Social and Intellectual Developments
By 1850 the social and political position of the Georgian nobility, for centuries the foundation of Georgian society, had deteriorated. A new worker class began to exert social pressure in Georgian population centers. Because the nobility still represented Georgian national interests, its decline meant that the Armenian merchant class, which had been a constructive part of urban life since the Middle Ages, gained greater economic power within Georgia. At the same time, Russian political hegemony over the Caucasus now went unopposed by Georgians. In response to these conditions, Georgian intellectuals borrowed the thinking of Russian and West European political philosophers, forging a variety of theoretical salvations for Georgian nationalism that had little relation to the changing economic conditions of the Georgian people.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Russia, fearing increased Armenian power in Georgia, asserted direct control over Armenian religious and political institutions. In the first decade of the twentieth century, a full-fledged Georgian national liberation movement was led by Marxist followers of the Russian Social Democrat Party. Marxist precepts fell on fertile soil in Georgia; by 1900 migration from rural areas and the growth of manufacturing had generated a fairly cohesive working class led by a new generation of Georgian intellectuals who called for elimination of both the Armenian bourgeoisie and the Russian government bureaucracy. The main foe, however, was tsarist autocracy.
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