a product message image
{' '} {' '}
Limited time offer
SAVE % on your upgrade

Page 1

Issue no: 1237



No state of emergency in Georgia yet, as gov't fights to keep on top of corona outbreak

PAGE 2,3


In this week’s issue... Coronavirus, State of Emergency & Georgia NEWS PAGE 2

Coronavirus – Europe Locks Down NEWS PAGE 3

The EU Introduces New Vision for Eastern Partnership States


Georgia's Position Improved in OECD's SME Policy Index-2020 BY ANA DUMBADZE


eorgia has been promoted in all 12 categories in the SME Policy Index - 2020 published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) since the previous report that was published in 2016. "From an already strong position, Georgia has made further progress since 2016 by adopting a more strategic approach to small and mediumsized entrepreneurship development through targeted initiatives. The adoption of the SME Development Strategy 2016-2020 and respective action plans, the improvements made to entrepreneurial learning and women’s entrepreneurship, the continued simplification of business registration, and the increase in e-government services have drastically improved the operational environment for SMEs." "Going forward – and with a view to seizing all the opportunities offered by the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union – the Government of Georgia should prioritize the creation of level-playing-field con-

TBC Capital Holds Online Conference on COVID-19 Impact on Business Environment BUSINESS PAGE 5

CENN to Establish Wine Enterprise in Adjara within Keda Leader Project BUSINESS PAGE 6

8mm & 16mm Filmmaking Workshop with Baltic Analog Lab CULTURE PAGE 8 Getty/iStockphoto

ditions for enterprises of all sizes and provide for more-efficient enforcement of contracts and competition law. Moreover, strengthening the support provided to exporting SMEs (including targeted financing tools) would be of crucial importance – as would expanding the links between foreign direct investment and domestic businesses beyond pilot projects, to further attract quality FDI and increase the competitiveness of Georgian SMEs," reads the report. Assessing the Implementation of the Small

Business Act for Europe is a unique benchmarking tool to assess and monitor progress in the design and implementation of SME policies against EU and international best practices. It is structured around the ten principles of the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA), which provide a wide range of pro-enterprise measures to guide the design and implementation of SME policies. This report marks the third edition in this series, following assessments in 2012 and 2016.

Levan Gelbakhiani, ‘And Then We Danced’: Tradition Needs to Find New Meanings & Should Not Lose Its Identity CULTURE PAGE 11




MARCH 20 - 23, 2020

Coronavirus, State of Emergency & Georgia BY TEA MARIAMIDZE


fter the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in 172 countries and territories around the world, which has infected around 217,350 people and killed almost 9000, many countries have announced a state of emergency. But not Georgia. A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions or impose policies that it would normally not be permitted. A government can declare such a state during a natural disaster, medical pandemics or epidemics, civil unrest, or armed conflict. Such declarations alert citizens to change their normal behavior and orders government agencies to implement emergency plans. A state of emergency provides the state with more opportunities to resolve a crisis in a short period of time. It is important to keep in mind that a state of emergency is a temporary measure and all activities undertaken therein should be proportionate to the threat. The President of Georgia should immediately notify the Parliament of Georgia of the order to declare of a state of emergency. If the Parliament of Georgia does not approve the order, the state of emergency is deemed canceled. During a state of emergency, the rights of citizens may be limited or suspended in accordance with the Constitution and the law. However, this doesn’t happen automatically with the declaration of a state of emergency: the President needs to issue additional decrees upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Decrees that limit or suspend human rights guaranteed by the Constitution are submitted to Parliament for approval. Also, if needed, the President may issue

a decree that restricts the right of free movement of citizens and prohibits them from leaving their places of residence or other places of accommodation without an appropriate permit. Moreover, a curfew may be imposed and citizens may be restricted from staying on the streets or in other public places, and from going outside their household premises without official permits and identity documents. Those who are placed under quarantine, or other potentially high-risk individuals, can have their rights of movement restricted for a specific period of time and they may be ordered to undergo self-isolation. During a state of emergency, the Ministry of Internal Affairs enforces the decision for placing a person in isolation and/or in quarantine. The decision to use military force is made by the President upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister. To date, many countries have announced a state of emergency due to coronavirus and related threats, among them the United States, Spain, Italy, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Switzerland, Estonia, Armenia, and Romania. Georgia is not yet hurrying to announce a state of emergency. As Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said this week, so far Georgia has all the tools to properly address the challenges and there is no need to call a state emergency yet. The PM explained that the country is moving from a stage of preventing the pandemic to a stage of dealing with the spread of the infection, which means that the number of infected people will increase. He added that at present, the Georgian health system is in good shape to adequately respond to the challenges. “At some point, there may be a need to declare a state of emergency, and we will make that decision. With today's data,

Image source: on.ge

with the objective reality and assessments we have, there is no need to declare a state of emergency today. If such a need arises tomorrow, we will do so,” he said. Minister of Health Ekaterine Tikaradze also thinks there is no need for a state of emergency yet. “If there is an epidemic of coronavirus outbreaks in the country, we will make the decision and this will be a tough measure,” she said. Tikaradze explained that declaring a state of emergency actually means that the state must order citizens to selfisolate in their homes. “Only civic responsibility is the guarantee that we will save Georgia from an emergency,” the health minister said, adding that Georgia might adopt “aggressive testing” for the novel coronavirus, an approach endorsed by the World Health Organization. Health profession-

als, epidemiologists in particular, will start screening large numbers of people via rapid testing if and when the situation is out of control as a result of community transmission. Paata Imnadze, Deputy Director General of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, says that many states declared a state of emergency when the situation was out of control. “With us, everything that is done during a state of emergency is done without such a state. The decrees issued by the Georgian authorities are usually issued in other countries during a state of emergency. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of our population understands the given recommendations,” he said. The Georgian government announced on March 18 that state borders were to be closed for two weeks. However, Geor-

gian citizens who are abroad and want to return home will be admitted. Also, from March 18, Georgia’s skiing and mountain resorts are closed. Cafes, restaurants and bars were recommended to temporarily restrict direct service to citizens and to operate only delivery services. From the same date, minibuses were banned, being, as the PM said, “one of the main sources spreading the virus”. Gyms and various spa and sport centers are closed and the relevant agencies will ensure the government’s decisions are enforced. Citizens over 70 are advised to avoid public places and to remain in isolation as far as possible to avoid potential danger to their health. As of March 19, 40 people have been tested positive for coronavirus and one has recovered.

SMEs to be Exempted from Lease Payments for Three Months BY ANA DUMBADZE


he Georgian government has decided to exempt up to 600 small and medium entrepreneurs from lease payments for three months,

Geneva Talks Postponed BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


he Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions (GDI), UN Representative Cihan Sultanoglu, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus Rudolf Michalka, and EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar collectively agreed to delay the 51st round of the GDI, which was set to happen at the end of March 2020.

Photo source: MFA

In a joint press statement released on March 16, they underlined that the choice was taken “after carefully reviewing circumstances related to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. […] The Co-Chairs will make every effort to closely keep contact and engage with all participants using the available tools to adequately address pertinent security and humanitarian related issues, among others, on the GID agenda,” reads the announcement. Concluding the declaration, the CoChairs stated that they will “closely follow developments related to COVID-19 and consider next steps in organizing the 51st round in due course.”

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze announced at a briefing today. The above applies to entrepreneurs who have a space or land leased from City Hall for their entrepreneurial activities. He added that Tbilisi City Hall continues taking measures to protect the population from the spread of coronavirus and to alleviate the condition of

entrepreneurs in the current situation. Kaladze noted that Tbilisi City Hall has already exempted the owners of open cafes that had leased land from the Tbilisi municipality from lease payments for a whole year. Up to 600 small and medium entrepreneurs will be exempted from lease payments in March, April, and May.

