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Georgia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

In the context of promotion of cultural diversity, the programmes and events involving minorities have been expanded with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia. One example is the Multi-ethnic Arts Festival "Under One Sky", founded in 2008, which includes a series of regional concerts. The main goal of the festival is to identify and encourage talented young people from the ethnic minorities living in Georgia. The events involve the students of Georgian, Armenian, Azeri, Kurdish, Kist, Ukrainian, Russian, Ossetian and Greek nationalities from the regions of Kvemo Kartli, Kakheti, and Samtskhe-Javakheti. Together with the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, the project is supported by the Office of the State Minister of Reconciliation and Civil Equality and donor organisations: the UN Association in Georgia and the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs.

Georgia is a multinational country. On 1 January 2002, the total population was 4 371 535, of which 16.2% were minorities.

Table 2:    Distribution of national and ethnic minorities, 2002



% to total population

Total population

4 371 535


Total national and ethnic minorities

710 362



3 527



38 028



248 929



67 671



284 761



15 166



3 772



7 039



2 514



38 955


Source:    State Department for Statistics

Many groups of ethnic minorities have been formed historically - Abkhazians, Ossetians, Greeks, Jews, Armenians, Azeri, Kurds, Russians, and Ukrainians. One of the oldest Diasporas – the Jewish Diaspora - has had 26 centuries of peaceful existence, whereas the comparatively young Diasporas – Russians and Ukrainians - have no less than 200 years of peaceful co-existence.

During the past 15 years, as a result of conflicts with the separatist authorities of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic and former South-Ossetian Autonomous District (the Inner Kartli), a new group has been formed in the population - IDP (internally displaced persons). Currently, there are 286 643 IDPs officially registered, of which 275 096 (95.97%) are from Abkhazia and 11 546 (4.0%) from the former South Ossetian Autonomous District (the Inner Kartli). Following the Russian - Georgian conflict in August, 2008, a new stream of IDP has emerged from so-called South Ossetia, the historical Shida (Internal) Kartli, the region Samachablo and from Kodori (a mountain part of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic) and from other Georgian cities and the villages. This raised the number of IDP's by an additional 192 000 persons. The total number of IDP's is now estimated at almost 500 000. Against this background, the focus of government and public attention is directed to the territorial integrity of the country, the protection of constitutional laws and of minorities.

Information about the newly formed groups of immigrants is not available, as the country still faces major emigration waves of its population.

Out of the above listed groups, the indigenous groups are Georgians and Abkhazians. Others moved to Georgia in later periods.

Various ethnic groups are geographically concentrated throughout Georgia. There are also specific settlements of Azeri, Armenians, Ossetians, Assyrians, Greeks and Russians. The Dukhobors live in Samtskhe-Javakheti, the Old Believers live on the Black Sea coast.

The Constitution of Georgia provides for the equality of all citizens regardless of their national, ethnic, religious or language background. Freedom for citizens to use their native language and to practice their culture is safeguarded. In addition to the Constitution, the rights of minorities are specified in the Laws on General Education, on Culture, and on Broadcasting. However, no special law on minorities exists. To assist minorities to exercise their constitutional rights the state supports:

  • languages of minorities in the educational system;
  • maintenance of minority cultures and development of their creative activities; and
  • cultural cooperation with countries which have Diasporas residing in Georgia.

Georgia acceded to the Vienna Convention on the Protection of Ethnic Minorities and signed the European Framework Convention on National Minorities.

Some state authorities such as: the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, the Ministry of Education and Science, the public TV and radio-broadcasting companies, the municipal culture services - have responsibilities related to minorities, though none of them have a special structure for minorities in particular.

The Minister of Education and Science of Georgia and the Public Defender signed a collaboration memorandum between the Ministry, Public Defender and the National Minority Council. The memorandum will facilitate civil integration of national minorities and protection of their rights. The aforementioned document will serve as a warrant for systematic collaboration between the Ministry, the Public Defender and the National Minority Council. The MES has been implementing important projects in respect of the integration of national minorities. One of the projects is "Georgian language for future success", which was presented in the framework of the event. The project implies enhanced teaching of the official language. According to the memorandum, the projects developed by the ministry in respect of civil integration of national minorities will be implemented in close collaboration between the Public Defender and the co-located National Minority Council (see also

In Georgia, there are public primary and secondary schools for minorities (Azeri, Armenian, Russian), where the Georgian language is taught as the official language (see chapter 4.2.5). The publication of textbooks for minorities is provided by state procurement.

Under the Law on Broadcasting (Article 16, paragraph l), public broadcasting shall "place programmes in the languages of minorities, about minorities and prepared by minorities in accordance with their share in the total population". Accordingly, Georgian radio and TV have special news programmes in some languages (Abkhaz, Azeri, Armenian, Russian and Ossetian). These programmes occupy 4% of air time on public television and 2% of air time on public radio. In addition, there is special public broadcasting in Abkhaz and Ossetian languages, which covers a part of Abkhazia and the total region of "South Ossetia". Local community broadcasting companies also provide coverage of various spheres within their broadcasting, including the cultural life of minorities.

