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Issue no: 831
• APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
• PUBLISHED PU TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
UK Foreign Secretary In this week’s issue... Calls Russia First Georgian National Receives Honorary Member of Main Threat to the Order of the British Empire International Peace NEWS PAGE 2
Spy Chief Says Fewer Georgian Citizens Joining ISIS
ON GEORGIA’S EUROPEAN FUTURE UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond demands that Moscow begin cooperating with the West and playing a more constructive and responsible role in the world
EPP President Comes under Fire for Dampening Hopes for Visa Liberalization BY TAMAR SVANIDZE
he President of the European People’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul this week visited Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. On arrival he met with members of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party, which has been a member of the ENP since 2008, and later held meetings with Speaker of Parliament, David Usupashvili and leaders of the Free Democrats opposition party. Members of the Left Alliance opposition party held a rally at the airport in protest of Daul’s statement in which he said that the EPP would only support Georgia’s visa free regime with the European Union if Georgia holds fair and independent parliamentary elections in October. Continued on page 2
POLITICS PAGE 6
Georgia’s Healthcare and Medical Staff Need Continuous Development SOCIETY PAGE 14
Manana Menabde, an Organic Artist Serving Multiple Muses CULTURE PAGE 17
Chilly Start for Georgia’s Weiss in More Ways than One SPORTS PAGE 19
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
UK Foreign Secretary Calls Russia Main Threat to International Peace British Ambassador Alexandra Hall Hall, Right Honourable Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Marina Tsitsishvili, President of the Georgian Branch of the English Speaking Union who was awarded an honorary Member of the Order of British Empire (MBE)
BY NICHOLAS WALLER
K Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Wednesday called Russia the greatest threat to global peace due to its blatant disregard for international legal and ethical norms. “Russia ignores the norms of accepted conduct and breaks the rules of the international system. That represents a challenge and a threat to all of us,” Hammond said when asked whether Russia under its increasingly autocratic President Vladimir Putin remains a threat to the global community. Hammond demanded that Moscow begin cooperating with the West in good faith and play a more constructive role in the world “under the same international norms that responsible countries operate from.” Russia remains a major threat to the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Georgia and Ukraine, as Moscow’s attempts to stir antiWestern sentiments and foment pro-Russian separatist movements in the former republics of the Soviet Union. Putin’s hyper-reactive use of force and asymmetrical methods of undermining the authority of sovereign governments on its immediate borders constitutes a clear and present danger to international security, Hammond said. Hammond was in Tbilisi to meet with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikasvili to discuss security issues in the Caucasus region and to visit the South Caucasus Pipeline, operated by British energy giant BP. Kvirikasvili was quick to thank Hammond for the UK government’s continued support for Georgia’s
First Georgian National Receives Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire territorial integrity, which he said reiterated the close alliance forged between London and Tbilisi immediately after the Soviet Union’s collapse. In his comments to the press, Kvirikashvili said the current security situation in Georgia is similar to problems facing Ukraine, as both countries suffer from Russia’s support for heavily armed proRussian separatist movements. “Georgia and Ukraine have the same problem… Russia violates our sovereignty. It will be continue to be a significant security challenge for Georgia if Russia refuses to recognize the territorial integrity and free will of our people,” Kvirikashvili said. Russia continues to support Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with massive military personnel and substantial state subsidies. Like the current conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, Moscow and its local proxies fought bloody separatist wars against federal authorities in an attempt to install pro-Russian governments in the rebel regions.
BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
arina Tsitsishvili, President of the Georgian Branch of the English Speaking Union was awarded an honorary Member of the Order of British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honors List for services to UKGeorgian cultural and educational relations. She is the first ever Georgian recipient of a British honorary award. MBEs are given in recognition of exceptional achievement and service in the promotion of friendship and understanding between the UK and foreign countries. British Ambassador Alexandra Hall Hall hosted an event at the Embassy on Wednesday to commemorate the award in the presence of the Right Honourable Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. “I am delighted to be able to congratulate Marina on this honor given by Her Majesty the Queen,” Ambassador Hall Hall said. “It is people like Marina who lay foundations for friendships between countries. She is a real role model of dedication and loyalty to both our countries. It is particularly fitting that this award for strengthening cultural and educational relations between the UK and Georgia, comes in the year when Georgia celebrates Rustave-
li’s 850th anniversary and the UK marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death.” The award is a recognition of Marina’s work to promote English culture and language in Georgia, including through establishing and becoming President of the Georgian Branch of the English Speaking Union; organizing an annual English language Public Speaking Competition; founding a non-profit International Center for Cultural and Business Relations to facilitate exchanges of students, statesmen and journalists between the UK and Georgia; supporting medical exchanges; and last year opening a school, performing arts center and cafe in in Vake Park, Tbilisi (The British Corner) to promote the English language, British culture and cuisine. The commemorative certificate, coming in lieu of the official insignia, which will be sent over in the summer, was awarded to Marina by the Right Honourable Philip Hammond. “Let me present you with this certificate and thank you for everything you have done to further Georgian and British relationships. Culture is a vitally important part of building relationships between two countries- and not the only part, as economic links, politics and sports also play an important role. But culture is an area we take very seriously. I hope the work you have done will deepen and strengthen the links between our countries and that we’ll be seeing many more young Georgian s visiting the UK and many more Brits visiting Georgia.”
EPP President Comes under Fire for Dampening Hopes for Visa Liberalization Continued from page 1
“This person is corrupt, and we call on him not to damage the future of Georgia,” said Zurab Dokhadze, participant of the rally. “I want to tell Georgians – you will have visa liberalization, but it can be delayed,” Daul announced following a visit to UNM members Vano Merabishvili, Bacho Akhalaia and Gigi Ugulava, all currently serving sentences in the “Matrosov” prison. “I have always considered Georgia to be a country that has the right and the obligation to join the European Union. I would be the first to support the idea, if possible, to allow for visa liberalization, but I do not want to raise false hope. In my experi-
ence, I know that people who are waiting for something can sometimes be disappointed. People should be prepared for any decision,” he said. Daul emphasized that there are a number of ongoing procedures in the process of visa liberalization which made it hard to confirm whether visa liberalization would be granted on the anticipated 15 June or at the end of the year. “The European Commission made a decision on the visa issue, but the Council and the European Parliament have yet to make their decisions,” Daul reminded Georgians. He added that Georgia should continue to fight against corruption and strengthen the rule of law and judicial independence.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Georgian-born Sakvarelidze Sacked by Ukraine’s Disgraced Prosecutor General BY NICHOLAS WALLER
kraine’s Georgian-born Deputy Prosecutor General David Sakvarelidze was suddenly relieved of his duties on Tuesday by his superior, Viktor Shokin, just hours before Shokin was himself voted out of office by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. Shokin’s decision to dismiss Sakvarelidze has been widely panned by the Ukrainian media and the country’s Western-leaning reformist politicians. who accuse Shokin of political grandstanding at a time when his muchmaligned tenure as the country’s chief law enforcement official appeared to be at an end. International observers - including top US and European officials - have sharply criticized the decision, saying the move is a major blow to the clean government reforms that Kyiv has struggled to implement since the 2013-14 Maidan Revolution ousted former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.
FRUSTRATION FROM KEY ALLIES The sharper tone from Shokin’s critics comes amid a growing chorus of frustration from Ukrainian and European officials who have in recent months accused Shokin of intentionally sabotaging antigraft investigations and the prosecution of those responsible for the deliberate
killing of more than 100 Maidan protestors by Yanukovych’s Berkut riot police in January-February 2014. During a December 2015 visit to Kyiv, US Vice President Joe Biden said corruption emanating from the prosecutor general’s office was eating away at Ukraine’s key reform attempts “like a cancer.” Foreign creditors have long complained about high-level corruption in the prosecutor’s office, a Soviet relic that provides unprecedented power to one individual over the country’s court and prosecution system. International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director Christine Lagarde reiterated their frustrations in February when she said that the lack of progress in fighting government corruption in Ukraine meant that the IMF might be forced to halt the support program that has kept the country afloat for the last two years
HIGH-LEVEL CORRUPTION The corrosive influence Shokin exerted on Ukraine’s judicial process has been blamed by top Ukrainian officials, including Sakvarelidze and former Georgian President-turned Odessa Governor Mikheil Saakashvili, as having played a major role in derailing the government’s reform efforts; most of which have been hobbled by bureaucratic infighting and blatant power grabs by Ukraine’s Moscow-backed oligarchs, whose business interests are closely tied to Shokin’s. Shokin’s own subordinates have been linked to several cases involving stolen
endemically corrupt office. “I’m not going to run to the (Odessa) prosecutor’s office, as it is staffed by people from the old Yanukovych system who have no intention of going anywhere and who are protected by vested interests. There’s no point to go back an engage in further self-deception,” Sakvarelidze said.
funds donated by Western lenders and earmarked for the implementation of reformist policies and privatization projects. In one high profile case, huge sums of cash and a trove of diamonds were found alongside personal documents with Shokin’s signature in the homes of two of his top lieutenants, indicating that they had taken bribes with Shokin’s blessing. When a prosecutor in Shokin’s office attempted to bring the case to trial, members of the staff with either fired or forced to resign.
COMMITTED REFORMIST VS SOVIET-STYLE FUNCTIONARY The outgoing Sakvarelidze, with whom Shokin frequently feuded, said he was relived of his duties after calling into question the loyalties of certain members of the prosecutor general’s office, whose staff is mainly made up of officials tied to the former Yanukovych government and Russia’s intelligence services. Sakvarelidze also claimed that Shokin refused to comply with Ukraine’s postMaidan Revolution lustration law that requires all Yanukovych-era officials to be dismissed from government positions. Shokin, for his part, justified his decision to sack Sakvarelidze after he accused the latter of breaking with professional protocol when he attended a recent rally that called for Shokin’s resignation.
SAKVARELIDZE’S FUTURE Despite Shokin’s dismissal and a state-
David Sakvarelidze, Ukraine’s Georgianborn ex-Deputy Prosecutor General
ment from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that he would personally ask Sakvarelidze to remain as the country’s deputy prosecutor general, his future in the current Ukrainian administration remains in question. Just hours after being relieved of his duties as deputy prosecutor general, the Odessa Region’s legislature voted to dismiss Sakvarelidze as its chief prosecutor. The region’s pro-Russian Yanukovychera lawmakers failed to provide a justification for their decision other than to state “general displeasure” with Sakvareldze’s job performance. In a statement to the Ukrainian media on 31 March, Sakvarelidze said he had no intention of returning to Odessa to serve as the prosecutor general of an
Sakvarelidze, 34, made a name for himself as one of the leading young reformers in former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration as first deputy prosecutor general from 20082012 and later as an opposition member of parliament from 2012-2015. The Tbilisi native first appeared on Ukraine’s political scene during the height of the Maidan Revolution; one of the hundreds of Georgians who came out in support of the movement’s attempt to break free from a corrupt, Russian dominated political system. Poroshenko’s presidential administration later invited Sakvarelidze to join the new reformist government, granting him Ukrainian citizenship in the process. His former patron and close ally, Saakashvili, appointed Sakvarelidze as Odessa’s top law enforcement official in September 2015. Sakvarelidze’s firebrand rule-of-law policies quickly found favor with many of Kyiv’s leading pro-Western activists, but consistently clashed with the remnants of the old guard in Ukraine’s notoriously combative body politic.
