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facebook.com/ georgiatoday

Issue no: 881

• SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016



In this week’s issue... Georgian PM Holds High Level Meetings at UN NEWS PAGE 2

Russia Plans to Resurrect KGB



TBC Bank Deputy CEO on Consolidation Benefits and Competition

ON CHURCH WARS Georgian Orthodox protesters plan to bar Pope Francis from entering Georgia's ancient Svetitskhoveli Cathedral PAGE



Georgia’s Ruling Party Offers Memorandum to Ensure Peaceful Elections BY THEA MORRISON

Donald Johanson on Human Evolution in Tbilisi & his Discoveries SOCIETY PAGE 10

Elena Vaenga Fulfils 15-Year Dream by Singing in Tbilisi


everal of Georgia’s political parties have agreed to sign a memorandum initiated by the ruling party Georgian Dream (GD) last week that would ensure peaceful, democratic and transparent parliamentary elections on October 8. According to Georgian Dream’s statement on the matter, the ruling coalition envisages a political agreement between all of the country’s political parties to refrain from provoking each other during the campaign season and on the day of the election. Each party would agree to discourage their supporters from attending a meeting or rally by a rival party and order their followers to refrain from disrupting events held by a political opponent. “This agreement will cover the whole election cycle until the final results are published," said the GD Executive Secretary, Irakli Kobakhidze. According to reports, the Georgian Dream, Republicans, Industrialists, Alliance of Patriots, Nino-Burjanadze’s pro-Russian Democratic Georgia and former Defense Minister Irakli Alasania’s Free Democrats will sign the memorandum. Though he has vowed to sign the initiative, Alasania believes the document is weak and vague as it fails to define the role of each specific party’s leadership. Georgia’s main opposition party, former Pres-


Georgia’s State Ballet to Open 165th Season with Giselle CULTURE PAGE 15

ident Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM), the National Forum, Labor Party and State for the People coalition have all refused to sign the memorandum. The UNM said in a statement that the memorandum is “a cynical and poorly planned PR stunt” by GD, and that the ruling team was a major source and threat for provocations. “We are not going to sign the memorandum, but we promise that the UNM will not disrupt the election campaign of any party,” Giorgi

Tughushi, a member of the UNM stated. Mamuka Katsitadze, a member of the New Rights party that is now aligned with operasinger-turned-opposition-leader Paata Burchuladze’s State for the People coalition, labelled the memorandum “a farce”, saying his party had no intention to officially heed GD’s call. Several Non-Governmental Organizations have backed GD’s memorandum, but stressed that its terms must be properly defined and fulfilled by all the signatories.




SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Belarus Security Secretary Georgian Visits Azerbaijan

PM Holds High Level Meetings at UN



n September 20, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received a delegation headed by the State Secretary of Security Council of Belarus, Stanislav Zas. The head of state recalled with satisfaction his recent meeting with the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, in Bishkek. Stressing that Azerbaijan and Belarus are in a very clos and friendly relations, President Aliyev highlighted that the two countries cooperate in all areas, treat each other with trust and respect, and always support each other.

Zas’ visit to Azerbaijan saw a discussion with the President on the development of bilateral relations and cooperation, and operational issues on the agenda of future relations in the political, economic, military-technical and other spheres. “I studied at the Baku military school in 1981-1985 and have witnessed huge and very exciting developments in Baku since then,” Zas said, emphasizing his respect of Aliyev’s role in said developments. Aliyev further noted that the relations between the leaders of the two countries gave impetus to the expansion of cooperation between all agencies, including dealing with the economic bloc, foreign policy, and security. The President also pointed to the need for correct threat assessment in the current difficult times and a consolidation of forces against such threats.



eorgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has held several bilateral meetings, including with Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, before the start of the 71st session of the UN’s General Assembly in New York. Steinmeier said following the meeting that Georgia is a leader among the EU’s Eastern Partnership Countries following its successful implementation of the Visa Liberalization Action Plan. Kvirikashvili and Steinmeier also discussed new prospects for bilateral cooperation between the two countries as well as Georgia’s goal of full European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and the Georgian government’s Four Point Plan – a new statesponsored initiative that covers economic development, infrastructure, education and governance reforms. Georgia’s delegation formally requested that Germany send poll monitors for the upcoming October 8 parliamentary elections. To further drive home Georgia’s commitment to hold free elections, Kvirikashvili assured Steinmeier that the elections would be transparent and democratic, and fully comply with both EU and international standards. Following his meeting with Steinmeier, the PM

met Dana Hyde, the executive director of US government foreign aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The two sides discussed the importance of MCC’s project to develop Georgia’s human capital to halt the country’s crippling loss of its young professionals. At a joint meeting with Moldova’s Prime Minister Pavel Filip, Kvirikashvali announced that he would travel to Moldova on an official visit later this year. Filip and Kvirikashvili both expressed their readiness to deepen bilateral relations further and agreed to hold the inaugural meeting of their joint Inter-Governmental Economic Commission early next year. The Moldovan delegations expressed their keen interest in gaining insight and expert advice from Georgia regarding the successful implementation of reforms. Prior to holding official meetings, Georgia’s PM attended the Atlantic Council's Global Citizen Awards at the American Museum of Natural History. US Secretary of State John Kerry, World Economic Forum founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, and around 500 guests from across the globe also attended the gala event. The Georgian PM later attended the opening of UN General Assembly. The General Assembly will close on September 26.

Chicago Tribune Names Tbilisi Top Travel Destination



ajor US-daily, the Chicago Tribune, named Georgia's capital city Tbilisi one of the world’s top travel destinations in September. “Georgia’s capital is a must-see destination for

architecture buffs. The country straddles both Europe and Asia. Its architectural influences are a mix of Persian, Soviet and Art Nouveau,” the article is quoted as saying. The paper urges readers to stay at Tbilisi’s Rooms Hotel, an upscale design hotel located in one of the city’s historical neighborhoods. Tbilisi ranked seventh on the paper’s list, which also included New York, Paris, Mexico City and Hong Kong,




Radical Nationalist Groups, Georgian Orthodox Priests Protest Papal Visit BY NICHOLAS WALLER


group of Georgian Orthodox ultranationalists and priests held a rally Wednesday afternoon outside the Vatican Embassy in Tbilisi to protest the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. The group claimed the papal visit is an affront to the purity of the Georgian Orthodox religion and an insult to the Georgian people, as the Holy See is anathema to the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity. One of the organizers of the rally, Avtandil Ungiadze, claimed the protesters were there to “preserve the reputation of the true church”, and vowed to bar Pope Francis from entering the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in nearby Mtskheta. The cathedral, whose name translates in English as “the Cathedral of the Living Pillar,” is considered the Georgian Orthodox Church’s most venerated place of worship. Orthodox believers claim the church houses Christ’s Mantle – the tunic reportedly worn by Christ at the time of his crucifixion. The organizers of the rally claim that the Pope’s visit to the cathedral and Mtskheta – the site of Georgia’s 4th century conversion to Christianity – amounts to “a spiritual aggression by the Vatican and an attempt by the Catholic Church to colonize Georgia.”

