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Issue no: 997

• NOVEMBER 10 - 13, 2017



In this week’s issue... Polish President: We Want More Intensive Cooperation with Georgia NEWS PAGE 2

Assessing Russian Power across the Post-Soviet Space, Part III: Kyrgyzstan


FOCUS ON NEW POLITICS We talk to Joseph Alexander Smith, a Brit on a mission in the world of Georgian politics

OCTOBER RETAIL FPI | Inside the 2017 Georgian Grape Harvest BUSINESS PAGE 9


Prioritizing Life, not Cars: International Road Safety Conference Held in Tbilisi

European Parliament Recommends the EU Deepen Ties with Georgia, Moldova & Ukraine BY THEA MORRISON


he European Parliament (EP) has issued a draft recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the EEAS (European External Action Service) on the Eastern Partnership, in the run-up to the November 2017 Summit in Brussels, calling on deeper ties with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The recommendations will be debated in the European Parliament plenary on November 14, with the vote scheduled to take place on November 15. The parliament said that the report was already adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (AFET) on October 10. The document reads that the Eastern Partnership (EaP) is based on a shared commitment between Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and the European Union to deepen relations and adhere to international law and fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and gender equality, as well as to the social market economy, sustainable development and good governance. "The main focus is on Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, three countries which have recently achieved major progress in cooperation with the EU,” the European Parliament said.

The document asks the EU institutions to invite Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to focus on full implementation of the Association Agreement (AA) agendas in order to unlock all the opportunities available through the AAs and to reiterate the importance of genuine implementation of the reforms for the future stability and development of the countries and the wellbeing of their societies. The EP also asks the European Commission, along with the European Investment Bank and other multilateral financial institutions, to work towards the successful implementation of the Investment Plan for Europe and to request the establishment of a trust fund for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova based on the best practices of multi-donor instruments, while stressing that this trust fund should focus on private and public investment. The recommendations underline that the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the EU’s eastern partners remain under threat from unresolved regional conflicts, including the ones initiated by the Russian Federation. “The EU should play a more active role in the peaceful resolution of all ongoing conflicts in its neighborhood. Russian aggression towards Ukraine, the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the continued occupation of two Georgian regions, as well as Russian hybrid threats including destabilization activities and propaganda, threaten European security as a whole,” the document reads.


Jazz in Georgia: The Good Life The EP also recommended the EU Council, the Commission and the EEAS to commit to sustaining the unity of action among EU Member States in maintaining collective pressure on Russia, whose military presence in the region has grown over the past years. Moreover, the recommendations read that the EU should strengthen targeted restrictive measures, solve the conflict in eastern Ukraine through full and genuine implementation of the Minsk agreements and by maintaining the OSCE monitoring mission, solve the conflict between Russia and Georgia through tangible outcomes of the Geneva International Discussions and full implementation by Russia of the 2008 ceasefire agreement, re-establish Ukraine’s full sovereignty in Crimea, and that of Georgia in its occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and of Moldova in Transnistria. The European Parliament also calls for “continued support to the work carried out by the EU and OSCE missions in Georgia, Moldova and eastern Ukraine as essential operations to ensure peace and security first and foremost for the benefit of citizens on the ground; to ensure effective implementation of these missions’ mandates and urge Russia to guarantee their unimpeded access”.





NOVEMBER 10 - 13, 2017

First Georgian Restaurant Opens in Washington DC BY THEA MORRISON


he first Georgian restaurant 'Supra' opened in Washington DC, United States (US) on Tuesday, the Washingtonian reports, noting that Supra means “celebratory feast”. The article reads that the Georgian cuisine shares some similarities with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, thanks to its location straddling Eastern Europe and Western Asia. “But it’s mountainous geography means the region has developed flavors all of its own using spices and herbs like tarragon, coriander, dried marigold petals, and blue fenugreek. Walnuts and pomegranates are also commonly used,” Washintonian reports, adding the restaurant also has a traditional Georgian oven, similar to a tandoor, for fresh bread. The article also underlines that Georgia’s winemaking tradition is believed to date back around 8,000 years. “Supra will serve 20 to 30 bottles to start, including amber wine - white wine that’s been oxidized with grape skins so it takes on an amber color. Cocktails incorporate chacha, a Georgian brandy, and traditional ingredients like walnuts and tarragon,” reads the article.

Furthermore, Eater Washington DC also dedicated an article to the Georgian restaurant, saying co-owners Jonathan and Laura Nelms’ spacious 4,000-squarefoot restaurant at 1205 11th Street NW aims to transport guests thousands of miles away to a corner of the world thought to have produced the world’s first wines. The article reads that the Mediterranean-influenced menu from Malkhaz Maisashvili, the former chef of the Embassy of Georgia in Washington, kicks off with a lineup of small plates including vegetable paté-like pkhali made of spinach, green beans, or beets minced with walnuts and Georgian spices, as well as a variety of khinkali soup dumplings. “Larger portions designed for sharing include whole grilled branzino with pomegranate sauce, and chanakhi lamb with seasonal vegetables,” the article says. Eater Washington DC says the interior accents across the 136-seat restaurant, designed by 2Scale Interiors, include nods to traditional culture, like wooly Georgian “papakhi” hats and “supra” tablecloths alongside modern art. “There’s also art from Tbilisi-based artists, including a metalwork installation of the curvy Georgian alphabet,” the article reads.

Polish President: We Want More Intensive Cooperation with Georgia BY THEA MORRISON


e would like to cooperate more intensively with Georgia. We share close economic relations but we would like these relations to be closer at the governmental level too - the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, stated at a joint press-conference with his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili in Warsaw on Wednesday. While delivering his speech, Duda said that Poland supports Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, emphasizing that the EU should aim to receive new members in order to strengthen. “The EU door should be open for the Eastern Partnership representatives for them to join the Union… The EU should be ready to accept new countries; those countries that have met all the requirements,” he added. The Polish president added that Geor-

CineClub & CineDoc to Screen ‘Didube, the Last Stop’ BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


n Monday November 13, 7PM, ‘Didube, the Last Stop’ will be shown to an eager audience of cineenthusiasts (and those both curious and passionate about Georgian life and culture) in the presence of the director of the movie, Shorena Tevzadze, who will be available to answer audience questions afterwards. CineClub works in cooperation with

the Cinedoc festival to screen Georgian films with English subtitles to increase exposure and to provide greater insight into Georgia as a country and culture. The 65-minute film was released this year and describes the lives lived within the well-known Tbilisi transport hub, Didube. In the depths of noise and motion, we discover a pharmacy whose owner sits all day behind a glass counter with his wife Tsitso, writing poetry about current affairs. In the early 90s, Didube was the last station of the Tbilisi Metro. That was when Niko opened his shop. With

his wife, Niko spends most of his time in Didube sharing his dreams, music and poetry with his friends Nodar, a local singer, and Lili, a street vendor selling lemons at the station. The film shows how attached Niko is to the place and the uncertainty of his future- is this the beginning of the end of his little kingdom, or the start of a new adventure? WHERE: Amirani Cinema (Kostava Street, Tbilisi) WHEN: 7PM PRICE: 3 GEL (ticket), 2 GEL (donation to the organizers)

gia has a strategically important location not only in Europe but in the world. “Georgia’s membership in NATO is very important for all NATO members. I would even say that it is a matter of vital importance,” he stated. Georgia’s Margvelashvili thanked President Duda for supporting Georgia's aspirations and advocating Georgia's position. He noted that the parties had talked about the upcoming Eastern Partnership and NATO summits. “Poland’s position, leadership and active participation in all important formats are crucial for Georgia. Georgia places great importance on Poland’s vision on how to strengthen Eastern European stability and how to enable Georgia to further contribute to the European, Asian, Caspian and Black Sea projects,” he added. Margvelashvili underlined that the Polish position is oriented towards “solving issues and not seeking reasons”. “I would like to remind the public that we see positive dynamics in our

bilateral relations with Poland. We have positive dynamics in trade, cultural, and military cooperation. Maintenance of these dynamics in bilateral relations is our primary goal,” he added. The Georgian President invited Duda to Georgia to participate in ceremonial events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Georgian statehood on May 26, 2018. On November 8, Margvelashvili and his delegation met the Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydlo. The sides discussed ways to deepen relations between the countries which include intensification of political, trade-economic, cultural, educational and other sectoral cooperation. At the meeting, the issues of economic cooperation were discussed with the aim of attracting investments in Georgia and increase trade turnover between Georgia and Poland. It was noted that Poland is ready to support Georgia's European integration process and to share its experience with Georgia in this direction.