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Tragicomic? Georgian Armenian Relations
Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Davit Janelidze
OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
eorgian politics has been rushing towards autumn at such pace that almost nobody has time for our foreign affairs policy. This could be the reason behind the fact that Georgian media did not pay enough attention to the recent visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Davit Janelidze to Yerevan. Quite unlike Armenian press who evaluated this visit, and GeorgianArmenian relations in general, as tragicomic. However, what exactly makes the relations between the two neighboring states tragic or comic has not been specified. Although this evaluation might be exaggerated, in light of the situation between our neighbors Turkey and Rus-
sia, who are almost at war, this evaluation needs more attention from Tbilisi. Especially with the MFA visiting Yerevan only after a meeting with the Turkish and Azerbaijani colleagues in Tbilisi. It should be noted that the minister’s visit began quite unusually: despite the information about the bomb on the Yerevan-Moscow flight, he did not postpone his visit, instead driving to the capital to meet with President Serzh Sargsyan, Prime Minister Ovik Abraamyan and his counterpart Minister Edward Nalbandian. What message Janelidze brought from Tbilisi to Yerevan remains a secret. Neither Nalbandian nor Janelidze said anything about the goals and objectives of the visit at the press conference held after the meeting. And exactly this press conference was named tragicomic by Armenian journalists. The publication ‘First News’ wrote: “Although Janelidze and
Nalbandian are talking about the centuries-long friendship between the two countries and about deepening relations, they do not say the reasons why the relations between these neighboring countries has not deepened thus far.” In light of all this it really does seem quite comical that the Ambassador of Armenia to Georgia is not a diplomat by profession at all... and the Armenian media does nothing to hide this fact: “Armenia is in a blockade from the Turkish and Azerbaijani sides, therefore relations with Georgia as well as Iran have the foremost importance now... And in a country of such strategic significance Armenia has appointed an Ambassador, who, though part of our national sporting heritage, knows nothing about diplomacy...” As for the other evaluations of the visit, these where connected more with linguistics than politics, which was probably the reason behind the evaluation of our relations as tragic. “Yes, Armenians and Georgians have been living as neighbors for thousands of years, they are friends, but this is just words. In reality, we do not have any deep political relations, there are very few scientific studies in this field. Overall, Georgian studies are poorly developed in Armenia. Obviously, it is hard to even find an average translator who, if not able to translate the words of Georgian political figures, would at least not hinder the development of our mutual relations,” wrote First News after the press conference. It should be noted that the translation
during Mikheil Janelidze’s speech was really quite bad – with a strong Georgian accent and showing awful knowledge of Armenian, therefore leaving some parts open for interpretation by journalists. How long the policy of dragging time in Georgian-Armenian relations will last is unknown. But after the relations between Ankara and Moscow have turned into an almost military tension, settling clear-cut relations between Tbilisi and Yerevan has acquired primary importance, especially in light of the news that the Russian Duma has started talking about rethinking the Karsi Agreement of 1921, according to which the modern borders of Georgia as well as Armenia are defined. Moscow has been extending this agreement every 25 years. Notably, this 25-year term expires exactly in 2016.
Armenian Minister Edward Nalbandian
Tbilisi State University Rector Vladimer Papava Resigns
Rector of Tbilisi State University (TSU), Vladimer Papava
ector of Tbilisi State University (TSU), Vladimer Papava has resigned. The Academic Council approved the request for resignation Wednesday. Papava will officially leave his position on May 1st. Until then an acting Rector will be selected. The First Building of the Tbilisi State University (TSU) was occupied and split by two opposing groups of students throughout March. One group- the university’s Self Government students demanded the resignation of TSU rector Lado Papava, while the other group of protesters, named Auditorium 115 (according to the number of the lecture hall they are based in) asked for reforms inside the self-government system and demanded an investigation into the presence of intelligence agents at TSU.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
2015 Annual Report on the Execution of ECHR Judgments – Notes on GEORGIA PREPARED BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE
ACKGROUND - The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, a political body bringing together representatives of the 47 member states, is responsible for overseeing the implementation of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights - The Committee of Ministers holds regular meetings to assess the progress which is being made on implementing outstanding cases and to adopt decisions accordingly; cases are closed when the committee considers them to have been properly implemented - The Committee produces an annual report showing the number of cases which are pending (yet to be implemented), the countries/issues concerned and the proportion of “leading” cases which raise new issues in relation to “repetitive” cases, highlighting already existing problems
KEY POINTS - Globally “very encouraging results”:
the positive trend that had emerged over recent years was confirmed in 2015: 1,285 new cases came before the Committee of Ministers in 2015 (a decrease compared to 2014); a record number of cases were closed in 2015 (1,537), especially old complex cases, and there was a further promising decrease in the number of pending cases (10,652); of those, 1,555 (15%) were leading cases raising new issues. - The results achieved at national level indicate that domestic execution has become more efficient. - Two major challenges remain: o Continued increase of cases pending for more than five years (20% by end2011, and 55% by end-2015); o “Pockets of resistance” (linked to social prejudices towards Roma and other minorities, to political considerations, “frozen conflicts”) increasingly impede the execution of judgments.
STATISTICS, WITH A FOCUS ON GEORGIA - Georgia had 38 pending (not executed) cases, compared to 29 in 2014. The countries with the highest number of pending cases at the end of 2015 were Italy (2,421),
Turkey (1,591), Russia (1,549), Ukraine (1,052) and Romania (652). - Georgia has paid just satisfaction (compensation) on time in 12 cases, after the deadline in 2 cases, and in 5 cases the confirmation of payment was expected. - It took Georgia 2.9 years on average to implement leading cases – this is lower than the average among the Council of Europe member states of 4.5 years. - Just satisfaction awarded (how much Georgia had to pay out following the Court’s judgments of 2015): EUR 184,652a slight increase on 2014 - Main pending cases for Georgia: The list includes cases related to degrading treatment because of the detention conditions in prisons, ineffective investigations into excessive use of force by the police, and lack of protection against homophobic attacks during a demonstration (Identoba et al. v. Georgia). - Cases closed by final resolution during 2015: Deficient legal framework granting compensation to nationals who sustained various forms of political persecution and oppression in the former Soviet Union between 1921 and 1990 (Klaus and Yuri Kiladze v. Georgia)
MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS AND REFORMS IN GEORGIA SINCE 1998 Medical care in prison: Extensive reforms of the prison system were undertaken in 2010-2014 in order to improve the medical care system and a new Prison Code was adopted, notably including the right to health in line with European Prison Rules. Detention: Introduction of new rules to ensure speedy judicial control of detention, also after the prosecutor’s transfer of the case-file to the trial court – codified in the 2010 Code of Criminal Procedure. Enforcement of judicial decisions: Enforcement of judicial decisions has been improved, including through a special budget in 2007 to ensure the honouring by the State of old judgment debt. A new enforcement organization was set up – the National Bureau of Enforcement. Enforcement was further improved in 2010, notably as regards judgment debt owed by the State or public law entities, including the creation of a government fund to honor such debt and the payment of damages for losses caused.
Fair trial: The adversarial principle has been introduced in all criminal proceedings and the necessity of motivating court decisions has been stressed through amendments in 2006 and 2007 to the Criminal Procedure Code. The 2010 revision developed and improved the right to be exempted from court fees where necessary to preserve the right of access to court. Freedom of expression: The law on defamation has been changed to distinguish facts and value judgments and journalists and others are no longer required to prove the truth of the information communicated. A new law on freedom of expression from 2004 also provides that it is for private claimants to prove that statements challenged are false, and that officials must prove that the statements were published with knowledge that they were false. Good faith about the truth is also introduced as a general defence. Compensation to victims of Soviet era repression: Legislative amendments were adopted in 2011 and 2014 in order to grant compensation to the victims of Soviet era repression.
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Spy Chief Says Fewer Georgian Citizens Joining ISIS BY NICHOLAS WALLER
he number of Georgian citizens volunteering to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq has significantly dropped in recent months, according to State Security Services Deputy Director Levan Izoria. Citing a 29-page report covering the second half of 2015, Izoria said the number of Georgian citizens detained while crossing the border into Turkey and suspected of trying to link up with ISIS or other militant Islamist groups in neighboring Syria had declined to nearly zero compared to the same period in 2014 when dozens of cases were reported. “Due to our preventive measures, in the period stated, unlike the previous period, there has been almost no outflow of Georgian citizens trying to cross the border into Turkey with the intent of joining ISIS,” Izoria said. Several legislative amendments passed by the Georgian parliament in 2015 aim to prevent the country’s citizens from illegally crossing international borders to engage in terrorist activities or join unsanctioned armed militant groups. According to Izoria, the new measures have prevented at least 40 Georgian citizens from leaving the country to link up with ISIS recruiters on the TurkishSyrian border. The report also hailed the security service’s cooperation with the US’ CIA, UK’s MI6 and Germany’s BND intelli-
gence agencies. “Cooperation with our foreign partners has been decisive. As a result of our substantial information sharing, we’ve been able to compile a long list of people who present a potential terrorist threat to both Georgia and the international community,” Izoria said. He later claimed that 1,014 people have been banned entry into Georgia over the last year due to their suspected affiliation with the Islamic State. Georgia’s intelligence services estimate that around 50 of its citizens are currently fighting with ISIS and its allies in Syria. The overwhelming number of recruits originates from Georgia’s substantial Muslim minority, who account for roughly 14 per cent of the country’s population of just fewer than 4 million. Georgia’s Muslim population consists mainly of Sunni Chechens, Adjarians and small groups of ethnic Abkhaz, as well as Shi’a Azeris. Tarkhan Batirashvili, known by his Arabic nom de guerre - Abu Omar alShishani, a Chechen from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, made a name for himself as ISIS’ top field commander and minister of war before he was mortally wounded in a massive US drone-strike in early March. Izoria reiterated that Georgia remains a low-risk country in terms of terrorism, but warned of the rising number of young Muslims who are being radicalized by ISIS propaganda obtained online and the growing number of extremist Salafi mullahs who have appeared in Pankisi in recent years.
RUSSIA NAMED MAIN THREAT In his report, Izoria was quick to name Russia as Georgia’s main security threat due to Moscow’s continued support for the breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. “Russia’s huge military occupation contingent, including modern heavy weapons with offensive capabilities in both the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) regions represent an extreme existential threat to the Georgian state,” Izoria quoted the report as saying. Though the report’s conclusion regarding threats from Russia was welcomed
by members of parliament, several key law makers from the opposition and the ruling Georgian Dream coalition sharply criticized the intelligence services for failing to mention Moscow’s increasing use of soft power in Georgia through Kremlin-controlled media outlets and disinformation campaigns carried out by Russia’s FSB intelligence services, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB. Russia has poured significant resources into Georgia’s media landscape, with local branches of the Kremlin-controlled LifeNews, Sputnik and RT (formerly Russia Today) opening field offices in
Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Using both Russian and Georgian speakingcorrespondents,thenetworksbroadcast a relentless barrage of programs aimed at fueling anti-Western sentiment in Georgia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long hoped to steer public opinion in Georgia away from its goal of joining both the European Union and NATO. Putin wants to bring Georgia back within Russia’s orbit by capitalizing on growing discontent in the country as the economy falters and a significant rise in Soviet nostalgia takes hold amongst Georgia’s working class.
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Former US Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles on Saakashvili, Russia and the August 2008 War point quite bluntly to President Saakashvili in my presence twice – once privately and once in a group with his cabinet members present – that it would be an incredible political and strategic mistake for something like what happened in August 2004 to be repeated and that doing so would certainly risk Russian intervention and Georgia would be in no position to resist the might of the Russian military. Heidi Tagliavini wrote a wonderful, thorough report and I stand behind it 100%. I have the highest respect for her. And I think anyone who still questions what happened exactly should read that report. It puts blame on both sides – on the Russian side, on the Georgian side, and a little bit on the Ossetian side.
WHEN THE GEORGIAN DREAM GOVERNMENT CAME TO POWER, ONE OF THEIR PROMISES WAS TO SOFTEN RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. HOW CAN GEORGIA MAINTAIN BOTH ITS WESTERN ASPIRATIONS AND TIES WITH RUSSIA GIVEN TWO OF ITS REGIONS REMAIN UNDER RUSSIAN OCCUPATION?
When then-President Bush came out in May 2005, he made the point quite bluntly to President Saakashvili that it would be an incredible political and strategic mistake for something like what happened in August 2004 to be repeated and that doing so would certainly risk Russian intervention
BY NANA SAJAIA, VOICE OF AMERICA’S GEORGIAN SERVICE
enior US diplomat Richard Miles is one of those who over the years has garnered what can only be described as a wealth of experience and insight on political matters about countries in the post-Soviet space and particularly the South Caucasus region. Having served as Ambassador of the United States to Georgia in the penultimate years of the Rose Revolution, he knows more than most what this country is about and is just the person to ask what Georgia should expect from the major political scenarios currently unfolding in the region. Voice of America’s Nana Sajaia did just that and we are pleased to offer an extract of this exclusive interview to GEORGIA TODAY’s readers.
TWO YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE RUSSIA’S INVASION OF CRIMEA. WHERE IS UKRAINE TODAY? They are having difficulties- because of the intrusion of the mercenaries, because of their continuing activities. Despite the Minsk Agreement, the difficulties can still be seen in rather large numbers. Ukraine itself has internal difficulties. With the elections coming up, it’s going to be quite interesting to watch, and you can be sure we are keeping a careful eye on it.
WITH THE MAIDAN REVOLUTION, INVASION OF CRIMEA AND NOW SAVCHENKO’S TRIAL IN RUSSIA, UKRAINE HAS BEEN IN THE INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT. WHAT HAS IT ACHIEVED? Ukraine has a very long history, in some ways inextricably linked with Russian history, but it has enjoyed its current independence only a relatively short period of time. In many such countries, which achieved independence within the last 25-30 years, people try to work out their own political, economic and social development and at the same time try to deal with the burden of their past. And, frankly, to deal with the difficulties posed by the Russian Federation. So, there is no easy answer to the question what has been achieved or what has not been achieved in each of these countries. They are trying, for one.
ARE YOU FOLLOWING PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI’S ACTIVITIES IN UKRAINE? Yes but, to be honest, more for amusement than anything else. I find it particularly odd that a president of an independent sovereign country would
go off and become governor of a province, no matter how important it might be –Odessa is an important place, I just find it really peculiar. I know president Saakashvili speaks Ukrainian, I know he had an education in Ukraine, there are certain reasons why he is there, but I do find that odd.
HOW REALISTIC DO YOU THINK IT IS TO COPY-PASTE THE GEORGIAN ANTI-CORRUPTION MODEL FROM GEORGIA TO UKRAINE? I’m not sure there’s any comparison. Ukraine has quite impressive industrial assets, assets of natural resources, so there are extremely large sums of money involved in the volume of trade transactions which take place in interaction with the government on a much higher level than anything in Georgia. So I don’t think you can actually compare the two situations.
SOME OF THE MOST VOCAL CRITICS OF SAAKASHVILI HAVE SAID HIS ACTIONS PROVOKED RUSSIA IN 2008. SIX YEARS LATER, RUSSIA IS OCCUPYING CRIMEA. HAS THAT SOFTENED CRITICISM TOWARDS SAAKASHVILI? I think the war in 2008 could have been avoided. In August 2004, the Georgian Armed Forces, under President Saakashvili’s leadership, attempted to intervene in South Ossetia. It did not go well and they very quickly withdrew, but not without some deaths on both sides. When then-President Bush came out in May 2005, one of the major purposes was to try to discourage President Saakashvili from any future adventures of that sort. He made the
The situation in an economic sense has been worse than it is at present- the present government has made some effort to try to improve the relationship with Russia and it should
That’s more difficult now than it would have been before 2008. It can be done, there is no reason why Georgia with its geographic position cannot have a good relationship, especially an economic relationship, with Russia. In some ways there has been a continuation of economic cooperation: Russian natural gas still goes through Georgia down to Armenia; Georgian products are still sold in the Russian Federation. The situation in an economic
Former US Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles
sense has been worse than it is at present. The present government has made some effort to try to improve the relationship with Russia and it should.
SOME WOULD SAY THE WESTERN REACTION IN 2008 EMBOLDENED RUSSIA TO INVADE CRIMEA. DO YOU AGREE? I’m sure the majority of Georgian people and the Georgian government might have preferred us to take stronger measures, but that was never on the cards. For the full interview in Georgian, go to: http://www. amerikiskhma.com/a/interview-richard-miles/3247669. html
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Preserving Democracy: the On-Going Fight between the Court and the Government BY MERI TALIASHVILI
he relationship between the Constitutional Court and the Government became strained after the 2013 case concerning the Broadcasting Law when the Constitutional Court nullified the norm, according to which the Broadcasting Board would automatically change with the change in the adoption of the law. The situation turned into a physical confrontation and reached its culmination in September 2015, after the Gigi Ugulava (former Mayor of Tbilisi) case when the court limited 9-months pre-trial detention. From then to date the two bodies have been rivals. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to the President of the Constitutional Court, George Papuashvili, on that relationship and the perspectives of future collaboration between the two.
WHEN DID THE RELATIONSHIP WORSEN BETWEEN THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT AND THE GOVERNMENT? The Constitutional Court, which has been functioning for 20 years, is recognized by Georgian and international experts, governmental and nonauthoritative organizations as an impartial, highly trusted body which stands out in the region. Unlike other institutions, you can find no independent qualified opinion that would question the authority and neutrality of the Constitutional Court. A perfect example of this is election of Georgia Con-
stitutional Court as a chairman of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts in 2012. So, the Constitutional Court, and I, as a chairman of the Constitutional Court, represent all European Constitutional Courts and their equivalent bodies for a 4-year term. Prior to the 2012 election, a lot of important cases were heard in the court and many members of today’s majority participated and cases often ended with the victory of the applicant. There were three cases concerning illicit listening and internet surveillance. Others included rallies and demonstrations legislation, when a 20 meter limitation around state buildings was canceled, important provision to ensure freedom of expression, and the abolition of the obligation of a license for cable TV. The same tendency continued after, however, in this case politicians were actively involved from all sides and the court underwent a political turmoil. Unfortunately, this was followed by various attacks that I would call ‘hybrid attack’ on the Court - directly or indirectly the government carries out attacks against the Court. The first dissatisfaction of the government came in 2013 regarding the Public Broadcasting Law when the Constitutional Court nullified the norm. The Constitutional Court said that regardless of changes of government, if there is no radical change in broadcast structure, the pre-time removal of members of the board shall not be allowed. The change of every government coming with a change in Public broadcasting board affects the broadcasting policy, which is not correct. In addition to the
President of the Constitutional Court, George Papuashvili
majority members’ criticism, the first physical confrontation occurred in Batumi when a small gathered group attempted to block a Court vehicle and threw various items at the building. We made a statement, which unfortunately was not responded to by law enforcement and government. As the incident was small, we didn’t follow up on it. But the situation became extremely tense when the Court’s restricted 9-month pre-trial detention after the so-called ‘Ugulava Case’ in September, 2015. Rallies, shooting of various subjects, and threatening statements were made in front of various judges’ houses in Batumi and Tbilisi. Law enforcement officers did not react. In reality, the government did not prevent unlawful activities and to fulfill its obligations to provide the Constitutional Court and its members with security – they even contributed to the attacks. Some members of parliament tried to legitimize the law breaking by labeling the incidents ‘freedom of speech.’ Though, many international and non-governmental organizations reacted, and the situation was relatively neutralized.
YOU STATED THAT BEFORE THE UGULAVA CASE, MINISTER OF JUSTICE TEA TSULUKIANI OFFERED COOPERATION WITH THE GOVERNMENT. WHAT WAS THAT COOPERATION? In September 2015, Ms Tsulukiani told me that if the entire Constitutional Court and I would collaborate closely with the government, she would help me on behalf of the Government for the term extension at the Venice Commission and would solve other life problems. I refused her offer and decided not to make it public then as it would further complicate our relations with the government and encourage the political games.
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE PLANNED LEGISLATIVE CHANGES PERTAINING TO THE COURT? After the Rustavi2 case, the Minister of Justice stated that the Court is biased and the legislative changes for Court reforms should begin. This happened in December and they have only recently published the draft which until now was secret. The project has been seen by neither Georgian experts nor the Venice Commission and now they want to adopt it urgently in Parliament. The draft basically aims to restrict the powers of the Court.
YOU ARE PROTESTING THE COMMISSION CREATED TO SEND A CANDIDATE TO STRASBOURG, WHY? A so-called Commission was created which will choose 5 candidates here, three of whom will be elected and sent to Strasbourg Court of Human Rights to represent the government- and there one will be selected. That Commission is composed mostly of government representatives. The president of the Commission is the Minister of Justice and members are the Government Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Foreign Minister, and Deputy Chief Prosecutor, majority members of parliament and, in addition, several non-governmental organizations and academia representatives for the entourage.
