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Issue no: 1163

• JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

In this week’s issue...

FOCUS

Lavrov: US Seeks to Block Normalization of Ties between Russia, Georgia

ON NIKA MELIA An opposition MP has his immunity controversially stripped; now he faces prison

PRICE: GEL 2.50

NEWS PAGE 2 PAGE 3

The Wildfire of Hate Speech

POLITICS PAGE 5

The US Naval Power & Georgia POLITICS PAGE 6

Russia Regains PACE Voting Rights

Image source: IPN

Minister Turnava on the Gov't’s AntiCrisis Plan following Russian Travel Ban

POLITICS PAGE 7

BY THEA MORRISON

BUSINESS PAGE 8

Seedstars World 2019 CEE Tour

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he Government of Georgia is developing an anti-crisis plan to minimize the expected economic impact of the Russian ban on air traffic to Georgia signed by the Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 21. A statement was made by Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia Natia Turnava, saying that the government is also working on a package of financial assistance for companies operating in the tourism sector. As a result of the ban, set to kick off on July 8, around 155 thousand Russian people will not be able to use tickets they already purchased and 3.5 thousand people who booked tours to Georgia with travel agencies in Russia have had their trips cancelled. The Minister said she had met representatives of the tourism sector in Tbilisi and the Ajara region and well-recognized the challenges the country is facing. “No matter how diversified our market is, the share of Russian tourists is high, at 25%. Therefore, we cannot say that this is not a problem. We expect the loss of around $750 million of income. But now we are working on ways to

Georgian Companies Have Not Been Banned from Exporting Wine to Russia

BUSINESS PAGE 8

BBC’s ‘The Arts Hour on Tour’ to Visit Tbilisi July 2 to Explore Local Culture

Image source: reginfo.ge

reduce the expected impact,” she said. The Minister highlighted that Georgia does not mix politics when receiving tourists. “We never do this, and we are trying hard to keep Russian tourists in our market. Georgia is a safe place, and everyone is invited. Our rat-

ings, our way of life, mentality and the fact that we are open to everyone proves this,” she said, adding that the government will carry out a number of measures to somehow ease the difficulties expected following the Russian travel embargo. Continued on page 2

CULTURE PAGE 11


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

Lavrov: US Seeks to Block Normalization of Ties between Russia, Georgia BY THEA MORRISON

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ussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow suspects that Washington is trying to inhibit Russia and Georgia from normalizing their ties. "We fear that our American colleagues are trying to do everything possible to prevent Russia and Georgia from normalizing their relations; this has been obvious over the past few years," Lavrov told Russian media. Lavrov’s statement came when commenting on the massive protests launched in Tbilisi on June 20 following the visit of Russian parliamentarians. The demonstrations were sparked by a session of the General Assembly of the

International Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). Following the approved protocol, Head of the Russian delegation, State Duma MP Sergey Gavrilov, who is the IAO President, took the Parliament Speaker’s seat in the Georgian Parliament. Outraged by this, the Georgian opposition disrupted the event and the protests outside later that day saw demonstrators attempting to break into the Parliament building. The assembly was wrapped up and the Russian MPs had to leave the country. The Russian FM noted that some analysts have focused on the fact that “several days before these provocations were staged in the Georgian Parliament, the head of the Biden Foundation visited Tbilisi and worked actively not only on the sidelines but also spoke publicly discouraging the development of ties with Russia."

"That is why this cannot be ignored," Lavrov added. Earlier, the Russian top diplomat said the recent anti-Russian protests and subsequent clashes in Georgia are “yet another example of the results of geopolitical engineering” performed by Western politicians. “The Western supervisors are ready to turn a blind eye to Russophobia and rioting by ultra-nationalists, as long as they get to rip apart all the ties the people of Georgia have with our country, and rewrite our common history,” he claimed. However, Lavrov underlined that Russia does not isolate itself from anyone, nor does it distance itself from a dialogue on the issues where there are opportunities for joint mutually beneficial work in order to suppress problems common to all Mankind, such as terrorism, drug traf-

Image source: sentinelassam.com

ficking, organized crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. “Moscow remains open to dialogue and partnership wherever it is possible to neutralize the common threats to all humanity,” the Minister stated. He also questioned the claims made by Georgian authorities and politicians that Russian guests were safe in Georgia, recalling that Russian lawmaker Sergey Gavrilov had also been a guest in Georgia, but nevertheless “was attacked during his visit.” “We hear the Georgian PM saying that all the guests are safe. But we must not forget that Mr. Gavrilov and members of his delegation were also guests in the strictest sense, and they were not safe. And of course, the [Georgian] President’s words that Russia is an enemy and an occupant do not improve the way Russians are treated in Georgia," Lavrov said on Tuesday.

Lavrov said Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili’s statement was inciting “extremist, nationalist and anti-Russian moods that are manifested on the streets of Georgia.” Following the riots on June 20-21 which left at least 240 people injured and 300 arrested, Zurabishvili said in a statement that Russia had attempted to "split Georgian society, weaken it, enslave the state and destroy the basis of the country's independence." Official Tbilisi says the Russian lawmakers were not attacked. The authorities also note that the safety of all tourists and guests, including Russian ones, are properly ensured in Georgia. Following the anti-Russia protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin banned flights to Georgia and control on Georgian wine exports to Russia has been tightened.

Minister Turnava on the Gov't’s Anti-Crisis Plan following Russian Travel Ban Continued from page 1 “We are working on this and the exact details of the anti-crisis plan will be known by the end of the week,” she said. The Minister noted the requests from the business sector regarding state support are clear and they do not want to lose this segment because it is both attractive and profitable. “The Georgian tourism sector is a very large market and one of the most secure

and attractive as well. Georgia does not choose tourists - tourists choose Georgia. This is quite a diversified market and no direction is dominant. Of course, we are well-aware of the concerns that the business sector has, and we are standing by their side to find solutions to overcome the potential negative impact caused by the crisis and will work together with them,” she added. Turnava noted that on June 26, an agreement was signed with Wizz Air,

a Hungarian low-cost airline successfully operating in Georgia for a number of years, which will launch direct flights from Kutaisi International Airport to 12 new European destinations: Frankfurt, Hamburg, Baden-Baden, Venice, Naples, Nice, Pisa, Stockholm, Nurnberg, Poznan, Heraklion, as well as Turku. Seven flights from Kutaisi airport will start by the end of the year, and the rest will be added in the summer of 2020.

"This is a unique opportunity to welcome extra European tourists,” Turnava said. “It is especially interesting that we will have direct flights to Finland and Sweden as there is a growing interest in visiting Georgia from Scandinavia and, therefore, we will be able to host more tourists from these countries.” When meeting the Minister, Georgian tourism representatives made several requests. In order to find alternative ways to bring tourists from Russia to

Georgia, they asked for free buses to be available at the nearby airports of Baku, Yerevan and Trabzon. Moreover, the companies said border entry procedures from countries such as Iran, the Arab states and India need to be simplified. The tourism sector also asked for free PR campaigns for tour operators, the involvement of the diplomatic corps and the revision of taxes. They also spoke about the importance of promoting internal tourism in Georgia.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

Opposition MP Nika Melia Loses Political Immunity, But Gets out of Jail for 30,000 GEL BY AMY JONES

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eorgianParliamentremoved opposition MP Nika Melia’s political immunity at a plenary session on June 26. 91 politicians voted in favor of lifting his immunity, with zero against. Speaking before the vote, Melia, from the United National Movement, told MPs: “Today, I am free, but you should be feeling otherwise, standing there in awkward obedience… I believe that I am on the right side of history and you are on the wrong.” “I will have a lot to say with pride to my children and grandchildren and you will have little, especially considering that you allow the enemy to sit in the seat of the Chairman of Parliament,” he continued. MPs debated the motion for over five hours in parliament, whilst Melia’s supporters protested outside. According to the Georgian Constitution, unless Georgian MPs are found in the act of committing a crime, they can only be prosecuted, arrested or detained with Parliament’s permission. Melia is suspected of organizing, participating and leading mass violence which broke out during the protests on June 20 - 21 on Rustaveli Avenue. Thousands of protestors gathered after Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov addressed Georgian Parliament from the seat of

Image source - Government of Georgia

the Parliament Speaker. The first day of protests ended violently when protestors attempted to enter the parliament building. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons against protestors, injuring many, some seriously. 240 protestors and police officers were hospitalized as a result.

The Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into Melia’s participation in the violence under Article 225 of Georgia’s Criminal Code. If convicted, he could face a 6 – 9-year prison sentence. Melia is accused of telling protestors to enter Parliament on June 20. He addressed demonstrators before the protests became violent.

“If those who should resign do not step down within an hour, I believe that we have nothing left to do here in front of Parliament: we have to march peacefully, with our hands in the air, into the parliament building and make our protest even more intense. We will come out once they resign,” he said. Protests are now entering their seventh

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day. The ruling party Georgian Dream met the first of the protestors’ demands to introduce proportionate elections in 2020. However, protestors still call for the resignation of the Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia and the release of three remaining protestors who detained during the demonstrations- 51 were reportedly released on June 26. On the afternoon of June 27, Melia was released on 30,000 GEL bail. Judge Temur Gogokhia, who announced the decision, said that Melia will instead remain under house arrest. The Prosecutor’s Office demanded Melia’s imprisonment, while Melia’s lawyer appealed for a 10,000 GEL bail. Police last detained Melia in June 2018 during an anti-government demonstration in Tbilisi, after which MPs debated his political immunity. Melia was allowed to keep his immunity. Opposition MPs have criticized the government’s decision, accusing the government of creating a dictatorship. “Bidzina Ivanishvili’s team refused to discuss Gakharia’s criminal and bloody decisions, instead focusing on sending their political opponent to jail,” said Giga Bokeria, European Georgia Party MP. This is only the second time that an MP has been stripped of their immunity since Georgia gained independence. In 1999, Boris Kakubava lost his immunity due to suspicions that he was involved in the attempted assassination of Eduard Shevardnadze, President at the time.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

“Piercing the Mind” - an Account of Winning Hearts & Minds BY VICTOR KIPIANI

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he very nature of contemporary warfare is undergoing rapid change. Major, decisive battles will no longer be limited to the physical clash of metal, to conquering swathes of territories or to physical destruction. Instead, warfare will increasingly be focused upon winning minds (i.e. brainwashing), changing (eroding) mindsets and navigating (controlling) human awareness. But, like any conflict, this new kind of warfare has its own “hardware”: information. Information warfare is of course nothing new. Practically speaking, it appeared following the inception of organized forms of human activity and the establishment of the very first polities and states. And yet, based as it is upon trickery, deceit and prejudice—basic and primordial features of mankind that have been the “engines” of bilateral and international interaction for thousands of years—this clash of minds has been greatly affected by the advance of machines and technologies. Radical advances have resulted in highly sophisticated, nearly undetectable and latent means of sabotaging human minds and apprehensions, offering belligerent states a truly unique opportunity to attain their geopolitical goals without crossing geographical boundaries or indeed even have to leave the safety of their bases. Consequently, the more we know about this very powerful component of hybrid war and recognize its influence over our daily lives and activities, the higher our alert threshold will be and the less vulnerable our political and social unity. But beyond simply being aware of the threat, we must also seek to comprehend it. As Albert Einstein once said, “any fool can know: the point is to understand.”

ONCE UPON A TIME: A “SPIRITUAL OFFENSIVENESS”? As human beings, we all (hopefully with some exceptions) tend to love influencing others. This tendency can also be observed among a range of different actors, be they “hybrid” organizations (e.g. think tanks, NGOs, academic research centers, advocacy or campaign groups) or democratic or authoritarian regimes. The penchant for psychological warfare as a sub-category of informational dominance or subversion gave birth during the Cold War to a modern interpretation of such efforts that was subsequently maintained throughout the confrontation between the Allied (AngloAmerican) and Soviet (Russian) spheres of influence. Already in the mid-1950s, William Yandell Elliott, one of the main influences of American post-WW2 policy, began to campaign in favor of “peacetime psychological warfare” as an alternative to military intervention. This concept of a “psy-war” gained renewed traction in the work of Henry Kissinger, who saw it as a means of seeing through the “veil of stated grievances [in order to discern] the essence of a people’s state of mind”. He insisted upon psychological warfare being accepted as “the most important component of our foreign policy”, and maintained that the “predominant aspect” of America’s new diplomacy in the Cold War era had to be a “psychological dimension”—some kind of “Spiritual Offensiveness”, if you will. This historical precursor is important, as it serves as a reminder that under Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy it was the academic-intellectual complex that ruled, and that it was a cluster of intellectuals during the 50s and 60s who came to define the trajectory of Ameri-

Image source: defending-democracy.org

can foreign policy. It also shows that the actual birthplaces of what is nowadays known as “asymmetric” warfare were located on both sides of the “Atlantic aisle”.

THE BEGINNING IN THE PAST: WEAPONIZING HISTORY Realizing geopolitical goals thanks to the very subtle tool of informational subjugation is possibly the most immoral and decayed form of asymmetric warfare, notably as it implies rewriting history to the advantage of political and geostrategic whims and caprices. The practice is particularly indiscreet and aggressive when it is employed by revisionist states, by states that cannot bear to come to terms with their own ugly past and seek instead to flee it or to falsely see themselves as victims. This futile and disgraceful exercise is commonly referred to by noble expressions such as “re-thinking” or “re-working” history, but all such attempts are essentially no more than the fetishization of a given political agenda for domestic consumption.

RUSSIA’S “SIGNATURE” OUTLOOK Like any information campaign or advocacy, Russia’s information warfare is based upon an inner (and indeed quasicongenital) strategic narrative: the “State” (Государство, gosudarstvo) is the key determinant of national self-organization and international projection. Beyond leading to domestic and foreign affairs being conducted in an overly conscious manner, this very basic concept gives rise to a very standalone and definitive type of normative civilization. Unsurprisingly, it also has a major impact on Russian strategic narrative concerning informational asymmetrical (hybrid) warfare. Typical of Russia’s insurmountable challenge of “getting on terms with

the past” is the signature mark of telling the past by promoting historical glory while simultaneously focusing on a shared future and restricting the rights of other international actors to accept history as it is. In a very mundane way, this works through a synergy of classic techniques such as tradition, the political application of history and the weaponization of legal tools. Very briefly, allusions to traditions, e.g. to tsarist Russia, help to solidify and legitimize the current incumbents (notably enough, the Russian State and Church have identical interpretations of history), whilst the political application of historical developments tries to circumvent the rulesbased world order and to achieve territorial expansion (e.g. Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia). Moreover, an unconstrained willingness to politicize and weaponize history is matched by a similar disregard for the law (e.g. passportization in occupied regions of Georgia and Ukraine) and a quick readiness to impose a historical interpretation in order to validate upended political realities. On the whole, in addition to her two historic allies (the army and navy according to Alexander III), Russia’s aggressive revisionism nowadays wields a weaponized history in the form of toolkits for hybrid informational warfare. Ultimately, however, this blatant disregard for the truth eventually results in a “historical ghettoization” and a Catch 22 situation in governance. But realigning history (by glorifying or victimizing it) with geopolitical or political exigencies is of course not solely a Russian or communist phenomenon.

