Georgia, called Sakartvelo by Georgians, is a European country occupying about 27,000 square miles (69,700 square kilometers). It is almost half the size of Illinois and is located in the mountainous region of Transcaucasia. Georgia is bounded by Russia to the north and northeast, Azerbaijan to the east, the Black Sea to the west, and Armenia and Turkey to the south. The country's population, which was 5.5 million in 1995, is predominantly Georgian. The Georgians comprise 71 percent of the population. Ethnic minorities include Armenians (8 percent), Russians (6.5 percent), Azerbaijanis (4.6 percent), Greeks (3 percent), Ossets (3 percent), and Abkhazians (2 percent). There are also smaller groups of Ukrainians, Turks, Persians, and Jews. Georgians are Christians and belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church. Islam and Judaism, which are practiced by ethnic minorities, are tolerated.
Georgia has a rich cultural heritage that is expressed in the original architecture of its churches, castles, and fortresses. The country is also known for its exquisite gold and silver jewelry, polyphonic songs, and uniquely painted icons. The Georgian people are noted for their courage, passionate love of music, dancing, poetry, and longevity. Every 51 of 100,000 people in Georgia are 100 years of age or more.
Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia. The official language is Georgian, but Russian is used as a second language. The Georgian flag has a red background, with a white and blue horizontal square in the left corner.
According to traditional Georgian accounts, Georgians are descendants of Thargamos, the great-grandson of Japhet, son of the Biblical Noah. The ancient name of Georgia was Colchis, which was associated for centuries with the Greek myth of Jason and his 50 Argonauts, who sailed from Greece to Colchis to capture the Golden Fleece. The legend describes how Medea, the daughter of the King of Colchis, assisted Jason in his adventure, but at the end was deserted by him. Colchis is historically recorded by Herodotus (484-425 B.C. ), Xenophon (c.430-354 B.C. ), and Josephus Flavius (37-95 A.D. ).
Georgia was formed as a kingdom in the fourth century B.C. and, over several centuries, was ruled by Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, and Turkish Seljuks. It regained full independence and unity under King David the Restorer (1089-1125), and reached the height of territorial expansion and cultural development under Queen Thamar (1183-1213). During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Monoglian invasions by Genghis Khan and Tamerlane devastated the country and split its unity. In the fifteenth century, Georgia was divided into the three kingdoms of Iberia, Imertia, and Kakhetia. In 1555, Turkey took over the rule of West Georgia, while East Georgia fell under Persian rule. In 1783, Georgia became a protectorate of Russia. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the country was annexed and incorporated into Russia's czarist empire. Georgia remained a part of Russia until 1917, when the Bolsheviks overthrew the czar and established a Communist state.
In 1918, Georgia became an independent state. However, three years later, the Soviet Red Army invaded Georgia and incorporated it into the Soviet Union. A rebellion that was designed to restore Georgian independence failed in 1924. In 1936, a new constitution was proclaimed and Georgia became a Soviet Socialist Republic under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin (1879-1953), who was born a Georgian. Another Georgian, Lavrenti Beria (1899-1953), was a friend of Stalin and became the chief of NKVD, the Soviet secret police. Beria was notorious for extending Stalin's regime of terror through executions, mass arrests, and deportations to vast labor camps known as gulags.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia again became an independent nation in April of 1991. During the first half of the 1990s, the country had to cope with difficult political, economic, and ethnic problems. Two secessionist movements in the autonomous regions of Abkhazia and Inghushetia required military intervention. Both conflicts ended in 1996 with the signing of a peace agreement. A bitter political struggle between various parties and factions brought President Eduard Shevarnadze, a former Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, to power. Shevarnadze quickly established a pro-Western government.
