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Issue no: 815





In this week’s issue...

ICC Authorizes Investigation into 2008 War, Russia Unimpressed

Donald Jensen on Lavrov’s Pankisi Concerns POLITICS PAGE 4

Georgia Looking Good, but Could Be Better in the Eyes of the EU POLITICS PAGE 6


ON WAR & PEACE Looking back to 2008 war and hoping for peace in Pankisi

PAGE 2-7

ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, recently revealed further details regarding the investigation

Discussing Georgia’s Prospects: IDFI Forum Brings Together Experts and Civil Society


Continued on page 2


Over 300 Thousand People Visited Georgia in January SOCIETY PAGE 9

Seventh Annual Burns Supper Breaks Fundraising Record


n 1-2 February, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), in partnership with the University of Bremen and with the financial support of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, organized an International Forum – ‘The Prospects of Georgia’s Democratic and Economic Development,’ at Tbilisi Courtyard Marriott Hotel. The Forum capped off a massive, two year-long project – ‘Strategic Plan Georgia 2020 – Strengthening Public Involvement (ZigB)’ that studied, analyzed and promoted ‘Georgia 2020,’ a strategic development document that was put forth as a collective vision of the government and civil society.

Iowa Caucuses: Cruz Smacks Donald Trump, Democrats ‘Feel the Bern’


International Forum ‘The Prospects of Georgia’s Democratic and Economic Development.’ With Ghia Nodia, Nils Scott, Lincoln Mitchell and Michael Hikari Cecire

Bloody Sheets: An Ageold Tradition Still Held in Georgia’s Regions SOCIETY PAGE 11

Turashvili’s Top 5 MustReads of Georgian Literature CULTURE PAGE 13

Watercolor Reflections of an Artist’s Mind and Soul CULTURE PAGE 15




FEBRUARY 5 - 8, 2016

ICC Authorizes Investigation into 2008 War, Russia Unimpressed BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


he International Criminal Court, the world’s foremost body in regards to jurisdiction on war crimes, is set to investigate some of the most disturbing aspects of the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. On January 27, the Office of the Prosecutor (“Office”) of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) was authorized by Judges in the Pre-Trial Chamber I to commence an investigation into the alleged ICC crimes occurring on the territory of Georgia between 1 July 2008 and 10 October 2008. The alleged crimes are attributed to the three parties involved in the armed conflict – the Georgian armed forces, the South Ossetian forces, and the Russian armed forces. At this early stage, the

appointed ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda has paid a visit to Georgia. Recently, she revealed further details regarding the investigation in in an exclusive interview with the Public Broadcaster. Bensouda said that when there is enough evidence to prove this or that person’s guilt, she will require the issuance of an arrest warrant. “We have information that there were attacks on peacekeepers from both Russia and Georgia… The Court does not settle disputes between countries. It is not our mandate to talk about the territorial borders either. Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide are within our jurisdiction. The Office will investigate, for example, murders of peacekeepers. We have information that there were attacks on peacekeepers both from Russia and Georgia. We are going to obtain information about this. Our goal is to reveal individuals responsible for the crime. This requires solid evi-

dence. Only evidence will lead to individual persons and then we will demand issuance of an arrest warrant. It can be one person or more than one,” Prosecutor Bensouda said. The Prosecutor also noted that her Office is monitoring the process of investigation underway in Russia. “As for Georgia, it ceased the investigation in March last year. Georgia is a member of the Rome Statute (ICC treaty that went into force in 2002), meaning that it is obliged to investigate crimes committed on its territory. However, if the country is unable to do it, our office gets engaged in the process,” she said, adding that she needs close cooperation with Georgia. Speaking of Russia, which is not a signatory state of the Rome Statute, Official Moscow was none too revealing with how the investigation is going. Russia’s Ministry of Justice issued a statement confirming it would not cooperate with the investigation, while earlier the spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, flatly voiced that Moscow was “unhappy and disappointed” with ICC’s recent activities and hinted at a possible reviewing of its relations with the Hague. The official justification from Kremlin officials was somewhat vaguer, attributing the refusal to participate to the fact that Russia hasn’t yet ratified the Rome Statute, which the country signed in 2000. The Georgian side, on the other hand, offered full support to the investigation. Less than subtle hints were also made by Georgian officials, hinting it wouldn’t be in the best interests of Moscow to see the issue solved and investigated by an independ-

ent, objective third party. As to how long the investigation will last, Bensouda said that it depends on how quickly she will be able to find the

facts. The Prosecutor said that the investigation lasted 1 year in Uganda, 18 months in Congo, and 3 years in other similar cases.

Discussing Georgia’s Prospects: IDFI Forum Brings Together Experts and Civil Society Continued from page 1

Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili opened the Forum, thanking the IDFI, who in recent years has effectively become one of the most influential NGOs in Georgia’s civil society podium, on bringing about more awareness of the document and the tenets of open and good governance in general. Packed with high ranking officials, the forums opening ceremony was also highlighted with speeches delivered by The Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, Janos Herman; German Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Georgia, Bettina Cadenbach; and Director of the IDFI, Giorgi Kldiashvili. The Forum was divided into two panels that included the following topics: Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic Aspirations Main areas of EU-Georgia Partnership Georgia’s Economic Development Georgia’s Democratic Development The ranks of speakers were hand-picked and boasted renowned opinion-makers

scholars of Georgia from in and outside of the country. The esteemed guests and the general public discussed matters such as the process of Georgia’s integration into the European Union and NATO and the existing challenges in this regard; the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area; perspectives of Georgia’s accession to the Energy Community; Visa Liberalization, and Georgia’s economic and democratic development. Though all equally interesting, the energy community discussion panel proved a particularly engaging affair – no doubt owing partly to the scarcity of such discussions in recent memory and to the much scrutinized so-called ‘Gazprom negotiations.’ It was gratifying to see the experts, the EU commission’s very own Federico Tarantini among them, handling the keen public interest with poise and wellfounded, insightful remarks. The Forum, easily one of the most impressive and well-organized in recent memory, was concluded on February 2 to standing ovation, a fact the IDFI (and should) be undeniably proud about.



Georgian Capital to Have 18-Hole Golf Course

View over the proposed site. Photo by Tilander Golf Design



n 18-hole golf course is to be laid on a high hillside above Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia. Primera Residence Development and Construction and Tilander Golf Design have agreed on a golf course design which has already begun and will be completed in 2017. The area where the course is going to be set up offers a breath-taking view of the city and beyond, all the way to the snow-capped Caucasus Mountains. “There are large elevation changes within the property, too. The lowest and highest greens will have nearly 130 meters between them. However, golfers will move up and down the course gradually, not one hole will have exorbitant elevation change either up or down. The

nearby landscape will be dominated by areas of planted pines, as well as steep and treeless ravines,” Tilander Golf Design reports. The company also announced that the Tbilisi climate will allow for almost yearround play. Only in the dead of winter, from December to February, where the average daily temperature is below 10 degrees Celsius, will play be halted. The best time to play will be the spring and autumn. The designers have kept the young golfing culture of the country in mind. Four sets of tees will offer a substantially different challenge to people, starting from 4,600 meters and stretching to 6,300 meters. According to the company there will be no forced carries, thus anyone with a short driver will have no problem playing. Golf balls straying from the fairways will be easily found due to the naturally low-growing grass cover.

needed,” Tilander Golf Design explained. More construction work will follow the gold course and eventually the Primera area will have hundreds of homes surrounding it. The golf course is also to boast a driving range and a short game practice area.

Norwegian Salmon Farming to Launch in Georgia BY ANA AKHALAIA


Norwegian salmon farm is to be set up in Kobuleti on the coast of the Black Sea, which will produce ecologically clean seafood with new technologies. On February 3rd the Norwegian com-

pany Green Sea Food’s representative, Steiner Gravas, and the Minister of Agriculture, Otar Danelia, signed a memorandum which includes three phases for the project. The first is a pilot, the second is actual production, and the final stage is distribution and export. Gravas stated during the meeting that they had the same project proposal from Kazakhstan, Armenia and Russia, but decided that Georgia was the most advan-

Eurofast Named South East Europe Leading Corporate Adviser of the Year

E “Experienced players will be challenged by occasionally narrow fairways and by sloped greens. Strategically placed bunkers will demand course management skills. The shaping of the fairways will follow the existing land; therefore, no large-scale cut and fill work will be

tageous for the project. “Georgia’s geographic location and water resources- rivers, lakes and sea -are very favorable for the development of aquaculture. Thus, Georgia is the best place for fish production. Georgia is situated in the center of the Silk Road which is an additional advantage in terms of export. After implementing the project, it will be possible to export our products to a variety of countries,” Gravas said.

He went on to explain that the first stage of the project aims to introduce and develop new technologies of fish production without polluting the environment.


urofast Global is delighted to announce that it has been named Leading Corporate Adviser of the Year in South East Europe at this year’s Acquisition International Awards. The awards mark excellence in all areas of corporate business consulting and are voted for by a global network of expert professionals, advisers, clients, peers and industry insiders. Panayiotis Diallinas, Regional Director of Eurofast, said: “It’s great for Eurofast’s professionals to see us standing up for offering corporate advice and sharing business intelligence in this area.” Eurofast has managed throughout the years to achieve worldwide market recognition for its exceptional advice, capabilities and innovation. It has been acknowledged as a leader in Tax in Cyprus. Among others, it has been ranked top Tax Advisors and announced ‘Cyprus Tax firm of the Year’ by International Tax Review, which is a true recognition for the valued client work they deliver on a daily basis. Eurofast has over 28 years of history, working with many global brands and leading Institutions, operating in the manufacturing, retail, airlines and professional services sectors. Eurofast has spoken of its gratitude to Acquisition International: “This award commits us to continue working with the sole aim to improve our services and delight our clients,” the announcement read.




