Saturday, August 31, 2013

VIDEO: Impressions from Rustaveli. By Nanuka Tchitchoua (

Format: 16mm film
Film by Nana (nanuka) Tchitchoua

( Impressions from Rustaveli is inspired by an 800 years old manuscript written by S'hot'ha Rust'havely, a Georgian monk who dedicated his poem to the female King T'hamara, whose name recalls to her people the epoch of the nations glory... Inner world of the poem as film is beyond static painting and beyond cinematographic representation.

Film by Nana Tchitchoua. Impressions from Rustavely is a short, 16mm film inspired by an 800 yrs old manuscript, written by a Georgian monk, Shota Rustaveli, who dedicated his romantic epic poem to the female King Tamara. The manuscript is considered as prophecy by the Georgian people. The film is closely linked with the figure of Tamara, whose name recalls to her people an epoch of nations glory; thus the work glorifies love, beauty and the nobility of the female king. The Knight in the Panther's Skin, is a Persian and Indian tale written in the old Georgian language, regarded as magical in itself. The film portrays heroes and heroines whose radiant loveliness is represented as bright celestial light. The heroes and heroines are performed all by female artists except the character of the monk. I am developing a visually inspired language that produces certain notions on gender. Every culture has its own concept of femininity, and I am interested in investigating the discourse among and between Western and Eastern cultures. I become reflectively creative with ideas of erotic fascination and images regarded as "beautiful". The work inspires cinematic intervention into painting, honoring the Byzantine poetics and my Georgian lineage which challenges the anxious American cyber manipulations by showing us a more ancient postmodern transcendental light. The sense and meaning of the poem cannot be represented by static painting and conventional narrative form. The story is preserved by breaking the film into segments; Impressions of Rustaveli is shot in a frontal style, without camera movements, locating somewhere between painting and cinema.

This is a story of my thoughts, my memories and dreams.

ART: Publication 1st Tbilisi Triennial. Offside Effect. Out Now. (

Offside Effect( Over the last decade, art education has been confronted time and again with neoliberal thought and attitudes. Although the debate on artistic research demands space for a free artistic space for thought, it also seems necessary now to raise the question regarding the potential of educational platforms outside the Bologna rules.
The 1st Tbilisi Triennial (Offside Effect, Tbilisi 2012), curated by Henk Slager and Wato Tsereteli, concentrated on this specific issue. In a forum-like display system, a number of keynote artists (among others Anton Vidokle, Stephan Dillemuth, Marion von Osten) and lecturers in collaboration with their students from a dozen of experimental academies from all over the world presented their strategic ways of working.

CCA Tbilisi served as the base for the 1st Tbilisi Triennial. On the outside wall of CCA, Marion von Osten created a statistic mural connecting education, migration, and debts. Frankfurt's Staedelschule realized the Crypt-bar for screenings, readings, drinks and inter-disciplinary relaxation. F+F (Zurich) developed the Unexpected Sites Effect project that transformed the neo-liberal 'living from art' into a free 'living for art'. In Mildred's Lane's (New York) living room situation visitors were invited to actively participate in a research project pointing to a revolutionary, rigorously rethinking of the contemporary art complex. Across from the CCA building, in the Vladimir Kurtishvili Memorial House, the atmosphere was more contemplative: the Maumaus program (Lisbon) reflected on a number of parameters significant for contemporary art practice.

The presentations in the Literature Museum were mainly discursive or even counter-discursive. Kaywon College (Young June Lee, Seoul) focused on a reversed educational practice. Kadir Has University's (Inci Eviner, Istanbul) performative project Acting in the Library revealed the discursive domain of archiving and descriptive knowledge. CCA Tbilisi's Informal Masters Program (Wato Tsereteli, Katharina Stadler) engaged in an exploration of exporting creativity to non-art contexts. Annette Krauss (MaHKU Utrecht) organized a test-site in the form of a para-educational department directed towards the significance of 'unlearning'.

Two context-specific case studies were presented on the second floor. One presentation dealt with the situation of the colonial adoption of art education in Africa and the significance of informal institutes for developing an alternative discourse departing from Addis Contemporary (Lucrezia Cippitelli). Another presentation by the doctoral program of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts (Jan Kaila, Sami van Ingen) demonstrated how an art university could give an idiosyncratic interpretation of artistic freedom by giving shelter to vulnerable image productions.

For the Georgian National Museum, a clean display system was based on the vernacular architecture and its inherent curatorial logic. Rene Francisco (ISA Habana) showed documentary work related to his Pedagogia Pragmatica workshops taking place outside the art academy in Havana's urban landscape. Tiong Ang's Pavilion of Distance project (MaHKU, Utrecht) was initiated as an experimental platform to pursue a collective artistic production. Stephan Dillemuth (Munich) translated the lecture The Academy and the Corporate Public in an installation drawing attention to issues such as bohemian research and squatted institutional spaces.

The venue Europe House mainly showed archiving presentations. Some presentations gave a survey of various experimental education platforms such as the documentation of Anton Vidokle's unitednationsplaza project, a display of the curricular structure of the experimental seminar program of ICA Yerevan (Armenia), and the activities of Visual Culture Research Center (Kiev) shown in the logic of an application form. Other presentations showed documentation of the various Tbilisi Triennial workshops, such as Sarah Cowles' Ruderal Academy Project, Nedko Solakov's Selling & Buying, and Rainer Ganahl's Reading Lenin's Imperialism. Also in Europe House, Tara McDowell (San Francisco) lectured weekly on the topical meaning of historical models of alternative academies.

Previous to the Triennial's opening, the above sketched ideas, perspectives, and strategies were presented and discussed in a two-day forum in Tbilisi's Goethe Institute. Critical referents were Irena Popiashvili (Tbilisi) and Mick Wilson (Gothenburg).

The editorial logic of the Offside Effect publication follows the line-up of presentations, workshops, and seminars. The publication's ultimate goal is to not only document the 1st Tbilisi Triennial, but to also incite further diagnoses and developments in the debate on current art academies and their contexts.

