The city Rustavi is located 35 km southeast of Tbilisi, on the Mtkvari river. It came into existence about 57 years ago, in 1948 when the first Metallurgical factory was built here. Soon on this place the city was built (as the city of workers). Until then the territory was a vast uninhabited steppe. In Soviet time Rustavi was industrial center with ironworks, steelworks, chemical plants, etc... The city of Rustavi, once an industrial center, during Shevardnadze's time has slid into a state of decay. It was a ghost town with ugly apartment blocks, terrible roads and mass unemployment... Though after the Rose revolution new authorities of the city try to show that they care about the city, they repair roads and paint apartment blocks in vivid colors, make playgounds for children, resore swimming pools and promote revival of the industry.

A bridge connects the residential section of Rustavi on one side of the Mtkvari river with its industrial center on the other side. However the river does not isolate the city from the environmental problems brought by industrial development, translated in water, air and soil pollution. As is the case of numerous cities around the former Soviet Union some of the industries relied on materials from other Republics. With the collapse of the infrastructure, work in some of the factories dried up and during the Shevardnadze's time  Rustavi suffered the consequences, like high unemployment, crime and poverty.
Years of poverty and stubborn unemployment have turned the once-bustling city on the ancient Silk Road trade route into a ghost of its former self. Children used to mope in garbage-strewn playgrounds among broken swing sets. Goats and sheep graze in overgrown soccer fields. Elderly men squat by the side of the road, selling plastic bottles of gasoline that they buy cheaply in neighboring oil-rich Azerbaijan. Because gas supplies are irregular, rusty stovepipes sticking out of apartment windows have become status symbols in Rustavi.

Archeological excavations showed that the territory of Rustavi had been already settled in the 2-nd millennium BC. From the IV c. AD it is mentioned in various historical sources. According to the historical sources the city of Rustavi was built by the king of Kartli Trdati. He built the first church here and made canal from the river Mtkvari. Canal in Georgian is "ru", so name Rustavi in English is "a source of a canal". Because the city was located at the source of the canal, thus comes its name "Rustavi". In the V century Rustavi is mentioned as "Bostan-kalaki" or "city of the Prince". Here was a seat of a bishop, who was called "Rustaveli". It is believed that this Rustavi was the birthplace of the greatest Georgian poet of 12th century Shota Rustavel. In 1265, after the invasion of Mongolian conqueror Berka-kaeni, Rustavi city was razed to the ground and all the population was slaughtered. So after that invasion it didn't exist until the 20-th century.


Rustavi, Georgia. 2004.
Built during the Soviet era as an industrial city,
Rustavi's decayed apartment blocks rise jarringly from the plain.



The Entrance of the Rustavi Metallurgical factory
Photo taken by Magnus Hoffman, September 2004

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