people - about georgia

Georgians (Georgian: ქართველები, translit.: kartvelebi) are a nation and ethnic group who constitute a majority of the population in Georgia. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Iran, United States, and to a lesser extent throughout the European Union.

Georgians arose from the ancient Colchian and Iberian civilizations. They embraced Christianity in the early 4th century and now 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 Tbilisi and 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 Svans and Mingrelians, own regional languages. The Georgian language, with its own unique writing system and extensive written tradition going back to the 5th century, is the official language of Georgia as well as the language of literacy and education of all Georgians living in the country.

Located 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 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 fell into decline due to the onslaught of various hostile empires, including the Ottoman Empire and successive dynasties of Persia. To ensure Georgia's survival, in 1783 Heraclius II of Georgia forged an alliance with the Russian Empire, which Georgians viewed as a replacement for their fallen traditional ally - Byzantine 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. Georgians briefly reasserted their independence from Russia under the First Georgian Republic from 1918-1921, and finally, in 1991 from the Soviet Union.

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 times. Ancient Greeks (Strabo, Herodotus, Plutarch, Homer, etc.) and Romans (Titus Livius, Cornelius Tacitus, etc.) referred to western Georgians as Colchians and eastern Georgians as Iberians.

The term "Georgians" is derived from the country of Georgia, which in turn is of unclear etymology. A definitive provenance of the term Georgia has never been established, but there are a number of unconfirmed theories as to their provenance. Popular theories present the term Georgians as stemming from reverence of St.George (who is considered a patron saint of Georgia), or from the Greek word Georgos, which means farmer, as when the 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 wolves"). Mikaberidze's categorical position is not universally accepted and the Greek and Persian origin theories are not deemed mutually exclusive in modern scholarship; the likes of Elguja Khintibidze assert that present-day term "Georgia" likely came from the confluence of both Greco-Latin and "oriental", i.e. Perso-Arabic etymologies.


Official languages:
69,420 km ²
$37.27 billion
Georgian Lari (GEL)
Time zone:
Pacific Ocean
Drives on the:
Calling code:
ISO 3166 code:
Internet TLD:
.ge .გე