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Issue no: 827

• MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Bottoms Up, the Elections are Coming: Odgen on The Scandal

FOCUS

NEWS PAGE 2

ON TBILISI STATE UNIVERSITY

Saakashvili Eyes National Role as Ukraine’s Political Crisis Intensifies

As the fires of (r)evolution are quelled, we take a look at what it was all about

PAGE 3 Student addresses fellow protesters. Photo: Robert Cooper

POLITICS PAGE 4

Georgian President Appoints New Chief of National Bank BY TAMAR SVANIDZE

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ormer International Monetary Fund (IMF) economist Koba Gvenetadze, who joined the board of the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) earlier this month, has been appointed as the new President of NBG. The seven-member board of NBG chose Gvenetadze as the head of the top bank in Georgia and the President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili has since approved his candidacy. Gvenetadze replaces Giorgi Kadagidze, whose seven-year term expired late February. PM Margvelashvili emphasized that the new President of the NBG will preserve the position necessary for the country’s economic development.

Gvenetadze was approved as the new member of the NBG board by Parliament on March 2 after being nominated by President Margvelashvili. On Tuesday, Gvenetadze met with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili to present a four-point plan, which includes development of the capital market, pension reform and strategic partnership with international finance institutions. Gvenetadze says that the best way to keep inflation stable and low is communication between society and economic agents- something which he believes must be implemented. Before joining IMF, Gvenetadze served in various posts in the Georgian government and was Deputy Finance Minister. From early 2008 to late 2009 he served as IMF resident representative in Azerbaijan and was IMF resident

Interview: Sergi Kapanadze on the US Presidential Election POLITICS PAGE 6

Ex-First Lady of Georgia Awarded Polish Commander’s Cross SOCIETY PAGE 11

National Library Hosts Memorial Evening for Zichy representative in Kyrgyzstan in 2010-2014. During the parliamentary committee hearings, Gvenetadze indicated that he was more in favor of keeping the financial supervisory agency within the NBG rather than removing it, as in July 2015, the Georgian parliament passed a bill to remove the banking supervisory function from the country’s main Bank and transfer it to a separate agency.

CULTURE PAGE 13

Lelos Power their Way to 15th Straight Win over Russia SPORTS PAGE 15


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

Bottoms Up, the Elections are Coming: Odgen on The Scandal

Minister of Economy of Kyrgyzstan, Arzybek Kozhoshev and Dimitry Kumsishvili, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia

Georgia and Kyrgyzstan Refresh Economic Relations BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

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he Chambers of Commerce of Georgia and Kyrgyzstan will activate trade and economic relations between the two countries and intend to contribute to the establishment of business contacts between the private sectors. The ministers of economy of both countries held the first meeting in Tbilisi and signed an economic and trade agreement on March 15. During the meeting, the sides discussed the current situation and the prospects for future cooperation in trade, investment, energy, transport, tourism and agriculture fields. “In particular, we have agreed to increase the investment potential in both countries and arranged direct flights. Besides economic relations, we discussed student exchanges and the protection of intellectual property issues,” said Dimitry Kumsishvili, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia. “The first trade agreement between Georgia and Kyrgyzstan was sighed in 1997. Thus, it is natural that today it requires an update,” he added.

According to the agreement, the parties will develop cooperation between businesses to establish comprehensive economic relations, exchange information on current economic processes and organize events in different formats in order to present the export and investment potential of both countries. “We intend to focus particular attention on the energy sector, including investments in small hydropower plants. Since Georgia and Kyrgyzstan are both mountainous countries, it is one of our interests,” said Minister of Economy of Kyrgyzstan, Arzybek Kozhoshev. Moreover, the Minister noted the importance of establishing relations in the agricultural and tourism sector, as it is also a priority for Kyrgyzstan. “Georgia shows excellent performance in tourism, so we think its example and experience will be very useful for us,” said Kozhoshev. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat), foreign trade turnover between Georgia and Kyrgyzstan amounted to approximately USD 8.4 million in 2015. The exports amounted to USD 6.7 million and imports USD 1.72 million. The ministers announced that their next meeting will be held in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN

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shall not deceive my public and claim that I was surprised by this week’s release of sex tapes showing politicians going at it; far from it, I actually suspected something of the sort to emerge sooner or later. With elections coming up in October and with no party enjoying a clear lead in the polls, a scandal was bound to emerge, yet precious few people amongst the Georgian public seem to believe that the timing of such releases has twice been conveniently close to the day in which they are supposed to cast their vote. I refer, of course, to the release of footage in 2012 depicting the sexual abuse of imprisoned criminals, which is widely believed to have cost Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) party victory in the elections and allowed Georgian Dream (GD) to take the lead. As deplorable as it is that prisoners had brooms shoved up their backsides (unlike in Norwegian prisons where they would be given an Xbox, television and a pool table), the timely nature of the release of the footage is either forgotten or ignored. Some people believe that Saakashvili organised the mass abuse as he sat in his office in the Presidential Palace, summoning his aides and barking “Prisoners! Brooms! Where it hurts! Now!”, while others claim that while the President cannot be held completely responsible for the actions of prison guards, the widespread rumours of mistreatment should have prompted a government investigation. Neither viewpoint acknowledges the fact that the videos were filmed years before they were released. Of course, even those who admitted this did not see how it changed anything; the UNM had orchestrated (or at least allowed) abuse in prisons, so why did it matter when the footage was shown to the public? The fact that it was a cheap political trick by GD (who, if they really cared about the Georgian people as they claimed, might have released it as soon as they had it rather than just before the elections) and earned them votes but gave no idea as to what kind of government they might be were, apparently, moot points. This latest scandal is - like everything else in Georgian politics - dirty, dishonest and nothing at all to do with politics. Despite the mass outrage,

If it was a male Georgian politician filmed with a young woman, I can’t help but think that nobody would be surprised

nobody is entirely sure what they’re angry about: everyone agrees that private surveillance is terrifying and inexcusable, but others have expressed horror that Maia Panjikidze is alleged to have been filmed going at it with a young man clearly not her husband (I don’t know about you, but I had to think about who the victim really was there). Besides which, if it had been a male Georgian politician filmed with a young woman, I can’t help but think that nobody would be surprised. Likewise, nobody is sure who to blame: the ruling GD coalition claims the recordings were made by former UNM officials (and have arrested a number of UNM-affiliated people in connection with the release of the footage), while the Opposition accuse the government. Georgians have many qualities, but subtlety is not one of them; one only has to think of Saakashvili’s clumsy attempt to remove Bidzina Ivanishvili as a political opponent by stripping him of his Georgian citizenship in 2012. Nobody has yet to claim responsibility for leaking the footage, and accusations from all sides only serve to cause more confusion. Yet it is hard to see how the UNM would benefit from showcasing videos which seem to almost exclusively threaten politicians and figures associated with the Free Democrats (Maia Panjikidze is Irakli Alasania’s sister-in-law, and Alasania himself was threatened during the course of the second release). The UNM would hardly invite comparisons with the 2012 political scandal; likewise, their political positions are not at odds with those of the Free Democrats, with UNM rhetoric generally targeting Georgian Dream. It is my own belief that the video releases are an awkward Georgian Dream attempt at discrediting political opponents in order to gain a lead in the opinion polls. The government openly admits that despite destroying much of the secret surveillance footage recorded under the UNM, several videos have been retained for the purpose of ‘ongoing investigations’: it is not hard to imagine these recordings being used in a desperate attack on political opponents; after all, Georgian Dream have done it before. For their part, the UNM are unlikely to regain mass popularity with their reputation being so badly damaged by their last years in office. This, then, leaves the Free Democrats as Georgian Dream’s chief rivals. Though never as widely popular as GD or the UNM, their support has been consistent, and Irakli Alasania was seen to have retained his dignity after leaving the GD coalition in 2014. However, do not suppose that I blame the entirety of the government; Georgian Dream is riddled with rivalries, such as the rift between the President and former Prime Minister Garibashvili, or the on-going dispute between the Republican and the Industrialist parties (which has been forgotten in the wake of this latest scandal). The sudden dismissal of Garibashvili gave credence to the claim that Bidzina Ivanishvili still pulls the strings of GD; with this in mind, it is not hard to believe that even if GD was responsible for the release of the videos, it is possible that neither the Prime Minister nor the President even knew about it. Expect further accusations to fly back and forth until the concrete blaming of an unlucky scapegoat.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

TSU Student Protest Leads to Broader Movement BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA

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entral government involvement, lack of financial transparency and democratic governance at Tbilisi State University (TSU) caused thousands of students to rail against the Rector and the main government body of the institution. Students split into two; the student self-government and the independent union of students entitled Auditorium 115 (according to the number of the room they are based in). Each occupied TSU’s major campus on Chavchavadze Ave., leading to a cessation of all studying processes from the beginning of March. The self-government students demanded the resignation of TSU Rector, Vladimer Papava, while Auditorium 115 requested reforms inside the selfgovernment system as well as an investigation into the presence of intelligence officers within the university. The protestors also demanded that TSU’s authorities be held accountable for the student government’s actions and a cap be put in place on all future expenditures made by the university’s elected bodies.