FEBRUARY 5 - 8, 2016

Donald Jensen on Lavrov’s Pankisi Concerns BY NANA SAJAIA


ast week, the statement of Russia’s notorious Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov that there are “reports” of Islamic State fighters training in Georgia’s Pankisi gorge was met with considerable concern. For many an expert and opinion maker, it hinted at a sign of bad things to come, such as one of those “counter terrorism operations” Russia has become infamous for since the Chechen conflicts. The response of Georgia’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, that “there was no threat of terrorism coming from Pankisi Gorge,” did little to ease these concerns. Lavrov’s statement was the chief talking point as Nana Sajaia of Voice of America’s Georgian Bureau sat down with renowned scholar Donald Jensen, currently a resident fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in the Nitze School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, to discuss our northern neighbor’s shady strategies.

IN YOUR RECENT ARTICLE YOU SAY THAT RUSSIA’S POLICIES PUT AT RISK ITS MAJOR AMBITIONS, SUCH AS ITS ABILITY TO EXERCISE POWER ABROAD. HOW SO? Russia’s ambitions were largely fueled by Russia selling its oil and energy commodities in the Putin era, which allowed Russians to become complaisant and gave Putin the freedom to act in certain ways that Russians might otherwise have not approved. Now, there is almost no hope of the oil price getting anywhere

close to the 80 dollars the Russian budget needs to fund all its various commitments. So Putin has big political problems. What is Putin going to do? You blame the West, you invade a country like Ukraine, you use information warfare to pretend Russia has enemies, when it really doesn’t, you divert attention, you create external enemies…These are all excuses for the fundamental political and economic crises in the system. And that is the central problem the Kremlin is facing Donald Jensen of the Center for today. It can no longer support Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins being a great power. And in my University opinion, it doesn’t really know what to was one of his goals in doing what he do. did. Despite everything, there is still significant disagreement about the future of the Assad regime, about who the SOME WOULD ARGUE RUSSIA HAS BEEN DIVERTING enemy is, and you see Russia is talking ATTENTION TO EXTERNAL constantly about the fight against terCONFLICTS, LIKE UKRAINE, rorism, while its primary goal remains AND USING IT FOR to protect Assad. I don’t see any solid INTERNAL MOBILIZATION. diplomatic solution anytime soon. I agree. We saw Ukraine used as a way to mobilize the population, but that pas- LAST WEEK, RUSSIA’S FOREIGN sion, that enthusiasm is now clearly MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV declining. So, what now? That’s the prob- SAID THERE ARE “REPORTS” lem Putin faces. He can’t pump up the OF ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS economy and people are getting sick of TRAINING IN GEORGIA’S PANKISI GORGE. DO YOU Ukraine.



That’s obviously why he said it. This kind of rhetorical discussion creates a certain mindset, prepares people for what could happen. I found it very, very worrying. If you claim there are terrorists, and of course Moscow is allied with the West on fighting terrorism, that allows you to move around with relative impunity, because you could do something in

Sergei Lavrov last week stated that there are “reports” of Islamic State fighters training in Georgia’s Pankisi gorge

Georgia and tell everybody it was a terrorism operation, and their troops are still there. That’s my first point. The second point would be – it is very dangerous to allow the Kremlin to talk about the internal affairs of Georgia or Ukraine as if they are entitled to do so or as if their involvement is somehow required. Georgia is a separate country, Russia has no business talking about the national security of Georgia unless Georgia asks for it. Let Georgia solve its own problems unless Georgia decides to ask for Russian help, which Georgia has not.

HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE CURRENT AND PREVIOUS GOVERNMENTS OF GEORGIA IN DEALING WITH THIS SITUATION? I don’t like to be involved in internal politics. The current Georgian government is not where I’d like to be on some of these issues, and uses what I call a multi-vector foreign policy more than I might like. On the other hand, I understand the pressures from the North and East, and I understand how difficult it

is. But if it were me, I would hope for more robust resistance to some of those external pressures. Frankly, given the concerns about the 2012 elections when the government changed, Georgians have done better than a lot of people feared. At the time, given Ivanishvili’s background, some saw him as a tool of Moscow, but Georgia has tried to continue its course towards Western integration and it deserves credit for this. Everything you see about Ivanishvili, his career and business background, suggests close ties to Moscow. This is worrying. Because in Russia, power is money and money is power. He, on paper, suggests an affinity for some of the influences from Russia that a lot of people in the West are not comfortable with, but at the same time Georgia states firmly it wants to be in NATO and Western Institutions, and that is a good thing. For the full interview in Georgian, go to: http://www.amerikiskhma.com/media/ video/donald-jensen/3171603.html

The Half Life of Alexander Litvinenko and Polonium 210 BY WILL CATHCART


en years after Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer turned British citizen, was given a lethal dose of radioactive poison at a posh hotel in the middle of London, a government sanctioned British inquiry into the incident has released its findings. Led by retired judge Sir Robert Owen, the 328page report concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin most “probably” approved the assassination. The reports cites a blog post by Litvinenko calling Putin a pedophile as one of the possible motives. As disturbing is this alleged secret about the Russian president is, the fact that the British Government delayed for an entire decade their investigation of the first nuclear attack in the 21st century and the first act of nuclear terrorism in human history for reasons of “diplomacy” or in reality, greed. Britain did not want to lose Russian investment, though the British government knew the truth a decade before the official inquiry. The New York Times’ London Bureau Chief at the time of the 2006 murder, Alan Cowell brilliantly laid out the case for this murder eight years ago in his book The Terminal Spy. A decade since the assassination, which weaponized a hotel teapot to assassinate Alexander Litvinenko, the public may finally be listening. The question now is what message will they hear and are they ready to hear it? If the British report is correct, then it wasn’t just a murder; it was a message from Putin, which is being received a decade too late. This is a wake up call that almost was not. The Russian president went nuclear on one of his critics, a new British citizen who thought he was

safe in the UK. He was not, and the message then was the same as it is today: No one is safe. The operation also was supposed to be shrouded in ominous mystery. Polonium’s short half-life meant that had it not been for a brilliant stroke of luck by one of Litvinenko’s physicians, then outside of a few intelligence and security agencies, the poisoning would have gone unnoticed by the public at large. It would have been just a chilling rumor—the stuff of conspiracy theories, never verified—elusive and murky like the fate of so many others who have lost their lives after crossing Putin. But this time was different. The primary suspect, former FSB agent Andrei Lugovoi, left a radioactive trail crisscrossing London from the airplane on which he arrived from Moscow to the one on which he departed. Back home Lugovoi has been treated

10 Galaktion Street

Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer turned British citizen a few days before his death. Source: guardian.com

like a hero, reaching cynical celebrity status with his own TV show about traitors of the Russian motherland (seriously). He is even a member of parliament, which coincidentally gives him immunity from prosecution. Indeed Lugovoi is not the only one laughing from the Duma.

Very few acts terror or statecraft have shaken security services in the Western world more than murder of Alexander Litvinenko: A nuclear attack with a casualty of one. And it could have been thousands. The location of the incident was arbitrary. Polonium could have

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

reached any number of targets just about r anywhere. Had the motives been differa ent, e had it been a water supply instead of a teapot, the body count would have been unfathomable. u And yet why then are the conclusions in i Sir Robert Owen’s 328-page report coming as “news”? There is nothing ‘new’ c about any of it. It has been ten years, and a still s we miss the point. That an official inquiry took this long is as shameful, as i cowardly and as dangerous as the murder c itself. i One single investigative journalist methodically laid out and published in m less than two years what has taken the British government an entire decade to “probably” conclude. The evidence was all there. Alan Cowell unveiled a brilliant investigation of a murder, which followed a radioactive path that glowed like some kind of morbid abstract art, reflective of what was to come and the absurdity of the simple teapot to which it all led. But then like the radioactive corpse of the former KGB officer turned dissident, it was sealed up for reasons of public safety and buried by a British government that was in reality more concerned about jeopardizing vast Russian investments in London than the truth. The murder should have been recognized at the time as the watershed geopolitical event that it was—not just for the nuclear element but also for what it revealed about Vladimir Putin—a message that many did not want to hear. Many still do not. The first act of nuclear terrorism on planet earth targeted only one man. It has gone unpunished and unrealized. Like so many before him and so many who have followed, Litvinenko ended up in an early grave for crossing Vladimir Putin. The difference is that Litvinenko’s grave was a lead-lined coffin. “Probably” isn’t good enough.



Chicken Little & the Georgian Media OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


edia is a big deal in Georgia, as it happens to be in any other indigenous culture in the world, but there is a slight difference between what Georgia’s press looks, feels and reads like and the means of mass communication in the rest of the world. Throwing in a couple of characteristic features of our local press might suffice to help you understand its gist and essence. The prevalent color of the Georgian press is mostly yellow with eyecatching headlines. And there must be more to those headings than only a plain desire to sell better. The readers’ taste is certainly compatible, and there is a reason to say that – it has been methodically and perseveringly built up and nursed throughout the last quarter of a century. Another stand-out feature is the hys-

terical tone and content of the press here. Reading through the Georgian press, you are left with the impression that the sky is falling on our heads. Still another trait that could definitely be attributed to our press is its utterly stereotypical image – you take all our newspapers and shuffle their pages into one paper and you will never guess that the pages are extracted from various newspapers unless you catch sight of the title of the paper in between. Another element that makes the Georgian press distinguishable is the weirdness and irrelevance of its headlines. I have been reading the Western press since I was a college student where it was often enough to merely have a cursory look at its pages to know forthwith what you wanted to read and what not. Here in Georgia, unless you go down to the bottom of the article, you will never get what it is all about. And finally, the interviews! The press is full of interviews; television is brimming with interviews; and the radio is packed with interviews, too. Interviews dominate

our media. I call it ‘interview journalism.’ Not that I am against this journalistic genre! I am simply against the abundance of interviews everywhere. I would rather go for features, op-eds, analytical endeavors, investigative efforts, entertainment pieces, sports and arts flashes, and of course, for sporadic interviews with some persons of consequence that could be prompted by some special circumstance. In most of the well-known and well-selling local magazines, you will come across ten or even more interviews per issue, most of which are hardly readable. Yet people buy those magazines and read them. As I said, this kind of taste has been hammered out persistently, and it cannot be stamped out very easily. What bothers me most is that, being the readers of our own press, we are using up plenty of our valuable time on imbibing the kind of information without which we could easily survive. If we admit and consider as given that time is one of the most valuable commodities in the complicated modern world, then the way we are being informed by our press is not

The Fingers in the Pankisi Pie OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


hat is happening in Pankisi? – this rhetorical question asked by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of

Russia, Sergey Lavrov, has been answered by President Margvelashvili right from the Pankisi Gorge: “It is peaceful here,” said the President during his meeting with the locals, which was attended by the US Ambassador, Ian C. Kelly, and the Head of the European Mission, Janos Herman. It is hard to tell why Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister has recalled

Pankisi, though if we cast a glance at the transport or energy related battles between Russia and Georgia – everything becomes clearer. The question about restoring diplomatic relations, asked by a Georgian journalist at a press-conference held on January 26th, was used by Russia’s chief diplomat to make a much more important state-


Reading through the Georgian press, you are left with the impression that the sky is falling on our heads optimal and reasonable. I need my newspaper, as any other media, for three main reasons, and this is classic: a) to be informed to make my life easier, b) for the educational purpose of having a chance to turn myself into an appealing person, and c) for slight entertainment and relaxation. Period! I do not need my newspaper for gossip-mongering, although the occasional tittle-tattle might help my brain get distracted from regular daily routine – but only occasional and light.

