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Issue no: 1115



In this week’s issue... Georgia’s Khachapuri Listed among Top 100 Dishes NEWS PAGE 2

Future of Russia’s “Breakaway Empire”



A look at the toll so far and preventative measures you can take

TBC Denies Slander POLITICS PAGE 6

Sales of HUAWEI Smartphones Exceed 200 mln Units in 2018


Georgia's Position Worsens in EIU's Democratic Index Report BY THEA MORRISON



he Economist Intelligence Unit (the EIU), which is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, the sister company to The Economist newspaper, released its 2018 Democratic Index Report, where Georgia’s position has dropped by 5.50 points compared to 2017. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories. This covers almost the entire population of the world and the vast majority of the world’s states. The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation and political culture. Based on its scores on a range of indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of regime: “full democracy”, “flawed democracy”, “hybrid regime” and “authoritarian regime”. Continued on page 2

City Full of Love, or...

Image source: Economist Intelligence Unit





JANUARY 11 - 14, 2019

Georgia's Position Worsens in EIU's Democratic Index Report Continued from page 1

The report reads that Georgia’s fall, 5.50 down from 5.93 in 2017, was the steepest in the entire region. The country is in the category of “hybrid regime.” The index underlines that Georgia’s billionaire former Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, returned to politics in May, resumed leadership of the ruling party, Georgian Dream (GD), and despite not holding an elected office, “redirected government policy. “ “The Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, resigned in June, citing his disagreements with Mr. Ivanishvili, rather than widespread popular discontent with the government, as the key factor in his decision. Under Mr Ivanishvili’s influence, the government also intervened in the second-round presidential election, offering a debt write-off to 600,000 citizens two weeks after the election day. This appeared to provide the government with a sizeable campaigning advantage

over the opposition,” the report stressed. The index added that in comparison to Georgia, Armenia saw the most improvement among all “hybrid regime” countries in Eastern Europe in 2018, raising its score to 4.79, from 4.11 in 2017. This led to a jump in its ranking from 111 to 103. This is the 11th edition of the Democracy Index, which began in 2006. It records how global democracy fared in 2018. The report says that for the first time in three years, the global score for democracy remained stable. According to it, a total of 42 countries experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2017; 48 registered an increase in total score. But as a percentage of the world’s population, fewer people lived in some form of democracy (47.7%, compared with 49.3% in 2017). Very few of these (4.5%) were classified as living in a full democracy. Around one-third of the population lived under authoritarian rule, with a large share represented by China.

H1N1 Flu in Georgia: What You Should Know

Ajara Visited by an Unprecedented Number of Visitors in 2018



jara was visited by an unprecedented number of travelers in 2018. The total amount of international tourists reached 1,931.179 last year, which exceeds the figure of 2017 by 14.7%. The indicator for the growth in the number of international visitors shows Batumi International Airport as leader, where international travel increased by 23.7% in 2018 year-on-year. The positive dynamics of international tourist flow escalation were maintained from traditional markets as well as from new target countries of the European Union, where the Department of Tour-



he H1N1 flu strain, commonly known as swine flu, is spreading throughout Georgia. The Minister of Health of Georgia stated that 640 people are currently being treated with the virus in the country, of which 39 are in intensive care units. 10 people are known to have died from the sickness so far. Although the current numbers are far from epidemic levels, it is important to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Here is everything you need to know about H1N1 flu.

WHAT IS H1N1 FLU? H1N1 flu, often known as swine flu, is a subtype of influenza A virus, which is a common cause of influenza.

SYMPTOMS The symptoms are similar to seasonal flu symptoms. You will typically suffer from a cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, headache, body aches, chills, and fatigue. As symptoms progress, more serious problems such as pneumonia, a lung infection, or breathing problems can occur.

HOW TO AVOID CATCHING THE FLU Vaccination is the best prevention method. Amiran Gamkredlidze, the Head of the National Disease Control Center has stated that there is a ready supply of Tamiflu medication available

free-of-charge for pregnant women, children, socially vulnerable persons, pensioners, and those suffering with certain diseases. It is also recommended to regularly wash your hands with warm water or an alcoholbased hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of the flu. Moreover, taking care of your general well-being by exercising, sleeping enough, and eating a balanced can strengthen the body against the flu.

WHO IS AT RISK? Anyone could become sick with H1N1. However, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people suffering with certain diseases are most at risk. The government is offering Tamiflu medication to such people.

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING? On 9 January, the Ministry of Education announced that children would not return to school or kindergarten until 21 January, prolonging their winter holidays by one week in order to slow the spread of swine flu. Moreover, they are getting ready for next season with plans in place to purchase double the amount of antiflu vaccines in autumn 2019, up from 41,000 last year to 80,000 for 2019.

NO NEED TO PANIC Deputy Director of the NCDC Paata Imnadze, stated “there is no threat of an epidemic. Influenza morbidity is about 195 cases per 100,000 people, while the epidemic rate is 400. There are 277 cases per 100,000 people. We are far from the peak for the time being as the epidemic limit for our country is 500 cases per 100,000.”

ism and Resorts of Ajara has been running advertising campaigns since 2017. • Estonia +88.2% • Germany +79.2% • Great Britain +33.9% • Lithuania +33.2% • Poland +11.5% “Two million visitors represents an unprecedented number,” said the Chairman of the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Ajara, Sulkhan Glonti. “This is the first time we have seen such a figure. It comprises the data of three administrative zones of Ajara (Sarpi, Batumi International Airport, and Batumi Port). 86.74% of tourists were represented by travelers from our target counties, which is vital for us as we have put a lot of effort into achieving the given result and have actively worked for the promotion of our region and country through international

media platforms, press-info tours, participation in international exhibitions, online advertising, and other marketing activities. BBC, Euronews, CNN, and Deutsche Welle are the television companies through which promotion videos about Ajara were discovered by millions of spectators worldwide,” he said, going on to note that the high level of popularity of the region is also emphasized by the fact that Airbnb has named Batumi among the top 19 trending cities of 2019. Airbnb is a platform with more than 500 million consumers and is a valuable recommendation source for visitors. “Analysis of the time period of visits gives us the opportunity to state that Ajara is no longer just a summer destination: it is becoming attractive yearround, which is our paramount aim,” Glonti said.