Self-government members Tuesday rushed into the Rector’s office and occuped it for a time. President of the self-government, Shalva Sabauri, announced that if the Rector did not take control of the situation, they would not allow him to enter his office. Sabauri also warned of a possible hunger strike if their demands were not be honored. “This is not a revolution - this is evolution,” said one of the students. Wednesday night, both parties, professors and representatives of the University, and the public assembled on TV company Rustavi 2’s Talk-Show Archevani (The Choice), to hold a public debate on the matter. Both student bodies affirmed that even though they are demonized and labeled as staunchly opposed to each other, they actually aspire toward a shared goal: reforming the mother university of Georgia and enabling students to receive a quality education. “Speculations are in place that some personalities are attempting to play mediator between us, though we are not divergent parties,” Shalva Sabauri said. Meanwhile, another part of Auditorium 115, led by TSU graduate student Levan Lortkipanidze, was announcing plans to establish a Movement which will not only focus on their own institution, but

will also be part of broader educational reforms throughout Georgia. “Our Movement will become part of major changes in the Georgian education system,” Lortkipanidze declared. He added that those changes will be made possible through a Reforms Council, which they also will set up. Following Lortkipanidze’s statement, a member of the Academic Council left her position. Tamar Gersamia stated that after stepping back from her official responsibilities, she is planning to join the students and help the education process as an ordinary professor. Sergi Kapanadze, ex-Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, who served as a Dean of TSU’s School of Social and Political Sciences (2012) also attended the Wednesday night discussion. Kapanadze spoke of an urgent need for major reforms at the university, as the existing bureaucracy and lack of transparency seriously hinders the normal functioning of TSU. Following the tensions at the University, Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced that he is closely following the developments. He said both the university and the education system in Georgia are in need of fundamental reforms. Education Minister Tamar Sanikidze

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Student addresses fellow protesters. Photo: Robert Cooper

said she is not going to get involved in solving internal problems at the university, as it is the responsibility of University’s Academician Council and it is necessary to create a working atmosphere in order to solve the dispute. The university’s Academic Council has requested a reasonable time to discuss the matter of the rector’s resignation or a solution to the problem. Protests originally broke out on March 7th, when several hundred attendees at Georgia’s top university launched a rally against the institute’s alleged corrupt spending policies, including the provision of funds to privileged student government members. According to Kakha Khitarishvili, a TSU student, the student government

took a ski trip to Bakuriani this winter on the university’s tab, at a cost of 24,500 GEL. Kakha said, “I pay 2000 GEL per year to study here, I don’t want this money going toward people taking ski trips.” Nepotism within faculty hiring has also been highlighted. Auditorium 115 claimed that, because of the central government’s influence on the university, they are able to set former colleagues and friends up with teaching and administration jobs. The self-government and Auditorium 115 have already agreed on their willingness to work in a coordinated manner and launch a fresh process of activities. The study process at TSU resumed from Thursday.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

Saakashvili Eyes National Role as Ukraine’s Political Crisis Intensifies BY NICHOLAS WALLER

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mid a deepening political crisis in Ukraine, Georgia’s former president and current governor of his adopted homeland’s Odessa Region, Mikheil Saakashvili could officially wade into Ukraine’s famously combative national political arena by creating a new anti-corruption party with several of his ideological allies. Saakashvili – who served as Georgia’s president from 2004-2013 – has sat in Odessa’s gubernatorial chair since May 2015 after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appointed him in the hope that Saakashvili would replicate many of the anti-corruption and pro-business policies that marked the early period of his presidency. Odessa’s shipping and stevedoring industries are considered major cash cows for the Ukrainian government, which is beset by crippling debt and high inflation two years after the Maidan Revolution ousted pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovich. Russia’s subsequent invasion and annexation of Crimea and the ensuing war in the country’s eastern Donbass region has left 10,000 dead and half a million as refugees. Poroshenko has made limited attempts to stem the time of economic blowback caused by the on going conflict. By granting Ukrainian citizenship to his old friend and former university classmate, he

guaranteed Saakashvili’s appointment to the country’s most important economic zone. The conventional wisdom at the time of his appointment was that Saakashvili’s brand of heavy-handed, anti-corruption policies and tactics would lead to a cleansing of the notoriously crimeridden business landscape in Odessa, a city that has long been home to some of the Russian-speaking world’s most dangerous and powerful organized crime syndicates. Furthermore, Poroshenko and his allies hoped Saakashvili’s reformist bona fides – forged from his time as Georgia’s staunchly pro-Western, pro-NATO president – would lead to a major transformation of the crippling Soviet-era bureaucracy in the Odessa region. Saakashvili has succeeded in overhauling the Port of Odessa – the region’s main source of revenue – by reforming the once corrupt customs offices. He’s paid close attention to changing the face of port’s administration by bringing in a staff of mostly young, attractive, Englishspeaking Ukrainian women to handle the day-to-day operations of the port. Yulia Marushevskaya, the 26 year-old poster girl of the Maidan Revolution who gained Internet fame with her impassioned “I am Ukrainian” YouTube video at the height of the protests, was been personally tasked by Saakashvili to oversee his reforms at Odessa’s port as its Chief Customs Officer. While the overall investment mood in Odessa has slowly improved, largely due to Saakashvili’s exhaustive media cam-

paigns where he touts various accomplishments, his drive toward turning the region into a model of clean government and good business has been mixed. In October 2015, his handpicked choice to be Odessa’s mayor, Alexander Borovik, was resoundingly rejected by Odessa’s voters in favour of a candidate closely linked to Saakashvili’s two main rivals, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Ukraine’s richest and most powerful oligarch, Igor Kolomoysky. Borovik, a Harvard-educated lawyer and former Microsoft executive, perfectly fit the profile of the type of young Western-oriented reformer the Maidan movement had hoped to sweep into power after overthrowing the oppressive and corrupt Yanukovich regime. He and other like-minded free market, rule-of-law politicians wanted the country to embark on a widespread purge of Ukraine’s graft-plagued political and judicial institutions. His close association with Saakashvili, however, cost Borovik significant political capital in Odessa, as voters and entrenched business interests feared an increasingly empowered Saakashvili’s control over both the gubernatorial and mayoral offices.

GEORGIA’S FOOTPRINT ON UKRAINIAN POLITICS Saakashvili and his close allies from his presidential term are a major component of the current Ukrainian government. They have, however, been largely stymied by the deeply entrenched body politic that has hindered Ukraine’s devel-

Mikheil Saakashvili who served as Georgia’s president from 2004-2013

opment since the collapse of the Soviet Union. While Saakashvili, himself, has seen mixed returns during his short tenure as Odessa governor, his Georgian lieutenants within the national government have had a measure of success. Eka Zguladze, Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, has been lauded for her highly effective role in the retraining and rebranding of the once-criminally corrupt municipal police. Law enforcement bodies in the years leading up to the Maidan Revolution were seen as little more than criminal organizations with ties to petty local mafia and Russia’s FSB security services. Under the guidance of Zguladze’s – who served in the same role in Georgia as part of Saakashvili’s government – the police force has undergone a major transformation through Western training and mass influx of new recruits, one third of who are women. Deputy Prosecutor General David Sakvarelidze, one of the Ukrainian government’s most vocal reformers, has seen his efforts to prosecute or investigate corrupt officials thwarted by his controversial boss, Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Shokin is widely seen as a staunch ally of Ukraine’s power hungry oligarch class, who has deep business and political connections to strategic state organs, including the justice and interior ministries. Pro-Russian oligarchs Rinat Akhmetov and Sergey Taruta – two of the country’s richest and most powerful men who financially supported Moscow-backed

separatists in their home Donbass region – have been accused by local media, Sakvarelidze and Saakashvili, himself, of having ties to Shokin. Sakvarelidze – President Saakashvili’s prosecutor general in Georgia – has seen his attempts to curtail the influence of Viktor Medvedchuk – another in Ukraine’s long list of powerful oligarchs and leader of the pro-Russian Ukraine’s Choice party, whose daughter Darina is the goddaughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin – have been derailed by the prosecutor general’s office. Medvedchuk, a former KGB informant and lawyer charged with prosecuting Soviet dissidents, is deeply distrusted as a traitor by the Ukrainian public due to his ties to Putin and Russia’s business class. Fearing a political backlash from the oligarchs, Poroshenko has done little towards pursuing Saakashvili’s push for transparent government. Out of respect for their two decade-old friendship, and his intense loyalty to Poroshenko, Saakashvili has refrained from criticizing Poroshenko directly, instead turning his wrath on Shokin, Avakov and Kolomoysky. In a series of ill-tempered public outbursts, Saakashvili has consistently castigated the trio, including an exchange on live TV where he and Avakov accused each other of corruption and threatened one another with physical violence before Avakov unceremoniously threw a full glass of cold water at Saakashvili. Continued on page 5


