Reporters on the Job

ROYALTY REVIVAL: Peter Ford recalls walking past the cathedral in Tblisi, Georgia, a few years ago, and noticing a great deal of pomp and circumstance, so he ventured inside. He found the incense-heavy church full of mourners at the funeral of a claimant to the Georgian throne (which has been vacant since 1801), including many dispossessed Georgian nobles and a half dozen Romanovs. The mourners who were shuffling most visibly to maneuver themselves into a position close to the Grand Duchess Maria (doyenne of the Romanovs), though, were the government officials - all former Communists, now awe-struck by royalty.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Mike Theodoulou has been traveling to Iran for the better part of a decade. During that time, he has come to like the ubiquitous Paykan cars (page 7). But it's been an acquired taste. "It's very strange. For me it was like a blast from the past," he says, describing the streets of his native England in the '70s , where the original version was first made. "It sort of reminded me of the days of Donny Osmond and David Cassidy."


WORLD'S OLDEST PERSON: Yesterday's Moscow Times reports that with the death of 115-year-old Marie Bremont in France last week, Gayirkhan Iriskhanov, a grizzled cattle herder from the mountains of Dagestan, may have become the oldest person in the world.

"It was 1871," The Moscow Times writes, "and Imam Shamil, a legendary Dagestani warrior, had died after conducting one of the longest guerrilla campaigns in history against Tsarist Russia. But Mr. Iriskhanov swears he remembers the scene as if it were yesterday.

" 'I was very small, hanging on to my mother's skirts,' " Iriskhanov says of Dagestan's capitulation to Russian forces after a 25-year war.

"According to Iriskhanov's calculations, he was 3 years old when Imam Shamil died, making him 134 years old today.... But Iriskhanov's actual age cannot be confirmed. He lost his birth certificate when his first wife died 50 years ago. Others rely not on the old man's memory, but on the year of birth written in his passport - 1888. That would make the Dagestani farmer a spry 112.

"He has lived through the fall of Imam Shamil, the last years of Tsar Nicholas I, the 1917 Revolution, Stalin's purges, three wars, and the transition to democracy a decade ago."

"Iriskhanov - who lives in a run-down hut with no running water or central heating - has never been ill. He suffers only from the cloudy vision caused by cataracts. "I feel like I am 18,' says Iriskhanov."

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