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The Stalin Rope Roads: A Heritage That Must Be Restored

Neil Patrick

In 1954, the Soviet Union had heavily invested on engineering a huge network of cable-cars in Chiatura, Georgia, known as the Stalin rope roads. The Soviet’s primary goal was to open a huge full scale manganese mining operation, in which the town had very large deposit. The cable car lines was named “Kanatnaya Dorogar”, or “rope roads”, in which connected on every corner of the Chiatura.


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The Soviet Union’s “Worker’s Paradise” in Chiatura, Georgia had claimed sixty percent of manganese production all over the world during its heyday.

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During the Soviet Union era, a heavy investment for a manganese processing plants and mines were set in Chiatura, a town located at the eastern edge of Georgia. The area is located in a very challenging steep terrain, which was the reason why the Soviet established these cable cars. And to this days, the cable cars were mainly used as public transportation. [Via]

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A mosaic of great Soviet Union’s leaders, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin made of river stones. It can be seen on the entrance of the main tramway station at Chiatura. The town’s relationship with Stalin began during his revolutionary days as he was hiding out in the mines above the town as a fugitive. [Via]

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On the left: An old photo of Tramway 25 during the 50’s showing a passengers inside the cabin. Together with its current picture on the right illustrating an empty rusty cabin. [Via]

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Passengers on the Tramway 25 dock. The Tramway 25 was the Soviet’s first passenger tramway  which had continuously run since 1954.

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A panoramic aerial view of a factory in Chiatura operating in the Soviet period will be seen below during the trip.
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A view of Kvirila River as the cabin from Tramway 25 slides. During the full use of manganese factories, the rivers almost turned black because of the operation.


Inside the Cabin of Chiatura’s Tramways

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 An inside view of cable car cabin. [Via]

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A harness. [Via]

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The Tramway 25 cabin telephone

The Tramways Operating Room

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Emergency guides. Things to do when circumstances occur.

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A scene inside the tramway operating room.

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Back in the days, telephones were used by operators to communicate trapped passengers.

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But telephones stopped working since 1994 according to operators.

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Old telephone. Nowadays, they are using cellphones whenever someone needs assistance.

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The electric motor used to run the cable cars.

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Despite of the risk, residents in the town still cherish the cable networks. It is still the fastest means of transportation they got.

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An old woman waiting for a cable car at the dock. Stalin's  Rope Roads - Chiatura 008


A great aerial view of the steep slopes and gorges of Chiatura.

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These rusty cable cars cabins  are also called metal coffins by some people these days.

The Chiatura Tramway Docks

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 On the left, two locals watching over the place riding in a cable car that is still in operation, named as “Peace”.[Via]

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 A socialist realist painting illustrating the proud manganese mine workers in Chiatura.  [Via]

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 Two manganese mine workers taking a break for a smoke above Chiatura. Due to the near-anarchy across Georgia which was followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mine operation was halted and have only reopened in the past few years. [Via]



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 A scene where a town resident awaits for a ride as it approaches. This tramway will cross 150 meters through the valley down to the main road below where the bus stop is located. [Via]

As time passed by, several cable-cars were out in the operation due to lack of maintenance and safety issues. And today, there are only 17 cable-cars left running. The townspeople considered the huge cable networks as a heritage structure in Chiatura. Stalin’s rope roads played a very important role of the town’s history, as it had claimed a great percentile (60%) of manganese production during its full operation in the past. And today, people living the area were calling for the structure’s restoration than cutting those lines because of safety issues.

Neil Patrick

Neil Patrick is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News