This is all, of course, on a theoretical basis, and if I present here the practical side of the issue, we may all be surprised how absurd most of the articles we read sound. The same can be said of those sensational TV and radio talk shows. Both as journalist and consumer, I have always longed to deal with a press that wants to be specific, does all it can to carry me away, and which refuses to be watery, so that I know I will not have wasted my time when I close my paper and throw it away.

ment: he unexpectedly mentioned the Pankisi Gorge in the context of the development of Georgian and Russian relations, restoring diplomatic ties, visa-free travel and the negotiations with Gazprom. Actually, he issued an ultimatum to the Georgian Government, something like: “Apart from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we still have a lever against you and if you do not behave yourselves, we can raise the Pankisi issue again.” Not for the first time do we experience the Kremlin as proficient in creating such intrigues- thinking back, here, to the year 2000 when Russia

sent the Chechen Field Commander Ruslan Gelaev with his army of 150 into that same Pankisi, and later asked us to allow the Russian troops in for his annihilation. The Kremlin is trying to stage a similar play again, especially because it has a much more convincing reason to do so this time. Although there aren’t any Chechen fighters in Pankisi, there are young fighters that have left Pankisi Gorge and are fighting in the ranks of the ‘Islamic State’ in Syria. Continued on page 7




FEBRUARY 5 - 8, 2016

Overseas Focus: What Was the Iowa Caucus and Why Does It Matter? BY CHARLES JOHNSON


eorgian politics (politics anywhere, to be honest) certainly have a flair for the dramatic, but the United States is unique in the sense that our dramatic election cycle lasts for well over a year. The general election in November is governed by an extremely complicated set of laws surrounding what is called The Electoral College (perhaps a subject of a later article), but right now the two major parties are trying to narrow down their White House hopefuls to just one person. Georgians interested in who the next American president is can honestly wait until final campaigning starts in July, but anyone interested in good drama, better than the best Brazilian soap opera, should pay attention to these primary elections. Almost every week from now until party conventions in July, local state chapters of the Republican and Democratic parties will use a variety of methods to determine who they wish to support as their party’s final candidate (aka, delegate allocations). Traditionally, the first state to allocate delegates is Iowa, hence the media hubbub. Primary elections, because they are organized at the state level, should be especially interesting for political junkies because they use a variety of voting methods. Partly because Iowa is a rural state, partly because of tradition, and partly because it is just plain fun, the state uses caucuses for their primary election. At a caucus, everyone shows up at a community meeting area such as an auditorium or sometimes their school’s basketball court. They hear stump speeches from representatives of each candidate and then quite literally go stand with the group they wish to support. This is when the fun/ chaos begins. After the first round of voting, the

floor is opened again for people to change their minds. Additionally, if a candidate does not meet a given threshold of votes in the first round, they are not included in the second. That candidate’s supporters can either go home dejected, or caucus with another candidate in the next round. This is where strategy becomes key, candidates must have persuasive operatives on the ground who engage with supporters of losing candidates and pull them over to their side. So what happened Monday in Iowa? Ted Cruz, the strict constitutionalist and devout evangelical Christian, won the day, despite higher poll numbers for the brash billionaire, Donald Trump. With a caucus, organization is everything. Candidates can have soaring popularity numbers, but in a complicated and highly personal process like a caucus, they need campaign staff across the state to ensure people show up to the physical location and understand the process. This is perhaps why establishment candidates tend to do better in this primary, because they understand the system well and have spent time amassing the infrastructure to win. On the Democrat’s side the night was even more interesting. Presumptive favorite Hilary Clinton and surprise hit Bernie Sanders essentially tied. The result is important, because it highlights the importance of organizing in every single community, and because it showed that an establishment candidate with experience and lots of money can potentially be beat by an opponent with a passionate and well organized campaign staff and volunteers. A battleground like Iowa is not without casualties as well. Several candidates dropped out after only scoring single-digit

percentages of the votes, and we are likely to see more drop out, especially from the over-populated Republican race in the coming weeks. America woke Tuesday morning with a smaller field of candidates and a good sense of how the remaining ones fare in real political battles. There is, however, a long road ahead until November. We must think of Iowa as more of a single waypoint in a long and complicated process. Rather than applying prophetic predictions on who will win in November, I suggest those interested use Monday’s caucus as a point of comparison on how candidates will re-group and reorganize their efforts. Up next week is New Hampshire. So anyone in Georgia wishing for more ready-made TV political drama should mark their calendars and have the popcorn ready. To close, let’s

try and answer the question on everyone’s minds (and yes, even my fellow countrymen are often left confused by this whole process). What significance then does the Iowa caucus have in American politics? To answer frankly, it matters because American pundits and media say it does. Its importance is one of almost purely human construction. Monday’s votes give little, if any, hints about what America will look like come January 2017 when a new president is sworn in. To my Georgian audience I will say this: I see little difference in how a president Cruz, Sanders, Clinton, or Trump would interact with Georgia – mostly because these candidates think more of Iowa than Georgia when they hear “Caucasus.” Aid money will still flow and Georgia will still partner with the US military. The tangible differences in these candidates lie with their views towards domestic law and the distribution of public goods to American citizens. Anyone in Tbilisi with real concerns over one candidate or another should see the process as more entertainment than anything until the final election in November.

Georgia Looking Good, but Could Be Better in the Eyes of the EU BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA


he European Commission published a report last week on Georgia’s reform process, assessing the overall achievements of the country throughout the past year. According to the document, in 2014-2015 Georgia made overall substantial progress regarding the effective implementation of human rights protection, democracy and fundamental rights. “The adoption and start of implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan as well as of the Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan in 2014 were particularly important and represented significant improvements in Georgia’s policy in these areas,” the report reads. As the document says, Georgia fulfilled all the objectives set out under the 2014-2015 Human Rights Action Plan for 2014 and is progressing well on the implementation of the goals planned for 2015, especially on the integration of minorities. “In particular, there were important achievements in terms of the proper conduct of the 2014 municipal elections, increased judicial independence (including the election of a new and first female chief judge), humanization of criminal policies (reflected notably by proportionate sentences, a reduction of pre-trial detentions, a fairer plea bargaining system and the recognition of victims’ rights), progress on juvenile justice through the adoption of a juvenile justice code, prison mortality reduced to a low level and an improved treatment of prisoners,” the report says. The report also highlights the parliament’s “strengthened role,” referring to the 2014 anti-discrimination law, “a new anti-discrimination mechanism that became operational in October 2014 and embedded in the Public Defender’s Office.” In addition, institutional reforms were emphasized, especially ones launched by the Prosecutor’s Office in December 2014. “The Georgian authorities started to prepare the next human rights action plan (for 2016-2017), which would cover new areas such as election rights and rights to quality education and healthcare,” the European Commission says. However, the EU Commission mentioned that noticeable shortcomings remain in several areas covered by the conventions, and further work to tackle them would be necessary in the future. “Particular attention should also be paid to media freedom and pluralism,” the report reads. Following the positive assessment of the country’s progress with minor shortcomings, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a document stating a situation in terms of protecting human rights defenders in Georgia that “seems to be worsening,” referring to human rights protectors and organizations operating in the country.

“The Assembly notes that in the majority of the Council of Europe member states, human rights defenders are free to work in an environment conducive to the development of their activities. However, it is deeply concerned about increased reprisals against human rights defenders in certain member states, including Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and Turkey,” the report reads. According to the report, there have also been alarming signs of deterioration in certain member states, including Georgia, namely public attacks, threats to release material allegedly compromising to prominent human rights defenders, physical attacks, and pressure and intimidation against lawyers, including lawyers working on politically sensitive cases. The Assembly condemns these practices and supports the work of human rights defenders, who put at risk their security and personal life for the promotion and protection of the rights of others, including those from the most vulnerable and oppressed groups (migrants and members of national, religious or sexual minorities) or to combat impunity of state officials, corruption and poverty. The major parliamentary opposition, the United

National Movement (UMN) demanded that the government keep this in mind and to carefully follow the recommendations of all Georgia’s strategic partners, such as the European Union. What makes the two political institutions of one Europe so different in assessing Georgia’s political and democratic achievements? The roots of the problem could be traced through Georgia’s plunging political progress achieved as a result of several elections and other major reforms during the past three years. In particular, railing against media institutions, such as the nation’s leading TV Company Rustavi 2, not only shook the image of the Georgian Dream coalition and the government, but also the country’s image in the region as a success story. Although the overall political processes and the winds of conspiracy around Rustavi 2 have become relatively calmer, the country has not fully yet transferred to the active pre-election process which is expected from late spring. Political analysts and other experts assume the upcoming summer will be one of the hottest for Georgia’s political life.



The Fingers in the Pankisi Pie

Iowa Caucuses: Cruz Smacks Donald Trump, Democrats ‘Feel the Bern’ BY JOSEPH LARSEN


t feels like election season has been going on forever in the US. In reality, the primaries began on Monday, February 1 in Iowa. The “Hawkeye State” has a population of only 3 million (less than 1 percent of the US population), so its voters are a small sample of the United States. A study from 2012 showed that the winner of the Iowa Democratic caucus goes on to win the party nomination roughly 50 percent of the time, while the GOP caucus picks the nominee 43 percent of the time. Nevertheless, the Iowa caucuses mark the official grand opening of election season. This time, the results brought up several unexpected headlines.

