the etymology of the word - Georgia
themselves Kartveli (Kartvelebi pl.) and
their land Sakartvelo, According to the
Georgian historical sources, these names are derived from a pagan god
called Kartlos, said to be the father of all Georgians. The Classical
world knew the inhabitants of eastern Georgia as Iberians, and the
country – Iberia (or Iveria). West
Georgian tribes were known as Colchians and the country – Colchis
(kolkha, kolkheti). Georgians called Iberia – Kartli,
and Colchis – Egrisi (which was later
replaced by Lazika, Abkhazeti, Imereti).
The foreign name
used throughout Western Europe, is believed to come from the country's
patron saint, St. George (displayed on coat of arms and flags of
Georgia). Actually it is derived from the Greek geo
(earth), because when the Greeks came to Georgia they saw the Georgians
working the land. Another theory purports that the name comes from the
names Kurj or Gurj, by which they are known to the Arabs,
Turks and Persians. They call Georgia Giurjistan (Gurjistan).
The Russian name Gruzia is derived from Giurjistan.
understanding, Sakartvelo means united lends of all Georgians. Georgia
has the same meaning and it is not a synonym of Kartli (Iberia). In 18th
century sometimes Georgia (and Gruzia) meant the united Kartli-Kakhetian
(east Georgian) kingdom.
History of Georgia
"The Georgiens are very warlike and strong people and have numerous
knights and warriors... In spite of existing in a totally hostile
environment of infidels, they remain fearless. On the contrary –
others are afraid of them and do not easily risk to offend them in any
way. They are called Georgians, according to the name of the Holy
Knight, St. George, whose name they esteem and respect immensely,
particularly prior to the battles they are going to join…” Bernhard
von Breidenbach, XV century German author (7, pp.77-78)
Georgian tribes have always lived in this region of the Caucasus.
Archaeological excavations have revealed a number of ancient settlements, which
included houses with galleries from the 5th millennium BC.
First early-class Georgian Union “Diaukhi” (Taokhi) was created in the XII c. B.C. at
the sources of the Chorokhi-river and the Euphrates-river. In the IX-VIII c.
B.C. Diaukhi was destructed and conquered by the strong kingdom of Urartu.
Second Georgian Union “Colches” (kolkha or kolkheti in Georgian) was created
In the VIII c. B.C. at the shores of the Black Sea (the Greeks knew the region as
Colches, while Georgians called it Egrisi. Colches is featured in the Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts, who traveled there in search of the
Golden Fleece). Colches was populated by Georgian tribes - Karts, Megrels, Chans
and Svans, the capital was city Aia (present-day Kutaisi). The
advanced economy and favorable geographic and natural conditions of
Colchis attracted the Greeks; they colonized the Black Sea coast,
setting up several settlements including; Gyenos (Ochamchire), Dioscuras
(Sukhumi), Anakopia (Akhali Atoni) and Pityus (Bichvinta), Phasis
(present-day Poti). The kingdom of Colches minted its own silver coins
known as "white Colchians
coins" (Kolkhuri Tetri in Georgian).
the collapse of Diaukhi, Georgian "Meskhetian" tribes
gradually moved north-east and formed their settlement - Mtskheta in the
very heart of Kartli. During the same period an intensive consolidation
of the Kartlian tribes largely inhabiting eastern and southern Georgia
the end of the IV c. B.C., Parnavaz, the king of East Georgian Kingdom -
Iberia ("Kartli" -in Georgian language) - unified the territory
from the Caucasus Range down to the source of the Euphrates-River. The Kingdom
of Egrisi (Colches) also fell under the influence of the Iberia. That contributed
to closer contacts among the Georgian tribes and formation of single Georgian (Kartvelian)
ethnic entity. Mtskheta became the capital of this Kingdom.
Georgian historical source
"Kartlis Tskhovreba" (“The life-story of Kartli”, written in mid
centuries), ascribes creation of Georgian
alphabet to Parnavaz I, in the III c. B.C.
Christianity started to spread in Georgia from the I century (preached by
Apostles Andrew and Simon).
According to the legend, Christianity was
Kartli (Iberia) by the Preacher Nino from Cappadokia. Iberia became one of the
first states in the world to convert to Christianity in AD 317 (or 337), when King of Iberia
Mirian III established
it as the official state religion. King Vakhtang Gorgasali further strengthened
the Kartli (Iberia) and Christian church, making it autocephalic in 467 A.D. He
secured permission from Constantinople to promote the status of the bishop of
Mtskheta to that of Cathollcos.
