1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Georgia

GEORGIA, a former kingdom of Transcaucasia, which existed historically for more than 2000 years. Its earliest name was Karthli or Karthveli; the Persians knew it as Gurjistan, the Romans and Greeks as Iberia, though the latter placed Colchis also in the west of Georgia. Vrastan is the Armenian name and Gruzia the Russian. Georgia proper, which included Karthli and Kakhetia, was bounded on the N. by Ossetia and Daghestan, on the S. by the principalities of Erivan and Kars, and on the W. by Guria and Imeretia; but the kingdom also included at different times Guria, Mingrelia, Abkhasia, Imeretia and Daghestan, and extended from the Caucasus range on the N. to the Aras or Araxes on the S. It is now divided between the Russian governments of Tiflis and Kutais, under which headings further geographical particulars are given. (See also Caucasia.)

History.—According to traditional accounts, the Georgian (Karthlian), Kakhetian, Lesghian, Mingrelian and other races of Transcaucasia are the descendants of Thargamos, great-grandson of Japheth, son of Noah, though Gen. x. 3 makes Togarmah to be the son of Gomer, who was the son of Japheth. These various races were subsequently known under the general name of Thargamosides. Karthlos, the second son of Thargamos, is the eponymous king of his race, their country being called Karthli after him. Mtskhethos, son of Karthlos, founded the city of Mtskhetha (the modern Mtskhet) and made it the capital of his kingdom. We come, however, to firmer historic ground when we read that Georgia was conquered by Alexander the Great, or rather by one of his generals. The Macedonian yoke was shaken off by Pharnavaz or Pharnabazus, a prince of the royal race, who ruled from 302 to 237 B.C. All through its history Georgia, being on the outskirts of Armenia and Persia, both of them more powerful neighbours than itself, was at times more or less closely affected by their destinies. In this way it was sometimes opposed to Rome, sometimes on terms of friendship with Byzantium, according as these were successively friendly or hostile to the Armenians and the Persians. In the end of the 2nd century B.C. the last Pharnavazian prince was dethroned by his own subjects and the crown given to Arsaces, king of Armenia, whose son Arshag, ascending the throne of Georgia in 93 B.C., established there the Arsacid dynasty. This close association with Armenia brought upon the country an invasion (65 B.C.) by the Roman general Pompey, who was then at war with Mithradates, king of Pontus and Armenia; but Pompey did not establish his power permanently over Iberia. A hundred and eighty years later the Emperor Trajan penetrated (A.D. 114) into the heart of the country, and chastised the Georgians; yet his conquest was only a little more permanent than Pompey’s. During one of the internecine quarrels, which were not infrequent in Georgia, the throne fell to Mirhan or Mirian (265–342), a son of the Persian king, who had married a daughter of Asphagor, the last sovereign of the Arsacid dynasty.

With Mirian begins the Sassanian dynasty. He and his subjects were converted to Christianity by a nun Nuno (Nino), who had escaped from the religious persecutions of Tiridates, king of Armenia. Mirian erected the first Christian church in Georgia on the site now occupied by the cathedral of Mtskhet. In or about the year 371 Georgia was overrun by the Persian king Shapur or Sapor II., and in 379 a Persian general built the stronghold of Tphilis (afterwards Tiflis) as a counterpoise to Mtskhet. The Persian grasp upon Georgia was loosened by Tiridates, who reigned from 393 to 405. One of Mirian’s successors, Vakhtang (446–499), surnamed Gurgaslan or Gurgasal, the Wolf-Lion, established a patriarchate at Mtskhet and made Tphilis his capital. This sovereign, having conquered Mingrelia and Abkhasia, and subdued the Ossetes, made himself master of a large part of Armenia. Then, co-operating for once with the king of Persia, he led an army into India; but towards the end of his reign there was enmity between him and the Persians, against whom he warred unsuccessfully. His son Dachi or Darchil (499–514) upon ascending the throne transferred the seat of government permanently from Mtskhet to Tphilis (Tiflis). Again Persia stretched out her hand over Georgia, and proved a formidable menace to the existence of the kingdom, until, owing to the severe pressure of the Turks on the one side and of the Byzantine Greeks on the other, she found it expedient to relax her grasp. The Georgians, seizing the opportunity, appealed (571) to the Byzantine emperor, Justin II. who gave them a king in the person of Guaram, a prince of the Bagratid family of Armenia, conferring upon him the title, not of king, but of viceroy. Thus began the dynasty of the Bagratids, who ruled until 1803.

