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Issue no: 1131



In this week’s issue... Pardoning Commission to Move to Justice Ministry NEWS PAGE 3

Saving the Georgian Dream or Ivanishvili’s Dream?


China Opens a New Military Base in Tajikistan



Spanish Platform Dyntra Ranks Tbilisi at Just 19% Transparency


A look at how women are represented in the tech sphere



President Zurabishvili Delivers First Report in Parliament BY THEA MORRISON


resident of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili delivered her first report before the Members of Parliament on March 6. The first female president of the country started her report by summing up her visits abroad in the rank of president, stating that her meetings with the EU and NATO officials, and follow-on meetings with her French and German counterparts, had brought Georgia closer to its foreign partners and states. Zurabishvili spoke about her visits to Afghanistan and Azerbaijan, highlighting she was warmly welcomed by the officials there. She said she raised the issue of Russian occupation during every meeting and underlined that Georgia will not put up with the injustice of it. “Georgia will not reconcile with the occupation, abductions and creeping lines that are parts of [Russia's] violent policy. The formats of negotiations are at a technical level at present. I talked to our partners about the necessity to restore high political formats. Our partners must tell Russia that games ending in zero points are not in the interests of anyone and that leading an aggressive policy is the way backward,” she added. The Georgian President named the diaspora and cultural relations as priorities of her activities and as such, she met with students and emigrants during her foreign visits. She underlined that having the status of a Georgian citizen was very important for emigrants to keep close links with the motherland. Zura-

bishvili said that work was ongoing with the Justice Ministry to facilitate procedures for the restoration and preservation of citizenship. “It is our duty to create favorable conditions for immigrants’ return to the country and to provide them with information about the demand for specialists in employment that allows them to fit their professional plans with the local market,” she said. Zurabishvili also claimed that neither the democratic system nor state stability would be preserved in the country without protected and objective information. Continued on page 2

Irakli Kervalishvili: We'll Have a Deep-Water Marina in Poti by Year-End 2020 BUSINESS PAGE 8

2019 European Social Innovation Competition Launched SOCIETY PAGE 10

Russian Freethinker Deals with Stalinism: “Stalin Is Not yet Completely Dead”





MARCH 8 - 11, 2019

Tech4Equality Supports Women’s Empowerment in Tbilisi BY LISA MAIER


n March 5, International Women’s day was marked with the Tech4Equality talk in Tbilisi; aiming to discuss new ways of empowering women and girls by supporting their involvement in the field of technology and science and echoing this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.’ The event was organized by the United Nations in Georgia in cooperation with the Administration of the President of Georgia, Gender Equality Council of the Parliament of Georgia, the governments of Sweden and Norway, and the Georgian civil society organization ‘Innovation Support Fund.’ Georgia is still facing a gender imbalance in the work environment, with the field of science and technology the most affected area of gender inequality. Women are more represented in social works and the wholesale sector than in technical activities, science, politics and the manufacturing sector. Equality among genders is still not a matter of course, as the statistics show (geostat.ge), and although the sphere of technology and science is a permanently increasing work environment, creating ongoing future and sustainable jobs, women are still

highly underrepresented. Louisa Vinton, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Georgia, opened the Talk4Equality event and the stage for a row of inspiring speakers. She pointed to the importance of celebrating Women’s Day and to use this day to shine the spotlight on both sides of gender equality, “To celebrate the positive while also seeking solutions for the negative.” Women in Georgia are well-educated and are still underrepresented in the working environment and particularly in high positions, as well as in the science and technology field. Vinton stated this fact as “shocking” and referred to the need for innovation to equalize this imbalance. “The main challenge is to think equal, end stereotypes and point to role models for young girls,” she said. The talk hosted a line-up of inspiring speakers from a wide range of fields who presented their stories and experiences in the tech and science world and what kind of difficulties they had had to face in a “male-dominated” world. The speakers counted UN and governmental representatives discussing structural perspectives and official efforts already made, as well as leading women in science and technology offering their rather personal stories and experiences. Among the speakers were Nana Dikhaminjia, Professor of Electronic and Computer Engineering at Ilia State University; Natia

Ulrik Tideström, Ambassador of Sweden to Georgia and Armenia

Ninikelashviliv, Founder of www.soplidan.ge; Maia Todua, Director of the Abastumani Observatory; David Chechelashvili, a strategy oriented, experienced high-tech entrepreneur, technology commercialization expert; Esma Gumberidze, an activist who advocates for equal opportunities and access for all in Georgia; Mariam Rusishvili, CEO and founder of QuickCash AI; and Ani Tsitsishvili, microbiologist, veterinarian

and bio-artist. The speakers presented positive aspects as well as negative, pushing for easier access for young girls to the tech field. Some speakers pointed to their childhoods, where stereotyping starts either in the families or in schools. “Our education system is still all about remembering, not about self-awareness, thinking and criticizing. We need to be teaching soft skills like curiosity to awaken

personal fields of interest apart from typical gender roles,” Chechelashvili said. Ulrik Tideström, Ambassador of Sweden to Georgia and Armenia, stated, “There will be no sustainable development, welfare, sustainable peace or security if we keep excluding half the population,” and went on to demand more engagement from men to end this exclusion. All speakers exemplified how they had found new approaches and creative solutions on global problems. Natia Ninikelashviliv, founder of www.soplidan.ge, created a start-up, distributing food products from the regions on the internet in order to ease farmers’ lives from the burden of worrying about salesbuilding a bridge between rural and urban areas in Georgia. “Promoting equal rights in the technological field will bring a whole new and innovative set of ideas to the field,” she said. “There are so many strong women who stand out in Georgia, but when you look at the average wage gap and the lack of representation, particularly in political leadership, I think women need to take courage and demand their rights. But we also need to work together with men to ensure and spread the idea that gender equality is a good thing for women as well as men, and at the end for society overall,” Louisa Vinton told GEORGIA TODAY.

President Zurabishvili Delivers First Report in Parliament Continued from page 1 “We cannot close our eyes to the threats which intimidate people and society in the form of slander and false information,” she stressed. The President underlined that polarization was raging in the country and that a violent environment intimidated the lives of all. “The public expects boiling water to become calmer. It needs peace and reconciliation. This requires the processes developed in information and social networks to be brought within civilized frameworks.

Photo source: 1TV

We should stop fresh floods of misinformation, slander, the language of hatred and secret recordings exposing private lives,” she added. In addition, the President mentioned a number of other challenges that the country is facing, like unemployment, healthcare and social issues, poor conditions for disabled people and increased cancer cases. Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, members of the government and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze attended the delivery of the annual speech by President Salome Zurabishvili.

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The European Commission against Racism & Intolerance Reminds Georgia of Two Unfulfilled Recommendations

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Pardoning Commission to Move to Justice Ministry BY THEA MORRISON


he Pardoning Commission of Georgia, the body under the President which discusses all cases sent by inmates or their families and makes the initial decision which prisoners are deemed to deserve pardoning, will now function at the ministry of Justice. The statement was made by the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, while delivering her first report before parliamentarians on March 6. Currently, the President’s Pardoning Commission is composed of 10 people. Members are mostly lawyers from the civil sector and public figures, alongside the Public Defender and the Georgian Patriarchate. The Commission chooses from the inmates’ applications the ones who deserve pardoning and send the list to the President for approval. The President is the only person authorized to grant pardons in Georgia. During her speech, the first female

president of Georgia noted that during the term of the previous president, the practice of pardoning resembled acts of amnesty rather than a concept based on the discrete right of the President. “The discrete right of pardoning means the selection of individual prisoner cases by the President where the priority goes to human principles. This [change] will reduce risks to the public,” Zurabishvili said. According to the President, having a state Pardoning Commission at the Justice Ministry will ensure the involvement of representatives of different administrative bodies in the commission work. “The commission will discuss applications which meet new criteria, and prepare recommendations. The final decision will remain the President’s prerogative. Private, social, religious or political factors will not influence the decision-making,” she said, adding that the number of commission members will be increased. Former Head of the Pardoning Commission, Zviad Koridze, says the President’s decision to transfer the body to the Justice Ministry will definitely result in less effective outcomes as it is the

President’s function to pardon inmates. “In this situation, we will get a very inefficient, inactive and dead pardoning mechanism. The pardoning function was imposed by society on the President, not on the executive government,” Koridze noted. He said even in 2014-2015, the authorities tried to take the pardoning function from then-President Margvelashvili, who is often criticized by the governmental officials for having pardoned “too many inmates.” “The government did not win back then but today we see that Zurabishvili herself transferred this power to the authorities. It means the body which manages the penitentiary system will also have the right to pardon prisoners,” Koridze stressed. Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani says they will work with the president on the Pardoning Commission formation and further procedures. “It is necessary to have a commission which consists of professionals. No writers and artists will be included in the mechanism but social workers, psychologists, teachers and other competent people,” the Minister said.

