May 12, 2010

St. Andrea's Day – Georgia

This is a holiday in the Georgian Orthodox Church. I hope everyone reading this realizes that I mean Georgia-the-country, not Georgia-the-state-of-the-U.S. Georgia is a nation that is situated where Western Asia meets Eastern Europe, next to the Black Sea. (To see Georgia on a map, click here.)

This is the Black Sea, 
looking very non-black.
(Remember, unlike most of the continents, it's not so easy to figure out where the separation between Europe and Asia is. The land mass is more properly called Eurasia, because (at least for the last 350 million years or so) the only division between Europe and Asia has been cultural and arbitrary.)

Georgia was part of several ancient kingdoms and had a “heydey” of sorts during the 11th and 12th Centuries. In the 19th Century, it was taken over by the Russian Empire; it briefly became independent when the Russian czar was ov
erthrown, in 1917, but then it was taken over again, this time by the communist Soviet Union. It finally became independent in 1991 when the U.S.S.R. broke up.

Sing a song, sing along

Georgian vocal music includes “polyphonic music,” which is two or more songs sung at the same time, with beautiful, harmonious results. This kind of singing is different from a “round,” in which the same song is sung by two or more voices, each voice starting at a different time. In polyphonic music, each song is different in melody and words.

Does it seem like that would sound awful? Check out Simon and Garfunkel's version of “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (Scarborough Fair/The Canticle).”

Another world for polyphonic music is “counterpoint.”

This type of music was popular during the Renaissance (15th Century) and Baroque period (17th - 18th Century); Bach used a lot of counterpoint in his music. Georgian polyphonic music came earlier than that – about 1,000 years before!

Mountains, mountains, everywhere

The Caucasus Mountains divide Georgia into different regions. Some areas are covered with many valleys and go
rges separated by mountains. The Voronya Cave is the deepest cave system known in the world—but some of the nearby mountains reach 17,000 feet!

Because Georgia is “carved up” by mountains, the folk music and traditions of various tow
ns can be quite different, there is a huge variety of climates and plant life, and the landscapes are often spectacular! Take a look:


Learn about mountains--how they are formed, living in
mountains, and more--at The Mountain Institute's website. Be sure to check out the animation that shows how mountains are often formed. (This particular animation is labeled “Himalayan Mountains,” but it is the same idea for the Caucasus ranges.)

Did you know...?

  • The word Caucasian (often used as a synonym for white, as in race) comes from the name Caucasus Mountains.
  • The Soviet Union's infamous dictator Josef Stalin came from Georgia. The word infamous means famous for evil deeds and “accomplishments” rather than good ones.
  • The athlete who tragically died at the 2010 Olympic Games (during a training run on the luge, just before the games officially opened) was from Georgia.

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