Georgians or Kartvelians (Georgian:
ქართველები, translit.: kartvelebi,
pronounced [kʰɑrtʰvɛlɛbi]) are a nation and Caucasian ethnic
group native to Georgia. Large Georgian communities are also present
throughout Russia, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Ukraine, United States, and
to a lesser extent throughout the European Union.
Georgians arose from the ancient Colchian and Iberian civilizations.
Christianization of Iberia
Christianization of Iberia by
Saint Nino they became one of the
first who embraced the faith of Jesus in the early 4th century and now
the majority of
Georgians are Eastern Orthodox Christians and most
follow their national autocephalous Georgian Orthodox Church. There
are also small Georgian Catholic and Muslim communities in
Adjara, as well as a significant number of irreligious Georgians.
A complex process of nation formation has resulted in a diverse set of
geographic subgroups of Georgians, each with its characteristic
traditions, manners, dialects and, in the case of
Mingrelians, own regional languages. The Georgian language, with its
own unique writing system and extensive written tradition, which goes
back to the 5th century, is the official language of Georgia as well
as the language of education of all
Georgians living in the country.
Located in the Caucasus, on the crossroads of predominantly Christian
Europe and Muslim Western Asia, Georgian people have maintained their
Christian identity in the face of great pressure from neighboring
Muslim empires. By the early 11th century they formed a unified
Kingdom of Georgia
Kingdom of Georgia and inaugurated the Georgian Golden Age, a height
of political and cultural power of the nation. This lasted until being
weakened by Mongol invasions, as well as internal divisions following
the death of George V the Brilliant, the last of the great kings of
Georgia. Thereafter and throughout the early modern period, Georgians
became politically fractured and were dominated by the Ottoman Empire
and successive dynasties of Iran. To ensure the survival of his
polity, in 1783, Heraclius II of the eastern Georgian kingdom of
Kakheti forged an alliance with the Russian Empire. The
Russo-Georgian alliance, however, backfired as
Russia was unwilling to
fulfill the terms of the treaty, proceeding to annex the troubled
kingdom in 1801, as well as the western Georgian kingdom of
1810. Russian rule over Georgia was eventually acknowledged in various
peace treaties with
Iran and the Ottomans, and the remaining Georgian
territories were absorbed by the
Russian Empire in a piecemeal fashion
in the course of the 19th century.
Georgians briefly reasserted their
Russia under the First Georgian Republic from 1918
to 1921, and finally, in 1991 from the Soviet Union.
4.1 Language and linguistic subdivisions
5 Geographic subdivisions and subethnic groups
5.1 Geographical subdivisions
5.1.1 Outside modern Georgia
5.1.2 Extinct Georgian Subdivisions
6 See also
Further information: Name of Georgia (country)
Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi (ქართველები),
their land Sakartvelo (საქართველო), and their
language Kartuli (ქართული). According to The Georgian
Chronicles, the ancestor of the
Kartvelian people was Kartlos, the
great-grandson of the
Biblical Japheth. However, scholars agree that
the word is derived from the Karts, the latter being one of the
proto-Georgian tribes that emerged as a dominant group in ancient
Ancient Greeks (Homer, Herodotus, Strabo,
and Romans (Titus Livius, Cornelius Tacitus, etc.) referred to western
Colchians and eastern
Georgians as Iberians.
The term "Georgians" is derived from the country of Georgia. In the
past, lore based theories were given by the traveller Jacques de
Vitry, who explained the name's origin by the popularity of St. George
amongst Georgians, while traveller
Jean Chardin thought that
"Georgia" came from Greek γεωργός ("tiller of the land"), as
Greeks came into the region (in Colchis) they encountered
a developed agricultural society.
However, as Prof.
