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August 06, 2004


Brooklyn Sword Style

I'll go first - what were you doing in Georgia?


jeez, I get flak over a brilliant pirate joke and then you rip of a song title for an otherwise very intersting post? :)


I was there for this wonderful spa they have in the mountains, darling - the Ossetian mud wraps are just divine.

Seriously though, I was there with my aunt who is the main press liason for the World Food Program. The head of the WFP was coming through so she brought me and her sister (another aunt) along to help and to travel around with the UN mission.

Georgia is officially one of the loveliest countries I've ever been to, and I highly recommend it. It also has the most beatiful harmonic patterns in its music that I've ever heard, which I won't bore anyone with at the moment, but if you ever get a chance to see either Georgian traditional dance or vocal music, you should jump at it.


hey, i LAUGHED at your pirate joke praktike. maybe i'll take back my laughter now, shall i??

anyway, i thought my title was rather appropriate because whenever i say "i was in georgia last summer" everyone always asks me if i drove or flew to atlanta. i guess it doesn't work for people with the sense of humour of a run over newt, though - eh praktike? :-)


Hey, you said it was terrible. But at least you didn't title this post "Midnight Train to Tblisi" or something.

As for running over newt ... hmmm ... I'm a nice guy, so maybe simple banishment from the corridors of power will do.

Btw, a good blog (center-right, tho) covering the Caucasus and Central Asia is The Argus. Nathan was a Peace Corps volunteer in the magical land of Karimov. A thoughtful guy. He also has a good blogroll.



Sounds to me what they really want is the *Soviet Union* back, not so much communism. They're not necessarily the same thing. This would fit in with Stephen Kotkin's argument in the New Republic that national independence for the former Soviet republics has generally been disastrous, since their economies were set up to be part of the entire USSR, not stand alone, and that the "nationalism" of such places is a pretty shallow thing:



You're probably right, rd, but Georgian after Georgian that I met articulated it as "wanting communism back". I think they really thought it was a better solution, given that Georgia very rarely saw the short end of the stick in terms of authoritarian government until after the breakup of the USSR.

Alice Marshall

I was in Tbilisi in June of 1989 and my impression was very different. The Georgians struck me like the Lebanese, natural born merchants, but too busy hating all the ethnic minorities to do anything with their talent.

But I loved Tbilisi and if you get a chance to go to Georgia, take it and run.


I'm somewhat more alarmed over the threats and shots fired at Russian boats in the Black Sea. Saakashvili's government is a green, democratic government, and those tend to be more belligerent, not less, in their foreign policy. Probably something to do with a combination of moral righteousness and inexperience -- the classic American example of a new democracy picking a fight it can't possibly win is probably the War of 1812.

Andrew Everett

This was nice summary of the Georgian situation. I was in Georgia in 1989-1990, while rumblings for independence were all around us. There were hunger strikes, troops in the street, etc. Even then, the Georgians knew that as soon as they got independence, they would have to deal with the Ossetians and Abkhazians wanting to also break away from Georgia. My only disagreement with your story is your assertion that "the Georgians were not born to commerce." From my experience, that is patently untrue. If you looked at any major Soviet city, who was selling goods on the corners and who ran most of the black markets? Georgians. They took suitcases of produce and goods from Georgia to Moscow and sold it for profit. And many of the criminal enterprises that sprang up after Gorbachev's revolution were headed and or manned by Georgians. They were the first to be alert to commerce, albeit mostly illegal. Before capitalism was the way of life in Russia, the Georgians were already the strongest practitioners.


I suppose after living in HK most of my life I have rather a skewed perspective of what "born to commerce" means ;-)

Another anecdote: I was a bit surprised when I was out in the countryside and workers would sit on the side of the highway all day, while their houses slowly fell down behind them. One of the WFP workers asked, "Why don't you repair your house?" (there were three sacks of concrete in the garage, plus other building materials that were more than adequate). He looked at her like she was from Mars, and said slowly, "But...that's not what I do. The men from Gori will come." After 10 years, this guy was still waiting for the builders from town to come fix his house! I couldn't help thinking that if it was Hong Kong, someone would have bought up all the houses, built a factory, speculated in hajpuri bread, fleeced all the local peasants of everything they had, and then bought matching Rolls Royces :-)


Have you seen Power Trip? It's a documentary about what happened when AES, an American energy group run by an evangelical Christian, bought Telasi, the Georgian electricity company. AES struggled to introduce Western business methods and increase revenue with such novel practices as installing meters and trying to get customers to pay their bills (which were beyond the means of the average Georgian). The company came up against a brick wall in the form of certain large industrial users which never paid their bills but were protected by friends in the Shevadnadze government, which ordered Telasi not to cut them off. Eventually, AES gave up and sold Telasi to a Russian company. They might now be wishing that they'd hung on long enough to get the benefit of Saakashvili's anti-corruption campaign -- unless, that is, that the new government is as accomodating towards large, non-bill-paying factories as the old one was.


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