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Issue no: 1105

• NOV. 30 - DEC. 3, 2018



In this week’s issue... EU-Armenia Committee Meets for First Time Under Partnership Agreement NEWS PAGE 2

The Power of Democracy is Proven POLITICS PAGE 5

Russia & Ukraine: Calm on Land, War at Sea POLITICS PAGE 6

The Paris Peace Forum



GD's Salome Zurabishvili is chosen as the next President of Georgia by 59.7% of the voters


Mamuka Khazaradze Awarded Special Turning Points Award for Anaklia Port project



Dusheti to Get Major Rehab

Book on Aliyah to be Released in Georgian



usheti, a municipality in Georgia’s Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, has been slotted for a major revival. The main town of municipality, Dusheti, is located about an hour north of Tbilisi, with a population of 6,167 people as of the 2014 census. The municipality as a whole has a population of close to 26,000. It has limited tourist infrastructure, but its location is ideal for tourism, halfway between Tbilisi and Kazbegi or the Gudauri ski resort, near Bazaleti Lake and the striking combination of the Ananuri Fortress and Zhinvali Reservoir, and is set into a beautiful mountain backdrop along the Dushetiskhevi (Dusheti Valley) River. The municipality has a long history, including as an agriculture and light industry center during Soviet times and as home to German prisoners in the 19th century. On Tuesday, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure and Vice Prime Minister Maia Tskitishvili, Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture Levan Davitashvili, Mtskheta-Mtianeti Governor Shalva Kereselidze, the Majoritarian MP, and self-government representatives attended a ceremony in Dusheti to celebrate the opening of a public park that had been renovated by the Ministry of


Georgian Wrestling Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity CULTURE PAGE 15

Image source: Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure

Regional Development and Infrastructure. The project was financed by the World Bank at a cost of more than 2.7 million GEL ($1,005,586). The renovation included installing new runoff drains, planting green bushes, trees, and flow-

ers, repaving walkways throughout the park, and repairing fountains. Within the project, work was also done to repair the roof of the Church of St. Nicholas, located in the park. Continued on page 11





Foreign Political Leaders Congratulate Salome Zurabishvili Politicians also took to Twitter to express their congratulations. The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite wrote, “Congratulations to Presidentelect of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili – best luck serving your country and its people!” whilst the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said, “ My congratulations to Salome Zurabishvili on her election as President of Georgia. I wish you, every success in ensuring Georgia’s democratic European development and consolidation of society. I’m convinced of the further deepening of strategic partnership between our two nations.” Zurabishvili will be inaugurated as President of Georgia on 16 December 2018.



he French Foreign Ministry has released a statement announcing its readiness to cooperate with newly elected Salome Zurabish-

vili. “France extends its most sincere congratulations to her [Zurabishvili] and wishes her every success in the performance of her duties,” read the statement. Underlining the “excellent relationship” between the two countries, it expresses the wish to further strengthen their relations by collaborating together.

EU-Armenia Committee Meets for First Time Under Partnership Agreement


n 27 November, the EU and Armenia held the first meeting of the Partnership Committee under the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). At the meeting, the EU reiterated its support for the Armenian Government's reform process. The EU representatives also highlighted that the implementation of the CEPA would be a key tool for the

reform and modernisation of the country, help attract EU investment, stimulate exchanges with the EU and provide concrete benefits for both EU and Armenian citizens. The Partnership Committee discussed the draft CEPA implementation roadmap prepared by the Armenian Government. The CEPA foresees that Armenia approximates its laws with the EU legislation referred to in the agreement in

the coming years, including in the fields of transport, energy, environment, climate action, taxation and consumer protection. The EU and Armenia agreed to continue promoting the mobility of citizens through the visa-facilitation and readmission agreements and consider in due course the opening of a visa-liberalisation dialogue, provided that conditions for wellmanaged and secure mobility are in place.

Photo: European Union





Economy Ministry Denies Wizz Air Will Be Expelled from Georgian Market BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia’s Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development has rejected claims that the government plans to force Hungarian lowcost airline Wizz Air to leave the Georgian market. The Ministry says such disinformation harms the business environment in Georgia, adding Wizz Air has been expanding its activities (here) annually and is successfully operating on the market.

The statement of the ministry reads that air movement between Georgia and the European Union is carried out under the Unified Airspace Agreement signed in 2010. “Based on the conditions of this Agreement, procedures for admitting aviation companies to the markets of various countries have been simplified and are based on liberal principles which mean there are no restrictions on the number of airlines, flight frequencies, tariffs, aircraft types or destination points,” the statement reads. The ministry explains that for Wizz Air, as with any other European airline, the

flight schedule is approved in accordance with the terms of this agreement, adding the allegations about any kind of restrictions from the State are groundless. The information that Georgia plans to make Wizz Air leave the market was spread by HUB Georgia, which reported on November 27 that the “government had been putting pressure on the company, a process suspended due to the presidential elections in the country.” HUB Georgia Executive Director Vasil Urushadze said he was told by a source that the government plans to make certain changes to the aviation market, adding that in particular they intend to

Image source: Wizz Air

restrict competition in the field of passenger transportation. “In fact, the Ministry of Economy has decided to expel airline Wizz Air from the Georgian market,” said Urushadze. The information was also confirmed by member of the parliamentary minority European Georgia, Giorgi Kandelaki, who claimed PM Mamuka Bakhtadze is close to one of the other airline companies and the procedures of approving the winter schedule of Wizz Air flights

are being “deliberately delayed.” The opposition MP calls on the government not to make the wrong decision, to promote competition and to allow Wizz Air to continue its activities. Wizz Air also rejected the rumors, stating they have no plans to leave the market, but to rather to expand their activities and services in Georgia. Wizz Air has been carrying out flights from Kutaisi International Airport since 2012.

Where Will Georgia’s New President Live? BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia has a new Presidentelect, the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) favorite Salome Zurabishvili, and it has been said she will not be moving into the Presidential Palace, located in the Avlabari district of Tbilisi, once the outgoing President Giorgi Margvelashvili leaves. During the pre-election campaign, Zurabishvili mentioned several times that she would not live in the Avlabari residence if she became President, noting it is a state-owned building where the country's premier or foreign ministry would be better placed than the President’s Administration. The ruling GD has several times raised the issue of the Avlabari residence, urging Giorgi Margvelashvili to move into the Orbeliani residence on Atoneli Street, Old Tbilisi, which was prepared for him after his election in 2013.

Before his election, Margvelashvili stated that he would not take the Presidential Palace in Avlabari built by exPresident Mikheil Saakashvili, due to the high cost of its original construction and subsequent maintenance, which amounts to up to GEL 3 million monthly from the state budget. He changed his mind after being elected and stated that he would not leave the Avlabari building, which resulted in a disagreement between him and the government. Zurabishvili, since the exit polls, has not officially stated where she plans to live but her election program reads the President should live in the Orbeliani residence. “The Avlabari residence is a symbol of the State. This is why the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister should live there, or for it to be a common place for receiving foreign guests,” she stated. The program also reads that the President's Administration must have intense communication with citizens, where gender balance should be maintained and persons with disabilities should have

a representation. There are no legal norms that can make the President change their official residence. However, GD has also been pushing the fact that the Avlabari palace will not be a place of residence for the new president. The government has also yet to make an official comment regarding the new president’s residence, however, as Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, stated, “the President and their Administration should not cost the state as much as it has.” Moreover, earlier this year, the Parliament Speaker and the Head of Zurabishvili’s Election Headquarters, Irakli Kobakhidze, noted that it is not necessary for the President to live in the Presidential Palace. “The President’s Palace should be in compliance with the President’s role and function,” Kobakhidze said, adding that consultations will be held in GD regarding the issue. “The next president should also be involved in these consultations. This is

Orbeliani Palace and Avlabari Palace. Image source: amerikiskhma.com

the decision that should be made on the basis of general principles," he said. The opposition does not agree with

the ruling team. They say the President’s institute is of utmost importance and should have a proper residence.





