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Issue no: 1111

• DECEMBER 21 - 24, 2018



ON REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT The IPS training boosts Georgian sectoral development by giving the players the tools they need to exhibit well


In this week’s issue... TBC Bank & Sida Sign Loan Guarantee Agreement



Ambassador Beruchashvili on UKGeorgia Relations 2018 POLITICS PAGE 4

Salome Zurabishvili Begins Her Reign POLITICS PAGE 8

Georgian Operatic Bass Criticized for Performing in Russia

4th Ceremony of Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards Held at Rustaveli Theater in Tbilisi BY LIKA CHIGLADZE


ourism is one of Georgia’s fastest growing industries, contributing to both the promotion of the country internationally and benefitting the economy and enhancing the quality of life of its citizens. In order to mark the achievements in the tourism sector, the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards was held for the fourth time this year. On December 17, the official ceremony of the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards took place at Tbilisi’s historic Rustaveli Theater, where 23 best companies among different nominations were named. Representatives of all nominees, project partners, the government sector, private business, and international and local media attended this highly important event. Continued on page 10


More Monochrome Haiku: Etseri, Svaneti SOCIETY PAGE 12

Grand Premiere of Jules Massenet’s Werther to Be Held at Tbilisi Opera Theater CULTURE PAGE 13




DECEMBER 21 - 24, 2018

TBC Bank & Sida Sign Loan Guarantee Agreement BY ANNA ZHVANIA


or the first time in Georgia, the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (Sida) will be the financial guarantor of business activities conducted by entrepreneurs in Georgia. TBC Bank and Sida, represented in this instance by the Embassy of Sweden, signed a loan guarantee agreement with the purpose of supporting startups and micro, small and medium (SME) businesses in Georgia, particularly those which include female founders and entrepreneurs. According to the agreement, if issues should arise on a loan issued by TBC

Bank, Sida will act as a borrower's guarantor. The collaboration deals with loans that TBC Bank will offer in the field of agriculture, trade, environment, manufacturing and service providers to support start-ups and SMEs. The risk will be shared equally (50% - 50%) based on the Borrower and Loan category. With loans taken by women entrepreneurs, startup entrepreneurs or those that intend to create ecologically clean products, 60% of risk will be shared by Sida. Sida's guarantee will cover a total portfolio of $40 mln. TBC Bank has been working with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency for the past year and the agreement will be the first project for Sida with the cooperation of a commercial bank in Georgia.

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France to Adopt Law Allowing Georgians to Work Legally BY THEA MORRISON


rance is to adopt a law which will allow professional citizens of Georgia to work there legally. The information was released by the Minister of Foreign

Affairs of Georgia David Zalkaliani. The Minister said after the agreement comes into force, young specialists of Georgia, including those who received higher education in France, will be able to obtain a temporary residence permit in France for legal employment. “We have signed an agreement with France that has been ratified by the French Parliament. Yesterday, the French

President signed this agreement, which will be presented as a law allowing the citizens of Georgia to work legally in France. This is a very important achievement,” he said. Zalkaliani stated he would provide more information and details shortly. He added that the Georgian side is working on this issue with a number of other countries.




DECEMBER 21 - 24, 2018

Ambassador Beruchashvili on UK-Georgia Relations 2018 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


EORGIA TODAY sat down with H.E. Tamar Beruchashvili, the Ambassador of Georgia to the UK, for our annual catch-up on the latest on British-Georgia relations. “This year is a very significant one for my country as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Georgia’s Independence and the first Democratic Republic,” the Ambassador told us. “Some wonder how Georgia, literally within two decades, has transformed itself from a Soviet country into the ‘Role Model’ of democracy for the region. It was the first Georgian Democratic Republic 100 years ago that laid a solid foundation for our modern Georgian state and society.” The UK-Georgia diplomatic relations date back to the time when Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon appointed brilliant diplomat and connoisseur of Georgia Sir Oliver Wardrop as the UK’s first Chief Commissioner to the Transcaucasus in 1919. Sir Oliver Wardrop played a very important role in convincing the UK to recognize Georgia's independence in 1920. He became actively engaged in mobilizing much needed support to deal with political and economic challenges. This year also marks the very significant outcome of Georgia-UK relations in all dimensions as well as a new beginning of Georgia’s future cooperation after Brexit.

BREXIT “With regard to Brexit, we respect the democratic choice of the UK population and as Britain will forge a new positive role in the world, Georgia is ready to use every opportunity to further deepen and widen our relations,” the Ambassador confirmed. “We welcome an outwardlooking, flexible and dynamic UK and are keen to actively cooperate on strategic issues of common interest.” Georgia is in the process of developing a bilateral legal base between Georgia and the UK after the Brexit. “The Georgian side is to prepare a draft Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Cooperation between Georgia and the United Kingdom, including a comprehensive free trade component covering all priority areas such as political dialogue, defense and security, economy and trade, innovations, the fight against crime, education and culture, etc. “In view of the Brexit and common European and global challenges, we concentrate our efforts to further deepening and widening our cooperation in all priority directions, bringing our countries and peoples closer,” the Ambassador emphasized.

ON THE WARDROP STRATEGIC DIALOGUE On 8 November 2018, Tbilisi hosted the Fifth Round of the Georgia-UK Wardrop Strategic Dialogue, an annual political

framework, headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia H.E. David Zalkaliani from the Georgian side and Minister of State for Europe and the Americas the Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP from the UK side. The dialogue focuses on a wide range of bilateral issues, such as political dialogue, cooperation in defense and security, trade and economy, education, culture, peopleto-people contacts and other fields. “The United Kingdom is a leading strategic partner and devoted supporter of the Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as our European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. We are united by shared values, have common interests of international security and stability and face common challenges,” the Ambassador noted. “In the Fifth Round of the Dialogue, we identified the key priorities of our cooperation to shape our postBrexit cooperation, which are reflected in the Joint Communiqué.” The UK’s political support to the process of peaceful resolution of the conflict with the Russian Federation and to the reconciliation process and confidencebuilding has a crucial importance for Georgia and the regional stability. The Ambassador told us that the UK has confirmed its commitment to “remain vocal” in the international arena on the need for a peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict. “We also appreciate the inclusion of the human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied regions in the FCO’s human rights and democracy report, which identifies severe human rights violations and Russia’s actions in the Georgian regions. The UK commended the determination and crucial role of the Georgian Government, as well as Georgian society to further advance the democratic consolidation and economic development of the country, including on education, inclusive growth and judicial reform. “In parallel to the intergovernmental dialogue, the parliamentary and expert dimensions of the Wardrop Strategic Dialogue gained new momentum. Within the framework of the Wardrop Strategic Dialogue Parliamentary Dimension, on 24-31 May, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Georgia – APPG in the UK Parliament visited Georgia for the second time, with a comprehensive program and Joint Communiqué adopted at the end of the visit. “As we speak on our parliamentary cooperation, we very much appreciate the strong voice of the UK Parliament, having regular debates on our region, including Georgia,” she said. “On the occasion of 100th anniversary of Georgia’s Independence, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Georgia Mr Jonathan Djanogly tabled the Early Day Motion on Georgia that, along with successful reforms, also clearly underlines the occupation of Georgian territories.”

DEFENCE AND SECURITY COOPERATION Georgia and the UK have a long-term

and successful cooperation in the areas of defense and security, sharing the goal of preserving peace and stability around the world. These spheres and future plans are reflected in the Joint Communique of the Georgia-UK Wardrop Strategic Dialogue. “We discussed a wide-range of challenges related to external interference and election meddling, propaganda, organized crime, cyber security and crisis management,” the Ambassador told us. “Georgia and the UK agreed to maintain close ties and to continue to develop the partnership. In this regard, the exchange of information between the respective agencies is of utmost importance. We recognized terrorism and cyber security as a common threat and stressed the importance of joint efforts in this regard.” The signing of the MoU on Cyber Security between the Government of the UK and the Government of Georgia functions as a signal of mutual commitment to ongoing cooperation in cyber security, as does the start of negotiations on the exchange of classified information with regard to responding to mutual threats and challenges. “I would like to also mention our cooperation in the crisis management system. We already have concrete results and our British colleagues will further continue their efforts to sophisticate the Georgian crisis management system. We also welcome that our British partners will actively participate in the elaboration process of the concept of the Security Council of Georgia. All these achievements, efforts and as well as future plans are underlined in the Joint Communiqué that is basis for our plans for next year.”

