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Issue no: 1133



In this week’s issue... Georgia Concludes Talks with Gazprom over Gas Transit to Armenia NEWS PAGE 3

Of Bread, Circus & German Professors: A Look at How Disinformation Works in Georgia POLITICS PAGE 4

Ukraine Now Experiences What Georgia Saw Years Ago POLITICS PAGE 7

TBC’s Vakhtang Butskhrikidze Wins at FIRST Awards


ON NEIGHBORLY RELATIONS The Georgian President meets her counterpart in Armenia to discuss future relations


Georgian Man Found Dead in Abkhaz Interrogation Room, De-Facto Authorities Blame Suicide sentatives of the de-facto Abkhaz government via the communication hotline operated by the EU Monitoring Mission. The de-facto Abkhaz authorities say that the young man was detained on March 10 for “illegally crossing the border,” and was left alone in an interrogation room to write a confession. He was later found to have hung himself to death in the room, say reports from the de-facto Abkhaz security service. Local Georgians claim Kvaratskhelia was beaten to death after a verbal dispute with so-called border guards, who then staged his suicide. The State Security Service immediately began an investigation to identify the circumstances of Kvaratskhelia’s death “through every instrument at its disposal,” according to an official statement. Continued on page 2


La Dolce Vita SOCIETY PAGE 8

A Look Back on an Exceptional Tbilisi Ballet Gala CULTURE PAGE 9

Image source: JAM News



he Abkhaz authorities say Irakli Kvaratskhelia took his own life. Georgian media is reporting on local suspicions that foul play was involved. On Tuesday, March 12, the State Security Service of Georgia reported that a 29-year-old Georgian, Irakli Kvaratskhelia, had died in the Gali district of Georgia’s Russian-occupied Abkhazia region. The information came to the State Security Service from repre-

Street Name Commemorates German Heritage in Georgia





MARCH 15 - 18, 2019

President Zurabishvili Pays Official Visit to Armenia BY THEA MORRISON

Image source: Georgian President’s Administration


he first female president of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, paid an official visit to neighboring Armenia on March 13-14 and held highrank meetings with state officials there. During the meeting with her Armenian counterpart, Armen Sarkissian, Zurabishvili noted that Georgia and Armenia have a great potential for further developing relations. She thanked her counterpart for the warm reception, stressing that this visit signifies Georgia’s expectation to further deepen relations with Armenia. As emphasized, Georgia recognizes the territorial integrity of all states within their internationally recognized borders. Also, Georgia is ready to support the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Zurabishvili spoke about the delimitation of the Georgia-Armenia state border. She also discussed Georgia’s European integration and the EU position in this process. At the joint press conference in Yerevan, Zurabishvili highlighted the vital importance of stability and peace for the region. She invited President Sarkissian to Georgia to attend the Batumi Conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. “We are not only neighbors, but also friends. We live in a region for which stability and peace are decisive. Stability and peace are necessary preconditions for further developing our economies and our economic cooperation. We face many challenges in the region; we should realize that the only way to overcome these challenges and solve these conflicts that impede our development is a peace-

ful way that will be based on international legal norms. This is a subject for negotiations and dialogue - this is our strong belief,” she stated. The Georgian President also noted that active economic cooperation between the two countries is necessary, be it in tourism, new technologies, energy, or transport infrastructure that can be extended to Armenia. “We have a great future. We are vigorous optimists. We are going to continue to discuss a lot of issues and not just on the level of statements, but actually present our views. We both have the right

of initiative, speech and advice, and through exercising this right, we can influence not only our societies, but also executive and legislative authorities to develop relations that are all-encompassing and beneficial for the future,” she said. Sarkissian accepted his counterpart’s invitation to Georgia, highlighting that developing exceptional relations with Georgia is one of the top priorities on Armenia’s political agenda. “This is evidenced by the recent highlevel meetings and achieved agreements between Georgia and Armenia. Armenia is eager to establish, protect, and main-

tain the atmosphere of peace, security, and cooperation in the region. My Georgian colleague and I share the same view on the solutions to regional conflicts. We think that problems and conflicts and their solutions are not the same; however, I strongly believe that a solution should be found only in a peaceful way, but in accordance with international law and norms,” he said. The Armenian President also noted that his country attaches great importance to the implementation of energy and logistics projects in the South Caucasus to ensure regional security, sus-

tainability, and development. “We also attach great importance to cooperation in education, culture, and those activities that aim at cultural heritage protection. We are sure that our joint efforts in this direction will be effective,” said Sarkissian. After meeting Sarkissian, Zurabishvili had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan. The sides discussed key aspects of Georgia-Armenia political and economic cooperation. "Our relations should be based on common strategic interest and I am glad to receive the same response from the Georgian government. Now the time has come to bring this mutual understanding into action,” Pashinyan said. In President Zurabishvili’s view, it is important to realize the full potential of Georgia and Armenia’s further developed relations. “We can do much more together than alone; we have a lot to do,” she said. As highlighted, Georgia and Armenia have a great potential for enhancing bilateral relations; Georgia’s economic potential is better promoted after the country signed free trade agreements with the EU and China. It was noted that Armenia is Georgia’s partner in terms of tourism. Tourism traffic index between Georgia and Armenia is high. Armenia ranks 3rd in the number of visitors entering Georgia. In terms of Georgian visitors traveling to Armenia, Georgia also holds a decent place on the list. Conversation touched upon ethnic Armenians living in Georgia, their integration into the social and economic life of Georgia, and acquisition of the Georgian language. Zurabishvili and Pashinyan also discussed cultural cooperation between the two countries.

Georgian Man Found Dead in Abkhaz Interrogation Room, De-Facto Authorities Blame Suicide Continued from page 1 President Salome Zurabishvili tweeted her condolences to the young man’s family, writing “The tragic news of the sad death of a young man in the occupied #Gali District is a heartbreaking continuation of the situation in our #occupiedterritories. I share the sadness of Irakli’s family and friends and pray for their strength in this difficult moment.” Shortly after the news was released, Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani told reporters, “We received information about the alarming case yesterday from the EUMM. The reasons behind the death are being identified with the help of the Mission. Before all

causes of the incident are found, we have already taken steps to inform the international community regarding the issue.” All Georgia’s diplomatic missions worldwide were instructed to inform their host countries of Kvartskhelia’s death. At the time of his death, the young man was being held in a detention facility by de-facto Abkhaz authorities. Local residents of the Gali district told reporters that Kvaratskhelia was detained after getting into a verbal argument with occupying forces several days prior, and that he was beaten. Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, told reporters that she is prioritizing confirming the details of

what happened before making conclusions, saying that obtaining precise and objective information on the situation was “vitally important.” Foreign Minister Zalkaliani confirmed that he has been in regular contact with the EU Special Representative to Georgia concerning the incident, along with the co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) from the OSCE and UN, but he does not yet know whether Kvaratskhelia was physically abused before his death. On March 13, the GID co-chairs from the EU, UN and EU traveled to the occupied Abkhazia region to discuss the details of Kvaratskhelia’s death with de facto Abkhaz authorities. Later that day, Kvaratskhelia’s body was transferred to his family in Tbilisi-

controlled territory. Standing at the Enguri Bridge waiting to collect his remains, the Kvaratskhelia family was accompanied by a retinue of Georgian government officials including Deputy State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ruslan Abashidze and officials from the State Security Service. On the morning of Thursday, March 14, an autopsy was conducted to determine the cause of death. The exam lasted approximately five hours, after which the following statement was released by medical examiner Irakli Toidze: “Pieces of rope were found inside the wounds [on the throat]. No other damage has been found. As for the damage on the throat, laboratory studies will

determine whether it was inflicted when the man was alive or whether they appeared after death.” There is currently no explanation as to where Kvaratskhelia might have gotten the rope, how long he was left alone in the interrogation room, or why there was no surveillance in the room. The Georgian autopsy report is in line with a medical examination conducted by the de-facto Abkhaz authorities before his body was transferred, who found “no traces of violence” on the body. Minister Tsikhelashvili believes there are no witness who could tell the story of what really happened to Kvaratskhelia. More information is expected to surface in the coming days.

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Georgia Concludes Talks with Gazprom over Gas Transit to Armenia BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia and Russia’s energy giant Gazprom have reached a new agreement on gas transit to Armenia after the previous one expired on December 31, 2018. The past agreement was reached on January 10, 2017, under which Georgia, as a transit country for the transportation of Russian gas to Armenia, throughout 2018 received payment from Gazprom. Russia was paying Georgia for gas transportation by supplying natural gas to the amount of 10% of the total volume of the transported gas. The information about the conclusion of the new deal was released by the Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Natia Turnava at a special briefing. “As a result of the negotiations with Gazprom, our commercial conditions have been improved: the transit fee has been increased and the Russian gas price has been reduced,” she said. The Deputy Minister noted that the negotiating team from Georgia made good use of the world's oil price dynamics, adding that because of this, the Russian side expressed readiness to make compromises and Georgia has achieved improvement in the commercial interests of the country. Turnava said the negotiations are successfully over despite “long and difficult talks,” adding the Georgian side was guided by two basic principles, and both principles were well kept.

Image source: oilandgasiq.com

“First, it is our country's energy independence and security. Two of the most important strategic segments of our market, population and electricity generation, are fully supplied and will still be supplied with Azeri gas,” she added. Turnava emphasized that Azerbaijan remains Georgia’s main gas supplier and

strategic partner in this field. “Moreover, the share of Azeri gas will further increase in the Georgian market in the coming years, after the Shah Deniz Stage 2 is fully launched,” she added. The Gazprom contract has been extended for two years and will be valid during 20192020, according to the Deputy Minister.

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Zalkaliani also commented on the issue, saying the new agreement is much better than the previous one. “Energy-independence and security are guaranteed by this agreement,” the minister claimed, without going into any further detail.

Opposition parties say it is unfortunate that the agreement with Gazprom is confidential, noting that the issue is highprofile and society has right to know the details. The MPs call on the Minister of Economy, Giorgi Kobulia, to come to parliament to give further explanation. They claim that the agreement with Gazprom which existed before 2016 was much better as Georgia was receiving natural gas in exchange for letting Russia transit it to Armenia. Giorgi Baramidze from the United National Movement (UNM) says that the country’s budget is losing millions due to the agreements of the government with the Russian energy giant. “One problem about this deal is that we do not know how much Georgia is getting for Russian gas transit to Armenia, and the second problem is that we still need to buy gas from Russia,” he said at the press-conference of the United Opposition. The European Georgia party also questioned the deal with Gazprom. The party MP Giorgi Kandelaki says they cannot trust the government if it does not give proper explanations. “The Economy Minister promised us he would come to the sitting of the Economic Committee to speak about the deal and we are looking forward to this discussion,” he added. Gazprom owns the world’s largest gas transmission system, with a total length of 172.1 thousand kilometers. Gazprom sells more than half its gas to Russian consumers and exports gas to more than 30 countries within and beyond the former Soviet Union.

Georgia’s Bakhtadze Holds Meetings in Japan

Image source: civil.ge



ithin the framework of an official visit to Japan, Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze was hosted by the Foreign Minister Taro Kono. Discussions were related to the development of cooperation between Georgia and Japan. It was noted that the visit of the Head of Government of Georgia will advance the bilateral relations to a new level. Bakhtadze focused on the support of Japan in various directions, including the funding of significant projects, prospects of deepened economic cooperation. It was also noted that the Mutual

Investment Agreement will play a considerable role in this process. The PM noted that Georgia and Japan have good cooperation and expressed hope it will be advanced even more. “The most important part of our interaction is people to people relations. I do believe that as people to people relations are so great among the two nations, it will be a great precondition for us to strengthen our cooperation both in political and economic fields. Also, we would like to see more Japanese friends coming from Japan to Georgia, having more businesses between two nations,” he said. Taro Kono thanked Bakhtadze for his visit and expressed his gratitude to the Prime Minister of Georgia for warm hospitality enjoyed in Tbilisi. "We had wonderful discussions. I hope

the Prime Minister's visit to Japan will be a fruitful one. We really appreciate His Excellency's visit to Japan. We look forward to strengthening our bilateral relationship,” he said. Bakhtadze also met Ichiro Aisawa, Member of the House of Representatives of Japan and Chairman of the JapanGeorgia Parliamentary Friendship Group. Development of political and economic relations between Georgia and Japan, along with a deepened cooperation in various directions was the key topics discussed by the sides. It was also noted that visit of the Prime Minister of Georgia to Japan, along with a Joint Business Forum to be held in Tokyo this week will facilitate the intensified trade and economic relations between the two countries, along with the current potential of tourism.

Eliava Market May Be Removed Through Legislative Amendments BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


he Mayor of Tbilisi Kakha Kaladze has made an announcement regarding the government’s plans to restrict the control mechanism on the placement and even prohibit the sales of used spars, scarp iron, inflammable substances, used tires and similar products in residential zones of Tbilisi through legislative amendments.

Eliava Market is one of the major zones where all the above mentioned materials are available. Therefore, the government may remove it and allocate special areas for similar trade activities out of residential areas. Kaladze stated that the decision was made in order to improve the ecology of the capital city and decrease the level of pollution, which is a matter of "paramount importance." He also spoke about the steps that have already been made for amelioration of the situation and future plans in this respect.




MARCH 15 - 18, 2019



n March 12, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization celebrated the 20th anniversary of the membership of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. Prominent American politician and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright re-iterated NATO’s open-door policy and assured Georgia and Ukraine that they will become Alliance members once the two countries are ready. Earlier, on June 12, 2018, Greece and the Republic of Macedonia signed the so-called Prespa Agreement according to which the latter will change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia while Greece will finally agree to support its long-standing aspirations of acquiring the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). Currently, the Republic of North Macedonia is on its way to joining the military bloc. The latest happenings raised new hopes among the so-called pro-NATO groups in Georgia that their state is next on the list. Meanwhile, there are serious doubts as to whether the offering of NATO membership to the Republic of North Macedonia is a real precedent for Georgia and Ukraine. These Eastern European states face far more serious challenges attached to global politics, geopolitics and confrontation between the West and the East. At present, it is unlikely the North Macedonian experience can be readily applied.

NAMES MATTER The name dispute is a long-standing confrontation with old roots. Macedonia is a historical region associated with Greece and Alexander the Great. Nowadays, ancient Macedonia approximately corresponds with the modern Greek region of Macedonia and has little to do with the Republic of North Macedonia. Athens blamed Skopje of trying to assign symbols and figures that were initially

perceived as part of Greek culture. Furthermore, there were fears of irredentism. Millions of Greeks identify themselves as Macedonians, and officials in Athens had concerns this might lead to some concepts of so-called United Macedonia threatening the territorial integrity of the state. So far, the case of the Republic of North Macedonia is unique and inapplicable to Georgia and Ukraine due to its comparative simplicity. The only actor that opposed Macedonia joining NATO was Alliance member Greece. No global politics was involved. Furthermore, there was only one demand that Athens had for Skopje – to change its constitutional name. Generally speaking, the whole dispute surrounded the name of the state and the main challenge was to persuade local elites to negotiate and make a deal using a “win-win” approach. Former confronting sides belonged to so-called small actors that are more vulnerable to external pressure and influence.

THE GEORGIA CASE Whether you perceive NATO as a military bloc, democracy promoter, hybrid organization or something else, it is obvious that modern Ukraine is not ready to join the club. This lack of readiness can be seen on every level of the state build-up. On the opposite side, there is Georgia, which has by all means managed to satisfy NATO requirements; Tbilisi does not need to be ready for Alliance membership because it already is. Thus, we need to abandon this frequently-used-by-various-Western-high officials argument and be clear about the real challenges, recognizing that they are much more complicated than Athens and Skopje. Perhaps the biggest need is to acknowledge separatism and irredentism as actually-happened facts. Georgia has two separatist regions supported by its northern neighbor, the Russian Federation. Additionally, at least some actors in Tbilisi realize that, besides the Russian factor, there are also significant issues to deal with on the ground, especially when it

comes to conflict in the Abkhazia region. An even more complicated situation is seen in Ukraine, where the Crimean Peninsula was integrated by the Kremlin into the state while self-proclaimed Donbas and Luhansk on the east receive military and financial support. We also need to consider Moscow and its geopolitical agenda. Unlike Greece and Macedonia, Russia is a “great power”. Of course, it is no match for the USSR, US and/or China, but it still possesses enough accumulated military power, backed by a vast territory and natural resources, to promote national interests and counter any other global actor. The Kremlin perceives both Georgia and Ukraine as zones of influence, “living space” and “security belt” and so the integration of these two states into NATO is a direct threat to its fundamental inter-

ests. And there is no point presenting the Alliance as a Russia-friendly military bloc: the Kremlin will perceive it as a threat while NATO prospers and Russia is not a member. Unfortunately for Tbilisi and Kiev, their separatist regions have become battlefields between the united West and the East, meaning Russia, China and all those actors that aspire to shake the existing global political order, with the US on top. This fact makes it even more complicated to solve disputes on the ground due to their transformation from local (especially in Georgia’s case) to global: global actors are involved, and their goals go far beyond simple conflict resolution. The reasons outlined above are real challenges that Georgia and Ukraine experience on their way to NATO membership. And while on the ground, Alli-

ance representatives may speak about an open-door policy, but factually these “doors” will be opened only verbally. By and large, the so-called Macedonian precedent has nothing to do with NATO aspirations for Tbilisi and Kiev. The name dispute between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia was comparatively simple, while Georgia and Ukraine face extremely serious challenges, including separatism, irredentism, the Kremlin’s geopolitical agenda and, of course, war for the future of global politics. Thus, Georgia will need to wait a while on the list. But it is highly important for these two countries to continue state building, whether with MAP or not; officials must finally understand and accept that the ongoing build-up is not for NATO but for the prosperity of the people on the ground.

Of Bread, Circus & German Professors: A Look at How Disinformation Works in Georgia YOU DENIED THE STATEMENT CAME FROM YOU. ANY IDEA WHERE IT MIGHT HAVE ORIGINATED?



t takes very little to wind a Georgian up. If you ask one, they’ll say it’s because they are fiercely proud people (and they are), while others might speak coyly about things like small nation syndrome being at the heart of the matter. Be that as it may, trying to belittle Georgia and Georgians has become a viable tool of disinformation over recent years, with powers that be ably using it to elicit aggression, negativity or nihilism in society. What transpired last week was a particularly nasty piece of fake news as it covered all three of those sentiments. But first things first. On March 2, a Facebook post published by popular photographer Goga Chanadiri went viral in the Georgian social media bubble. The post told of a comment that well-respected German professor, linguist and Caucasus scholar Jost Gippert (of Frankfurt University) purportedly made of the Georgian nation: “Georgians are a culturally unwholesome nation. They have a natural urge towards being slaves of other, bigger nations. And this manifests in everything. For example, a nation that has its own language and three unique alphabets to its name resorts to, even after gaining independence, indicating the roads in a foreign language. I have witnessed such phenomena only in the nations of the former colonies, such

No. I do not use Facebook or any other social media, so I did not even see that fake information myself: I was informed by colleagues who had read it and who forwarded me some screenshots. I have no idea who is behind it.

WHAT’S YOUR OWN TAKE ON THE STATEMENT? This is not just a hoax but an attempt to undermine my reputation and to cast me in a negative light via defamation, and I am not ready to let this calumny pass by without legal consequences.

as India and countries of Africa.” Needless to say, people weren’t impressed with this. A torrent of abuse was rained on the poor professor’s head, some going as far as to demand he not be allowed in the country anymore. And yet, perhaps not so surprisingly, there were some who agreed with the sentiment, including Chanadiri himself. Online media (presa.ge, geotimes.ge, progressnews.ge, for.ge – the latter notorious for its far-right, pro-Russian reporting), seeing the post going viral, wasted little time in publishing it as separate articles, giving the piece even greater exposure. And while one might be skeptical of

things posted on Facebook, being published by an official media outlet lends it a greater degree of veracity. Thus, bread and circuses were enjoyed. That is, until Act II came through: Professor Gippert vehemently denied he had ever uttered anything of the sort and threatened legal action against those who had disseminated the false information. Questions were asked, with watchdog media like Mediachecker and Myth Detector taking it upon themselves to expose the falsehood. Media outlets pointed a finger towards Chanadiri as a source, while the latter attributed it to one Paata Vardanashvili, who owns and

runs a travel agency. When asked where the info had come from, Vardanashvili mentioned a close confidant who wanted to remain anonymous and declined to answer further questions. On March 12, in another bid to clear Gippert’s name, a press conference was held in the National Library of Georgia, attended by Gippert’s numerous Georgian colleagues, all eager to speak out on behalf of him. A student of Gippert, Mariam Kamarauli, was kind enough to facilitate direct contact with the professor, with whom GEORGIA TODAY conducted a brief yet concise interview to sum up the whole story.

WHOSE INTERESTS DO YOU THINK ALL THIS MIGHT HAVE SERVED? Again, I have no idea. If there are political intentions involved, I do not know any person or group of persons in Georgia that might be interested in abusing me for their purposes.

AND FINALLY, WHAT WOULD YOUR MESSAGE BE TO GEORGIANS? My attitude towards Georgia, the Georgian people, their language and their culture is manifest in several books and quite a lot articles. I think there is no further need to prove that that fake information is absurd.



Georgia Celebrates 100 Years of Parliamentarism

Image source: Parliament of Georgia



eorgia celebrated the 100th year of parliamentarism on March 12. The Constituent Assembly of the First Parliament of Georgia took place in Tbilisi on the same day in 1919. The creation of the first Parliament was an important event in Georgia’s democratic history. An extract from the Constitution of the Georgian Constituent Assembly at the time reads “state authority belongs to the nation. Parliament exercises the authority of the nation.” Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Independence Act of Georgia, adopted on May 26, 1918, paved the way for parliamentarism in Georgia. “Until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the governance of Georgia shall be referred to the National Council,” reads the act. Accordingly, elections for the Constituent Assembly took place on February 14, 1919. 1,024,682 people were eligible to vote in the elections, of which 616,150 ballot papers were counted. 130 elected members formed the legislative body. By profession, 21 of the members were journalists and 20 were teachers. The body included 21 legis-

State authority belongs to the nation. Parliament exercises the authority of the nation

lators from ethnic minorities and five female lawmakers. This was especially forward-thinking for the time; in 1919, many females in European countries did not even have the right to vote. The members represented six different political parties. The Georgian Social Democratic Labor Party filled 102 seats, the Georgian Socialist-Federalist party took nine seats, and the Georgian National Democrat Party had eight. Although the Constituent Assembly only ran two years, until the invasion of the Soviet Russian army, it was significant in Georgia’s history. The Constituent Assembly was ahead of its time with its legal principles and worked to ensure the balance of power between central and local government. Following Georgia’s succession to the Soviet Union in 1922, the country did not experience democracy again for almost 70 years, until 1991. To mark the anniversary of parliamentarism, officials and politicians attended an event at Rustaveli Theater in Tbilisi on March 12. Speaking at the event, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze underlined the historical importance of the Assembly: “The day embodies the aspiration of Georgian society to independence and democracy, and reminds us that democratic institutions in Georgia were already established 100 years ago,” he said. Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze and Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Chairman of the ruling party Georgian Dream, also attended the event. Many countries around the world congratulated Georgia on the anniversary, including the parliaments of Israel, France, the UK, Norway, Spain, Hungary, Armenia, Poland, Turkey, and Romania. ‘The inaugural parliament set an outstanding example for democracy during its time,’ reads a letter from the British parliament. Despite Georgia’s strong parliamentary legacy, democracy still has plenty of room to grow in the country. The Economist Intelligence Unit considers Georgia to be a ‘hybrid regime’ rather than a ‘full democracy’ or even a ‘flawed democracy’. Georgia’s ranking in 2018 fell from 5.93 to 5.50, much because of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s grip on politics.





MARCH 15 - 18, 2019

The Burden of the Georgian Crown OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


oon, a collegium of three judges at the Tbilisi City Hall will have to rule on a bizarre decision. Who does the Royal Crown belong to: Princess Ana Bagration-Gruzinsky or Prince David Bagrationi-Mukhrani? The fact that recently the opposing parties were husband and wife makes the responsibility and burden of the judges all the heavier. Years ago, their marriage was celebrated publicly. Today, the former royal couple are accusing each other of conmanship and illicit use of the royal title. Ana Bagration-Gruzinsky is the claimant who also accused her former husband of issuing Royal Orders in exchange for money. However, David Bagrationi-Mukhrani is claiming the Gruzinskys are not real Bagrationis and accuses them of illegally misappropriating the royal title. The dynasty of the Bagrationi family as the kings of united Georgia began in 978 and ended in 1810, which is when Russia’s Emperor Alexandre 1st ruled a manifesto on adopting Georgia’s dismantled regions into Russia. This was how the Bagrationis ruling Kakheti, Kartli and Imereti became deprived of their

royal titles. Ever since, the Russian Emperors referred to the the former kings of Kartli as “Mukhranskis,” while those of Kakheti “Gruzinskys,” and those from Imereti as “Imeretinskis.” After the Bolsheviks took over the Russian Empire, most of the Georgian royal family fled and ended up in Spain and Italy. However, some members of the family remained in the homeland. Today, there are three different lines of Bagrationis: Gruzinskys, Mukhranskis and Imeretinskis. The Gruzinskys and Mukhranskis view themselves as predominant and compete with each other for the lead. Exactly because of this historic controversy, the decision to marry Ana Bagration-Gruzinsky to Davit BagrationiMukhraneli was made with the aim of uniting the two royal branches for all eternity. Although the idea of this “contract” belonged to the Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II, the government in 2009 argued that in reality the initiative belonged to the former chief of Intelligence of Russia, Yevgeny Primakov. Then Minister of Interior Affairs Vano Merabishvili believed that the Kremlin supported the restoration of monarchy and viewed it as a favorable alternative to the government of Saakashvili. In 2009, the royal project failed, with rumors suggesting that the marriage had been

dissolved with the efforts of the government, who “forced” a local TV celebrity Shorena Begashvili into the life of Davit Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, deteriorating the marriage. The forgotten project was reinstated only after Georgian Dream came to power. At one of his Sunday masses, Patriarch Ilia II preached about the benefits of the Constitutional Monarchy for Georgia and the perspectives of raising up the future monarch within a Church environment. Soon afterwards, the cou-

ple were back together and the Prince was born. While the Church did not really participate in raising the child, who is being raised in Vake, where his mother currently lives, the fact that our country has a prince is already a political intrigue in itself. Especially for the godfather, Knight Levan Vasadze, who, after the famous mass mentioned above, decided to hold the responsibility of being the main propagandist of the monarchy. However, the Georgian Dream isn’t completely indifferent to the idea,

as some have stated that the Patriarch’s idea is quite interesting. Why the Royal project is collapsing again and what the real reason is behind the new court case initiated in the Tbilisi City Court is unknown. Especially considering that neither is Saakashvili in government, nor David BagrationiMukhraneli fancing celebrities anymore. One clue to the scandal could be that where once the Patriarch checked Ivanishvili, perhaps now Ivanishvili has decided to check him back with the King.




Ukraine Now Experiences What Georgia Saw Years Ago BY EMIL AVDALIANI


kraine is bracing itself for the upcoming elections on March 31. The results of said elections could have major repercussions on both Ukraine’s internal developments and the surrounding region as the country struggles to keep its territorial integrity in the view of Russian military and economic moves in eastern Ukraine and the Black and Azov seas. Surprisingly, the polls conducted in February gave 41-year-old Zelensky 25% of the vote, a 10-point lead over incumbent Petro Poroshenko and political veteran Yulia Timoshenko, who are also running for office in the national election. The popularity of the current leader of the race reflects the thinking of many Ukrainians nowadays and their deep mistrust towards the ruling political elite. Zelensky is associated with one of the powerful Ukrainian oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoyskiy, who recently also endorsed him publicly. Despite numerous allegations that his government has been marred in deep corruption, it was still under Poroshenko that Ukraine saw a veritable divorce with Russia in almost every aspect of geopolitics. In the last five years since the Ukraine crisis broke out following the annexa-

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

tion of the Crimean Peninsula, Kiev has managed to reinforce the Ukrainian army amid ongoing conflict and contain the conflict with Russia to eastern Ukraine and the Azov Sea. Ukraine also ratified the Association Agreement with the European Union, the non-signing of which actually deposed the former president Viktor Yanukovych. Moreover, Ukraine also got visa-free access for its citizens to the EU (except for the UK and Ireland) and four other Schengen-associated countries.

Recently, Ukraine’s Orthodox Church gained autocephaly (independence) from the Russian Church. Beyond this, Ukraine’s trade has been redirected to Europe rather being mostly dependent on Russia, as was the case before 2014. Thus, it is highly unlikely that Ukraine’s foreign policy will change if Zelensky wins: there are simply too many economic, military and ideological strides that now connect the country to the West.

In addition, there is also a very simple reason why Ukraine is unlikely to become pro-Russian or even try to be neutral. The very fact that Russia has taken away Crimea and supports the separatist elements in eastern Ukraine will always keep Kiev’s willingness to cooperate deeper with the West. And this is a major flaw in the Russian strategy. Moscow is simply pressing too hard on Ukraine, leaving very little, if any, possibility for improvement in the relations or hope that Kiev will aban-

don its pro-Western path. It is like what Georgia experienced a decade ago. Where, before the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, some sections of the Georgian political and cultural elite argued that it would still be possible to work with the Russians and maybe even get back control of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, in 2008 these legitimate hopes were dashed. In other words, the Russians dissipated hopes among Georgians for a geopolitical rapprochement with Moscow. True, Moscow has been able to hinder Georgia’s NATO and EU accession. True, Ukraine’s aspirations hit the same problem. But the Russian strategy shows that Georgia and Ukraine’s populations have become increasingly pro-western. In other words, Russia nowadays has a similar understanding of things as in the 1990s, but under Boris Yeltsin, the policy towards Georgia and Ukraine was more practicable, leaving space for diplomacy and giving hope to Tbilisi and Kiev that it would be possible to at least keep its territorial integrity in exchange for being pro-Russian. It is still surprising why the modern Russian foreign policy is not subject to serious questions. Receding Russian influence has already become a trend. The preclusion of Georgia and Ukraine from entering NATO/EU might last for years or even decades, but the willingness of the Georgians and Ukrainians to see their countries with Russia is dying out much faster.




he CEO of TBC Bank, Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, has been named among the four winners of the prestigious award of the international organization FIRST, the International Award for Responsible Capitalism 2019, held in London. Within the scope of the awards ceremony, HRH Princess Anne delivered the FIRST Award for Promoting Responsible Capitalism, and President of EBRD, Suma Chakrabarti, presented the 2019 Special Award in Adversity to Vakhtang Butskhrikidze. The awards ceremony, which took place at Lancaster House on March 7, was attended by the diplomatic corps based in London, representatives of the business and government circles, including the Ambassador of Georgia to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, H.E. Tamar Beruchashvili, and the employees of the TBC Bank London branch. “Despite financial crisis, civil war and military confrontations, we have been achieving success for 27 years. Today, our brand is renowned in Georgia as being the most active in terms corporate social responsibility and is recognized for its support of business. We have managed to succeed as we have been doing

business as a responsible citizen of our country,” Butskhrikidze said. “We have developed special programs in the support of business, with particular accent on small and medium-sized businesses. Within the scope of the given platform, comprising of a number of activities, including trainings, lectures, business awards and meetings, we help them, as well as allocate investments and contribute to their growth and development. “Our paramount aspiration is to create a digital ecosystem and thus facilitate life for people. “After coming out on top in Georgia, we decided to move beyond its borders and expand in other countries. TBC aims to increase the number of customers to 10 million, which is five times more than the current figure. “This is not my personal award. It belongs to the 7000 employees of TBC who deliver our culture and philosophy to our clientele. I am very grateful to have people like them by my side,” Butskhrikidze said. FIRST has been annually awarding the leaders of the private business sector since 2000, for their successful entrepreneurship and social responsibility. Over the years, the list of the winners of the prestigious FIRST awards has included such names as Guler Sabanci, Chairman of Sabanci Holdings; Howard Schultz, Chairman of Starbucks Coffee Company; Paul Polman, CEO of Unile-

ver; Alan Wood CBE, Chief Executive of Siemens PLC and John Browne, Executive Director of British Petroleum. FIRST is a multidisciplinary international affairs organization. Founded in 1984, it aims to enhance communication

between leaders in the industries of finance and government worldwide and to promote strategic dialogue. There are multiple high-level meetings and international conferences organized by FIRST and attended by the first fig-

ures of the governments and executives of corporations. The experts of the organization operate in 60 countries, on three continents. FIRST magazine was awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise twice, in 2010 and 2013.




MARCH 15 - 18, 2019

Blog Beginnings: 2007



welve years ago this month, I began a blog, http://geosynchronicity.blogspot. com/, to write and exhibit photographs. It was still half a year before I moved wholesale to Ushguli, from where the blog continued, using my cellphone as modem and posting from my desktop computer. I already had about 30 years of photographs and travel behind me from which to draw, and in that first year I averaged more than a post a day. This blog eventually ran out of Google’s allotted storage space, and I started the next one, http://geosynchronici-2.blogspot.com/. Four years later, I had some tens of thousands of views, and enough CV material to persuade the people at Georgia Today newspaper to take me on as a weekly writer from Svaneti, then in the full throes of

Saakashvili’s renovation. So that was eight years ago this month, without missing a single Friday issue to date. Here are a few early blog snippets, showing where this ongoing journey began. Thank you very much, GT! 1st posts, March 2007: Living in St P[etersburg, Russia] from 1992-99 was a real adventure. A beautiful city, but the weather was typical of a far northern swamp. Countless visits to the Hermitage. Footsteps of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment". Architecture to dwarf the soul and then exalt it. Beyond that, soul-destroying concrete jungle, only the interiors of apartments betraying their inhabitants' personalities. I loved it and was prepared to stay for much more than the seven years I had—but all the time the Caucasus was pulling my attention south as well. St George and Mother Georgia monuments, Tbilisi Old City, Georgia, December 2006

The former is a new work of Georgia's patron saint by Zurab Tsereteli, replacing the banished Lenin statue in what is now Freedom Square. The latter is a Communist-era piece higher over the city, holding a wine bowl for guests and a sword for enemies. Joke: she's saying to her guests, "Drink this all or I'll cut your throat!"—welcome to the subtleties of Georgian hospitality... April 2007 Etseri and Ushba, August 2004 Another journey which gave me much to dream about before it happened. Nodar's brother Sergo and I [on horseback] crossed a bridge over the Inguri from Etseri and then climbed and crossed the "mountain wall", taking about six hours to reach several log cabins on the other side. Here a few families spend the summer, grazing and milking their cattle, making nationally famous sulguni cheese and sending it back to Etseri weekly for sale elsewhere. Sounds a simple trip, right? At one point early on, before we even crossed the river, my horse was going downhill at such a steep angle that I almost fell over its head, yelling in fear. On the other side we had to stumble, mounted, over an ice-and-snow bridge on a tributary to the main river. Then the long climb; glorious views, even Ushba showing through the clouds—without that peak I might not have bothered to shoot, so important is it; not far down to the cabins after that. After overnighting there, I had new views the next morning, including one for the cover of a book on Svaneti I'm slowly writing. Mountain-scapes gradually shrugging off their veils of cloud; even a short rainbow. The trek back to Etseri was mostly downwards, down the mountain wall, and this is when it really got insane. Rain in the night had made the leaf-strewn ground slippery, and the horses made

tiny mincing steps as they cautiously felt their way. Sensible enough: but at this rate it would take a very long time to get home. There was nothing for it but to speed things up. I followed my host's lead as we dismounted. Then all we could do was run down the blasted mountain pulling the horses behind us—two not huge men descending at a steep angle with large beasts slipping and sliding and snorting down their necks for several hours. I had my photographs, the journey was behind me. Was it worth it? Well, I survived. Will I always? A footnote to the story is that, of all the [35mm] films from all three of my visits to Svaneti in 2005, only a single roll remains. It's the set with the wallcrossing trip's best shots on it, mercifully; but lost somewhere in Canada, stolen from an unlocked mailbox where well-meaning friends left them, are more views of Ushba, and all the frames from only my third ever trip to Ushguli.

Such is life, occasionally tragic. Move on. Sukhishvili Dancers, Tbilisi, June 2006 It may now be permitted to photograph concerts of Georgia's spectacular Sukhishvili national dancers, but several years ago it wasn't. I snuck my camera in several times anyway, in a plastic bag, and shot on slow shutter speeds without flash until one of the ushers found me and told me to stop. The conditions forced the way of shooting, with blur resulting—but what better to capture motion from dance than blur anyway?

was a sheer accident, and when it flashed in my mind that the brilliancy of its veracity could be tailored to our cumbersome reality, I took the risk . . . and then, cynically, I remembered the popular American song of the roaring twenties ‘I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream’. Yes, it is time to scream for La Dolce Vita if it could be gotten hold of with the help of dreams, screams and wishes. There are so many other dreams that come and go in my wistful mind, like some day in the foreseeable future, I open my eyes and the good news has that Georgia is a member of NATO and the EU, lost lands are back, and the dream triangle of friendship and cooperation amongst Georgia, Russia and America is working with pleasurable success, or I see the heavy traffic of bikes and scooters instead of the huge stupid SUVs in our streets, or dogs have not

pooped in front of my gates, and the politicians are working on major issues of the day to raise the plummeting standard of living, and the high-ranking civil servants learn how to drive their own modest cars instead of residing in their chauffeured vehicles with darkened windows and loud horns, or the hateful TV stations give us some good news every once in a while, or the architects of the country learn what to build when and where, or the scores of panhandlers in town have jobs and homes. But all of a sudden, all those T’s get crossed and I’s get dotted in a joke of my youth: - Baby, do you want a candy? – a grownup man is asking a little boy promisingly. - Yes, I do – answers the kid eagerly. - I don’t have one – the answer sounds with vicious but unconscious cynicism. That’s the way it goes!

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



too have a dream that Georgia irreversibly goes down in history as the greatest demonstrations of freedom of enterprise, human liberty and unadulterated democracy, forever remaining a great beacon light of expectation for change for tens of millions of post-soviet hopefuls who were seared in the flames of lasting communistic prejudice and injustice. I too have a dream that Georgia will never be defaulted on the recent promissory note to which every member of our society was to fall heir, refusing to believe that our bank of justice is bankrupt and unable to give us, upon demand, the riches of freedom and the security of fairness.

Now is the time in this country to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of once bitterly experienced injustice to the solid rock of national unity and political constructivism. Now is the time to make justice an absolute reality for the good people of Georgia. It must be universally remembered that it would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of this pivotal moment. 2020 is not going to be an end of good intentions, but a beginning of the overall national rehabilitation when we return to business as usual. In the process of gaining our deserved and rightful place in the world history and its ongoing life, Georgia must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Just the contrary – Georgia has to be right and justified in every possible respect of its current existence and from the viewpoint

JSC ‘Khashuri Glass Tare’ invites interested companies/individuals to declare their Request for Information (RFI) on dismantling of buildings, infrastructural objects and other constructions owned by the company and sales of all materials resulting from demolition process. For additional information please contact:

Mr. Givi Chachia 595 300 303 Deadline: March 20, 2019.

Image source: wtop.com

of historical decision-making by its intellectual elite. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom and good life by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. I too have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out of the true meaning of the universal creed of humanity so wisely and dexterously used once in history by the American founding fathers: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’. I too have a dream that someday very soon we will sit down together at the table of brotherhood to discuss the ills and pains of this nation so that the cure is found at last. Thank God Almighty that we are free and ready to put our crucial act together! My revisiting the King’s masterpiece



A Look Back on an Exceptional Tbilisi Ballet Gala

With Nutsa Chekurashvili



of the choice of mixing contemporary dance with classical ballet: “I think it is nice to have a mix of every style, the last part is Balanchine which is neoclassical, so it is nice for the audience to see a variety of styles and different dances: they get a taste of everything.” Sebastian explained that it was his fourth time in Tbilisi and he particularly appreciated being able to better enjoy the city this time round. “We’ve been here for four days now and have had time to see [and] enjoy the city, whereas usually you arrive, you do your show, you go home.” We also spoke to Ruika Yokoyama, who made a wonderful performance in the secondact’sPasDeDeuxfromtheballetEsmeralda and in the third, Symphony in C.

ast weekend saw the Ballet Gala performed at the Tbilisi State Opera. The public got to enjoy the performances of world-famous Maria Kochetkova, Sebastian Kloborg, Andrey Batalov and many local dancers from the Tbilisi Opera. GEORGIA TODAY had the chance to interview some of them and to attend the show. The Gala in Three Acts was composed of classical ballet as well as neo-classic and contemporary pieces. The audience comprised many well-known personalities including ambassadors, and all enjoyed the fantastic three-hour show. The concert opened with Act I, presenting Alexander Glazunov’s Raymonda, with leading soloists of the State Ballet of Georgia Ekaterine Surmava and Philip Fedulov performing the parts of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne. Act II welcomed the performance of the international duo Maria Kochetkova from Russia and Sebastian Kloborg from Denmark, who presented a contemporary ballet. Their show was very moving, the scenery was simple, with a special play of lights participating in creating this touching note. The public was very enthusiastic and answered the final bow with thunderous applause. We had the pleasure to talk to Maria Kochetkova and Sebastian Kloborg after Act II. They explained that they often dance together and were very happy to do so in Tbilisi. It was the first time that the Russian dancer had performed here, and she was eagerlyawaited by the public. We asked her what she thought With Philip Fedulov and Ekaterine Surmava

She looked back on her career, which began when she was very young, in Japan: “I started ballet when I was four years old. When I was fifteen, I left for Portugal to learn ballet and then I came here [to Tbilisi]. All my life I was only doing ballet, I did not even go to high school in Japan”. She told us how dancing a Symphony is rigorous and being supported by other dancers helped her a lot to get ready for the Gala. “The preparation was not too stressful […] when we dance together, people help me a lot, from behind, even from wings: dancers help each other and that’s amazing.” Yokoyama also had one of the main roles in the Laurencia Ballet a week prior, also in Tbilisi State Opera. Finally, we had the chance to exchange some words with Nutsa Chekurashvili who performed in the second act’s Pas De Deux ballet from Le Corsaire and in the third act’s Symphony in C. She was very moved to have danced with international stars. “Sharing a stage with Kochetkova and Kloborg was so nice and so beautiful, I would never have imagined dancing with them, an I thank Nino [Ananiashvili] for this possibility.” She also noted how exceptional it was for her to dance with Andrey Batalov: “Yesterday and today were really meaningful for me because I was dancing with Andrey Batalov, he is a worldwide professional star, everybody knows him”. “I had only three days to work on this Pas de Deux and we met for the first time on stage during the general rehearsal […] I was really nervous because it was the first time I was dancing Le Corsaire, […] it is a very difficult variation […] I love ballet but it is very hard technically.” The dancers told us they had one day off before going back to rehearsals for future performances, and we can only admire their inexhaustible motivation.





MARCH 15 - 18, 2019


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 March 15, 16, 17 KETO AND KOTE Victor Dolidze's opera Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater Music Director- Revaz Takidze Director- Ioane (Vano) Khutsishvili Set, Costume and Lighting Designer- Giorgi Alexi-Meskhishvili Choreographer- Iliko Sukhishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-150 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. March 15 THA AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 16 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 17 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 21 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL

Performance consists of various short novels: "Good Morning", "Cinemat", "Welcome-Host", "Shirley Beis", "Painter", "Bohemian Rhapsody" Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10- 15 GEL March 15, 16 ASTIGMATISTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL March 17 DIVINE COMEDY * Premiere Based on the work of Dante Aligieri Three 20-minute choreographic statements Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10-15 GEL MUSIC & DRAMA STATE THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. March 19 WELCOME TO GEORGIA The Musical A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national costumes and local cuisine. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50-80 GEL March 21 DIVORCE The Musical Based on Giorgi Eristavi’s comedy Directed by Davit Doiashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA 36 Kostava St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge

MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL March 15-21

March 15 SILENCE, REHEARSAL! One-act spectacle that is behind the scenes

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 CAPTAIN MARVEL Directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck Cast: Brien Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mckenna Grace Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 22:00 Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 13-15 GEL THE MULE Directed by Clint Eastwood Cast: Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Michael Peña Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 15 GEL VOX LUX Directed by Brady Corbet Cast: Natalie Portman, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law Genre: Drama, Music Language: Russian Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL CAVEA GALLERY 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL March 15-21 CAPTAIN MARVEL (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 11:45, 17:00, 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 14:15, 22:30 Ticket: 10-19 GEL GREEN BOOK (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 16-19 GEL BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Directed by Bryan Singer Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers Genre: Biography, Drama, Music Language: English Start time: 14:10 Ticket: 11-15 GEL


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 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 Until March 29 Georgian National Museum joins the cycle of events dedicated to 500 years after the death of Leonardo Da Vinci and invites visitors to the educational-multimedia project LEONARDO - OPERA OMNIA where digital reproductions of Leonardo's artworks are exposed. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 Until April 12 Tutu Kiladze’s Exhibition CRYPTOGRAM STATE SILK MUSEUM Address: 6 Tsabadze Str. March 15-31 PHOTO EXHIBITION THE LAST NOMADS Project by Vargha Bahagir The exhibited photos combine two parts of the project: Bajau Laut and Raute.


THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until February 26, 2020 GRAND MASTERS FROM THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY The exhibition showcases the works of the following Georgian painters: Gigo Gabashvili, Mose Toidze, Valerian SidamonEristavi, Alexander Tsimakuridze, Aleksandre Bazbeuk-Melikov, Dimitri Shevardnadze, Sergo Kobuladze, Irina Shtenberg, Mikheil Bilanishvili, Felix Varlamishvili and Tamar Abakelia. MUSIC

DJ. KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 125/127 Agmashenebeli Ave. March 17 VAKHTANG KAKHIDZE JUBILEE CONCERT Participants: Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra and Soloists: George Khaindrava, Giorgi Kharadze and Georgy Kovalev. The program consists of works for cello, violin, viola and chamber. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. March 15 CLASSICAL MUSIC COGNITIVE PROGRAM ‘String Instruments’ Leader- Koka Nikoladze Start time: 16:00 Ticket: 10-50 GEL BARI-BARSHI 9 G. Kikodze Str. March 15 GUGA AND ANRI (KILLAGED) Start time: 22:00 Free entry March 16 ASEA SOOL Atina Kornelius- Vocal BekBekson– Guitar Start time: 21:00 Free entry March 17 SANDRO BIBICH Start time: 21:00 Free entry SOUNDS OF GEORGIA March 15, 16 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi: a mix of traditional Georgian music, featuring folklore, A capella, guitar, and new Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Tickets: 24 GEL Venue: March 15 - 10 Erekle II Sq., Tekla Palace Hotel, March 16 - New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’ BASSIANI 2 A. Tsereteli Ave. March 15 HOROOM: SVRECA, NEWA, BEN UFO, HVL, JD J Start time: 23:55 Ticket: 20-30 GEL March 16 HOROOM: Ndrx B2B Kancheli, BMI Start time: 23:55 Ticket: 20-30 GEL




Georgian Baritone George Gagnidze’s Triumph at the Opera National de Paris BY LIKA CHIGLADZE


n March 7, Verdi’s immortal Othello was premiered at the Opera National de Paris, The Opera Bastille, one of the primary operas of France counting 30 years’ existence with the capacity to seat around 3000 people. The audience saw the original version of the classical production, by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello, first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan in 1887. Along with renowned opera singers such as tenor Roberto Alagna in the title role of Othello and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak in the role of Desdemona, the world-famous Georgian baritone George Gagnidze performed before the audience, receiving the great acclaim of the public. The performances are scheduled to take place over one month. George Gagnidze sang the role of Iago, Othello’s unfaithful ensign. Gagnidze has performed in five different productions so far at The Opera Bastille, including: Francesca da Rimini composed by Riccardo Zandonai, Giacomo Puccini's Tosca, Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, Traviata and Othello that has brought more fame and recognition to his already successful career. “The part of Iago is a very hard role to play since you have to change the character of the hero several times within just minutes, which requires high artist performance and technique,” Gagnidze told GEORGIA TODAY. “Even though

George Gagnidze performing Iago in Othello

Iago is a villainous character; it is very interesting for an actor to play it. In this opera, I had the chance to show both my artistic and vocal capabilities. This work by Shakespeare, Verdi and Boito is truly incredible. So, playing such a role in this opera is a really thrilling experience. Verdi and Boito followed Shakespeare’s interpretation and transmitted the piece in diverse musical colors. I’m glad the audience was so fascinated and clapped nonstop for 20 minutes. I’m always pleased to perform here. Now I am again happy to be in my beloved Paris and

performing in my favorite theater, where I have played a number of beautiful performances, including Francesca da Rimini, Tosca, Aida, etc. This year I also performed Traviata in this unique theater, which was praised by French and Austrian press,” the great baritone added. Since his sensational debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Rigoletto in 2009, Gagnidze has ranked among the leading singers of his genre. Regularly invited by the most prestigious international opera companies, during the 2017/18 season, he was heard as Tonio in Pagliacci and Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana at the Metropolitan Opera and at the Hamburg State Opera, Amonasro in Aida at the Teatro Real, Madrid and at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, as well as his debut as Barnaba in La Gioconda at the Deutsche Opera Berlin. Career highlights include the title roles in Rigoletto and Macbeth; Amonasro in Aida and Shaklovity in Khovanshchina at the Metropolitan Opera, Nabucco (title role) and Tosca (Scarpia) at the Vienna State Opera, Rigoletto, La traviata, and Aida at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Francesca da Rimini, Tosca, Aida, La Traviata, Othello at the Opéra National de Paris, Andrea Chénier (Carlo Gérard) at the San Francisco Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin, Falstaff (title role) at the New National Theater in Tokyo, Simon Boccanegra (title role) at the Teatro Real, Rigoletto at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona, La Traviata and Nabucco at the Arena di Verona, and Othello at the Greek National Opera and the Staatsoper Hamburg.

Born in Tbilisi and trained at the State Conservatory of his hometown, George Gagnidze debuted as Renato in Un ballo in maschera in 1996 at the Zakaria Paliashvili Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater. After launching his international career in Germany, he was soon engaged by many of the world’s important opera houses. He is the winner of the 2005 “Voci Verdiane” Competition and has worked with many distinguished conductors, including Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, James Levine, Fabio Luisi, James Conlon, Plácido Domingo, Mikko Franck, Jesús López-Cobos, Nicola Luisotti, Daniel Oren, and Gianandrea Noseda. The entire cast was fascinated by recognized Georgian baritone, praising him with love, warmth and respect. Celebrated opera singers, a husband and wife performing the title roles, tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, called him their brother and a great colleague. Aleksandra Kurzak, famous soprano: “We laugh that we, wife, husband and brother are playing together in this opera, since George Gagnidze for us is like a brother. We have so many beautiful memories with him. We have a really close friendship and we are happy to perform together. He had his Metropolitan debut in 2009 with me, we sang together in Rigoletto. It was almost 10 years ago, but we still recall that beautiful evening well.” Roberto Alagna, celebrated tenor: “I’m happy that the premiere was carried out successfully and we made it. Performing on this great stage is always thrilling for me. I want to thank my friend and colleague George Gagnidze for being an

amazing partner. It is always big pleasure and honor to sing with him”. After incredible premiere of Othello at The Opera Bastille, casting director of the theater, Ilias Tzempetonidis, called George Gagnidze one of the best baritones of the world and a patriot of Georgia. George is among maximum three baritones globally who can deliver the spirit of the personalities and demonstrate the highest level of musical performance that we need in the Opéra de Paris,” Tzempetonidis said. “I worked with him in La Scala. And then we invited him to Paris and agreed to present him in all big baritone roles, so since 2014 he has been singing in Paris. He is a singer who is highly appreciated here for his professionalism, good personality and positive energy and mostly for his great Georgian voice, transmitting all the traditions from the beautiful country of Georgia through the music of Puccini, Verdi, etc., on the stage in Paris. In this classical production we have trio of great mature voices that make a difference from other Othello operas performed on other stages.” Bertrand de Billy, Conductor: “Othello, for a conductor, is a gift. It is one of the best operas by Verdi. It is a phenomenal piece of drama, personality and music. I worked with George Gagnidze for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera on Il Tritico. We had good time in New York and now we enjoy working on this amazing opera together in the same way. Besides having a fantastic voice, George is a very good actor who is always open to novelties. I really hope to work and collaborate with him on many productions in the future as well.”

Street Name Commemorates German Heritage in Georgia BY AMY JONES & KATIE RUTH DAVIES


he Union for the Protection of German Cultural Heritage in the South Caucasus announced that Joseph Stalin Street in Asureti is now called Schwabenstrasse (Schwabian Street). Around 1400 German families, many of them Swabians, settled in Kvemo Kartli in Georgia after the Russian Tsar Aleksandr I invited foreigners to live in Transcaucasia. His 1804 law allowed foreigners to use land plots and cultivate them. They were also exempt from tax and did not need to complete military service. 2017 saw the celebration in both Georgian and Germany of the 200th year since the creation of German colonies in Georgia, as well as the 100th year since the restoration of Georgian statehood (Germany having been the first country to recognize Georgian independence in 1992) and the 25th year since the restoration of bilateral relations between the two states. The Georgia-Germany Society, which was founded on February 4, 1992, has carried out numerous important projects in Georgia, with the support of the Goethe-Institut, the German Ministry of

Foreign Affairs, the embassies of Switzerland and Austria in Georgia, the Swiss fund Pro Helvetia, the Deutshe Bank, the Georgian National Museum, the Ministry of Corrections and Probations of Georgia, the Europe House, Kutaisi City Hall, and the T.G. Nili Art Space. This year, 2018, has seen the Frankfurt Book Fair with Georgia as its Guest of Honor, which over several months allows Georgia to showcase everything that makes it unique but at the same time a natural and historical part of the European family. Many German colonies created here worked in the agricultural field, being given land to farm on, particularly in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, where they shared their agricultural know-how and helped boost the local economy. One such community you can explore today, though the German colonists left long ago, is Bolnisi (then Katharinenfeld), which is the result of Swabian emigrants having been forced to leave their homes in 1817 due to economic hardships and religious oppression and coming to the Caucasus to establish new settlements. Katharinenfeld was named after Queen Catherine of Württemberg, a sister of Tsar Alexander I. After early years of epidemics, thievery and economic challenges, Katharinenfeld in the mid-19th century, transformed into a flourishing community with five football teams, a



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German newspaper, an elementary school, a Lutheran church, a hunting club and a theater group. In 1941, Stalin deported all Germans who were not married to Georgians to Siberia and Kazakhstan, a total of 6,000 people. The city was renamed Bolnisi in 1944, and only a few residents of German origin remain today. The legacy of the German founders is maintained in a small museum, various buildings, and in the small Lutheran congregation which was reinstated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, 85% of the approximately 17,000 inhabitants are ethnic Georgians; the rest are mostly of Azerbaijani descent. A bilingual commemorative plaque remembers the fate of the German population in the town center. There were also colonies in the surrounds of Tbilisi, most notably in the current Marjanishvili/Aghmashenebeli Avenue area and in the location which is now Rike Park, where numerous tradesmen set up successful businesses making beer, carriages and other in-demand items. European architects made a tremendous contribution to the urban and architectural transformation of Tbilisi in the late 19th century. Among them were Italian, German and Polish designers who were followed by Armenian architects at the turn of the 20th century. Of note among the many German archi-

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

tects and engineers were Otto Jakob Simonson, who created the former Viceroy’s Palace which now functions as the Youth Palace at 6 Shota Rustaveli Avenue, Albert Salzmann, Edward Sesemann, Paul Stern, who designed the (now) Art Palace at 6 Kargareteli Street, and Victor Johann Gottlieb Schröter, who was behind the exotic neo-Moorish Opera House on Rustaveli Avenue. And the relations between the two countries are ongoing. Then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikhail Janelidze, stated at the opening of the commemorative year 2017, “Following the restoration of independence, large-scale investments were realized as an aid in the process of Georgia’s becoming a democratic state and approximating the Euro-

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pean family. German aid towards Georgia surpasses EUR 800 million. Our cooperation in the fields of security, economy, trade and business is ongoing and German investments are increasing. We already have 350 German companies on the Georgian market successfully fulfilling their business goals. More importantly, these companies employ Georgians. Together with investments, they bring know-how and technologies that are so vital for the development of our economy. Our relations are also deepening in the fields of culture and education: Goethe Institute, namely Daad, has given out 1100 scholarships for Georgian students and scholars, presenting a unique opportunity to strengthen our educational system.”


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1133  

March 15 - 18, 2019

Issue #1133  

March 15 - 18, 2019