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Unraveling your favorite story amidst the pages of a book is an unparalleled experience. While there are summaries and analyses readily available online, nothing beats the thrill of discerning each little detail first-hand.
Believe it or not, discovering the country of Georgia in Europe is quite a similar experience.
We can waste thousands of pages explaining to you every beauty in this hidden jewel, but there are things words cannot convey.
The fresh smell of the Caucasus air, the lush green of its vast mountains and fields, the peculiar taste of its wine, and the contagious smile of its people are, more than knowledge, an experience.
These peculiarities are something you can only learn by visiting Georgia yourself and basking in the many tourist activities available in this country. But luckily, there is plenty more you can find out from a distance.
The country Georgia has a rich history, a meaningful language, and a lively culture. Knowing the fascinating details behind each of these facts can only enhance your experience amidst the streets of Tbilisi, and any of the other places to visit in Georgia.
If you’re ready to disentangle the mysteries of the Georgia country, take a look at our extensive guide ahead.
Don’t get confused—despite the similar names, the Georgia country is nothing like the homonymous US state.
Located amidst the Great Caucasus Mountain Range and the Black Sea, Georgia is a Eurasian country that lies between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. This crossroad positioning provided Georgia with a diverse ecosystem and turned it into a vibrant melting pot of ethnic and linguistic diversity.
In fact, each of its nine regions features its unique charm, highlighting the nation’s official motto — ძალა ერთობაშია, “strength in unity”.
The country of Georgia, known as Sakartvelo by its citizens, is a democratic republic with a parliamentary system. Meaning, the President assumes the head of state functions, while the Prime Minister takes upon the head of government duties.
Demographically, it has around 3.7 million of habitants from many diverse ethnic backgrounds, yet still Georgian people in heart and soul. The official language is Georgian, but it’s far from being the only one spoken in the country. Megrelian and Svan share the same Georgian root, and many others also thrive within the country, alongside many dialects and regional variations of each.
When it comes to religion, Georgia is intensely Christian, permeating in the lifestyle of the citizens. Over 84% of the population are members of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and the country has a deep and rich religious history that is visible through its culture and architecture.
Georgia’s natural beauty and charming population come alongside a fascinating history and a couple of intriguing myths. Known as the Land of the Golden Fleece, this country is as fantastic as said Greek myth.
Located at the intersection of Europe and Asia, Georgia boasts of a profoundly rich history that spans across millennia, shaping the contemporary culture of its people to unforeseen levels.
Georgian history features something for every knowledge enthusiast, ranging from the prehistoric events to the most modern happenings.
Take a leap of faith and discover the rich heritage Sakartvelo has to offer.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, its advantageous position has provided the Georgia country territory with an abundant history that precedes modern civilization. According to multiple experts, the geographical characteristics of the Caucasus area stimulated a diverse ecosystem and made it a thriving center for all types of life forms.
Proof of this fantastic prehistorical heritage is the Sataplia Cave. Dinosaur enthusiasts would be delighted to know this prominent nature reserve features fossilized dinosaur footprints. Experts estimate they are around 120 million years old, clear evidence of vibrant life, long before humans arrived.
But Georgia didn’t have to wait much to have its first humans. Around 93 km south of Tbilisi, in the town of Dmanisi, experts Leo Gabunia and Vekua Abesalom found a rich archeological site with human fossils dating to 1.8 million years ago.
The remains of the species, named Homo Georgicus, are commonly considered the “first Europeans”, as they are the oldest human fossils found within the continent to this day. Thanks to the effort of Georgian and international archeologists, two of them, Zezva and Mzia, have been reconstructed through modern technology to provide a glimpse of how these ancient humans looked like.
If you wish to take a closer look, worry not—we got your back. You can visit Dmanisi and witness, firsthand, the birthplace of the modern European citizen.
However, prehistoric Georgian history does not end here. Ancient humans did not only step on Georgian soil but also thrived on it—and wine is the evidence.
It turns out that the land currently known as Georgian country is, potentially, not only the start of Caucasian civilization but also the homeland of winemaking as a whole. Archaeological discoveries have recently recovered ancient pottery in two Neolithic villages that showcase traces of wine, dating back to 5.980 BC—almost 8,000 years ago. The Shulavery-Shomu culture is thought to be responsible for the wine production, as they were skilled people that developed metallurgy, tools, and agrarian techniques.
