Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Epilogue Glossary


Georgia's Political Position
from the 1180s to the Beginning of the 13th Century


Georgia's political history through the 12th and 13th centuries is retold below in as much detail as can be found in a fine lace tapestry or other fine art piece.  Read on to learn more about the different aspects of Georgia's political system during this time period.



In the 11 th-12th centuries, Georgia was a country with developed feudal relations. She was ruled by a monarch, who administered the country through a large apparatus of court-officials and local governors.
The foundations of the united Georgian feudal state were laid at the close of the 10th century, when Georgia was a relatively small country administered by the king and his small court. But, as the state - boundaries were gradually extended and the problems facing the country grew increasingly more difficult, the former system of administration could no longer meet the new requirements. It became imperative to modify and improve the state-system. These changes were introduced both on the initiative of the court and on the insistence of the feudal nobility.
The monarch enjoying juridically autocratic powers headed the state but the extent to which these powers were exercised depended entirely on the king's personal qualities in a given situation.
At the royal court there was a representative body, the "darbazi", which had evidently existed in Georgia since early-feudal times.
The king administered the land through high officials, courtiers and governors - eristavis.
According to the prevaling state-law, the whole of Georgia was devided into two parts: possessions of the Crown and those of the "eristavis".
By tradition, the Bagrationi were regarded as being of divine-descent and the power invested in them was also of divine origin. This theory provided the ideological substantiation of the Bagrationi-family's royal powers. The "eristavis" likewise sought to link their origin with legendary heroes and to assert the idea that they wielded power by divine right.
"Eristavis" were appointed by royal decree, following which the ritual of benediction was performed by the bishop, who proclaimed that the powers of the "eristavi" were granted by divine will.
The royal court was the central state-apparatus.
The number of court-officials was increased, and their rights and duties were extended with feudal Georgia's unification.
The importance of the royal court was particularly enhanced in the 12th century, in the reign of David the Builder.
Court-officials with the title of "vaziri" appeared in the Georgian state-apparatus in the 12th century.
"Vaziri", a term of Persian-Arab origin, entered the Georgian language from the Middle East.
The institution of "ukhutsesi" (elder) had existed in the Georgian court since ancient times. In the 12th century, there were many "ukhutsesis" who headed different branches of administration: "mtsignobartukhutsesi" chief scribe, i. e. chief of the royal chancellory; "amirspasalari" - chief spasalari, i. e. general in-chief; "mandaturtukhutsesi" - chief of police, i. e. chief of the "mandaturs"; "mechurchletukhutsesi" - chief treasurer; "msakhurtukhutsesi" - chief attendant; "meghvinetukhutsesi" - chief wine-maker; "mkhatvartukhutsesi" - chief artist and others.
With the growth of the importance and role of the central state-apparatus in the 12th century, some of the "ukhutsesis" (elders) were raised to the rank of "vaziri".
The "mtsignobartukhutsesi" - chief of the royal chancellory and the king's right hand - was the first to be given the rank of "vaziri" (in the reign of David the Builder). This was an indication of his primacy among the other "ukhutsesi".
Soon other "ukhutsesis" were raised to the rank of "vaziri". In the reign of Queen Tamar the rank of "vaziri" was granted to the "amirspasalari" (chief of the war department), the "mandaturtukhutsesi" (chief of the department for the interior, post and so on) and the "mechurchletukhutsesi" (chief of the treasury). The "msakhurtukhutsesi" (chief of the Crown-economy received the rank of "vaziri" in the reign of Rusudan (1222 - 1245).
The institution of "ukhutsesis" is purely Georgian, and although in some situation a number of the "ukhutsesis" received the title of "vaziri" the content of this institution remained Georgian.
The "savaziro" (council of "vaziris") was created when some "ukhutsesis" were raised to the rank of "vaziri".
Each "vaziri" had a well-defined set of duties.
The royal chancellory ("samtsignobro") was headed by the "mtsignobartukhutsesi"; who simultaneously was Bishop of the Chkondidi-Cathedral. He was regarded as the. king's senior counsellor on questions of state-administration. He ran the judiciary, and, in peace-time, he had charge of the army and military affairs. The management of the Church-organizations and concern for churches and monasteries were within his jurisdiction.
Tinder him he had 26 "mtsignobaris" (scribes). Of these, the "satsolis mtsignobari"- (chamberiain) was his direct deputy in the administration of justice, and another, the "mtsignobari zardkhani" (chief of the repository) had charge of documents. Writing materials (satsereli) formed the official regalia of the "mtsignobaris".
