame of this project FDHR was working in whole Caucasus as well. Trainings were provided for representatives of Armenian and Azeri NGOs. In 2004 training was conducted in Yerevan and in 2005 in Baku. Those participants and other interested persons who are dealing with children and adolescence issues were are invited on the Caucasus Working Seminar, which is now held in Tbilisi. There are plans for future collaboration with the participants of the seminar in the form of joint Caucasus Animators’ Network, which will be the basis of future experience sharing among Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Dead Cities

In this article I will try to present a global angle to the deindustrialization in Georgia. The dead city Tkibuli are not a mere Georgian phenomenon, but part of an ongoing global process also found in USA and Norway among a lot other western countries. This article is based on the German sociologist Ulrich Becks works about globalisation and the reflexive modernity, and the american sociologist Richard Sennets book The Corrotion of Character. Due to the lenght and the many pictures i chose to publish it on my website. Its a link to it on the frontpage.

Update 24.09.06 Prime minister to visit Tkibuli
Rustavi 2: Prime minister Zurab Nogaideli promises to the miners better working conditions. Zurab Nogaideli has arrived in Tkibuli with the head of the railway department. For the rehabilitation of Kutaisi-Tkibuli railway the state budget spends 10 million GEL. Rehabilitation works have to be finished in May in the next year. According to prime minister, the government will increase the enterprise capacity that augment incomes for the miners.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hamsun in Caucasus; NRK with new prestige production

Theese days the Norwegian Broadcasting is working on location in Georgia to put together a prestige production about the famous Norwegian writer, Knut Hamsuns travels in Caucasus. The production is a documentary series with an estimated production period of 2,5 years. No need to say that this will be massive publicity for Georgia: The NRK often cooperate and sell their productions to the EBU network, and I think we will see the documentary in several languages. The release of the production will be in 2009. In the mean time we can enjoy Olga Zhgenti's documentary "Hamsun's Caucasian Mysteries", now soon to be released. She shot in Georgia, Aserbadjan and Norway.

Zghenti is Chairman of the Caucasian Hamsun Society, and also part of the Norwegian filmteam working as interpreter and specialist on the Hamsun - Caucasian relationship. On my website you can meet her in an interview I did with her in summer 2006, and also see my review of her film.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The new pioneers?

The young pioneers had red scarves and a predestined future as loyal workforce in the former Soviet union. From pioneers they advanced to komsomol, and for the most loyal, a career as an apparatchik was not far away. But time changes. So do systems and colors, and the possibility of a career.

The blue dressed youth of Tbilisi represents the new generation. Now the red scarves are changed into a more McDonalds-inspired blue uniform, and the TV-commercials, carefully directed by the government PR-department shows how lucky the 3000 young boys and girls are, having summer jobs cleaning up the city. That is well spent money and education for the young Georgians. When I asked some of them if they enjoyed their jobs, the answer was “YES YES YES”. “But we don’t really know what we are supposed to do. Best part is we meet many others and have fun”.

But there is more to come. The Government promise to reduce unemployment with 50% during 2007; an ambitious goal and a potential neckbreaking political stunt, as a lot of the reduction is going to happen by offering young people internship in companies. I really hope somebody is around, telling them what to do.

Anyway it might be a future in the PR–department for some of them.

This is Hans

Meet Hans, a German artist living in Georgia. He also runs a travel agency specialising on tourists wanting to experience Georgian nature and culture! But better than me, he is able to describe his relations to life. The word is Hans':

In fact, writing a tiny blog on a tiny province in the Caucasus like Tusheti brings you in close competition with the big players in the web, lets take the New York Times Online. Both describe ( only ) sections out of the infinite reality, share views, standpoints, meanings and images. Both ask for the attention of the online communities, ask for comments, actions, involvement, clicks and money. That this can take place these days, is the biggest revolution in democracy since 1789. Have a topic, something to say, need discussion or new friends ? Write it and load it into the Internet and start a new virtual but still real life.

Half an hour ago, an unknown girl contacted me via skype, wich is linked via my website Kaukasus-reisen. Turns out, she is a Circassian, living in Berlin today, but thinks to plan a travel to her homeland in the North Caucasus, Adygea, wich she has never seen before. A new world opens to me, first hand information on this ancient Caucasian tribe. Soon to be found on my blog:

As an artist, I was forced to find faster ways to communicate with visitors. A show in a Tbilisian Gallery once in 2,3 years seemed to me too slow. My Paintings got dustier in the studio every year. On the Newimages blog that changed. In the virtual world paintings will always keep fresh. A work can be seen and discussed immideatly after publishing, in Miami, Timbuktou, Trabzon or Minsk.

