“Sakartvelo On My Mind”
Joseph Stalin would not want you to think that he was Southern. There were no Confederate flags decals on his troika, and he never mixed his vodka with Dr. Pepper. In other words, he would never call himself a Georgian. He and everyone from his native region called themselves “Kartvelebi“, the inhabitants of Sarkartvelo.
The real name of the alleged “Georgia” refers to the legendary figure Kartlos, the father of this misnomered people. So, how did his Kartvelebi descendants become confused with the Dukes of Hazzard. I know that this sounds too easy but “blame the Arabs.” The Arabs’ attempts to conquer the mountainous territory proved more difficult than they anticipated. (Not everyone was as effete as a Byzantine or as an incompetent as a Persian.) So, in begrudging respect, the Arabs referred to the region as a “land of warriors“–Gurjistan.
Our cartographers and geographers took the Arabs’ compliment as the actual name. Gurjistan became Georgia. The Russians made a similar mistake and called the area “Gruziya.” But a misnomer is the least that Russia has done to Sakartvelo–even now as I am writing.
The Armenians’ name for their northern neighbor is also incorrect but at least original. They refer to Sakartvelo as Vrastan, which invokes the ancient name of the area: Iveria. So it seems that Sakartvelo was fated to be confused with one region or another.