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Issue no: 921

• FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue...

American Hospital to Be Built in Tbilisi NEWS PAGE 2

Georgia Can’t Avoid Europe’s Turmoil POLITICS PAGE 4

FOCUS ON THE PATRIARCHATE PLOT

Society is rocked by the allegations both within and without... and the funding debate begins PAGE 2, 5, 15

Learn from Failure – The EU’s Quest for Media & Communications Competence INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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ith PEOTUS running rampant on Twitter and the Kremlin using its honed skills at disinformation to sell their escapades in Ukraine and Syria as means to peace and security, the ineptitude of the European Union to string up a coherent, needs-based communication policy with its vulnerable neighborhood becomes more and more alarming. On online and social media alike, the EU’s voice is muffled and all too convoluted to be relatable, let alone charismatic and inspirational. Courtesy of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s Excellency School, GEORGIA TODAY spoke with Lithuanian professor Nerijus Maliukevicius, who has been researching modern information warfare for some time now and authored several books on the subject.

HOW DOES THE EUROPEAN UNION’S COMMUNICATION POLICY WORK AND IS IT EFFECTIVE WHEN CONFRONTING THE TIDE OF RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA? While the Western Europe was certainly caught off-guard, for Baltic States by no means was. Continued on page 7

Crushing Report: EU Plans to Stop Aid for Ukraine POLITICS PAGE 7

Economic Freedom Index 2017: Georgia Ups Its Position SOCIETY PAGE 10

Giving Georgians the Chance to Excel: Meet International Education Fair Organizers, UK Bridge SOCIETY PAGE 12

Dario Fo’s Best Known Political Satire on Tumanishvili Stage CULTURE PAGE 15


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Republican Party Demands Revision of Orthodox Church Funding BY THEA MORRISON

American Hospital to Be Built in Tbilisi BY THEA MORRISON

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he David Tvildiani Medical University, Conti Group, and businessman Mamuka Khazaradze have agreed to begin construction on American Hospital, a hospital in Georgia built to American standards. The selection process for a hospital operator has been completed, with an agreement signed with Inova Healthcare System on February 14 in Tbilisi. Inova is a global leader in personalized health, which leverages precision medicine to predict, prevent, and treat diseases, enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Inova serves more than two million people each year throughout the Washington DC (US) metro area and beyond. Inova's five current hospitals include more than 1,700 licensed beds and 16,000 employees. The American Hospital project in Georgia is worth $42 million. At the first stage, the hospital will have around 100 beds, and will primarily focus on medical services the level of development of which is low in Georgia, providing the high quality medical care for which

Georgian citizens often travel abroad. The highest American standards and technologies of Joint Commission International (JCI) will be introduced in Georgia’s American Hospital the like of which has never been seen on the territory of Georgia. JCI accreditation is considered the gold standard in global health care. JCI consultants are the most skilled and experienced in the industry. It identifies, measures, and shares the best practices in quality and patient safety with the world, providing leadership and innovative solutions to help health care organizations across all settings improve performance and outcomes. JCI has a number of guidelines concerning hardware, building materials, equipment, personnel training quality, the scheme procedures, quality control, etc. In addition, Georgian doctors licensed in the United States will be invited to work in the hospital, being given the opportunity to continue their professional activities in Georgia. Moreover, American Hospital is intended to be a medical hub, where a medical-training center will be developed which will contribute to the training of professionals in the medical field and expand the network. The hospital will serve not only Georgia but the whole Caucasus region.

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he Republicans, a nonparliamentary opposition party, are calling on the Government of Georgia to revise the funding of the Orthodox Church. The Georgian Orthodox Church annually receives 25 million GEL from the state budget. The initiative came after the recent church scandal, when clergyman Giorgi Mamaladze was detained for allegedly planning to murder an un-named highrank cleric. According to an unofficial source, Mamaladze, a deputy head of the Patriarchate’s Property Management Agency, was actually detained because he had knowledge of a range of violations within the Patriarchate. Republicans, Khatuna Samnidze and Tamar Kordzaia, at a press-conference on Wednesday claimed that the constitutional agreement based on which the Georgian Orthodox Church receives several million GEL annually, is being violated due to unnecessary expenditures. The Party members also claim that property both in Tbilisi and the regions is being handed over to the Church, bypassing all procedures and without any revision. “We believe that in this situation the Church and State should be distanced and the current financing policy of the Orthodox Church should be suspended,” Samnidze said. Kordzaia said that the current developments surrounding the church leave the impression that a number of clergyman and governmental officials are involved in cases of corruption and have joint

Patriarchate of Georgia. Source: timer.ge

businesses. “The Church has already received more than 200 million GEL, and the Patriarchate has received more than 1 million hectares of land. We, the Republicans, believe that the funding policy should be reviewed,” she said. The ruling party, Georgian Dream (GD), does not approve of the position of the Republicans. Vice-Speaker Gia Volsky says that the Church plays an important role in the development of society and it is not correct to link it with politics. “We should disregard speculation that the Church serves political forces. The Church serves the State,” he claimed. Parliamentary opposition parties believe that the financial relationship between the Church and the State should have some frames. “Transparency in this relationship is

necessary. The lack of transparency in the current system created the problems we have today,” said Sergi Kapanadze, member of the Movement for FreedomEuropean Georgia. Another opposition party, United National Movement (UNM), also believes that the relationship between the church and the state is “not healthy”. “The government interferes with the activities of the Church in various ways,” member of the UNM, Roman Gotsiridze, said. The Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) believes that by granting real estate or a large number of funds to the Patriarchate, officials aim to secure their loyalty and support. They add that currently the Patriarchate’s real estate is 36 times greater than that of the Vatican.

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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

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Georgia Ranked 7th among Top 10 Safest Countries BY THEA MORRISON

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umbeo, the world’s largest database of user-contributed data about cities and countries worldwide, reports that Georgia takes 7th position on the list of Top 10 safest countries worldwide. Numbeo provides current and timely information on world living conditions, crime, safety, healthcare, pollution, traffic, quality of life and travel.

Numbeo is a collaborative online database which enables users to share and compare information about the cities and countries around the world. The data provided by numbeo.com is based on the perceptions of visitors to the website in the past three years. Numbeo surveyed 125 countries worldwide and its data reads that Georgia’s safety index is 79.17, while its crime index is 20.83. Qatar, Singapore, Taiwan, Austria, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong are ahead of Georgia in the list of top 10 safest countries.

Last year Georgia was ranked in 6th position in terms of safety. As for the neighboring countries of Georgia, in terms of safety, Ukraine takes 85th position, Turkey-55, Russia-67, Azerbaijan-18 and Armenia 19th position. The 2017 Crime Index Rate revealed that the top 5 most dangerous countries are: Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Honduras, South Africa and South Sudan. The United States takes position 53, United Kingdom 70, Switzerland, 115 while France is on the 67th place in terms of crime.

Wizz Air to Launch Kutaisi - London Flights from Summer BY THEA MORRISON

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izz Air is to launch a direct flight from Kutaisi to London Luton from June 18, 2017. The information was released Wednesday by United Airports Georgia, an LTD under the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia. The flights will take place every Thursday and Sunday with prices starting from just £34.99 (105.99 GEL). Passengers will be able to buy tickets on the airline's website - www.wizzair. com.

United Airports Georgia says that all flights will be operated by 180-seat Airbus A320 and 230-seat Airbus A321 aircrafts. Wizz Air planes from Kutaisi will land at London Luton Airport, which is located just 56km north-west of central London. Hungarian airline Wizz Air opened its first Caucasian base in the main city of western Georgia, Kutaisi, in September, 2016. Since then, Wizz Air has transported more than 168,000 passengers and created 126 jobs. Wizz Air is a value-oriented airline that focuses on innovation along the way of the customer journey. At present, it is operating in Georgia with 12 low-cost flights to nine different countries within Europe.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Georgia Can’t Avoid Europe’s Turmoil BY SHOTA GELOVANI, MASTER’S STUDENT IN POLITICAL SCIENCE AT MANNHEIM UNIVERSITY

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hile Georgian observers fixate on their country’s own political and economic problems, developments outside the country are shaping up to make a major impact, as well. Most notably, these include the European migration crisis and upcoming elections in France and Germany. These factors are closely linked; the recent influx of refugees and migrants has given rise to xenophobia and right-wing populist political movements across the continent. From France to Slovakia, public opinion is shifting in favor of anti-establishment movements that promote various forms of exclusive, even pugnacious, nationalism. In the process, it has given new impetus to Eurosceptic politicians and parties. The migration crisis and its effects on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations have received little attention in Georgia, whether from citizens, the media, or the academic community. Mostly due to its geographic location, Georgia has taken in relatively few refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, thus hasn’t faced head-on the same challenges that threaten political establishments in Western Europe. This has been positive for the country’s aspirations for a visa-free regime with the European Union, with EU fears that Georgia could become a transit country for terrorists and organized criminals having faded. This is demonstrated by recent progress on visa liberalization, with the European Parliament voting in early February to establish a visa-free regime. The Georgian government has cooperated diligently with the EU on immigration issues and has even elaborated a common policy for combatting illegal immigration, more positive signs for the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration. However, Europe’s ongoing crisis has negative, if indirect, implications for Georgia. As demonstrated by recent polls (in The Netherlands, France, and Germany) and the conspicuous gathering of right-wing populist parties in Koblenz, Germany, discontent over the fast pace of migration and the responses of Western governments are causing major shifts in public opinion: growing numbers of voters want less freedom of movement and less integration with countries cur-