Editor: Henk Slager
Final Editor: Annette W. Balkema Design: Joris Kritis
More information
This publication was also made possible by the support of the Utrecht School of the Arts, the Mondriaan Fund and the Tbilisi Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Monday, August 26, 2013

REZENSION: Songs of D. and O. Christiane Rösingers Reisebericht aus Baku leidet an Dünkel und Oberflächlichkeit. Von Thomas Melzer

In ihrem Reisebericht “Berlin – Baku” (S. Fischer-Verlag 2013) bekennt sich die Berliner Liedermacherin Christiane Rösinger zur „Durchfahrtsessayistik“: Gerade der flüchtige Blick des Vorbeifahrenden erfasse die wesentlichen Eigenschaften einer Stadt oder Landschaft. Der „Aufenthaltsessayist“ dagegen, hält sie dem Leiter des Goethe-Institutes in Georgien, Stefan Wackwitz, vor, habe „den abgestumpften Alltagsblick, wundert sich über nichts mehr und kann das Besondere eines Ortes bald nicht mehr erkennen.“

Der Essayistenstreit lässt sich mit der Veröffentlichung von „Berlin – Baku“ als erledigt betrachten. Rösinger hat sich – im Frühjahr 2012, anlässlich des Eurovision Song Contest - in einem VW-Bus auf den Weg nach Aserbaidschan gemacht und reflektiert ihre Wahrnehmungen nun via Rückspiegel. Mehr als Oberfläche wird so naturgemäß nicht sichtbar. Wo das Durchfahrtstempo Lücken in der Wahrnehmung ließ, füllt Rösinger diese im Nachhinein per Google oder Gossip. „Jeden Tag werden sämtliche Zufahrtsstraßen ins (Bakuer) Zentrum ein paar Stunden lang gesperrt, immer wenn sich Staatskarossen oder wichtige Delegationen durch die Stadt bewegen,... Ein normaler Weg von der Innenstadt in einen Nachbarbezirk kann da schon vier oder fünf Stunden dauern.“ 

Unbestritten hat Baku ein Verkehrsproblem, die absurde Übertreibung und Verallgemeinerung schon im Banalen aber steht beispielhaft für Rösingers Attitüde im Ganzen: Man hat sie vor Aserbaidschan gewarnt, schreibt sie, und sie selbst bleibt Zeit ihres Besuches fest entschlossen, sich dort nicht zu wundern, sondern das Land quasi mit dem Hintern anzusehen. „Hier müssen wir also ganze vier Tage lang bleiben. ... Was soll man mit diesem Baku anfangen?“

Das künstlerische Schaffen Rösingers, deren Album „Songs of L. and Hate“ (2010) ihr verbreitet den Ruf eintrug, eine der besten deutschen Liedermacherinnen zu sein, lebt von der misanthropischen Perspektive auf „die allgemeine Sinnlosigkeit der Existenz“, ihr Reisebericht darbt daran. Darüber ließe sich hinwegsehen, stände Rösinger mit ihrer unerschütterlich selbstgewissen und -gerechten Art der Weltanschauung allein und nichts weniger als der europäischen Integration im Wege. Es ist genau jene westliche Dünkelhaftigkeit, die sich als Grundton durch die Aserbaidschan-Kapitel des Buches zieht, welche die von Rösinger beschriebene vielfältige Überkompensation der Aserbaidschaner erst schürt: Nehmt uns wahr und nehmt uns ernst – und sei es mit dem höchsten Haus der Welt! Schon Kurban Said warf in seinem Kaukasus-Schlüsselroman „Ali und Nino“ vor 100 Jahren die Zukunftsfrage auf, ob Baku künftig zum „rückständigen Asien oder zum modernen Europa“ gehören werde. Für Rösinger, die in ihrem Buch auswalzt, wie sie in einem aserbaidschanischen Straßenrestaurant vor Baku keine mitteleuropäische Bedienung antrifft und inmitten der „Servicewüste“ sogleich die „Dorfdeppen von Samaxi“ vermutet, scheint die Frage beantwortet: finsterstes Asien.

Das Buch strotzt vor tendenziösen Fehlinformationen, oft dargeboten in einem verräterisch süffisanten Sound: Die Flame Towers (das neue Wahrzeichen der Stadt) seien „abrutschende Neubauten“ und nicht bewohnbar. (Wahr ist: Soeben eröffnete hier das teure „Fairmont“-Hotel.) Die neuen Taxis seien eigens für den ESC aus London eingeflogen. (Sie wurden in China produziert und wurden auch nach dem ESC noch zu hunderten eingeführt.) Journalisten, die über den Nagorny-Karabach-Konflikt berichten, würden zusammengeschlagen. (Der Journalist Chingiz Mustafayev, der die Gräuel des Karabach-Krieges filmte, ist seitdem in Aserbaidschan Nationalheld.) Erstaunlicherweise unternimmt die Reiseautorin nicht einmal den Versuch, ihre Wahrnehmungen in den Zusammenhang mit dem großen nationalen Trauma zu bringen, den die Aserbaidschaner mit dem Verlust eines Fünftels ihres Territoriums und der Entwurzelung von einer Million Menschen infolge des Karabach-Krieges vor nur 20 Jahren erlitten.

Fürwahr, es gibt in Aserbaidschan viel zu kritisieren. Wer dies jedoch demagogisch tut, wer meint, aus vier Tagen Aufenthalt das Land kennen und bewerten zu können, ist in seiner leichten Widerlegbarkeit keine Stütze für die demokratischen Kräfte in Aserbaidschan. Natürlich ist z.B. zu beklagen, dass die politische Opposition im Zentrum von Baku nicht demonstrieren darf. Tatsache ist auch die Auflösung ungenehmigter Demonstrationen durch die Polizei (die übrigens von deutschen Polizisten im „Crowd Management“ trainiert wird). Warum aber benutzt Rösinger in diesem Zusammenhang das Wort „zusammengeknüppelt“ – wo stand sie, dass sie sah, was der Verfasser aus mehrfacher eigener Anschauung nicht bestätigen kann?

„Und wie sollen die Leute hier etwas davon mitkriegen, wenn es keine Presse ... gibt?“ Blödsinn! Regierungsferne Presse hat es tatsächlich nicht leicht in Aserbaidschan. Warum aber verschweigt Rösinger dem arg- und ahnungslosen deutschen Leser, dass „Musavat“, die Zeitung einer Oppositionspartei, die auflagenstärkste Zeitung Aserbaidschans ist?

Rösinger verhält sich nicht anders als etliche deutsche Journalisten, die zum ESC nach Baku kamen, aus dem Flugzeug stiegen und eigentlich über das Land schon alles wussten. Das, was sie dann zum Besten gaben, war oft tendenziöser, einseitiger, unredlicher Journalismus. Bei dem Autor, der seit 2011 in Baku lebt und eine halbe DDR-Biografie hat, löst das einen schmerzhaften Reflex aus, den er schon an sich kennt: eine Gesellschaft über alle kritischen Vorbehalte hinweg gegen Demagogen oder ahnungslose Besserwisser in Schutz zu nehmen.

