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Issue no: 811

• JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016


The Bard in the Panther’s Skin


In this week’s issue... Solidarity Fund Investor Ozturk Agrees Further Collaboration with PM NEWS PAGE 2

2016 Parliamentary Elections: The Battle for Georgian Democracy POLITICS PAGE 3



The President’s Speech: Who Will Listen? POLITICS PAGE 4

The Georgian Institute of Politics asks: How Can We Constructively Engage the Church in Democratization? BY SALOME MINESASHVILI & INGE SNIP


hile Georgia aspires to join the European Union, powerful players in the country can both hamper and speed-up the necessary democratization process. The Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC), repeatedly named as the most trusted institution in the country, follows an ideology which ostensibly contradicts, rather than encourages, liberal democracy principles.

New Executive Chef of 5 star Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi BUSINESS PAGE 7

“Women as Agents for Change and Empowerment,” Achievements Reviewed SOCIETY PAGE 8

New Batumi Boulevard: the Majority Say “NO”

Continued on page 6


EU Prize for Journalism Names its 2015Winners CULTURE PAGE 16

Anticipation High Behind the Scenes at the Tbilisi Opera House CULTURE PAGE 19




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016

WSIB Working Group to Visit Georgia BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA

Solidarity Fund Investor Ozturk Agrees Further Collaboration with PM BY MERI TALIASHVILI


eorgian PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili met Galip Ozturk, businessman and the founder of J.S.C. Metro Atlas Georgia. During the meeting, discussions focused on investment projects Mr Ozturk has been carrying out in Georgia. PM Kvirikashvili gave his special thanks to Mr Ozturk for

his kind deeds and promised him the government’s absolute support in such activities. The businessman donated 500,000 GEL to the Solidarity Fund for the second time, the first being in 2014, enabling the Fund to save the lives of many children and young people with oncological disease. “The meeting ended successfully. We, both sides, presented our opinions and agreed on future collaboration for Georgia’s well-being,” Galip Ozturk told GEORGIA TODAY.

BP Allocates $150 million to Upgrade Baku-Suspa Pipeline BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


ritish Petroleum (BP), one of the world’s ‘supermajor’ oil and gas companies, is set to allocate $150 million for the modernization of certain parts of the Baku-Suspa Pipeline and improvement of ecological standards. Details of the project were discussed by Executive Director of BP Robert Dudley and Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, as part of the Davos World Economic Forum. This was the Georgian PM’s first official meeting at the World Economy Forum. PM Kvirikashvili and a small Georgian delegation departed for Davos yesterday to participate in the Forum’s 46th edition. Dudley provided the Georgian delegation with detailed information regarding projects that are being carried out in Georgia by BP.

BP’s Executive Director emphasized that the project concerning the construction of the South Caucasus Gas Pipeline is being implemented, schedule allowing, and will be completed around 2018. Around 2000 people are employed as part of the project. The Baku-Suspa Pipeline, also known as the Western Route Export Pipeline, is a 833 km long oil pipeline which runs from the Sangachal Terminal near Baku to the Suspa terminal in Georgia. The BP operated pipeline transports oil from the Azeri-Chirag- Guneshli field to Georgia. The oil transportation from the pipeline was stopped in 21st October 2006 after abnormalities were revealed during an inspection. Preparations for the pipeline’s construction started in 1994. On March 8th 1996 President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev and late President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze agreed on the establishment of the Baku-Suspa Pipeline. The total cost of construction of the pipeline and terminal was $556 million.


he Working Group of the Washington State Investment Board (WSIB) is set to visit Georgia. As the Georgian Prime Minister’s Press Office states, the respective decision was made during a meeting held between the PM and

the Executive Director of WSIB, Teresa J. Whitmarsh. The business environment in Georgia was discussed during the meeting and particular attention was paid to the projects related to the energy and real estate sectors. According to the Press Office, the strategically significant geographic location of Georgia was emphasized. It was mentioned that liberal tax jurisdiction and one of the lowest tax rates in Europe make Georgia attractive for

investors. Whitmarsh noted that Georgia is developing steadily compared to other states within the region. She expressed interest to learn more about the investment environment of the country and invest in the state in the future. The Washington State Investment Board is a leading American investment company that manages $107 billion US dollars worth of assets of pension funds and insurance companies.

EU Commissioner Calls Georgia’s Effort Impressive in Implementing AA Deal BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


he European Union (EU) Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, stated he believed that Georgia has made “impressive efforts” to implement the Association Agreement (AA) signed with the European Union in 2014. At the debate in the European Parliament regarding the implementation of the Association Agreement, which included the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) by Georgia,

Ukraine and Moldova, EU High Officials stated that the results are already visible due to the strong growth in foreign direct

investment. “Other indicators also show promising signs, the visa liberalization action plan has proven to be an effective tool for promoting a range of reforms, but Georgia has gone beyond the Action Plan benchmarks and taken further steps to reform the judiciary, as well as the Prosecutor’s Office,” Hahn stated. The EU Official emphasized that the EU will continue working to provide Georgia with a finished visa liberalization process as soon as possible. Debates on the implementation of the Association Agreement by Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova have been held on the plenary session of the European Parliament from January 20th-21st.

Environmental Managers to be Trained for Companies BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


rom February 1st, according to the Waste Management Code, natural and legal persons, whose activities resulted in more than 200 tonnes of non-hazardous and 1000 tonnes or more of hazardous waste during the year, are obliged to have their waste management personnel responsible for environmental management. The Environmental Manager is responsible for: - Waste Management Plan Preparation and it’s updating - Waste Management Plan implementation - Self-monitoring and implementation of internal controls

The Environmental Information and Education Center is offering a 5-day training course “Environmental Management for Environmental Managers”. The

course aims to train staff for the companies according to the requirements imposed by the law and with modern worldwide standards.




2016 Parliamentary Elections: The Battle for Georgian Democracy BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA


ast week, Members of the Georgian Dream parliamentary faction met with the former and current Prime Ministers in Saguramo, near Mtskheta. As reported, former Prime Ministers Bidzina Ivanishvili and Irakli Garibashvili, as well as the newly appointed PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, were present at the meeting. The meeting was apparently initiated by the Georgian Dream faction to celebrate Old New Year. Interestingly, as MP Soso Jachvliani informed media following the assembly in Saguramo, the celebration was of a political nature and potential MP candidates were there to be selected. He, who had no political experience before GD’s victory in the 2012 elections, claimed that the tables at the assembly were divided in accordance with political preferences to flirt with Bidzina Ivanishvili. Likewise, Ivanishvili, who has been oft accused of shadow governance of the country, appears to be actively involved in the process of forming the new electoral team. As yet, it is unclear whether he will officially declare his engagement in this process. Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili from the Republican Party was absent from the meeting- surprisingly so as his party, which is considered the mostly pro-European within the coalition, has been a deviant force in the Georgian Dream team. The Republicans, who have played a non-trivial role in the GD circle to save Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic course, are said to be planning to participate in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections of October 2016. At this moment, the party has not made

it clear whether they will play an independent game or create a pro-western coalition to secure sufficient places in the legislative organ. On the question of what type of configuration of Georgian Dream could be expected for the elections, First Vice-Speaker Manana Kobakhidze responded, “At present, no changes are planned in the coalition, but it is difficult to rule out anything – expansion of the coalition or vice versa. No decision has been made nor are discussions underway.” “We are working the same way as we have been since the 2012 elections, with the exception that the Free Democrats have left us,” the Vice Speaker stated. Zviad Kvachantiradze, a parliamentary majority leader, says the Green Party and Social Democrats may join the Georgian Dream coalition, adding that, although leaders of these parties, Giorgi Gachechiladze and Gia Zhorzholiani, were elected MPs from the Georgian Dream election list, their parties are not affiliated with the coalition. Kvachantiradze declared that, according to amendments to the Election Code, if a political party has a representative in the Parliament, it can take part in the elections without collecting necessary signatories. Relatively, the Green Party and Social Democrats have a chance to take part in the elections. “I think it is more logical if they join our coalition as entities,” Kvachantiradze said. Meanwhile, the United National Movement, the main opposition party in the country, was expected to make some major rearrangements after their failure in 2012, though the team has yet to announce that expected rebrand. In addition, although the Georgian Dream rating is steadily plummeting, UNM has gained no additional support from the so-called “Middlists”, a wavering majority in whose hands may lie the fate

Photo: cp.ge

Investgation On-Going in Murder-Suicide Case BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA


amegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Prosecutor Vakhtang Kiria was found dead on Kavtaradze Street in Tbilisi late Saturday evening. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MIA) officially confirmed Bidzina Kuchava, founder of Voice of Georgia TV and Radio, a suspect in the homicide. The MIA later announced Kuchava had committed suicide after the crime. Prosecutor in Chief Irakli Shotadze and Interior Minister Giorgi Mgebrishvili went to the scene immediately, where experts and investigators then worked all night. The MIA announced that the flat where Kiria’s body was found had been rented by Kuchava. According to the investigation, Kiria’s body showed signs that the murderer had tried to mutilate it. His body was transferred to the National Forensic Bureau for further evaluation. Eladar Kiria, brother of Vakhtang Kiria, made no comment other than that he was waiting for the results of the investigation.

