Shared Heritage: Capacity Building: Georgia
Georgian scholars, scientists, and preservationists had many of the same needs as their counterparts in Azerbaijan, but also some unique ones. For example, the project supported extensive architectural studies to minimize the impacts on standing monuments and furthered the restoration of specific historical structures on or near the pipeline route. The Georgian Cultural Heritage Protection Department played a large role in determining a route that would ensure that the most significant sites near the project right-of-way were avoided. Most efforts focused on planning protective measures for at-risk sites, and specific protection or mitigation measures were developed for each of them.
An excellent example is the approach taken to ensure conservation and preservation of the Tadzrisi Monastery complex. The complex consists of two churches standing side by side, St. George’s (a three-nave basilica) and St. Mary’s, as well as the ruins of a monastery building. The monastery was the most important ecclesiastic center in the 10th-15th centuries AD in Georgia; its origin is associated with eminent Georgian religious leaders in the Early Middle Ages. It was temporarily abandoned following an invasion by the Ottoman Turks in the 1550s. St. George’s Church is the most prominent remnant of the monastery and a pilgrimage site for Georgians to this day. Although the ruins of the Monastery are not directly on the pipeline route, BTC/SCP funded conservation and restoration of both churches and the monastery’s courtyard.
The result is an aesthetically pleasing and historically accurate site with two fully operational historic churches. In a letter of gratitude to BP, local residents wrote, “This was a sign of great respect towards Georgian cultural heritage… [which] strengthened our positive attitude towards pipeline construction.”
In addition to these preservation efforts, the project has supported two museum exhibitions of some of the exciting finds unearthed along the pipeline route. In 2005 the Janashia State Museum (now part of Georgian National Museum) hosted the “First Oil Celebration,” where the Company presented an exhibition of outstanding archaeological finds. On July 2, 2009 the Georgian National Museum, together with BP and its partners, inaugurated the exhibition, “Pipeline Construction and Archaeological Finds” at the Samtskhe-Javakheti History Museum in Akhaltsikhe, in southern Georgia. The exhibition contains up to 800 artifacts from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages that were unearthed during the pipeline construction. The museum itself was partially renovated for the occasion.
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