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Title: Bagrationi  
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Subject: 830, 1011, 923, Georgia (country), Prince, Pyotr Bagration, Caucasian Iberia, Lazica, Tao-Klarjeti, Empire of Trebizond
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ბაგრატიონთა საგვარეულო
Bagrationi dynasty
Bagrationta sagvareulo
Coat of Arms
Official language Georgian
First appearance and ending as a defined monarchy 575–1810 AD
Capitals Early Bagrationis: Artanuji, Kutaisi,
"Golden age" : Tbilisi
Breakaway branches: Tbilisi (Kingdom of Kartli); Gremi, Telavi (Kingdom of Kakheti); Kutaisi (Kingdom of Imereti)
Government Monarchy
Preceding state Kingdom of Georgia
Succeeding state Imperial Russia

The Bagrationi Royal Dynasty (Georgian: ბაგრატიონი, bagrati'oni) is the oldest royal dynasty in Europe,[1][2][3][4][5] (although Walter Curley's Monarchs-in-Waiting attributes that distinction to the Royal House of France,[6] as does Joseph Valynseele's Les Prétendants aux Trônes d'Europe,[7] while L. G. Pine contends that the Irish ruler, Niall of the Nine Hostages, fl. in the 5th century A.D.[8]) which ruled Georgia and is among the oldest, extant Christian royal dynasties in the world. It was the ruling dynasty of Georgia, reigning from the Middle Ages until the early 19th century. In modern usage, this royal line is frequently referred to as the Georgian Bagratids (a Hellenized form of their dynastic name), also known in English as the Bagrations.

The origin of the Bagrationi dynasty is disputed, as well as the time when they first appeared on Georgian soil. The history of the dynasty is inextricably bound with that of Georgia. Their ancestors began their rule, in the early 9th century, as presiding princes in historic southwestern Georgia and the adjacent Georgian marchlands reconquered from Arabs. Subsequently they restored, in 888, the Georgian kingdom, which prospered from the 11th to the 13th century, bringing several regional polities under its control. This period of time, particularly the reigns of David IV (1089–1125) and his great granddaughter Tamar (1184–1213), is celebrated as a "golden age" in the history of Georgia, the era of empire, military exploits, and remarkable achievements in culture.

After the fragmentation of their unified feudal state in the late 15th century, the branches of the Bagrationi house ruled the three breakaway Georgian kingdoms – Kartli, Kakheti, and Imereti – until the Russian annexation in the early 19th century. The dynasty persisted in exile as an Imperial Russian noble family until the 1917 February Revolution. The establishment of the Soviet rule in Georgia in 1921 forced some members of the family to accept demoted status and loss of property in Georgia, others relocated to Western Europe, although some repatriated after Georgian independence in 1991.

Each of the surviving branches continues to style itself as the Royal House of Georgia.


According to a family legend, taken down by the 11th century Georgian chronicler Sumbat Davitis-Dze,[9] and supplied much later by Prince Vakhushti Bagrationi (1696–1757) with chronological data, the ancestors of the dynasty traced their descent to the biblical king and prophet David and came from Palestine around 530 AD. Tradition has it that of seven refugee brothers of the Davidic line, three of them settled in Armenia and the other four arrived in Kartli (also known as Iberia), where they intermarried with the local ruling houses and acquired some lands in hereditary possession. One of the four brothers, Guaram (died in 532), allegedly gave an origin to a line subsequently called Bagrationi after his son Bagrat.[10]

A successor, Guaram, was installed as a presiding prince of Kartli under the Byzantine protectorate and bestowed, on this occasion, with the Byzantine court title of Kouropalates[11] in 575.[12] Thus, according to this version, began the dynasty of the Bagratids, who ruled until 1801.[13] This tradition had been given a general acceptance until the early 20th century.[14] While the Jewish origin, let alone the biblical descent, of the Bagratids has been largely discounted by modern scholarship, their origin still remains controversial. Several Soviet-era historians of Georgia developed a view summarized by N. Berdzenishvili et al. in their standard reference book on the history of Georgia: Template:Cquote

Many modern scholars, however, question the above version, referring to a more complex analysis of primary Armenian and Georgian sources.

