Page 1

Issue no: 1194/202

• OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Weekly Entrepreneurial News @entrepreneur.ge NEWS PAGE 2

France24: 7,000 Georgians Claimed Asylum in France Last Year NEWS PAGE 2

Interview with Levan Kobiashvili, President of Bocuse d’Or Georgia

FOCUS ON DEVELOPMENT

York Towers promises green development in the capital's suburbs

BUSINESS PAGE 4

Georgian Salaries Increased by GEL 24 Annually in the Last 5 Years

PAGE 6

BUSINESS PAGE 5

Georgia’s Sovereign Credit Rating Raised to BB with Stable Outlook by Standard & Poor's BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

I

nternational rating company Standard&Poor’s (S&P) improved its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on the Government of Georgia to 'BB' from ‘BB-’. It also affirmed the short-term ratings at 'B'. The outlook is stable. The organization said that Georgia has maintained comparatively high growth rates over the past few years, even in a challenging external environment. The outlook reads that the Georgian economy expanded by nearly 4% on average over 2015-2018, weathering periods of anemic external demand as trading partners were hit by falling oil prices, regional currencies were devalued, and some fell into recession.

Kartuli Hotel: Changing the Hospitality Game in Batumi BUSINESS PAGE 7

Conference and Exhibition Halls at the Museum of Fine Arts & the Art House BUSINESS PAGE 8

“Voyage au Caucase”: A Still Untranslated Travel Classic Image source: Budapest business journal

“Georgia's economy grew by nearly 5% in real terms in the first half of the year, incorporating a slight slowdown in the second half, lower tourism revenues and muted consumption, following the Lari's depreciation. We project real GDP growth of 4.5% in 2019. We have revised up this estimate from our previous 4.0% for the full year,” the outlook reads. S&P believes that Georgia's economy will continue to grow at a comparatively high 4% annually over 2019-2022, and expects it to grow faster than other countries in the region. “Despite the strong growth outlook, we expect Georgia's per capita income will remain modest at below $5,000 through 2022,” the organization said, adding Georgia's institutional settings remain favorable in the context of the region, with several established precedents regarding power transfer, and a degree of checks and balances between various government bodies. The outlook reads that S&P sees some downside risks from the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party's majority in parliament should it use this majority to solidify its incumbent position. Continued on page 5

CULTURE PAGE 11 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

Markets Asof11ͲOctͲ2019

Price

w/w

m/m

BankofGeorgia(BGEOLN)

GBP13.33

+4,0%

+1,1%

GEOROG04/21

104.28(YTM3.84%)

Ͳ0,1%

Ͳ0,4%

GeorgiaCapital(CGEOLN)

STOCKS

GBP9.97

Ͳ0,1%

Ͳ2,8%

GEORG04/21

105.95(YTM2.77%)

Ͳ0,1%

+0,3%

GBP2.04

Ͳ1,7%

+1,0%

GRAIL07/22

109.64(YTM3.99%)

Ͳ0,1%

Ͳ0,1%

GBP12.20

+1,7%

Ͳ2,2%

GEBGG07/23

103.26(YTM5.04%)

+0,3%

+0,1%

m/m

CURRENCIES

GHG(GHGLN) TBCBankGroup(TBCGLN)

COMMODITIES CrudeOil,Brent(US$/bbl) GoldSpot(US$/OZ)

BONDS

Price

Price

w/w

w/w

m/m

Price

w/w

60,44

+3,5%

Ͳ0,6%

GEL/USD

2,9687

+0,2%

+0,1%

1479,13

Ͳ1,7%

Ͳ1,2%

GEL/EUR

3,2794

+0,8%

+0,5%

m/m

+3,1%

+3,0%

GEL/GBP

3,7640

INDICES

Price

w/w

m/m

GEL/CHF

2,9770

+0,0%

Ͳ0,3%

FTSE100

7238,03

+1,2%

Ͳ1,4%

GEL/RUB

0,0464

+1,3%

+2,4%

FTSE250

20033,93

+2,8%

+0,3%

GEL/TRY

0,5057

Ͳ2,7%

Ͳ1,9%

DAX

12483,02

+3,9%

+1,0%

GEL/AZN

1,7495

+0,2%

+0,1%

DOWJONES

26985,49

+1,5%

Ͳ0,6%

GEL/AMD

0,0062

Ͳ

Ͳ

NASDAQ MSCIEMEE

8109,87

+1,6%

Ͳ0,7%

GEL/UAH

0,1211

+0,5%

+1,9%

169,79

+0,9%

Ͳ2,2%

EUR/USD

0,9056

Ͳ0,6%

Ͳ0,3%

Ͳ0,0%

Ͳ2,0%

GBP/USD

0,7888

Ͳ2,7%

Ͳ2,8%

SP500

2988,90

+1,2%

Ͳ0,4%

CHF/USD

0,9973

+0,2%

+0,4%

MSCIFM

2586,13

+0,1%

Ͳ0,8%

RUB/USD

64,0626

Ͳ0,9%

Ͳ2,2%

GTIndex(GEL)

1582,68

Ͳ

Ͳ

TRY/USD

5,8749

+3,1%

+2,2%

GTIndex(USD)

1208,13

Ͳ

Ͳ

AZN/USD

1,7001

Ͳ

Ͳ

MSCIEM

996,50


2

NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

France24: 7,000 Georgians Claimed Asylum in France Last Year @entrepreneur.ge Gamarjoba! I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgian edition of Entrepreneur magazine and I’m here to share the top weekly Entrepreneurial news with you: Exploring Tbilisi is now possible without a direct visit, through VR application ‘Virtual Tbilisi’ by Georgian company Vrex Immersive. The app offers 22 videos depicting 360-degree images of 22 popular tourist locations in Tbilisi, with an audioguide included. Users can virtually visit the tourist attractions of the capital and listen to their history. Take a virtual ride on the Rike ropeway to Narikala Fortress or a funicular climb, explore samples of Tbilisi street art, the Ethnographic Museum, various recreational areas, colorful Tbilisi yards and more. The app is available on Android Play Store and Oculus Go App Store platforms and is free to access. TBC, to contribute to the development of a startup ecosystem, gives time and space to its most innovative employees to test their skills in startups and then decide whether to put all their energy into the new business or return to TBC. TBC's new project ‘Maternity Leave,’ received great feedback and the jury heard dozens of interesting ideas. The winners, ‘Ge Parts’ (Paata Beriashvili, TBC Bank Credit Business Development League, Service Expert), ‘Inventor’ (Tornike Kipiani, TBC Bank External Sales Network Development Manager) and ‘Mushroom’ (Tornike Kachkachishvili, TBC Bank's Business Mobilbank Group Digital Service Expert) won their own, paid business-making “maternity leave.” Young entrepreneur Giorgi Sheshaberidze, who owns a nationally successful homemade lollipop business in Gori, introduced a new idea at the Entrepreneur Magazine event: Photo Candy. Giorgi knew the event was dedicated to Anna Wintour and so put her photo on his lollipops to show off his new idea. The talented young entrepreneur started making and selling lollipops at the age of 11, using his brand ‘Dora’ to protest the Russian occupation by featuring the inscription "Stop Russia" on his candy. Follow the Entrepreneur Georgia Instagram page to get the latest updates from Georgian Entrepreneurs. For doing business with Georgian Entrepreneurs, write us on business@entrepreneur.ge

BY ANA DUMBADZE

7

,000 Georgians claimed asylum in France last year - a higher number than Syrians or Iraqis, France24 has reported. The news agency reports that since 2007, Georgians no longer need a visa to visit France, noting that "critics say many of them take advantage of the law to apply for asylum and benefit from free healthcare." The reporter notes that “all the tickets to Paris from Kutaisi Airport have been fully booked. “ Due to the increase in the number of asylum seekers from Georgia in France,

Photo source: France24.com

representatives of the French Immigration Service work at Georgian airports,

while the Georgian Immigration Service officers work at French airports.

