Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Eugenia Paulicelli

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Photography


Photography, Georgia, Tbilisi, Roinashvili, Ermakov, 19th Century


Nineteenth century Georgia was marked by considerable instability and transformation. The century opened with the kingdoms of Kartli-Kakheti becoming a province (gubernia) of the Russian Empire in 1801 and closed with the empire nearing its eventual collapse in early twentieth century. The Russian Empire expanded its territorial control over Georgia and of the greater Caucasus to conveniently secure its borders against the empires of Ottoman Turkey and Persia. Tbilisi became the capital of Transcaucasia and served as a significant center for administrative and military operations in the region. The city’s strategic location, historically, made it a point of encounter for several empires that impressed it with diverse cultural influences. During the period of mid-1800s through 1900, Tbilisi experienced the effects of industrialization, urbanization, and sociopolitical developments that included the demise of the traditional feudal class structure from which emerged the bourgeoisie and the working classes, and the rise and revival of the Georgian national movement and cultural renaissance in the final decades of the 19th century that sought to restore and preserve Georgian national and cultural identity to counter the ongoing imperial strategy of Russification and oppression.

Photography reached Tbilisi in the 1840s and the medium quickly gained popularity commercially and as an apparatus of the state. This thesis considers the historical conditions and ideologies that influenced the early development of photographic practices in Tbilisi between 1860 and 1900. It will focus on the photographic work of two native photographers: Alexandre Roinashvili, considered the founding father of Georgian photography, and his contemporary Dmitri Ermakov, to draw insight from selected images about the transformative period. Little has been written about Roinashvili and his work. Given Tbilisi’s prominence in Eurasia as a thriving metropolis, Ermakov and Roinashvili’s work formed an important chronicle of Tbilisians and Tbilisi, portraying the transformation of the old city and the rise of modernity under oppressive colonial rule.

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