This was not, however, the first time that Byzantine influence had been effectively exercised in Georgia. As early as the reign of Mirian, in the 3rd century, the organizers of the early Georgian church had looked to Byzantium, the leading Christian power in the East, for both instruction and guidance, and the connexion thus begun had been strengthened as time went on. From this period until the Arab (i.e. Mahommedan) invasions began, the authority of Byzantium was supreme in Georgia. Some seventy years after the Bagratids began to rule in Georgia the all-conquering Arabs appeared on the frontiers of the country, and for the next one hundred and eighty years they frequently devastated the land, compelling its inhabitants again and again to accept Islam at the sword’s point. But it was not until the death of the Georgian king Ashod (787–826) that they completely subdued the Caucasian state and imposed their will upon it. Nevertheless they were too much occupied elsewhere or too indifferent to its welfare to defend it against alien aggressors, for in 842 Bogha, a Turkish chief, invaded the country, and early in the 10th century the Persians again overran it. But a period of relief from these hostile incursions was afforded by the reign of Bagrat III. (980–1014). During his father’s lifetime he had been made king of Abkhasia, his mother belonging to the royal house of that land, and after ascending the Georgian throne he made his power felt far beyond the frontiers of his hereditary dominions, until his kingdom extended from the Black Sea to the Caspian, while Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kirman all paid him tribute. Not only did he encourage learning and patronize the fine arts, but he built, in 1003, the cathedral at Kutais, one of the finest examples extant of Georgian architecture. During the reign of Bagrat IV. (1027–1072) the Seljuk Turks more than once burst, after 1048, into the country from Asia Minor, but they were on the whole successfully repulsed, although they plundered Tiflis. During the reign of the next king, George II., they again devastated Tiflis. But once more fortune changed after the accession of David II. (1089–1125), surnamed the Renovator, one of the greatest of Georgian kings. With the help of the Kipchaks, a Mongol or Turkish race, from the steppe lands to the north of the Caucasus, whom he admitted into his country, David drove the Seljuks out of his domains and forced them back over the Armenian mountains. Under George III. (1156–1184), a grandson of David II., Armenia was in part conquered, and Ani, one of its capitals, taken. George’s daughter Thamar or Tamara, who succeeded him, reigned over the kingdom as left by David II. and further extended her power over Trebizond, Erzerum, Tovin (in Armenia) and Kars. These successes were continued by her son George IV. (1212–1223), who conquered Ganja (now Elisavetpol) and repulsed the attacks of the Persians; but in the last years of his reign there appeared (1220 and 1222) the people who were to prove the ruin of Georgia, namely the Mongol hosts of Jenghiz Khan, led by his sons. George IV. was succeeded by his sister Rusudan, whose capital was twice captured by the Persians and her kingdom overrun and fearfully devastated by the Mongols in 1236. Then, after a period of wonderful recovery under George V. (1318–1346), who conquered Imeretia and reunited it to his crown, Georgia was again twice (1386 and 1393–1394) desolated by the Mongols under Timur (Tamerlane), prince of Samarkand, who on the second occasion laid waste the entire country with fire and sword, and crushed it under his relentless heel until the year 1403. Alexander I. (1413–1442) freed his country from the last of the Mongols, but at the end of his reign divided his territory between his three sons, whom he made sovereigns of Imeretia, Kakhetia and Karthli (Georgia) respectively. The first mentioned remained a separate state until its annexation to Russia in 1810; the other two were soon reunited.

Political relations between Russia and Georgia began in the end of the same century, namely in 1492, when the king of Kakhetia sought the protection of Ivan III. during a war between the Turks and the Persians. In the 17th century the two states were brought into still closer relationship. In 1619, when Georgia was harried by Shah Abbas of Persia, Theimuraz (1629–1634), king of Georgia, appealed for help to Michael, the first of the Romanov tsars of Russia, and his example was followed later in the century by the rulers of other petty Thargamosid or Caucasian states, namely Imeretia and Guria. In 1638 the prince of Mingrelia took the oath of allegiance to the Russian tsar, and in 1650 the same step was taken by the prince of Imeretia. Vakhtang VI. of Georgia put himself under the protection of Peter the Great early in the 18th century. When Persia fell into the grip of the Afghans early in the 18th century the Turks seized the opportunity, and, ousting the Persians from Georgia, captured Tiflis and compelled Vakhtang to abdicate. But in 1735 they renounced all claim to supremacy over the Caucasian states. This left Persia with the predominating influence, for though Peter the Great extorted from Persia (1722) her prosperous provinces beside the Caspian, he left the mountaineers to their own dynastic quarrels. Heraclius II. of Georgia declared himself the vassal of Russia in 1783, and when, twelve years later, he was hard pressed by Agha Mahommed, shah of Persia, who seized Tiflis and laid it in ruins, he appealed to Russia for help. The appeal was again renewed by the next king of Georgia, George XIII., in 1798, and in the following year he renounced his crown in favour of the tsar, and in 1801 Georgia was converted into a Russian province. The state of Guria submitted to Russia in 1829. (J. T. Be.) 

