Of Saakashvili, His Son and Khinkali

Khinkali and Mikheil Saakashvili are among Georgia's best known brands. Combine the two and you get an instant online hit, as was the case with a video filmed by the former Georgian president featuring the iconic, but tricky-to-eat, dumplings.

The video demonstrates to the world the proper way of eating the messiest of Georgian dishes and stars the ex-president’s younger son, 12-year-old Nikoloz Saakashvili .

Young Saakashvili explains what Georgians are wont to tell the uninitiated who…

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Five Peculiar Soviet Cartoons for the Holidays

Since it’s that time of year again, readers with (or without) an interest in the Soviet Union could use recommendations for Soviet cartoons to watch over the holidays that are the antithesis of the usual Santa-Claus fare.

An outlet for entertainment, propaganda, social commentary and artistic expression, animation was a huge business in the USSR. Arguably, animated films can tell more about the Soviet Union than some history books. Many of them continue to exert vast cultural influence to this day.

The list below attempts to look beyond blockbusters like…

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High-Tech Baby Bed Unveiled in Armenia

A new Armenian-made “smart crib” that can sing lullabies, tell stories and keep a watchful eye over a baby is the latest manifestation of the post-Soviet country’s burgeoning high-tech sector.

Caring for a baby can be an easier job when daddy is a programmer, as was the case with the team behind the Armenian smart bed, Cribby. Gor Shahbazian, one of Cribby’s creators and co-founder of an eponymous start-up, came up with the idea of an intelligent bassinet after his first son was born. A few likeminded programmers and computer designers and he then got together to devise an all-in-…

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Saakashvili: Free Again (Seriously)

For the second time running in less than a week, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on December 11 was again freed from Ukrainian state custody, but, this time, by a Kyiv judge who refused the state’s demand for Saakashvili’s house arrest on charges of criminal conspiracy.
“I think that this proves that you can’t prevail against logic, that they really wanted to isolate me from Ukrainian politics . . . They wanted to hide me from the people and to hide the people from me. In reality, it turned out exactly the opposite,” a beaming Saakashvili told…

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Saakashvili Recaptured, For Now

Arrested, broke free, arrested again -- the spectacle around ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Ukraine seems straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. Following a surreal game of cat and mouse with Ukrainian police, it was ultimately the common cold that got him.   
After a few near-captures on charges of allegedly assisting a criminal organization, the elusive Saakashvili was eventually cornered in Kyiv late on December 8…

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Saakashvili Rallies Supporters in Kyiv after Escaping Arrest

After an hours-long standoff with law-enforcement, supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili gathered outside Ukraine's parliament on December 5 in the hundreds to demand the impeachment of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The rally follows a failed attempt by special forces to detain the former Georgian president on charges of allegedly plotting to overthrow Poroshenko and collaborating with "the Russian side."

Addressing supporters on Maidan, Ukraine’s revolutionary epicenter, Saakashvili, now an opposition politician battling the Ukrainian government over rampant corruption, vowed…

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Abkhazia: Counting on a Cryptocurrency

Breakaway Abkhazia plans to launch its own cryptocurrency in a bid to avoid potential sanctions and attract international investment, according to the territory’s de facto economy minister, Adgur Ardzinba.

Whether the de facto Abkhaz government can pull it off is unclear, but, if successful, the idea could give separatist regions throughout Eurasia an example of how to diversify the options for their financial survival.

“The advantage of this [cryptocurrency] market has to do with the fact that any citizen in the entire world…

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Georgia: A Church Divided against Itself

The Georgian Orthodox Church is having an eventful year: priests have been dispensing blessings from a helicopter, visiting the US State Department and debating a poison conspiracy. Most notably, Patriarch Ilia II, the aging Church leader and Georgia’s most beloved public figure, has appointed a standby amidst a growing rivalry for his succession.

But odd things first. A few weeks ago, several priests went whizzing around in a state border-police helicopter, dispensing blessings and candies from the sky. The airborne…

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Georgia Suspects ISIS-Linked Ahmed Chatayev Killed in Tbilisi

Georgian State Security Services boss Vakhtang Gomelauri has taken the first step toward validating unsourced media reports that alleged Islamic State commander Ahmed Chatayev, the suspected mastermind of the 2016 Istanbul Atatürk Airport attack, is among three unidentified men killed in a counter-terrorism operation in Tbilisi last week.
In response to a reporter’s question at a November 26 funeral for a Georgian special-forces operative slain in the…

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When Georgia's Fighting “Terrorists,” How Much Does the Public Need to Know?

