A comparatively mild climate, a fertile soil, natural resources, a diversity of flora and fauna, has created in Georgia the advantageous conditions for the earliest inhabitants in human history.

The inhabitants of Georgia have often fought to maintain their independence and national integrities over the centuries. In struggling with outside influences from Achamenid and Sassanian Persia , Greek and Roman, Persian and Arabs, Seljuk, Ottoman and Russia , Georgia managed to preserve its national originality and culture.

The Georgian name of the Georgian nation derived from the indigenous proto - Georgian tribes Karts, who emerged in the eastern part of Georgia along the river Mtkvari, in the 8 th - 7 th cc BC. People of this land are called Kart-veli and the land Sa- kartvelo. Greek travelers and colonists had seen the people working on the land with developed agriculture and viniculture and had called inhabitants of the area “Georgians», from the Greek word ‘geos- (earth).

The position of Georgia at the junction of the west and the east, shielded by the Caucasian mountain range to the north, full of narrow valleys and passes, provided strategic advantages from the earliest time of its existence;

 

Prehistory of Georgia (from Stone Age up to early Iron Age)

Hominids started to settle in what we now call Georgia in early Paleolithic era (2.000.000 to 25 000 years ago). The remains of Hominid, aging about 1.5 and 1.7 million years, were found at the Site of Dmanisi in South central part of Georgia . This is the oldest evidence yet discovered concerning Hominid presence in Europe or Asia . It belonged to an early representative of Homo erectus, with the same morphology of African hominid jaw bones of the same era. The Dmanisi jaw found together with primitive stone artifacts and the bones of animals of the early Stone Age suggested the idea of early hunting society.

According to Archaeological excavations at least from the Neolithic period, identifiable proto-Georgian tribes had complete settlements in central and western Parts of Georgia.

The remains of nine species of wheat, several species of barley as well as mullet, lentils and peas have confirmed the existence of developed agriculture in Georgia within 6 th – 4 th cc. BC. (Shulaveri and Imiris Gora, South east part of Georgia).

By the middle of the 4 th millennium early bronze or so called Mtkvari – Araksi Culture was developed and spread through the whole Caucasus, Asia mina and Iran. Remains of black polished pottery with a wave style ornaments, weapon and domestic implements show the emergence of a distinctive Caucasian Culture that has ties with the other peoples of Middle East. Georgian pottery of this period has been found in Syria and Palestine.

High quality and subtle golden and silver metalwork, remains of workshops, agricultural tools and weapons from the second half of 3 rd millennium attest the developed metallurgy and agriculture in so called Trialeti Culture (Trialeti valley, southwest from Tbilisi ). Proto-Georgian - Tubal tribes are mentioned in the Bible as an “ instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.”(Genesis 4/22)

Dwellings have been deduced as square in shape with heath in the middle of a room. This type of dwelling has become the basis for further development of Georgian Architecture, especially for the construction of dome on the cross cupola apses.

By the middle Bronze Age the general tribes union has separated into three main tribal groups: Karts, Megrel-Chans and Svans. Through the 2nd millennium BC, from one family pro-Georgian language was divided into three related languages: Karts, Megrelian-Laz and Svans. Due to Geographical and historical circumstances two dialects were developed in western and eastern Parts of Georgia:

West dialect of Georgian language became a basis for Svanuri and Zanuri or Kolhkuri, developed into Megruli and Lazuri languages.

East dialect of Georgian language became a basis for development of modern Georigan (Kartuli) language.

Creation of first Georgian Kingdoms (2 nd - 1 st millennium)

The proto Georgian tribes created two unities: Colkheti in the western part by the 8 th c. BC and Iberia - Kartli by the 6 th c. BC, occupying the Southeastern part of Georgia.

 

Establishment of Colkheti Kingdom

Diaukhi was the oldest unity of Proto-Georgian tribes, conquered in the 8 th c. BC by the Kingdoms of Colkheti and Urartu. The territories of Diaukhi and Taokhoi, as Greeks called them, (nowadays historical Tao province) were corporate for Colkheti and shaped as a strong Kingdom, mentioned as a Kilkhi Kingdom in Assyrian clay plate inscriptions dating from 12 th c. BC.

Kingdom of Colkhi was known as a rich State, symbolized later in Golden Fleece. Popularity of Colkheti Kingdom resulted from Greek contacts of pre-colonial era, reflected by the historians, geographers and ethno - political reports. (Strabo, Pliny, Hesiod, Eumelas).

In “Odyssey” Homer mentions Jason and the King of Colchis - Aeetes, who was Medias Father. Apollonius of Rhodes, in his “Argonautica” (3 rd century BC), describes the Colkhis before arrival of Greek colonists from Millets in the 7 th century BC. Strabo tells the legend of the Golden Fleece in his Geography, how Jason and his Argonauts have stolen the Golden Fleece and sailed away with the Colkheti Princess Media.

According of Greek sources Golden Fleece represented the inscriptions on the leather, ascribing the secret of chemical invention of gold in old Colkheti. Strabo and Appian described how the fleecy skins were used by Barbarians to gather the gold in the gold-bearing rivers of Colkheti.

Colketi maintained cultural contact with Hellenistic world, Syria, Egypt and Mediterranean Sea coast. A greater quantity of Archaeological evidences proves the successful trade of Colkheti with Hellenistic world. Wood and linen production was sent for export.

According of Greek and Roman authors silver coins have been minted since 6 th BC in Colkheti. The coins were called Kolhkuri tetri. The same name has been used for the current money coins in Modern Georgia since 1992.