Ethnology.—Of the three main groups into which the Caucasian races are now usually divided, the Georgian is in every respect the most important and interesting. It has accordingly largely occupied the attention of Orientalists almost incessantly from the days of Klaproth. Yet such are the difficulties connected with the origin and mutual relations of the Caucasian peoples that its affinities are still far from being clearly established. Anton von Schiefner and P. V. Uslar, however, arrived at some negative conclusions valuable as starting-points or further research. In their papers, published in the Memoirs of the St Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences and elsewhere (1859 et seq.), they finally disposed of the views of Bopp and Brosset (1836), who attempted on linguistic grounds to connect the Georgians with the Indo-European family. They also clearly show that Max Muller’s Turanian theory is untenable, and they go a long way towards proving that the Georgian, with all the other Caucasian languages except the Ossetian forms a distinct linguistic family absolutely independent of all others. This had already been suspected by Klaproth, and the same conclusion was arrived at by Fr. Muller and Zagarelli.

Uslar’s “Caucasian Family” comprises the following three great divisions:

1. Western Group. Typical races: Circassians and Abkhasians.
2. Eastern Group. Typical races: Chechens and Lesghians.
3. Southern Group. Typical race: Georgians.

Here the term “family” must be taken in a far more elastic sense than when applied, for instance, to the Indo-European, Semitic or Eastern Polynesian divisions of mankind. Indeed the three groups present at least as wide divergences as are found to exist between the Semitic and Hamitic linguistic families. Thus, while the Abkhasian of group 1 still at the agglutinating, the Lesghian of group 2 has fairly reached the inflecting stage, and the Georgian seems still to waver between the two. In consequence of these different stages of development, Uslar hesitated finally to fix the position of Georgian in the family, regarding it as possibly a connecting link between groups 1 and 2, but possibly also radically distinct from both.

Including all its numerous ramifications, the Georgian or southern group occupies the greater part of Transcaucasia, reaching from about the neighbourhood of Batum on the Black Sea eastwards to the Caspian, and merging southwards with the Armenians of Aryan stock. It comprises altogether nine subdivisions, as in the subjoined table:

1. The Georgians Proper, who are the Iberians of the ancients and the Grusians of the Russians, but who call themselves Karthlians, and who in medieval times were masters of the Rion and Upper Kura as far as its confluence with the Alazan.
2. The Imeretians, west of the Suram mountains as far as the river Tskheniz-Tskhali.
3. The Gurians, between the Rion and Lazistan.
4. The Lazis of Lazistan on the Black Sea.
5. The Svanetians, Shvans or Swanians, on the Upper Ingur and Tskheniz-Tskhali rivers.
6. The Mingrelians, between the rivers Tskheniz-Tskhali, Rion, Ingur and the Black Sea.
7. The Tushes or Mosoks About the headstreams of the Alazan and Yora rivers.
8. The Pshavs or Ph’chavy
9. The Khevsurs

The representative branch of the race has always been the Karthlians. It is now pretty well established that the Georgians are the descendants of the aborigines of the Pambak highlands, and that they found their way to their present homes from the south-east some four or five thousand years ago, possibly under pressure from the great waves of Aryan migration flowing from the Iranian tableland westwards to Asia Minor and Europe. The Georgians proper are limited on the east by the Alazan, on the north by the Caucasus, on the west by the Meskes hills separating them from the Imeretians, and on the south by the Kura river and Kara-dagh and Pambak mountains. Southwards, however, no hard and fast ethnical line can be drawn, for even immediately south of Tiflis, Georgians, Armenians and Tatars are found intermingled confusedly together.

The Georgian race, which represents the oldest elements of civilization in the Caucasus, is distinguished by some excellent mental qualities, and is especially noted for personal courage and a passionate love of music. The people, however, are described as fierce and cruel, and addicted to intemperance, though Max von Thielmann (Journey in the Caucasus, &c., 1875) speaks of them as “rather hard drinkers than drunkards”. Physically they are a fine athletic race of pure Caucasian type; hence during the Moslem ascendancy Georgia supplied, next to Circassia, the largest number of female slaves for the Turkish harems and of recruits for the Osmanli armies, more especially for the select corps of the famous Mamelukes.

The social organization rested on a highly aristocratic basis, and the lowest classes were separated by several grades of vassalage from the highest. But since their incorporation with the Russian empire, these relations have become greatly modified, and a more sharply defined middle class of merchants, traders and artisans has been developed. The power of life and death, formerly claimed and freely exercised by the nobles over their serfs, has also been expressly abolished. The Georgians are altogether at present in a fairly well-to-do condition, and under Russian administration they have become industrious, and have made considerable moral and material progress.

