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Issue no: 925

• MARCH 3 - 6, 2017



In this week’s issue...


Foreign Minister: Georgians to Enjoy Visa-free Travel to EU from March 28

2, 3

Can McCain & Co. Overrule Trump on Russia? The View from Georgia

The regulation is signed, the final countdown PAGE begins...



915 Georgians Detained for “Illegal Crossing of South Ossetia Border” since 2010

Georgia to Have First National Strategy Olivier Bürki: Cooperation Requires Continuity & of Sustainable Urban Transport Consistency to Deliver Results POLITICS PAGE 6



eorgia will soon have the first National Strategy of Sustainable Urban Transport. The information was released at the first national discussions about sustainable urban transport which took place on February 28 in Tbilisi, organized by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia, with assistance from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Global Environment Facility (GEF). The event was opened by the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia, Gigla Agulashvili, and Niels Scott, Head of UNDP in Georgia. They launched a series of national discussions that aim to lead Georgia to developing a national concept of sustainable urban transport including for the first national strategy and policy framework. Members of the Georgian government and parliament, representatives from the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office and local municipalities, representatives from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and members of the media took part in the discussions. The development of Georgia’s first national strategy on sustainable urban transport will bring together a range of stakeholders, such as the

Pankisi Students Visit US SOCIETY PAGE 11

Patashuri: Admiring Georgia with a Paintbrush in Hand CULTURE PAGE 15

Government and Parliament, local authorities, civil society organizations, academics and international partners. The Georgian NGO 'Partnership for Road Safety' and the Dutch NGO MOVE Mobility will contribute with their expertise and resources to implement the National Strategy of Sustainable Urban Transport. Environment Minister Gigla Agulashvili believes the implementation of the strategy will help to develop transport system across the country. “Georgia’s 11 cities have joined the Green City

Project and during the next six months we will develop the National Strategy of Sustainable Urban Transport. This will allow us to improve the situation in this sector in the future,” the minister said. Deputy Tbilisi Mayor Irakli Lekvinadze says the primary version of the Action Plan will be ready by April or May. “At the end of last year, with The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, we started working on the Green City concept Action Plan. Continued on page 3




MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

PM Kvirikashvili: EU Doors Open for Georgia The head of the Pardoning Commission, Zviad Koridze, says that only 93 of those pardoned will actually leave prison at this point

President Margvelashvili Pardons 157 Prisoners BY THEA MORRISON


he President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, has granted amnesty to 157 inmates. The head of the Pardoning Commission, Zviad Koridze, said that only 93 of those will actually leave prison at this point, while the remaining 64 will likely have their sentences reduced. Among the pardoned prisoners are six women and one underage person. Koridze said the decision was made

during the Pardoning Commission’s February session, held on February 16-21. A total of 890 cases were discussed. The President’s Pardoning Commission is composed of ten people. Members are mostly lawyers from the civil sector and public figures, alongside the Public Defender and the Georgian Patriarchate. The Commission discusses all cases sent before it by inmates or their families, and makes the initial decision as to which prisoners seem to deserve a pardon. That list is then sent to the President for approval. The President himself is the only person authorized to grant pardons in Georgia.

Japan Expresses Concern over Recent Developments in Georgia’s Occupied Regions BY THEA MORRISON


he Japanese Embassy to Georgia issued a statement on March 1, expressing concern over the recent developments in Georgia’s Occupied Regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “It is Japan’s consistent position that peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia’s occupied regions of Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in line with the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, is essential for the peace and stability of the country and the entire South Caucasus region,” the statement reads. Moreover, the Embassy says that Japan is concerned regarding the announced so-called “referendum” on changing the name of Georgia’s Tskhinvali region/ South Ossetia, planned for April 9, as

well as the closure of so-called crossing points along the occupation line of the Abkhazia region, which “is causing grave violations of human rights, and reconfirms its above-mentioned position.” “Japan and Georgia oppose any attempts to change Georgia’s internationally recognized borders. These points are clearly expressed in the Joint Statement between Japan and Georgia on “Solidarity for Peace and Democracy” signed in October 2014,” the statement of the Embassy reads.



eorgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, congratulated Georgians on signing a regulation on visa liberalization for Georgians, allowing its citizens to travel to the European Union (EU) for a period of 90 days stay in any 180-day period. The document was signed on March 1 in Brussels by the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and the Parliamentary Secretary of Malta, EU Council Presidency holder country, Chris Agius. The regulation enabling Georgia's citizens to travel visa-free in the EU/ Schengen Area will be published in the official magazine of the EU on March 8. 20 days following said publication, the citizens of Georgia will be able to enjoy short-term visa-free travel to EU/Schengen Area member states. The signing ceremony was attended by Georgia’s Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, European Parliament member Mariya Gabriel, who is a rapporteur on visa liberalization for Georgia, and other officials from both Georgia and the EU. “Georgia has been, and will always be, a reliable partner of the European Union on its eastern flank, a vitally important area for EU security,” Kvirikashvili stated during his meeting with President Tajani

after the signing ceremony. The head of the Georgian government congratulated Tajani on his election as President of the European Parliament and invited him to Georgia. During the meeting at the European Parliament, the parties discussed Georgia's ongoing reforms, the state of affairs in Georgia's occupied territories, and relevant challenges. The Prime Minister of Georgia and the President of the European Parliament pointed out the challenges facing antiterrorism efforts and emphasized the importance of joining forces in this process. Moreover, Kvirikashvili said the lifting of visa requirements for Georgians is an expression of political support of the European Union towards Georgia. "Today, the European Union’s doors have opened to Georgians. This is no longer just a step towards Euro-integration but a tremendous achievement,” the PM told reporters. Kvirikashvili thanked all friends of

Georgia at the European Parliament, European Council and Commission, as well as his colleagues and the Georgian citizens for their support in implementing important reforms in the country. “We need to continue implementing reforms to become a full member of the European family…We will definitely achieve this with the help of the population of Georgia,” the PM said. The European Parliament voted in favor of visa-free travel for Georgian citizens to the Schengen Area at a plenary session on February 2nd. From the end of March, when the process is completed, Georgians holding biometric passports 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 180day period for a holiday, business, or any other purpose except work.



EU Supports Raising Standards of Veterinary & Phytosanitary Control at Azerbaijan, Georgia Border


zerbaijani and Georgian border officials joined hands with representatives of the European Union and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to lay a cornerstone for the new border check facilities at the Red Bridge crossing point. A construction of laboratory premises for veterinary control was launched on the Georgian side and an ongoing project for new customs terminal complex was presented on the Azerbaijani end of the Red Bridge. The premises on the Georgian side will be fully adapted to conduct control of live animals and food products of animal and non-animal origin in line with the standards of the European Union. Director General of Georgian Revenue Service, First Deputy Minister of Finance, Giorgi Tabuashvili, opened the ceremony on the Georgian side of the border and placed a symbolic cornerstone under the foundation of the new facility together with Aydin Aliyev, Chairman of the Azer-

baijan State Custom Committee; Malena Mard, Ambassador of the European Union to Azerbaijan; Niels Scott, Head of the UNDP in Georgia and Ghulam M. Isaczai, Head of the UNDP in Azerbaijan. The construction projects on the Azerbaijan-Georgia border are part of the EU-funded initiative aimed at improvement of veterinary and phytosanitary control at the Red Bridge crossing point. This bilateral project is implemented by the Tbilisi and Baku offices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in cooperation with the main partners and beneficiaries – the Revenue Service of the Ministry of Finance of Georgia and the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan. The tmotal value of the project stands at EUR 2,660,000. The European Union is the main contributor with EUR 2,128,000, while the reainder of the budget is equally shared by the governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Foreign Minister: Georgians to Enjoy Visa-free Travel to EU from March 28 BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia’s Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze, says Georgians will be able to travel within the Schengen Area without visas from

March 28. The minister made the statement from Brussels after the signing ceremony of a regulation on visa liberalization for Georgians, allowing them to travel to the European Union for a period of stay

of 90 days in any 180-day period. “I congratulate every citizen on this decision; it is a very important step forward on the path to European integration,” he said. Janelidze confirmed that on March 8, the revised regulation will be published in the Official Journal. “On March 28, visa-liberalization will come into effect and those citizens who have biometric passports will be able to pay short-term visits to Europe,” he said, adding that the ultimate goal of Georgia is full membership of the European family.


Georgia to Have First National Strategy of Sustainable Urban Transport Continued from page 1

In April or May, we will present the primary version of the document. Most of the Green City concept is dedicated to transport direction,” the Deputy Mayor said. According to Niels Scott, Head of the UNDP in Georgia, there will be public transport benefits for Georgians. “I hope that after the National Strategy of SustainableUrbanTransportisimplemented,more people will use public transport,” he said. The strategy will be grounded on the national vision, strategic directions and priorities of sustainable urban transport, which will be identified as a result of national discussions. It will include guidelines for local authorities and will propose institutional and financial mechanisms for coordinating sustainable urban transport on the national, regional and local levels. The process will be led by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia with support from UNDP and GEF based on the experience of their joint initiative “Batumi – Green City” that promotes green urban development in the region of Adjara.

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MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

Can McCain & Co. Overrule Trump on Russia? The View from Georgia BY JOSEPH LARSEN AND JOSEPH JORJOLIANI


hurvaleti, Georgia, January 1, 2017: It’s a cold but clear winter’s day. Conditions are ideal for a photo opportunity. US Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) are paying a visit to the “Administrative Boundary Line” that separates South Ossetia from the rest of Georgia. McCain captures the day’s most memorable moment when he shakes hands with Dato Vanishvili, a native of Khurvaleti who, in 2009, went to bed in Georgia and woke up in South Ossetia- during the night, Russian soldiers had moved the demarcation line past his house and deeper into Georgian territory. That day trip to Khurvaleti was part of a two-day visit to Georgia, the purpose being to reassure Georgia’s government and public that the United States remained a loyal, firm friend and partner, notwithstanding the sympathy toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, that had been expressed by President-Elect Donald Trump during and after the campaign. In the roughly seven weeks since the senators’ visit, President-Elect Donald Trump became President Donald Trump, and the views of President Trump depart considerably from those of the foreign policy establishment. That goes especially for McCain and Graham, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Since assuming office, Trump has repeatedly shunned their foreign policy initiatives, even accusing the two senators of “looking to start World War III” after they criticized his executive order halting immigration from seven Muslimmajority countries.