Georgia Elects First Female President BY AMY JONES


alome Zurabishvili was elected the 5th president of Georgia in the presidential runoffs on 28 November. As the first woman to ever run and succeed in the race for the presidential seat, her win is a historic moment for Georgia. In the final results released by the CEC, Zurabishvili rose victorious with 1.147,627 votes (59.52%) compared to 780,633 votes (40.48%) for Grigol Vashadze of the UNM. Zurabishvili led in all election districts aside from Rustavi and Telavi. Supported by the ruling party, Georgian Dream, many Georgians are unsurprised by the outcome, especially given her large campaign budget, three times that of Grigol Vashadze. Salome’s face became a common site on campaign posters across Georgia. However, the significant victory was nonetheless often an uphill battle, faced with criticism about her poor level of Georgian, and gender, as well as accusations of xenophobic comments and her unpopular claims that Georgia started the 2008 war. The French-born diplomat and former Foreign Minister ran as an independent candidate supported by Georgian Dream, the current ruling party in Georgia. Although she pledged to remain uninfluenced by Georgian Dream, she has shown very little resistance to the party during her time as an MP in parliament. Personal attacks regarding Zurabish-

vili’s level of Georgian and language blunders became commonplace during campaigning. Born into a family of Georgian political emigrants, she first visited Georgia in 1986 at the age of 36. She went on to become involved in politics, being appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs after the Rose revolution from 2004 2005 under Mikhail Saakashvili. Her popularity was negatively affected by controversial claims regarding the 2008 war. “Russia started the war a decade ago. We were tricked by a Russian provocation and Georgia started this part of the war situation. This is a very well-known version also confirmed by the EU,” said Zurabishvili, although she later changed her stance, realizing it was an unpopular belief in Georgia. Following her European roots, Zurabishvili stated that she wished to run a “European campaign.” She has often underlined her desire to bring Georgia closer to NATO and the EU in order to “unite Georgian society.” The President of Georgia is the head of state and supreme commander-inchief, whose role is largely ceremonial in Georgia, as it is in many parliamentary democracies. Nonetheless, the President is still deeply involved in politics. Zurabishvili has been far from a popular candidate for the role. In fact, “it is fair to characterize her as one of the least-popular candidates that Georgian Dream has fielded in a national election,” said Hans Gutbrod, a professor at Ilia State University. Many view the vote instead as a popu-

larity contest for Georgia’s richest man and on-and-off chairman of Georgian Dream Bidzina Ivanishvili, who personally selected Zurabishvili. The vote tests Ivanishvili’s popular support and political status quo. Ultimately, the result has shown how many votes a ruling party can harness through its networks, resources, and tools, rather than reflecting a broad support for Zurabishvili. Throughout the elections, the opposition complained of voting irregularities and attacks on campaigners, although

this has been denied by the ruling party. Indeed, violations have been reported by some electoral observation organizations, including Transparency International, primarily concerning the presence of activists at polling stations, although they still deemed the votes to be “in accordance with the law.” The significance of this year’s presidential elections should not be downplayed. Georgia, as a democratic model in the region, has shown that it is continuing to move further from its Soviet

past and to modernize its democracy. The inauguration of Zurabishvili will be both a powerful symbol for women’s rights as well as of the country’s integration into the European community. Many Georgians are celebrating the election of a female president who is clear in her pro-western goals, and are looking forward to the potential changes it may bring. Zurabishvili will be inaugurated as President of Georgia on 16 December 2018.

The Runoff Elections Summarized BY THE GT TEAM


uling Georgian Dream (GD) party-backed presidential candidate Salome Zurabishvili commented Thursday morning on the results of the Central Election Commission (CEC), according to which she received 59.7% of votes, which is equal to 916,873 votes, making her Georgia’s 5th and first female President. “I felt a huge responsibility when I learned I had become President,” she said. Zurabishvili noted that the results of the election represent a victory for society. “Today, we jointly refused to go back to the past, which itself would interrupt the process of strengthening and developing our society,” Zurabishvili said after the preliminary results of the exit polls were announced. She went on to thank the voters for their activity and support. "I would like to thank all our citizens who are listening to us now. Today is a very important day. Today, my country has made a principled choice. This choice is essential for the present and future of Georgia," she said. According to the Edison Research exit poll results, Zurabishvili received 55% of votes, while Grigol Vashadze, presidential candidate of the United Opposition, received 45%, According to the exit poll conducted on the order of Imedi TV, Zurabishvili received 58% of votes and Vashadze 42%. "Such elections have never been held

in Georgia. The authorities mobilized and bribed everyone they could. Criminals were also involved in the process,"

losing presidential candidate Grigol Vashadze stated prior to the exit polls being announced.

GD Chair and founder Bidzina Ivanishvili also thanked the people for supporting Salome Zurabishvili.

“We will do our maximum to ensure that the people’s trust in us is not lost. We are grateful to our voters and society in general… First and foremost, our society has realized its power. People are well aware that they have the levers and they took the relevant action,” he added. Ivanishvili said he would do his best for Georgia to have a “worthy government which serves the people.” The CEC stated that the turnout in the second round of the presidential elections reached 56.23% across Georgia, which is 1,975,845 voters. CEC Spokesperson Ana Mikeladze said that this 56.23% does not include people who voted abroad and added that the highest turnout was in Keda municipality at 72.72%, and the lowest in Tsalka at 43.12%. She also noted that no significant violations were reported on election day. Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze commented on the results of the exit polls, thanking the Georgian people for their trust and wishing Zurabishvili success. “I would like to congratulate Salome Zurabishvili and the Georgian state on the victory. The elections have proved once again that Georgia is truly a democratic state,” he said. The PM noted that both rounds of the elections had revealed what the people are expecting from the ruling party. “We should not waste time on celebrations. It is time to work. I would like to declare with all my sense of responsibility that we are ready to worthily respond to all the challenges Georgia is facing,” PM Bakhtadze promised.





The Power of Democracy is Proven OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


he 2018 presidential elections have passed and are now part of Georgia’s history. The 5th President of Georgia, the governmental candidate Salome Zurabishvili, beat her opponent Grigol Vashadze from the oppositional party by 20%, thus becoming the last publicly elected president of the country. This is how the two million voters that went out to the ballot boxes on November 28, paid farewell to their right to elect the President of Georgia. According to the new constitution, from now on, the President of Georgia will be elected by MPs rather than the public, hence it is especially interesting how this election was different from the previous four and what novelty brought it into the history of Georgian elections. The fact that “elections” is still quite an elusive term for Georgians will probably be discussed later by political analysts. But what we saw on November 28 is far beyond the sphere of classic politics. The governmental party and its leader Bidzina Ivanishvili were able to organize an additional 355,000 voters to show up and cast their votes a month after the first round. The parliamentary elections of 2012 were the last when the activity of voters surpassed two million, and we haven’t seen this since. So how did the ruling party and Bidzina Ivanishvili manage this? Was it money? Potatoes? Onions or sunflower oil? Maybe it was the baking flour that they distributed that generated such activity? It may have played some role, but not the main and decisive one for sure. In the 2nd round of the elections, Salome Zurabishvili got 1.2 million votes, about 530 thousand votes more compared to the 1st round.

AP photo/ Shakh Aivazov

About 170 thousand of these were people who voted the first time, but who did not support either of the two candidates. There were about 355 thousand new voters who showed up and voted for Salome. Practically, these people played a crucial role in the fate of these elections. Whether it was money, potatoes or onions, no longer matters. As Ilia Chavchavadze would say, “Now is the time for labor and work;” now is

the time to work on the electorate who did not show up to these elections and decided to stay home rather than to fulfil its constitutional responsibility. And there were a lot of people like this, more than a million, in fact. It is quite unlikely that the technical resources of Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream will be able to handle them. As such, it is exactly what the opposition should work for, while the government should definitely take

care of these 355,000 voters, weather bribed or not, and by taking care we mean it shouldn’t forget them as it did after the 2012 elections, otherwise, potatoes, onions, baking flour and 20 Laris will have no effect. For the elections of 2020, where there won’t be a second round, the price of the elections will rise, just like the USD exchange rate. Nevertheless, this latest presidential campaign was a benefit to

the Georgian democracy: a difference of 20% is the result of the noise of having a capital of billions in a country that is hungry and poor and miserable. But when people realize that this “tempting sound” is only an empty note in reality, the electorate will recall not the second but the first round of the elections of 2018, when it truly felt and believed it had power. And democracy is built upon this very faith.