CENTENARY OF THE FIRST DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (1918-1921) This year Georgia has been celebrating the Centenary of the First Democratic Republic. “The Republic was founded on the most advanced ideas and values of that time and therefore the anniversary carries a significant importance for our country. Georgia was one among a very few countries in which elections were held by universal suffrage and gender equality was promoted,” the Ambassador informed us. “The founders of the Georgian Democratic Republic protected and promoted values and high standards that at that time were controversial even in Europe, such as the abolition of the death penalty, and recognition of prisoners’ and other human rights. “Together with our partner British organizations, we hosted and co-organized a series of events to raise awareness about various aspects of the First Republic. As a result, conferences in London, Oxford and Sevenoaks, exhibitions, a book launch and discussions generated much interest and ensured the high involvement of the British political and academic circles in the process,” she said.

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CULTURAL DIPLOMACY “Cultural links between Georgia and the UK date back to the early days of the First Georgian Democratic Republic. More than 100 years ago, Oliver and Marjory Wardrop laid a solid foundation for British-Georgian cultural ties. It was a time when, through her translation of the epic poem by the medieval Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli “Knight in the Panther’s Skin,” the translator and great connoisseur of Georgian culture and literature Marjory Wardrop brought this masterpiece to the British readers,” the Ambassador noted. “The exemplary cultural bond between the two countries becomes even stronger each year. In addition to the rich cultural program throughout these recent years, featuring collaborative events like the research-oriented conference on Georgian polyphonic music at the British Library, the seminar-discussion about Shakespeare and Rustaveli heritage, the first ever book on Georgia published by the Publishing House of the University of Oxford ‘Georgia: A Cultural Journey Through the Wardrop Collection,’ this year has been marked with even more joint projects,” she said. The Royal Asiatic Society, which published Wardrop’s first translation of the ‘Knight in the Panther’s Skin,’ recently hosted the launch of the English translations of 20th century renowned Georgian writers ‘Unlocking the Door: Writing from Georgia’. The new translations of Georgian writer Vazha-Pshavela is yet another collaborative project that will present the best of Georgian literature to British readers. The Embassy of Georgia continues to support academic and cultural visits to Georgia and awareness-raising about the country. With the Embassy’s active involvement earlier this year, Georgia was selected by the international relations societies of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Westminster for their foreign trips with the aim to learn more about the implemented and ongoing reforms, the current stage in Georgia’s

European and Euro-Atlantic integration, the country’s economic development, occupation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, and about Georgia’s history and culture. Georgian theater and cinema continue to play active role in strengthening cultural cooperation. In May, the 5th London Georgian Film Festival took place, featuring award-winning new Georgian films as well as classics already well known and appreciated by the British audience. In the frames of the Film Festival, the Embassy hosted an exhibition of the unique film posters from 1920 2000. “Georgian theater once again had an acclaimed appearance at the world’s largest Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year. ‘Our Theater,’ with its performance ‘Paradiso’ successfully built on the rich records of Georgia’ past participation at The Fringe dating back to the 1970s,” the Ambassador told us.

TWINNING CITIES “We attach particular importance to people-to-people contacts between our nations in which twinning partnerships enjoy a long and fruitful tradition,” she added. “The twinned cities (BristolTbilisi; Newport-Kutaisi; NewcastleAkhaltsikhe) have a special role in bringing our communities together. This year, we marked the 30th anniversary of twinning between Bristol and Tbilisi with special events in both cities promoting business, cultural and educational ties, including exchange of visits at the local authority, business and cultural level. We decided to start this celebration with the official opening of the Honorary Consulate of Georgia in Bristol and South West England, with the first Honorary Consul of Georgia, longstanding Chairman of the Bristol-Tbilisi Twinning Association, Mr. Derek Pickup, an honorary citizen of Tbilisi and a great friend of my country.” Find out what the Ambassador had to say about trade relations in next Tuesday’s Georgia Today Business edition.

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In Search of that Twinkling Western Light OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


ll went well: the election of the new Georgian president came to an end peacefully for the country’s electorate and agreeably for the international community; the country obtained a lady president – a fresh breath in national politics. And best of all, we are no longer poised on the edge of chaos: the electoral practice was reported as politically balanced and democratically structured; the current government did its possible best and the opposition did its affordable utmost; both the content and malcontent got sated with mutual defamation and reciprocal mudslinging that might suffice for a while; the inauguration of the new head of state took place at a historically symbolic and patriotically romantic venue; the inaugural picture was modest but in good taste; for the first time ever, the former and the current presidents figured in the ceremony as a token of peaceful transition of power; Her Excellency, the stepping-in presidential incumbent, looked dazzling in her white coat and maroon shirt, and spoke with soothing serenity, pledging her lofty services to the nation and a watchful eye over the people; the presence of handsome public with a European smack in dress and manner confirmed their approval with reserved applause, contentedly accentuating the prospective political highlights in the presidential opening speech; the weather was friendly and the air was transparent; the closing male polyphony penetrated the gorgeous mounts of the Caucasus in the background with vocally enchanting sound; the new beginning crystallized in

the air and the old misgivings froze immobile provisionally; the curious nation watched the show, no longer concerned about Yays and Nays; the world got the point, but took it nonchalantly. All went well indeed, but it was not a cloud without the silver lining. The crushed opposition hit the road forthwith, lock, stock and barrel, straight in the direction of the incipient place of the formal procedure, but behold, the police force kept vigil on the road to honor the spirit of

peace and order, a perfect chance for those who wanted to see the inauguration bust – the harder the authority defies the oppositional attempts, the easier is the tension to trigger. The event was garnished with the habitual clash between law enforcers and belligerent public, a legislator and a policeman literally pressing their foreheads together – a classic case of prelude for a disturbance! The inaugural ceremony was beautifully conceived and staged, and the

impression of statehood was firmly in place; the necessary general calm and security of the participating community were amply provided for; the overall feeling of celebration was strong enough for the invited foreign guests as well as the observers via media to know that all is good and nice in the Republic, but in supraliminal reality, Georgia is not yet completely out of the woods when it comes to giving preference to economics versus politics, labor versus indolence,

deeds versus words, constructive versus destructive, rationality versus illogicality, sense versus nonsense, nitty-gritty versus blah-blah. The surviving opposition, which was kicked right in the pit of the stomach, will probably have to swallow the recent defeat, as unsavory as it might be, even if the opposition-supporting public thinks that their warriors are hard nuts to crack. The current government will most likely have to live with its hyperactive and overly cantankerous and scurrilous opposition, taking it for granted that the caravan is moving and the dogs are barking. There is no such thing as a totally flawless and absolutely complete pleasure. At some point in time, from somewhere, a fly will come to land right in the ointment you want to heal your ailing body with. This kind of thing happens in life, but this is not the end of the world. Time will pass and a fairer perception of political process, sense of democracy and rule of law will persist in Georgia to create every possible condition for survival. This statement is for anybody to hear who cares about Georgia, especially for Georgia’s foreign friends and fans who want and are ready to invest in this culture and economy their money, time, talent, energy and qualification. The skill of balancing politics and economy is still in the making here. This is a clear prerequisite for forging both in our minds and actual life the model of development, long ago tested and inculcated in the friendly West, which has proved to the rest of the world that their way was right. And Georgia’s new female presidency is going to be a sharp weapon that will cut through the lingering local murk in the quest of that twinkling western light.