The best part, however, is that experts believe the methods used to produce the wine back then didn’t differ much from the current Georgian country’s traditional techniques. Namely, the use of the kvevri, a particular egg-shaped vessel that is buried underground to speed up fermentation.
While prehistoric tribes were relatively commonplace in the fertile soils of the modern Georgia country, the very first union of proto-Georgians took place in the 12th century BC.
Named Diauehi, this entity thrived in the area between modern-day Turkey and Georgia. It was notable for having a solid structure, answering to a king, and being strong enough to hold their own against invasions from powerful neighbors such as Assyria.
However, the most notable aspect of Diauehi is that experts speculate it might have been the historical birthplace of all Kartvelian languages, including Georgian. Anthropologically, it’s said that most cultures have their origin in shared symbols and language, so Diauehi might as well be considered the birth of Georgian civilization.
Across the centuries, the population of the area eventually divided itself into two great kingdoms—Colchis and Iberia.
Colchis is the name Ancient Greeks gave to Egrisi, a political entity in modern-day Georgia famous for being the primary setting of the famed myth of Jason and the Argonauts. According to Greek Mythology, King Aeetes of Colchis housed the fabled Golden Fleece, sought after by Jason and his crew of heroes. With the help of Aeetes’ daughter, the sorceress Medea, Jason could recover the magical entity and fled the kingdom.
While the tale of Jason and Medea might be nothing but a myth, experts estimate it may be a romantic reinterpretation of reality. The Georgian country is home to the Sakdrisi Gold Mine — the oldest one in the world. Since the mine is around 5,000 years old, many analysts consider the quest for the Golden Fleece of Jason and his Argonauts was a mission to pursue the Colchian gold.
It is thanks to Jason, his Argonauts, and the Sakdrisi Gold Mine that the country is currently known as The Land of the Golden Fleece.
Historically, Colchis was the first Georgian kingdom, in what now is Western Georgia. It existed from the 5th to the 1st centuries BC, until it succumbed to the growing expansion of the Roman Empire, becoming a province by 65 BC and changing its name to Lazica.
Eastern Georgia, on the other hand, answered to the name of Iberia or Kartli. The kingdom was established around the 3rd Century BC by King Pharnavaz I and enjoyed independence until the 1st century. However, unlike its neighbor Colchis, Iberia didn’t join the Roman Empire and kept its autonomy, yet submitted to their rule as a vassal state.
Both Lazica and Iberia continued existing under the protection of the Roman Empire for the following centuries, though not without attempts to rebel and reestablish their former independence.
During the 2nd century, Iberia grew strong enough to reestablish its positioning as an independent country, yet remained allied to the Roman Empire. In the following century, Lazica also became a vassal kingdom with a certain degree of independence.
However, something amazing took place. When King Mirian III ascended to the throne of Iberia during the early 4th century, he recognized Christianity as the official religion of the kingdom thanks to the influence of Saint Nino. Subsequently, this Georgian kingdom was one of the first to accept Christianity as a whole, and Lazica soon followed after. Since then, Georgia’s history and present have been tied to the Christian religion.
Things did not remain peaceful for long.
The Western Roman Empire started its decline during the late 4th century and lost control of the area. Subsequently, the Sasanian Empire expanded its influence and, with it, attempts at establishing Zoroastrianism as a religion.
It is then that a historical hero rose up to the challenge King Vakhtang I Gorgasali (wolf-head). fought for Iberia’s independence from Sasanian control and to keep Christianity as the prominent religion.
Vakhtang I’s deeds have made him stand out as one of the most veneered kings in Georgian history. After ascending to the throne at merely fifteen years old, he found strength and wisdom in his deeply Christian roots and sought unity to achieve freedom and peace.
Pious and kind to his subjects, he encouraged peace treaties with Caucasian tribes to ensure cooperation against the invading forces, as he believed Georgians should unite to resist foreign pressure.
At the same time, he sought to strengthen Christianity within the territory and dedicated plenty of his resources to the construction of several new monasteries and cathedrals. His tireless pursuit of Christianity and holy behavior granted him canonization after his death.