Georgia’s Khachapuri Listed among Top 100 Dishes BY THEA MORRISON


asteAtlas has included Georgian traditional dish khachapuri in the list of top 100 dishes of the world. “This simple cheese bread known as 'khachapuri' is the most famous dish in Georgia. The pastry is traditionally topped with melted cheese, eggs and butter,” the website says. The article reads that there are different types of khachapuri, adding the most common additions include traditional Georgian Sulguni or Imeretian cheese. TasteAtlas says khachapuri is shaped into different forms and, depending on the baking procedure and its form, can be consumed individually or shared. “Two of the most common varieties include the Imeretian khachapuri, shaped into a circular form, and Adjaran khachapuri, the open-faced version topped with butter and a raw egg on top. Although it is considered a snack,

khachapuri can often be consumed as a full meal. It can also be bought at numerous kiosks located alongside Georgian roads, however, it is also served at specialized restaurants, known as khachapurnayas,” the article reads. The website also listed other famous Georgian traditional dishes.




JANUARY 11 - 14, 2019

Future of Russia’s “Breakaway Empire” BY EMIL AVDALIANI


s the West-Russia tensions have grown over the past years, one theater of Russian foreign policy, namely management of breakaway regions, has largely fallen out of analysts’ works. Where, in the first years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia had to manage breakaway conflicts in small and poor Georgia and Moldova, by early 2019, Moscow’s responsibilities have increased exponentially. In a way Nagorno-Karabakh was also under the Russian geopolitical influence, although the Russians were not directly involved. Following the Ukraine crisis, Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk were added to Russia’s “Breakaway Empire”. This means that at a time when economic problems are looming large within Russia, Moscow has to spend more on multiple actors across the former Soviet space. This means that Russia’s broader strategy of managing breakaway conflicts, though not very much visible, could be coming under increasing stress. Where Russia previously used the conflicts in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine to limit the ability of those countries to enter the EU/NATO, now Moscow is losing its ability to maneuver in so many diverse conflicts simultaneously. At times, various players are trying to play their own game independently from Moscow. In Transnistria, the geopolitical situation is trou-

blesome for Moscow as Kiev and Chisinau at times consider constraining the breakaway territory, and Moscow can do little as it has no direct land or air route. In Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian forces watch as NATO exercises take place on Georgian soil, which suggests that, despite the Russian military footprint in the region, Western countries are continuing to expand their support for Georgia. Without doubt, Russia will remain a dominant military power in the region and the breakaway territories will stay dependent on Moscow’s support. Yet, it will be increasingly difficult for Moscow to successfully pull the strings in several different theaters at once, particularly as the Russia is facing its own financial problems, increased Western efforts to confront its foreign policy, and “disobedience” from various separatist leaders.

BAD, BUT STILL A STRATEGY If Russia has any notion of a grand strategy in its recent foreign policy, it is certainly the purposeful creation of conflict zones and their management across the post-Soviet space. The fall of the Soviet Union was indeed a colossal geopolitical setback for Moscow as the country instantly lost portions of land on a scale rarely, if ever, seen in recorded history. But maintaining 11 buffer states (except for the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) around Russia has remained a cornerstone of the Kremlin’s foreign policy against Western military and economic encroachment. Russians knew that because of their own country’s

Map of the former Soviet Union. Source: kolovrat.org

low economic potential, the South Caucasus states would inevitably turn to Europe. The same would happen on Russia’s western frontier with Moldova and Ukraine, which have been more susceptible to Western economic and military potential because of geographic proximity and historical interconnections with Europe. In a way, geopolitical trends also point towards the conclusion that Russia’s usage of breakaway territories to stop

Western expansion in the former Soviet space is not working. True that Moscow needed, be it Abkhazia or Donetsk, to stop the countries in its “immediate neighborhood” from joining the EU/ NATO. And to the Russians’ credit, it has worked: the West is hesitant to quickly make Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova the members of the EU/NATO groupings. But there are also signs that the Russian gambit that those very breakaway regions would undermine the integrity of Geor-

gia and Ukraine has largely failed. Only Moldova might be regarded as a success for the Russians, as the country has still failed to unite around its geopolitical choice. The point here is that although there are breakaway territories, Western expansion into Georgia and Ukraine continues through various means, importing a much “deadlier” weapon – economic influence – against that of traditional Russian military and religious influence.

Will Georgia Come out against Ukraine? OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


he Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been granted the Tomos, that is the decree of autocephaly, or independence. On January 6, one day before Orthodox Christmas, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I handed the Tomos to leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy (Epiphanius) of Kiev and All Ukraine. The ceremony took place in St. George's Cathedral in Istanbul. The Tomos, meaning “decree” in Greek, clearly states that from now on Ukraine’s Church is autocephalous. It is under the direct patronage of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which also serves as the Supreme Institution of Appeals for it. Before that, for almost 300 years, Ukraine’s Church was part of the Russian Patriarchate and Moscow, and its chief canonical juror was the Patriarch of Russia. Apart from a parish of 40 million, Moscow’s Patriarchate also owned three Lavras (among them part of the KievPecheri Lavra), 168 monasteries and 13,348 cathedrals. For the sake of com-

parison, note that on the territory of Russia, the Patriarchate owns two Lavras, 499 monasteries and 18,042 cathedrals. The loss that the Russian Orthodox Church has seen in Ukraine equals the “fall of the third Rome” for Russia. With the Tomos, Ukraine became the 16th Autocephalous Orthodox Church and its formation has begun a most difficult period – a process of recognition which will be marked with intrigue and problems. The Orthodox world should once and for all answer the question as to whether it recognizes the decision of the World Ecumenical Patriarch about granting Ukraine autocephaly, and if it is ready to mention the leader of the newly formed Ukrainian Church Epiphanes in its prayers. It has been less than a week since the Tomos was granted and the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch has already turned against the autocephaly of Ukraine, saying that Bartholomeus did not take into consideration the position of other autocephalous churches when making this decision. The position is shared with the Church of Serbia, with Serbian Patriarch Irinej accusing the Ecumenical Patriarch of “neglecting canonical law.” He commented to Euronews that the decision of Patriarch Bartholomeus was not

