TheBearIsHere

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The Kings in the Caucasus
Georgia at the dawn of modernity


2e27f84ef1aaa95ce02319564a719c7a (1).jpg


“It may be said without exaggeration that the mountains made the men; and the men in return fought with passionate courage and energy in defence of their beloved mountains, in whose fastnesses, indeed, they were well-nigh unconquerable.”

~

She strikes all those who behold her with a sense of awe and confusion; crushed between the might of Asia and Europe, between the influences of Islam and Christendom, Georgia is viewed as an outsider by all peoples of the earth. Hiding themselves behind the monumental peaks of the Caucasian mountains, the Georgians belong to neither east nor west, north nor south, and although they inhabit the borderlands of two continents unrivaled in size and importance, they have been an enigma to foreigners since time immemorial. Nothing exemplifies the mysterious nature of Georgia better than her alphabet, which is radically different from the Greek, Latin and Arabic scripts. Her influence on the world around her has remained marginal, and aside from a few intervals, Georgia’s political history has been largely determined by foreign empires, whether they present themselves in the form of Romans, Persians, Arabs, Mongols or Turks.

It is therefore no wonder why modern scholars have steered clear of the region, out of disinterest, ignorance or simple frustration with the gazillion languages of the region and the complicated mindset of her peoples, outlandishly savage to “civilised” cultures in the West. Yet there are always those with an interest for the unknown, a passion for that which lies at the periphery of the world, a land untouched and largely unaffected by the turmoil and trends of their own world. Those who turn their eyes to a place stuck in time, protected from the outside world and all her folly by her magnanimous and eternal protectors; the mountains.

Though Georgia’s accomplishments as a unitary state may seem irrelevant on a global scale compared to the European nation states to the west, or the ancient oriental empires to the east, she and her Caucasian sisters have a history worth telling, equally fascinating and with awe inspiring stories of their own. The Bagrationi Kings, who have ruled numerous lands in the Caucasus since the 8th century anno domini, are an example of such a tale. Some have suggested that the Bagrat Line is synonymous with Georgia, and whilst this is a somewhat outlandish claim, there is truth to it. This book, in an attempt to attract a wide readership to the remote valleys and peaks of Caucasia and still function as a proper work of history, shall follow their fortunes throughout the early modern era, and see how they attempted to create a centralised state in an impossibly decentralised region.

The author would like to thank you for reading, and hopes to shine a small bit of light on a region forgotten by time itself.

~Prof. Alistair Grey

______________________________________________________________________________

Hello all, and welcome to another AAR by that guy that never finished anything he does. My name is TheBearIsHere, and I'll be your guide to the Caucasus. As you've seen in the title and hopefully read in the preceding lines of text, this AAR will be following the Kingdom of Georgia in her struggle with the forces of nature and time and man and God himself and all that is evil.

On a more serious note, this AAR is written as a history book, though a slightly romanticised one at that. I'd therefore like to make it clear that the gameplay is subservient to the narrative, which means that I shall be playing Georgia with an eye on historical plausibility and the way in which I'd like this story to go. That means, of course, that there will be no world conquests or "Georgia on my mind" achievement runs. Georgia, and the Caucasus as a whole, was quite decentralised at the time (though even Circassia is represented as a united state in EU4), which means expansion outside of the area of historical focus is highly unlikely. The AAR, and the gameplay, will mainly focus on the unification of the Caucasus, which is a stretch in and of itself, and fending off the likely rise of the Ottoman Turks, Russia, and possibly Persia. We'll see!

Anyways, I hope you'll enjoy this niche story about quite a niche region. Feel free to leave comments and feedback, it's greatly appreciated!
______________________________________________________________________________

 
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stnylan

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Well the introduction has sold me :D
 

Idhrendur

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The intro has sold me as well!
 

fabiolundiense

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volksmarschall

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A Georgia AAR. This should be great! Love to see what you will be doing with them! Niche region is the truth. But a fun one at times -- or frustrating.

Good luck.
Cheers!
 