However, his saintly demeanor did not reflect poorly on his combat spirit.
Fierce and agile, his ferocious strength became well-known in the battle. King Vakhtang I’s helmet featured a wolf and a lion, making him easily recognizable amidst combat. His enemies would warn others to beware of the wolf’s head, earning his appellation “Wolf Head”.
While he eventually succumbed to a poisoned arrow in a battle against the Persians, he died urging his fellow countrymen to continue his holy pursue for the sake of Christ and the motherland. He dedicated his life to Georgia’s freedom, yet by the time of his passing the lands remained under Persian control.
The revered figure of king Vakhtang I is the subject of multiple legends that highlight his grandiose deeds. One of such narrates his fantastical founding of Tbilisi, amongst many other tales of great courage and strength.
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Arab occupation of Georgian territories only strengthened. While the Byzantine Empire fought against said influence, the ongoing conflict contributed to the fractioning of the Georgian areas, including the establishment of an Emirate in Tbilisi.
However, the Georgian territories were steadily moving towards unity.
After becoming a Principality during early medieval centuries, Iberia became a kingdom once again around year 880, under the rule of the long-lasting Bagrationi dynasty, ruling the Tao-Klarjeti territories. Under the protection of the Byzantine Empire, the kingdom encouraged the growth of Christianity. At the same time Lazica, once a Byzantine princedom, acquired independence and became the Kingdom of Abkhazia during the late 780s. Under the rule of George II, Christianization of the territories was a massive success, and churches were built all across the land as the kingdom expanded.
Finally, at the end of the 10th century, both prosperous kingdoms united. Bagrat III, united by blood to the royal families of each state, ascended to the throne. He ruled both Iberia and Abkhazia, becoming the first king of what would be known as the Kingdom of Georgia.
Despite this incredible achievement, plenty of territories remained under foreign rule, particularly the emirate in Tbilisi. Subsequently, the young kingdom sought to unify, yet remained at odds with the clashing forces around—specifically the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Dynasty.
The latter was particularly dangerous. Through the 11th century, the new kingdom faced endless attacks and invasions from the Seljuks, something that weakened its society and made it an area of perpetual conflict.
That is, until David the Builder. With him, the golden era of Georgian history began.
King David Aghmashenebeli proved to be an effective and clever leader, as well as an astounding military strategist. The Battle of Didgori became an overwhelming victory of Georgian forces against the Seljuks, securing not only the end of the ongoing Georgian-Seljuk wars, but also recovered the long-lost Tbilisi.
The Battle of Didgori shouldn’t be underestimated—it’s one of the most remarkable military achievements in human history, and it completely changed Georgia’s history for the better. Under the rule of David the Builder, Georgia became the most powerful Caucasian kingdom, a Christian powerhouse, an academic hotspot, and a location that preached tolerance to all religions.
While his immediate successors were also successful and managed to keep the strong kingdom he left behind, none is more important than Queen Tamar.
Tamar the Great was the first female ruler of Georgia by birthright, and she couldn’t have set a better standard. Under her rule—and despite internal and external adversaries—the kingdom indeed reached the peak of its golden era. Military, cultural, academic, economic, and territorial victories were widespread.
You can visit the remains of David the Builder and Tamar the Great in the impressively beautiful Gelati Monastery.
Sadly, Queen Tamar the Great’s prosperous rule did not last forever. While her successors continued her policies and amassed a large and powerful army to support the ongoing Crusades, the enemy was waiting right by their doors.
Which of many? Well, the early 13th century saw the arrival of the nomadic Mongols to the country of Georgia.
Unprepared for the invasion and weakened by internal conflicts, Georgian forces were quickly defeated in combat. Taking advantage of the situation, the Muslim Khwarezmians took advantage of the situation and took Tbilisi from Georgia. The city was sacked, Christians slaughtered, and Georgia lost its capital city. At the same time, the country submitted to Mongolian rule.
A ray of hope for the grief-stricken kingdom came with the ascension of George V, the Brilliant. As indicated by his name, the king was clever and a strategic genius. His policies ensured a brief resurgence of thirty-two years, but fate was not kind.
