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Issue no: 1063

• JULY 6 - 9, 2018

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Armenian Prosecutors to Question Ex-President & Arrest Ex-Minister of Defense NEWS PAGE 2

FOCUS

ON THE RIGHT MESSAGES

MEPS visit Georgia to gauge religion's role in EU integration

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Delays at the Georgia-Russia Border Due to Issues with Customs POLITICS PAGE 4

Russia & the US Try to Revive Relations POLITICS PAGE 7

Why Did Georgia’s Adjara Gov't Chair Resign? Tensions Rising in & around Iran

BY THEA MORRISON

POLITICS PAGE 8

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he Chairman of Georgia's Autonomous Republic of Adjara, Zurab Pataridze, who had held the post since July 2016, announced his resignation on July 4, meaning that the whole cabinet also had to step down. As Pataridze stated, he and his team made the decision together after “some consultations,” however, no other reasons were named by the ex-official. In addition, the former Adjara Government Chair underlined that he will remain in the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) to “serve his country, as before.” Opposition parties claim Pataridze’s resignation was demanded by the “informal” ruler of the country, GD founder, its Chair and the former Prime Minister, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. On June 13, the former Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, resigned due to a difference of opinion with Ivanishvili. Continued on page 2

Georgian Agency of Protected Areas Joins Europarc SOCIETY PAGE 10

Kids to Get Caught Reading in Georgia this Summer SOCIETY PAGE 13

Photo Zurab Pataradze with the new PM, Mamuka Bakhtadze, in Batumi. June 26. Source: adjara.gov.ge

Katamadze & Insight to Open Art Gene Festival 2018 CULTURE PAGE 15


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

Armenian Prosecutors to Question ExPresident & Arrest Ex-Minister of Defense BY KAREN TOVMASYAN IN YEREVAN

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he Special Investigative Service (SIS) of Republic of Armenia has reopened the investigation of the March 1st events of 2008 when the government opened fire against peaceful demonstrators who were challenging the official results of the presidential elections. The SIS has decided to question the former President of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan (1998-2008), for his connection with the deadly crackdown on the peaceful demonstration, which Armenians often call “The March 1st Slaughter”. On July 4, the Press-Secretary of Kocharyan, Victor Soghomonyan, speaking about the recent developments and the decision to question his boss for the shooting, stated that Kocharyan is out of the country at present. According to the Azatutuyun radio station (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty) Kocharyan stands ready to testify for his actions before and during the March 1st events. Meanwhile, the law-enforcement agency

decided to arrest Kocharyan’s Minister of Defense, Mikael Harutyunyan, who played a key role in the event. According to the SIS press-release, Harutyunyan illegally used, together with “other individuals,” the armed forces against peaceful protesters in what amounted to an “overthrow of constitutional order.” According to the Armenian Constitution, the Army commandership is banned

from using the Army in internal political developments, while Harutyunyan, according to a secret order released on February 23, 2008, formed special regiments in Yerevan, giving them combat weapons and arsenal to depress the peaceful demonstrations. The protests in Armenia started on 20 February 2008 and lasted 10 days. The demonstrators were protesting the most criticized and disputed presidential elec-

tions of Armenia according to which Serzh Sargsyan was announced the winning candidate. The protests against the official results of the presidential elections were led by the main opposition candidate, Armenia's First President, Levon Ter-Petrosyan (1991-1998) who raised a huge popular movement in support of his nomination in 2008 and demanded the annulment of the election results by the Constitutional Court. The increasing pressure by Ter-Petrosyan and 10-day non-stop demonstations in Yerevan, which put the government under risk of collapse, "forced" Kocharyan's regime to use brutal actions against the opposition to maintain his power. After the crackdown of the protest early in the morning followed the arrests of most opposition leaders as well as the house arrest of Ter-Petrosyan. Current Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, was one of the few opposition leaders who escaped arrest, to lead the main demonstration later that day. The negotiations between Ter-Petrosyan and the authorities received no results and later the same day the government announeced a state of emergency and opened fire against Ter-Petrosyan's supporters, killing at least 10

and wounding a hundred demonstrators. After the crackdown on the demonstration, Pashinyan had to spent almost 1.4 years in the underground, and then willingly went to the General Prosecuter's Office in July 2009, where he was arrested and sentenced to seven years inprisonment in 2010. Pashinyan spent just 1.5 years in prison and was released in an act of amnesty, which was announced as a result of another popular movement raised by Ter-Petrosyan in 2011, which pressed the government to release the dozens of pollitical prisoners imprisoned during the 2008 presidential elections. During the 10 years of the presidency of Sargsyan, no serious steps were made to investigate the killings of the peaceful demonstrators, with the opposition parties and human rights defenders marked all the actions made by Sargsyan's government in this direction as "imitation and show." The Armenian National Congress party lead by Ter-Petrosyan and other parties opposing the former government lead by Sargsyan, have already expressed their satisfaction with the recent move of the Special Investigative Service of Armenia and have announced their willingness to support the investigation.

Specialists: Transport Exhaust & Constructions Pollute Air in Tbilisi BY THEA MORRISON

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pecialists of the Environmental Pollution Monitoring Department of the NEA (National Environmental Agency of Georgia) have started to examine the air quality in various locations throughout Tbilisi with the help of mobile stations. They have already checked some of the busiest streets, and claim that Tsereteli Avenue in the Didube district is the most polluted place so far regarding air pollution. The specialists added that the Queen Tamar Avenue monitor showed that the amount of nitrogen dioxide exceeds the norm by 1.3 times, which is dangerous to health. Meanwhile, the cleanest air so far observed was in the Vashlijvari settlement. The Head of the Environmental Pollution Monitoring Department of the NEA, Marina Arabidze, says the monitoring will cover suburbs and other streets too, adding that air quality will be constantly controlled in the capital. She stated that the main reason for the air pollution in Tbilisi are car exhaust fumes and the ongoing constructions in Tbilisi, with construction companies not following the standards to avoid polluting the air. Noe Megrelishvili from the NEA says they have measured air quality at 25 locations periodically and revealed that

Photo source: skyscrapercity.com

the places where traffic is the busiest are the most polluted in terms of nitrogen dioxide. Doctors say that polluted air increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and ischaemic heart diseases, in addition to its role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Oncologist Giorgi Dzagnidze says pol-

luted air affects water and food quality in Georgia, adding this increases the cases of cancer and deaths. Disease Control Center Department Head Lela Sturua says the situation is “alarming” but can be solved by controlling fuel quality, banning old cars and renewing public transport in the capital. “Public transport must be developed so that the population reduces the use

of their private cars, of which there are too many in the capital,” she noted. Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze stated at a City Hall sitting that old yellow buses are the main source of the air pollution in the capital. Kaladze claimed that in the coming days, the Mayor’s Office will present a new Transport Policy, which will be aimed at solving the mentioned problem along with a number of other issues.

“Yellow buses, minibuses and their exhaust fumes cause serious problems for the environment. We need to tighten regulations in order to reduce car and bus emissions in the capital,” he said. The Mayor added that along with public transport, old cars also pose a threat to the ecology, adding their import must be banned. The World Health Organization (WHO) says polluted air also increases cases of premature deaths. According to the WHO 2016 survey, the countries ranked by deaths per 100,000 people attributed to air pollution are led by Georgia, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Korea, and Bulgaria, though countries like China and India have more total deaths from air pollution since they much more population. Environmentalists say that Tbilisi desperately needs green zones and that more recreational areas should be set up throughout the city. Experts state that the quality of fuel consumed in Georgia determines how severe and damaging the emissions are, claiming the fuel used by city-dwellers in the capital is not regularly checked. As Numbeo, one of the world's largest databases of user contributed data about cities and countries worldwide states, as of June 2018, the air pollution index in Georgia amounts to 79.22, while the pollution index itself is 77.52, which is a high indicator. The NEA of Georgia says that the country is taking steps to provide better systems of measuring air quality and tighten control in this field.

