CAUCASUS NEWS

  • ARMENIA AND I

«If you want to foresee the people’s future, have a look at the youngsters », once said Garegin Nzhdeh, the famous Armenian politician.

By Armine Narinyan

Youth people in Armenia are representing 17,5 percent of population, an average comparable to many other European’s countries. But because of the Karabakh’s conflict and the economical crisis, lots of them are going abroad.

Armenia is affected by migration’s issues and the ‘diaspora’ concerns around 8 millions of Armenians living in foreign countries -on a population of 3 millions-. Some though are thinking differently.

Narineh Sarkisian: «I always dreamt about returning to Armenia»

Narineh Sarkisian ©Armine Narinyan

Originally coming from Iran, she came to Yerevan, five years ago. Like many emigrated people, since her childhood, she dreamed about returning to Armenia. She is now working as a designer in a magazine in the armenian capital. «Designers nowadays have a great influence on society. Sometimes, people even do not notice it. But a big billboard in the street, a good advertisement can affect people. » Now that she feels home, she does not even think about living abroad.

Azatuhi Simonyan : « To be Armenian means three important thing : a way of living, a way of thinking and a strong national spirit»

Azatuhi Simonyan ©Armine Narinyan

She has the same age as Armenia and works as a member of the Youth Parliament held by the oppositional party, Armenian Revolutionary Federation. « Certainly, there are both differences and common things between Europe and Armenia. Europe means diversity and Armenia is a part of this diversity. Someone who lives in Germany or in France don’t think the same way as we do, and don’t live same life but all of them consider themselves European ». For her, « to be Armenian means three important thing : a way of living, a way of thinking and a strong national spirit. » She believes that there are « not small and big countries, only strong and weak countries. Here, in Armenia, we have a small territory, a small population but we are big with our national spirit and our understanding ».

Ani Eloyan : «It does not matter who you are, first of all you are a human being»

Young painter, she is studying her MA in Yerevan State University. She paints mostly ‘natures mortes’ and considers nature to be the « teacher of all humanity ». Each things has two sides and painter must « try to show the light side of life to people. » « Beauty will save the world. My mission is to live in Armenia and paint its beautiful sights and leave it to the next generation. » She has never been in Europe and just feels herself Armenian. « European, American, Asian : it does not matter who you are, first of all you are a human being. You must stay human, regardless of everything. »

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  • WAR GENERATION IN GEORGIA

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 some threat  is 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.

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  • KARABAKH CONFLICT: 18 YEARS OF EXPECTATIONS OF REFUGEES

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.

  • OIL’S BOOM IN THE COUNTRY OF FIRE

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.

After independence

After the collapse of USSR and its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan began to look for successful projects in developing oil industry with international private companies.

11 major oil companies representing 8 countries of the world signed this so called “Contract of the Century”. To date, Azerbaijan has signed over 20 major production sharing agreements with some 30 companies from 15 countries.

In January 2011 the EU has made a “breakthrough” deal with Azerbaijan, concerning the supply of natural gas from Caucasus countries to the UE and the development of the so-called ’Southern Gas Corridor’, uniting several major pipelines including NABUCCO.

The Southern Gas Corridor entails the construction of several pipelines, such as NABUCCO (running from Turkey to Austria and Germany via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary), ITGI (Interconnection Turkey-Greece-Italy), White Stream (known also as the Georgia-Ukraine-EU pipeline) and TAP (the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline), aiming to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe.

The European Commission points out that NABUCCO aims to bring gas to the border of Europe with a brand new pipeline, whereas TAP and ITGI requires the strengthening of existing infrastructure in non-EU countries.

The effects of oil on Azerbaijan’s state budget

Azerbaijan is an economy in transition in which the state continues to play a dominant role. It has important oil reserves and significant agricultural potential based on a wide variety of climatic zones. During the late 1990s, in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Azerbaijan pursued a successful economic stabilization program, with annual growth exceeding 10% since 2000.

More infos about Azerbaijan’s budget for 2011

-1,500 billions Euros are directed in military spending.

-Social expenditures in Azerbaijan’s draft budget for 2012 are representing 27.8% of the budget -rise of 0.5% compared to 2011.

– 60 % of Azerbaijan’s 2012 budget will come from State Oil Fond of Azerbaijan Republic.

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  • EARTHQUAKE HITS TURKEY

On the 23rd of October, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hits near Van in southeastern Turkey. Some buildings have collapsed and killed more than 400 people and trapped an unknown number under rubble.