By the first half of 8 th c. BC Cimmerian and Scythians attacked and weakened the Kingdom of Colkheti . However from 7 th- 6th cc. BC Colkheti revived again and since then Greek colonies have been established along the Black Sea coast: Phazis (nearby modern Poti), Dioscuria (nearby modern Sokhumi), Gienos (modern Ochamchire) and etc.

In the 2 nd c. AD Kolkhida maintained the western and Abhazian tribal Principalities - Lazika, Apsila, Abagia, Saigia, with recognized supremacy of Roman Emperors. (Territories of Abkhazia, Guria and Ajara)

By the 3rd c. BC, the Kingdom of Kolkheti weakened and only in 4 th c. AD it managed to regain a political power under the name of Egrisi or Lazika, as Greeks called it. Egrisi Kingdom , although independent in a certain degree, was a vassal of the Byzantine Empire . Economic resources and strategic location of Egrisi Kingdom attracted the aggressors. It was Egrisi Kingdom that became the Arena of a prolonged twenty year-old war between Iran and Byzantium .

 

Establishment of Iberia – Kartli Kingdom

Proto - Georgian tribes Mushki have created the ethnic base from which the modern Georgians developed. Pre-Hittite tribes of Anatolia were forced to migrate to the north east of Caucasus and merged with the indigenous Mushki tribes. Mushki were known as skillfull metalworkers. Greeks called them Tibereni, which later was modified to the name Iberian, known by the classical world. Mushki had wrested this land from the Scythians and Cimmerians in a hard battles.

Karts were the powerful tribes who emerged in the eastern part of Georgia along the river Mtkvari in the 8th - 7 th cc. BC. The Georgian name of the Iberian Kingdom is Kartli Kingdom , inhabitants are called Kart-velebi and the land is named Sa- kartvelo.

By the 4 th c. BC King Parnavaz, established Iberian Kingdom with well-fortified Armazi Acropolis, nearby Mtskheta, at the confluence of two rivers, Mtkvari and Aragvi (Central eastern part of Georgia ). Mtskheta with Armazi Acropolis and royal residence became the capital of Iberia or Kartli Kingdom . Armazi Tsikhe - Acropolis, in the center of Iberian civilization with a God Armazi was described by Pliny in a “Fortress of Armasicum”.

The King Parnavaz established a strong State with a hierarchy of his dynasty over rival princes. He classified the State into principalities and appointed the rulers in provinces. Even the ruler of Egrisi Kingdom in the western Part of Georgia obeyed him. As a result of political reorganization, the differences between Georgian tribes reduced and they assimilated into the dominant Kartveli Group.

King Parnavaz was responsible for invention of the Georgian alphabet.

Kartli had an advantageous dislocation for external policy. Iberia - Kartli maintained contacts with Greeks, Achaemenid Persia , Seleucids, Iran , Pontics and many others. Distinguished warriors from the highlands of Kartli Kingdom have played an important role in a struggle for independence during the centuries. By the 1 st c. BC in spite of the Roman domination over Caucasus , Kartli – Iberia was recognized as an ally of Rome and not a tax-payer vassal state. In the 1 st- 2 nd cc AD, Kartli- Iberia Kingdom became strong by controlling the most important routes from the north and ran an independent policy. Developed agriculture, handcraft, trade and trading routes crossed the Country from Greece to India .

In 298 the Romans and Iranians signed a peace treaty between Nisibis and Kartli – Iberia Kingdom became dependent on the State of Rome with Iranian candidate Mirian on the throne. However, the later chose Christian world and Roman orientation.

 

Religion in Georgia

Unification of the country and establishment of the first State in the Eastern Part of Georgia in 3 rd c BC caused the necessity of a legal state religion and a pantheon of idols. The head of the pantheon was the main Idol – Armazi. The king residence was called – Armazistsikhe (Castle of Armazi in Georgian). Armazi was considered as an idol of war.

The cult of the sun was worshiped in Georgia most of all. Before accepting Christianity Georgians (Karts, Svans and Megrels) had the common religion, cult terminology and a language for cult services. Few remains of fire-worshiping temples have been known In Georgia : Tsicheagora in kavtisckevi region, (45 km. from Tbilisi ), fire-temple of Nekresi in Kakheti province (eastern Part of Georgia).

Most of the temples were changed into churches after expansion of Christianity.

 

Announcement of Christianity in Kartli and Egrisi Kingdoms

Pre- Christian Georgia

According to Georgian historians, writers and philosophers of early feudal period (Leonti Mroveli, Arsen Beri, Ioane Sabanisdze, Giorgi Mtatsmindeli, the authors of “Kartli Life”), Christianity was already known in Georgia from 1 st century. The first Gospel readers in Georgia were the apostles of the Christ – Andrea and Simon Kananian. Archaeological evidences prove that Christianity was known in Georgia before declaring it as the State religion in 337.

By the Greek sources, at the very beginning of 3 rd c AD the bishops of Bichvinta and Trapezon, took part in the first World Meeting of Archbishops. From 20-ies of 4 th century a new stage of Christianity started in Georgia . Evangelist Saint Nino came barefoot from Cabadoccia to Georgia for Christian pilgrimage. She took the wine branch and tied it up with her hair, making the first cross. By worshiping Christianity and healing people, she played a big role for fast spreading of Christianity in Georgia .

Christianity was declared as a State religion in Kartli - Iberia Kingdom by king Mirian in 337. Politically and culturally Georgia turned toward the west, to Byzantium. Conversion into Christianity impacted the spiritual, cultural and political life of Georgia. Already existing pagan beliefs (pantheon of Greek gods in the west and Iranian Zoroastrian beliefs in eastern Part of Georgia) were replaced by Christianity.

At the end of 5 th AD King Vakhtang Gorgasali elevated the bishop of Mtskheta to Catholicos and made the Georgian church Autocephalous. Hereafter Georgian polyphonic songs became the part of church service. Georgian Church moved between Dyophysitism and Monophysitism until the 7 th c. By 609 it definitely faced the Chalcedonic position and became Dyophisite, believing in both sides of the Jesus Christ (divine and human nature).

After downfall of Byzantine Empire Greek church weekend, however, Georgian church remained of Greek Orthodox orientation and proved its religious preference against the “Roman Catholic Church” naming itself “Orthodox “(true church in translation). Georgian Orthodox Church was called “ Georgian Apostle Church ” up to 18 th century.

In the west of Georgia Christianity was known after pilgrimage of St. Andrew, but as a State religion it was declared in the beginning of 6 th century.

King of Lazika Kingdom, Tsate broke his alliance with Iran and joined Byzantine forces. He baptized people living on the territory of Lazika (old Colkhis) and declared the Christianity as a State religion.

Common Orthodox religion had an enormous importantce for spiritual and political unification of Georgia. The outlook of the Christian world became the basis for medieval Georgian culture and national ideology. From the 5 th c AD high quality hagiographic and epigraphic monuments were written by Georgian authors (Jakob Tsurtaveli, Mose khoneli, Shorta Rustaveli and others)

The strength of Georgian Orthodox Church reached its apogee in 11 th - 15 th centuries.

After annex of Georgia by Russia , in the beginning of 19 th c, the Georgian Church lost its independence and status of the Patriarch was abolished. In 1917 – 1918 the church became independent and was supported by legitimate Menshevik Government. With the victory of Bolsheviks, the Christian religious life went underground. The Majority of Georgian churches had been whitewashed or repainted during the Colonization of Russia in Georgia. In 1943, Russian Orthodox Church recognized the autocephalous status of the Georgian church. Until 1988 there was no service in Georgian churches and cultural monuments were used for this purpose.

The Georgian Orthodox church is very important part in spiritual life of Georgia . Religion became the part of dignity of the Georgian Nation. Georgians always have been highly tolerant to other religions and the people who settled on Georgian territories. Tbilisi boasts a Christian Cathedral, a mosque, synagogue, all within the walking distance of each other. Jewish, Azeri and Armenian Communities exist throughout the whole Georgia .

 

Early Mediaeval Georgia

Kartli Kingdom in 4 th - 10 th cc. (east part of Georgia)

In 5 th - 6 th cc AD Georgian Kings of Kartli – Iberia Kingdom (prince Guaram and Stepanoz I and Stepanoz III), were forced to assist the mercy policy in a struggling war between Byzantium and Iran with the aim of controlling the region. Vakhtang Gorgasali founded Tbilisi in a hard political period of shifting power between Rome and Sasanian Persia . The King Vakhtang was from Parnavazian dynasty but named Gorgasali by Persian warriors. Gorg –as-ali means a wolf helmet in Persian language.

Vakhtang was a brave warrior and a wise king. He managed to unify the people of South Caucasus against the Sasanids, even by annexing the neighboring territories. Moving Capital from Mtskheta to Tbilisi he used the strategic advantages of the small narrowing space on the river Mtkvari and defeat Persians. Realizing rewards of hot sulfur spring waters nearby of the fortress, he named the city Tbilisi. “Tbili” means warm in Georgian language. After Vakhtangs death in the war against Persians, his son Dachi continued the constructing activities of his father, finishing defensive fortress and the first Christian church in Tbilisi . By this time, in the very beginning of 6 th c. a great part of eastern Georgia was ruled by Iran . The Monarchs of Kartli - Iberia Kingdom were concentrated in the Ujarma royal residence (Kakheti province).

From the 30-ies of 7 th century Arabs invaded eastern part of Georgia . They usurped Tbilisi and installed an Arab emir there. Stepanoz III had to obey caliph and pay taxes. However, Arabs were interested in trade and Georgian culture flourished. Tbilisi became international center at the cross-roads of several important trade routs. By the end of 8 th c local Georgian lords had wrested a degree of autonomy and ruled their individual regions, while Arabs controlled Tbilisi.

In the beginning of 9 th c, Emir of Tbilisi considered himself an independent ruler of city. That was the reason of appointing Ashot Bagrationi a prince of Kartli – Iberia Kingdom by Arab Caliph. Ashot I has become a ruler of principalities of the central and southern provinces of Georgia (Kartli, Tao, Klarjeti, Samtkhe, Javakheti, Trialeti). Byzantine Emperor Leo V also recognized him as a prince.

 

Egrisi Kingdom 4 th - 10 th cc. (western Georgia)

By the end of 4 th c. AD Egrisi or Lazika Kingdom strengthened, unifying the western part of Georgia . Egrisi with its well-fortified capital Tsikhegoji was bordered from South by the river Chorokhi and surrounded from the north-west by Svaneti and Abkhazeti mountains. The political interest of Byzantine was to be protected from attacks of northern tribes. Among the duties of the Kings of Egrisi Kingdom were controlling of political situation and defense of its northern boarders. By the 6 th c. AD, Egrisi weakened due to twenty year long war between two powerful Empires-Byzantine and Persia . This war weakened both big Empires as well and Arabs easily invaded and later dominated over the territories of Byzantium and Persia .

