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Issue no: 1023

• FEBRUARY 16 - 19, 2018



In this week’s issue...

Employees Involved in Varketili Metro Station Tender to be Fired NEWS PAGE 2

Georgia: New Times with New Challenges Ahead POLITICS PAGE 4

MEP Rebecca Harms on Asylum for Cabuk POLITICS PAGE 5


After the War: GT explores Abkhazia's current tourism climate Photo by Tom Day

Tbilisi to Host Prestigious Luxury Travel Event


n February 17, Tbilisi will host a closed “invitation only” prestigious professional luxury travel event – The B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop, which is focused on luxury and up-market travel products, including luxury hotels, destination management companies and travel destinations via the National Tourism Board. A selected number of leading outbound Georgian Travel companies are invited to attend and to have one-to-one meetings with international exhibitors. The B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop is organized by the British company TMI Consultancy, a travel marketing and communication company which is part of Travel Consul Alliance (www., working in partnership with Brandor Consulting, Georgia.

Int’l Criminal Court Opens Field Office in Georgia, Led by Head of Office Dr Kaupo Kand BUSINESS PAGE 6


KinderUni, Goethe Institute Launches New Educational Platform for Children SOCIETY PAGE 10

40 Years & 3000 performances on Stage: Temur Gugushvili’s Star to be Unveiled this Weekend CULTURE PAGE 12

One Last Dance: Life in the State Ballet of Georgia CULTURE PAGE 15




FEBRUARY 16 - 19, 2018

Employees Involved in Varketili Metro Station Tender to be Fired Russia to Take Part in Restoration of Syria's Oil & Gas Infrastructure BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE


ussia and Syria have signed a memorandum of cooperation in the oil and gas industry. This was announced by Russia’s Head Minister of Energy, Alexander Novak. According to the Minister, in the near future, Russia will actively participate in the restoration of the oil and gas infrastructure of the Middle East, as well as the exploration of new deposits. "We have a separate road map, we don’t only look at the electric-power industry, but also oil and gas," Novak said during a press release. "Basically, the restoration of deposits and the development of new one’s are our main goal." The Minister did not specify which companies will get the right to work on

Syrian territory. Earlier, Syria's oil Minister said that Damascus hopes to attract Russian companies to develop resources in their country. A lot of work is needed for the social and economic reconstruction of the Syrian Arab Republic. This was announced by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, after talks with the leader of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President, Hasan Roukhani. "We are not ignoring the issue of the social and economic reconstruction of Syria. There is a lot to do, there is a long way to go - in many areas, the infrastructure will have to be created practically from scratch” Putin said. According to Putin, it is “necessary to help the Syrian people to re-create their infrastructure, and also to revive industry, agriculture and trade, and reopen social facilities-hospitals,schools,kindergartens".

JSC Nenskra Hydro Delivers Equipment to Schools & Kindergartens in Svaneti


enskra Hydro JSC, Project Company for the Nenskra Hydropower Plant, has handed over a variety of educational equipment to local schools and kindergartens in the Nenskra and Nakra River Valleys in Mestia municipality of Svaneti. Three schools and four kindergartens from the two valleys were gifted TV sets, DVD players, audio systems, PCs and more. The gifts were given based on an analysis of needs of local schools and kindergartens. Procurement was made by JSC Nenskra Hydro and the equipment handed over to them by JSC Nenskra Hydro CEO. “Before handing over the Nenskra Hydro Power Plant (HPP) to the Government of Georgia, JSC Nenskra Hydro will operate the HPP for 36 years on completion of the 5-years construction process,” said JSC Nenskra Hydro’s CEO Mr. Choi, Byoung-Seub. “During operation, we will provide as many positive benefits to the local people as we can. This is how K-water operates in Korea and overseas, being a company with high social responsibility standards. Based on our understanding and experience in this matter, we will continue to cooperate in the Svaneti region of Georgia.

There is no other top priority sector except investment in children and their education for the bright future of the country, and we are happy to be able to discover new ways in which to unite and help local children.” The Nenskra HPP main construction is scheduled to commence in 2018, and in the meantime, preparatory works are ongoing in the Nenskra Valley, as well as works within the framework of the Community Investment Program that was designed to contribute to the sustainable development of the Nenskra and Nakra Valleys, through investing in the development of small and mediumsized enterprises locally, skills training of the community members and so on. JSC Nenskra Hydro is a project-based company established in 2015 as a result of cooperation between Korea Water Resources Corporation K-water and JSC Partnership Fund. The company will construct the Nenskra Hydropower Plant in the Nenskra and Nakra river valleys in Mestia Municipality of the Svaneti region. The 280 MW Nenskra Hydropower Plant will generate approximately 1,200.00 GWh of electricity annually, which will be fully consumed by the Georgian market.



bilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze announced at the city government meeting yesterday, that employees involved in the Varketili Metro station tender procedures will be fired, following the incident on January 30, when a part of the ceiling collapsed at Varketili Metro station, in Tbilisi, injuring 14 people. “Our citizens were injured during the unfortunate incident at Varketili metro station. We have examined the situation and it is clear there were flaws in the process of the works,” Kaladze

stated. It appears there were violations at several stages of the project, specifically, despite the needed and requested technical expertise for the acceptance process of the construction works, no technical expertise was given. While the investigation regarding the Varketili metro station is ongoing, the Tbilisi Mayor asked Mamuka Kobakhidze, Head of the Transport Company to immediately fire those employees involved in the tender procedures of the Varketili metro station. As Mayor Kaladze stated, the evaluation of several infrastructure projects revealed that the existing system and mechanisms do not ensure the high quality of construction works and a concept is being worked on, in order

to get better quality and better monitoring of construction works. The Tbilisi Mayor stated that the tender documentations for municipal infrastructural projects will necessarily include quality control and monitoring at the stages of construction planning and actual construction works. “No construction project documentation will be accepted without prior quality and technical expertise, and construction works will be supervised and monitored at all stages,” the Mayor said. “Our citizens are using these infrastructural projects, and we have to maximally ensure the quality of each of these projects and the safety of each person using them,” Kaladze added.

Photo source: MFA of Georgia

Georgia’s Janelidze Participates in Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Ministerial BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia’s Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze took part in the 'Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (Daesh)' ministerial held in Kuwait. While addressing the participants of the conference on February 13, Janelidze congratulated the Coalition on the tangible success made in its fight against ISIS and reaffirmed that Georgia, as a member of the Coalition, will continue its efforts towards ensuring global security. The Georgian Minister also highlighted the importance of joint and coordinated actions against terrorism and welcomed the adoption of the guiding principles of the Global Coalition. Janelidze also spoke about the Georgian government’s efforts towards ensuring a stable and secure environment in its territory, as well as towards preventing radicalism and extremism. Georgia’s Foreign Ministry reports

that, according to the Minister, the effective implementation of various projects in Georgia’s ethnic and religious minority regions contributes to the integration of the vulnerable segments of the population into the social, economic and political life of the country. “Social integration, education and an inclusive society serve as essential prerequisites for the eradication of terrorism and radicalism,” Janelidze stated. Moreover, within the frames of the ministerial, the Georgian Foreign Minister had a meeting with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Adel Al-Jubeir. Bilateral relations, international security, trade-economic co-operation and the exchange of official visits were the key issues of the meeting. Janelidze introduced his counterpart to Georgian economic development trends, transit and investment potential and the Georgian government’s efforts towards the development of tourism and infrastructure. Janelidze also met the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor Crnadak. The two ministers discussed the

friendly co-operation between the two countries, highlighting the substantial progress that has been made on the path to European integration. Special attention was paid to the importance of high-level meetings in the context of developing bilateral cooperation. Crnadak reaffirmed his government’s firm support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. The Global Coalition against Daesh was formed in September 2014 and is unique in its membership, scope and commitment. Together, the Global Coalition is committed to degrading and ultimately defeating Daesh, with its 74 members committed to tackling Daesh on all fronts, to dismantle its networks and counter its global ambitions. Beyond the military campaign in Iraq and Syria, the Coalition is committed to: tackling Daesh’s financing and economic infrastructure; preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders; supporting stabilization and the restoration of essential public services to areas liberated from Daesh; and countering the group’s propaganda.




NGOs Address EU Commissioners Regarding Labor Safety Law in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON


number of Georgian NonGovernmental Organizations (NGOs) have sent an open letter to the European Commissioners, to share their concerns regarding the discussions on the Labor Safety draft law ongoing in Georgian Parliament. The letter addresses three EU commissioners: Johannes Hahn, DirectorateGeneral for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR); Marianne Thyssen, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (EMPL); and Cecilia Malmström, Directorate-General for Trade. The NGOs reminds them that labor safety is one of the most significant issues of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and the association agenda, adding that relevant institutions of the EU are well aware of the weak labor policy in Georgia, which results in “unstable, low-paid and unprotected work” carried out by employees in degrading working conditions. The letter also reads that at workplaces where the risk of worker injury and death is especially high, fatal industrial accidents happen weekly. “As a result, 1,046 people died or were injured in the workplace from 2011-2016 in Georgia. This number is increasing every year,” the NGOs stressed, adding that despite certain positive provisions, the draft law initiated by the government is “weak” in terms of its enforcement and “does not provide sufficient mecha-

1,046 people died or were injured in the workplace from 2011-2016 in Georgia. The number is increasing every year Photo source:

nisms” which would convince outsiders of the will of the government to effectively protect employees in the workplace. “The draft law has been worked on for eight months in the legislative body, and the government position regarding the review of the draft is still unknown, substantially influenced by the economic team of the government,” the letter reads. The civil sector underlined that, according to the proposed version of the draft law, it applies only to “work under excessively risk of harsh and harmful conditions” and adds that this narrows the

scope of the law. Furthermore, the draft law does not apply to every workplace, which, according to the NGOs, “constitutes unjustified limitation and rests on an incorrect interpretation of the internationally recognized labor standards.” The letter also stresses that the draft law foresees the unconditional access of the labor safety supervisory body to the workplace only as an exception, adding a Labor Inspector will need a court order to carry out monitoring, for which additional time would be needed, so “decreasing the chance of an immediate and effective response by the supervi-

sory body.” The NGOs also claim that the minimal fines as a sanction determined by the draft law, which are not in line with the draft law aim - to make employers rectify the infringements instead of paying fines. “We hope that the relevant units of the EU will be in close coordination with the government and the Parliament of Georgia in order ensure the adoption of the law responds to the existing challenges as well as the conditions of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement,” the letter says. The statistics of workplace injuries and

deaths occurring in Georgia 2011-2016 is as follows: 2011 – 54 people died and 137 were injured 2012 – 48 deaths and 289 injuries 2013 – 23 died and 11 workers were injured 2014 – 45 deaths, injuries - 75 2015 – 42 people died and 82 were injured 2016 – 58 died and 85 got injuried. According to the Georgian Trade Union, 40 workers died in workplaces in 2017. Three workers have died since January 1, 2018 on construction sites in Tbilisi.