This Week’s RussiaUkraine Clash Explained BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE


he roots of the conflict that escalated over the weekend stem from the Euromaidan movement in early 2014, which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. In March 2014, Russia called an illegal referendum in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, which led to the peninsula’s annexation into the Russian Federation. Many have analyzed that move as a response to Ukraine’s anti-Russia sentiment, a signal that Russia still considers Ukraine part of its rightful sphere of influence, and a reminder to Kiev that the West it so courts will not come to its rescue against Russian military power. The conflict continued with Russian-backed military intervention, supporting antigovernment, pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. The war in Donbass has continued with lowlevel fighting for more than four years now. The latest move by Russia came early Sunday morning, November 25, when Russian naval forces opened fire and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels. The two gunboats and one tugboat had a total of 23 sailors on board, 12 of whom have been sentenced to two months in Russian custody by a court in Simferopol, Crimea, pending trial for trespassing over the Russian border, a crime with a sentence of up to six years. The Ukrainian government reported that six of its crew members were injured in the clash, while Russia’s FSB says it was only three. The Ukrainian ships were stopped while attempting to travel from a port in Odessa to the town of Mariupol in

the Sea of Azov, blocked by a large Russian cargo ship that was strategically parked beneath the Crimea Bridge. The newly completed 18.1 km bridge, financed and built by Russia to connect the mainland with Crimea, spans the Kerch Strait, a narrow passageway leading into the Sea of Azov. Since the completion of the bridge, Russian naval vessels have been stopping Ukrainian ships passing through the strait and demanding to inspect them. On August 7, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation announced the temporary closure of the Kerch Strait – an international waterway. Official statements explained that the closure was related to construction on the Crimea Bridge, but on August 9 it was announced that Russian naval vessels would still be allowed to transit the Strait. Russian news agency TASS said in late September that Ukrainian ships were again being granted passage through the Kerch Strait “with due permission from Russian control agencies as required under law.” The attempted movement of Ukrainian ships into the Sea of Azov Sunday has been interpreted as an attempt to prevent Russia from taking full control of the Sea, an important shipping lane supporting Ukrainian industry. The Russian military claims that the Ukrainian ships entered Russian territorial waters illegally, ignored instructions and warnings from Russian ships, and were making “dangerous maneuvers.” A 2003 treaty between Moscow and Kiev maintains that the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov are shared territorial waters. The Russian military also send two fighter jets and a helicopter to the Strait, conducting low, slow flyovers over the water. At about 4 am local time on Monday, the Kerch Strait reopened for civilian mari-

time traffic, according to TASS. President Petro Poroshenko met with senior military aides Monday morning to discuss a response to the incident, and the Verkhovna Rada subsequently approved 30 days of martial law in coastal territories near the conflict site. The period of martial law went into effect on Wednesday. The decree, Poroshenko assured citizens during a televised address Monday, will not restrict the rights of any Ukrainians, nor would elections scheduled for early next year be affected. “Ukraine is not planningawaragainstanyone,”saidPoroshenko, affirming that Ukraine will uphold its side of the Minsk Agreements, peace deals signed with Russia and pro-Russian separatists in 2014 and 2015. This is Ukraine’s first ever imposition of martial law, and several pundits have expressed concern that the move could threaten the young, unsteady democracy and escalate the war in Donbass. Martial law includes several provisions: bans on public gatherings, media restrictions, limits on the movement of Ukrainians and foreign nationals, and the ability to suspend elections, as the Ukrainian government deems necessary. Just hours after the declaration of martial law, the United Nations held an emergency session on the naval clash in the Black Sea. The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, addressed Russia during the session, calling their actions an “outrageous violation” of Ukraine's sovereignty and called on the international community to condemn Russia's “arrogant...outlaw actions.” The European Union called on Russia to “restore freedom of passage at the Kerch Strait” and NATO added that it “fully supports Ukraine's sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters.” President

Image source: rferl.org

Poroshenko has asked NATO to send ships to defend their claims. In an interview with the Washington Post on November 27, US President Donald Trump said that he was considering canceling a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, scheduled for the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina November 30-December 1, pending a “full report” on the Kerch Strait clash from his national security team. Despite insisting, “I don't like that aggression. I don't want that aggression at all,” the meeting has not been officially canceled and is expected to go ahead as planned. Experts have also predicted that Russia’s long-term goal is to occupy and

control Mariupol and surrounding territories to create a land bridge from Russia to Crimea. Russia’s aggressive strategy towards its neighbors in recent years is to precede a major geopolitical move with a small, offensive one, such as ramming a tugboat. Many analysts anticipate that the slow-burning, long, drawn-out conflict in Eastern Ukraine will now extend into the water, further crippling the Ukrainian economy. The series of aggressive moves by Russia can be seen as part of a pattern, a strategy of militarypolitical influence that was also used in Georgia in August 2008, leading to the occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and “South Ossetia.”

Russia & Ukraine: Calm on Land, War at Sea BY EMIL AVDALIANI


n November 25, Russian gunboats attacked Ukraine’s naval convoy, rammed a tugboat and seized it along with two other Ukrainian ships. The vessels were traveling from the Ukrainian port of Odessa, on the Black Sea, to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. The only route to access Mariupol was the Kerch Strait that separates Russiancontrolled Crimea from Russia proper. Previously, Ukrainian and Russian sailors had been causing problems for each other which often ended in temporary arrests. However, the recent events near Crimea mark a new level of escalation between the two countries. While in Donbass the situation is relatively calm, with only occasional fighting along the contact line, the overall situation points to the fact that largescale military action is unlikely to happen in east Ukraine. Perhaps another theater where Moscow could press Kiev is at sea, and Moscow’s actions might be a negotiating tactic or first steps towards further securing the Sea of Azov. The sealing off of the Kerch Strait would be significant for Ukraine and specifically for its economy as it is the only route for the country’s ships to reach the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol. A large part of Ukraine’s maritime economy depends on trade through

Image source: rferl.org

these two ports as Ukraine’s Black Sea ports are not that competitive and it will be difficult for Kiev to re-route trade from the Azov ports to the Black Sea ones. If a veritable blockade of the Azov Sea continues, then we are likely to see a further drop in economic activity. For instance, exports entering through Mariupol already dropped 58% in recent years. Because of difficult security, foreign investment has been close to zero. As said, this represents an entirely

new level of pressure on Ukraine from Russia to cut off Kiev’s Azov trade with the outside world, as Ukraine exports more to Arab countries than to Russia. At the same time, Russia’s actions might be regarded as a logical continuation of previous ones. The annexation of Crimea, temporary closures of the Kerch Strait as well as the construction of the bridge from the Russian mainland to the peninsula, would still not mean a total domination of the Azov Sea or

straits if Ukraine’s and potentially foreign ships are allowed to sail into the Azov basin. Russia’s drive to dominate the Kerch Strait and the Azov Sea might also reflect Moscow’s strategic thinking and concerns. The Kerch Strait is an approximately 25-mile-long channel that is no wider than 9 miles. The Strait links the Black Sea to the Azov and is important as it allows the control of water routes and energy resources coming in and

out of the Azov Sea. Thus, it was inevitable that Russia and Ukraine would fight for the territory. Indeed, there were cases even well before Russia-Ukraine relations plunged. In 2003, Russia and Ukraine nearly went to war over the strait when Russia started construction of a bridge to one of the islands in the Azov Sea. However, following the Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2014, the dispute between Moscow and Kiev has taken a much more serious turn, seeing the two countries now battling for control of the Black and Azov seas’ military and economic communication lines. The Kerch Strait is a continuation of the Northern Caucasus into Crimea, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet located at Sevastopol. That is why Moscow is concerned that the pro-Western government in Kiev could potentially allow the Strait to be used by Western military fleets and even NATO. Russians want to keep direct access to the Don River safe, closed to the military alliance. Moscow also thinks that, theoretically, the strategically important Don River could be used by foreign troops to enter the Russian mainland. As such, we need to put the Russian actions against Ukrainian ships into a wider geopolitical perspective. Yet, even if the closure turns out to be only a temporary move, Moscow is sending a clear message to Kiev on the pressure tools it has to hand to limit potential Western military encroachment on strategic routes in the Black and Azov seas.





