Georgian History


Figure 1.--Georgia was absorbed into the Tsarist Empire at the beginning of the 19th century. Since that time its history has been linked with Russia. Here we see a scene at the wharf at Gagry in the north of Abkhazia. This was a coastal town on the Black Sea. The photograph was taken by famed Russian photographer Prokudin-Gorskii. Gagry was established in ancient times as as a Greek colony. It was called Triglite, and was populated by Greeks and Colcians.

Georgia is located along the western border of Asia. It is mostly located nort of the Caucus Mountains. Georgia was known in antiquity as both Colchis and Iberia. The independent kingdom rose with a capital at Mtskhet (4th century BC). The Persians Sassanidae dynasty ruled ruled Georgia (3rd and 4th centuries AD). The Georgian Church is one of the oldest Eastern Orthodoc churches. This was followed by a long period of control by the Armenian Bagratid dynasty with various interuptions due to foreign invasions (6th-15th centuries). There was a great floweing of Georgian culture under Queen Thamar (12th-13th centuries). The Kingdom was devestated by Mongol armies (13th centuries). The Mongol conquest began (1230). Armenia and Georgia were the first Christoian kingdoms invaded by the Mongols. The Mongols created the Vilayet of Gurjistan. This was made up of Georgia and the entire southern Caucasus. They ruled indirectly, through the Georgian monarchy confirmed by the Great Khan. Georgia came under pressure from more powerful Muslim neighbors who oiverwealmed Armenia. The expanding Ottoman Empire was a major threat. Georgia accepted Tsarist Russian protection and overlordshiop (18th century). Russia and Georgia shared the Orthodox faith. The last Georgia king abdicated (1801). The Georgians wwere forced to cede territory to the Ottoman Empire (1803 and 1829). Georgia tried to form an independent republic in the closing phase of World War I (1917). After the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War, the Soviet Government exerted its authority (1921). Georgia spent most of the 20th century as a republic of the Soviet Union. It achieved its indewpendence with the disolution of the Soviet Union (1992). Georgia's relationship with Russia has been stormy with many Russians believing that their country has a right to interfere in Georgian affairs.

Geography

Georgia is located along the western border of Asia. It is mostly located along and south of the Caucasus Mountains. Europe and Africa are divided by the Mediterranean Sea. There are three possible connections. Across the Straits of Gibralter, the Bosperous/Dardanellesm and the Caucauses. The Caucauses are the only entirely land connection between Europe and African/Asia. As a result from times imemorial, important trade routes have run through Georgia.

Pre-history

It was long thought that it was fully modern people that began the migration out of Africa which peopled the earth about 1 million years ago. Anthropolgists are now coming to the conclusion that that this migration began with other homonids who probably because of climate change were brought out of Africa by migrating heards. Archeologists have found the remains of a primitive form of Homo erectus or a closely related species at Dmanisi. These remains may be as old as 1.7 millions years [Schuster] This was a primitive homonid species with ape-like features. This is the oldest known Homo erectus site outside of Africa. There are other H. erectus finds in Europe, but none this early. Archeologists have also found evidence of neolithic people in what is modern Georgia by the fifth millennium B.C.

Ethnicity

Many different ethnic groups inhabited Georgia over time. They came as both migrants and invaders. These different people over time merged and left their traces in what is now the people of Georgia.

Ancient History

Georgia was known in antiquity as both Colchis and Iberia. An independent kingdom rose with a capital at Mtskhet (4th century BC).The kingdom of Kartli-Iberia occupied the northern Causcauses in the last century before the Christian era. They had not been conquered by Alexander who did not cross the Caucayses, but instead moved east. Kartli-Iberia was strongly influenced by both Persian and Greek culture. The Expanding Roman Republuic conquered the Caucasus region (66 BC). The kingdom became a Roman client state and was allied to Rome until the Empire began the desintegrate (4th century AD).

Christianity

The Kartli-Iberia Kingdom converted to Christianity at about the same time as Rome itself. King Marian III acceptance of Christianity (330 AD). With the fall of Rome and the German invasions of the West, Georgia was stringly tied to the Byzantine Empire, the principal Christian power until the rise of Charlemaign and the Frankish Empire in the West. Byzantium was for several centuries the principal cultural influence in Kartli-Iberia.

