Page 1 georgiatoday

Issue no: 825

• MARCH 11 - 14, 2016



In this week’s issue... Tbilisi Hosts First National Dairy Congress NEWS PAGE 2

NATO Repositions Forces as Russia Attempts to Split Alliance POLITICS PAGE 4



Ambassador Thomas Pickering on the Decisions Made about Russia

34-year-old Ukrainian combat pilot Nadya Savchenko has spent more than 600 days in captivity in Russia; Georgian citizens join EU Parliamentarians in calling for her release


Journalists Attacked and Beaten in Russia’s North Caucasus BY NICHOLAS WALLER

Continued on page 2

ECRI Expert: The Council of Religions Should Act as Mediator between Religious Groups SOCIETY PAGE 10


group of international journalists and human rights activists were reportedly attacked Wednesday by an unidentified group of assailants near the ChechenIngush border in Russia’s North Caucasus, according to various Western media outlets. The incident appears to have taken place near the settlement of Ordzhonikidzevskaya in Ingushetia, just west of the border with Chechnya. Preliminary reports indicate that three cars carrying a small group of men blocked the journalists’ minivan. The group then beat several of the reporters before setting their vehicle on fire.


Enhancing the Study of Georgian Folksong in the Regions





MARCH 11 - 14, 2016

Tbilisi Hosts First National Dairy Congress BY ANA AKHALAIA


he first national dairy conference was held in Tbilisi, Georgia, on March 10th, the main theme of which was improving food safety and competitiveness. The event was organized by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Apart from the government officials, the congress was attended by the s e c t o r experts, suppliers of materials and

equipment, manufacturers and farmers. The event aimed to support investment in the dairy sector, discuss the latest food safety standards and promote knowledge of modern technologies. According to a study commissioned by the FAO and the EBRD, Georgia’s dairy sector is dominated by small producers using obsolete technologies, and with very low productivity and poor hygiene standards. The study also suggests that simple improvements, such as better feed and fodder production, improved animal health, welfare and farm management as well as hygienic milk-handling can improve the productivity of dairy milk farming by up to 35 per cent. The congress paid special attention to the difficulties dairy farmers face in Georgia, such as lack of resources for technical capacity and modernization of modern farms and processing companies; as well as modern technologies and management practices, ranging from animal food and the necessary environment to hygiene, which farmers in the dairy business have to take into account in order to be able to increase productivity and improve the quality of dairy products. The National Dairy Congress is one of the initiatives carried out within FAO/EBRD project on improving food safety in the dairy sector through transferring knowledge. The central component of the project is training and knowledge transfer to farmers in the dairy sector.

European Commission Proposes Visa-Free Regime for Georgia BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


he European Commission announced Tuesday that it has proposed to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens. In its previous report, the European Commission recommended transferring Georgia to the list of countries whose citizens can travel visa-free to the 26-member Schengen zone. The proposal comes after the commission gave a positive assessment in December 2015, confirming that Georgia successfully met all of the required benchmarks under Brussels’ Visa Liberalization Action Plan. Europe’s Com-

missioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, emphasized that visa-free travel will further facilitate people-topeople contact and strengthen the business, social and cultural ties between the European Union and Georgia. “It is an important achievement for the citizens of Georgia. Today’s proposal recognizes the efforts of Georgia’s authorities to carry out far-reaching and difficult reforms with a significant impact on the rule of law and the justice system. I am very satisfied with the progress achieved, and I hope that the European Parliament and the Council will adopt our proposal very soon,” Avramopoulos said. Once the European Parliament and the Council adopt the proposal, Georgian citizens with biometric passports will be able to travel visa-free to the Schengen area for up to 90 days. The visa-free travel will apply to all EU Member States except for Ireland and the UK, as well as four associated member countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The exemption only concerns shortstay visas valid for up to 90 days of travel in any 180-day period for business, tourist or family purposes. The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU. The EU-Georgia Visa Liberalization Dialogue was launched on 4 June 2012 and the Visa Liberalization Action Plan was presented to Georgia’s authorities on 25 February 2013. EU citizens have been able to travel visa-free to Georgia for short stays since 1 June 2006.

Journalists Attacked and Beaten in Russia’s North Caucasus Continued from page 1

Two of the journalists and the bus driver were hospitalized but their conditions were not immediately known, according to Timur Rakhmatulin, the regional leader of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Members of the committee accompanied the group to the border. Several hours after the attack a group of camouflaged armed men attempted to break into and loot the Committee’s office in the Ingush town of Karabulak, the NGO’s lawyer Dmitry Utukin posted on his Twitter account. Swedish and Norwegian nationals were among the group of journalists targeted in the attack, in addition to several reporters from Russian media outlets Kommersant, Mediazona and the New Times. No group has taken responsibility for the attack and the exact meaning behind the incident remains unknown. Ingushetia, a Muslim republic situated between North Ossetia and Chechnya, has seen a major

uptick in violence in recent years. Insurgent Chechen groups often take refuge in Ingushetia, moving freely among the thousands of refugees that poured across the border during the bloody independence wars the Chechens fought against Russia in the 1990s. Russian authorities and Moscow’s FSB intelligence service frequently target the local population using cruel punitive measures aimed at rooting out rebel groups who are hiding in Ingushetia. Loyalty to Moscow is often divided between those who swear allegiance Russian President Vladimir Putin and his local proxies in the North Caucasus and those who side with insurgent rebels and radical Islamic groups. Tensions have been exacerbated in recent months as a result of Russia’s air strikes in Syria. Many in the region despise Moscow for having launched another military campaign that indiscriminately kills fellow Sunni Muslims, while others take umbrage at public disapproval of Putin and his local pro-Kremlin appointees.



Georgians Rally in Support of Savchenko Demanding Her Release BY NICHOLAS WALLER


t a rally held late Tuesday night in central Tbilisi, hundreds came out in support of Ukrainian political prisoner Nadya Savchenko and demanded that Russia immediately grant her release. Gathering in front of the Russian section at the Swiss Embassy, protesters lit lanterns with images of Savchenko’s face, and projected various anti-Russian slogans on the facade of a building that once housed Moscow’s embassy in Tbilisi. “Nadya Savchenko is a symbol of freedom. No matter how this fight will end, she will be the winner. We on the outside should do everything possible to save her life. She is an amazing woman,” said Women’s Movement representative Baia Pataraia. The rally was part of a growing global movement in support of Savchenko, a 34 year-old former first lieutenant and the Ukrainian armed forces’ sole woman combat pilot, who has spent more than 600 days in captivity after she was kidnapped and illegally smuggled across the border to Russia by Moscow-backed rebel separatists in east Ukraine. Protests supporting Savchenko’s plight

were held across Europe and North America on 9 March, each demanding that Russia’s authoritarian president, Vladimir Putin, immediately and unconditionally grant her release. In an unprecedented move Wednesday, 57 members of the European Parliament requested that Putin and 28 other officials connected to Savchenko’s case be placed under stiff sanctions. The parliamentarians publicly demanded that the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, take action against Russia’s fabricated charges.

DETAINED AND KIDNAPPED Prior to her capture, Savchenko served as a front line combat soldier in Ukraine’s all-volunteer Aidar Battalion, fighting in the country’s east against units of the Russian armed forces and their heavily armed rebel proxies. She was captured by separatist units near a small village in the war torn Lugansk Region on 22 June 2014, shortly after her detachment was surrounded and cut off by Russian troops. Subjected to torture and harsh interrogation methods – including being stripped naked and chained to a metal pipe – Savchenko was then illegally transferred by her captors to a military prison in the southern Russian city of

Voronezh and later accused by a local prosecutor of directing artillery fire that killed two Russian freelance journalists who were reportedly in the area at the time of Savchenko’s arrest. Moscow authorities formally charged Savchenko with murder and an illegal border violation, claiming she’d intentionally crossed into Russia without a valid passport or legal documents. She now faces up to 23 years in a Russian penal colony, if convicted. Her defense counsel, former Pussy Riot lawyer Mark Feygin, claims she was intentionally targeted by Russia’s feared FSB intelligence service and is being held, not as a legal combatant, but as a political prisoner. According to GPS positioning devices and mobile phones carried by both Savchenko and the rebels units who captured her, she was taken prisoner more than one hour before the death of the two Russian journalists in question and in a location far from the site of where they were killed.

