Iv.Javakhishvili INSTITUTE OF HISTORY. AND ETHNO.

english version

Roland Topchishvili – History Of Georgian Mountein Regions

Svaneti and Its Inhabitants (Ethno-historical Studies
The Tsova-Tushs ( the Batsbs
The Udis (Historical – ethnological  Study

History Of Georgian Mountein Regions

Advertisements

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Ethnology of Caucasus | 1 Comment

Giorgi Leon Kavtaradze: CAUCASIAN GEORGIA – A BRIDGEHEAD OR A STRONGHOLD OF THE MODERN GEOPOLITICAL GAMES

A Look from the Historical Perspective
 
  If we throw a glance through the main – Eurasian – part of the Eastern Hemisphere we can easily find Transcaucasia, located between two seas. It has quite an extraordinary, I dare say, even central position on the Hemisphere. In the north of it, across the Great Caucasian Range, is situated typical northern country – Russia, in the south – genuine Middle Eastern Turkey and Iran, in the west the Black Sea divides it from Eastern Europe, and in the east – the Caspian Sea from Central Asia.Such an intermediate location of the Caucasus should be the reason of its ethno-cultural diversity noticed already by Greco-Roman authors.
 
Georgia (ancient Colchis and Iberia) – the country of the Golden Fleece of Classical Greek mythology is located in the central and western parts of Transcaucasia. It is chained to the Caucasus like Prometheus who found his last abode in the same mountains. Even today, on the state emblem of Georgia, under the hoofs of the horse of Tetri (White) Giorgi (the image of Georgia) the Caucasian mountains are depicted – instead of the dragon of St. George’s icon – a symbol of natural challenge of the country, representing the link of its destiny with one of the main markers of the geographical, ethno-cultural and political division of the world.
 
Georgia, and Transcaucasia generally, lies not only at the cross-roads of all four sides of world, but at the cross-roads also from the temporal standpoint between the old and new worlds – the old world of totalitarianism and the new world of democratic society. Both these cross-roads are at the same time intertwined with each other. The areas north and east of the Caucasus are still embodiments of totalitarian societies, the areas west and south – of societies with a democratic way of life, or on the path of democratic transformation.
 
Numerous states were created in all parts of the world after the First and Second World War and the collapse of Communistic system. In our days this process takes place mainly in new countries of the post-Soviet space, among them in Georgia, where an analogous situation was known already after the annihilation of the Russian Empire and the three-year period of the time of existence of the Georgian Democratic Republic, occupied by Soviet Russia in February-March 1921. Though the tradition of statehood in Georgia counts thousands of years.
 
It seems that the factors of geopolitical character caused not only the emergence of statehood in Central Transcaucasia in the Classical period but also determined its historical development in Medieval, New and Newest times.
 
The main purpose of the future studies is to outline the possible trends in Georgia’s political orientation against the background of existing tendencies in the political life of Georgia itself, of Transcaucasia generally, and of a more wide area – adjacent to the basins of the Black and Caspian seas.
 
Discussions under way among Georgian politicians and public of how to solve the triple choice which faces the country:
1.     to join the security system of the CIS (i.e. Russia),
2.     declare neutrality,
3.     integrate with the Euro-Atlantic democratic societies.
 
Pro-Russian trend actually means turning back from the process of state creation to final dissolution (though gradual) in the Russian maw – the age-long dream of Russian political circles. In spite of the decision of the Istanbul summit of 1999, Russia tries to retain by all means its military bases in Georgia and at the same time to widen its economic and political presence in the country. Neutral status is irrelevant for a country lying on the highway of political processes and surrounded by aggressive neighbours – primarily by Russia; Turkey and Iran to some extent, during the reinterpretation of their Caucasian policy after the breakdown of the Soviet Empire, are trying to ensure peace and security of the region – different with their old historical traditions. At the same time, Turkey could be considered itself as a member of the Transcaucasian family. We have in mind the fact that Transcaucasian southern boundary is confined by the flow of the AraxesRiver. The upper reaches of it form a boundary between Transcaucasia and Anatolia, going west from the same river along the Palandöken and Kop ranges; and further to the north, the presumable border runs along the middle and lower flow of the ÇoruhRiver. We could use the term Turkish Transcaucasia as the manifestation of a widening interpretation of Transcaucasia.
The pro-Western trend seems the only option, which can secure the independent development of Georgia.
         But can we be sure that this choice answers the national interests of the country? Why the pro-Western orientation becomes a motto of Georgian society? How trustworthy are the fears spreading among a part of Georgian public that because of their pro-Western orientation the country and its population are under the unforeseeable and imminent threat [p. 136] of punishment coming from rivals of the Western democratic societies and, therefore, in the opinion of this part of public, the political orientation of the country should be changed?
 
