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Issue no: 1073

• AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Patriarch Condemns Marijuana Legalization NEWS PAGE 2

The West, Georgia & Religion – as Seen by a Scholarly Nun POLITICS PAGE 4

Kaladze’s Weekly Priorities: Remembering the War, New Bus Tender Awarded, Robert Sturua

From the campaign #checkinsamachablo. Source: marketer.ge

FOCUS

ON THE AUGUST WAR A look at the conflict, past and present

POLITICS PAGE 6

August 2008 War: Consequences of a Blitzkrieg POLITICS PAGE 9

The Good Russian: Victor Erofeyev on the August War, Abkhazia, Stalin and More EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

Georgia Ranked 102nd in Global Peace Index 2018

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POLITICS PAGE 9

ictor Erofeyev, one of Russia’s most prominent writers and thinkers, has a busy schedule. Shifting between Paris and Moscow, all the while writing modern bestsellers and remaining one of the few outspoken voices of reason in Russia, cannot be an easy task. Banned from publishing until 1988 in the Soviet Union, the former dissident author’s book ‘The Good Stalin’ was recently translated and published in Georgian by Intelekti publishing house – but the book was but one of the few subjects the celebrated author talked us through as he sat with GEORGIA TODAY for an exclusive interview for our Messages from Brussels series. Continued on page 8

sHEROes, a Book about Heroines of the 2008 August War, Launches in Tbilisi

CULTURE PAGE 15


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

Lithuanian Lawmakers Initiate Revision of Georgia-Russia 2008 Ceasefire Agreement BY THEA MORRISON

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n connection to the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Georgia-Russia War, members of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats have addressed the Foreign Minister of the country to assess the implementation of obligations of Russia taken under the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement. The MPs claim Russia undertook the obligations to withdraw its military forces to the pre-war position and to allow international observers to have access at the occupied territories of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They noted these obligations have not been fulfilled. “There has been a violation of international law, creeping occupation continues and there are cases of ethnic cleansing, including persecution and imprisonment of people. Despite war and occupation, the international community has not given a proper answer,” the Lithuanian MPs’ statement reads. They claim that two months after the war, the international community forgot the Russian offense and chose to ignore the fact that Russia had been preparing for more than two years for the attack against Georgia. “This inert assessment of the world encouraged Russia to take further steps,” the MPs claim, insisting that the sanctions against the Russian Federation need to be discussed. “We call on the Foreign Minister of Lithuania to appeal to the international institutions and raise the issue of sanctions,” the MPs said. Georgian presidential candidate and one of the leaders of the parliamentary minority European Georgia, David Bakradze, believes that the Government

of Georgia should timely respond to the statement of the Lithuanian MPs, "a very important statement made by Georgia’s friends." Bakradze says that the Georgian Parliament and the Foreign Ministry should start working with the Lithuanian side, and highlights that this is the first case of an EU member state initiating an imposition of sanctions on Russia for occupying Georgia. “This is very important, and I want to express my hope that the Government of Georgia will work adequately with Lithuania and the EU on this issue," Bakradze said. The Georgia-Russia six-point ceasefire agreement, formalized by the United Nations Security Council, was mediated by then-French President and EU Head Nicolas Sarkozy after he met then-President of Russia, Dimitry Medvedev on August 12, 2008, five days after the military conflict between Georgia and Russia. The six principles of the agreement are: 1. No recourse to the use of force; 2. Definitive cessation of hostilities; 3. Free access to humanitarian aid (and to allow the return of refugees); 4. Georgian military forces must withdraw to their normal bases of encampment; 5. Russian military forces must withdraw to the lines prior to the start of hostilities. While awaiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures (six months); 6. Opening of international discussions on the modalities of lasting security in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (based on the decisions of the UN and the OSCE). The Georgian side fulfilled all its undertaken obligations, unlike Russia, whose forces still remain in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia where no international monitoring missions are allowed to work.

Presidential Candidate Zurabishvili Claims Georgia Started August 2008 War BY THEA MORRISON

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alome Zurabishvili, an independent presidential candidate who will likely be supported by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party in the race, has accused her own country of starting the war against the Russian Federation in August 2008. The candidate made the statement after nominating herself a presidential candidate on a visit to the Mukhatgverdi Brothers Cemetery to pay tribute to the fallen heroes on the 10th anniversary of the war that left 20% of Georgian territories occupied by the Russian Federation. Standing at the graves of the soldiers, the candidate accused then President Mikheil Saakashvili of following the provocation of Russia, which located its forces in occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia in early August 2008. “Starting the war was the whim of a crazy president who ordered the bombing of his own population. He started the war!” Zurabishvili stated. Her statements were followed by criticism from politicians and citizens, who claim that Zurabishvili is repeating the Russian version of the story that Georgia broke onto the territory of an independent state [S. Ossetia] which served as the reason for responsive actions. Another presidential candidate, Nino Burjanadze, who is ex-PM and the leader

Image source: RFE/RL

of Russia-affiliated Democratic Movement-United Georgia, voiced the same position as Zurabishvili. According to Burjanadze, it is impossible to start negotiations with the Russian Federation and the de facto authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia unless Georgia admits it was Saakashvili who started the war and holds him responsible for his actions. “It would have been possible to avoid this war…Saakashvili thought that Russia would not dare to get involved in this war and that the US would protect us, but he was mistaken. This is my position,” Burjanadze said at the cemetery. Georgian Dream faction Chair Mamuka Mdinaradze said that the ruling party has not expressed its support to any presidential candidate, and that Zurabishvili’s statement is unacceptable. “The statement of any person that Georgia is an aggressor state and started

the August war is unacceptable for me,” he added. Thea Tsulukiani, Georgia’s Justice Minister, has not criticized Zurabishvili but stated that the Hague-based International Criminal Court, which authorized a probe into possible war crimes committed by Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian forces during the conflict, will soon declare that Russia is an occupant. “Our government and the ruling party have one position only: that it was Russia which started this war,” the Minister stressed. One of the leaders of the parliamentary minority European Georgia, Giga Bokeria, says that everyone connected with Putin is “a useful political idiot.” Member of the opposition party, the United National Movement, Salome Samadashvili, believes that if Zurabishvili becomes President, it will lead to international recognition of Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “independent states,” which was done in 2008 by Russia, and later by Nicaragua, Nauru, Venezuela and this year by Syria. “If people vote for Zurabishvili, it will signal that we are refusing to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity and unity,” she added. Salome Zurabishvili was an independent candidate in the 2016 parliamentary elections and the GD decided to withdraw their candidate in Mtatsminda region to help her win the seat in the legislative body.

#checkinsamachablo

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dvertising agency Kraken began a campaign on the 10th anniversary of the 2008 August War to raise awareness and to illustrate that there is no barrier to consciousness in the digital world. Since Georgians do not have the possibility to physically enter the breakaway territories occupied by Russia, Kraken has come up with a way to harness the power of social media to protest the Russian occupation, with people able to use the hashtag and “check in” to various villages throughout the occupied territories.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

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Patriarch Condemns Marijuana Legalization BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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his week, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, made a statement on the July 30 decision by the Georgian Constitutional Court that legalized the consumption of marijuana. During his Sunday sermon, the Patriarch (formally His Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II) said that those who pushed for drug legalization exercised hostility towards the nation. He also claimed that the decision was made under political pressure. “Recently, a great anxiety has arisen in Georgia – the use of drugs and marijuana has been legalized. This is a big mistake. We need to remember that the need for narcotics does not stop at one level, as time passes the human body requires more serious drugs and cannot take care of itself. We should remember that permission for drug consumption is hostility towards our nation. I am convinced that those who granted this permission for drug consumption do not agree with it themselves, but they are under pressure and were forced to make this decision. We must not forget that if we allow drugs, we should allow the drug trade and drug production. The main thing is that this will lead young people from neighboring countries to come [to Geor-

gia] and create a whole center of drugs. Therefore, I appeal to everyone, first of all our government, our intellectuals and our youth: take care of our homeland, take care of our children! I urge you once again – do not let our children die, do not allow this lawlessness. God has given you strength and wisdom,” the Patriarch preached. Immediately after the decision, Georgian Orthodox clerics spoke out against the judges, even calling for the complete abolition of the Constitutional Court. Archpriest Andria Jagmaidze made a statement on behalf of the Georgian Orthodox Church, saying the four judges of the Constitutional Court “had no right” to make such an important decision on behalf of 4 million Georgians. “The Constitutional Court is not a necessary attribute of a democratic state: the future of our children, students, and schoolchildren is based on the judgement of just four people,” he argued. Jagmaidze added that the Georgian Patriarchate plans to appeal to the Georgian government to abolish the Constitutional Court. Several clerics held a press-conference on August 1 echoing Jagmaidze’s statement. Priest David Nozadze called for a public referendum on marijuana legalization, “Let us ask our society what they prefer” he said, “These four judges should apologize for making such a decision.” Archpriest David Kvlividze took to calling names, claiming that people who consume marijuana are “sick” and saying, “This is an anti-national decision

