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facebook.com/ georgiatoday


Issue no: 833

• APRIL 8 - 11, 2016



In this week’s issue... Government Launches $13 Million Check-in-Georgia Promotional Project NEWS PAGE 2

2016 Parliamentary Elections – The Great Political Shootout for Power



An in-depth look at the latest outbreak of war in Nagorno-Karabakh

Cooperation between Georgian and Chinese Museums


Georgia’s PM to Speak at the Annual Investment Meeting in Dubai



Irakli Jgenti: Neither talent Nor Higher Powers Decide My Success CULTURE PAGE 23




APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

Government Launches $13 Million Check-in-Georgia Promotional Project

Georgia’s President Sets Parliamentary Elections for October 8 BY TAMAR SVANIDZE



eorgia has launched its 29 million GEL (USD 13 million) Check -in -Georgia project aimed at promoting the country’s tourism potential. The project will include a series of high profile events beginning in April and continuing until the end of the year. Well known local and international artists – including Italian pop singer Eros Ramazzotti and Britain’s Robbie Williams, as well as world renowned Spanish opera tenor Jose Carreras and US pop rock band Maroon 5 - will hold live concerts in cities across the country. “Check in Georgia promotes Georgia’s popularity abroad and will make it an attractive destination for tourists…this will also enhance our image on the international market. Georgia should occupy its deserved place on the international cultural

calendar,” Culture and Monument Protection Minister Mikheil Giorgadze said. Giorgadze also said that the project plans to create modern open-air concert venues on Georgia’s Black Sea coast. “This will be unique chance for local producers and artists to use this facilities for free during the summer season,” Giorgadze said. The project will also include the promotion of Georgia’s locally produced food products. “We are going to arrange wine, cheese, and other festivals to promote Georgian agro-products. We also want to promote eco-tourism in the country, because of its potential to develop,” said Giorgadze. According to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, tourism is on the rise in Georgia. More than 1 million foreign nationals have been registered as having entered into Georgia since January, a 14.7 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

eorgian President Giorgi Margvelasvili announced Tuesday at a special briefing that parliamentary elections will be held on October 8. “I want to inform the public that the date of the parliamentary elections is set for October 8. The prime minister will receive the documentation to be signed into law by no later than tomorrow,” Margvelashvili said. Georgia’s constitution calls for parliamentary election to be held in October, with the country’s president setting the exact date no later than two months before voters go to the polls. Under the constitution, the Georgian Parliament’s 150 members serve four-year terms, with 77 seats set by proportional representation and 73 in singleseat constituencies. The ruling Georgian Dream coalition dominates the current parliament with 85 seats. The coalition - founded by Georgia’s eccentric

billionaire oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili - swept to power following a major prison scandal in 2012. Comprised of six independent parties, it won the parliamentary elections four years ago and unseated pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) in the process. Saakashvili and the UNM had dominated Georgian politics since the 2003 Rose Revolution ousted long-time former President Eduard Shevardnadze’s corrupt administration from power. In recent weeks, however, the Georgian Dream appears to be unraveling as a number of its coalition members have withdrawn from the party. The Republicans, a key faction in the ruling coalition, announced on March 31 that it plans to officially withdraw from the embattled Georgian Dream and run on its own ticket in October. The departure of the coalition’s second largest faction could complicate the ruling party’s chances at re-election in the upcoming election. Recent polls have shown widespread discontent with the Georgian Dream due to their poor handling of the country’s faltering economy and a lack of policy cohesion amongst its disparate members.

Georgia’s PM to Speak at the Annual Investment Meeting in Dubai BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


op investors, experts and practitioners from around the world will gather in Dubai, one of the most populous cities in the United Arab Emirates, to attend a Global Forum for Investment and Strategic Networking on April 11-13. During the three-day Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) at the Dubai World Trade Center, the world’s leading academics and experts will showcase upgrading information strategies and knowledge on attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) alongside a sharing of their vision about innovative activity for growth and development of the economy. AIM is the region’s first Emerging Markets FDIfocused event to offer cross-industry project developers a safe platform to present their projects and schedule tête a tête meetings with institutional, corporate and private investors seeking lucrative and reliable projects for their capital. The event will also seek to identify legislation that will help stimulate the local economy through new investment opportunities. On Monday, Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili will stand beside the world’s business leaders, senior public officials and heads of international institutions to take part in a Global Leaders Plenary Session. The debate will focus on the New World of FDI, the theme of the 2016 Annual Investment Meeting.

Participants will discuss and share views on effective policies to attract investment, particularly new forms of FDI from emerging sources in growing markets. The Georgian Prime Minister plans to highlight Georgia’s positive investment climate, healthy environment for business, and the trade and economic potential of the country. He also will emphasize Georgia’s role within the New Silk Road project and will speak about the reforms the Georgian government is carrying out within the four point plans of economy. The event is organized Under the Patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Georgia Today is the key media partner of AIM 2016.




Armenian, Azeri Forces Cling to Tenuous NagornoKarabakh Ceasefire After Days of Heavy Fighting BY NICHOLAS WALLER


fter four days of intense fighting that left up to 70 people dead, a tenuous ceasefire appears to be holding between Armenian and Azeri forces in the disputed South Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Both sides were quick to accuse each other of violating the truce, though most of the fighting along the internationally imposed contact line separating the two armies has stopped since a Russian-led delegation brokered a ceasefire that brought an abrupt end to the hostilities early Wednesday. The fighting has deeply shaken the international community who fear that an escalation could turn into a full-scale war between the two long-time enemies, with Turkey and strategic partner Israel strongly backing Azerbaijan and Russia coming to the aid of close ally Armenia and its proxies in Nogorno-Karabakh as part of their mutual security pact.

MAJOR ESCALATION Fighting erupted in the early morning hours of April 2, with both sides using heavy artillery, mobile rocket launchers, rotary-wing aircraft and drones in the ensuing three days of combat. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said 31 of its soldiers had been killed in action since Saturday; Armenian forces stated that 29 of their soldiers died in the fighting and 101 were wounded. Conflicting claims over the number of

civilian deaths continue to circulate, though no independent verification regarding non-combatant casualties has been made available. Armenia’s ambassador to the US, Grigor Hovhannissyan, stated in an interview with the Associated Press that Azerbaijan had launched a major offensive in Karabakh as part of an effort to divert domestic attention away from “growing social unrest and discontent throughout the country.” The authorities in Azerbaijan have steadfastly refuted the claim, saying an unprovoked attack by Armenian forces required a response. Elin Suleymanov, an Azeri official, accused Armenia of launching combat operations to divert attention from a visit by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev to Washington, which has been described by independent sources as having been highly successful. Both the Armenian and Azeri defense ministries state that their armies have inflicted heavy losses - numbering in the hundreds - on their enemy, though the rival claims appear unlikely and have not been independently confirmed. Reports from the battlefield indicate that Azerbaijan was initially successful in gaining ground against Karabakh’s Armenian forces, with military officials in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku claiming that the Azeri military had captured several villages and a strategic piece of high ground along the contact line. A massive counterattack by Armenian forces halted the Azeris’ advance and, according to Armenian media reports,

largely recaptured most of the areas that were first overrun by Azerbaijan’s forces in the early hours of the conflict. Azeri officials have angrily stated that they will refuse to cede control of territory captured in the fighting and that any such demand would be a “major non-starter” for upcoming peace negotiations.

TROUBLED PAST Landlocked Nagorn0-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian exclave surrounded by Azerbaijan, has been under Yerevan’s control since a bloody two-year separatist war that killed an estimated 40,000 people and left more than a million as refugees ended in 1994. Placed within the boundaries of the Azeri SSR by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in an attempt to suppress nationalism

in the Soviet Union’s titular republics, Nagorn0-Karabakh became a flashpoint for ethnic violence in the final years of the Soviet Union. Armenians, who made up 80 per cent of the population at the time, attempted to wrestle the region back from Azerbaijan in the late 1980s during Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberalizing Perestroika period. The Christian Armenian population claimed they were subject to a growing number of discriminatory policies enacted by the local Muslim Azeri minority, who then dominated the local police and Communist Party apparatus. Deadly clashes broke out between the communities in 1988-1991, reaching their peak in February 1988 when Azeri mobs killed at least 26 Armenians in Sumgayit, a drab industrial suburb outside Baku.

The incident caused mass civil unrest in the city and later forced Gorbachev to send units of the army as well as Soviet MVD interior ministry troops into the city to quell the violence. As the Soviet Union imploded, open warfare broke out between the two communities in late 1992. Allied to Russia and heavily supported by volunteers from its vast diaspora in the West, Armenia’s superior forces quickly overran and routed Azerbaijan’s poorly trained, Turkish-supplied army in 1992-1993. Both sides were later accused of ethnic cleansing and war crimes, including the April 1992 massacre of more than 100 ethnic Armenian civilians in Maragah and the slaughter of 160 Azeri villagers in Khojaly in February 1992.

TO WELCOME THE NEW TOURIST SEASON, RESTAURANT ‘GEORGIAN HOUSE’ IS READY TO PREPARE AND ORGANIZE WONDERFUL EVENTS FOR OUR GUESTS. We wish to invite even more visitors to enjoy the fine service of our restaurant ‘Georgian House,’ to appreciate its design and to taste traditional, modern and beautifully presented dishes created by our experienced chefs. When our guests arrive, we are ready to introduce them to real Georgia, our hospitality and our art. We want our guests to relax in a unique environment in which we offer them more than just traditional food. Our Masterclass allows guests to bake their own ‘khachapuri’,Georgian (Shoti) bread, to barbecue meat, to discover the secrets of ‘khinkali’, to take part in distilling that fiery spirit named ‘chacha,’ and to make ‘churchkhela.’ Our guests are also welcome to give Georgian dancing a try and enjoy traditional folk songs performed by the band ‘Alilo’.To add to the fun we invite our guests to dress up in traditional 19th century clothing and take memorable photos beside the talisman of ‘Georgian House’- the statue of Taso Makashvili placed in recognition of the romantic adventure of this descendant of a noble 19th century family.These photos will remind guests about the great time they spent in Georgia. ‘Georgian House’ is a high class restaurant with elements of a 19th century interior, with halls of different design and an excellent musical program, traditional and modern, delicious, beautifully prepared dishes,comfortable old-Tbilisian hanging balconies and apartments with cozy fireplaces. Only professionals work here and this is one of the main reasons for the high level and popularity of restaurant ‘Georgian House’. We feel a responsibility to each and every guest and constantly train and prepare our staff to meet, serve and entertain them. Come and visit our restaurant and you will leave sure that ‘Georgian House’ is a place where everyone cares and is proud of everything that’s ‘Georgia’.



Continued on page 5




APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

2016 Parliamentary Elections – The Great Political Shootout for Power OP-ED BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA


eorgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili announced Tuesday at a special briefing that the 2016 parliamentary elections will be held on October 8. The main political competition in the last four years is believed to be one of the critical moments in the Georgian democratic life. As the country partially enters into a pre-electoral campaign, several players seem to be aspiring to gain the favor of the traditionally wavering Georgian electorate. In fact, the recent polls by several reputable local and international organizations clearly reveal that the popularity of ruling coalition Georgian Dream (GD) is plummeting. One of the motives for that failing belief in GD by Georgian citizens is the government’s economic failure and weak foreign policy. At the same time, Georgia is strongly considered to still be under the unofficial leadership of the Georgian tycoon, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who moved to the backstage in 2013, after a one-year term as Prime Minister. Observing GD’s visibly impalpable success on the Georgian political scene, it is hardly unexpected that the Coalition has been facing an internal dissolution in recent days. The Republicans, a key faction in the Georgian Dream coalition, announced Thursday that they plan to officially withdraw from the embattled incumbent party prior to the elections.