Gov’t Looking into Pension Reform BY THEA MORRISON


he Government of Georgia may implement a new pension system in 2018 envisaging a cut of 2% of people’s monthly income which will then be saved for their pension. The accumulation pension reform has not been submitted to Parliament yet, as discussions are still actively underway. Under the new pension reform, all employed citizens of Georgia up to 40 years (around 500,000 people), will

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transfer 2% of their untaxed monthly salaries to the state pension fund, with another 2% to be paid by employers and 2% by the state. This means that every month, 6% of employee's salary will go to a pension fund. According to statistics, people would have a comfortable old age if their pension was at least half the average salary. Today's 180 GEL pension in Georgia amounts to only 18% of the average salary. The bill was prepared by the Ministry of Economy with the Ministry of Finance and the National Bank of Georgia. The authors of the bill say that Georgians traditionally do not save money and only spend it, this is why they believe that paying into a pension should be obligatory.

The pension program covers citizens of Georgia, foreign citizens permanently residing in Georgia, and those having no citizenship but who are employed or self-employed and receiving an income. Self-employed people will have a choice to pay into their pension or not. After the money is accumulated in the pension budget, the money will be used by the state for investments within the country. When the people reach pension age, 65 for males and 60 for females, they will have the chance to use the accumulated money, together with their state pension of 180 GEL. Experts, however, believe the reform contains too many risks, adding the disposal of people’s money raises doubts and questions. "There is a big risk that the government will nationalize these funds, as happened in Poland and Hungary," said economist Irakli Kipiani. “I do not believe that our government will not act as the Hungarian and Polish governments did”. If approved by Parliament, the reform will likely take effect in late 2018.


Irakli Kovzanadze on 2018 State Budget Increase



hairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, Irakli Kovzanadze, has said that the 2018 State Budget represents the current economy and corresponds to the countries challenges as well as reality. "The most important thing is that the 2018 State Budget is macroeconomically viable. It's based on a 3% deficit and a projected economic growth of 4.5%. I would like to point out that according to the IMF data, GDP growth in Georgia is one of the best in the post-soviet countries, and in the region as a whole", Irakli Kovzanadze said of the 2018 State Budget draft law in the Parliamentary tribune. According to Irakli Kovzanadze, economic growth will be the result of forming an adequate State Budget, with both tax revenues in total revenues set to increase in 2018. State Budget expenses are also increas-

ing, and will exceed 12 billion 403 million GEL. In 2018, State Budget expenditures of Ministries - Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Regional development and Infrastructure, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Education and Science - are set to increase also. "In the 2018 State Budget, the budget of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure has increased by approximately by 574.5 million GEL, which is almost 46% growth, and means that a minimum of 1 billion 833 million GEL will directly or indirectly be used for economic improvement, business support, economic growth, employment and ensuring welfare" - stated Irakli Kovzanadze at the Parliamentary session where the 2018 State Budget draft law was discussed. According to Irakli Kovzanadze, the 2018 State Budget draft, which is presented to Parliament by government, properly represents and adequately responds to the reality and challenges Georgia faces.




NOVEMBER 10 - 13, 2017

The Customs Conundrum ahead of the Geneva Talks OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


he closer we get to the date of the Karasin-Abashidze meeting in Prague, the more discussions arise surrounding the issue of opening customs check points on the occupied territories. A month had barely passed since the sensational statement made by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Gregory Karasin in Geneva and customs checkpoints started appearing like mushrooms after rain on the occupied territories. Surprisingly for everyone, Karasin started talking about the responsibility of Georgia and the terms of the Russian-Georgian agreement of 2011. A few days ago, a so-called "special customs point" opened on the River Psou, where before occupation the Russia-Georgian border was situated. Georgia’s second occupied territory also started talking about opening another customs point in the area of Akhalgori-Odzisi territory. Six years ago, in return for Russia joining the World Trade Organization, an agreement was signed between Georgia and Russia in which the two agreed to the terms of monitoring the customs control at the Russian-Georgian border. Consequently, three trade corridors were designated, two on the occupied

territories, and one at the Dariali Gorge. The parties even agreed on having a Swiss company monitor the points. Now the main problem concerns varied understanding of said trade corridors. The Kremlin believes that the last points of the customs corridors for the respective occupied territories should be Zugdidi and Gori, while the Georgian side thinks that it should be the River Psou and the Roki Tunnel. This is exactly what Karasin accuses the Georgian side of: "You want the Swiss to be allowed to stand near Roki Tunnel and River Psou, but you don’t want to let anyone into

Gori and Zugdidi," he said in Geneva. The Georgian side has yet to react to the accusations; however, the de facto leaders of the occupied territories did respond. Khajimba and Bibilov are saying that there is nothing for them in the agreement between Russia and Georgia and demand that the Swiss customs officers stand right at the point where their own so-called customs officers do. Apart from the six-year-old agreement, the Kremlin has also raised the issue of opening a railway through Abkhazia. But, most importantly, the idea was voiced not by the Russian officials, but by the president

of neighboring Armenia. Serzh Sargsyan’s implications about the new railway route came on the tail of the grand opening of the Baku-TbilisiKars railway. The Armenian side declares that this has lead to their transport isolation, hindering their full involvement in the Eurasian Economic Union. Armenia was unable to attain anything through diplomatic channels, despite the visits of their Prime Minister, and was unable to convince Tbilisi to agree to open the railway route. The unsuccessful negotiations were followed by a message from Yerevan, a “yellow card” for the Kremlin, in response to Russia’s inactivity in terms of the said transport isolation. In line with the issues of customs and railway on the occupied territories, the Kremlin has also activated the religious front. Last week, the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, who is in charge of the foreign affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, visited Tbilisi for a few hours. He is also a member of the Holy Synod and believed by many experts to be one of the most influential figures in the Church after Patriarch Kirill of Moscow himself. The formal purpose of the visit was to invite Ilia II of Georgia to the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the Patriarchy in Russia. However, obviously, Metropolitan Hilarion would not have visited Tbi-

lisi only to hand over an invitation, he would most likely have had a more far-reaching plan, confirmed during his meeting with Ilia II. Completely unexpectedly, the guest made a harsh statement against the so-called “Church Separatists of Abkhazia.” “The group, which has conquered the Monastery of New Atoni continues to retain its position and nothing new has happened with regards to it,” he said. The group working in the New Atoni Monastery obeys the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople rather than Moscow. The so-called “Church Separatists” are supported by the de-facto government of Sokhumi, which is why the Patriarchate of Russia wants to involve the Georgian side in the subject, as Abkhazia is still regarded part of Georgia. For now, the issue of creating an alleged joint action plan against the “Church Separatism” in the New Atoni Monastery has been left open by the Georgian side as Ilia II gave a diplomatic answer to the initiative, saying, “I will travel to Moscow if in good health.” Translating this into the usual language means: “Let’s see what you are capable of. Take steps against the “separatists” yourself, make specific moves and we’ll see....” Apparently, this “we’ll see,” the most rational and effective answer, works well in Georgian-Russian relations in politics, economics and even religion.




