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TBILISI | Virtually since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgian and Armenian religious leaders have been fighting for the rights to a half-dozen houses of worship, five of them here in Georgia’s capital.
The argument takes in tangled history and messy modern relations between the two communities. The Armenian Apostolic Church contends the historic structures were built centuries ago under its aegis. Some Georgian authorities claim the churches only became Armenian during the 19th-century period when Georgia’s Orthodox patriarchy was made subject to Russia’s. Armenian tombstones, altars, and other features have been removed from some sites. State officials have shown little inclination to wade into the dispute.
In the meantime, the disputed Tbilisi churches stand unused, floors littered with debris, walls crumbling. Their precarious state was dramatized in November, when the dome of the 18th-century St. Gevorg of Mughni Church collapsed. This audio slide show, a collaboration between TOL and Tbilisi magazine Liberali, documents the deteriorating conditions of buildings that might soon be neither Georgian nor Armenian, but merely memories.
The fall of communism brought with it expectations of an unfettered press safeguarding the young democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. But for the region's media, the past quarter-century has turned out to be much less uplifting. From oligarch-controlled television stations to politically partisan newspapers, from woeful ethical standards to outright corruption, the media often fall far short of acting as independent watchdogs over their societies, despite the existence of some scrappy publications and feisty reporters willing to uncover official wrongdoing and expose poor governance. If that weren't enough, the region's press has been hit hard by the same trends transforming the media around the world, including an explosion of alternative forms of entertainment, the growth of social media, decreased advertising revenues associated with the rise of the Internet, and general economic malaise. Get your copy here.