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Issue no: 1137

• MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... FM Zalkaliani Meets with NATO Deputy Secretary General

NEWS PAGE 3

FOCUS ON NATO

A look at a week celebrating all things NATO

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19-Year Old Shepherd Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Murdering US Family District Court, on March 27. Kobauri denies his guilt. The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia (POG) reports that evidence found during the trial confirmed that on 4 July, 2018, at around noon, Malkhaz Kobauri killed Ryan Smith with two gunshots, after which he put the gun to his son's head and shot him. After committing this crime, he had sexual intercourse with Lora Smith by use of violence, after which he drowned her in water. “Law enforcement officers arrested Kobauri within several days on the basis of appropriated evidence…The prosecution examined evidence of the crime during the trial. Dozens of witnesses were interrogated. Documental and material evidence was examined, including the murder weapon - a hunting gun on which the DNA of the victim and the defendant were found,” the POG says. Continued on page 3

Head of Saburtalo Military Recruitment Arrested on Corruption Charges POLITICS PAGE 6

HUAWEI P30 & HUAWEI P30 Pro: Smartphones Changing the Rules of Photography BUSINESS PAGE 8

Get Your Vitamins! A Look at the New Juice Shop Enterprise SOCIETY PAGE 9

Exploring the Girl Scouts of Georgia SOCIETY PAGE 10

American Friends of Georgia Charity Gala 'Restore Life' SOCIETY PAGE 11

Info source: Reginfo.ge

BY THEA MORRISON

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alkhaz Kobauri, the 19-year-old shepherd who was found guilty by a jury for murdering American couple Ryan and Lora Smith and their 4-year-old son Caleb, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Gori Regional Court. The verdict was announced by Goga Kupreishvili, the judge of the Gori

Didgori Choir, Keeping Polyphonic Singing Alive CULTURE PAGE 13

Famous Pianist Luka Okros to Play in Tbilisi in April CULTURE PAGE 15


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

Georgian President Suggests Changing Format of Geneva Int’l Discussions BY THEA MORRISON

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he first female President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili believes that the Geneva International Discussions (GID), which represents the only format of an international dialogue between Georgia and Russia, needs to be changed into a higher-level of diplomatic and political dialogue. “The Geneva International Discussions format to resolve the conflict in Georgia's Occupied Territories needs to be changed into a higher level of diplomatic and political dialogue. We cannot resolve our conflict with a format that merely addresses technical issues,” Zurabishvili tweeted. Later on, President's Spokesperson Khatia Moistsrapishvili gave a more detailed explanation regarding Zurabishvili’s initiative. “The President states that it is necessary to use all the existing formats related to the occupied territories and conflicts, and to use all tribunes in order that we and our partners regularly remind the Russians of their obligations and to call for the obligations taken under various agreements to be kept to,” she said.

Moiststapishvili added that the initiative does not mean that in the President’s mind the GID should be substituted by another mechanism. “The Geneva format has no alternative, but recent years have shown that only technical issues are solved within this format. It does not respond to political demands. Consequently, the President believes that it is necessary to update this format to include essential political dialogue. If this happens within the Geneva format, we welcome it, otherwise, other ways should be found to conduct a political dialogue,” she said. Zurabishvili mentioned the issue during her first report before MPs when summing up her visits abroad. “The format of negotiations is only at the technical level. Together with our partners, I talked about the necessity of renewing a high political format. They need to understand in Russia that in the 21st century aggressive politics should be left behind,” she told MPs. The President raised the same issue during the visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, last week, telling him that due to Russia’s activities, the situation along the occupation line is very tense and includes kidnappings and other threats made against Georgia’s NATO membership goal.

Image source: RFE/RL

“Georgia does not waver from its peaceful plans. Georgia has no other policy – it has only a peace policy, which means that the Geneva International Discussions format should be more efficient and should have a serious political influence. We cannot try to resolve the conflict on merely a technical level as no real progress on resolving the conflict in a peaceful manner is taking place

through this format as long as our partners do not remind Russia to fulfill its commitments,” she told the Secretary General. The GID is held four times a year with co-chairmanship of the EU, UN and OSCE, and with the participation of Georgia, the Russian Federation and the USA. The representatives of the occupation regimes of Georgia’s breakaway

Sokhumi and Tskhinvali regions also attend the Working Groups. The talks are usually held within a two meeting-group format. At the first meeting, the sides discuss security and stability issues in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, while the second meeting concerns the safe return of Internally Displaced Persons and refugees to their homes.

Global Teacher 2019 Georgian Finalist Returns Home BY THEA MORRISON

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he Georgian teacher Vladimer Apkhazava, who was the finalist for the Global Teacher Prize 2019, has returned to the Chibati public school of the Lanchkhuti municipality where he was warmly welcomed by his pupils and colleagues. The school held a symbolic opening ceremony of Apkhazava’s star in order to congratulate him on his success in one of the world’s most popular awards for teachers. Despite the fact that Apkhazava was not named the winner, he was named among the Top 10 Teachers of the World out of 5000 applicants from 127 countries. “All of this is very emotional for me.

Image source: Netgazeti

The greatest happiness and the biggest award is the support and warmth from the Georgian people. I have received lots of letters and gifts that are filled with good wishes and love. I would like to thank everyone, especially my colleagues and students,” Apkhazava stated when he returned to Chibati school. The awarding ceremony of the Global Teacher Prize 2019 took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on March 24. Famous actor Hugh Jackman announced the results. The winner from Kenya, Peter Tabichi, will get $1 million which he will put towards future teaching projects. The Global Teacher Prize is an annual event awarding exceptional teachers who make a significant contribution to their profession. The project seeks to acknowledge the impacts of the very best teachers – not only on their students but on the communities around them.

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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

DWV to Hold Gala Reception for Partners

Image source: agenda.ge

FM Zalkaliani Meets with NATO Deputy Secretary General BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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he Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia David Zalkaliani is paying an official visit to Brussels within the framework of which, he held a meeting with Rose Gottemoeller, the NATO

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Deputy Secretary General, and attended a meeting of the NATO-Georgian Commission. The parties covered a number of vital issues at the meeting, including the role of Georgia and the country’s engagement in terms of guaranteeing Black Sea security and the current situation in the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), occupied by Russia. The representatives of the NATO mem-

ber states expressed their strong support towards the territorial integrity of Georgia and its sovereignty within the internationally recognized borders. The recent trip of the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Tbilisi, the visit of the NATO Military Committee, as well as the ongoing NATO-Georgia Exercise were also strongly accentuated at the meeting.

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he German Business Association (DWV) invites its members and DWV partners to its major event of the year – an Exclusive Gala

Reception! On March 29, at 19:00, DWV will offer an unforgettable evening to guests at the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace. Z-Academy Group (European Music Ensemble), headed by Zaza Miminosh-

vili, will take to the stage at the event. DWV expressed it gratitude to its sponsors: Golden Sponsors: Archtrade / არქთრეიდი, @HeidelbergCement, Hilton Batumi, Knauf • კნაუფი, Majorel and ProCredit Bank Georgia; Silver Sponsors: Insta • ინსტა, @Ivermedi; Special Sponsor: Zedazeni For further information, please contact Zaira Soloeva: zaira.soloeva@georgien.ahk.de

19-Year Old Shepherd Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Murdering US Family Continued from page 1 Zaza Datukashvili, the prosecutor of the case, says Kobauri was found guilty on all charges raised against him by the jury on March 26 and the verdict of the jury was unanimous. “Since the day Kobauri was charged, the prosecution has stated that there is proof that confirms the crime was committed by him,” the Prosecutor said. He added that Kobauri was charged under Criminal Code Articles 109 §1 (c),

§2 (b), §3 (a, b) and Article 137 §1 which envisage premeditated murder in order to ease and cover up another crime, the murder of three persons with particular cruelty, the murder of a minor knowingly, and rape. The lawyer of the accused, Aleksandre Kobaidze, stated he would appeal the decision and claimed the jury’s decision had come as a surprise. “Unfortunately, our society is not mature enough to have more active, dynamic, and critical jury trials. The jury shared

opinions based only on assumptions," Kobaidze said. Mariam Martiashvili, the shepherd’s mother, says that her son is innocent and “he was used by the POG to please the US.” “I will not be able to find justice here. God knows my son is not guilty and only God knows what happened there,” she said after the trial. The mother and aunt of the accused became unwell after the judge announced the verdict and were taken to the hos-

pital directly from the trial. “My son would not have been able to commit such crimes. The evidence of the POG was a lie. This was a well-staged murder. And the jury was under pressure from the Prosecutor’s Office,” Kobauri’s mother stressed. The American husband and wife were citizens of the US but had Georgian citizenship, received in 2012. They had lived in the town of Marneuli for seven years and were well respected members of the local and expat community.

The search of the family was launched on July 6, 2018, after they could not be contacted. Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) made a statement that a 19-yearold man had been arrested on murder charges, saying on July 4, after a confrontation, he shot Ryan Smith and his son and while the wife was trying to escape, she fell into a nearby ravine and died. However, later, after complex forensic examination, it was stated that woman had been raped and drowned.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

Another Giant Tree for the Arboretum in Ureki BY THEA MORRISON

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uling Georgian Dream (GD) founder, Chair and ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, has bought another giant tree for the arboretum in Ureki, in the Guria region of Georgia. The photo was released by the media outlet Netgazeti, which reports the tree was seen on the Grigoleti-Poti road, ready to be transported to the arboretum. It is well known that over recent years, billionaire Ivanishvili, who is the richest man in this small, post-Soviet country, has been transporting giant and unique trees from around Georgia to the arboretum in the coastal region. Sometimes the trees are so large that other trees are cut down during the process of removal or branches are cut from trees on private property to make space. Moreover, very often the holes made after uprooting the centuries-old giant trees, are left unfilled. In August last year, Minister of Envi-

Photo source: Netgazeti

ronment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia Levan Davitashvili released a statement about the arboretum, saying

it would be opened to the public. “Georgia will have a unique dendrological park. The fact is that with the

goodwill of Bidzina Ivanishvili, another important project is underway in our country. In fact, a new monument of

nature is being created. It is simply absurd to say that arranging such a unique place has a negative impact on the environment," says Davitashvili's statement, which was released by the Ministry on August 1. The Minister claimed the implementation of the project will have social and economic benefits because private companies are involved in the process, and “special techniques and equipment have been brought to Georgia that will be involved in various infrastructural projects in the future.” According to Davitashvili, Ivanishvili’s Cartu Fund spends millions of GEL arranging roads and infrastructure in the areas where the trees are transported. He claims the local population also profits from the process because some trees are private property and Ivanishvili buys them. Ivanishvili first received permission to begin moving trees in December 2015. Since then, every time he targets a new tree, the opposition and environmentalists slam the government; however, the Ministry of Environment stated several times the process is entirely legal.