The MIA stated that Vakhtang Kiria’s homicide does not seem to be linked to the victim’s official activities. The family of the suspect have questions about the investigation process and family member Giorgi Jikia told journalists that Kuchava’s body showed signs of injury and that the family is demanding the involvement of a private expert in the investigation of the case as a result. According to lawyer Natia Korkotadze, Bidzina Kuchava, the alleged murderer, had received an African visa. Korkotadze claims Kuchava’s planned visit to Africa was of a business purpose, pointing to the many circumstances that clarify he had not killed himself and was in fact murdered. She highlighted that he was contacted by the same people who called Prosecutor Kiria prior to death. She added that Kuchava left home on January 16th, while Kiria - on January 13th. The lawyer went on to say that Kuchava’s family plans to address the Prosecutor’s office after Kuchava’s burial and demand his tarnished image be restored. Continued on page 8

Photo: A citizen casting a ballot Source: www.timer.ge

of the up-coming elections. At the same time, new players- the Pine Cone party -who left the UNM several months ago, and are led by Georgian opera singer Paata Burchuladze, have appeared on the scene having announced their intention to play a role in the next elections and Georgia’s political life. Last but not least, the Free Democrats, who were part of the Georgian Dream victory in the 2012

elections and left the coalition back in November 2014, plan to secure a large proportion of the overall 150 seats in Parliament. How will the political processes play out in Georgia? Could the elections decide the fate of Georgian Democracy? GEORGIA TODAY will provide you with exclusive interviews and other first-hand information around the topic.




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016

The President’s Speech: Who Will Listen? OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


ery soon Parliament will have to take on two highly important constitutional responsibilities and accept last year’s political and financial reports from two presidents. According to the law, the State’s first person, President Giorgi Margvelashvili, should go to Parliament at the end of February or in the first week of the spring session, while the first banker of the country, Giorgi Kadagidze, will have to speak in the supreme legislative body, at the beginning of February. The Pres-

ident of the National Bank has a 240page report ready and has already sent it to Parliament and nothing more has been heard of it. But in the case of President Margvelashvili, the business is much more complicated. Although the President’s annual speech before Parliament is included in the Georgian Constitution, it does not define who should listen to him apart from the MPs. The Georgian Goverment has found it unnecessary to listen to President Margvelashvili for two years already, not to say anything about his predecessor Mikheil Saakashvili, who wasn’t even allowed into the building. Former Prime Minister Garibashvili’s Cabinet never even turned up for President

Margvelashvili’s annual speech. The Former Premier at the time justified himself by the fact that the country’s constitution did not oblige him to attend and the same for the rest of the Cabinet. This time, the goverment is not facing the dilemma of listening to the annual report any more, because the new Prime Minister and former Minister of Economy, Giorgi Kvirikashhvili, thinks differently: “I believe that the President’s speech in Parliament should not be a reason for such fuss and making into the hot topic of the day,” is how Prime Minister Girogi Kvirikashvili answered the question of journalists on whether he would attend the President’s speech or not. The Premier also implied the

“stubborness” of his predecessor and highlighted the necessity of respect towards the state institutions. “There are institutions in Georgia that should function how they are supposed to, private relationships should be set aside within this process. I think that this is needed for the settling of the situation and, in general, for the lowering of the political temperature. It is better to concentrate on far more important issues,” PM Kvirikashvili said. With this statement, the Premier indirectly indicated that not only has his predecessor, Irakli Garibashvili, been wrong in this regard, but also Garibashvili’s predecessor expremier Bidzina Ivanishvili himself. The government

and the governing political power began disfavoring President Margvelashvili only after the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili did and when the latter threatened to evict him from the President’s Palace. Unlike PM Kvirikashvili, members of his cabinet are unable to express their fixed position. Whether the members of government will attend the President’s speech or not is as yet ambigious, though the Minister of Healthcare repeated the narrative of the former premier, saying that this type of decision requires a team-like approach, by which one can presume he means that he does not plan to go to Parliament to listen to the President.

‘Bloody Awful’ Roads: Odgen on the Contradictory Route to the EU



t does not take any foreigner in Georgia long to realize that Georgians are, really, a contradictory folk. It’s a cliché to write it, of course, because such a description appears in just about every travel blog about every place on the planet; the type of thing that’s written by a young person in sandals hunched over a Turkish coffee who looks you in the eye and tells you how they’ve ‘found their niche’, ‘connected with the locals’ and ‘can’t live back home anymore’, giving the impression that they’re some kind of Bohemian Internet philosopher with the same jaundiced view of their homeland as a Vietnam War veteran. Americans living in Britain describing the English as contradictory could not be more wrong. We’re an awfully simple folk. Give an Englishman beer to drink, football to watch and a string of young women who are composed of so much plastic they could be recycled and we’re as happy as can be. Yet with Georgians, the cliché rings true: they are very con-

tradictory creatures. Some would argue that this is true within society and evident in the way that Georgians interact with each other, but for me it’s far more apparent on the political level. The vast majority of Georgians are still praying for membership in the European Union and NATO (or at least, I think they are. My Georgian isn’t good enough to understand what they’re saying in the churches when I walk past; they could be chanting ‘Chairs to mend!’ for all I know). Whether they want to be part of the Euro-Atlantic sphere due to a hope that they will henceforth be safe from Russian aggression (ha!), a desire to get a job within a more prosperous economy, or even a genuine belief in Western values (whatever those might be), the dream appears to be universal: Georgians want Georgia to be part of the West. Yet curiously enough, many Georgians don’t seem to understand that if they want to become a member of these coveted international bodies, it does matter what the members of those bodies think of Georgia. I am not referring to the Sean Penn-style bleating of pedantic teachers; I’m referring to politicians and diplomats.

A few months ago, the British Ambassador to Georgia, Her Excellency Alexandra Hall Hall, commented on the state of Georgian roads and the standard of Georgian driving and declared that they were, basically, bloody awful (she put it far more eloquently than that, of course, but I’m giving you the gist, while torpedoing my own chances of a diplomatic career). The truth of her statement should be apparent to anyone who has ever been on a Georgian road (indeed, whoever built the road up to Kazbegi was clearly then hired by Disneyland Paris to build Space Mountain), and clearly Her Excellency thought it such an obvious observation that it would be safe ground to tread on. I should point out that Ambas-

10 Galaktion Street

sador Hall Hall made her comments while speaking about Georgia’s progress towards EU membership, so her remarks were hardly unreasonable. The backlash was extraordinary. How dare the Ambassador criticize Georgia in this way? Who was she to say such things? Interestingly enough, nobody actually contradicted her; I don’t blame them, since even O. J. Simpson’s lawyers would have had difficulty in persuading a jury that Georgia’s roads are decent. Worryingly enough, even Salome Zurabishvili - a former French diplomat turned Georgian politician – weighed in on the issue, saying it wasn’t Ambassador Hall Hall’s place to judge Georgia. This is rather worrying considering Zurabishvili

served as a French diplomat in Italy, Belgium, the United States and Georgia itself; one might have thought she’d have been familiar with her own job description. Despite repeated rhetoric of ‘deepening cooperation’ and ‘close international partnerships’, the former and current state leadership reacted badly to foreign criticism of internal events in Georgia, the Georgian attitude being that whatever happens in Georgia stays in Georgia, and should not affect its efforts to join the international community. This is, really, rather silly. Let’s hope for better things from the new state leader who nobody voted for (again), PM What’sHis-Name.

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




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016

The Georgian Institute of Politics asks: How Can We Constructively Engage the Church in Democratization? Continued from page 1

However, rather than pushing the Church out of the democratization narrative, the Georgian Institute of Politics wondered what measures we should consider to positively engage the Georgian Orthodox Church in the democratization process. With its apparent high level of authority and strong position in Georgian society, the church could be a powerful ally to drive change. Within Georgia’s fragile division of church and state, the role of the influential Georgian Orthodox Church becomes all the more important for the country’s democratization process. The GOC is capable of not only spreading its position in various areas of society, but also, to some extent, influencing the political agenda. The GOC’s authority is based on the Georgian public’s increased religiosity. One of the top five most religious nations in the world, 81% of Georgian population considers themselves members of Orthodox Church, according to CRRCs 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey, the latest data available. Due to the GOC’s high degree of authority, it can either significantly contribute or hinder democratization, and therefore, the Europeanization process. The Church holds an ambivalent position on issues pertaining to democ-

ety of social issues, especially in terms of education, charities and social funds. However, lack of information and budget transparency make it difficult to assess the extent of the Church’s charitable works. That said, the Church has tremendous power to shape people’s opinion, as well as to organize their collective action, which results in community-level changes. There are multiple ways different groups of society and the government could put this to good use. Considering the pitfalls in the Church’s stance in terms of liberal democracy, engagement with the patriarchy should be transparent and open. Ideally, cooperation would take place within a forum organized by the government or civil society, which engages open-minded groups from the GOC and other religious organizations. In addition, it is essential to maintain open lines of communication with the Church and its leadership, principally in order to inform and engage them in discussions that foster a mutual understanding about the importance of democratic values. You can read the policy brief GIP published on this topic here: http://www.scribd. com/doc/295648773/GIP-Policy-Brief On January 15th GIP organized a roundtable on religion and democracy, the audio will be available online in podcast soon.

Georgian Prime Minister Meets Former British Counterpart in Davos


he Prime Minister of Georgia, who is paying his first visit to the Davos World Economic Forum, met with the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair. At the meeting it was decided that Tony Blair would visit Georgia in the near future. The parties discussed on-going democratic reforms in Georgia and the imple-


mentation of the visa-liberalization process. Blair was interested in the reform of the educational system and the processes related to the Open Governance Partnership (OGP), which aims to increase transparency, accountability and effectiveness of governments across the world. The UK’s former PM expressed his readiness to council the Georgian government on that issue if required.

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racy, however. The GOC strongly opposed several attempts to include liberal democratic values in Georgian legislation. For example, in 2011, Patriarch Ilia II protested against an amendment in the civil code which gave religious minority groups the right to be registered as legal entities of public law. The Church condemned the law, saying the amendment was at odds with the interests of both the state and the Church interests. A Church-led protest, largely stemming from the fear that the law would undermine the GOC’s position over the ownership of several disputed churches − particularly those contested by the Armenian Church − preceded the passing of the amendment. The GOC’s puzzling and ambiguous position raises an important question about its role in the democratization process, specifically, to what extent its ideological stand is compatible with the principles of liberal democracy? It is worth noting that GOC leadership preaches political and civic values which could be linked to democratization, including the appeal that each citizen should participate in the lawmaking process, as well as the patriarch’s emphasis on the importance of hard work and education, respect for the state and public order, and care for public property. The GOC is also active in a wide vari-






New Executive Chef of 5 star Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi TBILISI ALSO HAS ONE. That is right. Our Chinese ‘Ensemble’ restaurant is in demand among our foreign guests and locals as well. Here you can enjoy authentic dishes from different regional of China, prepared by our mastered team of nine chefs.




ranck Vallat is a French chef with a rich background working in the leading restaurants all around the world, including Restaurant Le Mazarin in London, known as a Michelin star restaurant. Three years ago, the chef got adventurous and decided to take on the challenge of a completely new country. He was fully involved in pre-opening and opening proses of a number of high rank hotels in Georgia’s regions and from October 2015 joined the team at Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi, a 5 star property near Tbilisi Sea. Now he is the Executive Chef of several restaurants in the hotel and ready to lead yet another in the near future. GEORGIA TODAY met Franck to talk about the menu, challenges of running a kitchen and how to best serve guests the quality cuisine they expect.


every country. Hotels & Preference is a huge 5 star hotel and we have to be open to everyone. We have pasta, pizza, chicken ballotine, foie grass, and salmon in the French style, various burgers and some Asian food. Moreover, we have paid a lot of attention to selecting the dessert menu. We also have a special invited pastry chef from Malta who is in charge of making the most delicious desserts. However, there are guests who come to Georgia wanting to try local food. In ‘Be CHIC’ we also have a Georgian chef and the majority of our staff is Georgian, all of whom know perfectly well how to cook their national dishes. Even during big events such as weddings, our guests always ask for national cuisine.

HOW DO YOU FIND PRODUCTS FOR NONGEORGIAN DISHES? FRENCH CUISINE FOR ONE REQUIRES SPECIFIC INGREDIENTS. Right, and finding products it is big problem in Georgia. It’s difficult to find exactly what you want for international cuisines. And when you do find what you need, the prices are often crazy. However, we manage to source a number of local products that allow us to still produce Authentic European dishes and the final result will taste the same.


If we talk about our restaurants, then quality of products and talented chefs, of course, are important. However, executive chefs and managers also need to pay attention to organization, planning and timing. I suppose some are keen to prepare ingredients and dishes in advance, even a day or week before needed. I dislike this way. We never do this in Hotels & Preference. Food should always be fresh and most dishes should be prepared on the day of consumption. Moreover, as our hotel is a French brand of an International hotel chain; it must meet all international standards and more so in the preparation and quality of the food we serve.

YOU ARE ALSO A MANAGER IN THE KITCHEN. WHAT DO YOU FOCUS ON BESIDES FOOD PREPARATION? The main thing is the menu – I really care about it. I wasn’t here when the Hotel first opened and so I had to start work with an already completed menu, but that does not mean it’s fixed. We adapt it according to the best-selling dishes, add something new, and we also depend on the product. As I already had working experience in Georgia, I know what products we can get; I can vary and change, improve and renew the menu all the time. If our guests asked to be cooked something special, even if it does not exist on the menu, we will do it. The only thing you need to do is let us know in advance- we are ready for any test. It is a 5 star hotel and we always meet the desires of the client. Another important aspect is food presentation. We have many different shapes and sizes of plates; we know how to place food to make it even more attractive –

important for a high ranking restaurant. Even typical Georgian dishes are served in our own style, sometimes making the food look more European. We train our employees to do this. We hold a different training for them each month to improve their skills in every field. Since the majority of our staff is Georgian and they are really good at making national dishes, they must then learn to do more, for example, make French sauce – we teach them.


HUALING TBILISI ALSO OFFERS OTHER CAFÉ-BARS. The Hotel offers a ‘Be COSY’ Lobby Lounge Bar, a perfect chill out place with a wide choice of cocktails, various coffees and soothing music, as well as our ‘Be Pure’ bar in our recreation area, near the pool. Moreover, I am happy to announce that soon we will open a Sport Bar “Legends” for sports-lovers. Food there will be typical for these occasions, like burgers and fried chicken wings. Currently, we are working on the menu and a design guaranteed to surprise. We will open it in June, so we will be ready for UEFA European Championship 2016.




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016

“Women as Agents for Change and Empowerment,” Achievements Reviewed


he Zurab Tsereteli Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) hosted the closing ceremony of Women as Agents for Change and Empowerment project. The ceremony was attended by US Ambassador to Georgia, H.E. Ian Kelly, Vice Speaker of Parliament of Georgia, Manana Kobakhidze, Head of the Central Election Commission of Georgia, Tamar Zhvania, Deputy Minister of Justice, Gocha Lortkipanidze, Director of Women’s Informatio,n Elene Rusetskaia, representatives of government, state agencies, local and international organizations, and political parties. MOMA also hosted a photo exhibition of the activities carried out within the project and its results. The project “Women as Agents for Change and Empowerment” was implemented by the Women’s Information Center, with the support of U.S. Agency

for International Development - USAID, and in partnership with the Taso Foundation, Association of Young Economists of Georgia, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and organizations based in Gali district in Kakheti, Imereti, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, SamtskheJavakheti regions, Gali district and Tbilisi. The project aimed at supporting women’s full participation in political, economic, peace-building and conflict prevention processes, promoting their political engagement in target regions, empowering women from a socio-economic point of view through mobilizing communities, and identifying local needs. Within the project “Women as Agents for Change and Empowerment”: • 9 agricultural cooperatives were established in target regions • 7 community resource centers, including two in conflict affected areas, were opened and fully equipped

• Small libraries began functioning within the community resource centers • Parliament discussed legislative initiatives on the introduction of a mandatory gender quota (prepared with Task Force Group-Women’s Political Participation) • 60 leader women, 40 journalists, 30 youth, 20 representatives of central government and 20 representatives of local government were trained • 21 small grants were given to women for economic empowerment • Up to 100 reportages, articles and blog posts were prepared through media advocacy • Photo achieves of the target regions were digitalized • 5 unique surveys were carried out and publicized: Women’s Economic Opportunities and Challenges; Economic Needs of The Women Residing in the Rural Areas; Media monitoring of the local self-government elections, 2014;

Meeting within the Women as Agents for Change and Empowerment project. Source: www.wicge.org

Survey of the essay papers of university entrants on gender equality; International survey on gender quota. The Women in Business guidebook was also prepared • Meetings for women, journalists and human rights protectors engaging in peace negotiations were held to support public diplomacy • The exhibition “Women Members of Constituent Assembly: 1919-1921” was held to promote women’s political participation. The exhibition will move to New York, USA in March, 2016 • The project was the partner of the 16th Tbilisi International Film Festival. One of the films was released through that partnership and was followed by public discussion Over 3,000 people from different regions, ethnicities and religious groups were directly engaged in the project, including conflict-affected and IDP women. The project’s team is proud to

have assisted them in promoting their abilities, developing their skills and discovering new opportunities around them; to have prepared them for political participation and economic empowerment, and engagement in peace building processes as well as their promotion in central and regional media. The project’s team deeply believes that each empowered woman means a strengthened community, village, region and finally - a stronger state. About USAID in Georgia: During the past 23 years, the American people, through USAID, have invested approximately $1.8 billion in Georgia. USAID projects are designed to support Georgia’s transition to a free and prosperous democracy and include initiatives to accelerate economic growth, develop democratic institutions, and improve health and education. USAID provides economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 100 countries.

Investgation On-Going in Murder-Suicide Case Continued from page 3

Kuchava’s family, the lawyer said, plans to sue Deputy Interior Minister Archil Talakvadze, who declared that Bidzina Kuchava hanged the body of Vakhtang Kiria and planned to dismember it.

Meanwhile, some relatives of businessman Gocha Maghaldadze, who was murdered back in 2007 in a rented flat in Tbilisi, are now talking about the guilt of Bidzina Kuchava in the case. Reportedly, Kuchava might have ties with other murders, too. Maghaldadze’s friend Mamuka Gugeshashvili told

Information Agency InterPressNews that Bidzina Kuchava was behind the Maghaldadze murder, and that Kuchava was in debt to Maghaldadze, who at that time owned Casino Fortuna. Maghaldadze’s friend claims he is suspicious of three persons and one of them is Bidzina Kuchava. He added

that Kuchava was questioned with regard to the Maghaldadze case several times. The criminal case has been of a highly complicated nature and is in need of a comprehensive investigation. A number legal experts and politicians from the opposition connect the

case to the increased criminal situation in the country, for which they accuse the government of Georgia. They claim a holistic approach should be incorporated by the government to eliminate the situation or minimize it, as the criminal situation has considerably augmented during the last three years.




