Issue no: 1233
• MARCH 6 - 9, 2020 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
In this week’s issue...
Coronavirus Updates: Georgia and the World
ON THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH President Zurabishvili sums up the past year
PRICE: GEL 2.50
NEWS PAGE 2
Occupied Sokhumi Addresses Moscow on Possible Poisoning of 'Presidential Candidate'
NEWS PAGE 3
Choosing Sides in the Church Wars POLITICS PAGE 4
Cryptocurrency Mining & the Future of Cryptocurrencies in Georgia BUSINESS PAGE 5
Hotel Wine Palace BUSINESS PAGE 6
Successful Georgian Abroad: Interview with WHO’s Dr Tea Collins INTERVIEW BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE
r Tea Collins is the name of one of the many successful Georgians abroad that you should know. Holding a Doctorate in Global Health from the George Washington University, as well as a Master’s in Public Health from Boston University and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, Dr. Collins is now the Advisor at the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Non-communicable Disease Platform in the Office of the WHO Deputy Director-General. In an interview with GEORGIA TODAY, Dr. Collins talks loudly and proudly of her Georgian past, and European present. Read on to find out what she has to say about the novel coronavirus, the unity of the world and keys to success.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CURRENT JOB AND RESPONSIBILITIES AT WHO. First of all, I would like to thank you, Nini, and Georgia Today for the opportunity to do this interview. I am truly honored to share my life
experiences with my fellow countrymen. I work at the World Health Organization (WHO), which is a UN specialized agency headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. I am an Advisor in a department called the Global NCD Platform, which is under the office of the WHO Deputy Director-General. Broadly speaking, the purpose of my job is to make sure we address the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and mental disorders. Our aim is to help reduce NCDs and the premature deaths that they cause. In practical terms, this entails my daily interaction with many different people around the world, including the six regions of WHO, other UN institutions, academia, civil society organizations, and the private sector, which is comprised of food and beverage companies, the pharmaceutical industry, sports and wellness corporations and other companies, plus the news media. We all work together to try to reduce the main risk factors in NCDs, such as tobacco smoke, harmful use of alcohol, lack of physical activity, poor diets, and environmental pollution. Continued on page 8
Area Expo 2020 – Huge 2-day Real Estate ExhibitionSale Unites Development Companies BUSINESS PAGE 7
With USAID Support, Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge Builds Connections Through Community Journalism SOCIETY PAGE 8
Nino Kharatishvili's 'Eighth Life' nominated for International Booker Prize CULTURE PAGE 11
Tornike Kipiani to Represent Georgia at ESC 2020 CULTURE PAGE 11
MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
NGO: State Governors’ Expenses Increased in 2018-2019 BY TEA MARIAMIDZE
on-governmental organization Transparency International (TI) Georgia has published a study which show that the salaries, fuel, communication and trip expenses of the nine State Representatives (Governors) is increasing by the year. The NGO says that the total expenses incurred by the nine Governors in 20182019 totaled GEL 10,797,168 ($3,869,952). The remuneration of the state Representatives’ Administrations in 2018-2019 amounted to GEL 8,212,842 ($2,943,670), which is GEL 1,411,749 ($506,003) higher compared to the figure from 2016-2017 (GEL 6,801,093 / $2437,667). In the same period, a total of GEL 655,454 ($234,929) was issued as a salary supplement, award or bonus to the governors. The report says that in 2018-2019, the largest amount of allowances, awards and bonuses was given by the Kakheti State Administration - GEL 122,578 ($43,934). To note, as of December 31, 2019, there were 267 employees in the nine administrations of the State Representatives’ Office, and as of January 1, 2018, more than 276 people were employed. TI also published a similar study last
Image source: 1TV.ge
year, which said that in 2017, compared to the previous year, the amount paid by the administrations of State Representatives to Governors in salaries increased by GEL 101,354 ($36,327). Regarding the bonuses and awards in 2017, TI’s previous study read that compared to 2016, the amount paid by the administrations of State Representatives in bonuses and salary supplements had decreased. How-
ever, like in 2016, salary supplements in 2017, too, were paid by all administrations monthly. It is noteworthy that in 2017, the largest bonus, to the amount of GEL 53,050 ($19,014), was paid by the Kakheti Administration. Also, in 2017, the largest salary supplement, to the amount of GEL 183,677 ($65,834), was paid by the SamegreloZemo Svaneti Administration. This
administration was also the one to pay the highest amount in salary supplements in 2016. The recent study reads that as of late 2019, there are 81 vehicles in the administrations of the State Representatives’ Office and the highest number of cars, 13, are registered in the Imereti Governor’s Administration. GEL 521,959 ($187,082) was spent on
the repair or diagnostics of cars in 20182019, and GEL 1,109,683 ($397,735) was spent by the State Representatives’ Administrations on fuel purchases in the same period, which is GEL 234,575 ($84,077) higher than such expenses in 2016-2017. The Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti administration consumed most fuel 87,060 liters, with a total cost of GEL 190,089 in 2018-2019. The same administration also led by fuel expenses in 2017, with 47,458 liters of fuel. In the period of 2018-2019, GEL 86,993 ($31,180) was spent on telephone communications in the State Governors’ Office, seeing them spending GEL 27,101 ($9,713) on the same services in 2017. For business trips inside and outside the country, GEL 123,495 ($44,263) was spent in 2018-2019 by the State Representatives, which is much more compared to 2017, when GEL 60,727 ($21,765) was spent. The Kakheti Governor’s Office spent the most money on trips (GEL 34,259 / $12,279) in 2018-2019. The total amount spent on food and restaurant services by nine Administrations in 2018-2019 totaled GEL 86,742 ($31,090) while it was GEL 32,635 ($11,697), excluding the expenses of the RachaLechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti Administration, in 2017. It is noteworthy that in 2018-2019, the Administrations of Guria, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti and Mtskheta-Mtianeti did not have any restaurant expenses.
Coronavirus Updates: Georgia & the World BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE
n our Tuesday report, we noted that more and more countries around the globe have been announcing their first cases of coronavirus and deaths caused by it. The fact continues three days on, with Bosnia and Herzegovina reporting its first case, and Switzerland its first death from Covid-2019. In China, where the virus originated in December last year, 31 new deaths were announced on Thursday, which pushed the death toll above 3000, the number now globally standing at 3287. March 5th’s reports say that, worldwide, coronavirus cases have exceeded 95,000. 53,700 of those infected have already recovered while 6% of cases have ended in death. Although the fatality of the coronavirus remains low, it is still spreading fast, causing the governments of countries around the world to take or consider serious measures. Italy, which is the center of the virus outbreak in Europe, has seen 3089 cases and 107 deaths so far. Most of the European coronavirus cases originated from Italy: people travelled from there to other European states taking the virus with them. This alarming fact has led to Italy shutting its schools and canceling public events. It is expected to raise support spending to five billion Euros, as many states urge their citizens to keep from traveling around the country to prevent the virus spreading any further. Having reported its 10th case, Greece, too, shut schools in the country’s three areas and canceled public gatherings. Across the ocean, US Congress voted for an $8.3bn emergency funding package to fight the coronavirus. This came after the States reported the country’s 11th fatal case from the disease. Due to school closures in 13 countries out of fear of coronavirus spreading faster and farther, over 290 million students have been affected. The UN thinks this fact might threaten the right to education. "While temporary school closures as
a result of health and other crises are not new; unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education," Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said in a statement. Georgian students are among those 290 million. Following Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s orders, all schools, colleges and kindergartens shut their doors from March 2 to 16 and are undergoing disinfection works. During the week, the underground passages and public transportation of Tbilisi and big towns in Georgia’s regions were also disinfected. Posters with information about the coronavirus can be found inside all buses and subway trains in Tbilisi. The government has also set up an online platform to raise awareness about the novel coronavirus and a special website has been created where net searchers
can find information about the disease, including recommendations to stay healthy and virus-free. On Thursday morning, the 4th case of coronavirus was reported in Georgia. The infected patient is a Georgian citizen who returned to Georgian from Italy on Sunday. Amiran Gamkrelidze, the Head of the National Center for Disease Control, says the infected person crossed the border not showing any symptoms. His fever came on only later, at which point he addressed the Infections Hospital of Tbilisi. This is the first case of the coronavirus to have been reported in Georgia in March. The first case was reported on February 26, the second came two days later on February 28, and the last before Thursday was reported on February 29. All three patients are currently in an isolated unit at Tbilisi Infections Hospital. Their condition remains stable, though the fourth patient is said to be in worse health than his fellow sufferers.
