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Issue no: 917

• FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

FOCUS

In this week’s issue... Freedom House Report 2017: Georgia Remains among Partly Free Countries

ON VISA-FREE Welcome to the EU! European Parliament backs Georgia's right to visa liberalization

PRICE: GEL 2.50

NEWS PAGE 2

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Georgian Soldiers to Participate in EU-led Peacekeeping Mission in RCA POLITICS PAGE 4

Trump’s Team Doesn’t Share His Views on Russia, NATO POLITICS PAGE 6

Pasha Bank PR & Marketing Head: Inspired by Youth Innovation BUSINESS PAGE 10

to TBC's Chkonia: Risk Management Time Grow Up: on Should Not Fall behind Business Ogden the Apathy of the Georgian Development Student

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avit Chkonia has been appointed as TBC Bank’s Risk Management Director and Deputy CEO. He has 15 years of experience in banking and risk management. What are the major risks distinctive to the banking and finance sector and why did he decide to continue his career in Georgia? Davit Chkonia talked about these issues with Commersant.

YOU HAVE A VERY RICH RÉSUMÉ. WHAT IS YOUR INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE IN RISK MANAGEMENT? To begin from the beginning, I received my higher education in the US. After I graduated, I started working in New York as an investment analyst in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields. Next I moved to London, to EBRD’s banking department, where I worked on financing clients and providing them with investment products. I also worked with credit and risk. For a time I worked in a department that estimated the risks of potential bank projects. Then, I

SOCIETY PAGE 12

decided to continue my studies, and I returned to US and entered the MBA program in Wharton Business School, Philadelphia, which is considered a leading school in the field of finance. After receiving my MBA, I started to work in the American investment bank Goldman Sachs. In London, I worked on complex financing transactions, mainly in the fields of infrastructure, energy, real estate, tourism in the European division of Goldman Sachs. During the financial crisis, when the financial markets faced difficulties, debt restructuring became important, hence, I started to focus in this direction in Goldman Sachs. I worked with clients who required restructuring. During the debt boom, numerous overambitious transactions were made. As a result, many of those transactions were moved

Legendary Mime Shalikashvili Dares to Stage Georgia’s Knight in the Panther’s Skin CULTURE PAGE 15

to the restructuring department. I worked in this direction until 2009. After that, together with several other people, I established a new company. The company focused on the management of bank’s problem loan portfolio. This issue was especially important for European banks, which had large investments in Eastern European countries as they decided to grow quickly and start making investments in the beginning of 2000. Continued on page 9


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

European Parliament Backs Georgia’s Visa Liberalization BY THEA MORRISON

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he European Parliament (EP) voted in favor of visafree travel for Georgian citizens to the Schengen Area at a plenary session at noon on Thursday. This was the final vote on the Georgia issue, after which only technical procedures remain. 553 MEPs supported Georgia’s visaliberalization during the vote, while 66 were against and 28 abstained. The voting process was preceded by debates between the MEPs. The European Parliament and the Council of Europe reached a political agreement over Georgia’s visa liberalization with the European Union (EU) in December, 2016. On December 20, the EU Council Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Governments of Member States to the EU (Coreper) approved the amendments to the text of Georgia’s visa liberalization. After that, the European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) supported the amendments to the text of Georgia’s visa liberalization, a move which took place on January 12. Now, as Georgia’s visa liberalization is approved by the European Parliament, the amended regulations will be formally approved by the EU Council at the ministerial level. European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Minister, Viktor Dolidze, believes that Georgians will be able to enjoy visafree travel with the European Union in late March or early April. Georgia’s Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze commented on the issue, say-

Freedom House Report 2017: Georgia Remains among Partly Free Countries BY THEA MORRISON

U ing the step of the EP underlines that the EU strongly supports Georgia. “We congratulate our citizens on this day. Our progress towards integration with the EU could not have been achieved if we hadn’t had firm support from our population and state agencies,” the Minister said, underlining that the positive result was the outcome of the government’s hard work and efforts. Janelidze added that the Georgian government will also offer the benefits of visa liberalization to the residents of Georgia’s occupied regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The visa-free regime between Georgia and the EU will go into force as soon as the suspension mechanism is activated. When the process is complete, biometric passport holders will be able to enter the Schengen area, which includes 22 EU member states (excluding Ireland, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria) in addition to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, for 90 days within any 180-day period for a holiday, business or any other purpose, except work.

nited States-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) Freedom House has released its annual report ‘Freedom in the World 2017,’ which says that Georgia remained among the partly free countries in 2016. Freedom in the World 2017 evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories during the calendar year 2016. Each country and territory is assigned between 0 and 4 points on a series of 25 indicators for an aggregate score of up to 100. These scores are used to determine two numerical ratings, for political rights and civil liberties, with a rating of 1 representing the freest conditions and 7 the least free. A country or territory’s political rights and civil liberties’ ratings then determine whether it has an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. This year Georgia got 64 aggregate points out of 100, which means that the country is “partly free”. However, according to the scores of its neighboring countries- Russia (20 points), Azerbaijan (14), Armenia (45), Turkey (38), Georgia is in the leading position in the region. Georgia is described as “partly free” according to its media freedom and as “free” according to internet freedom. As for political and civil freedoms, the country got 3 out of 7 points.

Protesters shouting nationalist and anti-immigrant slogans disrupt a tribute in Brussels, Belgium to victims of terrorist attacks. March 2016. Source: Freedom House

The report shows that the number of countries designated as Free stands at 87, representing 45 percent of the world’s 195 polities and approximately 2.9 billion people- or 39 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries increased by one from the previous year’s report. The number of countries qualifying as Partly Free stood at 59, or 30 percent of all countries assessed, home to nearly 1.9 billion people, or 25 percent of the world’s total. The number of Partly Free countries stayed the same as the previous year. 49 countries out of 195 were diagnosed as Not Free, and, among them, 11 countries have the worst aggregate scores for political rights and civil liberties.

These countries and scores are: Syria (1), Eritrea (3), North Korea (3), Uzbekistan (3), South Sudan (4), Turkmenistan (4), Somalia (5), Sudan (6), Equatorial Guinea (8), Central African Republic (10) and Saudi Arabia (10). Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. The NGO analyzes the challenges to freedom, advocates for greater political rights and civil liberties, and supports frontline activists to defend human rights and promote democratic change. Founded in 1941, Freedom House was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally.

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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

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Members of Parliament Attend New Induction Program

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ewly elected Members of the Parliament of Georgia attended a new induction program to get ready for the implementation of their constitutional mandate. The third phase of the program on January 23 –

February 1 was an intensive two-day training for 80 MPs from the parliamentary majority and minority. The training was tailor-made for the Georgian MPs by the Parliament staff, with assistance from the European Union and United Nations Development

Program in cooperation with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and from the USAID Good Governance Initiative and the National Democratic Institute. Throughout the training sessions, Members of Parliament received practical guidance on parliamentary work and attended presentations and seminars on specific topics, such as human rights, gender equality, constituency outreach and media relations. The MPs had an opportunity to meet members of Parliament staff, representatives of the Public Defender and State Audit Office, civil society organizations, and invited experts in specific areas. The training for MPs is part of a fourphase induction program which informs Members of Parliament about their legislative, oversight and representative functions, broader roles and constitutional responsibilities. The concept of the induction program is based on the best international practice in this area, including from the experience of British Parliament. The preparation and implementation of the induction program for Georgian MPs is one of the components of a wider support to parliamentary democracy in Georgia co-funded by the European Union (EU) and Parliament of Georgia, and implemented by the United Nations Development Program in cooperation with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

President Appoints New Ambassadors to Canada, Kazakhstan and South Korea BY THEA MORRISON

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eorgia’s President, Giorgi M a r g ve l a s hv i l i , h a s appointed new ambassadors to Canada, Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea who will take over the positions once the service terms of their predecessors comes to an end. From February 15, Otar Berdzenishvili will serve as the Ambassador of Georgia to South Korea. From.May 1, experienced diplomat Kon-

stantine Kavtaradze will take the position of Georgia’s Ambassador to Canada. Also from May 1, Zurab Abashidze, a former member of the opposition Free Democrats party, will take the position of the Ambassador to Kazakhstan. The President held meetings with the newly-appointed ambassadors and wished them success in their future work. “All three diplomats are very experienced people. We are convinced that their appointment will enhance bilateral relations with these countries and increasing awareness of Georgia,” the President’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Tengiz Pkhaladze, said.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

‘We the People’ European Commission

Representatives Hold Meetings in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON

Illustration by Brian Patrick Grady

OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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e, the People of Georgia, have been writing the post-communistera constitution throughout the last three decades, and we are still working on it. It took the American Founding Fathers much less time- and the text of the main law of the land they created has endured centuries, and is still working with the same success it enjoyed at the moment of its ratification almost a quarter of a millennium ago. What’s wrong with us, folks? Why can’t we write our constitution so well that, once and for all, it is rendered safe forever from the pain of writing and rewriting it over and over again? Nothing needs to be invented: all is written and done in the world; every political philosophy is at hand; most of the tricks of ruling a country are clear. Only reading the already created literature is left, and if necessary, copying it accordingly. Why is it so difficult? When are we going to be done with the text of Georgia’s main political document? Perhaps, it is to remain an interminable drudgery which will always leave questions to answer, doubts to fight, and uncertainties to overcome. The prolonged process of writing the constitution is our lot, our destiny, our luck and the cross we will have to carry perennially. And here is why: I suspect that the writers of the constitution in Georgia have a proclivity to accommodate its text to the times and circumstances they are living in, not looking into the future with wide-open eyes; tailoring the text to the persons who are at the helm of the nation of the time. They do not want to create a document which will cover the centuries to come rather than just months and years; they are not sufficiently familiar with the constitutional experience of other nations; they are not asking enough questions about the content of the incipient document and its effect on our life in the long run; they are not thinking in global terms; they lack a clear vision of Georgia’s niche in global life; and finally, they do not have in front of them Georgia’s Mission Statement

before Mankind, which would conceptualize the justification of our existence as a state and a nation. As I said, these are only my personal doubts, which I cannot corroborate in any reasonable way except by virtue of the fact that we are still in the painstaking process of writing the blueprint of our nation’s social and political existence. There is one minor detail, though, that might help me to make my statement sound more solid than it actually reads: there is a hot discussion going on concerning writing into the preamble of the constitution the statement about Georgia’s Western geopolitical orientation. How rational could this be? What if the political situation changes for some reason, which the Georgian people would accept with genuine pleasure and calculated reason – just as we have done before? Shall we embark once again on writing a new constitution? Let me bring the example of the American Constitution, which has gone through many waters and fires in the duration of a couple of centuries, and is still functional. The first part of the United States Constitution, called the Document, contains a Preamble, which is a brief statement expressing the intentions of the authors. The Preamble states: We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. You see, how laconically this generic but amazingly comprehensive text is presented?! You couldn’t edit it even if you wanted to because the text is uncannily optimal, and is and will stay so for any imaginable period of time in the nation’s history. Again, it doesn’t say much but it says all. Let us hypothetically use this text as the preamble to Georgia’s Constitution. Would you change anything? Is there any word in it which would not be politically justified in the life of the Georgian people? So why can’t we invent something like this without any precarious allusions to specific political concepts and situations? That’s what I was talking about when I said: what’s wrong with us, folks?