The arrival of the deadly Black Death decimated Georgia’s population and military forces, therefore enhancing the damage already started by the wars. By the end of the 13th century, the Kingdom of Georgia wasn’t able to stand the ruthless onslaughts by conqueror Timur.
Completely destroyed, Georgia welcomed the 14th century as a kingdom in shambles. Unable to support itself, and torn apart by internal discussions, it fragmented into three kingdoms and several princedoms, all at odds with one another.
Subsequently, the Kingdom of Georgia was no more. All that was left were the Kingdom of Kakheti, the Kingdom of Imereti, the Kingdom of Kartli, and the principalities of Svaneti, Meskheti, Guria, Samegrelo, and Abkhazeti.
The Golden Era had come to an end.
While it may be tempting to accuse internal divisions of the collapse of Georgia’s Golden Era, in reality, the issue was rather complicated.
The collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1492 marked the end of the middle ages. It also left the new Georgian kingdoms and principalities far from European Christian countries. Thus, vulnerable to the Ottoman and Safavid Iran empires, two arch-rivals that fought one another both in and for Georgian soil.
The start of the 16th century saw the Georgian territories constantly invaded by these outside forces. By 1510, the Ottoman Empire invaded Imereti, and the Safavid Iran Empire invaded Kartli, the first of many invasions and battles within Georgian territory in a search for control of Caucasia.
One of these endless Ottoman-Safavid wars led to the so-called Treaty of Amasya in 1555. To reach peace, both empires agreed to establish a defined border between them, leading to the distribution of conquered territories—including the country of Georgia.
Immediately after the treaty was signed, the Safavid Empire attempted to acquire its newly-assigned territories, particularly Kartli and Kakheti.
King Luarsab I of Kartli, a member of the famed Bagrationi dynasty, led a fearless resistance against these endless attacks at the cost of his own life in the Battle of Garisi, 1556. Luarsab I’s son, Simon I the Great of Kartli, acquired victory on the battlefield that claimed his father’s life and succeeded him in the throne. Yet, he was betrayed and captured in 1569. He’d remain imprisoned for nine years.
Upon his release, he started successful military campaigns against the advancement of Ottoman forces within Kartli, including the liberation of Tbilisi. His success paid off when the Ottomans eventually recognized him as the Christian king of Kartli, and the alliance gave him the possibility to start thinking about reunifying Georgia as a country. Sadly, he would finally be defeated and captured in 1600, deeming his final goal a failure.
At the same time, Kakheti underwent identical struggles, yet preferred a different approach. Instead of attempting military victories, the kingdom sought to maintain peace through diplomacy and negotiation, particularly under the rule of both King Levan and King Alexander II.
These negotiations often involved recognizing the superiority of neighboring powers and paying a small tribute as vassal countries, in exchange for peace and prosperity. Usually, it required complex alliance politics between the Safavid and Ottoman empires, as well as the emerging Russian kingdom.
King Alexander II of Kakheti was wise enough to take advantage of those short periods of peace. He even managed to maintain a well organized regular army and Kakheti, in particular, the castle-town Gremi, enjoyed quite a noticeable, even though short-lived, cultural and economic prosperity.
Alexander II sought Russian support to balance his positioning between the two other empires. However, his kingdom suffered two coups, each by one of his sons, David I and Constantine I. The second one had lasting consequences.
Constantine I, converted to Islamism, murdered his father and took the throne with the support of the Safavid Empire, only to be deposed a few months afterward due to general disapproval.
After Constantine I, King Teimuraz I took the throne. Son of David I, he was accepted by the empire to appease the growing discontent within Kakheti, and keep the country calm as another war with the Ottoman Empire approached.
Regardless, as soon as said conflict finished, Teimuraz I’s rule suffered continuous invasions from the Safavid Empire, in attempts to control Kakheti. With the population regularly decimated by these brutal campaigns, general discontent reached its boiling point in 1659 with the Bakhtrioni Uprising, a popular movement to resist the forced eviction of Georgians from their ancestral homes.
While Kakheti remained under Persian control, the forced evictions and recolonization of the area were suspended. Despite not gaining independence through it, the heroic act of the Bakhtrioni Uprising was deemed an immediate success by Georgians, it has inspired numerous Georgian folk songs and verses including Vazha-pshavela’s epic poem Bakhtrioni and is still revered nowadays.