rently outside the EU, including Eastern partners such as Georgia . As right-wing populist movements and parties tend to be Eurosceptic and thus oppose both immigration and further EU enlargement, Georgia should be concerned. A right-wing populist takeover of executive government in France or Germany could take EU enlargement off the table entirely. The rise of right-wing populism is spilling over into another area, as well: a growing number of European politicians don’t view Russian President Vladimir Putin as a nuisance to be countered, but a potential partner to be placated. Statements made by Francois Fillon, the Republican Party candidate in the upcoming French presidential election, are a manifestation of this trend: “We just need to accept that Ukraine and Georgia do not have vocation to enter EU and NATO. The USA doesn’t need aggressive states at its borders [either]… I think we’ve made a lot of mistakes and what I can see is that Russia is drifting away. Can we bring Russia back to more reasonable positions? I don’t know. But we should surely try to do it.” Fillon ’s most formidable opponent is Marine Le Pen from the Front National— an overt Putin sympathizer and committed Eurosceptic. Thus France’s 2017 presidential elections could be a choice between bad and worse for Georgia, assuming the likely scenario that Fillon and Le Pen both advance to the second round. The best hope for France to stay committed to EU integration, and thus amenable to Georgia’s aspirations, lies in the third contender, Emmanuel Macron, a pro-market independent who has gained support mostly at Fillon’s expense over the past two months. Macron’s bid is a beacon of hope for Georgia, considering his pro-EU stance and clear contrast with the pro-Russian attitudes of the other two candidates. The German landscape looks better, as the current ruling coalition is likely to stay in power, with both parties—the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats—scoring well above 50 percent in recent opinion polls. However, due to narrowing of the gap between Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the SDP, we could see a new chancellor, with Social Democrat Martin Schulz becoming head of the German government. Schulz is known for expressing support for Georgia’s territorial integrity while serving as head of the European Parliament. That said, the odds are still in Merkel’s favor, meaning that Georgia can be reasonably optimistic about developments

in Germany in 2017. The unprecedented increase in support for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany shouldn’t be feared, either—they are very unlikely to enter the ruling coalition. Nevertheless, the possible entry into the Bundestag of right-wing nationalists is an outcome of the migration crisis and a reflection of the rising tide of populism. Advancing further on the integration path should remain a priority task for policymakers. Georgia already received the green light on visa liberalization, which is expected to enter into force in March. That is only one step toward integration, however, and the overall process shouldn’t be allowed to be slowed down, especially during the term of the current European Parliament and European Commission president (Jean-Claude Juncker), which both last until 2019.

Despite delays and uncertainty, the Georgian public still overwhelmingly favors EU and NATO membership. In a recent poll conducted in November 2016 by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), 72 percent of respondents expressed support for the government’s stated goal of joining the EU, and 61 percent supported joining NATO. However, the situation is not as good as it may appear on the surface. Support for NATO has declined noticeably since November 2015. Even more noticeable, members of Georgia’s ethnic minority groups are significantly less likely to support NATO and EU accession. NDI polls from 2015 and 2016 show a worrisome situation in minority-populated areas, where many residents favor abandoning Euro-Atlantic integration in favor of better relations with Russia. This is another obstacle that must be tackled,

and through domestic political will. The Georgian government should more actively engage the public in Euro-Atlantic integration processes, in particular by conducting informational campaigns targeting rural and minority-populated audiences in particular. Most importantly, the government must develop and articulate an actual roadmap to guide the country along its European path, a path that could conceivably become much rockier during the coming years. Given the rise of right-wing nationalism and Euroscepticism, Georgia’s government needs to work harder to intensify cooperation with its partners in the EU, even pushing to open membership talks in the midst of Europe’s present turmoil. With Western European voters growing increasingly skeptical of both immigration and EU enlargement, Georgia must cultivate as many relationships and alliances as possible, as well as lock in the significant gains it has already achieved.

The Georgian Institute of Politics was founded in 2011 to strengthen institutions and promote good governance and development through policy research and advocacy in Georgia. It publishes its blog with Georgia Today twice per month. Check out our website in English and Georgian at gip.ge for more blogs, data, and analyses.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

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UNHOLY COMMUNION:

Priests, Putin & a Suitcase of Cyanide BY WILL CATHCART FOR THEDAILYBEAST.COM

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his small Black Sea country was scandalized on Monday by news that a high-ranking priest, a member of the inner circle of the Georgian Orthodox Church, was arrested for the attempted murder of another even higher “high-ranking cleric.” Several news organizations claimed that the intended victim was none other than Ilia II, the 84-year-old patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The Georgia State Prosecutor’s Office has not confirmed this officially. Yet as it releases more and more details, the implication is that the patriarch was indeed the target if, indeed, the charges are true to begin with. On Tuesday morning, Georgia’s prime minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, issued a statement that “a fatal attack against the Church” had been avoided. Given “the extraordinary circumstances,” the prime minister said, he sent his own personal bodyguards to Berlin where the patriarch is recovering from surgery. What we know is that Archpriest (a priest who presides over several parishes) Giorgi Mamaladze, a powerful member of the church, was arrested by prosecutors on February 10 at Tbilisi International Airport allegedly carrying cyanide in his suitcase. Mamaladze was headed for Germany where the patriarch

is currently hospitalized. Mamaladze is Chief of the Property Department of the Georgian Orthodox Church, managing the church’s vast assets and real-estate holdings. Late Monday night, the Georgian news network Rustavi 2 released a letter allegedly written (though it remains unverified) by Mamaladze to the patriarch accusing the Georgian Church of immense graft, corruption, and illegal alcohol production among other unlawful activities. In the letter, the archpriest claims that he was sacked from his former position as head of the church’s Property Management Service (though he remained with the Department), after he submitted a report on the corruption he had witnessed in his position. In the letter, Mamaladze also refers to a debt of 5 million GEL ($1.9 million USD), “accumulated [by the Church] through fraudulent schemes by unscrupulous management and alleged criminal offenses.” The priest supposedly claims in the letter, “There were also threats against me, but I want to speak personally. I have a lot of material which will reveal the crimes committed against the Church.” It is unclear, if not baffling, how or why the archpriest went from the loyal servant of the patriarch conveyed in the letter to a would-be international assassin collecting unregistered weapons and cyanide. Ilia II is an extremely popular figure among the Georgian population, almost 85 percent of whom identify as Orthodox

Christian. Indeed, the patriarch has the highest approval rating of any public figure in the country. Although he originally assumed the top post in the Church in 1977, when Georgia was part of the now-defunct Soviet Union, he has since been known for passing sweeping reforms and reengaging the Church with Georgian society. In recent years, the patriarch’s health has declined significantly, which led to his most recent hospitalization and gallbladder surgery in Berlin. Meanwhile, reports continue to emerge from within the Church indicating a conflict between pro-Russian and pro-Western factions of the Church at the highest levels. Because of the Church’s immense influence over Georgian society, the last three Georgian governments have been forced to appease it politically on every issue it deemed important, and as Ilia II appears to be reaching the end of his life, there is intense infighting and public speculation about who will replace him. That, in turn, has led to suspicion and speculation about the version of events the Prosecutor’s Office has made public. For years, the Georgian Orthodox Church has had a close relationship with the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church, despite the fact that Moscow’s forces continue to occupy 20 percent of Georgia’s territory, which they invaded in 2008. While the Georgian Orthodox Church is a foundation of Georgia’s cultural and national identity, it is also Georgia’s most direct connection to Russia. This may not be obvious to the average Georgian, but it’s a fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly understands and the Kremlin, obviously, has its own interests in the patriarchal succession.

Exactly four months after the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, even as Moscow continued to ignore the terms of the ceasefire, Georgian Patriarch Ilia II visited the Russian capital and met with then-President Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s loyal acolyte. For five years after the 2008 war, Russia and Georgia severed all diplomatic ties, and Ilia II and his crew were the only Georgians to meet with Russian leaders in an official capacity. As a result, for those five years the Georgian Orthodox Church held a monopoly on the Georgia-Russia relationship. Ilia II and Vladimir Putin met numerous times and they continued to do so as recently as November 29 of last year, something that never failed to raise eyebrows Tbilisi. Considering Putin’s past, some sort of involvement between Russian intelligence services and the most elite sectors of the Georgian Orthodox Church would appear to be probable. And given Putin’s alleged penchant for poison as a tool of statecraft, rumors are inevitable. But the Kremlin’s alleged toxins are usually much more exotic, and reserved for persistent critics. According to regional analyst Ani Chkhikvadze, “This all might be a game wherein the [Georgian] government is trying to play a role in the coming transition. It seems that the government is trying to take a side in the fight that is about to start over the inner transfer of power within the Church.” Prosecutors first began investigating Archpriest Mamaladze on February 2 after they were informed by an anonymous source that Mamaladze was attempting to purchase cyanide. It is unclear exactly whom he was attempting to poison or why. But upon his arrest

at the airport, authorities discovered cyanide in his luggage. And at his home, they allegedly found, “[illegal unregistered] hand-made guns and six cartridges,” the Prosecutor’s Office claims. According to Georgia’s prominent proWestern news site, magazine, and television channel, Tabula, “Prosecutor General Irakli Shotadze stated at the special briefing that the Prosecutor’s Office has audio and video evidence, however they will not release the evidence or talk about the details ‘due to the sensitivity of the case.’” Mamaladze had direct access to the Patriarch and others in his inner circle, including several of the individuals in line to take his place. Perhaps strangest of all is the choice of cyanide as the alleged murder weapon. As one Western commentator (who asked to remain anonymous) dryly pointed out, “Leave it to the Georgian Orthodox Church to keep it old school when choosing a poison.”

“Leave it to the Georgian Orthodox Church to keep it old school when choosing a poison.” Source: www. thedailybeast.com


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Gov’t Professor Says Congress Will Push Back INTERVIEW BY NANA SAJAIA, VOA GEORGIAN SERVICE

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e spoke to James Thurber, Professor of Government and Founder of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.

