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(təbĭl`ēsē, ətbĭlyē`sē) or


(tĭf`lĭs, Rus. tĭflyēs`), city (1989 pop. 1,259,682), capital of Georgia, SW Asia, on the Kura River and the Transcaucasian RR and at the southern end of the Georgian Military Road. Located in a mountain-ringed basin, Tbilisi is the economic, administrative, and cultural heartland of Transcaucasia. It is also a major transportation center. Industries include printing and publishing, machine building, food processing, tanning, silk weaving, and the production of machine tools, locomotives, and plastics. Orchards and vineyards surround the city. The region's mineral springs provide the basis for numerous health resorts.

The city rises in terraces from both banks of the Kura. In the old section are medieval buildings and courtyards, narrow streets, overhanging balconies, and the famous hot sulfur springs. The rest of the city has been extensively modernized. Landmarks include the remains of the Zion Cathedral (6th cent.; rebuilt 16th–18th cent.), the Anchiskhat Basilica (6th–7th cent.), and the Metekhi castle and church (1278–89). A funicular railway runs to Mt. David. Tbilisi's educational and cultural facilities include the Georgian State Univ. (1918), the Georgian Academy of Art (1922), and the Academy of Science (1941).

Archaeological evidence indicates that the site was settled as early as the 4th cent. B.C. The Persian military governor of Georgia built a fortress on the hill of Tbilisi in the 4th cent. A.D., and in the 5th cent. the capital of the old Georgian kingdom was transferred there from MtskhetaMtskheta
, town (1989 pop. 9,588), W central Georgia, on the Kura River and the Georgian Military Road. It was the capital of ancient Iberia until the 6th cent. A.D., when the capital was moved to Tbilisi; Mtskheta remained the religious center of the country.
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. In the 6th cent., Tbilisi became the seat of the Iberian dynasty. The city lay along the natural trade route between the Caspian and Black seas but was also astride one of the world's great crossroads of invasion and migration. Tbilisi was a stronghold of Muslim power and a commercial center from the 8th to the 11th cent.; during this period Arabs, Khazars, Seljuks, and Ottoman Turks successively ruled the city. From 1096 to 1225 it flourished as the capital of an independent Georgian state. It was ruled from the 13th to the 18th cent. by Mongols, Iranians, and Turks before coming under Russian control in 1800–1801.

Tbilisi became the seat of the czarist government in the Caucasus but also developed as a revolutionary center from the second half of the 19th cent. and played a leading role in the Revolution of 1905. Stalin studied at the city's Orthodox seminary and worked with Bolshevik underground groups in Tbilisi. Tbilisi was the capital of the anti-Bolshevik Transcaucasian Federation (1917–18), of independent Georgia (1918–20), and of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic (1922–36). Georgia was made a separate constituent republic in 1936, with Tbilisi as its capital. Tbilisi was the scene of a 1989 massacre of civilian demonstrators by Soviet troops. The incident led to an explosion of Georgian nationalist sentiments. The city's downtown area was devastated in 1991 by a violent coup that forced the resignation of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Russian name until 1936, Tiflis), the capital of the Georgian SSR.

Tbilisi is a major industrial, scientific, and cultural center and transportation junction. It is situated in the Tbilisi Basin, on both banks of the Kura River, at an elevation of 406–522 m. The average January temperature is 0.5°C, and the average July temperature, 24.2°C. Annual precipitation is 510 mm. The city’s area is 348.6 sq km, and its population is more than 1 million (as of Jan. 1, 1975; 160,000 in 1897, 194,000 in 1913, 294,000 in 1926, 519,000 in 1939, 703,000 in 1959, 889,000 in 1970). According to the 1970 census, Georgians make up 57.5 percent of the population, Armenians 16.9 percent, Russians 14 percent, Ossets 2.5 percent, Jews 2.2 percent, and other nationalities 6.9 percent. Tbilisi is divided into eight raions.