By Elvira Abdullayeva and Rena Allahverdiyeva

View “Earthquake hit Turkey” on Storify

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  • TELAVI INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL: WINE AND MUSIC

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”.

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  • BIDZINA IVANISHVILI: A GEORGIAN TYCOON TURNED INTO POLITICIAN

On October 7, 2011, the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili made public statement about coming to Georgian politics. He plans to run in parliamentary elections in 2012 and most supposedly he will be the presidential elections in Georgia that should be held in 2013. A declaration that is causing lots of critics from the Saakachvili government.

By Nana Tabatadze, Nino Gelashvili

View “Georgian Tycoon turned into Politician” on Storify

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  • A POLICE MORE TRANSPARENT IN GEORGIA?

Police’s reform was one of the most important consequence of the Rose Revolution, in 2003. In every district of Tbilisi, as well as in regions, police stations have been completely renovated and are transparent.

By Mariam Jachvadze & Sopio Mgaloblishvili

Georgian police was long reputated as one of the most corrupted police in South Caucasus. After the reform in 2003, half of the police effectives were fired or putted into jail. Georgia now has 30 000 policemen after Rose Revolution.

The architecture is very symbolic : buildings are transparents, opened, with large windows. Completely made of glass, those buildings are supposed to prove that the democratical process in Georgia is open and transparent for everybody. Decreased percentage of corruption and crime are the main achievements Georgian government is proud of.

Compared with 2006, the confidence of local population in the police has increased to 70%. According to official statistics, over the last two years, the percentage of robbery in Georgia decreased with 43%, and murder with 17%.

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  • THE OLD YEREVAN, THREATENED OF EXTINCTION

Many old houses located in the historical center of Yerevan started to be totally destroyed after the construction boom that took place in Armenia in the mid-2000s. Their inhabitants are progressively evicted by the real estate promotors, with the complicity of local authorities.

By Arsaluis Mghdesyan

Street Yeznik Kogbatsi, the house of the family Manukian is one of the last reminiscence of the old town of Yerevan. The tiny two-storey house, made of wood, is now surrounded by two recently built, luxurious and high buildings. The laundry dries in the sun, near by construction work.

The family Manukyan arrived in Yerevan in 1915 from Western Armenia -now considered to be part of Turkey-, partly to to flea the genocide. They bought this house located in he historical center of Yerevan, and lived there since more than three generations.

« In 2000, the Government of Armenia declared the area of ‘preponderant public interest’ », recalls Armenuhi Manukian, a fifty-something lady owning the property, with anger in her voice. In Armenia, if a piece of land in considered as « priority of public interest », it means that the demolition process is on.

The Island Of Old Yerevan

The story of the family Manukian is not the only one in the country. Over the last decade, lots of old houses were destroyed because of economical ambitions of private investor and corruption of the state. Armenuhi saw all her neighbours progressively forced to leave the area, without getting any appropriate compensation.

« My house with the land of nearly 1002m worths 13 million drams -about $ 35,000-. And the state sells pieces of land, stolen from people like me, for 3000 dollars », she said.

« Judicial courts, mayor’s office and other state institutions repeatedly violated my rights in my fight to save the Island Of Old Yerevan », affirms Armenuhi. She explains that her and her family were regularly threatened to death, if not leaving the house. But Armenuhi will « never surrender. »

European Justice

Manukian’s family in the fight for their rights has gone through all the courts of Armenia. Without any success. « I have no any option except to appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, » she thinks. She asks for a financial compensation of 200 000 dollars. In front of the European instance, Armenuhi wants to defend her case, arguing she is victim of « ethnic discrimination », since her mother is Kazakh and Muslim.

« I want to tackle this issue of discrimination. I have often spoken to the employers of construction company and they told me ‘Why you do not go back to your Kazakhstan, why did you came here ?’ » Her last hope : « European justice », she says.

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  • AZNAVOUR : LA BOHEME IN YEREVAN

On October 7th 2011, the Charles Aznavour House opened in Yerevan, from the name of the famous French “chanteur”. The Aznavour museum-house is «a present of the whole Armenian nation to his great son».

By Armine Narinyan

As Armenian chief architect Narek Sargsyan mentioned, «it is not a house, not a museum, it is something like the entrance towards the homeland…» the house is situated in the upper part of the Cascade complex.

The opening ceremony took place during the official visit of the President of France in South Caucasus, Nicolas Sarkozy, last October. Serzh Sargsyan, Nicolas Sarkozy and Charles Aznavour himself, 88, took part to the official opening ceremony.