NOVEMBER 10 - 13, 2017

Assessing Russian Power across the Post-Soviet Space, Part III: Kyrgyzstan Budget & Finance Committee Chair: Parliamentary Budget Office Is Ineffective BY THEA MORRISON


he Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee of the Parliament, Irakli Kovzanadze, believes that the work of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) is ineffective and that it fails to perform its main function – assessment and analysis of the state budget. Kovzanadze made the statement during the discussions on the Draft State Budget of Georgia 2018, held at the Plenary Session in Parliament this week. “The Parliamentary Budget Office has to constantly provide MPs, committees and society with the results of its independent research and analyses. It should assess the draft budget, state of execution of the budget, fiscal measures initiated by the legislative authorities, present the analyses and assessments of the macroeconomic situation, the currency curriculum, etc.,” Kovzanadze stressed, adding that the PBO fails to meet its main obligations. Kovzanadze stressed that the draft State Budget

2018 was heard by 15 Committees of Parliament in October. He claims the hearings of 14 out of 15 committees have been held without any input (background information and overview) from the PBO on the submitted Draft Budget, adding that neither the majority, nor minority of Parliament received any input from the PBO. “It was only made available at the very last moment - 40 minutes prior to the concluding meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament, thus leaving insufficient time for adequate scrutiny of the information on the submitted Draft Budget,” said Kovzanadze. The Committee chair also stated that the most recent information posted on the website of the PBO on the execution of the current budget dates back to Jan-Feb 2017, and there is no information on the annual execution of State Budget in 2016; Q1, Q2 and following months of 2017. “PBO is left without due attention. The current situation harms the budgetary process and makes it less transparent and public. It discredits the presence of the unit within the Parliament of Georgia,” Kovzanadze stressed.

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ver the past couple of years, Russia and China have become active in Central Asia. As this impacts the entire region, one country which is poised to become a testing ground for their evolving developments is Kyrgyzstan. Due to its strategic location, the country has received big security and economic attention from both Moscow and Beijing. And while the two regional heavyweights have common security interests in cooperating with Kyrgyzstan, their overall competing geopolitical imperatives in Central Asia could lead to a more problematic relationship in the future.


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For both China and Russia, countries of the Central Asian region (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan) are of particular interest. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has retained its position as a dominant military power in the region through keeping military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Even economically, Russia, until late, had been a top investor and trade partner, only to be surpassed in the past couple of years by Chinese economic power. Kyrgyzstan is interesting for Beijing due to its location. The country borders on China’s restive Xinjiang region, inhabited by Muslim Uyghurs. Sporadic attacks against Chinese officials have been taking place in Xinjiang in the recent period. Beyond China itself, the Uyghurs are also represented in several central Asian countries, and among them in Kyrgyzstan. And it is quite natural that Beijing is worried lest the Uighur independent movement becomes a cross border one. Indeed, the Chinese fear was well reflected in the terror attack which took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, in 2016, when a Uyghur national rammed the Chinese embassy with a car and ended up inside the embassy compound, leaving substantial damage to the infrastructure and causing collateral damage. As a result of this potential threat, China has been investing in Kyrgyzstan’s security capabilities on the border with China. For example, this year on June 27, the border forces of Kyrgyzstan and China held collaborative exercises. The aim was to strengthen their ability to counter weapons smuggling in China's Xinjiang region. These exercises are only one of those which have been held for the past several years. Yet another importance of Kyrgyzstan for China lies in its proximity to Afghanistan. China is worried that militancy could easily infiltrate into Central Asian countries. Kyrgyzstan is also well positioned strategically, as the country’s territory is the shortest way for China to reach the center of the region – Uzbekistan. Until 2016, relations between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were, at best, strained because of primarily border disputes, but it all

began to change after the death of Islam Karimov and the election of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Beijing would quite naturally support this rapprochement as it will enable the country to further strengthen its cooperation with Uzbekistan, with the transit through the Kyrgyz territory. And last but not least, is Kyrgyzstan’s role within China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It is true that the Kazakh and Russian routes are those through which most Chinese goods pass, but Kyrgyzstan, through its location, would nevertheless represent an important corridor to at least reach other landlocked Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan and then Turkmenistan.

RUSSIAN MOVES For Russia, keeping Kyrgyzstan under its fold is important for economic, security and military reasons. The Russian military base in the city of Kant enables Moscow to preserve the military perimeter it had in the Soviet times. It serves as a forward post of Russian projection of power in the region. However, as the base is essentially a ground force component, Moscow also needs an additional base where it could have an air component to mount a full scale forward-defense attack against potential external challenges. In fact, there are have been talks on Russia planning to open a second military base in Kyrgyzstan. In June, the Kyrgyz president mentioned a possible opening of the second Russian military base. Surely Moscow will see this as solidification of its interests against other big powers. However, Moscow is no less concerned that the unstable Afghanistan with its militancy could move over into Central Asia and Kyrgyzstan in particular, as the latter needs Russian military assistance in effectively dealing with rising security concerns. Apart from that, Kyrgyzstan is also a member of both Russian-led organizations Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Union. Kyrgyzstan has been, at times, discontented with its membership, as Moscow was not very supportive of Bishkek in its border confrontation with Uzbekistan, and various economic issues which rose from the Union’s membership. Moreover, Moscow also has another important lever of power: Gazprom’s possession of Kyrgyzstan’s gas distribution system throughout the country. So far, Russia has hesitated to openly obstruct any Chinese moves in Kyrgyzstan. This actually falls within Russia’s overall tactic of not criticizing China’s activities overall in Central Asia, at the time when Russia experienced problems with the west over Ukraine. Thus, in Kyrgyzstan, we have a mixture of Russian and Chinese interests and influences, which do not openly interfere with each other, but over time could cause some friction, as long as China keeps up with the policy of increasing its involvement in Kyrgyzstan. China will keep holding military exercises with Bishkek, while Russia is likely to further press Kyrgyzstan to allow the opening of a second Russia military base.




NOVEMBER 10 - 13, 2017

A Brit & His Georgian Dream because I was both the candidate and campaign manager, so I had a very intensive interview schedule, amongst a host of other responsibilities, that I had to take care of myself. Had I had more people to help me, I could have maybe worked more on the fundraising side. Not having a bigger team to help share the responsibilities of running a campaign was definitely another weakness.



rit-turned Georgian, Joseph Alexander Smith won a very respectable 14.04% of votes in the Saburtalo district in the recent municipal elections. GEORGIA TODAY went to ask him how he did it.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WERE THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF YOUR CAMPAIGN? I think that my strengths were that I was a new face and independent candidate, who used media very much to his advantage. I got a lot of feedback from individuals who had a lack of trust towards the main parties, who felt that an independent person would better represent them. Of course, in Saburtalo, they already had the experience of being represented by another independent candidate, Aleko Elisashvili, in the city council after the 2014 elections. Being British was also handy, as people generally associate Britishness with competency, so that helped. Furthermore, a lot of the campaign itself was very much focused on people, as I spent a lot of my time doing door-to-door campaigning, which allowed me to actually meet the potential voters, and directly listen to and talk about their issues and concerns. For many of them, this was the first time that they had actually had a politician come to their door, which enabled me to gain their trust and have a much more honest and down-to-earth conversation with them. The fact that because of this I developed a very close relationship with voters was definitely a strength, which showed in the results: in the districts where I campaigned most vigorously, I got more votes than the second established party, the United National Movement. In terms of weaknesses, I went into the campaign a bit unprepared due to various legal issues, trying to work out whether I’d even be able to run. I also didn’t have enough money to do the things that I would have liked to have done, as a lot of the campaign was selffunded. Indeed, I didn’t have a lot of time to get things together in that sense,

