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Issue no: 1223


In this week’s issue...


Police Find British Traveler's Stolen Bicycle

ON CORONAVIRUS 7700+ infected in 17 countries and 170 dead. We ask- is Georgia ready?




Atlantic Council's Kalensky on the EU, Russia & the Disinformation Campaign POLITICS PAGE 4

The US’ Strategic Intent in Georgia

Image source: moh.gov.ge

Georgian President Slammed for Supporting Possible Visit of Russian Delegation

International Maritime Group: Investing in Georgia’s Maritime Future BUSINESS PAGE 8


Space Constraints: Etseri, Svaneti


he Georgian opposition and nongovernmental sector assessed the statement of President Salome Zurabishvili as “incompetent,” “shameful” and “totally unacceptable” when she suggested she would support a possible Tbilisi visit from a Russian delegation. The controversy started on Wednesday after the President delivered a speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), saying despite the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia, her country will host the Russian Federation delegation at the CoE Ministerial to be held in Tbilisi in May 2020. During her speech on January 29, Zurabishvili explained that while Georgia does not like the declared policy of the Russian authorities, it respects its international obligations and we will accept [all delegations of] the Parliamentary Assembly because we respect the regulations and the principles of the organization, Zurabishvili said. The President’s comments were harshly criti-



Paul Kalkbrenner to Perform in Georgia CULTURE PAGE 11

The New Nutcracker Image source: publica.ge

cized by the opposition. Gigi Ugulava, one of the leaders of the European Georgia party, said that Zurabishvili has “become a traitor to her own country” and that the visit of the Russian delegation, including the Foreign Minister Ser-

gey Lavrov, will have a very bad impact on Georgia. He added that if the Russian delegation enters Georgia, it will be followed by large-scale protests countrywide. Continued on page 2






Police Find British Traveler's Stolen Bicycle BY ANA DUMBADZE


he employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia have found the stolen bicycle of British traveler Rowan Campbell and have returned it to its rightful owner. Campbell, who is traveling from Singapore to the UK, had his bike stolen in Georgia's capital. “On January 25, we were informed that a bicycle belonging to British citizen Rowan Campbell, a temporary resident of Brothers Zubalashvili Street, had been

stolen near his home in Tbilisi. As the owner said, a helmet and two bags were attached to the bike. Upon receiving the notification, the police responded immediately and an investigation was launched under Article 177 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. Police, as a result of search and investigation activities, found the British traveler's bicycle on Tsotne Dadiani Street in Tbilisi and returned the vehicle to its rightful owner. The investigation continues under Article 177 for a fact of theft which caused significant damage,” reports the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MIA). After getting his bike back, Campbell publicly expressed gratitude to everyone

for their support, noting that he already knows what Georgian hospitality really means. “Hey everyone! I got my bike back!!!" he wrote on Facebook, in the group 'Spend Your Summer in Georgia'. "I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to each and every one of you beautiful people who helped me. From the messages of support to the generous offers to buy me a new one to just making my case more well known. The last 72 hours have been incredibly emotional. I now know what GEORGIAN hospitality is! If you see me out and about, don't hesitate to come up to me, I would like to thank you personally."

The traveler received various gifts, including a new bicycle, as compensation from ordinary citizens and private sector representatives, who took the case to heart. “This is Georgian hospitality! Our British guest, Rowan Campbell, has received many gifts from our citizens and the

private sector. A new bicycle from bikes. ge; two nights and traditional Georgian dinner at the Hotel Best Western Gudauri; and two nights at Hostel Fabrika,” Head of the National Tourism Administration, Mariam Kvrivishvili, wrote in social media.

Georgian President Slammed for Supporting Possible Visit of Russian Delegation Continued from page 1 “We cannot block the borders and prevent the Russian delegation from making a visit, but everyone, including the Russians themselves, should know that in Georgia they will only get an aggressive and unfriendly welcome,” he said. Member of the United National Movement Roman Gotsiridze claims that the Georgian President’s statement was “irresponsible.” He believes that if a Russian delegation does visit, there will be a massive public outcry which will cause even more of a stir than last summer, when a Russian delegation came to attend a session of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in June. The visit was followed by largescale protests which were ultimately dispersed by riot police with the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon. 240 individuals, including 32 journalists and 80 law enforcers, were injured

during the clashes. “Granting permission for Sergei Lavrov to come will be a reaffirmation of the Georgian authorities' obedience to Russia and an insult to the souls of dead Georgian warriors who were protecting their country in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war,” Gotsiridze stated. NGOs released a joint statement which reads that making statements in favor of the aggressor country’s delegation are “alarming and contradictory to the state’s national interests.” The organizations explain that the Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories strictly defines that foreign citizens are allowed to enter the occupied territories only through Georgia, adding the members of the Russian delegation, and Lavrov himself, have reportedly violated this law many times. “The President's statement contradicts the principle of a rule of law. The idea of a legal state is useless if the state power

is not exercised within the framework clearly defined by the law. Disregard of the legislation by a high-rank official serves as a message to both the international and Georgian society that the law is a formality and the officials themselves decide when it can be violated,” the statement reads. Expert Nika Chitadze says that given the fact that Georgia holds the Council of Europe's presidency at this stage, Zurabishvili expressed her readiness to receive the Russian delegation within this format, but he agreed it raised a lot of questions because Russia recognizes Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. “I assess the President’s statements negatively. It is a shame that she made such irresponsible comments regarding such a sensitive topic,” the expert said. Former President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili noted that Georgia is to host the event as a CoE chair country

and not as an individual state, so in this case preventing the Russian delegation entering Georgia might negatively affect the country’s image on the international arena. “This is an extremely complicated topic...Not allowing Lavrov to enter Georgia can anger our European partners, who protect us from Lavrov, and those who reinforce our non-recognition policy,” he said. Although he said he recognized that it is a matter of dignity for Georgia not to let the occupant country’s representatives in, he underlined that it would ultimately endanger Georgia’s image not to do so. The government’s position on the topic has yet to be clarified. However, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said that such decisions are to be made in accordance with Georgian legislation. "No-one can override the Georgian legislation. Georgia is the President of the Council of Europe, and unfortunately,

it is a fact that Russia has regained its membership of the Council of Europe. No-one will be able to violate the Georgian legislation, the time will come and everything will be done in accordance with that legislation,” the PM stated. Georgia will host the 130th meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on May 14-15. It is not yet known whether Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to come to Georgia to attend the event and what the composition of the Russian delegation will be. According to the Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories, foreign citizens are allowed to enter the occupied territories only from Zugdidi municipality to Abkhazia and Gori municipality to Tskhinvali region. Accordingly, members of the Russian delegation, who visited breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia by violating this rule, are subject to the Georgian Criminal Code if they come to Tbilisi in May.




Coronavirus Updates

Image source: The Hill



long with Ebola and Zika, the world has faced many outbreaks of dangerous viruses in the past five years, and the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 took a less-than-festive turn when a new mysterious virus emerged in the region of Wuhan, China. The coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV, has now spread to all regions of China, and has reached 17 countries beyond, among them Thailand, France, the US and Australia, according to the most recent reports. The BBC presented the kickoff of the coronavirus spread as follows: 31 December 2019 - China alerts the World Health Organization (WHO) about a spate of pneumonialike cases in Wuhan; 1 January 2020 - The seafood/animal market believed to be at the center of the outbreak is closed; 9 January - WHO says the infection is caused by a new type of coronavirus; 10 January - China shares the genetic code of the new virus; 11 January - Scientists start working on a vaccine, as the first death is confirmed; The virus spreads - Virus spreads abroad for the first time, with a case in Thailand. Many things can change in a day. In Tuesday’s edition of GT Business, we reported 100 deaths caused by the new coronavirus. By Wednesday, it had hit 130 in China and up to 6000 infected. Early morning on the day of going to print, we have heard that the death toll stands at 170 and the number of people infected with 2019-nCoV amounts to over 7700. China now has more cases of the coronavirus than it had of SARS, its last worrying viral outbreak. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which hit China in 2002-2003, ultimately killed 774 people in 17 countries. The Chinese authorities were severely criticized for their feeble response to the epidemic. But comparing the two viruses is not so easy. According to current data, the new coronavirus is less likely to result in deaths than SARS, which killed 1 in 10 infected patients. However, experts are concerned with new evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted before a person shows any signs of illness, rendering it possible that the virus spreads seamlessly throughout the world to reach the most vulnerable people- ultimately resulting in even more deaths. The World Health Organization met on January 30 to discuss whether the alarmingly fast-spreading virus in fact presents a global health emergency. At its previous meeting, WHO had said it was too soon to declare the virus a global risk. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, has since stated that WHO "deeply regrets" referring to the worldwide risk from the virus as "moderate" in three reports last week instead of "high". He particularly described the person-to-person spread of the illness in Germany, Vietnam and Japan as worrying. The results of the WHO meeting are scheduled to be published for the public shortly [keep updated

with the latest on georgiatoday.ge]. Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Program, stated that "the whole world needs to be on alert" to fight the coronavirus, the BBC reported. He also praised China's response to the deadly outbreak, saying: "the challenge is great but the response has been massive." Dr Ryan reported on Wednesday that an international team of experts is being assembled to go to China and learn more about how the disease is transmitted, while working next to the experts there. Scientists worldwide, from the United States to Australia, are working on creating a treatment. Australian scientists have managed to recreate the new coronavirus outside of China, raising hopes that it could be used to develop an early-diagnosis test. With Tibet confirming its first Coronavirus case, the disease has officially touched every region in China. All but 68 of the 7,711 infection cases have been in mainland China. 1,737 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours for a total of 7,711 worldwide, according to Chinese officials and the World Health Organization. The real number is likely to be higher. Most of the recent deaths, 37, occurred in Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak. Deaths so far, none of which have been reported as having occurred outside of China, are said to have come to the elderly or those with preexisting illnesses affecting their immunity. Countries are taking the necessary measures to guarantee the health of their citizens. The USA, for one, has evacuated 200 citizens from China, landing them in a California military base to be monitored for at least a few days. Australia plans to do the same, except Australians coming from Chinese territories will be evacuated to Christmas Island to be isolated for two weeks. Passenger-checks in Georgian airports started last week and on January 29, Georgia temporarily stopped direct flights with China. At Thursday’s government meeting, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, commented on the possibilities of the virus spreading to Georgia. “If the new coronavirus is detected in Georgia, our healthcare system is fully prepared to respond to it,” he said. He then called on the relevant agencies to coordinate actions with the Ministry of Health in terms of taking preventive measures against the coronavirus. "I would like to emphasize the effective moves made by the Ministry of Health against the coronavirus. First, we decided to suspend direct flights with the People's Republic of China, and this was the most effective step we could take. However, the healthcare system is fully prepared to effectively respond to this challenge if such a virus is detected in Georgia," Gakharia noted. To date, cases of coronavirus have been reported in 17 countries worldwide: China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Taiwan, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, USA, Vietnam, and the United Arab Emirates. Cases recorded in Taiwan, Germany, Vietnam and Japan involved patients who had not been to China.






Atlantic Council's Kalensky on the EU, Russia & the Disinformation Campaign INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE FOR GISP


r Jakub Kalensky, a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) based in the Czech Republic, wrote a testimony for the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, in which the first important point he makes is that the hybrid warfare intensified after the Maidan events, although the information warfare had likely been around for centuries. The testimony, however, failed to mention Georgia, particularly the 2008 war. The Georgian Institute for Security Policy (GISP) met him to ask if this was a sign that Russia was successfully selling the world its narrative. “What I mentioned there is that this on-going, daily disinformation campaign began with the Maidan events, but I also said that there have been some isolated incidents before,” Kalensky told us. “I would definitely say that the 2008 war in Georgia was one of these incidents and they definitely tried to spread lies, but from what you read in reports, articles or studies, it looks like Russian leadership evaluated this information operation not entirely successful. But yes, if there are Westerners saying that Georgia was the aggressor then obviously that's a victory for Russian propaganda”.

DO YOU THINK THE WEST REALIZED THAT IT IS TAKING PART IN AN INFORMATION WAR? That's actually a question I keep asking myself. I think we have to understand the fact that whereas the Russians understand that they are in an information war with the West, the West or most of the West doesn't understand it. Europe still likes to play chess with the Kremlin, while the Kremlin is already punching them in the face. Obviously you can pretend we are still playing chess because we are gentlemen and we do not punch our partner, but if the other one is punching you, it's going to have only one rather violent outcome.

IS THE WEST RELUCTANT TO SEE THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION? On meeting a European counterpart, a Russian will not openly state “we are in an information war.” I don't think the West has perceived this message and I don't think the West would draw any consequences from it. The wording of the European Union does not use words like information war or information conflict. The West clearly doesn’t see itself in a conflict with Russia, whereas Russia does. This is an asymmetrical relationship and that is actually a horrible part of this situation. The cost is being paid by Ukrainians and Georgians, and this conflict is costing these countries their territories. What price does the West pay? Well you can say that Russian efforts to divide Europe are being very successful. They try to meddle in US affairs, they are even trying to help

The direction is right, but moves against disinformation should be faster

Very often, the lie is more appealing than the truth Brexit along, and I think they will be very happy with how it is developing. Have a look at Italy where the Russians tried to meddle information-wise in the 2016 constitution referendum and then in the 2018 parliamentary elections. The Russians did basically anything they could in Italy and what was the reaction? Where is the red line? Very good question, I don't have the answer.

