Onnik Krikorian: "Nationalists agitate for Samtskhe-Javakheti"

"Following the arrest of two ethnic Armenians in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of the Republic of Georgia, nationalist groups in Armenia plan to hold a demonstration outside the Georgian Embassy in Yerevan on Wednesday. While it is unlikely to be well attended, the activity of such nationalist groups has sharply increased since the short war between Georgia and Russia last August. Chances are that this is no coincidence.
Having openly considered the possibility to use the short conflict over South Ossetia to push for separation from Georgia, nationalist think tanks and analytical centers make no secret of their desire to frustrate good relations with Armenia's neighbor and are more noticeable than ever before. "

Onnik Krikorian is a freelance photojournalist and writer from the United Kingdom based in Yerevan, Armenia.

Read the full article on Frontline.

Poster on the way to Garni temple, national monument and important tourist attraction. The map is titled: Colchide, Iberie et albanie. Kolchis refers to the ancient name of West Georgia, known to the Greeks (Golden Vleece, Prometheus), Albania roughly to present Dagestan and Azerbaijan, Iberie to Armenia and most eastern parts of Georgia.

English Wikipedia explains the term "Iberia":
The theme of Iberia (Greek: θέμα 'Ιβηρίας) was an administrative and military unit – theme – within the Byzantine Empire carved by the Byzantine Emperors out of several Armenian and Georgian lands in the eleventh century. It was formed as a result of Emperor Basil II’s annexation of a portion of the Georgian Bagratid domains (1000-1021) and later aggrandized at the expense of several Armenian kingdoms acquired by the Byzantines in a piecemeal fashion in the course of the eleventh century. The population of the theme was multiethnic with the Armenian majority, including a sizable Armenian community of Chalcedonic rite to which the contemporary Byzantines expanded, as a denominational name, the ethnonym "Iberian", a Graeco-Roman designation of Georgians. The theme ceased to exist in 1074 AD as a result of the Seljuk invasions." (Link to Wikipedia)

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Pavel Felgenhauer: Russia plans to occupy Georgia

Plan of Georgian occupation is worked out in the Kremlin, according to which Russian military forces will enter Tbilisi from Tskhinvali and Akhalgori and occupy North part of the city. Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer stated about it in interview to the paper ‘Kviris Palitra’. According to his information, the second military campaign will start with minor incident, while Russian soldier dies and it will be used as reason by Moscow to start war against Georgia.

Pavel Felgenhauer is a regular correspondent and columnist to "Novaya Gazeta". (The same newspaper, that Anna Politkovskaya worked for.) Read the full article about the Kremlin's plan on InterpressNews.

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We Don`t Wanna Put In - STEPHANE & 3G: Eurovision 2009

- neither do I :-)

“We don’t wanna put in / Cuz negative move / It’s killin’ the groove,
I’m gonna try to shoot in / Some disco tonight / Boogie with you.”

"Put in" rhymes nicely with "shoot in". Vladimir, this song is for you!

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Schota Rustaweli / Shota Rustaveli / შოთა რუსთაველი

Schota Rustaweli wurde um das Jahr 1170 in Rustawi, Georgien, geboren. Gestorben ist er nach 1200 in Jerusalem. Sein Epos "Der Recke im Tigerfell" oder auch "Der Mann im Tigerfell", geschrieben um die Wende vom 12. zum 13. Jahrhundert, gilt als der Beginn der georgischen Literatur.
Über Rustawelis Leben ist kaum etwas bekannt. Er war offenbar Fürst und stand zeitweilig in Diensten der Königin Tamara. Aus dem Epos, das am persischen Königshofe spielt, könnte aber auch hervorgehen, dass er in persischen Diensten stand. Platon und Mohammed werden in seinem von philosophischen Idealen der Ritterlichkeit geprägten Epos namentlich genannt.
Nach Rustaweli ist die Hauptstraße von Tiflis / Tbilissi benannt. Meines Wissens gibt es zwei Denkmäler, die ihn in idealisierter Darstellung zeigen: Eines am Beginn des Rustaweli-Prospekts, das andere (siehe Foto) vor dem Eingang der Nationalbibliothek, nicht weit vom Freiheitsplatz.