Why Did Georgia’s Adjara Gov't Chair Resign? Continued from page 1

The opposition says Pataridze was Kvirikashvili’s team member and after Ivanishvili dismissed the ex-PM, he “decided to replace the Adjara Government Head too.” Unofficial sources say the newly-elected PM Mamuka Bakhtadze complained to Pataridze regarding the infrastructure of the coastal city Batumi when he paid a visit to the Adjaran capital on June 26. The United National Movement (UNM) says it is obvious that Pataridze was dis-

missed for his friendship with ex-PM Kvirikashvili. “The ruling party is replacing Kvirikashvili’s staff with Bakhtadze's people, but nothing will change, because anyone who does not want to be substituted in the future will have to follow Ivanishvili’s directions,” UNM member, Tinatin Bokuchava claimed. Meanwhile, European Georgia says that Pataridze’s resignation confirmed that in parallel with the economic hardship in the country, there is a political “crisis” too. “I am sure GD has no idea how to cope

with the current situation in the country…However, no matter who is appointed to official positions, they will have to serve Ivanishvili,” said Zurab Chaberashvili, European Georgia MP. The GD majority categorically denies that Pataridze was dismissed. GD MP Anri Okhanashvili claims he made the decision himself, while GD parliamentary majority leader, Archil Talakvadze, mentioned that before Pataridze’s resignation, there were discussions in the team regarding this issue. The real reason for Pataridze’s leaving

the post is unclear to the President's Administration. Giorgi Margvelashvili's political secretary, Pikria Chikhradze, points to the recent tendency of state officials leaving their posts mysteriously. “We should hear a proper explanation from Pataridze or the ruling team as to why he resigned. Earlier, we saw the PM’s resignation, now he is followed by Pataridze. Society deserves to know the truth,” she said. Ana Natsvlishvili, the Parliamentary Secretary of the President stated that within two weeks, Margvelashvili will discuss potential Adjara

Government Chair candidates with the Adjara Supreme Council, and not with the GD majority, the standard procedure being for the President to submit to the Supreme Council of Adjara a candidate who will be nominated by him. The Adjara Supreme Council consists of 21 members. In order for the head of the government to be approved, 11 MPs must be in support of the candidate. The majority of the Georgian Dream has 14 mandates in the council, meaning the selection of the new Chair is up to them, not the President.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

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It’s Peach Season in Kakheti BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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he peach harvest has begun in Georgia’s eastern Kakheti region. Commersant is reporting that, although the harvest has begun, the region’s fruit processing factories are not yet running. Archil Khandamashvili, Mayor of Gurjaani, said that 80-90% of Georgia’s peaches are exported, due in part to inadequate domestic processing facilities. Khandamashvili is quoted as explaining that there are plans to open a major canning factory in Gurjaani, but it “has not been opened yet due to some technical problems, but it is said that the factory will be launched in the near future. Exporters buy peaches and sell it to Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia.” Peach prices have held steady, ranging from GEL 0.50 – 0.78 per kilogram ($0.20 – 0.28). In 2013, a fruit-processing and storage enterprise called Georgian Fruit Company Ltd. opened in the Gurjaani municipality, funded under the frame of the preferential agro-credit project. At least $1 million has been invested in the business. In 2016, the facility helped the harvest run smoothly. In 2017, peach and nectarine growers in Kakheti suffered from too much of a good thing. Much of last year’s harvest spoiled or was distilled into peach chacha by locals unable to sell their fruit. The nectarine harvest was robust, and demand for the fruit is relatively low, driving down already low prices. Some farmers also reported that they

generally count on Azerbaijani buyers, but some buyers came too late in the season, claiming hold ups at the border with customs agents. Speaking with OC Media, Gela Khanishvili, Deputy Agriculture Minister, blamed customs issues at the Russian border for the hang ups rather than the Azeri border. One farmer quoted by OC Media, said he gave up farming due to last year’s failed harvest. “I am considering cutting the peach trees down and creating a vineyard. At least [grapes] don’t spoil so easily. I wasn’t able to earn even half of what I invested. This is a disaster,” said the man, identified only as Kemashvili. Mayor Khandamashvili says that, "Unlike last year's trend, this year we expect a much better harvest." Shalva Kereselidze, Head of Regional Coordination at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, says that Kakheti has not yet demonstrated a need or demand for a fruit processing facility. In Gori, two-anda-half hours away by car, there is the factory of Kula, a Georgian company that makes fruit juices and compotes. Some Kakhetian farmers sell their peaches to Gori and the Kula factory covers the transportation costs and logistics. In 2017, Kula bought 500 tons of peaches from Kakheti. Since 2013, the government has been encouraging farmers to form cooperatives to sell their produce, but most are not interested in such a scheme. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia released a statement on this week saying they expect this year’s peach harvest in Kakheti to reach a total of 23,600 tons of peaches, collected along with an estimated 13,000 tons of nectarines.

AT THE BILTMORE HOTEL 29 Rustaveli Ave, 0108 Tbilisi, Georgia

Kakhetian peach farmers. Source: Food Perestroika

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Georgia has exported 1,608 tons of peaches so far this year, which is 1,537.58 tons (22-fold) more than in 2017.

In the first quarter of 2018, Georgia exported $37.8 million of agricultural goods – 22% more than the first quarter of 2017. According to a 2016 value

chain analysis by PMCG and Iakob Gogebashvili Telavi State University, Kakheti produces 74% of Georgia’s peaches.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

Delays at the Georgia-Russia Border Due to Issues with Customs BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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he Georgian Revenue Service, responsible for customs and tariffs at Georgia’s borders, reports that the Russian customs checkpoint at Upper/Verkhny Lars, just north of Kazbegi is operating at reduced capacity with half the normal number of cargo trucks being processed daily. The Revenue Service emphasizes that the delays are caused solely by issues on the Russian side of the border and that everything on the Georgian side is running smoothly. The Revenue Service released a statement saying, “We are already working on a limited basis for the sixth day, as the Russian side does not pass vehicles in the quantities it can. As a rule, 500-600 trucks pass through the border a day, but now no more than 250. The reason is associated with the tourist season, as for the Russian customs the priority is to service citizens and cars.” The delays are causing problems throughout the region as the narrow, high mountain pass is a major regional transit point for ground transportation. Armenian trucks are particularly heavily affected, as Russia is Armenia's main trading partner and all ground cargo moving between the two countries must pass through this checkpoint. Armenian media outlets are reporting that 1,500 trucks with agricultural products from Armenia are currently stuck at the Russian-Georgian border – as many as 600 cargo trucks have accumulated on the Georgian side. Russian news outlet Mir24 reports that there are hundreds of passenger vehicles stuck on the Russian side of the border in a traffic jam of at least 3 km. Despite efforts to address the situation, it is taking cars an average of 3-4 hours to cross the

border into Georgia. At the height of summer holidays, with thousands of Russian tourists heading to Georgia’s popular warm weather destinations, the situation is particularly problematic. Each summer, Russia is among the top five countries whose citizens visit Georgia, according to statistics from the National Tourism Administration. From January-March 2018, 233,100 Russians visited Georgia – up 25% from the same period last year. Russian sources blame the delays on engineering and technical work, including preparation for plans to expand access roads to the checkpoint on the Russian side and equipment upgrades. Mir24 quotes

Sergei Trotsko, head of the North Ossetian Customs, saying "Both us, RosGranStroy, and the Border Guard Service will take measures to ensure that, despite the engineering and technical works, the checkpoint functions, and passenger and cargo

flow is not affected.” There is some unclarity over the actual cause of the customs delays. According to the Ministry of Transport of Armenia, the problems are caused by the introduction of a new pass system in Russia, which allows drivers to pre-book a border crossing slot. A third possibility is capacity. Deputy head of the Transport Department of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technologies of Armenia, David Melkonyan, told the Novosti Armenia news agency that the only explanation for the situation is seasonality and the capacity of the checkpoint. According to Melkonyan, "The design capacity of the customs post of Upper Lars is limited by natural features, usually on any given day there are 70-80 units of cargo, 200 units of passenger transport and 40 buses, as well as 4,000 individuals. However, over the past few days, the flow of freight transport has reached 200 vehicles, and individuals – 10,000. The accumulation of trucks is due to the fact that priority is given to cars.” He adds that nothing can be done to alleviate the backup other than to open an alternate route, and that “negotiations are being conducted with both the Georgian and Russian sides.” Speaking about Russian cooperation, a spokesperson for the Georgian Revenue Service said, "They have yet to say when the normal operation of the checkpoint is to resume. We offered them several solutions to the problem, but to no avail.”