WHY ARE THE KREMLIN’S FAKE NEWS TACTICS SO PERSUASIVE? WHAT MAKES THE KREMLIN'S SPEECH SO POWERFUL AND SO HARD TO RESIST? Very often, the lie is more appealing than the truth. Sometimes the lie is simply sexier. Garry Kasparov says that disinformation has a comparative advantage to the truth because the truth is only one, whereas there are hundreds of ways to lie about it. So this is one of the advantages for the liar. You can have much more benefit for lower cost. You need to simply find people who want to believe the lies because they do not want to blame themselves for their miserable lives and they want someone else to blame- “it's not my fault that I'm jobless and that I can't speak any other foreign language”. You would still find the people who are nostalgic for the soviet times. You could find such people in the EU, probably around the communist parties, but then you could find people who are ideologically aligned to Russia because it's defending traditional values.

WHAT ABOUT THE PUTINVERSTEHER PHENOMENON IN EUROPE? IS IT THE MAN’S CHARISMA? THE “IDEALS” HE STANDS FOR? Many people think Putin is a strong leader and you can't deny that if you don't mind the fact he is a dictator and mass murderer, a kleptocrat who has stolen the country from Russians, then yes, he is a strong leader, but I believe that he would run the country more effectively if he had no opposition and journalists covering him. People are attracted to strong people: this is human nature. It might be that some people really believe the nonsense that he’s protecting their traditional values. You would see some still thinking about Russia as this great literature and ballet somewhere in the 19th century. But I’m not a hundred percent sure that Gogol would agree with Russian activities in Ukraine.

WHAT IS STOPPING THE EU FROM TAKING ACTION? YOU USED TO WORK FOR THE EAST STRATCOM - DO THE SUITS IN BRUSSELS REALLY BELIEVE THAT EAST STRATCOM, ONE SMALL DEPARTMENT, CAN TACKLE RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION? If I am not mistaken, East Stratcom was created by the European Council, the European heads of states themselves, not EU officials sitting with the heads of states, in March 2015. Apparently, the EU has acknowledged they have a problem; understood that something new had to be tried. I came to Brussels when this team was launched in Autumn 2015. Some of the people who were in Brussels said that one of the major turning points was the MH 17 incident, which was actually mostly driven by Poles and the Baltic nations. I was responsible for

Image source: respekt.cz

countering disinformation, trying to connect the experts and journalists in Europe working on this topic. We were simply trying to collect and give more exposure to all that these organizations had found. If we could connect fifty, sixty cases of disinformation per week, we could already see a trend: that this week they’re focusing more on Syria, that week they’re focusing on MH 17. So in the beginning it was really connecting people who were willing to help us for free just because of the cause, and that's where I spent most of the time- finding these people.

ONE OF THE MAIN TOOLS TO COMBAT DISINFORMATION IS RAISING THE AWARENESS OF THE GENERAL POPULATION. HOW ARE THINGS FARING ON THAT FRONT? The direction is right, but the movement should be faster. You can see that more people are acknowledging that this is a problem; you can see more initiatives starting in particular member states and this is truly important. I even mentioned that people in suits who speak English have very limited audiences. We have to have law collectors talking to pensioners, to people in the village, to local students, and these are not people from Brussels: these are Georgians talking to Georgians and Czechs talking to Czechs. So I am really happy to see that there are more and more of these initiatives. The more local the reaction, the better and the more persuasive it will be. However, I still say we need much more. INTERVIEWER: Here is a scenario for disinformation. Imagine I'm an Albanian and you explain to me the seven stages of EU accession that France seems to be

so adamant on. I worked so hard; I wanted to be in the European Union for so long; I made so many reforms; and I see countries in there that haven't made so many reforms, which are lower on the democracy index, lower on the corruption index. And yet you imposed on me these seven stages of accession that might delay my membership indefinitely. How do you sell that idea? “I don't want to sell it to you because I don't want to defend them,” Kalensky answers. “I think the position is indefensible. Real strategic communication actually influences the political decisions. If you can't communicate the decision, it's probably a very bad decision, right? People at Stratcom might be forced to communicate this and I don't envy them. I wouldn't want to communicate it because I think it’s one of the worst messages the EU could assign its Eastern and Southern neighbours and I cannot imagine how disappointed these nations must be.” INTERVIEWER: Then there was this NATO being “braindead” comment from French President Macron, followed by his recent statement that he doesn’t see Russia as an enemy of NATO. Sell that idea now to Georgians who wanted to be in NATO. We have sent the largest component to Afghanistan among all NATO member countries. “I cannot. I wouldn't be able to explain it to Georgians, I wouldn't be able to explain it to Ukrainians and North Macedonians. I simply think this shouldn't have happened. That is the only thing I can say.”


We do not have a Putin problem, we have a Russia problem IN RUSSIA IS TIED TO PUTIN BUT WHEN PUTIN IS GONE THE SITUATION MIGHT GET BETTER. WE JUST HAVE TO WAIT. WHAT DO YOU THINK? I am afraid this is too optimistic. We do not have a Putin problem, we have a Russia problem. Putin is actually very consistent, he acts like a typical tsar, he behaves like typical communist parties. But this new “Medvedev”? I think we will hear how he is much more pro-West and he is not like Putin at all, and in five years we will have the same problem. If you don't get out of Crimea, if you don't get out of Ossetia and Abkhazia, there is no difference. I am not sure whether we will ever have political leaders who are strong enough. If Europe doesn't act according to the situation, doesn't understand that we are in a conflict with Russia, then no, Russia has no reason to change.





The US’ Strategic Intent in Georgia OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI


he US’ interests in the South Caucasus are as long-lasting as they are characteristic to other major powers such as Turkey, Russia and the Euro-

pean Union. There might have been vacillations in Washington’s position towards Georgia in past years or decades, but overall the American strategic thinking has remained intact. One of the geopolitical imperatives of the US since the breakup of the Soviet Union was to enable newly independent Georgia use its geographic position as a nodal point in the nascent South Caucasus energy and transport corridor. Moreover, the effectiveness of the Georgian corridor would also underpin a bigger project, the Trans-Caspian Corridor (to consist of a pipeline, port-to-port contacts, etc.), which is still only an idea with some minor success, but could, under altered circumstances, become a geopolitical reality. This would inevitably increase Georgia’s independence vis-à-vis Russian transportation networks. This vision has proved to be successful and in the almost 30 years that have passed since the end of the Soviet Union, big steps have been made to limit Russia’s energy and infrastructural presence in the country. Though, for many, a determining factor is the US military presence near Georgian borders or in the country itself, military protection is not as long-lasting as it might always seem. Of a more tangible essence have been the US aid programs to improve Georgia’s infrastructure, which is traditionally hampered by difficult geography (a factor which always limited Georgia’s political power and ability to control farflung territories).

