Issue no: 1155
• MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... China Set to Increase its Influence in Georgia
POLITICS PAGE 4
Back in Ukraine, what will he do next?
Image source: Kyivpost
Historic Sections of Mestia, Ushguli to be Renovated BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
Georgian Wine & Gastronomy in Japan BUSINESS PAGE 7
Meet Fred Smits, the GM at the New Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace BUSINESS PAGE 8
Accessible Infrastructure to be Installed in Tbilisi BUSINESS PAGE 10
he Georgian Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure has announced the next location in its plan for renovations of historic towns nationwide. The town of Mestia and the village of Ushguli have been targeted for rehabilitation and restoration works by the ministry. Mesti and Ushguli are located in the Svaneti region. Mestia is the region’s largest town, with a year-round population of less than 2,000 people, and an elevation of 1,500 meters above sea level. Mestia is 128 kilometers northeast of Zugdidi, the nearest city. Ushguli is counted as one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe at 2,100 meters above sea level. For most of the year, the road connecting Ushguli to Mestia is unpassable, covered with snow and ice. Approximately 70 families call the isolated village home, many relying on income from businesses that cater to tourists who make the trek up, curious to see a glimpse of traditional Georgian high-mountain culture. Svaneti’s most distinguishing architectural feature is undoubtedly its stone towers, which were built attached to homes as a watch tower and defense mechanism. The Municipal Development Fund will restore several towers in both locations, focusing on the Lagami district of Mestia. The project will also renovate roads, install lighting systems, and construct a parking lot for visitors.
CENN Hosts EU-Supported First National Seminar on Human Rights for Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Image source: Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure announced the completion of another project in Mestia: the rehabilitation of the Leo Pilpani National and Folklore Theater. At the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Vice Premier, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia Maya Tskitishvili, Executive Director of the Municipal Development Fund of Georgia (MDF) Giorgi Shengelia, Adviser to Prime Minister of Georgia Sozar Subari, and representatives of local authorities celebrated the center’s rebirth. The GEL 4.7 million ($1.68 mln) project was funded by the World Bank. “This is a Culture Center that will serve as a home for the residents of Mestia and Svaneti, but first of all it will house the 90-year-old Ensemble ‘Riho.’ This is an ensemble with a great future and the renovated space will enable its numerous members to consider new plans
and possibilities for expansion and development. The Folklore Center will be a cherished place not only for Mestia residents, but for its guests as well,” said Tskitishvili. In an article written by Tskitishvili in April, published by The Economist in Georgia, she explains that “The MRDI strategically looks at Georgia’s history to identify potential development hot-spots, targeting old resorts…for renovation and revival, hoping to create a touristdriven eco-system for a variety of businesses to thrive.” She adds, “Unfortunately, we are still busy building basic infrastructure in many settlements. There are villages where there are no internal roads or water,” however, “in addition to infrastructure, strong self-governance is necessary for the development of the regions.” The ministry has several major rehabilitation projects planned, among them in Abastumani, Dusheti, Gudauri, and Kutaisi.
SOCIETY PAGE 12
One for the Diary: Echowaves 2019 Electronic Music Festival Set for August 22-25 CULTURE PAGE 15
MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
Georgia’s Ex-President Saakashvili Is Back in Ukraine BY THEA MORRISON
fter nearly two years following expulsion, the expresident of Georgia and former Governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Region Mikheil Saakashvili returned to Kiev on May 29. Saakashvili’s decision came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky restored Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship on May 26, which was deprived from him in July 2017. Upon his arrival at the Borisapol Airport, Saakashvli’s supporters met him with a small concert and chants of "Misha, Misha." “I have not come to Ukraine for revenge or destruction: I came here to build,” Saakashvili told the media. He said his arrival in Ukraine was very emotional as he had spent 12 years of his life in that country. The former Governor of Odessa thanked President Zelensky for restoring his citizenship and named him a strong and independent politician. Saakashvili also noted he would do his best to bring new politicians to Ukrainian politics. “The only country where I am refused entry is Georgia, and I will soon go back there too,” Saakashvili said, noting that when he was expelled from Ukraine two years ago, he did not even take his belongings, because he believed he would be back. The ex-President of Georgia also high-
Image source: Kyivpost
lighted that there have as yet been no talks about his possible appointment to any posts in Ukraine. “I am not in negotiations about any positions,” he told the crowd standing outside the airport. However, Kyivpost reports that some
are floating his name as a possible candidate for Prosecutor General to replace Yuriy Lutsenko, who has not prosecuted anybody of significance for corruption. Lutsenko claimed he would leave his post after the parliamentary elections scheduled for July 21.
Saakashvili, who has a political party in Ukraine, the Movement of New Forces, also claimed he personally wouldn’t participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. However, his ally David Sakvarelidze, a former Ukrainian deputy prosecutor
general who now leads the Movement of New Forces, earlier told Ukrainian news website Apostrophe that the party would run for parliament on July 21. Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairman of the Georgian Parliament, said he advises the Ukrainian authorities not to appoint Mikheil Saakashvili to any position, but said that if it happens, this should not affect relations between the two countries. “You know how it worked out last time,” he said. “The result will be the same when it comes to the appointment of an avanturist to any position.” Saakashvili served as the third president of Georgia in 2004-2013 and the Governor of Ukraine’s Odessa in 20152016. He supported Ukraine's Euromaidan movement and the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. On 30 May 2015, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appointed him as Governor of Odessa Oblast. He was also granted Ukrainian citizenship but due to restrictions on dual nationality under Georgian law, was stripped of his Georgian citizenship. On 7 November 2016, Saakashvili resigned as Governor, blaming Poroshenko for enabling corruption in Odessa and in Ukraine overall. Four days later, he announced the creation of a new political movement. On 26 July 2017, Saakashvili, at the time staying in the US, was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship by Poroshenko, which was reinstated by Zelensky a few days ago. Saakashvili cannot return to Georgia due to the various charges against him.
MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
China Set to Increase its Influence in Georgia BY EMIL AVDALIANI
hina-Georgia relations since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 have been positive in both the economic and overall political sense. However, they are often overestimated by analysts in Georgia and elsewhere. Bilateral trade growth as well as a gradual increase in Chinese investments in Georgia have oft been hailed as exceptional and a marked sign of increased Chinese influence over Tbilisi. True, economic growth has been taking place, but this has been but a small portion of the real potential. In fact, despite analysts’ positive views, Georgia and the South Caucasus transit corridor has yet to feature in official versions of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Overall, China has been cautious. Russia’s factor too might have been at play when Beijing only minimally involved itself in the economy of Georgia. But the biggest obstacle has been geographic barriers such as the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus range, difficult Georgian terrain as well as the Black Sea. Still, in a number of articles for GT, I have suggested that the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is not static in nature and, like any other trade routes in ancient or medieval periods, it does respond to rising challenges and opportunities. Another suggestion was that Georgia, if it improves
its railroads, roads and ports infrastructure inside the country, will become more attractive to China and its BRI. Indeed, there are signs proving this scenario. On 24 May, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Georgia. This is crucial as it is the first official visit of a Chinese foreign minister to Georgia in 23 years. According to the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the focus of the minister’s visit was to understand more about Georgia’s future and its potential as an important transit state. The visit to Georgia came as a part of the Chinese delegation’s regional trip. China and Armenia on Sunday signed an agreement for mutual visa exemption for ordinary passport holders. The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the visit to Georgia confirmed the “clear vision” of China regarding Georgia and its role in China’s plans for large-scale projects. Here, most likely BRI was meant, a clear emphasis on Georgia’s potential as a transit state. “Trade, investments, transport, as well as partnership within the frames of international organizations, were set as the major priorities for future cooperation,” states the Georgian Foreign Ministry. The Chinese Foreign Minister said that "China is implementing a foreign policy which is based on the principles of peaceful coexistence. We are ready to develop friendly relations between our countries further. We have a firm position that all countries are equal, regardless of their size. We respect the independence, sov-
ereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and other countries." China’s interests in Georgia are also intricately linked to the latter’s territorial problems with Russia. For Tbilisi, it is important that China supports it on the issue of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. Indeed, the issue of the Georgian occupied territories was also raised during the meetings and Georgian officials mentioned the “high importance” of Chinese support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Chinese delegation’s visit follows the Georgian Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Maya Tskitishvili’s, trip to Beijing, where she attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. More importantly, she signed an agreement on cargo and passenger transportation with Chinese Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng. Overall, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister’s visit to Tbilisi has been important, but attention in the Georgian media
was only paid to official statements; no analysis has yet been made. However, what is crucial is the timing of the visit, as China and the US are locked in a geopolitical battle over influence in the Indo-Pacific world. Since Georgia is close to the US in terms of military and political cooperation, it will be interesting to see how far China-Georgia cooperation will go. One thing is likely to happen: Beijing will try to increase its influence in Georgia through economic and various political moves.
