Georgia is rich in the diversity of ethnic, religious and cultural groups, which has given the country a unique and centuries-old experience of intercultural dialogue. According to the 2014 census, ethnic minorities make up about 14% of the population.
According to the data of UNESCO CULTURE FOR DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS, Georgia’s Analytical and Technical Report, 2017, tolerance towards other cultures is indicated at 66.23%. This indicator determines the level of readiness for intercultural dialogue as well as the level of interaction within the community. A similar figure reflects respect for cultural diversity in state policy-making, which is converted into Georgian legislation and strategic documents.
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. 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 that 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 (2006).
In 2008 Georgia acceded to the UNESCO Paris Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
On June 28, 2013, the Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Culture, the first in the region, was held and the Tbilisi Declaration was developed, which is based on the principles established in the 2005 UNESCO Paris Convention.
In 2014, Georgia signed the Association Agreement, under which it undertook to develop and deepen intercultural dialogue.
In 2016, the Culture Strategy 2025 was adopted, the Strategic Goal “Access to Culture and Cultural Diversity” of which provides: “Goal: Culture is accessible to all members of society and the freedom of cultural expression is safeguarded.”
2.2. Objective: All members of society, including vulnerable groups, youth and minorities are actively engaged in cultural life and have access to cultural infrastructure and resources.
2.4. Objective: Cultural diversity, freedom of expression of different cultures and their interaction empowers the state and contributes to society’s development.”
Some state authorities such as the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Public Defender’s Office, The Tolerance Centre, The Council of Minorities and Council of Religions, public TV and radio – broadcasting companies, the municipal culture services – have responsibilities related to minorities and intercultural dialogue.
Under the Law on Broadcasting(Article 16, paragraph l), public broadcasting shall “broadcast a number of programmes in certain proportions prepared in the languages of minorities, about minority groups and programmes prepared by minorities.” 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 the so called “South Ossetia”. Local community broadcasting companies also provide coverage of various spheres within their broadcasting, including the cultural life of minorities and national intercultural dialogue.
The majority of issues related to minorities are dealt with on the municipal level. 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). Three museums address the cultural identity of ethnic minorities of Georgia – David Baazov Museum of Georgian Jews and Georgian Jewish Relations History Museum, Mirza Fatali Akhundov Azerbaijani Culture Museum, and the Smirnovs’ Museum.
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.
One of the third sector unions engaged in the introduction and promotion of intercultural dialogue in Georgia is the Public Movement “Multinational Georgia” and the Centre for Cultural Relations of Georgia – Caucasian House – is a cultural, educational and peacekeeping institution (it receives state financial support).
The following NGOs representing cultural minorities are registered in Georgia: the Latvian Association in Georgia “Ave Sol”; “Public Movement Multinational Georgia”; Union of 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 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.
Examples of good practice and collaboration between an NGO, government and international organization is the “Diverse Georgia – Civil Society Platform for Cultural Diversity and the Elaboration of a Package of the Non-Governmental Sector Recommendations Concerning the Implementation of the Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” Project by YTA Union. (Support by PARTICIPATION PROGRAMME, UNESCO).