The Georgian Association in the United States strongly condemns Russia’s unprovoked and unjust full-scale invasion of Ukraine and calls on the United States and democracies around the world to continue pressure and action in support of the Ukrainian people in their brave fight for their territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence, and democracy. We commiserate with the suffering of the Ukrainian people and others who have made Ukraine their home.
Georgia has firsthand experience in facing a Russian invasion and continued occupation of its internationally recognized territories, with long-term humanitarian, political, economic, social, and security consequences. The Russian assault on Ukraine reaffirms the Kremlin’s belief that its neighbors like Ukraine and Georgia do not have the right to national sovereignty and to pursue the democratic future they desire. Given Russia’s repressive and authoritarian government, Putin views flourishing democracies around Russia’s borders as threats to his regime. Thus, left undeterred, this aggression represents a threat to all of Europe and the many democratic gains since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
The United States and its allies in the West must confront this threat from Russia with the seriousness that it deserves. We should not allow Moscow to create another protracted conflict in the region, with hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, disrupted economy, and hopes for democracy shattered as they have done in Georgia. We call on the United States to reflect on lessons from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and do what it can to stand up to Moscow’s attempt to suppress the democratic aspirations of its neighbor.
Below are some resources on how you can support the people of Ukraine in their fight for their country’s independence and democratic future.
- Attend Upcoming Rallies and Events
- Write and Call Your Elected Officials to let them know why Ukraine matters and why supporting it is in the U.S. national interest.
- Donate to Various Non-Profit Organizations
Strength is in Unity! (ძალა ერთობაშია!)
– The Board of Directors, The Georgian Association in the United States
The Georgian Association in the USA is a proud supporter of the Academy of Georgian Heritage. The Academy emerged from a Sunday school project that the Georgian Association initiated in 2009-2010 together with St. Tamar’s Georgian Orthodox Church. Thanks to the efforts of the first teacher of the school, Ms. Nino Meladze, the project attracted tens of Georgian children from the Washington, DC area. Nino’s contribution was very important for building up trust for this new project.
In 2013 thanks to the energy and dedication of Ms. Tamara Kalandiya, the project evolved to the next level and the Academy of Georgian Heritage was formed as an independent 501 C (3) organization. Tamara is a Georgian-American from Abkhazia and mother of three. She spends significant time and effort to make this new organization a success. The academy, based in Maryland, currently educates up to fifty Georgian-American children in Georgian language, history, literature, art, panduri, dance, and physical theater by Synetic.
The Georgian Association initially provided limited financial support to the Academy, using funds from a trust inherited from Martha Alshibaya and her husband Stanley Garstka, an American family of Georgian-Polish descent. More recently, the Association is providing support from a scholarship fund endowed by the Chatara family of Illinois.
The School of Georgian Heritage of the Georgian Heritage Foundation in Santa Clara, CA (https://www.facebook.com/GeorgianHeritageFoundation) was founded in August 2020. The goal of the organization is to promote, preserve and popularize Georgian Heritage among the Bay Area’s Georgian community and friends of Georgia. The school currently conducts online classes free of charge for over 40 students concentrating on teaching the Georgian language. The donation was made possible by a scholarship fund managed by the Georgian Association in the US.
As part of our mission to promote Georgian culture, we were pleased to launch the “Virtual Georgian Literature Reading Series.” The goal of the series is to create an informal and interactive forum for those with an interest in Georgian history and culture to read and discuss important Georgian books, both classic and contemporary.
Guram Dochanashvili’s The First Garment (სამოსელი პირველი)
We are delighted to announce that the next edition of the “Georgian Literature Reading Series” will discuss Guram Dochanashvili’s novel The First Garment (სამოსელი პირველი). For this edition of our series, the meetings will be conducted in Georgian – though you don’t need to be a native speaker to join us. There will be a total of 4 meetings virtually via Zoom on Saturdays from 10:00am to 11:15am ET on the following dates: July 16, July 30, August 13, and August 27. You can sign up here.
Meetings will be discussion-based and facilitated by Georgian theater and film director, professor Manana Anasashvili, who is currently teaching this novel at Ilia State University. As before, our goal will be to create an informal/interactive forum that allows the participants to share their thoughts about the book. To help make the digital environment as interactive as it can be, participants will be asked to enable their device’s video functionality and have it on during the meetings. The book can be accessed in Georgian on Saba book app as an e-book — Georgian Association might also be able to assist in accessing a PDF version of the book for those who sign up.
The deadline to sign up is June 16. You can sign up by clicking here.
— About the Book —
The novel follows a young, inexperienced, adventure-seeking man named Domenico who is deeply affected by the appearance and stories of a mysterious refugee in his village, and thus decides to take his inheritance and leave the village to go on adventuring. In this novel, traditional motifs of good, evil, love, morality, and the like are illuminated in a new light and unfold as a dramatic narrative against a background of an odd merging of humor and aesthetics.
The second edition of the series discussed Mikheil Javakhishvili’s classic novel Kvachi Kvachantiradze. Members of the Association’s Board of Directors, Stephen Jones and Valerian Sikhuashvili, led the sessions.
— About the Book —
An epic landmark of Georgian literature, Javakhishvili’s novel was published in 1925, 12 years before its author’s murder in the Stalinist Purges; but given its treatment of the Russian elite, it’s a grim marvel he was able to escape the authorities so long. Kvachi Kvachantiradze is a born conman, a wily and indefatigable survivor—as much a distillation of the Georgian character as a great anti-hero in his own right. Beginning as a charismatic youth on the outskirts of Tbilisi, Kvachi demonstrates a taste for money and a talent for obtaining it, posing as a noble after traveling to Russia to seek his fortune.
— Additional/background Reading —
– Charles King. The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus.
– Stephen Jones. The Making of Modern Georgia, 1918-2012: The First Georgian Republic and Its Successors.
– Stephen Kotkin. Stalin, Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928.
Nino Haratischvili’s The Eighth Life.
The first edition of the series discussed Nino Haratischvili’s internationally acclaimed novel The Eighth Life. Members of the Association’s Board of Directors, Stephen Jones and Valerian Sikhuashvili, led the sessions. The association will provide complimentary copies of the book to those who are currently undergraduate students.
— About the Book —
At the start of the twentieth century, on the edge of the Russian empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste… Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband, Simon, to his posting at the center of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. Stasia’s is only the first in a symphony of grand but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century. Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections.
Georgian Association in the USA is pleased to invite you to a panel discussion on current challenges and opportunities for strengthening the rule of law in Georgia. This webinar will feature experts from Georgia and the US who have been working to strengthen various aspects of the rule of law. The World Justice Project defines the rule of law as a durable system of laws, institutions, norms, and community commitment that delivers: Accountability, Just Law, Open Government, and Accessible and Impartial Justice. These principles have been ideals that Georgia has been striving towards since the country reclaimed its independence in 1991.
Georgian people have on multiple occasions expressed their commitment to a democratic, western oriented future, which hinges on a strong rule of law. While important strides have been made in the areas of curbing corruption, strengthening transparency, and improving the legislative framework, strengthening the rule of law requires a sustained effort, especially at a time of rising trends in authoritarianism around the globe.
The panel will feature experts looking back at the thirty years of successes and challenges, and looking into the future and discussing ways that Georgia and the United States can work together to support the Georgian people on this arduous and virtuous journey.
David Usupashvili – Former Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, former chairman of the Republican Party of Georgia, current chairman of the Political Council of Lelo for Georgia. Founding member of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association
Suren Avanesyan – Democracy and Governance Division Chief, former Senior Rule of Law Advisor, USAID
Giorgi Chkheidze – Chief of Party, USAID Promoting Rule of Law in Georgia Activity (PROLoG), East West Management Institute
David Rubino – Director, Europe and Eurasia Division, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative
Time Jul 13, 2021 11:30 AM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
In this series of conversations, Tbilisi-born and New York-based curator and art writer Nina Mdivani profiled twelve Georgian women artists. Some of them are known to the wider audience, while some deserve to be rediscovered. Each presentation includes interviews with experts or artists followed by a Q&A session.
You can watch recordings of each event on YouTube and below:
Meeting One: Natela Grigalashvili & Rusudan Khizanishvili
Date: June 13, 2021
Meeting Two: Vera Pagava
Date: July 18, 2021
Meeting Three: Elene Akhvlediani
Date: August 15, Sunday 2:00 PM EST
Meeting Four: Natela Iankoshvili & Tamar Abakelia
Date: September 12, Sunday 2:00 PM EST
Meeting Five: Gayane Khachaturian & Ema Lalaeva-Ediberidze
Date: October 10, Sunday 2:00 PM EST
Meeting Six: Esma Oniani & Keti Kapanadze
Date: November 14, Sunday 2:00 PM EST
Meeting Seven: Tamara Kvesitadze & Mariam Natroshvili
Date: December 12, Sunday 2:00PM
You choose below which session or sessions you would like to attend. Please note that we will send everyone who registered reminders one week ahead of each meeting and you may thus get an email about a meeting that you might not have selected.
New website coming soon! Stay tuned for new programs, listing of events, and ways to get involved.
Is the Georgian government prepared to hold free and fair elections at a time of the pandemic? What’s at stake for the Caucasus Region?
On behalf of the Georgian Association in the US we delighted to invite you for a virtual discussion on “Georgian Parliamentary Elections 2020.” The panel will examine and assess how prepared the Georgian government is to successfully hold the elections at a time of the pandemic. The speakers will highlight the role of the United States in supporting Georgia’s efforts to hold free and fair elections and to combat disinformation efforts on the part of the Russian government and other actors. The panelists will also address the importance of the election from the regional perspective.
Ambassador David Bakradze, Embassy of Georgia to the United States
Alex Sokolowski, The United States Agency for International Development
Cheryl Fernandes, U.S. Department of State
Melissa Muscio, National Democratic Institute
Nino Japaridze, Edison Research
Stephen B. Nix, International Republican Institute
Ia Meurmishvili, Voice of America
Date And Time
Fri, October 16, 2020
10:00 AM ET
PLEASE REGISTER DIRECTLY ON ZOOM:
August 23, 2020 marks the 31st anniversary of the Baltic Way when over two million people joined hands to form a human chain across 400 miles connecting Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn to protest Soviet rule.
To mark this anniversary, Lithuanians are forming a new human chain from Vilnius to the border with Belarus to show support for Belarus’s struggle against Lukashenka’s dictatorship. The dictator has claimed 80% of the vote in the elections that took place on August 9. The people of Belarus have been peacefully protesting ever since despite the brutal crackdown by the riot police. At least 5 people have died so far, dozens are still missing, several are expected to remain severely physically disabled for life, and hundreds more will endure PTSD.
Since Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have embassies in Washington, DC, and the diaspora populations of all four countries are large, we have decided to replicate the human chain on a smaller scale and connect the four embassies.
People are asked to start at the Embassy of Lithuania, 2622 16th Street NW in DC by noon and take a spot in the human chain down 16th Street NW toward the Embassy of Belarus at 1619 New Hampshire Ave NW, and then possibly on to the embassies of Estonia and Latvia on Massachusetts Ave NW.
We are inviting anyone who cares about free and fair elections, freedom of speech, and separation of powers to join us.
MASKS ARE MANDATORY FOR ALL PARTICIPANTS. GLOVES STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL BE ENFORCED TO COMPLY WITH MPD REGULATIONS.
PLEASE BRING SASHES, LINENS, RIBBONS TO ASSIST WITH DISTANCING.
SIGNS and POSTERS CAN SAY:
BALTIC WAY – 1989 – LITHUANIA – LATVIA – ESTONIA
FREEDOM WAY – 2020 – VILNIUS – BELARUS
Please dress or bring ribbons and/or balloons in these colors:
Belarus – white and red (more white)
Estonia – blue, black, and white
Latvia – red and white (more red)
Lithuania – yellow, green, and red
If you are coming to represent another diaspora, feel free to display your colors, too.
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing over 20 million Americans of central and eastern European heritage, is writing to express our concern over the prospect of withdrawing large numbers of American troops from Germany. Such a move would directly weaken the security of frontline states like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland – and of the United States and the rest of NATO by extension; reduce U.S. influence in Europe; and embolden Russian President Putin to continue or increase his aggressive policies that threaten European democracy and transatlantic security.
These U.S. forces in Germany are what give operational credibility to American and NATO forces operating out of Poland and the Enhanced Forward Presence battalions in the Baltic nations. Many members of our communities have served in the U.S. armed forces, often in the European theater, and understand that Germany holds a unique position in the transatlantic alliance. Cleary, it has not yet increased its defense spending to the 2% threshold members pledged over ten years at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales. At the same time, the German government has allowed the U.S. and other allies to build bases, airfields, hospitals and communities, and host tens of thousands of servicemembers and their families, on German soil. This is an indispensable contribution to the success of NATO and the deterrence the alliance has enforced since 1949. The infrastructure and force presence established in Germany cannot be reduced or replicated elsewhere without compromising the military power they have come to represent.
NATO’s continued success depends on solidarity and strengthening the trust and relationships built among its allies over seven decades. Withdrawing U.S. forces from Germany would gravely undermine that trust and those relationships. The CEEC calls for U.S. policy and action that uphold the long history of American leadership in NATO to ensure that transatlantic security remains strong and effective. To this end, we ask that U.S. force levels in Germany remain at their current levels or higher.
The CEEC was established in 1994 and represents more than 20 million American voters whose heritage lies in this region. Its member organizations cooperate in calling attention to issues of mutual concern, especially as regards United States policy toward Central and East Europe. The CEEC regularly shares its concerns and ideas with the United States Congress and Administration.
We thank you for your consideration on this vitally important issue to U.S. national security. Please contact the undersigned at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.
On behalf of the CEEC,
Karin A. Shuey
Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Washington, DC Director
Estonian American National Council
Cc: Secretary of Defense
Secretary of State
Chairman and Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
Chairman and Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee
August has a special meaning for Georgians. On August 7, 2008, military forces from the Russian government supporting separatists from Abkhazia and South Ossetia invaded Georgia resulting in the five-day Russo-Georgia war. Georgia suffered numerous casualties, and thousands of citizens were displaced and many still to this day. Although a cease-fire was negotiated between Georgia and the Russian government on August 12, 2008, the latter still occupies Georgia’s sovereign territory. The Russian government violates international norms in Georgia by annexing property, arbitrarily changing boundaries, destroying housing in the Tskhinvali region, and seizing farmland. It has also conducted kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, murders, harassment, and intimidation of private citizens. Georgians are historically resilient people and proud of their culture and traditions, and have earned the respect and support of the United States government. The U.S. government continues to press the Russian government to remove its troops and paramilitary forces from sovereign Georgian territory, and most recently Secretary of State Michael Pompeo reiterated U.S. support for Georgia’s sovereignty in a call with Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. Georgia has survived many invasions of its territory dating back centuries. It will survive this most recent illegal incursion by the Russian government.
The Georgian Association in the USA stands with all Georgians in remembrance of this dark time in Georgia’s history, but one from which the county will continue on its path to a stronger democracy and economic power in eastern Europe.
Georgian Association’s former Board Member, Mamia Zakradze has celebrated his 100th birthday!
Mamia Zakradze’s life story is a tribute to the struggles of his generation of Georgians. Born in Gomi, Georgia, on April 10, 1920, Mamia Zakradze’s youth fell on fighting the Nazis in WWII. After the war ended, Mamia stayed in Germany where he met the love of his life, Helena Seitz. They had two children together, Alfred and Vera Zakradze. However, because of the Iron Curtain he lost touch with his parents and relatives in Georgia, who did not even know that he survived the war until early 60s.
In 1950s, Mamia got involved with the work of the Georgian Association in the United States, which sponsored his and his family’s arrival to the US. The family arrived via Ellis Island like many other post-WWII immigrants. They originally settled in New York City before moving to College Point, NY where Mamia Zakradze currently resides.
For almost 30 years, Mamia Zakradze’s life was closely intertwined with the Georgian Association in the US where he was a member of the Board and proud supporter of all Georgian causes from 1950 through 1989. Mamia supported many noble Georgian initiatives, including the creation of Camp Alaverdi in Cold Spring, NY, a summer camp for kids from the Caucasus. At the invitation of the founder of the camp, Siko Eristavi, Mamia Zakradze became Vice President of Camp Alaverdi in 1964 and served there until his retirement in 1996. Even though the camp had to close soon after his retirement, Mamia remains optimistic that one day it will open again.
Despite all the struggles, Mamia Zarkadze’s life gives us optimism and belief in bright future for Georgia and the US.
The GA Board is wishing Mamia Zakradze a Very Happy 100th Birthday! Congratulations on this amazing milestone! What an honor it is to celebrate a century of life with you. May you continue to enjoy the journey of life.
May 26 is a special day for Georgians. Over a century ago, on this date in 1918, Georgians declared independence from Russian rule and the formation of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (DRG). While the Soviet invasion in 1921 put an end to it just after three years of its establishment, DRG had solid foundations of a democratic political system, with strong parties and inclusive government based on popular participation.
After regaining its independence in 1993, Georgia still faces threats with the continuing presence of Russian Federation troops on Georgian sovereign territory and encroachment in some disputed areas of the country. Despite these challenges, Georgia has prevailed in achieving significant democratic reforms and has strengthened its economy to one of the strongest in the region. With its partnership built on both shared values and common interests, Georgia is a proud and robust ally of the United States.
Lately, Georgia’s successful battle against COVID-19 has been largely credited to the cooperation between our two countries. The past years of US technical assistance, construction of the Lugar Center, a world class infectious disease laboratory, and training of Georgian healthcare professionals proved to be instrumental in Georgia’s preparedness to successfully manage and contain the deadly virus.
American business is also investing in Georgia, and tourism continues to increase due to the rich culture of the country. With its well-educated population and continued political and economic reforms, the future is bright for Georgia and its citizens.
The Board of Directors of the Georgian Association wishes all Georgians and their friends a happy Independence Day.
Veronika Metonidze is a Georgian and US attorney with 25 years of law practice and international development experience in two countries.
After moving to the United States in 2005, she continued to advance in her professional career and obtained professional licenses in Virginia and the District of Columbia. She has built and managed a successful full-service general practice servicing a diverse immigrant community. Prior to that she practiced immigration law at Miorini Law, PLLC and the National Capital Legal Services, Inc. In addition, the Veronika specializes in White Collar Crime and Anti-Corruption investigations and litigation.
Veronika has a long history of non-profit community capacity building in both countries. While in the US, Veronika has actively contributed and promoted all initiatives aimed at strengthening Georgian Community in the US such as GeorgianDC online forum, Georgian Center, Academy of Georgian Heritage and others. In Georgia, she was one of the founding members of Georgian Young Lawyers Association, the first professional non-profit organization in newly independent Georgia.
Before her legal career in the US, Ms. Metonidze practiced Georgian law and actively participated in the legislative process of Georgia. She also steered International development efforts in Georgia and focused on Democracy Building, Judicial and Legal Profession reforms. She consulted on multiple international projects of the World Bank, IMF, EBRD, USAID, IOM and other international organizations.
Veronika earned her L.L.M degree in International Legal Studies from American University College of Law and studied European Law at Sorbonne University, Paris, France.
Bar Admissions: Virginia, District of Columbia Courts US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
Professional Affiliation: American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA); Fairfax Bar Association
Languages: English, French, Russian, Georgian
Veronika Metonidze has been elected as the new president, and took over the the position effective May 1. Veronika has been a long-term member of the board and is currently serving as the Secretary, one of the three officer positions in the association. We wish her the best and look forward to working with her in continuing the important work of the association.
The Georgian Association in the United States, Inc. is alarmed and expresses its deep concern with the rising tensions and expansion of the humanitarian crisis at the occupation line of Georgia’s Russian-controlled Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia).
On November 9, 2019, the occupation regime illegally detained Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili, a well-known Georgian physician and president of the Georgian Association of Orthopedic Traumatologists. On November 15, 2019 he was sentenced to two months of pretrial detention. Dr. Gaprindashvili was detained while providing urgent medical help to a gravely injured local resident of the occupied Akhalgori district. The story of the patient’s condition and refusal of the Russian-controlled de facto authorities in Tskhinvali to transport the patient to Tbilisi has been widely reported. Following the arbitrary closure of the Mosabruni checkpoint by the de facto authorities in September of 2019, the local population has become totally isolated resulting in several deaths due to lack of access to adequate medical care.