Wikipedia-Artikel über Schota Rustaweli (auf Deutsch)

Shota Rustaveli was born around 1170 in Rustavi, Georgia. He died after 1200 in Jerusalem. His epos "The Wearer of the Panther's Skin" or "The Knight in the Tiger's Skin", written on the turn of the 12th to the 13th century, marks the beginning of Georgian literature.
Little is known about his life. He might have been a minister a queen Tamar's court. From the epos, which plays at the Persian court, one could also imagine that he had been in living at the Persian court for a while. He mentioned Platon and Mohammed in his work, which reflects knightly ideas of courtesy.
The main street of Tbilissi is named after him. To my knowledge, there a two monuments showing him in idealized pose: One at the beginning of the Rustaveli-prospect, the other (see foto above) before the entrance to the National Library, not far from Freedom square.

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Pavel Felgenhauer: "Russia's Coming War with Georgia" and my own thoughts...


"South Ossetia, isolated and with its "independence" unrecognized by the international community, is in crisis. This may explain the constant bellicose statements coming from Tskhinvali: renewed military confrontation may seem the only way to end the unacceptable status quo, established by the August 12 ceasefire.

The belligerence of the separatists is actively supported by Moscow, which has its own reasons to detest the status quo. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced, "Russia is concerned about Georgian troop concentrations near the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia" (RIA-Novosti, January 16). EU assurances that there is no "troop concentration" are not accepted. This week the Russian permanent representative in the OSCE, Anvar Azimov, announced, "The Georgians are concentrating troops and heavy weapons, building new bases and checkpoints." Azimov accused the EU observers of impotence and illegally trying to move their operations into Abkhazia and South Ossetia (RIA-Novosti, February 11).

The ceasefire last August has left the strategically important Russian base in Armenia cut off with no overland military transit connections. The number of Russian soldiers in Armenia is limited to some 4000, but during 2006 and 2007 large amounts of heavy weapons and supplies were moved in under an agreement with Tbilisi from bases in Batumi and Akhalkalaki (Georgia). At present there are some 200 Russian tanks, over 300 combat armored vehicles, 250 heavy guns and lots of other military equipment in Armenia - enough to fully arm a battle force of over 20,000 (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozrenie, August 20, 2004). Forces in Armenia can be swiftly expanded by bringing in manpower by air transport from Russia. Spares to maintain the armaments may also be shipped in by air, but if a credible overland military transit link is not established within a year or two, there will be no possibility to either replace or modernize equipment. The forces will consequently degrade, undermining Russia's commitment to defend its ally Armenia and Moscow's ambition to reestablish its dominance in the South Caucasus.


While snow covers the Caucasian mountain passes until May, a renewed war with Georgia is impossible. There is hope in Moscow that the Georgian opposition may still overthrow Mikheil Saakashvili's regime or that the Obama administration will somehow remove him. However, if by May, Saakashvili remains in power, a military push by Russia to oust him may be seriously contemplated. The constant ceasefire violations could escalate to involve Russian servicemen - constituting a public casus belli. The desire by the West to "reset" relations with Moscow, putting the Georgia issue aside, may be interpreted as a tacit recognition of Russia's right to use military force."

Read the full article at Jamestown Foundation.

Also read: Russia plans joint air-defense with Armenia (in German on RIA Novosti)

It's interesting to think further ahead. What if Georgia fell under the Kremlin's supremacy again? At least Abkhazia might very well try to gain true independence. (Remember the last elections, when Moscow's candidate was defeated?) For this case, they just established an air base in Abkhazia. The aim is not only to defend the Kremlin's interest in the South Caucasus region (mainly against Georgia), but also their stronghold in Abkhazia itself. This, too, explains why the Russian military has no interest in a peaceful settlement of the present conflicts around the two separatist regions of Georgia. Without the Abkhaz-Georgian antagonism, Sukhumi might rethink it's relationship with Moscow. (Among the population of Abkhazia, Russians are not as beloved as the official press tries to show us. Just think of the Olympic games at near-by Sotchi and astronomically rising real-estate prices in the northern cities of Abkhazia including Sukhumi and you get the picture.)

See also here and here.