Image source: Patriarchate of Georgia

and will actually destroy the nation.” Deputy Parliament Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili responded to the Georgian Orthodox clerics, saying "We have the right to like something or not but talks about the abolition of the Court are absolutely inappropriate.” Some clerics, however, defended the Constitutional Court as a necessary component of the Georgian state, saying its abolition would be a mistake. Zurab Japaridze and Vakhtang Megrelishvili, representatives of the political party Girchi, brought the case to the Constitutional Court that resulted in the legalization. The Court reasoned that permission to consume marijuana protects a person's right to free development, while prohibiting consumption is an action directed against its turnover, while the role of an individual user in the support of marijuana circulation is very small, and consequently the threats from individual consumption are likewise small. After the decision, Japaridze called Georgia “a freer country.” In his Christmas sermon this January, the Patriarch called for a more effective, tolerant drug policy in Georgia. After consumption of marijuana was decriminalized in November 2017, the Patriarch urged Georgians to be more compassionate towards drug addicts, and called on the Georgian government "to work out new drug policies that would prevent young people from using drugs and create a negative attitude towards that dire disease."


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

Propaganda as a Weapon BY SHAWN WAYNE

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n 1991, when Georgia declared independence as the Soviet Union fell apart, a war between Georgia and separatists left parts of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast under the de facto control of Russian-backed but internationally unrecognized separatists, with a similar situation developing in the region of Abkhazia. Then, in 2000, when Putin rose to power, and with Georgia having a pro-Western outlook, tension between Russia and Georgia began to grow. By August 2008, pro-Russian separatists had begun shelling Georgian villages, breaking a 1992 ceasefire agreement. To put an end to these attacks and restore order, the Georgian Army was sent to the breakaway region conflict zone on 7 August and took control of most of Tskhinvali. Russian troops then crossed the Russo-Georgian state border and advanced into the South Ossetian conflict zone. Russia joined the fight with the separatists against the Georgian military with the pretext of peace enforcement, blaming Georgia for the aggression. After several days, the Georgian forces retreated, after which Russia proceeded to target and destroy undisputed parts of Georgia, setting in motion an ethnic cleansing of Georgians. Russia withdrew from undisputed parts of Georgia, yet occupied and recognized the independence of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, leaving Russia's international relations largely unharmed.

WHY DID ALL THIS HAPPEN, AND HOW? First of all, Transcaucasia lies between the Russian region of the North Caucasus and the Middle East, the strategic importance of the region making it a target for Russia. Significant economic advantages, such as the presence or transportation of oil, also affect interest in Transcaucasia. In addition, occupying Transcaucasia would ultimately allow Russia to manage Western involvement in Central Asia. The Russians knew this even before the 2008 War.

Image source: thehill.com

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili stated on 7 August 2018 that Russia had attempted to split Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Georgia decades before the South Ossetian conflict.

SO WHY IS THERE STILL TENSION AFTER 10 YEARS? Georgia has reached a critical point in time, economically and culturally. At this point, the nation is also very sensitive and vulnerable. Like a growing child, it needs proper guidance and trusting relationships. Georgia has been gaining attention worldwide, and with EU-Georgia relations becoming increasingly positive, Putin has been losing his grip in Georgia. With NATO membership getting closer, he will soon lose his chance to gain a strategic advantage against the West. What options does he have left in order not to lose such a pre-

cious chance at strategic advantage? Propaganda. The Georgian President knows this and stated the following: “The background of Russia’s decisions differs from the speculations used by Russian propaganda, which try to connect what happened in 2008 to NATO or the European Union. These decisions were fuelled by Georgia’s attempt to become a sovereign and independent country, by Georgia’s decision to rule its own destiny,” Giorgi Margvelashvili stated. Propaganda, if used correctly, can be a powerful weapon of war, as we learned in WWII; Putin knows this and has been utilizing it for years. This is evident in a poll done by independent company Levada Center, which shows us that 34% of polled Russians who are familiar with the conflict said they hold the Georgian leadership liable, and 24% of the respondents accusing the United States and

NATO of starting the war. Only 8% of respondents named Russia the aggressor in the war, the majority believing Russia did its utmost to avoid bloodshed. A staggering 18% of Levada’s poll respondents stated that they were hearing about the war for the first time, while overall 56% said they had simply “heard something about it”. This poll was done in July this year. Lev Gudkov, head of Levada, stated that this is all due to the fact that after the conflict ended, the media was severely restricted from broadcasting any information about Georgia, either negative or positive. Gudkov argued that anti-Georgian propaganda and a lack of post-war news from Georgia shaped public opinion today, and he’s right. Propaganda used correctly can be both the rise of an empire or the demise of one. As recent as 8 August 2018, Russia’s biggest rock festival was boycotted by musicians due to the fact that the Ministry of Defense had a massive presence there. When using propaganda as a weapon, you want exposure to be at a maximum level; you want to saturate your audience so that they cannot look away even if they want to. This completely backfired however, as military hardware was on display to the 200,000 music fans at the Nashestviye festival, with some artists calling the show a propaganda stunt. Putin wants the strategic advantage and he is getting desperate to obtain it, threatening Georgia and the US, stating that there will be dire consequences to NATO membership for Georgia, ultimately justifying it by saying it is a security risk. Georgia’s membership in NATO would indeed be a huge security risk for Russia, if its leader’s objective is to occupy the whole Transcaucasia. Propaganda, if used correctly, is a malicious and downright insidious way of twisting and perverting the human right to freedom of speech; however, it will be the downfall of Russia. People will soon realize that what they see and hear is only a husk of the reality; reality that has been manipulated by one man’s objective of gaining more power, and that truth will reign supreme.

The West, Georgia & Religion – as Seen by a Scholarly Nun the West really devoid of spirituality? Does Georgia’s European aspirations pose a danger to the Church and the religious? These were the two pivotal questions that GEORGIA TODAY posed to Professor Sandra Schott during an exclusive interview in Brussels. Mrs. Schott is not just another scholar – born Catholic, she converted to Orthodoxy during a tumultuous period that she spent in the Balkans in the late 90s, and remains a serving nun to this day. Professor Schott is also one of the founders and driving forces behind the European Alliance for Georgia, courtesy of which we have been presenting you our Message from Brussels series. Knowledgeable of the spiritual stances at either side of the great East-West religious divide, she was keen to offer her comparative analysis on the matter.

THE RELIGIOUS EURO-SKEPTIC WING OFTEN ALLUDES TO THERE BEING NO SPIRITUALITY LEFT IN EUROPE. DO YOU CONSIDER THE STATEMENT TRUE?

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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recent study found out that in only two countries, Georgia being one and Ghana the other, the young are more religious than the old. This further reinforced the already obvious truth that religion plays a huge role in Georgia, just as it has throughout the centuries. With the Church being the country’s most trusted institution and the Patriarch’s approval rating invariably sky-high, it’s little wonder that foreign dignitaries, EU diplomats chief among them, often come to pay homage and learn the Church’s perspective on things going on in and around the country. Georgia’s EU aspirations are no exception, especially given the fact that religion often comes up as one of the shielding points for the Euroskeptics who claim that approximation with Europe and the West will mean the need to give up religious and so-called traditional values, vague as that term might be. Is

I would consider it as somewhat true because we come from a historical background that is still a little bit confused. This doesn't mean the West is totally removed from spirituality, but it means that it’s more distanced from certain types of spirituality, such as keeping the mystery of faith a mystery and not trying to define that which we do not know. I see Western society as being quite humble when it comes to understanding the faith not from a perspective of pure logic.

THE SAME SKEPTICS INSIST THAT “LIKE THE WEST,” GEORGIA TOO WILL LOSE ITS FAITH IF IT REMAINS ON ITS EUROPEAN PATH I understand the logic, I understand why it happens and I think it’s partly true. If Western society doesn’t solve the spiritual issue, it will hit a crisis point. While there are people in the West on a continual search to find or re-discover purpose and spirituality, there are also people on the other end of spiritual evolution, people who I’d say have gone out of their minds and disregard spirituality altogether. Continued on page 7


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

10 Years on: the Geopolitics of the Georgia-Russia Conflict BY EMIL AVDALIANI

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ugust 8 marks the tenth anniversary of the 2008 Georgia-Russia War. The conflict ushered in a difficult period in West-Russia relations when Russia was suggested for expulsion from the G8 and general contacts between Europe/US and Moscow became strained. It was missed at the time that the root of the conflict was not so much around the so-called South Ossetia, but rather in EU’s enlargement into Russia’s borderlands. The EU and NATO’s expansion into Eastern and Central Europe from the late 1990s strengthened Western influence in the former Soviet periphery while undermining the very basis of Russian power. The catalyzer of this process was the West's recognition of Kosovo's independence from Serbia, a traditional ally of Russia, in early 2008. Georgia, which under the Mikheil Saakashvili government became firmly entrenched with the West, served as the perfect setting for Russia's response. For the EU, the conflict was a setback, as Georgia’s hopes for EU/NATO mem-

bership were further postponed. On a larger scale, the Western influence in the South Caucasus was shaken and the regional geopolitics was altered by the Russians as a result of the war.

RUSSIA’S VIEW The Russian foreign policy towards Georgia is based purely on geopolitical calculations. It is not even about grabbing additional Georgian land per se, as many analysts and politicians seem to think. The stationing of Russian military forces in Abkhazia and Samachablo (South Ossetia) since 2008, and the effective occupation of those regions, still serves a number of military and security goals. The primary reason for the August War was to finally get hold of the vitally important Roki Pass and Abkhazian seashore. Both these routes directly connect Georgia’s territories with the Russian mainland. Without control over Abkhazia and Samachablo, Moscow would have been shut off from processes in the South Caucasus. Yet another significance of the breakaway regions for the Russians has been to keep their troops as close as possible to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. This has been done in order to constantly

have any Georgian government under pressure by ramping up or cooling military activities in the breakaway regions. Georgia will always be interesting to Moscow due to its geographical position in the South Caucasus. And it is not only about barring Tbilisi from joining NATO or the EU. Russia’s goal historically has been to minimize the importance of the Caucasus mountain range as a barrier between the South Caucasus and the Russian mainland. From a geopolitical perspective, an insecure, destabilized South Caucasus would be a serious problem for Moscow as it could spill over into the North Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan etc.). But, in a longer-term view, it would be more problematic for Moscow if the South Caucasus countries built powerful state structures and became pro-western. It is exactly for these reasons that the Russians have been threatening the road, pipeline and railway infrastructure running from east Georgia to the Black Sea shore and vital to the entire region. In Moscow’s thinking, an unstable South Caucasus full of Russian troops (as is the case in our time) is what would limit, if not entirely preclude, Georgia from joining western political or military alliances.

This would also mean that in the event of a government change in Moscow, it is very unlikely that there would be a change in Russian foreign policy towards the South Caucasus. It is in Russia’s vital interests to keep Georgia at least very weak and unstable. On the opposite side, the loss of Georgia to the West would mean a rapid decrease in Russian power with much wider ramifications for the entire former Soviet space. A “Russiafree” Georgia is a nightmare for Moscow as the Kremlin would then be less able to pressure Azerbaijan, which exports its gas and oil through Georgia. Moreover, the Caspian energy corridor would again see its relevance and Central Asian gas could reach Europe. From the Russian perspective, a Georgia associated with the western alliances will also be a negative example for Moscow’s ally Armenia. The latter is already experiencing an ongoing quiet revolution with arrests and a fight against corruption, where Russian obligations to the country are questioned and even generally the pro-Russian foreign policy course is criticized. Moscow fears that Armenia

might follow Georgia and Ukraine’s path. This scenario exists in the minds of the Kremliners and is already leading to some conclusions that trouble might be in sight for Russian influence in Armenia. The Georgia-Russia War of 2008 was the culmination of a long process of detaching Georgia from the Russian sphere of influence. To be sure, Moscow still has a long list of tools to use to exert its power on Georgia, but the war nevertheless made hundreds of thousands of Georgians skeptical about any future cooperation with the country. The recognition of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia by Moscow virtually stripped the Kremlin of the last resort to persuade Tbilisi to withhold from its pro-western-aspirations. Nowadays, many Georgians believe that the country no longer has much to lose as it has already suffered enough from its northern neighbor. This matters in geopolitics. This unanimity creates an understanding that rapprochement with Russia is almost impossible in the foreseeable future.

Kaladze’s Weekly Priorities: Remembering the War, New Bus Tender Awarded, Robert Sturua BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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bilisi’s municipal government held its weekly meeting at Tbilisi City Hall on Wednesday, opening with a minute of silence in memory of those who lost their lives and homes during the 2008 August War 10 years ago this week. Before turning to municipal business, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze remarked on the tragic events of the August 2008 War, which he called “the most tragic even of our country’s recent history.” “Tragic in its consequences, scale, and undertaking, the country has not yet been able to cope with the aftermath, and of course, will not be able to until Georgia's final reunification. More than two decades have passed since the first

large-scale military intervention and aggression by the Russian Federation, which killed many people, including civilians. A new stream of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in our homeland has emerged, who have not lost hope for peaceful coexistence with Abkhazian and Ossetian citizens,” said Kaladze. Leading into the minute of silence, Kaladze said, “The enemy is strong, but the desire to unite the country is stronger. Nothing can destroy our belief in unity. This war, together with the greatest tragedy and pain, reflects heroism and devotion. It is our duty to immortalize these people.” The first item on the regular agenda was to announce that the tender for the procurement of new buses had been awarded to Tegeta Truck and Bus. For a total of 45 million GEL ($18 mil), the company will deliver 90 new public

buses to the capital within nine months of the contract’s conclusion. Kaladze explained, "I have repeatedly said that upgrading public transport is very important and one of the main priorities of our team. A few days ago, we presented our transport policy, a vision of what will be done over the next few years. You know that in 20182019, the buses will be fully renovated and yellow buses will be completely replaced, as they are a serious discomfort for the city and for passengers.” Kaladze then emphasized the ongoing infrastructural projects in the city, including the newly begun construction of a two-pronged highway overpass beginning at the crossing of Marshall Gelovani Avenue and Sarajishvili Street. The project is designed to significantly unload traffic in the Vashlijvari area and increase traffic flow between the Saburtalo and Dighomi districts. Road construction work is planned to last six months and cost approximately 4.5 million GEL ($1.8 mil), allocated from Tbilisi’s city budget. Roadwork will continue

24/7, and Kaladze apologized to Tbilisi residents for the discomfort the construction may cause. The Mayor praised the efforts of the Urban Development Service. Created in April, the Urban Development Service was inundated with a backlog of nearly 800 applications and the workforce of the division could not keep up. "Last week, the Urban Development Service completed work on all overdue and ongoing applications...This service is vital in ensuring that overdue permits are no longer an issue for the construction sector. The companies had to wait for months, causing serious discomfort. This is also bad for the economy, as construction is one of the main reasons for economic growth. We will give maximum support from our side to ensure the proper urban development of the city,” said Kaladze. Three weeks ago, the Service had a remaining backlog of 200 applications. The Mayor also announced that 42 vehicles belonging to City Hall have been removed from the fleet for failure

to meet technical requirements, and there is a plan to replace them with new, ecologically clean vehicles. "From July 1, state and municipal transport vehicles became subject to compulsory technical examinations...On my instruction, all City Hall’s vehicles were checked,” said Kaladze. He previously said that of the more than 500,000 cars in the city, more than 50% of them are in critical condition. The new regulations on emissions will come into force for private vehicles on January 1, 2019 and “will help to improve existing environmental conditions,” Kaladze promised. Finally, Georgian director and playwright Robert Sturua was congratulated on his 80th birthday. "I want to congratulate you on this date with great love and respect. I wish you health and longevity...the capital city is fortunate to have distinct people, whose activities and creations have made the city's dayto-day life special and exciting,” Kaladze said as he presented Sturua with a certificate of contribution to the development of Georgian culture.

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

7

On Paying for a President OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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ctober will see us Georgians standing in the iconic poll-box wondering who to choose for President. A crucial moment, you might think, but no, not really. It will, in fact, be a waste of time because who really needs a president with such governing impotence as the position now boasts? This election is going to be the last straight-vote presidential election in Georgia. The next will be the choice of Parliament. The position of President is so squeezed in this country that s/he exists purely for constitutional reasons, not functional. Let us at least have him or her function-

ally restricted to a reasonable point both inside and outside the country, not stuck somewhere in the middle. Either the President is a working figure or totally out of any business that this nation is into. The British Sovereign also holds a ceremonial position, but the kings and queens of Albion at least use that for a budgetary advantage thanks to the tourism the monarchy generates. Could we imagine for a second that Georgia’s President has an ability to boost sightseeing in the country? This is one of the disadvantages of the Parliamentary Republic which Georgia is called today. We are sometimes mentioned as a Semi-Parliamentary Republic, which is even harder to understand, and years pass as we try to organize Georgia into a real state, subject to a trade-off between the top geopolitical decision-makers of the world.

Not alluding to any specific personality, the powerless Georgian President, as ineffective as s/he actually is, has enough budget, time and authority to travel around the world at the expense of the State, having no realistic force or way to promote the Georgian cause or move the country forward. Inside the country, the President’s position is even weaker. Meanwhile, the Georgian taxpayer has to support the governmental position, paying out for an irrelevant election, a luxurious presidential residence, idle staff, futile travel expenses and untargeted overhead. Doesn’t this sound preposterous? And there is no way out because the Constitution that maintains the current presidential status has already been written, rewritten and approved. The preference in the document is given to a Parliamentary Repub-

lic, which holds the Prime Minister responsible for the Republic’s good and bad, not the President, and the President continues enjoying life with a light heart and an unburdened back at the expense of our toil. But the oil is already in the fire and whether we want it or not, we have to take the heat. We will soon have a new President who will continue working as an additional and not very much wanted branch of government, and we the governed will continue living, working and politicking in the same old way.

The West, Georgia & Religion – as Seen by a Scholarly Nun Continued from page 4

HAD I POSED THE SAME QUESTION TO A EUROPEAN POLITICIAN, I'M PRETTY SURE THE ANSWER WOULD BE RELATED TO HUMAN RIGHTS ROOTED IN CHRISTIAN VALUES. MIGHT WE BE HEADING TO A STAGE WHERE THE HUMAN RIGHTS CONCEPT REPLACES SPIRITUALITY? It cannot replace it. We have a philosophical school of thought active today which dates from the 16th century called humanism, but humanism is not Christian spirituality and we are mixing it up. For me, human rights are a product of humanism, not a product of Christianity. But then again, Christianity is much more developed when it comes to the ques-

tion of human rights, say in the sense of the question of the balance between Man and the way to God.

Church being too submissive to politicians. In the Byzantine world, it was a different setting.

BUT THE HUMAN RIGHTS CONCEPT SEEKS TO REMOVE GOD FROM THE EQUATION, PLACING HUMANS AS FREE AND RIGHT-THINKING WITHOUT NEED OF HIGHER GUIDANCE

THE GEORGIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND STATE ARE SEEN AS ALMOST EQUAL PARTNERS, WHILE IN THE WEST, CHURCHES ARE SEEN AS SUBSERVIENT TO THE STATE.

In the West, humanism has become, let’s say, the base of the loop and this now tries to erase the origin even of humanism and adjust itself to the political needs of the current world order, which is very dangerous. It comes from the fact that the Church is disconnected politically from society, it’s no longer a bridge between people and the State. This originates in the past with the Western

True, and this is why when a church somewhere gets a bit of influence, the people start demanding it be curtailed. If the Church does not interfere and influence the affairs of the State, there should be no problem with it having an influence.

HOW ABOUT THE CHURCH BECOMING TOO POWERFUL AND NOT SUBSERVIENT TO THE

STATE BUT A SUBSTITUTE TO IT? This would mean the state is not strong enough and that the responsibilities are not being carried out correctly, leaving people restless and seeking change.

YOU’RE NOT A GREAT FAN OF SECULARISM, THEN? No. But I don't think that it's the role of the Church to speak about the things they shouldn’t. If you want the Church to be responsible for everything in society, then it at least needs to be efficient and know and engage in the things that need to be engaged in in today's world. This means understanding the trends, trying to see what is happening and also giving knowledgeable and relevant opinions. Not being adapted to the situation and remaining stuck in traditionalism would not work in this instance.

WHAT ROLE CAN RELIGION PLAY IN GEORGIA WHEN IT COMES TO THE COUNTRY'S EUROPEAN ASPIRATIONS? The Church is doing and will do a lot of good just by discussing the matter with the people; by continuing to help maintain the dialogue. I’m concerned that the dialogue might still not be strong enough because Georgia had to fight so hard for its religious freedom in the form of direct confrontation that it might prove difficult to communicate the same goals without a fight, continuing to construct communication without entering any kind of war.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

The Good Russian: Victor Erofeyev on the August War, Abkhazia, Stalin and More Continued from page 1

TEN YEARS ON, HOW YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENED IN 2008? It started earlier than 10 years ago- it started way back with Abkhazia in the 90s. It was the “throes of the Empire” of the former Soviet Union, striving to engineer its own rebirth. And this is very evident in the belligerent speeches of people like Zhirinovsky and his party. I stand for European values and a European way for Russia: this is the only thing that can lead my country to becoming a modern state, with normal relations and mutual understanding with its neighbors. Georgia has stood for these values since becoming independent in the 90s, while Yeltsin’s Russia opted for imperial values and never looked back. The tragic and painful Abkhazian War was undoubtedly a part of Russia’s imperial policy too. Your beautiful country has all rights to be free, to make its own choices, but at the same time, considering the uneasy and mighty neighbor up North, you need to be reasonable in what you do – you need to be aware that the European values you share with the rest of the Western world clash with what Russia stands for, imperial values borne out of an archaic way of thought. Unfortunately, for many in the West, this remains a vague notion – that Russia adhered to a policy of expansion as a means to survival. Countries from the former Soviet Union are much more aware of what the bells toll for in the Kremlin.

YOU ARE IN THE MINORITY OF RUSSIAN PEOPLE WHO DOESN’T SHARE

THE RUSSIAN NARRATIVE THAT IT WAS GEORGIA WHO STARTED THE WAR

ply of victims, and he might start running out of those. It’s all rooted in our mentality, which hasn’t adapted to modern realities but still rests on archaic thinking.

Source: odessaclassics.com

It’s hard to imagine that a small country like Georgia would decide to wage war against a huge country geared up with every kind of arms and weaponry, including nuclear bombs, so I don’t even want to argue whether there was a realistic possibility that Georgia would attack Russia. What’s next – Estonia attacking Russia and seizing Moscow? This is yet another page from Russia’s imperial narrative.

MANY MAINTAIN THE 2008 WAR WAS A PREEMPTIVE STRIKE BY THE KREMLIN TO PREVENT NATO EXPANSION AND TO CREATE OBSTACLES ON GEORGIA’S EUROPEAN WAY. HOW DECISIVE A FACTOR WAS NATO AND THE EU? The reasons may have been many, but Russia harbors an almost mythical, primeval fear of NATO - not only militarily, but also the values that NATO stands for. Russia is terrified of its neighbors becoming NATO members, therefore pursues a strategy of seizing strips of land from them, knowing that NATO would be wary to admit a country with unstable state borders to its ranks. One hope is that sooner or later, NATO will reconsider this position, but Georgia needs to be very careful, very reasonable. It doesn’t have the luxury of not taking into account a gargantuan neighbor state with distinctly different ideas on what is right or wrong. It needs to pursue its own policy, stand up for its values, but at the same time understand that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it has the neighbors

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NOTION THAT THE AUGUST 2008 WAR WAS A WAR BETWEEN REGIMES AND POLITICIANS, NOT BETWEEN PEOPLE AND NATIONS?

it has. So, I’d rate for the reasonable political pragmatism of the Georgian leadership. They should understand that this might cause exacerbation of the fickle situation that we have now, and this was also echoed in recent comments made by Medvedev. I’d say be free and be wise.