On Thursday, it was reported that a further 25 people are being examined for signs of the coronavirus. Georgia’s Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze announced that 25 persons had been in contact with the fourth person diagnosed with Covid-2019. All of them have already been identified and are awaiting their test results. Tikaradze added that the Ministry of Health is not yet making recommendations on restricting air traffic. “The Ministry of Health refrains from recommendations to stop flights, as we are very confident that we can control the situation. This is a very important challenge for the healthcare sector, which is doing extremely well," Tikaradze said. Despite this, the Minister of Finance of Georgia Ivane Machavariani noted that the suspension of flights between Georgia and Italy is being discussed. "Italy, as a flight direction, carries relatively high risks at this stage, and we should be aware that cancelling flights
would be a step towards reducing this risk. However, in reality, threats still remain, with infected citizens able to enter the country from other directions,” he said, further noting that if the country wanted to perfectly prevent itself from the spread of the virus, it would have to ban flights completely, but that this would be “a very expensive price to pay”. Prime Minister Gakharia this week spoke about the price the country has had to pay already, noting that coronavirus has had just a minor impact on the Georgian economy as yet, “primarily on sectors directly related to tourism”. Chairman of the Federation of Hotels and Restaurants, Shalva Alaverdashvili was more alarmist in his views, however, noting after a meeting of representatives of the Georgian tourism sector that, “due to the global spread of the coronavirus, up to 90% of hotel reservations in Georgia have been canceled”. "The tourism industry of Georgia has been one of the first to receive a blow from the coronavirus,” he said. “During the last 6 days, 80-90% of reservations for hotel rooms in March - April have been canceled, which means that the industry is almost on the verge of bankruptcy. Coronavirus is a global problem and no one is to blame, we just have to think about getting out of the situation now so that at least we don't have to fire our employees”. He noted that Georgia's capital of Tbilisi has received a heavier blow compared to the regions, where the tourist season is either over or has not yet begun. Besides the issue of having to lay off employees as an impact of coronavirus cancelations, repayment of loans to banks and payment of property tax also present a serious worry for hotel owners, Alaverdashvili noted. Such worries are not restricted to Georgia alone. Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, said on Wednesday that the spread of the coronavirus will hold 2020 global output gains to their slowest pace since the 2008-2009 financial crisis. The IMF also said it expects 2020 world growth to be lower than last year’s rate of 2.9.
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
Occupied Sokhumi Addresses Moscow on Possible Poisoning of 'Presidential Candidate'
the mentioned concern to the leadership of the Russian Federation. “Of course, we will deal with the facts - fake and falsified, which are being disseminated by the media, and we will find out if they really took place or if they are fake, as is common on social media,”
Dvinyanin stated. Before Dvinyanin’s reply, Press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov also commented on the appeal of the Abkhaz side, saying the case will be thoroughly studied and analyzed. “This appeal, of course, will be reported to the country's leadership and will be analyzed accordingly,” Peskov told reporters. The de facto acting president of Abkhazia also noted that if the requests of the Abkhazian side are not met, occupied Sokhumi will view this as an unfriendly attitude towards Abkhazia and will reserve the right to take measures to protect the so called sovereignty of the ‘country’ and its citizens. Abkhaz and Russian media outlets report that Bzhania, 56, was admitted on March 2 to the hospital in Sochi, where doctors induced a coma and flew him by helicopter to a hospital in Krasnodar. The news about the possible poisoning of Bzhania sparked protests in Georgia’s occupied region. Local media reports that hundreds of supporters of Aslan Bzhania, one of the three main ‘presidential candidates’ of Russian-occupied Abkhazia, stormed the ‘presidential administration’ office in Sokhumi, demanding the resignation of acting leader Bganba. Bzhania’s supporters believe that the main opposition leader was poisoned to prevent him from participating in the March 22 ‘elections’. In 2019, Bzhania, a Soviet KGB school graduate, was the main opponent of then ‘president’ Raul Khajimba during the 2019 ‘elections,’ however, he dropped out due to poor health caused by his being poisoned with heavy metals.
for modernized academic programs with greater linkages to the labor market. The project is closely aligned with the World Bank’s latest Country Partnership Framework 2019-2022 for Georgia and will support the Georgian Government’s
2018-2023 Education Reform Agenda. The project was approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors on May 29, 2019, and the Financing Agreement was signed on June 18 of the same year.
BY TEA MARIAMIDZE
eorgia’s occupied region of Abkhazia, which has been under the control of Russia since the 2008 August War, gave an ultimatum to Moscow regarding the possible poisoning of its so called presidential candidate, Aslan Bzhania. Valery Bganba, de facto Acting President of Abkhazia, addressed the Russian Ambassador to occupied Abkhazia, Alexey Dvinyanin, asking him to hand over the materials on the possible poisoning of Bzhania and demanded that the Russian Prosecutor's Office launch an investigation into the case. Abkhaz politician and "presidential candidate" Bzhania was hospitalized on the Russian territory both before the 2019 ‘Abkhazian presidential elections’ and also before the March 22, 2020 so called elections, in both cases with a possible diagnosis of poisoning. The official reports say that in a private conversation with the de facto Abkhazian minister of health, Bzhania's doctor in Russia named the reason of Bzhania’s health deterioration as pneumonia. However, Bganba said Russian news outlets are talking about Bzhania’s having been poisoned, taking the information from anonymous sources. "We consider this an open attempt to destabilize the socio-political situation in the republic of Abkhazia, which can even trigger civil controversy," Bganba said. The senior Abkhaz official demanded that the so called prosecutor's office of
Image source: totallylost.eu
Abkhazia immediately be sent all available information on the case, including a medical report from Moscow. He also requested the launch of a criminal investigation by the Russian General Prosecutor's Office into the possible poisoning of Bzhania in Sochi earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Ambassador Dvinyanin responded to Bganba and to Russian media outlets' dissemination of “misinformation about the state of health of the presidential candidate.” Abkhazian media reported that the Russian Ambassador said he would take
World Bank Supports Georgia’s Human Capital by Helping Enhance the Quality of Education
he Government of Georgia and the World Bank on Thursday launched the Innovation, Inclusion and Quality (I2Q) project at an event held at the Ceremonial Palace of Georgia. The $102.7 million project aims to support investment in human capital through greater access to preschool education, and enhancements aimed at improving the quality of education and the learning environment. “We are excited to support the Georgian government’s commitment to the new generation,” says Sebastian Molineus, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus. “We believe that innovative, inclusive and high-quality education is essential for human capital development and will allow us to narrow the
skills gap between learning outcomes and labor market expectations.” The project has five overall goals: (1) expanding access to and improving the quality of early childhood education and care; (2) fostering quality teaching and learning in general education; (3) strengthening financing options and promoting adherence of higher education to international standards; (4) system strengthening and stakeholder communication; and (5) supporting project management, monitoring, and evaluation. “The active and fruitful cooperation between the Government of Georgia and the World Bank will bring tangible and stable results for the education system,” says Mikheil Chkhenkeli, Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia.
