Apart from legislative occasions, a chokha also can be worn when washing a car.
Georgian lawmakers might soon need to upgrade their wardrobes if a new legislative fashion bill gets through parliament. The legislation, currently under discussion, will allow representatives to get decked out in traditional outfits for ordinary sessions of the national assembly.
The Conservative Party, a member of the ruling Georgian Dream alliance, and one with a taste for wearing traditional attire to parliament's opening sessions, initiated the sartorial bill in a bid to "popularize" traditional Georgian culture, but many of the rest of the representatives were left scratching their heads.
The centerpiece for Georgian men's traditional dress is the chokha, a waist-hugging longish wool coat complete with bandoliers and daggers. The ladies of the legislature might need to put on headdresses, attached to long, gauzy veils, to match their full-length dresses, possibly worn over stiff petticoats or crinolines.
Many Georgian men eagerly don chokhas for weddings and other social functions, but women tend to be less inclined to adopt their ancestors' clothing.
Sporting such attire within Georgia's spaceship-style parliament could make for an unusual visual contrast, to say the least. Georgian Dream parliamentarian Levan Berdzenishvili, no fan of chokhas, expressed skepticism about women MPs milling around the legislature with chikhti-kopis on their heads.
He is wanted by Russian federal investigators. He is suspected of raising “millions” of protesters in Moscow and nearly bringing down Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin. He is Givi the Georgian.
A Moscow court just issued an arrest warrant for Givi Targamadze, a 44-year-old Georgian parliamentarian, staunch supporter of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and, apparently, a lone crusader against the Putin regime and a bespectacled mastermind of international conspiracy.
Russians who rallied against President Putin in 2012 claimed they wanted to end human rights abuses, the monopolization of power and rampant corruption, but Russian investigators knew that there just had to be something or someone else behind it.
After many late hours perusing evidence under a dim, desk lamp light, the investigators have found their man, the "true" source of evil. It was Givi Targamadze, who, Russian prosecutors say, secretly tutored Russian opposition leaders in the art of revolution, the craft he learned so well during Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution.
Along with sharing little tricks of the trade, Targamadze also allegedly slipped a big $3,000 to the dissenting Russians, telling them to go get Putin.
Some in Ukraine might nod their heads knowingly, claiming that he also tried to stop the 2010 election of Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.
But Tbilisi, much though it is attempting to smooth over past differences with Russia, has refused to hand Givi over to Moscow for prosecution.
Just when you least expected it, Georgia's politicians have found things to discuss – and agree on – without losing teeth or gaining a bloody nose in the process.
The ruling Georgian Dream coalition, led by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, and the opposition United National Movement, headed by President Mikheil Saakashvili, reportedly have made it to the verge of an agreement on planned constitutional reform.
The negotiations were led by Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili for the Georgian Dream and Parliamentary Minority Leader Davit Bakradze for the United National Movement; arguably, two of the most circumspect politicians from either side.
What prevents them from "getting to yes", though, is an amnesty proposal which, for outsiders, could raise as many questions about Georgia's legal system as it does about the current tense political environment.
The two sides have provided contradictory descriptions of the proposed amnesty.
Usupashvili claimed that the UNM has demanded an unconditional amnesty from criminal prosecution for all government officials, ranging from the president to town council chairpeople, for any liable activities, apart from violent or other severe crimes, up until November 1, 2012.
Bakradze, for his part, arguing that "15,000 people" have been questioned because of ties to the UNM, asserted that the amnesty is about stopping "political persecution." It would apply not to current or ex-head-honchos, but to "the thousands" of people going in for questioning "daily" – defined as those under the rank of a ministerial administrative chief's deputy, he said.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan says he won a second term -- his rival (Sargsyan told RFE/RL he prefers the word "competitor") says, no, he did not. And with that, Armenia's stage is once again set for a potentially protracted political fray.
