Georgian culture is very distinct and unique in Its way. Georgians people are extremely proud of their heritage and are renowned for their hospitality, for us every guest is sent by god. Georgian culture was shaping up for more than two thousand years and resembles Elements of Anatolian, European, Persian, Arabian, Ottoman, and Far Eastern cultures.
Georgia’s main richness is its language. Georgian is one of the most unique and special spoken languages in the world, with its beautiful and well-defined writing. Georgian letters are like no other in the world and it is a part of no particular language family, it has a family of its own – “Kartvelian”. Georgian folklore is extremely rich with songs, legends, stories, and it’s made possible by our language. It’s written left to right, every letter is read like it’s written and its verbal structure is like no other language. Kartvelian family is mostly made up of dialects, most of the parts of Georgia have their unique twists on our language. It can be very hard to pronounce some of the words for foreigners, because of intriguing vowel patterns. For example, try to give a fun exercise to your tongue with a simple sentence – “I peel you” translated to the Georgian language – „გფრცხვნი“, to make it readable for you it should sound something like – “gprtskhvi”, enjoy breaking your tongue! Kartvelian family is mostly made up of dialects, most of the parts of Georgia have their unique twists on our language.
Georgian Customs and Traditions
Georgians are Orthodox Christians and many of our holidays and traditions represent that. We have not one but two New Years’! The main one on 1st January and the other one, named the Old New Year, on 14th January. The reason for that is the Orthodox Calendar, that’s also the reason why our Christmas is on 7th January. At Christmas, we wear traditional religious robes and march with flags through the city streets in celebration. Throughout the year there are many days dedicated to the memory and worship of our saints like: “Giorgoba” – the day of Saint George, “Mariamoba” – the day of Virgin Mary, “Barbaroba”, “Ninooba” and so on.
On the second day of New Year, we celebrate the day of “Bedoba”. For the whole day, we gather with people that we love and enjoy our time with them. Our tradition says that the way we will spend “Bedoba”, will be the way we’ll spend the whole year!
No Georgian celebration is complete without the tradition of “Supra” and “Tamada” – the head of Supra. It’s far from an ordinary family & friends’ dinner, Supra is the law. We gather to feast with mouth-watering cuisine and the finest of wine. The “Tamada” is chosen, often the most respected elder. This elder will lead the table and be the first to say the toasts. The elder stands ap with the glass of wine in his right hand and everybody listens to him, often long, poetic, beautifully constructed, and inspiring words, adding something from themselves after he’s finished. Glasses are emptied, the room fills up with joy and after short rest, they are being filled again. There is an order of the toasts, which can vary from one Tamada to another, but the main subjects will be brought up by every single one of them. First is the toast for god, thanking him for this delicious food, fine wine, and opportunity that he gave us to gather and enjoy our time with our loved ones. After the toast for god, it’s up to the elder were to take the minds and conversations. He will open his heart on the subjects of love, friendship, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, the memory of lost ones, hope for the future, and much more.
Georgians had to defend themselves against the world’s most powerful empires – Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, Persian, Mongol, Seljuk, and Russian. Throughout these wars, Georgians were becoming tougher and tougher. In the absolute majority of these battles, Georgians were Immensely outnumbered and had to put up a fight with armies several times bigger than theirs. This heritage is very respected by the Georgian people and they are very proud of it, especially men. This history also affected famous Georgian traditional dances, which represent such a huge part and are so important to our culture. In the times when we didn’t fight with the foreign cultures, we were learning from them. You can see this influence everywhere – architecture, traditions, customs, etc.
Our ancestors, due to the natural richness of Georgia became welcoming to foreigners. They loved greeting guests with wine and bread and to show off the beauty of our nature. When guests were coming as allies, we were meeting them with open hands and treat them with respect, but when the guests were coming as an enemy, we always were ready to defend our homeland. That’s why the famous statue of Mother of Georgia in Tbilisi Has a bowl of wine in one hand and a sword in another.
On the Edge of Destruction
Russian Empire and later Communism left a big mark on Georgian modern society. From the begging of the 19th century, when Russia gained dominance in the region after the betrayal and annexation of the Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom, there was a huge effort from Russia to aggressively assimilate the Georgian nation. Sadly, their methods proved to be hugely successful. Russian became the primary language of education. Georgian elite was attending the universities of Saint-Petersburg in Russia. It was welcome in the formal events, theatres, and restaurants to favor Russian over Georgian. Only one out of four Georgians could read or write in Georgian.
This was the case until the 1860’s when the most influential figure of modern Georgian history – Ilia Chavchavadze alongside other Georgian elite put the maximum effort to save the Georgian nation and culture. They created the Society of Spreading the Georgian Writing & Reading that started a massive national education movement. Ilia also created the First Georgian Newspaper “IVERIA” to promote his ideas and raise awareness of the unthinkable danger that is forgetting your culture. To fund all of this immense work Ilia created The First Bank of Georgia. The profits of the National Bank were used to fund Theatres, schools, libraries, sending young Georgians to Europe for Education, and Much more. Who knows what would have happened to Georgian identity and the memories of events described in the first paragraphs if Ilia and his extremely talented and ideologically driven team didn’t do what they gave their lives for. Ilia was brutally assassinated on 12th September while traveling with his wife and children. The killer was Georgian and the main theory was hired by the Social-Democrats. Ilia became the saint of the Georgian Orthodox Church and his legacy and vision are inspiring for my nation till this date and will until the end of history.