Abkhazian Passportization & the New Criminal Residents of the Region OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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ld “passports” are being replaced in occupied Abkhazia once again. This time the reason is regulations, the same ones that triggered the planning of the Mandarin Revolution four years ago and brought Raul Khajimba to power in the occupied territory. At that time, Khajimba tried to convince the local population that the Georgians living in Gali had acquired “Abkhazian citizenship” illegally and that this conscious crime needed fixing. The latest Abkhazian “passportization process” may well evolve into an ethnical confrontation as it concerns not only the Georgians of Gali but also ethnic Russians and Armenians. The regulation suggests that only those who lived on the territory of Abkhazia between 1994-1999 have the right to obtain an Abkhazian “passport,” the period when the separatists declared independence. Each citizen who claims to have the right to one must prove that they really lived in Abkhazia within the said timeframe. The main discontent has been caused by the fact that the obligation to provide proof does not concern ethnic Abkhazians, as the “legislation” of the separatists says that an ethnic Abkhazian automatically has the right to “citizenship.” Moreover, even those who really lived in the region in that 5-year period and can’t provide proof face serious problems because they can’t bring the documents, since there was no functioning enterprise or educational institute in that period. The new “passportization campaign” is running with an anti-Georgian motto, but, subtly, it still concerns those ethnic Russians and Armenians who have relocated to the territory of occupied Abkhazia since 2000 and claim ownership rights on real estate there. These are people who illegally started living in the deserted homes of Georgians and continue living there today. There is an opinion that the issue of these houses was raised after Syria recognized “Abkhazian independence” and its citizens decided to immigrate to Abkhazia, but there are other versions as well. There are open discussions in Sokhumi about the criminal authorities, so-called “thieves in law,” that were expelled or fled from Europe and Russia with

Abkhazian ABL. Source: girlonawander.files.wordpress.com

plans to reside in Abkhazia. After the criminal syndicate of Russia violated the agreement they had with police the beginning of the World Championship, everyone is convinced that the Kremlin will not forgive the misdoing and will force them to leave the country. For days the criminals, together with police, have been searching for the jewelry worth 800,000 Euros that went missing from the hotel room of famous singer Shakira, wife of the Spanish National Team member Gerard Piqué. Moreover, there have been minor robberies reported by tourists. The initial criminal moratorium suggested that there would be order in the city, in return for which the criminal authorities received the right to attend the football games in VIP lounges at the stadium and inviolability. Russian media suggests that the second wave of cleansing of criminal authorities is already underway. The fact that the criminal authorities no longer have a resting place in Europe is proven by the special operations that have taken place in different countries. The ultimatum of the new Prime Minister of Armenia has been added to this, Pashinyan demanded the local criminal authorities leave the country by September as in early autumn, Armenia plans to adopt the same law which was adopted by President Saakashvili. People believe that after this campaign, all roads for the criminal authorities will lead to Sokhumi, instead of Rome, Athens or Paris, especially since crime is flourishing on the occupied territory. And the so-called Abkhazian “passportization” is just a doomed attempt to put a stop to this blossoming.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

The EU Integration – What Role Do Churches Play?

BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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n addition to it being one of the first European countries to adopt Christianity, Georgia is also a country where a multitude of faiths and confessions has peacefully co-existed for centuries. The Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) in particular, as the biggest religious community, enjoys tremendous support and trust from Georgian society and is an important civil society actor. And since the Georgian Church enjoys way more public trust than the government, it has become embedded in Georgian society’s collective conscience that that which the Church liketh, they should also like, and that which it loatheth, they should loathe too. And this also involves the EU, NATO and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The EU and NATO, in order not to be considered an alien concept imposed over national identity in exchange for security and welfare, also need to be trusted by the GOC, especially in the eyes of the older generations. The fact that the ruling party has learnt the past lessons of its predecessor all too well was demonstrated when the government, in cooperation with the local NGO Center for Development and Democracy, sent a delegation of high-ranking clergymen from the Patriarchate and other churches to the EU and NATO headquarters, soon followed by a visit to the US. However, it’s not only about the Georgian government’s attempts to legitimize the pro-Western course through the Church’s influence - the EU is also well aware that the GOC is an important actor, as became increasingly evident when the high-ranking EU officials arranged a meeting with the Patriarch while visiting Georgia. The former EU Commissioner for Enlargement and the European Neighborhood policy, Štefan Füle, and

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his successor Johannes Hahn, both paid a visit to the Patriarch, Ilia II. Therefore, it was little surprise when the delegation of the EPP, the largest party in the European Parliament, decided to pay a visit to Georgia to discuss the role of religious actors in the European integration process. It was not their first visit of this kind to the EaP country: in 2017, a delegation of the EPP Working Group (WG) visited Ukraine to discuss the role of the churches in Kyiv’s European aspirations - in return, the Ukrainian Patriarch Philaret paid a visit to the European Parliament in May this year. Just one month later, it was Georgia’s turn to host high-level guests from the European Parliament. “We came to Georgia for two reasons: first, because Georgia is a frontrunner among the Eastern Partnership countries and second - it is also a country where the Church enjoys tremendous public trust and support,” explained Romain Strasser, Head of the Unit at the Intercultural and Religious Activities Directorate of the EPP group. “We have come to find out what role the different religions play in the European Integration process.” The delegation of the EPP WG “Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue,” headed by co-chairsMEPs Jan Olbrycht and György Holvenyi, arrived in Tbilisi on June 28. In the scope of the two-day visit, meetings were held with ambassadors, members of civil society and academia, and representatives of the Patriarchate, Armenian Apostolic Church, Muslim and Jewish communities and other religious figures. The meeting with civil society and academia focused mostly on issues of secularism, transparency and the clash between liberal and more conservative approaches. Among the speakers from the Georgian side was Ketevan Chachava, one of the “enablers” of newly-built bridges between

Georgian churches and the Euro-Atlantic community, who was eager to share her first-hand experience. “After initiating the dialogue with the religiousleaders,wesoonsawthembecome the carriers of the pro-Western messages,” she said. “The importance of dialogue and direct communication is very important, and religious leaders should not be left out of the discussion. They need to have the right information about what is happening because they are among the most trusted carriers of messages.” At the meeting with the clergy, the representatives of various churches and confessions expressed their support and commitment towards the country’s European aspirations, while MEP Olbrycht was quick to underline the importance of religion and spirituality for the European Union and dismiss the harmful stereotypes concerning religion, the question of morality, and the question of family inside the EU. “What we observe today is the very important and growing role of religion and churches inside the European Union,” Olbrycht noted. “The [Georgian] Church is a very important actor, especially in Georgia because of its history and traditions. So, we hope that the Church will be also be interested in what is going on inside Europe. Very often, we see that there are stereotypes or accusations that Europe is anti-Christian, that the Europeans are non-believers, etc. No, Europe is complex and there are different traditions, different debates inside the EU. I think it is much more useful to present the real image of Europe and hope that