First Female President Does Not Signify Gender Equality BY AMY JONES


alome Zurabishvili was swornin as the new President of Georgia on 16 December at an inauguration ceremony in Telavi. Many foreign media outlets focused on the fact she is Georgia’s first female president. However, despite her significant victory, equal participation is far from reality in Georgian politics. ‘Salome Zurabishvili has won Georgia’s presidential election, becoming the first woman to hold the office’ read the opening lines from a BBC report. As the first female to be elected President of Georgia, her victory is indeed historic. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that women remain a marginal force within Georgian politics. In reality, females account for only 15% of MPs and less than 14% of local councillors. In addition, only 3 of the 19 government ministers are women. These figures, published by the UNDP at the beginning of 2018, show that Georgia remains well below the global average of female participation in politics. The average number of female MPs in national parliaments in Europe and OSCE member countries is 27.5%. Furthermore, Georgia’s progress is lag-

ging behind that of other countries, meaning not enough is being done to lessen the discrimination and inequality towards women in political, as well as economic and social life. The rate of women’s political participation has increased globally much more than it has in Georgia over the past years. “Georgia needs to do more to avoid being left behind in this key area of social and economic development” reads the UNDP report. The implemented financial incentives to political parties to include females on party lists have proven to be relatively ineffective. Instead, the UNDP recommends Georgia adopt mandatory quotas, at least as a temporary measure, to improve equality in the political sphere. Quotas are one method to help kickstart women’s political representation. Countries such as Slovenia, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Montenegro, and Serbia, among others, have established a quota to ensure minimum participation of both genders on party lists for parliamentary elections. To make significant progress towards proportional representation, Georgia should undergo significant reform in its electoral systems to provide for at least 30% participation by women, as well as include the participation of marginalized and disadvantaged women, including ethnic minorities.

Image source: Reuters

Article 11 of the Law on Gender Equality, adopted in 2010 in Georgia, has three main goals: ‘Everyone shall have the right to participate in elections on equal terms without discrimination; Both men and women shall have equal rights to be elected to a representative body; Men

and women may be elected on equal terms without discrimination.’ However, these declarations remain unrealized. Achieving women’s full and effective participation as well as equal leadership opportunities at all levels of decision making in public, economic and politi-

cal life is essential to build a successful society based on sustainable development. Although the appointment of Salome Zurabishvili to the post of President of Georgia does indeed make history, it does not yet represent a victory for gender inequality in Georgia.




DECEMBER 21 - 24, 2018

Georgian FM on the Ambassadors Conference BY THEA MORRISON


eorgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, delivering his speech at the Ambassadors’ Conference 2018 in Tbilisi, stated the tradition of uniting ambassadors was established by current President Salome Zurabishvili when she was serving as the Foreign Minister of the country. Zalkaliani thanked the new President, saying he is sure she will be successful in her future activities. “A few days ago, the inauguration of the fifth President of Georgia was held. I am confident that with strong coordination, we will be able to strengthen our country with the newly elected President. It is important that Salome Zurabishvili established the tradition of an annual meeting of the ambassadors and we remember the ambassadorial organized by her in Batumi," said Zalkaliani. Zalkaliani expressed gratitude to various heads of diplomatic representations and consulates, as well as diplomatic missions of Georgia abroad, and noted their significant contribution to the country's foreign policy objectives. The Minister particularly emphasized the decision of the Prime Minister of Georgia to make the country's European and Euro-Atlantic integration goals a

priority of the governmental program and noted the Prime Minister's personal involvement in the success of the country in terms of foreign relations. “The PM’s involvement and significant activity has brought Georgia tangible results in foreign policy this year, demonstrating the dynamics of high-level bilateral visits, resolutions supporting Georgia, new forms of cooperation, and more,” he said. In his speech, the Minister emphasized the foreign guests’ involvement in the conference. The Vice-Premier of Moldova and the Minister of Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine are taking part in the Ambassador's Conference this year. Zalkaliani also thanked Georgia's diplomatic corps for their work and efforts. "You're protecting Georgia's foreign policy interests and priorities abroad and have been serving your homeland for many years," he said. The Georgian FM also spoke about Russia’s destructive actions, noting that, together with military forces, Russia is increasingly using hybrid methods. “The large-scale military aggression launched by Russia in Georgia in August 2008, which was followed by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in 2014, deteriorated the security environment in the region, where unresolved conflicts remain significant challenges,” he said.

Image source: MFA of Georgia

Zalkaliani noted that the occupation and annexation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, increased militarization, frequent provocations, non-fulfillment of international obligations and violation of the principles of international law pose serious threats to the security not only in the region, but in Europe as well.

“Together with military force, the Russian Federation is increasingly using hybrid methods to achieve its foreign policy goals and seeks to reverse the traditional values of society," said Zalkaliani. The Ambassadors Conference is taking place in Tbilisi on 18-21 December. The diplomats are to summarize the results

of 2018, discuss the achievements and new initiatives of the Ministry and hold thematic meetings on topical issues of international policy. Within the framework of the Ambassadors Conference, diplomats, government, parliament and civil society are also to discuss the project of the Foreign Policy Strategy of 2019-2022.

Nagorno-Karabakh: a Small Conflict with Big Repercussions BY EMIL AVDALIANI


he conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan around Nagorno-Karabakh has reached a dangerous level, where the existing status quo is difficult to preserve due to the military successes of Azerbaijan and inherent problems of Armenia’s dependence on Russia. Nevertheless, as Moscow has biggest stakes in the conflict, it will continue to supply arms to both Baku and Yerevan to keep the military balance, preserve the existing state of affairs, as well as deny any other power, such as Turkey and Iran, possibilities to increase their influence in the conflict resolution process. Unlike other breakaway conflicts across the former Soviet space, the one around Nagorno-Karabakh has not been frozen since its inception in the early 1990s. Daily ceasefire violations can at times reach more than 100 instances, which limits the possibility of reaching a peaceful resolution to the standoff where Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked. However, as the near-war between the two sides showed in April 2016, the conflict is not static but is susceptible to changing geopolitical circumstances. Beyond the immediate situation on the contact line, any progress towards resolution of the conflict is complicated by the many actors which have geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus. One of the major powers is Turkey, for which Azerbaijan is an important economic and military ally. Since the end of the Soviet Union, the two countries have developed a network of railway and pipeline infra-

structure spanning from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish border through Georgian territory. Geopolitically, Turkey has resisted the expansion of Armenia as it will not only weaken Azerbaijan but will also strengthen Russia’s military position in the South Caucasus. Another power which could potentially play an important role in the simmering Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is Iran. Since the lifting of sanctions against Teheran in early 2016 by major western powers, Iran’s influence is expected to increase in the South Caucasus. While until now this has been mainly in the economic realm, another area of involvement for Iran could be the NagornoKarabakh conflict. And Iran already has experience dealing with the AzerbaijaniArmenian confrontation: in the early 1990s, there were some unsuccessful attempts by the Iranian government to mediate the conflict. Since both Armenia and Azerbaijan border on Iran, it is quite natural to expect from Tehran to try playing a bigger role in the conflict. However, Russia, which still is a dominant power in the conflict resolution process, would be opposed to any Iranian initiatives which can diminish Moscow’s role. There are other powers too which are interested in the conflict resolution process. Yet, in comparison with the neighboring Turkey and Iran, the US and the EU currently have only nominal influence. Both are taking an active part in the Minks Process (the official name of the mechanism for the conflict’s resolution), but due to geographic distance, their direct engagement in said resolution remains minimal. This leads us to the remaining and arguably the biggest

player in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – Russia.

