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Issue no: 1201



In this week’s issue... Number of Georgian Emigrants Up NEWS PAGE 2

The Minister of Education Mikheil Batiashvili Resigns POLITICS PAGE 4

Lithuanian Advice on Dealing with Russia’s Hybrid Warfare POLITICS PAGE 6

The Intricacies of Church & State Life



Georgia may face clashes this weekend on the airing of a film about a young homosexual




On Vano Merabishvili’s Imminent Release POLITICS PAGE 7

CEO of Informational Highway Technologies SA: Georgia is Very Attractive for Companies like Mine BUSINESS PAGE 8

Ren Zhengfei's Northern European Media Roundtable, Part 3 BUSINESS PAGE 10


oes Georgia struggle to tell the story of her progress today? And if so, where does the problem lie? Do we find it hard to convince our Western friends that, in fact, everything we do aims to make Georgia a reliable, true friend to the West? Why do we get overwhelmed by waves of negativity and false narratives? And why do we allow ourselves to be undermined by those pursuing their own interests rather than publicising more of the positive progress Georgia has made? To put my thoughts into perspective, let’s remind ourselves of a story you have heard many times and yet remains relevant and important: Once Georgia regained its independence in the early 90s, the ‘century’s project’ of the Baku-TbilisiCeyhan pipeline was launched to improve Georgia’s standing in the world. After decades of Soviet occupation, independence was followed by a long period of turbulence, severe civil confrontation, a devastating social-economic crisis, lost territories and waves of refugees in our own country. Continued on page 4

The Personal Letter Ryan Smith’s Mother Wrote to her Family’s Murderer SOCIETY PAGE 13

Misha Avsajanishvili Judges the First Bocuse D’Or National Competition CULTURE PAGE 15

Special Offer for readers of Georgia Today -15% off all Diet Plans!





NOVEMBER 8 - 11, 2019

Public Defender Demands Number of Georgian Emigrants Up Investigation into Allegations Voiced against Clergy BY TEA MARIAMIDZE




ublic Defender Nino Lomjaria urges the law enforcement agencies to launch a probe into allegations of harassment and coercion committed by clergy, noting that the allegations contain signs of actions punishable by the Criminal Code of Georgia. “In recent days, some clergymen have stated via the media that they are aware of alleged sexual harassment and coercion committed by clergy. They also indicated that some of those actions

might have been committed against minors. "The allegations contain signs of actions punishable by the Criminal Code of Georgia. Accordingly, I urge the law enforcement agencies to launch a probe into each allegation. I also urge anyone who is aware of alleged criminal actions to immediately report to the appropriate authorities. I would like to publicly call on both the authors of the statements and those who have any information to contact the Public Defender's Office in order to allow us to gather complete information around the issue and verify it. Confidentiality will be guaranteed upon request”, she said.

he 2019 Migration Profile released by Georgia’s State Commission on Migration Issues reads that the number of emigrants leaving Georgia increased last year. The highest number of emigrants in the last four years was recorded in 2018 and amounted to 76,367 people. 57% of Georgian emigrants are men. According to UN DESA, the largest number of emigrants from Georgia live in Russia, however, the number of Georgians emigrating to Russia in recent years has been decreasing, and the number of Georgian citizens who leave it has been increasing. As a result, the migration balance of Georgian citizens in Russia has decreased. In addition to Russia, a large number of Georgians emigrate to Greece, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The number of Georgian applicants asking for permanent residence and citizenship in the United States in 2015-2017 was more or less stable. In 2017, 1,629 Georgian citizens were granted permanent residence in the United States, and 889 were granted US citizenship. The number of Georgian citizens holding a residence permit in the EU is also increasing. Their number increased by 8.5% in 2018 compared to 2017. 60% of Georgian citizens with a residence permit are in Greece, Italy and Germany. They mainly hold work permits and family reunification permits. After the visa-free regime entered into force, the number of asylum seekers in EU member states increased significantly. Most frequently, Georgian citizens seek asylum in France and Germany. “The overwhelming majority (about 95%) of applications filed by Georgian citizens for asylum in the EU are rejected by the relevant agencies for the reason that that the claims for asylum are groundless,” the 2019 Migration Profile reads.

Image source: Visa center

In addition, the Commission says that since the entry into force of visa-free travel, the rate of refusals for Georgian citizens to enter the EU have significantly increased. The highest number of cases of border-crossing denial was recorded in 2018, with Germany, Greece, France, Cyprus and Poland leading. These are the countries (with the exception of Cyprus) where the largest number of Georgian citizens left after the visa-free travel was activated on March 28, 2017. Until 2017, the majority of Georgian citizens were refused entrance the EU countries mainly on land borders. However, after visa-free travel took effect, the picture changed and the number of refusals received at the air border in 2017-2018 significantly exceeded the refusal rate at land and sea borders. The number of Georgian nationals illegally living in EU member states was relatively stable in 2017, but in 2018 the number of such cases increased significantly. Last year, 9,115 Georgian nationals were identified living illegally in EU member states, of whom 7,205 were men and 1,910 were women. The report reads that the number of Georgian citizens with a residence permit in Turkey is on the rise. Citizens of Georgia are mainly allowed to live in

Turkey on the basis of work, family reunification and short-term visits. In addition to migration, the report noted that the number of Georgian citizens returning from the EU countries significantly increased in 2018 and is expected to continue to rise in the coming years. The countries from which the most return home are Germany, Greece and France. The number of returning migrants within the IOM Voluntary Return and Reintegration Program (AVRR) has increased dramatically in the last two years. Most of the AVRR program returnees are from Greece and Germany. Regarding internal migration, the majority of IDPs from the Russian occupied South Ossetia region live in MtskhetaMtianeti and Shida Kartli, and the majority of IDPs from the other breakaway region Abkhazia reside in Tbilisi and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. “In Georgia, the rural population declines annually, which also affects the overall urban / rural structure. In the last four years, the share of urban population has increased from 57.7% to 58.7%. Unlike other regions of Georgia, the population of Tbilisi and Ajara is significantly growing,” the Migration Profile reads.




NOVEMBER 8 - 11, 2019

Right-wing Groups Threaten to Disrupt Screening of First Georgian Film about Gay Love BY ANA DUMBADZE


rom today until Sunday, the first Georgian film about gay love titled 'And Then We Danced' is to be shown in Tbilisi and Batumi cinemas. All tickets sold out and several thousand spectators are expected to show up at cinemas in Tbilisi and Batumi. However, local right-wing and religious groups have spent the week mobilizing against the premiere of ‘And Then We Danced,’ threatening to disrupt the screening, stating their belief that the film “undermines Georgian traditions and values.” Georgian businessman and one of the founders of Georgian Demographic Society XXI, Levan Vasadze, known for his conservative and anti-western views, announced that he, together with his supporters, will use all possible measures to disrupt the screenings in all five cinemas in Tbilisi, saying they will even “push through” the police cordon if necessary.

Sandro Bregadze, leader of ultra-conservative movement Georgian March, condemned the film as “homosexual propaganda,” stating that those who are going to attend the premiere “are or want to be gays and lesbians”. He, just like Vasadze, said he intends to mobilize in front of the cinemas along with likeminded people and interrupt the screening of the film. Head of the Patriarchate's Public Relations Service, Andria Jagmaidze, also condemned the film. “Movie theaters screening a film about the love of a gay couple is yet another attempt to undermine Christian values in our society. The Church objects to this fervently. This will probably become a reason for further attacks on the Church. Be that as it may, we believe the Church must always fight to amend misjudgments,” he claimed. The Patriarchate of Georgia released a statement, saying that the Georgian Orthodox Church is against promoting and legalizing the “Sodom Sin,” and, accordingly, they consider it unacceptable to show such a movie in cinemas. However, the Patriarchate also stresses

that they strictly condemn any kind of violence. “There has been a big attack on the Church and national values. There are some forces that seem to be deeply disturbed by the authority of the Church, the love of the population for God and traditional values, and they use various methods to shake it,” the Patriarchate noted. "The Georgian Orthodox Church has always been and will continue to be categorically incompatible with the promotion and legalization of sin as well as sinful relationships. That is why we find it unacceptable to show such a movie in the cinemas. At the same time, we would like to point out that, just like before, we separate ourselves from violence and violent actions.” The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) commented on the screening of the successful Swedish-Georgian drama film, saying that they will “undertake measures envisaged by the law to ensure the peaceful premiere of the movie." "We address everyone: obey the law. Otherwise, police will use their lawful mandate and suppress unlawful acts immediately,” the MIA said.

'And Then We Danced'. Image source: Directors' Fortnight

The Swedish-Georgian film 'And Then We Danced,' directed by Levan Akin, was screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and received very positive feedback. It has already claimed prestigious awards at various international film festivals.

The plot tells of Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) who has been training at the National Georgian Ensemble with his partner Mary (Ana Javakishvili). However, when Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) arrives, he becomes both his rival and strongest desire.

The Minister of Education Mikheil Batiashvili Resigns BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI


rime Minister Giorgi Gakharia annouced that Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Mikheil Batiashvili, has resigned. Gakharia noted it was Mikheil Batiashvili's personal request to resign, confirmed in a later statement from the former minister himself. Batiashvili was appointed as Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport in July 2018. "Of course, first of all, we have to thank

Mr. Batiashvili for his hard work, for the systematic and extremely important education reform, and of course for the achievements we have made in the sports and culture direction in recent years," PM Gakharia said. According to the PM, the most pressing issues for the government are jobs, education and security. "We will focus more on these three areas. Especially the systemic education reform, which requires faster and more effective development, and I am sure my colleagues, the team headed by the Ministry of Education today, will continue to work effectively in this direction," he said.

