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Issue no: 1041

• APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Messages from the Prime Minister NEWS PAGE 2

German Society for Int’l Cooperation Hosts E-Governance Conference POLITICS PAGE 5

Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Award & Bank of Georgia Partnership Continues

FOCUS

ON THE MATTER OF FREEDOM

Georgian government slams negatives of US Freedom House Report PAGE

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Balkan Lessons for Georgia EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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or the first time in history, the European Commission has a Georgian citizen among its ranks of decision-makers: Policy Officer Teona Lavrelashvili, 28, who oversees the aspects of strategic communication between the Western Balkans and Turkey. The road to the European Commission was not an easy one to tread; as any of its employees can attest, it requires quite some effort, with willpower, outstanding knowledge of the field and ability to work tirelessly all necessary ingredients. Commission activities aside, Teona is also a founding member of the European Alliance for Georgia, a Brussels-based advocacy organization aiming to promote Georgia in Europe. Continued on page 10

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BUSINESS PAGE 11

Luka Okros: A Young Georgian with Fast Fingers SOCIETY PAGE 17

Ennio Morricone to Perform at Black Sea Arena CULTURE PAGE 19


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

State Security Service Head: Russian Occupation is Georgia’s Biggest Problem BY THEA MORRISON

Messages from the Prime Minister BY THE GT TEAM

P

rime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili made a number of positive statements at his governmental meeting this week. Check out the summary

below.

NATO DAYS IN GEORGIA The annual NATO Days, which are very important in terms of raising public awareness, started in Georgia on April 16 and will continue through May 1. "This year’s NATO Days celebrations are special in the regions and, importantly, in the ethnic-minority regions," said PM Kvirikashvili. The Information Center on NATO and the EU, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other institutions, carries out numerous events to ensure proper public awareness, so that the county's citizens may familiarize themselves with the benefits offered by Georgia's NATO integration, and to understand, in the PM's words, "how important stability is to Georgia." "This very cooperation brings about the stability we have today," Kvirikashvili added. "Cooperation with NATO today is as active as ever. Of greatest importance is the progress we have in the implementation of the Substantial Package, and equally invaluable is the support Georgia enjoys from NATO’s member states and Secretary General. That is why we believe that these days must be celebrated duly, and our population’s engagement and awareness is what matters most, so that our citizens may have correct information about today’s processes in our country."

14 MORE VILLAGES GRANTED HIGH-MOUNTAINOUS STATUS 14 more villages have been recognized as high-mountainous settlements, as the concessions defined by the Law on HighMountainous Regions becomes available to the residents of the villages of the Chiatura, Sachkhere, Kharagauli, Bor-

jomi, Marneuli, Kareli, Baghdati, and Tkibuli municipalities. “Upgrading the living standards of the populations of mountainous areas is one of the top objectives of the government,” the PM said. “14 villages have been added to the list of high-mountainous settlements, which means that doctors, pensioners, mothers with many children, and enterprises operating there, will enjoy additional concessions,” Kvirikashvili noted. “Tens of thousands of households are already using these concessions, which is essential not only for keeping the local population there but also for returning people to the mountainous areas. This task is not only social and economic but also security-related in nature.” The status is said to have been a success. Besides legally defined concessions, 10 million GEL has been allocated for the development of traditional mountainous cultivars and local economy.

ADB’S FUTURE WORK WILL FOCUS ON REGIONAL COOPERATION PROJECTS On Wednesday, the Asian Development Bank’s Director General for its Central and West Asia Department, Werner Liepach, held a visit to Georgia during which it was announced that the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in its future work, will focus on regional cooperation projects. “In this case, ‘regional’ refers to our country’s neighborhood, along with the countries of Central Asia, other Asian regions, and the Gulf States,” the PM said. “Most importantly, emphasis is to be placed on the effect of each Dollar or Euro spent in terms of attracting investments from the private sector. In other words, greater emphasis will be placed on the development of the private sector, on the development of green economy- alternative energy sources, and on the fulfillment of our international obligations related to the UN SDGs.” He concluded the announcement by thanking the Asian Development Bank and its local office for their “excellent cooperation.”

H

ead of the State Security Service (SSS) of Georgia, Vakhtang Gomelauri, stated that Russian occupation of Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali) regions is the most acute problem facing the country. Gomelauri made the statement on Wednesday while presenting a report in Parliament on the activities carried out by the Service last year. The sitting was followed by a closed Q&A session. “The situation in the occupied territories and the frequent violation of fundamental human rights are major challenges that determine the agenda of the SSS. The situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions demonstrates that the Russian Federation is implementing a gradual annexation policy in these regions. A clear example of this is the creation of a joint "information-coordination center" of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and the de facto Ministry of Internal Affairs in the occupied region of Abkhazia," Gomelauri said. He stressed that during the past year, Russian occupation forces have carried out more than 100 illegal military exercises in the occupied territories, “endangering not only Georgia but the entire South Caucasus region's security environment.” “Discrimination against ethnic Geor-

Head of the State Security Service (SSS) of Georgia Vakhtang Gomelauri

gians living in the occupied territories and illegal detentions still continue. Free movement and access to education in the native language are restricted. The illegal process of ‘borderization’ continues. In the reporting period, the State Security Service regularly monitored the occupied territories and the situation along the occupation line, in order to neutralize threats coming from the occupied territories. In this direction, we actively cooperate with state agencies and international partners," said Gomelauri. The SSS Head also spoke about 35-yearold Archil Tatunashvili, who died in a detention facility in breakaway Tskhinvali on February 23 in unclear circumstances. “We are doing our best to clarify who was involved and who participated in the murder,” Gomelauri said, noting the

SSS does everything in its power to fight Russian propaganda. He noted the special services of certain countries are trying to create anti-Western sentiments in Georgia. “Every country, including Russia, has its own interests and its own intelligence service designed to work abroad in favor of their country. It’s normal. However, some of them are carrying out harmful and damaging activities on the territory of other countries,” Gomelauri stated. He also claimed that despite the attempted terrorist attack in November 2017, which was successfully prevented by the SSS and other law enforcement agencies, Georgia still maintains the status of a country with low terrorist threat. He added that after the active work of the SSS, the influence of the Islamic State has significantly reduced in the country.

Turkish President Announces Early Presidential, Parliamentary Elections BY THEA MORRISON

T

urkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for early presidential and parliamentary elections. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have agreed to hold both elections on June 24, 2018, 17 months before the scheduled date. The presidential and parliamentary elections will take place under a state of emergency that has been in place since an attempted coup in July 2016. It was extended by the Turkish Parlia-

ment on Wednesday for another three months. A government spokesman made the announcement on Wednesday and the vote will be the first after last year's referendum approved a change to the constitution and the creation of an executive presidency. The extended powers for the President were not due to take effect until after presidential polls which were to take place before November 2019. Some 55 million Turkish people will be eligible to vote for the 600-seat Parliament, as well as for the President who will be able to use all the powers granted to the head of the nation through the controversial April 16, 2017 referendum that replaced the parliamentary system with an executive presidential model.

Despite the fact that the upcoming elections will mark the beginning of the implementation of the executive presidency model, abolishing the Prime Ministry, the PM of Turkey Binali Yıldırım told reporters that June is a good period for snap elections. The President needs to garner at least 50% plus one vote to be elected in the first round. If no contenders receive a simple majority, the two top candidates will run in the second round of presidential elections two weeks after, on July 8. According to Turkish media, although not yet officially announced, President Erdogan will be the joint candidate of the AKP-MHP alliance. If successful he will be able to rule until 2023 with a chance to be re-elected for a second term.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

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Hook, Line & Sinker: Freedom House Reports Draws Ire of Georgian Leaders BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI

I

f you weren’t already aware, last week, Freedom House released its new report “Nations in Transit 2018: Confronting Illiberalism.” The report offers a country-bycountry analysis of the progress and setbacks for democratization in postSoviet states, along with other European former communist countries. According to the report, Georgia’s democracy score worsened in 2017 in comparison to previous years, with its overall score now at 4.68 compared with 4.61 in the 2017 and 2016 reports, and 4.64 in 2015. The ratings are from a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of democratic progress. The overall score comprises an average of ratings for separate categories: national democratic governance; electoral process; civil society; independent media; local governance; judicial framework and independence; and corruption. Scores for Georgia in all of these categories remained unchanged with the exceptions of independent media and judiciary, where the country experienced a decline of 0.25 in both. Freedom House marked the announcement with a not-so-subtle plastering of Bidzina Ivanshivili on their Facebook cover photo. Predictably, the whole affair stung the incumbent Georgian Dream party who, in case you’ve been asleep for the past five years and 362 days (plus/ minus a day for the odd leap year), were founded by —drumroll— Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Archil Talakvadze claims Freedom House was influenced by ex-President Saakashvili

“All the world’s a stage” as William Shakespeare once said, and indeed, it didn’t take long for members of the Georgian leadership to be baited into response and slam the report. Prime Minister Kvirikashvili claimed that the “assessments by Freedom House are increasingly unobjective” and that the report “relies on totally disbalanced information. I think that Freedom House should think twice before disseminating such unobjective information and assessments regarding the quality of democratic developments in Georgia.” He added that many people have held the post of Prime Minister since Ivanishvili, “but the main trend is a whole different quality of democracy which has become default.” Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze

also criticized the report. He claimed that it was “biased” against the Georgian government, and was influenced by “pseudo-liberal forces” that “are challenging the governments of Georgia and the United States.” At a special press briefing held at the headquarters of Georgian Dream last Thursday, Kobabkhidze stressed Georgia’s “fundamental progress” towards democracy, freedom and human rights since the 2012 unseating of Saakashvili’s United National Movement party. “What preceded the year 2012 was rigged elections, zero balance among branches of government, gross human rights violations, including torture, rape, systemic practice of confiscation of property, full subordination of the judiciary to the Justice Ministry, [and] the govern-

ment’s total arbitrariness,” the Parliament Speaker stated. Consequently, Kobakhidze then emphasized that while these “problems” had been successfully addressed in subsequent years, no significant changes were reflected with respect to Georgia’s overall democracy score, nor in terms of specific evaluation categories, including independent media, judicial framework and independence, and civil society. Kobakhidze labelled the identical scores in the media category in 2012 and 2018 “ridiculous,” demonstrating the report’s “bias.” “In 2012, the government had an absolute monopoly over the media; all three national broadcasters - Rustavi 2, Imedi and GPB – had been illegally subjected to the influence of Mikheil Saakashvili and UNM in 2004-2012,” he said.