These questions show how tense and uncertain the political situation in Georgia is today. I don’t think that there exists an easy answer to all questions that are facing Georgian public today, but historians could try to make the situation more understandable from the standpoint of the historical development of this country.
 
Therefore, we need to throw a glance from the historical perspective to gain an insight into the character of developments underlying modern processes. The pointer of Georgia’s political compass was directed at various sides of the world in different times, but what kind of mechanism caused such a shift of orientation? Which point, having strong magnetic power, was most determinative for the Georgian pointer throughout the history? These are the questions that should be answered.
 
Unfortunately nobody paid attention in the special literature to the interconnection between the existence of state power in Central Transcaucasia and the necessity to control the passes through the Caucasus, indicated by the historical development of the area. This must be mainly due to the fact that during the last two hundred years Transcaucasia was incorporated in the Russian and Soviet empires and no governmental employee in charge of these totalitarian states would allow, or will encourage even now in a much more democratic Georgia, to carry out such a study. Both these countries (the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union) succeeded in total subjection of the Transcaucasian territory which was of vital importance for their expansionistic plans against the entire East Mediterranean-Middle Eastern area. On the other hand, the fact that no Caucasian nation was represented on the political map of the world over the last two centuries, with the above-mentioned short exception, is the main reason why Caucasian history was actually neglected by Western specialists even when studying the areas adjacent to it.
 
The breakdown of the Communist system gave specialists of countries belonging to this system the possibility of using such methodological principles that are far removed from the dogmas of Marxism-Leninism and that were sometimes already obsolete in other parts of the world.        In connection with the early Caucasian political history the use of Arnold Toynbee’s Challenge-and-Response model seems preferable, as the emergence and development of the idea of statehood in the Caucasus finds its stimulus (Challenge) in the reaction (Response) of the local natural and social environment. [p. 137]
 
The political history of Georgia, like other Transcaucasian countries, was mainly dominated by the fact of the geographical location of Transcaucasia south of the Great Caucasian mountainous chain, one of the most important watershed systems of the world. These mountains form a fracture (something like a geological fault-line) not only from the geographical and ethno-cultural points of view, but also from the geopolitical division of the world. The key importance of the location of the Caucasus was picturesquely stated by Pliny the Elder (Plinius Magnus), already two thousand years ago, namely that the Caucasian Gate (i.e. the DarialPass, crossing the central part of the GreatCaucasianRange), divides the world in two parts (N.H. 6, 30).
 
There was always a need for a barrier to be erected by the world of reasonable men against the world of barbarians, such as the Great Wall of China or Hadrian’s Wall (Roman Limes). The Caucasian Gate had the same function for the Middle East. From times immemorial it barred the descent of the Eurasian nomads into the civilised world of common interest – the Mediterranean-Middle Eastern oikoumene.
 
The Caucasian Gate is frequently called the Pillars, Stronghold or Iron Gate of Alexander the Great by the Classical (Greco-Roman) authors. The linkage of Alexander’s name of the legend with the emergence of the Iberian statehood, known from the evidence of old Armenian and Georgian chronicles, indicates the raison d’être of this state, namely to be the outpost of the civilised world in its struggle with the realm of Gog and Magog lying beyond the Caucasian Gate. Today too, the above-mentioned emblem of Georgia, bears the sun, the moon and the five stars, supposedly bestowed on the Georgians by the legendary image of Alexander of old Georgian chronicles as an ideological basis of their state religion. Thus the concept of Alexander’s Iron Gate was the reflection of the concrete political function of the GeorgianState – the control of one of the most important strategic passes of the world.
 
This function of the state seems to have been one of the main decisive factors that challenged the emergence of the GeorgianState in the central part of Transcaucasia in the Early Hellenistic period. The location of Georgia, south of the GreatCaucasianRange, in the contact zone of the Eurasian nomads and the Middle Eastern civilised societies, had predetermined the continual external pressure from the north, a Challenge, which for its part caused a Response – the creation of a state (i.e. the IberianKingdom) in Central Transcaucasia.
 
The raison d’être not only of Iberia, but also of other new states of the Classical period, Albania and Lazica (the successive state of Colchis), [p. 138] were to become stronghols of the civilised world (Greek oikoumene or Roman orbis terarrum) in its struggle with the barbarian Realm of Darkness beyond the Caucasian Gate. However, there was undoubtedly a difference between the western political orientation (the Greek states, Roman and Byzantine empires) of Iberia and also to a certain degree of Lazica, on the one hand, and the eastern orientation (Persia, Parthia) of Albania (together with Armenia), on the other.
 
