Racha is a historic province in Georgia, in the mountainous northwestern part of the country. Comprising the present-day districts of Oni and Ambrolauri, it is included in the region of Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti. It is bordered by the mountain-range of Greater Caucasus to the north and east, Imereti to the south, Lechkhumi and Svaneti to the west. It is situated in the northern valley of Rioni river and is surrounded by mountains. Formerly, Racha included also a northwestern corner of the present day breakaway region of South Ossetia.
An old fortress in Racha in the 19th century.Racha had been part of Colchis and Caucasian Iberia since ancient times and its main town Oni was said to have been founded by King Pharnajom of Iberia in the 2nd century BC. Upon creation of the unified Georgian kingdom in the 11th century, Racha became one of the duchies (saeristavo) within it. Rati of the Baghvashi family was the first duke (eristavi) appointed by King Bagrat III. Descendants of Rati and his son Kakhaber, eponymous father of Racha’s ruling dynasty of Kakhaberisdze, governed the province until 1278. In 1278 King David VI Narin abolished the duchy during his war against the Mongols. In the mid-14th century, the duchy was restored under the rule of the Tcharelidze family.
The next dynasty of Chkhetidze governed Racha from 1465 to 1769. Vassals of the King of Imereti, they revolted several times against the royal power. The 1678-1679 civil war resulted in the most serious consequences. In this war, Duke Shoshita II of Racha (1661-1684) supported Prince Archil, a rival of the pro-Ottoman Imeretian king Bagrat IV. On the defeat of Archil, Racha was overrun and plundered by an Ottoman punitive force. Under Rostom (1749-1769), the duchy became virtually independent from Imereti. However, towards the end of 1769, King Solomon I of Imereti managed to arrest Rostom and to abolish the duchy. In 1784, King David of Imereti revived the duchy and gave it to his nephew Anton. Local opposition attempted to use an Ottoman force to take control of Racha, but the victory of King David at Skhvava (January 26, 1786) temporarily secured his dominance in the area. In 1789, the next Imeretian king Solomon II finally abolished the duchy and subordinated the province directly to the royal adminis.