7.1 Cultural infrastructure: tendencies & strategies
According to Georgian legislation, cultural organisations (as for other organisations) may have three types of legal status – state, private profit making legal entities and non-profit making (non-state) organisations.
Division of financial liabilities between the state and municipalities is still an on-going issue; this is a good example of an unstable process in the current grave economic conditions. There has been a systematic transfer of various organisations from the control of central government to municipal control and vice versa. There have been many such shuttle movements in 2004-2005 for the following reasons: the imbalance of the legislative base requiring permanent and radical changes (new Law on Public Theatres, ongoing amendments to the Laws on Local Administration and Self-government etc.) and the system of delimitation of references in the making.
For many years the funds of municipal budgets were regular while the allocations from the central budget were less regular. This regularity of municipal allocations would indicate that perhaps municipalities should support the organisations of national importance in their own territories. Tbilisi Municipality would be particularly suitable in this regard in that it operates under its own legislative regime - The Law on the Capital City of Georgia – Tbilisi.
However, the situation is different in the Autonomous Republics. After the establishment of separatist power in Abkhazia and the forcible expatriation of 300 000 people (1993), cultural life is ideologically influenced and does not conform to the cultural policy pursued by the Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport of Georgia.
From 1990-2004 in Ajaria Autonomous Republic there was a political and socio-economic situation which influenced the development of culture. Ajaria did not participate in the wars of the 1990s and therefore preserved the cultural infrastructure of the Soviet period. The Republic had full autonomy of executive power over its own budget, which meant that it did not have to pay taxes to the central budget of Georgia. In light of this healthy budget and in virtue of the political problems, the Ajarian government also avoided the ideological control of the central authorities. Instead, Ajaria developed its own centralised and ideological cultural policy, using strict censorship over the mass media. From 1990-2004 the Batumi Institute of Arts and Batumi State Conservatory were established. The local authorities were most favourable to the development of opera. Performances of the local Theatre of Opera and Ballet involved famous Georgian performers from Tbilisi and from abroad.
However, cultural activities were irregular and were concentrated on the performing arts. No cultural events reached the poor, agrarian regions of Ajaria, as attendance at cultural events were unaffordable for this section of the population whose living standards were extremely low, even compared with standards in Georgia.
In May 2004 after the Rose Revolution, the governing system in Ajaria Autonomous Republic changed. Constitutional reforms were carried out and central Georgian control was enforced in the region. As a result of this central control, the cultural policy of Ajaria started to conform more to the policy pursued by the Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport of Georgia.
No independent councils of culture exist in Georgia.
The comparatively poorly developed private and non-governmental cultural sector (including art galleries, theatres, publishing houses) acts more or less independently from the governmental cultural policy because they are financed either by donors (mainly via international grants) or depend on the market, which is also poorly developed.
As for the mass media, the role of the state was very clear in the period 1990-2004. Prior to the Rose Revolution in November 2003, the government channels were tightly controlled, but private companies operated freely. The post revolutionary period is characterised by a decrease in the mass media market, especially in the regions. Along with the creation of public broadcasting there was a reduced polarisation of the mass media – all companies, with rare exceptions, maintain a policy of political correctness.
In 2007 the situation in mass media was revealed and aggravated in kind of the opposition between independent TV companies "Imedi" and "Caucasia" and pro-governmental TV companies "Rustavi-2", "Alania", "Public Broadcasting", "Mze" ended with the closing of TV company "Imedi" on November 7, 2007 (see chapter 4.2.6).
Since 2005, the Georgian state has supported private investments in the cultural sector. However, there are some issues in relation to the investment climate for culture, especially in respect of cultural monuments; the majority of investors are not interested in and do not want to protect and defend the national values advocated by the state. Under the Law on Culture, the Law on Cultural Heritage (2007) and the Law on the Privatisation of State-owned Property, the cultural heritage of Georgia, as well as other cultural values specified by the Law, are excluded from privatisation.
Some cultural values may be "privatised" in accordance with the Law and with the consent of the relevant ministry, provided that the cultural activity will be preserved for a specific term: for example, the co-owner-entrepreneur intends to build a cinema-city on a part of the territory by restoring the film studio in the centre of Tbilisi.
Recently, there has been a tendency to allow the long-term lease of a part of public spaces and the sale of objects regarded as cultural monuments. Until now, because of the inadequacy of legislation on the protection of cultural heritage, the state has not had the regulating levers to guarantee an investor's liabilities and protection of the cultural heritage. This issue has attracted healthy public protest. The Cultural Heritage Law adopted in 2007 is intended to create such levers and guarantees (see chapter 5.3.3).
These "infringements" have resulted in protests from the public.