MOSCOW’S INTRANSIGENCE Russia’s Kremlin-controlled media repeatedly casts Savchenko as a bloodthirsty anti-Russian Fascist, often using blatantly sexist epithets when describing her. One Moscow-based news outlet went so far as to call her ‘a killing machine

Nadya Savchenko, a 34 year-old former first lieutenant and the Ukrainian armed forces’ sole woman combat pilot, has spent more than 600 days in captivity

in a skirt’ and attempted to depict her as “a cold blooded killer who supports the Western-backed junta in Kiev.” Both Kremlin and court officials – including the presiding judge – have consistently circumvented Russia’s legal code by insisting that she is guilty and going on record as to say that the hard evidence pointing to Savchenko’s whereabouts at the time of her capture is nothing but “Western propaganda.” Contradicting the claim that she was taken prisoner in combat by rebel forces, the prosecutor in charge of the case claims that Savchenko voluntarily and illegally crossed the border into Russia without her passport and was summarily detained as an illegal alien.

INTERNATIONAL CAUSE CELEBRE Since her capture, Savchenko won a seat as a parliamentarian in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada and became a member of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly. Russia has refused to recognize her legal right to diplomatic immunity as a sitting member of government, saying the events she is charged with predate her status as a sitting parliamentarian. Western governments and the UN have called for her immediate release,

claiming her detention is politically motivated. Moscow has angrily responded to the pleas, saying international pressure regarding the case amounts to illegal interference in the Russian criminal justice system. “These are unacceptable attempts by a foreign body to meddle in our judiciary process,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Wednesday.

DEFIANCE At her last court appearance before sentencing is announced on 21 March, Savchenko defiantly closed out her defense by calling on Russia’s people to emulate their Ukrainian counterparts and rise up against Putin’s dictatorial regime. In a final gesture aimed directly at the Russian state, a defiant Savchenko vehemently declared that she would never recognize the legitimacy of the court or its verdict. She then stood on a bench inside the iron cage that serves as a dock for defendants and forcefully raised her middle finger in the direction of the judge. In a scathing final speech from atop the bench, she pledged to continue the hunger strike she began days earlier and vowed to return to Ukraine as a free woman, either dead or alive.

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MARCH 11 - 14, 2016

NATO Repositions Forces as Russia Attempts to Split Alliance By keeping a hair trigger on Kiev and Tbilisi, Moscow hopes to split NATO by overstretching its military resources and causing divisions within the Alliance over how to react to Russia’s actions. Source: NATO Maritime Command



he NATO alliance is currently carrying out a major redeployment of its forces in the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions in response to a months-long military build-up by Russia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday. “What we have seen in recent months is a much more assertive and belligerent Russia that is willing to use any means to achieve its goals,” Soltenberg told Western journalists on Monday. “Moscow’s numerous repeated attempts to intimidate its neighbors and break up NATO puts the Alliance in a position that it must respond with a unified front and a shoring up of our position in the region.” According to NATO’s plan, the Alliance will reposition substantial naval and ground forces in and around the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea, the bulk of which will act as a physical deterrent to further provocative actions by Russia. NATO’s decision to play a more active role in the region comes on the heels of Moscow’s military intervention in Syria, which turned the tide of the war in favor of Russia’s once-embattled strategic ally, Bashar al-Assad. Assad’s dictatorial regime was on the brink of collapse after more than four years of brutal civil war until Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his armed forces to intervene on the side of his long-time ally in Damascus.

The ensuing months-long air campaign has nearly destroyed the Western-backed rebel forces that oppose Assad, leaving Putin with multiple options to exert greater influence in the Levant and Mesopotamian basin. Moscow has since bolstered its presence in the Black Sea as it looks to re-enforce its surface fleet and naval infantry based in Crimea, which Russia invaded and illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014. Putin has sent thousands of additional military personnel and strategic rocket forces onto the peninsula, which is widely seen as precursor to positioning tactical nuclear weapons in Crimea; a move Putin has threatened on numerous occasions over the last two years. Russia’s armed forces have also flexed their muscles along the Black Sea coast as it completed a deployment of artillery batteries and snap combatready drills in Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia earlier in March. At least 50 mechanized armor units took part in live-fire drills in Abkhazia’s Nagvalou and Gudauta districts, all of which were directed under the authority of Russia’s Southern Military District, headquartered in Rostov-na-Donu. NATO officials believe Moscow’s actions are meant to intimidate Georgia and Ukraine, both of whom seek closer Euro-Atlantic integration. By keeping a hair trigger on Kiev and Tbilisi, Western officials say Moscow hopes to split NATO by overstretching its military resources and causing divisions within the Alliance over how to react to Russia’s actions.


Armenian-Abkhaz Relations off the Rails?



he issue of Armenia has become more active in the occupied territory of Abkhazia as the Armenian population in Sokhumi is blamed for controlling the local economy. “There is only one step from controlling the economy to controlling the whole government” – this is what they think there. Further, the ethnic Armenians are also accused of political conspiracies. Abkhazians believe that it is exactly they who lobby the issue of renewal of the railway connection with Tbilisi which they think undermines the Abkhazian state. Abkhazians also have a number of other accusations towards ethnic Armenians, though these two are the main. The relations between Abkhazians and Armenians became tense after the unofficial data of the 2011 general census suggested that the Armenian population equaled that of the Abkhazians and after which it soon turned into a demand for equal political rights. Namely, the Armenian population demanded the same number of mandates as the ethnic Abkhazians in the so-called Parliament. This demand didn’t get further than the coastal Coffeekhanas at the time. However, after the government changed in Tbilisi and the issue of the railway renewal appeared on the political agenda, the issue of quotas for ethnic Armenians acquired a much more important political meaning. Despite the position of the Kremlin, Abkhazians do not agree to renew the railway with Tbilisi. Therefore, the so-called legislative perspectives of settling on this issue equals zero. The fact that the political stirring up of ethnic Armenians is directly linked with the issue of the railway is confirmed by Aidamir Khishba, one of the leaders of the Abkhazian movement Aidgilara. In his interview with, Khishba accused Armenian MPs of lobbying the renewal of the railway. “Armenian MPs in the Abkhazian Parliament are getting more and more actively involved in regional politics and are lobbying the renewal of the railway connection between Armenia and Russia via Georgia. Because the Abkhazian political forces oppose this, some uncertain projects like ‘The Abkhaz Railway Consortium’ are born, accord-

ing to which the entire railway should be subordinated to businessmen from Moscow.” The goals of the Kremlin and the de facto government did not match in this railway issue, which became apparent earlier when then-ruler of Abkhazia Alexandre Ankvab claimed he was categorically against it. That said, despite the fact that, in answer to this rejection, he suffered the Tangerine Revolution from the Kremlin, it turned out that no greater enthusiasm is shown by Ankvab’s successor and the Kremlin’s favorite - Raul Khajinba. In Sokhumi they the latter will also end up with a revolution from the Kremlin. The internet publications in the occupied territory are already announcing the collecting of signatures for a referendum on early presidential elections. According to the Abkhazian legislation, the referendum will be held if the initiating group are able to collect at least ten thousand signatures within two months. And this is exactly where the votes of the ethnic Armenian population can become decisive in the issue of renewal of the railway project. However, Tbilisi is also not demonstrating complete support for the Kremlin in this issue. It seems that the Kremlin is trying to play the Armenian card not only in Sokhumi but in Tbilisi as well. In this regard, the three videos shared earlier this year on social networks are noteworthy. The first was connected with folklore - the Georgian dance Daisi was presented as part of Armenian folklore, the issue of copyright infringement regarding the song Kvavilebis Kvekana (Country of Flowers) followed and the third was about the game played in Sokhumi by the famous Armenian football club from Yerevan – Ararati. Taking into consideration the impulsive and explosive nature of Georgians, the above-mentioned could only give rise to negative emotions, which also raises a rhetorical question: Whose interests are behind these facts and what purpose do they serve? Not much political analysis is needed to see that the positions of Sokhumi and Tbilisi coincide in the issue of the railway renewal. This is an additional positive fact on the way of renewing relations with Sokhumi, just like the National Hepatitis C Program, which brought half of Sokhumi’s population to Tbilisi. Lately the visa liberalization followed which can give an opportunity to Abkhazs to escape from the political isolation.