The Passion of St. Shushanik
was written in the 5th century. Another such work by an anonymous
author, The Martyrdom of Evstate Mtskheteli is from the 6th century. The
oldest books translated then were the Gospels and the Old
In the 4th-6th centuries
the Georgian people mainly fought against Persian and Byzantine conquerors to
preserve independence. Direct wars between Iberia and Iran began after Iran
conquered the neighboring countries of Armenia and Albania. King Vakhtang
Gorgasali, who was regarded as a strong clever warrior, united the
Trans-Caucasus against the Iranians. He turned the fortress at Tbilisi into a
city. Despite his best efforts, Persians killed him in the sixth century. At the and of 6th century, local
government or Saerismtavro was instituted in Kartli (Iberia). This early feudal
state actually served as the basis for the creation of the future united
Georgian monarchy. The nobles who ruled Kartli
were first representatives of Bagrationi royal family, dynasty of Georgian kings
which ruled Georgia till the 19th century. Erismtavars (in Georgian means the head
of nation) of Kartli - Guaram, Adarnase, Stefanoz I and Stefanoz II built many
churches and fortresses in the country, inc. the famous Jvari church in Mtskheta.
They also developed local monetary system and minted silver coins with Christian
symbolic and Georgian inscriptions on them. The invasions of the Arabs in the middle of the VII century and their sway
undermined considerably the economic development of the country. Kartli (Iberia)
was suffering the most. The forces fighting against the Arabs united their
efforts under the banner of Christianity. The selfless struggle waged by the
Georgians ultimately resulted in a gradual shrinking of the sphere of Arab
influence. But the Arab Invasions caused the creation of new Georgian kingdoms,
the most important of which was Tao-Klarjeti Kingdom. At the same time, the west
Georgian kingdom - Egrisi was named Abkhazeti Kingdom (Abkhazian Kingdom).
At the second half of the X c, the necessary political, social-economical and
ethnical pre-conditions appeared for consolidation of Georgia as a single whole
Kingdom. Due to this, King Bagrat III, managed to amalgamate the
large part of the country. The Capital of politically consolidated Georgia
became Kutaisi. The first king of the consolidated Georgia
worn the title of
"King of the Abkhazians, Kartvels, Hers and Kakhs" Approximately in
the same period of time the term "Sakartvelo", which means the
"Entire Country of Georgians", came Into being. ("Sakartvelo"
Is the Georgian word for "Georgia").
Georgian kingdom achieved a peak of power and
prestige between the 11th and 13th centuries under powerful rulers such
as the King
David the Builder
(David IV Agmashenebeli) (reigned 1089-1125) and Queen Tamar
(1184-1213), both regarded as saints by the Georgian Orthodox and
Apostolic Church. During this period the capital of Georgia was Tbilisi and territory
of Georgian Kingdom expanded from Nicopsia (a city between modern Sokhi and
Tuapse) to Derbent (on the Caspian Sea) and from North Caucasus to Mt.
Ararat. Georgian army gained several magnificent
victories over the coalition of Seljuk and other Muslim armies, but decisive
was the Didigori battle In 1121, when 450.000 Seljuks were crushed
by 55.000 Georgians. The power of and wealthy of Georgia was partially diminished
by the Invasions of Mongols at the and of 13th century. Only in the 14th
century king George V (1314-1346), called the Brilliant, finally drove the
Mongols out. He centralized royal power, revived the economy, and
established close international commercial ties, mainly with Byzantium,
but also with Venice and Genoa.
unique Georgian Christian Culture flourished in 10-13 centuries. This was the
era of great building projects such as Gelati, Svetitskhoveli, Vardzia
and the flourishing of a literary tradition revered to this day. In 12th
century Shota Rustaveli dedicated his great epic poem "the Knight in
the Tiger's Skin" to Queen Tamar.
suffered a lengthy period of decline after 15th century, when it was divided
into three - Kartli, Kakheti and Imereti Kingdoms and principality of Samtskhe.