Leader of the United National Movement in a protest against the government. Photo: www.ipress.ge

Party Chairwoman Khatuna Samnidze announced the decision following a lengthy debate within the Republican leadership over the future path of the party. They are planning to play an independent game in the October race. Notably, the ruling coalition’s unity started its obvious fluctuation from November 2014, when one of its key western-facing allies, Free Democrats (FD), notoriously departed from the ruling team. They accused the government of betraying Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic path by flirting with Russia. Both the Republicans and Free Democrats are strongly believed to have played their nontrivial role in the Georgian Dream government, who were otherwise labelled as Russia-affiliates. The two parties controlled some key

governmental positions including Defense, EU-NATO integration, Parliament and more, to secure Georgia’s Western path. Currently, having arrived at a crossroads, even though the Republicans and the FD have been sympathized with for their Western orientation, they lack the needed public support that would enable them to gain a significant number of seats in the next parliament. Their strategic adversary in the elections is the country’s main opposition party, the United National Movement, who ruled Georgia for nine years following the Rose Revolution of 2003. The UNM was expected to rebrand itself after the painful fiasco with GD in the 2012 elections, though the party remains on almost the same rails. Moreover, the UNM leadership, including

ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, currently serving as Odessa Governor in Ukraine, has only indirectly been involved in Georgian politics. Other UNM frontrunners, including ex-PM Vano Merabishvili, were imprisoned, which makes it hardly likely that the former government will regain a significant amount of power this term. As for GD itself, although their policies and politics have been prone to wider public criticism, they are expected to seriously modify the existing team and advance some new faces in the party circle. This strategy is most likely designed to alleviate the negative public attitudes toward the government in order to get the second mandate. In these convoluted circumstances, it would be least pragmatic to forget about openly Russian-leaning parties, such as

Nino Burjanadze’s Democratic Party and The Patriots’ Alliance. Notwithstanding Russian sentiment plunging in the new generation, the two seemingly marginal parties have assembled their respective audience among the elderly, who are authentically anti-Western. Last but not least, the newly established Pine Cone and the New Party of the Georgian philanthropist, Paata Burchuladze will be trying their best to be competitive in the election process. Georgia’s political landscape is highly colorful and the forthcoming summer is prognosticated to be politically very hot. As the elections can significantly determine Georgia’s future democratic fate, there will be a massive unconventional shootout between the role players to succeed. The elections are also expected to have a crucial role in terms of Georgia’s positive perception in Western communities and in solidifying the country’s state institutions for successful future governance. Relatively, Georgia’s EU and NATO aspiration can be in direct correlation to conducting democratic elections, which further underscores the utmost significance of this year for the territorially tiny country in the South Caucasus. ZVIAD ADZINBAIA is an Analyst at Georgia Today, covering security, foreign policy, and the domestic politics of Georgia. He is affiliated with the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS). From fall 2016, Zviad will be joining the George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs as a Master’s student in Security Studies.



Armenian, Azeri Forces Cling to Tenuous NagornoKarabakh Ceasefire After Days of Heavy Fighting Continued from page 3

By the end of the war, the overwhelming majority of Azeris fled the region as refugees. An uneasy ceasefire brokered by Russia, the US and France in 1994 left Nagorno-Karabakh under Armenian control, but years of wildly unsuccessful negotiations headed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have left the tiny mountainous region a highly militarized breakaway separatist state, with its status still unresolved.

RETURN TO THE STATUS QUO ANTE In light of the recent escalation, questions now arise for the major players in the region and the two sides that are party to the conflict as to what the state of affairs will be in the highly disputed region. Moscow’s position as a mediator in the conflict arises mainly by default rather than through its influence over Aliyev or his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan. Russia has supplied vast quantities of highly sophisticated weaponry to both Azerbaijan and Armenia as a means to expand its influence over a region that was once key to its imperial ambitions. This double game has angered many in Armenia, which has maintained close security and economic ties with Moscow and has longed looked to the Kremlin for political guidance. Though both Turkey and Georgia have offered to play a part in finding common ground between the Azeris and Armenians, neither country holds much sway over the two warring nations in the same

manner as Putin’s Russia. Turkey is a staunch, vocal ally of Azerbaijan with no diplomatic relations with Armenia. Georgia, while a strategic bordering state, lacks any serious clout within the international community to act as a true mediator. As both sides announced a break in the fighting on Wednesday, U.S., French and Russian officials prepared a series of high-level visits to Azerbaijan and Armenia to seek an agreement. But it was Russian President Vladimir Putin who held separate phone calls Tuesday with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, demanding an immediate halt to the fighting and a return to the 1994 cease-fire line. He’s dispatched his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Aliyev and Iranian officials in Baku and Vice President Dmitry Medvedev to Armenia to talk with Sargsyan. While the West has continued to dither over how to respond to the conflict, Russia’s quick shuttle diplomacy between Yerevan and Baku will likely leave Moscow as the key arbiter in any future peace agreement. Stability in Nagorno-Karabakh, however, will continue to be elusive as neither side is willing to give ground over their rival claims. Though Moscow has the strongest hand to play to pressure both sides into occasionally abiding by the ceasefire agreements, the absence of any international mechanisms to enforce a lasting settlement over a highly militarized Karabakh will leave the impoverished region in limbo as another of the half dozen post-Soviet frozen conflict zones.


Russia Has More to Lose than South Ossetia if it Allows Unification with the North OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


he De-facto leader of occupied South Ossetia started talking about joining Russia again this week. Leonid Tibilov announced that at the referendum that will be held by the end of this year, citizens will have to answer only one question: “Do you support us joining the Russian Federation?” Tibilov made the announcement about this constitutional initiative in the Georgievsky Hall in the Kremlin, on a visit to President Putin to settle the financial problems of the occupied territory. It is nothing new that occupied South Ossetia wants to join the Russian Federation. To be more precise, that it wants to be united with North Ossetia which, as everyone is aware, is the federal subject of the Russian Federation. While in Tskhinvali they call it the restoration of historical justice, whether it really is “historical justice” or not is a question of another debate. The fact that the term “South Ossetia” emerged on the world map only after the Bolshevization of Georgia is already sufficient argument. Afterwards, despite this political casus, the issue of unification of South and North Ossetias has never left the agenda. Moreover, there was even a period in the 1930s when North Ossetia wanted to unite with South Ossetia and this time within the borders of the Georgian Socialistic Republic. At that time Stalin made the decision and the map that was marked by him was left intact until the

collapse of the Soviet Union. After said collapse, the issue of South and North Ossetia uniting became more active with ethnic Ossetians but was always opposed by Moscow. As the last meeting of Tibilov and Putin suggested, the Kremlin wasn’t so enthusiastic about this initiative from Tskhinvali. After meeting President Putin, Tibilov started talking about the delicate nature of the referendum issue and the international prestige of Russia. The fact that the Kremlin does not support the growth of its federal subjects within its territory has also been confirmed by Russian analysts. Political expert Andrey Epiphantsev believes that the adoption of South Ossetia into the Russian Federation won’t change anything for Tskhinvali, but is rather disadvantageous for Russia. “South Ossetia is on our shoulders in any case, both financially and politically. As for the losses, these will be quite big for us. Taking a step like this after Crimea means we should stop dreaming about the international economic sanctions being lifted – forever. In addition to that, Georgia might be accepted to NATO, which will be a political disaster for us. Therefore, the issue of receiving South Ossetia into the Russian Federation is no more than a different tool in order to stop the events from developing in this direction,” Epiphantsev told journalists of the newspaper ‘Arguments and Facts’. But what will happen if the de-facto leader of South Ossetia does really address Putin about joining the Russian Federation based on the outcome of the referendum? According to Carnegie Moscow Center analyst

Alexey Malashenko – not much, “We will just thank our Ossetian brothers and tell them it is impossible.” There are about 25 thousand people living on the occupied territory, not counting the Russian soldiers that live on the Tskhinvali and Java military bases, the number of which exceeds 10 thousand. Keeping the territory populated with only 25 thousand people costs Kremlin RUB 7.3 billion, about USD 120 million. If we take into consideration the scale of Russian corruption then it is easy to imagine what sort of financial “laundry” Tskhinvali really is for the Russian officials today. Therefore, unsurprisingly, changing this corrupt scheme will not suit Russia today. However, anything can be expected from the unpredictable Kremlin. Unlike the Russian analysts, their colleagues in Tbilisi have different thoughts and arguments in fear that the de-facto leader of occupied South Ossetia voices the position of the Kremlin and that it serves the purpose of Georgia being refused its Euro Atlantic course. An opinion exists that raising this issue is connected with the investigation that started in Hague regarding the war crimes committed in 2008. In light of the predictions by analysts, whether Russia will receive South Ossetia and unite North and South Ossetias is as yet unknown. One rather important and unusual thing happened during the Russian tour- Tskhinvali accused its Northern brothers of treason because of the concerts that have been held in the Vladikavkaz where Georgian folk Ensembles Rustavi and Bani participated.




APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

Russia Sitting Pretty: Ogden on Georgia Walking the Political Tightrope OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN


ad Socrates been in Georgia in August 2008, no doubt he’d have said something suitably philosophical about war and the folly of man – not that he’d have had much chance; he’d probably have had an AK47 thrust into his arms and then bungled on a bus bound for Gori, before being hastily brought back to Tbilisi when the Russians hove in sight. That, you’ll gather, is my enduring impression of the Georgia-Russia war of 2008 (the chaos, I mean, not the hypothetical presence of Greek philosophers). I’ve heard stories of Georgians with prior military experience scrambling to volunteer to get back in uniform and fight off the invader, only to arrive at military depots and been given empty rifles; likewise, I’ve heard of people who’ve never done a day’s service in uniform be issued equipment that even Rambo might have raised his eyebrow at. Then there are the tales of overwhelming Russian air power, despite American and European reports of one of the few Georgian success stories of that war being the downing of numerous Russian aircraft and the deaths of their pilots. Naturally, the fear that it all might happen again has never gone away, especially with the thousands of Russian troops sitting pretty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Moscow and Tbilisi’s relations

remaining hostile. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine – predictably unchallenged by the West beyond the regular sycophantic chant of ‘strong condemnation’ – led some in Georgia to believe that Russian forces would come rolling over the hills again in the near future. This week’s flare up between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh (which has already resulted in the loss of thirty lives) has caused the old worry to come back once more, especially due to rumours of a Russian request to use Georgian airspace in order to assist its Armenian allies. Georgians are worried that if Russia officially requests permission to transit its military forces through Georgia (as per a pre-2008 war agreement between Russia and Georgia), Tbilisi will deny the request and thus provoke Russia into finding a more aggressive way of getting its forces into Armenia. While hardly an impossible scenario, it remains unlikely. The European and American publics are becoming increasingly tired with Islamic extremism in general and the Islamic State in particular, and with Russia’s intervention in Syria, President Putin has managed to rebrand his country as an international peacekeeper, far from the image cultivated by the West of the Russian bear bullying its smaller neighbours. The West’s support of a number of Syrian rebel factions was strongly criticised by some media outlets when it emerged that a number of these groups are linked with (or sympathetic to) AlQaeda; the new perception of Ba’athism contends

Georgia had best be careful walking the diplomatic tightrope, especially as the government is becoming increasingly fractured and October’s elections draw ever closer. Photo: thenationstatewerein. co.uk/2016/02/

that while it is indeed a brutal form of fascism, it does not compare with the barbarism of the Islamic State: between the Scylla of Al-Qaeda rebels and the Charybdis of IS, Russian-backed President AlAssad is cast in a more favourable light. Russia’s brief campaign of support for the Syrian government propped up the regime, bloodied the nose of the Islamic State and retired in good order (a far cry from the Western quagmires of the Afghan and Iraq wars). With an increasing number of IS attacks in Europe, some segments of the Western public view military intervention in Syria as being the only way to prevent terrorist activity on the continent, since any criticism of Islamic immigration and integration in Europe being a metaphorical minefield laced with words such as ‘discrimination’ and ‘prejudice’. It is hardly surprising that many are describing Russia as fighting a European war that Brussels is unwilling to wage. In this way, any further aggression towards Georgia at this time would badly damage the new perception of Moscow as a sensible international policeman. If Russia requests the use of Georgian

airspace and Georgia declines, it will serve solely to enhance Moscow’s image and damage Tbilisi’s; given Russia’s past form, it will not be hard to spin the outbreak of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh as being the fault of Azerbaijan (and it might well have been, for all we know). Georgia, then, will be seen as spitefully preventing Russian peacekeepers from being allowed to restore order and end the fighting. The rebrand of Russia’s image has served to change the perception of Moscow amongst the Western public, which in turn might cause European and American politicians’ attitude to change as a result; this could have a number of positive outcomes for Russia, such as the lifting of the West’s sanctions and unfreezing Russian assets in Europe and North America. For its part, Georgia had best be careful walking the diplomatic tightrope, especially as the government is becoming increasingly fractured and October’s elections draw ever closer. It is, as I like to tell my friends, a damn good (or interesting; pick one) time to live here.