46 I. Abashidze str., Tbilisi, Georgia

10 Galaktion Street

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail:




Ambassador Thomas Pickering on the Decisions Made about Russia BY IA MEURMISHVILI / VOICE OF AMERICA, GEORGIA

Nobody gave them that role. They just put themselves there as so-called “peacekeepers.”



mbassador Thomas Pickering served more than four decades as a US diplomat. He last served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the third highest post in the US State Department. Pickering also served as Ambassador to the United Nations, the Russian Federation, India, Israel, and Jordan, and holds the personal rank of Career Ambassador (http://www. Voice of America’s Georgian service reporter, Ia Meurmishvili, sat down with him in Washington for the following exclusive interview.

WOULD YOU AGREE WITH THE NOTION THAT IS SHARED BY SOME EXPERTS IN WASHINGTON THAT THE EASE RUSSIA ENJOYED AFTER THE 2008 WAR WITH GEORGIA LEAD US TO THE CURRENT CRISES IN UKRAINE AND SYRIA? One cannot divorce the connections that lead down that road. The Russians have chosen to operate in the way they have for mainly domestic reasons. I think that Russians had some feeling with respect to Georgia: they were in a position to play some kind of role, particularly in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia.

I think there were two reasons: one, the situation returned more or less to the status quo ante fairly quickly and, secondly, there were no sanctions possible at the UN Security Council as long as Russia had veto power. Therefore, it was not going to happen. My own sense was that perhaps others – both in Western Europe and the United States - felt that the sanctions would do more harm to Georgia and the United States than they would Russia.

think what people are losing sight of over Ukraine it that what is happening is President Putin’s failure to make key decisions to diversify Russia’s economy. For a long time Russia stayed as, and still is very much a prisoner of, what I call a “mono-crop-economy.” The mono-crop is hydrocarbons. They had the advantage of high prices and believed that they would never go down again. However, when they went down, even with the accumulation of savings of foreign exchange were not able to weather it. A diversified economy would have given them more opportunities. The inability of the Russian economy to effectively deal with falling oil prices is a real problem for Russia. If things keep on, low price diversification will not be possible because there is not enough investment funding to do that. I think it is a tragedy for the people of Russia.

DO YOU THINK IT WAS THE RIGHT DECISION? I think to some extent it was. Western Europe in particular, and to a much lesser extent the United States, have big investments in Russia. So, the “war of sanctions” was not something that they thought would necessarily end very well. If in fact they decided to put some sanctions on in a way that protected their interests, they [the sanctions] would not have had any effect. What is interesting is that in Ukraine we have seen sanctions which are targeted and very specific. I

There is a real strength in Georgia and Georgian nationalism

YOU MENTIONED THAT RUSSIA ASSUMED A ROLE IN SOUTH OSSETIA AND ABKHAZIA THAT NO ONE GAVE IT. IN LIGHT OF THIS, HOW DO YOU SEE GEORGIA’S RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA? HOW DO YOU THINK GEORGIA SHOULD DEAL WITH AN INCREASINGLY AGGRESSIVE RUSSIA? Since the conflict, Georgia has dealt with Russia carefully and correctly. And it should. But this doesn’t mean that Georgia should bow to every whim or wish of Russia. At the same time, it should build up a respectful relationship and do everything it can to normalize relations. Georgia is a very diverse country. It needs to find a way out, through the strength of its diversity, to build its unity in a democratic way. There is a real strength in Georgia and Georgian nationalism. However, there is even more strength in having a growing, economically viable country and providing alternatives for the Abkhaz and South Ossetians – economic alternatives and linguistic alternatives and all the rest. I think in the long run the Georgians are “condemned” to living together rather than to decline separately. The re-unification of those portions of Georgia - that I hope are only temporarily separated - is a goal which I always thought Georgians were committed to. It is a goal which can only be achieved not through military force, but through the ability to convince people in South Ossetia and

Abkhazia that the real future is in Tbilisi, not in Moscow.

DO YOU THINK JOINING NATO OR THE EU WOULD SPEED UP THAT PROCESS? No. I think what will help is a strong, growing, thriving, confident Georgian economy. Those are the things that the people next-door would look at.

IN THE SPIRIT OF KEEPING GOOD NEIGHBORLY RELATIONS AND TO BOOST ECONOMIC RELATIONS, GEORGIA REINSTATED A VISA FREE REGIME WITH IRAN, WHICH HAD BEEN SUSPENDED BY THE GEORGIAN SIDE. DO YOU THINK IT IS GOOD FOR GEORGIA TO HAVE CLOSE TIES WITH IRAN? I think having foreigners comment on Georgian foreign policy is not a good idea. I try to avoid it if I can. Georgia will settle its relations with Iran as it relates to a visa regime that Georgia thinks best. My own view has been that Iran has been isolated from the international community for 35 years. The opportunity to create an agreement that had the potential for resolving the challenge of the Iranian nuclear threat is a very important step forward. It’s not a perfect step and it took a lot of effort to get us there. What it does is to open a door to future steps and we may see a further incorporation of Iran into the international community rather than further isolation.




MARCH 11 - 14, 2016

Look Who Never Went Away OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


he latest extraordinary statement by Georgia’s prime-minister about handling the recently evolved conflict within the ruling coalition contains the following phrase with a veneer of watchful political warning: ‘The Stalinist maxims, radicalism and marginal pseudo-traditions, emanating from the depths of the Soviet Union are foreign and unacceptable to Georgia’s future.’ Joseph Stalin died a little over sixty years ago but his legacy keeps ranking as one of the most controversial issues in the world, especially in the former USSR, and certainly in Georgia, because Stalin was an ethnic Georgian, although he never desired to be mentioned as such – always wishing to remain in the annals as a Russian man and politician. The world knows much about him, and opinions differ. Summing up millions of pages written, and still being written, about this Kremlin Highlander, every bigger or smaller encyclopedia describes him mostly as a soviet dictator whose reign consumed tens of millions of innocent lives through infamous communist purges and persecutions. The Red Tsar was venerated by soviet people of his own time as an undisputed divinity, and as strange as it might seem, there are people who think highly of him, appreciating his leadership image and ability as something that carries the latent potential of reinstating the erstwhile powers of USSR. Those who remember Uncle Joe, write and say that he truly was a man of steel – this is what the word ‘Stalin’ means in Russian. Stalin was a vibrant per-

The Stalinist maxims, radicalism and marginal pseudotraditions, emanating from the depths of the Soviet Union are foreign and unacceptable to Georgia’s future sonification of what the communist ideals purported, and a direct embodiment of those ideals in real life. He built socialism on a territory covering one sixth of our planet and maintained the cherished status quo for quite a while until his demise in the early 1950s. The post-Stalinist era was marked with his denunciation. The criticism,

held up by the entire world, was harsh and spiteful, sticking to the recently venerated Vozhd, the stigma of the biggest political monster of all time. The image has not gotten milder and it has not improved in any way, but Stalin’s faithful adherents are still active, and the talk about the dead dictator is still alive. Time passes and his follow-

ers are growing in number, especially in Russia. And we have no shortage of them here in Georgia, too. Articles in the press about Stalin’s phenomenon are frequent and bulky, and the history is being written all over again. The Stalin issue as such is still hot and it does not fade away. Questions full of doubts pop up with considerable

frequency: Was Uncle Joe good or bad, after all? Was the great man and his legacy treated fairly or not by his compatriots, his fellow communists and the world in general? Did his gruesome creation of the Soviet Union really deserve to be demolished and its remnants scattered around the globe? Has the current Russian president a good reason and case to restore the old glory of Russia by implementing the ambitious idea of putting together once more the now defunct geopolitical giant of the USSR? Do the Russian people really want it back? And will they use Stalin’s image, now instilled and enlivened in Putin, as the banner of the resuscitated old cause? All these questions seem to be viable now because the name of the architect of the USSR gets mentioned more and more often every day. It has become a singular subject of controversy among Georgian politicians. Discussions on the theme are almost ubiquitous and society seems split over the seemingly dead and gone issue. And this is happening not only here in Georgia. Go to any book store in the world and you will find on the shelves new editions about Stalin. Authors – both local and foreign – do not desist from investigating and describing Stalin’s image as one of the most fascinating in history. Machiavelli, Lenin, Hitler, Napoleon and Macedonian look like peanuts in literature compared to him. What does all that mean? It probably means that we are not yet done with the topic. This might as well mean that there are certain latent historical and philosophical deliberations that need to be gotten off Mankind’s chest. And there should also be some I’s to be dotted and some T-s to be crossed when it comes to Stalin – one of the most talked and written about figures in history.