YOU CALLED THE 2008 WAR “THE AUGUST OF OUR DISCONTENT,” PARAPHRASING STEINBECK’S FAMOUS NOVEL, AND STATED YOUR SURPRISE IT HAD HAPPENED AT ALL. WHY? I’d consider every war in our times unimaginable. War is a dreadful legacy of uncivilized times of the past. When it comes to high culture, Russia and Georgia always understood each other. In Soviet times, me and my older colleagues, the so-called Sixties (Shestidesiatniki) thought Georgia was one of the freest parts of the Union. From my time there, I saw that Georgia was developing its culture not according to what Moscow dictated, but along the lines of what the

high culture of Russia stood for back then: Akhmatova, Pasternak, Bulgakov and so on. These are the values that not only Russia and Georgia, but the whole world shares. So, how could there be a conflict between Russia and Georgia? When it comes to politics, I think Yeltsin made a huge mistake not siding with Georgia during the 90s territorial dispute. And I don’t think Putin’s Russia is going to reconsider this anytime soon. If, after him, a reasonable ruler shows up, we can hope for a positive decision, if not, it will go on…

COULD THINGS CHANGE FOR THE BETTER AFTER PUTIN? I don’t think it’s guaranteed. He might put up Kadyrov as his successor. Or Ragozin, or someone similar– he has no shortage of them. But if the next Tsar is sympathetic towards Europe, then yes, we might see a positive development. But I really wouldn’t bet on it. Putin’s policy of country-wide mobilization (mobilization is easier to carry out than modernization) requires a constant sup-

That’s a very difficult issue. You can’t unlock the Russian way of thinking easily – for example, there is a very strong impetus on friendship as a very important, core Russian value. Historically, simple folk in Russia have never had a political culture: there were the serfs and then there was a Boyar, a master, and the master was always right. If he was so wrong you could no longer close your eyes to it, then the master was murdered, and this was called “revolution.” Nobody voted for the Boyar; serfs weren’t supporters of his policies, they were just doing what they were told. That was the hierarchy. Putin saw that he doesn’t need to modernize the country to retain support, or to make it better – he just has to give them what they want and what they are used to. Georgia was the first example of this, and the people rejoiced, as they did in 2014: you tell them they violated international laws, but they wouldn’t even spit on it, because that’s how the imperial conscience works.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

9

August 2008 War: Consequences of a Blitzkrieg eorgia, Russia, Abkhazia and "South Ossetia", each bear a share of the responsibility in the outbreak of hostilities. But each has become a victim of it. Since 2008, all the August War belligerents have suffered from the bloody and destructive conflict. Let us take a look at the consequences.

G

Ossetia is going through another crisis: depopulation. The ethnic rivalry which was a problem before, leading to expropriations and insecurity, is no longer the number one issue. Many natives, Ossetian people, have migrated to North Ossetia which is an official part of the Russian Federation, there establishing new settlements in the historic territory of the Ingush. Tensions are expected. The so-called South Ossetia also remains insecure while Georgian citizens are kidnapped or attacked on a regular basis.

THE BREAKAWAY TSKHINVALI REGION

THE DE FACTO REPUBLIC OF ABKHAZIA

There is no doubt that so-called South Ossetia has been the main loser of the August War. According to George Mchedlishvili, an Academy Associate at the Chatam House think tank, the main consequences of the conflict have been the collapse of the economy. Now, the breakaway region mostly relies on financial support from Russia. However, the local population does not see any of that money, which is misappropriated though corruption while more than half the population lives on less than GEL 6 per day. The war was a recipe for economic disaster, but not only. So-called South

The situation is considerably more positive in the Abkhazia region. In terms of economy, the potential is high, as the territory is rich in natural resources and is well-located near the sea. Politically, contrary to “South Ossetia,” the political life is developed, and one can see an opposition and debates. The ethnic relations with Adigeys, Kabardins, and Circassian inside the de facto republic seem to be good, with the exception of the Georgian natives. Taking the positive situation into account, the de facto Republic does not desire to join the Russian Federation and expects recognition

BY ANTOINE DEWAEST

as a UN-member state in the coming years. This will never happen while the “authorities” discriminate and enforce laws against the Georgian people. A UN report said that as long as the 200,000 Georgians who were forced to flee are unable to return to their homes, any referendum will be considered illegal. The de facto republic is also facing a rural exodus from the Abkhaz-speaking countryside to cities, where Russian is mostly spoken.

THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION Russia showed that it could violate international law by invading other countries. The “support” to South Ossetia was beyond the limits of legality and Russia has shown itself a liar which thinks nothing of breaking official agreements. Perhaps the lack of international reactions ultimately encouraged Russia to do the same again in Ukraine and Crimea.

STATE-ADMINISTRATED GEORGIA Georgia has suffered from the 2008 August War regarding its international relations and domestic policy. First, the EU-backed report released in 2009 blamed Georgia for starting the five-day

Image source: wikipedia.org

war with Russia but said also that Moscow’s military response violated international law. This report may have affected Georgia's international relations and delayed EU negotiations somewhat, although the conflict turned the majority of Georgians away from Russia and towards the European Union, with whom the country signed an Association Agreement in 2014. The main consequences deal with domestic pol-

icy. “Because of discontent about how the war was handled, the Georgian leadership became far more intolerant towards any dissent, on the pretext they had to protect the security of the country (…) It weakened and pretty much eviscerated any political dialogue and opposition became marginalized (…) anyone who criticized Saakashvili’s government was accused of being a Russian agent,” said Mchedlishvili.

Georgia Ranked 102nd in Global Peace Index 2018 BY THEA MORRISON

G

eorgia has been ranked 102nd in the 12th edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness. Georgia has 2.13 points, which is a deterioration of 4 positions compared with

the previous year. With its score, Georgia is the fourth in the region, after Moldova, Kazakhstan and Belarus. According to the report, Georgia is one of the countries that had one of the worst ratings in 2008 and it has significantly improved in the last 10 years. The improvement of positions is linked to the stability of the business environment and political situation in the country. The GPI covers 99.7% of the world’s population, using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly

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respected sources, and measures the state of peace using three thematic

domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domes-

tic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarization. The results of the 2018 GPI find that the global level of peace has deteriorated by 0.27% in the last year, marking the fourth successive year of deteriorations. 92 countries deteriorated, while 71 countries improved. The 2018 GPI reveals a world in which the tensions, conflicts, and crises that emerged in the past decade remain unresolved, especially in the Mddle East, resulting in this gradual, sustained fall in peacefulness.

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10

POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

Russian Responses to 10th Anniversary of August 2008 War

Image source: Kommersant / Valeriy Melnikov

BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

T

his week marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 Georgia-Russia War. International media outlets and political figures have been commenting on what preceded the conflict, the events from August 7-12, 2008, and its aftermath, including the continued Russian borderization of the administrative boundary line in Georgia’s Tskhinvali region. Russian media and pundits have also marked the anniversary, with a significantly different perspective than Georgian and Western voices. On August 7, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was President during the 2008 Georgia-Russia War, gave an interview to Russian media outlet Kommersant. In the interview, he discussed why Russian tanks did not enter the Georgian capital, what Moscow gained by recognizing the claims of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and about what could provoke a new conflict in the region. The August 2008 War “was not inevitable,” said Medvedev, blaming the conflict on “the irresponsible, immoral, criminal conduct of Saakashvili and his minions...and given the fact that the head of Georgia at that time was such an unbalanced person in a psychological sense...there was simply no other option [but to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent]. Perhaps, if there had been a different leadership, it would have been possible to discuss something. But I am sure that different leadership simply would not have adopted such an ugly decision to attack the elderly and children, to attack Russian peacekeepers and, in fact, to declare war on the Russian Federation,” he said. Saakashvili responded in an interview yesterday with Ekho Moskvy Radio, when he said “Medvedev is a zero. I thought I was dealing with the Russian President and it turned out that he was nothing, just a nonentity.” He also insisted that Medvedev was never a decisionmaker, and then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin really controlled the situation.

Putin “attacked Georgia...to put a full stop to Georgia’s reforms. I was the symbol of reform for him,” opined Saakashvili. When asked why troops did not enter Tbilisi, Medvedev disputed Saakashvili’s assertions about Russian aims, saying “the goal was to get the Georgian troops out of Tskhinvali, to put things in order, and to prevent the further escalation of violence...The goal was not to crush Georgia or execute Saakashvili. I believe that I did the right thing when I decided to show restraint and not force further actions.” As to what Russia gained from the war, Medvedev said, “Russia got the main thing - peace. We were able to protect our citizens - many citizens of the Russian Federation live in Abkhazia and South Ossetia - and [to avoid] the headache that at some point there would be another attack...As a result, everything in the region is clear.” Responding to NATO’s recent reiteration that Georgia will join the Alliance at some point in the future, Medvedev said, “NATO enlargement is an absolute threat to the Russian Federation...It's a threat to the world. We all understand that there is a certain tension in the territory of Georgia, that Georgia considers neighboring territories, or, from our point of view, states, as its own. It is an unsettled territorial conflict...And such a country, such a state will be admitted to a military bloc? Do we understand what this threatens? This can provoke a terrible conflict...beyond any doubt,” warned Medvedev. In another interview with Kommersant, Sergei Ivanov, who was Vladimir Putin’s Vice Prime Minister in 2008 and previously Defense Minister, also pointed the blame at Saakashvili, saying that in 2007-2008, Washington and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured them that Saakashvili would not dare to escalate military conflict in South Ossetia. “In a private conversation, Rice told me that the US was not behind these events and that this was Saakashvili's initiative,” said Ivanov. After the war, Ivanov claims that Rice told him that Washington was “well aware that their satellite Saakashvili had violated all the conditions and

