On 2 August, Nikoloz Mzhavanadze, the presenter of “Dgis Shejameba” [“Sumarr of the day”] program aired on the TV Sezoni broadcasting company, said that the US has not earmarked any of its assistance for the preservation of religious buildings and that the Gelati restoration was an exception to the rule.
Nikoloz Mzhavanadze: “… From those 6 billion spent [by the Americans], I wonder has even 1 million been spent on the construction of a church? They keep harping on about the money they allocated for the restoration of Gelati and we have seen how that restoration played out; have they done anything else?! And then they are surprised about anti-American sentiments in the country… that no one recalls anything made by them.”
The statement of Nikoloz Mzhavanadze is false, because a number of religious buildings and other monuments of cultural heritage have been saved and restored with the assistance provided by the US government as well as private US foundations. The works included the conservation of Jvari Monastery in Mskheta, stabilization and preservation of a mural in Tetri Udabno church of Davit Gareji monastery complex, restoration of icons in the Svaneti Museum, to name but a few.
Over the past three decades, a large number of all the projects implemented for the protection of Georgia’s cultural heritage were supported by international, including US foundations. Numerous grants have been awarded to Georgia from private or public foundations of the United States for the aim to preserve both tangible and intangible cultural heritage and to support the development of cultural organizations.
- World Monuments Fund (WMF) is a private US organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites. With the WMF funding, a number of projects were implemented in Georgia, including the emergency measures necessary to preserve Pitareti Monastery in 1996; this was the first ever international grant in the field of culture awarded to Georgia since regaining the independence, which was followed by the conservation of the bell-tower of the monastery in 1998. The projects supported by the WMF envisaged works on other churches and monasteries too, including the works for the preservation of Timotesubani Monastery and frescoes therein in 2000-2006, the conservation of Ikorta Monastery (2003) and Jvari Monastery.
A number of projects were financed for the preservation of monuments of architecture in Tbilisi, including a comprehensive study and documentation of the Betlemi district in 2000 and after a severe earthquake in 2002, an emergency stabilization plan for the same district in partnership with ICOMOS Georgia; also, the restoration of Tbilisi Synagogue in 2004-2004.
- Getty Foundation is a cultural and philanthropic private institution in the USA. The Foundation financed four large-scale projects in Georgia, including: preparatory work for the conservation of monuments in Chazhashi Village (Upper Svaneti), implemented by ICOMOS Georgian National Committee in 1999 (budget: $59,400); Martvili Church and later, the conservation of the frescoes in the church, implemented in cooperation with the International Art Center in 2003-2008 (the total budget of around $200,000).
In 2018, the funding ($134,000) was awarded to “Conservation and Sustainable Use of Modernist Architecture in Georgia”, a project of the Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield, which envisaged the implementation of measures necessary for the preservation of Tbilisi Chess Palace and Alpine Club.
- American Friends of Georgia is a nonprofit organization established in 1994, which in cooperation with the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia was actively involved in the restoration of Queen Daredjan’s Palace in 2014-2019. This organization also implements cultural educational projects, such as Art Rehabilitation and Education Center in Nikozi, International Animation Film Festival, etc.
As regards the government bodies of the USA, over the past two decades, the US Embassy has been actively supporting the projects for the protection of Georgia’s cultural heritage. Since the inception in 2001, the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) has funded the projects with the total value of $ 2 000 000.
The projects implemented throughout that period were aimed at preserving churches and monasteries, including the conservation of Gelati Monastery and its murals (five separate projects in 2003, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016), Ateni Sioni Church (2004, the budget of $29,929), Jvari Monastery in Mtskheta (2019 and 2020, approximately $600,000), Arbo St. George Church and Tirdznisi Holy Trinity Church (2009, $49,500).
The protection of historic monuments and archeological sites: the conservation of Uplistsikhe (2018, $100,000), the Roman settlement in Khovle (2008, $18,887) and Armazi archeological site (2010, $42,846). Stabilization and conservation of murals, implemented in Tetri Udabno church of Davit Gareji monastery complex (2007, $13,665). Furthermore, a large number of projects envisaged the study and restoration of movable monuments of cultural heritage, including icons and manuscripts in the Svaneti Museum, engraved book covers of gospels in the National Center of Manuscripts, the textile and embroidery collections at the Shalva Amiranashvili Art Museum, etc. As regards other intangible heritage, one of the first Georgian projects financed by the US Embassy was the protection of Georgian folk music through the conservation of recordings.
Moreover, the USAID implemented a five-year project Zrda [“Growth”] in Georgia, with the aim to support an inclusive and sustainable economic growth. This project assisted cultural heritage institutions too; in particular, USAID/Zrda provided GEL 500,000 in support to 15 regional museums in Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Tusheti municipalities.
On the same topic, please, see:
- Myth that the West Is Fighting against Georgia’s Cultural Identity Is Misleading
- Myth, as if the NGOs are against Cultural Heritage, Is Groundless
Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield
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