Issue no: 1013
• JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... Georgia’s Breakaway S.Ossetia Signs Agreements with Republika Srpska NEWS PAGE 2
Bulgaria Promises to Enhance Bilateral & Multilateral Relations with Georgia POLITICS PAGE 6
The Georgian KIS Policy: Quick, Simple & Cheap!
POLITICS PAGE 9
World Bank Forecasts Georgia's Economic Growth
Photo source: http://www.businesskorea.co.kr
Exclusive interview with Bulgarian EP Special Coordinator & the latest on the Roki and Psou trade corridors
PAGE 6, 7
BUSINESS PAGE 10
Russian Embassy in UK Criticizes BBC’s New McMafia TV Series SOCIETY PAGE 11
EU Experts to Visit Georgia to Support Consumer Rights Protection
SOCIETY PAGE 12
BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
A Natural Producer: Tornike Koplatadze
U experts from the United Kingdom and Poland are to visit Georgia on January 15-17, with a mission to assist the development of a legal framework for consumer protection and consumer rights. The visit, in cooperation with the Parliament of Georgia, is being organized by the European Commission’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument (TAIEX). The goal of the upcoming experts’ visit to Georgia is to assist the European Integration Committtee of the Georgian Parliament in drafting a new law on Consumer Rights Protection, “which transposes to the national legal system the main provisions of EU directives and regulations in the field.” “The ultimate goal is to align Georgian legislation with the EU acquis and put in place a mod-
Combating Fake News: Training Students in Media Literacy in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova
CULTURE PAGE 15
ern legal framework for consumer rights protection. Also during the EU experts’ visit to Tbilisi,
legal issues concerning the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and the transportation of other relevant EU legislation with be discussed.
Prime Ministerâ€™s Comment on the Special Operation in Pankisi
rime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, has spoken out about the recent anti-terrorism operation in Pankisi, a region of Georgia well-known for having produced a number of radical Muslims, though many citizens live out their daily lives there in peace. â€œI would like to comment on a very important issue to our country and our State: terrorism, a challenge facing the whole world. Our State, too, is doing everything to avert this threat. Of course, when you are tackling this challenge in your own country, especially when it involves your citizens, it is very sensitive and calls for caution. Our special forces have conducted a series of special operations, each aiming to preempt terrorist threats. These operations claimed the life of one of our special forces officers and four were wounded. These young men risked their lives in protecting our citizensâ€™ safety. â€œI would like to state that, first of all, it serves the interests of the authorities that the objective and effective investigation by the Prosecutorâ€™s Office answers every question existing in our society as quickly as possible. This is why, at this point, given the circumstances, making preliminary statements or conclusions is damaging to the Stateâ€™s interests. â€œUnfortunately, the life of Temirlan Machalikashvili, who was wounded during the special operation, could not be saved, though the State and doctors did everything in their power to save him. And no matter the outcome of the investigation, I extend my condolences to his family. â€œI also offer my respect to our Kist fellow compatriots who, through the centuries, have repeatedly exhibited their attitude confirming their loyalty to Georgia and its interests. Their resolve has never been doubted, and I assure you it is impossible to undermine it. â€œOur society understands well that the State is responsible for the safety of its citizens, and our special services will spare no effort to fulfil this paramount duty.â€?
JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
Georgiaâ€™s Breakaway S.Ossetia Signs Agreements with Republika Srpska BY THEA MORRISON
he de facto delegation of Georgiaâ€™s breakaway South Ossetia region, led by the self-proclaimed President Anatoly Bibilov, is paying a visit to Republika Srpska, one of two constitutional and legal entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The so called state-led news agency of S. Ossetia, PEC, reports that Bibilov and his delegation took part in the festivities of the Republic Day in Banja Luka on January 9, after which he held a face-toface meeting with Republika Srpska's leader, President Milorad Dodik. The de facto South Ossetian Foreign Ministry reports the leaders discussed issues of mutual relations and prospects of deepening cooperation. "We are very pleased to visit Republika Srpska. On behalf of South Ossetia, I wish your Republic peace and prosperity," Bibilov said. Milorad Dodik, for his part, has noted that, "it is a great honor for Republika Srpska to receive the President of South Ossetia." He then expressed readiness for the further development of friendly relations between the two states. The sides also discussed international issues, adding that the Russian Federation is a reliable â€œstrategic partnerâ€? to both. The official visit of Anatoly Bibilov to Republika Srpska will last until January 13. The so called President's trip is accompanied by the head of his office, Igor Kozaev, de facto Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Medoev, and Adviser to the so called Foreign Minister, Gela Valiev.
Photo: Self-proclaimed S. Ossetian President Anatoly Bibilov and the President of the Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik. Photo source: cominf.corg
The later was appointed by Bibilov as South Ossetiaâ€™s special representative to Republika Srpska. "We would like Gela Valiev to represent our Republic here. He knows Republika Srpska; he has many friends here, and I think he can be a good intermediary in our relations,â€? Bibilov told Dodik, going on to invite him to breakaway S.Ossetia in August, when the so called state is to celebrate 10 years since Russia recognized it as an independent country. The two sides also signed a memorandum on cooperation between the â€œstatesâ€?, as well as a Protocol on cooperation between the party "United Ossetia" and the Union of Independent Social Democrats of Republika Srpska. Before arriving in Banja Luka, Bibilov also visited the Donetsk separatist republic in Ukraine, where
he gave gifts and learned about recent developments. Georgian opposition parties are calling on the Georgian government to carry out a more effective foreign policy against the uncontrolled actions of the de facto South Ossetian authorities, claiming that Bibilov and his representatives are traveling to European countries in order to seek international recognition. Irakli Koplatadze, Georgiaâ€™s Ambassador to Turkey, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, says that official Sarajevo expressed concern over the visit of Bibilov and his so called delegation to Republika Srpska, adding they have reiterated their support to Georgiaâ€™s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
Abkhazia to Set Fishing Restricts BY TOM DAY
he self-proclaimed government of the breakaway region of Abkhazia has made the decision to restrict the amount of fish which can be caught in its waters to half its previous amount, due to the significant reduction in fish off the coast. This year, the catch limit will be 20,000 tons. The decline was confirmed by statistics collected by both the Institute of Ecology of Abkhazia and the Russian Azov Black Sea Scientific Research Institute of Fisheries. Because of the decline, only a quarter of the previous catch limit of 40,000 tons was met in 2017. The head of the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture of Abkhazia, David Gadlia,
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says that this yearâ€™s figure will mostly be distributed between six republican enterprises engaged in anchovy fishing and processing it into fishmeal and fish oil, whereas 15% will be left for Russian enterprises as prescribed by the Abkhaz-Russian agreement. â€œWhen the fishing season starts, we will see how many of the Azov anchovies will swim into our waters. The Institute of Ecology is conducting research so we use what we are provided with and distribute that quantity, so we canâ€™t exceed that stock and the total allowable catch,â€? said Gadlia. The Abkhaz government added that if there is more fish that what was predicted then they might increase the limit, but only if environmentalists consent to it. The Institute of Ecology estimated that the current anchovy stock off the coast of Abkhazia is approximately 80,000 tons.
GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
Another Arrested for Allegedly Helping Terrorists Enter Georgia BY THEA MORRISON
eorgia’s State Security Service (SSS) has arrested Georgian citizen Zurab Idoidze in Akhmeta Municipality, Kakheti Region, on charges of helping IS-linked terrorist Akhmet Chatayev enter Georgia. The SSS reports that the investigation established that the detainee had been traveling with the previously arrested Zurab Gornakashvili to the town of Khopha, Turkey, in order to assist Chatayev and other members of his group. The detainee, along with Gornakashvili, took Chatayev and his group members from temporary housing in Khopa to the Kirnati-Maradidi section of the Turkish-Georgian border by car. An investigation is underway under Article 331(1), part III – Financing, Providing other Material Support and Resources to Terrorist Activities which caused grave results. If found guilty, Idoidze faces from 17 to 20 years in jail, or life imprisonment. Natia Idoidze, sister of the detainee, who lives in the US, says that her brother is not connected to the terrorists, adding she has proof that Idoidze is innocent. “The charges against my brother are unfounded. I will return to Georgia from the US and prove he is not guilty. I also call on everyone to refrain from making any statements regarding the case,” she stated. The residents of Pankisi Gorge say Idoidze has a wife and children in Can-
US Dep’t of State Lists Georgia among Safest Countries for Travel BY TOM DAY
T ada, and he returned to Georgia two weeks ago from Austria, where he was visiting his uncle. “As far as I know, Idoidze was going to return to Canada. He was on his way to Tbilisi when he was arrested,” Omalo resident Tsaro Bakauri said. Akhmet Chatayev and three of his group members were killed on November 22, in Tbilisi, during a special operation in the Isani District. In total, five men have been arrested
with alleged links to the dead terrorists: Zurab Gornakashvili, Ruslan Almadov, Ramaz Margoshvili, Badur Chopanashvili and Zurab Idoidze. One other person, Temirlan Machalikashvili, 19, who was wounded during the detention operation in Pankisi on December 26, died on January 10 in hospital. The SSS says the terrorists killed in November were planning to attack diplomatic missions in Georgia and Turkey.
he United States Department of State issued a new system this week to inform citizens on the safety and security of countries worldwide. The new system includes a ‘Travel Advisory’ that provides levels of safety ranging from 1-4 for every country. Georgia was listed as level 1, the category described as “the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.” Other countries in the same category include Austria, Canada, Switzerland, Scandinavian countries, all EU Eastern European countries, almost all former Soviet republics apart from Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Travelers are told to “exercise normal precautions” Level 2 lists countries which have a marginally higher risk to travelers, and
includes Great Britain, Germany and France. Citizens are advised to “exercise increased caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.” Level 3 tells citizens to “reconsider travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.” Countries in this list include Russia and Turkey. Level 4 includes countries like Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and Syria, and tells people “do not travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory”says the Department of State.”
JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
US New Containment Policy Against Russia: Now in the Former Soviet Space OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI
he confrontation between Russia and the US across the former Soviet space and wider Middle East reached new heights over the past few weeks. Several developments indicate the US is changing its military policy in the region and is increasingly worried about Russia’s close relations with Iran and Turkey. As relations between Russia and the US hit their lowest since the end of the Cold War, the recent meeting between Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson, the Russian and US foreign ministers, serves as a good reflection of the widening gap between the two powers. The ministers discussed Syria, Ukraine and the North Korea, but largely failed to reach any tangible breakthroughs. Currently, differences between Moscow and Washington in the Middle East are becoming quite fundamental. The proclamation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by the US could be one such indication, but Washington is more concerned that Russia has now reached high levels of cooperation with Turkey and Iran that could limit the projection of US power into the Middle East. Looking at a map of the Eurasian continent, one can see Russia in the northern part of the landmass and two bridges which connect it to the Middle East: Turkey and Iran. Having these two countries as close partners increases Russia’s influence in the post-war Syria and elsewhere. Indeed, it has been one of directions of post-Soviet Russian diplomacy. An entire diplomatic field was created in the 1990s, where Iran and Turkey would be pivotal to Moscow’s ambitions in restraining western (primarily US) influence, be it in the South Caucasus, Central Asia or wider Middle East. Of course, Turkey, Russia and Iran have their own differing interests in the Middle East, but all are under a certain amount of pressure from the US. This could be a rallying point for the three actors. As a reflection of this trend, the Russian, Turkish and Iranian presidents met in Sochi on November 22 last year to reaffirm their attitudes toward the Syrian problem. Differences between Russia and the US are now also increasing over purely military affairs. In December, the United States said it was considering military and economic measures against Moscow in response to alleged violations of the iconic Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). The treaty, signed between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987, eliminated for the first time an entire class of cruise and ballistic missiles in Europe. The death of the INF would signal yet another step towards the ever-widening gap between the two countries. The differences come as the US made the Russian RT television channel (Russia Today) register as an agent, while similar legislature was passed by the Russian State Duma to target foreign media operating in Russia. The US has also increased its pressure on yet another theater which Russia considers its “own backyard”: Ukraine and Georgia. On November 13, 2017, US special envoy Kurt Volker met the Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov in Belgrade, Serbia, to discuss the possibility of stationing peacekeeping forces in east Ukraine. After the talks, the US and Russian envoys indicated that the differences were so extensive that of 29 paragraphs "only three were acceptable” to Russia. This is important as it again stresses those irreconcilable differences between the US and Russia that have existed over Ukraine for a long time. Washington insisted on Moscow giving up its control of the eastern Ukraine-Russia border, while
A knowledgeable and qualified voter is the most crucial part of the democratic voting mechanism
Moscow argued to the contrary. From a purely geopolitical standpoint, Russia’s acceptance of the US offer would mean losing control over the processes in east Ukraine, meaning the Russians would be unable to send military hardware into east Ukraine when necessary. On November 18, ABC News reported, quoting a State Department source, that senior aides will present US President Donald Trump with a $47 million plan to finance and sell high-tech defensive weapons to Ukraine to bolster its efforts to repel Russian aggression in east Ukraine. Some could take this with a pinch of salt, of course, as the US government have been saying so since Trump became president. However, this time round there are additional arguments indicating that the US is considering slowly changing its military policy across the former Soviet space. In a related development, it was announced that the US will be increasing its military support to Georgia. From spring 2018, US Army officers will train Georgian soldiers on defensive tactics. This is what Georgia has lacked for decades, and something that was well reflected in the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. More importantly, on November 20, the US State Department approved the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Georgia. Tbilisi plans to buy from the Pentagon 410 of the missiles and 72 launch units. The total amount of the proposed deal is $75 million. The provision of these kinds of weapons will be a landmark development as it will go against the standard US approach to conflicts across the former Soviet Union: ‘no supplies of lethal weapons to Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova, so as not to cause further escalation with Russia.’ Sure, the plan in the White House might not materialize, but it nevertheless reflects a slowly changing thinking in the American political establishment. At the same time, the proposed sales would not drastically change the military balance of power in the region against Russia. But it is still a development important enough to cause concerns in Moscow. It could be argued that these military developments around Ukraine and Georgia fit into what NATO/US are doing in east Europe; namely, increasing their military capabilities. To sum up, there has been a substantial ratcheting up of tensions in US-Russia relations over recent weeks. The US is increasing its pressure on Russia through various means available, among them through increased support for Ukraine and Georgia, as a centerpiece of the US strategy of containment of Russia in the former Soviet space.
GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
Who Are You Voting For? Make the Right New Year’s Resolution OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE
his is one of the most indiscreet questions one could ask. This is almost like asking how much one makes a year, or how old one is, or how much weight one has put on lately. And still, I love asking this question, one with so much loutishness within. And if I ever dare to ask it for real, I always get shrugged shoulders and faint smiles in response. But taking a quick diverse look at this indecorous question, one might arrive at the conclusion that asking it should not be a bad thing to do, especially if we want to grow in a political sense, and in terms of making the right decision when faced with a ballotbox behind those familiar curtains. To know exactly who we want to vote for, and why, is part of our general knowledge, which matters very much in terms of political decision-making. It is also part of our overall qualification that puts this country on the right path of development. And because knowledge and qualification never come without effort, we need to acquire them accordingly, although acquiring does not mean at all attending a special school to do so. This is a self-learning process which we cannot ignore and should not refuse. If we do, we will never be able to put the right person in the right office at the right time to “do politics” for us and on our behalf. So, I suggest we make a New Year’s Resolution to become, in 2018 and the
years to come, highly knowledgeable and vastly qualified voters in electoral events at any possible level, so that our vote has meaning, good purpose and effective power. If this decision has already been made, let us now take a quick look at how to bring it to life. Most politicians think the electorate a dumb crowd of people who rarely know what they are doing at the ballot station at the great moment of contemplating the suggested electoral roster and putting a tic next to a certain name – known or not so well known. They might be right with this kind of evaluation of the public, and the aim of this New Year’s Resolution is to break this stereotype, and the only way to break it is to think better than we do, and better thinking is possible only if we train our political wits, and training takes time and energy. If we want to get the right person into the right office at the right time, then we will have to invest the required amount of time and energy into enhancing our political knowledge and qualifications. Once again, a knowledgeable and qualified voter is the most crucial part of the democratic voting mechanism that has enough power to determine a nation’s future. So, let us say no to blind, emotional and hasty voting, and instead, let us bring in an open-eyed, cool-minded and wellthought-out ballot style. Whether we want it or not, we, the members of a democratically voting society, are the political animals who cannot avoid the electoral process unless we totally and deliberately, for some reason known or unknown, want to ignore the process.
What remains is to make a choice between the two: either be an ignorant political animal or a well-versed voter who knows for sure who to vote for, so that the question, ‘Who are you voting for?’ does not trigger any discomfort because the voting was done for the sake of voting and not in order to create a strong prerequisite for a better life.
One of the aims of this New Year’s Resolution is to make our politicians remember that they are not having to make do with a herd of regular electors who donate their valuable vote indifferently, nonchalantly and mechanically; but instead are dealing with politically poised brains, knowledge and qualification that guarantees the most optimal
electoral result for the country. New Year’s Resolutions are often made but not fulfilled. This resolution must not be so! We have to keep it up if we don’t want to be politically disgruntled on a permanent basis, as we so often are, and if we do not want to witness every so often the circus in certain branches of Georgia’s government.
JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
Bulgaria Promises to Enhance Bilateral & Multilateral Relations with Georgia INTERVIEW BY MAKA LOMADZE
n 2017, Georgia and Bulgaria celebrated the 25th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. This year, Bulgaria will take over the Presidency of the Council of EU. GEORGIA TODAY offers an interview with Doctor Georgi Panayotov, Special Coordinator on Eastern Partnership, Head of Caucasus and Central Asia Department, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Directorate, which we recorded during the media tour of Georgian journalists to Sofia, Bulgaria. “As you know, there are deep historical ties between Bulgaria and Georgia, which establishes a nourishing basis for the current (very good) bilateral cooperation in all spheres: politics, economy and culture,” Panayotov tell us. “We have no current issues concerning the bilateral relations. The pro-European and proAtlantic orientation of the Georgian government’s foreign policy very much boosts our cooperation.”
Bulgarian import to Georgia represents approximately $200 million, and Georgian import to Bulgaria represents around $140 million a priority for the EU in 2018, with the focus on deepening our ties in terms of transport and energy. The European Development Foundation is to be established that will work specifically on issues related to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE POLITICAL COOPERATION It is really intense. Last June, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Zaharieva, took part in a ministerial meeting between the heads of foreign ministries of EU and Eastern partnership countries. Later, we delivered bilateral political consultations on the level of deputy foreign ministers. In September, Mr. Dolidze, your
The Eastern Partnership remains a priority for the EU in 2018, with a focus on deepening our ties in terms of transport and energy
WHAT ABOUT OTHER PROJECTS? Minister of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, visited Bulgaria for a meeting that turned out really very fruitful. In 2017, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of re-establishing our diplomatic relations. Georgia is a very important partner for Bulgaria within the framework of the Eastern Partnership and there is a well-developed bilateral exchange between the legislative bodies of the two countries. As for the frozen conflicts, Bulgaria’s official position is unchanged in supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We also back the Geneva Talks and European Union Monitoring Mission.
TELL US ABOUT THE CURRENT COMMERCIAL TURNOVER BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES It is around $340 million. However, that does not reflect our potential, which is much larger. Our economic ties are developing well, though they could and should be enhanced even further. Sadly, the turnover has declined, from around S400 million dollars in 2015, to $340 million in 2016. It is a complex issue. Import
from Georgia to Bulgaria decreased. However, our trade turnover with Kazakhstan is $12 million. So, our bilateral economic exchange is not small. The DCFTA is playing a very positive role. I can’t give you the exact figures, but Bulgarian import to Georgia represents approximately $200 million, and Georgian import to Bulgaria represents around $140 million. As for bilateral ties in terms of infrastructure, they are important too, representing part of the infrastructural ties between Europe and Asia. We hope for more diversified provisions of gas via Azerbaijan and Georgia. A very important transport project ‘Transport Corridor - Persian Gulf and Black Sea’ is developing very successfully. It is also notable that Georgia has joined the European Energy Community of the European Commission. We are ready to help Georgia in implementing European legislation. The trilateral project about food safety between Bulgaria, the US and Georgia is also coming on nicely.
IN NOVEMBER, THE 5TH EASTERN PARTNERSHIP
SUMMIT TOOK PLACE Yes. These summits take place once every two years and represents a steadily evolving initiative. The agreements made within the framework of the summits are really tangible: take the Association Agreement and visa-free regimes, for example, something that directly reflect on the populations. Our official assessment of this summit is high. We reached a very well-balanced declaration by which we believe that Eastern Partnership (EP) countries represent equal partners not only for the EU but also for our other partners. The topics were: energy security, development of market economy, good governance, democratization and respect for human rights. The summit gave an impulse to develop four main directions within EP countries: stronger economy, stronger institutions and good governance, stronger energy ties, and stronger human contacts. We intend to differentiate our approach to EP countries, as they are each unique. I can state on behalf of Bulgaria, as the forthcoming President Country of the Council of Europe, that the EP remains
We also have very good relations via international organizations. Bulgaria very successfully backed the Georgian candidate for Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization, Ambassador Zurab Pololikashvili. We also backed the Georgian candidacy in 20162018 for the United Nations Human Rights Council. Now, Bulgaria expects Georgian support for 2019-2021. We will try to increase opportunities in the Erasmus+ program for students of EP countries, as well as to boost cultural cooperation on the bilateral level. We want to develop not only government-togovernment, but also business-to-business, civil-to-civil, media-to-media and other social categories. We also have very good relations in the fields of culture and science. Recently, we presented a complete library to the Georgian Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Bulgarian Science Foundation signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Shota Rustaveli Foundation, and a new program is already underway for cultural cooperation between the ministries of culture of the two countries. There are a lot of Bulgarian expositions held in Tbilisi. The Bulgarian Ministry is very active in Georgia.
Georgia to Host Open Gov’t Partnership Summit in 2018 BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
eorgia is to host an Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit as a lead co-chair of the OGP. The summit is to be held
on July 17-19. The event is to gather representatives from over 70 countries, including government officials, ministers, civil servants and members of parliament, civil society representatives, local authorities, researchers, academicians and media. The summit is expected to be hosted by Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia. “The OGP 2018 Global Summit will focus on civic engagement, the fight against corruption, and public service delivery,” the summit announcement reads. “The objectives of the summit are to promote peer learning, inspire OGP reformers to raise the level of ambition,
and push the open government agenda forward to address new challenges and improve the lives of citizens around the world.” The Open Government Partnership is described as a multilateral initiative with a goal to “secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.” It was launched on September 20, 2011, when eight of its founding governmentsBrazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States -made the Open Government Declaration, and announced their country action plans. Since 2011, the OGP has welcomed the commitment of 67 additional governments in joining the Partnership. Since then, “over 70 OGP participating countries and 15 subnational governments have made over 2,500 commitments to make their governments more open and accountable.”
GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
The Roki, Psou Trade Corridor Saga OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
t oft happens an event of historical significance for the country is lost amid political trivialities. And that’s exactly what happened with regards to the agreement signed between Georgia and the Swiss-based company SGS, when the topic of the Roki and Psou trade corridors sank beneath the swearing incident that happened in Parliament. We could say that in our country’s reality, an event of such political importance hasn’t even been raised within the last 25 years. On December 19, before Prime Minister Kvirikashvili used bad language in Parliament, an agreement was signed between Georgia and Swiss SGS. Now, it is primary that Russia comes to an agreement with the Swiss company, after which, all kinds of transport will have the green light to cross the Roki and Psou borders. Maybe it was because of this event that Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan coincidentally visited Tbilisi on December 25. The latter didn’t hide that Armenia was the most interested party in this agreement. “Armenia will benefit if it becomes possible to carry cargo to Russia via South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Sargsyan told his Georgian colleague. Armenian media reported that Armenia will soon break through the isolation and be able to connect with its main trade partner Russia via railway, as well as via the highway. Armenian media cited PM Kvirikashvili: “Turkey, Armenia and other countries which use Georgia’s transit potential will be able to use this corridor in force majeure situations. However, I repeat, this has only been signed by one side. We are continuing negotiations, because some terms offered by Russia are unacceptable.” Right after this last phrase, the PM started swearing.
Can Europe Help Defend Georgia? BY MALGOSIA KRAKOWSKA
Notably, the 2011 document on the membership of Russia in the WTO, is to expire next summer. Now everything is in the hands of Russia. In the coming weeks, we will see how honestly the Kremlin cares about the fate of their main ally in the Caucasus. Most importantly, if the agreement isn’t activated and Russia demands a review of the terms and conditions of the agreement of 2011, it means we were wrong to let them into the WTO. It is also interesting why the Georgian government changed its position: Foreign Affairs Minister Janelidze has yet to elaborate on why the local government changed its position with regards to the transportation corridor, since this company was selected by Switzerland as early as 2012, but signing the agreement was delayed by the Georgian side. Apparently, Karasin’s recent implications have gained the connotation of an ultimatum, and Kvirikashvili’s government decided to act on it, but to act in a way that would cause problems for its rival. The Georgian side signed the agreement with the Swiss company without
waiting for the same step from Moscow. Some believe that our government failed to even notify Russia of the event. Although neither Armenia nor any other “third country” are mentioned in the agreement, such transit does not contradict the clauses or the overall “spirit” of the document. As yet, nobody has confirmed the initiation of any activities between the Russian side and the Swiss. Apparently this continues to create “imaginative” problems between the Kremlin and its recognized “South Ossetia”, and Abkhazia; separatists from Tskhinvali and Sokhumi are meeting on a regular basis with Russian Gosduma MPs, their lobbyists, preparing for noisy interviews and stating that until they won’t be able to participate as an equal party in the process of signing the agreement, and until Georgia recognizes their independence, they won’t let any cargo transit through Tskhinvali. Most likely, such news awaited President Sargsyan on his visit to Moscow, where he flew directly from Tbilisi for an unofficial meeting of the CIS Presidents.
