Tbilisi (Georgian თბილისი, Armenian Թիֆլիս Tiflis) — is the capital city of the country Georgia.
The Armenian history and contribution to the city of Tbilisi is very significant. After the Russian conquest of the area, Armenians fleeing persecution in the Ottoman Empire and Persia caused a jump in the Armenian population, until it reached about 40% of the city total. Many of the mayors and business class were Armenian, and much of the old city was built by Armenians. Until recently the neighborhoods of Havlabar and the area across the river were very heavily Armenian, but that has changed a great deal in the last two decades.
- 1 Armenian sites
- 1.1 Church 1 in Tbilisi
- 1.2 Ejmiatsin Church in Tbilisi
- 1.3 Norashen Church in Tbilisi
- 1.4 Belltower
- 1.5 S. Gevorg of Mughni Church in Tbilisi
- 1.6 S. Astvatsatsin Church of Bethlehem in Tbilisi
- 1.7 S. Stepanos Convent in Tbilisi
- 1.8 Karap S. Gevorg Church of Tbilisi
- 1.9 S. Nshan Church of Tbilisi
- 1.10 S. Minas Basilica of Tblisi
- 1.11 S. Marine Church of Tbilisi
- 1.12 Karmir Avetaran Church of Tbilisi
- 1.13 Petros Adamian Tbilisi State Armenian Drama Theatre
- 1.14 Khojavank
- 1.15 Armenian Pantheon of Tbilisi
- 1.16 Freedom Square
- 1.17 Armenian Street Names
- 2 Genocide
- 3 Getting there
- 4 See also
There are still two working Armenian Churches in the city, and an Armenian Theatre. The Armenian "Pantheon", where prominent Armenians are buried has the tombs of some of Armenia's most loved personalities ever, including Raffi and Hovhannes Tumanian.
A number of Armenian churches have been confiscated by the Georgian State/Church as documented by the United States State Department: "The Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic Churches have been unable to secure the return of churches and other facilities closed during the Soviet period, many of which later were given to the Georgian Orthodox Church by the State. The prominent Armenian church in Tbilisi, Norashen, remained closed, as did four other smaller Armenian churches in Tbilisi and one in Akhaltsikhe. In addition, the Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic Churches, as with Protestant denominations, have had difficulty obtaining permission to construct new churches due to pressure from the GOC." April 7, 2005
Church 1 in Tbilisi
This church is where the primate of Tbilisi has his offices. Near the baths, under the fortress. In front of the church is the tomb of the famous bard, Sayat Nova.
Ejmiatsin Church in Tbilisi
(not to be confused with the main Ejmiatsin Church in Armenia)
In Havlabar, this church is undergoing renovation and reconstruction thanks to the Armenia Fund.
Norashen Church in Tbilisi
The 17 year old conflict relating to Norashen Church, one of the Armenian churches in Tbilisi has just reached another step with the obvious attempt to change historical facts.
A few months ago, hundred year old Georgian grave stones, carrying Georgian inscriptions, suddenly appeared in the courtyard of the Armenian Church Norashen. Rather, they were transported here. Our photographer and cameraman filmed these stones still wrapped in their iron wires, thrown randomly into the church’s courtyard. In the meantime these stones have been neatly lined up and safely installed along the church’s wall. The reasoning behind is crystal clear: these actions serve to “prove” that the church is in fact a Georgian orthodox one, as according to the words of the Georgian priest, Father Tariel, the Armenians would have never let the Georgians bury in their dead in front of their own church. At the same time as the Georgian stones were brought from an unknown cemetery to Tbilisi, the Armenian ones, located on the other side of the church were found vandalised – the Armenian inscriptions had been destroyed.
The Church Norashen is located in Tbilisi, on Leselidze Street, flanked on the left by a Greek church, now transformed into a Georgian orthodox one, on the right by the Georgian Church Sioni and a few more meters further down the synagogue the mosque. For centuries, the different confessions have lived side by side in peace and friendship.