This short visit symbolizes the «old frendship between Armenia and France», according to Jean-Paul Martin, cultural attaché of the French embassy.

“The House of Aznavour is the thanks of the Armenian people to Charles Aznavour.
Aznavour helped to make his home country a little known and more well-known around the world, he even can be considered as a cultural ambassador of Armenia.
He always showed a strong relationship with his home country, especially through his private foundation. In 1988, he supported people from Armenia after the dramatic earthquake and Armenians never forgot it.

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  • YEREVAN : THE REVERSE SIDE OF THE SARKOZY’S VISIT

The visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Armenia on October 7th was number one topic in Armenian press. But not only because of its words about recognition of genocide…

By Arsaluis Mghdesyan

Provocation or electoral trick? During his official visit in Armenia beginning of October, Nicolas Sarkozy and President of Armenia, Serge Sargsyan, hold a common speech on the square “France“, in the center of Yerevan, inaugurating at the occasion a sculpture made by the famous artist Auguste Rodin.

French President made several notable statements concerning the Karabakh conflict and the acceptation of Armenian genocide by Turkey. These words, designed to win sympathy of the half a million french armenian community before the French presidential election in 2012, have caused an expected protest reaction from Ankara.

But behind eloquent sentences and vows of eternal friendship between French and Armenian peoples, Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Yerevan was marked by two events: the collapse of the transports because lots of streets of the capital had been blocked for this official visit and the round-the-clock sit-down strikes from the oppositional party, « Armenian national congress » (ANC).

Bye bye buses

The day of the performance of the two Presidents, transports were entirely paralysed. It was impossible even to driving up to the city center, as all avenue leading to the center had been blocked on 6 to 8 kilomètres. People stood for hours in traffic jams, traveled by taxi and sometimes took up to five hours to get to the center but only using the subway.

However the underground has a problem too, because the subway in Yerevan works only in the central and south-western part of the city. The police had not warned in advance the Armenian population of inconveniences on the roads, nor did offer alternatives. Even the drivers of “marshrutkas” -route minibuses- were not informed.

Silence of Opposition

In the meanwhile on the Freedom square, the 7th day of round-the-clock opposition’s rallies took place. Armenian opposition members behaved themselves very silently during “Sarkozy’s performance”, happening about 200 meters from them – probably a kind of “gentleman agreement” with the authorities?

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  • GEORGIA, A MACHO COUNTRY?

With only 10% of women represented in politics, Georgia remain a rather conservative country in terms of gender equality: mentalities though, are slowly but surely changing.

By Sophio Mgaloblishvili & Arsaluis Mghdesyan

NB: To see the English subtitles, click on cc.


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  • THE ANGER OF ABKHAZIAN REFUGEES

By Mariam Jachvadze and Elvira Abdullayeva

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  • IN TBILISI, FIND A HUSBAND FOR AN HOUR

It does not matter if you are married or not, the service ‘Husband For An Hour’ is for everybody. Behind this striky name, Beso Mchedlishvili, the Georgian owner of this company offers ordinary service of housework.

By Nino Gelashvili

“I chose the name to attract people. Name is the most important thing for a business. Now it’s a famous service in Tbilisi,” Mchedlishvili says. As he explains, there is no conflict between this title and so-called Georgian conservatism. Beso Mchedlishvili lived in Russia for 20 years. When he came back to Georgia he found out that mentality of society has changed : people became more tolerant. “When passers-by look at the sticker of my car, they are smiling,” he adds.

Job Description

Mchedlishvili himself repairs electricity, gas and water furniture, which costs 30 Gel (€13) per hour. “Sometimes, I do expensive jobs, but price is the same. This is the second reason why people are interested in my service,” said Mchedlishvili.

Beso Mchedlishvili © Aytan Alakbarova

On the question, what does his wife think about sharing of husband, Beso Mchedlishvili explains that it was her idea. She is from Russia and in every big city of that country exist similar services of renting someone to help for small work in houses. When he decided to establish this service one year ago in Tbilisi, his wife herself suggested to call it ‘Husband For An Hour’.

Target group

“I can’t say that only women are calling. Often, men and husbands themseleves ask me to come and repair,” Mchedlishvili says. In spite of the promotion and price, there is no big demand on service – only a couple of calls from families and offices as well. Ltd Husband For An Hour used to have three cars, but nowadays only one. Beso is working alone because there is no great demand and also, as he explains, it’s very difficult to find a handicraftsman who is able to do every kind of work.

