Batumi is the main city of Adjara, an autonomous republic in southwest Georgia, located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea.
The history of Batumi is inextricably bound with that of Adjara. Founded on the site of the Hellenic colony of Bathys, it was a small fortified town in the medieval kingdom of Georgia. In the 17th century, Batumi was conquered by the Ottoman Empire which relinquished its control of the town to the Russian Empire in 1878. It was under the Russian rule that Batumi became a major port city on the Eurasian crossroads. After the successive Ottoman and British occupations at the end of World War I, Batumi and its region passed to the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1920. After the Sovietization of Georgia in 1921, Adjara was granted the status of an autonomous republic and Batumi became its capital. Along with Poti, Batumi is one of Georgia’s most important ports. It is also an important cultural and political center.
Primary information about Batumi appeared in works of the fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher Aristotle. He named the city situated by the Black Sea in Colcha -‘Batusi’. The same name was known for Roman writer Plinius Senior and Greek geographer Phlavius Ariane. ‘Batusi’ is a Greek word and means ‘deep’. Indeed, Batumi, after Sevastopole, has the deepest and the most convenient harbour.
Archaeological activities performed at the entrance of the city, within the territory of the Qorolistsqali river, declared that people were inhabited there in the first-second millennium B.C. and had close trade relations to neighbours. The hill called Tamari Citadel was considered the center of Batumi. That was economic and cultural center in the Qorolistsqali gorge.
In the second century A.D. there was the Roman garrison in the reign of Emperor Adriane in Batumi. In the fifth century King Vakhtang Gogrgasali joined it to his estate.
In the sixth, seventh, eighth centuries Governors of Egrisi and Abkhazia governed Batumi and its lands. There was the village-type settlement around the Batumi castle in the feudal epoch.
Epoch of Ottomans domination
After unification of the Georgian nation and establishment of Georgia’s Kingdom Klarjeti included the city and entire Adjara and was governed by a nobleman.
Afterwards lands of Batumi were owned by the Gurielis’ patrimony. At the end of the XV century in the reign of Kakhaber Gurieli Turks achieved to capture those territories. But soon Rostom Gurieli banished them from the Georgian lands. Turks seized Lazeti and nearby territories after his death (1564). They built fortress in Battogan, present Batumi. In 1609 Mamia Gurieli destroyed Turkish armies.
Nevertheless Turks captured Lazeti and Batumi again at the end of the XVII century. They turned Batumi into a main city of Liva (Sandjaqi). Sadjaqi of Batumi included lands from the Chorokhi-Adjaristsqali creek to Tsikhisdziri. After the Ottomans’ domination Mohammedanism strengthened in Adjara.
In 1873 Batumi was the main city of Lazeti, which was governed by the head of Sandjaqi- Mutesarif. He obeyed Trabzon Vale (Governor-General).
Return to Borders of Georgia
From the beginning of the XIX century the Russian Empire started annexation of Georgia and bit by bit its borders getting close to Adjara. In 1877-78, during the Russia-Ottoman war, interests of Russia and occupied Georgian nation coincided in a certain extant. Emancipation ancient lands from the yoke of Ottomans were of the utmost importance.
Establishment of troops began actively in Kartli, Imereti, Kakheti, Samegrelo and Guria. Under the flag of Russia more than thirty thousands of Georgians struggled in the Russia-Ottoman war. March 3, 1878 in San Stephano the belligerents signed a peace treaty. The Ottoman Empire paid monetary contribution together with certain territories. Inter alias, historic Georgian lands Kola-Artaani, Shavshet- Imerxevi, Artanuji, Olthisi, Taoskari, Machakheli, part of Lazistan and Adjara.
At the Congress of Berlin (June 13 – July 13, 1878), taking into account a revision of San Stephano peace treaty, Russia managed to maintain main territorial acquirement. In this way Adjara was returned to Mother- Georgia.
In August 25, 1878 under the guidance of General Sviatipolk Mirski the Army of Russia entered Batumi and at the ceremony of reception – accompany on so called Azizie square accepted city key from Devrish Pasha.
Three okrugs: Batumi, Artvini and Adjara were united in Batumi region. Batumi was declared ‘Porto- Franco’. The idea belonged to England, which demanded the city to be declared ‘Porto Franco’ and achieved this on the Berlin congress.
Status of ‘Porto- Franco’ brought certain goodness to Batumi. Since Batumi has been extended significantly and bit by bit turned into a modern European city. Though social conditions of local inhabitants worsened. National industry couldn’t compete with surplus European goods. At the same time other defects appeared – contraband, bribery and so on. The given situation was one of the main reasons, which encouraged banishment of inhabitants in Turkey (so called Muhajirianizm). ‘Porto-Franco’ was abolished in 1886.
June 12, 1883 on the base of the decision of Russian Emperor’s State Council Batumi region was canceled and joined to Kutaisi province. Concerning position of assistant to Military Governor was confirmed. Assistant to the Governor governed directly Batumi okrug.
There was no self-governance that hampered its normal development. In 1885 inhabitants of Batumi appealed to the head of the Caucasus civil part.
In 1885 about 90 inhabitants made an appeal to the head of Caucasus civil authorities, to award Batumi status of municipal self-governance. 28 April, 1888 Batumi was awarded status of self- governance. The same year election of voters’ deliberative assembly was held.
From 1903 Batumi region was separated from Kutaisi Province.
At the beginning of the XX century Batumi and the whole southwestern Georgia was one of the prosperous regions according to economics with developed city economy. Batumi as the thick municipal center, with its first class port, played the leading role in the trade of Caucasus and middle Asia transit trade. Before the world war the first Batumi had got the face of an European city that was the result of progressive activity of self-governance and purposeful use of city incomes.