It’s early evening in July, and Sarah Kanouse is putting her feet up in Fabrika, a hostel and arts space on Tbilisi, Georgia’s Left Bank that was once a Soviet-era sewing factory. But the hostel’s common area, where the Northeastern University art and design professor has claimed a corner to chat, is abuzz with activity.
Huddled together on a blue sectional, Kanouse and a small group of students pass around a pair of AirPods, to be better heard on our Zoom call over the din of multilingual chatter around them. Much of it is in Russian. Since the war in Ukraine broke out, expat Russians have flooded the former Soviet territory’s capital city — fleeing the draft and economic sanctions, driving up housing costs and sparking debate. “You hear a lot of action on the street, you see a lot about the war and about the Russian presence in Georgia playing out in graffiti all over the city,” Kanouse says. “So it’s a very hot topic.”