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hristian Danielsson, Director General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission, and Thomas Mayr-Harting, Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service, are paying an official visit to Georgia to discuss ongoing reforms under the Association Agreement and Europe's Neighborhood Policy. The representatives of the European Commission met with the Foreign Minister of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze, on Tuesday. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that the sides discussed priorities of Georgia-EU bilateral co-operation, paying special attention to the importance of the Association Agenda and the Single Support Framework which will allow Georgia to successfully carry out reforms under the Association Agreement. "We can clearly see the positive effects of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). I looked

over the figures – a 16 percent increase of Georgian exports to the EU in 2015, and we expect this to continue. This is important for Georgian citizens,” Danielsson said. The importance of strategic communication in terms of promoting concrete results on the path to European integration was also highlighted and both sides exchanged their views on the importance of the fifth Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit scheduled for November 24 in Brussels. “Georgia is a particularly dynamic partner in the framework of the EaP and we are impressed by its commitment to its approximation to the EU internal market,” Mayr-Harting noted while meeting with Janelidze. Janelidze expressed his gratitude for

the European Union’s active involvement, including in the Geneva International Discussions. The representatives of the European Commission also met Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Special attention was paid to the importance of timely finalizing procedures for visa liberalization, and hope was expressed that Georgia's citizens will enjoy visa-free travel in the near future. The role of EU financial support in Georgia's ongoing reforms was emphasized, as were prospects of involving Georgia in new assistance tools and a variety of programs. The parties also spoke about the development of education and infrastructure, directions targeted by EU projects in 2017.

Georgian Soldiers to Participate in EU-led Peacekeeping Mission in RCA

BY THEA MORRISON

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he platoon of the 23rd battalion of the II Infantry Brigade of Georgia’s Armed Forces, which consists of 30 Georgian soldiers, is to participate in EUTM RCA, European Union (EU)-led peacekeeping mission in the Republic of Central Africa (RCA) for a six-month period.

The unit left for RCA on Tuesday and will serve under French command on the UCATEX base in Bangui. The farewell ceremony was held at the Alekseevka military aerodrome. Levan Izoria, the Georgian Defense Minister, wished the platoon successful completion of the mission and highlighted the importance of the operation. “This mission is very important as it is being carried out under the aegis of the EU. This means to strengthen Georgia’s aspirations for the EU, and to

strengthen our partner’s support towards Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. We are making an essential contribution to global security along with our partners and taking part in keeping international order,” Izoria told the soldiers. French Ambassador Pascal Meunier also attended the deployment ceremony. “We appreciate very much the commitment of the Georgian Armed Forces and deployment of these forces along with our forces overseas in order to ensure stability and peace throughout the world,” he said. The MoD reports that under the command of Captain Roman Modebadze, the main task of the Georgian contingent will be provision of security of the base, motorized patrol, convoy and escort. “Prior to leaving for the RCA, the platoon had a four-week pre-deployment training with the assistance of Georgian instructors in the National Training Center located in Krtsanisi. The military unit has experience of participation in international missions in Afghanistan and RCA,” the Ministry said.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

Bailing Them Out- Again OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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he energy crisis has been added to the political crisis in the occupied territory of Abkhazia. The electricitysupplying Enguri Dam is on the verge of shutting down. Abkhazians consumed large amounts of energy during the New Year holidays and the water levels in the reservoirs of the power station have hit a critical low. Abkhazian media reports that only 35 meters separate the dam from the catastrophe. The technical service office confirmed the news, which means that if the water level continues to fall drastically with the current 1.5 meter per day rate, in just over two weeks, occupied Abkhazia will be left in a complete darkness. The only chances for survival are the melting of snow as spring approaches and a flood in the river Enguri. But before that the leaders of the occupied territory will have to introduce a special electricity schedule. And active discussion of this electricity problem began in Abkhazia on January 12. Aslan Basaia, the director of the state-owned power company Chernomorenergo responsible for the distribution of electricity in Abkhazia, warned the population about the probable shortage of electricity supply in the near future. Georgian MP Revaz Arveladze also confirms that the level of water is on the critical margin and says that the station can work at a water level of 410 meters, but that in this case the reliability of the dam becomes questionable. “If things get worse, Abkhazia will need to get electricity from Russia. Instead of developing the energy system and renewing existing dams, (for example the one in Tkvarcheli) or building new power sta-

tions, Abkhaizans depend solely on the Enguri Dam,” he said. History is repeating itself. Last year occupied Abkhazia faced the same problem. At that time, too, the solution introduced by Chernomorenergo was a limited power supply schedule. The limit was enforced on January 25 through April 15th. The population was without electricity for two hours during daytime and two-three at night. From mid-February, they risked being left in complete darkness, which was followed by waves of protests and served as a serious additional problem for Raul Khajimba's already highly unpopular reputation. However, it was Official Tbilisi that saved the population, separatist government and even the Russian army dislocated on the occupied territory of Abkhaziathe Ministry of Energy of Georgia willingly purchased electricity from Russia for Abkhazians, who paid nothing for it. This year, the Minister of Energy of

Georgia, Kakha Kaladze, confirmed that a problem regarding the energy supply to Abkhazia exists. “We will have a meeting to discuss the issue specifically,” he said. “However, like last year, we will probably choose to help them avoid the energy supply issues.” He was not specific as to how Georgia plans to solve the problem this time around. Occupied Abkhazia gets electricity from the Enguri Dam free of charge, 40 percent of the generated energy in summer and 100 percent in winter. There is no official document proving this distribution, but it was in early 1994 that Abkhazian and Georgian energy experts met and made approximate calculations about the proportions of the dam according to existing capacities. The main remote controller, which is located on the occupied territory, was assessed as having the value of 40 percent, while the reser-

voir and the dam 60. The generated energy should have been distributed accordingly, but since there is no gas supply to the occupied territories, Tbilisi decided to give its own 20 percent to Sokhumi. Until the year 2000, energy spending was not an issue- there was enough for everyone. However, in recent years, the increase of energy consumption in Abkhazia has changed the existing status quo. What will change in the Geo-Abkhazian relationships and what results and reaction will follow when the energy supply from the Enguri Dam stops around February 15th – is unknown. Will it further instigate hatred from the Abkhazian side? “No,” says expert Mamuka Areshidze. “There is a limit to everything. Abkhazian’s are very well aware that the power lines are worn out and that they are stealing the electricity. Therefore, they won’t and don’t blame the Georgian side.”

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Georgia’s Kvirikashvili Meets New Ambassador of Azerbaijan

BY THEA MORRISON

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eorgia’s Prime Minister, G i o rg i Kv i r i ka s hv i l i received Azerbaijan’s new ambassador, Dursun Hasanov, on February 1, announced the press service of the Administration of the Government of Georgia. “During the meeting, the sides discussed the main issues of the partnership between the two countries and prospects of deepening of the cooperation,” said the press service. PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili wished success to the Azerbaijani diplomat in his future activities and expressed hope that the traditional cooperation between Georgia and Azerbaijan will deepen further. Dursun Hasanov also met Georgia’s Defense Minister, Levan Izoria to discuss mutual co-operation and regional issues. “We have many plans for mutual cooperation with Azerbaijan and we will implement them this year,” Izoria stated.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations. Source: Politico

Trump’s Team Doesn’t Share His Views on Russia, NATO BY JOSEPH LARSEN, GIP ANALYST

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S President Donald Trump entered office last month. He has already stoked controversy at home and abroad by signing an executive order to temporarily halt all immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. According to a Gallup poll, his approval rating currently stands at 45 percent, the lowest of any president in their first month since Gallup has been collecting data. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Trump’s policy platform, however, is his belief that NATO is obsolete and unhelpful to US interests. Fortunately for the Alliance and its partners, including Georgia, senior members of Trump’s foreign policy team don’t share that view.

SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON Trump’s nominee for secretary of state is his most controversial. Tillerson is an engineer by profession who acted as CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016. He has a longstanding personal relationship with

Vladimir Putin. Tillerson received Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2013, an honor that Putin has extended to figures as varied as basketball coach David Blatt and the late virtuoso pianist Van Cliburn. That fact alone has made many people uneasy about his suitability as secretary. Tillerson had a rocky Senate confirmation hearing, fielding a number of tough questions from Marco Rubio, a Republican senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When Rubio asked the nominee whether he would label Putin a war criminal due to the Russian military’s bombing of civilian targets in Aleppo, Tillerson equivocated: “I would not use that term…Those are very serious charges to make, and I would want to have more information before reaching a conclusion.” No one doubts Tillerson’s intelligence or inside knowledge about Russia, but his answers didn’t satisfy Rubio. The senator repeatedly referred to Russian war crimes as a matter of public record, and found the nominee’s lukewarm response to his questions “discouraging.” Tillerson’s stance on Russia could have direct implications for several states in Eastern Europe, including Georgia. He