THE INNATE VULNERABILITY OF REAL DEMOCRACY? Democracy is struggling. Democracy is faltering. Democracy is failing to deliver

what it used to ensure: a sense of security, a sufficient degree of equality and inclusivity, of social fairness and solidarity, of reliability when it comes to public services. These flaws are (hopefully) temporary and the result of fundamental changes to the political and social fabric of our post-modern society, but the precise nature of these changes lies beyond the scope of this article. These temporary flaws and shortcomings increase the exposure of democracy to the malign influence of information warfare and its vulnerability to destructive forces. Defending democracy from these clearly labelled forces is one of the greatest challenges we face, but the challenge becomes even greater when what we seek to counter has no label attached. As a result, we are all—the core Western democracies and those on its periphery such as Georgia—engaged in a new kind of fight whose maverick nature we have never witnessed before on such a large scale. Furthermore, it is discouraging to witness how our Western rules-based order is cracking under the pressure of centrifugal national and populist movements and as a result of the emergence of a “don’t know, don’t care” generation of young people. Regardless: these harmful cleavages must be dealt with effectively and these harmful processes need to be stopped and reversed. The task of successfully locating and countering abuses of information for anti-social, anti-liberal and anti-democratic ends requires concerted efforts among many different actors at many different levels, from the grass roots to the decision-makers themselves. In the former case, it is critical that voters become capable of making “informed decisions”, especially when the authorities are unable to identify predators or avoid naming them for political reasons. It is equally important that businesses be held accountable when deciding to

invest themselves in certain initiatives or projects. (The media certainly play a special role in this regard when seeking to ensure as much transparency as possible, including through investigative journalism). Unmasking and exposing fraudulent “experts” and various other intellectual crooks would also do much to protect the minds of voters. Clearly, a great share of responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the authorities, whose primary mission, besides addressing the challenge of information warfare at a regulatory level (e.g. by clarifying definitions, countering harmful online campaigns, punishing those who depend on dubious and opaque business and financial channels, etc.), is to persuade people of the rightness of their vision and to offer convincing alternatives to a predator’s arguments. Strengthening regional resilience and ensuring the greater integration of Western defensive and counter-offensive systems must also be made a constant priority. Yet understandably, even if all necessary measures are well thought out and orchestrated, it still remains a monumental task for small nations such as Georgia to confront the growing menace of hybrid warfare and disinformation. That said, even merely deterring (as opposed to completely countering) an aggressor by raising the cost of his interventions and lowering the value of his possible gains would hopefully contribute to strengthening our own valuesbased offensive to the best of our abilities. We have certainly been engaged in this new kind of stand-off for some time already, and it should never be forgotten that the ultimate goal of our efforts to garner as much domestic and international support as possible is not merely to preserve our infrastructure and society, but to shelter our identity and our right to freedom.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

Image source: VOA

The Wildfire of Hate Speech OP-ED BY ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL

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round the world, hate is on the march. A menacing wave of intolerance and hate-based violence is targeting worshippers of many faiths across the globe. Sadly – and disturbingly – such vicious incidents are becoming all too familiar. In recent months, we have seen Jews murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayer, their churches torched. Beyond these horrific attacks, increasingly loathsome rhetoric is being aimed not only at religious groups but also minorities, migrants, refugees, women and any so-called “other”. As the wildfire of hate spreads, social media is being exploited for bigotry. Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements are growing. And incendiary

Hate is moving into the mainstream in liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes alike – and casting a shadow over our common humanity

rhetoric is being weaponized for political gain. Hate is moving into the mainstream in liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes alike – and casting a shadow over our common humanity. The United Nations has a long history of mobilizing the world against hatred of all kinds through wide-ranging action to defend human rights and advance the rule of law. Indeed, the very identity and establishment of the Organization are rooted in the nightmare that ensues when virulent hatred is left unopposed for too long. We recognize hate speech as an attack on tolerance, inclusion, diversity and the very essence of our human rights norms and principles. ore broadly, it undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values, and can lay the foundation for violence, setting back the cause of peace, stability, sustainable development and human dignity. n recent decades, hate speech has been a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide, from Rwanda to Bosnia to Cambodia. I fear that the world is reaching another acute moment in battling the demon of hate. That is why I have launched two United Nations initiatives in response. First, I have just unveiled a Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech to coordinate efforts across the whole United Nations system, addressing the root causes and making our response more effective. Second, we are developing an Action Plan for the UN to be fully engaged in efforts to support safeguard religious sites and ensure the safety of houses of worship. To those who insist on using fear to divide communities, we must say: diversity is a richness, never a threat. A deep and sustained spirit of mutual respect and receptivity can transcend posts and tweets fired off in a split second. We must never forget, after all, that each of us is an “other” to someone, somewhere. There can be no illusion of safety when hate is widespread. As part of one humanity, it is our duty

Diversity is a richness, never a threat to look after each other. Of course, all action aimed at addressing and confronting hate speech must be consistent with fundamental human rights. Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech. It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous, particularly incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, which is prohibited under international law. We need to treat hate speech as we treat every malicious act: by condemning it, refusing to amplify it, countering it with the truth, and encouraging the perpetrators to change their behaviour. Now is the time to step up to stamp out anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, persecution of Christians and all other forms of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. Governments, civil society, the private sector and the media all have important roles to play. Political and religious leaders have a special responsibility to promote peaceful coexistence. Hatred is a danger to everyone – and so fighting it must be a job for everyone. Together, we can put out the wildfire of hate and uphold the values that bind us together as a single human family. *** On 18 June, the Secretary-General launched the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech. This op-ed comes in the context of the urgency of the issue and to amplify the resonance of the document. The Strategy calls for stronger support to Member States as well as stronger engagement with private companies, civil society and media.

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

Russia – the Apple of Discord in Georgia OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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he scandalous heat and friction between the current Georgian government and its opposition has become a non-stop and strenuous series of verbal and physical altercations all over the place, especially on the floor of the Republic’s legislative body as well as in front of its headquarters. One of the milestones of the notorious top-level squabble happens to be the long-crippled Russian-Georgian relations. Here, I am drawing on the statement by the vice-speaker of Georgia’s parliament Giorgi Volski on USA, NATO and the EU being the alternative to the perils emanating from Russia. The governmental position since the change of regime in Georgia in 2012 has been extremely cautious towards the Russian government, surreptitiously pursuing the goal of keeping the ‘Evil Empire’ away from any sudden moves against vulnerable little Georgia. The Georgian leadership is well aware that the Russian government will never give up on its country’s strategic interests in the Caucasus Region for the Georgian

people’s geopolitical comfort, so it would make no sense to pursue a futile powergame with Russia, but this does not mean that Georgia is going on its knees before the Russian power. The Georgian doctrinal stance is: It is worth remembering that Russia is a strong nuclear power with a centuries-old imperial mentality and behavior, and for Georgia to stay secure and free as an independent country, it is preferable to refrain from oldstyle non-speaking terms with Russia and keep up the dialogue with the occupant at least in fields like trade, culture, religion and tourism. The ruling party also believes that Georgia truly belongs in Europe and has never deviated from the idea of Georgia’s involvement in the Euro-Atlantic cooperation of nations, thus emphasizing that staying in this unavoidable trivial touch with Russia, it has never betrayed the western ideals. Indeed, the Georgian government has successfully managed to avoid a new war with the angry vindictive neighbor and has kept up the intensified process of integration with the West. On the other hand, the radical opposition is of totally contrary opinion of the existing Russian-Georgian interaction, if this induced exchange of minor importance could be described as an

interject with its rich anti-western imagination and poor pro-socialist economy to see Georgia back in the vicious soviet caboodle? We may succumb if the government and opposition do not push themselves to become better equipped analytically and more instrumental technically for coping with the advent of Russian multidirectional assault, together. Incriminating each other, especially in the ruthless and despicable oppositional style, is not enough. Action, before it’s too late! If Russia is a recognized adversary, then she must be expected to behave like a foe which has its own ways and means, among them bellicose ones too, of hurting the enemy, the enemy being us. Georgia should also possess its own ways and means, only peaceful and useful, of resistance, because we cannot and must not go to war with anybody, especially with Russia. And it is exactly here where my bones tell me that this government of Georgia has found the golden median in the heavily mined field of interaction with Russia which it is prepared to faithfully follow its principles to the very end, not yielding to some of our loudmouthed politicians who dream of our defeat in the current Russian-Georgian interface.

