ADJARA: MULTICULTURAL HISTORY – ONE STORY

Georgia
Liubov Kuznetsova
Education, Cross-frontier collaboration
Digital, Intangible, Tangible
2019
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Adjara is a relatively small rural region located on the coast of the Black Sea near the Lesser Caucasus Mountains in Georgia with significant unexploited resources, such as nature, viticulture, gastronomy, and tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Today, while many historic places are remembered for their national importance, others have not been fully acknowledged for the role they play in the fabric of Georgian society. Thus, our team of Social Impact Hub “Effendi Villa” has started a project called “Adjara: Multicultural History – One Story” aimed to promote aspects of the long forgotten tangible and intangible cultural heritage of our region through storytelling, community conversations and school workshops. As a result of such activities, a great number of stories and historical facts was collected with the help of local communities, historians and archives. Our small rural region has accumulated much more than just local folklore and traditional cuisine. It has been a crossroads for travelers, businessmen, scientists, military officers from the Ottoman and Russian Empires, France, Germany, Sweden and Great Britain. When we share these stories with the world, we amplify the voices of those who have been historically silenced. We ensure that every Georgian can see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story and in our international landscape.

If you really want to know your town’s history, talk to people, ask questions, make records of all recollections that matter to them to understand the context of the area. That’s how we did it. However, the first milestone was the findings we stumbled upon in the attic of Effendi Villa while the rehabilitation works were underway. There were old books, business cards, travel guides printed in the 19th century, documents in German, French, and English, Siemens papers issued by Siemens, household items, keys and many other things that many would immediately throw away. Out of curiosity, we started digging deeper and found out a lot of interesting facts due to treasure hidden in Effendi Villa. That was just the beginning of the long storied journey. Nobels, Siemens, Rotschilds and Rockfellers are not typically the first names that come to mind when thinking about Georgia, but more and more facts say that these families business made a distinct contribution to the development of the region at the Black Sea. Story 1 In the 19th century Georgia the development of economic relations, based on the principles of capitalism, brought many foreign entrepreneurs and investor companies to the country, including such giants of the financial world as the Nobel, Rothschild and Rockefeller families. Newly discovered rich oil fields around Baku drew Nobels and Rotschilds into Transcaucasia. In 1883 the Batumi Oil Terminal was founded by Branobel, the Nobel family company, which began to export kerosene across Georgia to Batumi. Together with the Rothschilds and other investors, Branobel built the Transcaucasian railway and pipeline from Baku to Batumi and the Black Sea – opening a new and competitive gateway to Europe. A tunnel was blasted through the Surami mountain pass, using 400 tons of Alfred Nobel’s explosives, among other methods. Alfred Nobel’s brothers, Ludvig and Robert, began to transport Baku oil to Europe with a large pipeline which ran from Apsheron through Tbilisi to Batumi where the oil was loaded onto ships in the port. The pipeline opened in 1904 was the first one to transport oil overland from one sea to another. Along with the Nobel brothers, oil was also extracted by other well-known families such as the Rothschilds and the Mantashovs, as well as by the Caspian-Black Sea Oil and Trade Society. The oil business turned Batumi into a major city on the Black Sea due to its geopolitically interesting and promising location. Story 2 The German firm Siemens played an exceptionally important role in the development of electronic technology and communications in Georgia. The first telegraph line, Kojori-Tiflis, was established in Georgia in 1858. Karl Siemens installed the telegraph under the Black Sea, connecting the two sides of the worldwide network, as well as the underground line for the Tiflis-Moscow line. The so-called 11,000-kilometer-long "Indian telegraph" was completed in 1870. Connecting 34 countries, including Georgia, it was the longest land line in the world. And, until recently, traces of the telegraph (Siemens-Patent-London) were still visible in some parts of the country. Few know that in the second half of the 19th century, the Siemens brothers, in addition to producing telegraph lines and electrical hardware, made their own impressive contribution to the development of the oil industry in Georgia. In 1867, immediately after obtaining the rights to cobalt and iron mines in Kedabeg, the Siemens brothers acquired leases to the Mirzan, Shirak, and Eldar oil springs in Georgia. They reorganized oil production and developed new deeper springs on oil-rich sites. Otto Siemens was one of the first in the Caucasus to find an effective way to solve the problem of using oil residues as fuel for the smelting of copper ore. We have chosen these significant historic facts to share because they illustrate the international engagement and interest to the history of Georgia. We keep “Adjara: Multicultural History – One Story” project emerging but not crumbling thanks to our volunteers and active locals who are not indifferent to the history of their country and region in particular. We are undertaking the fundraising efforts to do archival work in Istanbul, Stockholm and St. Petersburg and make e-publications of the findings. We believe that our mutual understanding of the common history shall foster the European Integration of Georgia.

European Dimension

Europe has always recognized its geopolitical interest in the Black Sea region, where the country of Georgia is a central hub that makes bridges between Europe and Asia. Nowadays, Georgia is Europe’s most reliable strategic partner in the Caucasus. In return, Georgia gets great support in the transition process and economic development of the country from Europe. Such projects as “Adjara: Multicultural History – One Story” strengthen the cooperation between Europe and Georgia through raising awareness and promoting common cultural heritage and historic events. As an educational tool, the project has become an essential part of the school curriculum in the region of Adjara. Young people are extremely curious about the intercultural history of the country and region and crave new research and discoveries.

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