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A group of Mingrelians at the end of the 19th century

The Mingrelians[1] (Mingrelian: მარგალი, margali; Georgian: მეგრელები: megrelebi) are a subethnic group of Georgians[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] that mostly live in Samegrelo (Mingrelia) region of Georgia. They also live in considerable numbers in Abkhazia and Tbilisi. Approximately 180,000-200,000 people of Mingrelian provenance have been expelled from Abkhazia as a result of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in the early 1990s and the ensuing ethnic cleansing of Georgians in this separatist region.

Most Mingrelians speak both the Mingrelian and Georgian language which belong to the South Caucasian (Kartvelian) linguistic family, but use only the Georgian alphabet.



Mingrelian prince, by G. Gagarin. 1840s.

The Mingrelians are descendants of several Colchian tribes which later came under the influence of their ethnic kin from eastern Georgia (Iberia). Early in the Middle Ages, their aristocracy and clergy, later followed by laymen, adopted Georgian as a language of literacy and culture. After the fragmentation of the Kingdom of Georgia in the 15th century, Mingrelia was an autonomous principality which was embroiled in a series of conflicts with other Georgian polities until being annexed by the Russian Empire in the 1800s.

In several censuses under the Russian Empire and the early Soviet Union, Mingrelians were considered a separate group, but were classified under the broader category of Georgian in the 1930s. Currently, most Mingrelians identify themselves as "Georgian" and have preserved many characteristic cultural features including the Mingrelian language, but the number of its speakers have declined.

The first President of an independent Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia (1939-1993), was a Mingrelian. Therefore, after the violent Coup d'etat of December 21, 1991 - January 6, 1992, Samegrelo became the centre of a civil war, which ended with the defeat of Gamsakhurdia's supporters.

Notable Mingrelians

See also


  1. ^ Alternately, Megrelians, Mingrels, or Megrels
  2. ^ Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, by Svante E. Cornell, p 142
  3. ^ Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook, by David Levinson, p 34
  4. ^ Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War, by Stuart J. Kaufman, p 86
  5. ^ Political Construction Sites: Nation-building in Russia and the Post-Soviet World, by Pål Kolstø, p 8
  6. ^ Stephen F. Jones. Mingrelians. World Culture Encyclopedia. Retrieved on March 29, 2008.
  7. ^ Kevin Tuite The Meaning of Dæl. Symbolic and Spatial Associations of the South Caucasian Goddess of Game Animals. Université de Montréal.
  8. ^ Politics of the Black Sea: Dynamics of Cooperation and Conflict, by Tunç Aybak, p 185
  9. ^ Andropov, New Challenge to the West, by Arnold Beichman, Mikhail S. Bernstam, p 116




Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Plural form of Mingrelian.


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