Mediation and Arbitration Government Improve Business Environment Intializes Reducing in Georgia Turnover Tax for Small Businesses


BILISI. 14 February 2018 – Protracted legal proceedings and underdeveloped alternative dispute resolution create burdens for business environment and investments in Georgia, concluded representatives of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia and the European Business Association at their meeting on 14 February 2018. “Reinforcement of alternative dispute resolution is an important part of the ongoing justice reform. It is our goal for each citizen, as well as for businesses operating in Georgia, to feel protected before the law and fulfil their rights through various available mechanisms. Georgia has made important steps forward while sharing the international experience in mediation and arbitration, and improving the national legislation

in these areas. We are determined to continue this positive process in the future,” said Tea Tsulukiani, Minister of Justice of Georgia. The discussions at the meeting brought together representatives of legislative, executive and judicial authorities, private sector, diplomatic missions and international organizations. Janos Herman, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia; Bruno Balvanera, Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in the South Caucasus, Moldova and Belarus; Natia Natsvlishvili, Assistant Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Georgia; Giorgi Mikautadze, Secretary of the High Council of Justice of Georgia; and David Lee, Director of the European Business Association,

addressed the audience. The meeting was organized by the European Business Association in Georgia, supported by the support of the European Union (EU) and UNDP in the framework of their joint initiative to ensure access to justice for all. The project is part of the comprehensive EU4Justice Programme, a cooperation framework between Georgia and the European Union in the justice sector with a current EU budget allocation of EUR 50 million.

Dimitry Kumsishvili attends SGC Advisory Council Meeting in Azerbaijan BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


irst Vice Premier, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Dimitry Kumsishvili, is attending the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) 4th Ministerial meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Southern Gas Corridor, passing through both Georgia and Turkey, gas from Azerbaijan will be transported to

Europe, with the gas pipeline to be connected to the Trans –Anatolian (TANAP) and trans-adriatic pipelines (TAP), through which gas from the Shah Deniz field will reach the European market, the Ministry of Economy of Georgia reports. As has said, “The Southern Gas Corridor is one of the priority energy projects for the EU. It envisages the transportation of gas from the Caspian region to European countries through Georgia and Turkey”. “The gas to be produced as part of the Stage 2 of development of Azerbaijan's

Shah Deniz field is considered as the main source for the Southern Gas Corridor projects. Other sources can also join this project at a later stage” “As part of Stage 2 of the Shah Deniz development, gas will be exported to Turkey and European markets by expanding the South Caucasus Pipeline and the construction of Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline and Trans Adriatic Pipeline”, it says. The Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) 4th ministerial meeting was opened by President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.



rime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced at a Governmental meeting today, that according to the new legislative initiative prepared by the Minister of Finance of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze, the turnover tax for small businesses will be reduced to 1%, and enterprises worth up to 500 000 GEL will also be considered as small businesses. The PM pointed out that the support

of the enterprises is one of the Government’s priorities, with projects such as “Produce in Georgia” and the agricultural project “Plant the Future” working successfully. “The new tax initiative entails a preferential regime for small enterprises, reducing turnover tax from 5% to 1 %, and businesses with up to 500 000 GEL turnover will also be considered in the small business category. We think it will be a serious relief for small business entrepreneurs and an encouragement for those who plan to start their businesses,” Kvirikashvili said.




FEBRUARY 16 - 19, 2018

Georgia: New Times with New Challenges Ahead OP-ED BY VICTOR KIPIANI



Georgia's case is no exception in terms of the security exposure characteristic of a small nation in a region influenced on all sides by regional, revisionist and global powers. The vulnerabilities of this exposure are multifaceted and range from one extreme to another: from classic, age-old challenges to unprecedented situations (usually the former in a new disguise, redefined by modern technology and new fashions of "doing politics"). Moreover, classic notions of running world affairs through Westphalian networks and a "concert of nations" are now only a regular source of inspiration for academics, and the bipolar order and the Washington consensus are increasingly nostalgic. Given the steady decay (hopefully only temporary) of the international liberal order as we all knew it during the brief post-Cold-war period, the need to compose a new world order is becoming ever more undeniable. The search for a new "grand chessboard" is intrinsically linked to the opening up and setting into motion of new arenas for the promotion of national (i.e. hegemonic) interests across neighbouring regions and around the world, as and when the ego may admit, and available resources permit.

“BARBARIANS” AT THE GATE: HARD POWER The past two decades of Georgia’s modern sovereignty have been marked by an unending series of covert incursions and transgressions by our neighbor to the north, often experimenting with new forms of hybrid and asymmetric warfare. This has ended in (but has it in fact ended?) the overt deployment of troops on the ground to divide et impera along the arc of Russia’s soft southern underbelly, as well as in a chain of ethnic conflicts, all strongly driven by geopolitical rivalry, spanning the region. Georgia’s persistent determination to assert its internationally upheld right to make its own choices has finally succeeded in stripping the "mask of decency" from the USSR’s spiritual successor and heir to its legacy, which continues as before to violate basic norms of international law by seizing significant swathes of Georgian territory and, practically speaking, unashamedly annexing them. Russia

has also pursued this Soviet tradition of using physical power along the western flank of its hinterland during ongoing incursions into Ukraine. Unless an effective deterrent is soon put in place, much the same menace will loom over all or specific parts of other, mostly small, nations. All in all, besides the naked use of military force required by “gunboat expediency” which resonates so well with the historical traditions of states impressing their influence abroad (besides fostering a politically useful public perception of “things being taken care of”), new means of extending national interests across borders and beyond are taking concretely discernible shapes, and are worth examining more closely and more professionally from the Georgian standpoint.

THE LINGERING POWER OF SOFT POWER The notion of a “soft” form of power rapidly became a catch-all term for all kinds of influence not associated with “hard” military coercion, and although this wide theoretical definition of soft power is exact, it is only partially so. Quite frequently also referred to as “civic”, soft power is based upon the positive appeal of a country's culture, of its social values and political ideals. A vivid example of such persuasiveness is the BBC, which although it benefits from government backing remains a fairly independent and credible instrument of soft power. The British Council, Germany's Goethe Institute and various US scholarship programmes are further examples of this concept. Surprisingly, the US President’s use of Twitter as a means of digital diplomacy is also considered as an expression of soft power to boost the image of the Unites States (although the direction in which the President is doing so is debatable). Another state which to a large extent exemplifies the use of soft power is China, in addition to whose major media outlets (e.g. the Xinhua News Agency and China Radio International) relies heavily upon its Confucius Institutes—a world-wide network of centres teaching the Chinese language and culture abroad. China also boasts several foreign policy think-tanks (e.g. the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations and the China Institute of International Studies) whose functions are dual. According to researchers at George Washington University, China spends around USD 10bn a year on its soft power instruments.

An emerging soft power yet to be scrutinized by scholars is India, which has long been attempting to become a recognizable world power. What the country lacks in terms of its diplomatic resources (India's Foreign Service employs barely 900 people for a population of 1.2 billion), it tries to compensate with Bollywood, yoga, Hinduism or Ayurveda, as well as through its 25-million-strong diaspora, whose members are remarkably wellengaged in political and economic centres around the world. Indian Premier Modi’s description of his country as “the world's youngest country and its most ancient” during his trip to the US were clearly rebranding India in order to revitalize its international image. As a flexible force of persuasion capable of absorbing other methods, however, the contours of soft power can become blurred as it mutates into “smart” or even “sharp” power. Using the latter, a state attempts to base its informational policies on fake news, deliberate deception, disrupting political and information environments in targeted countries, exploiting a target country’s social fractions and rifts—and essentially crossing the line beyond which persuasion becomes coercion. Both the United States and the Soviet Union frequently resorted to sharp methods during the Cold War; nowadays, the Russian television networks “Russia Today” and “Sputnik” are good examples of such practices—not necessarily seeking to “win hearts and minds” through fair competition, but instead manipulating target audiences by distorting information, undermining democracy, and attacking the liberal order. It should also be pointed out that a certain degree of unilateralism was also typical of US post-Cold-War foreign policy, underwritten by clear elements of coercive democratization and the effective transformation of that policy into the “smart” version of soft power— combining both hard and soft powers in an attempt to align tactics with objectives and create smart strategies. The new, recently adopted US National Security Strategy bears an extremely strong resemblance with the smart power concept projected during the Cold War—the US military deterring Soviet aggression while undermining communism behind the Iron Curtain. The intrinsic nature of autocratic states, however, predominantly colours their efforts to exercise soft power, conveys the aggressiveness of regimes, and makes it incredibly hard to qualify such efforts as normal public policy.

Fully-fledged democracies continue to struggle to develop strategies capable of meeting the destructive impact of “sharpened” soft power; but this effort is even more challenging for new democracies like Georgia, with their frail institutions, scarce resources and, most importantly, high rates of poverty, the population exposed to malign distraction and manipulation.

NEWLY RE-EMERGED "BATTLEGROUNDS" Soft power is sometimes associated with economic sanctions, but economic or financial instruments tend not to be seen as forms of soft power (although it is difficult in practice to distinguish between economic performance and soft power). The latter represent a separate and independent set of means with which to exert influence, under the newly resurfaced term of “geoconomics”. In a word, geoconomics purport to defend and promote the national interest and to produce desirable geopolitical outcomes through economic actions. The newly redefined concept harnesses a set of instruments consisting of trade, monetary, investment, energy and commodity policies, as well as cyberspace, sovereign wealth funds and development aid. In fact, however, geoconomics are nothing new in terms of one or several states attempting to influence others: the LendLease policy of 1941 was an attempt to pursue economic goals alongside military ones, and the Bretton Woods system, whose aims were admittedly predominantly positive, came quite close to implementing this concept in practice. Other clear post-Second World War examples include the Marshall Plan and the US threat in 1956 to instigate a collapse of the British financial system, which brought an end to the Suez Crisis. In 1960s and ‘70s, however, the power of geoconomics began to wane—with the striking exception of 1973-’74, when the Arab members of OPEC sought to discourage foreign support for Israel by imposing an embargo on oil deliveries to the United States and the Netherlands, triggering a global economic slowdown— but regained momentum in the ‘80s in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The concept, however, is certainly being reinvigorated nowadays thanks to various revisionist powers that are routinely devoting their attention to such means. Quite remarkable in this regard are China's attempts to not only prevent any unwanted actions on its peripheries, but also to greatly extend its influence well beyond South-east and South-west Asia. And Beijing is backing up its geoeconomic ventures with serious money, allocating $50 billion to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, $41 billion to the New Development Bank, $40 billion to the Silk Road Economic Belt, and $25 billion to the Maritime Silk Road and to the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement. Beijing has pledged to invest $1.25 trillion worldwide by 2025, raising the total to an unprecedented $1.41 trillion (the Marshall Plan cost the equivalent of $103 billion in today’s dollars). All this is synonymous with the slogan of “Chinese characteristics of a new era”. Another revisionist state to utilize economic instruments to further its geopolitical aims is Russia, which for example repeatedly threatens to cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine both to attract Kiev to Moscow's orbit and remind the EU of Moscow's status as a regional power. Besides threatening to reduce energy

supplies to Europe if the latter continues to support anti-Russian sanctions, it also created the Eurasian Economic Union to tie up the countries of its “near neighbourhood”. Banning imports of Georgian agricultural products is a further example of Russia pursuing her own geoconomics agenda. By meticulously attempting to construct an alternative to the post-war Western order, both China and Russia are clearly on a collision course for Eurasian domination. This promises us—including Georgia—a new and thrilling chapter of their geoconomics struggle, with China trying to relegate Russia to a second-tier regional power. Let us simply hope that this clash of their economic instruments will not result in a hard power showdown. Plenty of other geoconomics-related policies are currently being carried out by the Gulf States, India and, to a limited extent, Iran—thereby embodying this method into policies which will flourish over the coming decades. On top of all this, the US style of geoconomics has yet to overcome a unique domestic political and legal makeup in order to fully blossom, and clearly Trump’s “America First” concept will certainly help to make this happen.

