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Wednesday, 26 October 2016


Tbilisi: disappointments of 2008, hopes for 2009

2009-01-04 16:17

2/3/6/1236.jpegJudging by the New Year editions of international press publications, the August war in the South Caucasus was one of the three most important events of the last year. Behind only the international financial crisis and the election of a black candidate as US President. Conclusions are also being made in Georgia itself.


What is it that Georgians are recalling? How are they assessing these events? What are they hoping for? I have looked for answers to these questions on the streets of the capital. I left Tbilisi a year and a half ago, and the first thing that struck me on my return were the traffic jams on the central streets. "Look, you say that you live badly, but there are so many cars - you can't move an inch," I said to the taxi-driver who only agreed to take me home from the airport for 20 dollars (a two-day salary for shop assistants on stalls and in shops).

He told me throughout the whole journey that since August it had become totally impossible to live there. "There is no work, prices are increasing, no-one's got any money, just imagine, even the restaurants are almost empty. How can we go on living!" he brought me up to date with events in his broken Russian. "And the traffic jams, that's just because people don't know how to drive. Nobody buys cars. I've said, nobody's got any money. Neither us mortals, nor even our businessmen. The only ones who've got money are those in the elite, in the government (there then followed a passage of expletives aimed at them)".

Our way was blocked by a column of military vehicles, which normally would not have provoked any reaction from a visitor - around New Year soldiers are used to bring about order. But the driver made an unexpected comment:

"There'll be another war. We're getting ready for one..." "And who are you planning to fight?" I asked. "I don't know. But everyone says that there'll be war. But as if we could ever have fought Russia! Only our government is that stupid."

In the few days that I spent in Tbilisi just before New Year's Day, I got to hear similar conversations on several occasions, albeit with certain variations.

A shop assistant: "We'll probably close soon. There's no trade. Since August people have only been buying bread, cereals and pasta. People don't have any money. Everyone is afraid of the crisis and another war. I wish your government (meaning the Russian one) would just leave us in peace. We're not forcing anyone out. But Abkhazia is our land."

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