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Issue no: 899

• NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II Meets Georgian Parish in Moscow NEWS PAGE 3

Time to Change: Ogden on the End of the Union POLITICS PAGE 5

The Kremlin Gambit POLITICS PAGE 6

The Enigma of the Lari SOCIETY PAGE 8

Georgia’s Top Inbound Travel Companies Test The Family Hotel & Restaurant

FOCUS

SOCIETY PAGE 10

ON CHILDREN'S RIGHTS UNICEF releases latest Welfare Monitoring Survey

PAGE 3

Putin Signs Law on Ratification of Russian-Abkhazian Military Agreement

INTERVIEW: Laila Omar Gad, UNICEF Representative to Georgia SOCIETY PAGE 12

A Good Week for Film-lovers & Film-makers

BY THEA MORRISON

R

ussian President Vladimir Putin has signed a Federal Law on the ratification of the Agreement between the Russian Federation and Georgia’s Occupied Region Abkhazia on a Joint Group of Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the so called Republic of Abkhazia. The agreement on combined forces includes a Russian military base in occupied Abkhazia, two motor rifle battalions, artillery and aviation groups, and a special-purpose detachment. The mutual agreement was signed in Moscow on November 21, 2015, and was ratified by Russia’s State Duma early this month. According to the agreement, the organization and conduct of joint activities will be carried out on the basis of joint guidelines of the general staffs of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Abkhazia. In case of a potential threat or wartime, troops

CULTURE PAGE 13

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Source: tass.com

in the united group answer directly to the commander of the joint group, appointed by the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Moscow Times reports that financing the costs of bringing the new unit up to Russian standards falls on Moscow. “The agreement was concluded for a period

of ten years, with the possibility of automatic renewal for successive five-year periods,” an article of the Moscow Times reads. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia (MFA) commented on the fact, saying this is not only occupation, but more – annexation. Continued on page 2


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

Georgia to Receive £4.5 mln from Good Governance Fund

BY NATIA LIPARTELIANI

O

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n November 24, the British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Alan James Carter Duncan visited Georgia within the frames of the third round of the ‘Wardrop Dialogue’ at which he announced that Georgia would receive £4.5 million from the Good Governance Fund in order to further important reforms in relation to strengthening democratic institutions. “We are committed to supporting Georgia as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions, undertake important reforms, and further protect human rights and media freedom. That is why we are continuing our Good Governance Fund, which will provide up to £4.5million (13.94 million GEL) over the next year to help these reforms,” Duncan said. Duncan was in Georgia this week to take part in the Wardrop Dialogue which serves as a venue for both sides to discuss the wide spectrum of Georgia-UK cooperation. Duncan held meetings with Georgian governmental officials, including President Giorgi Margvelashvili, acting Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze. “The UK’s commitment to Georgia, as an international security partner and regional democratic role model, is unwavering,” said Duncan.

He also touched upon Georgia’s Foreign Policy and its progress in terms of EU integration. “Through its democratic credentials, open economy and progressive human rights, Georgia is playing a vital role in the stability and security of the wider region. Georgia’s progression towards Euro-Atlantic integration, both through NATO and the EU, will only serve to build on the progress already made,” he added. The Good Governance Fund is a multi-year program to provide expert advice, training and assistance to the governments of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The fund supports activities such as: Strengthening the rule of law and democratic accountability as well as reforming police and justice systems; The liberalization and modernization of key sectors such as energy and banking; Reform of tax systems, improvements to the business environment and the reduction of red tape to generate foreign investment and help private sector entrepreneurs to drive exports; Anti-corruption measures to help improve transparency and encourage effective public financial management; Strengthening independent media to ensure balanced and accurate news and public affairs reporting. This is a cross-government fund and there will be options to extend it to other countries in further years. For FY 2015/16 the allocation is £20 million.

Putin Signs Law on Ratification of Russian-Abkhazian Military Agreement Continued from page 1

“These kinds of provocative steps by the Russian Federation serve the purpose of ultimate annexation of the occupied regions of Georgia, which is a complete disregard of the fundamental principles and norms of international law and undermines the established international order,” Georgia’s MFA reports. The Ministry urged the Russian Federation to honor the undertaken obligations and fully comply with the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, withdraw its military units from the occupied territories of Georgia and ensure the establishment of international security arrangements in Georgia’s Occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. The Georgian side also called on the international community to give a proper assessment of the aggressive moves of the Russian Federation and take effective measures to avoid further aggravation of the security situation in the region. Russia’s actions towards Georgia’s occupied territories were condemned by the United States (US).

The US Department of State issued a statement on November 22. “The United States strongly opposes the Russian Federation’s ratification of an agreement secured with the de facto leaders in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia regarding a joint military force. We do not recognize the legitimacy of this so-called “treaty,” which does not constitute a valid international agreement,” the statement of the US State Department reads. Moreover, the statement says that the US considers Georgia’s breakaway Regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia as integral parts of Georgia, underlining that the US supports Georgia’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The US Department of State calls on Russia to fulfill all of its commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, and provide free access for humanitarian assistance to both regions.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

3

Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II Meets Georgian Parish in Moscow BY THEA MORRISON

UNICEF Reveals Results of New Welfare Monitoring Survey

M

OSCOW, Russia - The Cathilicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, met the Georgian parish living in Russia at a Georgian church in Moscow on Wednesday, where he conducted a service and congratulated Georgians on Saint George’s Day. After the service, his holiness met with representatives of the local Georgian Diaspora. Ilia II and his delegation, made up of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klarjeti Archbishop Teodore; Zugdidi and Tsaishvili Archbishop Gerasime; Gori and Samtavisi Arhbishop Andria; Archimandrite Davit Chincharauli; Protopresbyter Giorgi Zviadadze; Archpriest Aleksandre Galdava; and nun Aleksandra Iasibashi, arrived in Russia on November 19 in order to take part in various festive events dedicated to Russian Patriarch Kirill's 70th jubilee. On November 20 the Russian Orthodox Church leader welcomed Georgia’s delegation to the residence of Russia’s Patriarchate, where mutual relations between Georgian and Russian churches were discussed. Ilia II noted that the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches were very

BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II. Source: fortuna.ge

important for both countries and set good examples for political figures regarding relations between the two neighboring states. “We need each other and we should help each other,” Ilia II told Patriarch Kirill, wishing him peace and prosperity. Ilia II also sent a letter of congratulations to the Russian Patriarch, in which he underlined that confrontation between neighboring Georgia and Russia was dangerous and could lead to global conflict. The head of Georgian Church also

raised the problem of the eparchy of Georgia’s breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia, asking for recognition of the jurisdiction of the Georgian Church in these regions. “We are not politicians and cannot make serious steps in politics, but we can have some influence on the process,” Ilia said in the letter to the Russian Patriarch. Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II and his delegation will return to Georgia on November 25.

U

NICEFGeorgiapresented a new Welfare Monitoring Survey this week at Holiday Inn Tbilisi. The Welfare Monitoring Survey is a biennial household survey covering all the government controlled regions of Georgia. The results of the 2015 round examined the prevalence and distribution of consumption poverty, material deprivation, subjective poverty and social exclusion. The Survey revealed that every 5th child lives under the poverty line and every 6th child lives under the subsistence minimum. Despite the increase in family consumption, people’s income

has not changed and poor children still have fewer chances to attend educational institutions than those from wealthier families. The major findings of the Welfare Monitoring Survey highlighted that poverty rates are higher in households that have children than those without. Child poverty rates are about 50 percent higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Extreme poverty (1.25 USD per day, less than 3 GEL) reduced from 3.9 (2013) to 2.1 percent (2015) among the general population, and from 6 to 2.5 percent in children. General poverty indicators (2.5 USD per day, around 5 GEL) reduced from 24.6 percent (2013) to 18.4 percent with a reduction in the rate for children from 28.4 to 21.7 percent. Continued on page 12


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

Edward Lucas - Georgia Has Paid the Price for the West’s Education BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

A

mong the scholars studying and writing about the postSoviet space and Georgia in particular, Edward Lucas ranks as one of the more profound, well-versed and knowledgeable. The Economist’s international editor has been outspoken in his criticisms of the Russian government, with his book ‘Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West’ (2008) becoming a go-to source for many scholars, coining the term Whataboutism in the process. The book’s later edition shed more light on the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, an occasion Edwards described as a warning the West didn’t heed. With Lucas arriving in Georgia for a public lecture organized by the Ilia State University, GEORGIA TODAY, which, among other things publishes The Economist’s licensed Georgian edition, was privileged to have an exclusive interview with the journalism ace.

