Following the October Revolution of 1917, the Republic of Georgia emerged as an independent democratic state. While independence was short lived (1918-1921), it was an important period during which the foundations for cultural policy were established. The main aims of Georgian cultural policy were to introduce democratic processes and to preserve national identity. An important achievement was the opening of the State University (1918) as a centre for scientific and cultural life.
The period of Soviet influence was as dramatic in Georgia as in other Republics of the Soviet Union. Stalin’s rule (1929-1953) was characterised as a period of unconditional and implicit power over the official culture and ideology. Brezhnev’s time in office (1964-1981) was considered a period of cultural stagnation. While the grip of Stalin’s totalitarian system loosened, a conflict began to emerge within Georgia between the Communist system and the proponents of a Georgian national culture. Following perestroika, this conflict intensified, not only between the communistic bureaucracy and the national liberation movement but also between Soviet culture and Georgian culture based on non-ideological arts.
During this period, two events had a dramatic effect on the development and establishment of contemporary Georgian culture and identity. In 1978, following the adoption of a new Soviet constitution in Moscow, a proposal was put forward to change the constitutional status of the Georgian language as the official language of Georgia, which met with mass protest. These marches led to the formation of the national liberation movement and the April 9th 1989 anti-Soviet demonstration which was quashed by the Soviet army and led to several tragic deaths.
The paternalistic cultural policy pursued by the Soviet Union did have some positive influences on Georgian culture. It created an extensive network and well-functioning infrastructure of public cultural institutions; a well-shaped and widely accessible academic system of education supporting the arts and science; high culture, which was understood as a neutral link in state building; and a growth in mass culture consumption. Despite the ideological influences of official Soviet culture – nationalist in its shape and socialist in its content – there were some important creative achievements in Georgian theatre, cinema, art and music, created by outstanding artists and cultural professionals. These achievements helped to develop an understanding of culture as a system of values which determines and forms national identity and, as a result, unites the nation.
The post-Soviet period in the history and cultural development of Georgia is complicated and contradictory. Elections were held in 1990 and on April 9th 1991 the Parliament of Georgia unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence (under the first Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia) which established the Republic of Georgia as a new independent state. Between 1991 and 1992, Georgia lost control over the region of Inner Kartli, formerly the South-Ossetian Autonomous Territory, the Tbilisi War broke out and the government of Gamsakhurdia was overthrown. Edward Shevardnadze came to power (March 1992) and the political situation stabilised. Peace was established in Georgia and there was an increased drive towards building a new state. This did not last long, however. Supporters of the former president Gamsakhurdia engaged in successful military operations in Abkhazia. On September 27th 1993, Georgian authorities lost control over almost all of the territory of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic.
During the period 1993-2003, Georgia faced financial problems and engaged in a political overhaul aimed at balancing national and liberal-democratic ideas. The cultural infrastructure that remained from the Soviet period required reform. Cultural policy in Georgia had no clear strategic focus, even though it was declared as one of the state’s priorities. Support for the arts was the extent of the reach of the state’s policies.
The Rose Revolution took place on 23rd November 2003, after which President Shevardnadze retired. Since 2004, the country has being undergoing continuous reforms, including those of a constitutional nature.
During the period 1990-2004, Georgia had 6 different Ministers of Culture. Since 2004, cultural affairs, sports and youth affairs have been combined into one Ministry. Structural changes within the Ministry are ongoing.
Georgia has experienced many political and socio-cultural changes during the 20th century. Those which occurred over the past 25 years were the result of revolution and conflict; the most recent in the territory of so-called South Ossetia, and the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic (August 2008). Given these developments, it has been extremely difficult to install a sustainable system of policy development. In the field of culture, it has indeed prevented the creation and implementation of a long-term cultural strategy.
In October 2012 Parliamentary elections were held whereupon the power for the first time was handed over peacefully.
Main features of the current cultural policy model
The development of cultural policy in Georgia over the past 20 years (1990-2012) can be characterised by 4 distinct stages (even though they are unequal in duration and character):
The first stage (1990-1992), was a period of rebuilding an independent Georgian state and was characterised by contradictions and dramatic events. Changes were initiated in the framework of the persisting Soviet style system. The model of cultural policy chosen by the first national government was aimed at creating a separate Georgian policy for culture.
