Two most critical periods of the 2000-year-old history of the Apostolic Church of Georgia are to be attributed to the 19th- 20th centuries. They were the abolition of its autocephaly by the Russian royal court and its restoration, gained by the striving of the Georgian nation and clergy. Plethora of publications speaks about the deplorable circumstances in which the Church of Georgia had to continue life in the 19th century. After the Apostles had established her and had preached to the people, Christianity became the Georgians' national religion and remained as such throughout centuries.
Starting from the year 1811, this Church, the stronghold of Christianity for the entire Caucasus, was transformed into an additional part of the Russian bureaucracy. Before Russia's presence in Georgia, the Church had been an owner of immense property. She had been an economically independent institution by which she was profoundly different from the Russian Church. The latter had been modified into part of the state by Russian political authorities and since 1722 had been ruled by an attorney-general who was head of the Synod. He was a lay statesman and a wide scope of rights was vested in his hands. Peter the Great had abolished the Patriarchal guidance of the Church and had initiated her subordination to lay authorities; the process was accomplished by Queen Katherine II. Under these circumstances Russia would not admit the economical independence of the Georgian Church or her solid influence on the lay authorities. This purpose directed her to the reorganization of the Church of Georgia.
On March 3rd, 1810 Catholicos Anton II was almost induced to leave Georgia and depart to Russia. On July 30th, 1811 a dicastery was formed; the Church of Georgia was deprived of her autocephaly. Varlam Eristavi was appointed head of the dicastery and the title of ?exarch? was conferred on him. Most difficult times started in the life of Georgia as the Russian authorities commenced on restricting eparchies. It was not a newly begun business and was aimed at dismissing those personalities from around the Cathedral who were unacceptable for the Russian authorities.
On August 30th, 1815 the dicastery was transformed into the ?department of Synod of Georgia-Imereti? to which the Russian government subordinated the churches of Guria and Samegrelo also.
Varlam Eristavi was called to Russia in 1817. In the same year, Archbishop Theophilactos Rusanov from Ryazan was appointed exarch and was sent to Georgia. Since then the Church was only ruled by Russian bishops. In 1819 Theophilactos united the bishoprics of Imereti by means of restricting them in number. Guria and Samegrelo were allowed to have one diocese each. Out of twelve eparchies, only three were maintained in West Georgia. Along with it, the exarch reduced the number of churches.
The Russian governing authorities saw the Church of Georgia as another source of income. They considered it profitable to reduce the number of clergy and to cut the overall expenditure since it would help increase the income in the exchequer.
Russia's policy raised anger in the Georgian people and a rebellion for the defense of the Mother Church started in 1818. The rebels fought under the slogan ?The Liberation of the Motherland?. Every social layer of people was involved in the fight against the regiments and detachments, well armed with artillery.
In 1820 Metropolitan Dositheos of Kutaisi, Metropolitan Ekvtime of Gelati and other prominent people were arrested. This arrest enhanced the vigor of the struggle.
Metropolitan Dositheos of Kutaisi (Tsereteli) was an old man. He was put in a sack and taken in the direction of Russia but in the vicinity of the town of Gory was beaten to death in the same sack. Metropolitan Ekvtime of Gelati (Shervashidze) was arrested as one of the leaders of the revolt.
Metropolitans and bishops, in general, had been inviolable and even respected by the Muslims. The Russians' actions aroused a fierce anger in the rebels and at the end of ferocious battles the Russian army gained a Pyrrhic victory. The region of Racha was burnt and devastated, the fortress of Shemokmedi in Guria was razed to the ground, villages were burnt, rebels were hung; many of them sustained the forfeiture of property and were exiled to Russia their possessions being taken over by the exchequer.
On May 21st 1820, 2000 Georgian warriors laid their lives for the faith and freedom. Among them were priests, monks and other members of the clergy.
The Church of Georgia had had tens of bishoprics and eparchies in East, West and South Georgia. With their abolition, the Christian faith decreased among the people. The clergymen unceasingly demanded the restoration of the abolished eparchies.
The exarch's policy impaired the image of the Church of Georgia and brought about indifference towards the faith among the parish. Particularly outrageous was the restriction of the Georgian language in churches and at schools. Georgian theological schools were closed and Russian ones were opened. This resulted in the lack of knowledge among new clergymen. Abandoning the Georgian language, part of the youth plunged in the Russian and the European ideas of socialism, atheism and anarchy.
The Church possessions of valuable gold and silver objects, embellished with precious stones and preserved for many centuries, were lost. The exchequer took possession of the lands of the Church.
It is no surprise that under such circumstances the Georgian clergymen took an active part in the rebellions of the years 1804 and 1812 and the others of the following period which aimed at the liberation of Georgia. One of the leaders of the resistance in the revolt of 1832 was Archimandrite Philadelphos Kiknadze.
Under Exarch Paul Lebedyev, in 1826 one of the expelled students Joseph Laghiashvili killed the Rector of the seminary Archpriest Chudetski. At his funeral, the exarch pronounced a eulogy which contained a curse of the people whom the student belonged to. The statesman Dimitri Kipiani expressed the irate Georgians' attitude towards it. He addressed to the exarch with a suggestion that if the curse which had been spread among the people was true, ?the curser was to depart from the accursed land?. Dimitri Kipiani was punished for these words by being exiled where later in 1887 he was killed.
The best sons of the Russian people raised their voice against the oppression of the Georgian Church. One of such defenders was the well-known scholar Slavophil Nicholai Durnov. He described the deplorable conditions of the Church of Georgia in his assay ?The Fate of the Church of Georgia?.
Regrettably, in the 19th century, while Georgia was part of the Russian Empire, the fervent faith of the nation weakened. In the 20th century, the disintegration of the empire started and the same process also gained ground in the life of the Church. The sustenance of the empire required the alteration of its society. A population of one religion, speaking one language and devoted to the country, would save it. Thus the primary issue on the agenda was the assimilation of the Georgian people as well as of the other peoples by making them mingle with the Russians. The Georgian language was severely persecuted. The exarch's strife was targeted at the subjection of the parish to the Russian way of life. But, the Georgians rendered a relevant answer to his policy.
In 1908 Exarch Nikon was killed. The Russian hierarchs called Georgia ?wild and ruthless land? and the newly appointed would shun coming here.
The Georgian Church Fathers and the best sons of the nation saw their path leading to the deliverance of the faith as the one which lay through striving for the independence of the Church of Georgia from the Russian Empire, in other words - through the restoration of her autocephaly.
The proposal for restoration was strongly supported by the Georgian statesmen: St. Ilia the Righteous (Chavchavadze), St. Ekvtime the Man of God (Takaishvili), Alexander Tsagareli, Alexander Khakhanashvili, Nicholas Marr and others. Two Russian scholars, Solovjov and Zaozersky also advocated the cause.
After the assassination of Ilia the Righteous and the rise of regressive forces in the country, the adherents of autocephaly turned to the inculcation of their ideas in people by publishing books for they considered the independence of the Church would be the foundation for Georgia's future independence. On March 12th 1977, tens of thousands of faithful people assembled at the Holy Liturgy in Mtskheta. Bishop Leonid (Okropiridze) briefly interrupted the liturgy and made a speech in which the autocephaly of the Georgian Church was declared restored. In the same year, on September 17th Bishop Kirion (Sadzaglishvili) was elected Catholicos-Patriarch of the Georgian Church. On May 26th 1918, Georgia was declared an independent state. Sadly, the power of governing authority was not vested in the National Party but in the Socialist. On June 27th 1918, St. Kirion was killed in the village of Martkhopi.
The Socialists' government failed to see in proper perspective the significance of the Church in the people's life. All this was a matter of serious concern to the Catholicos-Patriarch Leonid.
The Mensheviks failed to discern an imminent danger emerging from Russia's political unrest and in 1921 the latter, making use of this failure, conquered the country once again.
In the same year, after the death of Patriarch Leonid, the Church Council elected St. Ambrosi (Khelaia) to the Throne of the Catholicos-Patriarch.
The Bolshevik Russia, having annexed Georgia, took steady and drastic measures against the Church, targeted at her complete destruction. The Christians had to endure multiple persecutions but none can be compared with the ruthlessness of the one which the Communists conducted in the 20s and 30s of the 20th centuries. They destroyed churches, tortured clergymen, put pressure on them, robbed churches and monasteries.
