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Issue no: 1117

• JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Irakli Kobakhize: Russia Operates Military Bases in Occupied Regions NEWS PAGE 2

The Helter-Skelter of Politics

POLITICS PAGE 5

FOCUS

ON THE CHURCH Many are still waiting for an official Georgian response to the recent granting of Tomos to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

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Tbilisi City Hall Infrastructure Plans for 2019 POLITICS PAGE 6

Explosion in Tbilisi Kills 4, Injures 8

Cleaning up Georgia: Consultations on Draft Technical Regulations for Waste Management Held

BY THEA MORRISON

BUSINESS PAGE 7

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Georgian Flavors from Helena

our people have been killed, including a four-year-old girl, and eight others have been injured as a result of a gas explosion in a block of flats in the Didi Dighomi district of Tbilisi. The explosion happened on the 6th floor due to a gas leak. The injured have been hospitalized and the whole building has been evacuated. Among the injured are six minors, two middleaged women and a man. The Health Ministry says the lives of the injured children are not at risk. The Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, declared 17 January a day of mourning and said that flags on state buildings would fly at half-mast. Bakhtadze and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze arrived on scene soon after the tragedy happened. President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili went to Iashvili clinic to visit the injured children. She says their condition is stable and offered her condolences to the families of the deceased. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Linas Linkevicius, also offered his condolences to the Georgian nation and the families of those affected by the gas explosion. “Our profound sympathies go out to the people

SOCIETY PAGE 8

Georgian Photographer David Tabagari’s Alternative Tbilisi of Georgia following the deadly gas explosion in Tbilisi. Deepest condolences to the loved ones of the victims, full and speedy recovery to all the injured,” reads the message of the Lithuanian Diplomat. Georgian citizens have been rallying support for those affected, with food, water, accommodation, and gifts for the traumatized children being readily offered on social media.

“If your children are frightened and you are unable to calm them down, we are ready to entertain them, give them balloons and toys. We will do our best to help them sleep calmly,” wrote one man on Facebook. “We are open and ready to help all those who need it after the explosion. You can stay here. We will provide free food and drink,” reads the post of Café Apetito in Didi Dighomi.

CULTURE PAGE 11


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

Anaklia Port to Receive over 233 mln Euro from EU

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heEuropeanUnionhasmade a decision to financially support the Anaklia Deep Sea Port. In a document published by the European Commission regarding the development of the ‘Trans-European Transport Network’, it is stated that 233 mln Euros have been allocated for financing the 2nd phase of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port. It is also noted in the project that 1000 mln Euros have been assigned for the construction of the rail lines and highway leading to the Anaklia Deep Sea Port. Credit financing will take place within the new project of the European Union - ‘Trans-European Transport Network.’ The initiative will sponsor major infrastructure projects in the six countries of the Eastern Partnership – Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The total cost of the ‘Trans-

European Transport Network’ will come to 12.8 bln Euros. The European Commission stated that the given investment package includes the construction of a 4800 km highway, development of the railway infrastructure, advancement of six port projects and the equipping of 11 logistics centers. Within the framework of the ‘TransEuropean Transport Network,’ more than 10 projects are to be carried out in Georgia. A number of these are in pre-production phase and there are no final agreements on their financing as yet. 1. Road and rail to Anaklia Deep Sea Port. Cost of project: €100 million; 2. New Deep Sea Water Port in Anaklia (Phase 2). Cost of project: €233 million; 3. Grigoleti - Poti bridge. Cost of project: €25 million 4. Construction of road Grigoleti-Kob-

uleti. Cost of project: €101 million; 5. Construction of new road Batumi Bypass. Cost of project: €115 million; 6. Cargo terminal in Kutaisi Airport. Cost of project: €61.5 million; 7. Construction of the ChumateletiArgveti section of the East-West Highway. Cost of project: €1 billion; 8. Rustavi - Red Bridge Highway. Cost of project: €115 million; 9. Algeti - Sadakhlo Project. Cost of project: €90 million; 10. Sadakhlo Friendship Bridge. Cost of project: €6 million. The projects included in the investment plan were identified together with the Eastern Partnership countries and with the assistance of international financial institutions. The priority investments include both short-term projects to be completed by 2020 and long-term projects by 2030.

European Commissioner Johannes Hahn stated that: “The completion of the Indicative TEN-T Investment Action

Plan is a joint commitment to deliver tangible results for citizens across the region.”

Irakli Kobakhize: Russia Operates Military Bases in Occupied Regions BY AMY JONES

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he Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhize, visited France with a delegation of lawmakers from 14 – 16 January. During his visit, he met with his French counterparts, President of the French Senate Gérard Larcher and President of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand, among other officials. The main issues discussed during his visit were the enhancement of the political, economic and cultural relations between Georgia and France, Georgia’s integration into NATO and the EU and the current situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), the occupied regions of Georgia. On 16 January, Kobakhidze delivered a

speech to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly heavily condemning the occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia. He told French lawmakers that “both occupied regions of Georgia Abkhazia and

Tskhinvali have in fact become the closed military bases of Russia, or service stations. The continuation of Russian aggression concerns the Georgian government.” Kobakhidze noted in his speech that Russia occupies 20% of Georgian terri-

tory and continues to push the occupation line forwards. There is international concern of human rights abuses in the occupied zones in Georgia. “Ethnic Georgians are deprived of the possibility to receive an education in their native language; the population’s right to movement is also restricted; Georgian villages were intentionally destroyed; people are being kidnaped, tortured and killed,” Kobakhidze said. Despite this aggression, he said he believes the Georgian government is working towards a pragmatic and peaceful policy towards Russia based on democratic principles, in line with the government’s desire to make Georgia a fully democratic state. Indeed, many Russian tourists still visit Georgia and the trade-economic and transport ties between the two countries have improved. Nonetheless, the political situation remains in a deadlock.

The complex and delicate situation makes international support and relations even more vital in Georgia. During his visit, Kobakhidze participated in talks to discuss the improvement of the tradeeconomic, cultural and political ties between France and Georgia. He highlighted French-born Salome Zurabishvili’s election as the new president of Georgia, hoping that the former diplomat will help to enhance ties between Georgia and France. Georgia and France have a long-standing history of collaboration. In discussion with Gerard Larcher, Kobakhidze mentioned Dimitri Amilakhvari, a French military officer of Georgian origin who played at important part in the French resistance during the second world war. Moreover, former officials of the First Democratic Republic of Georgia lived in exile in France. Kobakhidze said he hopes that this collaborative legacy will continue to grow.

