History of Georgia

Article Index

For hundreds of years Georgia was a little Christian spot in the ocean of Muslims and always fought against them In the 16th century Iran and Turkey contended for supremacy in the Near East. Georgia turned into one of the arenas of hostilities between them. The Georgian people fought selflessly for the independence and unity of the country. In 1513 David V (1505-1525), King of Kartli (Iberia), incorporated the Kingdom of Kakheti, but failed to preserve this unity.
In 1522 Ismail I, Shah of Iran, attacked Kartli (Iberia). Taking and sacking Tbilisi, he stationed his garrison in its citadel. Then he took Samtskhé-Saatabago, returning to Iran loaded with captives and plunder. In 1524 the Georgians recovered Tbilisi. In the same period Western Georgia became the target of Turkish aggression. According to the Treaty of Amasya, signed by Iran and Turkey, Western Georgia fell to Turkey, while Eastern Georgia and the eastern part of Samtskhé-Saatabago to lran. After the conclusion of this treaty the Georgians' fight for independence continued under more difficult conditions. The Kartli (Iberia)an kingdom never laid down arms. In 1556 the Georgians, led by King Simon I (1556-1568 and 1578-1600), routed the Iranian army. Submitting to Iran, Kakheti succeeded in preserving peace.
Finding herself encircled by aggressive states and with a view to preserving her statehood, Georgia appealed to the Russian state for help.
Political, economic and cultural contacts between Old Russia and Georgia existed as far back as the 11th-12th cent. A new stage in the relations between the two countries began at the end of the 15th century. In 1491 the Kakhetian King Alexander, son of Giorgi, sent an embassy to Tsar Ivan III in Moscow with a letter containing a relevant request. This was a significant step towards establishing relations with Russia. In 1563 King Levan of Kakheti (1518-1574) requested the Russian state to take his kingdom under its protection. Tsar Ivan the Terrible responded by sending a detachment to Georgia. But King Levan, pressed by Iran, was obliged to ask the Russian troops, quartered in Kakhetian fortresses, to leave the country. The Kakhetian King Alexander II (1574-1605) asked for Russia's support in order to rid his country of Iranian and Turkish aggression, and in 1587 received a pledge from the Russian tsar. In 1589 the latter granted Alexander II a letters patent, thus finally drawing up a treaty of protection. In 1595 Iran, Kartli (Iberia) and Russia formed an alliance against Turkey. In 1598 Simon I, King of Kartli (Iberia), resumed hostilities against the Turks, and in 1599 he captured the fortress of Gobi. The Sultan sent a strong force against the Georgians. In the battle at Nakhiduri Simon I was taken prisoner and the Georgians were defeated. In the second half of the 17th century the Turks conquered Samtskhé-Saatabago and began to introduce Turkish customs there, pursuing a policy of "Turkization" of the Georgian population. From then on Turkey relied on the Akhaltsikhé vilayet in the consolidation of her domination.
At the beginning of the 17th century Abbas I, Shah of Iran, drove the Turks out of Armenia, Kartli (Iberia) and Kakheti. The Turkish yoke was superseded by that of Iran. But in 1609 Kartli (Iberia) was invaded by the Turks and Crimean Tatars. They took prisoner Tevdoré, the priest of the village of Kvelta, and ordered him to show them the way to the residence of King Luarsab II (1605-1615). Tevdoré took the enemy astray and at the cost of his own life gave the king time to prepare for war. The enemy was routed in the battle of Kvishkheti. Giorgi Saakadze, governor of Tbilisi, distinguished himself in the battle; the King honored him, which irritated the big feudal lords. Their never-ending intrigues forced Giorgi Saakadze to leave the country and flee to the Shah of Iran.
In 1614 Shah Abbas I attacked Kakheti. Then, invading Kartli (Iberia), he stationed his garrisons in all the fortresses. In 1615 Kakheti rose against the Persians; the fortresses were cleared of the enemy. In 1616 Abbas I again invaded Kakheti and Kartli (Iberia), razing many fortresses, churches, monasteries and palaces; orchards and vineyards were cut down. A great many Georgians perished. One hundred thousand were led away into captivity, their descendants living to the present day in the province of Fereidan in Iran.See In 1625 an insurrection, headed by Giorgi Saakadze, broke out in Kartli (Iberia) and Kakheti. In the battle of Martqopi the Iranian army was routed. True, somewhat later in the same year the Georgians suffered defeat in the battle of Marabda. But the selfless resistance, offered by the Georgians, frustrated the Shah's plans to annihilate the Georgian people, eliminate their statehood and set up Kizilbash khanates on Georgian territory (During that year Iran lost 60,000 soldiers, a half of his whole army, in struggling against a little Georgia). Iran was obliged to compromise. From 1632 to 1744 the Shahs of Iran set Islamized Bagrationis on the throne of Kartli (Iberia) as valis, i.e. viceroys of the Shah. For a time the country had a respite. But Shah Abbas II thought of implementing the old plan of settling people of Turkoman stock in Kakheti. Between 1614 and 1618, he resettled more than 350,000 Georgians to the province of Fereidan in Iran and even today there are many descendants of those Georgians living there. From these Georgians, Shah Abbas I formed his Royal Guard, and used them to conquered Afghanistan, Pakistan     and parts of India. Until he was overthrown in a coup d'etat by Nadir Shah, the     unofficial state language in Royal Court of Iran was Georgian. Also accordingly, 80 thousand nomad Turks were settled in Kakheti, this causing unrest among the local population. In 1659 the Kakhetians rose against the invaders. The uprising was headed by the Eristavis of Ksani: Shalva and Elizbar, Bidzina Choloqashvili, as well as by Zezva Gaprindauli, Nadira Khosharauli and other representatives of the lower strata of society. The uprising in Kakheti was a decisive step taken by the Georgian people in their struggle for independence and preservation of their ethnic originality and advanced system of national economy. The Shah had to abandon his plan.