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This lecture examines the ways in which historic urban neighborhoods were deployed in service of both Soviet and Georgian identity politics in the postwar era. In contemporary Georgia, Tbilisi’s historic districts persist as loci of cultural, economic, and political identity. This mythologized “Old Tbilisi” is the centerpiece of an ever-expanding business of heritage tourism that both breaks from and builds upon Soviet narrative precedents. Its design (and subsequent redesigns) have provided the template for countless programs of historic preservation and political rhetoric—postsocialist President Mikheil Saakashvili’s “New Life for Old Tbilisi” program being a prime example. The built past provided excellent raw material for Soviet and Georgian rhetoric, often simultaneously. These many versions of Old Tbilisi now preclude any single understanding of the city’s history or of the place itself, particularly as the intended audience shifts in scale from local to national to international.This talk will explore the planning and preservation techniques used to redefine the physical form, image, and understanding of local history through a process of urban editing: a combination of civic spectacle, urban renewal, and architectural reconstruction. 

Angela Wheeler is a visiting lecturer with Amherst College's Department of Art and the History of Art; she is also a PhD candidate in Architectural and Urban History at Harvard University. Angela has practiced and studied architectural heritage management in the Republic of Georgia since 2010, working on projects that ranged from urban planning for small historic cities to documentation of Ottoman-era mosques. In 2023, she published Architectural Guide: Tbilisi, the first comprehensive English-language guide to the city's historic buildings and urban development.  

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