New Batumi Boulevard: the Majority Say “NO” BY EKA KARSAULIDZE


he fate of the Old Batumi B oulevard remains unknown. The Ministry of Finance and Economy of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara introduced the first version of the Boulevard’s reconstruction and development late last year, which resulted in widespread dissatisfaction among local citizens. The initiative group ‘Protect Old Boulevard’ cannot find a common language with the authorities and the private sector, a fact that repeatedly encourages them to enter into new protests, the last of which took place on January 17 and aimed to call to a stop the current repair work on the Old Boulevard. The problem with the Boulevard has become complex, since it is not only regards the concept of development, but

also connects with the rehabilitation works which have already significantly changed the face of the Old Boulevard. “We were invited to the presentation of the development project for the Old Boulevard, where we were allowed to express our dissatisfaction about the complete transformation of the central alley, where, instead of footpaths, different facilities are to be built,” said lawyer Giorgi Khimshiashvili in an interview with Adjara TV. “The authorities allegedly made concessions and agreed to save the old alley, but in practice we see that the Old Boulevard is being actively worked on, the central path is being excavated, and the Boulevard has changed in appearance,” The first version of the concept of the Old Boulevard was submitted in December 2015, according to which the Boulevard will be divided into several zones; three alleys will reduce to two, creating an entirely new infrastructure with rec-

reation area and cafes. However, the creators of the project, the company Dreamland Oasis, which is known for the construction of a large-scale hotel project Dreamland Oasis Chakvi, assured that they will not touch the Boulevard’s green areas. The Old Boulevard is a significant place for Batumi’s residents – the large park is a favorite place for many and resonates strong childhood memories for most. “The Boulevard is the heritage of Batumi, and when the city says ‘No,’ you need to hear it,” said Davit Trapaidze, representative of ‘Protect the Old Boulevard’ Group. The Government, seemingly settled between a frying pan and a fire, are trying to solve the problem by inviting members of ‘Protect the Old Boulevard’ into the working group to improve the concept of the Boulevard. Moreover, authorities understand the dissatisfaction, but say that in this case they need

to settle some legal issues. “Part of the work has already been done and paid for, so we need to see if there is any possibility to make changes in the contract without negatively affecting the company,” said Archil Khabadze, Head of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara. It seems there is to be no success in terms of the legal aspect. A few days after the meeting with the head of the region, the initiative group once again came to protest with the previous requirements – stop the repair work on the central alley, complement a working group with qualified personnel and stop any conversion of the Old Boulevard before the concept’s final presentation. In an interview with Adjara TV, Khimshiashvili pointed to the fact that the Old Boulevard is a cultural heritage and carries other functions than those mentioned in the contract with Dreamland Oasis. “I carefully studied the contract and

found that the goals of the future Old Boulevard should bring economic benefit, make a profit and become a place of entertainment. Although I believe that there are things that may not be financially profitable, they are important to society, as our Boulevard is,” he noted. Initiative group ‘Protect the Old Boulevard’ is not giving up and is preparing a series of large-scale actions – they are collecting signatures for online and offline petitions, launching campaigns in social networks and will continue street protests. Let us remember that the work on the concept of the Old Boulevard development is still on-going and the final version will be presented in May 2016. According to the initiative group ‘Protect the Old Boulevard’ and the demand of the majority of local residents, any work being done the Boulevard should cease until the concept presentation takes place.




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016

Beating the Stigma: the CoE on LGBT Rights Eleni Tsetsekou, Head of the Council of Europe’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit



espite being one of the few countries in the post-Soviet space that has upto-date legislation to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, the issue of affording the LGBT community equal rights still persists, especially when it comes to affording the LGBT community equal rights for labor-related opportunities. With sails set on deeper integration with the Euro-Atlantic community, society in Georgia is still hesitant to openly embrace many of the European values when it comes to sensitive issues such as these, largely due to opposition from the dominant Orthodox Christian Church. While the media coverage and public discussion on LGBT-related topics has increased greatly in recent years, there are still milestones Georgia has yet to achieve in this regard. In these

circumstances it is often the case that modern democracies like Georgia look to their more seasoned counterparts in Europe to ask for counsel and support. One such body – the Council of Europe, of which Georgia is a member- has been providing key assistance for some time. In their latest report on how Georgia protects national minorities under the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, it was the Georgian Orthodox Church that had to bear the brunt of criticism from the European body. In November last year extensive training for Georgian prosecutors on anti-discrimination was held in Kakheti, Georgia. The three-day event was co-organized by the Council of Europe’s Equality Division and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. It helped participants learn in practice how to identify different discrimination grounds (sex/ gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability) and how to give appropriate qualification to such acts. The training took place under the joint EU/CoE project ‘Application of the European Con-

vention on Human Rights and Harmonization of National Legislation and Judicial Practice in line with European Standards in Georgia,’ which is part of the Programmatic Cooperation Framework for Eastern Partnership Countries. Georgia Today spoke with Eleni Tsetsekou, Head of the Council of Europe’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit, about the current situation regarding the LGBT community and their rights in Georgia.

WHAT’S YOUR OPINION REGARDING THE LGBT COMMUNITY IN GEORGIA IN GENERAL? HAVE THINGS IMPROVED OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS SINCE THE WELL-KNOWN 17 MAY ANTIHOMOPHOBIA DAY PARADE SCANDAL? The challenges stay pretty much the same in Georgia and Europe in general: access to equal rights for LGBT people. We have a lot of stereotypes, biased information, prejudice, and discriminatory attitudes which have persisted for centuries now. Once again, this is an issue not only in Georgia, but in many other Council of Europe member states, where they do not even want to recognize that LGBT people exist in their country. Adopting the appropriate legal framework to protect the human rights of LGBT persons is very important but more important is to be able to implement it. This depends on social acceptance, as obviously the discourse of the Church has a very negative effect, and the courage of political leaders who would be determined enough to stand up for the issue. However, so far, we have not seen a pride [parade] in Georgia go unhindered. Homophobic attacks and the murders of transgender persons remain some of the most alarming issues, and a big question is how the police and the prosecutors are dealing with these issues. Underreporting also remains a huge problem. One solution is to educate everybody involved, especially the police. This was the rationale behind conducting the anti-discrimination training for prosecutors in Georgia as we need to enhance their capabilities in this sensitive matter. This is a European value – it is not imported and so Georgia should not consider it as such while it strives towards a European future.

MANY IN GEORGIA SEEM RELUCTANT TO TAKE ON THE VALUES YOU DESCRIBE, OR EVEN CHERISH TOLERANCE TOWARDS THE LGBT COMMUNITY… The value should not be viewed as imported or as something alien and imposed. I’m sure gay and

transgender people exist in Georgia and have existed there for many, many centuries now. And the very first step should be the recognition of this. In Georgia, you have a very good and competent Ombudsman who is always eager to help our cause. Another important actor that can “awaken” society over these matters is, of course, the media. How the media portrays the LGBT community is very important because it affects the mindset of the whole society - it can be very hurtful, or very positive. Nowadays, with social media and new tools, there is more awareness; people are less afraid to come out. We have to take this further.

WE ARE TALKING ABOUT INITIAL STEPS, HERE. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE FINAL MILESTONE? Naturally, adopting legislation which ensures equal access to human rights for the LGBT community. An example is same sex partnerships or marriages. More than half our member states already introduced such legislation. Some of those states are deeply Catholic (Malta, Ireland) or Orthodox (Greece). But of course, it should first and foremost be a Georgian initiative - a request from Georgian authorities to the Council of Europe to provide expertise and assistance in working towards such legislation.

COULD YOU ASSESS THE IMPACT ON AND INFLUENCE OF THE GEORGIAN CHURCH REGARDING THE LGBT COMMUNITY IN GEORGIA? Let us be positive: the Church can be a true harbinger of change, but we need a leadership that allows this change to come. The Georgian and Russian Churches might not have such leadership today, but we are sure that they cannot stay behind what is happening in the Catholic world. We are actively working with Churches to convince them that they should at least abstain from homophobic statements, as happened two years ago during the [above-mentioned] rally [in Tbilisi], where the Church actually fuelled the aggression with homophobic narrative. The Church should not be our rival - it should be one of our allies.

DO YOU THINK THE GEORGIAN CHURCH WILL BE RECEPTIVE TO YOUR APPROACH? You never know. Acceptance and tolerance are the main values of the Christian world, after all. And at the end of the day, these are core European values as well. So let’s see and have faith in a better future, shall we?