Kobakhidze added that identical rankings in the judicial independence category were similarly “ridiculous.” “The judiciary was under the total control of the Justice Ministry before 2012, and the consequence was illegal rulings against tens of thousands of people; the court was successfully used against businesses, and as a tool for political persecution,” he said. “The unchanged civil society score was also surprising; while civil society was largely loyal to the government before 2012, in subsequent years its attitudes became more oppositional, which should have reflected positively on the score, but the authors have demonstrated their partiality in this case as well,” Kobakhidze said. Furthermore, Kobakhidze claimed that the report assessment that ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili’s influence remained “one of the key impediments” to Georgia’s democratic functioning, resonated with “the artificial picture drawn by Rustavi 2 and Saakashvili’s other friends.” “Speaking of informal governance without specifying its signs lacks argument,” he said. The speaker also talked about the sources of the report, arguing that the authors were reliant on the position of the kind of Georgian NGOs “which lack competence and are biased against the authorities.” “These are the so-called liberal, rather pseudo-liberal forces, which are challenging the governments of Georgia and the US,” he said, adding that the best example of this was “the leadership of the National Democratic Institute in Georgia, for whom criticism of its own Continued on page 4


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

The Middle East’s (Eternal) Conundrum: Are We (Really) at a Crossroads? BY VICTOR KIPIANI

K

now Your Neighborhood. And know it as well as you can. This is indeed a most genuine appeal when it comes to discussing what is actually happening in the Middle East, the different lines the region is evolving along and the situation’s effect upon neighboring countries and beyond. Understandably enough, Georgians focus their attention upon partners and forums such as the US, EU or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and largely tend to ignore the Middle East and its "suburbs". This, however, is a big mistake, as the latter region is practically boiling over into our own backyard, while Georgia, whether the country likes it or not, belongs to these "suburbs" (i.e. to the wider Middle East, if the reader wishes to cherry-pick nicer expressions).

INSIDERS: SAME ACTORS, SAME ASPIRATIONS The insiders are those states that are always "honorary members" of every club, occupying the front row during developments in the Middle East, and in our view Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey may freely qualify as such. And yet we are also firmly of the opinion that the story starts with an opening chapter on Turkey. This should not come as a surprise, since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the aftermath of the SykesPicot Agreement not only led to the empire’s fragmentation but also gave birth to what we formally recognize nowadays as the inner and outer contours (yes, "contours", international and administrative borders being so heavily in flux these days) of the Middle East— a region consumed by a myriad of national, proxy-national, ethnic and ethno-religious conflicts. On top of all this comes the increasing clout of modern Turkey, which, as if reversing the Treaty of Lausanne (the 1923 peace treaty which effectively did away with Turkey as a national state, but was not recognized by the Kemalists), backs up its assertive walk by re-emerging as a regional power. Ongoing operations in Syria and Iraq, the establishment of its largest overseas military base in the Somali capital Mogadishu, and nearly unchallenged control of the waters around Cyprus all predetermine Turkey's heavy influence over Middle Eastern affairs. Yet while Turkey is the only country which unabashedly attempts to shape the future of the region from a position of strength (including through proxies), it is openly colliding with at least three countries which have an interest in the region's future: Russia, Iran, and the US. If read carefully, the Turkish dilemma reflects the problem of being forced into a move one does not want to make, which is sometimes not a symbol of strength, but of weakness. For instance, Turkey is asking for Russia's tacit approval of the Afrin offen-

sive or of the use of military aviation, which reveals Erdogan’s bravado as no more than the subjugation of his actions to someone's will. On the other hand, however, with a predominantly Sunni population and a unique history of direct rule that dates back to Ottoman times, Turkey is relatively well positioned to strike bargains over her interests, and that leverage has very recently being demonstrated during the working-out of a Russian-Turkish modus operandi over control of Northern Syria. Last but not least, Turkey's unwavering ambitions to enter the fray of geoeconomics are evident in its desire to confront Italian and French energy companies in Cypriot waters. The next country to pay close attention to is definitely Iran, which is experiencing a heyday in the Middle East with an arch of Iranian influence running through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Qatar. The only country with an overwhelmingly Shia population, Iran fervently competes with the Arab states for regional domination in various ways. By supporting Assad in Syria, for example, Iran is trying to accomplish two goals simultaneously: keeping Iraq as its "backyard" (an unimaginable twist of events when looking back to the IranIraq war in the 1980s), and preserving its access to Lebanon and thus to the Mediterranean. This maverick game does have its own costs, however, since backing Assad's regime pits Iran against Turkey, and its inability to fully match the Turkish military threat forces Iran to rely upon and cooperate with Russia. An even more vivid illustration of the confrontations between Shia and Sunni and Persians and Arabs is Iran’s standoff with Saudi Arabia in Yemen, where the Saudi-led Sunnis are at loggerheads with the Shiite Houthi rebels supported by Tehran. Beyond what we nominally consider the Middle East, the latent rivalry between Iran and Turkey is gaining momentum on the region's fringes, with a discreet retrenchment of the latter and the newly reinvigorated revisionism of Russia. The South Caucasus and, more specifically, Azerbaijan, is the arena in which a new kind of future impasse might be emerging. Azerbaijan and Turkey are closely related—ethnically, culturally, linguistically, politically—and Iran’s encroachment in the region relies heavily upon the sizeable Azeri population (nearly 25 million) living in North-western Iran (which the authorities in Tehran also see as a threat in terms of viable secessionist claims). Nonetheless, we are of the opinion that any talk of the balance being tipped in Iran’s favour is premature given the strong military, energy transport and trade links between Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is noteworthy that Turkey recently even suspended the broadcasting of a regular radio program for insulting the President of Azerbaijan and his work. Generally speaking, Ankara is very keen to apply sharp forms of power, and will no doubt continue to do

so, for the time being at least. As for Iran, the country is definitely a critical factor which should not be underestimated (e.g. its control over Lebanon and masterminding of Iraqi domestic politics), but Tehran’s influence should equally not be overestimated either (e.g. its inability to fully control Syria). We have previously made a few references to Saudi Arabia, but the country unquestionably demands closer scrutiny. Far from holding a true hegemony over the running of regional affairs, this state, originally crafted by Britain, presents a unique combination of a long-standing royal dynasty (the Al Saud) and a leading religious family (the Al Shaykh), and the country's governance is the result of a power-sharing arrangement between the two. This vital arrangement can help us to better understand Saudi Arabia’s current stance in the Middle East and beyond. In a nutshell, Saudi regional aspirations are driven by the desire to contain their historical foe, Iran, by curtailing Tehran's direct or indirect influence throughout the aforementioned Iranian arch of influence and by quelling any buds of discontent among Saudi Arabia’s Shia population (a mere fraction of the country's population, but residing in the country’s oil-rich eastern provinces). This rivalry is aggravated not only by Saudi Arabia’s layered and fragile social structure, in which maintaining stability and order necessitates tectonic efforts and flows of money, but also by the need for Saudis to violate their own ideological principles by e.g. acting in tacit concert with Israel through military hardware supplies and intelligence sharing in order to minimize Iranian threats.