SANCTIONS, SANCTIONS, SANCTIONS Despite the derision coming from Trump, McCain and Graham are determined not to let up on Russia. After the visit, the two senators cosponsored the Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill that would strengthen existing sanctions and impose new measures against Russia. In particular, the sanctions go after Russia for its ongoing violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and Georgia, and its targeting of civilians in Syria. The proposed sanctions are also in response to Russia’s meddling in the US elections.

If the bill passes it will start by codifying Obama-era sanctions against Russia. The new sanctions would include freezing assets and denying visas to individuals accused of violating the cybersecurity of democratic institutions. The bill would also limit the ability of US firms to invest in Russia’s oil and gas sector as well as energy pipeline development projects, in addition to apportioning $100 million to counter Russian propaganda. Those measures would be big. As has been documented, the existing sanctions against Russia have not had the effect that proponents hoped. Russia’s economy has contracted for two consecutive years, but it has avoided economic crisis and the sanctions haven’t significantly disrupted its oil and gas industry. In addition to tougher sanctions, senators from both parties also proposed the Russia Sanctions Review Act, a bill that would prevent president Trump from withdrawing sanctions on Russia without first notifying Congress. Legislators would then have 120 days to block the sanctions. “Congress must have oversight of any decision that would impact our ability to hold Russia accountable for its flagrant violation of international law and attack our institutions,” said Senator McCain.

TURMOIL IN THE WHITE HOUSE Events in the White House have created an opening for Congress to take on a bigger role in foreign policy. Trump advisor Michael Flynn became the shortestserving national security advisor in history when he resigned on February 13 after only 24 days in the role. Flynn’s resignation came after The Washington Post reported he may have discussed sanctions in a telephone conversation with Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak in December, prior to Trump’s inauguration. Flynn first denied the allegations, then backtracked, saying “he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” After it became apparent that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the phone conversation, his days were numbered. If sanctions were indeed discussed, the conversation was in violation of America’s Logan Act, which says that only acting members of the executive branch can conduct diplomacy with representatives of a foreign state. According to reports, no deal was made between Flynn and Kislyak. However, the call did breach protocol and fueled growing speculation that members of Trump’s team colluded with Russian officials both before and after the presidential election. For some, the scandal sent a message that the Trump administration was sim-

ply incompetent. “Gen. Flynn’s resignation is a troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus,” read a statement from McCain. Adding insult to injury, the favored candidate to replace Trump, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the position. It ultimately went to Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, a highlyregarded active military officer who earned a PH.D. in American history before earning a decorated record of service in both US invasions of Iraq. With the White House reeling from the fallout of Flynn’s resignation, Congress may be able to seize the initiative and place additional checks and balances on President Trump's foreign policy, especially regarding Russia and NATO. Currently, several members of Trump’s campaign team are being investigated by the FBI for potential ties to Russian intelligence agencies, as anonymous intelligence sources told the New York Times. These investigations could result in public hearings in House and Senate committees. Although the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R-California) said he will not be investigating Flynn’s phone call with the Russian ambassador, Democrats in the legislature are more concerned about alleged ties between the White House and Russia. Senator Klobuchar called for a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate connections between members of Trump’s team and Russia.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR GEORGIA? Georgian officials have taken the initiative in establishing direct communication with president Trump's cabinet. Earlier in February, Georgian Foreign

Minister Mikheil Janelidze, was one of the first diplomats to meet newlyappointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The secretary, who has himself been accused of too-friendly ties with Vladimir Putin, did his part to reassure the Georgian side. During the meeting, Tillerson reaffirmed America’s “strong support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for its European and Euro-Atlantic integration.” Georgia’s government has worked hard to normalize relations with Russia, especially in the economic sphere. Diplomatic relations remain frozen as a result of the August War in 2008, but the parties meet within the Geneva International Discussions format, usually discussing issues related to trade. Georgia is taking a pragmatic approach; improving relations with Russia while staying firm on the path toward eventual EU and NATO membership. Still, Russia’s military occupies roughly one-fifth of Georgia’s territory. The country is under constant threat and is dependent on the diplomatic and security support the United States provides. When Trump assumed office, it was suggested that his team would take a softer approach toward Russia, something that Georgia understandably viewed with unease. Officials in Tbilisi may be able to rest a bit easier. As can be seen from the scandal that cost Michael Flynn his job and put the spotlight on other cabinet officials, there are powerful domestic obstacles to such a rapprochement between the US and Russia.

TRUMP MAY WANT RAPPROCHEMENT, BUT DOES ANYONE ELSE? Talk of the Trump administration dras-

tically altering America’s foreign policy orientation now appear premature. Russia hawks in Congress are as determined as ever to defend the status quo in Eastern Europe, including in Georgia. That means keeping NATO strong, unified, and open to new members, and putting up fierce resistance to Russian aggression, with economic sanctions as the weapon of choice. Additionally, the past two weeks have told us much about how Trump’s cabinet members view Russia, NATO, and Georgia. Tellingly, news of Flynn’s resignation didn’t go over well in Russia. His replacement, H.R. McMaster, likely won’t be viewed as favorably by the Kremlin. Moreover, Tillerson’s first meeting with the Georgian side showed the new administration won’t break with existing policy, at least not overtly. Under President Trump, America probably won’t stick its neck out for Georgia. However, a “grand bargain” involving the US extending sanctions relief and a freer hand in Eastern Europe in exchange for help fighting ISIS and other Islamist terror groups looks a lot less likely than it did just a few weeks ago.

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 for more blogs, data, and analyses.






National Happiness OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


istorically speaking, Georgia’s struggle for national independence and freedom, which has taken centuries, if not millennia, has never ended. The job is not yet done, so to speak, but we must admit that every drop of blood spilled in that endless struggle and every bead of sweat condensed on our weathered body to that end was worth it, because the twosome of freedom and independence make up Georgia’s main national idea in concert. It is like childbirth – long awaited for, painful, and on the verge of life and death. It is also well conceived that making this ambitious and poignant statement is much easier than inculcating it in real life. The signs of our national freedom and independence occasionally appear like a mirage, to disappear before we start enjoying it for real. What is national freedom and independence in general and what does it look like today? In regular terms, it is the stable geopolitical status of a nation within which every political, economic and cultural decision is made independently from the rest of the world, but is put to life in active and mutually beneficial cooperation with other nations. As simple as that! Does Georgia hold that status now? Unlikely, as we completely and absolutely depend on what the rest of the world wants from us. This might be the status of scores of nations but somebody else’s status is not a big helper for us except that we can calm ourselves that we are not alone after all. The liberated European visa might sound like a whiff of freedom and independence but to what possible extent? What does it give us practically, in the long run? We once enjoyed that kind of freedom even within the closed autocratic state called the USSR – we were free enough to travel

one-sixth of the world, needing our passports only when booking accommodation. This new visa freedom is a far cry from genuine national freedom and independence: it is merely an elementary contemporary travel comfort and not a very legal chance of changing residence. Real national freedom and independence would probably be sitting with Russia, as recognized equals, at the negotiating table and getting back our occupied lands as a result of the effort; it would also be seeking our territories, previously lost to some of our neighboring countries, and getting them back as a consequence of the reinstatement of historical geopolitical justice; it might be the precise demarcation of our borders so that even a tiny bug could not fly over without our permission; it could well be the will and the power not to send our boys and girls to somebody else’s wars because we need them alive for our own demographic and economic reasons and purposes; this could be presenting Georgia to the world as politically neutral, keeping at bay all those international biggies and bullies; it might also be having unrestricted opportunity for free exchange of qualitative Georgian goods and services with other nations without being intimidated by insurmountable rules and regulations and blood draining monopolies; and finally, this should be living without an imposed direct dictate of the most powerful determiners of our lifestyle and status. Oh, what a pain in the neck! But this was just the fruits of short-lived hypothetical meditation; in reality, the phenomenon of national freedom and independence is rapidly and drastically changing its image and content. And if this is so, why should we not rename our main national idea for a change, which we have always known to be ‘National Freedom and Independence’? Let us make it a little simpler now, say, ‘National Happiness’ and serve it in good faith. Wouldn’t this be wonderful?

or nothing is hidden that which will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and brought to light- Luke 8:17. This excerpt applies well to the recent meeting held in Prague between Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Zurab Abashidze, the special representative of the Georgian Prime Minister. Both Karasin and Abashidze tried to convince media at the Diplomat Hotel that it was an ordinary meeting and that the parties had discussed nothing special. However, twenty days after the meeting it turned out that they had been discussing the renewal of a railway, to pass through the territory of occupied Abkhazia. Karen Karapetyan, the Prime Minister of Armenia, acted as the author of “the Gospel of Luke” this time. Upon his return from a visit to Tbilisi, he told a journalist who asked about the railway issue as discussed during the Karasin-Abashidze meeting, “If you are interested in whether an alternative to Larsi will emerge, I assure you that yes, it will.” The Armenian Prime Minister further added, “For now, I won’t open the parenthesis completely. We negotiated Larsi and also the energy corridor.” After the head of Armenian government disclosed the secret of the meetings in Prague and Tbilisi, the local analytical circles started talking about possible collaboration from the Georgian government. “Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is so closed, it is starting to resemble a Masonic Lodge,” said political analyst Soso Tsintsadze. “The Armenian premier said they talked about transport, but shouldn’t [the ministry] tell us? Every new unanswered question is followed by dumb answers from Parliament. The people giving us the answers are not the real decision-makers about the issue of renewal of the Russian-Armenian railway.”