At the end of 7 th - beginning of 8 th cc Arabs were controlling Egrisi Kingdom . Capital of Egrisi, Tsikhegoji was destroyed in 30-ies of 8 th century by Arab invader Mervin Ibn Mohamed and in the following centuries it continued its existence as a minor town until the 11 th century. Only at the end of 8 th c King Leon II, Prince of Abkhazian principality, managed to liberate western Georgia by unifying Egrisi and Abhazeti Kingdoms . His newly established dynasty moved its capital from the city Tsikhegoji to Kutaisi , former capital of Colkheti Kingdom . Western Georgia is still called by Armenian people Egerks or Egrisi.

West Georgia , former Egrisi Kingdom consisted of duchies (saeristavo). The duchy of Odishi, comprising much of Samegrelo province, located between the Tekhuri and Kodori rivers. The duke of this region was Bedian Dadiani, the Patriarch of a dynastic family that has ruled in this region more than 700 years.

 

Unified Georgia (beginning of 10 th - 13 th cc)

The last King of Kartli-Iberia Kingdom was forced to escape from Arab aggressors to Tao- klarjeti (Southern Part of Georgia). Clever policy of Ashot Bagrationi was supported by Byzantine, titled as a Curapalatos recognizing him as a ruler of Tao Kingdom .

David III Curapalatos, descendant of Ashot, was a strong political figure and had an important role in future Georgian unification. As a result of David III‘s affords, Bagrat III was crowned as a King of western Georgia in 978. Bagrat III Bagrationi, was a prince of Abkhazia from his mothers side and representative of royal dynasty of Tao Klarjeti from his fathers side. Bagrat III installed his political and administrative center in Kutaisi. The City was known as a capital of Colkhis Kingdom and had existed since 7 th c. BC. Kutaisi remained capital of western Georgia until the19th century. Byzantine Empire rapidly expanded and Bagrat III lost a part of Tao, but he gained control over inner Kartli and took over the Abkhazian Kingdom . He incorporated Kakheti and Hereti (eastern Provinces of Georgia) thus unifying east and west Georgia. Under the reign of Bagrat IV (1027 – 1072) Georgian country became one of the major powers in Caucasus .

From 10 th century, kart velebi, the name of indigenous inhabitant karts became a common auto ethno term for all Georgians. At the same period, the name of entire Georgia “Sa kart velo” spread all over Georgia .

Relative stability was disturbed by arrival of Seljuk Turks. David IV, the Builder (1089- 1125), grandson of Bagrat IV was 16 years old, when the throne passed to him. Fortunately, Davids war against the Turks coincided with Crusaders arrival in Asia Minor and Syria . David withdrew the Turks from Country and recaptured Tbilisi from Muslim invaders. Tbilisi was under the Arab domination 400 years until David liberated the city in 1121. His enlightening policy engendered great loyalty from the Moslem population and led to development of Tbilisi as a cosmopolitan metropolis in the center of trade routs linking Asia and Europe . David IV asserted the strength of the Monarchy over rival princes and concentrated on the economic revival of the Country. As a result of many-sided activities, King David IV was called David the Builder by the Georgian people. By using strong and reformatted army, David extended the boundaries of Georgia that were spread on the territory of the present-day Armenia and eastward of Caspian Sea .

The 11 th and 12 th centuries were the Golden Age for Georgia. Under the reign of David the Builder and his granddaughter King Tamar, a unique Georgian Christian Culture flourished. It was the era of building great educational centers and cultural projects within the country as well as abroad. Many famous architectural monuments were built during this period.

 

Educational centers and Monasteries of 10 th 12 th cc:

Gelati Academy in Kutaisi, Ikalto Academy in Kakheti province, Georgian Academy on mount Athos under the leadership of famous philosophers Mtatsmindeli; Georgian Monastery of Jvari in Jerusalem, Monastery of Petritsoni founded by Georgian philosopher Grigorii Bakuriani (Bulgaria);

Georgian cross cupola Cathedrals: Svetitkoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta, Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi, Alaverdi Cathedral in Kakheti, Oshki in Tao- klarjeti (today in Turkey).

Literature: national poem “The Knight in the Tigers skin” by Shota Rustaveli (12 thc), Glory of Kartuli Language” by Joahn Zosime (10 thc), “ On Nature” by Zenon, ”Georgian Chronicles”, several archives by Georgian historians, the texts of Buddhism were first translated by St.Euthymius in the Georgian monastery on Mount Athos, in Greece.

 

Art and Architecture:

Georgian goldsmith achievements in cloisonné enamel work and the embossed golden settings, reached its peak: Khakhuli triptych from Monastery in Tao, the Icons of Savior, Gold Pectoral and processing crosses and Golden Goblets with embossed figures.

Georgian architects achieved highest achievements in creating developed style of cross churches distinguished by its sophisticated stone carving, elegant proportions and durability: Samtavisi, Betania, Pitareti, Sapara, Zarzma, Nikotsminda and others.

 

Georgia in Feudal period 13 th - 15 th centuries

From the beginning of 13th century Mongols invaded Georgia. In spite of efforts and struggles of the Georgian King Lasha – Giorgi, Mongols dominated over Georgia more than a century.

By the 14 th century Giorgi V, known as a “brilliant” took advantage of his position as a loyal vassal of Il -Khan. He managed to strengthen monarchy for a short time, until Tamer lanes devastating invasions to Georgia . Tamer lane (1314-1346) invaded Georgia eight times and destroyed Tbilisi. As a result of permanent wars against aggressors, economy was damaged and population decreased in number.

Endless wars and economical decline was a result of political decomposition of the country. Georgia was divided into Kartli, Kakheti, Imereti Kingdoms and Samtskhe Princedoms. These Kingdoms were centralized unities. Landlord “Tavadi” ruled the princedom and was independent in a certain degree to have his own army, administrative and tax immunities. Third position of Hierarchy was Aznaurs, vassals of the landowners and church. Besides, free peasants were part of low Society.

