Monday, June 30, 2014

AUSSTELLUNG: Der georgische Künstler Gocha Gulelauri am Vorabend zur Vernissage - Galerie Roy, Zülpich (

Gocha Gulelauri, 28.6.-27.7.2014
Zeit im Raum, Malerei

Ausstellungseröffnung: Samstag, 28. Juni 2014 ab 18.00 Uhr

zur Vernissage spielt
TTT - F. Wollny (Bass), R. Carniaux (Trompete), G. Dudek (Saxophon)

Mittwoch-Freitag 14.00-19-00 Uhr
Samstag 11.00-15.00 Uhr

Galerie Roy
Nideggener Strasse 25
53909 Zülpich

WiP: Uncertain Returns: Meskhetian and Ahiska Turks in Georgia and Azerbaijan (

( Mittwoch, 2. Juli, 18:15 - 19:30

Eurasia Partnership Foundation, Georgia
#3, Kavsadze Street, 0179 Tiflis

American Councils, CRRC and ARISC present the 20th talk in the Spring 2014 Works-in-Progress Series!

"Uncertain Returns: Meskhebi and Ahıska Türkleri in Georgia and Azerbaijan"

Irina Levin, New York University

The focus of Ms. Levin’s current project, which also encompasses field sites in Turkey and Azerbaijan, is issues of law, citizenship, and property in the daily lives of Ahiska Turks and Meskhetians. Deported from southwestern Georgia in 1944, this population has had a dedicated return movement since the 1950s. Today, this movement engages with local, national, and international human rights legal regimes in its efforts to give deportees and their descendants a way home. What do these efforts mean for regular Ahiska Turks and Meskhetians? Further, what do the everyday legal struggles of these regular people mean for the return movement? Broadly put, the aim of this study is to augment our understanding of long-term adaptation and return processes among a forcibly displaced population.

In this talk, Ms. Levin looks to reflect on some key ethnographic moments from her fieldwork so far in the context of current frameworks in legal anthropology and citizenship studies, as well as insights from the anthropology of post-socialism. She welcomes your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Irina Levin is a doctoral candidate in New York University's Department of Anthropology. She received her BA from Washington University in St. Louis and her MA from New York University. She has been a recipient of several prestigious fellowships, including the SSRC Eurasia Pre-Dissertation Grant and the Fulbright IIE Research Grant, and has conducted fieldwork in Georgia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. She is currently conducting her dissertation fieldwork in Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia, supported by grants from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).


W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the Eurasian Partnership Foundation at Kavsadze St. 3. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.

The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.

Would you like to present at one of the W-i-P sessions? Send an e-mail to

SILK ROAD REPORTERS: The Caspian Connection. Published by Joshua Noonan (

( The 826-kilometer (513-mile) Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway is expected to be completed by late 2015, according to Azerbaijani Transportation Minister Ziya Mammadov who recently attended a tripartite meeting of ministers from Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

It is anticipated that this railroad will transport up to 1 million passengers after its launch, ramping up to 3 million passengers and 15 million tons of freight within the first few months of operation. The railroad is seen as the most important strategic infrastructure project in recent history for the region, and will have major implications for the three partners with secondary ramifications for Armenia and Kazakhstan as East-West energy transport routes link the Caspian Basin to Europe.

Azerbaijan and the cities of Baku, Sumgayit, and Gance will notably benefit as their transportation links to Georgia and Turkey develop. The metropolitan areas of these cities comprise at least 20% of Azerbaijan’s population and a large proportion of the economic activity and foreign exchange earning power of the state. Although there is already a Soviet-legacy Baku-Tbilisi passenger and freight network, an improvement in the infrastructure from the dilapidated Soviet legacy railroad will allow for the speedier delivery of goods and transport of passengers.

The BTK is being coupled with the Nakhchivan-Kars Railway, which will connect the politically important Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan with Kars. The deepening of links with Turkey and Georgia will provide for the further westerly economic integration that the leaders of the country seek that started with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum oil and gas pipelines, signaling the development of the Southern Energy Corridor.

This has continued recently with further Azerbaijan-driven investment in the downstream distribution and sales of gasoline and diesel in Georgia and the continued expansion of natural gas pipelines through Turkey with TANAP and TAP, linking Greece, Albania, and Italy. These mega-projects have been spearheaded by investors originating from Azerbaijan, Turkey, and other partner countries. Politically, these projects allow for the consolidation of Azerbaijani influence in Georgia through its State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) service stations, while providing increased leverage over its adversary Armenia through the deployment of its natural-resource-derived wealth in the guise of SOCAR and State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ).

Since the Rose Revolution in November 2003, Georgia has been seeking inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) through internal reforms, cooperation with its neighbors, and integration into the Euro-Atlantic Community. As the current Georgian government has prioritized and campaigned on the promotion of rural development, market access that will be granted through these improved transportation links if coupled with subsequent reforms to the tariff and import regimes of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Georgia ranked eighth in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report in 2014. As labor costs increase in Turkey, Georgia could become a source of intermediary-product production, with the process speeded by the development of the BTK. This coupled with extant trade links, geopolitical trends, and entrepreneurial opportunities will assure the continued development of Georgia through this project.

Turkey will continue to develop its role as a hub-state for the transportation of resources and a interconnector for Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In that role, actions involved with the development of the BTK are quite useful. This mega-project will be paired with the Marmaray Bosphorus Tunnel Project, which will cross the Bosphorus, knitting the European and Asian sides of Turkey together. This action will link the rails of the Absheron Peninsula with those in Berlin. Continued investments in eastern Turkey, linking booming Azerbaijan with this underdeveloped region, will allow for an accelerated growth-path and increased market access for businesses from the Caucasus, as well as provide additional export opportunities for this less developed region while expanding access to cheap and reliable natural gas, petroleum, foodstuffs, and commodities.

The last two countries are not transit countries for the BTK, but rather adjacent countries. The first, Armenia, has protested its exclusion from regional mega-projects. Though it would be a shorter and cheaper route from Baku through Yerevan to Kars, this possibility was forestalled by the over-20-year-old frozen conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. This has led to its continued regional marginalization, and the BTK is only the latest example. Despite the lack of direct investment, consumers and intermediaries in Armenia will benefit from a more developed method of importing goods from Turkey, all of which are currently transshipped via Georgia on semi-tractor trailers. Moreover, exports from Armenia not bound for Russia or Iran could benefit from transshipment from Tbilisi westwards to European markets.

Kazakhstan as a major commodity and energy exporter may be able to benefit from the export of commodities to Turkey and from there to the Balkans via the Caspian. Issues concerning shipments on the Caspian, including terminals, are starting to be rectified on both shores. Nevertheless, a deeper East-West integration across the Caspian would take additional political capital that the respective leaders do not seem prepared to spend.

