Issue no: 989
• OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... 353 Foreigners Ask for Asylum in Georgia in 9 Months NEWS PAGE 3
Russia’s Karasin Calls on Georgia to Fulfill Terms of Cargo Monitoring Agreement POLITICS PAGE 4
FOCUS ON UNITY A look at the pros and cons of separatism and a spotlight on Georgia's growing business and cultural connections PAGE
Sharing Success: 661 Companies to Participate in 2017 Business Awards BUSINESS PAGE 9
International Potato Center Representation Opens in Georgia
Photo source: http://communique.uccs.edu
Survey Results: Do Georgians Know What the EU Is? BY MAKA LOMADZE
Journey into the World of Beauty and Light – Botticelli & Caravaggio CULTURE PAGE 15
n October 10, the Europe Foundation (EPF) presented its recent survey report titled ‘Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia, 2009 – 2017’. The presentation was held at the Marriott Hotel in Tbilisi. The report presents the results of a study into Georgian citizens’ knowledge of and attitudes towards the European Union. It looks at the results of five waves of surveys conducted in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, and attempts to identify trends and highlight changes in both knowledge and attitudes of the population of Georgia. “It is always useful to have an opportunity to learn about the sentiments of the people,” said Carlo Natale, the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Georgia. “For us policy-makers, it’s a
SOCIETY PAGE 13
sort of reality check. A lot is going on between the EU and Georgia, and both sides are committed to taking this further”. He claims that a lot of work is being done on a daily basis by the Georgian government, civil society and the EU in order to bring benefits and real results to citizens. “We have to be just as effective in our communication efforts as in the implementation of our projects and programs. Democracies would
not be called democracies if they worked against the will of the people. So, it is important that the ordinary people approve of the actions of the governance,” he said. Such surveys help to assess mandates and support greater cooperation and deeper integration. Natale said he was “pleased that for a consecutive eight years, the EPF surveys had shown the enthusiasm of Georgians towards EU integration Continued on page 3 at a consistent high”.
OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
Georgian Passengers to Fly to Barcelona, Rome, Paris Direct with Wizz Air BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
izz Air plans to add further destinations from Kutaisi International Airport, including Rome, Paris, Barcelona and Prague. The decision was announced by George Michalopulos, Wizz Air’s CFO, while at a meeting with the Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi
Kvirikashvili last week. Wizz Air is one of the leading low-cost air companies in Central and Eastern Europe, and is currently operating flights to 11 European countries from Kutaisi International Airport in western Georgia. Flights to Rome, Paris, Barcelona and Prague will start from May 2018. Wizz Air is also set to double the number of already existing flights operated by the company from Kutaisi, for which another A320 type aircraft is to be based at the airport.
25 Bodies of Abkhazian War Victims Identified & Brought to Georgia BY THEA MORRISON
eorgia’s Ministry of Refugees reports that 25 bodies of high-rank figures of the 1990s Georgia and other victims of the Abkhazian War have been identified and returned to Georgia. 24 years after the Abkhazian war, among the deceased were identified the bodies of Security Colonel Mamia Alasania, Sokhumi Mayor Guram Gabeskiria and members of the Council of Ministers of Abkhazia, Vakhtang Gegelashvili and Arshaul Shengelia. “All these 25 people are heroes…They had a chance to save themselves. However, they decided to fulfill their roles until the end of their lives and fight for Georgia’s independence,” Refugee Min-
ister Sozar Subari said. The Minister thanked the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Abkhazian side for its fruitful work. The Refugees Ministry reports that a civil funeral for the deceased will be held on October 16 in Holy Trinity Cathedral (Sameba), Tbilisi, and the following day the bodies will be buried with military honor at the Dighomi Brothers’ Cemetery. Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, has appealed to anyone possessing information on people who went missing during the 1992-1993 war in Abkhazia region and 2008 RussiaGeorgia war to inform the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). As Kvirikashvili noted at the governmental session on Wednesday, more than 2,400 people have no information about their relatives that went missing in the reported period.
Georgia & EU Launch Strategic Dialogue on Security Issues BY THEA MORRISON
eorgia and the European Union have launched the first Strategic Dialogue on Security Issues, which is expected to contribute to both Georgian and EU security. Georgia’s Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze, opened the dialogue, noting that Georgia remains one of the strongest allies of the EU in the region and a key security partner, as reflected in the EU's Global Security and Foreign Policy document. Janelidze underlined that Georgia is engaged in EU crisis management operations and contributes to stability in Europe, as well as throughout the world. “We are confident that, through closer interaction, we will be able to better assess our place in the common European security architecture and contribute more effectively to the joint efforts,” he stated. He said that the Georgian government expresses appreciation for the EU’s active contribution to peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia. “We highly value the EU’s instruments - EUSR, EUMM, GID co-chairmanship, the policy of engagement without rec-
Photo source: MFA of Georgia
ognition and financial assistance, all of which are essential to succeed in the peace process,” he added. The start of the dialogue is especially important against the background of global and regional challenges and developments. “We live in a more connected, contested and complex world: of both conventional and hybrid warfare, extremism and radicalization, cybercrime, terrorism and organized crime; challenges, which are becoming overwhelmingly sophisticated and complex and which cannot be solved without shared responsibility and cooperation,” he said. The initiative of launching the dialogue was raised by the Georgian Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, last year,
at the session of the Association Council. The Prime Minister also commented on the activation of dialogue with the EU, noting that the Russia-Georgia conflict and ways towards peaceful resolution would be among the key issues of the dialogue. He added that the dialogue is a very important achievement, making Georgia a significant component of the European security system. “This is the result of long-term work and is a great honor and responsibility for us. This is an unprecedented step from the European Union and Europe confirms interest in Georgia as well as its role in terms of strengthening regional stability and security,” Kvirikashvili stated.
