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Issue no: 1219



In this week’s issue... Tbilisi to Compete for European Best Destinations 2020 Title NEWS PAGE 2

Occupied Akhalgori Faces Humanitarian Crisis NEWS PAGE 3

Mamuka Khazaradze: Construction of Kazbegi Road is in Russia’s Interests NEWS PAGE 3


Kaladze wins in popularity but overall love for the gov't is down


Image source: president.gov.ge

Putin’s Constitutional Revolution in Russia – Tandem Government POLITICS PAGE 4

The Abkhazia Revolution POLITICS PAGE 5

Georgia Leads the Way in Delivering Fast, Easy, Secure Payments at Checkout

Georgian Ombudsman: No Signs of New Column: Money Laundering in TBC Bank Case My Economics & Georgia BUSINESS PAGE 5


The Human Rights Watch Report 2020


ublic Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria says that there is no evidence proving money laundering in the case of Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze, founders of Georgia’s largest bank, TBC. The two men were charged by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia (POG) on July 24, 2019 for the legalization of $16,754,000, as a result of which they received a large income. The investigation into the case was launched on 2 August. The Ombudsman addressed Tbilisi City Court as an Amicus Curiae on the allegations against the TBC Bank founders. Her statement reads that the she is fully acquainted with the 33 volumes of the case and had identified key questions that the court should focus on before making a final decision. To note, Amicus Curiae (a friend of the court) is an interested person who is not a party to a case under review and who may submit to the


Boosting Rural Access to Public Services: New Community Center Opens in Racha SOCIETY PAGE 8 Image source: Netgazeti

court his/her own written opinion with regard to the case. The document released by the Ombudsman discusses why money laundering is a crime of convention origin, what specific prerequisites,

scheme and purpose are needed to commit this crime and why the relevant norm of the Criminal Code should be interpreted according to its autonomous content. Continued on page 2

Freeing Contemporary Art Presentation - Escape from Fixed Structures CULTURE PAGE 11




JANUARY 17 - 20, 2020

Tbilisi to Compete for European Best Destinations 2020 Title BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


bilisi, Georgia's charming capital, was chosen to participate in the international contest aimed at revealing the best European travel destination through online voting. Georgia now has a chance to win the title of Europe’s Best Travel Destination. The selection is conducted by European Best Destinations, a European organization based in Brussels. The best European destination has been selected since 2009 to promote tourism and culture in Europe, in cooperation with more than 300 partners of tourism offices and the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) network created by the European Commission. “Photos taken by eight photographers were selected for the international com-

petition. The voting process began today. Georgia has to compete with London, Paris, Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Prague, Madrid, and so on,” the Mayor of Tbilisi Kakha Kaladze said at a meeting of the municipality government earlier on Wednesday. Voting is open from January 15 to February 5, 2020. The hashtag #votefortbilisi has been put into use to support the city in the competition and the public can cast their votes on: europeanbestdestinations.com/ european-best-destinations-2020/ Votes can be repeated from a single IP address once a week, no registration needed. The Tbilisi Mayor urged the public to vote for Tbilisi. In addition, he thanked the authors of the photos and noted that all available platforms should be used in order to increase the chances of winning and appropriately present the country in the international arena.

Photo courtesy Giorgi Shermazanashvili

'The Great Kremlin Purge' What are Putin's Intentions BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


ussian President Vladimir Putin named Tax Service chief Mikhail Mishustin the country's new Prime Minister, The Washington Post

reports. The political move came after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned alongside the rest of his Cabinet, causing a restructuring that was unquestionably ordered by Putin. The President is believed to be safeguarding his stay in office for another term before fashioning a long-lasting position for himself in the government. Medvedev, Putin’s right-hand man, has served as PM since 2012. He previously served as President to ensure the transition of power would follow the constitutional guidelines, although permanently adhering to Putin and his authority. Putin thanked Medvedev for his work as PM, although he demeaned his ministers, saying they had failed to fulfill their objectives in government, The Associated Press reports. The State Department did not respond with a comment. The bombshell government renovation came after Putin's anticipated constitutional amendments that will fortify the

powers of the PM and Parliament at the expense of the presidency. A switch of power from presidency to parliament could beckon a power shift that has been widely speculated about in Russia.

Putin's criticizers have suggested that he is considering various scenarios to retain control of the country after his presidential term ends in 2024, including the option of becoming prime minister with extended powers, like in 2008

when Putin swapped places with the prime minister to circumvent the constitutional provision mentioned above. "[Putin] outlined a number of fundamental changes to the constitution, significant changes not only to a number

of articles of the constitution, but also to the balance of power as a whole," Medvedev said in his resignation statement, which was publicized on Russian state television. "In this context, it's obvious that we, as the government ... should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all the decisions necessary for this. And in these conditions, I believe that it would be right, in accordance with Section 117 of the constitution, [for the government to resign]” Medvedev added. Putin also commented on the commotion surrounding his regimented government ‘purge.’ "I propose ... entrusting the State Duma with the power to approve the candidacy of the Prime Minister, and then, per the prime minister's proposal, [appoint] all deputy prime ministers and federal ministers. […] In this case, the President will be obliged to appoint them, that is, he will not have the right to reject parliament-approved candidacies." Putin stated and confirmed the ordered constitutional reorganization. Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, said that the "only goal of Putin and his regime [is to remain] the sole leader for life, taking ownership of an entire country, and appropriating wealth to himself and his friends.” Navalny added on twitter that “All those who said that Putin will step away from power in 2024 are idiots (and/or crooks)".

Georgian Ombudsman: No Signs of Money Laundering in TBC Bank Case Continued from page 1 “Following legal analysis, the Amicus Curiae's opinion deals directly with the case of Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze. The case materials do not contain the elements necessary for assessing the action as a crime of money laundering," the statement reads. Lomjaria believes that a number of circumstances are necessary for an action to be considered a money laundering crime. According to her, prior to the process of legalizing illicit income, it is necessary to have illegally obtained "black money.” “A predicate crime usually involves

regular, repeated crimes. In the present case, however, it does not appear to involve at least one such repetitive, or at least one pre-existing, predicate offense,” the Public Defender stated. Lomjaria explains that in general, a money laundering scheme consists of three stages. First, money obtained by committing a crime is usually deposited into various bank accounts, after which many petty transfers are carried out so that the controlling authorities can no longer track the origin of the money, and finally the money is returned to the offender's bank account. “According to the case materials, the defendants did not place the money into

various accounts. Nor did they, in order to avoid paying taxes, carry out petty transfers, and in this case, there is no evidence of their having the money returned to their accounts at all,” she said. The document released by the Public Defender’s Office was presented by Khazardze’s lawyer Zviad Kordzadze at the trial of the case at Tbilisi City Court on January 15. When charging Khazaradze and Japaridze last year, the POG said in AprilMay 2008 the TBC Bank gave $17 million to LTDs Samgori M and Samgori Trade as a loan and on the same day the money was placed into the private bank accounts

of Khazaradze and Japaridze. The agency claims that in October-November 2008, so that the companies did not have to start covering the interest rate for the loan, they were given one more year to close the loan, without provision of reason, and on 31 December 2008, the bank wrote off the debt without demanding the real estate provided by the LTDs as a guarantee or the payment of money by the guarantors. The Prosecutor’s Office says in 2012 the bank fully freed the LTDs from the financial obligations, adding later the LTDs were replaced with a company registered offshore, which had no financial actives in Georgia.

