Right now not only Caucasian but all the post-soviet countries are undergoing hard political time, especially, Caucasian region with questions about territorial integrity issues. The democratic development of all our countries is a complex process. I’m very sorry that the relationships between Russia and one of the Caucasian states are complicated. I think that the President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili complicated the relationship between Georgia and Russia that were already difficult after the collapse of Soviet Union.
Within the Palais de l’Europe since 1992, the Council of Europe’s bookstore is a quality place for politics, lawyers and human rights professionals, wanting to discover the latest ‘it-books‘. The owner of the Librairie du Conseil, Aurélien Montinari, 30, says what it is like to sale books to officials.
In the French city of Strasbourg, everything is done for bikers. A very green attitude that contrasts with the situation of cycling in Caucasus.
By Ovsanna Bagamyan and Guler Mehdizade
The first thing that amazed us in Strasbourg was the lack of private cars we used to see in the streets of Baku and Yerevan, and the great quantity of bicycles instead. At first, we thought: “these people are crazy !”. We noticed special parking stations for bicycles,the ‘Velopark’, around 500 kilometers of cycling paths- the largest in France-, public bike rental service and interactive maps of bike routes like Bikely.com, to cycle throughout the whole city.
Mamuka Jgenti, 36, is Ambassador of Georgia to the Council of Europe. Graduated from law, married, two kids, he plays tennis and listens to classical music when he is not seating at the Council of Europe. He talks about its daily work, Russian-Georgian relations and European integration.
Step by step we are improving our relations and the position of Georgia within the Council of Europe. I can mention different positive achievements which we went through during this year, but I can’t really identify any concrete achievement, because doing that might somehow downgrade something else. At this stage, I think that Georgia’s voice is heard and taken into consideration.
What are your main goals and objectives while working in Council of Europe?
It’s very unfortunate, but the reality is that we have to concentrate on issues which we would prefer to be solved. For example, the restoration of Georgian territorial integrity. We are also trying to be actively involved in all the processes related to Georgia. My main objective is to move from the kind of benefiting country to a status where we are not only donating, but also sharing our experience and our culture to other countries. We are a European country, have an European culture, so we also have a lot to share with our European partners.
What obstacles do you face while working in Council of Europe?
The main obstacle is that Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe, as well as Russia. You know how Russian diplomacy is working; it’s called “Bulldozer Diplomacy” -aggressive diplomacy-. On a daily basis, I feel Russia’s presence with the same statute, rights and obligations as Georgia within Council of Europe. This makes my professional work much more difficult. It’s much easier for me to work in international organizations where Russia is not a member state.
We know that the conflict between the Russia can’t be solved over night. The Council of Europe fully supports Georgia sovereignty, but it is not an institution that has to deal or solve security or military issues. Council of Europe is mostly oriented on human rights and humanitarian issues. The Assembly is regularly following the developments in order to evaluate the consequences of Russian invasion and ongoing occupation of Georgia.
Council of Europe was the first international organization that managed to make the action plan effective, in relation to occupied Abkhazian region of Georgia for example. Nowadays, other international organizations are able to follow this good example, so it was very important for us that the Council managed to be a pioneer in this cooperation.
Joining and improving relations with European institutions are one of the main objectives of the Georgian Government, what are the chances of Georgia in becoming member of European Union?
The same questions was asked in 1993-1994, whether Georgia would be able to join or not the Council of Europe. It took some years but in 1999, we have joined the Council of Europe. European Union is not only values; the process of integration is much more complicated, even countries declared as candidate countries took years to prepare themselves for becoming members. It is not only about human rights or democracy, but also about economical, financial criteria, which all countries have to comply.
We are working hard on European integration in order to join the European Union. It is very difficult to say an exact date, but we are moving very fast. Currently, we are mostly dealing with comprehensive and deep free trade agreement, at one stage we might also get the visa free agreement, but you also should consider what is going on at the moment within the European Union -financial crisis-. EU should also be ready to accept new members. I cannot predict, but it will take some years.
After Georgia-Russia war in 2008, thousands of children suffer from stress. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a result of strong emotions they experienced during the war.
By Sopo Mgaloblishvili and Mariam Jachvadze
“If you had a magic stick what would you wish?”
This question was asked to IDP children from Eredvi by Tina Norakidze and other psychologists who held trainings for children in 2009.
Most of them named big house surrounded by huge fence and lots of bodyguards. Fear of future and feeling of insecurity also appeared in other exercises. For instance they had to describe the feelings of swan swimming in the lake. All children had question – “Where is it going? How it will be there? Maybe somethreatis waiting for it”.