WHEN REVIEWING YOUR BOOK, THE NEWSWEEK STATED THAT YOU’VE “BUILT A VERY STRONG CASE FOR THE PROSECUTION OF VLADIMIR PUTIN.” DO YOU EVER SEE THAT HAPPENING IN REAL LIFE? I think that if Mr. Putin faces prosecu-

tion it will be a very long trial, with a massive sentence at the end of it. The huge amount of money that has disappeared, so many dead people, among them the assassination of my friends, Boris Nemtsov and Anna Politkovskaya, and many others. I’m not sure if Mr. Putin is guilty of everything that he has been accused of, but certainly it would be a wonderful day if he ever was brought to face these charges.

money on it, make real sacrifices or take real risks. So, in a way, it has been an accident waiting to happen and now that it happened, we have to deal with it. I think Europe is perfectly capable of defending itself – both in terms of money and human resources. As for NATO, I hope it survives. I hope Mr. Trump will soon realize that he needs allies and leaves the talk of the campaign as just that – talk.

SO DO YOU SEE HIM IN THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL ONE DAY?

IN 2008, YOU ARGUED THAT THE ONLY PATH TO SURVIVAL FOR GEORGIA WAS NATO MEMBERSHIP. EIGHT YEARS ON, DO YOU STILL SEE THIS AS A VIABLE, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY FEASIBLE, SOLUTION?

In a way, I’d prefer to see him on trial in Russia, really. I think international justice is good, but national justice is even better in this regard.

HOW DO YOU SEE THE DEVELOPMENTS IN EUROPE NOW THAT TRUMP HAS BECOME THE US PRESIDENT? WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR NATO? HAS THE PROSPECT OF EUROPE CREATING ITS OWN ARMED FORCES BECOME MORE REAL? What I call a Tramp-Quake is going to have a bigger effect outside the US than inside it. US allies everywhere, and especially in Europe, are now thinking – what happens next? And in the case of Europe it’s partially their own fault. For years, they didn’t take defense seriously, they took it for granted and refused to spend real

I think it’s fair to say that Georgia has paid the price for the West’s education, starting all the way back in the 90s. And I think it was a terrible mistake for the West not to push ahead with NATO expansion, for both Georgia and Ukraine, when we still could. Now the political will of NATO is much more diminished. And perhaps it’s less in Georgia as well – some people feel discouraged and I can understand why. But you have to continue to make Georgia a success – a political, economical, infrastructural success and the stronger Georgia is, the easier it is to imagine Georgian integration into both NATO and the European Union.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

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Time to Change: Ogden on the End of the Union OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN

D

onald Trump's election has set the world alight with speculation over what will happen during the early days of his presidency, and more attention seems to have been placed on his potential foreign policy priorities than anything else. His relations with Russia (projected to be cordial) and China (projected to be antagonistic) have dominated the American headlines, with Europe becoming little more than a footnote. It is not difficult to see why. The United States has lived in a state of perpetual political tension with Russia since the end of the Second World War, and China's economic power directly threatens that of the US and has been an American concern for almost a decade. Relations with Europe will not have a major impact on America's political or economic scenes (unlike its dealings with the East), and any breakdown in communication or cooperation between the New World and the Old will be far more damaging to Brussels than Washington. Should the US reduce its support for NATO – or withdraw outright – then it is Europe that will suffer. The EU as an institution stands on the brink as rightwing parties gain momentum, inspired by Brexit and Trump's election. I understand global apathy with the European Union: Schengen visas are free

for Moldovans, whose country is riddled with the kind of corruption that Georgia has not faced in over a decade, while Georgia itself is repeatedly fed false promises and obliged to praise the taste; a trade deal with Canada that would benefit both North America and the entire European continent is prevented from being signed by a small part of Belgium (not even the country as a whole) selfishly looking to its own interests; the British extradition of a terrorist to face justice in Jordan is blocked, while unprec-

edented levels of migrants and refugees have been brought into the continent without European residents being consulted, with failures to integrate, terrorist incidents and sexual assaults all amongst the fallout. And yet, in the face of disaster, Europe has a rare chance to improve its lot...it would just mean becoming the aggressive supranational government that antiEU factions accuse it of being. A 'hard Brexit' with highly unfavorable terms for the British would likely make

any government – and, by association, any voter – think twice before thinking of leaving the Union. Europe must consolidate its own borders and quench its internal turmoil. As the more liberalminded ask why religious extremists feel the need to question why the radicals feel and act as they do, so too must European governments ask why increasing numbers of its population are voting for more right-wing parties. The answer would likely lead them to significantly reduce the intake of refugees, and invest

more in integration programs (should any prove remotely successful) to prevent further incidents of radicalism and violence against European women. With regards to its 'partner nations' (a term used to describe countries promised membership, but denied entry), Europe could offer immediate outright membership (and all the benefits being a member of the club entails) with a high price. Ukraine, for instance, must finally purge its government of corruption, perhaps even with direct EU assistance. In the case of Georgia, violence against religious, ethnic and sexual minorities must be severely punished, with European-standard education programs to be immediately introduced. In addition, government funding of the Georgian Orthodox church must be severely reduced (just this week I read that Patriarch Ilia, while visiting Moscow, told his Russian counterpart that 'only you [Kiril] and I can heal the rift between our countries'. Terrifying). An increase in military spending throughout the continent (without necessarily resulting in the formation of a European Army) would also soften the blow of a US withdrawal from NATO. It is unlikely, however, that Europe has either the strength or cohesion to change so radically and rapidly. Bureacracy and an inability to agree have rendered Europe ill-equipped to adapt to an ever-changing world, but unless Brussels manages to adjust, the next two years could spell the end of the Union.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

The Kremlin Gambit OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

T

he Kremlin gambit continues globally, bombing Aleppo in Syria, supplying Armenia with Iskanders, assigning the presidents of Bulgaria and Moldova and most importantly violating international laws. Very recently, President Putin issued a decree stating that Russia has left the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, specifically meaning that it has rejected the membership of this court once and for all. Even the last hope has vanished, as nobody can now ever impose any legal responsibility on Russia for the ethnic cleansing during the war of August 2008. However, international law experts still promise that the Kremlin will be held accountable for the committed crimes.

Putin publicly repudiated Russia from the rest of the civilized world. Nobody can now ever ask Russia why it didn’t follow civilized standards

Russia stated that the war of 2008 and the attitude of the Hague International Court of Justice towards it is one of the main reasons behind it leaving the Rome Statute. The Kremlin argues that the resources used for the court hearings are wasted pointlessly and bring no results. Sergey Lavrov Foreign Minister of Russia, says that during its 14-yearlong work, the Court has given only four verdicts and yet more than USD 1 billion has been spent. Most importantly, the

Kremlin says it is disappointed with the Hague Court and does not believe in its impartiality. Despite these arguments, it is hard to believe that Georgia and the wasted billions are the true reason for the radical decision by the Kremlin. The nuclearweapon state rejecting international laws is a much larger-scale event than even the five-day war of Georgia. Therefore, the vector of this decision is clearly aiming in a different direction.