TheBearIsHere

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Chapter I
~
The White Lion of Tiflis

თბილისის თეთრი ლომი


The story told in this book could have started at numerous points in the rich history of Georgia. The reigns of King David IV and Queen Tamar [1] were both periods that appealed to me greatly, yet to choose either would have obscured the story I wish to tell; that of Georgia resurgent, transforming and dealing with the issues of modernity. With that in mind, the Mongol Invasion of the Middle East was the absolute minimum for this story, preferably even after Tamerlane’s conquests. The many ineffective, squabbling and often flat out incompetent rulers of Saqartvelo throughout the turbulent 13th and 14th centuries were not those around whom one could build a proper epic, however. One individual subject to my consideration was King Alexander I, one of the few properly documented Georgian Kings, in Anglo-Saxon sources, that is. However, even his attempts at solidifying the Kingdom fell short of what I desired. And so, my eye fell not on a King, but on a prince.

~

There are but few men who deserve the title ‘hero’, yet the term is thrown around carelessly, obscuring its meaning and denigrating those who are truly deserving of such a name. Whereas in ancient times, the word referred to great men in the plays of Homer, the meaning of the term has become skewed over the ages, and is currently awarded to anyone displaying any positive character traits at all. It is therefore with great caution that I describe individuals, both contemporary and historical, as such. Yet I have hesitancy nor reluctance in calling Giorgi Bagrationi, the White Lion of Tiflis, a hero.

6a00d8341c10fd53ef00e54f3193818833-640wi.jpg

19th century depiction of Prince George Bagration
Giorgi, hereafter referred to as simply ‘George’, came onto this earth in the year 1417, if the chronicles are to be believed. He was born the third son of King Alexander I, behind his elder brothers Vakhtang and Demetre in the line of succession. It was unlikely that he would ever sit on the crumbling throne of Georgia, and indeed, when his father died in 1442, his brother Vakhtang assumed ‘power’ in Tiflis. I have put power in quotation marks because the Kingdom of Georgia was practically defunct by the time Alexander passed away, split into three; the nominal Kingdom of Georgia, little more than Kakheti and Kartli, the Kingdom of Imereti, ruled by a different branch of the extensive Bagrationi dynasty yet surprisingly hostile towards their kinsman in Tbilisi, and the atabegs in Samtskhe, a state which might be more accurately described as a loose alliance of warring aristocrats.

The desperate situation of Georgia was not aided in the slightest by King Vakhtang, an ineffective and passive ruler. What little care he had for matters of state was materialised only in the form of the occasional tour of the country; he would much rather spend his time visiting the many businesses and cultural sites of Tiflis [2] or carouse in the royal palace, reciting poetry in its gardens and commissioning most extravagant tapestries from the renaissance centres of Italy. In practice, rule of the Kingdom fell upon the shoulders of his close relatives, in particular his brothers Demetre and George. Little is known of Demetre, yet George proved himself capable and energetic, at least in matters of military; on the subject of diplomacy and statecraft he was as hopeless as his older brother, if not moreso.

Prince George would often take the lead when it came to foreign affairs, continuously expressing his desire to reunite the Kingdom, by means of military intervention if necessary. The Bagrationi Prince, often seen on his white steed and dressed in some of the finest, Byzantine armour available to the mountainous Kingdom, slowly but surely became the face royal authority, as he was greatly interested in the armed forces, and as such, made frequent visits to the many mountain fortresses along the Imereti border and the mountain passes to Circassia. His solemn face and imposing figure was a well known sight to all warriors in the garrisons and armies of Georgia. Compare this to his brother, the King, whose comings and goings were practically unknown outside of the Tiflis city walls, and it is no understatement to say that he enjoyed little to no authority in the ranks of the military.

By 1446, a mere 4 years after the death of King Alexander I, Prince George had taken control over the Kingdom in all but name, as his brother Vakhtang remained hidden in the many hallways of the royal palace, blissfully ignorant of the semi-coup unfolding outside of his capital. Vakhtang remained silent when his brother started amassing large numbers of troops around Kartli, funded by the royal treasury no less. Vakhtang remained silent as Prince George relocated said troops to the border fortifications of Imereti, and even when the Bagrationi of Imereti threatened war unless Georgian forces retreat from the frontier, Vakhtang did not act. Some annals state that when George marched his army into Imereti, Vakhtang was out hunting near Gori, only aware of the situation a month after his little brother had issued a declaration of war on his own accord. Yet Vakhtang did not seem to mind, and even if he had, he would not have been able to lift a finger against the invasion; by now it had become painfully obvious that Vakhtang was a simple figurehead, a facade for the real power that rested in the mail gloves of George Bagration.