TED CRUZ LEADS REPUBLICAN PACK The Iowa Republican caucus was won by an outsider, but not the outsider that entry polls projected. Ted Cruz, the Texas freshman senator and architect of the 2013 government shutdown – a move that apparently served no purpose other than to raise his national profile – led the GOP with 27.7 percent of the vote. “Tonight is a victory for the grassroots,” Cruz declared as he claimed the win Monday night. Reports from Iowa credit his team’s diligent groundwork for the strong showing. His campaign had 11,986 volunteers working across the state in addition to a full team of staffers. Plus, religious messages –a specialty of this fiery evangelical Christian – tend to play well in front of audiences in Iowa.

“THE DONALD” DISAPPOINTS Manhattan billionaire Donald Trump came in second among GOP candidates with 24.3 percent of the vote. If anything,

the results showed that charisma and national media coverage don’t necessarily substitute for good old fashioned boots on the ground. Trump took a hands-off approach, with few paid advertisements and only 12 staffers. Trump’s loss – despite being favored by seven points over Cruz in entry polls – is an indicator of the gap between expressing support in an opinion poll and actually going out to vote. That’s where a strong grassroots organization comes in – an area in which Trump failed, and Cruz succeeded.

RUBIO BREATHES LIFE INTO GOP ESTABLISHMENT Republican elites have fretted with early polls being dominated by Trump and Cruz, two figures reviled by GOP bigwigs and influential donors. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the party establishment’s favored candidate, has failed to attract popular support. The GOP establishment was redeemed on Monday by Marco Rubio, a brash, Spanish-speaking senator from Florida. Rubio came in third with 23.1 percent of the vote and gained much-needed momentum to take into the February 8 New Hampshire primary. Rubio has received criticism for his perceived lack of experience and “flip-flopping” on core issues (fellow Republican Lindsey Graham this week accused him of going “hard right” on abortion and immigration reform, issues on which Rubio had earlier shown moderation). However, Rubio’s positive, forwardfocused message and foreign policy expertise make him the strongest candidate among the GOP mainstream. If and when Bush and other GOP candidates such as Chris Christie and John Kasich drop out, the Republicans’ vast resources will consolidate around Rubio.


BUT STILL GETS “BERN’D” Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton officially won the Democratic Caucus with 49.9 percent of the vote. But the margin was razor thin. Vermont senator and self-professed “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders trailed right behind her with 49.6, remarkable for an outsider candidate with almost no national exposure going into 2015. Clinton’s campaign came up short in predictable ways. Despite no shortage of resources and more than 100 full-time staffers on the ground, she failed to attract many voters outside her base of older, regular caucus voters. Her lack of broad appeal contrasted with Sanders’s strong support from younger, more left-wing voters. Among 17-29 year olds, 84 percent went for Sanders, compared to only 14 percent for Clinton. Sanders also held a 19 point edge over Clinton among voters who described themselves as “very liberal,” a group comprising more than a quarter of the Democratic base.

CAN’T BUY ME LOVE (OR VOTES) That money buys power in American politics is a common assumption these days. The 2016 Iowa caucuses showed that things may not be so bad, after all. The Bush campaign spent USD 14.9 million on advertisements but received only 5,238 votes, or about USD 2,800 for each vote earned. By contrast, the Rubio campaign spent USD 273, Cruz USD 116, and Trump only USD 73. On the Democratic side, Clinton spent a full USD 2 million more than Sanders (USD 9.4 million to USD 7.4 million), but earned only four more delegates.


3 February, 2016

Loan No.:

3063-GEO: Sustainable Urban and Transport Investment Program – Tranche 3

Contract No. and Title:

Bidding: P42414-SUTIP3-ICB-3.02-2015: Modernization of TbilisiRustavi Section of the Tbilisi-Red Bridge (Azerbaijani Border) Road (Section 2)

Deadline for Submission of Bids:

21 March, 2016, 15:00 hours (local Georgian time)

1. The Government of Georgia has received financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) towards the cost of Sustainable Urban Transport Investment Program –Tranche 3. Part of this financing will be used for payments under contract named above. Bidding is open to Bidders from eligible source countries of the ADB. 2. The Municipal Development Fund of Georgia (MDF) (hereinafter referred to as the “Employer”) invites sealed bids from eligible bidders for the Modernization of TbilisiRustavi Section of the Tbilisi-Red Bridge (Azerbaijani Border) Road (Section 2). The main works foreseen for aforementioned works shall comprise: • Rehabilitation of 6.8 km of 4~6 lanes dual carriageway, arrangement of 2 Interchanges, overpass bridges, underpass tunnels and retaining wall. Estimated implementation period of the contract is: 730 days. 3. International competitive bidding will be conducted in accordance with ADB’s single-stage, two-envelope procedure and is open to all Bidders from eligible source countries as described in the Bidding Document. 4. Only eligible bidders with, but not limited to, the following key qualifications should participate in this bidding: a) Average Annual Construction Turnover: Minimum average annual construction turnover of US$ 62 million (Sixty two million) calculated as total certified payments received for contracts in progress or completed, within the last 3 (three) years (in case of Joint Venture: All Partners Combined must meet requirement; Each Partner must meet 25 % of the requirement; One Partner must meet 50% of the requirement); b) Contracts of Similar Size and Nature: Participation in at least one contract that has been successfully or substantially completed within the last 5 (five) years and that are similar to the proposed works, where the value of the Bidder’s participation exceeds US$ 50 million (Fifty million)(in case of Joint Venture One Partner must meet the requirement); c) Financial Resources Requirement: The Bidder must demonstrate access to, or availability of liquid assets, lines of credit, or other financial resources, to meet the Bidder’s financial resources requirements; (a) its current contract commitments defined in FIN-4, to be met 100% by respective partner, and (b) subject contract for an amount of US$ 7.7 million or equivalent (in case of Joint Venture: Each partner must meet 25% and One Partner – 50% of the requirement); and Details are provided in the Section 3 of bidding docu-


ments. 5. To obtain further information and inspect the bidding documents, bidders should contact the following from 10:00 to 18:00 hours only, on working days: Municipal Development Fund of Georgia Address: 150 David Agmashenebeli Ave., 0112, Tbilisi, Georgia, Room #407 Tel: (+995 32) 243 70 01; 243 70 02; 243 70 03; 243 70 04 Fax: (+995 32) 243 70 77 E-mail: procurement@mdf.org.ge 6. To purchase the Bidding Document in English, eligible bidders should: a. visit the office of MDF at the address indicated above and pay a nonrefundable fee of GEL1,250 or US$500. The method of payment will be direct deposit to Municipal Development Fund accounts below: In case of transfer of Georgian Lari: Beneficiary’s bank: State Treasury, Bank Code: TRESGE22 Beneficiary Account/Treasury Code: 707337069 In case of transfer of USD: Beneficiary’s bank: NATIONAL BANK OF GEORGIA, TBILISI SWIFT CODE: BNLNGE22 Beneficiary: MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT FUND OF GEORGIA IBAN: GE65NB0331100001150207 Beneficiary: LEPL - Municipal Development Fund of Georgia, ID Code: 206 074 193 with remark “Invitation to Bidding Package No. P42414SUTIP3-ICB-3.02-2015:” or b. pay a nonrefundable fee of GEL 2,500 or US$ 1,000 (see account above), write to address above requesting the bidding documents for P42414-SUTIP3-ICB-3.02-2015 Modernization of Tbilisi-Rustavi Section of the Tbilisi-Red Bridge (Azerbaijani Border) Road (Section 2). The documents will be sent by courier service. The Employer will not accept any liability for loss or late delivery. 7. Deliver your bids: • to the address above; • on or before 15:00 hours local Georgian time on 21 March 2016. Late bids will not be accepted. • together with a bid security in the amount described in the bidding document. Bids will be opened immediately after the deadline in the presence of bidders’ representatives who choose to attend.

“It is peaceful here,” said the Georgian President during his meeting with Pankisi locals last week Continued from page 5

It is crucial that the Kremlin doesn’t make such a decision, because if it does, it can easily push the Pankisi theme against Georgia, including by use of aggression. Political expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze is convinced that the raising of the issue of Pankisi by Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister already means that Russia has aggressive intention. “At the beginning of the paragraph, Lavrov says that he wants to improve relations with us, and at the end he wags his finger about the Pankisi issue. These two contradict each other. I have a reasonable suspicion that the issue of Pankisi is made up artificially, specifically for Russia’s aggressive rhetoric,” says Sakvarelidze. In contrast to political experts who talk about the mistakes of Lavrov, ex-Justice

Minister Valerian Khaburdzania, who maintains close relations with the Russian Security Services, blames official Tbilisi: “Russians asked me to negotiate cooperation on issues of terrorism with the Management of Georgian Security Services. The proposal was to cooperate on issues of antiterrorism regarding the Islamic State, exchanging information and mutual work. We got total disregard from Tbilisi. I am sure that Lavrov has been informed by those people who do not want Russian-Georgian relations to settle,” Valerian Khaburdzania told newspaper Alia. By the way, the US Ambassador, Ian C. Kelly agreed with President Margvelashvili on the peacefulness in Pankisi. The Ambassador stressed that there aren’t any terrorist bases in the valley. Although how convincing the words of the US Ambassador are for Russia, the future will show.