The control of the Caucasian passes could create the most favourable opportunity for the preservation of Pax Romana in the Middle East. The Iberians (eastern Georgians) werethe most important allies of the Romans in the region, having supremacy over the Caucasian Gate. The close collaboration between the Romans and the Iberians, based on their joint strategic interests as parts of one and the same orbis terarrum was the leit-motif of their interrelations.
 
At the same time, the rulers of the IberianKingdom successfully used the favourable strategic location of their country to balance the pressure of the powers coming from all sides of the world, often changing the direction of their orientation. Already Tacitus noted that the Iberians were “masters of various positions” and could suddenly “pour” mercenaries from across the Caucasus against their southern enemies (Ann. 6, 33).
 
The long-term aspiration of the medieval Georgian monarchy, going back presumably to the times of the Roman Empire, to bring under its sovereignty not only the Caucasian Gate, but all existing Caucasian passes from the Black to the Caspian Sea, is expressed by the formula of its territorial integrity in the Georgian chronicle of the eleventh century the “Life of Georgia”: “from Nikopsia to Daruband”,i.e. from the north-eastern Black Sea littoral to the Derbent gateway (the second important pass of the Caucasus), on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. This formula, emphasising especially the northern borderline along the Caucasus, enables us to interpret the main function of that kingdom in a more general context.
 
Faced with the necessity of effective control of the Caucasian passes, which barred the way of the northern invaders, the rulers of the states of the Eastern Mediterranean-Middle Eastern area were always eager to have in Central Transcaucasia – in Iberia – a political organisation with sufficient strength to fulfil such a defensive function. The concept of the Caucasian Gate predetermined the fate of the GeorgianState from the Early Hellenistic time till the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Georgia‘s annexation by Russia meant the loss of this important function [p. 139] of this state. I think, this function was the reason that Georgia, as pointed out by Cyril Toumanoff, is the only country of Christendom where socio-political and cultural development ran an uninterrupted course from the Classical period to the beginning of the nineteenth century.
 
This overwhelming interest of the Near Eastern-Mediterranean societies in Georgia was caused not only by the abstract defensive function of this country, but mainly by its concrete location at the edge of the civilised and barbarian worlds. Though Georgia and Transcaucasia were open to the influences of these two opposite models of historical development, the factor of the Great Caucasian Range determined its destination to be the strongholds of the highly developed and prosperous Middle Eastern-Mediterranean oikoumene against the vast area of Eurasian steppes – an embodiment of the powerful and aggressive forces with their slow rate of social, political, economic and cultural development; or in other words, to be the stronghold of the civilised South and West against the barbarian North and East. On the other hand, the northern nomads required a bridgehead for their raids towards the Middle East. The territories of Georgia and Transcaucasia represented best opportunities for this task.
 
The constant opposition between the barbarian and civilised peoples, aggressors and producers, brigands and creators, were two firestones with the help of which the fire of statehood south of the central part of the Great Caucasian Range, in Central Transcaucasia, was kindled. 

February 16, 2009 Posted by | 3. GENERAL PUBLICATIONS | Leave a comment

Scientific Missions Abroad in 2009

January 18 – March 15, 2009 – Nino Abakelia, Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Ethnology of Georgia will participate in the research project of Inter-national Study Center at the University of Oxford.

February 1-5, 2009 – Vazha Kiknadze, Director of Iv.Javakishvili Institute of History and Ethnology will participate in the seminar at the University of Cambridge, Great Britain, organized by the Committee for the Study of Russia and the East Europe. Dr. Kiknadze will present the paper: “Georgian Spiritual Figures and the Russian Exarchy at the Beginning of the  20 Centtury.”

On February 21, 2009 director of Iv.Javakishvili Institute of History and Ethnology, Dr.Vazha Kiknadze will participate in international conference organized by the North-East Asia Study Center at University of Tohoko, Japan. One hour long presentation on the topic “The Georgian Society of the 20th Century and the Ecclesiastical Policy of the Russian Synod” will be delivered at the conference “New Researches in the Post Soviet Countries of the 20 Century.”

On February 21 – March 14, 2009 Main Research Fellow Lavrenti Janiashvili and Senior Research Fellow Natia Jalabadze, Department of Ethnology of Caucasus, visited to the Phillips University-Marburg, Germany, to participate in the Project “Revitalization of Traditional Law in the Republic of Georgia.”

