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The hinterland of the port-city    EN GR RU


Measurement units:

Верста (verst) = 1 066,781 Kilometers

Сажень (sazhen) this period = 2,1 meters

Пуд (pood) = about 16.38 Kilograms

In 1878 Batoum was essentially a village with 3000 inhabitants. Compared with other cities of the Empire of the same extent population was minimal. [1] The greater part of the city consisted of swamps, cemeteries and rice crops. 2] There was no sewage system. Therefore, the roads (if they could be described as such) flooded after rain. The waste was thrown to the sea. Consequently, the sanitary situation was dramatic. The newspaper დროება (Droeba) issued in Tbilisi characterizes it with the darkest colors: “Batoum is a purely eastern city. They hardly ever cared here about urban cleanliness. The squares and streets are dirty”. [3] However, unlike other Ottoman cities was better off. The key feature that distinguished it from the other Turkish urban centers was the fact that the streets were not so oblique and distant. [4] The whole city was divided into plots (участки) which until the end of the 19th century were sold publicly and openly to all those who wanted them. The aspiring buyers were mostly locals and various merchants. [5]

In order to improve the sanitary situation some necessary measures had to be urgently taken. In 1879 the governor of the oblast of Batoum, prohibited the cultivation of rice in the entire city, which significantly reduced the stagnated areas. During the same year, the Viceroy of Caucasus, [6] assigned to the engineer/general Zhilinsky (Жилинский) to study the city’s swamps and propose measures and a plan to fight them. The implementation of the drainage project was entrusted to him. [7] In the years 1882-84 channels were constructed and thus the swamp disappeared reaching the 810500 square sazhen that reduced by 30% the number of patients infected with malaria during the years 1883-1892. [8] In these dried swamps they planted fruits and vegetables which supplied the city’s population.

A lot of cemeteries into the city also created a sanitary problem. The project of construction of three cemeteries (Christian, Jewish and Muslim) outside the city had been assigned to the topographer Peskov since 1879. It appears however, that it was not given the appropriate importance to implement this decision. Thus, in 1881 the issue of cemeteries was back to the fore. A special committee was created consisting of an architect, a representative of the municipality and the clergy who would choose a place for cemetery for the Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Protestants and Muslims. [9] Therefore the cemeteries within the city were abolished and in 1888 were removed out of the town.

All these measures had contributed the most to the rapid development of Batoum as an urban center. The city in about seven years had become completely European in nature [10] with a variety and quality of life that outweighed all the governmental cities of the empire (губернские города). All this development was also due to its commercial development. [11]

From 1884 until 1895 neither had been discussed nor had been taken further measures for the drainage of the swampy areas. In 1895 the Urban Prefect of the city L. Asatiani reintroduced the issue to the higher authorities, but he failed due to lack of resources. In the following years the Urban Prefect gave a real battle and he managed to get the necessary approval in1899. The realization of the project was assigned again to Zhilinsky in the spring of the next year. [12] The work was completed in two years. [13] Several major channels were constructed. [14] Then, the issue of a small lake’s drainage in the city center was raised, where later the Georgian and Greek schools were built. [15] So, the issue of swamps was fully addressed in the city.

In the 1890s the city was divided into 4 administrative and police areas: Azizie, Akhmedie, Muphtie and Nurie. Azizie [16] was located on the northeast side and was an important trading center. Most of the administrative and social buildings/institutions had gathered there. East of Azizie one could encounter Akhmedie with its narrow and oblique streets. Here, you could find a few shopping centers, a Turkish market, convenience stores, restaurants and cafes. The poor population lived in the largest district, in Muphtie, where the oil factories were. South of Azizie was Nurie, a more European region inhabited by the aristocracy of the city. Here were situated the boys’ and girls’ high schools and other educational institutions.

The historical Batoum was essentially developed between the port and the waterfront park. The favorable location of the port defined the physical architecture of the city’s development: all led to and from the sea. It was not a coincidence that all the major roads of Batoum started from the sea. [17]

The city suffered very few changes later, in the turn of 19th-20th century. In general Batoum still maintains its original architectonical harmonious character which makes it an extremely quiet and pleasant city.


[1] А. Френкель, Очерки Чурук-Су и Ватума [A. Frenkel, Essays on Churuk-Su and Batoum], (Tbilisi: 1879), p. 60.

[2]Батум и его окрестности [Batoum and its surroundings], (Batoum: 1906), pp. 535-536.

[3] დროება (Droeba), 1887, n. 178 Equally tragic A. Frenkel characterizes the sanitary situation in the city, ibid p. 61.

[4] He characteristically mentions it the traveler Е. Г. Вейденбаумь, who visited the city in 1878. Βλ. Кавказские Этюды [E. G. Weidenbaum, Caucasian essays] статья «От Батума до Артвина» article [“From Batoum to Artvin”], (Tbilisi: 1901), p. 101.

[5]Batoum and its surroundings, (Batoum: 1906), p. 27.

[6] In the years 1863—1881 the position of the Viceroy of Caucasus was held by (Наместник Кавказа) Mikhail Nikolaevich Romanov, forth son of Emperor Nicholas I (1825-1855).

[7] See details of this project in Batoum and its surroundings, (Batoum: 1906), pp. 536-537. For all these works as well as the technical supervision of the project, the amount of 80000 rubles was approved to be spent by the State Treasury. (Казначейсиво).

[8]Batoum and its surroundings, (Batoum: 1906), p. 537.

[9]Batoum and its surroundings, (Batoum: 1906), p. 544.

[10] The issue of public cleanliness was also settled in the late 1880s.

[11]Batoum and its surroundings, (Batoum: 1906), p. 28.

[12] Details and amounts spent for the implementation of the project see in «Батум и его окрестности», pp. 539-543.

[13] Ibid p. 540.

[14] For a detailed project budget see Batoum and its surroundings, (Batoum: 1906), pp. 539-540 and the works emerging thereafter ibid p. 541.

[15] Ibid p. 543.

[16] It’s the area that in relation to others has retained more its authenticity and its original character. მ. ჭიჭეილეიშვილი, ქალაქი, რომელიც ზღვას უყურებს – ძველი ბათუმის არქიტექტურული სივრცე [M. Tchitchileishvili, “City that listens to the sea – the architectural space of the old Batoum”], in Georgian available on

[17]M. Tchitchileishvili, “City that listens to the sea – the architectural space of the old Batoum”, in Georgian available on