Court Orders GEL 10,000 Bail for Majority MP Ilia Jishkariani BY ANA DUMBADZE

T

bilisi City Court has ordered GEL 10,000 bail from Ilia Jishkariani, MP of the Tbilisi City Assembly and an official of the ruling Georgian Dream party, who was accused of sexual harassment and physical abuse by his assistant Tamta Todadze. The decision was announced by Judge Arsen Kalatozishvili at Friday's trial held at New Hospital, where the MP is now being treated due to heart-related problems. The motion for bail was filed by the prosecution. He was forbidden from approaching

the victim and communicating with her until the final court decision. Jishkariani was officially charged on

October 8 with sexual and physical abuse of the female employee by the Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office.


4

BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

Interview with Levan Kobiashvili, President of Bocuse d’Or Georgia At the next stage, the continental competition, experienced and leading countries are to be introduced as participants. That is why at the first stage our expectations and aspirations are directed to maximally obtain practice and experience. I believe that with time and practice, Georgia will be able to become one of the major rivals of any country. Taking into account the fact that we are participating in this kind of contest for the first time, we need financial assistance in order to invite trainers to prepare our participants and teach them various techniques. Our chefs undoubtedly have the skills to creatively prepare specialties, they just need more training, and a tutor is pivotal to achieving this.

TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

O

n November 2-3, 2019, the 11th pavilion of the Expo Georgia Convention Center is to host the National Audition of the largest and prestigious gastronomic championship Bocuse d’Or for the first time. We sat down with Levan Kobiahsvili, President of Bocuse d’Or Georgia, to find out more about the event.

WHY IS BOCUSE D’OR IMPORTANT FOR GEORGIA’S GASTRONOMIC INDUSTRY AND THE COUNTRY IN GENERAL? Bocuse d’Or is one of the world’s most successful gastronomic championships, contributing to the professional development of youngsters. This is a large-scale platform for chefs, enabling them to work on sophisticating techniques and to practice in and master the field. Bocuse d’Or benefits the country by developing the gastronomic field and tourism sector. This type of large-scale project has not been held in Georgia before.

HOW DID GEORGIA GET TO PARTICIPATE IN BOCUSE D’OR? We were waiting two years to become a member of this big family, though the

WHAT WILL THE AUDIENCE SEE AT THE NATIONAL AUDITION OF BOCUSE D’OR ON NOVEMBER 2-3? engagement in this project is certainly the achievement of the Horeca business development and consulting agency, Gastronaut. When we took part in the world-renowned exhibition Sihra, within the scope of which the finale of Bocuse d’Or is to be launched, almost no one knew about Georgia and we had to introduce our traditions and our country. When they learned that Georgia is the ‘cradle’ of wine with an ancient gastro-

nomic and culinary history, they invited us into their family and accepted us with great honor.

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CRITERIA, ACCORDING TO WHICH THE EIGHT PARTICIPANTS ARE TO BE SELECTED AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP? On October 9, a closed competition was

held to reveal eight participants who will compete on November 2-3 and fight for the participation in the continental semifinal. The time for the preparation of a course, its appearance and creativity, are those major characteristics through which we select the participants.

WILL GEORGIA SUCCESSFULLY COMPETE AT THE BOCUSE D’OR INTERNATIONAL CONTEST?

Anyone can attend the audition. Bocuse d’Or is the most prominent gastronomic championship worldwide. Thus, the events related to it are a real show for audiences. In addition, attendance means supporting the participants. Eight teams, each boasting three members, will compete for two days. We will reveal the winners of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, who will later travel to the European continental semi-final. To attend the National Audition of Bocuse d’Or you can purchase tickets online.

Are Georgian Kindergartens Safe? BY LORRAINE VANEY

I

n 2016, the Georgian government voted in the first law related to the regulations of kindergartens, and has since been committed to developing new standards in terms of programs, health and hygiene, child development, pedagogy and infrastructure. While the first four standards are now elaborated, the question of safe infrastructure has been rather overlooked, especially in terms of preparedness for natural hazards such as landslides, floods and fires. The need to create and comply with safety standards is a pressing matter, stressed by UNICEF and by government statements in the aftermath of natural hazards; but no substantial efforts have so far been made in this direction. To fill this gap, Civitas Georgia, together with the Georgian National Environmental Agency and the Polish Center for International Aid, since 2018 have reviewed the safety of 128 Georgian kindergartens in Dusheti, Tianeti, Kazbegi, Gardabani, Mtskheta, Keda, Khulo and Shuakhevi. Altogether, these kindergartens serve 7517 children. The team was composed of Polish and Georgian experts on safety issues and risk assessment and of local engineers, geologists and hydrologists. In 2019, they developed recommendations for technical and organizational solutions for kindergartens and worked to improve the level of knowledge and competence of these issues among kindergarten employees and government authorities. The final conference presenting the findings and outcomes of this two-year project will be organized in Tbilisi in November 2019. It will gather representatives of municipalities, of the relevant ministries, and of local and international NGOs that actively support these changes, including Save the Children, Bridge, UNICEF and representatives of the Polish Center of International

Aid, as well as representatives of Georgian media and diplomatic staff. Ideally, the carefully-developed standards will be introduced as new regulations by the end of the year. Ahead of the conference, GEORGIA TODAY got access to an exclusive interview with Giorgi Meskhidze from Civitas Georgia, interviewed by Weronika Rzezutka, former media officer at the Polish Center of International Aid.

HOW DID YOU SELECT THE KINDERGARTENS FOR THIS PROJECT? MOST OF THEM ARE IN SMALL VILLAGES IN GEORGIA. The National Environment Agency gave us a list of dangerous municipalities from the point of view of different natural disasters. Fire can happen everywhere, but flood, avalanches and earthquakes are more peculiar to the rural-mountainous regions. But truly, we had quite a diverse sample; Kazbegi is a very mountainous municipality with seven kindergardens, Gardabani is a rather big municipality with more than 40 kindergardens, we have three municipalities in mountainous Ajara, from which we have the biggest number of ecological migrants in Georgia.

