In the early 18th century, Kartli saw a partial recovery under Vakhtang VI, who instituted a new law code and tried to improve the economy. His reign saw the establishment of the first Georgian-language printing press in 1709.
Erekle II, king of Kartli-Kakheti from 1762 to 1798, turned towards Russia for protection against Ottoman and Persian attacks. The Russian empress Catherine the Great was keen to have the Georgians as allies in her wars against the Turks, but sent only meagre forces to help them. In 1769–1772, a handful of Russian troops under General Totleben "battled" against Turkish invaders in Imereti and Kartl-Kakheti. The Russian troops retreated before a clash against the Turks. In 1783 Erekle signed the Treaty of Georgievsk with Russia, according to which Kartli-Kakheti was to receive Russian protection. But when another Russo-Turkish War broke out in 1787, the Russians withdrew their troops from the region for use elsewhere, leaving Erekle's kingdom unprotected. In 1795, the Persian shah, Agha Mohammed Khan, invaded the country and burnt the capital, Tbilisi, to the ground.
In spite of Russia's failure to honour the terms of the Treaty of Georgievsk, Georgian rulers felt they had nobody else to turn to. After Erekle's death, a civil war broke out over the succession to the throne of Kartli-Kakheti and one of the rival candidates called on Russia to intervene and decide matters. On January 8, 1801, Tsar Paul I of Russia signed a decree on the incorporation of Georgia (Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti) within the Russian Empire, which was confirmed by Tsar Alexander I on September 12, 1801. The Georgian envoy in Saint Petersburg, Garsevan Chavchavadze, reacted with a note of protest that was presented to the Russian vice-chancellor Alexander Kurakin. In May 1801 Russian General Carl Heinrich Knorring dethroned the Georgian heir to the throne David Batonishvili and deployed a government headed by General Ivan Petrovich Lasarev.
A part of the Georgian nobility did not accept the decree until April 1802 when General Knorring compassed the nobility in Tbilisi's Sioni Cathedral and forced them to take an oath on the imperial crown of Russia. Those who disagreed were arrested temporarily.
In the summer of 1805 Russian troops on the river Askerani and near Zagam defeated the Persian army, saving Tbilisi from its attack. In 1810, the kingdom of Imereti (Western Georgia) was annexed by the Russian Empire after the suppression of King Solomon II's resistance. From 1803 to 1878, as a result of numerous Russian wars against Turkey and Persia, several formerly Georgian territories were annexed to the Russian Empire. These areas (Batumi, Artvin, Akhaltsikhe, Poti, and Abkhazia) now represent the majority of the territory of the present state of Georgia. Georgia was reunified for the first time in centuries but had lost its independence.