OUTSIDERS: THE PERIPHERY DOES (NOT) MATTER The foreign policy pursued by the current US administration has been discussed in detail throughout our various recent articles, and without wanting to repeat some of its characteristics, it is however important to re-emphasize the fact that the current US strategy in the Middle East lacks clarity, and that the US being bogged down in Syria and Iraq certainly boosts Russian “Great Game” in the region. The complexities of US engagement in the region are historical, and lack a linear set of principles when addressing challenges and aligning actions with overlapping interests. These days are no exception, but it still has to be said that the whole relationship system has been turned upside down. To name but a few related "curiosities": the US has to accept Iran when fighting IS in Syria while at the same time confronting Iranian nuclear capabilities; Washington’s support for Kurdish militia (e.g. the YPG) displeases its key NATO ally in the region, Turkey (although the US and Turkey are generally no strangers to disagreement)—a problem compounded by the vague status of the Incirlik air base. As with other international agendas, the Trump administration is

facing the same question (an eternal one for major powers): what are US interests? And, most importantly, what price is the US prepared to pay? In defence of the US position, however, it should be stated that developments in the Middle East have their origins not in the Cold War, but are instead predominantly the result of various blood feuds. Surprisingly to some (which is surprising in itself), Russia’s playing of its Middle Eastern card was deft and timely enough. Alongside hard power (e.g. Russia’s overt military presence in Syria, its use of pro-Assad forces as proxies, the dramatic uptick in arms sale to the MENA region since 2000 and recent Iraqi interest in acquiring the S-400 air defense system), Moscow is actively pursuing a political agenda in the region, and is thereby making a lucky attempt (in the short term, at least) to become an ideological force and paragon (e.g. by hosting its Syrian National Dialogue Congress). This trend has also unintentionally coincided with the US administration’s global withdrawal. Coincidentally, however, is the nagging feeling that Russian gains are only temporary, since developments in the Middle East are for domestic consumption only, and when it comes to a domestic agenda, many critical things need to be watched closely and indeed feared in terms of the sustainability of Russia's political and economic fundamentals. Israel also deserves special mention in the Middle Eastern context, but this should be a matter for separate and more extensive discussion.

ALL THIS MATTERS TO US Several undeniable and critical features are easily detectable in Middle Eastern developments (and indeed beyond): national states raising the stakes by projecting power across their national bor-

ders and tailoring their interests by regionalizing them; and the mightier and more ambitious a state is, the wider its regional dimensions become. Perhaps this is also characteristic of the rapidly changing world order, which has become less constrained by national frameworks and strongly tilts towards extending coverage over entire regions at a stroke. And besides, the experiment of creating a "Mesopotamian liberal democracy" has also failed. Clearly, the risks the region presents put us, Georgia, on high alert—not only militarily (which, if asked, is of lesser concern) but also in terms of the challenge of preserving national and social cohesion, avoiding unrest and disruption and preventing friction between different communities. This is of course a topic that merits wider discussion and lies beyond the scope of this article, but a few key thoughts came to our mind at this point. Firstly, the importance of mechanisms for properly co-ordinated intelligence sharing with our allies and partners. This would be possible by building up truly formidable intelligence services at our end, whose work would exclusively focus upon national security concerns (and nothing else), staffed with real professionals and, quite frankly, patriots (alas, we are forgetting the word). Secondly, that of mitigating (if not eliminating) potential sources of ethnic or religious discontent within the country by dynamically incorporating such concerns into a truly national discussion. And lastly, we should seriously attempt to become a regional centre for dialogue and peace by turning Georgia into a convenient forum (a "Vienna of the Caucasus"?) in which conflicting parties can meet and hold discussions. The need to rise to these and countless other challenges requires us to “think big” and to think boldly.

Hook, Line & Sinker: Freedom House Reports Draws Ire of Georgian Leaders Continued from page 3

government is an everyday thing.” Speaker Kobakhidze also emphasized that these forces had “nothing in common with liberalism and liberal values.” “Our government is exactly a liberal government [in its classic sense], and I would even say, the most liberal government in the history of Georgia,” he said. “We rest on values such as democracy, rule of law, human rights protection, justice, equality and tolerance, but at the same time, pseudo-liberalism and the forces which are challenging our national identity, traditions and the Georgian churches, as well as the forces which are challenging the very same values in the US, are unacceptable for us,” the Speaker said. Vasil Maghlaperdize, the head of the

Georgian Public Broadcaster, also had something to say regarding Freedom House’s assessment of Georgian media independence. “Not only Georgian residents but also anyone who’s ever passed by Georgia would not believe that media independence is the same as in the past years. I won’t elaborate on the poor condition media was in…recall the crackdowns or satellite marches, how several channels used to broadcast the same information and so on. If somebody thinks that the same situation was present in 2017 as well, they are either unqualified or mistaken,” he said. Naturally, opposition MPs weren’t to be left out, with it being claimed that the conclusions of the report were a cause of concern to Georgia’s aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration. Salome Samadashvili from United National Move-

ment (UNM) told RUSTAVI 2 that “if the government cannot see the extent of the strategic threat the report poses, it confirms that they cannot understand that strategic goals the country has to pursue immediately.” Iraki Abesadze, also of the UNM, accused Georgian Dream of “desperately trying to shield Ivanishvili and his interests [from criticism] instead of discussing solutions to problems.” On Wednesday afternoon, leader of parliamentary Georgian Dream (GD) majority, Archil Talakvadze, took to Facebook to slam Freedom House for criticizing democracy in Georgia, saying the research is based on the information provided to them by former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, wanted in Georgia for multiple charges, and his party - the United

National Movement (UNM). “Despite all this, even according to this report, Georgia still remains in the leading position in the region…Any person or organization that speaks about selective justice and political vendetta in Georgia either has no idea of the processes in this country or is biased,” Talakvadze’s post reads. “The report contains the most tendentious assessments and approaches; it contains factual errors, makes ungrounded assumptions and repeats the UNM and Saakashvili's narrative in a number of directions,” he added. Furthermore, the leader of the parliamentary majority underlined that “open and democratic governance, as well as the studies of international organizations, are acceptable” for the Georgian government when these assessments are

based on reality. “Freedom House is an American organization. The US is our strategic partner, and we take care of this relationship. That is why we read the report carefully and feel obliged to respond to the assessments expressed in it. Such a tendency of Freedom House cannot damage Georgian-American relations, however, this organization has to feel more responsibility in discussing such issues,” Talakvadze stated. The Project Director of the “Nations in Transit” Report, Nate Schenkkan, was dismissive of the criticism, tell OC MEDIA that “Freedom House and Nations in Transit approach our analytical task in a nonpartisan way, as is clear through our scores for Georgia during different governments both under the UNM and GD”.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

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German Society for Int’l Cooperation Hosts E-Governance Conference BY BENJAMIN MUSIC

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etting a new passport can be a real pain if your country doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure. Losing a passport a couple of days before flying off to a different country exacerbates the situation heavily. For two days, Tbilisi was the location of an international working Conference for EU’s Eastern Partnership member states to discuss new ideas and innovations for e-governance. Over 50 international experts from the EU, Germany, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, and Estonia are exchanging their experiences in sectors such as electronic services and monitoring, smart city, and electronic engagement. “The International Conference aims at establishing an effective international exchange network along with future cooperation in the field of e-governance in the EU Eastern Partnership countries. During the conference, cooperation plans will be discussed. The Conference format also hosts workshops for groups and issues related to the introduction of innovative technologies in the field of service delivery in participating countries,” announced GIZ, the German Society for International Cooperation prior to the event. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and GIZ, the conference, from 17 – 18 April was held in Tbilisi , as Georgia is the leading country in the sector with the newly constructed House of Justice as an exemplar of an efficient bureaucracy.

“Electronic services for citizens operate on a one-window basis in a transparent and high-quality manner, which is oriented towards citizens. Georgia is often visited by delegations of different countries to get a first-hand understanding of such models of effective service delivery. The success of Georgia in this field stems from the impeccable management, which Georgia implemented together with the construction of the House of Justice,” the GIZ explains the state-of-the-art public building in the center of Tbilisi. All other partner countries aim at implementing similar infrastructure projects to achieve more efficient government agencies. Decentralization, transparency, and citizen-oriented services are the key focus areas in the field and are supported by the conference, as high official civil servants are able to exchange their project ideas with other states. The goal is that at the end of the conference, the respective governments are equipped with the necessary knowledge to implement new administrative reforms. Estonia, which has managed to become a global forerunner in e-governance matters, participated at the conference to share its implementation process with other states. Hannes Astok, Head of the e-Governance Academy (eGA), an Estonian consulting firm specializing in the advancement of e-governance across the globe, oversaw the conference while lending a helping hand to the different government representatives. According to Astok, the two days should spur the communication between the different governments. “The main task is to learn from each other. The most valuable

aspect is if the various people responsible for the implementation of e-governance between the countries can communicate and stay in touch to help each other’s implementation process. Secondly, the participants learn what has been achieved in other states and how it was implemented. This allows governments to avoid making the wrong decisions, while aiding them in their search for the appropriate means of implementation. We want to convey the message that states do not need to act alone,” Astok notes, going on to emphasize that the best outcome is the set up of joint-projects run by multiple government actors from different members states of the EU Eastern Partnership, thus spurring the parallel implementation process in numerous countries. The wider public is usually unaware of the fact that only 20% of e-governance is due to the appropriate technology, as this is the only thing they see on their online interface. However, Astok notes the importance of organization as the driving factor of efficient e-governance systems, pointing to the importance of governments exchanging their implementation processes. The different nation-states often struggle with similar issues and obstacles to allow further digitalization of their citizen services. Government officials from older generations grapple to see the advantaged of e-governance, or purposely navigate around them. “It would basically eliminate corruptive schemes on multiple levels if transactions were conducted online. Fewer bribes are good for every country,” Astok says. Governments are also hesitant to use the necessary capital to transform bureau-