MARCH 11 - 14, 2016

Salve Fund to Support Vulnerable Children BY EKA KARSAULIDZE


he New Georgian-French Salve Fund was launched last week and has already gathered 10,000 GEL to help eliminate the fundamental problems of children from vulnerable families in Georgia. Georgia’s Justice Minister, Thea Tsulukiani, and President of the Georgia-France Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Antoine Bardon, officially registered the Salve Fund at Tbilisi Public Service Hall on March 7.

The main aim of the Salve Fund is to finance projects which deal with children working and living on the streets and eliminate malnutrition problems among newborn children from vulnerable families. Minister Tsulukiani noted that one of the programs is to provide parents of vulnerable infants with special support packages. For that, they just need to visit Public Service Halls with their birth certificates. “Along with other basic things, the package will include vitamins, which, in accordance with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) standards, are necessary to eliminate malnutrition,” said the Minister. “According to the statistics, more than 100,000

Georgia’s Justice Minister, Thea Tsulukiani, and President of the GeorgiaFrance Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Antoine Bardon, officially registered the Salve Fund at Tbilisi Public Service Hall on March 7

children are suffering from malnutrition in Georgia which interferes with their physical and intellectual development. Moreover, the elimination of this deficit is very difficult after two years,” Minister Tsulukiani added. The first people to donate to the Fund were the former French Ambassador to Georgia, Renaud Salins, and French, Georgian and American businessmen working in Georgia. The Ministry of Justice hosted guests and held an auction, where businesspersons purchased items represented by

different organizations, artists and athletes. The Ministry of Justice announced that they have already gathered about 10,000 GEL meaning that programs in the framework of Salve Fund could start from June 1. “My only desire was to start this foundation. Mr. Bardon, the head of UNICEF, also supports me and I would like to offer my thanks. Now I’m looking for people and organizations who will take on these particular projects and implement them,” said Minister Tsulukiani.

Georgian-born ISIS Commander Targeted by US Drone Strike BY NICHOLAS WALLER


SIS top commander Abu Omar al-Shishani was targeted and may have survived a massive US drone strike earlier in the week, according to the independent Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group. Shishani, a Georgian national of Chechen origin,

was originally reported to have been killed when his headquarters was attacked by multiple waves of manned and unmanned aircraft that targeted Shishani’s base camp in the Syrian town of al-Shadadi, according to US Defense Department officials at the Pentagon. US officials were unable to immediately confirm reports that Shishani had been killed in the strike, but information from Kurdish YPG units operating in the area said the attack had killed at least 12 ISIS

militants, including Shishani. Peter Cook, a spokesmen for the US Defense Department, said Monday the Pentagon needed more time to assess the results of the strike as actual intelligence on the ground remained unconfirmed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – an independent humanitarian aid organization with access to all sides of the nearly five year-old Syrian Civil War – said in a statement through the group’s director, Rami Abdulrahman, that Shishani was badly wounded but not killed and had been moved to the Islamic State’s de facto capital Raqqa in eastern Syria. Shishani is regarded as one of ISIS’ top military commanders and a close confidant of the terrorist group’s supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, having served as the Islamic State’s war minister. The US previously offered a USD 5 million reward for Shishani after he was declared a specially designated global terrorist in September 2014. War ravaged al-Shadadi has served as Shishani’s base of operations since he took command of ISIS’ elite special operations battalions in late 2015. The ginger-bearded Shishani has held several high ranking military positions within ISIS, including as overall field commander in several of the terrorist group’s most successful campaigns in 2013-2015. Born Tarkhan Batirishvili in January 1986, he was raised in the impoverished village of Birkiani in Georgia’s isolated Pankisi Gorge, home to a 20,000-strong Chechen community. As a teenager, Shishani – whose nom de guerre translates as Omar the Chechen – joined anti-Russian rebel groups fighting for the fledgling Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The groups used Pankisi as a training and supply center during the brutal 19992001 Second Chechen War.

He later served in the US-trained Georgian armed forces and rose to the rank of sergeant. During the 2008 Russian-Georgian War, Shishani was part of a special reconnaissance unit during the Battle of Tskhinvali, charged with relaying the positions of Russian tanks while behind enemy lines. Shishani was honorably discharged in 2010 after contracting tuberculosis, but later fell afoul of local law enforcement officials when he was arrested and served 16 months in prison for illegal arms possession. Unable to find employment following his arrest, Shishani’s neighbors have said in interviews that he quickly turned away from the community after embracing a radical form of Islam known as Takfirism – a fringe form of Sunnism that labels other Muslims and non-Muslims as apostates. After arriving in Syria in 2012, Shishani took command of the al-Qaeda-linked Mujahireen Brigade and its successor Jaish al-Mujahireen wal-Ansar – units comprised mainly of Russian-speaking militants from the North and South Caucasus, including many who had combat experience in the bloody post-Soviet wars of the 1990s. Shishani’s death would be a major blow to ISIS. His battlefield expertise and Russian language skills made him a formidable military and recruitment tool for the terrorist group. Pankisi’s Chechens, who traditionally practice a moderate form of Sufi Islam, have experienced a major spike in the number of residents who have been radicalized and hope to follow in Shishani’s footsteps. The beleaguered community has seen dozens of its youth leave for Syria in an attempt to join ISIS. British and American intelligence services estimate that up to 3,000 Russian-speaking recruits currently serve the Islamic State, the overwhelming number of whom originate from the Caucasus.




PASHA Bank on International Women’s Day


Kalandadze: Partnership between State and Private Sectors Will Boost Medical Sector Development


he Georgian Authorities plan to carry out management of three hospitals in Tbilisi as part of the partnership model between the state and private sectors (PPP). This model was first established in 1980s in Europe and it has become a widely applied and experienced method for managing and developing major facilities. Economic expert Levan Kalandadze discusses the issue.

AS REPORTED, THREE SPECIFIC HOSPITALS IN TBILISI WILL BE DEVELOPED UNDER THE PPP MODEL. WHAT DOES THIS MODEL IMPLY AND HOW WOULD IT PROMOTE THE GEORGIAN HEALTH SYSTEM? This is a conceptually new vision and approach in the Georgian health management, on which the Georgian Health system, particularly the hospital sector development strategy, will be based. I mean the PPP model, i.e. the model of partnership between the private and state sectors. This model does not have an alternative, in practice, in terms of current challenges. Investments and involvement promotes the private sector and develops the field. On the other hand, this model enables a meeting of public and state interests and implementing of the components of this policy in terms of hospital sector development.

SHOULD WE EXPECT IMPORTANT RESULTS FROM ESTABLISHMENT OF THIS MODEL? DO YOU THINK THIS MODEL WILL LEAD THE GEORGIAN HEALTH SYSTEM IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? The western experience in terms of PPP model application proves that the Georgian Authorities have valuably and efficiently determined all priorities from the conceptual point of view. Maximal involvement of public and state interests, on the one hand, and the private sector’s co-participation,

on the other, along with a high degree of self-control, provides excellent opportunity for valuable development of the field.

WHAT ARE THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THIS MODEL? WHAT IS THE BENEFIT FROM A BILATERAL INVOLVEMENT OF STATE AND PRIVATE SECTORS? It is wonderful that foreign investors show interest in this sector jointly with our authorities. The healthcare field is unique in its nature. It is a business direction that creates gross domestic product, pays taxes, employs professionals, but, at the same time, it is an important leverage for the government’s social policy. In this respect, this is a proper investment in the future and this is a way to make the healthcare sector an attractive business field, as well as to maximally improve, polish and refine the state social policy component. Hence, development of three major clinics will maximally contribute to growing the competition quality. The competitive environment in the health sector is of crucial importance today amid high inflation tendencies. A competitive environment enables the development of high-technology directions and the ability to ultimately envision and meet the public interests and needs for optimal pricing.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE PPP MODEL IN GEORGIA? We will receive a cost-efficient model that will guarantee high-quality services for comparatively lower prices. I think the state-announced startups in the form of the three clinics will be the first step for the state involvement and drawing the private sector’s interest in this field. I believe we are heading in the right direction. Everything else depends on efficient operation of the Health Ministry and the Government’s economic team.

