"Delegates from 150 countries stood and applauded the Georgian Alphabet” – Georgian Monuments of Cultural Heritage on the List of UNESCO
26 April, 2019
"Delegates from 150 countries stood and applauded the Georgian Alphabet” – Georgian Monuments of Cultural Heritage on the List of UNESCO
Georgian monuments of cultural heritage have been added to its List of by UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which was founded on 16 November 1945. Its headquarters are located in Paris, France. Currently, UNESCO has 195 member states and 9 associate members.

2017 was one of the most important years for Georgia in terms of cultural heritage. What is the importance of being on the List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and what does the status
granted by the organization mean? - Nikoloz Antidze, Head of the Cultural Heritage Protection Agency of Georgia talks about this issue in his interview with our journal.
"The essential requirements for inclusion of a property in the List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage is that the property should be practicable. A country might once have had a tradition but if it has been lost and no longer practicable, no matter how unique it might be, it will not be included in the List. Hence the Georgian Alphabet and wine on the World Heritage List. Georgian wines, in particular, the Qvevri winemaking method was included in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. Georgian wrestling was submitted to UNESCO for the consideration in 2017 and the issue of adding it to the List is to be discussed this year. It usually takes the advisory bodies a year to consider heritage items submitted to them.

Georgian polyphony, which has been on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2001, has been proclaimed by UNESCO a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; winemaking method was also included among 19 unique and intangible masterpieces of the world. The list was enriched by adding the Georgian Alphabet to it in 2017.
A remarkable thing happened for Georgia in 2017– UNESCO added the ancient Georgian alphabet onto the list of the World's Intangible Cultural Heritage. I have to admit that my expectations for the event to be grandly celebrated throughout the country and being resonant among the Georgians did not come true. Our Alphabet is the first among the 14 Alphabets existing in the world to be entered onto the List of the World Heritage and it is the only Alphabet to have three coexisting versions: Mrgvlovani, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli, and this fact have been recognized by the world. I felt so proud to see the delegates from more than 150 countries standing and applauding the nomination when I attended the discussion in Ethiopia.

- What is the importance of being on the List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage?

- First of all, it means raising awareness of the country. Being on the World Heritage List is of great importance in terms of awareness raising. In the international arena, this results in the increased interests in the country. It is important for promoting sustainability in tourism development; also, being on the UNESCO List paves the way for scientific research and funding and various other activities, both at national and international levels.

UNESCO's World Heritage List is currently represented by 1073 monuments, including 3 Cultural Heritage Monuments from Georgia: Historical Monuments of Mtskheta (added to the World Heritage List in 1994); Gelati Monastery (added to the World Heritage List in 1994); Upper Svaneti (added to the World Heritage List in 1996). Bagrati Cathedral used to be on the List but, unfortunately, it was removed from the List in 2017.

One can often hear the question of why the Bagrati Cathedral was removed from the World Heritage List. The methodology is the most important factor, i.e. the monument must be restored so that its original appearance is maintained. The main mistake while restoring Bagrati Cathedral was the deadline. The plan was to restore the Cathedral in two years. Such a massive project and restoration works were completed in an unreasonably short period of time, and hence the mistakes.
To quote the report made by some advisory bodies after having evaluated the process of restoration of Bagrati Cathedral: "the restoration works proceeded so fast that they failed to reuse more than 400 authentic stone constructions." There are hundreds of stones in the yard of the Cathedral, which means that the method of maintaining the authenticity of the monument was ignored and new material was used, some of the original stones were used, but not 400 stones. This means that there were some major flaws in the project. Bagrati Cathedral has lost its outstanding universal value. Bagrati Cathedral was added to the World Heritage List as a ruin and a semi-archeological monument and UNESCO did not favor the idea of its full restoration”.

- Which historical monuments are planned to be submitted to the UNESCO this year?

- We are currently working on a new list of nominations. We plan to select the part of the heritage which meets the UNESCO requirements. We're working on criteria and I can name the monuments we are considering to add to this list. According to the preliminary list, these monuments include Tusheti, which will almost surely apply as a mixed nomination (nature and heritage), i.e. the entire region of Tusheti. The second on the list is Vardzia-Khertvisi-Florida, which is very important and the canyon there can be described as being of great value from the historical viewpoint as well as a cultural landscape, the third is Dmanisi primordial human monument and, the fourth, we think, can be the Enguri HPP, which is world-class attraction and one of the outstanding engineering structures, part of the industrial heritage. We are now working with UNESCO to present these four monuments and we have daily consultations concerning the above mentioned.

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