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did refer to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Georgian territory “occupied” by Russia, and said that a more powerful response was appropriate after the annexation of Crimea. He has no public-sector track record to scrutinize, but demonstrated in confirmation hearings and private conversations that his views are closer to the Washington foreign policy establishment than is often assumed. Conclusion: Concerns about Tillerson are justified. However, it’s a stretch to call him a Putin or Kremlin sympathizer. He reassured the Senate enough to be confirmed as secretary of state. Whether he would go against his own president and back sanctions against his former business partners is another story.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES “MAD DOG” MATTIS Once confirmed by Congress, former four-star Marine Corps general James Mattis will be the first retired general to lead the Defense Department since George C. Marshall in 1950-51. Mattis is known as the “warrior monk” for his intense study of military history. He’s been endorsed by respected foreign policy figures including James Baker, Robert Gates, Condoleeza Rice, John McCain, and Michele Flournoy. In sharp contrast to the man who appointed him, Mattis is an unwavering proponent of a strong NATO alliance. He a gave a speech in 2015 criticizing the Obama administration for underestimating the threat posed by Russia. In that same speech, he accused Putin of attempting to “break NATO apart.” Mattis is well-versed in the regional security issues affecting Georgia. He’s also likely the only cabinet member with a personal history in Georgia: while serving as Supreme Allied Commander of Transformation in 2009, he visited the country and met with then-President Mikheil Saakashvili and Defense Minister Davit Sikharulidze. Mattis received a congressional waiver to serve as defense secretary, meaning he can serve in the position even though he retired from the military only in 2013. He breezed through his Senate confirmation hearing, receiving 81 votes for and only 17 against. Most notably, he promised to a take a hard line against Russia: “We recognize that he [Putin] is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and

that we take steps, integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and alliance steps, working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must…I think deterrence is critical right now.” Conclusion: Mattis is a strong NATO supporter who holds no illusions about cooperation with the Kremlin. One can even imagine he and Tillerson forming a “good cop, bad cop” duo to deal with Russia. Mattis can be expected to promote Tbilisi’s interests inside the Trump administration, but as head of the Pentagon his main job will be to implement strategy, not make it.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER MICHAEL FLYNN Flynn was previously the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (a branch within the Department of Defense) and has advised Trump on matters of foreign policy since August 2015. He has been criticized for making offensive statements about Muslims and for having made several appearances on the Russian state-run television channel RT, including attending the station’s gala event in Moscow in December 2015, where he sat next to Putin. Flynn seems more interested in fighting radical Islamist terror than countering Russian aggression. He has also expressed sympathy toward Russia’s own anti-terrorism efforts. During the 2015 trip to Moscow he gave an interview calling on Russia and the West to work together against terror, even asserting that Russia’s main objective in Syria is to neutralize Russia’s own domestic terrorists, many of which are members of Islamic State. However, there’s little sympathy for Russia in Flynn’s 2016 book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies. There, he identifies Russia and Iran as “the two most active and powerful members of the enemy alliance” that threatens the United States. Conclusion: Flynn has expressed contradictory views toward Russia, but is above all a military man who holds NATO in high esteem. Skeptics should be more concerned about his recklessness and susceptibility to conspiracy theories than any alleged sympathy toward Vladimir Putin.

AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS NIKKI HALEY Haley has been governor of South Carolina

since 2011. Before that, she served six years in Congress as the representative from the 87th district. She has little foreign policy experience, instead devoting most of her political career to domestic issues. Haley is a skilled communicator, and as UN ambassador she’ll be tasked with explaining the Trump administration’s policies in the United Nations. Critics are more concerned about her ability to leverage support for US interests in the UN Security Council. That will require more than smarts and communication skills; she’ll need to quickly get up to speed on the issues and demonstrate an ability to diplomatically outmaneuver America’s rivals—most notably Russia. Conclusion: With no background in foreign policy, assessing Haley’s views toward Russia, NATO, or Georgia is difficult. However, she expressed in confirmation hearings the desire to push back against Russian military operations in Ukraine and Syria. She also took the step that Tiller wouldn’t, answering “Yes, I do” when asked if she believed Russia had committed war crimes in Syria.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR GEORGIA Georgia’s government is understandably wary about the incoming administration. Fortunately, the cabinet appointees seem a lot more enthusiastic about NATO and its allies (and hawkish on Russia) than is the man who appointed them. Moreover, the network of legislators, experts, and bureaucrats that make up the Washington foreign policy establishment is tremendously powerful and could frustrate any attempts by Trump to sideline NATO and its partners, including Georgia. In order to get the most out of its advocates in Washington, Tbilisi will have to start lobbying much harder than it has at any time since 2012.

The Georgian Institute of Politics was founded in 2011 to strengthen institutions and promote good governance and development through policy research and advocacy in Georgia. It publishes its blog with Georgia Today twice per month. Check out our website in English and Georgian at gip.ge for more blogs, data, and analyses.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

End of Days Part 2- Violent Apocalyptic Groups BY ZURAB KHUTSIANIDZE

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ost terrorist organizations avoid offending their audience with overly violent, sadistic acts. For instance, AlQaeda has criticized terrorist groups such as the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA) and the infamous Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), for their demonstrated violence against Muslims. On the contrary, violent apocalyptic groups such as the Islamic State do not regret engaging in acts of barbarism, as they see themselves taking part in a cosmic war between good and evil, thus making their actions significantly harder to foresee than the actions of politically motivated groups. This explains ISIS’ motivation for retaking Dabiq as a pillar of the prophecy, rather than a military strategic location. To begin with, it is important to analyze aggressive behaviour in the apocalyptic groups. There are two types of violence present in such groups: The violence committed by the members against each other and the violence against the outside world. However, it is extremely hard to predict the group’s intentions. Michael Barkun, a leading scholar on violent apocalyptic groups has stated: “Predictions of violence on the basis of belief alone are notoriously unreliable; Apocalypticists are more likely to engage in violence if they believe themselves to be trapped or under attack. Both conditions are as much a product of their own perception as of outside forces”.

Although it is highly unlikely that the Islamic State members will end up committing mass suicide like the American apocalyptic group Heaven’s Gate, examining the Daesh fighters from this unusual lens helps us anticipate their next steps. For instance, an interesting example to compare would be the Muslim apocalyptic cult that initiated the 1979 Meccan Rebellion. The group believed that one of its members, Muhammad al Qahtani, was the Mahdi (The Guided One), and intended to attack Mecca in order to fulfil the prophecy. Soon after their siege of Mecca, al Qahtani was killed as a result of a Saudi Special Forces operation. Yet, the group agreed not acknowledge the death of the presumed Mahdi, and continued their fight while refusing to face the obvious truth. Eventually, the apocalyptic group was captured and Islam’s holiest site retaken. In fact, most of the captured members

remained devoted to their apocalyptic views, despite the fact that their Mahdi had been killed. This example should be considered when analysing further actions of the Islamic State, since the Daesh fighters might well follow this model if one of their prophecies fail. The violent apocalyptic groups tend to formulate renewed prophecies to better suit their existing needs. Like other apocalyptic groups, the Islamic State is also driven by a goal to “purify” the world and start a new era, in which their preferred interpretation of Islam becomes widely accepted. Yet, it is impossible to know whether the leaders of the Islamic State such as Baghdadi truly believe in the approaching end of times, or if they have hijacked the prophecies in order to attract more recruits. Read the first part here: http://georgiatoday. ge/news/5614/End-of-Days%3A-WhatEmpowers-ISIS%3F

Confederation, Federation OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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eorgian political experts are quite unconvincing in their evaluation of the information that has been spread in Georgian media about the issue of confederation with occupied Abkhazia and have diverse opinions about the current necessity for arranging a confederation with Abkhazians. The statement by the MP from the majority, Zakaria Kutsnashvili, about granting a special status to the occupied territories, as well as the announcement by the Russian Deputy Russian Foreign Minister and the special representative of Russia for Georgian Affairs Gregory Karasin, who talked about renewing the diplomatic relations with Georgia, was like adding fuel to the existing fire. So, a new scandal has been born. The theme of introducing a confederational system in our country is not new to the Georgian politics. It has been brought up from time to time with a few year intervals, blowing up the political elites and then vanishing until it is raised once again. There is a feeling that the issue is in a test mode and awaiting its time. And the time works in favor of the “confederation”. It is exactly the time that is stressed when, during discussion, “We, Georgians are losing Abkhazia and in this case, it doesn’t make sense whether the status of Abkhazia will be wrapped up as a confederation, an ally state or federation,” – said political analyst Davit

Zardiashvili. And he is not alone in this. As early the 1990s, politicians were actively debating “What is better? Should Abkhazia be an independent pro-Georgian state populated by Georgians? Or a pro-Russian, non-recognized one without them?” At the time, those for nonrecognition got the victory, which wasn’t a surprise since only five or six years had passed since the war. But today, when a quarter of a century separaes us from the war of 1992-93, the issue of “recognizing Abkhazia” has a completely different meaning for experts. “It is foremost to reach an agreement on whether Georgians can return to Abkhazia or not. If not, which statehood are we asking for? If we can agree on the cohabitation of Georgians and Abkhazians, the borders will be opened, giving us the opportunity to travel to Sokhumi or Gagra. It won’t be a problem anymore, so let them be a separate state. In a sense, this will be good, since there will be two Georgian states. So, we will have two votes in the UN as well,” said Zardiashvili. Expert on issues of the Caucasus, Zaal Kasrelishvili, also finds it acceptable to start negotiations about these issues. However, he excludes the possibility of recognizing Abkhazia as an independent state. “We want a federation and not confederation. This is the ultimate goal and the issue up for bargaining. They will ask for confederation and we must demand federation. It depends on who gives up what and at what expense,” he says. Although time works against us, neither is it in favor of the Abkhazians. After they failed the project of resettlement

of ethnic Abkhazians from Turkey to Abkhazia, the demographic conditions on the occupied territory have been changing against them. Today, Abkhazians are no longer in the majority, with Russians and Armenians dominating. Only Georgians can change this balance, giving Abkhazians more room to maneuver within the current political situation. This argument might be true, but as the former security minister of autonomous Abkhazia Levan Kiknadze said, the ultimate motif of the war was changing the demographic balance in Abkhazia and eviction of Georgians from the territory. Therefore, he is convinced that Abkhazians and Russians won’t agree to the return of the IDPs. “Abkhazians reached their so-called independence, so I think it is less likely that anyone will want or seriously discuss the issue of confederation and the return of the Georgian IDPs. Even in the times of Ardzimba, Abkhazians were agreeing to confederation, which meant that they could raise the issue of separating from Georgia. That is why we refused then. But now, when they already have the so-called independence, why would they want a confederation with us?” asked Kiknadze. Notably, Gregory Karasin also made a statement about the theoretical possibility of a confederational system for Georgia with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And interestingly, the next round of GeorgianRussian negotiations will be held on February 7th in Prague, where Mr. Karasin will meet with Zurab Abashidze, the special Representative of Georgian Prime Minister for Russian Relations Affairs.

