KUTAIS, a government of Russian Transcaucasia, situated between the Caucasus range on the N. and the Black Sea on the W., the government of Tiflis on the E. and the province of Kars on the S. Area, 14,313 sq. m. The government includes the districts of Guria, Mingrelia, Imeretia, Abkhasia and Svanetia, and consists of four distinct parts: (1) the lowlands, drained by the Rion, and continued N.W. along the shore of the Black Sea; (2) the southern slopes of the main Caucasus range; (3) the western slopes of the Suram mountains, which separate Kutais from Tiflis; and (4) the slopes of the Armenian highlands, as well as a portion of the highlands themselves, drained by the Chorokh and its tributary, the Ajaris-tskhali, which formerly constituted the Batum province. Generally speaking, the government is mountainous in the north and south. Many secondary ridges and spurs shoot off the main range, forming high, narrow valleys (see Caucasus). The district of Batum and Artvin in the S.W., which in 1903 were in part separated for administration as the semi-military district of Batum, are filled up by spurs of the Pontic range, 9000 to 11,240 ft. high, the Arzyan ridge separating them from the plateau of Kars. Deep gorges, through which tributaries of the Chorokh force their passage to the main river, intersect these highlands, forming most picturesque gorges. The lowlands occupy over 2400 sq. m. They are mostly barren in the littoral region, but extremely fertile higher up the Rion.
The climate is very moist and warm. The winters are often without frost at all in the lowlands, while the lowest temperatures observed are 18° F. at Batum and 9° at Poti. The mountains condense the moisture brought by the west winds, and the yearly amount of rain varies from 50 to 120 in. The chief rivers are the Rion, which enters the Black Sea at Poti; the Chorokh, which enters the same sea at Batum; and the Ingur, the Kodor and the Bzyb, also flowing into the Black Sea in Abkhasia. The vegetation is extremely rich, its character suggesting the sub-tropic regions of Japan (see Caucasia). The population belongs almost entirely to the Kartvelian or Georgian group, and is distributed as follows: Imeretians, 41.2%; Mingrelians and Lazes, 22.5%; Gurians, 7.3%; Ajars, 5.8%; Svanetians, 1.3%; of other nationalities there are 6% of Abkhasians, 2.6% of Turks, 2.3% of Armenians, besides Russians, Jews, Greeks, Persians, Kurds, Ossetes and Germans. By religion 87% of the population are Greek Orthodox and only 10% Mussulmans. The total population was 933,773 in 1897, of whom 508,468 were women and 77,702 lived in towns. The estimated population in 1906 was 924,800. The land is excessively subdivided, and, owing to excellent cultivation, fetches very high prices. The chief crops are maize, wheat, barley, beans, rye, hemp, potatoes and tobacco. Maize, wine and timber are largely exported. Some cotton-trees have been planted. The vine, olive, mulberry and all sorts of fruit trees are cultivated, as also many exotic plants (eucalyptus, cork-oak, camellia, and even tea). Manganese ore is the chief mineral, and is extracted for export to the extent of 160,000 to 180,000 tons annually, besides coal, lead and silver ores, copper, naphtha, some gold, lithographic stone and marble. Factories are still in infancy, but silk is spun. A railway runs from the Caspian Sea, via Tiflis and the Suram tunnel, to Kutais, and thence to Poti and Batum, and from Kutais to the Tkvibuli coal and manganese mines. The export of both local produce and goods shipped by rail from other ports of Transcaucasia is considerable, Batum and Poti being the two chief ports of Caucasia. Kutais is divided into seven districts, of which the chief towns, with their populations in 1897, are Kutais, capital of the province (q.v.); Lailashi (834), chief town of Lechgum, of which Svanetia makes a separate administrative unit; Ozurgeti (4694); Oni, chief town of Racha; Senaki (101); Kvirili, of Sharopan district; Zugdidi; and two semi-military districts—Batum (28,512) with Artvin (7000) and Sukhum-kaleh (7809). (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)