NATO-Georgian Joint Training & Evaluation Center Celebrates Three Years ducted in 2019, which were hosted by JTEC, and the fact that the planning and execution of training was organized by the Georgian side. In 2022, joint training is planned, which will be implemented in a new format with new elements. JTEC is the most important and successful initiative of 14 projects of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package (SNGP) and provides implemented reform support for the rapid development of the Georgian Defense Forces and ensures compliance with NATO. JTEC was opened by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on 27 August 2015. In May 2016, the Center was established as a unit of the Georgian Defense Forces Training and Military Education Command.
BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI
he NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC) marked the third anniversary since its foundation. Minister of Defense of Georgia Levan Izoria attended a solemn ceremony dedicated to the establishment of the Center and addressed the staff members. He drew attention to the main role of the Center in Georgia's integration into NATO, and thanked the Georgian side and international partners for contributing so much to its establishment and development. He also and talked about the importance of expansion. "We have special recognition, confirmed by statements made by the NATO Secretary General's Special Representative James Appathurai, where on the basis of this success, there exists the possibility of enlarging the initiative, expressed in more NATO-Georgia practical cooperation, in the provision of more NATO
principles. We have specific perspectives on how to transform the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package," he said. According to the Minister, the development of the JTEC will help to achieve a strategic goal: Georgia's NATO membership. Minister Izoria emphasized the importance of the joint exercises con-
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
Vox Populi, Vox Dei OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE
couple of months ago, it was a plain border issue between two good neighbors – dormant for years and not much of anybody’s concern. And right out of the blue, it turned into a huge discussion between the two nations. God forbid it happen, but the impression is that the GeorgianAzeri once bombproof friendship is slipping through our fingers, and their longstanding mutually beneficial cooperation is failing into the bargain. It is very difficult to say anything new about Davit Gareji, a Georgian Orthodox monastic complex situated about 70 kilometers southeast of Georgia’s capital, which includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters carved into the rock. Part of the monastery is located on the Azeri territory and has become the theme of a land dispute between Georgia and Azerbaijan. According to pertinent reference books, the area is also home to protected animal species and evidence of some of the oldest human habitations in the region. In a word, the place is significant from the standpoint of preserving and protecting globally recognized cultural heritage, but fate would have it that this wonderful cultural monument stand in such an awkward geographical position that quarrels become inevitable on the topic of historical ownership rights between the two good friends, both sides being fair and innocent in dealing with the quandary. Both governments felt unperturbed and behaved with certain sluggishness
Azeri soldiers (in blue) face Georgian protesters in David Gareji. Photo by Peter Nasmyth
for many a year in terms of delimiting the borders between the two states. When a simple naive comment of an unsuspecting human sparked the controversy on the Davit Gareji subject, diplomacy came into play in order to prevent fur-
ther deterioration of old sociable relationships. But public manifestations still persisted because the prevailing overall sentiment prompted the crowds that not enough negotiating energy was being used to quench the fire. The disputable
site was revisited by protesting Georgian enthusiasts under an extremely benevolent but totally meaningful slogan: ‘Gareja is Georgia and the Caucasus is our home’. That Caucasus is a mutual dwelling place for all of us, the denizens of the
Region, is an old subject matter for discussion from times of Georgia’s first president, who perpetuated this appealing idea but never saw it come true. The manifestation intended to demonstrate the flags of all three Transcaucasia nations – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The political connotation of this kind of symbolism is humongous, going far beyond the dispute about one singled out cultural monument, no matter how significant the maintenance of it is for any of the sides. The statement made by the organizers of the public demonstration says: “This is going to be a sign that we do not want a feud with anybody, especially in our home, with our brothers, the peoples of the Caucasus. With this manifestation, we are giving a heads-up to any interested force that nobody will be given a chance for any provocative action to upset our big home nor will the region come under a destructive blow. We believe that this day in Gareja, we will see next to ourselves the Georgian citizens of the Azeri ethnic background, telling the world and their historical motherland straight from this pricelessfor-Georgians sacred soil that there are no borders in friendship and brotherhood, which may never be shadowed by the guided politics of an unintelligible and presumably interested force.” There could not have been written or said any better or stronger words to make a statement of this significance, corroborating once again how balanced and reasonable this nation can be at crucial historical moments. The current Georgian government does not have a better helper and promoter than its own wonderful people because the voice of the people is indeed the voice of God!
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MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
Russia to Return to Mass-Mobilization?
checked as to how they could operate in times of military emergency. What is more important in this development is the fact that mass mobilization requires enormous financial resources and a steady growth in the population. Ironically, Russia lags behind in both of these sectors. Economically speaking, mass-mobilization and subsequent military costs have always killed Russia’s economy. What happens in Russia nowadays is almost identical to what hap-
pened in the country’s past. Russia’s history is in many ways a cyclic one. In the last years of the Soviet Union, by the late 1980s, the Soviets were fundamentally lagging behind the West in technologies and other important sectors of the state. Oil prices were low and there was high demand for a viable reform, despite the fact there was a distinct abundance of resources to move the country forward. Still, those financial and natural resources were spent on huge military apparatus and the development of deadly technologies. The result, predictably, was the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Going further back into Russian history, in the early 20th century, just before the outbreak of World War I, there was a clear demand within the government and the country’s elite for reforms in social and economic spheres of the empire. However, this was also a period of militarization in Europe, with clear signs of the upcoming world conflict. While politicians disagreed on the militarization, still Emperor Nicholas II chose to spend large amounts of money on quick and fundamental militarization. At a time when developments showed how backwards (in comparison with western European countries) Russia was economically and militarily, spending on the military would certainly spell a catastrophe for the government. This indeed happened in 1917, when the Russian Revolution broke out. Thus, a slide towards mass-mobilization in Russia in many ways means that the current Russian government has added yet another problem to its already large pool of fundamental troubles. This may well have deteriorating impact on the internal situation in the country in the coming years.
of the talk-shows and interviews, every host came to a single conclusion: Saakashvili has much bigger plans about Ukraine than it seems at a first glance. Whatever the ending of Saakashvili’s “second coming,” what happened this week is a very significant success for him. After all, isn’t the most dangerous and deadly thing for any politician when people are no longer interested in them or don’t talk about them anymore? It doesn’t really matter what they are saying or how; most importantly, they care.
