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Issue no: 1033

• MARCH 23 - 26, 2018


FOCUS ON EU MESSAGES Former Sec Gen Rasmussen tells the EU to "listen to the dreams of the Eastern Neighborhood"



In this week’s issue...


Georgia’s Parliament Adopts Resolution Condemning Russia’s Actions NEWS PAGE 2

Uncle Vova


Image source: rasmussenglobal.com

Georgia, Belarus Mull Deeper Economic Cooperation BY THEA MORRISON


he necessity to further deepen economic ties between Georgia and Belarus was underlined at the meeting of First Vice-Premier and the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Dimitry Kumsishvili and the First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Mikhail Rusyi. The sides met in Tbilisi on March 21 to discuss mutual and regional issues. Particular attention was paid to the role of the Georgian and Belarusian governments in contributing to the deepening of partnership relations between the two countries.

Photo: First VicePremier and the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Dimitry Kumsishvili and the First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Mikhail Rusyi

Assessing the Real GameChangers: Russia or China? POLITICS PAGE 6

UNDP, Switzerland, Austria Launch 2nd Phase of Regional & Local Development Project in Georgia POLITICS PAGE 8

A Warm Welcome from the Creators & Cast of Tbilisi’s First Musical

Continued on page 3

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Legendary Italian Opera Turandot to Premiere at the Tbilisi Opera Theater CULTURE PAGE 15




MARCH 23 - 26, 2018

Georgia’s Parliament Adopts Resolution Condemning Russia’s Actions BY THEA MORRISON


he Georgian Parliament has adopted a resolution on Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili, who died in custody in Georgia’s occupied Tskhinvali (“South Ossetia”) detention facility in unclear circumstances on February 23, the second day after he was kidnapped. The resolution condemns Russia's attitude towards Georgia and its actions on Georgia’s Russian-backed Tskhinvali and Abkhazia regions. A total of 110 MPs were registered during the vote and the draft of the resolution was approved with 106 votes. No one was against. According to the resolution, the Gov-

ernment of Georgia should submit to Parliament the Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili List, which will include Russian, de facto Abkhazian and Ossetian authorities, and individuals that participated in the kidnapping, torturing and murder of the two Georgian citizens. The list should be submitted by June 15, 2018. Parliament is calling on the government to take measures with partners to impose visa restrictions on those included on the list, and to ban their financial and property transactions on their territories. From the total three parliamentary opposition parties, only one supported the resolution –European Georgia, which initiated the elaboration of the Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili List. The United National Movement (UNM) and the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (APG) refused to take part in the voting. According to the UNM, the Otkhozoria-

Tatunashvili List should have been longer, and “the government should have conducted consultations with its partner states before the resolution was put to the vote.” The APG made no comment about their abstention from the vote. They only said they saw no sense in adopting such a document. Giga Otkhozoria was a Georgian citizen killed on May 19, 2016 at the Georgia-Abkhazia boundary line by an Abhaz “border guard,” who has not been held responsible and is internationally wanted. Otkhozoria’s mother commented on the adoption of the resolution, saying it will bring neither Tatunashvili nor her son back, but expressed hope it will help to prevent similar violent facts in future. “I hope the killers will be punished. I think this resolution will be a deterrent.

It should have been adopted a long time ago,” Otkhozoria’s mother said. Georgia’s Parliament Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze stated the Parliament “had adopted an important resolution on the gross violation of human rights on territories occupied by the Russian Federation,” adding the document reflects Georgia’s “clear vision and approach to the Russian-Georgian conflict and the occupation of the historic regions.” He specified that the resolution condemns: occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions by the Russian Federation, steps towards actual annexation of Georgian historic regions, isolation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region and artificial barriers at the so-called border, gross violation of human rights on occupied territories, deprivation of the lives of citizens Giga Otkhozoria and Archil Tatunashvili; destruction of Georgian

villages, damage to Georgian churches; deprivation of Georgian children from the right to obtain an education in the Georgian language; and the violation of IDP rights. A few days ago, Georgian Ambassador to the European Union Natali Sabanadze said the European Parliament is also going to adopt a resolution on Georgia’s occupation for the 10th anniversary of Georgia-Russia August war 2008, a conflict which left 20% of the Georgian territory occupied. According to Sabanadze, political groups of the European Parliament are at present considering who will draft the resolution. She added that the document will likely be adopted this summer. The Ambassador suggested that the document adopted in Georgia may also be reflected in the European Parliament’s resolution.

Tbilisi to Host Real Estate Exhibition ‘Area Expo 2018’ BY THEA MORRISON


or the first time in Georgia, Tbilisi is to host Real Estate Exhibition ‘Area Expo 2018.’ The event will take place in Expo Georgia on March 30, 31 and April 1. Georgian development companies with more than 100 projects will par-

ticipate in the event and introduce projects to guests. Head along to find out about Georgia’s development companies, their implemented or ongoing projects, and enjoy a chance to purchase on the spot. The LEPL National Agency of State Property, under the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, will take part in the exhibition to present the project "50 Properties for Your Hotel" and state-owned commer-

cially interesting property. Over three days, developers will offer customers special prices, while bank representatives will provide access to their own products. Stands of home item brands will also be presented, and Marketer.ge will organize a series of talks on construction issues. Buildings, real estate and developers' activities are the most active topics in recent years in Georgia and abroad. The number of construction sites has also

increased, which gives more opportunities to customers to choose where they want to live, considering location, architecture and spectrum. Real estate sales significantly increased in 2017 compared to previous years. This is why Area Expo 2018, the largest event in the real estate field in Georgia, is to gather Georgian development companies for visitors to discover. All interested people will be able to visit one or more of the existing projects

in Georgia, and select and purchase an apartment, office, or commercial area in terms of region, district, architecture, special conditions and price. The organizer of Area Expo 2018 is the real estate service company Aria Group, which aims to introduce international practice and standards in the real estate market in Georgia. The event is supported by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia.




Rasmussen on Living up to Eastern Neighborhood Expectations, EU Fatigue, and Coffey’s NATO Accession Scenario


he conference ‘Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and the EU: The Road to 2020,’ hosted by Euractiv Network on March 20, had many a high-profile speaker, with the former Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, now head of “Rasmussen Global” consultancy, as designated speaker. And it’s safe to say that he delivered quite a barrage of important messages: unshackled by the burdens of his previous post, the former NATO chief did not mince his words when speaking about challenges for the Eastern Neighborhood. “There are many factors standing in the way of the three Eastern Partnership countries’ continued political and economic integration into European institutions. Firstly, of course, there’s Russia, a country that has a vested interest in derailing the Eastern Partnership and maintaining a circle of buffer states so that Moscow can exercise its influence. The most striking example of this is Moscow’s policy of fermenting a number of conflicts in these states, with Ukraine being the latest but certainly not the only example.

"Secondly, there’s the democratic processes itself: all three countries will undergo major elections in the coming two years, and while in Europe you may hear talks about the Ukraine fatigue or Georgia fatigue, from my experience, I fear our eastern partners are also suffering from EU fatigue and it could not have come at a worse time. "And the third reason is insufficient recognition from our side of the reforms that are actually carried out and that is why we should give credit where it’s due. It’s easy to look at the glass and say it’s half empty, but let’s look at their achievements: these are achievements that would risk collapsing many a European government. And not recognizing that is giving ammunition to populists: in the end, it only plays into Russia’s hands. We should think about how to signal to the people in these three countries that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that hard choices will be rewarded. To this end, the European Union should start thinking strategically as to what comes after the Eastern Partnership reaches its 2020 milestone. We should think of practical and feasible

new milestones. If we fail to show that vision, if we start seeing our Eastern partners as a challenge rather than an opportunity, and if we do not show that hard work pays off, the EU shouldn’t be surprised if its Eastern partners start a backslide. Russia is looking to re-establish its beachhead in Eastern Europe and China is looking to establish its economical foothold there, too. If the EU doesn’t lay out clear milestones for these nations to continue their European path, we shouldn’t complain when our neighbours fall under the yoke of other powers, with geopolitical implications for Europe. Today is the time to think strategically about the Eastern Partnership, so it can continue to be a body with the power to transform its neighborhood. We need to live up to the dreams of those in Tbilisi, Kyiv and Chisinau.” Due to time constraints, GEORGIA TODAY was the only outlet of the many present at the event able to ask a question to the former Secretary General. Our choice fell on Luke Coffey’s borderline infamous NATO accession scenario for Georgia. Continued on page 4

Georgia, Belarus Mull Deeper Economic Cooperation Continued from page 1

The meeting participants positively assessed a joint Georgian-Belarusian project, which is about to launch an elevator producing enterprise in Georgia. The meeting focused on the necessity of deepening bilateral business relations. In the frames of the visit of the Belarusian President, the Georgia-Belarus Business Forum will be held in which the

representatives of the business circles of the two countries will participate. It was noted that several dozen companies from both countries will also take part in the forum. In January 2018, Georgia and Belarus trade turnover is said to have increased by 91%, and exports from Georgia by 47%. The parties noted that trading potential is high between the countries and this direction “needs to be further developed.”