Alexander Mikaberidze adds, these explanations for
the word Georgians/Georgia are rejected by the scholarly community,
who point to the Persian word gurğ/gurğān ("wolf") as the root
of the word. Starting with the Persian word gurğ/gurğān, the
word was later adopted in numerous other languages, including Slavic
and West European languages. This term itself might have been
established through the ancient Iranian appellation of the
near-Caspian region, which was referred to as Gorgan ("land of the
Most historians and scholars of Georgia as well as anthropologists,
archaeologists and linguists tend to agree that the ancestors of
Georgians inhabited the southern
Caucasus and northern Anatolia
since the Neolithic period. Scholars usually refer to them as
Georgians such as
Colchians and Iberians)
The Georgian people in antiquity have been known to the ancient Greeks
and Romans as
Colchians and Iberians. East Georgian tribes of
Tibarenians-Iberians formed their kingdom in 7th century BCE. However,
western Georgian tribes (Moschians, Suanians,
Mingrelians and others)
established the first Georgian state of
Colchis (circa 1350 BCE)
before the foundation of the Iberian Kingdom in the east.
According to the numerous scholars of Georgia, the formations of these
two early Georgian kingdoms of
Colchis and Iberia, resulted in the
consolidation and uniformity of the Georgian nation.
The ancient Jewish chronicle by
Georgians as Iberes
who were also called Thobel (Tubal).
Diauehi in Assyrian sources and
Taochi in Greek lived in the
northeastern part of Anatolia, a region that was part of Georgia. This
ancient tribe is considered by many scholars as ancestors of the
Georgians still refer to this region, which now
belongs to present-day Turkey, as Tao-Klarjeti, an ancient Georgian
kingdom. Some people there still speak the Georgian language.
Colchians in the ancient western Georgian Kingdom of
another proto-Georgian tribe. They are first mentioned in the Assyrian
Tiglath-Pileser I and in the annals of Urartian king
Sarduri II, and are also included western Georgian tribe of the
Iberians, also known as Tiberians or Tiberanians, lived in the eastern
Georgian Kingdom of Iberia.
Colchians and Iberians played an important role in the ethnic and
cultural formation of the modern Georgian nation.
According to the scholar of the Caucasian studies Cyril Toumanoff:
Colchis appears as the first Caucasian State to have achieved the
coalescence of the newcomer,
Colchis can be justly regarded as not a
proto-Georgian, but a Georgian (West Georgian) kingdom ... It
would seem natural to seek the beginnings of Georgian social history
in Colchis, the earliest Georgian formation.
Georgian peasant in Mestia, c. 1888
A study of human genetics by Battaglia, Fornarino, al-Zahery, et al.
(2009) suggests that
Georgians have the highest percentage of
Haplogroup G (30.3%) among the general population recorded in any
country. Georgians' Y-DNA also belongs to Haplogroup J2 (31.8%),
Haplogroup R1a (10.6%), and Haplogroup R1b (9.1%).
Main article: Culture of Georgia (country)
Language and linguistic subdivisions
Georgian is the primary language for
Georgians of all provenance,
including those who speak other Kartvelian languages: Svans,
Mingrelians and the Laz. The language known today as Georgian is a
traditional language of the eastern part of the country which has
spread to most of the present-day Georgia after the
post-Christianization centralization in the first millennium CE.
Georgians regardless of their ancestral region use Georgian as
their official language. The regional languages Svan and Mingrelian
are languages of the west that were traditionally spoken in the
pre-Christian Kingdom of Colchis, but later lost importance as the
Kingdom of Georgia
Kingdom of Georgia emerged. Their decline is largely due to
the capital of the unified kingdom, Tbilisi, being in the eastern part
of the country known as
Kingdom of Iberia
Kingdom of Iberia effectively making the
language of the east an official language of the Georgian monarch.
All of these languages comprise the Kartvelian language family along
with the related language of the Laz people, which has speakers in
Turkey and Georgia.
Georgian dialects include Imeretian, Racha-Lechkhumian, Gurian,
Adjarian, Imerkhevian (in Turkey), Kartlian, Kakhetian, Ingilo (in
Azerbaijan), Tush, Khevsur, Mokhevian, Pshavian,
Fereydan dialect in
Fereydunshahr and Fereydan, Mtiuletian, Meskhetian and
Main articles: Religion in
Georgia (country) and Secularism and
irreligion in Georgia
The Bagrati Cathedral, The Cathedral of the Dormition, built during
the reign of King Bagrat III, one of Georgia's most significant
medieval religious buildings returned to its original state in 2012.