If you create a proper, unbiased commission, you should not put government representatives but experts in the field. There were many procedural infringements; all candidate biographical data and interview results should be public but they published only my results. Conflict of interest provisions were not taken into account; there are no results appeal mechanisms. I was disliked due to a political mark as being unacceptable for the government. The President of the Conditional Court should not be on the list. They would have troubles regarding criticizing my competence. Apart from my previous activities in the legal field and current academic work, I have been the President of the Constitutional Court for 10 years. I had been member of the Venice Committee for 8 years, and still remain a visiting expert. At the same time I was elected as the Chairman of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts. Therefore, there was a high probability that the European Council would elect me if I was one of the candidates- something which would be categorically unacceptable for the government, so instead of valuing the competence I have, they decided that I was unsuitable in terms of moral criteria. When I publicly criticized the work of the Commission and published relevant documents in response to the moral criticism, the Minister of Justice of the time insisted on unofficially publishing photo-video material of me swearing in order with the aim of revealing my ‘immoral’ character. As I know, the publicizing of such recordings was met with resistance within the government circle and after I revealed this publicly, I hope it won’t be released- if it is, the source will be clear.
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR FUTURE RELATIONS BETWEEN THE COURT THE GOVERNMENT? I say again that a hybrid attack is being launched against the Court by the government’s curtain bodies and representatives and we are facing complete inaction to counter it, particularly from the law-enforcement side. Additionally, there is an attempt to defame the Court and its members. A new tactical attack began with the adoption of legislative changes in order to restrict the Court from functioning effectively. The worst thing is that it damages not only the constitutional Court but the prestige of the country, too. The President of the Venice Commission has already made a statement about ours and the government’s relationship. The same Commission again made recently a statement on behalf of the whole Commission. Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks also made a statement. Then, in the European Parliament’s resolution of this January, inadmissibility of pressure on the Constitutional Court was mentioned. This situation threatens our country’s democracy- the Constitutional Court is a vital and powerful institution in all countries even if politicians don’t like it. When three judges and I end our terms in six months’ time, we want to leave a legacy that will ensure that this body is recognized, respected, and untouched by the government.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Philip Hammond Emphasizes A No-Show! Georgian Regional Importance at Parliament Calls off Session Young Politicians Forum for State Security Report BY MERI TALIASHVILI
BY TAMAR SVANIDZE
n the framework of his visit to Georgia, the United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond attended the Young Politicians Forum which annually brings together future leaders from the South Caucasus region. In his welcoming speech the Secretary stressed the importance of the diversity and regional location of Georgia. “The opportunities for different people of this diverse region to mix and to understand one another should be growing not decreasing. There is an economic cost to unresolved conflicts, particularly when closed borders prevent the regional trade that is such an effective engine of economic growth. There is also real human cost to consider, too,” Mr Hammond said. “I know the cost of conflicts from my time as Secretary of Defense of the UK. Twentyfive years on from the collapse of the Soviet Union, thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons in this region remain unable to return to their homes, including many here in Georgia. Working together is the key to unlocking the true potential of this region- a region which is located on the crossroad of Europe and Asia, a traditional crossing place between East and West and North and South; a region that could become a significant link in a new Silk Road.” The Young Politicians Forum, which aims to develop the ability of youth and to build a bridge of trust among them, was held this year for the fourth time, with the support of Georgia, The Netherlands and Great Britain. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Levan Tsutskiridze,
A UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy. “It was very important that participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and The Netherlands heard the message from the leaders of those countries which play a key role in shaping the world order. Also, I’m delighted at the consensus of the participants on issues such as security, democracy and ensuring of individual freedom,” Tsutskiridze said. During his visit, the UK Foreign Secretary also met the Georgian Prime Minister, members of the Georgian government and the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament. He also laid a wreath at the Heroes Memorial in Tbilisi and visited the construction site of BP’s South Caucasus pipeline expansion which, along with the Shah Deniz 2 project, is bringing a significant investment of £20bn to the region.
Russia Boycotts International Nuclear Security Summit
BY NICHOLAS WALLER
ussia has opted to boycott an upcoming nuclear security summit to discuss measures aimed at preventing terrorist groups from obtaining weaponsgrade radioactive materials. Moscow’s decision to snub the summit has been widely panned by the other participants, who see Russia’s absence as a major blow to the international community’s efforts to better coordinate the arms control measures of the world’s main nuclear powers. Russia overwhelmingly has the world’s largest nuclear weapons arsenal, with nearly 5,000 active warheads at its disposal. In recent years the Kremlin has overtly blocked any cooperation with organizations headed by Western powers, specifically those from the US and UK, after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused both governments of trying to dictate nuclear arms reduction terms. Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zahkarova reiterated Putin’s comments when she announced in late January that Moscow had no intention of attending the 31 March-1 April summit, saying the meeting only took into consideration “the opinions of a specific group of states.” Her comment was widely seen at the time as a thinly veiled reference to the summit’s NATO members, whom Russia considers its main foes. This year’s gathering marks the fourth security summit held in as many years. Russia had sent delegates to the first three meetings, which led to the elimination of weapons-grade uranium from 12 countries that were deemed susceptible to terrorist activities, including the theft of nuclear materials.
“All they’re doing is isolating themselves by not participating, as they have in the past,” Ben Rhodes, a top official on the White House National Security Council, told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. “Their decision to boycott the summit is a serious concern,” he added. Zakharova’s comments are the latest in a series of provocative measures taken by Putin’s Kremlin as it de-couples from most international nuclear watch organizations. In early 2015, Russia formally ended a two decadeold, U.S.-funded program to scrap obsolete nuclear weapon systems and secure facilities where Sovietera radiological material was stored. Since Putin’s February 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, however, Russia has repeatedly threatened to redeploy tactical and intern-continental ballistic missiles to its Kaliningrad exclave on the Polish border and the since-annexed Crimea in effort to deter the West from expanding the NATO deeper into the republics that once made up the Soviet Union. Despite Moscow refusing to attend the summit and as relations between Russia and the West continue to deteriorate to their lowest point since the Cold War, Russia has thus far continued to implement the New START treaty signed by US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. The treaty calls for both nuclear powers to cut their number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by half. Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine will also attend the summit. Both hope to discuss security guarantees from the other participants amid growing concerns in each country that Moscow-backed separatist movements in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and Ukraine’s Donbass could try and procure or sell nuclear material. A recent incident in the impoverished former Soviet republic of Moldova that involvied the smuggling of radioactive materials by members of Russia’s FSB security services with ties to Russian organized crime has deeply alarmed Kyiv and Tbilisi, both of whom fear similar incidents within their own borders.
parliament session scheduled for Wednesday with the aim of having lawmakers hear a report from the Head of the State Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri was called off due to lack of attendees. Member of Parliament (MP) from the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party, Irma Nadirashvili, accused the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition of purposely boycotting the session to prevent the expected grilling of the Security Chief by MPs. Gomelauri, who served as Head of the Security Service of Georgia’s billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili before becoming Deputy Interior Minister in spring 2013, and later Minister of Internal Affairs, said that it is not his fault that quorum was not reached. “I came here to deliver my report and answer all the questions. The failing is on the side of the MPs who chose not to come to the hearing,” Gomelauri said. Gomelauri proceeded to comment on the latest hot topic in the area of security, the so-called ‘sex tapes.’ Regarding the private videos that were expected to be disseminated on March 31, he said, “We hope that no more videos will be published, though we cannot say with 100% certainty they won’t be. Investigation is in progress through the Prosecutor’s Office and we are also providing assistance.” He announced that a special group has been established to assist the investigation which includes the Ministry of Internal Affairs, State Security Service of Georgia, and special agencies from the United States and Great Britain. Georgian society was recently shocked by the
Contact: www.edelbrand.ge Phone: 599 461908
Head of the State Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri
two surveillance videos uploaded onto Youtube depicting the intimate sex lives of prominent public figures and working journalists. The sender threatened to release more videos if those in the video refused to publicly resign from their respective duties by 31st March. At a meeting of three parliamentary committees on Monday, Deputy Head of the State Security Service, Levan Izoria, hinted that, although he did not rule out any theory, Russia could be behind the leaked surveillance videos recently used to threaten government members. Izoria said that videos were uploaded from Ukraine, Sweden and Lithuania and pointed out that the tapes, which were recorded during Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency, were taken and kept out the country following the UNM loss at the October 2012 election.
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Government Builds Residences for IDPs from Abkhazia BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA
he Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia is continuing to provide residences for socially vulnerable people from Abkhazia. The Ministry is about to finish construction of apartments in Zugdidi - near Abkhazia - that will satisfy some 150 families. The project is financially supported by the Ministry itself. Manuchar Chilachava, the IDP Ministry representative in Samegrelo ZemoSvaneti region (Western Georgia) told GEORGIA TODAY that all IDPs are eligible to apply for a residence if they meet certain set criteria. The main focus for the Ministry seems to be on those most socially vulnerable, war veterans and their families, citizens with disabilities, as well as large families. The Ministry is committed to completing construction of the Zugdidi accommodation by November 2016. Chilachava recalls last year when his Office and the Ministry built over 320 apartments for IDPs. It is projected that within the next few years, almost all IDPs will have their own residences. In an interview with GEORGIA TODAY last year, the IDP Minister Sozar Subari
Construction process of the six-floor residence for IDPs in Zugdidi, Western Georgia. Photo: Zviad Adzinbaia
explained the priorities of his Office, the key aspect of which is to be humanoriented, meaning giving more freedom to IDPs living legally or illegally in different spots throughout the country. “There were no instances of forcibly removing IDPs from their temporary shelters, e.g. to places with no infrastructure and other facilities. What I personally have changed is my attempt to make the system flexible and transparent, including developing and activating diverse programs for IDPs,” Minister
Subari explained. Subari also underscored his Ministry’s budget which tripled in the past three years. He said that it allows the Georgian Dream, the party of his membership, to implement much needed projects. Notably, the current government has clearly advertised that they are focused more on social aspects of Georgian society such as health protection - than on other infrastructural projects, as the ex-government was. Being aware of the extreme difficulties
experienced by many citizens in the country, the government believes that providing the adequate reaction to something that can be fatal for future generations is of utmost importance. “Restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity is irreversible, as the events in the world develop in a quick manner. We need to be prepared in many respects. I believe the IDPs who receive apartments from the government will definitely remain the same in their mentality and aspire towards a unification process,” Minister Subari said. Notably, last year, when the apartments were distributed in Zugdidi, there were accusations that some people who received apartments should not have while thousands others were left in need. Minister Subari told GEORGIA TODAY that in response to those allegations they had made the process transparent and opened a hotline and other means of direct communication with the Ministry to avoid misunderstandings. The Minister said the United National Movement sent several leaders to organize protest actions in Zugdidi. “However, we tried our best to be just and provide for the neediest people. There might have been some failures in the process and single personalities could have taken bribes, though, we have opened various means of communication with the citizens to get information in a direct way.” Interestingly, Subari’s Ministry strongly
suggested a proposal to take an additional loan, whether domestic or foreign, to provide all IDPs with housing. This was projected to be one of the best solutions in terms of future economic and social growth. However, the Georgian Constitution does not allow a loan received from foreign financial institutions. to be increased. “My project needs over one billion Lari, which will make it much easier for the country in a long-term view. As it stands, we will continue our efforts to ease difficulties among the IDPs as much as possible,” Minister Subari concluded. Over the last 22 years, the problems of Internally Displaced Persons in Georgia have been one of the most painful issues for the country. The Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region (formerly South Ossetia) and subsequently the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, led to the mass displacement of over half a million people from their own homes. Russia and Georgia have fought a grave war for Abkhazia which has been a sovereign part of Georgia for centuries. After the Russo-Georgian war of 2008, Russia recognized Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region as independent states. The recognition seriously hinders the process of peaceful settlement of the conflicts. The international community strongly supports the notion that Abkhazia, as well as South Ossetia, are inseparable parts of Georgia.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Spotlight on Food Security Issues in Georgian Mountain Villages BY EKA KARSAULIDZE
n March 25, 2016, Oxfam Georgia and the Rural and Agricultural Policy and Development Institute (RAPDI) presented the research findings of the first nationwide study on food security and nutrition in the Greater and Lower Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. The research shows that despite the mountainous regions of Georgia demanding and having all oppor-
tunities for development, there are alarming problems regarding food security. “The objective of the study was to explore the current situation regarding food security and nutrition in the high mountainous regions of Georgia and to evaluate climate change risks regarding food production and accessibility to food,” said representatives of Oxfam Georgia. “The key component of the study was also to identify the gender dynamics in food production and consumption practices.” The study covered three regions of Georgia bordering the Russian Federa-
111 Year Anniversary of Funicular Cableway BY EKA KARSAULIDZE
he 500 meter Tbilisi Funicular was built according to a project by Belgium architects in 1905. It had the very important function of connecting the Old Town with the new city area Mtatsminda Hills. The Funicular remains a recognized symbol of Tbilisi and attracts large numbers of tourists. To celebrate the 111th anniversary of the opening of the Funicular, on 27th March an exhibition was held in Mtatsminda Park presenting 30 photos and videos that recalled the history and the process of construction of the rails and stations. Also on display were the original plans of the facility and stations that serviced the cable cars and passengers travelling to the top of Mtatsminda Hill
and unique video footage from the 1950s. All materials were provided by the National Archives of Georgia. “The Funicular gained great popularity among tourists. People quite often come here just to ride up in the tram car and enjoy the views from the observation platform,” said Gela Digmalashvili, Director of Mtatsminda Park. “The Tbilisi Funicular is unique and there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world,” he said. Like many leading tourist heritage sites, the Funicular comes with a history. From the date of opening to 1938 it remained unchanged, at which time its upper and lower stations were replaced with new buildings. They were replaced again in 1968. However, after the cable broke in 2000, the funicular was closed for many years. A major reconstruction was carried on its facilities in 2007 and the new line resumed full operation in 2013.
