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Gagra

  • Georgia
  • Gagra
  • 772 km²
  • Mediterranean
  • (GMT+4)
  • Georgian lari
  • Georgian
  • 37,002
  • Always enjoyed my stay with Hilton Hotel and Resorts, top class room service and rooms have great outside views and luxury assessories. Thanks for great experience.

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    Lisa Kimberly
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General Information About Gagra

Area: 772 km² Population: 37,002 Language: Georgian Currency: Georgian lari

Location

Gagra is a town in Abkhazia, sprawling for 5 km on the northeast coast of the Black Sea, at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. Its subtropical climate made Gagra a popular resort. Gagra is located on a narrow coastal strip of 2-3 km width. It represents a continuous subtropical garden with fountains, ponds and walkways. The nicest part of town is the Old Gagra with its magnificent views over the mountains and the bay.

History

Gagra is a town in Abkhazia, sprawling for 5km on the northeast coast of the Black Sea, at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. Its subtropical climate made Gagra a popular health resort in Imperial Russian and Soviet times. It had a population of 26,636 in 1989, but this has fallen considerably due to the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia and other demographic shifts during and after the War in Abkhazia (1992–93). When visiting, do not miss the beach of the strewn historic and architectural landmarks. The town was established as a Greek colony in the kingdom of Colchis, called Triglite, inhabited by Greeks and Colchians. Colchis came under the control of the kingdom of Pontus in the 1st century BC before being absorbed by the Roman Empire, which renamed the town as Nitica. Its geographical position led the Romans to fortify the town, which was repeatedly attacked by Goths and other invaders. After the fall of Rome, its successor, the Byzantine Empire, took control of the town and whole Colchis. It became a major trading settlement in which Genoan and Venetian merchants were prominent, trading in the town's main exports - wood, honey, wax and slaves. The name "Gagra" appeared for the first time on a map in 1308, on a map of the caucasus made by the Italian Pietro Visconti, which is now in the Library of Saint Mark in Venice.

Gagra within the Russian Empire

In the 16th century, Gagra and the rest of western Georgia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The western merchants were expelled and the town entered a prolonged period of decline, with much of the local population fleeing into the mountains. By the 18th century the town had been reduced to little more than a village surrounded by forests and disease-ridden swamps. Its fortunes were restored in the 19th century when the Russian Empire expanded into the region, annexing whole Georgia. The swamps were drained and the town was rebuilt around a new military hospital. Its population, however, was still small: in 1866, a census recorded that 336 men and 280 women, mostly local families or army officers and their dependents, lived in Gagra. The town suffered badly in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878, when Turkish troops invaded, destroyed the town and expelled the local population. Russia won the war, however, and rebuilt Gagra again. After the war, the town was "discovered" by Duke Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg, a member of the Russian royalty. He saw the potential of the region's subtropical climate and decided to build a high-class resort there. Having raised a large sum of money from the government, he built himself a palace there and constructed a number of other buildings in an eclectic variety of styles from around Europe. A park was laid out with tropical trees and even parrots and monkeys imported to give it an exotic feel. Despite the expensive work, the resort was not initially a success, although it did later attract a growing number of foreign tourists visiting on cruises of the Black Sea.

Gagra under the Soviet Union

In the Russian Revolution of 1905, a local uprising produced a revolutionary government in the town, which founded a short-lived Republic of Gagra. This was soon defeated and the revolutionaries arrested en masse. The First World War a few years later was a disaster for Gagra, destroying the tourist trade on which it depended. The Russian Revolution shortly afterwards saw the Bolsheviks take over the town; despite a brief French attempt to repel them during the Russian Civil War, the town was firmly incorporated into the new Soviet Union within Georgian SSR. The Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin, issued a decree in 1919 establishing a "worker's resort" in Gagra, nationalising the resort that had been built by Oldenburg. It became a popular holiday resort for Soviet citizens and during World War II gained a new role as a site for the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers. After the war, various state-run sanatoriums were built there. The resort grew and was developed intensively as part of the "Soviet Riviera"

Gagra in post-soviet Abkhazia

In the late 1980s, tensions grew between the Georgian and Abkhazian communities in the region. All-out war erupted between 1992-1993 which ended in a defeat of the Georgian government's forces. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians were expelled from their homes in Abkhazia in an outbreak of mass ethnic cleansing in which thousands of Georgian civilians were massacred. Gagra and the Abkhazian capital Sukhumi were at the centre of the fighting and suffered heavy damage.

