Tbilisi is the capital and largest city of Georgia. It is located on the banks of the Kura River, in the southeast of the country, and has a population of about 1.1 million people.
Tbilisi, the capital and the largest city of Georgia, is located 8 area of the most ancient sites on the territory of the country. Archaeologists are constantly finding new evidence of human habitation in the area for about 5 thousand years. In 1939 in 60 km from Tbilisi, in the place Udabno, a fragment of upper jaw of fossil humanoid apes, a species of which was called Udabnopithecus, was found. Scientists use the data from this find in different ways. Sometimes some exaggerate the role of this discovery, making Georgia one of the centers of the formation of primitive man as a species. But we should not underestimate the significance of the excavation, which remains an interesting fact: the first inhabitants of the “Tbilisi region” could be about 2 million years old.
This area became inhabited at least 5 thousand years ago because of its convenient location in the valley of the largest river in Transcaucasia – Kura (in Georgian it is called Mtkvari), surrounded by mountains of Trialet and Saguram ridges. Gradually a city arose near Mount Tabor, which now stretches for about 30 km along the Kura River, in the Tbilisi Basin.
From the slopes of Mount Tabor, hot sulfuric springs emerge, on the site of which baths were built. There is a legend about the origin of Tbilisi, according to which one king (most often identified with the Iberian ruler Vakhtang I Gorgasal; 7-502) was hunting in the area. After shooting a pheasant, he lost sight of the bird and later found it unharmed – in a spring. It is likely that by the time Gorgasal arrived here there was already a small fortified town. In any case, Tbilisi owes its name, if not its origin, to the healing properties of its sulfur springs: Tbilisi means “warm” in Georgian. The Greeks and then the Russians named the city “Tiflis” – this name was in use until 1936.
Today, the springs in the form of underground baths, marked from the outside only by light-penetrating domes, are one of the favorite tourist attractions. Almost all of them are located in the Old Town, on the “bath” street: the oldest Heraklivska bath, which princes and members of the royal family dreamed of having as early as the 16th century, Bebutivska, Kazyonnaya, Sumbativska (all from the 17th century) and Orbelianivska (considered the most beautiful). In olden times the bathhouses were used primarily as a place for socializing, and afterwards – for recreation.
Tbilisi was designed extremely picturesque: Narikala fortress (from VII century) on the right bank of the Kura River and the now demolished Metehi Castle (from V century) on the left bank created a unique ensemble. Tbilisi’s location at the crossroads of trade routes from Europe to Asia made it a major economic and cultural center, an important outpost in the military campaigns of many conquerors. The Byzantine Emperor Heraclius I (575-641) and the Arabs, who, under the leadership of the last Arab caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, Mervan II ibn Mohammed (?-750), founded the Emirate of Tbilisi. It was subsequently ravaged by the army of the next Arab dynasty, the Abbasids. The city itself was practically revived from the ashes by Georgian King David IV the Builder (1073-1125), who made Tbilisi the capital of united Georgia in the XII century. “Golden Age” of Tbilisi lasted until the beginning of the XIII century. In 1238 for a hundred years was established the power of the Mongols, who were expelled in 1327 by King of Georgia George V the Brilliant (1286-1346). But peace was not fated to prevail in this region: in 1386 the city was conquered by Tamerlane (1336-1405). The XV and XVI centuries were the time of struggle against the Persians. By the end of the XVI century. the city fell to the Turks, from whose power it was wrested by the King of Kartli (one of the major areas of Georgia) Simon I the Great (1537-1603). The seventeenth century was relatively peaceful compared to the one described above.
In 1801 Eastern Georgia joined the Russian Empire. The 20th century brought the establishment of Soviet power in 1921, its rejection in 1991 and a change of political course in the “Rose Revolution” in 2003.