Georgia to Chair Council of Europe BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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eorgia is set to become the Chair of the Council of Europe (CoE) in November for a six-month term, holding that status until May

2020. The chairmanship will be granted to Georgia after France under the rotation principle of the Council of Europe at the official meeting in Strasbourg in November, which will be attended by the representatives of the 47 member countries of the CoE. Tamar Chugoshvili, the Vice Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia has focused on the importance of obtaining chairmanship of the CoE: “We expect a more active year. This chance [of chairman-

Image source: Council of Europe

ship] should be used for the interests of our country,” Chugoshvili said. The government official also accentuated the issue of the territorial integrity of Georgia and stated that the country needs more support from the European states. “The number one problem for Georgia is the territorial integrity and protection of human rights of our citizens residing on the occupied territories. However, the negative issues will not represent our major priority. We want Europe to discover the reforms and achievements the country has made in order to gain support from European Countries,” Chugoshvili said. She also announced the upcoming visit of high-level officials from the CoE to Georgia and the travel of Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze to Strasbourg on April 10, where he will participate in the PACE Spring Session.

Georgian Consulate Opens in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria BY AMY JONES

officials, diplomats, journalists, Georgian students, Georgia’s honorary consul Yuliy Nushev, employees from the Georgian consulate, and representatives from the Diaspora. The Ambassador of Georgia to Bulgaria Tamuna Liluashvili spoke at the event. Highlighting the closeness of GeorgiaBulgaria relations, she also spoke of the significant role the honorary consulate

A Busy Bees Georgian consulate was opened in Blagoevgrad, a city in south-west Bulgaria, earlier in March. The opening was marked by a reception attended by Bulgarian

OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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ast week, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze travelled to Armenia for a meeting with his counterpart, Nikol Pashinyan. The PM of Armenia hosted him in Enokovan village. Like their meeting two months ago in Bolnisi, this one was also of an informal character. In both cases, the parties did not disclos the reason or the themes of their meeting. The officials were short in their descriptions but stressed how beneficial the said format is. The press-speaker of the Armenian PM noted that he

was saddened by the bad weather. At a glance, there is nothing strange about informal meetings, but if we take a closer

will play in further improving relations between Georgia and Bulgaria and providing better services for Georgian citizens living in Bulgaria. Guests at the reception enjoyed a performance of folk songs and dances by the Pirin folklore ensemble. Aside from the new consulate in Blagoevgrad, Georgia also has an embassy in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia.

Photo source - Foreign Ministry of Georgian Press Office

look, we may find there is more to it. By examining the political calendar of Geo-Armenian relations, we can see that in the last month alone, Official Tbilisi has been strikingly active. It is hard to tell why, but fact is fact. On January 15, a day after the election of Pashinyan, he travelled to Bolnisi to meet Bakhtadze. On February 22, Minister of Defense Levan Izoria met with the Armenian PM in Yerevan. On March 12, it was President Salome Zurabishvili who met him. And now, it is Bakhtadze again. Four high-level meetings within three months, the last three of which within a month. Impressive statistics, especially if we consider the low-intensity of such meetings in recent years. Something is definitely going on between the two countries. Guessing whose and what messages the officials are carrying back and forth is truly food for thought. The importance of dialogue between Tbilisi and Yerevan could be overestimated, but as we look at the intensity of meetings with Baku, an

array of grounded suspicions arise. Especially after Geneva, where for the first time the delegations of Russia and Georgia faced each other within a new format. The parties met to discuss the issues of cargo transition on the occupied territories, and, as we are all aware, Armenia is directly affected, hence highly interested, in using said trading corridors. The importance of these for Georgia is another issue. Opening an alternative road leading towards Russia was discussed even in PM Kvirikashvili’s time, however, he and thenPM Sargsyan never met this frequently, which makes us think that Pashinyan has more “headaches” than just the corridor. Apart from opening new transport corridors, Pashinyan could be worrying about the recent regulations that were enforced. Unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. From 2019, the regulation states that non-member countries will be affected by higher taxes on the import of vehicles. Of course, this affects Georgia, which exports vehicles to Armenia. President Putin must have been hoping for a monopoly for the Russian brand

Lada. Clearly, Pashinyan could be under threat, as the Armenian population fancies Mercedes and Toyotas more, forcing him to find a way out of the situation through Georgia. The Armenian dream of being economically connected with Europe, without sacrificing security guarantees from Russia, was buried by Putin when the latter “dragged” Armenia into the Eurasian Union. At the time, one of the main conditions of Armenia’s becoming a member was the Kremlin’s promise there would be new transport corridors. It seems now is the time for the promises to be fulfilled. Notably, the President of Armenia tried to play his cards a few years ago when he suggested Georgia sell Georgian products through Armenian companies which had special tax deductions on operating in the Union member states. To put it simply, this meant “don’t tax the cars and I won’t tax the wine that will be sold on the Eurasian markets.” Seems this offer is still legit, which may be why PM Pashinyan is contacting Official Tbilisi so often.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

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Jack Shepherd Prepares for Extradition

BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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rit Jack Shepherd will leave Georgia and return to the UK, having agreed to his extradition. During a lengthy threehour court hearing, the fugitive Brit consented to be extradited to the UK, citing his willingness to “participate in the appeal” and eagerness to see his family and loved ones again. Allegedly, the fact that the time he spent in Gldani prison wouldn’t count towards his UK sentence also had considerable impact on the distraught Brit’s decision. According to the lawyers, they will not be appealing the decision, which will see Shepherd returned to the UK to serve his six-year sentence in about two weeks, with Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani set to rubber-stamp documents

officially affirming his imminent departure. Shepherd fled the UK in March 2018 before his trial for the manslaughter of Charlotte Brown, who died in a speedboat crash on the River Thames in London. Shepherd and Brown had met online and were on a first date when the incident happened. Shepherd had taken Brown for dinner at the Shard before taking her out on his rented speed boat. He is also accused of causing grievous bodily harm with intent in an incident in Devon, UK, in March 2018, shortly before he fled. Whilst on the run, Shepherd spent months hiding in Tbilisi before finally handing himself over to police. The British media has been buzzing ever since, with tabloid press speculating over “Speedboat Killer” Shepherd’s cloudy future. The court hearing itself was far from a straightforward affair. After Shepherd refused to consent to simplified extradition procedures back in February, it took an official order from the UK justice system to Georgia to kickstart the whole affair. The latest process saw the court considering the admissibility of Shepherd’s extradition, wherein the prosecution wasted little time in pointing out that both incidents involving Shepherd were punishable by the Georgian Criminal Code (Articles 10 and 116) and, therefore, there were no legal grounds for keeping him in a cell in Georgia. The defense, despite their client agreeing to being extradited, still elected to argue the case. Concerns over his safety in British prison were reiterated and new details emerged as it became known that Shepherd was receiving hate-and-threat mail while in prison, as were his lawyers, both Georgian and British, and that his mother’s phone had been hacked, with somebody replacing the screensaver with the deceased Charlotte Brown’s photo. “Jack made the only decision that was correct, a decision that is both right and honorable,” Mariam Kublashvili, Shepherd’s Georgian lawyer (one of three), said. “He could have stayed here for the whole nine months and then come out of prison a free man. He could have requested asylum, appealed the court decision, postponed the court processes by requesting psychological assessments and so on; he had many opportunities, but he decided not

Georgia's Role in Black Sea Security Emphasized in Brussels

Image source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia

BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI

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he NATO-Georgia Commission meeting was held at the Permanent Representative level in NATO Headquarters, Brussels. Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani addressed the Alliance Permanent members. At the meeting, the NATO Secretary General's visit to Georgia was noted as highly valuable, and once again NATO's strong support for Georgia was confirmed. The importance of the NATO Military Committee's visit to Georgia and NATO-Georgia joint exercises were also emphasized. It was highlighted that the active dynamics of the past week in terms of NATO-Georgia cooperation underlines Georgia's special place in the NATO political agenda and represents another demonstration of recognition from the Alliance. The NATO-Georgia Commission meeting was dedicated to Black Sea security issues and noted that discussions on the Black Sea with Georgia's participation are crucial in the context of NATO's Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Washington, where one of the key issues on the table will be the security of the Black Sea region. Representatives of the Alliance member states noted the difficult security environment in the Black Sea region. The NATO-Georgia Commission session emphasized Georgia's important role and practical engagement in the process of ensuring the security of the Black Sea, including Georgia's active involvement

in the process of implementing decisions on the Black Sea region at the Brussels Summit, declared in the visits of ships from NATO maritime groups, in joint activities in preparation for cross-border naval boarding groups in Georgia, in the exchange of reconnaissance information, as well as in the development of air and sea monitoring capabilities. The Georgian side highlighted the particular importance of the Black Sea for common European security, as well as its important economic role in the development of European-Asian transit capabilities. Speaking about regional security, Minister Zalkaliani informed the participants of the Commission meeting about the situation in Georgia's occupied regions, the gross violation of human rights and the facts of life Infringement in those places. The Alliance members once again stated their strong support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and for the peacekeeping policy of the country. Georgia's progress on NATO integration was once again confirmed at the meeting. It was noted that aspirant Georgia has all the practical tools needed to join NATO, with Georgia's national program and the successful implementation of the NATO-Georgia essential package highly appreciated. The Alliance member states once again highlighted Georgia's democratic, political and economic reforms and underlined Georgia's leading positions in this direction. It was noted that the Alliance is loyal to the open-door policy and expressed willingness to continue supporting Georgia's accession to NATO. The allies once again recognized Georgia's important contribution to NATO peacekeeping missions.