Azerbaijani Journalist Afghan Mukhtarli Released from Prison BY ELENE DZEBISASHVILI


zerbaijani journalist Afghan Mukhtarli has been released from prison ahead of term, after serving 3 years instead of 6. Investigative journalist Mukhtarli went missing from Tbilisi on May 29, 2017. A day later he appeared in jail in Azerbaijan, arrested on charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling money and police disobedience. On January 12, 2018, Mukhtarli was sentenced to six years in prison by Belaqani District Court in North-Western Azerbaijan. The news of Mukhtarli’s release was shared by his brother on Facebook. “My brother Afghan Mukhtarli has been released. He was taken directly to the airport and went to Germany,” he wrote. Following his release, Mukhtarli flew to Germany, where his family lives in political emigration. Mukhtarli’s bizarre disappearance in

Tbilisi led to widespread belief that the Georgian government was involved. Mukhtarli regularly expressed his belief that the Georgian authorities, including then–Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, conspired with Azerbaijan to deliver him across the border. Mukhtarli’s wife, Azerbaijani journalist and activist Leila Mustafayeva addressed her husband’s imprisonment with a Facebook post, calling the verdict “a joint decision of Georgian and Azer-

baijani authorities, since the Georgian Dream’s government, led by Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, is complicit in Afgan’s arrest and imprisonment.” On 15 June, 2017, the European Parliamentpassed a resolution urging Georgia to conduct a “prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation”, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and “clarify beyond any doubt all suspicion regarding the involvement of Georgian state agents in the forced disappearance.”




Coronavirus – Europe Locks Down BY AMY JONES


stheCOVID-19virusspreads across the European continent, countries are shutting their borders and imposing lockdowns on residents in an attempt to reduce the impact of the pandemic. Figures from John Hopkins University on Thursday morning revealed 218,823 coronavirus cases worldwide. Italy, the worst-affected European country, has recorded 35,713 cases, whilst cases in Spain and Germany have risen above 10,000. Since March 10, more than 60 million people in Italy have been living in lockdown. The government banned all public gatherings and urged people to stay at home unless buying essentials. French President Emmanuel Macron announced similar measures in an address to the country on Monday, emphasizing several times that the country is “at war”. “We are not up against another army or another nation,” he warned. “But the enemy is right there: invisible, elusive, and advancing.” In a speech on Wednesday evening, German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed Macron’s urgency, ordering everyone in the country to stay at home and practice social distancing.

“This is serious. And we must take it seriously,” she said. “There has been no such challenge to our country since German reunification - no, not since the Second World War - that relies so heavily on us all working together in solidarity”. Similar lockdowns are being imposed across the EU, with Belgium and Spain also racing to contain their outbreaks. However, not all residents are taking the new measures seriously. Many Parisians ignored social distancing and containment advice, gathering in parks and markets in the French capital over the weekend. In response, the French government has mobilized the police force to ensure the new rules are followed, introducing fines of up to €135 to individuals found to be breaching quarantine. Since the lockdown, Italy has charged more than 40,000 people for violating lockdown. In Sciacca in Sicily, police found a man, who had tested positive for coronavirus, out shopping and therefore in violation of his self-isolation orders. He could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted. In the UK, which has been criticized for its slow response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that all schools, colleges and universities would be shut for the rest of the school year and school exams would be cancelled. Although no formal lockdown has been

Image source: Europa Press via Getty Images

implemented in the country, London prepares to close its tube stations on Thursday, with a full lockdown expected soon. The hospitality and travel industries across Europe are bracing themselves

for huge financial losses and job cuts because of the pandemic. With consumers forced to stay at home and an emergency ban on travel to the EU by non-EU nationals, many companies are now battling for survival.

Despite the economic and social impact, the need to uphold strict lockdowns and reduce social contact with others is clear. On Wednesday, coronavirus deaths in Italy reached a record 475 deaths in one day.

PM Orders the Cabinet to Structure a Plan to Stimulate the Economy BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


n the initiative of the Business Association of Georgia and the leadership of the Business Ombudsman, a special platform is being created for Georgia’s Business Ombudsman Mikheil Daushvili to meet business representatives. Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia confirmed the move on Wednesday at the meeting of the coordinating council dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. At the meeting, the PM questioned and voiced concerned about the collectively made decision to close all ‘restaurants,

fitness centers, casinos, and ritual centers’ and further asked how the implementation of these directives was taking place. The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, who reassured the attendees that facemasks and disinfectant liquids are being made here in Georgia. On top of this, Georgian Post received directives to individually supply every senior citizen above 70 who lives alone, with these health products. On the order of the PM, a special mechanism was created to control the prices of products in high demand. Also, the council advised people that there is no reason to panic and that there are no shortages on products as yet. The PM

concentrated on 7 products which are everyday necessities, and instructed the cabinet and business sector to prevent an increase of prices on these products. The economic team was instructed to create a plan to aid those sectors most affected by coronavirus. This plan must ensure the stimulation of economic sectors so that they will not weaken. The issue of online learning was also discussed at the meeting and the challenges within its implementation. The meeting concluded with the topic of Georgian citizens living abroad, and the ways in which they can be brought home. The Foreign Ministry was given these challenges to deal with, and is to ensure that the diplomatic sector is working tirelessly for the safety of its citizens.

Gov't to Gift Georgia-Made Face Masks to Workers in Contact with Many People BY ANA DUMBADZE


he Ministry of Economy of Georgia is to gift the first Georgia-made face masks to workers in contact with large numbers of people. The above applies to both public and private sector employees, including medical staff, customs officers, cashiers, etc. "There are fields where employees are in constant contact with other people. For example, customs officers, medical staff, cashiers," the Agency said. As for the price of medical face masks made in Georgia, the Agency explained that this is not yet determined and depends

on the cost of the raw materials needed for the production of the products. Due to a shortage on the market, up to 10 sewing factories have already started production of face masks in Georgia. The first company to produce medical face masks in the country was the Adjara Textile Garment Factory, which offered the Ministry of Economy 500,000 masks free of charge. The company representatives note that the first batch of products will be ready today and will be supplied to the Ministry of Economy. "The state will purchase the first batch of multiple-use face masks produced in Georgia and will provide the necessary supply to the population," Natia Turnava, the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, stated yesterday.




MARCH 20 - 23, 2020

The EU Introduces New Vision for Eastern Partnership States BY EMIL AVDALIANI


he EU has published an Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy which outlines the Union approach for 2020 and beyond towards the six former Soviet states bordering Russia. This comes amid fears that the EU has not been able to fully implement its previous Eastern Partnership policy as Georgia and Ukraine, the states which most successfully implemented the reforms, have not become EU members. The new policy document is therefore an important step, serving as a continuation of the EU’s resolve to further integrate the 6 former Soviet states into the Union’s institutions. The new policy document is a result of consultations launched in 2019 by the European Commission. The previous document made an emphasis on engaging with civil society to ensure effective reforms. There also was a focus on increased public accountability, advanced human rights and local development. The new policy document outlines changes in 3 out of 4 priority areas. The EU again will work on building stronger economy, connectivity and stronger society as a guarantee. In the new policy, bilateral cooperation will remain the main way to ensure the implementation of policy recommendations. According to the document, “the EU will continue to provide support in bilateral, regional and multi-country fora, including targeted sectoral assistance in

Image by European Council of the European Union

line with the principles of inclusiveness and differentiation. In addition, the EaP will continue to be flexible and inclusive, allowing countries to tackle common and global challenges jointly in a wide range of areas, fostering regional integration”. Overall, there are the following longterm Eastern Partnership policy objectives the EU plans to implement beyond 2020: building resilient, sustainable and integrated economies, accountable institutions; increasing the rule of law and general security; making progress in building environmental and climate resilience; implementing a resilient

digital transformation; building a fair and inclusive societies. There are also purely geopolitical clauses. For example, “the EU and the partner countries will invest in physical connectivity and infrastructure (in transport, energy and digital) as underpinning conditions for economic development”. The new document also underlines the importance of increasing bilateral trade which builds upon the previous progress. For example, in the 2010s, EU-EaP trade has nearly doubled, turning the partner countries into the EU’s 10th largest trading partner.