In the 20s of the 20th century more than thousand churches were closed, the service was cancelled.
Precisely, that persecution was the wave which aroused anger of the Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrosi Khelaia who truly sacrificed his life to his people by sending an address to the Conference in Guinea making known for the whole world the ordeal of the Georgian people. In his report he demanded to compel Russia to withdraw the troops and allow the Georgians to ?create the forms and structures of the social and political life which would be relevant to their life and not dictated or imposed by others?.
The Russian government, very indignant with the letter, arrested and brought to trial Patriarch Ambrosi; with him were arrested the likeminded clergymen: St. Nazari (Lezhava) Metropolitan of Kutaisi, Archimandrite Paul Japaridze, Kalistrate Tsintsadze who was Archpriest of Kashueti Church, deacon Dimitri (Lazarishvili) and others. In the process of investigation, they put pressure on the Patriarch, demanding from him to deny the issues, put forth by him at the conference. Nevertheless, in his profound final word the Patriarch underscored them as indispensable. He was sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment. Due to his illness, the term was reduced to 6 years. He died at the age of 66, on March 28th, 1927.
Under Communist rule, it befell on the Church of Georgia that the life within her bosom was determined by the benevolence of the governing authorities. This period can be divided into three stages. The Church was still persecuted until the year 1943. When at war with Germany, the government condescended mercifully on her and, acknowledging the independence of the Church of Russia, granted her the right to elect the Patriarch; respectively, the circumstances improved for the Church of Georgia also.
In 1943 the Russian Church recognized the three rights of the Church of Georgia: her autocephaly, the Patriarchal dignity and the 6th place in the diptych.
Notwithstanding these changes, under Khrushchev's rule the things reversed to the worse as his policy of ?democratic warming? did not extend to the Church.
In those times, clergymen were persecuted. However, different methods were applied to them. They were blackmailed by special state bodies. Here, we should remember the life of Patriarch Ephrem II who was persecuted thus. The same policy of moral persecution continued up to the early period of His Holiness Patriarch Ilia II and ended as late as in 1985.
The conditions sharply changed to the better side from 1985-86, but during the 70 years of the Communist rule many generations had been brought up with a negative attitude towards the Church and clergymen and this created an insurmountable difficulty for the people.
In their last years, the authorities allowed the edition and distribution of the Bible, neither was banned the publication of the Holy Scriptures in newspapers. This created a backdrop for the sects to disseminate their teaching. Denominations of Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses and others were provided with ample opportunity of a full-scale activity since they acknowledge the authority of the Bible but not that of the Church or of the clergymen.
Although the restoration of the autocephaly of the Church was proclaimed on March 12th 1917, the Russian Church only recognized it in 1943; the Orthodox Churches worldwide recognized it on the January 25th 1990. However, the question of her place in the diptych has not been determined so far; the place of the Church of Georgia has not been determined up to now and is still the issue of study for the Orthodox Churches the world over.
Late in the 20th century, his Holiness and Beatitude Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II and the Holy Synod blessed the best sons of the country and prayed for them and for their cause of the restoration of Georgia's independence. After the people had regained freedom, they responded with love and gratitude to their blessing and the nation started to intensively return to the faith; new churches have been built in every town and village; the Holy Church and the state have signed a ?Concordance? which is targeted at the inspiration and edification of the Georgian nation and their sacred Orthodox faith. Amen.
MARINA GIGOLASHVILI, ROLAN KILADZE, GEORGE RAMISHVILI, VASILI KUKHIANIDZE
Georgian E. Kharadze National Astrophysical Observatory at Ilia Chavchavadze State University, Tbilisi, Georgia
At present it is considered that Christianity was declared a state religion in Georgia in circa 326 AD, during the reign of King Mirian and Queen Nana. In the Georgian Chronicle  (Kaukhchishvili, 1955) it is stated that this event is connected with the adoption of Christianity by
King Mirian. Once he was hunting somewhere between Mtskheta (the ancient capital of Georgia) and Khashuri, near Mt. Tkhoti in dense woodland. It rapidly got dark and the Sun disappeared from the sky.
