The Past Of Bakuriani

26/01/2020
by Nancy Kikvadze

Spectacular nature, excellent weather conditions, moderate snow cover, the village surrounded by a fabulous forest, with around 240 inhabitants – this is a short description of Bakuriani. Numerous such villages are found in Georgia, but a number of certain conditions turned this once undistinguished village into one of the best resorts for Georgia and beyond.

Below we will try to list the reasons for this great transformation:

The mineral water of Borjomi came into the limelight in the 19th century because of its unique curative abilities, which generated great interest towards to the Borjomi Valley. In 1871 Russian Czar Alexander II gave the Borjomi Valley to his brother Mikhail Romanov as a present. During his tenure, a significant breakthrough took place in the valley’s development; investments were attracted, facilities for bottling the mineral water, guesthouses and a railroad were built. The Borjomi-Bakuriani narrow-gauge railroad was also built during Romanov’s tenure (1898-1901).

That very railroad known with the nickname of Guguli (Cuckoo) train became the main reason behind the onset of a new life of Bakuriani.

The presence of a railroad in Bakuriani eased the founding of a high-mountainous botanical garden under the supervision of Rolov and Fomin on a Kokhtagora slope in 1902-1910. The construction of the botanical garden and its hospitable supervisors Kozlovsky played a facilitating role for the beginner skiers arriving here.

All these important reasons and conditions per se would have amounted to nothing if not for the crucial factor – a tireless dream, ardor and labor of man, at the expense of which first the legend and then the reality of Bakuriani came to exist and develop.

Fortunately, there were enough people in Georgia able to turn their dreams into reality.

Then Europe experienced a boom of ski sports, and Giorgi Nikoladze, newly arrived in Georgia, began dreaming with friends about popularizing ski sport in Georgia. He was the first to bring the first Georgian skiers to Bakuriani.

In 1934 the Society of Proletarian Tourism and Excursion rented what then became the building of Children Sanatorium and established a ski school and a school of winter sports.

A hunting economy covering 100 hectares was created here in 1932, determined by the fact that the local weather conditions were excellent for breeding purebred foxes. Initially, the economy had just 36 silver foxes, the number of which reached 2,600 by the year 1952. Employees of the economy, under the guidance of G. Giorgadze, reached particular successes in improving fox breeds. They bred and proliferated a breed of white fox, which later became known as Georgian white fox. According to experts, breeding such a fox is a very rare occasion, for that could not be achieved in Western Europe and in the United States.

The year of 1935 is the birth date of Bakuriani as a ski resort. The area became populous already by January. Students arrived from the Industrial Institute of the Caucasus (then Polytechnic Institute of Georgia, now Technical University of Georgia), who were part of the ski circle of the institute. With the help of a Bojgua, head of the institute, training reunions of students have become a tradition in Bakuriani. During this period, Bakuriani is guested by representatives from Tbilisi Medical University and the State University.

The ski school and the house of sports were solemnly opened on January 6, 1935. This event was extensively covered by the contemporary press. Gogi Bakradze became the head of the school and the house. The team of the Caucasus was formed the same year, comprising Makashvili, Geladze, Mikaberidze, Kosmachevsky, Purtseladze, Gvalia, Molovichko, Boyko, Smirnov, Seleznyova. Russian skiers were fascinated by the climate and diversity of Bakuriani. They nicknamed Bakuriani “the ski capital of the Soviet Union.” The contemporary press called Bakuriani “Soviet Davos.”

In 1950 first a 45-meter ski-jump was built here, and then a 75-meter-long one. This attracted even more ski fans.

An excursion center was opened in Bakuriani in 1951 at the initiative of the Tbilisi Tourism-Excursion Branch of the Georgian Trade Unions. Its mission was to supervise the excursions arranged for seeing the sights of Borjomi and its valley. For this purpose, the center was in possession of transports means, guides, and lecturers.

In 1954 Bakuriani became home to the first cable-way in the Soviet Union. Although it is hard to believe from the modern perspective but until this year the skiers had to walk up the Kokhtagora top and press the [snow of] ski-track by feet.

Electrification of Bakuriani completed in 1960.

Bakuriani almost emptied in the early 1990’s. Some took advantage of the harsh reality in the country (civil war, ethnic conflicts), and the dream turned to reality through the labors of several generations (tourist bases, guest houses, tow ways and cable-ways, etc) rapidly deteriorates. Bakuriani faces a serious crisis.

But fortunately it is impossible to kill Bakuriani as an idea, as a daydream. The dreamers go on living and manage to keep Bakuriani alive too.

Currently Bakuriani undergoes a rebirth: new hotels, cable-ways, and ski-tracks are being built. New projects and dreams are being conceived. And it is probably impossible to stop this. The only thing left for us to do is to with the best of luck to those who stand behind these dreams and concrete projects, and to wish them success, for the sake of Bakuriani and entire Georgia.

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