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the Church, in terms of the institution and the people, will be open to discuss, debate and to see the truth of Europe.” Olbrycht’s Hungarian counterpart did not mince his words either, when, after discussions with the Georgian academia, he was asked what practices Georgia should learn from the EU in all matters religious, stressing that first and foremost, Georgia should take into consideration its own values. “We have not come here to teach you European traditions; we are here to listen to you and to learn from you. You do not need to copy. And I think that the churches in Georgia have huge added values that are sorely needed in Europe,” he said, noting that Georgia was a good example of different churches coexisting peacefully. Further meetings included a visit to the Georgian Parliament, where the EPP delegation met the Chairwoman of the European Integration Committee, MP Tamar Khulordava and other members of the committee. The MEPs discussed the role of religion in the development of society and in state building. The sides spoke about disinformation and propaganda aimed at discrediting the EU policy and European values. The MEPs expressed readiness to strengthen communication with society. The focal point, however, was undoubtedly the top-level meeting with the Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, at the Georgian Patriarchate. The octogenarian Patriarch, invariably regarded as the country’s most popular figure in the last 20 years and widely regarded as a living saint by believers, thanked the

guests for their visit and the assistance provided to Georgia at the international level. Remaining as sharp as ever even in his reclining years, he spoke at length about the importance of spirituality in today’s turbulent world. He pointed out that Georgia is a country with an ancient Christian culture, where people of different faith, beliefs and ethnos have lived, and still live, in mutual respect and love for centuries and that the Orthodox Church has been nurturing and contributing to their peaceful co-existence. The MEPs thanked the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia for his hospitality, declaring that the role of his Holiness was instrumental in maintaining peace in the Caucasus region and expressed their hope and willingness to further strengthening relations with the GOC. The MEPs in fact did little to hide their admiration for the Patriarch, with Slovakian MEP Anna Zaborska noting how the people they had met from the various churches, were “indeed very reasonable and desiring of the best for their country.” The overall consensus was clear – be it from the perspective of the Church, politicians or civil society: it is crucial for the European Parliament and Georgian churches and religious communities to be on the same page when it comes to moving forward towards a more integrated, resilient relationship between Georgia and the European Union. As MEP Olbrycht quipped in his final remark, “churches also mean people, and we need people to know what the real image of Europe and the European Union is.”

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

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Russia & the US Try to Revive Relations OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI

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he U.S. lawmakers visited Russia this week in what is considered as a mission to try to help revive much worsened Russian-US relations. The senators also aimed at observing how Russia's economy has been doing after four years of Western sanctions. The main meeting took place with Russia’s foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov on July 3. The senators’ visit in itself is important as there have rarely been any similar events taking place in the last several years. However, what makes this nascent Moscow-Washington cooperation more crucial is the sequence of events leading up to the July 3rd meeting with Lavrov: the visit comes at the time as both countries are preparing for the Trump-Putin summit on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland. The presidents are expected to discuss a whole rage problematic issues concerning the two states across the Eurasian landmass. Moreover, Russia and the United States have also agreed that their top diplomats will meet after a summit between the two countries' presidents scheduled for later this month, Russian FM Lavrov said. This also follows Trump’s recent consistent rhetoric that Russia must be readmitted to G8 and the relations be improved.

Quite naturally Ukraine and Georgia became worried as top politicians in Kiev and Tbilisi fear their countries’ core geopolitical interests could potentially be compromised in an apparent Russo-American rapprochement. Indeed, there is a substance behind the need for Russia-US cooperation. Both countries want improvement in relations primarily in the realms of Syria and Ukraine. It is in the Russian interests to have gain some (even minor) geopolitical concessions from Washington in the time when the western front has been kept pretty much united against the Russian actions in Ukraine since 2014. However, the intention behind the Russian diplomatic moves (although the visit by the senators seems to be originating from the US) is based in the Russian strategy of trying to divide the the Western opposition. Indeed, the time seems to be ripe for those efforts to succeed. The Transatlantic alliance between the US and the European Union has been strained recently as the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement and heaped additional taxes on European steel and aluminum. Moscow clearly sees that dangers to the western unity are indeed there, but it is still unclear what will come out of these US-EU economic and diplomatic confrontations. True that for Moscow it will be a big opportunity to use, but the maximum the Russian leadership can hope for is the (partial) lifting of EU sanctions as well as minor concessions

Putin and Trump (2016). Source: ktla.com

in the field of NATO military build-up in eastern Europe. Yet, even if this happens, from a broader perspective, the EU will still hold important leverage in Ukraine as Kiev remains firmly under the European economic influence. The EU-US disagreements are important, but for the moment not so much as to cause real fractures in the trans-Atlantic partnership. Europe and the US see

that they need each other to keep Russia at bay. Europe understands that without the US’ military resolve in eastern Europe, Ukraine’s military capabilities are unlikely to improve, making Moscow less hesitant in its actions on its borderlands. Same goes for Georgia. In Tbilisi’s understanding, any meandering on Western part would near geopolitical concessions and the increase of Russian influence.

True that it is for the moment unclear what Moscow and the US are hoping for in trying to revive the bilateral relations. There is simply so many fronts where both countries’ geopolitical agendas clash that any prospective cooperation would need a clear concession from either Russians or the Americans. TrumpPutin summit will bring some more clarity into the discussion.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

Trump and the Iran Nuclear Deal. Source: nbcnews.com

Tensions Rising in & around Iran BY BENYAMIN POGHOSYAN

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resident Trump’s decision to pull out from the Iranian nuclear deal has significantly increased tensions in and around Iran. The return of “regime change” policy will have profound implications on Iran and the Middle East. The Iranian economy is in steep decline with the sharp devaluation of the Iranian Rial and large-scale protest rallies in different regions. The rising prices of consumer products, shortages of water and problems related with mismanagement are fuelling the protests. The decision of some European companies to cease their activities in Iran, such as Total and Maersk, exacerbate the situation. Meanwhile, the US strategy against Iran has multiple layers, and economy is only one of them.

Washington is actively taking steps to foment an anti-Iranian regional alliance, putting together Israel and Sunni Arab powers led by Saudi Arabia. The Tel Aviv-Riyadh cooperation is altering the decade-long security architecture of the Middle East with long-term impact on the Palestinian issue and legitimization of Israel within the Arab world. Syria is one of the battlefields in the American struggle against Iran. The US is effectively exploiting Israel concerns over a growing military presence of Iran and Tehran backed paramilitary forces in Syria, especially along the Syria-Israel border. Israeli military strikes against Iranian targets in Syria are part of the US strategy to put pressure on Iran. Both Israel and the US are demanding that Iran pull its military out of Syria. However, Iran is not likely to accept such demands as it will mean squandering the Iranian achievements in Syria. The most likely scenario is redeployment of Iranian

and Hezbollah forces from the Syria-Israel border and Israel’s tacit acceptance of an Iranian military presence in other parts of Syria. Meanwhile, other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal are not in line with Washington. The UK, Germany, France, and EU as an institution, are struggling to keep the deal alive. Europeans are interested in investing in the Iranian economy and view the vast Iran oil and gas resources as a source to increase EU energy security. The biggest irritation for the EU, however, are the US threats to use extraterritorial or secondary sanctions against European companies involved in Iran. Given the growing US – EU tensions on trade, with bilateral imposition of additional tariffs, as well as US demands to Europe to pay more for the American Defense Umbrella, the EU is increasingly concerned over the US Administration’s new assertive policy. Iran will demand from European countries a guar-

antee of continued economic benefits as a condition to stay in the deal. Meanwhile, Tehran clearly understands that in the case of uranium enrichment resumption, it may face a tough reaction from the EU which will pull the EU closer to the US. Russia is effectively balancing between Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the Middle East. President Putin has successfully transformed Russia into a regional power broker, keeping channels open with all actors. Simultaneously, the US decision has increased Russian importance for Iran. Tehran views Russia as a source for military products and advanced technologies. The “North-South” international transport corridor, which will connect India with Northern Europe via Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia, is another key project for Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, the current situation raises Russian capacities to use Iran as a bargaining chip in its relations with the US in the upcoming PutinTrump Helsinki summit. China views Iran as a key source for oil and gas imports. China is the number one buyer of Iranian oil, consuming 24% of Iranian oil exports in 2017. Iran plays a significant role in the Chinese flagship “Belt and Road” initiative as a gateway to Europe, given the China-Iran sea transit and China – Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran railroad. Beijing is concerned about the US policy of secondary and extraterritorial sanctions, perceiving them as a clear violation of international trade rules. Given the uneasy US-China bilateral trade negotiations, Beijing perceives the US actions as another sign of growing American assertiveness. Meanwhile, the significant role of the Chinese in the North Korea nuclear issue negotiations gives Beijing additional leverage in its talks with the US to ease American secondary sanctions on Chinese companies involved in Iran. Thus, Iran and the other five signatories of the Iran nuclear deal are interested in keeping the deal afloat. On July 2, President Rouhani started his European tour, visiting Switzerland and Austria which just assumed the six month Presidency of the Council of the European Union. On July 6, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs will meet with his counterparts from Russia, China, UK, Germany and France. Most likely, all sides will continue to explore ways to keep the nuclear deal and provide Iran with some economic benefits. However, given the tough US stance, it will be more and more difficult to keep foreign and especially European companies in Iran. The Iranian economy will continue its sharp decline which in its turn will stoke domestic protests. Thus, in the coming months the international community and regional actors will be carefully watching developments in the Iranian domestic policy and adjusting their policy accordingly. Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan is executive director of Political Science Association of Armenia. @benyamin_poghos