Nevertheless, as Europe and the Caucasus are knit together, leaders across the Caspian will start to take due notice of these opportunities.

There are still many hurdles for the project to clear – both technical and politcal – but when this project is finished and finally goes online, the world will behold an important realignment of how it interacts and trades with this once-distant region.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

CONFERENCE: Northern and Southern Caucasus in the European Neighbourhood: Triangular functional cooperation or competition in a heterogenous region. Russia, EU and the Caucasus (

more here:

July 3rd and 4th 2014 at Schader-Forum, Darmstadt

Program – Thursday, July 3rd 2014

1:15 – 1:25 pm Welcome Address
Prof. Dr. Michèle Knodt, Technische Universität Darmstadt
Alexander Gemeinhardt M.A., Chairman of the Board, Schader-Stiftung

1:30 – 2:00 pm Keynote speech
Conflict and Cooperation in the South Caucasus
Dr. Tracey German, King’s College London

2:00 – 4:00 pm Session 1 – Historical and political framework
The North and the South in the Caucasus - Separated or Interlinked?
Dr. Uwe Halbach, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin

Uncanny Threats and Secret Resistances: On the Religious Situation in Kabardino Balkaria
Prof. Dr. Raschid Alikajew, Kabardino-Balkarian State University, Nalchik
PD Dr. Florian Mühlfried, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

Straightjackets or arenas? NGOs in the institutions of competitive authoritarian regimes in the South Caucasus
Mariella Falkenhein, Hertie School of Governance

4:00 – 4:30 pm Coffee break

4:30 – 7:30 pm Session 2 – External democracy and autocracy promotion in the Caucasus

Geopolitics of Democratic Choice: Correlations between foreign-political orientations and political regime type
Prof. Dr. Ghia Nodia, Ilia State University

EU external democracy promotion in Azerbaijan
Elsevar Mammadov, Khazar University

EU external demcracy and autocracy promotion in the Caucasus – results of a cross-country comparison Schuschanik Minasjan, Technische Universität Darmstadt
Dr. Sigita Urdze, Technische Universität Darmstadt

Democratization through the backdoor? Functional cooperation in the Southern Caucasus
Dr. Aron Buzogány, Freie Universität Berlin

Analyses of governance strategies in the North Caucasian republics with respect to conflict regulation and development
Prof. Dr. Alexey Gunya, Kabardino-Balkarian State University, Nalchik

8:00 pm Get Together

Program – Friday July 4th 2014

9:00 – 10:30 am Session 3 – International embeddedness of the Caucasus

How serious are Armenia and Azerbaijan about integration in the European context?
Dr. Rainer Freitag-Wirminghaus, former Deutsches Orient-Institut

More than a chessboard – the role of Turkey, Iran and Russia in the Southern Caucasus
Prof. Dr. Udo Steinbach, Berlin

10:30 – 11:00 am Coffee break

11:00 – 1:00 pm Roundtable (open for public/öffentlich) – Functional triangular cooperation or competition between the EU, Russia and the Caucasus

Welcome Address
Alexander Gemeinhardt M.A., Chairman of the Board, Schader-Stiftung

Introductory speech
Prof. Dr. Michèle Knodt, Technische Universität Darmstadt
Dr. Sigita Urdze, Technische Universität Darmstadt

Prof. Dr. Marianne Kneuer, Stiftung Universität Hildesheim

H. E. Prof. Gabriela von Habsburg, Embassador of Georgia
H. E. Dr. Vahan Hovhannesyan, Embassador of Armenia
Dr. Rizan Nabiyev, Counsellor at the Embassy of Azerbaijan
Björn Kühne, Chief of Cabinet/Political Advisor to the EUSR for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, solicited
Silvia Stöber, Journalist

Please notice: No german language translation will be provided.

Bitte beachten Sie: Wir bieten keine deutsche Übersetzung an.

Conference Childcare
Please note: We provide childcare service during the conference. Please contact us in advance:
Dr. Sigita Urdze
Fax: +49 (0)6151/ 16-4602

VIDEO: Georgien strebt gen Westen. Von Karl Harenbrock (

( Seit der Krise um die Ukraine wollen immer mehr Staaten Osteuropas schnell näher an die EU rücken, so auch Georgien. Mit dem Unterzeichnen des Assoziierungsabkommens bekommt das Land einen weitgehend ungehinderten Zugang zum EU-Markt. Was bringt das den Unternehmen in Georgien ?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

EINLADUNG: Kaukasus, 30. Juni 2014 - Auswirkungen der Ukraine-Krise auf den Süd-Kaukasus (

( Die Geschehnisse in der Ukraine sorgen in den Ländern des Süd-Kaukasus für Besorgnis. Die Bevölkerungen sowie politischen Eliten reagieren unterschiedlich auf die Krise und scheinen in der Einschätzung der Haltung Russlands bzw. der Politik Kiews vielfach gespalten zu sein.

Im Treffpunkt: Kaukasus wollen wir der Frage nachgehen, welche Auswirkungen die politische Krise und der sich zuspitzende Konflikt in der Ukraine auf die Länder des Süd-Kaukasus und die dortigen „frozen conflicts“ haben. Gemeinsam mit VertreterInnen aus Zivilgesellschaft, Verwaltung, Wissenschaft und Wirtschaft wollen wir zu einem Erfahrungsaustausch zusammenkommen und Einschätzungen und Beobachtungen teilen.

Wir freuen uns, dass wir auch wieder einen Experten aus der Region zu Gast haben, der einleitend in die Diskussion die aktuellen Entwicklungen und seine Einschätzungen dazu mit der Gruppe teilen wird.

Keynote Speech: Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, Executive director of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation

Wann: 30. Juni 2014, 18.00 bis 21.00 Uhr

Wo: Wien, genauer Ort wird rechtzeitig bekannt gegeben

Um unsere Planung zu erleichtern, freuen wir uns über Ihre Anmeldung bis 23. Juni 2014 an:

Wir freuen uns auf Ihr Kommen!

Mit besten Grüßen
Der TREFFPUNKT: KAUKASUS wird von der Austrian Development Agency (ADA), die Agentur der Österreichischen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit, unterstützt.


Verein Interkulturelles Zentrum
Lindengasse 41/10, 1070 Wien
T: 01/586 75 44
F: 01/586 75 44-9
ZVR: 826402700


Mag.a Regina Kamauf 
Leiterin des Informationszentrums für Zentralasien und Südkaukasien
Österreichische Orient-Gesellschaft Hammer-Purgstall
A-1010 Wien
Dominikanerbastei 6/6

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

EXHIBITION: Supra of Her Own / საკუთარი სუფრა - 25th until July 22th 2014, at the Nectar Gallery in Tbilisi (

( We cordially invite you to ‘Supra of Her Own’ – an exhibition about gender-based violence against women in Georgia. From June 25th until July 22th 2014, at the Nectar Gallery in Tbilisi, we offer a reflection about the social invisibility of women’s painful experiences and propose new possibilities of making it public.