This return can be regarded as Saakashvili’s “program-minimum,” where he once again proves that “Saakashvili’s Reforms” are politically tradable. Even during the Armenian Revolution, his name was repeated quite often. It is a fact that he has been able to retain actuality, proving that as a politician he has the ability to initiate significant processes. What matters now is his ability to attain the “program-maximum”, and whether in Georgia or Ukraine or elsewhere, this will be known in the future.
BY EMIL AVDALIANI
arious comments in Russian media over the past year show that the Russians are again set to return the concept of mass-mobilization. This is a very-well known concept in Russian history, seeing almost every section of the population, as well as every sector of the state economy, geared for a military emergency. However, while in other cases in world history mass-mobilization took place only when a military situation required, in Russia, mass-mobilization is almost a state policy. In the imperial period (until 1917), the Russians were called upon to serve in the army in both peaceful and military circumstances. Those national drafts were easy to discern as most of the European states in the 19th century pursued the policy of drafts. By the mid-20th century, the USSR had attained almost a perfect level of mass mobilization, which allowing the Soviets to rely on larger human resources than its archenemy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Soviet mobilization reached a level where the state was able to sustain up to five million troops in peacetime. In times of threat, the Soviets could even call up to 6-8 million reservists. Today, Russia is again considering going back to the mass-mobilization concept. True, the drafts system has not been abrogated since the break-up of the Soviet Union, but there have always been various groups within the government which advocated changes to the military conscription and therefore to mobilization. In many ways, the Russian invasion of
Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images
Georgia in August 2008 and before that the Second Chechen War in 1999, showed that a Russian (-based on Soviet) military system is no longer efficient. Reforms started, but none have gone so far as to change the Russian mass mobilization concept. Moreover, the Russian government of late has been making various contradictory statements and policy moves on conscription and the civilian industry role in war time, suggesting a behind-the-
scenes struggle among various factions in the economic and military sectors. A slide towards mobilization is well seen in the strategic exercise Kavkaz 2016, held in southwestern Russia in September. It was a turning point. According to the chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Armed Forces for the first time tested mobilizing reservists. Also for the first time since the end of the Soviet Union, Russia’s industrial enterprises were
On Saakashvili’s Return OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
he newly-elected President of Ukraine has kept his word and returned the citizenship of Ukraine to the third president of Georgia. Mikheil Saakashvili is back to Kiev with new political plans and has already announced the beginning of the new stage of his fight against Ukrainian oligarchs. What matters now is where he begins: in the Ukrainian government, parliament or the street; though at the moment he is talking more about the perspectives of Georgian politics than Ukrainian, which makes his future plans even more ambiguous. “By traveling to Kiev, I am much closer to Tbilisi. Ivanishvili feels my hot breath on his neck!” – this comment by Saakashvili was the first implication for the government of the Georgian Dream that Saakashvili plans to stay in Georgian
politics and that travelling to Ukraine changes nothing. This fact will also give second life to the main oppositional power – United National Movement, and this is indisputable, even for the current parliamentary majority, whose leaders have resumed talks about Saakashvili’s extradition. “It is logical for the issue of extradition of a person who is wanted to resume,” said MP Nukri Kantaria. Another member of the majority, Akaki Zoidze, expressed a similar position, stating that the Prosecutor’s Office will undoubtedly request Saakashvili’s extradition from Ukraine. There were other opinions within the ruling party, but these sound more like advice than statements. Members of Georgian Dream advised President Zelensky not to offer an official post to Saakashvili and not to repeat Poroshenko’s mistakes. The latter appointed Saakashvili as his adviser at first, and then to the post of Odessa’s Governor, but in the end all he got was a political enemy. Whether Zelensky will take into consideration the GD advice is unknown; however, it is
quite unlikely, as in Ukraine, the Rubicon has already been crossed. Unexpected news is the fact that Saakashvili refused to participate in the parliamentary elections of Ukraine, saying that his party will not be running for the Rada. And the reason is understandable: Zelensky could perceive his participation as an attempt to grab votes; moreover, Saakashvili implied he will start a Zelensky-support movement without participating in the elections himself. But what is most striking and amazing in these TV interviews is not Saakashvili’s political plans but his Ukrainian. Before being sent off from Ukraine, he would say a few words in the local language and switch to Russian, but now he answers all questions completely in Ukrainian, swiftly and confidently. Radio Freedom of Russia as well as Ukrainian media were quick to notice. “Why the transformation? Were you practicing Ukrainian while living in the Netherlands and US?” asked the journalists interviewing Saakashvili. At the end
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GEORGIA TODAY MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
Georgian GEL Reaches Record-High Depreciation against the Dollar BY THEA MORRISON
eorgiancurrencyGEL(Lari) has been continuing to lose value against the United States Dollar and Euro in recent days. On May 30, the GEL rate against the US Dollar was 2.7997 while it was 2.7676 on May 21. The Euro equals GEL 3.1236, GEL 3.0954 just a week ago. President of the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) Koba Gvenetadze says this is a short term fluctuation and it will be followed by GEL stability soon. He says the main reason for the national currency exchange rate is external factors. “The floating exchange rate performs a shock absorbing function. If you look at the last three years, we have examples of this,” Gvenetadze said. He explained that many factors influence the current exchange rate and most will be better understood after a few months. “It is not possible to explain the current dynamic of currency fluctuations and because of this, central banks, and also organizations of macroeconomic profile, do not usually comment on such cases and short-term perspectives," the NBG President said. As Koba Gvenetadze explains, inflation
Image source: Imedinews.ge
in Georgia is moderate. “According to April data, annual infla-
tion is 4.1%, but at the same time it is important to note the impact of such
single factors, such as excise and oil prices, on inflation. Besides, it should be
noted that basic inflation is 1.4%, according to April data, which indicates that we are not experiencing an inflation,” Gvenetadze said. He added that the National Bank is working to increase the volume of international reserves, but it is not necessary to actively purchase reserves at this time; further, that the National Bank of Georgia's international reserves were inadequate for many years and today the volume of reserves has become close to the adequate level, which is important for the country. Gvenetadze’s statements were criticized by the opposition. United National Movement (UNM) says the economy of the country is in danger. “The budget needs to be changed and the parliament has to do it as soon as possible. It has some leverage for this. We need to make the authorities and the NBG stop the devaluation of the Lari,” Roman Gotsiridze from the UNM stressed. The European Georgia party is also of the same position. One of the leaders of the party, Giga Bokeria, says the country’s economy is growing very slow and this affects the currency. “With such an economic growth pace, we will never get rid of poverty…And the answers we hear from the government are ridiulous. They blame anyone but themselves,” Bokeria said.
Georgian Wine & Gastronomy in Japan
ithin the frames of the project ‘Georgia - Homeland of Wine,’ a second exhibition was held in the exhibition center Terrada Warehouse in
Tokyo. The project, which was conducted over two months, hosted thousands of Japanese visitors. ‘Georgia – Homeland of Wine’ serves as a demonstration of Georgia, Georgian wine and the country’s unique culture.