 

Feudal Georgia in 15 th - 18 th centuries

Georgian economy was seriously damaged after capturing Constantinople by Ottoman Turks in 1453 and collapse of Byzantine Empire . Except Kakheti area, the major trade routes lost their advantages in the end of the 15 th and beginning of the 17 th cc, Georgia appeared to be between two powerful empires: Ottoman Turks and Saphavid of Persia. Straggle of Georgians for their independence and Christian orthodox religion lasted 300 year. The Pease of Amasia between Ottomans and Persians divided Georgia into two spheres of influence, giving the west to the Turks and east to the Persians. For the next 250 years the Georgian Kings and leaders unsuccessfully struggled for the freedom of a country. Kartli, Kakheti Kingdoms held fourteen wars against Persian aggressors.

Kakheti and Kartli Kingdoms under the Iranian occupation

Shah Abbas aimed at establishing Iranian Hegemony over the Southern Caucasus . He successfully used Georgian Military forces in the war against its enemies ( Turkey , India ). As a result of Shah Abbas Policy, the population of Kakheti decreased by two thirds and towns like Gremi ceased to exist. Rebellion in Kakheti caused the punitive reaction of Shah by killing about 70,000 peasants and deporting 100,000 Kakhetians to Iran . At present the region called Fereidan, near the town Isfahan , is occupied by deported Muslim Georgians, who preserved Georgian language and Traditions. Noteworthy, that in spite of torturing and suffering from Moslem rulers, Georgians managed to survive Christian Orthodox religion and old traditions.

Beginning of 17 th century was a period of cultural revives under the reign of Kartli King Vakhtang VI, Bagrationi dynasty. He worked out the Georgian Low, wrote Georgian legislation and recast Persian Poems to Georgian by himself. Despite admiration for Persian Language, he suffered personally and politically in the hands of Persians. His long narrative poem, “The martyrdom of Ketevan”, is about his mothers torture by the court of Shah Abbas. She refused to abandon her religion for becoming Moslem.

Vakhtang VI was responsible for establishing a printing – house in Tbilisi , where “Knight in the Tigers Skin” by Shota Rustaveli and Georgian chronicles were printed first time.

By that time the Kingdom of Safavids weakened and Vakhtang VI decided to drive Moslems out with a help of Orthodox Russia. He made the secret agreement with Russian emperor Peter I, and attacked the Iranian army with 30 000 Georgian warriors. However, Peter I, suddenly changed his plans and moved back. Defeated king could not stay in Georgia and escaped to Russia. At the same time in 1723 Ottoman Turks invaded Kartli.

By the end of 17 th the King of Kakheti Teimuraz II allied himself with a new ruler of Iran, Nadir Shah and drove out Turks with combined Georgian – Iranian forces.

As a result of Fathers wise policy, his son Erekle II became the King of Kakheti Kingdom. Erekle served under Nadir Shah during his Indian campaign and wore a turban as a mercy policy. From 30-ies of 17 th century situation in East Georgia comparatively stabilized. In 1744 - 1762 Teimuraz II and Erekle II ruled in united Kakheti and Kartli Kingdoms respectively.

From 50-ies of 18 th century the social conditions of peasants become better. Afforts of Erekle II were driving his Kingdom on the way to European development. The first manufactures and agricultural innovations were established in the country. By the end of 18 th century educational centers and seminaries were founded and the first original play in Tbilisi was performed. In the 80-ies of 18 th century Kakheti and Kartli were permanently invaded by Daghestan invaders.

Erekle II realized that safety of his Kingdom from Turkish, Iranian, and Dagestan intrusions could have been assured by an alliance with Russia . Despite of repeated disappointments he signed the Georgievsk Treaty in 1783, placing his Kingdom under Russian protection. According to this agreement Georgians accepted the Supremacy of Russian Emperor, refusing an independent external policy. On its side Russia promised to defend Georgia from the enemies without interference in the internal affairs of Georgia . Catherine the Great used Georgian army in a Russo- Turkish war, leaving Erekle II alone against the huge Iranian forces (35000 of warriors). The Iranians under the leadership of Shah Agha Mohammed Khan captured and burned Tbilisi . It was clear that, the terms of the Treaty were broken and the guaranteed crown was lost. Alexander I abolished Georgian - Bagratid monarchy in Kartli- Kakheti Kingdom in 1801.

 

Imereti and Samegrelo Kingdoms under the Ottoman occupation

Western Georgia has mainly suffered from the attacks of Turks since 1510. Kutaisi was burned, the fortress and famous Bagrati Cathedral was nearly destroyed by Turkish troops. Thirteen rebellious wars against the predominance of Moslems were initiated under the leadership of King Solomon I. He managed to control the entire policy and also prohibited slave trade. In spite of continuously treacherous policy of Russian commanders in chiefs in 1768-1774 King Solomon supported Russia together with Erekle II, the King of Kakheti, in the war against Turks. After agreement of Russia and Turkey in 1774 Russia recognized the rights of Turkey over the west Georgia but refused to pay the tribute, consisting of 100 prettiest boys and girls for Sultan. In 1810, as soon as the King Solomon I signed an act of allegiance to Russia , Georgia became its colony. After direct military aggression of Russia the last King of Imereti was forced to escape to Osman Empire, where he died in 1815.