Historical survey. According to archaeological data, the site now occupied by Tbilisi was settled as early as the third or fourth millennium B.C. Tbilisi is first mentioned as a fortress in chronicles from the fourth century A.D. The city’s name is derived from the warm sulfur springs (Georgian tbili, “warm”). Tbilisi’s growth was facilitated by its advantageous location on the trade routes linking Georgia with Eastern Transcaucasia, Iran, Armenia, and Syria. During the reign of Vakhtang I Gorgasal (died A.D. 502), Tbilisi became one of the most important economic centers of Eastern Georgia. Vakhtang’s son Dachi made Tbilisi, rather than the ancient city of Mtskheta, the capital of the Eastern Georgian state of Kartli. In the mid-seventh century the Arabs invaded Georgia, and in the 730’s, Tbilisi became the residence of the Arab emir. It was liberated in 1122 during the reign of the Georgian king David the Builder, who made Tbilisi the capital of a united Georgian state. In the 12th and 13th centuries it was one of the most important trade, artisan, and cultural centers of the Near East. During the second half of the 14th century, it suffered a devastating invasion by Tamerlane. From the end of the 15th to the beginning of the 17th century, it was repeatedly ravaged by Turkish and Persian armies; the invasion by the Persian shah Abbas I in the early 17th century was particularly devastating, both for Tbilisi and for all of Georgia.

A relatively peaceful period began in the second half of the 17th century. The citadel was restored, and trade relations with neighboring states were renewed. The first printing house was established in Tbilisi in 1709. After Eastern Georgia became part of the Russian Empire in 1801, the city became the administrative center of the Georgian Province (from 1846, Tiflis Province) and the residence of the commander in chief of the Russian troops. In 1845 it also became the residence of the tsarist vicegerent in the Caucasus. The first Georgian newspaper, Sakartvelos gazeti (Newspaper of Georgia), began publication in Tbilisi in 1819.

Tbilisi’s economic development intensified during the 1860’s in connection with the beginning of railroad construction in Transcaucasia. In the second half of the 19th century, tanneries and tobacco factories arose in Tbilisi. The largest enterprise was the Central Workshops of the Transcaucasian Railroad, where M. Gorky worked in 1891. Gorky published his first short story, “Makar Chudra,” in Tbilisi. The city’s population grew rapidly, reaching 160,000 in 1897. There was an increase in the number of industrial workers, mainly Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and other Transcaucasian peoples; many Russian workers were employed on the railroad.

In the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, strikes took place in the city’s enterprises, and workers’ circles were organized. At the end of the 19th century, Tbilisi became the center of the revolutionary movement in Transcaucasia. The “Workers’ League,” one of the first labor organizations in Transcaucasia, was founded in 1887. Tbilisi was the center of activity of Georgia’s first Social Democratic organization, Mesame-dasi (Third Group), which was established in 1892. In the period 1898–1900, major strikes took place in the Central Workshops of the Transcaucasian Railroad, and the Tbilisi workers held their first illegal May Day meetings. In 1901 the Tbilisi Committee of the RSDLP was elected from among the members of the Social Democratic organizations. The First Congress of the Caucasian Social Democratic Organizations was held in Tbilisi in March 1903. During the General Strike of 1903 in Southern Russia, 15,000 persons went on strike in the city.

The Tbilisi proletariat made a significant contribution to the Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia. In January 1905 there was a strike of railroad workers, and the Tbilisi workers joined the October All-Russian Political Strike of 1905. In December 1905 a headquarters for an armed uprising was organized in the workers’ district of Nadzaladevi, but it was soon destroyed by tsarist troops. During the February Bourgeois-Democratic Revolution of 1917, a soviet of workers’, soldiers’, and peasants’ deputies was formed in Tbilisi, but its leadership was seized by the Mensheviks; the counterrevolutionary Special Transcaucasian Committee was also formed in the city.