The detention of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili while fulfilling his duty as a doctor runs counter to all internationally recognized human rights.
The Georgian Association calls on US government representatives to:
– actively support efforts of the Georgian Government and International community to achieve the prompt release of Dr. Gaprindashvili from illegal custody;
– work with all sides involved to overcome the humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories and ensure local residents’ access to qualified medical care;
Georgian Association in the USA is happy to share the news that on October 23 the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 598, the Georgia Support Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). The legislation asserts the United States’ continued support for the independence and sovereignty of Georgia, recognizes Georgia’s commitment to democratic values including free and fair elections, and affirms U.S. opposition to Russian aggression in the region.
As Representative Connoly stated: “With this vote, the House sends a clear and unequivocal statement of support to the people of Georgia in their struggle against an ever-looming Russian threat. As the head of the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I am particularly pleased that this bill recognizes that Georgia has been a longstanding NATO-aspirant country. I thank my colleague, Rep. Kinzinger, for working with me to protect and strengthen the relationship between Georgia and the United States.”
“The United States plays a pivotal role in encouraging our Georgian allies to continue working towards independence and complete separation from their aggressive neighbor, Russia,” said Kinzinger. “And I’m proud of their efforts and aspirations to join the NATO alliance, and applaud their commitment to democratic values. Today, the House reasserted the importance of a strong U.S.-Georgia partnership, and I thank my colleagues for their support, especially Rep. Connolly for his efforts to bring this to the floor.”
Georgian Association in the USA expresses its deep gratitude to the initiating Representatives and Cosponsors of the Act and hopes for the continuous USA-Georgia cooperation.
Cosponsors Date Cosponsored
Rep. Kinzinger, Adam [R-IL-16]* 01/16/2019
Rep. Rooney, Francis [R-FL-19] 01/25/2019
Rep. Fitzpatrick, Brian K. [R-PA-1] 01/25/2019
Rep. Wilson, Joe [R-SC-2] 01/25/2019
Rep. Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [R-WI-5] 01/30/2019
Rep. Sherman, Brad [D-CA-30] 02/11/2019
Rep. Flores, Bill [R-TX-17] 02/14/2019
Rep. Chabot, Steve [R-OH-1] 02/19/2019
Rep. Kuster, Ann M. [D-NH-2] 03/21/2019
Rep. Keating, William R. [D-MA-9] 04/04/2019
Rep. Crenshaw, Dan [R-TX-2] 04/09/2019
Rep. Wright, Ron [R-TX-6] 04/12/2019
Rep. Phillips, Dean [D-MN-3] 04/25/2019
Rep. Turner, Michael R. [R-OH-10] 04/25/2019
Rep. Miller, Carol D. [R-WV-3] 04/25/2019
Rep. Cook, Paul [R-CA-8] 04/25/2019
Rep. Kaptur, Marcy [D-OH-9] 04/25/2019
Rep. Hudson, Richard [R-NC-8] 05/01/2019
Rep. Wagner, Ann [R-MO-2] 05/20/2019
Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6] 05/20/2019
Rep. Gonzalez, Vicente [D-TX-15] 05/20/2019
Rep. Guest, Michael [R-MS-3] 05/20/2019
Rep. Cicilline, David N. [D-RI-1] 05/22/2019
Rep. Titus, Dina [D-NV-1] 05/22/2019
Rep. Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9] 06/05/2019
Rep. Riggleman, Denver [R-VA-5] 06/12/2019
Rep. Rice, Tom [R-SC-7] 07/23/2019
Rep. Schweikert, David [R-AZ-6] 09/17/2019
Rep. Taylor, Van [R-TX-3] 10/21/2019
Rep. Price, David E. [D-NC-4] 10/21/2019
Join world-class founders and funders in an exploration of the frontier markets from Eastern Europe through Central Asia. Hosted at the ancient Silk Road destination Tbilisi, it will showcase Georgia’s legendary hospitality and creativity & will provide a welcoming and exciting environment to mingle with brilliant founders and investors and inspiring visionaries in a variety of fields.
For more information please follow the link.
The inaugural Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program took place from May 11 to 20 in Portland and was organized by Global Youth Entrepreneurs. The goal of the program was to provide a group of enterprising high schoolers from Georgia with the opportunity to participate in a collaborative entrepreneurial project and citywide startup event, experience academic and student life at one of the top grade schools in the country, network with like-minded Oregon students, entrepreneurs, and community leaders, and tour the city and state in the spirit of exchange. The Georgian Association partially funded this initiative as part of its expanding engagement to support connections between US counterparts and Georgian entrepreneurs of all ages!
School XXI Century in Tbilisi, Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ educational partner in Georgia, sent tenth-grade students Levan Gvineria and Luka Todua on the exchange, along with English teacher Irma Kalmakhelidze as a chaperone. Eleventh-grade student Mariam Gogidze of the European School in Tbilisi completed the delegation. XXI Century selected Gvineria and Todua based on their demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and diplomacy and excellent performance on a series of English examinations, while Global Youth Entrepreneurs invited Gogidze for her leading role in growing Tbilisi’s community of high school entrepreneurs. The Georgian Association in the USA, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency, and Kargi Gogo (the Northwestern United States’ only Georgian restaurant, located in Portland, OR) generously sponsored the students’ travel to Portland, and the United States Embassy in Georgia hosted the students for an orientation prior to their visit to the United States. Seth Talyansky, who accompanied the group throughout the week, Solomon Olshin, Britton Masback, and Li Lambert of Global Youth Entrepreneurs arranged the group’s itinerary in the U.S.
In Portland, the participants were taken aback by the prevalence of homelessness, a rarity in Tbilisi. They found such cases of social isolation and neglect by fellow citizens anathema to Georgian culture. For their entrepreneurial project, the students set about designing ways to diffuse cultural traits like strong family ties and social cohesion into a society that tends to emphasize individual independence and success. The students received continuous mentorship from WorldOregon, which hosted their project work. They also visited Autodesk, eBay, and Intel, where technologists, entrepreneurs, and other company staff applauded their efforts to tackle the problem of their choice and offered feedback on ideas. Ultimately, after several days of work, Gvineria and Todua produced a resolution outlining a multi-pronged approach to combating homelessness for the city government to consider, and Gogidze devised a plan for a compassion-building game app for young children. On the weekend of May 17 to 19, and together with around 30 peers from ten Portland-area high schools, the students took part in Startup Camp Youth Portland 2019, Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ third such event around the world. Startup Camp Youth Portland was hosted and sponsored by the Catlin Gabel School. All but a few students pitched business or non-profit ideas on Friday night, and teams coalesced around the five most popular ideas. On Saturday and most of Sunday, teams developed their concepts under the mentorship of about a dozen local business, entrepreneurship, innovation, and education experts before presenting to fellow students and distinguished guest judges on Sunday evening. The two top-performing teams—the first designing motivational programs for youth with speech impediments and the second proposing an app incentivizing carbon consciousness among those who commute by car—came away with prizes from Intel and Nike.
The Georgian Association was pleased to be able to support the Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program 2019 which represents a milestone in a burgeoning creative partnership between the youth and, ultimately, citizenries, of Portland and Tbilisi. This exchange represents Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ next logical effort, after its Startup Weekend Youth Tbilisi event last June, to foster the autonomous participation of Georgia’s young people in their country’s economy, which will promote democracy and prosperity in Georgia. Multiple appearances on television have been arranged for Gvineria, Todua, and their teacher to tell the story of their visit to Portland to a national audience. To carry this momentum forward, Global Youth Entrepreneurs plans to hold an event in Batumi next summer in partnership with a local educational institute and School XXI Century that will draw student participants from all across the country together for a weekend of immersion in entrepreneurship and diplomacy. Global Youth Entrepreneurs will also advise Gogidze on the execution of the second iteration of Startup Weekend Youth Tbilisi in June (this time not affiliated with Startup Weekend), which she is organizing at the European School together with several classmates. This program holds promise as a model of youth-led cross-cultural engagement and exchange that can be replicated between any pair of cities or countries. The government, commercial, and non-profit actors who interfaced with the students underlined the value of—and their support for—bringing in fresh cultural perspectives on local issues, especially those, like homelessness, to which many Americans have become desensitized. Gogidze, Gvineria, and Todua are eager to continue developing the projects they began in Portland, inspired by the lesson all youth involved in this program took away: organic collaboration between youth across borders is key to strengthening international understanding and ties.
The program in the participants’ words:
“Luka and I valued the experience: getting to know American teens, looking into homelessness and other traits of the city. From meeting with the companies and leaders, we realized that if you have a goal to achieve and you are doing everything to make it real, nothing is impossible. —Levan Gvineria, 10th Grade, School XXI Century, Tbilisi
“During the startup camp, I worked on problems that I’d never faced before which was a very rewarding experience for me as I had to collaborate with people of diverse cultures and ethnicities to form an understanding of those problems.” —Mariam Gogidze, 11th Grade, European School, Tbilisi
“I’ve never seen students gain so much wisdom in so few days.” —Irma Kalmakhelidze, English Teacher, School XXI Century, Tbilisi
On April 23, 2019, Georgian Association partner StartupGrind Tbilisi hosted an event at Tbilisi State Conservatoire which featured successful Georgian entrepreneur Valeri Chekheria, CEO of the Adjara Group Hospitality. The event attracted 500 attendees in Tbilisi and another 60 “virtually” through live stream in Zugdidi. Mr. Chekheria discussed the growing international recognition of Georgian brands. Many in attendance were Georgian startups as well as Georgian tourism and hospitality community representatives.
Startup Grind Tbilisi is dedicated to growing and fostering the startup community in Georgia. Networking is key to their efforts so the first hour of the event provided time for networking among startups, businesses, investors and ecosystem representatives. The networking session was followed by remarks by high level speakers from the US Embassy, Tbilisi City Hall, Georgian National Tourism Administration and private sector representatives. The key note speaker, Mr. Chehkia, is an author and manager of the successful Georgian hotel brand “Rooms” which has become a landmark in Tbilisi and elsewhere, with outstanding hotel interior design concepts. The key takeaways of his talk were what social responsibilities a business can bear for local community development, how big companies can avoid competing with local SMEs and instead stimulate their growth, and finally what should the management culture be that can lead to building a successful brand.
The next event is planned for May 25th in Tbilisi and will feature Lowell Ricklefs, an American businessman from Seattle, WA who launched his business Traction to help fellow entrepreneurs scale and sell their business. Mr. Ricklefs will conduct private advisory meetings with Georgian startups, and participate in a “fireside chat” with Startup Grind Tbilisi.
The Georgian Association is pleased to be able to partner with Startup Grind Tbilisi to help expand opportunities for the Georgian Startup community by linking them with possible mentors in the United States.
As part of its ongoing advocacy effort to raise the consciousness of issues important to Georgian Americans and their friends, on May 6, 2019, the President of the Georgian Association in the USA (GA), Elisabeth Kvitashvili, along with Board of Directors members, John Tsotne Dadiani, Veronika Metonidze, and Darina Markozashvili, met with Mr. Collin Davenport, Legislative Director, and Ms. Molly Cole, Legislative Assistant, of Representative Gerald Connolly’s office (U.S. House of Representatives, 11th District, Virginia). Rep. Connolly is the co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, along with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (U.S. House of Representatives, 16th District, Illinois). In January 2019, Rep. Connolly and Rep. Kinzinger introduced H.R. 598, also known as “Georgia Support Act,” in support of Georgia’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The Georgian Association thanked Rep. Connolly’s office for his continuing strong support to Georgia. The GA pressed to have the HR passed in 2019 if possible. In addition, we welcomed Congressional support for maintenance of assistance levels to Georgia (both civilian and military) for FYs 2019 and ’20. The discussion primarily focused on the continuing creeping annexation of Georgian territories by Russia and Russia’s violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
We followed the meeting on Capitol Hill with a May 8th meeting at the State Department. President Elisabeth Kvitashvili was joined by Board Member Darina Markozashvili, and together they raised concerns with Ms. Alicia Allison, Director, Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Mr. Aaron Rupert, Senior Georgia Desk Officer, and Mr. Christopher Hallett, Georgia Desk Officer. Although the discussion focused on the strong U.S.- Georgia bilateral relations, the GA expressed dismay that Georgia is yet to have a confirmed US Ambassador at post. The Department is hopeful a name may be forthcoming in the near future. The Department reaffirmed its support for robust levels of U.S. assistance in support of Georgia’s economic and democratic development but noted disappointment with Georgia’s judiciary. The Georgian Association updated State Department colleagues about the cultural and educational projects the Association is currently supporting.
By Irakli Kakabadze
April 9, 1989 was a historic date that contributed to the demise of the Soviet Empire. Ten years ago on this date, a bloody massacre on Rustaveli Avenue in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi occurred when 4,000 unarmed nonviolent protesters were beaten, killed and dispersed by the Soviet Army. This was the first “crack” that eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union. I was 20 years old during these protests in 1989 actively participating as a member of the students central striking committee. Many of my friends, compatriots and colleagues were seriously wounded by the violent behavior of the Soviet occupation forces.
Leaders of the Georgian National Liberation movement, Zviad K. Gamsakhurdia, Merab Kostava, Gia Chanturia, Zurab Chavchavadze, Irakli Tsereteli, Tamar Chkheidze and others decided to demand independence from Soviet occupation that had begun in 1921. This was a very shocking and highly unusual demand even during the so called PERESTROIKA since no other Soviet Republic had demanded independence prior to these April 9th events. Yes, there were demands for more democracy and human rights, environmental protection and higher salaries – but there was no other precedent of demanding complete and total independence from Soviet leaders. Considering the high popularity of the then Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev among world leaders, it was generally felt that an independence struggle was a fruitless exercise. Most Western leaders were in the process of developing improved almost warm relations with the Soviet leadership; the Georgians were going against the tide. Nevertheless, the leaders of the Georgian Liberation Movement decided to follow the footsteps of Gandhi’s ‘Swaraj’ – total liberty with no spilling of blood. This decision proved to be difficult and tragic at the time, but in the long run, successful, as these steps led to the eventual defeat of one of the biggest empires in the history of human kind. Zviad Gamsakhurdia even had a picture of Mahatma Gandhi in his pocket when he was getting arrested right after the bloody massacre by Soviet Occupation Forces on that fateful April day.
What was amazing and totally unbelievable during the protest on April 9th was the fact that people self organized in a totally nonviolent way and met brute force with singing and dancing. The Georgian protesters were able to defeat one of the strongest armies of the world with creativity, empathy and nonviolence. On that day, 16 women and 4 men sacrificed their lives to the cause of independence, became heroes and paved the way not just for independence of Georgia, but the demolition of the entire Soviet Empire. No weapons had any strength when the will of the people manifested itself so strongly by nonviolent action.
I cannot forget the words of our national hero, perhaps the biggest influence of our struggle, Merab Kostava: “We have two choices to lead our independence struggle. One is an armed insurrection, that is doomed to fail, because violence never liberates from violence. We will always lose once we pick up the weapons of destruction and death. But we will always win, when we have the greatest strength of love and nonviolence the example of which was given by great Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior. There is no alternative to nonviolent struggle and we will destroy and deconstruct Soviet Empire – more then this, no Empire is immune to the power of nonviolent struggle and Georgian Polyphonic song ‘Mravaljhamieri’ (მრავალჟამიერი).
In the end, the words of Merab Kostava proved to be right as well as unforgettable – even more so today, 30 years after the bloody massacre of April 9th.
On March 5, the Georgian Association in the USA, along with Johns Hopkins SAIS Eurasia Club, hosted a discussion with Ambassador of Georgia to the United States David Bakradze and President of the America-Georgia Business Council Dr. Mamuka Tsereteli. The event took place in Kenney Herter Auditorium of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and focused on the security, political, and economic pillars of U.S.-Georgia partnership.
Ambassador Bakradze began his remarks by examining the persistent threat facing Georgia’s security and stability from the Russian Federation. He reminded the audience of Moscow’s aggression in 2008 and underlined the continued presence of Russian troops and military bases in the occupied regions. Shifting to Georgia’s future, the ambassador then spoke of the country’s Euroatlantic aspirations. Explaining that Georgians share conviction in the values and principles of democracy and human rights, he declared joining the transatlantic community to be the country’s “civilizational choice.” Thus, he continued, “every government serves this choice of Georgian people to become part of the European Union and NATO.” He also touched on Georgia’s bilateral security relationship with the United States, stressing the country’s contribution in the resolute support mission in Afghanistan.
Dr. Tsereteli continued the discussion by focusing on Georgia’s bilateral economic relationship with the United States, which he noted started to develop in early 1990s and evolved into a serious business and economic partnership. Though the level of political engagement is larger than business and economic ties, he explained that there are always quality U.S. investments in Georgia. This has set up high standards for future Foreign Direct Investments and over the years contributed in how businesses operate in the country. He noted that Georgia is consistently ranked among the top countries to do business in by the World Bank.
The opening remarks were followed by a Q&A segment moderated by Ms. Darina Markozashvili, who serves on the Board of Director of the Georgian Association. After the formal dialogue, the speakers and guests moved to the reception where the they continued the conversation over Georgian food and wine.
The full event can be viewed with the link bellow:
Members of the Georgian Association recently met in California with a dozen young Georgian entrepreneurs representing Georgian startups focused on areas such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, health care and transportation. The young entrepreneurs are part of Startup Grind Tbilisi and attended the global Startup Grind conference in Redwood City, California. With financial support from Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency, the Georgians are part of the community of startups, partners, investors, thought leaders, and worldwide directors who came together over several days of invaluable education, connection, and inspiration provided by a roster of world-class speakers.
Startup Grind-Tbilisi, (www.startup grind.com) co-founded by Colin Donohue and Giorgi Tukhashvili, is the Georgian charter of Startup Grind which is the largest independent startup community in the world connecting more than 1,500,000 entrepreneurs in over 500 chapters. Like it’s parent, Startup Grind-Tbilisi nurtures Georgian startups through events, media, and partnerships with organizations like Google for Startups.
Among the young Georgians participating in this year’s Startup Grind global conference are Nikoloz Gogochuri of Vrex Immersive (http://vr-ex.com; Zaal Gachechiladze of Pulsar AI (http://www.pulsar.ai); Giorgi Bezhitashvili of Health-Hub LLC (https://health-hub.com), Revaz Mazanishvili of Pawn LLC (http://pawwwn.com) and Lasha Kvantaliani of Treespond (https://treespond.com). These younf entrepreneurs and other members of Startup Grind Tbilisi will host the next international Startup Grind event in Tbilisi in late 2019. The goal of this particular event will be to actively promote Georgia to the international technology and startup investment communities.
An opinion Piece
By Irakli Kakabadze
With less than two weeks until the Presidential elections, the Georgian electorate demonstrates apathy and mistrust for those running in the elections. Although there are many candidates, most are viewed with a certain distrust by the population. Much of the electorate sees the leading candidates as representing the political elite. The top three candidates were all highly placed officials during the Saakashvili government – both Salome Zourabishvili and Grigol Vashadze were Foreign Ministers, and David Bakradze was the Chairman of the Parliament. Among other candidates there are no charismatic leaders who express the will of the majority of the electorate nor address their issues. For example about 367,000 families in Georgia are to be evicted from their homes due to a faulty bank loan process. None of the candidates addressed this issue during their campaign. One positive note is gender. One of the leading candidates, Salome Zourabishvili, has a chance to become Georgia’s first woman president which will be a great milestone in King Tamara’s country.
And what of Russia, Georgia’s antagonist to the north? It appears the Russians don’t favour any particular candidate. Perhaps their best hope is to get something out of the one who happens to win. One of the candidates worked for the Russian Foreign Ministry – the others have not. But this time Russian soft power is centered on other parts of the world: influencing the Caucasian region with events in Syria and the Middle East, since many Georgians and Armenians are afraid of Wahhabi influence continuing to spread in the region, especially just to the north in territories that touch Georgia. This issue was also not widely discussed by the presidential candidates.
And again, the keys to the electoral boxes lie not in the pockets of ordinary people, but of the billionaire who rules everything in Georgia. That is what ordinary people think.
By Nino Japaridze, originally published at Edison Research
In three weeks, voters will have an opportunity to elect the Republic of Georgia’s next President. Edison Research took a detailed look at the voter’s pre-election sentiment by surveying 3,000 eligible voters nationwide in September 2018. The survey was commissioned by Georgia’s leading independent national broadcaster, Rustavi 2.
There is no shortage of Presidential candidates to choose from: The names of twenty five registered candidates will appear on the ballot on October 28th. There were twenty-one additional presidential hopefuls whose registration was denied by Georgia’s Central Electoral Commission.
Several clear themes emerged:
The vast majority of interviewed voters tell us they plan to perform their civic duty and turn out to vote: We discovered 64 percent of eligible voters “definitely” plan to vote during the upcoming Presidential election, with 23 percent who think they will “probably vote,” 9 percent report being less likely to vote, and 4 percent did not answer the question. Should this be surprising? If we look at the long-term trends, voter turnout during Georgia’s Presidential elections has significantly declined over time, with only 46.6 percent of registered voters voting during Georgia’s 2013 Presidential election. Some analysts predict this trend will continue and expect a low turn-out this fall, in part because the weakened institution of the Presidency — a result of Constitutional amendments passed by the Parliament of Georgia on September 26, 2017. Edison’s poll, however, reveals 41 percent of eligible voters are unaware these amendments also annul Georgian voters’ ability to directly elect their president. When we asked them about this, we discovered 40 percent of eligible voters “completely disapprove” and 31 percent “somewhat disapprove” of this change, which will take effect in six years.
Only three Presidential hopefuls lead: When asked “if the election was held tomorrow, which candidate would you vote for,” 22 percent of eligible voters expressed support for Grigol Vashadze (a candidate from the Power is in Unity alliance of opposition parties), 18 percent for David Bakradze (a candidate from the European Georgia Party, which broke away from the United National Movement), and 15 percent for Salome Zurabishvili (an independent candidate backed by Georgia’s ruling party– Georgia Dream). Nearly seven out of ten supporters of these top-ranking candidates told us they were certain of their choice.
Shalva Natelashvili (a candidate from the Labor Party) and David Usupashvili (a candidate from the Independent Democrats Party) garnered 8 and 3 percent support, respectively. Other candidates had less than 2 percentage points of support. A quarter of the interviewed eligible voters told us they are undecided or they refused to answer this question.
Salome Zurabishvili has a strong negative image among eligible voters. When asked which Presidential candidate they would never consider voting for, 41 percent named Salome Zurabishvili, 29 percent named Zurab Japaridze and 16 percent named Shalva Natelashvili, while 13 percent of the surveyed respondents would never vote for Grigol Vashadze and 11 percent said they would never vote for David Bakradze and David Usupashvili, respectively.
A run-off election is likely. A run-off election between the top two candidates will occur if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote. With three candidates garnering significant support in our survey, and several others bringing in smaller numbers, a run-off election seems likely to occur. And voters in our poll agree, with 44 percent of surveyed voters expecting a run-off election, while 22 percent don’t expect this outcome and 32 percent “don’t know” or “refuse to answer” the question.
If all remains equal, the government party endorsed candidate Zurabishvili will likely be defeated by an opposition candidate during a run-off. Edison’s pre-election survey shows that if during a run-off election Grigol Vashadze and Salome Zurabishvili are on the ballot, 50 percent would vote for Vashadze, while 24 percent would vote for Zurabishvili, with 26 percent undecided or refusing to answer this question. Similarly, Zurabishvili appears to trail David Bakradze during a run-off election scenario: 53 percent would vote for Bakradze and 23 percent would vote for Zurabishvili during the run-off election, with 24 percent being undecided or refusing to answer the question.
Georgian voters are deeply dissatisfied with Georgia’s developments, creating an environment favorable for an opposition candidate to take the helm of Georgia’s Presidency this fall. 79 percent of the surveyed respondents feel the Republic of Georgia is going in the wrong direction. Six out of 10 respondents told us they “strongly disagree” with the legislative initiative led by Georgia Dream to legalize production of marijuana for export, while 26 percent “somewhat disagreed.” Immediately after the Edison poll was released, Salome Zurabishvili stated that, if elected President, the dialogue with Georgia’s population on this issue will continue. She also invited two leading opposition candidates to participate in pre-election debates. Georgian voters are known to radically shift their political preferences in a short time-span. With 24 days left before Georgia’s Presidential election, presidential candidates still have some time to earn the voters’ trust.
Commentary: WHO WILL BE GEORGIA’S NEW PRESIDENT?
By Irakli Kakabadze, Chair, Gandhi Foundation Georgia
New presidential elections are fast approaching in Georgia. They are scheduled for October 28, 2018. It is very interesting that this time the ruling “Georgian Dream'” party which holds an absolute parliamentary majority and has unilaterally formed four governments over the last six years decided not to nominate a presidential candidate for this election cycle. Leaders of the majority party declared that they will support one of the independent candidates for president. Georgia’s current president, Giorgi T. Margvelashvili has not announced his plans about running for re-election. Many experts think that Mr. Margvelashvili will not run this time and will retire. His candidacy was actively promoted by the Georgian Dream party in 2013 and once he was elected president, he chose to distance himself from the ruling party. This won him a reputation as a moderately independent president, with pro-Western and pro-democracy values.
There are indications that the sole independent female candidate for presidency, Mrs. Salome Zourabishvili will get the support of the ruling party and along with it, its administrative resources, which will give her a big advantage in the presidential race. Mrs. Zourabishvili was born and raised in France, the daughter of immigrants from the first independent social-democratic republic of Georgia (1918-1921). She was educated in France and the United States and served as a French diplomat at different missions throughout her career. In 2004, former Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili tapped her as his Foreign Minister and she presided over the Russian troop withdrawal from Georgia in 2005. After a disagreement with Saakashvili on a number of issues, she left her post as Foreign Minister and joined the opposition, becoming actively involved in protests from 2006 to 2009. She continued her career as a UN diplomat in New York City overseeing the problems of disarmament. After her service at the UN, she returned to Georgia and ran as an independent candidate for parliament in 2016 and beat the former Minister of Culture in the Saakashvili government, Nickoloz Rurua. Since then she has been a member of the Georgian parliament, was moderately independent and conservative. If elected, she will become the first female elected president of Georgia. Her political views are close to those of the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. However, she proclaimed that she will be ‘first of all a women’s president’, which caused a lot of debates in the social media. Her good relationship with Bidzina Ivanishvili, head of the ruling party and Georgia’s prime billionaire, will be key in this upcoming presidential struggle.
However, experts are not completely sure that Mrs. Zourabishvili will have the unconditional support of Ivanishvili’s crew. There are a number of strong opponents within the voting electorate. Mr. Grigiol Vashadze is representing the United National Movement of Georgia, the former ruling party of Mr. Saakashvili. Mr. Vashadze is also a moderate figure, who also has a long and distinguished diplomatic record – first in the Soviet and Russian Foreign Services and then as Saakashvili’s Foreign Minister. Unlike many of Saakashvili’s party members, Mr. Vashadze is not known as a hothead and even among his opponents he commands some respect as a distinguished statesman. This gives him some chance at winning. Some experts state that Mr. Vashadze also has a good personal relationship with Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is Georgia’s strongest power-broker. This relationship between current and former ruling regimes is called ‘co-habitation’ by the Georgian populace. If you ask a regular cab driver or construction worker in Tbilisi, they will express their resentment at this ‘cohabitative’ state of events; they see it as an elitist plot against ordinary blue-collar inhabitants.
One additional moderate candidate is the former speaker of the Georgian Parliament during the Saakashvili period, Mr. David Bakradze. Mr. Bakradze belongs to the group that split from Saaakshvili’s UNM and calls itself “European Georgia”. This is the group led by Mr. Giga Bokeria, liberal former deputy foreign minister, who is well regarded as one of the smartest politicians in Georgia. There have been talks in Georgian media that ‘European Georgia” was also paid by Georgia’s leading oligarch and now their financial situation is the best amongst all parties. One group of experts is betting on Mr. Bakradze as next president of Georgia. They note that even though he is from the formal opposition party, he will be a very convenient opposition president for Bidzina Ivanishvili and he will help to consolidate the image of contemporary Georgia ‘as a democratic state’ with divided powers.
Another former speaker of the Parliament, Mr. David Usupashvili, is also running for the Presidency. He is respected for his honesty and high professionalism as a constitutionalist and human rights defender. It should be noted that during Mr. Usupashvili’s chairmanship of the Parliament of Georgia (2012-2016) Georgia had its best human rights record. A number of experts indicate that the current parliamentary leadership is not up to his standard. Mr. Usupashvili is also considered a good dealmaker, although lacks charisma to attract large masses of electors. He also enjoys a good relationship with Bidzina Ivanishvili and it is possible that Georgia’s leading figure would bet on him. But, here again, there are many questions unanswered.
There are number of other less significant candidates. There is still time to apply for this job. However, popular perception in Georgia says that the next president of Georgia will be chosen not by the Georgian people, but by Mr. Ivanishvili. The one most pleasing to him, will get the job.
The Georgian-American community and nation of Georgia are deeply grateful to late Senator John McCain for his long-standing and unconditional support for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic development of the Republic of Georgia. We mourn the passing of this great American, one of Georgia’s truest friends.
2018 marks two important dates for the country of Georgia. In May, all Georgians, including many Georgian-Americans, commemorated Georgia’s 100th birthday. The modern state of Georgia began its life in 1918 and survived three years (1918-1921) before falling to a Communist invasion and almost seventy years of Soviet oppression. 2018 also marks the 10-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Georgia. On August 8, 2008, Russian forces, some 80,000 strong, swept into Georgia once more. The pretext was that Russia was responding to a Georgian attack on the separatist enclave of South Ossetia. This ignores the context of almost weekly provocations by Russia leading up to August 2008. Today, in violation of the cease-fire agreement agreed upon in 2008, Georgia remains occupied by Russian troops. They are visible from the main highway which connects East and West Georgia, and are located just 40 miles from Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city. “Temporary” housing built to house Georgians displaced by the war are also visible from the highway. The cease-fire line continues to advance into Georgian territory, as Ossetian irregulars and their Russian backers arbitrarily shift the border further onto Georgian land. This creeping “borderization” deprives Georgian farmers of access to their lands and homes, and leads to provocations, arrests and the murder of Georgian citizens by Russian border guards.
Georgians worldwide are extraordinarily proud of the longevity of their culture and traditions. They have a unique language, are Orthodox Christians, and are dedicated to the preservation of their culture, and their historical connections to the West.
Georgia (Sakartvelo to Georgians) is an ancient land that predated the formation of Rus or Russia. Georgia has survived despite the many invasions and foreign interlopers who have sought to control the strategically placed land which Georgians inhabit. Georgia’s orientation was always westward, and it remains so today. But Georgia is occupied, Russia continues to meddle in its internal affairs, and Georgia’s Western friends are preoccupied. Georgia was the first Ukraine. There should be no concessions to Russia until it observes the conditions of the peace agreement of 2008, which Russia itself signed.
The Georgian Association in the USA believes that Western silence in the face of the ongoing Russian occupation of Georgia will encourage Russia to continue its meddling in the sovereignty of other countries. The United States Congress and European Union should all make plain their opposition to such Russian behavior, which is a threat not only to Georgia and the region, but to global peace.
President of the Georgian Association in the USA, Elisso Kvitashvili was recently in Tbilisi where she had an opportunity to discuss possible collaborative projects with the Department for Relations with Diaspora in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In discussions with Aliona Chkhouta, Head of the Division for Relations with the Diaspora, and Giorigi Merabishvili, Head of the North American division, ideas were exchanged about furthering Diaspora Department support for existing or additional Georgian Sunday schools (kindergardens) in the US, and enlisting young Georgian-Americans as possible “Young Ambassadors” as part of a broad outreach effort by the Diaspora Department. As the Georgian Association plans further cultural events in the US later in 2018-2019, Chkhouta and Merabishvili confirmed interest in supporting our efforts perhaps through the sponsorship of young Georgian speakers and scholars. Now that the relationship has been established check our facebook page in particular for more announcements on additional collaboration.
The following article is an extract from the exhibit “The Democratic Republic of Georgia – 100 years” currently on display at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi.
The Bolshevik occupation regime started to subdue the population by force. Georgian clergy and the Orthodox Church found themselves outside the law. All anti-Communist organizations were dismissed by declaring “self-liquidation”. Prohibited parties moved underground and continued to fight for Georgia’s liberation by secret conspiracy.
In 1921, anti-Soviet revolts erupted in Svanetia, Racha-Lechkhumi and Khevsureti. Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia Ambrosi addressed the Genoa International Conference in a memorandum and demanded the withdrawal of Russian occupation troops from Georgia. In April 1922, the Independence Committee was formed to lead the liberation movement and its “military center” was established. Guerrilla forces activated and spread throughout Georgia.
Khaikhosro (Kakutsa) Cholokashvili led the groups in Kakheti and Khevsureti. The members of the squad were bound together by an oath and they were given the name “Shepiculni” (bound by oath). In the summer of 1922, turbulence started in Khiziki, Pshavi and Khevsureti. In March 1923, the entire military staff of the military center Generals Aleksandre Andronikashvili, Konstantine Apkhazi, Varden Tsulukidze and others were arrested and shot. Nevertheless, in August 1924, a large uprising that was supported by Georgia’s emigrated government (in Paris) began. To organize the revolt, Noe Khomeriki, Valiko Jugeli, Benia Chkikvishvili and others illegally returned from immigration.
Significant armed demonstrations took place in Guria, Samegrelo, Svaneti, Imereti and Kakheti. Nevertheless, the revolt proved to be unsuccessful and resulted in massive casualties. The government responded to protesting Georgians with mass repressions.
The National Movement weakened but did not die out completely shifting its attention to peaceful protests through expressions of culture, the arts and literature.
Several illegal organizations led by Levan Gotua, Adam Bobghiashvili, Kote Khimshiashvili and others were established in Georgia during World War II, but Soviet Special Forces destroyed all of them. The Soviets used bloodshed to restrain peaceful demonstrations in Tbilisi on March 9, 1956 and April 9, 1989. A rare exception occurred in April 1978, when student youth demonstrations demanding that the state maintain the primacy of the Georgian language was met with compromise.
The dissident movement with representatives like Merab Kostava and Zviad Gamsakhurdia started in the 1970s. The patriotic poetry of Mukhran Machavariani, Akaki Bakradze’s critical letters and public lectures encouraged the emergence of powerful national political organizations such as the Ilia Chachavadze Society, National Independence Party, People’s Front and others. Student activities intensified, and the role and influence of the church and Catholicos Patriarch Ilya II rose significantly.
The overall crises in the Soviet Union and the rise of the national movement gave Georgia the opportunity to restore its independent statehood again on April 9, 1991.
The following article is an extract from the exhibit “The Democratic Republic of Georgia – 100 years” currently on display at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi.
The Russian Empire dissolved the Kartli-Kakheti Kingdom at the start of the 19th century, incorporating it in its boundaries as a province. And when in 1810 the Imeretian Kingdom was annexed as well, Russia ruled over the entire Georgia, fully eliminating Georgian statehood, and stripping the Georgian Church of its autocephaly.
However, within all layers of Georgian society the imperial regime was met with resistance, resulting in the first public protest in Kakheti in July 1802. In the name of Emperor Alexander I, a petition was drawn up requesting the restoration of the Bagrationi royal reign in Kartli-Kakheti. The years after, particularly during 1804, 1812-13, and 1819-20 were marked by large anti-imperial uprisings, followed by an even larger scale revolt known as the 1832 Conspiracy plot. The revolt, a significant movement aimed at restoring the Georgian independent state, was headed by Alexsandre Orbeliani, Solomon Dodashvili and Elizbar Eristavi.
In the 1860s, the Terg Daleulis movement (Terg Dadeulis were Georgian intellectual and political leaders who had received education in Russia in the 1860s) took the national liberation to a new stage. Ilia Chavchavadze and his like-minded associates changed tactics by not only openly opposing the Russian Empire, but also by using more peaceful methods to fight the foreign rule. Their thoughts, literary and public writings, artistic creations, as well as groups such as the Society for Spreading Literacy among Georgians, the Bank of the Nobility and the Land Bank strengthened national self-consciousness, consolidating and reinforcing the Georgian spirit.
The next generation of Georgian national political forces attempted to raise awareness among the European Community for support of the idea of Georgia’s liberation through civilized humanity. A prime example was the newspaper Sakartvelo (Georgia) founded in 1903 in Paris, and its French add-in La Georgie propagating the idea of restoring an autonomous Georgian state.
With more than 2000 signatures, the petition The Memorandum of the Georgian People was drawn up at the initiative of Varlam Cherkhezishvili, Mikheil Tsereteli and Giorgi Gvazava and sent to the Hague Peace Commission in 1907. The petition outlined the Russian Empire’s illegitimate actions in Georgia and called for the international community to acknowledge the historic and legal right of the Georgian people to have its national-territorial autonomy recognized. Varlam Gelovani, a Georgian deputy and member of the Socialist-Federalist party, officially appealed to the State Duma-Russia’s supreme legislative body, to grant Georgia autonomy on December 13, 1912. And in June 1916, Mikheil Tsereteli gave an extensive speech at the Lausanne Conference on Georgia’s rights.”
The Georgian Association in collaboration with the Levan Mikeladze Foundation and the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) held a widely attended conference celebrating the Centennial of the Georgian Democratic Republic (1918-21) with the theme of Past, Present and Future of Georgia. The conference was held on May 9, 2018 at CSIS headquarters in Washington DC with opening remarks by Elisabeth Kvitashvili, President of the Georgian Association in the USA, Redjeb Jordania, son of the first president of the Georgian Democratic Republic, Tina Mikeladze, President, Levan Mikeladze Foundation, and Ambassador David Bakradze, Ambassador of Georgia to the United States. Three speaker’s panels included several distinguished guests, including former US ambassadors to Georgia and former Georgian Ambassadors to the US. Featured speakdrs included Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bridget Brink, Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and Foreign Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister of Georgia, Tedo Japaridze. The conference was attended by representatives from government, academia, and the Georgian community who at the conference, heard about the many challenges faced by Georgia in the last 100 years, but also of the bright future ahead for the country.
Following the conference, a reception included performances by Georgian and American singers who provided a medley of folk songs and chants, as well as national anthems of the Georgian Democratic Republic and of the current independent state. Two special guests of the reception, Ms. Toby Davis from the Department of State and Ms. Danica Starks from the Department of Commerce were recognized for their long-term service and contribution to the strengthening of the US-Georgian strategic partnership and friendship. Two members of the Georgian Association Board of Directors, Dr. Mamuka Tsereteli, and Dr. Stephen Jones, who are stepping down from the board, were recognized for their many years of service.
Just as July 4th marks the date of the birth of the United States of America, May 26th serves as the birth date of the modern state of Georgia. But Georgia as a sovereign entity traces her existence for more than 20 centuries. Over these many centuries Georgians had to fight almost incessantly for the preservation of their national independence, faith and traditions. She was many times invaded by the Mongols, Persians and Turks, among others, and in more recent history lost her sovereignty to a greedy Imperial Russia.
It was in 1783 when the King of Eastern Georgia, Erekle II concluded a treaty with Catherine the Great by which Georgia accepted Russian protection from Persians. In exchange Georgia was to retain her royal dynasty (Bagrationi), Church, institutions, language and complete freedom in internal affairs. In 1801 however, Russia violated the treaty and annexed Eastern Georgia to the Imperial Crown. By 1863, Russia had absorbed all of what is today modern Georgia, including currently occupied Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia. Since then, Georgia was a part of Imperial Russia. Georgians however managed to retain their language, and traditions.
When the Bolshevik Revolution broke out in 1917, Georgians took advantage of the ensuing chaos by declaring her independence on May 26, 1918. It is this centenary which we celebrate this year. The Georgian National Council consisting of members of all Georgian parties solemnly proclaimed the restoration of an independent Georgian state. Her independence was recognized de jure by most of the worlds powers including Soviet Russia who, on May 7, 1920, concluded a treaty with the Georgian Republic.
