|"Prince Muhammad-Bek of Georgia", a miniature by Reza Abbasi, c. 1620|
|100,000 + |
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
Iranian Georgians are an ethnic group living in Iran. Today's Georgia was a subject to the Safavid empire in 17th century and Shah Abbas I relocated communities of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Georgians as part of his programs to develop industrial economy, strengthen the military and populate newly built towns in various places in Iran including the provinces of Isfahan and Mazandaran. The Georgian community of Fereydunshahr have retained their distinct Georgian identity until this day, while adopting aspects of Iranian culture such as Persian language, and Twelver Shia Islam.
The first compact Georgian settlements appeared in Iran in the 1610s when Shah Abbas I relocated thousands from their historical homeland, eastern Georgian provinces of Kakheti and Kartli. Most of modern-day Iranian Georgians are their descendants though subsequent waves of deportations also occurred throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The Georgian deportees were settled by the Shah's government into the scarcely populated lands which were quickly made by their new inhabitants into the lively agricultural areas. Many of these new settlements were given Georgian names, reflecting the toponyms found in Georgia. During the Safavid era, Georgia became so politically and somewhat culturally intertwined with Iran that Georgians almost replaced the Qezelbash among the Safavid officials.
During the last days of the Safavid empire, Ottoman Turks and Afghans took advantage of Iranian internal weakness and invaded Iran. The Iranian Georgian contribution in wars against the invading Afghans was crucial. Georgians fought in the battle of Golnabad, and in the battle of Fereydunshahr. In the latter battle they brought a humiliating defeat to the Afghan army.
Despite their isolation from Georgia, many Georgians have preserved their language and some traditions, but embraced Islam. The ethnographer Lado Aghniashvili was first from Georgia to visit this community in 1890.
In the aftermath of World War I, the Georgian minority in Iran was caught in the pressures of the rising Cold War. In 1945, this compact ethnic community, along with other ethnic minorities that populated northern Iran, came to the attention of the Soviet as a possible instrument for fomenting unrest in Iranian domestic politics. While the Soviet Georgian leadership wanted to repatriate them to Georgia, Moscow clearly preferred to keep them in Iran. The Soviet plans were abandoned only after Joseph Stalin realized that his plans to obtain influence in northern Iran foiled by both Iranian stubbornness and United States pressure.
In June 2004, the new Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, became the first Georgian politician to have visited the Iranian Georgian community in Fereydunshahr. The locals gave to the delegation a warm welcome, which included waving of the newly adopted Georgian national flag with its five crosses. Saakashvili who stressed that the Iranian Georgians have historically played an important role in defending Iran put flowers on the graves of the Iranian Georgian dead of the eight years long Iran–Iraq War.
Notable Georgians of Iran
Many direct and indirect members of Safavid family had some Georgian background. Heydar Ali, third son of Tahmasp I, was the son of a Georgian slave. Mustafa, fourth son of Tahmasp I, was the son of a Georgian princess.
Allahverdi Khan Undiladze, whom the famous landmark of 33 pol in Isfahan is named after, was among the Georgian elite that were involved in the Safavid government. Also his son Emam-gholi Khan Undiladze, who defeated the Portuguese army in the Persian Gulf was a famous Iranian Georgian serving the Safavid empire. Other famous Georgians of Safavid empire were Daud Khan Undiladze, Gorgin Khan, Khusraw Mirza (Rostom), Rustam Khan, Parsadan Gorgijanidze, Siyâvash, and Yusef Khan-e Gorji the Sepahdar, who established modern Arak.
The names of actors Cyrus Gorjestani and Sima Gorjestani, as well as the late Nematollah Gorji, suggest that they are/were (at least from the paternal side) of Georgian origin. Also the Mazandarani poet Nima Yooshij had Georgian roots. It is believed that Reza Shah Pahlavi's grandmother was a Georgian (from Mazandaran). The Iranian-Australian University Professor in Organisational Psychology and Applied Statistics, Dr Leila Karimi  born in a Georgian Family (originally known as Goginashvili) in Esfahan. Mahmoud Karimi (Mahmud Karimi Sibaki), an Iranian football striker who plays for Sepahan F.C. (Esfahan) in the Iranian Premier Football League is the most famous Iranian Georgian football player in Iran. Another contemporary figure of partial Georgian background is the Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani.
For a more lengthy discussion on Georgians and Persia refer to.
Geographic distribution, language and culture
The Georgian language is still used by some people in Iran. The center of Georgians in Iran is Fereydunshahr, a small city, 150 km to the west of Isfahan in the area historically known as Fereydan. In this area there are 10 Georgian towns and villages around Fereydunshahr. In this region the old Georgian identity is retained the best compared to other places in Iran.