Supra of Her Own is a collaboration between an artist - Tamuna Chabashvili (Georgia/Netherlands), an anthropologist - Agnieszka Dudrak (Poland/Switzerland), a Georgian NGO (Anti-Violence Network of Georgia), and a grassroots initiative გესმით ქალების ხმა?. The exhibition will also host five days of performances by Mareike Wenzel (Germany), a lecture by Nadia Tsulukidze (Georgia/Netherlands), and sound installation by Eliza Proszczuk (Poland).

In patriarchal societies, many women’s experiences remain invisible, hidden, taboo, or even nameless. This exhibition will become a temporary, open space, resembling Virginia Woolf’s a Room of One’s Own, where diverse testimonies of abuse will become visible and open for interpretation and discussion.

Inspired by the traditional Georgian dinner – a supra - we will place on our metaphorical table that which is generally banned from the table – stories of women who experienced gender-based violence. Our project conceives of our supra as something more than a male-dominated and suppressive performance of social norms. For us, supra can be an improvised performance where deep, personal feelings can be expressed publicly in an atmosphere of hope, of laughter, of creativity and freedom. Using the supra with all its normative and subversive potential as a metaphorical platform will allow us to make the invisible visible, and raise awareness of the ways in which many of us conspire in the process of silencing of some women’s experiences.

The installation and videos are based on the quotations from interviews; mostly survivors of domestic abuse. In addition, women who experienced this type of violence, some members of the grassroots initiative “გესმით ქალების ხმა?” created memorabilia based on their personal experience. In this way we wish to give voice to those who are generally silenced.

In her performance the actress Mareike Wenzel will inhabit the installation of Tamuna Chabashvili for several days. She is going to explore the space by living there and creating a kind of shadow character and a moment of irritation for the observer. It is not about creating a big scenario but rather about images showing how women experiencing violence, are often made invisible in our society. It is more about the looking from the outside into space, about what is visible and what stays hidden. Mareike will start after the opening on Tuesday night and stay till Friday morning.

Project initiated by: Tamar Chabashvili, Agnieszka Dudrak
Supra installation by Tamar Chabashvili
Video by Agnieszka Dudrak
Sound installations by Agnieszka Dudrak, Eliza Proszczuk

Project is kindly supported by: Mondriaan Fund (The Netherlands), South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation (Georgia)

Opening ceremony: June 24th at 19h

Location: Nectar Gallery (Aghmashanabeli Avenue 16), Tbilisi, Georgia

Duration: June 25th - July 22th 2014

PREMIERE: Land der ersten Dinge / Bludička - 14. November 2014. Von Nino Haratischwili (

( Die deutsch-georgische Autorin Nino Haratischwili lässt zwei Frauen aufeinandertreffen: Lara, eine ehemals erfolgreiche Richterin aus dem Westen, und ihre aus Osteuropa stammende Pflegekraft Natalia. Während die beiden Frauen trotz kultureller und persönlicher Differenzen versuchen, ihren Alltag zu bestreiten, werden sie von ihren Erinnerungen eingeholt und sind gezwungen, sich den Schatten der Vergangenheit zu stellen. Wüstenlichter / Bludička ist eine von fünf Produktionen, die im Rahmen der europäischen Theaterkooperation 'The Art of Ageing / Die Kunst des Alterns' entstehen. Entwickelt wurde das Projekt von der European Theatre Convention (ETC), gefördert aus Mitteln der Europäischen Kommission.


14. November 2014

Regie: Brit Bartkowiak

VIDEO: The Georgian Artist Uta Bekaia - Edit (

Sunday, June 22, 2014

VIDEO: ქოლგა თბილისი ფოტო 2002-2014 / Kolga Tbilisi Photo 2002-2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

ARTIKEL: Georgien auf dem Weg nach Europa. Notizen einer unverfänglichen Beobachterin. Von Tatjana Montik

Sehr bald wird Georgien einen Assoziierungsvertrag mit der Europäischen Union unterzeichnen. Die Nachricht darüber freut mich ungemein. Und ich wünsche diesem wundervollen Land vom ganzen Herzen, endlich die Perspektive einer Angliederung an die europäische Familie zu bekommen, auch wenn noch unbekannt ist, wann genau dies geschehen wird. Der größte Nutzen dieser Annäherung wird meiner Meinung nach darin bestehen, dass Georgien die politische Nachhaltigkeit und die andauernde demokratische Entwicklung garantiert werden, damit es nach seinem schnellen Reformen-Sprung nicht wieder in die Vergangenheit zurückgeholt wird.

Natürlich habe ich auch gewisse Befürchtungen, die mit der europäischen Integration Georgiens zu tun haben. Freilich bin ich mir dessen bewusst, dass diese Befürchtungen stark emotional gefärbt und deshalb durch und durch subjektiv sind.

Auf meinem Weg aus Wien nach Tiflis über Rom habe ich erneut versucht, die Italiener zu beobachten und sie mit den Georgiern zu vergleichen. Dieses Thema kommt mir übrigens immer wieder spannend vor, und ich unterhalte mich gerne darüber mit meinen italienischen Freunden, den hiesigen Georgien-Experten.

Doch nun schreibe ich von meinen eigenen Eindrücken.

Die Italiener sind wie die Georgier ein fröhliches, offenes und positives Volk, sie sind einfach im Umgang, sie leben mit Leichtigkeit und Anmut, und sie haben eine bewundernswerte Eigenschaft, aus dem Vollen zu schöpfen und alle Lebensfreuden auszukosten. Dennoch beschleicht mich immer öfter der Eindruck, dass die Italiener in ihrem wunderschönen Land schon länger zu sehr strukturiert, geordnet und standardisiert sind. Ob das mit der europäischen Integration oder mit der Globalisierung zu tun hat?

An dieser Stelle kommt mir ein Vergleich mit gutem italienischem Käse in den Kopf sowie mit den berühmten italienischen Weinen. Praktisch alle davon haben ein so genanntes Qualitäts- und Ursprungszeichen – D.O.C. (Denominazione di origine controllata). Strenge Normen und Standards haben also auch Italien eingeholt, und die Ordnung regiert nicht nur den europäischen Norden.

