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Issue no: 907

• DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Tbilisi to Host Forum Dedicated to Hasbara: A New Model of Diplomatic Support towards Israel

NEWS PAGE 3

Georgia’s Education Ministry to Reduce Staff Numbers throughout the Country POLITICS PAGE 8

FOCUS ON SKIING Feel safe while you ski with Georgia's new Ski Patrol

PAGE 2

Christmas and New Year Celebrations Planned in Tbilisi

Do I Need to Know How Our National Currency is Behaving? BUSINESS PAGE 10

Rendez-Vous with a Psychologist: Is He the One? SOCIETY PAGE 16

Too Light & Beautiful to Be True: Katie Melua in Tbilisi

BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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bilisi Municipality plans to organize a series of events from December 25 to January 2 to celebrate the coming Christmas and New Year. The Deda Ena Park will be transformed into a “New Year City” where guests can stroll through tunnels of flowers, see mechanical dolls and stop at the many decorated Christmas cabins to taste sweets and buy decorations and handicrafts. The celebration will be opened with a concert by renowned singer Vakhtang Kakhidze, followed by a variety of music and dance performances- Salio, contemporary ballet, hiphop live, and more. Radio Kubrick will broadcast live from the Park with Georgian DJs performing by night. An art space at the Park, represented by ArtArea, will display numerous installations. A Christmas Fair will open there on December

CULTURE PAGE 19

25th with famous Georgian designers and artists selling handmade souvenirs at special prices. The New Year City will also have many sporting and children’s activities, with extreme sports expected to be highlighted due to the infrastructure of the Park.

New Tiflis is set to be another central venue for the promised celebrations, where hot air balloons, installations, arts performances, a train with wagons in the form of gifts and a New Year market await to bring a little festive magic to both locals and tourists.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Source: Georgian Journal

Do I Need to Know How Our National Currency is Behaving? OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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he Lari, our national currency, has been in circulation since 1991. Etymologically speaking, it meant ‘treasure’ in Old Georgian. What a glorious story – our symbol of well-being is associated with wealth and fortune. Lari came to substitute the Ruble, the soviet medium of exchange – weird, isolated, unidentifiable and not exchangeable for any other currency in the world. The soviet socialist Ruble was a strange, but very stable guy: steady as a typical one-woman man. It did not depend on any global, regional or local economic vicissitudes. People trusted it and wanted

to earn it without any desire, if not to promote some clandestine business, for the banks or resellers to trade it for the banknotes of other origin. Nobody worried how the Ruble behaved. Its value was taken absolutely for granted. We couldn’t care less whether it went up or down, or keeled left or right! It just filled a working man’s pocket according to his ability to work and based on his amount of labor. The story with Lari is a horse of a totally different color. It came around as an attribute of the new capitalist epoch, as wild as it used to be at the twilight of the soviet land and at the dawn of the market era in the big country. It entered but it worked efficiently on and off, eliminating once in a while the hope of the selfsame working man for survival. The Lari has never stopped

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moving vertically in both directions and with scary amplitude exactly as it is doing right now, but I wonder if I need to know how it is behaving and why. Can’t I just earn and spend it at my own discretion without theorizing on its value every second, around the clock? I do not want to be watching with fear and broken fast-beating heart how the Lari is doing in the market. I just want to have my wallet thick with it, ready to listen to the wonderful tune of cashmachines ringing my goodies up with the help of my Lari – solvent, stable and full of purchase power. The tune I’m hearing on the radio and television every God-blessed minute these days are starting to get on my nerves and kill my desire to work for the weirdo Lari. That tune is holding me back from doing my main job, which is what I’m getting paid

for. The amplified talk about the national currency is totally blocking my way to earn it and have it provide for my survival. Talk is not helping. Talk is hampering. Talk is obstructing the fruitful action which in reality has to be conducive to the ways of bettering our lifestyle. I know that it all goes with the character of messy economic developments that countries suffer, but my involvement in that boosted talk is not changing anything. We all have our work to do, placed on our shoulders, and those shoulders can carry only so much, weakened even more on hearing all that talk about the currency ups and downs. Shoulders, too, have ears, and eyes for that matter. Shoulders feel that the burden gets heavier along with that much talk about the Lari, and someday the load might get so heavy

that dropping the burden will become inevitable. God forbid! I hate to be blind and deaf, but I am prepared to plug my ears not to hear again that talk – contradictory, fallacious, guessing, approximate, off-target and full of discrepancies. Let somebody utter just one serious, professional, solid word and have done with it. Let somebody say something that is trustworthy and close to the truth, if the truth is achievable at all, so that we the people know exactly where we stand and what we have to do in case our Lari continues shaking, which will shiver even more violently if the irrelevant talk that is taking place around and at all times persists. I definitely need a break from that talk, even more than the stability of our financial martyr whose future seems so blurry and quizzical at this point in time.

PASHA Bank Plants 2017 Georgian Pine Trees on Behalf of Its Partners

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s a New Year gift for its partners, PASHA Bank planted 2017 Georgian Pine Trees near Borjomi, where 260 hectares of forest were burned down in August 2008. “At our pre-New Year reception, we promised our partners that in 2017 we will pay double attention to Green CSR activities and be more involved in environmental projects. At this point, we can

happily say that we have planted 2,000 trees for our partners and then symbolically added 17 more,” said the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors at PASHA Bank, Shahin Mammadov. “We do hope that our partners will be happy with their New Year gifts. As a result of this project, they have all, in fact, taken part in the rehabilitation process of a beautiful forest. We brought about this project with the assistance of

Treepex, a company that is actively working on environmentally friendly projects. Many are already using their app to plant trees,” said Anano Korkia, Head of PR and Marketing Department at PASHA Bank. Last year, PASHA Bank presented its partners with signed copies of a painting by Rusudan Petviashvili, donating the original to the charity fund “First Step Georgia."


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

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iscover the essence of the Versace Man- modern and fresh, for today. Versace Dylan Blue, the new fougère fragrance for men, has a highly distinctive, woody aroma resulting from precious natural ingredients blended with the latest generation of molecules; a new quality musk, with mineral accents, sets off the intense and seductive character of this fragrance. The olfactive journey starts at the top with the incisive Mediterranean freshness of bergamot, fig leaves and grapefruit which is then deepened and rounded off by aquatic notes. The virile heart of violet, black pepper, ambrox, papyrus and patchouli is powerful and pulsating before tonka bean, saffron musk and incense provide a warm, sensual dry down.

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TBC Bank to Receive USD 55 Million from Entrepreneurial Development Bank Shagidze, TBC Bank Deputy CEO. “TBC Bank is the leader in importing financial resources to our country. This year, in November - December alone, we’ve already signed contracts for USD 60 Million with other international financial institutions, which gives us the possibility to offer more loans.” “TBC Bank and Bank Republic are both extremely active in assisting the micro, small and medium businesses,” added Nika Kurdiani, TBC Bank CEO, who stressed the significance of the FMO and TBC Bank partnership. “Transactions

TBC Bank and FMO Representatives signing the loan agreement

BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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ntrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO), one of the largest European Banks, will give USD 55 million to TBC Bank as part of its program to support the private sector in developing economies. The FMO program, which has an overall portfolio of EUR 7.6 billion, focuses on assisting financial institutions, the energy sector, agro business, and food and water in countries with developing economies. The decision was announced at a press conference on Wednesday, December 21 at the TBC Bank Head Office. TBC Bank will receive USD 25 million over the next seven years, according to the new loan agreement, and USD 30 million has been allocated to Bank Republic over a period of five years. The deal provides TBC Bank with the funds to continue its micro, small and

medium business financing in Georgia. Over a decade of successful cooperation, ten loan agreements have been signed between TBC Bank and FMO, with a total of USD 150 million financial resources provided to TBC Bank overall. “I’m delighted with the opportunity to continue our cooperation with FMO,” said Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, TBC Bank CEO, at the press conference. “With these resources, TBC Bank will be able to strengthen its position in the micro, small and medium business segments and increase financing for the sectors that are the most vital for the Georgian economy. FMO is our long-time business partner, we have numerous types of loan agreements with them already. It has been a TBC Bank shareholder since 2009, a time, which, as you all know, was an extremely difficult one for our country and our economy. FMO was a great supporter and became our shareholders and, furthermore, provided a subordinated loan. Of course, our cooperation will continue in the future.”