Pope Francis plans to attend a mass at the cathedral and meet with the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, during his three-day visit to the small South Caucasus nation that begins September 30. The protestors believe a papal visit to the birthplace of Georgian Orthodoxy amounts to an attempt by the Vatican to proselytize to Georgia’s estimated 3 million Eastern Orthodox believers. Holding signs reading, "Pope Archheretic. You are not welcome in Georgia" and "Stay far away from Georgia, Antichrist" Ungiadze and other protestors refused to comment whether the rally had been sanctioned by the Georgian Patriarchate. Local news outlet Netgazeti later reported that the Patriarchate has denied any involvement with the protestors, but refused to reprimand the priests who attended the rally. The rally was the latest in a series of provocative acts that brought together ultranationalists and members of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In 2013, the two took part in a violent crackdown on a Gay Pride rally in Tbilisi that left dozens severely injured. In May, Georgian nationalists, led by the eccentric Levan Vasadze – whom news portal Coda Story described as “a dagger-sporting homophobic knight dressed in Georgian national attire” – members of the Georgian church and far-right Christian extremists from Russia and the US gathered in Tbilisi for the World Congress of Families.

The gathering echoed calls by Russia’s powerful Patriarch Kirill, who has claimed women’s and LBGT rights are “antithetical to Orthodox beliefs and traditional family values.” Georgia’s Orthodox Church has fostered close ties with the Moscow Patriarchate over the last decade. Earlier this year, it joined Russia and Serbia in boycotting a Holy Synod – the first in more than 1,000 years – called by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as the three churches objected to several modest modernization initiatives that were to be discussed by the various churches

that make up Eastern Orthodoxy. The Western and Eastern branches of Christianity formally split into two competing branches in 1054 over political and theological differences. Roman Catholicism (and later Protestantism) placed a greater emphasis on the dual divine and human nature of Christ, while Orthodoxy mainly focused on Christ’s mystic divinity. Relations between the two branches have been fraught over the centuries, though a rapprochement has been ongoing since Constantinople Patriarch Bartolomew and former Pope John Paul

II first met in the early 2000s. Despite claims by the protestors outside the Vatican Embassy that Georgia is a strictly Orthodox nation, recent statistics say that Orthodox Christians make up 86 percent of Georgia’s population, while Roman Catholics - who have been in Georgia since the 14th century - make up 1 percent. The country’s second largest religious group, Muslims, account for roughly 13 percent of the overall population. Georgia’s 2,500-year-old Jewish population has dwindled in the last 20 years due to high levels of emigration to Israel.




SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

U.S. Lawmakers Urge Azerbaijan to Observe Human Rights Obligations BY EUGEN ILADI


resident Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan is poised to execute a power grab that would extend his presidential term from 5 to 7 years, give him the authority to dissolve parliament and handpick a vice president. These measures are designed to ensure dynastic succession and keep the Aliyev family in control indefinitely. These were just some of the disturbing revelations at a September 15 hearing conducted by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission at the US Capitol. The bipartisan commission expressed a sense of urgency about the need to take action because of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country. Aliyev's government has cracked down on dissent and rounded up journalists, political opponents, religious activists, members of civil society and prominent business leaders. Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and several NGOs were expelled from the country, and RFE/RL reporter Khadija Ismayilova was imprisoned on questionable charges for a year and a half before being released in May following an international outcry. According to the commission, “Restrictive laws in Azerbaijan effectively prohibit the operation of non-governmental organizations and independent media. The Aliyev government is mired in allegations of corruption, and is facing a weakening economy and a falling currency. Past elections have suffered from irregularities with vote counting, and

Photo: Less than six weeks ahead of a constitutional referendum, the Azerbaijani authorities unleashed a new wave of repression to silence critical voices. Source: nhc.no

failure to record ballots, combined with limitations on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association.” Speaking via video link, Ismayilova urged that any international financial assistance to Azerbaijan "should come with conditions on improving human rights and the democratization of the political process.” Another witness was Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich, who served as the top U.S. envoy in Azerbaijan and is now the Co-Director of the Center for Energy Science and Policy at the Schar School

of Policy and Government at George Mason University. He lamented the state of affairs in Azerbaijan. “Quiet diplomacy has not worked,” he said. The Ambassador recommended that the US recall its ambassador and impose travel bans and a freeze on assets against key figures in the Azeri regime. Several acts of Congress, such as the Azerbaijan Democracy Act of 2015 and The Magnitsky Act of 2012, provide the legislative framework for imposing such sanctions on high-ranking Azeri officials linked to human rights violations and corrupt practices. The US administra-

tion can also impose restrictions using existing regulations. The hearing’s third witness was Turkel Karimli, son of opposition leader Ali Karimli who is Chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Board Member of the National Council of Democratic Forces and a former political prisoner. Karimli said the Azeri regime is facing civil unrest because of the harsh treatment of its citizens. He presented a detailed account of the systematic and brutal clampdown by the government on any opposition or dissent. Currently, 11 members of his party, including 5 sen-

ior officials, are in jail. Party offices have been closed or bombed. Azeri authorities are also attempting to eradicate independent media. Azadlig, the only independent newspaper left in the country, is facing forced bankruptcy after the government blocked its access to financing. There are no independent TV channels left. Ismayilova said that there are at least 138 political prisoners in the country. Conditions in overcrowded prisons are harsh. Torture is common. There is no independent monitoring and reporting mechanism to assess detention conditions. This situation applies to all prisoners targeted by the regime, including some prominent businessmen who crossed President Alyiev and his top aides. The case of Jahangir Hajiyev, one of Azerbaijan’s former top bankers and a one-time contender for the much-coveted Azerbaijan Central Bank Governorship, is a perfect example. Hajiyev, who is also an International Council Member for the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, has been jailed since December 2015. He is still awaiting trial and his attorney reported that he has been denied adequate medical attention despite his deteriorating health. His case shows that the Azeri regime’s grab for power extends beyond quashing political opposition and free speech, to economic and financial interests. The bank Hajiyev used to run, International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA), was the largest in the country. He was replaced at Continued on page 5

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Continued from page 4

the helm by other bankers loyal to - and even related to - the Aliyevs. Clearly, the fight to control the country’s financial assets smacks of corruption. Ismayilova’s own release from prison and commuted sentence came as a result of significant international pressure and the fact that her case was taken up by Amal Clooney, a highly recognized Lebanese-British human rights lawyer. Similar pressure would have to be applied to impact cases like Hajiyev's and those of opposition activists. Ismayilova urged the West to start “naming and shaming” the Azeri government as a way to force an end to its human rights abuses and corruption. She also called on Western diplomats to react promptly when politically motivated arrests occur, even if the detained are not prominent individuals. Hajiyev and other business executives and community leaders being held indefinitely would fit into that category. Karimli concluded that Azerbaijan is “at a crossroads.” He said that President Aliyev shows no intention of backing down. “Public diplomacy and pressure has to be applied on the government, asking for meaningful reforms to ensure transition to democracy,” he added. Some US lawmakers have begun to act. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced on September 16 that he and Congressmen Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) had sent a letter to President Aliyev expressing their deep concern about Azerbaijan’s September 26 constitutional grab for power. They urged him to reconsider. The letter specifically addressed political prisoners who, it said, were "detained on trumped-up charges and some have faced mistreatment and torture at the hands of authorities.” The hearing host, Human Rights Commission Co-Chair James P. McGovern (D-MA) said he will present the new findings to his colleagues on the US House Committee of Foreign Affairs. More “tough love diplomacy” against Azerbaijan will almost certainly follow soon.