Norashen was founded in 1467 and renovated in 1650 by Nazar. At this time, the great cupola was rebuilt by Master Petros. A series of renovations followed in 1795, 1808 and in 1875. The Lidatamashian and Vartanov families and Katarina Pridonian are buried next to the Church. In 1924-25, a committee consisting of Georgian officials suggests to completely destroy the church to allow for the construction of the “Armenian Bazaar” street (now Leselidze). The majority of the committee members approved this decision. However, on 2 July 1925, Severov put the issue on the agenda again and ferociously opposing the project, succeeded in stopping the destruction. Later yet, during the Soviet era, the church was transformed into an archive.
Eventually, in 1989, shortly before Georgia’s independence and under the influence of the ultra-nationalist Gamsakhurdia, the Georgians intensified and multiplied their actions aimed at appropriating the church in order to transform it into a Georgian orthodox one. They reached their climax in 1994, when the local Armenians started worrying after having been informed that all valuable books were being taken from the archive. All that was left were Marx’s and Lenin’s complete works, which led to believe that Norashen would have the same fate as Karmir Avetaran, which once used to be Tbilisi’s highest Armenian church (40m high) before being completely destroyed in an explosion in the fall of 1989.
On 25 January 1995, the Armenians living in the vicinity of Norashen noticed that apparent renovation works had started inside the church. An official protest, delivered on 2 February by the Armenian Ambassador in Georgia, H.E. Khatchatrian and the president of the Armenian Association of Charity and Culture, Mr. Muradian, to the Georgian priest in charge of the renovation works, Father Tariel, were countered with contempt. Three days later, Ter Yerishe, the Armenian priest, caught this same Tariel, axe in hand, at the renovation works - that is demolishing the High Altar. Ter Yerishe told him: “You, who are supposed to be serving the Lord, you destroy the Lord’s house. Take off your cross and your coat at least!” Father Tariel to answer: “I am a priest and I do what I have been told.” On 8 February, the Master Petros’ inscription on the wall, telling the reconstruction of the cupola in 1650, was wiped out. Other Armenian inscriptions, two khachkars and two magnificent frescoes of the Hovnatanyan School from the 19th century were also damaged and destroyed.
In days following these acts of vandalism, a group of Armenians in the company of a photographer were barred from entering the church, instead they were greeted with fascistic insults by the Georgians and priests. They were attacked and the photographer, who ducked to protect his camera, only managed to escape after the intervention of one the Armenian women in the group, who jumped at the priest pulling his beard and throwing him down.
On 15 February, the church was consecrated according to the Georgian orthodox rite.
One month later, the Archbishops Garegin and Grigoris came from Armenia to Tbilisi, where they met with Iliad II, the Georgian Patriarch and it was decided to stop all actions until the advent of better times. The church has been closed since.
Now, after the appearance of the fake Georgian graves, emotions are flying high again with consequences not to be foreseen. For Father Abgar, the Armenian priest in Tbilisi, there is no doubt that Norashen shall open its doors again as Armenian Apostolic Church and that the tombstones must be returned to their places of origin. Alas, the cases of vandalism and appropriation of Armenian cultural heritage, including Armenian cemeteries, have not ceased to increase over the past decades, Norashen being just one sad example among many others.
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Levon A. Isakhanyan
This belltower is all that is left of what was once a large Armenian church, which was demolished by the Soviet Georgian government.
S. Gevorg of Mughni Church in Tbilisi
This Armenian church with a tin roof and blue glazed crosses is under the control of the Georgian church and is about to crumble (as of November, 2006).
S. Astvatsatsin Church of Bethlehem in Tbilisi
This church has been restored as a Georgian Orthodox Church. Has an Armenian inscription on the side.
S. Stepanos Convent in Tbilisi
The crypt/tomb of a wealthy Armenian benfactor has been destroyed.
Karap S. Gevorg Church of Tbilisi
Small Armenian Church now being used as a Georgian Church. Karap is the name of the neighborhood, meaning Stoneside (Kar-ap, the neighborhood abuts stone mountainside).
S. Nshan Church of Tbilisi
This Armenian Church of 1701 has green roof tiles and blue crosses on the side. It is in very critical condition. It was filled with books, but a fire burned them and the floor is still littered with the remains. The Armenian Church is still not allowed to use this property. Many Armenian inscriptions, graves and some khachkars remain. Most of the graves outside have been swallowed up by the garages of neighboring houses.
