Promoting shared cultural identities through arts and literature
We facilitate dialogue between cultural actors and promote shared cultural identities through the arts and literature. The South Caucasian cultural sector is as fragmented as the societies: Georgian contemporary literature is not read in Abkhazia/South Ossetia, Armenian literature is not read in Azerbaijan, and so on. In this context, cultural dialogue can help to promote a Caucasian cultural identity in all its diversity while at the same time celebrating individual ethnic cultural identities. The South Caucasus Literary Almanac, published in Russian, aims to stimulate a virtual dialogue between the people of the South Caucasus through literature and culture, harnessing the unused potential of cultural figures and intellectuals to promote tolerance and peace. It provides people with the opportunity to read about the day-to-day concerns of their so-called ‘enemy’, developing empathy as they realise that they face the same dilemmas – they too love, hurt and dream. The almanac therefore provides an antidote to the propaganda and negative images that are so prevalent in the media and political discourse. By establishing cultural ties between the peoples, we can begin to bridge the psychological and emotional divides, and address stereotypes, as people rediscover the human face of their ‘enemies’. The almanac provided the perfect opportunity for a literary festival in the South Caucasus, which toured around the major cities in the region and was attended by participants from the different communities. The festival was very well received and has helped to undermine the stereotype that the communities are culturally opposite. Meanwhile, participants at our cultural dialogue meeting in 2012 used the opportunity to discuss new ways of improving dialogue in the South Caucasus, which they continue to pursue together, independently of us. This project is part of the South Caucasus Mediation and Dialogue Initiative funded by the EU.