feet from the valley floor. For thernGreeks, the Caucasian Mountains werernprobably the limit of the known world.rnThis area has given them numerousrnmythical stories, that of Jason and thernGolden Fleece down by the coast, thatrnof the Amazons, and here on Mt. Kazbegi,rnthe story of Prometheus. A Caucasianrnmyth re’eals a character, Amirani, and arnplot with many points of similarity to thernPromethean one.rnIn Kazbegi, Zaal talks with his friend,rna famous hunter who finds the antleredrnanimals that furnish the Georgians withrntheir drinking “horns.” Afterward wernclimb around lateral cuts in the valley,rnloafing in alpine meadows, then descendrnto travel through the Darial Gorge cut byrnthe Terek, and up to the Russian border.rnThere is a no-man’s-land between thernGeorgian and Russian border stations,rnand there, while we munched on shashlik,rnwe watched a huge load of cigarettesrnbeing transferred from one big truck tornseveral small ones. The Georgian ownerrndoes not want to risk taking his big truckrnand load across the border and havingrnthem seized. All of this business is whatrnis called “semi-legal.”rnBack in Tbilisi later in the week, I attendrna birthday party for one of ProfessorrnAlexander Rondeli’s students in internationalrnrelations at Tbilisi State University.rnI talk with Professor Rondeli aboutrnGeorgia’s past and especially about itsrnfuture. Like Poland, Czechoslovakia,rnand Hungary to the west, Georgia, alongrnwith the whole Transcaucasus, is trappedrnbetween a rock and a hard spot. Russiarnwants the area as a buffer between Iranrnor Turkey. As these great powers havernwaxed and waned over many centuries,rnGeorgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan getrnwaxed in the process. On the question ofrnthe immediate future, Rondeli said twornthings needed to happen. Shevardnadze,rnhaving survived the bomb blast, neededrnto survive the November election (whichrnhe did with a 70 percent majority) andrnthe moderates needed to win the Decemberrnelections in Russia. If ever thernextreme nationalists should rise to power,rnthere will be even more mysteriousrnbombings, with the goal of creating instability,rnthe reality and the image, thusrndiscouraging joint Georgian-foreignrnbusiness ventures, and thus denying arnstrong, independent Georgia. For example,rnan oil pipeline from the Caspian Searnthrough Georgia is in the works. Russianrnnationalists do not want this. In November,rna major power line was mysteriouslyrnblown up. All of this is to say, “See, therncountry is unstable.”rnAs of this writing, with 40 percent ofrnthe December vote counted, the communistsrnhave made advances, leading allrnother parties with 22 percent of the votesrncast. Zyuganov’s communists are indistinguishablernfrom Zhirinovsky’s (whosernparty captured 11 percent of the vote) inrntheir demand for a restored Soviet l.fnionrn(“the historic fatherland”). This doesrnnot bode well for Georgia. Georgiansrnwill be looking anxiously at the comingrnJune election for Russian president.rnThere are many reasons for Americansrnto go to Georgia: the Black Sea beaches,rnthe spectacular mountains for trekkingrnand climbing, the archaeology, the foodrnand wine. In Tbilisi, painting and musicrnreflect a high degree of sophistication.rnThere are some interesting opportunitiesrnfor risk capital. For more of that to happen,rnRussia just needs to let the Georgiansrnmind their own business. Meetingrnthe people is the best reason for visiting.rnNo people surpass the Georgians in hospitality.rnGo and you will return. I knowrnI will.’rnWilliam Mills is a novelist and poetrnwhose latest work of fiction is Propertiesrnof Blood (University of Arkansas Press).rnLetter FromrnVirginiarnby Mark G. MalvasirnArthur Ashe LivesrnAs widely reported last year, a statue ofrnArthur Ashe has joined those of thernConfederate heroes that grace MonumentrnAvenue in Richmond, Virginia.rnWere the issue only, or even principally,rnthe desire of Richmonders to commemoraternthe life and accomplishments ofrntheir native son, the proposed memorialrnwould have excited little debate. Butrnthese days, even the dead are subjectedrnto political bickering and intrigue.rnControversy surfaced not aboutrnwhether to erect a statue to honor Ashe,rnwhich for most residents was acceptablernand even desirable, but rather aboutrnwhere to put it. Inevitably, attention focusedrnon Monument Avenue. Anticipatingrnand, indeed, welcoming a showdown,rnthe national media respondedrnwith predictable glee. The juxtapositionrnof evil Confederates and offended blacksrnwas apparently too delicious for most ofrnthem to overlook. Would the citizens ofrnRichmond cling thoughtlessly to an outwornrnand vicious racism, pundits wondered,rnor would they open their mindsrnand hearts to “racial healing”—whateverrnthat is—put aside their resentment, andrnembrace at least the conciliation of blackrnand white?rnBut the emphasis on racial antagonism,rnwhich in fairness some city officialsrntried to downplay, obscured the realrnstory, and not only from worthies in thernmedia. With the vox populi still ringingrnin their ears, the Richmond City Councilrnvoted seven to zero, with one absenteernand one abstention, to place the statue ofrnAshe on Monument Avenue. Afterwardrnthe members strained muscles congratulatingrnthemselves for their courageousrnsupport of democracy in action. MayorrnLeonidas B. Young, who had initiallyrnsuggested two alternate locations for thernstatue, proclaimed that “I am proud ofrnthis City Council, because you haverndared to do what others have failed to do.rnYou have listened to the people of thisrncity.” The council had heard the voice ofrnthe people, and the people had declaredrnin favor of placing the statue of ArthurrnAshe on Monument Avenue. Or hadrnthey?rnAccording to a poll that Media GeneralrnResearch conducted, only 22 percentrnof the people in Richmond, Chesterheld,rnand Henrico and Hanover countiesrnfavored the Monument Avenue location.rnSixty-four percent favored another site.rnAmong blacks, 41 percent preferredrnMonument Avenue and 59 percentrnwanted the statue erected elsewhere. Inrnthe city of Richmond proper, fully 67rnpercent opposed situating the statue anywherernalong Monument Avenue. Withoutrna doubt, had the proposal gone to arnpopular referendum, it would have sufferedrna stunning defeat even amongrnblacks.rnThe dispute over the location of thernAshe monument did not reflect therndemocratic convictions or instincts of arnfree people. Instead, it offered anotherrninstance of demagoguery in which leadersrnflattered and deceived their constituents,rnto say nothing of appealing torntheir worst fears, prejudices, and hatreds.rnMARCH 1996/41rnrnrn