All in a Headline: The ‘Pearls’ of the Local Press BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


f we carve some additional leisure time into our tight schedule to delve into the local press, I guarantee that we for that moment we will forget any other form of entertainment. The political literary ‘pearls’ scattered across the sizzling hot pages of Georgian newspapers will take our breath away, especially the headlines and highlighted phrases that hit the interested eye with their overwhelming power of satire and humor. The dominant tool for making a reader laugh is the mind-twisting ambiguities profusely used by the authors to impress us to the marrow of our bones with the ‘truth,’ which cannot sound like anything but egregiously biased and deliberately exaggerated evaluations of past, current and presumable present content of our political life. Below are a few examples of those pearls – as untouched and fresh as I found them at the pleasurable moment of reading the lovely masterpieces of our ladies and gentlemen of absolutely outlandish and peculiar Georgian press, over-spiced with journalistic salt and pepper: • Makes no difference at all who comes to power – we shall remain sex workers in any case – You see how difficult it is to make a difference? • Ivanishvili believes that he is infallible – Maybe he is and we the people have no clue! • Raid of Delirium in Georgia – As

chronic as is it seems to be in this land... • A revolution awaits Georgia – What a natural condition for our electorate and its boisterous nature! • Govt wants to instigate provocations – Some conclusions sound utterly mindboggling, don’t they? • Brexit, visa liberalization and Georgian rugby – What a perfect insalata! • War of the exit polls – Who needs those polls on the doorstep of the polling station? • Govt expects riots – Don’t they always? • Elections and sacks of dough – Everybody speaks of them but nobody knows where they are

• No chance for coalition escapers to overcome the 5% electoral barrier – Isn’t the entire electoral hullabaloo one big myth? • Certain political forces and nongovernmental bodies have evil intentions and seem to be possessed by the devil – Why ‘certain’ in the first place and what does Satan have to do with the elections? • The country is ruled by the mafia – How do they know this? What a leakage of information! • Civil servants have to fulfill their obligations with integrity and ethics this year because political activity is on the rise – How about the times when polit-

ical activity is making a nose dive? • Freedom, fast development, wellbeing – Finally! • Who has played a dirty trick on whom? – You will never guess it in Georgia. • Myths about Bidzina blown to smithereens – So what? • My Georgia is here and the Georgia of Rustavi TV is in Odessa – I love those fun metaphors. • We will win and give life back to the Georgian highlands – OMG, this is too loud, hurting even my waning ears. • People no longer owe anything to Ivanishvili, just vice versa – some calculations sound so weird! Will anybody ever know who owes what to whom in this country? • Politicians are dropping their masks and showing their true faces: some look like penguins and some are wolves ... a genuine animal farm! – nothing more fun for kids than politics ‘à la Georgian.’ • How should a parliamentarian behave in bed to maintain dignity? – This is the subject for a very educated guess. • May you rest in peace, dear Paata, in your political aftermath – Yes, some of us are like meteors in politics, appearing as a streak of light and disappearing just as quickly, but trying is also a human right. • The way the Ministry of Education has bluffed students and teachers – Haven’t they been doing this all along? So why are the press eyebrows raised so high? • Bad things will happen, bad things – This is not exactly news. And this is the result of only a tenminute reading. Imagine more!




SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

American Military Base Deployment: Opportunities and Challenges for Georgia BY DR. VAKHTANG MAISAIA


n the eve of elections, foreign and defense policy topics have already become dominant and decisive issues for achieving the concrete political objective of getting seats in parliament. And it’s a battle of two armies – between the sympathizers of the “Good Ole Soviet Union” and the proponents of the shiny new (not exactly near) future with NATO and Europe in general. This trend has been reinforced with the dynamics of “New Cold War” provisions being fought between the West (EU and NATO) and Russia. So it didn’t come as a great surprise that when Parliament Speaker David Usupashvili and his Republican party voiced their view on the possible deployment of American military bases on Georgian terrain, in fact, it had very sound resonance. The statement was obviously oriented for local consumption and could be treated as new PR schtick for attracting more of the Georgian electorate, namely those who support pro-Western foreign policy. It also turned out to be a neat Falcon Punch for the Free Democrats, as this kind of thing has been exclusively their

agenda domain in recent years. It was definitely more than just a sample message to probe public opinion and play the US vs Russia card. Recently, the “red line” of confrontation between the two has rested on two important geostrategic regions – the Baltics and the Caucasus. The importance of these regions is further underlined by both the USA and Russia, as they were implicitly mentioned in the National Security strategies of both super-powers. For example, the latest National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation, adopted on December 31, 2015 by the President of Russia, mentions the geostrategic importance not only of the Caucasus region but specifically Georgia. In Paragraph 89 of the Strategy Chapter named ‘Strategic Stability and Equal Strategic Partnership,’ the Kremlin incumbent authority declares the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as the most vital zones of strategic influence, while in Paragraph 106 it perceives as a military threat any kind of activity or rapprochement of any type of military infrastructure of NATO toward Russia’s state borders, including those in Georgia. The document has made it blatantly obvious that the Russian government considers the Caucasus region and Georgia in particular as a strategic chokepoint from national security perspectives.

PHOTO: In order to protect Allies (and Georgia is thought to be considered as such), theoretically and conceptually the “White House” has accepted the right to use military forces whenever it considers it applicable. Source: sputniknews.com

As for the US policy, the Obama Administration in its own strategic document, the National Security Strategy, adopted in February 2015, indicates the importance of strategic relations with Caucasus countries that need to be enhanced to strengthen the US alliance with Europe, including tackling global security challenges and encouraging the resolution of regional conflicts – see the respective chapter of the document, page 25. Moreover, the Strategy identifies Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine as strategic partners, giving them the status of “pivotal states” (as a side note, one of the leading American experts in security studies and geopolitics, Ariel Cohen, recently defined Georgia as the most strategically important ally). Stemming from the declarations in

the Concept in Chapter: ‘Strengthen Our National Defense,’ it mentioned how the USA could use its military forces and how: “We will be principled and selective in the use of force. The use of force should not be our first choice, but it will sometimes be the necessary choice. The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our enduring interests demand it: when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; and when the security of our allies is in danger. In these circumstances, we prefer to act with allies and partners.” Based on that document and considering the fact that in order to protect Allies (and Georgia is thought to be considered as such) theoretically and conceptually the “White House” has accepted the right

to use military forces whenever it considers it applicable and provided a legislative basis for that stance, David Usupashvili’s statement from that perspective is not seen as illogical and irrelevant and is not without substance as many might have thought before. Moreover, Usupashvili, as one of the best experienced and most qualified lawyers, would not have voiced such a statement without having sufficient evidence to back it up. Therefore, one can assume Georgia is being transformed into a possible model of “divided Germany” as during the Cold War, with the already deployed military forces of Russia in occupied parts of Georgia and possible deployment of American military forces in what is still a sovereign and democratic part of Georgia.




