ხელოსნობიდან ამქრულ ორგანიზაციებამდე

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The artisanal production and handicraft have long history in the world, however the formation of the artisanal organizations takes place in the Middle Ages. Georgia is not an exception in this regard. The archaeological artefacts and the literary sources are the vivid evidence for that. Alongside the diversity of glass and pottery object found at different sites like Orbeti, Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Zhinvali, Rustavi and Tbilisi, the tools and production residues i.e. the ceramic kiln found in Tbilisi, or the firing utensils unearthed in Ujarma, Akhalkalki, Dmanisi or Zhinvali attest to the fact that these items were produced locally. Morover, the artefacts such as mosaic tesserae, glazed ceramics and pottery, ceramic tiles and irrigation pipes exported from Georgia found in South Russia, in the burials of Alans show that these products were made not only for local use, but also for trade. Textiles, metalwork and book illumination were amongst other developed branches of craft in medieval Georgia. The 11 -13th century oriental literary sources provide with the additional information on the artisanal products made in Georgia – high quality textiles, leather etc. The Arab historian Ibn Ispandiar mentions Georgian textiles amongst the best Byzantine and Baghdadi fabrics, offered as a gift by the Governor of Tabaristan to the Shah of Khoresm. Different medieval terms to determine various crafts professions in the Georgian language, speak to the fact that these were the developed skills in the country. Moreover, the stone carved inscriptions and other literary sources provide with the names of master builders in Georgia between the 4th-18th centuries. These sources also indicate the existence of the organized system of hierarchy between the master craftsman, supervisor and the actual workers. Furthermore, the artisanal organizations had their self-governing systems, structure and lifestyle, common values and code of ethics. These organizations were flourishing in urban settlements subordinated to kings or to other powerful landlords. Contrary to the self-governing cities typical to the Western Europe, which were the driving forces for the political changes and formation of new structures and entities like the parliament etc., the circumstances in Georgian cities were different. Subordinated to king or important feudals, these cities were often the subject for the struggle between powers. From King Tamar's period (1184- 1213) the royal power was forced to give up the governance of certain important cities to the local lords. The majority of population in these cities was the peasants working as peasant-artisans. Therefore, contrary to the European cities, Georgian artisanal organizations did not have any important impact on the political governance. And yet, the existence of organized professional guilds – “hamkars” is evident from the 17th century onwards. Various literary sources like the legal code of King Vakhtang VI (1675-1737) or the information provided by loane Batonishvili and foreign travelers, enable us to reconstruct the structure of guilds in Georgia. In Tbilisi, Gori, Sighnaghi, Dusheti, and Akhaltikhe the organizational units called as “asnaps” (Arabic term) and from the 18th century “hamkar” (Iranian term) unites not only artisans but also doctors, water carriers etc, and beggars as well. German scientist and traveller August von Haxthausen (1792-1866) talks about all different workers (chicken sellers, metal object sellers etc) uniting in different professional organisations. So too loane Batonishvili (1768-1830) in his work “Kalmasoba” describes artisanal workshops – gold and silversmiths, armorers and makers of shoes, clothes and musical instruments in Tbilisi. According to the statute of goldsmiths, the head of the guild was elected according to the personal moral qualities and Christian values and beliefs. Special ritual – the Oath or Affirmation was performed by the elected head – “ustabashi” and his three advisors. The guilds were social structures, having common budget and properties. The head was responsible for taking care of member's funerals, widows and orphans, for solving sues or determining fines. And yet, the most important task was the supervising of apprentices, which got the status of the master only after the years of hard work and skill acquiring. Each guild had its own flag and the patron saints, i.e. Noah was the patron saint of carpenters, Joseph of stonemasons, etc. Amongst the rarely survived documents of guild statutes, the 1875 statute of Akhaltiskhe catholic shoemaker's guild is of special mention. It narrates about the new members offering special dinner to others, tells about the budget management and trading support mechanism to the members etc. The code of ethics connected with the production quality issues are described in detail in the Legal code of Vakhtang VI, which puts the obligation on the master to recreate the purchased object for free, if it does not meet the quality standards or the client requirements. Alongside the social-professional organizations the guilds could also be considered as territorial units. The guilds of each profession were located in certain districts or streets of the city. The development of guild was further supported by the peasant reforms initiated by the King Erekle II (1720-1798), which gave more freedom to the peasants and raised the status of merchants. This in itself was an important factor, which fostered the development of trade with artisanal products. Supported by the central royal government the guilds of Tbilisi became units managed by the common system. The gunpowder, copper melting, salt mine manufactures became the royal properties. According to Karl Eduard von Eichwald (1795-1876), the German scientist and traveller, different workshops: 32 tin, 20 copper, 46 iron working, 97 textile (silk, wool and cotton) enterprises and many others were actively engaged in artisan production in Kartli in 1825-1826 years. The famous Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) describes the Asian suburbs of Tbilisi, where the blacksmiths forged the metal, the gold and silver masters adorned their production with niello and stones, the sewers and shoemakers were at work. The same picture of open workshops on the street is described by the French writer Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), during his travel in the Caucasus in 1858. He also talks about the work segregation and specialised masters (i.e. different part of weapons had specialised makers), which in turn ensured the quality of the objects. Georgian guilds had many shared features with oriental guilds. Though there are some differences, mostly in administrative and financial issues; i.e. Georgian guilds members, contrary to the Muslim countries had no constrains in terms of religion, the prices on the market were set by the royal government. After the abolishment of the peasantry in 1864, the industrial production and the larger corporations started to emerge. Therefore the guilds gradually lost their function. The master craftsman, who claimed to be artists, pursued their path individually, while the ordinary artisans and workers went to bigger factories. The Russian Empire and the Tsar Government tried to control the free workforce after the abolishment of the peasantry. The support of the agricultural productions was amongst those programs applied in Caucasus region. Participation in the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was another impetus to the development of artisanal production across the Russian Empire and the Caucasus in particular. With this aim to develop new products and support local agriculture and artisanal production The Caucasus Handicraft Committee (later the Handicraft Museum (1913) and from 1960 Georgian State Museum of folk and Applied Arts) has been established (1899). The committee was responsible for the survey, research and development of artisanal production in the Caucasus. The visual and textual documentation collected by the committee provides us with the valuable information on crafts sector of the given period. These documents and photos are now the part of the collection of the Georgian State Museum of Folk and Applied Arts. These include not just the works of the famous photographers like D. Ermakov or Al. Roinashvili, but also the works by J. Straume, I. Zelisnky and other less known authors. The small models of different crafts workshops made in 1930-40s are amongst other precious objects of the museum, which help us to reconstruct the picture of the vibrant environment of artisanal workshpos and entire districts in the 19th-early 20th centuries Georgia.
ხელოსნობა, ამქარი, ვახტანგ VI
ივანე ჯავახიშვილის სახელობის თბილისის სახელმწიფო უნივერსიტეტის საქართველოს ისტორიის ინსტიტუტის შრომები, XIV, თბილისი, 2018, გვ. 328-351 / Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University Institute of Georgian History Proceedings, XIV, Tbilisi, 2018, pp. 328-351