“I’m very proud that we’re able to sign two new contracts with both Bank Republic and TBC Bank. FMO has been active in Georgia for several years, supporting private sector development and, as we see, the economy in the country is reportedly growing,” said Jan Willem Hoek, Investment Officer Financial Institutions - Europe and Central Asia, noted in his speech. He went on to underline that TBC Bank is a stable, reliable and fast growing financial institution, which has been an active partner over the years. Jan Willem Hoek also praised TBC Bank for adapting to the market and working very closely with its clients. He added that TBC Bank’s success is a demonstration of the tendency of growth of the financial sector in Georgia. “The uniqueness of this USD 55million loan assigned to micro, small and medium size business is that it may be available in lari, which is essential for the dedollarization program that the National Bank of Georgia and the government of Georgia are implementing,” said Giorgi

like these will enable us to support the sector even more and that is extremely important for our country, as small and medium businesses are the backbone of the economy.” “This is a milestone because it’s proof that we, the Dutch and the FMO, are participating in this important process of the larification of the Georgian economy,” Jos Douma, Ambassador of The Netherlands to Georgia, remarked. The press conference ended with the signing of the loan agreement by TBC Bank and FMO representatives.

Christmas Eve with Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi

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otels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi, a 5-star hotel located beside Tbilisi Sea, is inviting guests to enjoy its traditional Saturday offering of a delicious buffet-style dinner decorated with dazzling Mediterranean and Asian dishes- available one last time before 2017. To celebrate the festive season, Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi has a special offer for guests on December 24: When booking a dinner for two persons, you will receive an additional one-time free dinner and visit the recreational center for as many people as visit the restaurant. Cost per person: 50 GEL. At the "BE PURE" recreation center, you can enjoy a 25-meter indoor swimming pool, spa with Hot Tub, sauna, and gym. Advance booking is recommended! Call 0322 50 50 25


GEORGIA TODAY

SOCIETY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

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KAS School of Excellency Unites Young Leaders from EaP Countries & Russia

BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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wo weeks ago, when the European Council and European Parliament reached agreement on the visa liberalization suspension mechanism for Georgia and Ukraine, overcoming the largest obstacle remaining to granting visafree travel to the citizens of these two countries, The Guardian, The Independent and a host of other Western media reported on the occasion with headlines such as “EU Just Granted Free Travel to 50 mln People.” Thinly veiled and eager to be discovered, the mammoth bottom line reads: “As if we didn’t have enough things to worry about already.” For the two EaP countries, eagerly anticipating this very access for more than two years now, this surely must have felt like a bucket of cold water. Is this how people in Europe feel about us? The question is both fair and hard to answer. What is clear, though, is that the EU and EaP countries need to be on the same page to avoid creating false expectations and, ultimately, disillusionment with the Brussels enterprise, especially with the omnipresent Russian presence in the region. The Kremlin would like nothing more and spares no efforts to win in the regional edition of Hold’em poker, a term recently coined to describe Russia’s sprawling geopolitical manoeuvres. Equally important is that these countries are well-versed in each other’s state of affairs, and despite varying progress towards European integration, a connection is maintained at every level. It is at such times that civil society has to step up, unburdened by government agenda or the private sector’s profit-oriented policies, to provide a platform for dialogue and sharing of know-how, as well as establishing of a resilient network of pro-European minds. And that’s exactly what one German foundation is doing. A proud legacy of one of the brightest political minds of 20th century, the chancellor of Germany Konrad Adenauer, The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung has launched an ambitious series of School of Excellency programs aiming to bring together “about 100 up-and-coming politicians, journalists/ bloggers, experts from non-government organizations and think tanks, as well as young academics, legal experts and members of the scientific community from the countries of the Eastern Partnership (and Russia)”. Adenauer was an expert deal-maker and the Foundation takes a similar approach: the exchange of views and ideas, with the ultimate goal of fostering European ideas and democratic values. They also believe in a long-term approach– the programme is three years long, with multiple seminars and conferences per year planned in various countries. Being a lucky member of the very first wave of participants, I had the privilege to participate in the first three-day conference in Vilnius, Lithuania. The venue was well-chosen: there is much to learn from the Baltic States, EU members since 2004, in terms of European integration. Theirs is a success story that should serve (and does so) as an inspiration. Add to that the shared factor, or

rather, threat, of Russia and you have a perfect stepping stone for delving into the intricacies of EaP regional politics. The conference boasted prominent names from Lithuanian politics and expert circles, from young MP Layrunas Kasciunas, who very straightforwardly pointed out the problems pertaining to the EaP’s uncertain future, to the President of the Constitutional Court, who preached on the internationally acclaimed effectiveness of Lithuania’s foremost legislative document and the myriad of normative obstacles needed to be satisfied in order to alter it; a controversial issue in South Caucasus countries, where tailoring the Constitution to governmental needs remains a common practice. The torch was picked up by Petras Auštrevicius, among others, the chief negotiator for Lithuania’s accession into the European Union and who was kind enough to backtrack the European integration process from the point of successfully crowning with membership. On the final day, a memorable speech was delivered by MP Žygimantas Pavilionis, who urged all countries not to “shy away from a fight for European values and a European future.” All in all, all Lithuanian speakers were staunchly pro-European, and while that didn’t come as surprise, it made one wonder just how much these voices are listened to in Brussels with giants France and Germany maintaining their more sceptical stance. Another regional dimension was provided by two speakers from the Balkans, and while not an eye-opening moment, it was a good reminder for most of us that the Copenhagen criteria came into being mostly due to the EU’s intention to pacify “the war-torn Balkans with the premise of membership and policy of conditionality,” as Serbian speaker Dr. Duro Duric aptly put it. The issue of a hybrid war being waged by Russia was a pre-eminent one throughout the conference and it reached a culmination at the showing of a wonderfully made documentary from Latvian filmmaker Sandra Užule-Fons through Polish funding. Baltic Poker: What is Putin's game? is a sobering and uncompromising piece depicting the gritty reality that has come into life through the manoeuvres of Putin’s Russia and giving food for thought aplenty – if the citizens of the European Union feel so vulnerable to the Kremlin, then what does it say about the hopes of Georgia and Ukraine – that the western influence will shield them from the wrath of their northern bear? This and more was discussed during the working sections, divided between subjects of security, economics and European values. Awareness of what happens in one’s neighborhood was mentioned above as a crucial aspect: the country presentations presented by fellow participants were definitely a great step in this direction. Last but not the least, while speakers and active participants always take the spotlight, one often forgets the amount of work that organizing such a massive event requires. Especially if everything runs smoothly. Not willing to be called out on being ungrateful, I therefore congratulate all the organizers, without singling anybody out, with the stellar work they did. And the last bit of good news: the next conference is due to be in Tbilisi. Mission: Democracy goes on.