Image source: neweurope.eu

‘interaction’ at all. The Russian-Georgian sporadic exchange is in fact a harsh geopolitical struggle, evolving in front of the entire world and seen as a desperate resistance of the forcefully downsized Georgia to the happily growing Russia. The opposition believes that the fight has to be escalated with the help of the supportive part of the international community, in expectation of a pleasing finale for Georgia at the end of this unequal fight. Meanwhile, Russia, having become a real apple of discord between our gov-

ernment and its current opposition, is gleefully celebrating the success of its soft power promoters in Georgia. Russia probably knows well what she is doing on our remaining territory, in the first place never forgetting the well-tried golden rule of divide and conquer – the classic that Russia has been using in each and every post-soviet country with the purpose of keeping the former empire intact. Will we allow the crafty, cruel enemy of Georgia’s Western development to

The US Naval Power & Georgia

Photo by Li Gang/AP

BY EMIL AVDALIANI

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n many ways, Georgia's sovereignty and slow but gradual integration into the western political and economic systems (NATO and EU) is contingent upon direct US support and power in the region. Therefore, tracking changes in American power and Washington's vision of its

military posture around the globe should be of importance for successive Georgian governments. The starting point of course is the understanding that the US power in the South Caucasus and the Black Sea overall has always been of relatively limited character in comparison with other regions. This is largely caused by the fact the US is a sea power surrounded by large swathes of water and its reach into the depths of Eurasian continent

through the deployment of troops is constrained. Let us start with simple numbers. The Earth is a relatively modest-sized planet having 25,000 miles in circumference at the Equator, while its total surface area is 197 million square miles. This means that nearly three-quarters of the planet is water. The power controlling the world ocean thus commands numerous economic and military developments across the globe.

Americans know this well, seen in their efforts since the late 19th century to expand naval capabilities. The 20th century was an American century, but this is changing. China and India are building navies, Iranians grow assertive in the Persian Gulf, while the Russians do the same in the Black Sea. Among them, the Chinese are crucial to watch. Their strategy is more to dilute American power than to engage them outright. This is a clever approach, more like hit and run, and creates uncomfortable conditions for a rival power. Chinese strategists of ancient times give some interesting insight into how the Chinese could be seeing their competition in the modern world. Pure numbers and power overstretch too is blame. Consider the following fact. In the Cold War the US had to deploy fleets (overall up to 1000 ships) mostly in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea. In a striking contrast, nowadays, with up to less than 500 ships, the US need to cover the whole world as the number of competing sea powers has risen, as mentioned above. Another reason for probable decline of the US naval capacity is globalization. The faster the pace of globalization, the bigger is the need to control every corner of the world as a minor military confrontation in Asia, Europe or the Middle East might transform into a global problem. The sea power throughout history has proved to be far more long-lasting than any other land power and it actu-

ally is the best indicator of a nation's power. The US might hope to retain its global dominance also by enlisting allies of similar geopolitical aspirations as its own. But even there, it will rather mean that the US naval power admits its relatively weaker position. Many would call it an elegant decline. Another possibility will be spending more on navy and building new fleets, but their cost is at times as high as the accumulated GDP of tens of African and Asian states. In many ways, this is what the British officials experienced before World War I. The country has been a primary naval force in the world for almost two centuries (especially in the 19th century), but a gradual rise of the US and German naval fleets was becoming more evident and potentially threatening to the British order at sea. One of the reactions of the British elite was to negate the trend and claim that their power will be unmatched. It is difficult to admit your relatively declining power. What does all this mean for Georgia? It relies on the US for its security and it borders on the Black Sea. However, in the long run when the focus of the US grand strategy will more focused on containing China at sea, Washington will be less able to properly address the Russian navy in the Black Sea. As said, there are simply not enough naval resources to hand. The scenario is unfortunate for Tbilisi, particularly at a time when the country is set to build the Anaklia Deep Sea Port.

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

Russia Regains PACE Voting Rights FISH & MEAT RESTAURANT II FLOOR

Two Different Restaurants in one Space

Image source: Council of Europe

BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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n Monday, June 24, member states of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted on whether to restore the voting rights of Russia in the body. PACE is the parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe which focuses on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. In the summer opening session, the assembly voted on a report that both restored Russia’s voting rights and limited PACE’s rights to impose similar sanctions in the future. The vote brought Russia back into good standing in the body 118 – 62, with 10 abstentions. Supporters of Russia’s re-enfranchisement included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron under the premise that having Russia engaged on controversial issues is better than excluding them from the dialogue. Also voting unanimously for the reinstatement was: Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Serbia, Cyprus, Austria, Iceland, Norway, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Unanimously opposing the vote: Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and, unsurprisingly, Georgia. The vote preempted Wednesday’s election for PACE secretary-general. Russia, if not allowed to participate, Russia threatened it would pull out of the assembly all together. Leaving PACE would mean that Russian citizens would not be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. That was the main reason Amelie de Montchalin, French Secretary of State in charge of European Affairs, gave for her country’s vote. “We must not confuse citizens' rights and geopolitics,” she explained to France’s CNews. Human rights-focused NGO ‘The Netherlands Helsinki Committee’ released a statement in December urging that Russia not be allowed to walk away from PACE, saying “Russia's departure from the Council would deny Russian citizens protection and justice provided by the Court — worsening human rights in the country…It would result in a lack of protection provided by the Convention and

the Court for inhabitants of Russia-controlled Crimea. It would remove levers for continued political and legal pressure on Russia over its aggressive operations in neighboring countries.” Additionally, Russia contributes EUR 33 million annually to PACE’s budget, which it did not pay during the time its voting rights were suspended. Euronews reports that Russia has “no intention of paying EUR 75 million in outstanding subscription fees, covering the period of its suspension.” On the opposing side, Oleksandr Scherba, Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria, Tweeted before the vote on Monday, “Russia plans to roll into PACE like it rolled into Crimea: unpunished, arrogant and largely unopposed.” On Tuesday, Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani Tweeted “Sad decision by @PACE_News! Like back in May, during the @coe Ministerial in Helsinki, Georgia principally opposed this decision. We are consistent to our position!” Russia’s voting rights in the assembly were stripped in 2014 after the invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and financial and military support for separatist fighters in Eastern Ukraine. On Wednesday, the official Georgian delegation to PACE walked out of the assembly hall in Strasburg in protest of the decision to restore Russia’s voting rights. Standing with Georgia, representatives from Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia also left the session. On behalf of the seven countries, Volodymyr Ariev, the Head of the Ukrainian delegation, announced that they are returning to their home countries to hold negotiations with their governments regarding next steps for interactions with PACE. After the vote was officially confirmed, Ukrainian representative Oleksiy Honcharenko announced his delegation’s departure in a dramatic speech, saying that PACE had “sold its values” and “lost the hearts” of millions of people. “When Putin restarts killing, you will also be responsible for that,” warned Honcharenko. The restoration of Russia’s voting rights in PACE is the first set of major Western sanctions on Russia to be lifted since a wave of sanctions and restrictions hit Moscow in response to the Annexation of Crimea in March 2014.