Image source: Bartholomew I signs the Tomos of Autocephaly, marking the formal independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul. ANADOLU AGENCY / GETTY IMAGES

canonical but political. “In the controversy between Moscow and Constantinople, we will use canonical law, according to which Ukraine’s Church is within the canonical borders of Moscow’s Patriarchate,” said the Patriarch of Serbia. The remaining Orthodox Churches have yet to share their official position, including the Georgian Orthodox Church. This massive change that took place in the Orthodox world went completely unmentioned in Patriarch Ilia II’s Christmas liturgy. However, after the liturgy, the Patriarch’s locum tenens Shio and one or two other church leaders provided

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the reason for the lack of comment on the issue and said they “hadn’t read the text of the Tomos yet.” “Who knows what is written in it?” they told reporters. “How can we express our official position without reading it? We need to discuss it during the Synod. We will examine the issue during the following Synod,” said Bishop Nikoloz after the Christmas service. An interesting position was heard from the Rector of the Theological Seminary, Protopresviter Giorgi Zviadadze. His comment sounded a lot like what the Patriarch of Serbia said about the auto-

cephaly of Ukraine and the decision of Bartholomeus: “Ukraine is the friend of our country and naturally with this attitude we all respect Ukraine, but there is a clear Church Law and in this case the Holy Synod will use only the canonical rules. We are confident that the Holy Synod will make the correct decision and that it will be based on the Church laws that have been adopted during the various Church meetings and recognized as the only and chief rules to be used when making such decisions.” This clearly implies that the Patriarchate of Georgia may well act like the patriarchates of Serbia and Antioch and not support the autocephaly of Ukraine, thus deciding to continue orbiting around the Russian Church. There were only 15 Orthodox Churches in the world (Ukraine became the 16th): Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Elada, Albania, Poland, Czech-Slovakia, and the USA. In order to defend its position, Russia needs the support of at least eight other churches. As yet, only three have announced support: Antioch, Serbia and Russia. Whether Georgia will join the campaign will become known soon, but we can already say that it is almost there.

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




JANUARY 11 - 14, 2019



he Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia (POG) has launched an investigation into an operation carried out by TBC Bank in 2008. The POG announced the fact on January 9, after TBC Bank released a statement regarding the “deliberate black PR against the Bank.” Prosecutor Salome Chikobava said during the briefing held at the General Prosecutor’s Office that the Financial Monitoring Service had begun checking the financial activities of TBC Bank and its shareholders in May of 2018. She noted an investigation is underway into “facts of the legalization of illicit income.” The POG claims that in April-May 2008, companies Samgori M and Samgori Trade took loans to the amount of $17 million from TBC Bank. On the same day, a loan was issued to individuals Badri Japaridze and Mamuka Khazaradze, co-founders of TBC Bank Group and its Chairmen. The agency claims that none of the companies paid back the loans and later they [companies] were replaced by an offshore company but the loan was not paid back to the bank. “In May 2018, the Financial Monitoring Service of Georgia started studying the financial activities of TBC Bank, its legal entity customers, shareholders and administrators. The study revealed that specific activities included signs of illicit income legalization or money laundering. The materials were sent to the National Bank as well to the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia. Based on these materials, on August 2 of 2018, the Investigative Department of the POG launched an investigation into the fact of legalization of illicit income,” the statement of the POG reads. Before the briefing of the POG, TBC Bank released a statement, saying they will not tolerate the “deliberate destruction of the bank’s reputation.” “If necessary, we will use all the leverage available to protect the legitimate interests of TBC Bank, its founders and international shareholders,” the statement reads.

The bank says documents obtained by the Prosecutor's Office are related to the 2008 legal banking operation, which, as they say, has been several times checked by auditors and the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) during the current and the previous governments. “It is unfortunate that during the 27-year existence of TBC Bank, and under all governments, the Bank has been object to attack. TBC Bank and its management have seen a number of crises and have always proven their truth,” the statement reads. The Bank says several media portals released “erroneous and deliberately distorted information that serves to damage the country's leading financial institution and its founders' reputation.” The National Bank of Georgia released a statement regarding the case saying that TBC Bank is a healthy crediting organization and has an adequate level of liquidation resources and capital. “Investigation into the case of TBC Bank will not affect the sustainable and efficient functioning of the banking sector,” reads the statement. Zviad Kordzadze, the attorney of TBC Bank's Supervisory Board Chair, says that the POG questioned Mamuka Khazaradze several days prior to New Year. The lawyer says the Article, under which the investigation is being carried out, is “absurd.” “The rumors about money laundering are nonsense. The operation was absolutely open and transparent. The POG did not mention that the money was returned to the bank. Mamuka Khazaradze borrowed money from a certain person and returned the loan to the bank's capital,” Kordzadze said. The Banking Association of Georgia released a statement regarding the case, saying “such a campaign” can damage the reputation of a particular bank and the entire banking system, which will negatively impact the country's economic development. “Incorrect interpretations of recent developments regarding TBC Bank, and speculations receiving high interest from the public, can damage the correct perception of reality and lead to false expectations regarding the development of the process,” the statement reads. The Banking Association of Georgia

