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Issue no: 799

• DECEMBER DECEM 4 - 7, 2015



Current Challenges In this week’s issue... it Loud: A New Player in Environmental Sing on the Political Stage Technologies POLITICS PAGE 4 Development UN Partners with Youth to the World AIDS Day and Coping with Mark in Georgia Climate Change SOCIETY PAGE 9


IN FOCUS Global warming has already started to have a significant impact on nature and people in Georgia. We spoke to Head of the National Environmental Agency, Tamar Bagratia.


Georgia to Tighten Car Emission Control BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


new draft law, laying out new amendments for car owners, has been reviewed at the Government’s Meeting on December 3rd. A new study exposed car emissions as the main factor in air pollution in Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi, which is a cause of major concern for citizen health. “In several cities, including Tbilisi, a study of air samples has shown that the main polluting source of air is automobiles. This mainly depends on the overdue vehicle park, together of the poor quality of fuel and consistence of toxic gases in the emissions, which is the result of incomplete combustion,” said Gigla Agulashvili, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection.

According to Agulashvili, one of the main causes for this is ordinary citizens removing and selling the catalytic converters from their cars. Catalytic converters are one of the most important parts of a car’s emissions control system as it converts harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before they leave the car’s exhaust system. The Environmental Minister highlighted current data, which shows that air quality indicators in some districts of Tbilisi meet the medium level of euro standards. To improve the situation, “we need to take steps to change our vehicle park,” he added. Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili also supports to the initiative and emphasized that, in terms of ecology in Tbilisi, “we have a disaster”. “I hear a lot of complaints from very angry people about the lack of catalytic converters used in cars moving in the city. I would also like

to ask you to control the quality of fuel,” Garibashvili told the members of the Government. The Prime Minister also announced that in order to increase availability of catalytic converters, companies selling them are asked to install them a well. Mandatory insurance of cars, including technical inspection, will be introduced in the near future. “Of course, this process will take time and we will not ask people do it right now,” Garibasvili said at the Government Meeting. “We will develop a plan which will be presented in the near future to the public, but before that, we suggest you conduct a survey of public opinions and understand what the citizens’ approach is to this issue.” The announcement to restrict car related air pollutants comes alongside that of a new draft law presented by the Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Mgebrishvili prohibiting the registration of right-hand drive vehicles.

Tbilisi’s Own Billyy Elliot: A Ballet Success Story SOCIETY PAGE 11

Chaos or Law? Svaneti SOCIETY PAGE 12

The 16th International Film Festival Begins CULTURE PAGE 13

Movie Night in Old Tbilisi Raises Questions for Future of City’s Walkers CULTURE PAGE 14

Erisioni, The Light on the Mountain Top Standing Strong CULTURE PAGE 15




DECEMBER 4 - 7, 2015

Georgia Still Waiting, Did Montenegro Do Better? BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA


n Wednesday, Foreign Ministers of NATO countries, following on from a Ministerial, released a statement concerning the Alliance’s Open Door policy. The declaration says that at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, NATO agreed that Georgia will become a member of NATO with MAP as an integral part of the process: “Today we reaffirm all elements of that decision, as well as subsequent decisions. We welcome the significant progress realized since 2008. Georgia’s relationship with the Alliance contains all the practical tools to prepare for eventual membership.” According to the statement, the Alliance welcomes the important progress made in implementing the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package, including the start of joint exercises, and the inauguration of the Joint Training and Evaluation Center which helps strengthen Georgia’s self-defense and resilience capabilities. NATO said it remains committed to the Open Door policy, a founding principle of the Washington Treaty. And, as a result of that principle, NATO has now formally invited Montenegro to join the

Protesters in Tbilisi Join World-Wide Protest Preceding Climate Change Conference BY ROBERT ISAF


Christmas comes early for Montenegro as it is invited to join NATO. Milo Dukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro. Photo: v-montenegro.ru

military alliance as its 29th member. It is the first expansion of NATO in six years and has already prompted a backlash from Russia, who calls the move a threat to their own national security. “Moscow has always noted at various levels that the continuing expansion of NATO and NATO’s military infrastructure to the East can only lead to responsive actions from the East, namely from the Russian side, in ensuring security interests and supporting the parity of interests,” Dmitry Peskov Kremlin spokesman stated, according to the TASS news agency. The decision to let Montenegro in, described by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as “historic”, comes 16 years after the alliance bombed Montenegro during the Kosovo war, when it was still part of Yugoslavia. Stoltenberg announced the invitation of Wednesday, the culmination of a process that began in 2009. The mountainous Adriatic state, with only 650,000 people has a very small military of around 2000 active members. Accession talks are expected to take about a year to complete. Montenegro already supports NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan and has actively cooperated with the alliance in other ways. NATO expects Montenegro to make progress on reforms “especially in the area of rule of law.”

Apart from Montenegro, three other countries are partnering with NATO and are interested in becoming members: Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia. Georgian experts assessed the declaration positively; however, recent developments on media freedom (Rustavi 2 case) and rule of law, which were included in the statement, are considered as part of the government’s instability in terms of democratic advancement. The experts emphasized that the government should act meticulously not to damage the democratic principles and give fuel to some Georgia-sceptic members of NATO. Last week Reuters published an article concerning Georgia’s hopes and the existing situation in NATO to grant Georgia membership. “NATO allies are split over what message to send Georgia over its long-delayed membership bid, diplomats said, with some European capitals arguing the alliance would be unable to defend the exSoviet state in the event of a conflict with Russia,” the publication reads. The Georgian Prime Minister, following his visit to Paris this week, stated that the Government of Georgia does not want to create any special expectations regarding NATO. Garibashvili said that this message comes on the specific recommendation of the Alliance Secretary General and partner countries.

ast Sunday, a day before the official opening of the 2015 UnitedNationsClimateChange Conference in Paris, activists in Tbilisi joined a movement of roughly 2,500 marches, protests, and demonstrations organized around the world to show their support for a strong international agreement on how to combat global climate change. The conference has been hotly anticipated by those pressing for legally binding action by the world’s governments. The global turnout Sunday was intended to send a message to the conference participants, and whether or not the message is heeded it was at least made; one estimate puts the number of demonstrators world-wide at over 570,000. Tbilisi’s contribution was undeniably sotto voce. There were only around 70 attendees, the vast majority of whom were either associated with the European School itself, whose students and teachers organized the Tbilisi march, or were foreigners visiting or living in Georgia. Marchers were asked to wear green, and bring some kind of noise-making device. After gathering outside the Freedom Square metro station, the crowd made its way down the block to Parliament, in front of which some speeches were made and pictures taken. Though numbers were small, enthusiasm among all attendees was high. Glaxo, 18, a student from the European School, joked about his reasons for attending – it’s an easy way to fulfill his extracurricular activity requirements, he said, with a broad grin – but betrayed himself seen, and heard, open-palm hammering the soundbox drum he’d brought along. His joking aside, he made clear that he wasn’t only addressing the silent parliament building facing him. “To the person who will be reading this,” he said, “I’m telling you that you should be more concerned about the world. And even if you already are, you should be more concerned.” Ana Dosoudilova, one of the staff organizers, considered the small turnout prag-

matically. “Actually, bearing in mind the situation here in Georgia, I think (the turnout) is good, and I love the amount of people,” Ms. Dosoudilova said. “I guess people have enough of their own worries, so they’re not used to being active, they’re not used to fighting for something else than their own life, and I understand that totally… If you talk to people, and they say let’s go to the streets, let’s have a demonstration, they don’t really know what to imagine, or what it means.” That doesn’t mean she’s not optimistic. “Although most of these are our kids from our school, I’m happy that they came, because in the future it’s going to be them organizing similar events,” she said. “I think that this kind of a people’s movement is just the beginning.” Alongside the European School students, the international presence could be distinctly felt. Small circles formed of slightly higher heads of slightly lighter hair, marking out groups of visiting foreigners, each echoing the other when asked why they attended. “I think it’s good that the people all over the globe see that it’s a global movement,” Jakub, a young man from the Czech Republic currently living in Mtskheta, told Georgia Today. “It’s not just happening in Paris or Berlin… people in Tbilisi also care.” Pointing to his friend, he added, “And partly I’m here just because we can be. She’s living in Baku and just visiting, and in Baku it would not be possible.” Strikingly, one city where the march certainly wasn’t possible was Paris itself. In the wake of last month’s Islamic State attacks on the nation’s capital city, France has been under a state of emergency, which resulted in authorities refusing to allow the long-planned march through Paris. For Alice, one of the activists in Tbilisi on Sunday, the decision to ban the Paris protests was personal. “I’m French, and I have a lot of problems,” she explained. “I have a lot of friends who would like to demonstrate on the streets in Paris, and they can’t.” “So, I walked for a friend,” she said. “And for myself.”