THE FIRST IN AMERICA
The Georgian presence in America began in 1890 with the arrival of 12 Georgian Cossack horsemen hired by Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild Congress of Rough Riders. The Cossack horseman successfully competed with talented horsemen from Mexico, Argentina, France, England, Spain, and the United States. Under the leadership of Prince Ivan Rostromov Marcheradse, the Georgians charmed audiences with their energy, style, and riding skills. In 1910, a second group of 30 Georgian male and female riders successfully performed with the Ringling Brothers Circus. A third group of nearly 50 Georgians were hired as laborers to work on the West Coast railroads. Shortly before World War I, a few dozen Georgians returned to their native land, while those who decided to settle in America formed the nucleus around which the Georgian American community developed in later years.
SIGNIFICANT IMMIGRANT WAVES
Following the Soviet invasion of Georgia in 1921, hundreds of families, fearing repression by Communist authorities, became refugees abroad. About 200 Georgian refugees, including former political leaders, members of aristocracy, and military officers, came to the United States. Unable to speak English and lacking financial resources or help from charitable organizations, many Georgian refugees had a very hard time adjusting to their new life in America. Some gave up their professional occupations to take menial jobs, while others with aristocratic titles married wealthy American women. Those who could not cope with life in America returned to Europe, and joined other Georgian refugees who established themselves in Germany, France, Poland, Turkey, and Belgium.
A second wave of Georgian refugees was recorded after World War II. More than 250 men, women, and children came to the United States by virtue of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 and the Refugee Act of 1953. Several were former prisoners of war who feared reprisals if they returned to the Soviet Union. There were also some Georgians who lived in Europe as refugees from the Soviet Union before the start of World War II. These new immigrants, unlike the first wave, received assistance from various charitable and non-profit organizations, including the Georgian Association in the United States and The Tolstoy Foundation. Many immigrants from this second wave were skilled workers, professionals, military men, and clerical workers, and found it relatively easy to adjust to their new homeland.
During the final decade of Soviet rule in Georgia, a third wave of immigrants—consisting of a few hundred men and women—came to the United States for economic, religious, educational, business, or family reasons. This wave consisted of both professionals and non-professionals and included persons from various ethnic groups within Georgia. There are between 3,000 and 3,500 Georgian Americans, the majority of which have settled in or around New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.
Acculturation and Assimilation
Because Georgian Americans are small in number, less information is available about them than other ethnic groups. Despite this, Georgian Americans have preserved their heritage and culture through various organizations. As early as 1924, Georgian organizations were founded in San Francisco and in New York City. These organizations held cultural activities and social gatherings, and provided assistance to other immigrants. Between 1955 and 1975, the Georgian American press was very active. Kartuli Azri (Georgian Opinion) was the most popular newspaper and was it was heavily supported by donations from Georgian Americans. Over the years, Georgians have been fully assimilated into American culture. However, Georgian Americans continue to proudly preserve many aspects of their unique culture.
TRADITIONS, CUSTOMS, AND BELIEFS
In Georgia, some tribes forbid women to have children until after they have been married for three years. Georgian custom allows a maximum of three children per couple. The birth of a boy is cause for great celebration, while the birth of a girl is often met with disappointment. Many Georgian Americans have long forsaken these customs. Other customs, however, are still observed. Formality and mutual respect guide the daily behavior of Georgian Americans. From an early age, children are trained in etiquette and the social graces. The display of any "sexual" behavior in public is considered a source of great shame. Privacy and modesty are greatly cherished and women are treated with respect.
Georgians, like many other ethnic groups from Transcaucasia, are known for their many original proverbs. Examples include: Low places are considered high when high places are lacking; That which one loses by laughing one does not find again by crying; There is always a dirty spoon in every family; He who does not seek friends is his own enemy; If you put your nose into water you will also wet your cheeks; The cock cannot profit by the friendship of the fox; One blames one's friend to his face and one's enemy to his back; Don't spit into a well, one day it may serve to quench your thirst; It is better to drink water from a small spring than salt water from a great sea; The cart is heavy, but it makes the load light.
