Author: Anka Gujabidze
Units of the Transcaucasia Metallurgical Plant named after Joseph Stalin are spread across a vast territory in Rustavi. This major enterprise in heavy industry, which came into operation as a result of the first five-year plan, is famous throughout the whole country. Products with the “ZMZ” mark are of very high quality and widely used in the national economy.
The plant is equipped with modern technology manufactured in the USSR. All the work in the factory is done by machinery; the qualified workers are there to merely guide it. The staff of the plant collectively strives for the best quality products.
Even before the launch, numerous applications from members of the Komsomol from various cities across Georgia poured into the factory. Young patriots were sent for training to metallurgical enterprises in Donbas, Stalingrad, Magnitogorsk, and Taganrog. Having acquired the skills of working with this advanced machinery, all of them have become the leading workers in the industry.
Russian magazine Smena, November 1954, issue 660, p. 8.
Rustavi is the fourth-largest city in Georgia, situated 27 km southeast of the capital, Tbilisi, with a population of about 120,000 people. The history of Rustavi is considered to have two phases: an early period from ancient times until the city was destroyed in the 13th century, and a modern period since 1948 until the present day. During the second half of the 20th century Rustavi was hastily rebuilt as a key industrial center. The core of the city was the Rustavi Metallurgical Plant, which, next to other 90 large and medium sized factories, played a key role in supplying the Transcaucasia region with steel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, almost all plants were shut down, unemployment reached 65 percent, and crime and poverty surged. Recently two large plants have reopened: the Rustavi Metallurgical Plant (renamed as Georgian Steel) and ‘Geosteel’, owned and managed by British-Georgian and Indian-Georgian private companies respectively.
“What the hell brought you here?” was a question I was repeatedly asked by people in Rustavi, whom I met in the streets of this city. The question was a reaction, and revealed the attitude of people about their own surrounding, rather than a genuine curiosity about my project. During the shooting I perceived Rustavi as a dead city, not in the sense that people can’t live there, but because it feels as a cemetery of an ideological myth that served as a purpose to build it. Rustavi is like a theatrical dÃ©cor without a viewer; a shop of second-hand clothes in a rusty garage, sheep pasturing on a football field, an airplane turned into a kindergarten. On the surface those sites seem humoristic but when one looks at the context and sees the full picture, those unusual, odd momentums reveal something dramatic: a struggle of an average inhabitant of this city to keep on living.