Culture and Art


The Georgian alphabet is unique and is one of the modern world’s fourteen alphabets. It consists of 33 symbols (5 vowels and 28 consonants). The written language has remained so consistent throughout the centuries that medieval Georgian can be read by Georgians today without difficulty.

The earliest known Georgian literary works date back to the 5th century A.D. Georgia’s most renowned literary masterpiece is the epic narrative poem The Knight in the Tiger Skin, written in the 12th century by Shota Rustaveli. Other notable writers include Sulkhan-Saby Orbeliani, who wrote the Georgian language dictionary in  1716, Ilia Chavchavadze, Aleksandr Kazbegi, Akakiy Tsereteli, Galaktion Tabidze, Konstantin Gamsakhurdia, Niko Lordkipanidze, Mikhail Dzhavakhishvili and, most recently, Ana Kalanadze. National written treasures include: Nikoloza Baratashvili’s Merani, the forty epic novels of Vazha Pshavela (amongst these The Guest and his Master and Dandy Marriage); Orbeliani’s Book of Wisdom and Lies, Titsian Tabidze’s poems The Moon of Mtatsminda and The Wind Blows, and the novels of Nodar Dumbadze. These works are internationally renowned and have been translated into several languages.


Famous in Georgia are the medieval paintings preserved in Gelati Monastery, Aten Sion and the temples of Betania and Kintsivi. Contemporary Georgian art is distinct in its combining of local and European styles. In the 1920s Georgian artists Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze gained entry into the Paris School of Art, taking Georgia’s art to the European stage. Today, many Georgian artists have achieved international status, amongst these: Niko Pirosmanishvili (Pirosmani), Gigo Gabashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili, Corneliy Sanadze, Elena Akhvlediani, Sergey Kobuladze, Simon Virsaladze and Ekaterina Bagdavadze. Georgian sculptors Elgudzha Amashukeli, Irakli Ochiuaru and Zurab Tsereteli have also achieved worldwide recognition.


Georgian a capella singing has a history of almost 3000 years and is unique in the history of music. Traditionally, Georgian songs are divided into three voices: soprano, contralto/tenor and bass. The contralto/tenor provides the melody, whilst the bass supports the harmony and slight changes in melody. The soprano is filled with various melodic variations and gives Georgian a capella music its beautiful, ethereal qualities.

Men and women traditionally sing in separate choirs. Men commonly sing in more resonant, thundering tones, whilst female choirs favour gentler healing songs. Recently, UNESCO recognised Georgian polyphony as one of the world’s intangible cultural heritages.

Georgia’s national concert hall, the Tbilisi Conservatoire, is now a musical institution which trains prominent performers of classical music, including the pianists Aleksandr Toradze and Eliso Virsaladze, the violinist Leana Isakadze, the bassist Paata Burchuladze, the singer Nani Bregvadze and the violinists and music teachers Manana Doydzhashvili and Marina Iashvili. Georgia also has a National Symphonic Orchestra.

The Georgian composer Zakhariy Paliashvili (1871-1933) compiled a unique collection of Georgian folk songs and used them to compose the operas Abesalom and Eteri and Daisi, based on Georgian folklore. Meliton Balanchivadze (1862-1973) was the author of the first great Georgian romances and also composed the first Georgian opera Sly Tamara. The composer, musicologist and ethnographer Dimitri Arakishvili (1873-1953) is considered one of the founding fathers of modern Georgian music, rising to fame with his opera Talking About Shota Rustaveli, which was staged in the Tbilisi Opera Theatre in 1919. Georgia’s most notable contemporary composer is Giva Kancheli, who composed Let There Be Music, as well as numerous symphonies, concerts and soundtracks for films and plays, including B. Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle and Shakespeare’s Richard III.