Tbilisi as the meeting place of different oriental and occidental phenomena

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Nino Pirtskhalava


With its diverse population, Tbilisi, commonly referred as the meeting place of oriental and occidental phenomena, has always been the model of a multiethnic, multiconfessional, multicultural city in the Caucasus. The study of the rele­vant literary corpus (of Georgian, European or Russian authors) of Tbilisi texts in the general context of literature on Georgia implies the consideration of this literary – urbanistic model as a crossroads of cultural worlds, as an intersection between East and West that is both a borderline and a passage  – a liminal region that instead of separating has rather the function of mediating.

This multicultural environment generated the eternal question: "Asia or Europe?"  – as a reflection of the continuous process of defining Georgian national identity and cultural belonging. Something that possibly became determinative not only for European authors but also for the Georgians’ auto – identification of their own existence as a culture situated at the hinge of West and the East.

By analysing the accounts of different western travelers, this paper tries to identify the strongest impacts on the cultural construction of the diverse and multiethnic image of this city/country. Along these lines, I ask the following questions: who constructed this image  – is it a self – portraiture as self – representation of Georgian cultural memory? Or a picture of Georgian culture created and imposed by foreign authors?

Thus the paper aims to trace how the features of Tbilisi’s symbolic profile are reflected both in a portrait of Georgian culture created by foreigners, as well as in its self – portrait, which obviously patterns the transformation of Georgian cultural self – perception in the literature of the last two centuries. Intertextual references illustrate how the representations of the capital city in Georgian literature are informed by the receptions of the city in foreign – language fiction and documentary prose since the nineteenth century.

Key words: cultural construction, self – portraiture, multicultural city, identity, Asia or Europe?

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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How Can Literature Change the Geography? European Globality and the Black Sea/Ge