Today, Putin is riding a white horse and wants to ignore everything and everyone around him, says political expert Soso Tsintsadze: “Putin feels his power and he can freely violate any law and disregard even the Pope.” Political expert Soso Tsiskarishvili believes that leaving the Rome Statute is another demonstration of Putin’s authority: “By this decree, Putin publicly repudiated Russia from the rest of the civilized world. Nobody can ever ask Russia why it didn’t follow

civilized standards. This will carry a general threat for Georgia, Ukraine and Belorussia as well; a lot has happened to Armenia already in recent days.” The Kremlin has almost shut down the Ministry of Defense of Armenia and has incorporated it into the Russian military group dislocated in the Gyumri military base in Armenia. This decision by the Kremlin has suspiciously coincided with the beginning of the “armed competition” against NATO. The Kremlin plans to install the so-called C-400 missile systems in Kaliningrad, just as it did in Armenia. Some Iskanders was given to the Ministry of Defense of Armenia, the ministry was later abolished and these are now in the Russian military base in Gyumri. Russia has also done other “homework” as a response to the installation of US missile systems in Europe, said Vladimir Putin. In short, the legal and armed siege surrounding Georgia is getting narrower and narrower. The Russian army on the occupied territories of Georgia, Iskanders in the neighboring countries and complete legal freedom. In light of this, the suggestion from the current Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda that the Kremlin will be nevertheless responsible for its crimes, seems too optimistic. Ms. Bensouda explained that though the Russian Federation had not ratified the Rome Statute, those proven guilty will still be prosecuted. The Hague Court was launched in 2002 and the cases it works on include genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Court was founded on the Rome Statute, which was adopted in 1998 and signed by the Russian Federation, but has not been ratified since.


GEORGIA TODAY

SOCIETY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

7

Teaching Ourselves New Bridges BY ROBERT ISAF

A

deep electric buzzing has filled the lecture room at the Writers’ House on Machabeli. I can’t tell what’s causing it, but it sounds a bit like a bass drone begun, as if the other voices are waiting to join in. A tall young man with hair best described as both long and luxurious has just careened himself to the front of the room through the single-row half-circle of chairs, lugging a clumsy glass-topped side table. He practically throws it down beside the projector to rush to the blank flip-chart easel behind him, where he throws over the previous presentation’s page and scrawls YOU HAVE ONE MIN TO SAVE YOURSELF FROM A FASCIST. It’s right after coffee break, so not all of us are entirely mentally present, but a hesitant bemused silence does come into the room when he spins around, scrawling complete, to expose a rather too-bushy but still distinctly Hitleresque mustache. He slowly extends his right arm up into a sieg heil and then, realizing after about twenty seconds that no-one’s moved to do anything yet to SAVE OURSELVES FROM A FASCIST, slowly lifts his second arm, hand fisted, raising a finger for a different sort of salute. It isn’t so much shocking as it is a bit weird, especially after a day of academic presentations, and no-one’s exactly sure how to respond. There’s some nervous laughter, and a few hands twitching with the uncertainty of whether or not they ought to be taking notes. Finally the director puts down his pad and grumbles something to the extent of “OK, fine, I’ll do it” – striding forward to heroically pluck the buzzing electric razor off the glass side table, where the long-haired autocrat’s had it prepared for us all along.

Photo by Murat Aluçlu

The mustache is just a bit too bushy, though, so though the tension’s been broken, it’s still another five minutes before the face is sufficiently smooth and anyone feels properly SAVED FROM A FASCIST. The savior turns around at some point and chuckles apologetically. “It’s not really working too well.” The man struggling to shear our Upperlip Samson and disempower worldwide ethnocentric hatred is Matthias Klingenberg, regional director of the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Education Association, or the DVV International. As the name suggests, the DVV takes as its focus on adult education worldwide, with the mission interpreted broadly and variably, depending on regional context. The regional office in Tbilisi covers Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey, and in recent years has organized projects working for reconciliation between Abkhazians and Georgians, and Armenians and Turks. Another program under its umbrella is History Bridges, whose rather sexy tagline

announces: “confronting the past, acting for the future.” History Bridges acts as a network of research projects, all dealing, as per the tag, with confronting their societies’ pasts, and applying the lessons for the future. The event last week in the Writer’s House was a gathering of History Bridge participants from around the world, along with a number of invited outsiders and observers. Its full title was “Nationalism, Narrow-Mindedness, Aggression: Does the 20th Century Reoccur?” Although participants came to present research projects and reconciliation work from as far away as Cambodia, Myanmar, and Irkutsk, the workshop’s center of gravity lay in the old Ottoman Empire. The performance-artist Hitler – Murat Aluçlu, born in Istanbul – has, as part of his project, bicycled from Istanbul carrying a chunk of stone from the house his family lives in now, a house which previously belonged to Armenians. Two young Armenian women, neither of them professional researchers, presented a

compelling project to map out the often overlooked sites of Soviet presence in Yerevan, and a last-minute contribution discussed contemporary literature as a force for bridge-building at the Ottomans’ other periphery, in former Yugoslavia. Certain themes ran through the entire workshop, and not necessarily the themes that were expected. For a conference by name equating “nationalism” uncritically with “narrow-mindedness” and “aggression,” an astounding amount of time found itself devoted to the importance of nationalism’s trappings: ritual, pride in one’s country and tradition, regional stylistics, cultural preservation. One speaker from Cambodia – Long Khet – had only enough time to touch briefly on the reconciliation projects his Youth for Peace (YFP) organization engages in, because they were so many. One is based on a Buddhist “water and community” ceremony, using religious ritual to ‘release the pain’ of the last half-century’s atrocities; another on festive, traditional re-marriage ceremonies for couples who had not only been forced

to marry by the regime, but – this being at least the rectifiable fault – had been married the first time without any matrimonial trappings. Through tradition, it seems, a certain healing is found. Maps abounded. The Armenian project – “The Topography of Red Terror in Yerevan” – made an excellent foil for the Friday morning walking tour of Tbilisi, led by David Jishkariani of Tbilisi-based SovLabs. Though SovLabs generally works to create interactive maps of Tbilisi’s Soviet past, the tour followed an older, less technological inspiration – a 1944 guidebook leading the curious through sites associated with Josef Stalin. The relative silence of the map might have seemed out of place at an academic workshop, but here silence played an important role, and nowhere as vividly as in Mr. Aluçlu’s project. As he shuffled, a tad awkwardly, following his defolliculization, it appeared for a moment that the stunt was his entire presentation. “This is what I’m doing because I’m bad at language,” he offered, after a moment. “I’m bad at talking – even in Turkish. So I invented a better language.” It’s a more than welcome change of pace. The video he shows ends with a long, devastating view of the city of Mardin, Turkish flag slowly waving in the foreground above the remaining minarets and a field of destroyed buildings. The videos from his cycle around Turkey, including some of its most dangerous regions, today subject to an undeclared civil war, speak in a crowd of researchers, not against them but complimenting them, to the importance of sometimes simply being present to witness. A scene of his family, gathered tight into the frame around him and his bike while he reads from an unexplained book, cuts to a wide and empty landscape, the bicycle moving away along a dirt road, towards Ararat in the distance.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