The start of the 18th century saw the Georgian kingdoms still attempting to exist amidst three growing empires. During the reign of King Vakhtang VI of Kartli, a period of relative peace saw significant cultural growth for that part of the Georgian population.
The king, a scholar, poet, and advocate for cultural advancement started a process of relative reconstruction of the war-torn territory upon assuming the throne, introduced printing press in Tbilisi, and subsequently stimulated the publishing of written works, including Georgia’s national epic The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin. All of his achievements were possible thanks to the assistance of his uncle and tutor, famed diplomat and scholar Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani.
Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s importance to Georgia as a country should not be underestimated. Beyond tutoring his kingly nephew, he was a world-renowned author and poet. He is responsible for some of the most important works of Georgian literature, such as A Book of Wisdom and Lies, and the Georgian Dictionary. Similarly, his role as a tutor and scholar had a profound impact on Vakhtang VI, subsequently making him one of the centerpieces of one of Georgia’s most emblematic cultural renaissances.
They had no time to waste, the delicate balance in Transcaucasia was coming to an end. The Safavid Empire was moribund, and the other powers of the region noticed the shift. Perceiving a chance to free Kartli from Persian influence, King Vakhtang VI allied himself with Russia’s Peter the Great in 1721 for a joint military operation that never took place, as the Russian army left Georgia’s to fend for itself against Persia’s, while the Ottoman Empire also saw the chance to conquer Kartli.
Surrounded and cornered, King Vakhtang fled to Russia and, subsequently, the Ottoman Empire started its domination upon the kingdom, followed by a brief return of Iranian dominance under Nader Shah. The latter, as a reward for their loyalty, granted Teimuraz II and his son, Heraclius II, control of Kakheti and Kartli in 1744.
Western Georgian territories did not fare much better. Continually crushed under the Ottoman influence, most Imereti kings attempted to resist the overwhelming pressure of the empire by seeking Russian assistance.
One particular king stands out above the rest—Solomon I of Imereti. In 1757, he led a decisive military victory against the Ottoman army, reducing its influence in Imereti and strengthening the Georgian cause by allying his kingdom with Mingrelia, Kartli, and Kakheti.
The latter two, under the command of Teimuraz II and Heraclius II, took advantage of the political instability in Iran caused by the death of Nader Shah. They declared the de-facto independence of their kingdoms. Afterward, in 1762, Teimuraz II died, and Heraclius II unified both kingdoms, becoming Heraclius II of Georgia.
Heraclius II, also known as Erekle II, had an impactful rule that made him one of the most respected leaders in Georgian history. His rule was one of problems, all caused by the ongoing instability in the region. The Russian-Ottoman wars for control in the area were prevalent, as were the Persian attempts to recover the control they had lost in the newly unified kingdom.
Subsequently, he firmed the Treaty of Georgievsk with Catherine the Great. According to the terms of the document, the Georgia country would become a protectorate under Russia, guaranteeing its territorial integrity and the continuation of the Bagrationi dynasty.
Unbeknown to Heraclius II, the eventual consequences of this treaty were devastating. Persia was enraged by the treaty and destroyed Tbilisi, which eventually solidified Russian control upon the kingdom. Heraclius II died in 1798, from then on known as the Last Great Georgian King, for his successor was the sickly George XII, who died on 1800. The Russian Empire didn’t lose time and took advantage of the conjuncture to solidify its grasp on the Georgian country. In 1810, the Russian empire annexed Imereti, and through consecutive victories against Persia and the Ottoman Empire, united Georgia under its rule.
By the mid-19th century, the entire country of Georgia was part of the Russian Empire.
The Russian Empire’s control of the Georgia country changed the geopolitical scenario within the Caucasus region. Now, it had a solid grip on one of the most critical crossroads towards Europe and the surrounding empires.
Naturally, this meant Georgia became Russia’s frontlines in its wars against the Persian and Ottoman empires, the territory was occupied mostly by armed forces, and were subjected to a strict military rule that enhanced the popular discontent.