At the meeting, was revealed that a special Georgian store will be opened in Minsk, Belarus, in which only products produced in Georgia will be sold. The store will be spread across 1,200 square meters and Georgian wine, mineral water and agricultural products will be sold there. Georgia’s Ministry of Economy noted that a store has already been operating in Georgia, selling Belarusian products. In addition, focus was put on measures

to promote Georgian wine export to Belarus. The sides also discussed cooperation in the tourism sphere, noting that in JanuaryFebruary 2018, the number of tourists from Belarus in Georgia increased by 19% compared to the same period last year. Particular attention was paid to cooperation in medicine and pharmacology. Specifically, cooperation in terms of transplantation, as well as the establishment of joint medicine producing enter-

prises was raised by the parties. The sides also talked about issues such as agriculture, transport and logistics, innovations, communications and other priorities. "One of the most important directions we work in is the development of a transport corridor, which will be able to provide competitiveness and give us an opportunity to increase our trade turnover as much as possible," Kumsishvili said.



Rasmussen on Living up to Eastern Neighborhood Expectations, EU Fatigue, and Coffey’s NATO Accession Scenario


MARCH 23 - 26, 2018

Bishops on the Move OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

Continued from page 3

We asked him the following: “Luke Coffey of the Heritage Foundation proposed amending Article 6 of the NATO Treaty, thus allowing Georgia to become a member state of the Alliance, but with the amendment that the collective security and defense guaranteed by Article 5, wouldn’tcoverGeorgia’sbreakawayregions that are occupied by Russia. Do you find it a plausible scenario, and if you do, what would the implementation of that be for countries like Ukraine and Moldova?” “No, I don’t find it plausible,” Rasmussen told us. “Because we don’t recognize the occupied territories [as independent states]; we consider those as regions and integral parts of Georgia. From that point of view, it wouldn’t be possible for us to allow Georgia access to NATO and then state that, you know, Article 5 doesn’t cover a part of Georgia, a sovereign state. You may of course argue that in the past we had a somewhat similar situation with East Germany, but from a formal point of view, East Germany was in a bit of a different situation because it was not occupied, at least formally, in the sense that Abkhazia and Ossetia are. It’s indeed a very complicated issue but, once again, my take on it would be that no, it would not be possible, because, implicitly that would state that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are lost, they are not part of Georgia anymore and I really don’t think Georgia would accept that.” This article was prepared in the scope of “Messages from Brussels” series, a project by European Alliance for Georgia, a Brusselsbased advocacy organization dedicated to “Bringing more Georgia into Europe.”


new player has appeared in the battle for the title of the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. By engaging in the marathon, Bishop of Poti Grigol becomes the main competitor of the locum tenens Bishop Shio. Apparently, Bishop Grigol has been aiming for the post for quite some time, but after a group of high priests started travelling overseas more frequently, his hidden goals became more evident. The ambitions of the Bishop could be identified by theologians and the clergy at the end of last year, reflected as they were in the Christmas Epistle that he wrote. Bishop Grigol of Poti clearly made a statement suggesting that nothing was guaranteed for the locum tenens Shio in the battle for the title of Patriarch. The Bishop of Poti is an influential figure within the Georgian Orthodox Church: he has supporters and, together with Metropolitan Petre Tsaava, is the only one who does not agree with everything the Patriarch says and openly declares that some of the decisions ought to be changed; which is exactly what happened on Christmas Day, when the influential bishop gave short but specific messages criticizing the Georgian Church, thanking the Patriarch for his 40-years of work, and encouraging changes. It is not difficult to comprehend which changes he was implying; Bishop Shio and his supposed new role as the Patriarch of Georgia. Bishop Grigol, the author of this noisy epistle, clearly communicated that he would be the main competitor against Patriarch

Image source: chess.com

Ilia’s favorite candidate for the throne. Perhaps the time for change has come, indeed; the Patriarch has led the Church for over 40 years now. His persona has somehow embraced the concept of eternity since a lot has happened during this time in the country: socialism, 5 years of funerals – Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, Perestroika, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the presidencies of Gamsakhurdia, Shevardnandze and Saakashvili, all as Ilia II continued his reign. Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili is the eighth ‘Caesar,’ who more than once showed his mixed attitude towards the Orthodox Church and the Patriarch himself. Together with all other donations, the central temple of the country, the Holy Trinity Church, was erected with

the help of Ivanishvili’s finances. But despite this, the billionaire has an uneven approach towards the Church when it comes to its path crossing that of politics. Ivanishvili satisfied the demand of official Yerevan and handed over the disputed Church Norasheni without hesitation. The decision on the infamous Cyanide Case was also his step in favor of politics, as this was used as a tool to weaken the increasingly strong influences of the Church. Although the Patriarch’s appointed candidate isn’t from the billionaire’s close circle, he isn’t very far outside it. Bishop Shio is the childhood friend of President Giorgi Margvelashvili and has close connections with businessman Levan Vasadze and his group of “gov-

ernmental intellectuals.” Despite such a background, clearly nothing is guaranteed for Bishop Shio yet. This argument is further supported by yet another influential leader Bishop Iakob, who said: “Being a locum tenants means nothing special. In some cases, this is a person who temporarily replaces the Patriarch in the event of his demise, but only before the next Patriarch is elected. He is the High Priest, just like all 45 others.” Metropolitan Grigoli belongs to the Orthodox wing of the church, but was brought up within a fully Georgian setting, thus he doesn’t carry the burden of any Russian obligations, unlike bishop Shio. Perhaps that is why Metropolitan Grigoli prefers visits to Washington than Moscow.






n my adolescence, when my peers and I were among the regimented Young Pioneers with burning red ties around our delicate communist necks, I remember we worshiped our ideological icons like Uncle Lenin and Uncle Stalin – the kids would never mention those enigmatic names in any other way. The day Uncle Stalin died, one of my classmates and fellow Pioneers was visiting me. My mom gave us money and asked us to bring a canister of kerosene from the neighborhood store. We did so, but with very solemn faces and slow movements in token of the overwhelming sorrow that the devastating death had cast upon us, poor little souls. On our way home, burdened with the valuable merchandise, my buddy gave a chuckle for some unknown reason, something which angered me so much that I severely castigated the brash friend of mine for smiling at the moment when Uncle Stalin had passed away because nothing more disastrous could have happened to us and to the entire soviet country. I was understood correctly, and my friend apologized obediently in recognition of his inadvertent blunder. Nothing has changed since those strange and scary times in Russia. Russian kids do not have uncles like Lenin and Stalin, but they now have a new Uncle Vova. Unless my ears have failed me completely, I heard this maudlin appellation on the television the other day. The newly reelected-for-the-umpteenth time Russian President was swept back into office via a landslide election almost a week ago.

