Issue no: 1125
• FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... Marneuli Mayor Resigns, Facing Criminal Charges NEWS PAGE 3
The Lucifer Effect: How to Turn Georgian Judges Good POLITICS PAGE 4
Is it Worth Keeping Abkhazia Switched On? The Enguri Dilemma
FOCUS ON THE BRUSSELS VISIT
Check out the latest Georgia-NATO news
POLITICS PAGE 5
Tbilisi Hosted 3rd Annual B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop
Energy Efficiency: The Sleeping Illusions Museum to Open in Tbilisi Giant of Climate Mitigation Prima Ballerina Nino BUSINESS PAGE 6
SOCIETY PAGE 8
BY AMY JONES
Image source - EU4Energy
ith climate change a huge concern for the future, discussions often revolve around the reduction of gas emissions rather than how societies can save energy. However, energy efficiency is a method that not only tackles environmental issues by minimizing energy consumption, it also brings about positive changes in health, education and the economy. From 11 - 13 February, EU4Energy and the International Energy Agency (IEA) held a EU4Energy policy forum, focusing on energy efficiency in buildings. Bringing together experts and policymakers from around the world, attendees were able to expand their knowledge and draw on experiences from other countries in the region. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with speakers Armin Mayer and Brian Dean from IEA to discuss energy efficiency in Georgia and the world. Continued on page 7
Ananiashvili on the State Ballet’s New Program & Kiev Tour
CULTURE PAGE 11
FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
NATO & Partner Defense Ministers Gather in Brussels BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
efense Minister of Georgia, Levan Izoria, took part in a two-day series of meetings with defense ministers from NATO allies and partners in Brussels, February 13-14. NATO declared that the talks centered on “pressing security challenges, including Russia’s violation of the IntermediateRange Nuclear Forces Treaty. Ministers will discuss efforts to strengthen the Alliance’s deterrence and defense, and review NATO missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq and the maritime area. Burden-sharing and NATO-EU cooperation will also be high on the agenda.” On Wednesday, Izoria met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller. The main topics during the meeting included, according to the Ministry of Defense’s Twitter account, Georgia’s unwavering aspiration to NATO membership, increasing public support for NATO in Georgia, and the upcoming NATO-Georgia exercises in March. This year will be the first NATO-Georgia exercise where Georgia leads the planning and execution process. Secretary General Stoltenberg will visit Georgia during the exercises. While in Brussels, Izoria also met with US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison. Izoria called the meeting “very interesting and meaningful,” and noted
Image source: Ministry of Defense of Georgia
that they discussed a series of bilateral issues, including “perspectives of Georgian membership in NATO and NATO’s Open Door Policy that was recently implemented in relation to North Macedonia and previously Montenegro,” as well as defense plans for 2019, Georgia’s Defense Readiness Program (GDRP), fair distribution of budget and resources, multinational exercises, and the “Total Defense” concept. After meeting with Hutchinson, Izoria
held brief meetings with the defense ministers of Bulgaria and Romania, thanking the Bulgarian Embassy in Tbilisi for being an “effective contact point” between Georgia and NATO and thanking Romania for its faithful support of Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Earlier in the day, Izoria and his staff sat down with the Lithuanian delegation for bilateral consultations. “Lithuania expressed continuous support to Geor-
gia in areas of military training and education, stratcom, cyber security, and implementation of the Substantial NATOGeorgia Package,” said the Georgian Ministry of Defense. The day before the ministers descended on Brussels, retired US Army Lieutenant General Frederick Benjamin Hodges III was interviewed by Voice of America. Hodges, who served as commanding general of US Army Europe (USAREUR),
from 2014 – 2017, recommended that NATO invite Georgia to the Alliance during the next summit. “Georgia should be an Alliance member because it can improve the situation in terms of security. In addition, Georgia has done everything that it was required to do,” he said. He also emphasized the positive reputation of Georgian soldiers among the Allies – “Everyone wants to fight [alongside] Georgians because they are so good. So, they have nothing to prove. Now, it's the turn of the Alliance to take the next step and invite Georgia to be a NATO member.” In other news coming out of the NATO meetings in Brussels this week, it was announced that the Embassy of Poland in Tbilisi will replace Bulgaria as the official contact point embassy between NATO and Georgia for the next two-year term. Poland’s Ambassador to Georgia, Mariusz Maszkiewicz, noted that “Poland has always been a faithful friend of Georgia,” and expressed his hope that the role would allow Poland to help facilitate Georgia’s continued process of NATO integration, while strengthening the relationship between the two countries. The contact point embassy model was developed in the early 1990s, “to support the Alliance’s partnership and public diplomacy activities” in partner countries, says NATO. The functions of the contact point embassy include serving a public diplomacy role and providing support, as needed, in implementing Alliance activities with partners.
Discover as You Ride: Where.ge to Publish Georgian Bus Onboard Magazine BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
he CEO of the Georgian Bus Company, Shalva Khutsishvili, and George Sharashidze the Publisher of Where.ge, an English language guidebook, have signed an agreement according to which the latter has become the official publisher of the Georgian Bus onboard magazine. The magazine will be published quarterly and will give passengers the most important and up-to-date information about Georgia.
Georgian Bus is one of the leading transport companies in the country, ensuring the travel of 95% of international and local passengers from Kutaisi International Airport to Tbilisi, Batumi, Gudauri and Svaneti. In addition, Georgian Bus is the exclusive transport partner of WizzAir, with 73% of international tourist flow coming from Europe. Direct flights to new destinations are scheduled to be launched this summer, and Georgian Bus is looking forward to welcoming and serving the resulting increased number of passengers. Currently, the company caters for approximately 15,000 passengers per month. The given number is expected
George Sharashidze, the Publisher of Where.ge and Shalva Khutsishvili, CEO of the Georgian Bus
to increase to 25,000 in the high season this year. Khutsishvili announced that clientele of Georgian Bus will be served with brand new buses, launched two weeks ago. He accentuated the significance of the memorandum with Where.ge for
making the trips around the country maximally comfortable, informative and interesting for passengers. “This is a big achievement and responsibility, giving us the chance to pass on information, based on Where.ge material, to a wider audience,” Sharashidze
told us. “Our agreement with Georgian Bus contributes to the development of Georgia’s tourism industry, as only accurate information regarding the country’s multiple sightseeing opportunities is given to visitors through our content”.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
Marneuli Mayor Resigns, Facing Criminal Charges BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
arneuli Mayor Temur Abazov was arrested in June 2018 on charges of abuse and inhumane treatment towards one of his constituents – Elchim Alakhverdiev. Three other men have also been charged with abuse: United National Movement MP Azer Suleymanov, a Georgian Dream member of the Marneuli City Assembly, Ramin Alakhverdiev (no relation to the victim), and a relative of Abazov’s identified by the initials E.G. In a press conference on the day of his arrest, a representative of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office explained the circumstances of the charges levied against Abazov. Elchim Alakhverdiev, a resident of Marneuli, attended the protests in Tbilisi on June 10. During the rally, he broadcast a video live on Facebook where he expressed his dislike of Mayor Abazov and insulted his wife. Later that evening, he received a phone call from Askerov asking to meet at the United National Movement office. When E. Alakhverdiev arrived, Suleymanov, R. Alakhverdiev, E.G., and several other unidentified persons were waiting. Suley-
manov was angry about E. Alakhverdiev’s comments at the rally, and accused him of insulting Abazov’s wife at the instruction of someone else, whose name he demanded. “After that, Suleymanov, Ramin Alakhverdiev and E.G. physically abused him,” the Prosecutor’s Office reported. Badly beaten, E. Alakhverdiev was then taken to a local restaurant by Jeikhun Choidarov, another member of the Marneuli City Assembly, where Abazov was waiting. “As soon as they arrived, Abazov spat at Alakhverdiev, forced him to turn on Facebook live and verbally insult his own wife. Then Abazov forced the man to urinate in a glass and wash his face with it,” according to the Prosecutor’s Office. Abazov was held in a local jail from his arrest on June 13, 2018, until December 2018, when he was released on a 10,000 GEL ($3,752) bail at the approval of the Rustavi Regional Court. Two months after his release, on Wednesday, Abazov addressed the Marneuli City Assembly with his resignation from his post as mayor. “I consider that a person acting as a defendant [in a legal case] should not perform the duties of a civil servant before the final verdict is delivered in the criminal case. This is the only reason I am resigning. I will continue the legal dispute to prove
Image source: Reginfo
my innocence,” said Abazov. The former mayor maintains that the entire incident “was a well-organized provocation and there is no evidence or facts about my involvement.” Abazov was suspended from office pending the trial, replaced ad interim by Deputy Mayor Zaur Tabatadze. Accomplice Azer Suleymanov was also charged with physical abuse, but as a
member of Parliament, he is protected by immunity and was not detained. The Prosecutor’s Office brushed off the charges against him, saying it was not serious and his role as an MP would not be affected. Chairman of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze, however, sent a letter to acting Chief Prosecutor Mamuka Vasadze encouraging him to fully investigate the charges regardless of party
affiliation or political position. “It is necessary to punish each participant in the incident," said Kobakhidze. Abazov is also a member of the ruling Georgian Dream party. Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, Georgian Dream Secretary General, affirmed at the time of his arrest that everyone must be held accountable for their actions, regardless of which party they represent.
Scholarships Given to Bright Pupils at Okrokhana School
BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
krokhana, a small village on the outskirts of Tbilisi, though very close to the capital city, represents quite a leap between the urban and the rural, with residents living much as they do in a typical Georgian village- which includes the regular appearance of cows and chickens walking the lanes and many houses in a dilapidated condition. The pupils of the local school (Public School #28) face a number of challenges with regards the condition of their building, despite having a team of motivated and oft-trained teachers engaged in the daily teaching process, doing their best with what they have. With the Ministry of Education budget stretched to capacity and beyond, these days it often comes down to parents, generous donor individuals or organizations to make a real difference to schools and the lives of pupils in Georgia. Okrokhana school is lucky enough to count itself the beneficiary of one such generous initiative. David Bejuashvili, founder of the nonprofit organization ‘New Life’, established in 2014, has launched a scholarship for three Georgian schools, offering 100 GEL per academic month to the three most successful students of each school. The Okrokhana School counts itself among
the lucky chosen few. On February 12, Bejuashvili met this year’s winning pupils to personally congratulate them on their success. GEORGIA TODAY attended the ceremony and spoke to him and to the Principal of the school, Giuli Kharkheli. “Even though we have a wonderful team of well-qualified and experienced teachers, who do their utmost to ensure our pupils receive a high quality of education, the location and general social conditions of the community of Okrokhana raise a number of issues,” Kharkheli told us. “There is the social stereotype that if a school is not located in the city center, it will be unable to provide the right education. There are only 135 pupils at our school this year, and unfortunately the living conditions of the majority of them are far from satisfactory”. Kharkheli emphasized the importance of the wonderful initiative of scholarships to motivate children and encourage them to dedicate themselves to their studies. “There is lack of such projects in Georgia,” she said. “That’s why when the opportunity was offered me to do it at our school, I could barely believe it was real. It represents an incredible opportunity for our students”. Further good fortune came recently when members of the Tbilisi and ex-pat community, headed by GEORGIA TODAY’s Katie Ruth Davies, donated
books and equipment to set up a small library in the school, something which before that moment the local children had only dreamed of. “We are extremely grateful to everyone who donated to our library, and to Mr Bejuashvili for choosing to help our school pupils,” she said, adding that along with motivation, the New Life scholarship is an incredibly important financial source allowing access to a number of extra-curricular activities, such as dance or singing classes, for those children whose families are otherwise unable to afford them.
The principal of the school stated that the process of choosing the beneficiaries was totally transparent and unbiased and that the scholarship will be given to different students each academic year. At the meeting with the students, David Bejuashvili congratulated the recipients of the financial aid and awarded them with certificates and bouquets. As to why he had chosen the Okrokhana school to feature among his beneficiaries, Bejuashvili said that he had recently moved to Okrokhana with his family and wanted to do something to help the local community.
He also announced two further initiatives in the pipeline, seeing financial support being given to children from the most socially vulnerable families and providing pupils with the equipment needed for their own dedicated “study corners”. At the end of the meeting, Bejuashvili asked the pupils to pass on that feeling of gratitude got when receiving a reward. “It is equally important to be thankful for a gift and to value the effort of others made to support you. Such thinking makes us kinder people and encourages us to help others in turn.”
FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
The Lucifer Effect: How to Turn Georgian Judges Good BY ARCHIL SIKHARULIDZE AND TEIMURAZ SIKHARULIDZE
eorgia has a plethora of issues needing attention and reform, but there is probably no topic as significant and crucial as the judiciary. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Georgian governments have been trying hard to build a comprehensive, sophisticated, independent and, most importantly, publicly trusted judicial system. Unfortunately, these attempts have been unsuccessful, largely due to the unwillingness of the ruling political powers to give up such a strong and influential mechanism, a tool still widely used by ruling regimes in nondemocratic states to oppress and punish counterparts. The current rulers, Georgian Dream, are today pushing for another grand reform that, in theory, should finally put into the judiciary some widely accepted, recognized and embedded democratic standards such as the check-and-balances model. This process is chock-full of controversy due to a number of highly questionable decisions that have so far been made, among them the appointment of judges who are blamed for unlawful past judgements in extremely sensitive and scandalous criminal cases. The majority of local and foreign experts and NGO/ INGOs expressed their astonishment at the appointments and are calling on the government to show the political will to truly reform the system. In the wake of such turbulence, Irakli Kobakhidze, Chairman of Parliament, poured fuel on the fire during a TV appearance on February 5 where he commented on the appointments, stating that those judges who had misdemeanors in the past had in fact been “made good” as a result of systemic and environmental changes. These remarks were considered by some as unacceptable and unethical. But if we put political and ideological rivalry as well as populism aside, it is obvious that Kobakhidze’s statements perfectly fit into the social psychology paradigm and reflect a working policy that, at the end of the day, must be pursued with minor changes.
THE LUCIFER EFFECT: HOW GOOD PEOPLE TURN EVIL Social Psychology is a field that studies the influence of social processes and environment on people’s behavior. It basically argues that individual behavior is not determined solely by a human being’s personal character, ethics, values and attitudes; obviously, it is highly sensitive to external impact and/or pressure
that independent variables such as environment or a stressful situation may have. Human beings are not, by default, “bad” or “good”, meaning that their behavior is not pre-determined by nature but rather conditioned by a set of internal and external characteristics that may force “good” people to turn “bad” and “bad” people to turn “good”. One the most prominent representatives of the Social Psychology school is Stanford University Professor, Philip Zimbardo, who argued these ideas in his prominent work The Lucifer Effect (TLE), How Good People Turn Evil. Zimbardo takes a look at the so-called Stanford Experiment and misbehavior of American soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He is confident in his judgements that the cases prove the significant role of the system and environment on the behavior of individuals who had previously never had records of violence and misconduct but who were keen to engage in such actions once affected and pushed by external factors. Irakli Kobakhidze’s comments may sound cynical and irrelevant, but actually the creation of a healthy, free, independent and transparent environment/ system is crucial for the establishment
of publicly trusted institutions that will contribute to a judicial system that supports “good” people and keeps away and/ or sets a working framework for the “bad”. Kobakhidze raised the important issue of systemic change but did so in a non-diplomatic manner and without explanation.
APPLYING THE FRAMEWORK Before arguing the steps the government needs to take to achieve a successful reform, we should speak about at least two important issues that are frequently overlooked.
READINESS TO OBEY While debating the judicial system reform, analysts often undermine the importance of the Georgian mentality and political culture. Representatives of Georgian society, as well as elites, frequently talk about building a publicly trusted institution, but, factually, neither side is really ready to contribute to the building. This reality is determined by the widelyshared perception that a fair and free court is a court that makes “respective” judgements which are acceptable for everyone. But this is practically impossible, as the “loser” always opposes and questions the
judgement made and, thus, questions the judiciary. Furthermore, representatives of Georgian society have no general culture of obeying court decisions unless they are victorious. As such, at the end of the day, the demand for an impartial, fair and free trial is never-ending. Another obstacle is the local political culture that, according to the best traditions of Georgian mentality, is tolerant only towards those institutions which are politically and ideologically acceptable and beneficial. Mikhail Saakashvili’s regime had no issues with the corrupt judicial system of the time until it was subordinated to the political elite. Yet, representatives of the former ruling movement are dissatisfied with this less (but still) corrupt institution under Georgian Dream governance. The unwillingness of local political powers to give up the judiciary as a political mechanism prevents the establishment of a truly independent institution. Thus, it makes no sense to debate judicial system reform unless we bring significant changes into the Georgian mentality and local political culture.
MUST DOS We should express and keep in mind
three basic assumptions. The first: there is no way we can build a judiciary that is fully trusted by all, meaning that we will never have a system that is acceptable for everyone; hence, we need to learn to obey judgements unless they are clearly partial. Second, we need to make it clear to local political powers that the judiciary is not a subordinatedto-the-ruling-elite political mechanism or weapon. Finally, we cannot afford to fire every judge who had a past misconduct; Georgian society does not have the human resources required to repeat Saakashvili’s period formula of “fire everyone and hire new staff”. As such, we must work with those people who are in the system today. Based on these three pillars, the government should push for systemic and environmental change, meaning that “good” people are not pushed to do bad and “bad” people are turned “good” or are kept out of the system. Those judges who had a strong background of misconduct must be severely punished and expelled from the judiciary, while others are given chance to prove their professionalism and devotion to the new democratic standards. The idea of life-long judges must be temporarily abandoned. The existing political reality and human resources are not enough to pursue this approach. Rather, we need a long-standing project, perhaps “judge of the future”, which will prepare a new generation of public servants who will be appointed on a life-long basis later on. These decisions ensure that the most prominent “guilty judges” are punished, others are given a second chance, relatives of victims get at least minimum justice and Georgian society has time to establish a functional judiciary with trusted lifelong judges. By and large, the judiciary reform is probably one of the most relevant and sensitive topics today. Kobakhidze’s arguments are not by default false; moreover, his views totally fit into the Social Psychology paradigm which argues for a healthy system and environment to prevent “good” people turning “bad”: the “bad” may turn “good” if they are put into such conditions. Georgian society needs not only to reform the judiciary but also to reform its mentality and political culture. Furthermore, it needs to recognize that we cannot simply fire everyone who does not satisfy the high moral and ethical standards- Georgia lacks the human resources for that. That said, it is wise to punish those who deserve it (within reasonable and existing limits) while continuing to cooperate with others. The idea of life-long judges must be postponed in order to prepare a new generation of public servants to be appointed according to the approach later on.
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GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
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Is it Worth Keeping Abkhazia Switched On? The Enguri Dilemma OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
n just a few weeks, the leading energy colossus of the country, Enguri Dam, will grind to a halt. To be more precise, it will be switched off for the huge rehabilitation works underway. Preliminary information suggests that it will take 3.5 months as the 1.5 km tunnel connecting the turbines (which are on occupied territory) with the dam will undergo “capital repair”. The project’s estimated budget is 27 million GEL and EUR 35 million, money allocated to Official Tbilisi by donor countries. The de-facto leaders of the occupied territory were informed about the planned rehabilitation in 2018. For 3.5 months, they will be unable to receive free electricity and will have to look for alternative sources. A month ago, in mid-January, the separatists came forward with an initiative to hold a closed meeting with officials from Tbilisi whereby they asked for guarantees, demanding that electricity be supplied. The discussions revolved around importing the energy from Russia and Tbilisi footing the bill. It is unknown if we will need to import that electricity from Russia, but the separatists did get a guarantee that Anklav wouldn’t be left in the dark. We are also unaware of the costs that Georgia will need to cover in order to supply the occupied territory with energy for 3.5 months, but considering the appetite of the separatists, we can image it would equal a few million. Today, residents of the occupied territories are paying 1 Tetri (40 Russian Kopecks) per 1 kWh, while legal entities pay 3.5 Tetri (85 Kopecks). In the rest of Georgia, the cost of 1 kWh is between 14.5 and 23 Tetri. And since nobody in occupied Abkhazia has paid for electricity for the last 25 years, it shouldn’t be difficult to calculate the colossal expenses that the Georgian annual budget suffers in keeping the occupied territories supplied. Another problem for Georgia is that the use of electricity on those territories is increasing. Today, about 180 thousand people reside in occupied Abkhazia, and the usage of energy per capita equals to that of Belgium and Japan. Recent statistics suggest that the annual usage has reached 2 billion kWh. Strange, isn’t it? How can Japan, being among the top three leading economies in the world, and occupied Abkhazia, with literally no economy at all, use the same amount of energy? It seems that the laws of mathematics don’t work in Anklav and we are dealing with a phenomenon. The electricity generated from Enguri Dam is lost without trace in Abkhazia, and if we take advantage of our knowledge of the laws of constancy and conservation of energy, we will understand that the only place the energy could be stored
The fact that providing the occupied territories with free energy can’t last much longer is already being openly discussed in Tbilisi is Russia. That same Russia from which we are planning to purchase the energy in spring, which means that we will be paying 10 times more for energy that was produced by Enguri Dam to keep the occupied territory lit. The fact that providing the occupied territories with free energy can’t last much longer is already being openly discussed in Tbilisi, but Abkhazia doesn’t have enough resources to pay for it and Abkhazian media says that the breakaway regimen isn’t planning to allocate the relevant expenses in their annual “budget.” “As it turns out, Georgia is negotiating with Russia whether or not the latter will supply us with the needed amount of electricity. And who knows at what expense. In light of this, our government does nothing other than talk about its partnership with Russia. What do we need the government for?” – wrote one Abkhazian on social media. Others wrote that Russian military bases are being supplied with energy from Abkhazia, and the voltage is so low that the electric appliances hardly work. For Official Tbilisi, Enguri Dam is a real dilemma. If we recall the events of last year, when the pipeline of one of the turbines broke and the entire occupied territory was saved from a catastrophe only miraculously, it is undeniable that in order to avoid it in future, this rehabilitation is much needed. However, wasting the budget of Georgia is no less of a catastrophe for us. If we continue supplying electricity for free, the Enguri Dam will stop bringing any economic benefits for Georgia, and there will come a day when we will need to examine if it is worth us investing millions of Lari to keep Enguri working. In this current situation, the lifecycle of the dam is getting shorter and shorter. In the end, the costs of its rehabilitation will exceed all limits and neither Georgia nor the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will consider it worth the investment.
FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
Tbilisi Hosted 3rd Annual B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop by Slovenian Tourism Board representative Anja Bezgovsek, followed by B2B meetings and, that evening, by a cocktail gala at Tiflis Veranda. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to some attendees to gauge the success of the event. “It was organized to the highest level,” said Grecotel Hotels & Resorts Director of Sales, Michalis Markakis. “The workshop helped me to meet new clientele and prolong and advance collaboration with already existing partners,” he told us, noting in particular the need to improve air transport between Georgia and Greece. “The air transportation sector needs to be advanced, as there are no direct flights from a number of cities in Greece. Direct flights are especially important for families with minors. We also plan to revise the prices of flights. As for the workshop, through it we have high expectations to attract more clients”. “This is my second time attending this
BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
ooms Hotel Tbilisi this year hosted the third edition of the prestigious professional luxury travel event B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop. As an established specialist travel industry event, the B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop brings together a variety of luxury hospitality and destination travel products in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and introduces them to new mar-
kets, where travel and specifically Luxury travel is emerging. The Workshop focused on luxury and up-market travel products including luxury hotels and resorts, destination management companies and travel destinations such as national and regional tourism boards and allowed local Georgian travel companies to have one-to-one meetings with prestigious international exhibitors. This year’s B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop brought prestigious new destinations to the Georgian market for the first time, including the tourism boards of
workshop,” said Ia Gedevanishvili, Director of Check-In Travel Agency. “It was, as ever, an extremely interesting and engaging event which contributes to the establishment of partnerships with important and useful companies, which then helps us to boost sales. Slovenia is one of the best but lesser developed destinations which we need to work on and to make large-scale investments in”, she said. B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop was organized by the British company TMI, a travel marketing and communication company which is part of Travel Consul alliance (www.travelconsul.com), working in partnership with Brandor Consulting, Georgia. GEORGIA TODAY and OK! magazine were official media partners of the event. A complete list of foreign participants and the event details can be found here: www.B2Btravelworkshop.com and here: Facebook page.
Catalonia and Tenerife, and saw the return of the national tourism boards of Spain and Slovenia. There were also some new hospitality participants including international hospitality brands such as the Intercontinental - Vienna Hotel from Austria, the historical Hotel Metropol, in Moscow. S7, Russia’s 2nd largest airline also took part in the event for the first time, as did Turkish Airlines. There was also a number of hotel and DMC representatives from Slovenia and Croatia. Slovenia and its potential were put into the spotlight in a presentation delivered
Our Recurrent Educational Vicissitudes OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE
ducation per se is a global problem, but here in Georgia, it has been one of the acutest issues since the erstwhile communist era. The Ministry of Education here is a very big deal, and it regularly uses its overwhelming power to introduce changes in the system, maintaining its everlasting authority in dictating to the nation what to learn and how. Meanwhile, the effect is zilch, and changes continue from generation to generation and from minister to minister. Discussions on the topic are ubiquitous, the internet bursting with comments and families lost in thought. I too am sailing that boat. The other day, I found a couple of minutes of rare leisure time and browsed the local TV channels, flicking through literally every available program making affordable attempts to elucidate the recent changes in the education system of Georgia, And what do you think I came across? Almost every show was a genuine madhouse, all the participants talking over each other, practically shouting, hysterical, not giving each other even the slightest chance to speak their minds. The reason for the current national exaltation is the abrogation of high-school graduation examinations, singlehandedly executed by the newly appointed Minister of Education of Georgia. But that’s not the reason for the resulting all-national delirium. The real problem
Image source: dailytimes.com.pk
is that the nation has no clue what’s better – to have the graduation examination in schools or not. Actually, the crux of the issue is that the so-called Skills Test, purely based on Western testing experience with a somewhat modified name, was made obligatory in Georgia as the high school graduation examination, opening the way to higher education. In a word, the change in question is mostly about making access to college education easier for our young men and women.
The State is using a lot of taxpayer’s money on the primary, middle and higher education of the generations, and it is natural that the State wants to know if that spending is justified. Therefore, checking the knowledge and skills of high school graduates seems to be indispensable – you spend money, you want to know what you get for that money. Isn’t this natural? On the other hand, a scary number of high-school students fail the obligatory Skills Test, even those
who have gone through special drills in the hands of expensive private tutors. Listening to public comments, one can hear umpteen different opinions. Some say the Skills Test is optimal and necessary because it reveals the preparedness of a youth for contemporary norms of civilized life; others would try to prove that it is the most corrupt and unfair test that has ever been invented because kids are tested in matters that are not taught in school; still others would connect the
abrogation of the Skills Test with the possibility of reinstating corrupt examinations; and some would nihilistically emphasize that no good education is possible without enough money to actually run the schools. Controversy is hot, characteristic for a young and developing democracy like ours, but controversy alone will not save the day. Facts push us to believe that education in Georgia is suffering a sudden and ignominious failure, and faced with this seemingly insurmountable debacle, the nation has to find a way out without delay. The cancellation of the earlier experimental Skills Test might be one endeavor to cope with the difficulty of the situation. Well, it might work, and it might not, but trying is always good. At least it never hurts. The entire world is living in an educational experiment and only a few nations have had some success in renovating the process and optimizing the results. What do we need our education for after all? Probably, to make a better living, and if this is true, it is worth continuing to experiment with it. It feels good that we are not alone in our confrontation with modern enlightenment demands and exigencies. All the nations of the world are dragging their educational feet in the same boots. What might help here, though, is to know that pumping our kids with the maximum of useful information in the minimum of time and then turning the yielded product into general and private wellbeing so that translation of knowledge into money is recognized as the bottom-line.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
Statistics Show Crime on the Rise in Georgia BY AMY JONES
tatistics published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs have shown an increase in crime in Georgia The figures released on 6 February show that the number of murders remained unchanged in 2018 compared to 2017. However, there has been an increase in crimes involving bodily harm (14.8%), human rights and freedom violations (23.2%) and crimes against property (8.1%). In particular, reported cases of domestic violence have increased by 122%. The Ministry of Internal Affairs believes this to be a result of increased public awareness and confidence in the police. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has pledged to publish crime statistics monthly, representing improved crime
Photo source: AJC.com
monitoring and government transparency. Until this year, they had not published crime statistics since 2016. “The numbers not only determine the real crime state of the country,” reads a statement published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, “it is important to take the content of registered crime, the practice of crime accounting, police performance indicators and other factors into
consideration.” However, some believe that the statistics reveal a crime hike in Georgia. European Georgia, an opposition party, released a statement condemning the ruling party Georgian Dream: “European Georgia believes that these alarming figures show one thing: the Georgian Dream government has let things slide.”
Luxury French Bakery & SweetMaker ‘Ladurée’ Launched in Tbilisi BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
ne of the most luxurious and historical French bakeries, Ladurée, has entered the Georgian market and welcomed its first guests in February 2019 at 21a Abashidze Street in Tbilisi. The history of Ladurée began in 1862, when Louis Ernest Laduré e from southwest France opened a bakery in Paris at 16 Rue Royale. Today, it is famous for its incredible assortment of pastries and delicious macaroons. The brand is present in the largest
cities around the globe, including London, Milan and Tokyo. The Ladurée team aims to recreate the Parisian air in every branch of the bakery wherever it is in the world. And now, Georgian customers are also
being given an opportunity to taste a selection of unique seasonal classic flavors of macaroons and other sweets, and to spend a pleasant time in an authentic, super fascinating French atmosphere.
Energy Efficiency: The Sleeping Giant of Climate Mitigation Continued from page 1 Energy efficiency has the potential to save both energy and money in various areas. For example, on a government level. Many countries, including Georgia, heavily subsidize energy. Energy efficiency therefore offers an opportunity to lower subsidies without transferring the cost to consumers. “The government is heavily involved in the traditional energy sector,” says Mayer. “Energy efficiency is a smarter way for the government to be involved. There’s this notion that for energy efficiency to work, the government has to step in and offer incentives, which is true to a certain extent.” He continues. “However, governments are subsidizing fossil fuels as well.” Consumers should also be informed about the advantages of energy efficiency. It’s important that the market and consumer behavior changes to profit from the possibilities of energy efficiency and the money it can save in the long term. “Most countries are hovering just above the least available technologies because that’s what consumers see,” says Dean. “Consumers buy something that’s less efficient if they don’t have more information.” Tactics such as energy efficiency labels help to educate and change behavior. “If consumers can see they’re getting a product that can save them energy and therefore money, they’re more likely to buy it. That’s a real opportunity in Georgia.” Despite its advantages and potential savings, energy efficiency has often been neglected as an effective method to reduce energy consumption. “There’s a massive untapped potential that’s invisible to most people,” says Mayer. “It [energy efficiency] doesn’t get the credit it deserves.” For example, Tbilisi’s Mayor, Kakha Kaladze, last week reiterated his promise to replace khrushchovka Soviet-era apartment blocks in Tbilisi with little consideration of the energy that was spent to build the original blocks and that will be used to construct new apartments. If the khrushchovka are structurally sound, they are still salvageable and there are ways of making them more liveable in an efficient way. “With Soviet-era buildings, maybe there’s a psychological desire to change them, but there’s also an opportunity,” says Mayer. “Because
they’re all very similar, you can do a cost-effective makeover. You can make them look beautiful and be efficient in a clever way, you just have to use imagination. That’s an opportunity, I think.” The Adjara Group has demonstrated how Soviet buildings can be successfully transformed into liveable spaces. “We’ve stayed in interesting hotels in Tbilisi that have been completely renovated,” says Dean. “I’ve been in lots of buildings around the world that have been refreshed and made to be useful, beautiful and efficient.” One of the biggest challenges facing energy efficiency in Georgia and around the world is its enforcement. Georgia must not only implement new policies to ensure that energy efficiency is incorporated into building regulations from the very beginning, but also enforce these regulations. “There needs to be an occupancy permit,” says Dean, “if you don’t have an occupancy permit in the construction process, then it’s hard to do any enforcement at all.” Energy efficiency results do not happen overnight. “We show charts that go back to the 60s and 70s because that’s how long it sometimes takes to show results,” says Mayer. However, with better education, policy, and enforcement, energy efficiency offers Georgia a chance to simultaneously improve living standards and help the environment. The EU4Energy and IEA are working together to educate policymakers on its huge potential. “We believe that policymakers in Georgia have the tools and there’s an opportunity to make it happen here,” concludes Mayer. The EU4Energy Initiative covers all EU support to improve energy supply, security and connectivity, as well as to promote energy efficiency and the use of renewables in the Eastern Partner countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. It does this by financing projects and programmes that help to reform energy markets and to reduce national energy dependence and consumption. Over the longer term, this makes energy supply more reliable, transparent and affordable, thus reducing energy poverty and energy bills for both citizens and the private sector. Find out more: www. eu4energy.eu
FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
Illusions Museum to Open in Tbilisi BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI
his is a space where you can laugh, scream, take pictures and do many other things that are usually forbidden in museums. In the historical and tourist part of Tbilisi, the globally renowned Illusions Museum is to open a branch at 10 Bethlehem Street on March 9. It is set to offer many interesting visual and intellectual experiences, combining perspectives, optical and other types of illusion, and a “play room” where visitors can try out some didactic games. The first Illusions Museum opened in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, in 2015. This was soon followed by openings in the Zadar Museum, Ljubljana, Vienna, Muscat, Belgrade, Kuala Lumpur, New York, Toronto, Berlin, Athens, Dubai, Hamburg, Kansas, and now Tbilisi makes it 23. Head along with your kids or friends and learn about human vision, perception and science through the static and interactive installations. The concept of the Illusion Museum is radically different from the classical understanding of the word "museum" and it offers a unique new space that is designed for entertaining cognition. The Illusion Museum’s illusion collection aims to simultaneously encourage an observer, surprise and make them think about their own feelings. The opening of one in Georgia was thanks to Sarke Group. “Our original idea in 2016 was to set up a ‘Holozeum’, or hologram museum, with co-funding from Startup Georgia,” said Natalie Ananiashvili, Head of Marketing of Sarke Group. “That project
was a miniature of what it is today. We chose a museum building and saw that the potential was much greater than just a Holozeum, and so the idea for the Illusion Museum came about.” She notes that visitors can find out about human vision, perception and science through attractive and entertaining installations. “The museum also has a gaming room and a souvenir shop where visitors of all ages can play, compete, learn something new and buy original gifts such as fun wooden didactic toys and puzzles that develop and stimulate creativity. “The museum collection consists of more than 70 exhibits based on knowledge of science, mathematics, biology and psychology. You can find information and explanations about installations next to the exhibits. The narrative language will be Georgian, English and Russian. The technical support for the museum in Tbilisi comes from our
Croatian counterparts. The exhibits have already arrived from different cities and are being installed ahead of the March 9th opening,” Ananiashvili says. The museum is intended for all generations and will have the facilities to host birthday parties for 5-15-year-olds, with a program including a tour of the museum, didactic games and puzzles. Corporate events, meetings and presentations will also be possible. “The Tbilisi Illusions Museum is part of a global project and does not differ from one country to another,” Ananiashvili notes. “The only difference is in the format size. In relatively small museums, there is naturally not enough space to exhibit every room or attraction that other bigger museums have [in the other 22 countries]. Yet the Tbilisi museum format is more then 400 m2 and so will offer visitors the complete collection of Illusion Museum exhibits.”
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
From the Miry Clay: Etseri, Svaneti
BLOG BY TONY HANMER
his is a first. Among our current group of guests for two weeks, seven foreigners based in Tbilisi, are a couple from Nizhniy Novgorod (formerly Gorky), Russia, who have uprooted themselves in the process of meeting some of their Georgian cousins, and resettled in Mtskheta. She is a potter, with dreams of helping to revive this ancient industry and art in the country’s old capital. And they have brought with them an electric potter’s wheel, proper clay and all the necessary tools! Local children are getting their hands into it with great gusto, hand-building all manner of exotic things and creatures every day after school, and a few of the older ones are also trying their hand at the wheel. This takes me, too, back to my first ever time at this art. I joined the local Potters’ Guild of my town in Canada, Stony Plain, Alberta, in 1986. A requirement was that every new member take at least one wheel course, and also buy their clay
She is a potter, with dreams of helping to revive this ancient industry and art in the country’s old capital
and glazes through the guild, which offered facilities and firing in their big gas-fired kilns. I became an avid potter, as well as a sculptor and founding member of the Sculptors’ Association of Alberta. I must have had a stroke of beginner’s luck, because after years of watching potters on TV or live, the very first time I sat at a wheel myself, a small stoneware vessel emerged which was good enough to keep. I have it to this day, here at home in Etseri. If anyone else has experienced the sheer magic of not only watching, but successfully centering and making something from a lump of the featureless mass, you know what I’m talking about. Then the work must be dried slowly enough to prevent cracks, until it reaches the state we call “bone dry”. At this point, however, it can still be broken with ease (being its most fragile), and even dissolved back into a pliable state and reused. Then comes the bisque or first, lowtemperature firing in the kiln, which drives out all the remaining chemical water from the composition of the clay and makes it forever impervious to dissolution in water. Glazes can then be applied, if you like; their colors may be nothing like what the next firing will show. This is usually the final firing, which takes the clay near (but not too near) to its point of vitrification, past which it would melt like glass. For earthenware, the second firing it still a comparatively low temperature; but both stoneware and the usually translucent porcelain need a much higher second firing, up to 1400 degrees C or 2552 F, to finish them. Now they can—and sometimes do—last many thousands of years, having achieved a composition similar to rock: brittle, but very hard indeed. I still need to see how the producers of the huge clay kvevrebi, the Georgian wine amphorae sometimes big enough to enter, actually make and then fire
The very first time I sat at a wheel myself, a small stoneware vessel emerged which was good enough to keep them. The center of this process seems to be Shrosha, near the Roki Pass separating eastern from western Georgia, with permanent displays of wares for sale from small cups all the way up to the full-size wine vessels with necks a foot or two across. As for Georgian art pottery and sculpture, this too has been around for a very long time and awaits discovery by the enthusiast or collector. Ah, so many possibilities, so little time. But I am thrilled that new friends of mine are both introducing local Georgians to these crafts and seeking to reestablish them in their original locations. Projects dear to my heart. P.S For videos of the children in action, please see the Hanmer Guest House FB page, details below. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti
FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER
TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 February 15, 16, 17 Premiere DON CARLO Giusepe Verdi Conductor: Zaza Azmaiparashvili Directed by Cesare Lievi Set and Costume Designer: Maurizio Balo Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-200 GEL February 21 Concert dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the premiere of ABESALOM AND ETERI Featuring: Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-150 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. February 15, 16 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 February 15 IGGI Story By Jemal Karchkhadze Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Music: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL February 16 INTRO Sandro Nikoladze's Musical Allegry Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL February 17 PARADISO Directed by Irakli Khoshtaria
Author: Ketevan Chachanidze Choreographer: Lasha Robakidze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER 37 Rustaveli Ave. February 15, 16 LUARSABI Based on Ilia Chavchavadze’s story “Man is a man?!” Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL Directed by Robert Rodriguez Cast: Mahershala Ali, Rosa Salazar, Eiza González Genre: Action, Adventure, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 16:45, 20:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL CAVEA GALLERY 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL February 15-21
AMIRANI CINEMA 36 Kostava St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL February 15-21 VAN GOGH Directed by Julian Schnabel Cast: Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac Genre: Biography, Dramaiography, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 17:15, 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL THE FAVORITE Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 15 GEL GREEN BOOK Directed by Peter Farrelly Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 15 GEL BEN IS BACK Directed by Peter Hedges Cast: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 15 GEL
BEN IS BACK (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 16-19 GEL ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 17:00, 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 14:15, 22:30 Ticket: 11-19 GEL GLASS Directed by M. Night Shyamalan Cast: Sarah Paulson, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 16-19 GEL THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART Directed by Mike Mitchell, Trisha Gum Cast: Jason Momoa, Alison Brie, Chris Pratt Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure Language: English Start time: 12:00, 17:30 Ticket: 10-19 GEL ESCAPE ROOM Directed by Adam Robitel Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 17:00, 22:15 Ticket: 13-19 GEL
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Directed by Bryan Singer Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers Genre: Biography, Drama, Music Language: English Start time: 14:30 Ticket: 11-15 GEL MUSEUM
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS Until February 28 In the framework of the celebrations of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Georgia the Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge December 11 – March 1 Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS A showcase of artworks by Dimitri Shevardnadze, Petre Otskheli, Henryk Hryniewski, Richard Sommer, Kiril Zdanevich, Vasily Shukhaev, Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Ucha Japharidze, Aleksandre BajbeukMelikov, Korneli Sanadze and more. The exposition also showcases documentary footage depicting the 1920-30s repressions.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Untill October 5 EXHIBITION MASTERS OF GEORGIAN ART Paintings of Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili and Elene Akhvlediani together with Lado Gudiashvili's and David Kakabadze, giving a comprehensive picture of the diversity and aesthetics of Georgian Art. Until February 24 FELIX VARLAMISHVILI (VARLA) SOLO EXHIBITION For the first time, enjoy more than 60 artworks by the author from the Georgian National Museum and private collections. KHIDI V. Bagrationi Bridge, Right Emb. Every Tuesday, from 15:00-20:00 Until February 20 Multidisciplinary exhibition project IN-BETWEEN CONDITIONS ‘In-between conditions’ displays 18 work contributions expressing cultural impulses affected by political or social forces. SOLO LOUNGE 70 I. Abashidze Str. Solo and Dedicace Gallery present: EXHIBITION HIM & HER IART GALLERY 13 Uznadze Str. February 14-26 OLEG TIMCHENKO’S EXHIBITION POSTCARD MUSIC
DJ. KAKHIDZE CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 123a Agmashenebli Ave. February 16 THE CONCERT OF ORGAN MUSIC ALEXANDER VASADZE Program: Johan Sebastian Bach, David German, Healy Willan and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Start time: 29:30 Ticket: 10-23 GEL CAFE MZIURI Mziuri Park February 17 SAKVIARO FOR CHILDREN Start time: From 12:00 Ticket: 13 GEL ELEKTROWERK 2 Monk Gabriel Salosi I Turn Str. February 15 MILLENIALS NIGHT: DECEPTION Line up: 23:00-00:30- Downwell 00:30-02:00- Obsidion 02:00-03:30- Sarasvat 03:30-05:00- Disorder 05:00-END- Yawohl Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 10-20 GEL BASSIANI 2 A. Tsereteli Ave. February 15 BASSIANI: JEFF MILLS, KANCHELI, KVANCHI HOROOM: MERCURRIO, IKA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 20-40 GEL
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 15 - 18, 2019
Prima Ballerina Nino Ananiashvili on the State Ballet’s New Program & Kiev Tour EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY LIKA CHIGLADZE
he Georgian State Ballet, led by Prima Ballerina Nino Ananiashvili, is to deliver a new program for the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater from 27 February to 30 June, promising distinguished productions as well as old favorites. The state ballet ensemble is currently touring Kiev, presenting a modern program to the Ukrainian audience. Ananiashvili, a world-famous Prima Ballerina who was named among the 12 Greatest Ballerinas of All Time by The Telegraph, is met with grand celebration and admiration in many countries. She was awarded Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun and has been directing the Georgian troupe since 2004. Before they headed off to Kiev, GEORGIA TODAY was lucky enough to get a peep inside the opera and attend one of the rehearsals. We were warmly welcomed by the Prima Ballerina who gave us an insight into the Georgian ballet and upcoming performances. “We have prepared a contemporary program for our Kiev tour that includes Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort, Sechs Tänze and Falling Angels, and Medhi, Walerski’s Petite Cérémonie. Although all members of the ensemble are classical ballet dancers, including such homegrown talents as Eka Surmava, Nutsa Chekurashvili, Nino Samadashvili, they perform it splendidly and are excited by the experiment. I’m glad our theater has permission to perform these productions, since not all troupes are allowed to dance them, and I’m doubly glad we
are invited to tour the world with our contemporary shows. “Kiev is a city with theatrical traditions that appreciates and loves art very much. Ukraine boasts many distinguished and gifted dancers, some of whom currently perform on various renowned stages worldwide. I remember dancing with bright Ukrainian star Denis Matvienko in Japan. Kiev always meets us with warmth and respect, and in response we try to show the audience new modern plays that are not included in their general program. This time we’re performing in the concert hall, which has a capacity of around 2000 people- twice as big as our opera! So this is big challenge and simultaneously an exciting experience for us. Such tours are important for our ballet company, since the dancers get to introduce themselves to the international audience and are charged with positive emotions and energy, something which is essential for a performer and serves as a great stimulus.” In the past, when making an agreement, producers required Nina to dance in order to sell more tickets, since the Georgian State Ballet was not so widely known. Now they have made it and Nina will not be performing with them in Ukraine. Their renown is such that their troupe is made up of numerous nationalities aside from Georgian. “Many dancers from different countries come to Georgia to be trained here, and eventually become members of our troupe,” Nino tells us. “We have dancers from Japan, the UK, Brazil, Greece, the USA and Korea. We have a lack of Georgian male dancers, and I would like to emphasize to young male dancing enthusiasts that this is very masculine profession that requires hard work and commitment. Ballet is a highly-appreciated
field and it has immense potential all over the world!”
TELL US ABOUT THE PROGRESS MADE BY THE GEORGIAN STATE BALLET. In the 1990s, Georgia experienced hard times, so no one had time for ballet, and it was somehow put to one side. Yet, there were people who despite all the obstacles stayed in the theater and worked passionately. These people are real heroes, since they worked enthusiastically when there was no electricity, no heating and no salary. Zurab Lomidze, who was Director of Tbilisi State Opera back then, saved our theater and did his best to keep it up and running. Even though I lived and worked abroad at the time, I would visit Tbilisi and tried to help and contribute to this process. When I became Artistic Director of the National Ballet Ensemble of Georgia, it was very difficult to start from scratch, since everything needed restoration; the conditions were not the same in the opera as we have now. The actors and actresses sometimes didn’t even have money to get to the theater from different districts and even towns. Yet despite all these difficulties, they kept coming out of love for their jobs. I’m happy that today’s youth has not had to experience such hardship. Still some problems remain the same; the issue with the Tbilisi Ballet Art State School is still unsolved. Although we have 300 students and there is high demand, we cannot bring children from the regions as we don’t have a dormitory for them to stay in. We don’t have conditions to bring up and train small children and give them a profession from the age of eight. This is the main thing that concerns me right now. As for the theater itself, I try to transmit the knowl-
Photo by Merab Nikolaishvili
edge and experience I have accumulated over the course of my career to the new generation. We try to maintain high quality, we are offered the chance to perform in many countries, and we plan to embark on bigger tours in future. We are working non-stop and we have many premieres in our agenda ahead.
TELL US WHAT’S IN STORE. We have a new program with varied productions, including Laurencia by Vakhtang Chabukiani, The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet. A lot of people living abroad told me they want to plan their trips to Georgia around our ballet shows, so we try to publish the agenda well ahead of time. And now theater and ballet enthusiasts can purchase season tickets to attend our performances and bring their kids as well.
ANYTHING TO ADD? I’d like to say a big thank you to the Friends of the Georgian Ballet. It was established 10 years ago and counts wives of foreign diplomats serving in Georgia and other foreign ballet-lovers.
From time to time, they attend our rehearsals and they assist us in many ways, be it festivals, competitions or scholarships for our students to study abroad. They are our great supporters. Our foreign audience is very activethey love and appreciate our performances. We, the whole team, work hard to exceed their expectations. Although currently we are doing well, I want our theater to have many more performances in the program to grab the growing interest and demand. Ballet and opera are fields of art that need no language, meaning anyone can enjoy them. So apart from sightseeing and sampling local cuisine, I invite our foreign guests to experience this part of our culture, like tourists go to La Scala or buy tickets in advance to get into the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. When all the tickets are sold, it’s a great joy and stimulus for the troupe and dancers. Each spectator who buys a ticket is considered our sponsor and supporter, helping us to preserve this field of art in Georgia. So we are extremely thankful to each of them.
English-Speaking Union Awards Sachkhere Teacher as Runner-Up in Global Excellence in Oracy 2016 New Year Honors List for services to UK-Georgian cultural and educational relations. With the support of ESU Georgia, Tsitsishvili launched the British Corner, an English Language Center. The ESU llaunched the very first International Teacher Award, which aimed to recognize global excellence in oracy (the development of speaking and listening skills) teaching. With dedication and hard work, a GeorgianteacherfromasmalltownofSachkhere, Maia Tkemaladze, nabbed the runner-up spot in this incredibly important contest. GEORGIA TODAY went to meet her.
BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
he English-Speaking Union (ESU), an international membership organization and educational charity founded in 1918, has been promoting international friendship and understanding through use of the English language for more than 100 years. Based in London, the ESU is a charity established by a Royal Charter, with Her Majesty the Queen as Patron. The former President of the ESU, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh (1957 2012) was succeeded by HRH Princess Anne. The organization has a network in 64 countries worldwide. Georgia joined the given list in 1998, and ESU Georgia was officially founded in 2000 by Marina Tsitsishvili, who was awarded an honorary MBE in the Queen’s
WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHER? I made the decision to become an English language teacher at a very young age, when I was in the 5th grade. I’d just started learning English and I would say my teacher contributed a lot to my choice of profession. The way she explained and delivered the material was so interesting and motivating that I decided to try it myself. I also thought about becoming an actress, but I ultimately followed my childhood dream and kept acting and directing as tools to help my students learn through work on plays and theater shows.
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YOU FACE WHEN STUDYING ENGLISH AND HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO DEAL WITH THEM? It was certainly very complicated to learn a foreign language back in my day, as within the borders of the USSR we had no communication with foreigners at all. The learning environment was also difficult, as the process was based on memorization and there were few chances for self-expression. Even though I had the highest grades at school, I could barely understand even the names of foreigners at our first meetings. During my studies at university, I was lucky to have a tutor from Britain who helped me to ameliorate my level of English. The first ever training in Georgia regarding integrating debates in the classroom, in 1998, was a turning point in my life and profession. After the training, I totally changed my approach towards teaching English and decided to make the learning environment much easier and more interesting for my students so as to prevent their facing the challenges I had.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GO BACK TO SACHKHERE AFTER GRADUATING IN TBILISI? I did it for my family, who live there. It was of paramount importance for me to live close to them. The destructive earth-
Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Amy Jones, Thea Morrison, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze
quake that happened there in 1991 was another catalyst of my choice. Even though I had an offer to continue my studies in Tbilisi, I felt the need to help my hometown and its residents. I wanted the children from Sachkhere to be able to learn English and develop. The classes were given in vans instead of classrooms for a decade. I have always had a strong desire to somehow help the people of the small town.
WHAT ISSUES REMAIN IN THE TEACHING PROCESS? Even though there is access to a lot of information through the internet, and there have been a number of reforms and policies implemented in the sphere of education, there are still a number of important issues remaining in the rural areas of Georgia. Children are somehow isolated in small towns and villages and have no communication with their foreign counterparts. The technologies and school equipment are not well enough developed, a fact that hinders the process of acquiring English. And this is not a problem only for Sachkhere and the school I work in: it is a problem in most Georgian rural areas.
WHAT APPROACHES DO YOU APPLY WHILE TEACHING YOUR STUDENTS?
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I always try to use interactive methodology in my classes and to involve the children in debates, discussions and games in order to boost their speaking and listening skills. I also actively use theater and stage performances in the teaching process. We have already produced four stage plays, including Romeo and Juliet and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This artistic approach has been most effective, as it also involved the work of the school’s Art teacher for the costumes and stage decorations. The rehearsals were a lot of fun for the students and participation helped them not only improve their level of English, it also helped them to develop presentation and communication skills and increase their self-esteem.
WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FUTURE? Last year I was named among the 10 best teachers in the country. The financial rewards I obtain from different awards, I dedicate to my school and the development of the facilities for pupils. I am going to continue working to improve the level of English among the children of Sachkhere and will do my best to implement new and interesting methods which will make the process of studying equally engaging and entertaining.
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February 15 - 18, 2019