VISA FREE, Rustavi 2 privatization, Abkhaz runoff, Bakradze by Bay, PM in Kiev Athens Brussels, UNHRC, constitution, Russian abduction, Bagram switch, Misha hosts Kiev TV, former Ukraine Energy Min extradition, Ukrainian soldiers medical treatment, disabled kids, ICC shut down re corrupt judges, GDP numbers, ADB Batumi bypass, Crystal gets Dutch cash, textile factory Tbilisi, Amman flights, Demna award, thirteen championships, Ucha says sign anti women violence treaty, Stalin, street vendors, unsafe marshutkas, Gessen in Harpers, Margvels daughters friends framed, Kokoiti, Protestants
Standard Podcast [ 32 min 18 s | 0.01 MB ] Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
The MEME this week is a photo posted by Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Simasius of the sign welcoming Georgian arrivals at Vilnius Airport. The sign is in Georgian and English, and it says “Closer than Ever.”
THINGS TO READ
Writing for The Calvert Journal, Sebastian Hopp profiles some of the Georgians who still idolize Josef Stalin. He visits the meeting place of the Communist Party of Tbilisi, which has about 100 members. We’re also introduced to Stalinists who commemorate the former leader on Victory Day each year in his hometown of Gori, and a man who’s building a small museum dedicated to Stalin in the garden outside his apartment bloc.
OC-Media covers the Tbilisi authorities’ crackdown on street vendors. On the 19th of March municipal workers cleared out the area around Marjanishvili Metro Station, removing stalls and products in the early morning hours without notifying their vendors. Then, another cleanup was organized on Baratashvili Street and Orbeliani Square. Police are patrolling the areas to prevent vendors from returning. According to the city, it’s cracking down on illegal vending and clearing space for pedestrians in Tbilisi’s busiest areas.
Social Science in the Caucasus launches a series on safer public transport. They start by looking at marshrutkas; doing a small study on whether telling marshrutka drivers they are being monitored has a positive impact on their driving. The study is still being carried out, but they provide a background on road safety in the country. From 2013 to 2016, annual road deaths increased by 17 percent, to 602. Per capita, that’s more than three times the EU average.
Masha Gessen writing for Harper’s covers the World Congress of Families, or WCF, meeting in Tbilisi. The WCF was founded back in the 1990s by Allan Carlson, a conservative professor from the US who saw an opportunity to spread anti-LGBT propaganda in post-Communist countries, where many people were concerned about demographic decline. The WCF has now become close to the Kremlin and to some Georgian conservatives. They link LGBT rights to notions of demographic decline, which is really a proxy for racial and religious prejudice.
Peter Pomerantsev has a fantastic short piece in Coda Story about the Kremlin’s messages on LGBT issues. While it has portrayed itself as a bastion of conservative–anti-gay–values since about 2012, that actually has nothing to do with ideology and has less to do with domestic politics than many think. Anyone who has spent time in Russia knows the population isn’t all that conservative. Instead, the Kremlin has used the anti-gay stance as a wedge to drive into western societies, especially the US.
Giorgi Lomsadze for EurasiaNet covers allegations by First Daughter Ana Margvelashvili that police are targeting her friends and family with fabricated drug charges in order to intimidate her father, President Margvelashvili. In an interview earlier this month, she told Rustavi2 that police planted 18 pills of Subutex, an illegal synthetic opioid, on her friend Mikheil Tatarashvili and threatened to do the same to her brother-in-law Mindia Gogochuri. For its part the Interior Ministry denied planting anything and said that being close to the President or members of his family doesn’t put anyone above the law. This case comes at a time when the President’s disagreements with Otsneba are getting uglier and more frequent.
Writing for DF Watch, Tako Svanidze covers the practice of child marriage among Georgia’s ethnic Azerbaijanis. An amendment to the civil code that went into effect on the 1st of January this year says 18 is the legal age to wed. However, that often fails to change practices in rural areas. As Svanidze reports, most ethnic Azerbaijanis in Eastern Kakheti know that child marriage is illegal, but many claim the right to do so on religious and traditional grounds.
Writing for The Clarion, Dominik K. Cagara analyzes the controversy surrounding South Ossetia’s former President Eduard Kokoity. Kokoity is a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin’s aide on Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Ukraine, Vladislav Surkov. The implication is that Surkov has a lot of influence in Tskhinvali and doesn’t want Kokoity to make a comeback. Last year, a think tank close to Surkov published a report saying that Moscow is not interested in his return to politics. Regardless of how popular he may be in Tskhinvali, Moscow is calling the shots, and they don’t like him.
Chai-Khana profiles Rubaba Mukhtarova, an ethnic Azerbaijani who moved from Baku to Marneuli in 2014 after leaving Islam and converting to Protestantism. Georgia doesn’t seem like an obvious place for a religious refugee, but she’s found a welcoming community there. Marneuli has a Protestant community of about 50 people which includes people speaking English, German, Korean, Russian, and Azerbaijani.
Tom de Waal of Carnegie Europe writes about the potential of the South Caucasus to become an actual region, not just a trio of states stuck next to each other. It depends on resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia conflicts. While there are some encouraging signs coming out of Georgia with regards to its approach to its own conflicts, none of the three looks close to a real breakthrough. In de Waal’s view, the only option is to pursue incremental change and to see the protracted conflicts in the context of developments in the region as a whole.