During his visit to Armenia in January 2013, Prime Minister of the time, Bidzina Ivanishvili, declared that it was possible to open a path that would connect Russia with Armenia, passing through Georgia and the occupied Abkhazian territory. He said that if all parties reached agreement, the railway could be opened. This issue has been raised a number of times since, but our government has denied the Georgian opposition is accusing the government of acting against the interests of our country and behind the backs of the citizens, also demanding they make the ongoing negotiations with Armenia public. “We cannot get into deals with separatists and grant them legitimacy; even this agreement about the Abkhazian section can mean questioning the non-recognition policy, which in fact is our prime weapon at the moment,” said Nikoloz Rurua, member of the United National Movement. The negotiations held on February 8, as well as the discussions held in Prague over the corridors, were also addressed by the Armenian media and experts. They believe that Tskhinvali region can serve as an alternative to Upper Larsi, because the only official point connecting Russia and Georgia at the moment is Larsi, which is quite often closed due to severe climate conditions. The issue of negotiations was protested by the heads of occupied South Ossetia. The announcement by the de-facto government read that Tskhinvali was not considered party to the agreement and therefore the practical implementation of the document was questionable. Armenia has issued announcements about the creation of an alternative to Larsi a number of times. In his interview with Sputnik Armenia about a month ago, the Minister of Transport of Armenia, Vahan Martirosyan, said that Armenia is looking for alternative ways to transport goods to Russia and that they consider doing so through “South Ossetia:” “We are conducting intensive negotiations with Russia and Georgia about ‘South Ossetia.’ We are trying our best to have the parties reach an agreement on the issue,” Martirosyan declared.

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MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

915 Georgians Detained for “Illegal Crossing of South Ossetia Border” since 2010



total of 915 Georgian citizens have been detained by the so-called border guards of Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia (Tskhinvali) region for “illegal crossing of the border.” This number is based on the data provided by Georgia’s State Security Service (SSS), which says that towards the direction of Georgia’s Tskhinvali region, the occupant forces of Russia detained 77 Georgians in 2010, 140 in 2011, 2012 – 108 citizens, 2013 – 139, 2014 – 142 Georgians, 2015 – 163, 2016 – 134 citizens, and from 2017 January to February 21

Georgia Not Worth the Hassle to Russia: Lincoln Mitchell on Lavrov, Macmaster and Georgia’s Future

- 12 citizens of Georgia were detained. On February 28, occupant forces illegally detained Georgian citizen Kakheber Kisishvili from the village of Plavi, Gori municipality, near the occupation line. The detainee has already been taken to Tskhinvali's pre-trial detention facility. Kisishvili’s family have been contacted by the forces holding him, which are demanding payment of 2,000 Russian Roubles as the price of his release. The Georgian side always raises the issue of illegal detentions of Georgian citizens living near the occupation lines of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia regions at the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings. However, the number of illegal detentions seems to be growing by the year.



erhaps the most memorable thing that happened at the Munich International Defense Conference, that is, aside from the thinly veiled ultimatum delivered by Defense Secretary Matis to NATO allies on the latter’s need to increase their financial contributions to the Alliance, was Sergey Lavrov’s sweeping speech. Russia’s controversial foreign minister had a go at a wide variety of subjects, ranging from criticism towards OSCE to what he believes the Post-Cold War world order should be like, including the relations with Georgia. Lavrov lost no time in declaring Georgia as a transit corridor for terrorism, earmarking the police cooperation from the Georgian side in this regard as one of the prerequisites for a possible visa-free regime with Georgia. However, Lavrov’s speech was not the only bit of international politics that was discussed in Georgia during the last week. The appointment of General Mackmaster as a national security advisor of President Trump also piqued the interest of Georgia. Unlike Flynn and his sympathetic (at least) stance towards Russia, Mackmaster seems to be a proper Hawk: just what Georgians would like him to be. “H.R. McMaster is a very different kind of choice than Michael Flynn,” said political analyst Lincoln Mitchell in an interview with GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV show. “McMaster is very much from the mainstream on conservative foreign policy thinking. He is hawkish on most issues, but neither fanatical, given to conspiracy theories or prone to seeing the world in racist terms the way Flynn was. For Georgia, this is a very good sign, as both McMaster and Defense Secretary Mattis are wary of Russia and inclined to support American allies in the region who are threatened by Russia, such as Georgia. The major questions that will be answered in the next weeks and months is whether the Mcmaster/Mattis faction will have more power than the pro-Russia Bannonites in the administration; and how Putin will react if they do.

“If the McMasters/Mattis faction wins out, I would expect to see sanctions on Russia remain in place and the US continue to at least rhetorically support Georgia’s getting into NATO. If the Bannonites win, I would expect McMasters to have a short and unhappy tenure at the NSC and to see the US become less involved in the region,” said the analyst, who also commented on Lavrov’s Munich Security remarks, stressing it was “hypocritical” of Russia to talk of solving conflict with the West. “If you don’t want a conflict with the West, don’t create it,” Mitchell said, adding that Lavrov’s remarks on post-Cold-War order and trilateral dialogue with the US and the West carried the air of self-aggrandizing. “We should be careful with these terms. Maybe many people in Georgia won’t be pleased to hear this, but I think when we’re talking about Cold War analogies, about the new Cold War, we might be overstating Russia’s strength quite a bit. In a global sense, Russia is not the power that the Soviet Union was. This is not the bipolar world. If there are two [super]powers in the world, its China and the US, not Russia.” The San-Francisco based analyst also offered his views on how the White House and Kremlin should approach the problems of Ukraine and Georgia, saying that behind the scenes deals would only result in more harm. “Washington and Moscow should not be sitting down at the table making deals on the fate of Georgia and Ukraine without the leadership [of these countries],” Mitchell said. “And I think you’ll have to view these two separately. There is a sense in Washington, when you talk to people privately, that Crimea is lost, its gone and [they think] that perhaps the smarter thing for Ukraine would be to behave like it already lost Crimea. Regarding Georgia, it’s a little different. What would the deal be regarding Georgia and Russia? What more does Russia want in Georgia? Russia’s real goal in Georgia is not to let it become a NATO member, but frankly, they’re doing that anyway. Does Russia really want to set tanks on Rustaveli Avenue? I know it’s an unpopular thing to say [to Georgians], but I don’t really think Russia wants that - I don’t think it’s worth it.”



Georgia’s President Meets His Belarus Counterpart BY THEA MORRISON


eorgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili met his Belarus counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, in Minsk on March 1. In honor of the President of Georgia, the official welcoming ceremony to the Republic of Belarus was held at the Independence Palace. After the ceremony, the presidents had a face-to-face meeting and focused on the prospects of further strengthening cooperation in political, trade-economic, and cultural areas. Georgia’s Presidential Administration reports that one of the main talking points was issues of regional security. The sides also discussed the situation in the occupied territories of Georgia. Margvelashvili thanked President Lukashenko for his support of Georgia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and nonrecognition policy. He also noted that by signing the socalled Treaty on Alliance and Integration, the Russian Federation had begun annexation of Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. Margvelashvili underlined the extreme importance of the international community’s firm position in regard to illegal actions taken by the Russian Federation, in order to avoid annexation of the occupied territories of Georgia. The President of Georgia expressed concern over the fact that Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region are still inaccessible for the international community and the European Union Monitoring Mission is the only international mechanism on site, which, despite the mandate, is not allowed to enter the occupied territories of Georgia. The presidents also expressed their readiness to strengthen cooperation in the areas of education, innovation and tourism. It was highlighted that opening the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus to Georgia significantly contributes to the

further development of bilateral relations between the two countries. Following the face-to-face meeting, the parties held an extended meeting, attended by the members of the Georgian delegation and government officials of the Republic of Belarus. “Georgia is moving towards EU and NATO integration, while Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Union. We respect each other's freedom of choice. The aspirations of our states towards different alliances are not a dividing line, but an advantage which should further strengthen relations between our countries. I think such partnership should be exemplary for other countries,” stated Margvelashvili. The conversation also touched upon the importance of the Eastern Partnership Summit, scheduled to be held in Brussels in November 2017. It was noted that Georgia supports the flexibility of the Eastern Partnership format, which will meet the requirements, expectations, and interests of all participating countries. The sides expressed interest in strengthening cooperation within the Eastern Partnership program in regard to opportunities and resources from the set of common interests. According to Margvelashvili, Georgia is ready to share its experience in economic reforms with its Belarusian colleagues. Moreover, two agreements were signed between the governments of Georgia and the Republic of Belarus on “investment promotion and reciprocal protection” and

“air traffic". The agreements were signed by the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Vladimir Makei, and the Minister of Transport and Communications, Anatoly Sivak. As noted, the signing of these agreements will further promote cooperation, investment growth, and development of trade and economic relations between the two states. The presidents made joint statements at the press-conference. “Let me thank you for your unwavering support of the Georgian state and let me assure you that the Georgian-Belarusian relations will further be enhanced…Thank you for a very interesting and all-encompassing dialogue, and I believe that this meeting holds serious potential,” Georgia’s President said. President Lukashenko pointed out that Georgia represents a prospective and important partner for Belarus in the Caucasus region, with which the Republic has had diplomatic relations for more than 20 years. “We trust each another and I am sure that by opening the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus to Georgia we will further contribute to our cooperation…We will do our best for our brotherly nation, for the Georgian people,” President Lukashenko stated. Following the joint press conference, Margvelashvili and Lukashenko signed a joint statement.

Bulgarian National Day Celebrated in Tbilisi with Singer Yanka Rupkina BY MAKA LOMADZE


n March 1, the Bulgarian Embassy in Tbilisi marked the National Day of the Republic of Bulgaria (normally, March 3), at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. Her Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Dessislava Ivanova, opened the evening. “The 3rd of March, 1878, is a commemorative day for all Bulgarians, when a preliminary treaty between Russia, its allies Serbia, Romania and Montenegro, and the Ottoman Empire was signed at San Stefano near Istanbul. The treaty put an end to the Russian-Turkish War (1877-1878) and marked the rebirth of the Bulgarian state. People from all nations in the Russian empire participated voluntarily and selflessly in this war with the desire to liberate their Christian brothers on the Balkans.” The first Bulgarian state was established in 681 and existed until the 11th century, whilst the second lasted until the 14th.