Cyril Toumanoff's research concluded that the Georgian Bagratids branched out of the Armenian Bagratid dynasty in the person of Adarnase, whose father Vasak (son of Ashot III the Blind, presiding prince of Armenia from 732 to 748) passed to Kartli following an abortive uprising against Arab rule in 772. Adarnase’s son, Ashot I, attained to the principality of Kartli in 813 and thus founded the last royal house of Georgia. Accordingly, the legend of Davidic origin of the Georgian Bagratids was a further development of the earlier claim entertained by the Armenian dynasty, as given in the work of the Armenian author Moses of Khorene.[15] Once the Georgian branch, which had quickly acculturated in the new environment,[16] assumed royal power, the myth of their biblical origin helped to assert their legitimacy and they emerged as a main ideological pillar of the millennium-long Bagrationi rule in Georgia.[17]

Although certain, generation by generation, history of the Bagrationi dynasty begins only in the late 8th century. Toumanoff claimed that the first Georgian branch of the Bagratids may be traced back as far as the 2nd century AD, when we hear them ruling over the princedom of Odzrkhe in what is now southern Georgia.[18] The Odzrkhe line, known in the medieval annals as the Bivritianis, lasted until the 5th century AD and they cannot be considered as the direct ancestors of the later Bagratids who eventually restored Georgian royal authority.[19]


Early dynasty

"In old times all the kings of Georgia were born with the figure of an eagle upon the right shoulder."
Marco Polo[20][21][22]

The Bagrationi family had grown in prominence by the time the Georgian monarchy (Caucasian Iberia) fell to the Sassanid Persian Empire in the 6th century, and the leading local princely families were exhausted by Arab attacks. The rise of the new dynasty was made possible by the extinction of the Guaramids and the near-extinction of the Chosroids,[23] the two earlier Georgian dynasties, with whom the Bagratids extensively intermarried, and also by the Abbasid preoccupation with their own civil wars and the conflict with the Byzantine Empire. Although Arab rule did not allow them a foothold in the ancient capital of Tbilisi and eastern Kartli, the Bagratids successfully maintained their initial domain in Klarjeti and Samtskhe and, under the Byzantine protectorate, extended their possessions southward into the northwestern Armenian marches to form a large polity conventionally known in modern history writing as Tao-Klarjeti after its two major provinces. In 813, the new dynasty acquired, with Ashot I, the hereditary title of presiding prince (erismtavari) of Kartli, to which the emperor attached the title of kourapalates.

Despite the revitalization of the monarchy, Georgian lands remained divided among rival authorities, with Tbilisi remaining in Arab hands. The sons and grandsons of Ashot I established three separate branches – the lines of Kartli, Tao, and Klarjeti – frequently struggling with each other and with neighboring rulers. The Kartli line prevailed; in 888, with Adarnase I, it restored the indigenous Georgian royal authority dormant since 580. His descendant Bagrat III was able to consolidate his inheritance in Tao-Klarjeti and Abkhazian Kingdom, due largely to the diplomacy and conquests of his energetic foster-father David III of Tao.

Golden Age

Main article: Kingdom of Georgia
Mameluke Sultans of Egypt used to address the Georgian kings as:
"the kernel of the religion of the Cross, the great monarch, the hero, the bold, just to his subjects, the successor of the Greek kings, protector of the homeland of the knights, supporter of the faith of Jesus, the anointed leader of Christian heroes, the best of close companions, and the friend of kings and sultans."
Aḥmad b. Faḍl Allāh al-‘Umarī[24]

This unified monarchy maintained its precarious independence from the Byzantine and Seljuk empires throughout the 11th century, flourished under David IV the Builder (1089–1125), who repelled the Seljuk attacks and essentially completed the unification of Georgia with the re-conquest of Tbilisi in 1122. With the decline of Byzantine power and the dissolution of the Great Seljuk Empire, Georgia became one of the pre-eminent nations of the Christian East, her pan-Caucasian empire[25] stretching, at its largest extent, from North Caucasus to northern Iran, and eastwards into Asia Minor.