US congressmen encourage the US Trade Representative to launch negotiations of a bilateral trade agreement with Georgia, summer 2018. Image source: mfa.gov.ge

One of the important future tasks for the US is supporting the successful construction of the Anaklia Port, as the port’s location and size would increase not only Georgia’s transit capabilities but also the implementation of the US strategy in Georgia: helping Tbilisi be less dependent on alternative transit routes. Despite Georgia’s being a geographically small country with limited military and economic potential, still it is important for the US to analyze the internal political developments. As Georgia gears up for crucial parliamentary elections this October, extensive cooperation with

various parties should be carried out. From the US perspective, the most popular parties in Georgia are in fact prowestern. This serves as a good basis for the composition of a long-term strategy. An important pillar of the US policy in the South Caucasus and Georgia in particular would be Washington’s deeper cooperation with Turkey. Though the two states have experienced some troubles in recent years, Ankara and Washington are still strategically aligned. It is in Turkey’s utmost interest to uphold Georgia’s security, as the latter serves as the only land link for Turkey to reach Azerbaijan

and the Caspian Sea. This also means that Ankara is averse to Russia strengthening its positions in the South Caucasus. Thus, in broader terms, Turkey and Azerbaijan’s strategic interests over Georgia are more aligned than they at times might seem. Another crucial sphere where the US could provide vital expertise and assistance is in the economy. Still, no long-term stability for Georgia would be possible unless the country enjoys considerable economic growth based on industrial and manufacturing capabilities. Georgia dearly lacks these elements, making the country vulnerable to regional political and eco-

nomic developments. In other words, this help will be more fundamental for the US’ position in the South Caucasus overall. In retrospect, it can be argued that Washington’s policy towards Georgia has not been changed since the end of the Soviet Union. There were periods of lowintensity cooperation, alternated by deepening of bilateral relations, but overall the US strategic intent towards Georgia has remained the same: improving the infrastructure as a basis for the country’s strengthened sovereignty against external geopolitical odds.





East StratCom’s Ahonen on Explaining the EU to Georgians center in their village that actually allows them to apply for a passport without having to go to Tbilisi. So, showing very practical things that they can see themselves.



he Georgian Institute for Security Policy (GISP) met Anneli Ahonen, Head of the European Union External Action Service’s East StratCom Taskforce, to talk about the strategic communication challenges the EU faces in Georgia and ways to overcome them.

IS THERE ENOUGH OF THAT HAPPENING IN GEORGIA? Not yet, but we are working on it. This is the most difficult and most expensive form of communication: being there, talking to these people. I don’t mean EU people being there, but really the information being there where those people can access it: in the newspaper they read, in their local village hall, in the local church, in all of the places where they go and communicate, this information must be there. Our challenge is getting the information there. Here’s the Estonian example: Take an elderly man in Estonia- he listens to the radio, and believes that whatever the radio says is “true”. So we know that we have to be on the radio, in programs he can relate to. We just have to know where this person is and how we can reach him.

LOOKING AT OUR REGION IN GEORGIA, IN PARTICULAR FROM BRUSSELS, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR MAIN CHALLENGES? The challenge is that Georgia is tormented by the Kremlin’s disinformation and that makes the problem much tougher to tackle, and there is no easy solution. Our team was set up in 2015 and since then, we have been working together with local community leaders in countries we are trying to assist. So, our team will explain in Georgian, the language that the local community leaders understand, in the ways that Georgian society understands, what the EU is about, what European integration means and what the benefits are.


Image source: twitter.com/EUvsDisinfo

MEMORIES OF SOVIET TIMES. HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN TO THEM THE BENEFITS OF THE EU AND EUROPE? Well, the only way to sell the EU to them is to explain how their community has benefited from such things. What are the main benefits for them, for their fam-

ily or village. The only way to show this is how the EU has helped to create jobs or some kind of programs for whatever their interests are. There are projects and programs working in the communities on different types of engagement with older people. We need to show them that the EU has built a community


job creation and showing EU support in local cooperatives coming together, producing something, getting new equipment.

THE RUSSIANS WOULD WASTE NO TIME IN INFORMING THESE PEOPLE THAT "THE EU STANDS AGAINST THEIR TRADITIONAL VALUES.” HOW CAN YOU COUNTER THIS? I would aim to get them to believe that actually the European Union is something that could be valuable somehow to their personal life in Georgia, that it can help them in some way. The other way is what we are doing with the Church, explaining the more difficult concepts of how we work, what it means to rebut the myths of the other side.

HOW MUCH WILLINGNESS HAVE YOU SEEN FROM THE CHURCH? A lot. We’ve been at it for three years now. We’ve had substantially better cooperation in terms of study, dialogue and youth projects. We have EU clubs in schools, but so much more needs to be done. Nothing happens overnight. The only key to successful communication is its consistency over the years. You have to do the same thing non-stop, year after year.

Well, I can say how I wouldn’t do it: I wouldn’t go through the values which are very distant for them and very difficult to understand. I would use the tangible things that they recognize and which are somehow related to their life:

Will Georgian Dream Let Lavrov Back in? OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


eorgian Dream (GD) is facing a new dilemma. This time, it is not the scandalous Gavrilov that is the reason, but another Sergey with a much higher official status. Instead of the MP from the Russian Duma, GD will have to deal with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs. What makes the situation even more difficult is that where on June 20, 2019, MP Sergey Gavrilov was invited by the Georgian Dream, Sergey Lavrov will likely be able to visit Tbilisi even without their invitation. The glass palace hasn’t decided yet if they should violate Georgian legislation and stick with the responsibility they’ve taken on internationally. Three months from now, around May 14-15, Georgia, as the Chair of Council of Europe’s (CoE) Committee of Ministers, will be hosting the 130th CoE Committee of Ministers in Tbilisi. The ministerial will consist of Foreign Affairs Ministers, among them a delegation from Russia and its fixed head Sergey Lavrov. And this is where the main puzzle begins. Russian minister Lavrov has violated the Georgian ‘Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia’ a number of times by travelling to the occupied territories directly, not through the lands controlled by Official Tbilisi. Not only has he violated Georgian legislation, but he is also regarded by many as one of the main architects of the 2008 occupation. Minister Lavrov, just like his predecessors Yevgeny Primakov and Igor Ivanov was born in Georgia. Before his school years, Lavrov lived in the Sololaki district of Tbilisi, in the house at the corner of Chaikovski and Iashvili streets. On March 21, 1950, the baby boy was born