Statement of National Bank on GEL Exchange Rate BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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he National Bank of Georgia has released a statement on the national currency (GEL) exchange rate, saying that the country is facing a floating exchange rate regime which is affected by a number of internal and external factors, including expectations. The document also covers the expected outcomes of the Russian tourism sanctions on the Georgian economy. “At this stage, it is difficult to make an appropriate forecast. However, according to the initial calculations, the decrease in the Russian tourist inflow will affect the economy of Georgia by $200-300

million,” reads the document. The National Bank of Georgia states it is to apply all measures necessary to prevent a high inflation rate countrywide.

GEORGIAN RESTAURANT I FLOOR T: (+995) 591 914 416 / Ardagani Lake 6000, Batumi F: Grand Grill Restaurant / F: Ardagani Terrasa

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

Baby Boom OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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he statistics suggest that the summer season will be characterized with an increase in birth rates and, apparently, politics is following suit. In the very first month of the summer, three newborns were added to Georgian politics. Some of those who left the governmental party gave birth to two parties, while the third is the result of interbreeding between former governmental officials. But it seems that the Georgian political family won’t stop there and in the near future we will witness the birth of a few more political organizations. The latest political offspring is expected from ex-premier Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who has been significantly active recently and has come out with a number of daring statements. Georgian media predicts that we’ll be seeing the former PM’s party in September, most likely comprised of fired ministers and MPs who have left the Dream. Chief Editor of the newspaper Kronika+, Eliso Kiladze, took to social media to forecast that we will definitely see Giorgi Kobulia, the former Minister of Economy and ex Vice Premier Dimitri Kumsishvili in said team. Apart from those who left the government, it is predicted that the new party will become home to the newly formed social movement Defend Georgia. Its leaders, the Gachechiladze brothers, are old political friends of Kvirikashvili from as early as the parliament of 1999. But most

importantly, the new party could see the founder of JSC TBC Bank, Mamuka Khazaradze, in its ranks. Ex-PM Kvirikashvili’s awaited party is already perceived as that very third power for which the electorate has been waiting for so long. The value of Kvirikashvili’s future party shot up after Bidzina Ivanishvili agreed to hold the 2020 Parliamentary elections under the proportional system and even more so as no threshold will be applied. The circumstances could see 10-15 % of mandates given to the former Premier. The most important thing in the whole story is that after the bloody night on June 20, Kvirikashvili joined the protestors and publicly demanded not only that there be a change to the system, but even that snap elections be held. This demand wasn’t voiced even by the protesters, so seeing Kvirikashvili’s radicalization adds quite a bit of intrigue to the future political life of the country. Yet still, the former Premier is choosing to remain silent about his future plans, saying nothing to journalists, and making public statements only via social media. “Only by satisfying the demands of the protestors can the Georgian Dream keep the trust of its citizens towards the political processes and its place as leader to those processes. By doing so, it will be able to preserve Georgia’s place as the leading country in the region on the Western orbit,” he said. While Kvirikashvili is seen as the new actor on the Georgian political scene, the old ones are also getting ready for new walk of life. On June 20, while the current and former governments were busy fighting

Image source: rarehistoricalphotos.com

over Russian MP Gavrilov’s appearance on the seat of the Georgian Parliament Speaker, Eka Beselia, who recently quit the Georgian Dream, announced the birth of her own political party, called ‘Justice.’ Former MPs Zviad Kvachantiradze and Gedevan Popkhadze have joined. Some people expected to see MP Levan Gogichaishvili too, who also left the party, but he has not joined Team Beselia, saying instead that he will be

joining the party that will be formed in the near future by the like-minded Jaba Jishkariani and Vato Shakarashvili. Davit Chichinadze, who was fired from the Dream, also announced the creation of his own party, called ‘Tribune.’ Former Security Minister Irakli Okruashvili and ex MP from the Georgian Dream Gubaz Sanikidze have also founded a party, called ‘Victorious Georgia.’ Rumors and those in the circles of the ultra-nation-

alist Levan Vasadze, suggest that he may also be forming a new political party and coming to politics. However, the details are as yet unknown. New parties are being created by those who have left the Georgian Dream, which once again implies that the governmental party is disintegrating. This is the start! 2020 is not that far ahead and this will be a decisive battle for forcing the Georgian Dream out of power.

erages. Since 2013, when the Russian market was re-opened, we have never had even one party of wine produced by our company returned from Russia and we’ve never had any problems related to wine quality,” he said. When asked if the information about prohibiting eight Georgian wine companies from exporting wines to Russia could be an interpretation by some media companies, he answered that “it is absolutely possible”. “We have partners in Russia with whom we cooperate. If we receive orders, we will continue working as usual. We have received no notification or warning about an official prohibition,” Tsereteli reiterated. As Irakli Beqauri, Director General of Georgian wine producer ‘Bolero & Company’ told GEORGIA TODAY, the statement released by the Russian agency does not contain any information about the prohibition of Georgian wine. “The statement does not contain information about prohibition of Georgian wines in the future. Additionally, it does not report that these specific products of these eight Georgian wine producers failed to meet the mandatory requirements in the past. I think that there were some incorrect interpretations related to this issue, and, accordingly, unverified information was spread through the media. The statement itself is rather

ambiguous and contains unverified data, which was the reason for various unverified interpretations. We have not received any official notification about prohibition of our wine. Additionally, we have never had any amount of our wine exported to Russia returned, as its quality has never been under question,” he said. According to Beqauri, the Georgian side is focused on the preservation and improvement of wine quality, as quality control is one of their key priorities. “Georgian wines are in full accordance with all the necessary standards,” he said. However, some Georgian wine producers refused to comment at this stage, saying they would make statements after the situation is clarified. Protests were sparked on June 20 by Russian Duma MP Sergey Gavrilov, who was heading the Russian delegation to the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Georgians were especially irritated when Gavrilov took the seat of the Georgian Parliament Speaker for his address. Russian lawmakers labeled the protests “Russophobic” and called for a boycott of Georgian resorts and trade goods, such as wine and other alcohol beverages, while President Putin banned Russian airlines from flying to Georgia starting July 8.

BUSINESS

Georgian Companies Have Not Been Banned from Exporting Wine to Russia BY ANA DUMBADZE

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ollowing Vladimir Putin's July 8 travel embargo, the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing released a negative statement against Georgian wine. Russia said it was tightening control on Georgian wine as tensions rose between the two countries after days of anti-Kremlin protests in Tbilisi. According to their statement, the quality of wine and other alcoholic beverages imported from Georgia “is deteriorating by the year,” so forcing them to “tighten control on Georgian products”. “The Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing systematically monitors the quality and safety of alcohol entering the territory of the Russian Federation from Georgia. The dynamic of regular control shows the deterioration of alcohol quality. The amount of alcohol which failed to meet the requirements increased 2.9 times from 2014 to 2018 and reached 203 thousand liters,” reports the website of the Agency. The statement also reads that wine produced by eight specific Georgian wine companies was not allowed to be imported to Russia as they did not meet the mandatory requirements. This week, unverified information was spread online, with a number of some media agencies reporting that eight Georgian wine companies had been banned from exporting wines to Russia. However, the representatives of wine companies deny this information and note that the statement released by The Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing only reports tightening control, not prohibition of exporting Geor-