According to Orthodox tradition, Christianity was first preached in
Georgia by the
Apostles Simon and Andrew in the 1st century. It became
the state religion of
Kartli (Iberia) in 337. At the same
time, in the first centuries C.E., the cult of Mithras, pagan beliefs,
Zoroastrianism were commonly practiced in Georgia. The
Kartli to Christianity is credited to
St. Nino of
Cappadocia. Christianity gradually replaced all the former religions
except Zoroastrianism, which become a second established religion in
Iberia after the
Peace of Acilisene
Peace of Acilisene in 378. The conversion to
Christianity eventually placed the
Georgians permanently on the front
line of conflict between the Islamic and Christian world, while
allying themselves permanently with the Eastern Roman Empire.
Georgians remained mostly Christian despite repeated invasions by
Muslim powers, and long episodes of foreign domination.
As was true elsewhere, the Christian church in Georgia was crucial to
the development of a written language, and most of the earliest
written works were religious texts.
Medieval Georgian culture was
greatly influenced by
Eastern Orthodoxy and the Georgian Orthodox
Church, which promoted and often sponsored the creation of many works
of religious devotion. These included churches and monasteries, works
of art such as icons, and hagiographies of Georgian saints.
Today, 83.9% of the Georgian population, most of whom are ethnic
Georgian, follow Eastern Orthodox Christianity. A sizable Georgian
Muslim population exists in Adjara. This autonomous Republic borders
Turkey, and was part of the
Ottoman Empire for a longer amount of time
than other parts of the country. Those Georgian Muslims practice the
Hanafi form of Islam.
Islam has however declined in Adjara
during the 20th century, due to Soviet anti-religious policies,
cultural integration with the national Orthodox majority, and strong
missionary efforts by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
a dominant identity only in the eastern, rural parts of the Republic.
In the early modern period, converted Georgian recruits were often
used by the Persian and Ottoman Empires for elite military units such
as the Mameluks, Qizilbash, and ghulams. The
Iran are all
reportedly Shia Muslims today, while the Georgian minority in Turkey
There is also a small number of Georgian Jews, tracing their ancestors
to the Babylonian captivity.
In addition to traditional religious confessions, Georgia retains
irreligious segments of society, as well as a significant portion of
nominally religious individuals who do not actively practice their
Georgians having a feast at Supra and
Tamada making a toast. Painting
by Niko Pirosmani.
Georgian cuisine is specific to the country, but also contains
some influences from other European culinary traditions, as well as
those from the surrounding Western Asia. Each historical province of
Georgia has its own distinct culinary tradition, such as Megrelian,
Kakhetian, and Imeretian cuisines. In addition to various meat dishes,
Georgian cuisine also offers a variety of vegetarian meals.
The importance of both food and drink to Georgian culture is best
observed during a Caucasian feast, or supra, when a huge assortment of
dishes is prepared, always accompanied by large amounts of wine, and
dinner can last for hours. In a Georgian feast, the role of the tamada
(toastmaster) is an important and honoured position.
In countries of the former Soviet Union, Georgian food is popular due
to the immigration of
Georgians to other Soviet republics, in
particular Russia. In
Russia all major cities have many Georgian
restaurants and Russian restaurants often feature Georgian food items
on their menu.
Geographic subdivisions and subethnic groups
Georgians have historically been classified into various subgroups
based on the geographic region which their ancestors traditionally
Even if a member of any of these subgroups moves to a different
region, they will still be known by the name of their ancestral
region. For example, if a Gurian moves to
Tbilisi (part of the Kartli
region) he will not automatically identify himself as Kartlian despite
actually living in Kartli. This may, however, change if substantial
amount of time passes. For example, there are some
have lived in the
Imereti region for centuries and are now identified
as Imeretian or Imeretian-Mingrelians.