The Enigma of the Lari BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

I

have used almost every more or less well-known foreign currency throughout my lifetime in almost every part of the world, but none of them has seemed to me as strange and enigmatic as our national currency, called Lari. It truly is a very amusing one, but much more amusing are the comments of our government members and polit-economic experts on its permanently changing value, as shaky as it looks today. Nobody will call me an economist, but I still dare go ahead and describe my thoughts and feelings concerning the unit of local money which has lately been the talk of the town if not the entire country. I grew up with Rubles in my pocket – the USSR currency, still persisting in Russia (à propos, our unfriendly comrades the Russians are terribly good at preserving the old soviet names and symbols, like hymns and newspaper titles). Even that miserable Ruble gave us, the unfortunate users of it, a feeling of more stability and security than the Lari, which monetarily represents our free and democratic Georgia. The Ruble was not a convertible currency of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but it rarely changed its value. It bought all you wanted within the soviet family of nations, spreading its purchase power over one-sixth of our planet, comprising almost 300 million people. There was not one bank or currency exchange booth

anywhere in the world where you could not convert the Ruble into a currency that worked in the international market. The Lari, however, is convertible but not internationally – you can convert it back and forth only locally in Georgia. At least this! You can buy any convenient currency with Lari on any street corner of any city in the country, and, yes, it makes you feel free in the financial market. The only bad news is that with the shaky Lari, you always have misgivings about the optimal time for making the exchange: you convert it today and next morning you see on the flashing currency boards that it has gone down a couple of more notches which makes you a loser; or it goes up, and the transaction of the previous day makes you feel good. With Lari, you are never calm and stable. There is one more regrettable thing that you become the victim of because the Lari has the proclivity to change: when Lari goes down, prices go up, and when Lari is stable, the prices stay the same. This is a pain-in-the-neckish fiscal paradox, isn’t it? I have no intention to throw in here the many-times-heard rationale provided by our pecuniary experts who try to explain the shakiness of the national currency. I am just sharing with you the popular sentiments that prevail in society concerning the Lari. The interpretations are in most cases fuzzy and unintelligible. The government keeps mum on the subject but rumor has it that the selfsame government is going to come up with some grandiose plan which

should presumably keep the Lari from further shakes. The hope is not yet totally defunct and expectations are high enough to keep in fiscally high spirits, and even those who are in constant mulligrubs concerning the Lari buying power are not totally pessimistic. The overall feeling is that the government will never let the national currency fly into inflation because that might really be the beginning of the end. No sane

administration will allow that much of a drawback. Well, blessed are the believers, aren’t they? Actually, I am one of those believers that our darling Lari, no matter how light its virtue has become, will soon recover and let its scared users gain their wallets back. Meanwhile, the markets and restaurants are full of patrons, malls are infested with eager consumers, movie and drama theaters are sold out, car tanks are never

empty of fuel and the classrooms of private schools with skyrocketing scholarships are bursting with academic presence, saying nothing of the ubiquitous private tutorship of kids throughout the country. How come? Never ask that question in Georgia! It just happens that way. The Lari fluctuations are so far ignored by this society as minor tides and ebbs, no thought of the tsunami that might be brewing somewhere out there ahead.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

Georgia’s Top Inbound Travel Companies Test The Family Hotel & Restaurant BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

O

n November 22, top Georgian travel agencies were invited to an info tour at the recently opened small and cozy family-owned The Family Hotel & Restaurant located in the ecologically clean and quiet district of Svanetisubani, 2 km from Rustaveli Avenue. Owners of The Family, George Sharashidze and Maiko Tsereteli, founders and top managers of a number of Georgia's leading publications, including the newspaper Georgia Today, WHERE travel guide, celebrity magazine OK! and lifestyle magazine Focus, decided to restore their own house, focusing on high quality decorative details and special customer services. The professionally successful couple welcomes guests with a high sense of responsibility, believing in the Georgian tradition of hospitality and of offering the best and more- something extra special for each guest. The owners are ready

to spend time with their guests, interact with them and provide fruitful advice about travel and dining choices during their whole stay. Maiko Tsereteli, owner, says: “Looking for an extraordinary travel experience? The Family perfectly suits you! It’s authentic and natural, fresh and healthy. It’s a unique space where old traditions perfectly complement a modern vision. We are looking forward to hosting guests interested in rich culture, a warm welcome and individual service. We think The Family is the best choice for couples, singles, business and leisure travelers. We meet every guest as we meet and host our close friends and relatives. We make sure that every stay at The Family is transformed into a unique experience. This is exactly what differentiates us from any other hotel.” Keti Meladze, Head of the Georgian Association of Guides and Head of Horeka - Georgian Hotel Restaurant Café Federation, attended the info tour commented on this new initiative: “The first thing that impressed me at The Family was the super warm welcome and the cozy, positive environment. Such a confident

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For more information contact: + 995 595279997

and courageous step, transforming one’s own home into a hotel, gives me a hope that we will have more and more such ideal places in the city as The Family Hotel. The owners are doing a great job and I am sure this project will be very successful.” Although The Family Hotel has only three rooms, the owners believe that ‘Small is Beautiful’ and, moreover, it offers a chance to strive for uniqueness through offering comfort and cozy living to respected guests in the following room categories: 1. The Family Suite, where you can

discover aristocratic ambience. 2. The Studio Double Room, with a cozy and warm atmosphere, where the highest quality facilities allow you to stay longer and still feel home. 3. The Standard Double Room, perfect for solo, couples, leisure or business travelers. Apart from a tour of the hotel rooms, info tour guests were also introduced to the concept of the restaurant, where dinner was served by Katy & Acho, Ambassadors and official members of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Community in Georgia. Their exclusive dishes

made an unforgettable impression on the guests, as did the Tone bread oven – a traditional Georgian ceramic oven in which diamond-shaped loaves are baked on the inner walls. The Family Hotel & Restaurant will soon announce its restaurant menu and invite tourists and foreign visitors alike to enjoy a unique dining experience. For reservations of both hotel rooms and restaurant you can contact The Family Hotel manager Sophio Bochoidze on 577 76 36 85 or email at: welcome@thefamily.ge

McLain Association for Children Fundraiser Supports Disabled Children Activity Program BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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n November 19 the McLain Association for Children (MAC) held a fundraising event at Betsy’s Hotel Tbilisi during which it presented its beneficiary program, Let’s Play Together. Let’s Play Together (LPT) sees ablebodied youth spending an active day with those of lesser ability, including mentally challenged and wheelchairbound children, doing sports and craft activities together in a one-on-one or team basis. “The youth are selected by Peace Corps volunteers who are already in regular contact with them through the English language teaching programs,” Courtney Ostert, board member of LPT, said. “They then receive training on how to work with disabled children. They are already open-minded and eager to help out, so it’s easy for them to take in the needed information.” The activities take place in schools or other large and accessible facilities in regional towns throughout the country, the aim being to offer stimulating access to fun for those whose daily lives are limited by their disabilities and surroundings. Jeremy Gaskill, a former US Peace Corps Volunteer in Georgia, and current MAC Chief Executive Officer, presented three cases, three children with disabilities, who had benefited from the program. “12-year-old Ana has cerebral palsy (CP). She lives on the 5th floor of a building which has a lift, but one that is too small for her home wheelchair to fit in. This means that she must be carried in her mother’s arms to the bus. The day-care center she attends has a separate wheelchair available for her to use while there. When we met Ana she was extremely dependent on those around her to dress, eat and move her. Since our trainers got involved, she has really bloomed and is now able to reposition herself in the chair, move her chair and also to feed herself. Her mother also became more motivated, coming to realize just how able her daughter really was.” Gaskill showed a photo of another CP