FEBRUARY 5 - 8, 2016

The Call of Duty: Ogden on Political Image OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN


ast night, I came across a picture of former President Mikheil Saakashvili in which he is clad in military combat fatigues, his name stitched on one breast, his country on the other; a patch depicting the Georgian flag has been stitched to his left sleeve, as is normal for soldiers of today (which, if you ask me, makes the ‘Georgia’ written on his chest rather redundant. As far as I know, no other country bothers to stitch its name on its soldiers’ chests, or at least they weren’t being so silly during my brief service years ago). The aviator sunglasses add the finishing touch, making him look like an extra who wandered off the set of Black Hawk Down but decided to keep the uniform. I’ve heard a number of opinions of Misha over the years, mostly obvious ones along the lines of ‘tyrant’, ‘dictator’ and ‘murderer’, but there were two that sprung to mind when I saw the ex-President looking ready to help Arnold Schwarzenegger tackle the Predator in a Colombian jungle. The first was the view of a taxi driver who told me: “Saakashvili only cares about fame. He just wants to be a celebrity.” At the time, his words conjured an image in my mind of Misha sitting on the plush sofa of an American talk show as he addressed Jimmy Kimmel as ‘bro’, but the aviator sunglasses worn a la mode by Saakashvili are highly reminiscent of styles exhibited by Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Donita Sparks. Looking back, I can see the driver’s point. The other one was told to me by a sober young woman who said: “He’s a warrior,

he’s a fighter.” With Saakashvili’s penchant for military fashions, it’s easy to see why she might think so, and no doubt she liked to picture him on the front lines, Georgian flag in one hand and smoking pistol in t’other, roaring encouragement to the lads (and, full credit to the man, he did go off to the front lines briefly during the 2008 war, before a Russian helicopter began buzzing about and his bodyguards decided that the President’s death might be detrimental to the Georgian war effort). The threat of another war with Russia is never far from the minds of many Georgians, no matter that President Putin is otherwise engaged in Syria and Donbas, or that Saakashvili is well on his way to becoming King of Ukraine. The causes of that war are still debated; I’ve heard Saakashvili himself blamed for it, while others have said it was a Russian way of striking at America (if the latter is true, it seems to me to be about as sensible as smashing a window in Las Vegas then looking in the direction of Washington and shouting ‘There, you insolent bastard, that’ll teach you!’). Whatever the cause, the fear that it might happen again hardly seems unfounded to many Georgians when they look at what has happened in Ukraine over the last two years. While unlikely to happen anytime soon, the possibility cannot be ruled out (especially as Russia has been able to act with impunity as the West Georgia’s Mr. Bean-esque former Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, who bowed out with about as much grace as Rowan Atkinson’s iconic character

good terms with President Putin and controls the government from behind the scenes, a suspicion which was hardly quelled by the shock resignation of Georgia’s Mr. Bean-esque former Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, who bowed out with about as much grace as Rowan Atkinson’s iconic character. Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze (whose career has mostly consisted of kicking a leather ball across grass) pours oil on these troubled flames as he mumbles about new deals being made with the Russian government’s energy conglomerate, Gazprom. Whatever one’s opinion of Saakashvili, it is easy to predict how he might handle confrontation with Moscow. Should the war in Donbas worsen once again and the Ukrainian people’s dogged resistance fail at the last, it isn’t hard to imagine Saakashvili in the ruins of Kiev, making a Call of Duty-inspired last stand, cigar clamped in his teeth and an AK47 blazing in each hand. The current state leadership are full of people whose motives and true beliefs Should the war in Donbas worsen once again remain unknown; why, I doubt that and the Ukrainian people’s dogged resistance many Georgians would recognize fail at the last, it isn’t hard to imagine Saakashvili making a Call of Duty-inspired last Prime Minister Kvirikashvili if they stand, cigar clamped in his teeth and an AK47 passed him in the street. This year’s blazing in each hand elections will be most revealing. I will not deceive my public, shows itself to be increasingly impotent, however, and confess to a little bias with despite its repeated rhetoric of ‘bilateral regards to President Margvelashvili. I ties’ and ‘deepening cooperation’), but met him once, and he was the most what I think is rather worrying is that charming and educated gentleman. He the Georgian Dream coalition are also strongly resembles my third boxing still an unknown quantity with regards trainer, and as a result looks as though he would rather brawl with the police to Russia. Bidzina, some allege, is secretly on than eat his dinner.



Over 300 Thousand People Visited Georgia in January



he Georgian National Tourism Administration ( G N TA ) recently announced that visitor growth in Georgia in January 2016, compared with the same period last year, is 4.4 percent. Income from tourism brings a significant contribution to the country’s economic development. Georgia is improving its services and making itself more and more attractive to new countries – as a result a record number of visitors (5.9 million) was fixed in 2015. According to a study by the GNTA, in January 2016 most visitors came to Georgia from Azerbaijan (+16%), Turkey

(-5.6%), Armenia (-12.4%), Russia (+10.2%) and Ukraine (+8.6%). Tourist flow from EU countries also increased by 11 percent with most visitors coming from France, Italy, Great Britain, Poland and Germany. The GNTA noted that the positive trend in visitor growth has continued following the success of 2015. As the beginning of last year was not so productive, the Administration had to take drastic measures to change the situation. “The severe economic and political situation in the region affected opportunities for tourists and their desire to travel, so the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 were not very successful. However, we adopted a new strategy, and as a result witnessed a 7 percent increase in visitor flow at the end of 2015,” said Giorgi Chogovadze, Head of Georgian National Tourism Administration.

During the last year, the country was actively working on marketing campaigns; offering potential visitors the variety of tourist opportunities of Georgia, improved services, as well as focusing on the important international events held in the country. Furthermore, Chogovadze said that the government chose a new target group of countries in the Persian Gulf: “We can already see growing interest from the area this year,” Chogovadze said. The number of tourists significantly increased from Oman by 887 percent, United Arab Emirates by 706 percent, Saudi Arabia by 181 percent as well as from Philippines by 482 percent and India by 307 percent. “We see potential in the countries of the Persian Gulf and the figures for January confirm this. We will continue to work in this direction in 2016. In addition, we will focus on visitors from the US and India, as well as on those from Iran, but it all depends on the visa policy to be established between the two countries,” said Chogovadze. He also added that China is a good target country to focus on for attracting new tourists to Georgia. Income from international tourism is an important part of the Georgian economy. According to estimates for the first three quarters of 2015, revenue has increased by more than 8 percent and amounted to USD 1,508,227 compared with the same period of 2014. “After the publication of the fourth quarter results, we will be able to speak accurately about the success of the last season,” said Chogovadze.


Promoting Youth in Agriculture: REAP Announces Grant Winners

Competition finalists and winner Mariam Zaldastanishvili. Source: REAP



n January 29th USAID’s Restoring Efficiency in Agricultural Production (REAP) announced a winner in the Mariam Kutelia Research Grant Competition. Mariam Zaldastanishvili, a graduate from the University of St. Andrew, Scotland, claimed the prize. Zaldastanishvili began working with REAP in October 2015 assisting the organization’s Grants Procurement Specialist. Her research was dedicated to ‘an empirical study of the relationship between the availability of agriculturerelated information and the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) among rural farmers in Georgia.’

“It has been 4 months since I started my internship in the REAP project. I was very pleased to hear about the Mariam Kutelia Research Grant opportunity, as I thought this research would greatly contribute to my growth as a professional,” the award winner told GEORGIA TODAY. Zaldastanishvili is very thankful for the opportunity she was given to carry out this research assigned. “This will definitely be a highlight to my internship experience, which is and has been exceptional, as I got to learn so much and enjoy myself as a part of a wonderful team,” she said. Further, the young and motivated Zaldastanishvili said she considers this grant opportunity a very unique way of honoring the memory of Mariam Kutelia, a REAP intern whose life was claimed by the tragic flood in Tbilisi in June 2015. Continued from page 9




FEBRUARY 5 - 8, 2016

Seventh Annual Burns Supper Breaks Fundraising Record



he Burns Supper and Ball is now firmly established as a highlight of Tbilisi’s social calendar, and a memorable time at the Funicular Restaurant was had by all 235 of the revellers on Saturday night who helped to raise a record-breaking 55,000 Lari for three charitable causes. Organizer Fiona Coxshall, who devotedly puts together this thriving event every year, was delighted with another success-

ful occasion: “People arrived in good form and stayed that way all night. They were in generous mood, and it is very satisfying to surpass last year’s total by so much (25%),” she said gleefully. The proceeds - some of which came from a highly competitive auction in which one guest paid USD 500 for a bottle of millennium wine – will go to three worthy causes, namely the Temi Community in Eastern Georgia – caring for a wide range of vulnerable people, Catharsis helping Tbilisi’s homeless elderly, and Dog Organization Georgia – providing shelter for stray animals along with sterilization, vaccination and homing programmes. George Adamson, a native of the cathe-

dral city of Brechin in northeast Scotland, got proceedings underway with the unmistakable sound of the bagpipes to summon high-spirited guests to their seats. Not unlike a Georgian social event, the Burns Supper is laden with toasts and speeches, all of which are crucial to the authenticity and true purpose of the evening – to celebrate the life and works of the legendary Scottish poet Robert Burns. Coxshall takes exceptional care in selecting the speakers, and this was rewarded again this year by some excellent deliveries including William Boyd who gave a suitably passionate Address to the Haggis, a poem dedicated to the Scottish delicacy of spiced sheep’s innards. After the haggis had been consumed, washed down with the customarily bountiful supply of wine and whisky, Stuart Nelson gave his own refreshing Immortal Memory toast, traditionally the longest of the evening, which involved a modern take on Burns’ famous poem “To a Mouse”. Burns was a notorious romantic, with much of his work dedicated to women, and accordingly it is tradition to toast the lassies (women), this year

the duty of Andrew Coxshall, husband of organizer Fiona. His poetic and humorous tribute to the fairer sex was met with uproarious laughter, while the toast to the laddies (men) given in response by Luba Protsiva was also warmly received. With the formalities completed, guests were called to the dance floor by Nicol McLaren of the Glencraig Band for a Gay Gordons and a Dashing White Sergeant among other Scottish dances. McLaren’s band was completed by Maggie Adamson and Isobelle Hodgson, and the well-travelled trio now consider Tbilisi a cemented part of their annual itinerary. As billed on the tickets, the partying carried on until the wee hours with sales of sparkling Georgian mineral water no doubt rocketing the next day to address the inevitable drouth that follows a successful Burns Supper. And the success of this year’s event was beyond doubt, with the revellers already counting down until next year’s edition. As Betsy Haskell, an American resident of Tbilisi, put it: “as always, the best party of the year.”