SHOULDN’T IT BE THE WORK OF MINISTRIES AND MUNICIPALITIES TO DEVELOP SAFETY STANDARDS FOR KINDERGARTENS? Indeed, but this aspect of the quality improvement of kindergartens was nevertheless neglected in comparison to the other standards, partly because of the lack of knowledge of the authorities, and of their organization. The development of safe infrastructure standards is actually in the hands of the Ministry of Economy, so they obviously have limited experience when it comes to natural hazards and disasters. At a smaller scale, municipalities have very limited means to properly assess and respond to potential safety risks since the fire service is

Image source: GT Kindergartens Adam Rostkowski

not under their control. In Europe, firemen inspect kindergartens themselves, but here in Georgia, only gas and electricity people are coming. So that’s why we took over, together with our Polish partners.

THE PROJECT INCLUDES TRAININGS FOR KINDERGARTEN STAFF, MUNICIPALITIES AND OTHER LOCAL AND NATIONAL ACTORS. WHY DIDN'T YOU SIMPLY FOCUS ON RENOVATING THE KINDERGARTEN? You can, of course, build new buildings, but who will maintain them? We need people to learn and to understand how to take care of them, what details to look for and what direction to take. After this project, we hope municipalities will have the whole picture of what is going on in the kindergartens. It is ultimately about capacity building, also for teachers and parents.

YOU ALSO WORKED TO

DEVELOP NEW STANDARDS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, WHICH YOU HOPE WILL BE INTEGRATED INTO THE 2016 LAW AS NEW REGULATIONS. HOW WILL YOU PROCEED? When we saw that there were no detailed standards on the question of infrastructure in the 2016 law, we realized we would have to lobby the authorities to do more. It was also an opportunity to cooperate with our Polish partners to bring European expertise into this project. We established a working group composed of representatives of ministry, municipalities, preschools and other NGOs active in the field of disaster risk reduction. Policy-makers were informed and involved in our activities from the beginning, and hopefully, the recommendations will be adopted by the end of the year.

THIS TWO-YEAR PROJECT IS NOW COMING TO AN END. WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE WORK DONE? We have met our objectives but there’s

still a lot to be done. People and infrastructure are more ready than before, but hopefully, no natural disaster will happen anyway. Now the next challenge is to convince the government to adopt the recommendations and to discuss what needs to be done and who will be in charge.

BESIDES SAFETY, WHAT STILL NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED IN PRESCHOOL EDUCATION? Recently, the government passed new legislation requesting teachers to be prepared to provide first medical aid. We already received requests from municipalities to help them train the teachers. We are also supporting the establishment of a National Preschool Association in Georgia, uniting now 42 municipalities, meaning over 700 kindergartens. The idea is that in one or two years, kindergartens will be able to lobby for their interests without the help of Civitas. There is still a lot to do in this regard, so we continue to work closely with them to improve their capacity.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

5

Georgian Salaries Increased by GEL 24 Annually in the Last 5 Years BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

I

n the last five years, the average monthly nominal salary in Georgia has been increasing by an average of 62.6 GEL ($21.08) annually, and, given the overall level of inflation, the real wage has grown by an average of 24.6 GEL ($8.28). To note, the average monthly salary in Georgia was 1068.3 GEL ($359.98/€327.99) in 2018, which is a 6.9% increase compared to the prior year, according to the latest data from the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat). The agency reports that in 2018, the average salary of women was 822.6 GEL ($277.18), while men had an average salary of 1,280.7 GEL ($431.55). Last year, the average salary of employees in the public sector was 892.1 GEL ($300.6), while in the non-public sector it was 1164 GEL ($392.22). We took a look at the average annual salary over the last five years: 2014 – GEL 818 ($275.41) 2015 - GEL 900.4 ($303.02) 2016 - GEL 940 ($316.49) 2017 - GEL 999 ($336.35) 2018 - GEL1068.3 ($359.98) There is a lot of dissatisfaction in society about the average salary and the methodology for its calculation, with the salaries of most hired workers coming in at well below the average. The method for calculating the average wage is as follows: The sum of the salaries of all hired workers is divided by the number of all hired employees and the average salary is obtained. Obviously, here will be

included the employee whose salary is conditionally GEL 1600 and the employee whose salary is GEL 300. Because of this, some economists believe that the average wage cannot provide an accurate and complete picture of the economic and social situation of the country. These economic analysts further claim that for a more detailed characterization of the labor market, it is necessary to use statistical data such as Mode, Median and Mean. The mode is the most frequently occurring value in a set of values and is interesting as it can be used for any type of data, not just numbers. The ‘mean’ or ‘arithmetic mean’ is the most commonly used form of average. In order to calculate the mean average, a set of related numbers (or data set) is required. At least two numbers are needed in order to calculate the mean. The numbers need to be linked or related to each other in some way to have any meaningful result. To determine the Median, it is necessary to arrange the numbers in order and find the middle number. The economists also say that in Georgia, the artificial raising of the price of services because the tariffs are higher in developed countries of Europe, it the wrong approach. In countries where service prices are high, there are high quality services and a high standard of living. The population has a high purchasing power and can afford this expensive service, unlike in Georgia, where amid the artificial increase of service prices, lower incomes and a lower standard of living, the population is less able to afford expensive services. Geostat uses the arithmetic mean to calculate average monthly salaries, although the median method is better when the data is significantly different. The issue is that if only the salaries of the

Georgia’s Sovereign Credit Rating Raised to BB with Stable Outlook by Standard & Poor's Continued from page 1 “The domestic political landscape in Georgia has also seen heightened volatility recently with several public protests in 2019 and 2018. We consider that political uncertainty will likely stay elevated in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in 2020, but we do not expect any detrimental shifts to economic policy-making and anticipate a continued broad focus on reforms and attracting foreign investment,” the assessment reads. Standard&Poor’s report noted risks from regional geopolitical developments, highlighting that the status of breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia will likely remain a source of dispute between Georgia and Russia. “Russia has continued to build stronger ties with the two territories, as highlighted by the recent partial integration of the South Ossetian military into the Russian army, the establishment of a customs post in Abkhazia, and regular visits to the territories by senior Russian government officials. However, we don't expect a material escalation,” they added. Natia Turnava, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, says the improvement of Georgia’s rating is the result of the successful reforms of the government, which sees Georgia's economy developing rapidly and steadily across the region.

