This was my fourth trip to Georgia since 2016 and each trip I have noticed a slow-and-steady increase in the amount of “western” influence in the city. From one year to the next, hotels—huge skyscrapers in a city of modestly tall buildings—are being built with seemingly no regard for the traditional architecture of the ancient city. To me (and truthfully, many of my Georgian friends share similar sentiments), these buildings are massive eyesores that break-up a beautiful, low cityscape that is not only the view from the balcony of the house in which we stay, but also seen from all over the city. This has an impact on me because I contextualize the city’s expansion and economic growth within the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago. Since the collapse, this small but vivacious country has seen civil war, invasions and annexations from foreign adversaries, and a multitude of diplomatic relationships developed with countries both previously in and out of the Soviet bloc. The context and the subsequent developments have ushered in a new era in Georgia- one where there are no foreign powers at the helm of their government. One in which Georgia is in control of their own future for the first time in a long time.

As you travel in the city and beyond, you can see a host of influences from the Soviet era and of western countries. However, what remains clear is a strong Georgian tradition. You can travel in Tbilisi or even venture out into more rural villages and find feasts, toasts, celebrations, similar driving patterns, urban planning, architectural influences and more. All of this is to say that the architecture of their capital is one example of the tension between preserving tradition in Georgia and in welcoming innovation and change into the fold. You see it in other ways, too: social developments, cultural developments, and even the fact that the Georgian alphabet, spoken and written language is almost completely isolated to this small country of about 3.5 million people, with most people speaking at least one other language, sometimes even two or three. I feel as though I am witnessing a critical point in the development of the modern state of Georgia.

This beautiful country has welcomed me several times in the past five years with warm hospitality, friendship, delicious food, unique and incomparable experiences, all within a changing physical and cultural landscape. I have learned an immense amount about different subcultures of Georgians, what the people as a collective share and cherish, and how they’ve fought for their independence as a nation and a people. Their traditions are cherished, yet they are turning a new page and ushering themselves into a more modern era. I look forward to seeing the continued preservation of the traditions while also seeing the innovations they welcome.

– Maggie (High School Social Studies teacher)