Culture - A Common Language with Street Children BY MERI TALIASHVILI


und AhuAhu for culture development was founded in 2010. The main objectives include the development of contemporary art, and the resolving of social problems with the involvement of citizen engagement and a culture component. The fund has been carrying out the project “Culture - as the common language of communication with difficult groups” with the help of volunteers and in cooperation with the centers of the Caritas, Child and Environment, and SOS Children. GEORGIA TODAY met up with Anuka Lomidze, the founder of the fund of AhuAhu to find out more.

ANA, CAN YOU INTRODUCE THE PRINCIPLES OF ‘CULTURE – AS A LANGUAGE OF COMMUNICATION’ TO US? All members of our project, including the coordinator and the head, are volunteers. The project is held without any financial support, depending on volunteers, friends and relatives. We do our job with joint effort that needs children and adults to communicate and integrate with each other. The principle is simple: You are a creative person (artist, musician, director, actor, singer, and dancer) and are able to give a one or three day workshop with children and adults, depending on your job. During the workshop, they will learn to how to paint, dance, sing etc. You take five interesting friends along with you who can help during the workshop and make friends with those kids and adults, together with you. You all bake delicious food at home and after the workshop or during a break welcome them to the table. All of us, including the children, make new friends and spend our time positively, give and take back creative energy and make happy those who need it most.

WHO ARE THE CHILDREN LIVING AND WORKING ON STREETS? The terms ‘street children’ or ‘ownerless children’ [a Georgian term] are not correct. In fact these are children living and working on the streets. There are no ownerless children at all. Actually, every single one has a parent, a guardian in the form of the state. Some of them do not have a name, house, parents; are half-orphan or from very poor families so that the streets have become a single food source for them. Sometimes willingly or forcibly they work, beg and get into prostitution or other illegal jobs on the streets. Six years ago we happened to have an accident when a 14 year old boy was shot in the leg. Because he had no identification card was refused medical care, he got blood poisoning and lost his leg. They are deprived of education because they have no identity card. They have no toys, personal items or rooms, beds or safe places.

AS WE KNOW, TWO YEARS AGO, THE FUND METRO FREEDOM SQUARE FOYER DISPLAYED SOCIAL POSTERS DEPICTING CHILDREN PROBLEMS THAT ARE STILL THERE. Yes. The series was filmed according to the ‘Culture-as the common language’ principle and with their direct involvement and friendship. The author of the photos, Coca Vashakidze, spent several days with the children in a day care center, where they came into contact with each other, became friends, and together came up with the content and worked together during the making

of it, selecting photos that were put on the walls of their building. The exhibition was organized in the framework of the “I’m a citizen, too” project with the collaboration of AhuAhu – Fund for Culture Development, Civil Society Development Center and Helping Hand.

WHAT CAN ORDINARY PEOPLE DO FOR THESE CHILDREN? Anyone can make friends with the children. Talk with them about literature, art, music, theater, and cinema. Also, organize creative workshops and excursions and pay a visit to cultural and educational places or take them to the theater, gallery, and thematic exhibitions. Teach them a foreign language, geography, history, mathematics and other subjects. Read books, show films, prepare food, and they will learn to pass it on.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT PROGRAM OF ‘CULTURE AS A COMMUNICATION LANGUAGE”? We plan art-therapy sessions, free screenings, reading hours, creative courses of English language workshops, visits to playwrights, artists and photographers, educational and fun courses in history and geography, music courses, excursions to exhibition halls and museums. At this moment, art therapy sessions, free screenings and meetings with dramatists are conducted for the Caritas and Child and Environment children.

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROJECT? Any material which will be useful for creative activities. Even food to eat between activities (for example, at screenplays and discussions we have to stop twice with small food break) of volunteers willing to take a new, exciting knowledge, abilities, attitudes and creative spirit of friendship. Our fund has no a working space, the most important thing for us is to find a neutral place where we can be in a more stable relationship with the child and grow with them and become more diverse. We would be happy if others shared their advice, wishes or project development opportunities on our Facebook page. We are always open to cooperation and new members and really need to unite with people of innovative vision to arrive at a solution to such problems. https://www.facebook.com/Culturelanguageforcommunication/info/?tab=page_info




Bloody Sheets: An Age-old Tradition Still Held in Georgia’s Regions relatives. Afterwards, the guests congratulate the new-married couple for the creation of a ‘decent’ family.




efinition of ‘Yenge’ – a supervisor of sexual intercourse of a new-married couple

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A YENGE Yenge is an old Azerbaijani tradition. It is a person who supports a new-married girl to overcome the nervousness of the first-night after marriage. A Yenge is a woman who accompanies a bride to the groom’s home on the wedding day. She is responsible for her virginity and after the first night she leaves the home. As a rule, a relative of the bride is selected to be a Yenge and she must necessarily have experience of sexual intercourse with a man and, as such, young single woman cannot become Yenge as it is obligatory she teach the bride the rules of relations with her husband. The Yenge waits at the bedroom door of the newlyweds and as soon as the couple finish their first sexual intercourse, she takes the bloodstained bedsheet in order to prove the virginity of the bride. Two days later the groom’s family has a celebration feast in which the relatives of the girl also participate. The Yenge shows the bloodstained sheet to the guests and the bride successfully passes the virginity ‘test’ in the presence of all

We tried to collect information about the Yenge tradition from ethnic Azerbaijani people living in Georgia. According to the information provided, this tradition has almost disappeared among those Azeri families who live in Tbilisi for whom it now has only a symbolic nature. One respondent, Dilshad Gurbanova, 35, said they did not have a Yenge for her wedding. “My relatives did not follow that tradition. Even if somebody has a Yenge at the wedding these days, she has a completely different function. The modern Yenge holds a mirror during the wedding and accompanies the bride to the beauty salon and wedding hall. Nobody follows rules about a bloodstained sheet nowadays. It’s in the past.” Yet ethnic Azerbaijani journalist, Ayda Tagyeva, says that although this tradition has almost disappeared in the capital, it is still quite common in the Azerbaijani inhabited regions of Georgia. “Where the Yenge tradition has a symbolic character in Tbilisi, people living in the regions follow that tradition quite seriously.”

FAULTS IN VIRGINITY TEST OR VICTIM OF TRADITION? Tagyeva told us the Yenge tradition often creates awkward situations. “Yenge

We, Yenges, are authorized to teach them everything. It is a guarantee; how can one prove the virginity of a bride without a Yenge? women often act very rudely. They take advantage of the youth of the newlyweds and deliberately burst into their bedroom on the first night, embarrassing them in the act itself…” A respondent who asked to remain anonymous- a young, educated lady -told us of her own experience: “I also had a Yenge on my wedding night. Neither I nor my husband wanted to have her but my husband’s relatives insisted on it. They suspected I wanted to hide something so we were forced to give in. I was not a virgin because we’d had sex before marriage. I talked with the Yenge and explained this to her and she suggested

Promoting Youth in Agriculture: REAP Announces Grant Winners Continued on page 11

Choosing her research topic, Zaldastanishvili relied on her early and current academic and professional preferences, focusing on human-technology interaction she had previously learned as part of her university research. After consulting REAP staff, Zaldastanishvili decided to look at the relationship between the availability of agriculture-related information and the usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) among the rural farmers in Georgia. “With the emergence of the digital age, technologies are becoming a primary means of communication and information. However, rural areas are usually characterized with low literacy in technologies, espe-

cially in developing countries like Georgia,’ Zaldastanishvili told GEORGIA TODAY, adding, “my research findings are aimed at creating a general outlook on the availability of agriculture-related information and the role of ICT for the rural farmers, which I hope can contribute to the issue of keeping the farmers informed on topics of interest to them.” The grant competition final also revealed second place winners, Ana Kopashvili and Ketevan Mikeladze, who will be part of an internship program offered by the International School of Economics (ISET) at Tbilisi State University (TSU), and third place students, Anano Kipiani and Ekaterine lekishvili, who will assist the USAID/ International Center on Conflict and Negotiation

(ICCN) in a study on women’s attitudes toward gender equality in SamtskheJavakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions. USAID’s Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Production offers an innovation for Georgian youngsters interested in the sphere of agriculture. The US-funded organization launched the substantive internship program, named the Mariam Kutelia Intern Program in November last year. The organization invites applications for intern positions every six months, where students from different universities are given the opportunity to work in various fields that support REAP’s implementation, including administration and finance, monitoring and evaluation, environment, and access to finance and technical assistance.

The English - Speaking Union ინგლისურ ენაზე მოლაპარაკეთა კავშირი Creating global understanding through English Patron: Her Majesty The Queen President: HRH The Princess Anne Invites 16-20 year old young Speakers to take part in the

Public Speaking Competition SPONSORED BY

The theme of the competition is “Integrity has no need of Rules”. Speakers may interpret this theme in any way they see fit, but they should not use the theme as their title. Each speaker will be allocated 5 minutes. The competition will be held in two rounds. The first round, March 14, at the English Language Centre “British Corner” (Vake Park). The second round will be held on 29th of March. The theme of the second round will be announced later. The competition is sponsored by the Bank of Georgia and British Petroleum ESU – Georgia will send the lucky winner to London in May to take part in the finals and organize 5 day stay in England. The deadline for registration is March 11. Contact us: The English Language Centre “British Corner”, Vake Park (entrance from I. Abashidze St.). Tel.: 557 400033, 5 77 477050; 5 55 302512 E mail: marinaesu@yahoo.com; www.esugeorgia.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnIKLMa7rBA

I go to a doctor who would restore my virginity. I refused. Finally she allowed that if I’d agreed with my husband, I could give her a few drops of my blood to stain the sheet with. All in all, she explained everything and we successfully avoided complications. However, not every Yenge acts like that. If you ever had a disagreement with her, she might not protect you and will reveal your secret. I wish the Yenge, bloodstained sheets and similar traditions did not exist at all. It would be a relief for young couples!”