The Price of Army Boots OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


housands of apologies for my poor lore in all matters military, but I have rich enough intuition, sharp enough sense of judgment and enough general education to reason about things that are not organically close to me but I am still concerned about. The Soviet Empire of the recent past comprised fifteen national republics, each having its own heraldic symbols, anthem and constitution. A couple of them even enjoyed an independent vote in the United Nations. The republics were like countries with the right to leave the Union any time they wanted – thus it was written in the main law of the land. They made certain decisions independently from Moscow -- the center of centers -- but there were three untouchably sacred fields that no republic was allowed to operate independently from the Kremlin – defense, foreign affairs and foreign trade. All soviet citizens served in one strong and copious armed force – the Soviet Army. But behold, the Soviet Union collapsed and the republics became genuinely independent. They have been operating as such since the breakup of the famous and powerful USSR. Among many other features and attributes, national independence means maintaining an army. The same is true with Georgia – it has an army- functional armed troops with a mixture of hired professionals and regular

recruits! The state budget figures are public and I will not waste time on quoting the numbers, descriptive of Georgia’s military parameters. To put it in a nutshell, our taxpayer is spending copiously on this part of the Republic’s life. What I would love to focus on is only one rhetorically asked question – what do we need the army for? Remember, I apologized for my ignorance in military arts. So please let me continue with my naiveté, if you will. And again, what do we need the armed forces for? Don’t get easily upset please – this is not a parliamentary resolution to ban the army in Georgia. This is just a freewill question of another brash local journalist, nothing else! As I understand, armies per se are created for two reasons: one to attack and the other to self-defend. I don’t think Georgia wants or needs or dares to attack anybody, so the first function is nullified. The second military function of defense raises the eyebrows somewhat. Are we talking about defense from Russia? How do we want to defend ourselves from Russia? Using what means? The limited conventional ones we currently possess? God forbid but if an armed conflict takes place, will Russia ever surrender and meekly let us celebrate victory which will end in a pompous military parade on our hardly-a-kilometer Rustaveli Avenue? What if Russia gets angry and beats us up black-and-blue so badly that we never again recover from the bruises and shame! How about Turkey? Can we fight Turkey if this good neighbor ever decides to attack our borders? Hardly! Azerbaijan? Armenia? Who? Maybe some nuclear powers that someday

have a sinister vision to annihilate Georgia from the surface of the earth? Call it my pacifistic philosophy if you wish, but I can hardly believe that Georgia will ever be able to cope with any serious military confrontation if such confrontation occurs at some point in time. I know that Georgian young men and women are serving in international military missions, and I understand the importance of that kind of undertaking. They need to be trained somewhere. Who says no?! There might also be a third army function that I

have missed accidentally. And that could be a function of keeping our own people in peace and obedience. Who knows what might happen if the public fury enhances to the extent of breaking all the shackles that were cast for keeping us at bay – then the army might play its peacemaking role. This was one of my little stupid jokes! This kind of a thing will never happen here, will it? So, should the Georgian army remain as it is? Of course, but one for which the maintenance and training makes absolute sense for this not overly rich nation.

A homeless child sleeping in the street, Tbilisi. Photo: Nodar Tskhvirashvili/ RFE/RL

State Prepares Bill for Children Living and Working on Streets BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA


inister of Justice of Georgia, Tea Tsulukiani, told reporters last week that the State will protect the children living and working on the streets who have no shelter. She added that the Justice Ministry has already prepared a bill which has been approved at a governmental sitting. According to Tsulukiani, the bill incorporates the term “homeless child”, which will be followed by an array of public services. “The children living and working on the streets are painful for both the State and the public. Every child has the right to develop. In cooperation with our partner organizations and relevant ministries, we have created a package for change that aims at improving protection of those children living and working on the streets,” the Justice Minster stated. The Minister claims that such children are unable to receive documentation and therefore identification of their origins is impossible, including their country, citizenship and birthplace. “That is because the persons responsible for those children do not ask us for assistance and as a result these children remain beyond the process of identification.” As a result of this reform the government will grant permission to the relevant organizations to take care of these processes and the issue of identification will no longer be dependent on parents or other legitimate persons. Minister Tsulukiani also declared that after receiv-

ing identification documents the children living and working on the streets will have a chance to get education, state allowances and be involved in the common healthcare program. The rights of civil servants, she said, will also broaden, granting them the right to “immediately separate a child from an aggressor.” “Of course, the separation might be appealed in court. However, a civil servant will have the right to swiftly address the problem to avoid any regrettable outcomes,” the Justice Minister declared. The problem has been of a complicated nature in Tbilisi as allegedly thousands of children are abused by their parents in order to illegally utilize them for business purposes. More precisely, some gypsy and native parents, who face no opposition from the State, have been able to force their children to earn money on the streets for years. Aside from the human prospective, the issue has been creating daily discomfort for citizens of Tbilisi, who frequently donate to the children who are sometimes seen jalf-dressed on the freezing streets. Many citizens express their concern that instead of doing good by donating, they are automatically encouraging this abuse by helping those children, as their life conditions are not improved and, instead, their parents come to take the act of abuse for granted. The citizens say they prefer to donate to some official and reliable organizations, who will really assist those needy and reduce the number of children living outside normal circumstances. It is hoped the new state law will improve the existing situation and enable the children to socialize and become part of the society in which they reside.

Invitation to Participate in the Sales Procedures Announced by the Embassy of the Republic of France in Georgia on the Sale of 3933 sq/m Land Plot Located in the Center of Tbilisi The Embassy of the Republic of France in Georgia has announced a Sales Procedures on the sale of land plot located adjacent to the Rustaveli Avenue at 4 Khazina St., Tbilisi, Georgia. The land plot has the following characteristics: cadastral code –; total area of the land plot - 3933 sq/m. The land plot qualifies as type 2 recreational zone with the following coefficients: K1= [0,2], K2=[undefined] and K3=[Undefined]. Please, take into account that the Sales Procedures n will be conducted in accordance with the Rules for Submission of Offers available on the web-page of the Embassy: ambafrance-ge.org, or by e-mail request at contact.tbilissi-amba@diplomatie.gouv.fr. The interested Parties shall submit their Expression of Interest in a form and to the addressee(s) envisaged in the Rules for Submission of Offers. In case of additional questions, please, contact [the consul or hes representative] at the following e-mail [contact.tbilissi-amba@diplomatie.gouv.fr] or call at [(00 995 32) 272 14 90] from Monday to Friday from 9:30 AM till 12:30 PM. The Expression of Interest shall be submitted to the Contact Person indicated above no later than 15th of October 2015.




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016

Winter Thoughts: Svaneti BY TONY HANMER


’m alone for a few days in this big house, like a single peanut left in a jar, with my wife off visiting family in Kakheti and doing some top-up purchasing for our shop. More time to think about what winter means in a small mountain village, far from the nearest proper plumber, car mechanic, vet or other occasionally vital service person. From my notes: —There is a certain shade of blue formed by light coming through thick snow at any distance, even up close; it also sometimes turns up in snow clouds on the mountains around us. For me it’s a color of death, death by relentless, searing, uncaring cold. I must capture it in my camera sometime. —Some roofs hold the snow far too much, due to friction from paint or construction of slate or wood. One ordinary winter may be enough to doom them to a cave-in, if they are not shoveled off, an arduous task. Thankfully, our house and barn are roofed in galvanized metal which, combined with heating from inside (the cows’ bodies are enough), lets the snow slide right off. Don’t stand too long under such a roof, you might get a dump down your neck! (Usually it comes in small increments, but once a whole roof’s worth came down in one go, and this would have buried someone; at least it was on the north side of the house, where no one stands under it anyway, with no doors there.) —Our garage roof, however, although of the same material as the others, keeps a lot more snow than they do, simply by not being heated. I tried putting a 100 watt bulb near the inside top of it, but its heat made little or no difference. If we ever heat the garage a little, this

should be enough to let the stuff slide as it should. —I have yet to see an avalanche up here, live, with my own eyes. I definitely have heard them, though: a few days ago the “mountain wall” south of us, completely invisible in fog, began a minuteslong roar which could only have been millions of tons of snow crashing down. Utterly destructive of anything in its path. Fortunately, likely because they know too well, no one lives there. —I wrote the notes for this article by candlelight, as electricity up here continues to be affected by snowfalls such as we have had recently in abundance. At such times we are thankful for our massive wood-burning Svan stove, hand made of thick steel in Zugdidi, made just for these conditions. At least the secondary water pipe system, I bought and installed when our underground pipes froze early, is still working under all that snow, with the near-freezing temperatures now warm enough for it to flow well. Another 100 watt bulb left on at the pipe’s entry to the house keeps that sensitive area from freezing too. One tries to keep positive when the electricity’s out, and to have things charged, candles and matches ready in known locations; but there is nothing like the relief when the shuki returns, signaled best in my house by a beep from the microwave... Always glad that the majority of the house is well insulated, with my own many layers of clothing doing the same for me. —We haven’t yet bothered to use the gasoline-powered generator in a power

failure; the only thing we would really need to switch on after much more than a day off would be the one fridge which is in a warm room. And the longest outage we’ve had has been less than that. —If the power goes out briefly, say for a few minutes to an hour or so, it’s most likely due to someone needing to do a local renovation, switching off the connection to their house and a few others. If it’s off for longer, there is more probably a fault needing attention for the whole village supply. —On these outages, one has to wonder, how much of the regional budget is for our electrical infrastructure’s supply, maintenance, repair and upgrade? Because it’s clearly not coping, especially with the long winter. —When my wife is away and I’m on shop duty, I am reminded most forcibly that this endeavor and the gifts necessary to doing it well are hers and not, by any stretch of imagination or desire, mine. —A frustration far more serious than it sounds? Simply, snow sticking to the shovel instead of flying off when you jerk it. HATE that! Ah, the musings of Svaneti’s longest season. Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1250 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

Orthodox Georgians Celebrate Epiphany Holiday BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


rthodox Christians in Georgia celebrated the Epiphany this week (January 19), a feast day which celebrates the revelation of God of his son as human in Jesus Christ. Churches by tradition deliver services across the country, after which water is sanctified and distributed among the church goers.

