Back in Tbilisi

We’re back after a happily uneventful, if hot and a bit long, drive from Yerevan. Went past one of the air bases that was bombed, and saw what looked like a burned field, but otherwise no damage visible from the public road.

The city itself is more difficult to judge, and I’ve been too preoccupied with personal things to manage to do anything like a general taking stock. Quick impressions: lots of visible police, some with submachineguns prominently held; traffic seemed lighter, but then again it’s mid-August; jets flying by at odd hours in the afternoon. Our corner grocery didn’t have any Parmalat milk; on the other hand, it did have pizza kits. Even under regular circumstances, consistency is not the strong point of the Georgian market. (Winter promises to be more interesting than I really wanted.) Our local swingin hotspot is swingin again, after a couple of very quiet days last week.

Down the street, work seems to be getting close to finished on a small office building. There was a night watchman, and a lot of leftover material was piled at the front so as to block the entrances that are still open. Is this a regular precaution, or are the builders worried about refugee squatters? There are said to be 60,000 refugees in and around the city, and lurid rumors about their attempts to occupy houses and other buildings. Lurid rumors are, in fact, something of a general commodity. Makes me more than usually skeptical.

The default screen on several ATMs that I saw was an appeal for donations to help people from the zones of conflict. A local mobile company was a major vector of organization for the patriotic rallies of this last week. Political mobilization in the 21st century.

We’re glad to be here.

Update: Forgot to mention: There’s a pretty widespread assumption among the internationals that a fair number of phone lines are, shall we say, shared. The three candidates for listening in can be transparently called the Hosts, the Neighbors and the Friends.

This entry was posted in Life, Minorities and integration, Political issues, Transition and accession by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

7 thoughts on “Back in Tbilisi

  1. Now there are some reports that the death toll from the fighting was far less than originally thought. The claims of 2,000 civilians massacred in South Ossetia, lurid as they may sound, are probably exaggerated to a major degree if not entirely false.

  2. Yes, and this was clear from the beginning. The first time I saw it, the claim of 1400 or 1500 dead was not only attributed to South Ossetian officials (in itself grounds for skepticism) but accompanied by a tally of 90 wounded. It would have been the first time in the history of warfare, I think, that dead outnumbered wounded by a factor of 17 or more. Unfortunately, the international press exercised zero skepticism regarding that tall tale.

  3. I could never understand why anyone would believe the 2,000 figure. That would mean 10,000 wounded by some scales… which Russia Today would have dutifully showed to the world if they existed.

    btw Doug, can I drop you a mail, I will be in Tbilisi next month..? Can’t find your email.

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