gian wines to Russia in the future. Additionally, according to them, they had received no official notification about possible prohibition of their products in Russia. The National Wine Agency (NWA) responded to Russia's warning on “tightening control” and released a statement saying that along with increasing wine export, its quality has also improved in recent years. “In parallel with the growth of wine export, the Georgian side pays particular attention to the preservation and improvement of Georgian wine quality,” the NWA said. “One of the main objectives of the Georgian winemaking industry regulatory body, the National Wine Agency, is the promotion and control of high quality of Georgian wine. For this purpose, according to the amendments to the Law of Georgia on Vine and Wine in 2017, tasting became mandatory for all categories of exporting wine from January 1, 2018. Until January 1, 2018, mandatory tasting was only subjected to appellation wines. The initiative for the amendment came from the private sector and aimed to improve the quality of the wine. Legislative amendments also prohibited export of decanted wine from Georgia to avoid Georgian wine falsification outside the country. In the first quarter of this year, the National Wine Agency's tasting commission conducted 58 tastings for the organoleptic testing of the alcoholic drinks of grape origin. “ The NWA noted that in total, 2115 samples were presented, 196 of which were negatively evaluated. During the current year, 370 samples were taken from wine factories as part of the wine industry inspection, which is an average of 50% more in comparison with the same period of recent years. Companies were denied certificates of export compliance in 24 cases, the NWA reports. 30 companies were examined

within the scope of state control and state supervision, of which a number of wines of six companies were found incompatible with the requirements set by the law. In addition to verifying other parameters of wine, this year the alcoholic carbon stabilization isotope correlation is also being checked. “Quality control is one of the main priorities in the National Wine Agency and the work in this direction has been strengthened in recent years. The tens of millions of bottles of wine produced in Georgia should meet the relevant standards. We believe that there is no objective basis for doubting the quality of Georgian export products, control or certification of wine production quality,” reads the official statement released by the Agency. GEORGIA TODAY contacted Davit Tkemaladze, the Head of LEPL National Wine Agency of Georgia, who commented on the recent rumors and misunderstandings. “Wine is the matter of a great importance for Georgia, everyone knows it. It plays a significant role in the country’s economic development. This is a very sensitive topic, which becomes especially so when such things happen between two countries. Many people are involved in this sphere. Due to its importance, it can become subject to many rumors and interpretations. As for our position towards this issue, it is clearly expressed in the statement released by our Agency,” he said. We also contacted Irakli Tsereteli, the Marketing Manager well-known Georgian wine company, Bagrationi 1882. “There is no mention of prohibiting Georgian wine producers from exporting wines to Russia in the statement released by the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing: it just says that control will be tightened on Georgian wine and other alcoholic bev-


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

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Photo: Seedstars

Seedstars World 2019 CEE Tour BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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eedstars is a group of private companies that came together with the goal of impacting emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship. They currently work in emerging ecosystems in 75 countries in five regions, and have been operating the Seedstars World Tour since 2013. Although the organization is based in Switzerland, the name comes from a Mexican proverb: They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds. This weekend, the Seedstars World Competition is coming to Georgia for the fifth time. Through the competition, styled as a World Tour, Seedstars aims to educate entrepreneurs, find the best talents, and the best ideas. On Saturday, June 29, approximately 30 of Georgia’s most promising young startup companies will participate in a boot camp designed to better prepare them to attract and grow investments. The ‘How

to Get Investment Ready’ bootcamp will be led by mentors and entrepreneurs who can share their experiences with their younger peers, and will be organized around several key topics, and divided by sector. Then on Sunday, June 30, around 10 of the strongest startups will be selected as finalists travel to Borjomi to pitch their businesses and vision to potential investors. Eligible startups are those who have a minimum viable product ready to present, who have raised less than 500,000 USD in funding, and who can demonstrate the potential for regional and global scalability. Startups in any field can participate, but the major of contestants worldwide are in the technology sector, including financial, agricultural, educational, healthcare, and energy-related technologies. The finalist startups who pitch in Borjomi will all receive access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness program. The program is a new idea from the organization, which is shifting the competition’s focus this year more in the direction of education and strengthen-

ing startups that may not be ready to attract major investors at the international competition at this stage. Investment Readiness includes the ‘How to Get Investment Ready’ bootcamp for selected startups on Saturday and onethree months of free access to the online program, which allows startups to plug into a network of peers and investors and watch a library of helpful webinars on hard skills for entrepreneurs. This year, the idea is that “not just the firstplace winner gets something, but all the finalists will get content and access to the Seedstars network that they can use,” explains Daria Khlopova, Seedstars’ Community and Events Manager for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The new education-focused model has already been implemented in Serbia and Azerbaijan with positive feedback. The first-place startup from the Borjomi pitch competition will win, along with three months of access to the Investment Readiness program, a trip to Kazakhstan in December to attend the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Seedstars regional competition. The

five-day event will be primarily focused on learning, including subject-focused boot camps and working with mentors. The startups who are then deemed ready, from each of Seedstars’ five global regions, will go on to the global summit in Switzerland where they will pitch in front of investors to win a grand prize of $500,000 in equity investment, among other awards. Even the startups who are not invited to the global summit will have the opportunity to meet with investors at the regional competition. Agahuseyn Akhmadov, Seedstars Regional Manager for CEE says, “The stakes are higher than ever as we’ve been in this ecosystem [in Georgia] for more than 5 years now and know there are companies in Georgia developing high-quality products. We are looking for the best and will take them with us to Switzerland in 2019!” Seedstars’ partners in Georgia this year include Alliance Group Capital, USAID, the Business Information Agency, the Georgian Venture Capital Association, Borjomi Likani, the Partnership Fund, Georgia’s Innovation and

Technology Agency, and Startup Georgia. The judges for this year’s pitch competition in Borjomi will be: Agahuseyn Ahmadov, Giorgi Danelia, Deputy Executive Director of the Partnership Fund, R. Michael Cowgill, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, and Aieti Kukava, CEO of JSC Alliance Group Holding. Kukava explained his company’s cooperation with Seedstars, saying “We are actively pursuing growth and development of innovative companies in Georgia. One of the main purposes of the Georgian Venture Capital Association (GVCA), founded by us, is to make capital attraction easier for startups… [We aim] to discover new fields and encourage innovative projects, that means investment attractiveness in Georgia, growth of entrepreneurship and international competitiveness of the country.” Those interested in attending the pitch event on Sunday can register online at: https:// www.seedstarsworld.com/event/seedstarstbilisi-2019.

SOCIETY

Horse Nonsense: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER

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y good friend and occasional guest had spent a couple of weeks around the place, doing all sorts of renovation projects and making himself most useful. Just before he left, he asked to go horse riding, so I arranged this: one horse from one neighbor, a saddle and another horse from two others. Assembled thus, we left. His horse was a mare, with young filly in tow. Early on, the little one was startled by a dog and began trotting back towards home. But she’d only get lost; and the separation would be bad for both, with the mother likely refusing to leave her even right with the owners, so come she must. We reunited them; tied the reins of the mare to the saddle of my stallion because she was rather reluctant to proceed; and set off up, towards Lake Meziri. The trip up was more or less fine, and we even saw the peak of Ushba en route before intervening mountains blocked it. But by the time we reached the pass, alas, it was enshrouded in cloud and unlikely to reappear that day. Such are the caprices of Ushba. The horses did their level best to scrape us off as we had a small stretch of trees to pass through, under or around; return

journey: get off here and walk! Then we arrived at the lake. All I could do was take some reference shots, one standing in the water with a nice ring of reeds surrounding the Mountain, as it refused to cooperate with a summit view for more than about a second. Better luck next time, mornings are generally better than later on for these photos. We rested, tied up the horses to graze, and waited but to no avail. Return: thunder started pealing through the mountains, and I hoped fervently that we would not get rained on. We detoured to see some different views, all of which were spectacular, got a bit lost and then found again and returned to the right path. Led the horses on foot through the forest bit to avoid low-hanging branches. The worst rain was some very gentle and spare spitting, and it could have been a downpour, so we got off with a warning that time; some wooden cowherds’ huts on the way down would have afforded some shelter at need, but we bypassed them and hurried on. The real rain did begin to fall as we reached home, so that could have been much worse. Meantime, I had two couples from Australia, and a German hiker whom we found on the way, as my guests for the evening. But my young helper and I could hardly move after seven unaccustomed hours mostly in the saddle, so we hobbled around like old men getting things ready for supper. This morning, my back and butt still

