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.
Georgian officials are weighing a response to an April 16 edict from the Kremlin, under which Russia can establish official cooperation with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. While Tbilisi has termed the move an attempt at "annexation," some local analysts question the actual impact of Moscow's actions.
Nearly two weeks after the Russian government announced the unilateral lifting of a trade embargo against the separatist region of Abkhazia, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is trying to outmaneuver Moscow by building international support for an overhaul of the Abkhaz peace process.
While international attention focuses on the upcoming Georgian presidential elections, Tbilisi's tussle with the opposition has coincided with a stepped-up campaign against Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia. The opposition contends that the alarm bells about an alleged Russian military build-up in the region are politically motivated.
Georgia has withdrawn its agreement for the presence of Commonwealth of Independent States peacekeepers in breakaway Abkhazia after an October 30 conflict between Georgian police and Russian peacekeepers in a Georgian village bordering the disputed territory.
Crammed into a beat-up van driving up the Black Sea coast to Sukhumi, the capital of the breakaway territory of Abkhazia, we passengers listen over and over to a CD compilation of Caucasian pop hits. One of the songs, a bouncy Russian tune called "Sukhumi," has lyrics that open a window on the past: