Military history of Georgia

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Monument of Battle of Didgori

The country of Georgia has known a rich military history, both as a battlefield of empires and as an independent political and military power. The strategic significance and natural wealth of its territory made it the target of many invasions, and the country's independence was preserved against multiple enemies by a succession of states. Before the unification of the country by the Bagrationi dynasty in the 10th century, several states, such as Iberia and Colchis had managed to subsist between the Roman empire (later Byzantine Empire in the West, and the Sassanid Empire (later replaced by the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. Between the 11th and 15th centuries, the Kingdom of Georgia was a major regional power, which withstood invasions by the Great Seljuk Empire, Mongol Empire, and Timurid Empire, before its fragmentation and submission to the Ottoman and Safavid Empires. Many Georgians fought in the armies of the empires that ruled the country from the 16th century, be it the Safavids, the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, and the nation kept a reputation for military valour and skill. Since 1991, the newly independent Georgia has taken part in many conflicts: its conflicts with Russia culminated in the 2008 South Ossetia war, while its alliance with the United States led to Georgia's participation in the Afghan and Iraq wars.


Kingdom of Iberia[edit]

Georgian (Iberian) flag in the 4th to 6th centuries

Iberia (Georgian — იბერია, Latin: Iberia and Greek: Ἰβηρία), also known as Iveria (Georgian: ივერია), was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli[1] (4th century BC – 5th century AD), corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia.[2][3] The term Caucasian Iberia (or Eastern Iberia) is used to distinguish it from the Iberian Peninsula, where the present day countries of Spain, Portugal and Andorra are located.

The Caucasian Iberians provided a basis for later Georgian statehood and along with Colchis (early western Georgian state) formed a core of the present day Georgian people (or Kartvelians).[4][5]

Pompey's Georgian campaign[edit]

Georgian(Colchis) fortress of Surami town, built in the 2nd-3rd centuries, heavily fortified in the 12th century

Pompey invaded in Georgia in 65 BC after making Kingdom of Armenia Vassal of Rome. He demanded from Iberians to become Roman vassals, but Iberians refused and began partisan war against Pompey. They were hiding in woods and killing Roman soldiers. Reportedly, a sizable number of women also participated in this irregular warfare.. Later in 65 BC Iberians fought against Pompey over the Aragvi river, Greek historian Plutarch called this battle a great battle and noted that Iberian casualties consisted of approximately 9,000 people, while more than 10,000 were taken captive by Romans. After submitting Iberia, Pompey headed towards the Kingdom of Colchis and subjugated the main fortresses and various local peoples on the way with both cunning diplomacy and the use of force.

Kingdom of Colchis[edit]

Georgian Colchis and Iberia 600BC-150BC

In ancient Geography, Colchis or Kolkhis (Georgian and Laz: კოლხეთი, ḳolkheti or "ḳolkha"; Ancient Greek: Κολχίς, Kolkhís) was an ancient Georgian[6][7][8][9] state[10][11] kingdom and region[12] in Western Georgia, which played an important role in the ethnic and cultural formation of the Georgian nation.[9][13][14] Its geography is mostly assigned to what is now the western part of Georgia and encompasses the present-day Georgian provinces of Samegrelo, Imereti, Guria, Adjara, Abkhazeti, Svaneti, Racha; the modern Turkey’s Rize, Trabzon and Artvin provinces (Lazistan, Tao-Klarjeti); and the modern Russia’s Sochi and Tuapse districts.[15] The Colchians were probably established on the Black Sea coast by the Middle Bronze Age.[16]

War between Iberia and Armenia[edit]

The War between Armenia and Iberia (AD 51) is known chiefly through its description in Tacitus' Annals.[17] Fearing usurpation by Rhadamistus, his father convinced him to make war upon his uncle and claim the Armenian throne for himself. The Iberians invaded with a large army and forced Mithridates to retreat into the fortress of Gorneas (Garni), which was garrisoned by the Romans under the command of Caelius Pollio, a prefect, and Casperius, a centurion. Rhadamistus was unable to take the fortress by assault or by siege. Pollio, swayed by bribery from Rhadamistus, induced the Roman soldiers to threaten the capitulation of the garrison. Under this threat, Mithridates left the fortress in order to make peace with Rhadamistus. Rhadamistus then executed Mithridates and his sons, despite a promise of non-violence, and became King of Armenia. Of this usurpation, Tacitus wrote "Rhadamistus might retain his ill-gotten gains, as long as he was hated and infamous; for this was more to Rome's interest than for him to have succeeded with glory".