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

Hall Hall: Georgia Needs to Engage the New US Admin Early on with a Strong Message

John Crombez, leader of Belgium’s Socialist Party, in an interview with Panorama TV show

Interview with former UK Ambassador to Georgia, Alexandra Hall Hall, currently with the Washington DC based Atlantic Council

The “Alarming” Shape of Europe & the Urgent Need to Reconstruct INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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hile lamenting the changes that over-the-top liberalism has brought to Europe and the United States in particular, in an exclusive interview with Panorama TV show, John Crombez, leader of Belgium’s Socialist Party, also reflected on Georgia’s European aspirations and the this-time-for-sure to be granted visa free regime, on which the wise folks at Brussels hosted a definitive plenary session yesterday. Here is an excerpt from the full interview, pertaining to EU-Georgia relations and Mr. Crombez’s image of new Europe “We need to work very hard to analyze and reassess what we have done wrong here, in Europe. The ongoing policies and European politicians pursuing them did everything to estrange its own population to common European politics. We didn’t really think through all of this and what we got was Brexit. What is even more troubling that even after Brexit happened it doesn’t seem like conclusions were drawn and Europe learned its lesson. Instead, it pretended as if nothing happened - While the British tell their citizens that Brexit will undoubtedly make their economy more robust and independent, we don’t have a single argument to tell both the EU citizens and those of Britain that no kind of fiscal and economic independency is going to make the British economy stronger if the EU suffers for it. From one side, we opened the door to our neighbors in Eastern Europe so that they may work freely anywhere on the territory of the European Union, while at the same time we created convenient conditions for European companies, to “force” them to expand and

not stay squatting in only Britain, Belgium, Germany and France, instead operating in third countries. And while it may be considered a noble gesture, it wasn’t intended to bring about the regress of the European economy, unemployment and dissatisfaction of people with European politics. And at the end, it brought about Brexit – it wasn’t illogical after all, it was a logical conclusion, an expected collapse. Therefore, I think that the European family in its current form is in alarming shape and we need to start not only to think and muse, but to make practical steps towards reforming Europe into another shape; modernizing and reconstructing it. The problems we face are huge: elections are looming in The Netherlands, France and Belgium, and nobody knows what will happen and, to be frank, I’m not that optimistic. That’s why I said we need to “Reconstruct Europe”. And this reconstruction should happen really quickly – we need to find new relations, all the while not excluding those risk factors that we’re facing. Let’s take Georgia, for example. Personally, I commend the democratic processes and reforms that are taking place in Georgia. We are witnessing a very rational, stable government and that is reassuring. It had multiple democratic elections in a row – progress is there to see, and to celebrate and confirm this progress, we need to give Georgian citizens the possibility to freely enter EU countries. New, more robust political and economic relations should be maintained between Georgia and member countries of the European Union. At the same time, Georgia should address alleged problems of corruption, nepotism and rule of law and bring these up to European standards. The number of Georgian refugees in Europe should go down and this will happen when Georgia successfully tackles the abovementioned problems – When Europe shows you an example, you should learn from it and most importantly, use it!

who have enjoyed some close dealings with Russia. And you have President Trump himself, who said very clearly that he would be happy to work and get along with President Putin. The President himself is quite an unpredictable character, so, I think it is too soon to say there will be whole new realignment, but I think it’s clear that President Trump has a desire to get along better with the Russian President.

TRUMP PRAISED PUTIN A LOT DURING THE CAMPAIGN. THE “FLIRTATION” OF THE TWO IS SOMETHING NEW IN USRUSSIAN RELATIONS, HOW DO YOU THINK THAT WILL AFFECT COUNTRIES LIKE GEORGIA OR UKRAINE?

BY NANA SAJAIA FOR VOICE OF AMERICA, GEORGIAN SERVICE

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nlike the Georgian child in Bertolt Brecht’s 1948 play, “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” who risks being torn in two literally as his birth mother and adoptive mother tussle over him, Georgia is a grown-up country with a voice and an opinion of its own. It is time for all the protagonists in the modern day version of this play to accept this reality, and pay more respect to the aspirations of Georgia’s own people. - writes the former UK Ambassador to Georgia and now senior fellow at DC based Atlantic Council of US, Alexandra Hall Hall in her most recent published piece on the AC website. Voice of America’s Georgian Service sat down with her to discuss potential shifts in US foreign policy and its role in Russia and the wider region.

DONALD TRUMP’S STANCE TOWARD RUSSIA CAUSED A LOT OF ANGST AMONG US PARTNERS, SHOULD WE EXPECT ANOTHER “RESET”? There seem to be two main streams: a traditional Republican establishment view, forcefully held onto in Congress, and some of his own nominees that value alliances such as NATO and regard Russia as a very big threat. And there are members of the administration, his national security advisor, secretary of state,

What I would really like to see to happen in Georgia is a very strong, united message to come to the new US administration, a very early engagement on the values they share and how they can work with the new administration

President Trump engages with people on a very personal level. My own hunch is that part of his admiration for President Putin is a perception that he is very strong and assertive in defending Russian interests. And that is something the US should be doing more – asserting US interests. The question is: can US and Russian interests coincide? My recommendation for countries like Georgia is to engage very early on with this new administration. Keep the messages short and simple – “You love your country, you want America secure, strong and prosperous, we Georgians want the same thing for our country. We, in Georgia, want to be in charge of our destiny and we don’t want to be pushed over.”

IN YOUR RECENT PIECE, YOU SAY, “IT IS TIME FOR ALL COUNTRIES AFFECTED BY RUSSIA’S HOSTILE ACTIVITIES TO BE MORE PROACTIVE IN DEFENDING THEIR INTERESTS—WITHOUT RELYING ON US LEADERSHIP.” HOW DO YOU SEE THIS HAPPENING GIVEN THE DISPROPORTIONALITY OF POWER BETWEEN RUSSIA AND GEORGIA? Is it realistic for Georgia to stand up by itself? Maybe not. But Georgia is a part of a bigger community; it may not formally be in NATO, but it has very strong connections with the NATO countries, it has strong bilateral partnerships with my country – the United Kingdom and with The United States. Those remain good and valid mechanisms for Georgia to raise awareness of its own situation and to find a way to stand firm against Russia. There is a worry that in a desire to achieve a new state of cooperation with Russia, countries like Georgia and Ukraine are somewhat overlooked. That is a legitimate concern. Putin will push as far as he can in Georgia, in Ukraine, and if you don’t stand firm to set boundaries on unacceptable behavior, you will see other problems cropping up. It is incumbent for countries in this region supported by their friends and allies to make clear that any new US-Russia cooperation should not be at the expense of interests of those friends and allies.

THERE IS MUCH AT STAKE FOR GEORGIA. ITS BREAKAWAY REGIONS, CONTINUING CREEPING OCCUPATION AND ITS EURO-ATLANTIC ASPIRATIONS. DO YOU THINK ANY OF THIS CAN BE RESOLVED OR ACHIEVED WITHOUT STRONG INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT? Georgia remains a successful example of what can be achieved with the support of EU and NATO and remains a model for other countries. What I would really like to see to happen in Georgia is a very strong, united message to come to the new US administration, a very early engagement on the values they share and how they can work with the new administration. It is important that Georgians across the political spectrum work together on this. In the last four years we saw a lot of airing of dirty linen internationally; I really hope that the Georgian political establishment moves beyond that. Link Georgian version: http://www.amerikiskhma.com/a/alex-hallhall/3695581.html


GEORGIA TODAY

BUSINESS

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

9

TBC's Chkonia: Risk Management Should Not Fall behind Business Development Continued from page 1

Looking back we can conclude that at that time the banks did not pay sufficient attention to risk management. Our company European Resolution Capital helped them overcome these problems. I have worked with many countries, including Ukraine, Bulgaria, Croatia, Austria, Sweden. When the crisis hit United States, the US government turned to investment companies for help. One such company was PIMCO, a very large investment company. The second company involved in this process was BlackRock – also a large American investment company. In this period the entire financial system was at risk and a great deal of experience, time and effort were necessary to overcome this threat. PIMCO successfuly coped with this task. In 2011 the company decided to expand its operations in Europe, where debt portfolios were crashing at an incredible speed and the banks were unprepared for this situation. I was a senior vice president for Europe at PIMCO. One of the important projects that we implemented, in which I was personally involved, was related to the Cyprus banking system. When Cyprus was facing problems, the three international investors needed information on the extent of assistant necessary to save the sector. We implemented a large scale project to estimate the asset and capital requirements of the banking sector. This process lasted for several months. After this project I moved to BlackRock. During this time I worked a lot with the risk officers and regulators from the banking sector who wanted to understand how to act. During the crisis the regulators also missed many issues. Eventually this crisis changed many things in Europe, for example, now instead of national banks, the European Central Bank controls the large banks. The regulation system has also changed radically. Based on this experience, I can say that many issues and problems related to the bank’s risk management, also the issues that regulators are concerned about, are familiar to me.

WHAT DOES RISK MANAGEMENT IMPLY, RISK PREVENTION OR ITS PROPER MANAGEMENT DURING A CRISIS? Both. It is important that the bank has a welldeveloped risk culture and risk management structure. Also, it is important that the bank possesses the technology that effectively and simply supports this process.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO FORECAST THE RISK TRENDS SEVERAL MONTHS AHEAD? The risk organization should always exist at the bank. It should be strong, independent and effective. Clearly, when there are problems, the risk organization is more active. If it is well-developed, problems can be effectively managed and improved.

Many Western banks and regulators are still trying to solve the problems of the past, [while] in Georgia... the major emphasis is placed on growth and new opportunities

The most important thing is that risk management follows the developments and becomes even more relevant.

HOW DOES THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GEORGIAN BANKING SECTOR DIFFER FROM WHAT IS HAPPENING AT EUROPEAN BANKS? Many Western banks and regulators are still trying to solve the problems of the past, so a great deal of attention is paid to this issue. Hence, new issues and growth potential are not the focus. In Georgia, on the contrary, the major emphasis is placed on growth and new opportunities. For me, personally, it is very important to be in such an environment. For risk organization, it is more interesting to think about new and future issues than to focus on past problems.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS IN TBC BANK? Our goal is to equip TBC Bank with one of the most stable and developed risk management cultures and technological and analytic platforms; to make the risk organization a leader in the region. My position as risk management director enables me to participate in the development of the bank. Today TBC Bank is the largest bank in Georgia and an important financial organization. Involvement in the development of this bank means involvement in Georgia’s economic development. This is a very large role and served as a real motivation to accept TBC Bank's offer and come to work here. The weaker the organization, the more difficult it is to react to the problems. There were many such examples in the international markets during the financial crisis. The bank constantly conducts economic analysis and studies, in order to keep an eye on important trends.