On this day, sanctified water acquires the benevolence of the River Jordan which is kept throughout the year to be used, considered holy and unpolluted unlike ordinary water. It is believed that the water of Epiphany is full of curative properties and can purify a believer of their sins. The Epiphany celebration also commemorates the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. According to Georgian tradition, godchildren should spend the day with their godparents.Another tradition of the

Epiphany is mass-baptizing of infants in the Trinity Church of Sameba. This year, on the feast of Epiphany, Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II baptized 659 babies, a tradition which started in 2008. As a result, the Patriarch is the godfather of thousands. In total, 26,688 children have already been

baptized by the Patriarch, each the third child (or fourth, or fifth…) of their parents- an initiative introduced by the Patriarch to improve the demographic situation in the country. In Batumi they conduct the mass ‘Epiphany dip’ ceremony whereby hundreds of Orthodox Christians come to

the beach at midnight to be purified of their sins, entering the cold Black Sea water which is blessed by the Archbishop of Batumi and Lazeti Dimitry. This year, because of a storm forecast on the Black Sea coast, one hundred rescuers were mobilized during the ceremony.




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016



ince ancient times, agriculture has been the main sector in Georgia, but the history of wheat began even further back. Not long ago, in a village named Anaseuli in Guria, ancient varieties of wheat and agricultural tools were discovered, dating to the VII-VI BC century. All the collected materials give us information about the intensive and continuous process of the wheat evolution. In the beginning, humans ground the wheat to make porridge, but after some time they learned to bake with it. Pieces of the oldest bread, identified as having been used for ritual purposes, were found in Ramse III’s tomb and dated as 3000 years old. Yet the baking tradition is thought by many experts and researchers to be much older, about 12-15 thousand years old to be exact. What makes them think this way is the age of the oldest ovens found during excavations. In Georgia, as in Egypt, people worshiped wheat and bread. Even today wheat is found in Christianity and its rituals in the shape of Kolio (offered at funeral feasts), Korkoti and Tsandili. Georgian bread is very popular in and out of Georgia. I would like to draw your attention to the bread “Meskhuri” and “Kakhuri Shoti”. “Kakhuri Shoti” is both tasty and has its own unique form. National bread is baked of various forms and compositions in many countries, but the newmoon form of “Shoti” can be seen nowhere else in the world. I was interested in the etymology and

origin of its name, why and when our ancestors came to call this bread “Shoti” and why they gave it the form of the moon. When I started to research, I remembered the god of old Egypt- “Toti” and what is more interesting, the astrological face of “Toti” is the moon. So, there we have the Georgian “Shoti,” with the moon’s form and the god of Egypt “Toti” which has the moon as an astronomical face. To make stronger our arguments, I want to mention the opinion of Professor of California University, Academician Viacheslav Ivanov. He writes the following: “In analyzing the linguistic basis of old Egypt and proto-Georgian, we came to the conclusion that two of old Egyptian Gods-”Toti” and “Osiris” are original Georgian Gods.” “Toti” was one of the main gods of Egypt and was considered as the God of Wisdom and of the Moon. He created an alphabet, numbers, magic, he taught Egyptians agriculture, he could even manage the time. The second name given to “Toti” is “Jekhuti”. I read it in two parts Je_Khuti, but this a theme for another time. Yet I must underline the fact that thousands of years ago people were baking moon-shaped bread in the Ursh-biblical city of Galdeans. In Samtskhe-Javakheti there was always a wide choice of wheat, therefore there is a wide variety of baked goods there. “Kakala”, “Sonini”, “Chatsekili Puri”, “Bazlala”, “Khmaidi” and more.. Now I would like to speak about “Meskhuri Puri” which has its own form, unchanged in centuries. “Meskhuri” bread has a round form, with a small oval hole in the center, which has been established by scientists to originally have been a replica of the signs symbolizing the sun, gold and bread- with a circle with a point in the middle.

Let’s compare this sign and the form of bread ‘‘Meskhuri”, as the similarity is undeniable. It is clear that the bread had a cult designation for proto-Georgians. It cannot be coincidence that Georgian bread has a form of the moon and the sun. It must be in this way they came to

call their bread “Shotis” or “Totis” Puri= bread of “Toti”. With it they were showing their respect. It is historical fact that besides Georgia such moon form bread was baked only by the Galdevels in the city Ursh, thousand of years ago. That is from where we come, that means we

are one of the oldest nations with the oldest culture, a nation of longevity, strong and immortal, which has one of the longest history of continuous development, part of the universal history. It’s time for the Georgian nation to earn its rightful place in this big cycle.

Tbilisi Opera House to Officially Reopen at the End of January BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


bilisi State Opera and Ballet Theatre is gearing up for its grand official reopening at the end of January. However, on the actual opening night, only invited guests from the theatres, Government, Georgian Orthodox Church, foreign diplomats and representatives of the Cartu group are invited to attend the performance of “Abesalom Da Eteri” by Georgian composer Zakaria Paliashvili. Many are disappointed in this news

after having looked forward to the reopening for the last six years, and some expressed their anger on social media. According to a spokesperson of the Tbilisi Opera, people will be able to experience the same program as on the opening night, on January 31st, February 2nd and February 21st. Tickets for those performances will start at 30 GEL and will be sold from the ticket box office. The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection wrote in a statement on Tuesday that there was not enough room to seat everyone that wanted to attend the opening performance. A decision was therefore made to hold three opening performances. “Invitations for the premiere opening is

a normal international practice, we hope that there will be the same interest towards future premieres,” the statement read. The renovation works were financed

by Cartu, a fund owned by Georgian tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, the man who formed the Georgian Dream coalition and served as Prime Minister for the

first year after it won the support of two thirds of Georgian voters in 2012. Read more in GEORGIA TODAY next week.

The English - Speaking Union ინგლისურ ენაზე მოლაპარაკეთა კავშირი Creating global understanding through English Patron: Her Majesty The Queen President: HRH The Princess Anne Invites 16-20 year old young Speakers to take part in the

Public Speaking Competition SPONSORED BY

Photos by Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge

The theme of the competition is “Integrity has no need of Rules”. Speakers may interpret this theme in any way they see fit, but they should not use the theme as their title. Each speaker will be allocated 5 minutes. The competition will be held in two rounds. The first round, March 14, at the English Language Centre “British Corner” (Vake Park). The second round will be held on 29th of March. The theme of the second round will be announced later. The competition is sponsored by the Bank of Georgia and British Petroleum ESU – Georgia will send the lucky winner to London in May to take part in the finals and organize 5 day stay in England. The deadline for registration is March 11. Contact us: The English Language Centre “British Corner”, Vake Park (entrance from I. Abashidze St.). Tel.: 557 400033, 5 77 477050; 5 55 302512 E mail: marinaesu@yahoo.com; www.esugeorgia.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnIKLMa7rBA




The Red Maple Leaf

The old oak-tree saw all this. Now it was clear who the big red maple leaf was waiting for! And this is one more picture of century-old foolishness. The old oak-tree knew such things! But in spite of it, it was still seized with one wish: the oak-tree also wanted to raise its head as the male deer and bellow, bellow so as to make staring hornbeams and beeches ruffle and shiver. But the old oak-tree was unable and so it stood silent, the hearts of the buds filled slowly with drops. These drops were the tears of the old oaktree.



he old oak-tree stood sad and irritated. The last leaves had already fallen from the hornbeams, beeches, rowan-trees. It itself, firm and horny, which had endured much adversity, was blackish-red, its thick as if lacquered glossy leaves were scattered on the ground and sometimes quivered at the blowing of the breeze. And one big maple leaf, overhung on the cliff, was a little bent and calmly glowed red in the dim air of the wood. The oak-tree, the greenish water running in the valley, the fat badger and big-headed owl knew that the maple leaf was waiting for somebody or something. “Who are you waiting for, you poor thing!” babbled the water from below, “Come down to me, if you are offended by your kin. I’ll take you downwards, show you the most beautiful places and stay wherever you like.” But the leaf didn’t answer the water. Every morning the fat badger would come out, breathe deeply the frosty air; would see the maple leaf glowing red, scrunch up its fat snout with disgust and grumble to itself: “Who is this fool waiting for? It would better stay with its kin.” And the unimaginable firmness of the weak, at any noise trembling, maple leaf made the oak-tree angry. It rained, the wind blew, the branches twisted with one another. Everything was frozen by the hoar-frost time and again, but the red maple leaf still waited and its bent shoulders were hardly noticeable. One day the sky became cloudy as it often does at the beginning of winter. The cold damp breeze blew. It blew the whole day. Then the breeze stopped and it began to rain. It rained till midnight. And after midnight the rain became snow. At dawn the wood was as if carried far away by a thoughtful mist. The branches of the trees, blackened by the rain, were covered with soft snow; the ochre ground couldn’t be seen under the feathered blanket of snow and the red maple leaf, overhanging a cliff, was heavy with snow but still hung firmly to the end of the branch; still waiting for somebody or something. “Come down, you poor thing!” the water called, “Come down before the

ice binds me through and through.” But the red maple leaf was silent. And the old oak-tree stood restrained in dignity. At noon the sun rose. The snow melted on the maple leaf. The snow also melted from the branches of the trees. The sound of the blackened carrion and the fall of large drops on the dry leaves was heard throughout the wood. The snow on the ground was as potholed as a skimmer, but in the evening the sounds ceased. The frost came down from the tops of the mountains and the wood was colored dark blue. The water also became silent. The birds kept silence, too. The environment was embraced with the mysterious sadness of parting with the light... And then, in the immovable dark blue air as that of the ground, a male deer appeared and came up to the old oaktree. Everybody noticed it at once. Everyone held their breath, as if they stood on tiptoes behind one another. The male deer, sad but proud, came slowly. Sometimes it stopped, moved its ears, widened its nostrils and went on again. Its footsteps, parted in two, left a black trace on the snowy ground.

