The Ministry of Culture has found itself at odds with the Georgian Patriarchate over a report criticising the ministry’s restoration work on the Gelati Monastery in western Georgia.
The report was issued by the Chubinashvili National Research Centre for Georgian Art History and Heritage Preservation, a subagency of the Ministry of Culture.
The centre described the restoration of the monastery as falling ‘far behind modern international standards’.
It cited a November 2022 report made by the Georgian National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which suggested that conservation and restoration work undertaken on Gelati’s murals and frescoes last year were ‘counterproductive’ and would ‘trigger even bigger and more complex issues in the future’.
The Chubinashvili Centre’s report went on to say that the conservation efforts of the Georgian state had been marred by the ‘omission of a scientific perspective in the process of decision-making and evaluation’, as well as by a lack of a ‘common plan’ and ‘orderly methodology’.
The Georgian Ministry of Culture, Sport, and Youth, led by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Tea Tsulukiani, fired back at the Chubinashvili Centre, their subagency, soon after the study was published.
On 31 January, the Ministry accused the report of being politicised, calling it a ‘collection of opinions of a small group of partisan individuals’ and alleged that it was not commissioned by the management of the Chubinashvili Centre, an issue they vowed to ‘probe’.
The Georgian Patriarchate came to the defence of the centre the next day, stressing that it had asked the Chubinashvili Centre to review the conservation work undertaken in Gelati.
‘There is no politics in this matter’, read the statement of the Patriarchate’s press service.
The Chubinashvili Centre has since followed up with another statement, in which it describes the ministry’s reaction as ‘unfortunate’, ‘offensive’ to scientists, and subtly threatening.
Tea Tsulukiani, one of the few remaining original leaders of Georgian Dream, is known for issuing scathing comments against her critics and the media. Her ministry has also been accused of purging employees who were critical of the government.