Georgian wine, winemaking, and viticulture is part of the Georgian identity. The Georgian ‘Supra’ and Georgian gastronomy are also part of this identity. Therefore, the project ‘Georgia - Homeland of Wine’ serves for the popularization of said cultural identity. According to the project manager, deputy chairperson of the National Wine Agency, Davit Tkemaladze, several events were held for the promotion of Georgian traditions and culture, Georgian wine and the Georgian Supra. One of these events was held in Gakushikaikan, where Georgian wine was presented with Georgian and French dishes. Gakushi-kaikan is unification of seven major national universities (Tokyo, Hokkaido, Tohoku, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kyushu), created in 1928. The Georgian and French dishes were made by the Gakushi-kaikan director and chief cook, Masaru Osaka, and the famous Georgian chef, Tekuna Gachechiladze. In the frames of the Georgia - Homeland of Wine project, a masterclass of Georgian Supra was held in Tokyo, presented by writer Zurab Karumidze. “Zura Karumidze's involvement is very important in this project. It's pretty hard when you have such an honorable mission: to tell foreigners about the Georgian history and traditions, Supra and wine consumption traditions, within just an hour or two, and inspire the audience,” Tkemaladze explains. The event was attended by celebrity Georgian Sumo wrestler in Japan, Tochinoshin (Levan Gorgadze) and Gagamaru (Teimuraz Jugeli), who are unofficial ambassadors of Georgia to Japan. The event dedicated to the closing of the exhibition was held in the Georgian Supra tradition, led by Japan's Emperor Cup owner, the famous Georgian Sumo wrestler Tochinoshin. The singers of the Japanese ensemble "Yamashiro Gumi" performed some of the most distinguished Georgian polyphonic songs to a solemn reception. Within the frames of the event chief, chefs Tekuna Gachechiladze, Lasha Kenchadze, Nukri Ezieshvili and Tamta
Kikaleishvili presented Georgian cusine to the foreign audience. "The aim of the project was to introduce the Georgian Supra traditions and wine culture to the Japanese. Advertising the Georgian wine history and culture is a necessary component in our project, which makes this project even more interesting. There is not a single book or article about Georgian wines and cuisine written in Japan,” Tkemaladze noted. The project Georgia –Homeland of Wine, which is organized by the National Wine Agency and Association Georgian Wine, was implemented on the initiative
of the Government of Georgia, with the support of National Intellectual Property Center Sakpatenti, Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, Diplomatic Corps of Georgia to Japan and the National Museum. The project was first held in 2017 in the world capital of wine Bordeaux, France and was dedicated to the scientific research according to which the scientific community recognized “Georgia as the homeland of wine".
MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
Meet Fred Smits, the GM at the New Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
ocated in the Avlabari district, the historical center of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace, a wonderful fivestar hotel operated by Marriott International that attracts clients from around the world, recently welcomed a new General Manager, Mr. Fred Smits. The hospitality industry is one of the fastest developing sectors in Georgia, and the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace can be considered one of the pioneers in the sector, among the first to introduce modern Western standards in Georgia, as the date of its launch, 1991, coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The hotel has recently been reopened after a revitalization and rebranding, seeing the addition of the brand recognition of excellence ‘Grand’ to the title of the hotel and meaning that the Georgian branch of Sheraton is now included on the list of most outstanding hotels in the world. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Mr. Smits to discover his views regarding the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace and his upcoming project as the new head of the hotel. The host welcomed us on the spacious rooftop terrace of the hotel on the 10th floor, overlooking on the stunning landscapes of an extraordinary synthesis of authentic Georgian construction merged with elements of contemporary architecture. The ambience was nothing short of spectacular. First of all, we ask Fred about the legacy of his predecessor. “It‘s always difficult to speak about the people who came before you, especially those who worked in your place,” he starts. “But if you enter the hotel for the first time, without knowing its history and without knowing anything about Georgia, you don’t feel that it has been open for just two months. So, what does that tell you? It tells you that things have been put in place, things are moving in
the right direction and yes, the hotel has a history, but at the same time it’s a new hotel,” he tells us, noting that the Georgian branch of Sheraton was closed for four years and that certain difficulties naturally arise while opening or reopening a hotel. “Even though opening a hotel is incredibly difficult, when you work here, explore the environ thoroughly and communicate with the staff members, it becomes obvious that the work done is definitely great and has brought fruitful outcomes. When you walk into any hotel in this city and compare it with Sheraton, the difference is felt from the first moment, as our hotel is more modern and nicer, in my opinion,” Smits tells us with a smile. We ask him about the recent renovation. “I wasn’t here to see the process of the revival of the hotel. However, as a result of some impressive works, it is now represented on a bigger scale in the very best way. Shifts were made in branding, logo, as well as wording. Some were skeptical about these changes, but they are vital for the future generations striving for development and progress. What is most important is that the principles and values are same but are presented in a more modernized way.” We ask the GM why he decided to come and work in Georgia. “I’ve been working for the company for 19 years, with nine years in the Western brand and seven years for Sheraton. From 2007 to 2013, I worked at Sheraton Amsterdam, and though the branding and the wording changed during that time, the principles of our brand have stayed the same. Sheraton is still about bringing things together, representing a gathering place and offering guests a warm environment,” he says. “In our jobs, we never know where and when we’ll have to travel. In the hospitality industry, you work somewhere well-aware of the fact that you will have to leave for another destination within several years,” he notes, going on to recall his personal experience in this case. “I worked five years in Abu Dhabi but realized I wanted to seek new opportunities away from the Middle East. Having
worked in this region and taking into account the fact that my wife is from the region, Georgia and Azerbaijan were among my top priorities. And I can say I got lucky.” He tells us that the fact a lot of people are interested in Georgia also played a significant role in terms of decisionmaking. “I was working in the Hyatt Baku back in 1998, the only 5-star hotel in Azerbaijan at the time. Even then we knew there was a similar hotel doing the same thing here in Georgia – Sheraton.” Smits says that traveling for the first time and moving away from friends, family and your homeland is very difficult, but once the first decision is made, the next move is easier. “It’s just vital not to forget that you are a guest in the country,” he says. The views of a person with decades of experience in the hospitality industry are interesting with regards Georgia’s tourism potential, so that was our next topic. “There are not many go-to destinations for short-breaks. Georgia is one among those countries which perfectly suit short-term holidays and cater to all types of travelers. Direct flights from Dubai twice a day are of paramount importance in terms of boosting tourism from the Middle East, particularly from Dubai,” he says, going on to suggest that even though Georgia is a popular destination, it is not well-known worldwide and its potential is not used to the full. “More people need to come to Georgia and discover how modern the country is; they need to explore the wonderful mélange of history and modernity,” he claims. We ask the new General Manager about his management strategies and how he plans to develop the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace and raise the bar on a global scale. He seems to have interesting approaches in this respect. “We definitely have a certain way we want to manage the hotel. I don’t like having to tell people what to do all day; I like people to offer their own ideas and initiatives to which I can agree or point them in a certain direction. If I need to
lead, I’m ready to do so, but I believe people must take responsibility for their own work. If someone asks me a question, 9 times out of 10, I’ll give a question back, so they seek to find the answer themselves.” Corporate Social Responsibility is of great importance today, and the Georgian Sheraton is no exception to the trend. For a number of years, it has been carrying out social projects and we ask Smits about the further involvement of the hotel in this case. “I firmly believe that you should take responsibility everywhere you go. In Sheraton in particular, I was interested if we could get Green Key certification [green environmentally-friendly operation of the hotel], and found out that we could, but the concept is not so well understood as yet, so we will work in this direction while continuing to operate with an energy saving system. Along with that, I believe that helping the com-
munity is vital. As a hotel, we can organize events for disabled children or visits to homes for the elderly,” he suggests. The hospitality industry is ever-changing, with an incredibly high level of rivalry. We asked Smits about the approaches he intends to use to offer the latest trends of the sector to clientele. In this case, the interviewee applied his ‘management strategy’ and answered the question with a question: “What do most people expect from a hotel and what is the most important facility at the hotel?” he asks. “The bedroom,” he says. “The modern details are all well-and-good, but sometimes they also serve as a source of irritation. I may seem a little old-fashioned, but I often have to ‘fight’ with light switches. Yes, it is a detail, but it’s an important one. There are some basic requirements that have to be met to satisfy customers, including security, the cleanness of rooms and the way they are met at the reception. But there are other features that are of vital significance. I think it is a ‘must’ that all electronics work well. Simplicity is sometimes more important than modernity.” We next ask the new General Manger how he expects to ensure the financial success of the hotel. “To succeed financially, the hotel needs to be full. We not only offer rooms as accommodation, we have other products on site, including restaurants, banking facilities and the lobby bar. In case of the latter, I want it to have that special signature that makes people in Tbilisi want to come and spend time there,” he says, adding “I know after you triumph, others will start copying you, but whatever you do should be new and of highquality.” He also states that prior to planning major projects, it is necessary to ensure that everything already happening is being done right. “Doing everything at the same time is impossible,” he says. As the final question, we asked him to share his views about the potential of the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace to become a ‘business card’ of the company globally. “Honestly, I can say that with the quality-based strategies and immaculate services offered to customers, the Georgian branch of Sheraton has already established itself as a business card of the company. It is present on almost every kind of promotional material and it can certainly compete with the branches of Singapore and Tokyo. Sheraton Tbilisi is definitely on the loop of the company because of its high potential,” stated Smits.
