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The Caucasus, OSINT, & Bodybuilding | M.A. in Eurasian, Russian, & East European Studies @ Georgetown University | Insta/Twitter: @aejleslie
Credit: TriArt Film, 2020

“There is no room for weakness in Georgian dance.”

Levan Akin’s And Then We Danced (2020) sparked controversy in Georgia when it premiered. Actually, “controversy” might be an understatement.

It caused a riot in Tbilisi.

Why? Because it depicts LGBT characters in the context of Georgian dance — a cultural staple of Georgia and symbol of its national heritage.

Actors feared for their safety. Levan Akin was blacklisted by dance studios, ensembles, and choreographers. The Georgian Orthodox Church got involved. Armed security was present on set. …

Credit: Jonathan Borba, Unsplash

If we’ve collectively learned *anything* from the COVID-19 pandemic and the unpredictability of lockdowns, closures, and regulations, it’s this — we have to become increasingly flexible, open-minded, and adaptable to the changing world around us and the future demands it may bring.

I’ve been adhering to a muscle-building, cyclical workout routine and diet — for natural bodybuilding — for over six years. Supplements, unorthodox workout plans, and so on. Everything.

But guess what? I haven’t been able to get into a gym since last March. They’re all closed! So, I’ve had to make some behavioral and action-based judgements — modifying…

Credit: Alexander Leslie, “The Arch of Sorrow Monument,” 15 Oct 2016

(Content Warning: Descriptions of operations and activities at a prison camp for women in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, 1937–1953.)

As I walked under “The Arch of Sorrow” towards the main administrative center of ALZHIR — through the execution fields, past the guard towers and barracks, and just beyond the mass grave— a profound feeling of despair overcame me as I truly realized the purpose of this camp and what it had symbolized.

I was about to participate in a very moving experience that — five years later — still shocks and haunts me.

I knew going in that it…

Credit: Psychonaut 4, The Metal Archives

This article is a metered compilation of three separate lists I had made of metal bands from the South Caucasus: Georgia, Armenia, & Azerbaijan.

I have simplified these articles and compiled them together here, creating one coherent archive of all three countries.

Much of the credit in the research goes to The Metal Archives, Bandcamp, YouTube, Spotify, and other platforms that I used to harvest information on each of the bands.

This project is the culmination of many years of archiving resources and compiling them. Not counting countless hours actually listening to the music!

I hope you enjoy!

For further…

Credit: Psychonaut 4, The Metal Archives

Much of the credit in making this list goes to Encyclopedia Metallum: The Metal Archives and its exhaustive, crowdsourced documenting of heavy metal from around the world. For more information on the bands listed here, check out The Metal Archives’ Georgia page.

This list is compiled from a variety of sources, including MySpace, YouTube, Spotify, The Metal Archives, Bandcamp, and other social networking sites (i.e. Facebook). Bands are organized alphabetically and supplemented with relevant links.

For metal bands from the other two countries of the South Caucasus, check out my other articles: Azerbaijan and Armenia!

If bands are missing, links…

Credit: Sergei Bobylev/TASS, via Getty Images

This reference guide is part of a reference list of all civil aviation registries in the world that are available to the public — covering sovereign states beginning with D-F.

Most United Nations member states that are signatories to the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation are also members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). …

Credit: Federal Aviation Administration

Reading a notice to airmen (NOTAM) is a daunting task.

Decoding one — a feat of strength.

Even online translation tools — or apps like ForeFlight — are geared towards a target audience of pilots, air traffic controllers, and experienced aviation enthusiasts who have the FAA’s official “NOTAM Contractions” spreadsheet memorized by heart. They certainly aren’t for the average OSINT enthusiast reading an ADS-B radar.

No matter how bewildering, baffling, or downright obtuse NOTAMs might seem — they are indispensable for understanding weather patterns, airspace and airport conditions, flight paths over conflict zones, re-routes, no-fly zones, when and where missile…

Credit: Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), 9 Oct. 2020,

Following a period of escalation and armed conflict in Sept.-Nov. 2020, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is back on the radar for conflict analysts, journalists, activists, and diplomatic personnel.

This marks the first major confrontation since 2016 and, arguably, the most significant clash since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War of 1988–1994.

Although resources in English are relatively scarce and limited to a small body of academics, here are the five essential readings on the background, clashes, and policy implications of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict:

1. The International Politics of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict: The Original “Frozen Conflict” and European Security (2017), ed. Svante E. Cornell

Credit: National Center of Manuscripts, 2017. “Signature of Mariam Dadiani (1783–1841) on a deed signed by Solomon II of Imereti (1772–1815) for Jruchi Monastery, 1809.”

From kheli (ხელი) “hand, handwriting” and the verbal root rtva (რთვა) “adorn, decorate” — the khelrtva (ხელრთვა) is one of the most complicated calligraphic traditions in medieval handwriting, rivaling that of the Ottoman tughra, the Japanese kaō, or the Jeli Diwani variety of Arabic script (also used by the Ottomans under Suleiman I).

The khelrtva is a type of handwritten cursive— or, just a signature — that was used by the nobility, patriarchate, and monarchy of the Kingdom of Georgia (and, its successor kingdoms) — reaching the height of its known popularity between the 12th and 14th centuries.

Its use…

Credit: Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, 23 Oct. 2020

…and, the locals of the Rioni Gorge.

And ENKA Renewables.

And possibly Georgia-Turkey relations as a whole?

A lot is at stake. Livelihoods, political careers, and international relationships hinge on the construction — or, cancellation — of the Namakhvani Hydroelectric Power Plant Cascade Project (HPP) on the Rioni River in Imereti.

With Natia Turnava doubling-down on her intentions to follow through with construction — and protests erupting over the weekend in Kutaisi — it seems like the clash between locals, the Ministry of Economy, and the Turkish multinational ENKA is reaching a boiling point.

Someone has to give in, but…

Alexander Leslie

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