In spite of repeated incidents of dynastic strife, the kingdom continued to prosper during the reigns of Demetrios I (1125–1156), George III (1156–1184), and especially, his daughter Tamar (1184–1213). With the death of George III the main male line went extinct and the dynasty was continued through the marriage of Queen Tamar with the Alan prince David Soslan, of reputed Bagratid descent.[26]


The invasions by the Khwarezmians in 1225 and the Mongols in 1236 terminated Georgia’s "golden age". The struggle against the Mongol rule created a diarchy, with an ambitious lateral branch of the Bagrationi dynasty holding sway over Imereti, western Georgia. There was a brief period of reunion and revival under George V the Brilliant (1299–1302, 1314–1346), but the eight onslaughts of the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur between 1386 and 1403 dealt a great blow to the Georgian kingdom. Its unity was finally shattered and, by 1490/91, the once powerful monarchy fragmentized into three independent kingdoms – Kartli (central to eastern Georgia), Kakheti (eastern Georgia), and Imereti (western Georgia) – each led by the rival branches of the Bagrationi dynasty, and into five semi-independent principalities – Odishi, (Mingrelia), Guria, Abkhazia, Svaneti, and Samtskhe – dominated by their own feudal clans.

The Georgian rulers maintained their perilous autonomy during the three subsequent centuries of the Ottoman and Persian domination, although sometimes serving as little more than puppets in the hands of their powerful suzerains.

The line of Imereti, incessantly embroiled in civil wars, continued with many breaks in succession, and the kingdom was only relatively spared from the encroachments of its Ottoman overlords, while Kartli and Kakheti were subjected to numerous invasions by the Persians, whose efforts to annihilate the refractory vassal kingdoms were in vain, and the two eastern Georgian monarchies, though occasionally losing their independence in the course of their history, survived to be reunified, in 1762, under King Heraclius II, who united in his person both the Kakhetian and Kartlian lines, the latter represented by its junior branch of Mukhrani since 1658.

Last monarchs

"If the dynasty of the Moscovites should be extinguished the Princes of Georgia would succeed"
Evliya Çelebi[27]

Having gained de facto independence from Persia, Heraclius II achieved a degree of stability in the country and established his political hegemony in eastern Transcaucasia. In the 1783 Treaty of Georgievsk, he placed his kingdom under the protection of Imperial Russia. The latter failed, however, to provide timely help when the Persian ruler Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar attacked Tbilisi in 1795 to compel severance of Georgian ties to Russia.

After the death of Heraclius in 1798, his son and successor, King George XII, renewed a request for protection from Emperor Paul I of Russia, and urged him to intervene in the bitter dynastic feud among the numerous sons and grandsons of the late Heraclius. Paul offered to incorporate the kingdom of Kartli and Kakheti into the Russian Empire, while preserving its native dynasty and a degree of internal autonomy – essentially, mediatisation. Negotiations of terms were still in process,[28] when Paul signed a manifesto on December 18, 1800, declaring the unilateral annexation of Kartli-Kakheti to the Russian Empire.[29] This proclamation was kept secret until the death of King George on December 28. His eldest son, the Tsarevich Davit, had been formally acknowledged as heir apparent by Emperor Paul on 18 April 1799, but his accession as king after his father's death was not recognized.

On September 12, 1801, Emperor Alexander I of Russia formally re-affirmed Paul’s determination, deposing the Bagrationi dynasty from the Georgian throne.[29] Although divided among themselves, some of the Bagrationi princes resisted Russian annexation, trying to instigate rebellion. Most of them were subsequently arrested and deported from Georgia.[30]

The reign of the House of Imereti came to an end less than a decade later. On April 25, 1804, the Imeretian king Solomon II, nominally an Ottoman vassal, was persuaded to conclude the Convention of Elaznauri with Russia, on terms similar to those of the Treaty of Georgievsk. Yet the Russian forces dethroned Solomon on February 20, 1810. Defeated during a subsequent rebellion to regain power, he died in exile in Trabzon, Ottoman Turkey, in 1815.[31]

Bagrationi in Russia

"Russia has no good generals. The only exception is Bagration"

