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A view of Batumi, circa, 1911, towards the mountains

Batumi (also Batum or Batoum) is a seaside town (population: approximately 137,000) on the Black Sea coast and capital of Ajaria, an autonomous republic in southeast Georgia.

Batumi, with its large port and commercial center, is also the last stop of the Trans-Caucasian railroad and the Baky oil pipeline. It is situated some 20 km (12 mi) from the Turkish border, in a subtropical zone, rich in citrus fruit and tea. Industries include oil refineries, shipbuilding, food processing, and light manufacturing.

Batumi is located on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Batis. It has been known since the 11th century for its fortifications. A part of Georgia since the Middle Ages, it came under Turkish rule in the 16th century and was annexed by Russia in 1878. Joseph Stalin was in the city in 1901 to organize strikes.

Unrest during World War I led to Turkey re-entering in April 1918, followed by the British in December, who stayed until July 1920.

The town is home to all the major religions of the Caucasus, with a mixed population of Catholics, Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church, Muslims, and Jews. Attractions include the Ajar Museum, botanical gardens, aquarium, circus, and a resort area along the Black Sea coast.

The stamps of Batumi

Batumi British occupation overprints

During the British occupation, the stock of postage stamps started to run out, and so in February 1919 the administration produced its own stamps. These were imperforate, depicted an aloe tree and were inscribed БАТУМСКАЯ ПОЧТА (BATUMSKAYA POCHTA). The British later overprinted these with "BRITISH OCCUPATION", and surcharged the remaining Russian stamps in a variety of styles. Inflation also took hold, and by 1920, the tree stamps, which had been as little as 5 kopecks, had to be reprinted in denominations up to 50 rubles. Despite the short period of British rule, the tree stamps exist in large numbers (probably additional ones were printed after the occupation was over), but the overprinted Russian stamps are not common, and in 2003 some command prices of over $500 USD.

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