Georgia (country) History
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Strategically located between two continents, Georgia has often been dominated by foreign powers. A two-state confederation consisting of Colchis in the west and the Kartli in the east battled against invaders from the 6th-1st centuries B.C. The Romans subjugated these kingdoms in 65 B.C. Georgian kings continued to rule under Roman suzerainty.
The defining moment in early Georgian history was the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in the 330s. Thereafter the national identity was defined by adherence to the Georgian Orthodox Church rather than by ethnicity.
In mid-5th century, Vahtang Gorgasali I struggled against Persian conquest but after initial success was undermined by resistance from the Georgian nobility in alliance with the Persians. In 502 he was killed on the battlefield. At the same time, Byzantium subjugated West Georgia.
Arab conquerors subdued Tbilisi and surrounding area in 645 and the capital became an international center at the crossroads of several trade routes. David III, who ruled in the second part of the 10th century, freed many provinces from the Arabs. His successor, Bagrat IV (1027-1072) made Georgia one of the major powers in Caucasia.
Seljuk Turks invaded from the east in the 1060s, devastating much of Georgia. It was not until David IV routed the Turks in 1121, that a unified state reemerged.. During the reign of David’s successors and particularly under Queen Tamar (1184-1212), the Georgian Kingdom reached the apex of its political might and enjoyed a golden age. She remains a potent myth for Georgian nationalists.
Mongol conquerors ended this era and for a century they dominated Georgia. The kingdom fragmented and declined under their oppression. The Black Death decimated the population in 1366 and the first of Tamerlane’s eight invasions began in 1386. From the 15th century Georgia was contested between the Ottoman Turks in the west and the Safarid Persians in the east. This situation lasted until the 18th century.
To assure its defense against assorted Muslim enemies, Georgia signed a treaty with Catherine the Great in 1783 that turned it into a protectorate of Russia. Russia failed to uphold the conditions of the treaty, leaving Georgia to face and be defeated by a vastly superior Persian force in 1795 at the battle of Krtsanisi. In January 1801 Russia annexed a weakened Georgia, putting an end to its independence. There were numerous uprisings in the 19th century in various parts of Georgia against Russian colonial policy. Still, the country was protected against constant invasion and prospered economically. Ranks of nobility were redefined and a new system of taxation introduced, both of which actions are reflected in the record types defined in this profile.
In 1917 the Bolshevik revolution set the stage for Georgia to declare its independence the following year. However, in 1921 the Bolshevik armies invaded Georgia and established a communist hegemony. In 1990, Georgia declared independence.
Historically, Georgia has been heavily populated but that population has been decimated by invasion and plague. In medieval times, Georgia had as many as six million people while there were just seven million people in all of Europe. Today, Georgia has a population of approximately 5,200,000. The chief city is the capital of Tbilisi with a population of approximately 1,300,000.
At last report 70% were ethnically Georgian, 8% Armenian, 6% Russian, 6% Azeri, and the remainder composed of smaller minorities.
With regard to religion, 65% are Georgian Orthodox, 11% Muslim, 10% Russian Orthodox, and 14% other religions.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Georgia (Republic),” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 2000.