Doch nach Georgien ist dieser Fortschritt (noch?) vorgedrungen. Und deshalb hört dieses Land nicht auf, uns mit seinen unbekannten Facetten, mit seinen interessanten Produkten sowie mit seinen ungewöhnlichen und kreativen Menschen zu überraschen. Um das alles in vollen Zügen zu genießen, muss man aber gut suchen können. Doch demjenigen, der sie gefunden hat, wird das triumphierende Gefühl eines Erstentdeckers garantiert. So ist es mit dem Käse, mit dem Wein sowie mit den vielen von den Touristenscharen nicht ergangenen Stegen des Landes.

Am Anfang meines Aufenthaltes hier haben mich meine westeuropäischen Freunde oft gefragt, wie es wohl so sein mag, dieses unbekannte Land, Georgien. Daraufhin kam mir eine folgende Antwort in den Sinn, die ich nach wie vor zu geben bereit bin: „Georgien ist eine perfekte Mischung aus Spanien, Italien, Portugal und Griechenland, doch das lange vor all den Globalisierungsprozessen“.

Man kann es auch so ausdrücken: Hier in Georgien wird es einem nicht langweilig. Und vieles birgt hier noch ein Geheimnis und so zieht es seine Erstentdecker erst richtig an. Alles in einem: Das Diamant ist (noch?) nicht geschliffen.

Wohl kein Land, das durch die europäische Integration gegangen ist, hatte es leicht. Auf vieles musste man verzichten, vieles musste man ändern, einiges war einfach zu vergessen. Eine Symbiose ist oft mit Schmerzen verbunden. Deshalb ist es wichtig, seine Grenzen zu erkennen und diese nicht zu überschreiten.

Ein österreichischer Freund von mir verbringt seinen Urlaub unglaublich gerne in Georgien. Alleine die georgische Küche wäre für diese Vorliebe Grund genug. Doch noch mehr Spaß hat er dabei, selber mit georgischen Lebensmitteln zu kochen, nachdem er die ursprünglichen und natürlichen einheimischen Obst und Gemüsesorten eingekauft und dessen Aromen und den unnachahmlichen Geschmack in vollen Zügen genossen hat. Deshalb war ihm die Nachricht von der europäischen Assoziierung Georgiens keine besonders willkommene. „Na so was! Bald ist mein geheimes Gourmet-Paradies wohl zu Ende“, bemerkte er mit trauriger Stimme. Ich hoffe sehr, er hat damit nicht Recht.

Ich werde hier keine Liste mit den georgischen Markenzeichen materieller, geistiger und menschlicher Natur zusammenstellen, die durch die europäische Assoziierung gefährdet werden könnten. Dafür würde ich gerne zum Schluss noch etwas anderes anführen.

Im Vergleich mit seinen westeuropäischen Nachbarn gewinnt Georgien noch in einem: Dieses Land ist unglaublich gut zum künstlerischen Schaffen geeignet. Und wissen Sie warum? Denn hier befindet sich vieles noch in potentia: Der Markt ist nicht überfüllt von all dem Nötigen und Unnötigen. Und die Ideen schweben in der Luft. Man braucht sie nur auffangen.

Und noch etwas. Georgien ist ein äußerst meditatives Land, denn hier wird man auf seiner Suche nach dem Wesentlichen nicht abgelenkt.

Auf dem Weg vom Tiflisser Flughafen nach Hause habe ich aus dem Taxi-Fenster rausgeschaut und versucht, Tiflis mit einem frischen Blick zu sehen. Und all meine Vermutungen wurden aufs Neue bestätigt: Tiflis ist wie auch das ganze Land ein ungeschliffenes Diamant, das insbesondere diejenigen zu schätzen wissen, die Geheimnisvolles und nicht-zu-Ende-Gesagtes mögen. Und ich glaube, ausgerechnet in diesem Potential steckt eine unglaubliche Anziehungskraft.

Der Taxifahrer fing – in der unnachahmlich charmanten Art seiner hiesigen Kollegen – das Gespräch mit mir im Geiste eines perfekten Fremdenführers an: „Lassen Sie uns mal zunächst miteinander bekannt machen. Ich heiße Georgi, und Sie? Sind sie zum ersten Mal in Georgien?“ – „Me Tatiana var. Tbilisshi vtschovrob“, - antwortete ich schnell. An dieser Stelle merkte ich, wie sich das Interesse meines Visavis an meiner Person schnell erschöpfte (Ich könnte sogar seinen Gedankengang ungefähr nachverfolgen, was ich an dieser Stelle nicht mache).

Ich möchte hoffen, diese Art der Unterhaltung war kein Zeichen der anfangenden Globalisierung Georgiens. Jedenfalls mich würde s nicht erfreuen.

Tiflis, den 12. Juni 2014

WISSENSCHAFT: Kaukasiologie-Nestor der Jenaer Uni in Georgien geehrt. Von Michael Groß (

( In einem neuen Buch wirdmet er sich den Verben einer der Kaukasus-Sprachfamilien.

Prof. Heinz Fähnrich / Foto: Michael Groß
Jena "Als "Berg der Sprachen" wurde der Kaukasus im Altertum bezeichnet. Grund dafür war, dass hier schon seit Menschen Gedenken eine große Zahl von ganz unterschiedlichen Sprachen gesprochen werden. Heute sind sechs Sprachfamilien in Kaukasien beheimatet, sagt der emeritierte Professor der Kaukasienwissenschaften, Heinz Fähnrich.

Er hat jetzt ein neues Buch vorgelegt, in dem er sich den Verben einer dieser Kaukasus-Sprachfamilien widmet - der Kartwelsprachen. Nach jahrzehntelanger Arbeit konnte diese Zusammenstellung abgeschlossen werden. Das Buch gilt in Georgien als fundamentales Werk auf diesem Gebiet. Dass die Arbeit mit Erfolg zu Ende geführt werden konnte, ist nach Ansicht von Fähnrich der tatkräftigen Unterstützung durch die Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena zu danken. Denn dort sei über Jahre hinweg die Stelle einer wissenschaftlichen Hilfskraft aus Georgien finanziert worden, die das Ganze verifiziert und vervollständigt habe.

Damit setzte die Kaukasiologie der Jenaer Uni die Publikationstätigkeit fort, die unter den Professoren Kevin Tuite, Elgudsha Dadunaschwili und Florian Mühlfried einen Aufschwung erfahren hat. Es ist innerhalb eines Jahres bereits der 4. Titel in Buchform nach "Die Königin des Waldes" mit Sagen und Mythen aus Georgien sowie den Monografien "Die georgische Sprache" und "Die ältesten georgischen Inschriften". Erschienen ist das neue Buch im Shaker Verlag Aachen (ISBN 978-3-8440-2406-7).

