Bidzina Ivanishvili: Let’s first make church renovation, then start dispute

The renovation of the Armenian theater in Tbilisi, as well as six churches will be implemented by the means of Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s fund, the Georgian Embassy in Armenia informed earlier this week.

For several years the Armenian churches in Georgia have been a matter of dispute between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church. Armenians demand returning six churches (including St. Nshan, St. Norashen, Mughnetsots St. Gevorg, and others) confiscated in 1920-1930 to their rightful owner-the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Georgian Diocese suggested the creation of a joint committee, to conduct archaeological research and to define the churches’ origin.

Armenian leading specialist in monuments Samvel Karapetyan is concerted by the Georigan position, especially by the fact that the Georgian church even sought to convert the churches into Georgian houses of worship (by eliminating Armenian inscription from the churches). Karapetyan said Georgia conducts a deliberate policy to erase "Armenian traces" from the country’s historical monuments. To note, all six disputed churches are in a very poor situation.

However, Prime Minister Ivanishvili intends first to conduct renovation. “Better I will restore them, and then let scientists determine to which Church it belongs. Otherwise we are going to argue for years, they finally collapse, and there will be nothing left to define,” Ivanishvili was quoted by the Georgian Embassy in Yerevan.

During 2012 Ivanishvili’s visit to Yerevan a program on cooperation 2013-2015 was signed between Armenia and Georgia by the countries’ culture ministries. Ivanishvili said his government would do everything possible to have Armenian-Georgian relations become the best in history.

After Ivanishvili’s visit to Yerevan, a commission to study the state of the Armenian churches was set up in Georgia, which includes representatives of the Ministry of Culture, the Georgian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic and Georgian Orthodox churches and civic organizations. At this stage, the commission study and assess the churches for the restoration and preservation works.

As for the theatre’s renovation, the Petros Adamyan Tbilisi State Armenian Drama Theatre is in emergency condition. It was established in 1858 and is the main cultural center for an estimated 300,000 strong Armenian community of Georgia.