Einen Trost bietet die Lektüre des Rösinger-Buches immerhin dann, wenn die Autorin unfreiwillig komisch wird. Wiederholt habe ihre von „Gendermarkierungen“ freie Erscheinung dafür gesorgt, schreibt Rösinger, dass sie und die sie begleitende „Frau Fierke“ im Südkaukasus für Männer gehalten wurden. Dann aber sitzen sie abends im Hotel am offenen Fenster, rauchen und trinken Dosenbier. Von unten winken ein paar Jungs. „Für was die uns wohl halten? ... Sexarbeiterinnen, die sich wie in Amsterdam in Schaufenster setzen?“ So fern für Bakuer Jungs das Amsterdamer Rotlichtviertel ist, so fremd ist Baku Christiane Rösinger. Ahnungslosigkeit und Hybris gehen bei ihr Hand in Hand und miteinander durch. Würde Rösinger ihre eigenen Songs ernst nehmen, hätte sie ihr Buch nicht oder nicht so geschrieben: Du hast Dir Deinen Reim / und Dein Bild gemacht / dann kommt die Wirklichkeit / und sagt „falsch gedacht“ („Desillusion“ aus „Songs of L. and Hate“).

AmazonShop: Books, Maps, Videos, Music & Gifts About The Caucasus

Sunday, August 25, 2013

POLITICS: Power struggle damaging image and future of Georgia. By Silvia Stoeber (
Georgia's Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Tbilisi on June 26, 2013. (DAVID MDZINARISHVILI/AFP/Getty Images)
( Commentary: EU politicians taking sides in conflict between retiring president and new prime minister.

HAMBURG, Germany — New Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and still-reigning President Mikhail Saakashvili are fighting for power. Now Christian Democrats in the European Parliament are mixing in the fight, levying strong criticism against Ivanishvili.

The conflict arose mostly from the political constellation that has existed in Georgia since the parliamentary elections in October. On the one side is the president, Saakashvili, whose term runs until the fall. For the past nine years, his National Movement party (UNM) ran the government and controlled the parliament.

On the other side is the prime minister, Ivanishvili, a fledgling politician and billionaire whose “Georgian Dream” coalition won the majority of seats in the parliament last October. His people now run the government.

The formal transfer of governmental power took place smoothly. But soon thereafter both sides fell back into campaign mode. They outdid one another in denying the other’s democratic credentials.

The fact that Ivanishvili earned his fortune in Russia leads repeatedly to criticism of his being a Kremlin lackey. Relations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Western-oriented Saakashvili have for years been toxic.

Conservative deputies from the European Peoples’ Party (EPP) of the European Parliament have also played an active role in the power struggle.

Christian Democratic Party politician Elmar Brok charges Ivanishvili with having engineered “a total seizure of power.” Mayors from the Saakashvili era were pushed from office, as were leading officials of the state-run radio. Christian Democratic deputy Joachim Zeller charges that Ivanishvili’s government has abandoned the search for a democratic consensus.

In a joint letter signed by 21 EPP deputies, the prime minister was charged with closing Georgia’s doors to Europe.

Saakashvili’s UNM is a member of the EPP. He regularly takes part in EPP gatherings at the highest level. At a recent meeting, EPP deputies approved a resolution threatening to withhold its approval of an EU Association Agreement with Georgia, a treaty creating a framework for cooperation that would offer important benefits to its struggling economy.

EPP politicians, unsurprisingly, refrain from criticizing Saakashvili. But Swiss Ambassador Günther Bächler has called the remarks by EPP deputies “Soviet style propaganda.” In a highly unusual letter to Ivanishvili, the diplomat spoke of biased remarks by the deputies that did not reflect realities in Georgia. He then praised Ivanishvili and his government for their efforts at reform and their readiness to listen to advice from non-governmental organizations and international institutions.

While modernizing much of the government administration during his presidency, Saakashvili also concentrated power in his own hands, facilitated elite corruption, conducted surveillance of government critics and initiated tax investigations against businesses that did not support his policies.

Legitimate questions can also be asked about the new government. In particular, a series of confusing statements by the new prime minister — who still needs to learn that everything he says and does will be judged by public opinion — has sown some doubt.

Public pressure is demanding retribution for suffering, real or imagined, from illegal activities by the Saakashvili government. Thousands of claims have been filed with the general prosecutor. Ex-PM and former interior minister Vano Merabishvili, who is now UNM's secretary general, and more then 20 former ministerial officials are awaiting trials for malfeasance.

Many Georgians wonder why, despite these facts, Ivanishvili is still so much the focus of criticism.

EU circles in Brussels are also unhappy with the comments by EPP deputies. Expansion Commissioner Stefan Füle says he is satisfied with the new government. Negotiations with the EU are progressing steadily, and “with some subjects we are doing better than under the old government,” Füle said in an interview.

Above all, the EU is interested in demonstrating a success for its Eastern Neighborhood Policy at the summit in Vilnius in November. The five other nations of the Eastern Partnership — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldavia and Belarus — have little or no progress to report.

Even so, Saakashvili and his supporters never tire of painting a threatening picture abroad of the situation in Georgia. Saakashvili and other leaders of the 2003 “Rose Revolution” succeeded in recent years finding supporters in the EU and in Washington, primarily among conservative politicians. Many leaders were so impressed by Georgia’s goal to join NATO, they were willing to overlook the lack of progress towards democracy.

Sympathetic statements by foreign politicians helped Saakashvili legitimize his policies with his own population. Lacking viable political institutions at home, his political opponents sought to attract foreign ambassadors as referees — the reason why comments by Swiss Ambassador Bächler are important. American Ambassador Richard Norland has also become an unofficial mediator between the political camps and appears to be an advisor to Ivanishvili, with whom he speaks often.

To the extent that the Saakashvili and Ivanishvili camps carry out their conflict on the international stage, they are also damaging both the image and the future of Georgia. And when European parliamentarians heat up the debate by presenting a one-sided, negative picture of the situation in Georgia, they are also limiting their own maneuvering room.