Tbilisi is the ancient Georgian national center of spiritual life. Georgia embraced Christianity before many countries: at the First Ecumenical Council in 325 a representative of Western Georgia (Colchis) was already present, and during the IV century, the new faith spread to the eastern regions. With the primacy of Orthodoxy in the city has always reigned religious tolerance to this day in the ancient district of Abanotubani can be seen peacefully neighboring temples of different faiths. Almost all churches in Tbilisi have features in their history that reflect the different stages of the penetration of Christianity and the life of the country. For example, the first capital of Georgia, Mtskheta, today is located about 20 km from the sprawling Tbilisi. Two temples that remind of the former greatness of this city have been preserved: at the confluence of the Kura and Aragvi rises a fine example of ancient Georgian architecture, the Jvari Monastery, and opposite it is the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, or the Church of the Lifetime Cross (“shine” pillar, and “tskhoveli” living or miraculous). St. Nina (280-335), who had fled Cappadocia, stayed in Mtskheta and consolidated Christianity in Georgia. The greatest sacred object, the cross of Saint Nina, made of vine and wrapped in her own hair, is kept in one of the most famous monuments of the old city of Tbilisi, in Sioni, which is the residence of the Patriarch of the Georgian Church. Another symbol of Tbilisi is the Metekhi Church. It is the burial place of the holy queen Shushanik (Shushanika, 440-475), who became the first great martyr of Georgia. Metekhi is also associated with the name of Queen Tamara (1166-1207), who loved to pray in this church. Another famous church was built in honor of Tamara – the church of St. Didubiya, in which the wedding of Tamara took place, which marked the beginning of the “golden age” in the history of Georgia. The founding of another church – St. David – is attributed to the great saint himself. And in the church of St. George is the tomb of Grigol Orbeliani (1804-1883) – a hero of our time, whose famous lines “Only I close my eyes…” were included in the play “Khanuma” staged by Georgi Alexandrovich Tovstonogov (1915-1989) – a well-known stage director who was born and started working in Tbilisi.
Fans of modern architecture will be surprised by such original projects as the City of Space by Georgy Chakhav (1975), now the building of the Bank of Georgia: using a minimum of the earth’s surface, the architect created an original and quite functional monumental building.
Tbilisi has a strong theatrical school: the city is famous for its theaters, which hosted legendary productions. “Othello”, “Richard III” (1979) interpreted by Robert Sturua (b. 1938) in the Georgian State Academic Theatre named after Shota Rustaveli entered the world of world literature. It has become a part of the world golden fund of theatrical productions. And “Hamlet” is considered to be one of the world’s 10 best interpretations of the play. The famous director has discovered a pleiad of star theatrical names, among which Ramaz Chkhikvadze stands out.
Tbilisi-Tiflis has inspired many people: Pushkin and Lermontov, Tolstoy and Gorky, White and Mayakovsky, Yesenin and Pasternak, Tchaikovsky and Chekhov, Aivazovsky and Vereshchagin, Nemirovich-Danchenko and Chaliapin, Pirosmani, artists and poets of the futurist circle, Ahmadulina and Tarkovsky. Tiflis held a special place in the life of Griboyedov: here the writer lived, served, created, loved and here he was buried.
The musical life of Tbilisi, beginning with the glory of the “Tiflis Opera” in the XIX century, is in no way poorer than the artistic and theatrical life.
Such beloved performers as Tamara Gverdtsiteli and Vakhtang Kikabidze, actress Sofiko Chiaureli, director Sergey Parajanov, composers Mikael Tariverdiyev and Aram Khachaturyan are from Tbilisi.
In the economic sector, Tbilisi is positioned as a huge service center of the region: it has the shortest transportation routes and a developed information and communication infrastructure.
- First mentioned in the IV century.
- Previous name: Tiflis.
- Administrative-territorial division: 5 districts.
- Language: Georgian.
- Ethnic composition: Georgians – 87%, Armenians – about 8%, Russians – about 3%, others (Yezidis, Azerbaijanis, Ossetians, Greeks, Ukrainians, Abkhazians) – 2% (2002).