Khazaradze and Japaridze claim they were forced to leave the bank, adding that the investigation is “absurd,” aimed at discrediting the bank and affecting the country’s economic image. The two men claim the transaction in 2007-2008 took place within full compliance of the law, and the leading financial institutions confirmed this in their audit. Khazaradze, who is now the head of the opposition Lelo movement, calls the case politically motivated and links it to the Anaklia Port project, which was canceled after the government terminated the contract with Anaklia Development Consortium, where TBC Bank was the leading partner.




Occupied Akhalgori Faces Humanitarian Crisis BY TEA MARIAMIDZE


eorgia’s Russian-occupied Akhalgori district faces a humanitarian crisis after the de facto regime closed the so called crossing points in early September, leaving around 1500 locals facing restrictions on free movement and a deficit in medicines and food. Even those locals who are in need of serious medical treatment are not allowed to cross the “border” to get medical assistance in Tbilisi. Everything started on September 5 after Official Tbilisi failed to respond to an ultimatum from the occupant forces to remove a Georgian police checkpoint constructed in late August in Tbilisi-controlled territory near Chorchana village, Khashuri Municipality. In response, the occupant forces opened two new “police posts” in the village and closed checkpoints. Since the closure of the crossing-points, medicines and products have been brought into Akhalgori from Russia, which are of higher price than most locals can afford. Akhalgori Governor Nugzar Tinikashvili says the residents of Akhalgori face serious problems due to the closure of the crossing points by the occupants. “The locals are in a severe social, economic and psychological situation. There are children, students and elderly people who want to live in normal conditions. Occupant forces and separatists say they will not open the crossing point until

Image source: humanrights.ge

the Georgian side dismantles the police checkpoint in Chorchana,” Tinikashvili said. Civic activist Tamar Mearakishvili, who lives in Akhalgori, wrote a post on social media this week which reads that since September, up to 10 people in the area have died due to delayed medical aid or other reasons related to the illegal closure of the crossing points between

breakaway Tskhinvali and the rest of Georgia. She also stressed that the humanitarian situation on the ground is severe and called on the Georgian government to address the European Court of Human Rights to make the de facto authorities open the crossing points. “Sick patients are unable to attend scheduled chemotherapy due to the

closed road. Pensioners whose only income is a Georgian citizen's pension have been without money since August. I do not know how they buy firewood or how they pay for utilities. We demand freedom of movement,” she said. The Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Archil Talakvadze, commented on the humanitarian situation in Akhalgori, and expressed hope that one day the

barbed wire fences will be dismantled. According to him, the situation in Akhalgori shows the attitude of the occupation regime and the Russian Federation towards human rights. “People in Akhalgori need medical care and they are not allowed to go to clinics. People need food, and the occupants do not let in humanitarian aid. People need different state programs, which they cannot enjoy. It seems to me that human rights and humanitarian conditions are deteriorating in both occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russian Federation, as an occupation force, cannot show people progress, and our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers see this very well,” Talakvadze said. Acting US Ambassador to Georgia Elisabeth Rood urged the Russian-controlled occupation forces to open crossing points between Tskhinvali region and the rest of Georgia. Rood made a statement on Wednesday, while opening a renovated school in the village of Kveshi at the occupation line. “The US remains committed to Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. We again urge the de facto authorities to open crossing points on the administrative boundary line and give the local population the opportunity to move freely, receive medical care and live a fear-free life,” she said. To note, Russia occupied Georgian regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the wake of the August 2008 war and since then it has been exercising its power in both regions, stepping up security and building military bases.

Mamuka Khazaradze: Construction of Kazbegi Road is in Russia’s Interests BY B.ALEXISHVILI

W Photo source: Tbilisi City Hall

80 New Ambulances to Serve Tbilisi Citizens BY ANA DUMBADZE


bilisi City Hall handed over 80 new ambulance vehicles to the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia (MOH) earlier today. Mayor of Tbilisi Kakha Kaladze, Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Ekaterine Tikaradze, and Director of Emergency Situation Coordination and Urgent Assistance Center Avtandil Talakvadze attended the presentation.

Kaladze addressed the audience. “80 new ambulances will serve the population of Tbilisi from today. I would like to go back a bit and focus on the important reforms we have implemented since 2012 in the area of healthcare. It can be directly stated that healthcare, which was a privilege, is one of the top priorities today. We do not stop here and continue the implementation of reforms. Many interesting programs have been made available to the public, many have benefited from healthcare programs, but one of the key areas for us is that healthcare should be accessible for everyone without any kind of problem and we are working in this direction.

"I would like to thank all my staff for the work they do on a daily basis. They have been helping the population of the capital. I can tell a lot of stories about these people, but it is not possible right now. I wish them success. It doesn't matter which agency we represent, we all serve our country and people. "The most important thing is that these cars are equipped with the latest technologies and in case of necessity there is maximum readiness to serve the city," he said. In addition, the Mayor wished success to the Minister of Health Ekaterine Tikaradze and promised support within City Hall's competence.

e are attending a show staged by Bidzina Ivanishvili in court today - Mamuka Khazaradze, founder of the Lelo political union, said before his trial on Tuesday. He went on to compare the Anaklia deep-sea port and Kvesheti-Kobi road projects. As Khazaradze claimed, the state plans to allocate half a million GEL for construction of the Kvesheti-Kobi road, while it "refuses" to allocate a guarantee to the amount of GEL 50 million for the much larger Anaklia Development Project. “The state did not show the will to give us a $50 million guarantee, while it provided half a million GEL for the Kvesheti-

Kobi road project. This is the road to Kazbegi that is directly in Russia's interest. We are taking half a million in debt and investing the money in a project that gives a new chance for the country which has occupied 20 percent of Georgia, to roll its tanks comfortably in,” Mamuka Khazaradze remarked.

Military Drill 'Defenders of Europe 2020' to Start January BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


he massive supranational military drill “Defender Europe 2020” is to kick off this month with a total of 37,000 soldiers from 18 nations participating in the training. The drills will take place in Germany, Poland,

Georgia and the Baltic States. General Andrew M. Rohling, the Deputy Commander of the US Armed Forces in Europe, said the “military maneuver is not related to any particular country. It aims to respond quickly to any crisis.” “The goal is to send a signal that the United States of America's responsibility for Europe and the NATO partners would do justice,” Rohling underlined.




JANUARY 17 - 20, 2020

New NDI Polls: Georgians Assess Current Situation in the Country BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE


he National Democratic Institute and CRRC-Georgia released new poll results on January 16. The subjects of research vary from politics to religion, showing the attitude of Georgians, and the changes seen in the last few years, towards them. The poll results reveal that negative attitudes towards government officials and different institutes in the country have grown. In particular, negative assessments of the prime minister, president, courts, and parliament, have raised, with Kakha Kaladze, the Tbilisi City Mayor, remaining the only exception, and seeing him continuing to have a net positive assessment. 13% of the NDI respondents evaluate Kaladze's job performance as “very good”,

