History of Georgia

Article Index

The Russian orientation of Ereklé II and the arrival of the Russian army in Georgia alarmed the Khans of Moslem countries. Turkey strove to get the treaty annulled, urging Moslems to aid her in this. In 1785 Omar Khan of Avaria devastated Georgia, and in July 1787 the Turkish government presented Russia with an ultimatum, demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia. In August of the same year Turkey declared war on Russia. The Russian government had to withdraw its troops from Georgia. Russia's situation was precarious. In 1788 Sweden attacked her. In 1789 the French Revolution broke out. Poland was in ferment. In 1790 Austria -Russia's ally - concluded a treaty with Turkey. In these circumstances Russia was unable to fulfill the terms of the Treaty of Georgievsk.
In the 1790s Agha-Muhammad Khan brought Iran under his sway. In early September 1795 he attacked Georgia. The Georgians (4,500 men) offered a heroic resistance to Iranian army of 40,000 soldiers, but finally due to the betrayal, were defeated in the battle of Krtsanisi. Tbilisi was taken and devastated. In January 1798 King Ereklé II died. In the reign of his son Giorgi XII the right of succession was strongly contested. The problem of foreign orientation again became acute. Giorgi XII adhered to the Russian orientation. He asked for a renewal of the Treaty and for his son, Prince David, to be declared heir to the throne. The Emperor Paul I of Russia conceded this request. In 1799 a Russian regiment entered Georgia. In 1800 Russia and France came to terms. Acquiring strength, Paul I violated the terms of the Treaty. Deciding to abolish the, Kartli (Iberia)-Kakhetian kingdom, he annexed it to Russia. Giorgi XII died in December 1800. According to the understanding, Giorgi's son David was to become king of Kartli (Iberia)-Kakheti. But by that time - December 18, 1800 - a manifesto, promulgated in St. Petersburg and Moscow on January 18, 1801, had already been signed. According to the manifesto, the kingdom of Kartli (Iberia) and Kakheti was declared a gubernia (province) of Russia. The manifesto was published in Tbilisi on Feb. 16, 1801. The abolition of the Kartli (Iberia)-Kakhetian kingdom and its annexation to Russia was finally endorsed by a manifesto of Tsar Alexander I on September 12, 1801.
The tsarist regime was established in Georgia. The country was divided into uezds (districts) with Russian officers responsible for maintaining law and order. Russian became the official language of the country. Georgia found herself actually under military-political administration. The peasantry suffered under double oppression - feudal and national. Unrest began to brew among the peasants, culminating in uprisings against the social and political tyranny. In 1804 an uprising flared up in Mtiuleti, spreading to Samachablo, Pshavi, Khevsureti, some lowland districts and parts of Kakheti. Many insurgents lost their lives. Detachments of Russian troops carried out heavy reprisals, sacking and burning villages. Profiting by the situation, those who fought for the restoration of the royal throne, i.e. the princes that had fled to Imereti, returned to Kartli (Iberia) and attempted to turn the uprising to their advantage. But the rebels could not stand up to the regular army. In 18l2 the peasants of Kakheti rose and, taking Telavi, Sighnaghi, Dusheti and Pasanauri, blocked the Georgian Military Highway. The uprising was quelled only a year later. In 1819-1 820 there was a rising in Guria and Imereti. The 1832 conspiracy of the nobility was also abortive; the conspirators demanded national liberation and independence of Georgia.
In the 1830s tsarist Russia had basically completed the war for the consolidation of her domination in Transcaucasia. Objectively, the annexation of Georgia to Russia yielded positive results. The Moslem yoke was lifted from the towns of Poti, Akhaltsikhk, Akhalkalaki, as well as some districts of Samtskhé; in 1830 Char-Belakani (Saingilo) was returned to Georgia. Considerable changes took place in the socio-economic life. New relations of production were taking shape, paving the way for the termination of the system of serfdom. The exploitation of the producers of material goods increased, provoking due reaction. The peasants of Guria, dissatisfied with the tsarist colonial policy and incensed. by new taxation and growing exploitation, revolted in 1841. The revolt spread to Imereti. At the close of 1856 Megrelian peasantry rose against serfdom but the uprising was cruelly suppressed. At the same time the Russian administration abolished the principalities of Megrelia (in 1857), Svaneti (in 1858) and Abkhazia (in 1864).See In 1861 serfdom was abolished in Russia. After a lengthy period of preparation (from 1864 to 1871) the peasant reform was implemented in Georgia (in 1864 in Eastern Georgia, 1865 in Imereti, 1867 in Megrelia, 1870 in Abkhazia, and 1871 in Svaneti). The reform made things harder for the peasantry: they lost the land they cultivated. The taxes levied for the use of land were much higher than they were before the reform.
The development of capitalist relations made land an object of sale and purchase. The situation in Georgia was further aggravated by the colonial policy of tsarism. Tsarist Russia settled people of other ethnic groups on the country's scanty fertile land. Special efforts were made to colonize Abkhazia with non-Georgians. The aim was to wrest Abkhazia from Georgia and to russify its population. The progressive sections of Georgian and Abkhazian society protested against this policy.