Georgia at the end of XIX century

Some historical photos of photographer Dmitri Ermakov.

From Mr. Rolf Gross collection.

During a series of assignments of teaching physics in Tbilisi in the 1980s I made the acquaintance of the director of the Georgian State Museum of Fine Arts in the basement of which the more than 2000 glass plates of the Ermakov Collection were stored at the time. He graciously allowed me to take a number of large photographic prints home. These were scraps from various projects (i.e., a calendar, prints for an exhibition in Akademgorodok-Novosibirsk 1984), which had been discarded for various reasons. I was delighted and they have been my Georgian treasure ever since. 

The majority of the Ermakov glass plates are 7 x 9 inch in varying condition of preservation. Each negative has a Russian caption by the photographer, which I used. They have not been scanned or published. Obviously the plates badly need some professional attention. The Museum has no money for this task.

In 2000 several of my friends persuaded a Dutch non-profit organization to establish and fund a rescue mission for the photographic plates in Tbilisi. The curator of this “Georgian Museum of Photography” was Hans de Herder from an Institute of Photography in Rotterdam, Holland. De Herder was dismayed that I was in the possession of so many of of his precious photographs and implored me not to publish them in the near future. Except for a few single photos on my Georgian web pages - which promptly and without my knowledge made their way into the internet – I kept my promise.

Ten years later (2010) de Herder's project seems to have gone into limbo. To my knowledge nothing has been published, there is still no catalogue for and no internet presence of the Ermakov Collection. The time has come to open my personal collection to a limited number of people. Maybe this will provoke some institution to act to the benefit of this unique collection.

I own no rights to these photos. The copyrights to the photos are in the public domain. Still professional ethics would demand that their origin be documented. Please use them for non-commercial purposes with a customary reference to this website.

Pacific Palisades, California, September 2010



The “modern” town around 1900. In the  foreground the
Russian cathedral and administrative buildings

Center of the “old” town. The Bridge over the Kura, the Azeri mosque (Shiite),
since disappeared. Various Georgian and Armenian churches. The Narikala fortress on the hill.

The Narikala around 1860. On the Trinity hillside the
of St. George. The “funicular” has not been built.

The bridge over the Kura to the old center of town.

Waterstreet and numerous floating water mills on the Kura

Waterstreet sporting a horse-drawn tramway!

Tiflis, The Bazaar

A Russian customer buying carpets from a Persian merchant

A vegetable vendor

Cloths and vestments

Gourds used to carry water and spirits

Any kind of earthenware water jugs

A fishmonger

Bread stall. The Georgian bread is baked on the wall
of a “tonne”, a vertical circular oven common throughout central Asia

Making chains

A tin-smith

A knife smith and a customer from the mountains

Fruit vendor

Socks and robes

Wine merchants. Their wines were stored in skins.

Camel caravan from Persia. Tiflis was an important
Caucasian trade center and transfer station.

Tiflis, the Variety of its Ethnic People

A Gurian from Southwestern Georgia

Wife of a rich Armenian merchant

An Osseti from the mountains. The Osseti are the last remnants of Gothic tribes.

A Georgian priest and his wife

Georgian sharpshooter

Head-wash in the Hamam

Georgian Heroes in chain mail – posing in the studio...

Georgian Tribes

Khartli, the Heartland of Eastern Georgia

Local Saints Day in Mtskheta (Mtskhetoba)

All the women loaded on a Georgian Arba -
the prerogative of the Christian Georgian women!

The ancient cave city of Uplistikhe near Gori

Mtskheta, the old Georgian capital. The Georgian kings
are buried in its cathedral Tsveti Skoveli

The Georgian Military Road and Mount Kazbeg

The mail coach to Vladikavkas on the Georgian Military Road
built by the Russians in the 19th century.

Mount Kazbeg and the church of Mtatsminda Kazbegi,
one of the landmarks of Georgia

Western Georgia

Old Priest

Kutaisi, the Jewish quarter

Oxcart in Kutaisi

Kutaisi, Moslem butchers prepare for the ritual slaughtering of a calf

Svaneti, The Mythical High Valley in the Western Caucasus

Svaneti, Repussé icon of St George

Svaneti, Family portrait of the princely Dadeshkeliani, the Knyaz of Svaneti

Svaneti, Two Dadeshkeliani princesses

And if you didn't believe it, in Chevsureti they still wore
chain-mail in the early 20th century!