Gori (გორი) is a city in eastern Georgia, which serves as the regional capital of Shida Kartli and the centre of the eponymous administrative district. The name is from Georgian gora 'heap, hill.' As of 2002, it had a population of 49,500.
Gori is the birthplace of Joseph Stalin.
The territory of Gori has been populated since the early Bronze Age. According to the medieval Georgian chronicles, the town of Gori was founded by King David IV (r. 1089-1125) who settled there the refugees from Armenia. However, the fortress of Gori (Goris-Tsikhe), appears to have been in use already in the 7th century, and archaeological evidence indicates the existence of an urban community in Classical Antiquity. In 1299, Gori was captured by the Alan tribesmen (proto-Ossetians) fleeing the Mongol conquest of their original homeland in the North Caucasus. The Georgian king George V recovered the town in 1320, pushing the Alans back over the Caucasus mountains.
With the downfall of the medieval Georgian kingdom, Gori – strategically located at the crossroads of major transit routes – was frequently targeted by foreign invaders, and changed its masters on several occasions. It was first taken and sacked by Uzun Hassan of the Ak Koyunlu in 1477, followed by Tahmasp I of Persia in the mid-16th century. By the end of that century, Gori passed to the Ottomans and became their major outpost in Georgia until being recovered by the Georgians under Simon I of Kartli after heavy fighting in 1599. The town was once again garrisoned by the Persians under Shah Abbas I in 1614.
Following successive occupations by the Ottomans (1723-35) and Persians (1735-40s), Gori returned to the Georgian control under the kings Teimuraz II and Erekle II whose efforts helped to advance economy and culture in the town. Following the Russian annexation of Georgia, Gori was granted the status of a town within the Tiflis Governorate in 1801. It grew in size and population throughout the 19th century, but was destroyed in the 1920 earthquake. An important industrial center in Soviet times, Gori suffered from an economic collapse and the outflow of population during the years of a post-Soviet crisis of the 1990s.
Gori is close to the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone. It is connected to breakaway South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali via a railroad spur which has been defunct since the early 1990s. In the 2000s, Georgia has increased military infrastructure in and around the city. Thus, the Central Military Hospital was relocated from Tbilisi to Gori and reequipped in October 2006. On January 18 2008, Georgia’s second NATO-standard military base to accommodate the 1st Infantry Brigade of the Georgian Ground Forces was established at Gori.
In the 2008 South Ossetian War, the base came under aerial attack by the Russian Air Force from the outset of the conflict, and was abandoned between August 9 and August 12 2008 due to the lack of effective anti aircraft defences. Residential districts of Gori were also hit by the airstrikes, resulting in the deaths and injures of numerous civilians, including foreigners. Human Rights Watch, an international rights group, has determined that Russian forces have deployed controversial and indiscriminately deadly cluster bombs in civilian areas of Georgia. According to HRW experts, Russian aircraft had dropped cluster bombs in the centre of Gori killing 11 civilians and injuring dozens on August 12. Russian military officials denied using cluster munitions, calling the HRW claim "slanderous". Numerous unexploded "bomblets" were subsequently found by local population and the HRW.
By August 11, the Georgian military and most residents had fled the city, which was then captured and occupied by Russian forces and South Ossetian separatist militia. HRW accused the militia of unleashing a campaign of looting, arson, kidnapping and other attacks against the remaining civilian population. The forces of occupation withdrew from the city on August 22, 2008.
Gori and its environs house several notable cultural and historical landmarks. Although for many foreigners Gori is principally known as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, in Georgian historical memory the city has long been associated with its citadel, the Goris-Tsikhe, which is built on a cliffy hill overlooking the central part of the modern city. On another hill stands the 18th century St. George's church of Gorijvari, a popular place of pilgrimage. The ancient rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe and the 7th century Ateni Sioni Church are located not far from Gori.
Stalin's association with the city is emphasized by the Joseph Stalin Museum in downtown Gori and the Stalin monument in front of the City Hall, one of the few such monuments to survive Khrushchev's de-Stalinization program. The monument was a source of controversy in a newly independent Georgia in the 1990s, but the post-communist government acceded to the Gori citizens’ request and left the statue untouched.