On Feb. 25, 1921, the toiling masses of Georgia, with the support of the Red Army, overthrew the Mensheviks and established Soviet power. Tbilisi became the capital of the Georgian SSR. During the years of Soviet power, Tbilisi has been transformed into the most important industrial and cultural center of Georgia.

Among the many outstanding Georgian writers, artists, composers, and public figures who lived and worked in Tbilisi were Aleksandr Chavchavadze, Il’ia Chavchavadze, N. Baratashvili, Akakii Tsereteli, Georgii Tsereteli, N. Nikoladze, Niko Pirosma-nashvili, and Z. Paliashvili. Such representatives of Armenian and Azerbaijani cultures as Kh. Abovian, G. Sundukian, O. Tumanian, M. Akhundov, and M. Shafi have also lived there. Other prominent figures whose names can be mentioned in connection with the city are the Decembrists A. A. Bestuzhev, W. K. Küchelbecker, and A. I. Odoevskii; A. S. Griboedov, whose ashes rest in the Pantheon on Mount Mtatsminda; and A. S. Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov, L. N. Tolstoy, and M. Gorky.


Economy. Tbilisi accounts for about 33 percent of the republic’s total industrial production. The volume of industrial production increased by a factor of 11 between 1941 and 1974. The leading branches are machine building and metalworking, light industry, and the food industry. The largest machine-building and metalworking plants are an electric locomotive plant, the Dimitrov Aircraft Plant, plants for the production of machine tools, farm machinery, wine-making equipment, electrical appliances, instruments, and telegraph apparatus, an iron foundry, and a plant for the repair of electric railroad cars. Machine building and metalworking employ 37 percent of the city’s industrial production workers.

Light industry is represented by the production of silks, woolens, knitwear, notions and clothing accessories, garments, and leather and footwear. The food industry is well developed, with enterprises for the production of wine and brandy, champagne, tobacco, vegetable oils and animal fats, bread products, confectioneries, beer and nonalcoholic beverages, butter and cheese, milk, processed meats, and frozen foods. Prominent among other branches of industry are woodworking and the production of building materials, glass, and porcelain. Tbilisi has furniture factories, brickyards, and plants for the production of reinforced-concrete items and ceramic ware. The pharmaceutical and printing industries are also of great importance. Hothouse-hotbed complexes with a total area of 40,000 sq m are operating in Tbilisi, using the thermal waters in the area.

Tbilisi is a major junction of railroad lines and highways that link it with Transcaucasia and the Northern Caucasus. The city is a terminus of the Georgian Military Road. It is linked by air routes with almost all major centers of the Soviet Union. Urban transportation is well developed: the city has had streetcar and trolleybus service since 1937 and motor bus service since 1933. The 12.6-km first section of the subway was put into operation in 1966. There are three passenger aerial tramways and one funicular, which connect the central streets with the hilltop section.

Housing construction is under way in Tbilisi. The available housing space increased from 2.9 million sq m in 1926 to 11.8 million sq m in 1974. Natural gas is supplied to the city from the Northern Caucasus and Iran. The city has a reservoir, known as the Tbilisi Sea.


Architecture. Tbilisi extends for 30 km in a narrow strip along the Kura River valley and on the adjacent hills. The main thoroughfares of the city’s central districts, Rustaveli and Plekhanov prospects, run along the Kura. The core of the city, the Old City, is located in the southeastern section of Tbilisi. The Old City’s narrow streets, which have retained a medieval character, are lined with two- and three-story brick houses, mainly from the 1830’s to 1860’s. The houses, with enclosed carved wood balconies, exhibit a unique combination of classical elements and local architectural forms. Also located in the Old City are the ruins of the citadel of Narikala (oldest part, fourth century; later parts, 16th and 17th centuries), the stone Anchiskhati Church (sixth century; upper sections and arches, 16th century), the Metekhi Church (1278–93), the Sioni Cathedral (sixth or seventh century; rebuilt), and the baths of King Rostom (17th century).

