“Mr. President, are you ready to rock?” exclaimed Senegalese hip-hop star Youssou N' Dour as Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili arrived at a May 26 concert that was designed to raise awareness about the plight of Georgia’s 350,000 Internally Displaced Persons.
While the rest of the country celebrates Easter every year at home around the dinner table, one village in western Georgia marks the day with a rugby-like scramble that effectively blocks traffic for hours on the country’s East-West national highway. The game, lelo ( "goal" in Georgian), has no rules, no time-outs and no limit to the number of men who may play.
As Georgia strives to recover from the global economic crisis, the government is struggling to find a balancing point between the protection of workers' rights and the need for employers to boost output. President Mikheil Saakashvili's administration is hearing it from both sides.
Abkhazia has hailed Russian recognition of its independence from Georgia as the start of a new era, but for Georgians in the southern Abkhaz region of Gali the campaign to strengthen Abkhazia's statehood poses a dilemma: whether or not to take Abkhaz citizenship.
The Georgian village of Karateli lies seven kilometers north of Gori. While many buildings in the village are still standing, a large number of homes along the road have been destroyed and every store looted. Village residents recall being terrified as marauding bands swept into the village.
For many Georgians, May 21 was as much about a mysterious armed incident near the border with the breakaway region of Abkhazia, as it was about electing a new parliament. While details remain murky, the incident is stoking tension between Georgia and the renegade territory.
Almost inured to conflict, residents of Sukhumi, capital of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, are focusing less on the Georgian plane shoot-down incident and fears of fresh fighting, and more on the likely benefits to be had from Moscow's recent lifting of an economic embargo against the region.