About Georgian Literature

A very short introduction

Georgian literature is one of the most ancient and richest in the world. Nowadays, Georgian Literary critics perceive that the first Georgian Literary work is “The Life of Saint Nino” dating back to IV century and which is incorporated in "The Conversion of Kartli”s chronicles (XI century). After reconstructing its prototype and analyzing its ancient layers Georgian researchers have revealed that "The Life of Saint Nino" can be traced back to IV century. For a long time it was considered that the first extant piece of Georgian Literature was "The Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik" purported to have been written in the V century by Iakob Khutsesi. Though, even then the scientists knew that this written text did not indicate the beginning of the Georgian Literature, but its development in a certain period.

While talking about Georgian Literature we should take into consideration the richest inheritance coming from the pagan period. Except the patterns of materialistic culture it includes the remains of ancient writings preserved in the later literary works, the patterns of folklore and mythos, traditions and the information about the existence of philosophical school in Kolkheti. It should be noted that the adoption of Christianity played a vital role in the formation of Georgian national culture as it is the Christian culture in its essence.

Georgian alphabet is very old. Some of the epigraphic writings are dated back to the 5th century A.D. (Palestine, Bolnisi)

The Georgian original writing is one among the 14 alphabetic writing systems.

The most important event in the history of Georgia was the proclamation of Christianity as the state religion in about 326. Apostle Andrew the First Called was the first to preach Christianity in Georgia. St. Nino has enlightened Georgia and thanks to her Georgia became a Christian country and many churches have been built.

 Two ancient genres of Georgian literature are Hagiography and Hymnography.

Georgian Hagiographic writings are documentary by nature and often have poly-genric structure. On the background of the hero’s life one can see the cultural peculiarities of that epoch that make the text more interesting. For this reason in hagiographic works the reflections of all types of ecclesiastic writings are visible: Bibliology, Dogmatics, Polemics, Asceticism, Canonics, Lithurgics, Mysticism, or other Apocryphal writings and studies about Christian Saints and Holy things. It is a part of liturgy and stands close to people, and expresses the national ideals.

Hymnography gave birth to Georgian verse. A vast number of them are the samples for the poets of all times. The unique masterpiece of X century is Mikhael Modrekeli’s “Satselitsdo Iadgari“ introducing a number of Georgian poet Hymnographs (Mikhael Modrekeli, Ioane Minchkhi, Ioane Mtbevari, Kurdanaia, Ezra, Stephane Sananoisidze, Ioane Kinkozisdze). In the following XI-XIII centuries a number of outstanding hymnographs have been added to this list (Ekvtime and Giorgi Atonelebi, King David the Builder and his son Demetre I, philosophers – Ioane Petritsi, Ioane Shavteli, Nikoloz Gulaberisdze and others).

From XI-XII centuries, with the formation of Georgian Kingdom, the Secular writing began to develop.

National culture and literature among them has its heyday of fame. For Georgian Literature this was the epoch of Rustaveli (XII-XIII centuries). Rustaveli's "The Knight in the Panther's skin" together with "Iliad", "Shahnameh" and "The Divine Comedy" is the most important crossroad in the history of the Esthetical development of mankind.

"The Knight in the Panther's skin" reflected the clashing of two huge universes in Georgian culture-The West and the East. The West implies the Christian culture and the East-Persian Poetry. Still this poem is the sample of Christian culture, reflecting the Georgian reality, the period of Renaissance and its culture.

After Rustaveli's Epoch Georgian culture began to fall down. It was caused by the Mongolian invaders and their 3 century reign in Georgia. The revival of literature was noted by the emergence of Persian themes in literature (King Teimuraz and his school).

The outstanding figure of the XVIII century Georgia was Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani. He played an important role in the development of Georgian Prose. His main work was the collection of fables "Sibrdzne Sitsruisa". In addition, he has written "The Voyage in Europe", Georgian Dictionary "Sitkvis Kona", collection of fables "Kilila and Damana"(edited).

Georgian Poet Davit Guramishvili continued the literary principles of Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani. He has collected all his poetry in one book called "Davitiani". It is the Biographical work in its character. It is divided in several parts: Historical part ("Kartli's Chiri"), Didactical part (Stavla Mostavleta"), Pastoral part but the main is the religious part. All these sections are united to form one whole.

From XIX century new Epoch began in the history of Georgian Literature. Georgian Poetry has undergone three main periods of evolution: Classicism, Romanticism and Realism. The formation and flourishing of Georgian Romanticism owes much to Grigol Orbeliani's early poetry and reached its pick in Nikoloz Baratashvili's verses.

The period of realism started in the second half of XIX century. Distinguished representatives of the Georgian realism were Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli. Later Ilia was canonized as "Saint Ilia the Righteous" by the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Vaja Pshavela's Poetry was an entirely new step in the development of Georgian Realism.

Galaktion Tabidze is regarded as the reformator of the Georgian verse at the beginning of XX century. Galaktion Tabidze and Georgian symbolists (Titsian Tabidze, Paolo Iashvili, Valerian Gaprindashvili, Kolau Nadiradze, Giorgi Leonidze and other Georgian Poets- Grigol Robakidze, Ioseb Grishashvili, Aleksandre Abasheli) played a major role in the development of Georgian Poetry. Innovative directions emerged in Georgian Prose as well. Modernism together with national literary traditions defined these innovations.

The Future tendencies of XX century prose were revealed in the works of Niko Lortkipanidze, Mikheil Javakhishvili, Konstantine Gamsaxurdia, Leo Kiacheli and many others.

In the 30s of XX century Modernism and Avangardism were replaced by Socialistic Realism.

In 60-70s the peculiarities of Socialistic Realism began to disappear in the works of Chabua Amirejibi, Otar Chkheidze, Guram Dochanashvili, Revaz Inanishvili, Rezo Cheishvili, Guram Gegeshidze, Ana Kalandadze, Murman Lebanizde, Mukhran Machavariani and others.

Georgian Literature of Post-Soviet period was a post-modernistic literature (Akaki Morchiladze, Zurab Karumidze, Rati Amaglobeli and etc.).

In general, Georgian Literature is an original writing occupying its special place among other literary works in the world. With the help of Georgian literary works foreign readers are led in an entirely new world.   

Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature
Web Litinfo




Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature