Shida, or ‘inner’ Kartli, is Georgia’s heartland in many ways. At the geographic center of the country, the region is also a major agricultural and industrial center, and is filled with hidden valleys and secret cultural treasures. Spreading out both sides of the Mtkvari valley, Shida Kartli takes in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus, covered in fruit orchards, as well as the forested Trialeti Range. The region’s capital is Gori, famous (or should that be infamous?) as the birthplace of soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin, or as he was known here, Soso Jugashvili. The main sights in town are mostly connected with Stalin, and no student of the Soviet Union should miss the time-warp Stalin Museum. The massive structure, built shortly after the generalissimo’s death, contains several halls outlining the (USSR approved) biography of the great man, as well as a selection of bizarre gifts given to him by world leaders and international communist parties. The tone of the exhibition is hagiographic, there is no mention of Trotsky or the purges. The most spooky exhibit is in the final, dimly-lit room: a golden death mask of the man himself. In the boulevard in front of the museum stands, encased in its own mini-temple, is the one-story dwelling in which Stalin was born – testament to his humble, proletarian roots. His armoured railway carriage, in which he travelled to Yalta and Tehran in the closing days of World War II, is also on display – you can even sit on Stalin’s personal toilet. Just up the road, on the town’s main square, used to stand one of the last remaining statues of Stalin anywhere, until it was removed in the dead of night by the loca authorities in 2010. It is now to be re-erected by the museum, which may alos be re-invented as a museum of Soviet oppression, so hurry and see this amazing xample of outdated propaganda before it’s too late.

Uplistsikhe

Uplistsikhe Cave Town-Fortress is situated on a rocky massif in eastwards to town Gori on the left bank of the river Mtkvari. The fortress is mentioned in chronicles from earliest times. Its history begins in the I-II millennium B.C.
Uplistsikhe is identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Strategically located in the heartland of ancient kingdom of Kartli (or Iberia as it was known to the Classical authors), it emerged as a major political and religious center of the country. With the Christianization of Kartli early in the 4th century, Uplistsikhe seems to have declined in its importance and lost its position to the new centers of Christian culture – Mtskheta and, later Tbilisi. However, Uplistsikhe reemerged as a principal Georgian stronghold during the Muslim conquest of Tbilisi in the 8-9th CC. The Mongol raids in the 14th century marked the ultimate eclipse of the town; it was virtually abandoned, and only occasionally used as a temporary shelter in times of foreign intrusions.
Living quarters and premises for communal purposes occupy a cliff territory of almost 8 hectares and are connected by footways. The central ensemble, a big hall with coffered tunnel-vaulted ceiling, and the palace complex, is the most interesting one architecturally.
Archaeological excavations have revealed extraordinary artifacts of different epochs: beautiful golden, silver and bronze jewelers, magnificent samples of ceramics and sculptures.

Surami Fortress

Surami Fortress overlooks the town of Surami. The exact date of its construction is not known, though the town itself existed from 12th century. Military commander Giorgi Saakadze, as well known as Grand Mouravi, during his fight against Iran fortified the strong-holds. Later the castle was conquered by Osman conquerors and during the 70s of 18th c. Georgian and Russian held it. Besides the castle, in Surami there are located 9 Christian churches and one synagogue.

Joseph Stalin State Museum

The Joseph Stalin State Museum is a museum dedicated to the life of Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, who was born in Gori. The museum has three sections, all located in the town’s central square: Stalin’s house – a small wooden hut, in which Stalin was born in 1878 and spent his first years; the main corpus in Stalinist Gothic style where are exhibited various documentations, photographs, paintings, newspaper articles, his personal belongings and gifts made to him over the years; and Stalin’s personal railway carriage.
The museum was officially dedicated to Stalin in 1957. With the downfall of the Soviet Union and independence movement of Georgia, the museum was closed in 1989, but has since been reopened, and is a popular tourist attraction.

Gori

Gori is a city in eastern Georgia, which serves as the regional capital of Shida Kartli region. Gori was an important military stronghold in the Middle Ages and maintains a strategic importance due to its location on the principal highway connecting eastern and western parts of Georgia. In the course of its history, Gori has been invaded by the armies of regional powers several times. Gori is close to the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone thus it was occupied by Russian troops during the 2008 War Conflict.
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 Gori Fortress, 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.
Stalin’s association with the city is emphasized by the Joseph Stalin Museum in downtown Gori and, until recently, the Stalin monument in front of the City Hall, one of the few such monuments to survive Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization program. The monument was a source of controversy in a newly independent Georgia in the 1990s, but for several years the post-communist government acceded to the Gori citizens’ request and left the statue untouched. It was ultimately removed to the Joseph Stalin Museum in June 2010.