to take them. And remember, instead of handing himself over to the police in January, he could have gone to Russia or Turkey, Armenia or Azerbaijan, pretty much every place this side of the globe. But he didn’t. He had real, substantial reasons to fear that he would be subjected to degrading, inhuman treatment in British prison. He feared for his life. He believed that, and yet he chose to return to his homeland, have an honest dialogue with Charlotte’s family and give a good account of himself in court. He wants to set the record straight, answer for any mistakes he made and try to prove his innocence. This is not a decision dictated by desperation, or fear, or a decision made by a monster and killer, as the tabloid media have so undeservedly named him: he wants to hold his head high for his son and family and fight what he believes is his truth.” Kublashvili then went on to request that media

not be unfair and subjective, and to “remember that the terrible accident that took place was not a singular case: every one of us could find ourselves in the same unlucky situation tomorrow: this is not a crime and doesn’t deserve the same punishment,” she insisted. She noted that her client was requesting 24/7 video surveillance and a solitary cell of the UK prison system, open access to media and the chance to talk to Charlotte Brown’s family, an argument that Judge Arsen Kalatozishvili opined he should have brought before the UK legal system, not the Georgian. Kublashvili also claimed she would be willing to travel to the UK to represent Shepherd there, as she thinks her client would stand a very good chance of being acquitted in the appeals court in London.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

Head of Saburtalo Military Recruitment Arrested on Corruption Charges BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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arlier this week, the Investigative Service of Georgia’s Ministry of Finance arrested the Head of the Military Division of the Saburtalo Gamgeoba (district administration) on charges of corruption and accepting bribes. If convicted, the former official, whose name has not been released to the public, faces six to nine years of jailtime under Article 338 of the Criminal Code. He is accused of soliciting and accepting a bribe in the amount of 700 GEL from a young man who asked to delay his call to compulsory military service. The defendant broke the law by using his official position for personal material gain, says the report from the Investigative Service. The arrest was made at the conclusion of a long-term operation conducted by the Investigative Service. Many of the young men from middleand upper-class families in Tbilisi have long known about the official’s corruption, a source, who asked to remain anonymous, told GEORGIA TODAY. The Head of the Military Division at the gamgeobas of the city’s different districts is responsible for calling the city’s young men up for service. He has the personal authority to decide which of the young men in his registration database will be recruited, and when. In recent years, there has been significant criticism over Georgia’s compulsory military service system, including from inside the government. In 2016, then-Minister of Defense Tina Khidasheli unilaterally halted the Defense Ministry from participating in the compulsory military service program. Two other agencies – the Ministry of

Image source: police.ge

Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Corrections – continued recruiting young men into compulsory service. In fact, only about 25% of eligible conscripts at the time served in the Defense Ministry. Khidasheli was removed from her post soon after the decision, and the move was overturned by her successor and current Defense Minister, Levan Izoria. “The GAF [Georgian Armed Forces] doesn’t need servants who were forced to join it against their own will,” said Khidasheli in June 2016, explaining her decision. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Justice decided that the penitentiary system

will no longer be staffed with military conscripts, but by paid guards. In announcing the move, Head of Parliament’s Defense and Security Committee Irakli Sesiashvili explained that the transfer to a contract-based system will increase the capacity of service members in the defense and security sectors, with higher skilled and more dedicated staff. Current Georgian law states that all men between the ages of 18 and 27 are eligible to be recruited into compulsory service, unless they can somehow find a way to exempt themselves. There is a long list of possible exemptions: medical disqualifications, being an only child,

having at least two children of your own, religious accommodation, and those enrolled in an education program. These exemptions, coupled with the nature of conscripted service – low pay, poor living conditions, long, hard hours, lack of opportunities for professional development – lead to creative strategies for avoiding service. Opposition political party Girchi registered its own religious organization in order to ordain young men so they can claim a religious exemption as a priest in the Church of Biblical Freedom. Young men often stay enrolled in education until they hit the age of 27, getting multiple master’s degrees and

unwanted PhDs, sometimes in fields completely unrelated to their career, barely attending lectures or completing assignments as they often must work full time to support themselves and their families. There are no exemptions for nationally valuable non-security-related jobs such as medical professionals, teachers, or other public servants. It is possible to pay to delay the onset of service until the age of 25 – at which point many young men who can afford it go abroad for some time, to work or study, taking their cultural and intellectual capital away with them. The system encourages corruption, fraud, and brain drain, and ensures only the most poorly connected young men, often from the regions, often from poor families, often from ethnic minority groups, serve their ‘compulsory’ time. Georgia has made great strides against corruption in the last 10-15 years. In January, Transparency International released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), ranking Georgia 41 out of 168 countries. Georgia’s CPI score, however (a 58 out of 100, 100 meaning citizens perceive society as fully noncorrupt), has not significantly changed since 2012. The compulsory military service system provides the perfect environment for corruption to fester and thrive. As Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo explain in their 2011 book Poor Economics, the risk of corruption is endemic in any government, but becomes more severe “when the government is trying to get people to do things whose value they do not appreciate,” and “when bureaucrats are underpaid, overworked, and not well monitored.” Both those conditions apply to this week’s bribery arrest. The charges, while disheartening, are not shocking for most Georgians who recognize the flaws in the current system of compulsory service.

The PPP (Peculiar Political Process) in Georgia OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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ere is a newly coined term and an abbreviation thereto, g raphically describing Georgian politics! I have learnt in my salad years that economy is the blood circulation of our physical world and politics is its nervous system, and the world’s health is in direct proportion to the salubrious interaction between those two vital systems. Georgia, like any other nation on earth, is a micro-model of the world and the quality of its welfare fits

well into this model of the world’s existence. One does not need to have a special academic qualification to know that the current political process in Georgia has its curiously sinuous ups and downs, often expressed in barefaced political incriminations which repeatedly become verbal altercations and even corporeal squabbles between the malcontents in the country’s legislative stronghold. The most salient characteristic feature of the PPP in Georgia is its overwhelming anxiety and jumpiness, fed by the ever-present inter-party sense of intolerance between political colleagues, and not only that: intra-party bigotry is also

commonplace. Georgia’s PPP has politicized the life of the country with the help of the powerful tool of television. Even the loaf of bread you buy at the baker’s smells like politics. Society is politically overcharged, leading to the impression that the only product we produce is politics and the only food we eat is politics. But being politically obsessed does not mean that politics works well in this country. Generally speaking, the entire PPP lacks political logic, firmness of strategy and farsighted planning. One of the main actors of the PPP, the ruling party, has been doing its job in the last seven years very confidently; overpow-

ering the opposition in many ways, including every possible electoral event that has taken place since 2012, when the long-awaited radical political change sounded deafeningly nation- and worldwide. I have a habit of listening to every participant in the PPP, thus enabling myself to make affordably reasonable conclusions out of what I hear, and my updated inkling is that the ruling party has given myriad reasons for the opposing side to voice harsh criticism, but the opposition has returned instead with insubstantial reaction to the weaknesses the rulers feed them every so often. In a word, the opposition makes itself sound banal and trivial, never coming up with rejuvenated images or fresh ideas; all their actions and theoretical seizures are as old as the hills and as boring as beans. Today, the PPP is not very interesting a show to watch because it lacks thrill, luster and narrative. Naturally, any functioning opposition tries to make a change: this is their sacred goal, and it makes sense and justifies their pecuniary effort and existence, so to speak. But the change will occur only if it matures in the depths of the political process, mostly occupied by its Excellency the electorate, reflecting the success of a social movement. In the notable year of 2012, the thenextant governmental system suffered a considerable number of grave vulnerabilities, caused for various minor or major reasons, which triggered the opportunity for interference in the political process, and change was executed as a result. Understandably, change will not happen if the political opportunities are not in place. Currently, the political opportunities are not yet mature enough

to instigate the readiness of the masses for change, and the corroboration of this is the balanced and reserved behavior of social movement in Georgia, which should promote thoughts and actions conducive to change. The opposition to the current government is against anything the government does, and they have no idea how dubious the electorate’s reaction to their discourse is, claiming but not achieving the goal of persuasive description of persisting problems, repeatedly articulating the reasons for change with the same stale vocabulary and uneasy zest. The current social movement in Georgia demonstrates almost no series of protest, and if there are any from time to time, they are neither long nor strong enough to lead society into a changeoriented deliberation. Do we see any serious strikes, demonstrations, protests and petitions around? Well, part of the population feels disadvantaged and illtreated, nursing certain complaints directed at the current regime which they reckon unfair, but the overall sense of injustice is not yet developed enough, compared to 2012, to build the motivation for change. Any government is subject to some vulnerability to the challenges of the time of their rule, but the current Georgian government has not yet created a forceful enough political opportunity for its opposition to be able to talk the larger part of our public into introducing any radical change. Among the reasons for this would figure potent ingredients like political pluralism, behavioral liberation, uncurbed freedom of media, absence of repression, and so on and on and on.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

7

NATO’s “Small Talk” OP-ED BY ARCHIL SIKHARULIDZE

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n March 26, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Tbilisi and met high officials, including PM Giorgi Bakhtadze and President Salome Zurabishvili. During his “blitzkrieg” visit, Stoltenberg firmly re-iterated the Alliance’s official standpoint once again: Georgia will become a member of the military bloc and Russia has no rights or power to oppose it. Yet, according to mainstream media outlets, this time Secretary-General added “very soon,” wording that offered more concrete timing and raised hopes that the so-called MAP (Membership Action Plan) will finally be granted to the small Caucasus country. Unarguable, such high-level visits are extremely important to maintaining Georgia’s aspirations for NATO membership and, generally, to keep spirits high on the ground. But Tbilisi has been hearing such promises of commitment on a regular basis for the last decade, with visits from NATO officials having become something of an annual tradition. We can easily argue that Jens Stoltenberg’s trip to Tbilisi was another example of NATO “small talk” without real outcomes for MAP issuance, but with more serious consequences for local society and its perception of the real ongoing processes in global politics.