A Tale of Two Georgias? Continued from page 1 Georgia was damaged, torn apart and steeped in corruption. When the Western ‘golden boy’ Mikheil Saakashvili replaced Shevardnadze, there was hope for change as the new administration attempted to ‘change the world order.’ Sadly, this change led to more pain, as the ‘reformists’ attempted to completely eradicate any segment of Georgian society in disagreement with them. The era of ‘my way is the only way!’ ended up further stunting our development and led instead to a curtailing of free speech, freedoms and basic democratic values. The mass incarceration of anyone demonstrating political opposition throughout society during this time is a sad reflection of our recent history. I can understand why the West saw the benefit of Saakashvili’s rule back then. A tough and suppressive regime proved effective initially at bringing the country out of the mire of deep corruption and started to rebuild our ruined institutions and economy. But it is a testament to Georgia’s strength of will and character that such an oppressive regime would never survive. Georgians have suffered and withstood all kinds of social and economic hardship but will not idly stand by in the face of injustice and serious human rights violations. So inevitably, despite Saakashvili’s heavy-handed attempts to control all institutions: courts, media, civil society, business and the public at large, the appetite for change grew with each year. While progress had been made to erad-

icate corruption at a low level, it was starting to blossom amongst the ‘elite’ who also started to lose touch with the public and concerns over human rights, the economy, social welfare and unemployment. Reforms and efforts to modernise were doomed to failure and there was no forum for the public to speak out against a system built over nine years on fear, oppression and cruel treatment. In 2012, when the Georgian Dream, founded by Bidzina Ivanishvili, defeated Saakashvili in democratic elections (despite Saakashvili’s attempts to control campaigning and rig the result), it demonstrated the strength of the public will to replace the regime and deliver a free Georgia, something the electorate had been craving for years. Now, after seven years in power, the Georgian Dream continues to strive to keep Georgia a democratic, free society. Underpinned by freedom of speech, free opposition, free media (including social media), a competitive, supportive, free business environment, and a free civil society. We assumed this transition would be easy, but it was not! Transforming a traumatised society, which for seventy years had been under Soviet rule and then continued to suffer under oppressive regimes, was never going to be easy. In seven short years, we have come a very long way! Today we enjoy that much-awaited freedom, in every sense of its word and most importantly, this is irreversible. This is the Georgia of today, and it cannot and will not be changed. This progress is not just about freedom.

I will not bore you with statistics on roads, infrastructure, gasification or water pipes in the villages, social projects, health insurance and other stories of Georgian Dream successes for Georgia, or the ever-improving indices on good governance, or anti-corruption in the last seven years. Because that success is just us doing our job, striving to better the lives of the people should be an obligation for every government. Neither will I repeat what has been said so many times about the complete overhaul of the penitentiary system (I hope our readers will not label me as pro-Russian if I refer to the famous Russian writer Dostoevsky’s quote: "the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons"). We are now part of the civilized world, but we were far from it seven years ago. Georgia now has a completely different attitude towards human rights and a different level of concern for its citizens. Seven years ago, we feared human rights abuse that was endemic in prisons, but today we debate how to create more of a safe environment for minorities in society (a topic which was completely taboo a few years ago). Now we discuss how to improve gender equality in political and public life (no one cared about this before), or how to better ensure social rights, and how to provide better access for people with disabilities (also disregarded). Now we concern ourselves with making the electoral system more democratic, hence the decision to move to the proportional election system for the first time in Georgia’s modern polit-

ical history; or provide unprecedented Parliamentary scrutiny of judicial candidates, similar to the scrutiny of judges in the United States. Forgive my direct approach, but as a keen follower of Georgian politics for decades, I cannot recall at any stage such a level of transparency and openness in every segment of political or public life. I believe this is a tremendous achievement for a country, whose independence is only 28 years old and whose genuine drive to reform the country in a democratic way, only really began seven years ago. Please do not get me wrong, life in Georgia is definitely not perfect or ideal. Not in any way. There is still much to be done. And huge challenges for how to prioritise our limited budget when everything is a priority! And to our international partners, many of the reforms we have achieved have been made possible by their assistance and support. If any government since Georgia’s independence, ever truly wanted to become a member of the EU and NATO, it is the Georgian Dream government. And whilst we are grateful for the support and assistance we have had to date, we continue to demonstrate our commitment and how hard we are prepared to work to achieve these ends for Georgia. When Georgian Dream signed the Association Agreement with the European Union, it was the beginning of a very exciting time of change for Georgia, particularly as we now enjoy the DCFTA and visa free travel with the EU. Our cooperation with NATO is hugely impor-

tant and it is no secret that Georgia has come on in leaps and bounds and is ready for membership; we just have to wait for a political decision which is out of our hands. We want to widen and deepen our relationships with our major international partners – the United States, the EU and others, which will grow our international trade and continue our path to greater economic development. Peacefully, we want to regain our territories. What does peaceful resolution mean? It means stable progress and development, the sense of security and stability for all of our citizens, so that Georgia can finally take stock of its past and move forward. We want security, stability and prosperity to encourage and invite even more tourists than the record number of 8 million tourists from all over the world who visited my country last year. We want to enable a more skilled and educated workforce and we want a prosperous and vital economy. We want to build on the seven years of stability, which Georgia has never had before for decades. Georgia is a land of great stories. But today, there is only one story we need to tell about Georgia. We are on a bumpy road, full of challenges, but this is a story of development, freedom and greater prosperity for all our people. I do hope this piece will help assure you that Georgia’s future is as bright as that of her people, always moving forward to achieve aspirations. We intend to meet our aspirations.




NOVEMBER 8 - 11, 2019

Lithuanian Advice on Dealing with Russia’s Hybrid Warfare but to think what to do to strengthen and prevent. Yes, Russia is very strong, but we are also too weak and disorganized, we are not yet united. In the resilience field, if the EU and NATO stand together with friends and future members like Georgia, we will be united in dealing with resilience, making it very difficult for any hackers or hostile countries to penetrate.



n the edges of the Georgian Defense and Security Conference that took place in Batumi this week, the Georgian Institute for Security Policy (GISP) sat down with Eitvydas Bajarunas, Ambassador-at-Large for Hybrid Threats, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, to get his take on his country’s experience in dealing with hybrid warfare. “This very term ‘hybrid’ is puzzling because if you ask the general public and even google yourself, you will find a ‘hybrid car’ mentioned yet this hybrid car analogy is not discouraging for us professionals; it's actually a very good feature. A hybrid car means that you use an engine which might be on gasoline and then switch to electricity: you would not even notice,” Bajarunas told us. “This is what hybrid warfare entails too - disinformation operations might be continued with cyber-attacks and a cyber-attack with a green man invasion or all those in combination; so you don't notice. This is what happened in Ukraine when we saw a coordinated Russian attack on disinformation, then the cyber-attack on the electricity network followed by Russian Spetsnaz occupying buildings in Lugansk and Donetsk. Afterwards it was called hybrid. The term is new, very much as a consequence of Russia's operation in Ukraine, but the tactic of meddling with internal affairs to weaken, using lies, has always been there- the only difference is that it's now a country, Russia, that's doing this very much at the state level. And then of course globalization and technology are making it even easier. Now you do not need a big investment to send lies; you need just follow social media. The cyber field is farreaching, global.”

SO WHAT’S LITHUANIA’S RESPONSE? There are three tracks we follow; one is of course national homework. This is unavoidable; you cannot just say ‘NATO, please help us,’ no, you should start by doing your national homework: coordination, threat assessment, civil-military cooperation, basically resilience building of your society; this is the best medicine against hybrid warfare, free media literacy, I can expand the list of what Lithuania is doing. The other is awareness raising in society, a ‘whole society’ approach. This is exactly what Lithuania spotted: societal members need to be resilient, government coordination is not


enough. We Lithuanians won against the big Soviet Union machinery in the 1990s, despite the KGB and Russian army. We did it because we believed in the liberation process, not because of guns, there were no guns in Lithuania, but because of Lithuania’s societal resilience. So this societal resilience is a key factor. I’m proud to say that we have this concept of Elf Movement in Lithuania – fighting against disinformation, fake news and Russian trolls. There are some big media platforms, very much self-organized where the media has started themselves to collaborate on the debunking, such as debunk.eu. Also important is the NATO - EU support; there are things what you need to do yourself but there are certain things where doing it together is much better, more effective. The example I usually present is when a Lithuanian or Georgian calls Facebook and says “Hi guys, there are so many antiGeorgian fake pages, can you deal with it? This is hostile content against our country.” While that is also a good thing to do, there is something better: The European Commission has a Code of Conduct which they offered to big social media giants Facebook, Google, Twitter, with very simple measures and a very simple message: guys you need to clean the wrong or fake content or we will start to regulate you. When Brussels announces such things, it is heard more loudly than when it comes from Tbilisi or Vilnius. We need EU-NATO too: Lithuania is a member, Georgia is a future member, no doubt about that whatsoever, so your security is

of concern to us and a resilient Georgia is in Lithuania's and NATO’s interest. The more vulnerable you are, the more troubles there are on the Eastern flank; that's why we see the need of EU-NATO to extend support for Georgia in resilience building.

YOU SAID HYBRID IS A NEW WORD BUT USES OLD TACTICS. IF IT’S OLD TACTICS, WHY IS THE WORLD SO UNPREPARED? Remember the 90s saw the liberation of Lithuania and Georgia, we regained our statehood and the world got rid of the Berlin Wall and divisions. It was a period of higher hopes that there is no more division of liberal/non-liberal democracy systems. Russia was not a very democratic country but was moving in this direction; so of course you are losing some immunity saying you need strong military investment, because it's a cost some are unwilling to make. British journalist and author Ed Lucas, formerly with the Economist, has been saying this for ages that ‘we the West were not listening to our friends from Georgia, Lithuania who were saying, yes Russia might seem like it's moving in the direction of democracy but we still need to be careful. We were not listening. ‘ Lithuania was more alarmist during this period. Resilience is costly but necessary, especially now with Russia, China, with new actors on cyber field, Iran, North Korea, nonstate actors like Daesh and you can name individuals hackers. We should realize that this will be forever with us, that there will be never a world which will not have ‘fakes,’ so best not to regret

It is a term that some Georgians and even Lithuanians sometimes struggle to understand. It is what a hybrid or malign operation is about, to go unnoticed. What is “good” with a conventional war is the visuality: you see tanks moving or not moving, engines off or not. The hybrid nature is to make things go unnoticed; the green man has now become a classic. The green man for Lithuanians, Georgians and Ukrainians means Russian soldiers. Many in the West would attribute it to aliens from space. This is what hybrid is about: to make things more clearly unidentifiable by meddling in political processes, supporting political radical parties, gray zone economy corruption, ethnical tensions, social society tensions, everything is a potential hybrid target. Hybrid is opportunistic; about identifying and using weak points. In Lithuania’s case, our weak points were the Lithuania-Polish societal tensions which have historical grounds, and socialeconomic problems, and then you get a third country actor trying to meddle and exploit them. History is commonly used in hybrid attacks, culture, sport, religion; you can name any field but the main characteristic is that there should be problems, there should be some tensions in society; this is what the outside or non-state actor tries to use.