Dutch PM: Aspirant Countries Should Anchor to Both Russia AND Europe BY IA MEURMISHVILI FOR VOICE OF AMERICA’S GEORGIAN SERVICE


utch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, currently holding the European Council presidency, told the Voice of America Georgian Service that Association Agreements with aspirant countries makes the EU stronger; however, he argued that Ukraine should not be allowed to become a member of the economic block. PM Rutte claims that countries in Eastern Europe should build and maintain strong relations with Russia. “I think the Eastern Partnership is important. I was at the Vilnius Summit in 2013 and I still remember the Summit we had in Poland in 2011. I think it is extremely important that the European Union build its bridges with the countries in Eastern Europe, while at the same time also acknowledging that these countries will also have strong relations with Russia,” stated Mr. Rutte. The Dutch Prime Minister reiterated his previous position on EU expansion and said that the aspirant countries should not look at the EU membership as a zero sum game and should not choose between Russia and the West. “It should be a choice to anchor these countries to both Europe and Russia,” he said. Some in Eastern Europe believe that it would take years for Ukraine and Georgia to establish normal relations with Moscow – if at all. Russia occupies about 20 percent of Georgian territory. It annexed Crimea and supports separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Despite this predicament, the Dutch Prime Minister believes that EU and NATO aspirant countries, including Ukraine, should get closer to Europe to strengthen their democracies, which in turn will help them to have stable relations with Russia. “I think the Association Agreement will help Ukraine to fight corruption, to improve democracy, improve the standards of human rights for many minorities- the gay community, Jewish community, who are very much in favor of this. A stronger Ukraine would also be able to build a relationship with Russia,” said PM Rutte. He also believes that Ukraine should not forget its historic ties with Russia: “Let’s not forget that a part of the Russian history started in Ukraine, in

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

Kiev. Of course, what happened in Crimea, in Eastern Ukraine, has created a situation where a stable relationship with Russia is very difficult to see. Still, in the near future, or in the somewhat distant future I hope that Ukraine will be able to have as strong relations with the European Union as to Moscow.” PM Rutte has similar views on NATO expansion. According to him, before inviting new members, the Alliance should consider its physical proximity with Moscow and base the expansion policy on balancing this factor. “Before the Berlin Wall came down, the distance between Moscow and the West was 3000 kilometers. I’m not in favor of this, but if Ukraine were to have an exclusive relationship with the West and have no relationship with Russia, then that distance will be 1000 kilometers – 2000 kilometers less than in 1989. When we discuss the expansion of NATO, we need to remind ourselves of this and what it means in terms of our relations with Russia,” said the Dutch PM. While opposing Ukraine’s accession into NATO, the Dutch PM does not object to the ambitions of aspirant countries. “I understand the ambitions of the countries in the east that are close to Russia to become members of NATO,” he said. However, referring to physical or political threats coming from Russia, he added “there is no simple yes on no answer. NATO constantly needs to balance these facts.”



StratCom and Russian (Not So) Soft Power All the Talk at 2016 NATOGeorgia Public Diplomacy Forum BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


ATO Week, the ninth of its kind, took off in Georgia on April 4 with the launch of NATO-Georgia Public Diplomacy Forum, which was held for the first time in Tbilisi. The event, as well as the NATO Week, was organized by the Information Center on NATO and EU in coordination with the Office of the State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration with the support of the Ministry of Defense of Georgia, NATO Liaison Office in Georgia and the Embassy of Romania in Georgia (CPE). The Forum took place in the cozy conference hall of Radisson Blu Hotel. The high-profile debate, with an abundantly rich selection of strategic communication actors from the West’s top decision making organizations, enjoyed the attendance of an engaged and motivated audience. The Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili; State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, David Bakradze; and Deputy Assistant of NATO Secretary General, Ted Whiteside, welcomed the participants. The PM emphasized the importance of ever-strengthening cooperation between Georgia and the Alliance in his speech, stressing that Georgia’s desire to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is unwavering and that the country “wants to hear a clear message” regarding its closer integration into the North Atlantic block at the NATO Warsaw Summit in 2016. “We spare no effort to retain the positive dynamics of the NATO integration process and to make NATO-Georgia relations even more significant in terms of progress and tangible results in this direction. Georgia, as an aspirant country, puts particular emphasis on strengthening its ties with NATO and performs important responsibilities in terms of NATO’s rapid reaction forces and NATO missions. In view of NATO approximation, Georgia expects significant progress in both political and

practical terms during the Warsaw summit,” said the PM. The sentiment was shared by Minister Bakradze, who voiced the hope that the Forum would facilitate further expansion of the network of public diplomacy experts, “ensure information and experience sharing and development of common strategies and approaches.” “Tangible deliverable is the best way to tackle disinformation” he added. True to the Minister’s wishes, participants at the first day of the Forum discussed issues including hybrid warfare and the role of strategic communication in countering it, the establishment of state run media as a tool of propaganda and the limits of freedom of expression in an era filled with the perils of growing extremism and violence. Particularly noteworthy was the contribution of Anneli Kimber, a representative of the European Union’s East Stratcom task force that is dedicated towards exposing and distributing information about Russian propaganda. The honest and objective review of their own strengths and limitations, provided by the speaker, was arguably the best way for the Brussels-based unit to set reachable goals in an uneven battle. The ongoing revamp and redesigning of the approaches employed by the EU communication actors, particularly those aiming at more active involvement from the local (in this case, Georgian) media outlets, also seemed reasonable and full of promise. The second day of the Forum was devoted to NATO-Georgia cooperation, expectations for the NATO Warsaw summit and, once again, the importance of effective strategic communication. In this scope, a specific workshop for media professionals was also held – where the officials from NATO HQ , the US, the EU, Britain, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Montenegro, Ukraine and Moldova sat down with Georgian journalists to speak about effective strategies in strategic communication. Engaging and lively, the workshop sparked many interesting and innovative ideas. The NATO Week in Georgia is due to last until April 19th.

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APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

Ukraine’s Anti-Secession Strategy- Russian, Georgian or Moldovan Way? BY ALEXANDER TOKAREV


hree general strategies can be defined from the postSoviet anti-secession approaches: the diametrically opposed Russian and Georgian ones, and an intermediary Moldovan one. Neither of the three envisions active warfare in relationships between secessions and “mother states” in the near future. Despite it being hard to predict the Donbass situation (neither its institutional structure nor values or actors’ behavioral strategies are firmly established), my suggestion is to compare secession factors in Eastern Ukraine to those that came to be in Russia, Georgia and Moldova. The strategy of Vladimir Putin towards Chechnya and that of Mikheil Saakashvili towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia/ Tskhinvali region were more or less similar. However, while the Kremlin has managed to rally strong support for the federal center via Kadyrov and Yamadaev clans, as well as ex-militia turncoats, nobody in South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region took Dmitry Sanakoev, Saakashvili’s appointed figurehead, seriously. The Georgian president’s offer, made in April 2008, was declined by Sergey

Shamba, head of the Abkhazian Interior Ministry. Given Georgia’s strong swivel towards the West in 2006 and onwards, Russia has apparently decided that the January 2004 scenario should not be repeated – namely, when its own Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov convinced Aslan Abashidze, the virtual owner of Adjara province, to leave the republic, thus playing a pivotal role in restoration of Tbilisi’s constitutional control over the area. By 2008, Russia could no longer work with Georgia on maintaining its territory, as its growing military-political and economical rapport with NATO and USA was openly opposed to Russia’s national interests. Long before that, President Saakashvili, seeing the immense demand for restoration of statehood and territorial integrity from the masses, started to deviate from the “Chechnya method” while still hoping to implement it later, with support of Western partners (what took place in 2008 was basically such an attempt). After the Rose Revolution, Georgian elites started to develop the territory under their control. What Martin Malek aptly named “Inner Georgia” (UN majority-acknowledged Georgia without 19% of its territory) became a place for largescale anti-corruption reforms, restoration of statehood and its function, increasing fiscal performance and supremacy

of law, reinforcement of the Armed Forces, Police and the state apparatus, as well as privatization and cuts to bureaucratic expenses. “Instead of waiting for occupied territories to come back, let us develop what we can” can be called an unofficial motto of the Georgian approach towards secessions both before and after 2008. This included provision of highly qualified medical assistance to

denizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/ Tskhinvali region (partly via Dmitry Sanakoev’s administration, which represents official Tbilisi in the area), a joint EU stance known as “Involvement without Acknowledgement”, creation of a Reintegration Ministry and its evolution into a Civil Accord Ministry – all these steps show that Georgia, despite not having a precise strategy of taking back

the unrecognized territories that are now separate formations, did not burn the bridges. The Kremlin’s strategy towards Chechnya was completely opposite to the one described above and, in our opinion, more successful. After the militia was largely exterminated and those willing to lay down their arms Continued on page 9



APRIL 8 - 11, 2016


Ukraine’s Anti-Secession Strategy- Russian, Georgian or Moldovan Way? Continued from page 8

granted amnesty and accepted into Chechen departments of Russian power structures (Armed Forces, Internal Security, MVD, FSB), the federal center took to restoration of the devastated republic. By 2016, Russia had turned it into a controllable territory with functional state institutions, well-developed social space (healthcare, education, interreligious communication, culture) and a high level of security for common citizenry. Alongside those, however, an openly authoritarian regime was established, with zero tolerance towards criticism, utter ruthlessness against public political opposition, no legal opponents within the republic’s borders and a personality cult to support its legitimacy. The Russian anti-secession strategy amounted to “Bring the republic back into the constitutional fold and building a peaceful life within, with clear incentives for the local elite.” The Moldovan approach turned out to be a sort of a middle ground between its Georgian and Russian counterparts. Chisinau never tried to create a success story like “Inner Georgia” did, nor did it risk using force for reintegration of Transnistria (PMR), as Russia did with Chechnya. This course of action was caused by hard factors: the Moldovan economy was barely managing to deal with its own challenges and could not have handled raising living standards in the already industrially developed Transnistrian region. Besides, Russian peacekeepers stationed in PMR are guarantors of stability, and not just formally. As our respondents stated in in-depth interviews, maintaining the presence of Russian troops is of vital importance: “Even if Russia decides to move their guys out, we won’t let them; otherwise, this place

will become Romania overnight.” On the other hand, Chisinau never broke economic ties with PMR, despite periodically blockading the unrecognized republic together with Ukraine: export of electricity, textile goods, machinery produced in PMR reached the EU through Moldova, same as import. The MoldovanTransnistrian border is nonexistent – a single policeman manning an improvized post and checking documents arbitrarily, depending on his mood, hardly lives up to the title of a border guard. Moldova still does not have an eastern border, save for the fact that since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, the border between it and PMR came under the tight control of Kiev. The TransnistrianMoldovan border, however, is very real, down to mass document checks, inspection of heavy transports, brandishing of state symbols, presence of border guards and filling out of admission forms. In such an attitude towards border control and secessionist policy lies the main difference between Moldovan and Georgian strategies: while Georgia de facto acknowledges the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region by maintaining constant presence of troops there, Chisinau considers PMR to be its territory, making do with a tiny police presence and lack of border infrastructure. Which strategy can Ukraine opt for in returning the Donbass region, considering that the given situation involves interaction of global powers? The Russian approach, a military operation with subsequent social-economic development is excluded for the following reasons. Firstly, the correlation of Ukraine/ Donbass industrial potential resembles that of Moldova/PMR; Ukraine simply does not possess the same level of economic development as pre-war Donbass,

and at the moment is physically incapable of dealing with its restoration. Secondly, neither the armed forces of the self proclaimed Lugansk/Donetsk People’s Republics, nor Russia will allow use of force to return the breakaway territories under control of Kiev. The Georgian approach is far more likely for Ukraine. There is a considerable demand for massive social-economical reforms (which Mikheil Saakashvili and part of his old team are already trying to implement) and Europeanization. Given lack of a national and ethnic border in Eastern Ukraine and obvious immaturity of the national community, many Ukrainians cannot answer some very important questions, such as: what are the criteria of membership in a nation? Are the denizens of Donbass members of the community or not? Should Russian be accepted as a second state language or not? Would federalization be appropriate or not? And more. There is no national consensus regarding the DNR/LNR problem – while Ukrainians definitely want to get their territories back, reintegration of Donbass denizens is under a big question mark. According to polls conducted by Ukraine’s Razumkov Center, when confronted with the question “What is the further course of action in resolving the conflict in the southeast?” 33-35% of those polled insist on continuing military action until the full liberation of occupied areas is achieved, 24-30% want the region to have a special status, 18-20% suggest separating these territories from the rest of the country, while the remaining 18-23% provide no answer. Therefore, the Georgian approach of “restoring what you control while hoping to get the seceded territories back in the future” is more likely for Ukraine. Now let us take a look at the Moldovan