The second stage (1993-2003), can be even further divided into: a) a period of war and devastation (1992-1994) when the entire state policy was aimed at struggling against centrifugal trends and therefore could not pursue a purposeful cultural policy; b) a period of formation of state structures in territories controlled by the state (1995-99) with a neutrally homogenous policy; c) a period (2000-2003) anticipating the foundation of a decentralisation policy.
On the one hand, in 2001 amendments were made to the Law on Local Administration and Self-government (1997) which reinforced decentralisation, and on the other hand the presidential vertical power was still upheld by the “rtsmunebuli” institute. In view of these two conflicting approaches, the cultural policy model which evolved at this time was of a contradictory nature. The extension of independence for municipalities was declared theoretically. Although the state adopted the Law on Local Administration and Self-government, further laws evolving the practicalities of decentralisation were not passed, i.e. Bills on Local and Municipal Property and Budgets. Without these practical laws, the bodies of local administration and self-government found themselves without the appropriate power instruments. Institutional reform in the sphere of culture was not implemented during this period.
The third “revolutionary and post-revolutionary” phase (2003-2005) saw the recentralisation of cultural policy development supported by legislative / constitutional changes and in the extension and unification of infrastructure. This period was characterised by the need for the central government to restore the jurisdiction of the Georgian state over the entire territory of Georgia. The idea that art and culture could assist in economic growth, expansion of exports and employment and reinforce positive factors in the building of the state had not yet become popular. More recently, an entrepreneurial approach has been taken cultural policy (see chapter 3.1). This does not mean that operators are to rely solely on private sources of support but rather attempts to apply some market logic to the cultural sector. There are concerns that the privatisation of culture could produce very negative results in the hands of potential unfair investors.
The period from 2008-2012 (from the presidential elections of January 5th 2008) is marked by an intensification of centralised power, a weakening of self-governing institutions, self-censorship of the mass media and, consequently, a growth in the role of the state structures (Ministry of Culture and Cultural Heritage) in financing and administration of cultural policy.
In the period from 2012 to 2018, the cultural policy can be divided into two stages – the period of cohabitation of two political forces (The National Movement vs. Georgian Dream) in 2012-2014 and the period of development of the Culture Strategy in 2015-2017.
- 2012-2013 – In the first period of the Georgian Dream’s ruling (the cohabitation stage) the cultural policy was homogeneous.
- From the second half of 2013, the use of expert methods started: in July, the Commission for Development of Culture policy and Strategy was created, which for the first time during the period of Georgian independence developed a concept of cultural policy (although the concept was not officially approved).
- On March 1st, 2013 the Basic Principles of the Strategy for Decentralization and Development of Self-Government for 2013-2014 were approved, but no decentralization of relevant resources nor management in the field of culture was implemented
- On June 17, 2014 the Social-economic Development Strategy “Georgia 2020” was approved. The state strategy did not mention culture, which indicates the lack of relevance cultural policy had at this stage of the Georgian Dream´s ruling.
- 2015 – A stage of intensive and systematic development of cultural strategy started.
- 2015-2016 – The use of expert methods was intensified, in order to reflect on three types of activities necessary to set the standard for a new cultural policy, such as:
- Determination of the cultural values, priorities and goals;
- Development and implementation of initiatives, actions and financing programs;
- Policy monitoring.
Before the adoption of the “Culture Strategy 2025” only the second activity was prioritised. Despite the annual declaration of priorities and goals by the Ministry of Culture since 2004, systemising values and strategic vision has always been a weakness of the state, and monitoring has not been considered a significant part of the cultural policy.
With this background, under the Decree N 303 of the Government of Georgia, a modern and long-term document stating the Georgian national cultural policy, “Culture Strategy 2025”, was approved on July 1st, 2016 – providing the Georgian state with such a strategic document for the first time in its history.
The strategy is an attempt to select a culture policy model that will aids its systematic and sustainable development. It consists of the following elements:
- Strategic long-term planning
- Integrated approaches
- Mobilizing resources
- Vision based on the balance of the global and local
Vision of the Strategy: “Georgia is a creative country and regional hub where innovation and creativity, along with safeguarding and revitalising national heritage and cultural diversity are the fundamental pillars of social wellbeing and sustainable development.”