Russia Plans to Resurrect KGB BY NICHOLAS WALLER


ussian state-media outlet Kommersant reported late Monday that the Kremlin is planning to resurrect a new security apparatus that would resemble the Soviet Union’s infamous KGB as part of a massive restructuring of Moscow’s intelligence agencies. According to Kommersant’s report, Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to create an all-powerful, fully independent security agency under its Stalinistera name, the Ministry of State Security (MGB). Kommersant reported that the new agency would be created ahead of Russia’s next presidential elections in March 2018. The Kremlin has not yet commented on the report, and Putin’s usually outspoken spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refused to issue a statement on behalf of the administration. The original MGB was created at the behest of Josef Stalin's Georgian-born

PHOTO: Soviet MVD troops look out at the KGB's (now FSB) headquarters on Lubyanka Square in Moscow, December 1989

The country has made a conscious decision to pursue the worstcase scenario. It is entirely clear that Russia has gone from authoritarian to totalitarian

head of the feared NKVD, Lavrenty Beria, one of the masterminds behind the Great Terror of the 1930s when millions of Soviet citizens were murdered of imprisoned in labor camps for crimes against the state. The MGB was responsible for the forced mass deportation of Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Ingushetians and Georgia’s Meskhetian Turks to Central Asia during World War Following Stalin’s death, the ministry was reorganized as the Committee for State Security - KGB. The newly restructured agency would effectively reconstitute the KGB, where Putin served as a lieutenant colonel from 1975 to 1990.

As the Soviet Union began to implode in late 1991, the KGB was broken up into separate agencies under the guise of the FSB, which also includes the Federal Protection Service (FSO) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) The new incarnation of the MGB will assume control over all intelligence activities – including domestic, foreign and counter-intelligence operations – as well as have the power to provide investigative material for cases opened by law enforcement officials and federal prosecutors. Echoing the sweeping powers of the KGB, the new ministry will be able to use its powers to prosecute dissidents, opposition party activists, human rights

advocates, journalists, civic activists and religious officials. Social media speculation has centered on the idea that Putin fears mass protests during the presidential elections in two years and has opted to create a powerful KGB-style agency to hedge his bets. Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB colonel-turned-anti-Putin-politician, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that he believed the Kommersant report indicates, "The country has made a conscious decision to pursue the worst-case scenario. It is entirely clear that Russia has gone from authoritarian to totalitarian. At the height of its power in the 1950s-1980s, the KGB’s vast apparatus of spies, informants (reportedly including

former Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexey II, Russia’s current Grand Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin and Georgian Patriarch Ilia II), prosecutors and bureaucrats had an iron grip on Soviet society; arresting human rights activists and persecuting those who wanted to leave the country, including the Soviet Union's Jews. Before Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost initiatives, the KGB had become more powerful than the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. Putin appears to be safeguarding his power base by not incorporating his new 400,000-strong praetorian guard – officially known as the National Guard – into the MGB’s security structure. The National Guard was created in April to oversee Russia’s Interior Ministry troops, including OMON riot police and the SOBR special-forces units. The Federal Migration Service and Federal Drug Control Service were also placed under the National Guard’s authority. By creating a powerful security force that was personally loyal to Putin, he is guaranteeing that the new MGB will not be able to become its power base in the way the KGB was able to under Putin’s mentor Yury Andropov and Vladimir Kryuchkov – the latter of which led the August 1991 hardline coup that attempted to overthrow Soviet President Gorbachev. Speaking to RFE/RL, Mark Galeotti, a Russian security services expert and senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, said, "The suggestion is that a presidential security service will remain outside it. But basically speaking, this new ministry would reconstitute the KGB in all its aspects." In the quarter of a century since the collapse of the Soviet Union – an event Putin has described as “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century” – it appears he is now to resurrect its most sinister institution for today’s Russia.




SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

TBC Bank Deputy CEO on Consolidation Benefits and Competition BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


BC Group and French Société Générale recently signed an agreement that allowed TBC Bank to acquire a 93.64 percent stake in JSC Bank Republic for GEL 315 million. This deal will make TBC the largest Georgian bank in terms of both loans and deposits. At the same time, Société Générale is becoming one of TBC Bank’s major shareholders, with 5.4 percent shares. The parties also agreed that TBC Bank will become Société Générale’s main partner in Georgia. TBC Bank has already entered into preliminary negotiations to acquire the remaining 6.36 percent of Société Générale, currently owned by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). TBC Bank is strengthening its position in all operational segments and, most importantly, in the strategic direction of retail banking. GEORGIA TODAY spoke exclusively with George Tkhelidze, TBC Bank Deputy CEO, about the recent transaction and TBC Bank’s ambitious plans for development.

THIS ACQUISITION IS A GIGANTIC STRATEGIC STEP IN THE GEORGIAN BANKING SECTOR. TELL US WHAT LED TO THIS UNPRECEDENTED DECISION According to TBC Bank’s strategy, our principal goal was to transform and, at the same time, increase TBC Bank’s potential market reach. We wanted to strengthen our portfolio and client base, as well as our team. The negotiations with Société Générale started at the beginning of 2015, and were the most productive in August and September of 2106, when they successfully ended and we acquired a controlling stake of Société Générale.

WERE THERE ANY PROBLEMS DURING THE NEGOTIATION PROCESS? No, there were no problems in the actual negotiation process but, as you probably know, when a financial group as big as Société Générale makes a decision to sell its asset, it naturally discusses as many options as possible, making an assessment of all existing offers and, of course, this takes time. As we know, TBC bank was not the only interested player. Nevertheless, we tried to make our offer most attractive for the Société Générale Group. Currently, together with the Bank Republic team, our team is working almost 24/7 in order to make the completion process as smooth and comfortable as possible for Bank Republic employees. We believe it is a unique chance for these high profile professionals to continue their careers at the number one financial institution in the country. At the same time, we’re doing our best to make sure that the clients of both banks will be primary beneficiaries from this transaction and able to take advantage of all the benefits a united bank can offer its customers.

IS THERE A RISK OF MONOPOLY IN THE BANK SECTOR AND HOW WILL THE MERGER AFFECT SMALLER BANKS IN GEORGIA? This is a very important question that must be answered. To put it simply, the answer is no - and there are two main reasons why. First, Bank Republic had a strong emphasis on the retail segment, where it has been facing strong competition with both larger and smaller banks operating in Georgia. That said, the competition landscape is not changing. Another factor is also related to the retail segment, where TBC Bank overtook the leader’s position from Bank of Georgia. This means the two traditional competitors are entering a new phase of intense competition, which will naturally mean that the current number two will try its best to be ever more active

and to improve its position. The second part of the answer is in the corporative segment: historically, the two largest banks were the key players and the competition was still fierce. Usually, strong competitions on the market create more benefits for our clients.

WHAT IS YOUR COUNTEROFFER IN THIS REGARD? This new partnership between TBC Bank and Bank Republic has created a unique synthesis of experience that will make this union especially successful due to TBC Bank's deep insight in the local market and the French group's strong international experience. These two strengths create endless possibilities to develop better innovations for our clients, which will make our services more accessible. These benefits and advantages will soon be available for our growing number of customers once the merger is completed. Société Générale remains our partner and shareholder. The group considers the alliance very positive, and believes in it, both as a strategic player in Georgia and as a major financial investor for us. Société Générale, as our partner in Georgia, will provide us with a considerable global outreach through their clientele and an opportunity for future collaboration through various product innovations. There are many similarities between TBC and Bank Republic. We both started to operate in the early 1990s. Bank Republic had a unique history of success working as an independent Georgian bank for a decade; a strong and an ambitious player with an attractive client base, which was undoubtedly a decisive factor in Société Générale’s interest when it acquired a controlling stake in 2006. In its 22-year history, TBC Bank has transformed from a local Georgian bank into a strong financial institution with a large number of international clients and investors, an IPO on the London Stock Exchange (2014), and membership on the premium market (2016).