or Georgia, the Russian threat still looms. The Russian invasion in 1991, in 2008, and the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine accentuates the importance of closer military cooperation and security dialogue with Europe. But can Europe defend Georgia? Europe has for too long avoided talks about a supranational defense institution. However, the increased spending and investment in Russian defense together with the open airing of differences on foreign policy views in Washington reignite the debate. On December 14 2017, the European Union formalised its plans to develop and strengthen European defense, and launched the Permanent Structured Operation (PeSCO). The most important goals of PeSCO are aimed at increasing defense investment expenditure to 20% of total defense spending, and engaging with more collaborative and strategic defense capability projects. Georgian Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze praised the move, and said that Georgia was ready to deepen its partnership with the EU in the security domain. Some analysts believe that collabora-
tion in the field of defense should also be extended to Eastern Partnership countries for better coordination and fast mobilization against possible regional threats. “Over the past ten years, our country has dealt with multiple violations of territorial integrity”, Georgia’s State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Victor Dolidze said. “With the Kremlin’s hostile actions eroding and the current security environment in the region, security engagement is essential.” PeSCO emerged from the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, though little progress occurred as a result. Analysts point out that Euroscepticism and national interests of EU members could become an obstacle for further integration in the field of defense. Even with intensified defense consolidation, co-operation and discussion remains limited only to EU members that satisfy the criteria encompassed in Protocol 10 of the Lisbon Treaty. For Georgians, EU membership still remains a matter of economy rather than security alone. Asked whether dialogue with the EU also carries security implications for Georgia, Dolidze admitted that “the EU is not yet a very important security player”. “NATO integration constitutes of an essential direction for our foreign and defense policy”, Dolidze reiterated.
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JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
Ex-Head of NGO Becomes President's Parliamentary Secretary “We will continue to actively cooperate with the Parliament of Georgia, and I hope that this cooperation will be oriented towards the creation of a better legal and political reality in Georgia,” the President stated while presenting Natsvlishvili. Natsvlishvili expressed hope that her relationship with parliament will be based on mutual respect and dialogue. “I hope that our cooperation with the legislative body, as well as with all state agencies involved in the legislative process, will be based on the principle of respect, and will be constructive and fruitful," she added. Ana Natsvilishvili served as the GYLA head from 2014-2017.
BY THEA MORRISON
eorgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has appointed Ana Natsvlishvili, former Head of the NonGovernmentalOrganization Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), as his Parliamentary Secretary. The post became vacant after Margvelashvili appointed his former secretary Ana Dolidze as the member of the High Council of Justice on January 8. Margvelashvili said he was glad Natsvlishvili accepted his offer and decided to be his secretary.
Photographer Francis Prymerski on Georgia: Criticism & Recommendations Each passing week, it becomes more and more difficult to breathe regard. Georgia is a country where they know how to host. People who come here, come back for more. It’s a country where you feel the culture through the supra and it makes people happy.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTHENTIC ARCHITECTURE AND URBANIZATION
INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE
rench Photograph Francis Prymerski has worked with world famous stars Joe Cocker, James Brown, Scorpions and Rammstein just to name a few, but has had his life firmly tied to Georgia for the past 10 years. He was a member of the filming/photo crew that created “Georgian Legend,” a clip that catapulted Erisioni song and dance group to global fame. Since then, Francis spends at least six months in Georgia every year. And despite amassing a considerable following of admirers for his work, it was a different reason altogether that brought him minor social media star status: the footage where he implores each and every one of us to “do something and help” an almost ruined village in Svaneti which went viral and has had over 260,000 views to date. GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV Show paid Francis a visit, whereupon he imparted on us his views
of Georgia’s current predicaments. And be warned, these are some of the more hardline (although justifiable) criticisms that any foreigner has given since the famed soviet writer Viktor Astafyev
Tbilisi of the past was a green city, with trees, and special unique features. Today, it’s starting to look like any other European city
wrote his infamous “The Catching of Gudgeons in Georgia,” comfortably alienating himself from the whole nation. Much like Astafyev, Prymerski’s criticisms are laced with admiration and sympathy towards the country and its people, or rather to “what both of them could, and should, be like.”
cars, and each passing week, it becomes more and more difficult to breathe. When I stay in Tbilisi, I consider myself Georgian and all this stuff concerns me.”
“I’m going to go back to Adishi to see what the situation is like there, whether anything has changed since I made that clip. The situation I saw there means only this: history has been abandoned. I discussed the situation with the local population. Steps should be taken to bring [tourists] there. This situation cannot be left as it is now. I’m not just a tourist, I’m a Tbiliseli. This city adopted me, and I’m begging you: please, do something. Tourism is both the heritage and the driving force for this country. In Georgia, there are a lot of things that do not exist in other countries. One should take care of this. There’s this huge tourism boom and the situation in this field should be improved: roads, pollution... Steps should be taken in this
“Georgia is a country that has been progressing for 10 years. And that progress brought with it both good and bad. First, I’d like to speak about the bad side. Last month, I went to Kutaisi. It was a shock. Plastic bags and packets everywhere, even entwined in tree branches. The picture I saw there hurt me profoundly because I respect this country. One should respect his /her country, and should try to resolve this problem. For example, in Europe, its banned for stores and hypermarkets to give out small plastic bags. This solution should be applied here too. One should respect the nature. The same applies to the level of pollution in Tbilisi. There are more and more
ON THE SVANETIAN VILLAGE OF ADISHI, ON THE BRINK OF RUIN
“I saw pics and videos of the Tbilisi of the past. It was a green city, with trees, unique houses, and special unique features. Today, it’s starting to look like any other European city. I fell in love with Georgia because when I arrived here, I turned up right in the past. Here, you have practices that do not exist in Europe. That’s the appeal of Georgia. I see Georgia progressing, but you should find the right place between the historic and the emotional. The way things are going, Tbilisi will end up looking like any other city. I respect the futuristic-looking architecture of recent times. But one thing that shocked me was the casino beside the Patriarch’s residence, permanently illuminated in ugly colors. Is this modernism? I don’t think so. I’m all for modernism but one should know where to place it. Building a 200-meter hotel? OK, might look good in Dubai, but it’s harder to pull it off in Tbilisi. Modernism should not compete with the old architecture. Over the last 10 years, Georgia has progressed in developing modernism and I say: well done. But one should know where to put it. Look at the photo of Tbilisi, at the place named Maidan, in the old days, and compare it with today’s version. One should also stop allowing random construction. As for the pollution, you know that in Paris the circulation of cars in the center is restricted. The Tbilisi authorities could introduce electric streetcars. Once upon a time, there were streetcars in Tbilisi. This would serve as a good solution for the mix between modernism and the old époque. This would also contribute to solving the pollution problem.”
GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
The Georgian KIS Policy: Quick, Simple & Cheap! OP-ED BY ARCHIL SIKHARULIDZE & TEONA MAMUKISHVILI
he Georgian political establishment has already summarized 2017 and given promises to further develop democratic practices on the ground, ensuring economic and social security, equality and, of course, equity. And while members of the Georgian Dream are mainly satisfied with the decision-making, there is an issue that is causing significant alarm. Particularly, there are fears that the ruling party is repeating the mistakes of its predecessor, the United National Movement, by following an old and time-tested policy to solve complex tasks that can be reflected by an abbreviature – KIS. What is more astonishing is that some members of Georgian civil society directly or indirectly play a significant role in this process by pushing the government to pursue the above mentioned policy.
WHAT IS KIS POLICY? The abbreviature KIS comes from the software developing sphere and means, “Keep it Simple.” The idea behind it is that any complicated programming code should be written in an elegant yet clear way to facilitate other software developers in better understanding the code, the reason it is written in the given manner and, generally the whole program. By doing so, we significantly shorten the time period of further development and integration. And while this general line is applicable to any decision-making process, in Georgian political culture, it overwhelmingly means a scheme con-
taining three policy-making statements: quick, simple and cheap. To understand what these statements are about, we should analyze them based on two unfortunate cases that happened in Tbilisi this past year. Particularly, on September 25, a 3-year-old child fell from the second floor of the 206th kindergarten of Zemo Ponichala and on December 1 two 16-year-old boys died in a school scuffle.