Another principality of west of Georgia , Samegrelo or Odishi duchy, under the ruling duke of Dadiani Dynasty had to pay large tributes to the Turks in money and slaves. Predominance and influence of Turks lasted until the end of 18 th century. In 17 th century Odishi reached its highest power under the reign of Levan Dadiani II. In 1774 Turks were expelled from Samegrelo principality under Russian protection. Prince Grigol Dadiani became the vassal of Russian King Alexander I. However, in 1857 this relationship was broken after abolishment of Samegrelo principality by Russia .

Permanent military actions in 1821 - 1877 caused the defeat of Abkhazeti Princedom and native Abkhazians were exiled to Turkey . Part of the population escaped to Osman Empire.

Annexation of Georgia by Russian Empire in 1801- 1878

In 1801, Russian Emperor Alexander I declared his manifesto on abolishment of Kartli - Kakheti Kingdom without informing the representatives of Georgian government in Moscow . The manifesto was publicly announced in Tbilisi , cordoned by Russian army. Protesting people were arrested.

After annexation the colonial regime got a character of a military police. Any sort of protest was cruelly punished. Representatives of royal family initiated several rebellions against the Russian Government, but all of them failed and leaders were punished or exiled to Russia.

Domination in Eastern part of Georgia continued with an extension to the western part, gradually abolishing the Kingdoms and princedoms to its complete annexation. The Government of Russia, by promising protection of the Kingdoms of Georgia , allied with a ruler of Imereti in 1804, Samegrelo Princedom in 1803, Guria and Abkhazia in 1810. Using their military forces for domination in Transcaucasus, Emperor of Russia abolished the Princedoms of Georgia and annexed its territories.

Imereti Kingdom was annexed in 1810; Guria in 1828; Samegrelo in 1857; Svaneti in 1858; Abkhazeti in 1864). By 1878 Russia almost incorporated the whole Georgia .

Tsarizm policy suppressed Georgian character and traditions. The independence of Georgian church was coming to an end. This fact was met with an unsuccessful revolt in Guria and Imereti in 1819-1820.

Despite the guarantees Russian government changed Georgian feudal system to Russian social and administrative model. Military governors and viceroys were sent to Tbilisi in order to control the transformation. A new taxation system was instituted. In 1832 was the biggest rebellion of the Georgian people where noblemen and peasants acted together. This movement ended with the arrests and execution. This event served as an inspiration for Georgian romantic poetry and literature, led by General Alexander Chavchavadze and Grigol Orbeliani.

In the late 18 th century another group of intellectuals graduated Russian Universities and returned to homeland with a new spirit of social activism and democratic idealism. Leader of this group was Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907) who dedicated his life and creations to liberty of Georgia . He was responsible for reviving national spirit, rehabilitation of press and theatre in Georgian language. As a result of his active life the agents of Russia killed him, giving him the name of a hero and a saint by Georgian church.

On the other hand the Russo - Turkish wars had a positive effect on future development of Georgia :

Historical provinces of Samtskhe – Javaketi, Ajara and city Batumi were returned to Georgia ;

In order to communicate and control Georgia more effectively military highway was built along the river Aragvi in 1817; this is still a major route through Caucasus connecting Russia with Georgia , Armenia , Azerbaijan and Turkey by land.

The European Culture was spread in Georgia very effectively.

 

Georgia in 1918 - 1921

Independence and Second Annex by Red Army

The revolution of 1917 introduced some democratic changes to Russia . As a result of these changes Georgian Orthodox church revived its autocephalous status. The temporary Government of Russia could not solve the problems of the population (participating in the World War I, issues concerning the land and etc.). Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Lenin, took the advantage of the situation and expelled the Government in October. In the 1890-ies a new doctrine of Marxism and Democratic ideas was spread in Georgia as well. Political Parties and organizations of South Caucasus created their own Government – Commissariat of South Caucasus on 15 November, 1917 . The process of separation ended on 9 April, 1918 and the Federation of Independent South Caucasus was declared, with the center in Tbilisi . The chairman of newly created republic was the member of Georgian social democrat party N. Chkheidze . The most important problem, concerning relations with Turkey should have been solved. At the same time, decomposed Russian Army left its positions. The newly established alliance of Georgian - Armenian coalition was not able to stop Turkish troops, while Azerbaijan refused to fight against Turkey . After a deal with Turkey , Georgia and Armenia with a help of Germany avoided the Turkish occupation. Turks dominated only the south-west parts of Georgia including Batumi . Coalition of Southern Caucasus did not last long and was officially abolished. On May 26, 1918 the National Council declared Georgia as an Independent Sovereign Democratic Republic. After two days Armenia and Azerbaijan declared their Independence as well. Georgian people celebrated revival of Georgian State , which was abolished 117 years ago.

The day of National Independence of Georgia was celebrated on 26 May. The first social- democratic government under the leadership of Noe Zhordania faced many economic problems; the country had no stable currency or steady industry and transportation. In 1920 the independence of Georgia was recognized by Turkey , Germany and Argentina and later as de-facto by the Great Britain , France , Italy and Japan . On May 7, 1920 Soviet Russia recognized Georgian Democratic Republic.

In 1920 Batumi and south-west province was returned to Georgia and controlled by British army. At the end of 1920 the economical and political stabilization in a new Republic of Georgia was noticeable.

The University and Conservatoire, Art Academy were established in Tbilisi . By that time the main counterrevolutionary forces were exterminated. Azerbaijan and Armenia were forced to accept the Soviet regime. According to the agreement of 1920 between Soviet Russia and Democratic Republic of Georgia, Russia acknowledged the independence of Georgia and Georgia in return was pledged to free local activities for Communists on its territory. Moscow prepared the plan of intervention to Georgia and Georgian communists Stalin and Ordjonikidze took the biggest part in this action. On 14 May, 1921 Soviet 11 th Red Army entered Georgia from Baku . After battles near Tbilisi on February 25, 1921 Tbilisi fell and Georgia was annexed. Meanwhile Turks required from the Georgian Government discharging of the cities: Artvin and Ardahan. Batumi and Akhaltsikhe had been left by Turks only after the Soviet occupation.

