Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type





Georgia, surrounded by modem day Turkey, Iran, and Russia, and flanked by the Black and Caspian Sea, has been the subject of frequent foreign invasions since the fifth millennium B.C.. Influenced by Greek and Persian thought in the pre-Christian era and then annexed by Rome in 66 B.C., Georgia eventually became one of the first kingdoms to adopt Christianity in A.D. 330. The Byzantine Empire held tremendous influence over Georgia until the Arabs invaded the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in A.D. 645. Under David the Rebuilder, who ruled from 1099 to 1125, Georgia was united once again as he pushed Turkish forces out and expanded Georgian influence east to the Caspian Sea and south to Armenia. David the Rebuilder laid the foundation for the Golden Age of Georgia which reached its pinnacle under the leadership of Queen Tamara who ruled from 1184 to 1212. The Mongol invasion and Moslem hold over Georgia began in 1236 and lasted well into the 14th century. In 1386 Tamerlane, a Moslem conqueror, destroyed Tbilisi. Less than 100 years later the Ottoman and Persian empires established control over Georgia for three centuries. With the Russian annexation of Georgia in 1801, Georgia finally gained protection from foreign invasion. The Georgians experienced a brief encounter with independence from 1918 to 1921, only to be incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922. It was not until April 9, 1991, that Georgia again achieved the status of a fully independent country. In The Making of the Georgian Nation, Ronald Suny explained the unique situation of the newly formed Republic of Georgia: £ Whether Georgia can be successfully transformed from a society rent by conflict into a pluralistic democratic nation will depend on Georgians rethinking their history. The key to the future lies in what people selects from its past, how it imagines itself as a community and continues to remake itself as a nation. With this in mind, I will present an historical analysis of Queen Tamara—a Georgian queen of the Middle Ages—whom the Georgian people have selected from their past as a cultural icon. The period being analyzed covers eight centuries; from Queen Tamara’s coronation in 1184 to the present. It is my intent to point out how her historical and legendary character have been used both in Russian and Georgian literature and politics. In Georgia’s Golden Age (12th and 13th centuries), Tamara represented everything that was considered good in Georgian society. With the passage of time, Tamara’s character was twisted into different molds in order to serve the separate interests of Georgian and Russian consolidation, patriotism, nationalism, and morality. This became especially evident in the process of Georgia’s incorporation into Russia. In the 20th century, Stalin used Tamara’s image to justify his violent and absolutist rule over Georgia. Taking advantage of Georgia’s love for Queen Tamara, Stalin used her legend to gain Georgian support for the Soviet fight against Adolf Hitler. Still today, Queen Tamara’s legend offers the Georgian people the inspiration needed to form a more perfect society.