RUSSIA’S GEOPOLITICAL IMPERATIVES Moscow’s indirect involvement in the conflict falls neatly within the Russian overall strategy of fostering and managing separatist conflicts across the Soviet Union. The Russia-influenced separatist statelets of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnistria have remained a cornerstone of the Kremlin’s foreign policy against the western military and economic encroachment. From Moscow’s perspective, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine’s pro-western aspirations would be stopped if not permanently, then at least significantly hampered if these conflicts continue to exist. Although Moscow does not have its troops in Nagorno-Karabakh, it does have a military base – the 201st – in Armenia. Moreover, Russia’s influence in Armenia has been increasing over the past decade or so with Kremlin-backed businessmen and companies such as Gazprom and others buying up vital electricity, communication and gas infrastructure in the country. Yerevan has also joined Moscowled integration projects such as the Eurasian Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Russia is also supporting Yerevan militarily through providing separate multi-million loans to buy Russian military hardware. Armenia’s overall dependence on Russia’s economic and military potential gives the Kremlin the ability not only to navigate Yerevan’s foreign policy vector and keep it strictly within the Russian sphere of influence, but also to impact the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Image source: Wikipedia/Achemish

Moscow also needs to be involved in the conflict as it fears Azerbaijan, with its rich energy resources and strong military capabilities, would be able to limit Russian influence on its foreign and internal political processes. Losing any levers of influence to impact Azerbaijan’s foreign policy will be tantamount to the near collapse of Russia’s South Caucasus policy, which includes not only denying Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia possibilities to join western integration projects, but also to successfully export rich deposits of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea. Any moves around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which could harm Russian interests will in turn embolden Russia’s geopolitical contenders Turkey and Iran. Turkey could increase its military cooperation with Azerbaijan, while Iran could potentially become more vocal about its broader interests in the South Caucasus. For that reason, Moscow is increasing military hardware sales to both Armenia and Azerbaijan and thus tries to remain a major arbiter. When in April 2016 a near full-scale war broke out in the

Nagorno-Karabakh area, Russia was the power which stopped the fighting by brokering a ceasefire in Moscow between the Armenian and Azerbaijani military officials. Russia is also very careful not to allow any of the competing sides to achieve ultimate military preponderance. It is true that statistically Russia sells more armaments to Azerbaijan than to Armenia, but this deficiency is more to accentuate Armenia’s need of having Russia as its supporter. In other words, Armenia’s military dominance would negate any logic of needing Moscow as a military factor around the NagornoKarabakh conflict. Bearing in mind these geopolitical imperatives the Russian government has, it is thus unlikely to see any major shifts around the conflict. Russia will try to maintain the existing status quo, meaning both Baku and Yerevan will remain largely dependent on Moscow’s actions. Western influence as well as that of Iran and Turkey will be limited as Russia will continue pursuing its policies of isolating other major powers from interfering with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.




Salome Zurabishvili Begins Her Reign BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE


alome Zurabishvili has officially begun her work as President of Georgia. As President, Zurabishvili is making history in several ways: she is the country’s first female president, she is the first president to have been born and raised outside of Georgia, and she is the first president who represents a cooperative, respectful transition of power from one regime to the next. She has also made the surprisingly controversial decision to work out of Orbeliani Palace on Atoneli Street rather than the dramatic, flashy modern glass and metal Presidential Palace built by former President Mikheil Saakashvili, often referred to as “the egg.” One of the most interesting features of Zurabishvili’s heavily-guarded, private inauguration ceremony was her statements about previous leaders of Georgia. With an air of conciliatory respect, she noted the positive achievements of the presidents who came before her, including political opponents. It was also the first time a former president attended the inauguration of his successor. Giorgi Margvelashvili was gracious and professional in passing his mantle on to President Zurabishvili. Although the role Zurabishvili holds is now primarily ceremonial and symbolic rather than political, she still sets the agenda for Parliament and has the power to call attention to important issues. She is an influential voice in the halls of Georgian political power and policy-making circles. Officially, Zurabishvili declares herself an independent politician, but she has a close affiliation with the ruling Georgian Dream party whose massive public relations campaign and deep pockets before the presidential run-off elections earlier

this month preceded Zurabishvili’s victory. In accordance with constitutional amendments, this was the final presidential election to be conducted by a

popular vote of citizens. In the future, presidents will be chosen by an electoral college comprised of the members of the Parliament of Georgia and 150 others. This is expected to lead to more

coherence between Parliament and the President. Zurabishvili, as she is technically outside the ruling party structure, may bring a valuable critical perspective to the role. As a former

diplomat, and perhaps in part because she grew up and began her career outside the tight-knit Georgian political community, she has so far avoided the dirty, aggressive tactics commonly used by oppositional voices from all sides of the Georgian political spectrum. Pundits expect that the new president will be able to voice opposition or criticism of actions taken by the Government of Georgia without the conversation descending into name-calling or physical violence. However, Zurabishvili’s presidency, from the beginning of her campaign through her inauguration, has been marked by vocal, aggressive opposition. During her inauguration ceremony near Telavi, massive street protests broke out around police road blocks, leading to several injuries and, later on, arrests. It is yet to be seen whether opposition voices will agree to fully participate in the political process or continue to boycott votes and call for public protests. On her first day in office, President Zurabishvili walked to work, flanked by staff and press. She announced that the Head of her Administration will be Lasha Zhvania, who served as Minister of Economy in the Saakashvili government and most recently as head of the Patriarch’s Humanitarian Fund, and the Parliamentary Secretary will be lawyer Dimitri Gabunia. The composition of her cabinet is not yet known, but she promised the press that her administration will be fully staffed by next Monday. In another break from tradition, Zurabishvili made it clear that the media will be welcome and their position formalized within the Atoneli Street Palace. She plans to create a media club to have regular discussions with journalists on important topics. “Your house will be here,” the President told members of the press on Tuesday, pledging to maintain “normal relations” between the Presidential Administration and the media.




DECEMBER 21 - 24, 2018

Georgian Operatic Bass Criticized for Performing in Russia BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia’s famous operatic bass, Paata Burchuladze, who was involved in Georgian politics two years ago, has been heavily criticized by various politicians in Georgia after he performed at a concert in St. Petersburg which was attended by the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The concert was dedicated to the Conductor Yuri Temirkanov's 80th birthday. Elene Khoshtaria, member of European Georgia, slammed Burchuladze, saying any person singing or dancing for Putin in Moscow is harming Georgia. “Apart from being a singer, Burchuladze was quite a serious political figure. He has special responsibilities and such behavior is unacceptable. It is harmful to our country when Russia creates the illusion that culture is a space separate from politics,” she stated. Member of the United National Movement, Salome Samadashvili, took to Facebook to criticize Burchuladze. “This man [Burchuladze], should find out what he wants…His action was disgusting,” her post reads. Burchuladze was criticized by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) officials more

than by opposition politicians. GD member Gia Volsky says Burchuladze’s action was especially inappropriate as, in addition to being a singer, he is also a politician. “Of course there is nothing bad in culture, but it is incompatible with the political ambitions he [Burchuladze] has,” Volsky said. The operatic bass released a statement in response to the criticism, saying he could never have imagined his performance in Russia would cause such a negative reaction in Georgia. “I sang at that concert because of my gratitude towards Yuri Temirkanov, great maestro, who invited me to take part in the event…In 2013, he was in Georgia with his orchestra and in 2008 he visited the country on my birthday,” Burchuladze’s letter reads. He also says Temirkanov and his orchestra performed for the third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, adding the maestro is well-respected in every country. “I served my country for many years as well as I could. I have received much love and support from Georgians and if some people do not like my lifestyle, they can create a better one. I think the energy spent criticizing me should be spent creating a better future for our country,” he added. Burchuladze ended his 35-year opera career for a life in politics in early 2015

Image source: cec.ge

when he cancelled several scheduled concerts at Milan’s La Scala, London’s Covent Garden and New York’s Met Gala to launch the Georgian Development Foundation, which he described at the time as an attempt “to end the era of fear and unprofessionalism in the country.”

In early May 2016, he announced that he would run in the October 8 parliamentary elections under his own State for the People Party. In August, he formed a coalition with three other opposition parties to form the State for the People Movement. Although in pre-election political sur-

veys Burchuladze polled third with 12% support from potential voters, his coalition failed to pass the 5% election threshold and was left without any seats in parliament. In December 2016, he announced that he was quitting politics and thereafter returned to his opera career.