During the next three years the leaders of the new republic led by Noe Jordania, saw a Constituent Assembly elected (February 1919) based on a direct, equal, universal and proportional electoral representation. The right to vote was given to every citizen of the republic 20 years old and older without discrimination. The Assembly’s principal task was to draft a Constitution which they drew up and had adopted by February 1921. Unfortunately, by this time, the Red Army had begun its invasion of the young Republic striking simultaneously from five directions. Despite the heroic efforts of the Georgian Army led by General Kvinitadze, they were unable to resist the Soviet invasion. On March 16,1921, the Constituent Assembly of Georgia held its last meeting in Batumi and ordered the Government of the republic to leave the country, proceed to Europe and continue the fight for the restoration of independence from there. The Red Army entered Tbilisi on February 25, 1921 and the Soviet Republic of Georgia was proclaimed the same day.
Although Georgia was fighting for her life, no help whatsoever was given to her by the outside world. Although several European countries debated the “Georgian question” nothing came of all the meetings, debates and protests. No one was willing to take on the Russian bear. In 1921, the world had not yet come to realize that the principle of collective security must be defended if mankind is to have real peace. The invasion of a free Georgia was an early example in which Soviet Russia cynically broke an international treaty; they did same to Azerbaijan before Georgia. The Russia of today is no less different. They continue to violate international norms of territorial integrity and human rights. How many times must history repeat itself before the world learns its lesson?
Georgian Association in the USA
In collaboration with
Levan Mikeladze Foundation
Center for Strategic & International Studies
Invite You to a Special Anniversary Conference:
Centennial of the First Georgian Republic:
Past, Present and Future of Georgia
May 9, 2018
9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Center for Strategic & International Studies
1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
09:30 –10:00 Registration
10:00 – 10:30 Welcoming Remarks:
Elisabeth Kvitashvili, President, Georgian Association in the USA
Redjeb Jordania, Son of the First President of the Georgian Republic Noe Jordania
Tina Mikeladze, President, Levan Mikeladze Foundation
Ambassador David Bakradze, Ambassador of Georgia to the United States
10:30 – 10:40 Address by Bridget Brink, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
10:40 – 12:00 Panel 1 – First Republic: Connecting History to Modernity
Speakers: Stephen Jones, Professor, Mount Holyoke College
Beka Kobakhidze, Visiting Fellow at the Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Oxford/Associated Professor at GIPA
Grigol Gegelia, Doctoral Candidate, European University Institute (EUI), Florence, Italy
Discussant: Laura Jewett, Regional Director for Eurasia Programs, NDI
Moderator: Jeffrey Mankoff, Deputy Director, Russia & Eurasia Program, CSIS
12:05 – 13:00 Lunch
Remarks and Introduction by Ambassador Tedo Japaridze, Foreign Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister of Georgia
Keynote Speaker: Hon. Richard Armitage, Former Deputy Secretary of State/Co-Chairman, Supervisory Board, Levan Mikeladze Foundation
13:00 – 14:30 Panel 2 – Georgia’s Evolution, 1991-2018: Internal and External Dynamics
Speakers: Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze, Executive Director, Levan Mikeladze Foundation
Svante Cornell, Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute
Luke Coffey, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy, Heritage Foundation
Nino Japaridze, Vice President, Edison Research
Miriam Lanskoy, Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia, NED
Michael Carpenter, Senior Director, Biden Center
Moderator: Olga Oliker, Director, Russia & Eurasia Program, CSIS
14:30 – 14:45 Coffee Break
14:45 – 16:15 Panel 3 – Economic Security of Georgia: Domestic, Regional, Global Perspective
Speakers: Mercedes Vera-Martin, Mission Chief for Georgia, IMF
Anthony Kim, Editor, Economic Freedom Index, Heritage Foundation
Jonathan Elkind, Former Assistant Secretary of Energy
S Frederick Starr, Chairman, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute
Kenneth Angell, Overseas Private Investment Corporation
Anita Baracsi, JSC Bank of Georgia
Moderator: Mamuka Tsereteli, AGBC/CACI/Georgian Association
16:15 – 16:30 Coffee Break
16:30 – 18:00 Panel 4 – Western Strategies Towards Georgia: 1991-2018
Speakers: Ambassador Kent Brown, Former US Ambassador to Georgia
Ambassador William Courtney, Former US Ambassador to Georgia
Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz, Former US Ambassador to Georgia
Ambassador Richard Miles, Former US Ambassador to Georgia
Ambassador John Tefft, Former US Ambassador to Georgia
Ambassador Alexandra Hall Hall, Former UK Ambassador to Georgia
Moderator: Hon. S. Enders Wimbush, Senior Partner, Stratevarious Inc.
6:00 Closing Remarks by Tsotne Dadiani, Board Member, Georgian
Association in the USA
6:05 – 8:00 Reception
Please join the Georgian Association in the USA on May 9, 2018 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the first Georgian Republic. The Georgian Association, with support from the Levan Mikeladze Foundation, will celebrate this important historic occasion with a day-longconference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), followed by a gala reception. Mr. Redjeb Jordania, the son of the first republic’s President, Noe Jordania, will be joining us for the celebration. Other guests will include US and Georgian government officials, former US ambassadors to Georgia, representatives of academia, think-tanks and private sector, and members of the Georgian-American Community.
Please save the date for this event for which a formal invitation will be sent in Spring 2018.
On behalf of the Board of Directors,
President, Georgian Association in the USA
On May 26, 1918 Georgia reestablished a sovereign state and self-government which had been lost in the wake of the annexation of Georgia in 1801 by the Russian empire. The Democratic Republic of Georgia was recognized in 1918-21 by the Governments of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark. On May 7, 1920, the Republic of Georgia signed a Peace Treaty with the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in which Soviet Russia unquestionably recognized “the freedom and independence of the Government of Georgia” (Article I) and renounced all “interference in the internal affairs of Georgia” (Article II). In February 1921, the Soviet Army invaded Georgia, occupying the capital city of Tbilisi on February 25th. Almost immediately the resistance of the Georgian people to Soviet Russian rule manifested itself in numerous popular insurrections and demonstrations. The constant theme of these events was a demand for self-determination, reestablishment of independence and an end to Soviet Russian occupation and russification of Georgia. Since that time and until Georgia reclaimed her independence in April 1991, Georgians struggled incessantly against Soviet Russian rule. Among key events were the:
- Insurrection of 1924 when Georgian nationalist groups succeeded for a short period in taking over a number of cities from Soviet elements before thousands of nationalists were massacred by the Red Army and the opposition movement took refuge in the Caucasus Mountains from where they continued to attack Soviet forces for many years. A number of the leaders also relocated to Turkey and eventually Europe.
- Uprising of 1956 during Khrushchev’s rule which was crushed with dozens dead or wounded when troops fired indiscriminately on demonstrators especially those gathered at Tbilisi University.
- Demonstration of April 14, 1978 when over 20,000 marched in Tbilisi protesting an attempt, under Brezhnev, to amend the Constitution of the Georgian Soviet Republic and eliminate Georgian as the official language of the republic. Demonstrators took to the streets under the threat of tanks and armored personnel carriers which had surrounded the center of the city. For the first time in Soviet history a popular demonstration was successful in overturning a decision from Moscow and the Georgian language was kept as the official language.
- Numerous demonstrations including mass demonstrations in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and other cities on February 25, 1989 on the 68th anniversary of the occupation of the Republic of Georgia by the Red Army. Over 30,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Kashveti Church in Tbilisi before proceeding to march to Tbilisi University. Along the way, Russian troops attacked the peaceful crowds of demonstrators leaving about 20 people killed and 100 injured. Banned poisonous gas was used by the Russian troops. Leaders of various nationalist groups read a declaration addressed to the UN Secretary General calling for the creation of a UN Commission to recognize Georgia’s occupation by Soviet Russia and place Georgia as a territory under an international trusteeship. A number of leading nationalist leaders including Zviad Gamsakhourdia, Merab Kostava, Gia Tchantouria and Irina Sarichvili were arrested as a result of the many protests in 1988-89.
- These events in 1989 were followed two years later, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, by the Supreme Council of Georgia declaring independence on April 11th after a referendum held on 31 March 1991.
Born November 1, 1919 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Guivy Zaldastani was a Boston businessman who often played the role of diplomat between his adopted country and his native country of Georgia. At 84 he returned to his homeland and lived in Tblilisi to the great age of 87 passing away on October 12, 2007.
When Mr. Zaldastani introduced himself at gatherings, it would often surface during the course of a conversation that he was from Georgia. “Not that Georgia, of course,” he would quickly add in his rich, Eastern European accent, referring to the Southern US state. “I am from the Georgian Republic in the Caucasus. “For Georgian émigrés in Boston, Mr. Zaldastani was the meet-and-greeter who kept his door open to any and all who hailed from his homeland.
Mr. Zaldastani’s family fled Georgia when he was 5, but he returned to the hilly city of Tbilisi on the banks of the Mtkvari River in 2004, living not far from the American Academy he helped found. When his family left Georgia to steer clear of the impact of the communist takeover, they took up residence in Paris, living with other Georgians who left for similar reasons. He fought with French marines in World War II and earned a law degree from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1945.Three years later he moved to the United States, earning a Master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School in 1951. He became a US citizen shortly thereafter.
Mr. Zaldastani worked his way up in the management chain at Filene’s before starting his own chain of stores. As president and chief executive officer of The Finishing Touch, a bed-and-bath retail chain found in malls around Boston, Mr. Zaldastani traveled the world to purchase items to sell. He later branched into real estate, heading up the international division of a Boston-based real estate firm, and did consulting work for his brother’s engineering firm, Zaldastani Associates Inc.
When the Soviet Union started to collapse in the late 1980s, culminating in its dissolution in 1991, “He was over there on the next jet,” said his son, Nicholas of San Francisco. In visits to his homeland, Mr. Zaldastani was eager to have a hand in helping the nation develop and believed education was key. First, he helped several young Georgians to continue their education with scholarships at Harvard Business School. Later, he worked with others to form the American Academy in Tbilisi, a school aimed at helping Georgian students get a solid academic foundation, and then attend US colleges so they could bring back ideas of democratization. Mr. Zaldastani was behind the successful efforts of the Georgian Association in the USA to obtain a grant from the US government to cover costs associated with training for the teachers at the Academy at Harvard and Boston University. The school opened in 2001, and school officials say it has become one of the toughest schools to get into in Georgia. Today the Guivy Zaldastani American Academy in Tbilisi is the top private high school in Georgia, and graduates of the Academy are earning thousands of dollars in scholarships at top US schools every year.
The Georgian Association is organizing a peaceful rally in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC to protest the occupation and creeping annexation of Georgian territories by the Russian Federation. We will also protest Russia’s annexation of Crimea, aggression in Eastern Ukraine and against other neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe.
Please join us from 12:30PM to 2:00PM on September 6, 2017. The Russian Embassy is located at 2650 Wisconsin Avenue NW. We will gather in the lot which is across the street from the embassy entrance gate.
Thank you. We look forward to seeing you there to help us protest Russia’s continued aggression towards its peaceful neighbors.
Othar Zaldastani was born in Tbilisi on August 10, 1922, the son of Colonel Soliko Zaldastanishvili and Mariam Hirsely; and grandson of Nicholas Zaldastanishvili and Anna Tzitzishvili, and of Esthate Hirsely and Varvara Vatchnadze. He left Georgia in 1925, with his mother and brother Guivy, to rejoin his father in Paris. After the failure of the Georgian insurrection of 1924 against the Soviet occupying forces, Colonel Zaldastanishvili (who had been one of the leaders of the insurrection) had taken refuge in Paris to join the exiled Georgian Government and its military staff under the command of General Kvintadze.
Othar Zaldastani grew up in France and was educated in some of its most prestigious academic institutions: the Sorbonne and the “Grandes Ecoles”. He passed the Baccalaureat in 1939 with Honors, completed the program of Mathematiques Speciales at the Lycee E9 St. Louis in Paris, obtained a Degree of Sciences from the Sorbonne and the Diplome from the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausses (the oldest school of engineering in the world) where he graduated second in his class in 1945. He left France in 1946 to pursue scientific studies and research at Harvard University and was awarded a Master of Science Degree in 1947 and a Doctor of Science Degree in 1950. His fields of interest covered several branches of Applied Science and Engineering and Applied Mathematics.
Dr. Zaldastani settled in Boston where his mother and brother had come to join him in 1948. He became an American citizen in 1956. He started his professional career as a Consulting Engineer while also continuing to be involved in academic and research programs. He was appointed Gordon MacKay Visiting Lecturer in Structural Mechanics at Harvard in 1961 and commissioned by the U. S. Navy, Institute of Naval Studies to analyze the dynamics of submarine flexible hulls.
As Dr. Zaldastani’s practice evolved, his major activities became more concentrated in the design of structures participating in more than 1000 projects in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East including college and university buildings, long span structures, housing, hospitals, small structures such as the World War II United States Armed Services Memorial in Caen, France, and major transportation and commercial centers, cultural and religious buildings like the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., the second largest church in the United States. Dr. Zaldastani was President of Zaldastani Associates, Inc. from 1964 to 1989 and Chairman until 1997. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.
Dr. Zaldastani was a recognized authority in his engineering fields. He was the recipient of many of the National Awards given yearly to the best engineered projects in the United States by professional institutes. For example, he received the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Awards in 1973, 1977, 1978, 1985, 1986, and 1987. He is Co-Inventor of a Prestressed Concrete Beam and Deck System – U. S. Patent #3, #465, #484.
Othar served on the Board of several academic, business and civic organizations such as a Trustee of Brooks School (Massachusetts) and Acting Chairman of its Building Department Committee 1987-1996; Trustee and Corporation Member of Wheelock College, Boston, Massachusetts, 1975-1995. He was elected President of the Georgian Association in the United States in 1958 and served until 1965, and a Director of the American Friends of Georgia.
On June 22, 1963 Othar Zaldastani married Elizabeth Reily Bailey of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Zaldastani is a descendant of distinguished families from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Together they have three children: Elizabeth, who also served as President of the Georgian Association, Anne and Alexander.
From his early days in France, Othar Zaldastani was exposed to and involved in Georgian Affairs. The Georgian colony in Paris, determined to free Georgia from the Soviet occupation and communist oppression, was politically very active, but it was also very conscious of the need to nurture the younger generation with Georgian values. Othar Zaldastani grew up in this political and cultural environment sustained by his father and godfather, Kakoutza Tcholokhashvili and his family’s dedication held the Georgian legacy alive in the Zaldastani Family. Othar Zaldastani, Guivy Zaldastani and Elizabeth Zaldastani Napier and all their family have taken many initiatives to develop the educational, cultural and economic conditions of Georgia and maintain its heritage and identity. In 1997, Othar Zaldastani and Guivy Zaldastani were granted Honorary Citizenship from the Georgian Government.
On June 14th, the U.S. Senate passed a crucial amendment to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act (S.722) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 97-2. S.Amend232 adds new sanctions targeting various sectors in Russia’s economy, as well as sanctions against individuals affiliated with Russia’s defense sector. Critically, all existing sanctions imposed on Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea and its military invasion of Ukraine would become codified into law under this legislation. The bill would help ensure that sanctions against the Russian Federation will remain in place until the withdrawal of all covert and overt Russian forces and equipment from Ukraine. For clarification, Russian sanctions have been added to the Iran bill to avoid introduction of a new bill.
Georgia continues to be subjected to Russian aggression on its territorial integrity. In the most recent example of this aggression, Russian troops advanced further into the Georgian controlled territory in the Tskhinvali Region. Therefore the Georgian Association supports The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act. This act has now been sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future. Tentative discussions have not resulted in a consensus on the scope and depth of a Russia sanctions-regime bill.
The GA encourages Georgian Americans and friends of Georgia to contact their Congressional Representative to petition support of a Russia sanction bill similar to that passed in the U.S. Senate. A sample letter shown below can be submitted online at: www.house.gov. Simply log onto the website, find your Representative and complete the online form to submit your correspondence.
The Honorable (name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (name):
As an American of Georgian descent and supportive of Eastern European countries that have suffered under Russian aggression, I am deeply concerned about Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine. Beginning with the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, the Russian Federation has violated numerous tenets of international law and order. Such actions must be rebuked by Ukraine’s strategic allies and the global community of democratic nations.
Recent legislation by the U.S. Senate – S722 & S.Amend232 – would seek to impose stricter sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and interference in our electoral process. I highly encourage and request that you support a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Punitive actions against Russia must be taken immediately to thwart future acts of aggression and interference against all free nations. I look forward to your active support of this issue.
On June 12, 2017, the Georgian Association in the US hosted its traditional annual reception to celebrate Georgian independence and recognize friends of Georgia who contribute to the US-Georgian partnership and who help and support Georgia. This year the Georgian Association honored Mr. Kenneth Angell, Managing Director, Project Finance, Small and Medium Enterprise Department, Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Mr. Angell was awarded for his tireless effort for almost two decades to facilitate US investments, economic development and job creation in Georgia. He is a true friend of Georgia. Mr. Tsotne Dadiani, member of the Board of Directors of the Association, read a message from the President of the Georgian Association, Ms. Elisso Kvitashvili, announcing the recipient of the GA’s annual award. Mr. Mamuka Tsereteli, also a Board Member, introduced Mr. Angell to the audience and presented the award to him.
The Georgian Association also announced its continued support for the Academy of the Georgian Heritage, an important organization dedicated to the education of Georgian American children in the Georgian language and cultural heritage. The Georgian Association awarded the Academy with a grant of $4,000 to support the development of new educational programs at the Academy.
Traditionally, Guests enjoyed Georgian wines and food.
99 years ago on May 26, 1918, the independence of Georgia was restored. After a century of foreign, Russian domination, Georgia once again took her rightful place among the free nations of the world. The place which belonged to her for over 2000 years from the 4th century BC until 1801, the year in which Georgia was incorporated into the Russian empire.
From the very early days of her history Georgia came under the influence of the Graeco-Roman culture; she became Christian in the first quarter of the fourth century A.D. and ever since then has been an outpost of Christianity and western culture in the East. For centuries, almost uninterruptedly, she waged a battle for her independence and liberty, for her faith and culture. Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, all tried to crush her. She was many times defeated, but she was never subdued. Throughout history Georgia has preserved her identity, her race, language and proud traditions. Incessantly fighting, gradually losing power, Georgia reached the modern age. She was not by then the great power she was in the 11th 12th and 13th centuries, but she was still independent and it was as a sovereign monarch, that on July 24, 1783 King Heraclius II signed a treaty of friendship with the empire of the czars. But a few years later, in 1801, the treaty was treacherously and brutally violated by Russia and Georgia was incorporated into the Russian Empire by force of arms. Although tired and powerless after centuries of efforts, Georgia did not submit, and rebellions and uprisings became a pattern of life there. In spite of oppression, in spite of intense efforts of Russification, the empire of the czars did not succeed in in its aims and Georgians still remained Georgians, never for a moment forgetting their proud heritage and only waiting for an opportune moment. This moment came with the defeat of Russia in the first World War, the Russian revolution and the breakup of the Russian empire.
On May 26, 1918, the independence of Georgia was proclaimed by the Georgian National Council consisting of representatives of all the Georgian political parties and organizations, and once again Georgians could enjoy all those rights which are the inalienable rights of man – the right to be governed by those of their own choosing, the right to speak their own language, to worship as they choose, to say and write freely whatever they wish.
During the next three years Georgia proved to the world that she was ready and able to manage her own affairs. Universal, free, truly democratic elections were held and a Parliament elected. This Parliament passed a written constitution, proclaimed absolute equality of race and sex, freedom of speech and religion; gave land to those who toiled it and passed many other laws and reforms, which proved the political maturity of the Georgian nation and of her leaders. The world recognized this fact. 27 nations, including the Supreme Allied Council consisting of Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and Japan extended de Jure recognition to the young Republic.
