Thursday, 14 April 2016

‘Non-Tourist’ Sites in Georgia

Molokane and Dukhobortsy found by journalist.

About March 2016 the Russian newspaper Kosomolskaya Pravda, sent staff journalist Sergey Ponomarev on a ‘special project’ assignment — fly from Moscow to Tbilisi, Georgia, and report about the sites and people that tourists rarely or never see.

He visited 22 mapped places (below) and several side-stops, reported in two parts online with photos and video. 100s of readers commented, and he replied to many.

On his agenda were Molokane and Dukhobortsy (Doukhobors). When he met a Russian woman vendor named Potapova in Tbilisi, he first asked if her family arrived with Molokane or Dukhobory. She replied, no, my grandfather came here in the 1930s from Tambov, followed by all Potapovs from our village. (Русским здесь не доверяют? (Russians are not trusted here?), Part 1.)

Click map to ENLARGE.
His report posted April 5 got 50 comments, though editors dated the story the next day, on April 6, 2016 as : Путешествие по «нетуристической» стране: Расцвела под евросолнцем Грузия моя? [Traveling in ‘non-tourist’ country: Flourish in the European sun, my Georgia?]. The story title is a play on the title of the popular Soviet era song: Расцветай под солнцем Грузия моя (Flourish in the sun, my Georgia).

Ponomarev apparently prepared for his tour, and set an agenda to follow a route which covered most of the country. He rented an apartment in Tbilisi, and carried his video camera around town interviewing in Russian with anyone who spoke Russian. Then he traveled to the eastern edge of the country where he sought Molokane (Part 1 of 2). Along the southern border he found Doukhobors (Part 2 of 2).

Title page. Click to ENLARGE
Ironically unknown to the reporter, in the middle of the panoramic photo of Tbilisi (above) used for the opening page of his report are 2 historic sites for Molokane and Dukhobortsy. The current Rike Park was home to the first large Molokan settlement in Tiflis. This sandy river bank flat was earlier called the peski district (' means sandy in Russian; ree'.ke means sandy in Georgian). The adjacent Metekhi jails held all the arrested gun-burning and protesting Doukhobors in the Caucasus in 1895-1896.

Ponomarev, 50, was raised in the Urals, studied journalism at Ural State University. He worked as a newspaper journalist in various parts of the Far East, and in the 1990s was hired by Kosomolskaya Pravda.

The content is useful for the general public, and presents as a valuable authentic ethnographic work, though his reporting is superficial at times and he missed many fascinating out-of-the-way peoples and places. All of his video is with a hand-held camera, image bouncing as he walks, out of focus when the light is dim or the subject is back-lit, and too often strays while he interviews. The sound is often noisy with traffic or wind. The project shows how a print and photo-journalist tries to do video journalism. Fortunate for our readers, he included two groups of Spiritual Christians.

We translated and posted his two stories. Leave comments on this blog, below.

Russian entry page on Kosomolskaya Pravda: Путешествие по «нетуристической» стране: Расцвела под евросолнцем Грузия моя? [Traveling in ‘non-tourist’ country: Flourish in the European sun, my Georgia?].


  1. The Second Exodus
    The picture with the motorcycle rider looks like it is an electric vehicle. The front wheel looks like it has an electric motor on it but not sure. Kensky

  2. It has a quiet gasoline or natural gas engine. My Russian-born wife says electric motor bikes do not exist in this vintage. You can hear the motor several times in the video. The journalist hitched a ride on this bike driven by Kolya, recorded in video (min. 3:20 - 4:25). I suspect the camera has a directional microphone. While riding the voices are clear except for wind on the microphone, and echos from the bike's engine when they pass solid objects and turn off the engine.