HISTORICALLY, HOW DOES PRESIDENT TRUMP COMPARE TO OTHER NEW PRESIDENTS? There is criticism of some of his executive orders because they have not been vetted or evaluated. Most presidents, before they make an executive order, have agencies, departments, and numerous lawyers look over it. President Trump’s executive orders are more aspirational, sometimes ideological; they have been challenged in the courts and that will continue.

DO YOU EXPECT THE US COURT ROOMS TO TURN INTO BATTLEGROUNDS BETWEEN THE ADMINISTRATION AND THE JUDICIARY? Many people are worried about President Trump going too far. The judge in Seattle, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, declared that his executive order, with respect to designated citizens from seven countries, was against the law. I think we will see many more cases like this. We have independent and honest judges, we have the FBI investigating, we have inspector generals in every department, and we have prosecutors that have been appointed by Republicans and Democrats: they will go after the people who break the

law. We also have a bureaucratic system that believes in the US Constitution, believes in the rule of law, and these people will stand up and defend it.

IS PRESIDENT TRUMP DEMONSTRATING UNILATERALISM IN HIS DECISIONS? He is in certain cases. Mr. Obama did also, and that was very controversial. President Obama did it because he had a divided party government [where] he could not get policies done, though it was still not right. We have a separated system, where laws must be passed and money appropriated and authorized from Congress. What [Obama] did is to set up a situation where the next presidents feel they can do the same. Now we have a unified party government with a Republican president and Republican majority in Congress. In cases of a unified party government, frequently, Congress will give the president a little bit of leeway. But if a party leadership is bombarded with random executive orders [that haven’t been cleared with them], they [won’t be] happy and they will push back.

UNLIKE PRESIDENT TRUMP, PRESIDENT OBAMA, AFTER TWO YEARS, DID NOT HAVE A DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY IN HOUSE OR SENATE. HOW DO YOU SEE THE REPUBLICAN CONGRESS RESPONDING TO THE PRESIDENT’S CONTROVERSIAL DECISIONS? There are two kinds of constituencies. [For the] constituency that elected him, these executive orders are attempting to follow up on what he promised to do- to build the wall, to keep “bad people” out of the United States, to get rid of regulations, to change Obamacare. He promised all of these things and now he is doing them. His con-

stituency generally likes that. The other constituency is the constituency he keeps attacking: the Republican leadership and Republicans in Washington, D.C. He, in the campaign, was someone bizarre and random, and many people in Washington believe he is bizarre and random with respect to his executive orders.

IS IT UNUSUAL FOR AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT TO COMPARE THE MORAL STANDARDS OF THE COUNTRY HE LEADS WITH ANOTHER COUNTRY—RUSSIA? This president has criticized every regime that he

talked to- Australia, Germany, the UK, all except for Russia, and except for Mr. Putin. He seems to like Mr. Putin. Everyone in America thinks this is strange. We have been in a situation in America where we try to expand support of human rights, freedom of the press, democracy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails. But now, when we have this president, it is very hard to go to a place like Russia and talk about deliberation of separation of power or forms of democracy, when he is ignoring it in various executive actions. People wanted change out of this election, they wanted someone who would move fast. He is doing that, but he is moving too fast.

Road Barriers OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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he scandal about the alleged cyanide poisoning of the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II has interferened with everything. Every media outlet begins and ends its stories with the events taking place in the patriarchate. However, there are other issues of no less importance taking place at the same time, for example the one about opening new corridors at the borders of our occupied territories, which not only radically changes the existing political agenda in Georgia, but at the same time, turns the political status quo of the South Caucasus completely upside down. In the lobby of the Hotel Diplomat in Prague, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin and Georgian Prime Minister's Special Representative for Relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, announced that very soon, with the help of Swiss customs officers, the two countries would begin implementing the agreement of 2011. For more clarification, Karasin explained to journalists exactly what he had discussed with his Georgian colleague. ''We are talking about opening three new corridors and modernizing the roads leading to Upper Larsi, in order to make it easier to handle more trucks and passenger vehicles crossing the borders. The first transportational corridor begins near Sochi, passes through Abkhazia and ends in the city of Zugdidi; the second begins on the territory of North Ossetia, near the village Nari, and passes through Tskhinvali region to end in Gori; the third runs alongside the Kazbegi-Zemo Larsi control checkpoint." The mentioned agreement is the one that was signed when Russia became a member of the WTO six years ago and the document concerns cargo, customs administration and monitoring. To put it simply, Russia and Georgia agreed to create customs corridors that would pass through the occupied territories, and would be controlled at the beginning and the end of the roads. With this document, the West was able to please both sides. At the time, South Ossetia and Abkhazia were mentioned in the document as territories and not as independant states recognized by Russia, and the opening of customs points was said to be opened not only at the borders of Russia and Georgia, but

also near to what is today considered to be the occupational border. Exactly this play of words was considered by Moscow and Tbilisi as a victory at the time. However, today, when the sides began discussing the document, it is quite obvious who wins and who loses with this agreement. A week following the meeting held in Prague, for some reason, Russia returned to the announcement made by Karasin and in a very strange manner: The official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Maria Zakharova, declared on February 14 that Russia finds 'The position of Tskhinvali absolutely legitimate regarding the perspectives of transit movement of cargo through the territory of South Ossetia and that this can be done only through an agreement made between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali.' It is clear that holding any kind of discussion between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali is impossible and especially on issues regarding customs and the border. So what was Karasin's announcement all about? Especially when only a week later his Ministry offers a completely different position on the issue. Last year the Kremlin began mergering the customs points of Russia with that of the so-called South Ossetia, and this had to be a prerequisite for solving the problem of Tskhinvali by leaving it out of the scheme, but as we can see from Ms Zakharova's statement, obviously this is not the case. Armenia was the country worst affected by this whole diplomatic adventure, as it is still left hoping for good weather in Dariali - the only active Russian-Georgian customs checkpoint. Official Yerevan is also hoping for the Avaro-Kakhetian highway, which will not pass through the occupied territories of the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia. The Russian section of the route was finished a few years ago. However, opening it is also connected with political issues, mainly with that of the non-existence of the Russian-Georgian diplomatic relations.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Crushing Report: EU Plans to Stop Aid for Ukraine BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE

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leading think tank in Brussels prepared an analytical report concerning the situation in Ukraine and advised the EU Council to stop assistance to the country if the situation does not improve drastically. The Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) evaluated the position of the Ukrainian economy over last three years after the so-called revolution in Maidan, and has published a grim description of the situation in the country. The Center wrote: “Nearly three years since the euromaidan revolution, the Ukrainian government, to our deep regret, has failed to fulfill its promises about fighting against corruption in the justice system, restoring order in the financing of political parties, and decentralizing the government. Customs reforms have not been finalized, property rights are completely disrespected, and state-owned enterprises have not been privatized. Major reforms to combat corruption constantly meet resistance and delays; the reforms are carried out only on paper. The elite of the country should show more tangible results to win the trust of citizens and alleviate

Illustration by: Ganna Naronina, Euromaidan Press

the growing frustration of international partners of Ukraine“. Initially, euromaidan was a revolt against oligarchs and corruption, and led to the coup d'état on February 22, 2014. But the oligarchs continue to maintain their position and refer to the country as their property. Mikheil Saakashvili, who for some time was the governor of the Odessa region, said in an interview with the newspaper Kyiv Post: "We face a form of parallel shadow government. Ukraine can be described as a company which is owned by oligarchs. Each oligarch has its judges, prosecutors and paramilitary unit”. Former parliamentarian Oleksandr Onishchenko, who himself is under investigation for criminal offenses, has sent various documents to Kyiv Post to expose Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a very unfavorable situation. The documents published by Onishchenko state that Poroshenko gained personal profit from the so-called "antiterrorist operation" - or war against their fellow citizens in the east of Ukraine – and that companies owned by the president allegedly received military contracts. This means that the loans from the IMF, in practice, went through Kiev to the war in eastern Ukraine. Onishchenko also said that he personally helped Poroshenko to bribe members

of Parliament. According to him, the vote of one MP costs from $20 to 100 thousand. Onishchenko also says that he gave his papers to the United States FBI. It is unclear what happened in this case, but the CEPS has come to the following conclusion: “The EU should firmly insist that the Ukrainian elite really get involved in the construction of the State, speaking out against the corruption which systematically undermines the foundations of the country. And if the authorities do not respond appropriately, the EU must be prepared to stop supporting Ukraine at an earlier stage than was done in the case of Moldova.” So, if Kiev authorities do not make a noticeable improvement to the situation, the EU must be prepared to ensure the end of support for Ukraine. Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende, on the other hand, advocates for continued unequivocal support for the Kiev regime, this despite the fact that large-scale corruption exists and it is said that he and Prime Minister Erna Solberg gave the Ukrainian government hundreds of millions Norwegian Krones from Norwegian taxpayers’ pockets. An Audit Chamber must examine whether Brende’s position was a clear misunderstanding in the discharge of his official duties.

Learn from Failure – The EU’s Quest for Media & Communications Competence Continued from page 1

However tempting it might have been for our western neighbors to think that Putin’s Russia would somehow accommodate itself as a constructive player in international relations is naught but wishful thinking. And sadly, it’s not like it happened overnight – there was plenty of time to take notice as first Georgia, then Ukraine and now Syria have become testing ground for Russia’s hybrid warfare tactics. And it was done in Baltics, too – just look at the series of referendums for a second national language in Latvia, for example. And now we’re in a quite paradoxical situation; all of a sudden, we in the Baltics and Eastern Europe became more knowledgeable, the go-toand-ask-them expert guys when it comes to Russian hybrid warfare. And in this regard, having effective communication with Western neighbors and partners is essential if we want to tackle this issue. It’s not like the West has no experience of its own – but they somehow seem to have managed to forget the Cold War.