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
Project Management Institute Launches Official Representation in Georgia
TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
he official representation of one of the largest professional associations, Project Management Institute (PMI), has been launched in Georgia. The opening ceremony was attended by both local and international top managers of the public and private sectors, the founders and members of the PMI representation to Georgia, and professionals operating in the project management sphere. The representatives of PMI state that their main goal is to support professional progress and development. Tamar Matchavariani, founder and Director of Communications of the PMI representation to Georgia, claims that the project management sphere is underdeveloped in Georgia and thus they are working actively to increase public awareness and support professionals. “We have been collaborating with PMI
for four years to launch this representation,” Matchavariani said. “It proved to be an active, busy and fruitful period. The presence of this representation in Georgia is vital, as project management is not of those fields which are developed here. Our main goal is to contribute to the existence of more certified project managers and their involvement in large projects, implementing in Georgia. That will dramatically improve the outcomes and efficiency of ongoing projects in Private and Public sectors. All of this is to positively reflect on the country’s economy as a result.” The PMI representation to Georgia was founded in 2018 and brings together holders of of the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certificate, operating in different spheres, in local and international leading organizations. In addition, the representation is actively collaborating with the representations of PMI across the Europe. The President and Founder of PMI, Lela Machaidze, says that the organization will support to the development and implementation of project manage-
ment strategy and methodologies across Georgia. “It is to be a place enabling us to share knowledge and experience, and to communicate with project managers of various fields and sectors. We will hold conversations regarding the challenges and requirements in the project management direction, and the flaws we can mutually work on,” Machaidze noted. PMI was established in 1969 and has since represented the largest, non-commercial, membership-based professional association. The Institute brings together more than 700,000 professionals worldwide, creates values through advocacy, cooperation and education for 2.9 million individuals from almost all countries worldwide. PMI supports professionals in terms of progressing in their career, while it assists organizations to achieve success. The Institute strengthens the profession of project management through the creation of internationally recognized standards, certifications, resources and tools, as well as academic research, publications, courses of professional development and professional communication.
MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
The Best Camera of the Year is Already in Georgia BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI
his is a smartphone that gives customers exactly what they need, - said world media when the HUAWEI P30 Pro appeared on the global market. "This is just what the mobile industry was missing," wrote the famous editions after the presentation of the model. The flagship Smartphone for Georgian customers is now available at HUAWEI's partner stores. A world-first, the HUAWEI P30 Pro created with Leica and 4-core cameras, is equipped with a 40 MP ultra-wide view and 20 MP wide lens. In addition, the P30 Pro's camera system includes 8 MP tele-photo lenses and TOF camera, which measures the depth of the object at a higher accuracy. As a result, we get a sharper focus on the object, and the background becomes more obscure with the help of a variety of effects. With the new HUAWEI P30 Pro, remoteness is no longer an obstacle. With the SuperZoom lens new L-type periscopic, the architecture is compact and accommodates more optical layers. The SuperZoom lens provides 5x optical, 10x hybrid and 50x digital zoom and offers clear details of any shot. With the 40MP main camera and the optical image stabilizer, you can even capture the moon with unimaginable proximity and with excellent resolution and detailed imagery. The HUAWEI P30 Pro is the best choice for "Selfie" lovers, since the intellectual
32 MP camera can identify your face, define the level of light, and ensure a cleaner image, be it unbalanced background lighting or a night party. The background lighting regulation technology, based on artificial intelligence, balances light and color to provide precise focus even in low light conditions. In addition to the photo shoot, you can also use the special video mode. The simultaneous work of the two basic cam-
eras allows you to take a full shot of the event and in parallel reflect each participant at the event, their movements and the individual moments of action up-close. The P30 series, unlike the P20, features the ability to unlock through an embedded fingerprint in the screen, wireless charging and reversible charging functions. With 40W's fastest rechargeable technology and powerful processor Kirin 980 with a 4200-millimeter battery, this
Smartphone is the best satellite for travel lovers. If we recall the P series smartphones, the photography is the main feature of HUAWEI devices. The new Huawei P30 series actually changes the rules of photography through the latest technologies and offers professional shooting capabilities. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's popu-
lation. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of HUAWEI's three business units, mainly focusing on Smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years’ experience in the telecommunications business and serves to provide innovative technologies to customers around the world.
Accessible Infrastructure to be Installed in Tbilisi
Image source: Chaikhana.org
BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
wo announcements were made this week on improving the accessibility of Tbilisi for people with certain disabilities. On Wednesday, the Parliament of Georgia adopted a bill increasing the fine for illegally parking in a spot reserved for people with disabilities from 10 GEL ($4) to 50 GEL ($18). The bill passed easily, with 91 members voting in favor of the increase, out of the 150-member Parlia-
ment – unsurprisingly, as the bill was introduced by ruling party Georgian Dream. Georgian Dream Parliamentarian Rati Ionatamishvili, who himself uses a wheelchair, co-authored the bill, along with Natia Mikeladze, the Secretary of the Government of Georgia to the Parliament. The new, more severe penalty applies only in Tbilisi and Batumi. Ionatamishvili and his coalition argued that the 10 GEL fine was not a sufficient deterrent to prevent people from illegally parking in spots marked for people with disabilities, thus decreasing their accessibility in urban areas. Another measure addressing accessi-
bility was announced Wednesday by Tbilisi City Hall. With support from the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, City Hall will install elevators at three underground walkways in the city. The selected walkways are some of the most frequently used, by both locals and tourists, and are all located in the city center: Melikishvili Street, near the Tbilisi Concert Hall, crossing Rustaveli Avenue, and on Liberty (Freedom) Square. The goal of installing the elevators is to improve accessibility for people with physical disabilities, and to increase their mobility. The budget for the project is $100,000.