In the coming six years, the infrastructure component of the I2Q project entails building up to five new schools, rehabilitating about 60 existing schools, and the introduction of over 150 child-centered and modern preschool education programs for successful transition to school. Overall, the project is expected to benefit around 116, 000 preschool and general education students. The project will also ensure that special consideration is given to gender equality and support to vulnerable populations, including students and schools with low socioeconomic status located in rural and remote areas, as well as ethnic minorities and students with diverse learning needs. Additionally, the project will also support students in higher education institutions with over 45 grants
MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
President Salome Zurabishvili Gives Annual Parliament Speech BY AMY JONES
eorgian President Salome Zurabishvili gave her annual speech to Parliament on March 4, marking the beginning of the spring plenary sessions. In the address, her second since taking office, the President outlined the challenges faced by Georgia today, as well as the country’s future. However, opposition parties and civic activists criticized the President for acting as a puppet of Bidzina Ivanishvili, billionaire Chairman of the ruling party Georgian Dream, and failing to critically analyze events. “Almost 30 years have gone by since Georgia recovered its place in the international community as an independent nation,” Zurabishvili began. “30 years later, we sometimes fail to see where we have got to, to evaluate our real possibilities and the new opportunities in front of us.” Georgia has become a global country within the international community, the President underlined. “We can no longer view world events as independent from us,” she said, giving the example of the recent coronavirus outbreak. “Today’s global challenges are no longer contained in one’s territory and within one country’s borders,” she said, noting that the coronavirus has affected both Georgia’s health sector and economy. Zurabishvili also underlined changing international relations in the region: “Yesterday’s enemies start peace talks while yesterday’s friends could start
wars,” she warned, underlining the instability in the region which has a direct impact on Georgia, and could develop into larger conflicts at any time. Calling on Georgia to unite behind a common goal, Zurabishvili noted that Georgia’s occupied territories also present a serious challenge, as human rights are frequently violated on the sides of both occupation lines. In doing so, she believes that Georgia will come closer to the EU and NATO. “It is our goal to become a more active player in NATO
and the EU today,” she said. Cybersecurity, Black Sea security and communications are core issues. In this regard, the President highlighted Euro-Atlantic integration and US relations as vital, especially in the military sphere, with NATO conducting yearly military exercises on Georgian territory. Zurabishvili’s speech avoided critical analysis of the current political situation in Georgia and of the ruling party, Georgian Dream. Civic activists and the par-
liamentary opposition have criticized her address, with many members of the opposition refusing to attend. United National Movement (UNM) MP Tina Bokuchava claimed that Zurabishvili is a puppet of Bidzina Ivanishvili, an idea supported by European Georgia MP Irma Nadirashvili who added, “we have no serious questions for her.” UNM MP Roman Gotsiridze accused the President of avoiding serious issues: “She talked about everything, about football, Belarus, wine, but not about
serious issues, including the political crisis in the country.” Former Georgian Dream MP Tamar Khulordava claimed that the speech was “a general statement about everything and nothing.” Civic activists protested outside the Parliament building on Wednesday evening, claiming that Zurabishvili reports to Ivanishvili rather than the Georgian people. 2019 was a busy year of protest in Georgia, with thousands of Georgians gathering in front of Parliament throughout the year. In May 2019, protestors violently clashed with police calling for proportional elections and for Giorgi Gakharia to step down as Interior Minister (he has since become Prime Minister of Georgia), among other things. Despite Ivanishvili’s promise to incorporate proportional voting by 2020, the proposal failed to pass through Parliament. Zurabishvili addressed the upcoming parliamentary elections and electoral reform in her speech: although she insisted she will remain non-partisan and independent, she stressed the need for dialogue between parties. “Differences of views between the opposition and the ruling party, including sometimes fierce opposition, is quite natural, especially in electoral times; but for us, a country located in a complex geopolitical environment, with 20% of our territory occupied, we need to be careful not to let such political struggles threaten the stability,” she underlined. “Our generation has one duty and that is to overcome polarization,” she concluded. “This is our responsibility towards our future generations.”
Choosing Sides in the Church Wars OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
he planned conspiracy has failed. The majority of the Orthodox Christian Church leaders did not attend the meeting initiated and organized by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. Of the fifteen invitees, only Patriarch Kirill l of Moscow, Serbian Patriarch Irinej and Rastislav, Metropolitan of the Czech Lands and Slovakia attended the meeting in Amman. The representatives of the Romanian and Polish churches attended, instead of the high-ranking officials, making it look more like a desire to outwardly fulfil an obligation than a demonstration of support for the plan and issues which were to be discussed at the meeting on February 20. Russian Patriarch Kirill said the meeting could have solved many crucial issues. Theophilos III is considered to be the formal initiator of the meeting in Amman. He met with Patriarch Kirill and President Putin in Moscow last November, where he announced the initiative of said assembly. The Patriarch of Jerusalem said that the Orthodox world should discuss solving the issues of the existing division and eradication of its causes. By division he meant the issue of granting autocephaly to Ukraine and the controversy between Moscow and Constantinople. Based on the issues he raised, it is obvious who stood behind this in reality. Patriarch Kirill ’s plan for the assembly in Amman was to finally form a coalition, to unite forces and oppose the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, eventually resulting in him being “dismissed” from leading the Orthodox Churches of the world. This is why Georgian Patriarch Ilia II did not travel to the meeting and did not send any representatives either, once again
Russian Patriarch Kirril. Image Source: Alexander Avilov / Moskva news Agency
showing whose side the Georgian Church takes in this dispute. When Bartholomew I signed the tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill terminated all relations with Constantinople and began planning a revolt against him with the help of other churches. The first church that Moscow tried to win over was the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Metropolitan Hilarion had visited Patriarch Theodore II a few times already, but the endeavor proved futile. In autumn last year, the Church of Alexandria recognized the Ukrainian autocephaly. The
Russian Church made attempts to win over the Georgian Church too, with Metropolitan Hilarion travelling with this mission to Tbilisi, but this attempt also failed. Although the Georgian Church hasn’t recognized the Ukrainian autocephaly yet, it is clear that it is not going to operate under Patriarch Kirill’s “umbrella”. Today, there are 15 Orthodox Churches in the world and only three, the Bulgarian, Serbian and Jerusalem churches, have succumbed to the Russian influence so far. The supporters of Bartholomew I have also divided into two camps, the first who support the
autocephaly of Ukraine and those who haven’t officially recognized it yet. The Georgian Church is currently in the latter, together with Romania, Albania, Poland, Czech-Slovakia and Antioch. To date, Ukraine’s autocephaly has been recognized by Elide, Cyprus, Alexandria and Constantinople. The fiasco of the meeting in Amman has further raised red flags for Moscow, as in the issue about Ukraine, the Russian Church found itself in the minority. Not only will Moscow lose a parish of almost 30 million people, which is a great financial loss as it annually fills the Rus-
sian coffers, but it also kicked off rumors about the possible dismissal of Patriarch Kirill. In 2023, the latter will turn 75, and while the Russian canonical laws suggest that the Patriarch is chosen for a lifetime, at the age of 75 he can address the holy Synod with a request of resignation. It is this law that gives us grounds to think that the clock is ticking for Patriarch Kirill: if he is unable to achieve anything within the coming three years, Putin will have him removed from the Russian Church, especially since he already has a competitor in Putin's personal priest, Metropolitan Tikhon.