HOW WILL TBC BANK’S PREMIUM LISTING HELP ITS CUSTOMERS? When a financial institution has scale and the opportunity to attract the required financial resources to the capital markets, it has endless opportunities to invest more in its continuous development to further respond to the needs of its private and corporate clients.

IS THERE A RISK OF TBC BANK BECOMING BUREAUCRATIC AND INFLEXIBLE THROUGH THIS TRANSACTION? There is a huge transformation on the horizon and every organization is facing the risk of becoming less flexible as they grow, but we are well positioned to manage it. It largely depends on the management team of the merged banks, who will have to avoid typical mistakes and make sure we stay flexible and focused on our employees and clients. Our management team has huge experience working in

the Georgian and international banking. Also important, a year and a half ago we merged Bank Constanta into TBC Bank, which had 50 percent more branches than Bank Republic. The process of the Constanta acquisition and integration was quick and smooth −and we’ll most likely see the same with the Bank Republic merger.

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS OF INTEGRATION? There will be an approximate two month period to complete the acquisition when TBC becomes 100 percent shareholder in Bank Republic, since we also plan to acquire the remaining 7 percent share from EBRD. The next stage will consist of the actual integration that will take three to six months, after which Bank Republic will be fully integrated into the TBC system. The transaction process will be finalized in November 2016, and integration process will be completed in the first half of 2017.


Austrian Embassy Opens in Tbilisi BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


he official opening of the Austrian Embassy in Tbilisi was held on September 22nd within the official visit of Michael Linhart, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria to Georgia. “It’s a historic day for both of our countries,” said Gigi Gigiadze, Deputy to the Foreign Minister of Georgia, noting the importance of the 24-year bilateral partnership of the two countries, through which the Austrian government has continuously supported Georgia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and European integration. Gigiadze also pointed out the significance of the first official visit of Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to Geor-

Photo: Opening of the Austrian Embassy

gia, set for next year, which will coincide with the resumption of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) chairmanship by the Austrian government. The opening of the new Austrian embassy in Tbilisi is seen as yet another possibility to strenghten and widen bilateral relations between the two countries. “The implementation of the Association Agreement is very important for us. Within the Eastern Partnership and Eastern policy of the EU we can contribute to the implementation of the agreement. The OSCE chairmanship is a big challenge for us and we need Georgia as a key strategic partner,” Linchart said, going on to highlight the long history of Austro-Georgian relations, and the establishment of the Austrian Development Agency in 2013 which began cooperation in the sectors of infrastructure, food and agriculture.



SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016


Now You Can Buy Green Diamond Apartments in GEL


AQRO Construction Company, one of the largest investors on the Georgian market, has started selling apartments in the national currency of Georgia. The future residents of the ongoing outstanding project ‘Green Diamond’ will now be able to purchase flats in the Georgian Lari (GEL). As Georgian people receive their salaries in GEL, high dollarization has led to many problems for the consumer today. This new offer has appeared on the MAQRO Construction agenda as social-economic conditions in the country are taken into consideration. “GEL purchases will simplify the procedures of purchasing real estate for our consumer, helping them to avoid many financial problems. The exchange rate

has been teetering for a while in Georgia and is expected to devalue against the USD by New Year. Therefore, MAQRO Construction has decided to offer flexible payment conditions for those that wish to purchase flats in Green Diamond,” said Oguz Kaan Karaer, MAQRO Chief of Project Development, PR, Sales and Marketing Officer. Payment terms are tailored to the customers: 10% - first payment, 30% of the total amount distributed over 30 months, meaning that customers are paying only 1% monthly. When the construction is complete, customers need to pay delivery payment - 60%. Potential clients are offered a 15% discount if they pay the full amount. The more down-payment customers pay, the greater the discount MAQRO construction will offer. Customers will receive fully renovated

flats in Green Diamond, in which a square meter costs 799 USD, free from any additional payments in case of internal credit. The offer is of an unprecedented nature for the Georgian market. Companies sell real estate in USD, as such we are confident the Georgian consumer will be satisfied with the new conditions offered by MAQRO Construction. As potential client Mariam Berzenishvili says, the MAQRO Construction conditions take each consumer’s requests into account: “I receive my salary in GEL. Therefore, it is more comfortable for me to purchase a unit in the Georgian national currency. Everyone knows that our country is suffering an unstable exchange rate. Many people’s expenses increase when they buy flats in USD. Therefore, I like the conditions very much. I prefer to know how much to pay and not be afraid of further devaluation of the GEL,” she says. The new residential complex of MAQRO Construction, Green Diamond, was launched on 28th of May. Construction consists of three stages, the first stage of which includes 731 units. The unique residential complex is being built in an ecologically clean district of Tbilisi, near to the Olympic facilities. Next to the residential complex Green Diamond a mega project – the Technological University, will be established, which will be unique in Eastern Europe. The area of the residential complex will be almost 70,000 m2, with 23,143 m2 internal green territory. It will offer a unique, brand-new and affordable life in Tbilisi. In the residential complex you can find

23 living blocks and 1772 units. You will be able to satisfy all your needs, including with the 3 swimming pools, 4 basketball areas, 4 outdoor fitness areas, 4 children’s playgrounds, 7 pergolas, indoor

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SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Donald Johanson on Human Evolution in Tbilisi & his Discoveries



here are days of unexpected meetings that you instantly know you’ll remember many years ahead if not forever. Today was that day for me… that evening, to be precise, where I was lucky enough to attend the pre-opening of the exhibition ‘Stone Age of Georgia’ at the Simon Janashia Museum in Tbilisi, and apart from a captivating exposition that strikes you with the age and magnitude of human history, I was able to grab Donald Johanson for an exclusive interview. Johanson is a famous American paleoanthropologist and the man behind numerous discoveries that have shaped our understanding of human history. The exhibition opens to the public on September 27 and offers “a time flow of human evolution,” displaying the period of 1.77 million years in Georgia, starting

with skulls found in Dmanisi (Kvemo Kartli) considered to be the oldest hominin fossils found in Eurasia and proving that the territory of Georgia was among the first locality of human dispersal out of Africa. The exposition also showcases realistic reconstructions of early hominins and the Dmanisi paleoenvironment by world renowned paleoartists such as Elizabeth Daynes, John Gurche, Mauricio Anton and Rodolfo Nogueira. The exhibition is to be held in the frames of the conference ‘100+25 years of Homo Erectus: Dmanisi and Beyond,’ happening in Tbilisi this week and focused on the emergence of Homo Erectus and its evolution history. Two world famous palaeontologists, Donald Johanson and Michel Brunet, came to Georgia to speak at the conference- Johanson giving a lecture on Lucy, an almost complete skeleton of a 3.2 million year old Australopithecus afarensis which is considered to be the earliest ancestor of modern human, which he found together with Tom Gray in Hadar (Ethiopia) in 1974.

human-like. And I thought, maybe I can do that….