tion, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Researchers focused particularly on villages located to the west and east of the Greater Caucasus range and in the Lower Caucasus Mountains. A number of important issues were spotlighted, including food security conditions, access to products, and availability and quality. Results show the level of food security is much lower than in other regions of Georgia. The residents of mountain regions are restricted to engaging only in cattlebreeding and potato-growing. According to statistics, 94 percent of locals
grow potatoes while other agricultural crops are available to less than 50 percent of the population. Based on this, it appears that the majority of basic consumer products, including vegetables, eggs, breads, cereals, fish and poultry need to be imported from other regions of the country, despite there being an obvious issue in the mountain regions regarding logistics, transport and infrastructure. There are consistent risks of landslides, avalanches, floods and other natural disasters in the mountains and, as such, the price of products imported from other regions of Georgia is often very high. About half the studied population admitted that they have only enough income for food and transport, while for 13 percent it was not enough even for food. In addition, 41 percent of locals
said that they prefer to buy low quality products at a more affordable price. The researchers argue that the mountain regions of Georgia should be given special attention, particularly in the context of the increasing interest of tourists to travel to such areas and the desire of the energy sector to develop infrastructure there. In particular, the researchers proposed the establishment of a special program for mountain regions to eliminate the problem of food and access to products with the aim of paving the way for development of such regions. The studies were conducted based on an analysis of existing data. In addition, interviews with local residents were carried out through various formatssurveys, questionnaires, face-to-face interviews and focus groups.
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? We Are! OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE
he world has obviously become a scarier place to live in and enjoy than it once was – scarier than during World Wars One and Two, or in the chilling times of the most destructive earthquakes Man has ever known. With international terrorism out of control – alarmingly rampant and spreading fast – human life on Earth in general and our attitudes in particular are starting to alter noticeably, forfeiting one set of values and acquiring another. It is so much easier to go to war and defend yourself when things are clear and open between the warring parties: you know who the enemy is, you plan your strategy and you defy violence as classic war logic dictates. Incidentally, wars have always contained their part of parity and honesty, so to speak. This is no longer the case in our bizarre times of ambushed animosity when the enemy is invisible and armed to the teeth to kill you and your loved ones. I have an educated sense of justice and ample evaluation acumen to know that it is politically incorrect to say there is something wrong going on between the Islamic and Judeo-Christian cultural routines presently – just as it was in the past – but as the famous adage has it, facts are sacred. Only the comments are not very free now! Terror has overwhelmed the planet, leaving it trembling in fear. Innocent civilians are losing their lives in this weird war just because somebody wants to murder them for some uncertain reason full of exacerbated odium and an unconscionable sense of revenge. And they are doing this with an old but renovated unconventional weapon called suicide. Suicide bombing has nothing to do with Christianity or Judaism. As a matter of fact, suicidal termination of life is reckoned as one of the heaviest sins in our faith. Christians and Jews, or any other believers, except the Muhammadan – putting this respectfully – do
not usually wire their bodies and load themselves with killing gear aiming to eventually explode themselves in the most densely populated public areas of what we call the Western World. It is a purely Muslim invention and tool for defeating the adversary, even though the adversary is not really an adversary. Adversary in the case of the suicide bombing is only a deliberately targeted symbol in order to send a message. But this cruel message has a savage proclivity of taking hundreds of innocent lives at a time, thousands in actual aggregate and millions as possibility. I am verbally and philosophically sweating over this strange phenomenon of terror-mongering in an attempt to somehow make head or tail of it, and the conclusion I arrive at is that it cannot be helped even if the West achieves a certain amount of temporary success in subduing the infuriated monster. The monster has countless growing heads, arms and feet, and an indomitable soul into the bargain, which claims immortality. There is no stopping the powerful blood-thirsty giant, named terrorism, unless some counter-power ends its rage with some calculated determination and practically usable sophistication. And even if this is achievable, it will not be the best solution to the dilemma. There may be no win-win situation here. It is a double-edged sword of a kind,
because there are tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of wonderful, hard-working, peace-loving, kindhearted, honest and intelligent Muslims in the world who hate the fact of terrorism. They often find themselves alongside other innocents in the crowd of good victims of a suicide bomber attack. Some bright authors might qualify the dreadful cul-de-sac as a clash of civilizations, and interpret masterfully its reasons and consequences, but this is no help. The only way out has to be traced somewhere else, in an absolutely unknown place called reconciliation, which can materialize only if we take entire Mankind’s wealth and every single source of human happiness and redistribute it so that all of the six plus billion people around the globe feel blessed and satisfied. Is this at all possible? Most of us would say no. In which case we can forget about quenching terrorism and relaxing a little. On a totally different count, it is us- the terror fighters -who call them terrorists. They think differently of themselves – the heroes struggling for justice and freedom. Meanwhile, the big bad wolves are right here in our backyards, and no matter how courageously we try to defy the onslaught, we are still scared to death – not because we are natural cowards, but because we are just humans and want to live rather than die.
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Hilton Hotel Batumi: Batumi Suffering from Lack of Flights Volunteers Protest Parking Violations on Tbilisi’s Pavements BY TAMAR SVANIDZE
group of volunteers held a rally late last week to protest the rampant parking and road violations that occur on the pavements of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The protestors demanded that the police enforce the existing laws on pedestrian rights and issue fines to those who violate the regulations. They later took to Tbilisi’s streets and proceeded to tag illegally parked cars with stickers demanding that the vehicle be moved. At least 90 people have died and another 3,834
injured in the last year due to traffic related accidents in Tbilisi. In an effort to stem the number of lethal incidents, the Ministry of Internal Affairs launched a public service campaign in 2015 to increase awareness about road safety. The event was organized by numerous non-profit organizations that hope to improve Georgia’s notoriously poor traffic conditions, The organizers included the Alliance for Safety Roads, Partnership Fund for Safe Roads, Georgian Automobile Federation, Georgian Red Cross Society, Georgian Sports Cars Federation, Transparency International Georgia, Go on Foot, Association of Roads and Transport and Kia Motors.
Stewart Nelson, General Manager of Hilton Hotel Batumi
BY MERI TALIASHVILI
ilton is a world renowned brand and when you mention ‘Hilton’, the usual response is “Hotel!” just as “Hoover” is synonymous with vacuum cleaners and “Coke” is known as a fizzy drink. The Hilton hotel has made Batumi one of the main tourist and business destinations. For Hilton, the past year has been a success but recently it has begun to face challenges in terms of business conference cancellations. The problem has arisen due to the lack of flights to Batumi and the fact that Batumi is far from Tbilisi, doubling expenditure for tourists. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Stewart Nelson, General Manager of Hilton Hotel Batumi, to discuss the current challenges the hotel faces and how he envisions the way out.
MR. NELSON, WHAT IS THE GENERAL PICTURE OF FLIGHTS TO BATUMI? We’ve had some really positive responses from holiday tour operators and charter flight operators who are currently promoting Hilton within the Israeli market, and we hope to have other destinations flying into Batumi from the Gulf regions and beyond in the near future. This initial work has resulted in other operators coming to the market and benefiting other hotels within the city so we started offering the same competitive prices- they really do increase interest in the destination, a real bonus for the city and for Georgia during this latest Low season. We’re seeing flights arrive from March to December and will look to see the market grow to a yearround flight in 2017. This is sure to be a great boost to all tourism destinations, and the local economy as a whole. What’s more, it’s really encouraging to see other independent travelers, like those from Iran, benefiting from a visa free status set up by the Georgian Government. We hope that all these efforts will continue to result in a busier Batumi.
THE HILTON HOTEL HAS HAD TROUBLES IN ATTRACTING BUSINESS RECENTLY. WHY? We’ve had real challenges attracting conferences from Tbilisi, our prime market. All of the companies we have spoken to are unwilling to ask their employees to make a 12 hour return trip by road or train, (if a ticket can be purchased at all) to Batumi. There have been no flights since January and none are for sale online for the rest of this year. Batumi is an island, cut off by the lack of flights since Georgian Airlines, the nation’s flag carrier, decided to stop flying. The inconsistency of flights,
sometimes canceled on the day of departure, has seen trust in the service rapidly deteriorate. This can be reversed by great marketing, attractive offers, pricing management, maybe even a limited government subsidy and a determination to deliver consistent, affordable seats on regular flights. This would allow not only Georgian companies but international companies to come to Adjara to hold their conferences. All of us in tourism in Batumi need to lobby hard to have this situation reversed and I trust that with coordinated determination, we’ll achieve this together.