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

MIA Formally Announces Suspension of Crime Statistics Reporting BY THEA MORRISON

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he Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has announced it will no longer publish statistics related to new criminal cases at the end of each month. Instead, the data will henceforth be released only at yearend. The decision was made by Georgia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Mghebrishvili, who announced as much to reporters on Monday, in order to end speculation over the issue. “I decided not to publish monthly crime statistics; I am responsible for this decision. The law does not oblige the Ministry to publish such statistics monthly,” he said. The Minister explained that MIA had been accused of obscuring the true number of criminal cases, adding that these allegations were untrue. “Some say we are hiding the statistics. We are not hiding anything. There are various methods of

Georgia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Mghebrishvili, announces he has decided not to publish monthly crime statistics

counting data and everyone counts it differently. We will publish the statistical data at the end of the year as it is in civilized countries,” he said. The last time the MIA published crime statistics on its web page was January 2016. However, at the time it was required to publish the data every month. The MIA has been criticized by multiple NGOs, who have urged the Ministry to keep society fully informed of true, current crime statistics. Georgia’s Deputy Interior Minister, Shalva Khutsishvili, has responded to criticism by saying the publication of statistics was the responsibility of the National Statistics Service of Georgia (Geostat). He claimed the Ministry has been sending regular monthly data to the agency but that Geostat has not published it. On December 14, the NGO Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) published its report about MIA crime statistics and concluded that the highest crime rate in two years fell during the first nine months of the year. According to the IDFI, the Ministry of Internal

Affairs (MIA) didn’t actively publish full crime data until 2015. The Ministry did publish monthly detailed statistics during that year, but stopped doing so again in early 2016. “Currently, crime statistics in Georgia are not being disclosed fully, consistently and proactively. This lack of access to information raises suspicions that the inconsistency with which the MIA has been publishing the data is guided by its content,” the report of IDFI reads.

The IDFI continued by calling on the Interior Ministry to fully, consistently and regularly publish detailed statistics on crime; to explain in detail the methodological changes that resulted in the radical differences found between data published before and after 2013; to fulfil its commitment to create a map of criminal cases; and to provide Geostat with detailed monthly crime statistics monthly. It further called on Geostat to ensure monthly online publication.

What Ales Us: Ogden on the Festive Spirit OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN

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ewdley is a town in Worcestershire that I have spent much of my life in, first as a visitor, then to see my grandparents when they took up residence there, and finally as a resident myself for five years. A small, touristic town, it is famous for its abundance of pubs, the small steam railway that runs for twenty miles up and down the Severn Valley, and its Georgian buildings (Georgian in this sense referring to 18th century English architecture). It is a pretty place, and a visitor could be forgiven for thinking that this town represents all that is best about England. That might have been true once, but no longer. Alongside the pubs there are late-night bars, populated by people from neighbouring (and dare I say more vulgar) towns who eschew English ale for cheap lager, and over the years the kindly grandparental folk have turned into angry old men and fearful old women, who glower and scowl at anyone they deem to be a ‘youth’. The youths themselves have abandoned the traditions of the English countryside townsfolk in favor of what they deem to be more glamorous pastimes, such as football violence and teenage pregnancies. I still like going back once every year or so, for the pubs and the pints of ale, but eventually a stark reminder of what the place has become brings me back to reality; an old man aggressively insisting to my brother that a Vauxhall car and a Corsa are not the same thing, or a man with long fingernails reminiscing when he served in the Army as a Royal Marine (despite the Marines belonging to the Navy), or a twelve year-old child trying to start a fight with me and my friend. At this, the ale no longer tastes so sweet, and the cozy atmosphere becomes cloying. In short, it represents everything that is wrong with England (the pub, you understand, is the distilled essence of our culture, if you’ll pardon the pun). In no way, however, is this better represented than the ceremony of the turning on of the Christmas lights. This is still taken as seriously in the town as the election of a new Pope, but these days the Christmas lights are just a string of colored bulbs tied

between lampposts…and even then, only those in the middle of the town, which cover a distance of roughly 50 meters. Even when I was a young lad, I remember they put rather more effort into it, but as with everything else in England, the ceremony (?) of the lights has frayed, decayed and faded over time. Perhaps Londoners put more effort into their Christmas decorations than Georgians, though I doubt it. Christmas is my favorite time to be in Georgia, which is understandably bewildering to other foreigners, but I’ve always been fond of Christmas, and Tbilisi never looks better than when the decorations have been put up. My fellow ex-pats are confused as to why I like being here for the Christmas period simply because Georgians do not celebrate December 25th; in fact, they hardly seem to care about their own Christmas of January 7th, with New Year being celebrated instead. I admit that the apathy towards both the 25th and the 7th does not compare with gathering the family together (although apathy leads to fewer arguments and less blood up the walls) and giving gifts that range between the lavish and the last-minute-buy-itfrom-the-garage-forecourt, but Tbilisi looks lovely throughout December and most of January. It is, I repeat, because Georgians care about their country in a way in which the British (at least) do not seem to anymore. Georgian society might be becoming increasingly divided as modernity creeps in, but the country is losing none of its passion, and that is what I love about this place the most. In truth, my occasional criticisms of Georgia on these pages are intended to help rather than wound, since I believe that Georgia has the chance to grow and develop, in contrast to England, which is dying a slow death. Whether it be the LGBT rights activist or the mad old man screaming about the glory of Stalin, nobody could ever accuse Georgians of not caring…although naturally I hope that the number of Georgians who believe in equality increases while the nationalists dwindle. There. Something positive for a change; my Christmas gift to you, reader. Next time, however, I’ll probably be back onto Syria or something equally cheery, but until that time, Merry Christmas. Anyone who says ‘humbug’ should be immediately deported. Illustration by Brian Patrick Grady


GEORGIA TODAY

SOCIETY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

15

From the Rooftops: Svaneti BY TONY HANMER

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he things you learn in the middle of a hated duty... It wasn't even my duty, but I was helping out two friends who are unmarried siblings, neither of whom is fully fit physically, both in their sixties. The brother has only partial use of a hand and leg, so what we needed to do was particularly challenging for him, but he still kept pace with me; or I with him. We were doing what people all over Svaneti have been doing who have the misfortune to own one or more roofs off which snow refuses to slide. The main two reasons for this are an insufficiently steep roof pitch, or roof material to which the snow simply sticks: painted metal as opposed to unpainted, wood slats, asbestos, or even the original ancient slate. It's much too early to be doing this, as it's a January through March activity, but there we were, in a December snowier than any other in living memory. (I also thanked God that this question, which never even came up in our house-hunting and eventual choice of a purchase, was settled happily by a nice "coincidence". Our roof is one of the blessed slippery ones; otherwise I would, after the first winter shoveling it off, have replaced it by the necessary material, regardless of the expense and bother. It's a big, four-sided roof. We have replaced the barn's asbestos one, which was break-

