|Elevation||1,740 m (5,710 ft)|
|Time zone||Georgian Time (UTC+4)|
Stepantsminda (Georgian: სტეფანწმინდა; formerly Kazbegi, ყაზბეგი), is a small town in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region of north-eastern Georgia. Historically and ethnographically, the town is part of the Khevi province. It is the center of the Kazbegi Municipality.
Geography and climate
The town is located along the banks of the Thergi River, 157 kilometers (98 mi) to the north of Tbilisi at an elevation of 1,740 meters (5,710 feet) above sea level. Stepantsminda’s climate is moderately humid with relatively dry, cold winters and long and cool summers. The average annual temperature is 4.9 degrees Celsius. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of -5.2 degrees Celsius while July is the warmest month with an average temperature of 14.4 degrees Celsius. The absolute minimum recorded temperature is -34 degrees Celsius and the absolute maximum is 32 degrees Celsius. Stepantsminda’s average annual precipitation is 790 mm. (31.1 inches). The town is dominated by large mountains on all sides. The most notable mountain of the region, Mount Kazbek, lies immediately to the west of town. The second most prominent peak, Mt. Shani, rises to an elevation of 4,451 meters (14,600 feet) above sea level, 9 kilometers to the east of Stepantsminda. The town is located 10 kilometers to the south of the famous Darial Gorge.
According to tradition, Stepantsminda, literally "Saint Stephan", was named so after a Georgian Orthodox monk Stephan, who constructed a hermitage at this location on what later became the Georgian Military Highway. It came under the control of a local feudal magnate, the Chopikashvili clan, who were in charge of collecting tolls on travelers in the area in the late 18th century. After the expansion of the Russian Empire into the Kingdom of Georgia in the early 19th century, the people of the region revolted against Russian rule. However, the local lord Gabriel Chopikashvili, son of Kazi-Beg, remained steadfast in his loyalty to Russia and helped to suppress the revolt. In return, he was promoted to officer in the Russian Army. He adopted the surname Kazbegi, and the village under his control was also frequently referred to as "Kazbegi". The name was officially changed to Kazbegi already under the Soviet rule in 1925. Gabriel Chopikashvili-Kazbegi's grandson was the famed Georgian writer Alexander Kazbegi, who was born in this town. In 2006, the town reverted to its original name of Stepantsiminda.
Stepantsiminda is known for its scenic location in the Greater Caucasus mountains, and is a center for trekkers and mountain climbing. Local attractions include the Kazbegi Museum and Ethnographic Museum in town, and the Gergeti Trinity Church outside of town, as well as Mount Kazbegi itself and the alpine meadows and forests of the surrounding Kazbegi Nature Reserve.
Border crossing point to Russia
There is Georgian part "Kazbegi" of border crossing point to Russian Federation "Kazbegi" - "Verchni Lars". The crossing was opened 01.03.2010. It works: winter period (01-NOV - 28-FEB) from 07 am till 07pm, summer period (01-MAR - 31-OCT) from 06 am till 10pm. The customs is multilateral, for all citizens of the World. The crossborder road is in mountain tunnel, so it is impossible to cross the border on foot. No information about possibility to cross the border by cycle.
- "Kazbegi." Georgian Soviet Encyclopedia. Vol. 10, Tbilisi, 1984, pp. 617
- Rosen, Roger. Georgia: A Sovereign Country of the Caucasus. Odyssey Publications: Hong Kong, 1999. ISBN 962-217-748-4
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- Kazbegi Municipality. Mtskheta-Mtianeti Regional Administration website