Donald Johanson: I read a very small book when I was 13: Man’s Place in Nature written by Thomas Henry Huxley. Huxley was a close friend of Charles Darwin and they often spoke about the idea of evolution and human evolution. When I read that book I was very excited by one idea; that humans and African Apes have a common ancestor. In that book Huxley said that someday somebody would discover a fossil of a human more ape-like or a fossil of an ape more

WHEN YOU FOUND LUCY, DID YOU REALIZE IT WOULD CHANGE THE WAY WE SEE OUR HISTORY AND SCIENCE? You know, when I found her, I more excited to know that this was part of a skeleton. That it wasn’t just one bone or a piece of jaw. I didn’t really know how old she was, but I did know it was a new kind of human. And I was just so happy to see my dream there in front of me. It wasn’t until she came back with me to the United States that I really sat down and began to try to figure out what this was. But I knew it would be very important.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE FIRST FAMILY DISCOVERY? (EDITOR’S NOTE: A COLLECTION OF PREHISTORIC TEETH AND BONES DISCOVERED BY JOHANSON AND HIS TEAM IN ETHIOPIA) I know if the First Family discovery had been made before Lucy, it would have been more famous. Because it is very important. There are the remains of at least 13 or 15 individuals living in a group. We don’t know how or why they died. You can rarely tell from a fossil how or why the person died.

I think that the tools of scanning, imaging and dating, and understanding the sort of mechanics of how bones were built, help, but I don’t think we have a sea of methods for discoveries and I think we still have to go out and look. We have to excavate and hope to find them before they disappear. Theoretically, if you had a way to scan the surface of the ground in very high resolution, with the light at the right angle, you might find something. But as it is, there’s no replacement for the eye.

When it comes to understanding fossils, much of our work still relies on morphology and anatomy. So, at least in my lifetime, I don’t think there will be major changes.

lot of work to be done!


Yes! North of Ethiopia has to be explored, for example. But some young people will be working on the specimens that have been found to better understand their anatomy, so not everybody will be discovering; some people will need to be working in laboratories. There’s still a

I love the exhibition and I think it should be permanent. Georgia is very rich in archaeology and this is an extremely important exhibit that will draw people in all the time. There are children who’ll come to this with their teachers. The strength of it is that it’s not behind glass: you get a better sense, you can walk around the skulls. The reconstructions are excellent and based on good information from the past. It’s a big moment for the museum in conjunction with the symposium- very exciting!

changes they were invited here to implement. I originally came to Georgia with my mother when she was asked here to work on legal reforms, and she – along with others before and since – struggled to deal with the paradox that the Georgians desperately wanted everything brought up to 'Western standards' but were angered by any suggestion that

Georgian methods were not good enough. I'm no psychologist, but there's something here that needs examining. National mentalities do interest me, and as much as I'd love to discuss this further, the word count is looming like the Grim. R Reaper. That, though, was a waste of words. And so was this. And that.


Taking Offense: Ogden on Georgian Sensibilities OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN


here's been an article floating around Facebook this week written by an expat woman that has caused a bit of unrest amongst some Georgians on my newsfeed. She basically claims that foreign women should not date Georgian men due to their attitudes towards casual sex, marriage and 'ownership'. I'm going to assume that anyone reading this is more or less familiar with the Georgian male culture being referred to, and if not, read my article from a few weeks back. While I felt that the Facebook article was not particularly well written, the author made some valid points, and although she received the inevitable abuse from a few Georgian males, she was vindicated by a number of Georgian women agreeing with her, especially a particularly vocal one who claimed to have an English husband (huzzah! Sensible girl). However, Georgian males are not what I want to write about today. What surprised me is how people reacted to the criticism; not the men leaving offensive comments on this woman's blog – there was nothing particularly surprising about

that - but people in my own news feed. Essentially, my Georgian Facebook friends were not best pleased with what this woman had to say, and seemed to be deriding her post as simply the complaints of another know-nothing foreigner; I recall there was a similar reaction to another post last year which claimed that Georgian females intrinsically prefer foreign men. Both were filled with platitudes along the lines of 'I know not all Georgian men are like this, but...' which did nothing to mollify the people who took offence, but then – as now – there was little by way of introspection. The Georgians on my Facebook friend list and the others who creep into my newsfeed tend to be educated, middleto-upper class sorts, who work professional jobs and live lives not so different from people in Europe; they are, of course, nothing like the men described in the blog posts that caused so much keyboard rage, yet for some reason still seem to think they are somehow being targeted. I shall make myself a little clearer. If someone wrote about the problem of football hooligans in England who live on benefits, drink beer all day and fight all night while ramping up a number of teenage pregnancies that even the most conservative Georgian grandmother would think is excessive, my response

would be a shrug and 'Fair enough'. Those people do exist, but since we share a nationality and nothing more I have no right or reason to be offended when they come under fire. I am well aware that any criticism directed towards them does not reflect on me. Georgians, however, are a sensitive folk, and react badly to any criticism of their country and people. I understand that entirely, but what I don't understand is educated Georgians being offended by posts that clearly do not refer to them or their friends. Surely they can't be so removed from society that they're entirely unaware of the national problems with attitudes towards women amongst some men; even if they were so ignorant or remote, if they read the post and the comments then they surely could not discount the comments of Georgian women (and even some Georgian men) agreeing with the blogger. I suppose it all comes down to how one takes criticism, and being introspective enough to recognize that comments directed towards some sections of society are not a damning condemnation of the collective. I’ve heard that EU and NATO reform workers – whom Georgia claims to want here to help the country develop – have encountered significant resistance when trying to make the



SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Time (to) Leave, Guys (TLG)



nd it's school opening time again... for some. Etseri school has its largest group of pupils since my wife and I began here five years ago, 67, with seven of them entering grade one (new laptops for these!), and four from a family which had moved from the village now back home. But I was only there as a journalist this time, the first such school opening day for me since we moved here. Some things change. TLG (Teach and Learn with Georgia) had changed the rules over the summer, now requiring all of us volunteer teachers to move to other locations. Easy for most, when the vast majority of us have been singles staying with host families. But me— this is my house I live in, conveniently located three minutes' walk from Etseri school! My wife is one of my co-teachers. Not so easy to relocate: what would the cattle and chickens say, or do, for that matter?! A compromise was not possible, to put it in a nutshell, so I find myself not teaching English this year. There's plenty to do around home and village, though. My wife is staying on at the school, her salary boosted by the final arrangement of a "high mountain" addition to salaries up here, long rumored. Her reputation boosted, too, by having passed her first national exams for English teachers this summer with the stunning mark of 84%. I'm really proud of her; she spent weeks swatting and sweating upstairs, at the end of which I told her to wrap it up, as she was ready and couldn't cram in any more, in my opinion. She hosted one of my former Becho village coteachers and her family, great new friends, at a feast up there in her "office", having promised them that she would do this if she passed. Flying colors, I'd say, and she feels a quite some weight off her shoulders now.

