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History of Tbilisi

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Title: History of Tbilisi  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: History of Georgia (country), History of Tbilisi, Duchy of Kldekari, Emirate of Tbilisi, Principality of Iberia
Collection: History of Tbilisi
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

History of Tbilisi

The history of Caucasus region for most of its history. Located on a crossroad of major trade routes, the city has suffered many invasions, often served as the seat of foreign domination over the region, but also as the capital of various independent local states.[1]


  • Early history 1
  • Capital of Iberia 2
  • Emirate of Tbilisi 3
  • Georgian reconquest and Renaissance 4
  • Mongol domination and the following period of instability 5
  • Tbilisi under Iranian control 6
  • Tbilisi under Russian control 7
  • Independence: 1918–1921 8
  • Tbilisi during the Soviet period 9
  • After the break-up of the Soviet Union 10
  • References 11
  • See also 12

Early history

Legend has it that the present-day territory of Tbilisi was uninhabited and covered by forest as late as 458 AD, the date medieval Georgian chronicles assign to the founding of the city by King Iberia (or Kartli, present-day eastern Georgia).

Archaeological studies of the region have however revealed that the territory of Tbilisi was settled by humans as early as the 4th millennium BC. The earliest written accounts of settlement of the location come from the second half of the 4th century AD, when a fortress was built during King Varaz-Bakur's reign (ca. 364). Towards the end of the 4th century the fortress fell into the hands of the Persians, but was recaptured by the kings of Kartli by the middle of the 5th century.

According to one account King Vakhtang Gorgasali (r. 447-502) went hunting in the heavily wooded region with a Tbili or Tbilisi ("warm location") therefore was given to the city because of the area's numerous sulfuric hot springs, which are still heavily exploited, notably for public baths, in the Abanotubani district. This mythical foundation account is still popular, but archaeological evidence shows that Vakhtang revived, or rebuilt parts of the city (such as Abanotubani, or the Metekhi palace, where his statue now stands) but did not found it.

Capital of Iberia

The Anchiskhati Basilica, Tbilisi's oldest surviving church, from the 6th century

King Mtskheta to Tbilisi to obey the will left by his father. During his reign, Dachi also finished the construction of the fortress wall that lined the city's new boundaries. Beginning from the 6th century, Tbilisi started to grow at a steady pace due to the region's favorable location, which placed the city along important trade and travel routes between Europe and Asia.

However, this location was also strategic from the political point of view, and most major regional powers would struggle during the next centuries for its control. In the 6th century, Persia and the Byzantine Empire were the main contenders for such hegemony over the Caucasus. In the second half of the 6th century, Tbilisi mostly remained under Sassanid (Persian) control, and the kingdom of Iberia was abolished around 580. In 627, Tbilisi was sacked by the allied Byzantine and Khazar armies.

Emirate of Tbilisi

The old city of Tbilisi and the ancient Narikala fortress, view ca. 1890-1900

Around 737, Arab armies Georgians converted to Islam during this time, but Tbilisi became a mainly Muslim city.

In 764, Tbilisi was once again sacked by the [4] In 1068, the city was once again sacked, only this time by the Seljuk Turks under Sultan Alp Arslan.

Georgian reconquest and Renaissance

In 1122, after heavy fighting with the Seljuks that involved at least 60,000 Renaissance.

Mongol domination and the following period of instability

View of Tbilisi as per French traveller Jean Chardin, 1671
Capture of Tiflis by Agha Muhammad Khan in 1795. A Qajar-era miniature from the British Library.

Tbilisi's Golden Age did not last for more than a century. In 1236, after suffering crushing defeats to the plague struck the city in 1366.

From the late 14th until the end of the 18th century, Tbilisi came under the rule of various foreign invaders once again and on several occasions was completely burnt to the ground. In 1386, Tbilisi was invaded by the armies of Tamerlane (Timur). In 1444, the city was invaded and destroyed by Jahan Shah (the Shah of the town of Tabriz in Persia). From 1477 to 1478 the city was held by the Ak Koyunlu tribesmen of Uzun Hassan.