Mirian began to ask his traditional pagan gods, but to no avail. Then he addressed the god whom Nino from Cappadocia believed in (subsequently she became Saint Nino, a woman whose name is inseparably linked with the spread of Christianity in Georgia) and there was a miracle; the darkness suddenly disappeared and the Sun began shining in the sky again. Then Mirian turned to the East and thanked “Nino’s god”.
2. Contemporary investigations
In the 1930s the Georgian historian Ivane Javakhishvili appealed to astronomers to answer the question whether a total solar eclipse happened in Georgia in the fourth century or not. Based on the famous Canon der Finsternisse of Oppolzer , in which the change in the length of the day with current time (the result of tidal friction) was taken into account incompletely, astronomers could not find any eclipse during the mentioned period. Thus it seemed that the question was resolved.
However, after detailed tables and maps of solar and lunar eclipses had been published on the Web by Espenak , we have found out that a total solar eclipse did indeed occur in Georgia on 6 May 319 AD.
3. The circumstances of the solar eclipse
By calculating the circumstances of the eclipse with the use of Bessel's improved elements, we have found that Mount Tkhoti was on the central line of the eclipse [4-6]. For the place where Mirian was hunting (λ = 44°.55; φ = +41°.99), the circumstances of the eclipse are as follows: the start of the partial eclipse was at 14 h 58 m 01 s Universal Time (UT); the second contact was at 15 h 51 m 57 s UT; the third contact was at 15 h 53 m 50 s UT; the maximal phase was 1.018. The moments of sunset are as follows: bottom edge - at 15 h 59 m 24 s UT, top edge - at 16 h 02 m 29 s UT.
The central line of the eclipse passed through the settlements of Tsageri, Ambrolauri, Tskhinvali and Mtskheta. The northern boundary passed through the Caucasus Range (Elbrus, Upper Baksan and Kazbek). The southern boundary passed through Lake Paliastomi, Abastumani, Aspindza, Dmanisi and Akhtala. From the east the strip of the complete eclipse was limited by a line from Gardabani to Sagarejo.
Hence, the eclipse happened in the evening, before sunset; the duration of the total phase was about 2 min. At the moment of the maximal phase the height of the Sun above horizon was only 0°.8. The sunset began 5.6 min later, after the end of total phase (i.e., after the third contact).
We have investigated every solar eclipse (total, partial and annular) during the period 290-365 AD. In Table 1, the list of solar eclipses with a phase more than 0.8 for the period mentioned above is given for Mt. Tkhoti. In the columns of Table 1 are consistently given: the year, the month and the day of an eclipse, the moments of the first and second contacts, the maximal phase and the third and fourth contacts. In the last two columns are given the heights of the Sun above horizon (in degrees) at the moment of the maximal phase of an eclipse and the maximal phase (in %).
Table 1. The list of solar eclipses with a phase more than 0.8 during the reign of King Mirian
|Year||Mn||Day||1 cont.||2 cont||Max. ph.||3 cont||4 cont||Altitude||Phase|
|319||5||6||17 57 58||18h51m54s||18 52 50||18h53m47s||0.9||101.7|
|346||6||6||6 18 52||7 16 42||8 19 44||29.6||99.3|
|348||10||9||7 40 54||8 45 24||9 54 31||25.7||87.6|
|355||5||28||5 55 51||6 53 35||7 56 47||24.7||87.3|
4. Other evidences
According to Kartlis Tskhovreba ), 3 crosses from cypress were made on 1 May. According to Ioane Zosime , it was the third Sunday after Easter. One of these crosses was raised near the capital of Georgia, Mtskheta, on 8 May. However, the year is not mentioned in these sources.
From further investigation it will be clarified that the event studied by us occurred before the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD). Hence, the contemporary rules of calculation on Easter were not still canonized. For this reason the authors have calculated the date on Easter by all possible methods.
To ascertain the exact date of this incident the authors investigated the data on all Easters during the probable period of the reign of King Mirian. With this period, the years when Easter took place on 17 April, have been chosen. Hence, the third Sunday after Easter fell on 1 May.