The rest of Armenia doesn’t seem to care about the presidential office too much. Eighty percent of 1,080 Armenians questioned for a recent survey by local pollster Sociometer don’t want to be presidents of their country.
The only other Armenian who wants to be president and put up a real fight for it is Raffi Hovannisian, the Fresno, California-born leader of the tiny opposition Heritage Party. Hovannisian claims that Sargsyan stole the victory from him through widespread funny business, ranging from bribery to ballot-box stuffing.
Ten days ago, Azerbaijan slung into space its first-ever satellite as an apotheosis of the country’s hydrocarbon-fueled progress. And what better way to celebrate the joy and the glory of the moment than to burst into song?
“Our first national satellite went into orbit. How can I not be happy, oh, motherland?” elated, shiny-eyed opera singer Ramil Qasimov bellows out in a handsome, optimism-infused tenor. “And now that our voice comes from the cosmos, nothing can restrain my joy,” he continues, gesturing dramatically in an online video recently posted in the Azerbaijani Studies Digest listserv.
A festively dressed choir, each woman holding a single flower, then kicks in with the politically correct chorus: “With Ilham, we march toward happy tomorrows . . . !”
The folk dancers kick and jump, the choir croons, the conductor waves her hands and the Azerbaijani satellite flies high in the sky.
If you feel like you've seen this somewhere before, you would not be far wrong.
Reminiscent of Soviet-era hymns to the proletariat, space exploration or young communists, the panegyric to the 3.2-ton, $230-million piece of national pride has sparked much eye-rolling among many Azerbaijani Facebook users.
But those Azerbaijanis weary of the country's Aliyev personality cult may see more space singing soon.
President Ilham Aliyev, so dearly mentioned in the song, has pledged that the February 8 satellite launch is just the first step in his country’s space ambitions. Lease fees are expected to recoup the cost of the US-made satellite and oil-and-gas dollars will help sponsor future projects and, perhaps . . . even accompanying soundtracks?
The love survey, run by the Gallup Organization, asked respondents in 135 countries if they had experienced love the day before; the most negative responses came from Armenia. Its neighbors, Georgia and Azerbaijan, are not the world’s most amorous places, either.
Georgia is only three countries -- Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan -- ahead of Armenia on the love chart. Azerbaijan sits in the similarly love-starved 126th place.
So, if money's not it, what's the reason for Armenia's lack of love? Could communism have something to do with it?
With the exception of Morocco, the ten most loveless countries all share a Soviet past.
Whatever the case, governments and international development agencies should take note. Looks like it's time to devise national love policies, provide tax privileges for lovers and, even, love grants to encourage grassroots activity.
In tightly ruled Azerbaijan, people are not usually pampered by dismissals of failing government officials, but President Iham Aliyev has gone the distance this time to tackle a recent outpouring of popular anger in the region of Ismayilli by firing its governor, Nizami Alakbarov.
The governor's nephew, Vugar Alakbarov, son of Labor and Social Welfare Minister Fizuli Alakbarov, reportedly became the cause of car-burning riots and clashes with police in the region's main city after a January 23 car accident involving his luxury sports car and a local taxi. Alakbarov the younger allegedly beat the taxi driver, with no interference from police. The Alakbarov family is reputed to have wide-ranging economic interests in the region, and resentment at their impunity from the law runs strong.
The central government’s first response followed the standard steps in its crisis management playbook: send in riot police, arrest reporters, and civil rights activists and politicians, who expressed solidarity with the protesters, and, of course, blame external foes for everything.
“If I hear again that a member of some family acts like a hooligan, does not know who to behave himself, this person will be arrested and his father will be dismissed,” declared Aliyev at a recent meeting.
Azerbaijan was an important stopover point for secret detainees of the Central Intelligence Agency in the US war on terror, claims a new report that offers the first comprehensive look into human rights abuses under the US practice of secret detentions and extraordinary renditions of terror suspects.