HOW DOES BEING A FOREIGNER, COMING FROM A DIFFERENT CULTURE, UPBRINGING AND BACKGROUND HELP WITH YOUR MINDSET AND APPROACH TO PROBLEMSOLVING COMPARED TO YOUR RIVALS? I personally don’t believe that there is a huge difference between how I think about things versus how Georgians do. I think that if there is such a thing as a “Georgian mentality”, it’s very much based on how an individual has experienced this country politically, economically, and socially over the last 25 years, which is a very different set of circumstances. So yes, Georgians might view things differently to me very often due to their different experiences, but that does not necessarily mean that they are incapable of viewing things the same way that I do. In terms of problem-solving, I think that there are things that work very often in electoral politics, in campaigning, in proposing solutions to problems, and they work everywhere. Sometimes Georgian politicians think “Oh no, I’m not going to do that because Georgian reality is different”. I don’t always agree with them on that. You need to think big and think global, using experience from other places, especially those countries that have been through transitional phases like the one that Georgia is going through right now. So, in some ways, yes, I do have a different viewpoint than certain Georgian politicians, but I think that my view of Georgian politics is different as well. Of course, there are indeed many issues that need to be addressed, questions answered, especially in my district where there were several violations. However, the day after the results, I was more focused on the positives that I could draw from my performance, rather than falling into this miserable, childish, and pathetic cycle of whining; something that a lot of the smaller parties were guilty of. For me, although huge amounts of people voted for my rival, and I only came in third place, I think it would be very unwise of me to start complaining about the elections, that votes were bought, etc., when those are votes that I want in the future. So I’m not about to start insulting people for their democratic choices. I try to stay above the

dominant cultures in opposition politics and do things my own way: focus on the positives and move from strength to strength slowly. That’s what I’m going to do now.

YOU MENTIONED “THOSE VOTES THAT YOU WANT IN THE FUTURE.” WHAT’S NEXT ON THE AGENDA? The elections have given me a lot to think about, and I’ve received a lot of advice since then. Firstly, though I focused a lot on urban issues, the fact that so many people could be mobilized in the way that they were shows the extent to which money influences the outcomes of elections, even if you’re not buying or forging votes. Especially on a background of huge social and economic inequality in Georgia, you cannot really ignore that anymore. I’d like to change the way we advertise for elections, with a possible banning of putting up posters all over town. We won’t have truly democratic elections until we’re able to deal with that fundamental economic inequality: I want to deal with this problem in the future. Which leads me to my second epiphany. Despite running as an independent candidate, I have come to realize that independent candidates don’t have much of a political future. While political parties are increasingly unpopular in Georgia, I still think they are key to politics. In the future, though I don’t want to start one myself, I believe that I should be a member of a party. That said, none of the existing parties fit my ideological vision, nor do I think they have an answer to that question of how to deal with the huge social and economic inequality in the country. In the future, I will be looking at which party emerges; I have certain people in mind who, due to their morals, political positions and philosophies, I can see as potential future partners in a political party. Although we have a lot of work to do before then to revive the idea of political parties, because there have been so many new parties coming out, breaking off from the two “big beasts”, as it were, that have just failed. To me, that’s because they are not doing it properly, but that doesn’t mean political parties per se are bad. A broad-based party with a strong ideological identity, with a new outlook on how to do opposition politics would be a good thing.

YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN BRINGING ATTENTION TO AND SOLVING URBAN ISSUES LIKE ROAD-SAFETY, AND ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CITY I came to this whole thing as an activist dealing with a range of issues, so I don’t really have just the one issue that I concentrate on: I work on urban issues as a

10 Galaktion Street

whole. In terms of road safety, it was part of my work when I volunteered at Iare Pekhit, a civil society organization, which originally focused just on pedestrian rights, but is now trying to become an organization that deals with defending public spaces and diversifying transport as well. I didn’t have a comprehensive program like “this is how we solve XYZ” because I wasn’t a mayoral candidate. So even if I’d gotten into the City Council I wouldn’t have had the resources to start implementing a pre-election program: I kept my campaign very much about principles, not promises. I listed my principles regarding these issues, and outlined what I considered to be red lines. For example, everybody has the right to free and safe movement, and when we plan public transport, we should be planning for the most vulnerable citizens in the city. So that’s a principle from which I can work, judging the value of every new initiative whether or not it lives up to it. That was what my campaign was about. With regards to what I’m going to do next, it’s really difficult because there are a lot of things that I’d like to do, but I also need to make money to survive, especially as the election campaign proved to be a big drain on the coffers. What I want to do is continue my work with the citizens that I met; helping to solve their problems. I’ll be finding ways to do that. Organizing groups of citizens is very important, and it is something that is often quite difficult to do here in Georgia, to help citizens help themselves. I’d like to help them move away from purely protesting to properly organizing and fighting for community initiatives. I’ll be initially doing that through the media. There is definitely plenty I want to do. Many parties lack somebody who has a strong urban profile, and I can bring that to them. I’m starting to see the logic of a new political force coalesce in my mind, but there’s still a long way to go before I can come to party politics.


ARE DOING IS A STEREOTYPICAL MANIFESTATION OF THE “WHITE SAVIOR COMPLEX”? I really do not feel like it’s a “white savior complex”. It was really interesting when I had a few people accuse me of being a “colonialist,” as they had no idea what a left-wing, well-read-in-the-subject (of post-colonialism) person they were dealing with. So don’t come to me with these Frantz Fannon-esque accusations; they are simply not true. I find it very interesting that people perceive that in me because it’s really not what motivates me. Like I said, I never came into this campaign saying things like “I know this better than you because I am British,” I just negated your suggestion that Georgians might have a radically different mentality from mine, and that I can offer a more “proper Western” political strategy. Anything I can bring to the table is personally me, Joseph, not a representation of British culture. Obviously, I speak Georgian, I made the effort to speak to the people in their own language and on their own terms. I guess it’s unusual, but I feel very much integrated as part of this society. I don’t feel disconnected from Georgia, and when people accuse me of things like this “white savior complex”, it’s ridiculous. These are my streets too, the ones that I have been walking on for the last five years, this is the air I have been breathing for the last five years. OK, nobody is forcing me to be here, but this is my city, I’m a citizen of this country, and this is what motivates me to go out and help it. It’s the same thing that should be motivating you: to go out and make a difference to the country that’s yours, which is also now mine. So, to sum up, I have no moral issues with a “white savior complex” because I don’t think it applies to me at all. I find it extremely strange when people compute it into my motives. Thankfully, for the most part, there was a very positive reaction to my candidacy, and if they suggested that “oh he’s British, that must mean he is more professional,” I never implied or said that myself. Moreover, I have a friend back in Britain, originally from Azerbaijan, who moved to the UK as a teenager and is now a counselor at Westminster. So, when people say things like “what if I went to Britain and stood in the local elections,” there you go! By all means, go and do it, I wish you all the success. I feel like I’m very much part of Georgian culture and I feel very at home here in the country: I feel much closer to Tbilisi than I ever did to London.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge




Bypassing the Suez Canal: New OCTOBER RETAIL FPI | Russian "Corridor" Proves Popular Inside the 2017 Georgia Grape Harvest FROM ISET


t the end of October, food prices maintained an upward trend; ISET’s Retail FPI gained 2.6% m/m (compared to the last week of September). On an annual basis (compared to October 2016), we recorded a significant 11.3% increase for food prices. According to data from the last two weeks of October, the biggest increase in price was recorded for tomatoes (99%), for which the price almost doubled due to seasonality. The other two products with the highest increases in prices were cucumbers (14.7%) and frozen chicken (10%). Although there was an overall increase in food prices, some food items became cheaper. The prices that moved down most were cabbage (-12.1%), eggplant (-4.2%), and bananas (-2.9%).



he Russian transit project ‘North-South’ has received serious international support. The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku,

Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, and Bandar Anzali. Unlike the Chinese ‘New Silk Road,’ the emphasis of the ‘North-South’ project is on the use of maritime transport. It is expected that the time savings for the delivery of goods from Asia to the EU will be up to two weeks. Thus, the ‘North-South’ corridor will become a serious competitor to the route passing through the Suez Canal. The head of the port and shipping organization of Iran, Mohammad Rastad, reports of a significant increase in

cargo turnover in the country's maritime harbors. It is noteworthy that, according to Rastad, the Iranian side continues to make serious efforts to further develop its port infrastructure. To this end, Iran signed a contract with India for the supply of port equipment worth $85 million. It is expected that the renewal of the maritime infrastructure will allow the Iranian side to significantly accelerate the process of providing the necessary capacity for trans-shipment of goods along the shortest route from India to the EU market.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Georgian Rtveli (harvest) for this year has successfully finished. As of today, 130,000 tons of grapes have been processed; that is 14% higher compared to the previous year (114,264 tons). The revenues of Georgian grape growers are also higher, and amounted to 150 million

Source: http://www.moa.gov.ge/

GEL. This indicator is 50% higher compared to the previous year (about 100.2 million GEL). It is noteworthy that this year the Government of Georgia (GoG) did not have to buy excess grapes, as the private sector managed to handle processing and storage of all harvested grapes. It appears that private sector efficiency is improving. As a result of government support to develop the country’s wine sector, 24 new enterprises got involved in wine-production, while 48 enterprises expanded their activities. Taking into account several initiatives to gain international recognition, the future of Georgian viticulture seems to be promising.




NOVEMBER 10 - 13, 2017

Prioritizing Life, not Cars: International Road Safety Conference Held in Tbilisi BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


n International Road Safety Conference entitled ‘Recent Situation and Future Vision’ was held in Tbilisi on October 30. Organized by the Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads and supported by the Polish Embassy and Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia, the event gathered some of the highest ranking government officials, diplomats and international experts, alongside private and public sector respresentatives, to discuss the current road safety issues in Georgia through panel discussions, thematic workshops and round-table discussions. “The day-long road safety conference tackled so many different aspects of road safety in Georgia,” Maya Kobalia, Executive Director, Alliance for Safe Roads Georgia, told GEORGIA TODAY. “Bringing together numerous different representatives from the ministries of Internal Affairs, Economy, and Environment, Tbilisi Municipality, Swiss and Polish experts, foreign diplomats, we discussed economic, social and other areas of road safety, from making our city more pedestrian-friendly to periodic technical inspections and legislation and enforcement. It was an opportunity to share expertise from Switzerland and Poland, where, with good enforcement and with the strong will from government, road safety became a priority”. The conference was opened by Ekaterine Laliashvili, Chair of the Board at Georgia’s Alliance for Safe Roads, who spoke about the importance of the upcom-

ing reform on the technical inspection of transport vehicles, which, she said, is expected by many to have a direct impact on improving the air quality in Georgian cities. “There’s no time left to wait: we have to work faster to implement this reform successfully, and this request goes out to all the decision-makers involved,” she said. “The aim of this conference is to discuss and evaluate the reality we’re facing, to plan our next steps, and to analyse the challenges within”. Shalva Khutsishvili, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, pointed out that the traffic safety campaign initiated by his ministry ‘For the Sake of You and Your Safety,’ run in cooperation with the non-governmental sector alongside numerous other actions and efforts undertaken, proved extremely successful and resulted in a decrease in road accidents by 10% in the first nine months of this year. “It is important to maintain this dynamic,” he said. “We managed to successfully implement the 100-point driving and contactless patrolling systems, and smart cameras began operating from November 1st. Our vision is that in three years’ time, road traffic administration will be operated by technologies while the role of the patrol police will be directed more towards crime prevention”. Davit Narmania, Mayor of Tbilisi, also one of the key speakers at the conference, talked about the safe city concept, and the important role the city municipality has to play in its development, paying particular attention to road infrastructure improvement. Narmania, who is soon to be replaced by newly elected Kakhi

Kaladze, who also attended the event, introduced an overview of the projects already realized, highlighting the Pekini Street rehabilitation. “By the end of 2017, smart traffic lights will be installed in 149 places across Tbilisi,” Narmania said, going on to talk about the municipal transport projects both complete and being planned for future implementation. “I’m sure that with combined efforts, our city will become safer, and all of us will be obeying road safety rules more; pedestrians, car drivers and cyclists, achieving better results to make our city safe,” he concluded. The conference continued with Mariusz Maszkiewicz, Ambassador of Poland to Georgia, and Lukas Beglinger, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia. While Ambassador Maszkiewicz shared

his not-so-positive personal experience of driving on the Georgian capital’s roads, he went on to underline that Poland had similar issues not so long ago. “I realze that this way of driving is somehow connected to the many experiences of the situation that Georgia had in the past, with law-breaking seen in both political and social life…in short, people were simply not used to driving correctly,” he said, going on to highlight the need for a long-term governmental strategy, a strong program that “will improve and recover the climate of the law regarding road safety”. “We, together with our experts and those from Switzerland, would like to assist you to find the best way to work with society to improve the traffic situation,” the Polish Ambassador said. “The Government of Georgia and the

authorities at the municipal level have shown their willingness and resolve to take action in cooperation with other actors and in particular with civil society, and this conference is an opportunity to compare with and possibly learn from the countries that started with similarly bad conditions,” said Ambassador Beglinger. “I think Poland is very good case study of a similar situation successfully turned around,” he added, going on to recount how he first came to serve in Poland after the Balkans and was shoked by the road safety in the country. “Now the change is visible [there], reflected in the figures, with a drastic reduction in the number of road accidents”. Switzerland has supported a road safety project in Poland which, Beglinger says, “greatly contributed to diagnosing the problems” and resulted in a successful broad-based approach being applied. “It’s not just about road infrastructure or how the police works, it’s about many factors, like, for instance, how the courts work so that people who violate rules can be punished. And it’s about education,” he concluded. The conference went on with the speeches and two panel discussions, with the participation of Archil Talakvadze, Leader of Parliamentary Majority; Ekaterine Grigalava, Deputy Minister of Environment Protection of Georgia; Roland Wiederkehr, Road Safety Expert, Switzerland; Zdzisław Sudoł, Head of Road Safety Department at State/National Police, Poland; Rafał Wasiak, Inspector from Poland; and Joseph Alexander Smith, British journalist and public activist who currently resides in Georgia. Continued on page 13




