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Georgia/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

During recent years cultural policy in Georgia has been influenced by the availability of financial and administrative resources. The main objective of cultural policy (before 2004) was the maintenance and support of a centralised system. The creation of a decentralised model and the redistribution of powers were supported only on a declarative level.

A systematic change in cultural policy can be seen at the end of 2003. Government priorities shifted and were focused on institutional reform, protection of cultural heritage and rehabilitation of infrastructure in the sphere of culture. Plans to optimise the public cultural network resulted in restructuring and down-sizing, and a reorganisation of public institutions of culture into other forms of ownership.

The priorities of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia in 2013-2014 were:

  • Georgian cultural identity preservation, protection and development of tangible and intangible cultural heritage;
  • supporting the creation and restoration of cultural centres in the regions of Georgia; the use of culture as a driving force for regional development; involvement of the regions of Georgia in international cultural life;
  • supporting the development of modern art, conducting intercultural dialogue to promote Georgian culture and to involve Georgian artists in the international art space;
  • promoting arts education in the capital and regions;
  • implementation of cultural projects in the conflict regions in the process of confidence building;
  • promoting the creation of a favourable legal environment for successful cooperation between the public and private sectors, provision of additional sources to support the cultural industries;
  • promoting the development of the creative industries (cultural tourism, cinema, design, fashion, crafts...);
  • active engagement of national minorities living in Georgia in public life through the promotion of cultural diversity;
  • providing access by socially vulnerable people to various fields of culture; and
  • promoting the involvement of Georgian communities outside Georgia in the country's cultural life.

In practical terms, the current institutional reform has led to changes in legislation (see chapter 5) which resulted in a strengthening of the centralised system, extension of structures and their unification, instead of diversification. The policy of state control has been reinforced, however, the problem of distinct delimitation of the authorities, typical for Georgia in the last 15 years, has not been solved yet (there are some facts of unlawful parallelism of functions of executive authority at the national and local levels). This is a result of the inexplicit functions of these structures or from the contradictions between the performance of the legislative and executive powers.

In the post-revolutionary period (since 2004), experiments with entrepreneurism and total privatisation of the cultural industries began. However, against the background of modified legislation and the institutional model of centralisation, the cultural policy pursued did not provide a systematic capital inflow, but was focused on the "blind" application of market logic to the culture sphere. This strategy failed, both in terms of investor interest and in terms of development of institutions and infrastructure.

Until 2010, the idea that art and culture should serve economic growth, contribute to an increase in exports and employment, and that culture should be devoted to the positive development of the state and its image, was not very popular. Therefore, there are inconsistencies between attempts to implement the business model and its centralisation excluding such attempts in principle.

At the same time some of the sub-strategic policy lines have been successful:

  • Protection of cultural heritage has seen much increased public and private funding to the development of institutions responsible for the protection of monuments.
  • Studies focused on the issues of restoration and conservation, and archaeology and palaeontology. Supported by the Ministry of Education and Science.
  • Cultural animation as an instrument for providing cultural democracy through participation of a large number of viewers in various social activities has gained force, especially in the post-war period (since 2008).
  • Dissemination of culture associated with the super-communicative ability of modern culture, with digital technology, the redistribution of cultural products, with the development of "creative industries", has had increasing governmental support.
  • Art created by modern artists is not currently successful. This sphere is relatively consistently supported by the state, but this is an area of cultural policy where elements of paternalism are noticeable. Support for cultural education is poorly supported. In general, the policy of cultural education developed by the influential Ministry of Science and Education is implemented according to the formal aspect of the Bologna Process and does not take into account its ability to make correlations with the tradition of creative education in Georgia.

The coalition "Georgian Dream" which has won the parliamentary elections in October 2012 has formed the new cabinet of ministers. Respectively, the new leadership of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection has started to develop a new strategy and new concept of cultural policy.

Chapter published: 26-01-2016

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