Faces of Tbilisi

by Herman Avakian September. 15, 2016 744 views

The value of this project for me, as an Armenian photographer, is that it provides a unique opportunity to communicate with people of different nationalities, representing different cultures living in one city. As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Azerbaijani population moved out of Armenia and the Armenian population left Azerbaijan. Today, Tbilisi is the only city in the South Caucasus where people of both nations live. The fact that the people live together as good neighbors and engage jointly in business completely disproves the statements of nationalistic politicians who declare that the cohabitation of these two ethnic groups is impossible, who speak about the"incompatibility on a genetic level" between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. During the last twenty years, Armenians and Azerbaijan is have been deprived of the possibility to communicate with each other. State propaganda uses vast resources to create an image of the enemy. In this flow of propagandistic stereotypes, it is very difficult to see a simple man, hard worker, a family man who wants a bright and peaceful future for his children. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, nationalist forces came to power, put forward the slogan "Georgia for Georgians" and unleashed a civil war in the country. Thus, the citizens of Georgia have experienced the logical culmination of nationalist ideas. The uniqueness of today's Tbilisi lies in the fact that despite the August war with Russia in 2008, Russians also live in the city. The Russian Orthodox Church functions here, and counts among its parishioners Russians, Armenians, Georgians and representatives of other nationalities. Today, Georgia is the only city in the South Caucasus whererepresentatives of different nationalities can live in a harmonious neighborhood, perform their religious ceremonies, and observe holidays according to their national traditions. Personally for me, a photographer who lives and works in Armenia (where ethnic Armenians make up 99% of the country’s population), the process of implementing the project was perhaps more interesting than the result.It has given me the opportunity to establish contact with people with whom I am deprived of the possibility to communicate due to the ethnic conflicts in the South Caucasus.

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