Azeri Business Award


n February 5, Casino Adjara was invited to be a sponsor of one of the biggest events in Azerbaijan, the Azeri Business Award. The Azeri Business Award hosted more than 70 of the largest companies on the Azer-

baijani market, including famous business and governmental faces. The event was held in JW Marriott Absheron Baku. Twelve winners in different nominations were announced and Casino Adjara as a main sponsor was given the chance to present special gifts from Georgia to each of them.

ASHA Bank made a donation to the Women’s Information Center on behalf of the Bank’s female clients and partners, thus congratulating them in a traditionally special way. These funds will be applied to organizing campaigns aimed at raising awareness on women’s rights in Georgia. In 2015 PASHA Bank distinguished itself as a responsible corporate citizen by congratulating its partner companies on Easter and New Year by donating funds and the painting “Choice” by prominent contemporary artist Rusudan Petviashvili to charity organization ‘First Step Georgia.’ “PASHA Bank provides corporate and investment banking services to large and medium-sized enterprises,” said the head of PR and Marketing Department of PASHA Bank. “We pay double attention to the relationships with each and every partner. Thus, we always try to congratulate them on holidays in special ways and in most cases we combine our corporate gifts with CSR activities. We believe that our support to the Women’s Information Center will be useful and productive.” The Women’s Information Center is a non-governmental organization that aims to improve women’s political, economic and social status via the availability of information. The Center is mainly focused on the implementation of the gender equality policy and takes active part in the development of the new law and update of the existing one. “CSR projects aimed at raising awareness on gender equality issues are of top importance for building an equal society,” said Elene Rusetskaya,

Head of Women’s Information Center. “We highly appreciate PASHA Bank’s initiative to contribute to this cause and hope that they will become a trendsetter for other organizations as well. At WIC we believe that each contribution matters in building an equal society. The contest that we organized with the support of PASHA Bank to celebrate International Women’s Day will encourage young participants to engage in the process of building a democratic society and will reveal new perspectives to them.” PASHA Bank is a Baku-based financial institution

operating in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey – providing a full range of corporate and investment banking services to large and medium-sized enterprises. PASHA Bank is part of PASHA Holding, a major investment group in Azerbaijan with assets in insurance, corporate and retail banking, wealth management, construction and tourism. PASHA Bank began operating in Georgia in February 2013. It has a capital of GEL 103 million.




MARCH 11 - 14, 2016

ECRI Expert: The Council of Religions Should Act as Mediator between Religious Groups BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


EORGIA TODAY recently reported on the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance’s (ECRI) critical assessment on Georgia over alleged discrimination towards religious minorities and the LGBT community. This time, we offer our readers an exclusive interview with one of the main experts standing behind said report, Ms. Barbara John, an esteemed scholar and a bureau member of the ECRI. We asked Ms. John to shed more light on some of the more complex rhetoric of the ECRI report.


THE REST OF EUROPE OR THE SOUTH CAUCASUS REGION..? The ECRI never makes comparative judgments about countries within the Council of Europe. After the government change, the ECRI took positive note of improvements in legislation against discrimination, hate speech, and violence against minorities. But legal changes do not necessarily entail swift changes in the behavior and attitudes of the people. But with new legal rules, police and prosecutors have better instruments to pursue cases. And if the consciousness for those cases rises, more discrimination cases are registered and put in the public spotlight. That is good.


Ms. Barbara John, an esteemed scholar and a bureau member of the ECRI

lication of the report. All other recommendations will be followed up after five years when the next country-bycountry visit starts.

HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE OF THE GEORGIAN CHURCH IN THIS PROCESS? THE STATE HAS EMPLOYED THE CHURCH AS A MEDIATOR IN THESE DISPUTES. WHILE THE PERFORMANCE WAS FAR FROM ADMIRABLE, IT AT LEAST FORKED OUT A TEMPORARY TRUCE IN EACH CASE. WHAT OTHER ACTOR DO YOU THINK CAN GARNER ENOUGH TRUST FROM GEORGIAN SOCIETY TO REPLACE THE CHUCH’S ROLE IN THE SHORT-TERM? As you can read in the report – page 27 – there exists a close relationship between national and Georgian Orthodox identity. Such a still-powerful historic relationship often leads to mistrust, if not discrimination, or even hostility towards minority religions as Muslim, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Armenians. This is the case in Georgia and therefore one should look for a religious neutral and independent organization such as the Council of Religions to act as a mediator between the different religious groups, as the ECRI recommended.

One Size Does Not Fit All: Ogden on Tying the Georgian Knot OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN


ast week, I married the best person I’ve ever known. A cardiologist who knows everything there is to know about medicine, a classical guitarist who abandoned a musical career in favour of medicine (all this at 26, mark you), with a sense ofhumourandkindlydemeanour...honestly, there are moments when I wonder if I’m plugged into The Matrix. To cap it all, she could try for Vogue this minute or cause a riot in a monastery just by walking past. In short, to quote my step-father, she has the message for the chaps. My lady wife being of mixed Georgian/ Russian/Ukrainian heritage and I being an Englishman whose snobbery would do credit to a penniless Spanish aristocrat, our wedding was not a traditional Georgian affair, bar the church ceremony. I enjoyed the church rather more than I thought I would do; the ceremony is spooky in a pleasant sort of way, but in truth I liked it mostly because a crown was put over my head at some point, which I thought was most appropriate and about damn time (though they took it away at the end, which irked me). The priest, however, was not on form. While I’m sure the delivery of his prayers was fine as he beseeched the Almighty that Ogden will not make too much of a beast of himself on the honeymoon, and that Ogden’s vouchers for will still be valid (though he could have been saying “Microsoft laptops for sale!” for all I know), he said something to my wife that angered me later when I was told of it. Apparently, while making sure the crown fit around our heads, he grunted to my wife, ‘Why are all the beautiful Georgian girls marrying foreigners?’ Georgian females marrying foreigners produces a mixed reaction in this country, and both have their roots in the behaviour of Georgian men. I have never been in another country wherein the conduct of the males is openly referred to and derided by females of the same nationality; you will never find English women talking about ‘English men’ or their American cousins complaining about ‘American dudes’. Oh, they’ll moan about men (and who can blame them?), but always men

in general, rather than the males of their own country. Georgian women, however, openly talk about ‘Georgian men’ and not only when foreigners are present: they have much the same discussions with other Georgian women in private (or so I’m told). Odder still is that the negative reputation of Georgian men amongst both Georgian and foreign women is so at odds with the boast that Georgian males are the greatest lovers and best husbands of the former Soviet Union and, indeed, the world. It all amounts to a phenomena I’ve never experienced elsewhere. I’d have thought two such drastically different perceptions of the same thing in the same place might have caused one or t’other to die out. For our wedding, we both vetoed the presence of a tamada in favour of speeches in the Western style. This was viewed as unwise by some of my wife’s family, though the younger members were all for it. I have written elsewhere of my dislike of the tamada’s toasts, which seem to me to be repetitive at best and insincere at worst, a view which is seemingly shared by a large part of Georgia’s youth. Having to stand up, stop eating and listen every ten minutes as the tamada starts to talk again make eating hard and conversation even harder. Besides which, the droning voice makes the whole affair rather sombre and not at all fun, though I fancy this is an inherent problem with the supra as a onesize-fits-all celebration for weddings, funerals, birthdays and the purchase of an iPhone. After one prepared speech, a few people from my family and friends got up and said things, all of which were heartfelt, different and rather touching. I also said a piece myself, though I can’t for the life of me think what it was about now, and although I remember wanting to seem suave and sophisticated like David Niven, I suspect I looked far more like the Charlie Sheen of 2011. My advice to anyone planning to get married; plan it yourself, without the interference of well-meaning relatives and friends, and keep the decent traditions while abandoning the tedious and trivial. Above all, only aim to do it once, and avoid the mistake of marrying just so that you can play two-backed beastie; nobody (not even Georgians) need a ring to do that.



