Georgia has had a number of periods of independence. While the Chosroid dynasty fell in the 6th century, and Georgia fell under the influence of Persia, Byzantium, and the Arab caliphs, the country again became independent at the end of the 9th century.
The period of independence in the Middle Ages is today known as the country’s ‘golden age’. The ‘golden age’ saw the creation of important works of Georgian literature, particularly the national poem Vepkhistqaosani or ‘The Knight in the Panther Skin’, which was composed by Shota Rustaveli at the end of the 12th century. This period also saw the construction of Georgia’s greatest monasteries and churches, as Georgia became a centre of religious learning.
Under Tamar (1184-1213) the kingdom reached its greatest extent, stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian, and from today’s Turkey to southern Russia. In a time when it was rare for women to have power, Tamar was regarded as a strong and successful ruler. Under the command of her second husband, David Soslan, Georgia’s armies took parts of Azerbaijan and defeated the Sultanate of Rum, located in current-day Turkey. She received the respect of famous rulers, including the Russian Ivan the Terrible (who claimed she was ‘endowed with the intelligence and courage of a man’) and Saladin, who immediately bowed to her request that he recover items from Georgian monasteries when he retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187.
However, the Golden Age came to an end with the Mongol invasions beginning in 1220. Georgia was divided between the Ottoman Empire and Persia for centuries. In the 19th century, Georgia came under Russian rule.
In the late 19th century, Georgia experienced a national revival. Georgian independence was briefly recognised in 1920, but in 1921 the Red Army entered Georgia and Georgia became part of the Soviet Union.
While Stalin might be the most famous Georgian in history, his home country escaped none of his repressions. Nationalism was suppressed, local members of the Communist Party were purged, and Georgian peasants suffered from the collectivisation of agriculture.
During the Soviet period, Georgia transformed from an agricultural nation to a largely urban and industrial one. Following Stalin’s death, the Soviets encouraged the Georgian language, enabling the redevelopment of a Georgian nationalism.
Georgia became independent following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
For more on the history of Georgia, check out our article: Discovering Georgia.