We were doing what people all over Svaneti have been doing who have the misfortune to own one or more roofs off which snow refuses to slide

ing up anyway, and also roofed our new garage in The Right Stuff. I would have this replacement as an optional luxury which I would see more as a necessity; not all people here do, or give it the same priority). There's an ancient rule which goes along with our hard work up there. You didn't build a house in such a place that, shoveling off the roof, you sent your snow either into a neighbor's space or onto any passing road or track, blocking it. This was what I learned, and also that the rule has been broken many times in recent history. Another thing which came up during the shoveling was a thought invention of mine. How to get the snow off a first-story roof but from the ground, which is much safer and easier? My implement is like a hoe scaled up, with a longer handle and bigger blade. You could pull the snow towards yourself from below, working from low to high, if it was long and strong enough. Hmm, needs development and experimentation. And I remembered my agreement with the Inuit peoples' classification of solid H2O into hundreds of different forms of ice and snow. We had at least two main forms of the latter: a soft powdery top layer, and a denser, pressed together one made by the weight above it. The powdery layer would often crumble on the spade or as you flung it away, an exercise in frustration. The harder crust would usually stay together better, resulting in a much more satisfying shovelful and toss. I am glad not to ever have felt fear of heights, which easily would prevent me from the shoveling. It also helps to remember that, even if you did slip and slide off the roof, your landing would simply be into the very same soft stuff with which you had been working, and be unlikely to injure you. Indeed, two of the former world's record heights for surviving a fall, some interesting if less than useful facts from my childhood reading, were from airplanes at 5500 and 7000 meters, in the 1940s, both into snow. Both people suffered some injuries, but lived to tell the tale. It was just the right thing to land in; water, apparently, has a surface tension which would give the effect of hitting concrete or rock, not much use at terminal velocity for a human. And THAT is a subset of the thoughts going through my head as we worked to ensure that this house would not collapse in this manner. 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 1350 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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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Rendez-Vous with a Psychologist: Is He The One? BY MAKA LOMADZE

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here are a lot of questions that people seek the answers to; answers that they may only have a vague grasp of; ones which psychologists and philosophers are perhaps best positioned to try to answer. GEORGIA TODAY met with art-therapist, philosopherpsychologist Merab Oniani to find out about the BIG question women ask themselves this season of new starts: Is He the One?

SOME WOMEN READ SPECIALIST LITERATURE, SOME JUST LISTEN TO THEIR INTUITION; SOME TAKE STEPS, WHILE OTHERS WAIT PASSIVELY. HOW CAN WE KNOW IF HE/SHE IS THE PERSON WE WERE WAITING FOR? If you feel passion towards him from the very start, then he is not the right person. If at first sight, certain tunes play a hymn in your ears, he’s not right either. If a man desperately wants to sleep with you, now, then he’s not the right one. If feeling and thought make your heart beat fast and you feel you are losing yourself, ready to deny everything for the sake of him, this is definitely not what you’re looking for. If you want to chase him, and try your best to find out how to win him, this is not Mr Right. But, if you believe that he is loveable enough, though the blood is not seething in your veins, then he is potentially the right person for you.

SO, MAINTAIN A BALANCE AND VALUABLE CHANGE IS MORE LIKELY TO HAPPEN? If you like him, but you do not take specific pains to see him again; if you are not hot inside out with the fires of passion and do not lose yourself, then this could be him. If you feel that he can be a good and faithful friend, then he could be the one. If you feel a reciprocal sense of affection from him, and that you are soulmates, and you notice that he is taking some steps to win your goodwill, and you are not indifferent to these efforts, then this is a trustworthy sign that he is the one.

THEN IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING AND BE SOULMATES?

If you feel passion towards him from the very start, then he is not the right person ROUTING

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Yes. Fall in love with an honest person who you need, and then build normal relations and find the main thing – your own self. The process of obtaining a new man will start from the moment a woman tries her best to reach inner unity. She should find this accomplishment and independence and should not seek for anybody else to fill this emptiness. The emergence of a new man means starting to love him with all his virtues and vices, but this process will only begin after a woman starts to love herself and that means accepting yourself for all your qualities and drawbacks.

WHAT IS A RELATIONSHIP? A love union is a matter of life and holds paramount importance between partners. This linkage implies an equal contribu-

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tion from both sides, when each member of the couple equally gives out and receives a partner’s love. It means that you love him unconditionally and he feels the same towards you. A normal love affair means first and foremost selfrespect, openness and faithfulness to the person who loves you from the bottom of his heart. He loves your openness with him and your unconditional love.

WHAT IS LOVE? Love not only lives in a person’s mind and heart, it is also a part of one’s body. Studies have shown us that it is not only connected with our soul and spirit but also with our body. Scientists have proven the connection between body intimacy and neurological-physiological processes taking place inside the body. Love relations have an influence on the brain and vice versa. We are created so that we tend to share the most precious values with each other. A love relationship is the strongest force, which helps us to develop and grow personally. Scholars have researched the neuro-

logical mediators and human hormones. It turned out that Dopamine and Serotonin stimulate sexual intercourse. Not only they but a lot of substances of our organism go through qualitative and quantitative changes. Scientists discovered in the brain mirror neurons get irritated during copulation, as if they are the observers of the love act. In other words, these neurons provoke the emotions inside us that are very similar to those of our partners’. There is an opinion that a love of solitude is genetic. It is also scientifically proven that love leads a person to prosperity and good disposition. Such contact with reliable people helps us to oppose unfriendly factors, and rid ourselves of stress. It also stimulates the immune system, whilst solitude weakens the health and accelerates the process of aging. It means that those people who are capable of loving not only act correctly but also live correctly. In spite of our genetic heritage and bio-chemical processes, we are responsible for our own lives, and for the way we love.

The process of obtaining a new man will start from the moment a woman tries her best to reach inner unity

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GEORGIA TODAY

CULTURE

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

17

Russians and Georgians: A Documentary Film Boosting People-to-People Relations BY MAKA LOMADZE

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n December 18, the Alexander Griboedov Russian Drama Theater presented a screening of the documentary film ‘Russians and Georgians,’ directed by historian, political scientist and literary worker, Evgeny Kozhokin. The hall was packed, perhaps to be considered proof that we two peoples want to remain friends, notwithstanding the confrontation of our governments. This was a movie-tribute to the memories of our deceased glorious writers, cultural workers and scientists, as well as contemporary Georgians living and working in Russia, and to outstanding Russians living in Georgia. The soiree was opened by Nikolai Sventitsky, Director of the Griboedov Theater, President of the Russian Club and organizer of the screening, who recently received the award “Father of Georgian Culture”. Russia-educated Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Vazha Pshavela, and Alexander Chavchavadze were mentioned, as were scientist and historian, founder of Tbilisi State University, Ivane Javakhishvili, and philologist Niko Marr. Cinema and theater directors Mikheil Chiaureli, Giorgi Danelia, Kote Marjanishvili, Robert Sturua, and Temur Chkheidze were also listed. “In spite of the political cataclysms,

nobody has been able to sow a conflict between our two nations,” Sventitsky said. The film begins with an interview with Oleg Tymchenko, a famous Russian painter living in Georgia, who says that the real pleasure for him is not the process of painting itself, but the mere start, when the idea comes, and the final moment, when the result is seen. In Russia there are 500-600 thousand Georgians. However, Tymchenko names Zurab Tsereteli, famous sculptor and painter, first and foremost. Then, Avtandil, a Georgian painter, appears in the film, confessing that as he did not speak English, Russia was a logical destination for him. “Those who buy my pictures do not just buy and leave, but make friends with me,” he says, adding that there are lots of things that concern him, and that make him happy. “But it does not matter, the main thing is to work, feed my family and respect Art,” he says. “Sometimes, I have no idea where my pictures have been sold. The two most exotic places I recollect now are the Philippines and Santiago.” Sonya is a Russian girl living and working in Tbilisi: “I’m a shoe designer. I wanted to go to Italy or Austria, but then I realized that I had to first attend the famous Armenian school.” On her way to Georgia’s neighboring country, she was asked by one of her Georgian friends to meet on Georgian soil and after that, Sonya stayed, reportedly unable to bear to leave Georgia. “’Malina, malina’ is the familiar call of the women raspberry

(From the left) Evgeny Kozhokin and Nikolai Sventitsky at the film screening

sellers here. It is a well-rooted barbarism in the Georgian language,” Sonya says. “I find many differences in our genetic code, including the attitude to the family, to religion…” she adds, noting the so-called Italian courtyards, where families live in close-knit communities, sharing joy and sorrow. “They might quarrel, but I’m amazed at the unity of neighbors when someone amongst them is ill, and all the rest help out.” Then, a Russian pedagogue working in a Georgian school speaks: “Georgian children hardly know Pushkin or Lermontov (also proven by a street poll),

but many know Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy as they are fashionable authors now. If you have read any of the latter, you are “in”!” Then, from the mouth of a Georgian teacher in Russia, we hear that many Russians of different profession and age study the Georgian language. There is even one priest who first met a Georgian man in the army, and then became interested in Georgia. “We are similar even in our sins,” he says. During the discussion following the screening, one of the attendees wished very much that such a film could be

turned into series and that a Georgian would make a film in response. It seems there are two Russias: one that is our enemy, and another that remains a country of great culture and a nation that is connected to us by a strong mutual understanding and esteem. “This is a very important film,” Olga Bickbabick, one of the protagonists of the film and a teacher of Russian in a Georgian school, told GEORGIA TODAY after the screening. “I perceive it as a mosaic of thoughts and destinies, all perfectly well fitted into the key-note of location and love.”


18

CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATRE Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 December 29 DON QUIXOTE Ludwig Minkus’ New redaction premiere Classical ballet Three Movements Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 - 70 GEL GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 December 24, 25 MOROZKO After a Russian Tale Directed by Linda Urbonavichute Language: Russian Small Stage Start time: 12:00, 14:00 Ticket: 5 GEL December 26, 27, 28, KARLSSON ON THE ROOF Astrid Lindgren Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 15:00 Ticket: 5 GEL GABRIADZE THEATRE Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 December 17, 24 RAMONA Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL December 22, 29 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL December 25, 28 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL

MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 December 23, 24 FAN DO'S MAGORY One Act Tale Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 21:30 Ticket: 15 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATRE Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge December 23, 27, 28 MARY POPPINS Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari December 23-29 ASSASSINS CREED Directed by Justin Kurzel Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Michael Kenneth Williams Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 12:30, 16:45, 19:30, 22:00 Ticket: 8-14 GEL ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Directed by Gareth Edwards Cast: Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 19:15, 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL ALLIED Directed by Robert Zemeckis Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris Genre: Action, Drama, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 22:10 Ticket: 13-14 GEL

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS Directed by Tom Ford Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon Genre: Drama, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 15:00 Ticket: 9-10 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL December 23-29 ALLIED (Info Above) Start time: 14:20 Ticket: 9-10 GEL COLLATERAL BEAUTY Directed by David Frankel Cast: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 19:30 Ticket: 8-14 GEL INCARNATE Directed by Brad Peyton Cast: Carice van Houten, Aaron Eckhart, David Mazouz Genre: Horror, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 17:00, 22:00 Ticket: 10-14 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 EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases money circulation on the territory of Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. June 11 – March 11 (2017) EXHIBITION MEDIEVAL

TREASURY The exhibition showcases preChristian and Georgian medieval art September 27 – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA 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.

modernity - Auguste Rodin. Despite a number of suggestions to work in Europe and America, Iakob Nikoladze brought his experience gained with Rodin back to Georgia and founded the School of Sculpture in his home country. December 6-31 SOLO EXHIBITION BY LEILA SHELIA The exhibition showcases up to 80 paintings and graphic works created by the artist at different times. VERNISSAGE GALLERY Address: 49 Kote Apkhazi Str. Telephone: 299 88 08

GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge

December 16-30 GURAM KHETSURIANI’S SOLO EXHIBITION MUSIC

PERMANENT EXHIBITION Works by distinguished 20th century Georgian artists- Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze.

TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24

June 24, 2016 – June 24, 2017 PIROSMANI’S YARD CLEANER AND EAGLE SEIZING A HARE ON DISPLAY 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 above.

December 24 Piano Recital Antonii Barishevsky Laureate of international competitions (Ukraine) In program: Chopin, Ravel, Debussy, Messiaen, Ustvolskaja, Mussorgsky Start time: 18:30 Ticket: 5-25 GEL

September 28 - September 28 (2017) PIROSMANI’S ROE AT A STREAM Kept by the TsitsishviliGedevanishvili family from 1949 until 2011, the painting has never been exhibited to the public before. In 2011, the artwork left Georgia and was sold at Sotheby's auction. It appeared at the same auction again in 2016 where it was bought by Bidzina Ivanishvili and Cartu Fund and donated to the Georgian National Museum. November 29 - January 28 (2017) EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 140TH ANNIVERSARY OF IAKOB NIKOLADZE In 1906-1908 Nikoladze worked with the greatest sculptor of

December 26 Chamber Music Concert Dedicated to Marina Jashvili Roman Simovic, Violin (Montenegro); Natela Politkovskaja-Jashvili, Piano. In program: Brahms, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Ravel Start time: 18:30 Ticket: 5-40 GEL December 28 PIANO RECITAL - ALEXANDER KORSANTIA Start time: 18:30 Ticket: 5-30 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 December 25 IUMORINA 2017 Iumorina 2017 with a new program for New Year’s Eve New comedy sketches, new parodies and new musical compositions Start time: 18:30 Ticket: 15-25 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 December 27, 29 JAM SESSION Reso Kiknaze Quintet Start time: 21:00 Entry: Free December 28 TANGO EVENING MILONGA, LA CUMPARSITA Argentine Tango Dance Night Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 5 GEL ZALIKO'S CENTER Address: 3 Vekua Str. Telephone: 557 72 91 91 December 29, 30, 31 KIDS’ NEW YEAR PARTY Start time: 11:00, 13:15 Ticket: 35 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

19

Too Light & Beautiful to Be True: Katie Melua in Tbilisi can’t even recall such a highly professional and valuable European tour. It received a lot of coverage on TV and it is an honor to have such a greatly successful project here, live, in Tbilisi.” “The European tour was much more successful than any of us, even Katie, expected! I think our work has been truly appreciated!” said Teona Tsiramua, Artistic Director of the Gori Women’s Chamber Choir. “Paris, Berlin, London… Now I can add the Tbilisi concert… As a musician, Katie is very balanced, a person who very well understands the logic of music, which encouraged our work together.” The English words and pleasant voice of Melua, together with her guitar-playing matched perfectly the Choir’s voices and repertoire, bringing many a listener out in goosebumps and giving a sensation of feather-lightness. At the end of the concert, Giorgi Abashishvili, the Head of the Georgian president’s Administration voiced the decision of the President of Georgia to award Melua with an Honor for Special Contribution to the Popularization of Georgian

BY MAKA LOMADZE

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n December 20, the culmination of the European tour, a tandem between Katie Melua, famous pop-star residing in the UK, and the Gori Women’s Chamber Choir, took place at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater - a concert which sold out in just 15 minutes!. The long-awaited show started with a transparent song, as crystal as winter ice, justifying the name of the album “In Winter” from which the songs were performed at 28 concerts in Germany, The Netherlands, France, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Belgium and Great Britain. The tour began shortly after the CD was recorded last October and triumphantly ended in Tbilisi. “I cannot believe that I’m having a concert in Tbilisi,” Melua said emotionally at the beginning of the show. In the first part of the show, 10 songs from the album were performed while in the second we were gifted with around 12 selected songs from

Katie’s own catalogue, sung together with musicians Tim Harris on contrabass and Mark Edwards on keyboard. “For me, winter is a great time, as people are thinking about the new season, New Year, traditions and time, as well as about the past,” Melua said. “It’s a very emotional period. I wanted to find something new and deeper. In the West, they say pop-stars are born, but I have learned from this cooperation that there is an artistic system that helps you to grow, too. Pop-music is such a strong format, one in which you can find important and deep motifs.” Melua first heard the Gori Women’s Chamber Choir on the internet. “I was in rapture. It was a very strange musical world for me. I’ve been very lucky in the pop music genre in the UK, but it’s been 10 years,” she said. And then she found this new treasure in her homeland. “I’m overwhelmed with happiness,” said Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection. “We want to thank Katie Melua, her band, and the Gori Women’s Chamber Choir for this fantastic and unprecedented cooperation. I

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Culture Abroad. “I’m ecstatic,” Melua said after the concert. “I’ve been waiting for this day for so long. The audience was so warm! My music is more tender than noisy, more focused on lyrics. I’m very happy with how open-heartedly the public listened to our project and I didn’t feel as nervous as I thought I would. Working with the Gori Women’s Chamber Choir has let me see with my own eyes how serious, talented and strong we, Georgians, are!”

EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT:

Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

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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2

NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

New Year Celebration for Children Living at the Conflict Divide

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n December 23, in the kindergarten of Abano village, Shida Kartli region of Georgia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are organizing a New Year celebration for children. The play party and concert will bring together 24 children from the villages of Abano, Satsikhuri and Koda, kindergarten teachers and local residents, as well as high-ranking officials of the United Nations and Government of

Georgia, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, State Minister of Georgia for Reconciliation and Civic Equality; Sozar Subari, Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia; Simone Wolken, UNHCR Regional Representative in the South Caucasus; and Shombi Sharp, UNDP Acting Head in Georgia. The kindergarten in Abano was fully rehabilitated and equipped this summer as part of the UNHCR and UNDP broader assistance to the Shida Kartli villages located at the conflict divide.

Batumi to Kick off Christmas Celebrations

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ock, Funk, Pop, Folk and Alternative music fans will have a chance to listen to Salio, Young Georgian Lolitaz, DJ Ako Von Unten, Mellow, The Bearfox, Asea Sool, ARA and many others performing in Batumi’s Europe Square from December 25 to January 3. Bringing a festive atmosphere to the square, there will also be a New Year Village opening on December 25, with twinkling food and drink stands, and fires, Glintwine and energetic music to

warm you. Contests, gifts and competitions are also planned throughout the holiday. Special children’s entertainment will be organized from December 25, with Santa Claus and his elves there to take little ones on a magical journey to a fairy-tale world. Santa will be waiting for children to grab a memorable photo in his Grotto. All the events are organized by Batumi Municipality and Tourism Department of Adjara.

Vintage Christmas Tale at Art Palace Tbilisi BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

A

rt Palace Tbilisi is to host a Christmas Tale market from December 24, showcasing the works of a group of Georgian artists who aim to revitalize the old tradition of Georgian Christmas decorations, vintage New Year tree decorations, angels and other figurines made as replicas of those kept in the museum stores.

Visitors to the Christmas fair will have a chance to buy glass baubles created using old Georgian techniques, along with traditional blue Georgian tablecloths, paintings of Christmas and New Year themes, pieces of jewelry and lights. “We’ve been planning a Christmas Fair here for two years, and I’m so pleased it’s finally come to be,” said Giorgi Kalandia, Director of the Art Palace museum. “I’m very much looking forward to itand Art Palace is the perfect setting for such a special display of vintage art and crafts.”

Christmas Tree Festival To be Held in Tbilisi BY NATIA LIPARTELIANI

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n December 26, a one-day Christmas Tree Festival is to be held on Shardeni Street in Old Tbilisi which will also encompass a fair of seasonal tree decorations. On Bambis Rigi Square from 2pm to 8 pm, guests will have the chance to enjoy a show of the most original Christmas trees of more than 50 companies. At the end of the festival the jury will award prizes to the most creative and interesting works. Participation is free of charge, as is entrance. The Christmas exhibition and fair will be held on Shardeni Street at the same

time. Around 30 artist-participants will present jewels, ceramics and wooden

Christmas decorations, as well as New Year sweets, wine, books and paintings.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Georgia’s Patrol Police Welcomes New Ski Patrol Unit Ski Patrol officers in Bakuriani

BY THEA MORRISON

T

he security and safety of visitors and tourists in all Georgia’s ski resorts will now be protected by a special unit of the Georgian police named the Ski Patrol. Ski Patrollers have undergone special training sessions at the Police Academy of Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and will wear a distinctive uniform and have special equipment to guarantee the maximum security of vacationers and to prevent accidents at the mountain resorts. The MIA reports that the training was attended by 74 Ski Patrollers from all regions of the country who had their new equipment handed to them by the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia himself, Giorgi Mghebrishvili, in Bakuriani before the opening of the ski season. “As I promised you last year, specially trained ski patrol officers will be patrolling through all winter resorts of the country, preserving public order and the safety of vacationers. I believe the officers will fulfill their duties with dedica-

tion,” he said. The responsibilities of the Ski Patrol include removing suspicious persons from the ski run; controlling the behavior of those under the influence of alcohol or psychotropic substances; maintaining control and preserving safety measures of the area where beginners are learning to ski; preventing the movement of unauthorized vehicles on the ski run; and maintaining control over signs and safety barriers. Uniforms and ski helmets are distinguished with SKI

PATROL and POLICE inscriptions. The amendments made in the Code of the Administrative Offences and Law on Traffic read that movement with a snowmobile or motorized sledge is forbidden except for authorized personnel, as is driving a snowmobile under the influence of drugs, alcohol or psychotropic substances. The Law also forbids the entering of a closed ski run. It is also forbidden to leave a place after crashing, without rendering help to the injured, and without first notifying an officer of the law.

Tbilisi to Host Forum Dedicated to Hasbara: A New Model of Diplomatic Support towards Israel

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n December 24-25, Tbilisi will host the first International Forum of Hasbara, with the participation of the Israeli official delegation. The large-scale event is being organized by ‘Israeli House’ in cooperation with the Ambassador of Israel to Georgia, Mr. Shabtai Tsur. Israeli House will present the results of its three-years of activities on December 24 at the Georgian National Opera and Ballet Theater of Tbilisi. The Prime Minister of Georgia, George Kvirikashvili, and Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhidze, are to attend. Israeli House was founded in 2013 on the initiative of the first official Israeli representative in the region, and President of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business, Itsik Moshe, under the auspices of the Knesset. It aims to make the Israeli Hasbara policy more active abroad and enhance the direct bilateral links with friendly states. Within the framework of Israeli House, official delegations from Israel visited Georgia and conducted fruitful meetings with the governmental authorities of the country. The pilot project of Israel House has been developed with the support of Hilik Bar, Deputy-Speaker of the Knesset, and

David Bitan, Head of the Coalition. Three major results have been achieved: 1. An international model of Hasbara has been created which can be used in other countries; 2. The strengthening of relations with Georgia has become a pattern of Israel's relations with other countries; 3. After three-years of active mutual effort, relations between Georgia and Israel have been shaped in the appropriate governmental format. On the second day of the delegation's visit, a forum dedicated to Hasbara and contemporary challenges faced by Israel on the international stage and in the greater Middle East will be conducted at Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi. Tzipi Hotovely, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, and Hilik Bar will speak, while the leaders of Israel's right-wing and left-wing forces will present their different visions of peace and neighborhood state policy. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze, is also expected to give a speech at the forum. The Israeli delegation, consisting of Deputy-speakers, the Deputy Foreign Minister, leader of the ruling coalition, and representatives of the business, academic and media spheres, will also be in attendance at the forum.