This has the geopolitical ramification of Russia gradually losing the economic battle as the EaP states diversify their economies. The EU is the first trading partner for four partner countries (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), while for Armenia and Belarus the EU is the second biggest trading partner. The diversification in exports of goods of EaP states helps to better integrate those states into the global value chains. Another sign of closer interaction between the EU and EaP states is the number of companies trading with the Union. In Georgia, the number increased

by 46%, from Moldova by 48% and from Ukraine by 24%. Building upon this achievement, the new document calls for deepening of “the economic integration with and among the partner countries, particularly that of the three associated countries through continued support for the full implementation of the current DCFTAs”. Another geopolitical realm covered by the new document is transport. The EU will be focusing on upgrading key physical infrastructure in road, rail, port, inland waterway and airport facilities, and logistics centers, in order to further strengthen connectivity between the EU and the partner countries and among the partner countries themselves. This is in connection with the energy connectivity in the South Caucasus, as the Southern Gas Corridor is nearing completion with first gas from Azerbaijan likely reaching the EU in 2020. Yet another important sphere of cooperation will be strengthening the EU’s cooperation with the partner countries to create a strong financial system for sustainable economic growth. Within the measures to minimize organized crime, the EU will continue its support for the EaP states to cooperate with EU justice and home affairs agencies to fight human trafficking and trafficking of illicit goods (notably drugs and firearms), etc. Among other policies the EU’s support for the cyber resilience of the partner countries stands out. This is particularly important for Georgia as the country was recently subject to massive external cyber attacks.

MAJESTIQUE GIFT STORE The ancient country of Georgia, over the past years, has been establishing itself as one of the top destinations for travel. Indeed, it is a country with an abundance of attractions: history, culture, architecture, polyphony, wine production and cuisine. MAJESTIQUE is an attempt, by Georgian art historians, to promote Georgian national theme. For that, the group used the concept of a gift store, which helps to reach out across international borders. MAJESTIQUE offers a variety of artworks by Georgian artists, as well as handmade jewelry, ceramic decorative items, handmade textiles, along with books, wine and gift packages made up with Georgian gastronomic goods. The store is located in Tbilisi Marriott Hotel, 13 Rustaveli Avenue. Doors are open every day from 10 to 7 pm. Email: Majestique.giftstore@gmail.com (+995) 599 55 92 20

*Majestique* Group wishes you a pleasant stay in our country!




JSC Nenskra Hydro TBC Capital Holds Online Shifts to Remote Work Conference on COVID-19 Impact on Business Environment


enskra Hydro JSC, the Nenskra Hydropower Plant (HPP) project company, in line with the recommendations of the Government of Georgia and the World Health Organization (WHO), is shifting to a remote working mode to prevent the spread of the new type coronavirus (COVID-19). To protect the health of its employees and to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, JSC Nenskra Hydro took a number of preventive measures as soon as the virus began to spread in Georgia. In particular, the company banned employees from traveling to risk-group countries, canceled meetings in the working environment, called on employees to follow rules of self-isolation and avoid being in public places, took systematic disinfection measures in the work environment, equipped the office with appropriate disinfection means and provided protective masks to the employees.


BC Capital has assessed the impact of COVID-19 on the economic environment and published a report. The analytical document was presented to TBC Partners via a digital platform at an online conference involving up to 250 business representatives. The document specifi es that the spread of COVID-19 has affected almost all sectors of the economy at this stage, however, it will particularly affect tourism, restaurants, aviation, longterm consumption goods and real estate. TBC Capital estimates that the decline in tourist inflows will reach its maximum

in April and May. The basic scenario predicts that the gradual normalization of the situation will start from the end of the second quarter and growth will resume by the end of the year. Overall, a 20% decline in tourism revenue in 2020 is expected. “Given the current challenges, the TBC team will work with our partners in an active dialogue mode to overcome the challenges together. We actively offer and implement preferential loan structure to business sector representatives. All directions and departments of TBC use agreed action plan to ensure continuity of working process and complete

To counter further the spread of the virus, JSC Nenskra Hydro Management decided to move to a remote working regime from March 19. If necessary, the company will provide transportation of employees in order to protect them from the risk caused by traveling by public transport. JSC Nenskra Hydro hopes that the problem regarding COVID-19 both in Georgia and worldwide will be resolved in the shortest time! JSC Nenskra Hydro is a project-based company established in 2015 as a result of cooperation between a state-owned Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-water) and JSC Partnership Fund. The company is developing the Nenskra Hydropower Plant Project in the Nenskra and Nakra river Valleys in Mestia Municipality of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. The 280 MW Nenskra Hydropower Plant will generate approximately 1’200.00 GWh of electricity annually, which will be fully consumed by the Georgian market.

operations, while ensuring maximum remote operation. Today's shared analysis and findings are an additional powerful tool for companies to evaluate their situation well, which we believe will help them plan for the coming months effectively. Due to the changing situation, such analysis will be regular and we will provide our updated report to the public in the next 2-3 weeks,” stated Giorgi Tkhelidze, Deputy Director General of TBC. The analysis submitted by TBC Capital can be found at: https://www.tbcresearch.ge/en/Category/ Macro-Reports

Innova Invitro

The Place Where Parenting Dreams Come True

What is the most important, the team of the clinic does not spare efforts to ensure the completion of this process in the shortest time period and offersthegentic research of the smbryo, much faciliating the procesure. Innova In Vitro clinic specializes in various directions, related to the field: In vitro fertiliziation; insemination; Donation-Surrogacy Programs; Gynecological Endocrinology; Neuroendocrinology; Conservative Gynecology; Estabilishing the causes of miscarriages and their appropriate treatment, as well as Contraception. Each client of the clinic is treated with a special care, accentuating the significance of individual factors. Therefore, the reproductologist is to individually evaluate the chances of success in each case. Through the high-quality of services, transparency of procedures and individual approach to the clientele, the Innova In Vitro clinic is now welcoming local, as well es the international patients from various countries of the globe. Z. Anjafaridze Str. 1 turn #6 Tel: 2-232-232 / 596-232-232 Mail: osidze_k@yahoo.com FB: Innova Invitro/ინოვა ინვიტრო




MARCH 20 - 23, 2020

CENN to Establish Wine Enterprise in Adjara within Keda Leader Project HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE KEDA LEADER PROJECT AND HOW DID YOU RECEIVE FUNDING? I wanted to expand my business, but my financial resources were not enough for this purpose. Accordingly, I decided to submit an application for the grant announced by the ‘Keda Leader’ project. My idea to establish a wine enterprise in our municipality received funding. Currently, I am personally involved in the preparation and construction works on the spot and we hope that it will be completed in the coming months.