QUITE RECENTLY, THERE HAS BEEN A SERIES OF INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS UNCOVERING RUSSIAN SPIES OR PROXIES, FOR EXAMPLE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC, BULGARIA. HOW DO YOU COMBAT THAT? There are no magic recipes, but one is Lithuania’s way to deal with the sensitive part; every year based on the example of other countries, Lithuania’s intelligence services, both military and civilian, come up with a joint national threat assessment; it is quite big, open source, and it explains what they see. No political assessment is done but this picture very much highlights increased Russian intelligence activities, gives a more detailed explanation in what spheres Russians are doing this, and I believe this is one way to counter. We also have a big program where Lithuanian experts from academia, from NGOs and from Lithuania’s military, visit schools and universities, and speak with members of society. I would meet a rotary group from Kaunas or university students in Vilnius to talk about threats, what are the threats, what is the modern threat assessment. In doing so we want to present a picture to society, for society to understand and to become more resilient.

A PARTICULAR FACET OF PRO-RUSSIAN NARRATIVE, ESPECIALLY IN GEORGIA, IS TO PROMOTE RUSSIA AS A FRIENDLY ENTITY, OFTEN USING THE COMMON RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO COMBAT THIS NARRATIVE? The question of religion is also being exploited by third countries. They say - we are of the same faith or sometimes, as was in the case of Ukraine, they are trying to cause a schism. Again, there are no magic recipes but one thing is clear: just because of religious closeness, you cannot allow Russia to have special influence. Let’s take Montenegro for example, the country also has strong ties with Russia but there the westward choice had nothing to do with religion; it was based on historical experience, based on their geography and political will that they decided they wanted to join NATO and in the future the EU: This was the choice of the people, not of religion, not of the political elite but of the people of Montenegro, who decided that they wanted to join, and this is what democracy is about.




The Intricacies of Church & State Life OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


gullible rank and file like me would never get versed enough in what the complex and multifaceted intricacies of the Church and State co-existence are all about. Intricate is just about everything in this compound realm of interaction between the two. It has always been that way in world history, and Georgia is certainly no exception to the rule. As such, I wouldn’t panic about what’s happening right now: a cleric accused of attempting to murder the patriarch; someone goes public about the alleged interference of the State in matters that are rendered exclusively unto Church by God; some of the heads among the erstwhile reputable members of the clergy are rolling; a kind of mischief is brewing somewhere in the ecclesiastic depths of the nation; some believe there is something wrong with our orthodoxy and some think that the Lord is so loving that He will never put on a scale our two-millennia-old faith. The conventional anti-Orthodox skeptics and the inveterate atheists, who are, hopefully, not growing in number, are grabbing the favorable moment to celebrate, exultantly considering that the foundations of the long-established adherence to the beloved and venerated Georgian Orthodox Church are being shaken to the extent where faith is withering away and believers are starting to ask unwelcome questions. This is not

true! The faith is strongly in place, and thank God; every god-blessed parish goes to church as adamantly as before, and this is enough proof of our national divinity; kids are baptized en-masse into Christian devotion, and this is a huge delight for every Georgian whose heart is not devoid of true Christian piety; candles are lit like one big fiery hope that we will be redeemed and forgiven, and this is the highest possible guarantor of our future bliss; our joint prayer brings closer the day of retribution for those who want to see our crystal clear faith in Christ downtrodden and corrupt, and this is the foundation of our Christian optimism; our judiciously patient and sage Patriarch is a little infirm but strong as an old oak in faith and devotion, enjoying his people’s sincerest love, herded by him with exceptional care and heed. The historical survival of the Georgian nation has greatly depended on the strength and immaculate reputation of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which is one of the several autocephalous Orthodox churches in the world. By the simplest encyclopedic definition ‘Orthodoxy is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion, and in the Christian sense the term means conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church’. Conversely, some of the atheist hotheads or trivial non-believers would interpret Orthodoxy as something halted on the spot and undeveloped, antiquated and conservative, fundamentalist and overly ritualistic – all this in the worst meaning of these words. This kind of attitude has

nothing to do with genuine faith and sincere dedication to God. I myself am not the stubborn-most churchgoer or the most ardent defendant of the Christian creed, but I have enough decency as a regular citizen to say that hurting the Church in this culture and country would definitely mean hurting the entire nation and hampering its speedy successful development in peace and good labor.


ano Merabishvili’s custody is approaching an end. The legendary Minister of Interior Affairs will leave the Matrosov Prison in February next year. The closer we get to the day of his release, the greater the interest is in his future plans. At the moment, the only thing known to us is that Merabishvili plans to remain in politics. The question of where or with whom, leaning towards the United National Movement or European Georgia, is still a secret. Georgian media has started discussing his upcoming plans, but nothing rational has been communicated yet.

ten the talk of the same nature and content in the Catholic Church that has buzzed through the ears of the entire world? Nothing much happened as a result then: nobody stopped attending the habitual morning services in the church and genuflecting under the pew with head bowed over the Bible. Because Mankind will probably not opt to live without the Church if it is compelled to make that choice.

On Vano Merabishvili’s Imminent Release

Vano Merabishvili. Image source: rferl.org/


So, when faced with a regular difficulty of certain consequence in the Church, we must not start making a mountain out of a molehill, thus blowing every word or action of the functioning clergy out of proportion as if the skies are coming down and Armageddon is here. Concerning the nauseating talk about homosexuality, the issue, if any, should not even be touched upon so badly that it starts stinking so. Have we all forgot-

One of the key representatives of the former government, Merabishvili was arrested on May 21, 2013 by the Georgian Dream. Imprisoned in Tbilisi, the ex-PM was, for some reason, convicted in Kutaisi. Moving him away from the political epicenter once again highlighted the importance of Merabishvili’s persona. The Kutaisi Court delivered a verdict on five cases: 1. Illegal seizure of the wine factory “Akura” – 2 years and 3 months; 2. Hiding the evidence on Sandro Girgvliani’s case – 3 years; 3. Dispersion of a demonstration on May 26, 2011 – 4 years and 6 months. 4. Misappropriation, embezzlement and voter bribery - 5 years; 5. Physical assault on Valeri Gelashvili - 6 years and 9 months. He was sentenced to 6 years and 9 months in prison as the ultimate punishment. According to the verdict, Merabishvili is due to be released

in March 2020. Interestingly, by arresting Merabishvili and taking him into custody, the “Dreamers” created some serious problems for themselves. Moreover, they were neither able to “bury” the United National Movement, nor neutralize the oppositional front. And now, they need to release Merabishvili right at the very moment when each and every vote is worth its weight in gold. It’s no secret that Merabishvili has numerous supporters within the main law enforcement institute of the country, as policemen often still drink a toast to him when they meet for a feast. As such, Merabishvili’s freedom could provoke a big headache for the Georgian Dream. This has already been compared to Yulia Timoshenko’s release in Ukraine, when the ex-PM returned as one of the key

political players during the elections. This comparison though is exaggerated, as Merabishvili was never an independent figure, so we shouldn’t expect any independent steps from him. As leader of the political movement “Victorious Georgia”, Valeri Gelbakhiani, states, Merabishvili was always a “doer” and will continue doing what he was always so good at. The governmental media has voiced an alternative forecast. The Kvira agency suggests that upon release Merabishvili will leave both politics and the country, heading to Kiev to meet up with Saakashvili, or to Spain where his old friend Amiran Meskheli resides. This information immediately prompted comments, and Merabishvili’s lawyer Giorgi Chiviashvili denied such a possibility. Political experts are also doubtful of

the governmental media suggestions. Gia Khukhashvili says that Merabishvili never really left the political scene: “Vano Merabishvili never left politics and naturally, when he is released from jail, where else would he go? Of course, he will return to politics. Although the government threatens action, I suppose it won’t have any luck there either,” he said. Where will Merabishvili go? The more time passes, the more relevant this question becomes. Expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze is convinced that we will see Merabishvili with the United National Movement next spring, because “European Georgia is trying to distance itself from those crimes that took place at the time. Hence, gaining a member that directly symbolizes those crimes wouldn’t appeal to them.”




NOVEMBER 8 - 11, 2019

HUAWEI & Elit Electronics Joint Trade-in Campaign across Georgia – Change your old Smartphone with a new one ADVERTORIAL


UAWEI has launched an unprecedented trade-in campaign, which allows users to replace their old phones with P30 series smartphones and get a great discounts additionally. The campaign, launched on November 1, covers only Elit Electronics store chain and lasts until the end of November. The terms of the campaign are simple: customers can visit any branch of Elit Electronics and evaluate their own smartphone of any brand in the store. Specialists will evaluate the product according to the condition of its screen, battery, visual side of the body and other features, at a certain price, which will then be deducted from the price of the new smartphone. "During the current campaign on three models of HUAWEI, the P30 Pro, P30 and P30 lite, additional discounts of 200, 150 and 100 GEL are also in force. Consequently, the cost of the old phone handed over by the customer is added by the amount of the discount voucher, which is deducted from the cost of the new phone. For example, if the customer's old phone was evaluated at 400 GEL

and they would like to purchase a P30 lite, the discount voucher of the mentioned model, 100 GEL, will be added to the cost of the old phone, which will be deducted from the P30 lite price (829 GEL) and the customer will only have to pay 329 GEL for the new phone," explains the marketing dept of the company HUAWEI. It is noteworthy that the condition and model of the phone does not matter and the customer will receive 100, 150 or 200 GEL discounts for any given phone, even if his phone is evaluated at a minimal price. So, visit HUAWEI's partner Elit Electronics’ stores and buy new smartphones with replacing your old one! HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's population. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of three business units of HUAWEI, mainly focusing on the production of smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. The HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years of experience in the telecommunications business and serves to the production of innovative technologies to customers around the world.