“The 3rd of March has always been regarded by all Bulgarian as the day of rebirth of Bulgaria as a modern sovereign state,” the ambassador said. The Ambassador also talked about the bilateral relations between the two countries. The first representation was a consulate general that existed in 1999-2000. She recalled that the Bulgarian embassy was opened in Georgia in 2003. “Since 1992, 35 treaties have been signed between the two countries,” Ivanova said. “In 2004, Bulgaria was among the founders of the New Friends of Georgia group. Our country is among the first EU member states to ratify Georgia’s Association Agreement with the EU,” she said, going on to stress the tight bilateral relations, and mentioning that Bulgaria is among Georgia’s eighth biggest trade partner. She also mentioned that from January 1st, this year, Bulgaria is the NATO contact point country, whilst in 2018, it will undertake the presidency of the EU. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Jejelava, spoke on behalf of the Georgian government: “Bulgaria has been a great supporter of our independence, statehood and EU-Atlantic aspiration through-

out 25 years. Bulgaria has been in the avant-garde of the countries that has extended friendship and support for the renewed Georgian independence. In all international projects, [including] political aspirations and economic projects and all partnerships, Bulgaria has been an exemplary friend for Georgia and we are very grateful for that”. The official speeches were followed by the concert of Yanka Rupkina, a renowned Bulgarian folk singers and winner of many national and international awards, including a Grammy. In the interludes, the Georgian dance ensemble Nartebi presented a rich program of regional dances, with scenes of remarkably beautiful places in Bulgaria on the screen behind them. Rupkina has made recordings with numerous famous composers and musicians, including Chris de Burgh, Kate Bush, George Harrison, Linda Ronstadt and Transglobal Underground. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to her after her concert: “It is my second visit to Georgia, however, I sang for the first time here today. I like Georgia very much. I admire your folk songs and once sang with your national trio Mandili”.





MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

Rating the Risk: Ogden on the Boxing Scandal OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN


ast week, the Georgian rugby team made headlines in Britain after European rugby officials denied the country a chance to be part of the Six Nations after recent stellar performances on the continent. The judgement was deemed unjust by many, due to the Georgians having consistently given even the titans of the sport a run for their money and sent everyone else packing. This week, Georgian sport made the British papers once again, but this time in boxing...and this time with something that, far from venerating Georgian athletes in Europe, could see Georgian fighters never compete on the continent again. I should immediately admit that I have a personal stake in this story, since the article which ran in The Sun was investigated and put together by myself and a friend of mine on Fleet Street. I have had loose relations with the Professional Boxing Federation of Georgia since 2011, nothing beyond training in their gym, but I felt compelled to report their corruption when I fully learned of it, as well as give something of a more personal explanation here. In brief, the Georgian Boxing Federation fakes the online records of its fighters in order to convince British and European promoters that their boxers are more experienced and capable than they really are. Bouts that are organized to raise the profiles of up-and-coming British or European fighters and build public interest, the principle

job of every boxing promoter, will typically be fought against low-risk opposition, much of which is dredged from Eastern Europe. Many Eastern Europeans are known for being tough but not overly dangerous, and so the home fighter in Britain, Germany or Denmark can enjoy the support of their crowd of local fans while remaining confident that the fighter in the ring with them will not pose a serious challenge...although naturally, none of them would ever imagine that their opponent's record is almost entirely fake. For anyone interested enough to learn exactly how the scam is carried out, read the original article in The Sun. Our boxer source within the Federation (who bravely stepped forward to tell the truth) told us that fellow Georgian fighters freely admit that they will feign harm in the early rounds and allow themselves to be counted out by the referee; whether they feign a knockout or are indeed iced in earnest, they still get paid at the end of the night. At this point you may be wondering what the harm in all this is; after all, the European and British fans still get to cheer their fighter onto victory over an unknown foreigner who still receives their pay despite the boos and jeers. If they are aware of the chance they are taking, then what's the danger? The risk is, our source confirmed, that no Georgian fighters receive mandatory medical checks before flying off to fight against trained, prepared, and dangerous opposition, and the Georgian Federation routinely supplies the European and British boxing authorities with fabricated medical documents. I remember meeting with one Georgian boxer

Cartoon: Brian Patrick Grady

in the gym a few years ago who would have spoken English, Russian and his native language well if he hadn't been slurring his words so heavily. 'Punch-drunk', they call it, and I remember thinking that he simply wouldn't have passed a mandatory brain scan in Britain, Germany or the USA. This is especially frightening since last year saw Nick Blackwell, a well-prepared and very experienced British middleweight, collapse after a bout with a bleed on the brain, while Mike Towell, a Scottish welterweight, died from fighting with an undiagnosed brain condition; proof if proof were needed (and it isn't, not in a sport in which the objective is to hit someone else very hard in the head) that medical checks are beyond essential. Former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis once said “You play football, you play tennis; you don't play boxing.� One punch can be enough to end, or at least irreversibly change, a life. As well as drawing the attention of British and European promoters, our article also caused a reaction in Georgia, with a Georgian-language version appearing on and Rustavi 2, the biggest TV channel in the country, running a segment on it, even interviewing the President of the Georgian Boxing Federation and one of the Georgian fighters we exposed. The Ministry of Sport, despite not having any authority over the Federation, warned them to be far more careful in the future, but the Federation itself has denied all our accusations. For our part, we are 100% confident in the information we gathered, and we have absolute faith in our source. But the Federation managers themselves are, of course, the only people who know the extent of their own activities. Personally, I take no satisfaction in having endangered the livelihoods of young men who need to earn money and believe that the only way of making a living is to go abroad and get battered, but I and cannot, and will not, apologise for preventing people from being exposed to unnecessary danger. I am fully aware that the boxers themselves do

not see things this way. Our source told us that one of their fellow fighters said that there is no risk since they just take a punch or two before lying down to fake a knockout; this way they have not taken a series of heavy blows, which normally forces a stoppage in the West. And yet I cannot but help think of Nick Blackwell last year, walking around the ring after his bout with Chris Eubank Jr.; defeated but not beaten as he grinned bashfully at his fans...only to drop to the canvas moments later as his brain began to bleed. Mercifully, he recovered from the coma that followed, but Mike Towell, and many others over the years, have not been as lucky. The law of averages dictate that unprepared and untrained boxers with fake medical documentation are going to get seriously hurt fighting against determined opposition sooner rather than later. Were I in a position to give any advice, I would also recommend that the Georgian Federation cease attempting to find our source, and consider that Boxrec expressed doubt in their records even before we exposed them for fakes. If our claims are untrue, the Federation should have no difficulty in producing the footage of the fake fights... although naturally, the longer this takes, the less legitimate it will appear. Furthermore, our accusations were not solely directed at Georgia, with Hungary, Bulgaria, Bosnia and some of the Baltic states also implicated. We set out to prove that the system of professional boxing is broken and can be exploited, not turn the screws on young Georgian men trying to make a living. However, nothing can be fixed if nobody is willing to admit that it's broken. Boxing is a dangerous sport; not for nothing is it illegal in some countries throughout the world. It is inaccurate to say that the Georgian Professional Boxing Federation are playing with fire; they are, in fact, playing with young men's lives. After all, however dire the financial situation of young Georgians living in rural areas, nobody can provide for their family from a wheelchair or beyond the grave.



MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

Olivier Bürki: Cooperation Requires Continuity & Consistency to Deliver Results

PASHA Bank to Partner Largest HR Event in Caucasus - HR Reborn



he Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been active in Georgia for almost 30 years. After the earthquakes in Armenia in 1988, they started their engagement in the South Caucasus. After the disaster relief, SDC expanded its work throughout the region. In 1999, SDC and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO opened a regional cooperation office in Tbilisi. GEORGIA TODAY met the Regional Director of Cooperation in Tbilisi, Olivier Bürki, to talk achievements and future plans.

WHAT MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS HAS SDC ACHIEVED IN GEORGIA IN THE LAST FEW YEARS? SDC works on the basis of four-year action plans. Over the last four years, we have worked in Georgia in three main directions, namely Economic development and employment, Governance and public services, and Human security and protection. Thanks to a very conductive environment for our development activities, and with the support and engagement of all our Georgian partners and stakeholders, we have made a lot of progress. In the agriculture sector, for instance, by connecting farmers and various private entities to foster agricultural production and combat poverty, more than 83,000 farmers have seen their incomes increase on average by 27%. With our support to Vocational Education and Training in Georgia, 4,700 students received tailored education in farming, 1,800 women among them. With our humanitarian support, we have been able to work with vulnerable families and around 4,000 households benefited from repaired small community infrastructure such as kindergartens, schools or irrigation systems. And we have also actively supported the decentralization reform process in Georgia, both on the legislative and operational sides, with the result that, for instance, 75 local self-governments are now better quipped and trained to perform their functions related to territorial administration and the planning and financing of local development.

SINCE THE BEGINNING OF 2017, SWISS COOPERATION OFFICE FOR THE SOUTH CAUCASUS HAS HAD A NEW STRATEGY. TELL US ABOUT IT Cooperation activities require continuity and consistency to deliver results and, very importantly, to ensure the sustainability of those results. In this sense, our new Cooperation Strategy 2017-2020 largely builds on previous achievements. We shall remain solidly engaged in economic development, in particular in the agriculture sector, and we shall continue our support to democratic processes and decentralization. What is new is that we will no

While challenges remain, much progress has been made in the region longer conduct humanitarian aid activities in the region. But here also we have accumulated a lot of experience, in hazard-mapping for instance, that we want to apply to cooperation activities in the environment sector. We also want to do more to support women's economic empowerment; and based on our engagement in agriculture in the region, we also want to explore opportunities to support enhanced cross-border trade.

n March 1-2, Tech Park hosted the largest HR event in the region – HR Reborn. The event was organized by HR hub, which unites about 400 HR professional from the private and public sectors. PASHA Bank is a partner of the event together with Geocell, Imedi L and Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency. The two-day event brought together HR managers, marketers and other professionals interested in this field. The training covered such topics as employee attraction and retention via social media at the lowest possible cost; new approaches to the employee motivation and teambuilding. The coaches of HR Reborn were Chris Perks and Pete Jenkins. Perks is an international speaker, trainer and consultant whose digital approaches are applied by such brands as Google, Nestle, L’Oréal, Pepsi, Carlsberg.

“PASHA Bank has been providing corporate and investment banking services to large and mediumsized enterprises in Georgia since 2013. From the very first day the Bank has supported projects aimed at professional education and development. HR Reborn is of them and we hope that the attendees will benefit from the knowledge and experience received here in the most positive way,” said Anano Korkia, Head of PR and Marketing Department at PASHA Bank. “HR Reborn is an innovative project highly anticipated in the region. The training will be attended by HR managers and other professionals from neighboring countries. This of course reflects positively upon our country’s image. We highly appreciate PASHA Bank’s active support and involvement in the project from the earliest stage,” said Ana Davarashvili, founder at HR Hub.