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Source: AP

into Vladika Kalantarian’s family and named Sergo. His father died when he was six, which is when he moved from Tbilisi to Moscow, where his mother started her second family. It is still unknown where the future Minister of Foreign Affairs got his surname Lavrov, whether from his mother or stepfather, since the Russian media is purposely quiet on the issue, especially about his Georgian roots. And yet he has kept up his connection with Georgia in his political career, just as Primakov and Ivanov did. As early as 1993, when Abkhazia was already occu-

pied, it was Lavrov who coordinated the issue, as he did the whole Russian policy with regards to the former Soviet countries. The war of 2008, as well as the phone discussions between Lavrov and US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice that went public, have somehow turned into the symbolic crown of Russian imperialistic politics. To put it bluntly, Lavrov is the éminence grise and the right hand of President Putin, and perhaps this is why his persona is such a headache to the Georgian Dream government. Following the 2008 August War, dip-

lomatic relations between Russia and Georgia were terminated. In the 12 years since, not one of Lavrov’s high-level officials has visited Georgia proper. The visit and the speech of Gavrilov last June, in the framework of the Orthodox Forum, was met with thousands protesting outside Parliament and the ultimate resignation of its head Irakli Kobakhidze. Whether Lavrov’s visit will be followed by any resignations will become known in May. President Zurabishvili spoke from behind the CoE tribune about taking on the responsibility of CoE chairmanship, and gave guarantees that Lav-

rov’s visit to Tbilisi would take place peacefully. The opposition claims quite the contrary, saying that there is no place for Lavrov in Georgia. It is hard to tell whether the opposition will in fact be able do anything about it. While nothing is certain about the upcoming May events, the only thing that is clear is that the ministerial that was to have brought “bonus points” for the Georgian Dream’s electoral campaign and serve as a visible illustration of the party’s foreign affairs success has turned into a disaster that will be hard to overcome.





Two More US Senators Write Critical Letters to the Georgian PM BY ANA DUMBADZE


S Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, sent a letter to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on January 29, in which they expressed “concern over recent events that indicate a backsliding from Georgia’s commitment to building the institutions of their democracy.” “…In the 29 years since Georgia's independence from the Soviet Union, we have watched democracy take root, the economy grow, civil society flourish, and governance improve dramatically. Georgia's commitment to a peaceful transition of power and consensus-based politics has been an impressive example in your region. We both observed the 2012 parliamentary elections and were impressed with how Georgia had embraced these core tenets of democracy. For decades now, the United States has been eager to support Georgia as it developed. "However, we are increasingly concerned by recent events that indicate a weakening of Georgian democracy and governance. Two of the most pressing matters are Parliament's failure to uphold its commitment to electoral reform and the government's violent suppression of peaceful protests. We understand that the promised electoral reform was expected to give proportional representation to Georgian voters to ensure the system did not unduly favor any one political party. Your government's decision to prevent that change indicates a backsliding from commitments to build the institutions of Georgia's democracy. Furthermore, the massive yet peaceful

protests that followed are a visible sign that there is dissatisfaction with this failure. The government's violent suppression of these protests is a violation of Georgians' democratic rights and of the government's duty to protect its citizens. "In addition, the recent political targeting of opposition leaders through both formal and informal methods is further evidence of Georgia's democratic backsliding. Reports that opposition leaders have been physically assaulted or harassed by individuals linked to the ruling party are disconcerting. So too is the reopening of criminal cases against opposition figures that have been closed for years. Politicians must be permitted to exercise their right to speak freely, and Georgia's judicial system should not be used as a tool to limit this freedom. "Finally, we are particularly concerned that the independence of Georgia's judicial system is being undermined by the appointment of 14 new Supreme Court justices for lifetime tenures before their qualifications were fully evaluated, as noted in the January 2020 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitoring report. Installing political allies into the highest court, instead of impartial judges with robust credentials, undermines the very democratic institutions that have made Georgia the envy of the region. Mr. Ivanishvili's recent statement that many more protestors will have to go to prison is a further troubling development. We hope it is not an indication that the Georgian government is willing to misuse the courts and police for political gain. "We have been strong advocates of the US partnership with Georgia for years and still believe you have a strong democratic foundation. However, these events give us pause and raise questions about Georgia's commitment to our shared values. Further, we fear that a lack of progress on reforms and increased ten-

sions within Georgia will only open the door for increased Russian meddling in the country and throughout the region. The longer these actions continue, the more Georgia's security will be jeopardized, and we may be forced to reevaluate our partnership. "An independent, democratic Georgia has many international supporters, and we are eager to continue to assist your country. However, we are motivated to support Georgia's economic and political development only as long as we can rely on Georgia to be a stable, trustworthy, and democratic partner in this effort. We sincerely hope that you will work quickly to reverse this decline and fulfill the promises made to the Georgian people,” the letter reads. The above letter is one of a series of critical statements made by American congressmen of late, in particular, letters sent by Adam Kinzinger and Gerald E. Connolly, Co-Chairs of the US Congressional Georgia Caucus and the joint let-

In the very heart of the city

Address: 17 Wine Ascent Tbilisi, Georgia Tel: (+995) 322 22 11 16 www.facebook.com/BricksTbilisi/

ter sent by four Congressmen, together with a letter from Congressman Mullin and a comment from Congressman Pete Olson, which mentioned the dispute between the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation and the US-based company Frontera Resources. In response, the ruling party Georgian Dream members' common position is that the US congressmen "are not properly informed, and have one-sided information about recent developments in the country". They say they plan to inform them of their arguments regarding the open letters during regular meetings scheduled for February. Chairman of Parliament Archil Talakvadze stated Wednesday that "the government is ready to answer all the questions that the congressmen asked in their letters." Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said he understands the controversy generated by the Congressmen’s letters in Georgia. "There is a political context, and, of

course, everybody will use these letters in the political context, given the election cycle," Gakharia said. He told journalists that all the letters the administration received had been immediately disclosed to the public and were not concealed. “Whatever tough questions emerge between strategic partners, we are always ready to sit down and talk about them. We are ready to do so both inside and outside the country, whenever serious questions are asked about Georgia's democratic development, foreign orientation, strategic relations between countries. Everyone understands that Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations and development are irreversible. Our colleagues may have some questions and I assure you that we are not afraid of this. We are not afraid of tough questions or tough answers, both at home and abroad. Every question will be answered quietly, without unnecessary excitement," he stated.





International Maritime Group: Investing in Georgia’s Maritime Future


leadership skills. IMG is working in the direction of increasing the number of competent seafarers. We have now developed a special program that will allow us to increase the number of jobs and thereby provide an opportunity for financial development to all regions of Georgia. We are now focused on the search for resources to finance a program of free maritime education.

reating a sustainable environment for the maritime industry is an important enabler for fostering trade, economic growth and general prosperity in Georgia. Opened in 2008, International Maritime Group (IMG) has lately become the country’s most significant community in the maritime field and gained its authenticity at the international level too. Over the years, IMG has gained respect by providing their partners with quialified crew, comprehensive support and immaculate service contributing to the Georgian maritime industry. IMG is doing its best to maintain and strengthen maritime traditions in Georgia and promote its seafarers at an international level. To learn more about IMG, GEORGIA TODAY talked to Dias Jalagania, the CEO of the company.


