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The Kingdom of Abkhazia, also known as Kingdom of Abkhazeti-Egrisi or the Kingdom of the Abkhaz's (Template:Lang-ka) refers to an early medieval feudal state in the Caucasus which lasted from the 780s until being united, through dynastic succession, with the Kingdom of the Georgians (see Tao-Klarjeti) in 1008.
The Kingdom of Abkhazia–Egrisi in medieval and modern historiography
The problem of the Abkhazian Kingdom, particularly the questions of the nature of its ruling family and its ethnic composition, is a main point of controversy between modern Georgian and Abkhaz scholars. This can be largely explained by the scarcity of primary sources on these issues. Most Abkhaz historians claim the kingdom was formed as a result of the consolidation of the early Abkhaz tribes that enabled them to extend their dominance over the neighboring areas. This is categorically objected on the side of the Western and Georgian historians, some of them claiming that the kingdom was completely Georgian. Most international scholars agree, however, that it is extremely difficult to judge the ethnic identity of the various population segments<ref>Graham Smith, Edward A Allworth, Vivien A Law et al, pages 56-58.</ref> due primarily to the fact that the terms "Abkhazia" and "Abkhazians" were used in a broad sense during this period – and for some while later – and covered, for all practical purposes, all the population of the kingdom, comprising both the Georgian (including also Mingrelians, Lazs, and Svans with their distinct languages that are sisters to Georgian) and possible modern Abkhaz (Abasgoi, Apsilae, and Zygii) peoples <ref>Graham Smith, Edward A Allworth, Vivien A Law et al, pages 56-58; Abkhaz by W. Barthold [V. Minorsky] in the Encyclopaedia of Islam.</ref>. It seems apparent, however, that the significant (if not superior) proportion of the Georgian-speaking population and the drive of the Abkhazian kings to throw off the Byzantine political and cultural dominance have replaced the Greek language with Georgian as the language of literacy and culture.<ref>Alexei Zverev, Ethic Conflicts in the Caucasus; Graham Smith, Edward A Allworth, Vivien A Law et al, pages 56-58; Abkhaz by W. Barthold [V. Minorsky] in the Encyclopaedia of Islam; The Georgian-Abkhaz State (summary), by George Anchabadze, in: Paul Garb, Arda Inal-Ipa, Paata Zakareishvili, editors, Aspects of the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict: Cultural Continuity in the Context of Statebuilding, Volume 5, August 26-28, 2000.</ref>
Template:Georgian statehood Abkhazia, or Abasgia of classic sources, formerly part of Colchis and later of Egrisi (Lazica) until the late 690s, was a princedom under the Byzantine authority. It lay chiefly along the Black Sea coast in what is now northwestern part of modern-day self-styled Republic of Abkhazia and extended northward into the territory of today’s Krasnodar Krai of Russia. It had Anacopia as the capital. The border between this princedom and Egrisi ran roughly along the Klisura river. Abkhazia was ruled by a hereditary archon (or eristavi, according to the Georgian sources) who effectively functioned as a Byzantine viceroy. The country was chiefly Christian and the city of Pityus was a seat of an archbishop directly subordinated to the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Arabs, pursuing the retreating Georgian princes – brothers Mir of Egrisi and Archil of Kartli – surged into Abkhazia in 736. Dysentery and floods, combined with a stubborn resistance offered by the archon Leon I and his Kartlian and Egrisian allies, made the invaders retreat. Leon I then married Mir’s daughter, and a successor, Leon II exploited this dynastic union to acquire Egrisi (Lazica) in the 770s. Frequently considered as a successor state of the latter monarchy, this new polity continued to be referred to as Egrisi in some contemporary Georgian (e.g., The Vitae of the Georgian Kings by Leonti Mroveli) and Armenian (e.g., The History of Armenia by Hovannes Draskhanakertsi) chronicles.
The successful defense against the Arabs, and new territorial gains, gave the Abkhazian princes enough power to claim more autonomy from the Byzantine Empire. Towards circa 786, Leon won his full independence with the help of the Khazars; he assumed the title of King of the Abkhazians and transferred his capital to the western Georgian city of Kutatisi (modern-day Kutaisi). According to Georgian annals, Leon subdivided his kingdom into eight duchies (saeristavo): Abkhazia proper, Tskhumi, Bedia, Guria, Racha and Takveri, Svaneti, Argveti, and Kutatisi.<ref>Vakhushti Bagrationi, The History of Egrisi, Abkhazeti or Imereti, part 1.</ref>
The most prosperous period of the Abkhazian kingdom was between 850 and 950. In the early years of the 10th century, it stretched, according to Byzantine sources, along the Black Sea coast three hundred Greek miles, from the frontiers of the Chaldean thema to the mouth of the river Nicopsis, with the Caucasus behind it. The increasingly expansionist tendencies of the kingdom led to the enlargement of its realm to the east. Beginning with George I (872/73-878/79), the Abkhazian kings controlled also Kartli (central and part of eastern Georgia), and interfered in the affairs of the Georgian and Armenian Bagratids. In about 908 King Constantine III (898/99-916/17) had finally annexed a significant portion of Kartli, bringing his kingdom up to the neighborhood of Arab-controlled Tfilisi (modern-day Tbilisi). Under his son, George II (916/17-960), the Abkhazian Kingdom reached a climax of power and prestige. For a brief period of time, Kakheti in eastern Georgia and Hereti in the Georgian-Albanian marches also recognized the Abkhazian suzerainty. Sometime friend of the Byzantines, George II helped to establish Christianity in Alania, winning the thanks of Patriarch Nicholas I of Constantinople.
