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Voices from the Caucasus

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Arts & Culture, Breaking News, Governance, Media & Journalism, War & Conflict

Russian tourists rest in the shade in the Novy Afon (New Athos) monastery near the capital of the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia – by eurutuf [2]

What follows is a roundup of notable blog conversations from the Caucasus that took place over the last week. For a change, how about we take you through the countries in reverse alphabetical order?

The breaking story at the beginning: Georgia seems to be stepping up its efforts to re-incorporate the breakaway province of Abkhazia into its fragile state and Sean-Paul Kelley gives some great background [3] at Registan.net to a conflict that has long been in the making. In contrast to the Black Sea province of Adjaria, it seems that Abkhazia won't give in without force. How will Abkhaz backer Russia react? Matt Jay [4] has more on the story and reports [5] that a warlord from within Georgia took refuge in Abkhazia today. Is this the casus belli? Susan of Sueandnotu [6] brings it straight to the point:

A fascinating spectacle is unfolding in the wild, uncontrollable west of the country where parliamentarians and well-coiffed ministers are squaring off with warriors and wise men from another time. It's as perfect an illustration as you could ask for of the whole untamed spirit of this place in the modern world; at times wearing modernity like an ill-fitting suit.

Moving on to the bright side of life, Breed [7] is chased off [8] at gunpoint in Georgia. To all our relief, he's only acting:

Some time ago I was approached to act in a soap opera. I had all the attributes they were looking for – I’m a guy, I’m an American, I’m (relatively) young. The role I’m playing is one of… a young American guy. So far so good.

Susan [6] is about to pack her bags and leave Georgia. Quite sad actually, as her stories always presented a refreshing alternative to at times all-too-serious blogging from the region. One of her latest encounters [9] took place on the steps in front of her apartment, where she investigated the source of a strange noise:

But here, one of the explanations you can't rule out is that it's a bunch of men who have inexplicably deposited upon your steps two wooden barrels holding baby bears, and that they have decided to have an impromptu supra above them.

Back to some more serious news of this week: Georgia's problem with rampant corruption seems to be getting better, thanks to reforms of President Saakashvili, which Vasili describes [10] on neweurasia [11]. Now, says [12] Nathan of the Registan [13], it is crucial for Georgia to institutionalise these reforms.

Breed [7] has another fantastic story [14], this time on a textbook post-Soviet conspiracy revolving around the murder of a newspaper editor in Baku last year. The order to kill him came from high up in the Azeri government, as was only revealed this week. Go read the whole post for some James-Bond-style investigative blogging. In what is a regional post about redrawing borders to make the Middle East a more peaceful place, Sabbah [15] discusses [16] a hypothetical proposal that would let Azerbaijan incorporate large areas of north-west Iran, home to a large Azeri minority. A specialist blog on wine [17] informs [18] us that a French company wants to plant large vineyards in Azerbaijan, a country not renowned for its vino. Yet. Now that wine from neighbouring Georgia is banned [19] on Russian markets, maybe Russians will switch to Azeri booze instead? Denise of neweurasia [20] writes [21] about the omnipresence of former President Heydar Aliyev and concludes that ‘all roads lead to Heydar’.

In between Armenia and Azerbaijan lies the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Brendan Hoffmann maps [22] the long-lasting conflict from a different perspective. Beyond the sabre-rattling rhetorics coming from both Armenia and Azerbaijan, he has a closer look at an unrecognised republic that could be proud of its achievements, but has to be afraid of once again becoming the arena of a nasty war between two rivalling nations.

The fact that there are large numbers of ethnic Armenians in Lebanon has made the Armenian government issue a blanket invitation for all Lebanese caught in the sandstorm of bombardment, reports Onnik in his first roundup [23] of the Lebanese-Armenian blogosphere. Meanwhile, the Armenian blogosphere is discussing [24] the national holiday of Vardavar, an occasion used to douse complete strangers with water. On Onnik's Oneworld blog [25], you can also find pictures [26] of this wet celebration from last year.