IS A YENGE NECESSARY? In an era of the availability of numerous sex magazines, TV-programs, and a plethora of information online, is it necessary to have a woman to teach young couples how to behave on the first night? Doctor and gynecologist Akhmed Namazov says it is. “As a doctor, I say that the Yenge tradition is one of the most valuable of our traditions and should exist by all means. We should be aware of the nature of our nation. Our girls cannot get sexual education in their

families before marriage. It impacts their first intercourse after which they come to us, gynecologists or to psychiatrists, with numerous complaints. For that reason Yenge have significant roles. The couple trusts her, she teaches and explains everything and the young people avoid problems.” Elnur Nazimbyel disagrees. “The Yenge institute is still very actively followed in the regions of Georgia and it is very shameful. It is not tradition; it is snooping into someone else’s bed. I have not married yet but I will definitely not allow anybody to do so at my wedding.” Gulferi Mamedova said: “It is a big shame. We do not know what to do. I’ve even heard of underage girls being taken to the ceremony of the showing of the bloodstained sheet. Children are made ready from an early age to get married under supervision of a Yenge. It is destroying the future of our youth. It’s a disaster.”

WHAT DO THE YENGES SAY? Our respondent Mina Gulieva (name changed) is from Marneuli district. She is 55 and has often acted as a Yenge. She said the tradition is very important. “Sometimes girls and boys are very inexperienced. They do not know how to act. We, the Yenges, are authorized to teach them everything. It is a guarantee; how can one prove the virginity of a bride without a Yenge? Afterwards, the groom’s side may raise questions about the honesty of the girl. It will cause controversy between families.” Mina recalled an incident during one of the weddings, when a Yenge was invited late. “I know one family where a girl was sent home two days after the wedding. The girl was very young. Reportedly, the Yenge had not warned her to leave the sheet untouched and she washed it, meaning it was impossible to prove her virginity. Nobody listened to the boy. It is our tradition.”




FEBRUARY 5 - 8, 2016

Sweating in the Frost: Svaneti



friend wrote recently from Ushguli that the temperature there was minus 36 degrees C. Minus 36! I had not known that such temperatures were possible in Georgia outside of a new Ice Age, even in Europe’s highest village at the height of winter. Clearly, while much of the rest of the world is complaining of the heat, Svaneti is lagging behind the trends, as it so often seems to. Late with roads, with the first car, with electricity, with the first TV... It wasn’t that cold, but still cold enough, when I found myself required to walk most of the way home to Etseri from Becho, 10 km away, recently. One of my school days there, and transport between the two has been irregular of late, the usual minivan-bus driver laid up with something, the rest of us forced to find alternate wheels to Mestia or stops en route. The outward journey was easy, in a neighbor’s Niva (qvelgan miva, or “goes anywhere”)... But he’d be returning from Mestia only after 4 pm, and the school closed about two hours before that, meaning a long wait at the bus stop. I

decided to walk, thinking that the exercise would warm me up. I was right. For a while, in Canada thirty years ago and more, I’d not had a running vehicle, and from my parents’ acreage to work was about a 10 km bike ride—at minus 20. Cold enough, but again, I was generating my own heat, and protecting my lungs with a scarf. No worries, eh! Now, as I set off from Becho school with a fortuitously timed hot staff lunch in my tummy, well wrapped and layered, I was again soon much warmer than standing still would leave me. The road is in good shape, plowed of much snow, although there’s still a good layer of it covering the cement. But it was an easy walk, if a longish one. Only two single-kilometer stretches gave me a respite in cars; the rest was all on foot, the traffic sparse so late in the afternoon. Having once walked all the way from Etseri to Mestia in a day, 28 km (although that was in summer), and then on other days to Ipari and Ushguli and finally back the same route- an over 100 km round trip!- I knew that this I could also do. It was beautiful in all the snow, and very quiet too, and I took the chance to make a few photographs as I walked, camera always with me in case Ushba had decided to peep out from behind the common clouds. Fences almost com-

pletely covered in white gave a simple, stark, haiku-like feel to the photos, which are best in simple black and white, having hardly color of their own anyway. Not a thousand words per image in these stripped-down cases—just a bare seventeen syllables: enough to sum it up, anyway. You could be in any winter country in the world; nothing screamed out “Svaneti!”- no watchtowers. Fine, it was enough to satisfy the purist in me. Neither wind nor new snowfall assailed me; there was just the huge landscape, and the quiet, the still. My thighs felt it all the next day, a bit, but I’ve not had enough such exercise this winter, compared to the summer’s long walks, so this was a reminder that I must soon get back in shape. The ache was more of that pleasant kind than a pain. It might be a rare necessity to do this walk amid the snow, but at least I know that I can still manage it. Truth be told, I welcomed the solitude, too. 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



he Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University Center of Research for the Study of Georgian Complex Development Issues organized a social study on 8-23 Jan, 2016, the purpose of which was to establish opinions regarding the threat to Georgia by the so-called Islamic State, particularly following the terrorist attacks in Paris. The survey of the population took place in T bilisi amongst 381citizens aged 18 and above. 16% of the respondents consider the Islamic State as an extremely serious threat to Georgia. 33% consider it as a serious threat and just 9% said they

saw no threat in it at all. Yet the majority of respondents (42%) are seriously concerned about the fact that Georgian citizens also participate in activities of so-called Islamic State,

and only 7% were not bothered by this fact. 32% of respondents believe that there is a need to tighten legislation on religious extremism and 45% trust that the legislation is strict enough. 1. How serious do you think the threat to Georgia is from the so-called Islamic State following the Paris attacks? 1.1 very serious 16% 1.2 serious 33% 1.3 minor threat 22% 1.4 does not represent a threat 9% 1.5 I cannot answer 20% 2. How concerned are you by the fact that some Georgian citizens are involved in so-called Islamic State activities? 2.1 seriously concerned 42% 2.2 not everso concerned 14% 2.3 not concerned at all 7% 2.4 I cannot answer 37% 3. Do you think is it necessary to tighten legislation on religious extremism? 3.1 Yes 32% 3.2 No 45% 3.3 I cannot answer 23%

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Turashvili’s Top 5 Must-Reads of Georgian Literature BY BEQA KIRTAVA


ne may find it surprising that a small country like Georgia is the birthplace of many exceptionally talented writers; ranging from hagiographers and novelists to poets and fictionists, the designated names of the local literature deliver it all. Getting to know our world of liberal arts is definitely a difficult task. So, to help you find your way through the windfall of books, we asked worldfamous Georgian writer, Dato Turashvili, to give us his picks for the top 5 must-reads that every person should go for. 1. Jacob the Priest – Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik. “Written in the 5th century, this is the first Georgian novel. Just like us, any

other nation or country would be extremely proud to have a piece of literature that dates back to the 5th century. The literary history alone is reason enough to make this novel interesting for foreigners. If read, one will easily discover its great artistic (and non-artistic) value.” 2. Shota Rustaveli – The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. “The cynosure of Georgian literature – The Knight in the Panther’s Skin is a 12th century poem which is a unique synthesis of western and eastern poetic-philosophical cultures and serves as the kernel of European and Georgian renaissance, not only in terms of literature and art.” 3. Vazha-Pshavela – Host & Guest and Aluda Ketelauri. “One just has to read Vazha-Pshavela’s collection of poems, which includes his two works – Host & Guest and Aluda Ketelauri. Why? Because in 19th century Georgian literature, Vazha-Pshavela managed to establish the values on which modern

democratic countries now stand, whose biggest achievement is protecting the rights of those who are radically different from the majority.” 4. Konstantine Gamsakhurdia – Kidnapping the Moon. “Kidnapping the Moon is the novel which depicts and explains the violent processes present in early 20th century Georgia. This, unfortunately, drastically changed our country’s natural and harmonious development and resulted in the Soviet-Russian regime, which was tragic for us.” 5. Guram Dochanashvili – The First Garment. “The First Garment is the 20th century Georgian novel which is the literary confirmation that, despite everything, Georgians always remain true to the main universal values – kindness, love and freedom.” So, what are you waiting for? Don’t waste a second and be sure to check out all of the abovementioned works of literature. And while you’re at it,

Georgian writer David Turashvili, best known for his 2008 novel – ‘Flight from the USSR’ (aka ‘Jeans Generation’).

I would advise you to also read our respondent’s brilliant novel – The Flight from the USSR, which has already been translated into numerous languages, including English.

Cultural Strategy 2025: Joint Project of the State and Nation alternative methods for that,” stated Minister Giorgadze. The Strategy has a few interesting suggestions for better financing, one of them being the involvement of the business sector in the cultural field and the possible promotion to the legislative level. Another idea is possible deductions from excise taxes and lotteries to aid sector development. The Cultural Strategy 2025 is supported by the EU Eastern Partnership Culture Programme, which highly appreciated the Ministry’s work. “It was a



he Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia began work on the unprecedented long-term ‘Strategy 2025’ at the beginning of 2015. During the past year representatives of the Ministry have toured the regions and met with people, organizations, and companies related to culture, in order to reveal the most significant problems and solutions in the cultural field and include them in the Strategy. Minister of Culture, Mikheil Giorgadze, announced the launch of the second phase of the Strategy in early February, adding that it requires the active involvement of population. The Ministry announced that throughout February they plan to hold 25 presentations of the working version of the Strategy in all regions, four of which will be open to all interested participants wanting to express their views, make comments and take part in discussions. The idea is to make up the final version of Strategy 2025 together with the citizens it will affect.

The working version of the Strategy is already available on a special website www.culturepolicy. ge and Wikipedia. In this case, everyone has access to the document and can also post comments and amendments online. “We do not believe that only the government and experts should be in charge of such an important and long-term Strategy,” said Minister Giorgadze. “People have the misconception that culture is just about entertainment or high art. In fact, it is about education and development. We want to convey that culture can help people to overcome everyday problems. And to take the right course in this we need our citizen to participate in this Strategy,” he added. In an interview with GEORGIA TODAY, Minister Giorgadze noted that the Strategy does not place emphasis on what theater or cinema should be, recognizing it as something that should be done by professionals in these specific areas. “We are talking about the problems that exist in culture. For example, infrastructure and logistic support, which is essential to the industry’s development. There are problems in the legislation and financing, which is one of the biggest challenges for the cultural field, and in the Strategy we offer several

pleasure for us to hear Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mrs. Gabriella BattainiDragoni, say that our work on the Strategy for its quality and transparency may serve as a model for other European countries. However, at the same time, it is a big responsibility for us to finish our job to the same level,” said Minister Giorgadze. The general public can take part in the adjustment of the Strategy before the end of February, after which the final version of the Strategy will be presented at a government meeting in late March.