POSTSCRIPT: SPOTTING THE RIGHT PLACE Modern world affairs are volatile, and projections are often uncertain. Smallsized nations with respectable economies do have an effect, but have a clear, unchaotic vision for the development of a state identity in alignment with acceptable regional structures is vitally important in the long run. This country is undoubtedly sensitive to all the above due to its history, its geography, and to the challenges it faces, but it should not idly observe the geopolitical currents swirling around it and passively accept any outcome: Georgia can and should play its own role, giving much-needed shape and color to regional matters. Firstly, the country can exert a soft power of its own, provided that the necessary reforms it implements are uncompromising, that no setbacks or slowing down are tolerated, and that it appears as a model of development for neighbouring countries. Secondly, Georgia is in a position to play its own chord of geoconomics by maintaining the importance of its “energy power” (e.g. as a transit country for hydrocarbons) which corresponds to Europe’s need for energy security. Thirdly, the country might consider screening inbound investment as a geoconomic instrument capable of increasing geopolitical clout (like, for example, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States). Georgia is developing key domestic infrastructure which will play a wider regional role (e.g. the Anaklia deep-water port and free zone). Lastly, by virtue of its unique location as the maritime gate for a range of land-locked countries, the quest to identify and develop supranational transport and logistics systems should be even more rigorous and robust. Besides, thanks to a set of free trade agreements, Georgia is well placed to articulate itself boldly as a convenient venue for trade linking the Caucasus, Asia and Europe. Such a Brave New World may appear a little futuristic, but it is by no means dystopian—and only a nation with a long-term and progressive vision, creative and self-disciplined, could succeed in creating such a world for itself.






I’m raising my voice to protect people which I see in a situation such as Mustafa’s. It is to protect our western ideals of democratic standards, the rule of law and human rights. Mustafa is one person; yet we are not only fighting for him, but for what is right and what is wrong.


ember of European Parliament Rebecca Harms, on a visit to Georgia to lobby for Mustafa Cabuk’s asylum in Georgia, visited Cabuk in prison. Prior to her visit, GEORGIA TODAY met her for an exclusive interview.


GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE PUBLIC IS THAT THE TURKISH GOV’T IS BULLYING ITS GEORGIAN COUNTERPART INTO SUBMISSION TO PUT CABUK INTO PRISON. DO YOU THINK THAT’S THE CASE? I think Georgia needs to maintain good relations with Turkey. If you look at the map, you see that Georgia is a very proEuropean country, but it’s situated far away from the EU. It has borders with other countries and has longstanding relations with Turkey. They don’t want to lose their existing relations. Everybody can have political doubts on this, but on the other hand, Georgians have the responsibility to develop their country and to develop it on different levels; in a safe and reliable way.

BUT SHOULD IT COME AT THE COST OF THE CASES MENTIONED? No. I have appealed since the very first day I heard about this case, to the Georgian Government, not to return Cabuk to Turkey because it’s clear for me that the prosecution is politically motivated. It happened after Turkey decided to approach the Gulen movement. Among the people that the Turkish Government wants to see in prison, some have never

been Gulenists. I am convinced that it’s against the rule of law and fair justice to criminalize somebody only because he works for an organization or is close to an organization.


Turkey. Give him the possibility to lead a safe life in Georgia, because the possibility to escape from prison, his possibilities to have a fair trial in Turkey, his chance to be protected against illtreatment or torture are tiny. Something that Georgia should not do in its relationship with Turkey is to support unfair trials and human rights violations like the ones that take place every day in Turkish prisons.



In the institutions of Brussels, you will find no-one who wants to weaken our relations with Georgia. But, there are people who think that the idea of close association between eastern neighbors and the EU is wrong, and this is a kind of new imperialistic strategy, as it’s very much against the interests of new Russia. Those people will use any human rights case as an excuse. I hope Georgian justice is stronger than Georgian interests to please Erdogan, and I hope the Georgian justice system is as strong as we believe it to be in Brussels. Right now, we think of Georgia as being among the three associated countries that have made the biggest progress.

I also think Turkey has interests in Georgia. It’s always wrong to see interests only on one side. I think Georgia, in this case, should follow what other countries already did following the fundamentals of human rights, i,e, not to send Mustafa back.



I said so already when I was in Georgia last year. It’s a case for political asylum. I think it’s a very good initiative to ask the President of Georgia to grant political asylum to Cabuk, and I happily join this initiative.

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FEBRUARY 16 - 19, 2018

Int’l Criminal Court Opens Field Office in Georgia, Led by Head of Office Dr Kaupo Kand EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


he Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination on the situation in Georgia in August 2008. In January 2016, the Pre-Trial Chamber authorized the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation into crimes within the ICC jurisdiction, in particular war crimes and crimes against humanity, that were allegedly committed in and around the Tskhinvali region 1 July – 10 October, 2008. The ICC seeks to bring justice for victims on all sides, and to ensure that the alleged most serious crimes committed in Georgia during the August 2008 war do not go unpunished. In the interest of victims on all sides it is important that the ICC has access to alleged crime scenes and victims on all sides. The ICC does not substitute national courts, but complements them. The Court has 18 independent international judges who are elected by the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) and led by the President of the Court. The Prosecutor, who is also elected by the ASP, carries out investigations in an independent, impartial and objective manner. Although the OTP and the Registry maintain close coordination within the remits of their respective mandates, the ICC Country Office, whose mandate it is to maintain contact with all parties to the conflict, falls under the auspices of the Registrar who is not involved in on-going investigative work: it is a neutral part of the Court providing diplomatic, administrative, and logistical support to various clients of the Court. In addition, there is an independent institution within the ICC framework called the Trust Fund for Victims that supports and assists victims and conflict affected population in situation countries. In 2018, the ICC and its States Parties celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, its founding treaty, and Georgia, a state party, celebrates the 15th anniversary of its ratification of this treaty. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to the ICC’s Representative in Georgia, Dr Kaupo Kand, to find out more.


OPENING IN GEORGIA? The main message is that the 2008 conflict and victims of that conflict are important for the international community in general, and for the ICC in particular. This is our 1st field office outside Africa and hence concretely shows that the ICC is active and carrying out investigations not only in Africa. We opened our field office here in December. It’s important to carry out outreach activities, to talk to the victims of the conflict, talk to the general public, state institutions, academia, diplomatic community, international organizations, and so on. Regarding the ICC’s mandate, the ICC Country Office is under the Registry and thus is a neutral part of the Court which provides diplomatic, administrative and logistical support to various organs and clients of the Court. The on-going investigative activities, however, are carried out by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in a confidential manner and thus is independent of public outreach and engagement. The ICC’s judgements are delivered by the judges in Chambers. An independent Trust Fund for Victims carries out reparations and provides assistance to victims and the conflict-affected population.

SEEING AS RUSSIA DID ITS UTMOST TO SEE THE OSCE AND UN CEASEFIRE MONITORING MISSIONS OUT OF GEORGIA, DON’T YOU FEAR THE SAME FATE? The ICC is set up by more than 120 countries and its judges and prosecutors act in full independence and impartiality. The Russian Federation is not party to the Rome Statute. While the Russian Federation signed the Statute, it withdrew its signature in 2016. So, Russia is a non-state party. Russia is not funding the court and the ICC needs no authorization from Russia to operate outside Russia. Of course, if Russia becomes a state party, if it signs and ratifies the Rome Statute, that might change the situation from the administrative point of view. One should emphasize that the ICC is a judicial institution with an exclusively judicial mandate. It is not subject to political control or influence. The Country Office is the Court’s interface for outreach with all parties to the conflict. If you look at the ICC, we’re talking about more than 120 countries, it’s all around the world - African continent, Europe, Americas, Asia Pacific, it is really,

truly, an international organization and independent Court.

WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE BRIEF BUT VIOLENT CONFLICT THAT OCCURRED IN 2008? HOW MUCH DO YOU BUY INTO THE NARRATIVE THAT THE CONFLICT WAS PROVOKED BY GEORGIA? The ICC solely investigates crimes that fall within its jurisdiction. Political issues, territorial disputes, and the question of who provoked or started the conflict, fall outside of the Court’s mandate. These are political and diplomatic questions for historians, academics and experts to study. The Court seeks to ensure, jointly with the relevant national jurisdictions, that the most serious crimes committed in each situation do not go unpunished. It primarily investigates and prosecutes those who bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, regardless of his/her nationality. In the situation in Georgia, the OTP is authorized to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution, attacks against civilian population and peacekeepers, willful killing, destruction of property and pillaging, which were allegedly committed between 1 July and 10 October 2008.

WHAT’S THE CURRENT PROGRESS OF THE INVESTIGATION? Just to clarify before answering this question that that the ICC field office and I represent the Registry of the Court. The Court has different organs. The investigation is carried out by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) and not by the Registry. As you know, the preliminary examination started in midAugust 2008, and in January 2016, the Pre-Trial Chamber decided to authorize the Prosecutor to start an investigation into the situation in Georgia. As I mentioned earlier, this investigation is confidential, like any other criminal investigation, and the OTP does not share details of ongoing investigations and their possible results. That said, the investigation is progressing at full speed and OTP staff are deploying very often to the field in furtherance of the investigation. The most important part for the Prosecutor is to try to establish the truth about alleged crimes committed during the 2008 conflict, and, of course,

to bring justice to the victims on all sides. If and when the OTP determines that it has sufficient evidence to prove that an individual is responsible for a crime in the Court's jurisdiction, the Office presents this information to a panel of judges who will independently and impartially assess whether the evidence meets the legal threshold of the Statute. The burden of proving that someone committed Rome Statute crimes is with the Prosecutor.

AS RUSSIA HAS OPTED NOT TO COOPERATE WITH THE INVESTIGATION, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF IT BEING CONSIDERED LEGITIMATE AND NOT BEING LABELED AS ONE-SIDED? As this falls under the mandate of the Office of the Prosecutor, I can of course provide only a limited response. I represent the Registry’s office, which is responsible for the operational, administrative part of the court. Our main task is to carry out outreach activities and to support various organs of the court including here, in Georgia. Of course, all ICC organs encourage state parties, but also non-state parties to cooperate fully with the Court in the interest of the victims. So, in order to bring justice to the victims, cooperation is an important aspect. The ICC itself has no police force; it has no kind of enforcement powers. So, on many aspects of Court’s activities, it depends on cooperation by the state parties and also by non-state parties and international organizations. As regards the ongoing investigation, the OTP has repeatedly underscored that it attaches great importance to securing cooperation by all parties to the conflict and that it con-

tinues its proactive outreach efforts to all sides, including the Russian Federation and South Ossetian region de facto authorities. The OTP has also made it clear that the investigation will continue at full speed. Difficult relations regarding cooperation are not unique to the Georgia situation and such difficulties have been addressed successfully in other investigations the past.