Why I Hate Brexit OP-ED BY AMY JONES


speak three of its languages and made its cities my home. Its food fills my fridge and its wine, my glass. I count its people as close friends. Our nation’s histories and cultures are intertwined. Its golden letters on my passport form part of my identity. I am proud to be a citizen of the European Union. My citizenship connects me to a wider European community. It guarantees me rights and freedoms. And now it’s being stolen from me. I, like many others from the UK, are angry about Brexit, a helpless situation sealed by the voice of 37% of the population. The decision to strip the entire population of its EU citizenship was posed by a simple question of “in” or “out”. Misinformation and a lack of education ensured that the outcome would be far from fair. During the referendum campaign, it was impossible to understand what leav-

ing the EU would actually mean for the UK. Even now, 20 months later, and after the exit agreement has been approved by the EU, I don’t fully understand what Brexit will mean for myself and my country. There is a huge lack of education on the role of the EU in the UK, to the point where the second most googled search term in the hours following the referen-

dum on 23 June 2016 was “what is the EU?” A bit late, don’t you think? A lack of education was made worse by a lack of proper information on what it would mean to leave the EU. The Leave Campaign claimed in their publicity that ‘Turkey (population 75 million) is joining the EU’ which is far from likely, while the statement “we send the EU £350

million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead” was paraded around the streets of London on the side of a bus. The Center for European Reform recently published a study that Brexit has cost Britain £500 million a week and Boris and Farage, the lead voices of the leave campaign, are conveniently nowhere to be seen. For me, Brexit has become symbolic of populism and the shifting of politics to the right. The bigotry, xenophobia, and racism stirred up by the official leave campaign injected an ugliness into British politics which never dissipated, and left hate crimes surging. As the fear of immigration spreads across Europe, British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to “end the free movement of people once and for all.” Our borders will be restricted, and with it so will the ability of free travel for all those within them. The UK has long thought of itself as a special country. Our island was once the most powerful country in the world. We had colonies. We won wars. We built an empire. But the world has shifted a long

way since our bloody victories. The ‘glory’ days are a thing of the past. In a world that becomes ever more global, a country should look forward, not back. Living in Georgia has made me even more proud to be a member of the EU. Almost every press conference and a huge number of projects are funded and supported by the EU and its countries. The EU offers Georgia help and guidance that is vital for Georgia to protect its sovereignty and security. You can even buy socks printed with the Georgian and European Union flags. In her letter to the nation, published 24 November 2018, Theresa May says “the deal will protect the things we value.” Excuse me if I choke on my Rich Tea biscuit, Theresa, but the deal is removing exactly the thing I value. 700,000 people took to the streets of London last month, the largest protest in 15 years, to voice that Brexit does not represent their values. We are losing our European citizenships, and it’s being revoked against our will. Theresa has said she isn’t sad that Britain is leaving the EU, I, on the other hand, am.

EU to Reduce Financial Support to Moldova as Rule of Law & Democracy Deteriorate BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE


n 27 November, Christian Danielsson, the European Commission’s DirectorGeneral for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and Thomas Mayr-Harting, Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service, visited Moldova to reaffirm the EU's commitment to deliver tangible benefits to Moldovan citizens. They met with Moldovan President Igor Dodon, Prime Minister Pavel Filip and representatives from the opposition parties and civil society. This visit comes amid the ongoing deterioration of the rule of law and democracy in the country, as perceived by European politicial actors. "In light of this deterioration, and in line with the principle of strict conditionality, the European Commission has taken the decision to substantially recalibrate its financial assistance and redirect support to projects that have a direct, positive impact on Moldovan citizens," reads the official statement from the European Commission. Payments under the Macro-Financial Assistance and EU budget support pro-

Source: EU Neighbours. Photo: EPA-EFE

grammes have been frozen, pending tangible improvements in rule of law and democracy. Moldovan authorities should take immediate action to ameliorate the situation, and promised to “continue to follow with the closest

attention all aspects relevant to the preparation and conduct of the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova”. Future EU programs planned in Moldova, which are now at risk, are valued

10 Galaktion Street

at over 106 million EUR. These programs include: •Socio-economic development of the focal regions – Ungheni and Cahul. The support programme, worth €23 million, will contribute to the creation of jobs

and value chains, provide support to local SMEs, local actors and civil society and fund the development of small-scale infrastructures. This will help boost local social-economic development and reduce the gap between Chisinau and the regions of the Republic of Moldova. •The EU will also continue supporting the peaceful settlement of the Transnistrian conflict. Over €10 million of EU funds will help to increase confidence between Chisinau and Tiraspol through joint initiatives involving local authorities, civil society organisations and other stakeholder from both sides of the river. •The EU will also invest €40 million in infrastructure, with the electricity interconnector between Romania and Moldova, connecting further EU and Moldova and leading to more stable and cheaper electricity for citizens. •The EU will also further promote the international exchange of students through the Erasmus+ programme and fund more mobility opportunities for Moldovan researchers, with the aim to further scientific excellence in Moldova and increase their competitiveness in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020. EU assistance will focus only on actions that bring direct benefits to citizens and support agents of change including civil society, independent media, reformminded local authorities and SMEs.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge





Democracy, as Good as it Gets (So Far)

electoral event. In fairness to my descriptive efforts, I must ask for recognition that, while the quality of democracy has reached the acme, the sides have been using against each other the worst kinds of political language of hatred and derogation. The irrelevant emotionality and reciprocal negativity between the sides frustrated and tired the electorate to the utmost, but despite the raucousness of the process

and the emphasized unfairness of black PR against one other, the parties still demonstrated a professional conception of democratic ways and means, well manifested in the content of ongoing comments and the style of making those comments (in most cases). Without doubt, the process of democratic maturation has solidified the entire nation’s political stance in Georgia: the electorate became more observant and educated; the candidates turned into eyecatching political animals; the opposing political groupings presented themselves as professional fighters; the media skillfully tried to push their favorite race horses towards the winning finale, and the watching public, despite the edginess of the situation, managed to equip itself with as much patience as possible to see a peaceful end to the race. What more can democracy be, I wonder. How can anyone say we have made a step backwards? Just the contrary: we have registered huge progress on the way to democratic development, the best token of this being the presumption that the political struggle in Georgia has doubtlessly acquired striking acuteness, believable fairness and relative western logicality. This nation is trying really hard to justify the relevancy of soviet collapse, its breakup with Russia and its marriage with the West, although still unconsummated. One could say that to be critical is much easier than to be appreciative. I know very well the drawbacks of our democracy, and our wild capitalism too, but could we have done more and better in just 30 years of time? I think not. We would’ve if we could’ve. No other nation could have, even if they had tried even harder than us.

inclined) at! They did have one, though, and perhaps to make sure he was visible enough, they stuck him in moderating a panel no Kremlin-friendly type has any right to moderate – one dedicated to world peace. The man was none other than Anatoly Torkunov, the rector of Moscow’s State Institute of International Affairs, a place world famous (or infamous, if that’s your fancy) as the main hub of Kremlin thinkers and Foreign policy gurus alike (to put it in a Georgian perspective, being an MGIMO alumni was one of arguments used against the second placed presidential candidate, the UNM’s Grigol Vashadze, who the ruling party claimed to have been serving Kremlin interests). Hypocrisy barometers must have gone off the charts as Mr. Torkunov sat there, offering compassionate sighs to those in chagrin that world peace was in danger. Particularly satirical was his approval of Iranian speaker doom-saying that Might is Right these days. When asked to offer an insight into his own country’s input to peace when it comes to Georgia and Ukraine, he said that Russian officials have their country’s best interests at heart and that

he himself is deeply in love with Georgia, but the situation is complicated and there’s hope that it will improve. Lovely. The third day of the forum was largely dedicated to innovative technologies, the this-is-how-we-save-the-world eulogies that no self-respecting geopoliticscovering journalist should have any business with and that I would count as the third weakness of the forum. It’s not just biting more off than you can chew, it’s about mixing your starter with your dessert, to stay in the realm of gastronomical metaphors. The third day could easily have been another occasion altogether – there was little, if any, bridging between what preceded it and what happened in the finale. So, instead of listening to another monologue on how bitcoin will make the financial environment of our world more transparent, I went and interviewed NATO’s Ex-secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also attending, who offered strong penance about not providing Georgia and Ukraine with the MAP back in 2008 Bucharest summit- a piece you might have (and should have) read in GEORGIA TODAY’S previous issue.