Image source: themalaymailonline.com

He’ll probably be there for the next election, too. Please don’t take my slight sarcasm as another mockery directed against the overall Russian political reality. This is what Russians want to have, and let them enjoy it for as long as they think it is good for them. Putin was reelected once again following those long 18 years in office. And the most interesting part of the entire Russian electoral shtick is that the results were not rigged. He genuinely received over 76% of votes all over the country– the Russian People wanted him to be on top of national matters once more. And, folks, this is all happening when the 21st century is well into years

and right in front of the eyes of the entire world where even the worst autocratic regimes have heard and learnend what freedom of speech and democracy mean. In reality, it would have been much, much more complimentary for the Russian electorate if they had badly doctored the poll numbers, thus triggering the healthy criticism of the world. No, the figures are right and all is OK in the empire – the elated people are hailing the beloved sovereign who, for some reason, is being elected by people’s vote in the imperial democracy that the Russian land happens to be today. Russians are not even asking why one

person should rule the country forever. George Washington, in his own time, refused to be nominated for a third presidential term, thus making way for a limited term of office in the American government. Why should Russians have this strange habit of turning lowly people into gods and icons, letting them rule the country single-handedly for an unlimited period of time? What makes them become so pathologically loyal to just one person who rules for everybody else to follow and be happy with what they have? This is the largest and the heaviest question mark in the universe today after the famous perpetual question –

‘Does God exist?’ Russians are known as intellectually advanced people who successfully supply the world with scientific and computing minds. Those Russian smarts are scattered all over the world, significantly influencing the process of global development. The Russian talent is appreciated by the contemporary world. And they have a very interesting political history, too. So what’s wrong with them? Why should they desire to have the same Uncle Vova at the helm forever? Could this be a national hobby? Or something that runs in their blood? Or just a regular deficiency of the relevant cadre?

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MARCH 23 - 26, 2018

Assessing the Real Game-Changers: Russia or China?

Analysts in the west need to be more precise in their assessments of the world processes and real or unreal threats emanating from Russia to the existing world order. Image source: http://spongebob.wikia.com



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estern mainstream media is quite often full of news on how Russia is changing the postcold war order in the European continent. Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova in Eurasia, Syria in the Middle East – those are major theaters of active Russian involvement. Moreover, according to western media reports, Russian influence is constantly popping up here and there across the European continent. Indeed, misinterpreting Russian actions would be wrong, but the question which comes to mind analyzing daily news and reactions in the West is whether Russia is genuinely a fundamental problem for the EU and the US. Could it be a misconception on the part of western governments that they are so preoccupied with the Russian menace? In fact, quite often in history, foundational changes in international relations have taken place away from the main headlines. The West is too focused on Russia, but the Russian resurgence, if you may call it so, is a fleeting phenomenon. The country does not possess as large resources as its Soviet predecessor and is losing positions in several of the former Soviet countries. A simple look at the map of Europe since the reunification of Germany shows how far back the Russian power has receded from the heart of Europe to the frontiers of Russia proper. Indeed, it is important to differentiate between those powers which aspire and are capable of introducing a new global order and those which remain only nominally global and disrupt an existing order on a local level.

A BIT OF HISTORY Take the example of Napoleon I, the all-powerful Emperor of France. Napoleon certainly tried to change the existing order in Europe. Austria and Prussia were crushed, while Russia and Britain were constrained. Nevertheless, politicians in St Petersburg and other capitals understood that Napoleon’s influence was fleeting. Indeed, the French grandeur was based on his military achievements, which were impossible to maintain in the longer term. The French power was simply too overstretched to remain victorious. The Russians truly panicked when Napoleon entered their territory and was on his way to Moscow. Still, highlevel politicians knew well that it was not France

but Great Britain which would be Russia’s archenemy in the long run. Trade, dominance in the seas, as well as British presence in India: those were far more powerful long-running trends which were set to influence international relations in the 19th century and far beyond. Russia knew this well. Almost 130 years later, Hitler’s invasion of Europe and especially the Soviet Union was an important event, but for Stalin and Great Britain, the German power was too thin to dominate the entire continent. Everything depended too much on Hitler and, as in the case of Napoleon, a simple break from military victories could have led to a serious blowback for the Nazi regime. For Stalin, it was Great Britain and the US (although the latter got to play a larger role in his calculus at the end of the WWII) which would share the world between themselves. No wonder, then, that Stalin was already talking about post-WWII order with the British Ambassador in Moscow in late 1941-early 1942 when the Germans failed to conquer Moscow.

BACK TO MODERN RUSSIA Like Napoleon and Hitler, modern Russia is trying to influence the existing security order in Europe. But let us be more precise and state that Russian influence nowadays across the Eurasian landmass is more of a nuance to the US and the EU and the politicians in grand strategic terms. Although it is fashionable among analysts to charter the dawn of the new Cold War and the overall Russian resurgence, underneath this perceived threat there is a much more powerful China which truly, through its size and economy, will be challenging the US-led world order. Therefore, I believe it is expedient to point out that in geopolitics and international relations, politicians pay more attention to immediate threats rather than to those invisible far-reaching ones. Putin is portrayed as the biggest threat to Europe and the US and at times one could truly believe that, considering the number of articles and statements written by western analysts and politicians. Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt or Alexander I of Russia would have easily understood who the potential game-changer is in the 21st century, had they lived today. Thus, this piece aims to wake up the analysts in the West and in many other countries to be more precise in their assessments of the world processes and real or unreal threats emanating from Russia to the existing world order.




MARCH 23 - 26, 2018

UNDP, Switzerland, Austria Launch 2nd Phase of Regional & Local Development Project in Georgia BY BENJAMIN MUSIC


ogether with the expertise and support of the Swiss and Austrian government, the UNDP-implemented project on fostering the development and decentralization of municipalities across Georgia has entered the 2nd phase. The UNDP, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Austrian Development Cooperation decided to move the project to the 2nd phase after a successful evaluation of the 1st phase was registered last year. Georgia’s Soviet history has left the nation in a strong, centralized, bureaucratic state since its independence 25 years ago, obstructing government efficiency and often barring local governments from autonomous decision-making processes. The issues stemming from national strategies and plans are numerous, affecting agricultural development, the business environment, infrastructure planning and civil society participation. After the UNDP launched its Regional and Local Development project in 2012, it registered wide-ranging improvements in these areas. Between 2012-2017, the project reached important milestones, supporting selfgovernance reform and regional and local development. A key aspect over the past five years was the development and adoption of new laws enhancing decentralization and incorporating necessary paragraphs for municipal decision-making processes. The Local SelfGovernment Code, endorsed in 2014, is one major example transferring services from the national level to the local. In 2015, the Law on the Development of High Mountainous Regions of Georgia was endorsed, fostering development in arduously accessible areas. Alongside legal improvements, the project conducted an institutional analysis of municipalities, evaluating strengths, weaknesses and improvement potential, favoring decentralization. The 1st phase also included civil society setting up advocacy initiatives. The project also supports the development of the National Training Concept and provided capacity development support to national and local civil servants. An impressive number of 703 national and 4,427 local civil servants were able to receive essential training through this scheme. During the 1st phase, the project leaders developed action plans for sustainable development, funding over 2000 local projects and the implementation of 31 projects in 6 regions across Georgia. These projects have benefited 30,000 citizens directly and over 500,000 citizens indirectly. Over the years, Citizen Satisfaction surveys were conducted in 2013, in 2015, and at the end of the 1st Phase in 2017. The results were used to improve the planning and implementa-

tion of the 2nd Phase. The results of the 1st Phase are multifold. Commissioned by the UNDP as well as the Austrian and Swiss Development Agencies, the Georgian research firm ACT carried out a comprehensive analysis to evaluate the impact. The good opinion of road conditions has much increased. In 2013, still 84% considered local roads in the highlands to be in a bad condition, while the percentage decreased in 2017 to 67%. The negative opinion about the access to roads then decreased from 69% to 47%, highway condition from 39% to 24%, public transport condition from 45% to 27%, and the price of public transport from 47% to 21%. In terms of highland infrastructure, the project noted strong improvements, spurring the UNDP’s motivation to enter the 2nd Phase with continued support from Austria and Switzerland. Enhancement of public services was also seen in the educational sector. Compared to only 77% of citizens at first satisfied with services provided by public kindergartens, in 2017 that satisfaction rose to 88%. Satisfaction in education management rose from 51% to 71%, in school food quality from 48% to 70%, and in teachers’ competencies from 54% to 73%. Overall, the availability of public kindergarten spots to the general Georgian public increased to an impressive 83%. After setting the foundation over the course of five years, the 2nd Phase aims at fostering the vertical support emitted by the local institutions to stimulate regional and local economies. One of the goals is the improvement of civil society participation, engaging ordinary nationals in policy-making decisions. Such policy-focused discussions aim to create an environment in which peopleinitiated and people-centered projects can take off, benefiting a multitude of target groups, including women, men, youth, displaced, and minority groups. The inclusiveness of different groups of society allows policy proposals which incorporate a wide part of interest groups. Presently, only 18% of the pop-

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ulation is aware of different ways of citizen participation available to them in settlement meetings, whereas a shockingly low 8% knows about their right to participate in municipal council meetings. The act of initiating or signing of petitions is only known to 14% of the population, alongside a mere 7%, who knows about their right to participate in civic advisory councils. In a world where words are often more powerful than figures, the percentage of people reading reports by the municipality is only 9%, again indicating a dire need for improvement. The UNDP, together with the Swiss and Austrian expertise, has identified three essential areas through which the goals of the 2nd Phase can be achieved. Firstly, the establishment of policy and institutional frameworks to foster decentralization of governance and local as well as economic development, alongside enhanced capacities of national and local government institutions to deliver quality services at the local level, enabling a strong and healthy business environment and promote local economic actors. The first two areas will be complemented by the economic and social empowerment of local communities to ease their access to decisionmaking. This Tuesday, the representatives of the Georgian government, UNDP, and the Swiss and Austrian Development agencies officially initiated the 2nd Phase. The implementation phase will run from 2018 to 2021, tackling specific sectors to spur the decentralization process and boost local economy. A total budget of $5.5 million is available for the three years for essential infrastructure investments and operational costs. “We will pay particular attention to the decentralization of governance, local economic development and to building the capacity of the national and local institutions to make sure that they can deliver quality services to the citizens,” Zurab Alavidze, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of

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Georgia, informed the audience. Irakli Kobakhidze, the Georgian Parliament Speaker, stressed that regional and local development is one of Georgia’s strategic priorities in the coming years. “Georgia kicks off the ambitious reform of local self-governance, aiming to increase decision-making powers and financial resources of the regional and local authorities. Our medium-term goal is to increase the consolidated financial resource of the municipalities to at least 7% of GDP,” he said. Under the leadership of UNDP, the project will continue to be executed by highly experienced staff members who have contributed enormously to the past development efforts in Georgia. Niels Scott, Head of the UNDP in Georgia, emphasized the positive results of the 1st Phase citizen survey leading straight into the 2nd phase. “The study shows that only one out of six citizens has contacted local authorities in the past two years. Citizen engagement in the decision-making process and quality local services were named as most important prerequisites for the success of decentralization and self-governance reform,” he highlighted, adding that the UNDP supports the Georgian government’s implementation efforts of a new vision of decentralization. Since 2012, both the 1st and 2nd phases have been strongly supported by the Austrian and Swiss governments. “With more than 700 years of practice in decentralization and the principle of subsidiarity, Switzerland has demonstrated the merit of strong and regional self-governments. We are glad to share this experience as an input to the further implementation of decentralization in Georgia,” noted Olivier Bürki, Head of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC in Georgia. He further explained, “The UNDP has done an excellent job in Georgia and it is our pleasure to support their efforts together with Austria in a coordinated support scheme. The aim is not to provide a blueprint for Georgian decentralization, as cultural and political circumstances

are very different to Switzerland, but together with the local governments and the UNDP, we can identify the right level of service needed and the right level of government needed to accelerate the decentralization efforts in Georgia.” Bürki explains the differentiation which has to be made when dealing with decentralization: “It is important to leave national matters in the hands of the national government and refer smallscale projects to the hands of the local governments. A great example would be road management. Secondary roads want to be addressed on a local level, whereas national highways crossing multiple regions want to be addressed on a national level.” Switzerland provides targeted expertise and exposure visits in Switzerland for the project through the help of leading Swiss development organizations, and appreciates the willingness of the Georgian government to decentralize, thus providing the necessary resources to achieve the set goals. “We focus on a number of programs, such as sustainable agricultural processes and an improved business environment. Enhancing the agricultural output is a delicate task of understanding the needs of rural areas first before we support the local authorities to address these needs. We aim to foster the initiatives on a local and individual level and to provide the conditions and means to realize these initiatives. Head of the Austrian Development Coordination office in Georgia, Gerhard Schaumberger congratulated the UNDP and the Georgian government for the successful 1st Phase. “We strongly supported the 1st Phase focusing on the mountainous areas of Georgia. Together with the Austrian Institut für Bergbauernfragen (Institute for Questions of Mountain Farmers), we enabled the exchange of knowledge and ideas to find solutions for problems which are very similar to those in Austrian mountains, as Georgia and Austria share the same geographic features. We have worked hard to enhance projects on gender equality and environmental protection, understanding the shifting patterns in these fields.” Schaumberger said, noting the recent agreement between the European Union and Georgia to work more closely towards stronger political association and economic integration. “We are very supportive of the reform efforts undertaken by the Georgian government, which are in line with the EU-Georgian Association Agreement.” Like Switzerland, Schaumberger highlights the importance of SMEs in rural and local municipalities, especially in regard to tourism, “the tourism industry is booming in Georgia, this is the perfect time to develop the capacities and quality to handle the rising numbers of overnight stays by foreign tourists,” he said.

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




MARCH 23 - 26, 2018

A Warm Welcome from the Creators & Cast of Tbilisi’s First Musical HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE ACTORS? Achiko was in charge of that. 90% of the actors belong to this theater [the Vaso Abashidze Music and Drama Theater]. Natia: All the actors of this theater can dance and sing- it’s hard to find this mix of talent in other theaters.

WAS THE FACT THAT MOST OF THE SCRIPT IS IN ENGLISH A PROBLEM FOR THE ACTORS? Natia: Only a couple of the actors actually speak English; the others had to learn the script by heart. But they did it. Without a doubt, it’s not easy for them to play in another language.



elcome to GeorgiaThe Musical is a theatrical show in English which weaves a tale about Georgia and its people through song, dance, and dialogue. By attending the show, new visitors in the country will learn about Georgia’s age-old culture, history, national costumes, cuisine and more; while those who have been in Georgia a bit longer will recapture the magic of their first days here. The creators, Natia Amiridze and Michael (Mikho) Maisuradze, were inspired by the magic of the West End and Broadway when they decided to promote the best of Georgia via the stage. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with the creators and cast to find out more.

WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION? HOW DID YOU GET FROM IDEA TO PAPER TO WEEKLY SHOWS? Natia: Two things helped in the inspiration. I grew up abroad, spending 30 years in St Petersburg. I always felt proud of my home country, especially its dance and song. Once I moved back, and whenever I had friends visiting, I realized there was nowhere to take them to showcase everything I was so proud

of. Mikho and I worked with Redbull, dealing with a lot of foreign athletes coming to Georgia, and we wanted to take them to concerts to see the dancing but as they aren’t held regularly, we were forced to take them to the dance rehearsals of national Georgian dance ensembles. We met with scriptwriters [Irakli Kakabadze and Rati Tserodze] early spring 2017 and it took a couple of months to work on the plot- it needed to be light to balance the amount of information we wanted to give the audience- there wasn’t room for a lot of drama. Then we found Achiko [Archil Sologashvili] to be the director and choreographer. Mikho: I’ve seen a lot of West End musicals in my time and loved them. Like Natia, I struggled to find somewhere to take guests here to impress them with Georgian song and dance, other than restaurants. This Musical was the perfect solution!