NOVEMBER 10 - 13, 2017

Doing Tourism Right: Gudauri



ow many years has it been since I was there? Certainly more than ten. An invitation came, however, to attend a couple of days’ conference in Gudauri on Sustainable Mountain Tourism, sponsored by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GbmH (in English, the German Society for International Cooperation). I jumped at the chance. About 80 of us gathered in the village’s Marco Polo Hotel: Georgians, Germans and a few other foreigners. We represented businesses, NGOs, and government on local, national and international levels, and we came to hammer out some understanding of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportuni-

ties and Threats of our conference subject. This, in short, is a SWOT analysis. Simultaneous translation between English and Georgian in both directions via headphones sped things up, and the fivestar accommodation in a different mountain region from the one most of us live in didn’t hurt either. There were guest house and hotel staff; adventure tourism company members; advisors to the Georgian government; vocational collage representatives; hiking trail renovators and blazers; champions of local culture and more. A good mix, a friendly atmosphere, where we could really talk about what works or might work and what doesn’t both in Georgia and abroad. I realized an important thing: you can do nothing, you can do the right thing, but you can also do the wrong thing. This last option can be as harmful as doing nothing, if not more so. For example, the wrong kind of hotel, wrong in possibly many ways. If its waste water pollutes a

local water source. If its employment is all from far away, outside the region or country, benefiting the local community minimally if at all. If its size is wrong, or its architecture badly out of place. We were encouraged to mix and mingle with people we didn’t know instead of our colleagues or friends, and this worked well to maximize meeting new people and contacts. The synergy was palpable! Racha was the special focus among Georgia’s many mountain regions, a place which has much to offer but is not nearly as much visited as its counterparts. As with every location in Georgia, Racha has unique characteristics of dialect, food, costume, dance, traditions, landscapes, churches and so on. For such a small country, the diversity in Georgia is simply astounding. I maintain that a lifetime is necessary to discover it fully, or even to delve deeply into one corner as I seem to be doing. All of the different interests represented need to

listen to one another. What do foreigners want on a Georgian holiday? What can Georgia offer? What will make them rise above in “quality of experience,” a key selling point? What, in other words, will make lasting memories which the visitor can take away and treasure and share? The infrastructure, the online presence and other advertising, the training, the language, the safety, the authenticity, the flexibility of offers and prices, the local sourcing, the offers for guests to participate, the benefits to one’s whole community? All important issues. It was an eye-opener for me. If, for example, I want to offer my guests bicycles, can I repair and maintain them on-site? Do I have enough for all ages and sizes? Known routes of various difficulty from beginner to off-road? Guides trained in both language (at least English, preferably also Russian) and safety/first aid? Similar qualifications for hiking or horseback guides. Does my guest house have fire extinguishers, and fire escape routes marked? One dream of mine is to have uninterrupted electricity no matter what the local situation. This proved to be unavailable even at our venue, which lost power briefly four times in one day. Not serious, but it meant that the interpretation booth and projector had to be re-booted. Oh, for a generator which kicks in without missing a beat, automatically, and can be powered either by the grid when it’s working or by the sun when necessary! Having done our SWOT analysis, we then came up with lists of action points, you know, things to DO. Because all talk with no action is just that, talk. We want to be involved in seeing the mountain tourism situation in Georgia continue to improve, matching in quality the quantities of guests which seem to be on the rise. And to be SUSTAINED. https://www.giz.de/en/html/index.html 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 1700 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

Georgia to Introduce Performance Appraisal System in Civil Service


he best models of performance appraisal in civil service were discussed at a workshop on November 8, attended by over 60 Georgian government officials and representatives of international organizations. The event is part of the preparations for introducing a performance appraisal system in Georgia’s civil service starting from January 1, 2018. Ekaterina Kardava, Head of the Civil Service Bureau, Revaz Javelidze, First Deputy Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia, and George Khanishvili, Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Georgia, addressed the participants at an opening session. “An effective system of performance appraisal is critical for ensuring that civil servants have opportunities for career growth and professional development,” Kardava said. She also stressed that performance appraisal is one of the requirements of Georgia’s Law on Civil Service and the Government’s Decree on the Approval of Rule and Conditions of Civil Servants’ Performance Appraisal. The establishment of an effective performance appraisal system in civil service is part of the ongo-

ing Public Administration Reform (PAR) in Georgia, which aims to promote effective, transparent and accountable public administration as a backbone of an open and responsive government. The reform is supported by the UK aid from the UK Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Administration of the Government of Georgia, Civil Service Bureau, six Georgian ministries and public agencies. Speaking at the workshop, Gigi Bregadze, Democratic Governance Team Leader at UNDP in Georgia, underlined that professional civil service is one of the vital preconditions for the success of the reform. “We assist the development of a professional civil service recruited and trained to unified standards. Through introducing sound mechanisms, civil service will be able to protect itself against malpractice and arbitrary decisions, and civil servants will be afforded with uniform training and skills they need to do their job and opportunities to grow professionally,” Gigi Bregadze said. The assistance to the Public Administration and Civil Service reforms in Georgia was launched in 2016 and will continue until 2020.



Sidewalk Invasions! OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


idewalks, as they are called in America, or pavements in British English, constitute a direct reflection of human rights, and this has been so since ancient times. Sidewalks are usually built on the side of the motorized part of roads to guarantee safety for pedestrians while they walk. And safety is provided for by separating walkers from drivers as much as possible. Georgia is a country where the historical concept of a sidewalk is not plainly ignored but vehemently defied both by people and authorities in the same exact way. Sidewalks are multifunctional here, and all those functions, except walking itself, go against law and order. A couple of days ago, I was walking the streets of my beloved Tbilisi, my attention became totally engulfed with a minor architectural detail. At first, I tried to ignore it, but when I started stumbling over them one after the other, the angry inquisitive journalist awoke in me. My morning strolling area, first restricted to the old

downtown street where I live, called Besiki, then widened, as I followed my curiosity and indignation, going a little deeper into my architectural thoughts, to better observe whether the sidewalk ugliness was ubiquitous throughout the town or not. Yes, it was! Right in the heart of Tbilisi! I’m talking about voluntary, unauthorized minor constructions right on the sidewalks! Desiring to make life more comfortable for themselves, dwellers of houses build themselves private stairs and porches, some of which are even canopied! These people capture part of the communal land, thus invading the sidewalks and leaving pedestrians without a chance to walk comfortably on the place designed exactly for that function! How come anybody who wants to have additional living space is allowed to add to their legitimate dwellings a structure of any type and size at the expense of the town property? In most cases, these structures are ugly and untidy, and most importantly, are built without a relevant permit. One of the recently constructions on lower Besiki Street has invaded a huge part of the sidewalk, compelling us poor

pedestrians to hit the road itself, at risk of being mowed down by the constant heavy traffic. There are tens if not hundreds of such examples on the block. Amazingly, this is no surprise for most, as we take the invasion of our sidewalks for granted. I have never seen anything like this anywhere else in the world! There is another common type of invasion of sidewalks in Tbilisi: cars, turning the foot space into parking lots. By doing so, drivers make pedestrians second-rate citizens with no legal right to freely use what legally belongs to them. To say nothing of other invaders of our sidewalks, though in some cases more tolerable than the above: street vendors. And they are tolerable because they need to make their living somehow, and they are at least offering some kind of service, sometimes a very good one. Such ‘good’ invasions might be seen in any other big or small city in the world, but unlawful voluntary constructions and so many parked cars on sidewalks is what makes Georgia so very different from the rest. Somebody might ask if it is possible to get rid of what makes our capital city look so unpleasantly unique. My answer would be no, because nobody cares.

ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH WILKINS. Source: www.texasmonthly.com

Prioritizing Life, not Cars: International Road Safety Conference Held in Tbilisi Continued from page 10

“The basic question is, whether Tbilisi is for people or for motor vehicles,” Rafał Wasiak said. “My first impression was that this city is for cars: not so many traffic lights and rivers of cars moving from one direction to the other.” He emphasized that in Eastern European countries, the main political target is to make cities more and more pedestrian friendly, where for example, like in Warsaw, downtown is closed to traffic during weekends. Joseph Alexander Smith spoke about how unsafe, uncomfortable and unadjusted Tbilisi is for cyclists, and showed attendees a short video of his bicycle ride from one part of the city to another in traffic. “We have 1.3 million people dying on the roads globally every year and more than 30 million heavily injured people,”

Roland Wiederkehr, a Swiss expert, said, adding that Georgia pays around $450 million annually for the short-term and long-term results of road accidents. “40 years ago, we in Switzerland had the same obstacles that you have today,” he said. “We didn’t have much traffic but we had 1,700 fatalities per year. Today, with the explosion in traffic, it is three-four times more, but we only have 210 fatalities a year on average, so it is possible to achieve”. “I think it’s one of the obligations of Switzerland, the country which created the Red Cross, to do something for ‘road cross’ and help other countries to overcome such obstacles,” Wiederkehr said, going on to describe how Switzerland helped Poland with 4 million Swiss Francs, through exchange programs for Polish police and NGOs, and exchange visits of Swiss experts to Poland to share their experience on how to improve

road safety in the country. “We also invite you to start an exchange program together with the Polish police, together with Swiss police and Polish NGOs,” Wiederkehr suggested. “Road safety has so many different aspects, it needs careful analysis and planning. Education must be set in schools, special prevention days need to be organized, like in Poland and Switzerland,” he later told GEORGIA TODAY. “First of all, there needs to be political will to make such an exchange and then we can start making a plan. The priority here in Georgia is still given to cars, and that’s wrong. It shouldn’t make the same mistakes we did. But we’re changing now and we give priority to life in the cities: life and not cars and machinery, which is also a fantastic thing for tourism,” Wiederkehr concluded.





NOVEMBER 10 - 13, 2017


GIFT- GEORGIAN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS www.giftfestival.ge November 10 THE MOONSHINE DREAM STORY Created and directed by Tom Graham Adriani TALKS AND WORKSHOPS Silk Fabric Theater Start time: 14:00 Ticket: 10 GEL Venue: Silk Factory Studio, 59 Merab Kostava Str. November 12 RAMDAM ART CENTER LYON(FRANCE) K.Opus 1 MARRIAGE SCÈNES THÉÂTRE CINÉMA Directed by PHILIPPE VINCENT Start time: 19:35 Ticket: 10 GEL Venue: Silk Factory Studio, 59 Merab Kostava Str. SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03 November 10, 11 LULLABY Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 November 10, 11, 12 THE STORY OF A MURDERER Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL November 10 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Kakha Bakuradze, Sandro Nikoladze, Irakli Menagarishvili, Simon Bitadze, Dato Kakulia, El banda del “მუდო” Start time: 21:30 Ticket: 10 GEL November 16, 17 IGGY Jemal Karchkhadze Director and Choreographer: George Ghonghadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL

TBILISI SPORTS PALACE Address: 1 26th Sq. Telephone: 233 33 11 November 11 UFO Moscow State Circus Show Start time: 19 :00 Ticket price: 30-100 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL November 10-16 THOR: RAGNAROK Directed by Taika Waititi Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 14:15, 19:00 Ticket: 9-14 GEL MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS Directed by Kenneth Branagh Cast: Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery Language: Russian Start time: 16:00, 22:00 Ticket: 9-14 GEL ONLY THE BRAVE Directed by Joseph Kosinski Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges Genre: Biography, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 16:45, 21:45 Ticket: 9-14 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL November 10-16 MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Info Above) Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL THOR: RAGNAROK (Info Above) Start time: 16:15, 22:30 Ticket: 9-14 GEL

GEOSTORM Directed by Dean Devlin Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Ed Harris, Andy García Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 19:45 Ticket: 10-11 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge May 18 – November 18 EXHIBITION GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF 18TH-20TH CENTURIES EXHIBITION NUMISMATIC TREASURY Showcases a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia starting from the 6th century BC. until 1834. MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 March 6 – December 31 EXHIBITION MASTERPIECES FROM THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS COLLECTION The exhibition includes works by Bernardo Daddi, Lucas Cranach (Elder), Guido Reni, Jan Steen, Jacob Van Ruisdael, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Vassily Kandinski; Masterpieces by Niko Pirosmanashvili, Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 15 73 00 www.museum.ge October 5 – November 30 Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery is to host two Italian exhibitions: UNIVERSAL VALUES: BOTTICELLI, THE BEAUTY AND CARAVAGGIO, THE LIGHT, DISPLAYING MASTERPIECES OF ITALIAN PAINTING

GAMREKELI GALLERY Address: 4 Chonkadze Str. November 5-18 OLEG TIMCHENKO’S EXHIBITION TERRITORY OF LOVE ARTISTERIUM 2017 November 4-14 EXHIBITIONS: ‘Art Craft Design’, ‘Living Room III’, ‘Ravel/Unravel: Hidden Process’ The State Silk Museum’s Intervention in the Tbilisi History Museum (Georgia, USA, UK, S.Korea, Germany, Finland, Greece, Japan) Venue: Tbilisi History Museum ‘Karvasla’, 8 Sioni Str. Frozen, Nic Bezemer (Switzerland) GalleryNectar, 88/10BochorishviliStr. Passport Photo, group exhibition (Georgia) Venue: Container Gallery, 10 G. Radiani Str. Industrial Design Examples from Poland, Photo exhibition Face to Face International artists exhibitions (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia) Venue: 8 G. Chanturia Str. Second Nature, Elene Rakviashvili, Interactive performance (Georgia) Venue: Tapestry and Art Textile Museum, 19 Chardin Str. MUSIC

TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 November 12 OPERA STUDIO 65 PREMIERE Giuseppe Verdi ‘La Traviata’ Opera in 4 Acts Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-10 GEL November 15 TBILISI CHAMBER MUSIC XII FESTIVAL The concert is dedicated to the memory of Konstantine Vardeli Participants: Davit Khrikuli (piano), Pupil of the Z. Paliashvili Tbilisi Central School for Gifted

Children, Sulkhan Tsintsadze Georgian State String Quartet: Gia Khaindrava (1st violin), Tamaz Batiashvili (2nd violin), Nodar Zhvania (viola), Otar Chubinishvili (cello). In program: works by Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-15 GEL November 16 TBILISI CHAMBER MUSIC XII FESTIVAL Laureate of International Competitions VOCAL SEXTET THE GEORGIAN SIX In program the works by Georgian & foreign composers Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5 GEL TBILISI BAROQUE FESTIVAL www.tbf.ge November 11 Event Thumb Anchiskhati Choir, GS, Salome Jicia, Ketevan Kemoklidze Georgian church music G. B. Pergolesi- Stabat Mater Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 5-30 GEL Venue: Rustaveli Theater November 16 GS, Ana Tsartsidze, Cornelia von Kerssenbrock Vivaldi- Concerto in G, RV 146 J. D. Zelenka- Magnificat in C, ZWV 107 H. Purcell- My heart is igniting, Z 30 H. Purcell- Hear my prayer, Z 15 J. S. Bach- Schwingt freudig Euch empor Kantate, BWV 36 Part 2 C. P. E. Bach- Sinfonia in B-flat Major, Wq 182/2 G. F. Händel- Laudate Pueri, HWV 237 J. S. Bach- Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226, 1729 A. Vivaldi- Domine ad adiuvandum me festina, RV 593 Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 5-30 GEL Rustaveli Theater RUSTAVELI THEATER Address: 17 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 72 68 68 www.rustavelitheatre.ge November 10 Mikeladze Center and Nikoloz Rachveli present A CONCERT OF THE GEORGIAN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA Directed by Mirian Khukhunaishvili, Soloist- Vakhtang Jordania, piano. Program: Ludwig Van BeethovenEgmont Overture, Piano Concerto N5 and Symphony N7. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 15-35 GEL ELEKTROWERK Address: 2 Monk Gabriel Salosi I Turn November 11 TerrorCrew Promotions (Sweden) & Locomotive Promotion (Georgia) present: REDRUM FESTIVAL Line up: Psychonaut 4- Post-Soviet Suicidal Black Metal Scratch The Floor- Nu Metal / Alternative Metal Infadus- Progressive Death/ Melodic Death Metal Lilla Land- Gothic-Darkwave Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-17 GEL DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC AND CULTURE Address: 125 Aghmashenebeli ave. Telephone: 2 96 12 43 November 11 CONCERT OF YOUNG SINGERS Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra Conductor- David Mukeria The program consists of fragments from well-known classical operas Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL




Jazz in Georgia: The Good Life and listen to it. One of the best moments of my life as a listener (and I’ve listened to good jazz in all over the world). First came the Georgian prodigy Papuna Sharikadze, together with Eddie Gomez and a drummer named Tyson. 7 tracks they played and all seven are in my “Must Listen” youtube playlist now. You had a rendering of Chic Corea’s Sicily there and then you had Papuna’s own theme, called Tbilisi, and it sounded like a music retelling of the history of its namesake, you had the Bohemic Shardeni of today there, the understated beauty of Old Tbilisi, all the way back to the dark 90s and tanks on Rustaveli Avenue. He proceeded to offer yet another of his own rendering, this time of a tender Megrealian melody called Skani Chirima (for those of you that want to look it up). Two more tracks and they went out to huge applause, all the while proving Khazaradze’s earlier statement: with performers like these, Georgia is on the world jazz map. The following half an hour was what I was so struggling to find words to describe: pure genius and sheer happiness is as close as I’ve got so far. Stanly Clarke – if he needs any introduction, I

Photo by Gela Bedianashvili



bvious fact: Life can be good in Georgia. A slightly less obvious fact: more so if you’re a jazz aficionado. At least couple of times per year, you get to witness world class performers weaving their magic here. What Eastern Promotion and TBC Status did this year, though, exceeded my wildest expectations. Boy was that good. Eastern Promotion dutifully provided accreditation and not be outmatched, I dutifully approached the head of TBC group. Mamuka Khazaradze, who was kind enough to offer his insights regarding the event. “What we’re doing here, what Eastern Promotion is doing, is putting Georgia on

the map of World jazz. The Jazz festivals have become a business card of Georgia and that’s something we’re very proud of. And as a listener, we’re very grateful for the opportunity. This is some quality jazz we’re being treated to,” he told us. Onto the music itself, now. Tower of Power, American R&B band (throw in some soul and blues, too, please) were given the honor of being the opening act. Turns out they’ve been around for ages now and it showed – only years of mastering your craft can hone your skills the way these folks seemed to possess. And then again, when you’ve been on the scene for so long, you’re perhaps forgiven for a loss of some stamina and diminishing output – none of this here, though, not even a slightest hint of redundancy. One of the things not all bands are adept at (or less keen to do) is closeup communication with the listener. I

suggest you stop reading this scrabble and go look him up. Clarke somehow got 4 young prodigies in his band, one of them Georgia’s own Beka Gochiashvili, by far the single most popular jazz musician in Georgia right now. And deservedly so – his young age bellies the mastery far beyond his years. It looked… it looked like a school lesson. Clarke standing in front of the “class,” tutoring them, and the pupils carrying out instructions without mistake and with contagious exuberance. And Clarke stood there, thoroughly enjoying his lesson. At one moment, when the Afghan member of the band pulled out an especially tricky part, Clarke burst into laughter and you could see that it was laughter of delight. Mute the video of that performance, look at the public and you might think it was a black metal gig: people banging their heads and literally screaming out of excitement. My hands hurt: I’ve never done as much clapping before. And it was a thoroughly sad feeling to realize that I might never experience this again, listening to them live. Genius. Ge-ni-us. Clarke, Beka, all other boys. It doesn’t get better, virtuoso or professional, than that.

tell you, if the Tower of Power had come any closer, we’d have been hugging them (and some of us did!). Unsurprisingly, the band went out with a thunder of an applause, and that evening I was pretty convinced that that was as good as it would get. I was mistaken. The next day, the Joe Lovano Classic Quartet treated us to some exquisite saxosymphony (I just invented a word!). The grammy-winning Lovano was the star of the show, with listeners thoroughly enjoying the music. The respect and love for classical music shone through and while I myself am not much of a fan of saxophone, it’s hard to call the performance anything but outstanding. What happened on the third day though is harder to put into words. I’ve tried mesmeric, brilliant, breathtaking, sublime – nothing really comes close to capturing what it was like to be there

‘La Traviata’ Is Back with Italian Set & Spanish Costumes



n November 18, 19, 23, 24 and 30, at 8pm, the premiere of Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’ will be held at Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater. It is the first time a pro-

duction has been performed in Tbilisi which has been been created by two European theaters. The set was made in Teatro dell Opera di Roma, Italy, and costumes made in Teatro Real, Madrid and the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, Spain. The world premiere of ‘La Traviata’ took place in Teatro ‘La Fenice’, Venice, in March 6, 1853. It was a total failure. The next day, Verdi wrote to his friend Emanuelle Emuzzio: “Yesterday night, ‘La Traviata’ failed. Is it my fault, or are the singers to blame?” “Time will tell,” was the answer. However, there were people in the audience who approved of and appreciated it thoroughly. “’La Traviata’ was the first performance that I conducted in our theater. It is one of the most well-loved operas” Zaza Azmaiparashvili, conductor of the performance, said. “I am very excited because Georgia is



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a wonderful country with a rich culture. I have worked with excellent Georgian singers at La Scala, like Paata Burchuladze, Nino Surguladze, Ketevan Kemoklidze and Nino Machaidze. Your orchestra and choir are excellent, and a fantastic surprise to me. I toured around Tbilisi, which is wonderful and full of culture. The people are very warm, welleducated and civil. Badri Maysuradze (Artistic Director of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater), has participated in numerous performances of ‘La Traviata’ all around the world. This time, the performance is in more of a neoclassical style, with sets and costumes corresponding to Dumas’ epoch,” Laurent Gerber, Swiss director, told us. “It is a real dream to create costumes for this opera. We have worked very hard, trying to reflect all of the characters traits in the costumes and accessories, and show the golden prison in which Violetta lives.

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

All singers will wear different garments and adornments in order to demonstrate various characters and traits,” Ester Martin, Costume Designer said. ‘When I was offered to work on the scenography of ‘La Traviata’, the letter was accompanied with a photograph of a rich salon of the 19th century. This very photo became a sort of basis on the background of which the whole drama was developed, and on which I constructed the scenography” Massimo Bellando Randone, Scenographer, mentioned. “I feel happy to be singing ‘La Traviata’ in my native country. I played this part in one of the Italian theaters, as well as in Deutche Opera Berlin. I think that Violetta is the most complicated role in the soprano repertoire. It comprises a lot of technical gradations,” Salome Jicia, who sings in the role of Violetta, commented. “’La Traviata’ occupies a special place

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in my heart. I sang it during my student years. Having graduated from the Tbilisi State Conservatoire, I went to ‘Verdi’s Voices’, the most famous contest in Italy, and played the same part there. It was my European debut in Verdi’s theater and Verdi’s home town, where I got a thorough education in ‘Canto Verdiani’ (translation: singing in Verdi’s style). I have sung it in many theaters. I am always happy to be singing in ‘La Traviata’. “This is the story of a courtesan and a boy from high society. I play the part of the boy’s father, Giorgio Germont. I destroy their love. The opera proved to be more popular than the book. It is about elitism within society” Zaal Khelaia, Baritone, told GEORGIA TODAY before the premiere. Tickets are on sale at Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater booking office, and online at www.tkt.ge


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #997  

November 10 - 13, 2017

Issue #997  

November 10 - 13, 2017