A local resident riding a bicycle is pictured through damaged power lines while a Ukrainian tank (rear) patrols the area in the eastern Ukrainian town of Vuhlehirsk August 14, 2014. Photo by Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

approach. The Moldovan strategy seems to be impossible to implement due to the conflict being drenched in blood. Approximately 1000 people perished on each side of the war in Transnistria in 1992. According to UN data for May 3 2015, 6243 people have perished in the Donbass conflict. There were six waves of military mobilization in Ukraine, in addition to volunteer battalions. In Donbass, the level of involvement of the local population in local militia is even higher. The war has already “made it to the museums” on both sides, and families of the deceased already tell stories of men heroically dying in battle. The overall national narrative on both sides is changing towards hatred and resistance of the enemy, which clearly distinguishes Donbass from PMR, which does not view Moldova with such negativity. Finally, even if we consider the geographical conditions (lack of natural barriers functioning as borders between Donbass and its formal owner Ukraine, as well as an ambiguous “contact line” between the sides), lack of ethnic and linguistic disagreements between DNR/

LNR and neighboring Russian-inhabited and Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, pressure of sanctions upon Russia, which (unlikely, but not worth overlooking) might stop supporting the self-proclaimed republics, constant skirmishes between elite groups at Donbass in a struggle for resources and an extremely low level of internal sovereignty of breakaway territories, Ukraine will be unable to reintegrate the population of Donbass. Negativity towards the Ukrainian state is lodged in mass consciousness. Some pro-Ukrainian denizens remain, although they are in absolute minority. Positive recollections of life in Ukraine generally survive only as nostalgia for a peaceful life. Given such attitudes, even if Ukraine manages to get its territories back through some miraculous feat, they will act as a time bomb that will inevitably explode at the first sign of a new wave of Ukrainization. This article was commissioned for the “Regional Dialogue” Platform initiated by the Caucasian House. This is a downsized version - for the full version of the article, please visit the Regional Dialogue platform.




APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

‘Five Rings for Georgia’ OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


nce, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the seventh president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) told the world that Georgia is a small state by territory and population, but it belongs among the big nations in its traditions and potential in sports. As a matter of fact, this could very well be true, judging by the outcome of previous Olympic bouts of Sakartvelo, but let us look into the future for a second rather than back at the past. The Rio-2016 Games are approaching fast, and Georgia is diligently getting ready to add some luster this summer to its usual Olympic shine. Georgia has enjoyed its share of Olympic triumphs in the years, but these are bygone. Indeed, this miniature country has harvested 118 Olympic medals throughout the history of the new-time Games – 37 gold, 28 silver and 53 bronze by only 259 participating athletes in 21sports. This is a fact that fairly puts our little Georgia next to the distinguished Olympic nations, considering the award/population ratio. One of the most outstanding red-letter days on Georgia’s calendar, and its history on the whole, is the 6th October of 1989, the date of the founding of the Georgian National Olympic Committee (GNOC), headed by legendary Nona Gaprindashvili, the five-time world chess champion. Rumor has it that Gorbachev – the then-leader of the still extant USSR – had inadvertently given the green light to Georgia’s Olympic independence from the soviet sports system when Gorby was told by one of his aides that Georgia was going to openly declare its desire to create its own Olympic committee. Before the mentioned date, athletes from Georgia would only be recognized as

‘soviet’ in the Games rather than by their ethnic belonging. In those times of communist rule, all of us together – tens of various soviet nationalities – made up the so called Soviet People, the shortlived and unfortunate historical conglomerate. Nobody would mention us by our original national identities. Often, we were all applied to as Russians, totally ignoring the ethnic identity of the remainder of the smaller soviet nations. None of us liked the blunder but the rules of survival of those eerie times made us swallow the offence. Thus, the medals earned by Georgian men and women were credited to soviet sports, not Geor-

gian. The talent was absolutely the property of the soviet ‘motherland’. Since 1989, Georgia has been participating in the Olympic Games as an independent player, and hence all its current and future trophies are recognized purely and fairly as its national fortune. But this could not have happened without the sweat of the dexterous and valiantly determined guardians of the Georgian sports like Tengiz Gachechiladze, Emzar Zenaishvili and Paata Natsvlishvili, together with numerous other patrons of past and modern times, whose outstanding efforts have yielded what we are enjoying today – Georgia’s Olympic individuality and freedom, now officially recognized as part of the Games in a full-fledged capacity of an independent Olympic component. It was exactly this triad of poised Georgian enthusiasts who made things possible in favor of the many generations of athletes to come. What

could be a better token of a nation’s independence? What could be a clearer expression of Georgia’s most celebrated national idea –freedom? So Georgia is proudly standing to take its physical strength and sporting morale to Rio to compete with the rest of the world in modern sportsmanship. One of the highlights of this preparation took place last weekend in Borjomi when the sports writers of the country, officially accredited to Rio-2016, went through a vigorous Olympic training session in their field. The seminar was organized and headed by director, First VP of GNOC, Elguja Berishvili and his assistant Rusudan Aptsiauri. President of GNOC, Leri Khabelov, made a special trip to Borjomi to attend the seminar and encourage the participants to sharpen their pens and pencils to duly covering the future Games in Rio de Janeiro from August 5 to 21. Your obedient servant was among those ladies and gentlemen of the press, which makes it presumable that he might be reporting – if fortune and remaining time still has it – under the heading of ‘For GT from Rio’. Incidentally, here comes to mind Mark Twain’s famous words: ‘There are only two forces that can carry light to all the corners of the globe . . . the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here.’ Let us assume that in this particular case, AP means the media of mass communication of the world that includes Georgia’s journalistic forces, too – as free and independent as it is today. Incidentally, the title of this piece ‘Five Rings for Georgia’ is borrowed from a major five-volume illustrated edition on Georgia’s Olympic experience and achievements, created by the well-known journalist of the country P. Natsvlishvili. Any Olympic country of the world would envy Georgia’s capability to have in print such a publication about sports. Like athletes, like books!

Construction of New Zoo Starts in Tbilisi BY ANA AKHALAIA


bilisi’s City Hall announced Tuesday that eight hectares of land have been fenced off for bear and wolf cages as part of the construction of the city’s new zoo. London-based HASSELL studio designed the new zoo’s concept with help of British engineering and planning company, Arup. The studio won Tbilisi City Hall’s approval to carry out their design on the

outskirts of the Georgian capital with a strategy aimed at causing minimal disturbance to the area’s natural beauty. The project will replace the existing zoo in the city center, most of which was destroyed in a flash flood in June 2015, leaving half of its animal inhabitants either dead or on the loose. The USD 40 million project will be carried out in stages, with the German Corporation for International Cooperation paying for the construction of the cages. The zoo expects to get financing from other foreign donors to complete the project.

Braving the Stage to Promote Friendship and Understanding through English BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


his week the British Corner, Vake Park, hosted the annual English Speaking Union’s Public Speaking Competition which saw eight young Georgian English-speakers braving the stage before an audience of experts and fellow students. The aim of the English Speaking Union (ESU) is to promote friendship and understanding through the English language. The Public Speaking Competition is one of its most successful projects, with 64 countries taking part in the Final in London- up from just three when the project was started in 1981. Georgia has participated for 19 years and has so far sent 34 youngsters aged between 16 and 20 to speak there. This year’s topic was “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any” with the eight speakers each having five minutes to give their take on the topic and be asked on-the-spot questions by the panel of five judges: Deputy Director of the Bank of Georgia, Archil Gachechiladze, Deputy Minister of Defense, Ana Dolidze, Head of BP Georgia, Chris Schlueter and UK Ambassador to Georgia, Alexandra Hall Hall. “Cisero said the aim of Public Speaking is to teach, delight and move,” said Marina Tsitsishvili, President of ESU Georgia and Director of the British Corner. “According to many studies, most people’s number one fear is public speak-

ing. Death is number two,” she said. “Which is why I am especially proud of the brave and confident young speakers we will hear today.” The winner was 20-year-old Guga Sukhiashvili from the Tbilisi State University who spoke on the subject of “True Idols.” “It was a tough choice, with all the participants performing well in at least one or other of the selection criteria, but ultimately we chose Guga Sukhiashvili, who displayed the best performance

across all the selection criteria – how well he presented and delivered his speech, the depth of reasoning and argument, and the organization and structure of his presentation,” Ambassador Hall Hall told GEORGIA TODAY. “His speech was engaging, witty, and nicely structured, starting with a personal anecdote about how he found confidence in himself, and then expanding on his own experience to draw larger lessons about how others could learn to develop their confidence and realise their inner poten-

tial, and then how this could be used to the wider benefit of society.” “One of the nicest aspects of this year’s event – apart from the fact that we had excellent candidates, and a very engaged jury including both international and Georgian members – was that the theme itself was very motivating and inspiring,” the Ambassador said. “Many of the participants spoke about the need for people to overcome their fears and hang-ups, and have confidence to realise their potential, overcoming adversity

and setbacks along the way. Some of the participants were living examples of putting this into practice – for example, our overall winner, Guga, had himself competed last year and learned from the experience in order to do better this year. The runner up, Irakli Korkaia, similarly, did well last year, and better this year.” Second place winner Irakli Korkia chose the title: “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” and the third prize was awarded to Eter Chumburidze who spoke on the “The Seed of Power.” The winner will go to London to take part at the ESU International Public Speaking Competition on the 13th of May. The theme at the Finals will be: “Integrity has no need of rules” “As ever, witnessing these talented young people display their skills gave me great optimism for Georgia’s future,” Ambassador Hall Hall told us. “It takes courage to stand up in front of strangers and give a speech in a foreign language. Their skills will serve them, and their country, well, and I wish them all the best.” The ESU was set up in London in 1918 as an independent, non-political, nongovernmental, educational charity. The Patron of the ESU is Queen Elizabeth II, the President - HRH The Princess Anne. One of the ESU’s first chairmen was Sir Winston Churchill. Georgia joined the ESU in 1998 and is supported by the British Embassy. The sponsors of the Public Speaking Competition-2016 were the Bank of Georgia, British Petroleum and the English Speaking Union.




APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

Paint the World - Peace Project Week 2016, Tbilisi Georgia BY MERI TALIASHVILI


outh Organization Paint the World organized Peace Project Week in Tbilisi involving charity work and community service aimed at benefiting both people and the environment. Numerous foreign guests took part in the project in Georgia, the birthplace of the Organization, and got the chance to meet the local community and learn about Georgian culture and traditions. “We’ve created a firm bond between the participants of our project from various parts of the world, helping towards future world peace,” Lika Torikashvili, founder of the Paint the World told GEORGIA TODAY. Paint the World - Gauperade Samkaro - was found in 2012 by a current Atlantic College student, Lika Torikashvili, in Tbilisi, Georgia. After Lika went to study in the college in the UK, the Movement went international and now boasts various branches around the world. Peace Project Week in Georgia hosted students from Miri, Malaysia, who have already established a branch of Paint the World in Malaysia, and four students from UWC Atlantic College. Aziza Aznizan (from Malaysia, the founder of Paint the World in Malaysia and Oman), Saiora Immamkulova (from Ossetia), and Anton Tekhniriadov (from Russia) also participated in the events in Georgia, together with young Georgian members. They spent time visiting orphanages and hospitals and had Clinton Chua, famous Malaysian singer, singing live at each event. In order to get more participants for their future projects, the Paint the World organized presentations of Paint the world in local schools. Mr.Giorgi Maisashvili, a Georgian Politician, attended one presentation of Paint the World and expressed huge support towards the Movement. The participants of the 2016 Project Week came from various religious and national backgrounds. The project was unique not only because was entirely organized by teenagers, but also because it brought together religions and countries that have been in conflict for centuries. “I myself am a Jew. My best friend from Malaysia, Aziza, and her friends that came over to Tbilisi are Muslims, and lots of my Georgian and Russian friends are Christians. We all stood together, side by side on Georgian land, to show the world that, no matter how much hate there has been, we, the future generations, are ready to change the world. This “act of peace” happened in Georgia, on our land, because I believe we are one of the most peaceful countries in the world, and we need to emphasize this one more time. We are not a state

in the US, we are Georgians, and we have a great country and an ancient history. And we want peace!” Lika. Dave Booker, Vice Principal of UWC Atlantic College, became so interested in Lika’s Paint the World Project that he decided to take part and visit the “mysterious country” called Georgia, together with his students. “I heard and experienced a great deal of the hospitality of the Georgians, and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back to visit again. It’s in the quiet, unacknowledged aspects of the life of Tbilisi that I found most to value, celebrate and respect: how a people has

