Tbilisi has changed a lot since its existence. What once was a small walled town is now a bustling capital showcasing architectural traces of various rulers, including Russian, Ottoman, and Persian. It harmoniously represents history and culture in its old and new buildings nestled next to each other. The project Tbilisi Photos aims to show how the capital changed over the years by finding the same location and angle old Tbilisi photos were taken at.
This is an ongoing project, and I plan on adding more Tbilisi photos, so the ones you see today are just the beginning of it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed hunting down and creating it!
Abanotubani and Narikala Fortress in the late 1800s
Narikala is the only citadel in Tbilisi dating back to the 4th century. Nestled on the steep hill overlooking the capital, the fortress’s original name was Shuris Tsikhe, or Invidious Fort, constructed during the rule of the Sasanian Empire (today’s Iran).
The current name, Narikala, comes from Mongolian words “Narin Qala,” meaning “Little Fortress.” Most of the existing areas of the citadel date back to the 16th-17th centuries. There was a church built in the 13th century on the spot of the modern church but was destroyed in a fire. Today’s St Nicholas church was built in the late 1990s.
Tbilisi Sulfur Baths in the late 1800s
You probably have heard of the legend of how Tbilisi came to be a capital. Therefore, sulfur baths have always been an integral part of the city. And apart from hygienic purposes, these baths were also used to socialize, meet other people, discuss businesses, gossip around, brag about various things, or even find a future daughter-in-law!
Tbilisi old town and Metekhi church
The territory of today’s Metekhi church was one of the earliest inhabited areas in Tbilisi. According to various sources, King Gorgasali, who founded the capital here, built the fort and a church and made it his residence. The word “Metekhi” translates into English as the “area around the palace.” Unfortunately, none of those ancient buildings survived a brutal invasion of Mongols in 1235.
Todays Botanikuri street
This is one of the completely changed streets in Tbilisi. The wall that you can see in the black and white photo doesn’t exist anymore, while houses have transformed a bit.
The area of Metekhi church in the 1820s vs 2019
This is another completely changed area of Tbilisi’s old town. In 1819, a prison around the territory of today’s Metekhi Church was built during the rule of Imperial Russia and was demolished in 1958.
The bridge has been here since the construction of various fortresses within the district. According to the sources, it was the only bridge connecting the river’s two sides for centuries. For some time, this small bridge was used only by pedestrians. The current bridge was build during the Soviet rule and was named after Lavrenti Beria. In 1953 it was renamed Metekhi Bridge.
As Tbilisi played an important role in the Silk Road, it had dozens of caravanserais within its city limits. The one pictured here doesn’t exist anymore and was destroyed in the 1930s during the city’s major reconstruction works. However, there are several that still remain in Tbilisi.
Similar to the caravanserai, the Armenian church pictured in the old Tbilisi photos was demolished.
Tsitsianovi Raise in the late 1800s vs Baratashvili Raise in 2020
Today’s Baratashvili Raise connects Baratashvili Bridge with Avlabari district. It first was a narrow pathway created in the 19th century and was slowly expanded over the years.
Similar to other places in Tbilisi, this raise also changed names several times. In the 1850s, it was named after Pavle Tsitsianov, a Georgian royalty and a famous General of the Imperial Russian Army, then in 1923 after Ivane Kaliev, and in 1945 after Nikoloz Baratashvili, the famous Georgian poet.
Avlabari metro station is between 300 Aragveli and Freedom Square stations on the Aklhmeteli-Varketili metro line. Formerly known as 26 Komisari, named after 26 Baku Commissars, the Left Socialist-Revolutionary, and Bolshevik members of the Baku Soviet Commune. It was renamed Avlabari after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992.
Erivan Square in 1885 vs Freedom Square in 2019
The current Freedom Square (also referred to as Liberty Square) has always been a center of many social or political activities and was called different names. Before 1801, the area was called Garet Ubani, which translates as the “outer city” and refers to the territory beyond the city wall.
It was first named as Paskevich-Erivansky (or Erivansky Square in short) in 1829, honoring Ivan Paskevich, a Ukrainian general in the Imperial Army of Russia, who conquered Erivan (modern-time Yerevan, Armenian capital) for the empire.