All the kingdoms were ruled by the kings of Bagrationi royal family but King of
Kartli was considered as superior over them. The Peace of Amasia in 1555,
between Ottoman Turks and the Safarid Persians, divided Georgia into spheres of
influence, giving the west to Turkey and the east to Iran. Turkish and Iranian
invasions became almost permanent. From 1632 to 1744 the shahs of Iran set
Islamized Bagrationis on the throne of Kartli. In the second half of the 18th
century Kartli and Kakheti kingdoms strengthened and united in one kingdom, but
Imereti kingdom weakened and lost control over the principalities of Abkhazeti,
Megrelia (Samegrelo) and Guria (The suzerainty of Imerety was
partially restored in the middle of 18th century). Samtskhe principality was
occupied by Turkey in the 17th century. On July 24, 1783, Russian Emperor
Catherine II and King of East-Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti Erekle
II, signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, which made Kartli-Kakheti a protectorate of
Russia. Russia did not live up to the conditions of that treaty when Catherine
withdrew her troops from Georgia and King Erekle was forced to face a vastly
superior force led by Iranian Shah Agha Mohamed Khan, who demanded the
denunciation of the Georgievsk Treaty. On the battlefields at Krtsanisi, 5 000
Georgians were defeated by 35 000 Iranians. Tbilisi was destroyed and the
II's successor King George XII asked Russian emperor to stand by its
commitments of the Georgievsk treaty. But after his death, in
January of 1801, Russian Emperor Paul I signed a manifesto which annexed
East Georgia to Russia, in violation of the 1783 treaty. In 1810 the
King of Imereti Solomon II was forced by the Russians to flee to Turkey,
and Imereti came under Russian rule, although Mengrelian and
Abkhazian principalities preserved certain autonomy till 1864. The
annexation of Georgia by the Russian Empire put an end to the
independent existence of the Georgian Kingdoms and principalities and
Georgia lost her age-old statehood. Under Russian rule the Georgian
church lost its autocephaly and was turned into a exarchate of the
Russian synod. Georgian churches were redecorated in Russian style and intense program of Russification was undertaken to replace the Georgian
social and cultural system with a Russian version.
On the other hand, in spite of the colonial policy of Russia, Georgia
found herself protected against constant invasions. Conditions became
favorable for population growth and economic progress.
Georgian dissatisfaction with Russian Tsarist autocracy led to numerous
uprisings which took place in the first half of the 19th century in various
parts of Georgia.
The national liberation movement in
the second half of the 19th century was led by public figure Ilia Chavchavadze.
The Russian Revolution of October
1917 plunged Russia into a bloody civil war during which several outlying Russian territories
declared independence. Georgia was one of them, proclaiming the establishment of
the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia on May 26, 1918. The new country
was ruled by the Menshevik fraction of the Social Democratic Party, which
established a multi-party system in sharp contrast with the "dictatorship
of the proletariat" established by the Bolsheviks in Russia. It was
recognized as independent by the major European powers in 1918 and by Soviet
Russia in May 1920.
In February 1921, the Russian Red Army (supported by ethnical Georgians -
Josef Jugashvili (Stalin) and Sergo Orjonikidze) invaded Georgia and after a
short war occupied the country. Georgian government was forced to flee.
Partisan’s resistance in 1921-1924 was followed by a large patriotic rebellion
in August, 1924. Georgia was forcibly
incorporated it into a TransCaucasian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic (TFSSR)
comprising Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan (capital Tbilisi). In 1936, the TSFSR was dissolved
and Georgia became the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.
In 1941-45, during Second World War, almost 700 000 Georgians fought as the
Red Army soldiers against the Nazi Germany. About 300 000 (6% of whole
population) of them died in the battlefields of eastern front. One Georgian
division (mainly consisted of Georgian emigrants in France and Germany) fought
on the Germany side. Their intention was to liberate Georgia from the Soviet
Soviet power and Georgian nationalism clashed in 1978 when Moscow ordered
revision of the constitutional status of the Georgian language as Georgia's
official state language.
On April 9, 1989, Soviet troops were used to break up a peaceful
demonstration at the government building in Tbilisi. More then twenty Georgians were
killed. The event radicalized Georgian politics, prompting many - even some
Georgian communists - to conclude that independence was preferable to continued
parliamentary election was held on October 28, 1990. They were won by the
"Round Table" coalition headed by the leading dissident Zviad
Gamsakhurdia , who became the head of the Supreme Council of the Republic of
Georgia. On March 31, 1991, Gamsakhurdia organized a referendum on independence,
which was approved by 98.9% of the votes. Formal independence from the Soviet
Union was declared on April 9, 1991, although it took some time before it was
widely recognized by outside powers such as the UN and EU.
December, 1991, armed anti-Gamsakhurdia coalition besieged Gamsakhurdia and his
supporters in government buildings in central Tbilisi. Gamsakhurdia managed to
evade his enemies and fled to the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya in
January 1992. The new
government invited Eduard Shevardnadze to become the head of a State Council.
He was elected as president after several months. In 1992, Georgia became
the 179th member of the United Nations.
in Georgia in 1993-1994 were dominated by the war in Abkhazia between
Georgian State Army and Abkhaz (Apsua) separatist supported by Russian
military forces and volunteers from north Caucasus. More then 200 000 ethnic
Georgians had to flee from Abkhazia in 1994. The statuses of
former Autonomous republic of Abkhazia and Autonomous Region of South
Ossetia are still undetermined, peaceful negotiations are in
On November 23, 2003, President Shevardnadze resigned after peaceful
revolution (Rose Revolution) and was replaced as president on an interim basis
by Nino Burjanadze.
4, 2004 Mikhail Saakashvili won the Presidential Elections with a huge majority
of 96% of the votes cast.