NATO & DEMOCRACY NATO has little to do with democracy. The Alliance is a military bloc based on ideology and with concrete geopolitical interests; in this case, democracy is just an additional advantage. These assumptions must be made clear when it comes issuing membership. It is obvious that, according to Western democratic standards, neither Georgia nor Ukraine are actually ready to satisfy such strong requirements; to say nothing of the 2008 period when Tbilisi and Kiev hoped to get MAP and had strong support from the US government. The promise given by the Bucharest Summit Declaration to open doors for these two states in the future was clearly the result of geopolitical calculations that dealt with

strengthening the Eastern flank of the bloc and bringing NATO forces closer to the Russian border. So far, using lack of democracy in Georgia as an explanatory variable for MAP refusal is an outdated trick to avoid naming the real reasons; seemingly, the only group of people who might still trust such arguments are regular citizens.

RUSSIA, RIGHTS & THE BLACK SEA REGION Despite loud claims that Russia has no rights and no powers to oppose Georgia’s integration, it actually has. Moscow’s geopolitical interests stopped Tbilisi from getting MAP in 2008 and it is the only opinion that matters when it comes to the decision-making process. Putting aside political rhetoric, Russia does not need special rights to counter NATO’s policy on the Eastern flank. Every single political actor by default has the right to protect its own political, economic and social standpoints. Thus, the Kremlin has the right to defend its national interests without being granted “permission” from the West or any other actor. What actually matters is whether Russia also has the economic and military strength to back up any protest. Even though Moscow is no match for Washington in general, the state currently possesses enough accumulated power to counter the West, especially near its borders and geopolitically important life-space. Furthermore, the Russian policy of containing NATO enlargement is perceived as crucial by the majority of society; this is not constructed by Putin’s regime but a factual given. As such, the Kremlin will do its best not to let Tbilisi or Kiev be granted Alliance membership. Whether officially noted or not, the highest and most influential political actors in the West are well-aware of Russia’s NATO fears; additionally, Georgia’s strategic partners understand that, historically, Moscow has always been keen to fight such threats by all means necessary. That is why they are not in a hurry to give a green light for the next stage of the military bloc enlargement. Even worse, NATO representatives are unsure whether bringing the organization to the Black Sea region will actually lead to more stability and prosperity or, by inter-

Photo by: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

vening in the so-called Russian “zone of interest,” instead lead to a direct or indirect military clash that will destabilize the whole post-Soviet space. Today, the West, and Western European states in particular, are not ready to be involved in such dramatic processes.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF THE NATO “SMALL TALK” While looking at NATO’s annual “small talk” in Georgia, we need to raise another issue that deals with negative consequences. First, such harsh and provocative statements by high-rank officials create and maintain false expectations and perceptions of global political processes. Georgian society is being kept in a virtual reality where Russia allegedly has no rights and powers while Tbilisi’s NATO membership issue has been stretched over a decade due to unrealistic claims of a “lack of democracy.” Secondly, NATO has been transformed into a fixed idea, an obsession that clouds the judgement of local elites and regular

citizens alike, while human resources are shifted from improving domestic challenges to the desperate effort to get that MAP. People have really started to believe that once in the military Alliance, democratic institutions will appear by default and the Russian threat will simply vanish. It’s a bitter pill that at the end of the day may lead to dramatic nihilism and even to a foreign policy shift, as happened with Turkey and its European integration dreams. Ad notam, that is why all main elitist INGOs and NGOs in Georgia tried hard to put the issue of foreign policy orientation into the new constitution. This is the third possible negative outcome of a short-sighted NATO policy. By and large, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Tbilisi is important for the country to feel the Alliance’s support. But it could have been even more positive if the organization’s highofficials had held back from giving false promises and “small talk” about granting MAP to Georgia; especially using the

argument that Russia has nothing to do with NATO enlargement. These assumptions mislead local elites as well as society. Georgia has achieved a respectable enough level of democracy to appeal and to start slowly becoming an inherent part of the military bloc. But this aspiration will not be satisfied unless the Kremlin stops opposing it. Moscow does not need permission to defend its national interests; moreover, it has enough strength to do so. At the same time, NATO’s annual “small talk” has significant negative outcomes for Georgia. People are being kept in a bubble of falsehood where the basic laws of global politics are abandoned; secondly, the issue itself has become so politicized that it clouds the judgement of decisionmakers on the ground who put more effort into becoming a NATO member than into building democratic institutions. And finally, the absence of real outcomes of Georgian-NATO cooperation may push for more nihilism and even to a foreign policy shift.

Poland & the Success of its “Intermarium” Project

BY EMIL AVDALIANI

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he Intermarium Project refers to a geopolitical concept developed by the 20th century Polish leader Jozef Pilsudski, involving the region from the Baltic to the Black seas. Following the dissolution of the Russian Empire in the wake of World War 1 (19141918), Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus formed independent, albeit short-lived nation-based states. Pilsudski believed that an alliance of those four states in a federal body could safeguard their respective sovereignties. In late 1930s, Hungary, Italy, Yugoslavia,

and Romania were added to the concept under the initiative of the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jozef Beck. For both Pilsudski and Beck, the Intermarium Project would essentially involve the lands of the former 16-17 cc. Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Pilsudski was not trying to invade the neighboring states, but he hoped that the space would be under Polish leadership. The idea of the Intermarium varied depending on the time and place of its formulation, sometimes stretching from the Scandinavian countries up to the Balkans. The concept survived in Polish and Central Eastern European political thinking during communist times, primarily through the work of the elites of eastern European countries and with

British and US financial support. However, discussion of the project was censored in Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War, with the Soviets very much interested in destroying the concept. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Intermarium Project slowly but steadily reemerged from near oblivion. In the past decade, a similar project, called the Trimarium (the space between the Black, Baltic and Adriatic seas) emerged in the political thinking of eastern European elites. The difference is that the Intermarium is a historical project of regional integration, while the Trimarium, or “Three Seas Initiative” is a project of regional cooperation. The geopolitical confusion

caused by these two terms is caused by the fact that it is Poland which is expected to raise the banner of small nations against potential geopolitical rivals. Along with Poland, another important country in the region of the Intermarium is Romania, which has developed close military ties with Poland and other neighboring states. The Baltics are also involved in various initiatives. Yet, there is also a certain amount of pessimism surrounding the project. Few countries want to reignite the Cold War geopolitical battle over Eastern Europe. Most Europeans, even those in Eastern Europe, believe that it is possible to accommodate Russian interests without creating a new containment strategy. The US, however, is much interested and sponsors the development of this project, though the project actually directly challenges one of Europe’s most defining institutions, NATO. The Intermarium is not formally subject to NATO strategy, but in reality it functions outside it. The vitality of the Intermarium project also means that Poland and other eastern Europe states will be less willing to live according to the French and German understanding of the European space. Most Intermarium members are outside the Eurozone but constitute the most economically dynamic part of Europe. A driving motive behind the creation of the Intermarium and its existence nowadays still is the seeming threat emanating from Russia. Events in Ukraine

since 2014 have confirmed Polish thinking. Warsaw understands the region from a difference perspective than western Europeans. The nation, traumatized by world wars in the 20th century and constant divisions of its territory by Germans (Prussians) and Russians in the 18th century, sees an opportunity to enhance the region around itself through military and economic means. It can be even argued that by 2019 there are arguably much better chances for the success of the project than ever before. The most notable reason the Intermarium project was so easily killed off in the 20th century was not so much the creation of a powerful of Soviet state in Russia, but rather by German intentions. The Poles might have resisted and succeeded in taming the Soviet threat if not for the attack from the rear. Interestingly, the 18th century Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth was destroyed in the same fashion by the Germans (with Prussians pressing on Poland from behind). In contrast, when Poland had its rear safe and clear, it was able to stop the Russian threat as it did in 1920. In that sense, nowadays, we see interesting developments in Europe where Poland does not have to worry about a military threat from the European hinterland and can now concentrate on thwarting Russian geopolitical intentions. Moreover, the US is also interested in supporting the Poles, creating exceptionally good conditions for the success of the Intermarium.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

Kobuleti Green City BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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he town of Kobuleti is located in Georgia’s Ajara Autonomous Republic, on the Black Sea coast. Just 45 minutes by car north of the glitz and glamour of Batumi’s casino, international brand hotels, and throngs of international tourists, Kobuleti is a quieter, more humble beach town. The spot is a favorite among middle class Georgian families, who flock to the rocky beaches every July and August, bringing life to its otherwise sleepy streets. A slick new highway bypass between Kobuleti and Batumi was finished last year, cutting travel time and increasing comfort for those riding in public minibuses. There are plans to extend the road north, linking the towns with others along the coast – Ureki, famous for its magnetic black sand beaches; Shekvetili, home to the Black Sea Arena and the new Paragraph Resort and Spa; Poti, a major port town; all the way up to Anaklia – a manufactured dream city that will one day boast Georgia’s first state-ofthe-art deep water container port and a 200 hectare residential town in the image of ‘green city’ and ‘smart city’ concepts, built around bike lanes, electric car charging stations, and a Special Economic Zone. The new double-decker Stadler trains introduced in July 2016 are almost always packed, especially in the summer, with tourists and holidaymakers traveling between Tbilisi and Batumi – the train also makes stops in Ureki and Kobuleti. As part of decentralization efforts started under the previous political administration of former President

Image source: Government of Georgia

Mikheil Saakashvili, the Black Sea coast was targeted for development as a center of trade, industry, and tourism. Since 2010, Batumi has seen incredible rates of investment and growth, changing to the point that locals are protesting unchecked development and demanding the introduction of construction and zoning standards to maintain the charm and historical character of what was once called “the white city.” As many domestic visitors have been priced out of Batumi, or prefer a less crowded holiday experience, the northernly beach towns such as Kobuleti are becoming increasingly popular. On Wednesday afternoon, Georgian

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze introduced a massive new project to extend controlled development efforts into Kobuleti. At a presentation event in the Kobuleti town center, Bakhtadze shared his government’s plans for the development of a new “Green City.” The multifunctional city will take approximately three years to build on 180 hectares of land and will start with a 500 million GEL ($185.5 mln) investment from Green Resort, who is managing the project. Bakhtadze emphasized the importance of the increasing investments from EU member states, praising the EU-Georgia free trade regime. “We are talking about a large-scale

project poised to become a genuine pearl throughout the Black Sea Region, one that will ensure that Georgia positions itself as the tourism leader,” said Bakhtadze. "We are talking about FIFAstandard football pitches, tennis courts, and one of the best golf infrastructures in the world. This will enable us to attract to Georgia those tourists who are not currently viewing the country as a destination because we do not have this kind of infrastructure. I would like to thank our investors who have decided to make this unprecedented investment in Georgia,” he continued. “During construction and beyond, after this unique resort is commissioned, small

enterprises will be able to receive significant benefits from this large-scale investment. In three years, one of the best resorts in the world will be built on this territory,” insisted Bakhtadze. Bakhtadze told the gathered crowd that the project will be “the largest investment ever made in Ajara, in our touristic infrastructure. We are talking about the construction of a new green city that will become a calling card for all of Georgia.” The new infrastructure will be built with energy efficient and environmentally friendly materials and building practices, promised the Prime Minister. The project design includes sports infrastructure such as a golf course, football stadium, tennis courts, swimming pools, bike trails, and other recreation areas. On the leisure side, there will be a new 250-room hotel, a shopping mall, parking spaces for 500 cars, dining options, apartments and detached homes. The goal of the project, said Bakhtadze, is to turn Ajara into a four-season resort. It is estimated that the Kobuleti Green City project will create 500 new jobs during its construction and operation combined. Bakhtadze also thanked the leadership of the Autonomous Republic of Ajara for supporting the project’s development and implementation. After his announcement, Bakhtadze attended the opening of a play by Georgian playwright Davit Kldiashvili at Batumi’s Ilia Chavchavadze Drama Theater. At the end of the performance, local activists scattered the audience, including the government representatives, with leaflets protesting what they see as the reckless overdevelopment of Batumi. Many critics worry that Kobuleti could be the next victim of the government’s growth ambitions.