On March 9-13, 2009 vice-director in International Relations David Matsaberidze will visit Budapest, Hungary, to participate in CRC Spring Sessions “Teaching Comparative History in Eastern Europe – Theory, Methods, Case Studies”, Central European University. 

 On March 17-19, 2009 director Vazha Kiknadze will visit Maltepe University, Istanbul, to participate in international scientific conference “Central Eurasian Studies: Past, Present, Future”, organized by the Maltepe University (Turkey), University of Tokio (Japan) and University of Tsukuba (Japan). The following paper will be presented at the conference: “Istanbul and Hagia Sophia in the Works of Georgian Travellers of the 15th-19th Centuries.” 

On March 9 – April 8, 2009 Senior Research Fellow Gia Gelashvili, Department of the Modern History, will pay visit to Great Britain in the framework of invitation program of the British Academy of Sciences, for the scientific work in the local libraries and archives.

On March 9-13, 2009, Malkhaz Toria, Research Fellow of the Department of Ethnology of Caucasus, will take part in the CRC Spring Sessions – Teaching Comparative History in South-Eastern Europe – Theory, Methods, Case Studies – hosted by Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | 1.5 Scientific Missions | Leave a comment

Nino Abakelia: The motif of Communion with Eternity in Georgian tradition

 

  ( According to the iconographic programmes of Georgian temples and the folk sacred poetry)
 
In the Christian studies the motif of eternity, everlasting time, infinite time is straightly connected with the idea of Paradise. The decline of man from the divine heights caused the ontological change of him and consequently divided the entire world into two parts: temporal and eternal.
Since that time the mankind’s insistent wish is to recover the paradise condition. Spiritual literature considers Christianity the realized paradise (J. Danielou.). Jesus Christ represents the Tree of Life and ( or) the Spring of Life.
In Christianity the divine entirety is symbolized by the City – the Heavenly Jerusalem. According to the Church Fathers   Heavenly Jerusalem is the prototype of Church itself. The first century basilicas as well as cathedrals of Middle Ages repeat the model of Heavenly Jerusalem (M. Eliade, T. Burkhardt). There grows the Tree of Life in the center of Heavenly Jerusalem and as a sacred symbol of axis mundi, it reveals the entirety of the Universe.
The border symbolism of the above – mentioned worlds is based on the cosmological system, it originates from it and forms the image of the Universe.
The models of temples and cities, as is known, are “ transcendental” for they preexist in the sky. Temples and portals share the same symbolism for they are both open to the other world. The main function of them is to link cultic (mundane) and divine (heavenly) spheres. This is common for almost every culture and this idea developed throughout the world. That is why the expression –“divine portal” implies both: temple as well as portal. They are interchangeable symbols. Temples resp. portals have their archetypes in Heavenly Jerusalem and this concept is also general in Christianity.
We tried to show how the celestial model of Heavenly Jerusalem together with its emblem of the Tree of paradise “lowered from the sky” on the earth and revealed itself in various local simplified forms such as marani  (i.e. the house of wine), nishi (literally – the sign of epiphany) and its most simplified variety – the sacred tree.
Thus, according to the symbolism observed locally, the above – mentioned local “divine portals” are considered to be the places of “break through” into another world through which and by means of which one can transfer from the category of time into eternity.
The pattern of decoration which so frequently places peacocks, hares, deers, etc. in conjunction with grape or spring is analogous to the men (in the sacred poetry), standing under the sacred tree and tasting the grape or in other cases,
with the righteous , drinking pure spring water under the sacred tree in the center of Heaven.
Both iconographic programmes and imagery patterns of the sacred poetry coincide and express one and the same idea that of communion with Eternity at the “divine portal”.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Ethnology of Georgia | Leave a comment

Giorgi L. Kavtaradze: THE PROBLEMS OF STATE DEVELOPMENT OF GEORGIA (from the earliest times)

Summary

If we throw a glance through the main – Eurasian – part of the Eastern Hemisphere we can easily find Transcaucasia, located between two seas. It has quite an extraordinary, I dare say, even central position on the Hemisphere. In the north of it, across the Great Caucasian Range, is situated typical northern country – Russia, in the south – genuine Middle Eastern Turkey and Iran, in the west the Black Sea divides it from Eastern Europe, and in the east – the Caspian Sea from Central Asia. Such an intermediate location of the Caucasus should be the reason of its ethno-cultural diversity noticed already by Greco-Roman authors.