The participants of the 2016 Project Week came from various religious and national backgrounds

grown to live together and acknowledge the richness that each brings to a country. This goes deeper than tolerance. It is openness to possibility, and makes Tbilisi a rich city of faiths but also of commerce, architecture and culture,” Booker said. In one day, the participants of the project visited a local Mosque, Synagogue, and the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Jews, Muslims, Christians together. The members of the Georgian team got to know members of Paint the World from all over the world, another very important aspect of the project as Georgian students rarely have the opportunity to travel, so meeting youngsters from completely different backgrounds was a huge inspiration. “Our parents taught us to be tolerant towards others no matter what their religion, skin color or culture is, but we see people killing each other for their differences, we see the sick world getting even sicker and we see how nobody seems to care. But we do care,” said Keta Bagashvili, an 18-year-old Paint the world Georgian team member. “We don’t want to see any more blood, aggression and cold hearted people running around our cities. We don’t want borders, just brushes to paint our world together. “If I was going to compare ‘Paint the World’ to anything, it would definitely be a sparkling star, and if stars are lit it means there is someone who needs them,” said Anton Tekhneriadov, the Russian

member of Paint the World and a Brown University freshman. “I’m extremely grateful to Lika for getting me involved in ‘Paint the World,’ an unimaginably wonderful organization that not only brings vital colors into the lives of people who lack them but also unites “painters” of all ages through an unbroken chain of collective events and the invincible power of friendships that have begun in hospitable, tolerant and incredibly amicable Georgia.” The members were invited to UWC Dilijan College, a branch of UWC in Armenia, where they organized the presentation of the project and inspired the students of Dilijan to start their own Paint the World Branch to have future exchange projects between Georgia and Armenia. All the participants and guests left Georgia inspired and motivated by the hospitality and love of Georgian hosts. In the future, Paint the World plans to hold more Project Weeks in Georgia and keep hosting UWC students in the country through exchange programs between Georgian and Malaysian Paint the World branches. Seven Malaysians received sponsorship from the Ministry of Youth and Sports to visit Georgia this year- the next step is a project in Malaysia, Borneo, in which Georgian students will take part. The hope is to create a bond and connect two parts of the world, Georgia and Malaysia, with this idea of spreading colors in part of a worldwide Movement.

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Caucasus Nature Fund Officially Welcomes New US-Born Director BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


erman non-profit organization the Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF) on Wednesday officially welcomed its new regional executive director George Giacomini via a message posted on its official Web site. A dual citizen of the United States and Italy, Giacomini - who goes by the name of Geof - previously worked as the country director for US NGO Save the Children in Azerbaijan and Egypt. According to the organization’s Web site, Giacomini is a Russian speaker who graduated from the University of Berkeley in California, one of the US’ top ranked centers for higher education. “Geof is ideally suited to lead CNF’s next phase. An experienced director of programs and people,

he spent much of the last 15 years directing regional and country programs for Save the Children in the Caucasus and, most recently, in Egypt… CNF is planning a strategic shift in its center of gravity which makes Geof’s experience in and commitment to the region crucial,” board member and outgoing director David Morrison said in his message on CNF’s Web site. Morrison had served as the organization’s director since its inception in 2008. He officially stepped down in March, but intends to remain on CNF’s advisory board. Though not officially announced until Wednesday, Giacomini was hired as Morrison’s replacement in 2015. The CNF’s stated mission is to guarantee the conservation of the Caucasus’ unique flora, fauna and ecosystems by providing funding for operational costs and sustainable development in the region’s numerous protected areas.

Georgia’s First Book Museum to Open in 2016 BY ANA AKHALAIA


eorgia’s first book museum will open later this year in the National Parliamentary Library and will be the biggest in the Caucasus region. The general public will, for the first time in history, be able to view the country’s oldest and rarest books including copies of medieval Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli’s epic “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin”, with illustrations by Hungarian painter Mihaly Zichy; Georgia’s first printed book, a Georgian-Italian Dictionary published in Rome in 1629; and a 1709 book of psalms from Georgia’s first printing house.

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The museum is a part of an on going restoration of the historic building housing the National Library. Constructed in 1913-1916 as the Bank of Nobility by architects Anatoly Kalgin of Russia and Poland’s Henryk Hryniewski in a Neo-Georgian Monastic style, the building will be restored to its original appearance lost during the Soviet era. The museum will be built along international standards with a state-of-the-art ventilation system to protect the artifacts on display and a digitized database containing all of the library’s contents. The project is sponsored by the David Bezhuashvili Education Fund and supported by the Georgian Industrial Group holding company. Upon its completion, the museum will be the largest of its kind in the Caucasus region.



iving a healthy lifestyle in the modern world is difficult. The correct nutrition, physical activity, recreation - all this requires time and money both of which may seem inaccessible at first glance. However, our body does not demand a lot from us! It is enough to have a breakfast full of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis as a step towards living a healthy life without spending extra time. One of the best examples of a healthy breakfast is an egg. There are many reasons why this product is indispensable: Eggs are rich in protein, which will provide you with energy throughout the day. It also contains vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, B, B2, B5, B12, E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron, fluorine, and more. An egg also contains Vitamin D, which helps calcium absorption, and choline, which is recommended by doctors for cancer prevention.

The daily intake of an egg has a lot of advantages. It contains antioxidants which improve vision and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also indispensable for diets - to lose weight and keep you in shape. However, to get all these benefits, it is necessary to select for our breakfast a high quality, fresh product. Such as those products of the Georgian company “Savaneti,” which is now replacing low-quality, low-priced, imported eggs on the Georgian market. In 2013, “Savaneti” carried out a remodeling of production, replaced machinery, raw materials, and manufacturing procedures. Once the company started following international protection and quality control, it received a well-deserved ISO certificate. Each egg produced by “Savaneti” undergoes up to 100 control procedures only after does it head out to the customer. Starting the morning with a “Savaneti” egg means you are choosing a highquality, healthy breakfast full of vitamins and minerals, that guarantees your health, energy, and therefore success.




APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

World Down Syndrome Day at European School BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


rade 4 and 5 students in the Georgian and International sectors of European School recently conducted long term projects in connection with World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) which officially took place on March 21st. In the International Baccalaureate (IB) section it all started with the unit ‘Let’s help each other’ in Grade 4 whereby students discussed different learning and physical disabilities and initiated projects to help beneficiaries with disabilities. Grade 5 students in their turn began to prepare for an exhibition on Human Rights. The central idea for the unit was ‘Accessibility of opportunities affects equality’ with the lines of inquiry as: Our right to live freely; How opportunities enhance or hinder our future; Influences that affect opportunities; Action that can be taken to ensure human rights are being met. In connection with the above, students created various projects, one of which was to have the group attend a specially prepared inclusive stage show in Marjanishvili Theatre. Prior to the premiere of the theater play in celebration of

WDSD, European School IB students prepared some questions. Actors with Down Syndrome (DS) had leading roles in the play and after the performance, students took interviews from the participants and the director. The interviews were then used within exhibition presentations to raise community awareness on the topic. “The theater was great,” said 11-year-old Luka Demetrashvili. “We talked to the playwright and he said his blood pressure was usually over 400. But when he started working with the disabled actors, his blood pressure went down to 200. He says that the people with disabilities he worked with were kind and very good learners and that helped him.” The Georgian section of European School also hosted an awareness talk about Down Syndrome. Grade 4 students collected stationery for beneficiaries with DS and visited the rehabilitative center for DS children named ‘The Children of the Sun.’ Students were involved in joint activities and celebrated the day together. They then created informative posters with the title ‘Children of the Sun’ and the tag line “one more chromosome- one more merit” and presented various aspects of Down Syndrome to others by discussing what DS means, what can cause it, how it is identified visually, what is typical for Downs sufferers (physical signs, mental

qualities…) and what the children can do to help these people become valuable members of society. Videos were also shown to fellow stu-

dents presenting the positive sides of DS people, leaving pupils with the common impression that DS children are “smart, friendly and caring.”

The messages from the events organized were both impressive and very supportive of real inclusion and community based friendships.




From Striving to Thriving: Spectra Post Studio Has High Hopes for the Georgian Movie Industry GEORGIA HAS A LONG FILM HISTORY BUT ISN’T WELL KNOWN IN INTERNATIONAL FILM CIRCLES. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?



homas Burns, a Hollywood trained and award-winning director of photography, first came to Georgia almost twenty years ago and since then hasn’t been able to stay away. After seeing the hardships of the 1990s in Georgia, Burns, who holds a Master’s degree in film production from Stanford University, felt a burning desire to do something meaningful for the country. So he came back and set up ‘Spectra Post’, a post-production studio for films and television, to contribute to the Georgian film industry. Burns has over a decade of training experience in Hollywood on feature films, including well-known names like ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and ‘Die Hard 4.’ His dramatic television experience includes CSI, Lost and Dexter and he has worked on documentaries for National Geographic and Discovery Channel, alongside numerous commercials for, amongst others, Porsche, McDonalds, Capital One, US Air Force and Toyota. Add to this the fact that he is a former US Fulbright Scholar and was awarded by the European Independent Film Festival for Best Cinematography in Paris in 2009. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Thomas Burns to talk to him about his life in Tbilisi and about Spectra Post.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST VISIT GEORGIA? I first came to Georgia about twenty years ago. At the time I was working for the Eurasia Foundation and I then spent a year working for a small English language magazine in 1998-2000. Then I came back in 2009 as a Fulbright scholar to do a photography project¬—a series

of portraits about the South Caucasus— and had an exhibition in Karvasla Gallery. After that I began thinking that Georgia was a place I wanted to live more permanently. In summer 2014 I came back to check out the possibilities. It was a big move from Los Angeles to Tbilisi.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY? A Director of Photography is the main visual designer of a film project. If you are a producer or director you hire me to move your ideas from the script onto the screen. I work closely with the Director and the Production Designer to develop a style for the project and then use camerawork and lighting to make sure we achieve our visual goals. I trained for a decade in Hollywood on feature films, dramatic television, music videos, and commercials. In addition

to that, over the course of my time as a director of photography, I have also worked in post-production in an area we call ‘color grading.’ After a film is shot and edited, it goes through a process where we adjust every shot for color and exposure. Color grading allows us to make the lead actress’ dress look more red, the glass of beer look more refreshing, and the thunderstorm look more dramatic. It’s a very important part of the process. One of the challenges for filmmakers in Georgia was that until now there was no professional color grading studio here in Tbilisi. Higher budget films and advertisements had to send their projects to Europe for color grading, and those without bigger budgets did the best they could here in Tbilisi. We started Spectra Post here in December. Unlike most production companies here, we focus only on post-production.

One hundred percent of our resources, expertise, and contacts go into color grading. Today we work mostly with American clients, but would like to be doing more work with Georgian filmmakers and advertising agencies. One of our first Georgian projects was a feature film for Georgian director Nana Jorjadze and it was a wonderful project— she’s a talented filmmaker. There are some gifted professionals working in post-production in Georgia but the industry will benefit from leadership trained to international standards. This is something Spectra Post can provide. Our training, our network, and our professional ethic come from Hollywood. We want to use that to support advertisements and films that are being shot in Georgia. Georgians generally have strong visual literacy––they know good visual design when they see it––and that’s a good starting point for cinema.

In order for filmmaking in Georgia to grow from a strictly artistic endeavor into a sustainable industry, in order for it to move from surviving to thriving, it requires foreign investment; investments in terms of foreign productions shooting here. When foreign productions come here and shoot, the local infrastructure expands and Georgian crews have an opportunity for international training. The more professional international training they have, the more productions will come here to shoot. I want to see filmmaking in Georgia become a viable industry not only as an artistic pursuit for the few, but as a bigger financial engine for the country in general. I think the Georgian government has realized the potential of the film industry and the new cash rebate program (offering 20-25 percent cash back for foreign productions that shoot here) is an incredibly interesting project because it will dramatically increase the number of such productions. Georgia is a great place to make movies but nobody really knows about it. Just in the past three or four months I’ve started getting calls from foreign producers asking me what kind of country Georgia is, asking if they can shoot here and so on. I think it’s a time of renaissance for Georgian cinema. Georgian cinema went dormant for a few years, but now it’s coming back. Now it’s aiming to come up to international standards very quickly and we hope we can contribute to this through the color grading we do at Spectra Post. Our main goal is to help Georgians push their film and advertising projects onto a bigger stage.




APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

Cooperation between Georgian and Chinese Museums Giorgi Kekelidze and Rati Amaghlobeli at the presentation of the new Saba Audio Book project

First Audio Books App Coming to Georgia BY EKA KARSAULIDZE


lectronic Book House ‘Saba’ has started work on the first Audio Books in Georgia, which will include 400 works of Georgian and world-famous authors. The first Audio Books application is scheduled for release in September 2016. The first presentation was held in the National Library of Georgia on April 6. ‘Saba’ launched this project together with Open Society Georgia Foundation. According to the organizers, besides the many positive sides of audio books, they are first and foremost being created for visually impaired and blind people. “Unfortunately, we have a big problem in literature as a whole in our country. Very few people are interested in reading. Moreover, people with limited vision suffer the most. Thus, with our new app soon they will have a unique opportunity to explore the wealth of literature independently. It certainly is a gift for them,” said Rati Amaghlobeli, one of the organizers of the project. ‘Saba’ already has the mobile application Saba Reader on which readers can access a large library of electronic books. From September, audio books will also be added. The creators claim that the new

Audio Books will not be just audio files, but high-grade books with all attributes: pause function, bookmarks, and more. Work on the creation of the new audio books has just begun and ‘Saba’ proposes cooperation and a platform for all interested persons. “We know that there is a large base of audio books files and various organizations and individuals who have engaged in recording books on disk and other storage formats for many years. We want to invite them to contact us to work together to create new, high-quality audio books,” said Maia Dzirkvelishvili, Director of ‘Saba’. In addition, the authors and actors who are interested in this project are also welcome to join the organization team. The first team, which includes local contemporary authors, recorded the ‘Guest Poets Anthology’ for the new Audio app. Some have compared this project with another successful one – ‘Live Book’- in which Georgian authors travel through Georgia and publicly read literary works. “These days, there is a tendency of recreating the old rather than inventing the new. In the past, people heard literature, especially poetry, instead of reading it. The work acquired a peculiar value with the voice of the author. Therefore, I’m very pleased that to some degree we are returning one of the original functions of literature,” said Amaghlobeli.

Photo by GNM: JI Yanchi, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Georgia; Shan Jixiang, Director of the Palace Museum; David Lordkipanidze General Director of the Georgian National Museum and Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia at the Memorandum signing event



he aim of the Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed between the Georgian National Museum and the Chinese Palace Museum on April 1, is the care and preservation of a unique collection of Chinese culture housed in one of the networks of the Georgian National Museum (GNM). The initiative belonged to the Chinese side, although the Memorandum is also expected to bring many benefits for Georgia. GNM’s oriental collections are preserved at the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Art in Tbilisi. The collections include exhibits of Egyptian, Islamic and Far East cultures. A vast range of items are on display, such as ceramic dishes, decorated weapons, paintings and costumes. “We own a very important

collection. Soon we will begin work on their detailed study, conservation, restoration – these are one of the main formats of our cooperation with our Chinese colleagues,” said General Director of the Georgian National Museum, David Lordkipanidze. In the framework of the Memorandum, exchange exhibitions will take place, public lectures and educational programs will be organized and Georgian scientists will be sent to China for training to raise the level of employee qualification. Georgian Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Mikheil Giorgadze, noted that the signing of this Memorandum is doubly important considering the international community’s increased interest regarding Georgian museums. “Our museums are successful at cooperating with major international organizations, and today’s new agreement once again confirms this. It is also especially important that we are seen as an important strategic partner,”

said the Minister. With over 15 million annual visitors, the Palace Museum is the most visited museum in the world. The Museum is located in the center of Beijing and represents a grand architectural complex consisting of 980 buildings. During the mid-Ming and the Qing Dynasties, it was the imperial palace and it was recognized as such in 1987 when the complex was declared a World Heritage Site. The collections of the Palace Museum include ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, bronzes, timepieces, jades, palace paraphernalia, ancient books, and historical documents. The Palace Museum is listed by UNESCO as holding the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. “I admire the collection stored in your Museum,” Director of the Palace Museum, Shan Jixiang, told his Georgian counterpart. “In the near future, we plan to work closely and launch a lot of interesting joint projects with the GNM.”

Bohema: The Best of All Worlds BY JOSEPH LARSEN


s a former resident of Tbilisi’s Abanotubani neighborhood, I don’t have to be sold on its charms. The slice of the old city lies just across the river from the Mtekhi and is nestled underneath the Narikala fortress.

The smell of sulfur serenades your senses while you stroll through bucolic Heydar Aliyev Park. If there’s a place to feel sentimental while enjoying all of the comforts of the present day, it’s here. The district has major nostalgia appeal, but diners can find much more than standard Georgian fare. Bohema is a prime example. This restaurant markets itself as “Georgian new fusion” and this claim is immediately born out in the

décor. Patrons are treated to a prime view of the Narikala Fortress whether choosing to sit inside or out on the veranda (I chose the former; it was a chilly night). The setting couldn’t be more Georgian, but the interior décor is overtly modernistic. The entryway is all glass, but instead of looking down from a Manhattan skyscraper I was looking up at the Narikala. Bohema’s management has made an effort to cultivate a lively aesthetic. A DJ performs two nights per week; Friday features a saxophonist; and on Saturday nights delighted patrons are treated to a live band. Notable Georgian jazz musician David Evgenidze has even performed there. “Fusion” defines all things Bohema. The cuisine blends Georgian and European dishes with a few Asian flavors thrown in. With too many options to comprehend, I opted for several appetizers rather than a true main course (though the steaks did look divine). I started with the Elarji balls. This traditional Georgian appetizer is fried cornflower stuffed with cheese and topped with an almond sauce. It was delicate, delicious and a perfect prelude to what came next: the glazed shrimp with tkemali. An example of East meets West, the Asian glazed shrimp built a bridge of flavor with the traditional Georgian sauce. Next came the Imeretian khachapuri (with so many contrasting flavors I felt

the need to go with at least one tried and true option!). This I matched with the steak salad—marinated steak, arugula, parmesan, and almonds. The drinks menu was also lavish, with a number of Georgian red and whites, as well as some French wines and the full array of cocktails—a glass of wine will cost 8-10 lari with a bottle coming in at about 140. My server recommended the Caipirinha—the most popular cocktail among customers. But it being a chilly night, I opted for a Manhattan. I’m not sure which whiskey the bartender used, but it worked to wash down the flavorful meal.

I’m not a dessert enthusiast, but I took a glance at the menu. Items of intrigue included the “exotic red cake” (mascarpone with a cherry glaze) and the “Napoleon.” An ode to Bohema’s European inspirations, the latter dessert is panna cotta with cherry and blueberry topping. The unique menu combined with excellent service (by Tbilisi standards) and a prime view of the city add up to an outing that isn’t cheap. Choosing Bohema for your next night out means choosing to spend more than you would at a typical Georgian restaurant. But given the fantastic fusion menu and upscale aesthetic, you will get what you pay for.




Gender Policies and EU Integration, Experience of Visegrad Countries for Eastern Partnership Countries


spiration towards EU membership is in the top agenda for Georgia. The recently signed Association Agreement makes this path more direct and goal-oriented. Among the cohesion aims toward the EU family are issues of gender equality. Reformation experience already accumulated in Visegrad countries makes it easier for EaP countries like Georgia and Ukraine to get preliminary insights on potential challenges that might occur when setting actions toward gender equality policies based on EU directives.

For insight into Visegrad experience, the expert opinion-sharing ‘Fund of Women Entrepreneurs’ (Georgia, Kutaisi), has been running the project: ‘Gender Policies and EU Integration, Experience of Visegrad Countries to EaP Countries’ since September 2015. The project has an international scope with the involvement of the following organizations and experts: GURT Resource Center - Ukriane, Gender Studies, o.p.s – Czech Republic, Hungarian Women’s Lobby – Hungary, Institute of Sociology Slocak Academy of Sciences – Slovakia, Professor of Jagiellonian University Katarzyna Zielinska – Poland, and Women’s NGO

‘Avangardi’ – Georgia. The first pillar of the project envisages awareness-raising toward questions of gender equality and their importance in the democratic development of States. For this purpose round tables and public lectures were held at different universities and NGOs throughout Georgia and Ukraine, accompanied by radio and TV broadcasts. The second pillar activities are concentrated on comparative analysis of the gender equality status quos in Georgia and Ukraine, and on drafting recommendations for better gender equality policies based on the Visegrad experience. Systematic description of the reformation path of the Visegrad Four (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary), covering the issues of equal opportunities, will be available in English and Georgian. Broad public engagement is the means to setting a high priority score to gender equality issues. The ultimate, long-term usable output of the project will be a bilingual publication describing the gender equality situation in Georgia and Ukraine, reformation experience of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic in creating national and regional mechanisms for gender equality, recommendations, and possible steps that Georgia and Ukraine should take to overcome the gender gap and create equal opportunities for all. Project financed by the International Visegrad Fund (http://visegradfund.org) Project Number: 31550123 web: www.fwevisegrad.ge facebook/pages/გენდერული პოლიტიკა და ევროინტეგრაცია Fund of Women Enterpreneurs, www.fwe.ge Article Prepared by the Project coordinator: Elena Kuparadze, elenakuparadze@gmail.com

Georgia On My Mind – the Country that Astonished Me BY ALEXA SHEARER


am so pleasantly confused. Is this Tbilisi, my childhood home? As I walk the cobblestoned streets of the historic old-town my ears are filled with the sounds of club music, Russian tourists, and the laughter of young teens out on a Saturday night. The smell of fruity ‘shisha’ layers the brightly lit alleyways. A crowd of kids and their parents squeeze into a tiny corner ice-cream shop for an after-dinner treat. A cute boutique offers different types of ‘Churchkhela.’ This is a modern city; I think to myself. Looking up towards the mountains, I’m proud to see the blurred glimmer of ‘city lights’ from afar. If I squint it looks like millions of orange fireflies fluttering together in the distance. I feel at ease as I turn towards the river, and I see, yes, another modern change: the addition of an enormous glass bridge, strangely curved, and way too white. However, it is hoisted neither on freshly paved riverbanks nor by newly developed concrete walls. I’m glad to see that the greenish, murky Mtkvari cradled against those cliffs, extremely authentic--about to collapse at any moment--has not changed. The rocky walls scream antiquity and by observing them it’s as if I am looking into history. As I mosey my way down the stairs of a skinny avenue, my focus changes...the hollow sound of rich harmony draws me closer. The tune is hauntingly sweet and I find myself standing in the middle of a 6th-century church. Every word echoes around me, the sound of worship bouncing off the stone walls and floating up towards the frescoed ceiling. I see a blur of wax candles, held by strong hands. Heads covered by silk scarves bow as knees are bent. Dark eyes close, and defined lips kiss the gold icons and then mumble and move along with the words of honest prayer. Despite a tidied exterior, not much has changed.

