Tal der Georgischen Heerstraße - nicht nur für Mitglieder des Minolta-Forums ;-)

Tal der georgischen Heerstraße, Blick Richtung Norden.
Valley of the georgian military highway, looking to the north.

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რუსთავი / Rustavi / Rustawi

English Wikipedia has a short history of Rustavi (a city about 30 km to the south of Tbilisi):

"The city was founded in 1948 to house the workforce of a nearby metallurgical plant, constructed in 1941-1950 to process iron ore from nearby Azerbaijan. Stalin brought workers from various regions in Georgia, specifically from the rural poorer provinces of Western Georgia. It took its name from a nearby ancient town... Rustavi became a key industrial centre for the Transcaucasus region. The main industries are iron and steel milling and the manufacture of metal products and chemicals.

German POWs who were captured in World War II were enlisted to design and build Old Rustavi. Rustavi is actually divided into two parts--Dzveli Rustavi (Old Rustavi) and Akhali Rustavi (New Rustavi). Old Rustavi adheres to Stalinist architectural style..."(The old part of Rustavi. Houses are supposed to still offer superior quality. In German, we call this type of architecture "Zuckerbäckerstil" = "Sugarbaker-stile", in English it is "Stalin Empire". Other examples can be found in East-Berlin on Karl-Marx-Allee or Warsaw, Palace of Culture. If you want to know more about this style, you might want to read this article on Wikipedia about Soviet architecture.)

"... while New Rustavi is dominated by a multitude of seemingly endless stretch of depressing Soviet era block apartments."

(Well, have a look at this video which I took in summer 2003. Please excuse the quality, it is largely due to the fact that I was filming and driving at the same time.)

"The fall of the Soviet Union in 1999 proved disastrous for Rustavi, as it also caused the collapse of the integrated Soviet economy on which the city depended. Today, most of its industrial plants have been shut down..."(See the cows grazing? This picture is from 1998 or 1999)

"...and 65% of the city's population is unemployed, with all of the attendant social problems of high crime and acute poverty that such a situation brings. The population shrank from 160,000 in the mid-1990s as residents moved elsewhere in search of work."

This picture says it all. It is one of my favorite b/w-pictures:

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I took this photo along the main road from Tbilisi to Telavi. As you can see, quite many trees were cut down for making fire-wood. Energy is expensive and there is little of what one could call "ecological conscience".

In the mountains, the result of massive logging can be seen frequently - as on the following picture:

Georgian military highway near Gudauri

Especially during the early 90s, a high number of trees were cut down illegally. There is an interesting report of 1999 by the NGO "Grid" (based in Tbilisi) showing the increase of CO2-emissions in Georgia due to illegal deforestation and the decrease of forest planting and sowing in the `90s. The Georgian Ministry of Environment estimated the total amount of logging to be as high as 2.5 million m³ in 1996. This number seems to be heavily disputed though, as other sources speak of around 50.000 m³ "only". As with all illegal activities, it is impossible to calculate exact figures.

In 1996 40% of Georgia were still covered by forests, but illegal wood-cutting continues to pose a serious threat to the biodiversity of the Caucasus, as the WWF reports. With corruption beeing endemic, one can be sure that officials had and still have their share in illegal exports. (I remember seeing a drug-addict punshing the needle into his venes in the georgian border-post to Azerbaijan in 1998. Everybody knew one could by heroin there, so what else would you expect?)
The Georgian Times reports on illegal wood-export from Abkhazia by Turkish business-men. Since the rose revolution, the Georgian government takes a tougher stand on smuggling over the Black Sea, though.
So how about today? Well, I couldn´t find information about illegal timber-export since the rose-revolution. I suppose the amount has decreased but still poses a threat to the Caucasus flora.

Back to the picture above: The erosion which you can see was caused by wood-cutting. People pulled tree-trunks down the mountain slopes. Rain and snow did the rest.

Thanks for visiting caucasus-pictures. Hope to see you again soon! I´m happy for all feed-back, so why not post a comment?


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Rustavi - collecting firewood / Rustawi - Feuerholzsammler, Republic of

I remember this time of the year (end of Jan., beginning of Feb.) in 1997, when we were living in Telavi. The wind was lousy and cold, in march we had high snow (1m).
So what did we heat with? We had a "petchi", an oven made of tin, the same as used throughout the year for cooking. It has one hole on the top. The advantage for cooking is, that you can adjust the heat rather easily, the big disadvantage for heating, that the thin metal didn´t store the heat (for the picture, see this page). Into this oven we lay a large iron hook with many holes, which was connected with the gas-line by a thick black rubber hose.
Then, in February, the Russians cut the gas-pipeline off saying bills hadn´t be paid by Georgia. So I had to buy wood in the center. Wood, that we had to carry up onto the 3rd floor ourselfes (a whole load of a horse-cart!) only to find out it was still damn wet. So when we left the appartement in March, we had a hard time cleaning everything from black grease that had stuck to closets, ceilings, furniture and so on...

These people (grandparents and grandchildren) obviously didn´t have money for fire-wood. I met them near the street (in the back) that links the old part of Rustavi with the new one.

In the next posts I will show you which effects this wild wood-cutting had and still has.

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