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Issue no: 909

• DEC. 30 - JAN. 9, 2016-17

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Reserved Parking for Electric Taxes, Free Top-Ups NEWS PAGE 2

Interview: Stephen Jones POLITICS PAGE 4

Armenia: Caught between a Rock and a Hard Place POLITICS PAGE 6

Imedi TV to Buy Maestro & GDS TV Companies BUSINESS PAGE 9

Karajala Village School Bans Hijabs

FOCUS ON EDUCATION REFORMS

Alexander Jejelava, Minister of Education and Science of Georgia

The plans are revealed for the new year

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UNICEF & Bulgarian Embassy in Georgia Establish New Center for Children with Disabilities BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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n December 23, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Bulgarian Embassy in Georgia and UNICEF to establish a day care center for children with disabilities in Borjomi. Set to open in the summer of 2017, this will be the only such center in the whole region of Samtskhe-Javakheti. The Bulgarian government will provide funding, while UNICEF will work on the concept of the day care center, renovate and equip the building, provide technical assistance in the provision of care for children with disabilities and build the capacities of the professionals working with the children. The center will be established in partnership with local NGO Together for Real Change and the McLain Association for Children which will provide specific services for the children with disabilities. There are in total 24 centers in big cities throughout the country, nowhere near enough

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding: Laila Omar Gad, UNICEF Rep. to Georgia, and Dessilava Ivanova, Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to Georgia

to meet the needs of children with disabilities and their families. Children with disabilities in Georgia are among the most vulnerable groups in society and have the right to be protected and to develop. All children in need and their families should have access to necessary services.

The Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs will provide state vouchers to run the day care center and the building will be allocated by the Ministry of Economy. The center will also be supported by the Municipality of Borjomi and will be able to work with 65 children. “Bulgaria and Georgia enjoy excellent relations and Bulgaria continues to be a committed partner. I am glad that, somewhat as a Christmas present, we are signing this agreement, which is addressing one of the most vulnerable groups in society - children with disabilities. I've been in touch with families in Borjomi and know first hand how needed this project is," said Dessilava Ivanova, Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to Georgia. This is the second largest project Bulgaria has supported in Georgia, along with the joint Bulgarian- Georgian - US project on food safety. USD 140,000 of the USD 280,000 is provided by Bulgaria in the framework of its Development Cooperation Policy, while the US side provides financing under the umbrella of the Emerging Donors Challenge Fund, a US State Department initiative in support of the transition to democracy and market economy in countries in South Eastern Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia.

SOCIETY PAGE 14

Gallery Vanda Pays Tribute to Malevich’s “Black Square” Anniversary CULTURE PAGE 16

David the Builder’s Testament & New Exhibits of Medieval Treasury at National Museum CULTURE PAGE 17

“A Photo for Goderdzi Ski Resort” Contest Announced CULTURE PAGE 19


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

President Pardons 175 Prisoners before New Year Reserved Parking for Electric Taxis, Free Top-Ups BY NATIA LIPARTELIANI

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n order to promote the use of electric vehicles in Tbilisi, parking spots for electric taxis will be specially reserved and the recharge process will be free said Head of the Municipal Department of Transport, Mamuka Mumladze. “On December 26, City Hall made the important decision to apply a number of changes to Tbilisi parking regulations,” Mumladze said. “Special parking

spaces have been chosen for electric taxis needing to be charged while the charging process itself will be free.” He also noted that there are currently around 50 electric vehicles in Tbilisi. Two companies have already expressed the desire to provide an electro-taxi service. “Various companies have already come to us asking us to help them pick a location in order to assist them provide Electro Taxi services to passengers. Company Gino Paradise has already applied to City Hall with a desire to lease parking spaces, as has ‘m2’,” Mumladze confirmed.

BY THEA MORRISON

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resident Margvelashvili has granted amnesty to 175 inmates. The head of the pardoning commission, Zviad Koridze, said that only 122 of those will actually leave the prisons at this point, while the other 53 will likely have their sentences reduced. Among the pardoned prisoners are 14 women, 12 of whom will leave prison immediately and two of whom will be granted reduced sentences. Koridze said the President believes that the inmates should be given the opportunity to start new lives. The decision was made during the Pardoning Commission’s December session, held between the 13th and 20th. A total of 1142 cases were discussed. The president’s pardoning commission is composed of ten people. Members are mostly lawyers from the civil sector and public figures, alongside the Public Defender and the Georgian Patriarchate. The commission discusses all cases sent before it by inmates or their families, and makes the initial decision as

to which prisoners seem to deserve a pardon. That list is then sent to the President for approval.

The President himself is the only person authorized to grant pardons in Georgia.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

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Georgia’s Gov’t Launches Education System Reform BY THEA MORRISON

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he Government of Georgia has announced details of its education system reform plans, one of the components of the governmental Four-Point Plan, which refers to new tax benefits, infrastructure plans, governance reforms and an overhaul of the education system. The Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Alexander Jejelava, presented the primary directions of the reforms to the Prime Minister, government officials, diplomatic corps, as well as to international and non-governmental organizations. The Minister said that the reform would include all directions of education: general, vocational, higher education and science. He underlined that in order to achieve the goals set for vocational and higher education, schools needed to be interesting and modern. “The Ministry of Education needs to increase the quality of education and develop critical and independent thinking amongst our youth. Free lessons will serve that purpose.” “The textbooks and educational programs will be updated and revised. We will integrate modern technologies into the educational process. In order to bring up a healthy and harmonious youth, it is also important to have more sports and art activities at schools,” he added.

Moreover, Jejelava pointed out that nowadays the professions obtained in the vocational colleges were the most-in demand by employers. He said the vocational colleges would offer a variety of programs (including dual vocational education), training and retraining with full state funding, to citizens of all ages. “A large portion of the work-based learning, dual education, will be based on enterprises, where the students will be able to work simultaneously with

study. Potential employers are also to be involved in the process, in conjunction with setting a minimum wage,” the Minister stated. Jejelava claimed that there are 37 vocational institutions and 10 service centers functioning in Georgia. In 2017, two service centers are scheduled to open in Khobi and Stepantsminda. “In order to better link education and the Georgian economy, the government will offer higher education to students,

oriented towards employment and country development.” He also stated that universities would prepare specialists in-demand in the fields of: entrepreneurship, construction, business, agriculture, politics, civic sector, sports, arts, and science. Additionally, the government is to fund the priority professions, those in-demand by employers. The best Georgian students will receive international diplomas. Furthermore, Jejelava is confident that

Georgia can become the topmost center for education, research and science in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the CIS. “The new Kutaisi Technology University project, ‘Study in Georgia,’ will serve exactly this purpose. Within the scope of this project, English speaking international programs will be implemented to attract foreign students, and more Georgian students will have the capability to participate in exchange programs,” he said, adding that the commercialization of science would happen and young Georgian scientists/innovators would have the opportunity to pitch their ideas commercially. “This approach will encourage those Georgian scientists working abroad to return home. As a result, all the above will help economic development in Georgia,” he concluded. Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili also delivered a speech at the presentation of the reform, reiterating that education was a top priority for the government. The PM underlined that the reform would see education in Georgia being based on advanced technologies, with access to superior quality education increased in rural areas of the country, the professional development of teachers, and healthy lifestyles made priorities. "Georgia will transform into a regional hub of science, research and education. We have all the resources and potential to make it happen,” the PM said.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

Interview: Stephen Jones BY JOSEPH LARSEN, GEORGIAN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS

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rofessor Stephen F. Jones is a leading western scholar on Georgia and the South Caucasus. His 2012 book Georgia: A Political History Since Independence is widely viewed as an authoritative text on Georgia’s recent history. He has also briefed the US State Department and a number of US ambassadors to Georgia. Professor Jones was kind enough to sit down with us this December and answer questions on a number of topics including the 2016 parliamentary elections, the impact of Brexit and the Donald Trump victory on Georgia’s foreign policy ambitions, and the lessons we can learn from Georgia’s independence from the Russian Empire nearly a century ago.

THE ELECTIONS WERE WIDELY ASSESSED TO BE FAIR BY OUTSIDE OBSERVERS. HOWEVER, TURNOUT WAS LESS THAN 52 PERCENT. GEORGIAN DREAM (GD) WON A HUGE MAJORITY EVEN THOUGH ONLY ABOUT 25 PERCENT OF THE ELIGIBLE ELECTORATE VOTED FOR THEM. CAN WE VIEW THIS OUTCOME POSITIVELY? Elections are always complicated affairs and they are not always about exercising your democratic right. In this particular case, the elections were conducted reasonably fairly although the result was skewed. The turnout was low, which suggests frustration and disillusion among the Georgian population. Many voters were simply confused about whom to vote for and exhausted by the overly long electoral campaign. Parties weren’t clear about their electoral programs. Much of the discussion leading up the elections was about personal differences; polemical without being informative. In that sense, the elections didn’t connect with the Georgian population and its needs. I was surprised, listening to the debates, not to hear more about housing, health, and employment. These are the things at the top of the list of Georgians’ concerns, but the parties did not address them. It reflects a continuing disconnect between the parties and the electorate. More positively, the number of women and ethnic minorities elected to parliament went up.

