For anyone interested in Tbilisi’s changing urban identity (or, for anyone who just wants to visit and know what to expect), I highly recommend the post “Tbilisi Unbound,” originally published on the Teach and Learn with Georgia blog.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“…I was telling people that the city would soon become the next Prague — a down-on-its-luck former imperial metropolis freed after communism evaporated to be reborn as a destination for expats and bohemians, history buffs and hipsters, and generally for people who get pleasure either from gazing out from the edge of Western Civilization with pride as it continues to push Eastward or from sitting on the edge of non-Western civilization and knowing they could escape into it at any time they wanted. Prague — safe, cheap, vibrant — the city had had its heyday in the ’90s before becoming too expensive for the casual traveler, too cliche for the adventurer. And since other major cities in the region like Warsaw and Bucharest weren’t taking advantage of the opening, Tbilisi looked like it could stride ahead of its East European counterparts and grab the baton from Prague.”
“Urbanization is occurring all over Georgia, as it is in every country, though much more slowly here: Georgia is less than two-thirds urban (by some measures) and rising slowly (by any measure). While Tbilisi contains a quarter of Georgia’s population, it isn’t the country’s only city. Half of all Georgia’s urban-dwellers live in a handful of small- and medium-sized cities. The country’s second city, Kutaisi, one of Georgia’s many former capitals, is expected to experience a bit of an economic and cultural revival beginning in October when newly-elected members of parliament take their seats in their new glass-and-steel domed home. The urban heart of the very Autonomous Republic of Ach’ara, coastal Batumi, is a world somewhat apart from the rest of Georgia: determined to become Las Vegas-by-the-Sea, a project at which they’re, ahem, succeeding.”
“Proliferating cafes, historic preservation movements, condo projects — these are signs of middle-class life, indications that after only a few years of consistent progress the reactionary anxieties of recent decades are abating and a cosmopolitan sensibility is beginning to emerge. Georgians are becoming aware of their culture in a new way — not just as the total of the traditions and beliefs that they take for granted as the right way to live, but as only one way among many. For Georgians, however, as with people from other ethnic groups, their way of life is the only one they would ever want to live. With the Georgian people’s basic physical needs on the way to being met and their security more assured, the political debates tend more now to drift toward issues like media freedom, social justice and the integrity of the electoral process.”