Image source: GIZ

cracy into an e-governance process, as they only see the costs. “Although it costs something initially, thousands of businessmen and individuals save hours of time otherwise spent on paperwork. This impact is huge, as often a digital process requires ten minutes of time, whereas going to the government office to get a new passport may require hours, counting the time used for public transport and queuing. Such an increase in efficiency translates into much higher tax revenues, eliminating the initial costs,” Astok says as he tries to convince governments. Unfortunately, he notes, the deciding factors are often the people around such projects. If the political capital doesn’t exist, no implementation will happen. Every country has lobbies hoping to avoid digitalization as they profit from a system based on physical signatures. “Lufthansa is a very interesting company as they profit from flying people firstclass across the country to sign paperwork,” laments Astok. The most advanced countries in the field have the support of key politicians and often operate in super governmen-

tal agencies, which try to calibrate the entire political system, crossing ministry lines. In the end, it all depends on the political support. Great examples of specific country projects are Ukraine’s attempts for smart cities or Azerbaijan’s improvements of service deliveries, which is based to a great extent on the Georgian House of Justice. Although many government representatives attended the conference, the goal is to help the business sector to increase their efficiency through various schemes, such as a reduction of the time needed for registering a business. Georgia proves to be a great example in the region, according to Astok, but there are still ways to improve the efficiency. “A new project called ‘Business House’ is trying to achieve similar results for SMEs as the House of Justice does already for the wider public. However, why create a physical building again? It would be easily possible to digitalize the entire process online, removing the need for businesses to travel across the city for paperwork,” states Astok.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

Former MEP Pack on Women, Education & Georgia’s Future Prospects one particular subject. The result shows how diverse the EU is, how diverse Europe is and the kids understand what it means to be European and to work equally as men and women, girls and boys. Being a long-time teacher, I say we need good vocational training so that everybody can get a good job, and we need people who can work in digital systems because while digitalization is taking a lot of jobs, it also offers new jobs. Education can teach us to understand such new jobs in this new society.

THERE’S ONGOING DEBATE IN GEORGIA AS TO WHETHER RELIGION SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN SCHOOL. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THAT ISSUE?

Photo source: netgazeti

Anti-PM Protests Continue in Big Cities of Armenia BY THEA MORRISON

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rotest rallies have been underway in all large cities of Armenia against former President Serzh Sargsyan’s election as Prime Minister on April 17. A 100-meter long Armenian tricolor was waved during the large-scale rally which kicked off at the Republic Square on April 18. The rally began with the singing of the national anthem. The demonstrators, led by “My Step” initiative leader MP Nikol Pashinyan, have blocked streets and squares in Yerevan. Over 40 people have been injured in clashes with police. Several dozens have been apprehended.

However, Serzh Sargsyan says that people’s rights and freedoms are a priority for the government. In his interview with “Shant” TV on Wednesday, he noted that “the goal is to reach the minimal level where people will be able to implement at least half of their wishes.” Sargsyan was the third President of Armenia. He won the February 2008 presidential election with the backing of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, a party in which he served as chairman, and took office in April 2008. On 18 February 2013, he was re-elected as President and served the entire term. Sargsyan was appointed Prime Minister of Armenia on April 17, 2018. Opposition figures described the move as a "power grab" and launched large-scale protests across the country.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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t’s not often that you encounter a politician that is equally knowledgeable in gender issues, youth education and EU enlargement, but Ms. Doris Pack, President of the EPP Women, former MEP (20 years!) and rapporteur on Bosnia and former member of the EP delegation to Balkan countries, is just that. So we grabbed our chance to quiz her on all the above mentioned subjects for our weekly “Messages from Brussels” series.

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTED A BILL ON THE QUOTAS OF WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR MESSAGE TO GEORGIANS AND GEORGIAN WOMEN? Georgia is not alone with this problem and it has to be solved because it’s a fact that women constitute one half of Mankind and they should be represented wherever they want to be represented. We have to give them a chance and not having quotas means that everything will go forward as it was: men, men, men. So while I think that quotas are not a solution to everything, it is a good thing to take it as a first step. I hope the leaders of the country, will accept at least that this is no humiliation of men; this is giving back to women who have never been represented as they should be. In politics, like in other activities, a bird cannot fly with one wing. We need two of them to fly and the same goes for political parties and businesses.

ONE OF THE MAJOR LEVERAGES THAT WOULD HELP US OVERCOME DISCRIMINATORY THINKING IS EDUCATION. WHAT KIND OF KNOW-HOW CAN THE EU OFFER GEORGIA IN THAT REGARD?

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First of all, it’s about national education, which should keep in mind that education should be equal. I believe there is a normal education system in Georgia and we are not intervening in the education system, but we do offer a lot of possibilities not only for students, but also for those seeking vocational training. I was behind the Erasmus+ program Protestantism, Catholicism; we have even in schools possibilities to bring at the age of 8-18-year-olds together working on the same subject. I was behind the Erasmus plus program; we see to it that children, leaders and teachers in five or six schools in the EU come together to work on

In Germany, religions are taught in schools- Protestants, Catholics and even Islam. Teachers don’t try to indoctrinate; but if a country doesn’t have this tradition of having religious education in schools, I think it’s better not to do it at all and instead do it where the kids can choose to go or where the family can choose to send them to learn about their religion. When you have high cultural and even religious diversity, it’s better to do it outside the school; in schools we can speak about values, ethic education, and the fact that values should be the same in all religions; so I think if you have a good ethic education, it will be very helpful for those who want to get a religious education.

YOU SPENT MORE THAN A DECADE INVOLVED IN EU-BALKANS RELATIONS. WHAT DO YOU THINK GEORGIA CAN LEARN FROM THEM? I don’t think it can learn much from them because they’re not quite ready to enter due to the internal strife, corruption, justice system issues, media freedom and the like. It will take a long time to sort. Serbia and Montenegro are negotiating but it doesn’t mean they are really fulfilling everything needed to join the Union: you have to meet the obligations, which means not only on paper, you have to prove that you are really implementing what you promised to do fight corruption, have a good justice system, don’t hinder media, respect minorities, etc. In 2003, the Balkan states got assurance, signed by the then-council of ministers at the Thessaloniki Summit, that they would become members of the EU only if they fulfilled the obligations and conditions. But Serbia, with the Kosovo issue alone, still has a lot of work to do in this regard.

GEORGIA ALSO EXPERIENCES TERRITORIAL CONFLICTS. IT'S AN OBSTACLE IS THAT TO EU OR NATO MEMBERSHIP? Its an obstacle needing solving sooner rather than later. Otherwise, we are taking them into the EU and it doesn’t need more problems; we had our financial crisis, the asylum problem, refugees, the situation after Brexit. But we do need new countries, and if they want to join, they should solve their problems first, at least problems with neighboring countries. If not, the EU citizens will be asking politicians why they were let in before they really solved their problems. There’s a lot to be done in all the eastern countries. But I hope Georgia overcomes its issues because it has a long culture to be proud of. With good governance, and this is up to the politicians and those who are running the country, if the opposition can help, there will be progress. The article was prepared in the scope of “Messages from Brussels” series, a project by European Alliance for Georgia, a Brussels-based advocacy organization dedicated to “Bringing more Georgia into Europe.”

President Knocks Smear Campaign Launched against Him BY THEA MORRISON

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he President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, made a statement Wednesday, saying he is the target of a “dirty” PR campaign. “The Georgian society has clearly seen the wave of another black campaign in recent days, which was launched disgracefully and ended poorly,” Margvelashvili stated, adding he expects to become the target of smear campaigns many times to come. Earlier on Wednesday, Giorgi Abashishvili, Head of the Presidential Administration, stated that the ruling Georgian Dream party, along with the parliamentary minority European Georgia, is carrying out a “dirty” campaign against the President of Georgia. The parties published the statistics on pardoned

convicts by the President, and criticized Margvelashvili after the murder of a 25-year-old woman who was killed on Friday by her stepfather. The criminal had been pardoned by the President in May 2017. “I, as the Head of the Presidential Administration, declare that we have not received any statistics from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Prosecutor's Office. However, these agencies gave illegal statistics to their mouthpiece politicians,” said Abashishvili. Vepkhia Bakradze, 45, killed his stepdaughter Tamar Gamrekelashvili right after police issued a restraining order against him. He stabbed the young woman several times in the throat in front of the victim’s two underage children, and then ran away. The police detained the man the following day and he faces imprisonment from 16 to 18 years for murder and domestic violence. After the tragic case, Margvelashvili decided to suspend pardoning of inmates who have been convicted for violent crimes.


