The culture of Georgia has evolved over the country’s long history, providing it with a unique national culture and a strong literary tradition based on the Georgian language and alphabet. This has provided a strong sense of national identity that has helped to preserve Georgian distinctiveness despite repeated periods of foreign occupation.
Culture of old Georgia
The Georgian alphabet is traditionally said to have been invented in the 3rd century BC and reformed by King Parnavaz I of Iberia in 284 BC. Most modern scholarship puts its origin date at some time in the 5th century AD, when the earliest examples can be found.
Georgia’s medieval culture was greatly influenced by Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic 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. In addition, many secular works of national history, mythology, and hagiography were also written.
- The Georgian Iveron Monasteryon Athos (10th century)
- Svetitskhoveli Cathedralin Mtskheta (11th century)
- Opiza Monastery(10th century) in Tao-Klarjeti (now territory of Turkey)
- Monastery Doliskana(10th century) in Tao-Klarjeti (now territory of Turkey)
- Monastery Otkhta-Eklesiain Tao-Klarjeti (now territory of Turkey)
- Oshki Monastery(10th century) in Tao-Klarjeti (now territory of Turkey)
- Gelati Monastery(11th century) in Kutaisi
- Sioni Cathedral(11th century) in Tbilisi
- Alaverdi church(11th century) in Kakheti
- Monastery Samtavro(12th century) in Mtskheta
- VardziaMonastery (12th century) in Meskheti
- Gialia Monastery(10th-16th centuries) in Cyprus
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Well-known monuments of Georgian Christian architecture include:
- The Georgian Church in Bethlehem(4th century)
- The Church of Gavazi(4th century) in Akhalsopeli (Kvareli district of Kakheti region)
- AkaurtaChurch (5th century) in Bolnisi district (KvemoKartli region)
- IkaltoMonastery complex (5th-7th centuries) (Kakheti)
- Sioni church(5th century) in Bolnisi
- Monastery of ShioMghvime(6th century)
- DavidgarejaMonastery complex (6th-7th centuries)
- Jvari Monasteryin Mtskheta (6th century)
- Anchiskhati Church(6th century) in Tbilisi
- Nekresi Monastery Complex(4th-9th centuries) in Kakheti
- Sioni church(7th century) in Ateni
- Petritsoni Monasteryin Bulgaria (11th century)
- The Georgian Monastery (10th century) on the Black Mountainin Syria
Literary and other written works
“Georgian literature” redirects here. For other uses, see Georgian literature (disambiguation).
Important Georgian literary works of the pre-Christian period are:
- Amiraniani, ancient Georgian folk epos.
Notable Georgian written works from the medieval period include:
- Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanikby IakobTsurtaveli (the oldest surviving work of the Georgian literature written between 476 and 483)
- Corpus Areopagiticum, a philosophical and theological work attributed by some to Peter the Iberian(5th century)
- The Life of Saint Nino(8th century) (anon)
- The Martyrdom of Abo Tbileliby IoaneSabanisdze (8th century)
- The Life of GrigolKhandzteliby GiorgiMerchule (10th century)
- UstsoroKarabadini(Peerless Karabadini) (10th century)
- A History of the Georgian Kings(“TskhovrebaKartveltaMepeta“) by LeontiMroveli (11th century)
- A History of the Royal House of Bagrationiby SumbatDavitisdze (11th century)
- Eteriani, a folk epic (c. 11th century)
- Life of the King Farnavaz(anon) (11th century)
- Tamarianiby IoaneChakhrukhadze (12th century)
- Shen KharVenakhi(“Thou Art a Vineyard“), the famous Georgian hymn by the King Demetre I Bagrationi (12th century)
- Vepkhistkaosani(The Knight in the Panther’s Skin), a national epic poem by ShotaRustaveli (12th century)
- Abdulmesianiby IoaneShavteli (13th century)
- KartlisTskhovreba(History of Georgia), a collection of old Georgian chronicles (from ancient times to the 14th century)
Medieval Georgian icons are renowned as being among the finest creations of Orthodox religious art. Notable examples include:
- The Icon of 886 from Zarzma monastery
- The Icon of the 9th century from Tsilkani
- The famous Wonderworking Iberian Icon of the Mother of God(10th century)
- The Icon of the 10th century from Okona
- The Icon of Our Lady of Khakhuliof the 12th century
- The Icon of St. George of the 11th century from Labechina
- The Icon of St. George of the 11th century from Nakipari
- The Iconof the 12th century from Anchiskhati
- The Icon of the 14th century from Ubisa
- The Icon of the 16th century from Alaverdi
Georgian cuisine is considered one of the main attractions for tourists in Georgia, and it is particularly popular throughout the former Soviet Union.The Georgian cuisine is very specific to the country, but also contains some influences from the Middle Eastern and Europeanculinary traditions. The cuisine offers a variety of dishes, rich in various herbs and spices. Each historical province of Georgia has its own distinct culinary tradition, with variations such as Megrelian, Kakhetian, and Imeretian cuisines. The food, in addition to various meat dishes, also offers a variety of vegetarian-based dishes. The cuisine is very varied with different dishes cooked daily.