I look back on my TLG years with nostalgia and gratitude for the years of experience they brought me; and with some surprise that this project of former Georgian president Saakashvili has lasted so long without him. However, there are less than twenty TLG volunteers now, so things are dwindling from the fifty per group we were at the beginning, hundreds in the country at one time. And only one of those a returnee. I taught in Mestia, Becho (two locations) and Etseri, with a total of seven co-teachers; and before TLG even started, in Ushguli, with not one, just someone to help me with discipline while I ran an unintentional prototype of the whole thing. TLG has branched into other languages, including a substantial Chinese group, and I believe has done the country a considerable service, especially in the less privileged and helped villages where it concentrated the English teaching. I was always telling my pupils that the doors of Europe will eventually open for them, and that they'd better be ready! Visa-free travel there will eventually happen, I still believe. While that might seem less of a hurdle to them than the funding of such travel, for some farmer's child from an unheard of village in the high Caucasus, it was equally challenging for one such as my wife, at the other end of the country. But she saw it happen, visited about 40 countries, used her English everywhere, and has been greatly enriched by it all. I toast the new TLG group, wish you all great success in your schools, villages and host families, and hope to hear of how your volunteering has changed lives, which I fully expect it will. 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 1300 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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Turkey Opens First State School in Batumi…without Permission

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urkey opened its first staterun school in Georgia's Black Sea city Batumi on September 19. The 24-classroom Batumi Turkish School built for 170 students and 25 teachers launched its educational activities on Monday. The opening ceremony was attended by representatives of the Turkish Ministry of Education, as well as the diplomatic mission of Turkey in Georgia. The school will follow the Turkish curriculum and be supervised by Turkey’s National Education Ministry. Yet Batumi City Hall has stated that the school had no permission for construction and highlighted that it has been fined three times to a total of 9,000 GEL. The Supervision Service of Batumi City Hall says that if the school is unable to get a permit, it may be demolished. Georgia’s Education Minister, Aleksandre Jejelava, said his office and the Turkish Embassy in Georgia had had consultations over the school and agreed that the school would be authorized under Georgian legislation. However, he said that if the school has no construction permission, it will be in violation of the law. Jejelava also expressed dissatisfaction that the school leadership decided not to invite Ministry officials to the opening ceremony. “But I’m sure that in the end we will overcome this difficulty and will end up with a very good educational institution accredited under Georgian legislation,” Jejelava said. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of Adjara said they had also not been informed about the opening of the school. The Consul General of Turkey, Yasin Temizkan, explained that Turkey has a number of schools abroad under the subordination of Turkey’s Ministry of Education and the new school is only for Turkish children whose families live in Batumi, adding the teachers in the school are Turkish citizens as well. He said the building was built by a philanthropist businessman and the Consulate was not involved in the process of its construction. He promised to clarify if there were violations during construction of the building. He also claimed that the school had not been officially opened which is why the Georgian side was not invited to the recent ceremony. “The official opening is planned in the near future and members of the Georgian government will be invited

13/06/16 15:16

to it,” he said. He went on to say that the Turkish side fully intends to teach the Georgian language to Turkish children attending the new school. “Our relations with Georgia are deepening in all fields and we would like to strengthen these ties in education as well,” Temizkan said, adding that the opening of Georgian schools in Turkey was also under consideration.

Photos: New Turkish School in Batumi. Source: Turkey’s Consulate General in Batumi



SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016


Elena Vaenga Fulfils 15-Year Dream by Singing in Tbilisi

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n September 16, talented Elena Vaenga sang for Tbilisi. The Russian singer, songwriter and actress, named one of the best singers in her homeland, presented to the Georgian audience a show that needed no marketing to draw a crowd. With her verses, humor, drama, and richness of musical palette, Elena surpasses the pop-music genre. Indeed, her repertoire was quite varied at her Tbilisi

concert, though the theme of love prevailed. One song in particular, about a mother’s love for her son, struck a chord with many a Georgian mother in the hall. 39-year-old Elena proved to be exceptionally communicative, full of humor and self-irony between songs, confiding with the audience that she’d been dreaming of coming to Tbilisi for 15 years: “I was born on the 27th of January, when St. Nino the enlightener of Georgia was born. You are a great nation!” Elena says she appeared on the Russian stage by stealth, using her musical and artistic talent and quick wit. She also mentioned that she is often told not to

express her position. “But I am a citizen and a mother. I will propagate love and friendship at the very least through my songs. I am happy to have performed with musicians from Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.” She then introduced Achi Purtseladz as her new Georgian singing partner after which they sang a duo with motifs from ‘Mimino,’ a wellknown Georgian-Russian film. “I am happy that I am Russian when I look at Elena!” said overwhelmed audience member Irina Lanevskaia after the show, a Russian woman who was born in Tbilisi. Such Georgian-born Russians were in abundance in the hall that night.

CineClub to Screen Corn Island, Q & A with Director BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


he monthly CineClub season is to reopen after the summer break with a showing of Corn Island (2014), directed by Giorgi Ovashvili, giving us ex-pats yet another gem of cultural insight to enjoy. A psychological drama, the action in Corn Island takes place at the natural border of the Georgian- Abkhazian conflict – the Enguri River. The spring floods create a small island in the middle of the river where an old peasant begins to grow corn with the help of his 16-yearold granddaughter. Later, a Georgian border policeman comes to the island and changes the seemingly ideal life the old man has made for himself. To find out if it’s for the better or worse, head over to Amirani cinema on Monday. You’ll also get the chance to discuss the film with the director and some of his crew after the show. Tickets can be bought at the Amirani cinema Box Office.

CineClub is made possible thanks to its partnership with CineDoc and Amirani cinema. CineDoc-Tbilisi selects the best creative documentaries from around Georgia, often directed by award-winning filmmakers.

WHERE: Amirani Cimema WHEN: Monday, September 26 TIME: 19:00 PRICE: 3 GEL per ticket plus 1 GEL contribution to the CineClub project (5 GEL total)

CONTACT PERSON 557 12 38 90




SEPTEMBER 23 - 26, 2016


GEORGIAN STATE PANTOMIME THEATRE Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 63 14 September 23 HOST AND GUEST Vazha Pshavela Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 GEL September 24 TERENTI GRANELI Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 GEL September 29 DREAM AND REALITY Directed by Davit Shalikashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 GEL TBILISI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 44 66 September 24, 25 GISELLE Adolphe Adam Ballet in Two Acts Start time: September 24 - 19:00, September 25 - 14:00 Ticket: 10 - 70 GEL September 24, 25 ATTILA Giuseppe Verdi Starring: Legi Imedashvili, Irine Ratiani, Sulkhan Gvelesiani, Gia Makharadze, Tamaz Saginadze, Gia Asatiani Conductor - Zaza Azmaiparashvili Directed by David Sakvarelidze and Jean Louis Grinda Set and Costume Design Jean Pierre Capron and David Monavardisashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-40 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 September 23 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 21:00 Free Entry September 24 Performance Silence, Rehearsal Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 15 GEL TBS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THEATER September 24 WITHIN ADITI MANGALDAS DANCE COMPANY THE DRISHTIKON DANCE FOUNDATION Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-55 GEL Venue: Marjanishvili Theater Grand Stage September 26 PEREGRINUS Improvisation Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 10-55 GEL Venue: New Tfilisi (Agmashenebeli Avenue) September 26 BE LIKE WATER Kari Hoaas