QUICK The first policy-making statement is probably the most common in Georgia: things must be done quickly (especially when it comes to cases that undermine the prestige of the ruling political elite), deal with pretty sensitive issues, or/and enthrall the eye of the mainstream media. This is also where representatives of civil society play a significant role. Local civil society has a tendency to overreact and by doing so (and continuing to hype various topics), they often push political elites to make decisions as fast as possible. The main narrative behind the decision-making process in such cases is not to solve the issue in general but rather to calm and stabilize the situation. Notably, in the above two cases, the Georgian government decided to, in the case of the kindergarten incident, punish the director, caregivers and, finally, to increase security measures by putting the children behind bars. The same punishment scenario took place in the school and, according to tradition, security forces such as resource officers and patrol police were mobilized to tighten control in public schools. Quick decisions are not bad when they are followed by in-depth analysis and strategic planning. In the Georgian case,
quick decision-making is not immediately or even in the near future accompanied by any such action.
SIMPLE Quick decisions that aim to stabilize a situation are usually simple decisions. Simplicity is frequently a positive happening, but not in those cases needing us to deal with complex issues and challenges. It is no secret that local kindergartens are not capable of satisfying the existing demand for child spaces. Moreover, there are serious doubts being raised as to the professionalism and skills of the caregivers, and to the quality of services given. This state institution is also experiencing a shortage of pedagogues who are able to ensure the physical safety of the children in their care. Taking into account international standards, according to which caregivers do not belong to “security services” and are devoted to promoting the healthy development of children, it is questionable how simply putting a young generation of Georgians behind security bars can deal with the source of the problem rather than its
logical consequence. The same analysis is applicable to the school incident. Georgian schools do not lack “security” institutions; they lack “healthy,” safe environments and interpersonal communication focused on multidimensional (staff, children, families, community, policy) responsibilities to promote the raising of socially responsible youths. This can be achieved only by involving supportive professionals: social workers, specialist pedagogues, psychologists and other related professionals. The fact that the Georgian government by default considers using security services as a main tool for handling these issues raises questions as to whether it realizes the necessity of raising a new generation of educated citizens devoted to democratic principles.
CHEAP The third important statement, of course, deals with finances. It is not only fast to put bars, take punitive measures, and send police officers to schools, but also simple and comparatively pretty cheap. Representatives of the Georgian political establishment might assume that
there are not enough financial resources in the country to hire and prepare highlevel professionals to eradicate the issues in the Georgian education system. So far, it has been more logical to use the existing resources (the same resource officers and police) or/and cheap techniques (bars) to contain these problems. Such argumentation is not only wrong but also financially unprofitable. A wellmanaged infusion of money will undoubtedly lead to the development of strong, effective and efficient institutions that, in turn, will create the respective basis for improved financial and social prosperity. By and large, the Georgian government should abandon the time-tested KIS policy when dealing with complex tasks. The formula “quick-simple-cheap” is not applicable in such cases. Instead, representatives of the local political elite should pursue a logical long-term policy oriented on eradication of the source of the problems rather than containment. We need a policy-making approach that is based on comprehensive strategic planning with an infusion of the respective financial resources.
JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
The Lovers & Haters of Bitcoin BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
ne distinguishing feature of bitcoin is the cyclicity of the system; it must be extracted, and its programmers get it by receiving a reward for their work. You can even compare it to the way gold is mined: miners digging for gold receive a salary, and programmers making bitcoins receive a commission in the form of the same bitcoins. As natural resources are limited, including gold, bitcoin is equally as finite. “Production” of bitcoins will cease, when it reaches 21 million units. This naturally fuels its price. The system is configured so that every 10 minutes there are 12.5 new bitcoins. A bitcoin is extracted by random numbers; as soon as the code is selected, a new coin appears. Production is called “mining,” and programmers are “miners.” It has become a professional business: there are even special computer farms seeing miners use powerful computers with specialized cards, and special processors are being manufactured. In China, an interdepartmental working group has instructed the provincial authorities to “actively promote” the termination of mining by local compa-
nies, The Financial Times reported. The authorities of the country intend to put an end to mining due to concerns over excess electricity consumption, as well as the financial risks. Many miners work in remote areas of China, without registering a legal entity. They consume cheap electricity in regions
where there are coal or hydroelectric power plants, such as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and Yunnan. China has already closed local stock exchanges of bitcoins, and banned companies from conducting initial placement of the crypto currency. The government
of the country also plans to completely block channels for buying and selling crypto currency in China. South Korea may also prohibit trade in crypto currencies on specialized exchanges and, according to the head of the Pak San Ki department, the relevant document is now being prepared by the
Ministry of Justice. “There are big fears about virtual currencies, and the Justice Ministry, in truth, is preparing a bill to ban trade on the stock exchange,” Reuters cites. Earlier, the Government of South Korea announced its intention to prohibit the anonymous use of crypto currencies, and to toughen penalties for crimes related to them. On the other hand, Japan has officially recognized bitcoin. On April 1, the country introduced a new law on currency regulation, according to which bitcoins and other digital currencies received the status of a payment instrument. In Russia, they went the other way - in March 2016, a special bill was drafted that completely eliminates the use of crypto currency, even making it a criminal liability. But in August 2016, a draft law on the prohibition of bitcoins was adjusted, since the Russian Ministry of Finance opposed the strict ban on crypto currency. One way or another, professional market participants are beginning to see digital currencies in a new light. Everyone agrees on one thing: crypto currency can change the world given its main feature: an unchanging data register that is stored on every computer on the web and does not belong to any state, belonging instead to the people- miners and communities -which refer to it.
World Bank Forecasts Georgia's Economic Growth BY THEA MORRISON
he World Bank has increased Georgia's economic growth forecast. The international organization predicts that Georgia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will grow by 4.2% in 2018, 4.7% in 2019 and 5% in 2020. The World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report shows that with such a forecast, Georgia is one of the leading countries among the neighboring states in terms of economic growth: Armenia will experience 3.8 % economic growth, Azerbaijan 0.9 %, Russia 1.7 % and Turkey 3.5% growth. The previous report of the World Bank was published in June, 2017. Then, the World Bank expected 4% growth in 2018, and in 2019 a 4.5% growth. The economic growth rate of 2017
has also improved. In the previous report, the World Bank pointed out that Georgia’s GDP would grow by 3.5% and now it is estimated at 4.3%. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) official statistics, in 11 months of 2017, economic growth was 4.8%. In 2018, the Georgian government hopes for a 4.5 % indicator. In general, the WB report reads that growth in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region is estimated to have accelerated from 1.7% in 2016 to 3.8% in 2017, up from 2.5% expected in June 2017. Growth is expected to moderate to 2.9% in 2018 and stabilize at 3% in 2019-20. As for the global economic prospects, the World Bank forecasts global economic growth to edge up to 3.1% in 2018 after a much stronger-thanexpected 2017, as recovery in investment, manufacturing, and trade continues. Growth in advanced economies is expected to moderate slightly to 2.2% in 2018.
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GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
Rendezvous with A Psychologist How to React to an Angry Individual BY MAKA LOMADZE
here are many cases when, fair or not, everyone has to deal with an angry person. Whether we are in the right or not becomes irrelevant. It is essential to know how to react in these situations, so as not to anger the person even more and put oneself into an even more dangerous, but instead diffuse any aggression. Meet Meran Oniani, Art-Therapist, Specialist of psycho-synthesis, Practitioner of neuro-linguistic conditions and art historian.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN METHODS OF DEFENSE AGAINST A PERSON WHO IS ACTING AGGRESSIVELY? There are seven major steps that will help you calm an angry individual, get them to pull themselves together and obtain help from us, which is absolutely necessary to resolve the conflict with a positive outcome. First and foremost, you have to listen to the person. The best thing that you can do for an angry
person, in general, is to listen to them. As a result of this, you will be able to find out what has caused their rage.
WHAT IS THE SECOND STEP THEN? It is all about listening again. Having listened to them once, ask them to repeat the whole story once again. By doing so, you will enable them to realize that you take them seriously and have a wish to understand them and what may have happened to them. The person will also feel that you are not judging him/her when revealing their negative emotions. Having listened for a second time, ask additional questions in order to totally clear the things up. It is necessary to listen to angry people maybe three, even four times, to
Ask yourself: how would you feel in a similar situation? Show them compassion
Russian Embassy in UK Criticizes BBC’s New McMafia TV Series
BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
BC’s newly released TV drama ‘McMafia’, which has started airing on BBC One, tells a story of Alex Goldman, the Britishborn son of an exiled Russian Mafia boss, who desperately tries to leave his family’s mafia ties and past behind, was criticized by the Russian Embassy in UK, stating in a tweet, that “BBC’s McMafia depicts Britain as a playground for Russian gangsters. But do you know how many Rus-
sian offenders there actually are in UK jails?” the tweet says, stating that the correct answer is fewer than 10, and that crime rate among Russians in the UK is well below the national average. “Good that our followers are not buying into the clichés the BBC is spreading,” the Russian Embassy in the UK tweeted. The BBC’s new crime drama McMafia has an international cast, with Georgian actor Merab Ninidze playing Vadim Kalyagin, a Russian mafia member, staring alongside James Norton, David Strathairn, Juliet Rylance, Aleksey Serebryakov and Maria Shukshina.
enable them to verbalize their concerns and share their reflections and feelings with you. You must then try to get into the shoes of the angry person and to learn what actually caused their rage. Ask yourself: how would you feel in a similar situation? Show them compassion, that you have imagined yourself in their place and can relate, at least partially, to the same feelings that they are feeling right now.