Late Antiquty[edit]

Vakhtang Gorgasal's revolt against Sassanids[edit]

Georgia in 12th-13th century

In 327 Georgia adopted Christianity and become Christian state which caused it to grow more distant from its Zoroastrian neighbor.[18][19][20] From 483 to 522 years Georgian king Vakhtang I "Gorgasali" was fighting against Iran. Persians called him “Gorgasal”, which means wolf, because of helmet, made of a wolf's head, worn by the Georgian king Vakhtang I when he fought against invading Persians. Vakhtang Gorgasali made Georgia strong regional power. Total number of Georgian Army under Vakhtang I was under 50,000-60,000 warriors.

Iberian War[edit]

Lazic War[edit]

Early middle ages[edit]

War with Umayyad Caliphate[edit]

Georgian fortress of Tbilisi

War with Umayyad Caliphate took place from 735 to 737. Georgians lost the war and Marwan ibn Muhammad massacred many Georgians.

High Middle Ages[edit]

Kingdom of Georgia[edit]

Queen Thamar of the Kingdom of Georgia (reign 12th and 13th centuries)
Georgian medieval flag

Georgia’s power reached its peak during 1089–1236 years creating one of the strongest medieval kingdoms with a population of 9-13 million Georgians and with an army 40,000-90,000 warriors.

Byzantine-Georgian Wars[edit]

Byzantine Empire and Kingdom of Georgia were involved in fist war against each other between 1014-1208 AD. Byzantine invaded into Georgia while Georgia was busy in wars against Seljuks and Arabs. Byzantine conquered Georgian territories but as soon as Kingdom of Georgia found power to fight the third invader, Georgia reconquered Tao-Klarjeti and invaded in Byzantium. Soon Georgia conquered Trabzon and finished the war with Victory.

Georgian-Seljuk wars[edit]

Battle of Didgori[edit]

Caucasus region in late 1124 AD

The Battle of Didgori was fought between the armies of the Kingdom of Georgia(55,000) and Great Seljuq Empire( 300,000)) at the place of Didgori, 40 km west of Tbilisi, (the modern-day capital of Georgia), on August 12, 1121. The battle resulted in King David IV of Georgia’s decisive victory over a Seljuk invasion army under Ilghazi and the subsequent reconquest of a Muslim-held Tbilisi, which became the royal capital. The victory at Didgori inaugurated medieval Georgia’s "Golden Age" and is celebrated in the Georgian chronicles as a "miraculous victory", while modern Georgians continue to remember the event as an annual September festival known as Didgoroba ("[the day] of Didgori").[21]

Battle of Shamkor[edit]

In June 1, 1195 Georgia crushed 70,000 manned army of Azerbaijani Atabeg with 35,000 Georgian army.

Battle of Basian[edit]

In July 27, 1202 Georgia crashed 400,000 manned Army of Seljuqid Sultanate of Rüm near basiani with 65,000 army.

Mongol invasions of Georgia and Armenia[edit]

Medieval Georgian army[edit]

From Highest to lowest rank in Medieval Georgian:

Timur's invasions of Georgia[edit]

Georgian Kingdom in 1460, bordering Kara Koyunlu to the south.

Georgia, a Christian kingdom in the Caucasus, was subjected, between 1386 and 1404, to several disastrous invasions by the armies of Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur, whose vast empire stretched, at its greatest extent, from Central Asia into Anatolia.

In the first of at least seven invasions, Timur sacked Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and captured the king Bagrat V in 1386. Georgian resistance prompted a renewed attack by the Turco-Mongol armies. Bagrat’s son and successor, George VII, put up a stiff resistance and had to spend much of his reign (1395-1405) fighting the Timurid invasions. Timur personally led most of these raids to subdue the recalcitrant Georgian monarch. Although he was not able to establish a firm control over Georgia, the country suffered a blow from which it never recovered.

Turkoman invasions of Georgia[edit]

Georgian Mamluks in Egypt[edit]

In the thirteenth century, Egyptians began recruiting mainly Christians of Georgia and Circassia as slave soldiers called Mamluks. After 1235, 70 percent of Egyptian Mamluks were Circassians or Georgians in origin and the other 30% were Kipchaks.[citation needed]

Georgian Mamluks in Iraq[edit]

At the start of the eighteenth century, Georgian Mamluks based in Iraq asserted autonomy from the Ottoman Empire and founded a dynasty which ruled an autonomous Iraq until 1831, when the Ottomans reimposed direct rule.