have always been an inveterate critic of our political style and content, so much so that I remember several cases of warnings received to stop being harsh in my writings. As such, I can’t be blamed for being mild and sparing when it comes to my portrayal of the Georgian social and political reality. Being that ruthless towards my own folk, I was still a little disappointed to hear the utterance of the former president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Rasa Jukneviciene about the already bygone electoral epopee in Georgia, worded for the Georgian bureau of Voice of America: ‘If we compare the presidential elections to the 2012 elections, we will see no big step forward, but a step backwards.’ She alluded to the disproportionate use of administrative resources in favor of one side against the other, not doubting at the same time that by the level of democracy and reforms, Georgia is a leader in the region. Moreover, the reason for concern was underlined, in strong hopes that it would not affect Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Wow! And poor stupid me for thinking that things were just the contrary in the Republic. I respectfully admit that Rasa knows way more in politics than I do but I also suspect that I might have a better feel for what has been happening in the Georgian political crucible in the last 30 years or so. I am far from making any overstatements about the quality of democracy in Georgia, but one can see even with an unequipped eye that we have never had this big a sense

Image source: neweurope.eu

of a genuine ballot in this country before. In these presidential elections, predictions were rendered unworkable, political scientists avoided making daring prognostic guesses and the forecast was practically considered a lost cause. Indeed, the level of democracy as such was elevated to the point where terms like “rigging” and “gerrymandering” became obsolete. In the beginning, most of the electorate was so lackadaisical that

half of the voting public did not even turn up at the poll stations, leaving the ballot boxes almost empty. But when the runoff was declared as a result of the first round, the lukewarm electoral attitude was changed and the whole country became involved in the unseen-in-the-past political tug of war. The public excitement towards the electoral outcome was blown into unprecedented parameters, thus creating an effect of a real western-style



hat do you do when you’re young, ambitious, have half of Europe looking up to you as a potential savior from Trump’s idiosyncrasies on the one hand and Putin’s Roman Empire tactics on the other? Many things, perhaps, but establishing one’s own Munich Security Conference (but bigger, cooler and shinier) must have ranked rather high on President Macron’s agenda, as last month saw the birth of a gargantuan annual-to-be gathering henceforth to be known as the Paris Peace Forum, which is, as its official website claims, “neither a summit nor a conference,” but a new annual event based on a simple idea: international cooperation being key to tackling global challenges and ensuring durable peace. To support collective action, it gathers all actors of global governance under one roof for three days: states, international organizations, local governments, NGOs and foundations, companies, experts, journalists, trade unions, religious groups and citizens. Through original formats of debates and the presentation of solutions, it demonstrates there is still a momentum for multilateralism and a better organization of the planet, both among states from North and South and civil society actors. And boy did it do all that and more in its first installment. Attended by everyone of world level political merit (I should know, I was there), more than 10,000 visitors, 65 Heads of State and Government (although the bigger ones only stuck around for

the opening ceremony – looking at you there, Frau Merkel!) as well as 10 international organizations leaders convened for three days at La Grande Halle de La Villette for the first edition of the Paris Peace Forum to exchange and discuss concrete global governance solutions. The scope of the forum was also perhaps its biggest weakness: you could have literally drowned in the sea of information, and more often than not, due to the organizer’s apparent agenda of “let’s squeeze literally every conceivable topic into three days, shake it and see what happens,” you’d have missed one interesting discussion while attending another. This was certainly the case with the author of this piece, who found himself facing a choice of attending either a panel that included the debonair duo of Armenia’s Pashinyan and Greece’s Tsipras, another where Ukraine’s beleaguered President Poroshenko was having a hard time convincing the audience that progress was being made in Ukraine, or one in which this country’s now former President was involved. All three panels had roughly the same starting time. Not a good design, this. The choice was eventually made in favor of the first two panels and at the cost of Mr. Margvelashvili, whose output, if attending eyewitnesses are to be believed, was in the end as pointless as his presidential reign. Apparently, the man came in, said hello, and left, because he was late for some meeting or another. Way to put your country on the map there. But enough about that, for I have to tell you the story of the two more important sessions I attended. For a person reporting on the South Caucasus region, Pashinyan, seemingly

still some sort of an enigma for the Western audience, was always going to offer a more interesting story to tell. He was convincing, affable and not short of diplomatic suaveness, something you’d expect a seasoned journalist to pick up. Months before, he had sung a somewhat muffled serenade to the productivity of his meeting with Putin in an interview with the Russian “Echo of Moscow” outlet, saying he embraced the opportunity to have a face-to-face chat with the head of Armenia’s foremost strategic ally. When asked what exactly he saw in the eyes of the man the West has out for world’s main miscreant, seeing as President Bush and our very own Saakashvili both claimed to have deduced what the man’s soul was hiding, Pashinyan effortlessly dodged the ball by replying they were the eyes of a man with his country’s national interests at heart and, you know, it would be best if we all looked into each other’s eyes when speaking to each other. Honesty and all that. Nice. This has been a trademark trait of his policy so far: not burning old bridges while trying to build new ones, but how far he’ll be allowed to go into his seemingly impossible quest of sitting on two chairs at once remains to be seen. Another rather interesting panel took place on the second day and it was largely interesting because it had Russians in it. Now, a comparison to the Munich conference was alluded to at the start, this one with a glaring shortcoming when it came to having Russians sit there, offer smug theories about how they’re the good guys and occasionally being flashed by Femen or another group of similar persuasion. Not enough Russians to throw questions (and eggs, if you so




Radisson Blu Iveria Tbilisi Awarded ‘Best Business Hotel’ by Business Traveller Magazine Readers



adisson Blu Iveria hotel Tbilisi has been announced as the ‘Best Business Hotel in the former CIS region and neighboring countries at the award ceremony held by Business Traveller Magazine on Friday November 16 in Moscow. The Business Traveller Award is a valuable tool for the business travel market to determine guest loyalty and satisfaction. The specially developed questionnaire and opinion poll, covering a variety of professional spheres, ensure the awards highlight the needs of both cooperate and individual travellers and determine the quality standards of travel services. The winners were announced after a three-month voting process by readers of Business Traveller magazine. “Being awarded Best Business Hotel, shows recognition for the great teamwork provided by the team which every day deliver Memorable Moments to our guests,” said General Manager Jordi Kuijt. “At the same time, it is a tribute to true Georgian hospitality and we look forward to delivering the same high level of service in the soon to be officially opened Radisson Collection Tsinandali Estate Hotel.”

RADISSON BLU IVERIA TBILISI Found in the heart of Georgia’s capital city, the hotel is nestled between the beautiful Mtkvari River and nearby mountain ranges. Guests can step outside to find dining, shopping and nightlife on Rustaveli Avenue. Hotel guests can visit nearby attractions like Old Town and the Narikala Fortress. Hotel’s 249 rooms and suites provide scenic views of Mtatsminda, the city’s historic hill, or of the river landscape. Guests are welcome to savour Italian dishes at

Filini Restaurant, Asian fusion at Umami, delicious seafood at stunning restaurant Andopov’s Ears or pastries coffee at Iveria Café. Also dine outdoors at Iveria Terrace during summer. After dinner, have a drink in the Surface Bar or in the 18th-floor Oxygen Bar. Also shop at Hotel’s Iveria Gallery and then try the luck in our Casino Iveria. The worldclass Anne Semonin pampers guests with premium treatments. For business travellers and event planners, the hotel offers a fully equipped business centre plus nine meeting rooms, a versatile ballroom and catering service. The event venue “Republic” opposite the hotel makes a favoured place for numerous activities including weddings, concerts, shows, exhibitions and conferences.