Der Auto Heinz Fähnrich gilt als Nestor der Kaukasiologie in Jena. Dass er auch hohes Ansehen in Georgien genießt, bewies die Verleihung des Ivane-Javakhishvili-Wissenschaftspreises der Georgischen Universität Tiflis im April dieses Jahres. Da Fähnrich aus gesundheitlichen Gründen nicht den Preis entgegennehmen konnte, tat dies der Uni-Rektor Klaus Dicke. Er sieht den Preis als Bestätigung dafür, dass es richtig war, das in Deutschland einmalig vertretene Fach der Kaukasusstudien weiterzuführen und den Lehrstuhl dieser Wissenschaft jetzt neu zu besetzen.

Michael Groß / 21.06.14 / OTZ

FILM: Georgian Short Nominated in Grimstad (

( The European Film Academy (EFA) and the Norwegian Short Film Festival Grimstad congratulate:

Grimstad Short Film Nominee for the European Film Awards 2014
by Mariam Khatchvani
Georgia 2013, 14'38 min, fiction

The film was chosen by the festival's international jury. The jury statement reads as follows: "Our nomination for the EFA is a poetic film that paints a picture saturated with tradition in a moving and personal way. The theme that the film brings up sheds light on an issue that still echos in today's society." 

DINOLA is now nominated for the award 'European Film Academy Short Film 2014'. 

The EFA short film initiative is organised by the European Film Academy in co-operation with a series of film festivals throughout Europe. At each of these festivals, an independent jury presents one of the European short films in competition with a nomination in the short film category of the European Film Awards.

The next nomination for 2014 will be presented in co-operation with the Curtas Vila do Conde - International Film Festival in Portugal.

When the annual cycle is completed, the nominees will be presented to the over 3,000 members of the European Film Academy and it is they who will elect the overall winner: the European Film Academy Short Film 2014 which will be presented at the 27th European Film Awards Ceremony on 13 December in Riga.

Berlin, 18 June 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Global 3000: United against Soil Erosion - German farmers in Georgia (

( Even though Georgia’s soil is richer in minerals than Germany’s, soil erosion has reduced harvests there by up to 40 percent. Now German farmers are providing tips to their Georgian counterparts to help them slow down soil erosion.

ARTIKEL: 1914/2014- Letzte Spuren Bertha von Suttners im Kaukasus verschwinden (

( Tiflis/Wien (APA) - Bertha von Suttner war Österreichs erste Nobelpreisträgerin. Österreich zieht sie anlässlich des Gedenkens an den Ersten Weltkriegs heran, um das Land als Friedensnation zu präsentieren, etwa bei einem Gedenkakt zum Thema „Krieg und Frieden“ am morgigen Mittwoch in der Nationalbibliothek. Was im Kaukasus, wo von Suttner mehrere Jahre verbrachte, von ihr geblieben ist, verfällt indes.

Im Familienalbum der Dadianis sieht man Bertha von Suttner wie sonst selten. Als Österreicher ist man sie vom früheren Tausend-Schilling-Schein als streng und erhaben wirkende, ältere Dame mit Witwenschleier gewöhnt. Hier erscheint sie als junge, fröhliche Frau in weiten Krinolinenröcken oder im Reitkostüm. Trotz der widrigen Umstände, in denen sich die spätere Friedensnobelpreisträgerin damals befand, beschrieb sie die Zeit im heutigen Georgien von 1876 bis 1885 in ihren Lebenserinnerung später als glücklich, ja geradezu idyllisch.

Bertha hatte sich, als Gouvernante im Hause von Baron Suttner tätig, in einen der Söhne, den sieben Jahre jüngeren Arthur, verliebt. Gegen den Willen der Familie wurde heimlich geheiratet. Doch wie und wo leben als Verstoßene? Die Rettung für das junge Paar war Ekaterine Dadiani, die Bertha auf Sommerfrische im deutschen Homburg kennengelernt hatte. Die Fürstin von Mingrelien (mingrelisch: Samargalo, georgisch: Samegrelo) hatte sie auf ihre Güter im heutigen Westgeorgien eingeladen.

Schließlich mussten sich die Suttners aber selbst in der Fremde durchlagen mehr schlecht als recht mit Musik- und Sprachunterricht - Arthur zeichnete auch Baupläne - und mit der journalistischen und schriftstellerischen Tätigkeit, die beide begannen.

Die letzten Jahre im „Exil“ verbachten sie als der Teil der bunten Ausländergemeinde in Tiflis. Davon ist nur das zweistöckige Haus in der Usnadse Straße, das sie bewohnten, übrig. Eine Gedenktafel auf Georgisch und Deutsch neben der Eingangstür aus der Zeit mit Holzschnitzereien, wie man sie auch an Altbauten der Jahrhundertwende in Wien findet, erinnert heute an Bertha und Arthur.

Gleich neben der Tür werden in einem Kabäuschen heute medizinische Messgeräte verkauft - vom Blutzuckertester bis zum Fieberthermometer. Im Keller, über dem sich früher eine Terrasse erstreckte, hat sich ein kleines Lokal eingenistet, das auf einem Plakatständer mit Abbildungen von Würstel, Bier und Rippchen für sich wirbt.

Die Wohnung selbst erreicht man empor über eine schmale Treppe. Hier muss das Ehepaar Suttner heruntergekommen sein, als es - obwohl „bitterarm“ - „vornehme Abendeinladungen“ in Tiflis wahrnahm, wie die Historikerin Brigitte Hamann schreibt.

Die Räumlichkeiten sind heute unbewohnt und im aktuellen Zustand unbewohnbar. „Der Strom ist abgeschaltet“, sagt Eigentümer Ilia Tsikurischwili. Er hat ein Plakat mit „For Sale 300 m2“ und seiner Telefonnummer über das Portal gehängt. Er führt durch die düsteren Zimmer, die abgesehen von einer Kommode, einer Blechabwasch und einem Luster, der wie ein Vogelkäfig aussieht, leer stehen. Von den Fischgrätparketten lösen sich Dielen; hereingewehtes Laub liegt welk verstreut.

Tsikurischwili hat das Haus erst vor zwei Jahren gekauft. Damals wusste er nicht mehr, als dass „irgendwelche österreichischen Schriftsteller“ einmal dort lebten. Er wollte im Haus Büros für seine Firma für Nahrungsergänzungsmittel einrichten. Weil die Renovierung aber zu lange gedauert hätte und zu teuer gewesen wäre, habe er das aufgeben. Er will nun wieder verkaufen - „230.000 Dollar (circa 167.000 Euro) Verhandlungsbasis“.