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POLITICS

The Truth about the Batumi Botanical Garden OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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ussians have a tendency to think that it was only they who brought abundance and civilization to Georgia by cutting a window between the local dark and the western light. Russia has certainly tried to create for herself a hedonistic comfort in this beautiful land, having also managed to establish herself as an overbearing patron, bossing around the amiable Georgians for a couple of centuries. Russians keep being sincerely surprised at the arrogance of Georgians for choosing to relinquish the “sweet and caring” Russia for the “ravenous and perfidious” West. Russians cannot help being surprised because the ungrateful Georgians have utterly for-

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

Otar Gagua beside the newly unveiled statue of Iason Gordeziani

gotten the good they have done in Georgia, like the development of the famous Borjomi area with its spas and other valuable amenities, the construction of numerous historical buildings, still standing in the capital city and other urban spots, the creation of parks and gardens, including the unique botanical garden in Batumi. I will refrain from describing this amazing green haven and its story of survival; I will only divulge a little piece of good news that accidentally caught my attention. Last Saturday, April 14, an interesting new monument was dedicated on the beautiful Batumi Boulevard. The news escaped most of us, but inquisitive Georgian minds noted that the monument should have been put there long ago. The sculpture reflects the image of Iason Gordeziani – the brilliant Georgian botanist and biologist whose contribution

into the creation and development of the Batumi Botanical Garden is humongous. The presentation of the book (250 p.) about this gardening wizard, written by Georgian encyclopedic expert and publicist Otar Gagua, also took place as part of the ceremony of opening the monument. Not many people in this country, and maybe in the world, have graduated from the Versailles National Agricultural Institute in France; Iason Gordeziani did, almost a century ago, and went on to commit his life, knowledge and expertise to creation, maintenance and preservation of that Manmade pearl of the nature which we currently know as the Batumi Botanical Garden. Only after many years of laborious research into the fact, performed by our compatriot Otar Gagua, was the story brought to daylight. If not for him, the truth would have stayed in the shadows

forever. The Russian historiography has propagated and perpetuated the idea that the founder of the Batumi Botanical Garden was the Russian scientist Andrei Nikolaevich Krasnov. The Krasnov supporters still persist with their version of the Garden history. Says the author of the valuable monograph: ‘The aim of my research was not the promotion of another Georgian whose name happened to be Gordeziani, but only the desire to honestly observe encyclopedic rules and demands.’ Indeed, Krasnov was once appointed the director of the Garden by the Batumi municipality, but he should not be considered its founder. According to Gagua, Krasnov’s part in the event was only nominal. The Garden was actually founded by the City of Batumi in 1912, with the help of the Russian money of course. The preliminary research was done by bota-

nist Tatrinov who managed to build the Botanical Garden on 10 hectares of land; the microclimate of the Garden’s location was studied by Professor Voeykov and Agronomist Clingen. They also established the similarity of the local climate with the Japanese climate and created a scheme for the phytogeographic disposition of the future Garden. After that, the territory of the Garden was increased up to 74 hectares and today it is as big as 110 hectares. And most importantly, the entire project was vitalized, rendered vibrant and turned into reality by Iason Gordeziani, whose crucial role in this significant agricultural project was up until now ignored. What matters most is that the truth about the famous Batumi Botanical Garden has not escaped modern history, and the recently dedicated sculpture of Iason Gordeziani now proudly stands where it rightfully belongs.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

Balkan Lessons for Georgia

Continued from page 1

And while working on Georgian issues in the Commission would be a conflict of interest, she has nabbed the next best deal: that of Balkans enlargement. The importance of the Balkan experience in Georgia’s own quest to become an EU member cannot be understated, something Ms Lavrelashvili well attested to in an interview for our “Messages from Brussels” series.

STATES TO EU MEMBERSHIP? The European Commission has just created a new strategy concerning the enlargement of the Western Balkans and mentioning Serbia and Montenegro as front-runners in the region, set to join the Union by 2025. It’s no guarantee; it will be based on the progress made by these countries; the next country on the list is Bosnia and Herzegovina with which the EU has launched procedures.

EXTENT ARE THE BALKAN STATES EXPECTED IN THE EU? At this stage, some EU members are not

ready to see the EU enlarged. There are skeptical countries, the population of which is not convinced whether they want to see the Balkans in the EU. That’s why it will be very important for Georgia to carry out measures so that the information about Georgia is adequate and positive.

WHAT CAN GEORGIA LEARN FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF THE BALKANS AND FROM WHAT THEY WILL DO? This experience is of crucial importance to us and it’s necessary to learn from it. I have just been to Serbia, with whom Georgia recently signed a bilateral visa free travel agreement. Such external tools helping the Western Balkan countries in the integration process should be examined. Those tools don’t involve only enlargement or negotiating chapter points, but also an intergovernmental foundation, namely the Western Balkan Foundation, which assists those countries to approach the EU under different formats. It was created by EU member state governments which support the membership

of the Western Balkan countries in the EU. It would be very interesting to create a similar foundation in relation to Georgia but it’s important to realize that it should be a foundation created through the regional efforts of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. I think this idea of GUM (Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova) is becoming more and more popular not only in Georgia but also in Ukraine and Moldova.

IF THIS FOUNDATION IS CREATED, WHICH GOVERNMENTS SHOULD WE EXPECT TO INVEST EFFORT IN IT? That depends on the negotiation process. It’s an idea and initiative on the governmental level, to be discussed within diplomatic circles. There is a high level Georgia-EU cooperation format which implies annual meetings between the President of the European Commission and the Georgian leadership. A foundation could be the next step. The idea should be clear that Georgia needs new, innovative ways to accelerate its integration.

ONE OF THE SIMILARITIES

BETWEEN GEORGIA AND THE BALKANS IS HOW POWERFUL THE CHURCH IS. FOREIGN DIGNITARIES OFTEN VISIT THE PATRIARCH WHILE IN GEORGIA. WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO?

recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

Serbia, like Montenegro, sees the Orthodox Church playing an important role. The majority of the population is religious. But the Serbian Orthodox Church has yet to express its official opinion on EU integration, to do with the Kosovo issue. If the EU recognizes Kosovo, the Church will play a very negative role and will not support the EU’s request to recognize Kosovo.

At this stage, it’s early to speak about this. There is no well-defined answer. There’s a discussion in the EU and EU institutes as to how to carry out institutional changes so that countries don’t veto each other. So, in October, we should expect new ideas concerning the internal institutional structure.

HOW DOES THE ARGUMENT OF SHARING THE SAME FAITH WITH RUSSIA WORK IN SERBIA? The narrative about Russia works in Serbia, connected with the past and the brotherhood between these countries, including in terms of the Kosovo issue. But the majority of the population supports joining the EU, though when it comes to the question as to which invests most in Serbia, the answer is Russia and not the EU.

KOSOVO, RUSSIA, AND THE KREMLIN NARRATIVE ALWAYS REFERS TO THE FACT THAT IF SERBIA JOINS THE EU, ITS GOVERNMENT WILL BE REQUESTED TO RECOGNIZE KOSOVO. TO WHAT EXTENT IS THIS SCENARIO FEASIBLE? That’s not true. It’s not about the recognition. It’s about normalizing the PristinaBelgrad relationship and recognizing the independence of Kosovo is not a condition. Some members of the EU did not

TO WHAT EXTENT COULD IT BE AN OBSTACLE FOR KOSOVO IN TERMS OF EU MEMBERSHIP, SEEING AS SERBIA HAS A RIGHT TO VETO?

THE EUROSCEPTICALLYINCLINED PART OF GEORGIAN SOCIETY OFTEN ALLUDES TO THE WEST USING DOUBLE STANDARDS IN RELATION TO GEORGIA AND THEY OFTEN QUESTION MONTENEGRO BECOMING A NATO MEMBER We should take into account the fact that geography plays an important role. If Georgia were in the Western Balkans, we would be an EU member. The fact that Georgia is a geographical neighbor of Russia means it is regarded as a part of the South Caucasian security complex; that’s why it’s important that Georgia learns a lesson from this experience and considers GUM, with Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova as one region and its aspiration to NATO and EU regarded as coming from one region. This article was prepared in the scope of “Messages from Brussels” series, a project by European Alliance for Georgia, a Brusselsbased advocacy organization dedicated to “Bringing more Georgia into Europe.”

Rotting Christ- What Is Georgia Up To Now?! OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN

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very year, embarrassing photos of me emerge on Facebook, aged thirteen with long hair and wearing a T-shirt of a 1980s metal band, as well as whatever ridiculous accessories those clever bastards in the music magazines assured me looked cool. Usually it’s my mother who shares these ghastly pictures, and she had best be bloody careful, else when she’s elderly it’ll be an old folks’ home for her in the back of beyond. Still, they aren’t shared very often, but when they are, my wife and friends have a field day. It isn’t, I can see now, a winning look – but still, at least most of how truly awful it all was isn’t shown in the meager collection of photos my mother periodically shares, which is a mercy; wristbands and army-style dog-tags were the least of it, if I recall. I suppose back then it was some sort of statement. Being different is harder than you’d think at thirteen, and I was damned if I was going to be seen by adults as being anything like my Britneyloving, Wayne Rooney-worshipping peers. I had no desire to fit in, yet for some reason wanted everyone to know I was different – while they laughed to the point of hysteria at Shrek (which I had never found even remotely funny or entertaining) or spent their weekends watching shaved head morons kick a ball across grass for millions, I stolidly read Tolkien and novels about the American Civil War, and spent my free time applying myself to the mastery of the drums (to the point that I seriously considered attending a music university in the USA) and earning some proficiency with the guitar. You can guess the outcome. No friends,

except one moody specimen who only tolerated my endless prosing about General Grant’s final push to break the Confederacy because he was so bloody taciturn nobody else could abide him, and no girlfriends, except one – the fattest one in our year who threatened to commit suicide every fortnight (but never did, and accused everyone else of being ‘drama queens’), and only finally condescended to go out with me because all the sporty boys had turned her down. Those were dark days. I’m happy to say that it all turned around a year later, when I got a haircut, took up boxing, and listened to music that other people liked too. There was something rather easier about discussing James Blunt than trying to explain that

a man in his forties literally screaming into a microphone about death is actually very talented and has some deep, relevant message he’s trying to convey. I’m not sure how much I ever really liked any of the music I listened to, but for some reason I felt compelled to pretend I did. My parents must have had patience that would do credit to saints when I think back on all the rubbish my brother and I inflicted on them. But my embarrassment at the photos of my brief years as a metal head pales in comparison to the toe-curling cringeworthiness of the actions of Georgians in positions of authority. Really, it feels something like rank betrayal – I spend so much bloody time defending this country, talking it up and assuring those

