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The January 2018 issue of the BIN’18 newsletter is out

The second issue of BIN’18, the monthly newsletter of the Borjomi Innovators Network has just been published. The co- editor for this issue is William Murray-Uren who shares with us his views on “kindness”, an important and but very often much neglected neglected human attribute. In this issue we also introduce you to six members of the 2018 cohort of our network – Asma Bessis, Giorgi Arziani, Mohammad al Sayed, Armenak Tomajyan, Alexandre Mishvelidze and Nini Kvirikashvili as well as to our veteran member George Mchedlishvili.

We have three interesting contributions to our review section. One book, one journal article and one play are reviewed by three of our members.

And we are pleased to publish Alexandre Mshvelidze’s contribution to the “I have an idea” section, which highlights the importance of public awareness and consultation in projects that have a high degree of impact on the environment.

You can read the full text of the newsletter, here.

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George Mchedlishvili

George Mchedlishvili is a respected Georgian Academic, an International Relations Specialist, and a Veteran Member of the Borjomi Innovators Network.

“Given my age, telling my bio even concisely will break any word count. So I’ll only write on what concerns me and how I’m going to tackle these disquiets. Needless to say, I am a 21st century man, with all attendant technological trimmings, and in all other meaningful respects. Except for maybe one. Unlike most of contemporaries, including those in their early 40s like me, I do not think that every single aspect of today’s life is auspicious and indeed progressive. There is nothing progressive in the rise of populism, both on the right and on the left – and as more people move to the fringes, the mainstream, gets eviscerated. As a result, majority of new political ideas – both liberal and conservative – originate not in healthier political quarters, which are somewhere around the center, but in the polarized bubbles and echo-chambers of the extremes. In my own country of Georgia there is also very strong and toxic polarization, albeit on a different set of questions. So, as a Homo Politicus, in the Plato-Aristotlean sense, I am particularly concerned that in today’s world, where the magnitude and multitude of the challenges that beset all of us just necessitate cooperation and putting most of our differences aside, the West does not lead because of its internal disunity. So, as a person with background in both Physics and History, who also lectured Calculus and International Relations – and highly appreciative of the main messages of these sciences – I want to be a “gap-bridger”, if you will. The gap between the technology-obsessed millennials, who believe that the era before the advent of iphones is antediluvian and the hardened conservatives (many of whom are fairly young), who fear diversity as a threat to their “civilization”.”

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Book Review: ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara

For the duration of time that I was reading this book, I referred to it as “800 pages of pain”. And it is exactly that, but with bouts of mania and happiness and friendship intensely woven into its narrative. It is written with such a beautiful rawness that 800 pages (albeit painful) passed very quickly (this is a good thing, although I found myself wanting more when it was over).

The novel explores the lives of four friends, each with their own baggage and idiosyncrasies, and follows them from their young adulthood to middle age. Written in several “volumes”, points of view change almost as quickly as reader emotions. I didn’t think I was a particularly sensitive reader, but a note of warning: this book is not for the light-hearted and certainly not to be read in planes – because even the strongest of us cry at altitudes. I learned this the hard way. Recommend 10/10 unless you’re feeling emotionally fragile.

Irene Katopodis

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Play Review: ‘The Gronholm Method’ by Jordi Galceran

Theatre is my passion – I attend plays as often as I can. One of my favourite plays, which I often have on my mind, is ‘The Gronholm Method’ by playwright Jordi Galceran.

The play tells about an interview in a big company, which turns to be an experiment on a human mind, its abilities, skills and values. It highlights the blurred lines between rights and liberties on one hand, and power on the other.

This play shows clearly what kind of rights we have and what happens when one’s dignity is insulted, and how others react. It shows the reality where we live and the way we act daily, and makes you rethink about the values and attitudes towards things that form one’s personality.”

Nini Kvirikashvili

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Article Review: ‘Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War’ by John Mearsheimer

John J. Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War,” International Security, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Summer 1990)

‘Back to the Future’ is an article in three main parts. The first is a review of what Mearsheimer calls “the long peace” in Europe following the conclusion of World War Two. In this part Mearsheimer also outlines the reasons why this long peace was maintained, all of them related to precepts of realism such as the balance of power, stable bipolarity and nuclear deterrence. The second part of Mearsheimer’s article considers four possible scenarios for a post-Cold War Europe. In turn, Mearsheimer outlines and assesses a Europe without nuclear weapons; a Europe with nuclear weapons states “on the flanks”; a poorly managed nuclear proliferation regime in Europe; and, finally, a well-managed nuclear proliferation regime across the continent. Mearsheimer concludes that the first two scenarios are highly unlikely and, of the latter two, the fourth is much preferred. Finally, in the third section of his article Mearsheimer assesses the counter arguments made by those primarily of a liberal-institutionalist perspective who regard the end of the Cold War optimistically. Specifically, Mearsheimer rejects three key arguments of the post-Cold War optimists and concludes, pessimistically, that, “the stability of the past 45 years is not likely to be seen again in the coming decades”.

Mearsheimer notes that there are some within the foreign policy elites of Europe and North America who would seek to make Europe a nuclear weapons-free zone. Such an outcome would necessarily demand not only a halt to further proliferation but also that the existing European nuclear powers – Britain, France and the Soviet Union – denounce and destroy their existing nuclear capacity. Mearsheimer argues that this will potentially lead to problems for the states of Europe as the “pacifying effects of nuclear weapons” – the security, caution and rough equality they impose – would be lost.