Wenn es nach Mzia Galdawadse geht, sollte Österreich zuschlagen und das Suttner-Haus herrichten. Ihr schwebt - etwas unkonkret - vor, es als Kulturzentrum oder für Veranstaltungen nutzen. Galdawadse, Übersetzerin von Franz Kafka und Felix Mitterer ins Georgische, leitet die Österreich-Bibliothek an der staatlichen Ilia-Tschawtschawadse-Universität in Tiflis, die vom Wiener Außenamt unterstützt wird.

In Österreich hat sich das Künstlerehepaar Johanna und Helmut Kandl des historischen Erbes Bertha von Suttners angenommen. Sie schließen sich Galdawadse an: „Natürlich wäre es schön, wenn das Haus (...) für österreichische kulturelle Aktivitäten zur Verfügung stünde.“ Im Außenministerium winkt man jedoch ab: Es gebe keine Pläne, das Suttner-Haus in Tiflis zu kaufen. „Wir haben das rechtlich überprüft, es ist leider nicht möglich“, verweist Botschafterin Heidemaria Gürer auf Anfrage der APA auf nicht klare Absichten des Besitzers.

Bertha von Suttner sei den Georgiern noch heute ein Begriff, erzählt Galdawadse - nicht nur wegen des Friedensnobelpreises, auch wegen des (gescheiterten) Versuchs, gemeinsam mit ihrem Mann das um 1200 entstandene georgische Nationalepos „Der Recke im Tigerfell“ von Schota Rustaweli erstmals ins Deutsche zu übersetzen. Auch gebe es in der mingrelischen Hauptstadt Sugdidi noch eine - wenn auch wenig aktive - Suttner-Gesellschaft. Arthur von Suttner habe für seine Romane und Erzählungen gerne kaukasische Sujets gewählt, weiß Galdawadse.

Den beiden Österreichern gelang es nicht, sich eine gesicherte Existenz in Georgien aufzubauen. Sie versöhnten sich schließlich nach Jahren mit den (Schwieger)Eltern. Bertha von Suttner pflegte auch nach ihrer Heimkehr noch Kontakte jenseits des Schwarzen Meeres. Mit Wehmut erinnerte sie sich in ihren Lebenserinnerungen an den Abschied: „Nicht ohne Herzleid sagten wir dem Kaukasus Valet; wir hatten das schöne Land lieb gewonnen (...).“

Suttner starb vor 100 Jahren wenige Tage vor den verhängnisvollen Schüssen von Sarajevo, die Europa in den Ersten Weltkrieg stürzten. Am morgigen Mittwoch gedenkt Bundespräsident Heinz Fischer mit Spitzenrepräsentanten Österreichs in der Wiener Nationalbibliothek beider Ereignisse.

In Georgien könnte an die Friedensnobelpreisträgerin indes bald kaum etwas Materielles mehr erinnern. Hauseigentümer Tsikurischwili will seinen Besitz zwar keinem der Interessenten verkaufen, die sich schon bei ihm angemeldet haben und auch Grund in der Nachbarschaft für ein größeres Bauprojekt erwerben wollen. Er bestehe auf einem Abnehmer, der das Objekt renoviert, sagt er. Aber bleibt er dabei? „Wenn es ein ausländischer Investor kauft, wird er es sofort abreißen und ein Hochhaus errichten. Dann gibt es keine Spur von Suttner in Tiflis mehr“, ist Bibliothekarin Galdawadse überzeugt.

REISEPORTRÄTS: Bergkarabach. Von Bastien Dubois - Samstag, 28. Juni um 14:26 Uhr (

( Bastien Dubois‘ Animationsfilmreihe "Reiseporträts" greift das Erfolgsrezept seines Kurzfilms "Madagaskar, ein Reisetagebuch" auf, der 2011 für den Oscar nominiert wurde. Die Serie ist eine sehr subjektive Reise um die Welt, ein Geflecht aus originellen Geschichten, die nach Art eines Reisetagebuchs in Szene gesetzt werden.

MAGAZINE: The Caucasus Mountains, in the spirit of writer Lermontov. By Bill Donahue (

( By the time I reached the snowfield, four hours into the hike and roughly 11,000 feet up in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, it was raining, and a late afternoon fog was drifting in, soon to veil the rocky peaks. I kept climbing, kicking the toes of my sneakers into the remnant June snow for a foothold, scrabbling on my hands and knees over rocks in steep places. Near the top of the pass leading to Juta, the highest village of the Khevsureti people, I spied three hikers emerging out of the mist, shuffling downhill, exhausted. They were Slovakian. “We are lost,” one of them said. “Now we go down. We look for rest in the willage.”

They were lean and in their 20s, with enough common sense to have invested in stiff-soled, snow-suitable hiking boots. Which underscored how flimsy my own preparations had been. Did I really want to die in some half-baked scheme to conquer the Caucasus? I had started out that morning amid the winding dirt roads and the little stone houses of Georgia’s sparsely settled Khevsureti region; it was time to go back. So now I began slinking downhill behind the Slovaks, and in the endless creases of the valley below, I swear I heard a man snickering, his voice a gleeful mockery as it caromed off the rocks.

The Russian poet and novelist Mikhail Lermontov (1814-41) had been there in the Georgian Caucasus before me. These mountains are the setting of his signature work, the 1840 novel “A Hero of Our Time,” and I had become convinced that Mikhail and I hated each other.

Lermontov was a short, bowlegged man, prematurely balding, with a bent back and a nasty temper. After his mother died young, he was raised in Moscow by his indulgent grandmother, a society dowager who permitted little Mishenka to rage on the servants and tear out her manicured shrubbery. He was annoying right up until his death. The day before, his friend was fraternizing with a young woman Lermontov fancied. Lermontov goaded him into a duel with guns. Lermontov lost. We can credit him with the dumbest death in literary history.

Or we can remember him by his eyes. They were captivating and coal black and set in dark sockets. They were plaintive and sad. When you look at old oil paintings, it’s impossible to forget that this dyspeptic brat was also a sensitive Romantic artist. His eyes saw things. They saw beauty, even as Lermontov himself was consumed by a haughty nihilism. Most critically, they saw the Caucasus Mountains straddling Russia and Georgia, more than 900 miles from the salons of Moscow.

When Lermontov was 3 and suffering from rheumatic fevers, his grandmother packed him, along with his French tutor and German governess, into a horse-drawn wagon and set out for the curative airs of the mountains. Lermontov returned at ages 5 and 10, and again when he was in his 20s and an officer in Czar Nicholas I’s army. Russia was occupying Georgia then, engaged in a century-long campaign to conquer the Caucasus’s peoples: the Chechens and Ossetians, and the largest group, the Circassians. Lermontov spent a pivotal year fighting and gathering material for his novel.