HUAWEI P30 & HUAWEI P30 Pro: Smartphones Changing the Rules of Photography TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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n March 26, at an event held in Paris, the HUAWEI Company presented the new P30 series smartphones. Inspired by the magical colors of the sky, the HUAWEI P30 perfectly reflects the stunning colors of nature and is distinguished with a sophisticated design, while the totally renewed, powerful and ultra-sensitive camera system of the HUAWEI P30 and HUAWEI P30 Pro radically changes the rules of photography. The HUAWEI P30 series is equipped with a camera system, launched as a result of the company’s ongoing collaboration with Leica, which, along with modern sensors and technology, enables automatic processing of an image and offers professional shooting capabilities.

Smartphone with 4 Cameras: New CameraPhone from HUAWEI

The SuperSpectrum sensor gives you the chance to take bright pictures and capture tiny details even in absolute darkness. Distance no longer represents a challenge as now it is possible to catch an image with the 10X hybrid zoom. The SuperZoom lens ensures 5x optic, 10x hybrid, as well as 50x digital zoom and

guarantees clear details in any image. Along with the 40MP main camera and optic image stabilization, owners of a HUAWEI P30 can capture even the moon with unimaginable closeness, in fascinating resolution and with detailed imagery. Aside from photography, the new smartphones enable customers to enjoy exceptional video recording capabilities. The simultaneous working of the two core cameras allows you to capture the entire image of the event and all its participants, their moves and actions, with the closest shot. The very first of its kind in the world, created as a result of collaboration with Leica, the HUAWEI P30 Pro is equipped with four main cameras of 40MP ultrawide vision and 20MP wide vision lenses. In addition, the P30 Pro camera system

also boasts an 8MP telephoto lens and TOF camera, which measures the depth of objects more accurately, giving sharper focus and a more blurred background as one of multiple possible effects. The HUAWEI P30 series is an ideal choice for selfie professionals, as the smart 32 MP front camera is able to recognize your face, determine the brightness level and ensure a clear image even when you are surrounded by unbalanced lights or night celebrations. In comparison with the P20, the P30 series comes with fingerprint unlocking capability installed in the smartphone display, wireless and reverse charging functions, 40 watt fast charging technology and a 4200 mAh battery, working on the powerful Kirin 980 processor. All of this makes the smartphone the best companion for travel enthusiasts.

The major characteristic of the HUAWEI P series smartphones is photography. The brand new HUAWEI P30, along with the modern technologies, totally changes the rules of photography. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's population. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of three business units of HUAWEI, mainly focusing on the production of smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. The HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years of experience in the telecommunications business and serves to the production of innovative technologies to customers around the world.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

9

Get Your Vitamins! A Look at the New Juice Shop Enterprise We spoke to one of the owning partners, Soroush Negahdari, to find out more.

WHO’S BEHIND VITAMIN CORNER? The investors and designer are from Iran but I run the business with other Georgian members of the group.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO OPEN IT? Nowadays, drinking fresh natural juices is not that popular in Georgia when compared to other European countries, but that is one of the reasons we decided to open such a place here in Tbilisi. We would like to make some changes in how people choose their drinks and we are trying to introduce healthier options to people.

HOW DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE RECEIVED? We believe there is potential and when healthier options are available and affordable, more people will become interested. It might not be easy in the beginning, but we aim to try our best to make natural and healthy drinks more popular here. Our products are perfect choices for children, students, and people who pay more attention to their well-being.

INTERVIEW BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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itamin Corner is a fresh juice shop selling allnatural juices and smoothies. It offers high quality drinks that are

made only from fruits and vegetables and organic plant-based milks. It is the first of its kind in Tbilisi and chose to locate in a “corner” of the decidedly un-touristy Saburtalo district- perhaps with the implicit aim of enticing Georgians towards a healthier lifestyle with a new concept which has been widely embraced in the West and elsewhere.

THIS ISN'T THE FIRST HEALTHFOOD BUSINESS YOU'VE INVESTED IN. HOW EASY IS IT TO START AND MAINTAIN SUCH A BUSINESS IN GEORGIA? In general, thanks to the business-friendly laws, starting a business is not that complicated in Georgia and we are glad that we can benefit from that. However, the Georgian market is a special and complicated one and you need to study it

very carefully to know which products to introduce and how to offer them. As our business is somehow the first of its kind in Georgia, there are going to be a few challenges. But hopefully we will manage to find our place in the food and drinks market.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS IN THIS DIRECTION? Our future plans strongly depend on how our current project works out. At the moment, we need to do our best to become successful at what we are doing now. Future plans might include adding other types of healthy items to our list of products, or possibly having another branch of Vitamin Corner in

another location in Tbilisi.

IS THE ATTITUDE TOWARDS VEGANISM/VEGETARIANISM AND ITS IDEALS CHANGING IN GEORGIAN SOCIETY? WHAT CAN BE DONE TO CHANGE IT? I believe it is changing already and more people are getting interested. There are definitely more vegan/vegetarians in the country compared to a few years ago when we started. There are more people trying vegan food for the health benefits and/or for the sake of being nice to animals and the environment. I believe the more we try to give better products and more information to people, the more they will be interested.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

Exploring the Girl Scouts of Georgia INTERVIEW BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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esearch shows that girls learn best in an all-girl, girlled, and girl-friendly environment. Girl Scouts is a place where girls practice different skills, explore their potential, take on leadership positions, and even feel allowed to fail, get up, dust themselves off, and try again. Thanks to one inspiring lady, the Girl Scouts are in Georgia and growing by the year! Kety Zhvania-Tyson is a PE Teacher, sociologist, trainer for soft skills, lifecoach and landscape designer. When she’s not got her hands full with all that, she is leader of two Georgian Girl Scout groups – the Dragonflies (girls aged 11-13) and the Dia troop (girls 13-18). And she is also the country’s Girl Scout Chief Commissioner and a board member. We met her to find out more about the Georgian Girl Scouts, known as ‘Dia.’

HOW DID DIA BEGIN? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START IT? In 1992, I saw a documentary about a Scout World Jamboree and instantly fell in love with the idea. At the time, I was running a youth sport group. I turned up at the very next class and announced, “we are now scouts!” But I didn't have a clue what to do, so I asked around and was introduced to Nana Bilashvili at the Ministry of Education, who had a connection with the American Girl Scouts. They put us in contact with WAGGGS (the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts). A few months later, we had a training and I became the first Girl Scout in Georgia. I think the biggest inspiration from the first was the deep belief that my country needs this absolutely fantastic educational movement for our youth. I never stop being amazed at the wisdom and practical application behind the program and the way it helps society to develop universal human values. Girls (and boys) in Georgia desperately need this organization to grow and succeed, so that in every city, every village of the country, children and youth who want to will be able to join.

WHAT CHALLENGES HAS DIA FACED? WHAT CHALLENGES DOES IT STILL FACE? Three main things: Lack of volunteers. In Georgia, there is no culture or understanding of the importance of being a volunteer. We struggle to attract women of different ages. We find students and they become great leaders, but after we train and invest in them, they soon move on, leaving us facing the same dilemma. We need to find ways to involve mothers and

The Georgian Girl Scout promise: “I promise that I will do whatever it takes to help people always and everywhere, change the country for the better and live according to the Girl Scout Law.”

grandmothers for more stable troops. We need two types of volunteers: leaders to work with the children and others to get involved in management and

developing the organization. We have several committees and people can choose which one to join: Educational program development, Training for adult

volunteers, International relations, Finance, Public Relations, or Development and Management. Lack of support from officials and society. We don’t have the means to start informational campaigns even though we’re thinking about it and planning some steps for the near future. Lack of resources. From finances to spaces for meetings and campsites. We don’t know how to fundraise. We don’t have people who know how to write grant proposals and apply to different institutions for support. We are learning, but it’s slow-going.

WHAT VALUES DOES DIA ENCOMPASS? I believe that Dia can help the young generation living in Georgia, regardless of their nationality or socio-cultural background, to develop their potential in a very humane way, to help them to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitude that will help them be happy, healthy and successful human beings. We strongly believe that Dia supports its members to develop competencies that are recognized by the European Youth Directorate and Youth Council as crucial for young people in the 21st century.

HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO OTHER GUIDING GROUPS WORLDWIDE? We are a very small organization, at present only associate members of WAGGGS. We’re working to get full membership. We jokingly call ourselves an “embryonic organization” but our values, methods and principles are in total alignment with the WAGGGS requirements. We use educational materials from the UK Girl Guides, American Girl Scouts, Canadian Girl Guides and Irish Girl Guides. We have a close relationship with a lot of European organizations, both of WAGGGS and WOSM (World Organization of the Scout Movement).