Image source: ECRI



he European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the Council of Europe’s independent human rights monitoring body specialized in combating antisemitism, discrimination, racism, religious intolerance and xenophobia, has released a report in which it reminds Georgia of two as-yet unfulfilled recommendations. As part of its fifth round of monitoring work, ECRI has renewed its process of interim follow-up with respect to two specific recommendations. In its report on Georgia (fifth monitoring cycle) published on 1 March 2016, ECRI recommended that the Georgian authorities set up a specialized unit within the police to deal specifically with racist and homo-/transphobic hate crime. The Commission said they were informed by the Georgian authorities that a human rights department had been established in the Ministry of Internal Affairs in January 2018. ECRI said they were told the new department is tasked with monitoring the process of investigating hate crime incidents, identifying gaps and proposing measures for improvement. It is also mandated to cooperate with international organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union, and various NGOs in order to develop action plans and hold training events. “Unfortunately, ECRI has not received any information about co-operation with LGBT NGOs, which would be relevant to tackling homo-/transphobic hate crime. It expresses its hope that these groups will also be included in the co-operation work of the new department,” the follow-up report published on March 5 reads. The Commission says the creation of this department is a very positive step, but it is still too early to assess the impact of its work. “Such a department is not a substitute for a specialized investigative unit within the police, as recommended by ECRI. The new department was created to review hate crime investigations, not to carry them out. It therefore does not constitute a dedicated reinforcement of hate crime investigation capacity at law enforcement level,” the report reads. However, ECRI notes positively that the Ministry of Internal Affairs cooperated with the Office of the Public Defender of Georgia to train, in May 2018, some 40 police officers, who are designated to be specifically in charge of investigating alleged hate-motivated crimes in the future. “Taken together, the above efforts constitute promising steps towards tackling the problem of racist and homo-/transphobic hate crime more effectively and

ECRI encourages the Georgian authorities to continue on this path. It considers that this recommendation has been partially implemented,” the commission stated. The second issue concerns ECRI’s recommendation that the Georgian authorities scale up their support for the Council of Religions, which operates under the auspices of the Public Defender’s Tolerance Center. “The authorities should in particular task the newly created State Agency for Religious Issues to cooperate with the Council of Religions and utilize the Council’s expertise and recommendations in order to tackle the problem of religious intolerance,” ECRI said. The Council said they were informed by the Georgian authorities that they consider the State Agency for Religious Issues to be the main interlocutor between religious communities and the government and fully capable of acting as an impartial, trusted and successful mediator in cases of problems related to religious affairs or inter-religious tensions. However, ECRI says the only example provided by the authorities of co-operation consists of the State Agency reviewing documents produced by the Council of Religions. “This already points to a rather minimal level of interaction between the two bodies. Moreover, the authorities refer to tensions between the Council of Religions and the State Agency, in particular that some members of the Council allegedly advocate for the abolition of the State Agency, but without providing further details as to the reasons for this lack of trust,” the report reads. In addition, the Council noted that the local Muslim community had requested the involvement of the Public Defender and the Tolerance Center, because they did not trust the State Agency and other members of the commission to be impartial. “The State Agency, however, rejected the request. ECRI regrets that on this occasion yet another opportunity for co-operation and for the utilization of the experience of the Public Defender’s Tolerance Center with regard to promoting religious tolerance was missed,” the organization noted. ECRI added they have not received any other information that could be interpreted as an expression of interest from the side of the State Agency for meaningful co-operation with the Council of Religions. ECRI concluded that the situation that had originally given rise to this priority recommendation persists and that the State Agency for Religious Issues has not taken any serious steps to cooperate with the Council of Religions, as recommended by ECRI. The organization therefore considers that this recommendation has not been implemented.




MARCH 8 - 11, 2019

Saving the Georgian Dream or Ivanishvili’s Dream? BY AMY JONES


ormer Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili will return to politics following a three-year political hiatus. Bidzina Ivanishvili announced the sudden decision on March 5 at a meeting of the political council of the ruling Georgian Dream party. However, does his surprise return to politics underline Ivanishvili’s undeniable grip on Georgian politics? Garibashvili was Prime Minister of Georgia from November 2013 until his resignation in December 2015. Since stepping down from politics, Garibashvili remained mostly out of the public eye. It later emerged that Ivanishvili had advised him to resign from the position of Prime Minister. Ivanishvili and Garibashvili have a close relationship. Garibashvili worked as a business executive in several of Ivanishvili’s companies for eight years before they both turned to politics. He will now replace Gia Volsky in the position of Political Secretary in Georgian Dream. Many media outlets claim Garibashvili's return is an attempt to hold Georgian Dream together. In recent weeks, the party has lost its constitutional majority as several founding members of the

party resigned. Politicians Eka Beselia, Gia Zhozholiani, Mirian Tsiklauri, Zviad Kvachantiradze, Levan Gogichaisvili and Gedevan Popkhadze have all quit the party since 21 February 2019. Georgian Dream is keen to show a united front despite the recent spate of resignations. Speaking about his decision to return to politics on the evening talk show Reakcia, Garibashvili said, “Today our main objective is to unify and strengthen the party, my main mission would be, certainly together with the party chairman [Ivanishvili] and other leaders, to bring our party’s founders, deputies of the previous parliament, the first generation, and those of the new generation, closer together; to achieve better coordination and to, in the end, unite. This is my main mission, my main task.” Garibashvili also underlined the crucial role of Ivanishvili in the party, saying that a Georgian Dream victory was “absolutely impossible and unimaginable without Ivanishvili”. He also stressed the need for a leader “who would unite and consolidate the political processes. Bidzina Ivanishvili “was, is, and will be this leader,” he argued. However, despite Garibashvili’s support of Ivanishvili. his decision to return to Georgian politics could be seen to further demonstrate the grip Ivanishvili holds over the party and Georgian politics. In the most recent edition of The

Image source: GPB

Economist Intelligence Unit (EUI) Democratic Index Report, Georgia fell from 5.93 in 2017 to 5.50. The index credited Ivanishvili’s return to politics in May 2018 as a fuelling factor for the slip of democracy in Georgia as he has “redirected government policy.” “The Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, resigned in June, citing his disagreements with Mr. Ivanishvili, rather than

widespread popular discontent with the government, as the key factor in his decision,” read the report. “Under Mr Ivanishvili’s influence, the government also intervened in the second-round presidential election, offering a debt write-off to 600,000 citizens two weeks after election day. This appeared to provide the government with a sizeable campaigning advantage over the opposition.”

The strong ties between Ivanishvili and Garibashvili are undeniable. With Garibashvili’s return to Georgian politics, Ivanishvili has once again shown his influence within his party. With his influence and power, it is likely that Georgian Dream will recover from its loss of party members. However, questions remain as to whether Ivanishvili’s hold is damaging to Georgian democracy.

The Abkhaz View on Crossing the ABL BY GABRIELLE COLCHEN


ndrea Peinhopf is doing her PHD at the University College London and gave a presentation at the CRRC office on the theme: “Why cross the conflict divide? The success and failure of Abkhazian de facto statehood.” She explained that she spent six months in Abkhazia to conduct fieldwork and interview people there, and that her work is still in progress. Her main challenge

is to understand why Abkhazians choose to cross or not cross the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) that separates the territory from Georgia proper, and what this implies for conflict resolution. Peinhopf often faced challenges gaining people’s confidence enough to interview them and noted she felt that she was addressing very sensitive subjects and had to be careful not to assume the opinion people had of Russia, Georgia, and of the conflict in general. People from Gali are free to cross the ABL, whereas other Abkhazians encounter difficulties doing so. Taking that into account, Andrea first described the rea-

sons that push Abkhazians not to cross it. First, Georgia is still widely described as the “enemy state” by Abkhazians, and many people feel embarrassed to go there: afraid of being judged by the members of their community and being treated as “traitors”. Another reason is the trauma that persists from the 90s war. The memory of the violence is still strongly present in people’s minds and the idea of crossing the ABL sometimes appears traumatizing. Finally, Abkhazians are very attached to their land and home, she says, and share the idea that they should not leave their own territory. On the other side, Peinhopf was also

interested in understanding why Abkhazians choose to go to Georgia proper. It seems that having relatives living on the other side of the ABL is one of the main reasons that push people to go there. There are a lot of mixed families living in Abkhazia, in which the mother is Megrelian and the father Abkhaz, who want to visit their relatives in Georgia proper. Another reason that presses people to cross is the oppressing atmosphere in Abkhazia. She described that the people living there are very closeknit due to the need to develop a strong sense of solidarity when the war occurred. However, this closeness also implies the

existence of a lot of gossip between people, a strong societal control and many internal conflicts. It is hard for people living there to step back from the situation. Therefore, they often choose to leave the territory for short periods of time. The difficult economic situation and the lack of employment also force people to look for work outside of the region. Finally, she says, they enjoy better medical treatment in Georgia proper than on the territory of the Abkhazia region. Indeed, the Abkhaz health system provides expensive and inefficient treatment, contrary to Georgia proper, which gives free and good quality treatments. While conducting her research, Peinhopf gathered very diverse and often contradictory narratives from Abkhazians. Some people were pro-Russian, while others were very sympathetic towards Georgia. She understood that, generally, people feel frustrated by the Abkhaz State and the lack of services there but would not for all that necessarily turn their back on Abkhazia. For people living there, the Abkhaz “state” has become normalized and they often take it for granted since they travel with Abkhaz passports. Their preoccupation is not so much about legitimizing the existence of this state, but that they are tired of the conflict and aspire to move on and breathe “fresher air”. Peinhopf argued that some Abkhazians have no preoccupation in re-integrating with the Georgian territory but have a strong interest in engaging with Georgia and Europe and are curious of what is happening on the other side of the ABL. Some of them feel that it is a shame that passing from one side to the other is so complicated. They are also often quite critical about Russia, she said. In sum, this very interesting study focuses on quite a delicate and complex question. It is impossible to make a generalization of what Abkhazians think and want, Peinhopf noted, and emphasized that her remarks of are merely an interpretation of what she observed during her time there.