YOU WROTE “THE GROWING NORM OF OLIGARCHIC ELECTIONS ARE DOMINATED BY THE CONCERNS OF ‘ENLIGHTENED ELITES’ AND THE PROFESSIONAL OBFUSCATIONS OF PR MANAGERS.” HOW DID THIS CHARACTERIZATION FIT THE GEORGIAN ELECTIONS?

The elections reflect a deep problem: a continuing chasm between the Georgian elite and the Georgian population. Parties have no roots in Georgian society. This isn’t entirely their fault; it is caused in large part by the fragmentation of postSoviet Georgian society. There aren’t social groups and constituencies that identify with one party or another. Georgians have become politically fragmented which explains why parties come and go. Parties don’t help themselves; they don’t have effective internal democratic mechanisms, which are important for maintaining accountability to their constituents. The parties live in the parliamentary sphere and don’t have the organizational capacity, the political will, or the culture for maintaining contacts with the grassroots outside of the electoral cycle. The National Movement (UNM) is probably the exception, but it seems most successful in mobilizing members for protest, which is not necessarily the best way to ensure influence over the long term. Parties are very active during election time, but aren’t effective as representatives between elections. Democracy, or political accountability, is something that must happen between elections too.

YOU’VE DESCRIBED THE TWO MAJOR PARTIES, THE UNM AND GD, AS REPRESENTING “IRRECONCILABLE POLITICAL STYLES AND VISIONS,” REFERENCING THE UNM’S PREFERENCE FOR RAPID REFORM AS COMPARED TO THE MORE INCREMENTAL APPROACH OF GD. The UNM is a party associated with rapid political change under [Mikheil]

The elections reflect a deep problem: a continuing chasm between the Georgian elite and the Georgian population. Parties have no roots in Georgian society

tation of power will lead to corruption in the broadest terms, to political stagnation and to a dominant party willing to ignore important lessons and mistakes. This is what Disraeli meant. A weak institutional or political opposition gives the dominant party enough rope to hang itself—politically, I mean. I would not be surprised to see, if in the next couple of years the economic situation does not improve, big protests in the street against a very unpopular government. Let’s see what this government can do, but don’t anticipate too much.

Saakashvili. There are changes going on in the party; we’ve seen new divisions. Younger faces in the UNM are looking for a different approach, one that does not include the charismatic style of Saakashvili. That is an indication of growing maturity. On the other hand, I was disappointed with the opening debates in parliament where there was an opportunity to set a new tone. The UNM missed the chance to represent itself as an opposition able to engage in concrete and practical ways to improve the Georgian population’s situation. Instead, it was the usual polemical battle over personalities and leaders. GD is more moderate in style, though in substance I don’t see much difference with the UNM anymore, but it is eclectic without a clear political personality. We really don’t know what kind of party it is yet after the change of guard in October. It’s pro-western, no doubt about that, but what does that mean concretely in terms of a domestic reform program that will improve ordinary people’s lives and the government’s own legitimacy? Prime Minister Kvirikashvili’s four-point program for economic growth and political reform includes, vitally, emphases on infrastructure and improvements in governance. But the proof is in the pudding, as the English say. We will have to see whether that will be reflected in legislation or in effective implementation. The biggest problem for GD is the temptation that comes with its enormous power over the political system where every political victory could in the end turn out to be a defeat.

DO YOU THINK THE UNM COULD BECOME A CONSTRUCTIVE OPPOSITION PARTY? TO WHAT EXTENT ARE THEY HELPED, OR HURT, BY SAAKASHVILI’S REFUSAL TO STEP OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT? The UNM has the potential to be more

constructive. That’s the intent among younger members of the party, perhaps. Such a change would be very positive for Georgia, because the polemical battles in parliament resemble the chaos of television debates and undermine the engagement of the Georgian population in the democratic process. The UNM is right to point out that the shadow power of Ivanishvili is a significant flaw in Georgia’s representative democracy, it was even more the case under Saakashvili’s charismatic leadership, but this sort of focus is not going to have much impact on the UNM’s political future. There are other issues beyond the big personalities of Saakashvili and Ivanishvili. There are urgent and serious structural economic, political and security problems that Georgia needs to attend to.

SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED THAT GD HAS A CONSTITUTIONAL MAJORITY? SHOULD THE PARTY ITSELF BE WARY OF OVERREACHING AND WEARING OUT ITS WELCOME, LIKE THE UNM DID DURING ITS LAST FEW YEARS IN OFFICE? Benjamin Disraeli declared that any effective government needs a strong opposition; a very wise observation. One of the problems in Georgia is the lack of institutional controls over dominant parties. There is a pattern of powerful single parties in Georgian politics which keeps returning despite interludes of pluralism. That’s not always troubling; it occurs in other countries such as Japan, and the US elections have just delivered single party dominance over the executive legislature, and through the power of appointment of Supreme Court judges, possibly at the top of the judicial system, too. In Georgia, what is important at times like this is the ability of institutional structures, the media and civil society to monitor and resist one-party dominance. In this situation, the temp-

THE LIBERAL, PRO-WESTERN PARTIES, THE FREE DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS WHO WERE PART OF THE GD COALITION BEFORE LEAVING IN 2014 AND 2016, RESPECTIVELY, FAILED TO GET INTO THE NEW PARLIAMENT. THEY’VE ESSENTIALLY BEEN REPLACED BY THE PATRIOTS ALLIANCE. WHAT ARE THE LIKELY SHORTTERM OUTCOMES OF THIS DEVELOPMENT, AND WHAT ARE THE BROADER IMPLICATIONS? One of the outcomes of these elections was the loss of the liberal center. United, the Republicans and the Free Democrats might have passed that 5% barrier. It was a problem brought on by the parties themselves. But it goes deeper than that, I suspect. Georgia is still a traditional society where liberalism has shallow roots. Outsiders come to Tbilisi, watch television, hang out in the bars, listen to educated youth, and think the political scene is very Western. But Tbilisi is not Georgia. It is worth noting that in Europe too, liberalism, if we interpret this as tolerance and the support of social justice, is not a universal or natural phenomenon either. Georgia reflects, in many ways, a deep and complicated transition of values, and a continuing struggle between tradition and modernization. Like the Europeans, Georgians are also reacting to what they perceive as the threats of globalization. The dramatic consequence of the elections, of course, was the disintegration of the Republicans and Free Democrats. Davit Usupashvili is now seeking an alternative political form, one that may combine liberalism with a better understanding of how to represent and incorporate popular concerns and values. This might be the answer. The Republicans, unfortunately, became too obsessed with their own navel. The Patriots Alliance barely got into parliament. I think its threat value, as “pro-Russian” is overrated. That is not why people supported them. They raise important social and economic issues that the other two parties tend to ignore. That is why they succeeded. Continued on page 5


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

Apathy, Monkeys & Roosters: People Should Stop Blaming the Animals

Interview: Stephen Jones Continued from page 4

OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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ccording to the Chinese calendar the Year of the Monkey is followed by the Year of the Rooster. Astrologers warn us that the lies, scandals and conflicts of a fire monkey will be replaced with the swagger, arrogance and aggression of a rooster. Apparently, we will have to continue being highly cautious in 2017, as we were the year before. In short, we shouldn’t hope for anything better in the coming year, especially when the main political event of the coming Rooster year will be elections, just as it was in the Monkey’s 2016. The local elections will be held in October, while the main political battles are expected beforehand. However,

as this year’s post-parliamentary-electoral period revealed, events are developing in a direction which could lead to the Georgian Dream being without a single competitor next autumn. And the reason will be simple: there will be no organized political power left in the country. After their failure in the parliamentary elections, Georgia’s pro-European political wing has completely disappeared from the radars. Some of their leaders simply left politics, others the country, while some decided to reach an agreement with the government. The United National Movement remains the one and only opposit i o n a l p owe r, though the ongoing internal controversy in the ex-governmental party is like a loaded gun. And this process further enhances the unfortunate prediction that in October the political pitch will be completely clear for the current government. Continued on page 9

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HOW ARE GEORGIA’S AMBITIONS AFFECTED BY POLITICAL TRENDS IN WESTERN EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA, THE MOST OBVIOUS EXAMPLES BEING THE VICTORY OF DONALD TRUMP IN THE UNITED STATES AND THE INWARD TURNS IN BRITAIN AND FRANCE? The EU still exists, though it will become less engaged with its neighborhood should the swing to the populist right continue. There will be less money and less commitment to the aspirations of democratic neighbors like Georgia. The Great Experiment has failed in part because, like Georgia’s parties, European technocrats don’t listen and are not accountable. However, the change for Georgia will come slowly. Populism cannot solve Europe’s problems either, so within four years, these il-liberals may also be out. The real danger, as I see it, is Europe’s simple-minded approach to Russia. It is quite astonishing to see how naïve European leaders still are after what has happened in the last 25 years (Transnistria, Georgia, Ukraine). Donald Trump belongs to that camp. His new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has had close relations with Putin, and Trump believes he can cut deals with him [Putin]. He doesn’t believe, like the CIA does, that Putin had anything to do with the

hacking of US party institutions. This is not good for Georgia. One can only hope the Republican Congress is more realistic, along with a US State Department and US intelligence community that’s aware of the dangers of a country that brazenly interferes in US elections. Russia has always done that to its neighbors, but Putin is becoming more confident; he can get away with anything as long as he faces no resistance. He learned from Lenin who declared, “when you stick the bayonet in, push as long as you encounter mush, and only pull back when you hit something hard.”