Image source: Georgia About

says they will always protect the interests of its member banks and will not allow a “deliberate slanderous campaign against the leading financial institution of the country.” Gigi Ugulava, one of the leaders of the parliamentary minority European Georgia, believes the recent developments surrounding TBC bank are linked with the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) Founder and Chair, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. “Khazaradze was trying to get on well with Ivanishvili before but it did not work…The recent developments mean that Ivanishvili personally threatened Khazaradze…We see business cannot breathe freely,” Ugulava said. Yet GD member Gia Volsky excludes any political motives in the TBC Bank case. “It is impossible to blame such a huge financial institution so groundlessly. No-one would even dream of such a thing,” he said. TBC Bank is the largest bank in Georgia. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM TBC BANK: On January 8, late in the evening, several media portals spread misinformation aimed at discrediting the leading financial institution of the country and its shareholders. Such actions undoubtedly aim to damage TBC Bank JSC, which is an important institution in the country, at local as well as international level. We hereby categorically deny the false accusations and misleading information carefully orchestrated by the forces behind the dark PR. TBC Bank is and will remain the leading financial institution in the country and the region, observing the best practices of corporate governance and social responsibility, which has been duly recognized by international institutions and investors. Being a leading Public Limited Company with a premium listing (FTSE250), TBC Bank represents in Georgia interests of investors and shareholders from all of the five continents of the world. Regrettably, in the course of 27 years since its inception, TBC Bank has been

a target of assaults under every government. The Bank and its shareholders have gone through multiple crises but have always been able, and will be able in the future, to assert their truth. As concerns the comment made by the Office of the Prosecutor with respect to the collection of documents, it is related to an ordinary, legitimate bank transaction performed in 2008, which: • has been examined by state structures and the National Bank of Georgia on several occasions in relevant periods under the present as well as the previous government; • has been examined and verified as legitimate by international auditors on several occasions; • Furthermore, the statute of limitations for the transaction has expired. TBC Bank is not going to disregard this deliberate attempt to discredit and tarnish its reputation, irrespective of the source of the misinformation, and will apply all available local and international instruments for the protection of the legitimate interests of the Bank, its founders and international shareholders.

Blogger on Hunger Strike in Azerbaijan



ehman Huseynov is a blogger and activist who worked to expose uncomfortable truths in Azerbaijan such as corruption and police brutality. He was

imprisoned almost two years ago for bogus charges of defamation. As his jail time comes to an end, the Azerbaijani police have come up with new charges to extend his sentence by 5 – 7 years. Huseynov has now been on hunger strike for over 10 days in protest. Before his arrest, Huseynov ran a popular Facebook page that discussed social issues in Azerbaijan and held

officials to account. With over 300,000 followers, the page publicized the luxurious lifestyles and new-builds of officials whilst highlighting social problems. He launched a campaign called the ‘Hunt for Corrupt Officials’ shortly before his arrest. Huseynov was detained 9 January 2017 after publishing videos revealing how ministers were building opulent palaces. He told the judge the following day that police had beaten him, put a plastic bag over his head, and stun-gunned him. Despite a judge ordering an investigation into his treatment, he was prosecuted for ‘slander’ of the same police station he claimed mistreated him. He has been in prison since 3 March 2017. The new charges leveled against Huseynov are vague and undocumented. He is accused by authorities of violently attacking a prison officer. Many believe the real purpose of these allegations are to silence him so he will not continue to expose police brutality and corruption. Huseynov’s confinement is not unique in Azerbaijan. The country’s government repeatedly targeted figures such as Huseynov who are young, popular and politicized in a multi-year crackdown on civil society, media, and political opposition. Huseynov is gaining more and more

attention both in Azerbaijan and internationally. The opposition party Musavat announced that they will hold a political rally in support of Mehman and other political prisoners on 12 January. Moreover, various international media freedom and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have spoken up in support of the #FreeMehman campaign. Despite international criticism of the Azerbaijani government regarding their treatment of the free press, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has downplayed Huseynov’s case. He says does not consider Huseynov to be a journalist. “Well-known circles are trying to glorify and make individuals with low-intelligence… into the leaders of public opinion.” He believes Azerbaijan is pursuing an independent policy. “This policy annoys those who are trying to make such individuals as Huseynov the leader of public opinion and glorifying them: they are looking for vessels,” he said. Many politicians insist that Huseynov had a fair trial on correct charges. “He violated the law and therefore appeared before the court,” said Azerbaijani MP Hikmat Babaoglu. “Pretending to be defenders of rights and democracy, they actually show hostility towards Azerbaijan and seek to discredit its interna-

tional authority.” Despite the government’s attempt to discredit Huseynov, his case clearly raises questions regarding the quality of media freedom in Azerbaijan. Democracies flourish when supported by an independent judiciary, respect for the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, pluralism, democratic electoral processes, a free media, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The imprisonment of Huseynov could be seen to have broken many of these important elements of democracy. Huseynov is still waiting to hear if his prison term will be extended as his hunger strike continues into its third week. Mr. Aliyev must think no one will bother to call out his brutish behavior. An experienced career Foreign Service officer, Earle D. Litzenberger, has just been confirmed as U.S. ambassador. He declared in his confirmation hearing that “democracies thrive only when bolstered by an independent judiciary, respect for the rule of law, a free media, a vibrant civil society, pluralism, democratic electoral processes, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” As a first act in his new position, the ambassador should read this list out loud to Mr. Aliyev and insist that Mr. Huseynov be freed.