Similarly, Russia was determined to ensure the political and territorial annexation also had a cultural branch. To suppress Georgian identity, the empire neglected to acknowledge cultural customs and traditions, and sometimes even discouraged them.
After deposing the monarchy, downgrading the Georgian church was the following step for a complete merging of the cultures, as was the Russian goal.
Despite their Orthodox background, religion was not a point in common. To accelerate Georgian integration within the empire, Russia revoked the Georgian Orthodox Church’s autonomy, making it subservient to Russia’s to promote unity within the realm. This measure carried immense consequences in the Georgian population, not only religiously, but also culturally, politically, and financially.
The population, as expected, did not take kindly these radical changes to their lifestyle. Both nobles and peasants manifested their disagreement and desire for independence through revolts, plots, and conspiracies. However, none of them were fruitful and only strengthened Russia’s grip on Georgia.
Following the political and religious transformations, Russian authorities restructured the way the Georgian economy functioned. Russia, and by extension, Georgia, had an economy based on serfdom—a practice that was already outdated according to European trends. Subsequently, to fit in with European trends, Russia abolished serfdom within its territory.
Banning serfdom in Georgia wouldn’t be so easy, though. With complots and conspiracies by Georgian nobility still fresh in recent memory, modernizing Georgia would be a difficult task without earning the ire of the nobles. Subsequently, Russia threaded the issue carefully and executed a strategy through negotiations.
In 1865, the Tsar abolished serfdom in Georgia. According to the stipulation, the nobles would get to keep half of the land. In contrast, the other half would be provided to the newly-independent peasants to continue living. However, the ex-serfs would have to pay compensation to the previous landlords, in an arrangement that kept them financially dependent. As a consequence, none of the parts were satisfied with the action.
Finally, Georgia also suffered demographical changes. To strengthen their hold on the territories, Russia encouraged the mass migration of religious minorities towards Georgia and other far-away regions within the empire. Likewise, some ethnic minorities also settled within the lands, producing slow but steady changes in the societal structure.
The aforementioned political, religious, and financial transformations would create a climate of instability and discontent that would feed numerous political movements and strengthen Georgian’s national pride altogether.
General discontent boiled after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. His successor Alexander III assumed an autocratic style of ruling to suffocate the revolts rising within the empire, and Georgia was naturally affected.
To be specific, Alexander III reduced even more Georgia’s autonomy within the empire, banned the use of the Georgian language, suppressed cultural manifestations and traditions of Georgian folks, and even banned the name “Georgia” itself from newspapers and other printable publications. Naturally, these actions created tensions between pro-Russia and anti-Russia Georgians, a conflict that escalates with the mysterious deaths of many outspoken activists for Georgia’s independence.
The arrival of the 20th century took a turn for the dramatic.
Political tensions within Russia reached a boiling point, with the Social Democratic party in Russia dividing itself between Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. While they could not agree on how to face the Tsarism, the latter grew more authoritarian and lacked the means to control the revolts. In 1905, the army shot at protestors in San Petersburg, killing nearly 100 people.
The event, later known as “Bloody Sunday”, was only the start of a Russian-wide event that would be later named the Revolution of 1905.
Georgia, as a part of the empire, was deeply affected by these issues. Politically, most activists overwhelmingly supported the Social Democratic Party, particularly the Menshevik faction. From then on, the Mensheviks would encourage revolts across Georgian territory, many of which were violently suppressed up until 1906.
By contrast, the Bolshevik faction saw little support within Georgia. Subsequently, the overwhelming Menshevik victories would cause most Georgian activists of the opposing faction to leave the region, including Ioseb Jughashvili, later known as Joseph Stalin.
A tense peace followed for the next decade until World War I broke out in 1914. Georgia, as the bordering territory with Turkey, became Russia’s frontline against the decaying empire.
The war turned out to be a breaking point within the Russian empire. The February and October Revolutions of 1917 ended the Russian monarchy and started an era of abrupt transformations and reforms. The Bolsheviks took power, and the majorly Menshevik Georgia saw in this radical change an opportunity for emancipation.
After a failed attempt at establishing a Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic with Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia finally proclaimed its independence in 1918, as the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
The republic only existed from 1918 to 1921. Its short existence was plagued by territorial conflicts, wars, and the looming threat of the Soviet Red Army enclosing the territory little by little.