Gagra Climate & Temperature

The table shows that the hottest months in Gagra are August and July, during which the average daytime temperature reaches +27.4°C and the nighttime temperature falls to +19°C – The coldest months are January and February, when the daily average temperature falls to +9.6°C, and drops to +2.7°C during the night.<,p> The month with the highest average monthly temperature in the Black Sea on the beaches of Gagra is August with 27 degrees. The coldest water can be found in February - 9degrees C

Culture

The Abkhaz ethnic culture is rich in traditions, preserving to the present day quite a few archaic elements whose origins ante-date the Christian era.<,p> The fundamental constructive moral-ethical element in Abkhazian national culture is the concept of'Apswara, or 'Abkhazianness' - 'Abkhazian view of the world', 'Abkhazian ideology'. Abkhazia had a highly diverse demography with many Turks, Armenians, Jews, and Greeks, among others. The majority of Abkhazians are Orthodox Christians. There are also some population of Sunni Muslims, and a there is small number of Jews, Lutherans, Catholics and followers of new religions. Gagra was once a very popular destination point among the Russian elite, because of this it became a health resort for Imperial Russia during the days of the Soviet Union. Today it is still one of the warmest city on the Black Sea coast; with its wonderfully beautiful beaches that stretch on for miles. In 1989 Gagra had a population of approximately 27,000 people, but all-out war erupted between 1992 and 1993. This war affected hundreds if not thousands of Georgians living here, this conflict caused them to be expelled from their homes. It was the “ethnic-cleansing and mass expulsion of ethnic Georgians from Abkhazia,”that turned Gagra into what is now mostly a ghost town. In the first years of the 20th century, Duke Peter of Oldenburg, a Russian aristocrat, built a palace (above) and a hotel in Gagra, and put Gagra on the map as a holiday destination for the wealthy. He saw the potential of the region’s subtropical climate and from this vision decided he would build a high-class resort in the city of Gagra. He was able to raise from the Russian government a large sum of money. He built himself a palace in the hills of the city, then continued to construct a number of other buildings in a variety of eclectic styles drawn from around Europe. A park was laid out with tropical trees and even parrots and monkeys imported to give it an exotic feel. Despite the expensive work, the resort was not initially a success, although it did later attract a growing number of foreign tourists visiting on cruises of the Black Sea. Today Gagra is recovering from it’s past and has become a resort town with well developed infrastructure of leisure and entertainment. It has thrown off the shackles and is quickly again becoming a destination point for Europe and other area of the world.

Here is what waits for you there today:

  • flights on paraplanes and hang-gliders;
  • diving;
  • rafting;
  • water attractions;
  • excursions;
  • horse and sea walks;
  • aquapark and many other things.
Gagra Culture and History

Gagra Culture and History

Gagra History

The town was established as a Greek colony in the kingdom of Colchis, called Triglite, inhabited by Greeks and Colchians. Colchis came under the control of the kingdom of Pontus in the 1st century BC before being absorbed by the Roman Empire, which renamed the town as Nitica. Its geographical position led the Romans to fortify the town, which was repeatedly attacked by Goths and other invaders. After the fall of Rome, its successor, the Byzantine Empire, took control of the town and whole Colchis. It became a major trading settlement in which Genoan and Venetian merchants were prominent, trading in the town's main exports - wood, honey, wax and slaves. The name "Gagra" appeared for the first time on a map in 1308, on a map of the caucasus made by the Italian Pietro Visconti, which is now in the Library of Saint Mark in Venice.

Gagra within the Russian Empire

In the 16th century, Gagra and the rest of western Georgia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The western merchants were expelled and the town entered a prolonged period of decline, with much of the local population fleeing into the mountains. By the 18th century the town had been reduced to little more than a village surrounded by forests and disease-ridden swamps. Its fortunes were restored in the 19th century when the Russian Empire expanded into the region, annexing whole Georgia. The swamps were drained and the town was rebuilt around a new military hospital. Its population, however, was still small: in 1866, a census recorded that 336 men and 280 women, mostly local families or army officers and their dependents, lived in Gagra. The town suffered badly in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878, when Turkish troops invaded, destroyed the town and expelled the local population. Russia won the war, however, and rebuilt Gagra again.

