The messenger logo

Tbilisi: Capital of the Caucasus?

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, May 8
One of President Mikheil Saakashvili's large-scale projects has been to move Parliament from Tbilisi to Kutaisi. Rather than wait for the elections this October to bring a new parliament into a new building, he will hold the inaugural Kutaisi session on May 26. That same day, the city will host a military parade for Georgia's Independence Day. Thus, Tbilisi is losing its cachet, and its power. The spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down is that Saakashvili has called Kutaisi the "second capital", while Tbilisi remains the "capital of the Caucasus". It is difficult to determine Saakashvili's meaning. Is this part of his plan to create a united Caucasus, or are these just sweet words to calm Tbilisi residents and concerned citizens?

The President noted, too, in his declaration that Armenia and Azerbaijan both declared their independence from the Russian empire in Tbilisi. Azeri analyst Arif Iunusop says that Saakashvili is wrong to say these things. He notes that Azerbaijan declared its independence in Tbilisi because Baku at the time was occupied by Bolsheviks; only a few days later the Azeri government was moved to Ganja. Azeri historian Eldar Ismailov agrees, saying that Tbilisi was never Azerbaijanís capital. According to him, until 1917 Tbilisi was the centre of the Caucasus as the Russian viceroy resided there. Fellow historian Nizami Parajev states that since the 19th century, Baku has become a centre for economics and culture, and the world acknowledged the significance of Baku. So far, no Armenian public figures have commented.

Overall, Saakashvili's declaration of Tbilisi as the capital of the Caucasus is not very popular in Georgia. He claims that through moving the capital to Kutaisi, he will start to regain Abkhazia and integrate it into Georgia. Some analysts suggest that the Presidentís next step will be to move the capital to Gori and start de- occupying South Ossetia from there.