CEO of Informational Highway Technologies SA: Georgia is Very Attractive for Companies like Mine and live in Switzerland, I worked in banking for most of my career. In 2015, I purchased a company active in software and IT because I wanted to surf on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is based on Computer Science, Informational Technologies and Artificial Intelligence."




owadays,increasingknowledge in the computer sciences has become one of the most important aspects for the development and progress of countries throughout the world, and Georgia is no exception. The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in improving the lives of populations is also increasing. Why is AI gaining prominence now? How will AI affect and change the lives of millions of people worldwide in the near future? How is Georgia positioning

itself in the world of Computer Sciences and AI? GEORGIA TODAY interviewed Alexandre Orloff, an experienced entrepreneur specialized in international business development, who is currently the head of the Swiss-based company Informational Highway Technologies SA and powerful media network platform, Masters of AI, to get the answers to those questions. “I’m ever grateful to Georgia, because my wife Nino is Georgian. Our son was born in 2001 in Tbilisi, our daughter was born in 2004 in Geneva. I love the culture, food, people, nature and I confirm that skiing in Georgia is wonderful!” Orloff tells us. “As I studied economics

Informational Highway Technologies SA (IHT) is a Swiss company active in the creation and production of information processing systems, design, production, testing, as well as the provision of advisory and technological services in the field of application of computer resources, computer programs and radioelectronic systems. Because the NETWORK is so important, IHT in 2020 will launch Masters of AI, a powerful Media Network Platform with two hubs: One in Geneva for its Occidental partners and the second in Hong Kong for its Oriental partners, providing to its members accesses to knowledge and direct exchanges with foreign counterparts under exclusive conditions. Many people in Europe are scared of Chinese R&D because they do not know the culture and do not have access to the key players. www.MastersofAI.world, with its interviews, conferences and debates, in situ visits and e-learning courses, will permit intercultural, intergenerational and international exchanges.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GEORGIA’S ABILITIES IN TERMS OF COMPUTER SCIENCE? WHAT IS INTERESTING FOR YOUR COMPANY IN GEORGIA? Tbilisi recently opened the doors of The San Diego State University to train students in various specialties, including Computer Science, Informational Tech-

nologies and Artificial Intelligence. Access to education is fundamental for the future of a nation and for our younger generation that instinctively understand things much faster than us. Great and recognized researchers and scientists in the world are Georgians. Here in Geneva, we have the CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and Georgia is very well represented! So, what is interesting for IHT and Masters of AI to discover in Georgia? It is to find the next Georgian Steve Jobs before others do. With good brains and good training, Georgia is very attractive for companies like mine.

HOW WILL LEARNING COMPUTER SCIENCES AFFECT AND CHANGE THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORLD? Governments all over the planet are taking strategic decisions to redirect their strengths and resources towards the fast growing evolution of computer science. Some had the means to anticipate it years ago, other are forced to act now. The United Arab Emirates administration will be fully Blockchain operated and compatible in 2020, Liechtenstein is adopting, as of January 2020, a new law called the ‘’Tokens and TT Service Providers Law’’, etc. Within the next ten years, our lives will completely change and we must adapt because we are in the fourth industrial revolution and there is no return possible!

HOW DO YOU SEE GEORGIA POSITIONING ITSELF IN THE WORLD OF CS AND AI? “Even the longest journey begins with one first step’’ says a Confucian proverb, so first students must work hard, the Georgian universities must support the student’s passion and patience to power the excellence one needs to achieve great goals, but at the same time the nation

must provide interesting jobs for them to become experts, to find the financial interest to stay in Georgia, to work in Georgia and pay taxes that will benefit the country and its population. So, to answer your question, I would say that education is the first step, but within three to four years Georgia must provide well paid jobs to prevent a competence exodus as happened in other countries. I strongly believe that Georgia needs to attract some international R&D laboratories to establish themselves in special zones with good fiscal incentives. Once you have ten to twenty international companies choosing Georgia to establish operations in, it will be like a snow ball effect.

YOUR COMPANY IS BASED IN SWITZERLAND. FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW, WOULD YOU INVEST IN GEORGIA OR HIRE GEORGIAN STUDENTS? First, we need to meet with the Georgian universities and research institutes to understand the potential. Then, I could answer your question. To do so, we will organize business trips, interviews and meetings. I strongly believe that when you are 50 years old, which is my case, it is normal to give a chance to the younger generation, so yes I would hire Georgian students. But there must be a match between our clients needs, the competences and drive of the students and our company’s development strategy.

WHAT ARE YOUR COMPANY’S FUTURE PLANS AND PROJECTS? Visiting Georgia with the hope to find potential partners to develop the www. MastersofAI.world media platform in Georgia, to connect different generations, cultures and countries with conferences and debates. Georgia has great infrastructures and is geographically located between Hong Kong and Geneva.



Beeline Georgia Employee Wins Global Digithon

Nini Rekhviashvili, second on the left


Beeline employee from Georgia, along with five other colleagues from Veon Group’s operational companies won the Group’s global hackathon in Amsterdam. The winners of the contest will have an opportunity to visit Seoul, South Korea, in early 2020, a country where the Southeast Asian innovation and technological progress can be witnessed live. For the third year in a row, international group Veon, a telecommunications and internet service provider, presented as ‘Beeline’ in Georgia, ran the innovative competition DIGITHON for its employees from the 10 countries where Veon is represented. DIGITHON serves to create or improve already existing digital products and services. At the first stage, a local competition is held in all ten countries of Veon. The winning team from each country then heads to the group's global headquarters in Amsterdam for the global DIGITHON. This year, the participants worked on the creation of innovative digital services and products that rely on the new 5G technology. This is what Nini Rekhviashvili, PR manager at Beeline and DIGITHON, winner from Georgia, had to say regarding her experience at the contest: “Global DIGITHON was one of the most exciting events in my career. It started with a local contest where my teammates and I won the first place, and continued with a trip to our headquarters in Amsterdam. According to the rules of DIGITHON, the initial five members of the local team were split into different groups with the employees from

other countries’ winning teams. I ended up working with an amazing team with five other employees from the various operational companies, all with different cultural backgrounds, knowledge and experience. Therefore the first challenge and part of the DIGITHON essence, was to go through a teambuilding process. The most stressful period was the 24 hours after the challenge was announced. The team had to make many important decisions in this short time on which our defeat or win depended. Together with my other teammate, I ended up acting as a speaker for the group and after an initial pitch and making it to the shortlist, we had to present in front of the Director’s Board. To win the DIGITHON is an amazing feeling, though I think the main achievement is to withstand the stress, anxiety and tiredness and to pitch your idea the best you can. I am proud to say that like myself, all of my colleagues from Georgia who were on the various teams, not only did a good job presenting the ideas but also gave our country, Georgia, a promotion to the great international audience present at the event. DIGITHON gave me an enriching experience, which allowed me to come back to work even more motivated and grown - I am lucky to be working at a company where a lot of attention is paid to motivating employees, helping them grow personally and professionally and even to compete on a global level. I would like to thank all my colleagues, our CEO Andrzej Malinowski and the whole team for the amazing support I felt all the way before, through and after the contest.”





NOVEMBER 8 - 11, 2019

Ren Zhengfei's Northern European Media Roundtable, Part 3


to support national development. We will resolutely support this concept. We will go open source with our AI ecosystem to support the innovation and development of European start-ups and small businesses. Our goal is to share success with our European partners, not to be the sole winner.

en Zhengfei, Huawei CEO, welcomed media from northern Europe to a roundtable and invited them to ask whatever they wished, however challenging the question. GEORGIA TODAY will be publishing those questions and answers in the present and following issues of GEORGIA TODAY newspaper.


HAS THIS TRADE WAR, THIS TECH WAR, ACTUALLY BEEN IN FAVOR OF HUAWEI AND CHINESE TECH COMPANIES IN YOUR PUSH TO BECOME MORE SELF-RELIANT ON EQUIPMENT? First of all, we don't want to see de-globalization happen. We should firmly pursue globalization. We have been forced to use our own components as a last ditch effort because the US stopped supplying us with their components. We don't want to collapse, so we are using more of our own components. But in the long run, we believe globalization will create more wealth for humanity. We firmly believe in globalization. Will some Chinese companies grow big enough to overtake US companies? That's possible. But we are not counting on this possibility. I think the US is still the most powerful country in the world. We are not seeking de-Americanization or trying to decouple from the US. We have contingency plans in place to offset the impact caused by the US denying our access to US suppliers.


I don't think so. First, the EU has proposed that everything should be determined based on the facts as that is fair to all vendors. Second, vendors should first promise that they will not build backdoors into their equipment and then should subject themselves to review. I think this is a scientific approach as it applies to all vendors. We support and welcome this approach. Different countries and people, including lawmakers, may have different interpretations or opinions. I think the conclusions of the report are fair.

requires Chinese companies to install backdoors in their equipment, and we comply with this instruction.