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

Borjomi and Barbed Wire: Nothing Changes at the Latest Karasin-Abashidze Talks OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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he Karasin-Abashidze meeting has finally taken place in Prague. The meeting between Zurab Abashidze, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Russian Issues, and Grigory Karasin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, was to be held in February. However, the Russian side asked to postpone it to early March. The meeting scheduled on March 4 and 5 was also put off as it turned out that Karasin was too busy at the time. Eventually, the meeting was planned for mid-March and the third try proved successful as the Russian diplomat managed to find some free time for Georgia. It should be mentioned that together with the date changes of Karasin-Abashidze’s meeting, the themes to be discussed were also changed. For example, where in February the parties planned to discuss the issues of de-occupation and return of IDPs, by March the IDPs were substituted with Georgian “spies”, and this issue was later changed again to that of the renewed railway connection between Abkhazia. Finally, the main theme for negotiations at the meeting in Hotel Diplomat was decided as the so-called non-diplomatic remarks made by the Minister of Defense of Georgia, Tina Khidasheli. “Every politician wants to highlight the fact that they are the toughest and most patriotic fighters against the Russian expansion. Your Minister of Defense called on the civilized world to unite against the Russian threat. We restrain ourselves now, but even our patience has limits,” Karasin told the journalists of TV Broadcaster Rustavi 2 before the meeting. Later, Zurab Abashidze confirmed that he had to listen to criticism from Karasin because of the comments made by the Defense Minister. However, he also noted that his arrival to Prague served the purpose of settling relations

between the two countries and not for maintaining a confrontational regime. Tbilisi tried to defend Georgia and Tina Khidasheli from Karasin’s warnings, “His statement was not made in a diplomatic language,” said Chair of the EU Integration Committee, Levan Berdzenishvili on Karasin’s comment, adding that, “They do not talk like this with other countries, it seems they think of Georgia as a country that can be bullied easily.” Karasin also gave other warnings. He believes that in order to maintain future relations between Russia and Georgia, the law on occupation should be abolished. Although the Russian diplomat hasn’t yet specified what they plan to do if this demand is not fulfilled, it is clear why he mentioned the upcoming elections and the planned change of government. Karasin’s “warning” and his demand for the abolition of the law on occupation once again convince us that Russia’s plans are unchanged. It does not matter who is the head of the government, be it Shevardnadze, Saakashvili or Kvirikashvili. At every meeting held in Prague, whether diplomatically or not, Karasin suggests the same scenario: Let’s talk about everything –economics, sports, culture- but not Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Do not try to link this issue with the issue of mutual relations between Georgia and Russia- let’s be friends, have trade relations and cooperate as if Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not exist. Meanwhile, I will be friends with them as well, we will have trade and cooperation – as if Georgia does not exist either. The meeting in Prague finally confirmed that Russia has achieved its goal – Tbilisi has begun to accept this formula. For Russia, it is of the chief importance that Georgia forgets its occupied territorie, that, as Karasin’s ‘chief’ Sergey Lavrov said: “Georgia should accept the new reality,” meaning that Russia will talk about Borjomi, wines and visas, but parallel to this will continue installing barbed wire fences and building roads, because this issue is of no concern to Georgia. This is what Russia said in 1994 and this is what it is saying today.

MOST WORLD FAMOUS JEWELLERY BRANDS IN ONE SPACE

Saakashvili Eyes National Role as Ukraine’s Political Crisis Intensifies Continued from page 4

GAMBLING ON HIS POLITICAL FUTURE With both Poroshenko and embattled Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk fighting for their political lives as public support vanishes amid stalled reforms and the continued presence of thousands of Russian combat troops in the country’s east, Saakashvili hopes to fill the political void through a major realignment of the current party structure. Since late 2015, Saakashvili, Borovik and other associates have been on extensive outreach campaign across the country, holding anti-corruption forums and touting their self-styled Movement for Cleansing. Borovik, who now serves as Saakashvili’s deputy governor in Odessa, announced on 14 March that the movement plans to take part in the next parliament election as an official political party. While Saakashvili was quick to deny Borovik’s claim, several members of Poroshenko’s political

bloc confirmed to local media that the Movement for Cleansing will eventually consolidate into a national political party. With early parliamentary elections likely, Saakashvili is staking his political career in Ukraine on developments over the next several months. He is barred from being an elected official, as he only received his Ukrainian citizenship in 2015. Legislation requires a presidential or parliamentary candidate to have held Ukrainian residency for five years before being elected. Poroshenko is unlikely to appoint Saakashvili as prime minister due to a lack of support in the parliament, and will most likely turn to his popular US-born Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko to head a pro-Western, reform-minded technocratic government. Saakashvili, however, could wield significant power as the leader of a new political party whose popularity is steadily on the rise and whose platform appeals to many Ukrainians tired of 20 years of broken promises and Soviet-style government.

46 I. Abashidze str., Tbilisi, Georgia

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

Interview: Sergi Kapanadze on the US Presidential Election BY JOSEPH LARSEN

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he next President of the United States will be announced on the morning of November 10, 2016. With that date looming, the dial on campaign season has been turned up to 11. Bellicose billionaire Donald Trump looks likely to capture the Republican nomination and Democratic Party lifer Hillary Clinton appears primed to overcome a strong challenge from self-professed “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders. Domestic policy concerns dominate the agenda—and the US has plenty of them at a time of unprecedented dissatisfaction with government. However, foreign affairs issues are never far from the conversation, especially considering Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, the Syrian civil war about to enter its fifth year, and heightened tensions in the South China Sea. Sergi Kapanadze, a former deputy foreign minister and current dean of Caucasus University, sat down with GEORGIA TODAY to offer his perspective on the upcoming presidential tilt.

WHICH CANDIDATE APPEARS TO BE THE BEST FOR GEORGIA AND FOR THE REGION? That depends on a few factors, from the

Georgian perspective: knowledge of Georgian issues; the second is their rhetoric on how America would act with regards to foreign policy and European affairs. Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton seem to be the most eloquent on those issues and seem to have the most knowledge and ability to implement something positive. This might change, obviously. We might have a Secretary of State who is completely out of touch. We have never before had a President who has known Georgia in a previous capacity or has ever met with a Georgian delegation in a previous capacity. Neither [George W.] Bush, [Bill] Clinton, nor Obama had anything to do with Georgia before being elected President. Of the remaining candidates, we have two [Rubio and Clinton] who have that.

HILLARY CLINTON WAS CHARGED WITH IMPLEMENTING THE “RESET” TO A LARGE DEGREE. HOW HAS THAT AFFECTED HER IMAGE IN GEORGIA, KNOWING THAT THE RESET IS NOT PARTICULARLY POPULAR HERE? Well, she was tasked with implementing the reset. We all know that the reset was a White House idea, not so much of the Secretary of State or the State Department. She was doing it, but at the same time was the first to be concerned with

Russia’s actions. So, I think Hillary is not so much associated with the reset as much as Obama and the White House, even though everybody’s fixed image is [Russian foreign minister Sergei] Lavrov and Hillary [Clinton] negotiating.

TWO OUTSIDER CANDIDATES, TRUMP AND BERNIE SANDERS, HAVE POLLED REALLY WELL, AND NOW IT LOOKS LIKE TRUMP WILL GET THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION. WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE DOES THIS SEND TO THE WORLD AND TO GEORGIA? THE TWOPARTY SYSTEM IN AMERICA THAT SEEMED SO STRONG IS NOT REALLY FUNCTIONING LIKE IT NORMALLY DOES. It’s not really about protest candidates or anti-establishment candidates in both parties gaining support. What worries us is that we see a number of candidates whose proficiency in foreign policy is either nonexistent or very low, and whose judgement when it comes to assessing the issues of, let’s say Putin in Syria or in this part of the world, we wish were better. We’ve heard a number of statements by Trump about Putin, not something that Georgians would like to hear, about how nice a guy he is, that kind of thing. I think it’s more a lack of foreign policy vision. By the way, it’s not just Trump and Sand-

Sergi Kapanadze, a former deputy foreign minister and current dean of Caucasus University

ers, it’s also [Republican senator Ted] Cruz. Cruz is more of an isolationist than the others are. He is arguing ‘let’s go in, bomb, and get out.’ That’s not really a good thing. Rubio and Clinton are the only two who, at least at the rhetorical level, have spoken about the necessity to step up American leadership in foreign policy. And that’s what is important for us.

AS IT’S CLEAR TO EVERYONE THAT THERE IS NOT MUCH APPETITE IN WASHINGTON OR IN EUROPE FOR NATO EXPANSION, DO YOU THINK THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTION WILL CHANGE THE CALCULUS IN ANY WAY? What’s important for us is to have American leadership on NATO enlargement. If you have American leaders who are not paying attention to this problem, who do not care about European security and just react to what happens in Europe, then obviously the enlargement is one of those issues that is always on the agenda but never materializes. When you have a president and a foreign policy strategy that is about making Europe more secure, and an American president who is ready to push this issue through, what it does is, when the situation is ripe there will be a window of opportunity when Russia is weaker, or they have their hands tied somewhere else. There will be

a window of opportunity for enlargement to take place. Without US leadership, we will miss that window of opportunity. This window of opportunity might come in the next eight years. We don’t want to see a weak President there, or a weak foreign policy. It’s all about increasing the chances.

DO YOU EXPECT IN THE NEXT EIGHT YEARS THAT THIS WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY MIGHT OPEN UP? Yes. The window of opportunity for me is Russia either being too weak or too democratic. Probably not too democratic in the next eight years, although you can have an overnight change situation. The Soviet Union collapsed from 1989-1991, and in 1988 no one predicted that this would happen. So eight years is a very long span of time. You never know what’s going to happen. For me, the more likely scenario is a weak Russia, a Russia which is losing the war in Ukraine, which is losing the war in the Middle East, which is unable to control the internal situation and economic decline. A Russia which simply does not care that much about foreign policy issues or which cares about foreign policy issues but doesn’t have much capacity to deal with them. That’s the window of opportunity. Can that emerge in eight years? Sure.