Iran-Russia Cooperation Grows Beyond Syria BY EMIL AVDALIANI


yria is symbol of Russo-Iranian cooperation and there are numerous facts to prove it. However, there are also other theaters where Moscow and Teheran have successfully cooperated for years. Their deep-rooted partnership in the South Caucasus and the energyrich Caspian Sea is a good example of this growing trend. Altogether, this fits into the “geopolitical chaos” across Eurasia where we see Russia, Iran and other regional powers working more closely to confront US dominance. Iran and Russia have historically been wary of each other’s geopolitical ambitions. Numerous wars in the 19th century over the domination in the South Caucasus and the Russian influence in northern Iran in the 20th century made deep cooperation between the two powers almost unthinkable. However, the developments in Syria since 2011 and the US pressure on Moscow and Teheran have made partnership a much more possible scenario. In Syria, both Russia and Iran are interested in stopping western (primarily American) influence gaining much of a foothold in the country. However, while this deep cooperation has become a symbol of the aligning Moscow-Teheran geopolitics, it overshadows other trends in Iranian-Russian relations, namely a deep partnership in the South Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. The focal point of cooperation is the

nascent North-South transit corridor between Iran and Russia, which passes through Azerbaijan. The three countries are already somewhat connected via rail links and there is the notion that Russia’s Baltic ports and the Persian Gulf could one day enjoy efficient connections. Tehran and Moscow see Azerbaijan as a vital component in advancing NorthSouth trade and energy corridors in the South Caucasus. Both countries work together to block Western-led infrastructure projects. Such corridors rival the West-East ones promoted by Western countries and perhaps also the East-West Belt and Road initiative backed by China. Another common interest will be to avoid any foreign military presence in the region, particularly in Georgia. Another area of Iranian involvement could be the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. There were attempts by Tehran to mediate the conflict in the early 1990s, but it largely failed, and Russia, the dominant power in the conflict resolution process, would likely be much opposed to any Iranian meddling which might diminish Moscow’s role. From the Iranian perspective, the growing military cooperation between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan could potentially create a problem. The same problem could be seen in the expansion of NATO, primarily in Georgia. Russian-thinking could well align with that of the Iranians as both fear Western military encroachment on their spheres of influence. Both also loath Turkish influence in the region. Here, Russians are more predominant than the Turks in terms of military pres-

ence in the region. However, in trade and investments, Turkey is unquestionably at the forefront. True, there have been positive developments in Azerbaijan-Iran relations of late, but still, Ankara enjoys good relations with Baku and supports it in the simmering NagornoKarabakh dispute. While the lifting of sanctions against Iran in 2015 somehow helped the country enjoy a freer hand in asserting itself in the South Caucasus economically and politically, the country has nevertheless continued to face substantial challenges from Russia and Turkey. Armenia-Russia relations are too ingrained in mutual military and economic cooperation for Iran to manage to insert itself while, elsewhere, Turkish economic and political influence still overshadows Iran’s ambitions and even in the NagornoKarabakh conflict Russia will use all its tools to block Tehran’s greater involvement. Further east from the South Caucasus the Russians and the Iranians are cooperating in the Caspian region too. The Caspian Sea was a place of geopolitical contentions among five littoral states. In 2018, the Convention agreed upon by all the Caspian states clarified the right of the five littoral countries to lay underwater pipelines (according to Article 14), subject only to the agreement of those states whose sectors the pipelines or cables pass through. Although this was agreed upon, laying underwater pipelines goes against Russian and Iranian geopolitical interests as it will allow Central Asian states (primarily Turkmenistan)

Image source: nypost.com

to export large resources of gas to Europe. Both Iran and Russia intend to do this themselves, although the latter has clearly had the upper hand since the end of the Soviet Union.

INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT There is also an interesting international context with regards the strengthening of the Iranian-Russian cooperation generally, and in particular in the South Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. Washington re-imposed sanctions on Teheran in 2018, further underpinning the Russian and Iranian view that the US is against any rise of regional powers across the Eurasian landmass. Both are experiencing a sanctions regime from Washington and there is a shared understanding in Moscow and Teheran that the US is a geopolitical enemy. This fits into the geopolitical “chaos,” or, as some call it, the strategic realignment of many power brokers in the Eurasian landmass. However, the Eura-

sian landmass is also experiencing deep geopolitical changes. On the surface, one might say it is easier for the US to manage a divided Eurasia now that there are numerous regional powers competing with one other rather than the monolith that characterized the more stable era of the Cold War. However, the modern-day Eurasia is more chaotic, and this unpredictability represents a marked break with what the West had to cope with in previous decades. In the more predictable Cold War era, geopolitics was important, but it was hidden under democratic and idealistic premises. In modern Eurasia, though, there is a clear shift towards a new, more untenable world order. Russian and Iranian cooperation not only in Syria, considered by many as an alliance of convenience, is in fact only one element of much bigger cooperation between the two, spanning other regions of the Eurasian landmass.




JANUARY 11 - 14, 2019

The Bold 50: Etseri, Svaneti



ell, this certainly was a bolt from the blue, quite unexpected. I got an email from my boss’ boss, George Sharashidze, in November. He had chosen me as one of 50 bold entrepreneurs for the inaugural such group in one of his periodicals, the Georgian version of Entrepreneur magazine. Me? He invited me to the awards ceremony, which was to be held in Tbilisi on December 27, 2018. I really hemmed and hawed over going or not. It’s a big honor, but we’re 450 km or so away; winter roads in Svaneti can be a nightmare. Also, the electricity had been coming and going in our village, needing generator interventions to keep the various fridges and freezers running while we heated with our big wood-burning Svan stove. And our water pipes, which have not yet given us a winter without freezing at some point, needed some babysitting during this early phase. I felt bad about leaving my wife, even for a single night and day, coping alone with these challenges. She left the decision up to me, but there was still the situation to consider. In the end, I gritted my teeth and bowed out, with regret but also feeling that I was making a small sacrifice to do the right thing. And then when I was in Tbilisi, a week or so later, the Entrepreneur office where my award awaited me was empty due to the holidays; all I could do was borrow a key off the guards and present it to myself, alone. Fine! The deal includes interviews with all 50 bold entrepreneurs in the magazine. Below is my original English text which was translated and edited for said magazine, minus the questions, which feel free to guess. Many thanks to George for this consideration! – I like being my own boss as much as possible! This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a rebel, but the freedom is still useful. – An entrepreneur is self-starting, taking on the risks and stresses of a new endeavor, whereas a businessperson might either start or join any business. In short, every entrepreneur is a businessperson, but not every businessperson is an entrepreneur. – We try to promote the return of a full life to Svaneti, which for a long time after the collapse of the USSR was a lawless, cut-off, dangerous, hopeless place, emptying of its own population. But BEFORE that, so they tell me, it was bustling with tourism, well supported by Tbilisi, safe and successful! How can we get BACK to that, where money can be both made AND spent right here? – Well, I started the Svaneti Renaissance Facebook group on a whim, as a long-term fanatic of this place, simply to try to gather all past, present and future information on the province in one online place. Similarly, I began writing weekly articles for