crossed a red line,” that he had “gotten off his leash.” Ivanov admitted that the Russian military developed a plan for conflict in so-called South Ossetia during his tenure as Defense Minister from 2001-2007, and expressed frustration that his plan was not upheld during the August 2008 War. “I can reveal one detail [of my plan],” said Ivanov, “it was stipulated that in case it become necessary to militarily intervene and force Georgia to peace on the territory of South Ossetia, only military units fully staffed by contract soldiers would enter. Not a single conscript was envisaged in this plan,” a plan which was supplanted by Anatoliy Serdyukov, Defense Minister during the war. Ivanov also blamed Russian losses, specifically of aircrafts, on “bad intelligence.” Pushed on why Russian forces did not invade the Georgian capital, Ivanov said, “Because they did not intend to take it. What for? There was no political sense to it, nor military. We needed from the military point of view to inflict such a blow on the armed forces of Georgia that in the foreseeable future they could not repeat the same adventure.” He also criticized Western media, “All the Western channels showed footage taken by correspondents from Russian TV channels in Tskhinvali. There were no other cameramen and journalists in Tskhinvali – no one. Our journalists captured the firing, the bombardment, the horrors of war. CNN and the BBC used this footage and replayed it endlessly, twisted it, placing the caption: ‘See how Russia attacked Georgia.’” Ivanov insisted that the Georgian population agrees that Saakashvili was to blame for the war, despite much of the public opinion in Georgia pointing the finger at Russian aggression. “The subsequent reaction - even by Georgia and the Georgian population, who got rid of Saakashvili,” argued Ivanov, shows “that the majority of the Georgian population understands everything, but to recognize it aloud is again difficult because the territorial integrity has been lost by the state...We are not to blame for this...we kept our word, we recognized the territorial integrity of Georgia until the moment when it was impossible to do so any longer.”


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

Living through the August War BLOG BY GIORGI MUZASHVILI

T

he first thing that comes to mind when I think about my childhood is the village I grew up in. Since 2008, this village has been a ‘borderline’ village. In fact, the barbed wire set up by the Russians stands just a few meters from the public school I graduated. And what comes to my mind when I think about the August War? Fragments of memory. On August 7, 2008, my brother and father were sitting and watching a Georgian movie, Giorgi Saakadze, when suddenly the power went off. When we went up to the second floor to see what was happening, we saw shooting to the north. The war had begun. Relations between Ossetians and Georgians were good prior to that moment, even at the beginning of the century when some kind of conflict happened. I remember two or three times we visited relatives in the neighboring Ossetian village where my father's cousin was living. But the Ossetian and Russian politicians changed all that. My family spent the five days of war in the village, although most other villagers fled to other villages or Tbilisi. Just a few grown-ups and five children chose to stay. I was 7, but even at that young age I felt the threat in the air. We were all glued to the TV. Seeing people leaving their burned-out villages was what first made it hit home for me; the first time I felt afraid. I was afraid of losing everything and everyone. I remember taking out my school-bag and packing it with my school textbooks. I guess I thought they were important. My mom and a relative from the neighboring house barely slept during those five days, ready to wake us up at a moment’s notice if we needed to get out, if the Russians decided to invade our village too. And one afternoon, there was panic- the villagers had been told to leave as soon as possible

because Russian soldiers were on their way. Those of us left in the village moved away from the fighting to the next village. I went in my flip-flops and said goodbye to my house, expecting it to be the last time I saw it. But it wasn’t. We went back at midnight. The village hadn’t been attacked; it was a false alarm. But I remember it was deadly silent. The alarm hadn’t been false everywhere, though: Gori, the city where my grandparents were living, had been bombed, there was blood and ruined buildings throughout; despair and fear. Russian soldiers announced a curfew and the city was reduced to a shell of what it had been. Then the shooting stopped. The war was over. But it left thousands of people without homes, living in tents until new settlements could be built. One was set up near my village. Dozens of people died. And a new wound appeared in Georgia- the loss of Samachablo. School didn’t begin in the middle of September as it usually did: I started two weeks later and still soldiers under the Russian flag could be seen moving along the road through my village, even in front of my school. I was told that if “something” happened, I should lie on the floor. What happened next? Seeing soldiers became the norm, and even after 10 years you still have to check into the Georgian military post before you can enter the village. We have three military posts and a police station. And you can clearly see the “border” sign warning us away: ‘Attention! State Border! Passage is forbidden.’ We’ve adjusted. Some people came back, some stayed away. And we just…adjusted to our new reality. The government offered the village pupils free university scholarships, and we have good roads, street lights, gas and electricity- something not all villages can boast in Georgia. But 10 years later, the Russians are still moving the ‘borderlines’ throughout the country, including in my village. 10 years later, they continue to steal our land. 10 years later, they are still arresting and abducting innocent people. 10 years later, Georgia is still occupied.

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

Plaster Diary, 2: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER

F

irst, an aside: I, too, have a War Story to tell, as it’s the 10th anniversary of the events here. I was away in the UK for the whole Russo-Georgian war of August 2018, having bought a 1-way ticket and finding myself unable to return even if I’d had a return ticket: Tbilisi airport was closed. My girlfriend of the time, soon to become my wife, was unreachable by cell phone or landline, so I just had to wait, which was hard indeed. My return was on August 31; within a few hours, getting unspoken signals that I had better not waste time, I proposed to her, and we had our civil ceremony in late November! Now last week’s house exterior narrative resumes. Day 5: As work progresses, it’s worth mentioning a couple of important factors in having a major renovation done by live-in craftspeople (usually men) in a village high in the Georgian mountains and 110 km away from the nearest big town’s supplies. 1) You’d better have a surplus of all sorts of unforeseen things at hand, and we’re ideally set up for this, being experienced AND having the village shop in our home amongst other things. Plastic sheeting to cover the windows, tape to fasten it into place, so they won’t get cemented up? Check. Wire, nails, all sorts and sizes of scrap wood for the scaffolding and many other odd needs? Check. Hand and power tools, especially that circular saw? Yes: crowbars for digging holes and digging out nails, spades, shovels and many more essentials. Even four large sheets of secondhand sheet steel, beaten up and a bit rusted, formed the necessary base on which to pour and mix the cement ingredients, the “cake mixing without a pan” miracle which I have written about previously. (But there was only disdain for the ear, eye, lung protection I routinely offer; they used nothing more than work gloves, and as for hard hats, you must be joking if you mention them at all.) What you DON’T have must be either bought or made; either is possible, depending on materials and skills at hand. An example is the rail-guided form used to make the beautiful decorative cement bits under each of our large windows. My main craftsman sat down and made this entirely from what we had: bits of scrap sheet aluminum from

the roof repairs of some years ago, cut with tin snips, and the aforementioned scrap wood. As he reapplied this over several hours, using successively thinner coats of cement, the design sharpened up to its final magnificent form. Other things, such as paint coloring and wood glue, simply must be fetched from either Mestia (where they’re closer but at their most expensive) or Zugdidi (4x further away, but cheaper in the long run if you have a carful of shopping, including things not available locally). 3) You’ll be feeding the men three times a day, housing them, watering them with various liquids on demand too, and hope (as is our fortunate case) that they’re not here to drink into a stupor at every opportunity. They would be unlikely to come highly recommended if that were the case, but the differences between our expectations and theirs can still loom gulf-like. 4) It’s vital to establish and maintain a good relationship from start to finish of the several weeks of your time together, which hopefully will end well, all parties satisfied, peace kept, not too much money asked or spent, and even invitations extended to visit their home province of Kakheti for hunting, fishing and more. These latter, if they survive through to the end of the work project, are a good sign that all ended on the best note. If you’re feasting together on-site as well, on average once a day but maybe more, then things in the interim are going smoothly. But, host husband, don’t neglect your wife’s needs for help in all that serving, especially if she’s doing it alone! Unless this is SO far beyond the culture of both of you that it can’t be done, in which case, ignore away, with consequences perhaps obvious. 5) Very important, too, is to keep an eye on weather reports, as this is chiefly an outdoor project, and rain can force delays. At least the sunshine and heat up here aren’t too oppressive compared to the 40 or 45-degree C lowlands, and the evenings cool right down into the bargain… I’ll likely wrap this up next week, as things are progressing well and the house is slowly being put into its final outside form for the coming decades. 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 over 1900 members, at www.facebook. com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: w.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