Natia: Success for me means the Musical becoming the “must-see” presentational performance about Georgia that every tourist coming to Georgia will choose to go to at the beginning of their visit. I’d also love to take the show to other countries to represent Georgia, on Independence Day [May 26], for example, if embassies in other countries invited us. Success also means seats filled even in the off-peak season!

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR MAIN MESSAGE TO VISITORS ABOUT GEORGIA? Natia: We put almost everything that we’re proud of in the show. What’s in there is what we tell our visitors. For people who have been here a while, the story typically represents their first days or months here. Next, GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Eka Demetradze who plays ‘Julie,’ the new French girlfriend of a Georgian man, on her first visit to Georgia.



Mikho: The challenge has been to show Georgia in the right way: to show the great pride Georgians have for their culture, but not go overboard with it and end up offending foreign audiences. Achiko and the scriptwriters found the right balance. Technical things also proved challenging- a lot of equipment had to be ordered from abroad as I wanted good lights and a good sound system.

“Before Welcome, I was a bit scared and not sure what to expect. It was very interesting and challenging, but a nice experience. For the first time in my life, I looked at Georgia with new eyes and I found that we are really very nice people: behind all the loud voices and too much food, which I don’t like, there’s a lot of love and Georgians really put their all into making guests feel at ease. I

thought I might get to the stage where I’d not want to hear another Georgian song, but I fell in love with it anew. And Julie’s story is lovely. I was terrified on premiere night- not at all sure of the reception we’d get. It’s a lot of responsibility to represent your country via a play in English. But to see the emotion; to have people come up to you saying how much they laughed or cried…I’m thrilled to be a part of it.” GEORGIA TODAY then spoke to Ia Shugliashvili, an actress best known for the award-winning film ‘My Happy Family,’ which was snapped up by Netflix last year, making Ia an internationally recognized face. The film presents the tougher side of a housewife’s life in Georgia. In the new musical, however, she plays a secondary role as a villager welcoming a French guest to Georgia. We asked her which woman best represented the “real” Ia and which plot best represented modern Georgia. “My character is a neighbor who shows a typical neighborly side of the Georgian

character- how sweet and helpful neighbors are to each other, and how we bicker. But, ultimately, we show that, in the end, we are always there for each other. That’s how Georgians really are. We stand by each other.

HAVING STARRED IN BOTH FILM AND THEATER, WHICH DO YOU PREFER? I love both. Different energy is needed, and both have their own challenges and responsibilities.

HOW DID YOU COME TO THIS PROJECT? I belong to another theater but as I have a well-known musical background and family, Achiko came to me and offered me a part- and I was happy to accept! Check out their website and facebook pages for updated information about their weekly shows and to watch the trailer. www.musical. ge, www.facebook.com/musical.ge

Two Truths: Learning to Judge by the People, not the Government OP-ED BY TAMZIN WHITEWOOD


have found myself in rather a confused state of late. With the deepening troubles that Georgia has faced in its occupied regions not showing any sign of letting up; now, within the past two weeks, the UK, my place of birth, has had its relationship with Russia take a serious hit. It was bad enough when it was just Georgia; a place I am fiercely proud of, that has given me the opportunity to create a life for myself and welcomed me in so many ways. Russia, throughout both history and my time here in Georgia, has always been the reason for, shall we say, some unsettling thoughts. With them refusing to move out of occupied Tskhinvali and Abkhazia, tensions have always remained strong on the matter. Working as an Editor for Georgia Today means I must, of course, keep my own onions in check and report on what is actually happening, a reality that is unbiased and focused on the facts. Yet, what I am writing now is an attempt to break the stigma and use my own freedom of speech over relations with our northern neighbor. Patriotism tends to come before logic; thus, when we know that Russia is indeed occupying Georgian territory, it is easy to become blind-sided and not look a little deeper. Last week in the UK, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said, and I quote, “no-one can give Russia a 24-hour ultimatum,” referring to, of course, PM Teresa May’s request for them to explain the nerve agent attack in the British city of Salisbury within 24 hours. No response was given. This, I have to say, sickens me. Instead of offering an explanation, or using a bit of diplomacy, the official response is “No-one can give Russia an ultimatum”? Aren’t we delving a little deeper here than simple wounded pride? As, essentially, that is what such a response implies: “I’m bigger. I’m better. Know your place.” This from the largest country on earth, whose President has just been re-elected for the third time? After this, I found my already tentative

feelings for Russia on quick-boil into actual fury. How long are we, citizens of the world, grown adults, PEOPLE, going to allow this type of behavior? Georgia is constantly looking over its shoulder at Russia, wondering what will happen next in its occupied territories. Just this week, the body of Archil Tatunashvili was returned to Tbilisi, after his dying in “South Ossetian” custody, with more than one medical professional stating that he died as a result of ill-treatment. Both of the countries with a place in my heart have wavering relations with Russia. The misery, pain and devastation they have caused Georgia is shocking. Yet, it is so very important to realize that these heinous acts are that of its government, not its people. I, along with every other person who has been affected by the calculated actions of Russia, which has complete disregard for international law, hold the Russian government culpable. The great people of Russia are still very much welcome in Georgia; they love the food, wine and culture of this fantastic place. They have no say in the decisions their government makes in terms of Georgia’s occupied regions or nerve agents being used in the UK. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to label one whole nation? Yet, what if somebody did the same to me, a Brit, and judged me by the acts of the UK during the times of the British Empire? It would be ridiculous, illogical. So, my good people, lets continue our fight for justice, all the while remembering which entity it is exactly that we have the problem with…




Photo from Barbarestan, part of a global initiative to celebrate French cuisine on March 21

The Art of French Cuisine Showcased at the 4th Edition of Goût de/ Good France BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI


he 4th edition of Goût de/ Good France took place on March 21. A global event organized on the initiative of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs with Chef Alain Ducasse, Goût de France is a unique culinary festival that takes place across five continents in over 150 countries. 2018 was the fourth consecutive year, seeing chefs mobilized internationally in celebration of French gastronomy during the month of “Francophonie.” Wednesday saw some 3000+ restaurants worldwide participate in the festival, offering a unique range of French menus to guests. And for the first time, a region of France was put under the spotlight: Nouvelle-Aquitaine. From November 2017, restaurants around the globe were invited to propose a menu that puts traditional French cooking in the spotlight: a strictly sequenced dinner with multiple courses, paired with the appropriate wines. An international committee of chefs, with the support of French embassies, selected the participants according to criteria defined by quality and coherence. The official list of restaurants was revealed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chef Alain Ducasse, and the following restaurants in Georgia made that prestigious list: Le Marais, Cafe Littera, The Kitchen, Metis, Tartine, Pur Pur, Café Muséum, La Bohème and Barbarestan in Tbilisi; as well as the 360 degree

Sky Bar and the Pelion Restaurant in Batumi. In fact, Barbarestan and its menu Barbare Jorjadze — George Sand, two feminists and knowledgeable gourmets of the 19th century, was cited this year by Paris among the eight most original Goût de France initiatives in the world. A proud moment for the Georgian restaurant industry no doubt. Naturally, as a die-hard life-long foodie, I found myself participating in this wonderful celebration of French cuisine on the behalf of GEORGIA TODAY. What can I say? It was absolutely incredible, taking me on a trip down memory lane of my university years in France. While I may never have had the chance to travel to Nouvelle Aquintaine, this year’s Goût de / Good France as the region of honor, the out-of-body gastronomical experience that I had at Cafe Littera surely made up for that. With this region being the crucible of excellence of French wines, rich in culinary and oenological expertise, it proved a more than fitting selection to showcase the art of French cuisine to the world. In fact, the region was also given the honor of having a menu crafted entirely out of its products for a dinner at the Residence of the French Ambassador on Thursday night. Alain Ducasse wanted this year’s event to be an homage to late great French chef, Paul Bocuse. And what an homage it was, with 2018’s edition offering the Tbiliselebi and people of Batumi an exquisite sampling of the delights of French cuisine. If only I’d had Hermione Granger’s time turner and been able to get myself a seat at the table of every single participating restaurant in Georgia…