The soul of my Georgia is on fire, and as alive as ever. My mom cried the day we moved here sixteen years ago. Our plane landed on a runway without lights or modern asphalt. The terminal was one dark room, filled with people in black. They stared at our blonde heads and touched our hair for good luck. We drove up to a house on a gravel road covered with pot-holes. Dead leaves hung over metal poles, a few remainders of last seasons’ grapes clung to the dry vines. ‘Houses,’ built on the slant of a hilly street, stared at us with sad expressions, as if asking for help. They looked strangely rich, but lost... as if they had been part of a most important kingdom...but then were somehow forgotten. It felt like everything was broken. We were caught in a lost nation only nine years since their independence from the Soviet Union, and less than five years since a brutal civil war severed the country. And yet...somehow identity was still very much there. A place with so much life; all it took was to knock on a neighbor’s door and they would invite you inside to meet their whole family, offer you every crumb in the house, and make you drink more than your weight in wine. I could write a 200-page novel about Georgian hospitality. I know my simple words would not give it justice but I wish they could. My pages would be full of stories of never-ending dinners; of plates stacked on top of each other and the art of ‘toasting.’ My book would talk of the power in their national dancing and how if you stayed at the dinner long enough, someone was sure to get up to dance...or sing...or play the piano...or play any kind of instrument. My sister and I would be driven twice a week to the Tbilisi Opera House for private ballet lessons. The theater was taken over during times of war, used as shelter, and had been burned to the ground-twice. When it reopened shortly before we moved here, tickets had to be priced so cheap there was

Tbilisi, Georgia--March 2016

no money to pay staff. The entrance to the theater was never lit. Of course we would always go in the back-way, and walk up seven flights of stairs, since the elevator didn’t work when the electricity shut off. The halls smelled of sawdust, urine, and watermelon floor cleaner, used to scrub around the holes in the broken linoleum. The walls were always sticky, with large chunks of chipping yellow paint and graffiti marking who had been there before us. We had a live pianist with a grand piano, and splintering floors, and we always danced in the dark. My teacher regularly snuck us into the VIP box seats in the almost fully empty theater after we finished class late in the evening. The golden ceilings, bright scarlet velvet seats, and sparkling chandelier (that did not have the means to be turned on) would make us forget in a second the grimy classroom we just came from. The electricity would go off in the middle of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, but the orchestra never stopped playing;

the dancers never stopped moving. Art was not fixated on light. As I end my evening walk in my modern Tbilisi, I reach Rustaveli Street, just a few steps from my hotel. I notice strange things like street lamps, paved roads, and I come across a beautifully bluelit fountain--water flowing, and bronze ballet dancers gracefully posed in the middle. I look up, and there it is: my Opera House, freshly painted, with renovated cupolas and beautiful golden brown stripes. A crowd breaks through the doors for a cigarette break during intermission. They are all smiling. The dancers are probably performing on a fully lit stage. The theater must be full tonight. Nothing around me is crumbling. Alexa Shearer is a 22-year-old American daughter of diplomats. She lived in Georgia as a child from 2000-2002. Tbilisi quickly became ‘home’ to her and her family, and now they try to visit once a year.




APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

Milking the Moment: Etseri, Svaneti BY TONY HANMER


es, Tony, but what is milking actually like? I speak as a relative newcomer to this delicate art, but nonetheless one who has performed it for several years now and has most of the responsibility for a whole (small) barn’s worth of cattle, as well as for the milk and its byproducts. You open the doors in the morning, greet your charges, and assess how they are. If nothing is amiss, then you first clean their udders with a bit of water, to remove the chance of any stray hairs, bits of straw and other foreign elements falling into the bucket. This also adds just the right amount of lubrication to the teats. You’re aiming for a mix of slip and friction, so that your sliding grasp will neither fall off nor get too sticky. Give them something to distract them while you’re milking: the morning’s food, usually hay from the second floor of the barn, conveniently sent down through a hole to their level. You will have trained them to move the back leg closest to you back out of the way at your touch, so that they’re used to this and won’t try to

kick back. Grab the stool and have a seat, bucket on the newly manure-shoveled floor. Then you begin milking itself. I was taught this by a man first, not by my wife, and here the genders’ grips seem to be different. He uses the whole hand, while she tends to favor just thumb and forefinger. But the former only works if the teats are long enough! Our newer mother had her first calf only a few months ago, and her udder, while supplying a good amount of milk, is still not as developed as that of the older cow, which also happens to be her mother. So, even for me, two fingers are the best way with her, for now. Pull, squeeze, repeat. Udders are tough! They have to be, to endure the amount of abuse available for even a newborn calf to dish out in its frantic quest for milk. The pulling and pushing never seem to bother mother much, though, so I realize that my arms and hands are no match in strength for that little one’s neck, and feel free to pull as necessary. The milk flows immediately when you’ve got the knack, and gives you a good upper body workout twice a day too. Both hands, so, two teats at a time. A good while of steady flow, gradually slackening off as you go, but you move back and forth between the two

calved and, once her calf was weaned, I added her to my twice-daily repertoire: how much extra time, and strength, would this demand? But it was a gradual process, still happening as she slowly gives more and more milk while her udder and the warm outdoor grazing weather both improve. So I have time to get used to it, physically and time-wise, while my own skills also ramp up to meet the challenge. Milk, yoghurt, cream, butter, sour cream, ice cream, ordinary Georgian cheese, the sulguni variant, versions of cheddar, blue and Camembert cheese: these are what we have made and can make from the output. Plus the whey left over from cheese making, which the calves love. All full-fat at the moment. Very satisfying, and worth the effort, if you ask this lover of the European cheeses who hopes to see his productions standardize and go commercial in 2016. pairs of teats, not finishing either set in one go to get every last drop. Always keeping an eye on the back legs, though, because here “kicking the bucket” is an all too literal possibility! I don’t punish a cow if she misses; but if she knocks the thing over, or gets her hoof into it, or (something I hope never to experience) actually breaks it, then I’m

immediately on the offensive, letting her know that this is quite unacceptable behavior. And she will move about a bit while feeding, disregarding your preference for her stillness, so the hair-trigger awareness is vital. Just don’t let it get on your nerves, though! Here too a balance is good to avoid unnecessary stress. I did worry a bit when the second cow

Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1300 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



Breathing New Life into the Tbilisi Main Library BY IRMA KAKHURASHVILI


part from serving its classic purpose, a library should be a place where new ideas are formed, where educational and cognitive projects are planned. Thematic events, book presentations, literature evenings and numerous other things should be held there- anything that will widen the circle of readers. However, most of the libraries here are still of the soviet-type: small reading halls, scarce book funds and obsolete service. The 107-year-old Tbilisi Main Library is facing that challenge – together with its 32 libraries spread throughout various neighborhoods in the city, it is struggling to meet the needs of modern readers, not helped by a lack of state funding. Nevertheless, Tbilisi Main Library does have the ambition to turn itself into an exemplary space which will be actively involved in the cultural and educational life of the city. The acting General Director of the library, Lena Askurava, says that the first steps to this aim were taken in March.

YOU HAVE A LOT OF ELDERLY READERS, WHICH IS GOOD, BUT HOW DO YOU PLAN ON ATTRACTING THE YOUNG? Lena Askurava: We plan to offer additional services to the younger generation. We want to implement an electronic management system in the library, which includes purchasing an integrated library program. The users will be able to register online, use e-catalogues, learn about our book depot and even reserve the book they want online. The library will analyze the most in-demand books and conduct various internal studies.

THE LIBRARY WAS ALWAYS IN LINE WITH THE EDUCATIONAL POLICY, BUT HAS GRADUALLY LOST THIS FUNCTION... Events are held in the library to this day, though of a small-scale. This is due to the lack of information. We plan on working with society in this regard. It is vital to arrange a working space where various meetings can be held. To help build social networks we want to set up comfortable book cafes- places for exchanging ideas and meeting friends. From March, we plan on carrying out various activities each weekend, which started on February 24th with World Book Day during which we organized meetings with contemporary writers. We aim to set up a Board of library supporters comprised of people who will be oriented towards its development, who will help us find foundations for funding and help to form relations with the International Library Association. We are putting our hope in our energetic youth who can contribute to the revival of libraries in their own neighborhood.

We’ll restore the Movie Club, which was suspended due to renovation works and we’ll also cooperate with publishers and provide booths and spaces for presentations. We also want to organize Georgian language classes for foreigners.

DO YOU PLAN ANYTHING FOR SCHOOL STUDENTS? At the moment we’re negotiating with hospitals as we want to take books to children that have leukemia and hold book-reading days there. A social project - Mobile Library – will be supported by volunteers. We’ll offer the same service to adults in the Dialysis Center. At present, we have an employee who’s been taking books to a young girl in Varketili district who has a disability, and also to pensioners, for years. We want to transform this wonderful act into one of our services. We also want to introduce a family package, where a mother can bring her child to the library for a couple of hours and be able to work or study in the library while her child is kept entertained. What’s more, we plan to arrange a Saturday School for children, with socially vulnerable families exempt from fees.

AT THE MOMENT OF ITS FOUNDATION THE LIBRARY FUND STORED 3438 ITEMS. WHAT IS THE SITUATION A CENTURY LATER? The book depot now holds around one million editions. Last year we made one of the biggest purchases, buying bestsellers from almost all publishing houses. We’ve had a Special Fund since the Zubalashvili period. These unique books are scattered throughout our libraries. We want to create a separate fund- at first we’ll ask experts to evaluate them and later will digitalize the books so that they become accessible for our customers in the form of e-books. IT will be a new process of discovery.

DO YOU PLAN TO RETHINK THE PERSONNEL POLICY WHEN SWITCHING TO THE ELECTRONIC SYSTEM? We will train our staff. I’m sure that, in spite of their age, they’ll be able to master the new system. Parallel to the development of infrastructure, the image of a librarian will change too. We need to become members of the International Library Association, to share the experience with our employees, to arrange online conferences. This form of communication will help us structure a modern model for the library.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE? The development of infrastructure, which requires huge funding, as the existing budget is insufficient. This is why we want to make an exemplary model of ‘library’ in the Tbilisi Main Library. And as for the branches, we might keep the vintage style in some of them: with catalogue boxes, table lamps, large shelves, wooden tables... It would be great if the private sector would engage in the process. Libraries in the neighborhood need to develop. Our social advertisement will be aired on the Public Broadcast soon and we’ll be cooperating with other media channels as well.





APRIL 8 - 11, 2016

Masterclass of Eclecticism at Vanda Gallery BY MAKA LOMADZE


he latest solo exhibition at Vanda Gallery is calling all those who wish to get acquainted with professional artist Gela Zautashvili, one always open to novelties and experiments and with a Major in eastern wisdom. Having lived in India for years, he is interested in the East and his work is characterized with an Oriental infl uence expressed in bright colors. Zautashvili’s exhibition ‘And Life Goes On’ was opened on April 5 at Vanda Art Gallery. It is difficult not to notice that this is a painter who goes along with the subconscious flows of a person’s mind, resulting in the full savage desire for life. His colors remind me of those of Matisse and Gauguin. I have not seen many Georgian artists who are so unveiled and brave in terms of eroticism. Not only the exhibition itself, but also the catalogue of his works, which is also on sale, demonstrate his interpretation of Oriental motifs, where nudity and extremely bold sexual scenes are presented. These paintings are shocking for the Orthodox aesthetics and very exotic, too. However, in the exhibition itself you will not find such explicitness. Those who love painting will discover new color marriages – a masterclass of eclecticism, as well as a huge energetic charge. The exhibition ‘And Life Goes On’ was opened in an original way, without any official speeches. Everyone was able to enjoy a glass of wine, the cozy interior, and pleasant atmosphere, adorned with live piano music. Here, a spectator can witness a wide range of titles for the works of abstraction, from ‘Prayer’ to ‘Libido’. In the catalogue, a variation on the masterpiece by Gustaf Klimt, named ‘Three Ages of Woman’, is worthy of note Gela Zautashvili’s version, depicting the similar theme, is titled ‘Merciless Time’. “I entered into the Georgian Fine Arts as an abstractionist in the 1980s. Today’s exhibition features the work of the last three months. Buddhism and Hinduism came to my life during my student years. I dedicate this exhibition to the continuation of life, joy and kindness,” Gela Zautashvili told GEORGIA TODAY. “My attitude towards this painter is special, because we are friends. I’ve written several articles about Gela Zautashvili’s works in the near past, therefore, I’m particularly aware of

his recent creative work,” Keti Charkhalashvili, art historian, told GEORGIA TODAY. “His paintings are mainly figurative and depict concrete scenes, however, this time, we’ve been treated to abstractions, which is very important in the sense that it expresses the painter’s conception and attitude towards the world. These figures are as if modified into abstraction. The colors used in his works articulate his attitude towards life. The mere name of the exhibition ‘And Life Goes On’ is an exact description of these paintings.” We talked to Sandro Mujiri, co-founder of the Gallery Vanda: “Two years ago, we hosted Gela Zautashvili’s third exhibition. This is his new series of abstractions. However, this is just a teaser of a bigger project that the painter is starting under the title ‘Footstep’ which will be exhibited at the end of the year. I’m very happy that Gela works so actively, representing one of the big names in the Georgian painting school. He used to live in India and is in love with Asia. There were some Hindu viewers at his previous exposition and they said that in his works, they saw real India.” In spite of the inescapable realism that the mature painter acknowledges and takes with all its pros and cons, Zautashvili retains an optimistic view by saying ‘And Life Goes On’, which is quite topical, together with the arrival of spring. The exhibition will be on until Tuesday 12th April at Vanda Gallery, Chonkadze 14.