Reminiscent of a global spy conspiracy novel, the report, "Globalizing Torture," details how, post-9/11, the US relied on countries around the world to "kick the [expletive] out of" various terror suspects wanted by the CIA.
Azerbaijan and Georgia were among 54 countries that cooperated with these operations, according to the report, which was compiled by the New-York-City-based Open Society Foundation's Open Justice Initiative. [EurasiaNet.org is financed under the separate auspices of the Foundation's Central Eurasia Project.]
“Aircraft linked to the CIA landed in Azerbaijan 76 times between the end of 2001 and the end of 2005,” the report reads. “The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, is reported to have been used as a common ‘staging point’ for extraordinary rendition operations, meaning that planes and crews would often meet and prepare there.”
Azerbaijani officials allegedly did some detaining of their own; namely, a Saudi man, Ahmed Muhammad Haza al-Darbi, who allegedly was arrested in Azerbaijan in 2002 and handed over to the CIA, which then transferred him to the formerly US-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan, where he was kept for two weeks, and subjected to various forms of abuse.
Before Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili took office in 2004, Georgia, the most eager US partner in the Caucasus, also allegedly captured and handed over to the CIA several terror suspects, apparently linked to Chechen rebel training in the Pankisi Gorge.
A $2-billion investment fund, the limits to bipartisanship, and the hazards of adultery, both political and personal, were, on February 5, among the many talking points of Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who spent hours filling in Georgia about his cabinet's first months in office.
The televised parley between Ivanishvili and a roomful of journalists offered a peek into his plans, but, more significantly, into possible tensions within his ruling Georgian-Dream coalition.
Looking ahead to Georgia's presidential vote in October, Ivanishvili tossed out the observation that the respected, circumspect constitutional lawyer Vakhtang Khmaladze, a Georgian Dream parliamentarian, is a better fit for the head of state, than, say, the handsome and ambitious defense minister, Irakli Alasania.
And here is where the discussion took a bizarre turn. Ivanishvili alleged that President Mikheil Saakashvili's team is trying to seduce Defense Minister Alasania into switching sides. Quite literally, too.
In response to a reporter's question, Ivanishvili acknowledged that he had requested an explanation from Alasania about an alleged trip he made to Dubai, and then to France with the wife of a key Saakashvili loyalist, Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, and another companion.
There had been, he told reporters, "a little misunderstanding in Dubai" and "we should forget this."
“Everyone can make a mistake, and Alasania is still a young man," he elaborated. "As for the France trip and the wife, all of that is very personal and I don’t pry into personal matters."
Rather, he discusses them in a televised press conference.
Two prominent critics of President Ilham Aliyev's government were arrested in Azerbaijan on February 4 on charges of orchestrating the unusually daring anti-regime protests that took place in the town of Ismayilli late last month.
Coming after a run of arrests of protesters in Ismayilli and Baku, the detentions suggest that the government's unease about impromptu demonstrations in a presidential election year is not lessening. (Particularly with a Davos retreat in Baku this April, to boot.)
Prosecutors claim that Tofig Yagublu, deputy chairperson of the opposition Musavat Party, and Ilgar Mammadov*, chairperson of the opposition group REAL and a former political analyst, are to blame for instigating the demonstrations, which followed January 23 riots after a car accident that allegedly involved the nephew of the Ismayilli region's governor, Nizami Alakbarov. Yagublu and Mammadov reportedly traveled to Ismayilli to encourage protesters only after the demonstration itself, RFE/RL reports. Other sources say that poverty and the regional elite's high-handed behaviorhttp://www.eurasianet.org/node/66454 "> were the real cause of the unrest.
If proven guilty, Yagublu and Mammadov will face up to three years in jail.
*Ilgar Mammadov is an ex-board member of the former Open Society
Assistance Foundation-Azerbaijan, which was part of the network of Open
Society Foundations. EurasiaNet.org is run under the auspices of the
Open Society Foundation's Central Eurasia Project, a separate part of