WOULD YOU SAY THE EU WAS ILL-SUITED AND UNABLE TO ADAPT TO THE NEW MEDIA, DIGITAL REALITY THAT RUSSIA OFFERED? When it comes to the aggressive communication that Russia is so adept at, the European Union is miles ahead and, as I mentioned, was caught off guard when faced with it. We see that they are now slowly realizing this, building counter-strategies, trying different approaches. One of those counter-measures was the creation of East Stratcom, a task unit to counter Russia’s disinformation campaign and I think it is just a start, a small

part of the grand puzzle. Another crucial nuance the EU seems to realize is that countering Russia just outside its borders is not enough –Russian propaganda is equally dangerous inside the member countries, too, well demonstrated by the recent wave of populism.

IS THERE ENOUGH UNITY IN THE EU TO PUT UP A ROBUST, COMMON NARRATIVE WITH THE CURRENT DIS-UNIFICATION OF EUROPE THAT WE SEEM TO BE WITNESSING? I don’t have such illusions, no. What I think the EU should use is a bottom-up approach, not top down. It means that each country, separately, in lieu to its national interests and security, should devise a set of regulations to handle this issue. Each country has to decide how to handle its own strategic communications, but in the wider framework of the EU policy. One thing we all could benefit from is teaching the population to be more critical to what they read, watch, or hear from media – in short, greater media literacy is needed. Quick response teams that can tackle the disinformation and expose propaganda are another key component. And this is happening in the Czech Republic for instance, in Germany, in other countries. It’s a welcome development and the quicker and more instant their response is, the better - leaving fake info unattended runs the risk of them eventually being turned into popular truths.

WHAT ABOUT THE LEVERAGES OF SOCIAL MEDIA THAT RUSSIA (AND OVERSEAS, THE US) SEEM TO BE SO ADEPT AT USING? HOW EFFECTIVE IS

THE EU’S SOCIAL MEDIA IN MAKING ITS VOICE HEARD? The EU was completely unprepared for the revolution brought about by social media. And the EU wasn’t alone in this as traditional media in the US wasn't ready for this revolution either…

WHOEVER WAS, SEEMED TO REAP GREAT BENEFITS. OBAMA’S MEGA-SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS DURING HIS ELECTION PERIODS AND THE TRICKS TRUMP IS PULLING ON TWITTER…THEN THERE’S RT, WITH ITS MASSIVE SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE, THAT THEY SO MASTERFULLY USE TO RILE PEOPLE UP. WE DON’T SEE THAT HAPPENING IN THE EU, DO WE? It won’t happen overnight. However, we do see how fake news is spun around in social media and what great effect it has. The EU, with its slow, bureaucratic mechanisms isn’t exactly what you’d call a social media animal. It’s a challenge they aren’t up to at the moment. Only when the EU, and Germany specifically, feel the pains of what this inactivity may bring (and they are already feeling this with Brexit), then there is hope for an overbearing strategy to delve into social networks with serious initiatives. Learn from failure – I don’t see any other solution.

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8

POLITICS

Georgia’s Kvirikashvili Meets EU Special Representative

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

US Embassy: United States Condemns Planned Illegitimate Referendum in South Ossetia BY THEA MORRISON

T BY THEA MORRISON

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eorgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili met with European Union (EU) Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Herbert Salber this week in Tbilisi. They discussed the human rights situation in Georgia's occupied territories and the Georgian government's efforts to improve the living conditions of the population along the occupation line. PM Kvirikashvili condemned the recent decision of South Ossetia’s puppet regime to hold a referendum on renaming the breakaway Region to South OssetiaAlania, like subject of the Russian Federation -North Ossetia, and urged the international community to join forces

and stand up to Russia’s provocations. The Prime Minister expressed concern that despite the Georgian government's peaceful policy and efforts to promote reconciliation and confidence building between the populations along the occupation lines, the Russian Federation has intensified the isolation of Georgia's occupied territories and continues taking steps toward their annexation, thus undermining regional stability. At the meeting, the parties underlined the importance of the Geneva International Talks as the best mechanism for discussing issues and taking relevant decisions. The meeting was attended by Bjoern Kuehne, Chief of Cabinet/Political Advisor at the Office of the EU Special Representative; Mikheil Janelidze, Georgia’s Foreign Minister; and the Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Advisor, Tedo Japaridze.

he United States (US) embassy to Georgia released a statement Tuesday, condemning the decision to conduct an illegitimate “referendum” in Georgia’s South Ossetia region, planned for April 9. “Such provocative actions erode trust and confidence and undermine the Geneva International Discussions,” the statement reads. The embassy says that the US will not recognize the results of an illegitimate referendum that is conducted in Georgian territory without the explicit consent of the Government of Georgia. “Both the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions are integral parts of Georgia, and we reiterate our strong support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” the embassy wrote on its website. Moreover, the statement reads that the

US supports the Geneva International Talks as a forum to address the situation in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. “We urge all participants to avoid actions, including the proposed referendum, which undermine these discussions,” the state-

ment of the embassy reads. Leonid Tibilov, ostensible President of Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia, announced a referendum to rename South Ossetia ‘South OssetiaAlania,’ “a historic name.” The information was released by Ossetian news agency PEC, which says that the referendum will be held on April 9, 2017, alongside the “presidential” elections. Georgia's President, Giorgi Margvelashvili, commented on the issue a week ago, saying that any attempt to change the name of Georgia's occupied region, without the consent of the Georgian government, is an action against Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and is a step towards further annexation of the occupied territories. The president urged the Russian Federation to fulfil its international obligations and take real steps towards the de-occupation of Georgian territories. Margvelashvili also called on the international community to prevent any attempt at legitimization of the plebiscite or election.


GEORGIA TODAY

SOCIETY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

9

No, Not the LGBT Part of Town: Ogden on Foreign (Mis)Perceptions OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN

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f memory serves, I recently accused the reverence of family values in Georgian culture as being laced with hypocrisy; if I recall correctly, I was pondering the circumstances of wives who are beaten by their husbands and subsequently find no help from their families. In many cases, the families of the victim insist they should be 'better wives' to avoid repeat incidents, which I thought was rather at odds with how things are in the West. It does not take much to imagine a wrathful Manchester father banging on the door of an abusive son-in-law, or a Texan daddy loading up his truck with rifles and hooch to blow the brains out of the man who done hurt his little princess. Not that either of those courses of action are condonable, but they are at least more understandable. Putting the family first in Georgia does not (always) seem to extend to when family members need help the most, as in cases of domestic violence or unplanned pre-marital pregnancy. A sight that I saw yesterday reminded me of another baffling Georgian cultural phenomenon. It is common in this country for men to kiss with a handshake when they meet (and this is not always a European-style peck, but a heartfelt slurp that once landed on my neck after I tried to evade it), and linking arms – while not as prevalent – is considered nothing out of the ordinary. Georgian homophobia has become infamous after the violent dispersal of an equal rights rally several years ago, but the sight of Georgian men kissing and walking around with arms linked would suggest to any ignorant foreigner that this is, in fact, a gay haven. This is not pure speculation; an Australian friend of mine visited Georgia in 2012, and on seeing the sight of so many men walking in tandem, kissing

each other and generally looking as though they couldn't wait to get home together, remarked “Is this the LGBT part of town, or what?” I uploaded a picture of three Georgian men walking arm-in-arm to Facebook yesterday, and although my poor photography failed to capture the sly grins (and whatever their smiles might have suggested; let your imagination do the rest), they were awfully close together...had any foreigner new to the country seen them, they could have been forgiven for coming to the same conclusion as my Australian friend. The reaction on Facebook, of course, was mixed; most foreigners and Georgian women saw the humorous side of my post (and, I'm happy to say, a good number of liberal Georgian gentlemen), while a select group of Georgian males took the time to point out that they weren't gay, despite the fact that I did not accuse anyone of being homosexual or even remotely curious. In a moment of idleness, I had a look on the Facebook pages of some of the most traditionally-minded Georgian men I know – or am at least acquainted with – and I confess to being staggered by the amount of shirtless photos they have with other males. Their lives are their own, of course, and who am I to judge? Yet I do not think I am being overly unjust when I write that although these men did not participate in the attacks on the equal rights rallies of 2012 and 2013 (as far as I know), they would also be the last people to criticise those who did. I had the misfortune to go to lunch with one of these men at a fine Western-style gourmet restaurant, and he refused to eat a thing because he 'only eats Georgian food'. A few Georgian men were at pains to point out that linking arms and kissing cheeks are not gay practices in Georgia, to which I replied – I know. They were preaching to the converted, rather; having heard from gay Georgians the awful treatment they have experienced at the hands of close-minded (or should that be 'traditionally-minded'?) Geor-

UWC Dilijan Joins One Billion Rising Global Campaign

gian males, I know that the men linking arms or kissing cheeks are the least likely to roll around the bedsheets with another man...but that is not the point. My point was how it looks to foreign eyes, not what it is. Even more bizarrely has been some of the antigay rhetoric I've heard from particularly religious people, who hold that the LGBT crowd are trying to 'corrupt' and 'tempt' Georgian people into adopting gay lifestyles. I think the fact that these people believe Georgian youth can be tempted is some-

thing that speaks volumes. Since the word count has crept up on me, I shall conclude by simply saying that I cannot abide fish, neither the taste nor the smell. I could have the finest seafood dishes in the world paraded before me and be utterly disinterested. This makes me wonder if Georgian aggression towards the gay community perhaps stems from some underlying interest...probably not, of course, but if they don't want people to assume that, then they should think more carefully before holding hands and kissing in public.