GEORGIA TODAY OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
Survey Results: Do Georgians Know What the EU Is? Continued from page 1
“It is a very challenging task to be a well-functioning democracy,” noted Martina Quick, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden in Georgia. “[The country] requires not only free and fair elections and transparent institutions, but also well-informed citizens. To be successful and sustainable, democratic reforms need to be based on a broad, inclusive and fact-based discussion about what society should look like, what choices need to be made and why”. She added that the EPF survey is an important contribution to the Georgian reform process, assisting in the understanding of just how informed Georgian society is about the EU and what gaps need to be filled. “Of course, the Government of Georgia must decide how to carry out the reforms, but in order to ensure sustainability, it is important to build on a firm ground of correct and updated information and inclusive debate what this integration can mean to Georgian society,” Quick said. The report draws some interesting conclusions. Support for the EU integration process among the Georgian population continues to be strong, but rests on hopes and expectations rather than on genuine knowledge of what integration really means. This is the challenge that the Georgian government, together with the EU and the member states, have been working to address. The survey also shows that knowledge of the EU integration process is developing “rather slowly”. “What is encouraging to see, is that a large and an increasing part of the population is interested in learning more,” Quick said. “What is perhaps less encouraging but still useful information for all
of us, only a small percentage of the respondents answered that they received information from the government, the EU delegation and member state embassies. It means that we have to approach the issue a bit differently, especially in minority regions, where the level of knowledge is significantly lower. We can still see from the survey that there is still a perception in the Georgian society that EU integration is threatening to Georgian traditions. This perception has decreased, but it is still wide-spread. This is an obvious result of the lack of information and in some cases, of incorrect information being deliberately spread”. “[I see it as] a disaster that only 41% of the population knows about the EUMM,” said Johannes Douma, the Ambassador of the Kingdom if the Netherlands to Georgia. “This is a very negative signal for me. We will go on.” The following are some of the findings that EPF highlighted: • Georgian citizens associate the EU with democracy. A vast majority of citizens agree that the EU is a source for peace and security in Europe. • The citizens are now better aware of the EU than they were in 2009. However, the population’s knowledge of a number of issues is still limited; for example, Georgians require more information about EU institutions, agreements reached between Georgia and the EU, and interventions implemented in Georgia with support from the European Union. • As expected, there are disparities between the levels of knowledge between the country’s rural and urban populations. • The majority of Georgian citizens believe that they do not receive sufficient information about the EU, with almost
half of respondents noting that they would like to receive more information about it. • The majority of the Georgian population believes that, compared with the United States and Russia, the EU can better assist Georgia. However, a large segment of ethnic minorities disagrees with this view. • Georgian population’s direct support for EU integration, that decreased to 62% in 2015, has increased to 71%. This proves again that the overall attitude towards the EU is highly positive and Georgians strongly support the country’s European integration. • The current state of Georgia’s market economy is named most commonly as the factor impeding Georgia’s accession to the EU, followed by the rule of law, the approximation of Georgian legislation to EU legislation, the protection of human rights, the development of democratic institutions and the protection of minority rights. • A large majority of the Georgian population is somewhat informed about visa liberalization. However, only 16% are confident that they will enjoy the visa-free regime within the next 12 months. • The share of Georgian speakers and ethnic minorities who think that the government should be like a parent rather than an employee hired by the citizens, remains unchanged since 2009. Over 2000 (2258) respondents were questioned in three languages: Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani. The survey was commissioned by the Europe Foundation and conducted by CRRC Georgia with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Georgia, and the Danish International Development Agency (Danida).
353 Foreigners Ask for Asylum in Georgia in 9 Months
BY THEA MORRISON
he Informational-Analytical Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has published the statistical data of asylum seekers in Geor-
gia. The statistics cover the 9-month period up to August 31, 2017. The official data reads that, at present, the number of asylum seekers in Georgia is 353. Specifically, citizens of the following countries are requesting shelter in Georgia: Afghanistan - 22, Algeria - 1, Australia - 1, Azerbaijan - 7, Bahrain -1, Bangladesh - 11, Belarus - 2, Cameroon
- 2, Congo - 7, Egypt - 49, Ethiopia 2, Ghana-7, India 9, Iran 50, Iraq 27, Côte d'Ivoire 1, Jordan 2, Kenya 2, Lebanon 4, Moldova 2, Morocco - 2, Nigeria - 22 , Pakistan - 15, Russia - 28, Saudi Arabia - 1, Sierra Leone - 2, Somalia - 4, Sri Lanka - 4, Turkey - 31, Ukraine - 9, Uzbekistan - 1, Yemen - 4, Zimbabwe - 2, without citizenship - 3, a person with an uncertain citizenship - 5. The number of persons who have been granted an asylum in Georgia is 1489. Only Russian citizens enjoy PRIMAFACIE status and their number is 240 at present. 202 foreigners were granted the status of refugees in Georgia and 1047 foreigners have humanitarian status in the country.
OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
Russia’s Karasin Calls on Georgia to Fulfill Terms of Cargo Monitoring Agreement was ready from the beginning to fulfill the commitments imposed by the agreement. “We expect the Russian Federation to make the relevant steps to fully meet the Cargo Monitoring Agreement… We are also ready to sign a contract with a mediator company to implement the agreement. We expect the basic agreement and relevant contract to be fulfilled by all parties. It is impossible to fulfill them unilaterally,” he stated. State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Georgia, Victor Dolidze, said that since the agreement was signed, Georgia's commitment and responsibility towards the issue has not changed. “We have no problem about the issue and are ready to start this process. The statement of Karasin is unclear,” Dolidze stated. The Georgian Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, also noted that the Georgian side has fulfilled all its obligations, and added that “now it is Russia’s turn to
BY THEA MORRIS
ussian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin has called on the Georgian side to fulfill the terms of the mutual Cargo Monitoring Agreement, “instead of demanding only that Russia follow the agreement”. The statement was made by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister in his interview with Russian news
agency Ria Novosti. “We call on Tbilisi to express readiness to honestly meet its international commitments," Karasin said. The official explained that the document mandates Russia and Georgia, with the participation of a Swiss company, to use special customs administration rules for trade flows. According to him, Georgia is not following the terms of the agreement and expresses high demands of Russia. Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze has responded to Karasin’s statement, saying Georgia
make steps towards the implementation of the agreement”. Georgia and Russia signed the agreement on Cargo Monitoring on November 9, 2011, in Geneva, with the participation of Switzerland. At the meeting, Georgia and Russia agreed to involve a neutral company to monitor the movement of goods. The Swiss Confederation was tasked with selecting a neutral private company in consultation with Georgia and the Russian Federation. The sides agreed to create a mechanism of customs administration and monitoring of trade in goods. The mechanism’s functions included gathering and sharing information, ensuring transparency, data transfer, crime and smuggling prevention, and examining suspicious cargo. Georgia and Russia decided that the mechanism would entail both an Electronic Data Exchange System (EDES) and International Monitoring System (IMS).
Separatism: Healer or Killer?
Photo source: www.insidehighered.com
OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE
eparatism: Healer or Killer? Of course both! It heals but it also kills; it only depends what it heals and how much it kills. Take, for example, one of the most destructive samples of separatism of recent history: the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It not only changed the lives, to better or worse, of hundreds of millions of people, but mightily shook the world with its power of destruction. In that totally unexpected, and hardly universally desired, geopolitical metamorphosis, the healing part was that a number of nations acquired freedom and independence, which sounds good in generally accepted terms. The killing part of it was that, after almost 30 years, the fundamentally shaken one-sixth of the planet is still recovering from that debilitating and decomposing shock. Incidentally, our beloved Georgia has suffered almost more than any other former soviet republic as a consequence of the separatist feelings and deeds instigated by the soviet breakup; we have lost almost one-third of our territory and the possibility of restoration of its integrity is not even looming on our darkened horizon. Moreover, the noticeable separatist movement in the world might even solidify the geopolitical status quo in Georgia. The worst harbinger of further solidification of the bitter status quo could very well be the separatist incident in Catalonia of Spain, if the incident is ever turned into a geo-political reality in favor of separatism. We know the story well: Spain has been ‘one nation under God’ since the middle of the 15th century and the currently working constitution of the country clearly opposes any separatist endeavor. Catalonians still want and have voted for separation from the mother country. The heal-
ing part of this freshly formed event is the enhancement and strident celebration of ethnic pride, but the killer could be the pernicious domino effect on the European continent, saying nothing about those legitimate doubts about Catalonia’s future. Separatism has already damaged Ukraine even worse than Georgia, and it may easily become the reason for its final destruction as a solid independent state. The salvaging and perpetuation of all those separatist attitudes started with the Kosovo separatist move, which ended in its factual independence as a result of one of the most imprudent decisions by the world’s leading powers. The separatist sentiments were unleashed so badly that the disintegration of the entire world now becomes not only a theoretical perspective, but a practical geo-political reality. Is the world going to be a better and a safer place to live in if it breaks up into hundreds of different new units? How can the world go on functioning that way? Is the recent tendency to unite the world into groupings of countries declining and something contrary to that is on the offensive? There are scholars out there who think that separatism and the consequential disintegration of the world is dangerous, that it threatens the global security which has been achieved through very painful efforts by the world community, and which is still flimsy enough for us to be scared of. So, what to do? Answer: Just stay where you are and be good enough to create a high-quality life using the resources closest to you. Too much meddling in how the world is built and working might end up in disaster. And if catastrophe happens, it is going to hit all Earth-dwellers. Let’s think carefully before we do something serious. Haven’t we already tasted enough fruits of separatism? Give me one, just one example of separatist moves that have resulted in human wellbeing and elementary happiness. Don’t look for it in vain. There are none!
OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
Shota Gvineria: Georgia is Not a Consumer of Global Security but a Contributor INTERVIEW BY MAŁGOSIA KRAKOWSKA
hota Gvineria is the Deputy Security of the National Security Council of Georgia. We spoke to him about Georgi’s NATO aspirations and Russian interference in the process.
GEORGIA, ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN ARE THREE INDEPENDENT STATES WHICH EMERGED FROM THE FORMER SOVIET UNION IN 1991. AFTER THE COLLAPSE, EACH TOOK A DIFFERENT PATH: ARMENIA IS JOINING FORCES WITH RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN’S GOAL IS TO REMAIN NEUTRAL, WHILE GEORGIA IS SEEKING CLOSER RELATIONS WITH THE WEST. WHY? Historically, Georgia is strongly rooted in the European civilization. In the fourth century, our country officially adopted Christianity. Since then, Georgia has always been a part of Europe. Christianity created and maintained our European identity. Our first and foremost priority is joining NATO and the European Union.
It is a natural choice for us. Support for NATO is widespread in Georgia. Surveys show favorable views of Georgia’s prospective NATO membership. Georgia does not have any other alternative than joining the transatlantic security community.
RUSSIA’S FOREIGN POLICY STRATEGY IS BASED NOT ONLY ON COERCIVE BUT ALSO ON SOFT-POWER METHODS WHICH ARE USED BY MOSCOW TO REJECT THE POST-COLD WAR WORLD ORDER. HOW DOES RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION TARGET GEORGIA TODAY? Russian encroachment in the Black Sea region is a result of the Kremlin’s blatant claim to a renewed sphere of influence and Russian historical revisionism is a looming threat to Georgia. We witnessed Russia’s alleged meddling in the French and American elections. German domestic intelligence services were also expecting Russian interference in the upcoming elections to the Bundestag. Georgia is no exception. The Kremlin influences our country through various media outlets and civil groups. In this regard, Georgian citizens emerge as the biggest target for Russian disinformation. The disinformation nar-
rative is simple as it needs to be easily understood. Russians know that they cannot offer any clear and credible alternative to NATO or the EU. For example, Russian media claim that Georgia’s aspirations to NATO are not a viable option and that our foreign policy is in disarray. During the 2016 Georgian Defense and Security Conference, our political establishment made it clear that the most damaging anti-western propaganda is aimed at strengthening nihilistic sentiments among our citizens. The only effective way to deter soft-power is to provide a constant update of Georgia’s progress on its path to European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
GEORGIA IS AN ASPIRANT COUNTRY FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. CURRENTLY, THE CO-OPERATION BETWEEN YOUR COUNTRY AND NATO IS BASED ON, AS YOU STIPULATED IN ONE OF YOUR ARTICLES, “THE ART OF WORDS”. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN EXACTLY? The “art of words’’ encompasses political support which is combined with strategic messaging on the irreversibility of Georgia’s membership to NATO. “The art of words” is another important deterrent against Russia’s aggressive
foreign policy. It means that the only way to counter the threat is by taking a strong and clear position instead of strategic ambiguity. It has to be clear that NATO membership is not about technical or legal details, as shown by Montenegro’s accession, but about taking sides and strengthening value-based alliances.
IN AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY POLITICO.EU IN JULY 2016, DAMON WILSON CLAIMS THAT GEORGIA HAS MADE LITTLE PROGRESS IN ITS NATO MEMBERSHIP ASPIRATIONS SINCE THE ALLIANCE’S PROMISES MADE DURING THE 2008 NATO SUMMIT IN BUCHAREST. DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT? Absolutely not. During the 2016 Warsaw NATO Summit, the Alliance reiterated its readiness to continue mobilizing resources needed for the successful implementation of the SNGP, which aims at enhancing Georgia’s defense capabilities and helps Georgia advance in its preparations towards membership in the Alliance. Our country also plays a vital role in the in the NATOled operation in Afghanistan. In 2016, we deployed 900 Georgian soldiers. We are the largest non-NATO member and troop contributor.
Georgia has invested and will continue to invest in international security. We are not consumers of global security. We also significantly contribute to it.