The New City, the center of modern Tbilisi, with a grid street pattern and with buildings primarily in the style of late classicism, developed in the early 19th century. Among the buildings in this part of the city are the headquarters of the Caucasus Army (1824) and the Hotel Zubalashvili (1835; now the Art Museum of the Georgian SSR). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many apartment houses and administrative and public buildings were erected, sometimes using elements of Georgian architecture. An example of this type of construction is the Georgian Bank of the Nobility (1912–16, architect A. N. Kal’gin; now the K. Marx State Library of the Georgian SSR).

During the Soviet period, construction has proceeded in accordance with general plans. The first plan was drawn up in 1934, and the second in 1957. A new general plan providing for Tbilisi’s development to the northeast, from the Kura River valley to the reservoir, was approved in 1970 (architects I. Chkhenkeli, A. Dzhibladze, G. Dzhaparidze, and G. Shavdiia). Among the new areas of the city that have been built are Avchala, Saburtalo, Digomi, Gldani, Ponichala, and the settlement of the Tbilisi Electric Locomotive Plant. Old thoroughfares and squares have been improved and rebuilt, and new ones laid out. A number of bridges and esplanades have been built. Among the newer apartment houses and public buildings are the Georgian Branch of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the CPSU (1938, architect A. V. Shchusev), the Government House of the Georgian SSR, the Palace of Sports, the Hotel Iveriia, and the concert hall of the Philharmonic Society.

Tbilisi has monuments to V. I. Lenin (bronze, 1956; sculptor V. Topuridze; architects Sh. Kavlashvili, G. Melkadze, G. Khechinashvili, and K. Chkheidze), A. S. Griboedov (bronze, 1961; sculptor M. Merabishvili; architect G. Melkadze), the 300 Aragvi Heroes (stone, 1961; architect A. K. Bakradze), Vakhtang Gorgasal (1967; sculptor E. D. Amashukeli; architects T. Kandelaki and D. Mordebadze), David Guramishvili (cast iron, 1965; sculptor M. Berdzenishvili), and Niko Pirosmanash-vili (bronze, 1975; sculptor E. D. Amashukeli). The Mother Georgia statue (aluminum, 1963; architect E. D. Amashukeli) is also located in the city.

Cultural construction. Among the scientific and scholarly institutions in Tbilisi are the Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR and the academy’s institutes, the Tbilisi Botanical Garden, the Georgian Scientific Research Institute for the Mechanization and Electrification of Agriculture, the Georgian Scientific Research Institute of Orchard Growing, Viticulture, and Wine-making, the Georgian Scientific Research Institute of the Food Industry, and the All-Union Scientific Research and Design Institute for Machinery for Mountain Land Cultivation and the Raising of Subtropical Crops. The city has 11 higher educational institutions, with more than 61,000 students (1974–75 academic year). They include the University of Tbilisi, the Georgian Polytechnical Institute, the Georgian Institute of Agriculture, the Georgian Zooveterinary Educational and Research Institute, pedagogical and theatrical institutes, the Tbilisi Medical Institute, a pedagogical institute of foreign languages, an institute of physical education, the Academy of Arts, and a conservatory. During the 1974–75 academic year, there were 227 general-education schools of all types, with a total enrollment of more than 177,000; 27 vocational and technical schools in the State Vocational-Technical Education System of the USSR, with an enrollment of about 12,800; and 24 secondary specialized educational institutions, with 18,700 students. In 1975 there were about 34,900 children enrolled in Tbilisi’s 207 preschool institutions.

As of Jan. 1, 1975, there were 104 public libraries in Tbilisi, with 2.634 million books and journals. The largest library is the K. Marx State Library of the Georgian SSR. There are 16 museums, including a branch of the V. I. Lenin Central Museum (seeCENTRAL LENIN MUSEUM), the S. Dzhanashia State Museum of Georgia, the Museum of Georgian Folk and Applied Art, the Art Museum of the Georgian SSR, the Picture Gallery of Georgia, a Georgian literary museum, a park museum of Georgian folk architecture and mores, and the house museums of Z. Paliashvili, I. Chavchavadze, and Sh. Aragvispireli.