Bollywood Masala Indian Restaurant

U

WC Dilijan students are to help expand the international “One Billion Rising” revolution into Armenia, and help raise awareness of issues of equality and empowerment of women, during a campus-wide event on February 18. Through art, dancing, singing, poetry recital the idea of One Billion Rising movement will be introduced to Armenia’s citizens. The UWC Dilijan community will join United Ambassadors at Large for Global Integration, NGOs working in Armenia, international guests, and the Dilijan Community Center to promote the values and mission of UWC and help raise awareness of violence against women worldwide. According to reports, 1 in 3 women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. Every February, hundreds of countries across the world sponsor events to raise awareness in their local communities “and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors most often face.” This year, the One Billion Rising Revolution is giving sharper focus and visibility to the exploitation of women, and to harnessing even stronger global solidarity to demand an end to violence in all forms and to end the causes of violence against women - poverty, racism, war, the plunder of the environment, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. The UWC Dilijan event will include readings of motivational speeches of many prominent and successful women aimed at inspiring the audience. Included among the invited guests and local dignitaries are: Yevgenia Hovhannisyan, Head Doctor of Dilijan Children's Antituberculosis Sanatorium; Teresa Daban Sanchez, IMF Resident Representative for Armenia; Laura Bailey, World Bank Country Manager for Armenia, Europe and Central Asia; Graziella Seif, President of United Ambassadors at Large - for global integration – USA; Zara Batoyan, President of National Alliance of People with Disabilities; Natalya Harutyunyan, UNDP Coordinator, Women in

Local Democracy project, and Marie Lou Papazian, Managing Director, Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.

ABOUT ONE MILLION RISING One Billion Rising is the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history. The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. On 14 February 2013, people across the world came together to express their outrage, strike, dance, and RISE in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women. See more on http://www. onebillionrising.org

Find your next great lunch or dinner dining experience featuring time-honored recipes at New Bollywood Masala Indian Restaurant

ABOUT UWC DILIJAN COLLEGE UWC Dilijan College is the first international boarding school of the UWC education model on the post-Soviet space. The college opened in 2014 in the Armenian town of Dilijan and currently has 194 students enrolled from 72 countries and 38 academic staff members from 15 countries. UWC Dilijan represents an exciting extension of the UWC movement into the Caucasus region at the junction of Asia and Europe. Established in 1962, UWC educational movement now is comprising of 17 international schools and colleges, national committees in more than 150 countries, and a series of short educational programs.

Tel: +995 551 526 000; +995 592 900 002 Add: Str. Kostava 44, Tbilisi, Georgia Email: bollywoodmasala19@gmail.com


10

SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Georgian Studies Conference 2017 Economic Freedom Index 2017: Georgia Ups Its Position BY THEA MORRISON

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he Heritage Foundation published Economic Freedom Index 2017 on February 15, which shows that Georgia earned 76 points and its status in terms of economic freedom is ‘mostly free’. The report covers 12 freedoms, from property rights to entrepreneurship, in 186 countries and says that Georgia has improved its position by moving from the 23rd position to 13th in world ranking. In terms of regional rank, Georgia is ahead of its neighboring countries and takes 5th position. “Georgia’s government has maintained strong momentum in liberalizing economic activity while taking steps to restore fiscal discipline. Public debt and budget deficits remain under control. Open-market policies, supported by competitively low tax rates and regulatory efficiency, have facilitated flows of trade and investment. Large-scale privatization has advanced, and anti-corruption efforts have yielded some notable results,” the report reads. Concerns are expressed about Property Rights,

Judicial Effectiveness, and Government Integrity, however. “With monetary stability and the overall soundness of fiscal health relatively well maintained, Georgia has enjoyed macroeconomic resilience. Nonetheless, deeper and more rapid institutional reforms to enhance judicial independence and effectiveness remain critical to ensuring further dynamic and lasting economic development,” the document says. In the world ranking, Hong Kong takes the top position, followed by Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Austria, while Eritrea, Congo, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea are to be found at the bottom of Index of Economic Freedom 2017 list. Launched in 1995, the Index evaluates countries in four broad policy areas that affect economic freedom: rule of law; government size; regulatory efficiency; and open markets. There are 12 specific categories: property rights, judicial effectiveness, government integrity, tax burden, government spending, fiscal health, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom. Scores in these categories are averaged to create an overall score.

O

n February 7, St Antony’s College of the University of Oxford hosted the Georgian Studies Conference 2017 convened by the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS). 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Georgia and the United Kingdom. The Conference at the University of Oxford is one of the first events to celebrate this anniversary in the UK. The conference commenced with welcome speeches given by the Ambassador of Georgia, Tamar Beruchashvili, the Warden of the St Anthony’s College, Margaret Macmillan, and the Director of Russian and East European Studies, Professor Dan Healey. In her speech, the Ambassador focused on the importance of cooperation with the University of Oxford on different issues, representing a significant part of bilateral cooperation between Georgia and the UK. Moreover, the Ambassador announced the initial commitment from the Georgian public and private sector to co-sponsor the high profile activities planned by the Bodleian Library in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first Georgian Republic of 1918; namely, funding a book titled ‘Georgia and the Wardrops’ about the history and

culture of Georgia, researched and written by Dr Nikoloz Aleksidze, Research Fellow at Oxford, as well as other events in 2018 to complement the book’s release. The Georgian Studies Program at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, supported by the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation, represents an excellent source for research on Georgia, attracting outstanding Georgian and international scholars of humanities and social sciences to study different aspects of the country. In general, the University of Oxford has solid experience in carrying out studies on Georgia -the largest Kartvelian cultural heritage outside Georgia is preserved at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. The rich Wardrop collection of historical and literary books and manuscripts represents a treasure of international significance. Shota Rustaveli’s classic poem, Knight in the Panther’s Skin, which was added to UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register in 2013, is one of the most vivid examples within this collection. Other presentations at the conference made by the post-doctoral fellows of the Georgian Studies Program were focused on various aspects of Georgia’s history as well as on contemporary developments vis-à-vis its society, politics and modernity.

AFG Presents Phylantropist Award Ceremony 2016

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merican Friends of Georgia on February 17 is hosting an event “Together we can make a Difference,” an evening dedicated to the promotion of the tradition of philanthropy. At the same time, the Ceremony of the Philanthropy Award 2016 will be held for the first time. American Friends of Georgia (AFG) is a US-based non-governmental charity organization operating in Georgia since 1994. The organization is focused

on assisting the most vulnerable groups of people (children and elderly). At the same time, AFG promotes a tradition of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. The organization annually holds Charity Gala Evenings raising funds for assisting the priority projects of the year. AFG is supported by international and local business corporations, businessmen and civil society (artists, musicians, actors and actresses, singers, etc). Throughout the years, AFG has assisted hundreds of the most needy children and elderly in the frames of palliative homecare and different humanitarian programs. In 2016-2017, the organization priority programs are: the Dzegvi Shelter reconstruction and Palliative Home Care Program. The evening will be attended by representatives of accredited Diplomatic Corps, Ambassadors of the US, Japan and Kingdom of The Netherlands in Georgia, representatives of leading corporations and long-term partners. Young musicians, awardees of the Zakaria Paliashvili Central Music School and Musical Seminary contests, will perform specially selected compositions for the guests. The Evening is sponsored by Cafe-Restaurant Strada.


GEORGIA TODAY

SOCIETY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Nebula Online Platform Presents New Electronic Journal for Students

11

Delegation of the European Union to Georgia Awards Georgian Media Reps

BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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reators of Nebula, an online platform which allows students to prepare for the national entry exams in general skills through modern and innovative methods, last week presented a new electronic journal at Biblus Gallery Tbilisi. As a platform, Nebula consists of several interrelated key components: video lessons, offering students theoretical knowledge of exam materials; a comfortable space with thousands of exercises updated daily; a simulation of an exam during which, with the exercises within the Nebula system, a standard exam simulation is generated according to a specific subject; and an analytical algorithm that analyses the results of the practice exam and plans a course to improve the results obtained. Sandro Dolidze, Nebula Executive Director, says the newly launched electronic journal is another step for making the process of studying more easy and enjoyable. The study process, he stressed, is a difficult and complex one and requires a synergy that Nebula provides. “We believe that in today’s world, education is a superpower,” he said, going on to present the electronic magazine that consists of two parts, verbal and mathematical, and which has almost 120 exercises in it, each of them with a detailed video explanation accessible online via a unique code. “The idea of founding an online platform came to Giorgi Chilaia, my partner and Nebula co-founder,

A man reading Nebula magazine

two years ago, and originated from the fact that the majority of the Georgian population has to take national exams; they have to study and pass, so we decided to make this process easier,” Dolidze said. “Nebula as an online platform gives students a chance to practise for the exams in general skills, Georgian language and literature. We’ll be adding English language courses soon, and MA courses,” he said. When asked about the benefits and unique features Nebula offers, Dolidze stated that it is important to find the exact form of explanation for students, helping them to understand and enjoy the process of the study. Nebula actively collaborates with the Open Society Georgia Foundation, President of Georgia, and the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia. Nebula online platform is free to use for IDPs and socially vulnerable groups within the Bank of Georgia’s social program.