After the war, the town was "discovered" by Duke Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg, a member of the Russian royalty. He saw the potential of the region's subtropical climate and decided to build a high-class resort there. Having raised a large sum of money from the government, he built himself a palace there and constructed a number of other buildings in an eclectic variety of styles from around Europe. A park was laid out with tropical trees and even parrots and monkeys imported to give it an exotic feel. Despite the expensive work, the resort was not initially a success, although it did later attract a growing number of foreign tourists visiting on cruises of the Black Sea.

Gagra under the Soviet Union

In the Russian Revolution of 1905, a local uprising produced a revolutionary government in the town, which founded a short-lived Republic of Gagra. This was soon defeated and the revolutionaries arrested en masse. The First World War a few years later was a disaster for Gagra, destroying the tourist trade on which it depended. The Russian Revolution shortly afterwards saw the Bolsheviks take over the town; despite a brief French attempt to repel them during the Russian Civil War, the town was firmly incorporated into the new Soviet Union within Georgian SSR.

The Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin, issued a decree in 1919 establishing a "worker's resort" in Gagra, nationalising the resort that had been built by Oldenburg. It became a popular holiday resort for Soviet citizens and during World War II gained a new role as a site for the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers. After the war, various state-run sanatoriums were built there. The resort grew and was developed intensively as part of the "Soviet Riviera".

Gagra in post-soviet Abkhazia

In the late 1980s, tensions grew between the Georgian and Abkhazian communities in the region. All-out war erupted between 1992-1993 which ended in a defeat of the Georgian government's forces. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians were expelled from their homes in Abkhazia in an outbreak of mass ethnic cleansing in which thousands of Georgian civilians were massacred.[4][5] Gagra and the Abkhazian capital Sukhumi were at the centre of the fighting and suffered heavy damage.

Monuments

The chief landmarks of Gagra are:

Ruins of the Abaata Fortress (4th-5th century AD;

A 6th-century Church of Gagra, said to be the oldest in Abkhazia; Marlinsky defensive tower (1841);

19th-century palace of the Prince of Oldenburg

Culture

Cultural heritage is a fair reflection of a nation’s identity and must be taken into account in the course of settling ethnic conflicts. Moreover, being object of mutual care and pride it can serve as a powerful tool for bringing together conflicting sides. This is especially true in the case of conflicts caused and provoked by the third parties.

Cultural heritage offers important historical evidence and a source of information as well. Unlike written sources that may be falsified or biased, cultural heritage monuments exist in objective reality and are perceptible, tangible, right in front of our eyes. They do allow for a variety of interpretations, but their existence cannot be questioned and the reliability of the information offered by doubted. At the same time, cultural heritage is a fragile asset that may be easily destroyed during conflicts and military confrontations and it is our duty and responsibility to preserve it intact for the future generations.

Georgia is a country with rich cultural heritage that may be described as ‘diverse homogeneity’ or polyphony. Indeed, all the regions of this small country reveal distinct peculiarities in all aspects of their existence (habitus, dialects, character, music, architecture, etc), including in terms of artistic ‘vocabulary’. At the same time, they display strongly pronounced similarities in terms of cultural mentality and artistic principles, which are different those of other countries.

It would be interesting to view the cultural heritage of Abkhazia (Apkhazeti), one of the oldest historical provinces of Georgia, at least on three levels: local peculiarities; similarity with other Georgian regions and interrelation with East Christian, namely Byzantine culture. All three levels are distinctly pronounced in Abkhazian architecture and art. Numerous monuments surviving to the present day attest to the strong cultural and artistic integrity of the art and architecture of Abkhazia and other parts of historical Georgia.

Abkhazia preserves numerous remnants of old buildings, including Bronze Age tombs, cities, fortresses, bridges, palaces, churches and monasteries. It has 77 listed monuments dating various periods.

Some churches are adorned with splendid sculptures, mural and mosaic paintings, which are the earliest samples of Christian art in the entire South Caucasus.

The cultural heritage of Abkhazia dates back to the earliest stages of human history. Of particular note are highly interesting works of the megalithic architecture of the Bronze Age, dolmens (e.g. Eshera dolmens daring the third millennium BC).

