Politics and Culture in the Context of State-Society Relations

How do the state and politics define the formulation of culture into one officially sanctioned “ideologized” direction, and what should state policy be to allow for an open, free and inclusive environment? Is there a “radical” change in Georgian culture, and is the preservation of existing cultural memory necessary for public development? These were some of the issues discussed during a public discussion organized in Batumi on September 21 by the Heinrich Boell Foundation. The Press Café discussion club opened up its doors to an audience that was interested in participating in the discussion of “Politics and Culture in the Context of State-Society Relations.” Key speakers included Giorgi Masalkin, philosopher, Gogi Gvakharia, cinema expert, Magda Tsotskhalashvili, cultural manager of “Tiflisis Hamqari” and Lali Pertenava, arts and cultural networking program coordinator at OSGF.

The speakers pointed out radical changes that took place after the Rose Revolution, and these were visible in architecture. Our town is a good example of how a leader’s taste is reflected while promoting a certain field. Giorgi Masalkin recalled the years of Abazhidze’s rule, when he prioritized ballet and opera. During this period, the Batumi Circus and Spring Theater were burned down, and the Drama Theater and movie theaters were closed. Only two segments under classic regulations were developed, which does not allow for spontaneous, unexpected development. This is very different from the style of the circus, movies or theater. Kitsch instead of classic was obvious. However, according to the speaker, the public alongside the regime creates priorities. Magda Tsotskhalashvili believes that over the past 8-9 years, Georgia lost many historic neighborhoods and monuments that were invaluable for architectural and cultural heritage. It is obvious that the public’s ignorance and government’s attitude impose significant threats to the preservation of cultural heritage. Lali Pertenava believes that civic activeness on this issue is of vital importance. She noted that in spite of the existing socio-economic conditions and necessity for the government to take active steps towards its improvement, preservation of cultural heritage is essential for our country.

Is there a mixture of political and cultural elites? Giorgi Gvakharia believes that the political elite of Georgia decided that our culture was more of an “operetta culture, or quasi-opera. Opera is a transparent house, but there is no transparency – it seems like singing, but there is no singing. Therefore, it is necessary for the operetta star to be the face of Georgian culture…with all its innocence and vocal possibilities.” Finally, Gvakharia spoke of the mistakes made by these people. “These arrogant people had their plans fall apart through a reality show. This reality show worked against the people who invented this culture.”