Georgians Start Petition Asking for Recognition of Ukrainian Church BY THEA MORRISON

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group of Georgians, referring to themselves as members of the Georgian Church, have started a petition calling on the Patriarchate of Georgia to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow and to congratulate the friendstate on its important achievement. “We remember the hard way the Georgian Church traveled when it was struggling to gain autocephaly…We also remember the joy we experienced when our autocephaly was restored and we were given the Tomos from Constantinople. We believe that our moral obligation is to support the Ukrainian Church,” the petition on change.org reads. The authors of the petition hope that the position of the parish will be taken into consideration at the next sitting of the Holy Synod, which will discuss the issue of the Ukrainian Church. “The children of the Georgian Orthodox Church hope that our Church will not undermine the history of their own autocephaly and will confirm its unity with the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” the petition reads. While the Georgian Patriarchate remains silent about the issue, the Shemokmedi Archbishop Ioseb took to Facebook to congratulate the Ukrainian Church. “I congratulate the Ukrainian Orthodox

Image source: change.org

Church on receiving the Tomos and I believe that Ukraine deserves an autocephalous Church. Ukraine has struggled for independence and autocephaly for centuries. Their aspiration will strengthen Christian Orthodox unity,” his post reads. In addition, Archbishop Ilia Chighladze posted on Facebook that those who do not congratulate Ukraine, are “either into Russian imperialism or are frightened conformists.” "The autocephaly of Ukraine is the beginning of the defeat of the Russian ecclesiastical and ideological imperialism. This is an elementary issue,” Archbishop Ilia stated. Zviad Dzidziguri, representative of the

Georgian Dream (GD) majority, said there is a risk that if Georgia recognizes the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine, Russia might recognize the independence of the breakaway Abkhazian and South Ossetian Churches. "We are very happy with the success of Ukraine in all directions and we welcome it. But we, Georgian politicians, should not forget the sovereignty and independence of our own country,” he added. “Every country acts according to its interests, even Ukraine.” “Ukraine, when it was in its pragmatic interest, appointed Mikheil Saakashvili, who was declared wanted by our country, to a high political position. We join

the congratulations but our country's interests are of utmost importance to us,” he said. Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said Georgia is happy and welcomes any steps that promote Ukraine's independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. He said the spread information that the government has not expressed its position regarding the issue of the Ukrainian Church and remains silent is not true. “Why would we not be happy with this fact? Ukraine is our strategic partner and we cooperate in many formats,” he said, adding, however, that the position of Georgia should be voiced by

the Patriarchate. “The Orthodox Church of Georgia should make a decision on this issue. You know that the government does not interfere with Church activities,” he said. The opposition parties think the government should not wait for the decision of the Church and should congratulate Ukraine. Parliamentary Minority European Georgia member Giga Bokeria says the silence of Georgia is damaging the country’s image in the international arena. “This is a most important geopolitical event, not just a victory for the Ukrainian people. Politicians should express their position on this issue. The leaders of European Georgia very clearly congratulated the Ukrainian people on this victory, but we did not hear any congratulations from the governmental officials or GD members,” he claimed. Ukraine’s Church gained independence from Russia when World Patriarch Bartholomew signed the Tomos on autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church on January 5. The Ukrainian Church had been under Moscow’s jurisdiction since 1686, when, under pressure from Russia, it abandoned allegiance to Constantinople, the historical seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church, now known as Istanbul. The Tomos declares that the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, representing the Holy Synod of Ukrainian bishops, should turn to the Patriarchate of Constantinople for all decisions in the future.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

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Georgian Qvevri Whisky Produced for the First Time BY AMY JONES

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he ancient Georgian tradition of Qvevri has been used for centuries to age, make, and store Georgia’s famous wines. The eggshaped earthenware vessel is filled with grapes, including the skins, stalks and pips, before being sealed and buried underground. After five to six months, the mixture turns into delicious wine. The tradition of the Qvevri reflects Georgia’s rich culture. UNESCO named the Qvevri technique of winemaking an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Although the Qvevri method is usually associated with wine, one Georgian has set about using it to make another type of alcohol: Aleksander Kvernadze has created Qvevri whisky for the first time in Georgia. Aleksander is based in Alekseevka village in the municipality of Tetritskharo. His company ‘Alexander Distillery,’ produces various wines, sharbat (a subcontinental drink made from fruits or flower petals) and chacha. Now he has made whisky production his main profession. Aleksander first began making chacha in Qvevri and then began exploring the distillation of grains like corn, barley and rye in oak barrels. He believes that the clay of the Qvevri purifies the alco-

hol unlike other distillation techniques. “I think the forms of the Qvevri is also very important,” said Aleksander in an interview with the delegation of the European Union to Georgia. “The distilled product is absolutely free of raw brandy oils and the taste is wonderful,” he affirmed. The Aleksander Distillery is a craft and family-run distillery that produces around 100 to 200 bottles a year. This year, Aleksander expects to produce 250 bottles of Asuretuli Shavi wine as well as chacha and whisky. He was able to develop his distillery with help from the EU-supported Tetritskaro ‘Local Action Group’ (LAG) established within the EU-funded project ‘Rural Development for Sustainable Growth of the Tetritskaro Municipality’ under the second phase of the European Neighborhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD). The four-year project, with a budget of €2.4 mln, hopes to improve living standards in the Tetritskaro municipality by implementing innovative socioeconomic models and combining civil, private and public sectors for local development. The LAG consists of members from various religious and ethnic minorities, eco-migrants, and internally displaced persons. 40% of LAG are women and 30% are youth. With the help of the program, Aleksander Kvernadze will expand his business to increase whisky production to three times the current rate to around

300 liters. He will also improve and expand the wine cellar and implement new technologies. He expects sales to grow accordingly. His products are already in demand in Europe, Asia and the US and his whisky has passed US accreditation. “There is a high demand for our products, but so

far our resources have been limited,” said Aleksander. With the continued support of EUfunded projects in the region, life in rural Georgia should become easier. However, not all residents agree to accepting funding. “Many people in Georgia do not believe in the opportu-

nities of funding to develop a business idea,” said Aleksander. Nonetheless, he hopes that people will follow his lead and begin to establish their own businesses. Afterall, “everything does not happen at once, but gradual and constant development is important,” he concludes.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

God Engaged: Orthodox Christianity in the “Big Game” OP-ED BY ARCHIL SIKHARULIDZE

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n January 5, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of the global Orthodox Church and the first among equals, signed a decree “Tomos” in Istanbul granting the Ukrainian Church autonomy from the Russian Orthodox Church (alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate, abb. ROC) and recognizing its autocephaly (independence). The event was attended by the head of the Ukrainian government, President Petro Poroshenko and other high officials. Earlier, Bartholomew called on leaders of other autocephalous churches, most importantly in Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia, to support his initiative. The decision to remove the Ukrainian Church from the subordination of the ROC which had existed as such for centuries was highly criticized by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate, as a rude violation of religious laws and an obvious political step leading to religious strife and a division in the global Orthodox community. And while supporters of Bartholomew’s historic move both in Ukraine and abroad, especially in Georgia, react according to how they perceive the victory over the corrupt Russian Orthodox Church controlled by Putin’s regime, it is obvious that there is much more than just the right of Ukrainian people for religious independence at stake here. The Orthodox Christian god has been officially engaged by all sides in the so-called “big game” now: political and ideological rivalry where religion is used for concrete goals. The absolute majority of the socalled pro-Western and pro-Ukrainian analysts and experts fiercely defend Bartholomew’s step as fair and logical, bringing forth arguments about historical justice and more. At the same time, there are those who are not so positive about it. This pessimism comes from a few extremely puzzling moments that are mainly, frequently intentionally, overlooked and neglected.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY AND POLITICS Unlike other Christian denominations, Orthodox Christianity was and still is extremely involved in domestic and foreign politics. Political actors actively attract religious institutions into various state, political and ideological activities to gain electoral support, legitimacy and to justify their activities, while local churches are keen to use this “dependency” to influence political decisionmaking and, sometimes, even pursue a harsh policy of proselytism. This mutual interdependence and interconnection make it impossible to build a stable sec-