GEORGIA TODAY

POLITICS

MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

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Trump and the Batshit Lynch Mob OP-ED BY WILL CATHCART

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he bigoted bullies of American politics are gathering once again around a demagogue of bitter hatred. They are names I’d prefer never to type: David Duke, Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Phyllis Schlafly, Duncan Hunter, Paul LePage, Jan Brewer, Mike Tyson, the Kremlin’s Aleksandr Dugin and even Vojislav Šešelj. The list grows longer each day, the choices - the possibilities - fewer. Super Tuesday and the primaries that followed have turned out to be not so very super at all. The phrase “reverse raccoon eyes” officially entered into the political lexicon of America’s highest office. Every statement, every sentence typed feels as though it should be followed by the word, “seriously.” After winning the Florida primary (causing Marco Rubio to drop out, the “math” (securing enough delegates for the GOP nomination) may be in Donald Trump’s favor. Yet if Trump does not win enough delegates to be the Republican nominee, then a rare event in American politics called a brokered convention will occur. This will mean

that the delegates sent to the Republican convention will vote as they choose. This may be the only way to stop Trump from becoming the GOP nominee for president. Meanwhile Trumps rallies become more and more violent. An alarming number of white supremacists, shady characters and your standard naïve but frustrated good-hearted American folk are flocking to Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-journalist, just plain anti- message. The lynch mob is conglomerating, branding. But there is another subtle unspoken endorsement more terrifying than any of the above. The Democratic establishment also endorsed Donald J. Trump. They endorsed him as their wanted opponent. They basically handed him the 2nd player Nintendo controller before anybody else had a chance to call it. Jeb! Tried to tell you guys! - but he had these completely unforeseen credibility issues. Turns out the smug, fat little Trump kid is a lot better at Mario Kart than anybody expected (because he has like FIVE far better Nintendos at home) and now he’s not letting go of the controller. The democrats, supposedly the adults in the room, sit idly by - even stoking the fire - because they think that Donald Trump is the easy candidate to beat.

They are complicit in what has been dug up from the graveyard of American history and unleashed. Ironically, a very Trump-like hubris has put us in a position where the only person realistically standing between Donald J. Trump and the White House is both a Clinton and the subject of an FBI investigation. What could possibly go wrong? Duncan Hunter might as well get started on that Great Wall of Mexico. Meanwhile Sarah Palin can put the gulags in Alaska because the other list is also getting longer by the day. Populist hatred has a voracious appetite: Muslims, Mexicans, Asians, refugees, reporters, protestors, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (bless her heart), the Pope (literally pissed off), and pretty much all former American POWs, because Trump likes “people that weren’t captured, OK? [He] hate[s] to tell you.” The exception is of course Megyn Kelly who is “essentially” headed to Guantanamo - that special ring of American punitive hell. Fear and loathing in American culture should never be underestimated much less tolerated for political expediency. But that is exactly what happened. We are in a whole heap of trouble when South Carolina’s socially conservative Lindsey Graham says, “My party has gone batshit crazy.” That’s coming from

Strom Thurmond’s successor in the Senate, mind you, and Lindsey wasn’t kiddin’. What the South needs now more than ever is an Atticus Finch - a symbol of courage, integrity and a beacon of hope in a country full of proliferating hatred. We need Atticus Finch because a bully who even Ole Strom might say ‘could start an argument in an empty house’ is trying to take the white one on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the nuclear launch codes that come along with it. That’s the big difference between Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump for all the pundits who are suddenly wondering: nuclear warheads. Furthermore, comparing the seventh U.S. president, who oversaw the genocidal ethnic cleansing of Native Americans in the Trail of Tears, to Trump just somehow still isn’t fair… to Andrew Jackson. Jackson grew up dirt poor and became a war hero. He was most probably a sociopath. He wasn’t a coward. The likely Republican nominee is very much both. Perhaps it is only fitting that the very day after Atticus Finch’s literary creator, the great Harper Lee, passed away, Donald Trump won the South Carolina Republican Primary, almost historically guaranteeing (with a few past exceptions) that he will become the Repub-

lican nominee. We didn’t need an unSuper Tuesday and the primaries that have followed to tell us that. Trump founded his entire presidential campaign on that all too familiar brand of bitter hatred and xenophobic rage that once defined the very worst of the South. Atticus Finch once defined the antithesis of that enmity. His gentle voice of reason, civility and courage, has never been more in need. It is easy to get lost growing up in a world where subtle coded prejudice is the norm. Atticus Finch helped many find their way; this correspondent is no exception. In life just as in literature, those courageous individuals are all too often alone standing between the innocent and a congregation - a confederacy of violence and fury. As another political lynch mob lurches off from Super Tuesday, it is time for the Atticus Finches of America to step forward. Two days before Super Tuesday, John Oliver, the comedian, did just that. Oliver’s bit was as courageous as it is hilarious. There are a precious few Atticus Finches left standing between an idea of the very best of America and the ever-growing unhinged cultural lynch mob determined to tear it apart. But if John Oliver proved anything, he proved that it is not too late.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

East Stratcom, Or How The EU Failed To “Get Local” in Ukraine OP-ED BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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his article is an excerpt from the policy paper prepared by the author for the PADEMIA Conference. In the ‘Action Plan to Improve Communicating Europe by the Commission,’ adopted by the Commission of the European Communities on 20.7.2005, the so-called New Approach of the EU communication Policy is formulated as a combination of three key strategic principles: – Listening: communication is a dialogue, not a one-way street. It is not just about EU institutions

informing EU citizens but also about citizens expressing their opinions so that the Commission can understand their perceptions and concerns. Europe’s citizens want to make their voices in Europe heard and their democratic participation should have a direct bearing on EU policy formulation and output. – Communicating: EU policies and activities, as well as their impact on everyday lives, have to be communicated and advocated in a manner that people can understand and relate to if citizens are to follow political developments at European level. – Connecting with citizens by “going local”: Good communication requires excellent understanding of local audiences. The Commission’s communication activities must be resourced and organized in

such a way as to address matching demographic and national and local concerns, and to convey information through the channels citizens prefer in the language they can understand.” While the primary target audiences of the abovementioned document are thought to be EU citizens, one cannot help but wonder whether it is also an ideal set of tools to engage into a dialogue with societies that are, arguably, bound to be citizens of Europe sooner or later in the foreseeable future. Thus, it makes for a quite fascinating if lamentable discovery that the European Union has largely failed to build a successful communication policy towards Ukraine based on aforementioned principles. And while the government of Ukraine is also to blame to some extent, there are glaring issues that the European Union, at least in the post-Maidan era, could have addressed with more finesse. Issues such as these are having a lasting impact on all Eastern Partnership countries, as Ukraine is serving as a kind of Litmus test of EU resilience and reputation as a dependable partner as opposed to Russia. The AA/DCTA between Ukraine and the European Union is ratified. It cannot be reversed. Equally irreversible is the fact that Russia perceives it as a threat to its interests. And the hybrid warfare that the Kremlin launched to assert its geopolitical interests has swept away anything Ukraine and the EU could muster together. The recent visa liberalization approval received by Ukraine and Georgia, (and by Moldova earlier), as well as both countries’ reluctance to play a part in Russia’s ambitious Eurasian Union project is only going to increase the pressure put on these countries by the Kremlin. One larger-than-life aspect of that undeclared hybrid war has been multidimensional media propaganda so steadily produced by the Kremlin-controlled Russian media outlets. Alongside Russianlanguage TV channels that serve as main sources of information to the majority of the Russian-speaking population in post-Soviet space, the arsenal of Kremlin propaganda is bolstered by outlets such as RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik, both of which enjoy a luxurious opportunity to also impose their views on the English-speaking audience. In perfect English, they portray the developments in Ukraine as though the West has sabotaged the country’s peaceful development and as if the pro-Russian insurrection movements in the Eastern part of the country are nothing but a spontaneous reaction to the nationalistic stance of Kiev. While the Ukrainian response to this threat has been a mixed blessing – along with projects such as Stopfake.org, which acts as a media watchdog dedicated to exposing lies spoon-fed to the viewer’s/ readers by Russian media, there have been incidents of Ukrainian media themselves engaging in information warfare, using methods not quite different from those used by their Russian opponents. Recently, the government has also tried to address the issue through institutionalization, introducing a brand new government body – Ministry of Information Policy. It remains to be seen whether this new agency is going to play a significant and constructive role in confronting Russian propaganda, but so far it is looking like anything but a game-changer. Unlike Ukraine, the EU has offered what can only be termed as barely a modicum of service in this regard: reluctant to engage in counter-propaganda measures, Brussels aims to tackle the issue by creating “a tiny task force”, in no way feasible or suf-