#MyRustaveli Spotlights Values We Should All Live By BY MERI TALIASHVILI


he United Nations, together with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, this week introduced a students’ essay contest and gender equality campaign #MyRustaveli. The project is to celebrate Georgian immortal poet Shota Rustaveli’s 850th anniversary and draw public attention to the priceless and timeless values of equality and humanity. “The work of Rustaveli is central to the history of Georgia, speaking about the values which existed in the 12th century just as much as values existent now in the 21st century; values of friendship, equality and fair treatment, and respect for all in society. The competition aims to enable and encourage young people to bring out these values and relate them to society now,” said Niels Scott, Head of the United Nations in Georgia. “It is an amazing opportunity for students to once again go deeply into the work of Rustaveli and show us their view

Tamar Sanikidze, Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Niels Scott, Head of the United Nations in Georgia and Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection

about the poem” said Tamar Sanikidze, Minister of Education and Science of Georgia. “Since 2016 is declared Rustaveli Year, we are going to present many other interesting events.” Student essays should not exceed 3,000 words and should be submitted in an electronic form before the 10th of May, 2016. The contest will reveal three winners who will undertake a short-term

paid apprenticeship at the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, and the Gender Equality Project of the United Nations Development Programme in Georgia. The contest is organized in the framework of the UN Joint Programme for Gender Equality in Georgia and funded by the Government of Sweden.


National Museum Presents Numismatic Wealth BY EKA KARSAULIDZE


or the first time, the Georgian National Museum is presenting the large-scale exhibition ‘Numismatic Treasury’ of the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia, putting on display around 3,500 coins dating from the 6th century BC to 1834. The opening of the numismatic exhibition took place on March 9, and it is available for all visitors from March 10. The history of coin minting in Georgia dates back to the 27th century. The exposition starts with the ‘first primitive money,’ used for the exchange of goods before the first coins were invented, which includes massive bronze circles of various weight and form that date back to the 2nd-1st millenniums BC. The collection terminates in the 19th century. Medea Sherozia, the curator of the exhibition, explains that after entering Georgia in Tsarist Russia, the Georgian coins temporarily ceased to exist. “In general, this collection is an additional opportunity to follow Georgia’s history of existence, especially in certain examples like those Georgian coins with Arabic inscriptions which show the Persian influence on Georgia in a certain period of our country’s history. You can find foreign coins as well, which speaks about a developed foreign policy,” said Sherozia. The collection includes unique pieces of Colchian Tetri; Stater of the Colchis King Akos; local imitations of Alexander the Great’s and Lysimachus’ Staters, the Denarius of the first Roman Emperor Octavian and Iberian imitations of the Roman Empire Aurei. For the first time, visitors will have a chance to see GeorgianSassanian Drachmas, Dirhams of the

Jafarids;Georgian silver coins with the titles of the first Bagrations, silver coins of David IV the Builder, unique Drachma of Queen Rusudan, unique copper coins of Giorgi IV Lasha, as well as coins of Qvarkvare Atabag and coins of kings of Imereti, KartlKakheti. The numismatic depository of the Georgian National Museum contains up to 100,000 coins most of which were found on the territory of Georgia or well-kept and handed down through the ages. The Numismatic Treasury collection was especially enriched during the last century when additional coins and coin hoards were found during various archaeological excavations. “There are also some very important coins from Georgia presented in foreign museums, such as the British Museum. Nevertheless, we still tried to display their replicas here,” said the General Director of the Georgian National Museum, David Lordkipanidze. It is also worth noting that the history of coin development reflects the country’s development in different fields. “The minting of coins is a state prerogative. Thus, thanks to this exposition we can see how the country’s economic, politics, culture and foreign policy developed over centuries,” said Deputy Minister of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, Levan Kharatishvili. In addition, David Lordkipanidze highlighted that it is a special exception for a museum to host a numismatic collection as usually banks are involved in such exhibitions. The National Bank of Georgia expressed intereste but finally it was decided to retain and present the collection at the National Museum.




MARCH 11 - 14, 2016

Work with Dignity for Women BY MERI TALIASHCILI


n March 8th a rally was held protesting women’s discriminatory labor conditions in the workplace, attended by numerous NGOs, including the Independent Group of Feminists, Georgian Young Greens, Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center, Women’s Fund in Georgia, Women’s Initiatives Support Group, Women’s Gaze, LGBT Georgia, Vegan Georgia, Anarchofeminists, Group of Radical Lesbians and Partnership for Human Rights. Irregular working hours, low remuneration and life threatening working conditions are just a few of the things Georgian women face today. Because they are women, they may experience sexual harassment at work, have fewer employment opportunities, fail to get paid pregnancy leave or are even dismissed from their jobs when they fall pregnant. 70-80 percent of women do unpaid cleaning work and their representation in politics is only 11 percent. Marginalized groups like sex workers, LGBT women, women with limited abilities, single mothers and religious and ethnic minority females face more severe problems. Lesbian and bisexual women are subjected to sexual abuse, hate speech and psychological pressure. Religious minority women are unable to fully exercise their labor rights, sex workers have to work in a violent environment since law enforcement agencies

and society are indifferent and aggressive toward them due to existing stereotypes. Women with disabilities suffer from limited educational possibilities and an unadapted infrastructure at the work place. Single mothers have troubles due to lack of places in state funded kindergartens and a decreasing number of day care and other service centers. Eka Imerlishvili, Independent Group of Feminists, spoke to GEORGIA TODAY. “We gathered here today to state that March 8th is Women’s Labor Rights International Day, not only a day for giving flowers. We ask the State and employer bodies to take measures to eliminate discrimination, achievable by creating a system of effective labor inspection and obliging the employer to defend women’s rights.” A manifesto was signed by all present NGOs during the meeting demanding the government to establish effective

labor inspection with a mandate and duty to enforce the labor code and protect labor rights, including stimulating measures for women’s inclusion in male dominated professions. The manifesto also pushes for there to be a legal definition of Parental Leave for women and men, a legal definition and enforcement mechanism for sexual harassment, and petitions the government to change its malice policy of holding short-term business interests over long-term citizen interests and prosperity, asks for employers to be encouraged themselves to protect to human rights and for the government to enact an adequate and effective response when rights are violated. It further asks the government to introduce sexual and gender education in secondary and high schools in order to increase the awareness and sensitivity of the future generation to these issues.

OrphanAid: Etseri, Svaneti



he idea sounded great: a concert at the village club, selling tickets for whatever people want to pay, giving the money to a chosen local orphan! We discussed it at school. I asked how many orphans were on the list from whom to choose; two, they said. As possibly one of the biggest donors, I suggested that I would be happier contributing if the fund were split between the two, regardless of perceived “merit,” rather than having to choose one orphan over another. They agreed, and I felt free to add my part. The event featured guest participants (mostly schoolchildren) from as far away as Khaishi, Lakhamula, Pari and Mestia, as well as us locals, filling the hall to standing room only. I took notes. First: Why must the audience incessantly be so loud? The roar wasn’t even dull! Adults and children alike, all were conversing, using cell phones, calling out to each other across the hall, and generally making themselves a real distraction and competition with the performers on stage. Come on, people, show us that you’re not “uncivilized”! If I pointed this out or demanded quiet, I would only be adding to the hubbub; in any case, polite requests in this vein from the stage were equally politely ignored

by the rabble. Sigh... Next, the concert pointed out what a reliance on technology can mean when it lets you down. The sound system, imported from outside the village, featured rolling waves of volume, up, down, up, down, of a somewhat unpredictable duration. It refused to settle to one loudness, no matter what. And every singer used backup music playing through this system, except one group (ours) which had a panduri to strum instead. So the sound quality was horrible for us, and very frustrating for those trying to sing. Georgian singing, when it’s good, can be very, very good; when bad, horrid. This was more towards the latter, unfortunately. There was also a strong echo present in the microphone sound, which might work for singing but was disastrous for speech. I could hardy understand a word of what was being said, and in any case, it came across as very over-dramatic. The poem “I am a Svan” was a fine choice; but somewhat ironically delivered in Georgian, not Svan. Same with all of the speaking, and all but one or two of the songs. Thus dies the Svan language: not with a bang, but with a whimper. I also noticed that many people were using their cell phones to photograph or video the concert. Fine by me: I certainly don’t need to be the only photographer, official or otherwise, at such events. Anyway, I wasn’t the only reporter

there. Let anyone shoot who wants to (as long as it’s not too distracting from an otherwise already strongly distracted performance). There were no traditional Svan costumes at all in evidence; instead, all had opted for plain black shirts and trousers. It was a rare opportunity to see the legs of the female dancers in motion, which is usually completely covered by nearly floor-length dresses or skirts. The effect didn’t seem to be wasted on many other male members of the audience, I thought. The MC sang more than any other person—which was, perhaps, her right. But the sound system plagued her more than anyone because of this. An advance check would at least have pointed out the flaw. Seeing that the concert started a half hour later even than its already late advertized start of 4 pm, I was a bit anxious that I might have to slip out early if it went beyond 6, being home alone and needing to put my cows in the barn for the night. But it ended after only an hour, so if anyone was in the same boat as I was, we were spared the need to depart too soon. If this seems like a lot of criticism, the money raised was over 300 GEL, which I though a fantastic effort and result. Perhaps we can’t do such things too often, because the quality just isn’t up to it. But the benefit was quite a bit more than I had expected: easily enough to split and still be generous. So my main praise goes to all who gave, thumbing their noses knowingly or not at Ayn Rand’s horribly inhuman philosophy that only those who deserve should receive. We did this! Let’s do it again! Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1300 members, at He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

