A visit to Gori is primarily about Stalin and his museum. Gori is the city where Jozef Stalin (1878-1953), leader of the Soviet Union until his death, was born. And its inhabitants are still heartily proud of it. When in 1989 the Soviet Union fell apart and the authorities decided to remove the statue of the dictator in front of the town hall, the people revolted and it stayed here. Okay, in 2010 it was given another place in its own Stalin park, but residents will heartily recommend you visit the museum.
Gori is also an old industrial town with mostly concrete and gray houses that you often encounter in Russia or the Eastern Bloc. Nevertheless, there are still a few sights worth visiting. In this guide you can read more about it, but first a brief history of Gori.
What would you like to know about Gori?
- History – 5 historical facts – Did you know…?
- Sightseeing – What to do in Gori?
- Accommodation – Where to stay?
- Transportation – How to get there?
History – A brief history of Gori
According to Georgian chronicles, the city of Gori was founded around 1100 AD by King David IV. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a settlement stood here more than 2,000 years ago. The Gori fortress also dates back to earlier times, around the seventh century.
The city was located on a strategic place of trade routes and this has largely determined its history. Many times Gori was attacked and occupied by Mongols, Ottomans, Persians and the Russians. Finally, in 1804, the city became part of the Russian Tsarist Empire and grew significantly in population during the nineteenth century.
In 1920, the city suffered a serious earthquake. This had a 6.2 on the Richter scale and led to the death of about 120 people. Also the Gori fortress was heavily damaged. When Stalin came to power in the Soviet Union in 1927, he had his birthplace renovated and it became an industrial center in cotton. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the city fell into decline. It led to the departure of Georgians to other parts of the country, such as Tbilisi.
But the history that will be remembered by most people is that of the 2008 war in South Ossetia between Russia and Georgia. After Georgia invaded rebellious South Ossetia, the Russians reacted fiercely and occupied Gori. A ceasefire was negotiated after five days, but by then over 2,000 people had already died
Sightseeing – What to see and do in Gori?
Of course, a visit to Gori is all about former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. But if you are curious what else you can do, be sure to read on. Below are two other attractions that are worth visiting.
Stalin Museum & Park: This museum in the center of the city gives an insight into the life of former Soviet leader Jozef Stalin. But are you looking for an objective historiography of his life? In that case you should skip it (no, you shouldn’t). Here you get the impression that Joseph Stalin was the best leader of the Soviet Union ever, free from any blame. The museum owns the train car he used often to travel around the country and his childhood home can also be seen here. By the way, these are free for anyone to visit. Would you like to read more about Joseph Stalin? Then read the article The Stalin Museum | The bizarre museum of a Georgian hero.
Gori Fortress: This old citadel next to the bus station is interesting for two reasons. First, you have a beautiful view of Gori and its surroundings. And secondly, on the west side you will find the Tskhra-kara the nine gates where a fortification is still clearly visible. Most of the fortress was destroyed during the earthquake of 1920.
Uplistsikhe: 10 kilometers east of Gori you will find the cave city of Uplistsikhe. Over 2000 years ago this was an important religious, political and cultural center. The rock-hewn city is situated against a hill and consisted of caves, walls, an irrigation system, temples and churches. Historically, it is very interesting as it belongs to one of the oldest urban settlement in Georgia. From the city you have a beautiful view of the surrounding area.
Accommodation – Where to stay?
Gori is a town of approximately 50,000 inhabitants. The center comprises the fortress, the Stalin Museum and the town hall. This is also the best area to stay. Gori has roughly 70 hotels and hostels and for only 5 dollars you can have a bed in a hostel. I myself stayed at Tamar Guesthouse next to the stadium of the local soccer club FC Dila Gori. In general, a one-night stay is more than enough. In regards to food & drink, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes around the Stalin Museum.
Transport – How to get there?
The best way to get to Gori is by minivan. From Didube bus station in Tbilisi, you can get to the city of Stalin within 1.5 hours. It’s fine to do as a day trip from Tbilisi, but if you want to continue west for Kutaisi, Svaneti or the Black Sea you can stay here the night. There is also a train station in the south of the city, but trains only run a few times a day.
Do you have any tips, comments or ideas about Gori in Georgia? Then feel free to leave a message below.