Persian Rule (3rd-4th centuries)

The Persians Sassanidae dynasty ruled ruled Georgia (3rd and 4th centuries AD). The Georgian Church is one of the oldest Eastern Orthodoc churches.

Arab Conquest (645)

Arabs conquered Kartli-Iberia and seized Tbilisi (645). Kartli-Iberia managed to retained a large degree of independence under Arab rulers although the Byzabntine influence was substabtially refuced. .

Bagratid Dynasty (6th-18th centuries)

The rise of Armenia drove the Arabs out of the most of the Caucauses. Armenian prince Ashot I became the first of the Bagrationi dynasty to rule Georgia (813). The Bagratids reigned in Armenia and much of Georgia for almost 1,000 years. There were, however, periods in which Bagrationi was interupted by Arab, Mongol, and other conquers. And there were periods in which Geoorgia was able to gain considerable autonomy. Bagrat V (1027-72) suceeded in uniting Western and eastern Georgia. David IV the Builder (1099-1125) is creditied with what Georgians refer to as the country's Golden Age. David drove out the Turks and succeeded in expanding south into Armenia as well east as far as the Caspian Sea. There was a great cultural and literary flowering under Queen Tamar's reign (1184-1212). Georgia at the time was well known in the Christian. They were an ally for the Crusaders. Georgia was allied with the Trabzon Empire (southern coast of the Black Sea and other principlities in the Caucasus including southern Azerbaijan.

The Mongols (13th century)

The Georgian Kingdom was one of many destroyed or absorbed into the Great Mongol Empire. The Mongolian generals Jebe and Subedey moved further west (1221). They moved south around the Capian Sea and struck Persia (1221). Millions were killed in assault on Persia. Then they attacked into Christian nations (Georgia and Armenia) for the first time. Armenia and Georgia were the first Christian kingdoms invaded by the Mongols. Then the Mongols crossed the Caucasus Mountains and entered the lands of the Kievian Rus. Jebe and Subedey batteled the Rus on the river Kalka and decisively defeated them (1223). The two great Mongol generals then turned back and returned to the Mongol hearland, crossing the Volga dominated at the time by the Bulgarians and than the Urals. The Huralday authorized approved the western campaign and Batu, the grandson of Ghengis, was put in charge. He was assisted by General Subedey (1235). The Mongol invasion of Georgia (1236) marked a long period of fragmentation and decline. The Kingdom was devestated by Mongol armies. The campaign covered thousands of miles and the Mongols conquered Russia (1237-40), The Mongols created the Vilayet of Gurjistan. This was made up of Georgia and the entire southern Caucasus. They ruled indirectly, through the Georgian monarchy confirmed by the Great Khan.

Turkic/Persian Domination (14th-17th centuries)

Georgia began to recover from the Mongol invasion (14th century). This was cut short by other invader fron central Asia. Timur / Tamerlane conquered and destroyed Tbilisi (1386). Georgia came under pressure from more powerful Muslim neighbors who oiverwealmed Armenia.The rise of the Ottoman Empire and the conquest of Constantinople (1453) essentially cut Georgia off from the West. It also began three centuries of domination by Islamic rulers, both the Ottoman and Persian empires. Georgia was a prize contested by thectwo competing empires. The two empires divided Georgia among them (1553), but the sectors varied somewhat with the varying power of the thectwo empires.

Renewed Autonomy (18th century)

The Bagratid Dynasty suceeded in gaining a considerable degreee of autonomy within the Persian Empire. Georgia at the time faced was bedeviled by rebellious Georgian and Persian nobles who fought against central rule. Herekle II suceeded in gaining control over the east Georgian regions of Kartli and Kakhetia (1762). This was a time of prosperity and expsnding trade. Feudal institur=tions were weakenrd. Herekle faced invasion from both Persia abd the Ottomans. He sought Russian protection (1773). The Tsarina dispatched troops. This began aperiod in which Georgia became a prize in a centuries-long struggle between the Ottoman and Tsarist empires. Persia sacked Tbilisi (1795). Herekle was again forced to seekl Russian aid.