IS RISK MANAGEMENT EQUALLY IMPORTANT FOR LARGE AND CONSUMER LOANS?

Bollywood Masala Indian Restaurant

Yes, it is important for both. In terms of large loans, it is very important, as a significant amount of funds is disbursed to the borrower. Retail and individual portfolios are also important, as there are many borrowers and, taken together, the portfolio is crucial for the economy.

WHAT RISKS DO THE BANKING SECTORS IN THE WEST AND IN GEORGIA FACE TODAY? The risks differ according to the markets. In Western countries, the major risk for the banks is a large volume of nonperforming loans that piled up during the crisis. Some countries managed to overcome this problem quickly, some are still struggling with it. The second big problem for the banks is sales, since they find it difficult to maintain sales, which is partly due to bad portfolios and partly due to interest rates and macroeconomic conditions. Sales are essential for healthy capital and for its natural growth. Companies operating in the financial technology sector also pose a threat to tradition banks as they approach some aspects of this field much more effectively. The fourth risk is regulation, which is experiencing radical change in Europe; it becomes heavier and places a big burden on already weakened banks. However, it should be noted that healthy and strong regulation is important. As for Georgia, when I arrived I tried to objectively face reality – you learn much more about the actual situation when you are there than when you observe developments from afar. I try to identify our strengths, as well as the areas that need further development in the organization. During the last two years, the bank has undergone dynamic changes and my predecessors already implemented many positive reforms. This organization is one of the leading companies in the region and it is important to continue this trend. Risk management must follow business developments. Many risks typical of Western countries do not exist here, and vice versa.

Find your next great lunch or dinner dining experience featuring time-honored recipes at New Bollywood Masala Indian Restaurant

Tel: +995 551 526 000; +995 592 900 002 Add: Str. Kostava 44, Tbilisi, Georgia Email: bollywoodmasala19@gmail.com


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BUSINESS

Elit Electronics Closes 2016 as Brand of the Year

BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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lit Electronics can confidently label 2016 as a successful, having seen a 15 percent increase in retail trade compared to 2015, namely a 30 percent increase in mobile phone sales, 17 percent increase in the bigger domestic appliances category and an 18 percent increase in sales of small domestic appliances, which, as the company claims, are very important indicators. Elit Electronics was named Brand of the Year 2016. In the selection of the individuals and companies for the “Golden Parchment,” in which over 100 experts participated, a list of nominees was put together alongside a GCG consulting survey of 257 individuals countrywide. The majority of respondents named Elit Electronics as brand of the year. In 2016, Elit Electronics opened three new shops. Elit Electronics offers a unique concept to its customers, giving them the chance to choose and buy

products in a comfortable space. It is the first multi-brand chain of shops in the country with showrooms of the world’s leading brands, including Samsung, LG, Sony, Bosch, Siemens, Gorenje, Philips, Acer, Huawei and Lenovo. As well as being an authorized partner to Apple, the company is also an exclusive representative for Bosch, Siemens, Gorenje and Hitachi and an official retail partner of Samsung. The company had various activities and campaigns throughout the year, while managing to maintain 50% of the appliance market, according to the wGRP that led to the company’s TOM awareness growth. Elit Electronics as a leader holds 40% share of the home appliances market in Georgia. Today, Elit Electronics is represented as the largest trade chain in the country, with the best products, a renewable assortment, after-sale and warranty services, home delivery and installation, and the highest service quality, all features which define the company’s name and place on the Georgian consumer market.

Head of Tourism Administration: 2016 Was a Success for Georgia

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

Pasha Bank PR & Marketing Head: Inspired by Youth Innovation INTERVIEW BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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asha Bank recently sponsored the Green Project: Smart City Hackathon as part of their 2017 CSR strategy to support environmental projects. The Smart City Hackathon hosted by the Caucasus University in Tbilisi, Georgia, was organized by the startup accelerator ‘C10’ and the management company for startup accelerators ‘Blender’. The Georgian Innovations and Technology Agency supported the organization of the event, where teams of students competed while introducing innovative solutions to improve the environment of Tbilisi through ecology, parking, traffic or any other issue related to making life in the city better. The evaluation of the teams and their projects was made according to whether the solution represented could be applied in real life and whether it was original. The winners were announced last Sunday, one of them, the Smart Road project, receiving a special prize from Pasha Bank. GEORGIA TODAY met with Anano Korkia, Pasha Bank’s Head of Public Relations and Marketing Department, to talk about the bank’s CSR activities and why they chose to support environmental projects in particular.

WHY DID PASHA BANK CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON ECOLOGY AS A PART OF ITS CSR STRATEGY FOR 2017? Today, for the modern consumer, the trend for CSR activities is ever more apparent. At the same time, millennialls need a different approach even in terms of marketing communication. Ecology and environment are very important themes, and we can see the trend evolving now in Georgia, too. And when you’re a big commercial company, you have strong resources to deliver the message that environment and ecology are the issues that matter.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SUPPORT SMART CITY HACKATHON?

Giorgi Chogovadze, Head of Georgia’s National Tourism Administration

BY THEA MORRISON

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iorgi Chogovadze, Head of Georgia’s National Touri s m Ad m i n i s t r a t i o n (GNTA) of the Ministry of Economy, presented the summarizing report of 2016 on February 1, and assessed 2016 as a success for Georgia. “For the first time, Georgia reached two significant indicators: The number of international travelers exceeded 6 million, and the international revenues from tourism, which amounted to more than $ 2 billion,” Chogovadze claimed. The Head of the GNTA presented official statistics, according to which, 6,350,825 international visitors arrived in Georgia last year, which is 449,731 more than in 2015. “The number of tourists visiting the country in 2016 has increased by 7.6 percent year-on-year,” said Chogovadze, adding that the GNTA has held many events for tourism promotion, including summer and winter campaigns in many foreign countries. “During 2016, Georgia hosted 600 international media representatives who prepared video shows, documentaries, articles and blogs about Georgia which

increased awareness about our country,” Cholovadze said. He also highlighted that in 2016, Georgia hosted the first International Wine Conference, which was conducted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). “This was the first such conference held in Georgia. More than 250 guests attended the event, including the UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai,” he added. “The government is doing its best to increase the number of tourists,” said Deputy Economy Minister, Ketevan Bochorishvili. “Our goal for 2025 is to get 11 million international visitors. Consequently, we have annual action plans to achieve this goal," she said, noting that every single tourist means additional income for Georgian families. The Deputy Minister also pointed out two projects of the state program Produce in Georgia: ‘Host in Georgia’, which promotes the development of the hotel business, and ‘Film in Georgia’, which promotes the country’s film industry and makes Georgia more attractive for filmmakers. The presentation of the Tourism Report 2016 was attended by around 200 representatives of media, airline and tourism companies, and hotels.

The idea of the Smart City Hackathon to find innovative ideas for making life in our city better, with a possibility to have a strong ecological emphasis, grabbed us. We had already financed educational projects and language courses, but this year, our objective is to support Green Projects and initiatives. Last year, as a gift to our business partners, we planted 2017 pine trees in Borjomi where, in 2008, a large area of the forest was burned. We now plan to plant Caucasian Oak trees more commonly

CROWD FoUNDation, a crowd-funding platform represented by Soso Chkhaidze, Tazo Arunashvili and Mari Amashukeli

found in Imereti region. I think that it’s very important for businesses to play a vital part in raising the awareness on ecological and environmental issues and I also believe that in Georgia, communicating and spreading information about these activities is vital; it’s highly motivating for other companies and individuals to start their own initiative alternatively, or join already existing ones.

TELL US MORE ABOUT THE SMART CITY HACKATHON The jury members were all from different companies. We evaluated the originality of the idea, the adaptability of the project, whether it would be possible to apply and realize it in real life, and the ability of the participants to make a presentation of their innovative ideas and solutions. One of the projects that drew my attention, and it turned out to be one of the winners, was the project Doorstory, from 8th graders Giorgi Vekua and Lasha Bokhua, an application with which, through QR codes, you can listen to the history of places, buildings and houses, or about public figures who lived thereyou can even choose the language in which to listen to the narrative. The moment you start the application, it shows where you are and points to the place with a history, to which you can then listen, with an animated video of a ghost telling you the story. Imagine how useful this could be to Tbilisi Municipality, or the Tourism Administration, and it’s not a project that would need a big financial investment to be realized. The winners who were awarded with the prize from Pasha Bank (1,000 GEL) were Giorgi Ghonghadze, Nikoloz Moniava and Davit Natadze with their project Smart Road, a concept to equip roads with specialized sensors that save electricity. The electricity on roads will be turned on only when the vehicle approaches. The authors of the project had not only estimated but precisely calculated what the saving cost would be and it appears that one family could use the electricity saved in one day on 10 kilometers of road to power their needs for 4 whole months! They presented it almost as clearly as

in a professional business-plan and made a prototype so we could see the project in action, with a little toy car passing on road and the light switching on. Very impressive! Another of the four winners of the hackathon was Valar by Luka Lomtadze and Nika Alavidze, an application, similar to mobi pay, that identifies where you are and offers you the chance to pay, so when you get on the bus for example, a pop-up suggests paying the bus ticket with a mobile wallet. The last team of winners was the CROWD FoUNDation, a crowd-funding platform represented by Soso Chkhaidze, Tazo Arunashvili and Mari Amashukeli for a project on developing city infrastructure, and namely for improving hygiene and cleanliness in the Tbilisi under-passes. The team invented a solution with sensor technologies that can sense movement and light up the area the moment someone decides to urinate. The members of the team plan to launch a crowdfunding platform to assist the urban development and infrastructure improvement of the city. I was really impressed. Of course, their solutions might need improvement to be implemented for the future, but still, it was wonderful to see how passionate they were about what they do. Many of them had mobile applications or websites prepared, and they were all very dedicated, worked really hard and it was both very interesting and empowering to see that nearly half of them had ideas related to volunteering.

