Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta

In antiquity and the Middle Ages, Georgia was subject to several different kingdoms, including Persia, Greece, the Roman Empire, Parthia and Byzantine (the Austrian Empire), as well as the Arabs and the Bakrate. In the latter part of the 18th century, Georgia came under Russian control, and in 1801 the country was incorporated into the Russian Empire.

In 1917, during the Russian Revolution, Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries took power in Georgia, and in 1918, Georgia, along with Armenia and Azerbaijan, declared an independent Transcaucasian Federal Republic. This collapsed quickly, and later that year a separate Georgian republic was proclaimed under Menshevik leadership. From 1920 this was subordinate to Moscow. Between 1922 and 1936, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were merged into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, while from 1936 the three countries were union republics in the Soviet Union.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta

The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta is from the Middle Ages and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia became an independent state.

Early history

Archaeological finds show that there has been human settlement in Georgia for more than 50,000 years. In the 2nd millennium BCE. there was a significant Bronze Age culture in both East and West Georgia.

Greek colonized parts of West Georgia in the 500s BCE. In the 500–400 BCE. Georgia was partly under Persian rule. In the last half of the first millennium BCE. Georgia consisted mainly of three states or federations: East Georgia (Kartli and Kakheti, Greeks Iberia ), West Georgia (Greeks Kolkhis) and the Swans’ tribal federations in Central and West Georgia.

The Iberian King Mirian 3

The Iberian King Mirian 3 introduced Christianity as official state religion in Georgia around 330 AD.

Conquered by Romans, Parthians and Arabs

In 65 BCE Georgia was conquered by the Romans, who had to retire early from East Georgia. In the following centuries, the Romans and the Parthians fought for dominion over Armenia and Georgia. In the 300s, perhaps, a kingdom arose in western Georgia, in Greek called Lazika. Around 330 East Georgia was Christianized, and in 523 Lazika became Christian. The bonds of Byzantium (the East Roman Empire) were thereby strengthened.

In 645, East Georgia was conquered by the Arabs. In Tbilisi, the capital of Kartli, an Arab emir ruled until 1122. In the early 1100s, King David Aghmasjenebeli (the Rebuilder) of the Bagrationi dynasty succeeded in uniting most of the country that now makes up Georgia.

During the Bagration dynasty, Georgia had its political and cultural heyday, especially during Queen Tamara (1184–1213).


After the invasion of the Mongols in the 1220s, the kingdom fell apart again. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 isolated Georgia from Western culture. Except for a short-lived gathering in the 1300s, Georgia was first reunited under a common regime upon incorporation into Russia in the early 1800s. By the Treaty of Georgievsk in 1783, Kartli-Kakheti became a Russian protectorate, in 1801 incorporated in Russia and the last king deposed. A Russification began, which in the slavophilic period towards the end of the 19th century became particularly strong.

Tamara of Georgia

In 1844, Georgia became subordinate to the Russian Caucasus governor. In the latter half of the 19th century, a national revival began in both the cultural and the political spheres.

Among the Social Democrats, who began to assert themselves from the 1890s, the Mensheviks stood strong. However, Josef Dzhugashvili of Georgia joined the Bolsheviks and later became known as Josef Stalin.

After 1917

Mensheviks and social revolutionaries took power in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1917, during the Russian Revolution. The three areas proclaimed in early 1918 an independent and anti-Soviet Transcaucasian Federal Republic. This soon collapsed due to internal conflicts, especially disagreements over Turkey’s policy.

Meeting in Tblisi

Meeting in Tblisi at the Founding of the Independent Republic of Georgia on May 26, 1918.

On May 26, 1918, a separate Georgian republic was proclaimed under Menshevik leadership. In a peace treaty with the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (RSFSR) in 1920, Georgia’s sovereignty was uniquely recognized, but the Russians demanded that Georgia allow the Bolshevik Party. A Bolshevik Revolutionary War Council was therefore constituted in Georgia. It declared itself provisional holder of the Georgia state power and requested the RSFSR for armed intervention. A few days later, an independent Georgian Soviet Republic was proclaimed, completely subordinate to Moscow (inter alia, the Georgia-Turkey border issue was settled directly by agreement between the RSFSR and Turkey).

Soviet Republic

Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were merged during the period 1922–1936 in the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, while in the period 1936–1991 Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were Union Republics in the Soviet Union. In the 1930s and 1940s, many Georgians became victims of Stalin’s purge campaigns (the great terror); Stalin was originally Georgian, and the first victims were his opponents of the time as a revolutionary leader in Georgia.

Georgia retained a strong degree of national identity, even as a republic in the Soviet Union, and was among the republics that had fought most strongly for independence in the years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The opposition to what Georgia perceived as “Russification” was clearly evident in the great anti-Russian rebellions in 1956 and 1978. Both were severely beaten by the government’s security forces. In April 1989, Soviet security forces detonated protesters in the capital Tbilisi in an exceptionally violent manner, killing 21 protesters. This helped to inflate anti-Soviet sentiment and internal ethnic strife.

Josef Stalin was Georgian

Josef Stalin was Georgian, and was born in the small town of Gori in 1878 as Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. Photo of him as a young man in 1902, before taking the name Stalin, which he did in 1913.


During Mikhail Gorbachev’s reign, non-communist groups in Georgia ran an intense campaign to break out of the Soviet Union. In 1990-91, Georgia went to great lengths to break the formal relations with the rest of the Soviet Union. In a 1991 referendum, an overwhelming majority of Georgia’s people voted for full independence from the Soviet Union, and on April 9, 1991, the National Assembly declared Georgia independent.