China Opens a New Military Base in Tajikistan

Image source: DoD Photo



estern media outlets recently announced China has built military facilities on the Tajik side of the Tajik-Chinese border. The move is significant as it is first confirmation (built upon earlier unconfirmed reports) of the Chinese military/semi military presence in the Central Asia region. The section where the Chinese facilities are located is strategically important as it overlooks one of the crucial entry points from China into Central Asia and is close to the vital corridor through which the country has a connection with Afghanistan's heartland. The corridor is particularly important to China due to its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Put into a wider context, the opening of the new base might be problematic as Central Asia is perceived by the Russians as a sphere of their own influence. As I argued in previous pieces for GEORGIA TODAY, for Moscow, Central Asia nowadays is especially important as it is the only region where the Kremlin can still extend its existing influence through military and economic means. Quite naturally, Chinese military/security measures go against Russian pillars of power in this region. It is fashionable among world analysts to argue that Russia and China would rather cooperate in Central Asia than fight each other. However, the point here is that this cooperation might be in force in the coming years and perhaps for decades, but in the end the Russians will have to be worried (if they are not already) as China grows economically, a process concomitant with simultaneous military expansion beyond its borders. Many believe the Chinese do not plan military

expansion across Eurasia and, as yet, no statements from Chinese officials have revealed a military agenda for the continent. There is also a purely logical point in the Chinese thinking that it would be more prudent to fulfill geopolitical aims through economic and public diplomacy measures. However, the point many scholars miss is that China, being a rising power which relies on global trade routes for internal stability and further enhancement of its world role, will eventually have to be more active in military and security affairs beyond its borders, whether it wants to or not. The new semi-military base in Tajikistan is a good indicator of this evolving Chinese approach to world security. In other words, the Chinese see the need to be present in those territories which are strategically important. As said, the base in Tajikistan is at the crossroads of Central Asia, China and Afghanistan. To prove further the likelihood of China’s more active stance on the Eurasian arena is that the base in Tajikistan actually is not the first one built by China. Beijing already opened a surveillance/security/semi military base in Djibouti, which controls the commercial traffic in the Red Sea. Many may compare China to Germany of the early 20th century, when a rising power wanted a larger role for itself in world affairs, but there are many problems with this attitude. True, China, like Germany a century ago, also aspires to build a larger navy and increase its economic potential abroad. However, rather than comparing China to Germany, which was defeated in both world wars, it would be in some sense expedient to compare modern China to its current geopolitical competitor, the United States, of the late 19th to early 20th century: China today is as cautious as the United States was a century ago. Beijing acts prudently on the world stage, as any open moves in security or military affairs could inspire a strong antagonistic coalition of powers in Eurasia.





MARCH 8 - 11, 2019

Surprises, No Surprises OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


ast week, Official Tbilisi received messages of threat and warning from the Defense and the Deputy Interior ministers of Russia. Whether the threat from Sergey Shoygu and warning from Grigory Karasin are interconnected is presently unknown, but if we take into consideration their respective work profiles, we can clearly imagine the possible reason behind it and just what “surprises” might await us. At the collegium session of the Ministry, Shoygu blamed NATO for threatening global security. He was especially unhappy with the fact that NATO has doubled its military trainings, with both Ukrainian and Georgians participating. “In such circumstances, we are forced to provide an adequate response, carrying out strategic containment events with plans of stepping up combat capabilities of military formations and units,” he stressed. His promise was fulfilled as he quickly generated large-scale military trainings in the occupied region of Tskhinvali. What other plans Shoygu has on the matter of the so-called security balance in the region will perhaps be revealed in future; for now, the Defense Minister has taken a time-out. Interestingly, though, while we were in a way accustomed to receiving threats from said Ministry, this was not so typical of the Russian diplomacy. But this time, before meeting his Georgian colleague, Grigory Karasin mentioned

Image source: pxhere.com

a surprise that would soon be revealed, to journalists in Prague. By tradition, the primary subject of meetings between Karasin and Abashidze is economy; hence, we can guess that the surprises will be coming specifically from that area. Consider tourism and infrastructure: this sphere is completely tied-up with the Russian market, as is the export of agricultural goods. So, if Russia closes its market and bans touristic relations with Georgia, the country’s budget can be easily reduced by half, causing inflation of the Lari and a sudden plunge

back to the 90s. It seems that the change of meeting place for negotiations between the Russian diplomat and his Georgian colleague were not the only change we were to witness, but also the tone of voice. Where Karasin and Abashidze used to meet in Prague’s Hotel Diplomat, this year they moved to Augustine. More importantly, not a single instance can we recall within the period of the last five years, when Karasin started the negotiations with a threat, nor when he disclosed a secret about his Georgian colleague after the meeting. But never say never: Zurab

Abashidze had met earlier with the informal leader of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili. Nobody knew the details of their private session until we all found out from Karasin that he not only knew what they talked about but was also aware of the tone with which Ivanishvili addressed Abashidze. Why the Russian diplomat decided to stress the tone of voice is ambiguous, but we can guess that he implied that the invisible hand of the Kremlin came as far as Sololaki. Meaning that Moscow is well-aware of what is being discussed in Ivanishvili’s glass palace and what messages his emissaries

carry to the meetings with Russian diplomats. Political analysts believe that Moscow might be pressuring Ivanishvili, who could be facing a serious dilemma: “There is pressure on Ivanishvili because of this. Practically defending the real sovereignty of Georgia is causing the exacerbation of relations with Russia, which is a serious threat,” claims Ghia Nodia, Chairman of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development. He does not rule out that if facing a choice, Ivanishvili could give up the sovereignty of Georgia in favor of Russia. And the latter could be directly connected with the Anaklia Port project, which could be terminated as a result. Founder of the Georgian Strategic Analysis Center, Nodar Kharshiladze, stated in TV program ‘Accents’ that Ivanishvili received direct instructions about Anaklia from the Kremlin, and that the psychological pressure could result in him adopting rougher methods of game within the country. Why the port of Anaklia is in the role of “black cat” in Georgian-Russian relations will be analyzed as we witness the developments of Georgian politics in the near future. Before that, what Georgians are trying to find out is whose personal representative is participating in the Georgia-Russian negotiations, that of PM Mamuka Bakhtadze or of Chairman of Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili. For now, the only thing which is clear is that it is Ivanishvili with whom Abashidze consults before meeting Karasin and bringing his messages to Prague, not PM Bakhtadze.




Spanish Platform Dyntra Ranks Tbilisi at Just 19% Transparency BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE


yntra, or the Dynamic Transparency Index, is a collaborative platform that works to measure and manage open governance and transparency in cities, regions, and public institutions around the world. Its latest rankings for Tbilisi put the city at a dismal 19.3% transparency (where 100% is perfect transparency), with information publicly available on just 11 out of Dyntra’s 57 indicators. The platform evaluates the transparency of a municipality’s administration by looking solely at the official website of City Hall. This methodology raises questions of effectiveness, particularly in Georgia, where government websites are not always up to date – and the English versions of websites rarely have all the information that the Georgian versions do. Dyntra looks at the English version of the government’s website, and the native-language version using Google translate. Many citizens get information by phone or in person, or from Tbilisi’s district governments that help disperse City Hall’s central agenda. However, internet access and use continues to increase among the Georgian population, and especially in Tbilisi internet access, particularly on smartphones, is exceedingly common. The City Hall website is a resource for many residents to find information about municipal programs, laws, news, and events. As Dyntra cofounder Erwin de Grave describes the project, “Dyntra is a free global online citizen-driven platform that evaluates in real-time the transparency level of public organizations by connecting each indicator with the information on the organization’s website. Any citizen can actualize the organization’s transparency at any time during the year.” In reality, the platform evaluates not overall municipal transparency, but the

transparency and accessibility of a municipal government’s website, as submitted by the public in a crowd-sourced model, and then verified by an in-house expert. While there are several flaws to this approach, and many important factors are overlooked, there is certainly a benefit to a city government having a simple, transparent website. De Grave defends Dyntra’s approach, saying “we have a citizen focus, and the citizens, when they find out more information about a public organization, generally visit the organization’s website,” adding, “if an organization says it is transparent, that means that they have the information published and accessible for any[one] through their website.” “It is important to know that everyone can evaluate any organization within

Dyntra. That’s why we have a two-step process: 1) evaluation that can be done by anyone, and 2) verification of the evaluation by an expert of our team,” explains de Grave. The platform can be updated and edited in real time, any time of the year. The Dyntra ranking scores Tbilisi highest in the categories of “citizen participation and collaboration” (33%), “access to information and active advertising” (31%), and “economic and financial transparency” (20%). On the lower end, City Hall scores 0% for “open data,” and “transparency in contracting services,” 11% for “public works and urban planning” and 13% for general “municipal transparency.” Much of the information for which Dyntra evaluates Tbilisi as weak or lack-

ing in transparency, however, can be found on the websites of the central government and other government bodies – as per Georgian government standards. For example, Dyntra deducts points from Tbilisi City Hall for not having “the remuneration of Mayor and Aldermen” and “the declaration of assets and property of the Mayor and Aldermen” published, but that information is freely available for all public servants at www. declaration.gov.ge. If the charge is that a governmental institution cannot be transparent without publishing all such information on its own webpage, the solution is likely a much heavier, clunkier web interface – the impact such changes might have on the lives of citizens or on the quality of Georgian democracy is unclear.

Anyone can submit evaluations of a city government’s online transparency to Dyntra, including the city itself. According to de Grave, Tbilisi City Hall has not responded to the transparency ranking publication or registered with Dyntra to begin the process of self-evaluation. For reference, in 2018, Transparency International ranked Georgia 41 out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index, with a score of 58 out of 100 (100 being the least amount of perceived public sector corruption). Among the municipalities Dyntra has evaluated, Tallinn, Estonia, leads Europe with 42% transparency. For a more detailed breakdown of the score and for more information, visit www.dyntra. org.

