This past weekend was Tbilisoba, or the Tbilisi Fall Festival–Georgian language hint: the suffix “-oba” added to any name indicates that it is a celebration of that name; hence you have Giorgoba (celebration of St. George), Mariamoba (celebration of Mary), qristeshoba (celebration of Christ, or Christmas–usually shortened to just “shoba,” or “birth”), etc. I suppose for my birthday I could have Angeloba? In any event, fall is a wonderful time to be in Georgia–there’s the harvest, wedding season, wine-pressing, and of course the weather in Tbilisi is finally mild enough to walk around without melting.
First held in 1979, the festival was created at the initiative of then-First Secretary of the Georgian SSR, Eduard Shevardnadze. It was intended as a secular holiday to foster civic pride, honor the capital’s history, and counter attendance at religious events as part of Shevardnadze’s program to overcome “manifestations of nationalism” by introducing new “socialist traditions.” In practice, however, the event and its celebration of the city’s 1,500-year history had the unintended effect of engaging Georgians more intensely in their national history, as the liberalizing effects of the Thaw began their belated influence in the Caucasus. Although Tbilisoba was put on hold during the civil unrest of the early 1990s, it was resumed in 1995 and has since been held annually at some point each October. You can see a video of last year’s festivities here.
Most of the activities take place in Abanotubani (the historic bath district). It can be hard to find event schedules, but on Saturday and Sunday there are generally several events running simultaneously around Gorgasali Square between noon and 5-6pm. This year, the 3-day agenda features several gallery/exhibition openings, an auto show, and numerous concerts, as well as more traditional fare like the satsnakheli (public wine-pressing), falconry show, folkdance and music performances representing various regions throughout Georgia, horseback and carriage rides, crafts fair, old timey Georgian sports, and sightseeing tours on the Mtkvari River by raft. There are also several mini-festivals within Tbilisoba, for fruit, tea/honey, and wine. The city clearly hired a professional event planner this year, because they remembered to schedule the fruit and tea festivals before the wine festival.