Location: Imereti, Western Georgia
Coordinates: 42°17′53″ / 43°17′56″
City Formed: 1921
Area: 54,52 KM²
Population: 19,587 (2008)
Chiatura is located 220 km away from Tbilisi, between the Chiatura plateau and river Kvirila narrow valley, at an altitude of 340-500 meters. Origin and Development of the town was caused by industry based on the manganese mine in the valley. In 1879, at the initiative of Akaki Tsereteli, mining manganese started here, and since 1921 Chiatura was announced to be a city. Old Chiatura was known for its narrow streets, which emerged spontaneously, without planning. In this part, historical development and the grid of streets have remained unchanged.
In 1954, the the first cable car was built in Chiatura, throughout the whole Soviet, it transported people from the city center to the industrial districts of the Perevisi. There are overall more than two dozen hanging passenger cars in Chiatura, which is one of the highest rates in the world. Cableways and construction projects were carried out by local engineers. A prominent specialist was George Pantsulaia, based on whose projects te suspension roads were built not only in Chiatura, but also in many cities of Russia
Chiatura surroundings were one of the densely-populated area in Georgia. There are still some caves on the banks of river Kvrila. According to the geographer and historian Vakhushti Bagrationi, these caves should be from the time of Murvan the Deaf. It is unbelievable how a human could access these cliffs on such a high altitude to carve the caves, while mowadays only experienced climbers managed to enter the caves and even more, they needed modern climbing techniques.
It should be noted that in 2009, in Chiatura, early Paleolithic twisted wild thread flax fibers were found in cave Dzudzuana (34000 years). Until then, it was believed that the most ancient thread, made from nettle, was discovered Dolnivestonitsa, Czech Republic (BC 29000 sec.). Today we can say that the thread discovered in Chiatura is the oldest one in the world dating from ancient prehistoric world.
About a month ago I was in Chiatura to satisfy my architectural curiosity and visit the city buildings . Placed between the two bows, this place, primarily, draws attention because of its landscapes. Autumn colored trees, completely change the look of the grey city, which is defined with its ?manganese mining brutal factories. There are plenty of cable lines as well which lines with the sky mercilessly. The impression is that life here and on the sky moves on equally.
Here, in fact, there are no modern buildings,the ones remaining have been are preserved since Soviet era. A large number of antiquity is intact and leaves impression of being dirty. Kvirila is also black and filthy, because that’s where tall the remains from the factories flow plus garbage in the form of plastic bottles. During the previous government, blocks have been coloured in different shades, ??perhaps they wanted to change the grey views of the, but now it seems as if colourful boxes have been places within this monotonic gamma.
Top view of the city is doubly impressive. You can feel the urban planning, linear system of the streets creates a somewhat pleasant impression, the one that we experience in EU cities when we observe their planning. Here each building has its own history, which is mainly associated with the Soviet era. Concrete awkward masses of the factories with small-sized windows addes to some exotics especailly for the people who are fed up with modern, white and glass architecture. A lot of interesting buildings turned out to be located in this town. Distinctive structures with their materials and forms can be found in almost every street. Railway and its defunct Soviet-era station wagons faded, the old residence of the mayor, cafes and theater, lots of trees, narrow streets and quietness, not even river’s noise disturbing this peace – that is Chiatura. In this century, this so-called “lost” city actually has a really great potential. Nowadays the locals here complain about their bleak and sad life. They want to replace old, partly-destroyed buildings and ?create a lot of working places so that theresidents return to the abandoned city. However, it could have been different: the Soviet industrial city could have breathed a new life and plenty of other functions could have been added other than extracting manganese, for example, construction modern technology university city so that it becomes an attractive place for various activities.
Upon departure, it started to rain and we left the city, sunken in mist. The fog hid moving cable cars as well. Undoubtedly, Chiatura is equally interesting in every kind of weather, any season, for the lovers of brutal architecture and not only.
Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili
English Edit: Nutsa Namoradze
Photo: Ninuca Kakabadze