“Goodwill Ambassadors of Abkhazia,” an organization founded by representatives of the Abkhaz diaspora in Moscow, recently addressed the UN and UNESCO concerning the preservation of ancient Christian churches in Abkhazia and blaming the “destructive politics of Georgia” for damaging them.
In the video address, Goodwill Ambassadors of Abkhazia goes further in accusing Georgia of damaging Abkhazia’s cultural heritage by talking about the 1992-1993 Abkhazian war and claiming that “the troops of the Georgian state council vandalized Abkhazian cultural monuments, burned down the central state archives, and took the unique relics and artefacts that belonged to Abkhaz people.”
Minister of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia Mikheil Giorgadze stated in response that the accusations of purposeful destruction of cultural heritage in Georgia’s own Russian-occupied territories are in no way truthful. He explained that the Georgian government constantly offers professional and financial resources for assessing the physical state of cultural monuments in Abkhazia and for restoring and rehabilitating them.
According to Giorgadze, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia intends to reaffirm their readiness to participate in the rehabilitation of cultural heritage in Abkhazia, stating that many monuments are in horrible condition. Giorgadze also spoke about the unacceptable works carried out on some of the monuments, often due to lack of professionalism and knowledge, as well as the attempt to eradicate Georgian influence.
Indeed, a vast number of cultural heritage monuments and churches in Abkhazia have fallen victim to rough violations of conservation principles.
A few examples include a non-traditional helmet-like dome that has been erected on the Ilori Church of St. George, located in the Ilori village, Ochamchira District of Abkhazia; whitewashed facades and Georgian inscriptions on the Church walls; and the destruction of a unique fresco depicting the first king of unified Georgia in the Bedia monastic complex of the Dormition of the Virgin dating back to the tenth century, located in Bedia, Tkvarcheli district of Abkhazia.
The Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield, which aims to protect Georgia’s cultural heritage, has appealed to numerous international organisations addressing these issues.