YOU DO A LOT OF RESEARCH ON THE FIRST GEORGIAN REPUBLIC, WHICH LASTED FROM 1918 TO 1921. WHAT ARE THE LESSONS OF GEORGIA’S EXPERIENCE DURING THOSE YEARS THAT ARE STILL USEFUL TO US TODAY? History always has lessons to teach us, though we don’t always listen or observe. I am working on the first republic now, and there are at least four issues that

have strong parallels with today: the threat from the North, the inability of Georgia to adequately integrate its national minorities, economic weakness, and trust in Europe’s commitment. The situation is far better than in 1918-21, but the first republic is a reminder of the instabilities that can be brought on by Georgians’ own mistakes and delusions. However, there are positive parallels, which tells us something about Georgians over the last 100 years and why they are so resilient. In 1918, as today, Georgians supported democracy and they fought hard to create a constitutional state. One hopes they can continue on this path and maybe teach some Europeans about the folly of illiberal populism at the same time. The Georgian Institute of Politics was founded in 2011 to strengthen institutions and promote good governance and development through policy research and advocacy in Georgia. It publishes its blog with Georgia Today twice per month. Check out our website in English and Georgian at gip.ge for more blogs, data, and analyses.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

Armenia: Caught between a Rock and a Hard Place BY EUGENE KOGAN

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rmenia remains in a precarious position. It is dependent on Russia and has nowhere else to turn, but at the same time Russia is supplying arms to Armenia’s archenemy Azerbaijan. In addition, the four-day war in NagornoKarabakh in April 2016 clearly exposed the troublesome relations that exist between Armenia and its partners in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Armenian leadership has realized that it must defend its interests and not only look to Moscow or members of the CSTO. Armenia’s financial and military resources are severely limited. Moscow offered a loan to Armenia for the procurement of military equipment, but it took longer than a year to materialize. This left many Armenian citizens with a feeling of resentment and distrust towards their strategic partner, Russia. The display of Russian Iskander SRBMs at a military parade in Yerevan on 21 September 2016 was intended to deter Azerbaijan, but Baku will move quickly to counter that threat. As a result of the Armenian procurement, the arms race in the volatile South Caucasus is accel-

erating. Armenia’s defense budget is about USD 450 million and its army is manned almost 50 : 50 with professional soldiers and conscripts. Armenia’s modest Air Force currently consists of 15 Su-25 combat aircraft (including two Su-25 fighter trainer craft) and 12 Mi-24 helicopters. Serviceability and maintenance of the Su-25 have been a problem for the Air Force – a problem that so far remains unaddressed. Russia has two military facilities in Armenia: the 102nd Military Base in Gyumri and the Erebuni Air Force base in Yerevan. The number of troops stationed at the 102nd Military Base is about 3000, with a further 1 000–2 000 at Erebuni. Since late December 2015, Erebuni has been strengthened by 13 Mi-24s and an unspecified number of Mi-8 transport helicopters. In addition, the Erebuni base received 14 MiG-29s in February 2016. Russia furthermore deployed an unspecified number of Tachyon UAVs to Erebuni. Its build-up in Armenia enhances Russia’s ability to project power in the region towards NATO member Turkey as well as towards NATO aspirant Georgia. The downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber by the Turkish Air Force in November 2015 accelerated the process towards achieving a joint regional air-defense system as a part of the strategic partnership between Armenia and Russia. The fact that the aim is a joint rather than unified system

means that Air Defense and Air Force units of the Armenian Armed Forces remain independent. Armenia’s thenMinister of Defense, Seyran Ohanyan, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, signed an agreement on 23 December 2015, which was ratified by the Armenian Parliament on 30 June 2016. In order to show Armenia that it is indeed a junior partner in that agreement and that the nature of RussianArmenian defense relations is decided by Moscow, President Vladimir Putin submitted the agreement to the Russian Parliament only on 7 October 2016. The Russian Parliament has yet to ratify it. Even then, the air-defense agreement will not apply to Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian and Armenian forces have been jointly protecting Armenia’s airspace since the mid- 1990s. Their integrated air-defense system was given “regional” status by the CSTO in 2007. Therefore, it is not yet clear what additional advantages the 2015 agreement would actually give Armenia in a security sense. Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Moscow-based Center for Military Forecasts, has asserted that Russia’s motive behind the agreement is to contain NATO, as the Alliance is a threat from the Russian perspective. Armenia and its partners in the CSTO do not share a common agenda on the defense of Armenia in the event of an attack by Azerbaijan. Yerevan has placed

its hopes on the CSTO, but in April 2016, at the time of the four-day war in NagornoKarabakh, the organization limited itself to calls to end the fighting. It did not support the Armenian position. On the contrary, Kazakhstan released a statement of neutrality, while Belarus declared that the conflict should be resolved on the basis of international legal principles of territorial integrity, creating bewilderment in Yerevan. The Russian sales of arms to Azerbaijan annoy Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his administration. Prime Minister Dmitryi Medvedev further inflamed tensions when, during a visit to Armenia only days after the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh of April 2016, he reaffirmed Russian plans to continue selling arms to Azerbaijan. Medvedev stressed that this was part of a new policy of Cold War-style deterrence seeking to balance the two sides with Russian weapons. The inability of the Armenian government to pursue an independent policy led to social unrest in late July 2015. What started as a protest against an increase in electricity prices and became known as the “Electric Yerevan” movement turned into a protest against

the regime acting submissively and accepting Moscow’s demands. Indeed, Armenia’s dependence is not restricted to military security. Russia continues to deliver more than 80 percent of the natural gas used by Armenia and is the sole supplier of fuel to the Metsamor nuclear power plant, which produces more than one-third of the country’s electricity. Russia’s Gazprom owns the country’s gas distribution network. Exports to Russia and direct investments from Russia to Armenia fell in 2015, all this having a negative impact on Armenia’s economic growth. Despite Armenia joining the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in January 2015, most Armenians are feeling less secure in economic terms today than they did prior to the country joining the EEU. The domestic social unrest has not yet produced changes in the Armenian political leadership. The grip of Russia on Armenia was further tightened by the establishment of a joint RussianArmenian military unit in November 2016. Neither Russia nor any CSTO partners have ever identified Azerbaijan as a potential threat and that leaves Armenia defending its interests alone.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

7

Doing Things Differently: Ogden on Syria & The Long-Term OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN

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hat 2016 has been the worst year of all time might well be disputed by those who lived through the Black Death and both World Wars, but there has been something to upset everyone this year; a real pick ‘n mix of tragedy, which brought out the best and worst in people. Some were upset by the deaths of beloved celebrities, while others wept over images of the Syrian war, with their friends panicking over the consequences of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. For my part, I cannot really care overmuch about the deaths of celebrities. I will confess to being quite shocked by Carrie Fisher’s sudden passing, although in truth I was more concerned as to how they will now tie in her death to the Star Wars sequels. I am not blessed with the talent to cry over someone I never knew, no matter how much I appreciated their work, and in truth I never cared for the music of David Bowie. Cold? Perhaps so by today’s standards, but I’ll save my sorrow for those close to me, and if every famous man’s death diminishes me, I’d say it diminishes him a damn sight more. Besides which, even if the celebrity lifespan now seems to be twenty years fewer than that of the average man, I’d say their opulent lifestyles and millions in the bank make up for it rather. Nor can I share in the despair over Donald Trump and Brexit. Despite the fact that both will lead to unpredictable

Christmas spirit in Syria. Youssef Karwashan/AFP/Getty

and terrifying consequences, they are also the result of long-term political failures that could have been avoided had political correctness and pandering been replaced by common sense and earnestness. Many times over the last few years I have debated terrorism with millennial pseudo-intellectuals, only to be met with the same patronizing smile and titter of ‘Well, have you ever thought why the perpetrators of these terrible things might feel as they do?’, yet these same

people are incapable of applying the same logic to their own kind. Rather than explore why people might vote for Donald Trump, they prefer to sweep uncomfortable issues aside with knockout-blow accusations such as ‘racist’ or ‘intolerant’. It is Syria that I felt strongest about, not only because the people who have suffered (and are suffering) as a result of the conflict have never had Rickman and Bowie’s millions, and are lumped

into a faceless mass of ‘poor down-trodden migrants’ or ‘fifth column invaders’ depending on your perspective. Syria is the most tragic because the solution was also simple…simple, but not easy. I feel as sorry for those fleeing Syria as far as anyone can, but opening the doors of Europe has not worked. Had the borders remained closed, a wave of terrorist attacks, horrific sexual assaults and violent crimes would never have happened; denying that fact amounts to nothing less than wilful ignorance. After all, a perpetrator cannot commit a crime if he never reaches the crime scene. A simple point simply made, you might think, and I agree; however, I have encountered resistance to the statement of even the most obvious of facts in recent times. The influx of refugees has also only fuelled support for the likes of Donald Trump, an outcome that was entirely predictable. What, then, would I have done differently? How to prevent the EU from internal fighting thanks to the horde of refugees within its borders, some of whom are openly hostile to Western values? How to mollify the right? How to help the people of Syria and appease the left? How to show Russia that it cannot act with impunity? The answer is simple, but purely hypothetical; it is much too late for this, and it would have required the kind of political courage common to the 1940s but rarely found now. Of course, the West was never going to launch a full-scale military campaign in Syria after the unpopular debacles of Afghanistan and Iraq, but doing so could

have stabilized the situation to the extent that even if refugees had made their way to Europe, their numbers would have been far fewer. Perhaps a Cold War-style buffer zone between Russian-backed Assad’s territory and Western areas of control could have been established; difficult, perhaps, but preferable to the split of the EU and the election of Donald Trump, one of which is imminent while the other remains a possibility. Political sparring with Russia is always difficult, and Western powers have been (understandably) reluctant to provoke Moscow’s wrath, especially as a counter show of force might lead to an escalation rather than the Kremlin backing down. However, after Georgia and Ukraine, to say nothing of the snatching of an Estonian security agent from Estonian territory and the frequent airspace violations, one might have thought it time the West realized confronting Russia is a matter of when rather than if. Yet it is possible (although admittedly unlikely) that the Russians could have been cooperated with, at least to some degree. Active humanitarian aid and a military campaign against extremist Islamist groups would likely cost the West more than either Afghanistan or Iraq, as well as burden it with having to govern parts of Syria, which, with its previous meddling in the Middle East it simply does not have the stomach to do. But as awful as the results might have been for a campaign of that magnitude, I wonder if they would have had the same damaging longterm ramifications as recent events surely will.


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POLITICS

Georgia’s Foreign Minister: We Continue a Pragmatic Policy towards Russia

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

George Derlugian

Mikheil Janelidze, Georgian Foreign Minister

BY THEA MORRISON

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eorgia’s Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze, stated on Wednesday that the government continues a constructive and pragmatic policy towards its neighbor Russia. He said that a direct dialogue between the two countries would continue in the format of talks between the Georgian Prime Minister's Special Representative for Relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin. He said that through the AbashidzeKarasin format, the two countries had managed to make certain progress in terms of transport, trade, economy and culture. "This contributes to the peaceful development of the process. Our goal is to provide peace and development on the territories controlled by the Georgian side,” Janelidze said, adding that the priorities of the Georgian government are European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The first meeting between Abashidze and Karasin took place in Geneva on December 14, 2012 and since then the meetings have been held regularly, with the last taking place in October, 2016. Janelidze confirmed that the Georgian side will continue to take part in the

Geneva International Talks. However, he noted that due to Russia’s destructive actions, agreement has yet to be reached. “We raise the issues of Georgia in the frames of various international organizations. The conflict between Georgia and Russia, and its results, are reflected in the documents adopted by international organizations,” the Minister stressed. Furthermore, Raul Khajimba, the defacto President of Georgia’s occupied region Abkhazia, stated at a press-conference that the Geneva International Talks bring no positive results to Abkhazia. “The Geneva discussions do not give anything positive to Abkhazia. However, I believe they are still necessary to allow us to express our position to the international community,” Khajimba said. The International Talks of Geneva were established following the 2008 August War between Georgia and Russia. The Talks are usually co-chaired by representatives from the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Security and CoOperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as delegates from Georgia, Russia and the United States (US), and authorities from de facto Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) regions. Since the August War, the Russian Federation has been in occupation of around 20 percent of Georgian territories, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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US Importance Overestimated in Caucasus: George Derlugian on Russia, US & Regional Dilemmas BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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ecember 20-22 put many an academic and scientist in Tbilisi in a festive mood when Caucasian House, a local NGO focusing on regional dialogue, invited George Derlugian, a world-renowned sociology professor, to Georgia to give three days of public lectures in Tbilisi State University. GEORGIA TODAY, together with Iberia TV’s Panorama Talk Show, was privileged to get an interview with the esteemed scientist and researcher, who has published numerous books and publications on the Caucasus, Post-Soviet space and the Middle East.

THE WORLD IS IN SHOCK FOLLOWING THE ASSASSINATION OF THE RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY, AND EXPERTS AND OPINION-MAKERS HAVE ALREADY SAID THAT THIS INCIDENT WILL FURTHER EMBOLDEN RUSSIA TO CARRY OUT ITS NARRATIVE IN THE REGION. Russia is trying very hard, as it always has. It compensates its economical weaknesses it has been enduring the last 300 years with smart and often very daring maneuvers, by interfering in the areas where the West is too weak or unwilling to play its hand. And while it works to a point, it remains to be seen how long this game will continue. The real question here is about whether the US hegem-

ony will be further diminished, as it has been weakening over the last decade. It’s fair to say that the US left Iraq defeated, defeated by their ambitious plan of continual presence in the Middle-East and transformation of what is the world’s most volatile geopolitical region. That’s what allowed Russia to enter the game and while they’re successful on a short term basis, it remains to be seen whether they are resilient enough for a long-term approach.

even here is quite calculable already. They will support anyone who helps fight their wars and cut costs in this region, be it even the Taliban. If they’re able to put order in Afghanistan, why not? To hell with it! Anyone who helps us forget Afghanistan will become an ally. Israel will get a free hand. This will apply to Russia and many other states, who’ll be allies, but only on the shortterm. These are not ideological friendships.

DO YOU THINK TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY WILL SPELL FURTHER DIMINISHING OF US HEGEMONY IN THE REGION? DO YOU FORESEE ANY SORT OF PAN-ARABIAN ALLIANCE?

AND, IN THE END, WHAT DOES THIS SPELL FOR THE CAUCASUS REGION?

No, I don’t see Muslim countries putting aside their differences any time soon. States and people unite when they have ideology, and we happen to live in a world which is post-ideological. As for Trump, he is a deal-maker, a businessman. It’s very difficult to predict his next move and he has made it the staple of his policy- keeping everyone guessing. Look at him: he’s friends with Vladimir Putin and he used to be friends with Mikheil Saakashvili. What do you make of a politician who’s friends with both? The problem with Trump is that his policy is bound to be rife with contradictions. It will be a very forceful, very self-serving policy, “What can you give us if we do this?” This is a great reversal to the previous approach of basically free aid. It will be very much dictated by profit-making; be it money, or troops, in matters of defense. So, in this respect, Trump’s policy in the Middle East or

Here in the Caucasus, as it happens in the Balkans and many other states, you overestimate the US importance. The reality is that many countries now are beyond the horizon. The Caucasus is quite a small place, both geographically and demographically. We typically say that the Caucasus is the bridge between East and West but it also means that you are in the backyard of everyone – Turkey, Iran, Europe and, of course, Russia. So, ask yourself – What will be the brutally pragmatic policy for the US and Europe in this region? That’s what Trump’s administration is going to do. Do they want to get involved in Karabakh? Do they want to get involved in Abkhazia? Do they want another poor country in the European Union? Bulgaria and Romania went in very unnoticed, as EU officials say in private talks, but this is not going to happen again. So, you have to prepare for a brutally pragmatic world which operates on profit, which operates on short term alliances and the aftermath of Trump’s election and Brexit.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

9

Imedi TV to Buy Maestro Apathy, Monkeys & Roosters: People & GDS TV Companies BY THEA MORRISON

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medi TV has released a statement regarding its negotiations with Maestro and GDS TV companies. Imedi says that they have successfully completed talks with Maestro TV and the company is to become a part of the Imedi holding. “Negotiations are almost over with GDS. We hope that this deal will also end successfully. It should be noted that this deal doesn’t concern Georgian Dream Studio, which will remain in the ownership of its current owner,” the statement reads. Media holding Imedi underlines that after rebranding, they will offer viewers renewed TV channels, which will be equipped with modern technology and answer to the demands of a large spectrum of viewers. Maestro TV is owned by four people. At present 55 percent of shares belong to Gia Gachechiladze, a singer and TV personality, 25% of shares are owned by Maka Asatiani; Mamuka Glonti, one of the founders of Maestro TV, owns 15% of shares and 5% is owned by Eka Akobia. Gachechiladze said that there was a financial crisis for the broadcaster and he had decided to sell his shares to Ina Gudavadze, the widow of former owner of Imedi TV, Badri Patarkatsishvili. “Nothing illegal has happened; Maestro shareholders simply decided to sell their shares. I had no funds to manage the TV, so I decided to help Ina Gudavadze to form a media holding. I did not

want Maestro TV to unite with Rustavi 2, so I sold my shares to Imedi,” said Gachechiladze. Giorgi Gvenetadze, lawyer of another shareholder, Maka Asatiani, also informs that she sold her shares to Imedi TV. Gvenetadze said that as Asatiani was holding only 25% of shares, she was not interested in the company and sold her share. GDS, a Tbilisi-based television channel, is owned by the founder of Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream (GD), and ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili’s son Bera. As

Ivanishvili is considered by the opposition as an informal ruler of the country, there are suspicions that GDS is buying Maestro and Imedi. The founder of Maestro TV, Mamuka Glonti, says the government is behind the process and wants to seize all free media outlets. "We cannot interfere with this deal. I was told that if I did not sell my shares, they would increase Maestro capital and kick us out of the company… I see the government and Ivanishvili behind this,” Glonti claimed.

Should Stop Blaming the Animals Continued from page 5

Apparently, billionaire and ex-Premier Bidzina Ivanishvili’s words about the cleared political field are coming true. At the time, Ivanishviili pronounced that only two political subjects would be present. However, it seems this time he went too far. Georgia is meeting the New Year with vanished dreams and an economic stroke. People no longer believe the Georgian Dream’s promises about next year being “very good”. Economists rule out the strengthening of the national currency and if the processes continue in the direction they are heading, the governmental party will have to start thinking about new lies for the upcoming local governmental elections. Analysts believe that if the government continues to destroy the economy at this pace, neither the elections nor their lies will help them, no matter who comes up with them, even Ivanishvili himself. In light of the economic distress, protests are being forecast. Discussions about alleged demonstrations have become so frequent and you can also hear thoughts on why people aren’t coming out in streets now or why they have become so inert. “If this was Misha’s times...” – they say. Indeed, it is interesting why Georgian society has become so passive today and why it was so active during the previous government? Whether the rebel rooster will kick-start society or not will probably depend on the government. However, if

we remember President Shevardnadze’s times, the situation then was much more difficult than today and people did not protest in streets, not until Saakashvili turned up. Perhaps the urge for peace and relaxation is currently so strong that the mental majority of the population is ready to endure literally anything, if only to avoid changes. This could also serve as an explanation for the UNM’s defeat in this year’s parliamentary elections. People preferred Bidzina’s ‘mediocrity’, ‘free money’ and ‘free loans’ to Misha’s ‘modernization’. What the electorate will choose next autumn is hard to predict. But we can safely say that the only concern of the current government is to somehow “drag” itself peacefully along until those local government elections. The rest will be revealed on polling day. If we look into the history of the government’s pre-election lies, the one from 1995 by President Shevardnadze about one million jobs leads the race. Georgian Dream’s promise about free money can’t get even close, not to say anything about the promises of the United National Movement about “a lot needs to be done” or “deeds instead of words.” The most important concern for us should be being able to tell the truth from the lies, at least during these upcoming elections, so that we won’t have to blame our worsened lives or that of our country for another four years on some dragons, goats, monkeys or a rooster.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

QATAR Airways Launches Direct NonStop Flights from Tbilisi

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reviously serving only via Baku, the new direct flights complement the existing tagged flights and significantly improve journey times to and from the Georgian capital. Celebrating the launch of a new direct flight from Tbilisi (TBS) to Doha (DOH), Qatar Airways is increasing travel options to and from Georgia, while enhancing overall journey times. Commencing 15 December, Qatar Airways will operate four direct flights from Tbilisi to Doha’s Hamad International Airport, complementing the existing seven weekly flights that operate via Baku in Azerbaijan. Operated by a Qatar Airways Airbus A320 aircraft, the new direct scheduled flight time of just over three hours to Doha sees overall journey times drop significantly across the airline’s global network to and from this increasingly popular tourist destination, complemented by seamless transfers through the airline’s global home and hub, Hamad International Airport, in the State of Qatar. “We are delighted to celebrate the launch of direct flights from Tbilisi, offering Georgian citizens shorter journey times to more than 150 destinations around the world,” said Qatar Airways Country Manager Eastern Europe - North, Mr. Nazir Abduvakhidov. “As both an economical and cultural hub, our new shorter flight times will attract many business and leisure passengers alike, while our tagged service via Baku will continue

to offer a quick and efficient link between Azerbaijan and Georgia.” Qatar Airways also recently increased services to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, from a four to five weekly service from 1 November 2016, with additional frequency each week due to the popularity of the route which was first inaugurated in May 2016. The Airbus A320 aircraft offers a two-class configuration of 12 seats in Business Class and 132 seats in Economy, featuring individual television screens providing all passengers in both cabins with the next generation interactive onboard entertainment system Oryx One with 3,000 different entertainment options. Qatar Airways Business Class is widely recognized as an industry leader recently receiving two significant accolades at the 2016 Skytrax World Airline Awards, with passengers choosing Qatar Airways as the World's Best Business Class and also Best Business Class Airline Lounge in the Middle East. Qatar Airways is one of the fastest growing airlines in aviation history with a network of over 150 exciting destinations. In 2016 travellers continued to see Qatar Airways expand its global reach, with services launched to Adelaide (Australia), Atlanta (USA), Birmingham (UK), Boston (USA), Los Angeles (USA), Marrakech (Morocco), Pisa (Italy), Ras Al Khaimah (UAE), Sydney (Australia), Windhoek (Namibia), Yerevan (Armenia), Krabi (Thailand) and the Seychelles.

15 Candidates Run for Public Broadcaster Director Post BY THEA MORRISON

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ifteen candidates have submitted applications for the post of the General Director of Georgia’s Public Broadcaster (GPB). The deadline for submitting applications expired on Wednesday afternoon and now the 8-member Board of Trustees will have only 10 days to select the best candidate to lead the broadcaster for the next six years. The position became vacant on November 2 when Giorgi Baratashvili, former General Director of the GPB announced that he was quitting, although his term was not set to expire until 2018. His resignation, so close to the parliamentary

elections, raised many questions. However, Baratashvili stated his decision had nothing to do with politics and was linked to his future plans and a better job offer. Once the Board of Trustees of the GPB have selected the final candidates, they will interview them- the expected date for this is January 4-5, 2017. The final decision will be made on January 6 through voting. The Board say the voting process will be transparent and public. The candidate will need the majority of votes of the Board of Trustees to take the post. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and media analysts say the elections of a new head should be transparent. They call on the Board to elect a candidate free of any political influence.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

Ask Not What the World Can Do for You, Georgia! BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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n an attempt to tailor to Georgia John Kennedy’s famous quote from his inaugural speech, having slightly modified it, I got carried away with contemplating Georgia’s role in world affairs, which in itself is a very complicated and painful theme to embark on but one I still wanted to risk. We are a small but very proud nation. Proud we are of our heroic past and the antique Christian architecture; we take pride in speaking the unique Georgian language, equipped with the unique Georgian writing; we are proud of our polyphonic choral singing, folk choreography, ethnic cuisine and outstanding hospitality. We are proud and self-centered on those values so much that we seem convinced in perfect sufficiency of our contribution to world culture, as if we have rendered more than our dues unto its spirituality. While this statement may be true, we now need to concentrate on how much we are contributing to the contemporary world’s material life. Time to ask ourselves a question – what is it that we manufacture so qualitatively in Georgia that the world wants to purchase from us? In what practicable way do we get the world interested in a product which is Made in Georgia? Aren’t we getting tired of being proud of only our past without having any pride in communicating with the rest of the world via links that are clearly commercial?

Trade is not a flaw. Trade is a merit. Why shun it? It is the glue that keeps Mankind together, and we want to be extensive users of that adhesive. Commerce keeps Mankind alive, and it makes no sense to handle it with indolence and despondency. Frankly, it would be not very fair or decent on our part to be asking the world to constantly lend us a hand. It cannot be give-give all the time; it needs to be give-and-take for a change. Using whatever commercial smarts we might have, we can trade even those oddities that we already have historically, without any industrial sweat. Just as a starter, of course! For a more serious image of a nation involved in global economic circulation for survival, we certainly have to be active and prolific producers and traders. Georgians have a funny saying: that they are talented but lazy people. This might be the case if not very true at all. Talent is all over the place in Georgia but nobody has enough talent here to ask a question: how much of that Georgian talent is being shown to the world in order for us to have enough feedback to let us live in the lap of the luxury? Forget about the luxury – just above the water, even! We have to somehow understand that nobody will give us anything, except when we are panhandling, unless we give out to them first. And for us to give out, we need to have, and to have we need to produce, and to produce we need to work and learn how to trade the received product gainfully. Why these frequent talks about economy, and that much ado about nothing, which we hear all over media from

Illustration: Brian Patrick Grady

morning to night? The arena for turning Georgia into a serious producer and seller is open, filled with natural resources, a labor force, knowhow and people hungry for work. Why can’t we then have enough locally generated goods to earn clientele around the globe thanks to our effort to be ranked among

the nations who make and sell? I know it is easier to say than do, but the world is not completely devoid of examples and precedents of nations becoming better off as a result of scientifically corroborated good economic and commercial practices. The human experience in handling national econo-

mies optimally and correctly is huge, and it is available to anybody. Why is it impossible for those who want to run this country to look into that experience and handle it so that words are substituted by deeds? I don’t want to see reason fall on deaf ear and blind eye in Georgia.

