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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(self-designation, kartveli in singular), a nation; the main population of the Georgian SSR (66.8 percent, according to the 1970 census); they speak Georgian. Their total population in the USSR, according to the 1970 census, is 3,245,000. Outside the USSR they live in compact groups in northeastern Turkey (in Lazistan), where aboriginal Georgian tribes have lived since ancient times, and in Iran in the villages of Gilian and Mazanderan provinces and in Fereidan (Isfahan Province), to which they were banished by Shah Abbas in the 17th century. The Georgians living in Turkey and Iran have retained the Georgian culture, language, and customs. Most Georgian believers are Orthodox (Christianity in Georgia was established in the first half of the fourth century); some are Muslims (among the Adzhars and Laz).

The Georgians are descendants of tribes that in ancient times inhabited basically the same territory as present-day Georgian SSR. The Georgian people evolved from three large, closely related ethnic groups: the Karts, the Ming-relo-Chans (Zans), and the Svans, each of which in turn was formed as a result of a long process of consolidation of smaller tribes. A single Georgian people began to evolve in the first centuries of the first millennium B.C. from tribes that were in the stage of the disintegration of primitive communal relations and the formation of a class society. Large tribal associations (the Diaokhi and Kolkhi)—which, however, were unstable because of undeveloped productive forces and a lack of solid economic relations—formed at this time. The formation of early states, primarily in the lowland regions of western Georgia (the Colchian, or Egris, state in the sixth century B.C.) and eastern Georgia (the Kartlian, or Iberian, state in the third century B.C.), promoted the acceleration of the consolidation of the Georgian people, although this process was not identical everywhere (for example, the peoples of mountainous areas always lagged behind the peoples of Georgia’s low-lying areas in socioeconomic development).

An important step in the formation of a single Georgian people was the strengthening in the first and second centuries A.D. of the Iberian state, which extended its political hegemony to western Georgia, which was populated by the Mingrelo-Chan tribes. Feudal states that evolved in the 11th to 13th centuries into a centralized monarchy formed in Georgia in the fourth to sixth centuries.

The process of formation of the Georgian people as a whole was completed in the sixth to tenth centuries. This period was characterized by the final establishment of Georgian as the national language, the solidification of the state’s territory, and the development of general Georgian forms of culture (clothing, weapons, household utensils, and so on). However, the separatism of the feudal lords and the periodic weakening of the central authority impeded the process of consolidation and promoted the conservation of local characteristics in certain areas. For example, in mountain areas, residential and defensive towers and archaic forms of plowing implements, as well as vestiges of blood feuds and ancient religious notions, remained until the 19th century.

Based on local characteristics of culture and everyday life and dialectal differences, the following ethnographic groups of Georgians are defined: the Kartlians, the Kakhetians and Ingiloi, the Kiziks, the Tushins, the Pshavs, the Khevsurs, the Mtiuls and Gudamakars, the Mokhevs, the Imeretians, the Racha, the Lechkhums, the Svans, the Mingrelians, the Laz (Chans), the Adzhars, and the Gurians.

The annexation of Georgia to Russia in 1801–10 contributed to the processes of development of capitalist relations and the further consolidation of Georgians into a nation, which was basically completed in the second half of the 19th century. After the establishment of Soviet power in Georgia (February 1921), in the course of socialist construction, the Georgians formed a socialist nation; the obliteration of differences between ethnographic groups of Georgians is being completed.

The Georgian people have created a high-level and distinctive culture, which underwent particularly great development after the October Revolution. New elements of material culture. as well as a new socialist structure of social and family life, took shape (vestiges of patriarchal relations, the inequality of women, and so on have disappeared). Differences in the living conditions and culture of the city and countryside are being eradicated. Old forms of housing have substantially been replaced by modern forms, in which national traditions have been creatively reworked and taken into consideration. Modern, urban-type clothing has come into universal use. The old national types of clothing are used mainly during holidays and in the performing arts. Research by Soviet Georgian scientists, works by figures in literature and art and by folk artisans who are developing the traditional crafts (the working of copper, iron, and precious metals; weapons production; pottery work; and flax processing), and the folk singing of Georgians enjoy wide fame.


Narody Kavkaza, vol. 2. Moscow, 1962. (Bibliography.)
Chartolani, M. I. Khoziaistvennyi byt i material’naia kul’tura gruzinskogo naroda. Tbilisi, 1964. (In Georgian with a summary in Russian.)
C’hart’olani, M. K’art’veli xalxis materialuri kulturis istoriidan. Tbilisi. 1961.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.