ular state without interference from religious institutions and persons in state affairs. And so, here is perhaps the biggest question that puzzles experts and analysts: was Bartholomew’s initiative purely a religious one? It is pretty questionable that Ecumenical Patriarch would have dared and/or decided to push the topic of an autocephalous Ukrainian Church in the midst of the fight between Kiev and Moscow and, in general, the West and the East, without any serious political back-up; especially if we take into consideration that Bartholomew, in theory, holds sway over more than 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world, from which the majority are Russian and when the biggest Orthodox Christian Church is the Moscow Patriarchate. The second important question regards the strong bond between political elites and local religious institutions that have a place in almost all Orthodox Christian countries. We can easily outline at least three exceptional cases: Russian Federation, Ukraine and Georgia. The Moscow Patriarchate seems to be a continuation of the Russian state (ad notam, historically given condition) and is being actively used by the Kremlin to pursue its domestic and foreign policies through support and justification from the religious institution and its representatives. At the same time, the State acknowledges the Moscow Patriarchate’s support and backs its frequently questionable domestic (the law on protecting religious feelings) and foreign (dominance over global Orthodox Christian community) initiatives. The same could be seen in Ukraine. Until it received “Tomos,” there were three Orthodox Church branches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church or Kiev Patriarchate (independent), the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (independent) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (abb. UOC, subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate). After accepting autocephaly, the first two independent churches formed the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (abb. OCU) that, by initial design and primary mission, was to counter and oppose the UOC that was and still is the leading Orthodox institution in the country. So far, the OCU, a priori, is being considered by all sides and, most importantly, by Poroshenko’s government, as a political tool against the Kremlin; and we may argue that the Ukrainian state will do its best to put the newly formed local autocephalous church at the service of political elites. It is also highly questionable whether the OCU can really counter the UOC without political, ideological, administrative and financial support from the government and affiliated individuals. Where the Moscow Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine are being

Image source: Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP

used by political elites, the Georgian Orthodox Church (abb. GOC) is intelligently manipulating the Georgian elites; where in the Russian Federation and Ukraine we are witnessing the existence of so-called “pocket churches” that lie as a huge burden both on governments and societies, Georgian society is easily “pocketed” by the Georgian Orthodox Church. As still the most trusted and influential institution in the country, the GOC interferes in almost every single aspect of everyday life in Georgia. This frequently harmful practice restrains the country from transforming into the Western-type secular state it claims it wants to be.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY AT A CROSSROADS The establishment of the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church not only officially involved Orthodox Christian god in global politics, but also led to historic strife; and if decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to cut ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was somehow a logical retaliation, other autocephalous churches suddenly appeared to be at a crossroads, with only two options – follow Bartholomew or support the ROC. We may argue that no one would want to be involved into this dispute; furthermore, for some autocephalous churches, such as those of Serbia and Georgia, this decision is highly sensitive and is directly attached to important political issues. It is no secret that Serbia holds strong political, cultural and religious ties with the Russian Federation. Furthermore, Serbian officials openly re-iterate the importance of these ties and are still extremely thankful to the Kremlin for the support given during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Additionally, Moscow was in the vanguard of those states that did not support the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, and Russia is still the main and most important ally of Belgrade in its attempts to bring the partially recognized state under its jurisdiction. It seems the Serbian Orthodox Church will definitely think twice before backing Bartholomew’s

10 Galaktion Street

decision and by default directly oppose the Moscow Patriarchate. This situation is even more challenging for the Georgian Orthodox Church. Despite fierce support for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from local pro-Western forces and parts of Georgian society, which perceive these events as the restoration of historical justice, it is obvious the situation is much more complicated. Georgia has two separatist regions (Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia) which were recognized as independent states by the Russian Federation, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria. Despite supporting Abkhazian “sovereignty,” the Russian Orthodox Church does not officially recognize the Abkhazian Orthodox Church (abb. AOC) and it is, de jure, still subordinated to the Georgian Orthodox Church. Representatives of the GOC are afraid that by recognizing the establishment of the Ukrainian autocephalous Church, they may directly push the Moscow Patriarchate to recognize the AOC. Some may argue that the ROC has de facto already done so and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church are working secretly on the ground, and yet there is a huge difference between official recognition and masked activities. Finally, Georgia has been surrounded by non-Christian nations for centuries with the Moscow Patriarchate its only neighboring religious ally; thus, this historical memory is also present.

USELESS INDEPENDENCE? Without doubt, the Ukrainian people deserve the right to have religious institutions that reflect their attitudes and aspirations. Nevertheless, it is questionable whether the reception of autocephaly was and is something that Ukraine really needed. Will it solve the country’s challenges and lead to the unification of society? Unlikely. As said above, the Poroshenko’s government sees autocephaly as a pre-election campaign project that should, in theory, raise support among the local electorate and help its leader to keep his presidential post. This is despite the unpleasant fact that Poroshenko failed to lead the

state into a better future. Particularly, we may argue that Ukraine was always and still is in dramatic need of independence from its own oligarchs and other questionable figures rather than autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. The reasoning that the inability of every single pro-Western revolutionary movement and leader to handle the corruption and other anti-state practices lies in the dependence of the Ukrainian Church from the Moscow Patriarchate is highly dubious. The reception of autocephaly will not lead to a dismantling of the corrupt political system that exists in Ukraine, as that is just how Poroshenko wants it to be. Secondly, frequently both international and domestic observers overlook the issue of social divisions in Ukraine. Approximately half of the eastern population are ethnic Russians, and these will most likely not transfer from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, especially taking when taking into consideration the political context. Furthermore, even among Ukrainians there are plenty who are devoted to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church subordinated to the ROC. Thus, the establishment of an autocephalous church may further deepen the social divisions that have developed due to various questionable decisions made over time by the political elite, such as the controversial language bill restricting and downgrading use of the Russian language in Ukraine. In conclusion, the establishment of the Ukrainian autocephalous Church can be perceived as an official engagement of the Orthodox Christian god in global politics, where all involved actors try to use religious institutions and affiliated individuals for their own political and ideological interests while local churches try to grab their own benefits. Other autocephalous churches, especially in Serbia and Georgia, now find themselves at a crossroads that may lead to some extremely interesting political developments in the future. If the Georgian Orthodox Church backs Bartholomew’s initiative, we may witness the appearance of another partially recognized Church, the Abkhazian, which will result in the further deterioration of GeorgianRussian relations. At the same time, the Ukrainian autocephalous Church may be not the answer that the majority of Ukrainians hoped for, as it is uncertain how it will help the country to finally escape its corrupt circle or build the modern prosperous and secular state that they seek. Archil Sikharulidze is a co-founder and an executive director of the Center for Systemic Political Research (CSPR) a Tbilisi-based research institute (Republic of Georgia) and an editor of Georgian Journal of Systemic Politics. Sikharulidze extensively writes about political processes in Russia and in the postSoviet space in general.