WHAT ACTIVITIES DO YOU DO? Dia’s educational program has seven directions: - My personality

- Healthy lifestyle - The outdoors - The world of arts - STEM - Dia-sakhlisi (home economics, cooking, crafts, etc.) - The world around me (about being a responsible citizen of local and global communities). When it’s cold out, we usually work indoors due to lack of appropriate equipment for outdoor activities. We just finished a fantastic program developed by WAGGGS and DOVE “Free Being Me” about body confidence, which helps girls to get rid of the “cultural construct” about what beauty means and how we, as females, “should look.” (https://freebeing-me.com/) With my 13-18-year-old girls, I started a program about financial literacy which I got from the Girl Guides of New Zealand – it’s a great program! In warmer weather, we have 1, 2, 3-day hikes and camping. The children have a chance to interact with nature and be in the fresh air, learning how to overcome difficulties and strengthen their character and health. Sadly, we can’t do everything we’d like to do, due to a lack of resources and experience, but we’re trying to build every meeting on the principles of an experiential learning cycle, using a diverse methodology of non-formal education to make our meetings fun and interesting so the children have a desire to learn.

WHAT EFFECT HAS DIA HAD ON THE LOCAL COMMUNITY/ THE GUIDES THEMSELVES? I often hear that the girls are deeply grateful that we provide a safe space for them to be who they are, without judgment, with acceptance and love. Girls who were shy start coming out of their shells; they become more outspoken; they learn how to be leaders and work in a team; they develop a desire to be helpful to their family members, to classmates, to strangers in the street.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES/ PLANS FOR THE FUTURE? Our goals are many, but as a summary of the immediate needs, we want: • Recognition and support from the Ministry of Education and international agencies such as UNICEF and Save the Children. • To attract professional women to get involved in strategic planning and to work on the different committees of Dia. • For Dia to have its own office and campsite. • To become full members of WAGGGS. • For Dia to have regional organizations in every region of Georgia. • For Dia to have educational program materials developed and printed for every age group. For more information about the Georgian Girl Scout movement, to volunteer or to help in another way, please visit: https://www. facebook.com/GGSDia/ You can see what the senior girl scouts say about the impact that Dia has on their lives here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ee Nu1Dj2ko&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0 bNPddsPz8kLCxAify8I0tTBLBN2SGQe7mtpkW68Ab6tLUpqHPz9XgS00

Four members of Dia: Diana Maminaishvili - Training Commissioner, Tatia Gogishvili - Development Commissioner, Natuli Tsikhistavi - Young Leaders' Council, Kety Zhvania-Tyson - Chief Commissioner


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

American Friends of Georgia Charity Gala 'Restore Life'

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merican Friends of Georgia (AFG) is hosting Charity Gala “Restore Life” on March 30 at the Grand Sheraton Hotel, to promote a tradition of philanthropy and to benefit the most needy children and elderly in Georgia. The goal of the event a is to support important social projects: the Dzegvi ShelterCommunityforpeoplewhohavenowhere to go, such as mentally ill, disabled, former street children, poor elderly or abandoned single mothers and the Mercy Center Hospice and Home Care Program.

The supporters of the Gala Event are: the Ambassador of the US chargé d’affaires H.E. Ross Wilson and Mrs. Margo Square, the Ambassador of the Netherlands H.E Jos Douma and Mrs. Aleid Douma, Ambassador of Turkey Fatma Ceren Jazgan, International Women’s Association IWA, Hotel Grand Sheraton Metechi, leading companies: Shumi Winery, Adjara Hospitality Group, BDO, BLC, Borjomi IDS, BP, Chateau Mukhrani, Dan Zachman, Delloite, Dentons, DIO, EY, Geomill, GMT, Gvinadze & Partners, Katya Chavchavadze, KPMG, PMCG, Sid White, TBC Bank, Windfor’s, Cezanne

Printing House, Ensemble „Shvidkaca”, Reso Kiknadze’s Jazz Quintet, Tea Darchia and Dance Studio “Tedasi”. The highlight of the evening will be the Auction of donated outstanding art by such artists as Gia Gugushvili, Keti Matabeli, Mamuka Tsetskhladze, Lia Shvelidze, Levan Margiani, Giorgi Kvavilashvili, Levan Bujiashvili, Maka Gotsiridze, Sopo Gongliashvili, also the artists based in the US – Mark Polyakov, Alexandra Chavchavadze, Lado Pochkhua, Art Studio “Colorful Cabriolet” - Mariam Shakarashvili, Beso Sakvarelidze, Julia Sanikidze.

G4G & Women’s Business Council Award Entrepreneurial Georgian Women BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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n March 27, the Rooms Hotel Tbilisi hosted the fifth annual conference ‘Women’s Role in Economic Growth and Policy Development’, dedicated to the contribution of increasing the role of women in different spheres, including government, business and civil society. The given initiative has been implemented within the scope of the USAID project ‘Governing for Growth (G4G) in Georgia’ and ‘Women in Business Council in Georgia’ (WBCG) with the support of the Bank of Georgia, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as Tbilisi City Hall. The audience was welcomed by highlevel figures, including Elizabeth Rood, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy to Georgia, and Ulrik Tiderstrom, Ambassador of Sweden to Georgia and Armenia, followed by two panels giving successful women the chance to talk about their path to success and the

challenges they had to face. Finally, a ceremony awarded the leading women in different fields. The event was attended by more than 230 representatives from government, civil society, private sector and the diplomatic corps. GEORGIA TODAY was among the attendees and grabbed a chance to talk with one of the award winners, Anna Goguadze, the founder of the social café New Mziuri, located

in the park of the same name. “We took our first steps three years ago, with the belief that the social entreprise had a real chance to succeed in Georgia,” Goguadze told us. “We wanted our society to believe that it is possible to give new life to and develop one of the most important and picturesque parks of the city, which was left devastated and without function for too many years.” The New Mziuri Cafe founder also spoke about the features that make the café special. “Our café is distinguished in concept, as well as in the multiplicity of entertaining and education events we host. It is adapted for everyone and creates a pleasant atmosphere for spending time with loved ones. I can firmly say that New Mziuri has become exemplary for the rest of the city,” Goguadze said. We asked Anna about the importance of this award. “The award is very important for us, as it proves that our major goal has been achieved and the project recognized. It gives us more motivation to advance the social entreprise and implement other initiatives,” she said.

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

Supra Checklist: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER

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et another supra (Georgian feast: why specifically Georgian? Surely every country and culture in the world has feasts? Yes, but not like these ones.). An ormotsi (40 days after death), the death being that of a girl just finishing high school in our village, seemingly from a heart ailment, although nasty rumors had swirled around as well. I rarely go to such events, and don’t want one after my own death, or the ts’listavi either, the year after death feast: enough is enough! While waiting for the invitation to move to the banquet hall, I made a set of notes comprising variables one may encounter at a supra, some of which have 2 or 3 possibilities, others more of a “slider with infinite increments.” So: Occasion: happy or sad? Happy might be a birthday, wedding or just friends gathering. Sad is usually the funeral, ormotsi or ts’listavi. Indoors or outside? If indoors, private (a home, closed-in restaurant booth or fully booked banquet hall) or public (spot in an open restaurant)? If outside, good weather or bad; marquee or not? (Memories of a January funeral feast outdoors in Svaneti about 15 years ago, no marquee to keep the bucketing snowfall from covering us and the plates-on-plates, mercifully cutting things short.) Size: from 3 to 300 or many more people? Self- or outside-catered? If the former, how many are cooking, from a few to an army? Is the menu an Orthodox fasting one, or not? The former eliminates meat, fish, eggs/dairy and olive oil and all products from or containing them, and supposedly alcohol; but that last one’s simply NOT going to be enforced in Georgia. Ever.

Live music/microphone or not? Usually reserved for the happy-occasion feasts, but may be used at a funeral too, depending on local custom and size of the crowd, requiring amplification for the tamada (toastmaster) at least. Is the tamada audible everywhere or not? Able to hold everyone’s attention sufficiently or not? (The background hum can become a roar, regardless of the tradition of giving the tamada the floor once every few minutes.) Cutlery or not? Oh yes, I’ve been to “not” feasts, where slices of bread became eating irons. Tricky and messy if you’re not used to it, but when in Rome &c. Enough places or not? Not is rare indeed; I’ve encountered it only once in 20 years living in Georgia, at a funeral feast in Svaneti. We ate in two shifts, hurriedly. Good mood or not? The whole general atmosphere, generated by feelings of all present. When alcohol is involved, as it unfailingly is in Georgia, both good and bad will can be enlarged considerably. The tamada’s all-important role is revealed here, as is the set of guests and their whole history of relationships with one another. Did you come away with appreciation or regret? Daytime or evening/nighttime? Wedding feasts in Svaneti tend to begin after dark, as late as 10 pm, the civil ceremony usually having happened in Zugdidi, 50-200 km away. My wife and I are just not night people and may stick around only for the couple to make their entrance, and then flee for home and bed. Wine, araqi (moonshine) or both as the alcohol? If only araqi, it can be rough; I hate the stuff, and will hardly touch it. But wine is usually present as well, even in the highlands where it isn’t made much at all but brought up from lower down. Smoking or not? For a whole supra of even the smallest size to be entirely nonsmoking is rare, unless one is in a res-

taurant which has decided to GO with the law instead of ignoring it for the sake of culture and tradition. Free or not? The wedding or three funeral feasts usually expect all guests to contribute financially so as not to ruin the hosts. A small table with an accountant duly recording all monies can be found for the asking. Smaller feasts, particularly happy ones, might be paid for only by the host, and all offers to chip in refused. Dancing or not? Only at happy feasts, of course, especially weddings. It can be costumed or not, with live music or not, but will always be a sight to behold. Priest present or absent? He is a rare personage at these events, but in my experience is more frequently found at christening feasts. Long wait for the food or not? It can be hours after you arrive at the larger feasts, during which you socialize and

try to stay warm/cool/dry as weather and shelter allow. Did you arrive early, on time or late? Takeaway food or not? Once it’s over, depending on your relationship to the hosts and the amount of leftovers from the obligatory vastly more than necessary offering, you may be offered a little or a lot. Accept. Are you driving, a passenger in a car, or walking? If the first, avoid the alcohol! If the second, make sure your group can find you, or that if you make alternate arrangements to depart, they know about it! If the third, stay coherent enough to get home! Has there been pre-supra drinking or not? More common at larger feasts of any occasion where the guests have to wait on the spot for a long time, it can lead to drunkenness going in, and often complications further down the line. Minefield or not, as you peruse this list

and the mega-dimensional graphs it could generate as “spaces of possibilities”? Well, the supra can be heaven or hell, depending on how many of the items above are positive or negative, to which degrees and in which combinations, which are effectively infinite. I wish you, dear readers, the opportunity to attend some really great ones, which will stay in your memories for always and bless your experience in this magnificent little country. 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