Georgian Americans have a very rich, healthy, and tasty cuisine. Other ethnic groups also enjoy Georgian cuisine, and it is typically featured on menus in Russian restaurants. Georgian women often cook according to the traditions of their homeland. A typical first course in a Georgian-style meal may include fresh herbs, radishes, scallions, tiny cucumbers, quartered tomatoes sprinkled with dill, home cured olives, pickled cabbage, red kidney beans dressed with walnut sauce, eggplant puree, cheese, and smoked sturgeon garnished with tarragon. Khachapuri (flat bread with cheese filling), lobio (kidney beans in plum sauce) and other types of appetizers are usually accompanied by lavash (thin white bread) and raki (a dry and strong liquor made from berries or grape) or chacha (a grape vodka). Sulguni, a type of cheese, is served with fresh coriander and scallions. Khmeli-suneli, a very popular dish, consists of mixtures of dill, coriander, pepper, and other strongly scented spices. Melons and oranges are often added to goat or chicken that has been strongly spiced with peppers and heavily seasoned with garlic. A chicken soup called kharcho is also served with walnuts.
Second courses may consist of skewers of fried or broiled fish such as khramuli or kogak, a white flesh fish that is delicately flavored. Lamb or chicken stews ( chakhokhbili ) are served with wine. Shashlik is made of chicken, onions, and other vegetables on a skewer. Kotmis satsivi is a roast chicken or roast suckling pig served with walnut sauce. Mtsvadi is grilled lamb, pig or young goat, and tabaka is pressed fried chicken. Georgian cuisine also includes pkhali (vegetables and walnuts) kinkali (dumplings of beets), and pickled cabbage. All meals are served with excellent wines, especially Kindzmarauli and Teliani, both of which are prized for their aromatic flavors. Desserts include compotes, candied almonds or walnuts, various preserves, and chuckella (traditional candy made from grape juice and walnuts). Non-alcoholic beverages consist of yogurt, syrups, fruit juices, and Turkish coffee.
Traditional clothing is still found in the homes of some older generation Georgian Americans, and is usually worn during Georgian folk festivals. Men wear black wool pants and a long-sleeved shirt that buttons half way down the front. This shirt is usually black and is often decorated around the edges with silver or gold thread. Soft, tight-fitting leather boots that extend above the knee are also worn. These boots have a thin sole and no heels. A wool coat, usually black, brown, white, or gray in color, is worn over the shirt and pants. It has no collar and is cut with a long, narrow, V shaped opening from the neck halfway to the waist. Rows of narrow pockets, six or eight on each side of the coat are sewn across the chest. A belt containing a dagger ( kinjal) or sword is worn around the waist. The head is adorned with a papakha, a fur cap of sheep or goatskin with the fleece side out, which hangs down over the forehead. During winter months a bashlik, which is a hood of finely woven woolen material that can be tied around the neck, is worn. A cape made of goat or sheep wool, called a bourka,is worn around the shoulders. It is usually black and semicircular in shape, and fastened at the neck with thongs.
Georgian women wear long, floor-length gowns, with a tight bodice and long sleeves ending at the waist. The gowns are made of silk and come in white or a variety of pastel colors. A long, flowing scarf is often wrapped around the head and shoulders. The hair is worn in at least two braids, which frequently extend past the waist. An ornamental gold belt covers the waist. A headdress, in gold or another bright color, covers the head. Older women wear similar dresses, but in darker colors. They also wear a turban-like headdress. Georgian women, like their male counterparts, also wear boots. Unlike some of their neighbors, Georgian women do not wear a veil in front of their faces.
It should be noted that Georgian Americans, like their conationals in urban Georgia, dress in European or American-style clothes. Farmers also dress in European shirts and trousers that are conservative in color. Rural women typically wear blouses and long skirts.
DANCING, SONGS, AND MUSIC
Georgian men and women love to dance. Men dance on the tip of their toes at increasing speeds, incorporating breath taking leaps and swift head movements. Female dances employ scarves, handkerchiefs and pitches, intricate arm movements, and simple, gliding steps. The most popular Georgian dances are Lezghinka, in which men and women dance together;partza, a circular dance; kartuli, a dance of chivalry in which men are not permitted to touch the girls; and Samaya, which is performed by three young girls to celebrate a wedding feast. Young women often dance the narnari, which features beautiful arm and hand movements.