ficient to right the ship even in the wildest of political scenarios. With an extremely narrow mandate and insufficient funds to mount any substantial challenge, the rapid-response team, dubbed ‘East Stratcom,’ has largely flown under the radar. Despite adopting an ambitious action plan focused on building a network of like-minded groups and institutions, the negligible effect East Stratcom is having is best measured by looking at its twitter account, which appears to be the group’s favored platform for mass communication – 5872 followers is far from even a semblance of the impact required to counter the Russian propaganda machine, especially considering Twitter’s relatively low popularity among the Russian-language speaking population. Finally, it needs to be said that the EU has “got wrong” even the very basic concept of effective mass communication- strewn among the ambitious buzzwords is the hard truth revealing that this makeshift EU task force appears to be dedicated to providing information to the groups of people who are already aware there is a hybrid warfare going on. The rest of the Russian speaking audience, i.e. an absolute majority, that constitutes public opinion about Brussels in Ukraine’s Eastern regions and in Russia itself, is oblivious to the issue itself and views Russian Outlets not as a state-directed propaganda machine disseminating lies and biased information, but rather as legitimate source of newsmanship. These are the very people that should constitute the EU’s primary target audience if the issue is ever seriously addressed. But underlining this hardly emphasizes how fatally unproductive the EU initiative has been in this regard. In all fairness, overtures in this regard have already been made, albeit without much success. Earlier initiatives on creating a more robust EU response in the form of Russian-language TV station, coming from Latvia, and later Poland and the Netherlands, have so far been rejected as “too risky” and potentially culpable in further antagonizing the Russian government. While further antagonizing Russia might not be on the agenda of some of the EU’s biggest players, it remains painfully clear that unless all this aptly named disinformation campaign is properly exposed, the bulk of the Western audience will still have a hard time comprehending what exactly is going in Ukraine and who is to blame for it. There is no point denying that a large part of EU citizenship is blissfully unaware of the complex nature of this RussoUkrainian conflict and often views it as a black and white picture, with President Putin often perceived as more of an anti-hero than a villain. The average Western citizen is either unfamiliar with Ukraine’s profile as an independent country or is being spoonfed by English-language Russian propaganda channels. Unsurprisingly, in 2015, when Pew Research Center conducted a NATO-wide survey, there was a diminishing percentage of public who were in favor of NATO sending arms to the beleaguered nation, and only about half of them considered Ukraine becoming an EU/NATO member a positive development (see graph below). Raising awareness of the Ukraine issue among the EU citizenship not as a backwater struggle between a wannabe European periphery vs. Russia, but as a conflict that poses an existential threat to European security should be on the EU’s agenda, but it is apparently a part of EU communication policy that the “going local” doctrine doesn’t entail.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

Council of Europe Survey Shows Mixed Feelings about Georgia’s Prison Situation

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eorgian prisons in 2014: “a high share of inmates per capita, density in prisons among lowest in Europe, 2nd highest share of prisoners serving sentences for drug offences.” According to the 2014 Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE), published on 15 March 2016, the following can now be said about Georgia’s improved, albeit still somewhat alarming, state in prison administration and population:

INMATES There is a total of 10,233 inmates in Georgia, which amounts to 228 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants. This is significantly higher than the Council of Europe (CoE) average of 124. Georgia is among those countries with the highest prison population rates, along with the Russian Federation (467.1), Lithuania (305), Latvia (240.3), Azerbaijan (238.2), Estonia (225.1), Ukraine (204), Poland (203.5), the Republic of Moldova (201.3), Turkey (197.5), etc. Since 2005, this ratio (number of inmates per 100,000 inhabitants) has remained largely unchanged (from 200.6 in 2005 to 228 inmates in 2014). The peak (516) was in 2012, before the large-scale amnesty took place.

AGE & GENDER The median age of inmates in Georgia is 35, while percentage of females (2.5%) is twice lower than the CoE average (5%).

SPACE There is no overcrowding in Georgian prisons: currently, there are 47.2 inmates per 100 available places in custody, which the lowest after Andorra, Monaco and Liechtenstein (Europe’s average is 94 inmates).

OFFENCES In 2014, Georgia was the country with the 2nd highest in Europe percentage of prisoners serving sentences for drug offences (37.5%, or more than every 3rd prisoner). This is the most common offence. Georgia is among those countries with the highest rates of prisoners sentenced for drug offences per capita (more than 30 per 100,000 inhabitants), along with Russia (81 per 100,000), Azerbaijan (57), Estonia (45), Malta (40) and Montenegro (35). In Georgia, the figure is 72 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants. Theft is the 2nd most common offence (some 30% of prisoners serve their sentence for theft). Georgia is among the countries that experienced the highest rates of prisoners sentenced for theft (more than 30 per 100,000 population), along with the Slovak Republic (30), Hungary (33), Azerbaijan (35), the FYRO Macedonia (36), Lithuania (38), Latvia (39), Romania (40), Bulgaria (44), Poland (46), Ukraine (51). For Georgia, the indicator is the highest, 55 persons per 100,000 population. Homicide (murder and attempted murder) amounts for 13.6% of all sentences served.

Open the Doors and Off We Go! But Will We Come Back Voluntarily? OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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omething unimaginable is happening to the Georgian passport: it is going to be honored all over Europe very soon. A short while back, the Georgian passport was a real piece of junk. Just a quarter of a century ago we didn’t even know exactly who we were. Probably nothing more than one heartbreakingly unnoticeable splinter of the fragmented soviet residue! Our national identity was blurry. We looked like a stray lousy dog on a leading-nowhere dangerous and dirty global avenue, many of us looking for food and shelter under the darkened skies like trembling and soliciting panhandlers with dirty hole-ridden hats in hand. And this was just a generation ago! Who cared then about a passport as a solid and valid ID which allowed one to travel abroad or operate inside the country? Physical survival was the main issue on the national agenda. The soviet collapse was like a startling clap of thunder from above which made the entire country feel scared and uncertain. The extant rigid communist ideology gone to smithereens, borders of the devastated motherland tailored and retailored, jobs lost en-masse, education at a standstill, the economy in a shambles, political stalemate, territorial integrity gone, and hope for the future non-existent. Thoughts about our affiliation with rich and famous European nations and the visa liberalization between the highbrow continent and the hardly-breathing dilapidated former soviet republic would have been considered pure political delirium. But behold, we’re almost there! Moreover, we’re keeping our sharp eye on Euro-Atlantic integration, and our chance to somehow jump into Western circles shows some sign of life. The West has become so considerate to Georgia in general that we have all of a sudden found ourselves on every possible slate of aspirants for almost every European international body. Americans are following suit, too, entertaining the surprising enthusiasm to help Georgia in every possible way with pronounced benevolence towards our people. We are starting to get the impression that Uncle

Sam has adopted us for prolonged fostering. Anyways, visa-free European travel is almost here, and the future itinerants are getting ready for incipient peregrinations around Europe. The formally confirmed political part of the deal is at hand, only the actual punching of Georgian passports at border check-points is left to be witnessed. And we can’t wait! Incidentally, ominous warning has sounded from the mouths of Georgian and European civil servants thereof that free travel to Europe does not mean making money there, or staying overtime in search of employment. It was also emphasized that law-breakers would immediately be deported back to their country of origin and punished in a relevant fashion. Well, this sounds quite lawful, but what if the increasing number of travelers quickly begin using their visa freedom to improve their lifestyles a bit? How feasible would it be to cope with the new situation which is almost certain to materialize? Hopefully, the respective governmental offices had all those developments in mind when they made decisions in favor of the alleviated trips between the recently enumerated thirty European countries and Georgia. The desire of improved living never weakens in humans. It stays alive as long as life goes on, people striving to elevate their standard of living by any means. This is why they will definitely be thinking about ways around the law. If well-developed Europe becomes readily accessible to Georgian citizens, the light at the end of the tunnel for them will start flickering. And if so, then the migration problems will appear hard and fast. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that the visa should not be liberalized. I’m just trying to raise the question as to whether Georgia and Europe are truly ready should something unexpected happen in the new travel circumstances. My doubts in no way go beyond this simple question. What if the new-time travelers desire to stay in the European countries? Is the Georgian government, in cooperation with European authorities, going to hunt down each and every one and put them on the plane at the expense of the government? Will we have that much time and money to fight the newly born pattern of law-breaking in the upcoming years? The question sounds a little worrying, doesn’t it?

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

San Diego State University Initiates Exchange Programs BY MERI TALIASHVILI

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he San Diego State University has begun an exchange program for its students in Tbilisi and California that aims to give the students from both countries a chance to get exposure to a new country and a new culture. Professor of Psychology and Provost Emerita of San Diego State University, Dr. Nancy A. Marlin, talked to GEORGIA TODAY about the on-going exchange program on her recent visit. “San Diego State University is working on an exchange program for our students here in Tbilisi and California that will enable Georgian students at San Diego State University to go to California for one semester in fall and study there and San Diego University students in California to come and spend one semester here in Tbilisi. That’s what our student exchange program and is about and is why I visited Georgia.”

HOW SUFFICIENT IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF GEORGIAN STUDENTS TO STUDY IN THE EQUIVALENT UNIVERSITY IN CALIFORNIA? The course has been offered just as it is in San Diego State University in California. So we look at how the students do in exams to see how they compare with our students in California. And right now the Georgian students are even doing better! Coming here is a good opportunity for our students in San Diego. Not only will it give them some exposure to another world they may know very little about but it is very difficult for students in this area to go on exchanges because they have to find the exact same courses

offered in English because, unfortunately, our students don’t speak many other languages. But here you get the same San Diego University courses offered in English. Georgian students are very interested in the exchange program. I think it is mutually beneficial. Our students will come in August and return to the States in December and Georgian Students will go in September and come back in December.

WILL GEORGIAN STUDENTS PAY THE SAME AS THEY DO HERE WHEN THEY GO TO CALIFORNIA? When San Diego State University Georgian students go to California they will pay the same they do here and the same applies to San Diego students in California when they come here. We are using the facilities here in the three universities [Tbilisi State University, Ilia State University and the Georgian Technical University] because part of the goal is to improve the quality of education here so the universities become accredited themselves. We are renovating the labs and current equipment and also doing a lot for faculty development.

