By David Mdzinarishvili
One morning last week, as I was looking for general shots of the Azeri oil industry, the oil worker walking with me suddenly stopped, and looked out admiringly at the nodding oil pumps silhouetted by the rising sun over the Caspian. He turned to me and said proudly, “This is Azerbaijan!”
Commercial oil production has a long history in Azerbaijan, a country of 9 million at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Starting with European prospectors in the 19th century, the industry became a major part of the soviet economic model and a strategic goal to be protected at all costs. With the fall of the Soviet Union production faltered as Azerbaijan struggled with its independence, but soon investment returned, new reserves were tapped and the oil has started to flow again.
ZEMO ALVANI, Georgia (Reuters) – Residents of a mountainous village in the former Soviet republic of Georgia reinstated a monument to dictator Josef Stalin on Friday to mark the 133rd birthday anniversary of their famous compatriot.
Some 30 residents of the village of Zemo Alvani, 200 kilometers (124 miles) north-east of the capital Tbilisi, gathered to witness the unveiling of the three-meter-high stone statue of Stalin.
TBILISI (Reuters) – The personal photographer of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and three other photojournalists were arrested on Thursday and accused of spying for a foreign country.
The arrests appeared to fall under what Georgia’s powerful Interior Ministry says is an effort to root out Russian spy networks since the two countries fought a brief war in August 2008 over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Every year on Orthodox Easter, traffic is blocked for hours on the main highway in Western Georgia to allow the men of Shukhuti village to battle for a 16-kilogram (35 pounds) leather ball, stuffed tight with sawdust, soil and topped with red wine.
Villagers from upper and lower Shukhuti gather under an old tree in front of the abandoned building, formerly the House of Culture during Soviet times. Divided into two teams, they face each other and trade cries, egging themselves on. Father Saba, the local Orthodox priest, carries the ball surrounded by his helpers like bodyguards to throw the ball into the crowd. Lelo has begun.