The history of Kutaisi dates back more than 3500 years. Archaeological evidence indicates that in the 6-5th centuries BC the city functioned as the capital of the Ancient State in Western Georgia, Colchis Kingdom, famous in Greek mythology as the place where Jason and the Argonauts had the most memorable of their adventures to search the Golden Fleece. In the Middle Ages, from the 10th to the 12th century Kutaisi was the capital of Georgia. The city is rich with medieval architectural masterpieces: Bagrati Cathedral, Motsameta Monastery, Geguti Castle, and UNESCO World Heritage monuments of the Gelati Monastery Complex.
Scientific and Educational Centers
Gelati Academy was founded in 1106 next to Gelati Monastery and became one of the most important theological-scientific and educational centers of the Medieval epoch. Academy had a scriptorium where monastic scribes wrote and copied manuscripts. Among several books created there, the best known is an amply illuminated 12th century gospel, housed in the National Centre of Manuscripts.
Akaki Tsereteli State University is the oldest multi-disciplinary higher education institution in the Imereti region. It operates nine faculties with about 12,000 enrolled students. Akaki Tsereteli University runs several programs that focus on study and research in the field of literature. It operates on the BA, MA, and PhD levels. Kutaisi International University plans to introduce an arts and culture educational programs.
Center of Georgian Avant-Garde
The creative group of Georgian symbolist poets and writers called “Bluehorns" was founded in 1916. Kutaisi was the center of Georgian avant-garde. Young people held poetry evenings in Kutaisi, in the "Golden Awning" by the cedar tree. The members of the “Bluehorns" were Titsian Tabidze, Paolo Iashvili, Valerian Gafrindashvili, Kolau Nadiradze, Shalva Apkhaidze, Nikolo Mitsishvili, Aleksandre Arsenishvili, Sandro Tsirekidze, Giorgi Leonidze, Sergo Kldiashvili and Shalva Karmeli (Gogiashvili). A big part of them became the victim of Stalin's political repressions. In February 1919, “Bluehorns" published the first literary magazine "Dreamy Nyamores".
The city is distinguished by successful cultural institutions, such as Lado Meskhishvili Professional State Drama Theatre, Kutaisi State Puppet Theater of Kutaisi, Kutaisi Meliton Balanchivadze Opera and Ballet Professional State Theater, Kutaisi Historical-Architectural Museum-Reserve, Sports History Museum, Zakaria Paliashvili House-Museum, David Kakabadze Kutaisi Art Gallery, and N. Berdzenishvili Kutaisi State Historical Museum with the earliest manuscript collections and personal archives of famous writers and public figures living in Kutaisi.
Libraries and Publishing
The first royal printing house in Kutaisi was established in 1800. Famous publisher of that epoh Isidore Kvitsaridze created the publishing and press distribution offices “Kolkhida” and “Imereti”б which were visited by famous Georgian writers and public figures. Before the Soviet Occupation (1921) 2000 books were published in the city. Kutaisi Ilia Chavchavadze Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in Georgia, established in 1873. Today the library operates 17 departments and 14 branches. The Scientific Library of Akaki Tsereteli State University was founded in 1933 and is currently one of the richest libraries in Georgia by collection. Kutaisi Central Archive holds the documents, depicting the activities of the organizations, institutions and famous people on the territory of West Georgia in the 19th-20th centuries. The city has 6 publishing houses and 6 different periodic magazines ("Gantiadi", "Mtsvanekvavila", "Mermisi", "Uqimerioni", “Tetri Khidi” and “Apinadj”) specially dedicated to the field of literature uniting emerging and established writers, literary critics, editors, translators and other related professionals.
Big Names, Traditions, and New Challenges
Kutaisi was the centre of literary and cultural influence, where famous writers and public figures throughout Europe worked at different times. Significant was the 19th century, with great figures such as Akaki Tsereteli, Giorgi Tsereteli, Niko Nikoladze, and Kirile Lortkipanidze. The 20th century was a period of basic changes, with a reassessment of old literary traditions and the search for new forms, the group “Bluehorns", Galaktion Tabidze, Grigol Robakidze, Samson Pirtskhalava, Davit Kldiashvili and Niko Lartkipanidze, later Revaz Gabriadze, Rezo Cheishvil, and Otia Ioselian leaving a lasting impact. The 21st century brought new aesthetics to Kutaisi. The status of the UNESCO Literary City is a great opportunity for the implementation of the new International Literary Festival, educational and research programs, and cross-sectorial cooperations to promote the literary traditions of the city.