The deer came down into the valley, drank a bit of water, then raised its head and got a surprise. There was only one big red leaf on the maple, overhanging the cliff and that leaf was trembling, quivering. There was no sign of breeze in the air and the leaf was still trembling and quivering. The deer lengthened its neck and gazed at it in more surprise. Then the leaf dropped from the branch and came fluttering down, it seemed in a moment the leaf stopped in the air, then, as if in weakness, it fell flat on its back on the snow-red, hopeless. The deer approached it with its nose, it even raised its front leg, wanting to kick it with its hoof, turn it over to see what leaf it was, but it lay so helpless on the snow – blood-colored, fragile, a little bent at its shoulders – the deer lowered its leg, walked round it humbly, stopped several times, looked back. Some amazing sorrow seized it and the deer raised its head and bellowed. At the beginning of the winter, in the silent wood, the unexpected voice of the male deer was heard like the morning bell, and now the immovable dark blue air shook and trembled.

Ketevan Tukhareli is the translator of short stories by Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alan Malley, John Updike (from English into Georgian), an essay by A. Chekhov, poem and prose work by K. Balmont, poems by A. Block, S. Esenin, M. Tsvetaeva, Th. Tiutchev (from Russian into Georgian), short stories by D. Javakhishvili and G. Rcheulishvili (from Georgian into Russian), fables and children’s stories by L. Tolstoy (from Russian into Georgian). She is the compiler of two English-Georgian Dictionaries on Art (The Fine Arts and Music) and is the translator of the summaries and the lists of musical works and their performers of the magazine ‘Music’ (from Georgian into English). Other literary works are being prepared for publication.




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016

#Oscarssowhite is Back and Bigger than Ever BY BEQA KIRTAVA


he Oscar nominations have arrived… And so has the heateddispute.TheAcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is once again facing severe criticism over the fact that all of the nominated actors are white for a second year in a row. Numerous big names in the industry like Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowoandothershavepubliclyexpressed their displeasure, while director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith have called for boycott. However, Smith quickly came under attack herself, as the former “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star Janet Hubert panned her stance against the Oscars in a video posted on YouTube: “I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living and made millions and millions of dollars from the very people you’re talking about boycotting, just because you didn’t get a nomination, just because you didn’t win,” said Hubert, hinting at the fact that Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith’s husband, was not nominated this year despite expectations. The issue sparked controversy with social media users as well. While some supported the backlash against the Academy, others

The official poster of the 88th Academy Awards © The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

expressed their frustration over the fact that the quarrel has started once again, stating that “there has not been any Oscarworthy performances by black actors the past year and nominating someone only because of their skin color is unjust.” In contrast, numerous individuals, who didn’t hide their anger over the lack of diversity, stated that the problem is not in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but in Hollywood, where not enough roles,

especially Oscar-worthy roles, are made for black actors. World famous actress and comedian, Whoopi Goldberg has nearly the same point of view, saying that people should complain about the absence of diversity in films all the time and not only when the Oscar nominations are due – “Why is this a conversation that we only have once a year? Every year we get all fired up and the rest of the year nobody says anything,” said Goldberg on ‘The View.’ Shortly after the discord breakout, The Academy President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, publicly apologized for the absence of black nominees and promised big changes in the near future. “I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion… As many of you may know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly,” she said. So, what changes are on the way? And how will the lack of diversity affect the show’s ratings? We’ll soon find out. For the full list of nominees visit www.oscar. go.com

The new look Georgia Today

EU Prize for Journalism Names its 2015Winners BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


he European Union has acknowledged six Georgian Journalists for their professional standards and ethics. On the evening of Wednesday 20 January, the winners of the ‘EU Prize for Journalism 2015’ were revealed in six categories at an award ceremony held in the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia. The EU Prize for Journalism as well as the EUMM Special Prize for Peace Journalism recognize the works of the written press, TV, Radio and social media that reflect high journalistic standards and contribute to promoting a better understanding of the values of the European Union. The Prize is to contribute to stimulating the debate about press and media performance by recognizing examples of high quality and unbiased journalism.

The Ambassador of the European Union, Janos Herman, delivered the welcome speech at the award ceremony and emphasized that this year the prize had a record amount of applications. “This means that directions and the issue of human rights, investigations, minorities and conflicts are becoming popular among Georgian journalists. Journalism plays an essential role in upholding the values of democratic societies. Improving professional standards and respecting ethic principles in this profession is therefore in the interest of all of us and can contribute to bringing Georgia closer to the European Union,” the Ambassador of the European Union said at the award ceremony. Five awards were handed out in following categories: Winner of the Best Investigative Story in print or online media was Zurab Vardiashvili for the story “Children of Poverty” published in the Liberal magazine. The Best Investigative TV and/or Radio Coverage award was handed to Lia Tok-

One of a series of photographs depicting Underage Marriages in Georgia, by Daro Sulakauri, winner of The Best Documentary Photo Reflecting EU Values 2015

likishvili (co-author Maia Gogoladze) for the documentary named “Town of the Gold-Scarified”. The award for the Best Online or Print Blog went to Anuna Bukia for her blog titled “The diary of a cancer patient”. The most Informative Online Media award was taken by newly established website, which came in ahead of two other finalists ipn.ge and iset-pi.ge The Best Documentary Photo Reflecting EU Values was awarded to Daro Sulakauri for her documentary photo “Early Marriages”. The winners of each category will be awarded a share of 7,500 EUR. Within the framework of the EU Prize for Journalism 2015, the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) awarded the Special Prize for Peace Journalism, which recognizes reporting that promotes a peaceful solution on both sides of the conflict divide, acknowledging journalists who promote peace and social justice over violence, while addressing their audiences. The EUMM Special Prize for Peace Journalism of this year went to Nino Chipchiuri for the article “The doctors are building bridges of health in the regions”. Her prize is a fellowship allowing her to participate in the Caucasus Program at the headquarters of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in London. The EU Prize for Journalism was launched in 2012. Every year, the Prize calls for new applications on the 3rd of May – the World Press Day. Prizes are awarded by a Jury comprising three renowned European journalists, three reputed Georgian journalists or balanced public profiles, and one representative from the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. GEORGIA TODAY would like to congratulate its colleagues in Georgian media on their success.


Tell us what you think? email:redesign@georgiatoday.de




The Bard in the Panther’s Skin BY MERI TALIASHVILI


n 2016, the entire world is commemorating the 400th anniversary of the repose of the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare and numerous events are being held globally. The British Council and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) have launched a campaign ‘Shakespeare Lives.’ One part of this is ‘Play Your Part; Share Your Shakespeare’ (see the introduction by Paul Smith, Director of the British Council USA on georgiatoday.ge), the aim of which is to help 200,000 children worldwide get an education. The campaign began on January 5th and has already attracted thousands of people wanting to participate in this priceless deed, the fact alone once again proving that Shakespeare still lives and will live on; his everlasting legacy will motivate people around the world to give a helping hand to others. The British Council in Georgia joins the world to mark the date and to find out more GEORGIA TODAY met with Zaza Purtseladze, Director of the British Council in Georgia, and Maya Darchia, Arts Manager at the British Council.

ZAZA, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN? The British Council and the GREAT campaign began this global program to celebrate Shakespeare’s life and work in partnership with VSO. VSO is a UK-based charity organization working in the educational field and serves the mission that education be accessible for every child in the world. Everyone knows who Shakespeare is but Play Your Part; Share Your Shakespeare aims for people to share their personal ex p e r i e n ce w i t h Shakespeare and his works. Unfortunately, nowadays over 200,000 children lack education. Through the campaign, everyone will be able to make their own contribution to change this. We’re very glad that Georgian society has been actively taking part in the campaign. Through our office, several videos have already been uploaded. We were very glad when Levan Berdzenishvili uploaded his own video where he talks about his experience with Shakespeare and calls on people to contribute to this valuable project. 18 pupils of Batumi English School, ETI-2000, participated in it. I’d like to give my special thanks to the Marjanishvili and Professional State Youth Theatre for their active participation.

We’ve planned about 12 projects in the framework of Shakespeare Lives. What’s more a very interesting educational resource has been created on the theme of Shakespeare, ‘Explore Language with Shakespeare,’ a free online course for English language learners. Georgia is the 7th country among the world’s top countries which claims the most registration for this program. This again emphasizes how much Georgians love Shakespeare and how famous he is here and how great an interest in the English language we have.