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
Cryptocurrency Mining & the Future of Cryptocurrencies in Georgia trading bitcoin. This is in line with rules that several other European countries are also following. None of this means that cryptocurrency mining companies are off the VAT hook, however. They’ll still have to pay VAT. The only way around this is to move abroad and operate from there. If companies decide to do this, it could hurt the Georgian government’s coffers, but the energy infrastructure may heave a sigh of relief, due to the huge amount of energy cryptocurrency mining can require.
HOW ARE GEORGIANS USING CRYPTOCURRENCY?
ryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular in the fintech world, with lots of people looking to make bitcoin investments. Cryptocurrency, a digital alternative to paying in traditional currency, operates using special technology, blockchain technology, and bases itself on the concept of a decentralised network. It has become popular in Georgia, the world’s third biggest cryptocurrency mining country, although the country’s fiat currency, the Lari, is still the main currency and cryptocurrency is not yet legal tender in the country.
HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN? US-based cryptocurrencies may have had an influence. Like many other countries, Georgia likes to produce wine, but now in some of the country’s wine regions, you’ll now find huge cryptocurrency mining centers, like that of US-based
tech company Bitfury. Despite the Georgian government’s advising the public to tread carefully with cryptocurrency, the nation appears to be embracing virtual currency. Not everyone in the political sphere is as cautious as the nation’s government, however, and one political party has even used cryptocurrency mining to raise funds for its campaign.
Since cryptocurrency isn’t legal tender in Georgia, it’s all about mining for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, something which organizations such as the World
Bank are recommending that Georgia pursue with gusto. They believe Georgia can make the most of the technology to make services in the country more innovative. According to the World Bank, surveys have indicated that 5% of households in Georgia engage in cryptocurrency mining operations or activities. The widespread practice of cryptocurrency mining is largely due to favorable conditions for it, including the VAT exemption and the low price of energy. As it becomes more and more difficult to mine for cryptocurrency and requires increasingly powerful technology, miners’ energy costs can become more significant.
HOW DOES THE FUTURE LOOK? The new tax rules on cryptocurrency could see mining companies move their
operations out of Georgia and register abroad to continue enjoying the tax incentives around cryptocurrency. Meanwhile, several other European countries are still experimenting with blockchain technology, whereas Georgia has fast become one of the cryptocurrency’s leading lights. These countries are seeking to streamline public services and digitize them. The aim would be to make them more transparent, secure and safer. Georgia’s prowess and appetite for cryptocurrency mining has surprised some nations and, given the favorable conditions for the activity, more people may start to get on board with cryptocurrency. If the Georgian government starts to embrace blockchain technology as suggested by the World Bank report, there’s no reason why citizens and companies won’t follow.
GEORGIAN CRYPTOCURRENCY LAWS The laws surrounding cryptocurrency are curiously cautious, almost as if the powers that recognise the potential of cryptocurrency also feel slightly frightened by it too. Although citizens may not use cryptocurrency to pay for goods or exchange cryptocurrency for flat currency (government-backed currency), transactions will not be subject to valueadded tax (VAT), a rule which applies to companies and to private individuals
The Place Where Parenting Dreams Come True
What is the most important, the team of the clinic does not spare efforts to ensure the completion of this process in the shortest time period and offersthegentic research of the smbryo, much faciliating the procesure. Innova In Vitro clinic specializes in various directions, related to the field: In vitro fertiliziation; insemination; Donation-Surrogacy Programs; Gynecological Endocrinology; Neuroendocrinology; Conservative Gynecology; Estabilishing the causes of miscarriages and their appropriate treatment, as well as Contraception. Each client of the clinic is treated with a special care, accentuating the significance of individual factors. Therefore, the reproductologist is to individually evaluate the chances of success in each case. Through the high-quality of services, transparency of procedures and individual approach to the clientele, the Innova In Vitro clinic is now welcoming local, as well es the international patients from various countries of the globe. Z. Anjafaridze Str. 1 turn #6 Tel: 2-232-232 / 596-232-232 Mail: email@example.com FB: Innova Invitro/ინოვა ინვიტრო
MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
Hotel Wine Palace
hough hotel Wine Palace has only been open since 2017, it looks like it’s been around for centuries. Inside the hotel, a gorgeous mixture of styles has been put together by someone with an incredible eye. There are Georgian antiques mixed with contemporary paintings, beautiful parquet flooring, warm colors and statuettes that transport one back to La Belle Époque. Located in Tbilisi’s very center, the hotel is hidden from the main road, rendering a stay there undisturbed and tranquil. Hospitality is a tenet many hotels boast, but few get right. The whole concept of hotel Wine Palace is centered around the traditions of Georgian culture, which is seen in every element of design and service. As soon as you enter the lobby, you immediately plunge into an atmosphere of unique Georgian hospitality. Here, the hosts really value their guests, always wholeheartedly taking care of them. One can write about Wine Palace’s wine cellar endlessly; this is a place where you can learn all the secrets of Georgian winemaking and try the best of Georgian home-produced wines, for free. Also, masterclasses for guests on cooking traditional Georgian dishes are held here. To learn more about this standout venue and find out why it is a must-stay for travelers to Georgia, GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Giorgi Chkhaidze, the founder of Wine Palace.
WHERE DID YOUR IDEA TO CREATE WINE PALACE COME FROM?
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEWLY-OPENED WINE SHOP: BRAND WINE.
My family and I have always been interested in the hospitality industry. We had very concrete ideas in mind; we wanted to create a space that would help maintain deep-rooted Georgian traditions and help each guest embrace them. With due effort, we gradually achieved our goal.
Our exclusive collection of wines is also available at our Brand Wine shop. We cooperate with small family wineries that harness an 8000-year national winemaking tradition to produce some of the world’s most unique and inimitable wines. In the process, they’re transforming into an emerging artisanal powerhouse by tying the wine’s long-running past to a dynamic and exciting future. There are 715 types of Georgian wine presented in the shop, from all over Georgia. Hotel Wine Palace and Brand Wine shop are both built adhering to the belief that when you visit Georgia, a good hotel should help you experience the country’s temperament, traditions and spirit in a holistic way. We hold wine tasting evenings three times a month at Brand Wine, where you can not merely try wines but also listen to different wine producers tell the story of their wines, qvevri traditions and their achievements. The shop is located at Mtskheta Street 48-49, Tbilisi.
WINE PALACE IS A VERITABLE HAVEN FOR WINE-LOVERS. TELL US MORE ABOUT IT. My love for the vine goes back to my childhood. I used to visit our village to help my grandfathers create wine through the qvevri tradition. To this day, together with my father, we produce up to 3 tons of homemade wine with our own hands. These are 100% pure wines without any additives. Quality is the element that matters to us most. We produce four types of wine - Manavi Green; Rkatsiteli (Qvevri); Khashmi Saperavi and Tavkveri. Today, the fact that Georgia is the birthplace of wine is no longer debated in the world. The concept of Wine Palace is inspired by Georgia’s history and viniculture. For centuries, winemaking has been the engine of the Georgian economy, elevating the vine to an iconic symbol of endurance, regeneration, and prosperity. Wine Palace is designed to provide the best of experiences for wine-lovers. It features a wine cellar where you can find a rich selection of exclusive Georgian wines.