feel the workout from yesterday, so I’m unlikely to offer my services as horse guide in the future; I just don’t do it regularly enough to get in proper shape for it! But there are plenty of local people who have both the horses and the time to take tourists, and are in much

better form, plus needing the money. We’ll gladly call on them, win-win all round. 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 nearly 2000 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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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 June 28 SWAN LAKE Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s two-act ballet Choreographic version and staging by Alexey Fadeechev Odette/Odile- Nino Samadashvili Prince Siegfried- Ruslan Skvortsov (Principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet) Conductor: Alevtina Ioffe (Russia) Artistic Director of the Tbilisi Ballet Festival: Nina Ananiashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-100 GEL June 30 BALLET GALA Cast: Victoria Jaiani, Temur Suluashvili (Joffrey Ballet, Chicago, USA), Francesco Piccinin (Estonian National Ballet), Martina Arduino, Marco Agostino (La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy), Ruslan Skvortsov, Anastasiia Goriacheva, Ana Turazashvili (The Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, Russia), and the Ballet Company and Orchestra of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater Conductor: Alevtina Ioffe (Russia), Artistic Director of the Tbilisi Ballet Festival: Nina Ananiashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-100 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 13 Shavtelis St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 65 93 June 28, 29 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30, 40 GEL June 30 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30, 40 GEL

July 2 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 12:30 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 June 28 ASTIGMATISTS Language: Non verbal Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL June 29 A STORY OF A MURDER Language: Non verbal Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 -15 GEL June 30 FAUST By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Language: Non verbal Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS Until September 10 Under the joint initiative of Georgian National Museum and Georgian Post, Exhibition: STORY TOLD BY POSTAGE STAMPS Dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the first Georgian stamp. Until August 31 Multimedia technology exhibition-

IMMAGICA. A JOURNEY INTO BEAUTY An impressive journey within time, introducing us to Italian paintings of the XIV-XIX centuries; a combination of voice, lighting, immersive visual and multimedia. Giotto– ‘Ognissanti Madonna’ and the ‘Scrovegni Chapel,’ Leonardo da Vinci– ‘Annunciation,’ Botticelli– ‘The Birth of Venus’ and ‘Spring,’ Raffaello– ‘The Madonna of the Goldfinch, Bellotto– ‘Piazza San Marco,’ ‘Castello Sforzesco,’ Canaletto– “The Chapel of Eton College”, Canova– ‘Amor e Psyche’ and ‘The Graces’. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 June 27 – September 10 The Georgian National Museum within the project "Contemporary Art Gallery" presents Vakho Bugadze's exhibition: ‘Three, Four" Together with Vakho Bughadze are artists Gogi Okropiridze and Katrin Bolt. Within the framework of the exhibition, documentary film about Vakho Bugadze will be presented. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge The exhibition hall is equipped with monitors, where visitors can see documentaries of various historical events. The exhibition also includes one of the train carriages in which the participants of the national uprising of 1924 were executed. It is also dedicated to the history of the antioccupational, national-liberation movement of Georgia and to the victims of the Soviet political repression throughout this period.

room, resist the laws of gravity and size ratio, and take selfies in every possible pose. Enjoy the collection of holograms, and discover optical illusions. MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS 10 Betlemi Str. THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS The unique collection of the museum aims to provoke feelings of understanding among individuals and serve as some kind of therapy for those who have experience break-ups. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until February 26 (2020) GRAND MASTERS FROM THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY Until July 4 SOLO EXHIBITION ZERO BY GEORGIAN ARTIST VAKHO BUGADZE MUSIC

SPORTS PALACE 1 26th May Sq. June 28 SOPHO BATILASHVILI SOLO CONCERT "Bravo Records" presents Sopo Batilashvili’s debut album, where she will perform new versions of already famous songs with Zviad Bolkvadze, Band "Newton" and specially invited musicians. Start time: 18:00 Ticket: From 20 GEL SOUNDS OF GEORGIA

MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave enough to jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in a Mirror Room, be free in the Infinity

June 28, 29, July 3, 4 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, a mix of traditional Georgian music of different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, and Georgian pop and city songs.

Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 24 GEL Venue: June 2810 Erekle II Sq., Tekla Palace Hotel, June 29New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’, July 3Corner of 2 Turgenev Str., and 37 Javakhishvili Str. July 4Europe Square, 2 D. Megreli Str., Hotel “Nata” MOUNTAIN SET Spacehall Kustba 3-day pass: 40-80 GEL 1-day pass: 30-60 GEL June 28 Boston 168 [Live] | Keith Carnal | Kmyle [Live] | Blicz | Dwig [Live] | Levi Love Disco | Gabunia | Rati | L8 | Toke | Kdema June 29 Function | Ulwhednar [Anthony Linell / Abdulla Rashim + Varg] [Live] | Restive Plaggona [Live] | Schwefelgelb [Live] | Yanamaste | Newa | Matthieu Faubourg | Dasha Zet | Objector Trax B2B Lilith. | Hamatsuki | Sevda | Cosmic Love Rotation | Digital Groove Affair | Kote Japaridze | Mercurrio | Kvanchi June 30 Fabrizio Lapiana | SID & Eddy / Schwefelgelb | Blicz | Caotinalm | Berika / Spacejam 92 | Gio Shengelia | Autumn Tree | Ash Scholem | Generali Minerali | Sumo | Ericsson | HERU | Tade | Audio Space Start time: 16:00 Ticket: 15-80 GEL CLUB 33A Vake Park June 28 MAIASTVIS A charity event to raise funds for Maia Kartvelishvili, who has leukemia and is undergoing medical treatment in Turkey. Enjoy the Loudspeakers, Bedford falls and DJ Papaskiri. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. June 28 Electrochemical concert Musical and technological students acoustic and audio-visual compositions. Head of the Program: Acc. Professor Rezo Kiknadze Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5 GEL FOLKLORE CONCERTS FOR TOURISTS Sanapiro Str. Bldg 2. Every Sunday June 30 Folklore Evenings of ensemble EGARI Folklore events to popularize Georgian folk music among tourists. The concerts will present songs, instrumental music, dance and urban folklore from different parts of Georgia, as well as ethnojazz music. Hear live polyphony and a diversity of instruments (Salamuri, Panduri, Chonguri, Chiboni, Doli). Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50 GEL GEORGIAN FOLK SHOW 10 Rustaveli Ave. Every Tuesday, Friday, Sunday June 28, 30, July 2 The first full and systematic folk show made for tourists. Tour all Georgia’s regions in an hour through the country’s worldrenowned folklore. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 40 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY JUNE 28 - JULY 1, 2019

11

BBC’s ‘The Arts Hour on Tour’ to Visit Tbilisi July 2 to Explore Local Culture TELL US ABOUT THE ARTS HOUR ON TOUR.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NIKKI BEDI BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

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n past years, Georgia has experienced significant cultural, social and economic changes, changes that have helped the country to establish itself as an important spot on the world map. Tbilisi even managed to grab the attention of the BBC World Service through its vibrant and growing cultural scene. On July 2, the BBC’s world-renowned radio program ‘The Arts Hour on Tour’ will be visiting Tbilisi to explore the city’s cultural scene and to record a special program with notable Georgian figures. The Arts Hour on Tour is a monthly arts show uncovering culture in the world’s different cities, and this time Georgia’s capital is its next destination. The show will be recorded at the Liberty Theater and will be free to attend. It will be accompanied by performances from famed Georgian music groups Moku Moku and Kayakata. GEORGIA TODAY had the pleasure to interview the presenter of the program, Nikki Bedi, about her visit and the show.