WHAT'S NEXT AFTER 5G? HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE FOR HUAWEI AND FOR COMPETITOR COMPANIES? I think that following 5G, we will see the large-scale adoption of AI, but there are three basic preconditions for that. First, the availability of super-computing systems. Second, the availability of superlarge-capacity data storage systems. And third, there must be super-fast connections between these two systems. When these conditions are met, AI will have huge potential. In fact, AI was proposed by Alan Turing of the

UK in the 1940s, but it only began to be applied 60 to 70 years later. Why is that? It's because these three preconditions had not been met until now. 5G is only a tool that supports AI with its low latency and large bandwidth. I believe that AI will develop rapidly around the world. I think Europe will benefit most from AI, because European industry has very advanced systems engineering. They can use less labor to make more and better products. Europe is well positioned in this regard, because it has a relatively small population and has a well-trained workforce. With AI applied in production systems, they will be able to make more products. That's why I think that Europe will benefit most from 5G and AI. Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia have set up the 5GAA and the 5G-ACIA. Both of them will promote better use of AI in production systems. Will China also benefit this much from AI? I don't think that will be possible in the near future. This is because China's industry has just moved from manual to mechanical. The next step will be to move to automation and then to digitization. Only after we go digital will AI have a major role to play. So it will take a longer time for AI to play a role in China.

HOW DO YOU THINK THAT 5G AND AI WILL CHANGE SOCIETY AND THE WAY WE LIVE? This question is too complex for me and I don't have enough knowledge to give a proper answer, but I can give you two examples. In China, there is a 500-hectare farm that entirely relies on AI for production management, with no farmers working there. There is also a mine in Northeast China, but its operators are located in Shanghai. If there were another disaster like the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, we wouldn't have to send 600,000 soldiers for rescue and cleanup operations, like the Soviet Union did; we could use AI to operate robotics instead for the rescue efforts. Even today, we are moved by the spirit of sacrifice demonstrated by these Soviet Union soldiers. The first one to charge in, shovel in hand, was a lieutenant general. People can be exposed to high levels of radiation for 45 seconds at most; any longer could be fatal. At the time, 600,000 soldiers and thousands of helicopters carrying earth were sent to bury nuclear waste. I don't know whether you have visited our mobile phone production lines. If you have, you may find that we have only a few people on the production lines. This is only partially intelligent production. If Europe uses this mode of production on a large scale, they would make more products with relatively few workers. This will translate into higher yields and returns and significantly reduce social conflicts. What will AI ultimately bring to future society? I'm not sure. I'm still envisioning what AI will bring as it continues to develop. Europe is the first region that has proposed the concept of digital sovereignty. I think it's a very wise decision. It acts as a lighthouse and sets a benchmark for the development of information society around the world. We used to emphasize physical boundaries because of geopolitical factors. We used to claim that things like mines and trains were all ours. Now when information travels around the world, digital sovereignty becomes necessary

YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER IN THE CHINESE ARMY, THE PLA, AND LATER ON YOU CREATED THIS EMPIRE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY SOME PEOPLE OUTSIDE CHINA ARE VERY CONFUSED? ARE YOU BASICALLY A GOOD OLD COMMUNIST INSIDE, OR A CAPITALIST? DO YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN THE TWO? First, every soldier that chooses to leave the army is going to look for a new job. It's like this in every country. In total, the Chinese army has discharged tens of millions of soldiers; it would be ridiculous for all of them to stay at home and not work. I was just one of these soldiers. Second, regarding what kind of ideology Huawei follows, we don't really have a pretty label for what we are. There are over 90,000 employees who hold shares in Huawei. Even though I have more shares than any other individual, I still only have less than 1% of all shares. Of course, our mechanism may not work for other companies, but it works for us as a technology company. The company's wealth is in the brains of our employees instead of any special quality of mine. If I were to hoard all the rewards, people wouldn't stay with Huawei, and nothing would be left. We distribute shares to employees according to the value of their brains. This is the foundation of our so called ideology. It's not specifically based on any traditional ideology. I don't know what to call it exactly, but I guess it may be called employee capitalism.

ARE YOU STILL THE ACTUAL PERSON WHO, AT LEAST FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS, WILL GUIDE THE DIRECTION OF HUAWEI? Operational decisions are actually out of my hands, and I don't directly manage anything in particular. Instead, the Board of Directors does all that. I do have the right to veto decisions on certain major issues, but I've never actually used this right. I just consult with members of the Board of Directors on major issues.

HOW WILL DEVELOPING YOUR OWN CHIPS AND YOUR OWN OPERATING SYSTEM, DEVELOPING OTHER EQUIPMENT AND SERVICES AFFECT YOUR REVENUE AND PROFITS GOING FORWARD? When people buy chips, what they are actually buying is the use of a bunch of math and physics equations. We had already been developing the data models for those equations, and that cost was already covered by our operational budgets over the years. Companies that don't develop their own chips need to bear this cost when they buy chips from other companies. This part is rather profitable. Second, we manufacture a large number of chips. We will produce 270 million smartphones this year. Producing such a huge number of smartphones means that we may need to source chips from several different chip makers. We don't just use things on a small scale. Once you scale out these things, the cost drops.

WILL YOU START SELLING CHIPS TO OTHER COMPANIES TOO? IS IT POSSIBLE IN THE FUTURE? We don't currently plan to do this. Continued in the next edition of GT.



Freedom House: Trolls & Fake News Main Internet Challenges in Georgia

Image source: mojix.com



he United States-based nongovernmental organization Freedom House has released its 2019 Freedom on the Net report, in which Georgia's ranking remains among the free countries with 75 points. According to the reports, the main challenges in Georgia in terms of internet are fake news and trolls. “Authorities generally respected digital rights in Georgia during the coverage period, which saw the enactment of a new constitution that guarantees the right to internet access. However, threats to internet freedom persisted on a number of fronts. While access increased, the growth was sluggish. Trolling, particularly by government-affiliated bots and users, intensified, most notably around the June 2018 protests and the 2018 presidential election. Harassment continues to mar the internet landscape, with several high-profile cases of online intimidation during the coverage period,” the report reads. Georgia’s scores in the three categories of the report are as follows:

1. Obstacles to access – 19 points out of 25 2. Limits of content – 30 points out of 35 3. Violation of user rights – 26 points out of 40 When describing the period from June 2018 – May 31, 2019, Freedom House says that around the 2018 presidential election campaign and at other points during the reporting period, anonymous actors on social media distorted the information landscape by spreading misinformation. The report also mentions that a secretly recorded sex tape of lawmaker Eka Beselia was leaked on social media in January 2019, apparently in retaliation for her political stances, while in February, sexeducation activist Khatia Akhalaia was subjected to threats of rape and death online. However, it added that Georgia’s new constitution, which declares internet access as a fundamental right, came into force in December 2018. Regarding access, Freedom House says that the number of internet and mobile phone subscriptions in Georgia continues to grow, but high prices for service, inadequate infrastructure, and slow internet speeds remain obstacles to access. “Georgians face some infrastructural

obstacles to accessing the internet. However, internet access continued to grow during the coverage period, with approximately 69.6% of households enjoying access in 2018, according to data from the International Telecommunication Union,” the organization noted, adding that many restaurants, bars, cinemas, and other public places provide Wi-Fi access, allowing customers to use the internet on their personal devices. Freedom on the Net also reads that there are few legal or regulatory obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers in Georgia, but market concentration limits competition. “The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) market is dominated by a handful of large companies...All three mobile service providers, Geocell, MagtiCom, and Veon Georgia (previously Mobitel), which are privately owned, offer mobile internet service. MagtiCom and Silknet together control 70% of the mobile internet market,” the report reads. It was noted that Georgian users do not face restrictions in accessing websites, uploading or downloading content, hosting their own websites, and contacting other users via forums, social media platforms, and communications apps. Freedom on the Net is a comprehensive study of internet freedom in 65 countries around the globe, covering 87% of the world’s internet users. It tracks improvements and declines in internet freedom conditions each year. More than 70 analysts contributed to this year’s edition, using a 21-question study that addresses internet access, freedom of expression, and privacy issues. In addition to ranking countries by their internet freedom score, the project offers a unique opportunity to identify global trends related to the impact of information and communication technologies on democracy. The report reads that of the 65 countries assessed, 33 have seen an overall decline since June 2018, compared with 16 that registered net improvements. The biggest score declines took place in Sudan and Kazakhstan, followed by Brazil, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe.

Bakuriani Resort to Have Three New Ski Lifts for Winter 2020 BY ANA DUMBADZE


akuriani, one of the most popular ski resorts of Georgia, will open with three new ski lifts for the winter season 2020. Three new six-person ski lifts will be added to the resort being built in New Didveli Valley by the international company Doppelmayr Garaventa Group.

The new ski lifts will be able to transport 1,800 – 2,400 passengers per hour. In 2019, 10 gondolas were added to the existing 34 gondola ski lift of Bakuriani to serve the increasing quantity of tourists. From the 2019-2020 winter season, this ski lift will serve people with 44 gondolas which means that it can transport an additional 350-400 tourists per hour. Bakuriani resort is located in the Borjomi district of Georgia, at an elevation of 1,700 meters (5,576 feet) above sea level.

The ski area of the resort is split into two separate parts: Didveli and Kokhta/ Kokhta-Mitarbi. Mount Kokhta provides a maximum skiable altitude of 2,269 meters (7,444 ft), whereas the highest lift in Didveli reaches 2,702 meters (8,865 ft). The first ski base was opened in 1932. From Bakuriani to Kokhtagori Mountain (1.3 km) and Tskhratskaro Pass (3.5 km) there are ski lifts, ski tramps. There is an artificial snowfall on Didveli skiing routes.