Despite these and other efforts, Georgia remains largely inaccessible for people who use wheelchairs. In a 2015 article, Chaikhana.org explained that in the South Caucasus, “most places are not accessible. And even though some organizations have attempted to adapt their environment to make them more accessible, they did not adhere to well-known accessibility standards, causing those environments to remain inaccessible,” including, for example, wheelchair ramps on underpasses that are too narrow, too steep, and made with dangerous materials such as steel and marble. “It is unknown how much the government in each South Caucasus country spends or plans to spend to adapt locales and services for people with disabilities,” reports Chaikhana. The Georgian government has taken certain steps towards improving accessibility in the country. Currently, Tbilisi has 816 buses, of which 233 are new and wheelchair-accessible. The first of the accessible buses were introduced in September 2016, and 220 more buses are on order, to be delivered by the end of the year, replacing the city’s entire fleet of outdated, unsafe, and inaccessible buses. By January of this year, all public services halls across the country had installed accessible infrastructure with financial support from the UNDP and the Government of Sweden – the first government service agency to meet that milestone. The Government of Batumi has announced plans to make the city’s beach more accessible for wheelchair
users as well, by purchasing water-safe, floating beach wheelchairs, and by adapting public changing rooms and restrooms to be wheelchair accessible. In January, the government passed a bill forgiving the administrative fines levied on members of certain socially vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities. In December, the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health, and Social Affairs opened a new Specialized Family-Type Service for Children with Severe Disabilities in Tbilisi, with the support of USAID and UNICEF, and the M2 Real Estate Company, which fully covered the facility’s construction costs. A two-year campaign called “See Every Color,” carried out by UNICEF and supported by USAID and the European Union from 2016-2018, reported that “Georgia has managed to reduce negative perceptions and attitudes towards children and young people with disabilities by more than 13%,” said Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “Children and young people with disabilities have more opportunities now to develop and enjoy their rights. As a result of the campaign, we have created a core group of change-makers who will further work to build more inclusive societies. We will continue to support the government to enable them to lead the process of social change and will work with various professional groups to further overcome stigma against disability,” Khalil added in a January 2018 report.
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
A Proposal at Dinner in the Sky
BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE
uring the nice summer weather, sitting on the balcony of a nice restaurant in pleasant company is all you want. The view from the balcony is beautiful, but perhaps the wall or railings get in the way of full bliss and you keep thinking you’d enjoy the environment and the food much more if the restaurant was a little further above sea level. Well, what if the restaurant was located above the ground and had no railings or wall to get in the way of your great view? What if the restaurant was located in the sky? Dinner in the Sky Georgia - one of the 10 most unusual restaurants in the world as selected by Forbes.com, is now in Tbilisi! It is surely one of the most unique experiences you could dream of. Dinner in the Sky is a Franchise of a flying fine dining restaurant that has been available for more than 12 years in 70 countries. On a platform suspended by a crane 50 meters up in the sky, a chef will prepare a fancy four-course menu right in front of the 22 guests in the pop up kitchen, while a sommelier provides unlimited glasses of Georgian wine against a background of live music which serves as the cherry on the top to perfect the experience. Dinner in the Sky Georgia is a chance to enjoy delicious food, good music, an amiable atmosphere and what’s more, the amazing panorama of Tbilisi – the way you’ve never seen the city before. The opening ceremony of the restaurant was held on May 15 with lots of fireworks, music and excited, happy faces. The lovely experience will be available for Tbilisians and its visitors until June 15. You can book tickets online on their official site (www. dinnerinthesky.ge). Someone grabbed the special moment of the Dinner in the Sky experience recently: on May 24, a lovely couple, Masho Shogiradze and Levan
Magradze, got engaged in the romantic atmosphere of Dinner in the Sky Georgia as they hung above the Bioli Resort just outside Tbilisi. GEORGIA TODAY offers an exclusive interview with the bride and the groom-to-be, who shared with us their experience of Dinner in the Sky Georgia.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TOGETHER? TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR LOVE STORY. Masho: A year ago, my HR head hired a new worker, but we were to pretend to interview him (he didn’t know he was already hired) and suddenly start a balloon fight. I stood in front of him with my balloon, and he later told me it was love at first sight and he knew he had to marry me!
OVER TO THE HUSBAND-TO-BE. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PROPOSE IN THE SKY? DID EVERYTHING GO AS PLANNED? Levan: I saw Dinner in the Sky three years ago in Dubai and knew it would be a great place to propose. Masho’s afraid of heights so she was nervous, but it went better than planned. The flight crew really helped to make it unforgettable: there was live jazz music and a very romantic surrounding. She was super shocked; couldn't answer me at first, but finally she said yes!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND OTHER COUPLES TO PROPOSE AT DINNER IN THE SKY AND WHY? Levan: Of course, I’d recommend it; it was a great experiance for both of us and we were very excited. It was the best day of our lives! Masho: I wanted something more romantic than a regular show to watch and a proposal in the sky was so shocking- I was already feeling surprised and frightened, then added to that love and happiness, what with the romantic music and the delicious food, a new taste for me. I definitely recommend Dinner in the Sky. They have an amazing crew. Thanks to them for everything!
MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
CENN Hosts EU-Supported First National Seminar on Human Rights for Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Moderated by CENN Executive Director Nana Janashia, the first panel addressed the overall issue of WASH in Georgia. “The right to water and sanitation was recognized as a basic human right by the United Nations,” Janashia said. “At CENN, we believe ensuring timely and dignified access to sufficient and safe WASH services are essential for Georgia in the process of building community resilience and preventing the spread of WASH-related diseases. The EU support to Georgia is essential for preserving lives and alleviating the suffering of populations facing severe environmental health risks and water insecurity.”
nMay28,theEU-supported high-level multi-stakeholder National Seminar on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the context of human rights took place in Tbilisi, organized by CENN. The seminar aimed to prioritize global and national challenges in national policy agendas in order to ensure access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. WASH is one of the most pressing challenges both globally and in Georgia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diarrhea is one of the major causes of mortality in the world, and 88% of fatal cases are caused by contaminated drinking water and inadequate sanitary-hygienic conditions. Issues related to water, sanitation and hygiene are among the biggest chal-
lenges in Georgia. Since 2010, water quality testing has been carried out in only 10% of schools, and more than 70% of public schools in the country have not been able to ensure proper water treatment. Georgia’s move to implement WASH comes in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement which commits the country to ensuring efficient cooperation in the field of public health, with a view to raising the level of public health safety and protection of human health as an essential component for sustainable development and economic growth. At the event, opening remarks were delivered by the Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, Nino Tandilashvili; Deputy Minister of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs,
The second panel discussion included participants from relevant ministries, the Parliament of Georgia, and representatives of local governments. The panel was dedicated to the new initiative raised by CENN’s environmental project manager, Melano Tkabladze. “Protecting human rights related to WASH is essential at both the national and local level in Georgia,” she said. “In order to develop a nationwide WASH Action Plan, it is crucial to establish a national WASH platform that all responsible institutions participate in. An Action Plan will establish and encourage fruitful cooperation and communication
Tamar Gabunia; Deputy Public Defender, Ekaterine Skhiladze; Attaché at the EU Delegation to Georgia, Alexandre Darras; and CENN Executive Director, Nana Janashia. “The EU believes that access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene is fundamental to ensure proper living conditions for people,” said Alexandre Darras, Attaché and Sector Coordinator for Connectivity, Energy, Environment and Climate change at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. “We are happy to support Georgian communities throughout the ‘Water for the Poor’ project and help improve the living conditions of vulnerable groups by ensuring improved access to clean water and better social infrastructure.” Within the framework of the event, two main panel discussions took place. amongst various stakeholders in the country to address gaps related to WASH in the current legislative framework. Moreover, it will support relevant institutions to properly implement national strategies and policy documents considering water, sanitation and hygiene issues. We are pleased that national and local authorities recognize WASH issues and have expressed their willingness to further cooperate.” In addition to panel discussions, several WASH-related publications were presented at the meeting, including Policy Analysis and Recommendations for the Legislative Body, Legislative Governing Body, Central and Local Governments, and WASH Technical Assessment of Schools, Kindergartens and Healthcare Centers for Kvemo Kartli and Kakheti Regions. The seminar was organized under the EU-supported project ‘Water for the Poor,’ which is implemented by CENN in partnership with the Human Rights Center (HRC) and the Women and the World (WW) association and New World Program-financed project ‘Upscaling WASH Initiatives by Providing Essential Social Services for Women and Youth in Disadvantaged Rural Communities of Georgia.’
