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Religion in Georgia

Approximately 80% of the population of Georgia are Christians, most of whom belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church. Georgia was the second country in the world (after Armenia), which adopted Christianity as the official state religion in 326 AD.

Diversity and tolerance

Despite the enormous influence of Christianity in Georgia, there is a lot of diversity in the country and, therefore, tolerance for other religions. Some Abkhaz and Georgians from the southern and southwestern parts of the country (for example, Ajaria), like the Azeris, are Sunni Muslims. Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks and Russians have their own Orthodox churches, as well as a small number of Catholics.

Religious background

According to legend, the Mother of God had to spread the teachings of Christ in the new lands. Thus, Georgia is considered to be the chosen by Virgin Mary, who is now considered the patroness of the country.

However, the Mother of God herself at the will of the Savior remained in Jerusalem. In her place, Apostle Andrew went to Georgia. The apostle took with him the image of the Mother of God in the sample and visited many cities and villages in Georgia, preaching the Gospel. In the city of Atskuri (near modern Akhaltsikhe), the apostle's prayer revived a dead person, and this convinced the citizens to convert to Christianity. Apostle Andrew left in the city an icon of the Virgin Mary, therefore, on August 15 and 28, in honor of the icon Atskuri of the Mother of God, celebrations are held.v

Two states

In those days in modern Georgia there were two states: the eastern state was Kartli (Iberia), and the western state was Egrisi (Colchis). Apostle Andrew preached in both, a fact that was confirmed not only by Georgian chronicles, but also by Greek and Latin ecclesiastical authors.

Official adoption of Christianity

During the first centuries after conversion, Christians were persecuted. However, in 326 AD Christianity became the official state religion thanks to the apostle of St. Nino. It is said that Nino was born in the Roman province of Cappadocia, and she was related to St. George, the patron saint of Georgia. Having received the vision of the Virgin Mary telling her to preach the Christian gospel in Iberia, now part of Georgia, she left for the Caucasus. She faced brutal persecution, but still reached Mtskheta and chose a place for the main cathedral there, which is part of why the church has such a special meaning there (the church also contains some of Jesus' clothes). When the king of Iberia decided to adopt Christianity and make it the official state religion, he made Mtskheta the center of Georgian Orthodoxy.

Affirmation of Christianity

By the 4th century, Christianity in Georgia was firmly established. However, there were enormous threats from external enemies such as the Persians, Arabs, Turks and Mongols. As outsiders tried to force Georgians to renounce their beliefs, many people were killed. In 1226, the inhabitants of Tbilisi refused to obey the shahs of Khorezm, Jalal ad-Din, and 100,000 men (from children to old people) were executed. Their memory is honored to this day. Warrior Timur came in 1386, killing the nuns of the monastery of Kvabtakhi, and during the invasion of Shah Abbas in 1616, 6,000 monks in the David-Garetz monastery were killed.

Famous martyrs

Other famous martyrs are King Archil (6th century), princes David and Konstantin Mkheidze (8th century), king Demetri II (killed by the Mongols in the 13th century), king Luarsab II (killed by the Persians in the 17th century) and Queen Ketevan (tortured to death by the Persians in the 17th century).

Strong faith

Despite sometimes tragic history of the Georgian church, faith among the people was strong. Georgia is full of churches and monasteries, and many of them were educational centers. In the 12th century, David the Builder built the great Gelati Monastery (near Kutaisi), and since then the Academy has been recognized as one of the greatest theological and scientific schools in the Orthodox world.

Independent Church

Since the beginning of the 19th century, Georgia was part of the Russian Empire, and was forcibly integrated into the Russian Orthodox Church. After the Georgians gained independence in 1917, the independent church was restored, although Georgia was officially an atheist under Soviet rule. Currently, thousands of tourists make pilgrimages to Georgia to visit the relics there and many holy places throughout the country.

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