Second Wardrop Dialogue between Georgia and UK Held in London

Toyota Unveils Regional Training Center in Tbilisi


new Toyota training center was opened in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi by Toyota Caucasus on November 27th. The official opening ceremony was attended by training managers from the head office, partners from Ukraine and Russia, all the local and regional dealers, as well as representatives of state agencies, media and business sector. Among the honored guests were the Japanese Ambassador in Georgia Mr. Toshio Kaitani and Tbilisi City Hall. The training center opening is truly a significant event not only throughout Georgia, but for the entire Caucasus region, and this step directly reflects the philosophy of Toyota, company representatives noted. “We do not just build cars, we build people!” - This well-known motto clearly mirrors the company’s basic principles. It is a widely recognized fact that Toyota philosophy KAIZEN (continuous improvement) and respect for people represents the foundation of years of success that runs throughout the company history which also implies continuous care for the development and professional growth of employees. “Every step forward in the field of



education and professional training yields remarkable results and outcome throughout the entire Toyota network. We are proud to have initiated the regional scale project in Georgia”, the Toyota Caucasus representatives noted. Considerable investments were made for the training center launch. Multifunctional training center spreads over 850 square meters. Built on Toyota’s top standards, the center embraces the cutting-edge machinery, modern technologies, systems and equipment. The training center includes: • Three sections with 4-ton crane • Emissions Pumping System • Tire Fixation Complex • Electricians training zone • Hybrid Automobile Service System • Training zone for service of aggregates • Theoretical Training Zones • Two training zones for training service management specialists (department of sales, customer service department, spare parts department) • Kaizen Dojo class simulation (service and sales management) • Storehouse • Shower Ms. Natalia Rud, the Manager Learning Technologies manager consumer experience training at Toyota Motor

Europe, and Mr.Yuji Wagata, Toyota Caucasus president, delivered a speech at the event. “The Toyota training system will enable technicians to apply modern technologies and refine Toyota automobile service skills. It should also be noted that prior to commencement of sales in regional markets, each new model will be studied in detail for Toyota personnel to be fully equipped with knowledge and skills when introducing new automobiles to consumers. All these efforts ensure ultimate comfort and safety to the customers. Toyota considers consumers to be top priority (following the principle: Customer First). The driving mechanism of the company’s whole performance is conveyed by Akio Toyoda: “Our goal is to be number 1 in the hearts and minds of customers.” At the training center, Toyota Caucasus plans to implement expanded educational projects on the regional level in the future. Toyota Caucasus (TCA), a Toyota’s official distributor in the South Caucasus, has been operating with its head office in Tbilisi since 2006. The official representation also serves Azerbaijan and Armenia markets, in addition to Georgia.


n 30 November, the second meeting of Georgia-UK Wardrop Dialogue was held in London. The Georgian Foreign Ministry (MFA) says the discussions focused on existing bilateral relations, on Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and on issues of co-operation and security in the sphere of defense. According to the MFA, Great Britain and Georgia have agreed to develop trade and economic relations. “Discussions focused on the current trade and economic relations between Georgia and Great Britain and on the prospects for developing these relations. Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili informed UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Francis Maude, on the reforms the Government of Georgia has carried out in different sectors of the economy.” The MFA says the British side expressed interest in holding a series of events with the participation of the UK business circles that will increase their awareness of and interest in Georgia’s business and investment opportunities. Georgia’s regional role and leading position were underlined in terms of economic reforms and ease of doing business, “which make the country more attractive for international investments.” “The sides positively assessed the Georgian Prime Minister’s initiative to hold the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum, where

Members of the Wardrop Dialogue, including British Ambassador to Georgia, Alexandra Hall Hall (Center left) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgi Kvirikashvili (center right)

Georgia’s international transit opportunities were demonstrated,” the Foreign Ministry added. The Georgian Minister and his British counterpart discussed the Georgia-EU Association Agenda and its fulfilment, and on the process of implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union, underlining the opportunities the FTA gives to Georgia and EU countries to develop investment and economic ties. Prior to the plenary session in the Wardrop Dialogue, Kvirikashvili met with UK Minister for Europe, David Lidington. At the bilateral meeting, the parties talked over a number of lucrative issues between Georgia and Great Britain. Lidington said that Great Britain remains a stalwart supporter of Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. “We firmly believe that Georgia has a sovereign right to decide its own future and choose its own path of development,” Lidington emphasized.




DECEMBER 4 - 7, 2015

Sing it Loud: A New Player on the Political Stage OPED BY ZAZA JGHARKAVA


eorgian politics is awaiting the world’s bass. The renowned opera singer Paata Burchuladze is ready to exchange the world opera scene into a political tribune and has already taken the first steps on his way. While his surname has been removed from the 2016 events calendar of La Scala, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera and all of his concert contracts have been canceled, 2016 is marked as his governmental year on the Georgian political calendar. What the political party of the world’s operatic bass will look like, will be revealed in autumn, but before that Burchuladze invites his supporters to join the Development Fund of Georgia. The appearance of new faces in politics is always connected with new hopes and expectations. This is the case with Burchuladze, too. It isn’t unlikely that he will become the hope of those 45%

of voters, who, in the last survey by NDI, stated they do not support any of the active political parties. To put it simply, practically, the power today lays in the street and nobody’s there to take it. Based on his personal rating and authority, Burchuladze really does have serious perspective among those who have the ambition to influence the current events taking place in the country. The opera singer has been engaged in charity for years. Burchuladze founded the international charity fund Iavnana with the slogan “Let’s save the future together” in 2004, stating the provision of shelter for orphans and unprivileged children as its mission. It was believed for years that Burchuladze had the support and was the favorite of the Georgian Orthodox Church, by which we mean the scheme with which Bidzina Ivanishvili came to power in 2012 and kicked out the government of Saakashvili. The opinion of experts on the issue of whether history will be repeated varies. Expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze finds it unlikely that Paata Burchuladze will come to state power

and thinks that he will not be able to substitute Ivanishvili. While the political analyst Soso Tsintsadze states that the name Paata Burchuladze can accumulate a certain level of finances, though insufficient, as Burchuladze is surrounded by a total collapse and that society is not so enthusiastic about individuals who desire to become part of the great construction of a new political project. It should be noted that Burchuladze’s name was also heard in politics in 2013 when the leader of Georgian Group Jondi Bagaturia named him among the possible presidential candidates. At that time, the singer refrained from opposing Georgian Dream, while Jondi Bagaturia was soon found in alliance with the pro-Russian oriented political power of Nino Burjanadze. Whether Burchuladze will be found in direct opposition of Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream this time is not yet clear, however, the signs of a standoff are evident. It is obvious that the segment of electors of Georgian Dream are the same for Burchuladze and that they

Paata Burchuladze has given up the opera and has his sights set on politics

are competitors. It is hard to believe that the ideological supporters of the National Movement will move into Burchuadze’s camp. Therefore, it is the Georgian Dream and the organizations moving around its orbit that Burchuladze’s political union will get the votes from. If Burchuladze’s newly created fund really turns into a party, the need for strengthening its political component will soon become a necessity, whether those people who Burchuladze already presented will be on the list or not, be it the former

advisor of President Margvelashvili, Vano Machavariani, or the political analyst Khatuna Lagazidze. The need to bring new people to the foreground is already apparent. To put it mildly, today’s composition is insufficient for attaining serious political goals. Thus, it should be substituted. The question is who will these ‘new faces’ that Burchuladze needs to bring to the front be? Alasania, whom he has already had talks with? Or Inashvili, Burjanadze, or Natelashvili? Or someone else entirely?



