Discover Georgia
BBC journalists about Georgia’s forgotten kingdom located in Turkey
08 June, 2018

Historically, Georgia was spread on a much larger territory than today.

Apart from occupied  Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (so called South Ossetia) regions, the country has lost its original lands, Tao-Klarjeti, located in South-Western part of Georgia and Hereti Eastern part of Georgia.
Doliskana. Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava


According to the history of Georgia and ancient Greek and Roman chronicles, Tao-Klarjeti had always been inhabited by Georgian tribes. During Medieval ages, royal principality was established on this land that was ruled by native lords.

It is noteworthy that the principality contributed to the unification of Georgia in 978.


The first king of the unified Georgia was Bagrat III. David III, the king of Tao-Klarjeti principality played acrucial role in his enthroning in 978 . He provided military, as well as political support to the new king, who was only 16 years old when the ascended the throne.

Khakhuli. Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava


During following years, Bagrat managed to unify other Georgian lands, located in eastern part of the country – Kakheti and Hereti. Even though after the 15th century the country was  separated into political entities, unification led by Tao-Klarjeti principality was a turning point in the history of Georgia.


Nowadays Tao-Klarjeti is included within Turkish borders, but remnants of Georgian times are still visible. Tourists, travellers and photographers often visit old Georgian churches and their ruins. The historic monuments located on the territory of Turkey have been worsening and damaging year by year. Only after many years of being abandoned and left without care Georgian and Turkish sides managed to settle on launching joint rehabilitation works.

Ishkhani. Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava


A special delegation of experts has been sent to Tao-Klarjeti to study the condition of Georgian church Oshki and start restoration works. Before particular actions have been taken in order to save and preserve this unique monuments, BBC journalists Katie Nadworny and  Emma Harper paid a visit to the famous sites and depicted them with their cameras.


The reporters were both impressed by the uniqueness of the historic monuments and sad about the condition of these sites. They unveiled their impressions in a following article published by BBC.


Apart from BBC journalists, Georgian photographer Giorgi Nikolava also traveled to Tao-Klarjeti and captured its historic sites and monuments. Here we present the video by Giorgi Nikolava.

Tortumi Lake. Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava

“Oshki Monastery in Erzurum Province is one of region’s grandest Georgian Orthodox sites” – the article says, “Built between 963 and 973 AD during the reign of Georgian prince Bagrati David III Kuropalates, the expansive, cruciform-shaped monastery is now mostly roofless, yet the open sky emphasizes the splendour of the soaring central dome. The southern facade, which serves as the church’s main entrance, is decorated with various motifs rendered in bas-relief sculpture, such as an archer hunting sheep, an eagle with an animal in its mouth and leaders presenting their churches to God.”


Both of the journalists admit, that the churches are in poor conditions.

Interior of Otkhta (Dörtkilise). Photo courtesy: Emma Harper


“The monastery’s decrepitude is not all romantic. Many of the church decorations have been stolen over the years, a large crack on the western wall threatens the structural integrity and makeshift homes have been built right up against its exterior” – is stated in the article, “Disagreements between the Turkish and Georgian governments on how to proceed with restorations have left the monastery in a state of neglectful limbo, and the majesty of Oshki is left open to the elements, crumbling slowly”.

Interior of Otkhta (Dörtkilise). Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava


Despite restoration works, situation developed negatively and some of the manuscripts were damaged.


“First mentioned in a Georgian manuscript from 951 AD, Işhan Church near the village of Arpacık has suffered a fate worse than neglect: a haphazard restoration” – Journalists elaborate., “The sandblasted stone exterior belies the building’s age, while the large, smooth, square-cut stones – some a glowing white and others a perky pink – look more modern than medieval. Crowned with a brand new, yet uneven, red-tiled roof and bordering a carelessly excavated archaeological site, the church reveals the slipshod approach to preservation that is so prevalent in this region”.

Otkhta (Dörtkilise). Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava


BBC journalists visited mostly all of the main Georgian churches and studied their conditions.

“According to a Georgian manuscript dated 1031, the Dörtkilise church and monastery were founded by Bagrationi clerics, who were instrumental in the spread of Georgian Orthodox beliefs throughout Tao-Klarjeti” – says the article, “The basilica’s soaring central nave, illuminated by large arched windows and flanked by two aisles, hints at its former glory”.

Tortumi waterfall. Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava


According to the article, exterior, as well as interior of the churches are damaged, because of the lack of attention and tourists, who inscribed  their names on the centuries old frescoes. As journalists note, the faded frescoes in the apse of Dörtkilise speak to the church’s past grandeur. The images of the Orthodox Christian saints have faded over time and the white walls beneath them are desecrated by graffiti. Meanwhile, the slanted floor littered with debris lends credence to the claim that the church has most recently been used as a barn.

Bana. Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava


There are positive tendencies though. Last year an agreement was reached between the Georgian and Turkish governments. According to the deal, restoration works for Oshki church are about to start this year. An expedition of Georgian scientists have already departed to Turkey to take part  restoration works of the dome of Oshki church.


Related stories:

Tao-Klarjeti – The lost beauty of Georgia


Historic discovery: Unique 11th-century floor uncovered at Ishkhani monastery


Tao Monuments under Rehabilitation


Georgian monasteries in Tao-Klarjeti - Misinformation and changed names