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


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

5

The Helter-Skelter of Politics

Image source: The Helter-Skelter Political Mind by Hone Williams

OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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hy do people need politics? Here is a succinct and simplistic, but most to-the-point, response to the question: we need politics to live better, and if it does not serve that purpose, then we must not waste time, money and energy on entertaining the process. And yet we do it anyway! So many – men and women, young and old, good and bad, smart and blunt, inept and skilled – are professionally involved in politics on a daily basis. I suppose there is nothing terribly unexpected in this. We’ve all heard that Man is by nature “a political animal,” but when the wise man uttered those brilliantly outstanding words, he was using the word

‘animal’ in its figurative sense. It is also important to note that all the fighters in the field are being succulently paid. Anybody who is into the magic business of politics inevitably has an axe to grind, this being a must! Politics invaded human life as soon as Man came to understand the need for a purposeful arrangement for survival, and in the attempt to create this, people often disagreed on many different issues and so they resorted to politics to avoid conflict and make life easier. In a word, the political process grew into a harsh struggle for power – not necessarily the truth – which could not be circumvented even in the duration of a thousand years. This land was and is no exception from the generally adopted rule and tools of said performance: Georgia has always been the arena of hot political disputes and the accompanying deliberations. I

heard somebody say that politics is a mind-killer, and I can’t agree more when it comes to the Georgian way of politicking. Political life in Georgia is like the eternal biblical fire which supposedly and hopefully should in the end burn to ashes those who play wicked games, if, of course, the evil and kind doers become discernible enough by the day of reckoning. Politics here resembles a perennially pulsating pop show, with thousands of characters acting out their various roles, directed by the most prominent, using all kinds of props, scenery, music, text and choreography. The arena knows hundreds of political parties and associations, some of them at times gathering enough thrust and membership to dash forward into the vanguard of our society, revolutionizing the air and making necessary or unnecessary alterations to the lives of the ever-expectant public, eventually

fragmentizing into factions and groups, or totally evaporating from the ground. The process is so much alive and active that it never stops brewing, dragging in individual politicians and throwing them

up in the form of corpses, ready to be dumped at the unforgiving political scrapheap. Being naturally resourceful and creative, the citizenry of Georgia is also lucky enough to be able to enjoy a lot of freedom of thought and a broad turf for action, and most of that citizenry is sure that their talent and labor could change society faster than any available political power. But this is not happening because politics here is so overwhelming that it constitutes the only power that carries the potential of change – this is the impression, at least. There is a feeling that people are getting tired of the constantly smoking political helter-skelter in the country, but the more exhausted the electorate becomes, the more resilient the political herds and flocks seem to emerge, tirelessly seeking political compromises although the genuine art and science of government still slips from their hands. And the available political literature, the source of our theoretical political knowledge and qualification, is ridiculously contradictory too: some of those wise pages say that politics is the art of the possible and some others try to prove that politics is about the art of the impossible. Juggling with words and letters is not my cup of tea, but the comparison inadvertently pops to my mind: could the reason of all this political jambalaya be the fact that the possible and the impossible are confused so badly that a regular human brain balks at differentiating between them? The answer might be a fresh challenge for all of us here who think that we still have to go the distance that is laid ahead.

Image Source: bbc.com

20 People on Hunger Strike in Azerbaijan BY AMY JONES

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wenty people in Azerbaijan are on hunger strike to protest political prosecutions in the country. Nine in prisons announced that they are striking along with other journalists, politicians and activists participating outside of prisons. The hunger strikes began on 26 December when Mehman Huseynov, a blogger who criticized the Azerbaijani government, announced he would no longer eat to protest new charges made against him shortly before his release from prison. Huseynov was originally imprisoned for highlighting government corruption. The nine prisoners joining Huseynov on hunger strike released a letter from prison denouncing what they consider to be injustice and repression in Azerbaijan. “We protest the darkness of our country! We protest repression and we will not keep silent! We will own our country and will resist the fact that its brightest people are being treated like gangsters in prisons!” reads the letter. One of the prisoners is Giyas Ibrahimov, who was arrested in May 2016 for graffitiing anti-government slogans on a monument in Baku. Five months after his initial arrest, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug offences. Amnesty International and other organizations

Image source: Facebook / Khadija Ismayilova

believe he was tortured into giving a confession. Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova told OC Media that she was striking for the government to drop the new charges against Huseynov, release the

detainees arrested for exercising their freedom of speech and expression, and for the adoption of a policy of holding no political prisoners. Ismayilova believes that at least 10 journalists are currently political pris-

oners in Azerbaijan. “Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov were arrested for writing on a statue, poet Tofig Hasanli was arrested for his poem criticizing the Aliyevs, and there are more,” she says. The international pressure against

Azerbaijan is increasing. Dunka Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Azeri Deputy Minister that “the authorities should drop the charges brought against Mr Huseynov on 26 December because they lack credibility… I hope the authorities of Azerbaijan will abide by their human rights obligations.” US Representative Chris Smith also affirmed that “President Aliyev must now act to bring an end to this latest shameful episode of the regime’s cruel campaign against free speech.” In addition, the European Parliament is drafting a resolution on Huseynov scheduled to be voted upon on 17 January. Despite the international pressure, the Azerbaijani government and authorities have denied and played down the severity of the hunger strike. The Azerbaijani prison service released a statement to the Azerbaijani news site Qafwazinfo denying that a hunger strike is taking place within prisons. “No detainee in a detention cell or in prisons is on hunger strike. The information about prisoners’ hunger striking does not reflect reality and is aimed at creating confusion in society and keeping certain people on the agenda,” the statement read. Those on hunger strike hope to continue to attract the world’s attention and bring about change. The world is beginning to notice, but it remains to be seen whether the Azerbaijani government will release the prisoners.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

Tbilisi City Hall Infrastructure Plans for 2019 BY THEA MORRISON

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bilisi City Hall held its first sitting of the year, where the main infrastructure plans for 2019 were discussed. Mayor Kakha Kaladze noted that this year the budget of the capital is “historic” and to exceed GEL 1 billion. “Compared to last year, the budget is around 130-140 million Lari more, which

means more projects for the city. And again, we are hoping for the support of the citizens – support which we felt on a daily basis in the past year,” he noted. Kaladze said developing the transport system and infrastructure remains a priority for Tbilisi City Hall in 2019. “We are planning to completely replace the existing bus fleet with new busses in 2019 and to introduce new European, ecologically clean buses. Also, the renovation and rehabilitation of metro stations, wagons and the retraining of staff remains a further priority.”

The Mayor noted City Hall will present a new project for the rehabilitation of metro Varketili, where the ceiling collapse injured 18 people on December 30. He added a new project is necessary as the existing one does not fit the safety norms. “Our priority should not be speed but quality and citizen safety. I would like to apologize to the commuters and assure them that soon we will have a project and will launch rehabilitation works,” he stated. Kaladze also recognized that renovation of metro station Samgori should

have been finished in December but the responsible company failed to meet the deadline. “Tbilisi Transportation Company is taking on the job of finishing this work, having conducted legally and judicially appropriate sanctions against the responsible company,” he explained. The Mayor said the rehabilitation works of Avlabari metro station will be completed by February 20 and a tender has been announced for the design of all three exits of the metro at Station Square. In addition, a tender will be announced

for the renovation of Gotsiridze, Isani, Liberty Square, Rustaveli, Marjanishvili and Tsereteli metro stations this year. Kaladze added that City Hall will also continue renovating damaged bridges in the capital. “In 2015, research was done on every bridge. We already have a full picture of which rehabilitation of which bridges is a priority and are doing work according to those findings,” he stated. The Mayor said a tender will also be announced for the full rehabilitation of the Kakheti highway.

