The culture of Georgia has evolved over the country's long history, providing it with a unique national culture and a strong literary tradition based on the Georgian language and alphabet. This has provided a strong sense of national identity that has helped to preserve Georgian distinctiveness despite repeated periods of foreign occupation.
The Georgian alphabet is traditionally said to have been invented in the 3rd century BC and reformed by King Parnavaz I of Iberia in 284 BC. Most modern scholarship puts its origin date at some time in the 5th century AD, when the earliest examples can be found.
Georgia's medieval culture was greatly influenced by Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church, which promoted and often sponsored the creation of many works of religious devotion. These included churches and monasteries, works of art such as icons, and hagiographies of Georgian saints. In addition, many secular works of national history, mythology, and hagiography were also written.
Medieval Georgian icons are renowned as being among the finest creations of Orthodox religious art. Notable examples include:
Well-known monuments of Georgian Christian architecture include:
Well-known Georgian painters were Damiane (13th century), Anania (15th century), Mamuka Tavakarashvili (17th century), etc.
The works of the famous Georgian goldsmiths, Beka and Beshken Opizari (11th century), are outstanding contributions to world art.
Important Georgian literary works of the pre-Christian period are:
Notable Georgian written works from the medieval period include:
Starting from the early 16th century, although certain aspects of more recent times were already incorporated since the 12th century, until the course of the 19th century, Georgian culture became significantly influenced by Persian culture. Though notably more visibly amongst the higher classes, Persian cultural aspects were incorporated amongst the already existing Georgian columns, especially painting, architecture, and literature. The French traveller Jean Chardin who visited Georgia in 1672 noted that the Georgians followed Persian customs. Since many Georgian kings, princes, and nobles were either born or raised in mainland Iran, it is not susprising that Persian cultural aspects spread in Georgia.
During the modern period, from about the 17th century onwards, Georgian culture has been greatly influenced by cultural innovations imported from elsewhere in Europe.
Georgian theatre has a long history; its oldest national form was the "Sakhioba" (extant from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD). The Georgian National Theatre was founded in 1791 in Tbilisi, by the writer, dramatist, and diplomat Giorgi Avalishvili (1769–1850). Its leading actors were Dimitri Aleksi-Meskhishvili, David Machabeli, David Bagrationi, Dimitri Cholokashvili, and others.
In Tbilisi, the Museum of the Caucasus was founded in 1845. In the 1920s, it became the State Museum of Georgia. The Tbilisi State Theatre of Opera and Ballet was established in 1851.
Greatest representatives of Georgian culture of the 19th century were: Nikoloz Baratashvili (poet), Alexander Orbeliani (writer), Vakhtang Orbeliani (poet), Dimitri Kipiani (writer), Grigol Orbeliani (poet), Ilia Chavchavadze (writer and poet), Akaki Tsereteli (poet), Alexander Kazbegi (writer), Rapiel Eristavi (poet), Mamia Gurieli (poet), Iakob Gogebashvili (writer), Simon Gugunava (poet), Babo Avalishvili-Kherkheulidze (actor), Nikoloz Avalishvili (actor), Nikoloz Aleksi-Meskhishvili (actor), Romanoz Gvelesiani (painter), Grigol Maisuradze (painter), Alexander Beridze (painter), Ivane Machabeli (translator), Okropir Bagrationi (translator), Sardion Aleksi-Meskhishvili (translator), Kharlampi Savaneli (opera singer), Pilimon Koridze (opera singer), Lado Agniashvili (folk singer), Alioz Mizandari (composer), etc.
The first cinema in Georgia was established in Tbilisi on November 16, 1896. The first Georgian cinema documentary ("Journey of Akaki Tsereteli in Racha-Lechkhumi") was shot in 1912 by Vasil Amashukeli (1886–1977), while the first Georgian feature film ("Kristine") was shot in 1916 by Alexandre Tsutsunava (1881–1955).
The Tbilisi State Academy of Arts was founded in 1917.
Georgian culture suffered under the rule of the Soviet Union during the 20th century, during which a policy of Russification was imposed but was strongly resisted by many Georgians. Since the independence of Georgia in 1991, a cultural resurgence has taken place, albeit somewhat hampered by the country's economic and political difficulties in the post-Soviet era.
Georgian cuisine is considered one of the main attractions for tourists in Georgia, and it is particularly popular throughout the former Soviet Union. The Georgian cuisine is very specific to the country, but also contains some influences from the Middle Eastern and European culinary traditions. The cuisine offers a variety of dishes, rich in various herbs and spices. Each historical province of Georgia has its own distinct culinary tradition, with variations such as Megrelian, Kakhetian, and Imeretian cuisines. The food, in addition to various meat dishes, also offers a variety of vegetarian-based dishes. The cuisine is very varied with different dishes cooked daily.
The importance of both food and drink to Georgian culture is best observed during a feast, or supra, when a huge assortment of dishes are prepared, always accompanied by large amounts of wine, and dinner can last for hours. In a Georgian feast, the role of the tamada (toastmaster) is an important and honoured position.
Some famous Georgian cultural figures from the 20th-21st centuries are:
(...) Since the 12th century and under Persian cultural influence, secular literature also developed (in Georgia)
(...) Iranian power and cultural influence dominated eastern Georgia until the coming of the Russians