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On 18 September 2014, at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia, Parliamentary Majority MP, Davit Onoprishvili, stated that the United National Movement destroyed libraries and kindergartens during its time in office.

FactCheck

took interest in Mr Onoprishvili’s statement and decided to verify its accuracy.

In order to verify the statement we contacted Mr Onoprishvili. The MP said that in “destroying the libraries and kindergartens” he meant their unjustified closure.

The functioning of libraries in Georgia has been regulated by the 1996 Law on Library Activities since the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the Law, local governments were entrusted to run the state library networks in the municipalities in consultation with the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia.

In order to obtain further information on the closure of public libraries, FactCheck

contacted the Head of the Library Science and Standards Department of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, Guram Takniashvili. According to Mr Takniashvili, a total of 8,000 libraries were functioning in Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Of these, 4,200 were public libraries. The majority of the public libraries in Georgia during the Soviet Union served only ideological purposes and not the actual interests of the public. Hence, the need for such libraries in the 1990s ceased to exist and they were closed.

According to Mr Takniashvili, since 2003, the authority on library activities was transferred to the local government which started closing them arbitrarily. The reason which was given for these closures was to enable local budget savings. The process of the closures intensified in 2008-2009 and 2011. The buildings of some libraries were privatised and others were left under state control – in both cases the books remained in the buildings – although the libraries themselves continued to be closed.

FactCheck

requested public information on the changes in the numbers of municipality public libraries from 2004. According to the information provided by the Georgian Library Association, a total of 1,949 public libraries were functioning in the municipalities in 2004. A total of 1,336 libraries were closed from 2004 to 2012, 60 of which were opened again in 2012 and 2013 and a total of 613 public libraries are functioning in the regions to date.

Region

Number of Libraries in 2004

Number of Libraries Closed in 2008

Number of Libraries Closed in 2011

Overall Number of Libraries Closed from 2004 to 2011

Number of Libraries in 2014

Kakheti

225

71

53

124

101

Lower Kartli

174

68

66

134

40

Mtskheta-Mtianeti

117

36

51

87

30

Inner Kartli

157

45

105

150

7

Samtskhe-Javakheti

212

60

82

142

70

Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti

139

22

29

51

88

Imereti

382

143

132

275

107

Samegrelo-Upper Svaneti

234

98

 21

119

115

Guria

99

 12

 39

 51

 48

Autonomous Republic of Ajara

 210

203

7

 Overall

1,949

 

 

1,336

613

As for the libraries in Tbilisi, according to the information of the Main Library of Tbilisi, their number decreased from 53 to 43 from 2004 to 2014. Nine were closed from 2007 to 2012 and one was closed in 2013.

As for the issue of the closure of kindergartens, according to the Head of the Education and Culture Commission of the Tbilisi City Assembly, Tamar Taliashvili, a total of 46 kindergartens were closed in Tbilisi from 2004 to 2011. She also told us that children are often unable to register in kindergartens in Tbilisi due to the limited number of places. According to the non-governmental organisation, Young Barristers, the situation in Tbilisi is mainly due to the so-called kindergarten optimisation. The Local Government of Tbilisi made a decision to undertake the kindergarten optimisation in 2007. According to the Directive of the then Government of Tbilisi, the headmasters of kindergartens were dismissed during the first stage and all of the kindergartens were given the status of legal entities of public law. Some of the kindergartens were closed after that.

According to the Kindergarten Management Agency of Tbilisi, a non-commercial entity, it has no information about kindergartens closed from 2004 to 2011. A total of 159 are managed by the Agency as of today.

FactCheck

contacted the former Head of the Social Services Department of Tbilisi City Hall, Mamuka Katsarava. According to Mr Katsarava, the kindergarten optimisation took place for two main reasons: refugees were living in the kindergarten buildings whilst many other kindergarten buildings were amortised. Refugees had been living in the majority of kindergartens before 2007 and so school activities could not be fully implemented. Closed kindergartens had been transformed into living places for refugees after the optimisation with refugees having been transferred to these locations from other kindergartens as well. In addition, a number of kindergarten buildings were amortised which necessitated their closure.

Conclusion According to the information obtained by FactCheck,

a significant number of libraries in municipalities have been closed from 2004 to 2012. The reason which has been given for this was to enable local budget savings. A total of 613 libraries in the regions and 43 libraries in Tbilisi are functioning today. As for the issue of the closure of kindergartens, according to the Head of the Education and Culture Commission of the Tbilisi City Assembly, Tamar Taliashvili, a total of 46 kindergartens were closed in Tbilisi from 2004 to 2011. A total of 159 kindergartens are functioning in Tbilisi as of today. According to the former Head of the Social Services Department of Tbilisi City Hall, part of the kindergartens were transformed into living places for refugees whilst some others were closed during the kindergarten optimisation process.

Initially, Davit Onoprishvili talked about the “destruction” of libraries and kindergartens which is more of an emotional statement than an analysis of the situation. In a conversation with us, he later clarified that in “destroying the libraries and kindergartens” he meant their unjustified closure. Our study confirmed that the number of libraries and kindergartens during the office of the United National Movement did indeed decrease. However, both of these processes were due to specific reasons such as budget spending reduction, amortized buildings, settlement of refugees and so on. FactCheck considers that in spite of the factual correctness of the statement, it is hard to decide whether or not the process itself was unjustified. It is also difficult to say whether or not the decision on the closure of specific kindergartens and libraries was correct. Hence, based upon the aforementioned reasons and taking into account the emotional context of the statement, FactCheck decided to analyse and state the arguments of the parties and leave the statement WITHOUT VERDICT.