>Georgia on my mind: a bleaching revolution in progress?


As BBC4 screens Paul Devlin’s superb 2003 documentary Power Trip about efforts of the American energy company AES to bring some semblance of commercial logic to power generation in Georgia amid the corruption and unrest of the last days of the Schevardnaze, era, history seems to repeat. Another Georgian one-time reformer and darling of the West, President Saakashvili declares a state of emergency in the face of persistent opposition demonstrations, which he sees a coup in the making and the police deal with violently. In Devlin’s film the AES people try hard but basically get nowhere – well connected oligarchs and Mafiosi get power for free; ordinary people get power cuts, but routinely steal electricity by bypassing meters; and leading journalists who report the country’s murky criminalized politics-cum-business get shot. In the end Western turbo-capitalism and post-Soviet mafia kapitalizm inadvertently combine and they leave the country in the wake of the Enron scandal and sell up to a Russian state-owned energy giant. Saakashvili, it seems, is being sucked down by the same vortex, failing to deliver to enough people quickly enough economically, unable to root our corruption and, no doubt, tempted to use the same mix of corrupt clientelism and authoritarian methods that tarnished Schevardnaze, reputation as a star reformer, architect of Gorbachev’s new thinking in foreign policy and man of Cromwellian rectitude when he was party boss there in the late Soviet era. And, of course, there are the neighbours, or perhaps I should say the Neighbour, Putin’s Russia with the EU perilously far away and far out of sight.

Various media report that Saakashvili has called early elections in January. Without falling too much for the conspiratorial notions that politics in the post-communist region(s) is always choreographed from abroad, are we seeing the unfolding mechanism of a sort of anti-coloured (bleaching?) revolution?

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