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History of the Ananuri Castle

There are no records when exactly this stronghold was built, but many archaeological excavations carried out there have shown that by the 13th or 14th century a hillfort which was a barrier to the enemy in the Vedzathevi gorge already existed on the left side of the Aragvi. The first written records of Ananuri, where the dangerous Eristavis (dukes) of Aragvi who ruled over these lands lived, cannot be found until the 17th c. At that time the complex of buildings was much richer; the Castle has survived to the present day, but it is only the upper part of the former Ananuri stronghold.

Dusheti was the capital of the Aragvian duchy, while the main road leading to the duchy was protected by Ananuri, a fortified castle. The place for this castle was chosen perfectly: situated in a narrow gorge, at the confluence of the Vedzathevi and the Aragvi, Ananuri could guard the main part of the dukedom as well as protect the retreat road for the residents of the Aragvi valley. During the first half of the 18th c. the serrated walls of this fortress became a shelter to the royal family and the King of Kakheti as his army cringed against the superior strength of the Lezgic forces.

The Georgian duke, historian and geographer Wahuszti Bagrationi mentions this event which took place in 1723 in his letters. The ruler of Kakheti, Teimuraz II, his wife Tamar and little son – later King Erekle II, stayed in Ananuri for over a year, and the Lezgins failed to conquer the well-fortified castle. Later, Teimuraz's elder brother, the King of Kakheti Constantine II, rewarded the Aragvian dukes with black ungratefulness by taking Ananuri’s cannons to defend his residence in Telavi.

In 1739 Ananuri again witnessed a tragic event which was recorded in the chronicles of that period. A conflict arose between two major Georgian liege lords: the dynasty of the Eristavis of Aragvi and a representative of this dynasty from Kasani. The cause of the conflict was a long-standing animosity. Because of personal grudges, the Kasanian representative of the Eristavis who wanted to avenge his own brother’s family, attacked Ananuri with his army and Lezgic mercenaries. A long-lasting siege did not give any results, it was only the destruction of the water supply system that forced Ananuri's defenders to negotiate a surrender of the fortress. The victors promised the Aragvian fighters mercy, but they did not keep their word: they destroyed and desecrated the churches, enslaved the prisoners, killed many soldiers, and burnt the son of the Aragvian duke of the Eristavi dynasty who barricaded himself in the tower alive.

In 1743 the Georgian dukes of the Eristavi dynasty were ousted from power and the king came into ownership of the Castle. In 1795 the stronghold became a shelter to the residents of Tbilisi and very aged King Erekle II who escaped from a massacre made by the Persian forces in the capital of Georgia. In the early 19th c., after an agreement to unify Georgia and Russia was signed, a garrison of Russian forces was deployed in Ananuri. Its task was to protect the people and the Georgian Military Road running through the main Caucasian ridge. Some time later, the forces left the neglected castle and moved to a newly-established camp, somewhere else. It was not until the 1930s that Ananuri aroused interest – when a large archaeological survey and excavations began in the city. Today Ananuri is often visited by tourists stopping here on their way to Kazbegi or the Cross Pass.