Valentino: Etseri, Svaneti BY TONY HANMER

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hat's what I'd call him if I was naming livestock, because he was born on Valentine's Day 2017. But I don't do this, because much of it will end up on the table, sorry to the vegetarians among you! The closest we've come is calling a recent bullock Mr Meat, and before his second birthday, after he ran away a few times, his fate caught up with him. Like all our births, this one was wonderfully easy, or so it seems to me: go to the barn and there's the newborn calf, blinking in the unaccustomed light, still wet and sticky from its emergence into the loud, dirty world. You salt it down a bit to encourage its mother to lick it for bonding, improved circulation and cleaning, and help it to stand and find the all-important teats, source of the vital milk which will be its only food for at least a month or two. A day later, it's on its feet and mooing while mother responds to get it used to her voice, and ready to butt her udder for all it can to get more milk, more, more! I decided long ago in Svaneti to give myself the ultimate test of a carnivore, or at least of an omnivore: Could I see an animal go from happily alive to cuts of meat, and then eat it? And found that I could. Really, it's the least one can do, if bearing the name of one who eats anything, including meat. Having said that... my wife and I are finding that our barn's denizens are becoming a growing burden on us. We can't both be away from the house for more than a few hours, because there are feeding, mucking out or milking chores to be done every single day. One can always ask a neighbor, sure, but then you're in their debt. Then there's the summer routine of bringing back the cows from the mountain where "traditionally" they pasture for a few months. We do it in turns, each neighbor several times a week, but it takes up a few hours each time, never mind the weather, rain or shine! The former means you can count on slogging

through mud, if not actually being poured on at the moment. But we DO want the benefits, chiefly milk and its many products, eggs and meat! So what to do? We're seriously considering shutting down the barn, killing or selling the cattle and chickens, and buying milk and the rest when we need them, if we can persuade a neighbor to be involved for a fair price. Believe me, we do want the milk, especially: my cheese making experiments have yielded what I consider to be delicious versions of cheddar, blue and even Camembert! (I dare to add that French guests have honestly praised them, too, which for me is a huge thing.) With no (intentionally) added bacterial cultures! Who wouldn't want to progress with these successes? I need to standardize them to get the same result regularly, and then we'll really be in business. For ourselves and the guest house, if not for a larger market. "Valentino"'s grandmother is also pregnant, due in a month or two, and then we'll have five bovines. But it seems that this year may see that population reduced to nothing, along with the poultry, and I'll feel much happier for it. I'd also give up natural meat and dairy products in a heartbeat if really good laboratory substitutes came along, as long as they were reasonably priced, healthy and better for the environment... So time will tell. 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 1350 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

BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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t an award ceremony at Rooms Hotel Tbilisi on Tuesday, in the hall which was once the printing office of newspaper “Communist,” the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia awarded the winners of the 2016 EU Prize for Journalism in six categories spanning print, broadcast, online, and photo journalism. In addition, a Special Prize for Peace Journalism was awarded by the European Union Monitoring Mission. "For five years now, the EU has been supporting professional, impartial and informative journalism in Georgia with this prize. With over 122 submissions this year, we had the pleasure of selecting and awarding some exceptional works," noted EU Ambassador Janos Herman. For Best written story in print or online media, Nino Lomadze won with her project "Mountain Girl" printed in the new Indigo magazine. For Best audio or audiovisual story in broadcast or online media “Mosul Tbilisi” for GIPA/Newscafe was chosen, written by Sophiko Vasadze. For Best written investigative story in print or

online media, Nato Gogelia won with her piece: “I am the Church and therefore I am not obliged to provide you information” printed in Guria News. The Best investigative audio or audiovisual story in broadcast or online media prize was awarded to Nino Ramishvili/Co-author Giorgi Mgeladze for “Agent provocateur in service of the government 2”, Studio Monitor. For the Best online or print blog, opinion or column, Ninia Kakabadze was awarded for her story “Side by side with the state patriot extremists” featured on Jamnews. “Village Mokhe. Praying in the open air” – Southern Gate, by Giorgi Londaridze, was chosen by the jury as the Best documentary photo (Human rights including minority rights, social justice, respect for human dignity, freedom of speech, democracy, equality and rule of law). The EUMM Special Prize for Peace Journalism was given for Best conflict-sensitive journalistic work contributing to confidence-building and peace (The EUMM Special Prize for Peace Journalism) to Gvanca Doluashvili for her work “Continuous Connection,” Jamnews. Ms Doluashvili won a 5,000 EUR voucher for a one month fellowship at the London office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, while the other successful journalists were each awarded 1,250 EUR.


12

SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Giving Georgians the Chance to Excel: Meet International Education Fair Organizers, UK Bridge INTERVIEW BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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ducation agency UK Bridge, founded by two friends and colleagues, Nutsa Kuridze and Ana Vetsko in 2008, has become a leader on the Georgian market, helping Georgian students to pave their way into leading international educational institutions in the UK, US, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Malta, Germany, Switzerland and Spain. For the seventh time this year, UK Bridge is organizing an International Education Fair, on February 25, at Rooms Hotel Tbilisi, from 12 to 6 pm, at which top UK, US and European university, college, summer schools, as well as language school representatives, will present their study programs for anyone interested in pursuing their studies abroad. GEORGIA TODAY met with the UK Bridge founders to talk about the upcoming exhibition and the story behind their company’s success.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ORGANIZE AN INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION FAIR? Ana: First, we went to a number of international exhibitions and fairs ourselves. For educational agents like us, it’s a chance to get acquainted with the schools, universities and colleges and the programs they provide. We decided to organize the fair in Tbilisi, because, for Georgians, notwithstanding the fact that we give them the maximum amount of information, it’s still very important to meet the school representatives themselves in person, face to face. So, we thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to have inter-

national school, and university representatives attending while parents and children are given a chance to get direct answers to all their inquiries. Our fair is for those who are interested in getting any type of education abroad. This year, we have representatives from the Anglo-American University, Astrum Colleges, British Study Centers, Budapest Metropolitan University, Cambridge Education Group, Buckswood Overseas Summer School, EU Business School, Kings Education, Oxford International, Regent’s University London, City University London, IE University, MPW Schools and Colleges, EC English, Select English Cambridge, Stafford House, and Wimbledon School of English. Statistically, we get approximately 500 -700 visitors to the exhibition each year and to our delight, our attendees are focused: they know exactly what they’re looking for. Nutsa: It’s really a great chance for students and parents to come over and choose the specific courses they would want to study, and to learn everything; from the prices to accommodation options. Short professional trainings for adults are also available. It’s all very detailed, and extremely informative.

WHICH OF THE PROGRAMS UK BRIDGE OFFERS TEND TO BE MOST POPULAR? Ana: We try to offer the highest quality service to our clients. I would say that the list of our international partners is impressive and we are proud of that. We always choose our partners very carefully and have an individual approach to every student that comes to us. We need to know their interests, how they study, and what their abilities and skills are. Nutsa: Summer schools are usually very popular, plus they are more afford-

able. Of the 200 -250 students we sending to study, 70 percent is for summer schools and for short professional courses, either in marketing or law. The remainder are for boarding schools and universities.

IS THERE A GROWING TENDENCY IN GEORGIA FOR SEEKING INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION ABROAD? Nutsa: I would say the awareness on international education possibilities is higher now, as we’re living in an era of advanced information technologies. When we started out, many families had no internet at home and relied on us fully. Today, there’s no more fear of sending a child abroad to study as both parents and children can do their research on their own. Plus, the segment itself is changing, too, and the need to invest wisely in your child’s quality education is apparent.

DO THE STUDENTS YOU SEND TO STUDY ABROAD ALWAYS COME BACK TO GEORGIA? Nutsa: From our experience, many of the children we send to Europe, the UK or the US, often start to work within their family business once they return home. Since we’re primarily focused on UK-

ROUTING

TBILISI ISTANBUL ATATURK AIRPORT ISTANBUL ATATURK AIRPORT TBILISI TBILISI ISTANBUL SABIHA GOKCEN AIRPORT ISTANBUL SABIHA GOKCEN AIRPORT TBILISI BATUMI - ISTANBUL ISTANBUL - BATUMI

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TK 387 TK 385 TK 383 TK 386 TK 384 TK 382

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07.25 13.25 20.00 04.55 10.50 17.15

07.40

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20.45

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17.50 13.55

19.10 16.55

TK 381

based educational institutions, and the immigration laws there are very strict, the children are obliged to come back after they finish their studies. Another thing, of course, is that they have to be in demand within the workforce of their country. Studying at a top international university gives this chance. However, it’s not enough to just study abroad. One must study well and in a good university to be competitive enough and in demand back home. We have many very interesting success stories from our students. Quite recently, we came across one of our students, who we sent to school and then to the university, who is now our contact person in the advertising agency we’re working with.

WHAT’S BEHIND UK BRIDGE’S SUCCESS? Nutsa: We’re hard workers- that’s one of the reasons. Ana: I think that when you start your own business, it’s very important to know the sphere you’re going to work in. You have to be experienced in it.

WASN’T YOUR DECISION TO QUIT A WELL-PAID JOB AND START A NEW COMPANY ON YOUR OWN RISKY? Ana: Nutsa and I both worked at the

British Council Georgia for six years where Nutsa was in charge of the international education department, sending students to UK summer schools and colleges, and even after the British Council decided to close the program, the demand was still high. That’s when we thought to try and do it on our own and founded UK Bridge. We did it really quickly, within a month of leaving our jobs- we didn’t even have our own office. But as it was April, the season when parents usually plan summer school courses for children, we had to move fast. Nutsa: We were young and confident, believing we could easily find another job if the project failed, unafraid of risking and quitting very good positions in a stable workplace. We sent almost 150 students that first year and nearly all the schools which we had worked with while at British Council became our partners. Their trust in us was very empowering. Ana: From the beginning our friends supported us a lot, consulting on financial and legislative matters. They all instantly liked the idea of us founding an education agency and I can say we’re still very happy that we decided to do it. It makes me proud to realize that almost eight years ago, we launched our own company.