GEORGIA TODAY by introducing myself by email from Mestia in early 2011, without even a single meeting or even a phone call; and it was more than six months before I visited Tbilisi and met my colleagues and bosses there! My wife and I only moved to Etseri after its… “little problem” had been dealt with by a 10-helicopter raid, and President Saakashvili’s very energetic renovation of the entire province of Upper Svaneti had begun. No-one then was interested in buying a house in such villages (this isn’t Mestia or Ushguli, both major tourist hotspots), so the house price was ridiculously cheap. But starting a guest house and then the main village shop here were risky ventures, and we had no idea if we could succeed. We did have some other income to draw on, especially from teaching English in the local school and from my wife’s book translating, as well as me writing for GEORGIA TODAY and Where Magazine. But it took us two years’ living here before the last window was put into our formerly windowless house! We’ve used every form of advertising we can to promote the guest house: travel books, newspapers, online, signage, word of mouth, etc. The shop needed little advertising as news of it got out very fast. My wife is really the family’s businessperson: all the shop’s profits she put back into expanding it to what it is today. She, too, is full of energy; and wise with money, unlike me: most of our business success comes from us being together, in ways I could never imagine doing alone. – To see and be a part of Svaneti flourishing again! To give local people the option of using their skills, talents and dreams right here: learning and using English, being involved in tourism, helping us with renovation or repairs or furniture making etc., and seeing this as a place where they can really live, not a place to escape from. – In the guest house, getting clients, and running the whole thing ourselves, with occasional but not regular help from outside. In the shop, tightly controlling the credit system, which has caused many a small shop to close! – Our success comes from putting profits back into business growth. We also try to be generous and help needy people. By the way, the name of our village (ეცერი, NOT ეწერი) is a Hebrew word found in the Old Testament: ezer, meaning help… We have both been helped by our neighbors and try to help them too. – Risk will always be there. Luck is part of starting up too: not every gifted person in any field becomes successful… Also, I wouldn’t call it “karma”, but generosity has its own rewards, although these rewards should not be the motivation for being generous! Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti



Sales of HUAWEI Smartphones Exceed 200 mln Units in 2018

Image source: HUAWEI



he business team of the HUAWEI Company has announced that that its smartphone shipments for the 2018 year have exceeded 200 million units. The representatives of the company state the given result has been achieved by the enthusiastic support of consumers and partners around the world, as well as the strength of the smartphone products. The experts relate this record-breaking success to the launch of the new innovative smartphones with the modern technological capabilities by the company, such as: HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI Mate 20. During the last 8 years, the business team of HUAWEI has applied the consumer-centric concept and approaches. The company has also made important steps forward in the most popular, innovative and competitive technological

spheres, such as: photography, battery durability, communication and AI (artificial intelligence). In the past eight years, Huawei's smartphone shipments have increased from 3 million units in 2010 to 200 million units in 2018, reflecting approximately a sixty-six-fold growth. In the global smartphone market, Huawei has gone from being dismissed as a statistical "Other" to ranking among the top 3 players in the world. And in the second and third quarters of 2018, Huawei became the world's second largest smartphone manufacturer, with a global market share of 14.6%. Today, HUAWEI smartphones are used by more than 500 million consumers in more than 170 countries across the world. According to IPSOS data, the brand of HUAWEI is associated with progress, strong and innovative capabilities, and trustworthiness. „Looking to the future, Huawei's consumer business will focus on the core concept of 'consumer-centric', and will

dare to keep innovating, and make every effort to become a pioneer and leader in the next wave of the smartphone revolution, as well as constantly create new value for consumers, let our consumers better enjoy their lives, and truly make Huawei a brand that is beloved by consumers the world over“.– Stated Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's population. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of three business units of HUAWEI, mainly focusing on the production of smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years of experience in the telecommunications business and serves to the production of innovative technologies to customers around the world.





JANUARY 11 - 14, 2019


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 January 11, 12, 13 NUTCRACKER The State Ballet of Georgia presents Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s two-act ballet Choreographic version and staging by Alexei Fadeechev Start time: January 11, 12- 19:00, January 13- 14:00 Ticket: 10-50 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. January 11 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL TBILISI CIRCUS 1 The Heroes Sq. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 58 61 January 12, 13 NEW YEAR SHOW Start time: 13:00, 17:00 Ticket: 10-25 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA 36 Kostava Str. TEL (+995 32) 299 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL January 11-17 BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Directed by Bryan Singer Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers Genre: Biography, Drama, Music Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 15 GEL CREED II Directed by Steven Caple Jr Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson Genre: Drama, Sport

Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL AQUAMAN Directed by James Wan Cast: Amber Heard, Jason Momoa, Nicole Kidman Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 19:15 Ticket: 15 GEL CAVEA GALLERY 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 200 70 07 Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL January 11-17 BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 22:30 Language: Russian Start time: 15:00, 17:30, 20:00 Ticket: 16-17 GEL CREED (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:30 Language: Russian Start time: 16:30, 22:00 20:00 Ticket: 13-17 GEL MARY POPPINS RETURNS Directed by Rob Marshall Cast: Emily Blunt, Emily Mortimer, Meryl Streep Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family Language: English Start time: 16:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL SECOND ACT Directed by Peter Segal Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini Genre: Comedy, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 16-17 GEL AQUAMAN (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:15 Language: Russian Start time: 13:15, 22:15, 22:30 Ticket: 11-17 GEL