NOVEMBER 8 - 11, 2019

Georgia Bucket List BLOG BY TONY HANMER


ow many times, in how many ways, can one extol the diversity of this fantastic little country? In landscapes, climates, flora and fauna; in foods, languages, dialects, costumes, songs, customs; in who has invaded it and/or completely destroyed Tbilisi over the centuries and millennia. I’m coming up on my 20th anniversary of living here, but there are still so many things I want to see and experience here. Ballooning. Thankfully, this is now a thing you don’t have to go to Cappadocia in Turkey for, although they have it down to a science in those magically sculpted sandstone landscapes. So much here, too, to see from the air for the first time! A drone would also be great, but there’s nothing like GOING there yourself, up. Paragliding, IF I can safely use my

camera while doing so with a pilot controlling the thing! More ancient monuments: Nikortsminda in Racha, Didgori near Orbeti, Omalo and Mutso just south of Chechnya, all of Abkhazia. Adishi in Svaneti. More trails there too, and more ways of seeing Mt. Ushba up close from different angles. Snorkeling or actual scuba diving in the Black Sea. More wildlife in the wild: mountain goats and sheep, bears, wolves, foxes, the great raptors, hoopoes. More waterfalls. More lakes with their possibilities for reflections. More practitioners of old folk art and traditions: cooking, wood and stone work, song, painting, sculpture. More ancient manuscripts and icons, mostly well preserved in the museums of Tbilisi as well as in regional ones and even small village churches. More art and design in the hip, cool, fascinating city that Tbilisi has become. More exhibitions of my own photographs from the last two decades, in my

own home and elsewhere too… More words and phrases in Svan, which makes Georgian look as easy as Georgian makes Russian look. At least I’m in the right place for it. To see how the hugest clay qvevrebi, the wine amphorae a person can fit into, are made, dried and fired, mostly in and around Shrosha, near the Rikoti Pass between east and west Georgia. I was once a potter, many years ago in Canada, and would love to explore more of the craft here. Does anyone work with the higher-firing stoneware and porcelain? Also, to see how embossed copper and silver sheet work is done in making icons and modern pictures. Ditto for the almost microscopically detailed enamel jewelry for which Georgia is famous. More understanding of how local flora are used in traditional medicines and health-ways. Continual honing of my work as a photographer and a writer, through practice. Georgia inspires me like nowhere else

in the world has, although I’ve found beauty everywhere I’ve gone. The experience of this country somehow reconciles its most ancient and venerable ways and traditions with the pressures and changes that the 21st century is bringing, without tearing itself apart. We may not please everyone, are unlikely to, but we’re not an island; indeed, we say we want into some of the outside world’s clubs, where things can be very different… Peace with our neighbors, especially those which have dominated or nearly destroyed us in former empires. Peace with ourselves!

I hope to live to cross off the whole list. Some of these things may take decades and more, but we will see. One thing is sure: Georgia has my heart. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

A Roundup of the Georgian Defense & Security Conference 2019 BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


he 13th Georgia Defense and Security Conference (GDSC) was held in Batumi city of the Ajara region on November 6-7. It was hosted by Hilton Hotel and saw among its attendees high-ranking Georgian and foreign politicians, military experts and representatives of civil society, mass media and academic circles. The Conference was opened by the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, who stressed on the importance of the conference and noted that Georgia has managed to remain "an island of stability" in the region. Alongside the President, Georgian top officials Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze once again raised the issue of the occupation of Georgian territories by Russia. “I am convinced that the debates and discussions here will be particularly topical and distinguished by quality and results, as we are in a country where

20% of the territory is occupied by the Russian Federation” Gharibashvili said at the conference, while Talakvadze noted that 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 27 years after the occupation of Georgian territories and 5 years after the annexation of Crimea, Russia still remains a major threat. “We believe that our partners will deliver to the Kremlin the message that changing borders in Europe through occupation and aggression is totally unacceptable. However, as we represent a nation that strives for the principles of democracy, tolerance and justice, we should not be afraid and should not retreat," he said. High-level foreign politicians also took part in the GDSC, one of them US Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who regularly advocates for Georgia. “We [the USA] recently approved the Georgia Support Act. It was my initiative. There is a big chance that it will be backed in the Senate and the White House. We are glad. This means that the US does not recognize Georgia’s occupation by Russia… Republicans and Democrats disagree on many things, but we are united when it comes to Georgia,”

Kinzinger said. The cross-party act highlights the US’ strong support of Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and further starts the imposition of sanctions against individuals who infringe human rights within Georgia’s occupied regions. Alongside Kinzigner, top NATO officials, as well as the US AmbassadorDesignate attended the Batumi Conference. Rosaria Puglisi, Head of NATO Liaison Office, commented on Georgia’s

security situation, saying that “The greatest challenge for Georgia’s security is the placement of Russian soldiers on [its] territory; the fact that two of Georgia’s regions remain controlled and occupied by foreign forces; and that the process of ‘borderization’ ensues”. The US Ambassador-Designate Elizabeth Rood articulated her anticipation about the Conference and further commented, “This year, the GDSC mainly focuses on topics such as the modernization of Georgia’s defense and security,

close relationship with NATO forces and the concept of Georgia’s universal defense notion… It is a great opportunity for government officials and experts to converse on Georgia’s progress and on the direction of its Atlantic integration.” Former NATO Deputy Secretary-General, Rose Gottemoeller spoke at the GDSC via a live video-feed from Brussels and promoted the Georgian-Euro Atlantic relationship. “First and foremost, it is based on Georgia’s aspiration for membership in the Alliance. You all know that the decision made at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 stands: Georgia will become a member of NATO. Through the work we have done together in the years since the decision, Georgia has moved closer to membership of NATO and all allies support this progress. There are several tools at Georgia’s disposal to spur this continued progress, among them the second pillar of our cooperation. The NATO-Georgia Commission is a dedicated venue through which we take forward political dialogue.” According to Gottemoeller, Georgia has made “noteworthy accomplishments” in the five years since the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package was agreed.




The Personal Letter Ryan Smith’s Mother Wrote to her Family’s Murderer T

his is my personal letter written to Malkhaz Kobauri. Please give Malkhaz a copy of my letter that has been translated into Georgian, in addition to the letter being read to him in court. Malkhaz Kobauri, I hope you have learned about the wonderful family you killed, how they loved God and served others. Ryan and Lora moved to Georgia in 2011, became Georgian citizens in 2012, and built a house in 2017, planning to live in Georgia for the rest of their lives. Lora taught conversational English in the Azerbaijani school in Marneuli, and private English lessons as well. Lora also provided women’s health care education and emotional healing. Ryan came to Georgia hoping to revitalize the ancient Azerbaijani carpet weaving traditions that nearly died out during the Soviet era. After much searching, in 2012 Ryan finally found two weavers in a remote Caucasus Azerbaijani village. Through Ryan’s reWoven Rug Project, there are now 20 well paid Azerbaijani women weaving rugs in their homes. ALL the reWoven profits are reinvested in rug village projects chosen by the weavers. Recently, $10,000 in profits purchased 400 sets of plates, glasses and flatware for Kosalar’s Community Center where weddings, funerals and civic events are held. ReWoven is also restoring “Caleb’s Well.” When completed, it will save the village women from having to haul river water several hours a day. While serving others, Ryan and Lora suffered much personal heartache and loss. Their first child was born in Tbilisi in 2012. Unfortunately, their beautiful daughter Shannon only lived 9 days. Ryan and Lora also lost three more babies through tragic miscarriages. Praise God!! Caleb was born strong and healthy in 2014. Caleb grew to be a very inquisitive, determined little guy, like his daddy. He was a fun, funny, and very bright. Caleb really loved his parents and fun times with all his family back in the USA. He loved camping, riding horses, and “herding” sheep. Besides English, Caleb was also fairly fluent in the Azeri language at age 4. As you can see, we were and still are very proud of our son Ryan, Lora and Caleb! They have touched so many lives in so many places. These are the loving people you murdered! When I learned of your despicable actions, I grieved the demonic horrors that our sweet Lora had to endure at your hands as a sexual predator: her fear, her panic, her pain during your savage, degrading, sexual assault; Lora seeing or hearing you shoot her beloved husband Ryan, my son, who was running to rescue her from your depravity; Lora hearing the frantic screams of her precious Caleb when you shot his daddy; then Lora hearing you shoot her only living child, an innocent 4-year-old boy, my grandson, in the head at point blank range to silence his screams. Likely, Lora also heard you shoot Ryan a second time; this time in the head. I do not know the exact timing of your continued sexual assault on Lora or cause of Lora’s death— head trauma, choking or drowning, or all three, but I do know who killed her. You killed Lora too. Everything that you did to Lora, Ryan and Caleb was PURE

EVIL and DEMONIC! As far as I know, Malkhaz, you have not expressed any remorse for your sexual assault on Lora and your horrific murders of our innocent family. And now you are not taking full responsibility for your earlier confession to murdering all three, Ryan, Lora and Caleb, despite having led the police to Caleb’s grave and your gun. There is no evidence that any others were involved in your heinous crime! Malkhaz, I do want you to know that I am eternally grateful to you for leading the police to Caleb’s grave, and so are our entire family and all of Lora’s family as well. Not knowing where Caleb was would have been more than horrific!! Thank you for your one decent action. You have no idea the pain, grief, suffering and loss you have caused our and Lora’s families. You have robbed us all of our future joy and fun memories of being with Ryan, Lora and Caleb in Georgia and when they visited us all in the USA. We will miss the fun of watching Caleb grow up, and any other children that Ryan and Lora may have had. All of us will have many, many, many years of loss and pain ahead—every birthday, every anniversary, every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, every Easter, and every family gathering without Ryan, Lora and Caleb. The 4th of July is a very important and special holiday in America, full of family fun and fireworks, like your New Year’s celebrations. BUT NOW, the 4th of July has become a very tragic day, the day you sexually assaulted Lora and murdered Ryan, Lora and Caleb. The loss and grief one feels when your loved one dies are very painful; nothing seems quite right any more. But missing Ryan, Lora and Caleb for the rest of my life is far more difficult!