But because I do not want to live without real solitudes, without real nature, real adventures, strange miracles, without hot love and deep friendship I am glad that it came to happen that I am living here: In Georgia . More images can be seen here.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Meet Levan

This post is a presentation of Levan. A political and social engaged Georgian living and studying in Germany. Instead of me talking, I leave the word to Levan for his own presentation:

Hi, my name is Levan. I am studying in Germany, european and international law. It would be difficult for me to talk about myself here.. but I run a
blog and I think it expreses also my interests, views etc. But, I have to confess that my latest interest is blogging and IT in general. :) I would be happy if you have some notes, criticism or just want to talk about topics that I post in my blog, please leave a comment!

Eistein your Website with integrated blog is great Idea. Cultural exchange is most important thing I think and your site is just perfect for it as Rapho's and Hans' blogs are, because without cultural understanding you can't write good laws.. and as Amiran writes: ,,we are in a period of overestimation of our values,(i think it's not a period, it was always so). We should learn from west how to be critical to our culture and have courage to review our values if necesseray!hmm, reduction of unemployment in Georgia, it's a difficult question... I think Macroeconomical approach of government is ok: mass privatizations, turning to market economy and so on, but some decisions seem to me wrong and won't bring economical prosperity in a long turn.. I mean governments decision to solve unemployment problem with State-funded Internship Program. It's not effective to force private companies to get involved in the internship program, to train the interns, select the applicants and hire them for three months period. First it costs for government a lot of money and second if private company needs someone to hire, they will do it better without their help. I don't believe much in social economics ... government must create equal opportunity for everyone who is in business and not intervene in private sector.. But let's wait and hope for good results! ok it's enough! :)

About Rapho

Rapho is a blogger and journalist from Eastern Germany. His blog contains a lot of information about georgian culture and art, as well as information about other happenings. I leave it up to him to present himself and his blogproject:

I believe in the caucasian people! May be the Caucasus is a inspiration for me. However I know I love the Caucasus! I feel it!

Recently I was in Georgia. On balance I was seven times in this area of the "Mountains of Poetry" like Peter Nasmyth called his book. He depicts his experiences of the post-soviet times from Georgia in the nineties. I mean Nasmyth is meanwhile an author of the Washington Post.

Some years ago I had knowing a georgian girl in Berlin. So far as I recall she was the key to my sloped exotic dreams to travel in the Mountains of the Caucasus. However she had another problems to dream about the wonderful far nature ... I myself was born and grown up in communistic times of one part of Germany - in the GDR. We were boundless dreamt people like Hans. Some people forget how problematic it was for us to live in a parochial country with narrow people. Most people wasn't allowed to travel in the global world - only in the Eastern bloc. The only possibility to make a journey high above ground were the Caucasus, the Thien Shan or the Pamir. Beyond we couldn't see the oceans. Nevertheless and I think that's why I dreamed from the summits of the Caucasus. This is my first reminiscence. I loved to climb in the mountains.

How we known the history was changing. In the newspapers we had read that we are released. Regardless my first visit in the high mountains was in the Caucasus. My romantic dream is now a romantic reality and sometimes an escape from reality for me like to read literature from the Caucasian Adventures from all-known famous writers. But differently from the western countrys here you can live to see ad live to fell much more about the life.That I think on the many writers, researchers and adventurers which traveled in this wilderness country, in this area of marvellous culture between east and west, between orient and occident. The Caucasus is a culture of borderline.

After my cultural studies on the university I was interesting for much more things about the Caucasus - not only academic questions. I had also private longings. And I mean not only the romanticism. A good experience for me was the changing from my point of view. It was quite interesting experience for my personality and my self-confidence.

Often my blog is only a internet-database with many links or better a slip box for politics, culture, history, economy, internet, developments and another aspects about the South-Caucasus - above all Georgia. Prospectively I would like to write more about my thinking, my researching and my experience from this mysterious country, breath-taking landscapes and interesting peoples as far as I have got enough time. Now I work for a Channel of German Television Broadcasting. I'm specialized for editorial content managment for the Internet presence. On the other hand it is more important for me to be involved or to be engaged in the Caucasus for the caucasian people why not in various aspects. Problematically is untill now the tiny interest from the western communitiy for this country. A lot of people are thinking it is a dangerous area but for me more impressing is the hospitality from the caucasian inhabitants. May be I hope the attentions for the Caucasus would be grown - not only for the security of energy for the west and other strategic points. Two years ago I organized together with Knut Geißler and Megi Goncharova a Georgian Festival in Leipzig with less money. Recently I was with the known german artist Jörg Herold in Georgia for an artist-project. Next year we will finished this project. I know some interesting and adorable georgian people. And I'm very glad to know some people in this blogging-world to have similar interests. I will see what is happen in the future. I hope the caucasian people have good contacts to the "rest of the world" and solve theirs own problems for example to eliminate the poverty and making at the moment better relations with theris neighbours.