“These examples show that these children need secure environment and stability in the future” – says Tina Norakidze, psychologist
„I only see my house in my dreams, exactly the same as I left it. I don’t want to believe that there is nothing there”;“Most I remember is my mother’s voice crying – “Everyone hide in the basement”; “I strongly miss every single thing what I left in my village.”
These are the memories of schoolchildren from the war 2008. What they saw and what they heard had strong influence on their behavior. Far from their villages they started new life with new relations. Parents are also stressed after war, but the children are the ones who are mostly in the center of attention. Government, non-governmental organizations as well as society care about them, trying them not to think deeply about the war results.
“After Georgian-Russian war, IDP children were taken to the seaside. You can’t imagine how aggressive they were. Everything was broken and damaged in the hotel”– remembers Merab Oniani, art therapist who together with psychologists accompanied team of children at the seaside, Ureki (West part of Georgia).
Aggression, nightmares, myth plays, no willing to learn, drawings in dark colors, repetitive play are main symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in children coming from the war, natural disasters, serious accidents or injuries.
According to Merab Oniani’s observation on IDP children the way they were playing was most recognizable for him. In playing children repeat the same situations what they had seen before –
“Often we saw, how children were burying each other in the sand, playing with guns, shouting and fighting with each other.”
Ana Jgenti, psychologist of children together with her friend was working with IDP children as well. She tells us what kinds of methods are used to help children who suffer from PTSD. One of them is reframing nightmares.
“We used to meet them every day and on each day we asked them to tell their dreams. Mostly dreams were connected to the war so the task was to draw these dreams in a way that the ending would be happy. I can say that this method really works”.
Anna says that IDPs have different emotional experience; some of them worry about losing close people, some about their houses, but children she met mostly worried about pets they lost during the war.
In psychology these symptoms have its explanation: “For children house is a part of their identity. Pets help them to give and get warm, that’s why children have such emotions about losing them” – says Manana Gabashvili psychologist.
Sopo Tabatadze 15 years old believes to be good diplomat in near future. She thinks that, she already knows the value of war and peace and will do her best for peace – “I don’t wish other children to feel the same I experienced”.
Practice show that after some years past post traumatic symptoms decrease, people try to overcome the stress and step by step they adapt to new social environment.
After Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, thousands of people were displaced from their homeland. In Baku 216 000 IDP, for Internally Displaced Person, were recensed, living in hostels, half-built buildings and other public places. One of those IDP, Zarifa Aliyeva displaced from Jabrail lives now in student hostel with her family.
By Elvira Abdullayeva and Rena Allahverdiyeva
“If Jabrail were given back, I would go there barefoot”- says Zarifa Aliyeva, 60, displaced from Jabrail, a region in Azerbaijan. She lives in Baku State University’s student hostel with her family-husband, daughter, son, granddaughter and grandson. They live here together since 1993, date of the occupation of Jabrail.
Sixteen years ago, on 23rd August 1993, Azerbaijani regions of Fuzuli and Jabrail were occupied by Armenian Armed Forces. There were 72 secondary school buildings, eight hospitals, five mosques, two museums, 129 historical monuments and 149 cultural centers left in the occupation.
As Zarifa recalls, she used to live in the center of Jabrail, where her and her family had a big house with 6 rooms. But the day of the occupation, they couldn’t take even one cap from their house and had to leave immediatly.
During the Nagorno-Karabakh war (from February 1988 to May 1994) between Armenia and Azerbaijan territories, constituting former NKAO region of Azerbaijan and the seven adjacent regions (some of them partly) were occupied. As a result, about one million people had to leave their homes.
Azerbaijan now has one of the highest numbers of IDPs per capital in the world. The IDPs are presented in all of the 76 administrative districts in Azerbaijan. Initially, most of them lived in tent camps and public buildings such as schools, hostels, and dormitories.
Since 2001, the government increased its efforts to solve IDPs’ problems. In 2002, the construction of new settlements started in Baku, and by the end of 2007, all tent camps were abolished. On the 61 100 IDPs from the Jabrail region, nearly half of them, about 31 000, decided to settle in Baku.
“At first, we went to Sabirabad and lived there for three months, then we moved to Baku. And that time we didn’t know where to stay and came accidently to this hostel. At that time in this room were staying a young family displaced from Agdam region, but when they saw that we are six and haven’t any money, so they decided to leave this room for us and went to rent house”.