Missionaries sent by Constantine the Great introduced Christianity about the beginning of the 4th century. Since that time the people have, notwithstanding severe pressure from surrounding Mahommedan communities, remained faithful to the principles of Christianity, and are still amongst the most devoted adherents of the Orthodox Greek Church. Indeed it was their attachment to the national religion that caused them to call in the aid of the Christian Muscovites against the proselytizing attempts of the Shiite Persians,—a step which ultimately brought about their political extinction.

As already stated, the Karthli language is not only fundamentally distinct from the Indo-European linguistic family, but cannot be shown to possess any clearly ascertained affinities with either of the two northern Caucasian groups. It resembles them chiefly in its phonetic system, so that according to Rosen (Sprache der Lazen) all the languages of central and western Caucasus might be adequately rendered by the Georgian alphabet. Though certainly not so harsh as the Avar, Lesghian and other Daghestan languages, it is very far from being euphonious, and the frequent recurrence of such sounds as ts, ds, thz, kh, khh, gh (Arab. غ), q (Arab. ق), for all of which there are distinct characters, renders its articulation rather more energetic and rugged than is agreeable to ears accustomed to the softer tones of the Iranian and western Indo-European tongues. It presents great facilities for composition, the laws of which are very regular. Its peculiar morphology, standing midway between agglutination and true inflexion, is well illustrated by its simple declension common to noun, adjective and pronoun, and its more intricate verbal conjugation, with its personal endings, seven tenses and incorporation of pronominal subject and object, all showing decided progress towards the inflecting structure of the Indo-European and Semitic tongues.

Georgian is written in a native alphabet obviously based on the Armenian, and like it attributed to St Mesropius (Mesrop), who flourished in the 5th century. Of this alphabet there are two forms, differing so greatly in outline and even in the number of the letters that they might almost be regarded as two distinct alphabetic systems. The first and oldest, used exclusively in the Bible and liturgical works, is the square or monumental Khutsuri, i.e. “sacerdotal”, consisting of 38 letters, and approaching the Armenian in appearance. The second is the Mkhedrūli khēli, i.e. “soldiers hand”, used in ordinary writing, and consisting of 40 letters, neatly shaped and full of curves, hence at first sight not unlike the modern Burmese form of the Pali.

Of the Karthli language there are several varieties; and, besides those comprised in the above table, mention should be made of the Kakhetian current in the historic province of Kakhetia. A distinction is sometimes drawn between the Karthlians proper and the Kakhetians, but it rests on a purely political basis, having originated with the partition in 1424 of the ancient Iberian estates into the three new kingdoms of Karthlinia, Kakhetia and Imeretia. On the other hand, both the Laz of Lazistan and the Svanetian present such serious structural and verbal differences from the common type that they seem to stand rather in the relation of sister tongues than of dialects to the Georgian proper. All derive obviously from a common source, but have been developed independently of each other. The Tush or Mosok appears to be fundamentally a Kistinian or Chechen idiom affected by Georgian influences.

The Bible is said to have been translated into Georgian as early as the 5th century. The extant version, however, dates only from the 8th century, and is attributed to St Euthymius. But even so, it is far the most ancient work known to exist in the language. Next in importance is, perhaps, the curious poem entitled The Amours of Turiel and Nestan Darejan, or The man clothed in the panther’s skin, attributed to Rustevel, who lived during the prosperous reign of Queen Thamar (11th century). Other noteworthy compositions are the national epics of the Baramiani and the Rostomiani, and the prose romances of Visramiani and Darejaniani, the former by Sarg of Thmogvi, the latter by Mosi of Khoni. Apart from these, the great bulk of Georgian literature consists of ecclesiastical writings, hymns sacred and profane, national codes and chronicles.

Bibliography.—The standard authority on the history is M. F. Brosset’s translation of the Georgian chronicles under the title of Histoire de la Géorgie (5 vols., St Petersburg, 1849–1858); but compare also Khakanov, Histoire de Géorgie (Paris, 1900). See further A. Leist, Das georgische Volk (Dresden, 1903); M. de Villeneuve, La Géorgie (Paris, 1870); O. Wardrop, The Kingdom of Georgia (London, 1888); and Langlois, Numismatique géorgienne (Paris, 1860). For the philology see Zagarelli, Examen de la littérature relative à la grammaire géorgienne (1873); Friedrich Müller, Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft (1887), iii. 2; Leist, Georgische Dichter (1887); Erskert, Sprachen des kaukasischen Stammes (1895). For other points as to anthropology, Michel Smirnow’s paper in Revue d’anthropologie (April 15, 1878); Chantre, Recherches anthropologiques dans le Caucase (1885–1887); and Erckert, Der Kaukasus und seine Völker (1887).