31% as “good”, 32% as “average”, 16% as “bad” and 6% as “very bad.” The poll suggests that Kaladze has the highest favorability rates among the politicians. The same survey shows that 4% of the NDI respondents evaluate the job performance of Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia as “very good”, 17% as “good”, 34% as “average”, 24% as “bad” and 10% as “very bad”, while 10% chose not to answer. Dissatisfaction in the Prime Minister’s work has increased among Georgian citizens, and since 2015, the PM’s assessment is the lowest. In July of 2019, when Mamuka Bakhtadze held the position of Prime Minister, 28 % of the participants assessed him negatively. Gakharia’s rating has fallen lower, with 35% assessing him so. The President’s rating is also not positive. The poll suggests that President Salome Zurabishvili is the most disliked leader of the country. 1% of the interviewed respondents evaluate her work

as “very good”, 8% as “good”, 31% as “average”, 34% as “bad”, 20% as “very bad”, and 6% chose not to answer. It’s worth mentioning here that the NDI polls also revealed the public’s attitude to Georgia’s former leaders: Bidzina Ivanishvili, who used to be Prime Minister, and Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s ex-President. 26% of the participants evaluated Saakashvili positively, while Ivanishvili’s positive assessment stood at 17%. Overall, 64% of Georgians evaluate the current government’s performance as “bad.” When asked how they would evaluate the performance of the current government, 64% of respondents said that it was poor, 30% answered "good", while 5% chose not to answer. The NDI polls have also affirmed the public’s support for the West. 82% of respondents consider the stated goal of the Georgian government to become a member of the EU acceptable, while 10%

of them view EU membership as undesirable. Compared to last year’s results, 5% more respondents are in favor of Georgia’s EU membership, as in 2019, 77% deemed it acceptable. NATO membership is also in demand for the majority, with 74% deeming it desirable, and 14% answering negatively, while 11% said they were undecided. For the first time in the decade, 53% of respondents stated their belief that Georgia is developing in the wrong direction. Only 19% assessed Georgia’s development positively, and 24% think that the country is static, not changing at all. The rating of the Georgian Church has also fallen. Just 50% of the respondents assessed the Georgian Church’s work positively. In the last five years, this rating is the lowest seen for the Church. Between 2015 and 2019, the positive assessment of the Georgian Church dropped by 25%. The change was drastic between last year’s summer and

autumn, too: in July, the Church’s positive rating was 64%. The results reflect data collected from November 19 to December 13, 2019, through 2,180 face-to-face interviews with a nationwide representative sample of Georgia’s adult population, excluding occupied territories of the country. NDI’s survey work is funded by UK Aid. The poll was carried out by CRRC Georgia. NDI is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Putin’s Constitutional Revolution in Russia – Tandem Government OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI


n Wednesday, during the annual state-of-the-nation address, one of several appearances before the Russian political elite, Russian President Vladimir Putin was expected to talk mostly about large programs for the improvement of the social situation in Russia, perhaps the most pressing issue for ordinary Russians. However, as it turned out, it was only a prelude to what came in the second half of his speech when he went on to propose major constitutional changes, thus effectively starting what has been anticipated for years: the power transition process for post-2024 Russia when Putin is expected to step down from the presidency. As there is almost year and a half to the next parliamentary elections and four years to the next presidential elections, his announcement came sooner than expected. Nevertheless, the move to change the constitution was overall well received. Hints in the Russian media over the past year have been suggesting that there were important constitutional changes ahead. The timing and careful

The younger population, are unlikely to follow Putin’s decision to stay in power

Image source: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

wording of various articles and statements pointed towards potential changes that could touch upon the power of the President of Russia and that of the State Duma. One of the notable examples was Russia’s Speaker of the Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, who in 2019 penned an article to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Russian Constitution in which he discussed the need to increase the Duma's powers. The author suggested that it would be better if the organ participated more actively, even played a major role, in the formation of the Russian government. The constitutional changes proposed by Putin on January 15 echo previous hints and set out to increase the State Duma’s role in the formation of the Russian government, namely the Rus-

sian PM will be chosen by the deputies and the President will have to approve the decision. This, to a certain extent, is a revolutionary proposition. According to the 1993 Russian constitution, the country was ruled by an all-powerful president, the role of PM was diminished, as was that of the State Duma. Putin’s propositions are to change this model, which makes many think he will take on the PM’s position at the end of his presidency in 2024. Others suggest he will leave the presidency and take on an altogether different position. What is clear for the moment is that Putin is unlikely to remain president after 2024. His speech signaled this scenario when he mentioned specific historical and cultural features which characterize the Russian statehood, thus

ruling out a transition to a parliamentary model. He also suggested that the Russian President, following on from the constitutional changes, will still be a powerful figure, able to dismiss the PM and control the state’s armed forces, etc. Putin could indeed move to the PM position. It is possible he is already preparing the checks and balances so that in the future PMs will not be easily sacked by the President. Though many believe he would not do this for a third time, as he will still be dependent on the President and State Duma, one should remember that Putin already served twice as PM, and this at a time when the position of PM was weak and constitutionally Putin was vulnerable. This did not change much, though, as much depended on personal authority – in 2012 Putin returned to the presidency unharmed by his time

as Prime Minister. By increasing powers for the PM, Putin will be even safer than in 2008-2012 should he choose to stay in power beyond 2024. These constitutional changes introduce an interesting development: a strong ruling tandem in Russia in the coming years: a strong president alongside a powerful PM. Perhaps the idea was first fabricated in 2008-2012 when Putin served as PM under Dmitry Medvedev. It is in a way an innovative system too as Russia, irrespective of various models of government (imperial, Soviet), has usually been ruled by a strong leader propped up by the Constitution. Still, even with this meticulous preparation for constitutional changes, a mood of protest is likely to increase across Russia. In 2012, Putin’s return resulted in massive protests in Moscow, while in 2019, reportedly, tens of thousands protested in Moscow demanding fair elections. It will also be much tougher for Putin to convince the ruling Russian elites that his presence will be successful. Many counterarguments exist, the most important of which is the decline of the Russian economy. Reform-driven economists want to see radical changes, while the government has already missed an opportune timing. On the foreign policy front, the Kremlin’s failures in Ukraine stand out as most evident for the Russians. Many fundamental questions exist and the Russians, particularly the younger population, are unlikely to follow Putin’s decision to stay in power. Thus, large-scale protests will be seen countrywide. In many ways, the prolongation of Putin’s rule is a consolidation of various internal and foreign policy problems which have accumulated since his coming to power in 2000. As time passes, momentum for reconsideration of his policies is bound to mount.




The Abkhazia Revolution OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


ccupied Abkhazia was once again hit by a revolutionary wave. It can be called “new” even though little time has passed since the previous one. The last, known as the Tangerine Revolution, happened almost five years ago, then also seeing the so called presidential palace stormed by crowds. This week the protesters were attacking the office of the previous revolution’s hero, Raul Khajimba. And while usually Abkhazian revolutions aren’t distinguished with much drama, this year's riot proved different. More than any other words that usually dominate such events, in this case the rebels’ glossary was filled with the word “constitution”. In these days of revolution, the Abkhazian political elite protested the outcome of the so-called presidential elections held on September 8. Following the second round of elections, de facto president Raul Khajimba gained a victory over his competitor Alkhas Kvitsinia with a mere 1000 votes. However, he got only 47% of votes and not the required 50% + 1 vote. These figures served as ground for the ongoing protest. Despite the fact that since September, Khajimba has worked hard to combat attacks from competitors, receiving congratulations from those who recognize

his “position” and having an “inauguration,” on January 9 he was unable to handle the group of protesters that gathered against him and, just like his predecessor Alexandre Anqvab five years ago, he was forced to step down. Another and a bigger novelty of the revolution was who the rebels were. The revolutionary avant-garde that knocked at Khajimba's door wasn’t led by unknown politicians, but by famous criminals. It is safe to say that Khajimba became the victim of criminals rather than political opponents. Everything started on November 22 in the restaurant Sanremo in Sokhumi. On this day, two so-called thieves-in-law were killed. The Abkhazian crime circuit accused Khajimba’s security people of covering for the murderers. And it was the criminal world of Abkhazia that delivered the verdict to Khajimba on January 9. The fact that the revolution was led by criminals was clearly seen on the TV screens too, with Jemal Gamakharia noted “the heads of these events were not political parties, for example Kvitsinia, who lost the elections to Khajimba due to electoral fraud, they were the relatives of the murdered criminals, headed by Akhra Avidzba, who lives in Sochi and fights in Donetsk on the side of Russians and even has some awards for doing so. He is one of the ‘acclaimed’ representatives of the criminal world and for some time now has been making statements addressing Khajimba. Yesterday marked the united