 

Georgia in 1921 – 1945

Communist hegemony in Georgia brought the abolishment of private lands and the whole industry passed to the hands of Communists. Punishing organizations held massive shooting and exiled the opposition, especially noblemen and intelligentsia. Communists destroyed churches, exterminated clergymen. In spite of the bloody terror the anti-communist movements took place in Georgia in 1921-1924, but were cruelly suppressed. More then 5000 Georgians were executed for an attempt of a revolt led by the Georgian Mensheviks (former Government).

Georgian communist leaders were lined and controlled from Moscow. At the end of 1921 Ajara Autonomous republic and Autonomous Region of South Osetia were created on the territory of Georgia . In 1936 by the initiative of Lenin the Federation of South Caucasus was officially abolished and Georgia became one of fifteen republics of the Soviet Union . The same year Abkhazian Autonomous Republic was created. The process of industrialization and collectivization were held in Soviet Georgia: building of hydro electro stations, factories of metallurgy and chemical industries; usage of natural resources, mining of manganese, exploration of gold and marble ores. The tea and citrus, wine culture were exported to Soviet Russia.

The Communist dogmatism considered Cultural Revolution as well. A lot of secondary and educational centers appeared in Georgia in 30-ies. Art and science developing efforts were followed by reduction of individual thinking abilities and creativity in the society. Everyone had to obey the ideology of communist dictatorship. For drawing spiritual weakness and massive fear in people Stalin Regime carried out wide repressions in 1937 -1938. During these years thousands of innocent people from Georgia were killed and sent to “Gulag” camps. Of particular interest were the intellectuals from Georgia : famous poets Tisian Tabidze, Paolo Iashvili, remarkable writer Michel Javakhishvili, scientist Tsereteli, conductor Evgeni Mikeladze and many others. Repressions and fear introduced in the Society strengthened the authority of Stalin Regime and helped to mobilize all forces against the occupation of Germany in 1941.

Out of 3612 thousands of Georgian population, more then 700 thousands of soldiers were sent to Soviet Army and more then 300 thousands did not return back. Georgians fought as in partisan army as well as in the countries occupied by Nazis. Most of them believed that it was a war for freedom and protection of Georgia. The whole economics of Georgia was involved in the military and medical support of Soviet army against Fascism.

 

Crisis of Soviet system and revival of Independence of Georgia in 1992

After the World War II, the government kept population under the heavy ideological pressure. After the death of Stalin in 1957, worshiping of Stalin was changed into anti-Stalin propaganda led by the new Soviet leader Khrushchov. The repressive actions were conditioned by Stalins Georgian origin. A new wave of demonstrations, conditioned by fanatic ideology of Stalin and hurt national feelings took place in the streets of Tbilisi . The demonstration was put down by Soviet army shooting more that 100 and wounding 300 people. After this tragedy part of the society lost the belief in Great “Communism”. Corruption became one of the characteristic features of the authorities and Government and of the society as well. The progressive part of the society opposed to the existing system and the dissident movement started in 1960-ies. Among the most devoted Georgian dissidents was Merab Kostava, who was arrested by security committee.

By the 80-ies it became clear for the wide public that Soviet regime had no future perspective. In 1985, Gorbachov tried to overcome the crisis by cardinal reforms. ”Perestroika” considered the liberalization, publicity and free mass media. There was no place for democratic freedom and as a result, the swift decomposition of the process began. In 1987, the first Georgian legal national political organization was established under the name of “Ilia chavchavadze” society. Georgian dissidents, former prisoners led several peaceful demonstrations for the idea of restoring the independence of Georgia . On April 9, 1989 , the peaceful demonstration led by Kostava and Gamsakhurdia was attacked by armed Soviet army. Twenty people were killed, many injured and poisoned due to the chemical gas used. Majority of the dead were women.

After the accidental death of Kostava, powers struggling for the Independence divided into two camps. The most popular political party “the Round Table» was led by the son of a famous writer Zviad Gamsakhurdia. In 1990 after the multi-partied elections in Georgia “Round Table” got 62% of voices. However, the relations between the political parties tensed up. At the same time the initiator and provoker of conflicts was Moscow aiming to ruin Georgian movements towards independence. In 1981 partial compromise was found with Abkhazia, though armed conflict in Ossetia was in progress. The motivation of the conflict was declaring Ossetia as a sovereign republic by Ossetian separatists.

In April 1991, the parliament of Georgia Declared the Independence . In autumn, 1991, the opposition between the presidential government and the opposite side reached the firm level. As a result of ambitious policy of Gamsakhudia, ‘ Tbilisi war began. This civil war took place in the center of Tbilisi from December 21, 1991 , until January 6, 1992 . The military council led by former prime minister Tengiz Sigua and the head of national Guard Tengiz Kitovani, dislodged the President Gamsakhurdua and his followers and forced them to flee to Armenia and then to Chechnia. The armed fight, during which the rivals used artillery, considerably damaged the central avenue of the city. That very time the Soviet Union collapsed and the world recognized the independence of each republic de- facto.