Mamuka Khazaradze Awarded Special Turning Points Award for Anaklia Port project


amukaKhazaradze, founder of "Anaklia Development Consortium" was awarded a special prize of the Turning Points – an annual edition of THE NEW YORK TIMES. "People Who Change the Environment" is the title of the nomination and reward that was handed to Mamuka Khazaradze in the "Names of the Century" part of the Award Ceremony for the construction of the project of the century, Anaklia Port. The presentation of the first licensed edition of Turning Points was held at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel. This year, Georgia, alongside 26 countries, joined Turning Points, also known as the “edition that predicts the whole year”. Within the framework of the presentation of the first licensed edition of Turning Points, Georgian Catholicos Patriarch Ilia II, President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili, linguist Mzekala Shanidze, composer Gia Kancheli, filmmaker Merab Kokochashvili, and others were awarded honorary awards in the "Names of the Century" category.


Government’s Support to the Residents of Mountainous Regions

the Technical University of Georgia was also declared at the meeting. So-called ‘Mountain Weeks’ are to be organized, which will play a major role for the development and promotion of the mountainous regions of Georgia and mountain tourism. PM Bakhtadze focused on the importance of the needs of the mountainous population. ‘Mountain Weeks’ could serve as an effective way to eradicate particular problems of this population. Since the launch of the Mountain Law, 1,730 settlements have been granted the status of a mountainous settlement, with 243,000 beneficiaries. 66 million GEL in financial aid together with additional assistance were allocated in the mountainous regions of Georgia in 2017. The primary reason for such a large scale Mountain Law is the desire of the government to encourage residents to remain or go back to their mountainous regions in order to support and develop those regions.



he Government of Georgia is planning to expand the list of Georgia’s high mountainous settlements and increase the number of beneficiaries of the Mountain Law. The given issue was discussed at a meeting of the National Council for Mountain Development chaired by Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze at the Administration of the Government on November 26. According to the Press Office of the Prime Minister, a working group will be created to reevaluate the criteria for the status of a mountainous settlement. It will also produce an action plan for the further expansion of the scope of the law’s applicability. Establishment of the Department of Sustainable Mountain Development at

Image source: Agenda.ge

The long-term delivery service of 25 to 50 kilograms sacks from China. With the organic responsibility of the Trading Company "HanLin" from Alashankou. E-mail: yuechungian@163.com Tel/Fax: 86-0909-699-5859

Government to Buy New Houses for More than 400 Internally Displaced Families BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


he Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia is to purchase new village houses with a plot of land for more than 400 internally displaced families from the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), regions currently occupied by Russia. Within the framework of the state project, families are given the opportunity to choose a house in any region of Georgia and if they meet the required criteria, the government will buy it. All the houses include a particular plot of land in order to serve the families as a source of further production and additional financial income. Since 2013, the government has bought houses for 2534 families.

Image source: imedinews.ge




Dusheti to Get Major Rehab Continued from page 1

Local construction workers and tradespeople were hired to complete the renovation project. At the ceremony, Tskitishvili spoke to the assembled crowd, thanking them for their involvement in the project’s

The Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure plans to spend approximately 150 million GEL in MtskhetaMtianeti in 2019

successful implementation. “Dusheti has a very long history and even greater development potential. I believe that this area will regain its role and function as a tourist destination. For this purpose, the Municipal Development Fund, with the support of the World Bank, plans to rehabilitate Dusheti’s historic center and more than 40 historic homes. The agreement was signed today. This and all other rehabilitation projects include an economic component, small hotels, cafes, infrastructure, that will be attractive to local and foreign tourists [who want to stay] in restored homes. In addition, we are working on improving the water supply and road infrastructure in the region. We plan to fully rehabilitate the Mutso Gorge [in Khevsureti], schools, kindergartens, outpatient medical facilities and sports facilities,” said the minister. The Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure plans to spend approximately 150 million GEL ($55.9 mln) in Mtskheta-Mtianeti in 2019, on projects that Tskitishvili says “will provide additional income for the local population.” The rehabilitation of Dusheti’s central streets and historical houses will begin

The Municipal Development Fund, with the support of the World Bank, plans to rehabilitate Dusheti’s historic center and more than 40 historic homes next spring. It will target buildings with cultural heritage status constructed in the 19th and 20th centuries, restoring them to their original style.

UN Research: About 137 Women Killed Every Day

Photo source: City Press



ew research from the United Nations reads that around 137 women around the world are killed by a partner or family member

every day. The report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that 87,000 women were killed in 2017. Of these, approximately 30,000 women were killed by an intimate partner and another 20,000 by a relative. This amounts to six women being killed every hour by people they know, the report

said. It was released Sunday to coincide with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Dowry and so called honor killings were among the reasons cited. "While the vast majority of homicide victims are men, women continue to pay the highest price as a result of gender inequality, discrimination and negative stereotypes…They are also the most likely to be killed by intimate partners and family,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said in a statement that accompanied the report. Neha Sharad Chaudry was 18-years-old when she was killed in a suspected “honor” killing, according to the BBC. She was killed on her 18th birthday

after going out to celebrate with her boyfriend. Her family did not approve of the relationship. Africa and the Americas were the regions where women are most at risk of being killed by intimate partners or family members, the study found. In Africa, the rate was about 3.1 victims per 100,000 women. In the Americas, it was 1.6 victims. The lowest rate was found in Europe, which had 0.7 victims per 100,000 females. In 2017, roughly 82% of victims of homicide perpetrated by intimate partners or family members were female. The corresponding figure for men: 18%. The majority of male victims are killed by strangers.






Always Winter, Never Christmas: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER


ell, not quite, but this quote from a popular children’s book sums up my feelings as the results of the recent presidential runoff become clear. Actually, winter held off for much longer than usual this year, with possibly permanent snow bucketing down only now as I write. Yesterday it was partly rain, and the night’s forecast temperature wasn’t even in the minuses. So even this snow might not last. But some local men came to the shop just after dark and among their other purchases acquired some of our biggest fireworks for an anticipated Georgian Dream victory. Sure enough, just before 9 pm we saw the things blasting off into the sky despite the mild rain, and this, if nothing else, brought a few minutes of pleasure in the night. I was very ambivalent about the elections, feeling similarly to another event in which I couldn’t vote for the same reason of not being a citizen: the USA presidential elections of a couple of years ago. Then, too, the question in my mind was, which of these two candidates and parties will do the least harm? Here, both are former Georgian foreign ministers; she is a few years older, was born in France, and is backed by the currently reigning Georgian Dream party which formed expressly to take out its opponent. He, for the Nationalists, promised to pardon self-exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili of his waiting six-year jail term, and this presumably would also involve somehow getting him

back into the country and then into power. The media campaigns in the interim period between the two elections were filled with furious, bitter mudslinging, to the extent that Georgian TV became unwatchable. The first election featured many unknown candidates, some apparently fake, but boiled down to these two. How could she win when many of that election’s candidates vowed to cast their own and direct all their people’s votes

for him? But she did, by much more than the >1% margin of that multi-candidate event. My neighbor told me of a new tampering tactic: offer to borrow people’s personal ID card for a sum of money over the period of the election. One could not vote without it, you see; instead of buying votes, they were buying non-participation, despite the huge number of neutral TV ads urging all to vote. He also said that the corruption which began

to return during Saakashvili’s second term has flourished greatly during the GD party’s first try at office, leaving us much worse off than before. This makes our time now seem like the calm before the storm. Svaneti was a gangster haven, much too dangerous for casual tourists to dare entering, when I first began visiting; blissfully unaware of just who had my back until Saakashvili sent 10 helicopters to take him out in the village where I now live. That is a story

in itself, waiting for its day and permission to be told. How did the previous, Soviet-era tourist paradise which the province had certainly been degenerate into that? I wasn’t here for the period, so I only have locals’ memories to go on, which I should. I very much hope that I won’t have to see it happen all over again, as a resident, not a visitor. Not by dying first, but simply by its not happening at all. My grave has a location here already, but what’s the hurry? Nor do I hope that we will simply be hounded out, survive but lose everything we have worked for here, along with everyone else. Etseri and many other villages only had houses for us to consider buying because so many of them had been abandoned. People had left an unbearable life. Please, not again. More: that same neighbor was at a local election station on election day. The ladies in charge were proclaiming that they would simply vote for whoever gave them the most money. He then retold a scene from the film series of Data Tutashkhia. A group of men are having a supra (feast), being served by a woman. One of them offers her money to disrobe for them. She refuses, but he slowly ups the ante, until her price is met and she takes off her clothes for them. Parallel much? Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1900 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