HAVE YOU TURNED TO ANY ORGANIZATIONS OR THE GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT ITSELF TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM? We’ve asked the Government for assistance and this indeed has been our message over the last year. We also have other travel industry partners keen to promote this safe and visa free destination. The proof of all this work will be presented as increased flights, not only Charters but regular flights from Tbilisi and other destinations, and an increased promotion of the region. Great steps have been made so far and I’m sure this will continue. It has to as we all need to see real tourism numbers grow and not just border crossings being counted. There needs to be a visible plan that all government has for tourism that will plug into the international hotel brands plans. As such, Georgia will be helped by all the brands within their regions and internationally.
DO YOU HAVE YOUR OWN ACTION PLAN TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION? All of our plans within the hotel are co-ordinated to improve visitor numbers, revenues, and provide great service within Hilton Batumi. We’ll continue to lobby and press for action and trust that our efforts, along with all those of the local hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions, will create a voice that cannot be ignored by airlines or government, both local and national. Further to these strategic plans, we’re looking to buying local produce and help to guide all quality and consistency so we can support local producers. We’re seeking out farmers to grow for us and have formed great partnerships with the likes of Merci Corp to help us do just this. We in Hilton have a strong local social conscience, so we’re fundraising for local children’s charities to help with their needs and dreams. We’re committed to the local area and will do all we can to see it grow and develop. This goes along with our commitment to improve, grow and develop the infrastructure for tourism within this wonderful destination.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Adam’s Arsenal and Georgian Outrage: Ogden on ‘Love’ OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN
f all the things I love in my life, my wife comes first, closely followed by my 42-inch television. I never imagined that anything in this world would make me want to attack it with an axe and set fire to the remains until I saw Gaspar Noe’s ‘Love’. With Russian soldiers to the north and Islamic militants to the south, you’d have thought that Georgian chat shows might have thought of something more important to argue about than a film. However, Noe’s movie caused a storm last week, with some branding it pornographic and an inappropriate abomination due to the explicit sex scenes, especially as they depict group sex, lesbian sex and sex with a seventeen year old girl. They contended that it does not, in fact, deserve to be called a film. The people on the show demanded that the government block the film online (the government having recently shown how good they are at blocking videos of
people playing two-backed beastie), apparently oblivious to the fact that many Georgians regularly watch the kind of thing that would be banned in Babylon. Normally I’d now lay into Georgian hypocrisy, and I will, briefly; porn sites are the most visited websites in the country, and seventeen year olds getting married, while uncommon, is not unheard of: I recently met someone who married when she was fifteen, poor lass. Yet for once I agree with the ultra-conservative Georgians: this film is a crime against humanity. Not that I’m a prude, you understand,
or difficult to please. Give me a car chase, a gun fight, some hand-to-hand combat and a scene when Kevin Spacey looks at the camera and talks like a teacher explaining something to the class idiot, and I’m as happy as can be. I like dinosaurs, too. So understand me when I say that I didn’t take offence at this film for quite the same reasons as the Georgian conservatives. While staring at Adam’s Arsenal isn’t my idea of the perfect Saturday evening, I’m partial to the female form, and nudity in film only bothers hypocrites and the overly religious (or
both, now that I think about it). No, this film sucks (if you’ll pardon the pun) because of the dreadful script, the cringeworthy acting, and the cliched whispery voiceovers. Its vain attempts at selfreferential humour flop faster than...no, I won’t write that. I had a supporting role in a Georgian soap opera last year (you haven’t seen it; it seems not many people did apart from elderly women), and while I’d never call myself an actor, I did at least learn to appreciate when someone is very aware that they are on camera. One of my biggest problems with this film is the fact that the cast seem about as comfortable as a serial killer in a police interview still wearing his last victim’s skin. With regards to the controversial sex scenes themselves, it was difficult for me personally to be aroused by anything in the film since the male character looked so much like the protagonist from Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and one of the female leads had fewer teeth than Mike Tyson. The film is being interpreted differently, as you might expect. Some people think it encourages a liberal sex life, oth-
ers believe it warns against it. I interpret it as a warning to filmmakers: hiring models with no acting experience desperate enough to do anything to get on the screen makes for an all-round bad movie. If I wrote everything I felt about ‘Love’ then the police would probably get involved and arrest me for deviance. For my money, as a film it’s not good enough to get upset about, or half as bad as the things that are widely available on the Internet these days. Besides which, Georgia’s repression of all things sex has only made the taboo more attractive. I’ve been in Georgia for six years, and I’ve been a Georgian citizen for three, and I’m beginning to share the Georgian love of being outraged for the sake of being outraged. My anger, however, is directed at the slow delivery of dialogue to show the viewer just how serious the characters are, and the hackneyed lines themselves, along with the total lack of plot. In addition, despite the film’s alleged realism, not once does anyone go to the toilet. Hopefully, the next Jason Bourne movie will restore my faith in the film industry.
Sink or Swim? Court to Judge Sulfur Bath-GWP Case BY EKA KARSAULIDZE
he management of the legendary Sulfur Baths of Tbilisi continues to refuse to pay for the Georgian Water and Power (GWP) company’s services at the new inflated rates and is now threatening to close the cultural monument. A protest was held to this aim on 24 March and resulted in the closure of the Baths during the day. Representatives of GWP believe that the Baths should not have preferential rates and insist they must receive payment of the debt to the amount of 200,000 GEL. The case is currently pending before the Court. Representatives of the Baths stated that for seven years, based on an oral agree-
ment, they paid for GWP services at a fixed feed-in tariff. After the management changing in February 2015, GWP decided to introduce a new tariff, according to which the new price exceeds the previous one by about 15 times. “We used to pay about 10 Tetri per cubic meter,” stated Nodar Totogashvili, the Director of Naricala Company. “To date, GWP has been asking 90 Tetri per cubic meter of water. In other words, where we once paid 700 GEL, we are now expected to pay 10.000 GEL.” GWP claim that the debt is for sewage services. “In the past there was no mechanism to measure [them]. After we installed meters a year ago, we introduced to the Sulfur Baths the same rates as all non-household customers in the capital have, including health care and education, as well as other budgetary and nonbudgetary organizations,” said Mamuka
Kikalishvili, the Head of the Operating System of GWP. Totogashvili suggests that the Sulfur Baths is a specific business which should be offered reduced rates. In addition, the Baths are a cultural monument and need constant updating and high financial expenditure. Kikalishvili claims he does not understand the reason for there being an issue. “Debt is nothing unusual. It just needs to be paid,” he said. Moreover, GWP confirmed that they do recognize the importance of the Sulfur Baths as an important cultural and tourist attraction and feel that, although the Bath business is profitable enough, they have not applied particularly radical measures and pointed out that they have never ceased service provision. Representatives of the Government of Georgia also reacted to the issue. Mayor
of Tbilisi, Davit Narmania, announced the willingness of the city authorities to be involved in the negotiation process if deemed necessary. “However, on the basis of the legislation and regulations, the local government role in this regard will not be active,” said Narmania. Adding to this sentiment, Minister of
Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Dmitry Kumsishvili, said that since the dispute is between two private companies, this case should be resolved in the Court, as it is set to be. Representatives of the Sulfur Baths claim they plan further protests and closures in future.
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Georgia’s Healthcare and Medical Staff Need Continuous Development BY KETI DIDEBULIDZE
ccording to recent studies of the Georgian healthcare sector, there are a number of shortcomings in the primary healthcare field and their eradication is one of the main challenges facing the Georgian Health Ministry. ‘The Health Field Barometer- 6th Wave,’ a study by the Curatio foundation, reads that the quality of health services and problems with continuous education programs are considered one of the main problems in the Health System. Representatives of the medical sector and doctors agree that doctors should not be motivated to or interested in prescribing inappropriate or excessive medications to patients. There are com-
panies in Georgia that own both pharmaceutical companies and clinics whose doctors frequently prescribe medications manufactured by the same company. We spoke to Rusudan Jashi, Head of the Association for Development of Clinic Pharmacology and Rational Pharmacotherapy, about these issues.
will be also reduced. No owner or manager will tell a doctor to prescribe inappropriate medication to a patient that does not fit the protocol. We should assist doctors by supplying more literature to them and by involving them in the professional education system.
HOW DOES THE RISK OF POLYPRAGMASY INCREASE IN THE ABOVE CASES?
THE GEORGIAN HEALTH MINISTRY PLANS TO CARRY OUT REFORMS IN THE PRIMARY HEALTHCARE CHAIN. DO YOU COOPERATE WITH THE MINISTRY AND DO YOU HAVE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS TO ELIMINATE THE POLYPRAGMASY PROBLEM?
This problem does not exist only in Georgia. Many countries face the same issues. When talking about clinic management, we should also remember that it is not created here. Our associations take samples from Europe and those practices are tailored to the Georgian reality. Doctors follow the clinic management protocols regardless of who owns the clinic. When this practice is established, polypragmasy
Research shows that the primary healthcare chain contains a number of problems. Polypragmasy is met in the hospital sector, too, but protocols and guidelines regulate these issues somehow. In this respect the role of clinical pharmacology is decisive. Regretfully, these days clinical pharmacology is not taught at medical institutions here. I taught clinical pharmacology at the medical institution from 1987 but over the course of time, the academic hours decreased and, finally, the subject was fully removed. Therefore, this problem is of a failing in the education system. It is easier to teach students than to make a doctor give up habits.
WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL PRACTICE IN THIS RESPECT? In most countries clinics cannot receive licenses if they do not have clinical pharmacologists. In some cases patients may have more than one illness. A patient may be ill through diabetes plus cardiovascular disease and so on. This signifies, under the protocol, that medication should be prescribed for each illness and finally, the doctor may end up prescribing more than 10 medications. In this case, clinics need clinical pharmacologists to control the whole process.
Rusudan Jashi, Head of the Association for Development of Clinic Pharmacology and Rational Pharmacotherapy
Autonomous Republic. Therefore, I have to frequently visit highland districts of Adjara. I would not say urban doctors have more information than doctors elsewhere. When pharmaceutical companies want to spread information about their own medications, they often bring doctors in minibuses in order to inform them about their products. In this way they manage to cover almost all regions of Georgia as it is in their own interest to do so. However, this does not signify the information is sufficient.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE REGIONS AND MOUNTAIN VILLAGES?
WE OFTEN HEAR THAT DOCTORS HAVE CERTAIN MOTIVATION TO PRESCRIBE THIS OR THAT MEDICATION. SHOULD WE CONSIDER LOW SALARIES THE MAIN REASON FOR THIS PRACTICE?
Right now I’m working in Batumi as the Chief Pediatrician of the Adjara
When working in the Pediatric Institute, my salary was frozen for several years.
