Living culture of three writing systems of the Georgian alphabet

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Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia, 2015

The evolution of Georgia’s written language has produced three alphabets – Mrgvlovani, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli – which all remain in use today. Mrgvlovani was the first alphabet from which Nuskhuri was derived and then Mkhedruli. The alphabets coexist thanks to their different cultural and social functions, reflecting an aspect of Georgia’s diversity and identity. Their ongoing use in a cultural sense, also gives communities a feeling of continuity. The alphabets Mrgvlovani and Nuskhuri are practised and taught informally predominately by the community of the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church. For example, the alphabets feature in texts used by church worshippers such as the psalms and hymns and on inscriptions of display items used in the church, like the icons. Traditional craftspeople (goldsmiths, embroiderers, icon-painters and sculptors) who create pieces for the church can also be considered as practitioners and transmitters of the alphabets, as well as some theological schools, tertiary institutions, linguists, scholars and historians. Georgia’s educational system, however, is based on the Mkhedruli alphabet. Taught in primary and high school, the Mkhedruli alphabet is also transmitted informally in the home from older to younger generations. The Mrgvlovani and Nuskhuri alphabets are taught in schools in Georgia but at a basic level.

Students of the Graphic Design Faculty of the State Academy of Fine Arts in calligraphy of three systems of Georgian alphabet
The stylization of Mkhedruli Georgian alphabet by a graphic designer
The linguists study the 13th century royal decree, written with Mkhedruli Georgian alphabet
Metropolitan David elaborates the scripts with Mrgvlovani, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli Georgian alphabets. He has been endorsed with the honor to rewrite with hand the Gospel Book
Metropolitan David practices Mkhedruli script
Morning prayer in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta. The Psalm-reader reads the Psalm with Nuskhuri alphabet
The Gospel Book and the Book of Psalms written with Nuskhuri is usually used in liturgy. Morning prayer in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta
Children learn Mkhedruli alphabet in primary school
Teaching reading Mkhedruli alphabet in primary school
Art historian discusses the variety of avant-garde Georgian fonts from early 20th century, using three writing systems of Georgian alphabet, Archive of Grishashvili Museum, Tbilisi