The Imereti campaign, however, can be described as nothing other than a decisive and complete victory for the eight thousand warriors of Prince George [3]. Between George’s entry into the Kingdom of Imereti and the fall of Kutaisi, about a year and a half passed, with minimal casualties on the Georgian side. The battle of the Virila river, the first and only confrontation between Georgian and Imereti forces, displayed some of the finest tactical manoeuvres in Georgian history. George, knowing full well that he would likely be on the backfoot against the Imereti forces in their mountain fortresses, decided to rush all of his forces towards the town of Terjola, on the banks of the Virila, in the knowledge that the Imereti warriors would likely contest his position there. He had arrived there before the enemy, an advantage that allowed him to position his troops on the forested slopes of the mountains to the north and south of the river. When the Imereti came marching along the Virila, as George had predicted, hordes of howling Georgian infantry descended from either side of the valley, pinning the Imereti against the river. Fighting lasted for a few hours, yet it was clear who had the upper hand. Surrounded by the river to the north and the Georgians to the south, the demoralised Imereti forces quickly crumbled.

8777f27340d3ea62531295e3795c1ce4.jpg

Georgian cavalry after the battle of the Virila river
Though some soldiers might have escaped with their lives, effective resistance to the Georgians vanished overnight. Various regiments spread out over the Kingdom, ordered to take the numerous small mountain holdouts of the enemy, yet many voluntarily surrendered when the news of the Imereti defeat reached their ears. Only the capital of the Imereti Kingdom continued the war, yet it too fell in due time. The Bagrationi King of Imereti was allowed residence in the royal palace of Georgia, to join the many cousins and relatives of King Vakhtang in splendid isolation [4]. The entirety of Imereti was reincorporated into the Georgian Kingdom, and many Imereti warriors flocked to the banner of Prince George, who, significantly bolstered in stature and prestige, was already planning his next campaign against the atabegs in Samtskhe.

If the war in Imereti was an easy victory, then the Samtskhe campaign was not a war at all. A boring tale, which is rarely describes in contemporary sources in great detail. I incline to view the matter as a series of police actions, instead of a war between to states. Facts are that, outnumbered two to one and severely outclassed by the veteran Georgian soldiers, the small army the Atabeg of Samstkhe had managed to muster melted away like ice before the Bagrationi Prince. The only obstacle to a quick victory was the fortress at Achaltsiche, a nigh impregnable construct, located high on the slopes of the Transcaucasian mountains. Yet the ten thousand men under the command of Prince George did not need to storm it, nor did they try to tear down her foundations; they were content surrounding the fortress until the garrison inside succumbed to disease and starvation. Soon enough, the Samtskhe garrison marched out of the city as captives of the Georgians. Unlike the King of Imereti, the disloyal atabegs were exiled from the country, and replaced with noble officers from the ranks of the army.

And it was under these circumstances that Prince George Bagrationi returned to Tiflis. His power and influence had grown exponentially over the course of the wars, and his popularity had reached high akin to those of David the Builder and George the Magnificent. His brother and cousins, safely tucked away in the palace, had neither the will nor the ability to seriously threaten his position. The army and the smallfolk kissed his feet and praised his every move. Georgia had been reunited through force of arms. The Caucasus lay open to the firm, iron fist of Prince George Bagrationi, the White Lion of Tiflis.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


[1] To call Tamar 'Queen' may be somewhat of an inaccuracy. Her contemporaries gave her the same title as the male Kings had had, and she might therefore be more truthfully be reffered to as 'King' Tamar

[2] Perhaps ironically, Vakhtang's interest and care for the bourgeoise class of Tiflis would come to help his little brother greatly in his future campaigns.

[3] The number of men George took with him on campaign once again display the disfunctional apparatus of state; the battle of Didgori, three centuries prior to the Imereti campaign, saw a Seljuk army face a Georgian army of over 50,000 men.

[4] This act of mercy may seem somewhat strange, yet it is important to remember that Caucasian cultures, Georgian included, tend to have a strong emphasis on familial ties. Therefore, it would have been a huge blow to George's prestige had he exiled or even executed his kinsmen.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Well that is a nicely hagiographical introduction to this George - and a quite dramatic scene-setting as well.
 

TheBearIsHere

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Well the introduction has sold me :D
The intro has sold me as well!
I'm looking forward to this.
Thanks! Glad to have you all aboard. :)

Looking forward to this history and gameplay ;)
From what I've already played, I can definitly say that the gameplay is by far the most challenging part of this AAR :p

A Georgia AAR. This should be great! Love to see what you will be doing with them! Niche region is the truth. But a fun one at times -- or frustrating.

