Giorgi Lomsadze's great Eurasianet story about Georgia's attempts to obtain trademark protection for khachapuri, "the cheese-filled Georgian pastry that has a lip-smacking fan base throughout the former Soviet Union," is not the first such effort in the region.
A few years back, the kebab makers of Adana, a city on the southern Turkish coast known for its, well, kebab, managed to obtain the trademark for "Adana Kebab" and have the name listed with the Turkish patent office. They also managed to have their city's famous export be given geographical protection in Turkey, much like only sparkling wine from Champagne can be called "Champagne" (although based on the thousands of kebab stands and grill houses in Istanbul serving Adana kebab, it would appear that enforcing the designation is a bit tough.) The Adana Chamber of Commerce, even has a whole section on its website devoted to explaining the city's kebab laws, with even a list of "certified" Adana kebab makers.
Meanwhile, the ongoing political battle between Greek Cyprus and Turkey has, in recent years, spilled over into the culinary realm, with the two countries arguing about which was the one to invent baklava. You can read about the sticky situation, yet another one of Cyprus's unresolved issues, here.
Ciya Sofrasi in Istanbul, where keme (the "Mesopotamian Truffle") is now being served
Via Istanbul Eats, a post about the springtime return of keme, AKA "The Mesopotamian Truffle." From IE's post:
Impossible to cultivate and with a season that spans only a few weeks, this specialty of southeast Turkey is worth seeking out, with a taste that's like an earthy cross between a Portobello mushroom and a very delicate potato. Last year, we got our keme fix at Kadikoy's excellent Çiya Sofrası, where it is grilled on a skewer and served like a kebab (as well as incorporated into several other dishes).
In this morning's edition of the English-language Today's Zaman, though, we learned about another place in Istanbul that also serves keme, Kübban Gaziantep Mutfağı. We're not familiar with this place, but the article (you can find it here) makes it sound very promising.
The good news? The article -- at least in the print edition -- gives an address. The bad news? It's all the way out in Güneşli, a neighborhood on the western outskirts of Istanbul.
A new education program has been developed by various Georgian government ministries, including the Ministry of Defense, which appears to envisage teaching adults weapons skills and children "the history of the Georgian Army and advanced combat equipment":
The new education program covers such crucial topics as civil defence, road security, first medical aid, history and armament of the Georgian army. “We consider this program very important, as young people are required to know the elementary security regulations. This program envisages acquiring the given rules. Adults also should know the basic rules of road safety, first medical aid and usage of weaponry. It should be noted as well, that thanks to this program the school pupils will have the possibility to get familiar with the history of the Georgian army and advanced combat equipment”, declared Mr. Bacho Akhalaia.
According to the Education Minister, the civil defence and security classes will be introduced in every school since 2010. "From today, the new pilot project will be launched in 15 schools. This subject will be taught in three stages. Now, you are here to attend the presentation of the third part of the program, titled as “Review of the Georgian Army’s History and Armament".
Iran has announced that it is launching its first destroyer in the Caspian Sea. Although the reports have thus far not been very detailed, this would presumably be the newly developed Jamaran class of ship, which Iran first launched in the Persian Gulf earlier this year. That Iran would be deploying its new, advanced destroyer in the Caspian would seem to contradict Tehran's earlier pledges to not militarize the Caspian. For example, the commander of Iran's navy said this in 2007:
The commander further voiced opposition to the expansion of military capabilities in the Caspian Sea, saying, "We view the Caspian as a sea of peace and friendship and we believe upgrading and expanding military equipment in this sea is incorrect. Yet, we are always prepared to defend the country's interests."
What might Iran see as a threat in the Caspian? The U.S. is helping (to varying degrees) Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan build up their respective Caspian navies. And Russia's is still the most formidable navy in the sea. People who like to speculate on possible Caspian military conflicts usually point to Iran, specifically an incident in 2001 when an Iranian warship threatened an Azerbaijani oil research vessel.
This is especially interesting in light of a report by Jamestown from last week that suggests that Russia is moving in the other direction -- from opposing full demilitarization of the Caspian to supporting it:
Georgia's speaker of parliament visited Georgian troops in Afghanistan and says that Georgia's military presence in that country is "protection" against Russia. From Rustavi 2 (via BBC Monitoring):
"Our soldiers' service there provides us with certain protection from Russia using Georgia's connection with terrorism as a pretext," Bakradze said. "The main goal of our servicemen there is the protection of Georgia's interests," he added, and recalled the recent blasts in the Moscow underground, stressing that there was an attempt to track the Georgian trace in them, which Russia could use as a pretext to resort to yet another "aggression" against Georgia.