WHAT HAPPENS SUBSEQUENTLY? You will have to make the angry person believe that you understand the essence of what has happened. By doing so, you will demonstrate your compassion towards them. Therefore, you should talk to them with benevolence. Even in such a case that a person misunderstands something, do not try to correct them or make things clearer by telling them that
they are wrong. You will have a chance to do that later on. In the interim, show them your support, reiterate that you are not judging their rage and moreover, you totally understand the essence of their anger. You will now hopefully be at a stage where you are able to clear up any misunderstandings with the person. This will be when, by doing so, you will not anger them further: on the contrary, you will help to rid them of the rage and irritation, and even get them to believe that you have not done anything wrong to them. You will have to confess to your own fault(s) and correct them, or compensate for the damage you have done. If you realize that people are angry with you fairly, i.e. that it is your fault, it is high time to confess and try to correct your actions.
JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
Combating Fake News: Training Students in Media Literacy in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
eorgian, Moldovan and Ukrainian students participated in media literacy camps, which formed part of the Strengthening Independent Media project in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and in partnership with Internews Ukraine, based in Kyiv; Internews Georgia, based in Tbilisi; and the Independent Journalism Center, based in Chisinau. The training was initiated from September 9, 2016. While aiming to increase citizens’ access to reliable information about local, regional, and international issues of public importance through support to the independent media sector, the project included components exclusively concerning young people: a media literacy camp and the “European Café” discussion club, organized at different venues all around Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine. Students were selected through a competition. In Georgia, the jury selected 15 female and 15 male applicants, including 28 high-schoolers and two university students from different regions of Georgia. Three participants were ethnic Azerbaijanis and four were ethnic Armenians. In Ukraine, 30 students from different regions were selected, while in Moldova, 31 students and 9 teachers from 10 schools (including two Russian schools) attended. Internews Georgia held its summer camp on Sept 4-9, at the seaside resort of Chakvi. Internews Ukraine held the summer camp on July 24-28 in the Izky village in the Carpathian Mountains. In Moldova, Independent Journalism Center organized the camp during August 20-26, in Costesti. In total, 100 participants attended media literacy camps in the three countries, and feedback about the events was mostly positive. Pre and post-evaluations conducted in Moldova and Ukraine showed improvements in the way young people perceive media literacy and its importance. Post-evaluations from participants in Georgia indicated that they were pleased by the amount of knowledge they
obtained during the camp. “All 3 countries are affected by propaganda and fake news, especially from the Russian government,” Angela Sirbu, Project Director of the Strengthening Independent Media in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine project said. “We expected students to learn how to recognize quality media content as well as manipulative and fake news, and how to react if the press misinforms the public. To understand how different communication channels (social media, new technologies, etc.) can be used for selfexpression and engagement in discussion.” “Programs included topics such as: the basics of media literacy, how to develop critical thinking, practical mobile journalism, investigation of media effects, social media and blogging, and verification and fact-checking”, she adds, talking about the expectations of the project. As for the project outcomes, in Georgia, a media literacy questionnaire, incorporating 11 questions derived from the Georgian Charter of Journalism Ethics, was administered to participants after the camp, and yielded 83.6% correct responses on average. Participants were overwhelmingly positive in their evaluations. “I learned much more than I expected,” said an anonymous participant in the evaluation. “The only negative aspect is that training and projects like these are rare!” said
LEGENDARY STRIP CLUB
another participant. Some participants intend to continue to learn about media literacy and work in the media field, like 15-year old Nika Kalichava from Poti, who said: “I was lucky to hear about the summer camp while browsing TV Metskhre Talga’s Facebook page; I will try to work with them as a journalist when I get back,” he said. In Moldova’s case, according to pre and postevaluations completed by the 31 students, more participants think that a professional news story should have multiple independent sources (23 at the end versus 12 at the beginning), as well as balance and multilateral information (22 versus 18). When asked about propaganda, 13 students believe it is always a lie (only 7 at the beginning), and 25 that it is a way to manipulate people (only 20 said that at the beginning). More students understand what it takes to be a responsible news consumer: namely, to analyze all the factors (31 at the end versus 25 at the beginning), to consult multiple sources of information (28 versus 23), and to be rational (18 versus 11). Students learned about the Press Council as an effective instrument of fighting poor-quality information: after the camp, 27 participants indicated that they would approach the Press Council if they
see a media outlet publish fake or offensive information versus 14 at the beginning. Both students and teachers had an overall good impression of the camp. 39 out of 40 participants would be interested in attending a similar event in the future, and 38 participants gave high marks (10, 9 or 8) for the camp’s agenda. “I’ve learned to see media in a different way,” said one participant. Others highlighted changes they would make to their own behavior because of the camp: “I liked the information presented by the experts. It is a good camp because it teaches us important things about media and how to avoid manipulation”; “I’ve met new people and learned useful tools such as how to recognize good news and how to behave online.” Feedback from participants of the media camp in Ukraine highlighted that they appreciated the opportunity to meet new people, spend time in the Carpathians, and learn invaluable knowledge about internet security, web tools, and manipulative news. “Thanks to the school, I not only learned, but reached a new level of attainment. It also helped me to decide that I want to be a journalist. This knowledge will help me, and I will be able to share it with others,” participant Veronika Khorolskaya said. “Results of the pre and post-evaluations demonstrate an increase of participants’ knowledge of media literacy,” Sirbu pointed out. “Students were better able to identify the functions of different web tools and how to use them; demonstrated a better knowledge of how Russia uses the information space; and proved that they learned some practical information on internet security. 70% were able to correctly identify the most vulnerable messenger app as Viber after the camp, as opposed to 27% before; and 97% could decrypt a VPN password after the camp as opposed to 83% before,” she noted. Sirbu says there is currently no funding allocated for media literacy work in Georgia in 2018, “but we are still actively looking for ways to continue this type of work because it is needed, it has an impact, and it’s hugely rewarding for everyone who participates in it,” she said.
3000 Foreigners Receive Georgian Citizenship in 2017 BY THEA MORRISON
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n 2017, President Giorgi Margvelashvili granted citizenship of Georgia to 3000 foreign citizens. The information was released in a report by the Citizenship Issues Commission under the Public Service Development Agency. According to the report, in the period of January-October 2017, the Commission discussed 5,321 applications for citizenship and approved 3,097, which were then sent to the president for approval. The President approved 3000 applications and rejected 97. According to the report, of the rejected applicants, 70 persons were born in Georgia and 27 were former citizens of Georgia or family members of a Georgian citizen. Of the 3,097 applicants approved by the commission, 2,550 persons were either born in Georgia (1,945 persons) or were a former citizen of Georgia (1,072 persons), or their family member was a Georgian citizen. Moreover, 277 persons were citizens of EU countries, 219 from American states, 221 - Asian states, 5 persons from African countries, 1 person - Arab states and 11 persons were citizens of other states. The report also underlines that in 2017, the President of Georgia granted citizenship of Georgia to eight persons without the procedures envisaged by the commission and the law. Three of these people were Russian, three were German, and two were citizens of different countries. Moreover, the report reads that the President granted Georgian citizenship to 79 Fereidan Georgians. A citizen of Georgia cannot at the same time be the citizen of another state, except for in exceptional cases specified in the Constitution of Georgia. Georgian citizenship may be acquired at birth or can be granted through an ordinary procedure, a simplified procedure, as an exception or through restoration of citizenship. To be granted Georgian citizenship through the
standard procedure, a foreign citizen can apply to the relevant authorized body. Georgian citizenship is granted with a simplified procedure to a person married to a Georgian citizen who has been legally and uninterruptedly residing in Georgia for two years prior to the submission of the application. Additionally, a person is required to know the state language, Georgian history, and the basics of the Georgian legislation. The exceptional procedure of granting Georgian citizenship may be applied to a foreign citizen who has made an outstanding contribution to Georgia or to those cases when granting Georgian citizenship to a person is in the national interests of the country. Georgian citizenship may be restored to a person whose Georgian citizenship has been terminated unlawfully, due to renunciation of the Georgian citizenship or after the decision of this person’s parents. In order to have the Georgian citizenship restored, a person should know something of the Georgian language. In case of a negative decision, a person can reapply to an authorized state body with the same request after six months.
GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
Your Future Awaits: Leliani, Kakheti
BLOG BY TONY HAMNER
aving lived in Georgia longer than any other of the six countries my life has called home, I suppose it must be normal that my time in this country has given me many firsts. First cell phone, first blog, first laptop, first makings of liqueurs and cheeses, first permanent residence status, first entries in national and international photographic competitions (successes in both including catalog entries and exhibition participation). First and likely only marriage; first home and automatic-transmission car purchases.
And first viewings of national-level televised talent competitions, which I began watching in Ushguli’s long winters more than ten years ago. Go, Keti Orjonikidze! It was during the last season of “Nichieri” (Gifted: not the X-Men spinoff series, but another featuring people with real superpowers) that my wife pointed out to me an opera-singing entrant from her home village of Leliani, Lagodekhi region, Kakheti. She even knew him, distantly: Kakha Jomboridze. He sailed through auditions onto the stage, and was given a very enthusiastic pass by all four jury members (which included Georgia’s First Lady), singing the aria which Pavarotti used forever to unite football and classical music: the Turandot piece “Nessan Dorma” by Puccini. The jury proclaimed him virtually a living
national treasure on the spot, and his future was to some degree assured. Kakha did not become the first place Nichieri winner of 2017, but he was in the final. (He and I both think that his handlers’ preference for him to sing the same aria again for his final number was a mistake.) And, as Susan Boyle’s secondplace win in similar circumstances in the UK proved, becoming number one isn’t everything: who can name the act which knocked her out and did win first? But SHE soon stole the current number one pop music chart position from… Madonna. And was produced by jury member Simon Cowell. We caught up with 31-year-old Kakha in a small knot of men on the street outside his home in the interval between Western New Year and Orthodox Christmas, while visiting my wife’s family. His great, glorious talent has not jumped into existence untrained, but the Nichieri show was its first great exposure to the world, and in my humble estimation it took him as far as necessary for now. Life has given him some quite considerable health challenges before then, but he has come through these “by God’s mercy” and, quite whole, is ready to answer the new list of callers. They hail from various parts of Europe, including Italy, to which news of his use of the national language has obviously reached: Come to us, they say! He is in the enviable position of being able to choose from a variety of next steps to fame and further success. I don’t know why my favorite from a decade ago, second-place winner Keti Orjonokidze, hasn’t gone farther than internet searches reveal that she has, into top-level national stardom if not international. I consider her a gem, although there are obviously many facets of chance and personality and circumstance in such rises. But I will be watching Kakha to see how his own star ascends, cheering him on, hoping for his fate to be a bright one. He deserves it, as so many people do and cannot get there. He will. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1800 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
Georgian Passport Advances 15 Places on Henley Passport Index BY TOM DAY
n the updated 2018 Henley Passport Index rankings, Georgia has advanced to number 53, a move of 15 places from last year. Georgians can now visit a total of 99 countries without obtaining a visa. The comprehensive website ranks all the world passports according to countries their citizens can visit visa-free.
It uses the data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest database of travel information. Top of the list is the German passport, which allows its holders to enter 177 countries visa-free. Other noteworthy countries include Singapore in second place, and United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland all in joint third. At the bottom of the list are Afghanistan with 24 countries visit-able visafree, Iraq with 27, and Syria with 28.
JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER
TBILISI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 44 66 January 14 NEW YEAR'S GALA CONCERT Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-50 GEL January 16, 18 OPERA- FANTASY Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater Choir and Orchestra. Conductor- Daniel Oren (Israel) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20-200 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 January 13, 14 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL January 17, 18 RAMONA Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL TBILISI CIRCUS Address: Heroes’ Sq. January 13, 14 NEW YEAR CIRCUS SHOW Start time: 13:00, 17:00 Ticket: 10-25 GEL CINEMA
Language: Russian Start time: 21:30 Ticket: 13-17 GEL MOLLY’S GAME Directed by Aaron Sorkin Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera Genre: Biography, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 16:10, 21:50 Ticket: 10-14 GEL THE GREATEST SHOWMAN Directed by Michael Gracey Cast: Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams Genre: Biography, Drama, Musical Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 14:30, 22:00 Ticket: 12-17 GEL JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE Directed by Jake Kasdan Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 19:15 Ticket: 12-14 GEL SANTA & CIE Directed by Alain Chabat Cast: Alain Chabat, Audrey Tautou, Golshifteh Farahani, Pio Marmai Genre: Comedy, Family Language: Russian Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 17 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL January 12-19
AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (Info Above) Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-17 GEL
Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL January 12-18
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (Info Above) Start time: 17:00, 22:30 Ticket: 10-14 GEL
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US Directed by Hany Abu-Assad Cast: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Beau Bridges Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama Language: English Start time: 19:30
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (Info Above) Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL
SANTA & CIE (Info Above) Start time: 12:10, 14:40 Ticket: 8-10 GEL CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07 January 12-18 MOLLY’S GAME (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 22:15 Language: Russian Start time: 16:15, 19:15 Ticket: 13-19 GEL STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI Directed by Rian Johnson Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Tom Hardy, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 13:00, 22:15 Ticket: 11-15 GEL THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 14:30, 19:30 Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 17:00, 20:00 Ticket: 11-19 GEL JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (Info Above) Start time: 16:15, 19:00 Ticket: 13-19 GEL MUSEUM
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibition GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF 18TH-20TH CENTURIES The royal dress of King Teimuraz II, Nino Gurieli's Georgian dress, Tekla Batonishvili's personal sewing machine, robe of Alexander Bariatinsky - Deputy of the Caucasus, Tambourine painted by Mihaly Zichy, feminine attire of Abkhazian and Ingilo women and more.
Exhibition NUMISMATIC TREASURY Showcases a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. December 29 - January 30 EXHIBITION: THE GEORGIAN CHURCH 1917-2017 Dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the 15-centuries-old autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, the 40th anniversary of enthronement and the 85th jubilee of His Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia Ilia II. LITERATURE MUSEUM Address: 8 Chanturia Str. November 17 – January 25 (2018) 200TH ANNIVERSARY EXHIBITION OF FAMOUS GEORGIAN POET NIKOLOZ BARATASHVILI MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 December 14 – March 14 ANNIVERSARY-RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION GIGO GABASHVILI 155 This retrospective exhibition showcases various paintings and graphic works, manuscripts and electronic versions of his photographs. The exhibition also features a reconstruction of the artist's room with his furniture and personal items, some displayed to the public for the first time. GALLERY
DIMITRI SHEVARDNADZE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 215 73 00 December 15-January 16 GIVI TOIDE’S ANNIVERSARY RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION Givi Toidze belongs to the generation of artists that actively appeared in the 1960s. He was educated in the workshop of his grandfather, outstanding Georgian artist Mose Toidze.
December 20-January 20 EXHIBITION KARLO KACHARAVA TODAY Karlo Kacharava's solo exhibition takes up two galleries on the museum's ground floor. With a few exceptions the majority of the works on show are oil paintings. The first gallery is dedicated to the General-one of his largest paintings, done in1988-and several other romantic-heroic portraits. In the second gallery, the late artist's paintings are displayed together with the works of three young Georgian artists. ERTI GALLERY Address: 19 Ingorokva Str./5 9 April Str. Building B. Space 1 December 2 – January 15 Tato Akhalkatsishvili's solo show NEVER SLEEP UPSIDE DOWN A multimedia installation related to the galaxy. MUSIC
TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 January 12 SOLO and Eastern Promotions presents THE NEW YEAR CONCERT OF 2-time GRAMMY-winning American jazz vocalist GREGORY PORTER Georgia's Evgeni Mikeladze State Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Nikoloz Rachveli Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 80-150 GEL TBILISI EVENT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 January 13 NEW YEAR WITH SALIO & DJ SHINING Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 30 GEL ZEBRA STATION Address: Near Mirtskhulava Str. Telephone: 591 10 23 74 January 13 NEW YEAR WITH SALIO & DJ SHINING Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 15 GEL REPUBLIC Address: Rose Revolution Sq. Telephone: 240 22 00 January 13 PREMIERE SHOW BY SUKHISHVILEBI GEORGIAN DANCE Premiere of Sukhishvilebis’ New Show Musical improvization by Young Georgian Lolitaz and Sukhishvilebi DJ SET by N!koloz / Liza Rivs Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 80-300 GEL MZIURI Address: Mziuri Cafe January 15 SAKVIRAO Entertainment program for children Start time: 12:00 IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 January 14 OLD NEW YEAR WITH EKA MAMALADZE Participants: Misha Mdinaradze’s band "Baraka" Accompanied by Nino Guliashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 30-50 GEL
GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 12 - 15, 2018
A Natural Producer: Tornike Koplatadze REVIEW BY GIORGI LALIASHVILI, LONDON
his summer, Masters graduate of University College London in Ethnographic and Documentary Filmmaking, Tornike Koplatadze chose the Tserovani Internally Displaced Person (IDP) Settlement as the topic for his graduation film. The decision speaks for itself: the 23-year-old young man returns to his home country and expresses interest in the people whose lives became intolerable due to the Russo-Georgian War of 2008. Koplatadze is the producer, director, cameraman, interviewer, and editor of the film. The assistance rendered to him by the university was a professional camera along with the necessary equipment. The student coped with all the other tasks connected with the shooting of the film independently. This is the maximum requirement of the university towards its students, and aims at testing and observing student commitment and dedication to the film-making sphere. Nine Years of Displacement, Tornike’s 22-minute film, was p re s e n te d to t h e diploma awarding body. The work of the Georgian graduate was wellreceived and he was granted the full right to continue his professional work in documentary film directing. The above-mentioned film was screened only for the diploma awarding body and so seeing it was quite a task for ‘outsiders’. Therefore, I was most pleased to be invited to the premiere screening of Nine Years of Displacement by St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford. The School of Russian and Eastern European Studies (REES) of University of Oxford has a special Georgian Studies program, funded by the Shota Rustaveli National Foundation, where Georgian and foreign scholars participate and present their research to wider audiences. Koplatadze’s graduation film was screened within the frameworks of the given program. The screening of Nine Years of Displacement, held in the Syndicate Room at St. Anthony’s, was attended by the university professors and students from different countries. The event took place in the Research Center of Russian and Eastern European Studies and among
the audience were Russian students who participated in post-screening discussions, having a much more civilized attitude towards the conflict than the world commonly expects from the Russian political establishment. The slightly confused tone of said students in addressing the audience was definitely preconditioned by the fact that the aggressor was their home country and, unlike Russian politicians, they didn’t find it as difficult to admit the truth. There is always a temptation in films of a similar plot to load the script with heartbreaking scenes; to display in full the violent imagery and devastating nature of war. This technique, though very effective, at the end of the film often leaves a sense of insufficiency. Such and even graver scenes are shown almost daily in the coverings of war and terrorstricken zones. Yet, Koplatadze refused to be allured by such methods, instead focusing on the people; his camera picks out the tortured faces of these people, it reflects their deep sorrow and spiritual pain, which even nine years later is undiminished and incurable.
The natural working manner of this emerging director is both tangible and rewarding. The characters express their thoughts directly and sincerely. The director gives them full freedom of action; he doesn’t interfere in anything or direct anyone. This is an extremely just film, which neither darkens the colors nor appeases anything with artificial optimism. The scenes with 14-15-year-old teenage girls are particularly memorable. Nine years ago, they were small girls, thus their memories of fleeing their villages alongside their parents are rather vague. The girls focus more on their present state: they describe how monotonous and dull life is for each dweller in the
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settlement, where adults are predominantly unemployed, and the everyday life of teenagers is cloudy and uninteresting. They seldom have reason to enjoy their lives: perhaps at a summer camp or by attending the rare concerts held in the settlement. Those are their biggest adventures. They are unable to visit the capital, even though it literally borders Tserovani. Attending a film premiere or a performance is an unrealizable dream. Many of the talented youngsters wish to continue their studies at universities, but it seems the chances are slim due to a lack of opportunities or finances. What an injustice and loss for the future of the country! These youngsters have a completely different attitude towards the surrounding world and their futures: they often talk about the freedom of spirit and name personal independence as the most important priority. The film depicts the reality of how these hardships can affect people, demonstrating bravery and the ability to withstand all difficulties. It seems that war and displacement helped these teenagers to become strongerwilled persons. They love life with all their heart and actively seek out selfassertion, desiring to exploit their talents to the full. The fact that Koplatadze is a sharp-eyed documentary filmmaker is proven by his film, but also needing highlighting is his rare artistic expression as revealed in this film. I believe he should also try to work on feature films, to uncover his rich potential and experience to the fullest extent. This impression was dictated by a one-minute scene from Nine Years of Displacement, when the camera changes its focus from a celebration held in commemoration of Independence Day to the background consisting of foreign guests and high officials, where some children are fighting. How relentlessly they fight, until a man their fathers’ age comes and appeases them. They apologize to each other and the ‘conflict’ is solved. This, at one glance an ordinary scene, evokes a very serious problem. Naturally, it won’t happen in the near future, but it is bound to in the coming years. Our greedy neighboring country will dismount these barbed-wire belts and Georgia will regain its own torn away regions… could anyone have imagined that Britain, Spain and France would have given up their colonies so easily?! Even aggressor countries have their time limits. The same will be the case with Russia! Here shouldn’t be forgotten the scene we witnessed at the University of Oxford after the screening of the film by Tornike Koplatadze, Nine Years of Displacement, when the new generation of Russians seemed to feel remorse – and this is quite a meaningful fact!
Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison Photographer: Irakli Dolidze
Renowned Conductor Daniel Oren to Present Opera Fantasy at the Tbilisi State Opera BY LIKA CHIGLADZE
n January 16 and 18, opera enthusiasts have the chance to listen to the incredible classical masterpieces conducted by world-renowned conductor Daniel Oren at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater. The shows will mark the start of Oren’s work as Musical Director of the State Opera of Georgia. The concert, named Opera Fantasy, will feature the Tbilisi Opera Choir as well as its Orchestra. The audience will have an opportunity to enjoy overtures and pieces from opera classics such as Giuseppe Verdi’s The Force of Destiny, Don Carlos, Macbeth, Nabucco, and Aida, as well as Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, and Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. The celebrated conductor’s brilliant international career started in 1975 by his winning the first prize at the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition. At different times, Oren led prestigious Italian theaters such as the Teatro Verdi in Triest, Opera San Carlo in Naples and Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. In 2007, he was appointed Artistic Director at the Municipal Theater “Giuseppe Verdi” in Salerno, and in 2018 he became the musical director at the Tbilisi Opera Theater, signifying for him the start of an artistic and musical life in the capital of Georgia. Although the famed conductor developed his career in Italy, Oren has performed in a number of leading operas around the world, including at the New York Metropolitan, Covent Garden in London, Staatsoper in Vienna, Colon in Buenos Aires, as well as in Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington and Tokyo. He has cooperated and performed together with the brightest stars of opera, including Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and many other celebrated singers. Classical music and opera have been always cherished in Georgia. The country has a rich tradition of performance art dating back centuries. The first opera and
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theater was constructed between 1847 and 1851 on the present Liberty (Freedom) Square in Tbilisi and was designed by Italian architect Giovanni Scudieri. The opera house hosted a number of Italian opera singers and citizens were instantly intoxicated by the magical music, even though they did not understand the language. Even Alexandre Dumas was so entranced by the Tbilisi Opera Theater during his travel through Georgia that in his “Adventures in the Caucasus” he wrote, “I thought I was at the theater of Pompey. Never have I seen such an impressive theater hall in my life.” Following a devastating fire, a new opera building was built in the mid-19th century on Rustaveli Avenue, yet it, too, was destroyed by fire: twice. A few years ago, this amazing Neo-Moorish building was restored and reopened. Now, in Daniel Oren’s hands, a new era beckons for the Georgian opera. Oren got his first taste of the Tbilisi Opera Theater on March 4, 2017, at the premiere of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida . Even though he stayed for just one day, he promptly fell in love with Georgian singers and the audience. This is how he recalled his visit to Tbilisi and cooperation with Tbilisi Opera in an interview recorded in June 2017 in Italy, at Arena di Verona: “I spent just one night in Tbilisi; we did a rehearsal and then we performed the premiere of Aida. It was a miracle. The Georgian singers were fantastic [Iano Tamar, George Oniani, Anita Rachvelishvili, George Gagnidze, George Andguladze, Ramaz Chikviladze]. Iano Tamar was incredible, particularly how she did Si and Do in the Third Act. I think now, Georgians have the best quality singers in the world. It was a magical evening in Tbilisi, and the public was amazing. I’ve never seen a public like what I saw in Tbilisi; with such a warm heart. Believe me, I know a little of the whole world and most theaters. And then, after the performance, 300 people on the stage spoke with us, embraced us. It was an extraordinary experience. I’ve never had an experience like this, and I truly hope to return to Tbilisi.”
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Published on Jan 11, 2018