State-credentials, royal decrees, letters-patent, charters of
donation, charters of immunity and other documents of special
importance were written by the "mtsignobaris" (from the word
"tsigni"- charter, document). '
, The war-department was headed by the "amirspasalari". Military training, the distribution of troops, the raising of cavalry and other matters came under his jurisdiction.
The "amirspasalari" was the commander-in-chief in the absence of the king during a military campaign.
He wore a sword as the symbol of his office in war-time and during the sitting of the state-council. His opinion was taken into account when anybody was appointed to or relieved of a high office and received or was divested of the possessions that went with that office. The officials directly subordinate to the "amirspasalari" were called "amirakhori" and "meabjret-ukhutsesi". The "amirakhori" and his subordinates had charge of the royal stables, while the "meabjretukhutsesi" had charge of the repositories of military insignia.
The function of the "mandaturtukhutsesi" was to administer the internal affairs of the state, to maintain the accepted order at the royal court and to perform other related duties. The "mandaturtukhutsesi" was aided by an "amirejibi" and a "mandatur" and as a symbol of his office, he carried an "arghani" (sceptre) presented by the king.
State-finances were supervised by the "mechurchletukhutsesi". His direct assistant (deputy) was called the "natsvali" He headed the "mechurchles" and had charge of the "sachurchle" (treasury). The merchants and their organisations were subordinate to him, and he was in charge of trade, trade-duties, and so on. As a symbol of his office he wore a signet-ring.
The Crown-economy was supervised by the "msakhurtukhut-sesi". The fact that this office existed indicated the high level reached by Georgian state-administration in those times. There was a clear distinction between state-property and the private property of the king. The treasury did not belong to the king, and state-revenues could not be used for his private requirements. The king's own revenues came from his personal possessions, and the "msakhurtukhutsesi', saw to it that these revenues-were used in the interests of the royal house.
In the Georgian vasirate, a unique position was occupied by the "atabagi". That institution had been borrowed from the Seljuks. The "atabagi" was counsellor to the king and tutor of the heir to the throne.
Towards the end of her reign, Queen Tamar granted the title of "atabagi" to Ivane Mkhargrdzeli, who had won her trust and respect by his loyalty to the state and royal house. He was also the "amirspasalar". Thereafter, the office of "atabag" was usually combined with some other office of "vaziri".
All state-institutions annually presented reports (financial and others). These reports were field, and, together with documents' of verification, were kept in special repositories ("saangarisho godori") that had a staff of custodians.
The organization of the army was of considerable importance in the history of the Georgian feudal monarchy.
The army was organized along the principle of feudal volunteers. As the greatest and most powerful feudal lord, the king had his own army, which consisted of his subjects. In war-time, all the feudal lords had to report with their troops for duty under the royal standard. This was their principal duty to the state, but they did not always discharge this duty to the king and state. There were frequent cases when they ignored the summons of the king or even fought against the king or defected to the enemy with their troops. Naturally, not all the kings were able to curb insubordination with equal success and make the feudal lords serve them and the state loyally.
The reorganization of the military system by David the Builder mainly pursued the aim of putting an end to insubordination by feudal lords.
Beginning from the end of the 11th century, the Georgians were constantly at war with the Seljuks for century. In the course of that long and bitter struggle Georgia's military organization was gradually improved. The army consisted of local troops recruited throughout the country (in the regions governed by "eristavis" and in the royal possessions) and forming its backbone; royal volunteers drawn from among the court-"aznauris"; units summoned from vassal-countries and maintained by the court; and mercenary units mainly from the neighbouring North Caucasian lands. Also, there were troops used to garrison towns and fortresses.
The organization of the army, its equipment and its timely response to the summons of the king came under the jurisdiction of the "eristavt-eristavi" and the war-department headed by the "amirspasalari". In view of the great importance that was attached to Georgia's constant readiness for war, much attention was paid to the building of roads, bridges, post stations and the quick deliver of the king's orders.
The system of mobilization was so well organized that, when necessary, the entire army could be mustered within ten days.
In emergencies the king, with the knowledge and approval of the state-council, dispatched edicts ("tsvevis tsignebi", literally "invitation-books") by messengers. The time and place for the assembly of troops were stated in these edicts.
Before marching to war, the troops were inspected by the king, who checked their combat-readiness and armaments, blessed them and the state-standard, and, if he did not go with the troops, he handed the standard to the "amirspasalari", who commanded the army in such cases.