South-Ossetia, although poor, is still the biggest trump card in the hands of Putin and Medvedev. Firstly, because Russian tanks are stationed now only about 45 kilometers from Georgia's capital. Secondly, because South-Ossetia looks south to Georgia's weakest strategic point, that is the rather narrow East-West-connection (the "highway" running from Tbilisi to Batumi). Thirdly, continuing violations of the ceasefire-agreement create pressure on Saakashvili's government and an athmosphere of instability and unsureness, deterring investors and thwarting Georgia's ambitions on NATO-membership. And eventually, there is another option: By "proving" that an independent South-Ossetia could not defend itself against "aggressive" Georgia, it can graciously be admitted into the Russian Federation in a year or two.

The reference to Armenia and Russian troops stationed in Armenia might also give a clou to the (indirect) support of the Javakheti-movement of Armenians in Georgia, pressing for autonomy. Recent history has shown what "autonomy" for Georgia really means - the destruction of a multi-ethnic state, while on the other hand side the war against "bandits" and separatism in Chechnyia and elsewhere in the North Caucasus continues, accepted by the West as a "fight against terrorism" after 9/11.

What next will be accepted by the West, falsely assuming "common interests" with Putin and his camarilla?

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Tuschetien / Tuscheti (September) 2008

Waterfall on the Kachetian side of Omalo Road.
Wasserfall auf der kachetischen Seite der Straße nach Omalo.

Mountain valleys Gebirgstäler

Overtaking can be very difficult... / Überholen kann ziemlich schwierig sein...

Cross on Abano pass. View to the north.
Kreuz auf dem Abano-Pass. Blick nach Norden.

Landscape north of Abano-Pass (the tushetian side). A lot of erosion due to landslides and overherding.
Landschaft nördlich des Abano-Passes (auf der tuschetischen Seite), gezeichnet von Erosion und Erdrutschen.

One of our 4-wheel-drives: An UAZ (Willisi) in action...
Einer unserer Jeeps: Ein UAZ (Willisi) in Aktion...

or - frequently - being repaired.
oder bei der Reparatur.

The Niva proved to be more reliable. Der Niwa war verlässlicher.

This is about the lowest point of the road to Omalo, probably half way from Abano pass.
Dies ist vermutlich der niedrigste Punkt der Straße nach Omalo, etwa auf halber Strecke zwischen dem Abano-Pass und Omalo.

Watch out for birds - there are many birds of prey, including eagles...
Wer die Augen offenhält, entdeckt viele Vögel - darunter auch Raubvögel wie Adler...

and singing birds, like this one (don't know the name)
und Singvögel, wie dieser hier. (Den Namen kenne ich leider nicht.)

Slate, favourite construction material of the Tush, can be found in many places of Tusheti.
Schiefer, das bevorzugte Baumaterial der Tuschen, kann vielerorts gefunden werden.

Slate can damage the tires - beware!
Schiefer kann Reifen zerstören!

As I wrote in 2005, the road can only be passed from July to October. So you'll want to make sure you'll be back in time - otherwise, you'd have to stay till next summer - without electricity...
Wie ich 2005 schrieb, ist die Straße nur von Juli bis Oktober passierbar. Man sollte also rechtzeitig zurückfahren, sonst muss man bis zum nächsten Juli bleiben - ohne Strom...

Dartlo. The "street" after a landslide in early spring.
Dartlo und die "Straße" nach einem Erdrutsch im Frühjahr.

Landscape near Dartlo / Landschaft bei Dartlo

Flock of sheep near Dartlo / Schafherde nahe Dartlo

This peak, seen through a tele-lens, marks the border to Tshetshnia.
Dieser Gipfel, fotografiert mit einem Teleobjektiv, markiert die Grenze zu Tschetschenien.

Probably the same mountain-range, seen from further away.
Wahrscheinlich dieselbe Gebirgskette, gesehen aus größerer Entfernung.

This is the village of Cecho /Checho (with an old cemetary in the foreground)
Dies ist das Dorf Schescho (mit einem alten Friedhof im Vordergrund)

Some houses / Einige Häuser

View to the west, in the direction of the village of Parsma.
Blick nach Westen in Richtung des Dorfes Parsma.