TELL US ABOUT THE COMPANY. WHAT VALUES DOES IMG UPHOLD? IMG is a company established to serve the international industry in the supply of ship’s personnel. Our special focus is to provide access to maritime education and training in order to supply the best qualified seafarers. Our work ethic involves managing all available resources to continually increase the number of Georgian seafarers. The maritime industry is unique, and for the people working in it, it is often much more than a job: it’s a passion. We have a true understanding of the industry and will guide an aspiring seafarer seamlessly through the training process. IMG cooperates with many foreign partners, including European ship-owners. Only the most carefully-selected and determined seafarers will find employment with good European shipping companies. Enthusiasm, sincerity, identification of objectives, commitment and a strategic approach are some of the crucial factors needed to achieve success in the maritime industry. We aim to consistently uphold these values and detect and foster them in impassioned seafarers as well.

The picture taken at Orion Bulkers, Hamburg, Germany

WHAT IS THE SITUATION NOW IN THE GEORGIAN MARITIME INDUSTRY? IS THERE SPACE FOR DEVELOPMENT? The maritime sector, often acknowledged as the life blood of global economy, is of crucial importance to modern societies. Nevertheless, the general public has a limited perception and appreciation of its influence and role as an essential element in terms of social and economic development, and as one of the best sources of high-salary employment. To raise awareness and promote maritime careers in Georgia we are now implementing the "Adopt A Ship" school program, a free educational program initiated by the Cyprus Shipping Chamber. The Black Sea, strategically located

between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, can be seen as a vital connecting hub. With due effort, Georgia can soon become one of the key players in the region. There are concrete initiatives that Georgia can take to further facilitate sustainable development of the maritime industry and with it, benefit the Georgian economy as a whole. It is true that Georgia’s maritime sector is evolving, which on one hand has been reflected in the increasingly successful employment of Georgian seafarers, and on the other hand in the development of Georgia’s port infrastructure and services. Georgia is among the countries on the IMO’s white list and Georgian certificates of competency are recognized by 50 states, among them 19

EU members. With continued effort and the right perspective, the industry can be turned into one of the crucial economic treasures for Georgia.

WHAT MAKES A GEORGIAN SEAFARER INTERESTING FOR THE INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING MARKET? WHAT ARE THEIR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES? Seafaring is one of the world’s oldest professions. Over the past half century, employment patterns have shown the challenge the seafaring profession faces today, namely a shortage in the supply of skilled seafarers worldwide. What distinguishes Georgian seafarers and makes them interesting for the world is high professionalism and deep-rooted

For us, crewing is not only a business but also a national cause. One of our most significant initiatives is aimed at offering free study options for young aspiring seafarers’ from Abkhazia and Ossetia, which would help foster the relationship between Georgia and its breakaway territories. I believe that creating tangible opportunities for our fellow young people in these regions would be the only definite and fruitful step toward reconciliation. We are also cooperating with certain companies to create employment opportunities for women as housekeepers on board. This would further increase highsalary employment opportunities and benefit Georgia’s economy as a whole. Our more distant goals include the establishment of a Maritime University that will offer free specialized education and training for Georgian seafarers; once they find employment, they will have a chance to re-pay this via small amounts taken from their salary on a monthly basis. The opportunities which the industry is facing requires long-term efforts from the various players. Creating a sustainable environment for the development of maritime industry should be a joint goal. We are always looking to deepen cooperation and establish partnerships with the government, international associations and private corporations to facilitate the exchange of know-how and together promote a healthy maritime industry in Georgia. Together we can ensure the efficient and sustainable development of Georgia’s maritime industry.

Dozens of Social Workers Fired in Georgia BY TEA MARIAMIDZE


round 30 social workers in Georgia were informed that they will not have jobs from February due to the reorganization launched by the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs. Keti Khutsishvili, a representative of the Social Workers' Trade Union, says that the Ministry did not explain the reason for the dismissal to those employees who received a letter on January 29. According to her, the Ministry of Health had an obligation to explain in detail why those social workers were fired. “About 30 social workers have been dismissed. According to the agency, these people were fired as part of the reorganization but were only informed of the fact three days prior. There was no other reason listed in the notification but ‘reorganization’. They should have explained why exactly these people were chosen to leave the agency,” she said. Khutsishvili says that as of December 2019, there are 239 social workers in Georgia, but under the Social Work Law, the state has undertaken an obligation to raise that to at least 285 social workers in the country. She added that most likely the dismissed

Image source: Netgazeti

social workers will take the case to court to protect their rights. The Ministry of Health claims the social workers were informed about the planned reorganization, and were given two months' compensation. According to the ministry, there is no plan to reduce the

number of social workers and, on the contrary, various sectors will be strengthened. Giorgi Tsotskolauri, the Deputy Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs, explained that

during the reorganization process, they communicated with the staff about the ongoing reorganization and those affected knew about the changes in advance. “The reorganization of the social service agency has been ongoing since March 1, 2019, so the staff were provided

with full information at almost every stage. Letters were sent to them in the past and they also received information directly from me. I am always available when they need me to clarify any issues,” he said. Tsotskolauri noted that during the reorganization process, a special commission was created which met all employees before deciding who needed to go. The statement further highlights that the ministry plans to strengthen the direction of childcare, merging Care, Child and Family Violence Management, with the State Fund for Care and Assistance to Victims of Human Trafficking. The Fund Director, Meri Maghlaperidze, says a new agency will be created as a result of the reorganization: the Agency for State Care and Assistance to the Victims of Human Trafficking. “It will be a positive event as several service providers will unite. Of course, vacancies will be created within the reorganization and a competition will be announced throughout Georgia according to the law,” she said. The statement of the Ministry explains that the social workers who lost their jobs will have an opportunity to apply for the new vacancies created within the new Agency for State Care and Assistance to the Victims of Human Trafficking.




