long, michael

Progress or Stagnation: Inter-Agency Competition in the Preservation of Georgian Cultural Monuments

Having adopted Christianity as a state religion in the 4th century CE, the Republic of Georgia has a rich heritage of ecclesiastical architecture with extant examples dating from the sixth century.

Throughout history, Georgia’s churches and monasteries have been subject to weathering, decay, and destruction due to a variety of factors. The primary threats to the survival of Georgia’s cultural monuments have been destruction by invading armies; natural threats such as earthquakes and floods; and destruction and neglect as a result of political philosophy and policy toward religion during the nation’s communist era. Since Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union, the preservation and, in certain cases, restoration of these monuments has been a priority not only of the Georgian government, but also of hundreds of architectural historians and other scholars throughout the country.

Independence made it possible for Georgian academics and scholars in 1993 to establish the Georgian National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), headquartered in Paris. The rose revolution in 2003 brought to power a national government which has made the preservation and restoration of cultural monuments a priority. In 2008, President Mikheil Saakashvili decreed the establishment of the National Agency for the Cultural Heritage of Georgia. While both ICOMOS and the Georgian government share mutual aims, their different approaches to the preservation and restoration of Georgia’s cultural heritage have created a sphere of competition, which has had both positive and negative consequences. In this paper, I characterize and discuss competition between national agencies—ICOMOS and the National Agency for the Cultural Heritage of Georgia—against the backdrop of the preservation/ restoration of specific monuments. I will show how on the one hand competition has led to progress and the attainment of objectives, but also how, in some cases, competition has led to stagnation and the cessation of preservation activities on the other hand.

Thursday 25 October 15:15-16:45 Panels V, Panel 14 Politics of Cultural Identity (Hall 14)