HOW WILL THE PROJECT SUPPORT THE EMPLOYMENT OF LOCALS? Of course, the project is important for the employment of locals. I have already employed several people in my vineyards, but when the wine enterprise starts functioning, I will be able to contribute to employing local residents more actively. It will create more future prospects and job opportunities for them, which is especially important for me, as I want to help the local population and contribute to improving their living conditions.



ithin the framework of the EU ENPARD program supported project ‘Optimizing the Potential of Local Assets for the Rural Development of Keda Municipality,’ CENN, a non-governmental organization working to protect the environment by fostering sustainable development, is to set up a wine enterprise for locals and international visitors in the village of Vaio, Keda Municipality, in Georgia’s Adjara region. The project beneficiary is a local resident, Vladimer Shavishvili, whose project envisages the establishment of a wine enterprise, which itself will stimulate economic development in the region and increase wine production. Three women and one man will be employed to run the project. The project budget is 40,000 GEL, and the European Union is funding 28,000 GEL of that. With co-financing coming to GEL 12,000. The objectives of the project “Optimizing the Potential of Local Assets for the Rural Development of Keda Municipality” are to diversify local economic activities, foster investment, and empower competitive agricultural and environmental practices in Keda Municipality via a bottoms-up strategic planning of rural development. The priority of the project is to increase Keda Municipality’s development potential and make optimal use of local resources. The project is being implemented by CENN in partnership with the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG), Institute of Democracy (IoD) and Austrian Institute for Regional Studies and Spatial Planning (ÖIR). The project is supported by the Euro-

pean Union, which supports agriculture and rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD Program. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 179.5 million, the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty in Georgia. The first phase of ENPARD in Georgia focused on developing the potential of agriculture. The second and third phases of ENPARD focus on creating economic opportunities for the rural population that go beyond agricultural activities. The following activities are being carried out within the project: - Establishment and capacity building of the Keda Local Action Group (LAG) (involving AMAGs) and communitybased institutions, raising awareness of the EU’s rural development approaches to the institutional building of the Keda LAG, linking and networking with other LAGs nationwide. - Participatory development of a gender - and youth-sensitive Keda Rural Development Strategy (RDS), development of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools for implementation of the Keda RDS, approval of the Keda RDS by the relevant state authorities in Adjara. - Implementation of innovative projects (through sub-grants under the strategy) to foster economic and investment opportunities and inclusive rural growth, and improve the well-being of rural communities (identification of sustainable projects generating new employment opportunities, financing and implementation of innovative projects); participatory development of the Keda Marketing and Communication Strategy; the Invest in KEDA active media outreach and marketing campaign; organization of the Keda business forum and Keda Rural Festivals; exchange and site visits to promote projects and attract investments; and capacity building and promoting opportunities for rural youth (organization of youth camps, support of youth initiatives/projects).

Beneficiaries are selected on the basis of grant competitions announced within the project. Currently, 46 funded projects are being implemented in Keda Municipality. One of the main goals of the project is to create additional jobs on the ground. That is why, when evaluating projects, special attention is devoted to the employment component. For instance: about 290 jobs were created within the projects funded by the first and second grant competition. GEORGIA TODAY interviewed the project beneficiary, Vladimer Shavishvili, a well-known and experienced Georgian winemaker from the Adjara region, to find out more about the project and its benefits for the local economy.

YOUR PROJECT ENVISAGES THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A WINE ENTERPRISE IN KEDA MUNICIPALITY. WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED TO DATE AND WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS? I own vineyards in the village of Vaio, where especially tasty Chkhaveri wine is produced, which makes locals proud. I’ve been producing almost all the bestknown Georgian wine varieties, including Ckhaveri, Aladasturi, Kindzmarauli, Saperavi, etc., in our family winery, called ‘Shavishvili Wine Cellar,’ for almost 50 years now. Tourists love to visit my cellar and discover the traditional method of grape-pressing and wine producing during Rtveli (a traditional vintage and rural harvest holiday in Georgia accompanied by feasts, musical events and other celebrations). I harvest about 10 tons of grapes in my family cellar annually; however, thanks to the project “Optimizing the Potential of Local Assets for the Rural Development of Keda Municipality,” I will be able to own a much larger enterprise and produce even more high-quality Georgian wine there.

Weather conditions have an important role in the pace of construction, but I hope that by May the enterprise will be able to start functioning at full capacity. As for scale, I expect it will significantly increase compared to the amount I managed to produce at my current family cellar with its relatively small size. Establishing a wine enterprise will further contribute to increasing the popularity of Georgian wine among tourists, as Adjara region boasts a high number of international visitors, especially in summer. The above is crucial for the

development of the local economy.

ARE YOU GOING TO PRODUCE BOTTLE WINE OR QVEVRI WINE? I’ve been producing wine for almost 50 years, focusing on bottling the most popular Georgian wine varieties, and this process will continue on a larger scale in the new enterprise.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS OF THE KEDA LEADER PROJECT IMPLEMENTED BY CENN? The first and foremost benefit is that the project contributes to the rural and economic development of the region and the entire country. For us, owners of small businesses in mountainous Adjara, such initiatives are especially important. I would like to express my sincere gratitude towards CENN, which is the direct implementer of the project, and its partner organizations, for giving me the opportunity to implement my business idea. I am looking forward to opening the enterprise as soon as possible to welcome international as well as local visitors, to show them the process of producing famous Georgian wine and to let them enjoy its amazing taste and flavor. I’m sure it will be an equally pleasant and joyful process for all of us. Within the framework of the Keda Leader project, the development and promotion of various local initiatives is planned, along with organizing festivals, campaigns, and training of project beneficiaries and local development group members to strengthen their abilities. In addition, measures are planned to attract additional investment that will contribute to the economic development of the municipality. The project and the Local Action Group (LAG) will continue to collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture of Adjara, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UNDP to fund various initiatives in the municipality.






aving the village shop right in your home, to use, is pretty convenient when you want to isolate yourself. So is having a tourist season which is minimal in winter/spring (our now) and only picks up in summer (a largely unimaginable future). We do have bookings from June onwards, through booking.com and Airbnb, but given the pandemic declaration, I expect those to mostly or all be cancelled as airlines halt and countries close. The villagers might even come to us and ask us to close the guest house, with which request I would feel happy to comply. The shop will keep running; its clientele is 100% locals at the moment, and they need it. Plus, the infection in the village is zero for now, and the risk through their shopping is minimal anyway: no need for any physical contact at all, and we could insist that all clients have and wear a mask before entering the house (as we will do inside too). Not likely to make us popular, but a useful

requirement in any case. We can continue the trend of knocking elbows instead of the normal handshake and kiss in greeting; ditto for containing coughing. (Mr Spock’s Vulcan greeting, a hand raised with the 4 fingers paired in a V, isn’t catching on here, though I like it a lot. It’s actually derived from a Hebrew blessing, as was Leonard Nimoy himself, who played the character.) There are ancient Georgian precedents for selfquarantine in the event of having a dangerous infectious disease. Above Shatili in Khevsureti is a “village of the dead”. Stone houses half set into the earth, with windows near ground level. Peer in and you will see… a litter of the bones of those who left their community and went there to die, being fed through the window until this was accomplished. I have seen it myself. Individuals sacrificed themselves and villages were saved. Can Georgians give up their suddenly high-risk wedding, funeral and birthday feasts, though? It’s hard to predict what the state of the world will be a month from now in the current crisis, let alone in half a year, though one can make educated guesses. Self-isolation, internet use way up, all

H1N1, SARS & MERS Outbreaks Compared to Coronavirus BY TEA MARIAMIDZE


he World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, which is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 having not previously been identified in humans, first as an emergency and then a global pandemic. The virus causes respiratory illness with symptoms such as a cough, fever and in more severe cases, pneumonia. However, it is not the first widespread decease that has claimed mass lives in the last century. Influenza H1N1 and other illnesses like SARS and MERS have also caused a lot of people to worry in the past. So how does COVID-19 actually compare to these illnesses?