WHAT UNIQUE FEATURES DISTINGUISH WINE PALACE FROM OTHER HOTELS? One feature is the representation of love and respect for Georgian traditions in Wine Palace’s design. The hotel offers 33 spacious rooms decorated with exquisite taste and guests’ comfort in mind. A group of Georgian artists were handpicked to transform each of the hotel’s
rooms into livable works of art, by using elements reflecting Georgian traditions, namely Qvevri and Vazi. The twisted staircase is likewise entwined with vines and bunches of grapes. These are symbols of just how proud the Georgians are of being the oldest winemaking country in the world: last year, archaeologists on a dig south of Tbilisi uncovered fragments of Qvevri with residual wine compounds dating back 8000 years. The favorite place for our guests is the wine cellar, which is designed for approximately 70 people and is decorated with hand-carved wooden furniture. It frequently turns into a conference room to host business events. The hotel also has a veranda where guests can enjoy mesmerizing views of Tbilisi. As for the cuisine: the hotel has a high-class restaurant with an open kitchen, so that all guests can see with their own eyes how the dishes are prepared.
WHAT ARE THE GREATEST WEAKNESSES OF GEORGIA’S HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY? WHAT COULD BE CHANGED FOR THE BETTER AND HOW DOES WINE PALACE CONTRIBUTE TO THIS? I think the main challenge for Georgia’s hospitality industry today is the better regulation of certain forms of fraud; that is, for instance, monitoring which hotels really uphold the standards they promise, and which do not. In today’s Georgia almost anyone is able to cheat the customer and give oneself five stars instead
of the deserved three. Expectations are betrayed when visitors see the reality. This should be better monitored and if possible, altogether fixed. It is also essential to better popularize Georgian products and services. We should always endeavor to create better conditions for our guests. Here at Wine Palace, hospitality is more than a virtue: it’s a deeply rooted tradition. Guests are literally god-sent, as the Georgian proverb states, and welcomed with a degree of generosity that exceeds the common etiquette of most western cultures. I would like to add when we talk about the challenges today, that it is very important that the flights between Georgia and Russia be reinstated very soon, otherwise the tourist season will fail. This market plays a very important role in the development of the Georgian economy.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FUTURE GOALS. Going forward, my plans are all about wine. In near future, I plan to open two more wine shops in the Vake and Old Tbilisi neighborhoods; we also envisage building a winery in Kakheti and engaging in largescale production. This idea will need more time to materialize, maybe 2-3 years. *** If you want to feel all the charm of Georgian hospitality, to feel at home, to receive sterling service and to taste magnificent wine from the personal cellar of an owner who loves Georgian traditions deeply, you need to stay at Wine Palace.
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
Area Expo 2020 – Huge 2-day Real Estate Exhibition-Sale Unites Development Companies
UAE Evacuates Arab Nationals from China, Evacuees to Receive Medical Care at Emirates Humanitarian City
reparation for Area Expo 2020 – a largescale exhibition and sale of real estate, is in its active phase, seeing developers preparing to meet apartment seekers and working on special offers. Here, we introduce one of the participants of the event, the company ‘Dux Development.’
TELL US ABOUT DUX DEVELOPMENT. WHAT MAKES IT DISTINCTIVE ON THE MARKET? Dux Development is a subsidiary of the Azerbaijan Investment Group - ORI Group. The company is based on the experience of partners who have been successfully implementing various development projects in the territory of Azerbaijan since 2007, and who made the first investment in Georgia in 2015. The mission of Dux Development is to carry out development projects throughout the country and establish satisfaction standards tailored to investors’ and customers’ needs in the field of construction. At this stage, the company counts 3 completed and 5 ongoing projects. Over the years, Dux Development has acquired reliable partners representing leading European brands in the construction materials industry. Employees are regularly trained to learn about the latest innovations and achieve the right standards and high quality. Dux Development offers its customers the best construction projects in architectural, structural and infrastructural terms, performed with the latest technologies and materials of the highest quality.
DUX DEVELOPMENT ACTIVELY PARTICIPATES IN INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITIONS. THIS YEAR IT WILL BE AT AREA EXPO 2020. PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE AND TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS REGARDING THIS YEAR'S EVENT. Real estate exhibitions represent a unique space for development companies, allowing them to engage in direct communication with potential customers and investors. Last year, our company was presented in Cannes, at the giant real estate
exhibition MIPIM, with the innovative project Landmark Bakuriani, which generated a lot of interest from foreign investors. That is why our company always uses this opportunity to be presented at real estate exhibitions both domestically and abroad. At Area Expo 2020, we have the same expectation that there will be mutually successful and exciting communication with both our potential residents and in terms of business development.
AT AREA EXPO 2020, PARTICIPANTS WILL PRESENT SPECIAL OFFERS TO CUSTOMERS INTERESTED IN PURCHASING REAL ESTATE. WHAT PROJECTS WILL DUX DEVELOPMENT PRESENT AND WHAT OFFERS WILL YOU HAVE? At Area Expo 2020, we will present the project ‘Landmark Bakuriani,’ which is a world-class innovative project of a ski resort featuring hotel apartments with a ski run arranged on the roof so customers can enjoy skiing all four seasons of the year. The ski run on the roof of the complex allows residents and holidaymakers to let their children ski without leaving the territory, while they can enjoy the best views from the terrace bar. The international company will manage the hoteltype apartments in the complex. The project includes ‘Suite’ and ‘Junior Suite’ type apartments. The apartment management and rental service allows the customer to turn their investment into a source of income. Landmark Bakuriani is located 600 meters from Didveli ski run, making it a perfect place for experienced skiers or snowboarders. Within the framework of the exhibition, we will make a special offer on this project, so we encourage anyone interested in Landmark Bakuriani not to miss Area Expo 2020. Area Expo 2020, large-scale real estate exhibitionsale, will take place in Sheraton Grande Tbilisi Metechi Palace on April 4-5. Attendance is free for anyone interested. To receive an individual offer, visitors can pre-register at www.areaexpo.ge and express their demands in order to receive the offers of participant companies in advance.
he United Arab Emirates has coordinated the evacuation of Arab nationals from Wuhan City in China. The evacuees will be received at the newly established Emirates Humanitarian City in the UAE, and will undergo medical testing and monitoring to ensure their health and safety. The move follows the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to establish a healthcare facility that will provide the individuals hailing from neighboring Arab countries with the necessary monitoring and preventative medical care following their evacuation from the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak - China's Wuhan City. A special aircraft carrying some 215 individuals from Wuhan was equipped with HEPA cabin air
filtrations systems, medical supplies and equipment necessary to carry out the evacuation procedure, along with medical response teams and cabin crew trained to carry out the evacuation. The Emirates Humanitarian City has been set up as per the highest of standards to facilitate highquality care for individuals admitted, ensuring their privacy and dignity are maintained throughout their stay. Individuals will undergo a 14-day quarantine period during which they will undertake the necessary medical and laboratory tests, and be monitored to ensure their health and safety. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the UAE Embassy in China have coordinated with the embassies of the countries concerned to organise the evacuation process as part of the UAE's continuous efforts to enhance cooperation with the Chinese government to contain the spread of the virus.
MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
With USAID Support, Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge Builds Connections Through Community Journalism from the American people, Mari is helping tell the story of Pankisi. She recently told us about her work, her future ambitions, and what she finds inspiring about local journalism.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO JOURNALISM? I wanted to share my opinions and attitudes with the world. As a representative of a small ethnic minority community in Georgia, I wanted to show that my people are loving and interesting people. Also, it’s a chance to listen and learn from others, and communicate what I learn as news. It’s simply great life experience!