And so did Soviet Russia. A treaty between Georgia and Russia was signed in Moscow on May 7, 1920. The Soviets recognized unconditionally the full and absolute sovereignty of Georgia and promised to have friendly, neighborly relations with her. However, only eight months later, in February 1921, without any provocation, without even a declaration of war, the Russian army began an attack on Georgia and after six weeks of bitter, unequal fighting occupied the country. Occupied, but did not subdue. The Georgian people never submitted to Soviet communism. The fight against communism began on February 11, 1921,. A nationwide, general insurrection, which broke out in August 1924. Tens of thousands of Georgian’s were executed in the years between 1921 and 1941; hundreds of thousands deported, most of them never to return. It is difficult to estimate how many more did this country of less than 4 million inhabitants loose between 1941 and 1991 when Georgia’s in dependence was restored.
This originally appeared in the May, 1954 issue of “Le Destin de la Georgie”. It was written by Merab Kvitashvili. The Georgian Association is reprinting and updating with the permission of the author’s daughters, Elisso and Mary in honor of their late father.
George Balanchine made his mark in the world of ballet for over 50 years. He gained fame as a young choreographer and was the co-founder, artistic director and chief choreographer of the New York City Ballet. With his over 400 choreographed works, Balanchine transformed American dance and created modern ballet, developing a unique style with his dancers highlighted by brilliant speed and attack. With the School of American Ballet and later with the New York City Ballet, Balanchine established himself as one of the world’s leading classical choreographers. He almost single-handedly brought standards of excellence and quality performance to American ballet, and nearly every ballet company in the world has performed his work. He received several prestigious honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed on an American citizen.
George Balanchine was born Giorgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze in 1904 in Saint Petersburg, in the family of noted Georgian opera singer and composer Meliton Balanchivadze, one of the founders of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre and later as the culture minister of Georgia. The rest of Balanchine’s Georgian side of the family comprised largely artists and soldiers. Balanchine was not particularly interested in ballet as a child, but his mother insisted that he audition with his sister Tamara, who shared her mother’s interest in the art, and viewed it as a form of social advancement. George’s brother Andria Balanchivadze followed his father’s love for music and became a well-known composer in Georgia. At the age of 10, Giorgi enrolled at the Mariinsky Theatre’s ballet school where he learned the precise and athletic Russian dancing style. He graduated in 1921 and subsequently attended the Petrograd State Conservatory of Music, leaving the conservatory after three years. While still in his teens, Balanchine choreographed his first work. In 1923, with fellow dancers, Balanchine formed a small ensemble, the Young Ballet, and used a group of dancers from the school to present his earliest choreographed works.
Balanchine was invited to tour Germany in 1924 as part of the Soviet State Dancers, and at the completion of the tour refused to return to the Soviet Union and remained in Europe. He later joined the impresario Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. After Diaghilev’s most famous choreographer, Nijinska, left the group, Balanchine took her place. At the age of 21 he became the main choreographer of the most famous ballet company in the world. Balanchine did ten ballets for Diaghilev, who insisted that Balanchivadze be changed to Balanchine.
In addition to the major works with Diaghilev, Balanchine also worked with composers such as Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, and artists who designed sets and costumes, such as Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, creating new works that combined all the arts. In 1928 in Paris, Balanchine premiered one of his most innovative ballets, Apollon musagète (Apollo and the muses) in collaboration with Stravinsky combining classical ballet and classical Greek myth and images with jazz movement. He described it as the turning point in his life. Balanchine considered music to be the primary influence on choreography, as opposed to the narrative.
Following the collapse of the Ballet Russes, Balanchine moved from one company to another until he formed his own company, Les Ballets. The American dance aficionado and arts patron Lincoln Kirstein, who wanted to establish a ballet company in America with American dancers, approached Balanchine about collaboration and the two began a 50-year creative partnership, co-founding the School of American Ballet in 1934, less than three months after Balanchine’s arrival in the U.S. The following year, the professional company known as the American Ballet emerged, becoming the official company of New York’s Metropolitan Opera until 1936.
In 1946 Kirstein and Balanchine established a new company, the Ballet Society. The performance of Balanchine’s Orpheus was so successful that his company was invited to establish permanent residence at the New York City Center, which it did and was renamed the New York City Ballet. Balanchine finally had a school, a company, and a permanent theater. He developed the New York City Ballet into the leading classical company in America—and, to some critics, in the world.
Balanchine served as artistic director of the company, based out of New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. He produced more than 150 works for the company, including “The Nutcracker.” in which he played the mime role of Drosselmeyer. The company has since performed the ballet every year in New York City during the Christmas season. With the School of American Ballet and later with the New York City Ballet, Balanchine established himself as one of the world’s leading classical choreographers. Almost single-handedly he brought standards of excellence and quality performance to the American ballet, which up to that point had been merely a weak copy of the great European companies.
In addition to ballet, Balanchine choreographed Hollywood movies and Broadway musicals. He is known for his connection to Igor Stravinsky, where Balanchine created many ballets to his work, some in collaboration with the composer. Over his prolific career, he made over 460 works, which have been performed by nearly every ballet company in the world.
Balanchine created plotless ballets, where the dancing upstaged glitz and storytelling. His work didn’t feature a star, because he believed the performance should outshine the individual. He is credited with developing the neo-classical style distinct to the 20th century. Balanchine’s choreography was dependent on pure dance rather than on the ballerina, plot, or the sets. The drama was in the dance, and movement was solely related to the music. For Balanchine the movement of the body alone created artistic excitement. He placed great importance on balance, control, precision, and ease of movement. He rejected the traditional sweet style of romantic ballet, as well as the more acrobatic style of theatrical ballet, in favor of a style that was stripped to its essentials—motion, movement, and music. His dancers became instruments of the choreographer, whose ideas and designs came from the music itself.
Balanchine served as the artistic director of the New York City Ballet until his death, in April 1983, in New York City. The night of his death, the company went on with its scheduled performance, at Lincoln Center. Clement Crisp, one of the many writers who eulogized Balanchine, assessed his contribution: “It is hard to think of the ballet world without the colossal presence of George Balanchine …”
Balanchine was honored numerous times in his career. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983. President Ronald Reagan praised Balanchine’s genius saying he had “inspired millions with his stage choreography… and amazed a diverse population through his talents. In 1975, the Entertainment Hall of Fame in Hollywood inducted Balanchine as a member, in a nationally televised special. He was the first choreographer to be so honored. He also received the Kennedy Center Honors (1978), Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (1980), National Museum of Dance’s Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame (1987 posthumously) and Induction into the American Theater Hall of Fame (1988). He appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1954. A monument at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre was dedicated in Balanchine’s memory. A crater on the planet Mercury was named in his honor. Summing up his career in the New York Times, Anna Kisselgoff said, “More than anyone else, he elevated choreography in ballet to an independent art. In an age when ballet had been dependent on a synthesis (combination) of spectacle, storytelling, décor, mime, acting and music, and only partly on dancing, George Balanchine insisted that the dance element come first.”
In the Georgian Association’s run up to the 100 year anniversary of Georgia’s Independence, we will spotlight interesting features of Georgian American history. Today’s piece provides a snapshot of the Georgian diaspora in the U.S.
The first Georgian diaspora organization in the United States was Kartuli Sazogadoeba (the Georgian Society) founded in San Francisco, California in 1924. In 1930, the Caucasian Society “Alaverdi” was formed to unite different Caucasian groups, and in the 1950s it ran a children’s summer camp. In 1931, the Kartuli sazogadoeba Amerikis sheertebul shtatebshi (the Georgian Association in the United States, or Georgian Association), which was more exclusively Georgian, was founded by, among others, Prince George Machabeli, Siko Eristavi, Paul Kvaratskhelia and Irakli Orbeliani. The Georgian Association remains fully operational today and is the only nationwide Georgian diaspora group in the US.
In the 1950s, many of the new Georgian emigrants became enthusiastic supporters of US anti-communist policies. More politicized than their predecessors, they formed a number of leagues and parties: the Kartuli-Amerikuli liga (Georgian-American League), the Kartuli erovnuli kavshiri (Georgian National Union) and Sakartvelos damoukideblobis Amerikuli sabcho (American Council for Independent Georgia). The Georgian-American League published a newspaper, the Voice of Free Georgia, from 1953-58. The Voice’s Board of Directors included a number of familiar Georgian names such as Tsomaia, Chatara, Tchenkeli, Dumbadze among others. The Bulletin was widely distributed to members of Congress as part of a broader anti-Soviet information campaign. The American Council for Independent Georgia published Chveni Gza (Our Path). Many Georgians patriots living in the U.S. Included members of the GA, provided many of the details and significant information that led to the 1954 release by the House Select Committee on Communist Aggression of the document, “Communist Takeover and Occupation of Georgia”. http://georgica.tsu.edu.ge/files/06-History/Soviet%20Era/US%20Congress-1954.pdf
Between 1955-75, the broader and less politicized community was served by the newspaper Kartuli Azri (Georgian Opinion). Starting in 1951, Georgians were awarded their own radio section on the Voice of America (recently celebrating its 65th year of operation) which still functions today with a small staff of dedicated Georgian journalists and broadcasters. A biography of Petre Kvedelidze, a former VOA correspondent, is posted on our website.
Until the 1980s, the Georgian Association ran a cultural center known as the Georgian House. As noted earlier, the Georgian Association is the oldest diaspora organization In the U.S. representing the interests of the Georgian American community and its friends of which there is a growing number including former U.S. diplomats and development workers who served in Georgia, American businessmen, former Peace Corps volunteers and private citizens. . With over 1500 and growing number of Facebook friends, the organization has renewed its charitable, educational and cultural activities in the United States, focusing also on greater awareness about Georgia among American politicians, members of Congress, expert communities etc. The Association organizes annual celebrations including for Georgian Independence Day (May 26th — it marks the Declaration of Independence of the first Georgian Republic of 1918-21). The Association also promotes and educates the public about different Congressional resolutions including House Resolutions like H.Res.660 in 2016 “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the territorial integrity of Georgia”. It is also an active member of the Central and East European Coalition of Diasporas. Several other Georgian organizations have been created since 1991 to help Georgian society through a period of extraordinary economic deprivation and chaos. One example is the American Friends of Georgia created in 1994 and based in Massachusetts. The American Friends of Georgia is a humanitarian organization that funds a number of programs in Georgia that fight tuberculosis, supports orphanages, distributes food packages for the poor and books for libraries. Other important Georgian-American non-profit and cultural organizations include the America-Georgian Business Council which since 1998 promotes U.S. investment to and trade with Georgia), Tvistomi in New York (humanitarian community organization), the US-Georgian Friendship Association in San-Diego. The highly acclaimed Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia and the New York-based Dancing Crane Company represent efforts to showcase Georgian theatre and dance. And finally, given the growing number of Americans of Georgian Orthodox ancestry, beginning in 2011, multiple Georgian orthodox parishes began to emerge in different states including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Illinois and California.
Petre Kvedelidze tirelessly promoted the rich culture of his homeland from the time he arrived in America in 1956 until his passing in 2014 at the age of 95. He wanted Americans to learn and appreciate the history and nationalism of the Georgian people. He took a special interest in helping new Georgian immigrants assimilate into the United States, and shared with them his values and how they should keep their Georgian identity alive. He also encouraged them to embrace and serve the United States, to respect its values, and embrace future immigrants, as he had embraced them. He was once referred to as the heart and soul of the Georgian diaspora in Washington.
Petre’s strong nationalism was influenced early in his life. A few months before his birth in Tbilisi in 1918, the Russian Empire, which had ruled Georgia for over a century, had fallen, making way for a free Georgia. This freedom lasted less than three years when in early 1921, the newly formed Soviet Union invaded, and ultimately defeated Georgian resistance. The democratic government fled, and a communist government, sympathetic to Moscow was installed, followed by full integration into the Soviet Union in 1924. These events influenced Petre’s life, values, and character. The Kvedelidze family was vehemently anti-communist, anti-Russian, and had a very strong love of Georgia. These views were instilled in Petre, and would shape him for life.
He was called to the Red Army in 1939 for his military service and first served in a regiment of Georgian recruits. He was assigned as an interpreter with Russian-speaking officers, and was sent to Ukraine and Bessarabia. A few days after the declaration of the German-Russian war in June 1941, his detachment was captured by the Romanian army and handed over to the German army. He was placed in a prisoner-of-war camp in Romania, where he would stay for the next nine months.
He enlisted in the German army as did many of the Georgians captured by the Germans because they wanted to free their homeland from the Soviets, and not because they believed in the German cause. While fighting in the German army, Petre was badly injured. He was evacuated first to occupied Warsaw, and then to Munich for rehabilitation. After the German surrender in May 1945, the US Army offered the Georgians a choice to return to Russia or go to France. Most of the Georgians chose not to return to Russia for fear of reprisals, so Petre and other Georgians went to France which today has a large Georgian community.
Once in France, Petre saw similarities to the Russian-backed communist aggression against Georgia to the communist aggression against France’s colonies in Southeast Asia. Petre enlisted in the French Foreign Legion where there were already some Georgian officers. He was deployed to Africa, and after a few months was sent to Southeast Asia to fight against anti-French communist factions. During this war, Petre suffered his second major combat injury, which required rehabilitation for nearly three years.
After his rehabilitation in France, Petre decided to immigrate to America which he viewed as having the best political system in the world. He came to America in 1956, became a US citizen in 1963, and joined the Georgian desk of the Voice of America in 1967 where he served as a sports correspondent. He later worked in a broader role at VOA, translating English news into Georgian for radio broadcasts, eventually becoming an on-air correspondent covering American culture and politics until his retirement in 1985. In his retirement years he continued to meet with his numerous Georgian and American friends, often at his favorite kabob restaurant in Arlington.
In the last few years of his life, Petre took a special interest in visiting soldiers from the Georgian army who were undergoing rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The soldiers were recovering from serious wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan while supporting American and other Coalition military forces. He celebrated his 95th birthday at the center with them. Petre was proud that a small country was making such a sacrifice of their young men. Additional information about Georgia’s support to the U.S military is described in a separate posting on this website.
Upon his passing, his body was flown to Tbilisi, and laid to rest with a traditional Georgian Orthodox funeral attended by approximately 150 people at the prominent Didubis Panteoni. Some of the soldiers that met Petre at Walter Reed had already returned to Georgia and were in attendance. His wish to return to Georgia and be buried there was fulfilled. Petre will be remembered for his kindness, hospitality, dignity, refined manners, and most of all for his love of Georgia and its people.
General Shalikashvili achieved the highest ranking position in the US military. He joined the United State Army as a private, served in every level of unit command from platoon to division, and rose to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As a Georgian he was also the first foreign-born Joint Chiefs Chairman. He was also the first draftee and first graduate of Officer Candidate School to hold the position.
John Malchase David Shalikashvili was born in Warsaw, Poland, a descendant of the Georgian noble house of Shalikashvili. His father, Prince Dimitri Shalikashvili served in the army of Imperial Russia, and was a grandson of Russian general Dmitry Staroselsky. The princely “Schalikashvili” family of Georgia traces its lineage back at least to the year 1400.
In 1952, when Shalikashvili was 16, the family immigrated to Peoria, Illinois. He spoke little English when he arrived in Peoria but learned the language by watching American movies. He attended Bradley University in Peoria and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1958. After graduation he received a draft notice and entered the Army as a private. He later applied to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1959. Shalikashvili served in various Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery positions as a platoon leader, forward observer, instructor, and student, in various staff positions, and as a battery commander. He served in Vietnam as a senior district advisor from 1968 to 1969, and was awarded a Bronze Star with “V” for heroism during his Vietnam tour.
In 1970, he became executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery at Fort Lewis, Washington. Later in 1975, he commanded 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery, 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. In 1977, he attended the U.S. Army War College and served as the Commander of Division Artillery for the 1st Armored Division in Germany. He later became the assistant division commander. In 1987, Shalikashvili commanded the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, where he oversaw a “high technology test bed” tasked to integrate three brigades—one heavy armor, one light infantry, and one “experimental mechanized”—into a new type of fighting force.
One of his most notable achievements was directing the relief program, Operation Provide Comfort. In April 1991 Lieutenant General Shalikashvili went to northern Iraq to avert a humanitarian crisis following the end of the first Gulf War. The Iraq army forced over 500,000 Kurds into the inhospitable mountains along the Turkish border. Lacking food, water, and shelter, approximately 1000 Kurdish men, women, and children were dying each day. Shalikashvili led a massive relief mission to rescue the Kurds. The operation eventually involved 35,000 soldiers from 13 countries as well as volunteers from over 50 Non-Government Organizations working together effectively. The operation first delivered life-saving supplies and then turned the effort to establishing safe refuge. His troops worked with relief agencies to build the camps while also confronting threats from hostile Iraqi army forces. Shalikashvili met with Iraqi forces, warning them of the risks of attacking the relief effort. Hostilities were avoided, leaving the coalition troops to focus on assisting the displaced. Shalikashvili’s command saved lives, brought order, and allowed the more than 500,000 displaced to return to their homes within several months. General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, would later say that General Shalikashvili had worked “a miracle.”
In August 1991 General Powell recognizing Shalikashvili’s leadership skills and organizational ability, called him back to Washington, D.C., as his assistant. Shalikashvili had demonstrated great diplomacy and logistics skills and Powell noted that he was able to operate in new conceptual territory with ease. In 1992 Shalikashvili was named Supreme Allied Commander Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). His knowledge of Europe and ability to speak Polish, Russian, and German played a role in this assignment.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Shalikashvili as the 13th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President Clinton referred to him as “General Shali,” a soldier’s soldier. The president, in calling him General Shali, followed the affectionate name used by the general’s staff. As chairman, Shalikashvili advised President Clinton on military and humanitarian missions to Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, and the Persian Gulf. He oversaw more than 40 operations and sought greater integration of military and civilian agencies operating jointly to respond to humanitarian crises. He also continued the efforts of his predecessor Colin Powell at improving joint operations with the various military branches. Shalikashvili had the difficult task of reducing the military budget to realize a “peace dividend.” This included cutting unneeded weapons systems and the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Act. He completed his chairman’s tour in 1997 and retired. At his retirement ceremony President Clinton awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award recognizing the General for working “tirelessly to improve our Nation’s security and promote world peace.
General Shalikashvili visited Georgia together with his brother, a retired colonel from the US Special Forces Othar Shalikashvili, in May, 1995. While in Georgia, they travelled to Kakheti region, to the home region of their ancestors – Gurjaani. They also met with the then head of Georgian state, Eduard Shevardnadze.
Following retirement, Shalikashvili was an advisor to John Kerry’s 2004 Presidential campaign. He was a visiting professor at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, and served in various capacities with a number of businesses. In 2006 the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) launched the John M. Shalikashvili Chair in National Security Studies to recognize Shalikashvili for his years of military service and for his leadership on NBR’s Board of Directors.
Upon his passing, President Barack Obama said that the United States lost a “genuine soldier-statesman,” adding in a statement that Shalikashvili’s “extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it.”
Former president Clinton pointed out that “Gen. Shali” made the recommendations that sent U.S. troops to Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf and a host of other world hotspots that had proliferated since the end of the Cold War. “He never minced words, he never postured or pulled punches, he never shied away from tough issues or tough calls, and most important, he never shied away from doing what he believed was the right thing,” Clinton said.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement that he relied on Shalikashvili’s advice and candor when he served as Clinton’s chief of staff during the foreign policy crises in Haiti, the Balkans and elsewhere. “John was an extraordinary patriot who faithfully defended this country for four decades, rising to the very pinnacle of the military profession,” Panetta said. “I will remember John as always being a stalwart advocate for the brave men and women who don the uniform and stand guard over this nation.”
The then chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Shalikashvili “skillfully shepherded our military through the early years of the post-Cold War era, helping to redefine both U.S. and NATO relationships with former members of the Warsaw Pact.”
John Shalikashvili left a proud legacy for all Georgians.
Established in 1932, the Georgian Association in the USA, Inc. is the oldest non-partisan nationwide organization in the USA representing Georgian-Americans and the friends of Georgia.
The Georgian Association welcomes the incoming new administration in the United States and calls on President-elect Trump and Vice-President elect Pence to express their strong support for Georgia, and by doing so, to demonstrate the US government’s continuing support for freedom and democracy around the world. The Georgian Association calls on the incoming administration to take an active position in supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to help strengthen Georgia’s security and to deepen economic and business ties.