H1N1 The coronavirus outbreak is not as severe as the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus, the socalled “swine flu”. H1N1 is a respiratory illness that occurs in pigs, caused by the Influenza A virus, and it initially began in Mexico in 2009. Data on H1N1 deaths vary, but even with the smallest estimates, this number is higher than today's new coronavirus cases. COVID-19, which first appeared in late December, is infecting an average of 51,172 people a month, but the swine flu infected at least 35,000,000 a month. H1N1 infected 700 million to 1.4 billion people at the time and around 575,000 deaths were reported. Thus, the mortality rate was around 0.2%. It was announced by WHO as a pandemic in June 2009, marking the first global pandemic since the 1968 Hong Kong Flu. On 10 August 2010, WHO announced that the H1N1 influenza virus had moved into the post-pandemic period, but that “localized outbreaks of various magnitudes were likely to continue”. Unlike for COVID-19, while we already have effective vaccines and antiviral medications that can help prevent and reduce the severity of the flu. Additionally, many people have residual immunity to it from years past, as our bodies have fought it before. However, we don’t have any immunity to COVID-19, and it appears to be more contagious and fatal than the flu so far, but this could very well change as we learn more.

SARS The first cases of SARS, a severe acute respiratory syndrome, were reported in Asia in 2002. From November 2002 to July 2003, more than 8,000 probable SARS cases were reported to the World Health Organization from 29 countries. Since then, a small number of cases have occurred as a result of laboratory accidents or, possibly, through animal-tohuman transmission. Transmission of SARS is primarily from person to person, mainly during the second week of illness. The illness appeared in November 2002 in the Guangdong province of southern China. This area

Image source: anyflix.in

is still considered a potential zone for the re-emergence of SARS. Since the end of the global epidemic in July 2003, SARS has reappeared four times: three in laboratory accidents and once in southern China where the source of infection remains undetermined, although there is circumstantial evidence of animal-to-human transmission. The SARS pandemic was eventually brought under control in July 2003, following a policy of isolating people suspected of having the condition and screening all passengers travelling by air from affected countries for signs of the infection. During the period of infection, there were 8,098 reported cases of SARS and 774 deaths. This means the virus killed about 1 in 10 people who were infected. People over the age of 65 were particularly at risk, with over half of those who died from the infection being in this age group. The mortality rate was 15%.

MERS Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness that is new to humans. It was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to around 27 other countries,10 countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula and 17 countries outside of the Arabian Peninsula. Most people infected with MERS-CoV developed severe respiratory illness, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. There have been around 2500 cases of MERS known and 858 deaths worldwide. Therefore, the death rate is 34.4%.

COVID-19 COVID-19 has similar symptoms to H1N1 and seasonal flu but since January 2020 it has spread to 172 countries and territories around the world, infecting at least 219,332 people and killing around 9000. Nearly 86,000 patients have recovered. Worldometer reports that around 6% of the coronavirus cases are critical, meaning the mortality rate stands at 9%. The new coronavirus spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze, or through droplets of saliva, or discharge from the nose. You can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face. One of the most effective ways not to get the virus is to stay home and forego contact with people.

meetings cancelled with huge knock-on effects in many industries from hospitality to entertainment to sports, and further knock-ons from there. Public transport stopping. Rediscovery of abandoned arts and crafts, self-sufficiency, unfinished projects, home cooking and the joys of reading a book (onscreen or actual ink on paper)? Families forced to communicate face to face? New ways of working from home? I have long been a natural skeptic in the face of internet-propagated fake news. A very necessary trait with news and advice on the virus too, as some of it is outright panic-mongering or simply wrong suggestions of what to do or not. Who writes these things? Anarchists longing for chaos, I suppose, though if it came to their own door they might not be so gleeful. I am also an optimist, and hope urgently that this is not too wrong an outlook. Things could be so much worse: we have electricity, and water, and gas where it’s piped in, and

communications. We’ve not regressed to 19th century levels, or Dark Age ones. Dystopian fiction offers many scenarios of how this might play out; may we never have to experience them beyond page and screen. If the villagers show up with pitchforks and burning torches, though, demanding that we share out all remaining shop goods among them, I shall go out giving. Better that than hoard and be remembered for not helping, in this village of Etseri whose very name in Hebrew MEANS help. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer and photographer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/ SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti




MARCH 20 - 23, 2020

WHO to Trump: Viruses Know No Borders BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


hen asked about why the US President keeps using the term ‘ C h i n e s e v i r u s ’, Tr u m p f u r t h e r defended his classification of the coronavirus, as a ‘Chinese virus’ at a White House news conference on the pandemic. “It’s not racist at all,” Trump said, “No, not at all.” Trump was asked about his insistent use of the term ‘Chinese virus’ amid reports of dozens of instances of prejudice against Chinese Americans who have been attributed to spreading the COVID-19. “Because it comes from China,” Trump said to the journalist who asked him that question. “That’s why.” "I have a great love for all of the people from our country, but as you know China tried to say at one point ... that it was caused by American soldiers. That can't happen. It's not gonna happen, not as

long as I'm President. It comes from China," the President said. “Viruses know no borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank. So, it’s really important we be careful in the language we use lest it leads to the profiling of individuals associated with the virus,” Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, said at a news confer-

ence when reporters asked about Trump’s provocative comments against Asians. “This is a time for solidarity, this is a time for facts, this is a time to move forward together, to fight this virus together. There is no blame in this,” Ryan added, “All we need now is to identify the things we need to do to move forward quickly, with speed and to avoid any indication of ethnic or other associations with this virus.”


8mm & 16mm Filmmaking Workshop with Baltic Analog Lab



agnolia Film Lab is a new kind of film lab for a new generation of film photographers. The lab is a brand new 2020 production, and it hasn’t even opened yet. The grand opening of Magnolia Film Lab is planned on April 11 in Fabrika. For now, Magnolia Film Lab unites a film shop, a camera shop and a shop to “accessorize your analog lifestyle.” The team behind the lab says that is a “movement of passionately devoted film photographers,” often using the hashtag #ArtBornHere as their slogan. The Magnolia Film Lab is all about building a community who choose film over megapixels and their ambition is to provide best technology and techniques for those aspiring in film art. Their upcoming workshop in June is an example of them keeping their word. In partnership with Baltic Analog Lab, the Magnolia Film Lab will, from June 15, offer a one-week-long 8mm & 16 mm filmmaking workshop led by Latvian filmmaker Ieva Balode, and as the Mag-

nolia Film Lab has promised, it is going to be a “pretty epic” experience. The Riga-born artist has worked on many solo and group projects, creating analog images. The 32-year-old Balode takes part in international exhibitions and festivals, presenting her work both in installation, as well as cinema and performance situation. As a curator, she is a founding member of Baltic Analog Lab, a collective of artists providing a space and platform for analog film production, research and education. She is also a director of the experimental film festival Process, founded in Riga in 2017. For her artistic statement, Balode has said: “I am interested in human consciousness and transcendence within it. In my artistic practice, I mainly work with analogue images, both still and moving. I am particularly interested in experimental image-making in the lab and using those images to express concepts I create and live throughout my own life.” It seems that working with her on experimental images will truly be an interesting experience. Balode’s experience has enabled her to design a workshop as an introduction to film format for beginners, as well as those who are familiar with analog film,

meaning that simply the interest for it gives everyone enough credibility to join the workshop. During the June workshop, participants will be working in small teams throughout the week to produce original short films. When the workshop wraps up, the analog image enthusiasts will able to present the films they have shot during the workshop on the rooftop of Fabrika. The film workshop will provide the film and various cameras, as well as give an insight into analog editing and projecting. This is also a chance to learn hand processing in the darkroom using lomo tanks and film chemistry – both negative as well as positive. The artist will also work with the participants on experimental narration, using creative shooting, editing, processing and different storytelling techniques. The cost to reserve your seat for this workshop is 120 EUR. The good news there is that the workshop includes all materials, cameras, projectors, film, chemicals for developing, and a few cold beers, as a bonus, to boot. The bad news here, is that the participant number is limited to 15 and the if you want to apply, you’ll need to hurry since there are only a few seats left.