Mari Kavtarashvili shares stories about her community with the wider world. Image source: Pankisi Times
he Georgian region of Pankisi Gorge is famed for its spectacular natural beauty. Located between the Greater Caucasus Mountains to the north and wine country to the south, Pankisi is home to lush rolling hills contrasted with snow-capped mountains. It’s also home to the ethnic Kists, a Sunni Muslim minority group with a long history of peaceful interaction with neighboring regions. This interaction was disrupted by the lawlessness of the 1990s and early 2000s, causing Pankisi to be stigmatized and largely isolated from the rest of the country. The lack of integration has hampered economic development and rendered the region vulnerable to malign influences. USAID supports efforts to integrate
Pankisi into wider society, recognizing the need to strengthen communities and enable local residents to contribute to Georgia’s overall development. That’s the motivation behind USAID’s Pankisi Community Links Activity, an initiative to build social and economic bridges both within Pankisi and with the rest of Georgia. One of the activity’s notable success stories is Pankisi Times, a youthled news platform that promotes understanding between Pankisi and the wider world. The platform, supported by a small grant from the American people, counters the disinformation and distrust that has contributed to the region’s recent isolation. Mari Kavtarashvili, the managing editor of Pankisi Times, is a young journalist from the village of Kvareltskali. With a lot of hard work and a little support
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL FOR PANKISI TIMES? WHAT IMPACT HAS IT HAD ON YOUR COMMUNITY?
HOW DO YOU GET ACCURATE INFORMATION FOR YOUR STORIES?
THAT YOU WOULD TELL THE WORLD ABOUT PANKISI, WHAT WOULD THAT STORY BE?
To get accurate information, we visit locations where events of interest have taken place, and we interview people who were involved. Also, we meet with village elders and decision-makers in the region, and we interview them to get more information and backstory.
There are lots of negative things that pop up whenever Pankisi is mentioned. Journalists usually come to Pankisi when it comes to the global problem of terrorism and the Syrian war, and they mostly look for the connection between Pankisi and the aforementioned problems. I would say that Pankisi is a very beautiful place, full of humble, honest, and friendly people. Frankly, this place is full of positive things, and my story is to speak the truth about our unique culture. Khaso Khangoshvili was the first person to write a book on the history of the Kist people, called “Kists”. Much like Khaso, my story would be about our culture, and the historical background that makes us, the Kists, a unique and interesting people.
HOW DOES PANKISI TIMES GIVE VOICE TO THE PEOPLE OF PANKISI? OUTSIDE OF PANKISI, WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE? Our audience is anyone who is interested in our lives. It’s an English-language online platform that is accessible to anyone, especially those interested in Georgia and its diversity!
IF THERE WAS ONE STORY
When we got together to talk about Pankisi Times’ goals, we discussed the general situation in Pankisi, and what we as journalists wanted to do. The main goal was to break the stereotypes about Pankisi, talk about our identity and culture, and to share factual information with others.
HOW DOES PANKISI TIMES FUNCTION AS A SOURCE OF ACCURATE INFORMATION FOR MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY? Pankisi is a very small area and we all know each other. Information spreads very quickly and as journalists we always try to cover all the questions raised on the case. We, at Pankisi Times, were delivered a USAID-sponsored training course on how to process information and to answer five basic journalistic questions- what, why, where, when and how.
Mari shares her knowledge and experience with Pankisi elementary students. Image source: Pankisi Times
Successful Georgian Abroad: Interview with WHO’s Dr Tea Collins Continued from page 1
TELL US YOUR STORY AND ABOUT THE STEPS YOU HAD TO TAKE TO REACH YOUR POSITION IN THE WORLD’S MOST RESPECTABLE AND POWERFUL ORGANIZATION IN THE FIELD? I grew up in Soviet Georgia, so at that time clearly I could not dream of having a career outside my native country. But looking back, I can see now that the choices I made, the steps I took, naturally landed me where I am now. For example, my mother felt that the future was English, so she enrolled me in a school of intensified English learning, School No 47, even though I had a long commute. This turned out to be an excellent, I would say even a strategic, choice, since fluency in English certainly opened a lot of doors, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This sounds like a no-brainer today, but back then, in the 1970s and 1980s, there was neither real pressure nor need to learn English to advance your career, and I am inherently grateful to my amazing English teacher, Nelly Bostashvili, who was an inspiration to me, and I did not want to disappoint her. I also think that political processes in Georgia have influenced my career choices to a great extent. Ever since I was small I wanted to be a physician. My grandmother was a paediatrician, and I remember going to the clinic where she worked and being fascinated by the environment there. It was a children’s polyclinic in a beautiful old building in Tbilisi, on what is now Freedom Square. I remember the impressive large staircase leading to the clinic, the big French windows, doctors and nurses walking in white coats, mothers patiently waiting with their babies to be seen by a doctor, and the smell of iodine. This was mes-
merizing. I knew that I had to study hard to get a gold medal, which would maximize my chance of getting into a medical school. Then the nineties came, with political turmoil, demonstrations, declaration of Georgia’s independence, the collapse of the Soviet Union, war in Abkhazia, internal displacement, war in Tbilisi, mass unemployment, and no prospects. I remember arriving at the hospital where I worked at that time and discovering displaced families from Abkhazia taking refuge there. These were devastating times, but then an opportunity came, where my knowledge of English and computers came in handy. The World Bank came to Georgia to assist the Georgian Government to restructure the whole healthcare system. They were looking for a physician who was fluent in English and who could work with the foreign consultants to implement the Georgian health system reforms, and I had the privilege to start working there. It was really a turning point in my career, and I knew there was no going back. I went to the USA, where I received my master’s in Global Health. I returned to Georgia and worked with Save the Children to help internally displaced populations, then returned to the USA to get a doctoral degree in global health at the George Washington University. My dissertation was on access to healthcare services for the displaced women of Georgia. Finally, one of the nicest things about getting my doctorate in the USA was meeting my husband, an American, and having a daughter with him. In 2009, I was offered a job in Geneva, and my family and I moved to Switzerland. I have been there ever since, except for a brief time working with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to support a program strengthening
cancer therapy. I joined WHO in 2016.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY AND LIFE IN SWITZERLAND. GEORGIA IS OFTEN COMPARED TO SWITZERLAND BECAUSE OF THE MOUNTAINS AND THE CLIMATE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT THIS COMPARISON? Yes, Switzerland is a beautiful country, like Georgia, and there are many places here where even a Georgian person cannot tell the difference. My family and I visited a town called Sion, which is well known for the 13th-century Tourbillon Castle ruins and the Valère Castle complex. The castles bear a striking resemblance to the Georgian castles, and when we got on the top of the hill and looked down, I was amazed to see what looked like our Svaneti towers. It was an incredible experience and showed how small our world really is and how related we all are.
BORN IN THE SOVIET UNION, HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO BREAK THROUGH THE “IRON CURTAIN” OF SOVIET AND POST-SOVIET MENTALITY? This is an interesting question. Since I grew up in the 70s and 80s, I certainly did not experience the horrors of the early years of the Soviet Union. My childhood in Georgia was bright, safe and predetermined. The career choices were limited and clear, it was unimaginable to have a life outside the Soviet Union. However, as I said before, learning English helped me overcome the barriers created by the political upheaval. Receiving an education in the United States helped me become a global citizen, which is relevant in any country I go. Living in the United States and Europe has definitely broadened my horizons and helped me appreciate the good that exists everywhere.
