Chiatura (Georgia)

General Information

Administrative status

Administrative centre of the Chiatura Municipality

Chiatura mining town

Historical function

Mining town

Location and site

Chiatura is a small town in the West Georgia, 180 km North-West of the capital city Tbilisi. The town is situated along the river Kvirila, on the Chiatura plateau, 340-500m above sea level. Chiatura stands out by its dramatic landscape of plain rocks along the river and the remarkable industrial and Soviet architecture.

Urban Morphology

Chiatura is a small town which was formed in 19th century along with the discovery and extraction of the rich Manganese deposits and flourished as a Soviet industrial town throughout 20th century.

The town does have rich archaeological evidence from prehistoric period, medieval monasteries and historic urban fabric dating to end of 19 and 20th centuries; however its outstanding value rests in its industrial heritage. These important buildings are unique representation of an ultimately important period of Georgia’s history.

The centre of the town is stretched along the river banks, while the rest of the districts are spread on different levels of the high plateaus. Because of the difference in heights between the different parts of the town the complex system of the ropeways was developed in early 20th century and has been used as a main public as well as industrial transport in the town.

Historical Reference

  • During the 19th century the present area of Chiatura became known as a place with the rich manganese deposits. The pioneer of the geological research of this area was a German scientist Otto Wilhelm Hermann von Abich. In 1846 von Abich studied the area and in 1849 he reported to the Viceroy of the Russian king in Georgia.
  • In 1872 extraction of manganese started under the leadership of the famous Georgian writer Akaki Tsereteli. In 1879 the first buildings and constructions appeared in the area. The foreign investment intensified Manganese extraction.
  • In 1895 under the leadership of another Georgian statesman Niko Nikoladze, at that time the Mayor of the port city of Poti, a railway connection was established between Chiatura and the Poti, from where Manganese was exported abroad. The connection allowed further growth of the Manganese industry. By 1913 Chiatura was the main exporter of Manganese ore – supplying 50% of the world markets.
  • In 1902 around 190 Manganese producers founded the “Black Stone Society” which started funding different public projects such as infrastructure, education, culture etc.
  • World War I abruptly stopped the industry. In 1919 out of 260 companies, only 11 were operational.
  • The new stage in Georgian Manganese production starts with the establishment of the Soviet regime In 1921. The production was nationalized by the Soviet government.
  • In 1925 the production was leased to the US entrepreneur William Averell Harriman but his efforts to rehabilitate the production were unsuccessful. As a result, in 1928 the concession was seized and the Soviet state company assumed entire production.
  • In the 1930-ies the industry was largely rehabilitated. The ferroalloy plant was built in Zestaphoni and hydroelectric plant in Vartsikhe further enhanced the extraction and production process.
  • The first cable-ways of the town date back to this period and were used by the miners.
  • In 1953 the first public ropeway was launched, which was followed by number of others. The town flourished and extended with residential quarters built for the increasing number of workers.
  • The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 had a dramatic impact on the town. The extraction process seized and the town underwent great social and economic decline.
  • The mining process was partially renewed in 2006-ies by a private corporation. The production is far from its former scale and the town is facing multiple challenges.