The Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sport of Georgia submitted a state of conservation report dated 25 January 2008, confirming, in one page, that no significant progress has been made since the last session of the World Heritage Committee.
A joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the Historic Monuments of Mstkheta and to the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Complex invited by the State Party, with some delay due to political factors, took place from 2 to 10 June 2008, met all relevant Georgian representatives, and discussed the following issues:
The new Georgian Law on Cultural Heritage was adopted in June 2007. Different protection zones were defined in this legal instrument. In accordance with this Cultural Heritage Law and the Urban Planning Law, the Protected Areas Plans and Historic-Cultural Plans constitute the base for all urban planning documentation, including the Land Use Plans and General Plans.
The mission evaluated the national protectionzones of Mtskheta approved by the joint Order of the Minister of Culture and the Minister of Economic Development "On the definition of the Cultural Heritage Protection Zones in Mtskheta" of 27 October 2006. The areas approved at the national level by this Order do not correspond to the boundaries of the protection areas of Mtskheta or its monuments, as inscribed on the World Heritage List, and which constitute the legal reference within the framework of the World Heritage Convention. This situation illustrates that the above-mentioned Order was prepared without any link with the World Heritage Convention, its Operational Guidelinesand previous decisions of the World Heritage Committee.
At this time, the main threat to the property is the distribution or sale of lands situated within the protected area of the property, as part of a privatization process without any detailed legal regulations approved in conformity with the expectations of the World Heritage Committee. Numerous proposals submitted by the municipality were already approved by the Ministry of Economic Development without any knowledge of the nomination dossier submitted by Georgia during the inscription of property.
The mission recommended:
a) To inventory all lands already distributed within the protected areas of Mtskheta, and to halt any construction permits and works within the existing protected areas of the World Heritage property as inscribed ;
b) To immediately halt any land distribution or sale, as well as any construction within the protected area of Mtskheta as inscribed in 1994, the preparation and approval in conformity with the World Heritage Convention, its Operational Guidelines, the World Heritage Committee’s decisions of the following documents:
- "Special Statement on protection of World Heritage properties in Georgia" defining the World Heritage property's status, the World Heritage properties' strict protected areas and its buffer zones with all necessary restrictive regulations,
- Boundary clarification document to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, and if relevant, the boundaries modification proposal in order to clarify exact boundaries of protected areas of the World Heritage property and its buffer zones,
- Plan of the protected areas ("Historic-Cultural General Plan"), Land Use Plan ("Plan of Regulation") and Master Plan ("General Urban Plan") of Mtskheta.
The mission also recommended the establishment ofa “Special State Board on World Heritage” in order to officially share the responsibilities between all relevant State institutions and national, local and religious authorities in ensuringan appropriate legal protection and management of the important and outstanding heritage of Georgia.
No management plan exists for the property. The mission noted that the concept of the management plan is not known by the authorities; as such plan does not correspond to the existing documents or rules. The Cultural Heritage Programme prepared each year by the Ministry of Culture is a unique framework for any activity concerning the cultural properties in Georgia, including the World Heritage properties.
The mission recommended that the preparation of a management plan for the World Heritage properties in Georgia should be added, as priority, to the Cultural Heritage Programme.
Management system and institutional framework
The management, monitoring and survey of the property are under the supervision of the Cultural Heritage Department, Ministry of Culture. The Georgian World Heritage Committee, created in 2006, assumes the role of coordinator of World Heritage issues.
The Greater Mtskheta State Archaeological Museum-Reserve, under the Cultural Heritage Department, Ministry of Culture, acts as the local site manager. However, the mission noted that this institution does not fulfill its role as World Heritage site manager as the function has not been clearly defined by the authorities.
A special Commission on Cultural Heritage was also created by the Patriarch of the Georgian Church but its function is still unclear. The responsibility for cultural heritage, management, protected areas, rules of maintenance and use of religious monuments is determined by the relevant State authorities, in accordance with the 2007 Law on Cultural Heritage, and with the 2002 Constitutional Agreement.
Physical conditions of the major components of the nominated property
a) Jvari Church
The mission underlined the serious problems at the Jvari Church. The general state of conservation of the monument is very critical due to the negative influence of natural conditions and climatic change. The conservation works of the Jvari Church should be started immediately involving international experts on stone conservation, as a follow up to the ICCROM training course organized in 2005.
The mission noted that new construction within the vicinity of the Jvari Church had been stopped, and recommended the removal of this inappropriate construction.
b) Svetitskhoveli Cathedral
The missioncommented on structural problems at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral due to factors affecting the monument. The mission noted that no progress has been achieved in order to improve the global monitoring of the structures of the Cathedral. The mission recommended undertaking a global monitoring for the structural stability of the Cathedral and also undertaking special interventions for conservation of the important mural paintings of different periods in the interior of the Cathedral.
c) Samtavro Monastery
The authorities reported that stabilization works were completed between 2002 and 2003. The archaeological remains discovered during the reparation works were recovered by the new floor. The structure of the associated belfry outside of the church, which was in serious danger of collapse, was reinforced.
Within the direct vicinity of the church new monastic cells were recently built but did not affect the functional integrity of the property. However, taking into account the necessity to continue scientific investigation of the area, the lands around the walls should be reserved for relevant archaeological excavations and research studies.
Furthermore, the mission noted serious damage to the archaeological sites of the World Heritage property, which have been completely abandoned by the authorities. There are no conservation, protection and promotion activities in place and nothing has been suggested for the future. The mission confirmed that this part of the World Heritage property has completely lost its authenticity due to vandalism and absence of management.
In general, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS remain greatly concerned by the scope of the problems described even if the mission noted the progress accomplished by the State Party in attempting to prepare a legal and technical basis to address these problems.