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MARCH 23 - 26, 2018

Putting Tbilisi on the Art Map: Skyscapes & Window Project INTERVIEW BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI


otterdam-based Richard Hutten is one of the most influential and successful Dutch designers. He is well known for his conceptual and playful designs. A true innovator, he has established himself as one of the leading international figures in his field, continuously pushing the boundaries of design. Hutten is also a photographer, with work in the permanent collection of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague and the Miniature museum, next to works by Damian Hirst, Erwin Olaf and Yayoi Kusama among many others. Besides that, he also makes sculptures, designs buildings and interiors, and writes essays. His work is held in the permanent collections of over 40 museums around the world, making him one of the most collected living designers. The list includes MoMA New York, Victoria & Albert Museum London, Centraal Museum Utrecht, Vitra Museum Weil am Rhein, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Design Museum London, Design Museum Gent, Stedelijk Museum’s Hertogenbosch, Chicago Art Institute and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Currently, his “Skyscapes” series is being exhibited in Tbilisi at Window Project. The Window Project, run by Tamuna Gvaberidze, is a gallery in the Pantomime Theater window display, an art vitrine concept based on the idea of making art as public as possible, using window displays as an alternative gallery space. Windows Project is accessible 24/7, showcasing the works of international and local artists. GEORGIA TODAY sat down to pick the brains of both Richard and Tamuna.

HOW DID THE “SKYSCAPES” COLLABORATION WITH WINDOW PROJECT COME ABOUT? Richard: I’ve known Tamuna for years. She’s very familiar with my work and a big fan. In 2010, I did an installation in Tokyo titled ‘Layers Love Hotel.’ Later, this installation got bought by two museums, the MOTI museum in Breda, The Netherlands, and The Vancouver Art Gallery. Gvaberidze really liked this work and we used the same concept for the background of the exhibition in Window Project. Recently, she saw my exhibition with my Skyscape photography in Amsterdam, really liked it and asked to show it.

WHAT WAS THE ARTISTIC INSPIRATION BEHIND “SKYSCAPES” AND HOW DOES IT COMPARE WITH YOUR OTHER WORKS? Richard: People mainly know me for my design work, but for me, design is one of the arts. That is why it's being collected by museums. Fewer people are familiar with my work as a photographer, partly because it operates between the walls of galleries and museums and it is not as visible as my design works, which are everywhere. But for me, the work of a designer is the same as that of a photographer; the process is also the same. It all starts with an idea. And in these times of Instagram, it is very hard to create an original image with a strong visual impact. Here in Holland, we have a long and rich tradition in painting. Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh are known to everyone. I decided to work in the same genre as they did, landscape, with those famous Dutch clouds. But I decided to look at them from above, not below. The old masters always painted

the horizon at 1/3 of the picture, so 2/3 of the painting could be sky. Since my picture are taken above the clouds, I decided to put the horizon exactly in the middle. Nowadays people fly like crazy. This is destroying the planet. I want to capture the beauty before it is destroyed. The irony is that I make this art while flying. My other work is always as simple, direct and to the point as these Skyscapes. It all starts with a clear concept, and then it develops into the final result. It took me two years and thousands of tries to make these Skyscape series. The format is also extraordinary, since there are no cameras which can take these kinds of format pictures- very long. We had to invent a special way of manipulating the original pictures in the computer, to realize this almost painting-like result.

were always involved in political processes and movements which is very much needed.

WHO HAVE YOU COLLABORATED WITH? Tamuna: In 2016 we hosted: German artist Olaf Nicolai, did Neon Light sculpture “Fire Walk With Me”; Japanese industrial designer Nao Tamura; New York based artist Alina Bliumis made a project “Cultural tips for new Americans”. In 2017, Window Project hosted Barnaba Fornasetti, son of the iconic Piero Fornasetti. He did an installation of the earliest seascape themes that originate from Piero Fornasetti’s need to create and experiment at the end of the 1940s. And today, Window Project is showing Richard Hutten’s photo exhibition.


HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO EXPLORE THE GEORGIAN CONTEMPORARY ART AND DESIGN SCENE? Richard: Through Tamuna, I’ve seen quite a lot of interesting Georgian art. It is slowly but steadily entering the international art scene. I even have a painting in my home by a Georgian artist: Luca Tsetskladze.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR FURTHER INVOLVEMENT WITH GEORGIA AFTER THE “SKYSCAPES” EXHIBIT? Richard: I really love Georgia and Tbilisi. I have no concrete plans scheduled yet, but for sure something will happen. It is an exciting place.

WHAT CAREER/LIFE ACHIEVEMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF? Richard: I’m most proud of my children in the first place. But when it comes to my career, I’m most proud of the fact that some many people have found joy in my work by seeing or owning it. I’m also very proud that my work, varying from furniture, photography, installations and videos, ended up in so many museums worldwide. 50 museums own my work and I’ve exhibited in many more.

LOOKING BACK, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH YOU WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY? Richard: For me, creating is playing, and we you play, you experiment. Failure is part of that process. So, looking back, I would have done everything pretty much the same. So far, it’s been an exciting journey, and except maybe some details, I would not want to have done it differently.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE ASPIRING GEORGIAN ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS? Richard: Be yourself; be curious; don't make the mistakes I made: make your own.

TAMUNA, WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION BEHIND STARTING WINDOW PROJECT? Tamuna: In 2013, Irena Popiashvili and I decided to open an art gallery to promote and help young Georgian artists become visible on local and international art markets. After analyzing the local art market, we came up with the idea of creating an art space that was very public and visible; the concept of using the window display for presentations is very conducive: it attracts everyone’s attention without forcing them to enter a gallery. Initially, during our openings, people were very confused, searching for a door to enter the building; but before long, people understood the concept of Window Project as an alternative gal-

Tamuna Gvaberidze [above] and Richard Huttoen (right)

lery space, and nowadays it’s become quite popular. Our international audience finds our concept especially creative and clever. Until 2017, Window Project was a collaboration between Irena and I — now it’s just me.

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO HELP THE LOCAL ART SCENE? Tamuna: I think we’re witnessing a great period in the market development of the Georgian contemporary art scene. I would say this is the time for making the right moves. The development of the art market depends upon a number of collectors interested in art, the relationship with dealers –galleries, critics and museums. It’s very important for local institutions like banks, telecommunication companies and other big players to start investing in art. Countries that oversaw the successful development of their art market now reap great economic benefit from it. Georgia must acknowledge that art is among the main assets of this country, it is not limited to wine, food and nature. This year, Tbilisi will host the Tbilisi Art Fair, a very important venue for the continued growth of the local art scene. I’m very happy more commercial galleries are appearing on the Georgian market. However, art fairs and commercial galleries by themselves aren’t enough. We still need good critics, publications, education, and institutional support. Currently, we don’t have a contemporary art museum, we don't have many collectors; I understand that this is affected by the general development level of the country and its economic situation — it’s all interconnected. However, after some time it will grow and I believe that we have already started that process by collaborating and sharing common values with each other and talking about all players of Georgian art. Georgia is small but very rich in culture; its diversified nature finds its way into the Georgian character and creativity. Helping artists isn’t restricted to finances. Helping them means creating the necessity facilities for them that allow them to thrive. I’m against the idea that an artist must think commercially: such a mindset makes them lose the most important vibes and divert their focus from pure creativity. That’s

why we are here to help them be heard.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL CRITERIA THAT THE ARTISTS YOU EXHIBIT HAVE TO MEET? Tamuna: No. It’s very democratic. Mostly, Window Project is oriented around showcasing young local artists, but I also invite established international artists. One day you can see the works of Olaf Nicola, the German representative at Venice Bienale, 2015, or Barnaba Fornasetti, or Richard Hutten whose work is being exhibited now. Together with them, our space hosts the works of young students or not less well known names who are extremely talented and unique. They have their own touch and that’s a very important criteria.

