Monday, January 21, 2008

The Global Broadband Speed Test

According to CRRC's 2007 Data Initiative 2007 (visit, around 3% of the population have Internet access at home in Georgia; nevertheless, we were curious to know how fast these people’s Internet speed is across the Caucasus., which is identical to Ookla Speed Test, provides visitors with the opportunity to measure broadband connections. For more, visit the site.

According to, the top Internet service provider in Georgia is Rustavi 2 Online with 713 kb/s (it seems to be outdated though). The top region by download speed is strangely Dushetis Raioni with 640 kb/s (please let us know if you know why). In Armenia and Azerbaijan the top regions by download speed are Yerevan and Baku, respectively. The fastest download speed is in Azerbaijan — 3184 kb/s (only best test scores are used for the ranking, so this is probably inflated). Of course, the Caucasus still lags quite a ways behind developed countries. Japan is number one for download speed according to — it scored 11,237 kb/s .

If you want to find out the fastest Internet Service Provider close to you or elsewhere, wish to install this software on your computer, or simply are curious, click here .

If you test it from the Caucasus or have criticisms of the test, we’d love to hear from you.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Georgian Borderlands | Mathijs Pelkmans

Many social researchers working on the Caucasus bemoan the lack of good scholarly works on the region. However, one recent book, which is both excellent and readable, seems to have fallen under people's radars -- Mathijs Pelkmans' Defending the Border: Identity, Religion, and Modernity in the Republic of Georgia, which came out in 2006 with Cornell University Press.

Pelkmans' book is deeply embedded within the literature on the studies of borderlands. Using the case of Sarpi (and Ajara more generally), Pelkmans argues convincingly that the Georgian (Soviet) border was not like other borders treated in the academic literature, which were porous and where strong cross-border networks have and continue to play an important role. Conversely, the Georgian border still plays a strong role, despite the ease with which it is now crossed.

Sarpi, which is only part of the study, provides a fascinating place to study a the effects of a Soviet border. First, the village was split in half after 1921. Second, the community is the only predominantly Laz community in Georgia. Therefore, in practice, the community should have felt more oriented towards their Laz brethren on the other side of the border in Turkey, where the majority of Laz live, after the border reopened.

However, the Soviet Union did something incredible with their tactics for closed border zones. Despite the fact that those on the Sarpi side of the village still have relatives on the other side of the border and their families also used to have landplots across the border, the Georgian Laz hardly ever go across into Turkey. Furthermore, only two marriages have occurred between the two Sarpis and those only in the heady days right after the border opening.

So what happened? Pelkmans' book examines three types of bordering, the literal border, the border between Islam and Christianity and the relationship between an urban provincial capital of Batumi and its rural periphery. As a brief insight into the Islam/Chrisitian divide, Pelkmans discusses the many people within the community of Sarpi who have now converted to Christianity as part of Tbilisi's narrative of the temporary conversion of its people to Islam under the Ottoman yoke, and the book contains wonderful quotes to highlight the process by which these people chose to convert to Christianity. Furthermore, Pelkmans examines the perceptions of the Turkish Sarpi "other." Those on the Georgian side of the village feel that their brethren on the Turkish side of the border have lost their Laz identity and become turkified. Indeed, they often refer to them as Turks. Conversely, as Pelkmans notes, the Georgian Laz have lost many of their cultural traits as well.

You will have to read the book, to get insight into the other types of bordering. However, in short, Pelkmans argues that religious, spatial and cultural borders have come together to create a border that still exists in the minds of the residents of Sarpi.

A follow up study on the other side of the village would prove fascinating, but for the time being Pelkman's account is a wonderful read.