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"Sakhe" to Celebrate 20th Anniversary at Black Sea Arena on Aug 24 ADVERTORIAL

O

n August 7, musical group Sakhe held a press conference at Bank of Georgia Head Office. Dato Khujadze, Dato Porchkhidze and Boriko Shkhiani, together with the Head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration Giorgi Chogovadze, talked about the concert scheduled for the 20th anniversary of the band, within the framework of Check in Georgia. The evening show will feature the group’s new band members and dancers of the Sakhe Studio. Sakhe is motivated to be well prepared for their unique concert and as Dato Porchkhidze stated, this will be one of their best events so far. “The series of concerts at Black Sea Arena continues within the framework of Check in Georgia. On August 24, we will have the opportunity to attend the concert of the legendary group. Our favorite group has turned 20 years old. With old and new songs, every generation will enjoy the show. Thanks to all the partners for supporting this project,” said Chogovadze. “We are proud to have the opportunity to participate in this project. Thanks to Check in Georgia for making this possible. There is no such hall in the Black Sea region as the Black Sea Arena and we have the opportunity to perform in this space for our audience. We'll be

Echowaves Festival Pre-Party at KHIDI Nightclub BY ANNA ZHVANIA

Photo: Datuna Agasi

utilizing all the resources that the arena has to offer. We will perform well-known songs as well as 10 new compositions, which will be released as an album. For the past three months, we’ve had daily rehearsals. As we know that many people will be attending the concert, we're using our maximum capabilities to prepare,” said Dato Khujidze. “We have never performed a concert without putting our hearts into it,” said Dato Porchkhidze, “But since we have great support and help, we gathered new members of the band to keep the standards of pop music and we are sure that

this will be one of the best concerts in the history of our band. We have added a new member to our team, Boriko Shkhiani. You will be able to hear fusion in our music and sounds including a combination of live and electronic.” Shkhiani said, “We have long wanted to collaborate. We initially started with one song, enjoyed working together and decided to write ‘Tbiliso’. We then filmed a video and came up with a new album. Thanks to Black Sea Arena for the opportunity to have us perform on August 24”. Tickets for “Sakhe” concert are available on tkt.ge.

O

n August 11, KHIDI and Echowaves Festival will present a festival pre-party which will be held at KHIDI Nightclub. The pre-party will feature Max Cooper's new audio-visual show BALANCE. Since 2007, COOPER has acquired a unique approach to music on stage. His works and live performances are the merging of electronic music, visual arts and science. His label MESH displays various collaboration in visual arts and science. Together with Max Cooper, Belgian artist and legendary Time To Express founder Peter Van Hoesen will take to the stage. Since 2006, Van Hoesen has

found himself on the techno scene as a unique DJ, producer and live performer. George Effe, an outstanding figure of the Baku techno scene will join forces with the two DJs and perform before the audience. Don’t miss the chance to get a glimpse of the upcoming, large-scale Echowaves Festival that will take place on August 23-26 in Anaklia! In collaboration with Echowaves Festival, KHIDI will present its own stage during the festival. With many variations and genres of Techno, the stage will boast internationally reknowned DJs such as Ben Clock, Marcel Dettmann, Ancient Methods and many more. Tickets can be purchased on KHIDI Website Facebook event: KHIDI X ECHOWAVES PREPARTY

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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL August10-16 MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT Directed by Christopher McQuarrieMarshall Thurber Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller Language: English Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL OCEAN’S 8 Directed by Gary Ross Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime Language: Russian Start time: 16:45 Ticket: 13 GEL THE MEG Directed by Jon Turteltaub Cast: Ruby Rose, Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 14:00, 22:30 Ticket: 12-15 GEL CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07 Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL August 10-16 CHRISTOPHER ROBIN Directed by Marc Forster Cast: Hayley Atwell, Ewan McGregor, Toby Jones Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy Language: English Start time: 11:15 Ticket: 10-19 GEL THE MEG (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 14:05 Language: Russian Start time: 14:15, 17:00, 19:30, 22:15 Ticket: 11-19 GEL THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 16-19 GEL MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE FALLOUT (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:40 Language: Russian Start time: 13:15, 16:30, 22:30 Ticket: 11-19 GEL

MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY Exhibition showcasing a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS April 26 – September 1 UNKNOWN COLLECTIONS OF GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM– INDIA, CHINA, JAPAN May 26 – September 30 THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA - 100 YEARS June 12 – August 31 Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition CAUCASUS BIODIVERSITY IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 June 27 – September 10 Georgian National Museum and The Goethe Institute, in connection with 200 years of relations between Germany and Georgia, presents a project THE DYNASTIES - PARALLEL PERSPECTIVE MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION SVANETI MUSEUM Address: Mestia, Svaneti May 19 – August 19 The Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography hosts an exhibition "MAGNUM PHOTO 70 - GEORGIAN JOURNAL: ROBERT CAPA 1947, THOMAS DWORZAK 2017". SIGHNAGHI MUSEUM Address: 8 Sh. Rustaveli Blind-alley

Exhibition PORTRAITS OF KAKHETIAN NOBLES – FROM THE BEGINNING OF GEORGIAN EASEL PAINTING UP TO 20TH CENTURY VISITOR CENTER OF KOBULETI-KINTRISHI PROTECTED AREAS Address: 271 D. Aghmashenebeli Str., Kobuleti July 5 20018 – July 5 2019 Georgian National Museum presents new exhibition. The exposition depicts the unique ecosystems of Adjara, in particular the Kobuleti wetland areas, the Kintrishi forests and their biodiversity. The most interesting parts of the exhibition are the Ispani sphagnum peatlands and the Kintrishi forest illuminated lightboxes. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge May 25-August 26 The Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy to Georgia, within the Museum Fest, present the exhibition EVIDENCE. A NEW STATE OF ART The National Gallery is hosting the exhibition of Garuzzo Institute for Visual Arts- presenting contemporary Italian artists' artworks created since the 1950s. GENIUSES OF RENAISSANCE The Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy to Georgia, within the Museum Fest, present the exhibition LADO GUDIASHVILI ART GALLERY Address: Gudiashvili Atr. Telephone: 293 23 05 Tickets: General - 5 GEL, Ages 6-18 - 3 Gel, Students and Pensioners - 3 GEL, Free admission for orphan groups and children under 6 EXHIBITION OF PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN ART PIECES CREATED BY LEGENDARY ARTIST LADO GUDIASHVILI: 1 + 70 UNKNOWN MUSIC

SOUND OF GEORGIA August 15, 16 Regular mini-concerts of traditional Georgian live music in the Old Town will introduce you to and fall in love with the Georgian character and culture.

Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 23 GEL Venues: August 15- 2 Turgenevi Str., Tbilisi Yard August 16- 2 D. Megreli Str., Europe Sq. OTIUM Address: Near Turtle Lake Telephone: 595 90 95 95 August 12 GROUP FRANI DJ REMBO Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 30 GEL MTATSMINDA PARK August 10 CONCERT OF ROMANIAN POP MUSIC ARTIST AKCENT Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 40 GEL BLACK SEA ARENA Address: Village Natanebi (Shekvetili), Guria August 11 Check In Georgia and Black Sea Arena presents the concert of ENSEMBLE SHVIDKATSA AND 8 TIMES GRAMMY AWARD WINNING AMERICAN GROUP TAKE 6 Celebrating the 20th anniversary of ‘Shvidkatsa’ and Dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Georgia's independence. Participants: ‘Shvidkatsa’, ‘Take 6’, Georgian National Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Nikoloz Rachveli Directed by Basa Potskhishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 20-70 GEL

The State Musical Center of Batumi Contemporary Ballet based on Dato Turashvili's Novel Original idea and choreography by Mariam Aleksidze Music by Josef Bardanashvili Stage Designer: Ana Kalatozishvili With the Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet Company Gurji-Khatun– Natia Bunturi Company Artistic Director– Mariam Aleksidze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL August 7 EMILI AND FRIENDS Participants: Emili, “Babilo,” Kids Studio and Special guest: Nini Shermadii Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 80-160 GEL GALLERY Visitor Center of Kobuleti-Kintrishi Protected Areas Address: 271 D. Aghmashenebeli Str., Kobuleti July 5 20018 – July 5 2019 The Georgian National Museum presents an exposition of the unique ecosystems of Adjara, in particular the Kobuleti wetland areas, the Kintrishi forests and their biodiversity. The most interesting parts of the exhibition are the Ispani sphagnum peatlands and the Kintrishi forest illuminated light-boxes. ANAKLIA MUSIC