“Hero” is a slim, ironically titled autobiographical tale that follows Pechorin, a young Army officer, as he womanizes his way up the Georgia Military Highway, northeast from the capital, Tbilisi, and over the Caucasus into what is today Russian Chechnya. It is filled with grandiose riffs. Lermontov writes, “The dark-blue mountain tops, furrowed with wrinkles, covered with layers of snow, were silhouetted against the pale horizon.”One Georgian damsel comes off as “beautiful: tall, slender, with black eyes which resembled that of a mountain gazelle.”

After Vladimir Nabokov rendered the definitive English-language translation of “Hero” with his son, Dmitri, in 1958, he said Lermontov’s language “is the tool of an energetic, incredibly gifted, bitterly honest, but definitely inexperienced young man.”

Lermontov had almost zero compassion. For him, Caucasians were noxious when they weren’t being exotic. “What wretched people,” his alter ego Pechorin remarks.

“An extremely foolish people,” adds a fellow officer, “incapable of any education.”

I was there in Georgia in part to see what Lermontov had vainly overlooked. But I was also there in homage, for I loved the thrill in Lermontov’s voice. I wanted to know this brilliant young man who tossed away all his talent but still looms large in the Caucasus, remembered by all, reviled by some, and as important to his region as, say, Nathaniel Hawthorne is to Americans. To this day, most Georgian and Russian schoolchildren read Lermontov.

I got down out of the snow, eventually. The slope grew gentler and the sky cleared as I began descending toward the village of Roscha, following goat paths through the clover. The valley grew wider, until it was about a half-mile across — a huge, stunning expanse of rocky green land set against the patchy snow in the distance. After an hour, I saw a few grazing cows.

The first house in Roscha was a crude bed-and-breakfast with a woodshed in the back yard and a cowshed affixed with a TV satellite dish. As I lay in my room there, resting, I could hear a man grunting in labor on the grass just below me. I went outside and found a large, muscle-bound athlete throwing 50-pound rocks. — so they thudded softly on the spongy turf.

Zviadi Gogochuri competes for Georgia’s national judo squad in the 90-kilogram weight class. He was oblivious to me, ensconced next in some exercise that involved pulling on a thick rubber chord. A kid stood nearby, spectating in rapt admiration. “He is training,” Uturga Tsiklauri, 16, said in careful English. “He comes to the mountains for the fresh air. It is important.”

Uturga lives at the bed-and-breakfast with his parents. His father was away overnight, so his mother entrusted him with all the manly duties — such as turning on the hot-water heater so I could take a shower out in one shed. His manner was watchful and serious. He knew things. When he took food scraps out to the chickens, he did so with a solemn reverence. And as we dined — the judoist, Uturga and I — Uturga worked his angles, ensuring that when I got a taxi out the next morning, he and his mother would ride along for free.

The cab arrived at 7:30. The road toward the next town, Korsha, was more of a path, cut into a steep mountainside and scattered with basketball-size boulders. We descended at seven miles an hour. At one point Uturga saw a stray rooster bobbing along through some scrub grass near a wooden drop-off. He leaped out and began chasing the bird into the woods, throwing smalls rocks at it. His mother leaped out, and (why not?) I, too, joined in the chase. By now the bird was scurrying at top speed, squawking in terror. I had an elevated vantage point, with the rooster running right before me. But Uturga, holding his arm up, stopped me. Then he trailed the rooster until it was cornered in the nook of a cliff. He grabbed it by its feet, then carried it upside down, wings flapping, back to the cab. We resumed rolling, now with a live, useful farm animal on board. In the back seat, Uturga’s mother laughed with pride and delight.

“Giji,” I said to the driver, drawing on my scant Georgian skills. “Crazy.”

The driver laughed, too, then pointed his finger to his head and said: “No. Smart.”

About half the size of Rhode Island and separated from Chechnya only by the Caucasus Mountains, the Khevsureti region is just 50 miles outside Tbilisi, but the route there is steep. The place has always felt remote, and its people — nature-worshiping Christians descended from the last crusaders of Europe — are fiercely independent. As late as 1915, Khevsureti men wore chain mail armor when they galloped their horses into Tbilisi.

Today, slender medieval stone watchtowers still dot the hillsides, bearing tiny slit windows, and in the ghost town of Shatili, on the Chechen border, there’s an ancient stone fortress.

The old Khevsureti is crumbling, though, challenged by Georgia’s mounting prosperity and urbanization, and the Khevsureti people boast few cultural preservationists. I was there in Korsha to stay with one of them — a visual artist named Shota Arabuli, who runs the Korsha Guesthouse.

One of my fellow guests, Otari Laliashvili, 62, is a painter and a night guard at a museum outside Tbilisi. A bald chain smoker with a wry, playful laugh, he has extensively studied Georgian history, honing a worldview that is at once hypernationalist and slightly surreal. “Georgians,” he told me, “were the first humans. Before the Tower of Babel, everyone spoke Georgian.” Laliashvili had read all of Lermontov, and his take was decisive: “Lermontov was an unhappy genius-idiot. He knew nothing about the Caucasus.”

Laliashvili had arrived with three friends and a five-liter decanter of red wine purchased at a gas station. As we sat in the airy dining room, we sampled that vintage and homed in on the Circassian war. Over 100 years, the Russians killed roughly 400,000 Circassians, and in 1864, Czar Alexander II formally expelled 500,000 more. Today, Islamic leaders in Chechnya still do not accept Russian authority.

“Lermontov was writing history from the perspective of an occupier,” Laliashvili told me. The novelist’s greatest error, Laliashvili felt, was his failure to lionize a Circassian ruler named Shamil, a guerrilla leader who defeated the Russians in several battles as he spent 25 years trying, unsuccessfully, to unite the disparate tribes of the Caucasus in battle. “Shamil was the true hero of the Circassian war,” Laliashvili said. “Shamil fought for his land, for his own earth. He had a reason to fight, and he told the Russians, ‘Your country is huge. I can ride my horse around my whole kingdom in a day. Why do you need it?’ ”

We replenished our wine glasses, and in time Laliashvili revised his take on the war. The true hero, he declared, was not Shamil, but his deputy, Boysangur, who upbraided Shamil when the warlord at last surrendered, in 1859. According to Laliashvili, Boysangur said: “Don’t give up. You are Shamil. Remember you said we should fight to the end?” Boysangur kept fighting. “It didn’t matter that he had only one arm, one leg and one eye,” Laliashvili said. “He fought until the Russians caught him and hanged him.”

By the end of the evening, we had finished the bottle.

The next morning, Laliashvili woke late and looked somewhat rumpled as shambled to the bathroom. “If you don’t drink, why live?” he said to me with a groggy smirk. “That is the philosophy of your friend Lermontov, and I have been sacrificing myself at his altar.”