Our Nervous Life & the Nervous System OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


hat gives, my friends? What are we so worried about? Why are all of us so jumpy and restless? Is there anything happening to us that is so different from what the rest of the world is experiencing in our tense and agitated times? Probably nothing, except that our national nervous system is not historically used to this much neuroticism, so characteristic to our current life. Take, for instance, our parliament. Why should folks as wise and solid as the legislators almost everywhere in the world are be so apprehensive and fretful in Georgia? Their cushy sinecures are cast-iron stable because of their elective nature; their comfy seats are warmer than anybody else’s in the country; their chauffeured vehicles are fueled with free gas, and their daytime snacks are cheaper than the lunches of all of us working beyond the parliament premises. Yet, notwithstanding all those fringes, our dearest lawmakers still feel overstressed and look overwrought, and use the harshest possible vocabulary when addressing each other; their verbal skirmishes periodically garnered with fistfights and their mikes pushed around for the graphic expression of indignation about any issue raised on the floor. No, they are not simply worried about successfully handling the agenda on their

Image source: hellodoktor.com

parliamentary desks: they are vexed for some reason, and maybe for no reason, feeling panicky and uncomfortable when the media pester them for some newsmaking comment or fact. Parliament appears as a spacious arena, populated by oversensitive jittery political animals: some of them well-qualified for the job and some still in the middle of on-job training. I have seen frazzled and distraught American senators and congressmen in action, but they look and sound totally different from ours. As far as the country’s administration is concerned, the cabinet meetings are less on display to the public eye, but whenever

they happen to be, the uptight poker-faced government members reveal their edgy and uneasy disposition anyway, especially in expectation of a certain prickly question from our means of mass communication, which may turn those bundles of nerves into irritable and distressed figures, involved in a frantic political process which is not very easy to cope with. OK, let’s leave the parliamentary grounds and the governmental chambers for a while and take to our streets, where angry, impatient and fussy driving is a norm, and where aggressiveness is an everpresent reality. Traffic is a mirror of the overall nervous tension that this nation

is suffering with on an everyday basis. Drivers here behave like madly fuming badmouthed gladiators in their internal combustion four-wheel chariots ready to eliminate each other to ensure their own survival. When in traffic, I myself become one of those overstrained types, beeping, swerving, passing and middle-fingering my fellow drivers, and if compelled, profusely discharging the obscene verbal exhaust that so badly contaminates our cultural environment. Like the traffic, like the nation! Let us now, for a change, peep into a regular primary school within which the

breaks make the most entertaining part of the academic process. Here, when the long-expected interval bell rings, the fidgety kids rush to their freedom like crazy to let the restrained physical energy out in the corridors of the school building. Those restless little devils jump over each other’s heads, trip over the fallen bodies and run around without purpose. The upset teachers and security guards look disgruntled, but their annoyed grownup concern usually results in merely a displeased and short-tempered calling for better behavior – all ineffective. This is likely the root of the irrationally touchy style that has to be taken as the precursor of our grownup behavior when we find ourselves in parliaments, governments, at the wheel and in other walks of life. Let us now add to those recurring episodes one more experience of our life and the picture will become almost complete – the television, where the stories are often garbled and values confused. If we imagine the entire TV network of Georgia as one big restively talking screen, permanently reflecting the faces of our persnickety interviewers, and the disconcerted expressions of our harassed interviewees, we will immediately understand the natural connection between our nervous life and the nervous system. What is it after all that makes us so hung-up and unreasonable, so much ill-at-ease and irate. Could it be ignorance, non-professionalism, irrationalism, or just genetics and the way we are all brought-up? Could be all of these together!




MARCH 8 - 11, 2019

Irakli Kervalishvili: We'll Have a Deep-Water Marina in Poti by Year-End 2020 BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI


PIC, a US-based Private Investment Corporation, is to finance PACE Group’s new port and terminal with $50 million. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to PACE Group co-founder Irakli Kervalishvili about the project.

OPIC IS SPENDING $50 MLN ON CONSTRUCTION OF THE MARINE TERMINAL. HOW DID PACE GROUP MANAGE TO ATTRACT SUCH A LARGE INVESTMENT? OPIC's trust in PACE Group and Georgia is so high that this unprecedented loan has been allocated. OPIC has been active in the Caucasus region for 20 years, however, this is its first investment in transport infrastructure, distinguished by a volume that clearly demonstrates this project is real. OPIC expressed interest in the project in 2014 and studied PACE Group activities during this period. A lot of time was been spent on engineering expertise, marine-nautical navigation, environmental protection of high standards, as well as labor safety conditions, and, on seeing the convincing results, they agreed to offer a $50 million low-interest loan, which we have 15 years to pay back.

THE PROJECT COST AMOUNTS TO $120 MILLION, AT THE FIRST PHASE $93 MILLION. WHAT WORKS ARE PLANNED WITHIN THE FIRST PHASE? In order to maintain and enhance Georgia's importance as a transport corridor, it is essential to develop infrastruc-

ture, and development of transport infrastructure should first begin with marine infrastructure. The country needs a deep-water sea port, hence PACE Group’s developing 25 hectares of port infrastructure. Over 700 meters of berth construction is planned. The project will be implemented in two phases. Within the first phase, 260 meters will be built of a depth of around 12m. The $93 million includes transportation infrastructure, such as railways, and open and closed warehouses. This is not a new project: PACE Group started in 2015 and the first phase is partially fulfilled, with $28 million spent so far. The PACE terminal is up and running, we are starting up cargo, and the terminal is busy enough to necessitate a deep-water port. We have an open warehouse of about 10 hectares and a 30-thousand-ton capacity in closed ones. We add 50 thousand tons of closed warehouses due to the demand and these are already full. We have Carbamide, mineral fertilizers to arrange and need additional infrastructure. These warehouses and infrastructure will carry about 1.5 million tons of cargo. Depending on the size of cargo, we need to be able to receive big ships, otherwise we will lose cargo. PACE Group employs over a thousand people and this number will increase as a result of this project.

TELL US ABOUT THE SECOND STAGE OF THE PROJECT. We have already prepared tender documentation. In two-three months we will announce the tender to choose the company that will perform the secondphase construction works. Presumably, Georgian companies will not be able to participate in the tender because OPIC's

requirements are quite high, so most likely we will see Norwegians, Dutch and Turks expressing interest. Obviously, the selected company will need subcontractors and we will make recommendations of those Georgian companies with whom we have successfully cooperated before. We have a very strict schedule; the works should end 18 months after it begins, and at the end of 2020 we will have a deep-water terminal. In the second stage of the project, not only OPIC, but other financial institutions have expressed their willingness to cooperate. We plan to develop a warehouse infrastructure, including liquid cargo (we now focus on bulk cargoes). The PACE terminal has a 27-year history and I can name a number of examples where we were able to attract new cargoes by our own efforts. Aluminum oxide, which is a raw aluminum production, was carried from Russia by a Tajik factory. We managed to convince them to move 35 thousand tons through the Poti Port, and then upped it to 150 thousand tons annually. Poti Port became a hub for that Tajik factory and aluminum realization was made from here thanks to the proximity to the European market. The PACE terminal was the first in Georgia to craft cargoes that could not be obtained by any other port of our country. Among them is Turkmenistan Mineral Fertilizer - Carbamide, which was transferred to Poti in 2016. Prior to that, transportation went through Russia and Iran. Also, PACE Group was the first to implement a modern reverse-type wheat terminal, which is the only one in the country. Last year we dealt with 100 thousand tons of Russian-Kazakh wheat. The terminal also processes mineral fertilizers produced in Central Asian countries.

By means of our terminal, we transported BP pipelines within the Shah Deniz 2 project, which is so important for our region, in 2015-2017. The relevant infrastructure was not in the country, we allowed these pipes to be transported and stored here.


decreased to 2.6 million tons. In 2018, we signed a number of important agreements and we are expecting to increase the cargo by 700 thousand tons this year. Russian coal, Turkmen sulfur, and wheat flows will increase. During the past year, PACE Group has taken an important step, as many companies have promised to cooperate with us.

2018 was financially hard for the company. Our annual cargo turnover amounts to about 3 million tons, but last year it

PM Bakhtadze Meets EBRD President BY THEA MORRISON


ir Suma Chakrabarti, President of EBRD, praised Georgia, saying it remains a role model for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Develop-

ment. Chakrabarti made the statement during the meeting with Mamuka Bakhtadze, Prime Minister of Georgia. In the opinion of the EBRD President, Georgia is advancing in the right direction and many partners are interested in sharing its experience. He also expressed his gratitude to the

growth for the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country. According to Bakhtadze, the portfolio of the EBRD is fully tailored to the challenges Georgia is facing, especially towards SME support. The projects funded by EBRD in the energy sector of Georgia were also mentioned. The significance of the right development of the energy sector in the sustainable development and energy security of the country was underlined. Moreover, the current reforms implemented in the education sector were also discussed by the sides. Chakrabarti assured the Prime Minister of Georgia of the bank's full support of the reform.

PM of Georgia for facilitating the operation of the Investors Council. EBRD is one of the largest partners of Georgia in terms of financial cooperation and attraction of investments. Its investments made in the economy of Georgia so far have exceeded EUR 3 bln. The sides noted that last year was a record-high in terms of investments made in Georgia, though the EBRD is keen to further increase the volume. The parties also discussed the opportunity of an Economic Forum of Eastern Partnership Countries to be organized by the EBRD in Georgia. In addition, discussions related to the significance of inclusive economic

Georgia Exports 12.2 mln Bottles of Wine in January-February BY THEA MORRISON


wleve point two million bottles of wine were exported to 32 countries from Georgia in JanuaryFebruary 2019, which is a 13% increase compared to the same period last year. Exported wine income amounted to $30 million- 21% higher than the data of the previous year. Georgia’s National Wine Agency (NWA) reports that the export increased to strategic markets too: Poland 42% (628,022 bottles), China 7% (600,783), and USA 1032% (128,145). The top 5 exporter countries in January-February were: Russia – 8.688.854 bottles

Ukraine – 976,482 Poland – 628,022 China - 600,783 Kazakhstan – 346,152 The amount of wine exported to European markets also increased: Lithuania - 75% (104616 bottles), France - 24% (17406),) Sweden - 300% (9000), Bulgaria - 6% (4500). Also, on traditional and Asian markets: Mongolia - 200% (66012), Russia - 17% (8688854), Azerbaijan - 8% (8814), Belarus -1389% increase. In addition, 4,2 million bottles of brandy were exported to 13 countries worldwide, 89% more that in 2018. Further, 85,4 thousand bottles of chacha were exported to 10 countries worldwide, a growth amounting to 188%. In total, wine, brandy, Chacha, brandy alcohol and brandy export income amounted to $43,6 million.