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

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Georgia Mentioned in Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue BY SHAWN WAYNE

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he Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue on July 4 with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the human rights situation of the Rohingya people, with a presentation given by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore on Burundi and Georgia. Presenting his update, the High Commissioner said that in recent months, Myanmar forces had engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign which had caused over 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017. Myanmar claimed that many of the allegations in the address by the High Commissioner were flawed, incorrect and misleading, and that the situation was more complex than explained, involving terrorism, rule of law, illegal migration, and other factors. Myanmar was disturbed that the High Commissioner did not mention these atrocities. In the interactive dialogue, speakers expressed concern over the deterioration of the situation, and condemned the widespread attacks against the Rohingya community. Speaking were representatives of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Maldives, Qatar, Finland, Brazil, Pakistan, Jordan, Libya, Croatia, Kuwait, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, France, Iraq, Den-

mark, Australia, Spain, Netherlands, Tunisia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Sweden, Turkey, Iceland, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iran, with multiple NGOs also present and taking part in the discussions. Switzerland urged Myanmar to normalize relations with all human rights mechanisms, as it was horrified by the serious human rights violations and abuses which called for the creation of an Independent Commission of Inquiry, condemning these actions. Azerbaijan stated that since the signing of the Repatriation Agreement, regretfully, none among the 720,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh had been able to return as no measures had been taken to address the security and safety of these people. Azerbaijan acknowledged the challenges being faced and stood in solidarity with the people of Bangladesh, who had granted protection to the displaced Rohingya. Bangladesh stated that it had accepted over 700,000 Rohingyas since last August and its capacity had reached its limit, hence, immediate action is needed. Multiple statements were also made by NGOs such as Minority Rights Group International and Christian Solidarity Worldwide Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore presented updates to the council relating to Burundi and Georgia. Gilmore stated that the human right situation in Burundi continued to deteriorate. Restrictions on civic space and proposed constitutional revisions had

generated a host of human rights concerns, with reports of activities by armed groups linked to the ruling party’s youth wing. She also stated that the Government of Burundi was not cooperating by cancelling the visas of experts being deployed to the country. Regarding Georgia, Gilmore welcomed

progress towards passing legislation on establishing a mechanism to investigate alleged violations by law enforcement agencies and on policy steps to combat domestic violence. The Office of the High Commissioner counted on its partnership with authorities and civil society to continue addressing these issues.

Georgia stated that the occupying power, and its regime, had denied the Office of the High Commissioner access to Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/ South Ossetia regions, completely disregarding the Council’s resolution on cooperation with Georgia, that the occupied regions were black holes, inaccessible for the international community and without a mechanism to assess the human rights situation. The demolition of the houses of the internally displaced in Tskhinvali under the so-called Russian investment program continued, as well as the deprivation of the local population of medical services, property, education and freedom of movement. The Georgian Government reminded the council of the introduction of a new peace initiative to facilitate trade across the dividing lines, in order to improve the standard of living for the people in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. However, without objective international monitoring, the situation would only worsen, and so the Georgian Government requested immediate access to the Office of the High Commissioner to be ensured. Gilmore added that restrictions of freedom of movement remained the most visible and pressing concern in both regions. Access to the territories was important to ensure an objective analysis of the human rights situation on the ground. The Council met on July 5 to hold general debates on Burundi and Georgia. It will then start taking action on draft resolutions and decisions before it concludes its thirty-eighth regular session on Friday 6 July.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

CENN Celebrates 20 Years of Awesomeness at the Bulachauri Green Center

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n 2018, the environmental organization CENN celebrates 20 years of operations in the South Caucasus region. With more than 60 full-time staff members and a network of volunteers across the region, CENN is actively working on sustainable

development oriented projects lead by the mission to foster modern and sustainable development values, building bridges between communities and their surroundings, to develop a progressive society which protects its environment. As noted by the organization’s execu-

tive director, Nana Janashia “Since 1998, when we created CENN, I have had the honor of working with many different people as part of our team. Over the years we have succeeded in striving for excellence and brought together leaders united by one goal — to protect our

environment. When we first started operating in the politically turbulent environment here in the Caucasus, people around us were pessimistic about our ability to deliver on the vision we held, and it was hard not to be. The years since have been full of ups and downs,

new people and challenges, wins and the occasional losses, but always moving forward. While reflecting on this time, on behalf of our entire team, I want to express our greatest gratitude to everyone who has shared this amazing journey with us — our friends, volunteers, partners, and donors — together, we have served the greatest value that we share, our love for our home, our planet.” Since its establishment, CENN has implemented over 200 projects, created a global network of around 30,000 subscribers, empowered up to 10,000 young people through youth activities, green camps and competitions such as the Niko Ketskhoveli School Award, created more than 250 eco clubs, 20 Rural Women Councils (RWC), published different environmental publications and worked actively with different governmental, non-governmental and private institutions. Following its slogan “shaping the future by changing today,” the organization made a vital decision to expand and promote its values of ensuring sustainability, quality education, environmentally sound thinking, and empowerment of women and girls beyond the South Caucasus as its next milestone.

Batumi Beer Festival Georgian Agency of Protected BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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atumi will host a beer festival on 7 July, where guests can enjoy a summer theater, cold beer, pleasant music, exhilarating competitions and prizes from 12pm. Throughout the day, local bands will perform, including Soundlab, Paata Dzidziguri (Melomaniac), Free Space Band, Lucky 13, Road Radio (BSU), Pacific (BSU), Nervozi (BSU) and DJs Lasha Guruli, Chicki and Rezi set to entertain the crowd. The Festival is designed for all ages, and friends and families can head along to enjoy a cozy, relaxed atmosphere with fun-filled activities. A children’s corner will host entertainers, while games will be offered by the Tsibakha Game Club to older generations. A football space will be available for sports-fans to watch the quarter-finals of the World Cup 2018. Only Georgian products will be available during the event. The festival’s main goal for the day is to raise money for 24-year-old Gvantsa

Diasamidze from Batumi, who has been suffering from a severe disease in the past two years. For detailed information regarding the fundraising campaign, follow the link: http://bit.ly/gvancastvis The Batumi Beer Festival is organized by Gvantsa’s friends. The main sponsors of the event are: ‘ICY’, ‘Aragveli’, ‘Shavi Lomi’ (Black Lion), ‘Batumuri’, meatproduct company ‘Vake’ and marketing company ‘ShinDi’. Festival partners and supporters include: advertising company ‘Brilliant Promotion’, hotel ‘Colosseum Marina’, tour operator ‘Adjara Tour’, ‘Tsibakha Game Club’, ‘Kvariati Breeze’, advertising company ‘OL Print’, ‘Guru Holding’, ‘Metro Georgia’, ‘Enjoy’, ‘Giffer’, ‘Pizza Mizza’, ‘Tourism Institute, ‘Batumi State University’, ‘Batumi Boulevard’, ‘Batumi City Hall’, security company, ‘TV 25’, and newspaper ‘Batumelebi’.