Dances are accompanied by highly rhythmic music in which drumming plays a leading role. The characteristic feature of Georgian folk music is polyphony. As a rule, multi-voice songs are performed by men. Women perform some solos and duets. Georgian folk music is also rich in lyrical songs honoring popular heroes. Georgian orchestras include flutes, lutes, drums, cymbals, bagpipes, and mandolins. Beginning in the 1950s Georgian singers and dancers, trained in their homeland, have performed in the United States and throughout the world. These groups are widely acclaimed for their exceptional artistic qualities. They have performed in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland, and many other cities.
Dozens of religious holidays are celebrated in Georgia, depending on the region and locality. Several holidays are devoted to various saints, particularly St. George. Two religious holidays observed by Georgians and Georgian Americans are January 26 and May 19. Both of these days honor Saint Nino, the patron saint credited with bringing Christianity to the Georgians in the fourth century. Easter, Christmas, and New Year are also major holidays. Church services are followed by a meal and various festivities. Other important holidays include May 26, which celebrates the proclamation of Georgia's independence in 1918; and August 29, which marks Georgia's revolt against the Soviet Union in 1924. On April 9, 1991, Georgia declared its independence from the Soviet Union. This date has been added to the calendar of holidays.
Georgian Americans are basically a vigorous people, with traditional longevity. As noted earlier, in Georgia, every 51 of 100,000 people are 100 years of age or more. There are no specific health problems affecting Georgian Americans.
Karthli, the Georgian language, is part of the Ibero-Caucasian family of languages and is distinct from Indo-European, Turkic, and Semitic languages. It does not have any connection to other Northern Caucasian language groups, even though it resembles them phonetically. Georgian is based on the Armenian alphabet and its roots are attributed to St. Mesrop. The Georgian language features a frequent recurrence of the sounds ts, ds, thz, kh, khh, gh. There are two systems of the Georgian alphabet. The first, Khutsuri, consists of 38 letters and dates back to the fifth century A.D. It was used in the Bible and liturgical works. The second Georgian alphabet, Mkherduli, consists of 40 letters and is used in ordinary writing.
The Georgian language is rich, flexible, and contains a complex grammar. High proportions of older Georgian Americans speak Georgian, while younger generations tend to speak English. Georgian is taught at Columbia University, Indiana University at Bloomington, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Emory University. Georgian books can be found at the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and universities that teach the language.
GREETINGS AND POPULAR EXPRESSIONS
Me kvia means my name is; gamarjobat is hello; gmadlobt is thank you; inebet is please; nakhvamdis is goodbye; gauma . . . jobs is cheers (when drinking wine). Other expressions: deda is mother; mama is father; da is sister; zma is brother; mamuli is fatherland; ai is this; minda is I want; sadili is dinner; "a" is pronounced like the a in the English word "car;" and "I" is pronounced in English like "ee."
Family and Community Dynamics
Georgian American families are known for their strong ties. Women play an important role both in families and society, and divorce is frowned upon. Although the father is the head of the family, women may keep their own surnames when they marry, and there is no stigma when a husband lives with the wife's parents. Children are raised to value their family and respect older members. Young people are expected to be well-educated and encouraged to become professionals. Georgians enjoy gathering with family and close friends to gossip, praise traditions, and remember deceased family members. Georgians are also known for their hospitality.
Georgians usually marry at a young age, and married couples are expected to take care of their parents. In many cases, marriage is arranged by the parents of the bride and groom, relatives, or close friends. Wedding receptions traditionally include a series of toasts. The tamada, or toastmaster, is chosen by the audience, and leads toasts to the native land, to parents, to friends, to the memory of the dead, to women, to life, to children, and to the guests. After the toasts are made, all of the guests say " gauma . . . jobs" (cheers). No one except the tamada may make a toast without first asking permission. The couple then toasts the guests and thanks them for their good wishes. After each toast, the guests must drink an entire glass of wine.