In Table 2, the data on Easters in the appropriate years are presented. In the first 3 columns are given the moments (year, month, day, hour and minute) of the first full moon after a spring equinox, according to Espenak ; in the following columns the data on Easter calculated by us by using different methods are given: by the ancient 19-year lunar cycle and approximate formulas of Gauss and Мееus [8-10]. In the last column of the table are given Easter data, selected by the authors with the use of the exact moments of full moon.
Table 2. The data on Easters during the reign of King Mirian
|Espenak||Lunar Cycle||Gauss and Meeus||Selected data|
|298||13 Apr||23h56m||13 Apr||17 Apr|
|309||11 Apr||14 15||12 Apr||17 Apr|
|315||6 Apr||11 28||5 Apr||10 Apr|
|320||9 Apr||14 01||10 Apr||10 Apr||17 Apr|
|326||4 Apr||4 47||4 Apr||3 Apr||10 Apr|
|337||1 Apr||23 23||2 Apr||3 Apr|
|343||27 Mar||19 23||27 Mar||27 Mar||3 Apr|
|348||31 Mar||13 13||1 Apr||3 Apr|
|354||25 Mar||10 22||25 Mar||27 Mar|
|365||23 Mar||20 14||24 Mar||27 Mar|
As is clear from Table 2, a 17 April Easter could only take place in the years 298, 309 and 320 AD. In Table 1, only two eclipses (306 and 319) are presented which could happen before the years when Easter took place on 17 April. However, the eclipse of 306 must be excluded for two reasons: it was a partial eclipse (with a maximal phase of 82%) and happened early in the morning. But this incident happened to King Mirian in the evening .
In the authors' opinion, the eclipse seen by King Mirian happened on the evening of 6 May, 319 AD. Later, in May 320 AD, cypress crosses were made and raised. Thus, we have answered the question raised 70 years ago by the Georgian historian Ivane Javakhishvili about the occurrence of a total solar eclipse in Georgia in the fourth century. The eclipse seen by King Mirian happened on the evening of 6 May, 319 AD. Later, in May 320 AD, cypress crosses were raised and Christianity was become the state religion of Georgia.
1. KAUKHCHISHVILI, S. (Editor), Kartlis Tskhovreba, Vol. 1, Sakhelgami, Tbilisi, pp. 108-111, 1955 (in Georgian).
2. OPPOLZER, Th. Von, Canon der Finsternisse, Kaiserlich-Koniglichen Hof und Staatsdruckerei, Wien, pp. 146–149, Blatt 73, 1887.
3. ESPENAK, F. NASA eclipse home page. Available online at: http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html (July 2003).
4. GIGOLASHVILI, M.SH., KILADZE, R.I., KUKHIANIDZE, V.J., RAMISHVILI G.T. Was the King Mirian’s miracle a natural phenomenon? Transdisciplinarity in Religion and Science, 1, 27-29, 2007.
5. KILADZE R.I., GIGOLASHVILI, M.SH., RAMISHVILI G.T., KUKHIANIDZE, V.J. On the possible date of adoption of Christianity as the state religion in Georgia, Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences, 175, No. 2, 137-140, 2007.
6. GIGOLASHVILI, M.Sh., KILADZE R.I., KUKHIANIDZE, V.J., RAMISHVILI G.T. On the date when Cristianity become the state religion of Georgia, Astronomical and Astrophysical Transactions, V. 26, Issues 4-5, 199-201, 2007.
7. MUSKHELISHVILI, D. Saqartvelo IV-VIII Saukuneebshi (Georgia in IV-VIII Centuries), p. 25. Tbilisi, 2003 (in Georgian).
8. GUNIA B., Archpriest. Liturgikuli Shtudiebi I, Sapaseqo gamotvlebi (Liturgical Studies I.
Easter Calculations). Tbilisi, 2006 (in Georgian).
9. KLIMISHIN I.A. Kalendari i khronologiya (Calendars and Cronology), M. “Nauka”, p. 191,
1981 (in Russian).
10. KULIKOV S. Nit’ Vremen. Malaya Entsiklopediya Kalendarya (Thread of time. Small
Encyclopedia of calendar), M. “Nauka”, p. 288, 1991 (in Russian).
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