'City of Black Gold': destruction and decay in Chiatura, Western Georgia
Mines and devastation in Chiatura, Western Georgia
It seems like the time has stopped in the city of Chiatura in Western Georgia – the unique Pioneer’s Palace building is standing in ruins, unserviceable and rusty mine cars can be spotted all over the place, a towing locomotive has been stuck on a sidetrack on Sachkhere-Chiatura railway section since the collapse of the Soviet Union and abandoned ropeway cars with peeling paint, much like everything else here, are covered with rust. Previously a large mining center, Chiatura is now left to slowly decay.
The ‘City of Black Gold’– that’s how it was known in Soviet times. Chiatura is still considered the South Caucasus manganese mining and processing center. However, that hardly changes anything for the locals – nowadays, the mining town lives in extreme poverty.
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Street vendors can be encountered on every corner of the city. Previously, shops used to be located in the buildings, however, as time passed, underwear, T-shirts, caps, and socks began to be sold right on the pavement, and everything costs no more than 10 GEL here.
People are selling greens, fruits, and vegetables on the roadside, and women from nearby villages travel here early in the morning and take the last bus to get home late at night.
Men drag pieces of iron from the factory ruins in order to scrap the metal and bring home some food. Locals say that at least one member from every family used to work in the mine, at some point. However, as a result of a drop in production and closure of some of the mines, the majority of people have engaged in street vending to earn a living.
There is always a crowd outside the Chiatura food pantry. People gather there early in the morning to get a free portion of food. While waiting, visitors sit on the bench and discuss all sorts of things with each other.
Photographer David Tabagari traveled to the steep rock-bound cablecar town to capture how the city is falling slowly into decay.
** First published in April 2017