Tbilisi, Georgia - Mikhail Saakashvili, newly elected president of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, took a spiritual oath on January 24th, the day before his inauguration, marking a shift in the religious expression of that nation's highest office.
Saakashvili, 36, standing by the grave of King David the Builder, took an oath on the Bible and received a blessing from the leader of the dominant Georgian Orthodox Church. The king, who ruled during an age of prosperity and power nearly 1,000 years ago, is revered for unifying and expanding Georgia. He is clearly a strong symbol for the new president, who is assuming control of a country desperate for change after years of post-Soviet decline.
On the following day, this time with his hand on Georgia's constitution, Saakashvili took the oath of office, hoisting his country's new red-on-white, five-cross flag.
Gone is the hammer and sickle, but the world will have to wait and see if the new leader's efforts are truly sincere, or merely more of the old, empty promises.