HOW DOES WHO ASSESS GEORGIA’S CURRENT SITUATION IN PUBLIC HEALTH? IS THE GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN WHO CAMPAIGNS? It is concerning that 93% of deaths annually in Georgia are from NCDs. Unfortunately, our nation smokes, drinks alcohol and enjoys a diet rich in fat and carbohydrates, and there is a lot of work to do in terms of promoting healthy lifestyles and physical activity. The Georgian government is very actively participating in the work of the United Nations and particularly of WHO. As an example, Georgia was a co-facilitator, together with Thailand, of the United Nations General Assembly Highlevel Meeting on Universal Health Coverage, which took place in New York in 2019.
THE NEW CORONAVIRUS HAS BEEN DECLARED A “GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY” BY WHO. WE HAVE HAD FIVE OTHER “GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCIES” WITH EBOLA IN 2014 AND 2019, ZIKA IN 2016, POLIO IN 2014, AND THE SWINE FLU IN 2009. COMPARED TO THESE OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCIES, WHAT THREATS IS THE WORLD FACING TODAY WITH COVID-19? The good news is that the coronavirus or COVID-19 appears less deadly than the other viruses you mentioned. But it is spreading, and it is important that we take measures at every level, starting with individual behaviours, such as simple handwashing and wearing a mask if infected. Times like these show the need for international cooperation. Viruses do not respect borders or political systems. It is important that all countries strengthen their disease sur-
veillance systems and provide timely data to WHO to ensure coherent action. I am optimistic that the virus will be contained shortly.
WHAT ARE SOME MAJOR PROJECTS OF WHO? ANY IN PARTICULAR THAT INVOLVE GEORGIA? WHO’s current program of work stresses the need for ensuring that all countries provide universal health coverage for their populations, protect them from emergencies, and improve overall health and wellbeing. This is a broad agenda, but relevant in every WHO Member State. Georgia belongs to the WHO European Region, and there is also a WHO country office in Tbilisi that takes care of Georgian projects. Having said that, I am certainly always looking for opportunities to engage Georgia in WHO initiatives.
YOUR CURRENT STANDING IN LIFE MAKES YOU AN EMPOWERING WOMAN. WOULD YOU SHARE SOME ADVICE FOR ASPIRING YOUNG GIRLS IN GEORGIA WHO NOW ONLY DREAM OF YOUR REALITY? That’s very kind of you to say. I believe that everyone has to carve their own path, based on their abilities, inspirations and talent. What works for one may not work for others, but one thing for me is clear: If you have a dream, you need to work hard and have patience to wait and the flexibility to constantly keep adjusting your expectations as circumstances change. With time, your dreams may evolve and change, and you will change, too, but the hard work will always pay off and you may end up somewhere you could not even dream of.
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
Not Panicking: Etseri, Svaneti
BLOG BY TONY HANMER
o it must be time to comment on the impact of the growing global coronavirus crisis on… this local community of mine. We’ve just had the 4th and likely year’s final team of young volunteer guests come up, 12 active sportspeople this time. They were in Batumi for two weeks before arriving, having flown there from outside, and all remain asymptomatic. Until a day or so from now, when the young man who has the school’s gymnasium’s keys returns, they’ve been removing more than half a meter of snow from the outside school sports arena. They brought with them a volleyball net and several volleyballs, a rugby ball, some Frisbees and other sports equipment. We can add to this a badminton set; the school also has table tennis. School, by nice coincidence, is out from Feb. 2-16 across Georgia, to allow disinfections to be carried out everywhere. We hope that our villagers will see no infection threat from our visitors, and allow their children to join in with some great active fun indoors and out. There
is unlikely to be more snow, indeed strong sunshine is attacking the remaining snow, but a little shovel help will speed things up nicely. I’ve been rounding up all the neighborhood shovels I can borrow daily to add to my two, IDing each with the initial of its owner in marker on the handle, and throwing in three wheelbarrows so the team can remove the arena’s snow and allow its astroturf to dry. They’ve finished half of the space, enough to play soccer or other sports on in some capacity. Meanwhile, Georgian news does report that hotel cancellations for Georgia, primarily Tbilisi, in March-April are up to nearly 90%. This is a catastrophic for the hospitality industry, as it will mean empty venues which are nonetheless still heavily beholden to the banks for outstanding loans. They will have no means to repay those loans without clientele. Our own guest house had received quite a few summer bookings from its various sources, online and by phone, before the virus made world news. So far, no cancellations here. But our actual tourist season only gets underway in early summer, and once these current volunteers leave next week, there are no
reservations until that season. We have heard one or two neighbors hint that they don’t want to see foreign guests here, probably fearing what danger they might pose to our relatively isolated community. But so far there hasn’t been any official request or demand that we shut down the guest house, although my wife and I have discussed this possibility and the likely necessity of complying with it. While it may be impossible to perfectly eliminate an infection threat from outside, I do see that one can take certain steps to minimize it, such as not receiving outsiders. But should we? I have relatives planning to visit from Canada a month from now! What will the world’s travel climate look like then? I can’t say. At least the internet seems capable of offering sane, calm, rational advice for infection-preventative methods, on sites with a relatively good amount of trustworthiness like Wikipedia. I try to follow the advice, hope, pray, that we can get some success in beating this thing. How long can it survive on something like the ubiquitous paper money, for example? (Its relatives like SARS can do so at room temperature for up to 9 days, which is worrying.) How could we treat paper money or other suspected infectious objects at home? (Possibly by microwave, though this must be done right, for up to 4 minutes, with the items dampened to eliminate fire risk and to allow boiling water to do the killing.) Regular hand washing with soap, and avoiding touching face with hands, are more recommendations. Face masks? For those likely infected, not for the healthy. And so we hold our breaths and wait. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer and photographer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 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
MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER
TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 March 6 ABESALOM AND ETERI Zakaria Paliashvili's opera Starring: Tbilisi State Opera Theater Soloists, Chorus, Orchestra, Ballet, Georgian National Ballet "Sukhishvili" Music Director of the Production Zaza Azmaiparashvili, Director Gizo Jordania, Set, Costume and Lighting Designer George AlexiMeskhishvili, Choreographer Iliko Sukhishvili, Video Projection David Matchavariani Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-200 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. March 6 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Musical performance Author, director: Kakha Bakuradze Composer/Arranger: Sandro Nikoladze Musicians: Sandro Nikoladze, Davit Kakulia, Valo Karalashvili, Simon Bitadze Start time: 20:00 Price: 20 GEL March 7 ASTIGMATISTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Astigmatists see the world differently, but are different from each other. A dissatisfied grandfather tries to defend family traditions; a father gets unusable gifts on his birthday; a young girl is secretly dating. Enjoy the comic moments of the astigmatist family. Start time: 20:00 Price: 10 GEL
March 8 FAUST Based on the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Director, Designer: Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze, Davit Kakulia Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL March 12 INTRO Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze The performance is a synthesis of various genres-Brecht's theater, circus performance, puppets and contemporary theater Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL Every Wednesday A LO CUBANO NIGHTS Cuban dancers’ masterclass Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL MUSEUM
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS Until December 5 Ammunition, memorials, paintings, sculptures of oriental deity and household items - The Georgian National Museum presents THE UNKNOWN COLLECTION OF GENERAL ZURAB KOBIASHVILI
IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 Until March 10 EXHIBITION "FLIGHT #4/12" BY KETI BATIASHVILI AND TEONA PAICHADZE. The exhibition combines two artists with different visions, outlooks, biographies and styles around one world, one birthday, one race as a child and a profession. Until March 10 EXHIBITION "NEGLECTED MEMORY" BY IA MCHEDLISHVILI The exposition includes paintings, video and installation. The exhibition aims to present original form and idea to the general public. Until April 2 Georgian National Museum and art organisation Propaganda.network present the first exhibition of Iosen Gabashvili- FROM THE HISTORY OF MODERNISM: IOSEB GABASHVILI The exhibition unites up to 200 works in various mediums: painting, graphics, illustration, stage and film production design, created from 1920 to 1950. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge The exhibition hall is equipped with monitors, where visitors can see documentaries of various historical events. MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave and jump into an illusion
created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in the Mirror Room, free yourself in the Infinity Room, resist the laws of gravity and size, and take selfies in every possible pose. Enjoy the collection of holograms and discover optical illusions. HOLOSEUM 10 Betlemi Str. At the new Museum of Holograms in Tbilisi, 120 projectors splash art onto the walls, the characters turning, twisting and moving as visitors watch, bringing art to life. The museum has opened with an exhibition of NIKO PIROSMANI'S ART. Ticket: 19.50 GEL, children: 12.5 GEL, students: 14.5 GEL GALLERY
THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 GRAND MASTERS FROM THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY March 9-29 Georgian National Museum presents an exhibition of Giorgi Gugushvili’s artworks CALLIGRAPHIC COMPOSITIONS The artist’s monumental vision is transformed into a dynamic and expressive flow in 21 compositions in various media. SPHERO City Mall Saburtalo, Veranda, II Floor SPHERE A domed cognitive-entertainment space where you can become part of an impressive 360-degree panorama image. For all ages.
