Many Georgians are still having an “It’s alive!” moment with the political awakening of Bidzina Ivanishvili, a reclusive, Forbes-list billionaire from a glowing castle who has declared himself the sworn enemy of President Mikheil Saakashvili. But the country's interior ministry now has taken all the Dracula and Lord of the Ring jokes to a whole new level by suggesting that the businessman is into black magic.
Ivanishvili lives in a bizarre hillside castle, avoids appearing in public and speaks with a strong Russian accent. In a word, he pretty much has all the attributes to qualify for the role of the prince of darkness in a vintage horror flick.
In a statement today, the interior ministry declared that "unusual minerals and printed materials" of an “occult character and used to predict the future” were found on Ivanshvili’s Russian aide, Valery Levin, when he flew into Tbilisi on October 22. Police took the pains to inspect -- and photograph -- the items and assured the public that the minerals do not pose a threat to "human health."
The stash came from Moscow -- the center of all evil, of course. Perhaps for this reason, the ministry did not bother to explain why Levin was questioned and searched?
Some local commentators have diagnosed the Georgian government with paranoia over Ivanishvili after it stripped the billionaire of his Georgian citizenship and impounded cash meant for his Georgia-based bank. But few expected the many accusations against the eccentric businessman to move into the realm of the supernatural.
There’s a presidential election in Kyrgyzstan in a few days, but with winter approaching, the troubled energy sector is in the back of many Kyrgyz minds. Some are worrying about a “catastrophic breakdown.” A transparency initiative, though, is generating hope that the troubled energy sector can be reformed.
Azerbaijan is hearing a diplomatic growl from across its southern border, which was recently violated by a lone Iranian border guard. The breach cost 20-year-old Akber Hasanpour his life and resulted in an exchange that once more laid bare the repressed antagonism between Baku and Tehran.
The Iranian authorities have fired a protest note to Baku and demanded an explanation from the Azerbaijani ambassador in Tehran. Iranian officials said that Azerbaijani border police violated international norms and agreements between the two countries by pursuing and shooting to death the unarmed Hasanpour.
After inadvertently crossing into Azerbaijani territory on October 19, the young man refused to surrender to Azerbaijani border guards, Azerbaijani news services reported. In a claim that Tehran finds hard to digest, the Azerbaijani side says that he then attacked a large detail of Azerbaijani border guards and was fired on in response. The Iranian died of his wounds in hospital. His body was handed over to Iran yesterday.
In a society where people love nothing more than a freewheeling, hours-long chat with friends, the trend seems anomalous. Statistics indicate gregarious Georgians are turning to Facebook for news and information.
Imomali Rahmon, Tajikistan’s president, celebrated his 59th birthday in a most unusual manner. On October 5, appearing on national television and sporting a hard hat, he got behind the wheel of an excavator and launched the construction phase of what is projected to be the largest mosque in the former Soviet Union.
When Uzbek émigrés created a new opposition group last May in Berlin called the Popular Movement of Uzbekistan (PMU), they hoped it would mark the start of a process that replicated the experiences in North Africa and the Middle East and bring Uzbek leader Islam Karimov’s 22-year rule to an end.
Dmitry Medvedev’s and Vladimir Putin’s apparently amicable decision to swap jobs is being touted by the Kremlin as a way to ensure Russia’s stability. Yet if Russia’s historical tradition is any guide, changing places is a move fraught with uncertainty.