Later in the day I settled down with my Lermontov books. There are few quiet moments in the works of Mikhail Lermontov. Reading him, you feel as if you are up in the middle of the night with insomnia — in some spare hotel room, perhaps, watching a super-dramatic old movie on a black-and-white TV, with the contrast dial notched up to 10. His epic poem, “The Demon,” stars an outcast soul who sadly flies over the sinful world, only to launch an ill-fated romance with a Georgian princess. Another long poem, “The Novice,” is about a young monk who flees his monastery (and organized religion) and contemplates dying “between the abrupt and dark rocks.” The poem begins with an epigraph paraphrasing the Bible’s First Book of Samuel: “I have barely tasted the honey; And I must die.”

“Hero’s” wanton antics can be hard to take, but there are passages that sing with enchantment. “All these snows burned with a ruddy glow,” Lermontov writes, “so merrily, so brightly, that it made one wonder why one should not stay here forever.” The Russian dramatist Nikolai Gogol said of one chapter, “No one among us has yet written a prose so perfect, so beautiful, so full of flavor.”

But I, myself, was taken most by a letter Lermontov wrote in 1837: “As I careered up and down the mountains in Georgia, I abandoned the cart and took to horseback; I’ve climbed the snowy mountain of the Cross to the very top, which isn’t altogether easy; from it, one can see half of Georgia as though it were on a saucer. … For me the mountain air is balm; the blues go to the devil, the heart thumps, the breast breathes high.”

By “the Cross,” Lermontov meant Mount Kazbek, a 16,512-foot peak that forms the border with Russia, looming over the Georgian village of Stepantsminda. I boarded a bus headed there the next afternoon. En route, we came upon a green hillside where throngs of people toiled up a narrow path, many wearing heavy crucifix necklaces as they towed bleating sheep on ropes. I deduced that things would not work out well for the sheep at the top.

I began climbing. Beside me were young families carrying children, and old women barefoot and bent over walking sticks. Finally, using hand signals to query my fellow travelers, I ascertained that we were all on a pilgrimage. It was Lomisoba, an ancient pagan feast updated 15 centuries ago after Christianity came to Georgia. We were climbing to the Lomisa Monastery to slaughter farm animals and pray at the stone shrine of Georgia’s patron, Saint George.

Lermontov had skipped this one, I’m pretty sure — it was beneath him to mingle with the hoi polloi — but I loved the sight of the crowds before me, moving now through a steep, shadowed meadow spotted with wildflowers. I loved that, even on this holy mission, they had weighted their backpacks with chacha, a grape-based moonshine.

It was dusk. The monastery sits on a knoll at 7,500 feet, and it took most people three hours to hike there. I didn’t have any food, never mind a tent for the inevitable night out in the chill. But I’d built up a certain trust in Georgians by now. Somehow I knew I’d find spirit and warmth up at the top.

There must have been 1,000 people there — a constellation of small groups scattered amid a jumble of giant boulders and grassy ravines. Campfires glimmered, and hundreds of believers waited for hours to light devotional candles before icons of George.

Mostly, though, the top was a party — and, for me, a primer on the delights and perils of chacha. Every time I opened my mouth, pilgrims swarmed around me with bottles of homemade chacha. A typical conversation, translated from Georgian and hand signals, went roughly like this:

Pilgrim: Drink! Drink!

Me: But I have already had four shots of chacha.

Pilgrim: But it is the national drink of Georg-ee-ah! You must take one more shot, for Georg-ee-ah!

Me: I, uh —

Pilgrim: Just one more, for Georg-ee-ah! For the friendship of nations!

A serious, bearded man, a frame maker who shared bread and cheese and olives with me, sold tiny framed portraits of Saint George bearing a broad sword and a gilt Byzantine halo. Some university students, English speakers, hailed me with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” as they strummed guitars by their campfire. I heard a long medley of patriotic folk songs as we perched there on rocks in the smoky darkness, and I remember thinking that, even now, 170-odd years after Lermontov’s death, Georgia is still overwhelmed by Russian imperialism. The two countries fought a war in 2008, over a tiny Caucasian territory, South Ossetia. Georgia got crushed, and the sting lingers. After each folk song, the woman sitting beside me synopsized the lyrics the same way: “Finally,” she said, “it is about Georgia.”

I learned the refrain to one song, kind of, but then things got blurry, and I got very tired of being asked to drink chacha. At about 1:30, I located a declivity in a remote meadow and, hiding inside it, drifted into a merciful sleep. Then I was rousted. “Drink!” commanded the man hovering above me with a bottle. “Drink!”

Finally, at 2:45, I began weaving back down the mountain. It was quiet, and in the pitch black hundreds more pilgrims were climbing to the top, intent on making the morning Mass. They scarcely spoke. I heard the hard rasp of their lungs and the slight patter of their feet on the soil.

I would never attempt Mount Kazbek after my vigorous worshiping at Lermontov’s altar. But when I reached the highway at dawn, I stuck out my thumb and caught a ride north, toward Stepantsminda, with a beefy Russian in a sports car. Russian techno music blared over the stereo, so loud the vehicle vibrated. I strapped on my seat belt. We swooped along through small towns, past churches and little stores and patches of snow. I watched the sun rise into the blue sky over the lofty crags of the Caucasus. I was on an adventure way up in the mountains, and at least part of me forgot how bratty and mean and difficult Mikhail Lermontov had been. For a moment, I wished that he were sitting right there beside me, savoring the thin mountain air.

Bill Donahue is a writer living in Portland, Ore.

Georgian highlights

What to do

The 17th-century Orbeliani Baths, in Tbilisi, offer communal sulfur pools beneath domed bathhouse roofs in a blue-tiled palace.

The Gergeti Trinity Church is a 14th-century stone church that sits on a hilltop in the shadows of snowcapped Mount Kazbek. Hike or drive there from the picturesque village of Stepantsminda.

Lomisoba is a holy celebration and a wild party. On a Wednesday near the summer solstice, thousands of people hike uphill from the village of Arakhveti to Lomisa ridge, to pray to Georgia’s patron, Saint George, and spend the night drinking homemade spirits before they greet the sunrise with a Mass.

Where to stay

Korsha Guesthouse. Two hours north of Tbilisi, this rustic six-room lodge features a stone replica of a Khevsureti tower and sprawling gardens with sculptures of animals carved out of sticks. 011-995-599-74-11-99 or e-mail

Where to eat

Rooms Hotel. Set in Stepantsminda, with a breathtaking view of Mount Kazbek, the restaurant here offers gourmet dining in an exquisitely renovated Soviet-era resort. 011-995-322-71-00-99.

— Bill Donahue