The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Georgia (Russian Transcaucasia)

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GEORGIA (Russ. Grusia; Pers. Gurjistan; anc. Iberia), the name formerly applied to that part of western Asia comprised in the Russian Transcaucasia, lying between the Caspian and the Black seas, and the Caucasian and Armenian mountains; area, about 70,000 sq. m. Within its boundaries are included the Russian governments of Kutais, Tiflis, Elisabethpol, Baku, and Erivan, and the districts of Sakatal, Sukhum, and Tchernomore. These are the extreme limits of ancient Georgia, but in modern times the name has generally been confined to the territory bounded N. by the Caucasus, E. by Shirvan, S. by the range of the Armenian mountains separating the valley of the Kur from that of the Aras, and W. by a branch of the Caucasian range, having an area of about 25,000 sq. m. The surface of the entire country is mountainous, but many of the valleys, especially that of the river Kur, which flows through it from W. to E., are of great fertility. The climate is agreeable and healthful, and the soil produces in abundance all the cereals, hemp, flax, and cotton, and many fine fruits, particularly grapes, from which much wine is made. For a more particular description of the country see Russia and the articles on the modern governments and districts.—The Georgians, or ancient Iberians, including their kindred, the Suanethians, Mingrelians, and Lazians, form the main race of the southern division of the Caucasian group of the Mediterranean family of the human species. Their name is believed to be derived from the Persian gurj (Gurjistan, “the land of wolves”). They call themselves Kartveli or Kartlians, after the province Kartlia of the former Georgian empire. The Armenians call them Virk. The Georgians proper occupy the country comprised within the more limited of the boundaries above given, and embracing Kartlia on the Kur, Kakhetia, N. E. of Kartlia, and other districts. West of them are the Mingrelians, who occupy Mingrelia, and Guria, on the Black sea. The Suanethians inhabit the southern slope of the Caucasus N. E. of the Mingrelians. These three divisions belong to the Russian empire. The Lazians in the sanjakate of Lazistan, pashalik of Trebizond, are subjects of Turkey. While the Armenians, who control most of the traffic of the country, are timid and intent on gain, the Georgians are bold, reckless, turbulent, and extravagant. They are also indolent, apathetic, and ignorant, seldom giving any signs of animation except when on a drinking bout. The lower classes are chiefly cultivators of the soil, which they work in the same way that their ancestors did centuries ago.

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Georgian Costumes.

The Georgian men are noted for their athletic forms and the women for their beauty, although the features of the latter are regular and handsome rather than beautiful, and are wanting in expression. The general characteristics of the race are finely chiselled brows, large, black, liquid eyes, prominent semi-aquiline nose, and voluptuous mouth. Before marriage the women endeavor to keep their waists as small as possible by means of a girdle, which they wear almost continuously; this results in a large development of the bosom, which is much admired. It is said that in former times the belt was never removed until the nuptial day, when it was cut by the dagger of the bridegroom. Many such ancient customs, now obsolete in the neighborhood of Tiflis, are still preserved in the mountains and isolated districts. Before the Russian domination a large trade in slaves was carried on with Turkey, the Georgian nobles deriving their chief revenue from the sale of their serfs, the men for the Turkish armies, the women for the harems; but the traffic is now interdicted, and the relations between the upper and lower classes are much modified. The Persians and Mussulmans from the north of India also purchased many women from this region for their harems; paying sometimes as high as 20,000 piastres for a remarkably beautiful one. The Georgian stock consequently is largely disseminated throughout Mohammedan countries. The Georgians are nominally members of the Greek church, and have had the Bible in their language since the beginning of the 10th century; but the priests are generally as ignorant as the people.—Nothing certain is known of early Georgian history. The statements of the Greek and Latin writers are confused and lead to various conclusions. George Rawlinson thinks that the territory was anciently “in the possession of a people called by Herodotus Saspeires or Sapeires, whom we may identify with the Iberians of later writers.” The Colchians and Albanians were probably their neighbors. Their legends trace their origin to Targamos, a descendant of Japhet, and claim Mtzkhetos as the founder of the ancient capital Mtzkhta, which stood about 15 m. N. W. of Tiflis. The first Georgian empire seems to have been ended by the Scythians, who invaded it in the 7th century B. C. It is probable that it afterward formed a part of the Persian empire, was conquered by Alexander the Great, and regained its independence at his death. Pharnavas was the first or one of the first kings of the second Georgian empire. Mirvan, in the latter part of the 2d century B. C., and his son Pharnaj, sovereigns of Persian descent, introduced Parseeism, which led to a revolt. The king of Armenia came to the aid of the Georgians, and put his son Arshag on the throne, thus founding the dynasty of the Arsacides. In 65 B. C. the Georgians or Iberians came into contact with the Eomans, and were compelled by Pompey to sue for peace. In the beginning of the 3d century A. D. the kingdom became highly prosperous, but in the following period the Persians made destructive invasions. Early in the 4th century the Georgians were converted to Christianity by St. Nina, a captive woman. At the death of Stephanos I. in 574, Guram, a Jew who had been his general-in-chief, ascended the throne. In 635 the Arabs overran the country, but did not succeed in subverting Christianity. Subsequent kings suffered much from their aggressions, and the Armenian dynasty of the Bagratides, who succeeded the Guramides, eventually became vassals of the caliphs. Bagrat III. liberated his country from foreign domination, and David III. (1089-1126) extended his dominions over a part of Armenia and as far as Trebizond. Queen Tamar III. (1184-1206) reduced several of the tribes north of the Caucasus, and her son George IV. vanquished the Persians, converted many of them to Christianity, and rendered valuable aid to the crusaders. In the 13th century the Mongolians subdued the country, but in the middle of the 14th George VI. threw off their yoke and extended his sway over the neighboring provinces. Tamerlane reduced the country to subjection, but it was again liberated by George VII. In 1424 King Alexander divided his kingdom among his three sons, and the history of the next two centuries is one of conflicts between the three governments, and of quarrels with Persia and Turkey, in which Russia interfered. The country was reunited under Vakhtang IV. or V., whom the Persians call Shah Naos. He died in 1676, and for a century after Georgia was the scene of intestine feuds and divisions, in which the Turks and Persians took part. In 1783 Irakli (Heraclius) II. of Kakhetia, who had united under his sway a Jarge part of the ancient kingdom, being pressed by the Persians, announced himself a vassal of Russia. His successors having new difficulties with the Persians and Lesghians, Georgia was made in 1801 a province of Russia, and in 1810 Imerethia was added to it.—The Georgian language is written in an alphabet of 40 letters, somewhat varying in different manuscripts. The following are used in Brosset's dictionary:

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The characters used in the ecclesiastical style of writing differ from the common ones. The languages of the four tribes, the Georgians, the Mingrelians, the Suanethians, and the Lazians, are related to each other, and show a common development from one primitive form, either primitive Aryan or Dravidian; but there is no foundation for connecting them with the languages spoken by tribes north of the Caucasus. The Georgian is written from left to right. It makes no distinction of gender. To distinguish sex, the words male and female are introduced, except for the words king, queen, young man, young woman, him, and her. No article is used. There are two numbers, singular and plural, and six cases, nominative, genitive, dative, vocative, instrumental, and instrumental modal. There are special forms for the comparative and superlative of adjectives. Nouns are inflected by means of suffixes, and verbs by means of suffixes, prefixes, and changes in the radical letters. The verbs are either active, passive, reciprocal, or neuter, and are modified according to one of the 20 classes of conjugation into which they are divided. Prepositions govern either the genitive, dative, or instrumental.—Among the literary remains of ancient Georgia, some of the manuscripts written in the ecclesiastical style of alphabet are probably of high antiquity; but most of them date subsequently to the introduction of Christianity, and consist of homilies and translations of portions of Scriptures, and of Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek authors. Some manuscripts contain novels and romances; one gives in verse the history of Shah Naos, and several, dating principally from the 17th century, are poetical works of some merit. The most important of Georgian manuscripts are: a volume of 63 treatises, historical and biographical, which has thrown much light on the history of the Khazars during the 8th century; a translation of the Gospels by Droudch, dating from the 10th century; and a romance entitled “Tariel, the Man with the Tiger Skin,” a general of Queen Tainar, by Skhotta of Rustvel. The following is a facsimile of the last verse of Rustvel's romance:

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The literal translation is as follows: “Moses of Khori has glorified Amiran, the son of Daredjan; the poem of Abdul Messia, written by Khevtel, and the history of Dilar by the indefatigable writer Geth Sargis of Tmogvi, were worthy of praise; but Rustvel has wept without ceasing over his Tariel.” Among similar compositions, an epic on Queen Tamar, by Tchakhadze, ranks equally high. During the 18th century, in spite of the incessant wars that harassed the country, there was a rich supply of meritorious literature, and the language attained that definiteness, richness, and energy which are now its most prominent features. Prince Sulkhan-Saba-Orbelian published in that century a dictionary of the language, containing at least 25,000 words, and King Vakhtang VI. caused an extensive history of the country to be written. The Russian language has now generally superseded the Georgian in the schools, and books in the Georgian language are printed in Russian characters. The language and literature of the Georgians have been specially studied by Adelung, Brosset, Dorn, Josselin, Klaproth, Saint-Martin, and Tchubinoff. Brosset is considered the highest authority on the subject. Ethnological studies of the Georgian race are contained in the books of travel of Cunynghame, Dorn, Dubois de Montpéreux, W. J. Hamilton, Haxthausen, Mounsey, Poulett-Cameron, and Wagner. See Histoire de la Géorgie depuis l'antiquité jusqu'au XIXe siècle, traduite du géorgien, by Brosset (2 vols. 4to, St. Petersburg, 1849-'57); “History of Grusia,” by Baratoff (St. Petersburg, 1865 et seq.); and La Géorgie, by De Villeneuve (Paris, 1871).