The New Year is coming up and we welcome our guests properly. The restaurant Georgian House will greet guests with Christmas songs, gifts, beautiful Christmas trees, New Year decorations, delicious dishes and festively decorated tables. The Georgian House delivery service will work on December 31 until 8 PM, as usual. This service is in-demand throughout the year, however, during such celebrations, the number of calls always goes up! Meet the New Year with loved ones in Georgian House. We will start the New Year's program at 11PM and keep going until 5AM: The Georgian Santa Claus, New Year's raffle prizes, a champagne show, modern traditional costume show and properly selected music program. Ensemble Forte, the winner of numerous competitions, Giorgi Mepisashvili, Elene Pochkhua, Boka Kvekveskiri and Irina Bairamashvili will sing for you. The evening will be musically arranged by well-known pianist and accompanist Tamila Chiradze. The incomparable actor and singer Zura Manjavidze will be the host of the evening. As a sign of the great appreciation our guests have for all that is the award Georgian House received in December, a victory for our team. The Welcome to Georgia Awards ceremony was held for the second time with the support of the State. Georgian and foreign experts gifted Georgian House for our contribution in the field of tourism development- for best catering service for tourists. Come and see for yourself and discover your Georgian House!

www.georgian-house.ge

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www.facebook.com/georgianhouse.ge


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Georgian Institute of Politics: Experts Identify Georgia’s Biggest Challenges Going Forward BY THEA MORRISON

T

he Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) claims the majority of experts see the new government of Georgia as unsuited to cope with the country’s pressing economic and social challenges. GIP surveyed around 30 Georgian and international engaged observers and experts about the prospects for Georgia’s future following the October parliamentary elections. The majority of those surveyed doubt that the ruling party Georgian Dream (GD) can live up to its electoral promises. GIP reports that among the pressing issues is how to stabilize the Georgian currency (GEL), which has been losing value since November 2014, hitting the nerve of the majority of the population who receive salaries in the national currency but have credit in USD. “Experts are not optimistic about GD’s ability to deal with the problem. 78 percent of surveyed expert pundits said GD will be unable to stabilize the Georgian currency. 22 percent think it is “somewhat likely” the government will stabilize the GEL,” GIP survey reads. The report reads that the experts are similarly pessimistic about Georgia’s economic growth and unemployment prospects. 58 percent of respondents said the economy would grow by 3-4% annually, and 38.5% expect it to grow by just 1-2%. Only one expert believed the economy will increase by 4-5% under GD. In their election program, GD promised to create 200,000 new jobs by implementing reform of the pension system, taxes, and infrastructure. However, 93% of surveyed pundits consider this promise to be unrealistic. The majority of experts also expect foreign debt to increase during the next four years. 33% said it will increase “significantly” and 56% said it will increase “but by an affordable percentage.” Only 7% percent expect the debt level to stay the same or to decrease in the coming years. The projected economic growth of a maximum 3-4% as predicted by the majority of experts will probably not suffice to balance an increase in foreign debt. Moreover, the experts are concerned about GD having the constitutional majority in Georgia’s parliament. Only 11% of respondents said that GD’s supermajority in parliament will affect Georgia’s democratic and economic development “rather positively.” In contrast, 85% of experts said that it would “negatively” affect political processes in the country. Experts’ negative

Times are changing... Source: THEAsiaN

opinions may have been influenced by recent moves by the GD majority to change the procedures for electing the president. Experts’ opinions diverged on the future of Georgian opposition parties. Regarding the former ruling party United National Movement (UNM), 44% said the party’s relative strength and size of its electorate would remain at current levels. 22% expect the UNM to disintegrate further and 19% see the opposite development: expecting the UNM to consolidate and strengthen in future elections. Further, the overwhelming majority agree that the former president and UNM founder Mikheil Saakashvili has a negative impact on the UNM. 82% of surveyed experts said he had a damaging impact on the former ruling party. Only 11% considered his impact to be even “somewhat” positive. The experts also lack optimism about

the prospects of the liberal opposition parties. 30 percent of surveyed pundits named the “failure to build a liberal coalition prior to the elections” as the main reason behind the liberal parties’ electoral fiasco. 59% percent identified a combination of reasons to explain the weakness of the liberal center: failure to build a liberal coalition and the absence of strong programmatic profiles and political leadership. Overall, experts have a pessimistic view of the future facing the liberal parties. 52% percent of surveyed respondents said the popularity of the liberal parties would remain at the same low level and 26% foresee a further disintegration and eventual political insignificance for the liberal center. Only 22% of pundits have somewhat optimistic expectations, believing that liberal parties will manage to reorganize and perform better in future elections. GIP says their survey also asked the

experts to identify the biggest challenge lying ahead for the country over the next few years and to give recommendations to the GD government how to improve its policies. “Amid the ineffectiveness of the current and previous government, the rise of the far right was the most frequently mentioned danger in experts’ comments. Among another dangers the experts mentioned was the GD’s supermajority in the parliament which might be used to further strengthen the governing party’s position and both the structural and policy inconsistency of the new government,” the report reads. The GIP survey revealed that the experts see that the window of opportunity has closed for the Georgian government to implement decisive reforms, since the election cycle is over and there are no national elections planned for the immediate future. In particular, the surveyed pundits rec-

ommend the government run a better fiscal policy, focus more on infrastructural development and abandon the “Larization” policy. The surveyed experts also gave several recommendations to the majority and the opposition. They say the government should pay more attention to democratic development and be more cooperative with the opposition. As for opposition parties, experts believe the UNM should free itself from the dominance of its former leadership, including Saakashvili. The respondents also said that Liberal parties should potentially collaborate more to have better chances in future elections. The Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) is a Tbilisi-based non-profit, non-partisan, research and analysis organization founded in early 2011. Since December 2013 GIP is member of the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Georgia’s Prime Minister Holds Meetings in Turkey BY THEA MORRISON

100 People Cut from Georgia’s Defense Ministry BY THEA MORRISON

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round 100 people have been dismissed from the Military Police of Georgia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) and further reduction of its staff

is expected. The information was confirmed by the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Shalva Jabakhidze. The Ministry’s key figures said the dismissals are not related to the government’s decision to apply a 10% decrease in administrative expenses in all ministries of Georgia. They explained that the changes had been planned as part of a necessary reform within the Ministry itself. However, it was previously stated by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, and other governmental officials, that dismissals would not be seen in the law enforcement bodies. Deputy Chief of the General Staff told

Imedi TV that optimization would also affect military battalions. "Our goal is to have the military police battalions work as paramilitary units, which will have servicemen who have undergone at least one contract term and have received a military education. This is why we made those people redundant. We do not need excess personnel,” Jabakhidze said. Parliament’s Defense and Security Committee Head, Irakli Sesiashvili, also commented on the issue and approved the developments within the Ministry. "I understand that for any person, losing a job is very difficult, but it is an unfortunate fact that the Ministry of Defense needed and still needs serious optimization,” he said. The newly jobless servicemen say they were not given any detailed information about their dismissal and were told only that a reduction of staff is underway at the Ministry. Some sources say that Ministry of Internal Affairs is also planning to cut back on the number of employees in the near future.

