Dannon: “In Soviet Georgia…”

From 1973 to 1978, the Dannon yogurt company ran a series of successful commercials featuring centenarians from “Soviet Georgia“. Here is a transcript of one of the TV commercials (with captions in brackets):

In Soviet Georgia, there are two curious things about the people [Tarkuk Lasuria, age 96]: a large part of their diet is yogurt [Temur Vanacha, age 105], and a large number of them live past 100. Of course, many things affect longevity [Kasteh Tanya, age 101], and we’re not saying Dannon yogurt will help you live longer. But Dannon is a natural, wholesome food that does supply many nutrients [Shadat Marcholia, age 103]. By the way, 89-year-old Bagrat Tabagua liked Dannon so much, he ate two cups. That pleased his mother very much.

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Tangerines (2013 Georgian-Estonian film)

Tangerines (Georgian: მანდარინები; Estonian: Mandariinid; Russian: Мандарины) is a 2013 film co-produced in Georgia and Estonia. Directed by Zaza Urushadze, the film deals with the 1992-1993 War in Abkhazia. It does so, however, from an unusual perspective, namely, that of an Estonian living in Abkhazia. Tangerines was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2015 Academy Awards, but it lost to the Polish film Ida.

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Sergei Parajanov

Sergei Parajanov (1924-1990) was a Transcaucasian Soviet film director. He is best known for four weird art films: Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964), The Color of Pomegranates (1968), The Legend of the Surami Fortress (1984), and Ashik Kerib (1988). These movies are remarkable for their distinctive tableaux-style cinematography and their controversial use of ethnic and national symbols and imagery. For both of these, as well as for generally being an oddball and troublemaker, Parajanov was persecuted by Soviet officials and spent several years in prison.

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Flags of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, etc

Here are some flags from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and associated places in the South Caucasus. I won’t go into the details of the symbolism because I don’t care — white symbolizes purity or loyalty or something, red symbolizes blood spilled, blah blah blah, whatever. I’ll just list the flags along with historical remarks.

Note to readers: This will be a dry, picture-heavy post, but there will be a couple of decent jokes, so it is recommended that you read the whole thing.

  • Georgia

Georgia‘s current flag consists of a red St. George cross on a white background (like the flag of England) with a red Bolnisi cross on each of the four white patches.

georgian flag design

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South Caucasus: Transcaucasia

The South Caucasus, consisting of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, used to be known as Transcaucasia. The word “Transcaucasia” was coined as a translation of the Russian Zakavkazie (Закавказье), meaning “the far side of the Caucasus”. Far from what, you ask? From Russia, of course. From about 1800 until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the South Caucasus was dominated by Russians, and “Transcaucasia” connotes that time period and that domination.

So if neutrality is desired in nomenclature, then clearly “Transcaucasia” should be abandoned in favor of “South Caucasus”.*** But the biased term is not all bad, for it also carries with it the memory of a South Caucasus far more ethnically mixed than it is today. It even recalls a brief time when the South Caucasus was independent and politically united.

transcaucasian sfsr

Transcaucasia in early Soviet times

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Azeri (Turkish)

Azeri is a language spoken in Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, and Georgia. It is closely related to Turkish, and Turks and Azeris can generally understand each other without special accommodation. Indeed, there are dialects of Turkish spoken in eastern Anatolia that are closer to Azeri than they are to standard Istanbul Turkish. So it would not be amiss to say that Azeri is a dialect of Turkish. We might even go so far as to simply identify Azeri with Turkish. This is done in Iran, the northern part of which is home to more than half of the world’s Azeri speakers.

azeri iran

Iranian Azeris protesting for language rights (I think)

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Georgia’s North Caucasian Territories, 1944-1957

Georgia used to possess two regions in the North Caucasus. The “used to” part is no surprise. There are quite a few territories that were once controlled by Georgia but no longer are. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are the obvious ones, but there is also Sochi (Russia), Lori (Armenia), Saingilo (Azerbaijan), and Tao and Klarjeti (Turkey). What’s remarkable about these North Caucasian territories is just how Georgia came into possession of them. The story, which involves considerable human misery, goes back to World War Two.

georgian ssr 1944-1957 north caucasus

Note the two large protrusions along Georgia’s top edge.

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