In February of 1921, the Soviet-Georgian war broke out. Without foreign support and surrounded by all flanks, Georgia eventually lost its independence. On February 25, it was proclaimed the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Despite losing their independence, the Georgian people did not go down without a fight.
From 1921 and until 1924, the population resorted to guerrilla resistance techniques to resist the Russian invasion, the most prominent ones led by national hero Kakutsa Cholokashvili. While large and moved by a deep sense of national pride, none of these uprisings were successful, and the Soviet Union solidified its grip on Georgia.
An important fact is that, despite losing their independence, Georgians were still being ruled by a Georgian. From 1922, Joseph Stalin took control of the Soviet Union, but that did not reflect into a kinder policy towards the lands. According to statistics, during the guerrilla period, over 50,000 Georgians were executed, and the communist mindset of patriotic unity under the Soviet rule eclipsed Georgian nationalism.
Under communist rule, regional and cultural expressions native to Georgia were suppressed and discouraged. Things intrinsically Georgian, such as Orthodox Christian beliefs, the language, and the poetry were discouraged, in an attempt to guarantee cohesiveness within the Soviet Union.
Georgia became an essential part of one of the most powerful countries during the 20th century—under the rule of a Georgian, no less. Subsequently, many people continue to conceive the Georgian SSR era under Stalin as one of splendor.
However, many others focus on different statistics. The Great Purge carried by Stalin’s government ended with the life of many Georgians, including politicians, activists, students, and intellectuals. Prominent figures such as Dimitri Shevardnadze and Titsian Tabidze were executed, and dissident voices forcefully silenced.
Post-Stalin Georgia, however, took a turn for the worse.
After Stalin’s death in 1953, his successor sought to erase his legacy altogether through extensive reforms and transformations, in a process later named De-Stalinization. Georgians, enraged by these measures and Nikita Khrushchev’s anti-Stalin speech, rioted on Tbilisi’s streets in 1956, protests that soon turned violent when the Soviets killed hundreds of students.
From then on, the Georgian-Soviet relationship turned sour, with Georgian pride reaching a new high. At the same time, Moscow constantly tried to guarantee unity and cultural integration through a strict, yet deeply corrupt local government.
In 1970, the Soviet government radicalized its attempts at cultural unity through its territory, focusing mostly on the language. By the latter half of the decade, an effort to eliminate Georgian as the official language of the Georgian SSR was met with mass protests that forced authorities to revert the decision. This nationwide display of pride and courage is the reason why April 14 is celebrated as the Day of the Georgian Language.
Georgian pride did not diminish in the following years, and the popular clamor for independence matched the ongoing collapse of the Soviet Union. Subsequently, by 1991, Georgia was once again an independent nation.
Georgia organized a referendum to discuss its independence on March 31, 1991. The result was overwhelming—99.5% of the voting population wanted to break free. Subsequently, independence was proclaimed in April of the same year.
The newly independent country of Georgia faced several shortcomings from the get-go. The recently-elected president Zviad Gamsakhurdia took measures that were considered authoritarian by many, creating a political crisis that finished with a coup d’état in December of 1991.
From then on, the country of Georgia struggled with three particular topics and ongoing issues: the tense relations with Russia, and the conflicts with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. All three of these areas are deeply related to one another and remain a controversial topic for the affected parties.
The dissolution of the USSR left behind highly tense politics in the South Caucasus area. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are the home of ethnic minorities within Georgia—Abkhazians and South Ossetians, respectively.
During the Soviet era, these territories enjoyed an autonomous status that granted them a certain degree of independence within the Georgian SSR. They had close ties with Moscow, in opposition to the increasingly more nationalist Georgian government.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia sought to unify its territory, and that included South Ossetia and Abkhazia. These regions refused to take part in the new country, and ethnic tensions between the three groups escalated until two wars erupted—the South Ossetia war in 1991-1992, and the 1992-1993 Abkhazia war. In both cases, Russia supported the nationalist movements against Georgia.
After South Ossetia’s proclamation of independence, the affected parties agreed on a ceasefire in June of 1992. The next year, Abkhazia followed through. Known as the Sochi Agreements, it encouraged the establishment of peacekeeping troops in the territory.