Two days after a nearly 24-hour-long, armed counter-terrorism operation in Tbilisi that killed four people, the Georgian public still doesn’t know whom its special forces were fighting or why. Even while congratulating itself for a mission accomplished, the government has refused to release any details. The media finds itself under fire for trying to make sense of the whole thing.

Georgian television channels carried live the ferocious, November 21-22 gunfight in the Georgian capital’s bedroom community of Isani. They provided updates on the SWAT-style movements, although Georgia’s…

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Georgia’s David Lynch Moment

David Lynch paying an “official visit” to the Georgian parliament, meeting lawmakers and government ministers, and expounding on the merits of a silent mantra could have been a scene out of one of his surrealist films. Except, it actually just happened and Georgian legislators have a group photo to prove it.

The goal of the legendary director’s November 18-21 visit to Tbilisi appears to be somewhere between starting a film school and…

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Missing the USSR, Even in Georgia

It’s not uncommon to have a longing for a place you’ve never been. Still, it is a bit odd if this place is the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, some young Georgians appear to miss this country they’ve never seen.
Almost 270 Georgians, 28 years old or younger, told a CRRC survey this year that the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union was a bad thing for Georgia. At 11 percent of the nationally representative survey, these are people who have no memory or, in most cases, no experience of life in the Soviet…

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Chechnya: Praising Putin with iPhone X

Just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Chechnya’s strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has come up with a social-media twist on a Soviet-style tradition – he’s given away an iPhone X for the best poem about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
That’s more significant than it might seem. With prices starting around 79,990 rubles ($1,369), the iPhone X just went on sale in Moscow on November 3; at some stores, within hours, it had sold out, Russian media report.

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Azerbaijan's Switch on Turan: PR or Pressure?

Azerbaijan has dropped charges of tax evasion and abuse of power against Turan news agency and its director, Mehman Aliyev in an apparent response to international outcry over the case.  But it's directed greater attention at a separate PR posie -- an honor from the Council of Europe for justice-system innovations.

Both developments hit shortly after an…

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Georgia: Athletes, Politicians Back Soccer Player’s Support for LGBT Rights

Georgian soccer player Guram Kashia faces an outcry at home over his choice to express support for gay rights in the Netherlands, but support from Georgian fans, athletes and politicians, including Tbilisi Mayor-Elect Kakha Kaladze, Georgia’s most famous soccer player, suggest that local views on this prickliest of cultural issues may be changing.

After Kashia, a 30-year-old defender for the…

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How Competitive Is the Caucasus Train to China?

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway opens a new front in competition between the Caucasus club (Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia) and Russia; this time, for a prime spot in the Chinese-government-led effort to reinvent an Asia-Europe trade route, the Silk Road.

But beneath all the boasting, lies one critical, unanswered question – can the BTK line truly beat out Russia as the rail link between China and the West? 

Once more putting the South Caucasus on the map as a layover point for East-West transit, the train on October 30…

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“Sexy Sheep” Welcome Azerbaijanis to Ukraine

A bare-breasted woman wearing a sheep hat greeted male arrivals from Baku to Kyiv’s international airport this week in a bizarre stand against the perceived promotion of sex tourism in Ukraine by Azerbaijan’s state-owned Buta Airways.  
Femen, a radical Ukrainian feminist movement known for going topless against patriarchy, claimed responsibility for the October 24 “sexy sheep” attack. In Femen’s own words, “the seductive sheep” was there to remind prospective sex…

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Georgia’s Elections: Painting the Town Blue with Kakha Kaladze

Ex-soccer star Kakha Kaladze has scored his biggest win on Georgia's political field by getting elected as Tbilisi mayor, the main prize in the country's October 21 municipal polls and a potential springboard to higher political office.

Though the election registered considerable voter apathy in Georgia, the victory prompted enthusiasm in Italy, once Kaladze's soccer home base.

The Italian salutations included Kaladze’s former AC Milan buddies. “Congratulations to the new mayor of Tbilisi, I am so happy for you!” football legend…

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