Interview with an Artistic Couple, Part 1: Mamuka Tsetskhladze INTERVIEW BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE


he coronavirus has emptied our streets and filled our heads with anxiety and concern. Especially at times like this, we need to be reminded of the beauty that exists in our world. With that in mind, GEORGIA TODAY, at the invitation of BI Auction, sat down for an interview with a couple of artists who are very important to the Georgian contemporary art scene: Mamuka Tsetskhladze and Lia Shvelidze. The painter husbandand-wife discuss with us their growing up in the Soviet Union, their art influences, the story of how they met, and walk us through the process of the creative work.

MAMUKA, WHO FIRST INTRODUCED YOU TO ART? HOW AND WHEN DID YOU START PAINTING? I started taking painting lessons at the former Pioneer Palace, now known as the Georgian National Youth Palace, when I was in the 7th – 8th grade at school. My teachers were Mikheil Tsalkalamanidze and Bondo Bakuradze. They explained and demonstrated how to paint different things. After that, I started going to the Nikoladze Art School, where I was taught by Misha Gabunia for two years. After the two years it was time to enroll in the Tbilisi State Academy of Art, so I went to Iura Mekvabishvili, who gave me private lessons. I went to the Tbilisi State Academy of Art in 1980 and studied in the studio of famous artist Korneli Sanadze for five years.

BEFORE TAKING PROFESSIONAL ART CLASSES FOR THE FIRST TIME, DID YOU TRY TO PAINT ON YOUR OWN? I used to draw, like every other child. After seeing my drawings, they must have thought I was better at it than the average child my age, so they had me start taking art classes.

AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER, WHAT/WHO HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR ART-PIECES AND SHAPED YOU AS AN ARTIST? Probably visiting the Hermitage, the big painters: Leonardo, Raphael, El Greco, Delacroix, the impressionists, Van Gogh, and the list goes on...

THE INFLUENCE OF THE IMPRESSIONISTS IS APPRECIATED IN YOUR WORK TO THIS DAY. Every artist has been influenced by something; there is simply no other way. First, you have to learn from the existing examples and only then can you develop your own style and choose a theme. I have named a lot of artists, but I don’t have one or two favorites, I like a number of painters.

DOES THIS MEAN THAT YOU CAN’T SAY EXACTLY WHICH ARTIST OR ART MOVEMENT HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU? That’s right. All of it, from the ancient Egyptian Fayum portraits to Jeff Koons’ latest art work; all are important to me. I believe that in every century there were great painters who have their designated place in history.

HOW IMPORTANT IS A PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION FOR AN ARTIST’S DEVELOPMENT? Some technical education is necessary. If a person has a gift, 1-2 years are enough. Some immensely gifted students can learn everything in a week. You can see right at the beginning who’s missing what and how long they need to study. It’s crucial for an artist to know the technical details of painting, such as construction, palette, brushes. Painting is hard to imagine without a basic education.

HOW HARD WAS IT TO GROW AS AN ARTIST DURING THE SOVIET REGIME? There were specific themes [we had to stick to]. You could paint the workers, or the landscapes, or still life, or choose the space theme, where abstraction was

possible. I can’t say that we were under a lot of pressure and they were hanging people, because I didn’t experience it that way. When I was developing as an artist, the strictest times in the soviet regime had already passed. At the time, the Soviet Union was taking its last breaths, so to say, so the limitations didn’t affect me or my work.

HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE GEORGIAN MODERN ART SCENE AND, GENERALLY, OUR COUNTRY’S PLACE IN WORLD ART? I would say that we are trying and moving forward. As for modern art, it is a whole independent field, divided into two parts: the one before Picasso and the one after him. I believe that people nowadays have more information and means of discovering art, which is noticeable, because they don’t ask silly questions anymore.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION WHILE PAINTING YOUR CITYSCAPES? When you are 50 years old, going on 60, and you’re still painting, inspiration doesn’t work anymore: there’s no need for it. When you’ve been painting for 40 years, this means that it is a part of you already; otherwise you would not be able to do it for so long.

WHAT IS THE MAIN MISSION OF ART? WHAT PURPOSE DOES IT SERVE IN A PERSON AND SOCIETY? A person should be able to look at something that someone else made. Maybe they’ll like it and when they go to the museum they won’t think the art piece just appeared from nowhere. In the Netherlands, they have this thing: they take a dying person, who has just hours

left to live, to the museums. This person looks at Rembrandt, Leonardo, etc. to say farewell to something which is the most valuable Manmade thing in the world – art, painting.

IN MODERN ART, PAINTING HAS A LESSER ROLE THAN ART INSTALLATIONS. THAT BEING TODAY’S REALITY, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE FUTURE OF PAINTING? These are just different directions of art: video art, object, installation, performance. They don’t interfere with anything. There will always be Picasso and Van Gogh. Today, we are at a stage of development where everything can turn into art. Everybody has the freedom to create whatever they want. I choose to look at it in a positive way.

HAVE YOU EVER TRIED ANY OTHER ART DIRECTION APART FROM PAINTING? I have written a few short stories and I always thought that if not a painter, I would have become a writer. For example, I read “The Museum of Innocence” by Orhan Pamuk and it had a special impact on me - it changed me, I even experienced a cultural shock. I’m jealous of big writers’ work, you might think “hey, I could have written this myself,” but you can’t, really.

TELL US HOW YOU PAINT. I don’t have a specific routine. One day I may not paint at all; I might just read a book. Another day, I may start painting and not stop for a week or 10 days. What is important is that every painting is a process and needs time. It is also necessary to take a break and look at your work from the side. There have been moments when I didn’t know when to stop and went too far. At those times it’s

better to start fresh, from the beginning.

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT TEACHING OTHERS HOW TO PAINT? Lia is the one with the teaching experience, although I taught for a year at the Nikoladze Professional Art School. Lia has had a studio since 2006, where she teaches people of different ages. She doesn’t teach to prepare students for the Art Academy, but to show them what art is and how it can also be therapeutic. As for me teaching, I used to like the idea, but not anymore.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BUILD YOUR STUDIO FAR FROM THE CITY, IN SAGURAMO? It’s quiet, peaceful; the air is fresh and you can always find a parking spot, that’s why I prefer to work outside of the city, although I do have another studio in Tbilisi. This studio is new. We finished building it six months ago.

ARE YOU PLANNING ON DOING ANY PROJECTS IN THE FUTURE? Not yet, although I’m thinking of having an exhibition.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS? They already know what to do. Nowadays, it’s very hard to think, work, even for me. In my days you could paint for 5-6 hours, but now no-one has the time. It’s difficult.

