His nom de guerre is Omar al-Shishani (Omar the Chechen), and he has gained a fearsome reputation as a commander in the dreaded terrorist jihadi group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But al-Shishani is no Chechen. His birth name is Tarkhan Batirashvili, and he is a citizen of Georgia from the Pankisi Gorge, a remote corner of this South-Caucasus country.
Amid deteriorating relations with the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to diversify a Russian economy that is tightly linked to European markets. Fittingly, an old Soviet-era satellite state seems eager to lend a helping hand.
Judging by the long line outside the Russian Embassy in Tashkent one recent afternoon, new Russian legislation offering citizenship to Russian-speakers is prompting lots of individuals in Uzbekistan to ponder emigration. Some see a chance to escape economic woes; others, stymied by Uzbekistan’s own Byzantine bureaucracy, want to seize on an opportunity to obtain a proper passport.
What led Tajikistan’s security services to suspect a respected researcher of treason and arrest him last month? The answer can be found in recent developments in Tajikistan, and indeed across the former Soviet Union. Alexander Sodiqov’s June 16 arrest comes amid a spike in growing anti-Western rhetoric from Tajik officials.
Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry is cracking down on prostitution, detaining over 500 sex workers during the campaign’s first few days. Activists say detainees are being subjected to blackmailing threats and beatings while in custody.
Baku is gaining international recognition as a center of cutting-edge architectural design thanks in part to a major award given recently to London-based architect Zaha Hadid for her Heydar Aliyev center. The Azerbaijani capital’s new look has plenty of local fans, but also some detractors.
It only requires a glance at the dance-floor showdown in the Soviet cult-comedy “Mimino” to see that competition between the tiny South-Caucasus neighbors of Georgia and Armenia can run strong. No less so with economic alliances.
It’s not unusual for American soccer players to go abroad to chase dreams of playing professionally. But you might say Nicholas Pugliese, a 24-year-old from Rochester, New York, took things to an extreme by signing with Ferozi FC, a team based in Kabul, Afghanistan.