10 Galaktion Street
We have also lived through the period of Coupons. Despite these factors, we have never prescribed medications for personal benefit. This is an issue of ethics and it derives from the human mindset. I think a lack of information is one of the main causes of this problem.
HOW CAN THIS PROBLEM BE RESOLVED? WHAT CAN THE HEALTH MINISTRY DO TO PROTECT DOCTORS FROM ACCUSATIONS? The authorities should develop a continuous medical education program. The Union of Medical Associations has recently proposed the issue of undertaking such a program. The Association of Clinical Pharmacology is ready to join this process to upgrade the existing knowledge in the clinical pharmacology field. We expect the program details and the participant parties to be released in early May.
Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
The Beauty of Japanese and Georgian Ballet Combined
The Georgian and Japanese dancers with Nina Ananiashvili before the show
BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
Svaneti, This has Gone Far Enough BY TONY HANMER
n the face of unremitting winter (more accurately, several-times-departing-and-returning winter), some more future article titles for you to consider, dear Reader. Killing my Killer: the Gilt-on-Chased-Silver Iconic Svan Version of Emperor Diocletian being killed by St George, whom he Martyred How the Svans Showed the Mongols such a Fabulously Good Time that they Stayed for (Only) a (Whole) Year Why the Svans are Proud to have been Called Dirty and Smelly by Strabo Heard but Seldom Seen, or Seen but Seldom Heard: Avalanches Vs. Glaciers—Your Preference (Poll) How and Why Cows Lose their Bells: A Confession Origin of the Svan Word for What, ma, in a Calf’s First Utterance Before Oppenheim’s 1936 Fur-Covered Bowl: the Inverted Svan Hat as Drinking Vessel The Real Reason why That Sculpture of Tamar Mepe Ended Up in the Center of Mestia How to Feed Your Pet Termite for Quickest Breeding How a Bull Defeats a Barbed-Wire Fence (and Why) Move, Rebuild, Destroy, Replace: former Georgian President’s Secret Agenda for Mestia Museum Grading the Soviet Political Classics as Toilet Paper: a Hardness Scale “Chornie Glaza”, selected works by A. Pugacheva and Blue System, and other Rediscovered Masterpieces of the Essential Long-Distance Marshroutka
Soundtrack Step, Wash, Repeat: Svan Tardiness as a Function of Shoe Worship “Woman, Food, Now,” and other Essential Phrases for the Cultured Svan Male Why All Wooden Floors in Svaneti are Painted the Same Hue and Shade of Brown The Dog as Surrogate Warrior in Modern Svaneti “I Just had my Rabies Shot” and other Best Excuses for Not Drinking Puliani, Gviani, Dze-Shviliani, Bakuriani, Khistaviani and other Lost Svan Surnames Svan: Language or Dialect? (Hint: Ask this Question in Svan and see Who can Understand it) Svan Fashion: Black is not only the New Black, but the Only Color “Neither does English have its Own Alphabet” and other Useful Additions to the “X is not a Written language” Debate Cold Spaghetti on the Wall, and Other Possible Ways that M. Mashtots may have Invented every Existing Alphabet in World History If you Think our Bark is Worse, Just Try our Bite: The Dogs Speak Out The Joke was on Jason: Ancient Svan Humor and the Golden Fleece Gag “Medea was Such a Witch” and other Excised Text Fragments Rediscovered in the Svan Manuscripts of the Argonautica Multi-Purpose Building: Mestia Hospital Doubles as Town Freezer Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1300 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti
othing is impossible except the impossible, said Valentin Bartes, President of Arte Italia and choreographer on the conclusion of a joint charity gala which featured up-andcoming young ballet dancers of the prestigious ‘Passion du Ballet a Kyoto’ (PBK) Competition, dancers of the State Ballet of Georgia, and students of the Tbilisi V. Chabukiani Ballet School. “The work of the Japanese and Georgian dancers is something to be proud of; it is something we must do again!” The event was organized by The Friends of the Georgian Ballet together with Arte Italia and PBK Ballet Competition and supported by Prima Ballerina and Artistic Director Nina Ananiashvili at the Rustaveli Drama Theater. All proceeds from ticket sales went to supporting aspiring young Georgian artists at the Tbilisi Vakhtang Chabukiani Ballet School. The first Act featured a variety of mini-dances performed by soloists and small groups of both nationalities, incomparable in their talents on the stage. The second Act saw the re-telling of Sleeping Beauty and the bringing together of the full cast and school pupils: from the youngest ballet danc-
ers to the exquisite perfection of ballet dancers who have been under the strict direction of the teachers, and Nina Ananiashvili herself, for some ten years. Sleeping Beauty was played by Ann Ksovreli and Megumi Higuchi, with the prince who saves her played by Italian guest soloist of the State Ballet of Georgia, Diego Buttiglione. Not a slipper was put wrong as they glided across the stage, earning welldeserved applause time and again. It was a pleasure to attend the gala performance and bear witness to the developing talents of the young dancers of Japan and Georgia, working together to both entertain and build cultural bridges. And it was a pleasure, too, to contribute to the professional growth of Georgia’s young talent in addition to that support provided by the kind and enthusiastic folk at The Friends of the Georgian Ballet organization. About The Friends of the Georgian Ballet: The Friends have a special relationship with the Georgian Ballet – they receive information on the Company’s news, upcoming performances and other events on a regular basis, invitations to special celebrations (e.g. the season opening reception and scholarship awarding ceremony, Opera House tour, book presentation) where they can meet and interact with Nina and the Ballet Company’s soloists in person and get to know more about the life of the Georgian Ballet. For more information or to join, contact: email@example.com.
APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Google’s Cultural Website to Showcase Georgian Art
BY ANA AKHALAIA
n an agreement signed between Google and Art Palace (the Georgian State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography), the Art Palace of Georgia will now be able to showcase many of its unique exhibits on a special website named the Google Cultural Institute. Launched in 2011, Google Cultural Institute is “an effort to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations.” Tbilisi’s Art Palace treasures will become a part of a virtual family where the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Van Gogh and others are showcased. Art Palace is the first organization in Georgia to become a member of the Cultural Institute. The museum has already started the process of upload-
ing high quality photographs of its many exponents onto the webpage - paintings, unique pieces of applied art, cinema and theater costumes, manuscripts, porcelain, archeological artifacts and metal works which viewers will be able to see in the smallest detail by using the online zoom feature. “We are very excited and honored to be able to present the wonderful exponents we house at Art Palace to an international audience through the Google Cultural Institute,” said Giorgi Kalandia, Director of the Art Palace. “Once the initial photos are uploaded, we plan to make and upload a virtual journey through the museum and 3D displays of chosen pieces of art.” The Art Palace was recently awarded a Special Mention of the jury of Europa Nostra in recognition of its outstanding contribution to the conservation of historic paintings, furniture and other elements. If you are lucky enough to live in Georgia, you can see the Art Palace treasures live at Kargareteli Str. 6, Tbilisi.
As Wonderful as Art Can Be: Abramishvili’s Paradises, Panthers and More BY MAKA LOMADZE
s beautiful as art can be – these are the first words that come to my mind when I look at these magnificent works by Merab Abralishvili. People in general are inclined to either easily worship or easily criticize, and we, Georgians, people of extremities, are specially characterized by this feature. However, without any exaggeration, this stunning world will show you that sometimes even epithets are not enough. The Zurab Tsereteli Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) invites all who have even the slightest feel for perceiving beauty. This is an exposition that nobody should miss, that all Georgians and foreigners should see to get acquainted with the large scale of diversity that Georgian fine art possesses. Incomparable canvases performed in fresco technique have been displayed since March 9, and were to be taken down on April 3. However, due to the audience’s artistic appetite and good resonance, it will happily last until April 17. The late Merab Abramishvili was a distinguished representative of modern Georgian art. His style represents an original transformation of Georgian cultural heritage, namely, Georgian frescoes, and is perceived as an extraordinary occasion not only against a background of Georgian art, but in the modern world art space as well. “We’ve exhibited his paintings regularly since 1992, when my gallery first opened,” Baia Tsikoridze, curator of the exhibition, told GEORGIA TODAY. “In 2013, I represented him at the London Sotheby Auction’s exhibitions ‘On the Crossroads 1 – Middle Asian and Caucasian Modern Art’ and ‘On the Crossroads 2 - From Istanbul to Kabul’. Abramishvili’s works were sold with success. The new catalogue is the most comprehensive that has been released so far, comprising around 400 paintings and this exhibition is the largest among those held in Georgia to date. I can tell you that 40% of his paintings are a total surprise – coming from private collections. This is an ongoing process. Since opening this exhibition, new paintings have emerged.” Levan Abramishvili, the renowned painter’s son, is a painter himself. He is very grateful to the organizers for completing such a tremendous task. “There are much more resources abroad in terms of exhibition space and a number of eager spectators. I can say that the maximum has been done considering the limited capacities of Georgia. Everything has been fulfilled to the highest level. Some of the paintings are from our family collection, whilst more than a half come from private collections. There were plenty of surprises for me and some works I had never seen before. I like my dad’s style very much, but I want to paint the way I want. My technique implies two pictures in one,” he told GEORGIA TODAY. Merab Abramishvili graduated from the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts in 1981. His future aesthetics were influenced by medieval Georgian frescoes and Orientalist miniatures which were introduced
to him by his father, Guram Abramishvili, an expert in Georgian medieval art at the Art Museum of Georgia. Impressed by the medieval frescoes from the Ateni Sioni Church, the artist adopted the gesso technique to create the texture of a mural in his easel painting. Due to his unique visual language and aesthetics, Abramishvili emerged as one of the leading Georgian artists to go beyond the established Soviet-era clichés. In the period of postSoviet political instability, Abramishvili became preoccupied with mystical imagery. His works are displayed as part of solo and group exhibitions in both Georgia and abroad and are treasured by the Art Museum of Georgia and National Gallery of Art in Tbilisi as well as Museum Ludwig Cologne, and private collections in Finland and the United States. The current exposition features the paintings created from 1985 to 2006, the year the painter died, and includes private collections from Georgia and overseas. There are negotiations to display this exhibition in foreign countries which will undoubtedly play a great role in the popularization of Georgian modern art. The very peculiar panthers and peacocks and interpretations on the motifs of paradise are captivating, as are the flowers adorned with half-surrealistic colors, giving the observer space to perceive and contemplate. Apart from the catalogue, various products made according to Merab Abramishvili’s works are for sale in the museum shop, including reproductions on silk, postcards, notebooks, glasses and bags. Following the exposition, the catalogue will be available at Baia Gallery and various bookshops and museums.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Manana Menabde, an Organic Artist Serving Multiple Muses BY MAKA LOMADZE