TBC Bank Launches New Online Platform for Charity BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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BC Status announced the launch of a new online platform for charity at Rustaveli Theater on Wednesday. A specially created web page: statusdonates.ge gives a unique possibility for its customers to participate in the funding of projects, people or organizations who need it most. On entering the siteandwatchingthevideo-storiesprovided, with just one click, any individual can participate and make a donation. By launching the innovative online charity platform, TBC is attempting to change the existing charity practices in the country, as the active involvement of citizens will be a guarantee for changing the future of those in need. Social responsibility is said to be an important issue for TBC and it carries out numerous social projects, to a cost of around GEL 4-5 million annually, in the spheres of arts, sports, and funding other events that are regarded as being of high significance for society each year. In 2016, TBC announced it had become a major partner of the Georgian Rugby Union, ready to support the development and promotion of rugby in Georgia. In

terms of CSR investments, TBC Bank implements the same practice as international banks, including Barclay’s and HSBC. Within the framework of the newly launched online platform, TBC Bank will collect stories, the protagonists and projects of which can be funded by anyone, while TBC will also actively participate in funding, alongside covering administrative costs for the fund. The TBC Status service has received

various prestigious international awards and in 2017 marks its 10th year anniversary. The personal banking service focuses on creating maximum comfort for clients by being less time consuming and totally adjusted to the needs and lifestyles of its consumers. “TBC has a long tradition of and experience in charity,” said Mamuka Khazaradze, Co -Founder and Chairman of TBC Bank. “Every year we invest approx-

imately GEL 5 mln in different social projects, such as health, arts, or cultural heritage and now we’ve decided to expand our activities in order to become more effective. With this online platform, we primarily aim to unite efforts together with the people with whom we’re doing business, our status clients, people who are creating workplaces and employment opportunities on a daily basis; to make the experience of giving even more inter-

esting and engaging. The projects to be funded will be chosen democratically and everyone will have their say in setting the priorities. The most important thing is to create an institutional culture with regards to charity work and social responsibility. That’s what matters,” Khazaradze emphasized. “Apart from financial, our contribution to the new project is our team of high professionals who will do their best for the new initiative to succeed. But its success also depends on all of our joint efforts…and good will of course.” In the framework of the first stage of the new online platform, three projects are already being assisted by TBC Bank: the Orphanage in Dzegvi village, Creative Education Studio CES, and the winners of the Leonardo Da Vinci young inventors’ competition, who were awarded with one year TBC Status scholarships on the decision of Nino Masurashvili, Deputy CEO Retail and SME Banking TBC Bank, and Tamar Kirvalidze, Director for External Relations Media Communications TBC Bank. The new online platform will kick off from January, focusing on financing aspiring young talents, and projects in arts, science or ecology. Other themes will be added in future for potential funding opportunities.


GEORGIA TODAY

SOCIETY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

13

White is the New Black: Svaneti

Bollywood Masala Indian Restaurant BY TONY HANMER

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ato Paparazziani: Here we are live, reporting from Etseri, up in the Caucasus mountains of Svaneti, Georgia... a likely location for news of the northern hemisphere's "high" fashion trends this winter. Debbie Lee, what can you offer from the catwalks of the season? Debbie Lee: Dato, it's all about white hats at the moment; not their first ever appearance in this setting, but coming earlier this year, and whiter than ever. Look at this stunning piece on an outhouse, for example. So wide, so thick, so soft, especially on top! Though the underside does get pressed rather solid if there's enough pressure on it. In any case, it'll practically melt and slide off if you look at it sideways; delicacy is the whole point, really. Everyone's got them this December, especially roofs, although the fenceposts and trees tend to be a bit too impatient for such haute couture, and lose theirs all too quickly, especially if there's a strong or constant wind about. Dato: Sort of a call back to ermine fur, then? Dotted with black flecks of certain unmentionable substances, would you say? DL: Oh no, not this year: just the pure white. Warm as can be, good insulation, but apt also to get a bit heavy if allowed to build up enough, sometimes enough to damage or destroy the structure underneath. Which might be called a shame, but your dernier cri might as well be your last actual cry, n'est pas? Dato: Er, indeed, indeed, I'm sure, or what's the point in having a dernier cri, I say! We've gone from "soft and delicate" to "potential to destroy underlying forms". Any other trends, Debbie Lee? DL: They're rather stuck on this one thing, it's ubiquitous. Nothing else can compete with it. No

other colors, other styles. I've rarely seen anything so monolithic! What's more, it may become THE annual trend for the winter months up here and in other cooler or higher parts of the world, global warming elsewhere or no. "THEY can get as hot as they like, red-orange-yellow, but we'll stick to our chaotically induced, average-busting cold weather and its associated pure white solid precipitations," people up here seem to be saying. Anything which stays still for long enough is fair game to have a solid white cap slapped onto it, Dato! Dato: No other shades, even...? DL: Well, funny thing is, now that you mention it and press me to the point, there's a trick of the light here, too. If you get the right amount of the white stuff, and filter strong enough sunlight though it, it turns from white to a rather terrifying shade of light blue, the seeming embodiment of all that's heart-freezingly cold, your last sight before the heat death of your personal universe. So, not as " white or nothing" as they say or would like. But you can't have everything, then, can you? This is more of a slight compromise with the laws of physics, unavoidable, really. They don't even like to mention it or make others aware of it, but for all that it persists in the right conditions. Dato: Aha, see, I knew it! Thanks, Debbie Lee, for this very timely report, coming at us right between the Western and Eastern worlds' Christmases, which we wish all to be happy and peaceful! DL: Thanks to you too, Dato, have a good one, and stay snow-cap free! Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance� Facebook group, now with over 1350 members, at www.facebook. com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

Karajala Village School Bans Hijabs BY TURAL GURBANLI

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lthough there is a public school in our village, I have to send my 12-year-old daughter Arzu to another school. Anyone can enjoy his constitutional right but we are deprived of that right. Our school director Elza Shurova does not allow schoolgirls to wear hijab at school – said Mako Ramazanov, resident of Karajala village, Telavi municipality. “We are a religious family; my daughter is a believer, too. Ashurova bans her and other girls from wearing hijab at school. The Constitution of Georgia allows them to wear hijab but the school director does not.” Like Arzu Razmanova, 10 more girls from Karajala village go to public school in Telavi. “I cannot send my daughter to Telavi public school. When we have a public school in the village, why should I send my children to other schools? If the State does not ban the wearing of hijab, why should a school director prohibit it?” asked Maharram Osmanov. Karajala public school director Elza Ashurova does not deny the accusations and insists the school-girls shall not wear hijab at school.

There are more important values than the Constitution - Elza Ashurova, School Director

“I know that the Constitution of Georgia does not prohibit them wearing hijab but for me, as a school director, there are more important values than the Constitution. We work to defend these values. What's so bad about it? The school and mosque have different roles; we must not mix them,” Ashurova said. Head of the Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia Nata Asatiani mentioned the Law on General Education and stated that in accordance with Article 13 of the Law, discrimination is inadmissible. “Under the law, the school guarantees the individual and collective rights of minority members on the basis of equality; they have a right to speak their mother tongue and maintain and demonstrate their cultural background.” Asatiani noted that the school administration also has the right to work out internal school regulations. “According to Article 14 Paragraph 6 of the Law on General Education, the school has the right to introduce school uniforms for pupils. However, the same paragraph states that the freedom of expression of either pupil or a teacher must not be violated by the introduction

of uniforms. At the same time, a pupil and a teacher can refuse to wear the school uniform,” Asatiani said. Education expert Shalva Tabatadze said the exceptions regulated by the law are very important and the discrimination is inadmissible. “The law guarantees secularity of the school and religious minorities shall not be discriminated against. Of course, the school administration has right to elaborate internal regulations but they must be adherent to the law.” 12-year-old Arzu Ramazanova hopes she, together with her friends, will be able to go to her village school from next year. “I want to study at school. Telavi school is very far away and it’s difficult to get there, particularly in winter. I know all children in my village and I want to study in Karajala village together with them.” The article was prepared in the frame of a project implemented by Human Rights House Tbilisi with financial support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Georgia. HRHT bears sole responsibility for the content of the article. The article does not necessarily reflect the views of the donor.