The g.Vino City Wine Hotel desire to contribute to the development of the country and help the local population. The experience of travelling across the globe and trying different cuisines also played a particular role in the launch of the wine bar. Today the wine bar g.Vino is one of the best places, offering a great variety of natural wines of local production, made using ancient Georgian technology of more than 8 000 years, and delicious local food. Along with a glass of wine, guests can enjoy an exquisite plate of artisan cheese, cold cuts and Georgian-style tapas. Even though the hotel welcomed its first guests quite recently, it can be said that g.Vino City Wine Hotel is one of the most distinguished hotels in the city of Tbilisi. The founders had the importance of wine for the Georgian nation and cul-



idden among the multiplicity of streets and old houses of the Chughureti district of Tbilisi, g.Vino City Wine Hotel is a marvelous boutique hotel, launched by Lida Vardania and Mamuka Maisuradze and based on an absolutely wonderful concept. But before exploring the hotel, it would be interesting to take a moment and find out more about its story. g.Vino City Wine Hotel represents a continuation of the wine bar of the same name, opened by Vardania and Maisuradze in 2015. The idea of commencing entrepreneurship in the field of winemaking came to the couple, who both come from a development finance background, as a result of the

ture very much in mind while founding the hotel. That is why wine, translated into Georgian (gvino) became the cornerstone of the project. g.Vino creates an ideal space for informal gatherings and gives a chance for guests to spend time with loved ones in a cozy atmosphere. The boutique hotel offers just 26 rooms, in five categories. The relatively small number of rooms represents a wonderful opportunity for the welcoming hotel staff members to treat each guest with exceptional care. Furnished in soft tones, the spacious and elegant rooms with wooden beds are an excellent place for a relaxing and pleasant stay. As there are many coffee enthusiasts among the guests of the hotel, the rooms are equipped with coffee machines alongside a choice of flavors suitable for different tastes. g.Vino City Wine Hotel not only provides comfortable accommodation but aims to promote the history of ancient Georgian viniculture. Each room has been given the name of a different Georgian grape variety and guests are given a bottle of wine with a postcard that briefly describes the sort of grape their room is named after. The hotel’s restaurant has a grand terrace that is nothing short of spectacular and offers guests an incredible variety of natural Georgian wines, as well as an assortment of European wines. The young chef of the g.Vino restaurant, Tamta Kikaleishvili has explored Georgian gastronomy, flavors, scents, ancestral cooking techniques, and puts a lot of effort into cooking traditional Georgian dishes with modern European twists that perfectly suit a guest’s chosen wine, to create a bouquet of marvelous tastes. Kikaleishvili uses only sustainably-grown ingredients

for the specialties. At the restaurant of the hotel, the visitors can taste dishes like: beef tartare with green adjika, slow cooked beef cheeks, kubdari wellington with demi-glace sauce: tastes that mingle, blend, delight, meet and merge. The modern interior, where the works of contemporary painters embellish the walls, creates a perfect mélange with the authentic charm of the old building. g.Vino City Wine Hotel offers a wine tour to visitors and gives them an opportunity to have a drink at the most wonderful wine bars or the cellars of the capital.

10.1-inch HUAWEI MediaPad T5: The Best Choice for Your Children's Safety ADVERTORIAL BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI


hen delivering each new product of HUAWEI, the customer aims to take advantage of the more advanced technological capabilities compared to predecessors, and the company is exactly oriented towards these expectations. By launching each new model, HUAWEI once again shows that it is an advanced and innovative oriented brand. HUAWEI has introduced an updated 10.1-inch HUAWEI MediaPad T5 to Georgian customers. This is the latest and most innovative MediaPad, with an 8-core, powerful processor and 10.1-inch and 1080P full HD screen. At first glance, it has a simple and plain design, but thanks to the updated technological capabilities, you can use multiple apps simultaneously, and with the microSD card, and increase your mediaPad

memory up to 256 GB and watch your favorite movies anytime and anywhere. In addition, MediaPad is equipped with a smart management system that regulates the operating time and speed of applications. HUAWEI MediaPad T5 can connect HUAWEI's smartphones and computer platforms. The strength of the device is provided by an 8-core processor and the wide and sharp depiction through a highresolution screen. If you want to get professional stereo sound, this is not a

problem for this model as you’ll find a double speaker in the lower part of the tablet. The 460gram MediaPad also has rounded edges for maximum comfort in your hands. With the special functionality embedded into the HUAWEI MediaPad T5, you can set limits to your child’s usage and customize the content available.. Besides the parental control feature, HUAWEI MediaPad T5 offers enhanced eye-comfort modes for

your kids’ eyesight health: Posture Guidance (provides reminder for your child don’t read the tablet when lying down), Blue Ray Filter and Usage Time Control. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's population. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of HUAWEI's three business units, mainly focusing on Smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years’ experience in the telecommunications business and serves to provide innovative technologies to customers around the world.




MARCH 8 - 11, 2019

2019 European Social Innovation Competition Launched BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE


he 2019 European Social Innovation Competition has officially begun. Last week, the European Commission launched the competition with a ceremony in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Each year the Competition addresses a different issue facing Europe. The 2019 theme is Challenging Plastic Waste – seeking ideas and projects that aim to reduce plastic waste by targeting systemic change at the local, national and European level. The European Social Innovation Competition was founded in 2013 in memory of Portuguese politician and technology advocate Diogi Vasconcelos. The competition is open to all EU Member States and Horizon 2020 associated countries – including Georgia. The call goes out to anyone interested, including social innovators, entrepreneurs, students, designers, businesses, doers, makers and change creators. Entrants are evaluated by a team of independent judges, who select the top three projects to win the prize – €50,000 each. The 2019 competition will run until autumn, with the winners awarded in October. In its own words, the competition “acts as a beacon for social innovators in Europe, employing a proven methodology for supporting early-stage ideas and facilitating a network of radical inno-

Image source: European Commission

vators shaping society for the better.” Projects in 2019 are expected to offer solutions that improve existing processes or introduce new products and initiatives to reduce plastic waste and littering. Within the competition theme, the solutions must be scalable, must target change at the systemic level, and must be rooted in one of the following areas: Reducing the consumption of single use plastic products; recycling, reusing, and upcy-

cling existing plastic waste; dealing with accumulated plastic waste in landfills and the environment; changing consumer behaviors, or retail and wider business practices; implementing alternative business models and optimizing supply chains; introducing new materials fit for a circular economy or that offer sustainable alternatives to fossil-based plastics. “We collect more than 27 million tons of plastic waste in Europe per year. Whilst

addressing plastic waste is a big challenge, it is also an opportunity to innovate and create new solutions. That is why this year we are calling for ideas to tackle this societal issue, laying the foundations for new business models, new forms of cooperation and stimulating new ways of doing things for a better, cleaner and more sustainable future for all,” said Slawomir Tokarski, Director in charge of Innovation and Advanced

Manufacturing at the European Commission. The European Commission (EC), the EU institution responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the Union, has several existing plastic-reducing measures in place. The EC developed the firstever Europe-wide Plastics Strategy, launched the Circular Plastics Alliance at the end of last year, and runs a voluntary pledges campaign. These initiatives lay the groundwork for “a transition towards a more circular economy, fostering growth and innovation,” says the EC. At the Launch Event in Ljubljana, a zero-waste city recognized by multiple awards for sustainability and green development, attendees learned about the competition’s details and heard from one of last year’s winners, HeritageLab, an Indian organization dedicated to connecting citizens to museums, art, and heritage. Attendees also participated in a discussion on plastic waste with 2019 competition judges, and a mini hackathon to brainstorm initial ideas. The final event of the launch was called “Toasted Furniture,” a social art exhibit from Slovenian artists Nuša Jelenec and Nina Mršnik that highlights how plastic waste can be transformed into colorful panels to build furniture and home décor. Applications to the competition are open until Thursday, April 4. For more information, visit: www.eusic.org

The Sunsurfers’ Ecovillage in Kakheti BY GABRIELLE COLCHEN


ew people have heard about the Georgian eco-village being built by the Sunsurfers community in the Cheremi area of Kakheti. GEORGIA TODAY decided to find out more. The Sunsurfers community is a group of travelers who share the same values and want to make positive changes for the planet. They are committed to a healthy lifestyle that rejects alcohol and the use of drugs and aims for self-development in different spheres. The community gathers people from different backgrounds, countries and religions thanks to retreats and gatherings. One of their main projects is the development of the new Georgian eco-village. The information we acquired comes from an interview with Sasha Wickenden (co-funder of the Sunsurfers community), given to Sasha Postovar, with the support of Marat Chasanov.