HOW WOULD YOU SUMMARIZE 2016 FOR PASHA BANK? We organized business forums, meetings and conferences throughout the year and, of course, we will continue to do so. I would like to mention the support we provided to the SOS Children’s Village, our financing of English courses for the whole year for them, and another project we had, when Pasha Bank financed a summer camp for university applicants from socially vulnerable groups in Kobuleti, Adjara. I’m mentioning these because such activities are extremely important for us: it’s through them that we attempt to change other people’s lives and try to make them a little better.


GEORGIA TODAY

11

SOCIETY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

Of Christmas Hijacked: Svaneti BY TONY HANMER

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ooks like I'm on a rant roll. This incident actually happened a few weeks before the "Dead Food Critics" one, but it took a while longer to boil to maturity in my head. On Orthodox Christmas, to be exact, January 7. We neighbors were over at the house of an unmarried lady aged 70 who had recently lost her sister-in-law, a widow in her 60s; one of the deceased's daughters was staying with her relative through the winter. There was to be a Christmas feast. Men and women were separated for this one, into different rooms, only a handful of us males- led in the toasting by one of our number who was already well into his cups before sitting down. EVERY toast was a memorial to the dead, in ever-increasing circles expanding from the house outwards to encompass hamlet, village, province, nation and beyond. Perhaps because it was so close to the last death in the house, this had to be the order of events, even though the ormotsi (40 day memorial) was past? All I could think of, though, as the evening progressed, was: Another example of local tradition trumping Orthodoxy (or even orthodoxy, small-o). The dead: if we don't remember them, who will remember us? goes the saying. To which

my heart, but not yet my tongue, responds: Who cares? In Christian belief, the dead are either in bliss or torment, depending on their faith in the Son who came to reconcile them to God. In either case, they will be preoccupied enough with their situation not to really bother about being "remembered" in the shadowy, hardly real realm which saw a few decades of their lives stutter about for a while before reality broke through, terrible or glorious. And this day was the birthday of that Son, of all days of the year a celebration of the arrival of overwhelming, brimmingover life, not death! Why should the dead take it over? What right do they have? What needs or jealousies are these? Eventually I broke in, as one may do with the toastmaster's allowance, and tried to make my point. It wasn't very well received, but soon after that we broke up and went our separate ways into the frosty, still-young night. I tried again, on the short way home in the dark, with my closest neighbor, who as usual was more receptive to my wavelength, having seen enough of the outside world and heard enough in talks with me to understand where I was coming from. He did seem to get it. I let him know that I was actually quite angry, but that it wasn't the drink talking, as I'd had only a few half-glasses in wine and, as always, wasn't even tipsy. Look, I'm not saying to forget, ignore or insult the dead; they are our dear ones, ancestors, relatives, friends, countryfolk.

I, too, lost a father recently. But give LIFE its chance to be celebrated as well! This is where there needs to be more understanding of the supposed Christianity which is the dominant and accepted religion up here as almost everywhere in Georgia; although I am quite aware of the ancient and powerful pagan ways

which precede it, especially up in the mountains. What is it like to live in such bondage to those who have departed this world altogether; such fear of them which is only thinly disguised as respect? Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a

weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1350 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

TBC Bank Repots on its CSR Activities for 2016 where we think we could make a positive impact,” said Teo Lejava, CSR Manager, TBC Bank. “We have unified those themes in four major directions: support for the small and medium size businesses, support to the new generation, assistance to the arts and culture, and support and promotion of Rugby. Our employees are always very actively involved in the social responsibility projects that we realize, and I would highlight the renovation of the Mziuri Park project, and the “Write in Georgian” (წერე ქართულად) initiative, both extremely successful largely to the feedback we received from our staff. With our CSR projects, we aim to have a long-term strategy for corporate social responsibility.” Video footage with all the projects realized under the TBC Bank’s CSR strategy for the 2015 -2016 period was shown during the event, featuring the Business Awards 2016, online platform “statusdonates.ge,” two of Niko Pirosmani’s paintings being restored, support to the Georgia’s Mountain Resorts development, partnering with the Tbilisi State Ballet, assistance to the young inventors contest Leonardo Da Vinci and assigning aof one year scholarships to its winners, just to name a few. TBC also offers partnership-oriented

BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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BC Bank presented its CSR activities and projects to the general public and media representatives at the Bank’s head office on

Monday. Having corporate social responsibility among its top priorities, TBC Bank claims to share the same practice as Barclays, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and others with regards to its CSR investment and policy. Corporate Social Responsibility tends to have a positive impact on the spheres that are important and interesting for society in general. The projects supported by TBC Bank are diverse: the support and development of business initiatives, assistance in education and professional development for the young, support of arts and culture, and the popularization and promotion of rugby as a sport are among the projects the bank financed through the years 20152016. “According to the research we’ve undertaken, we have identified the problematic issues and themes that are of interest for our society, specifically the ones

ROUTING

TBILISI ISTANBUL ATATURK AIRPORT ISTANBUL ATATURK AIRPORT TBILISI TBILISI ISTANBUL SABIHA GOKCEN AIRPORT ISTANBUL SABIHA GOKCEN AIRPORT TBILISI BATUMI - ISTANBUL ISTANBUL - BATUMI

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Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge

social projects for professional development, giving employees the chance to study abroad at the TBC Academy- ‘TBC Employees for TBC Employees,’ as well as assistance for large families and more. “During its 25 years existence, TBC Bank has implemented many charitable initiatives; it has always been our philosophy, but we’ve also realized that corporate social responsibility needs a different approach, different management and different responsibility,” said Mamuka Khazaradze, Co -Founder and Chairman of TBC Bank. “While we studied the experience of our international partners, it appeared that, in many ways, we’ve been innovators. We think that reporting on the CSR activities we did will bring more new ideas and projects that could be jointly initiated and realized in the future.” “We are delighted that the success of our Ballet is related to TBC Bank; for us it’s extremely important to have such a great supporter and partner as they are,” said Nina Ananiashvili, Prima Ballerina. TBC Bank promises to actively continue to support CSR projects throughout 2017, and, as Mamuka Khazaradze noted, will regularly report to the public, thus ensuring the transparency of the process.

FLIGHT NUMBER

TK 387 TK 385 TK 383 TK 386 TK 384 TK 382

WEEK DAYS

DEPARTURE

ARRIVAL

EVERYDAY

05.50 11.45 18.10 01.40 07.30 13.55

07.25 13.25 20.00 04.55 10.50 17.15

07.40

09.00

20.45

00.10+1

17.50 13.55

19.10 16.55

TK 381 EVERYDAY TK 380 TK 393 TK 392

EVERYDAY


12

SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

Time to Grow Up: Ogden on the Apathy of the Georgian Student OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN

O

ver the last year, the government has spent a significant amount of time and energy on its education reforms, rightly perceiving this to be an area in which Georgia lags behind the European countries it one day hopes to rub shoulders with. Yet while praising the German school system and attempting to copy it, or raising the pitiful salary of teachers by 50 or 100 GEL (wow!) are worthy endeavors, they have nothing to do with the base problem that plagues every Georgian educational institution from Kakheti to the Black Sea. I refer, of course, to the Georgian student, whose appalling behavior is so at odds with the extreme sense of entitlement. I can’t speak for Georgian schools, but I’ve seen the state of things at Georgian universities…and it is very worrying. In Britain (and I suppose the USA to some extent), going to university is not just about earning a diploma; it is a rite of passage, the time when eighteen-year olds leave home and make the gradual transition from child to adult. Their parents are no longer responsible for kicking them out of bed in the morning and sending them off to their lessons, nor preparing their meals, nor cleaning their clothes; some flounder initially, and let this newfound freedom go to their heads, but eventually they simmer down…or leave university. Yet by the time they get to Master’s degree level, they are young adults, inexperienced in life (for the most part) but past the stage when staying up all hours of the night is exciting and nobody can reprimand them for their drinking. They have chosen to take a Master’s degree; at this stage, they know exactly what university entails and are inclined to take their course seriously…after all, they have chosen to do it, and while a BA is almost obligatory

It is hard to take people seriously who are halfway to 30 but act as if they are 11, and it is especially frightening since many students from some international institutions in Georgia go on to secure good jobs. Illustration by Dan Cordero/theswcsun.com

in the modern world, pursuing an MA is still something of a higher calling. I should also mention that on the first day of any university course in Britain, students are severely warned about cheating and attempts at plagiarism. The penalties are extremely harsh, in most cases resulting in immediate ejection from the university. Compare that with Georgia, where cheating is an

accepted practice. One young BA student copied his essay from Wikipedia; all his teacher told him was not to do it again, and that Wikipedia was hardly the best source since it is often unreliable. Hardly a stern reprimand, you’ll agree. Up at MA level at a prestigious international institution, students routinely plagiarize work and are then shocked when their grades are consequently reduced; most

of those who cheat are repeat offenders. Students also gain percentage points simply for attending classes, and while it is hardly difficult to sit through an hour’s lecture and feign attention, Georgian students still attempt to write the names of their friends on the register lists. This sort of apathy might be pathetic, but it is even more astounding when Georgian students are given their grades at the end of the semester and feel entitled to go to their lecturers and insist they deserve more points; this would simply be unthinkable in Britain. What, a student trying to suggest that their instructor doesn’t know best? In addition, talking in classes and sitting on mobile phones might happen in Britain when the students are teenagers, but not when they are 24. A few years ago, a Georgian MA student from an international institution won a PhD scholarship to an Ivy League university in the United States; the institute, naturally, was very proud, at least until a few months later when it was revealed that this student had attempted to cheat on his first exam. I’m not sure what anti-cheating measures the Americans take, but I doubt they’re overly different to ours, and it isn’t surprising that this Georgian was unable to do what had obviously worked so well for him at home. It is hard to take people seriously who are halfway to 30 but act as if they are 11, and it is especially frightening since many students from some international institutions in Georgia go on to secure good jobs. The real tragedy is for those who truly do work and try hard who have their achievements devalued by their fellow students. The issue here is not educational, but cultural, and will take a different approach to solve, beyond throwing money and plans at the Ministry of Education. Respect and discipline do not come naturally to young Georgians (the males more than the females), but this issue will not be solved until the government is able (or willing) to identify the problem.

