Batumi, ბათუმი, is a seaside city on the Black Sea coast and capital of Adjara, an autonomous republic in southwest Georgia. It has a population of 121,806 (2002 census).
Batumi, with its large port and commercial center, is also the last stop of the Transcaucasian Railway and the Baku oil pipeline. It is situated some 20 km (12 mi) from the Turkish border, in a subtropical zone, rich in agricultural produce such as citrus fruit and tea. Industries include shipbuilding, food processing, and light manufacturing.
Communism and Independence
During 1901, 16 years prior to the Russian Revolution, Joseph Stalin the future leader of the Soviet Union, lived in the city organizing strikes. Unrest during World War I led to Turkey re-entering in April 1918, followed by the British in December, who stayed until July 1920. Kemal Atatürk then ceded it to the Bolsheviks, on the condition that it be granted autonomy, for the sake of the Muslims among Batumi's mixed population.
When the USSR collapsed, Aslan Abashidze was appointed head of Adjara's governing council and subsequently held onto power throughout the unrest of the 1990s. Whilst other regions, such as Abkhazia, attempted to break away from the Georgian state, Adjara maintained an integral part of the Republic's territory. However due to a fragile security situation, Abashidze was able to exploit the central government's weaknesses and rule the area as a personal fiefdom. In May 2004 he fled the region to Russia as a result of mass protests sparked by the Rose Revolution in Tbilisi.
Batumi is located on the site of the ancient Greek colony in Colchis called Bathus or Bathys - derived from the Greek phrase bathus limen or bathys limin meaning "deep harbour". Under Hadrian (r. 117-138 AD), it was converted into a fortified Roman port later deserted for the fortress of Petra founded in the times of Justinian I (r. 527-565). Garrisoned by the Roman/Byzantine forces, it was formally a possession of the kingdom of Lazica until being occupied briefly by the Arabs who did not hold it; in the 9th century it formed part of the Bagratid monarchy of Tao-Klarjeti, and at the close of the 10th century of the unified kingdom of Georgia which succeeded it.
From 1010, it was governed by the eristavi (viceroy) of the king of Georgia. In the late 14th century, after the disintegration of the Georgian kingdom, Batumi passed to the princes (mtavari) of Guria, a western Georgian principality under the nominal sovereignty of the kings of Imereti. A curious incident occurred in 1444 when the Burgundian flotilla, after a failed crusade against the Ottoman Empire, penetrated the Black Sea and engaged in piracy along its eastern coastline until the Burgundians under the knight Geoffroy de Thoisy were ambushed during their landing raid at the port of Vaty as Europeans then knew Batumi. De Thoisy was taken captive and released through the mediation of the emperor John IV of Trebizond.
In the 15th century, in the reign of the prince Kakhaber Gurieli, the Ottoman Turks occupied the town and its district, but did not hold them. They returned in force a century later after the decisive defeat which they inflicted on the Georgian and Imeretian armies at Sokhoista. Batumi was recaptured, first by the prince Rostom Gurieli in 1564, who lost it soon afterwards, and again in 1609 by Mamia Gurieli. Since 1627 Batumi was part of the Ottoman Empire. With the Turkish conquest the Islamisation of the Adjara region, hitherto Christian began. It was completed by the end of the 18th century. Under the Turks, Batumi, a large fortified town (2,000 inhabitants in 1807 and more than 5,000 in 1877) was already an active port, the principal centre of the Transcaucasian slave-trade.
Batumi lies at the northern periphery of the humid subtropical zone. The city's climate is heavily influenced by the onshore flow from the Black Sea and is subject to the orographic effect of the nearby hills and mountains, resulting in significant rainfall throughout most of the year, making Batumi the wettest city in both Georgia and the entire Caucasus Region.
The average annual temperature in Batumi is approximately 14 °C. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of 7 °C. August is the hottest month with an average temperature of 22 °C. The absolute minimum recorded temperature is -9 °C, and the absolute maximum is 40 °C. The number of days with daily temperatures above 10 °C is 239. The city receives 1958 hours of sunshine per year.
Batumi's average annual precipitation is 2,718mm. (107.0 in.). September is the wettest month with an average of 335mm. (13.19 in.) of precipitation, while May is the driest, averaging 92mm (3.62 in.). Batumi generally does not receive significant amounts of snow (accumulating snowfall of more than 30 cm.), and the number of days with snow cover for the year is 12. The average level of relative humidity ranges from 70-80%.
Batumi today is the main port of Georgia. It has the capacity for 80,000-tonne tankers to take materials such as oil which is shipped through Georgia from Central Asia. Additionally the city exports regional agricultural products. Since 1995 the freight conversion of the port has constantly risen, with an approximate 8 million tonnes in 2001. The annual revenue from the port is estimated at between $200 million and $300 million.
Since the change of power in Ajara, Batumi has attracted several international investors with real estate prices in the city trebling since 2001. Kazakh investors have reportedly invested $100 million to purchase more than 20 hotels in the Ajara region of Georgia. Construction of a number of new hotels will be launched in Ajara’s Black Sea resorts starting from 2007.
Batumi was also host to the Russian 12th Military Base. Following the Rose Revolution, the central government pushed for the removal of these forces, and in 2005 an agreement with Moscow was reached. According to the agreement, the process of withdrawal was planned to be completed in a course of 2008, but the Batumi base was officially handed over to Georgia on November 13, 2007, ahead of planned schedule.