Looking ahead at the 2019 Georgian Political Stage OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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he Christmas and New Year celebrations have passed, both Old and New, Catholic and Orthodox, and Georgian politics has moved back from the Supra tables to the office. There was an expectation that the New Year would bring some novelty; that the old trends would become a matter of the past and the year of the “Pink Pig” would signal the start of new processes. But alas, the expectations have not been met and the government and opposition have resurrected the trends of 2018, giving them new life and once again proving that politics recognizes no calendar. The scandal that arose in 2018 around the appointment of permanent judges continues. The theme of the autocephaly of Ukraine also remains popular, and the accumulative pension reform and freedom of speech have been added to the list. In short, there’s nothing new apart from the unexpected visit from the newly appointed Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan. No-one could have imagined that Bolnisi would ever host

Image by Archeobacteria

an almost secretive meeting of the leaders of the two countries, a fact that would find its way into international media. We can assume the circumstances are serious to warrant such a visit, but the details have yet to be revealed, as has the official position of the Georgian Church on the autocephaly of Ukraine. As in 2018, this year too, the Georgian Dream will continue the so-called “bal-

anced” politics in its foreign affairs agenda. With the help of the satellite parties, it will be more confident in spreading the idea that Georgia is victim to a bigger deal and that the West has handed us back to Russia. The ruling party will once again start declaring its Western orientation, but only in words, as it will continue its declared waiting game for something to change: the oppo-

sition will not be given grounds to accuse the government of “breaching its proWestern course.” And this is Georgian Dream’s main goal. The only important process which might be brought to a finale this year is the disintegration of Georgian Dream as a party. The conflict between the new and old members of the party might become grounds for this. At the beginning of last year, everything

was the other way around, with the main oppositional party forecasted to fall apart. The former faces of the party nearly left the once-powerful National Movement and its team without a fraction in Parliament. Although the development of events shaped a completely different outcome in the end; whether the trend will touch the governmental party or not is hard to predict. The current situation of Georgian Dream looks like sweet drowsiness that is destined to meet a rude awakening. And if they do not want to be awakened from their sweet euphoria by the talented and determined people from the opposition, they need to make correct and careful decisions, taking the advice of those who tell them that they should start a dialogue will all political parties. They should build constitutional guarantees for a truly multi-party, pluralist democracy, to be installed before the elections of 2020, which is a time when the strong and respected “players” who still have the power to “balance out” Misha will have a guarantee of building a strong fraction in the new parliament, making the government coalitional. On the other hand, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s promise to stay in government until 2030 might end as early as 2019.

Election Social Georgian, Armenian PMs Media Monitoring Hold Informal Meeting Results Reveal Suspect Behaviour BY THEA MORRISON

BY AMY JONES

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he International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) have released the results of their social media monitoring of the 2018 presidential elections. It is the first time social media was monitored during elections. With social media playing such a large role in opinion building, the project is an important measure of democracy. The monitoring results revealed found various tactics used to discredit candidates. Anonymous Facebook pages were created to post sponsored content discrediting candidates and political actors. In addition, discrediting Facebook pages were created to criticize both Salome Zurabishvili and the opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze. Ahead of the second round of elections, fake media pages were created against the opposition candidate. Moreover, pages were created with the intention of confusing voters. ISFED also found that local civil servants often violated the Election Code by

campaigning on social media during working hours. On 14 January, Salome Zurabishvili tweeted about the impact of social networks: “While the media operates within its own legal framework to protect citizens, #socialnetworks have created a lower sense of responsibility in our democracy. We need to start thinking about what anonymity means and what to do about other countries intervening in our social media.” ISFED monitored social media from the official start of the campaign on 29 August 2018. The project was supported financially by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Georgia.

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eorgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze had an informal meeting with his Armenian counterpart Nikol Pashinyan in the Kvemo Kartli region town of Bolnisi, mainly populated by Armenians and other ethnic minorities. Bakhtadze personally congratulated Pashinyan on his appointment to the position of Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia. The Prime Ministers had a meeting with the local Armenian population in Georgia and discussed neighboring relations between the two countries and expressed hope to continue the fruitful cooperation in the future.

New Chair of Prosecutorial Council Elected BY AMY JONES

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Photo source: Accommnews

n 16 January, P ro s e c uto r Nana Khunjua was elected the new chair of the Prosecutorial Council. 12 out of 15 members voted for Khunjua, according to figures from the Prosecutor’s Office, a clear win against

her opponent, defense lawyer Irma Chkadua. She has worked for the Prosecutor’s Office for more than 12 years and will now serve the Prosecutorial Council for two years. The Prosecutorial Council was established in 2015. Until last month it was subordinated to the Justice Ministry. It is now an independent body that is directly accountable to Parliament.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

Cleaning up Georgia: Consultations on Draft Technical Regulations for Waste Management Held BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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long with the development of the world and growth of its population, the amount of waste is increasing. Waste disposal sites, covering huge areas worldwide, represent a serious threat to the environment, augmenting the level of pollution and the risk of the spread of new diseases. Waste management is considered a vital solution to maintaining nature and urban surroundings in a clean and safe manner, conserving beauty and keeping the good health of the world’s population. There are numerous campaigns and projects being carried out globally to raise awareness about the significance of waste management, and Georgia is included on the list of those countries interested in the given field. A two-day consultation meeting was held on January 16-17 in Tbilisi’s Holiday Inn, attended by more than 150 representatives of private companies engaged in the management of specific wastes, relevant state agencies, and donor and civil society organizations. The event aimed to present and discuss draft technical regulations for managing specific waste streams, subject to EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility). The meetings were organized at the initiative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) with the support of the European Union, specifically two EU-funded projects: ‘Technical Assistance for the Improvement of Waste Management Systems in Georgia’ (EuropeAid/138609/DH/SER/GE / EU TA project) and ‘EU Technical Assistance for Awareness and Communication to Improve Waste Management Practices in Georgia and the Visibility of EU Support to the Sector.’ In their welcoming speeches, representatives of the MEPA and EU TA project highlighted the importance of EPR in effective management of specific waste streams. Afterwards, EU TA project experts presented the background situation existing in the area of the management of specific wastes, EPR general provisions and draft technical regulations for specific wastes. A discussion was held on

given legal documents and concrete recommendations were given by the stakeholders. The Waste Management Code of Georgia introduces the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for specific waste streams which will be enacted from December 2019. According to the new Code, manufacturers and legal entities who place products onto the market are responsible for ensuring the reduction of negative environmental impacts that may follow the production and use of the products and their waste recovery or disposal. Georgian businesses who produce or import a product, which after its use becomes specific waste, will be obliged to manage these specific waste streams. These streams are as follows: packaging waste (plastic, paper/cardboard, wood, metal, glass), waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), endof-the life tires (ELTs), end-of-the life vehicles (ELVs), used oils, used batteries and accumulators. Extended Producer Responsibility is a new concept for Georgia and its introduction requires the relevant legal framework and adequate public and private sector awareness. EPR is a policy approach to waste management successfully implemented throughout Europe. George Konstantinopoulos, Project Legal Expert/ EPR at the meeting noted his expectations of holding fertile consultations with positive outcomes with the representatives of the Georgian business sector. “There are more than 25 years’ experience in the European Union regarding the introduction and implementation of EPR for all waste streams. Our main task here is to assist the Georgian government and stakeholders and to have a fertile dialogue regarding how and under which conditions we may be able to actually implement EPR in Georgia,” he said. The EU official also accentuated the capability and professionalism of the Georgian government for the further development of the given project. Finally, as his top recommendation, he focused on the significance of establishing platforms of this kind and the need for negotiations between the government and the business sector. The Georgian guests at the event also emphasized the effectiveness of this type of event to further the sustainable development of the country.