During an interview, CDU politician Brok seemed ready to compromise, saying: “We are trying to build bridges and to help moderate the situation in Georgia. I have invited Prime Minister Ivanishvili to a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. There is still time to talk and to put things in order.”

Silvia Stoeber is a freelance journalist from Germany who has specialized on South Caucasus topics for more then six years. She regularly works for several media in Germany, Switzerland and Georgia.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

AUSSTELLUNG: Kunst von Stephan Hasslinger und Gela Samsonidse in Konstanz (

Kunstverein Konstanz zeigt Hasslinger Samsonide 

( Konstanz. Der Kunstverein Konstanz zeigt im September eine Ausstellung mit dem Titel “Fremde Figuren”. Zu sehen sind Arbeiten von Stephan Hasslinger und Gela Samsonidse. Beide, der Bildhauer und der aus Georgien stammende Maler, leben in Freiburg. Ihre Arbeiten ergänzen sich.

Zu sehen ist die Ausstellung vom 21. September bis 24. November 2013. Vernissage ist am Freitag, 20. September 2013, um 19 Uhr. Einführen wird Hans-Joachim Müller. Preview ist bereits am Donnerstag, 19. September, um 18.30 Uhr.

Über die Künstler

Kunstverein Konstanz zeigt Hasslinger Samsonide
Der aus Georgien stammende, in Freiburg lebende Maler Gela Samsonidse (*1965) und der Freiburger Bildhauer Stephan Hasslinger (*1960) haben sich mit ihren sehr unterschiedlichen Arbeitsweisen für einen gemeinsamen Auftritt entschieden. Zunächst scheinen den beiden Künstlern Ornament und Struktur als Bindeglied zu dienen. Beide verwenden in ihrer Arbeit ornamentale Strukturen: Hasslinger verwendet diese Strukturen, die er der textilen Welt entlehnt, als Hülle seiner keramischen Skulpturen, die sich auf ausschnitthaft Figürliches beziehen. Samsonidse bindet in seinen neueren Arbeiten das Ornament als Hintergrund oder als Binnenstruktur in seinen figürlichen Darstellungen ein. In seinen früheren Arbeiten dominieren hingegen strukturelle Kompositionen.

 Form, Farbe und Struktur

Hasslingers Arbeiten wirken zunächst abstrakt, bei näherer Betrachtung rufen sie aber dinglich körperhafte Assoziationen hervor. Samsonideses Malerei ist zunächst figürlich, löst sich dann aber beim zweiten Blick in ihre Bestandteile von Form, Farbe und Struktur auf. So ergänzen sich beide Arbeitsweisen, Figürliches ist stets auch als Abstraktion und Abstraktes als Figur zu lesen.

Öffnungszeiten Di –Fr, 10 bis 18 Uhr; Sa/So, 10 bis 17 Uhr

VIDEO: As Georgia’s Saakashvili Prepares to Step Down, Projects Stall (

( Published August 21, 2013

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili so loves the new Black Sea resort of Anaklia that he once said that after he dies he wants his ashes sprinkled there. But as political power changes hands in Georgia, the President’s pet project seems less likely to come to fruition. VOA's James Brooke has more.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GEOPOLITIC: Georgia: Is Moscow Building Another Berlin Wall? By Molly Corso (

Russian soldiers pullout of Gori city 18 Aug 2008. Image by Bohan Shen/Flickr.
( Whenever Ilya Beruashvili hears his dog bark, he knows the Russians are at the gate.

For the past five years, Beruashvili, 53, who lives on the outskirts of the Georgian village of Ditsi, has watched from his windows as Russian soldiers stationed in the neighboring separatist territory of South Ossetia have patrolled the fields he used to farm.

They are coming ever closer. A few months ago, soldiers started building a fence just a stone’s throw from his shed, a structure that will leave Beruashvili’s house and fields outside of Georgian jurisdiction and inside Russian-guarded, breakaway South Ossetia.

Under the terms of the 2008 cease-fire agreement between Georgia and Russia, the area, just a few kilometers east of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, lies in territory where Russian troops should not be. But that hasn’t stopped the Russians from building a barrier there.

Zigzagging through 15 Georgian villages, the 27-kilometer-long fence has divided families and cut people off from their livelihoods, separating farmers from their fields and orchards. It cuts off access to cemeteries and water supplies for ethnic Georgians, as well as health services and pensions for some ethnic Ossetian families.

In Ditsi, the fence is made of green plastic material. In other villages, like Khurvaleti, a tiny farming hamlet about 69 kilometers west from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, it is barbed wire.

Wherever it stretches, it stands as a reminder of Russia’s failure to abide by the terms of the 2008 cease-fire – and of the inability of Tbilisi and the international community to hold Moscow to account.

The structure, though, is nothing new. In 2010, Beruashvili recounted, Russian troops tried to set up markers to extend South Ossetia’s frontier into his front yard. He was able to keep them out then – allegedly, by yelling at them that they were frightening his mother.

Russian soldiers first started putting up fences in this area, in the Georgian region of Shida Kartli, after the August 8-12, 2008 war, according to Ann Vaessen, a spokesperson for the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), the lone international body observing the cease-fire line.

But despite protests by Tbilisi, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States that the fences constituted a violation of international law, construction is continuing.

The process has even “intensified” over the past several months, Vaessen said.
“Villages are divided, people can’t talk to each other anymore, can’t go and visit their relatives. They can’t go to the funeral of one of their close relatives,” she said.

For Hans Schneider, the German chief of the EUMM’s field office in Gori, the closest Georgian-controlled town to the conflict zone, the structure brings to mind the Berlin Wall, which divided the German city from 1961-1989.

“I saw my mother crying when she received a letter from my sister living on the other side of the barbed wire,” Schneider said, speaking in a personal capacity not intended to reflect the EUMM’s official position. “I know that we cannot completely compare the situation with Georgia. But I have seen so many mixed ethnic Ossetians and Georgian families where the mother is crying for their daughter too.”

Locals like Beruashvili see the wall as a clear restriction on freedom of movement. “They have already gated the high road. … Now they have turned back and moved in this direction and it seems they want these houses as well,” he said of houses on the outskirts of Ditsi.

Kakhaber Kemoklidze, the head of the Analytical Department at the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Tbilisi, told that the Georgian government has repeatedly raised the topic of Russia’s fence during peace talks in Geneva and monthly meetings with Russian and South-Ossetian envoys. So far, the Kremlin has been impervious to Georgian efforts to bring about a halt in construction.
“We have to keep updating our partners and every country that has relations with Russia,” Kemoklidze said. “Russia right now does not care about the borders [between separatist South Ossetia and Tbilisi-controlled territory], but next week, next month, next year there might be an issue that they need [a] compromise on.”