Tbilisi under Iranian control

In 1503, Tbilisi came alongside wider

See also

  • Georgian State (Soviet) Encyclopedia. 1983. Book 4. pp. 595–604.
  • Minorsky, V., Tiflis in Encyclopaedia of Islam.
  1. ^ David Marshall Lang (1958), The last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, 1658-1832, pp. 227-230. NY: Columbia University Press.
  2. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny (1994). The Making of the Georgian Nation. Indiana University Press. p. 29.  
  3. ^ Barbara A. West (2010-05-19). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. 
  4. ^ Suny1994, p. 35
  5. ^ Suny1994, p. 37
  6. ^ "Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia". Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  8. ^ "Soudavar-Farmanfarmian article Georgia and Iran Part 2". Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  9. ^ Suny, pp. 58–59
  10. ^ "Relations between Tehran and Moscow, 1797-2014". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  11. ^ "Russia and Britain in Persia: Imperial Ambitions in Qajar Iran". Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Бабенко, Виталий (October 1983). …внутри драгоценного круга.  


Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Tbilisi has experienced periods of significant instability and turmoil. After a brief falsified parliamentary elections forced more than 100,000 people into the streets and concluded with the Rose Revolution. Since 2003, Tbilisi has experienced considerably more stability, decreasing crime rates, improving economy, and a booming tourist industry similar to (if not more than) what the city experienced during the Soviet times.

Panoramic view of Tbilisi in 2015.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union

Tbilisi witnessed mass anti-Soviet demonstrations in 1956 (in April 9 tragedy). Both 1956 and 1989 demonstrations were repressed in a bloody way by the authorities, leading to dozens of deaths.

In the 1970s and the 1980s the old part of the city was considerably reconstructed. Shota Kavlashvili, the architect who planned the reconstruction, wanted to make the center look like in the 19th century. The reconstruction started from the side of Baratashvili Avenue, where some residential buildings were demolished to uncover the 18th century city wall.[12]

During Soviet rule, Tbilisi's population grew significantly, the city became more industrialized and came to be one of the most important political, social, and cultural centers of the Vank Cathedral. With the expansion of the city came new places for culture and entertainment, on the model of other Soviet metropolises: Vake Park was inaugurated in 1946, the Sports Palace in 1961. New standardized residential areas (typical microdistricts) were built from the 1960s: Gldani, Varketili, etc. To link them all with the old city center, a Metro system was developed, which opened in phases from 1966.

In 1921, the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic until 1991. In 1936, the official Russian name of the city was changed from Tiflis to Tbilisi, which led to a progressive change of name for the city in most foreign languages.

The 11th Red Army of the Russian SFSR occupies Tbilisi, 25 February 1921

Tbilisi during the Soviet period

Under the national government, Tbilisi turned into the first Caucasian University City after the Imperial Russian authorities for several decades. On 25 February 1921, the Bolshevist Russian 11th Red Army entered Tbilisi after bitter fighting at the outskirts of the city and declared Soviet rule.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the city served as a location of the German and British military headquarters consecutively.

Massacre at the Tiflis City Council building on 15 October 1905.

Independence: 1918–1921

Throughout the century, the political, economic and cultural role of Tbilisi with its ethnic, confessional and cultural diversity was significant not only for Georgia but for the whole Caucasus. Hence, Tbilisi took on a different look. It acquired different architectural monuments and the attributes of an international city, as well as its own urban folklore and language, and the specific Tbilisuri (literally, belonging to Tbilisi) culture.

In 1801, after the Georgian kingdom of Under Russian rule, the city subsequently became the center of the Tbilisi Governorate (Gubernia). From the beginning of the 19th century Tbilisi started to grow economically and politically. New buildings, mainly of European style, were erected throughout the town. New roads and railroads were built to connect Tbilisi to other important cities in Russia and other parts of Transcaucasia such as Batumi, Poti, Baku, and Yerevan. By the 1850s Tbilisi once again emerged as a major trade and a cultural center. The likes of Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Mirza Fatali Akhundzade, Iakob Gogebashvili, Alexander Griboedov and many other statesmen, poets, and artists all found their home in Tbilisi. The city was visited on numerous occasions by and was the object of affection of Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Lermontov, the Romanov Family and others. The main new artery built under Russian administration was Golovin Avenue (present-day Rustaveli Avenue), on which the Viceroys of the Caucasus established their residence.

Metekhi cliff and the surroundings as depicted by Nikolay Chernetsov, 1839
The coat of arms of Tiflis under Russian rule

Tbilisi under Russian control

At this point, believing that his Georgian territories of Kartli-Kakheti could not hold up against Iran and its resubjugation alone, Erekle sought the help of Russia, which led to a more complete loss of independence than had been the case in the past centuries, but also to the progressive transformation of Tbilisi into a European city.


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