Good luck.
Cheers!
Yes, it wouldn't be a Georgia AAR without a continual feeling of existenstial threat. :D

Great start! Looks the story could go in many different directions depending on how the game goes.

Are you using a modded version of the game or are you playing vanilla?
I am using some minor graphical mods, though nothing gamechanging. As you can see, I'm twisting the gameplay a bit for narrative purposes. King Vakhtang, being a 1/1/2 ruler, is unlikely to have initiated a lightning campaign of this scale. His heir George, a 4 shock general, leading the Kingdom fits much better with how the omniscient advisor has played the game. ;)

Well that is a nicely hagiographical introduction to this George - and a quite dramatic scene-setting as well.
I can assure you, the peak of George's military career is yet to come.
 

Idhrendur

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Sounds like a good start, but if I recall, there are much greater foes who might look hungrily at Georgia.
 

Machabeli

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A Georgian AAR eh? nice! Georgia as a whole in Eu4's time period was very dysfunctional and highly feudal in nature, but if you want this AAR to be Historical i'd suggest ditching Eu4's representation of Georgia as it's very incorrect.
 

TheBearIsHere

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Chapter II
~
Ascension

ამაღლება
“Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle,
but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.”


______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________​

After the reunification of the Saqartvelo Kingdom and the outstanding military success of Prince George Bagration, the Caucasian realm underwent a period of great upheaval and excitement; in the span of half a decade, the Lion of Tiflis had seemingly reversed a national decline ongoing since the Mongol invasions two centuries prior. The kingdom and her protector seemed ascendant. In the stony halls of mountain strongholds, and across the foggy valleys and dales of the Caucasus, rumors ran and whispers flew about the mythical prince and his army of clansmen. Tales travelled across the icy passes to Circassia and Trebizond, to Dagestan and Chechnya. The realms of Islam greeted the news with suspicion and perhaps a bit of fear; Christendom, or, since we are speaking of the Near East, a few resilient kingdoms and tribes struggling to stand in the rapids of Mohammedan aggression, rejoiced. Relations with the Emperor in Trebizond and the various chieftains of the Circassian lands reached the point where all parties swore an oath of mutual defence. In the halls around the Black and Caspian seas, lords and ladies of high acclaim toasted to or cursed the name of George Bagration.

However, as many later historians have noted, after the victorious campaign in Samtskhe, the political state of Georgia had simply been restored to that of 1442. It was difficult to say that Saqartvelo had furthered her power, influence, or geopolitical position. In fact, after the internal conflicts of the past decade, she had lost precious men and wasted valuable resources. To the south, the Turkmen Black Sheep still roamed the Armenian plateau and bathed in the wealth of Mesopotamia, having crushed an Armenian uprising in Yerevan not long ago [1]; to the north, the sons of Temujin ravaged the christians in Circassia and would do the same to Georgia, were it not for the indomitable Caucasus. In the west, the Roman Emperor spent his days in fear under the sword of Damocles, curved as a crescent moon and forged with Damascus steel. The only strategic opportunity for the isolated Georgian kingdom lay to the east, taking on the form of the Shirvan Sultanate. Though an extremely hostile power, she was of the same size and power as her Orthodox neighbour, something which did not escape the mind of the Tiflis and the Bagrationi prince.

Though consistent with his perceived character, George’s actions and decisions after his victories in Imereti and Samtskhe became more and more influenced by a certain ideal. Whether sparked on by his own sense of grandeur, the cheers of his soldiers, or a remarkably poetic and idealistic view of the world around him, the Lion had started strifing for that which some chroniclers at the time deemed ‘კავკასიური მონარქია’, the Caucasian Monarchy [2]. An idea such as this was extremely far fetched, as political isolation was still strangling the potential power of Georgia and the Caucasus mountains were swarming with hostile Muslims and independent minded tribesmen. What’s more, even today linguists marvel at the incredible diversity in languages splattered across the region; in a time that would come to be defined by the nation state, this was a severe obstacle in the path of a united Caucasia.