AND ON THE OTHER HAND, IF IT SAYS AT THE END THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, WHAT GEORGIANS SAW AND EXPERIENCED WAS NOT REAL, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE REACTION WOULD BE? Based on preliminary examination and upon the decision of the Chamber to open an investigation in Georgia, the ICC prosecutor office and judges believed that there is enough evidence to start the investigation in Georgia. Otherwise it would not have started. It is an independent international criminal court and therefore one should not speculate about the final outcome. The key is to let the investigation run its course and allow the OTP to carry out its work in accordance with its mandate. If and when it is determined that sufficient evidence has been collected, the information is presented to the judges. At the ICC, international independent judges assess the collected and presented evidence, and then issue a judgment. At the end, the Chamber, i.e. the independent judges, makes the final decision on the guilt or innocence of individual perpetrators for alleged crimes. It will take as long as needed to gather the required evidence. There is no specific timeline for the investigative process in this sense in the ICC legal texts.

Abkhazia, through the Eyes of a Tourist, Part 1 OP-ED BY TOM DAY


andwiched between Russia and Georgia-proper, a small piece of land, roughly 200km in length, is claimed by three separate parties. The land is, officially, part of Georgia’s territory, and Official Tbilisi says that it is occupied illegally by Russia. Abkhazia is only recognized by 4 UN member states as an independent republic. Abkhazia is almost entirely dependent on Russia, and Russia believes (secretly) that it is part of their territory; it certainly felt that way. The real lure for me was the way it is described by my country’s (UK) travel advisory service, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. “[We] advise against all travel to the breakaway region of Abkhazia, and against all but essential travel to areas near the Administrative Boundary Lines with Abkhazia.” This level of warning is given to places such as Syria and parts of Afghanistan. So, with my only European friend in Georgia and his Lithuanian, Russian-speaking friend, we decided to make an adventure out of it.

The process of getting in to Abkhazia as a tourist is fairly straight-forward, albeit quite strange. It seemed to be, in my eyes, a bit pretentious. First of all, we had to send a request, no less than 5 days before proposed entry, to the Abkhaz Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sokhumi (or ‘Sokhum’, as they call it there). Once the letter had been issued, we brought it, along with our passports, to the occupation line. We were brought into a small interview room and asked a series of seemingly irrelevant questions; it was as if they were just doing it for show. We thought the same for the ‘bag search’ that happened afterwards, because all that we were asked to do was open our backpacks

Photo by Tom Day

and show what was on the top. I felt like how I imagine my parents did when I was a child playing games in imaginary worlds. They used to go along with such fantasies to keep me happy, they were good like that. And we were doing very much the same today for the men in the Abkhaz military costumes, who were pretending that we were entering their "country." Very few times in life do places turn out to be how you imagined, but the border crossing to war-ruined Abkhazia was an eerie exception. It was a truly depressing scene; the sodden sky was like a grey sponge looming over us with irregular light downpours. Before it could meet the horizon, it blended into a sur-

rounding ring of heavy ominous clouds which snaked around the mountains, constricting the potential beauty of the landscape. As we crossed the bridge from the Georgian checkpoint to the Abkhaz, a number of roadblocks had been placed to slow vehicles down, and behind them were road spikes ready to pull out at a moment's notice. The air felt heavy with the evident tension from the unsettled disagreement. If you have ever owned an orchid flower then you will know how difficult it is to care for, and how, when not properly treated, it slowly recedes into itself, gradually dropping leaves and losing roots. Sokhumi (our first stop) was like the last sign of life from the orchid which is Abkhazia, and on the drive in we saw the result of mal-treatment. The 60-minute journey was even more depressing than the border crossing; littered with derelict concrete constructions, the consequence of an uncomfortably recent war; it was like being taken through the set of a post-apocalyptic film. We spent the remaining few hours of the day wandering along the seafront and sampling the local food in an Abk-

haz restaurant, which served Georgian food with absolutely no difference in presentation or recipe. They wouldn’t admit where it was from, though. Later, we bought some Churchkhela - the most Georgian food item around. For our amusement, and out of curiosity, we asked the woman behind the counter where it came from. “Turkey,” was the answer she gave. The center Sokhumi was, and still is, a holiday destination for Russian tourists. It was comparable to other seaside spots in the region; but, if you walk for 5 minutes in any direction (apart from into the sea), even this part of the territory is haunted by the concrete skeletons of times when the population was much bigger. What we saw on the surface of this first day was a translucent sheet over what really goes on, and with the rest of our first evening we made plans for our remaining days. We would find people to interview, ideally locals, and explore the area in greater depth. Check out part-two of Tom Day’s adventures in Abkhazia in next week’s issue of GEORGIA TODAY




FEBRUARY 16 - 19, 2018

Average Hotel Prices in Georgia and Hotel Price Index (December 2017)


n this bulletin, we discuss hotel prices1 in December across different regions of Georgia and calculate the hotel price index2 in December 2017 compared to November 2017. Information about hotels and hotel price data were collected by contacting hotels individually and by using the website. On this website, there are more than 10,000 accommodations (apartments, hostels, hotels, etc.) registered in the territory of Georgia. For the purpose of this study, we focused on guesthouses3 and 3, 4, and 5-star hotels.

AVERAGE HOTEL PRICES In December 2017, the average cost of a room in a 3-star hotel in Georgia was GEL 144. The most expensive 3-star hotels in Georgia are in MtskhetaMtianeti and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions, where the daily rates surpass

average price is GEL 679, in Kakheti it is GEL 297, in Adjara it is GEL 253, and in Samtskhe-Javakheti it is GEL 426. The prices for guesthouses are considerably lower compared to 3, 4, and 5-star hotels. The average cost of a room in December 2017 was GEL 77. Similar to 3-star and 4-star hotels, the highest daily rates for guesthouses are found in Mtskheta-Mtianeti region. The prices for guesthouses in Kvemo Kartli region also stand out (72% higher than the average) because of the high rates for guesthouses in Tetritskaro.

HOTEL PRICE INDEX In December 2017, the hotel price index2 increased by 9.3% compared to November 2017 (It should be noted that in November 2017 compared to October 2017 the hotel price index had declined by 4.4%). The daily rates for standard double hotel rooms increased signifi-

Percentage change of prices in December 2017 over November 2017

these types of hotels, Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions recorded the steepest price rises. Furthermore, Tbilisi experienced a sig-

nificant increase in 3, 4 and 5-star hotel prices during this month. In guesthouses, a moderate price increase was recorded (3.3%). In this

type of accommodation, the biggest percentage price rise for standard double rooms was recorded in SamtskheJavakheti region.

number of rooms and services are usually offered by the resident family.

visited Georgia. Of these, 234,969 travelers stayed in Georgia for 24 hours or more. In November 2017, the number of international travelers was 524,108, of whom 201,056 travelers stayed in Georgia for 24 hours or more.

The results are based on the surveying of standard double hotel room prices of 3, 4, 5-star hotels and guesthouses in 10 regions of Georgia. Hotels were chosen arbitrarily according to random sampling principle. The study contains 71% (312) of all 3, 4 and 5-star hotels and 25% (456 guesthouses) of all guesthouses registered on The 3, 4 and 5-star hotel price data was collected by contacting hotels individually, while the prices of guesthouses were taken from


In the graph standard double room average prices in 3, 4 star hotels and guesthouses are given by regions. 5-star hotel prices see in the text.

the average price by 58% and 48% respectively. This is largely due to the high prices of standard double rooms in hotels of popular winter destinations, Bakuriani and Gudauri. The rates for 3-star hotels in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Tbilisi are also above the national average. Significantly, and curiously, 3-star hotels in SamegreloZemo Svaneti region are more expensive than 4-star hotels in the same region. This is due the remote locations of many of the 3-star hotels which are mostly located in Mestia, while 4-star hotels are more commonly found in the more accessible locations of Zugdidi and Poti. The average cost of a room at a 4-star hotel in December 2017 was GEL 255. The most expensive 4-star hotels are found in Mtskheta-Mtianeti region (GEL 342). Prices for this type of hotel are also above average in Kakheti and Tbilisi. 5-star hotels are only found in three regions outside Tbilisi (Adjara, Kakheti, and Samtskhe-Javakheti). For this type of hotel, the average cost of a room was GEL 411 in December 2017. Importantly, there is a vast difference between prices for 5-star hotels in Tbilisi and the other three regions. In Tbilisi, the

cantly in regions where tourism is seasonal, namely Mtskheta-Mtianeti, and Samtskhe-Javakheti. The notable increase in hotel prices for these regions is due to the opening of the ski season at winter resorts. Tbilisi hotel prices also rose significantly, driven by increased demand. As usual, the number of international travelers increased in December compared to November. In December 2017 compared to November, the number of international travelers visiting Georgia grew by 14%. Of these international travelers, the number who stayed in Georgia for 24 hours or more increased by 17% compared to November4. Price changes in the remaining regions are insignificant. Guria, Kvemo Kartli and Shida Kartli regions all have small shares of the hotel market. The demand for, and supply of, hotel services is low in these regions. The demand for hotel services in Kakheti and Imereti regions is not affected by seasonality. Accordingly, the prices are stable in these regions compared to others. The daily rates of hotel prices decreased only in Racha. The 3-star, 4-star and 5-star hotel price index rose by 12.2% in December 2017 compared to November 2017. For

The calculation of the hotel price index is based on the recommendations given by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The elementary aggregate price index is calculated by Jevons index (Consumer Price Index Manual-Theory and Practice (2004), Practical Guide to Producing Consumer Price Indices (2009)).


Guesthouse: a type of accommodation that is characterized by having a small


10 Galaktion Street

According to the Georgian National Tourism Administration, in December 2017, 600,004 international travelers


Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail:






fter nearly seven years, it was time for me to return to the capital of Azerbaijan for a few days to see some old friends. Some pleasant surprises were in store. The visa! No more having to go either to an embassy/consulate or even through a travel agent, i.e. be anywhere in person. I applied and paid online, and within a couple of days they emailed it to me, all for US$27 for a month. This sure beats going to Tbilisi (9 hours from our home) and the embassy there telling me, ‘sorry, we simply don’t have any more visas for a few days!’ True story. Trouble-free train travel: on a budget, it’s the only way to… not fly, at least outside summer. 51 GEL got me a lower berth bed in a 4-bed coupé cabin. I always try for the lower one because its luggage storage place is under the fold-up bed, so no one has access to my stuff. Bedding included. Don’t go by rail in summer, though. The air conditioning only comes on when the train is in motion. So, either on the Tbilisi or Baku platforms, it sits there in 40- or 50-degree sunshine for hours. Even if you get on at the last minute, in your clothes you’ll simply run with sweat at literally sauna temperatures until the thing starts moving. At the border: two hours of rinse (salt water, your body’s own) and repeat. In summer, try either bus to the border and taxi on the other side, or a simple flight, if you can afford it. I was asked a) if I’d ever been to Armenia, which I truthfully answered that I had, in 2001; and b) if I had any alcohol, again, yes, just a bottle of wine. No further questions; a cursory look through my luggage was painless.