Future plans

In the future, Beso Mchedlishvili plans to open a network of beauty salons, keeping the name ‘Husband For An Hour’. „It is already well known here.“ But he is not thinking yet to hire men to wash hair.

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  • REAL ESTATE : SELLING AND HOPING

Every day, dozens of people are gathering in the Ninth April Park of Tbilisi, to sale and buy houses.

By Armine Narinyan and Ayten Alakbarova

In Georgia, if you want to rent a house, it might be better to go in a park than in any real estate agency. Since taxes are very high, most of the people do not have enough money to find a house through those agencies.

So they are gathering in the Ninth April Park and exchanging tips to find a cheap accomodation. Here there are not only locals but also Armenians and Azerbaijanians, with different professions : a young boy who speaks 6 languages, a taxi driver, a teacher etc… All of them are waiting for clients.

In this curious open air market, you can find everything: one flat in the city center or a house, with a wide range of prices, between 23 000 et half million dollars.

Since the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, prices in real estate market are sinking: most of the properties lost their value as well as the income of people have drastically decreased…

Like many Internally Displaced PersonsIDP– from Abkhazia and Ossetia, Mzia Nachkebi has been promised a new house by the government. The process of relocation unfortunately takes times and many people remain without any roof during months.

Still, people try to keep faith in the future.

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  • PUBLIC TRANSPORTS : IN THE HELL OF TBILISI

Hectic circulation, bus old and overcrowded, schedules not respected, the users of public transports in Tbilisi often buy a ticket to hell…

By Arsaluis Mghdesyan

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IN THE STREETS OF TBILISI : GREEN MUSIC FOREVER

They are four, they are musicians and they are Georgians. Their stage is a dark tunnel under Rustaveli Avenue, the main street of Tbilisi.

 By Aytan Alakbarova, Guler Mehdizade and Armine Narinyan

We all gathered in the street, because of the situation in our country.There might be lots of bars or restaurants in the capital, but the average salary is very low and there is no job. Playing in the streets in the only way for us to live‘, says a pianist, who prefers no to reveal his identity. Accordionist Khundadze Elgodja, guitarist Dato Tkhelidze, saxophonist Akika Kvantaliani and the ‘anonymous’ pianist are both ‘street musicians’.

In Georgia, the unemployment rate in the country is approximately 16%. But the problem number one of street musicians is electricity. Because of the weaknesses of electrical network in the country, it happens often that they cannot play with their electrical instruments.

I like it though, playing in this tunnel, because we are our own boss‘, explains the pianist, who plays in the streets since ages. If he and his friends would play somewhere else, like in a local restaurant, the owner would probably ‘force’ them to play ‘the music he likes’. In the streets, they feel free.

For his ‘colleague’, Tamas Sersuadzehe, ‘you need strong nerves for working in the bars because people are very drunk. I used to play also in weddings. But for me the best place is the street‘.

Ten years ago, Sersuadzehe was a trolley-bus driver. ‘They are not existing anymore. There are now only buses and mini-buses. Until now, I could’nt find another job to survive‘. Now he is playing guitar for 4-5 hours every day.

Their income depend on a day and on the number of passers. They refused to answer how much they earn in a day. On week-ends, they can earn a good sum, because the Rustaveli avenue -the local Champs Elysées-, where they settled, is very frequented. ‘Yesterday, we met Ukrainian street musicians, who told us that they earn more because of the bigger population‘.

I used to have concert tours through the whole USSR, when I was young‘, – says the musician who hasn’t introduced himself. For him, it is ‘difficult to be a street musician, remembering that you used to play in big stages’. But in the streets, they still have a wider audience and ‘many listeners‘. Some of them express ‘their gratitude by talking with us, the others give money.’

About their play list, the four mostly play world well known hits – For Khundadze Elgodja, ‘our audience like melodies that are on their memories. It’s called ‘green music forever’.

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  • MONEY MAKING HANDS

Due to high rate of unemployment in Georgia and the lack of job opportunities, most of the people have to find alternative way to earn their living.

By Elvira Abdullayeva and Rena Allahverdiyeva

The office’s adress of Nugzar Mkhalashvili, 74, is Rustaveli Street- the main avenue of Tbilissi, Georgia. Since 15 years, he is making and selling his own handicrafts,  made of hammerings on metal and woods.

Their prices are very much depending on their complexity: between 25 and 120 laries – 12 and 60 euros.

