Abkhazia during the Georgian Golden Age and Renaissance, 1089 - 1221

By George Nikoladze

Reign of Queen Tamar was the peak of Georgia’s might in the whole history of the nation. In 1194-1204 Tamar’s armies crushed new Turkish invasions from the south-east and south and launched several successful campaigns into Turkish-controlled Southern Armenia. As a result, most of Southern Armenia with the cities of Karin, Erzinjan, Khelat, Mush and Van, was put under Georgian control. Although not included into Georgian Crown lands and left under nominal rule of local Turkish Emirs and Sultans, Southern Armenia became a protectorate of the Kingdom of Georgia.
The temporary fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1204 to the Crusaders left Georgia the strongest Christian State in the whole East Mediterranean area. The same year Queen Tamar sent her troops to take over the former Byzantine Lazona and Paryadria with the cities of Atina, Riza, Trebizond, Querasunt, Amysos, Kotyora, Heraclea and Sinopa. In 1205, the occupied territory was transformed into the Empire of Trebizond with Tamar’s’ relative Prince Alexius Comnenus crowned Emperor. Although officially called an Empire the new state was Georgia’s dependency for more than two hundred years. In 1210 Georgian armies invaded northern Iran (today’s Iranian Azerbaijan) and took the cities of Marand, Tebriz, Ardebil, Zenjan and Kazvin putting part of the conquered territory under Georgian protectorate. That was the maximal extent of Georgia throughout her history. During the described period of time Queen Tamar was addressed as “The Queen of Abkhazians, Kartvels, Rans, Kakhs and Armenians, Shirvan-Shakhine and Shakh-in-Shakhine, The Sovereign of the East and West”.  Georgian historians often refer to her as “Queen Tamar the Great”.
According to the Georgian chronicles, Queen Tamar granted the lordship over part of Abkhazia to the Georgian princely family of Shervashidze. According to traditional accounts, they were an offshoot of the Shirvanshahs (hence allegedly comes their dynastic name meaning "sons of Shirvanese" in Georgian). The ascendancy of this dynasty in Abkhazia would last until the Russian annexation in the 1860s.
The Genoese established their trading factories along the Abkhazian coastline in the 14th century, but they functioned for a short time. The area was relatively spared from the Mongol and Timur's invasions, which terminated Georgia's golden age. As a result, the kingdom of Georgia fragmentized into several independent or semi-independent entities by the late 15th century. The Principality of Abkhazia was one of them. The Abkhazian princes engaged in incessant conflicts with the Mingrelian potentates, their nominal suzerains, and the borders of both principalities fluctuated in the course of these wars. In the following centuries, the Georgian nobles of Abkhazia finally prevailed and expanded their possessions up to the Inguri River, which is today's southern boundary of the region.

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