Weddings in the Georgian Orthodox Church are performed according to old customs. In the wedding ceremony, the groom is called mepe (king) and the bride dedopali (queen). The couple sips wine from the same cup and puts crowns on their heads as a symbol of their union. The priest blesses the couple, and they officially become husband and wife. The wedding ceremony is followed by a reception with music and dancing.
BIRTH AND BAPTISMS
During a baby's christening ( natloba ), the godfather ( natlia ) plays a very important role. He first cuts the hair and nails of the newborn. By doing this, it is believed that the qualities and talents of the godfather are transmitted to the child. When the child is placed in water during the christening, small coins are thrown in to bring the child good luck and happiness.
Following the death of a family member, church bells are rung three times a day until the funeral ceremony is completed. During the funeral ceremony the priest, assisted by a choir and deacon, sings prayers and hymns for the dead. In the name of the deceased, the priest asks for forgiveness of sins from family and friends. Prayers are recited at the cemetery and the Gospel is read. The coffin is then lowered into the grave, and soil sprinkled with holy water is tossed on top of the coffin. Another recitation from the Gospel concludes the funeral. After the funeral, the family of the deceased shares a light meal and beverages to honor their loved one.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS
Georgian Americans maintain friendly ties with other ethnic groups who immigrated from Georgia. These groups include Circassians, Ossetians, and Cabardins. Many Georgian Americans have intermarried with Armenians, Russians, Jews, and Ukrainians. They have also developed good relations with Americans of other backgrounds and religious faiths.
Georgians became Christians in the fourth century A.D. under King Mirian (265-345) who erected the first Christian church, which was later renamed the Cathedral of Mtskhet. The Georgian Orthodox Church, a branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, is headed by a Catholicos-Patriarch with its headquarters in Georgia. Georgian law grants the Catholicos the same power as that of a king, and the clergy actively participates in the life of state affairs. Bishops must be at least 35 years old, priests not less than 30 years, and deacons over 25 years.
Georgian liturgy uses characteristic liturgical texts called Kondaki, and various blessings for stated occasions called Khurthkhevani. Its system of chronology has a new annus mundi, its own order of ecclesiastical teachings and feasts. Mass is always accompanied by liturgical chants which employ specific Georgian styles and forms. The Georgian cross has a heraldic shape, which is different from the types of crosses used by other branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Georgian Americans do not have their own churches, and usually attend Russian Orthodox or Greek Orthodox churches.
Employment and Economic Traditions
Unlike the first wave of Georgian Americans who were employed as taxi drivers or in manual labor jobs, succeeding generations have enjoyed greater opportunities. Many are professionals (engineers, teachers, doctors, artists, military officers), some are businessmen, others are clerical workers. Most Georgian Americans belong to the middle class.
Some Georgian Americans became career military officers after World War II. A Georgian American officer, General John Shalikashvili (1936– ), served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between 1992 and 1996. Shalikashvili emigrated to the United States with his parents following World War II, completed a master's degree in international affairs at George Washington University, and joined the military in 1958. He was a decorated veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and eventually became commander of American troops in Germany. Shalikashvili was also the commander-in-chief of American armed forces in Europe before President Clinton named him chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It marked the first time that a Georgian American had been named to such a high position within the military.
RELATIONS WITH FORMER COUNTRY
Georgian Americans have always been extremely proud of their homeland and never accepted its forced incorporation into the Soviet Union. Georgian American organizations and newspapers lobbied constantly for the creation of an independent and democratic Georgia, a goal that was attained when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. New laws passed in Georgia have sought to facilitate increased economic, cultural, and educational ties with Georgian Americans.
Individual and Group Contributions
ACADEMIA AND EDUCATION
Dodona Kiziria was a professor of literature, cinema, and video at Indiana University at Bloomington; Timur Djordjaz was a professor in the Theater and Fine Arts Department, Pace University, New York City.
BALLET AND MUSIC
George Balanchine (1904-1983), was born Balanchivadze, and was a noted ballet master and choreographer. He was considered the most influential and finest choreographer of the twentieth century. Balanchine was the cofounder and artistic director of the New York City Ballet Company, worked for the New York Metropolitan Opera, created more than 200 ballets, and choreographed several Broadway musicals and movies. He also wrote a book about 101 ballet stories.