FOR SALE 9,8 ha non-agricultural, privately owned parcel for industrial use

(cadaster code # located next to Tbilisi Airport (It is possible to divide it into several parts)

Address: Airport settlement, Samgori district, Tbilisi Tel: +995 599 529 529



EU Shows Turning Points Movies



he European Union Delegation in Georgia, together with the embassies of various EU Member States, opened the 4th EU Film Festival in Tbilisi on March 9. The festival will also take place in other Georgian cities – Rustavi, Bolnisi, Kutaisi and Mestia, and approximately 17 old and new films will be shown from various European countries. “Cinematography is the kind of art that unites people. Thus, it is really nice to note that each year the Festival is becoming more popular among locals,” said Carine Petit, Belgian Ambassador to Georgia. “We opened the EU Film Festival with the Belgium film ‘The Kid with a Bike’ – the story of turning point of little boy.” ‘Turning Points’ itself is the main theme which brings together all the films at this year’s festival. They help to explore the importance of decisions in people’s personal, social, religious and political lives. Youths and adults faced with difficulties, injustice, psychological problems and trying to overcome them. Thus, European films show not only the real life of the people, but also acquaint the Georgian

audience with their arts and give a complete picture of what is happening in Europe. TheEUFilmFestivalisanopportunitytobeacquainted with the traditions, diversity and current trends and see the high quality European cinema-products. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze, who also attended the opening ceremony, recalled that ‘United in diversity’ is the motto of the European Union and it is highly important to include Georgia in different cultural projects of the EU. “I want to highlight the existing cooperation between the Georgian and European structures in cinematography. Georgia itself is a very self-sufficient country in cultural terms and can contribute to the diversity of European cinema,” stated Janelidze. The festival organizer also tried to involve ordinary people in the festival and for the first time launched a poster contest. According to the rules, the designers should create posters for the participant films and send them to the festival’s email address. The jury will select one winner and reward them with a prize of 200 Euros. A second winner will be chosen by number of “Likes” on Facebook and get a prize of 50 Euros. The festival will last until March 18; all films will be shown in their original languages with Georgian subtitles. Entrance to all screenings is free.

Electronic Jazz Masters Wow Audience at Tbilisi Event Hall BY MAKA LOMADZE


n the 9th of March, the Tbilisi audience witnessed two jazz masters – Bugge Wesseltoft and Christian Prommer – offer a totally unbelievable show, part of a unique improvisational project for the world in the mixed form of electronic and classical jazz. The first on piano and keyboard and the second on drums; both on electronics and exceeding all expectations! On the one hand we had Wesseltoft, a Norwegian musician, laden with melodies and the melancholy of Scandinavia and inspired by greats such as Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, while on the other hand we had the energy and grooves of one of Europe’s best producers of electronic music and drummers, Prommer, who has himself been inspiring the techno and jazz crossover scene for 15 years with his projects Drumlssons, Trüyby Trio, and Fauna Flash. Kakha Tolordava, presenter of the concert, told GEORGIA TODAY, “Jazz is developing in multiple directions. It is a very flexible form of music that has the ability to penetrate all musical forms. These performers today are a bright example of this, otherwise. It is difficult to play jazz today, as it requires finding something in its depth and adding something new, too. This is an attempt to turn jazz into electronic music, something which requires a lot of caution from musicians.” “Our music is more modern,” said Bugge Wesseltoft. “It is a mixture of classical jazz with electronic music. I don’t know much about Georgian music, but I had the honor of listening to Nino Katamadze in Moscow, who sings ethno jazz.” Christian Prommer also commented: “A friend of ours introduced us to each other and we decided to try to play together. I don’t know if people like our music but it was not something we were thinking of when we began. We’re inspired by anything –both jazz and electronic music, as well as everyday life.” Needless to say, the Georgian audience was in rapture, open to such innovations - rhythms and grooves, both primeval and modern, and reshaped

sounds in a jazz remix made live on stage. Since the early 1990s Bugge Wesseltoft has made an impressive, truly post-modern transition from his ECM Nordic jazz traditions. Playing and recording together with the likes of Jan Garbarek, Sidsel Endresen, Terje Rypdal, Nils Petter Molvaer, Jon Eberson to forming his own innovative New Conception Of Jazz group and exquisite label Jazzland Recordings. Wesseltoft is multi-decorated with critics’ prizes for creating a unique, fresh blend of modern jazz. “There is no musician or artist in the world that is not inspired by others,” Wesseltoft said. “However, the important thing is to let inspiration develop, to work towards finding a unique means of personalizing it. I don’t want to be a carbon copy of any great musician, past or present: I don’t see the point of that. There have been so many good things done before, but one must find one’s own sound.” Christian Prommer is an American producer, DJ, drummer and musician who has been producing and composing genre-defining and award-winning dance and electronic music for more than two decades. As a founding member of Fauna Flash, Trüby Trio and VoomVoom, as producer and co-writer for Kruder and Dorfmeister, Dj Hell (his effort “Teufelswerk” was Echo nominated), Kim Sanders (they won the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik), The Dining Rooms, Incognito, and with his own projects Prommer and Barck and most notably Christian Prommer’s Drum Lesson. As a musician and collaborator he has worked with Carl Craig, Patrick Pulsinger, Brian Ferry, Tony Allen, Bugge Wesseltoft, Joe Sample, Til Brönner, Mousse T, Wolfgang Haffner, Incognito, Klaus Doldinger, Hunter/Game, My Favorite Robot, Solomun and many more. With his band, solo shows and DJ sets he travels the world non-stop from big jazz festivals to the darkest after hour clubs. Our respondent from the audience, a doctor Arsen Gvenetadze, whom we talked to before the performance, said that he’d no idea about the performers and had just come to enjoy a surprise. Following the show, he said he had scarcely witnessed something so fresh and original before. As promised, it proved to be very dynamic and even urged some of the public to its feet to dance.





MARCH 11 - 14, 2016


GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 March 11 VAUDEVILLE, VAUDEVILLE Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Musical Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: From 5 Lari March 12 A GENTLE CREATURE T. Dostoevsky Small Stage Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari March 13 SCARLET SAIL Alexander Grin Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: From 5 Lari TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATRE Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 March 11, 12, 13 SWAN LAKE * Premiere Pyotr Tchaikovsky Conductor: Davit Mukeria Choreography: Aleksey Fadeechev Start time: March 11-12 – 20:00, March 13 – 14:00 CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55

Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari March 11-17 THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT Directed by Robert Schwentke Cast: Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Theo James Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 19:35 Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari SPOTLIGHT Directed by Tom McCarthy Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams Genre: Biography, Drama, History Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari MON ROI Directed by Maïwenn Genre: Drama, Romance Cast: Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Bercot, Louis Garrel Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari TRIPLE 9 Directed by John Hillcoat Genre: Crime, Thriller Cast: Teresa Palmer, Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot Language: Russian Start time: 16:45 Ticket price: 11-12 Lari HAIL, CAESAR! Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Genre: Comedy, Mystery Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Scarlett Johansson Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari

RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari DEADPOOL Directed by Tim Miller Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Karan Soni, Ed Skrein Language: Russian Start time: 12:45, 22:25 Ticket price: 8-14 Lari THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR Directed by Johannes Roberts Genre: Horror Cast: Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto, Javier Botet Language: Russian Start time: 22:35 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT (Info Above) Start time: 12:00, 17:35, 22:35 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari TRIPLE 9 (Info Above) Start time: 17:15 Ticket price: 11, 12 Lari HAIL, CAESAR! (Info Above) Start time: 15:15, 20:10 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21