Georgian weapons[edit]

King David "the Builder" made an own sword "Khmali" and supplied Army with it. Georgians called it "Davitiuri" what mean "sword of David" in English. David personally called it "Sword of Messiah".

Georgian "Davitiuri" sword was an mixed type of European Knightly sword and Persian bow sword. later this type of sword led Georgians into the Golden age of Georgia in 11-12th centuries. Georgian "Davitiuri" sword was adopted by all Caucasian nations and become Caucasian sword.

Early modern period[edit]

Georgian-Safavid wars[edit]

Georgian-Ottoman wars[edit]

Georgian cavalry in 1918.

After Mongol invasions and collapse of Kingdom of Georgia, From 16th century to 19th Georgia was Fighting against Persian, Ottoman, and Russian Rule in the battles of

In 19th century Russia annexed Georgia and Georgians began partisan wars against the Russians. In the early 20th century Georgia declared independence from Russia. In 1921,the newly established Bolshevik faction invaded and annexed Georgia.

modern period[edit]

World War I[edit]

Georgia fought in first world war within Russia and some at side of Germany. 200,000 soldiers were sent to the war out of 1.5 million population. 15,000 Soldiers fought at side of Germany in Georgian Legion.

World War II[edit]

Joseph Stalin, Joseph Jughashvili

Georgia sent up to 700,000 soldiers at side of Soviet Union, out of 3 million total population, to the war, 300,000 soldiers died 400,000 soldiers returned. 30,000 Fought at side of Axis within Georgian Legion, some fought out of Georgian Legion in SS and Luftwaffe. Notable Georgian commanders of World War II: Joseph Stalin, Konstantine Leselidze.

Wars against Russia[edit]

  • In 1801 Russia betrayed the Treaty of Georgievsk and occupied the Georgian kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti.
  • in 1810 Russia occupied Kingdom of Imereti
  • in 1828 Russia occupied principality of Guria
  • in 1856 Russia occupied principality of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti
  • in 1865 Russia occupied Abkhazia
  • in 1921 Russia occupied Democratic Republic of Georgia (3,000 soldiers and 6,000 civilians were killed; Russia lost 5,500 soldiers and 2,500 were captured by Georgia) (See Soviet invasion of Georgia)
  • in 1924 thousands of Georgian freedom fighters (including People from Abkhazian Region) were killed during the August Uprising.
  • in 1989, 9 April, 21 students were killed during a meeting in Tbilisi
  • in 1992 Russia occupied Samachablo(So called South Ossetia)
  • in 1993 Russia occupied autonomy of Abkhazia
  • in 2008 Russia invaded in Georgia killing 160 soldiers and 534 civilians(including Ossetian civilians killed in Tskhivali massive air strikes)

In the last 200 years, there were 8 wars against Russia, but Russia still occupies 20% of Georgian territory. Russian-Georgian wars still active.


Georgia declared independence from Russia in 9 April 1991. After independence, Russia invaded into Georgian regions: Autonomous republic of Abkhazia, and Shida kartli (so called South Ossetia). Regular army of Russia, hired fighters, north Caucasian confederats and Abkhazian separatists were fighting against Georgia.

Georgian army in 2012[edit]

Georgian Armed forces.
Georgian Armed forces in Iraq.
Georgian Armed Forces.

After rose revolution Georgia began reforms of Armed forces, number of soldiers increased from 15,00 to 37,000, Georgian soldiers began training together with US Marine Corps. Georgia bought armament from USA, Israel, Ukraine, Czech, Poland and etc. Georgian armed forces are equipped with M4 carbine (main), Negev Img, M134, M40 rifle, M24 Sniper Weapon System, Sako TRG and other weapons. Georgia began full rearming to remove soviet armament. The structure of the Georgian Land Forces is based on brigade and battalion-sized military units. The main force consists of five infantry and two artillery brigades with additional brigades or battalions attached. Georgian brigades have a total manpower of up to 5,500+. The overall strength of the land forces is 37,553 (excluding active reserve), from which 21 are high-ranking officers, 6,166 officers and sergeants, 28,477 corporals, 125 cadets and 388 civilians. The ground forces are equipped with a great variety of weapons and vehicles. The light infantry presents the backbone of the Georgian army and is being trained on the model of US Marines as a quickly deployable direct action vanguard, while the actual infantry acts as supportive arm. Special forces operate independently under MOD directivity. In 1999 Georgia created Georgian special operations battalion with a help of Turkey, after 2004 this secret battalion began Training together with US army Special forces. Now, Georgian special operations battalion is one of the best MOD special force in Eastern Europe. In 2011 Georgia made reserve forces who will be trained and equipped until 2013. 140,000 reserve forces will be ready to 2013, 70,000 in 2012. 40,000 reservists will become territorial reserve forces under command of Police 100,000 reservists will become army reserve to support Regular army during war. Georgian reserve forces are equipped with AK-47, AK-74M, RPG-7, SVD and other former equipment of Georgian regular army. Total number of reservists suitable for military service (27–40 years old males) is 900,000. Georgia created its own Military industry and already produced:


  • Su-25KM "Scorpion" (Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing produced more than 800 SU-25, today the production of Su-25 is stopped, but “Delta’s” Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing modernizes SU-25 to Su-25KM "Scorpion". “Scorpion” is fare better plane than old SU-25, it has improved avionics and electronics. Unlike SU-25, “scorpion” is suitable for night strike.)
  • T-72 SIM-1 (T-72 SIM-1 - Increased implementation of K-1 reactive and K-5 passive armor. New FALCON command and control system, GPS navigation system and Polish SKO-1T DRAWA-T fire control system with thermal imager and laser rangefinder (from PT-91 Twardy).[22] It has also a friend-or-foe recognition system.)
  • P-109 patrol boat (70,000 kg) deep modernized Coast guard boat. In 1012 USA built Boat modernization factory in Batumi.

Future production In 2012 Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili said that Georgia will produce own made surface to air missile system. From 1946 to 1989 Georgia was producing air to air missiles, for example air-to-air R-60 and R-73 IR guided missiles. Total number of produced missiles was 6,000.

Georgian MOD said that Georgia is working on a few new products and improvement of already produced vehicles. Also Georgian president said that Georgia will present first Georgian Armed unmanned aerial vehicle in 2013


  1. ^ Course of Ancient Geography, Henry Immanuel Smith, p. 279.
  2. ^ The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars, Geoffrey Greatrex, Samuel N. C. Lieu, p. 82
  3. ^ The Emperor Domitian, Brian W. Jones, p. 156.
  4. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny. The Making of the Georgian Nation. Indiana University Press, p. 13 ISBN 0-253-20915-3.
  5. ^ William Coffman McDermott, Wallace Everett Caldwell. Readings in the History of the Ancient World. p. 404.
  6. ^ Ronald Grigol Suny, The Making of the Georgian Nation, p 9
  7. ^ Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC-AD 562, David Braund Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. Pp. 359
  8. ^ The Making of the Georgian Nation, Ronald Grigor Suny, p. 13
  9. ^ a b Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War, Stuart J. Kaufman, p. 91
  10. ^ Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, p 69
  11. ^ One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups, James Minahan, p. 282
  12. ^ Marc Van de Mieroop, A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000–323 BC, p 265 ISBN 978-1405149112
  13. ^ Charles Burney and David Marshal Lang, The Peoples of the Hills: Ancient Ararat and Caucasus, p. 38
  14. ^ Oliver Wardrop, The Kingdom Of Georgia: Travel In A Land Of Women, Wine And Song (Kegan Paul Library of History and Archaeology)
  15. ^ Andrew Andersen, History of Ancient Caucasus, p. 91
  16. ^ David Marshal Lang, the Georgians, Frederich A. Praeger Publishers, New York, p 59
  17. ^ Tacitus. Annals. Book XII, Chapters 44-51. Retrieved May 10, 2012. 
  18. ^ Theodor Dowling, Sketches of Georgian Church History, New York, 1912, p 37
  19. ^ Charles Burney and David Marshal Lang, The Peoples of the Hills: Ancient Ararat and Caucasus, p. 22
  20. ^ Allen, W.E.D.: A History of the Georgian People, 1932, p. 64
  21. ^ Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994), The Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 36. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-20915-3
  22. ^ "Бронетехника в грузино-осетинском конфликте август 2008 - 0001.htm". Retrieved 2012-08-26.