EVERYDAY TK 380 TK 393 TK 392

EVERYDAY

10 Galaktion Street

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge


GEORGIA TODAY

SOCIETY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

13

Healing from Within: Dance Therapy Comes to Georgia BY MAKA LOMADZE

I

n Georgia, psychotherapy is still something new. Few choose to visit a psychologist and it is still often regarded as something necessary for serious clinical patients alone. However, along with capitalism, accelerated pace of life, urbanized cities and stressful, unstable social environment, there seems to be a growing spiritual crisis, or at least, unrest. GEORGIA TODAY met Maia Javakhishvili, an innovator in the local psychology field: several years ago, this professional psychologist and dancer decided to introduce the practise of dance therapy, curing ills through certain dancing movements, already a hot thing in the West.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR DANCE THERAPY I’m a psycho-pedagogue by profession. During my studies, I discovered that even 2000 years ago, people knew that rhythmical movements, together with music, was a pleasing process, filling one with extra joy and energy. Movement is a basic state of body, and when one moves to music, the body and soul awaken.

Sometimes, people’s illnesses are a figment of their imaginations and only after consultation do they discover that they are in fact perfectly healthy. A great percentage of physical illnesses originate from spiritual traumas. My favorite saying is: be what you are! In this case, one is opened to the best. Our stressful life and terrible rhythm gives us no chance for personal insight, for instance, if we are down and don’t know why. However, excessive studies are not necessary either. We should see reality as it is, neither aggravate nor lighten it. It is paramount to see ourselves in the correct way- and movement therapy helps people to do this, guided by a psychotherapist.

WHAT IS YOUR METHOD, DOES A PATIENT TELL THEIR STORY BEFOREHAND OR DOES THE OPENING COME WITH THE THERAPY? We prefer to consult before starting and if a patient agrees, it is better to have the conversation before starting the course so that we have more information to proceed correctly. However, patients can join the group directly as well. Our mere aim is to make them happy.

SO, MIND OVER MATTER? Exactly. Three years ago, on New Year’ Eve, my doctor called me and told me

straight-out that I had cancer. At the time, my activities in movement therapy were in full swing. Cancer is not a disease that one can meet calmly. However, by means of dance therapy, it is possible to combat even such a perfidious illness as cancer. Actually, this disease is first and foremost cured by movement therapy. I received this bad news as a sign to practically embark on this business. A bit earlier, I had such severe stress that I was convinced something bad would come of it- and I ended up with cancer, which, as many scientists say, is the illness of those who have had their feathers cropped. I thought that I would start dance therapy on myself first and later, I would be able to implement it on others, too. It is possible to control one’s spiritual state – and consequently, when a soul is happy, a body is strong! Over three weeks, I was totally lost from the sight of doctors and totally immersed in my dance therapy. They called me, insisting I start chemotherapy as soon as possible, but I refused. After abnormally hard work over three weeks, I had new analyses and there was nothing at all. Until today, I have since had a number of oncological patients who left me with splendid results.

WHAT IS THE LIST OF DISEASES THAT YOU TREAT? It raises one’s spirit, as well as being

extraordinarily good for ischemia and cardio-vascular illnesses. We also cure dementia, more commonly known as sclerosis. Those people who are obsessed with phobias and disturbances also address us, as well as, in general, depressive or exhausted people who simply need to be distracted.

IS THIS COURSE CONNECTED WITH SERIOUS EXERCISE? No. The exercises are merely pleasant. A lot of children come, too, as there are plenty of cases of hyperactivity and different syndromes of autism in this age group. We offer both group and individual sessions. Among kids, an immobile regime or attachment to computers has caused the weakening of motility. Children have become physically inert. In villages, they are livelier. However, I can perfectly well understand why they don’t come to therapy in greater numbers- there is a financial barrier. Dance therapy is considered an expensive pleasure worldwide, though I have tried my best to make prices maximally acceptable.

WHAT IS THE MAIN BONUS OF MOVEMENT THERAPY? We awaken basic states in people. If we sit down too long, we will find it difficult to move. This is a unique method in psychotherapy that has no side effects.

Specialists see the intellectual and psychological state of a person from his/ her movement very well. A human being moves as they think. Their negatives can be guessed even from their walking manner, or timbre of voice. Generally speaking, everyone needs a psychologist, however, there still is a certain stigma against going to see one.

WHAT IS YOUR MAIN ACHIEVEMENT? Apart from killing cancer, I once had a stone-deaf child who had only 2% hearing in just one ear. By means of apparatus, we reached a tremendous result: she began to talk. Now she goes to an ordinary school and wants to become a gymnast. It means that she has become a real person. This is a great joy and motivation for me.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS? We need a new place to work. And I would like to ask wider society to help me- we need an adapted space to work in, with ramps, to make it possible for those with disabilities to join in our sessions. Ideally such would be centrally located near to a bus-stop. We want to be able to expand our reach to more needy members of society- to spread the ability to find inner happiness and the ability to heal.


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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATRE Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 February 18, 19 BALANCHINE Three one-act ballets By famous choreographer George Balanchine SERENADE, MOZARTIANA AND CONCERTO BAROCCO Start time: February 18 – 20:00, February 19 - 14:00 Ticket: 10 - 50 GEL GEORGIAN STATE PANTOMIME THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 63 14 February 17 TERENTI GRANELI Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 GEL December 18 Saint George Vazha Pshavela Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 12 GEL

February 18 ENGLISH DETECTIVE Agatha Christie Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 10 GEL February 19 SCARLET SAIL Alexander Grin Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 10 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 February 16, 17 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL

SILENCE Directed by Martin Scorsese Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson Genre: Drama, History Language: Russian Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL

February 18 RAMONA Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL

PATERSON Directed by Jim Jarmusch Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Nellie Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 16:30, 19:15, 22:00 Ticket: 10-14 GEL

February 19 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL

February 17, 19 PILLOWMAN Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL

MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260

GRIBOEDOVI THEATER Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36

FIFTY SHADES DARKER Directed by James Foley Cast: Bella Heathcote, Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan Genre: Drama, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 19:00, 21:45 Ticket: 13-14 GEL LA LA LAND Directed by Damien Chazelle Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical Language: Russian Start time: 16:15, 19:15 Ticket: 10-14 GEL

TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge

February 23 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Comedy Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL

Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari February 17-23

February 18, 19 LABYRINTH Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge

RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL February 16-17 JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 Directed by Chad Stahelski Cast: Ruby Rose, Keanu Reeves, Bridget Moynahan Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MUSEUM

PERMANENT EXHIBITION: GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY FROM 8TH MILLENNIUM B.C. TO 4TH CENTURY A.D EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases money circulation on the territory of Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. THE TESTAMENT OF DAVID THE BUILDER AND THE NEW EXHIBITS OF MEDIEVAL TREASURY

January 10 - February 24 EXHIBITION OF ALEXANDER BAZHBEUK-MELIKOV'S ARTWORKS Dedicated to his 125-year anniversary Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikov is a prominent representative of 20th century Georgian art. An ethnic Armenian, he spent his entire life in Georgia and formed a basis for the development of modern Georgian painting. ZURAB TSERETELI MUSEUM OF MODERN ART Address: 27 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 14 84 11, 2 98 60 04 www.momatbilisi.ge

September 27 – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA

SPORTPHOTO 2016 PHOTO EXHIBITION

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str.

MZIURI CAFÉ Address: Mziuri park

EXHIBITION LADO GUDIASHVILI AND GEORGIAN MONUMENTAL PAINTING The exhibition showcases Gudiashvili's monumental painting.

February 19 SAKVI-RAO Every Sunday children will be hosted by famous children's writers with interesting themes Reading, coloring, competitions Participants Age: from 6 to 9 years Ticket includes lunch for children Time: every Sunday from 12:00 to 14:00 Ticket: 7 GEL

IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 February 17 – March 5 ANNA KALATOZISHVILI MY EXHIBITION IS MY LIFE The exhibition showcases Anna Kalatozishvili's expressive artworks. According to Kalatozishvili, theater, art, and our daily life is a game; each of us a player who has the strength and ability to become an artist. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. PERMANENT EXHIBITION

MUSIC

TBILISI EVENT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 February 22 GEORGIAN ARTISTS Charity concert Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260

GALLERY

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

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION

February 21 JAZZ AT MT RESO KIKNADZE QUINTET Free Admission Start time: 21:00 February 22 MILONGA, LA CUMPARSITA ARGENTINE TANGO DANCE NIGHT Start time: 20:00 Tango Lesson: 5 GEL DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE Address: 125 Aghmashenebeli ave. Telephone: 2 96 12 43 February 17 SONGS OF DJANSUG AND VATO KAKHIDZE Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 5-20 GEL BASSIANI Address: 2 A. Tsereteli Ave. February 17 RA IN RESIDENCE AT BASSIANI: SHACKLETON (LIVE), KANCHELI, ROOKAS, JANE FITZ, ZURKIN Start time: 23:59 Ticket: 20-30 GEL SPACEHALL Address: 2 A. Tsereteli Ave. February 18 MAAYAN NIDAM, GIO SHENGELIA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 20-30 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Dario Fo’s Best Known Political Satire on Tumanishvili Stage BY MAKA LOMADZE

The Patriarchate T Plot: Obfuscation of the Century OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