THE GRINCH Directed by Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family Language: English Start time: 19:15 Language: Russian Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 10-12 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS December 6 – February 28 (2019) In the framework of the celebrations of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Georgia the Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 298 22 81 November 29 – January 20 Georgian National Museum in the framework of the Project “Contemporary Art Gallery” presents THE SOLO EXHIBITION OF LIA BAGRATIONI A MAD TEA-PARTY MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge December 11 – March 1 Exhibition

RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS The exhibition showcases artworks by Dimitri Shevardnadze, Petre Otskheli, Henryk Hryniewski, Richard Sommer, Kiril Zdanevich, Vasily Shukhaev, Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Ucha Japharidze, Aleksandre BajbeukMelikov, Korneli Sanadze and more. The exposition also showcases documentary footage depicting the repressions of the 1920-30s. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until January 17 NIKO PIROSMANI’S RENEWED EXHIBITION Until October 5 EXHIBITION MASTERS OF GEORGIAN ART Paintings of Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili and Elene Akhvlediani together with Lado Gudiashvili's and David Kakabadze, giving a comprehensive picture of the diversity and aesthetics of Georgian Art. Until January 20 Anniversary exhibition of Georgian artist USHANGI KHUMARASHVILI His artistic traditions are classic avant-garde. The severe Soviet legacy and socialism were embraced in his creativity in a space of nonconformism. The main and initial stage of his art begins from 197080, when he defined himself as an expressive abstractionist. KHIDI V.Bagrationi Bridge, Right Embankment Every Tuesday, from 15:00-20:00 Until February 20 Multidisciplinary exhibition project IN-BETWEEN CONDITIONS ‘In-between conditions’ displays 18 work contributions expressing cultural impulses affected by political or social forces.


SOUNDS OF GEORGIA January 11, 16 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, which is a mix of traditional Georgian music, featuring different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, as well as new Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Tickets: 23 GEL Venue: January 11 New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’ Venue: January 16: 16 G. Kikodze Str., Café ‘Ezo’ DJ. KAKHIDZE CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 123a Agmashenebli Ave. January 13 THE CONCERT OF TBILISI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Maestro- David Mukeria Program: ‘Peer Gynt Suite’ by Edvard Grieg, Symphony N1 by Jan Sibelius The program also includes: Edvard Grieg’s concert for piano and symphony orchestra Tamar Licheli- piano Start time: 19:30 Tickets: 10-30 GEL IN THE DENSE FOREST Tskneti, The last stop January 13 GEORGIAN AMERICAN MUSIC SYNTHESIS Line up: Keti Gabisiani, Maia Baratashvili, Paata Anriandze, Levan Deisadze, Zaza Tsertsvadze Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 120 GEL SILK FACTORY STUDIO 59 Kostava Ave. January 13 UTSNOBI Special guest: Nato Metonidze Concert to close with a DJ Guests will be invited to sparkling wine Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 50 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. January 12 PIANO MUSIC CONCERT Natalia Vlassenko & Oleg Stepanov In program: Debussy- Petite Suite (for piano, 4 hands) En Bateau/Cortège/Menuet/Ballet Natalia Vlassenko & Oleg Stepanov Chopin- Three Nocturnes - op. 9 Oleg Stepanov Chopin- Fantasie Impromptu op. 66 Waltz in a minor op. 34 N2 Waltz in e minor (posthumous edition) Natalia Vlassenko Ravel- Rapsodie Espagnole for two pianos Prelude a la nuit/Malagueña/ Habanera/Feria Natalia Vlassenko & Oleg StepanovStart time: 18:00 Ticket: 10 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 January 15 JAM SESSION Every Tuesday Musical art director- Sandro Nikoladze Entry: Free




A New Year Offer from City Full of Love, or... Maqro Construction OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE




ocation, a green yard, spaces for various needs, an experienced construction company and parking spaces – these are the main criteria potential customers pay attention to while choosing an apartment. Within the high level of rivalry on the construction market, Maqro Construction is one of those outstanding companies that fully meets all the above mentioned requirements. It has prepared special offers for those who are interested in acquiring real estate for the New Year. When purchasing an apartment in the Green Diamond Residential Complex before January 15, you will receive a discount of 23%, along with an underground parking space free of charge. The offer includes units of different size in the completed residential complex, with finished renovation works and fixed kitchen facilities. The number of apartments is limited. Built to the highest standards in European residential development, Green Diamond comprises three stages and will integrate a 70,000 sq. m area and 1,800 residential apartments in total. Within the scope of the project, three swimming pools will be set up on the territory. One of them has already opened following completion of the first stage of construction and the welcoming of the first residents. The given complex also includes playgrounds, relaxation areas and pathways, all of which are located in the specially greened area close to nature and far from the busy rhythm of urban life, presenting residenta all the necessary elements for maximum comfort. The first stage of Green Diamond was completed by Maqro Construction ahead of plan. The construction process of the