Main article: Georgian surname
Last names from mountainous eastern Georgian provinces (such as
Kakheti, etc.) can be distinguished by the suffix –uri (ური),
or –uli (ული). Most Svan last names typically end in –ani
(ანი), Mingrelian in –ia (ია), -ua (უა), or -ava
(ავა), and Laz in –shi (ში).
Name in Georgian
Dialect or Language
1897 Russian census (which accounted people by language), had
Imeretian, Svan and Mingrelian languages separate from Georgian.
During the 1926 Soviet census,
Mingrelians were accounted
separately from Georgian. Svan and Mingrelian languages are both
Kartvelian languages and are closely related to the national Georgian
Outside modern Georgia
Laz people also may be considered Georgian based on their geographic
location and religion. According to the London School of Economics'
anthropologist Mathijs Pelkmans, Lazs residing in Georgia
frequently identify themselves as "first-class Georgians" to show
pride, while considering their Muslim counterparts in
Difference(s) from mainstream Georgians
(other than location)
Religion: Muslim majority, Orthodox Minority
Black Sea Region
Black Sea Region (Turkey)
Zaqatala District (Azerbaijan)
Religion: Muslim majority,
Extinct Georgian Subdivisions
Throughout history Georgia also has extinct Georgian subdivisions
Name in Georgian
Dialect or Language
Russian Federation North Ossetia
Dval dialect Ossetic dialect
List of Georgians
Demographics of Georgia (country)
Peoples of the Caucasus
Georgians form about 86.8 percent of Georgia's current
population of 3,713,804 (2014 census). Data without occupied
territories—Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region.
^ Total population by regions and ethnicity
^ "Итоги Всероссийской переписи
населения 2010 года в отношении
национальностей". Retrieved 21 August 2015.
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Middle East 4 (2):
^ "Всеукраїнський перепис населення 2001
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The distribution of the population by nationality and mother tongue
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^ ქართველები საბერძნეთში
State Ministry on Diaspora Issues of Georgia
^  ISTAT
^  2016 Canadiian Census
^ "საქართველოს მოსახლეობის
საბოლოო შედეგები" (PDF). National
Statistics Office of Georgia. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April
^ a b c d e Mikaberidze, Alexander (2015). Historical Dictionary of
Georgia (2 ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 3.
^ Braund, David. Georgia in Antiquity: A History of
Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC-AD 562, pp. 17–18
^ Peradze, Gregory. "The Pilgrims' derivation of the name Georgia".
Georgica, Autumn, 1937, nos. 4 & 5, 208–209
^ Hock, Hans Henrich; Zgusta, Ladislav (1997). Historical,
Indo-European, and Lexicographical Studies. Walter de Gruyter.
p. 211. ISBN 978-3110128840.
^ Mikaberidze, Alexander (2015). Historical Dictionary of Georgia (2
ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 3. ISBN 978-1442241466.
However, such explanations are rejected by the scholarly community,
who point to the Persian gurğ/gurğān as the root of the word
^ Boeder; et al. (2002). Philology, typology and language structure.
Peter Lang. p. 65. ISBN 978-0820459912. The Russian
designation of Georgia (Gruziya) also derives from the Persian
^ Rapp Jr., Stephen H. (2014). The Sasanian World through Georgian
Eyes: Caucasia and the Iranian Commonwealth in Late Antique Georgian
Literature. Ashgate Publishing. p. 21.
^ The Georgians, David Marshal Lang, p 19
^ The Georgians, David Marshal Lang, p 66
^ Georgia A Sovereign Country of the Caucasus, Roger Rosen, p 18
^ The Making of the Georgian Nation, Ronald Grigor Suny, p.4
^ a b c Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, p 80
^ Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, p. 58
^ The Complete Works, Jewish Antiquities, Josephus,
Book 1, p 57
^ The Georgians, David Marshal Lang, p. 58
^ The Georgians, David Marshal Lang, p 59
^ Charles Burney and David Marshal Lang, The Peoples of the Hills:
Ancient Ararat and Caucasus, p. 38
^ Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, p. 57
^ CToumanoff. Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History,
^ Battaglia V, Fornarino S, Al-Zahery N, et al. (June 2009).
"Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in
southeast Europe". European Journal of Human Genetics. 17 (6):
820–30. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2008.249. PMC 2947100 .
^ Toumanoff, Cyril, "Iberia between Chosroid and Bagratid Rule", in
Studies in Christian Caucasian History, Georgetown, 1963, pp.
374–377. Accessible online at "Archived copy". Archived from the
original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
^ Rapp, Stephen H., Jr (2007). "7 – Georgian Christianity". The
Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity. John Wiley & Sons.
p. 138. ISBN 978-1-4443-3361-9. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
^ "GEORGIA iii. Iranian elements in
Georgian art and archeology".
Retrieved 1 January 2015.
^ "The Making of the Georgian Nation". Retrieved 2 January 2015.
^ 2002 census results – p. 132
^ Thomas Liles, "
Islam and religious transformation in Adjara", ECMI
Working Paper, February 2012, , accessed 4 June 2012
Caucasus Analytical Digest No.20, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, 11
^ Mack, Glenn R.; Surina, Asele (2005). Food Culture in
Central Asia. Greenwood Publishing Group.
^ (in Russian) Первая всеобщая перепись
населения Российской Империи 1897 г.
^ (in Russian) ССР ГРУЗИЯ (1926 г.)
^ "Dr Mathijs Pelkmans". Retrieved 21 August 2015.
^ Pelkmans, Mathijs. Defending the border: identity, religion, and
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^ a b Rezvani, Babak (Winter 2009). "The Fereydani Georgian
Representation". Anthropology of the Middle East. 4 (2): 52–74.
^ a b "The Other Languages of Europe". Guus Extra & Durk Gorter.
Google Books. Retrieved 26 May 2014. About 91,000 Muslim Georgians
living in Turkey.
^ "Türkiye'deki Yaşayan Etnik Gruplar Araştırıldı".
Turkish). 6 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
^ Ramet, Sabrina P. (1989). Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and
East European Politics. Durham: Duke University Press. p. 187.
^ Friedrich, Paul (1994). Encyclopedia of World Cultures:
Eurasia, China (1. publ. ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall.
p. 150. ISBN 9780816118106. A part of the Ingilo population
still retains the (Orthodox) Christian faith, but another, larger
segment adheres to the
Sunni sect of Islam.
Ethnic groups in Georgia
See Also: Ethnic minorities in Georgia
Peoples of the Caucasus
Ethnic minorities in Armenia
Ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan
Ethnic minorities in Georgia
Ethnic minorities in Russia
Cultural sphere of Christian traditions that developed since Early
Christianity in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Eastern Africa, Asia
Minor, Southern India, and parts of the Far East.
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Assyrian Church of the East
Ancient Church of the East
Eastern Orthodox Church
Church of the East
Council of Chalcedon
St Thomas Christians
Christianization of Bulgaria
Christianization of Kievan Rus'
Sign of the cross
including Greek Cypriots
Svans and Mingrelians
Eastern Christianity portal
Kingdom of Colchis
Kingdom of Iberia
Kingdom of Lazica
Christianization of Iberia
Principality of Iberia
Arab rule in Georgia
Emirate of Tbilisi
Kingdom of Abkhazia
Principality of Hereti
Principality of Kakheti
Duchy of Kldekari
Principality of Tao-Klarjeti
Kingdom of Hereti
Kingdom of Kakheti-Hereti
Kingdom of Georgia
Georgian–Seljuk wars (Battle of Didgori)
Georgian Golden Age
Mongol invasions of Georgia
Timur's invasions of Georgia
Principality of Samtskhe
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Kingdom of Imereti
Principality of Abkhazia
Principality of Svaneti
Principality of Guria
Principality of Mingrelia
Kingdom of Kartli
Kingdom of Kakheti
Shah Abbas I's invasions of Georgia
Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti
1795 Persian Invasion
Absorption by the Russian Empire
Democratic Republic of Georgia
Red Army invasion of Georgia
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April 9 tragedy
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War in Abkhazia
Name of Georgia
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