Georgia (ancient Colchis and Iberia) – the country of the Golden Fleece of Classical Greek mythology is located in the central and western parts of Transcaucasia. It is chained to the Caucasus like Prometheus who found his last abode in the same mountains. Even on the former state emblem of Georgia, under the hoofs of the horse of Tetri (White) Giorgi (the image of Georgia) the Caucasian mountains are depicted – instead of the dragon of St. George’s icon – a symbol of natural challenge of the country, representing the link of its destiny with one of the main markers of the geographical, ethno-cultural and political division of the world.

Georgia, and Transcaucasia generally, lies not only at the crossroads of all four sides of world, but at the cross-roads also from the temporal standpoint between the old and new worlds – the old world of totalitarianism and the new world of democratic society. Both these cross-roads are at the same time intertwined with each other. The areas north and east of the Caucasus are still embodiments of totalitarian societies, the areas west and south – of societies with a democratic way of life, or on the path of democratic transformation.

The beginnings of Georgian statehood is one of the most controversial problems of the Georgian historiography. Some scholars are connecting the beginnings of Georgian statehood with Colchis of the legendary king Ayetes or with the country of Daiaeni/Diaukhi of assyrian and Urartian cuneiform inscriptions.

At the same time the very beginning of Georgian statehood by the indication of ancient Georgian historical tradition should be searched in the south-western part of ancient Georgia, where the land of Daiaeni/Diaukhi existed from the late second millennium BC. By the information of the inscription of [გვ. 220] the Assyrian king, Shalmanasar III, which was dated to 844 B.C., the land of Daiaeni was located near the source of the Euphrates (i. e. the Western Euphrates or the Kara-su) in the territory which is known by Georgian and Armenian tradıtıon as Tao or Taik.

Except for the obvious similarity between the archaeological material of the Early Iron Age of the central and south-western parts of Transcaucasia (i. e. central part of eastern Georgia and south-western part of hıstorıcal Georgia), some toponyms characteristical of Daiaeni/Diaukhi are also often considered of Kartvelian origin.

An additional evidence in this connection might be provided by the name of the “Royal city” of Diaukhi – “Šašilu”, mentioned nearly half a century after the Shalmanasar’s campaign in the inscription of Urartian king Menua which possibly was situated on the place of the Medieval Georgian village of Sasire (immediately west of the well known castle of Tortomi or Tortum-kale, ca 20-30 km north-west of the Dumlu-su, the source river of the Euphrates) which means in the old Georgian the “place of birds” (sasire). When identifying Šašilu as Sasire we take into account the fact that in Urartian cuneiform script it is impossible to distinguish from each other the sounds š and s, l and r, u and o and the information of the above inscription of Shalmanasar III that he erected his statue in the anonymous city of Asia when the latter came to him exactly to the source of the Euphrates.

Though the period of replacement of the Pax Achaemenia by the Pax Macedonica marks out the emergence of Iberian (East Georgian) kingdom and the beginning of unbroken state tradition of Georgian monarchy which has lasted till the beginning of 19th century.

Numerous states were created in all parts of the world after the First and Second World War and the collapse of Communistic system. In our days this process takes place mainly in new countries of the post-Soviet space, among them in Georgia, where an analogous situation was known already after the annihilation of the Russian Empire and the three year period of the time of existence of the Georgian Democratic Republic, occupied by Soviet Russia in February-March 1921. Though the tradition of statehood in Georgia counts thousands of years.

It seems that the factors of geopolitical character caused not only the emergence of statehood in Central Transcaucasia in the Classical period but also determined its historical development in Medieval, New and Newest times.

The main purpose of the future studies is to outline the possible trends in Georgia’s political orientation against the background of existing tendencies in the political life of Georgia itself, of Transcaucasia generally, and of a more wide area – adjacent to the basins of the Black and Caspian seas. [გვ. 221]

Discussions under way among Georgian politicians and public of how to solve the triple choice which faces the country: 1. to join the security system of the CIS (i.e. Russia), 2. declare neutrality, 3. integrate with the Euro-Atlantic democratic societies.

Pro-Russian trend actually means turning back from the process of state creation to final dissolution (though gradual) in the Russian maw – the age-long dream of Russian political circles. In spite of the decisions of various summits Russia tries to retain by all means its military presence in Georgia and at the same time to widen its economic and political positions in the country.

Neutral status is irrelevant for a country lying on the highway of political processes and surrounded by aggressive neighbours – primarily by Russia; Turkey and Iran to some extent, during the reinterpretation of their Caucasian policy after the breakdown of the Soviet Empire, are trying to ensure peace and security of the region – different with their old historical traditions. At the same time, Turkey could be considered itself as a member of the Transcaucasian family. We have in mind the fact that Transcaucasian southern boundary is confined by the flow of the Araxes River. The upper reaches of it form a boundary between Transcaucasia and Anatolia, going west from the same river along the Palandöken and Kop ranges; and further to the north, the presumable border runs along the middle and lower flow of the Çoruh River. We could use the term Turkish Transcaucasia as the manifestation of a widening interpretation of Transcaucasia.