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WHY DID YOU STOP THE HUMANITARIAN AID? Over the last 20 years, the Swiss Humanitarian Aid has implemented projects in almost all regions in the Caucasus, including in conflict areas. We have assisted internally displaced persons, refugees, returnees, natural disaster victims and various groups of socially vulnerable people. While challenges remain, much progress has been made in the region. Humanitarian aid is a crisis emergency response mechanism, and with the prevailing crisis in the world today, we had to re-allocate resources. At the same time, we are concentrating our continued engagement on technical cooperation to support further social and economic development in the region.

WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FOR SDC IN GEORGIA? More than 50% of the Georgian population lives in rural areas. The majority of them are small-scale farmers with around 1ha of land, who have limited access to information, finance and markets for their products. The challenge is hence to help them to benefit more from the overall developments in the country, and this is a key reason and priority for our substantial engagement in supporting agriculture sector development in Georgia. The country is also prone to a high number of natural hazards which represent a serious threat to the population, and a great constraint to economic and tourism development, notably in rural and mountainous areas. National and municipal capacities for integrated risk management need to be further developed to address this challenge, and building upon the experience gained with our humanitarian aid, we shall expand our support in this area.


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MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

Georgian Judges Go Soft On Poachers BY TSIRA GVASALIA, IFACT.GE


ne evening in the southern Georgia village of Mlate, six hunters drove out into the forest. They parked and then scattered, looking for game. One of them, Akaki Chagunava, shot twice and killed a brown bear - an animal on the country’s Red List for protected species. They got caught by local environment inspectors and were taken to court. The six hunters denied planning to kill a bear. “We could not imagine that Chagunava would kill a bear,” said fellow hunter Gocha Kapianidze. “We were hunting for rabbits.” The other hunters used their right to remain silent. The judge declared them and Kapianidze innocent and returned their guns. Chagunava, who killed the brown bear, was prosecuted by another judge at the same court. “The subject fully acknowledges the nature of the crime of which he is accused and the punishment that awaits him,” according to the court document. As a result, Chagunava and the prosecutor agreed on a plea bargain. The poacher was given two years’ probation and did not have to pay a fine. According to Georgian law, there is a stiff fine for killing an animal on the protected list. For bears it is 10,000 GEL (about $3,876).

Hunting is legal in Georgia. It is possible to kill large mammals at hunting reserves and migratory birds anywhere. It is illegal to hunt during mating seasons. “iFact” requested court decisions on illegal hunting and fishing in the last five years from six regional courts in Georgia. Out of 390 court decisions, only five were classified as criminal cases for killing protected species; the rest faced minor administrative charges. All five criminal cases ended in plea bargains. No poacher paid a huge fine and nobody was sent to prison. Georgian laws on illegal hunting provide a maximum three years of imprisonment. Fines start at 10 GEL (about $3.85) for common species up to 13,000 GEL (about $5,000) for killing East and West Caucasian tur (an antelope goat), considered the two most valuable subspecies in Georgia. Both are listed as “endangered” by the IUCN, International Union of Conservation of Nature. Poachers usually acknowledge all court charges. In return, their fines often are reduced or not given at all. Out of 390 cases analyzed, 139 hunters confessed and asked to be assessed a small fine or none at all. In 58 cases guns and illegal fishing nets were returned to poachers. In 203 cases, only verbal warnings were given and no fines. Some patterns emerge in these cases: • A representative of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Protection, which files the case with

the court, often does not often appear at the hearing; • Poachers almost always acknowledge their crime, and as a result are often exempted from any fine; • In dozens of situations, guns or fishnets are returned even when the judge decrees an administrative charge against the poacher; • In many instances, hunters have a gun without legal possession; • In many instances, hunters do not have the license receipt for hunting certain species [for instance, 10 GEL ($3.85) for migratory birds]. • The main body of the court decisions read the same and often have only 2-3 small paragraphs of information on the actual case; • In hundreds of cases, the hunters are given verbal warnings and no fines. The Georgian administrative code allows returning the gun to hunters even when the judge rules an administrative crime has been committed. Court papers don’t always indicate what happened to the gun, but in at least 58 out of 390 cases the gun was returned. In 2014, 337 administrative and one criminal case were filed by the country’s Agency of Protected Areas; in 2015, 404 administrative and 6 criminal cases; in January-September 2016, 310 administrative and 7 criminal cases. According to the Agency’s administration, in the last 10 years, two rangers

were killed on the job. In late February, a ranger was found dead near Kaspi in central Georgia. Investigators are indicating that this death was not related to the poaching of animals. Near Obuji village in northwest Georgia, Tarash Meskhia caught three wolf cubs in the forest and took them home. He put their photos online and offered to sell them for 1,000 GEL (about $377). One cub died before local environment inspectors detected the crime. The court papers do not specify the fate of the two surviving cubs. Meskhia was fined 300 lari (about $US 113). Walking into a protected wildlife area with a gun brings a fine of only 250-300 lari (about $US 96-113) and the gun is returned. A case is considered poaching only when a dead animal is found. Con-

sidering rangers have to patrol on average 1,841 acres per day, poachers are tough to catch. Rangers do not have search and seizure authority of suspects in protected areas. They can only write what they see in field reports, which are used in court cases. Typically when a ranger sees suspicious hunter, he calls either the police or an environment inspection agent -- both have the authority to file a criminal case with the local court. But the ranger can’t detain suspects and by the time other authorities arrive, evidence can be destroyed. Cases with insufficient evidence may not reach the court, and even if they do, the court many times decides not to even accept it.

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MARCH 3 - 6, 2017


Pankisi Students Visit US BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


group of students from Pankisi Gorge visited the US from January 20 to February 17, in the framework of the ‘Youth, Inspiring Leadership & Civic Participation in the Pankisi Gorge’ project. The three-week stay was organized by the US Embassy in Georgia and Roddy Scott Foundation. “For me, the visit to US was extremely important, and I think this experience will help me grow personally,” Mariam Margoshvili, one of the program participants, tells GEORGIA TODAY. “When I first heard about it, it sounded unbelievable, but as it turns out, nothing is impossible and everything depends on your own hard work.” Mariam is a first-year student at Ilia State University Tbilisi and she says she has always been actively involved in civil activities, volunteering at numerous organizations. She went to the US as a McLain Association for Children representatiteve, an organization that works with children with disabilities. “We spent 21 very busy days in the US, meeting

different organizations, foundations and associations and visiting schools and shelters. We tried to listen very carefully to their representatives and if we have a chance, we will definitely share and use their experience and practice back home,” Mariam tells us. In the three weeks, the Pankisi youth visited five states: Washington, Oklahoma, New York, New Mexico and Michigan. Every state was different and specific, Mariam said, and the type of organizations they visited also differed. The group visited the US State Department while in Washington and met with representatives of Running Star, an organization that educates young women and girls about politics and helps them acquire the necessary skills to become leaders. The group from Pankisi also visited many shelters with diverse conditions and beneficiaries. “We visited several schools for Native Indians and those meetings were hugely important to me, personally,” Mariam says. “In our country, we, the Kists, are an ethnic and religious minority. We’re studying in the official state language at school, but nevertheless preserve our traditions, culture and language in our communities. For us, it was

crucial to understand what it means to represent a national minority in your country, struggling to preserve your identity and your language.” Mariam expresses her gratitude to the Roddy Scott Foundation, who recommended her candidature to the US Embassy in Georgia, adding that it is all thanks to the hard work of the Foundation which teaches English to students in Pankisi Gorge for free. Beka Umarashvili, a first-year student at Tbilisi State University in Applied Bio Science & Technology, was another participant of the project; when not studying, he works as a guide and interpreter in Pankisi, helping tourists and visitors to get around. “I tell them about the area, its history and try to introduce my culture,” he tells GEORGIA TODAY. “We give them the chance to explore nature and taste our cuisine- it’s another world in that small valley,” Beka says of his work as a tour and moun-

tain guide. Beka says he and the other young people were chosen to participate in the visit to the US because they are active members of their community “who really have an ability to show the problems that youth have in Pankisi.” For Beka, it was especially interesting to see how the US Government solves the problems of civic engagement and issues of drug use among youth. He was particularly impressed meeting people and volunteers who work with mentally challenged youth, those in detention, or those with low income. “I am so glad that the US Embassy in Georgia gave me the chance to explore America and its culture,” Beka says. “I got lots of information and experience from these meetings, and learned a lot about youth problems and ways to deal with them. I hope to use this experience for the prosperity of Kist youth and to help them develop,” he says.

Chocolate Khinkali is What You’ve Been Missing in Life & Here’s Why

Enzo Neri, a celebrated Italian chef



eorgian cuisine, known for its hearty dishes and unique spicy flavors, has gone beyond the borders and captivated the hearts of many a food enthusiast around the world. Enzo Neri, a celebrated Italian chef based in New York, is no exception. The charismatic kitchener who visited Georgia in 2015 and was fascinated by its landscape and organic products, organized a gourmet dinner at Chateau Mere in Telavi region and prepared exquisite Italian dishes using local ingredients. This time, inspired by Georgian culture and cuisine, Neri came up with yet another experiment and breathed new life into distinguished Georgian dishes such as Khinkali (meat dumpling) and Chakapuli (lamb stew with tarragon and sour plum sauce). To our surprise, Enzo Neri transformed traditional dumplings into an elegant chocolate dessert with ricotta cheese filling while he presented tender Chakapuli on a spit, in an extraordinary way and with a modern twist. Enzo Neri, who was raised in the Umbria region in the heart of Italy, has brought Italian flavor to many countries in a creative way. Currently, he leads Mela Restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and serves his customers with authentic Italian food. The chef has many years’ experience under his belt in this field and has been spotlighted by many famous TV channels such as FoodNetwork and ToniOn NYC. Even though Enzo has opened and worked in a number of prestigious restaurants around the world, he still dreams that one day he will have a chance to lead an authentic Italian restaurant in Georgia as well. GEORGIA TODAY’s Lika Chigladze sat down with the extravagant chef for a chat.


