11 January 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 4-10

Christmas celebrations by Orthodox believers; bad weather, which caused a number of emergencies in Southern Russia and countries of Southern Caucasus; increase in SARS and influenza incidence in Armenia; CBA's decision to change currency exchange rules; photo exhibition "Images of Old and New Sochi" in the resort city, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 4-10, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas

On January 7, believers of the Russian, Georgian, Jerusalem and the SerbianOrthodoxChurches celebrated their Christmas. On that day, Orthodox churches held Christmas services; and major cities organized festivities in central squares. In Southern Russia, the festivity events were accompanied by strengthened units of policemen and vigilantes. On January 7, Tbilisi hosted a traditional pageantry "Alilo", dated to Christmas. Its participants collected donations for the orphans and the poor, which were handed over to the Tbilisi Cathedral. In Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, the festivities on the occasion of Christmas and Epiphany under the single name of Theophany took place on January 6. The parishioners of the ArmenianApostolicChurchtreated a family holiday feast as one of the main elements of the holiday.

Bad weather causes accidents in Southern Russia and countries of Southern Caucasus

The second week of 2016 was snowy and windy; and a variety of accidents were caused thereby in different regions of Southern Russia and countries of Southern Caucasus. Roads were closed in Armenia and Georgia, in Rostov Region, Stavropol Territory and Dagestan. Residents of several areas of Azerbaijan, Volgograd Region, Dagestan and Chechnya suffered from outages of power, water and gas supplies. On January 9, in the Krasnodar Territory, about a hundred fishermen occurred on a large ice floe, which broke off from the shore in the Scherbinovskiy District; they were saved by local rescuers. On the same day in the Georgian region of Imereti at the confluence of the Kvirila and RioniRivers, because of rising water, three hunters and two dogs occurred on an isolated newly-formed island. They were rescued by the local emergency service. Besides, rock falls blocked roads in Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan.

Last week saw casualties at ski resorts. In the morning on 7 January, in the southern slope of MountCheget in the vicinity of Mount Elbrus, avalanche went down killing three skiers – two girls from Moscow, born in 1989 and 1990, and a man from Saint   Petersburg, born in 1973. Investigators have established that the skiers were on that slope of Mount Cheget, which had no specially prepared trails, and where skiing is prohibited. Also on January 7, an employee of the anti-avalanche service got under a snow avalanche at the Sochi ski resort "Mountain Carousel". On January 5, the Georgian police reported the death of Nugzar Diakonashvili, a snowboarder, who got under an avalanche in Bakuriani, as the police have reported. The incident occurred in an area Mounts Kokhta and Didveli – Diakonashvili skied during an avalanche.

Growingincidence of SARS and influenza extend vacation in Armenia

Since the start of 2016, Armenia saw a growth of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) influenza diseases; and in this context the authorities had to extend the winter vacation for pupils of state educational institutions until January 18. According to Armen Ashotyan, Minister of Education and Sciences, in order to cope with the curricular, pupils will have to attend additional classes. As of January 9, 662 citizens were hospitalized with colds. 219 of them were diagnosed with "pneumonia"; 83 patients underwent treatment in intensive care units; and seven of them were connected to lung motors. In some patients doctors also diagnosed H1N1 (swine flu) acute respiratory infection; and on January 8, Armenia had 89 swine flu patients. By January 10, five of them died. The virus was caused by "a sharp drop in air temperature and mass people's contacts during holidays," said the Ministry of Public Health of Armenia.

CBA's decisions on changes in currency exchange rules caused queues at exchange offices

On January 7, Azerbaijan introduced changes to the rules of currency exchange. Now, at transactions with amounts exceeding 500 US dollars, one has to present his/her ID. On January 8, the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) made a decision to restrict the corridor of exchange rate by 4% from the official exchange rate. The CBA's intention was to reduce speculative currency transactions. This decision followed the transfer, on December 21, 2015, by the CBA of the exchange rate of the national currency, manat, into a floating regime, citing the fact that oil prices had fallen sharply. On the same day, the manat dropped by nearly half against the dollar and the euro; Bakusaw suspended trading at shops, closure of currency exchange offices, and banks imposed restrictions on banking operations. The decision of the CBA on the "corridor" resulted closure of currency exchange offices and commercial banks; and long queues of people appeared at those of them, which remained working. The restrictions on sale of foreign currencies have to do with the shortage of supply, said a source from the banking sphere on condition of anonymity.

Photo exhibition in Sochi allows comparing "old" and "new" resort city

Last week, the Sochi regional local lore museum opened an exhibition "Images of Old and New Sochi". The exposed photos show the city of different historical periods. Along with photo documents from the museum archive, the exhibition presents works of the winners of the contest of best photos of the "new" city. Old and new photos are demonstrated opposite each other for ease of comparison. Sochi has problems with preserving monuments of history, culture and nature, caused by the change of funding system, said Alla Guseva, the director of the museum, noting that many monuments of history, culture and nature are today in private hands; but new owners not always can properly maintain their property and understand the difference between renovation and restoration. According to Ms Guseva, her museum, "while possessing rich historical materials, is trying to help businessmen to recreate and maintain the image of old Sochi." Visitors to the exhibition have stated the loss of historic appearance by the resort city.

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