WHAT IS THE GENERAL PUBLIC ATTITUDE TOWARDS CONTEMPORARY ART IN GEORGIA? Tamuna: Today, we have many galleries participating in international art fairs, local exhibitions and curated shows. This year we have Tbilisi Art Fair. I’m glad the Chair of Supervisory Board of “ Expo-Georgia” Kakha Gvelesiani had this idea, which is very important not only for the Georgian art market development but for the country and its economy too.

TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU CONSIDER THE LOCAL ART SCENE TO BE POLITICIZED, A SOCIAL MOVEMENT OF SORTS? Tamuna: Artists have a big role in political protests: art was and always will be a vehicle of expression. All forms of artistic expression have an unquestionable place in contemporary social activism. I mean street art for example Drawing emotions on walls has been a tradition going back thousands of years and even the word "graffiti" was first used for markings found in the ruins of Pompeii. Ancient wall writting, what we would today call street art, has been around for millennia, used to express dissatisfaction; catch public attention, declarations of love, poetry, etc. Artists

Ta m u n a : T h e Georgian art scene is quite well known internationally. Their success is a country’s success and it’s very important to invite them to participate in local exhibitions, as a kind of support for young artists. I wish to see more public art projects in our cities and on our streets as they provide perfect educational and awareness campaigns for problematic themes like the environment. There were several cases of foreign collectors passing in front of our window, who were immediately inspired to make these works part of their private collections. After Hutten, I plan to exhibit a Georgian artist who works outside the country, than again with local artists and so on. The idea is to mix international and local artists work as much as possible because I want to create some kind of community through Window Project and hopefully be internationally recognized. One day, it can host a super star and other day a student. I also plan to invite curators to do curatorial shows — basically, Window Project is open to everybody who wants to talk about art or design and place their ideas translated into different objects.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE ASPIRING GEORGIAN ARTISTS? Tamuna: The key is for an artist to know the way to their own heart and find balance between themselves and their work. Of course, there are many additional components like education, knowledge, experience, exhibitions, participation in residential programs, and that’s where our duty starts: a duty that involves all of those who consider themselves a part of this small but very promising Georgian art scene. I would rather give advice to the government than to the artists: please create spaces or museums, or give professionals the chance to create proper institutions. There are so many abandoned buildings standing empty – I hope one day that a government-based institution will officially start collecting Georgian contemporary artists works and that we can have a contemporary art museum.



Indian Film Completes Successful Shoot in Georgia


n Indian film crew experienced the best of Georgia this month. The Southern Indian language film crew from Telugu shot in the two cities of Tbilisi and Batumi in some of the most popular and scenic locations. The group concluded its successful shooting by celebrating in Tbilisi with a thank you reception on 16 March hosted by the Indian manager and organizer of the crew, Richard Wallace, Amala Locations Pvt. Ltd. GT Production and Voyager, Tbilisi’s well-known travel group and event planner, were the local line managers of the film. “We fell in love with the Georgians thanks to the help received from Voyager and everyone else involved. I’m going to bring more of Indian cinema

after this great experience,” Wallace said, adding that, “we’ve shot in many other parts of the world, but the Georgian locations have something truly unique and mesmerizing to offer”. “Ketevan Tandilashvili and Hammad Farid of GT Production and Voyager were our Georgian members who became the backbone of making this shoot happen. They are already a part of the vast Indian film family now,” Wallace said, thanking Georgia for the special welcome and warmth. The head of Voyager said, “we were very impressed with the hard work and dedication with which the Indian crew completed its shoot. We wish the film great success and hope to see more such crews in the years to come. The crew used the best of equipment and facilities, in a jointly coordinated effort between our company and Amala Loca-

tions. This was a good example to show how well Indians and Georgians can work together”. The film, its name yet to be revealed, is produced by an Indian company called Veeranjaneya Productions, and stars famous names of the southern cinema, Naveen Chandra and Shalini Vadnikatti. Raja Ravindra, another well-known name in Indian cinema, also shot sequences for the film. The shooting was led by Producer Sai Abhishek and Directed by Dr Anil Viswanath. “It is a well-known trend in India that wherever South Indian cinema goes, Bollywood and Indian tourists follow. So be prepared Georgia, to see more and more of us. We look forward to showcasing the best of Georgia to Indian film lovers and tourists together with our wonderful Georgian friends,” Wallace concluded.





MARCH 23 - 26, 2018


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 March 25 * Premiere TURANDOT Giacomo Puccini Starring: Makvala Aspanidze, George Oniani, Ramaz Chikviladze, Tinatin Mamulashvili, Andrea Zaupa, Carlos Natale, Blagoi Nacoski, Gia Asatiani, Aleksandre Dekanoidze Conductor- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director- Alfonso Signorini (Italy) Scenographer- Carla Tolomeo (Italy) Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 20-150 GEL March 27, 30 * Premiere TURANDOT Giacomo Puccini Starring: Tamar Lobjanidze, George Oniani, Irina Sherazadishvili, Ramaz Chikviladze, Andrea Zaupa, Carlos Natale, Blagoi Nacoski, Tamaz Saginadze, Vano Galuashvili Music director of the productionZaza Azmaiparashvili, ConductorGianluca Martinenghi (Italy), Director- Alfonso Signorini (Italy), Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-100 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge March 27 WELCOME TO GEORGIA A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national costumes and local cuisine. Musical Language: English, some Georgian (with English subtitles) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 60-80 GEL


AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL March 23-29 March 27 Event Cinema ROMEO AND JULIET Cast: Ekaterina Krysanova, Vladislav Lantratov Genre: Ballet Language: English Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 17 GEL PACIFIC RIM UPRISING Directed by Steven S. DeKnight Cast: Scott Eastwood, Tian Jing, Adria Arjona Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: English Start time: 22:00 Language: Russian Start time: 21:10 Ticket: 13-14 GEL TOMB RAIDER Directed by Roar Uthaug Cast: Alicia Vikander, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins Genre: Action, Adventure Language: Russian Start time: 14:30, 20:00 Ticket: 12-14 GEL EVA Directed by Benoît Jacquot Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Gaspard Ulliel, Julia Roy Genre: Drama, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 17 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL March 23-29 PACIFIC RIM UPRISING (Info Above) Start time: 14:45, 197:00, 19:45, 22:30 Ticket: 9-14 GEL

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT Directed by Johannes Roberts Cast: Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Emma Bellomy Genre: Horror Language: Russian Start time: 17:30, 22:00 Ticket: 11-14 GEL CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07 Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL March 23-29 THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (Info Above) Start time: 20:15, 22:30 Ticket: 16, 19 GEL PACIFIC RIM UPRISING (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 19:30 Language: Russian Start time: 11:45, 12:00, 14:00, 16:45, 22:15 Ticket: 10-19 GEL 12 STRONG Directed by Nicolai Fuglsi Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena Genre: Action, Drama, History Language: Russian Start time: 12:15 Ticket: 10-15 GEL TOMB RAIDER (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 22:15 Language: Russian Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 11-17 GEL BLACK PANTHER Directed by Ryan Coogler Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 13-16 GEL MUSEUM

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

Exhibition GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF 18TH-20TH CENTURIES Exhibition NUMISMATIC TREASURY Exhibition showcasing a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE

March 23- April 1 EXHIBITION "DISCOMMUNICATION" BY LUKA ARABIDZE The exposition showcases three large artworks and a video piece united by the subjective attitude of the 14-year-old artist towards city and space. GALLERY

DIMITRI SHEVARDNADZE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 215 73 00



MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge

LADO GUDIASHVILI EXHIBITION HALL Address: 11 L. Gudiashvili Str. Telephone: 293 23 05

PERMANENT EXHIBITION Discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Sovietera cultural and political repression in Georgia.

March 1-31 Exhibition KATIE MATABEL WHITE SQUARE Price: 3-5 GEL


SPACEHALL Address: 2 A. Tsereteli Ave.