Campaign Against Domestic Violence Kicks Off Around Georgia BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


he world came together at the United Nations (UN) HQ two months ago to agree on the new Sustainable Development Goals agenda, committing globally to specific targets on ending violence against women for the first time. “The message from experience across nations is clear - if women and girls, who represent half of all human potential, are not able to fully realize their rights and aspirations in all spheres of life, free from violence and all forms of discrimination, socio- economic development will be impeded – and no country is excepted,” Shombi Sharp, Deputy Head of UNDP in Georgia said. A series of public meetings is being organized by the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in cooperation with the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia and AntiViolence Network of Georgia. Photo: UNDP Georgia. These meetings focus on violence against women in the six regional administrative centers of the country in December, as part of the UN worldwide ongoing 16-day campaign against gender based violence. The first such meeting was held in Ambrolauri, Racha, on December 1st, followed by meetings in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Racha-Lechkhumi – Kvemo Svaneti, Guria, Imereti, Mtskheta-Mti-

aneti and Kvemo Kartli, with local civil servants, civil society representatives, students and activists coming together to discuss the reasons behind violence against women in Georgia and ways to prevent it. The participants watched a documentary “Speak Out!” which featured true stories of domestic violence survivors in Georgia which was filmed in 2014 by Georgian film director, Zurab Inashvili with support from UN Women and the Georgian National Film Center. According to the Deputy Head of UNDP in Georgia it is encouraging to see people embracing the understanding about both fundamental human rights for women and girls and a better life for all, men and boys alike. “Through a series of public discussions in different regions of Georgia, we are

helping break the silence and offering opportunities for non-governmental organizations, local authorities and citizens to speak out and take action. After the first dialogue in Racha, we can already see that public interest is very high. People are writing to us from all over Georgia asking to organize similar discussions in their communities,” Sharp said. He emphasized Georgia’s achievements in terms of gender equality, fighting discrimination and gender based violence, and the President declared this the Year of Women and Gender Equality. “But a lot of work remains in translating this framework into real change in communities and households across the country as women continue to face serious issues of inequality and vulnerability to gender based and domestic violence,” Sharp said.


Community Service May Become an Alternative Punishment for Female Criminals


he Georgian Professional Psychologists Association (GPPA) with the support of the Foundation of the Open Society Institute (FOSI) has conducted the project ‘Community Service – Alternative Punishment for Women,’ which aims to provide non-custodial punishment- community service – for certain categories of women through the presentation of a legislative initiative, mobilization of public opinion and eradication of defects in legal practice. Community service, one of the forms of alternative punishment, is considered by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to be a corrective and positive sanction. This form is used in Europe and the USA as a main and independent, as well as alternative kind of punishment.

According to Part 4, Article 44 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, pregnant women and women having children of less than 7 years of age, disabled of the I and II group, and pensioners, do not at present have any possibility to undergo punishment by community service. This group also unites women who gave birth to their children in prison. This restriction, derived from legal practice of the Soviet period, has to date remained unchanged in the Criminal Code of Georgia, as well as in the republics of the South Caucasus. Executors of the project (Anna Kanjaradze, Tamar Abuladze, Nino Lordkifanidze, Nato Gugava) conducted a whole number of works, on the basis of which the presentation of the legislative initiative is planned to eradicate just this very defect.

Beds for the Better: The Success of a Fundraiser for Palliative Unit Children BY MERI TALIASHVILI


wo years ago, the Samaritan Association of Georgia launched a project at the Children’s New Clinic aimed at palliative care for children with inborn incurable diseases. Today, 25 children from four months to 12 years are hospitalized at the Clinic under constant attention and care. Irina Kldiashvili, Director of the Georgian Samaritan Association wanted to say a

big thank you, through Georgia Today, to those who have not turned a blind eye to those children in need and who have helped the hospital and nurses create the much needed improved conditions for them. One ardent supporter and the initiator of this act is Katie Ruth Davies, Editor-in-Chief of our biweekly Georgia Today newspaper. Irina Kldiashvili: “The project we started two years ago was the idea of one of our volunteers from Germany, Delia Jakubek, who had come to Georgia to work for a year. Continued on page 6




DECEMBER 4 - 7, 2015

Beds for the Better: The Success of a Fundraiser for Palliative Unit Children Continued from page 5

When she saw the conditions of the palliative unit, she decided to help, and began to write a project to renovate it and bring it in line with European standards. We submitted the project to several organizations and one offered to assist in the first phase of the project, giving their financial support to the carrying out of construction works. Unfortunately, the hospital was unable to arrange the works to be done within the time limit set by the organization and so the support was withdrawn and reallocated. Thankfully, however, German organization Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Deutschland had already funded the second part of the project and we were able to successfully train 12 nurses within the unit in specialized palliative care. The course was carried out in spring 2015 and, what’s more, two therapists – an occupational therapist and physiotherapist- were employed to work with those children unable to sit or stand. The maximum we can do for children in such serious conditions is to help them to make us understand that they want something, or to simply show a reaction. We work to bring all their resources to life. “When Katie Davies heard about the difficulties we were facing following the withdrawal of financial support, she was deeply touched by the children’s conditions and problems in terms of the lack of vital equipment (such as monitors and aspirators) and the condition of some of the children whose beds were

too small and clothes and sheets old and worn.” Katie Ruth Davies: “One photo really got my blood boiling. My reaction prompted me to immediately donate what I could and to get on facebook. This is what I wrote: ‘This is Yusuf. He is 9 years old and suffers from microcephaly and mental retardation. He cannot be cared for at home so this bed is his home. This bed is in the ward of a palliative care unit in a private children’s hospital in Tbilisi. Yusuf has kind and well-trained staff to feed him, wash him and give him physiotherapy. But this bed is his home. You can see it’s too small for him, right? As I’m typing this my legs are stretched out. Last night my three children slept in a giant bed with all the space in the world to stretch and move around in. This small bed is what Yusuf has. Last year an NGO received funding from a reputable organization to get the palliative unit where Yusuf lives renovated. The sum was supposed to go towards renovation (bright paint, happy stickers), two monitors to add to the one the many children on the ward share with Yusuf, a bath-bed, and five big beds. One of those beds was supposed to be for Yusuf. For reasons I don’t understand there were delays in renovating the palliative unit. The beds and monitors could not be bought until the renovation works were complete. And while the NGO was waiting, the contract with the donor organization ran out and the money was