Baku continues to boom with its oil money: at least in the city center, where architects clearly are being given some room to play. Most impressive. And the Old City remains relatively old-looking, even with new construction, which seems to be required to fit in. Get that, Tbilisi? Apparently not. I revisited the place where I had a flat in the six months of 1999 that I lived there. Dream location: just onside the Old City walls, at the top corner of Fountain Square. Small, but quite adequate for a bachelor, and $100/month! Impossible price nowadays. I was always safe too, even wandering around at midnight; Tbilisi only offered me a twilight mugging in that period, which cost me dearly. At least THAT has changed in Georgia since then. You can order a taxi by calling 189, in English, get the price and map sent to your smartphone, and they’ll be there in 5 minutes to whisk you off. Of course, see the landscape rolling by as your transport approaches or leaves the city, and you’ll realize that outside the center, there’s a long way to go. Ditto if you’re a car driver. Poverty and corruption can still be huge issues here, as can a residence permit or other long-term living solution for a foreigner. But for a holiday, things have got a lot easier and more comfortable. Peace with Armenia over the 20% of Azerbaijan which it has ‘occupied’ since the early 1990s, though? Real peace, reconciliation? That looks like a far-off dream. I’m not the one to try to tease the truth out of wildly conflicting accounts of history, ancient and modern, when it comes to Nagorno Karabakh. Flare-ups are unlikely as I write, but being sure you can connect with your embassy is a good idea. And then… go, and appreciate this place, with all its complexities.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1800 members, at He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:




FEBRUARY 16 - 19, 2018

KinderUni, Goethe Institute Launches New Educational Platform for Children BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


oethe Institute Georgia has launched an online educational platform: a university for children aged 8 to 12, as part of Georgian-German

Year (2017). KinderUni is completely free for children, parents and teachers, who can register online, and offers various thematic lectures encompassing three faculties: humans, nature and technology. Each faculty has different video-lectures with entertaining tasks to be done, uniting 45 video lectures and over 360 interactive assignments. The video content for the lectures of the online children’s university launched by Goethe Institute in Tbilisi, is taken from an award-winning children’s TV program in Germany called “Sendung mit der Maus” (a program with a mouse) where Christoph Biemann, the program host, together with the fictional character, online university professor Einstein and his assistant Sophie Schlau, discuss various topics that are interesting for young children. The lectures at KinderUni are available in Georgian and German, and while the format and concept of the university for

children is said to be extremely popular in Germany, it is relatively new for Georgia. “The idea for a children’s university comes from Germany, where children are able to attend seminars and lectures within universities but the online university was initiated by Goethe Institute in Moscow first,” Keti Tibua, Education Projects Coordinator at Goethe Institute Georgia, told GEORGIA TODAY. “As there aren’t enough university cities in Georgia where we could invite children for lectures or seminars on site, we decided to make an online university for our children too, adapting and translating the content into Georgian for them. Internet and computers are more or less available for everyone and we wanted to serve children not only in the big cities in Georgia, but also in the regions. Since KinderUni is designed for children aged 8 to 12, it would be rather difficult for them to come to Tbilisi for lectures, and the KinderUni online concept makes it accessible from everywhere, no matter where you live,” she said of the advantages of the project, which was officially launched in October 2017 in Georgia. “KinderUni is based on the integrated learning of both the subject and the language, which resonates with the latest tendencies of language-learning meth-

odologies today, and the faculties at KinderUni are designed around popular subjects, from humans to technology and nature. After registering online, children can choose with which faculty to start, and after a video lecture they are given an assignment, the successful completion of which sees medals awarded and the chance for them to move to the second lecture, with tasks becoming more difficult,” said Ana Mshvildadze, Educational Projects Coordinator. As Ana notes, the process of learning is entertaining and is based on the university principle: with children earning different titles, passing different stages as they learn, starting as students and moving up to Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctor’s degrees. “In order to attend KinderUni online university, a child does not necessarily need to know German; however, from time to time during the video lectures there are German words that students have to learn in order to easily proceed to the next level, so students are able to learn language basics: it’s not difficult, and it’s all built on entertainment,” Zurab Bolkvadze, Head of the Library and Information Department told us. “The goal of KinderUni is to give children a chance to learn subjects in an entertaining way, those that for some

reason might seem boring for them at school,” Ana continued. “All of the lectures are based on questions, for example, why do we hear the sound of the sea in a sea shell: questions that interest children and are often difficult for parents to explain, plus there are many ideas at KinderUni that can be an inspiration for school projects.” As Keti Tibua told us during our meeting at the Goethe Institute Tbilisi office, seminars for school teachers were organized to explain how they could use the online university materials as additional content during German language or Physics lessons at schools. So far, a school from Batumi and another in Zugdidi are actively engaged, and according to Keti, they’re hoping to receive more positive feedback and to get more schools involved in future. In addition, in the framework of the KinderUni project, a competition entitled “1000 questions” was organized, inviting children to send in several questions they were most interested in, the 10 winners for the most creative questions to be

announced and awarded later. “KinderUni has children, parents and teachers as its target audience. For teachers, it’s a great resource for new projects, new ideas that they could incorporate into their teaching. Of course, it’s totally up to them to use this approach and to make learning process more interesting for children as an experience,” Ana stressed. “We have noticed that learning online and via computer is challenging and something strange for students and children in Georgia. The culture of autonomous learning has yet to be developed. We are more accustomed to the traditional, conservative environment where a teacher or a tutor is needed to explain and teach us. The KinderUni as a project also aims to teach children to get that skill of learning independently. In a way, it is a challenge for the education system not only in Georgia, but globally,” Ana said. “We hope that KinderUni will change that approach, and we’re already receiving more and more positive feedback from children,” Zurab Bolkvadze said.

Feeling Safe in Georgia: A Comparison with the UK British Council Trains Managers, Festivals Producers & Journalists: Professional Skills Development for Musical Events OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN



s part of the British Council’s Selector PRO programme we organise professional development trainings for musical events managers, festivals producers, and journalists writing about music led by trainers from the UK. On 6-8 February, Music Events Management Training gave participants a professional insight into the spectrum of event management, including event design and planning, audiences, marketing, promotion, people in live music, project management, health and safety, law and technology. The intensive course was designed and delivered by Dan Tsu (BIMM London/Lyrix Organix), event producer, promoter, CEO and educator. On 8-10 February, Training in Cultural Journalism enhanced the existing knowledge in (music) journalism and enabled participants to develop practical skills

in interviewing cultural figures, writing reviews, elaborating ethical questions. Training themes include music journalism specifications and techniques of the interview, vox pops, attending live concerts and writing reviews, ethical questions, critical discourse, etc. The program Selector PRO aims to share the UK experience of managing music industry in order for the Georgian professionals to build on the existing knowledge and enhance their skills in the management of music industry. The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

n recent years, Georgia has been feeling pretty pleased with itself for ranking so highly on the Ease of Doing Business Index and another in which it placed in the top five (if memory serves) of the world’s safest countries. I can’t speak to the former, since my only contribution to business here has been a valiant effort to keep Food Panda in the country by ordering a home delivery for every meal over the best part of two years, although it was ultimately in vain. However, Georgia’s placement on the Safety Index was entirely justified. I don’t believe I have ever felt as safe anywhere as I do in Georgia, perhaps with the exception of rural France and Communist China (and I’d be willing to bet that’s the only time you’ll see those two listed together). It’s one of the first things I tell people in England or France when describing my life in Tbilisi, and the usual reaction is a raised eyebrow: rubbish, they’re thinking, that can’t possibly be true; he’s exaggerating, or else it’s the result of some heinous North Korea-style surveillance state. I don’t suppose you can blame them. They don’t hear much good coming from the East, what with Syria and Iraq to Georgia’s south and Russia and Ukraine to the north, and whenever Georgia itself makes the news it’s because priests have bashed up some gay people, or tigers are on the loose in Tbilisi, or Russian tanks have crossed the border. Thank God all three have never happened at the same time. But it can also be hard for foreigners to believe when they visit Georgia, if they are unaccompanied by a Georgian or a foreigner who knows the place well. The sight of a pack of unkempt young Georgian men walking with slouched backs, the cigarettes in their mouths wiggling as they pause to spit on the street, is enough to convince most people to look out. Men behaving in a similar fashion in Britain, for instance, will not be averse to violence, or even robbery. The truth in Georgia, however, is that these bichos are essentially harmless. They might fancy themselves in the role of the mythical warrior Georgian man, but on the rare

occasion that fights do break out, they are generally just a series of pushes and shouts about mothers, which is all quickly broken up by those present. I never felt safe in England, and I wouldn’t today if I lived there, either: street violence is just too common, as are alcohol and drug abuse, and the law is not in anyone’s favor. I was raised by criminal lawyers who would come home with horror stories of nice young men who were set upon by thugs but managed to defend themselves, although when the end result was the attacker getting hurt it was the nice young men who were off to prison as often as not, for inflicting serious injuries. You have the choice of either not defending yourself, and thereby avoiding trouble of your own with the police but perhaps bleeding to death, or risking jail because you protected yourself. That would not happen in Georgia, as my lawyer friends here have told me. Neither would an incident that happened to me the last time I was in England last September, something which reminded me why I wanted to leave and never want to go back. At a friend’s wedding, a drunken guest grabbed my wife and attempted to force himself on her. She pushed him off and called for help; furious though I was, I remained calm and warned him in rather strong terms that he’d best back down for his own good. Now, at this point, I think that a Georgian man, drunk with wine and lust though he might have been, would still have backed off, perhaps with a sneer and a muttered curse about mothers, but not much more (and to do them justice, I don’t believe a Georgian man would have done it at all, no matter how drunk he was, at least not with the husband present; husband absent is regrettably a different story). Not this chap, though. He came at me swearing and muttering, and drew back his fist to strike me. Well, I’ve been boxing since I was twelve, and if there’s one thing the Sweet Science teaches you, it’s the art of hitting without being hit. A quick left hook caught him right on the chin, and down he went. There was none of the jubilation I’d felt in the ring at similar moments, though, only a mounting dread of police cars: there was a nasty cut on his cheek, and he wasn’t moving; most people revive thirty seconds after a knockout, and for

a bad few moments I thought I’d killed him. At this point I was thanking Providence that I’d taken Georgian citizenship, and pictured burning my British passport before fleeing back to Tbilisi and roaring for the best possible lawyer to fight any extradition charges that might come my way…but eventually he came round (sort of), although the blood from his cut made the damage look worse than it was. Thankfully I was amongst friends who saw what happened and were ready to support me in the face of the law, although it never came to that. Don’t misunderstand me here: I’m not bragging. I was shaking like a leaf waiting to see if someone would call the police, and felt such rage at the unfairness of the situation: just because some bastard fancied my wife and thought he was a hard man meant that I had been put at risk of being attacked or being charged with assault. In those moments, I felt such longing and love for Georgia and its people (and its legal system) as I never have in my life. So no, don’t think that I’m boasting: I was very frightened (although really, any man who tries it on with another’s lady deserves all he gets, and my Georgian family seemed to agree: on returning home I was greeted with a silent nod and a firm handshake from my fatherin-law, and gleeful giggles from the female contingent; two of the best compliments, in their way, that I’ve ever received). It was a bad reminder of why I hated things in England, although no worse than a recent string of appalling attacks in London, with the perpetrators throwing acid in the faces of innocent people, and stabbings have become so common that they are barely even newsworthy anymore. Compare that with Georgia, when a recent stabbing in Vake set the whole country afire; how they would react if anyone did anything as disgusting as throwing acid I dread to think. I’m over the word count by a mile, and there’s much more I could say, but I think that’s a nice point to end on – people here still care, and believe they can do something to change things. Marches and rallies and public outcry achieve things in Georgia. You could not feel more powerless in England, in the face of appalling crimes that no longer shock and a government that does not listen – and probably doesn’t want to.