The conflicts had terrible consequences for Georgia and the South Caucasus area. Casualties were numerous, with abundant reports of war crimes and human rights violations in the conflicted areas.
To make things worse, the Sochi Agreements were more of a tense stalemate than a real solution, and the territories became de facto independent from Georgia, but not de jure. This means that Georgia effectively lost control of some areas of the regions, but legally and internationally, they were still recognized as part of the country.
Tensions with Abkhazia and South Ossetia kept escalating progressively through the uncomfortable stalemate until Abkhazia proclaimed its independence in 1999.
The conflict spiked again in 2004. Mikheil Saakashvili, the recently elected president of Georgia, started a policy pushing towards territorial integrity within Georgia. The measures caused friction with both regions and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
From then on, multiple incidents escalated the conflict between both countries, until the inevitable happened. The Russian-Georgian war broke out in August 2008 between Georgia and the Abkhazia and South Ossetia territories, backed by Russia.
The conflict lasted five days and ended with a ceasefire agreement signed on August 12, alongside numerous casualties in uncertain circumstances. Following the war, Russia and five other countries recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. However, such actions are universally condemned by the rest of the international community as an attack on Georgia’s sovereignty.
In such circumstances, the Georgian government discourages traveling to the affected areas, and it’s punishable by law to enter them through Russia.
Equal parts heartrending and heroic, Georgia’s history has left both scars and gifts. Thus, they are open to anyone who seeks to learn about these stunning reminders of one of the world’s most ancient cultures.
With three (3) properties inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and fifteen (15) more sites on the tentative list, visiting Georgia is nothing short of a life-changing journey through some of the best historical reminders of a proud nation.
Subsequently, any Georgia tour package will take you to explore some of the most impressive heritage destinations this country has to offer. And while their beauty is stunning by itself, your enjoyment will be incomplete without understanding the historical and cultural value they provide for both Georgians and humanity as a whole.
Founded in 1106, the Gelati Monastery remains one of the largest medieval Orthodox monasteries, and its value transcends the boundaries of religious architecture. It served as one of the main cultural centers during the country’s most prosperous years and a hotspot for education and progress.
Built by the legendary king David IV, this impressive structure displays the exquisite architectural style of the medieval country of Georgia. It also serves as the eternal resting place of the country’s most exceptional rules, David the Builder and Queen Tamar the Great.
Mtskheta was the capital of Kartli or Iberia, one of the ancient Georgian kingdoms. It was also the birthplace of Christianity within the country, so it is not a surprise that, in modern days, it remains the head office of Georgia’s Orthodox and Apostolic churches.
However, three churches within the city boast of particular importance as cultural heritages of the country. The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, the Samtavro Monastery, and the Jvary Monastery are of exceptional historical value and were recognized as such by UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The breathtakingly gorgeous mountain landscape in Upper Svaneti features the village of Chazhashi (Ushguli), unique in its charm and importance. Due to its remote location and general isolation, over 200 structures remain perfectly preserved, standing the test of time and displaying the Sven people’s historical way of living.
While the structure still standing was built in the 11th century, the grounds of the Alaverdi Monastery have seen plenty of history before and after its construction. Early versions of the cathedral were built in the 6th century, while the current version displays modifications executed in the 15th and 18th centuries.
Beyond its solemn medieval beauty and architectural importance, Alaverdi boasts the record of being the highest cathedral in Georgia—its height is over 50 mt (164 ft)!
David Gareja can only be described as the ultimate paradise of a history enthusiast. Located 25 km from Tbilisi, it features essential landmarks from virtually every historical period.
Some of Georgia’s most famous prehistoric excavation sites are located within the area. They have unearthed unique archaeological and anthropological discoveries of exceptional value, dating from the Bronze and Iron ages.
Similarly, it features a complex of over nineteen medieval cave monasteries located in the desert, most of them with unique mural paintings and frescoes from the 8th century.
In a land of kingdoms, princedoms, conquest, and triumph, it’s natural to assume there are many fortresses to visit.
And you wouldn’t be wrong — the entire country of Georgia is exceptionally rich in castles, fortresses, and other military structures from days long gone.