Qatar Embassy Celebrates National Day of the State of Qatar projects implemented by the State of Qatar on a local and international scale, including plans to achieve water, food and sufficient electrical energy security. He also emphasized the major economic investments and aspirations of the government for the rapid development of the country in the near future. The Ambassador concluded his speech by congratulating the Georgian government for organizing the recent presidential elections successfully. He also focused on the friendly relations between Georgia and the State of Qatar in different areas, stating: “Georgia holds a special place for the State of Qatar as the friendship and communication have been enhanced by the convergence of the international arena and the encouragement of trade exchange”. The Ambassador underlined the significance of a number of agreements and memoranda signed between the two countries and the decision of the Qatar government to



he ceremony devoted to the National Day of the State of Qatar, which marked the Accession of His Highness Sheikh Jassim Bin Mohammed Bin Thani AL Tahni, the Founder of the State of Qatar, was hosted by the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on December 19. All guests at the event, the list of which included the representatives of government bodies, diplomatic corps and the

media sector, as well as members of the Qatar Embassy to Tbilisi, were welcomed by the Ambassador of the State of Qatar, His Excellency Mubarak Bin Nasser Mubarak Al-Khalifa. The Ambassador delivered a speech, congratulating the invitees on the remarkable date and thanked them for their attendance. He outlined the role of the former and present leaders of the State of Qatar for the development and modernization of the country. He focused on the significance of the celebration of the National Day within the borders of the country, as well as beyond them, as it: “creates an opportunity for expressing

the solidarity and declaring the loyalty between the leadership and the Qatari nation, as well as sending the messages of broadened respect towards the friends and brothers from the different countries of the world.” While addressing the audience, His Excellency noted the numerous challenges the State of Qatar faced as a result of an unjust siege 1.5 years ago and the strength of the country’s government and the Qatari nation to overcome the difficulties by standing firmly by its morals and understanding the importance of national sovereignty. The Ambassador also spoke about the previous and future

facilitate the visa obtaining process for Georgian citizens. He also expressed support to the Government of Georgian in the implementation of new reforms. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Alexander Khvtisiashvili, also addressed the audience at the event, where he, on the behalf of the Georgian nation, congratulated the Ambassador and other representatives of the State of Qatar on the celebration of the National Day. He strongly emphasized the significance of the close partnership of Georgia and Qatar and noted that the State of Qatar was the first country among the Arab states to launch an Embassy in Georgia in 2013. Khvtisiashvili expressed hopes for continued and enhanced friendly relations between Georgia and the State of Qatar. The celebration was followed by a cake-cutting ceremony accompanied by music and a marvelous reception with various dishes.



TBC Bank Named Leading Partner Bank in Trade Financing in Georgia by ADB BY ANNA ZHVANIA


sian Development Bank (ADB) named TBC Bank the ‘Leading Partner Bank for Trading in Georgia’ for the fourth time running. The awards ceremony was held in Singapore and attended by about 200 representatives of banks and financial institutions across 15 countries. ADB

identified 23 best partner banks with which it cooperates most actively. "Over the past 12 months, we have achieved positive financial indicators with the help of our partner banks,” said Stephen Beck, Head of Asian Development Bank's Trade Financing Program. “It is a great opportunity to reward them once again for the partnership and for the work done. In cooperation with the winning banks, we have collectively contributed a large share towards economic growth and employment oppor-

tunities.” ADB was founded in 1966 with the purpose of reducing poverty through economic growth and regional integration in the Asian and Oceanian countries. ADB financed a number of sectors across various countries in 2017 with a total of $32.2 bln. Since 2009, the ADB Trade Financing Program has provided over 12,000 small and medium enterprises with financial support, equaling a total of $30bln worth of 16,600 transactions.

‘Rooms Hotel Kokhta’ To Be Built in Bakuriani


ith the financial support of TBC Bank and EBRD, GRDC and Adjara Group will build ‘Kokhta Roma Hotel Management’ in Bakuriani. The agreement between the parties was signed at the Hotel Rooms and covered the construction of the 92-room hotel and 70 apartments in the adjacent territory of the new ski area on the Kokhta mountain. The project is a continuation of the Georgian Rooms Hotels brand development created by Adjara Group. GRDC will undertake the construction of additional residential apartments for the next phase. Rooms Hotel Kokhta will contribute significantly to tourism development with its outstanding architecture and design. It will be located in Bakuriani, Kokhta Gora, on the new ski slopes of Kokhta and will serve guests year-round from summer 2019. The first phase of the resort development includes a 17,009 sq.m complex, of which 5,000 sq.m will cover apartments, while 12,000 sq.m will be used for the hotel. Rooms Hotel Kokhta will be based on a ski-in ski-out concept, offering ski run infrastructure that can be accessed directly from the hotel territory. Alongside the rooms/apaprtments, the hotel will include: a conference hall for 300 guests, a restaurant for 300 guests, a lounge bar and terrace with 360-degree views, a swimming pool and other ser-

vices. The total cost of the project amounts to $10 mln. $ 5. 4 mln will be financed by TBC Bank and EBRD, with a loan issued under the RFS program, while the rest will be covered by GRDC and Adjara Group's capital. "With the GRDC and the support of EBRD and TBC Bank, another Rooms Hotel will be opened in Georgia, which will offer various concepts and designs to our guests. By implementing this project, Georgia will take another step closer to the world's leading ski resort standards,” said Valeri Chekheria, Executive Director of Adjara Group. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to finance the construction of another project by the two leading companies, GRDC and Adjara Group,” said TBC Bank's Deputy Director General, Giorgi

Tkhelidze. “We are confident that this investment will further motivate investors to carry out such interesting projects within this region.” "We are happy to continue our cooperation with the EBRD's three partner companies, TBC Bank, Adjara Group and GRDC, to develop the real estate and tourism sectors in Georgia,” said Bruno Balvanera, Director of EBRD in the Caucasus. “The EBRD's financial support includes a grant component and aims to provide energy-efficient insulation materials and LED lighting. We aim to create energy efficient buildings in the mountainous region of Georgia and to support the development of such new standards.” The interior of the hotel is under construction and will be completed in the spring of 2019.





DECEMBER 21 - 24, 2018

The IPS International Property Show BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


he Middle East’s biggest property sales platform for local and international real estate markets, the International Property Show (IPS), which takes place in a number of countries worldwide, this year chose Georgia to deliver a training course. Every year, IPS brings together top real estate developers, investors, government authorities, banks and other financial institutions in order to present an educational practical training and enhance the efficiency of participation at exhibitions. The four-hour training, named: ‘Effective Participation at the Exhibition. All You Need to Know,’ was held in the King

David Residence on December 20 and had a clearly outlined program comprising three blocks: Block 1. Pre-exhibition; Block 2. Participation at an Exhibition; Block 3. Post-exhibition. The event was concluded by an awards ceremony giving participants certificates. The training was organized within the scope of the IPS Presentation and

was supported by Georgia Today Media Holding. The participation of GEORGIA TODAY as a Media Partner while carrying out this project was beneficial for numerous reasons. Firstly, it provided the participating real estate organizations with useful information about the nature of the project and

terms for participation. GEORGIA TODAY also played a vital role in the organization of the event and contributed to the future of sectoral development, guaranteeing the distribution of the relevant information to real estate companies countrywide, so supporting their future inclusion in such events. Business Development Manager at

‘Strategic Marketing and Exhibitions’ of IPS, Julia V. Khomych, spoke about the decision to hold the training session in Georgia and stated that this is a country with “a great potential for growth in the field of real estate.” She also emphasized the significance of IPS and the advantages offered by the given training to the real estate organizations operating on the market, including the opportunity to promote themselves and boost their ability to present a strong business program and cooperate with major investors. “Many organizers invite exhibitors to take part in a show, but none will let them know how to do so effectively; none of them will give specific tips or point out the common mistakes. That is where we come in, with a willingness to help exhibitors participate in any show to maximum effect,” stated Khomych.