An Evening of Modern Choreography at the Tbilisi Opera & Ballet State Theater REVIEW BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI


here’s not much I remember from when I was five-years old, but I can recall my first encounter with ballet; it was not pretty. My mother had taken me to a class with the hope that I would take a liking to it and I was not having any of it. I remember sulking in the car on the way there, taking part in the warm-up (maybe, just maybe, the first exercise too) and then spending the rest of the class sitting in the corner refusing to participate, in a passionate, grumpy protest that kids are so good at. Already, at the tender age of five, I was taken prisoner by the oft-indulged world view that dancing, and ballet in particular, wasn’t for boys: not "normal ones,” anyway. Fast-forward 17 years and perhaps I could have become the Lionel Messi of the ballet world, and you’d be reading someone else’s writing on a sunny Friday Tbilisi morning, but here we are. The main take away from this is that you can measure how much you have matured when you are able to appreciate ballet (and dance in general) for its artistic qualities. On the whole, I can confidently say that I’ve gotten to a point where, even if I don’t like the given choreography, I can appreciate the art, technique and incredible hard work that goes into such a spectacle. And so to Friday night at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater. On the stage of the a fabulously renovated, beautiful and lavish cultural institution (that on the outside bears an uncanny resemblance to Budapest’s Dohány Street Synagogue), I was treated to something truly special and unique. I had not been to a ballet performance since that glorious night in Monaco when guest dancers from The Bolshoi Theatre blew my mind, obliterating any previously held prejudices that I had against ballet almost two years ago. Thus, I arrived on 25

Photo by Gia Gogatishvili

Shota Rustavelli Avenue with high expectations and an open mind and heart, eagerly wondering how the upcoming performance would compare to that warm Monegasque night. An “Evening of Modern Choreography” they called it, and modern it was. While I am obviously not qualified to say which of the two shows were better on a technical level, comparing them would be a futile exercise anyway. The Bolshoi dancers in Monaco gave a performance of the highest level of what I presume to be ballet as we stereotypically understand it. The State Ballet of Georgia last Friday night had the fascinating virtue of delivering a performance of the highest level of an art form I wasn’t even aware existed: contemporary ballet. The first performance, “Serenade” by George Balanchine, was interesting in the sense that, at least on a personal level, it elicited a duality of emotions. On the one hand, I felt an urge to follow the example of the guy next to me and fall fast asleep. Not because I wasn’t enjoying the show, it’s just that the combination of the blue background, the graceful dancing and soothing music made me feel so comfortable in that chair and at ease with the world that it suddenly seemed like not falling asleep would be the disrespectful thing to do, if

Multiple Citizenship for the Global Good OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


have always wanted to be a citizen of the world, something which would allow me to live beyond any political borders as a member of not one particular nation, but as part of humanity as such, with certain permissible rights and voluntary responsibilities – all to the benefit of Mankind. On the other hand, global citizenship is only a symbolic international image, which is impossible to enjoy without one’s own specific citizenship (meaning a person’s lawful recognition by a sovereign state as its subject). Perhaps, some day in the unknown future, global citizenship could become the only citizenship status that one needs in order to enjoy certain benefits or trot the globe. But right now, the world is as divided and disparate as ever, with almost 200 officially recognized countries on the planet, each of them with its own citizenship rules and regulations. As such, the widely used adage ‘it’s a small world’ is not exactly relevant when it comes to the multiplicity of a citizenship status in the modern context. In most cases, people have the citizenship of only one country, because numerous countries do not allow multiple citizenship status. Yet, in the current process of globalization, dual and even multiple citizenship is gradually becoming acceptable. I find it a little strange that most countries that permit dual citizenship still may not recognize the other citizenship of its nationals. For instance, a passport of a certain country would read that dual nationality may hamper efforts to provide consular protection to dual citizens in the foreign country of their other nationality. This vague comment is somewhat confusing and scary because, in case of some consular debacle, one might be torn apart between the legislative interpretations made by two different countries. The world needs to make efforts to clarify the grey areas of multiple citizenship as we are today living in a fast and intensively changing world, and new ways of life are dictating the necessity of more optimal rules for better international communication. Why shouldn’t dual citizenship be easily acquirable by anybody who wants to have it? Right now, citizenship status is a purely national pre-

rogative, defined exclusively by local law: there is no international convention which determines the nationality or citizenship status of a person. Georgian law makers are currently working on a bill of law to regulate the Georgian citizenship status to include dual and multiple, and this is clearly welcome. I heard from one of our parliamentarians that the dual citizenship status might very well help Georgia in keeping close to our national bosom those people who for various reasons at different times have left the country and adopted the citizenship of other nations. It might also help to somehow neutralize the wicked Russian passportization policy in our occupied lands. There will be other considerable benefits too. Meanwhile, citizenship status in general, and Georgian citizenship in particular, remains a matter of huge importance, suggesting rights, duties and benefits at the same time. Rights, for example, would include freedom to cross the border at any time, to live and have employment, participate in an electoral process and aspire to public office; duties would be just as numerous: regular payment of taxes, service in the army, participation in jury trials if such functions in the country, support and defense of the main law of the land, observation of local laws, respect for rights and beliefs of other people. The benefits would also be impressive, like consular protection and safety from deportation, guaranteed citizenship for children, permanent and undisputed ownership of land, etc. Personally, I would love to have dual citizenship if the law of both countries – Georgia and America – legally allowed me to use it to the best of my advantage as well as to the benefit of both nations. As a matter of fact, a multiple citizenship could also turn out to be one of the strongest prerequisites of peace in the world and for faster development of international cooperation, because one and the same person with multiple national belonging would take better care of the world, identifying himself or herself with not only one nation but many, and taking their problems closer to heart.

that makes any sense. Yet, on the other hand, precisely because the dancing was so eloquent and the music so wonderful, I couldn’t help simultaneously shudder at the prospect of drifting off, lest I miss even a second of this beautiful spectacle. I suppose you know something is really special when it evokes such a whirlwind of emotions in you. Indeed, “Serenade” is a pretty big deal in the ballet world. As the George Balanchine Trust writes on its website, “Serenade is a milestone in the history of dance. It is the first original ballet Balanchine created in America and is one of the signature works of New York City Ballet’s repertory. The ballet is performed by 28 dancers in blue costumes in front of a blue background. Originating it as a lesson in stage technique, Balanchine worked unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography. When one student fell, he incorporated it. Another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet. After its initial presentation, Serenade was reworked several times. In its present form there are four movements: “Sonatina,” “Waltz,” “Russian Dance,” and “Elegy.” The last two movements reverse the order of Tschaikovsky’s score, ending the ballet on a note of sadness.”

While I did thoroughly enjoy the third and final act, “Sechs Tänze,” choreographed by the former Czech dancer Jirí Kylián, with music by the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and powdered wig cladded dancers showcasing their talents with great pomp, the highlight of my night was “Petite Cérémonie”. I had hitherto known ballet to be a realm where women sported their tutus and men their skin-tight, bulge-emphasing onesies, and yet here, out of nowhere, men in suits and women in black cocktail dresses began climbing onto stage from all parts of the auditorium. After finding myself on a daily diet of “Step Up,” “America’s Best Dance Crew” and “World of Dance” many a time over the last year, I sat up straight in anticipation of the incredible. Incredible was what I got, just not the way I expected. The music was taking its time to build up and begin, with the dancers swaying in tandem with the ticking metronome; I swear at one point the bass dropped, like it does at Bassiani before unleashing a killer beat, and I remember excitedly thinking ‘Oh my God, we’re about to have a rave in the Opera House!” Alas, we did not; the conductor waved his magic wand and The Orchestra of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater began playing selections by Mozart, Puccini, Rogers & Hart, and Vivaldi compiled by Medhi Walerski. Not that that was bad. Sure, I took some time to overcome the momentary disconnect between expectation and reality, but, if anything, that’s what it made it so surreal and special. It smashed all the preconceived limits on what ballet is and could be that I had had in my head, and made for a very unique and enjoyable experience. And while I cannot yet say if so-called modern choreography is my cup of tea, I will need a few more shows under my belt for that, I can definitely say this: the work of The State Ballet of Georgia is special, enchanting and unique, and I certainly urge all of you to go and check them out when and if you get the chance; I for one definitely will be. See you there!