Landscape around Checho, seen from the west
Landschaft um Schescho, von Westen gesehen

Fire-towers, signaling danger in the past
Feuertürme, von denen in der Vergangenheit Gefahr angekündigt wurde

One of the towers near Checho / Einer der Türme nahe Schescho

Details of this tower / Details dieses Turms

An old barrel I found in one of the ruins of Checho, made from metal
Ein altes Fass aus Metall, gefunden in einer der Ruinen von Schescho

Our host, who was cooking deliciously / Unser Gastgeber, der wunderbar kochte

Heiner, my friend, witness to marriage and former colleage at work
Heiner, mein Freund, Trauzeuge und ehemaliger Arbeitskollege

...sleeping instead of fishing (due to good food, dsadsha (like grappa, but more "spirited"), the sun and the difference in altitude
... und schlafend statt fischend. Ein gewisses Überangebot an gutem Essen, starkem Dschadscha (etwa wie Grappa, nur mit mehr Umdrehungen), Sonne und der Höhenunterschied verfehlte seine Wirkung nicht.

A breakfast-table with Heiner, our host, our driver, a local and Heiner's father in law. The first glass of dshadsha (for the results, see above).
Der Frühstückstisch mit Heiner, unserem Gastgeber, unserem Fahrer, einem Nachbarn und Heiners Schwiegervater. Und das erste Glas Dschadscha (das Ergebnis siehe oben).

The sanitary conditions are less comfortable, as are the shithouses...
Die sanitären Bedingungen sind eher bescheiden, so wie leider oft auch die Plumpsklos.

Graffiti, seen on a hulk of a bus
Graffiti an den Überresten eines Busses

Natia and Soso, children of the neighbours
Natia und Soso, Kinder der Nachbarn

Some white horses, seen in or near Checho. / Einige Schimmel, gesehen in oder nahe Schescho.

Some days later, I drove with another friend, Karu, to Shenako.
Ein paar Tage später fuhr ich mit einem anderen Freund, Karu, nach Schenako.

A last view on Dartlo / Ein letzter Blick auf Dartlo

Some valley, a snapshot from the tour
Ein Tal, Schnapschuss von der Tour

This is the village of Shenako: / Dies ist das Dorf Schenako:

Shenako is situated on a rather steep mountain ridge.
Schenako liegt an einem ziemlich steilen Berghang.

One of the Tush sanctuaries. Tusheti was christianized in the 16th century. And even today, there is only one church in Tusheti. Paganism remains strong.
Turm und eines der drei Tuschen-Heiligtümer. Das Christentum, das in Tuschetien erst im 16. Jh. eingeführt wurde, hat sich nie völlig durchgesetzt. Heute gibt es nur eine einzige Kirche in ganz Tuschetien.

Lightning candles at the sanctuary. Dshadsha, bread and cheese for Karu (who owns a small cottage in the village), who forgot to go to the eldest of the village right after arrival. So, we had to meet with the eldest the next morning at 7 am and drink a few cups of dshadsha...
Entzünden von Kerzen am Heiligtum. Dschadscha, Brot und Käse wurde den Neuankömmlingen gereicht. Mein Freund Karu, der im Dorf eine Hütte besitzt, hatte vergessen sich gleich nach der Ankunft beim Dorfältesten zu melden. Daraufhin mussten wir uns mit ihm am nächsten Morgen um 7 Uhr treffen - und mit ein paar Gläsern Dshadsha anstoßen...

A Tushetian woman of Shenako / Eine Tuschin aus Schenako

The village community's place for festivities / Versammlungsplatz der Dorfgemeinschaft

Furs, drying in the sun / Felle, zum Trocknen aufgehängt

Shenako in the dawn / Schenako in der Dämmerung

Sheep, shepherds and sheepdogs around Shenako
Schafe, Schäfer und Schäferhunde bei Schenako:

Still a yound one / ein noch junger Hund

Goats tend to be a little more intelligent in finding a way in difficult terrain and are therefore mixed with the sheep.
Ziegen sind ein bisschen intelligenter und werden deswegen gern mit Schafen gemischt, damit sie im schwierigen Gelände nicht zu schaden kommen.

The Russians are watching us... / Die Russen beobachten uns...

O, I shouldn't forget the Georgian leopards. Nobody has seen them - except may-be those who met them...
Ich sollte nicht die Georgischen Leoparden vergessen. Niemand hat sie bisher gesehen - außer vielleicht diejenigen, die ihnen begegnet sind...

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