In the end, he said, Georgia has to have “strategic patience.” Yet, to date, “strategic patience” has not produced any tangible benefits.

Insisting that the fence runs inside South-Ossetian territory, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin has refused to address the issue at Geneva. Georgian State Minister of Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili, the head of Tbilisi’s efforts to normalize relations with the Abkhaz and the South Ossetians, admits that the Geneva process has hit a snag.

Zakareishvili claimed that while Tbilisi has demonstrated its readiness for constructive dialogue with Moscow, the fences show that Russia is not ready to respond in kind. “But we will step over those fences,” he said, without elaboration. “The Berlin Wall was destroyed, so, fences … that is just comical.”
Georgia, he added, is betting on patience and “pragmatically looking at the situation.”

Locals living near the conflict line, however, have little reason for patience. Since the war, security concerns have prompted Beruashvili to move his three children out of his house. Alone with his mother, he tends to the few acres of orchards he can reach without risking arrest by the Russians. He waits for Georgian police to patrol the area before venturing to see his father’s grave, or to gather greens, close to land now patrolled regularly by Russian soldiers.
“The women are afraid, the elderly are afraid, we cannot bring the children here,” Beruashvili said. Russian soldiers have become more verbally aggressive of late, he claimed. “They want to take this territory,” he added.

Beruashvili, like scores of other locals, remains determined to make a stand and do everything he can to prevent his house and land from becoming, de facto, part of Russian-guarded, separatist South Ossetia. “I have set my mind to not allowing them in,” he said.

Whether such determination can succeed where international measures have failed remains to be seen.

This article was originally published by EurasiaNet.orgMolly Corso is a freelance journalist who also works as editor of, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.

FILM: Review: “Keep Smiling” A Film by Rusudan Chkonia (

( Black comedy collides with overwrought melodrama in this patchy but interesting Tbilisi-set drama.
Leslie Felperin

Black comedy collides with overwrought melodrama in the patchy but interesting Tbilisi-set drama “Keep Smiling.” Georgian writer-helmer Rusudan Chkonia’s feature debut tracks 10 disparate femmes, most of them in dire financial straits, competing in a beauty contest for moms to win a substantial prize. Chkonia lays on the indictment of reality-TV culture a bit thick, and the plotting is somewhat contrived, but she coaxes gutsy perfs from her game cast and explores a side of war-torn, contempo Georgia not often seen offshore. That freshness may put a smile on fest programmers’ faces after the pic’s Venice preem.

The film opens with the 10 costumed contestants onstage, dancing to the strains of Lou Bega’s “Baby Keep Smiling,” a tune heard again over the end credits and several times throughout, suggesting the production’s clearance-rights budget didn’t stretch far. The next scene shows everyone crowding into a backstage room to gasp at something unseen that horrifies them, suggesting things are going to end badly for someone.

The action then rolls back several weeks to show the women arriving at a TV studio, where they’re informed they made the cut to appear on a new show, “Georgian Mother.” Slimy series producer Otar (Gia Roinishvili) has set the women various challenges in order to win the crown and, more importantly, the prize:$25,000 and a four-bedroom apartment. They will be judged on how well they cook and have raised their children, their talent and their popularity with the judges and TV auds.

Watching full movie here [] >>>

Only about half the women are properly drawn characters, and they’re just rough sketches at that. Former child violin prodigy Gvantsa (charismatic Iamze Sukhitashvili, “Garpastum”) is the defiant one, but also a neurotic mess. She just so happens to live next door to fellow contestant Inga (Nana Shonia), a zaftig widow who disapproves of Gvantsa’s promiscuity and slack parenting. Abkhazian refugee Elene (Olga Babluani) is perhaps the most in need, as she shares a room at a charity hospital with her husband and four kids, although likable Irina (Tamuna Bukhnikashvili) isn’t much better off, either. Wealthy trophy wife Baya (Shorena Begashvili) looks most likely to win, especially since her politician husband is one of the show’s sponsors.

As the weeks pass, the women bicker and then eventually bond, especially when rebellion brews after the show’s producers insist they must all parade themselves in bikinis. Helmer Chkonia clearly has no time for any kind of post-feminist guff that sees beauty contests as empowering; the whole thing is merely an exercise in prurience and humiliation that has to be endured, so the main driving force of the drama lies in seeing how low each of them will go to win, or whether they’ll find strength in numbers. In a way, it’s a bit like “The Hunger Games” with high heels and swimwear.

Editing briskly maintains forward momentum, and if the rest of the tech credits look painfully low-budget, that fits the schlock-TV setting. With a bit of script tweaking, the pic could easily be remade in other territories.

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A Nike Studio, Ex Nihilo production in association with Samsa Films, Alvy production, with the support of the Georgian National Film Center, Georgian Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection. (International sales: Doc & Film, Paris.) Produced by Rusudan Chkonia, Nicolas Blanc. Executive producers, Vladimir Kacharaya. Co-producers, Marc Bordure, Jani Thiltges, Arnaud Bertrand, Dominique Boutonnat, Hubert Caillard. Directed, written by Rusudan Chkonia.


Camera (color, HD), Konstantine Mindia Esadze; editors, Chkonia, Jean-Pierre Bloc, Levan Kukhashvili; art directors, Sopo Baghadze, Mamuka Esadze, Dima Arsanis, Giga Iakobashvili; costume designer, George Nadiradze; sound (Dolby Digital), Paata Godziashvili; re-recording mixer, Nika Paniashvili; casting, Leli Miminoshvili. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Venice Days), Sept. 1, 2012. Running time: 91 MIN.


Iamze Sukhitashvili, Gia Roinishvili, Olga Babluani, Tamuna Bukhnikashvili, Nana Shonia, Shorena Begashvili, Maka Chichua, Lela Metreveli, Ia Ninidze, Eka Kartvelishvili, Beka Elbakidze, Tamar Bziava, Tornike Bziava, Avtandil Gogeshvili. (Georgian, Russian dialogue)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PHOTOREPORTAGE: Georgian Monk Builds Stairway to Heaven. By Temo Bardzimashvili (

( Come summertime, getting away from it all is the dream that haunts everyone. One Georgian Orthodox monk, though, has come up with a plan for a lifetime of escape atop a 40-meter-high rock column in central Georgia’s Imereti region.

