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Issue no: 937

• APRIL 14 - 17, 2017



In this week’s issue...


Georgia’s Infrastructure Ministry Presents 2017-2020 Action Plan


Project ‘Heritage Crafts Initiative for Georgia’ wins at the Europa PAGE 11 Nostra Awards 2017


Georgian FM Holds Meetings in Armenia


Sannikov on Belarus, Russia & Georgia POLITICS PAGE 6

Microsoft Georgia & E-Space Announce Cooperation BUSINESS PAGE 6

O’Hanlon Dishes out Bitter Pills for Georgia: The US Cannot Protect the Whole World INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


hen Wall Street Journal writes something about Georgia, Georgian people (those who know what WSJ is) read it. When Wall Street Journal publishes an article about Georgia’s (and Ukraine’s) permanent neutrality status as a medicament for its security ailments, people read with great interest. Panorama Talk Show and GEORGIA TODAY contacted Michael O’Hanlon, a US scholar at the Brookings Institute who did just that: in his article, he opines that NATO membership is unrealistic for Georgia and Ukraine and that these countries would be better off declaring neutrality and having “security assurances” from the US and Russia. Armed with righteous fury and two pinches of skepticism, we start off by asking him in what reality Georgia’s neutrality would be sustainable, seeing as to maintain it, the country should be able to defend it (militarily) and afford it (economically). Continued on page 4

Inspired by Africa: Geocell Presents Movla Winners SOCIETY PAGE 8

On the Threshold of Rehabilitation, Fine Arts Museum Hosts Georgian Masterpieces CULTURE PAGE 15

Georgia to Host World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 SPORTS PAGE 16




APRIL 14 - 17, 2017

Tbilisi Fashion Week 2017 Showroom Opens in Tbilisi Mall BY THEA MORRISON

Georgia’s Health & Interior Ministries Join Efforts to Fight Pharmacy Drug Addiction BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Mghebrishvili and Minister of Labor, Health and Social affairs, Davit Sergeenko, signed an agreement on Wednesday about imposing quotas on the import of a number of psychotropic medicines. The aim of imposing quotas is to strictly define the number of psychotropic medicines imported into the country and to strengthen monitoring in this direction. This step will also contribute to the restriction of the misuse of the mentioned medications and will serve as a prevention to pharmacy drug addiction. So far, quotas have been imposed on the following psychotropic medications: Gabapentin, Zopiklon, Baklophen, Zaleplon, Tropicamide and Dextromethorphan. Last year, a special joint commission of the Interior and Health ministries was

established, tasked to set the necessary limit of import of such medicines. Sergeenko and Mghebrishvili are co-chairs of that commission. The joint consultative body is authorized to increase quotas if a lack of the mentioned medications is encountered. Mghebrishvili noted that as a result of the joint activities held by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health, a number of legislative changes and reforms have been implemented recently against the so-called pharmacy drug addiction, which has substantially decreased intravenous consumption of drugs. “Pharmaceutical drug addiction is a problem not only in Georgia but also in other countries,” Mghebrishvili stated. The Health Minister believes that inappropriate consumption of pills remains one of the main challenges for Georgia. “I think imposing quotas is one step forward to fighting pharmacy drug addiction and I would like to thank the Interior Minister and MIA for their cooperation,” Sergeenko said.


he 15th season of Tbilisi Fashion Week will kick off on April 19 in Georgia’s capital, showcasing glamorous collections, colorful ensembles and the latest trends in fashion. On April 12, a special showroom was opened in the main atrium of Tbilisi Mall, general sponsor of Tbilisi Fashion Week. The showroom will be open until April 24 and features the collections of Georgian designers: Salio Abuseridze, Moko, Mimosa, Shavdia, Art Salon Lika, Workshop Besiki 22, M.G.N.T. Style, No One, Co.Mode, Sopo Iosebidze, Atelier 27, Zedadan, Person, Atelier 22, Anishko, Avazaki, Makrateli, Lovoa, Medamoda, Lunda Story, Mamy Bag, Katrin, Lazeti and Levanto. On Aprill 19, SOLO will host an exhibition and performance by Sopiko Chiaureli at Wine Factory N1 / Tbili Sio. On April 20-23, Tbilisi History Museum Karvasla will host designer Mariam Gvasalia's runway show. The same evening, the Kakhaberi runway show will also take place. On April 22, designer Ani Datukashvili will present her collection in the School N6 rooms and hall. Then, at 22:00, LTFR invites electronic music lovers to attend their performance at the Tbilisi Hippodrome Park. Fashion Week will culminate in a runway show featuring Lasha Jokhadze, which will take place on renovated

Aghmashenebeli Avenue in New Tiflis. Additionally, Tbilisi Fashion Week will feature autumn/winter collections of up-and-coming Georgian designers, like ELENNY, MIA, Laboratory the Window, ETHERE ACCESOIRE, Atelier 27, MARTA, Giorgi Tatanashvili, LIKEFORLIKA. Foreign designers and brands will also take part in Tbilisi Fashion Week 2017, including Lara Quint and SAYYA (Urkaine), ZLATOSTUDIO (Russia), SONCESS (Armenia), ZDDZ (UK), which will be presented in the Ernst & Young office of Tbilisi on April 23. Between runway shows, there will be champagne tastings featuring Luciano champagne. Furthermore, this season kicks off the project TALK, in collaboration with Marketer.ge. On April 20, Impact Hub Tbilisi is to host discussions on “Branding and Communication” led by Maragon University specialists. Fashion journalist at Barneys New York, Vogue Italia, ELLE Russia, consultant, stylist and blogger Roza Sinaisky will also participate in the discussions. Tickets are

available on www.biletebi.ge. With the support of Georgia’s National Tourism Administration (GNTA), Tbilisi Fashion Week 2017 will be attended by a number of international media representatives including Vogue Italia, Elle Russia, Officiel Ukraine, British Vogue, and many more. GNTA will also arrange a tour in Tbilisi in order to acquaint guests with the sights and cultural monuments of the capital. Further, the Enterprise Development Agency will host the following buyers: Harvey Nichols HONG KONG, RIJOUX STORE Tel-Aviv, Concept Store PORTA 9 Russia, Al Duca D’acosta VENICE, United Legend Strasbourg, and Joseph Store London to familiarize them with Georgian designers. The official cosmetics brand of Tbilisi Fashion Week 2017 is MAC. Beauty salons ART HOUSE and La Paris will be working on the models' makeup. For the full Fashion Week schedule and further details visit: www.tbilisifashionweek.com The event is held with the support of the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Culture and Tbilisi Mayor’s Office.




Georgia’s Infrastructure Ministry Presents 2017-2020 Action Plan



eorgia’s Minister of Infrastructure, Zurab Alavidze, presented the Infrastructural Development Strategy of Georgia 2017-2020 on Wednesday to government members

and civil society. The plan includes implementation of large-scale and national projects, maximal use of the country's existing capabilities and full-time work for the country's rapid development. The action plan envisages implementation of 2,500 major infrastructural projects worth 10 billion GEL in order to modernize infrastructural develop-

ment in the country over three years, including building a 1,000 km road, providing water supply for 500,000 people, and solving the problem of solid waste and landfills in the country. 1.26 billion GEL will be spent on various infrastructural projects throughout the country this year. “We will implement the most important projects in the direction of roads, water supply, tourism infrastructure, ecology, environment and others,” Alavidze said. Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, also delivered speech at the presentation in which he claimed the planned infrastructure projects will create 40,000 new jobs and the country will become stronger and more developed because of it. “Our country has already created a very important success story: we have achieved democracy and by stable development we are creating a new reality. Today, we really have such an opportunity," he said. He went on to express his gratitude to all the international and donor organizations who help the country to achieve progress and thanked the Ministry of Infrastructure. “What will the new spatial arrangement bring to our country, our population? New roads, new highways, new airports, ports, bridges, tunnels, and absolutely new opportunities,” the PM enthused. Spatial arrangement is one of the most important components of the government’s Four-Point Plan, which envisages modifying Georgia's income tax rules, improving governance, accelerating infrastructure projects and developing higher education.

Penguins from the UK's Bristol Zoo Moved to Tbilisi BY TAMZIN WHITEWOOD


ineteen penguins from Bristol Zoo in the UK have been donated to Tbilisi, which lost many of its zoo animals in a flash flood in 2015. Bristol and Tbilisi are twinned cities. Nineteen young South African penguins are now settling into a newly refurbished penguin pool at Tbilisi Zoo after making the journey by charter plane. They are the latest of around 80 animals to have been rehomed at the zoo from various European zoos. Tbilisi Zoo suffered significant animal losses in the flood of June 2015, which killed 19 people and left hundreds homeless. Of the zoo's 1,155 animals, 281 died in the disaster. An official press release from Bristol Zoo states that the South African penguins will now form a new breeding group in Tbilisi, with hopes to boost captive numbers for the species which has been categorized as ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Both Tbilisi Zoo and Bristol Zoo are members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and, as such, work collaboratively to breed endangered animals in captivity. In addition, Tbilisi has been twinned with Bristol, located in the west of England, since 1988, and the penguin arrival has been arranged to coincide with a visit to the Tbilisi by a delegation from Bristol, including Bristol Tbilisi Association Chairman Derek Pickup, Bristol business representatives and the Bristol Master of the Guild of Guardians, as well as representatives from Bristol Zoo. The group met with the British Ambassador in Tbilisi on Tuesday April 11 to officially hand over the penguins. In the official press release, Derek Pickup said "since the disastrous flood at Tbilisi Zoo, we have been working with Bristol Zoo to find ways in which we could help by providing advice on developing a new zoo in Tbilisi and by providing some new animals. It is fantastic that Bristol Zoo is donating these wonderful penguins and encouraging other zoo's to follow our example and donate animals. We feel like a modern day Noah and his ark".