CULTURE

Gela Zautashvili: An Artist on the Edge of Civilizations BY KETEVAN CHARKHALASHVILI

I

f we follow the history of modern Georgian art, Gela Zautashvili says he would put himself among those artists who entered the scene during the 1980s. “I was among those who set up, in 1987, the first serious exhibition of abstractionism since Parisian players Kakabadze and Gudiashvili. Together with me was Gia Edzgveradze, Iliko Zautashvili, and Luka Lasareishvili.” The exhibition was an important one, especially considering it took place during the communist regime, when such exhibitions were nearly impossible and when even half-abstract paintings were not allowed. “It was taboo and we defeated this taboo,” Zautashvili says. “The same year the same exhibition was arranged in Tbilisi but without the paintings of Ilia Mgaloblishvili.” As well as receiving international acclaim and more than one mention in the press, the exhibition led to the 1988 Moscow Sotheby auction: “Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde” in which Georgian painter Edzgveradze participated. “After which he made a successful career,” Zautashvili tells us. “Yet there was something special about this auction: the Sotheby and Christy auctions have a system with experts who come to the country they are interested in and check and meet the unknown candidates and artists, taking into account local famous art figures. That time, they had to choose from representatives of Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and Estonia. The Ministry of Culture of the Soviet Union offered Russian painter Glazunov whose paintings were not on the chosen list of Sotheby but who, in any case, they were forced to represent at the auction.” Zautashvili has a low estimation of the current art market and states that “politics rules everything.” “The Ministry of Culture is not working, there exists no politics of culture,” he says. “Where before an exhibition of Georgian artists was arranged in the Cobra gallery in Amsterdam, today nothing

like this happens.” We asked Zautashvili whether he considered himself a truly Georgian artist. “Any artist who claims to be cosmopolitan is a carrier of Georgian talent, intellect and nobility. I was so from childhood; always reading, always interested in the more intellectual side of issues than the emotional. When I touched the eastern world: India, China, Islam, Sufism, I was so interested that I tried to play games with Western and Eastern elements. I always say that so-called New Art is a game. I don’t know who begun this game: maybe it started with Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. We live in a show; everything is a show, and unfortunately this is fact: the picture on an exhibited canvas nowadays doesn’t provoke so much interest and emotion as a video art installation does, which destroy the two-dimensional space. The most famous biennales are interested in conceptual art and performances rather than easel painting: there are few traditional easel paintings at the biennales,” he laments. “But the new generations is very interesting; it creates many interesting things, new conceptions of art, with installation elements. Yet, I still love painting pictures.” We asked Zautashvili if he thought the geopolitical location of Georgia influenced Georgian art and its condition. “This is exactly the main problem. At the Venice Biennale, Georgian artists were represented last after Azerbaijan and Armenian artists, when it seems that Tbilisi is considered the center of Transcaucasia. It happens because Georgians are not interested in art. There are around just 10 Georgian painters with global importance who can be exhibited in world galleries. But then that can seem logical after all the cataclysms we went through in the last 20 years, cataclysms mostly provoked by our complicated geopolitical situation.” As to what lies in store in the art world, Zautashvili cannot predict: “Marcel Duchamp was great because he painted a mustache on Gioconda. Andy Warhol created Marilyn Monroe. We now face an abnormal triumph of materialism. No one can say what art will be tomorrow. Humans almost found God. It is impossible to go back to the old ways.”


GEORGIA TODAY

CULTURE

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

13

Svanetian Village of Adishi on the I Verge of Collapse

Georgians at Berlinale - Three Georgian Feature Films & One Animation to Fight for Victory

BY MAKA LOMADZE

BY MAKA LOMADZE

Y

ears ago, French photo-artist, Francis Prymerski, shot the famous clip of the Erisioni singing and dancing ensemble ‘Georgian Legend’ in France. After that, he desperately fell in love with Georgia and came to settle here. The European photographer has visited almost all Georgia and, while traveling to Svaneti, he discovered a picturesque village called Adishi where, reportedly, the traditional Svanetian towers preserving an important aspect of Georgian history are on the verge of collapse. And that is not the only problem. “There are towers that date back to the Middle Ages and ancient houses on the verge of destruction- nobody seems to care,” Prymerski says. “These towers are the witnesses of our history and represent monuments of Georgian art dating back centuries.” This is not the first time Adishi has caught a foreign eye, as in the 1890s, the Italian photographer and mountaineer Vittorio Sella was captivated by the beauty of this very village, shooting 14 towers. Now most of those towers are about to disappear, and Prymerski is open about his disappointment. “I’m deeply shocked. Why aren’t these buildings being protected? This panorama is like a dream,” Prymerski says from the location itself, speaking in a video that went viral on social media, earning over 200,000 Likes on Facebook. “This abandoned house is a monument of cultural heritage and it’s on the edge of collapse. This should be stopped first and foremost by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection. History is being destroyed. Adishi is the most beautiful place in Georgia. It needs to be preserved. Not all countries can take pride in such richness. My heart screams: Do something, help this village!” And there are more problems. The village has no school or kindergarten. The local school was closed in 2002, as the village became less populated. Now people are moving back, a request has been made

to the Ministry of Education to restore the local school. Local community head Elisabed Kaldani wrote an application several months ago, but has yet to hear back. “The lack of a school is very problematic for both our village and our future,” Kaldani says. “Our children can’t get secondary education. They have to go to the next village, Ipari, 11km from Adishi. In winter, because of restricted movement, children are absent from school for weeks… we need an educational center in Adishi,” she emphasized. In spite of the lack of reply, they do not lose hope. “We believe they will be interested in this matter and listen to us. The restoration of a school is the requirement of not only our village but also of the nation, as Georgia more than ever needs the rural population to return to their homes and villages, as well as to have an educated future generation,” Kaldani adds. Young local resident, Goneli Avaliani, returned to the village five years ago and confirms that there are more villagers who wish to come back. “A lot of people want to live here again, and restore their traditional houses, however, because of the lack of finances, they can’t. Almost all the old houses here are flanked with towers. Locals might be able to restore the houses but no one can afford to rehabilitate the towers as well. That’s why we’re asking for help. The access road was rehabilitated this year but to encourage the population to settle back here, a school, kindergarten and restored houses are necessary- this will also increase tourism and help the residents support themselves,” he says. The village also has no electricity and Avaliani says the men have to go into the woods once a week to bring firewood. “We work with our bare hands and trudge through deep snow. It can be dangerous as avalanches are not uncommon.” There is also no doctor and some illnesses can be fatal. As the stones fall from the weakened towers, the villagers beg the world to sit up and take notice. “We need some attention,” Avaliani says. “The more people that can live here, the better care we can take of the area ourselves.”

f there is anything good about Georgia, it’s our culture. Within 10 years, the rising tendency of Georgian art house is becoming more and more apparent, affirmed by the success of this year: one animation and three feature films as nominees of the Berlin Film Festival 2017. In 1983, the Georgian animation film “Misfortune” won the Golden Palm. And now, after 33 years, Natia Nikolashvili’s debut animation “Lile” is the nominee at Berlinale, to be screened in the ‘Generation’ section. “’Lile’ is a 10-minute short film shot over two years; the phantasmagorical story of a girl who will save a dark day,” the director says. “The ‘Generation’ section of Berlinale was created for 11-14 year olds," says Vladimer Kacharava, producer. "Most of the jury members are children. I didn’t expect Berlinale but I knew the film would find its own way to the European and American market. We made it with the standards of festivals in mind. The world that Natia created is very interesting and visually rich and we plan to make it a full-length animation in future.” Davit Vashadze, representative from Georgian National Cinema Center, explained why there was a break in the making of animation films in Georgia: “In the black 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was no perspective or funding to shoot films. However, within the past 10 years, our center has had a clear strategy with the concrete aim the Georgian cinema to find a position in the global film industry. We are very glad that at this prestigious festival, we are presenting one animation and three feature films. Animation was particularly damaged after the collapse, as it is usually more expensive than feature film or documentaries. Therefore, we had a special strategy to restore the school of Georgian animation. We started it by developing projects, workshops, etc. As a result, the quality of our animation is very high and this is proved by the selection of ‘Lile’ for the Berlinale.” The feature film by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Grosse called “My Happy Family,” a GeorgianGerman-French co-production, was named the

pearl of the prestigious Sundance festival and is now to fight for victory in the category ‘Forum’ at Berlinale. “Sundance is the festival of art house films and is totally free from political opinions," Vashadze says. "Therefore, the films selected there bear high artistic value.” The second film that the global audience will see is Rati Oneli’s “City of the Sun”. This is Oneli’s debut, a feature-documentary film about his home town Chiatura. “The film is making a lot of resonance and we have hope it will succeed. We make around 4-5- full-length feature films per year and around 80 percent of them are premiered at A-class film festivals,” Vashadze says. The third film, to be shown in the ‘Panorama’ section, is Reziko Gigineishvili’s film “Hostages” about the tragedy of 1983, when the young generation of elite society tried to hijack an airplane as a sign of protest against the Soviet Iron Curtain. “Rezo became interested in this topic eight years ago and began to study it. It’s a very serious theme for the country,” said Vladimer Kacharava, producer of the film, which is a Georgian-Russian-Polish coproduction. From the Polish side, the producer is Ewa Puszczynska, the author of “Ida”, a Polish film that won in the category of the best foreign film at the Oscars 2015. The 67th Berlin International Film Festival will take place from February 9 to February 18. We are looking forward to it and wish Georgia success! Of course, the nominations themselves are a victory already!


14

CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 February 4, 5 * Premiere AN EVENING OF MODERN CHOREOGRAPHY PETITE CEREMONIE Choreographer - Medhi Walerski; SARABANDE, PETITE MORT, FALLING ANGELS Ballets of Jiri Kylian Start time: February 4 - 19:00, February 5 - 14:00 Ticket: 10 - 50 GEL GEORGIAN STATE PANTOMIME THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 63 14 February 3 THE WORLD Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 9 GEL February 4 STOP AIDS Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 9 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge February 3 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 8, 10 GEL February 5 THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY Oscar Wilde Directed by Nini Chakvetadze Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 8, 10 GEL GRIBOEDOVI THEATER Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36

February 3 GAMBLER F. Dostoevsky Directed by Gogi Margvelashvili Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5 - 10 GEL February 5 KARLSSON ON THE ROOF Astrid Lindgren Directed by Levon Uzunuani Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 5 - 10 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 February 3 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL February 4 RAMONA Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL February 5, 9 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 February 3, 4 PERFORMANCE THE TEMPEST Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL February 5 INTRO Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 15 GEL

CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari February 3-9 SILENCE Directed by Martin Scorsese Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson Genre: Drama, History Language: English, Russian Subtitles Start time: 19:15 Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE Directed by D.J. Caruso Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 9-10 GEL THE GREAT WALL Directed by Yimou Zhang Cast: Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 11:15 Ticket: 8-9 GEL

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL February 3-9

(Sazeimo) which in all likelihood belonged to Queen Tamar, and more.