The photo which started the fund-raising for the palliative care unit of Children’s New Clinic

taken back to give to someone else. No doubt that someone else is just as needywe all know there are many, many good and worthy causes in Georgia. But the worthy cause I see right now is Yusuf. As I lay with my legs stretched out tonight, I will be picturing Yusuf sleeping, just the other side of the city from me, in the position you see him here. A new bed costs $470. For some of you, that equals a month’s salary or more. For others it is the sacrifice of one less pair of good shoes, skipping that weekend away, or the price of that phone that you desperately wanted but are already bored with. For each of us $470 has a different meaning: easy money or a mountain to climb. For Yusuf it is the chance to spend the day with his legs stretched out. To spend every day of what remains of his life in more comfort than he is now. I want to raise money to buy him a new bed. It can be done by donating to the NGO whose project funding was withdrawn this month. I’ve never done anything like this before and now I ask myself ‘Why not?’ So many people need help,

it’s overwhelming. But this little boy’s life can be transformed with nothing more than a new bed. Can you help me raise this $470? If it was Lari, I wouldn’t even ask- I would give. But I need to ask. Can you help me buy Yusuf a new bed?’ Within 16 hours we’d raised enough money to buy that bed. I couldn’t believe it. And the money kept coming..!” Irina Kldiashvili: “Katie said that nothing was impossible and that what we could not do before due to time limits was possible to make happen now. Within a few weeks, with her support, we’d collected so much money that we were able to buy a total of four beds, a therapeutic bath-bed (which enables nurses to wash the children in comfort rather than having to bend over to hold them in the tile basin previously used) and a monitor for those children in the most critical conditions. What Katie has done is priceless. Even today, there are still people transferring money and offering to volunteer in some way. Additionally, other organizations and embassies have got involved. We hope to be able to continue

to do more for the children. Although they’re getting a great medical service at the Children’s New Clinic, we’re eager to equip each ward and also to get new bedsheets, and clothes and other daily things for the children. “I’d like to say a huge thank you to Katie, and to each and every person who stood by our side. I also want to thank our co-workers, our nurses and therapists who daily give their all to caring for the palliative children. I’d like to put the spotlight on our energetic and wellloved therapist, Irakli Sharangia, who helped us to bring the beds so quickly from Turkey. My thanks also go to the border guards who exempted us from extra fees and Irakli’s Turkish friends and all those involved in this kind act.” Katie Ruth Davies: “I’d like to offer my own thanks to all those people who saw fit to make a difference to the lives of these poor children. It went above and beyond anything I imagined when I posted that plea for help. But it’s made me ambitious and I hope to do more fund-raising for more needy children in future, so watch this space!

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DECEMBER 4 - 7, 2015

Head of National Environmental Agency on Current Challenges in Environmental Technologies Development and Coping with Climate Change


stablishedin2005,GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and organizations that envision “a future wherein decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observation and information.” GEO Member Governments include 96 nations, the European Commission, and 87 Participating Organizations comprised of international bodies with a mandate in Earth observation. The Twelfth Plenary Session of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO-XII) and Ministerial Summit was held in Mexico City, Mexico, on 11-13th of November, 2015. Approximately 410 delegates attended the Plenary and Ministerial Summit, representing 87 entities, including 41 countries and 37 participating organizations. Georgia Today spoke to Head of the National Environmental Agency, Tamar Bagratia, who was invited to participate.


Tamar Bagratia, Head of the National Environmental Agency


meetings included the adoption of the Mexico City Declaration and approval of the GEO Strategic Plan for 2016-2025. The importance of using Earth observation and related information to help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be a focus for GEO activities in the coming decade. The delegates once again confirm that full and open access to Earth observation data, information and knowledge is crucial for humanity as it faces unprecedented social, economic and environmental challenges.

warning systems and shared their best practice on natural hazard monitoring processes and early warning systems as set up in their counties. In this context, I must refer to the fact that one of the main work directions of the Mexico Ministerial was Public Health Surveillance that foresees the raising of public awareness and supporting policy-making and management through accurate monitoring and early warning at local, national, regional and global levels.

I think this is an important platform to look for partners, to gain information about new achievements and to fully integrate into the existing systems. However, in reality, Georgia is far from upto-date technology integration and we found quite a big gap in this sphere. This is due to the fact that, for a long time, the field of technology was not considered a priority. But we intend to work hard in this direction and we are aware that if we choose the right course, we have a chance to approximate to international standards. The principal outcomes of these



I would like to highlight that recently, as a response to the current top issues on the global agenda, an international conference on environmental monitoring technologies and early warning systems was held in Tbilisi, initiated by the National Environmental Agency with the assistance of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Swiss, French, Finnish and other international experts spoke about early

I should say, that the current reality leaves a lot to be desired. The out of date methodologies of the soviet times are still being applied in meteorological observation activities on a daily basis in Georgia. There is wide range of other problems in this sphere: the NEA has no meteorological

radars (at least 2 meteorological radars are needed), there is lack of information for modelling, and we are not sufficiently integrated into database sharing systems. What’s more, there is shortage of human recourses in regards to modern technology usage. In this matter, our major objective is to transfer timely from the post-soviet system and approach modern international standards on a national scale. As they say, a dollar invested into meteorology gains 20 dollars profit.

WHILE TALKING ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS ONE MUST MENTION THE MAIN PROBLEM ON THE GLOBAL AGENDA- THE CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUE The twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) will take place from 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris, France. It is evident that the climate change problem won’t be avoided by Georgia and the South Caucasian region. Global warming has already started to have a significant impact on nature

and people in Georgia– effects that will become even more severe in the future. With regard to climate change, Georgia already shows climate induced changes with increasing temperatures, shrinking glaciers, sea level rise, reduction and redistribution of river flows, decreasing snowfall and an upward shift of the snowline. More extreme weather events have also characterized the last ten years with flooding, landslides, forest fires and coastal erosion, with significant economic losses and human casualties as a result. In countries such as Georgia, the risks of climate change for the agricultural sector are a particularly immediate and important problem because the majority of the rural population depends either directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. Currently, the NEA is working intensively in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and, especially for this sector, climate change studies for all regions were elaborated. The NEA plans to address the climate change issues in Agrometeorology and develop this field, providing farmers with agriculturally relevant weather forecasts, as well as to develop strategic plans to assist climate change mitigation process. Despite the fact that the current national environmental observation network is scarce and inadequate, the NEA, with maximum aptitude, is carrying out its daily environmental monitoring activities and processes, acquiring data for final delivery to the affected parties. And, finally, we are strongly committed to the fact that the Agency must continue to grow and develop in order to respond to the current and future requirements.




UN Partners with Youth to Mark World AIDS Day in Georgia BY MARIAM SIKHARULIDZE


ince 1988, December 1 has been marked as the World AIDS Day to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS, show support for people living with HIV and commemorate people who have died. This year the UN marked World AIDS Day with ‘new hope’, as the world leaders committed to end AIDS epidemic by 2030, within the new Sustainable Development Agenda. With Georgia being no exception, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and Georgian Youth Development and Education Association (GYDEA) in partnership with University of Georgia (UG) joined the global marking and organized an event in the Round Garden opposite the UN House in Tbilisi. At the event, which aimed to increase awareness on HIV prevention among youth, the TV public service announcement (PSA) promoting free of charge HIV counseling and testing services among youth and women, was launched. The PSA is a collaborative initiative of the UNFPA and UN Women in partnership with the Georgian AIDS and Clin-

ical Immunology Research Center. The presentation of the video was followed with the Awards Ceremony of the winners of the Youth contest on the most creative media pieces on the topic of HIV prevention, announced by UNFPA earlier in November. After the awards ceremony, popular youth bands “Ghost Vision” and “King Monkey” performed for the audience. Currently, Georgia stands among HIV low prevalence countries; by November 2015 there have been 5 328 registered cases of HIV, the majority of which belong to 29-40 age group. The correlation between violence against women and HIV & AIDS is high and women and girl victims of violence represent those of the high risk group. Although the infection is mainly located among the male population (69% of total reported cases), during the last year the proportion of women affected increased from 25% to 31%. “In order to support HIV prevention, it is of utmost importance to increase awareness on the issue, especially among adolescents and youth. Although Georgia is an HIV/AIDS low prevalence country, the number of registered cases is on the rise, which represents a serious public health challenge. Increasingly, HIV impacts women, thus our efforts and responses to HIV must be targeted to addressing their needs,” – said Ms. Lela