IN THE SAME TEXT, WILSON SAYS THAT THE “EU AND NATO FAILED TO INTEGRATE GEORGIA MORE DEEPLY, WHICH HAS DISILLUSIONED MANY GEORGIANS OF THEIR COUNTRY’S EUROATLANTIC ASPIRATIONS”. WHAT IS YOUR POSITION TOWARDS THIS VIEW? No, we are not disillusioned. On the other hand, I can admit that Georgians were frustrated by Europe’s failure to see the 2008 war as a threat to European security. Aside from the late president Lech Kaczynski, the majority of the European political establishment failed to see the invasion as a conflict with global implications. Six years later, the Russian invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 proved that Europe was wrong. Małgosia Krakowska is a Polish journalist focusing on international affairs and international security issues. Interview first published on: http://neweasterneurope.eu
The Mediterranean World at the Mercy of Geography OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI
ontinuing the discussion on important geopolitical developments in the world having a direct impact on Georgia, I wanted to have a look at the migration crisis in Europe; the crisis which followed the wars in Libya and Syria, sparked debates in Europe how to protect its southern borders and what can be done to resolve the Syrian and Libyan problems. This comes at a time when Georgia is moving as close as it has ever been to the European Union, a time when Europe can expect to continue facing large tides of migration from the Mediterranean and when that potential migration from Georgia will only be dwarfed by the former. What we see now in the Mediterranean world is essentially what has been lost in the region for centuries due to different political and economic systems which existed in the Middle East and North Africa on the one hand, and the European continent on the other. Perhaps one way to explain the current process of reconnection in the Mediterranean
Photo source: cnn.com
world is to revisit its geography. A look at the map of the region shows that although the Mediterranean Sea borders three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa), it is essentially a closed sea with only minor outlets to the oceans: through the Gibraltar Strait and the Suez Canal. The Mediterranean is full of peninsulas and islands which give any power which controls them position as a potentially dominant maritime and economic power. However, if we look around the sea
itself, you will note that it is closed off from the heart of Africa, the rest of the Middle East and Central and Northern Europe by powerful geographic barriers. In North Africa, it is the Saharan desert; in the Middle East the Syrian desert and the rugged land of the Anatolia, along with the Euphrates River. In Europe, the Mediterranean is closed off by the powerful Alps, the Balkan mountainous territory and further afield the Rhine and the Danube rivers. Thus, from a geographic
10 Galaktion Street
perspective, North Africa belongs less to the rest of the African continent as there is barely any infrastructure and economic activity within Sahara. On the contrary, North Africa has always been more influenced by the rest of the Mediterranean, most notably by southern Europe. The same applies to Syria, which is cut off from the rest of the Middle East by a desert stretching to the Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and the Arabian Peninsula. The only connection Syria has to the rest of the region is through northern Iraq. Surely, modern technologies and the world’s increased interconnectedness makes the Apennine, Balkan, and Pyrenees less of a barrier, but these geographic features are still there and throughout the centuries they have shaped the behavior of the Mediterranean peoples. The geography also integrated the above territories of the three continents into one economic space. Take the example of the Phoenicians, who established colonies in northern Africa, modern Spain and controlled many islands in the Mediterranean. This enabled the Phoenicians to create a veritable trade empire where all the colonies and territories they possessed were more related to each other than to
inland territories of the Middle East and North Africa. The same was done by the Greeks with their colonization of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Connectivity through sea facilitated the creation of a trade empire with metropoles in mainland Greece getting most of the economic benefits. However, the seafaring Phoenicians, Greeks and later on Carthaginians, still did not have enough human resources to politically dominate the Mediterranean coastline and they could not manage to shut off the Mediterranean from other rising powers. And this brings us to the Romans. The Roman Empire was a perfect example of how the Mediterranean world was interconnected geographically. The Romans added to trade their military virtue and essentially closed off the sea to outside powers. How geography dominated the Mediterranean world is explicitly shown in the extent of the conquest the Romans carried out. Roman legions did not go beyond the rich North African provinces deep into the heart of Africa, as the territories were not economically worth controlling. Continued on page 8
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OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
National Interests & GeorgianArmenian Relations Cupola of Kumurdo
OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
omething is surely going on in GeorgianArmenian relations. Itâ€™s been months since Official Tbilisi diplomatically refused to accept the candidate presented by Armenia for the post of Ambassador of Armenia to Georgia. This was preceded by a delicate refusal to open the transport corridor to Tskhinvali and thatâ€™s leaving aside the constant disagreement with Armenian officials arriving from Yerevan to talk about historic monuments. Now it seems that these events have affected the everyday relations between the two nations, since recently the Armenian diaspora kicked out Georgian restorers who came to their village (Kumurdo) to fix a church. The so-called â€œArmenian Bombâ€? that the political analysts have been referring to from the times of the Soviet Union nearly blew up last week in Kumurdo. All the fuss was about a 10th century Georgian church which is due for a complete rehabilitation to allow it to be used actively. The local Armenian â€œmovementâ€? made to hinder this process: for now, until the â€œfavorable momentâ€? arrives, they prefer it to stay as it is, rather than become an active Georgian church. They are especially against holding the (Greek-style) liturgies in the Georgian language. Obviously, the monument is Georgian, proven by the preserved inscriptions and frescoes on the walls. In order to delay the restoration works, locals arranged a burial in the churchyard and decided to put a holy stone cross on it. The National Agency of Cultural Monument Protection holds the position that the burial should be moved outside of the yard and the stone cross erected there. The Arme-
nian diaspora is against this and has threatened to start a â€œwar.â€? Experts believe, that this is a very well-planned action and that if the government compromises this time, it may later evolve into pretension from the Armenian side to take ownership of said Georgian church. â€œNobody can convince me that two or three cit-
izens thought of burying remains in the churchyard and putting a cross on it, which in future might perfectly serve as an argument for the Armenian church,â€? said political analyst Soso Tsintsadze. â€œTomorrow or the day after, Armenian officials might well arrive and declare that Armenians have sacrificed their lives to the construction of the church and so on. This is a well-planned action for future and I donâ€™t believe they are in any sense doing this for the remembrance of their ancestors. Such cases are the reason Georgia have not accepted the Armenian Ambassadorâ€™s candidacy. Now, by all means, we shouldnâ€™t allow our government to compromise to comfort the locals and get votes in the upcoming electionsâ€?. We donâ€™t know whether the issue of restoration of the Church in Kumurdo village is directly linked with the case of the ambassador, because diplomatic circles never make these nuances public. The candidate of Armenia Sergei Minasian comes from Javakheti and is Deputy Director and Head of the Political Studies Department at the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan; he is a political analyst and has been working on Georgian-Armenian relations for years. Armenian media reports, â€œThe issue of Minasianâ€™s appointment has been drifting ever since the delegation from the National Council arrived to Tbilisi headed by Baloian, who raised the issue at a meeting with Mikheil Janelidze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. Official Tbilisi remained silent, thus implying to Yerevan
that they should have offered another candidate,â€? wrote the Armenian newspaper Zhamanak. Regardless of todayâ€™s diplomatic nuances and restoration issues, the history of these â€œmodernâ€? relations is quite old in reality. Political analyst Mamuka Areshidze recalls feeling aggression from locals as early as in 1986, when he visited Kumurdo village together with an archeological expedition. â€œWe wonâ€™t let you restore it, it is our temple.â€? â€œI remember that one of the main goals of our visit was not only examining the church, but also my journalistic interest following the fact that the students from the faculty of restoration where beaten by locals. Armenian locals are convinced that this is an Armenian historical and cultural monument and that their ancestors are buried there under the floor of the church; they also claim that the inscriptions are made in the Armenian language when in reality they are undoubtedly Georgian. But they do not wish to consider these arguments,â€? he says. Despite the historical ignorance of locals, it is still very doubtful that there were no special provocateurs behind the recent fuss around the church: more likely they had specific future plans and are waiting for a favorable moment to seize the monument. Everything will now depend on the political and diplomatic skills of the government. If others know how to choose the â€œrightâ€? moment, shouldnâ€™t we also learn it in order to fulfill our national interests?
The Mediterranean World at the Mercy of Geography Continued from page 6
Caesar, August, Diocletian and other Roman leaders were also not particularly keen on capturing entire Germany as the Rhine and Danube rivers were seen as good defensive barriers to rely on. The same could be said about the Middle East, where the Romans (barring some instances) did not think to permanently occupy the lands beyond the Euphrates River.
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Three mobile conference halls are available with a total capacity of about 100 persons. (XURSHDQFXLVLQHFDQEHHQMR\HGLQWKHJURXQGĂ€RRUFDIp and a grill-bar menu in the roof top restaurant with panoramic views over the city. The International Hotels Management Company â€œT3 Hospitality Management,â€? providing the hotel management, has 20 yearsâ€™ experience in hotel management in different countries globally.