T

hat summer, somewhere in West Georgia, an exalted crowd of thousands felt overwhelmed – the CatholicosPatriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan Bishop of Abkhazia and Bichvinta, His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II was expected to bless the believers with his brief appearance, myself among them. The long-standing head of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the advanced-in-years spiritual leader of the nation used measured steps to move towards his excited parish, gingerly accompanied and assisted by his devoted entourage. It all looked unreal. I pinched myself a couple of times to make sure that I was indeed part of that fascinating event. The crowd parted before the walking team of clerics to make passageway for His Holiness, and closed behind them as if thoroughly rehearsed days in advance. Eventually, I found myself standing motionless in the visible line when the great man halted momentarily, slightly moving his hand towards me and almost unnoticeably beckoning me to approach. The multitude of necks extended and heads turned to know what was happening. I genuflected forthwith to reach His robe with my hand and touch it with my forehead when I felt the Holy man’s palm on the crown of my bowed head. Then, all of a sudden, it was over. I came to myself and felt that the administered blessing had reached my body and soul. And behold, I am not even a believer! His beatitude is the only person in the entire country who is loved and venerated with equal sincerity by the faithful, atheists, agnostics, proselytes and apostates. People just adore the man. People toast to the Patriarch on a regular basis at various occasions. At times, His Holiness performs simultaneous baptism of hundreds of newly born babies. His popularity is humongous. His loveable personality attracts people like a magnet. He is a talented intellectual, full of humor and benevolence. We are all striving to squeeze ourselves into his holy presence. He is demanded and, for his part, he is responsive to that public attention. We don’t feel and recognize his age because we take him as eternity. Most of us are this way. I also admit and try to understand that there might be somebody out there who would not

take my words for granted and would love to kick up controversy on the subject. Well, even the Patriarch happens to be part of the unattractive routine of our not very purified life. This wide popular adoration must stem not only from the spiritual magic which Ilia the Second exudes but also from the deeds he has gotten under his belt in the last half century. And somebody wanted to poison the ailing octogenarian whose clout over the nation is undoubtedly indisputable? No, I will never say yes to that. Why should any living man desire to eliminate a person who could easily be identified with Abraham’s Bosom of Georgia? I do not remember this nation as shocked as it was at hearing the hardly believable news about the attempted murder in holy circles. With God’s grace, the official version of the presumed crime does not even mention the Patriarch, but suspicions are not so easy to quell. Although the allegations are made very carefully, not pointing to any specific intended victim, it is still very traumatizing for all of us who never had the slightest idea that a thing like this could occur right in the heart of the Patriarchate. The official information has it that a Georgian cleric was arrested on suspicion of the intention to murder, although the statements are eschewing naming the target of the crime. The apprehended cleric is the head of the Property Management Department of the Georgian Patriarchate. The concerned officialdom is refraining from an exact formulation of the case, qualifying it as ‘plotting to poison a high-rank cleric’. Just as much as that! Dubiously, the deadly poison cyanide is stipulated as the tool of the murder which was found on the person of the accused and arrested cleric. And not only that! The police also found an unregistered handmade firearm with six cartridges in the house of the detained. This is the only factual information that is handy at this point in time. Could the man who was found carrying the poisonous substance be innocent? It was noted that the Patriarch is not even mentioned in the context of the unaccomplished assassination. Nothing is clear so far. There are questions. The answers are indistinct, and the haziness of the story triggers even more doubts and suspicions. The level of obfuscation of this case makes all of us look like petrified primitive morons, at a minimum. We only hear that the investigation is ongoing. This is a real let-us-wait-and-see situation. I have no other description for it.

PUBLISHER & GM

George Sharashidze COMMERCIAL DEPARTMENT

Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Mariam Giorgadze

GEORGIA TODAY

EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT:

Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Karen Tovmasyan, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Tim Ogden, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison, Natia Liparteliani

he recently deceased Dario Fo, an Italian actor, playwright, comedian, singer, theater director, stage designer, songwriter and painter, is now on the repertoire of Tumanishvili Film Actors Theater. Michele Panella, his compatriot, staged Fo’s political satire “Can’t Pay?! Won’t Pay” together with a local Georgian cast that premiered in October, the very period of the great maestro’s decease. The script was translated into Georgian by Maia Japaridze and it is an easy performance to follow if one has read the play or at least the annotation. The designer is famous Georgian artist Simon Machabeli and the dramatist from the Georgian side is Manana Antadze. The life of Michele Panella, director of the performance, who in the past was a successful political scientist, was drastically changed when he met Italian legendary theater worker, director, translator, and entrepreneur Barbara Nativi. He got a professional qualification at the Laboratorio Nove Scuola di Teatro, and later became the artistic director of Barbara’s famous Theater of Florence “Teatro della Limonaia” and “Intercity festival”. In 2007 and 2008, he received prizes from the Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, titled “Il Fiorentino” for the development of the modern Sesto Fiorentino. His debut as a director “Poker – dealer’s Choice” staged according to the play of the outstanding British Dramatist Patrick Marber, was awarded with the Hamlet prize as the best debut by L'Ente teatrale italiano (ETI). In 2003-2004, in collaboration with London Royal National Theater, Michele gave ground to the wellknown program of modern dramaturgy, “Connections” which inspired interest among the Italian youth towards theater and literature. This latest international production is presented with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, Tbilisi Center of Culture events, Embassy of Italy in Tbilisi and Culture association TRI BOO, Florence. The first night was held on September 30, 2016. The performance had a triumphant receipt at the International Theater Festival GIFT. Since then, almost all days have been sell-outs. Extracts from Operas by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti are arranged by Michele Panella and Giorgi Khositashvili on a stage adorned with Malevich’s reproductions.

Photographer: Irakli Dolidze Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava

15

GEORGIA TODAY spoke with Eka Andronikashvili, one of the two actresses playing the role of Margherita. “I was really thrilled to have the chance to work with the Italian director. However, I quickly realized it was almost the same as working with the Georgian director- probably due to their similar tempers and sense of humor. The only difficulty came with needing translation. Panella differed from the Georgian directors in that he was not nervous or tired of life and therefore was more loyal, favorable and human. I got great pleasure from working with him. It wasn’t our first collaboration with a foreigner as two years ago, we worked on “Animal Farm” with Guy Masterson and took it to Edinburgh.” The play of Dario Fo was prepared in a positive atmosphere and premiered just 20 days after it was begun. “The play has not been altered and bares similarity to the 1990s in Georgia when there was a terrible neediness, no gas, no electricity, etc,” says Andronikashvili. “The repertories of each theater should have such performances as it is at the same time funny and also has a lot to contemplate. It contains revolutionary moments, as well as humor, and everyday riot.” "Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” is regarded as Dario Fo’s best known play internationally, having been performed in 35 countries around the world. It is a comedy about consumer backlash against high prices. Set in Milan, depicting one of the noisiest adventures of the Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo and his spouse from a different angle, the play centers on a spontaneous demonstration by housewives against rising prices at the local supermarket. This is a very funny physical farce where Antonia (Mzia Arabuli) tries to hide the fact that she smuggled food out of a supermarket during a food riot from her husband Giovanni (Temo Gvalia) by forcing her friend Margherita (Eka Andronikashvili) to feign pregnancy, to the astonishment of the latter’s husband Luigi (Nika Tserediani). In the ensuing complications, which includes the appearance of a buffoonish police detectives, grave man, the Pope, politician, director of fabric and others (Gia Abesalashvili and Guga Kakhiani in multiple roles who manage to change characters very masterfully), this energetic social farce presents some serious social and political themes that make us understand that the crisis in the quality of life itself must be adequately addressed not only to ruling institutions but to each of us and to our responsibility to be involved in social life in the pursuit of happiness, liberty and better living. WHERE: Agmashenebeli Ave., 164 (next to the German Consulate) Ticket: Gel 7,10,12,15 Duration: 90 minutes

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16

SPORTS

GEORGIA TODAY

FEBRUARY 17 - 20, 2017

Muscles in Brussels: New Look but Same Dominance for Lelos BY ALASTAIR WATT

G

eorgia began their 2017 Rugby Europe Championship campaign in impressive fashion, earning a bonus point in a 31-6 triumph over Belgium in a bitterly cold Brussels. Several young players, including four debutants, were selected in Milton Haig’s lineup but there was no sign of inexperience in a strong performance that swept aside the Belgians. And there were a few of the older heads to guide the rising stars, most notably full-back Merab Kvirikashvili who opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a crisply taken penalty from just beyond the Belgian 22. Ten minutes later, the Lelos notched their first try of the afternoon when the towering flanker Lasha Lomidze rose to clutch a lineout a few meters from the Belgian line, after which the Georgian pack bulldozed its way beyond the whitewash with fellow flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili eventually being credited with the score. Kvirikashvili duly dispatched the conversion to give the Georgians a ten-point lead, with things looking ominous for Belgium who were backed by a nearcapacity crowd. A minute before half-time, the Lelos

surged further ahead and it was a special moment for center Giorgi Koshadze who, after being fed by fly-half Lasha Khmaladze, dived through the posts for Georgia’s second score. The simplest of conversions followed from Kvirikashvili to hand the visitors a 17-0 advantage at the break. After the interval, the Belgians began to impose themselves more on the game and two penalties reduced their arrears to 17-6 by the 57th minute. However, that was as close as the home side would get to Georgia who soon raced out of sight with two further tries. The notoriously relentless Georgian pack was too much for Belgium to handle, eventually leading to the concession of a penalty try in the 68th minute which Kvirikashvili converted to increase the Lelos’ cushion to 24-6. The Belgians were ready for the bath by this point but the hosts had to endure an extra eight minutes beyond the 80-minute mark as Georgia pushed patiently for the fourth try that would yield a bonus point. Once again, forward power proved effective for the Lelos as number eight Beka Gorgadze muscled his way over the line, before Lasha Malaguradze kicked home the conversion to secure a 25-point winning margin for the championship favorites on matchday one. But that wasn’t the most eye-catching result on week one as Georgia’s next opponents Germany made headlines

with an historic 41-38 triumph over Romania in Offenbach. This was the best result in Germany’s rugby history, and they come to Georgia this weekend looking to at very least improve upon their 59-7 reverse suffered a year ago in Avchala.

The Lelos play their first home match of the year on February 19 in Rustavi, a city built in part by German prisoners of war in the 1940s. Germany’s route to rugby progress has been assisted to a large degree by the relaxed residence rules, allowing them to pick a

number of South African-born players. Regardless of the composition of Sunday’s visitors, their victory over the Romanians will ensure that Georgia treat Germany with not an ounce of complacency as they bid to make it two wins from two.


Issue #921