Mkhalashvili, one of the ‘first USSR’s pioneer designer“, engaged with this work for about 50 years. He used to be a member of many designer unions from the USA to post-soviet countries. Because of unemployment in Georgia, he has no other choice than doing business with his handicrafts.

According to official statistics, the average monthly wage in Georgia is 233 euros per person. 316 000 persons are unemployed, that is 16 percent of 1 million 945 thousand economically active population.

Mkhalashvili thinks that ‘writing poems is gift of poets. And the ability of hammering is my gift”. Though it is for him the only way of earning his life, Mkhalashvili says he really ‘loves it‘ his job.

For painter Piruz Lobjanidze, 50, painting in the street of Tbilisi, from 10h to 20h, makes him ‘rather tired‘. He started painting on flax and clay plates for about 40 years, now he taught it to his son. He is representing portraits, ‘natures mortes’ or landscapes. The main inspiration for him is different sceneries of Tbilisi.

In one day, Lobjanidze can earn between 10 and 250 laries, depending on ‘tourists and weather’.

As Piruz Lobjanidze, it is because of unemployment that the painter has to sit in the streets all day long.

Nugzar Mkhalashvili and Piruz Lobjanidze are not the only ones to sell their handicrafts in the Rustaveli Street. There are more than 15 handicraft sellers next to Academy of Sciences. Here you can see everything: handicraft, bijouteries, accessories, souvenirs, woven bags and hats, musical instruments made of wood, even knifes and swords.

Gulnare Akhundova, coming from Azerbaijan, is very ‘satisfied with the abundance of choice and prices‘. And ‘the prices here is very much cheaper than in Baku‘, she says.

Another tourist coming from Czech Republic says that although he likes those paintings really much, ‘he cannot buy them, because it is too difficult to carry them by plane.’

Georgi, a Tbilisi resident, thinks that ‘those handicrafts are useful to attract the tourists’. In 2010, Georgia hosted 2,5 millions of tourists. A substantial benefit comes from this activity, that could become a priority for the authorities. According to the Georgian National Tourism Agency, 3 millions of visitors are expected in 2011.

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  • DISABLED SHOULD NOT MEAN STATIONNED

Integration of disabled people in the rest of society is still a problem in Georgia. Mot of them do not have access to institutions and basing infrastructures, reinforcing their feeling of discrimination.

By Nana Tabatadze and Nino Gelashvili

Every day, Levan Areshidze, 22, uses ramps instead of the stairs. Because of his handicap, he had to quit academic education after finishing school. His mother says the basic reason why Levan did not study was the lack of adapted infrastructure in Tbilisi.

No official data

Levan is not the only person having difficulty to move herself in Georgia. However, officials and institutions have no idea about the number of disabled persons living in the country. A lack of statistics that shows that the problem of handicap and discrimination is far from being a priority of the Georgian institutions.

The NGOs working on this issue are managing round-tables and social activities with disabled persons, rather than acting against the lack of infrastructural projects.

Infratructure in the city

The problem number one for people with physical disabilities is public transport of the city, which is absolutely not adapted for people with wheelchair.

Although there are a number of over-ground bridges with ramps that were built over the last few years in the city, they remain useless: since they are too steep, disabled persons are unable to move on them independently.

Mother of a handicaped boy speaks about transport which is unavailable for disabled people.

A handicapped girl speaking about over-ground bridges, useless for people with wheelchairs.

see more of my photos

Specific infrastructure is also missing in most of the buildings in the city of Tbilisi. Residential complex have generally elevators but if you want to leave the block, you still need to take several steps. If there is no elevator in the building,you are supposed to take more stairs.

Either way, there isn’t any ramp in residential buildings, unless a  handicapped person lives there and his family cares about making a ramp.

Infrastructure at the Universities

Neither official buildings are equipped with an adapted infrastructure. However, the universities have started caring about the access of disabled person to universities:  the newest campus in the country are now including ramps and elevators. Example: the C block of Ilia State University or the first block of Tbilisi State University, both located in the capital. However, even in these cases, the infrastructure is only available in one part of the university.

According to Giorgi Chantladze, the representative of Ilia State University, schedule of disabled person is specially arranged so that they  can receive education like other students.

We try to group their lectures on the same floor, to prevent them from moving upstairs or to other buildings”  – says Giorgi.

Tsisana Baghdavadze is a first-year-student at the Ilia State University. She is in a wheelchair. She studies with other students , though she has access to only the first floor of University’s C Block. According to her, she passed all the exams and attended all the lectures on the first  floor but she had to miss the lectures held on upper floors or other buildings.

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