A strong Georgia is in the interest of the United States. That is why Georgia has enjoyed strong US support under both Republican and Democratic administrations, which have consistently defended international law and condemned aggressive violations of national sovereignty.
Georgia remains a loyal and fully capable ally of the United States; it has contributed to global security, and has been an active participant in every military campaign conducted by the US since 2003, providing significant and unconditional support. This has been achieved at the cost of Georgian soldiers’ lives.
– Georgia is a reliable and strategic transit country for the US military, for the global energy markets, and for Asia-Europe trade.
– Georgia is a vital ally to the West in a changing geopolitical environment, which includes an aggressive and revisionist Russia, a disintegrating Europe, and a volatile Turkey within an unstable Middle East.
– Georgia is a regional leader in political, economic and social reforms, a country that has defeated petty corruption, and which continues to build on policies of political and economic reform.
Georgia has achieved all these successes despite the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region (South Ossetia), and continued Russian intimidation.
Georgia is a consistent and reliable ally of the United States. We strongly believe that the United States should continue supporting a country that has proved its loyalty, both through its participation in NATO and through its steadfast defense of US interests in the region.
Georgians should be proud of the many contributions and tremendous sacrifices made in Afghanistan as part of the international war on terror. Georgian troops arrived in Afghanistan in 2004. Georgia became the largest non-NATO and the largest per capita troop contributor to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan by late 2012. At its peak deployment, Georgia provided two full infantry battalions serving with United States forces in Helmand province, primarily a United States Marine Corps (USMC) area. Since the beginning of their mission, more than 11,000 Georgian soldiers have served in Afghanistan. In June 2016, Georgia still had 861 troops, the largest non-NATO contributor to the Resolute Support Mission follow-on to ISAF, second only to the United States.
While the Georgian combat mission in Helmand ended in July 2014, Georgia pledged troops to the new NATO-led non-combat, training, advisory, and assistance mission called “Resolute Support” launched in January, 2015. At various times, Georgia has also deployed an infantry company serving with the French contingent in Kabul, medical personnel within the former Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team and some individual staff officers.
Georgia’s commitment to supporting international forces has come at a price. Since 2010, 31 Georgian servicemen have died, all in the Helmand campaign, and over 400 wounded, including 35 amputees. Many of the amputees received medical treatment in the United States, mostly at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, MD. Some soldiers with severe burns and traumatic brain injuries were treated at other specialized military medical centers. The amputees included single, double, and triple loss of limbs. At WRNMMC, they received excellent care including state-of-the-art prosthetics and rehabilitation. Some of the wounded warriors had their families residing with them during their stay in Bethesda, and two of the amputee families gave birth to children who will have dual citizenship.
During their rehabilitation, some lasting several years, the soldiers were often visited by Georgians living in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as Americans who learned of their sacrifices. At the recommendation of the Georgian Embassy, the Wounded Warrior Mentor Program (WWMP) started an English as a Second Language program to help the wounded soldiers benefit from their time in the lengthy treatment and healing involved in amputations. The WWMP, with a dedicated group of volunteers and six Georgian wounded with their relatives who act as Non-Medical Assistants (NMA) and two Georgian medical personnel, met weekly at Bethesda to study English as a second language, and also to socialize, watch sports and share food; Georgian food of course.
One of the most severely wounded was LTC Alex Tugushi, a highly decorated battalion commander of the Georgian forces. LTC Tugushi, served two eight month tours in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan, the second cut short by his wounds from a roadside bomb. While recuperating at WRNMMC he was visited by many USMC officers and President Barack Obama. LTC Tugushi has since been promoted to full Colonel and lives in Georgia. By 2015, all the soldiers at WRNMMC had returned to Georgia to regain their lives with family and friends.
United States Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta visited the Georgian 31st Battalion in March 2012. “I wanted to come here and thank you for your sacrifices,” the secretary said. The secretary read a letter he said Tugushi had given him for the battalion. Dated March 12, the letter read, in part: “It has been an honor to serve with you. You are Georgian heroes. … The Armed Forces of Georgia, serving together with international forces in Afghanistan, are making a large contribution……” “It is a great honor to serve shoulder to shoulder with the United States in one of the most troubled regions of Afghanistan,” the letter continued.
“Unfortunately, I could not complete my service with you. But I am proud of all of you — those who have fallen and those who continue to serve. You are all heroes who will go down in Georgian history.”
When the secretary finished reading Tugushi’s letter, he said it expressed his own feelings about the accomplishments of Georgian troops over the past eight years as part of the 50-nation coalition.
“You are an example of that international partnership, fighting for stability in Afghanistan,” Panetta said.
Georgia, a small country that more than lived up to its commitment to the international community has yet to be accorded a Membership Action Plan which would pave the way for Georgia to become a member of NATO.
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Central and Eastern European Americans, strongly backs the United States’ continued unconditional commitment to upholding the NATO Treaty as well as U.S. support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all Central and Eastern European nations. Our organization stands firm in its belief that America’s close cooperation with all NATO allies and partners is fundamental to ensuring U.S. and European security. The CEEC urges both the current and future Administrations to continue developing allied relations with all NATO members and transatlantic partners, and to take such action as deemed necessary to maintain security of the Alliance, including the European Reassurance Initiative.
The renewed aggressive behavior and actions of Russia against Central and Eastern European nations have raised the importance of NATO’s credibility and cohesiveness for regional stability. In February 2016, then-NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove stated at a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that “Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners.” Earlier this year the CEEC sponsored a policy forum on NATO’s stance on Russia on Capitol Hill. A major theme of our discussion characterized Russia’s increasing aggression since 2008 not only in terms of fanning regional conflicts but as a fundamental assault on the post-World War II international order.
At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO stated it was fully prepared to defend the alliance and pledged an increase in military spending, in response to Russia’s unpredictable and aggressive behavior in the region. The CEEC believes the commitment by the United States to NATO countries should be based on collective defense, shared values, and democratic principles, as well as support for regional partners. We have, and continue to support the principle of NATO’s Open Door policy, for all willing and qualified nations.
The Central and Eastern European region is facing a multitude of threats from Russia. It is imperative for NATO members and partners to share collective knowledge in key security areas for combating a multitude of hybrid war forms, including cyber, media and economic manipulation, and destabilization in energy security. The CEEC supports U.S. continued commitment and leadership in addressing these threats.
The security of the United States lies in the peaceful expansion of democracy, not in the appeasement of aggressor states making imperial claims. Proactive U.S. leadership is vital to NATO’s continued effectiveness, to protect peace and security in Europe. The crisis driven by Russia in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine specifically, will not just go away. In an informationally interconnected and economically interdependent world, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geopolitical stability.
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John “Tsotne” Dadiani, a member of the Board of Directors of the Georgian Association represented the Association at the mark-up and reports there was widespread support for the bi-partisan resolution co-sponsored by Representatives Gerald Connolly (D-VA), and Ted Poe (R-TX). The committee members recognized that Georgia has pursued a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Russia over the territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. Several of the members compared Russia’s actions which were reminiscent of the old Soviet Union during cold war days, and that Georgia deserves to maintain these territories, and to have free elections this fall. While the measure was passed by the committee, some representatives expressed concerns that the resolution would antagonize Russia, and that Georgia was responsible for Russia’s actions in the region. Several members said the US needs to improve relations with Russia.
Earlier in May, the Georgian Association recognized the efforts of the two Congressmen on behalf of Georgia’s territorial integrity by honoring them at its annual Independence day celebration.
George Matchabeli was a Georgian nobleman, diplomat and an American perfumer. He was born in Tbilisi in July 1885 and is a descendant of the princely family of Machabeli, from the Tskhinvali area, currently known as the South Ossetian province of Georgia, today occupied by the Russian army. He studied in the Tbilisi College of Nobles and later in the Royal Academy at Berlin, where he was interested in mining engineering. He was one of the founding members of the Committee of Independent Georgia organized in Berlin in 1914. The Committee intended to garner German support for Georgia’s struggle for independence from the Russian Empire.
In 1917 Matchabeli married Italian Norina Gilli who had become famous for her portrayal of the Madonna in Max Reinhardt’s unique 1911 pantomime spectacle play The Miracle. He briefly served as the Georgian ambassador to Italy until the establishment of Soviet rule in Georgia in 1921. He and his wife then moved to the United States. Mr. Matchabeli wanted American citizenship, but wasn’t willing to relinquish the glamour of his title as Prince, so he petitioned for the right to use the title as his first name. So from 1934 onward, he was Mr. Prince Matchabeli. The prince was an amateur chemist who began creating perfumes for his friends and family as a hobby. In 1924 he and his wife, now known as Princess Norina Matchabeli, established the Prince Matchabeli Perfume Company. Norina designed the crown shaped perfume vial in the likeness of the Matchabeli crown. His first employees were all fellow exiled aristocrats. One Georgian writer of the time remembered them as the most courteous staff in the United States and the prince himself was a perfect spokesman for his product. He had a reputation for exquisite manners and refined appearance, ideal for selling perfume to American women. In 1928, Matchabeli’s perfumes were awarded the Grand Prix with gold medal at the expositions in Paris and Liege for their quality and originality.
George Matchabeli was one of the founders of the Georgian Association in the United States and served as President of the association from 1932 until his passing in 1935. He died in his home in New York and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Queens.
The Georgian Association participated in a meeting on June 21 of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who is advising presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. The CEEC reiterated its mission of coordinating mutual concerns of the member countries regarding United States policy toward Central and East Europe. Among the topics discussed were the concern about the future of Russian aggression especially in the Ukraine, and continued occupation of territory in Georgia. Sanctions imposed on Russia have not impacted Putin’s behavior in the region, and how the United States deals with the aggression will send a strong signal throughout Europe. Also discussed were Brexit should it occur, refugee migration, visa waivers, and the need to strengthen NATO. Secretary Albright welcomed the CEEC’s concerns and suggested a follow-up meeting in late summer.
Just before the beginning of World War Il, Georgia solemnly celebrated the 750th anniversary of the appearance of the famous poem of the great Georgian poet, Shotha Rustaveli “The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin.” Today in 2016, this poem, known to all Georgians, celebrates well over 800 years of existence and remains as beloved as ever. Who was Shota Rustaveli and what about this medieval epic poem called a masterpiece of Georgian literature makes it so relevant today?
Looking back, as the poem was celebrating its 750th birthday, during a meeting of the Association of Georgian Writers held in the capital city of Georgia, Tbilissi, a Mr. Ingorokva, Professor of Literature at the State University of Tbilissi and one of the best qualified commentators on Rustaveli at the time, spoke about the poem and its author. In the prologue to his lecture he said: “Centuries separate us from the time of Rustaveli, but his immortal poem continues to stand as the magnificent work of an accomplished genius, and its influence remains as powerful as ever. The era during which Rustaveli lived and created was the era when Georgia reached the height of her political power and cultural development. It is impossible to understand Rustaveli’s great work without a deep knowledge of the magnificent, original culture of Georgia of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. And, in reality, where did the universal philosophy and the humanism with which the poem is impregnated come from? The answer, of course, is that the great cultural movement known as the Renaissance began in Georgia centuries before it came to Western Europe.”
Professor Ingorokva was quite right. Rustaveli wrote a poem, which, like a mirror reflected the culture of Georgia of his day. The poem is first of all the expression, unique in form and style, of the great ideas of humanism on which as based the political and intellectual life of medieval Georgia.
Who was Rustaveli? He was one of many great nobleman who surrounded the resplendent court of Queen Thamar the Great, who reigned in Georgia from 1184 to 1213. The Lord of Rustavi in Southwest Georgia, he took the name of Rustaveli which in Georgian means “one who comes from Rustavi.” There is not the slightest doubt that he was the man who wrote the “Knight in the Tiger Skin.” In the concluding lines of his poem the author says:
“..I sign my name,
A Meskhi from Rustavi.”
“Meskhi” in Georgian means a man from Meskheti, the province of Georgia where Rustavi is situated.
When did Rustaveli live and when was his poem written? To these questions as well, the poem itself gives the answer. In the prologue, the author dedicates his poem to Queen Thamar and speaks of her as his contemporary. Now, the only Queen Thamar known to Georgian history is precisely the famous Thamar the Great, who became queen in 1184 when her father, George Ill, abdicated in her favor. This and other historical facts prove that Rustaveli lived in the second half of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th, the golden Age of the Kingdom of Georgia. His poem was likely written between the years 1184 and 1207. The exact date is not known and neither are the dates of his birth and death.
After receiving a good education in Georgia, Rustaveli went to Athens (the Paris of his time) and completed his education there. He spoke several languages, he traveled extensively in Asia and Europe, he knew thoroughly the cultures, the arts, and the literature of all the civilized countries of his age. His poem is full of quotations from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophers, poets, and writers of classical Greece and Iran.
It can be seen that Rustaveli was well prepared to play a part in the service of his country. He received an appointment as Great Chamberlain (some sources say Chief Treasurer) to Queen Thamar the Great. The tragedy of his life begins from this moment. The queen was beautiful and Rustaveli fell desperately in love with her. All his genius is given to the task of singing her beauty, her charm, and her virtue.
“Let us sing to the great Queen Thamar, says the poet.
“1 dedicate to her my chosen odes, Odes written with tears and blood. I sing of the one of whom I have always sung.
She is all my life, even though she has no more mercy for me, than a rock.
I sing her glory in the lines which follow. ‘ ‘
Thus the poet ends the prologue to his poem.
What was his further fate? We have nothing authentic to go by, but legend says that the poet abandoned public life, became a monk, and spent the rest of his days in one of the Georgian monasteries in Jerusalem (formerly the Georgian Monastery of the Holy Cross, the church now belongs to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem). It was there that his tomb was discovered centuries later, along with a fresco and a simple inscription “Shotha Rustaveli”. His Wikipedia Biography notes that the fresco and accompanying inscription in Georgian were defaced in 2004. But the fresco was subsequently restored.
*the poem is also referred to as “The Knight in the Panthe’s or Leopard’s Skin”. This articledraws largely from an article written by Simon Kvitashvili and printed in the publication “The Voice of Free Georgia, vol 5, April, 1954.
The Georgian Service celebrated its 65thanniversary on May 26, 2016 at VOA headquarters in Washington DC. Several dignitaries were in attendance including Georgia’s ambassador to the United States, Archil Gegeshidze, the Honorable Kenneth Yalowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, and the Honorable Kurt Volker, Executive Director, the McCain Institute for International Leadership and former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO. The current U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly delivered a message by video. Anna Kalandadze, Chief of the Georgian Service moderated the event. The Georgian Association has been an active supporter of the Georgian Service–indeed several Board members’ fathers worked for the service for many years. And, the first director of the Service, Irakli Orbeliani, was a founding member of the Georgian Association. Congratulations to the Georgian Service on its over six decades of fulfilling its mission of providing objective and timely news to the people of Georgia.
The Georgian Association welcomes the release on May 25 of Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot imprisoned by Russia for nearly two years. She was falsely accused of responsibility for the death of two Russian journalists in the war between Russia and the Ukraine. The GA stood with the people of Ukraine and the European Union in denouncing Moscow’s disregard for human rights and the harsh and unwarranted prison sentence imposed on Savchenko. The GA will continue to be a voice for former Soviet bloc countries in their quest for freedom and rights under international law.
Georgian Association Officials Lead Discussions on Georgia’s Security at Washington, D.C. Conference, co-hosted by Levan Mikeladze Foundation for the Caucasus Studies
On May 12, 2016, the Levan Mikeladze Foundation and the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies (SAIS) co-hosted a conference “Strategic Pillars of Security for Georgia:Trans-Atlantic Integration, Economy and Democracy”. Former President of the Georgian Association Mamuka Tsereteli and President of the Levan Mikeladze Foundation of the Caucasus Studies Tina Mikeladze opened the conference on behalf of the organizers. The conference brought together in two panels noted scholars, policy analysts, program implementors and representatives of the U.S. Department of State. The Georgian government was represented by the State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Mr. David Bakradze, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs David Dondua. The Georgian Embassy was represented by both Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze and Deputy Chief of Mission George Khelashvili. The Georgian representatives expressed concern about the “creeping annexation” of their country and their disappointment at the lack of movement towards a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for NATO. For their part, a number of American panelists, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bridget Brink reiterated continued US support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
There was much discussion, particularly during a second panel moderated by the GA President Elisso Kvitashvili, on Georgia’s ongoing need to implement internal reforms that some panelists believed would enhance Georgia’s overall security through greater legitimacy of the government. Several panelists decried the lack of job creation, poor social service delivery, and lack of innovation in the business sector as stumbling blocks to Georgia’s economic development. There was agreement that the West needed to devote more attention on Georgia especially in her role as a hub in the developing Silk Road Transport Corridor.
The conference was followed by a reception celebrating Georgia’s upcoming Independence Day. This year, 2016, Georgia celebrates its 25th anniversary of regaining of independence. This year’s special guest of the reception was the co-chair of the Georgia Caucus in the House of Representatives of the US Congress Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va) who, together with Congressman Ted Poe (R, Texas) is a co-sponsor of a draft congressional resolution supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity. Congressman Connolly received a special award from the President of the Association Elisso Kvitashvili.
The Georgian Association in the United States will launch a series of short biographical sketches showcasing some of the more illustrious members of the Georgian diaspora. Our first profile is Irakli Orbeliani, the first director of the Georgian Service in the Voice of America and one of the co-founders of the Georgian Association in the USA in 1932.
Irakli Orbeliani, who was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, on November 14, 1901, came from one of the most illustrious families in Georgia. Beginning from the 6th century AD, the princely house of Orbeliani gave to Georgia a remarkably large number of distinguished men: statesmen, soldiers, ambassadors, scientists, writers and poets. Irakli’s mother, the Princess Elisabeth of the Royal House of Georgia, Bagrationi, was the direct descendent of Georgian kings and throughout her life was a bitter, active and open enemy of the Russian rule of Georgia. Irakli’s father, Prince Mamuka Orbeliani, was an officer in the Russian Imperial Guards, who gave up his commission and refused to serve the Russian tsar upon the exile of his wife for her opposition to Russia’s rule over Georgia.
Irakli was a great musical talent who performed many concerts in Europe and the United States before ill health forced him to give up his musical career. By then he had emigrated and become a citizen of the United States. In 1950 he accepted a request by the USG and became head of the Georgian Service of the Voice of America. Later he was appointed Chief of the South USSR Branch which comprised Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaidjani,,Turko-Tartar and Turkestani services. When the later three services were abolished in 1953, Irakli reverted to the Head of the Georgian Service where he remained until he died in March, 1954. The Georgian community in the U.S. at the time greatly mourned his loss lauding his brilliance and great personal charm. *
*taken from The Voice of Free Georgia, Vol. 5, April, 1954
On April 19, 2016, the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) comprised of a number of diaspora organizations including the Georgian Association in the USA, hosted a Policy Brief on Capitol Hill entitled “NATO’s Stance on Russia – Vision or Reaction?”. Speakers included Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter, Former Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, Senior Staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Damian Murphy and, the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) of the Lithuanian Embassy in the US Mindaugas Zichkus. The meeting was opened by Marju Rink-Abel of the Estonian-American National Council and moderated by Mamuka Tsereteli, Georgian Association in the USA.
Key points raised by the speakers included:
- NATO is not a threat to any country, it is a defensive security organization;
- NATO members should push back on Russia to counter misinformation and propaganda about NATO’s intentions; NATO honors all agreements that it has with Russia;
- The “Open Door Policy” should remain intact and qualified members should be invited to join;
- European members of NATO need to increase their defense budgets to reach their NATO membership obligations;
- NATO needs to support an international brigade committed to the defense of Poland and Baltic states;
- NATO should focus more effort to ensure Russia honors Minsk agreements.
- NATO should remain firm and resist Russian attempts to re-design the current security architecture in Europe that would position Russia to limit sovereignty of other countries in choosing their military or economic alliances and partnerships.
Discussions were followed by a reception, with brief comments provided by the Ambassadors of Ukraine and Montenegro, the Georgian DCM and, a representative of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America Mr. Michael Sawkiw.