4th Ceremony of Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards Held at Rustaveli Theater in Tbilisi

Continued from page 1


barestan; THE BEST INCOMING TOUR OPERATOR AWARD: Caucasus Travel; THE BEST COMMUNITY-BASED TOURISM AWARD: Nazy's Guest House; THE BEST ADVENTURE TOURISM AWARD: Altihut 3.014, THE FASTEST GROWING COMPANY OF THE YEAR IN THE SME SEGMENT AWARD: Wehost; ICREATE, THE MOST SUCCESSFUL GEORGIAN BRAND IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY AWARD: Lopota Lake Resort & Spa; THE BEST WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY AWARD: Tinatini Dugashvili; AWARD FOR CONTRIBUTION TO TOURISM DEVELOPMENT GNTA on behalf of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia: Giorgi Tavadze, GMT President; THE BEST TOURISTIC START UP on behalf of the PARTNERSHIP FUND: Wehost and THE BEST YOUNG WINERY AWARD: Baia’s Wine. 350 different companies representing the tourism and hospitality market from all over Georgia, including hotels, travel agencies, festivals and events, restaurants, cafes and wineries were honorably given the status of Nominee of Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards 2018. Each nominee was assessed in accordance with internationally recognized

methodology by a professional jury board. The pioneer female winemaker, 25-yearold Baia Abuladze, received two prizes at the ceremony. She has been bottling and distributing her own wine TitskaTsolikauri since 2015. According to the young entrepreneur, after she turned her family tradition into a business, more and more tourists starting coming to her village to taste her wine. “I was not expecting to win, although I really wanted to take an award back to my village Obcha where my winery is located. It was so exciting when my company was named winner of THE BEST YOUNG WINERY AWARD and I was twice as happy, when Swarovski named me the best female entrepreneur and gave me a prize”, Baia told GEORGIA TODAY. The Award Ceremony was opened by Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia Giorgi Kobulia. He spoke about the importance of the tourism industry for Georgia’s economy, latest achievements in the field and significance of the Awards project. He personally awarded Giorgi Tavadze, President of GMT Group, for his contribution to tourism development, and thanked the organizers of the Awards for highlighting and celebrating the achievements of so many companies in the tourism industry.

“Georgia has many advantages and unique features to develop the tourism sector. We possess fascinating nature, cultural heritage, as well as distinguished culinary traditions that are cherished by tourists. The country offers numerous opportunities for holidays year-round in Georgia. This year we hosted around 8.5 million foreign visitors, twice the number of our population. As such, both the government and the private sector should do their best to advance service in the tourism sector and satisfy the needs of future visitors,” Kobulia said. Giorgi Chogovadze, Head of Georgian National Tourism Administration, also greeted the audience and thanked the attendees for contributing to the general development of the country. “Revenue from intentional visitors in 2018 will amount to $3,200 billion. It means that your hard work and success benefits not only the Georgian tourism sector but the development of economy and the country itself. So I want thank each of you for your substantial work,” he said. The official Award Ceremony hosted more than 800 guests. At the reception, guests were treated to champagne, Georgian wine and sweets while the ceremony itself was held in the Grand Hall of the impressive Rustaveli Theater. The ceremony was followed by an after party at the Republic Event space. “We are happy to host our guests at the Fourth Official Ceremony of the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards,” Maryna Chayka, Welcome to Georgia! Co-founder of the National

Tourism Awards Project told GEORGIA TODAY. “We can see how the market has expanded based on the number of guests and nominees. This year, we have up to 400 nominees: companies that are playing the main role in the development of Georgia. The aim of creating the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards was to motivate all those people who help to develop Georgia as a tourist destination.” The Chairman of the Agency of Protected Areas, Valerian Mchedlidze, also made a speech highlighting the importance of Georgia’s natural environment and its role in attracting more tourists. “This year, Georgia’s Protected Areas received a record-breaking number of visitors: we hosted around a million tourists in our protected territories and national parks. Now, we are developing new directions and trying to play our role in developing the tourism industry in Georgia,” he said. For the fourth year already, the Georgian National Tourism Administration, on behalf of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, was Co-organizer of the Award project. Official Supporters were Tbilisi City Hall, Partnership Fund; Co-organizer Bank of Georgia, General Sponsor - Alliance Group. The main mission of the Welcome to Georgia! National Tourism Awards is to encourage tourism and boost the hospitality industry in Georgia and raise awareness about the high-achieving tourism businesses and brands that create a positive image of the country worldwide.




DECEMBER 21 - 24, 2018

More Monochrome Haiku: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER


es, we knew the snow would come again. This time there has been enough of it that it might just stay until the next layer arrives. If so, and the trend continues, then we’ll be stuck with it until spring warming starts reversing the trend, despite the near-1 (perfect reflection of all radiation) albedo I mentioned in last week’s article. Because this last snowfall came while the temperatures were still very mild, it was extra-sticky: just right for making snowballs and snowmen! It also adhered to everything: trees, fences and so on. It wasn’t going to last long in such warmth, though, so I took a couple of hours and walked up the road past our house toward Becho, marveling in and shooting images of the haiku-like minimalism which winter brings. Color is almost absent, and things are reduced to some kind of essences of themselves. For this, I have found, black and white photography is best. Although I do always shoot in color, because colorizing a colorless image is much harder than stripping the hues from a color one, I almost always end up with a grayscale image in these settings. Color is more of a distraction from form, light and shadows. The snow and ice do indeed have so many forms that I’m not too surprised that people who live in mostly winter conditions have many more words for H2O’s solid forms than we westerners do. From

confectionary, spun-sugar or eggshell delicacy to miles-thick Titanic-destroying bergs, from purest white to deadly cold blues, the ranges are seemingly endless. This day I was concentrating on fences, which here are nicely handmade from wooden slats wired together and preferably oak posts, giving them a pleasingly non-uniform look. There are hardly any colors already, especially with wood which has been bleached by the sun long enough to lose most of its warmer tones and reduced to grays. So there is rhythm, from the structures’ repeating forms, and variation in their heights, thicknesses and so on. A perfect mix. I call these images photographic haiku after the minimalist three-line Japanese poems because there is hardly anything to them, but not nothing. In them, I strive to capture something small but significant, the quintessence of the subjects, covered or revealed by their silent veils of white. Here is an example of a haiku by the master of the genre, Basho, called The First Snow: The first snow the leaves of the daffodil bending together That’s all. While I’m not a practitioner of Zen, I do appreciate the sparseness of haiku, the statement about just one thing. This is what I’m aiming for in these images, which I find more of every winter. I don’t have to go far; I can start in my own fenced-in yard, and don’t even have to leave it at all to find what I’m looking for. But I do, because I’m a bit greedy for more. This time I ended up taking 120 frames on my digital camera.

These things, the making of so many images and then the long descriptions of them and the process, are actually somewhat against what haiku is about, however If I was really serious about it even in pictorial form, I would present the images with no writing whatsoever, save perhaps the permitted titles, and

let them speak for themselves, whether in three lines of a few syllables each or in endless effortless volumes. After all, a single photo is supposed to be worth a thousand words. Is it not? Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a

weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

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Grand Premiere of Jules Massenet’s Werther to Be Held at Tbilisi Opera Theater BY LIKA CHIGLADZE


bilisi’s historic Opera and Ballet State Theater has prepared yet another surprise for opera enthusiasts. On December 22, at 19:00, celebrated French composer Jules Massenet’s legendary opera named Werther will be premiered in Tbilisi. Exactly 76 years since its last showing in Tbilisi, the famous French opera based on the German epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by great writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is back. The operatic version of this tragic story about the unhappy young Werther, who is driven to suicide by his unfulfilled passion for the married Charlotte, has moved audiences for generations. In 2002, the production was premiered at Tokyo’s new National Theater and was a huge success, receiving a standing ovation. This very version of Werther is considered one of the most memorable productions, being of a classic style and well expressing the epoch of the piece. The German-language version of Werther premiered on 16 February 1892 at the Imperial Theater Hofoper in Vienna, while its original French version premiere followed in Geneva on 27 December 1892. The first performance in France was given by the Opéra-Comique at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Place du Châtelet in Paris on 16 January 1893. Werther is still regularly performed around the world and has been recorded many times. Moreover, Massenet’s Werther is included in the program of the world’s leading operas. The Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater saw its premiere on October 16, 1904 and until the 1940s, the play was included in the theater’s regular program. In 1942, Werther was staged in Tbilisi Opera by Alexandre Tsutsunava. The main roles in the opera were performed by renowned Georgian opera singers Davit Andguladze, Vera Davidova and Davit Badridze. And after 76 years, the great opera will be brought back to life in Tbilisi on December 22, 23, 26 and 29. The team behind the upcoming production comprises both foreign and Georgian artists and musicians: Director Joseph Franconi Lee, music directors and conductors Zaza Azmaiparashvili and