APRIL 14 - 17, 2017

On the New “President” of South Ossetia OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


he occupied Tskhinvali region has a new Head of State. The former military General Anatoliy Bibilov won the so-called presidential elections on Sunday. His primary rival, former FSB officer Leonid Tibilov, was second in the running, but fairly behind in terms of percentage. According to the preliminary information, Bibilov got 57% (about 18,234 votes), Tibilov 30% (9,769 votes) and Gagloev 11% (3,581 votes). The population turnout was 81%. Tinilov, the active “president,” lost the elections and even his meeting with President Putin couldn’t help him this time. He is currently waiting for a new verdict from the Kremlin, and the occupied regime will announce the “official results” on April 14. The Kremlin’s favorites in the occupied territories are obviously unlucky ones, as losing the so-called presidential elections has become something of a tradition there. In fact, Putin’s open support towards a candidate is even perceived as an ominous sign. This was the case twice in breakaway Abkhazia, for instance, when Raul Khajimba raised posters depicting him with Putin and in turn lost the elections. The same happened in occupied Tskhinvali, when in the so-called presidential elections of 2011, Anatoliy Bibilov took care to be photographed with the then-President of Russia Medvedev, but got disastrous results when the Kremlin cancelled the elections completely. The former leader of Nikhasi, occupied Tskhinvali’s “Council,” 47-year-old Anatoliy Bibilov, has four children. He studied in the specialized General Leselidze boarding school and is professional military. Before that, he got an incomplete secondary education in Tskhinvali School N1. Bibilov took part and was wounded twice in the August 2008 War, after which he was granted the rank of

Lieutenant-General. Bibilov, unlike Tibilov, travelled to Akhalgori during the election campaign and even addressed the locals in Georgian. He tried to act in a diplomatic way and remain balanced, recalling the years of his youth when he studied in Tbilisi for three years. Bibilov promised the Georgians there that he would rearrange the untidy system of issuing permits for them to cross the so-called border. Mamuka Areshidze, Head of the Caucasus Center for Strategic Studies, does not believe him and thinks that Bibilov will uncompromisingly pursue Russian policy. “The Georgian population living in Akhalgori will end up with more problems and an even more difficult situation than the separatist Abkhazian “President” Raul Khajimba has created for the Georgian population living in the Gali region,” Areshidze says. Despite his Ossetian family name and origins, Bibilov is a Russian official. “We should not forget that he is military, therefore has very good relations with the military establishment in Moscow, the latter being no less powerful than the FSB. For instance, he is friends with Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu,” Areshidze says. However, the lion’s share in Bibilov’s victory is not due to his military ties but the request of the former so-called President Kokoity, who called on his supporters to vote for Bibilov. It is said the Kremlin had “forbidden” Kokoity from running in the so-called elections. In his interviews with Russian publications during the election campaign, Bibilov referred to South Ossetia as part of Russia and to Georgia as a neighboring country. Bibilov also supports joining the Russian Federation. As, currently, Moscow does not need Tskhinvali, since the annexation of Crimea is still stuck in its throat, it is difficult to predict how realistic it is for the breakaway region to join Russia in the near future. Nevertheless, it is not excluded that they will agree to hold the so-called referendum, if Bibilov proposes to do so, and realize

the results of the referendum later, when they feel like it. Following the ethnic cleansing in the occupied Tskhinvali, there are just 32,736 “voters” “registered” in the region. An additional 7,464 “ballots” were sent to the “polling stations” opened in Russia

and occupied Abkhazia. Notably, parallel to the “Presidential elections,” another “referendum” was held in Anklavi, where more than 78% “voters” supported adding the term “State of Alania” to its current name of South Ossetia. Neither the Georgian side nor the

international community recognize the elections or referendum in the de-facto republic of South Ossetia. Together with the Georgian officials, statements about the illegitimacy of these elections have been openly made by numerous international organizations and bodies.

O’Hanlon Dishes out Bitter Pills for Georgia: The US Cannot Protect the Whole World Continued from page 1

He suggests we compare his scenario with what we have now. And what we have is not much, he thinks, as the West’s promise to grant Georgia the NATO Membership Action Plan, made in Bucharest in 2008, remains unfulfilled, with no timeline provided to do so. “And as we know, that very summer was when Russian forces invaded Georgia. And we’ve seen subsequently that Russia seized Crimea and then contributed to separatist fighting in Eastern Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine was also promised eventual NATO membership, with no specificity and no Membership Action Plan. Therefore, I think the current strategy is not working. The current strategy is leaving Georgia, Ukraine and other countries of Eastern Europe vulnerable,” O’Hanlon says. He is not alone in his conclusion, of course. There are many who would agree. And many who would claim that those who don’t are just unable to swallow a certain bitter pill known as hard truth. But what is O’Hanlon’s alternative and how viable is it? “I’ve concluded that we would be better off trying to negotiate with Russia an understanding that countries like Georgia and Ukraine will have every opportunity to join any other association they wish, economically or politically, but NATO expansion will no longer continue and will not include them. I hope that would be a way to actually persuade Russia...”

Basically, we say, you are calling for the West to create so-called buffer zones. The very thing we (and Ukrainians) don’t want to be. What follows is a wording battle. “Well, I don’t propose they be called a ‘buffer zone’ for Russia. These are your words, not mine. I propose neutrality. Buffer zone implies that Georgia and Ukraine have less sovereign right to their own decisions and that they are somehow pawns in a greater strategic game between great countries. I don’t want to use this kind of language. I fully respect the sovereignty and independence and all the rights that Georgia and Ukraine have. I insist that any future security architecture would preserve those rights. The issue is: should they be in NATO or should they be neutral? I think that neutrality would serve them better and serve the United States better, as well.” Unconvinced, we ask how that might be. In his article, which will soon be followed by an entire book on the matter, he says that it will have the form of an agreement which Russia has to follow and adhere to. The same Russia that is notorious for violating agreements. On this, at least, we seem to be on the same page. He admits that it “is a very serious concern” and says he has leverages in mind that would dissuade (hopefully) Russia from disrespecting the deal. “We will only lift sanctions on Russia if they agree to remove military forces and resolve the so-called frozen conflicts in Ukraine and Georgia. And if Russia wants to make sure the two don't join the Alli-

ance in the future, it has to respect the deal and allow verification of that deal.” So, economic sanctions and the threat of future NATO expansion. Hard as that might be to imagine, if Russia still goes and violates it, what happens next? Perhaps the United States would be ready to step in and fight for Georgia? He says that this is the exact thing that he does not want the US to do. “I’m proposing that we NOT expand our military alliance. There is a small number of American forces training with the Georgians. That’s fine. And obviously, many Americans are extremely grateful to Georgia for its contributions in international security operations like in Afghanistan. But,” he says, “you’ll have to work it out with Russia. The US cannot protect the whole world – especially a small country right next to Russia. We don’t have the capability to do that.” So, the scenario goes like this: this tiny country is left alone to negotiate an incredibly complex deal with a mammoth of a neighbor, and if said neighbor reconsiders the terms of the deal, the tiny country stays there alone and undefended. So much for security guarantees, we say. He says there isn’t one. At least for us. A bucketload of bitter pills, this one. “At one level, there is no guarantee, and that’s the simple fact of the matter,” he tells us. “Georgia is in a place where it is too small and too far away for any completely dependable guarantee to be issued by anybody. To date, as you know, Georgia has not received any meaning-

ful security guarantees from anyone. I don’t know how to change that. The word “guarantee” in English is a very strong word, as you know.” To his defense, he says Russia and Georgia have to agree on an agreement or it won’t work. His proposal also includes removing Russian military forces from Georgian territories, a prospect that would be very popular with Georgian people, perhaps even if it came at the price of all and every Euro-Atlantic aspiration. Would Moscow remove its bases from Abkhazia and South Ossetia too, though? He says it also has to be agreed chiefly between Georgia and Russia, and the same goes for Ukraine, but the West would also “participate in the wider framework of these negotiations and be solemnly on the side of the smaller countries as they have these negotiations with Russia.” We ask what his motivation was for talking about neutral Georgia and neutral Ukraine in his WSJ article. He handles the question well. And dishes out another portion of those pills as a farewell monologue. “Well, I’m not on the Russian payroll. I would suggest that my Georgian friends take stock of where they are today. Right now, they have a very ambiguous promise of future NATO membership, which will probably never happen as long as they still have disputes with Russia over the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. So, if I were a Georgian, I would simply encourage you to think clearly about your current options. I do not

think you have a good option now with NATO membership, nor do I think you’re going to get one. Moreover, as an American, I have the right to ask whether I want to see my children, my neighbors, my friends, in a military commitment to defend people halfway around the world. It is not smart; it’s not realistic. And I don’t feel that I should be pledging my fellow Americans and their potential lives to defend a country that is not currently in NATO and probably cannot be defended in any plausible way because it’s so far away.” Spoken like a chess grand master, and there he was saying he wouldn’t compare Georgia and Ukraine to pawns. But all this Realpolitik aside – If this is how things are, many would think us fools. Heartbroken fools, at that. “We’ve been toiling for a fair chance of joining the Euro-Atlantic alliance for years now,” we tell him. “And don’t forget Afghanistan, where we pledged the lives of our friends and fellow Georgians to defend the common values Georgia and the US seem to believe in”. And it’s all in vain, if we follow O’Hanlon’s logic. We don’t, but we are disappointed nonetheless, as will be the many who read it. We ask him about that as our final question. “Yes, I think it could be disappointing for a while; I expect that some of my readers in Georgia would be angry. I understand that. There should be a debate; I’m glad to hear there’s a debate. I think it will take a while for this kind of idea to be fully digested,” he says.




Georgian FM Holds Meetings in Armenia President Margvelashvili Pardons 91 Prisoners BY THEA MORRISON


resident Giorgi Margvelashvili has granted amnesty to 91 inmates in connection to the upcoming Easter holiday. The head of the pardoning commission, Zviad Koridze, said that only 62 of those will actually leave the prisons at this point, while the other 29 will likely have their sentences reduced. Among the pardoned prisoners are four women. Koridze said the decision was made during the Pardoning Commission’s February session, held on April 4-6. A total of 579 cases were discussed. The president’s pardoning commission is composed of ten people, mostly lawyers from the civil sector and public figures, in addition to the public defender and the Georgian Patriarchate. The Commission discusses all cases sent before it by inmates or their families, and makes the initial decision about which prisoners might deserve a pardon. That list is then sent to the President for approval. The President himself is the only person authorized to grant pardons in Georgia.



ithin the framework of an official visit to the Republic of Armenia, Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze met the President of the country Serzh Sargsyan, PM Karen Karapetian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. Welcoming the guest, President Sargsyan expressed hope that the official visit of FM Janelidze to Armenia would give a new impetus to the strengthening of interstate ties. The officials underlined that the Armenian-Georgian relations are developing dynamically, including an active political dialogue. They also noted that the economic relations and cooperation in the humanitarian sector are deepening. Sargsyan said that Armenia appreciates the relations with friendly Georgia, a country actively interested in further developing and strengthening those good-neighborly relations every year. The Georgian FM referred to cooperation in the energy sector, stressing the need for full realization of the great potential existing in this sector.

Furthermore, Sargsyan and Janelidze underscored the importance of stability and peace in terms of regional development. The need to develop ties between the Georgian and Armenian youth was discussed at the meeting. The sides also discussed prospects existing in the field of technologies. The importance of deepening relations in the fields of economy, energy and transport was discussed at the meeting of the Georgian and Armenian Foreign Ministers. “We welcome our intense cooperation and political contacts at all levels, be it presidents, prime ministers or ministers. We are approaching a very important date – the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Through our joint efforts, we have made it possible to come to a higher level of mutual partnership, one based on confidence,” Janelidze told Nalbandian. The ministers also spoke about global and regional challenges and about the implementation of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. Janelidze congratulated his Armenian counterpart on the successful completion of negotiations over a framework agreement with the EU.

Photo source: Al-Manar TV Lebanon

Putin Congratulates Bibilov on Winning South Ossetia Election BY THEA MORRISON


ussian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the speaker of the de facto South Ossetian parliament, Anatoly Bibilov, on winning the presidential elections in Georgia’s breakaway Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region. "I sincerely congratulate you on the convincing victory in the presidential election in the Republic of South Ossetia. I mark with satisfaction the high level of traditionally friendly relations between Russia and South Ossetia," said the message posted on the Kremlin website Monday. Russian state-led news agency Tass reports that Putin expressed confidence that relations between the two countries will continue to develop under the new president. “Russia will continue providing comprehensive assistance to South Ossetia in the settlement of topical issues of social-economic development as well as in ensuring national security,” said Putin, as quoted in Tass.

Bibilov won Sunday’s presidential elections by securing 57.98 percent of the vote, the South Ossetian Central Election Commission reported, citing preliminary figures. President Leonid Tibiliov got 30 percent of the vote and State Security Committee officer Alan Gagloyev got 11.01 percent. Under South Ossetia’s laws, a candidate needs to get 50 percent plus one vote to be elected in the first round. Russian presidential press officer Dimitry Peskov said the Kremlin considers the presidential elections conducted in South Ossetian democratic. “We state that it was an absolutely politically competitive, democratic election process, fairly transparent. We are even more satisfied with the fact that the main competition was between candidates that are convinced supporters of further close relations between South Ossetia and Russia," Peskov told reporters. Tass says that Abkhazia also recognizes the elections and referendum in South Ossetia. "We will support any choice by South Ossetia’s people, any decision that will be legitimate,” Abkhazia’s Vice President Vitaly Gabniya told Tass.




APRIL 14 - 17, 2017

Sannikov on Belarus, Russia & Georgia INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


n March 25, there were many angry faces in Minsk. Why? Because a certain “last dictator of Europe,” as he is affectionately dubbed by his European counterparts, saw it fit to introduce a new legislation in the country aimed at… well, laziness. The law against “social parasites” angered many a “lazy” person, who claim that instead of solving unemployment, the government has put blame on the people. The political opposition, united in coalition, stood together with society on the streets. And while the protests were peaceful, there were arrests nonetheless. Are there clouds gathering over Lukashenko’s future? Could this be the start of what many view as the most durable, if undemocratic, leadership in the postSoviet space? Andrei Sannikov, a chief rival of Lukashenko and 2010 presidential candidate (for which the Batska promptly sent him to prison) spoke with Panorama Talk Show and GEORGIA TODAY from London, where he was granted asylum after Lukashenko finally pardoned him, under Western pressure, in 2012.

Go away!” Immediately, it started to get political because people are fed up with the 23 years of dictatorship. It’s too much. And the life, especially this year, is very difficult for Belarusians. Unemployment is growing, prices are up, and salaries are down. The economic situation is catastrophic.

YOU MENTIONED THE PRESIDENT SHOULD GO. DO YOU REALLY SEE THAT HAPPENING THROUGH THESE PROTESTS? That’s what the people demand. So far the opposition is trying to keep it peaceful. And that’s why the offer from the opposition is negotiations and eventual elections, free elections under international supervision. That is the best way out that would help us to avoid conflict inside and outside the country.



I think so. There is recognition of impossibility to live under dictatorships. Although this dictatorship in Belarus has been much longer than in Russia. People are fed up with it. They started to revolt both in Russia and Belarus. The system is very strong and they started to use violence against, let me stress, peaceful demonstrators. But the indignation is there. The rejection of systems both in Belarus and Russia is visible.

They were triggered by the so-called decree on Social Parasites. According to which, if a person does not work for 183 days a year, this person has to pay taxes. But it was only a pretext because when protests started, the slogan was “Out!


SAME PRELUDE FOR YOU AND EX-PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA, MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI. BUT WHILE SAAKASHVILI VS SHEVARDNADZE ENDED IN THE FORMER’S FAVOR, THE SAME COULDN’T BE SAID ABOUT LUKASHENKO VS SANNIKOV. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT HAPPENED? You must understand that we both had authoritarians and let’s not hide behind the words. Because we’ve had a clear, ruthless dictatorship in Belarus for many years. There was never dictatorship in Georgia, you never had Lukashenko. There was never dictatorship in Ukraine. They had a lot of corruption but not dictatorship. In Belarus, unfortunately with the help of Russia and frankly, with the help of Western money, the dictatorship is

quite strong. It’s a personal regime of Lukashenko that uses most of the money to keep the repressive apparatus. And that is why the persecution and control of society is really strong there. That is why the protests in Belarus see only the bravest people are coming into the streets. And they face not only imprisonment; they face charges for long-term imprisonment and death. It is the most ruthless dictatorship on the territory of Europe.

slovakia to join the EU and NATO. That’s not the question about Russia. We do understand the Russian factor but let’s think about our countries. You called me a pro-Western opposition. No, I am pro-Belarusian. And I’m not saying that I’ll think like Lukashenko. People did not decide to be in this close relationship with Russia and the people have expressed their willingness to have a better relationship with the EU.



You know, we were actually winning. That’s why I found myself in jail and with most of my team members, other candidates and other opposition figures. Had we won in 2010, Belarus would have been a different country. And the relationship would have been predictable. Because despite the support that Russia gives Lukashenko and despite his claims that he is the best friend of Russia, they cheat on each other. It’s not a normal relationship even in oil and gas. So there are no norms and rules of behavior even between Lukashenko and Putin.

WOULD RUSSIA ALLOW BELARUS UNDER YOUR LEADERSHIP OR ANY OTHER BELARUSIAN’S LEADERSHIP TO LEAVE ITS ORBIT? Many people asked in the 2000s if Russia would allow Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia to join the EU and NATO. Before that there were questions whether Russia would allow Poland, Hungary, Czecho-

Look what Lukashenko let Belarus become. It’s the most catastrophic economic situation since the collapse of the USSR. Inevitably, dictatorship leads to such things. As for how it could have been different, it couldn’t. I do understand that it is the hardest way for our independence, both for Georgia and Belarus. And for Ukrainian independence. And here we have to rely on actual understanding of our situation by the western countries. I do not see this understanding. Let’s be frank, the West is not very helpful for our independence. After Russia started the war in Ukraine, there was more awareness of what’s going on. More awareness of the dangers coming out of today’s Kremlin regime. Finally they will come to the conclusion that our independence – Georgia, Ukrainian, Balarus is indispensable for the security of the independence of Europe, EU and the West in general.


Microsoft Georgia & E-Space Announce Cooperation BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

PAFAI & Terabank Promote Specialized Products & Financial Literacy for Georgian Female Farmers


n April 8, the project ‘Promoting Access to Finance and Agricultural Insurance’ (PAFAI), implemented by Business and Finance Consulting and funded by the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development, held a conference for 30 female farmers promoting specialized banking products from Terabank and financial literacy trainings. Due to the majority of land and property being owned by males in rural Georgia, female farmers face a disadvantage in receiving credits requiring collateral. To address this issue, Terabank is now offering female farmers loans with lower collateral requirements and specialized

services, including a flexible seasonal repayment schedule with loan term up to 36 months and without security up to 20,000 GEL. Terabank SME bankers and SME analysts are offering clients optimal, profitable banking ways, assisting them in decision-making and giving recommendations as to the priorities profitable for their businesses. After the presentation and discussion by Terabank and farmers, the PAFAI project provided a financial literacy training on topics such as budgeting, savings, credit history, financial institutions, and interest rates. The PAFAI project, which has operated for two years, began in April, 2015, and will close at the end of April.


icrosoft Georgia and E-Space Ltd. startup this week announced their cooperation, with E-space to power their solutions using the Microsoft Azure platform. E-Space, the first Georgian company dedicated to supporting electric vehicles and technologies, with this becomes a BizSpark member and will be running its business on the Microsoft Azure platform. Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that helps startups succeed by giving them free access to Microsoft Azure cloud services, software, and support. “We are delighted to announce our partnership with Microsoft,” says George Keshelashvili, CEO, E-Space. “Such partnership comes at the right time for us, as the BizSpark program will help us with our IT infrastructure environment, enabling us to run software on a secure and scalable platform, allowing us to save on hosting and deployment of services. With access to Microsoft Azure via BizSpark, we can efficiently support the demand for resources of E-space’s rapidly growing business”. Founded in 2016 in Tbilisi, Georgia, E-Space is the first and only Georgian

company dedicated to the support and promotion of electric vehicles in the country, and the introduction and implementation of respective new technologies. It is the only company to own and operate a public charging station network in Georgia and it aims to offer its clients a wide-range of electric vehicles, including cars, motorcycles and scooters. “More and more entrepreneurs are working with the Microsoft Azure cloud platform and they are making the right choice,” says Nikoloz Doborjginidze, General Manager at Microsoft Georgia. “The flexibility of the service allows users to scale resources depending on real traffic needed and to manage their business effectively. Further, there is no need to spend resources on technical

support of the infrastructure as this is done by Microsoft. As a result, these resources can be invested into the main thing – business development”. Microsoft is the leading platform and productivity company for the “mobilefirst, cloud-first” world, its mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Microsoft Georgia was founded in 2010 and currently employs eight persons. It describes Georgia as a small country, “the success of which depends on a knowledge-based economy”. Microsoft supports public, private and civil sectors to develop capabilities. We believe that innovative technologies make it competitive in the country's economy, business, and education system.




Ani for Children: A Charity Foundation for Palliative Care Children Ani Chkhaidze, one of Georgia’s first Child Life specialists and a psychologist, with a palliative patient at the Tsitsishvili Children’s New Clinic



n April 12, a presentation of the activities of the recently established charity foundation ‘Ani for Children’ took place on the premises of the National Education Center under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs of Georgia. Ani for Children gives aid to children in palliative care, giving material-financial aid to those with psycho-motoric and other chronic diseases who are in

need of rehabilitation and adaptation to the surrounding environment. Together with the respective authorities, representatives from business circles, as well as those of the medical and insurance system, attended the presentation. Among the invited guests were also a number of celebrities. The charity foundation was founded in October 2016 and bears the name of Ani Chkhaidze, one of Georgia’s first Child Life specialists and a psychologist of the Tsitsishvili Children’s New Clinic who was killed in a well-reported car crash last summer. “The charity foundation ‘Ani for Children’

focuses on team care for children who are in need of lengthy psycho-social rehabilitation,” said Davit Sergeenko, Minister of Health, Labor and Social Affairs “These are children with special needs, indeed. We do have similar state programs, however, they cannot fully satisfy the demand. Therefore, such charity involvement is of utmost importance in order to develop and to perfect the team approach, a concept comparatively new for our healthcare system. I would like to wish this foundation much success. The Ministry of Health, as well as me personally, as an ordinary citizen and doctor, declare full readiness to support the foundation and promise to always stand by its side”. “We are focusing on one concrete population of children: that of the Tsitsishvili Children’s New Clinic,” said Mamuka Chkhaidze, Ani’s father and the Founder of Ani for Children. “These are 36 children who are in a chronic critical state, the majority of whom are bed-bound. Ani is the name of the psychologist who used to work in this clinic. This is where we started our aid from. Our aim is to also promote the specialty of psycho-emotional development and rehabilitation, which does not exist in Georgia. This medical direction is just being started, Ani was one of the pioneers in this field, and we hope to promote such specialists to develop via trainings so that the Child Life service is established in all children's hospitals, while also supporting the existing services”. “I’ve been a friend of the foundation since the very first day,” actor Giorgi Bakhutashvili, told GEORGIA TODY at the presentation. “I try my best to be

involved in all of its activities. I’m sure that all those material or spiritual efforts that are accumulated here will serve the kindness and the wellbeing of others, and the more people who get engaged in this ‘kindness circle,’ the more we’ll be able to do.” If you would like to donate to Ani for Children, you can attend an exhibition of paintings for sale by well-known Georgian artists Zurab Nijaradze, Levan Kharanauli, Mamuka Tsetskhladze, Vano Abuladze, Keti Matabeli, Keti Melkadze, Toto Mirzashvili and Liziko Chkheidze. WHERE: 13 Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi WHEN: Saturday April 15, 12- 8 PM.

Alternatively, you can donate to the fund here: "საქველმოქმედო ფონდი ანი ბავშვებისთვის“ ს/კ: 405169696 Bank of Georgia GE27BG0000000680562800 BAGAGE22. For related articles about the Tsitsishvili Children’s New Clinic palliative care children, go to: http://georgiatoday.ge/news/2191/Bedsfor-the-Better%3A-The-Success-of-a-Fundraiserfor-Palliative-Unit-Children http://georgiatoday.ge/news/212/Palliative-Care-Improvements-inChildren%E2%80%99s-New-Clinic

Welcome to Indian Punjabi Restaurant Sanjha Chulha 1 Mobile +995 596 56 13 13 Phone +995-322-95-96-14 Skype: SANJHA CHULHA Facebook: sanjha chulha indian restaurant mail: order@sanjhachulha.ge Website: Sanjhachulha.ge Agmashenebeli Avenue 130, Tbilisi 0112 Georgia Delivery service are available




APRIL 14 - 17, 2017

First Visit: Tskhumari, Inspired by Africa: Geocell Svaneti Presents Movla Winners BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES




o my wishful thought of the previous article proved to be untimely: what was forecast rather optimistically online as “rain” turned out to be “snow”, coming down in several periods since the article was published and now as I write this one. No one expects it to last long, as the general trend is warming. But we’re feeling sorry for our poor confused cows, who a few times now have begun grazing in our fields, only later to find them buried again under the white stuff. One very pretty result has been the layering effect. In this, the upper landscape is whitened as if by a judicious sprinkle of icing sugar, while the lower remains greening: two seasons for the price of one! Get it while it lasts! I’m hoping that a good view of this type of scene including the elusive Mt. Ushba will give my lens what my eyes already envision; tomorrow’s clearing forecast for the morning looks promising. This week I also began exploring the village of Tskhumari for the first time ever. This is mostly due to the presence there of a friend, an outsider like myself although only from another part of Georgia instead of from overseas, but a foreigner nonetheless. He visits occasionally, in search of good things to do in a needy place, which this seems to be. We might well partner in such exploits. Tskhumari lies mostly across the Enguri River from us, and the long road down, over and back up to it begins from the other side of Becho; I drove there today in my trusty, powerful Toyota 4Runner, which never missed a beat. Asking directions several times, eventually I ended up in the right place, near the end of the place, and met my friend’s hosts who, he says, are like other parents to him. The man told me that one part of Tskhumari is even mentioned in Strabo’s famous writing of the Svans in his Geography of some 2000 years ago. This is an impressively antique mention indeed, in a region where such things are discussed in deadly earnest.

A new view of Ushba also was promised to me, although today’s snowing atmosphere prevented this from my sight. It’ll keep! We walked the short distance to a nicely walled-in mineral water spring near a river, bubbling with its own carbonation and quite delicious. I noted as neutrally as I could the (to me) glaring dichotomy of the liberal strewing of plastic bottles thereabout, and a discussion began on the spot about a near future “subbotnik” (Soviet-era “voluntary” beautification day). Yes, I know, you have nowhere designated to dump your rubbish, no collection service either, &c, &c. And neither is it your most pressing issue, in the face of struggling to exist at all. Tskhumari has my sympathy for one big reason: for more than a month of midwinter, it gets no sun at all, due to its situation on the mountainside and Sol’s failing to clear said mountain at all during the days of this period. We in upper Etseri, on the other hand, are bathed in the rays daily during the same period, for at least seven or eight hours, making a considerable difference to our heating. I said my goodbyes and left after several hours, knowing that in better weather this is a friendship which must continue indefinitely. On my way out, the other side of the main bridge revealed to me a horrific memorial: eleven people killed in one tragic accident there in 2005, portraits immortalized together on one piece of stone with all their dates of birth and death. What agony. So, yes, I have just begun to scratch the surface of Tskhumari’s multi-faceted personality. But it was a good start. Now, relationships and the pull of that new view of Ushba will take me back there. 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 1350 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

n Friday 7, telecommunication company Geocell invited guests to an exhibition of photos taken by three young winners of their Movla Blogger Competition- the prize: a two week trip to Africa. The event took place at the New Mziuri social café in Mziuri Park, Vake. Movla is a social responsibility campaign launched by Geocell in 2016 which envisages clients downloading the Movla App which allows them to pinpoint on a map of Georgia sites which are polluted by litter. The aim is to tell people where to go and to gather friends and colleagues to clean up the sites. There have been over 20,000 downloads since its launch. “500 polluted sites have been highlighted around Georgia since the App was introduced, and 400 of those are already clean, thanks to the 100 volunteer organizations and numerous individuals,” Nika Gventsadze, Geocell Marketing and Communication Manager, told GEORGIA TODAY. We spoke to two of the three winners of the competition. “I really liked the Geocell Movla App and I found out about the blogger competition on the very last day,” said journalist Mari Nikuradze. "I’ve been writing about the ecological problems in Georgia for about seven years and I was happy to see the campaign because not many people care about the environment. I wrote about Chiatura- most people focus on the cable cars but there is a company there seriously polluting and already fined $350 million by the government, without a change to the reality, though. The more people who know, the more likely it is something will change.” Elena Chkkheidze, PR and CSR manager, saw the competition on facebook. “I have a village near Gori and the nearby river always has rubbish dumped in it.

10,000 people live in that village and there is only one waste truck to collect every four days. The municipality knows but has no resources to improve the situation. I saw this as my chance to raise awareness and change attitudes.” Both girls were surprised by the real poverty they encountered in Africa. But

they were also touched by the friendliness of the people, their desire to communicate and their curiosity. “And they really care about animals and the environment,” Elena said. We asked how the experience had changed them. “We’re more aware of what we have and how lucky we are,” Mari tells us. “And we’re definitely going back.” GEORGIA TODAY spoke to the Deputy Minister of the Environment, Ekaterine Grigalava. “We’ve been involved with Movla since the beginning. The littering problem in Georgia cannot be solved by one state or private agency alone- all citizens need to get involved.” A new Waste Management Code was introduced in 2015 fully compliant with EU regulations, but policy is one thing and enforcement another. “More waste trucks have been supplied and there is a lot of capacity-building going on with help from foreign donors to enable municipalities to meet the obligations and elaborate plans. There are also many informational campaigns in action across the board. It’s slow progress, but there is progress, nonetheless,” Grigalava says.

Let us Do Good Together: Georgians Helping Georgians BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


hey raised only GEL 350 that evening, but the event itself was gorgeous: the opera star-studded and flowing with the loveliest melodies of the world’s classic, the National Parliamentary Library main hall packed full, and the expectation of the fidgeting opera buffs vibrating through the famous old building. All of them – the youngest and the ablest Georgian opera singers, interns and Tbilisi Music Conservatory students were poised to let their talent raise some money for one of the most indigent families of the country, consisting of a 24-year-old single mother and her baby daughter, chronically starving with their 10 GEL monthly subsistence and living in unbearably agonizing conditions in a remote Georgian village. Nobody knows how long the raised amount will last, but it is certainly a huge financial help for the time being, literally saving the desperate mom and her little darling. This outstanding charity concert was arranged by a newly created foundation under the name of ‘Ertad Siketistvis’ (Let us Do Good Together). This is my makeshift translation, calling for apology if not precise enough, but the idea is right there: good needs to be done as soon and as amply as possible.

The Foundation was created by a small group of young Georgian opera singers who have thought well that their motherland needs their help, where thousands of impoverished people need a helping hand. Our wonderful tenors, sopranos, mezzos, baritones, basses and piano players are ready to use their time, energy and God-given gift and capacity for those who truly, and without a tinge of exaggeration, need their shoulder. The Foundation has been around for only two years, in the duration of which they have managed to organize several charity concerts. Their plans are ambitious, though. They are getting ready to travel Georgia with their amazing concerts and marshal their future fans and listeners to raise enough funds for further assistance to the poor and needy. And most importantly, their effort is not going to be a one-time charity event. Functionally, the embodiment of this great idea of charity is much more significant: it strengthens the culture of charity in Georgia, and reminds all of us that we have to be charitable if this society ever wants to be called western and civilized. This is exactly what the whole thing is all about. The concert group have all they need to make it work: elevated thinking, high morality, ready spirit, sensitive conscience, working talent and trained professionalism. Not every charity maker has enough money to slice off a thick bank account, but money could be made as these superb young men and women are mak-

ing it in their breathtakingly beautiful way. There were many of them in the arena that day, working in concert to raise money for the great purpose of salvaging their fellow citizens. Too many to name here! And the concert was pleasantly embellished with the exhibition of works by a young Georgian artist. Incidentally, Georgia is not America and we cannot expect thousands to be raised, especially in the initial attempts. The raised cash was of course nominal but it definitely did its job with the heart and pure conscience of the performing artists. I was there and when I came up to the charity box, which at ready to swallow our symbolic contributions, I noticed people scratching for some change in the bottom of their bags and wallets to put in the gaping slot. That’ when I knew the box would never be ‘sated’, but my heart was filled with love and pride for every contributing person at the venue, and, of course, for the founders of this lovely charity organization. We are a new democracy with very fragile freedom and independence. Often, it is not the politicians and the governments who cast the winning image of our nation: it is the people, their ability to create, their endeavor to be unique and their readiness to present their country to the world. ‘Ertad Siketistvis’ – Let us Do Good Together – is a powerful tool in the hands of our people to let the world know that the Georgians are coming.




APRIL 14 - 17, 2017

Year-Long Celebration to Be Launched Marking Georgia-Germany Relations BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


n April 21 the GeorgiaGermany Year 2017 will officially begin, with an opening ceremony to be held at Tbilisi City Assembly, marking and celebrating two of the most important dates: the arrival of the first German immigrants to Georgia 200 years ago and the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. 2018 will then mark 100 years since the recognition of independence for the first Democratic Republic of Georgia by Germany in 1918. Under the patronage of the German and Georgian foreign ministers, with the slogan ‘Heritage of the Future,’ the Georgia-Germany Year 2017 program entails a series of important events to be organized both in both countries with the financial and organizational support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Goethe Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia. In addition, Georgia is to be the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2018. The involvement and participation of many partner organizations in the Georgia-Germany year-long celebratory program enables the showcasing of the

existing diversity of strong ties between Georgia and Germany through numerous cultural events, theatrical performances, concerts, exhibitions, literature evenings, business forums and projects in the development, economic and sports spheres. Goethe Institute President, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, and the Charge d’ Affairs of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cultural Policy Issues, will be coming to Tbilisi to attend the official opening ceremony on April 21. Within the opening ceremony framework an exhibition titled ‘The Heritage of the Future -200 years: Georgian -German Stories’ will be held, showing materials illustrating the history of Georgian-German relations using a web archive to be created by the Georgian organization Sovlab, with the financial support of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia. The web archive aims to preserve and promote documents and historic sources related to Georgian-German relations. The Georgian-German year will officially be launched on April 26, at the World Hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, to be attended by the Georgian and German foreign ministers. More information regarding the GeorgianGerman Year can be found at www.facebook. com/DeuGeo2017

UNDP Presents Global & Regional Human Development Reports BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


wo fundamental reports of 2016 were presented by the United Nations Development Program in Georgia (UNDP) on April 11, addressing the global human development challenges and specific development issues that the societies from the Eastern Europe, Turkey and Central Asia regions are facing today. The global Human Development Report 2016 ‘Human Development for Everyone’, released in 2017 argues that human development progress continues to leave many people behind, with systemic, often unmeasured, barriers to catching up. The Report suggests that a stronger focus on those excluded and on actions to dismantle these barriers is urgently needed to ensure sustainable human development for all. Among the basic messages communicated in the global Human Development Report, universalism is seen as key to human development. It also highlights that “various groups of people still suffer from deprivation and face substantial barriers to overcoming them”. “Human development for everyone calls for the refocusing of a number of existing analytical issues and assessment perspectives. New policy options, if implemented, would contribute to achieving human development for all. A reformed global governance with fairer multilateralism would also help attain human development for all,” the report states. The regional Human Development Report released in October 2016 explains how many countries in the regions of Eastern Europe, Turkey and Central Asia are facing growing threats to their human development accomplishments. It shows how popular concerns about inequalities, in terms of income and wealth, but also equality before the law, seem to be on the rise, and identifies key policy reforms and programming areas for more effective responses to the region’s inequality challenges. The regional Human

Development Report: Progress at Risk points to a significant reduction in or low overall rates of income inequalities throughout the region as one of its key findings. “Progress in reducing inequalities is now being put to the test across the region,” it states. “The combination of low commodity prices, falling remittances, and slow or negative growth on key European and Russian export markets is putting pressure on economies in general, and on vulnerable households in particular. This poses new challenges as the implementation of the global sustainable development agenda 2030 begins in the region,” the report claims, while also noting that “data and indicator problems with measuring inequalities and their links to social exclusion and environmental sustainability in the region are significant”. Another key message of the regional Human Development Report states that labor market inequalities and exclusion are the major inequality challenges in the region. “People without decent jobs face much higher risks of poverty, vulnerability, and exclusion from social services and social protection. Women, young workers, migrants, the long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, Roma, and others with unequal labor market status are particularly vulnerable to these risks.” Social protection, better allignment of employment, microeconomic policies, reducing the scale of informal employment and decreasing taxes on labor, while strengthening policy linkages between labor markets and social protection, are emphasized as major directions to be addressed. The report also points to the gender inequality, noting in its key messages that although the region “compares favorably to many other developing countries in terms of gender equality, it also lags behind global best practices in many areas”. Among its key messages, the regional Human Development Report points out that “the development outcomes in the region are strongly influenced by access to healthcare which is a reflection of the social, economic, and environmental

determinants of health”. As one of its findings, it also identifies the fact that environmental sustainability concerns are highest among the region’s lower-middle income countries, together with concerns related to the depletion of natural capital. Quality of governance is stated as one of the major public concerns. Georgia’s HDI value for 2015 is 0.769, which put the country in the high human development category, positioning it at 70 out of 188 countries and territories. Between 2000 and 2015, Georgia’s HDI value increased from 0.673 to 0.769, an increase of 14.3 percent, the report shows. Between 1990 and 2015, Georgia’s life expectancy at birth increased by 4.7 years, mean years of schooling increased by 0.5 years and expected years of schooling increased by 1.5 years. Georgia’s 2015 HDI (0.769) is above the average of 0.746 for countries in the high human development group and above

the average of 0.756 for countries in Europe and Central Asia. From Europe and Central Asia, countries which are close to Georgia in 2015 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are Armenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have HDIs ranked 84 and 81 respectively. Georgia’s HDI for 2015 is 0.769. However, when the value is discounted for inequality, the HDI falls to 0.672, a loss of 12.2 percent due to inequality in the distribution of the HDI dimension indices. Armenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina show losses due to inequality of 9.3 percent and 13.3 percent respectively. The average loss due to inequality for high HDI countries is 20.0 percent and for Europe and Central Asia it is 12.7 percent. The Human inequality coefficient for Georgia is equal to 12.2 percent. Georgia’s GNI per capita increased by about 17.1 percent between 1990 and 2015, according to the report.

“Many of the issues raised in the reports are particularly poignant in Georgia considering that the country reports some of the region’s highest levels of income inequalities and its Human Development Index drops by 12.2 percent once its value is discounted for inequality,” Niels Scott, Head of UNDP in Georgia said when presenting the global and regional Human Development reports, at an event organized by the UNDP Georgia in cooperation with UNDP’s regional hub in Istanbul and the International School of Economics (ISET). “Many developmental accomplishments in these countries are at risk of being lost, particularly because of inadequate numbers of decent jobs, growing gaps in social protection systems, and perceptions of inequality before the law,” Ben Slay, UNDP Senior Regional Economic Advisor and lead author of the Regional HDR, said.



Heritage Crafts Initiative for Georgia Wins an EU Prize for Cultural Heritage /Europa Nostra Awards 2017


he European Commission and Europa Nostra revealed the winners of the 2017 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, Europe’s top honor in the heritage field. The 29 laureates from 18 countries were recognized for their notable achievements in conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising. Heritage Crafts Initiative for Georgia is among this year’s winners. Independent expert juries examined a total of 202 applications, submitted by organizations and individuals from 39 countries across Europe, and chose the laureates. "I congratulate all the winners,” said Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. “Their achievements demonstrate once again how engaged many Europeans are in protecting and safeguarding their cultural heritage. Their projects highlight the significant role of cultural heritage in our lives and our society. Especially today, with Europe facing many big societal challenges, culture is vital in helping us to raise awareness of our common history and values and to foster tolerance, mutual understanding and social inclusion. The European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 will be an ideal opportunity to focus on what binds us together as Europeans - our common history, culture and heritage. The European Commission will continue to support this prize and other heritage projects through our Creative Europe program”. Maka Dvalishvili, Director of Georgian Arts and Culture (GACC) says that their project ‘Heritage Crafts Initiative for Georgia’ winning at the Europa Nostra Awards 2017 is a great success for Georgia not only in Europe but worldwide. “The success achieved by GACC means that Georgia has become part of European cultural heritage and gained fame not only in Europe but in the whole world,” she told GEORGIA TODAY. “This success also highlights that GACC is a company which implements European-level projects,” she added. The Tangible Side of Intangible: Heritage Crafts Initiative for Georgia is an ambitious program run by GACC which sets out to safeguard Georgia’s unique traditional crafts. The program’s primary focus is in ensuring the transmission of these artisanal skills, to the next gen-

eration of craftspeople by creating links between masters of the crafts and young apprentices. Special focus is paid to endangered crafts. In this way, it addresses a problem which is prevalent across Europe and offers insight into how the transmission of crafts can be encouraged in comparable regions of Europe. The initiative was based on preliminary research studies and so their endeavours were evidence-based, efficiently planned and effective. In response to the results of their research, the project coordinated an extraordinary range of activities for those being trained in the production of crafts. In addition, special attention was paid to providing training to the instructors to address areas which were revealed to present a potential challenge. To provide this training, international experts were invited to build the capacity of local instructors in product development, quality standards and marketing. In turn, the instructors could pass this expertise to their students. In aiming to boost the business skills of artisans to support the marketability of their products, the Initiative sought a practical method of ensuring the sustainability of craft production. The jury noted the resourcefulness of the Heritage Crafts Initiative for Georgia, observing that “this international training program, supported by EU funds, has unprecedented scope for Georgia. Its wide range of activities is impressive with a focus on the revival of crafts and the establishment of successful business models for the continuation of crafts”. “With a strong emphasis on the transmission of skills from one generation to another, this project has harnessed Georgia’s traditions to contribute to economic and social development across the country, including in communities of religious and ethnic minorities and in rural mountainous areas. These efforts put culture at the centre of this vital progress and establish its role in creating sustainable economic enterprise”, said the jury. The Tangible Side of Intangible: Heritage Crafts Initiative for Georgia has also worked to draw both public and state attention to the role of craft traditions in achieving these objectives. The program includes awareness-raising among local government representatives and celebrates excellence in their program with the ‘Craftsman of the Year’ award

which is presented to the best teachers or transmitters of craft skills each year. GACC has also been nominated for the Public Choice Awards. People can vote for their favorite projects on http://vote. europanostra.org/. The deadline for voting is May 3. On May 15, the 2017 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, will be celebrated at a special event at the St. Michael’s Church in Turku, Finland. The ceremony will be co-hosted by Maestro Placido Domingo, President of Europa Nostra, and Tibor Navracsics. During the ceremony, the seven Grand Prix laureates, entitled to receive €10,000 each, and the Public Choice Award winner, chosen from among this year’s winning projects, will be announced. This major cultural heritage event is expected to bring together some 1,500 people, including heritage professionals, volunteers and supporters from all over Europe as well as top-level representatives from EU institutions, Member States and the host country. “I warmly congratulate this year’s winners and pay tribute to all those who made these exceptional achievements possible, thanks to their formidable talent, passionate commitment and great generosity,” said renowned opera singer Plácido Domingo. “They are now among a select group of some 450 remarkable accomplishments awarded by Europa Nostra and the European Commission in the past 15 years. All our winners demonstrate that heritage is a key tool for sustainable economic development, social cohesion and a more inclusive Europe. EU leaders should seize the historic opportunity of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 to recognize the multiple benefits of heritage and its fundamental value in bringing countries, communities and cultures together in Europe and beyond”. Europa Nostra is the pan-European federation of heritage NGO’s which is also supported by a wide network of public bodies, private companies and individuals. Covering more than 40 countries in Europe, the organization is the voice of civil society committed to safeguarding and promoting Europe’s cultural and natural heritage. Founded in 1963, it is today recognized as the most representative heritage network in Europe.





APRIL 14 - 17, 2017

Songs of a King from Luxemburg on the Georgian Stage Frog, Promoting Environmental Protection & the Georgian Animation Phenomenon BY MAKA LOMADZE


or the first time in the history of Georgian animation, Georgian film has found itself in the competition category at the Annecy international festival. The opening night of ‘Geno’ took place in France, mid-March, at the aforementioned festival. It is the first 3D animation to be created in Georgia and is the first ambassador to continue the history of Georgian animation on a world scale. The history of Georgian cartoon began in the 1920s and it reached a peak in the 1960s. Thanks to musical and artistic virtues, Georgian animation achieved a lot of success. The Annecy festival counts a history of 57 years and is considered to be the most prestigious contest among animation festivals. The first Georgian animation film that found itself at the festival is among 200 animations chosen by the jury. Dato Kiknavelidze is a 27-year-old young director who has managed to establish his own studio. After the shortfilm ‘Vacuum,’ ‘Geno’ is his second production, created with the cooperation of the Georgian National Film Center. A couple of years ago, ‘Geno’ won the Robert Film Prize. “I love nature and couldn’t stand silently by while these blocks of flats were being build and recreation zones were being destroyed in Tbilisi,” Kiknavelidze told GEORGIA TODAY. “I was jumping with joy for the next three days,” Kiknavelidze told us of his reaction to the news of Geno’s success. He is one of the youngest, if not the youngest of all, director among the authors of the selected films. “This is like the Cannes festival for feature films. It’s not only a festival but also a space for business meetings. It’s a serious platform,” he says, adding that, by means of original music and sound effects, his animation teaches children to protect the environment, and awakens adults, too. “Geno is a frog who lives in a pond. People start to build blocks around his home, which reflects the reality in Tbilisi. The pond gets smaller and smaller. The animation depicts two themes: the

ecological one, which is very topical, as the recreation zones are destroyed. The second is social. We are saying that human beings should not isolate themselves from friends in order for us to survive,” the director confides. In order to prove the truth of the last statement, all the neighbors of Geno unite, forgetting their differences, with the common goal of defeating this boom in construction, and to save their homes and lives. Purportedly, this is also an animation about the transformation of a selfish frog into a friendly one. “We firmly believe that in spite of the fact that until very recently, neither cinema society, nor the government was interested, Georgian animations have a bright future,” Zurab Maghalashvili, Director of the National Film Center, told GEORGIA TODAY. “Nowadays, the interest is also there from the Ministry of Education and Science. My belief concerning the good future of Georgian animation is affirmed by the fact that all the films, without exception, have acquired international resonance. There are many more to come”. Dato Kiknavelidze plans to shoot a full-length version of ‘Geno’. The premier of the short will take place in June, at the Annecy Animation Film Festival. It has already been invited to 20 different festivals, including those of Europe, Asia and the United States of America. Consequently, following the premier, it will see the screens of different parts of the world; good news for Georgia in terms of promotion. Georgian audiences will be able to watch ‘Geno’ at the end of June preceded by a special event and exhibition. According to experts, the tendency of progress and awakening in the field of animation films, the school of which was once so strong in Georgia and which was stopped in the post-Soviet collapse of the 1990s, is obvious. Besides ‘Geno,’ Ana Chubinidze’s ‘Pocket Man’ also participated at the Annecy Festival. Prior to it, the first Franco-Georgian animation premiered in New York and later acquired two prizes in Canada at the Montreal International Film Festival. This year was fruitful, with Mamuka Tkeshelashvili’s stop-motion ‘Sunset’ also premiering at the Annecy Festival and Natia Nikolashvili’s animation ‘Lile’ premiering at the Berlinale. Congratulations, Georgians and Georgia!



n April 8, at the invitation of the Djansug Kakhidze Music Center, classic music lovers were given a wonderful opportunity to listen to Dvorjak’s masterpieces. This was a special day, as the Tbilisi Symphonic Orchesta played with distinguished guests from abroad: conductor Cipriano Marinesku (Romania), and Luxemburg’s well-known violinist Sandrine Cantoreggi. Sandrine Cantoreggi is famous for her elegant manner of playing. “Magnificent Violin technician… Interpreter of great maturity, she vibrates and possesses a vivid imagination…” Writes one critic. “Vehemence and sensibility. A performance reflecting ease and fluidity as well as a dynamism free of any physical constraint. Her approach is always accompanied by a brilliant sound presence, an erudite happiness and splashing of joy,” writes Luxembourg Wort. GEORGIA TODAY had a chance to talk to her.

YOUR NAME MEANS ‘SONG OF A KING’ IN ITALIAN. IS IT JUST WORDS, OR ARE YOU FROM A NOBLE FAMILY? It’s just words. I was born in France. I have both citizenships – French and Luxemburg. But my name is Italian and I also feel Italian.

YOU ARE VERY WELLKNOWN AS A SOLOIST VIOLIN PLAYER AS WELL AS A CHAMBER MUSICIAN. WHICH IS MORE TO YOUR TASTE? When I play a concerto, I often get in the mood to play solo. Chamber music is different. You have a dialogue. The same happens with the symphonic orchestra. However, chamber music is more intimate. But I play in the moment, so it’s difficult to say which I prefer. I like both.

IF YOU WERE GIVEN A COLOR, WHICH COLOR WOULD YOU PAINT GEORGIAN MUSIC? One color would not be enough. Music comprises numerous different feelings. But I would definitely give very deep colors to Georgian music.


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different colors that may help the FrancoBelgian School. I also had a chance to meet a Russian teacher. This mixture for me is a great richness, because I can express myself in different ways using various techniques.

YOU PLAY EVERYTHING FROM BAROQUE TO CONTEMPORARY. WHERE IS MUSIC GOING NOWADAYS? There are a lot of different directions. For me, it’s always important that there be an association between mind and heart.

WHICH WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE DAY IN YOUR CAREER? When I met with Yehudi Menuhin (note: American-born violinist and conductor), and practiced with him. He was already a very old man. He wasn’t playing anymore, but he was conducting concerts. I had a chance to play under his direction and to make a recording. It is something that I’ll never forget. Also, everything my teachers told me is very important. Sometimes, before concerts, I remember their words and they help me.

WHICH GEORGIAN MUSIC OR COMPOSERS ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH? I know the music of Kancheli. While here, I met a few composers who gave me music but I haven’t had the chance to look through them yet. I’ve heard that there are quite a few violin concertos in Georgia. I will also look for them.

HAVE YOU HEARD OF OUR EMINENT FEMALE VIOLINIST LIANA ISAKADZE? Of course. She lives in Paris. I’ve never met her, but I’ve listened to her. She’s fantastic. I’ve alo heard of Liza Batiashvili.

TEL US ABOUT YOUR VISIT AND DVORJAK This is my first collaboration with maestro Cipriano Marinesku and this is a beautiful concerto, full of folklore. It is the combination of classical with a lot of different moods threaded throughout the music. So, we, together with the conductor and the Georgian orchestra, are discovering this Czech composer just now. It contains the mood of dancing, that of sadness, happiness, etc.

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




APRIL 14 - 17, 2017


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 April 20 CARMEN Starring: Anita Rachvelishvili, George Oniani, Nikoloz Lagvilava, Irina Taboridze, George Chelidze, Nino Chachua, Nutsa Zakaidze, Tamaz Saginadze, Irakli Mujiri, Lasha Sesitashvili Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater chorus, Ballet dancers, orchestra. Conductor- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Stage Director- Levan Tsuladze Choreographer- Gia Margania Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 40-120 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis Str. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 April 20 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL GRIBOEDOVI THEATER Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 April 16 SCARLET SAIL Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 10 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge April 17 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Comedy Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL

April 19 PILLOWMAN Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Comedy English Subtitles Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15 GEL

GOING IN STYLE Directed by Zach Braff Cast: Morgan Freeman, Joey King, Ann-Margret Genre: Comedy, Crime Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL

ROYAL DISTRICT THEATER Address: 10 Abesadze St. Telephone: 2 99 61 71

RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge

April 18, 20 WOMEN OF TROY Directed by Data Tavadze Documentary Language: Georgian English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL April 14-20 THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS 8 Premiere (Info Above) Start time: 12:30, 13:30, 16:30, 19:30, 22:30 Ticket: 8-14 GEL


AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari April 14-20 THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS 8 Premiere Directed by F. Gary Gray Cast: Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 13:45, 16:15, 19:15, 22:15 Language: English Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 9-14 GEL From April 20 HOSTAGES Premiere Directed by Rezo Gigineishvili Cast: Irakli Kvirikadze, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Avtandil Makharadze Genre: Drama Language: Georgian English Subtitles Ticket: 13-14 GEL GHOST IN THE SHELL Directed by Rupert Sanders Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Rila Fukushima Genre: Action, Crime, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL

From April 20 HOSTAGES Premiere (Info Above) Ticket: 13-14 GEL

September 27 (2016) – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. EXHIBITION LADO GUDIASHVILI AND GEORGIAN MONUMENTAL PAINTING April 6-13 GEORGIAN PAINTING OF THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY The exhibition features the best works of artists who laid the foundations for 20th century art in Georgia: Mose Toidze, Dimitri Shevardnadze, Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili, Elene Akhvediani, Apolon Kutateladze, Felix Varlamishvili, Petre Otskheli, Irakli Gamrekeli, Sergo Kobuladze, Ucha Japaridze and others.

April 1-30 SALOME RIGVAVA’S PERSONAL EXHIBITION Salome Rigvava is an active representative of young painters whose exhibitions are organized abroad and after a 4-year break, for the first time in Georgia. LITERATURE MUSEUM Address: 8 Chanturia Str. Telephone: 2 99 86 67 April 4-22 VAKHO BUGADZE’S PERSONAL EXHIBITION Dedicated to Oto Bagrationi. GALLERY


LIFE Directed by Daniel Espinosa Cast: Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 17:10 Ticket: 10-14 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION: GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY FROM 8TH MILLENNIUM B.C. TO 4TH CENTURY A.D EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases money circulation on the territory of Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834.

March 6 – August 30 EXHIBITION MASTERPIECES FROM THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS COLLECTION The exhibition includes works by Bernardo Daddi, Lucas Cranach (Elder), Guido Reni, Jan Steen, Jacob Van Ruisdael, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Vassily Kandinski; Masterpieces by Niko Pirosmanashvili, Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. PERMANENT EXHIBITION Visitors can discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Soviet-era cultural and political repression in Georgia. ART PALACE Address: 6 Kargareteli Str. Telephone: 2 95 35 63 PERMANENT EXHIBITION


MOMA TBILISI Address: 27 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 98 60 30

DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE Address: 125/127 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 295 01 19 April 20 FROM EASTER TO ASCENSION The program includes vocal and orchestral excerpts from popular operas of Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Bizet, Cilea, Ponchielli, Wagner and Paliashvili and the well-known piece by Patriarch of Georgia Ilia the 2nd “Ave Maria” Start time: 19:30 Ticket: From 10 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 April 13 GIFTED CHILDREN'S CONCERT Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5 GEL NIGHT OFFICE Address: Under Baratashvili Bridge Telephone: 599 32 33 13 April 19 Hardcore Punk, Grind core, Death Metal band From Great Britain NAPALM DEATH Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 50-60 GEL JAZZ CAFÉ SINGER Address: 8 Sioni Str. Telephone: 599 89 35 29 April 14 ZURA RAMISHVILI TRIO Zura Ramishvili / Piano Misha Japaridze / Bass Daniel Adikashvili / Drums Start time: 21:00 April 16 DINI VIRSALADZE TRIO Dini Virsaladze / Piano David Masteranov / Bass Daniel adikashvili / Drums Start time: 21:00 CAFE-GALLERY Adress: 34 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 299 57 47 April 14 GIO SHENGELIA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 20 GEL April 15 WILL GATES BODY THRILLS BRELOKA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 10 GEL




On the Threshold of Rehabilitation, Fine Arts Museum Hosts Georgian Masterpieces BY MAKA LOMADZE


n April 6, the Georgian National Museum’s Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts hosted the opening of the exhibition ‘Georgian Painting of the Early 20th Century’. The exhibition features the best works of artists who laid the foundations for 20th century art in Georgia. Showcasing a wide spectrum of visual art of the early 20th century, the exhibition presents diverse contemporary artistic styles which are in accord with the common European artistic process. Simultaneously, they are characterized by clearly expressed national peculiarities as it can be seen in the art of outstanding Georgian artists endowed with artistic creativity and individuality. The exhibition features works by Mosse Toidze, Dimitri Shevardnadze, Lado Gudiashvili, Valerian SidamonEristavi, Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikov, Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze,

Elene Akhvlediani, Ketevan Maghalashvili, Tamar Abakelia, Alexander Tsimakuridze, Apolon Kutateladze, Mikheil Bilanishvili, Felix Varlamishvili, Petre Otskheli, Irakli Gamrekeli, Sergo Kobuladze, Ucha Japaridze and Korneli Sanadze. ‘Georgian Painting of the Early 20th Century’ can be regarded as a continuation of the exhibition ‘Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts Collection’. Davit Lortkipanidze, Director General of the Georgian National Museum, opened the event: “First of all, let me extend my thanks to all employees who have made this exhibition happen. I hope it will be enjoyed by as many visitors as possible. I believe that very soon, after its rehabilitation, the Museum of Fine Arts will be one of the most [distinguished] and contemporary places [in Tbilisi].” “The exhibition comprises such high class paintings that any country would be proud of,” Givi Toidze, a distinguished painter from the elderly generation of the Georgian art school, told GEORGIA TODAY. “These are our great painters who have left their works as a rich heritage behind them. This is opulent material on which our future generation must be raised. This



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is a brilliant exhibition. There are a lot painters of genius represented. I cannot highlight any particular one, as each was a genius. I will simply mention that Sergo Kobuladze was my lecturer. It means a lot for me personally”. “Some years ago, the Georgian National Gallery hosted a similar but larger scale exhibition on its rehabilitation day,” Nino Khundadze, curator of the exhibition, told us. “However, today, this exhibition is connected with the rehabilitation process of the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts. We aim to highlight the importance of its reha-

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bilitation by showcasing its masterpieces”. The Museum of Fine Arts is open from 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Sunday. It is closed on Mondays and public holidays. Last admission is at 17.30. By visiting once, art lovers will be able to see the masterpieces of Georgian painting of the early 20th century (until May 14), as well as the masterpieces of world artists in another hall (until August 30). WHERE: 1 Lado Gudiashvili Str. WHEN: Until May 14 For more info, go to: www.museum.ge


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APRIL 14 - 17, 2017

Georgia to Host World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 BY THEA MORRISON


he World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 will be held in Tbilisi and Kutaisi from May 31 to June 18. The Top 12 Under 20 teams, including Junior Lelos, will take part in the annual competition, which is considered to be the largest tournament in men 15th tournaments after Rugby World Cup. This year’s championship participants are: England, Ireland, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand Australia, Wales, Scotland, France, Georgia, Italy, and Samoa (replacing Japan after their relegation in 2016.) The competition consists of 5 match days. The Group Stage (May 31, June 4 and June 8) will be held in two cities Tbilisi (Avchala Stadium) and Kutaisi (Aia Arena); Playoffs and Finals (June 14 and June 18) will be held in Tbilisi at the Avchala and Mikheil Meskhi Stadiums. Junior Lelos participated for the first time in the World Rugby U20 Championship last year in Manchester, after winning the third tier competition, the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2015, in Lisbon. The Georgian debut was significant for Junior Lelos, as by winning against Italy in the Play Offs, they claimed tenth position. Since 2008, over 500 graduates of the

U20 Championship have already played test rugby. The Georgian U20 graduates from last years’ competition, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Beka Gorgadze, Otar Giorgadze, Gela Aprasidze, Lasha Tabidze, Irakli Svanidze, Tornike Mataradze and Giorgi Tsutskiridze, have already shared their portion of fame and glory in test Rugby playing for The Lelos. Lobzhanidze’s debut for the Senior Georgia team was back at the RWC 2015, when at the age of 18 he became The Youngest Ever Player to Appear in the Rugby World Cup. The World Rugby U20 Championship has been held since 2008. Initially, 16 teams participated but in 2010 the number of teams went down to 12. Since the reorganization, Georgia has become the first second tier rugby union to be given the privilege of hosting the tournament. The fact that Georgia is hosting such an important event is considered a sign of recognition of Georgia’s progress and is also understood as a huge responsibility for the country. Traditionally, before the championship begins, the U20 trophy starts its journey through the host country. This year, it will be taken to several notable destinations in Georgia, which will give the country an opportunity to introduce its culture to the world and to show off its potential for tourism. The U20 championship will be attended by a number of rugby stars and many fans from all around the world. This year’s notable guest list includes:

World Rugby Chairman, former RFU President and former England and British and Irish Lions player, Bill Beaumont, and the legendary former captain of Pumas and Vice-Chairman of World Rugby, Agustín Pichot. The Georgian National Rugby Union is holding the U20 championship in partnership with TBC Bank. The World Rugby U20 Championship

press-conference was held at TBC gallery on April 12. President of the Rugby Union in Georgia, Gocha Svanidze, said that state agencies, as well as the private sector are involved in organizing the championship. “I hope we will succeed and offer a good show to rugby fans,” he said. General Director of TBC Bank, Vakh-

tang Butskhrikidze, said that May 31-June 18 will be special days not only for rugby fans but for the whole country. “TBC bank is the official partner of the Rugby U20 Championship and we will do our best to ensure that our country is presented properly,” he said. Tickets for the matches, including the Play Offs and Finals, are available at www.ticket.ge/U20.

Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #937  

April 14 - 17, 2017

Issue #937  

April 14 - 17, 2017