The Georgian Association in the United States welcomes the recent remarks by the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs who met with Tinatin Khidasheli, the Defence Minister of Georgia on April 16 in Bratislava. The Latvian Foreign Minister expressed full support for visa-free travel for Georgian citizens to the Schengen Area as well as Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO. He noted that no third country has a right to veto NATO’s open door policy. Both ministers pledged to continue active cooperation in the defense sector.
The Georgian Association in the United States welcomes the draft House Resolution H.Res.660 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the territorial integrity of Georgia, sponsored by the co-chairs of the Georgia Caucus Representatives Poe (R, Texas), and Connolly (D, Virginia). The resolution condemns the military intervention and occupation of Georgia by the Russian Federation and its continuous illegal activities along the occupation line in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, and calls upon the Russian Federation to withdraw its recognition of Georgia’s territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia as independent countries, to refrain from acts and policies that undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, and to take steps to fulfill all the terms and conditions of the August 12, 2008, Ceasefire Agreement between Georgia and the Russian Federation;
To pass the resolution, representatives Poe and Connolly need the strong support of their colleagues from House of Representatives. Therefore, the Georgian Association is announcing the week of April 18 as a week of advocacy for Georgian territorial integrity, sovereignty and security.
If you wish to show support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and security of Georgia, and to support resolution H.Res.660, please contact your representatives and encourage them to back the resolution. Visiting the local offices of your representatives is highly recommended. The website of the House of Representatives http://www.house.gov/representatives/ can be helpful in finding your representative and their contact information. You can also call offices of members of Congress in Washington. Below are simple calling instructions for your reference:
- Dial the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. The directory for the members of the House of Representatives is the second option.
- A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the member’s office you request.
- When the person answers, simply say “Hello, my name is________, I live in_________(name your city), and I would like member of Congress ________ to support and co-sponsor the Poe-Connelly Resolution number H.Res.660 supporting territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.”
- Often, the congressional office will ask for your name and address so the member may acknowledge your call by writing you a letter. Do not worry that you will be asked to justify or explain the policy behind your phone call.
The Georgian Association of America is pleased to announce the election of its new president, Miss Elisabeth “Elisso” Kvitashvili, effective immediately.
Ms. Kvitashvili follows long time president Mr. Mamuka Tsereteli who continues as an active member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer. Ms. Kvitashvili recently retired from United States Government service where she was a member of the Senior Foreign Service and served overseas including in Georgia. She is a first-generation Georgian American whose father, Merab Kvitashvili, is a revered Georgian patriot. She is married with two children.
Here is a more detailed biography:
Elisabeth Kvitashvili recently served as the Mission Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives before retiring with 36 years of service in Ocrober, 2016. Prior to Sri Lanka she served as Deputy Assistant Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Middle East with oversight of the Iraq, Jordan and Yemen portfolios. Before joining the Middle East Bureau, she was in Rome, where she served as Humanitarian Affairs Counselor to the U.S. Ambassador, USUN-Rome. Prior to her arrival in Rome, she served as USAID Acting Mission Director in Russia. From 2007-2009 she served as Deputy Assistant Administrator, in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, United States Agency for International Development. She is a career Senior Foreign Service officer with tours in Afghanistan, Russia, Honduras and Italy (Rome) and shortened tours in Pakistan and Bosnia.
She served in Afghanistan, 2002-2003, where she was head of the USAID reconstruction program and Acting Mission Director. In the mid-1980’s she was based in Peshawar, Pakistan where she designed the USAID Cross Border Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghanistan. During 1997-1998, she traveled for USAID throughout Afghanistan undertaking humanitarian assessments with the UN. She has also spent significant field time in the North and South Caucasus, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bosnia, Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC, Ethiopia and Eritrea working primarily on humanitarian and conflict-related programs. She previously served 3 years as the director of the Disaster Response and Mitigation Division in the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance where she led a number of DARTs and one year in the Office of Transition Initiatives as a senior program officer.
In 2003, she launched USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) serving as director until 2007. While Director of CMM, she led the development of a conflict assessment framework now in use throughout the USG as well as the Fragile States Strategy. She worked with General Petraeus’ staff in the drafting of the US military’s Counterinsurgency Manual and frequently addressed audiences about the nexus of COIN and development. She has authored several pieces on the subject.
She holds a master’s degree in Near East Studies from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies and a diploma in international relations from Paris University School of Political Science. She is fluent in French, Spanish, Italian and Russian. She serves as adjunct professor at the Georgetown University where she teaches a graduate-level course on conflict and food security. She is married and has two children.
Invitation to Join the Georgian Association and the Central and East European Coalition of Diaspora Groups.
The Georgian Association in the USA and our partners from the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) of diaspora groups have planned Advocacy Days for April 19-20, 2016. During the afternoon of April 19 and a full day of activities on April 20, the participants will meet members of the US Administration, members of Congress, and senior staffers of key congressional committees.
The meetings will address the critical policy issues related to US interests in Central and Eastern Europe and the political and economic security of the countries of the region. The participants will have an opportunity to raise issues such as the territorial integrity and national security of Georgia, and the acceleration of Georgia’s integration into Transatlantic security and economic institutions. The Georgian Association will supply participants with briefing materials.
We encourage your active participation in this important event. The voice of Georgian Americans is important for keeping US foreign policy focused on Georgia and Georgia-related issues. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Georgian Association in the USA
Below is a copy of the statement. View the original statement on the CEEC website.
Central and East European Coalition Statement on Ukraine and Call for Further Action
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) joins the United States government in condemning Russiaâ€™s aggression against Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea. The CEEC, comprised of 18 national organizations representing more than 20 million Americans of Central and Eastern Europe heritage, fully supports Ukraineâ€™s aspirations for a democratic society living in peace and security with its neighbors.
To date, the sanctions imposed by the United States have been insufficient to stop Russiaâ€™s further aggression into Ukraine. Indeed, it appears that the security and stability of the entire Central and East European region is at stake unless further immediate action is taken by the United States, NATO, and the European Union.
The CEEC therefore calls upon the United States government to do, and work with its allies to implement, the following:
- Support a major OSCE and UN peacekeeping mission (both civilian and military) to Eastern and Southern Ukraine to monitor the situation on the ground and deter provocations that may lead to Russian military intervention;
- Share relevant intelligence with the Ukrainian government in real time;
- Hold immediate joint NATO exercises in Ukraine and in bordering NATO ally countries such as Poland and the Baltic states;
- Support the establishment of permanent NATO bases in these front-line countries to assure their security. Bases currently used by NATO for training and supply purposes in Central Europe should be made permanent and re-focused to territorial defense;
- Direct U.S. Navy ships to accept friendly invitations to visit Ukrainian ports;
- Provide Ukraine with Major Non-NATO Ally Status, thus conferring a variety of military and financial advantages and privileges that are otherwise not available to non-NATO countries, including the delivery of vital weapons;
- Extend immediate NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Georgia and other countries in the region to solidify Euro-Atlantic structures;
- Increase U.S. assistance to Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, and Belarus to maintain their independence;
- Provide assistance to Ukraine to facilitate its continuing transition to a democratic and tolerant society that fully respects fundamental freedoms and the rights of all minority communities, the latter thereby also dispelling a pretext for Russian aggression;
- Support Ukraineâ€™s full integration into Western structures by accelerating Ukraineâ€™s accession into NATO and the European Union
- Take action on President Obamaâ€™s Executive Order expanding economic sanctions on Russia to include not only individuals within Putinâ€™s inner circle, but major sectors of Russiaâ€™s economy; provide assistance to minimize the impact of economic sanctions on countries bordering Russia; work with major U.S. companies to curtail their business dealings with Russia;
- Follow through to provide increased funding authorized by the Ukraine Support Act, signed by President Obama into law on April 3, for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America to expand their broadcasting in Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar;
- Increase funding for people to people programs with Russia and its neighboring countries in both student and professional sectors;
Bolster U.S. financial support for Ukraine by supporting a 21st century Marshall Plan aimed at stabilizing and strengthening trans-Atlantic and regional security.
By implementing the above recommendations, we will build on the laudable steps already taken by President Obama and help ensure the safety and security of not only Ukraine, but the entire Central and East European region.ges, and other content.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive joins forces with The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film to present the largest-ever retrospective of Georgian cinema in the United States. This passion project, undertaken by successive curatorial staffs at the two organizations over more than 20 years, brings together 45 programs in prints sourced from multiple archives throughout Europe, the U.S., and the republics of Georgia and Russia encompassing the history of Georgian film production from 1907 to 2014. The exhibition traces the development of Georgian cinema from classics of the silent era to great achievements of the early sound and Soviet era, through the flourishing 1980s and the post-Soviet period to today.
Throughout the turbulent history of the last century, Georgian cinema has been an important wellspring for national identity, a celebration of the spirit, resilience, and humor of the Georgian people. These filmmakers, working across a broad range of styles and thematic concerns, have created everything from anti-bureaucratic satires of the Soviet system, to philosophical studies rooted in a humanist tradition, to lyrical, poetic depictions of the region’s spectacular landscape.
Part I of the retrospective focuses on one of the particularities of the Georgian cinema: the remarkable lines of familial relationships that weave through and connect its cinematic production from the 1920s to the present, where we find several third-generation filmmakers active. Part II, Blue Mountains and Beyond, runs November 22 though December 21, 2014.
Film notes are adapted from research and writing by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Film titles are listed with English translations first, followed by Georgian and, where applicable, Russian.
Below is a transcription of the statement. View a copy of the actual statement here.
Statement of the Georgian Association in the United States of America
The Georgian Association in the United States of America, the oldest organization representing the Georgian-American community, condemns Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the strongest terms and fully supports the government of Ukraine in declaring the March 16th referendum on Crimea’s independence illegal. The Association calls on the US Government to undertake all possible steps to protect the fundamental principles of international law, based on sovereignty and the territorial integrity of nation-states.
The Association calls on the Obama administration to ensure security guarantees for Georgia and to advocate forcefully for Georgia’s accession into NATO. Granting Georgia the Membership Action Plan (MAP), which it has earned by meeting strict NATO requirements, is a more effective way to impose a real political cost on Moscow for its illegal and politically destabilizing activities, while demonstrating to Ukraine and other countries that the hard work of reform pays off.
Economic sanctions and a travel ban against individual members of the Russian political and military leadership alone are unlikely to convince Russia to withdraw its military from Crimea and to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine for several reasons.
First, it is highly unlikely that sanctions alone will persuade President Putin to relinquish Crimea or to allow Ukraine out of Russia’s political orbit. The Kremlin’s desire to keep its immediate neighbors within its sphere of influence trump any economic interests that may be damaged by sanctions.
Second, based on their experience in 2008, President Putin and his circle are convinced that Russia can wait out sanctions. They expect Europe to cave in due to its dependence on Russian gas and the damaging economic losses that will result from tit-for-tat sanctions. Whether this belief is accurate is immaterial; what matters is that Putin and his inner circle perceive it to be true and will base their actions on this perception. Relying on economic sanctions will not yield their intended political effect, especially given the autocratic nature of the Russian government and its insensitivity to domestic pressures.
Offering NATO membership to Georgia is a proper strategic response. NATO membership, in concert with the EU’s Eastern Partnership program, extends stability and prosperity to qualified countries, and serves the interests of the United States. The alternative is a Russian model of confrontation, dismemberment of neighboring states, instability and corrupt governance,
In order to extend NATO membership to Georgia, the US government should open immediate dialogue with its NATO partners, Germany and Turkey, as well as with the UK, which is the host nation of the next summit, to push Georgia’s MAP forward at an accelerated pace.
Given Georgia’s significant contributions to US-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, its strategic location and its success in becoming a stable and democratic state, the Association calls on the US government to immediately begin negotiations with its NATO allies to ensure the rapid promotion of Georgia’s NATO membership.
Below is a transcription of the statement. View a copy of the actual statement here.
Statement of the Georgian Association in the United States of America
The Georgian Association in the United States of America, the oldest organization representing the Georgian-American community, is deeply concerned about mounting Russian pressure on its neighbors, primarily on states which are trying to pursue an independent foreign policy and are aiming at European integration. In the last several weeks under Russian pressure, Armenia and Ukraine reversed their decision to sign documents with the European Union on Association, and on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements. Unfortunately, Russia prevailed over the EU.
On 17 September 2013, Russian occupation forces in the Tskhinvali region of Georgia (South Ossetia) began erecting barbed-wire fencing along administrative borders, separating the region from the rest of Georgia and dividing villages and their communities. The Georgian Association believes this not only undermines Georgia’s independence and sovereignty, but also runs counter to US foreign policy interests in the region.
Since achieving independence more than two decades ago, Georgia has shown its support for Western ideals and has pursued integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. On October 27, 2013, Georgia held its sixth presidential election, which was praised by all election observers as organized, fair, and transparent, and which finalized the peaceful transfer of power to the political opposition. At the end of November 2013, Georgia is expected to initial an Association Agreement with the European Union at the EU’s third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. This event will draw Georgia one step closer to integration into European structures.
The government of the Russian Federation sees Georgia’s attempts to integrate with the EU and NATO as a threat, and is placing many obstacles in Georgia’s path. Russian strategy is to destabilize Georgia through the occupation of the two break-away regions of Abkhazeti (Abkhazia) and Tskhinvali Region (South Ossetia).
Russia’s aggressive behavior toward Georgia flies in the face of accepted norms of international behavior, and runs counter to US strategic interests for a number of reasons. First, Georgia is a firm ally of the United States, contributing, per capita, one of the highest troop levels to US-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, Georgia is a key transit country and indispensable element of the energy and transportation corridor that connects Europe with Central Asia and China. Finally, as one of only a handful of countries in the region with truly competitive democratic processes, Georgia preserves and promotes Western values in a volatile region of geostrategic importance.
Given the importance of Georgia’s territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty to US strategic interests in the region, we urge your administration to undertake the following steps:
- – The White House should issue a statement on the occasion of the EU’s third Eastern Partnership Summit, which reaffirms US support for Georgiaâ€™s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, and its right to pursue independent foreign policy decisions.
- – The United States should redouble its efforts through diplomatic channels to end the Russian military occupation of internationally recognized Georgian territory, to stop the construction of physical barriers and demolish already constructed ones to allow free movement of Abkhazian, Ossetian, Georgian and other citizens of Georgia through the administrative borders between Georgia and the occupied territories.
- – The United States should start diplomatic efforts in preparation for the NATO summit of 2014 to recognize Georgia’s progress in military reforms, as well as Georgia’s military contribution to the international security forces, and to issue NATOâ€™s membership action plan for Georgia.
- – The United States Government should plan multiple visits of high level delegations from the US government throughout 2014 to send a strong signal of high level engagement with Georgia and its partner countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The Georgian Association is open for collaboration with the United States Government in its effort to support all the above mentioned efforts.
Board of Directors of the Georgian Association in the USA
The CEEC expresses concern over the Russian Government’s pressure on its neighbors on the eve of the Eastern Partnership Summit of the EU to be held in Vilnius on November 27-28, 2013. Below is a transcription of the letter.
Dear Mr. President:
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), a coalition of diaspora groups representing more than twenty million Armenian, Belarusan, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak and Ukrainian Americans, is gravely concerned over Russian government pressure on its neighbors on the eve of the Eastern Partnership Summit of the European Union, to be held in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on November 27-28, 2013. At stake is the country of Ukraine, which will be afforded an opportunity to sign an Association Agreement (AA) on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU, while it is anticipated that other countries such as Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova are planning to initial the agreement, in anticipation of final approval by next year.
Unfortunately, the Russian Federation sees the process of Euro-integration of these countries as a threat to its national interests. Russian officials are on record expressing their discontent and have threatened economic ramifications should such agreements be reached. As an alternative to the European Union, the Russian government has initiated the Eurasian Customs Union and is trying to persuade countries on its borders to become members. The current membership in the Customs Union includes Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. More recently, it was announced that Armenia would join the Customs Union.
As the date of the Vilnius Summit approaches, pressure continues to mount from the Russian Federation upon those countries vying for European integration. Such pressure has evolved in many forms, in particular: a ban on certain Moldovan and Ukrainian imports into the Russian market; the borderization and creeping annexation of the territories of Georgia occupied by Russian military forces since 2008, among other actions. Russia recently concluded a very aggressive Zapad-13 military exercise in the Kaliningrad region, continuing a pattern of war games simulating threats to NATO members in the region, in this case Poland and the Baltic states. The Russian Federation is advancing its tactics on other states, particularly on Ukraine, a strategic partner of the United States and a keystone to stability and security in Europe.
While the United States is not a member of the European Union, U.S. diplomatic efforts to reinforce democratic processes and defend our national interests cannot be underestimated. In December 2012, Secretary Clinton mentioned, in her final speech as Secretary of State, the imminent threat of Russiaâ€™s undue influence in the region. â€œThere is a move to re-Sovietize the region,â€ she stated. â€œItâ€™s not going to be called that. Itâ€™s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.â€ Several European leaders and officials within the European Commission have also expressed their concern over these recent developments.
Mr. President, efforts by the United States should help to relieve the strain being placed on Russiaâ€™s western-oriented neighbors. To do so, we propose several policy recommendations that would strengthen democratic institutions in the region:
1) Issue a White House statement emphasizing the importance of U.S. strategic interests in Central and Eastern Europe and independent nations making their own future decisions;
2) Utilize diplomatic channels by the U.S. government to raise concerns about the encroachment of Russian territorial interests in the region, especially with respect to Georgia;
3) Strengthen our resolve with nations within NATO who have been threatened by Russia — e.g., Estonia with cyber intrusions — and thus may experience similar Russian manipulation after the Eastern Partnership Summit in November; and, 4) Meet with CEEC members at the White House to show a public sign of support for the region.
We hope that you agree on the importance of these issues and will take steps to underscore U.S. support for the countries wishing to align themselves with the EU. We look forward to the opportunity to meet with you to further discuss these issues.
On June 14, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1960 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a statement in Section 1244 related to Georgia. The section expresses general support to Georgia, and then heavily focuses on internal political developments in Georgia. Part (b) (3) of the statement reads: â€œThe measures taken by the Georgian Government against former officials and political opponents, apparently in part motivated by political considerations, may have a significant negative impact on cooperation between the United States and Georgia, including efforts to build a stronger relationship in political, economic, and security matters, as well as progress on integrating Georgia into international organizations.â€ The statement ends with condolences to the Georgian people for the death in Afghanistan of ten Georgian soldiers, serving in ISAF operations, as a result of two separate bombings.
The Georgian Association expresses deep concern over this statement in the NDAA. Attaching this language to the NDAA is damaging to the US-Georgia strategic partnership, which is built upon trust, respect and institutional integrity. The timing of this statement against the backdrop of the significant losses of Georgian troops in Afghanistan is particularly insensitive.
The United States Congress should express its position towards internal developments in Georgia, using appropriate committees in both chambers of Congress, as well as the bipartisan Helsinki Committee. This particular position, however, should be based on a thorough investigation of the realities on the ground.
Linking Georgia’s internal politics to the issue of US-Georgian strategic and military cooperation only strengthens Russian hegemony in the region, while simultaneously undermining US influence. We encourage members of the US Congress to use strong language on enhancing defense cooperation with Georgia previously included in the draft NDAA bill, adopted by House Armed Service Committee on June 7 in a 59-2 vote.
The Georgian Association in the United States calls on its members to contact members of Congress to advocate for a bill that serves both the US-Georgia partnership and the interests of the United States in a geopolitically important region.
The Board of Directors Georgian Association in the USA
On June 4th, 2013 the Georgian Association in the USA organized an Advocacy Day for Georgia. The all-day event began with a meeting at the Department of State and was followed by eight meetings on Capitol Hill. The Georgian community was represented by GA president Mamuka Tsereteli, executive director Nino Aduashvili, David Soumbadze (MD), Veronika Metonidze (VA), Vasil Jaiani (DC), Alexander Meladze (NY), Bakur Bejaneishvili (MD), Vlad Bregvadze (VA), and Noel Brockett (MD)
The Advocacy Day participants raised issues of pressing priority for Georgia and the Georgian community in the United States. Among the topics discussed were Georgia’s security and its future integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. The meetings called for the following actions: strong advocacy for Georgia’s NATO membership and support for granting a Membership Action Plan to Georgia in 2014, strengthening Georgia’s defensive capabilities, stronger US leadership on development of the Energy and Transportation Corridor connecting Central Asia and the South Caucasus to Europe and the Mediterranean, the increase of economic assistance to Georgia and support for civil society and democratic development programs.
