We are able to make our sketch of industry shorter than our sketch of agriculture. Not because this sphere is less important, but because no great industry of any consequence exists in Georgia. Very few capitalist undertakings are to be found there, and handicraft on the smallest scale and homework – carpet and cloth weaving – both in the textile and in the metal industries – are predominant. There are numerous handicraftsmen, who are extremely clever and tasteful, and nearly all of whom work only for themselves.
The country produces an abundance of wool and silk cocoons. It also produces some cotton, which grows in large quantities in the neighbouring Aserbaijan and especially in Turkestan. But there exists no large undertaking to work up this raw material. The jealousy of industrial Great Russia did not allow competition of this nature to arise. In the capital of Tiflis women can be seen at any moment walking and carrying in their hands the hand-spindle with which they spin wool. So far as they are concerned, not merely the spinning machine, but even the spinning wheel has not yet been discovered.
The largest industry in the country is the railway works. The railway from the Black Sea to Baku is the artery of the country. In addition, account must be taken of the arsenal and some electrical power stations. The rest of the large undertakings are almost all subsidiary to agriculture, such as cognac distilleries, oil mills, tanneries, and sawing mills. There are also tobacco factories, tile works, and soap works.
Outside of the special industries there are some large mining undertakings. It is a remarkable fact that only the least significant of the coal deposits are worked, namely, those in Tkvibuli, which are connected with the railway. The far better coal of Tvartscheli has not yet been won. Its deposits are quite near the Black Sea, in fact, only forty-five miles distant. It is necessary, however, to construct a railway to this spot, and to make the harbour of Ochemtchiry accessible to large ships. This has not yet been done, and thus a source of great riches for Georgia has remained untapped.
This neglect is explained by the nearness of Baku with its immense petroleum wealth. In a double connection Baku is of economic importance for Georgia.
A system of pipe lines connects the petroleum wells of Baku with Batoum, where a petroleum refinery has been established and numerous ships are collected to pick up the petroleum. Batoum has experienced from this cause a prosperity which is almost American.
On the other hand, the railways and industries of Georgia have discovered in masuth, a by-product of petroleum, a fuel which for cheapness, effectiveness and convenience, is not to be equalled. Coal did not come into vogue.
Since the Revolution this has been altered. The military operations involved in the struggle of the Bolshevists with the Entente have not only, as we have seen already, prevented the import of corn and the export of wine; they have also led to Baku being captured by the Bolshevists who practically stopped the export of petroleum to Georgia. Without petroleum and masuth, thrown back on bad coal, without light and good fuel, the condition of the population of Georgia became desperate. Railway facilities had to be restricted, and travelling was slow and difficult, owing to the new fuel.
These events also did harm to trade, which was always active so long as petroleum was available. Now the industrial products of which Georgia had need were lacking. The disturbances to trade brought about by the war, which persisted so long afterwards, were not overcome by the attractive force which petroleum could have exerted.
The commodity most in demand for export was still manganese, which was not dependent on the Russian market. Of the million tons of ore which Georgia exported in 1913, merely one per cent went to Russia; on the other hand, 38 per cent went to Germany, 22 per cent to England, and 17 per cent to Belgium. From the outbreak of war up to the present time the export of this commodity has suffered considerably from transport difficulties.
These difficulties, which were not created by the democratic regime, formed, together with the backwardness of agriculture, the chief cause of the blight which rested after the revolution upon the Georgian paradise.
Last updated on 28.2.2017