“It is the fifth year of my studies in Tbilisi State University”, says Mako Abashidze masters student of Social and Political Science. Looking back through the past five years she mentions that only a little, less important technical changes have been done to the buildings of the university.
Tbilisi State University’s (TSU) first building is under big reconstruction now and as a student, she is very curious what will come out of all these. In spite of her interest she is also a little skeptical about any great improvement in the university life but still says: “In any case I don’t want to lose my hope completely’’.
Hopes and expectations are higher among those, directly involved in the reconstruction project. They call it ‘turning point’ in the history of the oldest university of Georgia and Caucasus. Renovation started at the end of 2008 and will finish in 2011, but part of the building will be opened for the students by 2010.
The project is financed by Cartu Group Holding, founded by businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili and it is a charitable project. Representatives of TSU say that they only have to cooperate favorably with the project initiators, all the rest is up to Cartu Group. This is a kind will of a businessman, they declare.
In official comments, Cartu Group categorically refuses to tell the cost of the project, arguing that it is the founder’s charity and it doesn’t matter how much he spends; besides, the project isn’t over and there might appear additional expenses in future.
Gia Khubua, Rector of TSU, says that after reconstruction students will have the environment oriented on their interests. “First building will be alive with active and modern student life soon”, promises Khubua, adding: “Besides, our aim is to return historical and architectural justice to the building.”
Chief architect of the project, Givi Gabunia, has been working on renovation of the Simon Janashia Museum (Cartu Group is working on it even now) before he got involved in TSU project. Gabunia confirms that the main aim of the architects is to return to the first building the original look, but at the same time the building should respond modern university standards.
The architect says that they will install new heating system and 200 doors from chestnut tree, one of the most expensive materials which cost about GEL 2000 at retailers. So by rough calculations simply replacing doors may cost to them around GEL 400 000. Beyond that there will be made two yards, one with pavement and special spots where the students can sit, chat and relax, and another one, the pantheon side, with new paths and lawns. Cartu group imports materials from Turkey and Germany.
Although the building is short of classrooms, no extension of the building is planned: “we have no right to attach new constructions to the historical one” explains Gabunia, instead, he says, part of the old study departments of different faculties will be reconstructed and used as additional auditoria. Apart from ordinary rooms, historical auditoria carrying names of Vazha Pshavela, Akaki Tsereteli and other prominent cultural figures will be preserved, but also used as space for lectures.
One of the big parts of this project is a modern library, with the space of 1000 square meters. It will keep 200 000 books, part of which will be purchased by Cartu Group, as they claim, for one million US dollars and it will cover all disciplines.
The building will have new museum of Education and Science in old cupola-shaped hall, room for cultural events, Performance hall and conference hall for 650 people, equipped with the latest video and audio devices. Cartu Group will provide university with all these and as chief architect says for the installation of the new devices they will invite German specialists.
Head of TSU Administration, Roman Kharbedia explains that when the repairing work will be finished, here will be placed different studying departments and will be held lectures, mostly for the students of the Humanitarian faculty.
Davit Cherkezishvili, head of the Department of Material Resources, says that during many years different basic works done in the building have damaged historical arrangement of the rooms. In 70s a basketball hall was attached to it that changed primary form of the historical monument. After restoration it will be deconstructed and moved to another end of the building.
Another challenging project of Cartu Group, TSU representatives say, is building the University campus, which will serve not only the students of TSU, but also those, who will study in other accredited universities of Tbilisi. However, this plan is in the far future now.
First building at 1, Chavchavadze Avenue is only a part of the large university complex; comprised of ten buildings of TSU in Tbilisi (the numbering system is different. Building 7 doesn’t exist so, the last building which is XI in fact is the Xth). The rest nine buildings are not in the project financed by Cartu Group. All the repairing works done there are financed by the companies, which won different tenders.
The budget of TSU amounts GEL 32million every year, the income mostly from the studying fee, the students pay. According to the law the university has right to grant on lease part of their buildings for additional income but as Gia Khubua says they don’t use this right because all the space is used for educational purposes. The exception is only building VIII in which branch of the bank Republic is leased. Gia Khubua claims that it was given the lease in 2003 before he became in charge.
Since its foundation in 1918, first Caucasian university has gone through many changes. It had 25 rectors, and for about 85 generation of alumni. There were many external changes as well which also reflected on the history of the university, changes in ideology and politics - the way from independent republic to the democratic country via Soviet dictatorship. During this period the university played central part in the life of the country, for example in 80-90s TSU was the strongest supporting power of the country’s total protest. Now in XXI century it is trying to face the new challenges.