FROM THE CHRONICLES OF TBILISI SUBURBS

(A small guide for people interested in urbanism)

Tbilisi, just like other post-soviet cities, is surrounded by suburbs, but for most middle-aged people the word ‘city’ is only associated with central districts which, in Tbilisi’s case, means Sololaki, Avlabari, Vera, Vake, Plekhanovi and Saburtalo.

From year to year, Tbilisi’s suburbs are obedient to active urbanization tendencies and are being transformed into places with well-organized city infrastructure, meaning that people living there can seek jobs in their own district and find interesting ways to entertain themselves. Recently, many outskirts of Tbilisi have seen a number of newly-opened large trade centers, offi ce areas and sports complexes.

Public traffi c and the Metro work very well in these places at present, and there were also once ropeways in some suburbs in the soviet times (in Vazisubani, for example).

Tbilisi suburbs (Gldani, Mukhiani, Temka, Vazisubani, and Varketili) look alike in their layout of closely packed eightand 16-floor blocks laid out as micro-districts, just as commonly seen in other post-soviet cities.

The yards between living blocks are usually used as gathering places for the inhabitants, but are often far from comfortable.

In order to enlarge their apartment living spaces, many people defaced Tbilisi suburbs with illogical and often illegal constructions in the gloomy 1990s- extending their properties or changing their exterior window designs, and creating patchwork facades.

One of the ugliest building types in Tbilisi is the so-called ‘Khrushchyovka,’ a type of low-cost, concrete-paneled or brick three to fi ve-floor living block, developed in the USSR during the early 1960s when its namesake Nikita Khrushchev was heading the Soviet government. Tbilisi suburbs Avchala, Temka, Lilo, Ponichala and others are famous for these match-box buildings and in comparison with them, the so-called ‘Czech’ and ‘Moskovian’ nine-floor blocks look much prettier, but surely are also far from modern architectural principles.

Getting back to the Tbilisi outskirts, some were created as manufacturing zones, for example Didube and Nadzaladevi and have since given birth to other suburbs – Temka, Gldani, Mukhiani, and Avchala. The only remains left of the manufacturing heritage are the ruins of the factories, now often used as storage facilities.

It takes approximately 1.5 hours to get from one suburb to another by public transport or minibus. It is naturally much cheaper to buy a flat in a suburb than in the center of the capital and, consequently, people from the regions or students studying in Tbilisi prefer to purchase flats there which results in a difference in mentality between them and those living downtown.

In the most remote suburbs (Upper Ponichala, Africa, Small Lilo) one can distinctly feel the sharp ethnical diversity. In southeastern Tbilisi is the Africa suburb (spread across approximately 143 hectares) which appeared after the destruction of the gardens there. Its layout began in the 1950s, when, following the second world war, German hostages and Greeks were settled there to work on construction projects. This suburb was also well-known for its manufacturing infrastructure.

Ponichala is also a very specifi c district where one can see old kiosks selling alcohol, and colorful Communist-type car parks. While there you’ll come across slow-walking cows lazily passing kitchen gardens and it becomes diffi cult to understand whether you’re in a village or a city… In addition, Ponichala is ethnically multicolored, with Georgians, Greeks, Armenians and Azeris living side-by-side. This place is also well-known as a settlement for blind people.

Each suburb of Tbilisi has the claim of having less polluted air, but no one seems to realize how fast these districts can transform into organic parts of Tbilisi city.

Photo: Anna Kacheishvili

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