Bakradze, Assistant Representative of UNFPA Georgia Country Office. The United Nations has a significant role and is committed to support implementation of the new Global UNAIDS strategy globally and at the national level. HIV control and management

Invitation to Participate in the Sales Procedures Announced by the Embassy of the Republic of France in Georgia on the Sale of 3933 sq/m Land Plot Located in the Center of Tbilisi The Embassy of the Republic of France in Georgia has announced a Sales Procedures on the sale of land plot located adjacent to the Rustaveli Avenue at 4 Khazina St., Tbilisi, Georgia. The land plot has the following characteristics: cadastral code –; total area of the land plot - 3933 sq/m. The land plot qualifies as type 2 recreational zone with the following coefficients: K1= [0,2], K2=[undefined] and K3=[Undefined]. Please, take into account that the Sales Procedures n will be conducted in accordance with the Rules for Submission of Offers available on the web-page of the Embassy: ambafrance-ge.org, or by e-mail request at contact.tbilissi-amba@diplomatie.gouv.fr. The interested Parties shall submit their Expression of Interest in a form and to the addressee(s) envisaged in the Rules for Submission of Offers. In case of additional questions, please, contact [the consul or hes representative] at the following e-mail [contact.tbilissi-amba@diplomatie.gouv.fr] or call at [(00 995 32) 272 14 90] from Monday to Friday from 9:30 AM till 12:30 PM. The Expression of Interest shall be submitted to the Contact Person indicated above no later than 15th of October 2015.

continues to be a central plank of global strategies to improve women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health. HIV prevention among youth has been one of the key focus areas of UNFPA Georgia Country Office for more than a decade now. UNFPA supports strengthen-

ing of integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health services and strongly believes that increased national investments in HIV prevention, especially for young people and key affected populations, will contribute to ending AIDS epidemic by 2030.



‘There Will Be Khinkali and Drinking!’ Ogden on Hospitality OPED BY TIM OGDEN


ny foreigner in Georgia, whether he be the seasoned expat or a new arrival fresh off the plane, will know (or at least have heard) about the great Georgian pride in their national hospitality. I should point out that there are many forms of Georgian hospitality, but for young foreign chaps like me, the initial encounter comes in the form of a Georgian man performing the celebrated let-me-be-your-brother role: ‘There will be khinkali and drinking,’ he says, with the air of the Creator establishing land and sea. These parties, whether impromptu supras in a modest home or in a grand restaurant booked and paid for, usually seem to be what is referred to when one hears the phrase ‘Georgian hospitality’. They typically result in one drinking enough wine to sink a ship and listening to inflated complimentary toasts that leave you feeling sure that you are in possession of the best qualities of Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln and Mike Tyson. However, the notion of Georgian hos-

pitality incurs a great deal of cynicism from foreigners. For sour English sceptics like myself, the sight and sound of Georgians toasting you, dubbing you a ‘good man’, wishing you every success in life and heaping blessings on your ancestors on first acquaintance can come across as ludicrously insincere. Besides which, a significant number of my own forebears were lawyers, politicians or career criminals (or a mixture of all three), so whether they deserve a blessing at all is highly debatable. This, of course, is the view of one Englishman, and we are notoriously cold; we tolerate rather than like our friends, endure our families for legal reasons (murder and assault being frowned upon these days) and marry due to a genetic instinct that the English race must survive, if only to point out to the rest of the species just how damn silly they all are, and if they would just drink tea and vent their anger towards each other with curt remarks or a timely sniff then there would be no more war. For us, manners are one thing, but heaping praise and good wishes on perfect strangers is nothing short of madness. Georgians are hospitable...though with


DECEMBER 4 - 7, 2015

A traditional Georgian supra table painted by Pirosmani

certain Georgians, this only lasts as long as one agrees with absolutely everything they say. It can be unnerving to hear a crowd of ten Georgian men growling about how Stalin was a great man, how homosexuality is a ‘sickness’ and how women are either prostitutes or mothers, then look them in the eye and say ‘No’. (I’ve lost count of the amount of houses I’ve left in disgrace, though thankfully that type of ‘conservative’ Georgian seems to be a dying breed.) Some years ago, an American friend of mine got into a fight, and seeing his face bruised I asked what had happened. It turned out he’d been at a supra. ‘I just didn’t want to do a traditional toast with [a guy]. He pushed me, so I hit him.’ Naturally, most Georgians cringe at such stories, and such ugly incidents are rare. These ‘traditional’ Georgians are just over-bearing and slightly pushy, aggressively friendly in a way which can be annoying rather than offensive; in the same way, foreigners can be entirely tactless and unspeakably arrogant: I’ve seen both sides kick the tension off. Don’t get the wrong idea; after all, as an Englishman with a smattering of Welsh blood, I don’t particularly like

anybody. When one finds a real Georgian friend (and not the type who puts his paw on your shoulder, promises to show you where his grandfather makes wine, then asks if you like football and strip clubs), you’ll never find a truer compan-

ion. Just endure the endless toasts, the half-hearted offers and forceful friendships that borderline on violations of personal space until you find one of the many normal Georgians who are as sick of their hospitality as you are.

Georgia Participates in the OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting


he 22nd meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council has opened in Belgrade. The Georgian delegation is headed by the Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Kvirikashvili is expected to deliver a speech at the Ministerial Council plenary meeting, in which he will focus on the security challenges to the OSCE and on the current situation in Georgia’s occupied territories. According to the MFA, Kvirikashvili will meet with OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and

Human Rights Michael Georg Link, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovi and Foreign Ministers of other countries. As part of the OSCE Ministerial Council, a meeting of the GUAM Foreign Ministers Council is also expected.



Tbilisi’s Own Billy Elliot: A Ballet Success Story BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


eorgia Today spoke to William Pratt, a 31-year-old British soloist of the State Ballet of Georgia, who has been living in Georgia for almost seven years, about his inspiration and the challenges he has faced in his career.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO BALLET DANCING? I got into dancing because my sisters were into it. At first I did it just for fun but then the New York City Ballet came on tour to England and I went to one of their performances and that was what really made me want to pursue dance as a career.

HAVE YOU FACED ANY CHALLENGES AS A MALE BALLET DANCER? I haven’t really faced many challenges to do with being a male dancer, though you do get the occasional comment. I’ve not had any negative experiences in Georgia- it was more when I was starting out that I had the problems. I was scared to tell my friends what I was doing but once I did, they were all great about it. That said, I do think once ‘Billy Elliot’ came out people’s perception really started to change towards male ballet dancers. [N.B. ‘Billy Elliot’ is a 2000 British dance drama film featuring an 11-yearold boy who is an aspiring dancer dealing with the negative stereotype of the male ballet dancer in 1980s north-east England].

HOW DID YOU MEET PRIMA BALLERINA NINA ANANIASHVILI AND WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF HER? I first met Nina when I arrived in Georgia. I was nervous because I’d been living quite an isolated existence in New Zealand for nine years- away from the

international dance scene. But I remember at the New Zealand School of Dance we had a library and in the video section there was a DVD on Nina doing Swan Lake and I honestly cannot count how many times I watched that DVD! When I realized I was going to be working for her, it was an amazing and scary feeling. And I’ll never forget my first meeting with Nina: I arrived in Georgia on a Sunday was taken straight to the theatre to meet the Company. I was sitting at the front of the studio waiting to watch a class and Nina walked in! When she said hello, I just remember that her face and eyes had so much energy, I could tell straight away how motivated a person she was!

