|Time zone||Georgian Time (UTC+4)|
Ozurgeti (Georgian: ოზურგეთი) is the capital of the western Georgian province of Guria. It was formerly known as Macharadze or Makharadze (named in honor of Filipp Makaradze). It is a regional center of tea and hazelnut processing.
Ozurgeti was founded in the late Middle Ages and was at one time the capital of the Principality of Guria. In later centuries it became a trading center, as evidenced by the discovery of a hoard of 270 silver coins under the city (the “Ozurgeti Treasure”).
Ozurgeti was officially designated a city in 1840. In the 19th century, Frederic Dubois de Montperreux, Dimitri Bakradze, Sergey Meskhi (1878), and Tedo Sakhokia (1896) traveled to Ozurgeti and published descriptions of the city. Ozurgeti was a strategic location in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78).
After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the city and its district were renamed Makharadze in honor of the Bolshevik revolutionary Filipp Makharadze. The city reverted to its original name in the 1990s after Georgia regained independence. The borders of the city expanded in the 1990s, annexing the outlying settlement of Anaseuli.
The Ozurgeti Dramatic Theatre overlooks the city's central square. It is named in honor of Alexander Tsutsunava, whose statue stands in an adjoining park. It was founded in 1868, and the first production was a performance by local amateur actors. A new theater building was constructed in 1914. In 1933, another new building was constructed. In 1962, the theater was moved to yet another building, the five-storey Soviet Neoclassical-style structure in which it currently resides. It is one of the largest theaters in Georgia. In 1968, a large centennial celebration was held in the building and the theater was named after Tsutsunava. In 2005, the Ministry of Culture and the Theater Workers’ Union declared the Ozurgeti Dramatic Theater to be the best regional theater in Georgia.
The Ozurgeti Historical Museum was founded in 1936, moved to Gurieli Palace in 1974, and relocated to its current site in 1991. The museum contains over 6,000 artifacts, and it currently includes archaeological, numismatic, ethnographic, heraldic, sphragistic, and historical exhibits, and perhaps most prominently displayed among them is a sword that allegedly belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. It also houses a collection of old printed books.
Ozurgeti has rugby and football clubs. There are two stadia in the city: Friendship Stadium belongs to the municipality and is used by the football club; Zvani Stadium is used by the rugby club. In 2007, a “sport palace,” containing a space that can be converted into a miniature football stadium, a volleyball court, a basketball court, and a wrestling ring, was built. The city operates a municipal sports school including a tae kwon do club, a basketball club, a tennis club, a boxing club, a track club, a judo club, a weightlifting club, a freestyle wrestling club, and a hockey club.
The first school in the city was established on February 21, 1850. At various times, Simon Gugunava, Niko Mari, and Ekvtime Takaishvili attended the school. On July 1, 1874 the school came under municipal administration. Interest in education and literacy was increasing at this time. Due to widespread political activism among the student population, the school was briefly closed on the order of the Transcaucasia Governorate near the end of the 19th Century.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Constantine Leselidze and Porfile Chanchibadze also attended the school. In 1918, the city school introduced elementary-level education. In 1922, due to increasing attendance, a new school, thereafter called School #2, was opened. Both schools offered education to the 7th grade.
There are now five public schools, two parochial schools, nine kindergartens, and one art school in Ozurgeti. As of 2010, the total number of students enrolled in primary and secondary schools was roughly 2,850, and there were 236 teachers. There is also a vocational college with some 500 students and 30 instructors.
There are 15 NGOs in Ozurgeti, most of which focus on the city’s youth, civil society, democracy, women’s rights, and agronomy. There is a branch of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association in the city. The television station Guria TV, which broadcasts to the entire region, is also based in the city.
The city has three newspapers, some of which serve the entire region. Several other cultural organizations exist in the city: A city library, a children’s theater, and a modern art gallery.
An ancient Byzantine-era bathhouse was recently discovered in central Ozurgeti and the ruins are under excavation. It is a two storey-structure. The lower, subterranean floor was the fire chamber which heated an upper floor that containing public baths.
Gurieli Palace, constructed in 1873, is also near the city center. It currently serves as the seat of the Shemokmedi Orthodox Bishopric.
According to the 2002 Census, the city had a population of 18,705. In 2010, the population was estimated to be 20,636. The city is 94% ethnic Georgian, 4% Armenian, and 1.5% Russian. According to official statistics, 10% of the population lives below the poverty line and the unemployment rate is 15%.
Ozurgeti is 200 metres (656 feet) above sea level. Most of the town is located between the Bzhuzhi and Natanebi rivers. The Natanebi is a subterranean river in Ozurgeti, with a good deal of the city built on top of it, while the Bzhuzhi flows above ground. The city is bounded by hills in the north and south.
Ozurgeti sits on a slope that was leveled into three broad terraces: The market district, containing bazaars and small shops, as well as a plaza overlooked by a statue of a mermaid, is on the lowermost level. Most of the city’s public buildings—including municipal buildings, the cinema, the theater, and museums—as well as parks, are on the middle terrace. The highest level contains mostly private housing.
The city has a humid subtropical climate, and experiences significant rainfall throughout the year. January is the coldest month and August is the hottest. Snow is rare and occurs primarily in January, February, and early March.
- Siko Dolidze—Film director and screenwriter
- Viktor Dolidze—Georgian composer
- Grigol Tkabladze—Actor
- Giorgi Kekelidze—Poet
- Simon Gugunava—Poet
- Niko Mari—Historian and ethnographer
- Ekvtime Takaishvili—Historian and ethnographer
- Constantine Leselidze—Red Army Commander during The Second World War
- Porfile Chanchibadze—Red Army General
- Manuchar Kvirkvelia—Winner of the Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling
- Vakhtang Blagidze—Winner of the Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling
A minor planet, 2139 Makharadze, discovered in 1970 by Soviet astronomer Tamara Mikhailovna Smirnova was named after the city (sister city of Genichesk) in honor of the friendship between the Georgian and Ukrainian peoples.
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