Then it was called Freedom Square in 1918 when the First Georgian Republic was formed right after the end of the Russian Empire. But as the Red Army invaded the country in 1921, the square was changed the name again.
During the Soviet rule, the square was renamed in honor of Lavrenti Beria, Marshal of the USSR, and a state security administrator of Georgian origin. Afterward, it was renamed again as Lenin Square and carried this name until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Pushkin street in 2019 vs in the 1970s
The small street from Freedom Square to Baratashvili Street was named after the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in 1880, who stayed on this street during his visit in 1829.
Golovin Prospekt vs Rustaveli Avenue
Current Rustaveli Avenue was named after Yevgeny Golovin, the General of the Imperial Russian Army in the 1840s. The territory was inhabited only by the noblemen and representatives of the army and Imperial Russia.
In 1848 pavements and Boulevard were added to the street. From the 1860s, various important buildings were slowly built along the street, including two-story museum building (demolished in 1910), Temple of Glory (current National Gallery), Hotel Majestic (current Tbilisi Marriott), and Viceregent Palace (current Georgian National Youth Palace) to name just a few.
On the territory of today’s Parliament Building, Imperial Russia constructed St. Alexander Nevsky Military Cathedral of Tiflis in Neo-Byzantine style with a big dome at the end of the 19th century (pictured). Soviets destroyed it in 1930.
The avenue was renamed after Shota Rustaveli, a medieval Georgian poet, in 1918.
Temple of Glory in the 1890s vs Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery
Temple of Glory, constructed in 1892 with the design of Albert Salzmann, was a Military History Museum showcasing the successful military operations of the Russian Imperial Army in the Caucasus region.
In the 1930s, the museum transformed into a gallery. And today, it’s among one of the most-visited museums in Tbilisi to see the works of prominent Georgian artists of the 20th century.
Golovin Prospekt in the 1900s vs Rustaveli Avenue in 2019
As mentioned above, Rustaveli Avenue started to expand rapidly with new buildings added along the street. Today’s Tbilisi Marriott Hotel was formerly known as Hotel Majestic. An Armenian merchant Mikheil Arameants commissioned Russian architect Alexandr Ozerov to built a hotel in 1911.
Artistic Society House vs Rustaveli Theater
Artistic Society House was established in 1898 on Golovin Prospekt to host various theatrical performances. It was renamed Rustaveli Theater in 1921 to honor the medieval Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli.
Tiflis Nobility Bank in the early 1930s vs National Parliamentary Library in 2019
In 1890, the Caucasian branch of the Nobility Bank opened in Tbilisi. The Bank used to give loans to landowners at the expense of the state treasury. The annual rate of the loan was 6%. It was the first bank created in the Russian Empire that was also widespread in the countries under the Imperial rule. Since 1929, it houses the national library.
Tbilisi Opera House vs Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater
Tbilisi’s very first Opera House was built in 1851 in the territory of today’s Freedom Square. Rumor has it, it was one of the most beautiful buildings in the Russian Empire constructed by the Italian architect Giovanni Scudieri. Unfortunately, that building was destroyed in a fire in 1874. The new, and the current one, was constructed in 1896 by architect Viktor Schröter in the Oriental style.
Hero Square in 2019 vs in the 1940s
Hero Square appeared in Tbilisi in the 1930s, honoring the heroes of a successful aerial search and rescue mission of the Cheliuskin ship’s crew. Before, the area was the end of the city and marked the Georgian Military Road’s beginning.
The current Hero Monument in the center of the square commemorates Georgian heroes who died in various battles held in 1921, 1924, 1992-93, and 2008.
Overpass on Hero’s Square in 2019 vs in the 1970s
The overpass on Hero’s Square constructed in 2012 was the government’s initiative to ease car traffic jams in the city. Even though it was a necessary addition, it completely changed the view and the layout of the square.
Construction of Georgian National Archive in the 1960s vs in 2019
The National Archives serve the economic, political, cultural, and scientific interests of the country. It houses important documents of Georgia and its citizens, publications, books, photos, etc.
Ortachala Bus Station in 1981 vs in 2019
Ortachala bus station serves public transportation towards Georgia’s neighboring countries, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Greece.