This is the Place Where Young Joseph Stalin Made Soviet Propaganda

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In its raggedy streets a bit outside the city center, Tbilisi hides significant gems that visitors or sometimes even locals rarely see. This is where this blog comes in, to show you those hidden marvels Georgia’s capital has to offer.

Secret publishing houses are not a new concept, and every big city has some, including Tbilisi. But what makes this one so unique is that it is underground, in a well. Yes, exactly in a well! Wonder how it was possible? I am glad you asked, keep on reading.

Joseph Stalin's Secret Publishing House.

The house is in Avlabari district, at Kaspi str. #7. You can take a subway to 300 Aragveli station and walk a couple of meters. The massive black door has a red circle on the center with the iconic Soviet symbol – hammer and sickle. The images of Lenin, a 3D image of Stalin and a huge guest book adorn the hallway.  The staff is very excited to see visitors and happily tour you around. There is no entrance free, but it survives on donations.

The concept of the publishing house was simple. The area looked like a typical, one-floor brick house with a small yard with two housewives. The house had a basement-like ground floor used as the kitchen, while the first floor had two small rooms. The secret room was right under the kitchen.

Joseph Stalin's Secret Publishing House.

The room was accessible via 17 meter well and a tunnel inside it. While Social-Democratic Party members were printing propaganda, women sat on the balcony doing everyday chores. And ring a bell if they noticed something suspicious.

Joseph Stalin's Secret Publishing House. Propaganda published here
Propaganda published here

After Soso Jughashvili, a.k.a Joseph Stalin escaped exile, he was a frequent guest of the publishing house and wrote many leaflets. The publishing house operated in 1903-1906 and printed 273,715 leaflets, newspapers and brochures in total on three languages – Georgian, Russian and Armenian. From here, the propaganda disseminated across Russia and Europe.

Joseph Stalin's Secret Publishing House. The first man in the first row is Mr. Stalin
The first man in the first row is Mr. Stalin

On April 15, 1906, police, gendarmerie, and soldiers raided the printing house. They could not find anything after a detailed search of the house and decided to inspect a well. They threw fire-lit paper to light up the walls. The air pressure took it into the secret room. The gendarmerie destroyed the house, but in 1937 it opened as a museum.

Joseph Stalin's Secret Publishing House.The entrance to the publishing room
The entrance to the publishing room

Unfortunately, today, the museum is in severe condition. It needs renovation and proper infrastructure to exhibit the rare publications of the 20th century.

Joseph Stalin's Secret Publishing House. Centuries old publishing machine
Centuries old publishing machine
Joseph Stalin's Secret Publishing House. The exit in case of the emergency
The exit in case of the emergency

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