Image source: Maqro Construction

second stage of the project is now well underway, and is scheduled to be finished within the next several months. In 2019, the final stage of the construction of Green Diamond will begin, set to last 30 months. It will be the continuation of the concept the company has been following for multiple years already: “The best residential and working standards for the country’s local population and its visitors is the paramount aim of our company”. Taking into consideration the given factors, the company has launched a brand new concept – Smart Living, which is based on ameliorated standards applied in every aspect of life. The Green Diamond Residential Complex and its facilities represent the constituent of the given concept, offering everything needed for a comfortable and enjoyable life, far from the busy city, close to nature. Playgrounds, fitness and recreational areas, children’s play parks, swimming pools, commercial areas – everything for the residents of Green Diamond to utilize without leaving the territory of the complex. Delighted clientele is the credo of Maqro Construction. Maqro Construction is the constituent company of Maqro Group. With the total

size of investments carried out in Georgia, Maqro Group is one of the five leading investors. The value of the direct investments to the Georgian economy exceeds $270 million. The core spheres of operation of Maqro Group are construction and development, tourism and the hotel industry, furniture production and its retail and wholesale transactions, nutrition and restaurant industries. In ongoing construction projects, Maqro Construction is included in the list of the top three companies. The residential complexes Green Budapest and Green Diamond, hotels Mercure Tbilisi Old Town and Ibis Styles Tbilisi Center, furniture enterprise Glorya Furniture and furniture salon Bellissa, home décor and perfumery brand Madam Coco stores, Dinehall restaurant – these are the successful projects the company has launched since 2013. Maqro Construction has completed the construction of one of the outstanding residential complexes Green Budapest, representing the customer oriented complex with the high quality works beeing carried out during the building process. The total investment cost of the project counts to $48 million, while the total investment cost of Green Diamond exceeds $120 million.

or Christmas, I had a couple of old friends from the US visiting with me in Tbilisi. They have been in love with Georgia since the end of the 1980s when we were extensively involved in all kinds of exchanges with America – business, cultural, sports, medical and journalistic. The Americans used to come over to stay with our families and we went to the States to spend time in American homes, mostly in the famous Peach State of Georgia whose mottos are ‘wisdom, justice and moderation.’ With Georgia on their minds, my guests came back to revisit their favorite sights of Tbilisi and its environs, and the first question they asked me when I took them for a glimpse of the gorgeously illuminated downtown was: “Why did you guys want to put that bilingual message in gigantic letters around your electronic Christmas tree? Just to tell the public that this city is full of love? It must’ve cost the earth, to say nothing of the pains taken by the city administration. Is the message that valuable and significant? No city in the world is full of love. Hate is in the same abundance as love everywhere!” I was a little nonplussed to hear the question and quickly came up with the excuse that the sturdy oversized slogan was only an emphatic reminder of what is most innate for our capital, and that is love. That said, I felt better and proceeded with entertaining the visitors. I don’t really know how convincing I sounded, but about ten minutes after the first question was promptly answered, I heard another, this time about the weird-for-the-holidays structures which had been erected in front of the Old Parliament. My first reaction was to give a strong political speech, briefly explaining why those unsightly tents had been set up right in the middle of the main city thoroughfare, but then I thought that perhaps a witty nonchalant answer

would be better to save the day. “Well, my friends,” I said, “it’s a little love and a little hatred to balance the Christmas moods in town so we can really appreciate life and be happy enough to celebrate the holidays.” No laughter ensued. Not even the faintest of smiles. To escape the acutely inquisitive curiosity of my foreign friends, I thereafter became so voluble that nobody could get a single word in. When, finally, after the evening meal and drinks and my accompanying profuse gibberish, I took to bed physically tired and emotionally overwhelmed, and lay there contemplating my life – long enough to be worth reminiscences, but not quite long enough to stop worrying about the image and fates of the motherland. A lot has happened since we said no to the idea of communism and held up the prospect of capitalistic development. We have certainly changed as a community, but there are things that still linger on as socialist leftovers. And now, following the train of my psychoanalytical thoughts, it’s my turn to ask a question: in what particular way would messages like ‘City Full of Love’ enhance our chance for a better life and boost our sense of happiness as the dwellers of this ancient urban development? How about those city folks who feel perpetual resentment instead of love due to chronic deprivation and lack of the resources needed to feel love rather than hate? Personally, I got the “love” message– I am a successful consumer of the fruits of love in general, but again, I have no need to be reminded that I am living in a place that is overflowing with the stuff. Let me throw in one quizzical contrast here: if somebody who eagerly wants to pester the author of the slogan in question and the executors thereof put up somewhere within the city boundaries the contrary slogan ‘City Full of Hate,’ what would happen? Would the alternative slogan be just as lawful to carry? As the saying goes, there’s only one step from love to hate. So why does it make sense to put up either one or the other?

NYT on Georgian Opera Sensation Antia Rachvelishvili

Photo: Toronto Star



ast week, the New York Times published an article about Georgian opera singer Anita Rachvelishvili. NYT classical music editor Zachary Woolfe

quotes eminent conductor Riccardo Muti calling Rachvelishvili "without doubt the best Verdi mezzo-soprano today on the planet. Without. Doubt." Woolfe praises the young star's performance in as Princesse de Bouillon in "Adriana Lecouvreur" at the Metropolitan Opera - "Diving into her chest voice, but not milking it or pushing too hard, her



Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Anuka Poladishvili



Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

tone stayed round, warm and not all that loud, an iron fist in a cashmere glove." Rachvelishvili, 34 years old, was born in Tbilisi in the mid 1980s, and grew up in a time all Georgians remember as hard, full of suffering, but also of community and warmth. In a childhood she recalls as happy, she tells Woolfe stories of how she and her neighbors would gather in one room they could afford to heat. “We would sing, we would play cards,” she said. “We would play word and spelling games. My dad would play guitar, or mom would play piano. The music was, of course, part of 99 percent of it.” In her mid-20's, Rachvelishvili "was accepted into the prestigious young singers’ academy at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan" where a lucky cancellation saw her onstage as Carmen for opening night of the 2009 La Scala season, paired with tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Woolfe explains that Rachvelishvili "has rocketed to stardom over the past few years with performances built from brief moments just like it: combinations of arresting vocalism and thoughtful subtlety. Her sensual, even elemental presence makes her particularly ideal for the daunting mezzo roles that anchor some of Verdi’s most important operas."

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1115  

January 11 - 14, 2019

Issue #1115  

January 11 - 14, 2019