Georgia Leads the Way in Delivering Fast, Easy, Secure Payments at Checkout


isa this week announced that Georgia is now leading the way globally to improve checkout through fast, easy and secure contactless payments. Georgia’s contactless penetration is now over 95% in domestic transaction, according to Visa data as of November 2019. For many years, Georgia has been front and center in terms of the adoption and use of payment innovations. Visa has been actively working to improve the checkout experience for consumers by introducing the speed, convenience and security of contactless payments. Consumers in Georgia have quickly embraced the benefits of tapping to pay with contactless cards and digital wallets with more than nine out of every 10 face-toface domestic payment transactions occurring with a tap in the market. “At Visa, we are proud of, and excited about yet another historic accomplishment achieved by Georgia. Georgia has always been a pioneer in adopting new payment solutions, right from being the first country in the CISSEE region to conduct a contactless transaction in a drugstore back in 2009 and now, with the recent launch of Apple Pay. “Georgia reaching number one globally by contactless penetration is a success that is shared with all our partner financial institutions and market stakeholders and I want to thank them all for their trust in Visa and passion towards bringing innovative solutions to Geor-

gian consumers,” said Cristina Doros, Visa Country Manager for the Caucasus region. “We are committed to driving innovative payment solutions even further and offering our partners and Visa cardholders the most advanced and secure payment tools and experiences to maintain Georgia’s leadership in cashless payments and further support the country’s digital transformation goals.” Key milestones of Georgia’s contactless payment journey over the last 10 years: o 2009: Together with Liberty Bank Visa completed the first Visa Contactless transaction in the CISSEE region; o 2013 Jointly with Bank of Georgia, Visa launchedcontactlessacceptanceatMcDonald’s restaurants across the country; o 2013: TBC Bank initiated a large-scale deployment of contactless POS terminals and issued a series of iconic Visa contactless card designs and stickers. Later, TBC Bank cemented these achievements by enabling the 1st Visa Contactless mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solution; o 2015: VTB Bank Georgia launched host card emulation (HCE) technology enabling mobile payment services – to enable payments just by tapping a mobile phone to any contactless POS terminal; o 2016: Together with Bank of Georgia, Visa launched Visa Token Services, to accelerate disruptive innovation in eCommerce and mobile payments; o 2019: Georgia became the first country in the Caucasus where Apple Pay was launched.

attack of these criminals and political powers against the residence of the de facto president: it was commanded not by politicians but personally by Akhra Avidzba.” However, apart from the criminals, the riot did have its own political leader too, and it was the predecessor of Khajimba, Alexandre Anqvab. Not only in Sokhumi, but in Tbilisi too, people are convinced the revolutionary processes are backed by so-called “Iron Alika”. “Alexandre Anqvab is behind the processes in Abkhazia. He was overthrown by Khajimba and when this happened, Russia stood behind the processes headed by Khajimba. Anqvab was a pro-Abkhazian politician and not pro-Russian. He did everything so that the law enforcement agencies and military bases wouldn’t feel free on the territory of Abkhazia; he caused many problems for them. When Khajimba signed an agreement with the Russian military bases that stated that Russian soldiers wouldn’t be held responsible for any crime and that Russian law enforcement institutions stood higher than that of Abkhazian, the criminal government started,” said former MP Paata Davitaia. Although the revanche happened, it is still hard to understand what the actual reason was for removing Putin’s favorite Raul Khajimba from the political arena. Why would Russia need this, why was it necessary to get rid of him and bring in another “president”, especially if both parties are managed by Russia? When

discussing this issue, in Sokhumi people talk about the rough policies of Khajibma, however if we take into consideration the Russian political taste, this argument doesn’t seem legit. Perhaps we should be looking for the answers to the “Abkhazian Revolution” in the blitz-interview with Sergey Shamba, the veteran politician who talked with Mtavari News just a few hours after Khajimba’s resignation. Shamba called on Tbilisi and Sokhumi to start a dialogue, saying: “We can say that I was the leader of the battle against Georgia, but I am also the first who started talking about the need for dialogue, and the time has come for us to start thinking about our mutual future, in the sense that we are neighboring people.” Following this announcement, it is quite clear Khajimba wouldn’t work for the Kremlin in negotiations with Tbilisi. The

apartheidist politics of Khajimba in Gali wouldn’t not allow for such a dialogue. Apart from the “Gali Apartheid,” Khajimba was also against the opening of the Tbilisi-Sokhumi railway. Unlike him, Aslan Bzhania was quite loyal, and, apart from being connected with Georgians on a relatives basis, he agrees to give the Gali Georgians the right to vote in the elections. He also thinks that trains can move over the Enguri Bridge. In short, the Kremlin concludes that Aslan Bzhania will be the figure, who will be heard not only in Sokhumi, but in Tbilisi too. However, the general Sokhumi population has different ideas about Bzhania: they think that today Abkhazia is in a dead-end and is doomed to only observe how one group of people overthrows the government, then the other strikes back, and so it goes infinitely and forever.




JANUARY 17 - 20, 2020

Heritage Hotel and Suites – Hotel Beyond Expectation


laced in a handsome 120-yearold building, Heritage Hotel & Suites boutique hotel is one of Tbilisi’s most anticipated openings of 2020. The glittering Opening Ceremony held on December 13 hosted a multitude of guests who, pampered with Ala Beridze’s charming music and scrumptious stand-up buffet, received numerous prizes. Giorgi Keniashvili, the founder of HotelX, says his hotel management company has earnestly participated in the creative process of designing and administering Heritage. “From the outset we aimed to create something special and memorable, something that would sur-

pass all expectation. We offer our guests elegant rooms, furniture and a myriad of surplus facilities that are essential for the hotel,” Giorgi says. Medea Janiashvili, deputy head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration, says the character of the venue perfectly suits its name, offering a unique symbiosis of the Old Tbilisi architecture and modern minimalist design. “Heritage is not only a place to spend a night at. Guests arriving here get a chance to touch the Old Tbilisi culture. A truly fantastic concept,” she says. Actress Eka Chkheidze recalls her deep-rooted love for the street since she attended a school in the neighborhood

now home to Heritage. “The building is 120 years old and can be seen as a cultural heritage monument. One can see lots of old buildings across the street. What makes the hotel unique is the bold fusion of old and new styles,” she says. Heritage is designed to ‘connect the centuries’ through a seamless blend of contemporary minimalist design with the more traditional Georgian touches. Designed by the best architect of the time, Heritage is a veritable oasis of luxury and comfort at the gateway to the age-old Aghmashenebeli Avenue. The hotel’s central location facilitates immediate contact with the most enthralling aspects of the city, ranging from the