Eurovision Song Contest Canceled over Coronavirus Concerns BY ANA DUMBADZE


his year’s Eurovision Song Contest has been canceled over coronavirus concerns. The event was due to take place at Rotterdam's 16,000 capacity Ahoy Arena, with the final on 16 May. The Dutch government has already banned mass gatherings in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading. "We, like the millions of you around the world, are extremely saddened that it cannot take place in May," organizers said in a statement. “Over the past few weeks, we have explored many alternative options to allow the Eurovision Song Contest to go

ahead,” the European Broadcasting Union, the organizer of the event, said in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, claiming that no solution worked and “It is impossible to continue with the live event as planned.” This year will be the first time the competition has not taken place since it started in 1956. However, the organizers promise that they will come back “stronger than ever” in 2021. This year’s Eurovision Song Contest was to see Georgian singer Tornike Kipiani present the song "Take Me As I Am”. Tornike won the first season of ‘X Factor Georgia’ in 2014, and was selected to represent his country in the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 after winning ‘Georgian Idol.’




MARCH 20 - 23, 2020

Where.ge: Some Inspiration for Those Shut Indoors adventure tours. Here, one can find a great combination of alpine and coniferous plants in the resort, creating an attractive environment for relaxation. While visiting Beshumi ,you can explore the Green Lake and Khikhani Castle.






t’s not much fun being in isolation (self, or quarantined), at least not after the first week. My family is enduring the former. We are well stocked with supplies, the (heavensent!) internet is paid and we are fighting through the challenges of online classes (a concept as new for the teachers here as it is for the kids). Thankfully, we also have a garden and a fair variety of animals to ensure we keep some nature in our lives. But it seems to be only when you don’t have access to something that you realize just how much you have been missing out on, of all that there is to see and do, especially with the abundance that there is in Georgia! Contact with the outside world is possible to a certain extent through digital means, yet we long to feel the wind in our hair, the mountain stones under our boots, the sand between our toes and the sound of roaring rivers (or sea) in our ears. The reality of that is something that the internet just cannot give. But for most of us, right now, with that virus-we-shall-notname raging, home-dreaming is the best we can do, and plan for future adventures. To inspire you, I have picked out two articles from the latest issue of the Where.ge travel guide (on everywhere you should Go, Stay, Eat, Drink and Buy in Georgia). Pick up a copy next time you’re in town, or check it out online (where.ge) for weekly-updated travel and gastronomy treats!


Guest Tips On Exploring Georgia Nana Janashia, Executive Director of CENN, gives us her top tips for exploring Georgia:

EXPLORING THE MOUNTAINOUS MUNICIPALITY IN ADJARA REGION Keda is a mountainous part of the Adjara region notable for its cultural sites and natural resources. While visiting Keda, you can explore historical heritage sites, which consist of cultural monuments, watchtowers, arched stone bridges, local cuisine and wine cellars. Diverse flora and fauna, as well as numerous waterfalls, can be seen in the gorges of Adjaristskali and other mountainous rivers flowing in Keda Municipality.

MULTICULTURAL TSALKA Tsalka is a multiethnic, multicultural place in the Kvemo Kartli region filled with organic nature, and material and non-material cultural heritage. Tsalka is notable for its cultural heritage, natural monuments and archaeological sites. Cyclopean habitation sites, ruins of fortresses, caves, petroglyphs, monoliths, stone oil presses, old settlements, burial grounds, and kurgans are scattered across its territory. While exploring Tsalka, you must visit Dashbashi Canyon, where many water-abundant streams flow from its slopes and create small waterfalls.

DIVING INTO THE CLOUDS OF BESHUMI Beshumi is the right place for those who enjoy picnics, hiking, horse riding and

Shurubumu Cave is located in Chkhorotsku Municipality, a four-story horizontal cave on the first floor of which you will find a siphon lake, rich in droplets and a branch which extends over 300 meters. The main line of the cave is blocked with the 52-meter high remains of an avalanche. Shurubumu is a very interesting cave, in that it has yet to be fully explored, as well as for its connection to the vertical structured Khaverdovana cave, from which the Ankara River flows after a distance of 7 km.

KRTSANISI PARK Visit the Krtsanisi Forest Park, which covers 200 hectares between Tbilisi and Rustavi. The park is rich in biodiversity and you can meet more than a hundred species of birds. The park offers a unique opportunity to enjoy nature, far from the noise of the city, dust and urban environment. Flat terrain and beautiful alleys make it perfect for bike riding. It is also best for picnics, educational tours, excursions and bird watching. What’s New to See & Do Done all the regular sights and fancy something fun? Want to wake up your brain and open your eyes to new sensations? Check out these spacy, science-y and entertaining afternoons out in the capital.

formances, experimental art, and more are organized there. The Terrace, City Mall, 1 Kavtaradze St., Saburtalo, Tbilisi. (+995) 551 55 39 13

MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS Hidden in the cute mountain-side backstreets of Old Tbilisi is a museum of fun and magic, built within a wooden-balconied 19th century house wrapped around a traditional courtyard. Boasting everything from mirrors that twist you or make you half-disappear, to the dizzying Vortex, holograms, and the chance

- Main hall with video projections and mirrors: Eliminate the boundary between Man and Nature. Flowers, butterflies, waterfalls, birds, oceans and beautiful jellyfish will take you into the virtual world of nature. Museum spaces, artifacts, cultural treasures, and rooms designed for children will captivate the viewer and reward them with an unforgettable experience. - DIGITAL EXHIBITION OF GUSTAV KLIMT: The work of art nouveau painter Gustav Klimt is brought to life by digital technology in Tbilisi in an immersive


SPHERO You have to see it to believe it! The dome museum/planetarium is the only 360-degree museum in Georgia and offers a 40-minute immersive experience for all ages, allowing you to discover the origins and secrets of the world we live in- from stars to gravity. Head up to the roof terrace of City Mall inSaburtaloandstepintothegigantic12-foot diameter dome screen, whose projection system,dynamicambientsoundandimmersive imagery will leave you wowed. And it's not all about space as, aside from the daily full-dome shows, special lectures, live music events, artistic perfor you to defy gravity and size, the Museum of Illusions promises a long afternoon of discovery and giggles. The reception also houses a gift shop of brainteasing toys and puzzles to take home with you. 10 Betlemi Str., Tbilisi. (+995) 596 04 74 74 www.museumofillusions.ge/en/ TICKETS: Adults 19.50 GEL, Children over 6, 12.50 GEL, Family and student discounts available.

exhibition that marks the 120th anniversary of the painter’s. See his works brought to life with sounds and music, and colors exploding throughout Digital Space’s immense projection surface for a oneof-a-kind experience. Open 11 AM – 9 PM. Tbilisi Mall 3rd floor. https://digitalmuseum.ge TICKETS: 5 – 20 GEL, discounts for families. Youth and senior citizens. See their website for details.



The first Digital Art Museum in Georgia is located in Tbilisi Mall and covers 500 square meters. This is a place where visual effects and digital and virtual installations create an unexpected and paradoxical world, giving you a chance to escape from reality and experience the world with no limits. - The Georgian Room: Discover the work of Vazha Pshavela’s titled ‘Withered Beech,’ with the music and graphics created specifically for this show. The digital font was taken from the great writer’s original manuscript. Georgia’s beloved actor Murman Jinoria reads the text to make you a part of the story. - Forest of Lights: Enter a boundless world of light and beauty.