CONNECTION TO THE MODERN ERA We see the Mediterranean world had been united before. For the Phoenicians, Greeks and particularly the Romans, what was going on in North Africa and the Middle East was of major importance as, economically and militarily, the lands were connected to one another. The Arab conquests limited this connection. In the 7th c. North Africa and the Middle East came under Islam while the rest of the Mediterranean remained Christian. Throughout the following centuries, the economic and military development of these regions varied, while there were cases (for instance, the Cru-
sades) when clashes occurred. Europe experienced industrialization in the 18th-19th cc., but the Middle East and North Africa lagged behind. European colonization, followed by two devastating world wars, again increased the connectedness of the Mediterranean world. Germans and Italians were in Africa while the British were defending themselves in Egypt. In short, it mattered to Europeans what happened in North Africa. But, again, the interconnectedness of the Mediterranean world diminished thereafter, until the Syrian and Libyan conflicts in the early 2010s again reignited the idea. Thus, although we live in a highly connected world with modern technologies at times trumping geography, geographic features still play a powerful role in shaping human behavior. What we now see in the Mediterranean world with the migrant crisis is what has been happening in the region for centuries with various intensity. Today, it has again become clear that Italy, Spain and Greece, although participating in the grand European project of the European Union, are nevertheless now very much linked to what happens in North Africa and the Middle East.
GEORGIA TODAY OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
Sharing Success: 661 Companies to Participate in 2017 Business Awards BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
articipants of the 2017 Business Awards, a project launched by TBC and Geocell, gathered at the National Museum in Tbilisi this week to hear the intermediary results. The Business Awards aim to promote the idea of doing business in Georgia, with its main slogan being #გააზიარეწარმატება (share the success). The companies enrolled in the project share their success stories through social and other media with the above hashtag. 661 companies are registered as participants of the Business Awards 2017, the winners in seven categories to be selected by a jury and announced in December. The finalists are to be shortlisted in the coming days. 233 companies are registered in the Startuper of the Year category, 230 companies are listed in the Small Business of the Year category, 142 in Innovative Business of the Year, 132 in Georgian Product of the Year, 95 in the Tourist Business of the Year and 42 as the Agro Business of the Year. Each category is to have three finalists selected by an independent jury, with the PR and marketing campaigns for the finalists to be run by project organizers TBC and Geocell. While all the winners will be selected and announced at the TBC Business Awards Ceremony in December 2017, the Startuper of the Year winner will be chosen through the online voting which is to start in November. “The fact that we’re continuing the Business Awards for a second consecutive year is already hugely important,
and the number of participants is growing, which means we can rightfully say the Business Awards project is extremely successful,” Nika Kurdiani, Deputy CEO, TBC Bank said. “The goal of the Business Awards is to share the success of the companies, and create even more motivation and stimulus for them,” he added, noting that 80% of the companies that are registered to the Business Awards this year are participating for the first time, which amounts to 1200 companies having registered as participants for the two years of the project, a number which, as Kurdiani pointed out, is pretty impressive. “The benefits are the same for us as organizers and for the companies enrolled in the Business Awards,” he said. “We want to stimulate and motivate them more through sharing their success: we’re using all our resources to promote the idea of doing business successfully.” He went on to underline that, like last year, the Business Awards 2017 will have no monetary prizes, as the format of the Business Awards is solely focused on popularizing successful business stories within the country. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success,” said the Deputy CEO, quoting Henry Ford to illustrate the idea behind the Business Awards project, focusing on supporting as many business initiatives in the country as possible. “It is critically important that most of the companies registered to participate in Business Awards are startups, and it shows how increasingly active startupers are,” Kurdiani said, going on to confirm that the Business Awards will continue as an annual event and thanking Geocell for partnership in making the project possible.
Nika Kurdiani, Deputy CEO, TBC Bank
“It’s an absolute pleasure to work with such professionals as those in TBC,” Pavel Smalinski, Geocell’s CEO said. Geocell is supporting the Innovation Award, and Social Entrepreneurship nominations. “Even participating is a success: that’s your victory, your effort, your struggle to improve your operations, your entities already being noticeable. We see how beautifully and successfully you’re growing and developing your ideas for the better future of your companies and customers,” Smalinski told attendees on Tuesday. “Whenever you have an idea, and you’re inspired by it, my advice to you would be to never ever give up, no matter how difficult it may seem from the
beginning; whether it’s gaining the capital to start, gathering business partners around you, or conducting market research to determine the market segment, because that idea could bring you enormous success,” Mamuka Khzaradze, Chairman of the Board at TBC Holding said. “You’re the new wave of Georgian business; you’re the new enterpreteurs who are creating more jobs and empowering the development of our country, you, with your ideas, will soon become one of the major players in the region,” Khazaradze added, wishing success to all Business Awards 2017 participants. “We decided to participate in the Business Awards 2017 to raise awarness about our business, and of course if we happen
to win in any nomination, that would be an extremely pleasant surprise. Being a participant also brings you new opportunities for potential business partnerships,” Sopo Balanchivadze, founder and owner of the online shop zanduki.ge told us. “We want our brand to gain more exposure and we hope the Business Awards will help us with that,” she added. During the event at the National Museum, was announced that a new working space will open in December, a new project from TBC enabling startupers and other business representatives to meet within a specially organized space where trainings, masterclasses, and consultations organized by TBC will be held.
OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
Security TRENDs 2017: Quintessentially Group Expands with New Offices How to Protect Yourself in a Constantly Changing World in Caucasus Region ADVERTORIAL
lobal luxury brand Quintessentially is expanding its presence to the Caucasus region by opening fullservice offices in Tbilisi and Baku. A reception to mark the fact was held in The Biltmore hotel on Monday with the British Ambassador to Georgia, Justin McKenzie Smith, in attendance. Quintessentially Caucasus partners are: the Georgian Hospitality Group, led by Saba Kiknadze, uniting the leading tourism, luxury travel, MICE and hospitality service companies, with 25 years of experience in the industry, and Aydin Baghirli, owner of AL Travel, successful luxury travel company in Azerbaijan With offices already running in Georgia and Azerbaijan, this growing presence allows Quintessentially to offer its luxury Lifestyle and Marketing Management services to a wider premium audience. The team will be led by Maia Kiknadze and Aydin Baghirli, who have extensive
experience in elite luxury travel, allowing them to specialise in this offering for members, alongside over 25 brand services offered by Quintessentially. From education and investment to gifting and travel, members have access to expert advice and guidance from the Quintessentially team. Day to day, Quintessentially offers full lifestyle assistance across household, family, business and social needs and with thousands of exclusive benefits. Founded in 2000, Quintessentially was launched as a London-based lifestyle management service for high-net-worth individuals, and now leads from the front with expertise across diverse industry sectors. Quintessentially now has five regional hubs in London, New York, LA, Hong Kong and Dubai and over 60 global offices. Quintessentially Lifestyle Managers are multi-lingual, knowledgeable and highly proactive with deep-rooted relationships.
