Bassiani: Battleground in a Culture War

Bassiani is famous worldwide, but controversial in Georgia.


Photo by James Jin

Photo by James Jin


Reaching Tbilisi is an undoubted highlight of the Caucasian Challenge. This city is a mosaic of historic architectural styles, replete with hospitable locals and sensational restaurants. However, if you want to understand the soul of modern Tbilisi, look no further than the national football stadium. Or rather, underneath the stadium.

Underneath Dinamo



Photo by Jgarkokolia


In the 20th Century, the stadium of Dinamo Tbilisi may have been the prime destination for tourists. Certainly in the late 1970s, when the stadium was home to a team capable of beating Liverpool, one of Europe’s finest clubs, 3-0. As the city’s football status has declined, however, the stadium has been usurped in popular by its basement, formerly a swimming pool, and now one of the world’s most popular nightclubs.


The Battle


Photo by Georgiano


The name of the club, Bassiani, opened in 2014, has a double meaning, which evokes a culture clash currently playing out in Georgia. It’s more intuitive meaning is “the one with the bass”: a place for music. However, the club is also named after an important event in Georgia’s history: the Battle of Basian, in 1202, when the nation fought with the Seljuk empire. When Bassiani was founded, only four years ago, nobody could have predicted its immense popularity and renown; but, conflict has followed.


The Bassiani Experience



Cavernous and dark, Bassiani is for many a place to escape from the daily grind of prying eyes and conservative society. It hosts many LGBT nights, offering an important safe space in a country where the values of the Orthodox Church still play a important role in the moral life of the country. Entrance for certain night requires invitation or background (ie social media) check. It’s still simple for tourists to visit, though, and enjoy one of Eastern Europe’s most popular techno clubs.


Current Controversy



However, elements of Georgian society are displeased by Bassiani culture, particularly supposed drug-taking, a dangerous claim, considering Georgia’s strict drug laws (the topic of regular protest in the city). Recently, the club was raided by armed police, supposed to crack down on drug dealers. However, the actions of police provoked not only widespread protest (and, admittedly, counter-protests) but many calls of support from the world’s foremost DJs. The club, now reopened, continues increase in popularity, like Tbilisi and Georgia as a whole; however, in a conservative society, progress can never be taken for granted.

CC blog 2018


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Writer at Travel Scientists
David is a writer currently living in Tbilisi, Georgia. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of St Andrews. Previously based in Budapest, he loves all things Eastern European having traveled widely in the Balkans and Caucasus; he's currently trying his best to learn Georgian. When not writing, he watches long Turkish movies, reads old Russian books, and attempts to play piano.

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