TBILISI DIGITAL SPACE Tbilisi Mall The first museum of digital art in Tbilisi, where you will meet three different spaces: Vazha-Pshavela's "Dried beech", the world of torches, and a digital space decorated with various graphic and visuals effects. In the main hall, decorated with video projections and mirrors, you will discover that there is no boundary between Man and nature. THE GEORGIAN ROOM FOREST OF LIGHTS MAIN HALL WITH VIDEO PROJECTIONS AND MIRRORS DIGITAL EXHIBITION OF GUSTAV KLIMT The work of art nouveau painter Gustav Klimt is brought to life by digital technology in Tbilisi in an immersive exhibition that marks the 120th anniversary of the painter’s. See his works brought to life with sounds and music, and colors exploding throughout Digital Space’s immense projection surface for a one-of-a-kind experience. Ticket: 5-20 GEL MUSIC
REPUBLIC 1st Republic Sq. March 6 BEKA GOCHIASHVILI Presents modern jazz virtuosos: Mike Mitchell (drums), Casey Benjamin (saxophone, vocoder), Max Gerl (bass guitar), Frank Moka (percussion instruments), DJ Misho Urushadze will continue the evening Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 60-100 GEL WAREHOUSE, VII PAVILION 30/32 Akhalkalaki Str. March 6 Germany-based artist PAUL KALKBRENNER Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 50-200 GEL ART HALL 26/2 Rkinigza Str. March 7 MATTHIAS MEYER Mushroom Stage (Relieve Night) L.Green, ZS, 9Eleven B2B Kavel, Shako Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 20-30 GEL SPACE CLUB 22 Bakhtrioni Str. March 8 CJ BORIKA Start time: 20:30 Ticket: 15-20 GEL
MAJESTIQUE GIFT STORE The ancient country of Georgia, over the past years, has been establishing itself as one of the top destinations for travel. Indeed, it is a country with an abundance of attractions: history, culture, architecture, polyphony, wine production and cuisine. MAJESTIQUE is an attempt, by Georgian art historians, to promote Georgian national theme. For that, the group used the concept of a gift store, which helps to reach out across international borders. MAJESTIQUE offers a variety of artworks by Georgian artists, as well as handmade jewelry, ceramic decorative items, handmade textiles, along with books, wine and gift packages made up with Georgian gastronomic goods. The store is located in Tbilisi Marriott Hotel, 13 Rustaveli Avenue. Doors are open every day from 10 to 7 pm. Email: Majestique.firstname.lastname@example.org (+995) 599 55 92 20
*Majestique* Group wishes you a pleasant stay in our country!
DOORS 26 Sulkhan Tsintasdze Str. March 7 KUCHIS BICHEBI / live Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. JAM SESSION Improv music Every Tuesday Musical director- Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 21:00 Price: 10 GEL
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 6 - 9, 2020
Tornike Kipiani to Represent Georgia at ESC 2020
Nino Kharatishvili's 'Eighth Life' nominated for International Booker Prize
ward-winning Georgian author Nino Kharatishvili's novel The Eighth Life (for Brilka) has been as chosen to compete for the prestigious International Booker Prize award. The prize is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland; it envisages the celebration of the finest translated fiction around the world. Kharatishvili’s The Eighth Life has been selected alongside 12 other novels, including the work by renowned modern writer
Michel Houellebecq. This year the judges considered 124 books. The novel takes as its subject matter the saga of a Georgian family on the fringes of the Russian and Soviet empires. The Guardian speaks of Nino’s work as “harrowing, heartening and utterly engrossing epic novel”. Head of Literature and Spoken Word at the Southbank Center, and the Chair for this year’s panel of judges, Ted Hodgkinson said: “Whether reimagining foundational myths, envisioning dystopias of disquieting potency, or simply setting the world ablaze with the precision of their
perceptions, these are books that left indelible impressions on us as judges. In times that increasingly ask us to take sides, these works of art transcend moral certainties and narrowing identities, restoring a sense of the wonderment at the expansive and ambiguous lot of humanity.” The shortlist for the 2020 International Booker Prize will be announced on Thursday, 2 April, with the winner revealed at a later date. The Booker Prizes are sponsored by Crankstart, the charitable foundation of Sir Michael Moritz and his wife, Harriet Heyman.
his year’s Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) will see Georgian singer Tornike Kipiani present the song "Take Me As I Am”. Kipiani will sing for the audience on May 14. Tornike won the first season of ‘X Factor Georgia’ in 2014. He was selected to represent his country in the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 after winning ‘Georgian Idol.’ The 65th Eurovision Song Contest will be hosted by Rotterdam, Netherlands,
on May 12, 14 and 16, following the country’s victory at the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv, Israel. On March 3, Tornike's video clip was released. Presentation of the official music video was held on the ‘New Day’ morning program of the Georgian First Channel. The author of the text is Tornike himself, while the filming of the clip was done by Temo Kvirkvelia. The official music video is already available on Eurovision.tv. The teaser was released on March 2.
Georgian Girl from Zugdidi Wins Eminem’s 'Godzilla' Challenge
ini Chilachava, a 16-yearold girl from Zugdidi, Georgia, won a contest announced by American singer Eminem, beating his record by rapping 229 words in 22 seconds. A few days ago, the Detroit legend challenged his fans to see if they can rap as fast as him in the 'Godzilla' challenge, a single from his surprise album, Music To Be Murdered By. The renowned hip hop artist launched
the challenge on Tuesday afternoon through Twitter and Instagram, offering prizes to whoever among his favorites could “spit it.” He also included a video of himself doing the challenge. “Thousands of fans were involved in the challenge but Southpawer has only one winner: a 16-year-old girl from Georgia who has almost 100k views on Instagram. This is the moment when beauty meets talent,” reads the article by Southpawer, written by Remy Gelenidze.
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March 6 - 9, 2020