Sunday, February 22, 2015


The last of the thirteen colonies, home of Martin Luther King Junior and the Masters Golf Tournament… sorry, wrong Georgia; that one’s in the USA. 

On second thoughts, perhaps it isn’t entirely wrong, because the Georgian army is entirely funded, trained and equipped by the USA, which has invested enormously in an oil pipeline that runs from Azerbaijan to Turkey by way of Georgia, has enormous influence within its government, and has been pushing Georgia to join the EU and NATO. None of this, as you might imagine, goes down well in the Kremlin, where Comrade Putin has his own empire to build and can't be dealing with other people's similar aspirations.

Georgia was previously part of the Soviet Union, and has been “considered” Russian by the Russians for centuries. When Communism fell, Georgia cheered for freedom and independence by electing Zviad Gamsakhurdia as its first President. He didn’t last. Unofficially, just as in the Crimea and Ukraine now, the Russians did not in any way interfere or even seek to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs, but when pro-Russian militias (who can say where they obtained their ammunition?) overthrew the government, the new President was…ten seconds to guess…the former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Eleven years later Shevardnadze was himself ousted, this time in a popular uprising known as the “Rose Revolution” (cf Crimea and the Ukraine again), when people had had enough of seeing their former wealth vanish, and in its place high levels of crime, poverty and corruption.

In his place came Mikhail Saakashvili, described as “charismatic” and a “reformer”. Born in Tblisi, he was educated at the university of Miami, and then Columbia in New York. He now lives in a luxury condo in Williamsburg (that's Williamsburg NYC, not Williamsburg Virginia, and obviously not Williamsburg USSR let alone Williamsburg in the Russian Federation), where he spends his time plotting to return to power in Georgia, and using money he liberated from the country to buy expensive art (click here for more detail).

Saakashvili lasted two terms, and was replaced in 2012 by Giorgi Margvelashvili, a man who has no power or influence at all, after constitutional changes transferred that to the Prime Minister, who happens to be another of those billionaire oligarchs that seem to be so prevalent in the lands of the former Soviet Union; Bidzina Ivanishvili is the man on this occasion.

Russia’s attempts to seize back Georgia from western influence, including preventing it from joining NATO, have taken place on two fronts, and Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and other countries on Russia’s borders should take note of the methodology. On the one hand they squeeze the economic testicles, mostly by manipulating Gazprom prices as a means of blackmailing Georgians; at the same time, they support and encourage little breakaways in little regions, taking back the country piece by piece. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are the two in question, but you will need both the maps below to see precisely why; both are on Russia’s border; Ossetia is next door to Chechnya, which of course suffered the same fate - or achieved the same right of self-determination, depending on your politics. And why two maps? Because you cannot find both on any single map, anywhere, not Russian, not Georgian, not anyone else's, because all sides deny the existence of at least one of the parties.

I would like to be able to redeem these negatives with some positives about Georgian art or literature or music or philosophy or science, but unfortunately there isn't any, none at all, or not of sufficient merit or significance to be worth noting, at any point in the past fifteen hundred years; a consequence, no doubt, of the orthodox Christianity which has prevailed throughout that time. Many beautiful churches and much fine religious iconography, in word and paint and music, but that really is the sum of it.

Marks For: 1

Marks Against: 11

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