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

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The Didgori Choir, Keeping Polyphonic Singing Alive

BY AMY JONES

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ifteen men of various ages are seated around a small room in the courtyard of the neigboring church. Golden paintings of orthodox icons decorate the walls and the glass cabinets are filled with wine. Soon, the chatter is replaced with the rich tones of the voices of the Didgori Choir. The resonant harmonies and layered textures rise to fill every corner of the room. This is the soundtrack of Georgian culture; welcome to polyphonic singing. Polyphonic singing is a living ancient tradition in Georgia. Dating as far back as the 4th century AD, the a-capella sing-

ing method uses at least three vocal ranges to create multi-layered harmonies often unusual to a western ear. Its inseparable connection with Georgian culture and history has earned it the title of a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Indeed, Georgians can often be heard singing at celebrations, supras, church or even at restaurant tables. Before bursting into each moving song, the members of Didgori explain the background and region. Every region in Georgia has its own style of polyphony. They perform pieces from across Georgia: Khasanbegrua from Guria with its distinctive yodalling style, Lile from Svaneti, and Mravalzhamier from Kakheti, before introducing a song from Abkhazia, Georgia’s occupied region.

“Abkhazian culture is rich with folk poetry and songs,” explains Lasha Fruidze, a Didgori singer. “Their songs belong to the same family as our folklore.” Abkhazian folk songs combine vocal melody and chanting, as well as polyphonic style. Usually, a tenor begins the song before others join in, improvising around the original melody in a lower register. Performing Abkhazian songs has a powerful effect. “It’s a very big pain for Georgian people, especially for the people who were thrown out of their homes. People often cry when we perform,” says Lasha. “Abkhazian songs are an invisible connection between Georgia and Abkhazia.” In occupied Abkhazia, it is thought that the culture of folk music is being neglected. “I’ve been trying to find young Abkhaz who can sing old, traditional

songs, but unfortunately my attempts have never been successful,” says Givi Abesadze, manager and singer in the Didgori Choir. Preservation is an important part of Didgori’s work. The choir increases its repertoire of songs by using old wax recordings stored in places such as the central archive, conservatoire, and museums. “Luckily, many of them have been digitalized and we have the opportunity to listen to and learn many new songs,” says Abesadze. “I think Georgia is lucky to have so many old recordings. Dating back to 1901, these recordings are our main teachers today.” Polyphonic singing and the Didgori Choir are not just appreciated within Georgia. Having already performed in many European countries, the group is

preparing for concerts in Austria and Germany later this month as well as a trip to Canada. “As Canadian singers told us, we’ll be the first Georgian singers to visit Canada since 1975,” said Givi with a smile. They also plan various performances on home soil in Georgia. The work of choirs such as Didgori to keep Georgian tradition and song alive and spread awareness of its diversity and existence plays an integral role in preserving Georgian culture. This year, Didgori celebrates its 15th anniversary. With at least three rehearsals a week, the choir’s slogan ‘singing is a lifestyle’ is apt. “We cannot live without singing; singing takes up a big part of our life,” says Abesadze. “Singing, the wine, and the food in Georgia - it’s something unforgettable.”

Public Speaking Competition of the English-Speaking Union

BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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he English-Speaking Union (ESU), an international membership organization and educational charity founded in 1918, contributes to the promotion of international friendship and understanding through use of the English language. Based in London under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, the Union celebrated its centenary last year. The organization integrates 64 countries across the globe, along with Georgia, which joined the list in 1998. The ESU Georgia was officially founded

by Marina Tsitsishvili in 2000, who was awarded an honorary MBE in the Queen’s 2016 New Year Honors List for services to UK-Georgian cultural and educational relations. With the support of the ESU Georgia, Tsitsishvili launched the British Corner, an English Language Center, in 2015. On March 27, the English-Speaking Union Georgia held the annual Public Speaking Competition at the headquarters of the Bank of Georgia, which was attended by an honorable jury, former winners, and the Ambassador of the UK to Georgia, HE Justin McKenzie Smith. GEORGIA TODAY was among the attendees. To kick off the event, Marina Tsitsish-

vili addressed the audience, expressing her gratitude towards the supporters of the project. “The contest is one of the most important parts of the English-Speaking Union, which was first launched in 1981 with only three participant countries,” she said. “Today in its 38th year, it represents the largest public speaking competition, bringing together over 600,000 students taking part from the member countries of the Union.” She also stressed the significance of holding the contest. “The Public Speaking Competition not only contributes to the development of the speaking skills and formation of sophisticated, confident communicators, but the finale, taking place in London, gives the winners an incredible opportunity to discover novelties and make new lifelong friends,” she noted. The former winners also took to the stage, shared their experience and wished good luck to this year’s participants. In the 22 years since its launch, ESU Georgia has sent 36 young Georgians to London. The title of the competition was presented as follows: “A Lie Has Speed, but Truth Has Endurance.” The youngsters participating in the competition, aged 16-20, were allocated five minutes each for their presentations and assessed by particular criteria. The presenters managed to speak on incredibly interesting and thought-provoking themes, relating the concept of a lie to various spheres, from sciences to politics and literature, giving examples

from their studies, the Georgian-Russian war and the prominent novel of Markus Zusak ‘The Book Thief;’ talking about issues of crucial importance and sharing their views about them. At the end of the speeches, they were asked questions

by the audience and jury on their chosen themes. At the end of the competition, the judges revealed the winner: Nitsa Siradze, followed by Sofia Bitchinashvili and David Khutsishvili.


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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. March 29, April 4 THA AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 30 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 31 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL April 3 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 March 29 PARADISO Directed by Irakli Khoshtaria Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL March 30 THE STORY OF A MURDERER Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL March 31, April 4 INTRO Sandro Nikoladze's Musical Alegry Director: Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER 37 Rustaveli Ave. TEL 595 50 02 03 March 29, 30 HOST AND GUEST

Based on Vazha Pshavela’s poem Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20 GEL MUSIC & DRAMA STATE THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. April 2 WELCOME TO GEORGIA The Musical A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national costumes and local cuisine. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50-80 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 WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD March 12-31 Exhibition 100 YEARS OF GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARISM: THE GEORGIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY The exhibition retells the history of the Georgian parliament using various images, texts and documents from the founding of the Constituent Assembly in 1918 to the events following the Bolshevik takeover in 1921. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS

The exhibition showcases artworks by Dimitri Shevardnadze, Petre Otskheli, Henryk Hryniewski, Richard Sommer, Kiril Zdanevich, Vasily Shukhaev, Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Ucha Japharidze, Aleksandre Bajbeuk-Melikov, Korneli Sanadze and more. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 Until April 12 Tutu Kiladze’s Exhibition CRYPTOGRAM Until March 30 EXHIBITION OF OMAR AND NANA KATCHKACHISHVILI'S WORKS Omar Katchkachishvili's works cover city motives and the landscapes of Georgian regions; Manana Katchkachishvili worked on portraits and themes based on eastern and Tbilisi motives, where each is distinguished by its color. STATE SILK MUSEUM Address: 6 Tsabadze Str. Until March 31 PHOTO EXHIBITION THE LAST NOMADS Project by Vargha Bahagir The exhibited photos combine two parts of the project: Bajau Laut and Raute. 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 the Mirror Room, let yourself free in the Infinity room, fight the laws of gravity and size ratio, and take pictures of yourself in every possible pose. Enjoy our collection of holograms, look closer at every optical illusion and observe thoroughly each installation. Tickets: 17.5 GEL, Children (ages 6-18): 11 GEL, children (under 5 years): free, students: 13 GEL, family (2 adults + 2 children): 39 GEL. 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 The exhibition showcases the works of Georgian painters: Gigo Gabashvili, Mose Toidze, Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi, Alexander Tsimakuridze, Aleksandre BazbeukMelikov, Dimitri Shevardnadze, Sergo Kobuladze, Irina Shtenberg, Mikheil Bilanishvili, Felix Varlamishvili and Tamar Abakelia. Until May 27 Georgian National Museum and Italian embassy in Georgia present the exhibition ESOTERIC DE CHIRICO. A TRAVELER BETWEEN TWO WORLDS The exhibition showcases 15 artworks of Giorgio de Chirico between 1920-1970, clearly presenting that even his most “natural” artwork hints at the surrealist world. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF GEORGIA 40 Pekini Str. Until May 1 MERAB ABRAMISHVILI’S EXHIBITION MUSIC

DJ. KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 125/127 Agmashenebeli Ave. April 3 CONCERT OF CHAMBER MUSIC Participants: George Babuadze (1st violin), Kenji Tomonaga (2nd violin), Nozomi Oe (vioal), Wataru Mukai (cello), Program: Borodin– String quartet N2, Dvorak– Piano quintet, Tsintsadze– Miniatures Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10 GEL April 4 DAVID ALADASHVILI & CO EVENING OF GEORGIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC Participants: David Aladashvili, Irine Sherazadishvili, Irakli Evstapishvili, K. Vardeli String Quartet `Georgian

Strings, Georgian Strings (Musicians of the Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-40 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. March 30, 31 DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE V.A. MOZART Opera in two acts Executive Conductor- R. Takidze Conductor- Gogi Tchitchinadze Executive Director- M. Gatchechiladze Staging Artist- Neiko Neidze Choirmaster- Mikheil Edisherashvili Piano- M. Bebiashvili, N. Leshkasheli, K. Chinchaladze Solo on Spineth- N. Leshkasheli Manager of the Opera Studio- Irina Ramishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-10 GEL SOUNDS OF GEORGIA March 29, 30 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: March 29- 10 Erekle II Sq., Tekla Palace Hotel, March 30- New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’ SPACEHALL 1 Tsereteli Ave. March 29 DECODER: PEGGY GOU, NINASUPSA, COSMIC LOVE ROTATION Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 40-50 GEL KHIDI V. Bagrationi Bridge, Right Emb. March 29 MZESUMZIRA X G2 Line up: Autumn Tree, Levi Love Disco a.k.a DJ Tomwildculture, Sevda, Vasil Start time: 23:55 Ticket: 30 GEL March 30 ‘Tanadgoma’ invites you to SERIES OF QUEER EVENTS KIKI Start time: 23:00 Ticket: free DEPO LAST STOP 27 Zestaponi Str. March 30 GLOW RAVE Line Up: Mus Cat, Leva, Kronoss B2B Uforea 51, BlackLine, Amir Yar MELOGRANI Z. Chichinadze Str. March 30 NODARIKO KHUTSISHVILI AND BAND Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 20 GEL VINTAGE 41 Pekini Str. March 30 KERASINKA EVENT; 90 ‘S Age control: 18+ Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 20 GEL EDELWEISS 20 Brother Kakabadze Str. March 29 EDELWEISS Potpourri of Georgian, Italian English melodies with jazz elements. Musicians from Georgia, Germany, and Russia. Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 23 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 29 - APRIL 1, 2019

15

Famous Pianist Luka Okros to Play in Tbilisi in April EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY GABRIELLE COLCHEN

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he world-renowned Georgian pianist Luka Okros will return to his hometown Tbilisi to do a recital at the Tbilisi State Conservatoire on April 6, where he will play Schubert and Liszt. GEORGIA TODAY had the chance to interview the artist during his busy international tour. “The last few years have been intense in many ways,” the pianist told us. “I did debuts at some very important venues such as Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Liszt Academy in Budapest, Rudolfinum in Prague, Musiikkitalo in Helsinki, Konzerthaus in Vienna and the Royal Opera House in Mumbai. “It is exciting to travel and perform in new cities for the first time, but it is an even bigger responsibility to return to a venue where you have already performed. I work hard to give quality performances each time. Also, when I have free time, I try to spend it with my family and friends because time is the most prescious thing.”

TELL US ABOUT YOUR INTERNATIONAL CONCERTS. HOW DO YOU MANAGE THEM ALL?

and I’ve met some really amazing people who helped me in difficult situations. The very special thing about my profession is that you depend on the piano. You have to practice every day to be in a good shape, so you can’t go on vacation whenever you like. The last time I took a vacation and didn’t practice piano was in June 2017, for five days. I really love my profession, so I try to enjoy every moment: even if it’s sometimes tiring and stressful, it’s totally worth it.

WHAT ARE THE BEST MOMENTS FOR YOU?

Image source: lukaokros.com/photos

The best moments are during the performance, when you feel this magical connection with the public, as well as the end of the concert: ovations, incredible energy and adrenaline. After every concert, there’s an arranged greeting session in the foyer. I really love it because I can communicate with the audience, get their opinions and feel their emotions. I also have opportunities to meet incredible people and appear in amazing places. For example, a few months ago I was lucky to get access to the legendary Bechstein Pianos Factory, where we filmed a video showing how the piano is manufactured step by step.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING TBILISI PROGRAM.

It comes from a lot of systematic work and luck. It is not enough to be in the right place at the right time: you should also be ready to take every opportunity and show what you can do. I enjoy giving concerts and meeting people, but traveling is sometimes quite tiring. I’m a very lucky person, though,

I always try to choose the program myself, unless there are special requests from the organizers. I’m always a little bit more nervous to play in my home town. Performances in Tbilisi are very important for me: it’s something special to see familiar faces, family members and friends in the hall. The audience in Georgia has

very good taste and is well-educated, and I want to surprise them in a good way.

IS EACH RECITAL DIFFERENT ACCORDING TO THE PLACE WHERE YOU PLAY? Every concert is different. It depends on lots of small details: your mood, how you slept the night before, which piano is on the stage, how it was tuned, the country you perform in… It also depends on the public: the temperament of the people and how noisy they are, their mentality and culture, their level of music education and how emotional they are in general. All of that makes a difference to the final result.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL ALBUM. I love to compose music, I wish I had more time for it! I’m currently working with the UK-based company Master Music Publications to publish my compositions. The first piece was published in February and many more are coming. It’s really exciting, and I still can’t believe

I’m doing it. I hope I’ll manage to record a CD with my own compositions next year. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for my new Chopin CD which we recorded on a Bechstein this winter. It will be presented in July during my concert at Southbank in London. It will be my second major album. The first commercial CD recording of Schumann was released on the DiscAuverS label in Paris.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT BIGGEST CHALLENGE? My biggest challenge is having enough time and energy to do all the things I want to do and achieve the goals I have in mind! I’d like to do more composing, write some film music, and try conducting, but my schedule doesn’t allow me to do it all, so I try to compose and do things step by step. One day I’d love to set up a music festival in Georgia. I’d invite my international friends to my homeland and show them my country and culture. I could also invite lots of talented musicians to come here: I think that Georgia has enormous potential in the arts.

YOU ALREADY HAVE AN AMAZING MUSIC CAREER. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? There are lots of venues I haven’t performed in yet, lots of beautiful pieces of music I haven’t played. I’d love to have opportunities to perform more with orchestras and play chamber music. I’m looking forward to this upcoming season. In Apri,l I’ll have debuts at the Berlin Konzerthaus and Luxembourg’s Philharmonic. I’ll return to the National Philharmonic of Ukraine (Kiev) and Het Concertgebouw on the first of June. I can’t wait for July, as I’ll make my debut at Southbank and travel to Montevideo to perform at the legendary Teatro Solis. As I know, I’ll be the first Georgian pianist to perform there. I’m never satisfied and as soon as I reach one goal, I immediately get new ideas and targets. That’s why life is always full of adventures. The interview has been edited for clarity. To find out more and buy tickets for the concert: https://www.lukaokros.com

New Production of Famous Classic Tosca to Premiere in Tbilisi Opera BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

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egendary opera Tosca by Giacomo Puccini will see a new grand premiere in the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater on April 5. The opera is a coproduction of the Puccini Festival and the Tbilisi Opera Theater, that was first premiered at the Tore Del Lago Puccini Festival in Italy in 2018. The Director of Tosca is Giancarlo del Monaco, son of great Italian tenor Mario Del Monaco. Music Director and conductor of production is Gianluca Martinenghi, Set Designer - Carlo Centolavigna, Costume Designer - Ester Martin. The premiere of Tosca in Tbilisi is dedicated to legendary soprano Tsisana Tatishvili. The singer has been a soloist of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater for 38 years. At the same time, she successfully appeared on the prestigious stages of the former Soviet Union and Europe, where she performed the title roles in Georgian, Italian, German and Russian operas. Tatishvili is a unique Georgian singer who created a precedent in the history of Georgian operatic art – her performance of Salome by Richard Strauss has yet to be repeated. The Georgian soprano was the holder of all top

state prizes of Georgia and those of the former Soviet Union, as well as the Albert Schweitzer Order of Honor and Gold Medal. Renowned Georgian opera soloists and invited artists will take part in the premiere of Tosca in Tbilisi. On April 5, the title role of Tosca will be performed by the leading soprano of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater, Khatuna Chokhonelidze. The part of Cavaradossi will be performed by the famous Georgian tenor George Oniani, who has played this role numerous times in different opera theaters and even took part in the premiere of Tosca at Torre de Lago Festival in Italy with huge success and receiving great acclaim. The main surprise for opera-lovers is that world-famous Georgian baritone Lado Ataneli will perform the role of Scarpia on April 5. The artist has already performed Tosca 100 times and not only sings and acts, but does both at the same time! Ataneli's international career began in 1996. Since then, he has regularly appeared in such roles as Scarpia, Sharpless, Tonio, Alfio, Gerard, Jago, Giorgio Germont, Jack Rance, Don Carlo Vargas, Renato, Simone Boccanegra, Amonasro, Rigoletto, Barnaba, Rodrigo and Conte di Luna. He has graced the stages of the Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera in New York, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Grand

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Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Opera National de Paris, Bastille, La Scala in Milan, the Hamburg State Opera, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and more. He is equally beloved and cherished both at home and abroad. The celebrated baritone has received international acclaim for this particular role of Scarpia and has been praised by many critics. “World’s bright star, Georgian baritone Lado Ataneli was brilliant at the Tosca premiere. Apart from being an internationally recognized baritone, notable for his incredible voice and amazing technique, he is a true master of the stage, delivering all his roles with deep passion and perfection,” Gerhard Bauer said of the Georgian baritone. “Lado Ataneli was most distinguished

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

and bright in Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. He shone through with a great and rich voice as well as acting. I have not seen such an incredible performance since great Italian baritone Tito Gobbi,” Jürgen Kesting, Opernbrief Geneva, said of Ataneli’s acting. Tosca is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It was premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900. The work is based on French playwright Victorien Sardou's 1887 French-language dramatic play, La Tosca, a melodramatic piece dedicated to famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. The setting is Rome in 1800, a year after the French Revolution, when the city was preparing itself for Napoleon’s invasion. This is the tumultuous backdrop to a pas-

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sionate love affair between republican artist Mario Cavaradossi, and the fiery and loyal singer Floria Tosca. When Cavaradossi is accused of aiding a fugitive and arrested, Tosca must both rescue her man and evade the lustful designs of Baron Scarpia, the royalist chief of secret police. Puccini saw Sardou's play when it was touring Italy in 1889, and in 1895 he obtained the rights to turn the work into an opera. Turning the wordy French play into a succinct Italian opera took four years, during which the composer repeatedly argued with his librettists and publisher. Tosca premiered at a time of unrest in Rome, and its first performance was delayed for a day for fear of disturbances. Despite indifferent reviews from the critics, the opera was an immediate success with the public. The grand opera first saw its premiere in Tbilisi four years after its world premiere, in 1904. Since then, Tosca has been included in the regular repertoire of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater. The dramatic force of Tosca and its characters continues to fascinate both performers and audiences, and the work remains one of the most frequently performed operas. The performances are scheduled to take place on April 5, 6, 7, 10, 13, 14 at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater.

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1137  

March 29 - April 1, 2019

Issue #1137  

March 29 - April 1, 2019

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