December 21 - March 31 THE TRAVELING MUSEUM OF THE CAUCASUS SHALVA AMIRANASHVILI MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Lado Gudiashvili Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 March 11-27 THE OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION “STREPPE” BY BRITISH ARTIST AIGANA GALI. The exposition will feature 26 large oil paintings by the artist incorporated in the fine art show ‘Steppe on Kazakhstan grasslands.’ ZURAB TSERETELI MUSEUM OF MODERN ART Address: 27 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 14 84 11, 2 98 60 04 March 9 – April 3 EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS BY MERAB ABRAMISHVILI As well as the catalogue, the exhibition will also present for sale various items with prints of Abramishvili’s paintings, including mugs, cards, posters, note pads, bags and silkware. Exhibition curator: Baia Tsikoridze GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. PERMANENT EXHIBITION The unique collection of artworks from the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine arts is located in four major exhibition halls on the second floor of the Dimitri

Shevardnadze National Gallery. The exhibition showcases works by the distinguished 20th century Georgian artists- Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze March 1-22 THE SOLO EXHIBITION OF PROMINENT AZERBAIJANIAN ARTIST FARHAD KHALILOV GALLERY “VANDA” Address: D. Chonkadze str. #14 (Sololaki) Telephone: 2 93 42 86 Gallery works daily, 12:00 – 19:00 March 11-13 A CHARITY EXHIBITION-SALE TO SUPPORT ARCHPRIEST AKAKI MEGRELISHVILI, who is in urgent need of surgery. The event is prepared by Father Akaki’s artist friends. Artworks of famous Georgian artists will be displayed at the exhibition. Your participation is highly appreciated. MUSIC

MTKVARZE March 12 VODKAST RECORDS WITH YOUNG MARCO Main Room: Young Marco Vakho Ash & Zurkin Visuals by Masterskey Small Room: Nika J Ericsson Third Soul Start time: 23:00 Ticket price: 20 Lari




Enhancing the Study of Georgian Folksong in the Regions

T The Animated Canvases of Caravaggio on Stage BY MAKA LOMADZE


n the 7th of March, the Embassy of Italy to Georgia presented the perform a n c e C h i a ro s c u ro (meaning light and shadow) by the famous theatrical troupe of Naples, Teatri 35, which revived the 18 most famous canvases of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. This was an unprecedented show for Georgia: a tasteful mixture of three realms of art: theater, fine art and music. The latter, represented by absolutely indelible baroque music masterpieces, was performed by the members of Georgian Sinfonietta (Tbilisi State Chamber Orchestra). This extraordinary project under the motto “Sound moves action, action produces image, image embodies music,” was a sell-out and many were left standing in the packed hall. The program was as rich as the Baroque epoch itself: Bach, Handel, Albinoni, Monteverdi and Merula as a background to the famous Caravaggio canvases created by the actors live: Canister of Fruits, San Mateo and Angel, Resurrection of Lazzaro, Pitter’s Negation and many others. The orchestras played in the background of the stage, whilst the actors from the Italian troupe Teatri 35 worked wordlessly, trained to remain as still as possible in order to represent the characters from Caravaggio’s works. Their efforts were really worthy of note and the costumes flamboyant, sophisticated and impressive. The project was named for the creative work of the titanic painter and light and shadow held decisive roles. The performance was a result of 10 years’ work and artistic research of the Italian theatrical company members. Reportedly, the leading part here belongs to the actor’s body. The final target is not the construction of painting, but the study into the way of performing where the body is a mere instrument, just like fabric or a basket. Each gesture depends on a train of gears and belongs to a sequence of absolutely necessary movements. Those who were lucky enough to attend this rare spectacle became witnesses of a new perception of art in general, space and fine art in particular via the merging of music, gestures and imagination. The paintings of Caravaggio were created before the very eyes of the audience, who became involved in a mystic and sensorial experience. One could feel,

taste, touch, breathe and see Caravaggio. Ambassador of Italy to Georgia, his Excellency Mr. Antonio Enrico Bartoli spoke exclusively to GEORGIA TODAY. “Caravaggio is a giant of universal art, a great Italian painter who belongs to all humanity. We thought that the theater was the most effective way to highlight the extraordinary talents of Caravaggio. His art is inherently theatrical because there is light and there is physicality. Light can come from somewhere in the world, as much as from somewhere on stage. The physicality intended as the body and object is as important in the theater, too. We planned an emotional representation of Caravaggio’s art with music and acting, because the movement is also rhythm, and we chose Baroque music as a background.” Giorgi Kerelashvili, artistic director of the Georgian Sinfonietta told us: “We have performed several times, as we have a Baroque music festival, too. This project was very interesting and original in concept, as well as in the form of realization, as the actors were playing the roles mutely. We played on Baroque music instruments which made it different from other performances. The mixing of three realms of art: music, fine art and theatre, was something really new for us.” Sopo Tortladze from Tumanishvili Theater of Film Actors, host of the event, commented exclusively for GEORGIA TODAY: “The Embassy of Italy to Georgia chose our theater for cooperation because we are the organizers of the International Theater Festival Gift. The embassy considered our long experience of receiving foreign troupes. We are very happy that the theatre became the host of such an interesting artistic import beyond Gift. This is a very precious day not only because it has shown a visual miracle but it has also presented to the audience the victory of the Georgian musicians. That is why it will hopefully last for a long time in the memory of the audience.” Gia Bughadze, painter, noted: “I’m overwhelmed. The mere fact that we talk about Caravaggio near his birthday is already a great thing. He suffered a lot. These tragic lines were shown very well in these live imitations. I’m very satisfied with the hard work that the actors have put in, in terms of variations, entourage, garments, etc. I’m proud and delighted with the performance of the Georgian Sinfonietta and, particularly, our perfect countertenor Mikheil Abramishvili.”



Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Mako Burduli



Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

he International Center of Georgian Folksong and the Folklore State Center of Georgia have signed a memorandum on cooperation with the aim of promoting the choirmaster schools of the Folklore State Center, enhancing bilateral cooperation, and making efforts to preserve and develop folklore traditions in the regions of Georgia. The Folklore State Center works for the upgrading of the professional level of young choirmasters and the International Center of Georgian Folksong is to supply regional choirmaster schools with unique editions and audio educational discs that will be handed over free of charge. “It is of vital importance to save and preserve Georgian songs and traditional chants in the regions of Georgia. To this end we have undertaken a project that calls for opening more choirmasters schools in the regions,” Giorgi Donadze, executive director of the Folklore State Center, said. At the first stage, Anzor Erkomaishvili, of the International Center of Georgian Folksong, handed over a collection of Georgian folksong music sheets and Georgian choirmaster monographs, biographies of singers, and research works on Georgian folksongs to the choirmasters schools in the Samegrelo and Guria regions. “Based on this unique material, the students at the choirmaster schools that have been unveiled in 15 regions will be able get closer acquainted with our ancestors; the choirmasters, and songs of people who are no longer alive,” Donadze noted. “Thanks to the Folklore State Center, anybody is now able to learn ancient Georgian songs and traditional chants. Gifted young people, after graduation from the choirmasters schools, are able

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Tamar Svanidze, Zviad Adzinbaia, Beqa Kirtava, Meri Taliashvili, Eka Karsaulidze, Zaza Jgharkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Karen Tovmasyan, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Tim Ogden, Ana Akhalaia, Robert Isaf, Joseph Larsen, Will Cathcart, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze

to continue free of charge studies at the Giorgi Mtatsmindeli Higher School for Church Chants,” Anzor Erkomaishvili said. “Having gained professional knowledge, they will return to the regions and will transmit the tradition to the new generations. Their support is very important. The International Center of Georgian Folk Song has published Georgian folksong music sheet collections and Georgian choirmasters’ monographs, as well as audio records of folksongs on CDs that are fragmented into individual voices to assist the learning process,” Erkomaishvili added. On the Georgian government’s initiative and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of

Photographer: Zviad Nikolaishvili Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava

Georgia, with the aim of saving, protecting and popularizing Georgian chant and song, in 2015, the Folklore State Center of Georgia started opening choirmaster schools at all municipal centers and self-governed cities in all regions. According to the information of the Folklore State Center, currently 14 choirmaster schools operate in Georgia. This will increase to 20 in 2016 with the opening of choirmaster schools in Baghdati, Oni and Tsageri Districts. Representatives of the local self-governments promote and assist the centers in implementing the project and the students of the choirmaster schools are encouraged to take part in various festivals and events for the aim of enlivening cultural life and tourism in the regions.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #825  

March 11 - 14, 2016

Issue #825  

March 11 - 14, 2016