The pro-Western trend seems the only option, which can secure the independent development of Georgia. But can we be sure that this choice answers the national interests of the country? Why the pro-Western orientation becomes a motto of Georgian society? How trustworthy are the fears spreading among a part of Georgian public that because of their pro-Western orientation the country and its population are under the unforeseeable and imminent threat of punishment coming from rivals of the Western democratic societies and, therefore, in the opinion of this part of public, the political orientation of the country should be changed?

These questions show how tense and uncertain the political situation in Georgia is today. I don’t think that there exists an easy answer to all questions that are facing Georgian public today, but historians could try to make the situation more understandable from the standpoint of the historical development of this country.

Therefore, we need to throw a glance from the historical perspective to gain an insight into the character of developments underlying modern processes. The pointer of Georgia’s political compass was directed at various sides of the world in different times, but what kind of mechanism caused [გვ. 222] such a shift of orientation? Which point, having strong magnetic power, was most determinative for the Georgian pointer throughout the history? These are the questions that should be answered.

Unfortunately nobody paid attention in the special literature to the interconnection between the existence of state power in Central Transcaucasia and the necessity to control the passes through the Caucasus, indicated by the historical development of the area. This must be mainly due to the fact that during the last two hundred years Transcaucasia was incorporated in the Russian and Soviet empires and no governmental employee in charge of these totalitarian states would allow, or will encourage even now in a much more democratic Georgia, to carry out such a study. Both these countries (the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union) succeeded in total subjection of the Transcaucasian territory which was of vital importance for their expansionistic plans against the entire East Mediterranean-Middle Eastern area. On the other hand, the fact that no Caucasian nation was represented on the political map of the world over the last two centuries, with the above-mentioned short exception, is the main reason why Caucasian history was actually neglected by Western specialists even when studying the areas adjacent to it.

The breakdown of the Communist system gave specialists of countries belonging to this system the possibility of using such methodological principles that are far removed from the dogmas of Marxism-Leninism and that were sometimes already obsolete in other parts of the world. In connection with the early Caucasian political history the use of Arnold Toynbee’s Challenge-and-Response model seems preferable, as the emergence and development of the idea of statehood in the Caucasus finds its stimulus (Challenge) in the reaction (Response) of the local natural and social environment.

The political history of Georgia, like other Transcaucasian countries, was mainly dominated by the fact of the geographical location of Transcaucasia south of the Great Caucasian mountainous chain, one of the most important watershed systems of the world. These mountains form a fracture (something like a geological fault-line) not only from the geographical and ethno-cultural points of view, but also from the geopolitical division of the world. The key importance of the location of the Caucasus was picturesquely stated by Pliny the Elder (Plinius Magnus), already two thousand years ago, namely that the Caucasian Gate (i.e. the Darial Pass, crossing the central part of the Great Caucasian Range), divides the world in two parts (n. h., VI, 30).

There was always a need for a barrier to be erected by the world of reasonable men against the world of barbarians, such as the Great Wall of China or Hadrian’s Wall (Roman Limes). The Caucasian Gate had the same function for the Middle East. From times immemorial it barred the descent of the Eurasian nomads into the civilised world of common interest – the Mediterranean-Middle Eastern oikoumene. [გვ. 223]

The Caucasian Gate is frequently called the Pillars, Stronghold or Iron Gate of Alexander the Great by the Classical (Greco-Roman) authors. The linkage of Alexander’s name of the legend with the emergence of the Iberian statehood, known from the evidence of old Armenian and Georgian chronicles, indicates the raison d’être of this state, namely to be the outpost of the civilised world in its struggle with the realm of Gog and Magog lying beyond the Caucasian Gate. The above-mentioned emblem of Georgia, bears the sun, the moon and the five stars, supposedly bestowed on the Georgians by the legendary image of Alexander of old Georgian chronicles as an ideological basis of their state religion. Thus the concept of Alexander’s Iron Gate was the reflection of the concrete political function of the Georgian State – the control of one of the most important strategic passes of the world.