"If we look at the dynamics of the ratings in the region, we will see that there is no such significant improvement from other countries as Georgia received," Turnava said. The Minister noted that Georgia's recognition and ratings were improved not only by Standard & Poor’s, but also by two other leading rating agencies, among them Moody's and Fitch, which significantly improved the country's rating recently. “What this rating gives us is increased recognition and confidence from our investors. Both our local investors and international ones are positive and will invest more boldly in Georgia," the Minister said. Georgia’s Finance Minister, Ivane Matchavariani, also commented on the issue, saying that Georgia has been particularly resilient to external and regional shocks over the last two years. “Due to the crisis in the region in recent years, the ratings tend to decline and Georgia is the only country that has been able to move up in credit ratings during this difficult period,” he noted. The Minister added that in the period 2019-2022, Georgia will have the highest economic growth compared to its regional neighbors. "The agency welcomes the reforms we are implementing in our country... It indicates that despite the recent developments related to tourism problems this summer, Georgia's economy is quite stable," Matchavariani stated.

Image source: sentinelassam.com

most highly paid people are raised, this does not affect the median salary, though it increases the mean salary. Geostat receives salary data not from the Revenue Service of the Ministry of Finance (which records the income of citizens), but from an independent survey conducted by Geostat, which collects data from about 15,000 businesses and organizations in Georgia, including large corporations, government agencies, insurance companies, banks and credit unions. Regarding 2019, Geostat data reads that the average monthly salary increased by 33.5 GEL (about $12.23) year-on-year and reached 1,092.7 GEL (about $398.80) in the first quarter of the year. In the same period, men earned almost 418 GEL

(about $152.55) more than women each month in Q1 of 2019. Female workers earned an average salary of 876.1 GEL (+58 GEL) per month, while male workers earned 1,294.1 GEL (+22.4 GEL). As of 2018, the Top 10 European countries with the highest salaries (net salary, after tax) are: 1. Denmark - €3270; 2. Luxembourg - €3159; 3. Sweden - €2570; 4. Finland - €2509; 5. Ireland - €2479; 6. Austria - €2324; 7. Germany - €2270 8. France - €2225 9. Netherlands - €2155 10. Great Britain - €1990


6

BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

York Towers Developing a Large-scale Green Residential Complex in Tabakhmela

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY ANA DUMBADZE

E

nvironment pollution is one of the biggest problems in the world, and in Georgia it is sadly no different. As such, it is extremely important to use the services of companies which spare no effort to care about ecology and, at the same time, provide maximum comfort for their customers. These days, there are few construction companies that care for maintaining the conditions created by nature, while also offering an international experience such as York Towers does. One of the main priorities of the York Towers Company is to conserve a clean environment and fresh air, providing an excellent opportunity to build your family's healthy future today. York Towers is a leading international Real Estate Developer with multiple investments in Europe and the Middle East and it continues expanding its projects to cover all real estate activities worldwide. The Company has successfully finished many projects in Europe and the Middle East and since 2017 has been operating in the Georgian market too. Right now, the highly qualified and experienced team of York Towers is developing one of the biggest and greenest projects in the country, York Town, an eco-friendly residential complex in Tabakhmela, near Tbilisi’s Mtatsminda Park, surrounded with breathtaking mountains and abundant greenery, including up to 256 cozy apartments and 100 luxurious villas. This is the largest urban community compound in Georgia and presents a luxurious and modernized lifestyle, serenity and beauty. The project extends over an area of 100,000 square meters in Tabakhmela, with construction exceeding a $100 million investment. Exactly half of the whole area, 50,000 sq.m, will be dedicated to green spaces and recreation zones. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Mr. Amr Alabwaz, General Director of York Towers, to find out more about the company’s activities and future plans in Georgia, one of the most distinguished projects being implemented by the company, and his impressions about the local business and investment environment from a foreign businessman’s perspective.

WHY DID YOU CHOSE GEORGIA FOR YOUR ACTIVITIES AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT THE BUSINESS AND INVESTMENT ENVIRONMENT IN THE COUNTRY? This country offers a great opportunity for investors who are really thinking about growing their business and making a profitable investment. Georgia has a safe and open market which is ready to import all good ideas for construction and development – it has great architects, great regulations and safety. Bank regulations and transferring amounts are also worth mentioning. So, everything is pushing you to create your own business here. We have been monitoring Georgia since 2011 to launch our business. We started in 2014, thinking that it would be a big mistake to wait more, and as it turned out, we were right.

SO, IT WAS THE RIGHT DECISION TO START OPERATING IN GEORGIA DUE TO ITS SAFE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT? Yes, and it has been supporting us to upgrade our strategy for a long time. For example, we started with a brokerage firm here, then upgraded our strategy to start a new business and import new projects and ideas from Europe. So, when we started implementing, for example, the idea of the complex in Tabakhmela, to include all facilities and services necessary for our customers. And it will not only be Tabakhmela: we plan to implement many innovative ideas and construct other complexes here.

WHICH PRODUCTS DOES THE COMPANY OFFER TO CUSTOMERS? IN WHICH DISTRICTS OF TBILISI CAN WE FIND BUILDINGS CONSTRUCTED BY YORK TOWERS? In Georgia, York Towers has successfully finished and delivered many projects, such as Dighomi Mall, multifunctional innovative space Diplomatic Dighomi, and Caucasus Tower in Temka the district. I don’t like to focus on the city center. It’s overloaded with transport, noisy and is unclean. With the old regulations, many mistakes were made in planning the city center. We will definitely change this situation 100%. We are trying to bring people out of the city center to the surroundings and suburban areas of Tbilisi, which is a very small city, by the way. For example,

you can reach the center of Tbilisi, Freedom Square and Galleria Mall, from our Green Town in Tabakhmela in under twenty minutes. It’s not a long time, meaning there’s no need to live in the city, but in a location which is only 17 minutes away. The main advantage of York Town is that it offers everything in one space, so you don’t have to go to the city center for any service – you already have everything that you need around you! There will be famous brand shops, restaurants, a movie theater, night club, children’s entertainment center and much more included in the complex. So, why you should even care to go to the city center? In Tabakhmela, we fully ensure services such as renovation, cleaning, security, maintenance and technical support and provide a building in which the whole family can feel happy. The residents of our new complex will be one hundred times happier than people who live in the central districts of Tbilisi. That is our strategy: to focus more on healthy and green environments and not on the polluted and noisy city center.

WHICH SEGMENT OF SOCIETY BENEFITS MOST FROM YOUR SERVICES? WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT CUSTOMER DEMAND? Customer demand is quite high. And the customers here in Georgia always need a lot. However, they are suffering, to be honest, from cheap and low-quality construction service. Really. And we also suffer. We are trying to target the medium segment of the society and provide them with affordable prices. Why should a person who needs to live in a compound area have to pay, for example, $1500 per square meters to benefit from various facilities? No, you don’t have to do this. You will pay only $600-650 per square meter and you will enjoy great facilities. Why? Because we are creating a new district. So, our plan is that everyone who can afford to purchase apartments in the outskirts of Tbilisi will also be able to purchase them in our complex and benefit from all the facilities which I have already mentioned.

