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The city is the capital of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region, which combines Samegrelo (Mingrelia) and Svaneti. The name “Zugdidi” means “big/great hill” in Laz and Mingrelian.

Zugdidi served as the capital of the principality of Mingrelia (Odishi) until 1867, when the principality was abolished by the Russian Empire. In 1993 the administration of the first President of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was here.