Tsarist Empire (19th century)

Christian Georgia unable to defend itself from two powerful Islamic powers was forced to turn increasingly to Russia which mean accepted Tsarist Russian protection and overlordshiop. Russia and Georgia shared the Orthodox faith. Unable to dfend itself, Georgia was in no position to define the terms of protection granted by the Tsarist Empire. Tsar Alexander I by decree abolished the kingdom of Kartli-Kakhetia (1801). The heir to the Bagratid throne was forced to abdicate. the Russian Empire in steps annexed Georgia's entire territory. The Russians annexed eEastern Georgia (Kartli and Kakhetia) (1801). They anneded western Georgia (Imeretia) (1804). The Georgians wwre forced to cede territory to the Ottoman Empire (1803 and 1829). The Russians set out to modernize Georgian society and government with feudal institutions ro conform to the Russian model. The Russians intriduced a European-style education system and Russians ranks of nobility. (It should be remembered tht America at the time was the world's only republic.). The Georgian Orthodox Church lost its autocephalous status and was subjected to the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church (1811). After the Napoleonic Wars, Russia began to gradually increase Russification. The policies were at first a reaction tom Polidsh demands for autonomy. but became increasinly pronounced with the accession of Alexander III. Many Georgian resuisted Russification.

World War I (1914-18)

Georgia as a part of the Russian Empire entered World War I (August 1914). The fighting was a first far awayin Poland and the Baltics. This changed when the Ottoman Empire entered the War on the side of the Central Powers (October 1914). The Caucasus became a battleground in the War and Georgians found themselves on the front line. . The Ottomans launched a major, but disastrous offensive. The failure of the Ottoman offensive was a factor in the subsequent Turkish genocide of the Armenians. The Russians pushed across the Caucasuses south into eastern Turkey, Deteriorating economic conditions and the movement of war refugees began to foment social discontent throughout the Caucasus (1916). After the onset of the Russian Revolution, Georgia tried to form an independent republic in the closing phase of World War I (1917).

Soviet Era

After the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War, the Soviet Government exerted its authority (1921). Georgia spent most of the 20th century as a republic of the Soviet Union.

World War II

Georgia was at the center of one of the most decisive campaigns of World War II--Operation Blue. Hitler decided for the German summer 1942 campaign in the Soviet Union to focus on the resources of the south. After the huge losses as a result of the Soviet winter offensive, the Germans were nol longer capable of a front-ide offensive. So Hitler chose the resources of the Ukraine and the oil of the Caucauses--especially Baku on the Capsian sea. When some of his generals demmured, Hitler complained that thry did not undersyand the economics of warfare. The Germans completed the conquest of the Crimea and the destruction of Soviet armies in the Ukraine. While Soviet offensives were defeated, the German panzer armies failed to achieve the vast encirclements of Barbarossa. Then after taking Rostov, the Germans prepared to drive into the Caucauses to obtain the oil they so badly needed. At first Stalingrad did not feature prominately in the German plans. The principal goal was the Caucasus and the oil at several locations. The Germans drove toward the Caucasus from Rostov with two panzer armies and massive truck convoys--Operation Edelweiss (July 26, 1942). Gradually the German goal shifted to Stalingrad (late-August). They thus weakened the forses in the Caucasus and shifted them north to Stalingrad. As a result, the German drive in Caucasuses bogged down. The last German offensive occurred at Ordzhonikisze in a close fought battle by two bady depleted formations. The German 13th Panzer Division fought elements of the Soviet 37th Army which turned the Germans back (November 3-5). If the Germans had taken Ordzhonikisze, the Georgia Military Road led straihjt to Baku. But the focus of the campaign had for some time shifted north to Stalingrad. After the Soviet offensive at Stalingrad and failed German effort to releave Stalingrad (November-December), the Germans had to withdraw from the Caucasus altogether--narrowly avoiding another encirclement. There was a great deal of anti-Soviet felling in Georgia, but Stalin's launched an appeal for patriotic unity to fight the Germans, down playing Communism. Stalin resurected the Georgian Orthodox Church (1943). It is likely that had the Germans occupied Georgia, they could have recruited with some success. Instead about 0.5 million Georgians fought in the Red Army. Georgia supported the war effort by producing textiles and munitions.

Independence

It achieved its indewpendence with the disolution of the Soviet Union (1992). Georgia's relationship with Russia has been stormy with many Russians believing that their country has a right to interfere in Georgian affairs.

Sources

Schuster, Angela M.H. "Georgian Homo Erectus published," Archaeology (May 11, 2000).







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Created: 6:30 AM 4/15/2009
Last updated: 1:37 AM 11/12/2009