In the Russian Empire the Bagrationis became a prominent family of aristocrats. The most famous was Prince Pyotr Bagration, a great-grandson of King Jesse of Kartli who became a Russian general and hero of the Patriotic War of 1812. His brother Prince Roman Bagration also became a Russian general, distinguishing himself in the Russo-Persian War (1826–1828), and was the first to enter Yerevan in 1827. Roman Bagration was also known for his patronage of the arts, literature and theatre. His home theater in Tbilisi was regarded as one of the finest in the Caucasus. His son Prince Pyotr Romanovich Bagration became governor of the Tver region and later governor-general of the Baltic provinces. He was also a metallurgic engineer known for the development of gold cyanidation in Russia. Prince Dmitry Petrovich Bagration was a Russian general who fought in World War I in the Brusilov Offensive and later joined the Red Army.

Bagrationi today

The majority of the Bagrationi family left Georgia after the Red Army took over Tbilisi in 1921. A descendant of the family, Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Moukhransky, married Vladimir Cyrillovich, Grand Duke of Russia, and became the mother of one of the claimants to the Romanov legacy, Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia.

Mukhrani branch

Main article: House of Mukhrani

In 1942 Prince Irakli Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, of the genealogically senior branch of the dynasty, proclaimed himself Head of the Royal House of Georgia,[36] in the absence of evidence that Bagrationis of the Kakhetian branch (which had reigned until 1801) still survived in the Soviet Union. He founded the Union of Georgian Traditionalists in exile. His second wife, Maria Antonietta Pasquini, daughter of Ugo, Count di Costafiorita, bore him a son and heir, but died in childbirth in February 1944. In August 1946 the widower married Princess María Mercedes de Baviera y Borbón, a granddaughter of King Alfonso XII, and daughter of Don Fernando de Baviera y Borbón, who had renounced his royal rights in Bavaria to become a naturalised infante in Spain.

Beginning in the 1990s, senior members of the Bagrationi-Mukhrani descendants began

In the case of the most junior legitimate branch of the dynasty, the Bagrationi Imeretinsky line, the last member passed away in 2009 (Princess Nino Bagration Imeretinsky). Her descendants carry the surname Djaparidze.

Gruzinsky branch

Prince Nugzar Petrovich Bagration-Gruzinski (born 1950) is the most senior, known patrilineal descendant of Georgia's last king, George XII and is, as such, head of the Kakhetian branch of the dynasty which, although genealogically junior to the Mukhranelis, has reigned more recently, not having lost the throne of a Georgian kingdom until 1800.[38][39] Nugzar is well known in Georgia because he has lived his entire life in Tbilisi, and experienced with other Georgians both the country's subordination to the Soviet regime and its liberation since 1991. He is a theatrical and cinema director, and his father, Prince Petre Bagration-Gruzinski (1920–1984), was a poet, and authored lyrics to the anthem, "Song of Tiflis".[39]

As Nugzar has no male issue, Evgeny Petrovich Gruzinsky (born 1947), the great-great grandson of Bagrat's younger brother Ilia (1791–1854), who lives in the Russian Federation, is considered to be an heir presumptive within the same primogeniture principle.[40] Nugzar himself argues in favor of having his eldest daughter, Anna, designated as his heir.[41]

Union of Bagrationi branches

Prince Nugzar's daughter, Princess Anna, a divorced teacher and journalist with two daughters, married Prince David Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, on 8 February 2009 at the Tbilisi Sameba Cathedral.[42] The marriage united the Gruzinsky and Mukhrani branches of the Georgian royal family, and drew a crowd of 3,000 spectators, officials, and foreign diplomats, as well as extensive coverage by the Georgian media.[43]

The dynastic significance of the wedding lay in the fact that, amidst the turmoil in political partisanship that has roiled Georgia since its independence in 1991, Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia publicly called for restoration of the monarchy as a path toward national unity in October 2007.[44] Although this led some politicians and parties to entertain the notion of a Georgian constitutional monarchy, competition arose among the old dynasty's princes and supporters, as historians and jurists debated which Bagrationi has the strongest hereditary right to a throne that has been vacant for two centuries.[43] Although some Georgian monarchists support the Gruzinsky branch's claim, others support that of the re-patriated Mukhrani branch.[44] Both branches descend from the medieval kings of Georgia down to Constantine II of Georgia who died in 1505,[38] and continue in unbroken, legitimate male line into the 21st century.

Whereas the Bagration-Mukhrani were a cadet branch of the former Royal House of Kartli, they became the genealogically seniormost line of the Bagrationi family in the early 20th century: yet this elder branch had lost the rule of Kartli by 1724,[38] retaining that of the Principality of Mukhrani until its annexation by Russia along with Kartli-Kakheti in 1800.

Meanwhile, the Bagration-Gruzinsky line, although junior to the Princes of Mukhrani genealogically, reigned over the kingdom of Kakheti, re-united the two realms in the kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti in 1762, and did not lose sovereignty until Russian annexation in 1800.[45]

The bridegroom is the only member of his branch who retains Georgian citizenship and residence since the death of his father, Prince George Bagration-Mukhraneli in 2008.[45] Aside from his unmarried elder brother, Prince Davit is the heir male of the Bagrationi family, while the bride's father is the most senior descendant of the last Bagrationi to reign over the united kingdom of Georgia. Since Nugzar and Princes Peter and Eugene Bagrationi-Gruzinsky are the last patrilineal males descended from King George XII, and all three were born before 1950, their branch verges on extinction. But the marriage between Nugzar Gruzinsky's heiress and the Mukhrani heir resolves their rivalry for the claim to the throne, which has recently divided Georgian monarchists.[45]

Prince David and Princess Anna became the parents of a baby boy on September 27, 2011, Prince Giorgi Bagration Bagrationi who, in his person, potentially unites the Mukhraneli and Gruzinsky claims. If no other Bagrationi prince is born in either the Gruzinsky or Mukhraneli branch who is of senior descent by primogeniture, and he survives those now living, Prince Giorgi will become the heir male of the House of Bagrationi and the heir general of George XIII of Georgia .[46]

Gallery of some Georgian monarchs of Bagrationi dynasty

See also



  • Baddeley, JF, Gammer M (INT) (2003), The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, Routledge (UK), ISBN 0-7007-0634-8 (First published in 1908; 1999 edition, reprinted in 2003)
  • Lang, DM (1957), The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy: 1658-1832, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Rapp, SH (2003), Studies In Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts And Eurasian Contexts, Peeters Bvba ISBN 90-429-1318-5.
  • Suny, RG (1994), The Making of the Georgian Nation: 2nd edition, Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-20915-3.

Further reading

  • A. Khakhanov. "Histoire de la Georgie", Paris, 1900 (in French)
  • A. Manvelichvili. "Histoire de la Georgie", Paris, 1951 (in French)
  • A. Manvelishvili. "Russia and Georgia. 1801-1951", Vol. I, Paris, 1951 (in Georgian)
  • K. Salia. "History of the Georgian Nation", Paris, 1983
  • Kartlis Tskhovreba, vol. I-IV, Tbilisi, 1955-1973 (in Georgian)
  • P. Ingorokva. Giorgi Merchule (a monograph), Tbilisi, 1954 (in Georgian)
  • E. Takaishvili. "Georgian chronology and the beginning of the Bagratid rule in Georgia".- Georgica, London, v. I, 1935
  • Sumbat Davitis dze. "Chronicle of the Bagration's of Tao-Klarjeti", with the investigation of Ekvtime Takaishvili, Tbilisi, 1949 (in Georgian)
  • "Das Leben Kartlis", ubers. und herausgegeben von Gertrud Patch, Leipzig, 1985 (in German)
  • V. Guchua, N. Shoshiashvili. "Bagration's".- Encyclopedia "Sakartvelo", vol. I, Tbilisi, 1997, pp. 318–319 (in Georgian)

External links

  • Official Site of the Royal House of Bagrationi of Georgia, Mukhrani Branch
  • Official Site of the Royal House of Bagrationi of Georgia, Gruzinsky Branch
  • - Genealogical account of the Bagratids per Prince Toumanoff
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