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

Disability-Sensitive Public Service Delivery Becomes a New Standard in Georgia

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he eight-month work undertaken by the Georgian Public Service Hall to provide inclusive services to people with disabilities was summarised at a public event on 16 January. The Minister of Justice of Georgia,

Thea Tsulukiani, presented the results of the project “Enhanced Services for All,” implemented with assistance from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Government of Sweden, and introduced a manual ‘Serving People with Disabilities in the Pub-

lic Service Hall’, which establishes a new public service standard in Georgia. The event was attended by H.E. Ulrik Tideström, Ambassador of Sweden to Georgia and Armenia, and Munkhtuya Altangerel, UNDP Acting Head in Georgia, as well as by representatives of the Georgian Government, diplomatic missions, non-governmental organizations and people with disabilities engaged in the implementation of the project. The manual on disability-sensitive public service delivery has been developed by the Georgian Public Service Hall based on the best international practices and an assessment of needs in Georgia. The

practical guidelines included in the manual have been integrated into the Public Service Quality Standard, a guiding document which regulates public service delivery in Georgia and is mandatory for all members of the Public Service Hall staff. The new quality standard has been introduced to all Public Service Hall branches across Georgia. From June to December 2018, the Public Service Hall retrained all 750 of its front desk operators and has included a training module on disability-sensitive service delivery to the new staff induction programme. Furthermore, to improve public ser-

vices for people with hearing impairments, 400 new signs covering all key areas of public services have been created and introduced to the Georgian sign language and twenty operators of the Tbilisi Public Service Hall have been trained in sign language. Over 200 customers with hearing impairments have received public services in sign language since November 2018. Following this success, the Georgian Public Service Hall is considering the next steps needed for making public service delivery more efficient, ensuring an inclusive environment and equal opportunities for all.

Georgian Flavors from Helena EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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t was her Aunty Medea that inspired well-known journalist Helena Bedwell to step into the magical world of cooking. Her writing career may have put it on hold, but her heart was forever charged with the desire to create dishes, and at last she has chosen to share some of that magic with other Georgian food lovers by publishing a cookery book: ‘Georgian Flavours from Helena.’ “I always wanted to become a writer, so I became a journalist, which is close enough! My parents always thought I would become an actress, but when I

The kitchen is and always was the best place for us to meet, have fun, and talk to our children, friends, and family members. Let’s keep it that way

was 15, I changed my mind and started writing small articles on current events. My dad knew an editor at the Tbilisi Newspaper and asked him to have a look at my work. When I walked into the publishing house (currently the hotel and restaurant Stamba), and smelled that freshly printed paper, I knew I was in the right place.” This is how her first articles appeared, followed by TV reportage, and how her cooking skills were put on the back burner. “It’s hard,” she notes, “to pop into the kitchen when you’re a young political and economic reporter, especially during tough, war-torn 1990s Georgia.” In 1997, she left Georgia with her newlycreated family and began to travel the world. And it was while discovering the various countries of Asia, the EU and the Middle East that her desire to cook was reignited. “I became fascinated with new flavors,” she tells us. “And I started to remember the skills Aunty Medea had taught me even as I kept working and raising my son.” She notes that Georgia, the ancient land of wine and bread, was practically unknown to people outside the country, and in answering people’s questions about her homeland, and with the eagerness of her UK family to try her Georgian dishes, Helena found further inspiration. “I really wanted them to know my country, my history and even my aunt's main inspiration: Barbare Jorjadze, a 19th century noble woman who started cooking and creating the ‘ideal household,’ despite having servants, and who became a writer herself. I also felt that Georgia, a sort of forgotten gem in this world, needed some attention, as our flavors are little known and nothing can compare to them.”

We asked her to tell us about the motivation behind her publishing a cookery book, something not everyone was supportive of (they didn’t want her to reveal her secrets to the world!). “My target audience is people who travel, those seeking adventures and new flavors; people who have worked or lived in Georgia for a while, or who simply visited and never forgot how wonderfully that walnut sauce tasted or how unforgettable khachapuri was. I personally never met anyone who was not impressed by at least one specific dish or who even became obsessed with it. My audience also includes those wanting to impress their guests with something unusual or who might buy my book as a gift to give others.” She notes that in the book, she aimed to make the dishes as easy as possible to create. “If something sounds difficult, it’s difficult to make, so why put people under stress?” she asks. “The kitchen is and always was the best place for us to meet, have fun, and talk to our children, friends, and family members. Let’s keep it that way.” Helena tells us that choosing just what dishes to put in her book was “a struggle.” “Let's get it straight: many of the most popular Georgian dishes we eat today are not Georgian at all, and were adopted from other cuisines and cultures,” she says. “Let’s take mushrooms on ketsi with cheese- not Georgian at all, but this is perfectly normal for Georgia, which lays at the crossroads of several cultures.” She names the desire to offer something truly Georgian in her choice of which dishes to present. “I had to hunt down the ingredients, measurements, perfect kitchenware and wooden utensils most used in Georgia. It took me some 20

years to hone my skills, and then I decided it was time to share. All my dishes are easy to make anywhere in the world: in the UK or Taiwan, Dubai or New York.” And she’s included some tricks in the book to help cooking enthusiasts, wherever they may be. We asked her about her favorite and least favorite dishes to make. “Mchadi and cheese wins hands down every time for me,” she tells us. “If I have Georgian cheese at home, or any cheese for that matter, together with this wonderful cornflour creation mchadi, I’m happy. The combo is irreplaceable for me as it goes with every sauce, dip or spread, all over the world.” Her least favorite is the New Year whole fried piglet. “I’m not even sure it’s very Georgian, but the vision of it makes me feel uncomfortable. Thankfully, it’s only put on the table once a year!” In the past decade, more and more restaurants have sprung up, particularly in the capital city, offering fusion cuisine- Georgian plus something different, in part to experiment and take pleasure in the freedom the influx of new or rediscovered “foreign” ingredients brings; in part to entice both visitors and locals to take a chance and try something new. We asked Helena what she thought of the trend. “I adore it. It’s the perfect opportunity for many Georgians to abandon the soviet style eating habits and go back to our European roots. When I was a soviet kid, I had no idea what cinnamon or ginger was, or the ingredients I had only seen in foreign magazines or old Georgian books. In soviet times, there were only three kinds of cheese available, while our ancestors used to make 60 varieties! Fusion allows you to taste the dish as it is, without the avalanche of other flavors

beside it. But at the same time, I am totally for the simplicity of many traditional Georgian restaurants, such as Mstkheta Salobie.” [a restaurant specializing in bean dishes in Mtskheta] We rounded off our interview by asking Helena what her biggest take-away was in creating her cookery book. “The best memory from creating this book was meeting my photographer Emma Matevsyan, my beautiful and equally talented magician in the kitchen. And I was very fortunate to meet Lali Papashvili and Levan Qoqiashvili, the couple behind an amazing company called Gastronaut, who made this book happen through their vision and advice. Emma and I will definitely continue to work together for many future projects. We also have some new ideas in the pipeline. I have learnt so much from this project!” Helena Bedwell’s book ‘Georgian Flavours from Helena’ can be purchased in the bookstores of Bakur Sulakauri Publishing House, Santa Esperanza and Prospero's Books, as well as bookstores countrywide.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