rend Micro Incorporated hosted an information event dedicated to security trends and the problems regarding information safety and critical infrastructure. ‘The Development of Information Security and its Outcomes in the World’ was discussed by attendees including representatives of the leading Georgian companies in the fields of IT, system integration, software development, information systems, energy, telecommunications, retail and public sectors. The list of speakers included the executives and experts of Trend Micro Inc: Dhanya Thakkar (Managing Director, APAC Region, Trend Micro Inc), German Pozankov (Regional Director Trend Micro in CIS, Georgia, Mongolia), Michael Kondrashin (Technical Director Trend Micro in CIS, Georgia, Mongolia) and Nikolay Romanov(SystemArchitectorTrendMicro in CIS, Georgia, Mongolia). Trend Micro speakers discussed important topics such as Inspiring Your Digital Transformation, Innovations against Cyber Attacks; The Modern Threats Landscape; Protection against targeted attacks for large enterprises and Public Sector, and Building High Performance Protection for networks. The development of technologies and progression of information dynamics requires that businesses pay more attention to security measures. Cyber threats are ever-changing, so the requirements of security systems and methods become different. The development of
cloud services, creation of new services and decisions made in business have attracted the attention of cyber-criminals. The number of attacks conducted by cyber-criminals is on the rise. Don’t forget the attacks on Verizon, Uber, or well-known WannaCry, which damaged the systems ofEast-Europeancompanies.Cyber-attacks are among the top 5 risks which can hit global businesses. According to The Global State of Information Security Survey, 63% of cyber-sphere professionals believe they can enter any enterprise’s system. The speakers at Security TRENDs 2017 said that corporate networks and cloud systems, as well as devices such as smartphones, clearly attract cyber-criminals. Circumstances thus require the development of special protection tools aimed at preventing interference in corporate systems within the most vulnerable areas. At the end of the conference, a Q & A session was held to answer questions such as: which threats are enterprises and organizations ready to handle? What are the risks? Which processes and procedures should be implemented? and more. “The biggest thing the world has learned is that all software is written by humans, so there will always be vulnerabilities,” said Dhanya Thakkar. “Organizations should be looking at solutions like vulnerability shielding, allowing them to protect themselves from vulnerabilities. The second thing organizations need to have is a multilayer strategy. These vulnerabilities come in through an infection vector: web, e-mail, USB, etc. When the infection gets in, the system locks down and ransomware is detected. The shocking thing was that a number of organizations did not have such protection in any of their layers. So,
organizations need to be thinking about what layers they can provide or deploy so that they can have the necessary protection”. “We are living in an era where we can’t predict what will happen in two years, in three years, in future; we only know whatever happens, we will be there providing the solutions to secure our clients from threats,” said German Pozankov. “We have some ideas but we don’t know exactly what will happen. The Information Technology era is rising, so we are working on solutions that will secure our customers and this new world will be fulfilled by smart devices. We see that cyber threats penetrate social media, social networks and become ever more complex. It’s not only the pure technical attacks, it’s complex activity which involves media, social and technical spearfishing. I think that’s the main challenge for the modern world: how to deal with the complex and complicated cyber threats.” Trend Micro Incorporated, a global leader in cybersecurity solutions, helps to make the world safe for exchanging digital information. Its innovative solutions for consumers, businesses, and governments provide layered security for data centers, cloud environments, networks and endpoints. All its products work together to seamlessly share threat intelligence and provide a Connected Threat Defense with centralized visibility and control, enabling better, faster protection. With more than 5,000 employees in over 50 countries and the world’s most advanced global threat intelligence, Trend Micro enables organizations to secure their journey to the cloud. For more information, visit www. trendmicro.com.
OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
The Harvesters BLOG BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
hey get up before dawn, fire themselves up with Turkish coffee and climb into a beaten-up Kolhoznik (jeep). There are nine of them: six women and three men. Women are faster pickers than men, whereas men are better able to load the heavy boxes into the trucks as the day goes on. The air is cool and they are all wearing several layers- mostly black; the older women, some in their sixties, wear long skirts, while the younger ones wear jeans. All are in rubber shoes or boots, ready for the mud. They’ve been chosen by the owner of the vineyard because he has worked with them before- they got phonecalls, though the usual process is to meet in the village center where the vineyard owners pick out however many people they need for the grape-picking. Most are locals, but some of them have come all the way from Megrelia in western Georgia for the chance to make some money. They get paid "well" by the employers: 25 GEL per day, plus food and wine, which is the upper scale of what pickers can potentially earn. Among the crowd of eager workers in the village center, you sometimes see 12 and 14-year-olds who come along at the behest of their parents and grandparents, missing school to help earn their families some money. It’s illegal, but needs must with the long winter just around the corner. Day one of the harvest: they’ve picked and packed three tons of grapes- green Rkatsiteli and red Saperavi. They make fast work of loading the boxes into the van; the air is heavy with wasps attracted by the sweet juice of squashed grapes, and the competition is high: this evening the head of the family of vineyard owners will drive the van to Tbilisi. If he’s lucky, he’ll sell the grapes the next day, though sometimes the process can take up to three days. In the meantime, the family’s second van will be loaded and driven to the capital with its own offering of the season. Each load can earn the family over GEL 4,000. A few hours before sunset, the women and their host family lay out a plastic tablecloth and load it with home-made fare: bread, cheese, a cucumbertomato salad sprinkled generously with parsley, boiled beef still on the bone, boiled cuts of fish, pickled flowers and whole heads of pickled garlic.
They cool two 5L plastic bottles of new wine in a spring nearby while the men set to burning last year’s vine twigs ready for the skewered pork. They say vinewood is the only wood worth cooking meat on. The smoke fills the air, cut through with rays of sunshine as the harvesters sit in the shade of a 200-year-old tree, soon joined by the mouth-watering aroma of the barbecue. The smell attracts a local stray dog, her ribs showing and eyes bright as she begs for scraps. The younger workers chat animatedly; the older ones sit quietly, their faces showing their exhaustion as they wait to eat, while the host family’s young children run helter-skelter through the nearby barren peach trees, catching mantis and oohing-and-ahhing at the dragonflies zipping between the branches. The meat is ready and the feast begins; the long strips of ‘Dedas puri’ [bread] are broken with workworn fingers, pieces of barbecued pork are stabbed with forks, wine is poured and the toasting begins: to God, the harvest, the workers, friendship, to Georgia and on. And as the light begins to dim, the workers leave, with many thanks and begging off the offer to stay and drink longer, this even before the singing has begun, because they have more work to do tomorrow, starting early. As the sun is setting, the host family and their friends get the plates and glasses emptied; the rubbish is collected in bags (which the author then begs they not throw into the bushesthey comply, with an indulgent smile, though tomorrow’s fare will no doubt end up strewn around the countryside), and everything is packed in the vineyard owner’s jeep. They’ve left it late to leave: darkness falls and, though they know the way back through the maze of fields, the van loaded with grapes gets stuck in mud along the way, necessitating a trip to the nearby farm to beg use of their tractor. The van is soon freed and while the feast continues in the vineyard owner’s home, the three tons of grapes are driven to Tbilisi. When the vines are clear of grapes for another year, the harvesters will move on to find another employer. Winter is a quiet time for them. Come summer, they’ll have peaches to pick here, cherries and plums. In other regions are other fruits as well as nuts. This is the fertile land of Georgia; a country based on an age-old tradition of agriculture, and these people are the ones who make it all happen; quietly, seriously, year-after-year. Next time you’re picking at a bunch of grapes- spare a thought for the harvesters.