sufferer, Sopo, 16, at the first ever LPT sport’s day. “She had been sitting at the side-lines in her wheelchair and one of our volunteers went over to her and asked her if she wanted to join in the relay race. As they sped across the bumpy field, the volunteer was worried Sopo would be afraid. But when she asked, Sopo replied: ‘Faster!’” A heavier case was that of Lasha, a 20-year-old young man suffering with CP. He is bed-ridden, his limbs twisted in a way “which could have been prevented had his family known how to exercise him from an early age.” Elvin, a 6 year old with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is something of a wild child, a “handful,” who stands every chance of being sent to an institution because his family don’t know how to handle his aggressive outbursts. He, like Ana, does not attend school and so misses out on that socialization and development aspect crucial to the upbringing of every child. The Georgian government recently introduced a program aimed at integrating mildly disabled children into regular state kindergartens and schools. However, the teachers are not getting the training they need, nor are the schools sufficiently adapted for lesser-abled children. The idea is great, but the application needs more time, more energy, more money, and more strategic thinking. LPT is about showing those children missing out, and their parents and able-

bodied peers, what life can be with the right outlook. And it is a clear message to the government and relevant authorities that educations is, once again, key. Where funding for care is lacking, families themselves can be trained and empowered to make the lives of their disabled children better and more fulfilling. The recent fundraising event raised 2800 GEL for the Let’s Play Together program and will go to cover LPT programming costs. This includes transportation costs for the children (approximately 60-80 at each event), food costs for the children and their parents, as well as certificates. The next LPT day is to be held on December 3rd in Terjola, western Georgia. MAC came into existence in 2008 to combat a twofold problem: that children with disabilities in rural Georgia did not have access to services and that the parents and families of these children did not even know what services to expect. The founders were Cathy McLain, an educational psychologist, Roy Southworth, then Georgia Country Director for the World Bank, and Rezo Chinchaladze, an educational specialist. MAC now has a staff of seventeen and hires educated professionals from Georgia and abroad. The McLain Association for Children is always on the lookout for volunteers. If you are interested in getting involved, or want to find out more, go to their website macgeorgia.org or contact them on facebook.


GEORGIA TODAY

SOCIETY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

WHERE to Go, Stay, Eat, Drink and Buy in November

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he latest issue of Where.ge is out! Packed full of the usual recommendations, tips and travel stories, it’s a guide you should not be withouteven if you’ve lived here a while! Our special guest writers offer their personal choices for the best places to Go, Stay, Eat, Drink and Buy around the country. Of particular interest to those not fearing the early winter chill is

Geof Giacomini’s recommendations for Georgia’s Protected Areas- as Executive Director if the Caucasus Nature Fund, you can trust him to know what he’s talking about! Check out New Tiflis- Tbilisi’s new pedestrian zone and the first stage of a governmental project to give a facelift to the older parts of the city for your strolling, shopping and dining pleasure. Did you know that Zakharia Paliashvili created the tune behind Georgia’s national anthem and that Ilia Chavchavadze knocked five letters off the Georgian alphabet? Learn more about these and other great music and literary Georgian greats as you tour this month’s Top Statues. If ecclesiastical history tickles your fancy, then Georgia is the place to be, and in the November issue of Where. ge, Joseph Alexander Smith takes you on a trip to Betania Monastery to discover the magic of its frescoes and legends. For joggers we suggest our Top 5 tracks in Tbilisi, for bread-lovers we guide you through the baking process at your local Tone baker and, with appetite whetted, you can find out more about Georgia’s cheese production which dates back to 5500 BC.! Events, museums and numerous hidden treasures and stories that even your tour guide might not knowfind it all in the monthly Where.ge tourist guide!

Death in the Family BY TONY HANMER

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he call came in the wee hours of the morning. My cell phone showed me that it was my sister calling from Canada; and given the number and the hour, it could only be bad news. I steeled myself for the worst as my mind struggled back up to the surface from slumber's dark depths. Dad was in palliative care; being kept comfortable as his life ebbed away. Over three years of nursing home life as his balance, speech and memories slipped away, and now this, after choking on some food led to lung problems. His legal directive not to resuscitate him or prolong his life if it was on the edge kicked in, and my stepmother, who had visited him once or twice a day for that whole time, had to begin to let him go. Our main problem up in Svaneti was: how soon can we go, and to whom can we leave care of the cows and chickens? A neighbor for the first week, then my wife's brother, who would come for the last two weeks. Pack up and dash off. We must reach Zugdidi in time to get to the open banks on a Saturday, buy air tickets for Sunday, and arrive on Monday. Thankful for a very comfortable car to drive. After some gathering of funds in Zugdidi, and flustering the poor travel agent who wasn't used to Canadian flights, we had the earliest available journey sewn up. Tbilisi-Istanbul, eight hours' layover, on to Montreal, twelve more hours there, then to Edmonton where my sister would pick us up. Soon after buying the tickets, on our way west out of Zugdidi, the second phone call from my sister came: he was dead. Our soonest would not be soon enough. The flights became something we had to do, with sorrow waiting for us but also reunions with family and friends. The long journey must be made,

and even though we would not see him alive, we would be there for the funeral and a couple of weeks after. Today, with the funeral's rituals and words and songs and hugs over, the great gathering of all whose lives had intersected with my father's over months or years or decades, I can look back and say: It was good, today. I had the chance to offer up a third of the eulogy, and we immediate family have nestled in each other's comfort since then. Tomorrow and until we go, chances to see all sorts of people thanks to a kind loan of a car by friends, without which we would really be stuck in this vast country and its culture of personal vehicles and minimal public transport. And: It's been good. Not just the day, but the life which led up to it. Our blended family of five children, two and three, has become one in which there are no "steps". Widowed Dad and divorced Mom got engaged after one date, and their marriage lasted over forty years before death parted them, a run to the surprise of some skeptics and the delight and relief of us all. He and I weren't much alike, but it's no use bemoaning that I don't have more of his hands-on skills which would be so useful on the house and land. I do have more creativity, but he was so practical. But I still, more and more, see him looking back at me from the mirror... although now, with him gone to the next plane of existence, I will both fill his shoes and change them to my own stride and direction. Dad, Dad... gone now, deeply loved and sorely missed but only waiting for us, as faith reminds me. 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.svanetilong trek

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

UNICEF Reveals Results of New Welfare Monitoring Survey Continued from page 3

The Survey also indicates that people’s perception of subjective poverty has worsened, with increased prices, serious illness and a decrease in household income reported as the major problems. The average healthcare expenditure of a household has increased by 31 percent and purchase of medicines remains the main component of healthcare spending. Preschool attendance rates (for 3-5 year-olds) increased from 57.9 percent in 2013 to 62.3 percent in 2015. “Much progress has been made, but still, too many children are left behind, requiring urgent action from the government to protect the rights of all children,” said Laila Omar Gad, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “In Georgia, children are more affected by poverty then any other population group. Although the Survey reveals that there has been a significant reduction in the child poverty rate, there are still far too many children in Georgia living in poverty.” An enabling environment for sustainable growth is needed, Gad says, speaking of the need for Georgia to invest in its children. “Without a targeted social assistance scheme, almost 9 percent of children might be found to be living in extreme poverty, rather than the 2.5 percent reported in the Survey,” Gad highlighted. “Protecting children’s rights is the key to building a stronger, more sustainable society and while Georgia has made important progress in legislation and in programs for children’s rights, the evidence of the Survey shows clearly that there is much more to be done to reach every child in Georgia,” she concluded. The recommendations of the survey include protecting children living in poverty from multiple deprivations since they are disproportionately at risk of lower performance in education, dropping out of school and having poorer health - by developing a multi-sectoral strategy for children’s rights that is aligned with the Convention on the

Every 5th child lives under the poverty line and every 6th child lives under the subsistence minimum ROUTING