FEBRUARY 16 - 19, 2018

Project 12 - Petre Otskheli’s Art Brought to Life by Contemporary Georgian Artists



n relation to the 110th anniversary of Georgia’s 20th century prestigious artist Petre Otskheli, TBC Bank came up with a project named 12. The project is aimed at bring-

ing the unique artworks of the progressive Georgian painter to life in an unusual way. The exposition took place at extraordinary concrete venue, gathering 12 Georgian artists, musicians, graphic designers and people with different backgrounds. Various kinds of artworks, installations and projects created on Petre Otskheli’s

motives were performed using modern techniques and tools such as digital art, neon lightning, video art, animation, 3D art, sculptural installation and even electronic music. The fledgling participants of the project came up with individual artworks and presented Petre’s world of art to the public in new forms. It is expected that in the near future these cutting-edge works will be installed at various locations throughout the city. Petre Otskheli, a Georgian artist renowned for his contribution to the theatrical arts in the 1920s, was one of the most distinguished Georgian avantgarde painters of his time. He was not only a theater artist who created remarkable sketches and drawings for stage productions, but a pioneer painter who paved the way in Georgian modernism with his extremely progressive and innovative visions. His sketches are completed, monumental works that were extremely innovative at the time they were created and even today remain as wonderful examples of contemporary art. “We launched project 12 last year in partnership with VISA,” Nina Akhvlediani, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at TBC Bank, told GEORGIA TODAY. “The platform was established with the purpose of supporting and promoting art in the country. Since this year marks the 110th anniversary of Petre Otskheli and TBC Bank devoted a number of projects to this iconic figure, this exposition is a kind of conclusive event. We gave an opportunity for

young Georgian creative artists to explore and transform Petre’s art in new forms. We selected artists from different fields by evaluating their works and suggested they team up with us to carry out this ambitious project. Our main aim is to popularize emerging Georgian artists and their works among the wider public. We think the project was carried out successfully and we accomplished our goal. I would single out an animation that was created for the first time using models based on Otskheli’s scenography sketches, as well as a multimedia installation by Gigi Shukashidze that we hope will be set up in a recreational area in Tbilisi. Since the project was implemented in collaboration with VISA, TBC Bank produced six variations of contactless payment stickers with Petre Otskheli’s art, by Georgian artists, available to all TBC clients.” One of the most eye-catching works was a video produced by Nikoloz Kapanadze and Gacha Bakradze jointly. In this case, the artist used musician Gacha’s sound and harmoniously combined it with his work. “The project itself is very important to young Georgian artists, since there are not many such platforms in Georgia supporting local artists and giving them absolute freedom to create,” author of one of the projects, Mariam Sasha, noted. “The project does not limit participants, so they are completely free to express themselves. Here, you can see various artworks performed in different genres, each of them independent and distinct

from the others. I joined the project as a digital artist and for my artwork I used Otskheli’s famous painting ‘The Flying Painter.’” Now Petre Otskheli’s vibrant works are recognized internationally. He was the very first Georgian artist whose masterpieces were featured in the Google Cultural Institute digital gallery, the biggest virtual association in the world incorporating the artworks of world famous artists. “Georgian Modernist set and costume designer, who revolutionized Georgian theatre in the 20th century was one of the most outstanding Georgian avant-garde artists of his time,” reads the description on Google Cultural Institute. Otskheli’s art has also been transformed into jewelry to attract the interest of the public. “I was a student at the Theater Institute when I learned about Petre Otskheli and he instantly became my favorite painter. Unfortunately, the painter was not appreciated or so recognized in the 20th century, but now we’ve brought him into an era of superheroes. I decided to dedicate a jewelry collection to his art. His sketches served as inspiration for me and as a result, my jewelry in Otskheli’s motives drew the interest of TBC Bank and Project 12. My decorations are made using silver and enamel, from earrings, to rings, brooches and cufflinks.” Art enthusiasts and those interested in the project can visit website www.12. ge to find out more about the artworks and installations.

40 Years & 3000 performances on Stage: Temur Gugushvili’s Star to be Unveiled this Weekend essary to work with a specialty, so, I decided to start working with a group of confectionaries. On finishing the Faculty of Food Technology, I started working at the bread factory. Parallel to that, I was studying piano at the School of Music. Later, I entered Tbilisi State Conservatoire which I graduated under Maestro Nodar Andghuladze. After the Conservatoire, I continued studying at La Scala Academy (Milan, Italy). In 1978, I started working at the Tbilisi State Opera Theater as a soloist.



eimuraz Gugushvili will soon be 70 years old. On February 4, his star will be unveiled after a memorable concert at the Tbilisi State Opera Theater. During his 40 years on stage, he has played in around 3000 performances in Georgia and worldwide. Gugushvili is acknowledged as a virtuoso singer who is equally brilliant at lyrical as well as at dramatic roles – from ‘Il Barbiere di Siviglia’ to ‘Pagliacci’. The Georgian tenor’s favorite composer is Puccini. Once, in America, he sang ‘Tosca’ 12 times in a fortnight. Besides his talent, he is an exceptionally humble person. Gugushvili was already a well-known singer when he went to his maestro Nodar Andghuladze to ask him whether he was entitled to sing in ‘Pagliacci’. The answer was of course, affirmative. On February 4, at an anniversary concert, Teimuraz Gugushvili performed two of his most well-known operas – Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ and Leoncavallo’s ‘Pagliacci’. He was joined by a special guest, outstanding Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri. Both singers were met huge applause. “This, for me, is a very emotional occasion. With my ‘wall of fame’ star, my power has been rewarded so much that I feel twice as strong as before the concert. I would like to extend my gratitude to my homeland, my nation, citizens of Georgia; and to all those who love opera,”, 70-year-old Teimuraz Gugushvili commented. “We are so proud of you. When Tbilisi was the focus of civil war, when hardly anybody remembered the opera, you were the one who has always stood


steadfastly on the Georgian stage as a symbol of Georgia and its capital,” Tamar Iveri, Soprano, noted, adding that neither Teimuraz Gugushvili’s voice nor his personal zest had aged at all. GEORGIA TODAY had the honor to meet him prior to the unveiling of a star in his honor in Tbilisi.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR STAR? I’m very happy, of course, as it means that my labor has been appreciated. The preparatory process and the days ahead of the unveiling overall were very exciting.


OF CHEMISTRY. HOW DID YOU END UP IN OPERA? First of all, I would like to tell you how I entered the Polytechnic Institute. On finishing high school, I wanted to pursue my studies in the direction of investigation. However, it was extremely difficult to pass exams at the juridical faculty, as they demanded a two-year probation beforehand for university entrants. So, I tried to enter the polytechnic institute (nowadays, Technical University). I entered the faculty where there was the least demand on side of school-leavers. As a student, I saw that there were evening hours at the Faculty of Food Technology. If I wanted to continue my studies there, it was nec-

I think that the People’s Artist of Georgia was the most precious one for me. It not only means that an artist is on the stage- there are a lot of singers who finish their career without getting this award. It means that the Georgian people appreciate you – the name says a lot – people’s artist! Therefore, it is distinguished from all the others! Of course, I am grateful for the rest of them too! It’s like comparing my roles to each other. I cannot name one or two characters, as I’m fond of whichever hero I’m playing in the moment. This is my job, but more precisely, this is my life on stage. However, I can say that Abesalom is closer to me, as he is from the Georgian opera, than Radames. Nevertheless, recently, I more easily act as Canio in ‘Pagliacci’ by Leoncavallo. This may have something to do with my age.

YOU HAVE SUNG ON A LOT OF STAGES WORLDWIDE. WHICH PUBLIC WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE FOR YOU? The audience in the Post- Soviet space is much more educated musically than in other countries I have been to. In England, for instance, people focus more on action and acting than on singing. Once, a manager came to me and invited me out. He told me: ‘Why didn’t you kiss Tosca on the lips?’ In Germany, the public is much more reserved.

WHO WAS THE GREATEST OPERA SINGER YOU HAVE MET IN PERSON? Luciano Pavarotti. He organized a concert of tenors at Milan Conservatoire in 1982. I was one of the tenors from the group of interns from La Scala. Aracal was also a great singer and a great person. Generally speaking, I would point out Caruso, who was like Pele and Garrincha in football.

IN SPITE OF NUMEROUS OFFERS, YOU HAVE NOT LEFT GEORGIA. WHAT DOES HOMELAND AND MUSIC MEAN TO YOU? I think that motherland and music means one and the same thing to me. The former created an area for my musical activities. Our polyphony is unique. There is no another folklore in the world that has so many voices. With our songs, we are close to Bel Canto, and therefore, it is easier for us to sing opera than for other nations, as singing is deeply rooted in us. More importantly, if a man sings from the bottom of his heart, he will never commit something bad. I cannot live without my country and my city Tbilisi. I feel good for 4-5 days abroad, and then, my nostalgia begins.



Welcome to Georgia – The Musical: The Most Uplifting Show You’ll See This Year!



magine you’re on a visit to Georgia but you don’t have time to get out the city into the regions. Imagine you’re on a visit to Georgia and the latest concert of the great Georgian dancers or polyphonic singers has passed or is happening just after your flight home. Maybe you live here and have guests to impress and you’ve already eaten at the restaurants and wandered the Old Tbilisi streets. Well, I made no exaggeration in the headline I chose. And for those of you not partial to musicals, don’t be deceived. While the creators were inspired by the West End and Broadway, this is something very different. While it’s as bold, heart-warming and energetic as any show you’ll see in London, the musical side comes through unique Georgian polyphony and folk songs interspersed with dialogue and a number of beautifully performed traditional dances. ‘Welcome to Georgia- The Musical’ is a theatrical show in English which weaves a tale about Georgia and its people through song, dance, and dialogue. By attending the show, newbies in the country will learn about Georgia’s age-old culture, history, national costumes, cuisine and more; while those who’ve been in Georgia a bit longer will recapture the magic of their first days here! The show takes you on a journey from Maro’s Kakhetian wine cellar, to the feast table, where you’ll be welcomed with world-renowned Georgian hospitality (and world-renowned Georgian wine!)

for an evening of humor, romance and a taste of true Georgia and all its traditions. Welcomed with a choice of white or red wine and time to mingle, we then dove straight into a scene at Grandma Maro’s house in Kakheti, with the lady and her neighbors enjoying an evening of table games and singing. Then Maro’s grandson phones. They’re expecting him to visit on Saturday next, bringing with him his new French girlfriend whom he met while studying viniculture in Paris; the whole village is ready to lay on a grand feast for them… But the couple are not coming Saturday, they’re already on the way! Now, anyone who’s spent some time here will know how such surprising news can send Georgian ladies of the older generation into a tizzy of preparation and reorganization. Chacha,

Churchkhela, dried fruits and then the “kids” arrive. And that’s where the magic truly began for me. As my colleague wrote in her recent blog, for those of us who have delved deeper into Georgian life than the average tourist, we have all been in that beautiful, magical (if not at times intimidating!) spotlight of attention at least once; the God-sent guest who can do no wrong and whose every word is a drop of strange and welcome gold. Julie (played by Eka Demetradze) is an educated and enthusiastic guest; eager to learn, along with the audience, about the history of Georgian winemaking, toasting, song and dance. The polyphony left goosebumps on my arms; the dancing left my hands stinging from clapping along. Tying it all together was Dimitri the Toastmaster, played by singer and actor Lasha Ramishvili. With a strong voice and even stronger stage presence, he brought the audience into the story; imparting facts about Georgia and its traditions with such warmth that each member of the audience could easily have been sitting at the supra table beside the characters, with wine in hand and a spread of “food on food” before them. The colors, the costumes, the cozy ‘village yard’ scenery; all made for a unique and glowing ambiance that reflects the brighter side of Georgia and its people. The lines, jokes and friendly banter were delivered well, and I feel qualified to say (being an English teacher who knows some of the actors are not used to working in English) that the cast met the challenge of entertaining a foreign audience in a manner that excelled expectations. A well-deserved standing ovation was received, and I saw no-one without a grin on their face as we reluctantly left the theater hall- reluctant, because it almost felt like we were leaving behind new friends. It was a real, positive, incomparable Welcome to Georgia, and I highly recommend it as the new must-see for visitors and expats alike! Check out their website and facebook pages for updated information and the trailer. The show officially kicks off for a weekly run from March 13th.,