GEORGIA TODAY OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
International Potato Center Representation Opens in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON AND NINO GUGUNISHVILI
he International Potato Center (CIP) opened its representation in Georgia on October 11. The Tbilisi International Potato Center is to become the regional office, covering Central Asia and the Caucasus. It plans to implement innovative methods of potato growing and will introduce new potato breeds. It will also focus on providing educational and professional development possibilities to scientists, farmers and producers in the sector. The official opening ceremony was attended by Rusudan Mdivani, Regional Leader of the International Potato Center in Central Asia and Caucasus, who introduced the Center and talked about its importance. Michael Gerba, International Potato Center Chief Operating Officer, addressed the audience, saying potatoes, like wine, are part of Georgia’s great culture. “I’m very glad to be in Tbilisi. Our organization will promote potato-growing not only in Georgia, but throughout the region,” he stated. Head of the Austrian Development Agency Office in Georgia, Gerhard Shaumberger, introduced the agriculture project at the event. “We know that Georgians are big consumers of potatoes. This Center will promote more active consumption of potatoes in the country. We will share our experience with the farmers and
with our help Georgian potatoes to be free of genetically modified organisms and so be ecologically clean,” he said, adding that the potato harvest can be doubled in Georgia next year. Yuri Nozadze, Deputy Agriculture Minister, stated that Georgia was included in the World Database of Scientific Studies which gives the country an opportunity to have more access to recent achievements in the agriculture field. “We will continue to bring to Georgia new promising species of potatoes from the CIP,” he said. Georgian Scientific Research Center Head, Nodar Khatiashvili said that by working with the CIP, Georgian scientists will have an opportunity to access modern technologies and new species produced elsewhere in the world. “This process will help our farmers to grow potatoes through locally elaborated
seeds instead of imported ones,” he added. Founded in 1971, the International Potato Center is a member of the CGIAR, an International Agricultural Research Consultancy Group. The Center mission is to “work with partners to achieve food security, well-being, and gender equity for poor people in root and tuber farming and food systems in the developing world, through research and innovation in science, technology, and capacity strengthening”. A memorandum of cooperation signed between the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture and the International Potato Center on January 26, 2016, led to the opening of the Center in 2017 in Tbilisi. A five-year work plan and program has been agreed in the framework of the memorandum in order to promote the agricultural sector in Georgia.
Freemanning: Leliani, Kakheti BLOG BY TONY HANMER
t’s my turn for a break from Svaneti and I seize the moment, now that the guest season is winding down and I’m also free from school duties. My wife urges me to have a few days off while she looks after the two remaining cows and continues her school job, teaching English as I used to. I take in Tbilisi and see as many friends as I can, and also manage a trip to my in-laws in yet further away Kakheti. Of course, I take my camera and lenses with me. The rtveli, or grape harvest, here has been dismal thanks to hail; my father-inlaw has hardly a single grape to show for his labors. So, vines hanging heavy with their luscious black-purple, red or whitegreen fruit are not the main subject, as I wander around looking for inspiration. Others, however, present themselves. How DID those chickens get half-way up that water tower’s far-spaced bars to roost for the night? I miss their ascent on two evenings, and have to content myself with shooting the result as they perch and preen seemingly somewhat precariously but, one trusts by their instincts, actually quite safely. Certainly, no fourfooted hunter, not even a wild cat of any size or type, could reach them way up there. I stroll back through the family’s vineyard, which does look rather forlorn bereft of its main purpose for existing. Better luck next year, as the farmers can only say. Over a small fence to a backyard lane, muddy and puddled with recent rains. It’s hardly good ground for my city shoes, and I didn’t think to ask to borrow a pair of rubber boots, but when I’m in a framehunting mood, few things distract me:
not heat, nor cold, wet (as long as the camera stays dry), hunger, or thirst. I am as focused as my camera is. The lines of puddles make pleasing shapes and reflections in the fading sunset as I crouch down to take more of them in with a long lens. I muddle on through the thick mud, remembering that my shoes and jeans, I can always clean and dry, but a photo only comes once! The burbling of a small stream alerts me to the possibilities of flowing water, now that I have sampled the joys of unmoving reflections this calm evening. And here the “Joy of Photography” written about by another Canadian photographer, Freeman Patterson, comes into play. I love his work. Some rules must not be broken, such as don’t drink and drive! Others are only starting points for creative fun. If you break these in ignorance, you are lucky to get away with it; in full knowledge, you are unfettered to perceive and offer surprise. If you know your equipment, too, well enough to use its
full range of manual settings without much thought, it becomes merely a creative tool, an extension of your mind’s eye. The sunset colors on that gently swirling water are what grab me. The evening is already darkening, so that slow shutter speeds on my hand-held long lens will soften things a bit. No matter! I don’t need a tripod for what I’m seeing and enjoying to capture it. Indeed, a bit of motion blur on the water will only add poetry and help to portray both what my eyes are seeing and what my heart is feeling, which is the joy of a tiny, humble and simple scene becoming what I consider art. Almost all other passers-by would not even stop; but it’s quietly been… summoning me. Ten years ago, I would have husbanded every 35mm film frame, knowing I have only 36 and a couple of extras per roll before having to change and start again. Hours at best, usually days, to see how it turned out. Scan, clean up the dust and scratches on the computer, too much time. Now, in digital freedom, I can shoot, check the results instantly, adjust if necessary, re-iterate on the spot, and choose from a much larger number of shots. My learning is still happening, just much faster. And if I’m open and looking for a subject, usually it will come to me, sooner or later. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1700 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti
GEORGIA TODAY OCTOBER 13 - 16, 2017
Mike Goldwater on the Day Georgia “Lost” Abkhazia, Part 2 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE
ugdidi bridge was but a starting point of the “mass exodus,” as Goldwater calls it. Most of the refugees had to then embark on a several-day walk over the Chuberi Pass to come over to Georgia proper – a torturous journey under the most difficult of circumstances that ended up claiming hundreds of lives. A friendly govt press officer invited him and two other photographers to fly over to the Chuberi Pass on a tiny aircraft full of bread. “Never seen so much bread in one place before – we had to put some on our knees to sit” – he recalls. They landed at the other end of the Chuberi pass, with people flocking to the helicopter. The job was cut out for him, it was all there –the people, the commotion, all the colors for a palette of his choice – all he had to do was to take a few photos and call it a day. But theirs was an inspired bunch and they had other ideas. “So we were told that the plane which has delivered the bread was leaving. We had a choice to stay, which would mean walking over the Pass together with everybody else, or getting on the plane and leaving for Tbilisi. We thought – this is the real story, the real deal – so we stayed. The press-officer stayed, too. Funnily enough, I had an inkling we would end up doing just that, so the day before the trip I went over to the airport and bought a bunchload of Mars bars and chocolate biscuits. It turned out to be a rather wise decision: those Mars bars and biscuits ended up being our only nutrition supply as we crossed Chuberi. “Nightfall. It was cold, people were
lighting fires, camping in abandoned cars and huts and such. I had a torch and I was helping myself to make some sort of bed out of branches, when a Georgian soldier came up to me and said: I need your torch! I was none too pleased. So he tells me, ‘I’ll give you my Kalashnikov to be safe!’, trades my torch for his gun and an hour later comes back and swaps again. “Early next morning, we joined the crowd going over the Pass. It was steep, with a track over that seemed to be part of the riverbed. Due to the melting snow and rain, this track has turned into a massive mudbath, unlike anything I’ve seen before. All the big Russian trucks, cars, even tanks got struck. So everybody, children and elderly included, had to go on foot. I have a picture with two men hauling and trying to get a horse out of the mud – and the mud is literally up to the horse’s belly. It starts to snow as we head up. And through the tree lines, you could see the bodies of those unfortunate souls who were caught in a blizzard just a couple of days prior and couldn’t make it through alive, covered with bits of blanket and other cloth…” He pauses, reminiscing and we ask how protected were the refugees – not from nature or predators, but from their own kind. There are still some dark tales roaming about the Chuberi Pass and the refugees’ journey over it – tales of banditry, marauding and manslaughter. Has he seen any of it? The answer is a firm yes. “Once we were over the other side, we were suddenly told to stop. We had heard gunfire. And then soldiers come towards us, carrying someone on a stretcher, a Georgian soldier. Bandits had held up the soldiers and demanded they lay down their weapons. The soldier has refused
and they’d shot him in the stomach. Obviously, there was some lawlessness going on – but this was a war, right? That was to be expected. During times of war, some people do good things and some do atrocious things. There was this camaraderie and people helping each other out, sure, and then there were criminals, doing what they do.”
