Silk Road

Georgia always used to be an important transit country for its geopolitical location as it is located at the crossroads of Europe and the countries of Central Asia. Such a position has given him a great responsibility to occupy a significant place in the development process of world civilization.

While the term is of modern coinage, the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk (and horses) carried out along its length, beginning during the Han dynasty (207 BCE – 220 CE). The Han dynasty expanded Central Asian sections of the trade routes around 114 BCE, largely through missions and explorations of the Chinese imperial envoy, Zhang Qian. The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their trade products and extended the Great Wall of China to ensure the protection of the trade route.

The Silk Road is a historically important international trade route between China and the Mediterranean. Because China silk comprised a large proportion of the trade along this ancient road, in 1877 Ferdinand von Richthofen, an eminent German geographer, named it the “Silk Road”. In June 2014 UNESCO designated the Silk Road as a World Heritage Site.

The Silk Road or Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction originally through regions of Eurasia connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean Sea. The Silk Road concept refers to both the terrestrial and the maritime routes connecting Asia and Europe. The overland Steppe route stretching through the Eurasian steppe is considered the ancestor to the Silk Road(s).

This ancient road begins at Chang'an (now Xian), then by way of the Hexi Corridor, and it reaches Dunhuang, where it divides into three, the Southern Route, Central Route and Northern Route. The three routes spread all over the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and then they extend as far as Pakistan, India and even Rome.

Besides the Silk Road in the northwest of China, there are another two trade roads in the southwest of China and by sea, which also contributed greatly to the development of the world and by means of which all those three lines were interconnected. They are called the "Southern Silk Road" and the "Silk Road on the Sea".

The sea part of the Silk Road started in Alexandria and in Egypt, went across the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean to the ports of the western coast of India. From there that route followed to Bactria, to the city of Termez, and then it followed on the Amu Darya to Khoresm and the Caspian Sea. Then it crossed the territory of Albania (Azerbaijan), Iberia and Colchis (Georgia), reached the Black Sea and went further to Rome. It was the shortest way from India to the countries of Transcaucasia.

The Caucasian Silk Road started in ancient Samarkand. It went to Khoresm, followed around the Caspian Sea, crossed the steppes of North Caucasus, and then went down to the city of Tskhum (Sokhumi in Georgia). From there trade caravans crossed the Black Sea to reach Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium.

This road was part of the historically existing terrestrial, maritime and fluvial international trade routes system. Trade routes on the Black Sea Coast of Kolkheti (western Georgia) first was founded in VIII-VII BC. In VI-IV BC Greek products were transported through Mtkvari and Rioni-Kvirila fluvial trade routes.

Silk, carpets, textiles, etc. were transported in Transcaucasia and Georgia by Byzantium and Iran via these trade routes.

The main traders during antiquity included the Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Somalis, Syrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Georgians, Armenians, Bactrians, Turkmens, and (from the 5th to the 8th century) the Sogdians.

Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, the Goguryeo kingdom (Korea), Japan, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations. Though silk was certainly the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and various technologies. Diseases, most notably plague, also spread along the Silk Routes. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.

The road is not only an ancient international trade route, but also a splendid cultural bridge linking the cultures of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greek and Rome. The Four Great Inventions of China and religions of the West were introduced into their counterparts.

Modern Silk Road

Georgia still has an important transit function in the modern economic space between West and Central Asian countries and actively participates in the improvement and implementation of regional projects.

The proof of this was the implementation of the "Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA) Program", as well as the establishment of Transcaucasian "Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan" oil pipeline and "Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum" natural gas pipeline.

The South Caucasus Pipeline (also known as Baku–Tbilisi–Erzurum Pipeline, BTE pipeline, or Shah Deniz Pipeline) is a natural gas pipeline from the Shah Deniz gas field in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea to Turkey. It runs parallel to the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline (oil). On 21 May 2006, the commissioning gas was pumped to the pipeline from the Sangachal Terminal. First deliveries through the pipeline commenced on 30 September 2006. Deliveries of gas from Shah Deniz gas field started on 15 December 2006. On 12 August 2008, the pipeline operator BP closed the pipeline for the safety reasons because of the South Ossetia conflict. Gas supplies were resumed on 14 August 2008. The 42-inch (1,070 mm) diameter gas pipeline runs through the same corridor as the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline until Erzurum, where BTC turns south to the Mediterranean. It is 692 km (430 mi) long, of which 442 km (275 mi) is in Azerbaijan and 248 km (154 mi) in Georgia. The initial capacity of the pipeline was 8.8 billion cubic metres (310 billion cubic feet) of gas per year. For the second stage of the Shah Deniz development, the capacity would be increased up to 25 billion cubic metres (880 billion cubic feet) by adding additional looping and two new compressor stations, costing $3 billion. As the pipeline has the potential to be connected to Turkmen and Kazakh producers through the planned Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, Azerbaijan has proposed expanding its capacity up to 60 billion cubic metres (2.1 trillion cubic feet) by building a second line of the pipeline. The first aim of the pipeline is to supply Turkey and Georgia. As a transit country, Georgia has rights to take 5% of the annual gas flow through the pipeline in lieu of a tariff and can purchase a further 0.5 billion cubic metres (18 billion cubic feet) of gas a year at a discounted price. In the longer term, it will supply Europe with Caspian natural gas through the planned Southern Gas Corridor pipelines, such as the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline.

The Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline is a 1,768 km (1,099 mi) long crude oil pipeline from the Azeri–Chirag–Gunashli oil field in the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. It connects Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and Ceyhan, a port on the southeastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, via Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. It is the second-longest oil pipeline in the former Soviet Union, after the Druzhba pipeline. The first oil that was pumped from the Baku end of the pipeline reached Ceyhan on 28 May 2006.

An exceptionally advantageous and favorable geographical location gives Georgia the function of transport nodes in international trade.

TRACECA (acronym: Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia) - a part of the great project known as the "Silk Road" project, is an international transport program involving the European Union and 14 member States of the Eastern European, Caucasian and Central Asian region. The program aim is to strengthen economic relations, trade and transport in the regions of the Black Sea basin, South Caucasus and Central Asia. It has a permanent Secretariat, originally financed by the European Commission, in Baku, Azerbaijan, and a regional office in Odessa, Ukraine. Since 2009 the organization has been entirely financed by member countries.

TRACECA was established in May 1993, upon the signing of Multilateral Agreement on International Transport for the development of transport initiatives (including the establishment and development of a road corridor) between the EU member states, the Caucasus and Central Asia countries. The program supports the political and economic independence of the former Soviet Union republics through enhancing their access to European and global markets through road, rail and sea. The objectives of TRACECA were underlined by the Baku Initiative of 2004, followed by a further ministerial conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2006.

TRACECA has five working groups: maritime transport, aviation, road and rail, transport security, and transport infrastructure. Amongst its specific projects was the creation of a new bridge to replace and protect the heritage bridge at Tsiteli Khidi (Red Bridge, Krasny Most) between Georgia and Azerbaijan.

A new direction of the Silk Road was launched in January 2016 and included the Ukraine – Georgia – Azerbaijan – Kazakhstan – China route.

Another project is Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway project, which will be able to shorten the route via the Caspian Sea by bypassing Iran. The new railway lines constructed in Kazakhstan will make it shorter. The new route, in this case, will be China–Kazakhstan–Azerbaijan–Georgia–Turkey.

From the Black Sea ports of Georgia the Poti port is a rail-ferry complex that connects it with the ports of Ukraine and Bulgaria and provides a large volume of cargo turnover.

Batumi port is an important node site in Georgia's transit space, which has always been distinguished by its geostrategic and natural advantages. For the first time in the world the oil was transported from Batumi by the oil tanker "Amurex". One of the authors of this project was Robert Nobel.

The port is connected with the Caucasian and Central Asian countries, Russia and Turkey by the highways and railway. It is also used as a mainland port for processing of the Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan oil. The Batumi Port is linked to all seaports in the world.  

The important function in the transit potential of Georgia lays on the airspace.

The volume of cargo transported by railway annually has been increasing, that proves its economic and strategic importance.

For the transit function implementation, it is necessary to integrate the Georgia’s transportation field into the world's transportation infrastructure. The vehicular field is one of the main branches. Georgia has 6901.1 km long road, 1603 km of which has international importance, and 5298.1 km has domestic importance. The establishment of "Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA) Program" has stimulated the improvement and development of the infrastructure of Georgia. "TRACECA" is actively improving the motor transportation and motor trucking along the new "Silk Road" between Europe and Asia.Georgia has got the rich economic and intellectual potential, it is interesting and attractive with its unique natural resources, mineral and fresh water, tourist sites, etc., which is a precondition for the state’s strong economic development, taking into consideration the country’s exceptionally advantageous strategic location, sharing the other countries’ experience in the modernization of the economy by the state, the geo-economic policies developed according to national interests, protection of the rules and traditions of Georgian national self-economic coexistence and the establishment of specific conditions for the development of specific fields for the country


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