Though not the only escape room the city offers, it is one of our favorites- offering Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and, soon, Dracula! Staff are fun, multi-lingual and happy to personalize your experience by groupsize/age. Solve the puzzles and find hidden objects to move from one room to another within 60 minutes. Music and lighting effects bring each experience to life, and the controller is always watching should you need a hint or helping hand. 1 Vazha-Pshavela Dead End Tbilisi. (+995) 551 11 55 66 Escape room experience: 25 GEL per person. Boardgames room hire: 35 GEL/hr




Levan Gelbakhiani, ‘And Then We Danced’: Tradition Needs to Find New Meanings & Should Not Lose Its Identity INTERVIEWED DURING THE BERINALE BY LILY FÜRSTENOWKHOSITASHVILI


f we take Georgian national dance, of course, it's a fantastic show and experience, - young Georgian actor Levan Gelbakhiani, winner of the Berlinale Shooting Star Award for the main role in the film ‘And Then We Danced,’ told GEORGIA TODAY when we met him during the Berlinale. “It's perfection. Yet at the same time it's complicated: in my opinion, everything you do has to express your personal identity, the political situation and the sociocultural moment in time. Georgian Dance is no exception, and there is a chance to express all this through dance. For example, the ‘Marry Me in Bassiani’ performance in France, with a group that consisted of 12 Georgian dancers, staged by (La)Horde: a performance that used traditional Georgian dance elements, yet the message was far deeper than what we traditionally find when we watch Georgian dance, where you see only the beautiful form and refined movements and feel the powerful energy. Tradition needs to find new meanings and new values, and it should not lose its identity. “The ‘Marry Me in Bassiani’ performance in France was really very impressive because it dealt with a whole number of important challenges of our time: our current political situation, social evils, our sexuality issues related with the notion of virginity, the problems related to the overhauled perception of marriage in Georgian culture and premature marriages,” Gelbakhiani notes. “All this is communicated through the language of dance, which is extraordinary, because all of us know that Georgian national dance is something that represents our cultural heritage. Sure, it needs to be preserved, but it shouldn’t be frozen. Take the dance of Kintauri. Which minority groups stand behind it? Nowadays, Kintauri is performed as if it's a traditional Georgian dance and does not show any queer emotion behind it, although it was based on the tradition of queer dance and was inspired by and brought into life by queer dancers. Kintauri is now performed with dancers wearing loose, baggy trousers and a red handkerchief, whereas the true origin and the queer background of the dance is completely ignored and forgotten. Georgian dance today [if frozen] wouldn't communicate any values except those of perfection, aesthetic form, and refinement of movement, making this rich tradition of dance quite superficial.”

GEORGIAN DANCE HAS ALWAYS BEEN PART OF THE CAUCASIAN CULTURAL TRADITION. I think if Georgians found out where the traditional Georgian costume Chokha originated, they would be deeply astonished. Chokha was not something created by the Georgians: it is originally a Caucasian costume from this region. It’s not the spiritual property of the Georgians, nor was it invented by them. It is in the same way the national costume

worn by the Armenians and by the Azerbaijani, by Ossetians and others folks living in the Caucasus. The problem with Georgians is that we appropriate everything, saying, “this and that is ours,” which is not true. Of course, it is ours in a different sense, but we have to seek an adequate form of expressing what is ours and what we own. It cannot be that everything was invented by the Georgians or belongs to Georgian culture, and Georgia cannot be the origin of the world. Indeed, diversity is far more interesting when it is mixed, and other people interpret the same culture in their different and special ways.

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE MASCULINITY, AND HOW IS IT DEFINED IN GEORGIAN DANCE? WHAT WOULD BE THE DIFFERENCES IN OTHER CULTURES, E.G. IN THE WEST? The definition of masculinity differs from country to country and there is no single definition of what a man should be like. For me, the definition of masculinity is different from what the majority of Georgians imagine. When times change and one has to adapt to a new epoch, you cannot dazzle anyone running around with a sword, which would be the traditional notion. Times and necessities change, and there is no need to wave a sword or show fists now, because other challenges exist before us. Violence is not a way out and being a real man doesn’t mean being violent.

WHAT ABOUT FEMINISM IN GEORGIA? Well, feminism is very much developed in Georgia, especially the involvement of women in politics and sociocultural processes. Indeed, even family role stereotypes have positively changed, with both parents bringing up kids. Georgia was one of the first countries to introduce votes for women, I think even earlier than Switzerland, which also shows how tolerant the Georgians are as a culture. This aspect of tolerance was in part destroyed by the totalitarian Soviet rule and reactionary Muslim influences. However, women have a right to work and the role models for men and women in Georgian society have recently changed very positively. Yet, what function do men have in a society with two million emigrants, most of them women? If they claim their masculinity, saying that they're cool, why does this nation have two million people living outside Georgia? And why are the majority of these women? These women earn money abroad and provide for their families, while their husbands spend this money drinking or in casinos. It is an enormous problem. We are equals: men and women are equal, and the roles of men and women in society have to be redefined, because a woman is not only a mother, not only here to take care of cooking and cleaning up. And the fact is that the whole country depends on the money of women who work outside of Georgia and provide for their families. If you have a look at the contemporary political and social situation in Georgia, all the structures and institutions are in crisis.



Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Natalia Chikvaidze



Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

WHAT DID ‘AND THEN WE DANCED’ GIVE YOU PERSONALLY? It definitely raised my self-awareness: it was a moment of awakening. It also transformed my perception of the world and our consciousness. I discovered a lot of things in myself and I started to value Georgian culture in a different and deeper way. In particular, I re-evaluated Georgian dance, because this dance tradition was perceived by me in a more repressive way, as something that you have to obey and something that is pressed on you. Tradition is thought of by the younger generation as subordination and violence, as something that is violently imposed upon them, because traditions are carried on in a disfigured form. Not that there is any problem with tradition, but these are misinterpreted

Journalists: Ana Dumbadze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nini Dakhundaridze, Tea Mariamidze, Tony Hanmer, Emil Avdaliani, Zaza Jgarkava, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Beka Alexishvili, Elene Dzebizashvili, Maka Bibilashvili

in contemporary Georgian reality. That’s why tradition is perceived now as something negative, although it is a source for real inspiration, self-identification, and one cannot really evolve without knowing one’s past. Knowing the problems and mistakes of the past can help a person build their future.

DID THIS FILM FREE YOU, MORE THAN YOU WERE BEFORE? Yes, I became free and this film helped me a lot. It raised my self-confidence and it helped me to re-evaluate my values. Of course, you cannot be absolutely free due to society and cultural pressures. There are always certain limits and you always ask yourself how other people see you. Yet this film immensely contributed to my personal growth. I found inner peace and freedom with it.

Photographer: Aleksei Serov Website Manager/Editor: Katie Ruth Davies Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava

WHAT WILL YOU DO NOW: CONTINUE AS A DANCER OR GO ON WITH ACTING? Well, I wouldn’t like to lose dancing because this is something I really love. Dancing inspires me spiritually; I get a different sort of emotional energy when I dance, and there's spiritual connectivity coming from it. I wouldn’t like to lose the spiritual connection with myself that comes from dance. I'll go for acting for sure. I've been acting in amateur theaters and commercials since childhood, and now I’ve started out on a professional acting career. I believe acting is also a significant means of conveying a message and communicating with people. One should always use one's profession in order to present a certain message: it is a sort of activism.


1 Melikishvili Str. Tbilisi, 0179, Georgia Tel.: +995 32 229 59 19 E: info@georgiatoday.ge F: GeorgiaToday ADVERTISING & SUBSCRIPTION

+995 555 00 14 46 E-mail: marketing@georgiatoday.ge

Reproducing material, photos and advertisements without prior editorial permission is strictly forbidden. The author is responsible for all material. Rights of authors are preserved. The newspaper is registered in Mtatsminda district court. Reg. # 06/4-309

Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1237  

March 20 - 23, 2020

Issue #1237  

March 20 - 23, 2020