THE COURSES YOU ARE OFFERING TO STUDENTS IN TBILISI INCLUDES ONLY TECHNICAL SUBJECTS. Yes. STEM courses were what Georgia wanted. The United States government is providing financial aid to Georgia through Georgia’s compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation. They asked Georgia what it wanted and the answer was a higher education in technical areas. So Georgian students will get US accredited degrees here in Georgia in technology, natural science and engineering.

British Council Hosts Inclusion and Special Educational Needs Forum BY EKA KARSAULIDZE

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two-day forum on Inclusion and Special Educational Needs (SEN) in Georgia was organized on the initiative of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and British Council in Georgia on March 12-13. For this purpose, British experts visited the capital of Georgia and, together with local specialists and representatives of the schools, discussed the existing problems and important aspects of inclusive education. Georgia signed a global convention in 2014 and is now obliged to create equal conditions and opportunities for education. “We have already achieved some results in this field, having begun to deal with infrastructure and teacher training issues, though we are still at the initial stage of development,” said Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Tamar Sanikidze. “This area requires constant updating of knowledge, which is why this visit of our foreign guests is so important for us,” she stated.

During the first day of the event, plenary speakers and Forum participants talked about the SEN policy in Georgia, how inclusive learning is supported at the government level and what has been done so far. They also overviewed the challenges they are facing and what needs to be changed in the future. Two state school teachers gave a first-hand classroom perspective; and the British plenary speaker provided a framework for inclusion based on 10 approaches. In addition, plenary speakers presented the UK policy and practice in SEN and the importance of high quality teaching and learning for everyone. “We have to understand that inclusive education concerns not only the medical sphere. First of all, it is an important part of education in general. For that, teachers must have the appropriate knowledge and skills to teach these children,” said Phil Dexter, English Language Teacher and Development Adviser for the British Council, UK. The British Council stated that the ideal scenario is an integrated school approach where there is a whole school policy in support of SEN, which begins at school leadership level. Co-ordination

between professionals (educational psychologists, speech therapists, behavior management specialists, etc.) and teachers is an essential ingredient for success. “Creating equal conditions is the most important value for the British Council. Society must adapt to the needs of individuals and schools have a huge role in it,” said Zaza Purtseladze, Director of the British Council in Georgia. “During the Forum, participants had an opportunity to get to know local and foreign practices, and also to participate in the workshops by our invited experts during the second day.” The Forum hosted 120 state school teachers, school principals, heads of resource centers from Tbilisi and regions of Georgia, and representatives of various organizations involved in supporting inclusive learning. The foreign experts highlighted the importance of taking part in the Forum and sharing experience. “Several Georgian teachers have already visited the UK and discovered our methods of inclusive education. So, today I am glad to be here and see such a great interest in this field,” said David Crabtree, an education expert.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

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Women’s Role in Peace-Building and Conflict BY MERI TALIASHVILI

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s Georgia begins to implement the newly adopted 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, Niels Scott, UN Resident Coordinator in Georgia, addressed women’s role in peace-building in the Armed Forces and female reporters during war at a conference on Women’s Rights in Conflict organized by the European Law Students’ Association and the United Nations Office in Georgia. The event was held in commemoration of International Women’s Day on 14 March and saw the participation of over 60 students.

Niels Scott in in his welcoming speech focused on issues related to the impact of armed conflict on women and women’s capacities to engage in peace-building. “To ensure that women and girls are better protected from human rights abuses in their daily lives, as well as during and after conflict, the UN works towards women’s full and equal participation in formal and informal conflict resolution dialogues and peace processes. We develop women’s negotiating and mediation abilities, and advocate for gender-sensitive policies and programs. The focus now has to be on turning gender-related plans, policies and legislation into action to tackle unequal gender relations, and focus our efforts on women’s empowerment,” Scott said.

QSI International School of Tbilisi Presents Science Fair

Georgia has made significant progress in establishing important gender equality laws and policies: the Gender Equality Law (2010), the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence signed in 2014, and the Association Agreement signed with the European Union in 2014, one of the paragraphs of which calls on Georgia to enhance women’s rights and their role in decision making. Maya Kardava, Georgia Red Cross Society representative, expressed her sadness at witnessing sexual violence in the Armed Forces. “One of the main institutional priorities is to help sexually abused women and men. We collaborate with international organizations to develop

specific resolutions to solve this serious problem,” Kardava told GEORGIA TODAY. Anna Dolidze, Deputy Minister of

Defense stressed the importance of an expression of solidarity by women toward women and said that the main aspect of the Women’s Movement is support.

The impact of conflict, insecurity, impunity, collapsing economic conditions and rising extremism impact directly on women’s daily lives, making them highly vulnerable to violence inside and outside their homes. • At least 1 in 3 women worldwide are subjected to systematic, deadly denial of their rights; they suffer physical or sexual violence. • Despite women’s active engagement in informal efforts to build peace, they are often excluded from any formal peace-building efforts. • Out of 1168 peace agreements signed between 1990 and 2013, only 18 per cent made any reference to women and gender. • From 1992 to 2011, fewer than four per cent of signatories to peace agreements, and only nine per cent of peace negotiators, were women. • And when it comes to chief mediators, the figures are extremely low: Only two per cent were women.

Ex-First Lady of Georgia Awarded Polish Commander’s Cross

BY MERI TALIASHVILI BY MAKA LOMADZE

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nMarch9thQualitySchools International (QSI) school of Tbilisi presented its science fair project of 27 secondary students of Biology and physics. The fair, which began in October last year, ended with 5 winners from both fields and ranged from testing the pulling force of an increased number of propeller blades for an airplane to how the amount of salt in soil affects the growth rate in pea plants. The first winner was Sasha Berliner of the 10th grade at QSI International School Tbilisi for his invention related to the pulling force of planes with a different number of propellers. The 2nd prize went to Ruslan Bryan for testing oxidizer proportions for an optimum rocket fuel; The 3rd prize went to Ketevan Mdzinarishvili for analyzing chemical reactions through the activity series on metals; The 4th prize went to Guy Crowley for studying salinity and its impact on plant growth; And the 5th prize was awarded to Luisa Heining for her study of which cooking methods for vegetables permit the highest vitamin C retention. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to first prize winner, Sasha Berliner. “What I’m doing is my passion and I want to continue in this direction after graduation. As for my experiment, I did it on a number of propeller blades to see the effect on pulling force. I predicted that the more blades you have on a propeller the better it will be. I concluded that having four blades is the strongest in terms of ideal area and propeller. I want to thank the organizers and my school for giving us this incredible opportunity to be creative. For me, this is the first science fair and I’m very thankful and happy.” Travis Hostetter, one of the organizers of the fair and science teacher at QSI, took time to tell GEORGIA TODAY how he felt about the fair and the results the

E The first winner was Sasha Berliner of the 10th grade at QSI International School Tbilisi

students came up with. “It’s an understatement to say I’m proud of what our students have worked so hard towards and accomplished. The breadth and depth of the projects was fantastic as you can really see the creativity in these students. At QSI International School of Tbilisi, we pride ourselves on offering a robust science program, and this year’s science fair was representative of this. We look forward to next year’s science fair and seeing what new ideas and experiments our students create,” Hostetter told us. The event was organized by Travis and Ashley Hostetter, the secondary school science teachers for QSI International School of Tbilisi, with the support of the Director of Instruction, Joshua Garrett, and the Director, Daniel Blaho. Travis and Ashley are husband and wife and have been in Tbilisi since August 2015. Previously, they taught at the QSI International School of Montenegro for five years, where they started their science fair program.

leventh March saw the presentation of the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland to Mrs Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs at the Official Residence of the Ambassador of Poland to Georgia, Mr. Andrzej Cieszkowski. The Commander’s Cross, created in 1974, is a Polish Order awarded to those who have rendered great service to the Polish nation. It is granted to foreigners or Poles resident abroad and as such is a traditional ‘diplomatic order.’ The event was opened by Ambassador Cieszkowski who thanked the ex-First Lady of Georgia for her contribution to the Polish-Georgian friendship. Mrs Roelofs made the following heart-felt response: “Dear Excellencies, honored guests, media representatives! It is a great honor to be awarded the Commander’s Cross of Merit by the Republic of Poland, an exemplary European country very close to my heart. Close because it shares a common past with Georgia which gives mutual understanding and fruitful cooperation links and close because I have made many friends in that country that I have often visited and still visit on a regular basis. Lech and Maria Kaczynski [the late Polish president Lech Kaczynski and First Lady Maria Kaczynska] visited Georgia several times and were delighted. Together with Maria, I organized a skating competition to music of Chopin in Kutaisi, Zugdidi and Batumi. I named the oncological screening center in Didube after her; her portrait is still hanging at the entrance. I even started to learn Polish a while ago and am intrigued by the language. April 10, 2010 was a most tragic day in history that paradoxically brought our nations even closer together when we grieved together with the Polish nation for the loss of close to 100 heroes who had taken the courage to fly to Russia for a memorial service near Smolensk.