vital historical monuments to the most famous Abanotubani (an ancient district known for its sulphuric baths). The Heritage hotel is in the middle of the action: within walking distance from the venue are numerous shopping malls, local and foreign restaurants, the metro station Marjanishvili, theatres and the best spots of nightlife, to name a few. The location is convenient for both business and leisure travelers. It takes just 10 minutes to drive from the hotel to Freedom Square and Rustaveli Avenue. Experiencing Tbilisi is an important part of the hotel's ethos. Agmashenebeli Avenue is one of the longest and most alluring streets of the

city. Here you can find gorgeous historic buildings, painted entryways and distinctive architectural ornaments. Built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, most of the buildings have the official status of cultural heritage monuments. The Apollo cinema, the Choreography School, the Art Palace and Marjanishvili Theatre are a few among Tbilisi’s cultural treasures, each of them with its own unique history. Chavchanidze’s House attracts viewers for its unique entrance painted by Florentine artists, and its refined ceiling décor. The hotel boasts 23 chic rooms with / without balconies, fully equipped with the finest amenities. All rooms feature private bathrooms, extra free toiletries, Smart TV, complimentary coffee/tea set, air conditioning, free WI-FI access, working space, mini-bar and an in-room safe box. After taking it all in, head to the fancy relaxation area with steam room and sauna for further enchantment. After a long and busy day, you will definitely need this little bit of heaven to ensure a pleasant sleep. Or else, you can begin your day here, to feel refreshed from morning on. The venue has been smartened up a with a stylish Patrimony Restaurant with a show-kitchen, offering an abundance of healthy European cuisine.

My New Column: Economics & Georgia

Image source: medium.com



tarting this column is my New Year resolution. I think it is Georgia’s interaction with economy in general that matters most in 2020. Nothing is more topical than this because it is about

the wellbeing of our society. To serve the purpose, I tried to get versed in the subject, and here I am with my amateurish but still curious thoughts on our bread and butter. Let’s Learn the ABC of Economics. What is the most valuable prerequisite for Georgia’s bright future? The answer is simple: a developed economy. Yes, but where to get it from and how? Would

long-term strategic thinking save the day for us? Possibly! But that likely won’t be enough! It is the whole range of smart political moves, lurking risks, furtively smiling opportunities, powerful economic tools and healthy monetary policy that we are faced with if we want to have an economically productive country, feeding the nation. On top of that, economy can serve as a steer to appreciate political and

social tendencies, molding our lifestyle. Moreover, economy is the key to knowing what might happen to us in the future. Hence my infatuation with it! I don’t want to be scared by its complexity. It’s not as tricky to understand as it seems to most of us. I have gotten over my stronger inhibitions with math and music by boldly putting my hands and wits to them. Thinking about the economy, we tend to think of the government actions that influence the economic process, but this is not all – there is much more to it that is not always on the surface for us to notice and consider. One of the characteristic features of economics is that it has a proclivity to erupt right in front of our eyes, on an everyday basis, in the widest possible variety of ways and means, sometimes smooth and sensible, and at times unexpected and confusing. As a matter of fact, we humans are the walking parts of the entire economic body, getting bruised on its bumpy roads or pampered if we’re lucky. Economy hits us every second of our life, it concerns us, it dictates the rules of behavior, it feeds us, but also leaves us unfed and unclad if it is wronged and mistreated. This is why we have to be familiar with it even more than politics, but the pernicious tendency is prompting us rank-and-file to be plunged into politics more than economics, although the media is full of information on the economy which we tend to skip callously, delving passionately into political news and stories instead.

I am not going to explain what economy is – there are thousands of books and millions of articles dedicated to the subject. Mine is only a reminder that starting one’s own business is more winsome when equipped with at least a smattering of economics than entering the entrepreneurial realm without any knowledge of this fundamentally important science. Things change quickly, especially in the world of economics, and catching up with a change is a huge challenge. The money-making technique and strategy goes through alterations on a regular basis, and we are always lagging behind the process. Couldn’t this be one of the reasons for our dissatisfaction with our standard of living? The suggestion then is to move from the raging ocean of politics to the virginal sea of economics and, gradually learning its ABC, to give ourselves up to what makes money, hence a good life, rather than being stuck engaged in an interminable political dialogue! But let us at the same time be fair enough to admit that politics and economics are mutually determinative phenomena. To cut a long story short, I am starting this series of economic miniatures. The next piece is to be more specific, I promise. This one was just a warm-up introduction, conducive to instigating certain interest in the profession, suggested by an amateur, willing to entice as many people as possible into this enterprising endeavor which I am calling a slight economic discourse.




The Human Rights Watch Report 2020

Image source: HRW



he World Report 2020 is Human Rights Watch’s 30th annual review of human rights practices around the globe. The 652-page volume reviews human rights practices and trends in nearly 100 countries. Georgia was among them, with an overview of the main failings and moves towards progress seen countrywide in 2019.

LAX REGULATIONS UNDERMINE WORKER SAFETY "Georgian labor law does not sufficiently regulate working hours, rest time, weekly breaks, and night work, and does not provide for government oversight of all labor conditions," reads the Human Rights Watch Report 2020. “According to the Georgian Trade Union Confederation, 36 workers died and 107 were injured in work-related accidents through October. Georgian labor law does not sufficiently regulate working hours, rest time, weekly breaks, and night work, and does not provide for government oversight of all labor conditions. Lax regulations and resulting labor practices that often prioritize production targets undermine workers’ safety. For example, workers in some manganese mines work 12-hour shifts underground, including at night, for 15 straight days, resulting in exhaustion and increasing the likelihood of workplace accidents and injuries. In May, some 2,500 miners from some of these mines went on strike for 12 days, demanding better working conditions and a pay rise. "Authorities drafted legislative amendments to address some of the gaps in the law regarding overtime, time off, and other issues, and to strengthen the labor inspectorate. The changes had not been introduced for parliamentary debate at time of writing”, reads the report.

IMPUNITY FOR ABUSE BY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS REMAINS A PROBLEM "Impunity for abuse by law enforcement officials remains a persistent problem," reads the Human Rights Watch Report 2020. “Authorities twice postponed the launching of the State Inspector’s Office, created in 2018 to investigate abuses committed by law enforcement and other public officials, citing lack of financing. It became operational on November 1. By September, the Ombudsman’s Office had received 54 complaints of ill-treatment by prison staff or police and petitioned the Prosecutor’s Office to launch investigations in 52 cases. None resulted in criminal prosecution,” reads the report. According to the document, on the night of June 20, riot police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas against thousands of protesters outside the parliament building in Tbilisi. “The protest was sparked by the presence of a delegation from the Russian Duma in the parliament’s plenary chamber, as part of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy. "Some protesters repeatedly tried to break through the police cordon, grabbing and damaging some riot gear. Otherwise the crowd was largely nonviolent. While riot police showed restraint initially, around midnight, without prior warning, they opened fire on the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets, chasing and arresting people who tried to gather. "Some 240 people, including 80 police officers and 32 journalists, sustained injuries and sought medical attention. Many civilians sustained rubber bullet injuries to the head, legs, and back; two people each lost an eye.