In pagan times, the towering Katskhi Pillar, located about 10 kilometers from the mining town of Chiatura, was thought to represent a local god of fertility. With the arrival of Christianity in Georgia in the 4th century, it came to represent seclusion from the hurly-burly of ordinary life.

A church was first built atop the rock between the 6th and 8th centuries -- no one knows exactly how or why. Stylites, early Christian ascetics who prayed and fasted on top of pillars, used Katskhi for their devotions until some time in the 15th century, when Georgia was struck by domestic upheaval and invasions by Ottoman Turkey. The remains of one unknown practitioner today lay buried beneath the church.

Father Maxim, a 55-year-old native of Chiatura, says that he has dreamed of living atop the Pillar, like the Stylites, since he was young. “When my friends and I used to come up here to drink outdoors, I always envied that monk who used to live there when I looked at the pillar,” he recalled.

In 1993, Father Maxim took monastic vows, and two years later decided to move to Katskhi. After spending one winter in a grotto beneath the rock column, he received money from a “friend from Tbilisi” to build a new church on its top. The Georgian Orthodox Church’s local eparchy, or regional administration, allegedly granted Father Maxim permission to erect the structure on the site.

Amidst an ongoing religious revival in Georgia, Father Maxim’s mission easily found supporters. More and more people now come to Katskhi to donate money or building materials for the church’s construction -- a generosity that makes the overall cost of the project difficult to estimate, he claims. Many local villagers also volunteer to work on the site for free.

The labor involved, though, can require a head for heights, as well as for matters spiritual. Scaffolding runs halfway up the column; an iron ladder reaches to the top. Builders use ropes to lift heavy construction materials from the ground.

Following the example of the first Stylite, Simeon, Father Maxim does not allow women on the site -- a ban also practiced at pagan shrines in Georgia’s mountain regions of Tusheti and Khevsureti.

Work on the project should be largely finished by the summer of 2011.

Before that date, Father Maxim hopes to secure a blessing from Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II that would allow the monk to live on top of Katskhi alongside his newly built church. “They told me they allowed me to come here, but not to live up there,” he recounted, laughing. “They told me I was too young then. Now they’ll probably tell me I’m too old.”

The Patriarch’s office could not be reached for comment.

But if the blessing ever comes, Father Maxim knows what he will do -- climb up Katskhi, pull the ladder up after him and live apart from the world’s tumult, once and for all. Editor's Note: Temo Bardzimashvili is a freelance photojournalist based in Tbilisi. 

Photos are here >>>

PHOTO: Monk takes devotion to new heights. By Amos Chapple & Lauren Russell (


Amos Chapple is a freelance photographer from New Zealand whose work is represented by Lonely Planet Images and Rex Features.
( Maxime the monk lives on a pillar. When he wants to step down out of the clouds, the 59-year-old scales a 131-foot ladder, which takes him about 20 minutes.

After living on Katskhi pillar for 20 years, Maxime’s climbs have slowed, but having worked as a crane operator in a past life, he’s never feared heights.

Photographer Amos Chapple heard about Maxime while working in the country of Georgia, and when he first arrived and asked to go up, he was told no. Only priests and some of the troubled young men learning from Maxime and living in a monastery underneath the pillar were allowed to go up.

Chapple stayed with the men at the base for four days before he was told he could ascend the pillar. He participated in prayers seven hours a day, including four-hour night prayers from 2 a.m. to sunrise. When he was finally going up to Maxime’s home, rain clouds rolled in and the sun was setting. The iron ladder was “very dicey,” Chapple said.

“I put so much time into getting permission that I said it was too late to be scared,” he said.

While with Maxime at the top, Chapple said he was worried he would run out of light for the climb down and that it would start raining, but as he looked out at the clouds at eye level and the distance between he and the ground, he appreciated the quiet of the elevated home.

“You could feel one with the weather,” he said.

Maxime said he needs the silence of the top of the pillar.

“It is up here in the silence that you can feel God's presence," he told Chapple in Russian.

Stylites, or pillar saints, began after Simeon Stylites the elder in Syria first moved atop a pillar in 423 to cut himself off from worldly temptations. Stylites were most common in eastern Europe during the latter part of the fifth century, but the practice has since been abandoned.

Katskhi pillar had sat idly since the 15th century when the Islamic Ottomans invaded Georgia. No one had even been to the top for centuries until an alpinist climbed it and found the remains of a chapel and the skeleton of a Stylite in 1944.

Maxime told Chapple he “drank, sold drugs, everything” as a young man. After serving time in prison, he decided he needed a change.

“I used to drink with friends in the hills around here and look up at this place, where the land met the sky,” Maxime told Chapple. “We knew the monks had lived up there before, and I had great respect for them.”

Maxime took monastic vows in 1993 and climbed the tower to start a new life. For the first two years, he slept in a fridge to protect himself from the elements. He now has a bed inside a cottage where he sleeps.

“It’s more about the isolation than suffering,” Chapple said.

Followers send supplies up to Maxime with a winch, and the monk comes down once or twice a week for night prayers with the men staying at the monastery.

His climbs have slowed, and once Maxime is no longer able to move up and down the ladder, he will stay at the top until he dies.

A crypt holding the bones of a Stylite who lived and died at the Katskhi pillar lies under the chapel.

When Chapple asked Maxime if his bones would be stored in the same crypt, Chapple said the monk stretched out his arms in his charismatic way and said, “Of course!”

Lauren Russell, CNN 

Amos Chapple | Maxime The Pillar Saint []

I have no chance of being a Stylite saint...(or being a saint for that matter) since I feel uncomfortable with heights. Not to the extent of being acrophobic, but enough that I think twice before looking out of a skyscraper balcony or even floor to ceiling windows.

CNN featured a photo essay by Amos Chapple on Maxime, a monk who lives on a mountain pillar in the country of Georgia. To get to his aerie where he lived for 20 years, the 59-year-old scales a 131-foot ladder, which takes him about 20 minutes.

Maxime follows the ancient tradition of the Stylites (aka Pillar-Saints), a type of Christian ascetics who in the early days of the Byzantine Empire stood on pillars preaching, fasting and praying. They believed that doing so would ensure the salvation of their souls. The first Stylite was Simeon who climbed a pillar in Syria in 423 and lived there for 39 years until his death.

