Radisson Blu Iveria: A Luxury Hotel That Became a Refugee Camp

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The Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel is located at the center of Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi. Built in 1967, it was Georgia’s finest hotel and a popular place to stay for its excellent location and sweeping views of the city. Then in the early 1990s, soon after the collapse and subsequent breakup of the USSR, civil war broke out in Georgia. Tbilisi was flooded with refugee ethnic Georgians coming in from the disputed territory of Abkhazia on the west of Georgia. More than 200,000 refugees poured into the city and the government was faced to deal with their reallocation. Many buildings in Tbilisi, including Hotel Iveria, were reallocated for housing the displaced. A thousand of them wound up in the hotel’s 22 floors where they would remain for the next ten years.

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The hotel had been lying vacant at that time, unable to do business after the collapse of the Soviet Union and associated collapse of Georgia’s tourism industry. The monumental Soviet building that dominates the Georgian capital’s skyline became a pitiful sight, with broken windows patched up with cellophane, broken railings, crude plywood constructions on the balconies and a gaudy miscellany of washing hung everywhere.

A journalist who visited the hotel in 2001, wrote:

The carpets are long gone (now bare concrete), the walls boast bare plaster, the health centre on the ground floor I couldn't visit as the stench of urine on the marble stairs forced me back upstairs. There was grass growing on the sixteenth floor.

On each floor there are small stalls selling vegetables, chocolate and, of course, alcohol. There is no work and the government pays seven dollars a month in benefits. Incredibly, on the third floor, there is a fully functioning hotel with Internet and fax services; on the ground floor there is a casino and also a restaurant that was hosting a wedding party as we passed.

It was only after the Rose Revolution in 2003 and the resign of president Shevardnadze, that the government started giving serious thoughts about evacuating the hotel and restoring it to its original condition. The residents were given $7000 per room and moved out of the hotel.

The refurbished hotel now boasts 249 rooms, as well as several restaurants, bars and a conference center. In addition the old roof top swimming pool has been removed and replaced with a spa and fitness center. The hotel was reopened in 2009 as the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel.

Also see: Buildings that suffered similar fate - Ponte City Tower in Johannesburg, Tower of David in Caracas.

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Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel today. Photo credit

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Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel today. Photo credit

Sources: Wikipedia / AtlasOscura / BuroHappold Engineering

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