The importance of both food and drink to Georgian culture is best observed during a feast, or supra, when a huge assortment of dishes are 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.
Culture of the Georgia today
Starting from the early 16th century, although certain aspects of more recent times were already incorporated since the 12th century, until the course of the 19th century, Georgian culture became significantly influenced by Persian culture.Though notably more visibly amongst the higher classes, Persian cultural aspects were incorporated amongst the already existing Georgian columns, especially painting, architecture, and literature. The French traveller Jean Chardin who visited Georgia in 1672 noted that the Georgians followed Persian customs. Since many Georgian kings, princes, and nobles were either born or raised in mainland Iran, it is not susprising that Persian cultural aspects spread in Georgia.
During the modern period, from about the 17th century onwards, Georgian culture has been greatly influenced by cultural innovations imported from elsewhere in Europe.
Georgian theatre has a long history; its oldest national form was the “Sakhioba” (extant from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD). The Georgian National Theatre was founded in 1791 in Tbilisi, by the writer, dramatist, and diplomat GiorgiAvalishvili (1769–1850). Its leading actors were Dimitri Aleksi-Meskhishvili, David Machabeli, David Bagrationi, Dimitri Cholokashvili, and others.
Greatest representatives of Georgian culture of the 19th century were: NikolozBaratashvili (poet), Alexander Orbeliani (writer), VakhtangOrbeliani(poet), Dimitri Kipiani (writer), GrigolOrbeliani (poet), Ilia Chavchavadze (writer and poet), AkakiTsereteli (poet), Alexander Kazbegi (writer), RapielEristavi (poet), MamiaGurieli (poet), IakobGogebashvili (writer), Simon Gugunava (poet), BaboAvalishvili-Kherkheulidze (actor), NikolozAvalishvili(actor), NikolozAleksi-Meskhishvili (actor), RomanozGvelesiani (painter), GrigolMaisuradze (painter), Alexander Beridze (painter), IvaneMachabeli(translator), OkropirBagrationi (translator), SardionAleksi-Meskhishvili (translator), KharlampiSavaneli (opera singer), PilimonKoridze (opera singer), LadoAgniashvili (folk singer), AliozMizandari (composer), etc.
The first cinema in Georgia was established in Tbilisi on November 16, 1896. The first Georgian cinema documentary (“Journey of AkakiTsereteli in Racha-Lechkhumi”) was shot in 1912 by VasilAmashukeli (1886–1977), while the first Georgian feature film (“Kristine”) was shot in 1916 by Alexandre Tsutsunava (1881–1955).
The Tbilisi State Academy of Arts was founded in 1917.
Georgian culture suffered under the rule of the Soviet Union during the 20th century, during which a policy of Russification was imposed but was strongly resisted by many Georgians. Since the independence of Georgia in 1991, a cultural resurgence has taken place, albeit somewhat hampered by the country’s economic and political difficulties in the post-Soviet era.