There were other compact settlements in Khorasan at Abbas Abad (half-way between Shahrood and Sabzevar where there remained only one old woman who remembered Georgian in 1934), Mazandaran at Behshahr and Farah Abad, Gilan, Isfahan Province at Najafabad, Badrud, Rahmatabad, Yazdanshahr and Amir Abad. These areas are frequently called Gorji Mahalle ("Georgian neighborhood"). Many Georgians or Iranians of partial Georgian descent are also scattered in major Iranian cities, such as Tehran, Esfahan, Karaj and Shiraz. Most of these communities no longer speak the Georgian language, but retain aspects of Georgian culture. Some argue that Iranian Georgians retain remnants of Christian traditions, but there is no evidence for this. The Georgian alphabet is also known to some in Fereydunshahr. Iranian Georgians observe the Shia traditions and also non-religious traditions similar to other people in Iran. They observe the traditions of Nowruz.
The number of Georgians in Iran is estimated from 50,000 to over 100,000. According to Encyclopaedia Georgiana (1986) some 12,000–14,000 lived in rural Fereydan c. 1985 but these numbers are obvious underestimations as it is believed that the modern Iranian Georgians are more than Georgians in Georgia. (3,500,000 +)
- Pierre Oberling, Georgian communities in Persia. Encyclopædia Iranica
- (Georgian) Fereydan - Little Georgia
- (Georgian) Georgian Radio of Iran
- Ali Attār, Georgians in Iran, in Persian, Jadid Online, 2008, .
A Slide Show of Georgians in Iran by Ali Attār, Jadid Online, 2008,  (5 min 31 sec).
- Rezvani, Babak (Winter). "The Fereydani Georgian Representation". Anthropology of the Middle East 4 (2): 52–74. doi:10.3167/ame.2009.040205.
- Matthee, Rudolph P. (1999), The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran: Silk for Silver, 1600-1730.
- Muliani, S. (2001) Jaygah-e Gorjiha dar Tarikh va Farhang va Tammadon-e Iran. Esfahan: Yekta [The Georgians’ position in the Iranian history and civilization]
- Rahimi, M.M. (2001) Gorjiha-ye Iran; Fereydunshahr. Esfahan: Yekta [The Georgians of Iran; Fereydunshahr]
- Sepiani, M. (1980) Iranian-e Gorji. Esfahan: Arash [Georgian Iranians]
- Svetlana Savranskaya and Vladislav Zubok (editors), Cold War International History Project Bulletin, I issue, 14/15 – Conference Reports, Research Notes and Archival Updates, p. 401. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Accessed on September 16, 2007.
- Aptin Khanbaghi (2006)The Fire, the Star and the Cross: Minority Religions in Medieval and Early. London & New YorkIB Tauris. ISBN 1-84511-056-0, pp. 130-1.
- Savory, Roger, Iran Under the Safavids, (Cambridge University Press, 2007), 68.
- Juan de Persia, Don Juan of Persia, (Routledge, 2004), 129.
- Patrick Clawson. Eternal Iran. Palgrave. 2005. Coauthored with Michael Rubin. ISBN 1-4039-6276-6 p.168
- Georgians in Iran by Ali Attār, Jadid Online, 2008,  (5 min 31 sec).
- Encyclopædia Iranica on Gorjestan
- Encyclopaedia Georgiana (1986), vol. 10, Tbilisi: p. 263.
- Muliani, S. (2001) Jâygâhe Gorjihâ dar Târix va Farhang va Tamaddone Irân (The Georgians’ Position in Iranian History and Civilization). Esfahan: Yekta Publication. ISBN 978-964-7016-26-1. (Persian)
- Rahimi, M. M. (2001) Gorjihâye Irân: Fereydunšahr (The Georgians of Iran; Fereydunshahr). Esfahan: Yekta Publication. ISBN 978-964-7016-11-7. (Persian)
- Sepiani, M. (1980) Irâniyâne Gorji (Georgian Iranians). Esfahan: Arash Publication. (Persian)
- Rezvani, B. (2008) "The Islamization and Ethnogenesis of the Fereydani Georgians". Nationalities Papers 36 (4): 593-623. doi:10.1080/00905990802230597
- Oberling, Pierre (1963). "Georgians and Circassians in Iran". Studia Caucasica (1): 127-143
- Saakashvili visited Fereydunshahr and put flowers on the graves of the Iranian Georgian martyrs' graves, showing respect towards this community  (Persian)