Areas Joins Europarc

Web page: batumibeerfest.ge Facebook Page: facebook.com/BatumiBeerFest Facebook Event: facebook.com/ events/1706017492846521

BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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eorgia’s Agency of Protected Areas has announced that it is joining Europarc, Europe’s primary network for natural and cultural heritage. A ceremony was held yesterday at the Biltmore Hotel in Tbilisi to announce the membership. Michael Hosek, an elected Europarc council member, presented the certificate to the VicePresident of the Agency of Protected Areas. Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, Levan Davitashvili, remarked on the agency’s ascension, saying “From now on, Georgian protected areas will be presented next to Europe’s best protected areas and this fact will play an important role in promoting the protected areas

of Georgia throughout Europe and the world.” The Europarc Federation includes 36 member countries and hundreds of protected areas. It is an umbrella organization of European Protected Areas and is recognized worldwide as the professional network for national parks and nature reserves. Discussing the importance of joining the federation, Davitashvili said that "Nature lovers are better acquainted with the unique biodiversity of Georgia's protected areas. It is very important that we are able to actively cooperate with other members of the federation, sharing the best experience and knowledge.” The Agency of Protected Areas joined Europarc with the support of the Czech Embassy, WWFCaucasus Office, TJS and KFW. The event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, international donor organizations, and media representatives.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

The Aromas of Memory

BLOG BY TONY HANMER

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here are several olfactory moments in my life, specific times for which a recurrence of that smell takes me back irresistibly to that point in time and space. I was there; a whiff—and I’m back. The earliest is bacon. Not just any bacon, mind, but cooked until its obligatory thick rind is crispy. I would tie knots in this as a young child, then, once either of my parents cut it off the rasher for me, before devouring it, the best part, with great relish. One of my earliest memories, summoned back by the aroma. England or Canada, about 1968 or 1970? Freshly laid tar is another one. It puts me back to Rhodesia in the early 1970s when I first remember the roads being resurfaced. Some of the joy would be lost, that of a rough lane with long grass growing in its middle, between the wheelruts. My sister and I would see this grass being bent down as we were driven over it, then spring back up again after our passage, and shout out, “Head first, then feet!” as the grass bobbed down and up. But the new tar was a thing all of its own, progress.

Old bookshops and their wares… including comics, once I cottoned on to these with some now quite valuable issues of the New X-men, which sadly I no longer have. But the reading was an early pleasure as TV did not grace our household until our 1977 move back to Canada, and me aged ten. Static print has always been more important to me than video screen, and now, when more of my reading of print IS off the screen of either my laptop or my e-reader than off paper, it remains more important than ever. The smell of old books always reminds me of the hours of delight I derived from the bookshops, just browsing for serendipity, seldom with an agenda but almost always finding a treasure. The musty smell of aged paper just sends me. Samosas: back to Southern Africa, where I first encountered their delightful pastry pocket triangles filled with savory goodness, and fell in love with Indian spices and cuisine, well before age ten. In Georgia it’s the Svan salt. A rich, complex aroma, varying from village to village, some of its component plants’ names unknown even to my Georgian wife in anything but Svan, which she understands about as well as I do, in other words hardly at all. So, a mystery concoction. All I have to do is take some

of it with me anywhere, across the world, and opening the container transports me back to my adopted home of the last 18 years. More than any local wine, cheese, walnut paste, chakapuli or ajapsandali or kharcho stew, this smell recalls me to its place of origin. It goes so well with many traditional Georgian or non-traditional savory foods, either raw or during cooking. This is the power of what enters our nose, without the sense of which we also would not be able to taste and would lose all the flavorsome joy of eating too. More than sound, sight or touch, smell returns those memories associated with it to fullness. Bad smells may have similar evocative powers, unfortunately, to take us back to nightmare times, but let us stay focused on the good memories for now. They are worth many a return visit. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 1900 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: w.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

‘Get to Know Georgia’ Celebrates 3rd Anniversary BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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he project ‘Get to Know Georgia,’ initiated by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA), is celebrating its 3rd anniversary at Hotel Ambassadori. Throughout the past three years, 35 press tours have been held giving journalists the opportunity to visit 300 locations and prepare more than 200

news reports. Photos, news reports and relevant information were published on social media platforms giving the remainder of the population the chance to discover different areas of Georgia through the perspective of the journalists. Giorgi Chogovadze, Head of the GNTA, thanked the journalists and producers for their work at the celebratory event. “Thank you, my friends, for taking part in promoting our country. Do not hold your energy back: travel with us to unfamiliar destinations of our beautiful land and prepare noteworthy news reports,” he encouraged.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

Kids to Get Caught Reading in Georgia this Summer

BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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y eldest just finished 2nd grade at a Georgian school. Her teacher set her four books to read and report on before mid-September and I’m lucky that she dived right in without protest. Those who know me may remember a collection I set up for a local school in Tbilisi, whose Director had “dreamed of having a library” in the school but had yet to get round to making it a reality. Thankfully, kind donations came from far and wide and that library got filled within a month. If not- what would the students be doing this summer? Which is why I was excited to hear that the Get Caught Reading (GCR) campaign which we’ve heard about in the West has finally been brought to Georgia, the goal of which is to motivate Georgian youth to read over the summer holidays. This summer, the program is for reading in English. Get Caught Reading is a global campaign to promote the fun of reading books for all ages. First launched in the US in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers and now managed there by Every Child a Reader with support from the Lois Lenski Covey Foundation, Get Caught Reading encourages youth to pick up a book and talk about it… again and again. The campaign also aims to promote reading in schools and provides support to teachers and librarians. “Because of research indicating that early language experience actually stimulates a child's brain to grow and that reading to children gives them a huge advantage when they start school, we hope to encourage people of all ages to enjoy books and magazines and to share that pleasure with the young children in their lives,” the organizers state. The campaign has the support of well-known figures including Donald Duck, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Graham, Jake Lloyd, Rosie O'Donnell, Dolly Parton, The Rugrats, Jane Seymour, Spider Man, Erik Weihenmayer, and Robin Williams, who have all been "caught reading" their favorite books and magazines for print ads and posters seen by millions of people across the US. In addition, more than 200 Members of Congress have been photographed "caught reading" on Capitol Hill. Hundreds of teachers and librarians across the US have embraced the campaign, setting up "Get Caught Reading" corners, allocating a special time each day for leisure reading, and taking photos of students "caught reading" for classroom posters. Carolyn Rice, co-founder of Get Caught ReadingSakartvelo has lived in Georgia for 10 years, working as an English teacher. “I love reading and come from a family of readers,” she told GEORGIA TODAY. “I have tried all along to encourage my English students to read, and two years ago I did a summer reading bingo with my class of five, where they needed to read 15 minutes a day in different locations to check off a square on the bingo card. Last summer, we added a GCR program and it was so successful with the students and parents, that another of my colleagues started it up in her school.” In the US, May is ‘Get Caught Reading Month.’ Pictures are taken of celebrities reading and they write why they like the book they were caught with. Reading is promoted as something fun and excit-

ing to do- pushing youth to enjoy disappearing into the world of a book; exploring and learning along the way. It is also a popular program in Europe and there are various GCR websites with activities to do in families or small groups. The Get Caught Reading-Sakartvelo summer campaign, which you can check out on facebook, has a competitive element this year, sponsored by the Integrated School of English Language, and asks children in four age groups (covering grades 1-12) to post photos of themselves reading English books and then videos of them reviewing those books. Guidelines are provided in English and Georgian, and prizes will be given to those judged as best presented. The deadline for videos is August 31, 2018. “This year, we’re starting small and just in English but next year we hope to expand to include Georgian, because children should get to know their own literature and get excited about it,” Carolyn tells us. “The challenge we face is that teachers are often overworked and underpaid or underappreciated and can’t think of taking on even one more thing. It may be difficult to get teachers motivated to inspire students to read. Interestingly, it’s the teachers from the regions that have shown the most excitement about this project so far. Another problem is access in villages to books- most schools don’t have libraries, and even if they live near a large town with a bookshop, finances can be an issue.” We discuss the idea of a mobile library serving the regions and the fact that Giorgi Kekelidze, Head of the National Library, set up a project collecting books for regional libraries. Another challenge that comes up, one which I’ve noticed as a teacher myself, is the lack of adapted books for young readers on supply in Georgia. It’s easy enough to pop into a Biblus and find a classic thinned down to pre-intermediate level, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a book that a child will want to read, leaving us having to order inspiring material from amazon. Carolyn Rice and her colleagues have set up a fundraiser (https://www.gofundme.com/get-caughtreading-sakartvelo) to help raise money to buy prizes for the readers and their teachers, though they are also just as happy to take donations of new or good quality children’s books (ideally in Georgian or adapted) to deliver to various village schools ahead of next year’s campaign. If you have books, or ideas to push this campaign forward, write to callie.rice@ gmail.com. “If we raise more funds than we need for this summer's campaign, we will use the funds for the next Get Caught Reading campaign, which will include Georgian books!” Carolyn says.

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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 598 19 29 36 July 6 THE TEMPEST Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL July 7 THE STORY OF A MURDERER Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL July 8 INTRO Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03 July 6 Giorgi Shengelia Exhibition Spilo and Pantomime Theater Band Pantomime Theater Bubble Show Performance ‘The old man and sea’ Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 20 GEL July 7 Goga Osepashvili Workshop Exhibition Pantomime Theater Live Performance Pantomime Theater Neon Show DJ NIKOLOZ Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 20 GEL July 8 Rusudan Petviashvili Exhibition Amiran Shalikashvili and Marcel Marcou Book Presentation Shalikashvili/Petviashvili Showcase Performance ‘The Nigth of King’ Kakha Bakuradze ‘Recitative in the City’ Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 20 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 July 12 RAMONA Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL July 7, 8, 10, 11 An animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL

CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL July 6-12 SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO Directed by Stefano Sollima Cast: Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Isabela Moner Genre: Action, Crime, Drama Language: English Start time: 17:00 Language: Russian Start time: 19:45 Ticket: 14-15 GEL ANT-MAN AND THE WASP Directed by Peyton Reed Cast: Evangeline Lilly, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 19:15 Language: Russian Start time: 14:30, 16:45, 19:30, 22:10 Ticket: 9-15 GEL OCEAN’S 8 Directed by Gary Ross Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime Language: Russian Start time: 13:45, 22:00 Ticket: 13-15 GEL JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM Directed by J.A. Bayona Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Jeff Goldblum Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 16:45 Ticket: 13 GEL LOVING PABLO Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa Cast: Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Peter Sarsgaard Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 15 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL July 6-12 ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 14:30, 17:00, 19:45, 22:30 Ticket: 9-14 GEL SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (Info Above)

Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07 Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL July 6-12 ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 20:00, 22:30 Language: Russian Start time: 11:45, 14:30, 17:15, 19:20, 22:15 Ticket: 9-14 GEL INCREDIBLES 2 Directed by Brad Bird Cast: Sophia Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Holly Hunter Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure Language: English Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 11-15 GEL SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 14:30 Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 11-19 GEL OCEAN’S 8 (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 17:00 Language: Russian Start time: 19:45 Ticket: 13-19 GEL JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY Exhibition showcasing a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE

NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS April 26 – September 1 UNKNOWN COLLECTIONS OF GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM– INDIA, CHINA, JAPAN May 26 – September 30 THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA - 100 YEARS The Georgian National Museum and Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, Korneli Kekelidze Georgian National Center of Manuscripts and National Archives of Georgia, presents the exhibition

The Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy to Georgia, within the Museum Fest, present the exhibition EVIDENCE. A NEW STATE OF ART The National Gallery is hosting the exhibition of Garuzzo Institute for Visual Arts- presenting contemporary Italian artists' artworks created since the 1950s. May 25-August 26 GENIUSES OF RENAISSANCE The Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy to Georgia, within the Museum Fest, present the exhibition MUSIC

June 12 – August 31 Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition CAUCASUS BIODIVERSITY The exhibition is dedicated to the 100the anniversary of the First Democratic Republic of Georgia.

ART GENE FESTIVAL Start time: Folk Crafts and contemporary art exhibitions12:00 -18:00 Folklore Region- 20:00-21:30 The Final Concerts- 22:00 Venue: Ethnographic Museum

IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81

July 8 Folk Crafts and contemporary art exhibitions Folklore Region: Shida Kartli Closing Concert: NINO KATAMADZE AND "INSIGHT"

June 27 – September 10 Georgian National Museum and The Goethe Institute, in connection with 200 years of relations between Germany and Georgia, presents a project THE DYNASTIES - PARALLEL PERSPECTIVE The exhibition features the historic-cultural and, in particular, architectural legacy that has been created and developed in parallel in Germany and Georgia, representing two different architectural family dynasties- the Böhms and the Kurdianis in Germany and Georgia, respectively. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION Discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Sovietera cultural and political repression in Georgia. SVANETI MUSEUM Address: Mestia, Svaneti May 19 – August 19 The Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography hosts an exhibition "MAGNUM PHOTO 70 - GEORGIAN JOURNAL: ROBERT CAPA 1947, THOMAS DWORZAK 2017". SIGHNAGHI MUSEUM Address: 8 Sh. Rustaveli Blind-alley The exhibition PORTRAITS OF KAKHETIAN NOBLES – FROM THE BEGINNING OF GEORGIAN EASEL PAINTING UP TO 20TH CENTURY The exposition comprises portraits of Kakhetian historical figures, such as: King Erekle II, Queen Darejan, Prince Vakhtang Dimitris-dze Janbakur-Orbeliani, Princess Tekla and David Guramishvili, as well as Qajar paintings of representatives of the Andronikashvili family. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge May 15 – August 5 Exhibition TITIAN - MASTER OF COLOR: THE VIRGIN AND CHILD May 25-August 26

July 9 Folk Crafts and contemporary art exhibitions Folklore Region: SamtskheJavakheti Closing Concert : “ASEA SUL” July 10 Folk Crafts and contemporary art exhibitions Folklore Region: Imereti, Svaneti“Kviria” Hip-Hop Day July 11 Folk Crafts and contemporary art exhibitions Folklore Region: Kvemo Kartli & Guria-Iadoni Closing Concert: ROBI KUKHIANIDZE AND “OUTSIDER” July 12 Folk Crafts and contemporary art exhibitions Folklore Region: Tusheti, KakhetiPatarakakhi,Pankisi-Pankisi Closing Concert: “FRANI” SOUNDS OF GEORGIA Address: 2 I. Turgenev Str. July 11 Regular mini-concerts of traditional Georgian live music in Old Town will make you get to know and fall in love with Georgian character and culture. HOMEMADE MUSICA cozy atmosphere of "Italian" yard with the aroma of homemade food. Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 23 GEL BATUMI STATE MUSICAL CENTRE Address: 1 O. Dimitriadi Str. July 7 BASTI BUBU & BBB ACADEMY Performs Kid’s favorite heroes Babilina, Dodi Gio, Sopo Khalvashi, Basti and Bubu Start time: 14:00, 19:00 Ticket: 10-18 GEL BLUES FEST Venue: Lagodekhi July 7 The second blues festival Organized by the company BluesfestGe Presents The legendary bluesman CHARLES BURTON Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 20-70 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 6 - 9, 2018

15

Guess Who Was in Town! BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

T

he great David Wallechinsky himself chose to sojourn in Tbilisi for a couple of days to get an extra taste of Georgia. Encyclopedias call him a ‘Populist Historian,’ which he definitely is, and he currently serves as the President of the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH). David is also the founder and editor-inchief of AllGov.com, which provides up-to-date news about more than 340 departments and agencies of the US government. I have a story about this famous American, which I have been avidly telling people in the last week or so: in the past mid-seventies, I was presented a bulky book in English of 1481 pages titled ‘The People’s Almanac’ by David Wallechinsky and his father Irving Wallace. Since then, the book has been sitting on my desk unmoved. The Almanac is the story of the entire world, including just about anything that

might stir human curiosity. I have never seen any better reading matter for my leisure, usually counted not in days and hours but in minutes and seconds. I still read and reread it. The People's Almanac was published in 1975 and became a best-seller with one of the most popular chapters in it about the selection of lists soon turned into a separate edition - one of the most popular books ever, called ‘The Book of Lists.’ I have that one sitting in the corner of my spacious desk too, but behold, fate would have it that I came across another man in Georgia who turned out to be a Wallechinsky fan. The man’s name is Paata Natsvlishvili, the famous Georgian journalist and sports writer, the Georgian Olympic Historian, researcher and poet. I couldn’t believe my ears when he called me the other day and told me that David Wallechinsky himself was going to be visiting Tbilisi for several days as an honorary guest of the Olympic Forum, the mass get-together of all Georgian Olympians of all time, including the family members of those who are no longer around. Without an iota of exaggeration, this was the triumph of Olympic thinking in