The participants met with Justine Friedman, director of Caucasian Affairs at the Department of State, Representative Bridenstine and his foreign policy adviser and senior staff members for Representative Van Hollen, Senator Shaheen, Representative Thornberry, Senator Warner, Representative Sires, Senator Kaine and Representative Guthrie.
At the end of the day the participants attended the celebration of the 95th anniversary of Georgian Independence organized by the Embassy of Georgia.
The Georgian Association is planning to organize a follow-up Advocacy Day in the early Fall. We thank all our participants for their service and support and encourage your active participation in the future events.
Please visit our Facebook page for more photos from the event.
In celebration of the 95th anniversary of Georgian independence, the Georgian Association in the USA is organizing an Advocacy Day in Washington DC on June 4th, 2013.
During the day-long event, the participants in the Advocacy Day will meet with members of the US administration, members of congress, as well as staffers of the key committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The meetings will address the critical policy issues related to the US interests in the Caucasus, such as the territorial integrity and national security of Georgia, and the acceleration of Georgia’s integration into Transatlantic security and economic institutions. The Georgian Association will supply the participants with briefing materials.
At the end of the Advocacy Day the participants will have an opportunity to attend the Independence Day Reception hosted by the Embassy of Georgia.
We encourage your active participation in this important event. The voice of Georgian Americans is important for keeping the US Foreign policy focused on Georgia and Georgia-related issues. Please, confirm your participation by no later than May 15. Unfortunately, the Georgian Association will not be able to cover the costs related to your travel and accommodation. Please, invite and communicate this information to those who may be interested.
Sincerely, Mamuka Tsereteli, President
Nino Aduashvili, Executive Director
The celebration took place at St. Regis Washington D.C. and brought together many distinguished guests. Among them were the association Board members and officers, the Georgian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan, the former American ambassadors to Georgia, Richard Miles and John Bass, friends of Georgia representing different ethnic communities, representatives of diplomatic community. The anniversary reception, which was co-hosted by the America-Georgia Business Council, followed the 15th annual conference of the Business Council held earlier that day. The attendees of the Business Council conference, including the Georgian Minister of agriculture Mr.Kirvalidze also participated in the event. The guest honor of the anniversary celebration was United States Senator of Indiana, Richard Lugar. The Georgian Association presented Senator Lugar with an award for his unwavering support of Georgia. Nino Japaridze, the board member and former president of the association, opened the formal part of the reception with a speech of thanksgiving. Mamuka Tsereteli, the president of the association, then presented the Senator with a painting by a Georgian-American artist Nana Bagdavadze. Dr. Tsereteli thanked Senator Lugar and emphasized the symbolic nature of the painting.
Painting represents Cross, symbolizing faith and spiritual past of Georgia. Cross is painted with the DNA spirals, that symbolizes common nature and origin of all human beings, and DNA spirals are constructed with molecules that have shape of grapes, that is symbol of both spirituality, but also optimism and abundance. Nothing can have better representation of our gratitude for Senator Lugar for his service to his country, and for his support to free and democratic Georgiaâ€ Said Mr. Tsereteli. Senator Lugar responded with a speech of appreciation. Before leaving, he personally thanked the wounded Georgian soldiers for their service.The guests enjoyed the rest of the celebration and the many great Georgian wines provided by the Georgian Wine House of the Greater Washington.
On the 25th of April the Georgian Association co-hosted the Advocacy Day for Central and East European Coalition (CEEC). The coalition unites 18 Diaspora organizations, representing more than 20 million Americans. ” Click here to view the newsletter
On the 25th of April the Georgian Association co-hosted the Advocacy Day for Central and East European Coalition (CEEC). The coalition unites 18 Diaspora organizations, representing more than 20 million Americans. ” Click here to view the newsletter
- Want to make a difference? The country of Georgia is recruiting native English speakers to help teach English through the project.
The program is offering benefits:
- Housing and living accommodations
- Medical insurance
- Round-trip tickets for work related trips and one vacation
Volunteer teachers will stay in Georgia for at least one year with once in a life-time opportunity to help the Georgian children learn English language and thus influence their lives; get familiarized with amazing Georgian customs and traditions by living in the local families; experience unique Georgian folklore and cuisine by socializing with local communities and if willing, learn the Georgian language, one of the ancient languages of the world.
Contact: email@example.com, phone: + 995 32 318959, + 995 58 177574
We want to announce to the Georgian community in the U.S. and friends of Georgia that the largest retrospective show to date of Niko Chocheli’s art and illustrations is on exhibit at the Antiochian Heritage Museum in Ligonier, PA now through February 20, 2011.
“Spirit and Whimsy: The Art of Niko Chocheli” gathers works from private collections in addition to over 70 original pieces never before exhibited. This historic exhibit chronicles his unique work illustrating 7 Orthodox Christian Children’s books in the United States and Greece. Niko’s love for our homeland shines through each of his work, and it communicates the spirit and beauty of Georgia with its rich Orthodox Christian Heritage to many who may not have known its significance.
The official opening of this show was blessed by His Grace Bishop THOMAS of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic United States.
The museum is located at the Antiochian Village Conference & Retreat Center in Ligonier, PA. Those interested in overnight lodging may contact Antiochian Village at 724-238-3677.
Here is the link for the Antiochian Village website page announcing Niko’s show, with praise from Publisher’s Weekly, a short bio, and contact information with hours and directions: http://antiochianvillage.org/center/heritage/museum.html
If you have any questions please email or call Niko at 267-981-2973.
On Monday, February 8, 2010, Jacques de Lajugie, the head of international sales at the French Defense Ministrys weapons production agency (Direction Gnrale pour l’Armement or DGA), confirmed that the French government agreed to sell Russia one Mistral-class advanced amphibious helicopter carrier and is considering a request for three more.
Possession of this state-of-the-art assault ship will significantly increase Russias force projection capabilities in the Baltic and the Black Seas, which will considerably undermine the security of the US and NATO allies in the region. Russias willingness to use the Mistral assault ship against Georgia is evident in the remarks of Admiral Vladimir Visotskiy, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, who in September of last year noted that possession of this warship during the war with Georgia in 2008 would have allowed the Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its military objectives in forty minutes. In the conflict in August last year [against Georgia], a ship like that would have allowed the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission in 40 minutes, not 26 hours which is how long it took us [to land the troops ashore] (Interfax, September 11, 15).
The Mistral sale marks the first time a NATO country has willingly transferred to Russia an advanced offensive weapons platform. This is alarming given that the Kremlins recently released national military doctrine explicitly states that NATOs eastward expansion is the main external military threat to the Russian Federation. The French decision threatens NATO alliance solidarity and ignores Eastern European members, who have repeatedly warned against the Mistral sale.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, during his recent visit to Paris expressed Washingtons concerns over the Mistral sale to his French counterpart, Herv Morin, but with little result. Unfortunately the interests of the French manufacturer, DCNS, based at the shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, prevailed over much more significant geopolitical considerations. This decision sets a precedent for other arms producers in Western Europe, who will now see Russia as a lucrative market for advanced naval military technology.
The Georgian Association in the United Sates, Inc. strongly protests the French governments decision to transfer the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship to Russia and calls on the United States Government to use all its diplomatic power to halt the sale. The Georgian Association also calls on the US government for pro-active Eastern European/Black Sea/Caspian policy to increase security and boost the regional cooperation.
The Georgian Association in the United States
The Georgian Association is planning to establish a school of Georgian Language and Culture (GLC) for children living in the greater Washington D.C. region. GLC will help children learn/improve Georgian language skills, and get acquainted with Georgian literature, history and traditions.
As a first step, the Georgian Association is collecting information about potential students (number of children, age groups, current level of language skills, etc.). This will help us determine the needs of children, and design programs that will best serve their needs.
Please help us gather the aforementioned information by filling out a brief survey. Families with children 3 years and older are welcome to participate. If you have questions feel free to contact us. Please send your completed questionnaires to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to fill out the survey.
On August 8, 2009 the Georgian Association organizied a peaceful protest by the Russian Embassy to remember the victims of the Russian military attacks on Georgia one year ago.
In August 2008, in violation of the U.N. Charter, the Russian government invaded and occupied the sovereign Georgian territory. Russian forces committed and encouraged human rights violations, including ethnic cleansing against people of Georgian descent in the occupied territories. Under no circumstances should such actions be tolerated by the international community.
The Georgian Association in the United States, Inc. calls on the United States Government to continue its policy of open support for Georgias territorial integrity in its internationally recognized borders, which include Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The United States must act, and demand withdrawal of Russian occupational forces from Georgia.
The limited EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, which oversees the August 12, 2008 peace agreement brokered between Georgia and Russia by French President Sarkozy, is now the only security mechanism on the ground. We urge the United States to support the strengthening of this mechanism. The EU Monitoring Mission should be enlarged and must be allowed to work inside the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia. This will enhance the security of local populations and help prevent further provocations.
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), of which the Georgian Association is a member, will host a policy reception at the US Senate on March 25, 2009. The Georgian Association is a co-sponsor of this important event that commemorates NATO and its enlargement. There will be presentations by Members of Congress and current and past administration officials who support strengthening NATO and the U.S. relations with Central and Eastern European countries.
In conjunction with this event, the Association is arranging a series of advocacy meetings with members of Congress who represent districts with Georgian-American constituents. We will meet with the co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, Representative Allyson Schwartz (PA), and with Representative Ed Royce (CA). Also, the Association is arranging a meeting with Representative Weiner from New York for our members who have expressed interest in meeting with them. If you wish to participate in the March 25 advocacy meetings on Capitol Hill please let us know and we will try to set up a meeting for you with your state Representative. These meetings will provide an opportunity for you to educate Members of Congress and their staff about Geopolitial issues related to Georgia, and also, to encourage them to join the Congressional Georgia Caucus.
This is the first advocacy effort initiated by the Association in which our members can play an active role. We plan to organize similar meetings in May 2009.
If you wish to participate please contact us at email@example.com, and provide your name, state of residence, and the name of the Representative with whom you wish to meet.
Washington, DC – On Wednesday, May 20, 2009, the Georgian Association honored the United States Senator John McCain’s outstanding contributions to building strong U.S. – Georgia relations. Senator McCain received the award from Mr. Mamuka Tsereteli, President of the Association, at the traditional annual reception.
Sen. McCain acknowledged the Georgian people for the remarkable accomplishment of transforming the country into an emerging democracy. In his address the Senator from Arizona told the guests, “Rarely have I seen, anywhere in the world, the kind of determination and resilience that is so clearly present in the hearts of Georgians everywhere. The United States is proud to call Georgia a friend, and I take great pride in considering myself a friend of Georgia.” Senator McCain also stressed the importance of continuing U.S. support for Georgia.
Other speakers and distinguished guests included the United States Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz (PA), Co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, Mr. Batu Kutelia, Ambassador of Georgia, Mr. Frank Greinke, Honorary Consul of Georgian in California, Ambassador William Courtney, and Mses. Elisabeth Kvitashvili and Nino Japaridze, members of the Georgian Association Board.
The Georgian Association in the United States of America (GA) is the oldest nonpartisan nationwide membership organization of Georgian- Americans and friends of Georgia. It strives to strengthen and support the Georgian-American community on a national level, and supports an independent, democratic and prosperous Georgia.
The Georgian Association in the United States of America expresses concern over recent developments in Georgia and a potential escalation of the internal political situation. We call on the Government of Georgia, on the leaders of the opposition and all Georgian citizens to refrain from further confrontation and find ways for political reconciliation.
Georgia is facing grave security challenges and a substantial economic crisis that requires mobilization of moral, political and economic resources of the entire nation. Georgia needs national political consensus to deal with these important issues. The Government and the opposition must make concessions and agree on terms of this consensus. Priorities are clear and shared by the majority of Georgias political forces. They include normal political processes that allow broad representation in the government, and a peaceful transition of power; promotion of an independent judiciary and the rule of law; free media; favorable business environment and guarantees of property rights.
We call on the United States Government to take a pro-active position and to urgently send a high level US Government official to Georgia to mediate between the Government and the opposition. The Georgian Association is willing to facilitate such mediation with all its available resources.
On behalf of the Board of Directors,
Washington, DC On Wednesday, March 25, 2009, the Central and Eastern European Coalition(CEEC), of which the Georgian Association is a member, hosted a policy reception on CapitolHill to honor the NATO enlargement of 1999 and 2004, and to support a continued open door policy.
CEEC comprises 18 national membership organizations representing more than 20 million Americans who trace their heritage to Central and East Europe. The program of Wednesday’s reception featured Senator Mikulski and Senator Voinovich, Mr.Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mr. Kurt Volker, the current U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and Mr. Michael Hatzel, a Senior Fellow at SAIS and former Senior Staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. U.S. Senators expressed their support for continued NATO open door policy, and indicated their willingness to fight for it. Mr. Volker highlighted the importance of maintaining an open door policy. In his view, NATO has become a stronger alliance by opening doors to new members. Mr. Brzezinski stated that it is in the interest of both the United States and Europe that Central and East European countries remain genuinely free. He advised countries who wish to become members of NATO one day to work toward membership in the European Union to keep this important alliance strong. Dr. Brzezinski emphasized that Ukraine and Georgia must eventually become NATO members and contribute to a collective European security, as well as benefit from this membership for their own security.
The Georgian Association hopes that NATO leaders will fully implement the 2008 Bucharest Summit decision with respect to Ukraine and Georgia, and will provide a clear road map for their eventual membership in the Alliance.
The Georgian Association in the United States of America (GA) is the oldest nonpartisan nationwide membership organization of Georgian-Americans and friends of Georgia. It strives to strengthen and support the Georgian-American community on a national level, and supports an independent, democratic and prosperous Georgia.
SACRED GEORGIAN CHANTS
By The Georgian Harmony Choir
(Sherman Oaks, CA) On November 18, 2008, Jade Music with the support of the Georgian Association in the United States is proud to release the first US album by The Georgian Harmony Choir.
Sacred Georgian Chants, a compilation of songs and chants from the war-torn region, reflects the vigor and beauty of polyphonic chants from one of the oldest Christian countries. In today’s uncertain political climate preserving the Georgian musical heritage in Georgia itself and around the world has become of incomparable importance.
10% of the proceeds will go to the Georgian Association in the United States of America, Inc., the oldest nonpartisan nationwide membership organization of Georgian-Americans and friends of Georgia. The Association strives to strengthen the Georgian- American community on a national level, and supports an independent, democratic and prosperous Georgia.
Chant expert Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet wrote extensive liner notes on the history of Georgian Chant and its peculiarities.
Georgian religious choir chant seems to have reached its apogee between the ninth and 10th centuries, when it developed considerably. It was codified as much inside the country (particularly in the monasteries of the Tao-Klarjeti region) as it was in many Georgian monasteries or those with a significant Georgian presence located in Palestine, in the Sinai desert, at Mount Athos and in Bulgaria.
Under its basic and normative form, Georgian religious chant is a three-voice polyphony (called mzakhr, zhir and bam as early as the sixth century in a treatise by Ioane Petritsi), characterized by particular vocal techniques and the use of close tones. Usually the highest voice provides the melody and is supported by two other voices.
Contemporary Georgian liturgical chant is a witness of its fidelity to the tradition of polyphonic chant and its various variations, but also of its ability to innovate within traditions.
The Georgian Harmony Choir
The Georgian Harmony Choir was founded in 2006 by Nana Peradze. Its members are passionate amateurs and professionals from Georgia. Its vocation is to raise the awareness of religious and popular Georgian chant following tradition and authenticity. The Choir has performed in Belgrade (Serbia), Tbilisi (Georgia), where it participated in the international music festival “Chveneburebi,” and Paris.
Nana Peradze was born into an Orthodox family in Georgia. She received a chant and piano education and pursued theological studies. She took part in many piano concerts and won several national contests. Since 1984, she has actively taken part in the religious rebirth of Georgia under communism, creating choirs in several monasteries and churches.
From 1993 to 1997 she taught music in several religious schools and was the head of the choir at the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Tbilisi and at various churches in the Margveti region. In 1998 she went to France to pursue choir-conducting studies at the National Conservatory of Paris. In 2002 she founded the religious choir of the Georgian church in Paris before becoming the head conductor of Saint Simeon’s Choir, at “Saint Sava” Serbian Cathedral, in Paris, where she still sings today.
She currently conducts the Georgian Harmony Choir and is still studying Byzantine chant, of which she has considerable knowledge.
The Georgian Association in the United States of America
The Georgian Association in the United States advocates for Georgia and Georgian issues in the United States. The Association was founded in 1932 by Georgian immigrants following Russia’s occupation of Georgia in 1921. In 1960, it became a non-profit charitable US 501(c)(3) corporation. Since then, GA has assisted in maintaining public awareness of the Georgian nation and preserving Georgia’s identity and culture. The Association has provided a forum for discussing Georgian issues and has been a unifying entity for Georgian concerns.
Jade Music has a proven dedication to releasing quality classical and sacred music for more than 20 years. Its catalog includes works by the world-renowned Byzantine Choir of Greece and Lycourgos Angelopoulos, the choirs of Saint-Wandrille, Notre-Dame De Ganagobie, and Saint-Madeleine du Barroux, among others.
It has also established itself as the premiere record label of the choir of the abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. In 2007, Jade Music released the first US album of Serbian singer Divna Ljubojevic, Divna in Concert.
Jade Music, an independently owned operation with offices located in Sherman Oaks, California and Paris, France is distributed by Ryko Distribution in the United States, Universal Music in France, JVC in Japan, and Warner Music International in the rest of the world.
1. Easter Processional
2. Matins Stichera
3. O come, let us worship
4. Thou art the Vineyard
5. Troparion of the Cross
6. Trisagion (Thrice Holy)
7. Kontakion of Saint Nino
8. As many of you who have been baptized into Christ
10. O Heavenly King
11. Christmas Chant
12-13. Cherubic Hymn
14. Litany for the Deceased
15. Easter Troparion
To stream the record, please visit http://milanrecords.com/jbox/jademusic/
For photos, music, and additional information about the album, the Georgian Harmony Choir and Nana Peradze, please contact Stefan Karrer:
Jade Music / Milan Entertainment, Inc.
14724 Ventura Blvd. Suite 910
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Phone: (818) 849-3349
Fax: (818) 849-3341
For additional information about the Georgian Association, Georgian musical culture in the United States, please contact Maka Gabelia:
Georgian Association in the United States
2300 M Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: (202) 234-2441
An American film crew is working on a production of a feature-length, non-profit documentary film on the life and legacy of Vachtang “Botso” Korisheli. Mr. Korisheli is a Georgian composer, teacher and sculptor who lives in California.
The filmmakers will finish the production of “BOTSO: The Passion of Music, The Passion of Art” by the end of 2008. The documentary will explore the life and philosophy of Botso Korisheli. Also, it will showcase life in Georgia and the Georgian culture.
For more information about Mr. Korisheli and this film, please visit www.aspectstudios.com/botso.
The online Dictionary of the Georgian National Biography is the first English-language compilation of some 400 biographies of individuals, whose lives have influenced the Georgian culture and history. This resource provides information about people of every ethnic background, who contributed to the cultural diversity of the Georgian society. You may access this resource at http://www.georgianbiography.com
The Georgian Association has formed Advocacy, Press and Education working groups. Volunteers who kindly agree to participate in these groups will advocate for Georgian issues with the United States government and other relevant organizations, ensure fair coverage of Georgian issues in the press, and build a framework to help preserve the Georgian language and culture in the U.S.
Soon, the Association will issue a formal position paper on key issues and priorities important to the Georgian community in the U.S. and the organization as well. Support for territorial integrity of Georgia and stability in the Caucasus will be top priorities.
A coordinator will lead and manage activities of each working group. We are still looking for enthusiastic volunteers. If you would like to join any of the above-mentioned groups, please contact us. For logistical reasons, it is easier to participate in these efforts if you live in the Greater Washington area. However, there will be many opportunities to contribute from afar. Therefore, if you live in a different state and are interested in helping, please let us know.