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This week’s front page editor


Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

From the 2008 Georgia/Russian war to the "rose revolution" of 2003, with contested elections in Azerbaijan and the continued trauma of Chechnya, openDemocracy writers trace the roots of turmoil.

Северный Кавказ: декоративные депутаты

На Северном Кавказе депутаты - это декорация. На местах в своих интересах работают князьки – клановые наместники глав республик. Это противоречит Конституции, но за тех, кто пытается выступать в защиту закона, не вступается и ФСБ.

Azerbaijan: a dual offensive

Azerbaijan’s strategy over the disputed, Armenian-held territory of Karabakh is also aimed at eliminating domestic opposition. But the country's rising troubles make this a self-defeating strategy.

An Armenian perspective on Khojali

Many civilians were killed in the war between the newly independent states of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. But the disputed period raises larger questions of common suffering, says Gerard Libaridian, adviser to Armenia's president at the time, who reflects on one incident that casts a long shadow.

Georgia and migration: a policy trap

Europe's politics of migration control are being exported to Georgia with potentially dangerous results, says Gavin Slade.

Abkhazia: recognising the ruins

The conflict in Abkhazia has devastated the landscape. Tourism could be encouraged by restoring some of the old buildings, now in ruins, but ownership is often unclear, so they remain a stark reminder of the desperate need to rebuild the economy, while preserving the architectural legacy, says Maxim Edwards

Armenia's election message

A flawed presidential vote that confirms the incumbent in power also exposes anew the dysfunction of democracy in post-Soviet states, says Krzysztof Bobinski

Bidzina Ivanishvili and the new-old Georgia

The election victory of Bidzina Ivanishvili has reconfigured Georgia's political landscape, dominated by Mikheil Saakashvili since the "Rose Revolution" of 2003. But there are already concerns over what the billionaire leader is doing with his power, says Donald Rayfield.

Georgia's election: lesson and prospect

The first constitutional transfer of power in Tbilisi has implications for an assessment of the immediate past as well as for the future, says Ghia Nodia.

Georgia: from roses to ashes

The eve of an election is usually a moment to predict which side might win. But as interesting with regard to Georgia's vote on 1 October 2012 may be to suggest who might lose, says Nino Nanava.

Georgia: politics of punishment

Behind Georgia's prison-abuse scandal lies a large-scale, self-funding penal system whose effects - not least psychological - pervade the society, says Gavin Slade.

Georgia's prisons: roots of scandal

The exposure of violent abuse in the Georgian prison system has shocked its people and rocked the government of Mikheil Saakashvili. The intense focus on zero-tolerance and mass incarceration in the criminal-justice system is a key to understanding why it happened, says Gavin Slade.

The shepherds of Sevukh

The Avars are an ancient people living in the mountains of Dagestan (North Caucasus). Many of them are shepherds. The blandishments of modern life are encroaching on their centuries-old way of life, but they have no chance of doing anything else, even military service. Marina Akhmedova spent some time with them and tells their stories

Does Abkhazia need a foreign policy makeover?

Abkhazia's limited international recognition has so far only made it more dependent on Russia. Sufian Zhemukhov considers how the Abkhazians might develop their status in the international context.

Natalya Estemirova – murdered, not forgotten

Three years ago the indomitable Natalya Estemirova was murdered in Chechnya. Her killers remain at large, and arbitrary executions of oppositional figures have remained a tool of power across the North Caucasus. Here, Tatyana Lokshina, Alexander Cherkasov and Igor Kalyapin, three of Russia’s leading human rights defenders review a deteriorating situation, and how address it

Abkhazia, from conflict to statehood

A bitter post-Soviet war in 1992-93 saw the Black Sea territory of Abkhazia resist invasion from Georgia and establish an independent statehood. But amid non-recognition from all but a handful of countries, and persistent hostility from Georgia, the young republic has faced many challenges in the subsequent two decades. The leading scholar of Abkhazia and advocate of its case, George Hewitt, presents an overview of these twenty years and outlines a scenario for the future.

Turkey and the Armenians: politics of history

A new generation's encounter with the Armenian genocide of 1915 is producing fresh understandings of Turkey's - and the middle east's - modern history, finds Vicken Cheterian.

Democracy in Abkhazia: a testing year

An eventful political period in the Black Sea republic of Abkhazia that began in 2011 with the premature death of its president, Sergej Bagapsh, continued with the election of - then a murky assassination attempt on - his successor, Aleksandr Ankvab. The ensuing challenges make the integrity of the country’s institutions and processes even more important, says George Hewitt.