Yet most remarkable is the architectural and artistic heritage surviving the Christian period, which is represented by numerous churches, monasteries, palaces and fortresses. According to historical sources, Abkhazia played an outstanding role in founding a united Georgia Kingdom, which is further supported by cultural heritage monuments.

All forms of art are presented: architecture, mosaics, murals, manuscript illumination, stone reliefs, repoussé art, embroidery etc.

Throughout its long history, Abkhazian art followed the main trends and artistic traditions characteristic of all Georgian regions. Yet, at the same time it revealed some of the original traits, which were further developed through close cultural relations with Byzantium. That the Abkhazian Church was under the jurisdiction of Constantinople till the late tenth century is natural. According to a widely spread assumption, the architecture of Abkhazia has more in common with Byzantine architecture than with Georgian architecture proper. This assumption is not correct. Everything proves the opposite. Unfortunately these issues have been tabooed during the Soviet time, while later it became impossible to conduct proper research in Abkhazia – we remain unaware of the state of preservation of these monuments. Anyway, the differences have been deliberately highlighted and the similarities neglected.

The earliest Christian churches in Abkhazia date the fourth-fifth centuries. They belong to a basilica type. Presumably built with timber ceilings, these buildings must have been erected to the designs ‘imported’ Greco-Roman world. The impact of the East-Roman and early Byzantine architecture is clearly visible, but already the late fifth century the local artistic and construction traditions prevail. This is in line with the main trends of development of contemporary Georgian Christian architecture in general. This unity may be clearly seen in the typology, construction techniques and material, proportions, ornamental types, etc. For example, the Church in Old Gagra, dated to the sixth century, is a rare type of the so called ‘three-church basilica’ which is attested only on the territory of Georgia, especially in the East regions of Kartli and Kakheti. There are striking similarities between Gagra church and the contemporary architecture of historical Kakheti, East Georgia, in terms of the character of masonry, proportions etc. It appears as if the structure has been transferred straight Kakheti. Very similar to the Kartalinian hall-churches is a 6th century, single-nave church in the Anakopia fortress.

This particular type of a ‘three-church basilica’ can also be seen in the following centuries (e.g. Abaanta 6th century, Ambara, 8th-9th centuries, Qiachi – 9th century, etc) providing further evidence pointing to the tight links and coomon traditions in the architecture of different regions of Georgia (e.g. a 6th century three-nave basilica at Tsandripsh (Gantiadi), which had vaulted ceilings distinct flat timber ceilings characteristic of Byzantine basilicas).

Even the most ‘Byzantine’ examples, such as the Church of the Virgin at Dranda (8th c.) reveal many features characteristic of the architecture of the central regions of Georgia, namely of the famous church of the Holy Cross at Mtskheta.

Despite some Byzantine elements, the majority of domed ashlar churches of croix-inscrité type (e.g. 9th century Bzibi, 9-10th century Lichne, 10th century Mokvi, 10th century St. Simeon’s Church at Anakopia) are distinctly related to the architecture of Kartli. Even the decorative elements on the facades of these churches are closely related to the Kartalinian decorative system and ornaments; at the same time; wide arched porticos are characteristic of Kakhetian architecture.

It is true that the influence of Byzantine architecture is stronger in Abkhazia than e.g. in Kakheti, which can be explained by the location of Abkhazia and its age-old relations with the Mediterranean world since the establishment of Greek and Roman colonies. Situated in a diocese which long had been under Byzantine jurisdiction, a 10th century Cathedral at Bitchvinta is one of the most obvious examples of such influence. Yet, even this very ‘Byzantine’ structure has its squinches set in the pandatives, which is absolutely atypical of Byzantine architecture and can only be found in the Georgian designs, not to mention an extremely ‘unbyzantine’ rendering of the interior space, etc.

The late 9th century saw the beginning of a mounting increase of the influence of the architectural ‘vocabulary’ of Tao-Klarjeti, southern province of historical Georgia (now in Turkey), again across all historical regions of Georgia. One of the best examples was probably the domed church at Bedia, which was commissioned by King Bagrat III, the first King of united Georgia the Bagrationi family. The church has been rebuilt for several times, but some 10th century fragments are still available. It is noteworthy, that in the early 12th century King David the Builder awarded the Bishop of Bedia with the title of Bediel-Alaverdeli. This meant the consolidation of the main West and East Georgian bishoprics and symbolically implied the spiritual unity of the oldest kingdoms of Georgia.

