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Culture & Arts

Georgians are an incredibly expressive people. Music, dance, song and poetry all play big parts in their lives.

Georgia's ancient culture is evident in the country's architecture, which is renowned for the role it played in the development of the Byzantine style. The earliest churches date to the fourth century and combine the style of Byzantine basilicas with Georgian traditions. Instead of long, rectangular structures, the Georgian churches emphasized the central area. They were usually circular with a cupola for a roof, possibly mimicking the design of eastern-Georgian homes from the same time period. The homes were built with a central roof that tapered to an open point used as a chimney.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, palaces were built with a definite oriental influence, representing Persian domination. The Russian annexation of Georgia in the 19th century brought a more European influence to the architecture. The 20th century is primarily devoted to functional, boxlike Soviet architecture, although the Georgians tended to decorate their buildings with elaborate, often eclectic metalwork.

Literature and Art - Georgia had a "Golden Age" of cultural development in the 12th and 13th centuries. It produced a great deal of artistic and literary work, much of it unique. This may be because, unlike its sister countries, the lush countryside and warm climate near the Black Sea resort area provided an easy living and ample time for contemplation.

Georgia's art and literature were relatively stagnant from this time until the early 1900s when many talented students were able to study in Paris or other Western European cities. Elena Akhvlediani (1898-1975), a romantic painter, was named a People's Artist of Georgia in 1960 for her varied works that often portrayed traditional rural life. She also gained fame as a book illustrator and theater and film designer.

Georgia's greatest contribution to the art scene from 1500 through today is actually more often seen outside Georgia. Many of the 20th century artists works are in Paris or Moscow museums. At the same time, many European artists have spent extended vacations in Georgia gaining inspiration from the beautiful countryside.

Georgia is the only country in the world known to have a National Epic, a poem that serves much as a national anthem in other countries. Shota Rustaveli's long poem, The Knight in the Panther Skin describes three heroes quests and includes testaments to the fact that love and friendship can overcome evil. Supposedly, Rustaveli was Queen Tamar's treasurer late in the Golden Age. Many of the poem's philosophical musings have become proverbs in Georgia. Even during Communist rule, the main street of the Georgian capital was named after Rustaveli.