WHICH ARE THE MOST INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS

AND SERVICES OFFERED BY YORK TOWERS? We offer our customers villas, flats, private houses, commercial spaces and lending. We operate in the market, which means that we have high-quality products and services. Most importantly, we offer new locations to live. But these new locations are not poor in facilities or services area: on the contrary, people will live there in maximum comfort and will have everything they need. For example, in Tabakhmela we will even have a school and kindergarten (which is direct investment for creating an educated and wise generation), a shopping center, commercial and service areas, park, playgrounds and a swimming pool for healthy lifestyles: everything for their happiness.

WHEN WILL THE CONSTRUCTION OF GREEN TOWN IN TABAKHMELA BE COMPLETED? According to our obligations, it is set for three years, but our target is to finish the whole project on June 30, 2021, six months early. And I’m sure that we will be able to do so. We are to announce new projects soon as well, with the same concept as we have in Tabakhmela.

WHAT ARE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS AND STEPS IMPLEMENTED BY THE COMPANY IN GEORGIA SO FAR? We have an impressive project in Dighomi, in front of the Goodwill hypermarket, which is a great location. I am also very confident about the Tabakhmela project, and I’m sure that it will encourage many investors and construction companies to develop the surrounding areas and before or within 10 years we will see a completely different Tbilisi in Tabakhmela with new regulations and planning. It will be a great city. It should also be mentioned that if the government had had the right treatment towards Dighomi, we would now have a great district there. However, due to the lack of attention and guidance from the government, we see that the overall condition of this area is not satisfactory. I hope the government will instill the

right rules for new districts of Tbilisi, such as Tabakhmela, Lisi and so on.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT YOUR COMPANY’S INVOLVEMENT IN CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY PROJECTS? Involvement in CSR projects is yet another priority of our company. We support economic and tourism development in Georgia and are ready to use our resources to get love to the Georgian people and country from foreigner tourists. In June 2019, when the now-notorious Russian travel embargo was imposed, York Towers joined the campaign 'Visit Georgia' aimed at encouraging tourists to travel to the country. Our team was at Tbilisi International Airport. We gave flowers to tourists and wished them a good time in Georgia. Our company often creates promotional videos depicting the unforgettable beauty and hospitality of Georgia, to attract even more visitors to the country. We have foreign non-profit websites, where we publish positive and pleasant news about the country, to let more people know about the good developments there and get inspired to start making investments, or just visit and enjoy it. In addition, we have yet another ecofriendly activity planned for the future: our team intends to plant trees in Tbilisi, a city which definitely lacks fresh air nowadays. As for the location, let it be a pleasant surprise. We’ll release news about it soon.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO EMPHASIZE? We hope and wish the Georgian government will be more supportive to local and foreign investors. We need some additional support. Georgia has a great law and regulations, but we need these regulations to be implemented in a practical manner so as to enjoy them. I, as an investor, need to enjoy it all – the law, the regulations, the rights... Any investor needs it. We need to be supported by the government to go through the process quickly and implement our activities more effectively.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

Kartuli Hotel: Changing the Hospitality Game in Batumi

Photo by @iamhumann

BY LORRAINE VANEY

H

ow can a new hotel, making zero advertisements, be almost fully booked at the end of the tourist season in Batumi? Bringing tourists and locals together in an arty way seems to be the winning formula, and a game-changer in the ultra-competitive Batumian market. With Kartuli Hotel, the young directors, Sergei and Liya placed the focus on art and cultural exchanges rather than on standardized accommodation. It came with many challenges, but by staying true to their vision, they hope foreigners and Georgian visitors can rediscover Batumi and its creative potential. The hotel opened just a month ago and has now 23 rooms starting from 80 GEL, which is significantly lower than most of the hotels here, for the same standards. The second floor and the restaurant will be ready for the next summer season, and the directors have many upcoming events and side-projects for their hotel and for their host city. Last Saturday, at their one-month birthday party, Hotel Kartuli was full of young Batumian and foreign visitors, a mix that is pretty unusual for the mainstream hospitality sector here. Commenting on this low-key success, Sergei told GEORGIA TODAY, “Hotels here offer high-quality designs and services, but ignore local tastes or experience, which is damaging to the reputation of Batumi itself. And we believe that Batumi deserves more. I love Batumi, but it can be a confusing city when you first arrive. You need the right environment to appreciate it and that’s what we are creating here, through art and human connections.” The location of the hotel is a great way to start the conversation: since it is in the most recently built district, guests see the new buildings, the soviet ones, the sea-side park and its sculptures, the boulevard, the sea and the mountains at the same time from the 36th floor of the Beach Tower. Inside, rooms are full of details and references to Georgian culture, in a subtle and modern way. Using Georgian calligraphy, for instance, the managers created neon lights with words related to Batumi; freedom/tavisupleba, air/haeri, sea and sun/zghva da mze, nature/buneba, rain/tsvima, love/siqvaruli.

They also integrated the typical Batumian metallic roofs, used to get rid of the rain, within wood frames to create the bar and the lobby desk, nicely merging local and modern design. The hotel’s visual identity definitely stands out from its competitors, but creating an original place came with several obstacles. Because most of the apart-hotels or resorts proposed the same type of design and tastes for years, it was complicated finding different, minimalistic and modern furniture that matched the artistic concept of the hotel. The lack of modern retail shops for the hospitality industry is constraining the creation of alternative venues for massive international hotel companies. Sergei and Liya had to import many pieces from abroad and designed the rest themselves. The library is another special trait of Kartuli Hotel, proposing an eclectic collection of vinyl and art books in different languages. It reflects the diversity of Georgian past and present artistic movements as much as the directors’ love for their host country; in the future, the hotel will organize movie screenings and talks. Even the logo of the hotel puts the emphasis on “ART” in kARTuli and the name itself, on the “georgianess” of the place, as Kartuli means Georgian. The popularity of the hotel and of the directors themselves among local creative minds promises to revive the Batumian cultural scene, which is sometimes overshadowed by the hotel industry and chaotic urban development. As an example, the first art center of Batumi, opened by Guela Tsouladze in 2012, was replaced in 2016 by the nightclub Botanico, a project of Radisson Blu. But as locality and authenticity are the two driving trends of the hospitality industry at the moment, there are big chances that more projects like Hotel Kartuli will develop in the near future and thus transform the touristic potential of Batumi. “I hope Kartuli Hotel will inspire people to do things differently and try new things; it is possible, despite the challenges on the way.” Offering new venues and concepts is also the best way to attract new visitors to the city; the recent Russian ban on flights has shown the importance of a diversified touristic economy, which is especially true for Batumi. It will of course take years, and more creative entrepreneurs, to change the face of the city, but the success of Kartuli Hotel is a promising start.