"Police arrested hundreds, and courts sentenced 121 protesters to up to 15 days in jail on misdemeanor violations. "Authorities pursued largely one-sided accountability. They launched a mass rioting investigation, charging at least 19 protesters, 15 of whom remain in pretrial custody at time of writing. Opposition parliamentarian Nika Melia was released under house arrest. The Prosecutor’s Office designated 67 police officers and only four civilians as victims, depriving many of the injured protesters the opportunity to review investigation files. Following civil society criticism, three more people received victim status in November. "Meanwhile, the Prosecutor’s Office charged three police officers with exceeding their powers and assaulting a detained protester; courts released all three on bail. The Interior Ministry reprimanded 11 law enforcement officers for misconduct and sent two cases to the prosecutor’s office. The Prosecutor’s Office authorized the Public Defender to monitor the ongoing investigation into police conduct”, reads the report.

ECHR’S JULY DECISION SHOOK GEORGIA’S MEDIA "The European Court of Human Rights’ July decision finding no breach of fair trial guarantees in the ownership dispute over Rustavi 2, Georgia’s most-watched television station, shook Georgia’s media landscape," says the Human Rights Watch Report 2020. “As a result, ownership reverted to a former owner, Kibar Khalvashi, who claimed that he had been forced to sell the station in 2006 below market value. Rustavi 2’s general director, Nika Gvaramia, alleged the lawsuit was orchestrated by the government to take over the station because it was seen as aligned with the opposition. "Khalvashi appointed a new director general, Paata Salia, who pledged not to interfere with the station’s editorial policy. However, Salia soon dismissed the newsroom head and producers and hosts of political and entertainment talk shows, claiming they had conflicts of interest because of their public statements against the new owner. The move prompted almost the entire newsroom to quit, resulting in a temporary suspension of news broadcasts. "In August, the Prosecutor’s Office brought “abuse of power” charges against Gvaramia, claiming he had struck a sham deal in 2015 on commercial ad placement on the station, allegedly resulting in the loss of 7.2 million GEL (approximately US$ 2.5 million). A court ordered Gvaramia to post 40,000 GEL (approximately US$ 13,500) bail. Some civil society organizations saw the “accelerated manner of the investigation” as politically motivated, likely “aimed at persecuting opponents and critical media.” "In September, Gvaramia founded a new proopposition broadcaster “Mtavari Arkhi” (Main Channel) and hired many of former Rustavi 2 anchors and journalists. Authorities also brought charges against Avtandil Tsereteli, father of the founder of TV Pirveli, another independent and critical broadcaster. The prosecutor’s office alleged that Tsereteli assisted former TBC Bank Board Chair Mamuka Khazaradze and his deputy in “legalization of illicit income” of $17 million in 2008. Civil society groups criticized the move as another attempt at “exert[ing] pressure on the independent and critical broadcaster,” reads the report.

DRUG POLICY STILL TOO HARSH “Although the overall numbers of drug-related prosecutions continued to decline, authorities maintained harsh drug laws that can be used to

prosecute people for mere consumption (except for marijuana) or possession of drugs for personal use,” Human Rights Watch notes, going on to add that drug-related felonies often result in long sentences, prohibitive fines, and deprivation of other rights, including the right to drive a vehicle or work in an array of professions. HRW suggests a legislative reform that would “introduce public health approaches to drug use” and an overhaul of punitive practices.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY The HRW 2020 report writers highlighted last June’s attempt to hold the first ever Georgian Pride Week, which was to include various social, political, and cultural events and a Pride March. “On May 31, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying that the events could not be held outdoors, citing the risks to people involved in the events,” the report reads, noting that in its June 14 statement, the Georgian Orthodox Church urged the authorities “not to allow” Tbilisi Pride, calling

it “absolutely unacceptable.” “Two days later, homophobic groups led by ultraconservative businessman Levan Vasadze held a rally, announcing the formation of vigilante patrols against Tbilisi Pride and gay people. Police launched an investigation into Vasadze’s statements that had no outcome at time of writing.” The report notes, however, that indoor Pride events did take place, and on July 8 around 40 activists and LGBT supporters held a pride march outside the Interior Ministry. The writers go on to state that “in November, ultra-nationalist hate groups and their supporters organized protests against the screening of a Swedish-Georgian gay love-themed film, ‘And Then We Danced,’ in Tbilisi and Batumi, harassing and at times attacking moviegoers. Police said they detained 27 people on misdemeanor, disobedience, and hooliganism charges, and one person faced a criminal violence charge.” See the full report here: hrw.org/world-report/2020/ country-chapters/georgia




JANUARY 17 - 20, 2020

Boosting Rural Access to Public Services: New Community Center Opens in Racha at the Center,” said Minister Tsulukiani. “I am from Switzerland - a country with no less than 2250 municipalities. Switzerland is arguably the most radically decentralized modern state. Citizen engagement at the local level plays a key role in our country,” said Werner Thut. “There would be no Switzerland as it is today without strong municipalities, strong mayors and self-confident citizens.” With support from Switzerland, Austria and UNDP, the Government of Georgia approved in 2019 the High Mountain Development strategy 2019-2023, the Decentralization Strategy 2020-2025 and the respective Action Plans. Mr. Thut noted that the community center can play “a key role” when it comes to strengthening ties between the government and the local residents of the mountainous zones of Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti. As well as access to over 200 public and private services that will make daily life in the region easier, the community center is to offer space for groups who need somewhere they can develop an activity, discuss an idea; for people who want to start something: women, young



n January 13, in Chrebalo village, Ambrolauri Municipality, an official ceremony was organized to celebrate the opening of a new community center. Residents of Chrebalo and around 3,000 people of some seven nearby villages will now have improved access to over 200 public and private services. Local inhabitants of those mountain villages will be able to enjoy public services offered by the Public Service Development Agency, the National Archive of Georgia, the National Agency of Public Registry and Social Service Agency along with the services of private companies Magticom and Liberty Bank, directly in their village. The Chrebalo Community Center is equipped with modern infrastructure and technology and staffed with employees recruited on a competitive basis from among the local population. Staff have been trained to provide the central gov-

people, and businesspersons. “For Swiss people, such a center makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Thut said. “This is why Switzerland and its Development Agency in Georgia support municipalities and local initiatives, including community centers. Because of our own experience, we believe in the importance, and also the self-responsibility, of the local level. And that mountainous areas must not be neglected by politics.” During the opening event, the musical band Kimera played for guests, a fun quiz was organized, and mulled wine, tea and coffee was served. In addition, children’s entertainment was provided in the form of magicians, fairy-tale characters and face painting. Minister Tsulukiani led a tour of the Chrebalo Community Center with invited guests through the service hall, conference room and library, before a cakecutting, fireworks display and concert closed the festive event. The Community Center in Chrebalo is the second Center jointly supported by Switzerland and Austria within the frame of the UNDP-implemented project ‘Fostering Regional and Local Development in Georgia.’

ernment and private sector services by means of e-governance. Local residents will have access to a modern digital library, free internet service, computers and conference call equipment. The Center will host Local Government representatives' offices' and offers a space for fostering civic engagement activities on the ground. The Minister of Justice of Georgia, Mrs. Thea Tsulukiani, welcomed guests to the opening, as did Mr. Werner Thut, Deputy Regional Director, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation/ Embassy of Switzerland, and Ms. Tinatin Tkeshelashvili, Project Manager ‘Fostering Regional and Local Development in Georgia,’ UNDP Georgia. “We are here today to celebrate the Old New Year! At the same time, we are here to celebrate the opening of the 75th Community Center in Georgia. We chose Chrebalo for its location. It serves as a hub for around 3,000 locals from seven neighboring villages. From tomorrow, this fully equipped Center will start serving locals. I am particularly pleased to see happy children who will enjoy the modern library, computers and free Wi-Fi

