Church establishment: The Kukio district of Tbilisi was well-known for its ethnic and religious diversity. Nations of different cultures and religions lived side by side here, among them were also Armenians who were followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The archival documents preserved in the National Archives of Armenia provide remarkable information about the Armenian churches, their properties, the parish school, and priests in Kukio district.

Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church was located in Kukio District, near Vorontsov Square (current Davit Aghmashenebeli Street). The chronological framework of the establishment of Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church includes the 50s-60s of the 19th century. The main costs of the church construction were covered by the Tandoyan (Tandoyants) family, one of the wealthy Armenian families in Tiflis. So, it is no coincidence that the church became known among the people under the name of St. Astvatsatsin of Tandoyants.

According to the data provided by archival documents, the discussions regarding the church construction took place in the consistory from 1853 to 1854. General Reut himself even promised to support the construction of the church[1]. Later, in 1866, by the Tandoyan family and at the initiative of the Armenian parishioners of the district, the question of building a new church on the site of the old wooden church of Kukio Saint Astvatsatsin was again raised [2]. The year of completion of the construction of the stone-built church is considered to be around 1868. [3].

Essentially, in the period between 1866 and 1868, the Tandoyants family built a large stone-built church of St. Astsvatsatsin, instead of the old wooden church.

Further steps toward the improvement of Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church were already taken at the beginning of the 20th century. In particular, in 1901 the parishioners of the church wrote to the consistory asking for permission to build a fence at the place of 7 stalls belonging to the church[4]. The church also had its cemetery in the Kukio district of Tbilisi[5].

Church properties and donations: There are many pieces of evidence from archival documents regarding the construction of Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church, its further renovation, structures of educational and economic significance, and properties donated to the church. According to one of them, on September 15, 1870, the honored citizen of Tbilisi Isahak Martiros Tandoyants submitted a letter of request to the consistory about donating the school built in the narthex of the Tandoyants church and the newly built 10 stalls on the north side of the wall to the church[6]. Among the archival documents is also the project approved by the Tbilisi city administration regarding stalls belonging to the church. As of 1908, thanks to the will of the Tandoyans, the church also had tickets in the Royal Bank of Tbilisi (№ 52290) and the State Treasury (№ 152409)[7].ԹԻՖԼԻՍԻ ՍԲ ՆՇԱՆ ՍԲ ՆԻԿՈՂԱՅՈՍ ԵԿԵՂԵՑԻ XIX ՐԴ ԴԱՐ

Clergy and churchwardens: Rev. Fathers Harutyun Tchughuryan and senior priest Nerses Ghamazyants[9] are mentioned as priests of Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church, and Avetik Tarkhanyants[10], Alexander Babanasyan[11], Sargis Ghamazyan[12], Khachatur Ter-Margaryan[13] and others - as churchwardens.

Church and parish school: In 1863, with Isahak Tandoyan’s funds, a two-story parish school was opened in the narthex of the St. Astvatsatsin wooden church, where about 40 children initially studied[14]. Tandoyants Shushanikian two-class female school also operated adjacent to the church [15].

Architecture: No in-depth research has been conducted on the architectural composition of Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church in Kukio. M. Hasratyan provides some information about the architecture of the church in his study "Architecture of the Armenian Churches of Tbilisi", where it is noted that it is similar to the Shamkoretsots church in its architectural design. It is a basilica with four pillars. It differs only in size, floorplan, and dimensional solution details[16].

Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church in the Soviet and post-Soviet period: In 1923-1924, Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church was captured and closed[17]. The property of the church was confiscated, and the building was handed over to the republican pioneer organization, regarding which the Central Executive Committee of Georgia informed the Diocesan Council in a letter dated October 5, 1925, that the church was renovated and allocated to the pioneers, therefore it cannot be returned to the Council[18]. Then the church was transformed into the "Kolkhida" (Kolkheti) cinema.

Pursuing the issue of preservation of Armenian historical and cultural heritage in Georgia and their return, on December 10, 2014, the Armenian Diocese in Georgia appealed to the government of Georgia for the return of around 442 Armenian churches and chapels confiscated during the Soviet years, including Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, the Diocese once again appealed to the State Agency for Religious Issues of Georgia, and the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia regarding the church's issue, requesting to grant the church a monument status, and then during the renovation of the district, to establish control, to preserve the authentic appearance of the historical monument[19].

Numerous requests and letters from the Armenian Diocese in Georgia regarding the return of the church remain unanswered or received inconclusive, vague responses. In contrast to all that, the Georgian Orthodox Church is disputing whether the Tandoyants Sourb Astvatsatsin church is Armenian. In October 2016, the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia submitted an application to the State Register to register the building as state property, and in April 2017, the Patriarchate of Georgia submitted a letter to cancel the consideration of the church as state property, and then apply to include it in its balance sheet. On July 11, 2017, the state register, canceled the ownership status of the building, registering it as the property of the Patriarchate on July 18, 2017.

Since September 2017, the authorities have started some cleaning works and archaeological excavations around the church without the appropriate permission.

In order to resolve the problem, the Armenian Diocese in Georgia is taking a number of measures[20]. The Diocese addressed Georgia's State Agency for Religious Issues, as well as the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation and the Municipality with appropriate letters. In order to discuss the problem, the Diocese organized a meeting with the representatives of the Armenian community in Georgia, at the same time raising the issue of conducting scientific studies and starting the process of solving the problem by legal means.

[1]See NAA, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 3245, թ. 7 և շրջ.:

[2]See NAA, ֆ. 56, in the same place, գ. 4767, թթ. 4-5:

[3]NAA, ֆ. 56, in the same place, գ. 5215, թ. 6-ի շրջ.:

[4]See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, գ. 3411, թ. 5 և շրջ.:

[5]See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, թ. 168:

[6]See NAA, ֆ. 56, in the same place, գ. 5215, թ. 27-28 և շրջ., 30; 33:

[7] See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, գ. 3101, թ. 101:

[8]See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, գ. 3241, թ. 108:

[9]See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, գ. 3101, թ. 76:

[10]See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, գ. 174 (part 1), թ. 69:

[11]See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, գ. 174 (part 2), թ. 232:

[12]See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, գ. 4049, թթ. 7-8, 16:

[13]See NAA, ֆ. 53, in the same place, գ. 3101, թ. 18:

[14]See NAA, ֆ. 56, in the same place, գ. 5215, թ. 6:

[15] See pic. N 2:

[16] M. Hasratyan, The architecture of the Armenian churches of Tbilisi, “Etchmiadzin”, 2009 (6), p. 71:

[17]See Documents of the history of the Armenian Church, Book III, p. 525-526:

[18] See NAA, ֆ. 409, ց. 1, գ. 3153, թ.17:

[19] Press Department of the Armenian Diocese in Georgia

[20] In the same place

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