A nuclear free Europe would be more dangerous for all but particularly the post-socialist states of Eastern Europe, which would, once again, find themselves positioned between two continental powers. Of the four scenarios he offers, Mearsheimer holds the least hope for this particular eventuality.

Alexandre Mishvelidze

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Alexandre Mishvelidze

Alexandre Mishvelidze has been in public service since 2007, working in foreign affairs with a focus on counterterrorism, arms control and political/military issues.

“My Previous work experience includes working on European Integration affairs in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia. I received my Master’s degree in International Relations from the Tbilisi state University, where I am now a Ph.D. candidate. My interest lies broadly in the post soviet area. More specifically, during my doctoral studies I have worked on Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia and System Changes in the Eastern Partnership countries. Furthermore, I have extensive hands-on experience in the Baltic States (Master’s Thesis: “System Changes in Estonia”).

“I studied at the Tallinn University of Technology (Law School), the Estonian School of Diplomacy, the Saarland University and the European Academy of Diplomacy. I have also successfully completed the New Security Leaders Program of the 2016 Warsaw Security Forum.“

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Nini Kvirikashvili

Nini Kvirikashvili is a projects manager at the Europe-Georgia Institute. “I tend to define myself as a civil activist. Three years ago, I quit my job and decided to do something that would bring changes to the society where I live.

“Now I work in an organization that works with and for the youth, as we believe that young people look at things differently and such different ideas and views are able to spark change.

“I`ve met hundreds of students from different regions of Georgia and we worked together on problematic issues in their society. I love to work with young people to empower them. The youth inspire me to be more idealistic, to be ready to change the world – this generation in Georgia shows me everything I always desired to see around me and what I am willing to work for.

“There is nothing better than to see young idealists become civil activists that bring changes to the world – not with shouting and screaming, but with education, enthusiasm and bright minds.”

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Mohammed Al Sayed

Mohammed Al Sayed is a 33 year old Bahraini writer and a graduate of International studies, who has been working in the field of media and mass communications for over a decade.

“I’ve always been passionate about writing as I believe it is the best way in which people can express themselves and spread their ideas to one another and to the world. Coming from the smallest island nation in the Middle East, the world doesn’t know much about my country. Hence along with a few others, I formed the youth group called ‘Citizens for Bahrain’ – an NGO that aims at addressing the concerns of young Bahrainis to the world, while monitoring the democratic process in the country.

“I recently visited an event that takes place annually in my country named ‘The Nest’. The concept of the month-long event is to display the work of young Bahrainis all across an area in the capital. The event is worth mentioning as it reflects a sample of the positive and creative identity of youth looking for opportunities, where young entrepreneurs have an opportunity to sell their products and artists display their art work both indoors and outdoors in a shared space where people from different backgrounds and age groups come in a show of support.“

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Armenak Tokmajya

Armenak Tokmajya is a nomadic researcher, currently working for the International Crisis Group’s Middle East program as a Syria analyst. In his spare time, he is an avid painter and gardener.

“When people ask me “where are you from” it is kind of difficult to give a decisive answer. Does this question make sense in such a mobile world? Many of us were born somewhere and have one or two nationalities but have lived, studied and worked in many different places. I think these experiences should define us and not where we come from.

“I was born in Yerevan, 28 years ago, but I grew up in Aleppo which had a large Armenian community. Schooling in Aleppo was not fun especially considering I had to wake up at 7:20am, 6 days a week, for 12 years. I think that is human rights violation.

“Things changed when I moved to Damascus in 2007 to start my BS degree in International Relations and Diplomacy. I thought, after graduation, I’d be a diplomat. But two months into my studies, a 4th year student told me that I was going to be jobless and not a diplomat. Neither of these predictions were right. After graduation, I moved to Finland to do my two-year MS degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. Meanwhile, I officially adopted the Finnish sauna culture.

“One beautiful day, in December 2014, when I was thinking that I am neither a diplomat nor have a proper job, I received a call from the Central European University saying, “Hello, is this Armenak? Your application won the Richard Holbrooke fellowship, would you be able to start working in January?” Budapest, which was to become my most favourite city, was calling me. But, after 18 beautiful months there, the International Crisis Group interrupted my love affair with Budapest. I got a junior position as a Syria analyst and had to move to Istanbul.

Before heading to Istanbul, I had the luxury of one month paid summer vacation (Aug 2016) in beautiful Georgia. Ever since, I live in Tbilisi. I never got a work permit to move to Istanbul.”

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Giorgi Arziani

Giorgi Arziani is a Georgian law graduate of Moscow University, who has also studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and Boston College.

“I am 24 years old and am the founder an independent publishing house called ‘Remedas’ in Georgia. As a publisher, I want to specialize in political economy, philosophical anthropology, cultural theory and children’s books.

“I have recently published the first book through ‘Remedas’. It is a biography of William Bullitt – a man, who was a friend of Sigmund Freud and Mikhail Bulgakov; who negotiated with Lenin and Stalin, Churchill and de Gaulle, Chiang Kai-shek and Goering; and a man who was acquainted with nearly everyone in world and tried to make changes for the better.”