The mission of the Government of Georgia: “is to create a favourable and enriched environment where national heritage and cultural diversity are well-preserved and their potential is fully unleashed, creative businesses are developed and the diversity of cultural life is encouraged.”
Cultural policy objectives
The priorities of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia for 2011-2014 are:
- Priority 1: Promotion of the art education system;
- Priority 2: Building of a positive image of Georgia worldwide;
- Priority 3: Promotion of the cultural heritage and improvement of the museum system; and
- Priority 4: Promotion of various art fields.
After the Russia-Georgia military conflict in 2008, the cultural policy of the separatist governments in the breakaway “independent” republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia has been openly nationalistic and anti-Georgian. In particular, this relates to the immovable monuments of cultural heritage (see chapter 3.1) and teaching and use of the Georgian language (see chapter 2.5.4). The Georgian state has opposed this policy using legal measures (Law on Occupied Territories, see chapter 4) and financial tools (financing of programmes for reintegration and integration, promotion of culture of national minorities).
Special attention will be paid, in the joint strategic priorities of the Ministries of Culture and Monument Protection and Internal Affairs of Georgia for 2011-2014, to the active involvement of UNESCO in the problems of protection of cultural heritage and the education sphere in the Georgian territories occupied by Russia.
On 15 October 2010, the new Constitution of Georgia was adopted, which changes the system from a presidential state model to a mixed parliamentary-presidential model. Consequently, the powers of the prime minister and the Parliament were strengthened and the presidential functions have diminished. The Constitution takes effect step by step: the section regarding judicial power has been put into force already, while the section regarding the functions of the prime minister, parliament and president will take effect after the next parliamentary and presidential elections (end of 2012, 2013).
In 2011, in the context of the adoption of the new Constitution and the declaration of the entrepreneurial model of cultural policy, the theme of correlating culture and the economy is emphasised:
- employment in the culture sphere;
- support for investment and tourism; and
- development and support of the “creative industries” (the sphere of culture is defined as the creative industry and is consequently considered as one sector of the economy).
After the 2012 Parliamentary and 2013 Presidential Elections, the government developed the strategic document – Main Data and Trends of the Country for 2013-2016, Tbilisi, 2013 and the governmental programme – For a Strong, Democratic and United Georgia. They determine the approaches to culture and its role in state building.
As a result of the activities to be implemented in the cultural sphere Georgia will become a worthy member of the contemporary world. This goal is served by the elaboration of the strategic plan of culture development where principles to be taken into consideration include: the free activity of Georgian citizens in the cultural sphere and ensuring non-interference of the government in the creative process.
Sole decisions on the part of the authorities will be excluded and the integration of the Georgian cultural space into the world cultural space will be promoted. Cultural heritage will be protected according to worldwide recognised standards. The rehabilitation process will be conducted with due account to international standards, recommendations of UNESCO and other international organisations.
In 2015 the law to guarantee Georgian as the official language was adopted by an emergency measure.
In 2013, Georgia made a significant step towards European integration: on 29 November in Vilnius, at the Eastern Partnership Summit, Georgia initialled the EU Association Agreement. The Association Agreement will replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed in 1996 and will create a new legal framework of cooperation between Georgia and the EU. Compared with the PCA, the Association Agreement is a comprehensive and politically and inclusively stronger document which raises the cooperation between Georgian and EU in all priority directions to a totally new level.
Throughout the year 2013, the government of Georgia developed various strategic documents related to the Association Agreement; the most significant document is the Georgia 2020 Project for the social-economic development strategy of the country presented in November 2013, where the country’s ambition to be a country built on European values and to accomplish political and economic integration with European was declared. Other documents also include the main principles of the strategy for decentralisation of the government of Georgia and self-government development for 2013-2014, the National Security Concept of Georgia and the Strategy of the Government of Georgia on communication and information on European integration issues for 2014-2017.
In this context the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia began work on its own strategic document. Under Order N03/121 of the Ministry of July 29th 2013 an ad hoc Commission for development of cultural policy and strategy was established.
