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RUSSIA: Georgia then and now

Georgia is a mess. When I was there in Soviet times it was a happy place. I wondered if there were any nostalgia for the Soviet period. From Moscow, Cameron Sawyer writes: "I was just in Georgia last month and vicariously experienced the "Revolution of Flowers" through a childhood friend who is presently on a Fulbright in Tbilisi (see the blog maintained by him and his wife at for a very trenchant analysis of the situation there).

I have not heard that there is any particular nostalgia for Soviet times -- Georgians seem to value their independence from Russia, with which Georgia has had a fairly rocky relationship over Abkhazia, where Russia has apparently intentionally incited rebellion and destabilization.

But the post-Soviet Georgian economy is a complete failure -- crime and foreign aid (in the words of my friend) seem to be the only sources of wealth. Everyone not living off one of those is basically in a subsistence economy. People I know are not at all optimistic that the new regime will be able to change anything -- the habits of theft and abuse of power are deeply ingrained, and the new leaders have their own friends and families who would like to be on the gravy train. This is the typical banana republic syndrome.

I hope I'm wrong, because Georgia is an extraordinarily charming country, and place of ancient traditions and extraordinary hospitality and courtesy. There is no better place in the world to spend an evening (even now). One would wish that such a country could prosper".

Ronald Hilton - 11.30.03