Fabrizio Cassi, Scenographer Emmanuelle Favre, and Costume designer Ester Martin. “I am extremely happy to visit Georgia for the second time already,” Conductor Fabrizio Cassi told GEORGIA TODAY. “The rehearsals went well with the Georgian orchestra and the musicians showed great commitment and hard work, so we are ready for the premiere. I’m also very happy since this will be my debut in Werther in the lead role.” Before the grand premiere, GEORGIA TODAY also talked to Italian Director Joseph Franconi Lee, who has collaborated with Georgian opera singers before, among them Lado Ataneli. “I’m so excited to be debuting in the beautiful state theater of Tbilisi,” he said. “I must say this is one of the most beautiful theaters I have worked in, and I have worked in the major theaters around the world. I am so impressed by the enthusiasm of theater crew, from technicians to singers. It is good that Tbilisi Opera gives young singers a chance to perform on this stage. I usually have one company or maybe two companies with one or two performances, but here we’ll have a new company every day. I’ve been working hard and they more so. I’ve never seen this much enthusiasm for Werther. It's not a job you can do every day and then go home: but they live, they think and breathe the play. Working in such an environment is a great joy for me.” Another pillar of the great production taking us back the previous era and creating a magnificent environment on the stage with her costumes is Ester Martin. She also shared her emotions with us. “I can't remember a period in my life that I didn't make dresses or costumes,” she told us. “From an early age, the passion for costumes led me to the theater, inside this magical world full of tutus, historical costumes and incredible stories. I grew up inside the theater as a professional dancer for ten years, then as an opera singer and from 2015 as a costume designer. I'm very happy and honored to come back to Tbilisi with this masterpiece of the French repertoire. Massenet's score is amazing. When you hear this music, you can feel all the pain, love, drama and suffering of Werther, the war inside Charlotte, Albert's evolution and Sophie’s innocence.”

Tbilisi Inspires Baku's Rave Scene, Says Electronic Beats Magazine BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE


ollowing a cascade of articles from international publications giving glowing reviews to Tbilisi’s electronic music scene and culture, a new article from Electronic Beats online magazine chronicles neighboring Azerbaijan’s “Raving In Azerbaijan: How Tbilisi’s Club Culture Inspired A New Techno Scene In Baku.” The article follows the story of Natig Ismayil and his nightclub iN, one of Baku’s only electronic music venues. The opulent, oil-rich, shiny façade of Baku hides, says author Yan Matusevich, “a city that many local young people describe as stifling and despondent, where good places to go out are few and far between. Unlike Tbilisi, which has recently gained international recognition for its innovative club scene, Baku offers surprisingly little in terms of dance clubs despite being the largest and wealthiest city in the Caucasus.” In the mid-2010s, before opening iN, Ismayil and his friends “discovered Tbilisi’s bustling club scene

and became enamored with techno music and rave culture.” They made the seven-hour drive as many as two weekends per month, frequenting places like Bassiani and Khidi. “Deprived of access to techno clubs at home, a generation of Baku partygoers made Tbilisi their clubbing home,” says Matusevich. Azerbaijani culture is even more traditional and conservative than Georgian, and Baku’s fringe experimental elements are still developing. The article explains, “While iN clearly aspires to follow in the footsteps of famous industrial techno spaces in Europe, the club also has a broader social mission that goes beyond offering the full techno clubbing experience to locals. In a country where rave culture is perceived as morally reprehensible by a large proportion of society, particularly among the older generation, the founders of iN are adamant about challenging existing prejudices towards ravers and other expressions of non-conformity.” Matusevich also notes that, “Given its unique history and close ties to the Georgian club scene, iN is not only attracting major talent from Berlin and Tbilisi—such as Ben Rau and Kwartz—but also hopes to provide a platform for local talent going forward.”





DECEMBER 21 - 24, 2018


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 December 22, 23, 26 Premiere WERTHER Jules Massenet Music Director - Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director- Joseph Franconi Lee Scenographer- Emmanuelle Favre Costume designer - Ester Martin Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-300 GEL MARJANISHVILI THEATER 5 Marjanishvli St. TEL (+995 32) 2 95 59 66 December 22, 23 Maka Makharadze Ballet Studio presents: THE NUTCRACKER Start time: 14:00, 17:00, 20:00 Ticket: 5-12 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER 27 Rustaveli Ave. December 21 HOST AND GUEST Based on Vazha Pshavela poem Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL December 21 REFLECTION Love triangle: a successful artist and a ballerina love each other, but the businessman, owner of the gallery, is also in love with the ballerina… Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. TEL (+995 32) 298 65 93 December 22 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL December 23 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL

December 21, 27 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995) 598 19 29 36 December 25 JAM SESSION IMPRO MUSIC Musical art director- Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:30 Free Entrance December 15 GAMMA Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL TBILISI CIRCUS 1 The Heroes Sq. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 58 61 December 22, 23 NEW YEAR SHOW Start time: 13:00, 17:00 Ticket: 10-25 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS December 6 – February 28 In the framework of the celebrations of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Georgia, the Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 298 22 81

November 29 – January 20 The Georgian National Museum in the framework of the project “Contemporary Art Gallery” presents SOLO EXHIBITION OF LIA BAGRATIONI A MAD TEA-PARTY MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge December 11 – March 1 Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS The Exhibition showcases artworks by Dimitri Shevardnadze, Petre Otskheli, Henryk Hryniewski, Richard Sommer, Kiril Zdanevich, Vasily Shukhaev, Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Ucha Japharidze, Aleksandre Bajbeuk-Melikov, Korneli Sanadze and more. The exposition also showcases documentary footage depicting the 1920-30s repressions. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 October 9 – January 17 (2019) NIKO PIROSMANI’S RENEWED EXHIBITION Until October 5, 2019 EXHIBITION MASTERS OF GEORGIAN ART Paintings of Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili and Elene Akhvlediani together with Lado Gudiashvili's and David Kakabadze, giving a comprehensive picture of the diversity and aesthetics of Georgian Art. Until January 20, 2019 The anniversary exhibition of Georgian artist USHANGI KHUMARASHVILI His artistic traditions are classic avant-garde. A severe Soviet legacy and socialism brought his creativity into a space of non-conformism. The main and initial stage of his art began in the 1970s, when he defined himself as an expressive abstractionist. KHIDI V.Bagrationi Bridge, Right Embankment

Every Tuesday, from 15:00-20:00 Until February 20, 2019 Multidisciplinary exhibition project IN-BETWEEN CONDITIONS ‘In-between conditions’ displays 18 work contributions expressing cultural impulses affected by political or social forces. MUSIC

SOUNDS OF GEORGIA December 21, 26, 27 Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi: a mix of traditional Georgian music, featuring folklore, a capella, guitar, as well as new Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Tickets: 23 GEL Venue: December 21: New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’; Venue: December 26: 16 G. Kikodze Str., Café ‘Ezo’; Venue: December 27: Europe Sq., 2 D. Megreli Str., Hotel "Nata", Terrace TBILISI CONCERT HALL 1 Melikishvili St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 00 99 December 22 SOLOMON VIRSALADZE 110 YEAR JUBILEE Start time: 20:00 December 25, 26 SOLO presents CHRISTMAS CONCERT Georgian musicians Beka Gochiashvili and Nikoloz Rachveli will perform along with the Georgian National Symphony Orchestra. Special guests: Festival Choir, Natalia Kutateladze, Levan Deisadze, and leading artists of the music industry: Mike Mitchell, Cameron Graves and Max Gerl. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 70-190 GEL GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. December 22 Classical Music in an Alternative EnvironmentPIANO RECITAL ANDREW TYSON Program: Ottorino Respighi- Notturno Frédéric Chopin- Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58 Maurice Ravel– Miroirs Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50 GEL December 24 Classical Music in an Alternative Environment Closing Concert SOLOIST VERIKO TCHUMBURIDZE- VIOLIN Tbilisi State Chamber Orchestra Georgian Sinfonietta Program: Mozart– Symphony No. 1 E-flat major Mozart– Violin concert No. 4 D major Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50 GEL CAFE MZIURI Mziuri Park December 23 SAKVIARO FOR CHILDREN Great fun with invited guests Start time: 12:00-14:00 REPUBLIC 1st Republic Sq.