George’s successors, however, were unable to retain the kingdom’s strength and integrity. During the reign of Leon III (960-969), Kakheti and Hereti wrested of his control. A bitter civil war and feudal revolts which began under Demetrius III (969-976) led the kingdom into complete anarchy under the unfortunate king Theodosius III the Blind (976-978). By that time the hegemony in Transcaucasia had finally passed to the Georgian Bagratids of Tao-Klarjeti. In 978, the Bagratid prince Bagrat, nephew (sister’s son) of the sonless Theodosius, occupied the Abkhazian throne with the help of his adoptive father David III of Tao. In 1008, Bagrat succeeded on the death of his natural father Gurgen as the King of Kings of the Georgians. Thus, these two kingdoms unified through dynastic succession, in practice laying the foundation to the unified Georgian monarchy, officially styled then as the Kingdom of the Abkhazians and Georgians.
The second half of the 11th century was marked by the disastrous invasion of the Seljuk Turks who by the end of 1040s succeeded in building a vast nomadic empire including most of the Central Asia and Iran. In 1071 Seljuk army destroyed the united Byzantine-Armenian and Georgian forces in the Battle of Manzikert, and by 1081, all of Armenia, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria and most of Georgia ] were conquered and devastated by the Seljuks.
In Georgia, it was only Abkhazia and mountainous areas of Svanetia, Racha and Khevi-Khevsureti which remained out of Seljuk control and served as relatively safe haven for numerous refugees. By the end of 1099 David IV of Georgia stopped paying tribute to the Seljuks and put most of Georgian lands except Tbilisi and Ereti under his effective control having Abkhazia and Svanetia as his reliable rear bases. In 1105–1124 Georgian armies under King David undertake a series of brilliant campaigns against the Seljuk Turks and liberate not only the rest of Georgia but also Christian-populated Ghishi-Kabala area in western Shirvan and a big portion of Armenia.
Most Abkhazian kings, with the exception of John and Adarnase of the Shavliani (presumably of Svan origin), came from the dynasty which is sometimes known in modern history writing as the Leonids after the first king Leon, or Anosids, after the prince Anos from whom the royal family claimed their origin. Prince Cyril Toumanoff relates the name of Anos to the later Georgian-Abkhaz noble family of Anchabadze.<ref>Rapp, pages 481-484.</ref> By convention, the regnal numbers of the Abkhazian kings continue from those of the archons of Abasgia. There is also some lack of consistency about the dates of their reigns. The chronology below is given as per Toumanoff.
House of the Anosids (Anchabadze)
- Leon II, 767/68-811/12
- Theodosius II, 811/12-837/38
- Demetrius II, 837/38-872/73
- George I of Aghts’epi, 872/73-878/79
House of Shavliani
House of the Anosids (Anchabadze)
- Bagrat I, 887/88-898/99
- Constantine III, 898/99-916/17
- George II, 916/17-960
- Leon III, 960-969
- Demetrius III, 969-976
- Theodosius III, 976-978
House of Bagrationi
References and further reading
- Template:En icon Alexei Zverev, Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus 1988-1994, in B. Coppieters (ed.), Contested Borders in the Caucasus, Brussels: VUB University Press, 1996
- Graham Smith, Edward A Allworth, Vivien A Law, Annette Bohr, Andrew Wilson, Nation-Building in the Post-Soviet Borderlands: The Politics of National Identities, Cambridge University Press (September 10, 1998), ISBN 0-521-59968-7
- Encyclopaedia of Islam
- Template:En icon Center for Citizen Peacebuilding website
- Template:Ru icon Вахушти Багратиони. История царства грузинского. Жизнь Эгриси, Абхазети или Имерети. Ч.1
- S. H. Rapp, Studies In Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts And Eurasian Contexts, Peeters Bvba (September 25, 2003) ISBN 90-429-1318-5
- Template:En icon Conflicting Narratives in Abkhazia and Georgia. Different Visions of the Same History and the Quest for Objectivity, an article by Levan Gigineishvili, 2003
- Template:En icon The Role of Historiography in the Abkhazo-Georgian Conflict, an article by Seiichi Kitagawa, 1996
- Template:En icon History of Abkhazia. Medieval Abkhazia: 620-1221 by Andrew Andersen
- Georgiy I Mirsky, G I Mirskii, On Ruins of Empire: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Former Soviet Union (Contributions in Political Science), Greenwood Press (January 30, 1997) ISBN 0-313-30044-5
- Ronald Grigor Suny, The Making of the Georgian Nation: 2nd edition (December 1994), Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-20915-3, page 45
- Robert W. Thomson (translator), Rewriting Caucasian History: The Medieval Armenian Adaptation of the Georgian Chronicles: The Original Georgian Texts and Armenian Adaptation (Oxford Oriental Monographs), Oxford University Press, USA (June 27, 1996), ISBN 0-19-826373-2
- Toumanoff C., Chronology of the Kings of Abasgia and other Problems // Le Museon, 69 (1956), S. 73-90.