Canine Culprit: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER


was at the bottom of our road, where it meets the highway, waiting for some bread and egg deliveries for the shop, when one of my Ukrainian guests called. They had seen, and even filmed, a dog killing our rooster. What to do? I was without Lali, so this one was up to me. Was the dog still around? Could they ID it if they saw it again? How badly damaged was the rooster? Yes, Yes, Not Badly. Once I finished my collections, I rushed back home. (The photo isn’t of this rooster, but of a different one, different circumstances, but it gets the message across.) Another of the guests had kindly volunteered to deal with the fowl, plucking and cleaning it: no point in wasting it! The others told me that a neighbor had seen some of the action and might be able to corroborate. From an upstairs window, they had seen the dog go into the barn, take out the rooster and kill it; shouting from the window was ineffective, as one would expect. The dog did run away, though, and they had retrieved

the bird, already dead. I visited the neighbor. First a local boy’s dog seemed to be the guilty one, although the video wasn’t close enough to be conclusive, unfortunately. I took it to another neighbor without making an accusation, to ask for advice. He said that a new dog had attached itself to another neighbor

lady, and that this one also had a reputation for chicken-killing: hers and others’. Hmmm! This seemed a much more likely suspect. I then visited her with the video and saw the canine in question: again, unsure. She would be quite happy for us to kill the dog, though, if it was the one, as it

had already proved to be a nuisance! Welcome to village justice. I then returned home and asked for the best eyewitness. He and I checked out the last suspect close-up and he denied flatly that this was the one. Whose dog, then? We had already eliminated two possibilities! A third one now entered testimony, however, belonging to another, far away neighbor boy who had been seen with it right before the incident. He was gone now, though, so this was going to be tricky. Also, my guests all had to leave the next day, so their accounts were going to lose value. I was left with coq au vin and questions: Can I ask to see the last dog and compare it with the video? Yes: this might solve it. How can I prevent further such attacks? I must not lose the right to keep my barn door open for the poultry to come and go as they please and for them to roam! 1. I could state that I'll be leaving dog poison around the barn, and that it's dog owners' responsibility to leash their animals on my property. This would endear me to none of my near neighbors, whose dogs do move as they like and have not been a problem at all to date.

2. I could install a dog-deterring ultrasound device, as specific to them as the poison would be, near the barn; it would run on rechargeable batteries, but I'd have to buy it online and have it shipped in. No one would object to this, though. 3. I could make a chicken-wire halfheight door for the barn, onto and over which the chickens could jump, but too high for dogs. This is my favorite choice, though admittedly it would solve nothing for risks outside the barn; everyone's chickens are entirely free-range anyway, not even recognizing their owner's fences. But this is likely the solution I'll choose. As for the main suspect, I still have to confront its owner and demand that he prevent this from happening again. I should do this, for my own and others' poultry's safety. Good lessons learned! Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti



National Parliamentary Library of Georgia Opens Cinema Library

Image source: Giorgi Kekelidze Facebook



eorgian cinematography is being rediscovered worldwide, thanks to Shindisi and And Then We Danced winning numerous international awards. But for the industry to grow even further, the number of cinephiles and their knowledge needs to grow. Helping this cultural cause, on January 15, a Film Studies (Cinema) Library was opened in the building of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia. In the hall, readers will have an opportunity to find out everything about cinema from a library equipped with Georgian and foreign literature, posters, pamphlets, flyers and more. “We’re starting with very interesting, though not very many, materials that were issued in English language. Additionally, readers can come and enjoy a comfortable space. In the near future, our collection will get larger. Before then, if you wish, you can donate whatever you can spare – cinema posters, booklets,

flyers, etc. Get them to us and attach your name. We will exhibit the donated items in the hall,” say representatives of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia. The opening ceremony, unsurprisingly, was attended by the Director of the National Parliamentary of Georgia, writer and poet Giorgi Kekelidze.

“We have opened up an incredible cinema library in in the National Library. The new library should be interesting for youth and students as much as it should be for researchers, and everyone fascinated and struck by cinema. The library has already opened its doors for you, cinephiles,” he said. The fact that the capital city of Georgia now has a Film Studies Library is important in particular because many materials presented there are not available online. Writer and journalist Nene Kvinikadze says that professionals carefully chose the literature and visual artworks dedicated to the world of cinema. The collection in the Film Studies Library of Georgia is expected to grow very soon. For now, cinema enthusiasts can engulf themselves in English language issues, which, while not very many in number are fascinating in nature. Additionally, to help the great initiative grow, citizens are invited to donate posters, booklets, and flyers of cinematography to the library. The short and long term plans of the library include hosting lectures, talks, and sessions to share and enrich the knowledge of the beautiful art of cinema in the country.

First Look at the Upcoming Movie Starring Cumberbatch, Ninidze BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE


eorgian actor Merab Ninidze and Hollywood star Benedict Cumberbatch play side by side in Dominic Cooke’s upcoming British drama Ironbark. The first photo from the movie has surfaced on the internet, showing the Georgian and British actors in their roles. The film is set in the period of the Cold War. Cumberbatch portrays British spy Greville Wynne, and Merab Ninidze plays his Soviet source, Oleg Penkovsky. The historic drama was based on a true story: British Wynne and Russian Penkovsky did partner up to put an end to the Cold War. Ninidze’s character Penkovsky, codenamed HERO, was a Soviet

Image source: IMDB

military intelligence colonel during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Penkovsky was the highest level Soviet officer to spy for the United States and Great Britain up to that time, informing the United

Kingdom about the Soviet emplacement of missiles in Cuba. The film is scheduled to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 24 January 2020.





JANUARY 17 - 20, 2020


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 January 17, 18 THE NUTCRACKER Premiere A new version of the ChristmasNew Year fairytale Pyotr Tchaikovsky Ballet in two acts Staging Choreographers: Alexey Fadeechev and Nina Ananiashvili Staging Conductor: Papuna Ghvaberidze Tbilisi Z. Paliashvili Opera and Ballet State Theater Orchestra Conductor- Papuna Ghvaberidze Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-200 GEL

Directed by Leo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. January 17 INTRO Sandro Nikoladze's Musical Alegry Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL January 18 ASTIGMATISTS Mute Movie Sandro Nikoladze's Musical Alegry Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Artist: Bidzina Sidiani Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL

January 17 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL

January 19 SILENCE, REHEARSAL! One-act performance of various short novels: "Good Morning", "Cinemat", "Welcome-Host", "Shirley Beis", "Painter", "Bohemian Rhapsody" Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL

January 18 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL

January 23 THE TEMPEST Based on the works of William Shakespeare Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL


January 19 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL January 23 REZO Animated documentary film


AMIRANI CINEMA 36/1 M. Kostava Ave. January 19 GIYA KANCHELI: ANGELS OF SORROW Genre: Documentary Directed by Teona Jorbenadze Start time: 18:00, 20:00 Price: 20 GEL


GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS Until February 1 Exhibition NEANDERTHALS IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS – TSUTSKVATI CAVE, OLD AND NEW DISCOVERIES The exhibition displays the latest findings of archeological and paleontological excavations discovered by Georgian National Museum's Tsutskvati Cave Archaeological Expedition. Until February 1 EXHIBITION "CHINESE ART IN GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM" dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and a book by Irina Koshoridze, Marina Dgebuadze, Natia Demurishvili, Nino Simonishvili IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 Until January 19 Project "Contemporary Art Gallery" presents the exhibition "How to Catch up with a Dead Hare" by Georgian contemporary artist ILIKO ZAUTASHVILI