December 22 NANI BREGVADZE The concert will be accompanied by famous musicians: Eka Mamaladze, Natalia Kutateladze, Nikoloz Rachveli and the Band. Start time: 18:30 Ticket: 80-200 GEL ELEKTROWERK 1 Monk Gabriel Salosi, 1st Turn December 21 STUDENTS NIGHT Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 10 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov St. TEL (+995 32) 2 93 46 24 December 21 VOCAL MUSIC EVENING Alice Quintavalla- soprano Mikheil Sheshaberidze- tenor Mikheil Kiria- baritone Zaza Azmaiparashvili- conductor Tbilisi Z. Paliashvili Opera and Ballet State Theater Orchestra Program: Works by Puccini, Donizetti, Lara, Favlo and Verdi Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-40 GEL December 23 ORGAN MUSIC EVENINGMARTIN STURM Program: works by Bach, Steigleder, Kerll, Cage, Felix MendelssohnBartholdy, Alain and Improvizations Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-25 GEL December 25 ALEXANDER KORSANTIA Program: works by Chopin and Mussorgsky Start time: 19:00 December 26 Georgian Folk Music ENSEMBLE SHILDA Directed by brothers Beka and Gocha Bidzinashvili and The Choir of the University of Chant directed by Giorgi Donadze and Teona Rukhadze, The Choir of the University of Chant Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-20 GEL DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 123 a Agmashenebeli Ave. December 23 CONCERT OF CHORAL MUSIC Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10 GEL December 27 TRINITY CATHEDRAL CHOIR CONCEPTART The concert will include the performance of modern choral music together with the masterpieces of Georgian Folk and Chants. Music directors: Svimon Jangulashvili, Giorgi Donadze. Special guests: Solos From Choir and Special Guests, Nino Katamadze, Nino Surguladze, Ketevan Kemoklidze, Tamriko Chokhonelidze, Mariam Roinishvili, Ketevan Kartvelishvili, Zviad Bolkvadze, Zviad Michilashvili, Giorgi Khunashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 16-45 GEL




I, George Balanchine – the Life of a Georgian Choreographer BY AMY JONES


he Tbilisi film festival, showcasing a taste of Georgia’s rich and diverse cultural legacy, came to a close on December 9. The film ‘I, George Balanchine’ showed a particularly poignant insight into the cultural influence of Georgians internationally, telling the story of the prominent choreographer, George Balanchine. Originally named Giorgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze, Balanchine was actually born in Saint Petersburg in 1904. His father was the well-known Georgian opera singer and composer Meliton Balanchivadze, who was one of the founders of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater. His whole family were gifted creatives with strong links to Georgia. Indeed, his brother, Andria Balanchivadze, who settled in Soviet Georgia, was a celebrated

composer and his mother played piano. His older sister, Tamara, died trying to reach Georgia from Leningrad when it was besieged. Balanchine was first introduced to ballet when his mother insisted he audition with his sister at the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg. After graduation, he then enrolled in the Petrograd Conservatory and worked in the corps de ballet at the State Academic Theater for Opera and Ballet. He already began composing as a teen, and choreographed his first piece, La Nuit, in 1920. After suffering a serious knee injury that prevented him from performing, he began to choreograph more regularly. He eventually formed the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1931, before moving to the United States and working with the New York City Ballet. Balanchine served as the artistic director of the New York City Ballet, where he worked for over three decades, producing more than 150 works. The Nutcracker was one of

his most well-known works. George Balanchine was incredibly influential in the world of dance. He significantly changed the perceptions of ballet, and his ideas still influence other choreographers. Touched by music, he choreographed each dance based on the musicality and strengths of his dancers. Speaking in the film ‘I, George Balanchine’, many of the dancers who worked with him gave emotional tributes to the positive way he developed their dancing. Balanchine never forgot his ties to Georgia despite his strong international presence. Many experts believe his style of dance and some of his signature movements were inspired by traditional Georgian folk dancing. He also visited Georgia and was reunited with his brother in the 1960s. “Dance is a continuation. You cannot predict the signs of its evolution,” Balanchine famously said. It is true: his legacy lives on and is interpreted and developed by new choreographers and

dancers globally even today. Balanchine made more than 465 works that have been performed by nearly every ballet company in the world. The film, ‘I, George

Balanchine’, although at times too overtly praising of Balanchine, celebrates the life of possibly the most influential ballet composer of all time.

The Pride of Traditional Georgian Chant BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI


t is well known that Georgian chants are an integral part of Georgian folk songs, a fact recognized worldwide, a direction without which Georgian culture is unimaginable. In the Folklore State Center of Georgia, the sheet recordings of chanting are being digitizalized in order to strengthen this art. The material description together with a specially created database will be placed in the electronic space to make it available to any interested person. The unique project to preserve this Georgian treasure found in various archives, to digitalize the handwritten notes of traditional charts and put them together with a scientific description online, is being implemented by the Folklore State Center of Georgia. "The traditional Georgian chant is one of the unique things we are proud of,” said Giorgi Donadze, Director of the Folklore State Center. “So far, about 30,000 pages have been digitalized, which has taken a lot of time and finances. It is no easy task, as each sheet in the Institute of Manuscripts and the National Archives is scanned using the best equipment. We created a website, so the digitized materials can be made available for both Georgians and foreigners. All interested persons can see what the manuscript looks like.” The next project, which will be implemented in 2019, will be the Anthology of the foundation ‘Georgian Chant.’ Two volumes have been published to date, with eight more in the pipeline. Specialists of the Folklore State Center, Tbilisi

State Conservatoire and ‘Georgian Chant’ Fund will work jointly. In the course of preparing the anthology, the Folklore Center digitalization project will be employed. In fact, the anthology project is a follow-on stage of the digitalization project of the chant manuscripts. "We have invested huge resources in the ten-volume Georgian traditional chants anthology. High-level specialists work to publish from the Tbilisi State Conservatoire and Folklore Center. It’s a colossal job- each volume consists of 700-800 pages and is totally unique,"



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Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

Donadze noted. The Anthology of Georgian Chants aims to present, in academic style, all samples of the sheeted Georgian traditional chanting of the 19-20th centuries. The edition is intended for choristers, choral collectors, researchers and ecclesiastical music lovers. The database and description of annoted manuscripts of Georgian chants (up to 23,000 pages) was first digitalized in 2015. Currently, the second stage of the project is underway. Within the framework,

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Amy Jones, Thea Morrison, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

manuscripts protected at the National Center of Folklore, the National Archives of Georgia and the Korneli Kekelidze National Center of Manuscripts will be completely digitalized: chants performed by Filimon Koridze, Ekvtime (Estate) Kereselidze, the Karbelashvili Brothers, Razhden Khundadze and other great Georgian figures. The project (headed by Svimon Jangulashvili) is implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture and Fund ‘Georgian Chant’ under the partnership of the National Archives of

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

Georgia and the National Center of Manuscripts. Its purpose is to promote, restore and maintain Georgian traditional polyphony, and popularize it internationally. The publishing of a Georgian chants anthology is based on several key factors: anthology as a scientific-practical edition, which aims as far as possible to bring together all the chants of Georgian chanting tradition. For this purpose, the chants of the various chapel schools and liturgical choirs (from the above listed sources of chants) will be printed in its collections.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1111  

December 21 - 24, 2018

Issue #1111  

December 21 - 24, 2018