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Annabelle Chapman

Eastern Notebook: Sleeping Beauties and Angry Kremlins

The idea behind this weekly column is to explore the six Eastern Partnership countries “beyond the Kremlin” (so, beyond Lukashenka, beyond Saakashvili…). Too often, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are presented one-dimensionally or distorted by the western media. Eastern Notebook juxtaposes Culture with culture, and brings together reflections from inside and outside the region.

"Sleeping Beauty", Viktor Vasnetsov, source: Wikimedia Commons

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Kyiv’s Sleeping Beauties. (Do not confuse with the elderly Russian ones mentioned in my Eastern Notebook two weeks ago). This is the real thing: an art exhibition of “sleeping beauties” who are… real. It is created by Canadian-Ukrainian artist Taras Polataiko at the National Art Museum in Ukraine, and involves young women lying on display. Visitors can go up to them and kiss them; if the woman opens her eyes, they must marry (yes, there is a contract). The exhibition advertises itself as: “The tension of the performance is in the seductiveness and fear of the ultimate moment”. Artistic freedom, a mysterious statement about women in Ukrainian society, or thoughts on the nature of marriage itself? Ask notorious Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN

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Masseur Aleksander Allahivedov works at the bathhouse Royal (l). A sculpture of a masseur welcomes clients into a bathhouse, author: Justyna Mielnikiewicz, source: EurasiaNet

Bathhouse blues. Abanotubani, a district in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, is famous for its bathhouses… and for its masseurs, a profession with a long tradition. Legend tells that Tbilisi was founded after King Vakhtang Gorgasali found the hot, sulfurous water springs (tbili is the Georgian word for “warm”). For the full story, read this article on Tbilisi’s bathhouses by Paul Rimple, which touches on changing attitudes to bathing and to the body in general. Apparently, not many young Georgians want to work in the bathhouse. But, according to the logic of a veteran masseur: “As long as there is someone who needs a job in Tbilisi, there will always be masseurs in the Tbilisi baths”. Plus a photo essay presenting Tbilisi’s masseurs in their natural (bathhouse) environment, by Justyna Mielnikiewicz.

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Angry kremlins game, a screenshot, source:

“Angry Kremlins” game. As the weekend approaches, some people might relax with a new computer game developed by a group of Estonian programmers after the Pussy Riot trial this month, based on an older game, “Angry Birds”.  You can play it online here. Apparently, the game involves catapulting the heads of Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill (of the Russian Orthodox Church) at members of the Pussy Riot band. Inappropriate? Personally, I prefer to relax by turning my computer off this weekend.


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Journalist focusing on Eastern Europe. Her articles have been published in the journal New Eastern Europe. She has a degree from Oxford University and a weakness for languages (most recently Georgian). At Eastbook, she writes a weekly column, Eastern Notebook.

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