March 6-27 Georgian National Museum and Goethe Institute present the exhibition BRILLIANT DILLETANTES: 80S GERMAN SUBCULTURE A modified version of the name of a concert held in 1981 in the Tempodrom Arena in Berlin, marking a short period of artistic expansion. Art circles nourished tendencies of experimentation and the use of electronics for disparate purposes. March 21- April 10 EXHIBITION "GRAY ZONE" BY GIORGI UGULAVA The exhibition reflects the "zone" of corruption in modern culture and is connected to the sphere of influence.


March 24 COSMOLOGIC Line Up: Red Axes JD J (Zeinkali, Vodkast Recrods) Zurkin Start time: 23:00 DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE Address: 125 Aghmashenebeli ave. Telephone: 2 96 12 43 March 24 THE CONCERT OF SYMPHONIC MUSIC Conductor: Davit Mukeriua Soloist: Davit Khrikuli Program: Grieg, Brahms Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 March 26 DAISI Z. Paliashvili "Daisi" Opera in Three Acts Maro- M. Gatikashvili, Nano- Sh. Kurtanidze, Malkhaz- A. Tibelashvili, Kiazo- G. Gugunava, Tsangala- T. Gogritchiani, Titto- Z. Shukakidze, Choir and Orchestra of the Opera Studio Staging Conductor- Revaz Takidze Staging Director- Lela Gvarishvili Staging Artist- Neiko Neidze Choirmaster- Mikheil Edisherashvili Piano- I. Aivazova, N. Zakaidze, N. Leshkasheli Manager of the Opera Studio- Irina Ramishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-10 GEL CONCERT HALL MOZAIKA Address: 61 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 247 92 20 March 23 Light Year TRILOGY LIVE 3 albums - "The Road to the Sky", "Generation XXI" and "Steps to Life" will be combined into one live show. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 25 GEL




Legendary Italian Opera Turandot to Premiere at the Tbilisi Opera Theater BY LIKA CHIGLADZE


oon, Italian opera enthusiasts will be able to enjoy a well-known opera by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini at the Tbilisi Opera Theater. On March 25 at 7 pm, on the stage of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater, Turandot will premier; the last opera by the renowned Italian composer. Alfonso Signorini, among the most popular television personalities in Italian media, is a writer, editor and a famous TV host. In December 2017, he made his debut in opera as a director of Turandot at the Torre del Lago Puccini Festival. The same year, the recording of the opera was broadcast on Italian television Canale 5 and released as a DVD. “It was a dream locked in a box,” Signorini said before the premiere. “It will be not Signorini’s, but Puccini’s Turandot. It will not be an avantgarde opera – I am not attracted to avant-garde. I have no need to become a big star. The opera will be presented in a traditional way, with fairy tale and Disney-like decorations, full of light and shadows, just as in life.” The 2017 Puccini Festival of Torre del Lago (Italy) was opened with this very opera. The performance

stands out for its magnificent stage set and costume design, transporting the audience into a fairytale by Carlo Gozzi, in the Chinese Imperial Palace, where the love story of Princess Turandot and Prince Calaf evolves. Giacomo Puccini, an Italian opera composer also known as “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi," worked on the opera until the end of his life in 1924, yet, unfortunately, he did not manage to finish it and it was completed by his friend Franco Alfano. Turandot had its world-premiere on April 25, 1926, at La Scala, Milan. Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini stopped the opera abruptly by announcing that this was the end of the performance, since while working on this part, the great maestro passed away. Turandot has since toured the world and has been staged at various great theaers. Other members of the team involved in the famous opera that will be premiered in Tbilisi include scenographer Carla Tolomeo, who has had more than 90 personal exhibitions in Vienna, Geneva, Zurich, New York, London, and Paris and in significant art centers in Italy such as Palazzo Reale in Milan (1993) and Casa del Mantegna in Mantua (1995). “The opera has been staged by Alfonso Signorini, the king of Italian media. He has gathered an amazing team whose performance was viewed by 15 million people,” said Badri Maisuradze,

Artistic Director and Head of the Tbilisi State Opera Theater. “It has mentioned everywhere that Turandot was co-produced by the Tore Del Lago Puccini Festival and Tbilisi Zakaria Paliashvili Opera and Ballet Theater. The DVD with the performance recording was attached to 7,000.000 magazines and all them were sold. It is extremely important that Georgia takes part in the staging of this opera and, in summer, the Tbilisi Opera will participate in Puccini’s Festival in Italy and present this opera to an international audience. Apart from Turandot, our theater will perform three more operas in Italy. It has been quite a long time since Turandot was staged in Tbilisi, around 90 years, and the Tbilisi Opera has not been to Italy since 1989. After Torre Del Lago, we will head to the Tagliacozzo Festival where our orchestra and choir will participate. For the premiere of Turandot, we have invited three opera singers from Italy who will perform the complicated part of Ping, Pang and Pong. They will sing in three performances and then Georgians will substitute them. Our whole team committed themselves and worked hard on this opera. Georgian artists from abroad are also invited to perform in Turandot. Premieres of Turandot will be conducted by the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater Conductor, Zaza Azmaiparashvili, and President and Conductor of the Puccini Festival, Alberto Veronesi.”

The opera is the co-production of the Torre del Lago Puccini Festival and Tbilisi Opera Theater. Alfonso Signorini is the director of Turandot, Carla Tolomeo - scenographer, Fausto Puglisi and Leila Fteita - costume designers. Turandot will be premiered at the Tbilisi Opera Theaer on Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi, on the following dates: March 27, 30; April 1, 14, 15. The opera will be performed both by Tbilisi Opera soloists and invited Georgian and foreign artists and conductors.

A Tiny but Non-Zero Intersection BLOG BY TONY HAMNER


remember reading his remarkable first popular book in my late teens, the first bestseller which also smashed the rule of “each equation will halve your readership population.” I love my sci-fi, especially the “hard” kind which has lots of science in it, but also the nonfiction science writing which describes our real world. Both can be mind-expanding drugs for me, especially when well written. My wife and I overlapped in our great appreciation of the film made of his much longer-thanexpected life, which won its star the Oscar for Best Actor a few years ago. We don’t always like the same movies or TV, indeed our natural tastes can diverge quite widely, but I do seek out items which might appeal to both of us. This was definitely one of those films. Further reading necessarily de-mythologized the man for me as I came to realize that, like all of us, he had his failings and flaws. Though his illness was huge, it didn’t cut him down in his prime. Indeed, it allowed the part of him not affected (his mind) to soar for decades and break all records for surviving the condition. It must be obvious of whom I am writing by now, no? Especially given that he has just died at age 76. A respectable span for anyone, a miracle for one so cruelly smitten: he refused to let it put him down. The world profited thereby. Checking out his website more than a decade ago, I noticed that a number of his speeches, transcribed from a rather hard-to-understand artificial voice which had replaced his own lost one many years ago, were full of mistakes. Not, I hasten to point out, mathematical or scientific ones, for I am not

to any tiny degree capable of seeing or correcting these. No, it was the simple language, the English, which was suffering in these online text versions. Being that I have been a proof-reader for a long time, I offered to undertake this job with the online speeches. To my delight, I was given permission to proceed; did so, and sent in my corrections. This was using a Hotmail email account which I do not have anymore. Even my edited versions might well be lost as I have been through a number of computers since then, including a lost hard drive or two. So, I may not be able to prove what I’m claiming now. The website itself allows for errors in the language of the transcribed speeches found on it, reflecting the nature of the computer speech in which they were given. Fair enough- to be honest, I can’t even remember which speeches I worked on. If I were to draw a Venn diagram, though, showing any relationship between myself and the late, celebrated Stephen Hawking, I would have two circles overlapping by a small amount. Not just touching, but overlapping. The common area would be the speeches I edited, which were received. I don’t even know if someone else near him wrote to answer my original query on his behalf. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about me; it’s about this great man and thinker, who did have a huge impact on my mind as I sought answers for some of my astronomical and cosmological questions in the 1980s. That’s a fact, one for which I will always be grateful. http://www.hawking.org.uk/ Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1800 members, at www.facebook. com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti



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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1033  

March 23 - 26, 2018

Issue #1033  

March 23 - 26, 2018