SHEVARDNADZE Gamsakhurdia wasn’t the only President Goldwater took a photo of back then. “Shevardnadze was a very experienced politician,” Goldwater tells us. “Over the years, he amassed phenomenal political acumen and experience. Whether he used that for the good of the country is for Georgians to judge. But he certainly had a presence – he came across as a wise man. I found myself on a plane with him as he was flying over to Moscow for peace negotiations. I remember he didn’t have a visa so we had to go straight to the embassy… Incidentally, on that plane, one of his bodyguards got completely drunk over a bottle of vodka and I remember Shevardnadze being exasperated, as even people in his own team didn’t seem to see the significance of what they were about to do, that it was a pivotal moment for their nation’s history and future. But to give credit, Shevardnadze held his own and didn’t let it faze him that much. After all, he had bigger things to worry about than one bodyguard going down. But it was a rather sad moment”.
LOOKING BACK Abkhazia wasn’t the only conflict Goldwater filmed – he went on to portray several crises in Africa, and in fairness, they might well have been deadlier. So, after all those years, him being already a veteran of the craft, has his perspective on his very first conflict gig changed?
Photo by Mike Goldwater
What really happened in Abkhazia? This seems to be a question that he himself has pondered over the years, as he switches from dreamy reminiscing to a somewhat more official, “did my honors” tone: “It was a privilege to be there. I felt very warm towards Georgia and Georgians. And I really connected to the tragedy that unfolded. So sad to record what happened, but that’s what war is about and that’s what I do. As for what happened… If we look back to the fall of Soviet Union… Russia lost an empire and ever since then, has been chipping away at other countries to regain that empire. The way I see it, Abkhazia was just one unfortunate piece of that jigsaw. Now and again, I listen to Radio BBC reporting on Abkhazia, how happy or unhappy people are there, and so on… You know, it’s very sad, but it’s very much a client state now of Russia. I can’t claim to be an expert, but from what I saw, the people living in Ochamchire didn’t want
to leave, they were very happy there. The war – I don’t believe the war was started by Georgia.”
THE FUTURE There is a question looming: what does the future hold for these two People? The man who has seen it all, at least as much as can be expected from an impartial third party, seems like a good fit to answer that question. “Everybody wants peace. Except for the few who prefer saber-rattling. They want to create conflicts for their interests, for their political gain. That’s why we have so many areas of turmoil in today’s world. Most people want to get on with their lives, forget and forgive, and couldn’t want anything less than war. It’s the same for Georgia and Abkhazia, I believe.” Wrapping up, we ask whether he’s been in Georgia since. Turns out he hasn’t. “I plan every year. I’d very much like to go there again. Next year I probably will.”
Journey into the World of Beauty & Light: Botticelli & Caravaggio Rai.Com, titled ‘Opera Omnia,’ features reproductions of the masterpieces of Caravaggio. It is a chronological, historic and thematic journey through the artworks of the most significant name of the Baroque era; a kind of imaginary museum where art and technologies, past and future meet in one and the same space. This exposition began its travels in 2003 and has had over 10 million viewers from Italy and abroad. Davit Lortkipanidze, Director General of the Georgian National Museum, opened the event: “This is the project of the future. We are demonstrating to the rest of the world that Georgia deserves to be a host of the greatest art and is showing masterpieces to new generations who might otherwise only see it in textbooks”. “I’m extremely happy that cultural relations are expanding between Italy and Georgia and that there has also been an unprecedented business forum in which 35 of the biggest Italian enterprises took part,” said Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia. “This exhibition will still be on when the international forum ‘One belt, One Road’ takes place late November, giving us the chance to show this exhibition to over 1000 businessmen”. Ivan Scalfarotto, Italian Undersecre-
BY MAKA LOMADZE
rom October 5 to November 29, the Georgian National Gallery, is hosting two unique exhibitions, united under the title ‘Universal Values- Botticelli- Beauty, Caravaggio- Light’. The event is coordinated by the Italian Embassy in Georgia, and is the result of tight cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, Ministry of Economic Development of Italy, Agency of Promoting Italian Companies Abroad (ICE) from the Italian side, and Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Georgian National Museum, Tourism National Administration and project of the Georgian government ‘Check in Georgia’ from the Georgian side. The exhibition ‘Venus Pudica’ has been implemented with the cooperation of Turin Royal Museums and Cultural Association ‘Metamorphosis’. It presents Renaissance Era and Florence Humanist Sandro Boticelli’s ‘Venus,’ normally kept at the Turin Gallery Sabauda. The second exhibition, initiated by
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tary for Economic Development, was at the opening. “There are two questions: why is this event important for Italy and why is it important to Georgia?” Scalfarotto said. “We are, of course, proud to bring two geniuses to Georgia. Botticelli and Caravaggio are two Italian symbols of universal values. But they are very different. Botticelli is about grace, elegance and idealized beauty; Caravaggio is about realism, even violence, [about] dramatic contrast of light and dark. Humanism and innovation are in the core of their art. Botticelli is among the initiators of the Renaissance aiming to rediscover and reinterpret the values of ancient classics. Caravaggio, on the other hand, was the [representative] of another revolution- the beginning of the Baroque era. Caravaggio breaks the views of the previous centuries – the human person always at the center. I wish you an exciting journey into the world of beauty and light.” WHERE: National Gallery, 3 Shota Rustaveli Avenue WHEN: October 5 to November 29 TICKET: Adults 7 GEL; students 1 GEL; school children and pensioners 50 Tetri; children under the age of 6, IDPs, people with disabilities - free
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