They are pulling down the 19th-century Lermontov House in Gudiashvili Square in Tbilisi. The historical association Tiflis Hamqari have been protesting against the demolition since Sunday, sounding off with whistles and horns and holding placards – ‘If you destroy this building you destroy us’ – while the process of stripping out fretwork balconies and roof timbers, smashing stair banisters and ripping out floorboards goes on behind them. The work is being carried out on behalf of the Georgian office of an Austro-German developer, Magnat, whose head office is in Frankfurt.
I arrived in Tbilisi in the small hours of the night. (I was on my way to the Tusheti to go trekking, partly in aid of the Roddy Scott Foundation.) The road from the airport passes a blazing, undulating glass building. My taxi driver made me guess what it might be. A skating rink or art gallery, perhaps? But no, it was the new Interior Ministry and Police Headquarters, which, for all the symbolic transparency, has a solid, blocky core. Next, on a hilltop dominating the Georgian capital, comes the Presidential Palace: a crude White House lookalike topped by a glazed dome borrowed from the modern Reichstag.