t Tbilisi History Museum (commonly known as Karvasla) under the Georgian National Museum, the photo-exhibition of distinguished artist Manana Menabde is on. Titled ‘Illusions,’ it opened last Thursday, March 24. She is acknowledged as an artist who will never be identified with any of the fashionable or epoch-making trends. She is always associated with something independent, original and harmonious. Menabde is first and foremost a wellknown musician and singer. Alongside that she is a painter, photographer, film director and writer. Her extremely musical family still evokes great interest: Manana Menabde was only four years old when the Magazine ‘Ogonyok’ published an article about the famous Ishkhneli Sisters (Menabde’s grandmother and great aunts) and mentioned the little girl who could perform their whole repertoire. “My house was a sort of music-box,” Manana said, “I was fortunate to be part of an everlasting festivity of music.” She worked in painting, graphic art and collage together with the new generation of the 1980s. From 1991 she lived and worked in Berlin holding concerts, exhibitions, and participating in various projects and performances in Germany, Russia and Georgia. Manana Menabde became interested in photography back in the 1970s and in 2013, she was offered the chance to design a friend’s book ‘Declaration of Love in Russian,’ which includes around 100 of Menabde’s photo-works. The exhibition ‘Illusions’ showcases
various series on different motifs: ‘Ghosts of Tango,’ ‘Mannequin and Life,’ ‘Graphic Photos,’ ‘Painting Photos,’ ‘Watercolor,’ ‘Pastel,’ and ‘Light and Shadow’. Each reveals the author’s multicolored photographic style and an expression peculiar to her. Menabde can also be found decorating ceramics, releasing musical albums (‘Dreams of Georgia’ and ‘Bulat Okujava’s songs performed by Manana Menabde’), and publishing her fables and short stories in German which add to a literary collection which also includes her autobiographical novel ‘Wednesday - the Day of the Flight.’ In 1992, Manana Menabde was awarded a literary scholarship by the Heinrich Boll Foundation. Art critics say that in all spheres, she manages to be an organic artist. Interestingly enough, the majority of these photos are taken with an amateur SONY camera or an iPhone; only a few have been taken with a professional camera. For Manana herself it is more important how she captures the photographs – what intensity of illumination, which context and, of course, what she wants to say through them. “I always like to tell the unvarnished truth,” she says, “that is why I avoid using effects. My photos are quite raw. The art of photography is a way of showing the truth, which does not always look as beautiful as we would like it to be.” Hannelore Umbreit, Leipzig University professor, translator and specialist in Slavic Languages, says, “The extraordinary talent of Menabde is always revealed in her ability to keep tradition, while at the same time breaking it.” Lika Mamatsashvili, Curator of the National Museum of Georgia, told GEORGIA TODAY: “Manana Menabde is a real artist, which implies enjoying talents in almost all arts. First and foremost, she is a singer. She sings exactly how she
feels. This photo-exhibition is also a demonstration of her feelings and she wishes to transmit these naked sensations to the audience.” There is a saying that it is impossible to serve two muses. However, there are a very few who manage to serve several. Manana Menabde is among them, a person who is totally saturated with creative energy. The exhibition is distinguished with story-telling through the texts which accompany each photograph, texts that reveal the artist’s wisdom and ironic sense of humor: “The man kept silent and everyone thought him to be very clever,” or “The man lacked only his death to be acclaimed a genius.” The windy and snowy Moscow and SaintPetersburg views are contrasted by azure skies and sunny Batumi beaches, which modify in color according to the time of day. The original shots from the train, which makes a natural effect, as if the photos have frames, are worthy of note. Manana Menabde mentions that she never touches up her works and never uses Photoshop. Therefore, it is quite difficult to guess how everything is blue in the series of “blue” apart from the sky… one snapshot from the ‘Light and Shadow’ series is also something special: white sheets, white book and white fan, partly lit by a sun beam. “Perhaps it’s time to break down all the walls, remove the barriers and wipe clean all the borders with an eraser; fly up into the sky and feel its height, greedily breathe in the smell of streets wet from the rain; float with the wind from branch to branch, from sky to sky, from star to star… Maybe, it’s high time to do something really crazy,” said the ageless artist. Manana Menabde’s exhibition ‘Illusions’ will run until April 15.
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APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI CINEMA
GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 April 1 ENGLISH DETECTIVE Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Small Stage Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari April 2 FROZEN IMAGES Kristian Smeds Directed by Jari Juutinen Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: From 5 Lari MOVEMENT THEATRE Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 April 3 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Participants: Kakha Bakuradze,Sandro Nikoladze, Ana Kordzaia-Samadasvili, Irakli Menagarishvili Start time: 21:00 ROYAL DISTRICT THEATRE Address: 10 Abesadze St. Telephone: 2 99 61 71 April 2 WOMEN OF TROY Directed by Data Tavadze Genre: Documentary English Subtitles (on request) Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 7, 10, 15 Lari
AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE Directed by Dan Trachtenberg Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari MUSEUM
April 1-7 BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE Directed by Zack Snyder Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams Language: English Start time: 19:10 Language: Russian Start time: 19:00, 22:15 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari LONDON HAS FALLEN Directed by Babak Najafi Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Riley Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: 8-9 Lari STRANGERLAND Directed by Kim Farrant Genre: Drama, Thriller Cast: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari COLONIA Directed by Florian Gallenberger Genre: Drama, History, Romance Cast: Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyqvist Language: Russian Start time: 14:15, 19:30 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge THE TRAVELING MUSEUM OF THE CAUCASUS THE PERMANENT EXHIBITION NUMISMATIC TREASURY March 24 – April 15 PHOTO EXHIBITION “ILLUSIONS” BY MANANA MENABDE The exposition showcases the artist’s photo series created on different photo motives from the 1990s to the present: Tango Shadows, Mannequin and the Life, Graphic Photos, Watercolor, Pastel, Light and Shadows. ZURAB TSERETELI MUSEUM OF MODERN ART Address: 27 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 14 84 11, 2 98 60 04 www.momatbilisi.ge March 9 – April 3 EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS BY MERAB ABRAMISHVILI Exhibition curator: Baia Tsikoridze SHALVA AMIRANASHVILI MUSEUM OF ART Address: 1 Lado Gudiashvili St. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 www.museum.ge
March 9 – April 3 EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS BY MERAB ABRAMISHVILI Apart from the catalogue, the exhibition will also present for sale various items with prints of Abramishvili’s paintings, including mugs, cards, posters, note pads, bags and silkware which can be purchased at the museum gift shop. Exhibition curator: Baia Tsikoridze GALLERY
THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze March 25 – April 14 Jubilee exhibition of Georgian prominent Temo Gotsadze FROM BLUE STALLIONS TO ABSTRACTION The exposition showcases 140 paintings by the artist, among them monumental abstractions which will be exhibited for the first time. Also on display is the graphic series of “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” created in 2015. TBC GALLERY Address: 7 Marjanishvili Str. Telephone: 2 27 27 27 March 30 – April 9 KONSTANTINE MINDADZE LIFEFORMS (CHAPTER TWO) DEVIATION NOVELLA Address: 46 Chavchavadze Ave. Telephone: 2 24 06 06
April 3 ARTIST LEVAN SAMNASHVILI AND WRITER EKA KEVANISHVILI JOINT EXHIBITION I AM YOU Music: Rezo Kiknadze Opening: 19:00 Entry: free ART AREA GALLERY Address: 10 D. Abashidze Str. Telephone: 595 29 88 55 April 1-3 ART BOOK TRAVELLING EXHIBITION/SALE The project takes place once a month in different locations. The books from Motto Distribution and experimental publications, notebooks and postcards made by Georgian artists will be exhibited at the event. GAMREKELI GALLERY Address: 14 Ingorokva Str. Telephone: 2 99 57 23 April 4-10 IRAKLI JGENTI PERSONAL EXHIBITION MUSIC
TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 April 7 TEMUR TATARASHVILI CONCERT 50 YEARS ANNIVERSARY Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: From 25 Lari
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 1 - 4, 2016
Chilly Start for Georgia’s Weiss in More Ways than One BY ALASTAIR WATT
crowd of little more than 5,000 braved an unseasonably freezing night at Tbilisi’s Dinamo Arena to watch a scarcely memorable 1-1 friendly draw between Georgia and Kazakhstan in Vladimir Weiss’s first match in charge of the national team. It was never likely to be a glorious coronation for the Slovakian debutant who reflected with limited satisfaction on a typically fragmented non-competitive encounter where Azat Nurgaliev’s opener for the Kazakhs was swiftly cancelled out by Georgia’s Tornike Okriashvili toward the end of the first-half. “I am very dissatisfied with the result. As for the players, I am satisfied with some of them and others disappointed me. Kazakhstan played well but I think we must beat such team,” stated Weiss after the match. For a game between the world’s 122nd and 125th ranked teams, and with Georgian support for the national football team ever-dwindling, it was no surprise to see vast swathes of empty seats inside a stadium that one and a half weeks earlier had been bursting at the seams for the Georgian rugby team’s vanquishing of Romania. That cold and popular indifference towards Georgian football will be a challenging hurdle for Weiss to overcome, but there were glimpses of attractive football from a Georgian side which started the night without a recognized striker. This dearth up-front led to a predictable lack of potency in front of goal as,
despite some delicate exchanges between attacking midfielders Vako Qazaishvili, Jano Ananidze, Giorgi Chanturia and Okriashvili, Georgia only forced one save from Kazakh goalkeeper David Loria in the opening half hour, with the Georgiannamed stopper denying Kazaishvili at his near post in the 13th minute. An emphasis on patient, passing football was vivid from Weiss’s Georgia in the early stages but despite dominating possession, the Kazakhs hit the hosts on the counter in the 36th minute. The highly impressive Serikzhan Muzhikov cut the ball back for Nurgaliev to side-foot past Nukri Revishvili who, though not at fault for the goal, endured a thoroughly unconvincing evening, frequently requiring two or more attempts to make routine catches. Georgia’s reply was instant though as captain Jaba Kankava fed right-back Ucha Lobjanidze whose cross was so woefully struck that it deceived the Kazakh defence and, following a dummy from Chanturia, Okriashvili crisply levelled from the edge of the penalty area. Weiss picked out winger Okriashvili, now of Turkish side Eskisehirspor, as Georgia’s best player on the night, but also reserved special praise for 21-yearold debutant Giorgi Aburjania who performed admirably in central midfield. A customary flurry of second-half substitutions ensued but Georgia did find time to forge three noteworthy openings. First, Ananidze, who had another uninspiring game in a Georgia shirt, found Solomon Kverkvelia with a corner kick in the 68th minute but the central defender’s diving header crept narrowly over the bar. The Georgians then had fierce claims
for a penalty as substitute Nika Kacharava appeared to be brought down in the penalty area but referee Clayton Pisani of Malta thought otherwise. The 22-year-old Kacharava then ought to have scored, latching on to Levan
Kenia’s excellent through ball, only to shoot feebly at the feet of replacement goalkeeper Vladimir Plotnikov in the 78th minute. Georgia merited victory but a familiar lack of conviction in the final third let
them down, something Weiss will want to address and resolve in the triple header of late spring friendlies against Slovakia, Romania and Spain before the serious business of World Cup qualifying begins against Austria in September.
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