Kutaisi is at the foot of the mountains bordering the Black Sea of west Georgia. A modern industrial centre, it is also one of the oldest cities in the region.
An important urban district by the sixth century BC, Kutaisi was the main city of Colchis and subsequently of Iberia, Abkhazia and Imeretia. The first documented mention of Kutaisi is in the third century BC, in a poem about Jason and the Argonauts, with Kutaisi described as the home of Medea.
When Georgia was united under Bagrat III in the tenth century AD, Kutaisi was made the administrative capital. Power changed hands on many occasions, with various Georgian dynasties, Mongols and Turks all holding the city at various times. It was razed by the Ottomans in 1510, suffered badly during the dynastic disputes of the mid-seventeenth century and had its castle and the twelfth century Bagrat cathedral destroyed by Turks in 1691.
Freed from Turkish rule in the late eighteenth century, in 1810 it came under Russian dominion and in 1846 was designated provincial capital. Soviets took control in 1921 and undertook a programme of industrial growth which still defines the character of the present-day city. During World War II it was a vital centre of armaments and vehicle manufacture.
Major industries include vehicle, machine and clothing manufacturing and food processing. Roads offer the primary mode of access although there is an airport which operates domestic flights.
Places of Interest
Surrounded by mountains, most of Kutaisi’s most popular sights are outside the town centre. These include the Motsameta monastery and the Gelati academy and monastery (build by David the Builder in the twelfth century). Further away is a nature reserve, Sataplia, and the ruins of the ancient city of Vani. The eleventh century cathedral is on a hill above the centre and there is a museum of history and ethnography.