August 16 Check in Georgia and Black Sea Arena Present the concert of legendary Georgian singer Nani Bregvadze and American artist Chris Botti, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Georgia's independence. Participants: NANI BREGVADZE, EKA MAMALADZE, NATALIA KUTATELADZE, NINO KATAMADZE, STEPHANE MGHEBRISHVILI, BATUMI STATE MUSICAL CENTER'S CAPPELLA. Special guest: CHRIS BOTTI Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 20-30 GEL ADJARA SOHO BATUMI Address: Old Boulevard, Batumi Telephone: 595 53 57 57 August 8 STEFAN BINIAK NEW COMPOSITIONS AND HITS Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 20 GEL UP2YOU Address: Batumi Beach Club Telephone: 577 43 39 39

MUSIC FESTIVAL- ECHOWAVES POWERED BY EXIT Address: Anaklia Day Pass: 60 GEL, Season Ticket: 150 GEL, Camp (tent for 2 person): 250 GEL. Enjoy several stages with diverse music genres – Main Stage, KHIDI Stage, EYE Stage, Taiyo stage and Aqua stage, together hosting 150 international and local artists, including: Die Antwoord, Tricky, Solomun, Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, Juan Atkins, Function, Kayakata, NU, Woo York, Henrik Schwarz, Antigoe, DJ TENNIS, and Greenbeam & Leon. Line Up: August 11 KHIDI X ECHOWAVES 2018 PREPARTY: MAX COOPER LIVE A/V, PETER VAN HOESEN, GEORGE EFFE Start time: 23:00 Tickets: 20-40 GEL Venue: Khidi, V. Bagrationi Bridge, Right Embankment BAKHMARO MUSIC

August 11 THE SUPERMEN LOVERS Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 30-70 GEL August 15 SALOME DE BAHIA Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 30-70 GEL SECTOR26 Address: Batumi Beach August 3 STEPHANE BIRTHDAY PARTY Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 20 GEL BATUMI STATE MUSICAL CENTER Address: 1 O. Dimitriadis Str. Telephone: 0422 22 15 06 August 4 GURJI-KHATUN

BAKHMARO SUNSET Venue: Resort Bakhmaro August 11 Taoba stage in Bakhmaro for one day. Line Up: KORDZ, L8, PLANETARIUM IP, IOANE, ROMA J, NODYGE Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 60 GEL Ticket Price includes: Ticket, Tbilisi -Bakhmaro-Tbilisi, Camping spot LAGODEKHI BLUES FEST Venue: Lagodekhi August 11 BLUES FEST SHANNA WATERSTOWN Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20-70 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 10 - 13, 2018

15

Film Festival Held in Adjara BY ANNA ZHVANIA

sHEROes, a Book about Heroines of the 2008 August War, Launches in Tbilisi BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

T

en years have passed since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, but the pain left by the war has not yet lifted. The conflict, often referred to as the first war of the 21st century in Europe, erupted on 7 August 2008. Georgia tried to retake control of its region of Tskhinvali (so called South Ossetia), following a series of clashes when Russian forces launched an assault and pushed further into country, shelling Georgian cities and occupying large swathes of territory. The conflict lasted five days before a ceasefire was agreed. Russia pulled back, but built up its military presence in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As a result of the war, more than 400 people were killed, up to 2000 were wounded, more than 20,000 people were internally displaced and 22 villages were lost. In relation to the 10th anniversary of the war, two Georgian women, writer Salome Benidze and photographer Dina Oganova, teamed up to tell the story of the other side of the war. Their joint work remembers and introduces us to those women who suffered in and because of the war, and who were no less warriors than the men. The book presentation and photo exhibition symbolically took place on August 7, at the Silk Factory Studio. The book ‘sHEROes’ published by ‘Books in Batumi’ unveils the stories of women with different backgrounds and age, whose lives were forever changed; who fought, who did not abandon their burning villages; who saved many lives and lost their own loved ones. “This is the most important work in my life so far, since this is Georgia’s recent history,” Dina Oganova told GEORGIA TODAY. “Everyone should have a copy of this book so as not to forget this war. This is an ongoing war in our country. It was very painful for me that I could not go to the war and capture what happened. I wanted to uncover the story of a different side of the war. Men and soldiers are considered the main heroes of any war and are spoken about most, but there are women who have experienced no less pain and struggle. No one speaks about those brave women who experienced all the hardships of the war and whose deeds are less visible to society. So, this project aims to reveal the brave and strong women Georgia has.” Oganova is Georgian, a freelance documentary photographer focused on personal, long-term projects in Georgia and post-Soviet countries. In 2012, she won her first Production Grant from the

Open Society Foundation to individual photographers from Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Pakistan, and in the same year attend a workshop with Thomas Dworzak (Magnum ),Yuri Kozirev (Noor), Adrian Kelterborn and Andrei Polikanov. In 2013, she was selected among the world’s 12 best young photographers to attend World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass. Her Long term projects: “I Am Georgia,” “My Place” and “Frozen Waves” was exhibited in: France, Italy, Spain, USA, Poland, Germany, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Singapore and Georgia. Oganova is author of the first Georgian handmade limited edition (87 copies) photo book “My Place,” which is about the new generation of Georgians- the first generation living after the collapse of the Soviet Union and brought up in an independent country. Now she is working on a second handmade limitededition book: Frozen Waves. “It took us around two years to complete sHEROes. The working process was very difficult and emotional at the same time,” Salome Benidze told GEORGIA TODAY. “We visited many villages as well as densely populated settlements and as a result came up with a book that incorporates 60 stories of women. The stories are so deep that I think each of them deserves a separate book. I want to thank Dina for her idea and for suggesting we work together on it. I want to thank the publishers and those who helped us bring it all together. I’m also grateful to the heroines of our book who opened up to us, shared their stories and without whom this book wouldn’t have happened. The stories they tell are distinct and come from women with different ages, backgrounds, and experiences. I want to thank them all for their openness and bravery,” she said. Benidze is a contemporary Georgian author who is already well-established in the Georgian literary scene. In 2012, she received the literary award SABA for the Best Debut of the Year, which brought her nationwide recognition. She has since been nominated for many awards. One of her latest novels, “The City on Water” (published by Books in Batumi in 2015) became a national bestseller and was awarded the Tsinandali Award. The main heroes of the book are strong women, like sHEROes. In 2013, 2014 and 2015, her stories The Lovers of my Lover, The Survivor, and Lidia were included in the popular anthology ‘15 Best Short Stories’ published annually by Bakur Sulakauri Publishing. After the book presentation and exhibition in Tbilisi, the presentation of sHEROes is touring the cities of Gori, Kutaisi and Batumi.

PUBLISHER & GM

George Sharashidze COMMERCIAL DEPARTMENT

Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Anuka Poladishvili

GEORGIA TODAY

EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT:

Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

A

three-part regional film show was held in Adjara last week within the framework of the CineDoc International Film Festival in a project supported by the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency. On July 25, Tsira Gvasalia’s film ‘Rooms’ was shown in the Saint Ekaterine Shelter for the Elderly in Batumi. The sponsor was “Tkbili Kvekana”. The story takes place in an old peoples’ home and the Saint Ekaterine residents were interested to see their daily activities reflected on screen. Following the filming, a short discussion was held as to what extent the viewers identified themselves with the movie characters. They also talked about changes and improvements needed in the system of care for the elderly. On July 27, in the open air at Keda Park, the Keda

Website Manager/Editor: Tamzin Whitewood Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava

Municipality assisted in organizing the movie screening of Maka Gogoladze’s ‘God, thank you for the tea.’ In a symbolic gesture, viewers were invited to enjoy tea and sweets after the movie. The topic of discussion was labor migration, a poignant topic for the Adjara region. On July 29, in an abandoned open-air cinema in Beshumi, Romanian director Aleksandru Belk's film ‘Cinema, My Love’ was screened. The story relates to abandoned cinematography, hence the choice of location for the event. The selected theme for this day was ‘Georgia: a Collection of the Best Movies. After the movie, a discussion was held with Zaza Khalvashi, who spoke about Georgia’s role in the world of cinema. In the evening, Double Vision performed songs from Georgian movies, sponsored by Teliani Valley, Laguna and House of Baklava. Media partners of the Festival were Rustavi 2, Adjara TV, Liberal, Indigo, Georgia Today, IPN, and Artnews.

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Issue #1073  

August 10 - 13, 2018

Issue #1073  

August 10 - 13, 2018

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