THE MATERIAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE VILLAGE After the acquisition of 9.1 hectares of

land in November 2017, the volunteers began the construction of the village in July 2018. The main goal of such a project is “to cultivate self-awareness and unleash the potential of each person. For this purpose, yoga retreats, community gatherings, universities of free-spirited nomads, and workshops on eco-building and permaculture will be held at this eco-settlement,” explains Wickenden. Even though the construction of the village is still in progress, some people are already living there. They already have a water supply, solar power station and 3G internet. According to Sasha, “about 100 volunteers from 20 countries of the world have already invested their energy, time and skills to set up the first foundations of the eco-village.” They are currently working to build the first warm house, bath and cellar to enable the residents to live comfortably in winter. There will be separate houses made of natural materials for permanent residents, and guest houses for visitors.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE ECO-VILLAGE Sasha explains that people living in ecovillages experience a complex interconnection system since they face many

different challenges such as “common values, rules, settlement economics, common expenses, self-reliance, resolving issues, resolving disagreements, personal space, interaction with neighbors and with the state [or] the education of children,” for example. Various reasons push people to live in eco-villages: they can be attracted to life in nature, life outside the “system,” the ability to grow organic food, having a healthy lifestyle and a calm mind, being eco-friendly, living with like-minded people and sharing, the ability to educate future generations in a different way or simply a wish to escape a life that does not fit them and develop themselves on a different basis. In the Georgian eco-village, there are six rules that should be observed: 1: Do not kill. 2: Do not steal. 3: Be truthful. 4: Do not consume alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. 5: Abandon promiscuity. 6: Abandon competition with others. The eco-village aims at developing the people living there, not only spiritually, but also in terms of an alternative system of education for children, alternative ways of growing products such as permaculture, and learning to construct objects with natural materials, among many other things. According to Sasha, people can live “in ecological and minimalistic harmony with nature, […] use natural products in everyday life and get closer to the zero-waste lifestyle.”

THE VILLAGE LIFESTYLE Living in such a place implies being in specific economic and political systems. In terms of governance, Sasha is working on the project of a “sociocracy” where people are divided into groups called “circles” within which they all elect their circle leader who will be part of the “higher circle” of leaders. To make important decisions that concern everyone, they

Image source: Sunsurfers Community

discuss them at general meetings according to the principle of “the absence of basic objections,” which means that everyone agrees with the decision. Of course, this system will have to be tested and adapted. As for economic survival, they have already reflected on different sources of income: they will rent or sell parts of the land and houses to inhabitants of the village and the money received “will be spent on […] roads, electricity, water, a yoga dome, school, garden, fruit forests, planting and goats.” Sasha explains that “the second source of income is educational activities: yoga retreats, Sun-Universities, permaculture and eco-construction courses, and school. The third source is the eco-production of honey, herbs, and organic fruits and vegetables.” To ensure a minimum harmful impact on the environment and animals, the village will be entirely vegetarian. They will have the minimum number of animals that give dairy and wool and they will concentrate on growing organic fruits and vegetables according to the season and to permaculture methods. However, Sasha says that “there is no goal to achieve 100% self-sufficiency in terms of food. Buying some products from local farm-

ers will help establish good neighborly relations, support the local economy, share experiences and help us to not be isolated from the outside world.” In terms of education of children, no specific plan has yet been made but Sasha is thinking about a system in which the eco-village school will welcome children from inside and outside the village so that they can learn from each other. Even though people have already begun to live there, the eco-village is currently under construction and many things are likely to change since new people will come with new ideas. One thing on which Sasha insists is that they “do not seek to run away from the world. We do not plan to build fences, to hide from our neighbors, nor close ourselves off in our own bubble. On the contrary, we plan to invite as many people as possible to show how the world could be. Not in the way we describe it. But by the way we live it.” Those interested in the project can support it by making direct donations. It is also possible to go there and volunteer for a minimum of one week. More information can be found here: www. sunsurfers.ru/en/



Japan to Host ‘Georgia – Homeland of Wine’ Exhibition BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


eorgia is preparing to present its wines to a wide audience within the scope of the project ‘Georgia – Homeland of Wine’, which will be implemented from March 10 to May 7 at the exhibition center “Terrada Warehouse” in Tokyo, Japan. Even though, with 8000 years of winemaking history, Georgia has already gained recognition worldwide and has been named as the ‘cradle’ of wine, such initiatives will contribute to the promotion of the Georgian wines to particular nations, Japanese in this case. Wine enthusiasts and other guests at the exhibition will have an opportunity to discover the history of Georgian viniculture and ancient wine-making methods. “This exhibition presents the history and the culture of the world’s oldest Georgian wine, sometimes referred to as the 'Tears of Cleopatra',” – reads the preview of the organizers. A special website georgia-homelandofwine.com has been launched especially for the event, which will serve as a particular guide to the potential visitors of the exhibition and provide all useful information regarding Georgian winemaking history and the details of the event. The website is bilingual: Japanese and English. Aside obtaining prominence, the given project will is to have fruitful outcomes in respect of boosting the Georgian wine enterprises and helping them augment their sales, locally, as well as abroad. ‘Georgia-Homeland of Wine’ may also

Image source: georgia-homelandofwine.com

help the development of tourism in Georgia by raising the interest of foreigners in Georgia.

Georgian wine has won a number of international awards, including the Diamond Trophy at ‘Foodex Japan 2019’.

Georgian Wine Wins Diamond at Japan Int'l Contest



Georgian wine has been awarded the Diamond Trophy in a prestigious international wine competition judged exclusively by Japanese female wine specialists. Sakura 2019 in February awarded Vaziani Winery the Double Gold award in February, after which the wine was pre-

sented at the International Food and Drink Exhibition "Foodex Japan 2019" where it received the highest award Diamond Trophy. Natia Metreveli, the Director of Vaziani, received the award on behalf of the company. "Victory in such prestigious competitions will promote the promotion of Georgia and Georgian wine in general on the important export market in Japan, where the National Wine Agency has been implementing marketing activities

since 2014," noted the National Wine Agency. The Sakura Japan Women's Wine Awards took place for the 6th year this year and saw over 4000 different wines from 33 countries presented. The competition jury is staffed by women representatives of the wine industry (sommeliers, wine writers and journalists). For the purpose of promoting Georgian wine and popularity in Japan, from March 10 to May 7, the project "Georgia - Wine Homeland" will be implemented in Japan.





MARCH 8 - 11, 2019

Ceramic Revival: Mtskheta My Russian friend really wants to see pottery restored as an art in Mtskheta, and the art scene revitalized in general, especially among children, our future. She and her husband have found a building which locals claim was for a long time the center of this industry, although nothing now remains to testify of it at all except the structure itself. We walked around it and wondered how we might find out its true history and current ownership; is there anything there worth restoring, or should one start elsewhere in Mtskheta? As I walked around this ancient city which I have not been in much for about a decade, seeing the changes and improvements made to it during this interval, I began to have hope that much of its infrastructure and culture could continue to receive new life here. It’s all so close to Tbilisi that a daily commute would not be hard at all, especially if one lived on the closer side of the current capital. Mtskheta offers the quieter, simpler advantages of small-city living while being close to the big action as well, if one wants this. So, I hail my friends’ desires to see the improvements continue and grow and look forward to what another decade of growth will bring.



side from having a name difficult for Westerners to pronounce, Mtskheta is known for being the capital of Georgia as it was from roughly 500 BC to 500 AD. This, then, would be the city where Christianity was adopted as the national religion early in the 4th century. Given Georgia’s truly ancient status as a place of dwelling, however, it should not come as much of a surprise that things much older than 2500 years old might be found here. One of these would be pottery, one of the world’s earliest arts. I recently caught up with my new Russian friends, who had just left our Svaneti guest house after two weeks of children’s clubs and pottery teaching, described in my last three GT articles. They, too, can now be found in Mtskheta. They have bought a house near the Shiomgvime Monastery just outside the city and are renting another place while they have this riverside one renovated. The wife introduced me to a local potter whom she met. Eldar Mamaladze has had his current studio since 1994. He digs and refines his own clay from near Mtskheta, and has a wheel and two electric kilns, one small and one more than a cubic meter in volume, to fire work in. He also has a son, Giorgi, who in his mid-20s has been following dad’s footsteps in learning the art; a daughter who is very active in the city’s Council of Culture and Education; and a very

supportive wife. Eldar, however, was the first in his family to get into ceramics, largely influenced by his mother, who was a painter. Pottery traditions might get handed down through the generations, but they have to start somewhere!

Father and son have a good collection of plaster molds for pressing or pouring multiple pieces which they then color with clay slips or glazes. They also throw vessels on the wheel, often incising or texturing them (this latter is a process secret to them) and then again adding

color to the usually reddish earthenware. It fetches high prices, and should, because it is beautiful and refined. We were given wine to drink on the spot, after our tour of the facility, and then given the bowls we had used as a precious gift to treasure.

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 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

Controversial Road Project to be Abandoned BY GABRIELLE COLCHEN


ven though the final decision has yet to be made, the road project connecting Georgia’s northern Khevi region with the northeastern Tusheti region through Khevsureti is likely to be abandoned, Georgian authorities have

Image source: agenda.ge

PM on Investments in Education System BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


he occupation line and economic hardship hinder our possibility for full development, which is intolerable, stated the Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze at the presentation of the new initiative ‘Education – A Road to Freedom’, at the National Library on Thursday morning. Bakhtadze said the two problems serve as major motivators for he and his colleagues to stay and work in the sphere of politics in Georgia, and strongly stressed his desire to overcome the given

challenges. “It is the main goal of our life to overcome these problems,” he said. The Head of the Government also spoke about the significance of education and presented the new project. “Today, the political team of the Georgian Dream is announcing the launch of the boldest and largest-scale idea: the national concept of education, within the scope of which the government will take an unprecedented commitment to annually spend 6% of our national wealth, which makes a quarter of the current budget of the country, on the full transformation of the Georgian education system into one of the most outstanding,” said Bakhtadze.

Photo Source: georgianjournal.ge

announced. They explained that the geological situation was the main obstacle. Instead, they are considering improving the existing unpaved road to Tusheti. Whereas the government had affirmed that the initial road project would enhance local tourism and help people have better movement, people were divided over the construction plan. The rejection of the project should make local residents of Tusheti happy since many denounced

its negative impact on the Caucasus ecology and ecotourism. However, the government still wants to build the Juta–Roshka section of the road so that tourists coming through the Stepantsminda–Verkhny Lars border with Russia can cross directly into Khevsureti, Irakli Karseladze (Head of the Roads Department) said. Activists expressed their disappointment and said they would continue to oppose these projects.




