Sunday, August 16, 2015

Travels in Georgia, Persia (Iran), Armenia, ancient Babylonia (Iraq), ...during the years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820

I am very interested in history, especially if the source comes from the first hand knowledge. In this regard travelers memoirs are very valuable. The Internet Archive is a digitized collection of many historical documents, including private memoirs. Wonderful thing is that it is free to download and read.  

By random search I found this memoir written by British officer, Sir Robert Ker Porter who traveled from Russian Empire to Persian Kingdom soon after Napoleonic wars concluded in Europe (1815). 

My interest was to learn, from his observations, about conditions of early 19th Georgia. By the time of his travel, a small kingdom of Georgia located south to Caucasian mountains, was absorbed into Russian Empire as an another province. 

As Robert Porter writes, he traveled to Persia via Georgia. His travel memoir was originally printed in 1821. I was surprised to learned that West Europeans already by early 19th century referred to Kingdom of Georgia as Georgia. Honestly, I do not know when word Georgia was first coined in reference to kingdom of Georgia since Russians till these days (and then too) refer to Georgia as Gruzia, while Persians and Turks call it Gurjistan (land of Gurjs). In Georgian language the name for the country is entirely different, Saqartvelo, i.e. land of Qartveli, original ethnic population occupying land in central Georgia.  

Sir Robert Porter devotes few lines to Georgia, however. He mentions that roads and living accommodations were very poor in Georgia proper. That is not surprising considering that Georgia was by end of 18th century at the brink of total economical and social collapse. 

I was disappointed that I did not learn much about early 19th century Georgia from Sir Robert Porter's writings. He frequently compares his notes to those found in memoirs of Chardin, another European fellow traveler who appeared to visit the same locations some 100 years earlier. It looks like that Chardin was kind of authority for later travelers. His memoirs would be next logical step.

posted by David Usharauli

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