FEBRUARY 5 - 8, 2016


GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 February 6 MARRIAGE Nikolai Gogol Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Comedy Small Hall Russian Language Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: From 5 Lari February 7 SCARLET SAIL Alexander Grin Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Russian Language Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: From 5 Lari TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATRE Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge February 5, 6 MARY POPPINS P. L. Travers Directed by David Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 8, 10 Lari

February 6 THE ROYAL COW Directed by Guram Bregadze Russian Language Small Stage Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: 7, 10 Lari CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari February 5-11 THE REVENANT Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 16:15 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari THE DANISH GIRL Directed by Tom Hooper Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard Language: Russian Start time: 16:15, 22:00 Ticket price: 10-14 Lari

February 7 CHRISTMAS TALE Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: From 8 Lari

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI Directed by Michael Bay Cast: John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, James Badge Dale Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket price: 10-14 Lari

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

THE BIG SHORT Directed by Adam McKay Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Margot Robbie Genre: Biography, Drama

Language: Russian Start time: 14:40 Ticket price: 9-10 Lari JOY Directed by David O. Russell Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Genre: Comedy, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME Directed by Ella Lemhagen Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie Day, Raoul Bova Genre: Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 12:15, 17:15, 20:05, 22:15 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge ARCHAEOLOGICAL TREASURE Permanent Exhibition November 17 - May 1 EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE GREATEST MILITARY AIRCRAFT DESIGNER ALEXANDER KARTVELI (KARTVELISHVILI /1896-1974/). December 21 - March 31 THE TRAVELING MUSEUM OF THE CAUCASUS The exhibition showcases the museum collection of Alexander Roinishvili, representing exhibits of a 7th-9th century collection of Georgian, Caucasian, Islamic, Asian

and European items, including Roinashvili’s photographs of military harness; copper, silver, ceramics and porcelain tableware; coins, archeological and antiquities.

February 2-15 MARIAM ZALDASTANISHVILI’S SOLO EXHIBITION Supported by Tbilisi City Hall Cultural Events Center


SHALVA AMIRANASHVILI MUSEM OF FINE ART Address: 1 Lado Gudiashvili St. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 www.museum.ge

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION The unique collection of artworks from the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine arts is located in four major exhibition halls on the second floor of the Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery. The exhibition showcases works by the distinguished Georgian artists of the 20th century - Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze. December 25 – February 10 THE EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 120 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF DISTINGUISHED GEORGIAN MODERNIST ARTIST SHALVA KIKODZE. TBC ART GALLERY Address: 7 Marjanishvili Str. Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, Faculty of Design, Department of Ceramic Art Presents MFA Diploma works by MEDEA KOKIASHVILI MERAB GUGUNASHVILI ELENE CHLAIDZE THE EUROPE HOUSE Address: 1 Freedom Sq. Telephone: 2 47 03 11

January 20 – February 5 EXHIBITION BY ARCHPRIEST ALEXANDER CHAKHVASHVILI AND ARTIST BUDU SIRBILADZE The exposition showcases up to 29 ecclesiastic sketches and 37 different artworks including landscapes, portraits and abstract paintings. It is the first collaboration project between the artist and the Archpriest. MUSIC

KAKHA BAKURADZE’S MOVEMENT THEATRE Address: 182 Agmashenebeli Ave., Mushtaidi Park February 7 Every Sunday at Movement Theatre RECITATIVE IN THE CITY KAKHA BAKURADZE, ANA KORDZAIASAMADASHVILI, SANDRO NIKOLADZE, IRAKLI MENAGARISHVILI Start time: 21:00 CAFÉ GALLERY Address: 48 Rustaveli Ave. February 6 FABRICE LIG THIRD SOUL ASH Start time: 23:00 Ticket price: 10 Lari




Watercolor Reflections of an Artist’s Mind and Soul



imo Mondal is a 26-yearold and extremely talented painter from Bangladesh, with a particular love of Tbilisi and Georgia. He paints in watercolor, a rarity for Georgians. For him, color matters most, which brings him close to impressionism. However, he qualifies himself an alla prima artist which implies a spontaneous attitude. For those who are interested, Mimo Mondal’s Watercolor Exhibition 2015 is on until February 15 on Tsinamdzghvrishvili Street 25. It is impossible not to be captivated by the yellow, red, blue, and grey tints. “I use two palettes in order to get the results I want. As one of our Bangladeshi great painters said, art arrives when an artist puts his brush into the watercolor of his own mind.” He is never tired of painting, as this is everything he has – his devo-

tion, work, and main affection of life. In talks with us the young painter admits that he does not sleep, paints every day and his muses never let him down. It is not surprising, though, as Mimo is a very literate person. “I’ve always read books. My parents encouraged it by doing it. I’m a Muslim, but I read about all religions. I can tell you that there is one part in the Koran that says that an artist is God, as he creates himself.” Mimo adds that everyone can feel these things, but not all of us can convey – this is the main difference between artists and ordinary folks. “At the opening of this expo, 70% were not my acquaintances. It was great!” He believes that we all have two faces – outer and inner ones. Money does not give happiness – he has seen it in the examples of the rich. Mimo is not very rich, however, he has managed to earn enough money without needing extra thought. Everything began 5 years ago, when he exhibited several pictures about Bangladesh. Now, Mimo is the most wellknown contemporary foreign painter of

Tbilisi city. “I didn’t know that so many people knew of my existence. I wouldn’t call it success, as at my age it doesn’t come, but a certain appreciation is really there. Once I was returning from Gldani and asked a taxi driver how much I had to pay. “6 Gel” – he said. I was surprised, because I usually paid 10 Gel for the same distance. He replied: “I know you, I saw you on TV.” I didn’t expect it. It happened two times with taxi drivers. Last summer, I was in Racha. To my extreme astonishment, I found out that the whole family somewhere in the remote village knew about me. Oh, my Gosh, it is something! In fact, it is everything I want!” He is full of love and love is the main message he sends out. “If there is God in heaven, why can’t he be on earth, too?” Therefore, he thinks that sometimes the essence of faith is misinterpreted. “People go to the church so often. It means that they are not happy and therefore, they go there to find happiness,” Mimo says. “We can be happy if we find our capacities and peace. All religions are based on peace. Even if a person is too happy, he/she is a little bit crazy.” He is full of peace and beams of constructive thinking. Mimo’s pictures – so fluid and without concrete shape- are the mirrors of his soul: transparent, pure and light, reflecting images of Tbilisi, Rustavi, Mtskheta, Racha, Bangladesh, and winter impressions. It is difficult to be an esthetic person and easily separate from this wonderful atmosphere of calm. However, talented people are not easily recognized. They are either labelled ‘crazy’ or weird’. Nevertheless, most often, when it comes to madness, the surrounding world has it and only small

islands are alive on this sinful earth. Mimo is one of those for sure. This appreciation came to Georgia, however, from his native academy: he was never approved of, being a naughty student. “Now they are inviting me to go and teach there,” he says, smiling. Mimo Mondal is not a very nostalgic person. “I feel I am a son of the world rather than of one certain country. I will

Bordeaux Ballet Principal Dancer Igor Yebra to Dance for Tbilisi



n February 12, the Opera House will be opened by well-known composer Davit Toradze’s ‘Gorda,’ a famous ballet based on Daniel Chonkadze’s story Surami Fortress. The ballet was first staged in 1949 by legendary dancer and choreographer Vakhtang Chabukiani who danced the protagonist himself. ‘Gorda’ was listed in the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet theatre repertoire for decades. The up-coming premiere will be a restored version of this immortal spectacle. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to award-winning Igor Yebra, a successful young ballet dancer from Spain, Bilbao, who will partner Tbilisi ballerinas Nino Samadashvili and Lali Kandelaki on the 12th and 13th of February. “Everybody knows Nina Ananiashvili,” Yebra told us. “When I was a child, I remember her dancing in Spain with Andris Liepa. I’ve kept this image in my head. For me, it was something incredible. I was born in Spain and we did not have classical ballet traditions. When I found out more about her career, I was amazed.” Igor Yebra’s wife is Russian and her father works in Georgia. When the Spaniard attended one of Nina’s performances, he got acquainted with Nina and, two weeks later, they invited him to dance in ‘Gorda.’ “It was quite complicated



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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

gladly go and work in the US if the chance comes up.” However, as the only child of his parents, he says that next year, without any delay, he will go to Bangladesh. “I feel that I have to smell my homeland again.” Meanwhile, let’s wish him good luck and thank this wonderful person for loving our country so much. The next exhibition of his is planned in March. The theme is as yet a secret.

Photographer: Zviad Nikolaishvili Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava

because at that time I was working for another ballet in Bordeaux. I’d heard a lot about this theatre [the Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater]. The building is incredible.” He has appeared as a guest artist with Aterballetto, Ballet à l’Opera de Nice, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Ballet Nacional de Venezuela, Kremlin Ballet Theatre, the Bolshoi, the Kirov, Scottish Ballet, Rome Opera Ballet, Australian Ballet, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre and the Arena di Verona Ballet and is a guest principal with the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux and the Rome Opera Theater Ballet. Yebra finds it fascinating that a country as small as Georgia has such great ballet traditions and he has enjoyed being a part of it. “I am open to all schools and try to absorb all the best,” he said. “As for the rehearsals [for ‘Gorda’], my Georgian female partners have been so gentle and explained everything to me. They are high professionals. In Spain, we also have great dances, as you know, but I was shocked with the difficulty and at the same time thrilled to study this really complicated ballet style based on a story that is well-known for Georgians. The role I am to play demands a specifically Georgian character, but I am determined to do my very best.” Tickets are still available to see Yebra and the other fabulous dancers perform. The show starts at 20:00 on the 12th and 13th and at 14:00 on the 14th of February.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #815  

Feb. 05 - 08, 2016

Issue #815  

Feb. 05 - 08, 2016