Construction activities were not limited to church architecture: fortresses, palaces, bridges, etc still preserve in Abkhazia. The invasion and migration of the North Caucasian tribes and spreading of Islam pended the development of Christian architecture and the building work had to be limited to the reconstruction and repair of old structures. In the 19th century, under the Russian rule, some of the most venerated sites, such as the monastery of St. Symeon the Cannanite, were rebuilt and re-designed in pseudo Byzantine-Russian style, very different the Georgian-Abkhazian architectural pattern.

Apart architecture, stone reliefs, repoussé art and book illumination attest for the unity and homogeneity of the Georgian culture in the Christian period. For example, the famous golden chalice Bedia which, according to Georgian inscriptions, was commissioned by King Bagrat III , is a masterpiece of Georgian repoussé art; the illuminations of the Mokvi Gospels (1300) are also among the best and most refined examples of this art.

The earliest examples of painting, namely the floor mosaics found in the Bitchvinta basilica, date to the 5th century and call up with floor mosaics at Dzalisa palace in central Kartli. Murals of different periods are preserved in the churches at Lichne, Bedia, Mokvi, Bitchvinta, Ckhelkari, Akafa, Pshaura, etc. Lichne murals are particularly remarkable for their exceptional value and being the mainstream of 14th century Georgian art.

Early examples of stone bas-reliefs are also to be found in Abkhazia, e.g. reliefs of the chancel-barrier Tsebelda with unique and sophisticated iconographic program. There are significant similarities in the concept of plasticity, e.g. ox heads Dranda and Bolnisi (East Georgia, Kartli) dated to the 5th century. Dwelling architecture has much in common with the dwelling structures in the West Georgia regions, so called ‘oda-houses’.

In this rather brief survey we tried to demonstrate that the evidence built heritage provides attests to the strong cultural and spiritual unity, which helped to shape the national identity of the peoples and tribes inhabiting the territory of Georgia. Like in many European states (E.g. Italy, Germany, Greece), national cultural coherence and unity did exist in Georgia in spite of political and administrative fragmentation.

It is noteworthy that this spiritual and cultural unity was declared as early as the 8th century by one of the most famous and outstanding clergyman, St Grigol Khandzteli (Gregory of Khandzta), whose monastic activities spread across Georgia notwithstanding the existing political and administrative border restrictions, including in Abkhazia. According to him ‘And Kartli [Georgia] consists of that spacious land in which the liturgy and all prayers are said in the Georgian language.’

The aforementioned holds true for Abkhazia as all the inscriptions whether made on stone, on metal or on paintings, are written in the Georgian language with ancient Georgian script asomtavrulii. This is very important for the genuine understanding of the situation on this land. Bedia Cathedral, e.g. has over eleven stone and fresco inscriptions containing numerous references to historical characters. There are many lapidary inscriptions on 11th century Ilori Church, one of the most respected holy sites in West Georgia. Of many fresco inscriptions surviving on Church of the Koimesis at Lichne, an 11th century inscription that mentions the apparitions of comet in 1066 is more remarkable. Inscriptions (mostly Georgian) on the walls of historical buildings or in the mural decorations bear witness to many noteworthy historical events, mention secular persons and clergymen.

Georgian restorers had for many years conducted conservation work on various monuments. We now need help and support in preserving this precious heritage, the state of which, most regrettably, remains unknown to us.

Everything that preserves the past on the territory of Abkhazia sends and confirms one major message: by sharing the achievements of the neighboring peoples and combining them with their own initiatives and artistic perceptions, local inhabitants, disregarding their provenance, served as co-creators of the intrinsically diverse, but homogenous Georgian culture, even when due to various reasons, our small motherland was disintegrated and torn into pieces.

Samples of architecture, painting, metalwork and inscriptions are eloquent witnesses of all these. A common cultural horizon, common weltanschauung and common artistic mentality.

At this stage, it is more important to reveal and demonstrate unity and similarities rather than highlight differences. This statement can be supported by the well-known appeal made by an Abkhazian noblemen to the Russian Emperor in 1916: ‘We believe that the Georgians, related to us historically and through various circumstances, will ensure in all possible way the preservation of our national identity. We do understand that only the with the Georgians will save us numerous calamities and therefore in all circumstances and activities we are and will be together.’

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