Space Constraints: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER


wo things North Americans are infamous for: a garage full of junk with no space for a vehicle, and (more particularly Canadians with some land) owning a yellow school bus, not likely in running order, as packed as the aforementioned garage. From there, we branch out to rented storage containers: these may be auctioned off to people who have no real idea aside from a look in through the doors what they’re really getting with their purchase, but it is a gamble for treasure. The latter storage possibility, of course, televised for the enjoyment of vicarious watchers of Reality TV. Every now and then, one of the buyers does strike gold, and it might be the most outlandish thing you could imagine. 16th century gold coins! 1st editions of vanishingly rare comics in mint condition (this one especially dear to me heart as a former collector)! A painting or sculpture by someone famous, or a photo of someone such! You never know. I am reminded of all this with the current crew of nine young people staying

in our guest house, unusual for winter months but getting more normal. They are Here to Help, cooking and washing up for themselves, giving the local children all sorts of fun things to do in a twice or thrice weekly club, and helping us and the neighbors with odd jobs. They come from all over the world. This time one is even a speaker of the next language to go into our guest book! Xhosa, a language with clicks, from South Africa. At the moment I have them helping tidy out my garage. Yes, the big 4x4 Toyota 4Runner does fit into it still. But only just. I have accumulated several years’ worth of tools and supplies to make myself as self-sufficient as possible in a rural setting far from good professional help or materials (the exceptions in Svaneti being wood, stone and their byproducts). Plumbing and electrical parts, power tools, a welding unit, nails and screws of many sizes, leftover drywall and insulation, and overflow from The Shop which threatens to take over more and more of the house. We have taken out all sorts of things which won’t be spoilt by the intermittent snow of the moment, such as plastic hose, to make space for work. My main guy is hauling shelving wood from

the air-drying, tarpaulin-covered lot in the yard. He even brought some of his own preferred tools from Tbilisi, batterypowered things which are highly convenient. Plus, his tool belt and best work gloves. He has been here several times before, knows the ropes now, and is always a great asset for getting done so many of those odd jobs which just need a spare pair of hands other than my wife’s (she has hers full with school and shop anyway). Knowing he would come, I have been making a list and checking it twice so as to be ready for this couple of weeks of intense work together. I don’t feel that we own vastly more than too much junk or even stuff; we try to limit it to what is necessary across the widely divergent seasons of Upper Svaneti in a Do-it-Yourself atmosphere. It’s tricky having the good tools which I like, though, as neighbors always want to borrow them and they may not return in the same condition as they went out in. My electric chainsaw is so much quieter, and being that powers here is free, is a great buy! So far no one has asked for it; I will only let it go out accompanied by me. We aren’t millionaires, in the end, to constantly replace that which others damage. But we do want to be helpful when we can, especially in a village the name of which means help in Hebrew! A somewhat delicate balancing act. All tied back into the balance of having enough Stuff here to survive reasonably well, and not too much to make everyone jealous and bitter. Nor enough sheer Junk, useless and cluttering. At least Georgia has the collectors of Jarti, scrap metal, who even go door to door! Now, if I could just persuade my wife to part with the old iron bathtub sitting in the yard… Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti







TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 February 1, 2 THE NUTCRACKER A new version of the Christmas fairytale Pyotr Tchaikovsky Ballet in two acts Choreographers: Alexey Fadeechev and Nina Ananiashvili Tbilisi Z. Paliashvili Opera and Ballet State Theater Orchestra Conductor- Papuna Ghvaberidze Start time: February 1- 19:00, February 2- 14:00 Ticket: 10-200 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. January 31 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL February 1 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL February 2 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. February 1 INTRO Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Sandro Nikoladze's Musical Alegry Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15 GEL

February 2 MAGICAL NIGHTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze, Davit Kakulia Choreographer: Lasha Robakidze Starring: Jonathan Rousselle, Ekaterine Gabashvili, Niniko Avaliani, Viqtoria Kosova, Tazo Kikalishvili Start time: 13:00 Price: 10 GEL February 2 THE STORY OF A MURDERER Directed by Kakh Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze, Davit Kakulia Artist: Bidzina Sidiani, Nikolaus Hipp Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL February 5 A LO CUBANO NIGHT'S Every Wednesday Cuban dancer’s masterclass Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL MUSEUM


discovered by Georgian National Museum's Tsutskvati Cave Archaeological Expedition. Until February 9 EXHIBITION "CHINESE ART IN GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM" dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and a book by Irina Koshoridze, Marina Dgebuadze, Natia Demurishvili, Nino Simonishvili IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 Until February 4 THE HARMONY OF SEASHELLS Artworks by Arch-Priest Dimitri Sukhitashvili MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge The exhibition hall is equipped with monitors, where visitors can see documentaries of various historical events. MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave and jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in the Mirror Room, free yourself in the Infinity Room, resist the laws of gravity and size, and take selfies in every possible pose. Enjoy the collection of holograms and discover optical illusions. GALLERY


COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY Until February 29 Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy in Georgia present the exhibition ROMA AETERNA. MASTERPIECES OF ROMAN SCULPTURE FROM THE DINO AND ERNESTA SANTARELLI FOUNDATION National Gallery features 33 sculptures depicting the stages of artistic or stylistic evolution from the Roman Republic to Neoclassical era. Until February 20 VALERIAN SIDAMON-ERISTAVI ANNIVERSARY-RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION Eristavi’s works include theater and cinema painting, and iconography; he created copies of medieval frescos; decorated museum expositions and parades; created illustrations for various manuals, and worked on newspaper caricatures and furniture sketches. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF GEORGIA 1 Vaja Pshavela Ave. Untill January 31 MOUNTAIN PEAKS OF GEORGIA PHOTO EXHIBITION SPHERO City Mall Saburtalo, Veranda, II Floor A domed cognitive-entertainment space where you can become part of an impressive 360-degree panorama image. For all ages. TBILISI DIGITAL SPACE Tbilisi Mall The first museum of digital art in Tbilisi. See Vazha-Pshavela's "Dried beech", a world of torches, and a digital space decorated with various graphic and visuals effects. In the main hall, through video projections and mirrors, you will discover that there is no boundary between Man and nature. Ticket: 10-30 GEL


REPUBLIC 1sr Republic Sq. Jenuary 31 NIKAKOI AND EREKLE DEISADZE’S CONCERT SUPPORTING NANIKO CHEISHVILI Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 40 GEL MONOHALL 2 D. Bakradze Str. January 31 TIVI SESSION #01: CHRISTIAN LÖFFLER / PARRA FOR CUVA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 30-80 GEL LENØ RECORDS 10a Lubliana Str. February 1 LOUDSPEAKERS LIVELENO SESSIONS #2 Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 15 GEL DJ. KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 123a D. Agmashenebeli Ave. February 1 TBILISI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND GEORGIAN STATE CHOIR Conductor: Revaz Djavakhishvili Program: Ludwig van Beethoven’s “D-Dur Mass” Soloists: Marika Machitidze (soprano), Irina Sherazadishvili (mezzo soprano), Badri Adamia (tenor) and Gocha Datusani (bass). Alexander Scriabin’s concerto for piano and symphony orchestra No.1 Pianist Tamar Makharadze Maurice Ravel’s “Spanish Rhapsody”. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. February 4 JAM SESSION Improv music Every Tuesday Musical director- Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 21:00 Price: 10 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedovi Str. February 29 Artists Union Concept Art presents a project created by THE SYNTHESIS OF MUSIC AND SPEECH: SCARLET ANGELS Collaboration of renowned artistsGiorgi Zagareli (viola), Giorgi Gigashvili (piano), Erekle Deisadze Program: Sergei Prokofiev, Arvo Part, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ioseb Bardanashvili, Giya Kancheli, Nikoloz Rachveli, William Shakespeare, Paul Celan and Erekle Deisadze. Start time: 20:00 Price: 15-35 GEL