Cultural institutions in Tbilisi include (1975) the Z. Paliashvili Georgian Theater of Opera and Ballet, the Shota Rustaveli Georgian Academic Theater, the K. A. Mardzhanishvili Georgian Academic Theater, the A. S. Griboedov Tbilisi Russian Drama Theater, the S. Shaumian Tbilisi Armenian Drama Theater, the V. Abashidze Theater of Musical Comedy, the Georgian Young People’s Theater, the Lenin Komsomol Russian Young People’s Theater, the Youth Drama Theater, the Georgian Puppet Theater, a circus, and a philharmonic society (the Bol’shoi and Malyi concert halls), the V. Saradzhishvili Conservatory, and the Gruziia-fil’m studio. There are also 38 clubs, 67 motion-picture projection units, and 13 extracurricular institutions, including the B. Dzneladze Republic Palace of Pioneers, five houses of Pioneers and schoolchildren, three young technicians’ stations, a young naturalists’ station, the House of Art Education, and a children’s railroad.

Tbilisi has nine republic-level publishing houses, among them Sabchota Sakartvelo, Merani, Ganatleba, and Nakaduli, as well as the Central Editorial Office of the Georgian Soviet Encyclopedia. The republic radio and television, a central television studio, and the Georgian Information Agency (Gruzinform) are also located in the city. The 12 republic newspapers and 24 journals and city newspapers published in Tbilisi include the Georgian-language Tbilisi (since 1922) and the Russian-language Vechernii Tbilisi (Evening Tbilisi; since 1923). Television broadcasts are carried on three channels for a total of 28.5 hours a day, including 12 hours of local programs in Georgian and Russian, 1.5 hours of which are in color. There are 31.1 hours of radio broadcasts a day, of which 23.9 hours are in Georgian and Russian. Radio and television broadcasts are also relayed from Moscow. (See alsoGEORGIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC.)

Public health. By 1975, Tbilisi had 56 hospitals, with 12,500 beds, or 12.4 beds per 1,000 inhabitants, as compared to 28 hospitals, with 4,400 beds, or 7.9 beds per 1,000 inhabitants, in 1940. There were also 144 outpatient clinics, and 14 public-health epidemiologic stations. The city had 9,700 physicians, or one physician per 104 inhabitants, as compared to 2,100 physicians, or one physician per 262 inhabitants, in 1940.

Tbilisi has 20 medical scientific research institutes. On the grounds of the institute of health resort science and physical therapy are mineral springs, whose thermal hydrogen sulfide waters, at temperatures of 27°–47°C, are used for baths and inhalation in treating diseases of the musculoskeletal system, respiratory organs, skin, female reproductive system, and peripheral nervous system; mud from Lake Kumisi is also used in various types of comprehensive treatment. Near the city is the Tbilisi group of mountain climatic health resorts—Kodzhori (19 km from Tbilisi), Kiketi (27 km), Manglisi (64 km), and Tskhneti (8 km). Diseases of the blood and nontuberculous diseases of the organs of respiration are treated at these resorts.

Tourism. Tbilisi is a major center for tourism in the USSR. Twenty-two all-Union tourist routes pass through the city, including those along the Georgian Military Road and to the shore of the Black Sea, to Armenia, and through Kakhetia to Azerbaijan. Tbilisi has three tourist centers, a motel, and camping facilities. The nearby cities of Mtskheta, Kodzhori, and Tskhneti are also popular with tourists.


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Dzhaoshvili, V. Sh. Tbilisi: Ekonomiko-geograficheskii ocherk. Tbilisi, 1971.
Kvirkveliia, T. Tbilisi. Moscow, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital of Georgia, on the Kura River: founded in 458; taken by the Russians in 1801; university (1918); a major industrial centre. Pop.: 1 042 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005