The Military Council made an occasional decision to invite Eduard Shevardnadze, the Minister of Foreign Affaires of the USSR to Georgia . In October 1992, he was elected as a chairman of a new parliament and later as a Head of the State. His return gave a hope to the population of Georgia to see their country stable and democratic. On March, 1992, Independence of Georgia was recognized by Euro - union countries. In July of the same year Georgia was adopted in the UN organization as its 179 th plenipotentiary member.

 

War in Abkhazia in 1992- 1993

Internal problems of Georgia started in a terrible speed. In August of 1992, the head of National Guard, following the orders of Mr. Shevardnadze led the Army toward Abkhazia. He aimed at securing and control of the railway line from the fled away ex-government, who robbed and destroyed the railway all along. Gamsakhurdias forces ran away to Abkhazia. As a result of strategic miscalculations of Zviad Gamakhurdia (his forces never committed to help the State Army in Abkhazia) Mr. Shevardnadze started the full scale war.

The situation in Abkhazia inflamed by perfectly planned ethno-conflict started up in previous years by Russia . Under the leadership of Vladislav Ardzinba Abkhazian separatists claimed for the territorial integrity. The war pitted Abkhazians, comprising only 1, 8 percent of the Abkhazian population, against the rest of the country, already divided by the conflict between the forces of ex-president and Shevardnadzes army. Georgia lost in the war against Abkhazia due to the absence of any cooperation among the Georgian military forces, concept of strategy and the ability to analyze real enemy. Abkhazians were assisted by Chechen coreligionists, north Caucasian people and Russian Army with its equipments and arms. In September 1993 Georgian Army defeated and Sokhumi was sieged. Zviad Gamsakhurdia fled to Chechnia where he died in still unknown circumstances. Russian Government initiated peace negotiations for both sides to disarm. While Georgians abided the terms, Abkhazian troops used the opportunity to rearm. The houses of Georgians were burnt and more then 250 000 refugees ran from the region. Mr. Shevardnadze made a deal with Russian Government to avoid further ongoing war and possibility of bombing Tbilisi . In exchange for so called peace and well-kept power of the president, Georgia joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and offered the lands for military bases. This action of Shevardnadze became very unpopular among the whole population of Georgia , especially among the soldiers and intelligence. About 1500 Russian peacekeepers operated along the Enguri River , between Abkhazia and Western Georgia , to deter fighting and return refugees. However, Georgian population of the region is still not permitted to return to its houses.

 

Georgia in 1993- 2004

The years 1993 - 1995 were very hard, because of terrible low economy and high crime. Shevardnadze signed a new constitution in August 1995 and dealt with his political opposition on arresting the most corrupted and violent paramilitary group under the leadership of Jaba Ioseliani. In November 1995, with a more than 70 percent of votes Edward Shevardnadze was elected as a President of Georgia. State Council, government of transitional period, changed into supremacy and Georgia finally was recognized as an independent State by Euro – Union countries.

In the following years Shevardnadze tried to rebuild the country by attracting the foreign investments, emphasizing the importance of dislocation of Georgia from the strategic point of view at the crossroads of Europe and Asia . The exciting Baku-Batumi Pipe line and most important project of putting the oil and Gas pipes from Baku through Georgia till Jeikhan in Turkey, sponsored by British Petroleum had to bring the new sources to country. On the other hand, in the period of Shevardnadzes ruling (he was twice elected as a president), the economy of country was controlled by his relatives and acquaintances. Popular belief in corrupted police and state institutions, “free” mass media, and low social-economical level of life increased the nihilism in majority of people. After falsified elections by the government in 2004, the population of Tbilisi held demonstrations, demanding proper elections and resignation of Mr. Shevardnadze. 23 November, 2004 St. Georges Holyday became an important day for the whole Georgia . Population of Tbilisi and other cities filled the streets of Tbilisi. In a short time, avoiding the blood demonstration Eduard Shevardnadze left his position as a president. This day is called the Rose Revolution. After two weeks new elections were held and a leader of the national party, Michael Saakashvili, the former Minister of Justice was elected a new president. He managed to generate real possibilities of creating democratic and uncorrupted Georgian State . Proposing open fight against the criminals and corruption elements in the government, Saakashvili and his followers became very popular among the population. In the very end of elections in Georgia , became clear that Aslan Abashidze, the leader of Ajara region had different plans in terms of controlling the political situation and economy within the Autonomous Republic . To protect the Constitution and democratic orientation of Georgia , Michael Saakashvili claimed for peaceful resolution of dictatorship in Ajara province, offering cooperation with the central government and allowing people of Ajara to participate in new elections and declare their free choice. Leader of Ajara Autonomous republic positively observed the offers of the Central Government. However, in spite of the pressure from Ajara Government, population of the region solved this problem in cooperation with the rest of the people of Georgia . On 6 th of May of the same year, under the request of Ajara population, leader of Ajara province had to retire and fled to Moscow . The two big events happened in Georgia on Saint Georges Holidays (23 November and 6 May): Population of Georgia managed to protect its free choice voting its own candidates and teamed up for the motherlands fame.

 

Russian Aggression against Georgia

In August 2008, the Russian Federation carried out large-scale military aggression against Georgia, occupied 20 percent of its territory, and proclaimed the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali to be "independent states".

During the war, the Army, Navy and Air Force of the Russian Federation carried out military attacks all over the territory of Georgia. Out of 12 regions of Georgia, 9 were bombed over 75 times during the Russian aggression. 224 civilians and 170 military servicemen were killed, while 27,000 IDPs are still not able to return to their homes.

Today Russia continues to occupy the Georgian territories of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia, and has barred access to international observers. In December 2008, Russia blocked an extension of the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Georgia, and in June 2009 Russia vetoed the UN Observer Mission working in Abkhazia.