“Let's Defend My, Your, Our Batumi" - Social Movement to Save the Historic Look of Batumi

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Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi state university, Faculty of social and political sciences
In the history of independent Georgia civic activism has gone through an interesting path of development. Recently, the given activism has developed largely in the urban space. The preconditions for this have been accumulating for decades. Due to the difficult socio-economic situation, care for urban historical, cultural heritage and ecological health was less on the agenda. The re-urbanization of cities and the widespread idea of adapting to modern standards, which, among other factors, meant attracting investors and making significant investments in the development of the city, has led to the distortion of the historical monuments or entire historic districts in the urban space. These processes brought about a virtually complete depreciation of the urban fabric, which is historically, culturally and ecologically remarkable, and, on the other hand, resulted in civic activism. The cases of regional urban activism stand out, which we plan to discuss in this presentation on the example of the current civic movements in Batumi. Civic activism is developing around three locations in Batumi. These are Technological University, Batumi Boulevard and Batumi Riviera. All three projects are accompanied by the request for approval of the historical and cultural zone of Batumi. Batumi urban space has undergone many interventions recently, but in the report, we will review three main ones, which we think can be analyzed in a single context. These projects have several common features. In all of them, the interests of the developers are reflected and the government supports the implementation of the project (the first and third of which are supported by the people in power in the country, while in the case of Batumi Boulevard, developers cannot exceed the level of support of local authorities); All of them are opposed by civil activists and specialists in the field; And, most importantly, despite periodic successes, the issue of all of them is still unclear. All three cases selected for the study were developed in the same city, in the same period, and the actors involved were virtually the same, nevertheless, the results of these movements were different. Therefore, the research question can be formulated as follows: What were the main factors that contributed to the success/failure of the given movements? By using qualitative research methods (namely, in 2020-2021, 16 in-depth interviews were conducted with civic activists involved in the process, representatives of local government, academia and the media) we study the issue in the context of political mediation theory. This model, acting as a mediator between 'action and outcomes' (Amenta, E. et al. 1992), focuses on both the internal characteristics of the movement and the social and political environment outside the movement, as it believes that the combination of these factors influences on the success or failure of the movement.
Batumi, civic activism, urban development, engagement, space