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
H2Ohhh: Etseri, Svaneti
BLOG BY TONY HANMER
ell, here we go again. Been looking for a water works repair person for quite a while now, ever since the frost stopped. We began with a local fellow who has done such work and more for us at home; but it’s not a great time for him, potato planting being in full swing. No-one else in the village whom we can trust to do the
work to guest house standards and not show up drunk! Asking neighbors produced similar results; one was even dissatisfied with the trio he’d had in for his own plumbing, as well as us being of a similar mind for what they did here. The problem has been water leaking down from upstairs to the ground floor when people shower; obviously not something to allow to continue! We’ve been down to 1 bathroom fully functioning, plus a toilet/sink up stairs and the outhouse. Not the best… We added Mestia friends to our appeal for help, and
eventually something turned up there. We’ve driven a pair of guys in to look around, accept the job, write up a hefty shopping list, and then one of them to accompany me to the massive Gorgia shop in Rukhi, just outside Zugdidi. Best selection, best prices in the whole region, plus guarantees! Of course, we had a few adventures on the way. Stopping at a café for lunch, we ordered ojakhuri, which in his books and mine can only mean pork & potatoes fried with onions. Instead, beef stew came—delicious, yes, but no apology for its being a replacement for what they
failed to tell us isn’t available. Then he fetched an ashtray and lit up. I was fine with this, but the waitress pointed out the No Smoking sign at our table and suggested a 1000 GEL fine. When my ordered coffee failed to materialize, I offered the same fine, so she apologized profusely and announced her expectation that the drink would be entirely worth the wait, all fines cancelled on both sides. The java was certainly up to snuff for such a place, quite drinkable, and we left satisfied if a bit mystified into the bargain. I had bought 10-month-old chicks to
bolster our future egg production, but these weren’t doing well in the heat, despite best efforts. So my workman suggested a swing by his village home outside Zugdidi to give them a breather and some food and water, after which, in a new, better-aerated box, they were fine. During the recovery wait, he took me to the end of his road, where the descendent of Prince Murat, Alain Murat, is restoring the family’s old home. He had been about to take a dip in a swimming pool he’s set up, so was in shorts, and very down to earth. His great-grandfather had served with Napoleon, and the Great Man’s portraits were in every room. This place has to be seen: Prince Alain’s wife, whose hand has produced wonders of decoration and whimsy, will also wait for a future article, as she was away. First prince I’ve ever met, comfortable in English and Georgian as well as his native French. More to come on this theme soon. The workers will arrive tomorrow, still reasonably early in the tourist season for us that there aren’t a lot of guests at the moment, and should finish in a few days. We’re also disconnecting from the 1000-liter water tank, and improving things in the garage, to where the water runs before entering the house. And then… everything will be fine for everyone, and we will relax. We HOPE, this time, after long and bitter experiences otherwise. 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
Georgian Techno Artist Releases EP from Prison BY AMY JONES
eorgian techno artists Irakli and Michailo have created an EP made partly from their cell in a Tbilisi prison. Confined within the walls of Tbilisi Ministry of Corrections’, behind walls lined with barbed wire and guards carrying machine guns, Michailo’s studio is makeshift. His wife sold his car to buy DJ equipment, including an old desktop PC, controller and small synthesizers. He also has a few Georgian folk instruments which he sometimes samples in his music. Michailo has been in prison since 2013 after he was found guilty for possession of the drug MDMA and sentenced to nine years in prison. Two years into his jail time, he was granted permission to work on music. Before being imprisoned, Michailo worked as a DJ and party promoter. “When I came here and realized that I couldn’t DJ, I thought, ok, I can’t live without music,” Michailo told Electronic Beats who interviewed him from his cell. “Once I figured out how to produce while in jail, it became the only way to make me happy. When I write music, it’s like I’m not here.”
Since being in prison, he has written scores for a variety of prison-produced plays which are performed by Ministry of Corrections’ inmates, and has also collaborated with other prisoners to reinterprate traditional Georgian folk music. He began working on an EP with Irakli, a popular Georgian techno artist, after Irakli visited him in prison before a gig at Bassiani. The pair worked on the EP, titled Release, for a year. Irakli would send files to Michailo’s wife who would then take them to him in jail where he would work on producing. The EP showcases four deep techno tracks that will be released on the label Intergalactic Research Institute for Sound. However, the EP is about more than just the music. It is intended to challenge the government on its archaic drug laws that do not differentiate between personal use and dealing and give a voice to many others like Michailo who are imprisoned. Since 2006, Georgia has had a zerotolerance policy towards drug use. Drug offenses carry a sentence of eight to twenty years, which is higher than sentences for rape (four years) and terrorism (6 years). Those who test positive for traces of drugs are criminalized and marginalized, often slipping through the cracks of society with little help or rehabilitation.
Image source - Electronic Beats
The Release EP combines music, with the stories of people who have experienced Georgia’s strict drug laws, serves as an open letter to the government. “Sadly for the past six years, I have
only talked to my little girl on the phone,” reads part of Michailo’s letter. “She thinks I live very far away in the USA because we did not want to hurt her at such a young age with the truth.”
In some ways, Michailo is lucky compared to the estimated 3,000 prisoners sitting in jail for possession of small amounts of drugs. Through his music, he has found a release.
MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER
TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 May 31, June 2 KETO AND KOTE Victor Dolidze's opera Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater Musical Director- Revaz Takidze Director- Ioane (Vano) Khutsishvili Set, Costume and Lighting Designer- Giorgi Alexi-Meskhishvili Choreographer- Iliko Sukhishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-150 GEL RUSTAVELI THEATER 17 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 72 68 68 www.rustavelitheatre.ge
MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 May 31 SILENCE, REHEARSAL! Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL June 1 IGGI Based on Jemal Karchkhadze’s novel Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL June 6 ASTIGMATISTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL MUSEUM
June 5 Premiere THE GOLDBERG VARIATIONS Johann Sebastian Bach Contemporary Ballet Original idea of the ballet and choreography- Mariam Aleksidze Dudana Mazmanishvili, piano Costume Designer– Tamuna Ingorokva Cast: Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet Company Company Artistic Director: Mariam Aleksidze Main Stage Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 5-20 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 13 Shavtelis St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 65 93 May 31, June 1, 2, 5, 6 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL June 4 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS May 21- September 10 Under the joint initiative of Georgian National Museum and Georgian Post, Exhibition STORY TOLD BY POSTAGE STAMPS Dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the first Georgian stamp. May 30-August 31 Multimedia technology exhibitionIMMAGICA. A JOURNEY INTO BEAUTY An impressive journey in time, it introduces us to Italian paintings of the XIV-XIX centuries. It is a combination of voice, lighting,
immersive visual and multimedia by artists Giotto– ‘Ognissanti Madonna’ and ‘Scrovegni Chapel,’ Leonardo da Vinci– ‘Annunciation,’ Botticelli– ‘The Birth of Venus’ and ‘Spring,’ Raffaello– ‘The Madonna of the Goldfinch,’ Bellotto– ‘Piazza San Marco,’ ‘Castello Sforzesco,’ Canaletto– ‘The Chapel of Eton College,’ Canova– ‘Amor e Psyche’ and ‘The Graces.’ IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 May 16 – June 10 Georgian National Museum in the framework of Museum Festival presents the photo exhibition “1993” of Swiss artist – Daniel Spehr. May 18 – June 18 KAKO TOPURIA’S SOLO EXHIBITION Many emotions can be read in the recent artworks: presented as nostalgia, irony and proximity. Exhibition implemented in the Contemporary Art Gallery project. May 28 – June 10 Exhibition SUMMARIZING CITIES. EUROPEAN SQUARES AND THEIR HISTORIES The exhibition proposes a change of perspective regarding European urban squares. The project is supported by the Georgian National Museum, Embassy of Romania in Georgia, The Order of Architects in Romania - OAR and Romanian Presidency of the Council of The European Union, and is being implemented in several European cities. MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave enough to jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in a Mirror Room, be free in the Infinity room, resist the laws of gravity and size ratio, and take selfies in every possible pose.