Book on Aliyah to be Released in Georgian gins and development of Aliyah in this region even more interesting and intriguing. That person is Itsik Moshe, President of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business and the founder and Chair of Israeli House. The book informs readers about the role of Georgia in the inception of Aliyah, how the first Sokhnut (Jewish Agency for Israel, JAFI) representation was created within the USSR, and the impact it had on the development of the Hasbara Fellowship. The book will give the opportunity for Georgian booklovers to discover more about the surrounding events and the solicitude of people towards their country within and beyond its borders which often constituted swimming against the tides, extraordinary acts and even coercive diplomacy. But in the end, all were triggered by an interminable



book dedicated to Aliyah will be released in December in the Georgian language. ‘Penetrating the Soviet Union’ reflects previously unknown facts about one of the most significant events in the contem-

porary history of Israel: Aliyah. The historical narratives presented in the book are based on the stories of direct witnesses and participants of the processes of that time. The memoirs of a person who, at the age of 29, managed to go beyond ‘the Iron Curtain’, reach the USSR, prepare the grounds for Aliyah and produce such an environ, which remains the primary bond of Israel with the post-Soviet states today, make the description of the ori-

and unconditional love for the motherland. One part of the edition is dedicated to the activities of ‘Israeli House’. The actions of this organization in its pilot country, Georgia, have been diverse and include the lobbying of the interests of Israel. Israeli House has had a positive influence on Georgia’s position in the international arena in terms of affairs related to Israel, especially when placed in comparison with other CIS states. Despite the fact that Georgia is a small country, with a sparse Jewish population, it has become an important ‘greenhouse’ for the development of Zionist initiatives, including Aliyah and Hasbara methods. Within the framework of the 30th anniversary of Aliyah, next year the book

Giorgi Khoshtaria, Simcha Dinitz, Itsik Moshe, Baruch Gur

will be published in English and Hebrew. But before that, the book will be presented in Georgian in December of this year. The presentation of the book will be attended by the official delegation of Israel.

ABOUT ALIYAH Aliyah is the immigration of diaspora Jews to the Land of Israel. For much of Jewish history, most Jews have lived in diaspora communities where aliyah was developed as a national aspiration, although it was not usually fulfilled until the development of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, more than 3 million Jews have moved to Israel. As of 2014, Israel and adjacent territories contain 42.9% of the world's Jewish population.






TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 04 56 December 1, 2 GORDA David Toradze Ballet in two Acts Choreography by Vakhtang Chabukiani Choreographic version and staging by Nina Ananiashvili Libretto by Vakhtang Chabukiani and Otar Egadze Start time: December 1- 19:00, December 2- 14:00 Ticket: 10-50 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER 27 Rustaveli Ave. November 30 SHAKESPEARE SONNETS Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL December 1 KRIMANCHULI Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. TEL (+995 32) 298 65 93 November 30 MARSHAL DE FANTE’S DIAMOND Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL December 1 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL December 2 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL December 6 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL

MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 234 80 90 December 4 WELCOME TO GEORGIA 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. Musical Language: English, some Georgian With English subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50-80 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995) 598 19 29 36 November 30 PARADISO Directed by Irakli Khoshtaria Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL December 1 Premiere THE TEMPEST Based on William Shakespeare’s play Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL December 2 THE STORY OF A MURDERER Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL December 6 INTRO Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA 36 Kostava Str. TEL (+995 32) 299 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL November 30-December 6 ROBIN HOOD Directed by Otto Bathurst Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn Genre: Action, Adventure Language: English Start time: 22:00 Language: Russian Start time: 17:15, 19:40 Ticket: 13-15 GEL SUSPIRIA Directed by Luca Guadagnino Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Doris Hick Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

Language: English Start time: 22:00 Language: Russian Start time: 19:40 Ticket: 15 GEL RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET Directed by Phil Johnston, Rich Moore Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 16:45 Ticket: 14 GEL FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD Directed by David Yates Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy Language: English Start time: 13:45 Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 12-14 GEL BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Directed by Bryan Singer Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers Genre: Biography, Drama, Music Language: English Start time: 19:00 Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 12-15 GEL CAVEA GALLERY 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 200 70 07 Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL November 30-December 6 WIDOWS Directed by Steve McQueen Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 13:15 Ticket: 11:15 GEL ROBIN HOOD (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 20:00 Language: Russian Start time: 17:30, 19:45, 22:30 Ticket: 13-15 GEL SUSPIRIA (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 16:15 Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-19 GEL RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (info Above)

Language: English Start time: 11:45, 17:00 Ticket: 10-16 GEL FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 13:15, 16:30, 19:30, 22:00 Language: Russian Start time: 13:30, 22:30 Ticket: 11-19 GEL BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 22:15 Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-19 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 STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 298 22 81 November 29 – January 20 Georgian National Museum in the framework of the Project “Contemporary Art Gallery” presents SOLO EXHIBITION OF LIA BAGRATIONI A MAD TEA-PARTY MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION Discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Sovietera cultural and political repression in Georgia. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 October 9 – January 17 (2019) NIKO PIROSMANI’S RENEWED EXHIBITION October 10 – October 5 (2019) EXHIBITION MASTERS OF GEORGIAN ART Paintings of Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili and Elene Akhvlediani together with Lado Gudiashvili's and David Kakabadze, giving a comprehensive picture of the diversity and aesthetics of Georgian Art. MUSIC

NEWON MUSIC FESTIVAL Tbilisi Night Time Economy project Elektrowerk, 2 Monk Gabriel Salosi I Turn

ELEKTROWERK November 30 Line up: TAMARA, OIMACTTA, GACHA, JORJICK, BEDFORD FALLS, YGL KILLAGES, MOKU MOKU, KORDZ Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20-30 GEL 1 December Line up: MINDSTREAMING, NIKAKOI, TUSIA BERIDZE, KILLAGES, MOKU MOKU, KORDZ Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20-30 GEL KELLER BAR 36 Merab Kostava Str. December 1 JINO DOLLINI, DARIA ZET Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 10 GEL CAFE MZIURI Mziuri Park, Vake December 2 SAKVIRAO Entertainment program for children Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 13 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov St. TEL (+995 32) 2 93 46 24 December 3 GIACOMO PUCCINI LA BOHEME Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa Acts III and IV Orchestra of the Opera Studio Staging Conductor– Papuna Ghvaberidze Staging Director- Maia Gachechiladze Staging Artist- Neiko Neidze Piano- T. Alavidze, N. Leshkasheli, E. Chinchaladze Manager of the Opera Studio- Irina Ramishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-10 GEL December 6 #COMETOTHEATER - LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL Charity concert To help Ani Mamulashili, Qeti Qarumidze and Mariam Qurxuli The royal national ballet ‘Potskhishvilebi’, Ensemble ‘Georgian Voices’, ‘Alilo’ and ‘Theatrical Quartet’ Start time: 19:30 Tickets: 10-50 GEL TBILISI BAROQUE FESTIVAL Rustaveli Theater December 1, 2, 3 Premiere FOLIA Music by Antonio Vivaldi, Francesco Geminiani, Andrea Falconieri Project idea: Tbilisi State Chamber Orchestra– ‘Georgian Sinfonietta’ Original idea of the ballet and choreography by Mariam Aleksidze, Company Artistic Director– Mariam Aleksidze Artistic Director– Giorgi Kerelashvili Mikheil Abramishvili (countertenor) Étienne Galletier (theorbo, baroque guitar) Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL





Exhibition of History of Lithuanian Jews Held at Museum of Georgian-Jewish Relations in Tbilisi BY LIKA CHIGLADZE


n November 27, the David Baazov Museum of History of the Jews of Georgia and Georgian-Jewish Relations in Tbilisi hosted an exhibition named Fragments from the History of Lithuanian Jews. The event was organized on the initiative of the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to Georgia as part of the events marking the 100th Anniversary of gaining back independence. The exhibition was opened by Giedrius Puodžiunas, Ambassador of Lithuania, Givi Gambashidze, Director of the Georgian-Jewish Museum and Markas Zingeris, Director of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, which provided photographs for the exhibition. The exhibition presents around 46 photos unveiling important moments from the history Lithuanian Jews from cultural, economic, architectural and religious perspectives. The display will remain in Tbilisi until mid-December. The David Baazov Museum of History of Jews of Georgia is the principal museum of Jewish history and culture in Tbilisi, established on November 30, 1932 as a departmental organization within the framework of the cultural base of Jewish workers. “We wanted to share part of the Lithuanian history that is very important to us,” Ambassador of Lithuania to Georgia Giedrius Puodžiunas said. “Vilnius is a very important city in Jewish history, yet almost all cities in Lithuania have a Jewish community. Our nations coexisted

peacefully until the Second World War. The Second World War changed the situation dramatically and, unfortunately, some Lithuanians took part in shameful activities, yet we also saw many examples of heroism, when a number of Lithuanians sacrificed their lives to help Jewish people. We cannot change the past, but we can make a future and now we are rediscovering many things in our history. After 50 years of Soviet rule, we are discovering and analyzing the richness of our historical past and the richness of the history of the Jews in Lithuania,” he noted. The exhibition was attended by the ambassadors of Japan, Greece, Germany, Brazil, the EU and a representative of the US Embassy to Georgia, as well as high officials and local Georgian Jews. All the ambassadors delivered speeches, expressing their respect to Jewish people around the world. The EU Ambassador to Georgia, Carl Hartzell, together with his colleagues, expressed his happiness at being invited to the exhibition and went on to emphasize the importance of such exhibitions in helping us to remember the past and have a clearer view of the future. “I recalled how active Georgian Jews were during soviet times and how they protested and acted together with Lithuanian and Latvian Jews shoulder-toshoulder to win the right to travel and emigrate, part of universal human rights,” Zingeris told GEORGIA TODAY. “Our museum suggested the Lithuanian Embassy in Tbilisi make an exhibition featuring moments from history of Lithuanian Jews composed from unique photographs depicting various periods of their lives. The exhibition proceeded in

two stages, the first exhibition held under the patronage of the Lithuanian Embassy was ‘Jews Behind the Iron Curtain,’ about the Jewish struggle for identity under the soviet regime. Now we present 46 photos brought from our museum. It’s a random collection, but randomness also shows uniqueness. We have many more such photographs in different cities of Lithuania and also in the Lithuanian state archive. We do travelling exhibitions because we consider education and dialogue with present day students and the new generation a very important part of our work,” he added. GEORGIA TODAY also talked to Prof. Givi Gambashidze. “On the initiative of Embassy of Lithuania, we hosted an exhibition dedicated to the Lithuanian Jews for the second time already. Last year the exhibition focused on the World War two Holocaust

in Lithuania. Around nine of every ten of the Jewish population were massacred during that period. So the first exhibition was very dramatic and emotional,” he told us. “This time, the Embassy and Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum presented an interesting exhibition featuring the history and lives of Jewish Lithuanians from the 1910 to present, showcasing their cultural and architectural heritage as well as aspects of human life in religious, social and economic spheres. Lithuania stands out for its history of Jews. From the late 19th century, Vilnius represented one of the largest Jewish centers in Europe. Its Jewish influence has led to it being described as the ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania.’ It is also known as the ‘Jerusalem of the North.’ As a Georgian, I’m happy we also have the expression the ‘Jerusalem of Mtkheta, but in a different context: the city of

Mtskheta is special since it is the burial site of Christ's mantle,” he noted. “Each of the attending ambassadors recalled the mistakes that were made by humanity in the past and emphasized the importance of learning from our mistakes. Remembering such moments in history is always important in order to avoid future mistakes. Although the 20th century saw the biggest cruelty against Jewish people, in other epochs in many countries anti-Semitism movements were also widespread. Not only were six million Jews sacrificed, but their offspring as well, since they could not give birth to future generations. It was a really huge loss for the entire world, since the Jewish nation has always been known for its talented and intelligent personalities. As a Georgian man, I’m happy that in my country we have never supported anti-Semitism, and have always respected other nations and their values. Even today it is so,” the museum director remarked. The David Baazov Museum of History of the Jews of Georgia was first restored in 1992 and later in 2013, giving birth to new life at the venue. Since then, besides hosting a variety of exhibitions, the museum has served as a hub for cultural exchange and friendship in Georgia. In this regard, in 2018, the Georgian government granted the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage to the Georgian-Jewish friendship history, which counts over 26 centuries. According Gambashidze, the museum is working to present a document about the history of GeorgianJewish relations to UNESCO in 2019, hoping this fact will receive recognition from UNESCO at the international level.

Georgian Wrestling - Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Source, Image source: Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia



he Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage will hold its annual meeting for the 13th time from 26 November to 1 December in Port Louis, Mauritius. The inscription of Georgian Wrestling (Chidaoba) on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity will be examined

on November 28. The 13th annual meeting will be attended by the Georgian delegation, represented by the Director of the National Agency for Cultural Preservation of Georgia, Nikoloz Antidze, Chief Coordinator of the International Relations Unit of the same agency, Manana Vardzelashvili, the Secretary-General of the Georgian National Commission for UNESCO, Ketevan Kandelaki and the President of the National Wrestling Federation of Georgia, Gela Beruashvili. In 2014, the National Agency for Cul-



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tural Preservation of Georgia granted Georgian Wrestling the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In 2016, according to the resolution of the Prime Minister, Georgian Wrestling was bestowed with the national category. Afterwards, the given issue was sent to UNESCO, with the objective of inscription of Georgian Wrestling on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Wrestling is the ancient type of sport, which is widespread in Georgia. The wrestling scene on the Alaverdi wall represents it as one of the oldest types of sports practiced in Georgia. The faces of the characters of the scene, their clothes and manners of their movement indicate the traditional Georgian wrestling art. Religious festivals were accompanied by such competitions. Due to this fact, Georgian Wrestling is an expression of the identity of the Georgian nation. Georgian Wrestling includes almost 200 stratagems and maneuvers, and is classified in six principal fields. Music is an unalienable part of Georgian Wrestling. The list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO also includes the following elements: Georgian Polyphonic singing (2001) and Living culture of three writing systems of the Georgian alphabet (2016).

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

Image source: Facebook

Presentation at Art Palace: ‘Art of Georgia 1918-1920’ BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


n November 28, Art Palace hosted the launch of a book named ‘Art of Georgia 1918-1920’. The bilingual catalogue of 300 pages was produced by Art Palace within the framework of the 100th anniversary of the Independent Republic of Georgia with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Georgia. ‘Art of Georgia 1918-1920’ comprises unique archive material taken from the press of the Independent Republic of Georgia, which clearly represents the

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pure Georgian spirit and culture of those times. 72 outstanding pieces retelling the stories of creation of the first Georgian operas and film were collected for the book, accompanied by a number of photos, sketches and manuscripts. The launch was attended by the Minister of Culture and Sport of Georgia, Mikheil Batiasvhili, and the independent candidate for the Presidential Elections, Salome Zurabishvili. Citing the examples presented in the book, Zuarbishvili in her speech focused on the significance of the freedom and independence of the spirit, as well as the ability to reveal talent and create something new, important and memorable.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1105  

November 30 - December 3, 2018

Issue #1105  

November 30 - December 3, 2018