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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

Healer Twins - Georgian Duo Based in Dubai and London Premiers in Tbilisi BY MAKA LOMADZE

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ackstage 76, located in Vake Park, is a newly opened club, probably the only art-café that meets its whole conception in all aspects. On December 27, it hosted a very pleasant female duo – Healer Twins, consisting of Liana and Thea Shengelaia who live abroad and are now debuting in their home country. The Healer Twins are a dynamic duo, consisting of singer-songwriter twin sisters originally from Georgia. Having travelled and grown up in numerous parts of the world, Lika and Thea Shengelaia discovered their passion and talent for singing at the age of 9, organizing small gigs in their neighborhood. The twins later went on to graduate from medical school. Combining their long-standing interest for the therapeutic effects of music on the brain, they decided to integrate their occupation and passion to form a duo they named Healer Twins. They heal by profession – based on global health care methods. “Music is

our second profession. We chose this name because music can also be a healer,” Lika told us. She manages to mix singing with playing on a guitar. Her voice is unusually mild. Yes, indeed, their music is healing. From the very start, everybody was all ears. It is impossible not to be at once captivated by the feminine humming, so saturated and full of tenderness in summary and elegance and sophistication in manner. Having performed in multiple countries, the twins often return to their "home away from home" in Dubai to perform at top art venues of the city, such as The Fridge, The Music Room and Fete De La Musique, DIFC Arts Night, Freshly Ground Sounds, SIKKA art fair, and Gulf Music Festival. They started to work with acclaimed fusion guitarist and producer Kamal Musallam, who composed and produced one of their songs, called “Snake in the Desert,” and he finally released and supervised their debut album under his label K&G in 2016. The Healer Twins debut record was a labor of love and hard work, especially for Dubai-based producer Rayan who did most of the audio production work. “We went to live with our parents in

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where our father worked as a physician. We took along musicians playing on international instruments, which turned out very interesting for them as music is not very well developed there,” Thea Shengelaia said, whose voice is more vibrant than her sister’s. The Georgian musical and biological twins were met with ovation and a lot of popularity by Asians. Recently, they moved to London for studies and music. They have already performed at a couple of venues in London. One of the recent ones was at Rich Mix London. They participated in Star Wars Episode 7, released in December, and were named as ‘special extras.’ “We were at the casting- they were searching for twins from a different planet, and this “planet,” called Jakku, was actually located in Abu Dhabi. They chose us. It was very memorable. The shooting also took place in different countries. It was amazing,” Thea Shengelaia told GEORGIA TODAY. Aurelien Girot, Director of Backstage 76, said: “We are interested in authorial music and not covers. Therefore, working with the twins was extremely interesting for us. I liked their style very much.“

Gallery Vanda Pays Tribute to Malevich’s “Black Square” Anniversary BY MAKA LOMADZE

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n December 23, Vanda Gallery opened a thematic exhibition titled Malevich’s Black Square 100. Twenty Georgian artists were commissioned to realize interpret the Black Square as they see it and present their own original versions. The artists comprised famous Georgians of various ages: Alexander Berdysheff, Tato Akhalkatsishvili, Vakho Bughadze, Gia Gugushvili, Misha Gogrichiani, Zurab Gikashvili, Roko Iremashvili, Levan Laghidze, Gogi Lazarashvili Levan Mindiashvili, Kote Sulaberidze, Oleg Timchenko, Keti Shalamberidze, Leila Shelia, Gogi Chagelishvili, Levan Chichinadze, Ushangi Khumarashvili, Rita Khachaturiani, Temo Javakhishvili, and Kote Jincharadze.

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TBILISI ISTANBUL ATATURK AIRPORT ISTANBUL ATATURK AIRPORT TBILISI TBILISI ISTANBUL SABIHA GOKCEN AIRPORT ISTANBUL SABIHA GOKCEN AIRPORT TBILISI BATUMI - ISTANBUL ISTANBUL - BATUMI

Malevich's suprematistic concept carries the idea that a black square on a white background represents absolute zero; a celestial and at the same time perfect form, a source of endless imagination and interpretation. The painters given the famous centuryold black square as a basis, used this freedom very well and offered interpretations in totally different colors, sizes and technique from each other, embodied in installations and original paintings. Some bear messages on them. Humor is also present. One of the painters says: “What is this Malevich’s Square, couldn't I have painted the same? And today, it costs a property.” The exhibition Black Square 100, is to celebrate the hundred-year anniversary of the day when Kazimir Malevich unveiled his Black Square at the “Last Exhibition of Futurist Painting” held in the newly-named Petrograd in December 1916. “The exact date it was created is a

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mystery but its debut was in December 1916,” Sandro Mujiri, co-founder of the gallery told us. “Which is why we set up the exhibition now. 90% of the exhibited works were painted for this occasion.” Alexander Berdyseff probably remains closest to the original aesthetics. He chose interpretation via personification. “There is a character, maybe, Malevich himself, who is holding the black square in his hands. For me, the Russian avantgarde is very close. I love such exhibitions because everything is done around an interesting theme- it is very concrete and a painter is totally open to wide interpretations and variations. It shows how differently we perceive the square. For instance, Levan Laghidze’s interpretation is red instead of black,” he told us. Temo Javakhishvili’s works are presented as two twin black squares and the following text: ‘In the material world, because of the restrained capabilities of humans, a barrier appears which can be perceived only through sub-consciousness and heart. As Mr. Blaise Pascal said: when you desire to seek God, the search

is infinite and action absurd. It is very like contemplation of a funnel from the narrow end.’ “The first thing that inspired me was that Malevich himself did not have a very distinct and concrete position towards this piece of art,” Javakhishvili told GEORGIA TODAY. “Black Square is perceived differently by different people. When the mind is weak to perceive something, it is already infinity. Christianity tells us that we will see infinity after we cross over into another substance. I looked at Malevich’s masterpiece in this context. Earlier, I was interested in Pascal’s ideas and in this case, this phrase came to me – through the tiny lens one can see the huge area of searching, which is infinitely widening, like through a funnel. I fixed on something like a spy-hole in a door, in reverse, denoting that God sees us all but we do not see Him because of our materialistic world. I’m also showing my old work, with the text: ‘Night comes when the sun is behind the picture.’ I painted it in 1982 and I was again inspired by Malevich’s Black Square. I expressed

the soul’s state, when one does not feel like painting, but then the sun arrives again, as a sign of life.” Misha Gogrichiani’s painting is very original – a black rose in a white square. “I used to like black balloons and black toys in my childhood. I freed the painting, as the white square means there is no frame at all. When I was offered to paint, I did not feel like painting a new piece and instead found this painting that I painted 20 years ago. It is a very interesting exhibition itself,” he commented. Malevich’s Black Square a worldrenowned artwork, an icon of an idea which remained like an almost mythical presence, still continues to inspire and challenge artists, the role of which in modern art cannot be overstated. It created its own era in the history of art, established new movements and almost closed down the history of figurative art by dividing modern art history in two -“before” and “after”. Where: Chonkadze Street 14 When: Until January 6

EVERYDAY TK 380 TK 393 TK 392

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10 Galaktion Street

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


GEORGIA TODAY

CULTURE

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

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David the Builder’s Testament & New Exhibits of Medieval Treasury at the National Museum BY MAKA LOMADZE

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rom December 26, 2016, the Georgian National Museum, National Archives of Georgia and Korneli Kekelidze National Center of Manuscripts are offering a renewed exhibition of the Medieval Treasury. The Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia is now giving visitors the possibility to see a fragment of the only surviving testament of David the Builder, written in Sharvan before combat, and also a copy of its glass negative made by Aleksandre Roinashvili in 1895. The exhibition also showcases paleographical blades of David the Builder's handicrafts created by Sargis Kakabadze in 1911. Visitors also have a chance to view the richly embellished gospel "Ceremonial" (Sazeimo) which in all likelihood belonged to Queen Tamar; one of the earliest monuments from the classical period of Georgian medicine, the XIII-XIV centuries encyclopedic work "Incomparable Book of Medicine" (Ustsoro Karabadini); the code type list - Vale Gospels (1514) copied in the scriptorium of the Atabag Family from Samtskhe; Georgian Chron-

icles copied on the order of Mariam Dadiani, the wife of King Rostom; and more! These exhibits make up just part of the exhibition Medieval Treasury, which showcases Georgian Christian art reflecting the unity and continuity of cultural traditions and forming the basis of Georgian statehood and national identity. Georgian Christian art is based on preChristian traditions which eventually formed the nation. Located at the crossroads of cultural movements from East and west, Georgia showed alacrity to accept advanced headways. Georgia was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity and recognize it as the national religion, a decision which tied the country closer to Europe and European culture. The exhibition space of the Medieval Treasury, equipped according to international standards, was opened in June 2016. As stated by the specifics of the collection, the works will constantly be changed. The exhibition, accompanied by educational programs and cultural activities, gives the opportunity to witness the development and formation of the Georgian national identity. The central component, David the Builder’s Testament, belongs to the col-

lection of the National Archives. “This is a marvelous project that unites three institutions,” said Teona Iashvili, Director of the National Archives. “These are two documents of paramount importance from our funds: one is the fragment of Davit the Builder’s testament that survived destruction, and the second is the deed of Vamek Shaburisdze, dating back to the 15th century. It is fantastic that these sparkling halls are hosting the documents of our [institution], together with the collection of the National Museum and that of the National Center of Manuscripts.” “David the Builder is a symbol of success and unity for many a Georgian,” said Davit Lordkipanidze, Director General of the Georgian National Museum. “I would wish each of us to resemble him in our own professions. I think that it is of utmost importance that the three national institutions are exhibiting such significant documents to society. This permanent exhibition is about the art and history of the medieval era, whose exhibits are changed from time to time to show off different documents. This day demonstrates the richness of our depositories. These exhibits signify that art and science have always been priority spheres in our country, especially in

the medieval era, and Georgia was a very strong Christian country then.” GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Zaza Abashidze, Director of the National Center of Manuscripts. “This is the continuation of the previous exhibition. However, there is a new format in terms of our refreshed collection,” Abashidze told us. “We had to leave the previous manuscripts on display for longer than allowed but from now on we plan to change our collection every two months to prevent damage. Where, during the first exhibition, there were only two institutions involved – the National Museum and National Center of Manuscripts, this time, the National Archives has joined us with its unique material, too. In future, we are thinking to enlarge our scope even more and hope that the National Library will also be added to our list of participants.” The Ministry of Culture was the supporter of the project. “It is the best example of cooperation between the institutions and governmental offices,” said Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection. Where: Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia, 3 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Tbilisi, Georgia.