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8

BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

Conference and Exhibition Halls at the Museum of Fine Arts & the Art House BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

A

rt House – The Place to Meet, which is an extension of the Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, is a multifunctional complex in the heart of the Tbilisi, integrating cafÊs, restaurant, fit club and conference hall in the same area. The conference hall of Art House, distinguished for its cozy environment is set to be a great discovery for business clients. It makes a perfect venue for official meetings, as well as semi-formal events. A mouthwatering buffet with a selection of fine food can also be provided on site. The exhibition hall is also ready to serve for corporate and exclusive events, award ceremonies and exhibitions. The two venues of the Art House have already successfully hosted events of important establishments, including embassies and international organizations. The venue also hosted Mercedes Benz Fashion Week twice. Georgian Museum of Fine Arts & Art House even provides an opportunity to hold private museum tours for corporations seeking to run teambuilding activities, while gourmands can benefit from the gastronomic tour which begins in the museum and closes with tasting of fine wines in the Kharcho restaurant. #foryourfirsttimeingeorgia Address: L. Gudiashvili St. 18 Sh. Rustaveli St. 7 Tel: 544 44 45 44 Art House - The Place to Meet @arthouse_georgia

Royal Inn - A blend of modern style with historical architecture! Unique for the exquisite design! For everyone who loves historic buildings and streets! Choose the majesty of Royal Inn! FOR THE RESERVATION CONTACT US!

SALES@ROYALINN.GE +995 555 659 933


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

9

Nakra - Another Svaneti Village to Discover

the tower. This tower is distinguished by the fact that women plastered it. According to tradition, towers were to be built by men, but there were two

BY SALOME CHIKVILADZE, TRANSLATED BY ANA DUMBADZE

P

robably everyone agrees that Svaneti is not only Mestia, Ushguli and towers. GEORGIA TODAY readers already know one of the prominent villages of Zemo Svaneti, Chuberi. In this article we will introduce you to Nakra, which according to a legend was a praised place by Caesar.

NAKRA The Nakra administrative area is located in Nakra Valley and includes 11 villages. If you come across this narrow road for the first time, you will probably think that there is no village between the mountains. However, local residents chose this place because it is the only flat area in the valley. According to the locals, the name Nakra comes from the word "Nak" which means a flat area in the Svan language. It lies between three mountains: Shdavleri, Kvarmashi and Tsalgmali. People started settling here about 150 years ago. Currently, the Nenskra HPP project company-JSC Nenskra Hydro, is running an information campaign within the scope of social responsibility in order to let more people know about these places. Every house there has a small yard with flowers and fruit trees, while corn fields and agricultural land is nearby. In the center of the village there is a school, a garden and a boardroom. About 400 people live in Nakra and there are eight family-run hotels.

THE ALPINE ZONE The major beauty of Nakra is its alpine

zone. "In the upper villages, the nature is so delightful that you really want to fly," said 79-year-old Shamili Gvamliani, recommending the 7 km road leading to alpine zone for those wanting a real taste of that beauty. The road is of medium difficulty and, like Svaneti as a whole, is full of legends. If you go with a local tour guide, hiking will be even more interesting. The higher you go, the more you hear about the settlements, churches and people. To prove the bravery of Svans, the guide told us that when the enemy attacked, if Svans were out of bullets, they used chains to defend themselves. This valley was damaged three times by enemies, as it was easy to attack from the Basa Pass. The route to the alpine zone passes through the woods. If you’re not up for the walk, locals will offer car and horseriding tours. You will probably see wild horses in the alpine zone too. This is a place fully owned by animals and birds. If you see another person, it will likely be a seasonal herdsman. From the point you can reach by car, the whole valley is revealed. Nakra Alpine Zone is 2500-2800 meters above sea level. There, you will find the Caucasus Ridge, Nakra Valley, forest and beautiful nature. You’ll have to continue your journey on foot from this point. Be sure to taste the wild berries: the higher you go, the more delicious they become. Chuberi is also worth visiting, as, when visiting the alpine zone, it rained twice. The road is not difficult and without hiking equipment you can cover the distance, however, be sure to bring raincoats, strong shoes and warm clothes. When looking at the mountains, we were told another legend about giants. The legend says that giants lived in Nakra and when they sat on the tops of the mountains,

Khachapuri.” In Nakra, there is also a great chance to drink Dutsi Vodka. The visual of the drink shows its power. This is part of any journey in Svaneti which locals and tourists both enjoy. Natela Tsindeliani, owner of another family-run hotel, recalls that tourists from Scotland and Singapore came to Nakra and one American tourist liked the place so much that he was happy to help harrowing. Shamil Gvamliani, who advised us to visit the alpine zone, says there were many interesting things to do in this area, but now it is all but abandoned. The locals in Nakra want the old climbers' schools to be built again, because the valley really has the potential for alpinism and the best athletes used to train there.

BONUS: CONFUCIUS AND OTHER INTERESTING TRADITIONS

their feet would stretch down to the valley. If you are lucky with the weather, you will see the beauty of the CaucasusMount Elbrus. Yellow flowers give a real beauty to the alpine zone. Amidst the mountain snow and the harshness, these small, tender flowers tell us that the winter is coming. As we were told, this flower grows when the cold starts and disappears before the frosts, to emerge again the following year.

THE LONE SVAN TOWER Everyone thinks of Mestia and Ushguli when they hear about towers in Svaneti, however, Nakra Valley also has one: the Richgviani Family Tower, which dates back to the 10th century. This is the only tower in Nakra and you should definitely visit it. The Dadeshkeliani and Richgviani family had a dispute over this tower. The Dadeshkelianis were helped by Kaldani family and now the former owns

famous women in this area who had a special hand, so they made an exception in the plastering work. As a matter of fact, only ruins of other towers are left, yet the tower plastered by female craftsmen still overlooks the valley. Another outstanding building in Nakra Valley, as the Svans say, is the Church of God. Locals told us that this is the only church built in Svaneti in the name of God and tourists are advised to see this place before leaving. After visiting the alpine zone, as you return to the village, you will find Nino Tsindeliani’s guest house. According to the host, the number of tourists increases every year, but many people still do not know about the area’s sights. "This is a most beautiful place, our nature, the mountains. Tourists will meet local people, who are hospitable, warm, attentive and trustworthy. And, of course, visitors should taste delicious traditional dishes: Kubdari, Chvishtari and Millet

Svaneti is full of surprises. In a place where you’d think there are no humans, you may come across a village, see a mountain that is so warm that the snow never settles on its top, hear a language you will never hear elsewhere, and see how the Svans recall the thoughts of a Chinese philosopher. That is what happened when we talked to Shamil Gvamliani about Svan customs and traditions. According to him, the Svan tradition "set in place" is based on Confucius’ motives. The main formula of this rule is that you should not do something to others that you wouldn’t want done to you. "This is a real human life and we have a Svan rule: two or four men will sit down and review the case. These men are chosen villagers. The name of this tradition is "Set in place." If I were you, I would forgive you or I would do it another way," he said. This tradition is still used in Svaneti to solve problems - conflicts between families and other important issues. Natela Tsindeliani recalls another living tradition from old times, when people were fire-worshippers. This tradition is named as "Lamproba" in Svaneti which takes place on 28th of February. On this day, the village divides into brotherhoods with several families. The men bring big branches of Alnus, people gather in the village center, they light a big bonfire and say spells. In the evening a host family invites the whole brotherhood. When you are in Svaneti, you soon realize that you are a part of these legends, these traditions. Watching the high, harsh mountains, empty, wide fields and beautiful wildlife makes you feel very small and very free. The key is to breathe in the fresh air, to take your time to watch the boundless greenery and then tell everyone what it is like to travel in places which many people don't know about. Source: On.ge