HOW DID YOU END UP IN GEORGIA? Though New Zealand gave me so much that I’ll always be grateful for, I left the company there after two years because I felt like there was a huge world out there to explore. I went back home to England and basically spent time either living on my friend’s floor in Lindon or travelling around Europe auditioning. My last audition was in France and I almost didn’t go because my money was running out- but I’m so glad I did as it was there I met Frank Andersen, who had worked with the State Ballet of Georgia many times. He watched a class and after he asked for my details to pass on to Nina and within two weeks of that first meeting, I was in Tbilisi.

William Pratt, a British ballet soloist, can be seen on stage in Tbilisi

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST AND LEAST ABOUT LIFE IN GEORGIA? The thing I love most about Georgia is the people. Georgian people are so warm and loyal, which is very hard to find in a lot of other countries. I also love that Georgia has given me so many great memories and experiences- and also I met my amazing wife here, Maia, and we have two beautiful daughters, so Georgia has given me more than I could ever have asked for.

WILL YOUR GIRLS FOLLOW IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS? WILL YOU ENCOURAGE THEM TO? I don’t know if my girls will dance or not. My oldest daughter Ana, who is 6,

Embassies, International Organizations in Georgia Discuss on Security Challenges


tate Security service of Georgia hosted a joint meeting that brought together representatives of embassies and international organizations accredited in Georgia, as well as security attaches. The participants of the meeting underlined the threats and challenges facing international community as well as underlined importance of fight against terrorism and strengthening international cooperation in law enforcement. The parties discussed unity of international community and importance of

information exchange mechanisms improvement. Recent reform implemented, aspects of the activities and prospects of development of State Security Service were also discussed during the meeting. The meeting brought together head of administration of State Security Service of Georgia Lela Chikovani, head of Counter-terrorism Center Irakli Chimakadze, head of Anti-corruption Agency Lasha Tsomaia, head of Analytical department Irakli Beraia and other officials. The meeting was attended by the representatives of partner countries: the

USA (Federal Bureau of investigation, State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, as well as Regional Security officer), Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, the UK, Estonia, Turkey, Japan, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Greece, France, Armenia, Ukraine and Hungary, representatives of embassies, security and police attaches. The event was also attended by representatives from Europol, NATO and the European Union Office in Georgia, the EU Monitoring Mission and the Red Cross.

loves dancing but I’m not sure whether she’ll choose it as a career, I always say ‘no way’ but, honestly, I want my kids to experience as much as I have and more. I am so grateful to my parents for all the sacrifices and time they invested in me growing up, so I want the same for my girls; I want to be able to give them everything. You have had solo roles in Sarabande, Petite Mort, and Sechs Tanze by Jiri Kylian, Charms of Mannerism by Alexei Ratmansky, Sagalobeli by Yuri Possokhov, amongst others, and have played roles such as Rothbart in Swan Lake and danced Espada and Bolero in Don Quixote. What does it take to be a soloist? To be a soloist I think anywhere in the world it’s not just about how well you dance but about how hard you work. I’ve


known many dancers with a lot of talent but who got impatient and then lazy having to start from the bottom in a company. I don’t see myself as the most talented dancer but I always wanted it badly enough to work hard for it. I was told time and time again to give it up; that there was no future in it, but that just made me want it more! I even had one teacher ask me what my father did and when I said he was a bricklayer, he quietly suggested I think about doing an apprenticeship with him and stop dancing! I feel so lucky that I’ve had the chance to work for the number one Prima Ballerina in the world and have travelled all over the globe doing what I love to do. So, I think being a successful soloist is about how you go about your job and I guess some talent also helps...




DECEMBER 4 - 7, 2015

Chaos or Law? Svaneti BY TONY HANMER


od forbid. I first entered Svaneti in the summer of 1999, taking a taxi from Kutaisi with three friends when we failed to find a rumored helicopter from there. We didn’t see much of the watchtowers on the way to Mestia, having set off late enough that it was dark when we arrived. En route we were stopped by a Soviet “Jeep” and a lady told us off for coming without protection or arrangements. She put us up in her guest house, and maybe saved us from kidnapping or armed robbery, all too common in the province in those wild days. After that I came under the “protection” of the relatives of a friend in Tbilisi when I visited Svaneti; he is from the village my wife and I now live in, which is largely why we’re here. His relatives were in the Aprasidze clan, themselves part of the criminal situation here which President Saakashvili dealt with in a multi-helicopter raid on our village about ten years ago, “taking out” a father and son and imprisoning two more sons. (Under Shevardnadze they had been under some sort of house arrest which left them free to pursue their activities without consequence.) Their house still

stands, ruined and abandoned, about 15 minutes’ walk above ours. The wife moved away from Svaneti; the two sons are now free. After that raid, Svaneti quickly became a much more lawful place. The message that We Will Have Peace Here was successfully transmitted, it seems. Police structures were replaced and enlarged, as they were elsewhere in Georgia, and I began to see the sorts of travelers which indicate feelings of safety—loners, women, children. No one wants those times back again. The local people who had nowhere else to go were under a curtain of terror, never knowing when they would be robbed on the road or even at home, or kidnapped. Those who could, somehow, left. Infrastructure was bad too, the road much worse than it is now, electricity very haphazard, the police rare birds. It really was Georgia’s Wild West. If you entered the place without good local contacts and presence, you were taking your life in your hands. This all hardly touched me, thanks to my protectors, but it was in the background of every trip I made here from 1999 to 2005. My friend feared for me when I bought some very nice second hand winter boots; they were too attractive not to want to steal off my feet. We can’t ever go back to that... can we? Well, Svaneti has been like that before,

and has been “pacified” before too. The highest part of it proudly declared themselves ubatono, “lordless”, in feudal times. All it will take is a little less attention from Tbilisi and Zugdidi, a little more pushing and shoving at local power and authority, a little more looking the other way or even becoming actively involved in local crime. Now, I’m not saying that this is happening now, not trying to be a scare-monger and drive tourism away again. In a few days’ time, a new ski resort, with the highest-altitude winter sports in Georgia, is due to open between Mulakhi and Ipari villages, called Tetnuldi. We want this! It’s good for everyone, locals and foreign investors alike. I am, however, saying that the balance could be tipped back to chaos again without too much difficulty. As the owner of the main shop and a guest house in my village, I now have a vested interest in seeing this place stay peaceful and safe. I live here too! I haven’t been a mere visitor for years now! God forbid. Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1250 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

President Saakashvili dealt with in a multi-helicopter raid on our village about ten years ago, “taking out” a father and son and imprisoning two more sons. Their house still stands, ruined and abandoned, about 15 minutes’ walk above ours




The 16th International Film Festival Begins BY MAKA LOMADZE


ere we go! The event that is largely awaited by all generations of Georgians and foreigners, already a bench-mark in spite of the great financial problems Georgian cinematography faces today: the Tbilisi International Film Festival (Prometheus) has started, due to the enthusiastic creative and technical team, dedication to the world cinema and wish to support the new generation of Georgian directors. Over 100 films will be shown from November 30 to December 6. The festival was opened on November 30, by the Georgian movie by Levan Tutberidze titled “Moira”, present on the official list of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the foreign-language film contenders among 81 countries overall.