In 2008, Order No.282 of the President created a Strategic Vision Project – the National Vision and Action Plan on Civil Integration and Tolerance. The document identified the main objectives of the Concept of Culture and Education.

The purposes of the Concept in the Culture Sphere are:

  • support for preservation of the cultural identity of minorities;
  • support for intercultural dialogue, improvement of knowledge about minority Georgian culture and national values;
  • participation of minorities in the cultural life of Georgia; and
  • presentation of culture and history of minorities as cultural values of the country (Georgia).

The purposes of the Concept in the Education Sphere are:

  • improving the educational opportunities of minorities in the Georgian language;
  • implementation of government programmes in primary and secondary education, especially in schools of ethnic minorities;
  • implementation of professional training programmes;
  • promotion and support for private training programmes in the state language;
  • support for training of the Georgian population in minority languages;
  • promotion of minority languages as part of Georgian cultural values;
  • education of ethnic minorities and preparing for national exams; and
  • provision of private education for minorities.

Cultural traditions of national minorities

Traditional popular festivals of national minorities have been held in the framework of the presidential National Programme of Folklore Support in the regions populated by ethnic minorities (Kvemo Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti). Folklore ensembles participate in the annual folklore festival "Art-Gen" representing Pankisi Gorge, Akhalkalaki, Bolnisi, Marneuli and Ninotsminda; The days of the Azeri, Armenian and Ukrainian cultures involve the folklore collectives of the national minorities.

In the context of recent conflicts in Abkhazia and Samachablo (South Ossetia) the problem of territorial integrity is very acute, though the constitutional rights of minorities in the territory under the control of Georgian authorities are fully protected.

Besides Abkhazia and Samachablo, the areas with a high density of ethnic minorities are Samthkhe-Javakheti and Lower Kartli. One of the main concerns for minorities is their lack of knowledge of the Georgian language, which hinders their integration into the common national processes. Within the reform of teaching the official language, intensively implemented by the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection developed and realised a special programme for the cultural development of ethnic minorities. This programme was allocated 190 000 GEL by the state budget in 2005.

The budget of the State Programme for Cultural Development of Ethnical Minorities increases year by year, e.g. 271 500 GEL in 2006, 281 000 GEL in 2007.

In accordance with Strategy 4 - Development of Culture of National Minorities (see chapter 4.1) - the purposes of this programme are:

  • the protection, development, promotion and integration of cultures of national minorities of Georgia within a common cultural space.

Main programmes / activities under the strategy are:

  • the co-financing cultural organisations and projects of national minorities; and
  • the enhancing cooperation with the diasporas active in Georgia.

One example of under this programme is the identification and protection of samples of Polish cultural heritage kept in Georgia (see chapter 3.4.2).

The majority of issues related to minorities are dealt with on the municipal level. Tbilisi is historically a multiethnic city which is remarkable in the Caucasus for its ethnic, religious and cultural tolerance. The Tbilisi Municipality supports cultural centres (Russian, Azeri and the Caucasus House), sponsors and finances the Petros Adamyan Tbilisi State Armenian Theatre, Tbilisi State Azeri Drama Theatre and A. S. Griboedov Academic Russian Drama Theatre, which is the oldest Georgian theatre (opened in 1845) and which has promoted Georgian and Russian stage classics.

Together with the local authorities, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection carries out different cultural events, festivals, conferences and days of culture (Armenian, Azeri, Lithuanian, Israel etc.). One important cultural event in Georgia was the exhibition dedicated to the 26 centuries old history of the establishment of Jewry in Georgia (held in 1998), which covered the history of the peaceful coexistence of Georgians and Jews. (For more information on languages in Georgia see chapter 4.2.5).

The following NGOs representing cultural minorities are registered in Georgia: the Latvians Association in Georgia "Ave Sol"; "Public Movement Multinational Georgia"; Union of the Russian Women "Yaroslavna"; "Armenians Union in Georgia"; "Ossetins Association in Georgia"; "Kurds Union in Georgia"; "Armenian Youth Union in Georgia"; "Yezid Youth Association in Georgia"; "The Independent League of the Kurd-yezid Women in Georgia"; "The National Congress of the Kurd-yezids in Georgia"; "Einung" – German Association in Georgia; "Union of the Azerbaijani Women in Georgia"; "Hilel-Tbilisi" – Jewish Youth Foundation; "The National Congress of Assyrians in Georgia"; "The Ukrainians Association in Georgia"; "The Georgian Federation of the Greek Associations"; and the Polish Community.

Chapter published: 26-01-2016

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