the fall of the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, in 1453, Georgia remained the only Christianstronghold in the region, surrounded by Muslim kingdoms, which relentlessly invaded thecountry. Georgia fragmented into a number of kingdoms and principalities. In despair, in1783 King Irakli (Erekle) II of the reunified Kartli-Kakheti (1762–98) signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, under the terms of which the kingdom became a Russian protectorate. Nevertheless, when the Persians invaded Tbilisi in 1795, Russia showed no willingness tohelp and in 1800, upon the death of King Giorgi XII, Tsar Paul (Pavel) I of Russia declaredthe annexation of eastern Georgia. The decree of his successor, Tsar Alexander (Aleksandr) I,of 12 September 1801, finalized the issue; the kingdom was abolished.
Under the Russian Empire (1801–1917)
Having annexed Kartli-Kakheti, the Russian Government exiled the heir, David, and the royalfamily to Russia. In 1804 King Solomon II of Imereti (the main principality of westernGeorgia) was forced to accept Russian sovereignty. The leaders of other, smaller principalitiesshowed little resistance to the Russian conquest. Successful wars against Turkey and Persiaconfirmed Russian rule over the South Caucasus, although frequent mishandling of sensitiveissues and local traditions by the Russian administration caused numerous uprisings. ForcefulRussian expansion caused the Muslim peoples of the North Caucasus to resort to militaryresistance. Russian forces, supported by Georgian militia, finally won the Great CaucasianWar, which ended in 1864–65. Many Caucasian Muslims (
), including Abkhazians,left for the Turkish Ottoman Empire, dramatically altering the demographic balance. Muslimsfrom Akhaltsikhe (Meskheti) and Adjara also emigrated.With the appointment of the first viceroy, Mikhail Vorontsov (1845–54), Georgia integratedmore rapidly into the Russian Empire. Meanwhile, a political movement aimed at protectingnational identity, headed by the prominent poet Ilia Chavchavadze, emerged. The 1860s weremarked by the emancipation of the serfs in Georgia, as elsewhere in the Russian Empire. Thiscaused further social differentiation and economic disaster for the majority of peasants. The politicization of society increased, creating a favourable environment for the development of socialist ideas. In 1899 the Tiflis (Tbilisi) committee of the All-Russian Social DemocraticLabour Party was formed, dominated by a Menshevik, legalist wing, led by Noe Jordania. Itwas opposed by the Bolsheviks, among whom Stalin (Iosif Dzhugashvili, or IosebJughashvili) gradually acquired a leading position. In August 1914 Russia entered the FirstWorld War, and the Russian army advanced deep into Turkey, occupying Kars, Ardahan andEastern Anatolia. Following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas (Nikolai) II in March 1917, theProvisional Government nominated an executive in the South Caucasus—the SpecialTranscaucasian Committee (Ozakom)—but its power was restricted by soviets (councils),which were controlled in Georgia by Mensheviks. While the latter supported the RussianGovernment and the prolongation of the war, the Bolsheviks demanded peace at any price,demobilization and revolution. When, in November, the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd(now St Petersburg), Russia, the Georgian Mensheviks, the Armenian Dashnaks and the AzeriMüsavatists immediately responded by creating an executive body, the TranscaucasianCommissariat, and, later, a legislative body, the Seim. Following the signature of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty on 3 March 1918, the Bolsheviks ceded the districts of Akhaltsikhe,