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s a part of his official state visit to Turkey, Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, met with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Tuesday. The officials discussed bilateral cooperation in politics, trade, economy, transport, energy, arts and culture and agreed to further boost ties between the two countries. Particular attention was paid to the issues of regional security and need to ensure peace and stability in the region. Prime Minister of Georgia once again expressed support to and solidarity with the people and authorities of Turkey for the recent series of terrorist attacks. “Such violence should be opposed by the entire civilized world. Georgia stands solidly by its friends in this process,” President Kvirikashvili said. Prior to their meeting, the two presidents attended the opening ceremonies for Istanbul’s Eurasia Tunnel. A 14.6 km tunnel laid underneath the seabed will connect the continents of Europe and Asia, contributing, backers say, to a revival of the historic Silk Road. The Eurasia Tunnel runs for 5.4 km underneath the Bosphorus. State-of-theart technology has been used to seemlessly connect the newly constructed double-deck tunnel with existing infrastructure.

Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, met with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 20

President Kvirikashvili also had a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Binali Yldirim, at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. "On behalf of the Government of Georgia, I strictly condemn the series of terrorist attacks occurring in Turkey in the recent past and express solidarity with the families of the victims, people and authorities of the Republic of Turkey,” said President Kvirikashvili. Turkey’s Foreign Minister thanked President Kvirikashvili for the support demonstrated by Georgia many times. He said that Turkey continued to support Georgia’s geopolitical aspirations, including accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and integration with the European Union (EU) and Euro-Atlantic Structures. “Turkey has always supported the ter-

ritorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. We will continue doing so in the future. We believe that current problems should be resolved in the integral territory of Georgia, respecting its sovereignty and its internationally recognized borders,” Mr. Yildirim stressed at the press-conference. He also underlined that Turkey had been Georgia’s top trade partner since 2007 and that the two countries plan to further boost the relationship. “Georgia and Turkey cooperate in the area of investments. We launched the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway project, which is jointly implemented by Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. We hope it will be completed in the first quarter of 2017 and extend the transport corridor to bring new momentum to the historic Silk Road,” Mr. Yildirim said.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Georgia’s Education Minister, Alexander Jejelava. Source: Ipress

Georgia’s Education Ministry to Reduce Staff Numbers throughout the Country BY THEA MORRISON

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eorgia’s Education Minister, Alexander Jejelava, has told Palitra News that around 200 to 250 people are to be dismissed from the Ministry in the near future. The Minister spoke about the ongoing process of optimization in the Ministry and confirmed that the number of lawyers is going to be halved. Jejelava said that in total there were 73 lawyers in the regional resource centers, and that after reorganization there would be only 37. "We agreed with the resource centers that not every office needs a lawyer, so we decided to halve

the current number,” he explained, adding that optimization would also apply to the regional representatives of the Audit Service. He also believes that in order to save financial resources, internet companies ought to be contracted instead of the "school-based" internet specialists currently employed. The Minister does not rule out the reorganization of employees working in the ministry itself. On the whole, Jejelava said around 250 people would be dismissed from the ministry and its branches. He added that the Ministry has confirmed a new scheme of teachers’ qualification exams. After passing two obligatory exams, teachers will be promoted and their salaries increased. The optimization is also expected within other ministries.

Seeking Alternatives: How Can Armenia Transport Cargo to & from Russia?

OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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he initiative to make changes to the Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories has a new story to tell. Alongside those supporting “humanization” from the governmental party are those from the government of our neighboring country. The Prime Minister of Armenia has already begun to convince local importers that an alternative to the military highway connecting Russia and Georgia has been found. Although it was not specified through which geographical point our neighbor plans to transport the cargo from Russia to Georgia if not via the Dariali Gorge, without changes to the Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories, this promise has no grounds and this fact is crystal clear not only to Official Yerevan, but also to Official Moscow and Tbilisi as well. Our neighbor announced the need for diversification of the transportation corridor connecting it with Russia when a landslide blocked the highway back in summer. Official Yerevan demanded that the Georgian Military Highway in Dariali be substituted by the Roki Tunnel in Javi Gorge. Naturally, this request was met with the relevant reaction. In fact, Prime Minister Kvirikashvili confirmed that certain consultations were attempted in the Abashidze-Karasin format but an agreement could not reached, since the Kremlin raised political demands regarding the status of the occupied region. The declaration of Armenian Premier Karen Karapetyan that an alternative to the Georgian Military Highway has been found raises the serious suspicion that the “humanization” of the law on occupied territories has nothing to do with caring for the people living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and serves more the interests of Moscow and Yerevan. The “humanization” means imposing

a 400 GEL fine on people who illegally enter the occupied territories. Put simply, if a truck driver moving from Russia to Armenia crosses the Georgian border from the River Psou pass or the Roki Tunnel, he will be obliged to pay 400 GEL in Zugdidi or Gori before being set free to return to his homeland. In contrast, according to the law in force today, the driver will be captured and jailed for four years. Discussions on finding a substitute to the Georgian Military Highway were heard in summer. The Minister of Transport of Armenia, Gagik Beglaryan, offered a number of alternatives to the Georgian Prime Minister during his visit to Tbilisi, among them the E-60 transit corridor and the TbilisiBakurtsikhe-Lagodekhi route. However, neither of these options has any connection with the Russian border- the first starts in Baku and ends in Poti, while the other crosses the Azerbaijani border. Therefore it is unclear how these make it an alternative to the existing route. Maybe they were discussing the new road coming from Dagestan to Kvareli and joining the Tbilisi-BakurtsikheLagodekhi route, but nobody specified this. Thus, we can assume that both Yerevan and Tbilisi prefer “humanization” over building new roads and wasting resources. 76 MPs clicking the green button will be enough to make the changes to the law. Former Prime Minister of Georgia Tengiz Sigua excludes finding any reasonable alternative to the current Upper Larsi border crossing point used as the transportation route connecting Russia and Armenia via Georgia. “Armenia can receive cargo from Russia via Georgia only through the Upper Larsi border crossing point; they have no alternative. Iran would let the cargo through, because Russian military cargo goes through the Caspian Sea. However, as far as I know the railway line which carries Russian cargo from Iran to Armenia is so overloaded that it cannot accept any additions,” Sigua said in an interview with Pirveli.

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 23 - 26, 2016

Embassy of Belarus Officially Opens in Tbilisi BY THEA MORRISON

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n embassy of Belarus has been officially opened in Tbilisi for the first time, after a two-day visit by Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei to Georgia. Georgia’s Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze, opened the embassy with his Belarusian counterpart and expressed hope that the step would further deepen relations between the two former Soviet republics. The first ambassador of Belarus to Georgia will be Mikhail Miatlikov, who arrived in Georgia in August. At the opening ceremony, Janelidze addressed the close political, economic, trade and cultural ties between Belarus and Georgia and said the opening of the embassy was a historic event. “The opening of the Belarus Embassy to Georgia means that bilateral ties between us in regional and international formats will be even more enhanced,� Janelidze said, and wished the new Ambassador success in his future activities. The opening of Belarus official representation to

Georgia was first announced when the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, visited Georgia last year. Prior to opening the embassy, the Belarusian Foreign Minister held a face-to-face meeting with Minister Janelidze during which the sides discussed a broad spectrum of political, trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian issues between Georgia and Belarus and emphasized the importance of holding regular political consultations between the foreign ministries of the two countries. The necessity of deepening co-operation in the Eastern Partnership format was also highlighted. The Ministers noted the increasing dynamic of high-level visits between the two countries, especially in 2016, which contributes to deepening practical cooperation in various areas. After the meeting, Janelidze said that talks are underway with Belarus to develop trade and economic relations in order to increase bilateral trade as well as the participation of Belarusian enterprises in the Georgian economy. Moreover, Makei travelled to the village of Khurvaleti, near the occupation line separating breakaway Tskhinvali region from the rest of Georgia. He also paid tribute to fallen Georgian soldiers at the national memorial.



Issue #907