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A Necktie A Day Keeps Autocracy Away


Oleg Panfilov and his product

Oleg Panfilov and his product

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has long since digested any fibers he may have consumed while nervously chewing on his necktie during the 2008 war with Russia.

The incident was famously caught on film in a BBC report (see it below at the 1-minute mark) and couldn’t have tasted sweeter to the Kremlin, which repeatedly used the incident to suggest that the Georgian leader was less than mentally sound.

WATCH: Saakashvili eats his tie:



More than three years later, many Russians still associate Saakashvili with his famous chew -- and so it’s not too late, says Oleg Panfilov, to have a bit of fun.

The prominent Russian journalist, free-press advocate, and Kremlin critic took to a gallery in his adopted hometown of Tbilisi on September 13 to unveil his “edible reformist ties.”

"We decided to poke a bit of fun at [the Kremlin’s use of the tie incident]. We decided to do this project and began making ties from traditional Georgian products," he told RFE/RL by telephone.

"On the packaging of the product is the most important part -- a few words on how to use the tie. It's written that consuming the tie three times a day in a moderate amount generates an appetite for freedom and democracy.”

That means, Panfilov says, the sartorial snacks would be well-suited for the Kremlin’s ruling tandem.

"When we had our presentation, we made two large ties and we wrote that they were for [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin and [President Dmitry] Medvedev," he said. "We were poking fun at the idea that if Putin and Medvedev believe that Saakashvili can eat a tie -- and Georgia became a more democratic country than Russia -- then we invite Putin and Medvedev to also try a bit of tie and maybe Russia will become a bit better, too."

WATCH: The edible necktie launch ceremony on Georgian TV:



The ties come in flavors including prune and apple and, according to Eurasianet.org, sell for 5 lari (or about $3) each.

Eurasianet also reports that, according to the organizers, sweet-flavored ties are intended for "good people," while sour varieties are more appropriate for the Russian president and prime minister.

Beyond the political joke, Panfilov admits he’s in the edible tie business to make a profit. Georgia is, of course, part of the capitalist West.

He tells RFE/RL that while production is in its infancy, he has already purchased a bar code and plans to sell the ties in Georgian supermarkets. He’s wagering that the ties will also be a hit come the tourist high season.

Levan Cholokashvili, from the Coalition for a European Georgia and Panfilov’s business partner, was quoted by Russian news agency RIA Novosti (which somewhat surprisingly picked up the story) as saying that the first batch of ties had already sold out.

-- Richard Solash

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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