- Religions: Christianity (Georgian Orthodox Church) – about 90%, others (Armenian Apostolic Church, Islam, Catholicism, Judaism, etc.) – about 10% (2002).
- Currency unit: lari.
- River: Kura (Mtkvari).
- Important airport: Tbilisi International Airport.
- Area: 726 km2.
- Population: 1,152,500 (2010).
- Population density: 1,587.5 persons/km2.
- 50% of the existing jobs in the country. About 70 percent of the product turnover.
- Industries: food, chemical, mechanical engineering, instrument-making, woodworking.
- Agriculture: plant growing (gardening), livestock breeding.
- Services sphere: tourism, financial, trade, transport.
Climate and weather
- Mild continental.
- Average temperature in January: +1.8°C.
- Average temperature of July: +24.3°C.
- Average annual precipitation: 517 mm.
- Narikala Fortress (from VII century), Mtatsminda – pantheon of writers and public figures of Georgia.
- Temples: Jvari or the Monastery of the Holy Cross (6th c., Mtskheta), Anchikhati or St. Mary’s Church (6th c), Zioni or Zion Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (6th-7th cc), Svetitskhoveli or the Life-Giving Pillar (11th c), 20 km. from Tbilisi to Mtskheta), the church of Lurji Monasteri or the Blue Monastery (12th century.), the church of Metekhi (1278-1289), the church of St. George (1727), the church of St. David (19th century), the church of Our Lady of Didubiya (1883), the Kashvety church with the miracle-working image of St. David (1910, L. Bilfeld – a copy of the masterpiece of Georgian medieval architecture of Samtavisi Church, 11th c.).
- Museums: The S. Janashia State Museum of Georgia (collection of gold of Van, 4th century BC, and other values of Caucasian culture), Museum of Georgian Art, Georgian Folk Architecture, Silk, Georgian Jews, “Old Gallery”.
- Theaters: Russian Drama Theater named after A. S. Griboyedov (here started G. Tovstonogov, E. Lebedev, L. Luspekaev), Academic Drama Theater named after S. Rustaveli (building 1901). State Opera and Ballet Theatre named after 3. Paliashvili; puppet theater.
- The first and main temple of Georgia, Svetitskhoveli, was built on the site where St. Nina once lived with the gardener of the royal garden. Legend has it that the very Chiton of Jesus was buried in the ground in the garden, which St. Nina found herself looking for in the city. A cedar tree grew over it. When they decided to build a Christian temple on this spot, they cut down the cedar tree, but they could not install the pillar made of it: only later did it appear by itself, in a miraculous way – this moment has become one of the favorite subjects of Georgian iconography.
- The local legend says that the church spring, flowing from a crevice of Mount Mtatsminda, where the Church of St. David is located, has miraculous properties that apply only to women. Having made a wish, one can find out if it will come true by placing a stone soaked in the spring against the walls of the church. If the stone stays put, the wish will come true.
- Queen Tamara’s first husband, Prince George, is believed by some historians to be the son of Andrei Bogolyubsky. So it is this prince, according to the legend, did not shake the hand to pass the capricious “test” of Tamara herself, who wished the applicant for her hand to be able to cut the apple lying on her bare chest with his sword on a gallop. This historical anecdote has become the basis for many Georgian toasts, which it is customary to begin by telling this story, and to end with humor and at one’s own discretion.
- Back in the first half of the 19th century a horse was a luxury in Tiflis. But camels in caravans or buffaloes could be seen in the streets very often, because caravan routes passed through the city.
- In Tiflis in 1828 Alexander Griboyedov was married to 15-year-old Princess Nina Chavchaidze. During the wedding ceremony he dropped his wedding ring, which is a bad omen; a few months later the diplomat was tragically killed in Tehran in an attack of Muslim fanatics on the Russian mission. At her husband’s request, Nina buried him in Tiflis. She outlived him for almost 30 years, all the while remaining a loving and inconsolable widow.