Young Pioneer Tours

Do you know your Gori from your Goris?

At some point in some imaginary past, the phrase “he doesn’t know his arse from his elbow” was replaced in the YPT lexicon with the phrase “he doesn’t know his Gori from his Goris”. We still live in hope this phrase will catch on around the world and that people will differentiate the city of Gori from the city of Goris.

So what’s the difference between Gori and Goris?

Goris, in Armenia and its cave settlements

Starting with the latter, Goris is a town in southern Armenia, located in the valley of the River Goris about 250kms from Yerevan. Goris was settled since the Stone Age, and experienced invasion from the Mongols and Persians amongst others, and of course the Russians. Since Armenia’s independence from the form Soviet Union in 1991 Goris became part of Syunik Province.

Goris is worth a visit in its own right, for the rock formations of the stone-pyramids of Old Kores to the east of the town as well as Old Khndzoresk Cave Village. More importantly for us though, it’s the last stop on the route to Nagorno-Karabakh, the Republic of Artsakh, an unrecognised country, and its capital Stepanakert. Goris is almost certainly going to be on your route if you’re travelling from Iran overland to Armenia too.

And where is Gori?

The fortress of Gori in Georgia
The Gori Fortress

Gori, on the other hand, is not to be confused with the Gori in Burkina Faso or Chad, Lake Gori in Iran or indeed the Goguryeo Kingdom, otherwise known as Gori, but is a city in eastern Georgia. Gori was part of the Georgian Kingdom in the Middle Ages, before passing between Ottomans and Persians and of course Russians, including during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

Gori is also connected to Tskhinvali, the capital of the unrecognised country of South Ossetia, via a now defunct railroad. The city is famed for the Gori Fortress, a medieval citadel.

But for YPT Gori is more than that, it’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of a certain Joseph Stalin. There’s still a Joseph Stalin Museum in town, and a controversial statue outside the town hall. The statue of Gori’s most famous son was one of the few monuments to survive Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation program in the late 1950s, and when Georgia declared independence the post-Soviet regime left the statue standing at the request of Gori’s residents. It was taken down in 2010 in the middle of the night.

A mosaic of Joseph Stalin in Gori, Georgia

While the legacy of Stalin may have been disowned to some or a great extent in the rest of Georgia or indeed Russia, you can still find many people who revere Uncle Joe in his hometown. You can visit the house where he was (supposedly) born and walk along Stalin Avenue, see a replica of the Stalin statue in Stalin Park, and see a statue of the young Joseph Djugashvili near Gori State University.

So there you have it, now you know your Gori from your Goris.

Visit both Gori and Goris on the annual Caucasus Unrecognised Countries Tour, the perfect tour for anyone who loves natural scenery, good food, Soviet history and geopolitical frontlines!

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