History of Georgia

Article Index


The land reform had a progressive significance as well, for the peasant acquired personal freedom. The reform favored a further development of the country along capitalist lines. One of the important results of the abolition of serfdom was the development of industry and revival of commerce. Road building was of major importance, especially the construction of a railway. In 1873 train service opened between Tbilisi and Poti. The railway connected Batumi with Tbilisi and Baku. Railway workshops were opened in Tbilisi. Capitalism began to make rapid progress. The population of cities grew, especially of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti, etc. The development of industrial production was attended by the emergence of a new social force - the industrial working class.
The developments of the first half of the 19th century helped to establish contacts between progressive representatives of the Russian and Georgian peoples. Members of Georgian aristocratic intelligentsia served in the armed forces, playing a major role in Russia's wars. Many young Georgians studied in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Both in the army and in civilian educational establishments they familiarized themselves with Russian and European literature and progressive social ideas. After graduation some of them returned to Georgia, engaging in fruitful work. A definite progress was noticeable in the cultural life of Georgia in the period under discussion.
Georgian scholarship and literature of the first half of the 19th century produced such authors as A.Chavchavadze, G.Orbeliani, N.Baratashvili, loané Bagrationi, Teimuraz Bagrationi, S.Dodashvili, G.Eristavi, P.loseliani, and others. The Georgian theater was revived in 1850. Besides, a Russian theater, an Italian opera and other cultural-educational institutions and societies were opened. Periodicals appeared in the Georgian and Russian languages.
A.Griboyedov, A.Pushkin, M.Lermontov,L.Tolstoy and other famous Russian writers and poets had links with Georgia, residing for some time in this country. Progressive public figures of Russia and Georgia united to combat not only the external, but the internal enemy as well, namely, Russian tsarism.
The interests of the Georgian peasantry were upheld by the Tergdaleulni (literally, "those who had drunk of the water of the Tergi (Terek)") - representatives of Georgia's younger generation who had become involved in revolutionary activities while studying in St. Petersburg. The activity of Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Niko Nikoladze and their followers played a significant role in awakening the people's sense of class-consciousness. Ilia Chavchavadze called on the people "to break the chains fettering human life". He put forward the slogan: "Fraternity, unity, liberty!". The Terg-daleulni not only advanced the slogan of national liberation but they also advocated the idea of friendship among nations. Akaki Tsereteli wrote: "We greatly appreciate fraternity and friendship with the peoples of Russia. True, there are quite a few among Russians to whom fraternal unity with us is undesirable and hateful. However, there is also young Russia with whom we wish to walk hand in hand in order to achieve not only national but also universal human ideals - ideals that are called fraternity, unity, equality".
The leaders of the Georgian national liberation movement devoted much effort to the defense of the Georgian language and culture. The entire work of the Tergdaleulni was directed at solving the basic problem of the day: eradication of the survivals of serfdom and a drive for the bourgeois development of the country. Their contribution to combating the russification policy of the tsarist government was considerable.
The Society for the Spread of Literacy among Georgians proved of paramount importance in the campaign for the preservation and development of the Georgian language and culture. The program of the Georgian intellectuals of the 19th century, especially of the leaders of the national liberation movement, was based upon great humanistic ideals. Subsequently this helped to link the national liberation movement of the Georgian people to the broad revolutionary movement against tsarist autocracy.
In the 1870s-1880s the revolutionary movement in Russia was headed by the Narodniki ("Populists"). Under their influence this movement arose in Georgia too. In the 80s-'90s there developed a crisis within the Narodniki and the Tergdaleulni. At the beginning of the '90s the working class came to the fore in the social and political life, paving the way for socialist ideas.
The progress of Georgian national culture in the la1ter half of the 19th century was one of the major results of the national liberation movement. Science, art and literature were on the upgrade. Georgian scholars and scientists worked fruitfully at universities in Russia, e.g. I.Tarkhnishvili, P.Melikishvili, V.Petriashvili, D.Chubinashvili, A.Tsagareli, A.Khakhanashvili, and others. Despite the absence of a center of science and scholarship in Georgia, major research work was carried on by D.Bakradze, S.Baratashvili, T.Zhordania, N.Khizanishvili, E.Taqaishvili, D.Karichashvili, and others.
In the second half of the 19th century the publication of Georgian magazines, books and newspapers expanded. In 1863 the Tergdaleulni founded the journal Sakartvelos Moambe ("Georgian Herald"). 1866 saw the publication of the newspapers Droeba ("Times") and Sasoplo Gazeti ("Rural Gazette"); in 1877 Iveria came out. Georgian literature flourished: remarkable works were written by Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Rapiel Eristavi, Giorgi Tsereteli, Alexandre Qazbegi, Vazha Pshavela, and others.