at home that it’s a lovely place filled with lovely people whose hospitality is legendary, and what they do repay me with? An Indian girl with a visa and hotel arrested and deported upon arrival for no apparent reason, a group of black students assaulted because of the color of their skin, and now this, a metal band arrested at the airport because their band name was Rotting Christ. They had been scheduled to perform a show in Tbilisi as part of their Eastern European tour, but were arrested on charges of Satanism. I would be alarmed (although not unduly surprised) if this is a crime, for democracy should guarantee everyone the right to believe in whatever rubbish they want, but then I remember the words of the Prime Min-

ister last year, who declared that ‘secularism in its classical definition does not belong in Georgia’. Well, thank’ee Mr. Kvirikashvili, you’ve proved my case of the Orthodox Church having political influence admirably. I needn’t have bothered running around chasing interviews and data after all. But what really worries me isn’t that a band with a name like Rotting Christ was barred from entry – with many Georgians becoming offended at even the most harmless joke about religion or Jesus, I suppose it isn’t surprising that some bald, heavy-breathing and fiercely patriotic border police officer (I’ll call him Giorgi) decided that these heretics were not going to enter the country. Giorgi might not have been able to stop the Russians in 2008, but he could do his bit for this country here and now. Perhaps imagining himself as Gandalf roaring ‘You! Shall not! PASS!’ he ordered the skinny long-haired Greeks into custody, and thereby ensured that the priests would not have something to complain about this week. This is what really worries me – that Giorgi was able to do this apparently with enough confidence that he would not be at risk of losing his job; the same holds true for whomever deported that Indian girl last year (who described her awful experience in a lengthy and viral Facebook post). It doesn’t come at a great time for relations between Tbilisi and Athens, since a host of Georgians have been deported from Greece due to some horrific crimes and/or outstaying their visa, and these Rotting Christ chaps were all Greeks. It also shows that while the government might be pushing this place as a tourist hotspot, its border police aren’t onboard yet. I hope that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is firing the men who deny entry to people because they feel like it – but I take leave to doubt it.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

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Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Award & Bank of Georgia Partnership Continues

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elcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards and Bank of Georgia are celebrating three years of fruitful partnership, and this year cooperation has moved to a new level. Two years ago, within the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards, Bank of Georgia successfully launched a special category for small and medium segments: “THE FASTEST GROWING COMPANY OF THE YEAR IN THE SME SEGMENT AWARD.”

The main reason for initiating this category was to encourage and motivate companies working in the SME segment in the tourism and hospitality industry. And, last year, for the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards 2017, Bank of Georgia developed a second, very special category: “THE BEST WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY AWARD.” This category was created especially to encourage and motivate female leaders who have dedicated their careers to the development of the Georgian tourism and hospitality

industry, and from the beginning this nomination had a great response and a lot of interest from women working in this field. This year, organizers of the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards Project promise an evenmore interesting competition year for the companies working in the field, full of interesting news and more opportunities for 2018. New categories, a new jury expert board, and other news will be revealed to the industry at the Third Tourism and Hospitality Conference within the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards. This Tourism and Hospitality Conference within the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards Project has been held since 2016 as a unique business platform to exchange information, communicate and catch up with the latest trends and challenges in the Tourism and Hospitality sphere and Georgian Business industry in general. The aim of this Conference is to consolidate representatives of the respective industry, government officials, international and local experts, and media, giving them the opportunity to promote the campaign among a wide target audience and to establish useful contacts and business relations with all key persons of the industry. The Third Tourism and Hospitality Conference will include: panel discussions; B2B meetings and interest-

ing presentations from the top market suppliers and professionals. Participants will have an opportunity to discover the latest developments and upcoming projects in the Georgian tourism and hospitality industry. For the fourth year already, the Georgian National Tourism Administration of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Developments of Georgia is Co-organizer of the Award

Project. Tbilisi City Hall is Official Supporter; Alliance Group is the General Sponsor and BDO Georgia is an independent auditor of the Award Project. The Third Tourism and Hospitality Conference will be held at the beginning of June, 2018, at the Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi. For more information follow us on Facebook or get all the updates on our website - www.awards-tourism.com


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

Rekan Group Presents ‘Batumi View’ at Dubai Int’l Property Show T he International Property Show in Dubai took place from 9-11 April, proving itself the ideal platform for exclusive apartments and

other investment opportunities in the real estate sector in Dubai and around the world. At the property show, investment company Rekan Group Georgia presented its

‘Batumi View’ project, a complex to be built on the Batumi New Boulevard, just 20 meters from the Black Sea. The vision of the company is to create the highest performance levels for any property, managed by utilizing “the most sophisticated and appropriate practices.” This delivers significant new returns on investment for owners while keeping customers happy in the best traditions of the hospitality industry. The dream project includes a 5-star hotel and 810 residential apartments. The complex will be surrounded by developed infrastructure, key to a comfortable life, including facilities such as an open swimming pool, spa, tennis court, dining areas, gym, playground for children, comfortable parking with both under and above-ground parking places. The ground floors of the three residential buildings will house stores and markets. Representatives of the company at the property show examined the perspectives of their future cooperation throughout B2B meeting with visitors and participants and participated in conferences and seminars held within the framework of the show. The company received a certificate of gratitude for taking part in the exhibition.

ProCredit Bank 24/7 Zones: Change the Way You Look at Banking!

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modern and comfortable design, stateof-the-art technologies and access to banking services at any time of day or night is what you will find at all branches of ProCredit Bank. The newly redesigned 24/7 Zones at the Tbilisi and Batumi branches provide a welcoming, attractive environment tailored to maximise clients comfort. These 24/7 Zones are distinguished by their unique interior design, which combines a business environment with art and nature. In addition to the fully integrated design, the state-of-the-art technologies and machines in the self-service areas make it easy and efficient to use banking services round the clock.

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Cash deposits/withdrawals, money transfers, access to Internet Banking, and the permanent readiness and support of our Contact Center Personal Assistants are only a small list of the services that are available via ProCredit Bank’s innovative machines in the 24/7 Zones. Given today’s fast pace of life, customers have less time to queue in bank branches during standard working hours; the 24/7 Zones therefore constitute an important component of modern banking. As a European bank, ProCredit offers its customers full independence to conduct banking operations in an exquisite environment at its 24/7 selfservice areas.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

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From Evidence to Policy & Action: Harmful Practices of Early/Child Marriage, FGM/C Discussed at Conference

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n April 19 the Conference “From Evidence to Policy and Action: Harmful Practices of Early/Child Marriage and FGM/C” wasjointly organized by the Inter-Agency Commission on Gender Equality, Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Georgia Country Office (within the frameworks of the UN Joint Program for Gender Equality, funded by Sweden) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The conference aims to present the findings of qualitative research on the harmful practices of Early/Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The research was undertaken in

2017 by the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health in cooperation with the international research organization - Promundo US with the support of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The qualitative research explores local attitudes, beliefs, and practices of the phenomenon and examines risks and protective factors, root causes and consequences of the harmful practices of Early/Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.Cutting (FGM/C) in Georgia. According to the existing data, 14% of women aged 20-24 report having been in union before the age of 18 (2010). The information about FGM being practiced

in one of the ethnic minority communities in Georgia was spread by media in 2016. Early/Child Marriage is a gendered phenomenon affecting boys and girls in a different way; it has major impact on the lives of girls in terms of limiting their opportunities and ability to participate fully in society and develop and reach their full potential. Acknowledging the grave consequences of harmful practices, the qualitative research was carried to inform planning of the targeted policies and actions by the government, as well as raise awareness of society and trigger attitude change. According to the findings of the qualitative research: • Early/Child Marriage is common and frequent across the country, including in the capital, Tbilisi, as well as among communities with different ethnic and/ or religious affiliation; • Adolescent pregnancy jeopardizes the rights, health, education and potential of adolescent girls, robbing them of a better future; • Girls in early/child marriage, unlike boys, are left with limited education, employment prospects and social networks; • Existing strict norms consider premarital sexual relations unacceptable, therefore getting married is the only alternative for adolescents to avoid being stigmatized; • Education and marriage are generally seen as two opposite ends of a continuum for girls in Early/Child marriage; • In Early/Child marriage, responsibilities for women are rooted in nurtur-

ing and taking care of families. Decisionmaking around household finances, girls’ continued education, and family planning are often in the hands of husbands or the husband’s parents. The conference aimed at disseminating the findings and recommendations of the qualitative research to shed light on the driving factors of Early/Child Marriage and FGM/C in Georgia, discuss attitudes towards the phenomenon and its consequences for adolescents/youth, families, communities and society. The evidence-based policy and operational recommendations will enable stakeholders to integrate targeted measures and actions for elimination of harmful prac-

tices into the relevant policies, strategies and national action plans, and to allocate resources to implement those, thus responding to the international Human Right commitments assumed and ensuring the sustainable development of the country. The conference was attended by the Chairperson and members of the InterAgency Commission on Gender Equality, Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, Legislative and Executive government bodies, Public Defender’s office, UNFPA, UNICEF, representatives of civic society, and academia.

