Joseph Alexander Smith

Freelance Multimedia Journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia

Insider's guide to Tbilisi: protests, free wine and salted fish

Arriving at Tbilisi International Airport in tourist season, surprised visitors are handed a bottle of local wine at passport control and are greeted with billboards welcoming them to Tbilisi: “The city that loves you.” Stroll down the city’s main thoroughfare Rustaveli Avenue on any given evening and you’ll come across groups of young musicians busking. Rock music is the order of the day, but you will occasionally hear groups of teenagers playing the phanduri (a traditional string instrument),

Sustaining bio-diversity a top priority for Caucasus Nature Fund

The Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF) is a conservation trust fund that was created to protect the Caucasus eco-region, one of the most biologically rich and diverse areas on the planet. Specifically, the organisation provides financial and management assistance to the protected areas located in the South Caucasus, which include the protected areas found in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Additionally, CNF functions as a capacity-building body that aims to help sustain the ecological marvels of the p

საქართველოზე შეყვარებული ჯოზეფი

თბილისის სასწავლო უნივერსიტეტში ჟურნალისტიკის ფაკულტეტის სტუდენტებს, შეხვდა ახლგაზრდა ბრიტანელი ჟურნალისტი – ჯოზეფ ალექსანდერ სმიტი. ჯოზეფი უკვე სამი წელია, რაც საქართველოში ცხოვრობს და გამართულად საუბრობს ქართულად (ფლობს არაბულ ენასაც) და როგორც აღნიშნა, საქართველოში დარჩენასაც აპირებს.

The human cost of the Tbilisi floods: 'The truth is, I'd really lost all hope'

While viewers around the world were entranced by TV images of wild animals wandering free in the streets of Tbilisi, residents of the Georgian capital faced up to the human and material cost of the floods that hit on 13 June. The flooding, which left 19 people dead and caused damage put at $50 million (£32m), was the biggest natural disaster to befall the city in living memory. With the painful and slow cleanup operation still ongoing, Tbilisi’s residents are now asking whether this disaster wa

Lone Ranger-Georgia’s Only Female Park Ranger

Patience, charm and a good sense of humour are all desirable qualities in a park ranger. Luckily, Salome Idoidze, 23—Georgia’s only female ranger serving in Tusheti National Park high in the Caucasus mountains—has all these qualities in abundance. When we meet, Salome leafs through a pile of photographs of her riding a horse against a backdrop of dramatic mountain scenery. “Last time I was in Tbilisi I saw an old leather horse whip I wanted to buy at Dry Bridge flea-market” she says grinning. “The guy wouldn’t sell it to me though, saying he didn’t believe I had a horse and that I was probably a sado-masochist! I brought these photos to show him so he’d sell me the whip” she adds, gurgling with laughter.

Golden Handshake

After a Soviet edict in the 1950s, Tblisi's State Academy of the Arts faced closure, but thanks to a delegation of Georgian artists who travelled to Moscow, Khrushchev agreed to reprieve it. Built as a palace for an Armenian merchant some 90 years before, this dizzying blend of Russian Neoclassical architecture and Persian decoration symbolised the capital's ethnic diversity. But now it's in jeopardy again, finds Joseph Alexander Smith. Photography: Ricardo Labougle

Abkhazia rejects claims it is being annexed by Russia

Abkhaz Deputy Foreign Minister Kan Taniya tells commonspace.eu the new treaty with Russia has nothing to do with annexation. On November 24th this year, Abkhazia signed a "Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership" with the Russian Federation, which further bolstered the already solid relationship between them. The treaty's announcement drew international criticism particularly from Georgia's European partners wary of a repetition of this year's crisis in Crimea, and brought thousands of demonstrators onto the streets of Tbilisi to protest against the "annexation" of Abkhazia by the Kremlin. The treaty envisions the creation of joint command structures for security forces and law enforcement agencies, the extension of some social benefits to Abkhazia and a coordinated foreign policy shared by Moscow and Sukhumi.

Biodiversity: A bird’s-eye view

CNF’s partner Nacres is currently developing and testing a drone device which will be used to monitor bio-diversity in Georgia’s Borjomi-Kharagauli national park. The custom-built device is currently being developed by a technology firm in Tbilisi, as part of a project co-funded by CNF and the GEF Small Grants Pogramme implemented by UNDP in Georgia. Although unmanned drone craft are more famously used to collect military intelligence, their ability to collect data over large areas of sometimes

On the Front Line of Nature Protection: Borjomi-Kharagauli’s Longest-Serving Ranger

In the chaos and economic collapse of post-Soviet Georgia, the country’s natural riches were seen by many as a resource to be plundered, rather than to be preserved. The last decade, however, has seen intensified efforts to protect the country’s unique ecosystems and biodiversity in a way that is both effective and sustainable. Standing on the front line of nature-protection in Georgia is an army of rangers that act as the eyes, ears, hands and feet of Georgia’s Agency for Protected Areas acros

Georgian LGBT Organisation Requests ‘Hate Crime’ Label for Brutal Murder · Global Voices

In a statement released today on their website, Georgian LGBT rights group Identoba have called on the authorities to investigate the alleged murder of a transgender woman as a hate crime. Police discovered the body of 25 year-old salon worker, Beqa B. (known to friends as Sabi), in a burnt-out apartment in central Tbilisi on Monday night and are investigating the case as one of ‘pre-meditated murder'. The statement from Identoba, an organisation on the forefront of LGBT activism in Georgia, re

Georgian Social Media Users Make Light of Political Power Struggle · Global Voices

In the wake of a power struggle which has split the country's ruling coalition, Georgian social media users have been seeing the lighter side of the political situation, churning out satire in real time as events develop. The crisis began on November 4, when the Minister of Defence, Irakli Alasania was sacked by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili. Alasania’s ministry, which has cooperated closely with NATO and EU allies and has sent troops to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic,

Residents of Tbilisi, Georgia Are Out to Reclaim the Sidewalks From Selfish Drivers · Global Voices

Residents of the Georgian capital Tbilisi have been waging an online campaign to rid their sidewalks of cars, in response to worsening pedestrian conditions in the city. In a recent blog-post, Transparency International Georgia summed up the problem in the city thus: One will often come across a situation in Tbilisi where it is virtually impossible to walk on the city’s sidewalks because of the cars parked there. While this situation makes walking in Tbilisi inconvenient for everyone, it creat

Is this Georgia's eurosceptic moment?

Weeks away from signing an historic association agreement with the EU, on the eve of local elections, Georgian voters may well mimic the EU's recent eurosceptic turn at the polls. Nana shifts uncomfortably in the sweltering heat. "Why do we need Europe?" she asks. "Morality is more important than money. We have nothing to learn from Europe." Behind her, a large banner reads "homosexuality is a sin and a pathology". An amplified speech delivered from the steps of the old parliament building on Tbilisi's central Rustaveli Avenue decries the "perversion" and "propagandism" of gay-friendly European states.

Closure of Iconic Soviet-Era Swimming Pool Raises Concerns for Sports in Georgia

Counting on her fingers, swimming coach Ninka Gelashvili reels off an impressively long list of public swimming pools in the Soviet-era Tbilisi of her childhood: “There was the S.K.A. pool in Vake for the army, next to it the Karishkhala pool where people trained for water polo. there was the huge pool in Ortachala where I learnt to swim when I was fourwe got free entry because my dad’s friend ran it. When I heard t