The monk told Chapple that it was up on his perch that he could feel God's presence. The pillar is called Katskhi pillar, and stood unvisited since the 15th century when the Ottomans invaded Georgia. No one had even been to the top for centuries until an alpinist climbed it and found the remains of a chapel and the skeleton of a Stylite in 1944.

Amos Chapple started as a newspaper photographer in New Zealand, including two years at the country’s largest daily, The NZ Herald, before moving to London and working full-time for a project to photograph all of the world’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. He now works freelance and, as of the past year, has been specializing in photographs of the world’s ”beautiful secrets”. It’s a kind of travel photography, but by making sure each site is little-known, and has an interesting back story, it is proving popular with newspapers and magazines throughout Europe

Monday, August 19, 2013

ART: New paintings by Georgian Maka Batiashvili (

Silence 160x120cm oil on canvas  2013

Portrait, 160x122cm oil on canvas 2013

Portrait, 100x160cm oil on canvas 2013

Portrait, 27x38cm oil on cardboard 2013

Pause 120x160cm oil on canvas 2012

The Fire 60x50cm oil on canvas 2013

Snow 24x18cm oil on canvas 2013

Snow 24x18cm oil on canvas 2013

Snow 24x18cm oil on canvas 2013

The Window 122x122cm oil on canvas 2013


REISE: Alles heißt hier Ararat. Von Gerhard H. Oberzill (

( In Armenien gibt es vieles, was Ararat heißt, doch der echte Ararat, der verschneite Fünftausender, liegt jenseits einer auch mentalen Grenze zur Türkei.
Alles heißt hier Ararat
Der den Armeniern heilige Berg Ararat von den Kaskaden oberhalb Erewans aus Bild: Oberzill

Welcome to Armenia“, begrüßt der Priester die zu „seinem“ Bergkloster Haghpat hinaufgepilgerten ausländischen Touristen. Und ja, selbstverständlich dürfe man ihn aufnehmen, warum denn nicht? Prompt stürzt sich die ganze Reisegruppe kamerabewaffnet auf den armen Gottesmann. Denn sie kommt eben „ausgehungert“ aus Georgien, wo zum Leidwesen der Fotografen die Geistlichkeit nicht auf Speicherkarten gebannt werden will. Aber Diener der Armenischen Apostolischen Kirche haben damit kein Problem.

Haghpat ist der erste große Klosterkomplex, der gewissermaßen auf dem Weg liegt, wenn man von Tbilisi einreist, der Hauptstadt des nördlichen Nachbarn Georgien. Zusammen mit dem nahen, ebenfalls mehr als tausendjährigen Kloster Sanahin wurde er zum UNESCO-Weltkulturerbe ernannt. Durch ihr Baumaterial, schwarzen Basalt aus Armeniens vulkanischer Vergangenheit, macht die Anlage einen ernsten, ja geradezu düsteren Eindruck. In Haghpat lernen die Besucher gleich zwei sakrale Besonderheiten des Landes kennen: den Gavit, eine nur in Armenien anzutreffende quadratische Eingangshalle, wo sich Pilger (ver)sammelten, bevor sie das eigentliche Gotteshaus betraten. Und Chatschkare – überlebensgroße Kreuzsteine. Meist wunderbar skulptierte Stelen als Sinnbilder für Kreuzigung (obwohl meist ohne Kruzifixus) und Erlösung, seltener zur Erinnerung an historische Ereignisse wie einen militärischen Sieg. 40.000 davon soll es im armenischen Kulturkreis geben.

Wer auf dem Landweg durch eher ärmliche Gegenden nach Erewan kommt, traut seinen Augen nicht: In der lebenssprühenden Hauptstadt wachsen Glaspaläste in den Himmel, stauen sich die neuesten SUVs, stöckeln miniberockte Damen klunkerbehängt durch elegante Einkaufsstraßen, sind Luxusrestaurants zum Bersten voll. Woher kommt all das Geld? Vielfach von Migranten, die in der Diaspora zu Wohlstand gekommen sind. Leben doch über die ganze Welt verstreut mehr als doppelt so viele Armenier wie „zu Hause“.

In Tsitsernakaberd („Schwalbenfestung“) auf einem zentrumsnahen Hügel erinnert das Genozid-Denkmal an den Völkermord von 1915 bis 1917, der nach türkischer Meinung keiner war und die bilateralen Beziehungen bis heute belastet. „Aghet“ heißt auf Armenisch die Katastrophe, bei der anderthalb Millionen Menschen umkamen. Am 24. April, dem Gedenktag, versinkt die Stätte in einem Blumenmeer. Stolz bewahrt das Museum eine Erstausgabe von Franz Werfels Roman „Die vierzig Tage des Musa Dagh“, in dem der Altösterreicher die damaligen Ereignisse literarisch verarbeitete, was ihn zu einem Nationalheiligen werden ließ, der posthum die armenische Staatsbürgerschaft erhielt.

Das armenische Siedlungsgebiet erstreckte sich früher viel weiter. Doch nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg wurde entgegen anfänglichen Plänen Ostanatolien dem wiedergeborenen türkischen Staat zugesprochen. Für Armenien blieb bloß ein Gebiet übrig, dessen Fläche knapp jener von Nieder- plus Oberösterreich entspricht. Dabei ging auch der den Armeniern heilige Berg Ararat verloren, an dem laut Bibel (Genesis 8:4) Noah nach der Sintflut gelandet ist. Unerreichbar im Nachbarland

Dieses ihr nationales Symbol haben die Armenier ständig vor Augen, ohne es je erreichen zu können. Schwacher Trost: sie sehen den erloschenen Vulkan nicht wirklich jeden Tag. Er versteckt sich gerne, ziert sich, ist kapriziös wie eine Primadonna. Und lässt sich der verschneite Fünftausender samt seinem Kind, dem knapp 4000 Meter hohen Kleinen Ararat, blicken, weiß man nie, wie lange er einem diese Gunst gewährt.

Trotzig führte schon die Armenische Sowjetrepublik den Ararat in ihrem Wappen, was in Ankara auf wenig Begeisterung stieß. Aber diesbezügliche Proteste schmetterten die Kremlherren ab. Mit einer Antwort, die von Radio Erewan stammen könnte: Im Prinzip habe die Türkei recht. Aber sie zeige ja auch Halbmond und Stern in ihrer Flagge, ohne dass diese Himmelskörper auf ihrem Territorium lägen. Natürlich behielt das unabhängig gewordene Armenien den Gipfel im „Logo“ bei, setzte ihm nur anstelle von Hammer und Sichel die Arche Noah auf.