Mountains Go Up and Down: Etseri, Svaneti

BLOG BY TONY HANMER

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ear readers, who can help me escape the terrible paradox I’ve got myself into? You see, I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions this year… 2019 has had that kind of strange start. There was January 1, which had been preceded by Christmas, and then came Christmas again, followed by a second New Year on the 14th. My birthday (52) was the 13th, but my wife had been in Tbilisi, and when we received the news that school holidays would be extended for a week while the flu makes its rounds, I urged her to stay there in our flat to get some rest and have some needed work done on her teeth. Guests of mine, seven young self-catering friends here to serve in the village (on which more will be written in future): should I even tell them it was my birthday, or simply let Facebook do the telling? In the end, it did, but also some neighbor girls let the cat out of the bag. Coming to the shop, they congratulated me publicly on my birthday but also invited me to their little brother’s big day, my “twin minus 47 years”! So, we did have a small celebration here, as well as me going to the 5-year-old’s one and

being asked to play tamada (toastmaster) at the feast there. Fortunately, I’ve had some training in this important ritual role and was able to pull it off. Some fireworks were part of the fun, and I was able to get a few good tripod-mounted shots of these too, from the house. The next day, the 14th, was not only Old New Year’s day but also when a dear old neighbor lady died, of a lung thrombosis, suddenly, in her late 70s. So, sorrow mixed in with the festivities; a funeral to follow on the 19th. The good part of dying here in winter is that your open coffin need not be cooled during the days of the wake. This is offset by: having to dig a grave in the frozen ground; and having to make benches, tables, a tarpaulin marquee and vast amounts of cold and hot food for an outdoor funeral feast for several hundred guests, I’ll write it again, OUTDOORS. My meqvle (first visitor on New Year’s Day) came in the morning, with his little girl of nearly 1½ years, who is now walking and talking up quite a storm. We had a small feast together and renewed our deep friendship; he is the most devoted dad to his three children of any I’ve seen for miles around, but despairs for the world they seem to have to inherit. His life has straddled the relatively happy and prosperous years of Georgia’s communist period as well as the utter chaos and collapse of society which followed

the fall of that time. He also describes the local and regional government as the most corrupt, mafia-ridden one in the whole country. Not a lot of optimism there. But at least he thinks and talks honestly, which I really do appreciate. We are glad to see such a mild winter temperature-wise, but the snowfall is definitely working on being as full as last year’s record-breaker. At least the water pipes show no signs of freezing! I have a new way this year of keeping the water flowing, which is definitely helping. But I look forward to renovating the whole water system before next winter, with something considerably more foolproof, needing less fuss and bother to cope with the freeze. We’re trying to run a guest house here, potentially year-round, after all! Dear readers, I wish you more ups than downs as this year starts, and all the help you need in coping with whatever life’s caprices throw at you. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

Georgian Actor Merab Ninidze to Join a Cast of World Stars BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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forthcoming drama by Dominic Cooke called ‘Ironbark’ will feature Georgian actor Merab Ninidze along with other worldrenowned cinema stars, including Academy Award-nominated Benedict Cumberbatch, Golden Globe winner Rachel Brosnahan and BAFTA nominee Jessie Buckley. The plot of the film is based on the story of British spy Greville Wynne, played by Cumberbatch, and his work

during the Cold War, particularly during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The film is in post-production and the part of Merab Ninidze plays in it has yet to be revealed. Ninidze is a famous Georgian actor who has gone beyond the limits of his motherland and strongly established himself in the arena of world cinematography. His most memorable characters were seen in the following works: ‘Repentance’, ‘Roots’, ‘My Happy Family’, ‘Hostages’, ‘Nowhere in Africa’ and ‘Paper Soldier’. He is also known for his roles in the British-American TV series ‘McMafia’ and the drama ‘Jupiter’s Moon’ by Kornél Mundruczó.

Image source: IMDb

‘Nowhere in Africa’, where Ninidze played the role of Walter Redlich, won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002. Set for release this year, ‘Ironbark’ is Ninidze's latest work.

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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 January 18, 19, 20 TSUNA AND TSRUTSUNA Ballet in Two Acts Music by Meri Davitashvili Music version by Zurab Nadareishvili The Performance includes musical pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Giuseppe Verdi, Gioachino Rossini and Jacques Offenbach Idea belongs to Nina Ananiashvili Staging Choreographers: Nina Ananiashvili, Gia Marghania Start time: January 18, 19- 19:00, January 20- 14:00 Ticket: 10-50 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. January 18 REZO Animated documentary film Directed by Leo Gabriadze Script: Revaz Gabriadze Genre: Animation, Biography Language: Georgian English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL January 19, 20 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 January 19 INTRO Sandro Nikoladze's Musical Alegry Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL January 20 PARADISO Directed by Irakli Khoshtaria Choreographer: Lasha Robaqidze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL

January 24 THE STORY OF A MURDERER Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Music: Sandro Nikoladze, Davit Kakulia Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA 36 Kostava Str. TEL (+995 32) 299 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL January 18-24 GLASS Directed by M. Night Shyamalan Cast: Sarah Paulson, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 19:30 Language: Russian Start time: 11:50, 22:00 Ticket: 11-14 GEL BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Directed by Bryan Singer Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers Genre: Biography, Drama, Music Language: Russian Start time: 19:45 Ticket: 15 GEL MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS Directed by Josie Rourk Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden Genre: Biography, Drama, History Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 15 GEL CAVEA GALLERY 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 200 70 07 Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL January 18-24 GLASS (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 16:30, 22:30 Language: Russian Start time: 13:30, 19:30 Ticket: 11-19 GEL CREED II Directed by Steven Caple Jr

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson Genre: Drama, Sport Language: English Start time: 19:30 Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 16-19 GEL AQUAMAN Directed by James Wan Cast: Amber Heard, Jason Momoa, Nicole Kidman Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: English Start time: 19:15 Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 16-19 GEL BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 17:10 Ticket: 14:19 GEL MARY POPPINS RETURNS Directed by Rob Marshall Cast: Emily Blunt, Emily Mortimer, Meryl Streep Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family Language: English Start time: 16:15 Ticket: 13-16 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS December 6 – February 28 (2019) In the framework of the celebrations of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Georgia the Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD

IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 298 22 81 November 29 – January 20 Georgian National Museum in the framework of the Project “Contemporary Art Gallery” presents THE SOLO EXHIBITION OF LIA BAGRATIONI A MAD TEA-PARTY MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Until March 1 Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS The exhibition showcases artworks by Dimitri Shevardnadze, Petre Otskheli, Henryk Hryniewski, Richard Sommer, Kiril Zdanevich, Vasily Shukhaev, Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Ucha Japharidze, Aleksandre BajbeukMelikov, Korneli Sanadze and more. The exposition also showcases documentary footage depicting the repressions of the 1920-30s. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until January 20 Anniversary exhibition of Georgian artist USHANGI KHUMARASHVILI His artistic traditions are classic avant-garde. The severe Soviet legacy and socialism were embraced in his creativity in a space of nonconformism. The main and initial stage of his art begins from 197080, when he defined himself as an expressive abstractionist. January 23 – February 24 FELIX VARLAMISHVILI (VARLA) SOLO EXHIBITION On display for the first time, more than 60 artworks of the author kept in the Georgian National Museum and private collections. KHIDI V.Bagrationi Bridge, Right Embankment

Every Tuesday, from 15:00-20:00 Until February 20 Multidisciplinary exhibition project IN-BETWEEN CONDITIONS ‘In-between conditions’ displays 18 work contributions expressing cultural impulses affected by political or social forces. WINDOW PROJECT GALLERY 7 Tatishvili Str. TEL (+995) 577 55 35 53 VAKHTANG KOKIASHVILI’S SOLO EXHIBITION SECOND ORDER MUSIC

SOUNDS OF GEORGIA January 18, 23 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, which is a mix of traditional Georgian music, featuring different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, as well as new Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Tickets: 23 GEL Venue: January 18 New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’ Venue: January 23: 16 G. Kikodze Str., Café ‘Ezo’ DJ. KAKHIDZE CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 123a Agmashenebli Ave. January 20 CONCERT OF CHOIR MUSIC With participation of choruses of different generations: Georgian State Choir, State Choir of Aphkhazia, Chorus of Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi Women Choir, Girl’s Choir of Gori Musical College, The Youngster’s Choir ‘Tutarchela” and Pupil’s Choir of E. Mikeladze Tbilisi Music High School The program unites choir pieces of Georgian and foreign composers. Start time: 19:30 Tickets: 10-25 GEL CAFE MZIURI Mziuri Park January 20 SAKVIARO FOR CHILDREN Great fun with invited guests Start time: 12:00-14:00 TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. January 19 PIANO MUSIC PERFORMANCE International Charity Fund Iavnana New Generation Stars: Sandro Nebieridze, Sandro Gegechkori, George Gigashvili Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-25 GEL January 23 FOLK ENSEMBLE SAKHIOBA Georgian traditional and World Music, 12 Georgian traditional music and 10 compositions from different countries. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-20 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 January 22 JAM SESSION Every Tuesday Musical art director- Sandro Nikoladze Entry: Free


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 18 - 21, 2019

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Georgian Photographer David Tabagari’s Alternative Tbilisi EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

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ew talents are emerging in various fields of art in Georgia, and photography is no exception. Photography has always been popular in Georgia, since the very introduction of the field, and the latest technological advancements and diverse opportunities are now enabling these photographers to create amazing works that go viral on social media and tell stories about people, events, and more. In this regard, the most distinguished and aspiring self-made Georgian photographer is 22-year-old David Tabagari, who has already earned fame through his impressive works on social media. The young photographer is known for telling real stories through portraits of ordinary people of different professions, such as fireman, sailors, police, miners, etc. Yet, he has also become famous for his images of night-time Tbilisi. The photographer lately held a public meeting, where he gave insight into his work and shared his experience with the audience. GEORGIA TODAY has had the pleasure of watching his career develop over the last few years, and in this interview, we explore how David started on his journey as a photographer.

HOW DID YOU START YOUR CAREER IN PHOTOGRAPHY? When I was 5-6 years old and playing with other kids, I saw everything as a scene to be captured. At the age of 12, I started taking photos with my mobile, and gradually my interest towards photography evolved. Then I bought a small digital Sybershot camera and started out on my first steps into proper photography. This camera served me two years and in this period I took my first photos in my hometown Chiatura. This is wellknown town notable for its soviet architecture, cable cars and mines. Later, my parents gave me a camera with which I embarked on a photographic career more seriously and actively. Through practice and travelling a lot, I developed quick pace photography, walking the streets and capturing everything I met on my way. I can say with pride that I’m a selfmade photographer and I have not attended any training or classes in this direction. I think learning through one’s practice and mistakes is the best way to perfect your skills and shape yourself as a professional in a particular field.

people as a rule. During the daytime, the city is familiar, yet the night city is totally different with its illuminations and buildings. I try to work almost every night, heading out at around 11-12 o’clock and getting home at 5-6 in the morning. To be honest, it is really exhausting to work at night in such circumstances, especially in winter when its freezing. The conditions for taking photos are bad and there is a high chance camera’s objective to be spoiled due to the cold; yet the riskier the process is, the more

interesting and adventurous it is for me. I think the key to my success lies in thorough work and great commitment to my job.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW? Currently, I work for Tbilisi City Hall, which saw my photos on social media, liked them and made me an offer to work for them. I have been employed for two months now and I’m honored to work with the team.

NAME SOME KEY MOMENTS IN YOUR CAREER TO DATE. My portfolio includes several projects for National Geographic, namely a reportage about the Borjomi forest fire, how firemen worked to extinguish it, the results, its present state and what is planned for the future. Additionally, I won the National Geographic project named ‘Nature around us’ – my photo was published in the magazine. My image depicted an abandoned factory in the city of Kutaisi occupied by moss

YOU REGULARLY GO OUT INTO TBILISI AND CAPTURE ALTERNATIVE TBILISI AT NIGHT. YOU MANAGED TO DEPICT WINTER TBILISI FROM AN ABSOLUTELY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE AND ELEVATE THE NEW YEAR’S MOOD AMONG THE CITIZENS. TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR NIGHT JOURNEY. I started capturing night Tbilisi around a year ago. The work process at night is really interesting and unusual since I try to depict what is not visible to

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and plants, demonstrating that nothing can withstand the power of nature. Right now, I’m trying to focus on discovering and depicting alternative Tbilisi at night by photographing buildings and people.

WHAT INTERESTS YOU MOST ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY? Although I’m working towards a Bachelor’s in Law at the Technical University, photography will remain my primary occupation. I’m particularly interested in working in hot spots, and I like urban and street photography, since you can capture and transfer real emotions into an image. It is very emotional to work with ordinary people: I try to photograph real faces and retain the authenticity of their emotions. For me, photography is not solely a field of art, but part of my life and the best way to reflect reality and communicate with people. What I like most about photography is how my camera has allowed me access to places, people and situations I would never otherwise be around. I remember the photo I took on December 28, 2015, that received a massive outcry among the public. I captured an old lady freezing in the street and selling herbs, she was covered in snow and you could barely see her face. As I said, I always try to catch and picture real human emotions, and this poor saleswoman is a clear example of it. When I woke up in the morning, I had a feeling I’d take an important picture that day. The photo went viral on social media and was published by many media publications. The image received positive feedback among the public, and some people even started searching for that woman to help her.

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1117  

January 18 - 21, 2019

Issue #1117  

January 18 - 21, 2019

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