Their plane never landed but crashed and investigations are still on-going. Yet here in Georgia we all too well understand what happened and why. President Lech and First Lady Maria Kaczynska perished in that crash, an incredible loss for their families, the whole nation and even the whole world, especially those who understood what this brave man and his government stood for; how they not only stood as a symbol for Poland’s freedom and democracy but also for the Baltics, and countries like Ukraine and Georgia who were and are still on the path towards European integration. To honor the memory of the 96 victims, my husband came all the way from New York and I by car from Brussels, traveling through volcanic ash to Krakow where the presidential funeral was to take place. It was for me one of the saddest and personally most painful moments of 10 years being a presidential spouse. Back in Georgia I organized a memorial evening, had my book translated into Polish in dedication to Maria, and gave to the Georgian Conservatoire students the chance to study a few years at the Krakow Music Academy with a Maria Kaczynska scholarship- two of whom have even stayed there and are now teaching Georgian and helping the organization Most do Gruzija to further promote Georgian culture. Poland has made its mark on my life,

on Georgia, on Europe and continues to follow the path of democracy and prosperity inspired by strong Catholic values like solidarity, forgiveness and inclusiveness. My colleagues and guests from the Netherlands recently visited the rehabilitation center ‘Don Camillo’ in Temka, where they met Polish volunteers who dedicate months and sometimes years to serving the most vulnerable in Georgia. I’m therefore most obliged and deeply touched by the high decoration that I’m receiving from the Polish nation and am grateful to Ambassador Cieszkowski and his spouse Dorota for their respect and friendship in these times which are not the easiest for our family. Dziekujebardzo!” Later, Ambassador Cieszkowski told GEORGIA TODAY: “It’s a very special event for the Embassy of Poland here in Tbilisi because we awarded on behalf of the President of Poland Mrs. Sandra Roelofs who was not only the first lady of Georgia but also was and is a great friend of Poland. She was very actively engaged in matching the institutions of Poland and Georgia, scholarships, associations, Polish people who wanted to assist Georgian people in need, etc. We are very grateful for her as a bridge between Poland and Georgia.” The ceremony was followed by a reception and was attended by representatives of Georgian authorities, ambassadors and official guests.

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GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

Svaneti, You Know I Love You, But... BY TONY HANMER

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erewith, a few of my possible future Svaneti article titles and synopses. I might expand on the ones which get the greatest number of favorable votes. Manure, its Originator Species, Forms, Handling and Uses 1000 English Words or Phrases for H2O in its Various Phases (Inspired and Challenged by the Idea of 100 or more Inuit Words for Snow, which We can Better!) Unusual Theories from and/or about Svaneti, including: The Svans are related to the Basques/ Sumerians/Armenians (Svan surnames ending in “iani”, Armenian ones in “ian” or “yan”...) Unusual Uses for Domestic Animal Intestines, Stomachs, Bones, Hides and Other Sundry Parts How Rubbish Improves the Landscape: Creative Public Ways with Your Indestructibles A Survey of the Historic Fine Arts of Svaneti: Works in Wood, Metal, Stone, Revenge and Bride Kidnap How to Tell if a Dog Really Wants to Kill You (and What to Do About it) A List, from Most to Least Probable, of all Observed Ways the Piped House Water can Freeze either En Route or At Destination, each Including Preferred Prevention Methods (or Causation Methods in Case of Desire to Attack one’s Neighbor) The Svan Watchtower: A List of Actual and Possible Uses/Functions, from Watching for Invaders to Attacking One’s Closest Neighbor with Rocks How to “Shave” one’s Slaughtered Pig with a Gas Torch (an Original YouTube Instruction Video) 1000+ Ways with Potatoes Uses for the Automobile Seat Belt (Aside from

the Unfashionable Intended One) What to Say at the Funeral of one’s Insistently Drunk Driving Friend in lieu of “You Idiot, I Spit on your Grave” Best Actually Encountered Excuses for Truancy from School Is Mestia’s Seti Square the Secret HQ of World Alien Life Search Efforts? An Investigation Preferred Ways to Restrain Someone who has Eaten Honey made from “the Flower that Makes one Crazy” How to Resolve the Paradox between “A Woman Must Enter Marriage a Virgin” and “A Man Must Not ditto” Why Global Warming is Resulting in Longer Svan Winters A Survey of Bovine Thoughts on the Conversion of Mestia Commercial Center into their Preferred Local Toilet Zone Bus Stop or Cow Shade and Toilet? The Controversy Resolved How to Smoke on Public Transport Best Ingredients for Bovine Repellent Cow Clucks, Chicken Martial Arts Move Vocalizations and Other Unusual Farmyard Sounds Bovines as Traffic Calming Officers: a Debate on the Project’s Success or Failure A Graph of Found Rock-fall Numbers Plotted against Actual Times Waited to See a Single Rock Fall Suggested Forms for Mt. Ushba to Take when Not Being Observed The Secret Meaning of When a Bovine Lowers its Head to You (not “I Respect You”) Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1300 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

British Corner Celebrates its First Anniversary

Founder of British Corner and the President of ESU-Georgia, Marina Tsitsishvili (center), presents her teachers and students at the one year anniversary of British Corner. Photo: Yuri Mechitov

BY BEQA KIRTAVA

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t’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since GEORGIA TODAY reported the opening of British Corner in Vake Park. On March 11, 2016 the students, partners and friends of the English-language center were invited to a special celebration marking British Corner’s one year anniversary. The attendees were shown a special presentation about the Center, the English Speaking Union (ESU) and its history in Georgia, which was followed by mini-plays and musical performances by the cent-

er’s pupils. After the show, the Founder of British Corner and the President of ESU-Georgia, Marina Tsitsishvili, thanked BC’s long-time partners and supporters and awarded three students with free education certificates for their merits. British Corner also introduced Pearson (Russia) Teacher Trainer, Janet Stenberg, who had come to Georgia exclusively for British Corner to conduct extensive master classes for its teachers. As for future plans, British Corner is gearing up for even more interesting courses not only in English but in a wide array of subjects. You can already apply for the two upcoming programs: “Georgian for Foreigners” and the French Sunday School by calling 555302512.


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

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New Book on President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Logic of Change BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE

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n 17th March 2016, the Georgian National Academy of Sciences hosted the presentation of a new book written by the Ambassador of Kazakhstan in Georgia, prominent politician and scholar, Mr Ermukhamet Ertysbayev, entiltled: ‘Kazakhstan and Nazarbayev: Logic of Change.’ The core of the book, now translated into Georgian, presents the personality of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. However, this is not a purely biographical edition. The figure of Nazarbayev is viewed in a broader context of public relations, covering both the personal life of the Kazakh President, and his public and political activities within the country and in the international arena. The book is also different in that in it Nazarbaev is viewed through the prism

The book, now translated into Georgian, presents the personality of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev

of his personal qualities in all his internal contradictions and ambiguities. The book is written clearly and dynamically. It contains unique and previously unknown facts from the life of President

Nazarbayev, describes many of today’s leaders in Kazakhstan and the country’s history, collected by the author during his work beside the president of his country.

National Library Hosts Memorial Evening for Zichy BY MAKA LOMADZE

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ten by the artist in Georgian letters in the corners of his illustrations. Among the illustrations on display was Zichy’s handwritten appreciation, in which he expresses his sympathy and cordial devotion to the nation of Georgia. Ambassador Szabo reminded those present that ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin’ has been translated into 52 languages. “It was translated into some

he Memorial Evening for famous Hungarian artist Mihaly Zichy was held at the Georgian Parliament National Library and consisted of an exhibition of materials related to the artist kept at the National Library, as well as unique manuscripts kept at the National Manuscripts Center and illustrations for the ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin.’ The only foreign artist to have illustrated the epic poem by Shota Rustaveli, Mihaly Zichy spent part of his life in Georgia and left a significant mark on the Georgian fine arts. Of the 34 pictures created by the painter, 27 were selected as illustrations to the poem. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Hungary to Georgia, H.E: Sandor Szabo welcomed the guests, lording Zichy as a significant representative of the Hungarian romantic art of painting. Zichy was born at the beginning of the 19th century to a noble Hungarian family in Zala, western Hungary. After school his parents sent him to Budapest for legal studies, but being so talented in art, he gave preference to classes in painting in Vienna. Zichy travelled, lived and worked in Russia, Hungary and France through different periods of his life. According to Ambassador Szabo, when the painter arrived in Tbilisi, preparations for a new edition of the ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin’ were in full swing. Zichy was asked by the Georgian elite to illustrate Rustaveli’s epic poem, which he was ready to do with pleasure. He donated the full set of 34 pictures to the people of Georgia for free. Readers of the ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin’ even today look with interest at the name ‘Zichy’, writ- The Zichy statue in Alexander’s Park

languages more than once. This was the case with the Hungarian translations as well: the first was made by Béla Vikáron on Zichy’s recommendation and published in 1917, the second by Sándor Weöres, famous Hungarian poet and author, published in 1954. One of the best Russian language editions also contained illustrations by Zichy. Today, monuments of Mihály Zichy in Tbilisi and Shota Rustaveli in Budapest are the symbol of the recognition of the cultural heritage they left to us. They also symbolize the friendship of our two nations,” the Ambassador noted, ending his speech by thanking all the parties involved in preparing the event. Chairman of Georgian Parliament, Mr. David Usupashvili, was also in attendance at the event. “Each of us here, when learning to read and write, and for the first time opening the ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin,’ would first look through the illustrations, committing the heroes to memory. Zichy is the person who laid the path for us to Rustaveli, to the ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin.’ Generations were raised and will be raised on this poem illustrated by Zichy. So, his merit in our culture, our society is unique and particular. Rustaveli and Zichy- two great persons, representatives of our nations and our countries, unite us and reveal our friendship from the best angle. I would like to have more such important evenings as we Georgians and Georgia have much in common with Europe.” Levan Taktakishvili, Director of the Librarian Resources Department of the Georgian Parliamentary National Library, host of the event, said: “Our library keeps a full collection of reproductions by Mihaly Zichy. Within the project ‘Pirosmani,’ we intend to digitalize all our collections, including Zichy, and to make a virtual museum.”