10

BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

Georgian International Arbitration Center, EU & UNDP Hold 6th Annual Tbilisi Arbitration Days

O

ver one hundred judges, arbitration practitioners, public officials and business representatives from the European Union, Central Asia and Georgia gathered in Tbilisi last week for the opening of a three-day conference: Tbilisi Arbitration Days 2019. This year, this largest of arbitration forums in the region focused on the latest international trends in resolving commercial disputes, the impact of arbitration on national economies and the prospects for cooperation between countries. As in previous years, Tbilisi Arbitration Days was organized by the Georgian International Arbitration Center (GIAC) with support from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “Georgia has made huge progress in promoting Alternative Dispute Resolution, including mediation and arbitration,” Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani said at the opening. “The enabling legal environ-

ment and intensive business development create solid grounds for establishing Georgia as a regional center for international arbitration.” “I find it important to organize such conferences in Tbilisi on a regular basis to raise awareness in the business sector of the opportunities that arbitration stands to offer in terms of time and cost efficiency,” noted EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell. “It remains the objective of the European Union to encourage a more frequent use of this instrument to settle business-to-business disputes here in Georgia.” “Access to justice is a critical precondition for economic growth that benefits all members of society,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “UNDP is assisting Georgia in developing Alternative Dispute Resolution to give citizens and businesses an opportunity to settle disputes outside of the courtroom, saving both time and money.” The addressees at the conference also included George Pertaia, President of the Georgian Chamber of Commerce

and Industry. The agenda for this year’s Tbilisi Arbitration Days focused on the role of independent arbitration in economic development. On 9 October, conference participants discussed the New York Convention of 1958 on the ‘Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitration.’ Opened by the acting Chairperson of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Mzia Todua, the workshop was organized by the Supreme Court of Georgia, GIAC and the international law firm Shearman & Sterling. On 10 October, the conference hosted several discussions about the regional importance of independent arbitration and the views of business communities on dispute resolution. On 11 October, the sixth annual Tbilisi Arbitration Days concluded with a workshop for young practitioners, organized by the GIAC, the International Chamber of Commerce Youth Arbitration Forum (ICC YAF, France) and the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR).

Georgian Company Prime Concrete to Build New Pace Terminal Project in Poti Co-financed by OPIC

T

he Georgian construction company Prime Concrete has been commissioned to build a new Pace Terminal Project in Poti with a total value of construction work of $20 million. The project is co-financed by the US

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). An official ceremony to mark the beginning of construction was held in Poti on October 1, 2019 and was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia Maia Tskitishvili, the Minister of Economy of Georgia Natia Turnava, the Managing

New Georgian Multifunctional Space "Dariali" Opens in Barcelona BY ANA DUMBADZE

D

ariali is the name of a new multifunctional space, opened on October 8 in the Casa Tomas Roger building in Barcelona, one of the city's most beautiful 19th century build-

ings, with a Georgian team behind it. The authors of the idea are designers Maka Asatiani, recognized as a symbol of Georgian beauty, and Jaba Diasamidze, who is the Creative Designer of the project. “Dariali,” apart from the function of selling clothes, items and books, also includes a gallery and restaurant in its space.

Director of OPIC Kenneth Angel, Pace Terminal’s Director David Nadirashvili and the Founder of Prime Concrete Alexander Sokolowsky. Other high-ranking members of the Georgian government and parliament as well as diplomats and foreign guests were also present.

For a Georgian company to build such an important terminal is a unique opportunity. Prime Concrete managed to successfully qualify for the tender in a highly competitive process with dozens of international contractors. Its competitive advantages lay in its distinctive means and capabilities, its experience and know-how, and its truly local presence. Prime Concrete also partnered with the Dutch companies Royal HaskoningDHV, which developed the most efficient design for berth and pier construction, and Vanthek, a leading international piling contractor. Prime Concrete is a well-established Georgian construction company that has successfully implemented numerous large-scale projects, acquiring exceptional competence and invaluable expertise in the fields of port, water, road and other civil and industrial infrastructure projects. Its portfolio includes maritime projects such as the rehabilitation of berth no. 7 and the construction of an inland container terminal in Poti; public works such as wastewater treatment plants in Anaklia, Ureki, Zugdidi and Gardabani; extending Tbilisi’s 2nd metro line (to University Station); and building and rehabilitating several municipal roads in western Georgia (Samegrelo). Prime Concrete CEO Alexander Sokolowsky underlined the importance of the Georgian company winning the tender: “We are extremely glad to engage in the construction of this strategic facility. It is an exceptional occasion when a

Georgian company under an EPC contract takes full responsibility for the construction of such a complex and large-scale project. We use local capabilities, bring our decades-long experience and expertise, hire local workers, and use local construction materials, which is beneficial for local communities and the entire country. We will make sure with our partners from Pace Group, Royal HaskoningDHV and Vanthek, that the new terminal is built in a high-quality, safe and environmentally friendly manner, increasing Georgia’s transit capabilities to new high levels.” The new terminal will occupy 25 hectares of the New Port Zone in Poti’s former shipyard. The total length of the berthing facilities will be 650 meters, with a water depth of 12 m. This will be the first modern facility in Georgia to handle deep-water vessels by 2020. The total cargo turnover of the terminal will be 5 million tons. The total project cost is $93 million, of which $50 million will be allocated by OPIC and the remaining $43 million by Pace Group as an equity contribution. This is OPIC’s single biggest engagement in Georgia. The terminal will increase the country’s strategic importance as a hub between East and West and as an integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative. OPIC’s decision to finance the project is also a form of recognition from the US and other international stakeholders of the terminal’s significance for Georgia and the wider region.


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY OCTOBER 15 - 17, 2019

11

“Voyage au Caucase”: A Still Untranslated Travel Classic...