Our family and Lora’s family and many, many friends already miss Ryan, Lora and Caleb terribly! September 12th was Ryan’s 43rd birthday. I cried for 3 days, knowing that I would never see our son Ryan, hug Ryan, talk to Ryan, or share any more family memories together with Ryan because of you. September 22nd was Lora’s very tearful 42nd birthday. How I miss Lora’s sweet smile and laughter; and her fun stories about the funny things Caleb did or said; and her cute videos of Caleb in action! Losing Caleb is probably the hardest of all. Caleb was so full of life and curiosity. He LOVED living in Georgia and coming to visit his family in the USA. Caleb loved making people smile and laugh! Our family is seeking truth and justice because of your SEXUAL ASSAULT and TRIPLE MURDERS of our innocent family. I request that you be sentenced to a full 30 years in prison without early release or to life in prison so you can never harm or kill other people as you did our wonderful son Ryan, our sweet, thoughtful daughter-in-love Lora, and our precious 4-year-old grandson Caleb. Malkhaz, you should lose your freedom because you took Ryan, Lora and Caleb’s freedom to live a full and abundant life, serving God and others. You cut their lives way too short! But Ryan, Lora and Caleb did not die in vain, because they did not live in vain. Ryan, Lora and Caleb’s short lives made an eternal difference in the lives of many, and will continue to do so through the many lives they touched in Jesus’s name. All of our family and multitudes of our friends are praying for you, Malkhaz— and for your innocent family. May God have mercy on you, Malkhaz. May you come to true repentance for your truly evil actions. May you cry out to Jesus,

asking for and thanking Him for His complete forgiveness of all your sins, because He died on the Cross to pay the full penalty for every sin by every person for all time—including your sexual assault on Lora and your murdering Ryan, Lora and Caleb. Malkhaz, you do not deserve Jesus’ forgiveness. I do not deserve Jesus’ forgiveness. No one deserves Jesus’ forgiveness. BUT God the Father, out of His incredible love for you and for me, sent His Son Jesus to earth to live a sinless life so that Jesus would die on the Cross to pay the full penalty for your sins and my sins. Accepting Jesus’ death for the payment of all your sins will allow you to experience God’s complete forgiveness, peace and hope, even in prison. That is why Ryan’s father, Byron, and I have chosen to FORGIVE YOU for murdering our wonderful son Ryan, our sweet, thoughtful daughter-in-love Lora, and our precious 4-year-old grandson Caleb. We do not want to live in the bondage of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred or ill will towards YOU. We have chosen to trust God to fill the huge hole in our hearts and to enable us to live with our pain and loss of Ryan, Lora and Caleb for many, many years to come. The Bible teaches us that: • For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 • Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You sent. John 17:3 • But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 • For the wages of sin is (spiritual) death, but the FREE GIFT OF GOD is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 • For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God; not as a result of good works that no one should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9 • Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 10:10b • (Christ is speaking) Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart and life) and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and fellowship with him and he with Me. Revelation 3:20 […] At this time, we do not know how the Georgian prison system works, so we are not sure how we can get a Bible to you. But we are working on it! In the meantime, we are praying that a Bible is available to you in jail and prison. Malkhaz, my letter may seem very strange to you in your culture. The TRUTH is you committed disgusting crimes against our dear family. JUSTICE requires that you pay the just penalty for everything you did. But LOVE covers a multitude of sins 1 Peter 4:8, including all of your sins, past, present and future. Our family is praying that you will accept God’s love and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord, and serve your just penalty in prison without causing pain and loss to others. In Jesus’ love, grace and mercy, Evangeline “Lin” Bonsall Smith 1 October 2018, San Diego, California Link to the letter in Georgian: https://www. interpressnews.ge/ka/article/570787xadas-xeobashi-mokluli-raian-smitis-deda-ashshdan-gamogzavnil-cerilshi-malxaz-kobaursdanashauls-patiobs-interpresniusis-ekskluzivi




NOVEMBER 8 - 11, 2019


GIFT FESTIVAL PROGRAM 2019 November 13 NATALIA MENENDEZ THEATER LABORATORY Venue: Rustaveli Theater Start time: 20:00 OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. November 9, 10 UN BALLO IN MASCHERA Giuseppe Verdi Participants: Gia Makharadze, Khatuna Chokhonelidze, Sulkhan Gvelesiani, Tea Demurishvili, Mariana Beridze, Tsotne Motsonelidze Music Director of the production: Zaza Azmaiparashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. November 8 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL November 9, 10 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL November 12 REZO Animated documentary film Directed by Leo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL November 13, 14 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL

Language: Non-verbal Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebli Ave. November 8 ASTIGMATISTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Music: Sandro Nikoladze Language: Non-verbal Mute Movie Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15 GEL November 9 IGI Based on Jemal Karchkhadze’s story Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Music: Sandro Nikoladze Language: Non-verbal Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15 GEL MUSIC & DRAMA STATE THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. November 12 WELCOME TO GEORGIA The Musical A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national costumes and local cuisine. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50-80 GEL MUSEUM



Until December 15 The first-ever exhibition of A REMARKABLE COIN FROM THE TIME OF KING DAVID THE BUILDER

November 8 KRIMANCHULI Comedy genre novels based on Georgian national motives (Pantomime novels) ‘Review’, ‘Cinema’, ‘Sailors’, ‘Today is a football’, ‘Fire’, ‘’Chichetura, ‘Vineyard’, ‘Krimanchuli’, ‘Bath-house attendants’, ‘Final’

Until November 30 Exhibition ‘WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD' Supported by the EU With ancient archaeological finds, the exhibition presents for the first time gold jewelry of Late Antiquity (2nd-4th century AD), goldsmiths' tools from the Museum's

ethnographic collection, and items made from gold and precious metals. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 October 19- November 12 NASASJÓN The exhibition consists of works by six Icelandic artists: Ingólfur Arnarsson, Ívar Valgardsson, Kristinn G. Hardarson, Sólveig Adalsteinsdóttir, Rádhildur Ingadóttir and Tumi Magnússon. All the artists were born between 1954 and 1959. November 2-15 FRIDON NIJARADZE’S FIRST SOLO EXHIBIITON Curator: Natalia Kldiashvili MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge The exhibition hall is equipped with monitors, where visitors can see documentaries of various historical events. MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave enough to jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in a Mirror Room, be free in the Infinity room, resist the laws of gravity and size ratio, and take selfies in every possible pose. Enjoy the collection of holograms, and discover optical illusions. THE BOOK MUSEUM 5 Gudiashvili Str., National Parlamentary Library +995 32 297 16 40 The Book Museum holds a unique collection of items, including the private libraries of Ilia Chavchavadze, Dimitri Bakradze, Giorgi Chubinashvili, the recently recovered book collections of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich Romanov and Brothers Zubalashvili, as well as books with the signatures of Ilia Chavchavadze, Ivane Machabeli, Victor Hugo, Dmitri Mendeleev and AntoineAugustin Renouard. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 GRAND MASTERS FROM THE

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY Until November 20 Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy in Georgia present the exhibition "THE FORM OF COLOR FROM TINTORETTO TO CANALETTO" from Trieste's National Gallery of Ancient Art. TBILISI DIGITAL SPACE Tbilisi Mall The first museum of digital art in Tbilisi, where you will meet three different spaces: Vazha-Pshavela's "Dried beech", the world of torches, and a digital space decorated with various graphic and visuals effects. In the main hall is decorated with video projections and mirrors, demonstrating there is no boundary between man and nature. Ticket: 10-30 GEL MUSIC

TBILISI BAROQUE FESTIVAL Rustaveli Theater, Small Stage November 13 LES NATIONS Performers: Tbilisi State Chamber Orchestra– ‘Georgian Sinfonietta’ Davide Amadio– cello, Italy George Kobulashvili – oboe, Georgia/Germany Kornelia von Kerssenbrock– conductor, Germany Miguel Rincon- theorbo & baroque guitar, Spain Anna Kurdovanidze- harpsichord & positive organ, Georgia Program: I Baldassare Galuppi– Concerto a quattro N 4 in c minor Antonio Vivaldi– Cello Concerto in c minor, RV.401 Leonardo Leo– Cello Concerto in d minor, L.60 or in D major, L.10 Antonio Vivaldi– Concerto for 2 Cellos in g minor, RV.531 II Avison/Scarlatti- Concerto Grosso N 3 in d minor Georg Philipp Telemann- Suite ‘Les Nations’ Jean-Philippe Rameau- Suite from ‘Les Boreades’, ‘Les Indes Galantes’ and ‘Platée’ Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-40 GEL RUSTAVELI THEATER 17 Rustaveli Ave. November 12 GIORGI ALEKSIDZE 80 Premiere of Giorgi Aleksidze’s Contemporary Ballet, Alfred Schnittke Concerto Grosso No. 1 CONNEXION Sulkhan Nasidze Symphony No. 5 PIROSMANI Cast: Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet and Guest Artists Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-25 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8/10 Griboedovi Str. November 9 Iano Alibegashvili, Nino Favlenishvili AN EVENING OF VOCAL MUSIC Participants: IANO ALIBEGASHVILI- Soprano, Georgia, Italy NINO PAVLENICHVILI- Piano, Georgia, France GEORGIAN STATE ACADEMIC ENSEMBLE ‘RUSTAVI’ Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-20 GEL November 12 The concert is dedicated to the 95th birthday and 30th death

anniversary of Otar Taktakishvili Program: 5 Vocal Poems of Galaktion Tabidze, Romances of Simon Chikovani, Concertino for violin and orchestra, Megrelian songs Soloists: Salome Mishvelidze, Sulkhan Gvelesiani, Ivan Kobulashvili, Temur Gugushvili ensemble ‘Rustavi’ Art director- Anzor Erkomaishvili Concertino Tbilissi- chamber orchestra Conductor: George Shilakadze Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 5-20 GEL November 13 Georgia National Music Center & Nikoloz Rachveli present The concert of Giorgi Zagareli & Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra Strings Soloists: Akaki Deisadze, Carmen Torrano and Giorgi Zagareli Special Guest- KAYAKATA Audio & Video design- Nika Machaidze The music of Igor Stravinsky, John Adams, Gavin Bryars, Giya Kancheli, Nika Machaidze / Nikakoi, Natalie TBA Beridze, Alexandre Kordzaia / Kordz, Natia Sartania /sTia & Anushka Chkheidze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-35 GEL FABRIKA ROOFTOP 8 Ninoshvili Str. November 14 SOUNDWAVE Live sessionsElectronic Hip-Hop, Alternative Rock band Killages Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 123a Agmashenebeli Ave. November 12 Concert with Arno Bornkamp, Asya Fateyeva, Nobuya Sugawa (saxophone) and Minako Koyanagi (piano). Program: Bach, Hindemith, Shor, Borne, Piazzolla, Yoshimatsu and Khachaturian. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebli Ave. November 12 JAM SESSION- Improv played by different Georgian and foreign musicians and instrumentalists. Musical art director- Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 5 GEL ALIBI ARENA Upper Ponichala November 9 HALLOWEEN HORROR FEST Line Up: Band Outsider (Robi Kukhianidze), Erekle Deisadze, Bedford Falls Electronic Music Stage: Kote Japaridze, Modular Synth Affection, Abo Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 20 GEL SOUNDS OF GEORGIA November 9 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, a mix of traditional Georgian music of different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, and Georgian pop and city songs every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 24 GEL Venue: New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’




Misha Avsajanishvili Judges the First Bocuse D’Or National Competition EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE

doesn’t require too many years, now that we’re here. Our chefs will travel abroad and learn new techniques and in very little time we’ll reach a very high quality.