Georgian food is very clean, very traditional, healthy, organic, and purely biological. I remember going to the local markets where products and cheeses looked rustic and authentic- untouched by time. I always say that there are no real borders in cuisines in different parts of the world; in ancient times explorers brought home ingredients and different traditions that would influence the local culinary aspect. I found may similitudes in Georgian food to Italian cuisine. So I decided to try to make some traditional dishes putting an Italian and modern twist on it. Kinkhali are dumplings, similar to ravioli. Why not turn them into a dessert option adding cocoa and using a different filling, like the sicilian cannoli, with ricotta cheese, candied fruit and chocolate. Or Chakapuli, a spring light version of braised lamb served for Easter. We also, as Catholics, serve lamb for Easter and we have a dish named “alla scottadito” where the lamb is held on skewers. I wanted to reproduce it, so I wrapped the meat in caul fat, pan fried it and then slowly cooked it with a mix of herbs and tarragon. I fried the leeks instead, to give the crispiness back to the dish. Of course, I’m using the spices and the herbs that are part of the Georgian culinary traditions. I had to go to markets down in Brooklyn to find the sauce made using green plums grown in Georgia and I found a fantastic Tkemali to dress the dish. Funny enough, I have two Georgian guys working with me at the restaurant as waiters and when they saw the dishes they were actually wowed!

WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF GEORGIA? From the high sense of the hospitality of the people that unites us, to the warm weather, the architecture, the narrow streets of the old town of Tbilisi, to the amazing food and wine – everything was unforgettable. Of course, my first visit was made unique thanks to George Piradashvili and his wife Nino who made me feel at home from the first second of my arrival. I never felt it was my first time- it was more like I hadn’t visited for a long time. The countryside was stunning. I spent a few days in the wine region of Kakheti between nature and old towns. I remember I found it difficult to stay sober, drinking chacha from the morning to wine through the day. In the end I will never forget all the journalists and the press around me for the culinary event; shooting in the market; the pretty editors and the excitement of being a celebrity for one day. Thanks to all.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS? WILL YOU BE BACK IN GEORGIA? Definitely. I want to come again. I would love to visit the coast and other regions. I often dream of someone opening an Italian restaurant and offering me the chance to come and develop it, as I did in the past in other countries. CHOCO Khinkali recipe from Enzo Neri: Ingredients for 30 Khinkali:

Dough – 550 g of flour, 80 g cocoa powder, 1 egg, 350 ml of warm water; Filling – 500 g ricotta cheese, 80 g powdered sugar, a tsp of raisins, 120 gr dark chocolate finely chopped, a tbs of candied orange, crumbled pistachios. Cooking – boiling water

Preparation: Put flour in a mixing bowl. Make a depression in the middle of the flour and add the egg and warm water. Mix the ingredients from the middle of the bowl until a dough is formed. Make a ball. Continued on page 12



One for the Road: Svaneti



here is a tradition, I've deduced by many years' observation. It requires that the worst roads in all Svaneti be in its capital town, Mes-

tia. This was certainly true under Eduard Shevardnadze, when the whole road up from Zugdidi was a disaster. Six hours’ minimum from there to Mestia! The actual bit inside Mestia left you no driving choice but first gear it was so rough, so resembling a former river bed. Huh, now you can do that same stretch in three hours, thanks to Mikheil Saakashvili's energetic infrastructural renovation program for the whole province. He had the whole thing cemented, and at least the bottom third paved in tarmac as well. This included the main road into and through Mestia, and it now goes as far as the turn to the new Tetnuldi ski resort between Mulakhi and Ipari. Citizens of Ushguli, there's hope for your bit yet! However, however... come winter, although the main road is plowed well of fresh snow, this seems to have to not be the case inside Mestia. There, perhaps, some local government or other is laughing all the way to the bank on the strength of the sideways-spent town road clearing budget. Meanwhile, snow builds up, is pressed down nicely into thick layers of ice under car tires and feet, and the ice itself thickens over the course of six months of freeze and snowfall. But not in nice straight lanes, no, God forbid! No, the places where cars must dodge each other take on new ruts. While the lowlands are already relishing spring's arrival, global warming has yet to become fashionable up here. So, in February and March all that rutted Mestia ice changes its state from iron-hard solid to granular particles resembling sand. One to two feet thick, mind you, so if you try to drive through it, best of luck, and you're fortunate indeed if you don't need another vehicle to pull you through, I don't care WHAT you're driving.

As for the new rooftops... their two feet thick tons of ice and snow are just waiting for a warm enough day to start carooming down three stories. How would you fare on the ground? You'd simply be crushed flat, as efficiently as if by an avalanche in some wild mountain place instead of in the middle of a town of several thousand. Oops, bad design, sorry! Too late. Enough material here for another whole article. I thought that being a Canadian, learning my driving in bad winter conditions, would make me ready for the same season's driving in Svaneti. But those few weekends when my dad took me to my high school parking lot and let me try the wheel in really icy conditions in a big, safe open space... fun while they lasted, but here we are in reality, where what the authorities DO with the snow and ice makes all the difference. Look. There's a rut for each pair of wheels on either side of an average width car, going up from the highway to my house and beyond. The ice between the ruts, and outside them, is still half a foot to a foot thick, solid. You'd need an axe or something similarly hard and heavy to make any impression in it at all. I can DRIVE up and down this road, held nicely in place by the ruts, but the last several yards, backing or nosing my big 4x4 into the garage? Forget it. So, I've been parking the car a hundred yards or so down, at the school crossroads, hoping that gathering bovines in daytime won't try to spar with it and show off the hardness of their horns and strength of their necks. These days of above freezing sunny weather have yet to make the smallest dent in that thick ice... so I wait. Spring will come, eventually. 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 He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

World’s Leading Inclusive Dance Company to Perform in Tbilisi


he British Council in Georgia presents a striking double bill by Candoco Dance Company, the contemporary dance company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, which will take place on 11 and 12 March 2017 at Marjanishvili Theater. Candoco Dance Company is a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers that creates excellent and profound experiences to excite, challenge and broaden perceptions of art, aesthetics and ability. In 2012 the company performed alongside Coldplay at the Paralympic Games closing ceremony in London, and in 2015 won the UK Theater Award's 'Achievement in Dance' award. Celebrating 25 years of creating acclaimed and cutting edge work, Candoco presents one of the most strikingly physical double bills to date: Beheld and Set and Reset/Reset. Alexander Whitley has swiftly become known for his daring and virtuosic choreography. Beheld, his commission for Candoco, features powerful duets and breath-taking ensemble dancing, and is set to a mesmerising score by German composer Nils Frahm. In this piece, Candoco’s seven dancers explore the possibilities and constraints of the space around them, forming and reforming to consider how we look and what we see. Set and Reset/Reset is an exploration of possibility as the company’s dancers create a new version of Trisha Brown’s landmark choreography Set and Reset. The original piece was first performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York in 1983 and restaged by Candoco in collaboration with Trisha Brown Dance Company in 2011 - the first time an iconic piece of contemporary dance

was re-staged with an inclusive company. The Sunday Times called these performances ‘a joy to watch’, while The Guardian described Candoco as ‘one of the most potent moments of Theater’. Through their performances and educational activities Candoco twists perceptions of what dance is, who can dance and who can experience it. The performances in Tbilisi will be supplemented by practical workshop with Candoco choreographers on inclusive contemporary dance: https://www.britishcouncil. ge/en/events/candoco-dance-companyworkshop Candoco’s performances in Tbilisi mark the launch of the British Council’s new programme that will offer disabled artists in Georgia unprecedented and unique opportunities to develop professionally, create new work and collaborate inter-

Tickets and more information: British Council Maya Darchia, Arts Manager, Mob: 599 902 006; E-mail: Ekaterine Patsatsia, Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Mob: 591 229 803 E-mail: ekaterine.patsatsia@ge.britishcouncil. org

Chocolate Khinkali is What You’ve Been Missing in Life & Here’s Why Continued from page 11

Divide the dough into two pieces. Sprinkle a work surface and one of the balls of dough with flour and knead (very firmly) and fold the dough. Continue kneading and folding until the dough is very firm. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/3 of an inch thick. Cut out circles of about 2.5 inches in diameter with a drinking glass. Carefully remove the excess dough. Use a rolling pin to roll each circle into a thin 8-inch round. These rounds will be filled with a meat and spice mixture to make khinkali. NOTE: Repeat the whole process of kneading, folding and cutting and rolling of rounds with the remaining ball of dough. You will then have enough rounds

to make about 20 Khinkali. Preparation for the filling, blend the ricotta cheese, chocolate, sugar, and candied orange in a mixing bowl. To make the Khinkali, take one round of dough from your pile of rounds. Put 1 heaped tbs of the mixture in the center



10 Galaktion Street

nationally. The British Council is the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It creates friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources, it makes a positive contribution to the countries it works with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail:

of the round. Use your thumbs and index fingers to make an accordion type fold all around the outside. It will become easier with practice! 19 folds are considered ideal. Roll the nubbin of the dumpling between your finger and thumb and pinch off extra dough. Put each Khinkali on a board or work surface that has been dusted with flour. Carefully place the dumplings into a deep pan of boiling salty water, about 6 at a time (depending on the size of your pan). Boil 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough has been made properly the dumplings will not burst. Serve the Khinkali on a plate, sprinkle crumbled pistachio over them and add a sprig of mint, top with candied orange peel and dust with icing sugar.


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





05.50 11.45 18.10 01.40 07.30 13.55

07.25 13.25 20.00 04.55 10.50 17.15





17.50 13.55

19.10 16.55

TK 381 EVERYDAY TK 380 TK 393 TK 392




MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

Decameron on the Georgian Stage BY MAKA LOMADZE

A performance at the Marjanishvili Theater, Tbilisi


ecameron is a classic that has seen many stages, but a first in Georgia, at least in my memory. The plague burns through Florence. Ten youngsters flee to a deserted villa in a village and there begin to tell stories to pass the time. Decameron in Greek means a ten-day event and is attributed to the author’s love of the Greek language. Each of the ten characters is charged as King or Queen of the company for one of the ten days in turn. This charge extends to choosing the theme of the stories for that day. The topics are: examples of the power of fortune; examples of the power of human will; love tales that end tragically; love tales that end happily; clever replies that save the speaker; tricks that women play on men; tricks that people play on each other in general; and examples of virtue. Only Dioneo, who tells the tenth tale each day, has the right to tell a tale on any topic he wishes, due to his wit. Many authors have argued that Dioneo expresses the views of Giovanni Boccaccio himself. Each day also includes a short introduction and conclusion to continue the frame of the tales by describing other daily activities besides storytelling. These interludes frequently include transcriptions of Italian folk songs. The interactions among tales in a day, or across days, as Boccaccio spins “variations and reversals” of previous material, forms a whole and not just a collection of stories. They also retell tensions between different social strata, and depict the perils and adventures of traveling merchants, as well as, at times, mocking the clergy. The director and author of the staged version is Levan Tsuladze. It is rare to see

In Memory of David Robson BY HIS FRIENDS & COLLEAGUES

such decorations in Georgian theatres, as Minimalism is the fashion nowadays. However, if you miss rich sets that take you on an indelible journey, far from grey reality, this is the performance for you. The story itself, though, is not very joyful, even saturated with humor. This is about the plague and sins of the protagonists: in agony, waiting for death every day, and doing things they would not normally do. The Georgian Decameron begins with a flamboyant moon, which is so mesmerizing that one never wants it to disappear from the stage. The decorations are rich and colorful, creating a natural picture of uneven relief – hills, slopes, etc. However, the culmination is the real triumph – a flood arrives, but the effect is aerial – a violet-bluish ocean covers the stage and then the audience, giving the illusion that there is no border, and life is theater, too, perhaps telling us that books such as Decameron never fade. The flood is terrible, but what a beautiful disaster Tsuladze has chosen! What a beautiful death after multifaceted life, consisting of joy and sorrow, richness and poverty, laughter and tears. The performance is as beautiful and sad as life and as the art of the theater itself. But it is never serious! The music is another story in itself. Decameron by Levan Tsuladze, assisted by Temo Kuprava and Teona Aptsiauri,

has a very vivid audio-visual effect. Thanks to, the blind, or those listening to it on the radio, will equally enjoy the performance. The composer of these marvelous melodies is Vakhtang Kakhidze. The painter of costumes is Nino Surguladze. The choreographer is Gia Marghania, while Shota Skhirtladze is in charge of the battle scenes and fencing. The cast of actors features: Malkhaz Abuladze, Beso Baratashvili, Eka Nijharadze, Baia Dvalishvili, Manana Kozakova, Keti Tskhakaia, Nino Gachechiladze, Maka Shalikashvili, Marlen Egutia, Zura Berikashvili, Onise Oniani, Zaza Iakashvili, Davit Khurtskhilava and others. All are good, but for us the most outstanding were Baia Dvalishvhili and Keti Tskhakaia. Lasha Bughadze, renowned modern Georgian writer and dramatist, said of the performance: “Can you imagine the ‘Commedia dell’arte’ played inside the pictures of Boskh, Kranakh or Diurer? such is the Georgian Decameron... [In the end], the water of deluge covers the stage and the whole audience… As if it were Noah’s Ark…” Decameron lasts for 140 minutes. WHERE: Marjanishvili Theater WHEN: Friday (English subtitles) TICKET: From 6-16 GEL



n the early 90s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, an exploration geologist arrived in Georgia with a dream to find “Big Oil”. His name was David Robson. Formally he was Dr. Robson and while in Georgia he picked up the nickname “bossy”, which followed him throughout his life. David was a strong, vigorous man; a true leader. He had the unique talent of having people follow him, from presidents and high officials to common workers and villagers. This was because his beliefs were so expressive and inspiring that it was actually impossible to ignore them. His favorite quote, “Every day is a happy day,” and his trust in the future would genuinely make anyone happy. Although there were numerous large companies involved in oil and gas, it is difficult to find a person who has done so much on his own. Numerous companies that David created explored and developed oil and gas fields in former Soviet Union countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia. Being a real adventurer, he was always on the move. After having discovered a hydrocarbon field in a certain place, instead of staying there for the “development period,” he immediately moved somewhere else in the search of bigger oil. But Georgia was an exception. David

loved Georgia deeply. He trusted Georgians and would always have them by his side while working in other countries. He first came to Georgia in 1992 during the Civil War, when the country was going through hard times. It was under his leadership (C.E.O. of CanArgo and JKX Oil & Gas), that most exploration and development wells were drilled throughout the country. The field developed under his leadership - Ninotsminda -is still producing oil to this day, while his discovery in Manavi will serve as the future exploration of the Georgian oil and gas industry. Aside from searching for oil and gas, his endeavors included supplying the country with necessary food products at the time of war, providing free gas to local villagers, supporting schools and kindergartens, building monasteries, establishing the first Georgian embassy in London, and training students abroad. He was a living example of how one should be a real businessman, investor, colleague and friend. And Georgia, in its turn, expressed its gratitude by granting him, initially, honorable citizenship of the city of Telavi and later, with Georgian citizenship. David Robson was an unforgettable man. Friends and colleagues all around the world gathered alongside his family members at the beautiful memorial ceremony held in January, 2017. It feels unusual to be speaking about David in the past tense... And it is oddly strange that even at this painful time, mentioning his name puts a faint smile on one’s face.




MARCH 3 - 6, 2017


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATRE Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 March 4, 5, 7 AIDA Starring: Irine Ratiani, Giorgi Oniani, Tea Demurishvili, Nikoloz Lagvilava, Kakhaber Tetvadze, Gia Asatiani, Nutsa Zakaidze, Tamaz Saginadze Tbilisi State Opera & Ballet Theater Choir, Ballet dancers, orchestra Stage Director and Set Designer: Franco Zeffirelli Assistant Director & Light Designer: Stefano Trespidi Conductor: Zaza Azmaiparashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-80 GEL GEORGIAN STATE PANTOMIME THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 63 14 March 3 THE KNIGHT IN THE PANTHER'S SKIN Shota Rustaveli Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL GRIBOEDOVI THEATER Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 March 5 KARLSSON ON THE ROOF Astrid Lindgren Directed by Levon Uzunuani Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 10 GEL ROYAL DISTRICT THEATRE Address: 10 Abesadze Str. Telephone: 299 61 71 March 6 WOMEN OF TROY Directed by Data Tavadze Documentary Language: Georgian English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL

MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 March 3, 4 ECLIPSE Directed by Nino Burduli Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL March 5 THE TEMPEST Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 March 3 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Comedy Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL March 8, 9 MARY POPPINS Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: March 8 - 19:00, March 9 – 16:00, 19:00 Ticket: 8-10 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari March 3-9 FIFTY SHADES DARKER Directed by James Foley Cast: Bella Heathcote, Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan Genre: Drama, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 13:30, 16:15 Ticket: 9-11 GEL LA LA LAND Directed by Damien Chazelle Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical

Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL JACKIE Directed by Pablo Larraín Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig Genre: Biography, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 19:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MOONLIGHT Directed by Barry Jenkins Cast: Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp, Duan Sanderson Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL LOGAN Directed by James Mangold Cast: Doris Morgado, Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL March 3-9 JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 Directed by Chad Stahelski Cast: Ruby Rose, Keanu Reeves, Bridget Moynahan Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MUSEUM


NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases money circulation on the territory of Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. THE TESTAMENT OF DAVID THE BUILDER AND THE NEW EXHIBITS OF MEDIEVAL TREASURY September 27 (2016) – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. EXHIBITION LADO GUDIASHVILI AND GEORGIAN MONUMENTAL PAINTING The exhibition showcases Gudiashvili's monumental painting. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 February 17 – March 5 ANNA KALATOZISHVILI MY EXHIBITION IS MY LIFE The exhibition showcases Anna Kalatozishvili's expressive artworks. According to Kalatozishvili, theater, art, and our daily life is a game; each of us a player who has the strength and ability to become an artist.

collection of Davit Kobakhidze, a US based art collector, and were bought at the Sotheby’s, Christie’s and other famous auctions. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. EXHIBITION OF ALEXANDER BAZHBEUK-MELIKOV'S ARTWORKS Dedicated to his 125-year anniversary Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikov is a prominent representative of 20th century Georgian art. He was ethnic Armenian but he spent his entire life in Georgia and formed a basis for the development of the new and modern Georgian painting. MZIURI CAFÉ Address: Mziuri park March 5 SAKVI-RAO Every Sunday children will be hosted by famous children's writers with interesting themes Reading, coloring, competitions Participants Age: from 6 to 9 years Ticket includes lunch for children Time: every Sunday from 12:00 to 14:00 Ticket: 7 GEL MUSIC

MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave.

TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address:1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99


March 8 Georgian Chamber of Culture presents: GENTLEMEN FOR LADIES Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 45-50 GEL

ART PALACE Address: 6 Kargareteli Str. February 19 – March 4 This month showcasing a private collection of some of the world’s most prominent artists: PABLO PICASSO, WASSILY KANDINSKY, FRANZ ROUBAUD, MAXIMILLIEN LUCE AND GEORGIAN PAINTER GIGO GABASHVILI. The artworks belong to the private

TBILISI EVENT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 March 3 SAVE LERI Charity concert supporting young Georgian architect Leri Tsiskadze Participants: Young Georgian Lolitaz, Bakur Burduli, Ketato, Eko &amp, Vinda Folio, Robi Kukhianidze, Luna999, Sophie Villy, and more. Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 GEL March 4 CAUCASIAN MUSIC AWARD PHOENIX 2016 Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 20 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 07 50 61 March 7 JAZZ AT MT RESO KIKNADZE QUINTET Free Admission Start time: 21:00 March 8 Milonga, La Cumparsita Argentine Tango Dance Night Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 5 GEL SENSATION CLUB TBILISI Address: 5 Mishveladze Str. Telephone: 598 56 78 88 March 3 YANN DESTAL THE VOICE OF MODJO Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 30 GEL



Patashuri: Admiring Georgia with a Paintbrush in Hand INTERVIEW BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


is paintings resemble their author: vivid, engaging, colorful, emotionally intense, and delicate at the same time. Talking to him feels like travelling around Georgia through his eyes, a journey that is filled with so much love and pure admiration for his country, the beauty of its nature, and its history, an admiration which is echoed in his paintings, a kaleidoscope of magnificent landscapes, battle scenes from Georgian history, and human portraits that will haunt you long after the moment you see them. Together with BI Auction for Art, GEORGIA TODAY continues to feature famous Georgian painters. In this issue, we introduce Ilia Patashuri, a well-known Georgian artist, holder of an Order of Honor, named as People’s Artist of Georgia, professor of the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. His works are exhibited internationally in Greece, Germany, France, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Yugoslavia, Poland, Japan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Baltic countries.