The most large-scale annual cinema occasion based in Tbilisi chooses one topical issue. This year’s Prometheus mainly focuses on women’s issues. A separate bloc is dedicated to women’s vision and their problems. The team of the festival aim to boost public discussion on gender equality, violence against women, realization of women in politics, social or cultural spheres, feminism, women’s cinema and women in cinema. The organizers also aim to share information and widen the network inside the South Caucasus region between appropriate gender experts and people in charge of cinematography. The international jury is also headed by a lady – Martha Fiennes from Great Britain. There are two more female judges: Pnina Blayer from Israel, Artistic Director of Haifa International Film Festival, and Nutsa Alexi-Meskhishvili, Georgian director. The remaining two jury members are men: Pitter Scarlet, a film historian from the US, and Alik Shpilug, a film critic from Ukraine.

As per tradition, the mainstream is an international contest, this year featuring films like: ‘Youth’ – which premiered at the 2015 Cannes Festival and was nominated for a Palme D’or, ‘Goat’ – a Slovakian movie and a competitor in the best foreign films at the Oscars ceremony, and ‘45 years’- starring Charlotte Rampling and directed by Andrew Haigh, which was given 98% out of the total 100 on the Rotten Tomatoes web-site. The organizers believe that young directors need special help and material aids, as well as recognition and prizes. “Prizes are important for a director’s further career as well as for the film’s future, as awarded films are always more commercially attractive,” said Gaga Chkeidze, Prometheus General Director. Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, stated that expectations should not be too high “considering our tight budget,” adding that they plan to create a format to boost closer cooperation between the Georgian

business circles and cinema. The Georgian panorama is very colorful and represents full-length movies, as well as short films and documentaries and a national competition will be held in all three nominations. This year, Prometheus offers a new bloc titled ‘Cinema for Social Change’ - an international film project dedicated to presenting documentary and feature films focused on essential political and social issues facing people today. The festival has set other prizes too: two extra Prometheus for special contribution to the development of cinema, which is set to become traditional – one will go to a foreigner and one to a Georgian cinematographer. It has already been voiced who will be the holders or these prizes: the Georgian female direc-

tor Lana Ghoghoberidze, and 60 year old Harutiun Khachatrian, an Armenian director who founded the ‘Golden Apricot’ film foundation and Yerevan Film Festival. There is also one more reward named after Georgian-born great Armenian director Parajanov that will go to a selected film for its particular cinematographic aesthetics. Besides the sections mentioned above, the European Forum, Made in Germany, Horizons, French Collection and Country in Focus: Switzerland, as well as Cinema Memory, Animations, and Special Screening are being offered. Traditionally, the golden Prometheus will go to the best film and the silver one – to the best directing. Watch this space for the latest news on the Tbilisi International Film Festival, and visit us at georgiatoday.ge

Culture Plus: the Ministry of Culture Publishes a New Magazine BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


egin working in a kitchen or in some corner if you wish, but do it in a Georgian way, with Georgian words, with a Georgian idea, with Georgian knowledge and awareness, and with Georgian love…- said Shalva Kikodze, Georgian expressionist painter, graphic

artist and theatre decorator, in 1920. With this in mind, the quarterly bilingual (Georgian-English) magazine ‘Culture Plus’ is the latest offering of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, produced with the hopes of boosting awareness of the deep historical and contemporary culture that Georgia has to offer. With the themes of history, literature, cinema, visual arts, music, artists, festivals, culture heritage and more, the magazine also aims to promote

talented Georgian artists, musicians and writers. The first issue is packed with descriptions of past and future festivals, amongst them this year’s Black Sea Jazz festival with its crowning glory- Snoop Dogg, the Venice International Biennale and Prague Quadrennial, and Frankfurt Book Fair 2018, at which Georgia will be the Guest of Honor. You will also hear the wisdom of such Georgian greats as Galaktion (in this case, from his Cyber-self),

get a real feel for the Kutaisi beloved by famed poet Akaki Tsereteli, and hear a fair criticism of the state of the country’s cinema industry from someone very much in the know. As the Editors say in the preface to the magazine: “Georgian culture and art is an important lever in the country’s intellectual and economic formation. Furthermore, both our country’s success and the basis of our future are strongly dependent on

our intellect, our spirituality, taste, and culture in general. Every nation should try to reveal its national essence to its own, as well as to the rest of the civilized world, and to acquaint them with it. A nation that fails to share its spirituality with others has no future, and this is tantamount to treason.” The new ‘Culture Plus’ magazine will be distributed to governmental institutions and the diplomatic corps, and will be found in libraries throughout Georgia.




DECEMBER 4 - 7, 2015

Movie Night in Old Tbilisi Raises Questions for Future of City’s Walkers BY ROBERT ISAF


alking Tbilisi can be a hazardous prospect. Iare Pekhit, a threeyear old Non-Governmental Organization based in Tbilisi, aims to change that.

One step towards change took place last Saturday night, right where the Old City’s winding streets start, with a discussion and documentary film showing on the matter of urbanization in our modern world. The film, “Urbanized,” was released in 2011, and presents its audience many of the questions facing cities and their design today. The screening was held at

Kiwi Café, a non-profit vegan coffee shop and restaurant located on Vertskhili St. that, since opening over the summer, has become something of a community center for many activism-oriented groups and individuals. Though the kitchen was closed for personal orders, finger snacks, popcorn, glintwine, and cider were provided, cups and platters the only things able to pass through a room the crowd

had packed to capacity. Iare Pekhit organizers Elene Margvelashvili and Inge Snip led the evening, assisted by Irakli Zhvania, an MIT-trained architect and city planner who gave a brief introduction to the history of urban planning before the screening began. The film – which showcased places as disparate as the slums of Santiago and the central train station in Stuttgart – provided the crowd with plenty of fodder. During the discussion that took place afterwards, however, the film’s segment on Bogota, its charismatic mayor, and the public transportation network he oversees, which prioritizes pedestrians, bikes, and rapid-transit busses, took center stage, with Ms. Snip asking the attendees: “Do you think it’s possible to have the Bogota ideas in Tbilisi?” The audience consensus seemed to be that it was possible, but only with proper city leadership. For the time being, that leadership simply doesn’t seem to exist. The old general plan for Tbilisi has been ignored for years, it was explained, with the rationale that a new general plan is being completed. In the meantime, the situation on the ground remains chaotic, plagued by a lack of communication between government ministries, inac-

What is happening right now in Tbilisi in terms of urban development is exactly what the world is trying to get rid of

tion due to election-year cowardice, and the allocation of funds to outdated projects and solutions like highway overpasses and boulevard underpasses. With this in mind, Ms. Margvelashvili explained Iare Pekhit’s current strategy for improving the world of pedestrians: “What we’re trying to work on at the moment are the (city planning laws) that exist and aren’t being implemented,” she said. “Things that are already in the (old) general plan. For example, parking on the sidewalk.” Furthermore, as the government eyes the looming elections, “what we’ve been trying very hard to do is convince them that this is not an unpopular decision. Of course, it will be uncomfortable to some people but in the long term everyone will see that this will make people happier, and work for the majority of people who don’t have cars.” Certainly, the current of development in Georgia isn’t encouraging. “What is happening right now in Tbilisi, looking at the urban development tendencies, is exactly what the world is trying to get rid of,” Mr. Zhvania told the audience. “What we are doing now is what was done in the West in the 1960s. By the 70s they realized that it was absolutely wrong – and now what they are trying to get away from, [the Tbilisi city government] are trying to do!” Iare Pekhit’s characteristic focus on advocacy through art, displayed in their “Care for your City” public art contest, of which a new round has recently been announced, and by the make-up of their staff, the majority of whom are personally involved in the arts themselves, made the choice of venue feel entirely natural. The crowd, though skewing young, drew visibly from all ages and walks of life. The organizers were themselves visibly emboldened by the result. “I think that tonight shows that there’s a demand,” Ms. Snip told the crowd, explaining to it the changes Iare Pekhit is trying to implement on Tbilisi’s streets. “Maybe this is the right time, the opportunity to create an opportunity, to build on this and to make a change.”


Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 December 4 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10, 15, 20 Lari December 5 RAMONA Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10, 15, 20 Lari December 6 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10, 15, 20 Lari

December 6 WEDDING Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari MOVEMENT THEATRE Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 December 4, 6 INTRO Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: From 10 Lari ROYAL DISTRICT THEATRE Address: 10 Abesadze Str. Telephone: 2 99 61 71 December 6 WOMEN OF TROY Directed by Data Tavadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10 Lari

MARJANISHVILI THEATRE Address: 5 Marjanishvli Str. Telephone: 2 95 59 66

TBILISI NODAR DUMBADZE STATE CENTRAL CHILDREN’S THEATRE Address: 99/1 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 95 39 27

December 4 LOVE LETTERS Alan Garner Directed by Temur Chkheidze The Roof English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket Price: 12 Lari

December 6 NEW YEAR EVE AND ALIENS Directed By Dimitri Gvtisiashvili Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: From 6 Lari

GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 December 5 YELLOW ANGLE Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari


Address: 2 Tvalchrelidze Str. Telephone: 2 007 007 December 4-7 THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 Directed by Francis Lawrence Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh

Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 17:20 Language: Russian Start time: 17:00, 19:50, 22:50 Ticket price: 10.50 – 13.50 Lari SPECTRE Directed by Sam Mendes Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 22:45 Ticket price: 12.00 – 13.00 Lari MACBETH Directed by Justin Kurzel Cast: Michael Fassbender, Elizabeth Debicki, Marion Cotillard Genre: Drama, War Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 14:30, 20:15, 22:30 Ticket price: 7.00 – 13.00 Lari VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN Directed by Paul McGuigan Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 12:45, 15:15, 17:15 Ticket price: 10.00 – 11.00 Lari IN THE HEART OF THE SEA Directed by Ron Howard Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson Genre: Action, Adventure, Biography Language: English Start time: 20:00 Language: Russian Start time: 22:45 Ticket price: 12.00 – 13.00 Lari THE GOOD DINOSAUR 3D Directed by Peter Sohn Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Frances

McDormand, Maleah Nipay-Padilla Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy Language: English Start time: 17:45 Ticket price: 11.00 – 12.00 Lari SICARIO Directed by Denis Villeneuve Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro Genre: Action, Crime, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:15 Ticket price: 12.00 – 13.00 Lari MUSEUM



Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge

November 7 – December 6 THE EXHIBITION OF SCENOGRAPHY by three Georgian artists – Oleg Kochakidze, Alexander Slovinsky, Yuri Chikvaidze. The exposition is dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the three members of the artistic group working on scenography. RED SQUARE Address: 88 Paliashvili Str. Telephone: 577 74 77 45 November 25 – December 6 RED SQUARE gallery presents ELENE AKHVLEDIANI personal exhibition MUSIC

TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 December 5 VLADIMIR COSMA MASTERPIECES OF FRENCH CINEMA MUSIC Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: From 20 Lari TBILISI ART HALL Address: 26 Ts. Dadiani Str. December 5 GEORGIAN OSSETIAN EVENING Ossetian State Ensemble “Nartebi” Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari TBILISI BAROQUE FESTIVAL 2015 www.tbf.ge THE WORLD OF ANTONIO VIVALDI Start time: 19:30 Ticket price: From 15 Lari Venue: Rustaveli Theatre




Erisioni, The Light on the Mountain Top Standing Strong

Erisioni General Manager, Otar Bluashvili



eorgian State Academic Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance Erisioni was founded in 1885 and since then has maintained its uniqueness and true Georgian folk spirit, remaining strong through the world wars, Tsarism and other great troubles- never losing its originality and conveys folk masterpieces to generations. It is equally eulogized in Europe and the United States and in 1977, the Americans sent Erisioni’s Chakrulo to the Universe as a priceless art work. On November 27th, Erisioni marked its 130 year anniversary and wowed its audience as never before. Georgia Today congratulated Erisioni its 130 years and spoke exclusively with its General Manager Otar Bluashvili about the ensemble’s foundation, success, challenges and recent grand show in Tbilisi.

brought the Americans and the French and decided to go on tour. He said we needed a great advert for our group, and a shorter name! Therefore, we started searching for the right name and contacted linguist Levan Gvinchilia who recommended we name it Erisioni which, according to the Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani dictionary, meant the light high on the mountain. After that we truly achieved a lot of success. Thanks to American businessman Jim Lowe, who financed our first concert in the States in 2000. In 2002 we had two concerts in Paris with box office success. Then we shot the video for Shatilis Asulo (Daughter of Shatili) in the Alps which became an instant hit, leading to our appearing in 13 French cities. The French produced the disc ‘Georgian Legend’ and then Universal Studios in France compiled an album of the most popular albumns collection and named it ‘World Voices’. Our ‘Daughter of Shatili’ was included at #2.

Yes, it was a very special day. The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia and City Hall assisted us to make this great show. We added new costumes and new performances and the audience clearly showed their intense emotions to see it. We put a lot into it and got back just that!


It unfortunately happens that, due to the lack of money, we have lost artists. I would say it is catastrophic. Turkey offers tenfold more to them and they go. One

of the greatest opera singers told me that, “Of course you should have opera and ballet, but they will always have their supporters from Italy and France and no one will be held to your Chakrulo and Kazbeguri except you.” Since our personnel started moving on, we have lost something of our true spirit. Our dancers serve other countries and we lose our own. That said, Georgia has been through worse times and not lost its folk music. So, we will face the challenges, stand strong, and keep offering the wonder of Georgian folk music and dance to the world as only the Erisioni ensemble can do!


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

10 Galaktion Street


MR BLUASHVILI, HOW WAS ERISIONI FOUNDED AND HOW DID IT GET ITS NAME? In 1885, Georgian philanthropist Lado Aghniashvili brought together musicians from different regions along with Czech musician Josef Navradel, an opera singer who accompanied an Italian group here in 1880, as a conductor. Navradel formed a small group with his opera singers and studied Georgian folk music. When the question arose as to who should be appointed as conductor, he was chosen as one able to put Georgian songs into musical notes. The Georgian Honored State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble was born- the first professional group in Georgia to lay the groundwork for professional activities, after which these talented people, once scattered around Georgia- along with the whole country -started to sing! During Tsarism, Russia was not pleased with the fact and of course refused financial support. The group functioned with the help of philanthropists and benevolence and the artists were paid very little or not at all. In 1924, Givi Pachkoria was appointed Head and much success came with his arrival on the scene. In 1999, French producer Martin Gérarti came and

I joined in 1976 as a soloist singer. Before, I had been a member of other ensembles and when I came here I was already a professional. For 22 years I was the lead singer and used to sing Kartli-Kakheti songs. In 1986, the management was changed and Jemal Tchkuaseli came. We continued working, started a new program, the clothing was changed, and new views were born. Then he offered me the chance to move into administrative

We added new costumes and new performances. We put a lot into it and got back just that!



Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Mako Burduli


service in 1998. Now, I am a General Manager. Soon I’ll have been working here 40 years! People often ask me how I stayed in the same job for so long and I say: I love my job! Honestly, my family always supported me in working here. My sons followed in their father’s stepsone joined us and the other graduated in the State and is involved in art. My wife Nana has been working here over 20 years as a costume designer.


Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Tamar Svanidze, Zviad Adzinbaia, Beqa Kirtava, Meri Taliashvili, Eka Karsaulidze, Zaza Jgharkava, Ana Lomtadze, Maka Bibilashvili, Nina Ioseliani, Tatia Megeneishvili, Karen Tovmasyan, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Nino Japarashvili, Maka Lomadze

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #799  

Dec. 04 - 07, 2015

Issue #799  

Dec. 04 - 07, 2015