Alexander Toradze (1952-) was a pianist and winner of the 1977 Van Cliburn competition in Moscow. He joined the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1983, and was later conductor of the Minnesota Opera.
George Chavchavadze (1904-1962) was a noted pianist with international credits.
George Papashvily (1898-1978) was an author who married American Helen White after immigrating to United States in the 1920s. Together they wrote Anything Can Happen (1944), which chronicled his immigrant experiences. The book was a bestseller, and was made into a 1952 movie by Paramount Pictures. Papashvily and his wife also published the novel All the Happy Endings (1956) and Home and Home Again (1973), which included their impressions of Georgia after a visit during the 1960s.
Svetlana Allilueva (1926– ), was born Djugashvili, and was the daughter of Joseph Stalin. She defected from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1967, and subsequently wrote Twenty Letters to a Friend (1967), and Only One Year (1969), both in Russian and English, which detail her experiences before and after her defection, and her impressions about America.
Valerii Chalidze (1938– ), was an author, editor, and publisher, who focused his writings on human rights violations in the former Soviet Union; published To Defend These Rights: Human Rights and the Soviet Union (1975), Criminal Russia: Essays on Crime in the Soviet Union (1977), The Soviet Human Rights Movement: A Memoir (1984).
David Chavchadze (1938– ), was an author and linguist, former intelligence officer, and a descendant of a noble family. He specialized in tracing the nobility of Tsarist Russia, and published Crowns and Trenchcoats: A Russian Prince in the CIA (1990).
Paul Chavchavadze (1899-1971), was the author of fiction books, and the translator of writings from Georgian into English. He came from the same noble family as David Chavchadze.
Vladimir Babishvili (1923– ), was an international broadcaster, and worked for the Voice of America for more than 20 years. He also translated the works of Georgian writers in exile into English.
George Papashvily and his wife (already described in the Literature section) published Russian Cooking (1970), which includes both Russian and Georgian recipes based on their own kitchen experiences and also collected from other Georgian American sources.
George Papashvily produced several pieces of sculpture, including Georgian Folk Singer , which was featured in the documentary film Beauty in Stone.
Alexander Kartvelishvili was an aeronautical engineer, designing the P-47 (Thunderbolt fighter plane) and S-84 (Thunderjet) during World War II and the Korean War. He founded Republic Aviation.
Prince Artchil Gourieli-Tchkonia (1895-1955), who emigrated to the United States in 1937, and his wife Madam Helena Rubinstein (1882-1965), known as the queen of cosmetic products, became a successful business couple. They launched Gourelli Apothecary with two new lines of expensive cosmetic products for women and men. The prince also established the "Prince Machiabelli" line, which included "Cachet" in 1970, and "Chimere" in 1980. These perfumes continued to remain popular after the prince's death.
Prince Teymuraz Bagration (1913-1992), a descendant of Georgian royalty, became president of the Tolstoy Foundation in New York City after World War II and remained in this position until his death. He was known for his efforts to resettle Georgian, Russian and other ethnic refugees from the Soviet Union and East European countries. He was also involved in the resettlement of refugees from Vietnam, Cuba, Uganda, and other countries. As a member of Care and Interaction, a coalition of more than 100 charitable organizations, Bagration was instrumental in assisting displaced persons who wanted to start a new life in the United States.
The Georgian American League published Voice of Free Georgia (1953-1958) in English; the American Council for Independent Georgia published Chveni Gza/Our Path (1953-1960s), in Georgian with English summaries; and the Georgian National Alliance sponsored the publication of Georgian Opinion (1951-1975). All three publications focused on events in Georgia, the fight for a democratic and independent Georgia, and events in the Georgian American community. By the end of the 1990s, there were no Georgian American periodicals being published.
Read more: http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Du-Ha/Georgian-Americans.html#ixzz2M946UEA2