Zarifa Aliyeva is now working as a cleaner at the municipal concert hall, her husband works as gardener for a bank, although he had two operations on heart. Her daughter and son don’t work and her grandchildren are studying at school. They were baby when family displaced.
“With our salary and our pension, we get approximately 400-450 AZN per month. It is too little to compare it with our necessity. Our room is 15 m2 and we haven’t any other choice. It is already 20 years we are waiting to go back to our village, but there is not any result…We are just waiting.”
After war in May 1994, Armenia and Azerbaijan signed ceasefire and peace talks, mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group, have been held ever since by Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Parviz Asgarov is the responsible of Baku State University’s student hostel. He says that now there live 7 000 people- and around 750 familys and the Azéri government had accepted a new program moving them from hostels to new buildings. “We had listed to all people who live here and gave this list to the State Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan On Deals of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. From 2012n IDPs will get new home. Now they have many problems here, rooms are very narrow, they have to sleep together in one room, most of them are unemployer”.
Student hostel of BSU
In Baku are living around 216 000 IDPs and they have placed in 262 hostels, 75 pansionat, 40 half-built buildings and other public places.
On February 2011, President signed a Decree on Additions to the “State Program on improvement of living conditions and increasing employment refugees and internally displaced persons”, approved by Decree 298 of the 1st of July, 2004 issued by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The government is already organising the relocalisation 210 families of IDP’s, temporarily settled in 2 hostels out of Baku State University.
Although the Armenian Azerbaijani Nagorno Karabakh conflict still remains unsolved, EU president Herman van Rompuy thinks that this conflict mustn’t be added to the list of “hopeless conflicts“. In his reports, Peter Semneby – EU’s ex-special Representative for the South Caucasus also notes that “EU is now more intensively engaged in the South Caucasus than ever before“.
With the launch of the Eastern Partnership in May 2009 and the launch of the negotiations on the Association Agreements with the three countries of the South Caucasus. Nowadays, mediation efforts are made by a troïka consisting ofRussia,France and theUS, butRussia is increasingly taking a leading role, in particular through meetings of President Medvedev with the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents.
Azerbaijan means “Land of Fire” in persian. The explosion of oil’s exploitation since the 19th century is largely contributing to the current economical boom of the country.
By Rena Allahverdiyeva & Elvira Abdullayeva
The turning point on oil production appears in the middle of the 19th century. For the first time in the post-industrial revolution world, oil wells were drilled in the district of Bibiheybat, then in Balakhani. In 1901, Azerbaijan took the first place in the world by producing 11.5 millions tons of oil per year; – 9,5 millions tons in the USA-. This beginning of modern exploitation of the oil fields led to a period of unprecedented prosperity and growth in the years before World War I.
Such high production of oil ensured the victory of the Soviet Union in Second World War. The regular discovery of new offshore oil fields, in the fifties and then in the 70-80’s, led the Republic of Azerbaijan and Caspian Sea in becoming the leader of world oil’s producers.
Wine tourism and its industry are booming in Georgia, supported by the Saakashvili government, who considers wine production as “a passport to civilized world”.
By Nana Tabatadze & Armine Narinyan
“Gaumarjos!” (-Cheers-) Gia Aliashvili is a wine producer from Kakheti, eastern region of Georgia. His vineyard and his cellar are becoming a must-destination for tourists interested in harvesting and wine production process. During autumn, Aliashvili is always happy to welcome foreigners in his “marani” -cave-. Continue reading →
After harvest, it’s music time in Kakheti, a region located in the Eastern part of Georgia. Telavi re-opens its International Music Festival from 16th to 23rd October.
By Nino Gelashvili
Famous Georgian musicians as well as international guests, like Russian cellist Natalia Gutman, Swiss clarinetist Eduard Brunner, and Bulgarian violin player Mincho Minchev are attending Telavi, performing classical, folk and ethnic music, as well as opera pieces.
Telavi International Music Festival saw its rebirth in 2010, after being dormant for almost 20 years. It is in the eighties famous Georgian musician Eliso Virsaladze founded ‘Telavi music festival’ – then known as “Keba Vazisa” (Praise of Vine).
Governor of Kakheti, George Gviniashvili, said the festival aims at promoting Kakheti’s region. “The revival of this great tradition is especially important for Kakheti and the whole of Georgia, since it serves the high-art population, but also underscores the value of Telavi as one of the cultural centers of Georgia. It will also help to promote the centuries-old unique culture of our country”.