LA LA LAND (Info Above) Start time: 13:30 Ticket: 9-10 GEL

September 27 – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA

THE SPACE BETWEEN US Directed by Peter Chelsom Cast: Britt Robertson, Asa Butterfield, Janet Montgomery Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL RINGS Directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Laura Wiggins, Aimee Teegarden Genre: Drama, Horror Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION: GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY FROM 8TH MILLENNIUM B.C. TO 4TH CENTURY A.D

LA LA LAND Directed by Damien Chazelle Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical Language: Russian Start time: 16:15, 22:00 Ticket: 10-14 GEL

EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY

A MONSTER CALLS Directed by J.A. Bayona Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall Genre: Drama, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 13:30, 16:45, 19:30, 21:45 Ticket: 9-14 GEL

THE TESTAMENT OF DAVID THE BUILDER AND THE NEW EXHIBITS OF MEDIEVAL TREASURY The exhibition showcases: the fragment of the only surviving testament of David the Builder; a copy of its glass negative made by Aleksandre Roinashvili in 1895; paleographical blades of David the Builder's handicrafts created by Sargis Kakabadze in 1911; the richly embellished gospel "Ceremonial"

RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge

NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases money circulation on the territory of Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834.

January 16 - February 16 EXHIBITION UPLISTSIKHE 60 See artifacts from archaeological excavations at Uplistsikhe. The exhibition is dedicated to the 93rd anniversary of the birth of the Georgian archaeologist David Khakhutaishvili. MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. EXHIBITION “LADO GUDIASHVILI AND GEORGIAN MONUMENTAL PAINTING” The exhibition showcases only one aspect of Gudiashvili's great art - monumental painting, which was presented discretely at various stages of his life. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 February 3 – 14 EXHIBITION LIFE THREATS BY ROCKO IREMASHVILI A multimedia project by Rocko Iremashvili, a successful Georgian contemporary artist, which reflects common philosophical threads of human existence: erroneous rearing methods, and false values and stereotypes. A teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts, Iremashvili has participated in numerous projectsand group exhibitions. His works are kept in the private collections of different countries. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. PERMANENT EXHIBITION Here, visitors can discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Soviet-era cultural and political repression in Georgia. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION January 10 - February 24 EXHIBITION OF ALEXANDER BAZHBEUK-MELIKOV'S ARTWORKS MUSIC

TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 February 3 BEKA GOCHIASHVILI JAZZ EVENING 'ROUND MIDNIGHT Start time: 19:30 MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 February 7 LIVE JAZZ EVENING WITH REZO KIKNADZE Start time: 21:00 Free entry February 8 MILONGA, LA CUMPARSITA ARGENTINE TANGO DANCE NIGHT Start time: 21:00 Tango Lesson: 5 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

15

Legendary Mime Shalikashvili Dares to Stage Georgia’s Knight in the Panther’s Skin BY MAKA LOMADZE

P

oetry of Silence is one of the many books of Amiran Shalikashvili Senior, the great maestro, living legend of Georgian theater, first mime ever in the country, founder of the corresponding faculty and the Georgian State Pantomime Theater. However, the latter has been in a very poor state for years, while Shalikashvili perceives life silently, perhaps finding an inexplicable self-salvation in the chaos of our rocketing tempo and fast technologies. But at the age of 78, the genius mime has decided to grab the immortal Shota Rustaveli’s ‘The Knight in the Panther’s Skin,’ Georgia’s greatest poem both in its importance in terms of incomparable wisdom as well as size. The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, an immortal saga of love and friendship, is soon to be revived for the first time on stage by in both word and mime. GEORGIA TODAY met Amiran Shalikashvili Junior, the maestro’s son, actor, and Director of Pantomime Theater, to find out more.

THE POEM WAS WRITTEN IN THE 12TH CENTURY AND NO THEATER OR CINEMA HAS EVER DARED TOUCH IT. WHY, AFTER NINE CENTURIES, DID AMIRAN SHALIKASHVILI SENIOR DECIDE TO TAKE ON THE CHALLENGE OF ADAPTING THIS IMMORTAL AND ENORMOUS BOOK? Writer Revaz Mishveladze wrote the script first, then re-wrote it with my father, as pantomime requires different specifics that only my father is good at in Georgia. Father has been wanting to stage Knight in the Panther’s Skin for some 30 years, but youth made him reluctant to follow though. Now, his age has played a positive role. The performance is very interesting not only for him, but for all of us actors. This has been a very perilous bridge to cross. Of course, “Terenti Graneli”, “Guest and Host” and “Pirosmani” are his works, too [Note: the first one depicts the portrait of a famous poet, the second is the stage version of the best poem of the second Georgian literary giant, Vazha-Pshavela, and the third is about Pirosmani, the self-taught

painter and father of Georgian primitivism in fine art]. I mean that the national motifs are not new sport for him. But this was the biggest challenge ever, and we did it! Of course, nobody could expect us to retell the whole book- the main thing that my father got interested in was the love- the central topic of the epochal poem.

DESCRIBE THE WORKING PROCESS It has been extremely tough. Barely anyone knows the whole poem by heart and an ordinary reader can hardly understand the essence of Shota Rustaveli, but Amiran Shalikashvili Senior has an ability to make you comprehend something you cannot by yourself. I would tell all schoolchildren now studying Knight in the Panther’s Skin to come and see our staging, as they will discover another poem and a different author. This is a very deep, educational performance.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO PREPARE THE POEM FOR THE STAGE? Around 5 years. He took about three years just for the text. This is a plastic performance, as is usual in the genre of pantomime. The text will be the background of the performance. In the hardest period of his life, the poem became the greatest inspiration for Shalikashvili Senior. One of his sons, my elder brother, died some months ago. It is a well-known fact that geniuses are often fed by life’s tragedies. Probably that is why this performance has been such a big success!

TELL US ABOUT THE SCENOGRAPHY It is minimalistic. I can tell you that the form my father has applied is an absolute novelty worldwide. Some have used sand, others water, or plastic bags, but nobody before has ever used wool. The decoration, costumes and the scenes are all made of knitwear. Lasha Devdariani, painter,

joined us in preparing this.

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS? Amiran Shalikashvili Senior said that this performance will solve all our problems, as pantomime theater is really in need of help! I would have never imagined that a performance could be better than “Guest and Host”- this is our classic, but it is. “Terenti Graneli” is the performance of the century, but Knight in the Panther’s Skin is the best of the best! The premiere will take place on February 11 at Marjanishvili State Drama Theater. Tickets are available on Tkt.ge

HE ALSO PARTICIPATES IN THE PERFORMANCE, RIGHT? Yes. We kept it a secret as long as we could- but, yes. The great maestro will read the abovementioned text himself as Shota Rustaveli!

AFTER MARJANISHVILI THEATER, THE USUAL SPACE FOR YOUR PREMIERES, WILL THIS PERFORMANCE BE INCLUDED IN YOUR REPERTOIRE? No. In a year, in January 2018, this performance will visit London, one of the most prestigious festivals in which we have several times tried to participate and in vein. But as soon as I mentioned Knight in the Panther’s Skin, they included us

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among the participants. I will not play it before London. Only after that, we can play it at the Opera Theater with an orchestra and all the pomp and circumstance, if they offer us, otherwise, the whole charm and bliss of it will be lost in our poor space.

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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 3 - 6, 2017

A Shower for the Soul from Salaghishvili, Drummer BY MAKA LOMADZE

B

ackstage 76 had an honorable guest on January 26 : talented experienced drummer Gia Salaghishvili, who was premiering his new project “Polyphony Drumming”. For George (Gia) Salaghishvili, music is life itself, his whole story. Perhaps, that is why it is so comprehensive, rich in emotions, colors and sounds. “I have

With two pianists and one guitarist, today’s performance is music from my heart which I’ve been storing up for years

been playing since I was four years old. I’m happy that three of my seven children have decided to follow in my footsteps,” he tells GEORGIA TODAY. Gia is a big bunch of positive. This energy is added to his virtuoso performing manner. Indulged with 50 years of experience and expertise in all genres, Salaghishvili remains open to collaborate with anyone whose performing style interests him. A participant of different

musical festivals, on January 26 he presented a brand-new project based on his deep musical experience. The outstanding drummer is clearly in his element. The chords Salaghishvili produces are as pure as if raindrops are alighting on our souls and bodies. The music is almost unbelievably transparent, perhaps a nice reflection of a genuinely talented person who is free from all brutal instincts. His music is the mir-

ror in which anyone can see himself and become purified. I would call it a shower for the soul. It is simultaneously very mystic and crystal and also very magical and fairy-tale like; so colorful that one imagines one is in a parallel wonderland. It resembles a musical jewelry case, or a kaleidoscope of sounds. It is the happiness that there are real artists who stand very far from being fashionable or popular and belong to eternity, as they

create something that time cannot take away, something indelible. These are people who create something that makes the audience find themselves in the world that we dream of – where there is no aggression, no wickedness, no worries, but only peace and harmony. This is an earthly paradise where souls are relaxed and have absolute nourishment and rest. However, while the concert began with such pacifying melodies, it soon continued with comparatively energetic rocklike tunes. After rock, they shifted to jazz-blues, which was perfect to dance along to. “With two pianists and one guitarist, today’s performance is music from my heart which I’ve been storing up for years,” Salaghishvili told us. To the question how the title came to mind, he replies that the project comprises not only drums but a number of instruments, including bass, vibraphone and chords conveyed in electronic aesthetics. Present at the concert playing and singing very well and demonstrating strong vocal capacities was Luka Salaghishvili, the drummer’s son. “I started playing guitar four years ago, and joined my father two years ago,” he said. It is still unknown whether the audience will have a chance to listen to this program at Backstage 76 again, but there are plans for the band to play in other venues in future. Don’t miss them!

Issue #917  

February 3 - 6, 2017

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