Illusions Museum Opens This Weekend! of the word "museum" and it offers a unique new space that is designed for entertaining cognition. The Illusion Museum is a place where all the optical, physiological and cognitive illusions are presented together. The Illusion Museum’s illusion collection should simultaneously encourage an observer, surprise and make them think about their own feelings. Visitors have an opportunity to find out about human vision, perception and science through attractive and entertaining installations. “The museum also has a gaming room and a souvenir shop where visitors of all ages can play, compete, learn something new and buy original gifts such as fun wooden didactic toys and puzzles that develop and



ark the date- March 9to check out a space where you can laugh, scream, take pictures and do many other things that are usually forbidden in museums. In the historical and tourist part of Tbilisi, the Illusions Museum will be officially opened at 10 Bethlehem Street on March 9 and will offer many interesting visual and intellectual experiences. The Museum combines perspectives, optical and other types of illusion, and a “play room” where visitors can try out a number of didactic games and really get stuck into the new experiences to be had here. A media tour was held at the Illusions Museum on March 5, giving media rep-

stimulate creativity,” notes Natalia Ananiashvili, Head of Marketing of Illusions Museum. The museum collection consists of more than 70 exhibits based on knowledge of science, mathematics, biology and psychology. You can find information and explanations next to the exhibits. The narrative language will be Georgian, English and Russian. The technical support for the museum in Tbilisi, as in other countries, comes from their Croatian counterparts. As Ananiashvili notes, the museum is intended for all generations. In addition, the museum will have the facilities to host birthday parties for 5-15-year-olds, with a program including a tour of the museum, didactic games and puzzles.

Corporate events, meetings and presentations will also be possible. “The Tbilisi Illusions Museum is part of a global project on the Georgian market. The concept of the museum itself is unchanged from country to country. The only difference is in the format size. In relatively small museums, there is naturally not enough space for every room or attraction. The Tbilisi museum format is 150-400 m2, however, and so offers visitors the complete collection of Illusion Museum exhibits.” Why is this type of museum opening in Tbilisi? The authors of the idea say that it was the lack of such places in modern Georgian reality where people could enjoy free time in a nice and different way that inspired them most.

resentatives the opportunity to be the first guests in the world of illusions. “The first Illusions Museum opened in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, in 2015. This was soon followed by openings in the Zadar Museum, Ljubljana, Vienna, Muscat, Belgrade, Kuala Lumpur, New York, Toronto, Berlin, Athens, Dubai, Hamburg, Kansas, and now Tbilisi. This is a completely different place where people can laugh, scream, take pictures and do many other things that are usually forbidden in museums,” says Rocco Zhivkovich, the author of the idea. The idea of opening the Georgian Museum belongs to the Sarke Group. As a result of their initiative, museum visitors have the opportunity to learn about human vision, perception and science through static and interactive installations and find out why their eyes see what they cannot perceive. The concept of the Illusion Museum is radically different from the classical understanding

International Stars & Georgian Soloists to Perform at Spectacular Ballet Gala in Tbilisi BY LIKA CHIGLADZE


n March 9 and 10, the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater is to present a Ballet Gala, a not-to-bemissed event for ballet and theater lovers. The audience will get to see a whole set of performances by international ballet stars as well as by leading soloists of the State Ballet of Georgia, in three acts and Pas de Deux from various ballets. The State Opera Ballet Company, led by Artistic Director and Prima Ballerina Nino Ananiashvili, has prepared an extensive and varied program for its spectators. The program unveils well-known classic Raymonda by Alexander Glazunov, Symphony in C choreographed by George Balanchine, as well as Ballet Divertissement featuring invited guests and world-famous dancers Andrey Batalov, Maria Kochetkova and Sebastian Kloborg, together with soloists of State Ballet of Georgia Ekaterine Surmava, Lali Kandelaki, Nino Samadashvili, Yonen Takano, Nutsa Chekurashvili, Philip Fedulov, Raphael Spyker, Ruika Yokoyama, Karin Washio and Maksym Kamyshev and the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater Ballet Company and orchestra. Conductors of the Ballet Gala are Maria Seletskaja, Davit Mukeria and Papuna Ghvaberidze, while the staging choreography is made by Nina Ananiashvili and Alexey Fadeechev. The concert opens with Act I, presenting Alexander Glazunov’s Raymonda,

with leading soloists of the State Ballet of Georgia, Ekaterine Surmava and Philip Fedulov, to perform the parts of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne. “The Gala concert is interesting since it includes fragments from different performances and it is extremely pleasant to watch,” soloist Ekaterine Surmava told GEORGIA TODAY. “The concert also hosts international stars like Maria Kochetkova and her partner Sebastian Kloborg, to make the occasion even more special. One is rarely given the chance to enjoy a performance by world-leading ballet dancers, so it’s truly a must-attend event. The pair’s performance will be a novelty for the audience, since they are

performing a contemporary ballet that is not widely known to the public. The whole concert will be dynamic, incorporating both classical and contemporary performances. I’m performing Raymonda, first staged in the Tbilisi Opera around six years ago and now back and renovated, which is very exciting and challenging for us. The play is spectacular and is aesthetically sophisticated,” she said. Ekaterine Surmava graduated the Vakhtang Chabukiani Ballet Art State School and joined the Tbilisi Z.Paliashvili Opera and Ballet Professional State Theater. She has been a soloist since May 2012 and is best-known for her leading roles:

Odette, the Brides, Big Swan, Pas de trois (Swan Lake); The French Doll, Sugar Plum Fairy (Nutcracker), Jacinta (Laurencia), Variation (Don Quixote), The Jockey Dance (From Siberia to Moscow); Seventh Waltz (Chopiniana), and Terpsichore (Apollo Musagete). The dancer has also successfully participated in company tours and performed on the prestigious stages of the USA, Japan, Italy, Ecuador, China, Egypt, Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Spain. At the upcoming Gala, Eka Surmava is also performing in the second act ‘Reflections,’ a neo-classical Pas de Deux that the Georgian audience has not seen for years. Act II presents Ballet Divertisse-

ment, which incorporates several classical and neo-classical Pas de Deux: Cesare Pugni, Diana and Acteon Pas de Deux from ballet ‘Esmeralda.’ Leading roles: Ruika Yokoyama, Yonen Takano; and a Pas de Deux from ‘The Talisman’ featuring Nino Samadashvili and Maksym Kamyshev. The culmination of the concert will be ‘Closer’ - a contemporary ballet presented by world ballet stars Maria Kochetkova and Sebastian Kloborg from The Royal Danish Ballet. The second act closes with Adolphe Adam, Pas de Deux from ballet ‘Le Corsaire,’ performed by Nutsa Chekurashvili and guest soloist of the Mariinsky Theater, Andrey Batalov. “Being a soloist in the Georgian ballet company is very interesting and challenging for me, since I’m given the opportunity to try out different roles and genres through taking part in old as well as new productions,” Surmava told us. “The repertoire of the State Ballet of Georgia is very rich and diverse: apart from presenting classical and contemporary dances, it produces new plays annually. We have a multicultural troupe with a number of foreign artists dancing in our company, so working in such an international and friendly environment is a great experience for each of us.” The last part of the concert, Act III, is Symphony in C, choreographed by great 20th century Georgian choreographer, George Balanchine, featuring other soloists from the Georgian Ballet, Lali Kandelaki, Yonen Takano, Nino Samadashvili, Philip Fedulov, Nutsa Chekurashvili, Karin Washio, Ruika Yokoyama, Raphael Spyker.




MARCH 8 - 11, 2019


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 March 9, 10 BALLET GALA Raymonda Symphony in C Ballet divertissement Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-150 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. March 8 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 9 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 10 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 14 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 March 8 THE STORY OF A MURDERER Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Music: Sandro Nikoladze, Davit Kakulia Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL March 9 DON JUAN One act comedy

Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Music: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL March 14 THE TEMPEST Base on the works of William Shakespeare Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER 37 Rustaveli Ave. March 8, 9 LIKE THIS A comedy performance based on novels of Georgian national motives. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MUSIC & DRAMA STATE THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. March 12 WELCOME TO GEORGIA The Musical A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national costumes and local cuisine. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50-80 GEL CINEMA

UK /2017 Director: Marika Kochiashvili & Tamsin Omond 18:15- "Kittens". 2016 "Bond"/Ukraine/2018 Director: Zhanna Ozirna

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Language: English Start time: 17:15 Ticket: 14-19 GEL

March 10 18:00- "Touch Me Not" Romania Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, France. 2018 Director: Adina Pintilie

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Directed by Bryan Singer Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers Genre: Biography, Drama, Music Language: English Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 11-15 GEL

AMIRANI CINEMA 36 Kostava St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL March 8-14 GREEN BOOK Directed by Peter Farrelly Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL CAPTAIN MARVEL Directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck Cast: Brien Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mckenna Grace Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 22:15 Language: Russian Start time: 17:00, 19:30 Ticket: 13-15 GEL

POLITIKA BAR 164 Agmashenebeli Ave.

CAVEA GALLERY 2/4 Rustaveli Ave.


Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL March 8-14

March 8 19:00- "Heroines (3 stories)" Georgia/2019 Director: Natia Nikolashvili/Studio Animatory Drawings by Anuk Beluga Followed by a lecture "The Amazons, Mothers, Women" of a philosopher and a gender researcher Lela Gaprindashvili March 9 16:00- "Love & Sex & Rocknrollstuhl" Germany/2017 Director: Susanna Wüstneck 18:00 - "Look at me like that"

CAPTAIN MARVEL (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 11:45 Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-19 GEL GREEN BOOK (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 16-19 GEL VICE Directed by Adam McKay


GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Until March 29 The Georgian National Museum joins the cycle of events dedicated to 500 years since the death of Leonardo Da Vinci and invites visitors to the educationalmultimedia project LEONARDO - OPERA OMNIA where digital reproductions of Leonardo's artworks will be exposed. Visitors have an opportunity to get acquainted with high-definition and full-scale digital reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci's 17 artworks. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 March 9 – April 12 Tutu Kiladze’s Exhibition CRYPTOGRAM GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Untill October 5 EXHIBITION MASTERS OF GEORGIAN ART Paintings of Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili and Elene Akhvlediani together with Lado Gudiashvili's and David Kakabadze, giving a comprehensive picture of the diversity and aesthetics of Georgian Art.

FELIX VARLAMISHVILI (VARLA) SOLO EXHIBITION For the first time, enjoy more than 60 artworks by the author from the Georgian National Museum and private collections. MUSIC

TBILISI CONCERT HALL 1 Melikishvili St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 00 99 March 8 NIAZ DIASAMIDZE & 33A Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20-50 GEL March 9 ERISIONI AND CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION TKHILIS GULI’S CHARITY CONCERT Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15-50 GEL DJ. KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 125/127 Agmashenebeli Ave. March 10 VAKHTANG KAKHIDZE JUBILEE CONCERT In program: Vakhtang Kakhidze’s symphonic pieces composed in different periods: "Coniugationes”, symphonic picture “Salambo”, concerto for piano and symphony orchestra, symphonic suite from the ballet “Amazons” and “Sorrow” from the film “The Russian triangle”. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. March 12 Piano Music Concert Laureate of world piano competitions Andrejs Osokins (Latvia) I J.S. Bach- Largo from Klavier Concerto in F minor No. 5, L. van Beethoven - Sonata op. 110 in A flat major, F. Liszt- Sonetto del Petrarca No. 104 F. Liszt- Liebestraume No. 3 S. 541/3 R. Wagner- F. Liszt Isolde's Liebestod S. 447 II J. Brahms- 3 Intermezzo op. 117 L. van Beethoven– Sonata, op. 57 in F minor “Appassionata” Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 10 GEL GARDEN HALL Ilia Park March 8 DATO EVGENIDZE & BAND– MURMAN JINORIA Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 30 GEL BARI-BARSHI 9 G. Kikodze Str. March 8 EREKLE DEISADZE LIVE CONCERT Line up: DJ Querubim, Erekle Deisadze Live Band: Erekle Deisadze (Vocal), Sandro Sulakvelidze (Drum), Archil Sulakvelidze (Guitar), Oto Khmaladze (Piano) Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 15 GEL March 9 THE WINDOW Nino Isakadze (Lead vocals, guitar and songwriter), Tamar Akhalkatsi (Violin), Davit Tavadze (Flute/ Keyboard, sound engineer, keyboard), Mariam Tsibakhashvili (Cello). Band producer- Tinatin Menabde. Start time: 21:00 For table reservation: 591 99 72 67




Russian Freethinker Deals with Stalinism: “Stalin Is Not yet Completely Dead” BY TATJANA MONTIK


t the age of 43, Artur Solomonov, a Russian writer, theater critic and playwright, was named ‘a new Dostoyevsky’ by the German newspaper Tageszeitung. In his first novel, ‘Theatrical Story’ (2013), the theater stays pars pro toto for society and the readers are confronted with the author’s sharp non-conformist attitudes, social critique and a fine psychological analysis. The novel has already had three editions with rave reviews from respected Russian cultural personalities. To stage the novel in a theater was not easy, the author recalls, as it deals critically with the intervention of the Russian Orthodox Church in secular affairs. Yet, since the very first performance in Moscow in 2015, Solomonov’s ‘Theater Story’ has been played to a full house. I met the celebrated artist this winter in a downtown Tbilisi café. Solomonov was also here two years ago to write his new play depicting Russia’s Stalinist past and its continuing consequences. He received permission to carry out research in the Communist Party Archives in Tbilisi. “When I was examining the archives, I became terrified at how little value human life had back then, and how in today’s Russia this is repeating itself,” he said. “I cannot understand people who say Stalin is their hero--people who use completely unacceptable calculations: on one hand millions of innocent

victims were tortured, enslaved and subjected to violence and humiliation; they lost their dignity, health and lives. On the other hand, there was colossal construction, the war was won and the State became powerful. This logic is diabolical—and we know its author.” His new play ‘How We Buried Stalin,’ is ready, and is a brilliant piece that makes us both laugh and tremble with horror. The action takes place in a present-day theater in Moscow during a rehearsal for a new play about Stalin’s death. The creative process is interrupted by a “man from the Ministry” who brings a message from the Russian President asking them to change the play: Stalin shall not die, and there must be no amusing scenes in the play. A drama ensues as the actors, the Direc-

tor, who also plays Stalin, and the playwright gradually become “Stalinized” and slowly morph into the characters in the drama: violence takes place on stage as espionage and conspiracies emerge and a first prison cell is established. After the play is altered, the author can’t recognize it, and ‘the man from the Ministry’ arrives again to announce that the President will soon stage the play himself. Solomonov says he intentionally wrote a tragic farce and the main idea was “the criminal plasticity of the human psyche, and how people, in certain conditions, are ready to reproduce the most treacherous practices of the Soviet past. It becomes obvious that the past has not gone away and that it takes possession of the present and even stretches out into the future. This play is about how

easily a person becomes a tyrant, and how conveniently the environment allows him to.” The author admitted he is afraid it won’t be possible to perform his new play in Russia. In recent years, although his homeland has changed a lot and there is no direct censorship except for the official media, you still cannot criticize the government or say anything bad about Stalin. On State television, for example, Stalin and other official rulers cannot be shown as funny, weak or dying. “And, of course, the irrational plays an immense role. There is a superstitious unwillingness by the authorities to be reminded of their mortality, or even of the mortality of their ’distinguished predecessor’. In fact, Stalin is still not completely dead.” I asked Solomonov why he is not afraid to deal with such a sensitive topic and he responded: “I’m worried about topics that now fall into taboo category: the relationship between individuals and the State; the problems of religious worship, the relationship between the artist and the government; and an endless, almost theatrical hypocrisy in all spheres of life.” “In every country, a person trying to engage in creative work is in conflict with generally accepted values; however, only in a few countries of the civilized world do you get punished for what you express. This is a very important moment for all contemporary artists in Russia; our words are gaining momentum again and they can have an effect that is impossible in an uncensored state.” He added, “Today, every artist decides for himself what consequences he or she

is ready for. At the same time, there is no total persecution of dissidents in Russia. The situation is tricky: artists must decide for themselves where the red flags are, where the real danger begins.” Despite all the difficulties Russian artists have been facing due to (self-)censorship, there are still some highlights and breakthroughs in Russia’s cultural life. Ilshat Mukhutdinov, a young theater director from the city of Buinsk, Tatarstan, has dared to perform one of Solomonov’s plays called ‘God’s Grace.’ It won second prize in the 8th Biennale for Dramatic Art in London as the best political and social play, and was performed on March 7 in the Buinsk Drama Theater. The play depicts a kind of “Soviet Union of the future”. Although the characters live in a world of fear, mistrust and denunciation, they long for love, but no relationships come about because no one trusts anyone. Taking into account all recent tendencies in the current Russian political and social situation, Arthur Solomonov says he sees a huge threat to Russia’s future development: “If the number of taboo topics increases and criticism, satire, or even irony are perceived as an “enemy’s invasion,” then we will again find ourselves in the situation Soviet art went through. In the dramatic arts, this was called “the struggle between the good and the best” because nothing could be wrong in a beautiful country. How it all ended for this “beautiful, infallible country,”we all know. So, overall, my goal is to not to leave problems unnamed or unrevealed; otherwise they will develop destructively, even pathologically.”

The Tbilisi Jazz Festival Features Pat Metheny BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


bilisi hosted the 22nd Jazz Festival on February 20 – March 2. The Festival was distinguished this year as legendary American jazz guitarist and composer, Pat Metheny was the major performer, featuring twice during the festival. Metheny is the owner of 20 Grammy Awards and the only performer to have won in the Grammy’s 10 different categories. He is said to be one of those outstanding musicians who can freely improvise on stage and offer absolutely incredible compositions to audiences worldwide, and this he did in Tbilisi. The three-day festival was opened with a new project ‘Tbilisi Big-Band’ & ‘New Jazz Generation’ in the Grand Hall of the Tbilisi Conservatoire. At the concert, the representatives of different generations performed together and mesmerized the audience with various jazz compositions. On March 1, the Pat Metheny Trio took to the stage for more than an hour and transformed the evening into a real celebration for jazz enthusiasts, who twice called the performers back on stage for an encore, which they were happy to do.

The Tbilisi Jazz Festival was completed with the joint concert of Pat Metheny and the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vakhtang Kakhidze at the Tbilisi Concert Hall. The world-renown guitarist performed within the scope of the project Missouri Skies and More. The audience was given an opportunity to listen to the diverse and unorthodox presentation of the famous compositions. “I am grateful to the organizers of the Festival for giving me an opportunity to work with such a legendary figure as Pat Metheny,” Kakhidze said after the concert. Tbilisi Jazz Festival is organized by Eastern Promotions and TBC Status and supported by the Ministry of Tbilisi City Hall and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia. At the press conference, the Director of Eastern Promotions, Giorgi Kereselidze, focused on the importance of inviting such prominent guests to Georgia for promoting the country and contributing to the popularization of highquality jazz music for the Georgian audience. He also noted that in order for everyone to be able to attend the event, the ticket prices would be "moderate" to attract many and encourage all generations to develop a love of jazz.



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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1131  

March 8 - 11, 2019

Issue #1131  

March 8 - 11, 2019