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Rights of the Child. In order to protect chronically poor children, the survey recommends having additional well-designed benefits. Vulnerable families should be reached in a timely manner to help them cope with life-changing events such as unemployment or illness, and to prevent them from sliding into poverty. According to the survey, youth groups starting new families and making the transition to a labor market are especially vulnerable. Vulnerable groups should be better targeted, the Welfare Survey says, according to which an improved regular data collection is needed. One of the recommendations also addresses the need for improved access to medicine for mothers and their children through developing subsidized basic packages produced by suppliers who comply with international standards in manufacturing pharmaceutical products. This is seen as a necessary measure to reduce child and mother mortality from common illnesses. The national account systems also need strengthening, the Survey reveals, with the implementation of an early and preschool education law for every child, and establishing mechanisms to reduce the potential dropout rates from the education system. While commenting on the findings of the Survey, Zaza Sopromadze, Deputy Minister of Health, Labor and Social Affairs of Georgia, mentioned that targeted social assistance schemes have a positive impact primarily on socially deprived children. He also noted that the subjective poverty indicators shown in the report have their understandable reasons, as they showcase the need and demand of the population for a better social environment. “Social services are now available for every citizen in the country,” he said. “Georgia has done wonderful work in moving the agenda forward,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus. “The level of economic growth of every country is largely dependant on the quality of its population. A lot had been done over the years to improve the quality of living of the Georgian population. This is demonstrated by all the reforms that have happened, targeted social assistance and penitential reforms. With surveys like this it’s always important to know where we are and how we are progressing. The goal is to reduce extreme poverty to 3 percent by 2030. We have to invest in every child’s education. The children of this country have to be brought out of poverty, be given a good education; and offered the chance to have better health.” Read our EXCLUSIVE interview with Laila Omar Gad, UNICEF Representative in Georgia in this issue of GEORGIA TODAY!

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INTERVIEW: Laila Omar Gad, UNICEF Representative to Georgia BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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NICEF Georgia has been an active contributor to the recent celebration of the organization’s 70th anniversary and this week organized a Welfare Monitoring Study presented at Holiday Inn Tbilisi and a discussion on social issues in Georgian Art held at the Writer’s House. Joining the world’s most well-known contemporary writers in a global literary campaign of “tiny stories” to advocate neglected children’s rights all over the world were many Georgian authors including: Paata Shamugia, Irakli Kakabadze, David Gabunia, Shota Iatashvili, Nestan Kvinikadze, George Lobzhanidze, Vasil Guleuri, Diana Anfimiadi, George Kekelidze, Rati Amaglobeli, and Lia Likokeli . GEORGIA TODAY spoke with Laila Omar Gad, UNICEF’s newly appointed Representative to Georgia, on the recent Welfare Monitoring Survey, its findings and recommendations.

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS SINCE YOU CAME TO GEORGIA? I’ve enjoyed every minute since I arrived at the beginning of September. Before Georgia I was in Kosovo and I chose to take up my next posting here. It is a very rich country in a cultural sense. It’s also a country that has gone through a lot. Georgia has a clear identity and great aspirations towards joining the EU, and working in such an environment is thrilling. There’s openness in addressing challenges and Georgia has made progress in many areas, but there are still many challenges, particularly in children and adolescent rights.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE IN YOUR DAYTO-DAY WORK? I’ve found that the legislation in Georgia is up-to-date, but there are challenges in implementation. There is a difference between Tbilisi and municipalities, specifically in capacity and budgets. This leads to gaps in implementation – particularly in areas such as preschool education and health, decentralized and dependent on municipalities in charge of implementation with very limited resources. It is essential to build municipal capacity and increase budget at the municipal level to improve outcomes for children. Another important area is that of data. While there is progress in the data available on children and adolescent rights, the full picture is still unclear, and the area of child and adolescent rights is still lacking data. For example, while Georgia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, data on child disability is limited, as is data on violence against children. One of our priorities while working with the Government of Georgia (GoG) is strengthening data that will help us raise awareness of the situation of children – of all children in Georgia, and establish mechanisms for the government to monitor the situation and the progress of the implementation of the various strategies that exist here.

TELL US ABOUT UNICEF GEORGIA’S WELFARE MONITORING SURVEY AND ITS KEY FINDINGS Georgia has succeeded in reducing the poverty rate, particularly for children, with the reform scheme of targeted social assistance. This was picked up by the Welfare Monitoring Survey. It was set up in 2009 to measure the impact of the

world financial crisis of 2008 on Georgian households. UNICEF wanted to estimate the prevalence of poverty during that time. Since 2009, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor the trends in poverty and wellbeing of the population. It is a unique survey because it is a panel survey, which means the same households are visited for each round of the survey, which gives a good timeline and the chance to measure the impact of economic development. The most recent survey was conducted in 2015 and the findings were presented this week. While the latest survey indicated a reduction in child poverty, it highlighted that there’s still much to be done. It showed that despite the improvement, one child in five is still living in poverty and one child in six still lives in a family that cannot afford the minimum subsistence level. The survey also demonstrated that children who are living in poverty are also very susceptible to other deprivations and risks; are more likely to have poorer health outcomes and are more likely to either not be enrolled at all in preschool education or drop out of school at the age of 15-16. The wealth of Georgia is its people and Georgia needs to recognize that children are the future of Georgia.

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SURVEY? The social protection system needs to be examined so that it can capture many of the poor who are not part of the existing social protection schemes. We need to recognize that the targeted social assistance scheme is designed to address long-term poverty and those population groups living in chronic poverty. The case is different for households that are subject to shocks which make them susceptible to fall into poverty (such as long-term illness, death of the main breadwinner, or unemployment) as there is no protection mechanism for them. Young people are at particular risk, those who are unemployed and those who have no means to protect themselves from external shocks. Another important recommendation is to develop a multi-sectorial child rights strategy, given the existing multiple and overlapping deprivations that affect children in Georgia. Investing more in the social protection system, in preschool education and in improving the quality of education is crucial. In addition to better monitoring of the existing social protection schemes and to designing an overall strategy, there is a need to put children at the heart of budgets. UNICEF global studies reveal that for every single dollar spent today invested in children, this triples the returns in the future. It is a long-term investment that assures greater returns

economically, socially, and financially. Georgia invested just an additional 5 percent in the targeted social assistance scheme and with that 5 percent was able to capture 30 percent more of the most vulnerable families…. continuing to invest means that we also examine ways to make it more cost effective.

TELL US ABOUT THE CHILD WELLBEING CARD The Child Wellbeing Card is an attempt to monitor the wellbeing of children through a number of key indicators that enable us to regularly monitor and give a picture of where Georgia stands in terms of realization of children’s rights. And there are sets of indicators that are internationally comparable so that Georgia can be compared to other countries. They represent a number of key priorities for progress in children’s rights in Georgia, including poverty, health, early childhood development, early childhood education, dropouts, violence against children, and children with disabilities. The child wellbeing report card is now in the process of finalization with our partners. We can already see that while Georgia has reduced maternal mortality rates, they are still high, particularly when compared to other countries in the region. This is particularly concerning as these maternal deaths are preventable. The same goes for under five mortality in children in Georgia, with the rate twice the average of Europe. That’s why we want to make children’s issues visible and monitor the progress in realization of children’s rights in all accountable institutions for children’s rights. A key to success is the partnerships we have with the GoG, our international partners and civil society organizations. We work hand-in-hand as partners and have a common goal, a common vision, and agree on the steps needed to realize the rights of every child in Georgia – leaving no one behind.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF UNICEF TO GEORGIA? The experience of UNICEF in recent years has demonstrated that you can’t say “I’ve done the work, so I’m leaving now.” With the migrant and refugee crisis affecting Europe, UNICEF is establishing liaison offices in Italy, and Greece, for example, to support the governments of these countries to strengthen the systems for child protection in view of the refugee and migrant crisis. I would say it’s about being relevant, as long as we’re relevant, we’ll work. For me, the priorities are to continue working on the successful collaboration between the Government of Georgia and UNICEF to promote that rights of all children and adolescents in Georgia.


