History and modernity

Metekhi Castle and Shiite Mosque in the painting by N.G.Chernetsov. Tiflis
Metekhi Castle and Shiite Mosque in the painting by N.G.Chernetsov. Tiflis

The 10th of March (according to the Old style) of 1851 there was open the first regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society – Caucasian, with the center in Tiflis.

The regional headquarters is located in the house of the initiator of its creation, and further the Patron of the department, Governor of Russia in the Caucasus Prince Mikhail Vorontsov. Such famous generals and patrons of science as Vasily Bebutov, Dmitry Milyutin, Nikolai Evdokimov and Alexander Baryatinsky, topographers Hieronymus Stebnitsky and Joseph Hodzko, diplomat and writer Vladimir Sollogub, who had founded a museum at the department, and the other outstanding researchers.

They had been conducted topographical, botanical and geographical and glaciological work. But the key area of research were history and ethnography. Thus, the member of the Russian Geographical Society Baron Peter Uslar had been engaged in the compilation of the history of the Caucasus for many years. The main work of Petr was the 7-volume «Ethnography of the Caucasus. Linguistics» (1887-96; the 7th volume was issued in 1979), dedicated to Abkhazian, Chechen, Avar, Lak, Khurkilin (Dargin), Cyrin (Lezgin) and Tabasaran languages and has been used by the Caucasian scientists so far.

The case of Baron Uslar was continued by the ruler of the Governor of the Caucasian department Leonard Zagursky in the end of the XIXth century, who compiled, among other things, ethnographic maps of the Caucasus region (1877) and Ethnological classification of the Caucasian peoples (1888).

With the efforts of the department there were translated and for the first time published the famous «Geography of Georgia» of Georgian historian and geographer Prince Vakhushti Bagrationi in 1904.


«Geography of Georgia» (1745) to this day remains a reference book for Georgian geographers and historians. Extensive work in terms of its encyclopedic content is very close to the European geographical literature of that period. The work of Vakhushti exceeds descriptions of his predecessors and contemporaries, who had studied the Caucasian countries, on completeness of the studies of the relief and hydrography of Georgia, given in the book.

During the Soviet era the Caucasian department, having been transformed into the Geographical Society of Georgia, laid the foundation to the Modern Georgian geographical school thanks to the work of the student of Dmitry Anuchin – Alexander Javakhishvili (the president of the Geographical Society of Georgia in 1940-70s).

At the present days the Russian Geographical Society continues the research traditions of the Caucasian department in the North Caucasus. Thus, active work is being conducted by the branches of the Society in the following republics: Adygea, Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Chechnya, Karachay-Cherkessia, and by Stavropol and Krasnodar regional offices of the Russian Geographical Society as well.