WHAT INFLUENCED YOU TO BECOME A PAINTER? I was born in the village of Khevsha, Dusheti region, and it has the most beautiful nature... I think that was one of the factors that led to my becoming a painter. There a re gravestones in my village with different paintings on them. Sometimes it might be a woman knitting, or a man with a horn dressed in chokha, a sheep… and villagers colored these figures with oil paint, and it amazed and fascinated me. I often drew on stones with charcoal… my mother told me I started drawing at the age of four or five- at that time I had no idea that paper, pencils or a paint brush existed! I tried to paint characters from the tales my father used to tell me, and that’s how I started… Another thing I do remember vividly is my encounter with a famous Georgian artist in my home village one day when I was returning home from school. I was in the second grade then. The painter was sitting and working, I came close and saw that he was drawing one of the woman villagers. He looked at me as I approached and asked if I liked drawing myself and when I said yes, he asked me to show him my drawings. He looked through all of them and told me that I could become an artist if I continued to work hard. His words were very encouraging to me. He even asked me what my name was and liked that it was Ilia. But at that age I didn’t know he was referring to Ilia Chavchavadze. Years passed, it was 1948, and I came to study to Tbilisi, at the Nikoladze College of Art. Together with my fellow students, we went to an exhibition and I recognized the painting of a woman. I knew her very well since she was from my village. I remembered the painter drawing her. It was Lado Gudiashvili!

HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST? I love drawing landscapes most, probably because I was born in a country like Georgia where the colors of every season are all so exquisitely different. When I used to travel to Gori in summer, I saw fields full of poppies: red, violet, pink, and it inspired

me greatly. What surprises me is that often people aren’t even able to notice that beauty. As an artist, I don’t think I should resemble others and for that a certain amount of firmness is needed. You have to be crazy in a way; you have to be the best, and you have to be professional. That’s why I admire Galaktion Tabidze and Vazha Pshavela. If you’re gifted with a talent, you should guard it, but something has to inspire you as an artist. I’ll be 80 next year and I still have so many things to do; it’s all in my heart, in my emotions. I remember Pseudo-Longinus, a greatest philosopher, who says that to create a true masterpiece, a chef d’oeuvre, an artist should have first a brave spirit- both Galaktion and Vazha Pshavela had it -and second, to be captivated with passion. If you have passion, he said, you can be amazed by the very nature of work, that is born suddenly, sometimes even unexpectedly.

Over 500 Artists to Perform at GEM Fest 2017 in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON


EM Fest is a month-long electronic music festival in Georgia, which will be held for the third time from July 14 to August 14 in Georgia’s Black Sea town Anaklia. Blazing a new trail within sight of the Black Sea, some of the world's biggest house, techno and trance DJs make this a stand-out summer party. This year GEM Fest looks determined to kickstart Georgia's summer dance culture, which keeps going from strength to strength. The festival takes place right on the beach of Anaklia and the village of Ganmukhuri, situated across the river and connected to Anaklia through one of the longest pedestrian bridges in Europe. The festival events are held on the beach, in the natural subtropical environment framed by conceptual and modern architecture. The 18 ha of infrastructure includes five stages, dozens of catering spots, tent megalopolis GEM City, which can accommodate 10,000 people, and plenty of art installations built by the GEM Team. Anaklia is just in a 25-minute drive from Zugdidi, which can be accessed easily from Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi and other Georgian towns by car, taxi, and train. Moreover, from 9 August to 13 August, comfort-

able GEM Fest Party Buses will take people to Anaklia from Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi. There are daytime trains from Tbilisi to Zugdidi or high-speed daytime and night trains from Kutaisi – Zugdidi. Traveling to Tbilisi is also possible from Baku and Yerevan. Currently, 15% of the Festival line-up has been announced, with more names to be revealed soon. More than 500 artists are expected to perform on eight stages. Besides non-stop music, more than 100 fun, sports, and entertainment activities will fill up the program. A Multi Pass gives you unlimited entry to the festival site, free entry to the Aqua Park, access to all stages 24/7, and participation in fun and sport activities scheduled from July 14 till August 14. Opening Night Pass gives you the access to the festival site on Friday, July 14 until you leave the space. A VIP Pass gives you unlimited entry to the festival site, free entry to the Aqua Park, access to all stages 24/7, and participation in fun and sport activities scheduled from July 14 till August 14, plus admission to all pre-GEM events in 2017, access to the separate VIP entry gate, access to the specially designed exclusive VIP backstage zones, access to the VIP parking zone and access to the exclusive private parties during the festival. For more information about the line-up, accommodation and tickets, visit the GEM Fest official website.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WORK? Inspiration may come from a sudden emotion; I may be disrupted from work and get angry, and mix the colors on the palette accordingly, but that is also a process of creation. Impression is very important, too. If you look at the clouds in the Tbilisi sky, they are totally different from the clouds in the mountains of Georgia. Those contrasts are amazing and I think an artist has to be just a little bit crazy, in a creative way, to capture all these. In a way, the process of work has its own secrets and mystery.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU REGRET IN YOUR CAREER? I regret that for different reasons in different periods of my life, I didn’t have enough time to work more.

WHO ARE THE ARTISTS YOU ADMIRE AND WHO DEFINED YOU? Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, to a certain point everyone’s imitating, but it’s temporary- an artist should find his own voice. Yes, those great painters inspired and motivated me but then I started exploring my own land’s landscape. It’s important to find your own colors, your own style. Plagiarism is intolerable.

WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE THE YOUNG? It’s very difficult to advise. They should be passionate about what they do and stay true and devoted. If they’re given a talent to hold a paintbrush in their hands, then it’s for a reason.



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MARCH 3 - 6, 2017

Verdi’s Immortal Aida by Genius Zeffirelli INTERVIEW BY MAKA LOMADZE


t the beginning of March, opera lovers will get the chance to witness a splendid performance – an unprecedented show of Verdi’s indelible Aida, staged by the legend Franco Zeffirelli, though, due to Zeffirelli's grand age (94), his trustee and assistant director Stefano Trespidi is leading all the shows. Aida has been performed on stages around the world, and will now have its time on the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater stage. Stefano Trespidi began his career very young, working for one of the biggest opera houses in the world: Arena di Verona. In the late 90s he studied directing at the school of arts Teatro la Scala in Milan. Throughout the years, he has collaborated with the most important stage directors of the world, such as Franco Zeffirelli, Giancarlo Del Monaco, Hugo de Ana, Pierluigi Pizzi, Gilbert Deflo, Graham Vick, and Denis Krief. He has also worked in some of the most important theaters in the world, from Tokyo to St. Petersburg. GEORGIA TODAY had a chance to record an interview with Stefano Trespidi, assistant director of performances by the immortal Zeffirelli.

WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF GEORGIA AND THE OPERA HOUSE? I only know the hotel I am staying in, the Opera House and Rustaveli Avenue.

Definitely! I've been chasing Zeffirelli, actually- this most famous Italian living artist. The first time I met him, he was working on “Carmen,” in 1995. I asked to work with him and, later on, we worked together. (Note: they have worked together on Trovatore, Aida, Butterfly and Turandot).

WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP DO YOU HAVE – MORE ACADEMIC OR MORE FRIENDLY? There is nothing academic about the maestro. He is very open, with a pure heart. We are very familiar with each other. Our working relationship devel-

Georgian Railway & Basketball Federation Sign Memorandum BY THEA MORRISON

Stefano Trespidi, assistant director of performances by the immortal Zeffirelli, now in Tbilisi

I haven’t yet explored a lot of Georgia, but I know a lot of people, so we can say that I know more Georgians than Georgia. I have been living in Croatia and Romania. I think that Georgia is similar, i.e. Eastern Europe. The latter is quite different from the Western part. As for people, they have made me feel very much at home. The relationship in the theater is very nice; the people are very warm, positively disposed, and keen on work. People there work with passion and great respect, which is very important. The Georgian generosity and warmth reminds me of southern Italy. In the north, people are much more formal. Although I am from the north, Verona, my spirit is from the south. This is where I feel most comfortable.



A past performance of Zeffirelli's Aidi in Italy

oped in a very normal way; of course, with the help of assistants. I do not know how exactly it happened that I found myself to be there as an assistant, reviving his shows for the world.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL POTENTIAL AUDIENCES ABOUT THE SHOW? We can tell them to come and see this masterpiece, because we are staging Aida, Verdi’s fantastic music. The show itself is very particular, because Aida develops in seven pictures throughout the story. Normally, there is no a chance to see all seven. The directors make a compromise and sometimes choose not to change the set. Here, Franco Zeffirelli, who is an absolute genius, completely changes the set in one minute. So, the

audience will see seven totally different pictures along with beautiful costumes and movement.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI IN TEN WORDS? Genius, demanding, generous, artistic, intelligent, unlimited, nice, cool, that’s it!

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM HIM AS AN ARTIST AND AS A PERSON? Everything. What I know, I know from him. WHERE: Tbilisi Opera House WHEN: March 4, 5, 7. Tickets are available on


eorgian Railway and the Georgian National Basketball Federation agreed to continue cooperation and signed a memorandum, according to which Georgian Railway will continue to sponsor the National Basketball Federation in 2017. The sponsorship agreement was signed by Georgian Railway Director General Mamuka Bakhtadze and Georgian National Basketball Federation President Mikheil Gabrichidze at the Olympic Palace on February 28. The signing ceremony was attended by the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, Tariel Khechikashvili. “The memorandum will promote development of basketball in the country. I would like to thank Georgian Railway for assisting not only the National Basketball Federation but for promoting sports in Georgia,” the minister said after the signing ceremony. Mamuka Bakhtadze, Georgian Railway Director General, says this year’s agreement is more complex and will sponsor not only the national team but other-age teams as well. National Basketball Federation President Mikheil Gabrichidze thanked Georgian Railway for the financial assistance and expressed hope that the national basketball team would succeed this year. “The national team will take part in World Cup qualifying matches this year and I’m convinced we’ll be successful,” he said. This is the first time the Georgian national basketball team is taking part in a European qualifying tournament – EuroBasket. Georgian Railway is supporting the 16, 18 and 20-year-old teams for the second time.

Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #925  

March 3 - 6, 2017

Issue #925  

March 3 - 6, 2017