Cuttino's Georgian Life

A journal of my Peace Corps service in the Republic of Georgia, 2006-2008.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Worker's Paradise

Dear Comrades! I have returned from Chiatura, a true relic from Georgia's Soviet past. The city is a mining town; at one point it was the world's leading supplier of manganese. During Soviet times, it was a model city--and enjoyed some of the highest living standards of any town in the USSR. Of course, Chiatura didn't fare well in the transition and today it is one of the most depressed areas of Georgia. In 1989, the city had a population of 30 thousand, today its barely half that.

I went to visit two PC volunteers who are placed there. Life for them is quite different than it is in Gori; power outages are more frequent, there's no internet, and their water runs black from the manganese polution. On the other hand, housing prices are rock-bottom (thanks to the huge number of empty homes left after 1991). For about $25 a month, you can rent a four-room flat.

My hosts, high above their fair city.

Chiatura was built in the middle of a narrow gorge. The manganese mines are up at the top with the homes at the bottom. So, to make it easier for the townspeople to travel to and from work and get from one end of the gorge to the other, the Soviets rigged up a bunch of cable cars. The cars criss-cross the town from a central "station" downtown. The whole thing seems slightly dangerous; you never know if one of those rusty cables is going to snap and the car will come crashing down.

Chiatura's aging fleet of cable cars.

The town is full of reminders of its past. Aside from the occasional hammer and sickle and the obligatory Stalin memorial, the entire town has a distinct Soviet flavor. The downtown is built in the high Stalinist-style, complete with its own Gothic clock tower. As you approach Chiatura, you pass through an abandoned industrial wasteland. During the civil war in the '90s, the factories were looted and destroyed. In most cases, all that is left are crumbling concrete skeletons. But, surprisingly, some of the mines still function and a few of the factories are chugging along, despite the fact that all the windows are blown out and the roofs are collapsing.

Chiatora is not going to be in the next edition of Lonely Planet, but if you like your vacations...umm....Brezhnevian.....then book your flight now before the town crumbles away!
PS--I've posted a bunch of pictures from the weekend on Flickr.


  • At 8:01 AM, Anonymous jibs said…

    Nicely put :)

    I wonder if you managed to talk to people though, or to your host about the generel mood in Chiatura - I am guessing it's not even comparable with the atmosphere in " better" cities like Tbilisi or Batumi.

  • At 7:00 PM, Anonymous said…

    im born and all my childhood i spent in this town .i m looking now on this photos and i want to cry everything is exited for me there, even the memorial of stalin and soviet times
    .the life for people there is really complicated.but i know that anyway and in any case thay love thair hometown,as i do.
    i miss my chiatura


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