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THE HOTEL OFFERS: * 33 Deluxe and Suite rooms with excellent panoramic views over the Mkinvartsveri and Kuro Mountain * World Class Service * Georgian and European restaurants with unique and delightful cuisine * Spa & Beauty Salon and Sauna * Wine Shop by Winery Khareba

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14

SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

That Special Feeling at Casino Jewel

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On May 6, Georgia Runs with the World Again! worldrun.com. The cost of participation in Georgia is 30 GEL. The sum received by the event will be fully transferred to the Wings for Life Foundation to conduct medical and clinical trials for the treatment of spinal cord injuries The Wings for Life and the Red Bull organizing group will transfer the funds to the Wings for Life Fund through EMS (European Merchant Services) through the tax system. The active involvement of participants of the World Run, and enhancing the popularity of the event every year, is thanks to its Goodwill Ambassadors. In Georgia, these are Maya Azarashvili (sports director of the event); basketball player Rezi Rogava; silver medal winner of the Rio Olympics, Varlam Liparteliani; Olympic champions Wrestler Vladimer Khinchegashvili and Lasha Talakhadze; wrestlers Mevlud Meladze and Dada Kajaia; skater Iva Tsiklauri; rugby player Vasil Lobzhanidze; Paralympic participant Irma Khetsuriani; swimmer Henry Kuprashvili; amateur morben Giga Dzuliashvili and Tamar Gelashvili. Not only athletes are actively involved in the project. Goodwill Ambassadors

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he Wings for Life World Run is to kick off at 3 pm on May 6, in Kakheti, with a trail that runs along the Lopota edge of the Cauca-

sus Range. On this day, professional athletes, amateurs and people using wheelchairs will “run” together. Aside from an 18+ age limit, World Run has no restrictions. Last year the oldest runner was Shota Samushia, 94 years old. This year the sports event will be held with the full support and organization of the Ministry of Culture and Sport. Registration of participants has already begun, with 7000 expected in Georgia alone, including Minister of Culture and

Sports, Mikheil Giorgadze, and Deputy Minister Shalva Gogoladze. The number of people applying to participate on the App ‘Run’ is growing by the day. In 2017, more than a hundred thousand runners were involved in 110 locations of 58 countries on 6 continents, on a total of 1431183 kilometers. The Wings for Life World Run is unique because of its defined range of distance and time, with no traditional finish line, just a "finish car" which, 30 minutes after the start, will begin moving at a speed of 15 km/h and gradually accelerate to 35 km/h. If the "finish car" overtakes a runner, they are out of the competition. The runners will be taken back to the start by bus. Every fifty kilometer, run-

ners will be given a soft drink and fruit. Two winners of World Run, one woman and one man, will be chosen for a special 4-week course in preparation for the 2019 World Run. Nino Mikadze (29 km) and Giorgi Shekrelidze (35,43 km) were the winners of the Georgian race in 2017. Nino Mikadze decided to run in Brazil this year while Giorgi Shekrelidze is going to run in Kakheti again. Last year's global winner, Aron Anderson, got 92.14 km with a wheelchair. The female winner was Dominica Stella (68,21 km). The registration of participants began in October 2017 and will be open until May 3 or before the end of the limit, through the website www.wingsforlife-

are: intellectual Giorgi Bakradze; musicians Elene Kalandadze and Achiko Guledani; celebrities: Irakli Gaprindashvili, Nika Grigolia, Keti Khatiashvili, Irakli Kakabadze, Nino Mayashvili, Mirian Jejelava, and Merab Dukashvili; fitness Instructor Nino Goguadze; photographer Mari Nakani; and football player Natia Skhirtladze. Wings for Life World Run Georgia is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Sports and organized by the National Federation of Sport "Sport for Everyone." Several facts about the 2017 World Run in Georgia: • In 2017, 5000 people were registered in Georgia. Due to the expiry of the limit of participants, the registration was canceled 6 days early. • The driver of the finish car was racer Mevlud Meladze - the fastest driver in Georgia driving the slowest car. • In 2017, Shota Samushia, 94, was the oldest participant in the world. • A concert was held with the participation of Georgian musical groups after the completion of the race. • In 2017, around 200 companies participated in the World Run in Kakheti.


16

SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

We Wonder: Chichen Itza, Mexico BLOG BY TONY HANMER

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side from the markets, the glorious Caribbean Sea and the food, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula had a lot more to offer, as we were quickly discovering in our Cancun week. We found an all-inclusive bus tour to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and signed up a few days later. The bus would pick us up at a certain San Francisco supermarket near our hotel at 7 am for the 2-hour trip there. We found the place and showed up at the appointed date and time, still smarting from our overexposure to the sun but determined to make this happen. Half an hour later than required, still no bus. I had the tour organizer’s number, and a pay phone nearby was actually working, so I called him. But the line, and his English, made for not such a clear conversation, so we trudged back to the hotel to ask its concierge for help. Fortunately, his English was up to the task. Turned out our hotel wasn’t as obvious as it should be; the tour people thought we were in a different town entirely, which also had a San Francisco supermarket! The bus had waited for us there until it had to go, then moved on for other pickups. Not our fault, though! An alternate bus for that day came up, and we were able to join it. Our tour included plenty of informa-

tion along the way, in both Spanish and English; lunch; souvenir shopping; time at the site of the famous Chichen Itza complex; and a swim stop at a cenote, or sinkhole, on the way home. The Mayans, we learned, are an ancient people who built the local pyramids and other amazing buildings as part of their cities, in ancient times. Their demise, however, cannot be blamed on the arrival of the Spanish. They declined after a revolt from the peasantry to overthrow the elite in the fourteenth century. Who can blame them? If you were born on one of five unlucky days of the year, your lot was to become a living sacrifice, your heart cut out still beating, at the top of the main pyramid of your city! The Mayans are also famous for their hieroglyphic writing, its meaning lost to them but rediscovered with renewed interest from the 19th century onwards. There was precious little to work from on paper: the Spanish HAD ordered the destruction of most written works in the language to combat pagan rites in their push for Catholicization. Their calendar, too, is a source of wonder, dating from about the 5th century BCE and amazingly accurate. Our bus group split into its two main language groups for the stop at Chichen Itza itself, so we could hear more about it and then be free to explore on our own. The complex features many restored buildings, roped off to prevent climbing. It’s a magnificent testimony to the creativity and education of these people. The main pyramid has a staircase which the

sunset at both annual equinoxes lights up just so: it traces the form of a serpent’s body moving down to the carved head at the base of one side! They built the whole huge thing knowing this in advance. The winged serpent, Kukulkan, was one of the Mayan gods. Thousands of people come to this spot twice a year for the sight, and an average of over three thousand a day visit the complex itself. The cenote was a welcome respite from the day’s heat. There are some 2000 of these holes in the local limestone, filled to within 15m or so of the top with water; this one’s water was over 50m deep, cold and clear. All swimmers had to wear lifejackets, as I imagine the patrons had long tired of diving to pick unfortunate bodies off its deep floor. They got our drop-off stop wrong as well, that night, although at least it was only a 10-minute walk back to our hotel. I hope that one day this tour company will learn where we were and fit such a humble place into its itinerary; but the day was, overall, a great success in impressing us. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1800 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


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

17

Luka Okros: A Young Georgian with Fast Fingers REVIEW BY BENJAMIN MUSIC

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is music is pure magic to thousands of enthusiasts of classical composers. The world-renowned Georgian pianist Luka Okros has learned from the best to become one of the best. Studying at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory under the tutelage of Sergei Dorensky, he went on to finish his music education at the Royal College of Music in London with the guidance of famous piano professor Norma Fisher. His career kick-started when he was discovered by the most critical music scouts while studying at the English university. Last Friday, he performed a recital for his hometown of Tbilisi, playing multiple songs not originally included in the evening program. The Grand Hall of the Tbilisi State Conservatoire was sold-out as fans and locals fought to get close to the musical talent. Even his former Tbilisi piano teacher came to give Okros a hug and wish him all the best during the autograph session after the concert. Starting with famous composer, Chopin, Okros gave a little background to every song he played, outlining his reasons for choosing the song for the performance. This very interactive manner also readily won him many hearts early on in the recital. With a desire to reach anyone curious after the classics as well as offering the highest quality to piano lovers, Okros brought some of the most famous pieces of Chopin’s piano reper-

toire to life. His fingers impressed the audience with both quick alternations and movements, mastering even the most difficult passages and with elegance and feeling for finely tuned transitions between the songs’ climax. The Tbilisi conservatory is home to the greatest musicians of Georgia, but even the first half of the performance left the audience speechless. A common feature of operas in Georgia is the abundance of cell phones being used during the show, but Luka Okros’ tunes sub-

consciously forced all people in the audience to listen attentively to grasp their beauty. The London-based musician chose the Russian composer Rachmaninoff as his guidance for the second half. Elaborating again on the various meanings of Rachmaninoff’s songs and incorporating a broad range of emotional topics from love to death, Okros was visibly excited just talking about the works before even playing a single sound. When he graciously moved his hands over the piano

keys, he was fully concentrated, clearly having the exact rhythm of the work in his mind. Usually starting extremely softly, his style turned at times into a rapid and aggressive movement to successfully hit the rights notes in time before ending the songs in a soft fashion once more. Only 27 years old now, he received his first prize at 19 at the Horowitz International Piano Competition in 2010. What followed was a storybook career foraging major international prizes. In 2011,

he received a prize at the Almaty International Piano Competition; in 2014, at the Jaques Samuel Intercollegiate Piano Competition; in 2015, at the RCM Chappell Medal, the Piano Campus International Competition, the Delia Steinberg International Competition, and the Valencia International Piano Competition "Iturbi Prize"; in 2016, at the Morocco Philharmonic International Piano Competition, the Norah Sande Award, and the Hong Kong International Piano Competition; in 2017, at the Hannover Chopin International Piano Competition and the Scottish International Piano Competition. The last weeks have seen him on a South-East Asia recital tour traveling through Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Mumbai. In Mumbai, he opened the piano music season at the recently renovated Mumbai Royal Opera House, invited there by the Mehdi Mehta Foundation. The Ambassador of Georgia to India came from New Delhi to Mumbai for the occasion. Luka has also given successful concerts in Barbados and Europe, including his debut recital at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. He performed before soldout theaters in London, Paris, Prague, and Budapest. After the Tbilisi recital, Luka is to continue the tour with European concerts in Valencia (Palau de la Musica), Dublin (Royal Dublin Society Hall), Amsterdam (Het Concertgebouw), and Warsaw (Chopin Museum). The opening of the 2018/2019 season is planned in the UK, Germany, Austria, Poland, China, and Singapore.