Paul Kalkbrenner to Perform in Georgia BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE


eorgia is exploring electronic music, and the capital’s nightlife is becoming ever brighter, with more people finding themselves wanting to join the rave culture. Indeed, Georgia’s touristic attractions are no longer limited to the country’s cuisine, lasting traditions, and thousands of years of history, as Tbilisi’s night scene increases in popularity. And now Paul Kalkbrenner is coming here is to help the cause. Event series Monument on March 6 will present Paul Kalkbrenner, the Germany-based artist famous for his live acts and who has received a lot of prestigious awards. The German artist, performing in the Georgian capital for the first time, is unique in his artistic approach, for which he is extremely appreciated in the electronic music industry. “Kalkbrenner’s demanding productions are full of energy; they exist to take listeners away from the everyday, from the

weekly grind, into rapture: into art, ecstasy, absurdity friendship, hope and love,” the organizers of the event say. Kalkbrenner who was just 12 years old when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, found his self-expression, like many others, in Techno music. As he himself would later say, techno music to him sounded something like the soundtrack of Germany’s reunification. In the autumn of 1992, together with his friend Sascha Funke, he started DJing at local youth clubs. Very quickly, Paul and Sascha were either DJing or passionately collecting records, as electronic dance music’s first tidal wave spilled over dance floors in Berlin’s soon-to-be legendary clubs Tresor, Planet, Walfisch and e-werk. Kakbrenner’s ambitions soon grew, and the desire to play his own music live emerged. His first tracks were released on Ellen Allien’s newly founded Bpitch Control label in 1999. In contrast to the darker, monotone sounds that characterized techno at the time, Kalkbrenner’s music was more melodic and enriched the listeners with a warm feeling, attracting more and more to his rave scenes.

Image source: Monument on Facebook

In 2004, his career took an upturn when Berlin-based film director and self-confessed Kalkbrenner fan, Hannes Stoehr, got in touch with him. Stoehr was planning to make a movie about an electronic musician in Berlin’s techno scene and wanted the German emerging artist to produce the soundtrack. As the script for the film developed, Hannes suggested Paul might be perfect starring in the film. ‘Berlin Calling’ became a surprise hit,

and a German cult movie in its own right. It drew audiences all around Europe and stayed on the big screen at Berlin’s Central Kino for several years. The soundtrack went platinum and the single ‘Sky and Sand’ spent over 121 consecutive weeks in the German singles charts, a German record. Unsurprisingly, Kalkbrenner’s contribution to contemporary music grew thanks to the commercial success of the movie. The musician has already

The New Nutcracker



hile for most nonGeorgians, the festive season ended as soon as the champagne bottles were thrown out and the tree taken down, for some the magic goes on. On February 1 and 2, a new version of the Christmas fairytale ‘The Nutcracker,’

by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, is being presented at the Tbilisi Z. Paliashvili Opera and Ballet State Theater, and it is well worth going for that magical escape to childhood magic (for adults) and as a bright, colorful adventure to feed the imagination (for young ones). I took my three children, aged 10, 8 and 6, to the ballet, shown in two acts, midJanuary before school restarted. Aside from the huge, twinkling tree in the foyer, the first treat to be revealed was a floor to ceiling stage curtain painted by the



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superb team at the Opera house, lead by David Popiashvili. It showed, in the style of the posters that first caught my eye in the Tbilisi streets, the young Clara Stahlbaum [renamed Barbare Dadiani for the Georgian version] with a cast of animals, animated dolls, fairies and party guests around her and, of course, the Christmas tree. At the bottom of the curtain, as the lights dimmed and a spotlight fell, was the cheeky face of The Nutcracker. As per tradition, before the dancers

Journalists: Ana Dumbadze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nini Dakhundaridze, Tea Mariamidze, Tony Hanmer, Emil Avdaliani, Zaza Jgarkava, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Beka Alexishvili, Elene Dzebizashvili, Maka Bibilashvili

stepped out on stage, the audience paid homage to the orchestra, conducted by the great Papuna Ghvaberidze. Sitting there, drinking in the rainbow details of the giant painting while listening to Tchaikovsky (and fielding all the “What is that? What will happen? What’s the story about? questions from my young ones) was the perfect warm-up to the evening ahead. And then the scenery was revealed: first the snow-covered rooftops and icefilled streets of the town, with some notable Tbilisi landmarks that had my lot whispering in excited recognition, as the Dadiani family’s party guests arrived; then the ballroom, with its giant Christmas tree, grandfather clock, table with a bowl of fruit, etc., positioned at the edges (that were to cleverly transform from life-size 3D objects, to 2D paintings, to giants as the scene changes, and character sizes dictated). The costumes (designer: Ana Kalatozishvili), their color, texture and combinations, were truly wondrous to behold as the guests greeted one another in a dance, and we were introduced to Barbare and her brother Levan (Fritz) and their magical and charismatic Uncle Drosselmeyer (played by David Ananeli). My children met the dancing dolls from Spain, France, China, Russia and Indiathe youngest laughing at their funny moves and the eldest studying them carefully to put into practice at her own ballet classes. We could well-relate to Barbare and Levan’s squabble over the best toy (a common event in our house!) and Levan’s attempt to break it when he

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produced eight studio albums and is a constant feature on musical charts worldwide. He has headlined numerous festivals, among them Tomorrowland (BE), Lollapalooza (FRA, DE), Coachella (USA), Ultra Miami (USA), and Glastonbury (Exit Festival). The Tbilisi show will have an age control of 18+. Tickets are already on sale, with prices starting from 50 GEL on tkt. ge.

couldn’t get it. Yonan Takano’s transformation from wooden nutcracker to human was excellently choreographed, as were the mechanical mice which dashed across the stage before the ensuing energetic fight between the tin soldiers and the Mouse King. The scenery continued to wow as we shrank down to the size of mice (the effect achieved by raising the height of the painted Christmas tree and the furniture I mentioned earlier), and watched as snow fell in droves backstage but never actually hit the stage. The dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (soloist Nina Samadashvili) left us stunned and then clapping vigorously, as did Barbare and The Nutcracker’s flight off into the wings on the back of a giant ladybird. The ending left us grinning and the children eager for more. And we were lucky enough to get a peep backstage to explore the magical tree and ladybird – my sincere thanks to the organizers and Friends of the Georgian Ballet for that treat! All in all, a brilliant evening away from reality in the already magical setting of the Tbilisi Opera House. Beautiful scenery, a local setting, excellent costumes, and superb dancing, choreographed by Georgia’s own Prima Ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, and Alexey Fadeechev. On this weekend. February 1, 19:00, February 2, 14:00 Limited tickets left. Apply to the Box Office directly.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1223  

January 24 - February 3, 2020

Issue #1223  

January 24 - February 3, 2020