Imereti Province is a province in Georgia situated along the middle and upper reaches of the Rioni river. The province's main city is Kutaisi; other urban industrial centers include Samtredia, Chiatura (manganese production centre), Tkibuli (coal mining centre), Zestaponi (known for metals production), Khoni, and Sachkhere. Traditionally, Imereti is an agricultural region, known for its mulberries and grapes.
The 800,000 Imeretians speak a Georgian dialect; they are one of the local culture-groups of the ethnically subdivided Georgian people. In late antiquity and early Middle Ages the ancient western Georgian kingdom of Egrisi existed on the territory of Imereti. Its king declared Christianity as an official religion of Egrisi in 523 AD. In 975-1466 Imereti was part of the united Georgian Kingdom. Since its disintegration in the 15th century, Imereti was an independent kingdom. In the 17th-18th centuries the kingdom of Imereti suffered frequent invasions by the Turks and recognized to patronage of Ottoman Empire until 1810, when it was occupied and annexed by the Tsarist Russian Empire. The last King of Imereti was Solomon II (1789-1810). From 1918–1921, Imereti was part of the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia. Within the USSR, the region was part of the Transcaucasian SFSR from 1922–1936, and part of the Georgian SSR from 1936–1991. Since Georgian independence in 1991, Imereti has been a region in the Republic of Georgia with Kutaisi as the regional capital.
Kutaisi ( ancient names: Aea/Aia, Kutatisi, Kutaïssi) is Georgia's second largest city and the capital of the western region of Imereti. It is 221 km to the west of Tbilisi.
Kutaisi is located along both banks of the Rioni River. The city lies at an elevation of 125-300 meters (410–984 feet) above sea level. To the east and north-east, Kutaisi is bounded by the Northern Imereti Foothills, to the north by the Samgurali Range, and to the west and the south by the Colchis Plain.
Kutaisi is surrounded by deciduous forests to the northeast and the northwest. The low-lying outskirts of the city have a largely agricultural landscape. Because of the many gardens in the city centre and the high leafy trees alongside the sidewalks of its streets and boulevards, Kutaisi is painted in bright green in the spring and in yellow-red in the autumn. In the springtime, when the snow starts to melt in the nearby mountains, the storming Rioni River in the middle of the city is heard far beyond its banks.
Kutaisi was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Colchis. Archeological evidence indicates that the city functioned as the capital of the kingdom of Colchis as early as the second millennium BC. It is widely believed by historians that when Apollonius Rhodius was writing about Jason and the Argonauts and their legendary journey to Colchis, Kutaisi/Aia was the final destination of the Argonauts and the residence of King Aeëtes. From 978 to 1122 CE Kutaisi was the capital of the united Kingdom of Georgia, and from the 15th century until 1810 it was the capital of the Imeretian Kingdom. In 1508, the city was captured by Selim I, who was the son of the Sultan of the Ottomans at that time, Bayezid II.
In XVII c. Imeretian kings have many appeals to Russia to help them in their struggle for independence from the Ottomans. All claims were ignored as Russia did not want to spoil relations with Turkey. Only in a reign of Ekaterina II in 1768 troops of general Gottlieb Heinrich Totleben were sent to join forces of King Heraclius II of Georgia who hoped to reconquer the Ottoman-held southern Georgian lands in conjunction with Russia. Totleben helped King Solomon I of Imereti recover his capital Kutaisi on August 6, 1770.
Finally Russian-Turkish wars ended with annexion in 1810 of the Imeretian Kingdom with Russian Empire. The city was the capital of the Gubernia of Kutaisi, which included much of west Georgia. In March 1879, the city was the site of a blood libel trial that attracted attention all over Russia; the ten accused Jews were acquitted.