BY PETER SKINNER

F

or many, a visit to Georgia results in an addiction to things Georgian – history, arts and culture, to say nothing of food, wine, song and dance. But what do we know of the experiences and impressions of pioneers who preceded us – facing far tougher conditions? What travelogues and memoirs did they leave – and where can we find them? An internet search will provide a cluster of doughty 19th-century travelers who made their way to Georgia. Add ‘Persia’ as a search word, and many additional travelers who journeyed through Georgia en route to Persia will come up. Happily, accomplished author-travelers in both groups left much good material, now available in reprint, print-on-demand or digital format. One such work – Voyage au Caucase (1859) – remains too little known, despite a handsome large octavo reprint in 2002, running 415 pages, including itinerary, map and illustrations. It is a sweeping, well-researched history coupled with acutely observed accounts of personalities, life, and customs – full of color, and fueled by contagious enthusiasm. The author? None other than Alexandre Dumas. Is there an English translation? Yes – but so far only in part; Adventures in the Caucasus, by Alexandre Dumas, was published in London in 1952 (the American co-edition was titled Alexandre Dumas’ Adventures in Caucasia). Regrettably, the book is a small octavo of only 205 pages. Dumas wrote expansively, skillfully weaving relevant history into his text, but much was excised in order to concentrate on travel elements and cut production costs. Nonetheless, the

able translator-editor, Miss A. E. Murch (better known for her The Development of the Detective Novel, 1958), provided an elegant translation of Dumas’ travel highlights, adding a valuable Introduction. Regrettably, the publisher did not add maps or an itinerary, and offered pitifully few illustrations. It is indeed difficult to describe the magnitude of our loss. In the truncated English translation, shorn of its introductory matter, we join Dumas at Kizlyar, a fortress town inland from the Caspian Sea, on the DagestanNorthern Chechnyan border. (Dumas’ records his journey thence, from Paris via St Petersburg, Nijni-Novgorod, Volgograd (Stalingrad) and Astrakhan, in his

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equally expansive and engaging Voyage en Russie (1859)). At Kizlyar, the 57-yearold author committed his portly self to some 420 mi/675 km of travel on horseback or in a primitive, springless horsedrawn tarantas or telega to reach Baku and then Shemakha – the fabled, earthquake-prone city of dancing girls and silk weaving. From this southernmost halt, he turned west for Tiflis (Tbilisi), and traveled within and across Georgia to his departure port of Poti, on the Black Sea coast. His main route and sidetrips from Shemakha to Poti added another 500 mi/800 km or so of jolting travel. Dumas’ account never flags and never fails to intrigue the reader. All along his route he managed to meet not only local notables, military officers fighting Shamil and his Muslim guerillas, and leading residents – whether Russian or nativeborn – but also a variety of Cossacks, Tatars, Armenians, Chechens and others. Dumas hunted, camped, dined in splendor or at improvised picnics with equal enthusiasm. His able young translator Kalino ensured that he received answers to his many questions, however obscure the topics might be, and his artist friend Jean-Pierre Moynet made numerous sketches of buildings, persons and scenery, all of striking quality and detail. In Tiflis Dumas managed in rapid succession to attend a performance of Verdi’s The Lombards, dine with Prince Dmitri Orbeliani and his family, visit Viceroy Bariatinski (who a year later defeated Shamil), meet Count Sollogub (author of The Tarantas, 1845), who gave him Countess Eudoxia Rostopchin’s personal notes on Pushkin and Lermontov (in September 1812 the Countess’ father-in-law, Count Feodor Rostopchin, governor of Moscow, had set fire to the city following Napoleon’s arrival), and to survive an overheated Georgian Turkish-bath and an over-vigorous massage, restoring himself with a hookah. He also records epic wining and dining bouts. The French ambassador Baron Finot took Dumas to meet the widowed Princess Nino Chavchavadze, whose husband Alexander Griboedov (author of Woe

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Beka Alexishvili, Tea Mariamidze, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

from Wit, 1823) the Persians assassinated in 1829. He also visited the Chavchavadze estate at Tsinandali, in Kakheti, where Shamil, in his famous raid of 1854, kidnapped a Chavchavadze princess and her sister-in-law, an Orbeliani princess, and bore them off into wearisome captivity in a mountain redoubt. Ever-adventurous despite the winter weather, Dumas set out from Mtskheta, hoping to follow the Aragvi river (“the route that Pompey followed, so tradition says, in his campaign against King Mithridates”) up to the Darial Gorge, which cuts clean through the Greater Caucasus. Sadly, on the Jvari crest, just below the dramatic gorge, waist-deep snow and a blizzard defeated the stout Dumas, even though his sleigh was hauled by 20 oxen. Dumas retraced his route back to Mtskheta before pressing on along snowbound roads to Gori and Kutaisi (with side-trips to Gelati cathedral-monastery and to a local forest for hare- and partridge-shooting), and the snow-clad Surami pass. Finally, after being rescued from a wolf-pack, our traveler abandoned the road and went by boat down the Rioni river to Poti. There, after local visits and culinary adventures, including shooting a pig for dinner, Dumas departed the port for Constantinople, via Batumi and Trebizond. The foregoing glimpse of Dumas’ meetings, incidents and adventures (restricted to those occurring in Georgia and included in the English edition) may seem to be rich fare – but they are only a light refreshment compared to the banquet the complete French text of 65 chapters/415 words offers. Dumas was a digressive writer – leaping aside to add colorful details or to take his story a stage further or to tie it to some related person or event; he offers us in his original French text a near-encyclopedia of fascinating detail, historical, folkloric and personal. The enterprising publisher who undertakes the issue of a full English-language translation of Voyage au Caucase will earn the sincere gratitude of any traveler to the Caucasus. (A Russian edition was issued in 1988, presumably cen-

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sored.) Certainly an English-language publisher should include a map and illustrations. These exist in quantity: there is the excellent work of Dumas’ companion Jean-Pierre Moynet, also that of Henri Blanchard. To them we can add the Russian Prince Grigory Gagarin, the German Theodor Horschelt (both working in the 1840s-1850s), and the Russian Vasili Vereshchagin (working in the 1860s-1860s). For all these artists – whose works cover an immense range of highly evocative Caucasian peoples and scenes – we still await comprehensive albums in English. If hopes are realized and a splendid translation of Voyage au Caucase appears, there is a further item to be considered. In 1838 Dumas completed his engaging “Russian” novel The Fencing Master – and sent a manuscript copy to Tsar Nicholas I, hoping to earn a significant honor. Nicholas sent him only an inscribed finger-ring (un anneau à chiffre) – and offered no welcome to the novel. Dumas, disappointed but defiant, published it in France. Copies reached Russia; the censors banned the book, ensuring demand and circulation. In 1858, after Alexander II had succeeded Nicholas I, Dumas made his visit to Russia. His every footstep appears to have been dogged by secret service agents, who reported on his “love affairs, the duels he ducked, his run-ins – real or made up – with the Caucasian highlanders, the horns of wine emptied, his writings on the run...” With the Soviet regime’s collapse in 1991 and the opening of government archives the Georgian-French scholar Gaston Bouatchidzé was able to study the agents’ reports and in 2004 publish his L’Anneau à chiffre, les aventures d'Alexandre Dumas en Russie et au Caucase, recounting key events in Dumas’ adventures from the Russian perspective. There’s a lot of the portly Alexandre Dumas that meets the eye, but when it comes to his books – and books about his books – there’s an interesting amount that doesn’t . . . There is urgent need for remedy!

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1194 Business  

October 15 - 17, 2019

Issue #1194 Business  

October 15 - 17, 2019

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