FEBRUARY 16 - 19, 2018


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 February 18 TRAVIATA Starring: Nino Chachua, Otar Jorjikia, Sulkhan Gvelesiani, Nutsa Zakaidze, Mishelina Kobaliani, Tamaz Saginadze, Irakli Mujiri, Giorgi Chelidze, Levan Makaridze, Paata Sukhitashvili, Temur Akhobadze Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater Choir, orchestra and ballet dancers Conductor- Kakhi Solomnishvili Music director of the production: Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director- Laurent Gerber (Switzerland/Italy) Choreographer- Nina Ananiashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-70 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 598 19 29 36 February 16 THE TEMPEST Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 15 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03 March 16, 17, SHAKESPEARE SONNETS The performance of William Shakespeare's sonnets Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 15 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL February 16-21 BLACK PANTHER Directed by Ryan Coogler

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 19:10 Language: Russian Start time: 16:30, 22:15 Ticket: 10-14 GEL THE POST Directed by Steven Spielberg Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson Genre: Biography, Drama, History Language: English Start time: 16:45 Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 17 GEL PHANTOM THREAD Directed by James Foley Cast: Vicky Krieps, Daniel DayLewis, Lesley Manville Genre: Drama, Romance Language: English Start time: 19:30 Language: Russian Start time: 22:20 Ticket: 17 GEL FIFTY SHADES FREED Directed by James Foley Cast: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Arielle Kebbel, Luke Grimes Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 13:45, 22:00 Ticket: 9-14 GEL WONDER WHEEL Directed by Woody Allen Cast: Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Kate Winslet Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 12 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL February 16-21 BLACK PANTHER (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 13:30, 16:30, 19:30, 22:30 Ticket: 10-14 GEL

THE POST (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 17 GEL FIFTY SHADES FREED (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07 February 16-21 BLACK PANTHER (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:15 Language: Russian Start time: 13:00, 16:15, 19:00, 22:15 Ticket: 11-19 GEL PHANTOM THREAD (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 22:00 Language: Russian Start time: 14:15, 19:30 Ticket: 10-19 GEL FIFTY SHADES FREED (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 17:10 Language: Russian Start time: 14:45 19:40, 22:00 Ticket: 11-19 GEL WONDER WHEEL (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 16:30, 22:00 Ticket: 11-19 GEL JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE Directed by Jake Kasdan Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21

Exhibition GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF 18TH-20TH CENTURIES The Royal dress of King Teimuraz II, Nino Gurieli's Georgian dress, Tekla Batonishvili's personal sewing machine, robe of Alexander Bariatinsky - Deputy of the Caucasus, Tambourine painted by Mihaly Zichy, feminine attire of Abkhazian and Ingilo women, and more. Exhibition NUMISMATIC TREASURY Exhibition showcasing a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. February 9 - March 9 ZURAB KALANDADZE'S 65th ANNIVERSARY EXHIBITION The exhibition showcases 27 of Zurab Kalandadze's artworks, created in 2002-2012, the main stylistic characteristic of which is the organic connection between myth and poetry. The exposition also showcases a sculpture "Tree of Love" designed with the glass laser carving technique. MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 December 14 – March 14 ANNIVERSARY-RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION GIGO GABASHVILI 155 MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 PERMANENT EXHIBITION Discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Sovietera cultural and political repression in Georgia. GALLERY

DIMITRI SHEVARDNADZE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 215 73 00

26 January – February 25 Georgian National Museum and Stedley Art Foundation present Solo exhibition CARDBOARD. WOOD. STONE BY CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ARTIST ALEXANDER ZHYVOTKOV The exhibition in Tbilisi features the series: "Roads," "Kyiv. 2014," "Motherboard", "Variations in Stone" and "Vengeance Is Mine," which includes over 50 works created over the past five years. February 2 – March 3 "Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel"- Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy to Georgia present THE EXHIBITION OF PREPARATORY DRAWINGS BY MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI. An exhibition of six graphic works by Italian artist, sculptor, architect and poet of the Renaissance epoch - Michelangelo Buonarroti (14751564). ERTI GALLERY Address: 19 P. Ingorokva Str. February 8 – March 1 SUPER HUMANS. UTA BEKAIA’S SOLO SHOW Curator: Levan Mindiashvili DÉDICACE GALLERY Address: 27 Atoneli Str. Telephone: 599 42 54 14 February 9-25 WESTERN SECTOR BY MURTAZ SHVELIDZE MUSIC

DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC AND CULTURE Address: 125 Aghmashenebeli ave. Telephone: 2 96 12 43 February 17 TBILISI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Works by D. Shostakovich and L. V. Beethoven Tamar Licheli (piano) and Paata Tcheishvili will perform concerto for piano, trumpet and symphony orchestra N1 And Maestro David Mukeria will perform 4th symphony of L. V. Beethoven and Festive Overture of D. Shostakovich. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-25 GEL MZIURI Address: Mziuri Cafe February 17 SAKVIRAO Entertainment program for children Start time: 12:00 RUSTAVELI THEATER Address: 17 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 72 68 68 February 19 Mikeladze Center and Nikoloz Rachveli Present the CONCERT OF THE GEORGIAN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA Conductor- Mikheil Menabde Soloist- Emmanuel Tjeknavorian, violin Program: Franz Schubert Unfinished Symphony and Johannes Brahms- Violin Concerto Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15-35 GEL THE GATE CLUB Address: Miracle park, Batumi February 16 SVANSIKH- GABUNIA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 20 GEL




One Last Dance: Life in the State Ballet of Georgia INTERVIEW BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI


n Saturday, February 10, the Tbilisi Opera House hosted a Modern Ballet Evening, featuring a trilogy of performances: Serenade by George Balanchine; Petite Cérémonie by Medhi Walerski; and Sechs Tänze by Jirí Kylián. The evening also saw the final performance of husband and wife Frank van Tongeren and Machi Muto in Georgia. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with the couple to talk about their experience as members of the State Ballet of Georgia, and their plans for the future.

TEL US ABOUT YOURSELVES AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO GEORGIA? Machi: I’m from Fukuoka, Japan. I started ballet because I was inspired by a friend’s performance. Until the age of 15, I trained at a local ballet school, before moving to London to continue my studies at the English National Ballet School. Frank: I’m from Haarlem, The Netherlands. When I was a little boy, my older sister was taking ballet classes and I would join my parents to pick her up from the classes every now and then. Eventually, the curiosity got too strong and I asked to take classes as well: I was hooked as soon as I started! Soon after that, I saw professional male dancers perform on television and I decided to audition for the Ballet Academy in Amsterdam when I was nine years old. Before Georgia, we were working at the Hong Kong Ballet, where Nina Ananiashvili came to set the ballet “Don Quixote.” We were inspired by her energy and enthusiasm while working in the studio and stayed in touch with her. About a year later, she invited us to work for the State Ballet of Georgia.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT BALLET IN GEORGIA, THE HISTORY, THE CULTURE, THE STYLE? Frank: Georgia has a very rich history in ballet that is very much intertwined with the history of ballet in Russia. Actually, you can say that a lot of Russia’s, and ex-Soviet countries’ history has been influenced by Georgians. We can sense this, especially when working in the newly renovated Opera House. That sense of history and tradition has brought a very unique flavor to our experience working in Georgia! Machi and I were more educated in the ‘European style,’ whereas here in Tbilisi the ballet company uses the Russian training. In the beginning it was a challenge to adapt, but it really helped us grow and combine the best of both worlds. What we really appreciate as part of the tradition here in Georgia is that when you perform a soloist or principal role in the classical repertoire, you get assigned a coach/ballet master that works with you to prepare you for the role. Compared to the other ballet companies we’ve worked with, the State Ballet of Georgia has many more coaches that can support individual artists/dancers.

HOW HAS THE GEORGIAN BALLET SCENE CHANGED IN YOUR TIME HERE? WHAT IS BEING DONE WELL, AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT IT IS FACING? Machi: The company has premiered/revived many spectacular classical ballet productions in the time we’ve been here. The work could be quite intense, which is good, but the company hasn’t developed a proper support system for the dancers to look after their physical health. Frank: When we arrived in Georgia the newly

renovated Opera House was not open yet. To experience the company moving back into the theater, reviving many classics and also premiere several contemporary productions, has been a very unique experience to be part of, and I feel the company and its artists have definitely grown since when we arrived. Machi’s right though: the company lacks proper support for the dancers in order to prevent injuries and rehabilitate those that have injuries. Compared to the companies in western Europe, there is no ‘in-house’ physiotherapist. When we worked at the Norwegian National Ballet for example, we had a whole health department for the dancers. In that department there was a physiotherapist, a doctor, a massage therapist/acupuncturist etc. free of charge for the dancers. Of course, this is an enormous investment, but in the end, we believe it is one of the necessities for the company to keep on growing. Another challenge is precision and clarity of what is expected from the dancers. This comes down to scheduling. Machi and I came to Georgia to learn and grow as dancers and artists in general and believe that Nina and the company has really offered that to us more than any other company could have offered to us at the stage we were at on our ‘dancing journey’. But in order for the company to keep both its foreign artists and Georgian artists more permanently in the company, proper working times and year schedules have to be added to the system of the company. Of course, when you love what you do, you can do it for hours without noticing time pass by, but some dancers have children that also deserve attention from their parent or, when it comes to the foreign dancers, they wish to plan ahead when they can visit their home country. At the Norwegian National Ballet, the dancers had the possibility to see the schedule 2 to 3 years ahead. Now that is maybe not necessary, but currently in Georgia the dancers usually don’t know what the plan is for tomorrow. These two points I believe will stabilize the company greatly, a company that has so many possibilities and that we both love so greatly!

had the chance to develop it as much, even though there has been an urge to get in the studio more just to create! In order to expand our knowledge on the well-being of body and mind, Machi and I will also travel to Thailand to train for one month to become certified Yoga teachers.

WHAT ARE YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENTS IN GEORGIA, AND WHAT KIND OF LEGACY DO YOU WISH TO LEAVE BEHIND? Machi: I won’t say proudest, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I received here and that Imet all these teachers I worked with. Frank: I don’t like to use the word proud, either, but I’m very grateful for so many things the company has offered us. Working with Nina and the many coaches in the company has been such a pleasure. Making wonderful friends and exploring a country as beautiful as Georgia! I want to leave behind a joy and enthusiasm in whatever you do, whether it is dancing or cleaning your apartment! I wouldn’t want to put an end to anything, though, since surely we’ll be back in Georgia!!

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS? Frank: Machi and I will be more based in Fukuoka, Japan. We have an organization there called the Fukuoka International Ballet Festival with which we organized a Gala performance in the summer of 2016, and several dance workshops since. We would like to have more time to focus on the development of our projects, since it had been very challenging to make proper plans working full time for the State Ballet of Georgia. At the end of March, we have a Spring Intensive for dance students organized in a beautiful studio in a natural surrounding next to the beach. We will be focusing on supporting students in their dance training as well as general well-being and creativity. This is why we have creative, anatomy and nutrition classes



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alongside the other dance classes. Please check our website: (we’re working on improving and updating it still). Further, Machi and I will be looking for opportunities as freelance artists and I want to expand my work as a choreographer. I really enjoy creating my own work, but haven’t


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Issue #1023  
Issue #1023  

February 16 - 19, 2018