1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tiflis (town)

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TIFLIS, a town of Russian Caucasia, capital of the government of the same name and of the governor-generalship of Caucasia, picturesquely situated (44° 48′ E., 41° 42′ N.) at the foot of bare high mountains, on both banks of the river Kura, 300 ft. above the Black Sea. It is connected by rail with Poti and Batum (217 m.) on the Black Sea, with Baku on the Caspian Sea. (342 m.), with Kars (185 m.), and, via Baku and Petrovsk, with the railway system of European Russia, which it joins at Beslan, near Vladikavkaz. Omnibuses also run regularly across the main range to Vladikavkaz, which by this route is only 133 m. distant. The heat in summer is excessive (mean, 73.4° F.), owing to the confined position; but the surrounding hills (1500 to 2400 ft.) shelter the town effectively from the cold winds of winter (mean, 34.7°). A large square, cathedrals, handsome streets, gardens, bridges, many fine buildings—among them the grand-ducal palace, the opera-house and the museum—European shops, the club or “circle,” hotels and public offices, are evidence of western civilization. Among the modern public buildings are the Hall of Fame (1885), the Caucasian Museum, a cathedral of the Catholic Greek Church, and a sericultural museum. The chief of the older edifices is the (Sion) cathedral, which traces back its origin to the 5th century. Other churches date from the 14th and 15th centuries, the Armenian cathedral of Van from 1480, and the Catholic church from the 14th century. At Tiflis are the Caucasian branch of the Russian Geographical Society, an astronomical and a physical observatory, a botanical garden and museum, and a public library. There are cotton and silk factories, tanneries, soap-works and brick-works. The artisans of Tiflis are renowned as silversmiths, gunsmiths and sword-makers. Tiflis is the chief centre for the import of raw silk and silken goods, raw cotton, cottons, woollens, boots, tobacco, wine, carpets, and dried fruits from Persia and Transcaucasia, while manufactured wares are imported from Russia. The city has considerably developed, and had, in 1897, 160,645 inhabitants, as compared with 104,024 in 1883. They include Georgians, Russians, Germans, Persians and Tatars.

In the old division of Tiflis three distinct towns were included—Tiflis, Kal'a (the fort) and Isni; subsequently Tiflis seems to have been known as Saidabad, Kal'a as Tiflis, and Isni as Aulabar. Kal'a and Isni possessed citadels; that of the former contained the church of St Nicholas and a royal palace; that of the latter the church of the Holy Virgin and the residence of the archimandrite. The town is now divided into quarters: the Russian (the finest of all), the German, the Armenian, and that in which are congregated Jews, Mahommedans and the mass of Orientals.

The Georgian annals put the foundation of Tifiis back to A.D. 379. In the later half of the 5th century the chieftain of Georgia, Wakhtang, Gurgaslan, transferred his capital from Mtskhet to the warm springs of Tphilis, where he erected several churches and a fort. In 570 the Persians took the place and made it the residence of their rulers, but retained it only for ten years. Tiflis suffered successive plundering and devastations at the hands of the Greeks in 626, of one of the commanders of the Caliph Omar in 731, of the Khazars in 828, and of the Arabs in 851. The Georgians, however, always managed to return to it and to keep it in their permanent possession. In the course of the succeeding centuries Tiflis fell repeatedly into Persian hands; and it was plundered by the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane towards the end of the 14th century. Afterwards the Turks seized it several times, and towards the end of the 17th century the Lesghians attacked it. In 1795, when the shah of Persia plundered Tiflis, Russia sent troops to its protection, and the Russian occupation became permanent in 1799.

Perhaps one of the fullest accounts of Tiflis is contained in Brosset's edition of the Description géographique de la Géorgie (St Petersburg, 1842), by the illegitimate son of Wakhtang VI., king of Karthli (i.e. Georgia), who became a pensioner of Peter the Great.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)