January 22- February 4 THE HARMONY OF SEASHELLS Artworks by Arch-Priest Dimitri Sukhitashvili MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge The exhibition hall is equipped with monitors, where visitors can see documentaries of various historical events. Until January 20 Exhibition SVANETI-KHALDE REVOLT 1875-1876 Introducing the history of the uprising for the first time, the exhibition is based on archival documentation, ethnographic and photo-video materials, telling the story of the determination and selfsacrifice of the inhabitants of small mountainous village Khalde, the freedom-fighters who confronted the Russian imperial power. MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave and jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in the Mirror Room, free yourself in the Infinity Room, resist the laws of gravity and size, and take selfies in every possible pose. Enjoy the collection of holograms and discover optical illusions. GALLERY


Until February 29 Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy in Georgia present the exhibition ROMA AETERNA. MASTERPIECES OF ROMAN SCULPTURE FROM THE DINO AND ERNESTA SANTARELLI FOUNDATION National Gallery features 33 sculptures depicting the stages of artistic or stylistic evolution from the Roman Republic to Neoclassical era. Until February 20 VALERIAN SIDAMON-ERISTAVI ANNIVERSARY-RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION Eristavi’s works include theater and cinema painting, and iconography; he created copies of medieval frescos; decorated museum expositions and parades; created illustrations for various manuals, and worked on newspaper caricatures and furniture sketches. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF GEORGIA 1 Vaja Pshavela Ave. Untill January 31 MOUNTAIN PEAKS OF GEORGIA PHOTO EXHIBITION SPHERO City Mall Saburtalo, Veranda, II Floor SPHERE A domed cognitive-entertainment space where you can become part of an impressive 360-degree panorama image. For all ages. TBILISI DIGITAL SPACE Tbilisi Mall The first museum of digital art in Tbilisi. See Vazha-Pshavela's "Dried beech", a world of torches, and a digital space decorated with various graphic and visuals effects. In the main hall, through video projections and mirrors, you will discover that there is no boundary between Man and nature. Ticket: 10-30 GEL MUSIC

MONOHALL 2 D. Bakradze Str. January 17 MORTEN GRANAU Start time: 23:00 Price: 50 GEL January 18 KAYAKATA Age Control: 16+ Start time: 23:00 Price: 40 GEL ART HALL 26/2 Rkinigza Str. January 18 FEDERICO GARDENGHI SOUND STUFF / ROMA J / JINO DOLLINI Start time: 23:00 Price: 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. January 21 JAM SESSION Impro music Every Tuesday Musical director- Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 21:00 Price: 10 GEL




Freeing Contemporary Art Presentation - Escape from Fixed Structures



urator Lily Fürstenow, founder of the ARE/Artistic Research artists group, has long been watching the barriers that confront artists in Berlin. Together with ARE, she initiated the Protest movement to get answers from local art institutions and citizens, asking questions such as, Why do local

art museums and municipal galleries not show truly contemporary art?, Why is there no fresh change in the staff structure of publicly funded institutions? and What chance do citizens have to raise doubts about publicly funded projects in art institutions? That's interesting: Why do the citizens of a district not themselves decide which art they want to see in their communal gallery financed by tax-payers’ money? There could be a democratic process. Basically, artists from the respective district could also rotate as curators and

supervise the exhibitions for one term of office at a time. Fürstenow is now trying to come up with actions and proposals in association with artists as part of her "protest" initiative. I saw them resolute as well as creative and open-minded in September, with their side event protesting the Berlin Art Week at GH36 art space. One goal is to bring the district offices to the table, to talk about free exhibition spaces, current art, democracy, exhibition costs, artists’ honorariums or other support. On the one hand, Berlin advertises its “crea-

tivity image,” from start-ups to tourism, but on the other hand, artists will soon be struggling to live and work there. A second goal is to create production spaces, to make the long-term offices of the heads of the municipal galleries and art spaces more transparent and to manifest a critical counter-position to the art market at this level. What is the situation? Who decides what? And what is perceived as contemporary art, by whom? First of all: there more art today than ever before. And the Berlin municipal galleries are already beginning to break up, but, for example, as a matter of principle, they only promote unknown artists! It is difficult if the curator now curates a thematic exhibition and certain positions are not allowed, because these artists already have a certain standing in the market. In many calls for applications and project grants, the applications are generally accepted by the participatory working artists because the “painters can also hang their pictures in galleries.” In other awarding procedures, the result (an exhibition of 15 or 30 positions) immediately makes it clear that a certain minimalism or white cube style corresponds to the current taste of the Board of Trustees. Or museum directors exclude artists for personal reasons. It has always been so, which is terrible, because we need trust for art. If you ask citizens about art, the answer is always oriented to the shows in the big museums. The big museums in turn follow the art market, and are unfortunately far too busy with their statutes and depots. In addition, there are numerous art consultants and managers who

unfortunately do not orient their advice to the collection of the buyers or collectors, but to gallery owners or artists, with whom they have commission agreements. Apart from the secondary market and Instagram, it is difficult to form any opinion. In general, therefore, the question for ‘Protest’ initiator Lily Fürstenow, and the demand for art houses that the taxpayers finance to show a good mix of local and international artists of today from all genres, is both absolutely legitimate and necessary. In any case, I wish Lily Fürstenow and her team, along with as many different artists as possible, to have as many decision-makers as possible at the table to exchange views and rethink strategies that have been taken. Municipal, non-commercial art venues should offer a little more space for "art as a place of trust" than the so-called art market does. And just as museums are finally having to deal with digital reality and realign their conceptions, decisions about exhibitions must no longer be dependent only on the opinions of (longestablished) directors or employees. Rotation principles or surveys and more transparent procedures are important. Art is enshrined in Germany’s Basic Law, Article 5 GG., as a free activity, also free from earning revenue. "Money making" is alien to the nature of a true artist. He/she has to do it anyway. Art is not exclusive, but rather something very social, even archaic. It is always tricky to meet everyone's demands. And it has always been dangerous to exclude certain groups of artists – whether avant-garde, "degenerate", not ideology apt or too traditional.

Retrospective of Georgian Films in Brussels BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI


russels’ Contemporary Art Center 'Bozar' will host a retrospective of Georgian films on January 22-26. The event is organized within the framework of the festival ‘Bridges. East of West Film Days,’ the National Film Center reports. Georgian films will be presented in Brussels within the following program. January 23 - Dimitri Mamulia's "Criminal Man"; January 23 - Georgian Short Film Program - Davit Pirtskhalava's ‘Father,’ Dea Kulumbegashvili's ‘Lethe,’ George Sikharulidze's ‘Fatherland’ and ‘Animal’ by Amiran Dolidze; January 25 - Nino Orjonikidze and Vano Arsenishvili's documentary ‘Tunnel’; January 25 - Uta Beria's ‘Negative Numbers’; January 26 – ‘Shindisi’ by Dimitri Tsintsadze; In addition to film screenings, industry meetings will be held in Brussels, where young directors - Elena Mikaberidze and George Sikharulidze will present their first feature films. Apart from Georgia, the festival is to be attended by filmmakers from Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Belarus. Source: National film Center



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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1219  

January 17 - 20, 2020

Issue #1219  

January 17 - 20, 2020