This function of the state seems to have been one of the main decisive factors that challenged the emergence of the Georgian State in the central part of Transcaucasia in the Early Hellenistic period. The location of Georgia, south of the Great Caucasian Range, in the contact zone of the Eurasian nomads and the Middle Eastern civilised societies, had predetermined the continual external pressure from the north, a Challenge, which for its part caused a Response – the creation of a state (i.e. the Iberian Kingdom) in Central Transcaucasia. The raison d’être not only of Iberia, but also of other new states of the Classical period, Albania and Lazica (the successive state of Colchis), were to become strongholds of the civilised world (Greek oikoumene or Roman orbis terarrum) in its struggle with the barbarian Realm of Darkness beyond the Caucasian Gate. However, there was undoubtedly a difference between the western political orientation (the Greek states, Roman and Byzantine empires) of Iberia and also to a certain degree of Lazica, on the one hand, and the eastern orientation (Persia, Parthia) of Albania (together with Armenia), on the other.

The control of the Caucasian passes could create the most favourable opportunity for the preservation of Pax Romana in the Middle East. The Iberians (eastern Georgians) were the most important allies of the Romans in the region, having supremacy over the Caucasian Gate.

The close collaboration between the Romans and the Iberians, based on their joint strategic interests as parts of one and the same orbis terarrum was the leit-motif of their interrelations.

At the same time, the rulers of the Iberian Kingdom successfully used the favourable strategic location of their country to balance the pressure of the powers coming from all sides of the world, often changing the direction of their orientation. Already Tacitus noted that the Iberians were “masters of various positions” and could suddenly “pour” mercenaries from across the Caucasus against their southern enemies (Ann. 6, 33). [გვ. 224]

The long-term aspiration of the medieval Georgian monarchy, going back presumably to the times of the Roman Empire, to bring under its sovereignty not only the Caucasian Gate, but all existing Caucasian passes from the Black to the Caspian Sea, is expressed by the formula of its territorial integrity in the Georgian chronicle of the eleventh century the “Life of Georgia”: “from Nikopsia to Daruband”, i.e. from the northeastern Black Sea littoral to the Derbent gateway (the second important pass of the Caucasus), on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. This formula, emphasising especially the northern borderline along the Caucasus, enables us to interpret the main function of that kingdom in a more general context.

Faced with the necessity of effective control of the Caucasian passes, which barred the way of the northern invaders, the rulers of the states of the Eastern Mediterranean-Middle Eastern area were always eager to have in Central Transcaucasia – in Iberia – a political organisation with sufficient strength to fulfil such a defensive function. The concept of the Caucasian Gate predetermined the fate of the Georgian State from the Early Hellenistic time till the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Georgia’s annexation by Russia meant the loss of this important function of this state. I think, this function was the reason that Georgia, as pointed out by Cyril Toumanoff, is the only country of Christendom where sociopolitical and cultural development ran an uninterrupted course from the Classical period to the beginning of the nineteenth century.

This overwhelming interest of the Near Eastern-Mediterranean societies in Georgia was caused not only by the abstract defensive function of this country, but mainly by its concrete location at the edge of the civilised and barbarian worlds. Though Georgia and Transcaucasia were open to the influences of these two opposite models of historical development, the factor of the Great Caucasian Range determined its destination to be the stronghold of the highly developed and prosperous Middle Eastern-Mediterranean oikoumene against the vast area of Eurasian steppes – an embodiment of the powerful and aggressive forces with their slow rate of social, political, economic and cultural development; or in other words, to be the stronghold of the civilised South and West against the barbarian North and East. On the other hand, the northern nomads required a bridgehead for their raids towards the Middle East. The territories of Georgia and Transcaucasia represented best opportunities for this task.

The constant opposition between the barbarian and civilised peoples, aggressors and producers, brigands and creators, were two firestones with the help of which the fire of statehood south of the central part of the Great Caucasian Range, in Central Transcaucasia, was kindled.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | History of Old Countries | Leave a comment

Giorgi Leon Kavtaradze: THE GEORGIAN CHRONICLES AND THE RAISON D’ÈTRE OF THE IBERIAN KINGDOM [Stuttgart, 2000/2001]

ORBIS TERRARUM   

Giorgi Leon Kavtaradze, Tbilisi

 

Journal of Historical Geography of the Ancient World

6/2000/2001
 
Stuttgart
Franz Steiner Verlag
2000/2001

 

 
CAUCASICA II*
 
 
THE GEORGIAN CHRONICLES AND THE RAISON D’ÈTRE
OF THE IBERIAN KINGDOM

February 5, 2009 Posted by | History of Old Countries | Leave a comment

Mary Chkhartishvili: Proper Name as a Marker of Georgian Identity

The most important among the kaleidoscope of human identities from the perspective of societal development are collective cultural identities.
 
