Fachportal zur Geschichte und Kultur der Deutschen in Kaukasien

„Schdaddleut“ – City Life – Tiflis

Paul von Franken: Old Tiflis (1879) / Source: Gabriel, Heike (Hg.): German Painters of the 19th and 20th centuries in Georgia. Collection of the Georgian National Museum, Tiflis 2011.

The agricultural colony of Alexanderdorf, in the modern Didube district, and the craftworkers’ settlement of New-Tiflis, in the modern Kukia district, were originally founded on the right bank of the river Mtkvari (Kura) after the arrival of the first settlers in the South Caucasus in 1818. In the second half of the 19th century numerous craftshops and service providers sprang up in New-Tiflis, which was incorporated into the city of Tiflis in 1862. These were mainly around the so-called Michael Avenue, now Aghmashenebeli street, along with specialist shops, chemists and hotels. The emerging city became a magnet for business enterprises such as Siemens & Halske, as well as for German scientists, creative artists, painters and architects.

Along with other European architects, Albert Salzmann, Leopold Bielfeld, and Joseph Ditsmann (1878–1923), played a decisive role up to the beginning of the 20th century in establishing the urban landscape of the Tbilisi of today. The naturalist Gustav Radde (1831–1903), born in Danzig, was the founder and first director of the Caucasian Museum, opened in 1867. The first observatory in the South Caucasus was founded in 1850 by Arnold Moritz (1821–1902), and the Botanical Garden came in 1861 under the leadership of Heinrich Scharrer (1828–1906). The Germans also left their mark on music and literature in the city: the Berlin professor of music Franz Kessner (1851–1930) founded the first professional quartet in 1881 and later became the first professor at the Conservatory. Among writers the predominant ones were Friedrich von Bodenstedt (1819–1892) and above all Arthur Leist (1852–1927). As well as a large number of novels, the latter published the first translation of the Georgian epic "The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin" as well as taking over as editor-in-chief of the "Caucasian Post" the first German language newspaper in the South Caucasus.

Many German painters such as Boris Vogel (1872–1961), Richard Karl Sommer (1866–1939), Max Tilke (1869–1942) and Theodor Horschelt (1829–1871) lived in Tiflis, or travelled through the Caucasus. The painter and cartoonist Oskar Schmerling (1863–1938) made a humorous record of Caucasian daily life in his scenic cartoons and had an in­fluence on all the local satirical newspapers and magazines. He also produced sketches of daily life in Baku, a town which saw enormous growth in the course of the oil boom at the end of the 19th and into the 20th century.

The naturalist and scientist Gustav Radde, born in Danzig, undertook various expeditions into the Crimea and to Siberia. In 1864, he arrived at the Physical Observatory in Tiflis and began research into the biogeographical make-up of the Caucasus. His findings and conclusions became an integral part of his management of the opening of the Caucasian Museum, which he headed up to his death.