The Commission has developed the first strategic document – the project of Cultural Policy Concept for the Transitional Period (2014-2016) which gives top priority to interdisciplinary research. According to the project, the concept of Georgian cultural policy is based on universally recognised principles and the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (Paris, 20 October, 2005). Based on this concept, a unified strategy for cultural policy and a national plan of action as well as strategies and plans for the arts for the next period will be created.
The draft Concept of Cultural Policy was developed by seven local experts and presented to the Ministry. The document is the first of its kind in Georgia and, while stating the cultural values, lays out propositions for the main directions for the development of culture in Georgia. The expert panel developed the concept based on questionnaires, “round tables”, and consultations with stakeholders in the cultural sectors. However, in early 2014 the top leaders of the Ministry were replaced and work on the cultural policy concept was suspended and the draft document was not adopted on the official level.
The process of cultural policy development has been characterised by a series of PR actions.
On July 9th 2014 a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia and 31 nongovernmental organisations. The Memorandum implies cooperation with nongovernmental organisations in the process of development of the cultural policy document.
Since the new minister and top management took office in 2014, the development of a cultural policy strategy for Georgia has been initiated. The draft concept of 2013 serves as one of the inputs to this process. The new overture implies the process of development of a comprehensive strategy that will involve national and local authorities and legal entities as well as civil society. It aims for outcomes that will be approved by the government but to a large extent will be adopted by the cultural sector.
An EU cultural policy expert provided by the Regional Monitoring and Capacity Building Unit (RMCBU) under the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme supports and advises the ministry and the cultural sector in this process.
A conference devoted to the development of the natural cultural strategy – “The Georgian Cultural Strategy: Human, Processes, Priorities” was held on January 30th 2015. This conference became a new phase in the development of the cultural policy strategy.
The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia has launched a cultural strategy elaboration process. The Government of Georgia is expected by the end of 2015 to adopt the long–term Strategy for Culture 2025 and the first Action Plan 2016/2017 for implementing the strategy. The aim of Culture 2025 is to set a long‐term vision for culture and creativity for Georgia that highlights the intrinsic value of culture as well as the potential that culture plays in developing the economy, strengthening identity and enhancing social cohesion. The aim of the Action Plan is to identify short‐term priorities and key activities to revive the cultural and creative sectors and unleash the potential for rebuilding a coherent society by suggesting concrete and necessary cultural policy reforms.
To foster good cultural governance, the Culture 2025 elaboration process has been established on the principles of transparency and inclusiveness. The drafting of the strategy will be conducted in a participatory manner with the collaboration of professionals representing Georgian cultural and creative sectors (the arts, heritage and creative industries).
To coordinate the strategy elaboration and drafting process, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection established a Culture Strategy Coordination Group that is composed of professionals from the Georgian cultural and creative sectors. The Coordination Group was chaired by the Head of the Culture Policy Unit of the Ministry of Culture.
For the professionals from the cultural and creative sectors, activity within the Coordination Group is a voluntary engagement in the interest of developing Georgian culture.
On July 1st, 2016, the Government of Georgia by its decree approved the long-term document of development of the Georgian culture “Cultural Strategy 2025”.
The document has been developed by the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection with the involvement of the general public and the interdepartmental commission of the Georgian Government. This novelty in Georgian history defines the state´s cultural vision, mission and objectives, the implementation of which will contribute to a step by step solution for various problems and challenges that different cultural sectors are facing.
“The Culture Strategy 2025”, in addition to the traditional directions of culture, focuses on the creative industries, including the promotion of creative start-ups that will be beneficial for the country’s socio-economic development.
The culture strategy development process began in 2014 with the elaboration of the guidelines, which have defined the main principles of the Strategy: openness, transparency and inclusiveness.
The process has involved the general public: a total of 53 meetings with various professional groups were held across the country (30 in Tbilisi and 23 in the regions), in which more than 3000 people took part. The culture strategy development process has involved the media, non-governmental and international organizations, ethnic minorities, as well as people with disabilities and other interest groups.
Parallel to the meetings, the consultations were held where the comments and recommendations were shared in writing and through a variety of electronic resources (the website www.cultureandsports.gov.ge, email, a hotline, a special online questionnaire, etc.).
The strategy development process was implemented in close cooperation with the European Union and was assessed positively by the European Union and the Council of Europe.
The Culture Strategy aims to define a long-term vision on the development of culture and the creative sector in order to underline their value for and importance to the national identity, the social unity and sustainable development of the country.
Based on the consultation, 8 main strategic goals were identified:
- Raising awareness and education
- Access to culture and cultural diversity
- Culture and other key areas
- Funding of culture
- Cultural infrastructure and new technologies
- Creative industries
- Internationalisation of vulture
- Principles of the governance of culture
Achieving them will create an environment where:
- The value of culture and creativity is understood by the society and it is integrated into every level of education;
- Culture is accessible to each member of society notwithstanding their locality, and where cultural diversity is protected and supported;
- Culture and creativity are seen as an integral part of the country’s development, that will create additional innovative opportunities for strengthening other sectors and will support Georgia’s sustainability and well-being;
- Employment in the field of culture is attractive and adequately valued;
- Cultural infrastructure corresponds to people´s needs and provides them with modern, high quality products and services;
- Funding of culture is stable and funding mechanisms are diverse and transparent;
- Cultural policy is based on research; where professionals and and the wider society is involved in an open and transparent policy process;
- Culture and creativity are important sources of jobs, economic growth and innovation; aiding a successful environment for individual creative expression.
The Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia created a two-year action plan for implementation of the strategy (the Intradepartmental Action Plan of Culture Strategy 2017-2018) of which the priorities and objectives were identified for the years 2017-2018. An Interagency Action Plan of Culture Strategy Implementation was developed for 2017-2018 too.
In accordance with the Culture Strategy 2025, the development of thematic/sectoral strategies, action plans and roadmaps started, and the reports on implemented action plans were published.
In 2017 the following documents were developed:
- Roadmap for Ensuring Equal Participation of People with Disabilities in Georgia’s Cultural and Creative Life, https://tinyurl.com/ydydxnpx
- Action Plan for Ensuring Equal Participation of People with Disabilities in Georgia’s Cultural and Creative Life, 2017-2018.
The following documents are in process of development for the purpose of improving cultural governance:
- Action Plan for Protection and Popularization of Cultural Heritage and Values on the Occupied Territories of Georgia
- Action Plan for Maintenance, Study and Popularization of the Georgian Cultural Heritage Abroad and the so called “shared” Cultural Heritage existing in the Country
- Action Plan for Protection and Emergency Management of Real and Movable Objects of Cultural Heritage during Emergency Situations
- Cultural Heritage Code
- Roadmap and Action Plan for Art and Culture Education
- Study and Action Plan for Out-of-school Art Education Facilities
The following reports have been prepared and published:
- Creative Georgia – for Sustainable Development – The Culture Strategy 2025, First Year Report.
- Report of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia 2015-2016
- Report of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia 2013-2015
- Report of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia 2012-2013 – Culture in Figures
Reports on international legal acts that have been carried out:
- The first national report on the Council of Europe’s European Landscape Convention implementation was prepared
- Report on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – Section of Culture
- The first report of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – Section of Culture
The priorities of the 2017-2018 Action Plan for Implementation of the Culture Strategy were:
- Art education development, awareness raising;
- Creative industries development, internationalization;
- Development of cultural infrastructure and facilitating public access to culture;
- Improving culture management.
Priorities for 2018 are as follows:
- To start gradual transition to the culture governance reform and public funding model;
- To start the art education reform;
- To approve the Cultural and Natural Heritage Code;
- To develop the cultural infrastructure (15.8 million GEL from the state budget);
- To rehabilitate cultural heritage monuments (up to 40 monuments – 6 million GEL).
The following significant events were outlined in 2018:
- Participation in the Frankfurt Book Fair as a honorary guest – up to 100 cultural and up to 500 literature events;
- International Forum “Creative Georgia”;
- Conducting up to 50 festivals;
- Promoting participation in up to 200 student/youth study, competitions/festivals;
- UNESCO will consider Georgian Wrestling to be entered in the World Intangible Heritage List.