Nevertheless, the mood in the Kingdom was such that George Bagration was venerated as a saint-like figure. The army would blindly follow him into the depths of hell and the smallfolk was eating out of his hand. The Royal palace and the noble families of the land might have had their concerns, yet seeing the popularity of the prince they could do little to oppose his will. Besides, they too could likely appreciate Bagrations grandiose aspirations and the dreamy sound of the word ‘Caucasia’. And it should be stated that it was George Bagration and only George Bagration who could dream of such a thing; his military and political exploits all depended on his reputation. In the fractured and decentralised climate of Georgia, the many autonomous clans and nobles could not simply be commanded or even paid to behave as their suzerein wished. Freedom, honour and pride were the most important to most figures and dynasties [3]. Thing like power and wealth came second. It is a testament to George’s charisma and reputation that he was able to field the armies he did and undertake the projects that would carve his legacy in the hard rock of the Caucasus mountains.

Rubo_Kazaki.jpg
"Cossacks near a mountain river", the ruggedness and decentralised nature being perfectly exemplified
To the surprise of contemporaries, but expected by a modern observer of the Georgian political landscape of the time, George Bagration invaded Shirvan with an army of thirteen thousand men. The forces opposing him looked impressive on paper; the Shirvani Sultan and his ally in the Caspian Kingdom of Mazandaran fielded a estimated sixteen thousand men. Yet the Shirvani armies stayed put in the mountains of Dagestan, opening the way for George to march on Baku. The Mazarandan force would not be seen for the entire duration of the conflict. The inner workings of the Muslim alliance is yet unknown, perhaps the Persian state of Ajam blocked the Mazarandan armies from joining the fray, perhaps the Sultan had became scared of the warlike prince. It is no matter, for without the eight thousand men from the shores of the Caspian sea, the Shirvani forces stood no chance against the veteran army of Bagration. During a Shirvani raid into Kartli, the entire muslim force was annihilated on the mountain slopes near Gori at the cost of merely one thousand Georgian lives.

Baku fell on the 26th of June 1452, and with it, the new Shirvani sultan, who succeeded his father after the latter perished at the battle of Gori, surrendered his entire country to George, opting to flee in exile to the court of the Khan of the Golden Horde, in Saratai. At home, it was yet another boost to the already staggering amount of prestige, distinction and authority Bagration wielded. The Georgian Kingdom now stretched from the shores of the Black sea to those of the Caspian. The dominant role Saqartvelo had taken for herself was now undeniable, and whilst this situation was met with great glee and festivities in the Christian part of the Near East, it also drew the bloodthirsty eyes of the Black Sheep down south, a realm with which Georgia now shared a border too long for her liking. In retrospect, it would appear that George’s lust for glory, and especially the speed with which he achieved it, would come back to haunt him.

And indeed, although Georgia was ascending to heights not seen since the illustrious age of Tamar, the world around her was collapsing in on itself. The mother of all cities, Constantinople had succumb to the cannons of the Turk, and with it, the last bastion defending Christian Europe from the Ottoman onslaught; already, war had erupted between the Sultan and the Venetian Doge, an ominous introduction to what was coming. On the northern shores of the Black Sea, several Russian princes had seen fit to tear their lands from the Lithuanian Duchy following their defeat at the hands of the Golden Khan. The Ukrainian Cossacks too had revolted, and now joined the Crimean Tatars in ravaging the Ruthenian lands. Even further north, the Russian powerhouses of Muscovy and Novgorod were more intent on destroying each other than the islamic hordes to their south. No help from Christian powers would be able to help Georgia should she be met with a Red Horse. But the mountains still stood, as they did always, and as they always would.

4139595-6284371.jpg

"Queen" Tamar, whose reing would be a shining example to her successors
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] The battle near Yerevan was, in fact, incredibly close fought. Had Bagration not been campaigning in Samsthke and joined the fray, it is likely that he would have been able to turn the tide of battle. He has, at numerous times, stated that it is one of his largest regrets.

[2] Words such as 'Monarchy' are somewhat convoluted, as the kingdoms in the Caucasus were a far cry from the increasingly centralised states in Western Europe.

[3] Of course, making statements about entire cultures can never be true in its entirety, but even today, familial bonds and honour play a huge factor in Georgian culture and day to day life.

 

stnylan

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A vital step though, the occupation of Shirvan.
 

volksmarschall

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You know, one of my favorite stories about the creation of the Caucasus Mountains is from the Islamic tradition in the Qur'an, that all of those rugged mountains were created to hold back various monsters and allow humans to actually flourish. There's another colloquial story, I've been told, that in creating the Caucasus Mountains God sneezed and sprinkled a bunch of different peoples into the region leading to all the interrelations prevalent. Fun stories.

Queen Tamar also looks to have a faint halo around her head -- future saint?! :p