There are actually two radio shows we make. The Arts Hour is our weekly program where I curate the best of the arts from across the BBC and am joined in the studio by two guests to discuss it all. They may be filmmakers, authors, visual artists or critics in their fields. The Arts Hour on Tour is a monthly programme and is huge in comparison! We travel to a different city in the world and mount a big stage show in front of a live audience. We have two music acts, a stand-up comedian and then a panel of some of the biggest names in their fields- movie stars, directors, authors, poets, visual artists, architects, composers- and we always go to a city that’s experiencing change to find out how these artists are responding. The aim is to offer a deeper understanding of the changing society via the prism of the arts. An artist’s personal storytelling can often give us deeper insights into a country than a dry socio-political news piece. No offence to my esteemed BBC World service news colleagues! As the BBC World Service’s Englishlanguage news service alone reaches a record 97 million people globally, we have a great responsibility to reflect a

social, artistic and economic, as well as a feel for the city’s hugely varied culture.

HOW LONG ARE YOU GOING TO STAY WITH YOUR CREW IN THE COUNTRY? We only get to stay a few days, sadly, as BBC budgets obviously can’t fund anything other than work, but it’s long enough to scratch the surface of a changing society and be invited a little deeper via our guests’ stories and experiences.

ARE YOU PLANNING TO DO SOME SIGHTSEEING?

country in the widest possible way. Our topics will always depend on what’s happening in the city we’re in. Has war wiped out much of the cultural life? Is it being rebuilt? Has a natural disaster affected the city? Is the rise of the farright changing things? Are there no LGBTQI rights? Is gentrification forcing artists out of place? Is tradition being replaced by modernity, and if so…who is preserving cultural history? Those and many other questions can steer our topic discussions.

Georgian society today? We have director Rusudan Chkonia as one of our guests. Also on stage we have the writer Davit Gabunia, artist Mariam Nastroshvili and comedian Aleksandr Pereverzev. Our live music will come from KayaKata and Moku Moku. The audience is an incredibly important part of the show as we ask them to get involved. I’ll be including them in some of the questions about Tbilisi and Georgia

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO RECORD A PROGRAM ABOUT GEORGIA’S CULTURAL SCENE? WHO ARE YOUR GUESTS?

IS IT YOUR FIRST TIME IN GEORGIA?

Tbilisi is such a fascinating city. It has a complicated history which makes the arts scene rich and diverse. It’s like a Eurasian crossroads with incredible architecture and arts heritage but it’s moving forward into the 21st century with spectacular contemporary buildings and new cultural scenes. We want to find out what sort of new identity is being forged by the city’s artists. Georgian cinema has always been distinct, and I feel a new wave of filmmakers, many of whom are women. What sort of stories are they telling to reflect

It will be my first time in Georgia and I’m incredibly excited to find out more about the country via the capital city and its arts scene.

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR VISIT TO TBILISI? I hope to experience the stunning city on foot on one of my morning runs. I’d like to try some of your famous Georgian hospitality, khachapuri, khinkali, Georgian wine….but most of all to bring a set of stories to our BBC World Service listeners that begin to give us an understanding of Georgia- past and present, political and

When I walk or run in a new city, I feel like I’m connecting with centuries of history. Tbilisi’s cobbled streets must have so many stories in them and the earth’s magnetism must help us feel that, so that’s already a start! I really want to see some of the contemporary artist Rusudan Petviashvili’s work in the flesh and I’d like to see Chronicles of Georgia, Stalin’s Underground Printing House and cross The Bridge of Peace, and I’m always interested in new uses for old buildings. Luckily for me, we make a feature called the Culture Cab in every city that The Arts Hour On Tour goes to, with one of our show guests becoming my guide to the city’s cultural and artistic secrets. This allows us to really experience a place through the eyes of a local. In Tbilisi, our journey will hopefully take in some of the cool music venues, Fabrika, street art in the underground passages at Vake Park and Heroes’ Square…it’s always good to find social, political and cultural graffiti but that’s up to my guide, so you’ll have to listen to The Arts Hour On Tour in Tbilisi to find out where we go! For tickets, go to http://theatre.ge/ka/. The Tbilisi edition of the program will air on BBC World Service on Saturday 27 July and will be available on the BBC World Service website after that at www.bbcworldservice. com/artshour.

The K-Arts Dance Company Ballet Premiers in Georgia BY GABRIELLE COLCHEN

T

his week, for the 3rd edition of the Tbilisi Ballet Festival, the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater welcomed the muchawaited Korean K-Arts company for the first time as one of its main guests. GEORGIA TODAY had the chance to talk to the artistic director of the State Ballet, Nina Ananiashvili, about this year’s festival. “We are so happy with the 2019 Tbilisi Ballet Festival. It opened very successfully with Frederick Ashton’s ballet ‘The Two Pigeons’ and August Bournonville’s ‘Conservatoire.’ It is extremely interesting for us to have the Korean dancers come to Tbilisi. I thank the government for its support and the Opera House for the organization. We had guest dancers from Ukraine performing ‘Giselle’ and we will have the renowned ‘Swan Lake’ with Mos-

cow Bolshoi stars as well as our Tbilisi State ballet ballerinas. To close the festival, the gala will take place on June 30, seeing us welcome Italian dancers from ‘La Scala.’ It is thanks to the Italian Embassy that we were able to invite them. We’ll also have dancers from Chicago, Estonia and Moscow. Do come to Georgia and visit us as well as our State Opera, we are especially welcoming in these difficult times,” the prima ballerina said. The goal of the festival is to present classical, modern and traditional shows, and the K-Arts ballet perfectly carried out its duties in this regard, presenting 14 short performances in the above genres, both international and Korean. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Sonia Sun Hee Kim, ballet teacher and Dean of the School of Dance of the Korean National University of Arts. “Last year, Nina Ananiashvili invited us to Tbilisi, and we have been preparing for our arrival since. Our K-Arts dance company is 25 years old and it is our first

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time meeting the Georgian audience. We were expecting a very happy encounter and that is what we got.” It is always a pleasure to see classical Balanchine choreographies being performed, and the company beautifully presented two of them: one from ‘Tarantella’ and one from Tchaikovsky’s Pas de Deux. The dancers were especially impressive for their grace, precision and energy. They also performed ballets from ‘Gayane,’ ‘La Sylphide’ and ‘Carmen.’ The last was especially striking and Seonmee Park, the only dancer on the stage, was able to captivate the public all by herself. The event was also a unique occasion to discover traditional Korean dances. Each dance featured a special object with which the artists were dancing. The fan is definitely the hallmark of Korean dances and the Hallyangmu traditional dance was particularly fascinating: a men’s dance showing off the traditional elegance, joy and Korean style in which men play with fans.

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Amy Jones, Thea Morrison, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

Photo by: tkt.ge

Another special traditional dance was the folk hand drum dance in which women dance and play on small drums called “sogo”. The Korean contemporary pieces received special appreciation from the public. ‘The White Road’ closed the first part of the show, with dancers gracing the stage in large white dresses,

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moving in coordination with dynamic and active motion. The ‘Mob’ show closed the night with a very special performance of jerky movement which became trance-like. Dark and experimental, it left a powerful impression on guests, who are sure to remember the happy night the Korean dancers came to Tbilisi for years to come.

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1163  

June 28 - July 1, 2019

Issue #1163  

June 28 - July 1, 2019

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