S. Minas Basilica of Tblisi
Small old basilica in Havlabar which may have been Armenian. Was used as a small production/factory space during Soviet times, thus the green and white interior paint.
S. Marine Church of Tbilisi
Small old church in Havlabar which may have been Armenian.
Karmir Avetaran Church of Tbilisi
Massive Armenian church located in Havlabar, 1 block from the metro (away from the new Georgian Cathedral). Numerous Armenian inscriptions. Said to have been blown up in 1989 by Georgian nationalists.
Petros Adamian Tbilisi State Armenian Drama Theatre
Petros Adamian Tbilisi State Armenian Drama Theatre was established in 1858 by the great Armenian theatre figure Gevork Chmshkian. The first staging was "Adji Souleyman" performance. From 1922 through 1936 before building of the new current theatre building the theatres name was "Artistic theatre". In 1936 was built a new theatre building which was named Stepan Shahumian Armenian Theatre. The first performance was Mkrtich Djanan's performance "Shakh Nane". On this stage was grown a number generations of the great Armenian actors.Here were worked the world's famous actors: Petros Adamian, Siranoush,Vagram Papazian, Oganes Abelian, and also our outstanding actors: Olga Maysourian, Isaak Alikhanian, Mariamik Mochorian, Artem and Mary Beroians, Artem Lousinian, Babken Nersesian, Dory Amirbekian, Ashot Kadjvorian, Emma Stepanian, Armenian directors: Arshak Bourdjalian, Levon Kalantar, Stepanos Kapanakian, Alexander Abarian, Ferdinand Bzhikian, Hayk Umikian, Mikael Grigorian, Oganes Karapetian, Romen Chaltikian, Roma Matiashvili, Robert Egian. Music for theatres often was written by Aram Khachatourian, Armen Tigranian, Alexander Spendiarian, Gourgen Shakhbazian and others.
Nowadays Petros Adamian Tbilisi State Armenian Drama Theatre is the main spiritual and public center of Georgian-Armenian community and it continues the work of the great predecessors. (Source: http://amtheater.gq.nu )
The large Armenian cemetary of Khojavank was destroyed in order to build Tbilisi's huge new Georgian cathedral. It was done against the wishes of the Armenian community, leaving only one small, far removed section where some of the most famous Armenians in history are buried.
Armenian Pantheon of Tbilisi
Adjacent to the huge new Georgian cathedral, but very hard to access (you must go past it, then back over a bridge, near the big antenna). The Armenian Pantheon of Tbilisi has the tombs of many famous Armenians including Hovhannes Tumanian and Raffi. Most of the tombstones were removed by the Georgian government and replaced with uniform black squares with names and dates.
Once formally known as Paskevich Yerevanski Square, then Lenin Square, it was commonly called Yerevan Square. Paskevich Erevanski (pronounced Yerevanski) was a Russian general and was called Paskevich of Yerevan in honor of his taking of Yerevan for the Russian Empire. Abutting the north side of Freedom Square is a small open space with a fountain. Buried between the bust of Pushkin and the fountain is Kamo (Simon Ter-Petrosyan). Kamo was once a celebrated communist, but now his grave has been paved over and is unmarked.
Armenian Street Names
The heavily Armenian old neighborhoods of Tbilisi still have many Armenian street names, though some have been changed over time. Leselidze Street was once called Armenian Bazaar Street.
In February 2005 the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church in Georgia initialized erecting a khachkar (cross-stone memorial) in Tbilisi in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Armenian Cooperation Centre of Georgia supported that initiation with gathering of necessary funds and organizing preparation of the monument. By February 2006 the monument is technically ready to be erected, but the Diocese still didn't receive the answer to its request. Thousands of genocide refugees were resided in various parts of Georgia after 1915.
Marshutni service to Tbilisi departs Yerevan from the Kilikia Bus Station at 8, 9, 10 and 11am. Cost is 6,500 AMD (as of November, 2006). Marshutnis also depart from Vanadzor, Gyumri and Artik.