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Address: Airport settlement, Samgori district, Tbilisi Tel: +995 599 529 529 info@cei.ge


14

CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATRE

GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 March 18 THE MARRIAGE Nikolay Gogol Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Small Stage Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari March 19 HANGER-ON Ivan Turgenev Directed by Nugzar Lortkipanidze Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 16:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari March 20 CHIPOLLINO Jianni Rodari Directed by Gogi Todadze Small Stage Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari ILIAUNI THEATRE Address: 32 a Chavchavadze Ave. Telephone: 2 29 47 15 March 18, 19 SCAPIN’S DECEITS Molier Directed by Goga Kachibaia English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10 Lari March 19 CESAR AND DRANA Isabelle Dore Directed by Rusudan Kobiashvili English Subtitles

Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10 Lari TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATRE Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 March 20 ABESALOM AND ETERI Zakaria Paliashvili Conductor: Zaza Azmaiparashvili Directed by Gizo Zhordania Choreography, costumes: Giorgi Aleksi-Meskhishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 15-100 Lari March 23 GORDA Davit Toradze Vakhtang Chabukiani Choreography Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 10-50 Lari TBILISI NODAR DUMBADZE STATE CENTRAL CHILDREN’S THEATRE Address: 99/1 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 95 39 27 March 20 KOLOBOK Directed by Anatoli Lobov Tale Big Stage Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: 7, 10 Lari CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari

March 11-17 THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT Directed by Robert Schwentke Cast: Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Theo James Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 19:20 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari LONDON HAS FALLEN Directed by Babak Najafi Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Riley Language: English Start time: 22:00 Language: Russian Start time: 16:50, 19:30, 22:15 Ticket price: 11-14 Lari JANE GOT A GUN Directed by Gavin O’Connor Genre: Action, Drama, Western Cast: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor Language: Russian Start time: 14:10, 19:30, 22:15 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari LONDON HAS FALLEN (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 14:30, 17:15, 20:00, 22:30 Ticket price: 8-14 Lari JANE GOT A GUN (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 14:50, 16:50, 19:30, 22:35 Ticket price: 8-14 Lari

HAIL, CAESAR! Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Genre: Comedy, Mystery Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Scarlett Johansson Language: Russian Start time: 17:00 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT (Info Above) Start time: 12:00, 19:45, 22:00 Ticket price: 8-14 Lari MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge December 21 - March 31 THE TRAVELING MUSEUM OF THE CAUCASUS THE PERMANENT EXHIBITION NUMISMATIC TREASURY SHALVA AMIRANASHVILI MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Lado Gudiashvili Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 www.museum.ge March 11-27 THE OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION STREPPE BY BRITISH ARTIST AIGANA GALI. ZURAB TSERETELI MUSEUM OF MODERN ART Address: 27 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 14 84 11, 2 98 60 04 www.momatbilisi.ge March 9 – April 3

EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS BY MERAB ABRAMISHVILI Exhibition curator: Baia Tsikoridze GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze March 1-22 THE SOLO EXHIBITION OF PROMINENT AZERBAIJANIAN ARTIST FARHAD KHALILOV THE EUROPE HOUSE Address: 1 Freedom Sq. Telephone: 2 47 03 11 March 14-27 Georgian Center for Security and Development (GCSD) presents the documentary photo exhibition: A LOOK BEYOND THE HEADLINES’ GALLERY NECTAR Address: 88 Bochorishvili Str. Telephone: 2 95 00 21 March 17 – April 24 GALLERY NECTAR’S INAUGURAL EXHIBITION AT THE NEW SPACE ATELIE WITH CREDIT MUSIC

TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 March 18 THE MEMORIAL EVENING OF REZO CHOKHONELIDZE Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 15 Lari


SPORTS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 18 - 21, 2016

15

Lelos Power their Way to 15th Straight Win over Russia Weiss is Right for Georgia BY ALASTAIR WATT

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lovakian Vladimir Weiss was officially unveiled as the new head coach of the Georgian national football team on March 14, ending months of speculation surrounding previous incumbent Kakha Tskhadadze. Following the election of Levan Kobiashvili, who played a record 100 times for Georgia, as president of the Georgian Football Federation last October, sweeping changes have been made in an attempt to resuscitate the national game with Tskhadadze an unlucky casualty of the revolution. Tskhadadze had been in the job barely a year and had enjoyed some noteworthy results including a 1-0 victory over Scotland in September. Nevertheless, the new-look GFF was not impressed and after attempts to alter Tskhadadze’s contract to make it more incentive-based broke down, the parties eventually reached an agreement to part ways. Weiss comes with a notable international pedigree, having led his native Slovakia to the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup. At club level, his achievements are admirable too, perhaps most notably taking Slovan Bratislava to the group stage of the Europa League in 2011-12. The 51-year-old Slovakian had recently ended a successful three-year spell in Kazakhstan with Kairat Almaty before taking the Georgian hotseat, a role he

has described as an “honor”. Georgian fans are understandably wary of appointing a foreigner, given the forgettable reigns of Argentinian Hector Cuper and Germany’s Klaus Toppmoller, among others, in the 2000s. Nevertheless, Weiss certainly claims to have done the necessary homework to avoid the unwanted fates of some of his predecessors. “I immediately viewed this offer as a challenge. I studied the history of Georgian football, watched the national team’s most recent competitive and friendly games, and saw a lot of potential in this team – our team, as I can now call it,” revealed the Slovakian at his opening press conference with the Georgian media. GFF president Kobiashvili outlined that Weiss had agreed to an incentivebased salary, without divulging specific details. It can be assumed though that should Georgia finish in the top three of their qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup, then Weiss will be suitably remunerated. The Slovakian, who will move to Georgia for the duration of his role, will soon announce his first squad for the friendly match with Kazakhstan in Tbilisi on March 29. Early summer matches against Weiss’s homeland Slovakia, as well as Romania and reigning European champions Spain, complete Georgia’s preparations for World Cup qualifying which begins in September against group favorites Austria in Tbilisi.

CULTURE

It’s a Wrap: EU Film Festival Successfully Highlights EU Film Diversity BY MAKA LOMADZE

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he fourth film festival of the European Union Delegation to Georgia was held from March 9 to March 13 and was named ‘Turning Points.’ Held in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Bolnisi and Mestia, entrance was free to all cinema lovers. The festival was held within the framework of Let’s Meet Europe, a project funded by the EU and implemented by Ecorys UK. The participants were embassies of EU member countries. 17 films in total were shown from 13 EU countries, shot in different years. The list was directed to all kinds of taste and aimed to show the Georgian audiences both the historic diversity of European cinema and modern tendencies. The film festival was opened by Janos Herman, Head of the European Union

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ew rivalries in sport can be quite so one-sided as Georgia’s with Russia in rugby union, and the Lelos’ dominance in the fixture continued with a 24-7 victory over the Russians in Sochi on March 12 in the European Nations Cup, a fifteenth triumph in-arow over their northern neighbors. The 17-point winning margin for Milton Haig’s side was also Georgia’s biggest ever on Russian soil, and from an early stage the outcome was in little doubt. After a tense opening 14 minutes, fullback Merab Kvirikashvili eased Georgian worries with a well-taken penalty to

give the visitors a 3-0 advantage. Seven minutes later, Georgia extended their lead with a wonderfully worked first try of the afternoon as Lasha Khmaladze’s delicate kick set up center Tamaz Mchedlidze for a magnificent opener by the posts, duly converted by Kvirikashvili. Two things tend to happen when Georgia play Russia: Georgia win, and tempers fray. The latter component was clearly visible in the 38th minute when some brawling between Russia’s Yury Kushnarev and Georgia’s Giorgi Nemsadze led to both players being sin-binned by English referee Matthew Carley. Georgia’s 10-0 lead at the interval was quickly increased in the second-half when, after a spell of concerted pressure, prop forward Anton Peikrishvili dummied past the retreating Russian

backline to score with Kvirikashvili again making no mistake with the conversion to put Georgia 17 points ahead. Any slender hopes of a Russian comeback were effectively extinguished when the home side’s Evgenii Pronenko was yellow carded in the 56th minute and, with a man advantage, Georgia soon killed off the match. A bizarre error by Russia’s Kushnarev, who treated the ball like a live grenade, gifted possession to Nemsadze who strolled across the line for an easy third Georgian try, converted capably by Kvirikashvili. A late score by Ramil Gaisin and a conversion by Kushnarev reduced Russia’s arrears but the Georgian fans and players alike would celebrate long into the night after yet another battering of the Bears.

Delegation to Georgia and the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium, H.E. Carine Petit. “Our objective is to spread information about European art, and to bring Georgian society closer to the EU. The [chosen] movies give a lighter idea about the seven decades of European cinema,” Herman said. The hit of the festival was the French movie ‘Of Gods and Men’ which describes the life of monks who abandoned their families, giving up personal comfort and peace for the sake of sacrifice to God through work in conflict zones. Brave as the monks are, the film shows their internal conflicts. And the final doom’s day does come. Sergi Barisashvili, Coordinator of Culture of the EU Delegation to Georgia told GEORGIA TODAY he is pleased with the results. “This year’s festival was an improvement on the last three as we had a number of movies which are nominees or holders of different international awards.”

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Issue #827  

March 18 - 21, 2016

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