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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 December 30 DON QUIXOTE Ludwig Minkus New redaction premiere Classical ballet Three Movements Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 - 70 GEL GRIBOEDOVI THEATER Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 January 2, 3 MOWGLI Rudyard Kipling Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Language: Russian Small Stage Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 5 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 January 4, 5 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 December 30 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Kakha Bakuradze Participants: Sandro Nikoladze, Irakli Menagarishvili, Levan Mikaberidze, Special Guest: Lado Marjanidze Start time: 21:00 TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge

January 2, 3 MARY POPPINS Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL January 4, 5 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari December 30 – January 5 PASSENGERS Directed by Morten Tyldum Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance Language: English Start time: 19:15 Language: Russian Start time: 12:15, 16:45, 22:00 Ticket: 8-14 GEL ASSASSINS CREED Directed by Justin Kurzel Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Michael Kenneth Williams Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 14:30, 20:00, 22:15 Ticket: 9-14 GEL ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Directed by Gareth Edwards Cast: Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 22:10 Ticket: 13-14 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL December 30 – January 9

COLLATERAL BEAUTY Directed by David Frankel Cast: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 19:40 Ticket: 13-14 GEL BAD SANTA 2 Directed by Mark Waters Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 12:30, 14:45, 22:35 Ticket: 8-14 GEL

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. EXHIBITION “LADO GUDIASHVILI AND GEORGIAN MONUMENTAL PAINTING” The exhibition showcases only one aspect of Gudiashvili's great art - monumental painting, which was presented discretely at various stages of his life.

December 30 Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra presents the 3rd piano concert of Ludwig van Beethoven Performed by Georgian pianist DUDANA MAZMANISHVILI Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 5-20 GEL

MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave.

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

PERMANENT EXHIBITION OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY Directed by Josh Gordon, Will Speck Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller Genre: Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 17:00, 22:00 Ticket: 8-14 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge

IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 December 24 - January 20 (2017) Contemporary Art Gallery Project Presents exhibition: “SHAPING IDENTITY” Displaying the works of seven Georgian artists: Levan Mindiashvili, Ana Chaduneli, Tamar Mchedlishvili, Davit Meskhi, Giorgi Tabatadze, Ana Ziraqashvili and Gio Sumbadze. GALLERY

PERMANENT EXHIBITION: GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY FROM 8TH MILLENNIUM B.C. TO 4TH CENTURY A.D EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY NUMISMATIC TREASURY June 11 – March 11 (2017) EXHIBITION MEDIEVAL TREASURY The exhibition showcases preChristian and Georgian medieval art September 27 – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA December 20 – January 9 (2017) EXHIBITION "THE ART OF LABELS" Dedicated to the famous Georgian cognac manufacturer David Sarajishvili The exhibition showcases up to 200 labels from the end of the 19th century and early 20th century.

V. KAKHIDZE MUSIC CENTER Address: Agmashenebeli Ave

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION November 29 - January 28 (2017) EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 140TH ANNIVERSARY OF IAKOB NIKOLADZE December 6-31 SOLO EXHIBITION BY LEILA SHELIA MUSIC

SPACEHALL Address: 2 A. Tsereteli Ave December 31 Muzame and Spacehall present: JAY-JAY JOHANSON, THE BEARFOX, EREKLE DEISADZE, MOKUMOKU Start time: 00:00 Ticket: 40-50 GEL

December 30 SHALVA MOSIDZE – 80 Start time: 18:30 Ticket: 5-25 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 December 30 WORLD FILM MUSIC MASTERPIECES Special guest: Anita Rachvelishvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15-75 GEL January 2 BASTI BUBU PRESENTS BLUE BIRD A Christmas gift for children and their parents Start time: 15:00, 18:00 Ticket: 10-35 GEL TBILISI EVENT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 December 31 MICHAEL JACKSON-TRIBUTE The legendary King of Pop Michael Jackson Night Specially invited from Germany: his doppelganger, a band, backing vocalists and dancers will hold a grand 3-hour show program Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 200 GEL MTKVARZE Address: 4 Cosmonauts Embankment January 1 NEW YEAR'S EVE AT MTKVARZE Cristi Cons (Sunrise/Amphia /RO) Gio Shengelia/Tomma/Bacho/ Small Room: Zurkin/Sumo Start time: 01:00 FABRIKA Address: 8 Ninoshvili Str. December 31 FAB NEW YEAR Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 35 GEL BUDDHA BAR Address: Rike Park December 31 NEW YEAR EVE Matias Aguayo & Tobias Thomas Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 100 GEL ZALIKO'S CENTER Address: 3 Vekua Str. Telephone: 557 72 91 91 December 30, 31 KIDS’ NEW YEAR PARTY Start time: 11:00, 13:15 Ticket: 35 GEL WENDY’S Address: 2 Pekini Ave. December 30, January 2, 3, 4, 5 WENDY'S MAGICAL NEW YEAR'S PARTY Participating Wendy and New Year's characters Wendy's Special New Year Menu for children Start time: 12:00, 14:00 Ticket: 25 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

DECEMBER 30 - JANUARY 9, 2016-2017

“A Photo for Goderdzi Ski Resort” Contest Announced

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he Tourism Department of Adjara has announced a photo contest “A Photo for Goderdzi Ski Resort” in the framework of the New Year-initiated marketing campaign #garetkaia (It’s good to be outside). In order to win, participants have to take a New Year themed photo at Europe Square in Batumi and send it to the Adjara Tourism Department at visitbatumi.com The photo with the highest number of Likes will win. The author of the winning photo will be awarded with a two person, two day trip to Goderdzi Ski Resort. To participate in the competition, you need to: Take a New Year themed photo in Europe Square in Batumi and send it to the Adjara Tourism Department website with the name of the author in a

19

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

T

he latest issue of Where.ge is out! Packed full of the usual recommendations, tips and travel stories, it’s a guide you should not be without- even if you’ve lived here a while! Our Svaneti-based reporter Tony Hanmer decided to go beyond his beloved region this issue with top recommendations for ski resorts, including Borjomi, Bakuriani, Gudauri, and of course the heights of Svaneti, too. Need skiwear and accessories? We’ll tell you where to buy them! If you want to learn more about Borjomi region- a family and health resort, come along on a virtual trip to check out the frescoes of Timotesubani and the recently renovated Cuckoo train which winds up through fairytale woods to the resort of Bakuriani. Find out how Batumi and Tbilisi will be celebrating the festive season and check out the Events Calendar to be sure you don’t miss out on any fun- from theater performances to unique exhibitions. Wondering what food Georgians typically eat this season (or what that strangely decorated pile of wood-shavings in the corner of the living-room is)? Find out with WHERE! 2017 will also see a lot of new hotels opening throughout the capital city- find out the names and stats in WHERE. Everything you need for a brilliant stay! Discover places you never knew about! Taste the delights of Georgia! WHERE will show you how. Wishing all our Readers a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

message, and upload your photo and tag yourself in it. Only one photo per person is allowed. The winning photo will be chosen from the number of Likes each receives in the photo album of the competition. Copyright for the image provided is the responsibility of the contestant. All photo Likes will be verified. Any doubtful material will be discarded from the contest. The deadline for submissions is January 7, 2017, 12:00. The winner will be announced on January 14 at 12:00. Batumi city’s central New Year Tree in beautifully decorated Europe Square is a place to feel the festive New Year atmosphere with lots of shows and concerts planned from December 25 to January 2.

Serbia to Open Borders for Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia

BY THEA MORRISON

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he Serbian daily newspaper Telegraf reports that Serbia is set to abolish its visa regime for Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Serbia opens its doors to boost tourism and investment. The report reads that the decision was announced

after a meeting of First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic, Ministers Nebojsa Stefanovic and Rasim Ljajic on visa policy. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia said it had been agreed that the policy of relaxation of the visa regime with many countries will be continued in order to improve political relations, attract foreign investments and intensify economic and tourism cooperation,” the Telegraf reports.

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Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Karen Tovmasyan, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Tim Ogden, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison, Natia Liparteliani

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Issue #909  

December 30 - January 9, 2016-2017

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