There might be distinguished several forms of them, namelyethnic category, ethnic network, ethnie and nation.
 
The first one represents solely imagined, in artifactspractically unfixed (for its flexibility) form, while others, especially the last ones, are historically welldocumented. Collective cultural identities are delimitated by certain set of markers. Collective proper namerepresents one of the most principal identity marker.
 
The paper deals with self-designation of modern Georgians Kartveli in which according to the authorcan be traced all states experienced by Georgian identity in its long way of development. It is shown thatGeorgian identity gradually had passed above-listed forms of collective cultural identities, as evolutional stages.
 
Thus, the fact of continuity of Georgian identity during millennia finds its reflection in collective proper nameof Georgian in-group.

February 4, 2009 Posted by | History of Middle Ages Georgia | Leave a comment

V. Goiladze: ONE ACCOUNT OF THEOPHILACT SIMOKATTA ABOUT KOLKHIS

SUMMARY
 

There is the account existent in VII-th century Bizantian author’s Theophilact Simokatta’s work “History” (This account was unknown till nowadays for Georgian historiography). This account, about kolkhi’s chiefs and 300 000 kolkhis killed by Turks is partly exaggerated, but it depicts historical reality.

At about 558 (or bit lately 562) the Jujans run from central Asia (they were known as Avars in Eastern Europe) devastated Ogors lived eastern beach of Azov sea. After this the Jujans killed Kolkhis and population lived on North-eastern beathch of Black sea. This was depicted in Theophilact Simokatta’s “History”. After this Kolkhi’s territory occupied Zikhs (Jiks). This is depicted georgian “Life of Vakhtang Gorgasali” and foreign Prokopios Kesarian written sources.

The results received by analyze of Theophilact Simokatta’s account confirms that the North-eastern beach of the Black Sea was territory of Georgian tribes in VI-th century (and in next times too). This territory was the part of the culture of Mtkvar-Araksi. All denoted agreed that the river Kuban was the North-western range of Lazika.  

February 4, 2009 Posted by | 1. INSTITUTE, History of Middle Ages Georgia | Leave a comment

Mary Chkhartishvili: Saint George of Mtatsmnida and Markers of Georgian Identity in 11th c

In the process of national consolidation an important role belongs to the outstanding public workers personifying principal interests of the given community. They are able to channel national ideas and solidarity sentiments of their fellow countrymen.

Their activity in cultural, political spheres predetermines acuteness and durability of the national identity markers.

The detailed case study presented in the paper shows that Saint George of Mtatsminda had played decisive role in national consolidation of Georgians in 11th c. He directed his efforts to eliminate social partitions within the Georgian in-group, to sharpen features of national character, to elaborate ideal of national dignity.
Ascetic mode of life and viewing native country from certain distance allowed the Saint Father to play such role of social catalyst. The obtained data apparently reveal general feature of human communitydevelopment: the main actors of national formation processes as usual are saints.

February 4, 2009 Posted by | 1. INSTITUTE, History of Middle Ages Georgia | Leave a comment

Vazha Kiknadze: The New Archive Data from the Family Biography of Vazha- Pshavela

 Summary

 The archive documents concerning the biography of a great Georgian poet Vazha-Pshavela’s father- Pavle Razikashvili are discussed in the article.

Mentioned documents are kept in the funds of the office of Exarchs of Georgia. All of them are published and analyzed at the first time in the article.

Most of the analyzed 15 documents are in Russian and only two of them are in Georgian.

The unique sources give us opportunity to elucidate many unknown details from the early period of the biography of Pavle Razikashvili. For example: it comes clear how this selfeducated person had been enabled to occupy the position of psalmchanter in Kvara’s church (1853) and then in his native village Chargali (1855).

It comes clear that the role of priest Iow Tsiskarishvili was great in the career of Pavle Razikashvili. Iow Tsiskarishvili was quite educated person who was in friendly terms with famous kartvelologist Mari Brosset. Later on, I. Tsiskarishvili became the Godfather of Vazha-Pshavela.

According to the published documents Pavle Razikashvili’s first examiner was the greatest Georgian ecclesiastical figure bishop Gabriel Kikodze. At that time Gabriel occupied the position of bishop of Gori and the first vicar of Exarch of Georgia (By the decision of Synod of the Church of Georgia Gabriel Kikodze was reckoned among the saints in 1995). Pavle was examined in chanting, kathexisis, history of church, reading of prayer book etc. 

Thus, one can conclude that bishop Gabriel blessed Pavle Razikashvili’s way in clergy circle.        

February 2, 2009 Posted by | Modern History | Leave a comment