Contemporary dance Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15-25 GEL Venue: Nodar Dumbadze Professional Youth Theater Grand Stage September 26 ROSES Freak-cabare Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 33 GEL Venue: Kakha Bakuradze's Movement Theater CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari September 23-29 September 25 HAMLET Directed by Sarah Frankcom Cast: Maxine Peake, James Allen, Mya Diamonds Language: English Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 19 GEL THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Directed by Antoine Fuqua Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke Genre: Action, Western Language: English Start time: 19:40 Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL ELLE Directed by Paul Verhoeven Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny Genre: Drama, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL STORKS Directed by Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland Cast: Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00 Ticket: 8-12 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL September 23-29 THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (Info Above) Start time: 22:40 Ticket: 13-14 GEL STORKS (Info Above) Start time: 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00 Ticket: 8-13 GEL SULLY Directed by Clint Eastwood Cast: Tom Hanks, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 18:00, 22:15 Ticket: 11-14 GEL JASON BOURNE Directed by Paul Greengrass Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander Genre: Action, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 15:15

Ticket: 9-10 GEL BRIDGET JONES’ BABY Directed by Sharon Maguire Cast: Renée Zellweger, Patrick Dempsey, Colin Firth Genre: Comedy, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 22:40 Ticket: 13-14 GEL SAUSAGE PARTY Directed by Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon Cast: Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Paul Rudd Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 20:05 Ticket: 13-14 GEL BEN-HUR Directed by Timur Bekmambetov Cast: Jack Huston, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer Genre: Adventure, Drama, History Language: Russian Start time: 22:35 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION: GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY FROM 8TH MILLENNIUM B.C. TO 4TH CENTURY A.D THE CAUCASUS NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM COLLECTION RENEWED EXHIBITION EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. June 11 – March 11 (2017) EXHIBITION "MEDIEVAL TREASURY" June 16 – December 16 THE EXHIBITION “NEW DISCOVERIES - GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY” The exhibition will be held in the frame of the international conference On Salt, Copper, and Gold: The Origins of Early Mining and Metallurgy in the Caucasus" MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. PERMANENT EXHIBITION Here, visitors can 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. The exhibition hall is equipped with monitors on which visitors can watch documentaries of various historical events. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 September 16 – October 8 Georgian National Museum Tbilisi History Museum in frames of the project "Contemporary Art Gallery" invites you to the exhibition FROM THE SHORES OF THE

BLACK SEA The exhibition brings together artists from Georgia - Lia Bagrationi; Romania - Sebastian Moldovan; Turkey - Nezaket Ekici; Bulgaria - Mariana Vassileva; Russia - Iced Architects; Ukraine - Nikita Kadan. Together they bring installations created in different media, including video art and ceramic works. All of the artists share the same source of inspiration - the Black Sea. SHALVA AMIRANASHVILI MUSEUM OF ART Address: 1 Lado Gudiashvili St. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 www.museum.ge September 14 – October 1 GURAM TSERTSVADZE’S PERSONAL EXHIBITION GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze. June 24, 2016 – June 24, 2017 NIKO PIROSMANASHVILI’S WORKS “YARD CLEANER” AND “EAGLE SEIZING A HARE” Both paintings were in the ownership of Ilya and Kirill Zdanevich until 1930 when Dimitri Shevardnadze bought part of their collection (39 paintings) including the "Yard Cleaner" and "Eagle Seizing a Hare". Today, both paintings are among the collection of the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts. September 6-28 THE SOLO EXHIBITION "DEEP CALLETH UNTO DEEP" BY GIA BUGADZE. The project "Deep Calleth unto Deep" is based on the 7th article of the 41st psalm and outlines the drama which lies in the confrontation between the internal and external worlds. NATIONAL SCIENTIFIC LIBRARY Address: ¼ M. Aleksidze September 18 – October2 SPYING FUTURE Exhibition Project of Center of Contemporary Art-Tbilisi in the framework of "Tbilisi Science and Innovation Festival 2016.” Various artists Curator: Wato Tsereteli THE EUROPE HOUSE Address: 1 Freedom Sq. Telephone: 2 47 03 11 September 18-25 IRA SHENGELIA’S EXHIBITION ALMOST EVERYDAY “Almost Everyday” started as an artistic diary - from the decision to create a single drawing each day despite any inconveniences. Images from personal archives and appropriated from the web depict humans during their most routine activities. FABRIKA Address: 8 Ninoshvbili Str. September 24-30 Nikoloz Kapanadze’s installation VISI GORISA KHAR? It is an audio-visual interactive installation tries to respond to the challenges of urban living with the

aid of modern technologies. With fast progress in the background, it's imperative to keep reinterpreting our heritage. The installation uses a Kinect sensor to monitor the crowd and morph the shape, visuals, and sounds according to people's movement. MUSIC

TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili Ave. Telephone: 299 00 99 September 23 SOLO PRESENTS ERIC BENÉT. Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 50-200 GEL ROOMS HOTEL TBILISI Address: 14 Kostava Ave. September 24 SOLO PRESENTS ERIC BENÉT Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 75-200 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 September 24, 29 JAM SESSION AT MT LEADERS: RESO KIKNAZE QUINTET AND PAPUNA SHARIKADZE Start time: 21:00 Free Entry September 26 BACK FROM SIENA JAZZ ACADEMY Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 10 GEL September 27 JAZZ JAM SESSION WITH SPECIAL GUESTS FROM SIENA JAZZ ACADEMY Start time: 21:00 Free Admission TBILISI NODAR DUMBADZE STATE CENTRAL CHILDREN'S THEATRE Address: 99/1 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 95 39 27 September 25 INTERNATIONAL MUSIC AND ART FESTIVAL "START" The international pop music and art contest-festival for children Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 7 GEL KAKHIDZE MUSIC CENTER Address: 123/125 D. Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 295 01 19 INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL “AUTUMN TBILISI” September 25 MOZART CORONATION MASS Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 12-20 GEL September 28 JANOSHKA ENSEMBLE Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 12-20 GEL RUSTAVELI THEATER Address: 17 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 72 68 68 www.rustavelitheatre.ge September 26 GEORGE TCHITCHINADZE & GEOGRIAN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA Concert dedicated to the memory of Tengiz Chumburidze Participants: George Tchitchinadze, Nusta Kasradze, Merab Ebralidze Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 15-20 GEL




Georgia’s State Ballet to Open 165th Season with Giselle



eorgia’s State Ballet will open its 165thseason with a performance of French composer Adolphe Adam’s Giselle. Based on Russian choreographer Alexey

Fadeyechev’s version of the classic ballet, the premiere will take place on September 24 at Tbilisi’s recently restored 19th-century opera house. The State Ballet’s artistic director Nino Ananiashvili – herself, a former prima ballerina for Moscow’s world renowned Bolshoy Ballet – said Giselle is the first of several classical performances planned for the 2016-17 season.



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Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

Tbilisi’s historic opera house recently underwent a massive six-year renovation that forced the ballet company to move to different venues throughout the city. They returned to their home stage in February to complete the 164th season Tickets for the performance are available at the Tbilisi Opera House (#25 Rustaveli Avenue) and online at tkt.ge.

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Karen Tovmasyan, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Tim Ogden, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison, Natia Liparteliani

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #881  

September 23 - 26, 2016

Issue #881  

September 23 - 26, 2016