18

CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 00 44 66 April 27 SLEEPING BEAUTY Pyotr Tchaikovsky Ballet in Three Acts Dedicated to Marius Petipa’s 200 year anniversary. Choreography- Marius Petipa Staging by Nina Ananiashvili and Alexey Fadeechev Staging Conductor- Alevtina Ioffe Scenography and costumesAnatoly Nezhny Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 30-70 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge April 22 WELCOME TO GEORGIA A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national costumes and local cuisine. Musical Language: English, some Georgian (with English subtitles) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 60-80 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03 April 20, 21 LULLABY Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 15 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 April 20 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL

April 21 RAMONA Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL April 22, 26 STALINGRAD Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 598 19 29 36 April 20 LABYRINTH Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10-15 GEL April 26 IGI Based on Jemal Karchkhadze’s story ‘Igi’ Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 15 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL April 20-26 ISLE OF DOGS Directed by Wes Anderson Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy Language: English Start time: 20:10 Language: Russian Start time: 16:45, 19:30, 22:15 Ticket: 9-14 GEL RAMPAGE Directed by Brad Peyton Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 14:30, 19:30 Ticket: 9-14 GEL

MARY MAGDALENE Directed by Garth Davis Cast: Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 12 GEL TAXI 5 Directed by Franck Gastambide Cast: Salvatore Esposito, Sand Van Roy, Franck Gastambide Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 12 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL April 20-26 TAXI 5 (Info Above) Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 12 GEL RAMPAGE (Info Above) Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL WINCHESTER Directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig Cast: Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O'Prey Genre: Biography, Fantasy, Horror Language: Russian Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 10-11 GEL A QUIET PLACE Directed by John Krasinski Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Noah Jupe Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL GRINGO Directed by Nash Edgerton Cast: Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL

CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07

GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF 18TH-20TH CENTURIES

Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL April 20-16

NUMISMATIC TREASURY Exhibition showcasing a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834.

ISLE OF DOGS (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 20:00, 22:30 Ticket: 16-19 GEL A QUIET PLACE (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 19:45, 22:30 Ticket: 16-19 GEL GRINGO (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 17:30, 22:15 Ticket: 16-19 GEL RAMPAGE (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 14:15, 17:00, 22:15 Ticket: 10-19 GEL MARY MAGDALENE (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 14:45 Ticket: 11-15 GEL WINCHESTER (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 11:45 Language: Russian Start time: 14:15 Ticket: 11-19 GEL READY PLAYER ONE (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 11:45 Language: Russian Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 10-16 GEL MUSEUM

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

EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 April 12– 22 EXHIBITION UKRAINE & GEORGIA, VALUES IN TRADITIONS SIGHNAGHI MUSEUM Address: 8 Rustaveli Alley, Sighnaghi Telephone: 223 24 48 April 21 – May 31 EXHIBITION DOLLS OF JAPAN GALLERY

ERTI GALLERY Address: 19 P. Ingorokva Str. April 3-21 BLACK I SEA LEVAN SONGULASHVILI & CHRISTIAN AWE ARTAREA GALLERY Address: 10 D. Abashidze Str. TEL 599 91 05 06 April 19-29 SOPO CHERKEZISHVILI’S EXHIBITION THE PLACE WHICH BELONGS TO YOU MUSIC

SPACEHALL Address: 2 A. Tsereteli Ave. April 21 PAN-POT Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 20 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 April 22 #DIDGORISOLO Georgian traditional folk ensemble Didgori’s solo concert New program Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 6-15 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili Ave. Telephone: 99 00 99 April 26 LIFE IS WONDERFUL Charity concert for Rusudan Kvirikashvili. Participants: Ensemble Iveria, Ensemble Sukhishvilebi, Street Musicians, Iumorina Podists, Georgian Votes Trio, Forte, Merab Sepashvili, Temur Tatarashvili, Zura Doijashvili, Roma Rtskhiladze, Temo Rtskhiladze, Nodiko Tatishvili, Tamriko Chokhonelidze, Irma Sokhadze, Temur Kvitelshvili and others. Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-50 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 20 - 23, 2018

Historic Tbilisi Academy of Arts Building Being Brought Back to Life

Photo: http://www.enniomorricone.org

Ennio Morricone to Perform at Black Sea Arena BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI

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egendary composer Ennio Morricone has announced that he will be performing at the Black Sea Arena on May 19, 2018. The Black Sea Arena signed a contract with General Entertainment Associates, the Dutch

BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

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he Tbilisi Academy of Arts is one of those hidden jewels of the capital of Georgia that the country can be proud of. The old building of the academy, constructed in the 1850s, was the first Art Academy in the Caucasus and the cultural hub of the region. The building, decorated with intricate stained-glass windows and lined with enamel and mirror mosaics, represents a unique example of a historic and cultural landmark, that has given birth to generations of great Georgian artists who have contributed to the development of Georgian culture. You can find it at 22 Griboedovi Street, the synthesis of European and Eastern architecture mimicking Tbilisi’s cosmopolitan nature. The building has endured more than a century, experiencing many hardships, including Soviet terror, to survive to today. Yet over the last decades, the crumbling building has been on the verge of destruction, alarming both the academy’s personnel and art enthusiasts who know its value. In 2015, the Apolon Kutateladze Academy of Arts was selected for a rehabilitation project by the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Georgia. The long-awaited restoration and maintenance works were launched the same year, with the professors and students of the academy and graduates getting readily involved. The renovation works are ongoing and are expected to be finished by the end of 2018. On April 16, Mikheil Giorgadze, the Minister of Culture and Sport of Georgia, and Mariam Jashi, the Chairman of the Education, Science and Culture Committee, inspected the large-scale rehabilitation works at the Academy of Arts and held a meeting with the students. At this stage, the construction maintenance works have been completed, the roof has been replaced, and the western and northern facades have been repaired. Currently, restoration and conservation works are in progress in the eastern-style halls and in the yard. The entire building has also been upgraded

company that owns the rights to organize and hold Morricone's concerts, at a cost of EUR 250,000, according to Caucasus Business Week. Ennio Morricone is a true titan of the music industry, having enjoyed an over six decade long career scoring soundtracks for more than 500 films and TV shows. He won an Academy Award in 2016 for the "Best Achievement in Music for Motion Pictures, Original Score" for Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight".

and adjusted to be accessible to people with disabilities. The project aims at reviving and preserving the authentic appearance of the historic building as much as possible, maintaining and strengthening the foundation as well as repairing the interior. Additionally, after the completion, special spaces for workshops and for storing educational resources and museum funds will be arranged. In order not to disrupt the students during the renovation, studies were moved to the renovated Academyowned building at 34 Kipshidze Street. The main features of the Academy are the halls adorned with mirrors, designed by specially invited Khanjar artisans from Iran when the building was originally constructed. Art experts compare these halls to the interiors of eastern-style palaces of Iran or the famous Golestan Palace, one of the oldest historic monuments in the city of Tehran, and of world heritage status. Built over 200 years of Qajar rulership, between 1925 and 1945 a large portion of the buildings of the Golstan Palace complex were destroyed on the orders of Reza Shah. As such, Georgia’s Academy of Arts possesses precious examples of royal decoration that no longer exist. The Tbilisi Academy of Arts started out as a school of arts for beginners. In 1901, an Arts Middle School was added under the patronage of Saint Petersburg’s Imperial School of Arts. By 1921, there were already several private art schools in Tbilisi and other cities of Georgia, soon followed by a number of art studios and workshops. At the beginning of 1922, Mose Toidze, celebrated Georgian artist and professor, established the Public Art Studio. On March 8 1922, the first Academy of Arts in the entire Caucasus was established, among the three main academies in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg), Riga and Tbilisi that functioned in the Soviet Union. During the first year, only four faculties were available: painting, sculpture, graphics and architecture. Later, it expanded and in 1927 the Ceramics Department was added. Academy counted over 156 students, in 1946-1947 the number increased to 270, in 1973, 848 students enrolled and 204 professors worked at the Academy. Today, there are 1380 students and 370 professors.

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Issue #1041  

April 20 - 23, 2018

Issue #1041  

April 20 - 23, 2018

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