One could have headlined this story as Viva Batumi!, since it tells the story of the transformation of Josef Stalin's Georgia homeland to a tourist destination--in Stalin's day, and for decades after, most people wanted to go the other direction; out of the USSR;
Subtle, Batumi is not.
A decade ago the city was a dingy and impoverished corner of the former Soviet Union. Today, it is a brash gambling town of bright lights and flashy casinos.
Welcome to the Las Vegas of the Black Sea.Entrepreneurs in the Soviet Union of Stalin (who knew a thing or two about 'untrammelled power') would be in danger of being summoned to secret police headquarters where a bullet to the back of the head was a distinct possibility. Clearly a fate worse than today;
But the glitzy new face of Batumi has a flip side.
During a decade of untrammelled power, high-level corruption and cronyism within the [President Mikhail] Saakashvili government grew.
....Many poorer and older Georgians felt ignored and left out of Mr Saakashvili's US-style turbo-capitalist economy.
....Batumi is a test bed for Mr Saakashvili's brand of Western capitalism. And that not only includes American-style cut-throat free markets but also means promoting European attitudes of tolerance towards minority groups.Which seems to be BBC-speak for;
This region is home to Georgia's largest community of Muslims, who've been here since the 16th Century, when the area was part of the Ottoman empire. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Georgian Orthodox Church became an increasingly important part of the newly-independent state and of Georgia's national identity.
Muslim Georgians started converting back to Christianity but today around 30% of the population is thought to follow Islam.Yet, from where are all the tourists coming to gamble in the casinos?
It has helped Batumi become a booming destination for tourists from nearby Turkey, where gambling is illegal.
According to the manager of the Peace casino, 95% of his customers are from Turkey.Muslim Turkey. Voluntarily going to Georgia. The BBC bills this as a problem for Muslim rights.