Campaigns and raids against neighbouring countries were conducted to mark events such as the birth of an heir, the crowning of a new king, and so on.
At the height of her military might, Georgia repeatedly conducted such attacks, which, as we have noted, pursued various objectives. One of these objectives was to keep neighbouring Muslim rulers in a state of constant fear. Also, they served as a warning to vassals. Further, these attacks were a source of wealth for the state and for the participants. . The various districts were administered by "eristavis".
In most cases, the historic-geographical principle underlay Georgia's administrative division. The boundaries of provinces usually coincided with the territorial settlement of individual ethnic groups of the Georgian people. Each province was a large administrative unit ("eristavt-eristavship").
In the reign of Queen Tamar, there were several large "eristavt-eristavships": Kartli, Kakheti, Hereti, Samtskhe, Odishi, Tskhumi, Racha-Takveri, Svaneti.
The "eristavt-eritavis" sought to make their office hereditary,
and, to all intents and purposes, they achieved this objective.
Administrative organs, the court and finances were under the jurisdiction of the "eristavi". He recruited troops in the administrative unit governed by him, was responsible for -their training and for prompt mobilization in response to summons from the king. He governed the region entrusted to him through his own court.
The institution of "eristavis" had existed in Georgia since ancient times; even in very ancient times Georgia was administered by "eristavis".
In the feudal epoch, the "eristavis" wanted not only to ensure the transfer of their office by inheritance but also to acquire a certain independence, to be vassals of the Crown. This was the bone of contention in the endless struggle between the Crown and the "eristavis'', a struggle that was conducted with alternating success.
"Eristavt-eristavships" of a new kind, known as border ''eristavt-eristavships" ("monapireni"), were formed in the 12th century with the, extension of Georgia's boundaries and as a result of her unremitting struggle against neighbouring states.
In his province the border-"eristavi" differed from the usual "eristavis" only in that one of his functions was to defend the state-boundary.
In this institution there was something that was reminiscent of the frontier-settlements set up by the Seljuks, although, possibly, this analogy is not quite precise. It must he borne in mind that because of Georgia's close relations with the Seljuks, Georgian statesmen evidently borrowed elements of the Seljuk, military organization, in particular, their system of guarding frontiers, when they embarked on measures to increase the country's military strength or to defend her frontiers.
It must be noted that the new type of "eristavships" was created only along Georgia's southern boundaries. That none were instituted along the northern boundaries is probably due to the fact that, in the north, Georgia was invulnerable on account of the line, of buffer-vassal-states. But in the south, she was constantly menaced by the Seljuks. Moreover, this system of frontier-defense might have been set up in imitation of the border-military settlements of the Seljuks.
These frontier-"eristavis" guarded the state-boundary, watched the movement of troops in enemy-territory, kept the king informed on affairs pertaining to military operations and the defence of the border, and notified him when it was possible or desirable to attack the enemy.
In accordance with the messages from the frontier-"eristavis", the king reported on She state on affairs to the higher state-council, which decided whether the entire army would embark upon a campaign or whether the "eristavis" themselves should conduct a raid.
In most cases the frontier- "eristavis" themselves invaded adjoining enemy-lands, but, in all cases, this was, done with the knowledge and sanction of the king.
At the close of the 12th century Georgia had six or seven of these border-settlements adjoining Turkish territory.
At the height of Georgia's military might, this border-system headed by military leaders devoted to the queen ensured the security of the border-regions.
From the very outset, the extension of Georgia's boundaries and the incorporation of non-Georgian regions posed the problem of developing an expedient system of administering the latter.
Queen Tamar appointed "eristavis" from among the local population to administer the territories incorporated in Georgia herself. Such was the case, for instance, in the former Bagratid Armenia. Ani and Dvin were administered by Zakaria and Ivane Mkhargrdzeli as officials of the Crown. In the latter case, as Armenians professing the Gregorian faith, the Mkhargrdzeli-brothers were the most suitable as administrators of these regions. But in this capacity they were no more than ordinary "eristavis" of the Crown and submitted to the Crown as did all the other "eristavis".
In addition to this manner of administering annexed territories there was the. practice of incorporating conquered lands within the Crown-possessions. This was the case with the town of Kars and the adjoining regions: it became a Crown-possession at the request of the inhabitants themselves. CONTINUE ...




The book of Mariam Lordkiphanidze - "Georgia in the XI-XII centuries"
Published in 1967 by Ganatleba Publishers, Georgia. Editor George B. Hewitt
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