Georgia, set as an example to the whole world by GNOC(Georgian National Olympic Committee), headed by Olympic Champion and Olympic silver medal winner, five-time World Champion Leri Khabelov and assisted by his tireless lieutenants Elguja Berishvili, Nino Salukvadze - Olympic gold, silver and bronze medal holder, Mamuka Khabareli, Emzar Zenaishvili and Rusudan Aptsiauri. The event was a huge public sports festivity, involving every generation. The famous Wallechinsky came to Tbilisi to take part in this glorious demonstration of the Olympic spirit in Georgia. His life story says he was taken to the Rome Olympic Games in 1960 by his father, the most delightful fruit of which was The Complete Book of the Olympics. Since then, many following editions were put at the disposal of tens of millions of the world’s Olympic readers. As a matter of fact, the last edition of the book was happily presented to GNOC by the author at the end of a rousing speech at the Gala in the Rustaveli Drama Theater in Tbilisi. To continue the Wallechinsky saga in Georgia, Paata Natsvlishvili put together a group of journal-

ists, including famous Georgian photo artist Badri Vadachkoria and myself, and we took our new friend to western Georgia. One of the highlights of our trip was the Niko Nikoladze Museum in the village of Didi Jikhaishi. And we had a good reason for this: David Wallechinsky is an Olympic Historian, and who if not he would follow through the life of Giorgi Nikoladze, son of his great father Niko Nikoladze. The historical presumption, constructed by Professor Natsvlishvili, has it that Giorgi Nikoladze might very well be the ‘Unknown French Boy’ who figured as a cox of the winning Dutch team in a rowing event at the 1900 Paris Olympics. Wallechinsky was not indifferent to that piece eyebrowraising information, having taken it with him to France where he currently resides. Who knows what the future harbors for Giorgi Nikoladze in the hands and future books of this great American. Incidentally, my copy of the People’s Almanac now proudly and expensively carries the author’s valuable autograph. This one will surely go long down into generations as a precious family relic and one of the most unique collector’s items.

goals. Within the frames of Art Gene, the ehposition of contemporary Georgian groups Frani and Reggaeon held several concerts in the regions. The festival also gave local artists and musicians the chance to perform in front of the audience and introduce their songs typical to the place where they come from. The festival also brings the representatives of all regions to Tbilisi, to introduce Georgian folk music, traditional songs and culture,” Chikhladze noted. “The festival is aimed at preserving Georgian culture and promoting Georgian

folklore and ancient traditions, dances and other customs. Through the festival, these important elements have been archived and transferred to new generations- spreading Georgian culture and raising awareness among young generations.” Those who want to attend the festival, spend the weekend in a pleasant environment, listen to Georgian music and enjoy good food should drop into the Open Air Museum of Ethnography, on the road to Turtle Lake in Tbilisi. Tickets can be bought online from the Facebook page of as well as at the gate.

Katamadze & Insight to Open Art Gene Festival 2018 BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

I

f you’re stuck in Tbilisi and wondering how to cool off AND have fun this weekend, head on up to the annual Art Gene folk festival, the best way to get to know Georgian culture, music and cuisine and simultaneously cool off in the lap of nature. The festival, marking its 15th anniversary this year, is set to bring all the most important elements of Georgian culture into one space for a mixed local and foreign audience. This year the festival started on June 21 in the regions of Georgia and toured around Adjara, Guria, Imereti, Lechkhumi for nine days, making it the largest-scale regional tour in its history. Over the years, Art Gene has proven to be one of the most successful, self-sustained festivals attended by all generations, since it covers a wide range of cultural activities. The series of concerts start in the regions of Georgia and end up in the capital Tbilisi, at the Open Air Museum of Georgia, which itself showcases the regions of Georgia through the typical architecture of each, dating back centuries. The Art Gene Festival was formed by a group of friends whose mission was to identify problems associated with traditional and folk culture and find ways to solve them. Apart from organizing concerts and cultural events, the group has carried out significant investigation in the regions of Georgia by exploring local culture, folk music, various forms of art and customs, and chronicling them. This year, as per tradition, the festival is to present the bright stars of Georgian contemporary music as well as folk music ensembles and performers from different parts of the country. In Tbilisi, the festival opens on July 8 with the concert of celebrated Georgian musician Nino Katamadze & ‘Insight,’ on July 9 ‘Asea Sul’ (a brother-sister duo from Batumi) takes to the stage, for the first time this year on 10 July there’ll be a day of Hip-Hop, on July 11 Robi Kukhianidze & ‘Outsider’ will perform, on July 12 there’ll be popular Georgian group ‘Frani,’ on July 13 Georgian ballet ‘Sukhishvilebi,’ on 14 July the first Georgian reggae group ‘Reggaeon’ and on July 15 the festival will be closed the popular Georgian folk-rock band Niaz Diasamidze & 33a. Solomon Gogashvili, one of the organizers of the festival, gave a brief overview of Art Gene 2018. “This year the festival counts 15 years of its existence,” he told GEORGIA TODAY. “The series of Art Gene events throughout western Georgia has already finished. This year, Art Gene had its grand opening in Keda, in the highlands of the Adjara

region, coinciding with the opening of a newlyerected monument dedicated to the homeland. From Keda, the festival moved to Lanchkhuti and was followed by concerts in Tskaltubo and Tsageri. All the concerts in the regions were held for free, so the locals were able to attend and take part in the jam sessions.” The musicians who took part in Art Gene and preserved their authentic style and bands are presented in this year’s program. “I’m glad that many new local ensembles that have emerged in the regions of Georgia are taking part in the festival,” Gogashvili told us. “There are also a lot of older ensembles that have breathed new life into folk and will perform in front of the public with a renovated program. From 8 to July 15, each day will be dedicated to a particular region of Georgia, introducing its unique culture and music to the guests.” He went on to speak of other novelties being set up this year besides traditional folk music and contemporary Georgian singers: one day of the festival will be dedicated to Georgian rap. On July 10, after the folk shows of the Imereti and Abkhazia regions, a hip-hop show will be held. Young Georgian hip-hop performers will have the chance to demonstrate their talent and introduce Georgian rap to the audience. Additionally, ‘Shavparosnebi’ (Black Shields) a Georgian martial arts federation that is known for its combat art performances, will also once again showcase their combat skills and present the art of Georgian battle to spectators. “Shavparosnebi have been integral part of our festival over 15 years. This year they will deliver the show on July 14. As a supplement, the area will also see various entertaining games and the traditional Georgian game Lelo,” one of the organizers told us. Apart from concerts, the festival will also showcase traditional Georgian handicraft, various types of art, including black-smithery, tannery, jewelry, cloisonné enamel, basket making, knitting, weaving, sewing, embroidery, “gobelin”, cloth and feltmaking, musical instruments, pottery and ceramics, carpentry and stonemasonry, wood carving and, most importantly, Georgian cuisine. Guests will be able to enjoy traditional organic food brought by peasants, including delicious bread, barbeque, cheese and wine. As Gaga Chikhladze, the lead singer of Georgian group Frani and one of the organizers told us, those who want to explore Georgia within eight days, this is the best and easiest way to get deeper insight into the country’s culture, traditional arts, hospitality and national cuisine. “This is a festival that has been held annually since 2004, having kept the same meaning and

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1063  

July 6 - 9, 2018

Issue #1063  

July 6 - 9, 2018

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