"Therefore, it is very important to make sure that such accusations find no foundation and support in the international community, and the main argument by all our friends against Russia when it started linking Georgians to terrorism, the main argument was that Georgia is part of the anti-terrorism operation in Afghanistan, and fights against Taliban in Afghanistan," he said.
This seems so naive that I can't believe that either he would say it or, given that it was probably for domestic consumption, that any Georgian listening would believe it. But maybe I'm missing something. Any ideas?
Under the headline "A Kyrgyz interim leader says US base unjustified," the Associated Press has a story suggesting that the U.S.'s air base in Kyrgyzstan, Manas, may be imperiled:
Azymbek Beknazarov — a deputy head of the interim government that came to power last week after a bloody uprising — told the AP that Washington compromised its position on promoting democracy in Kyrgyzstan so as not to put the strategic Manas transit center under threat of closure.
"All the Americans care about is that the military base stays," Beknazarov said. "They forgot about freedom, about democratic values. They forgot about Kyrgyzstan — they are only looking at their military base."
"In my opinion, the Manas center's presence is not justified," he said.
Now, it's hard to know what to make of that. The whole import of his quote turns on one word: "unjustified," which isn't really the clearest word you might use. In addition, we don't know much about the context of the quote, or his role in the government. Still, suggests that perhaps there is at least some internal debate among the leaders of Kyrgyzstan about what to do with Manas.
When a crisis erupts in some previously obscure part of the world, we typically see a profusion of instant "experts" in the media to help "analyze" the situation with frequently banal, and occasionally hilarious, results.
Bob Brown is a former state Senate leader from Montana, who made a trip in the mid-1990s to Kyrgyzstan, and he gives the readers of northwest Montana's Daily Inter Lake his take on the situation in Kyrgyzstan and with the Manas Air Base:
“I think the Russians are pretty enthusiastic about what is going on in Kyrgyzstan, and there is pretty good evidence they’re behind a lot of this stuff,” he said.
He suspects that the Kyrgyz people “are not sophisticated enough” to operate the base and that Russia would jump at the chance to take control of Manas.
Interesting this defense of nepotism should come as Central Asian leaders are on edge following the unrest in Bishkek, which was caused in large part by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's relentless nepotism and corruption.
The head of the Strategic Research Center under the Tajik President, Suhrob Sharipov, said President Emomali Rahmon has the right to appoint relatives to senior posts if they have the qualifications, Asia-Plus reported on April 15.
"Family links have always been used and will be used in Tajikistan. We have such a mentality that relatives try to be close to each other. Family links will always be used in our country by everyone no matter who is in power."
Sharipov said the reason nepotism isn't so prevalent in western democracies is because of "demographic problems," as Asia-Plus put it, and because families often live scattered apart.
He does get one thing right, which should give President Rahmon some pause:
"When Askar Akayev was Kyrgyz president, he was accused of appointing his relatives to high state posts and was ousted because of this. Today Kyrgyzstan's opposition is accusing Kurmanbek Bakiyev of giving high posts to his relatives, but Bakiyev's supporters made similar accusations against Askar Akayev in 2005. Now, heads of the Kyrgyz interim government have also started giving high state posts to their relatives and friends."
Several children of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon occupy high-level posts. His 23-year-old son Rustam Emomali is lately enjoying a meteoric rise in politics and is widely considered a possible successor.
As we've discussed here before, the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan is likely to stay, but the terms might change. Kyrgyzstan's new government has said it wants to review the terms, but the U.S. might be doing the same. Reports the Washington Post:
A House panel conducting a preliminary investigation into U.S. contracting in Afghanistanhas turned its focus on what its chairman called Tuesday the "unexplained relationships" between the families of two Kyrgyzstan presidents and fuel supplies to a key U.S. air base there.
"Two overthrows of the government there have been linked to corrupt dealings at Manas air base," said Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), chairman of the national security subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "That's what we are looking into."
Should be juicy stuff. Will try to keep you posted...
"The Russian embassy in Kyrgyzstan is extremely concerned over reports lately from Russian citizens and ethnic Russians [with Kyrgyz citizenship] in regard to particular forces attempting to intensify the interethnic situation in the country," the Russian embassy statement said. The diplomat said people express concerns over "just walking down the streets."
I've been a skeptic of the alarmist reports that Russia is somehow scheming nefariously to gain control over Kyrgyzstan, but Georgians will tell you, recalling the situations in Abkhazia and South Osssetia, if Russia starts handing out passports, then start to worry...