MAYA, HOW IMPORTANT IS GEORGIA’S PARTICIPATION IN THE CAMPAIGN AND DO YOU PLAN TO CARRY OUT OTHER PROJECTS? Very important is the fact that Georgia is becoming an active participant in this big and global event and that it’s no longer an isolated country, as it was in Soviet times. Plenty of educational and artistic projects are planned. Together with the Georgian State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography (Art Palace) director, Giorgi Kalandia, we are planning to make an exhibition showing how Shakespeare is reflected in Georgian art and, trust me, we have a huge heritage of this. When Victoria and Albert Museum representatives saw the posters depicting Shakespeare’s works in Georgia, they were impressed and surprised to see such a legacy in such a small country. In the recently compiled ‘Presenting Shakespeare: 1100 Posters from Around the World,’ eight were chosen from the vast Georgian collection, from the thousands submitted worldwide, to be published in the compilation. Additionally, UNESCO announced 2016 as the Year of Rustaveli. The British Council has a very ambitious plan to link these two geniuses- Shakespeare and Rustaveli. The British have an amazing attitude to cultural heritage and no-one has ever left such great a cultural heritage as Shakespeare. For the British, Shakespeare is still alive, still modern- he is not a frozen greatness that should be left untouched [as Rustaveli is here in Georgia]. Recently, a new video was released where young British popular rappers sang a song on a Shakespeare theme that I am sure will play an enormous role to bringing Shakespeare closer and making him more tangible to the young generation for whom Shakespeare might not be close due to his difficult and Old English. In this case we can draw a parallel between the Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe duet, which led to the

Official image of the The British Council and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) campaign ‘Shakespeare Lives’

For the British, Shakespeare is still alive, still modern. We should start taking as much care of Rustaveli so he is not abstract, petrified and untouchable but loved and recognized by all, regardless of age ‘Presenting Shakespeare: 1100 Posters from Around the World,’ eight were chosen from the vast Georgian collection, from the thousands submitted worldwide

increased popularity of opera among young people. The British take care of the fact that even the youngest generation should know William Shakespeare. We should imitate them and start taking as much care of Rustaveli in order for him not to be an abstract, petrified and untouchable figure but loved and recognized by all, regardless of age.




JANUARY 22 - 25, 2016


Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 January 23 RAMONA Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10, 15, 20 Lari January 24 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10, 15, 20 Lari TBILISI NODAR DUMBADZE STATE CENTRAL CHILDREN’S THEATRE Address: 99/1 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 95 39 27 January 23 KOLOBOK Directed by Anatoli Lobov Big Stage Russian Language Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: From 6 Lari GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 January 23 THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR Nikolay Gogol Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Russian Language Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari January 24 CINDERELLA Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Musical Tale Russian Language

Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATRE Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge January 26, 27 MARY POPPINS P. L. Travers Musical Directed by David Doiashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 8, 10 Lari January 28 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: From 8 Lari CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge January 22-28 THE REVENANT Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 19:00 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari THE HATEFUL EIGHT Directed by Quentin Tarantino Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery Language: Russian Start time: 16:00 Ticket price: 10-11 Lari

CREED Directed by Ryan Coogler Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson Genre: Drama, Sport Language: Russian Start time: 16:15 Ticket price: 11-12 Lari THE BIG SHORT Directed by Adam McKay Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Margot Robbie Genre: Biography, Drama Language: English Start time: 22:15 Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:00 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge THE 5TH WAVE Directed by J Blakeson Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Maika Monroe Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 11:20, 15:50, 20:05, 22:40 Ticket price: 8-14 Lari THE BIG SHORT (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:40 CREED (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 THE REVENANT (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 THE HATEFUL EIGHT (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 22:35



THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge December 25 – February 10 THE EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 120 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF DISTINGUISHED GEORGIAN MODERNIST ARTIST SHALVA KIKODZE. GALLERI NECTAR Address: 16 Aghmashenebli St. Telephone: 2 95 00 21 www.gallerynectar.ge January 22-23 TRAVELLING ART BOOKS Art-Book Exhibition-Sale, Presentation of Motto distribution books, Presentation of Publications by Tamuna Chabashvili Live: Levan Shanidze SFUMATO GALLERY Address: 19 Ingorokva Str. January 22-31


January 22- February 2 GROUP EXHIBITION “TWO LANDSCAPES BY HERMANN HESSE” Painting, Drawing, Lithography, Photography MUSIC

TRIUMPH CLUB Address: 116 Tsereteli Ave. Telephone: 2 35 09 57 January 23 Conspiracy concert agency present: SODOM Georgia is the first country SODOM will perform in during its 2016 World Tour, along with local bands: DISMORIAL, SIGNS, X-MACHINE and TANELORN Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 40 Lari TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 January 22 NATIONAL BALLET SUKHISHVILEBI Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 15-50 Lari AMQARI Address: 1 Jerusalem Str. Telephone: 5 71 78 60 38 January 22 SVANSIKH - Live Start time: 21:00 Ticket price: 20 Lari



Anticipation High Behind the Scenes at the Tbilisi Opera House BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


nce more GEORGIA TODAY got the chance to meet the Friends of Georgian Ballet in the presence of Georgia’s Prima Ballerina, Nina Ananiashvili, recently voted amongst the Top Twelve Ballerinas of All Time by the UK media outlet, Telegraph, and a number of her soloists. The informal meeting took place in the stunning Blue Hall of the newly renovated 19th century Zakaria Paliashvili Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre which is due to officially re-open next week with famed opera ‘Abesalom & Eteri’ by composer Zakaria Paliashvili and librettist Petre Mirianashvili, following a six year USD 20 million renovation. The Georgian State Ballet Company will perform their first show there on February 12th at 20:00, having spent the past six years alternating between the grand stages of the Tbilisi Concert Hall and Griboedov Theatre. There will be a total of three performances of Gorda at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre: on February 12th at 20:00, on February 13th at 20:00, and on February 14th at 14:00. “It is something special to dance here,” Nina said. “We are very excited to be back.” Nina chose ‘Gorda’ as the performance with which to re-open the Opera to ballet. Written in 1949 by famed ballet dancer and choreographer Vakhtang Chabukiani, it is a challenging composition to take on. “The characters of Gorda are both emotionally and physically hard to play,” Nina said. Gorda tells the story of love, jealousy, anger and revenge. The multi-national soloists due to play the main parts are: Lali Kandelaki, Nutsa Chekurashvili, Eka Surmava, Nino Samadashvili, Philip Fedulov, David Ananiashvili, and William Pratt. Nutsa Chekurashvili, one of the young Georgian soloists who will play the role of Javara, gave special thanks to her instructor Liliana Mitaishvili, one of the original Chabukiani dancers, who not only taught the girls how to play Javara, but also herself had to adapt to the times and modernizations that Nina had chosen to implement. In terms of design, Nina chose for this special two-act performance a natural look, with reflections of both East and

West in the scenography and costumes. Production designer, David Monavardisashvili, showed us his beautiful sketches- detailed scenes on black card divided by scaled down 1m x 1m squaresa grid system with which they were able to paint the design onto the canvas: “I and two assistants spent four months painting the huge backgrounds by hand,” Monavardisashvili said. “They are a mix of Georgian colours and Eastern concepts. There are nine scene changes in total, able, thanks to the modern machinery installed in the Opera, to be changed in minutes.” “In the old days a single performance would have four acts and the backgrounds changed by hand- meaning intermissions needed to be at least thirty minutes long and a full performance could last anywhere up to six hours!” Nina informed us. The costumes, designed by Ana Kalatozishvili, took three months to prepare, including sourcing the materials and ornaments, and with the need of a much larger team than that used by Monavardisashvili. Each costume is a work of art- sewn, painted and put together with the approval of Nina, and bringing each character to vibrant life. One of the Friends asked the dancers how they prepare for a performance. “Eat and sleep,” American soloist Philip Fedulov said simply. “Rest and save up my emotions and energy for the performance,” Georgian soloist David Ananiashvili told us. The last was a sentiment echoed by many. Nina added that often time constraints- or limited availability of the stage (due to use by other dancing, singing or theatre troupes)- mean that the dancers are forced to have class, rehearse, then almost immediately jump on stage for the final performance. “I do try to spend time the day before a performance quietly focussing myself,” Nina said, taking a moment to thank her daughter Elena for being so understanding and adaptive to her extra-active mother. Though clearly exhausted from the hard preparations for not only Gorda but the new-performance-every-month future plans for the current ballet season, there was a definite sense of pride and excitement to be seen in the dancers’ eyes. “It was always my dream to dance this dance, and to dance it here,” David Ananiashvili said. “Before Georgia, I was performing in a contemporary theatre in New Zea-



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Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies


Nina Ananiashvili shows off the sketches for the staging of Gorda by David Monavardisashvili (pictured on her left)

Friends of Georgian Ballet meet the ballet dancers at the Opera House

land,” British dancer William Pratt told us. “The first day I arrived here, I was brought to the Opera House. When I came out on stage my jaw hit the floor.

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Tamar Svanidze, Zviad Adzinbaia, Beqa Kirtava, Meri Taliashvili, Eka Karsaulidze, Zaza Jgharkava, Ana Lomtadze, Maka Bibilashvili, Nina Ioseliani, Tatia Megeneishvili, Karen Tovmasyan, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Nino Japarashvili, Maka Lomadze

Back then it was old and worn, but stillthe size of the stage and the huge chandelier were just incredible!” That wow-factor is something that

Photographer: Zviad Nikolaishvili Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava

many, including this author, are looking forward to experiencing first-hand when the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre finally re-opens its doors.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #811  

Jan. 22 - 25, 2016

Issue #811  

Jan. 22 - 25, 2016