I attended the last Bocuse d’Or. The contestants there have six months to prepare for the contest. During this time, the teams prepare the same meal every day. Can you imagine that? That means that it takes them just seconds to make and decide. Our Georgian contestants had very little time to prepare for the competition. Considering this, the potential that we have seen here is astounding. I came across difficult preparation techniques that I had no idea were known in Georgia. Our expectations will be much higher for the next National Competition of Bocuse d’Or Georgia.”

We partly have their support, which is important, but not enough if we’re looking for development in this field. The Ministry of Agriculture supported us to make the first National Competition of Bocuse d’Or happen. In the countries that have competed at the Bocuse d’Or for years, the State pretty much organizes their national competitions- Spain, for example. This culture has to improve in Georgia. This year it was Levan [editor- SURNAME?] going door by the door asking for funds. With our limited funds, the organizing team achieved tremendous success.”

isha Avsajanishvili is a Georgian chef working in Ukraine and the brand chef in 12 restaurants, a member of the Ukrainian Chefs Association, Associate Referee of the Culinary Championships, and a jury member of the culinary competition Kitchen Wars. Misha was also a jury member of the First National Contest of Bocuse d’Or Georgia that took place in ExpoGeorgia this past weekend. In an exclusive interview with GEORGIA TODAY, the renowned chef talks about the significance and successes of the first-ever Bocuse d’Or Georgia. “I was so pleasantly surprised with the quality we saw on the first day of Bocuse d’Or Georgia that when they served the first composition and I took a bite of it, I even teared up a little bit! I just couldn’t believe that this was happening in Georgia. I have been following the Bocuse d’Or contests since I was little, it is something like the Oscars ceremony for the people working in the field of gastronomy.”

HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE THE QUALITY OF THE DISHES PRESENTED? The quality was very satisfying. How the contestants would respond to the world standards of Bocuse d’Or was not the biggest issue this year, though. Nothing comes out ideal on a first try. The most important factor for this year’s competition is that Georgia has made the first steps. This precedent means that in a few years, Georgia will be on the world market of gastronomy. That

DURING THE FIRST DAY OF THE CONTEST, WERE THE CONTESTANTS EQUAL IN THEIR CAPACITIES? WAS IT HARD TO DECIDE AMONG THEM, AND DID YOU HAVE A FAVORITE? The contestants were pretty equal in their capacities and potentials. It was hard to score their works. It was hard for me because I wanted to write the relevant mark for each component so that even to myself I could give arguments as to why I scored it this way and not in any other. All the jury members, I’m sure, had the same conflict. We took our time to evaluate the food. As per rules, we didn’t tell each other what marks we gave for the different compositions, so we didn’t know if our favorites were general favorites. But I can tell you that my favorite from the first day of the

it, of course, costs a great deal of money. If the country wants to develop, and develop this field of gastronomy in particular, it should be ready to fund this mentoring process.

contest came second in the competition!

DID YOU WATCH THE 5.5 HOUR-LONG PREPARATION PROCESS? DID YOU HAVE ANY CRITICAL REMARKS THERE? I followed the preparation process carefully. It wasn’t ideal and there were some mistakes but their results were very good. As I said before, the techniques they used to prepare the meat and garnishes were complicated and I was surprised to find the contestants were accustomed to them. Overall, I am very satisfied with their final works.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE WORK AND BACKGROUND OF THE CHEFS’ MENTORS? I believe that the mentors for the chefs need to have some Bocuse d’Or experience. Either they have to have competed at the Bocuse d’Or themselves or to have coached a team for the contest. This is the usual process for Bocuse d’Or and

OVERALL… Overall, there’s still some clichés and stereotypes in the field of gastronomy in Georgia, not only from the public but from those who are employed in the field. These clichés say that Georgia is a country of only khinkali and fast food… This contest, despite Georgia not having the best quality meat considering its climate and ranchland, gave results that prove that Georgia is so much more than that – we have the potential to be on the world market. I work in Ukraine, and even my international, Ukrainian colleagues were astonished by the quality of the compositions. When I uploaded the pictures on my social media of the prepared food from the contest they replied to me, saying they were impressed with the works. What they don’t know is that the con-

testants had two weeks, some even one, to get ready for the competition. We had the international members in the jury, and they were in complete shock. To achieve so much in such a short period and with so few resources - it’s not just that we have potential, we’ll soon be on the world market.

WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FOR THE FUTURE IN THE FIELD OF GASTRONOMY? Our future is completely dependant on the sponsors. Where we go from here depends on the funding. I would like to address and encourage our government and representatives of the private sector to invest in this field as we have great potential, and Bocuse d’Or stands as proof of that. What they have to realize is that if they want our country to develop, they need to fund the development of the field of gastronomy. Our chefs need experienced mentors so they can study new techniques and represent Georgia at its best in Tallinn in May 2020.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR YOU IN CUISINE? The sense of taste is the most important thing for a chef. This means that when you’re cooking and you taste what you’ve made, you need to be able to tell what exactly and how much of it your dish is lacking. This is something one cannot learn – everything else is teachable.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT OUR WINNER? DOES HE HAVE THAT SENSE OF TASTE? Very complicated techniques were used to prepare the dish that won the National Competition. As far as ideal things go, the winning composition was a masterpiece and pretty much ideal for the reality of Georgia.

9x9: The Exhibition of Georgian Artists in Berlin

Image source: e-mergingartists.blogspot.com



rom November 1 to 10, an allGeorgian exhibition will be taking place in Berlin. The nine talented and promising Georgian artists will present the works that they have created specifically for this exhibition. Co-curated by Lily Fürstenow, the 9x9 Georgians in the Berlin exhibition presents the following artists: Marika Khidirbegishvili; Vakho Kehlashvili (Vaho Helashvili); Maya Gamjashvili; Ia Arsenishvili; Tinatin Kobakhidze; Kakha Chkhataraishvili… Marika Khidirbegishvili’s street scenes and landscapes continue the tradition of Georgian painting where the social

realism influences merge with free imagination and literary motives like Lermontov's boat drifting in lonely waters, hunters in the autumn fields, or town celebration gatherings... The watercolors and drawings by Vaho Helashvili are executed with calligraphic precision that reveals attention to detail combined with exquisite taste for color. His cityscapes are partly figments of imagination ushering us into the artist's ideal utopian sites; on the other hand, these might serve as blueprints for cities of the future. Being an architect, Vaho uses his profession to give deep context to his artworks. Geometric architectural forms reinterpret the modernist avantguard tradition in his paintings in an attempt to fuse spirituality and utopian urban visions. What the artist tries to



Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Sesili Tikaradze



Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

convey are the utopian spaces of formal harmony that never exist. Highly symbolic, the formal language of Maya Gamjashvili's works analyses subtle changes of mood through unusual color combinations. Thick layers of pigment on the canvas surface abounding in reds, blues, and pastel tones evoke extraordinary spirituality, exhilarated emotional states that are compositionally intensified by fairy-tale-like floating organic forms. Angelic creatures and religious symbolism in Maya Gamjashvili's works are influenced by centuriesold Georgian tradition of Byzantine frescoes and iconographic painting as well as the still vivid tradition of social realism in the choice of female and animal motives. Ia Arsenishvili's landscapes are picturesque, full of bold greens, energetic blue, and red tones. The artist renders natural environments with meticulous brushwork underlying small details with love and care. The artist's favorite motives are common-looking meadows, woods, tree and flower motives looking at times commonplace yet unusually fresh. The intensity of colors adds particular vigor to the works whereas the forms, organic lines, and curves are rendered with masterful brushwork. Likewise, Ia Arsnishvili's cityscapes of Old Tbilisi, Georgia's capital are immediately recognizable yet highly evocative. Energy, excitement freeing painting from its academic studio constraints is characteristic of the works by Tinatin Kobakhidze. Bright reds and yellows are opposed here to cold dark grey

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Beka Alexishvili, Tea Mariamidze, Ana Dumbadze, Nini Dakhundaridze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

backgrounds creating vivid contrasts. Female silhouettes are rendered in a poetic yet primitivist manner reminding of the motives from the famous works by world-renowned Georgian painter Pirosmani from the beginning of the 20thcentury. Kakha Chkhataraishvili'sportraits are full of deep psychological tensions. The lines and silhouettes are compositionally well thought. The portraits have dramatic vigor intensified by the artist's attention to detail and signature style. The flowing figures, refined silhouettes, and faces render a variety of character moods from real-life protagonists as well as mythological characters from Georgian historical and literary epos.

Website Manager/Editor: Katie Ruth Davies Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava

Exquisite colors, sublime palette and a wide diversity of motives from portraiture to city views and landscapes that are rendered with equally high merit are characteristic for Maia Samchkuashvili'soeuvre. Her ornamental treatment of portraits renders the works exceptional beauty. The fabric of the canvasses is complex and impressive. The colors are carefully matched creating inner harmony and tranquility. Her city views are timeless yet immediately recognizable for anyone who's acquainted with Georgian countryside with its typical rural charms and small-town architecture. The exhibition of Georgian artists in Berlin will be open for the public through November 10.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1201  

November 8 - 11, 2019

Issue #1201  

November 8 - 11, 2019