Georgia: the next evolution

The direction of Georgia's domestic politics and international orientation has been much disputed since the "rose revolution" of 2003. The former senior diplomat Tedo Japaridze argues that, in order to realise the democratic promise of that revolution and to become a reliable partner to its allies, Georgia now needs a peaceful transfer of power.

Georgia: from diplomacy to politics

A veteran Georgian diplomat has chosen to enter his country's disputatious political arena. A hard decision that had to be made, says Tedo Japaridze.

Armenia-Turkey: the end of rapprochement

A diplomatic process designed to normalise relations between Armenia and Turkey led to the signing of two protocols in 2009. Its failure is rooted in the miscalculations of both sides, says Vicken Cheterian.

Abkhazia's archive: fire of war, ashes of history

The documented history of the cosmopolitan Black Sea territory of Abkhazia was destroyed in war on 22 October 1992. Its Greek archivist Nikolai Ioannidi devoted the rest of his life to restoring and conserving what remains, reports Thomas de Waal.

(This article was first published on 20 October 2006)

Europe’s Armenian policy: the cost of indulgence

The story of a powerful and ambitious Armenian oligarch is also a case-study in the flaws of European Union policy in the small Caucasian republic, says Armen Haykyan.

Abkhazia: presidential election, political future

The Black Sea republic of Abkhazia has elected its third president since securing effective independence from Georgia in 1993. The tiny country faces economic and social difficulties, in part deriving from its lack of international recognition. But its democratic experience deserves more attention and respect than much of the world seems prepared to give, says George Hewitt in the capital, Sukhum.

Azerbaijani demolitions: an update

The authorities’ destruction of a building and precious archive of human-rights workers in Baku is an act of mindless cruelty that damages Azerbaijan itself, says Thomas de Waal.

Georgian democracy: three rows and a lesson

A divisive period in Georgian politics has pitted a range of forces - the opposition, the Orthodox church, the media, and civil society - against Mikheil Saakashvili’s government. The disputes carry important messages for the future of democracy in the country, says Ghia Nodia.

Azerbaijan: speed without system

The authorities in Baku seem intent on building a new Dubai on the Caspian. But there is a dark side to the boom in Azerbaijan’s capital, finds Thomas de Waal.

Georgians from Abkhazia: beyond limbo

Many Georgians displaced by the Abkhazia war of 1992-93 now live in rudimentary centres around the country. They face great difficulties in building their lives. But a survey of their views and aspirations contains some surprises, says Magdalena Frichova Grono.

Abkhazia and the promises of princes

The success of self-determination efforts in Kosovo and now South Sudan heightens the aspirations to statehood of small Eurasian territories such as Abkhazia. But with the status of this Black Sea entity trapped in a geopolitical limbo, Abkhaz and Georgians will need more than the patronage of the powerful to solve their conflict, says Magdalena Frichova Grono.

Georgia at a crossroads: after the post-war

In Tbilisi, memories of the bitter conflict with Russia in August 2008 are fresh, but everywhere too are signs that forces of change are pushing Georgia in new directions. Jonathan Wheatley takes the measure of a fluid political moment.

The Armenia-Turkey protocols: a year on

The process of dialogue between neighbours locked in an enduring dispute over the events of 1915 is already in trouble. But in assessing what has gone wrong, Vicken Cheterian sees history still on the move.

Tricky business in Abkhazia

Since Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia in 2008, Russian money has been pouring in. But when it comes to doing business there, Russians can find themselves coming badly unstuck, as one investor from the Urals found. Anton Katin reports

Georgia’s mafia: the politics of survival

A prominent feature of Georgian life both before and after the Soviet period has been the influence of a powerful criminal network, the “thieves-in-law”. Its rise and endurance is closely linked to the changing character of the Georgian state, says Gavin Slade.

The guns of August: two years later

The bitter conflict over South Ossetia in August 2008 has turned to post-war stalemate. But just as the war and the current impasse involve more than Georgia and Russia, says Rein Müllerson, so progress in the region and beyond requires bold diplomatic thinking on all sides.

Abkhazia: two years of independence

The small Black Sea republic of Abkhazia, already free of Georgia’s control since the war of 1992-93, emerged more secure from the Georgia-Russia war of August 2008. But if the “dreadful” years of its modern history have ended, the young state is now living through “difficult” times. George Hewitt, in Sukhum, reports and reflects.

Sakartvelo: a political prospect

The two years since the war of August 2008 have been tough for Georgia. But in domestic politics and foreign relations alike the country has achieved more than once seemed possible, says Alexander Rondeli.
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