Enjoy the collection of holograms, and discover optical illusions. MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS 10 Betlemi Str. THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS The unique collection of the museum aims to provoke feelings of understanding among individuals and serve as some kind of therapy for those who have experience break-ups. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS GALLERY
THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until February 26 (2020) GRAND MASTERS FROM THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY MUSIC
SOUNDS OF GEORGIA May 31, June 1, 5, 6 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, a mix of traditional Georgian music of different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, and Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 24 GEL Venue: May 31- 10 Erekle II Sq., Tekla Palace Hotel, June 1- New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’, June 5- Corner of 2 Turgenev Str., and 37 Javakhishvili Str. June 6- Europe Square, 2 D. Megreli Str., Hotel “Nata”
GEORGIAN MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS 7 Rustaveli Ave. May 31- June 7 Artists Union ConceptART and Foundation Iavnana present NEW GENERATION MUSIC FESTIVAL WITH PARTICIPATION OF YOUNG MUSICIANS May 31 Sandro Gegechkori (Piano), Anastasia Aghladze (Violin), Rezi Marshania (Piano). June 3 Giorgi Gigashvili (Piano), Anna Tchania (Violin), Nanuka Goliadze (Flute) Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 15-35 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 June 4 JAM SESSION Impro music Musical art director- Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: Free SPACEHALL 1 Tsereteli Ave. May 31 R.O X KONOBA Line Up: R.O x Konoba, Danielli, Endorphins Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 30 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8/10 A. Griboedovi Str. June 6 ALEKSANDRE KORSANTIA Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10 GEL DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC AND CULTURE 125/127 Agmashenebeli Ave. June 1 IOSEB KECHAKMADZE 80TH ANNIVERSARY Participants: Georgian State Choir, The Youth Choir “Tutarchela” from Rustavi, Kutaisi Chamber Choir of Gori Women’s Choir, Tbilisi Children’s Choir. The soloist– Iano Alibegashvili. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL 1 Melikishvili Ave. May 31 ABBA MANIA Celebrating the music of ABBA reviving memories of when ABBA ruled the airwaves Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 30 GEL ALIBI ARENA Upper Ponichala June 1 90s FESTIVAL Start time: 16:00 Ticket: 30 GEL ELEKTROWERK 2 Monk Gabriel Salosi I Turn June 6 REDRUM FESTIVAL Line up: SAMADHISITARAM, INFADUS, NADJA, PRIMAL SPIRIT Start time: 18:30 Ticket: 25-35 GEL TRADE UNION CULTURAL CENTER 1/43 Vazha Pshavela Ave. May 31 RAZMIK AMYAN Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 30-35 GEL
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2019
One for the Diary: Echowaves 2019 Electronic Music Festival Set for August 22-25 GEORGIA TODAY talked with Head of PR and Marketing of the Echowaves Festival, Nini Rekhviashvili, about the festival, artists and preparation works.
BY LIKA CHIGLADZE
f you are planning to attend a dance-festival this summer, look no further than a visit to the Anaklia sea resort for the latest installment in a hugely popular electronic music festival: Echowaves. This year, Georgia is hosting Echowaves for the second time already, and promises an even more impressive lineup, its renowned stunning setting, spectacular effects and many interesting activities. The multi-genre festival brings quality underground music to the golden beach, offering beautiful sunsets and warm sea to swim in. Once a small village, Anaklia has been transformed into an important port city in recent years, making it one of the most colorful and vibrant places to go and attracting people from around the globe. Whether you’re a fan of house or techno, bass or experimental, electro or EDM, there’s guaranteed to be something that can give you a buzz. This year, Echowaves will take place from August 22 – 25. The lineup is already set and tickets are on sale. For more details, check out the Echowaves Festival Facebook page.
HOW DID ECHOWAVES START AND WHAT MAKES THIS FESTIVAL SO SPECIAL? Echowaves was successfully launched in Georgia, on Anaklia beach, in August 2018, powered by ‘Exit,’ which holds the title of best festival in Europe 2014. Last year, Echowaves hosted 150 artists and more than 10,000 guests, and ultimately earned fame with its scale and positive feedback in the region as well as in Europe. It was included on the shortlist of the best festivals of 2018. This year, over four days, you can enjoy quality music in an incredible atmosphere, accompanied by amazing views of the sea and beach. Different musical stages and activities will be arranged in the area, guaranteeing an unforgettable experience to visitors.
HOW ARE PREPARATION WORKS GOING ON LOCATION? Our team is working non-stop ahead of the August opening. The area will be equipped with all the necessary facilities. In the vicinity of the festival will be a number of guest houses and hotels
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providing accommodation to guests. Echowaves has played a significant role in developing tourism in the Samegrelo region as well as offering citizens a festival in line with European standards and boosting interest in electronic music. The festival is highly important from an economical perspective, giving the local inhabitants the opportunity to earn additional income. Yet the festival has bigger perspectives, benefitting from a unique location on the Black Sea coast, and favorable weather conditions.
Dj Tennis, KiNK, Musumeci, Petre Inspirescu, Red Axes, RØDHÅD, Tom Trago, Valentino Kanzyani, VRIL Live and YokoO. Georgian artists will be performing by their side. Georgia boasts a vibrant electronic music scene with a number of distinguished local artists, so it is important for us to collaborate with them so that both Georgian and foreign audiences can listen to them. Our mis-
sion is to run Echowaves 2019 at its best, to give amazing experiences and charge guests with high emotions. One of our core aims is to introduce Georgia to tourists from a different perspective and promote our country internationally. We have an ambition for the festival to establish itself as one of the top music festivals not only in the region, but as a truly global showcase.
WHAT SHOULD GUESTS EXPECT FROM ECHOWAVES 2019? After last year’s successful start, interest in the festival has grown, which excites us and at the same time increases our responsibility. Subsequently, the festival team is working at full capacity to exceed the expectations of the attendees. Echowaves 2019 will have a bigger scale and provide more diverse music genres to music fans and ravers. New stages will be added as well as gaming and sport spaces. But most importantly, the lineup will include internationally renewed artists that have not performed in the country before. This year’s lineup will feature sets from well-known artists Adriatique, Ben Klock,
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May 31 - June 3, 2019