Georgia is a land of ancient culture, with a literary tradition that dates to the 5th century AD.
Kolkhida (Colchis) early housed a school of higher rhetoric in which Greeks as well as Georgians studied. By the 12th century, academies in Ikalto and Gelati, the first medieval higher-education centres, disseminated a wide range of knowledge.
The national genius was demonstrated most clearly in Vepkhis-tqarsani (The Knight in the Panther's Skin), the epic masterpiece of the 12th-century poet Shota Rustaveli.
Major figures in later Georgian literary history include a famed 18th-century writer, Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, and the novelist, poet, and dramatist Ilia Chavchavadze. The 19th-century playwright Giorgi Eristavi is regarded as the founder of the modern Georgian theatre.
Among other prominent pre-revolutionary authors were the lyric poet Akaki Tsereteli; Alexander Qazbegi, novelist of the Caucasus; and the nature poet Vazha Pshavela. The novelist Mikhail Javakhishvili and the poet Titsian Tabidze were executed during the Stalin era, and the poet Paolo Iashvili was censured by the government and committed suicide. Giorgi Leonidze and Galaktion Tabidze were well-known poets, and Konstantin Gamsakhurdia was celebrated for his historical novels.
The Abkhazian literary tradition dates back only to the late 19th century. Notable writers include the poet, novelist, and scholar Dmitri Gulia, the novelist and playwright Samson Chanba, the poet Bagrat Shinkuba, and Fazil Iskander, a popular satirist who writes in Russian.
Important individuals in other arts include the painters Niko Pirosmani (Pirosmanashvili), Irakli Toidze, Lado Gudiashvili, Elena Akhvlediani, and Sergo Kobuladze; the composers Zakaria Paliashvili and Meliton Balanchivadze (father of the choreographer George Balanchine); and the founder of Georgian ballet, Vakhtang Chabukiani.
Georgian theatre, in which outstanding directors of the Soviet period were Kote Mardzhanishvili, Sandro Akhmeteli, and Robert Sturm, has had a marked influence in Europe and elsewhere. The Georgian film Repentance, an allegory about the repressions of the Stalin era, was directed by Tenghiz Abuladze. It won the Special Jury Prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival and was widely praised for its political courage.
The ancient culture of the republic is reflected in the large number of architectural monuments, including many monasteries and churches; indeed, Georgian architecture (with Armenian) played a considerable role in the development of the Byzantine style.
Georgia has a long tradition of fine metalwork. Bronze, gold, and silver objects of a high technical and aesthetic standard have been recovered from tombs of the 1st and 2nd millennia BC. Between the 10th and 13th centuries AD, Georgian goldsmiths produced masterpieces of cloisonne enamel and repousse work, notably icons, crosses, and jewellery.
A number of newspapers and periodicals are published, most of them in Georgian. Radio programs are broadcast in Georgian and in several minority languages, and television programs are broadcast in Georgian and Russian.