GEORGIA TODAY

CULTURE

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

13

A Good Week for Film-lovers & Film-makers BY LUKAS MÄDER

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e’re looking ahead to what is definitely the best week of the year for film-lovers in Tbilisi when on Monday evening the Tbilisi International Film Festival opens with the screening of the German-Czechoslovak film ‘Rosa Luxemburg.’ The 17th edition of the festival is to last seven days and is set to screen a total of 129 movies in the Amirani and Rustaveli cinemas. The heart of the festival is the international competition of debut features. Ten European films will compete for the prize of Best Film and Best Director. Many of the movies are from former communist countries like Serbia, Romania and Poland, and tell the story of people struggling with the difficulties within their daily lives. ‘A Good Wife,’ for example, tells the story of a middle-aged wife and mother in Belgrade whose life turns upside down when she finds a videotape incriminating her husband for war crimes and ‘Anna's Life’ is about a single mother in Georgia who wants a better life for her autistic son and herself but becomes the victim of a crook. The last is one of the two Georgian contributions to the competition.

SELECTION OF INTERNATIONAL ARTHOUSE FILMS Yet the festival is more than a competition. “We want to bring a selection of international arthouse movies to Tbilisi once a year,” says director, Nino Anjaparidze, because “the cinemas here only show popcorn movies,” she adds, referring to the common blockbusters.

Teo Khatiashvili, Mariam Natroshvili and Giorgi Kekelidze

Accordingly, the sections of the festival showing international arthouse movies are particularly popular with the audience. The section ‘Horizons’ shows independent movies from South America, Asia and the Middle East. The ‘Forum of European Cinema’ consists of 20 recent films from throughout Europe, among them ‘I, Daniel Blake’ from Ken Loach, ‘Finding Altamira’ from Hugh Hudson and ‘Safari’ from Ulrich Seidl, who is well-known for bringing up disputable topics. There will also be a section with new films from Germany and France.

EXPANDING THE FOCUS ON EMERGING FILMMAKERS “One main goal of the Film Festival is to promote and support young filmmakers,” says Anjaparidze. “That's why we not only screen films by young directors but also work with them and help them to realize their projects.” To this aim, the festival introduced the ‘Industry Days’ program three years ago. Film-makers can apply in advance to attend workshops in which they get the opportunity to improve their projects. The workshops in scripting and casting are closed but in the two pitching work-

shops for short films and for full-length feature films, the participants have to present their projects openly for a new film after working on them for two days. The best project will be selected publicly and awarded with 3000 and 5000 GEL respectively (short film: December 3, 2.30pm; feature film: December 2, 11amboth in Rooms Hotel). Besides the workshops there are masterclasses, one this year with German director Margerethe von Trotta (11/29, 5.30pm, Cinema Amirani), and panel discussions. The future of municipal cinemas in post-communist times will be discussed on December 2 at 2pm in Rooms Hotel. More focused on directors and producers but also open to the public are presentations about particular topics, for example 'Building a festival strategy for your film' (12/3, 12pm, Rooms Hotel). The Industry Days have extended in past years. In this way the Tbilisi Film Festival makes it not only possible for Georgian film-lovers to see movies from all over the world, but also supports the realization of Georgian films and helps to get them seen beyond the borders of this small nation. Find out more on www.tbilisifilmfestival.ge

UNICEF Literary Campaign Discussion: Social Issues in Contemporary Georgian Art BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

A

discussion as to what extent social issues and problems are reflected in contemporary Georgian art was held at the Writer’s House on Monday, within the UNICEF 70th Anniversary celebration week’s literary campaign. Writers Giorgi Kekelidze, film critic Teo Khatiashvili, and artist Mariam Natroshvili each in their respective fields, literature, film and visual arts, introduced how social themes are presented in contemporary art and discussed whether art addresses or reveals the social problems that our society faces today. The discussion was moderated by writer David Gabunia. In Giorgi Kekelidze’s opinion, both assumptions- that writers or artists in general should be interested in covering social themes, and that they don’t necessarily have to point them out in their works -are legitimate, and, with regards to the history of Georgian Arts, particularly of the 20th century, both hypothesis are present. “Ilia Chavchavadze is probably the most visible example of how a writer can make social themes central to his work,” said Kekelidze during his presentation, highlighting that there are symbolists who protest writing about the reality around them and try to run from it. “The main point is that the quality of the literary work has to be good. It doesn’t matter whether or not it reflects social issues. Whether it’s social real-

Giorgi Kekelidze, Teo Khatiashvili and Mariam Natroshvili

ism of Soviet literature or the writers groups that emerged in the 90s, it all depends on the actual context and back then social themes were always linked with the political processes, especially in our country,” Kekelidze said, going on to discuss literary trends and tendencies of the 90s in Georgia in more depth. “Irakli Charkviani and Kote Kubaneishvili formed a “Reactive Club” whose works at that time could be seen as most socially active, alongside other Georgian writers- Shota Iatashvili, Giorgi Lobjabidze, and Zviad Ratiani -whose works, literary visions or tastes were radically different from each other but who represented the same generation of writers who were, while not directly touching on social themes in their works, writing about everyday life and thus could be linked to the topic of social themes reflected in writings.” However, as Kekelidze said, social issues never prevailed in Georgian poetry.

“The lack of an author who could influence society and readers like they did in the 19th century is already a sign of modern times.” An interesting tendency was underlined during the discussion that women are more and more actively represented on the Georgian art scene, bringing social problems to the fore, and often talking about subjects that were overlooked in the past. “This is now quite a trend,” Teo Khatiashvili said in her presentation on Georgian cinema. “A historical perspective was taken and saw us trying to examine the reasons why there was a certain distancing from social themes in Georgian cinema. It started to develop more from the 1990s, both with and without a social theme as a focus.” Mariam Natroshvili rounded up the discussion by showcasing foreign and Georgian artists, painters who actively add social components to their works through various art projects.

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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATRE Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 November 25, 26, 27 Premiere TSUNA AND TSRUTSUNA Ballet for kids Staged on Meri Davitashvili’s musical works Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 - 70 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATRE Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge November 25, December 1 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL GEORGIAN STATE PANTOMIME THEATRE Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 63 14 November 26 THE KNIGHT IN THE PANTHER'S SKIN Shota Rustaveli Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 25 GEL GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 November 25 ENGLISH DETECTIVE Agatha Cristie Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5 GEL November 26 THE PLAYERS N. Gogol Directed by Giorgi Margvelashvili Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5 GEL November 27 MOROZKO Directed by Linda Urbonavichute Russian Tale Language: Russian

Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5 GEL GABRIADZE THEATRE Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 November 25 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL November 26, 27 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 November 25, 26, 27 INTRO Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL November 25 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 21:00 Free Admission CIRCUS Address: 1 The Heroes Sq. Telephone: 2 98 58 61 www.krakatuk.eu November 26, 27 TRIUMPHANTS OF THE ARENA Start time: 13:00, 17:00 Ticket: 10 – 25 GEL

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM Directed by David Yates Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 11:45, 13:00, 16:00, 19:45, 22:30 Ticket: 8-14 GEL ARRIVAL Directed by Denis Villeneuve Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 14:45 Ticket: 9-10 GEL UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS Directed by Anna Foerster Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Bradley James Genre: Action, Horror Language: Russian Start time: 17:35, 20:00, 22:15 Ticket: 11-14 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL November 25 – December 1

Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari November 25 – December 1 HACKSAW RIDGE Directed by Mel Gibson Cast: Teresa Palmer, Andrew Garfield, Luke Bracey Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance Language: English Start time: 17:00 Language: Russian Start time: 19:15, 22:15 Ticket: 8-14 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 June 11 – March 11 (2017) EXHIBITION "MEDIEVAL TREASURY" June 16 – December 16 THE EXHIBITION “NEW DISCOVERIES GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY” September 27 – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION "STONE AGE GEORGIA"

HACKSAW RIDGE (Info Abive) Start time: 17:45 Ticket: 11-12 GEL

IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81

UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS (Info Above) Start time: 14:30, 17:40, 20:00, 22:15 Ticket: 9-14 GEL

November 18-26 PERSONAL EXHIBITION OF AIDAS RYTIS VASILIAUSKAS ‘PULSES OF CREATION’

ARRIVAL (Info Above) Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL

November 25 – December 5 EXHIBITION ‘ACROSS THE CAUCASUS’ The exhibition brings together 5 artists from 5 Caucasian countries: Dagestan - Taus Makhacheva, Chechnya - Aslan Gaisumov, Armenia - Vahram Aghasyan, Azerbaijan - Ali Hasanov and Georgia - Vajiko Chachkhiani.

CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 12:30 Ticket: 8-9 GEL

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (Info Above) Start time: 22:40 Ticket: 13-14 GEL OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL Directed by Mike Flanagan Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso Genre: Horror Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL THE ACCOUNTANT Directed by Gavin O'Connor Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons

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. GIORGI LEONIDZE STATE MUSEUM OF LITERATURE Address: 8 Chanturia St. Telephone: 2 93 28 90, 2 93 50 19 November 25-28 EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 155TH ANNIVERSARY OF VAZHA PSHAVELA GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION Works by distinguished 20th century Georgian artists- Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze. June 24, 2016 – June 24, 2017 PIROSMANI’S "YARD CLEANER" AND "EAGLE SEIZING A HARE" ON DISPLAY September 28 - September 28 (2017) PIROSMANI’S ROE AT A STREAM

November 29 - January 28 (2017) EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 140TH ANNIVERSARY OF IAKOB NIKOLADZE In 1906-1908 Nikoladze worked with the greatest sculptor of modernity, Auguste Rodin. Despite a number of suggestions to work in Europe and America, Nikoladze brought his experience gained with Rodin to Georgia and founded the school of sculpture in his home country. FABRIKA Address: 8 E. Ninoshvili Str. November 18 – December 18 BRIAN GRIFFIN EXHIBITION 'MOTHER GEORGIA' FOR COMME DES GARCONS MUSIC

TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 November 26 A FILETTA POLYPHONIC ENSEMBLE A FILETTA with ENSEMBLE LASHARI & GIORGI USHIKISHVILI Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-40 GEL November 27 THE ROYAL NATIONAL BALLET GALA CONCERT Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer: Gela Potskhishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15-40 GEL OLD HIPPODROME PARK November 25 Electronic music festival SPACE FEELINGS WITH DEBORAH DE LUCA Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 20 GEL CLUB TRIUMPH Address: 116 Tsereteli Ave. November 27 SEEYA PAPITO CHOCOLATA & DJ GRAMOPHONEDZIE Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 November 28, 29 JAM SESSION Leaders: Reso Kiknadze (sax), Nika Gabadze (guitar), Misha Japaridze (bass), Irakli Choladze / Gio Kapanadze (drums) Start time: 21:00 November 30 TANGO EVENING Milonga La Kumparsita Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 5 GEL TBILISI BAROQUE FESTIVAL 2016 www.tbf.ge November 28 GEORGIA BROWN (FLUTE) TOMAS FOSTER (HARPSICHORD) GEORGIAN SINFONIETTA Start time: 19:30 Ticket: From 10 GEL Venue: Rustaveli Theater, Small Stage


The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899).

CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 25 - 28, 2016

15

Lithuanian Pulses of Creation at the Tbilisi History Museum BY ZYGIMANTAS KAPOCIUS

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BILISI — Between November 19 and 26, the Tbilisi History Museum is offering a unique glimpse into Lithuanian contemporary art, as it hosts the personal exhibition of Aidas Rytis Vasiliauskas. Titled ‘Pulses of Creation,’ the exhibition is not merely an aesthetically-stimulating experience, it is also a fascinating journey along the creative evolution of the artist as mirrored in his works. In his geometric compositions, Vasiliauskas aims to reconcile the realms of emotion and logic. This endeavor is reflective of the artist’s fundamental experience of his upbringing. Born in 1967, Vasiliauskas grew up surrounded by numbers and canvas alike, as his father was an economist, while his mother was a professional artist. Fascinated by both science and art, young Vasiliauskas was keen on finding the intersection between the material and spiritual worlds, which ultimately became the mission of his creative work. The aspiring artist graduated from the prestigious Kaunas Art Institute of Vilnius

Art Academy and specializes in a wide variety of techniques, ranging from painting to sculpture. Vasiliauskas’ aesthetic relies heavily on shape and color. The artist's work is abundant with strict geometric forms that come together to form an abstract yet logical composition. Hence, a distinct feature of his art is the use of the mosaic principle, as small pieces of wood are covered with acrylic paint according to a meticulously-chosen color scheme. As a result, Vasiliauskas’ pieces are distinguished by their visual vibrancy, creating an impression of movement and musicality, and aesthetic order, giving a sense of harmony and logic. In such way the artist invites the viewer to reflect upon the nature of beauty and delve deeper into the sources of creativity. Nature proved to be the central subject of Vasiliauskas’ artistic work. On a philosophical level, the artist embarks on a search for rationality as a fundamental aspect of substance. He aims to present nature as a continuous, pulsating process. Each piece has an individual character and analyzes a distinct natural phenomenon. Notwithstanding, the entire body of art is connected by a single leitmotif, which is the pulsating exuberance

of nature, which extends to an emotional level as far as the individual is concerned. In such way, the artist interconnects different aspects of nature and reveals its sacred character in a sense that it encompasses both rational and emotional realms. The choice of Georgia as a venue for the exhibition is no coincidence. Talking exclusively to GEORGIA TODAY, Vasiliauskas expressed his sympathy towards Georgia and its people. “As far as artistic inspiration is concerned, I feel particularly attached to two specific nations and their unique character - Italians in the West, and Georgians in the East,” said Vasiliauskas. Wine features prominently in the work of the Lithuanian artist, as it can be seen as an intersection between humans and nature. Thus, the wine culture in the two aforementioned nations serves as a subject of artistic interest for Vasiliauskas, as the interplay between emotion and nature is one of the fundamental aspects of his work. The exhibition ‘Pulses of Creation’ in Tbilisi is organized in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania. ‘Pulses of Creation’ will also be on display in Batumi later this year, with a view to introducing Lithuanian contemporary art to a wider Georgian audience.

GAU Tbilisi Celebrates Thanksgiving BY MAKA LOMADZE

T

hanksgiving Day, a national holiday in the US and Canada, was originally celebrated as a day to give thanks for the blessing of the harvest and for the preceding year. It was also marked this year in Tbilisi, at GAUthe Georgian-American University, on November 22. In spite of the bitter cold weather, students warmed themselves with gluhwein while the GAU band created a most vibrant atmosphere, singing covers of

American songs. “We are celebrating the American Thanksgiving Day to share our traditions with our students,” Michael Cowgill, President of GAU, told GEORGIA TODAY before the occasion kicked off. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has also long been celebrated in a secular manner as prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests. The history of the Thanksgiving

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holiday in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England, where the North American holiday originates, occurs well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated. Tinatin Beridze, GAU freshman, told GEORGIA TODAY: “I am happy that such events are held often at GAU. I don’t know any other university in Tbilisi with such an active schedule of events. It’s an added stimulus and makes the whole learning process much more positive and constructive.”

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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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Issue #899  

November 25 - 28, 2016

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