Überhaupt heißt in Armenien alles Mögliche Ararat. Südlich von Erewan zum Beispiel eine ganze Provinz samt darin befindlicher Stadt. Juice, Marmelade und Tee firmieren unter diesem Namen ebenso wie eine Bank und Hotels. Dazu Alkoholika: Da gibt es das hauptstädtische Weinkombinat Ararat und gegenüber eine Cognac-Fabrik, die aus rechtlichen Gründen nur mehr „Armenian Brandy“ verkaufen darf, das aber gleichfalls unter dem Label „Ararat“ tut. Zwischen beiden Firmen öffnet sich die vulkanische Hrazdan-Schlucht, überquert von der – wie der Volksmund sagt – „Säuferbrücke“.

Wer es sich einteilen kann, sollte unbedingt an einem Sonntag nach Etschmiadzin fahren, dem „Vatikan“ der Armenischen Apostolischen Kirche, und an der 11-Uhr-Messe teilnehmen. Auch wenn nicht Katholikos Karekin II. Nersissian, der Patriarch dieses altorientalischen Bekenntnisses, das Hochamt zelebriert, ist die Kathedrale gesteckt voll. Da nicht alle Menschen drinnen Platz finden, übertragen Lautsprecher die wundervollen Gesänge ins Freie. Karekin II. gilt als 132. Nachfolger von Gregor, dem Erleuchter, der (indirekt) das Christentum zur Staatsreligion erhob. Da dies der Legende nach bereits 301 geschah, betrachtet sich Armenien als ältestes christliches Land der Welt. Man begegnet dem Heiligen wieder in Khor Virap, wo er 13 Jahre lang in einem „tiefen Loch“ gefangen gehalten war. Diese unterirdische Location in Augenschein zu nehmen, kann nur schlanken Personen ohne Platzangst empfohlen werden. In erster Linie besuchen Touristen das Kloster, weil es einen prachtvollen Blick auf die beiden Ararats bietet. Vorausgesetzt, sie zeigen sich.

Wissenswertes über Armenien

Laut Legende wird im Jahr 301 das Christentum zur Staatsreligion. Armenien sieht sich als ältestes christliches Land der Welt.

Kaukasusrepublik: Armenien zählt mit Georgien und Aserbaidschan zu den drei Kaukasusrepubliken. In der Antike ein Großreich zwischen Mittel-, Schwarzem und Kaspischem Meer, ist es heute zu einem Binnen- und Kleinstaat von knapp 30.000 Quadratkilometern geschrumpft. In ihm leben drei Millionen Menschen, mehr als doppelt so viele aber sind über alle Länder der Erde verstreut.

Garni war einige Jahrhunderte lang Sommerresidenz der armenischen Könige. Innerhalb des Festungsgeländes ließ Tiridates I. im 1. Jahrhundert einen hellenistischen Mithras-Tempel errichten. Er wurde bei einem Erdbeben 1679 zerstört und ab 1966 mit Originalmaterial rekonstruiert.

Erewan ist die Hauptstadt und mit mehr als einer Millionen Einwohnern größte Stadt Armeniens. In Erewan befindet sich die berühmte Aufbewahrungsstätte alter Handschriften und Miniaturen Armeniens und anderer Länder, Matenadaran, wo 13.000 einmalige armenische Handschriften auf Pergament und Papier, über 100.000 alte Archivalien aus verschiedenen Wissensbereichen aufbewahrt werden. Über Land und Leute

Ausgeprägtes Gebirgsland: 90 Prozent der Landesfläche liegen mehr als 1000 Meter über dem Meeresspiegel, die mittlere Höhe beträgt sogar 1800 Meter. Von Norden her erstrecken sich die mehr als 3000 Meter hohen Ausläufer des Kleinen Kaukasus. Die höchste Erhebung ist der erloschene Vulkan Aragaz (4090 Meter). Das Gebiet liegt in einem Faltengebirge – es entstand und verändert sich nach wie vor durch den Zusammenstoß der Eurasischen mit der Arabischen Platte – und ist dementsprechend stark erdbebengefährdet.

Sprache: Armenisch stellt einen eigenen Zweig der indogermanischen Sprachfamilie dar. Sie wird weltweit von sieben Millionen Menschen gesprochen, in Armenien von 95 Prozent der Bevölkerung.

Der Völkermord an den Armeniern wurde Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts begangen, als im Zusammenhang mit armenischen Unabhängigkeitsbestrebungen und dem Ersten Weltkrieg (1914–1918) eine große Zahl von Armeniern im Osmanischen Reich, aus dem die heutige Republik Türkei entstand, getötet wurde. Im engeren Sinn versteht man darunter die Morde in den Jahren von 1915 bis 1917.

Gruppenreisen nach Armenien, auch kombiniert mit Georgien, veranstaltet u.a. Kneissl Touristik:

Kommunistisches Erbe

Eine „Spezialität“, die Armenien freilich mit anderen postkommunistischen Staaten teilt, sticht in Alaverdi ins Auge: heruntergekommene Industriekomplexe.

Die dortige Ruine war einmal ein riesiges Kupferkombinat, das so viel Dreck in die Luft blies, dass es nach dem Zerfall der Sowjetunion geschlossen wurde, obwohl damit tausende Arbeitsplätze verloren gingen. Überhaupt ist die wirtschaftliche Lage in der Provinz immer noch reichlich trist, sodass Einwohner in die Hauptstadt Erewan übersiedeln oder gar ins Ausland abwandern.

Ein weiteres unseliges Erbe der kommunistischen Zeit zeigt sich am Sevansee, einem beliebten Ferienziel der Nomenklatura. Dem „armenischen Meer“, der blauen Perle des Landes, die mit 940 Quadratkilometern doppelt so groß war wie der Bodensee, wurde fortschrittsgläubig so viel Wasser für Landwirtschaft und Stromerzeugung entnommen, dass das biologische Gleichgewicht zu kippen drohte.

Der einzige Vorteil des ökologischen Größenwahns: Die beiden tausendjährigen Kirchen, die einst buchstäblich „isoliert“ lagen, sind nun nach dem Sinken des Seespiegels auch trockenen Fußes erreichbar.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Inside Caucasus (112 images). By Timo Vogt (

Inside Caucasus - Images by timo vogt