Buddhism and Hinduism came to my life during my student years. I dedicate this exhibition to the continuation of life, joy and kindness




Large-Scale Seasonal Exhibition – Spring Gift for Art Lovers BY MAKA LOMADZE


n April 1-7, almost 60 painters were showcased in one space – the State Center of Georgian Folklore Gallery. This is a rare scale for a fine arts exhibition in Tbilisi, a city of moderation. The beautiful old tradition was restored in 2014. From year to year, our artists look forward to being exhibited every autumn and spring and perceive themselves via the gallery space – so crucial for all artists - and share the joy of meeting old and making new professional friends at the same time. Until recently, annual exhibitions held in spring and autumn at the Georgian National Gallery played a significant role in the promotion of achievements in local fine arts. Following Georgia’s independence, artists were deprived of the National Gallery. For this and many other reasons, fine arts were almost forgotten. Happily, in spring 2014, three Georgian painters decided to restore the tradition and arrange exhibitions every spring and autumn. “This is the fifth time we have organized such a large-scale exhibition. A painter needs a gallery, a space, just like a writer needs a book – in order to look at his/her own works and estimate them critically. This is like a club. Tbilisi enjoys having plenty of painters. Our exhibition in fact showcases 1/5 of them. There are some 30 painters who regularly participate, while the other half changes from exhibition to exhibition. We discuss the works, and give discreet pieces of advice to each other. Those who receive this positive criticism tend to develop much faster than those who are self-satisfied,” Gela Kenchuashvili, one of the organizing trio and participant, told GEORGIA TODAY. The spring and autumn fine arts exhibitions have been distinguished by a diversity of genres and styles, which makes them far more attractive. Reportedly, painters of various nationalities have also participated. Mimo Mondal is a young painter from Bangladesh who is desperately in love with Georgia and especially Tbilisi. “It was really interesting for me to meet lots of good Georgian artists in person. I am thankful to the Center, as they suggested holding my solo exhibition free of charge in future.” A number of local ethnic minorities also took part in the expo, setting it as an example of the character of Tbilisi, which has always been multiethnic and tolerant to other religions and nationalities.

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Mimo Mondal is a young painter from Bangladesh who is desperately in love with Georgia and especially Tbilisi

The project is not only for professional artists. “I never painted before. My husband is a painter. When I watched him, I thought it looked very easy,” one amateur artist exhibited there, Nino Mikoiants, told GEORGIA TODAY. “One day, I was sitting at home looking after my kids. I really wanted something to do and I picked up a paintbrush. Now, every time I get tired of the housework, I immediately start painting and it helps me to relax. In this way, I convey my emotions.” Nato Sirbiladze, a renowned female painter, has participated in all spring and autumn exhibitions. “Two years ago, painter Gia Markozashvili contacted us and printed a wonderful catalogue. Then he said: “Why don’t we do it every year? This gives an artist stimulus. We make new acquaintances, too.” Temur Samadashvili, an experienced artist, told GEORGIA TODAY: “A group exhibition always gives you the possibil-

ity to estimate your own work against the background of others. No matter whether your colleagues are old or young, you can always see something interesting in their paintings. We were absolutely free in genres and topics. Here one can see landscapes, still lives, portraits, and more.” Young female amateur painter Nino Dvalishvili, 24, is a lawyer by profession. “I paint abstraction as well as realistic works. I’m participating for the second time in the autumn and spring sessions. I started to paint just eight months ago. It is a great joy to spend hours painting and in the end to have somebody appreciate your work.” Tsisana Marindashvili, Head of Fine and Applied Arts Direction of Folklore Center, told us: “We greatly support these seasonal exhibitions which feature interesting artists of different generations. Our next aim is to hold a display of portraits by great artistic names of Georgia.”

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APRIL 8 - 11, 2016


GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 April 10 SCARLET SAIL Alexander Grin Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: From 5 Lari MOVEMENT THEATRE Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 April 9 LABYRINTH Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Choreography: Lasha Robakidze Start time: 21:00 Ticket price: 15 Lari April 10 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Participants: Kakha Bakuradze, Sandro Nikoladze, Ana Kordzaia-Samadasvili, Irakli Menagarishvili Start time: 21:00 TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATRE Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge April 8 CARMEN Prosper Merime Composer: Bize-Shchedrini Choreographer: Konstantine Purtseladze Choreographic drama Language: Georgian Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 8, 10 Lari April 9 MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM William Shakespeare Directed by Davit Doiashvili

Choreographer: Konstantine Purtseladze Language: Georgian Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: From 8 Lari April 10 MACBETH William Shakespeare Directed by Davit Doiashvili Choreographer: Konstantine Purtseladze Composer: Nikoloz Rachveli Language: Georgian Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: From 10 Lari CIRCUS Address: 1 The Heroes Sq. Telephone: 2 98 58 61 www.krakatuk.eu April 9, 10 TRAINED LEOPARD SHOW Start time: 13:00, 17:00 Ticket price: From 8 Lari CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari April 8-14 BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE Directed by Zack Snyder Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams Language: Russian Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari COLONIA Directed by Florian Gallenberger Genre: Drama, History, Romance Cast: Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyqvist Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE Directed by Dan Trachtenberg Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. Language: Russian Start time: 17:30 Ticket price: 11-14 Lari LOUDER THAN BOMBS Directed by Joachim Trier Genre: Drama Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Rachel Brosnahan, Amy Ryan Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:00 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari April 8-14 EDDIE THE EAGLE Directed by Dexter Fletcher Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Tom Costello Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 17:15, 19:45 Ticket price: 8-14 Lari 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Info Above) Start time: 22:30 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (Info Above) Start time: 16:00, 22:30 Ticket price: 10-14 Lari LONDON HAS FALLEN Directed by Babak Najafi Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Riley Language: Russian Start time: 14:30 Ticket price: 9-10 Lari STRANGERLAND

Directed by Kim Farrant Genre: Drama, Thriller Cast: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari COLONIA (Info Above) Start time: 17:00 Ticket price: 10-11 Lari MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge THE TRAVELING MUSEUM OF THE CAUCASUS THE PERMANENT EXHIBITION NUMISMATIC TREASURY March 24 – April 15 PHOTO EXHIBITION “ILLUSIONS” BY MANANA MENABDE The exposition showcases the artist’s photo series created on different photo motives from the 1990s to the present: Tango Shadows, Mannequin and the Life, Graphic Photos, Watercolor, Pastel, Light and Shadows. April 6-16 SOLO EXHIBITION BY TENGIZ SOSELIA The exhibition will showcase the artist’s graphic portraits and paintings created in various techniques. Tengiz Soselia’s works show distinguished esthetics of color, emotion and poetry and has clearly defined individualism. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge

PERMANENT EXHIBITION Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze March 25 – April 14 Jubilee exhibition of Georgian prominent Temo Gotsadze FROM BLUE STALLIONS TO ABSTRACTION The exposition showcases 140 paintings by the artist, among them monumental abstractions which will be exhibited for the first time. Also on display is the graphic series of “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” created in 2015. ART AREA GALLERY Address: 10 D. Abashidze Str. Telephone: 595 29 88 55 April 8-14 Kote Jincharadze’s project TIME SUBSTANCES Opening: 19:00 GAMREKELI GALLERY Address: 14 Ingorokva Str. Telephone: 2 99 57 23 April 4-10 IRAKLI JGENTI PERSONAL EXHIBITION TBC GALLERY Address: 7 Marjanishvili Str. Telephone: 2 27 27 27 March 30 – April 9 KONSTANTINE MINDADZE LIFEFORMS (CHAPTER TWO) DEVIATION MUSIC

RUSTAVELI THEATRE Address: 17 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 72 68 68 www.rustavelitheatre.ge April 8 SAMMARTINI CHOIR (BELGIUM) ABKHAZIAN STATE CAPELLA Artistic Director: Guram Kurashvili Georgian Philarmonic Orchestra Conductor: Mariam Mitea Small Stage Start time: 18:30 Ticket price: 25, 35 Lari MOVEMENT THEATRE Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 April 12 LIVE JAZZ EVENING WITH RESO KIKNADZE Start time: 21:00 Free entry April 13 TANGO MILONGA (TANGO LESSONS) Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari GENERATOR 9.8 Address: Atoneli Str. 29 April 8 MELLOW YELLOW Live Concert Folk Rock, Blues, Psychedelic Rock, Funk, Fusion Lead Guitar: Gigi Tsintsadze Drums: Nika Ruhadze Bass Guitar: Iko Elbakidze Rhythm Guitar: Levani Turdziladze Start time: 21:00 Free entry




Irakli Jgenti: Neither Talent Nor Higher Powers Decide My Success


oung artist Irakli Jgenti chases success in his professional field through tireless hard work and constant self-improve-

Ah, this I’ve thought about often. It’d be nice to get to an age when life’s whole show opens up to me. I like thinking about having a place in me where death doesn’t seem so frightening.

ment. He started drawing just 5 years ago. He experienced an inner rebellin towards the medium at a young age because of his artist grandmother and father. He played football up until the age of 20, after which he had a five-year period of “being lost”, as he himself describes it. During this time he tried his hand at many different fields, even playing the guitar for a few months – but they all proved to be temporary. “I wouldn’t make a doctor or a mathematician which is why I ended up turning to painting despite my childhood rebellion,” says Irakli. He’s not hiding that painting is a job to him, much like being a doctor or a teacher would be. From today’s perspective, he thinks he’ll never abandon painting, although he insists that nothing is out of the question. Visiting him proved to be interesting and different, even in my profession. An unpredictable respondent will often beget unpredictable questions from the reporters’ side. And so we began.

ARE YOU PLANNING ON TURNING YOUR WORK INTO A SOURCE OF INCOME? I haven’t tried, but I guess it’s a goal for any artist to get their name out there and turn their work into a profit.

WHICH FAMOUS ARTISTS’ WORKS WOULD YOU LIKE TO OWN AND HANG UP AT HOME NEXT TO SOMETHING OF YOURS? I’d love to hang up something of Sezan’s, Bacon’s, and Kiefer’s.

IN ONE OF YOUR INTERVIEWS YOU SAID THAT AN ACT OF PAINTING CAN BE INSPIRED BY POWERFUL LOVE OR INTENSE DISTRESS. WHAT MAKES YOU WANT TO PAINT? It all happens by accident, something no longer than 20 minutes in length. It’s just work. Oftentimes I might not have any desire to paint; I just need to do it, so I do. It’s very much like work. There might only be a few minutes per day during which I actually get enjoyment out of it.

IRAKLI, DO YOU DEVOTE A LARGE AMOUNT OF TIME TO PAINTING? I need to keep practicing to get better at it! I have to! In order for me to draw better today than yesterday, it’s vital for me to allocate 7-8 hours a day to it.

WHERE WOULD YOU HANG YOUR WORKS, AND WHY? I’d hang them in many places. Homes, galleries – what matters are the owners’ desires and their sense of pleasure from observing my paintings every day.

HOW AND WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST 10 YEARS FROM NOW? I’ve not thought about it. So far, I still see myself at my workshop. I want to be a really good artist. I might give a different answer tomorrow; it’s a mood thing. The one constant and most important plan that I have at this point is to travel to America for my Master’s.

YOU’VE ALREADY HAD AN EXHIBITION. TELL US ABOUT IT. YOU’RE PARTICULARLY PROUD TO HAVE DONE. “William” is the title of the piece. It depicts my mother’s husband. He kept asking how he should have behaved, what sort of character he should have channeled during the process. Bill could show whatever he wanted to show, but I tried to capture what he was trying to hide. I’d like the rest to be up to the people to decide and evaluate.

The first and most important problem is the amount of time that painting requires. Another could be loneliness. Despite enjoying time by myself, sometimes I have an impulse to get in contact with someone else, but all that surrounds

me are my works. Loneliness only works when it’s a result of your own choice.


My first art exhibition was on April 4th, which was an important date to me – just a day after my birthday. It wasn’t an official sales exhibition, but some of the interested visitors did get a chance to purchase my works. I hope that interest will continue.

DOES YOUR WORK DEPICT EXISTING ISSUES IN SOCIETY? Despite not touching on any specific issues during painting, the viewer can draw their own parallels with various events. I leave the freedom of choice to everyone.



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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #833  

April 08 - 11, 2016

Issue #833  

April 08 - 11, 2016