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Georgia's Long Road to Europe

How the West Forgot About Tbilisi

Andrew North

In 1713, King Vakhtang VI of Georgia sent his former teacher, the famed polymath and writer Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, to France and Italy on an urgent diplomatic mission. Squeezed on all sides—by the Persian Empire to the southeast, the Ottoman Empire to the southwest, and Russia to the north—Georgia needed Western allies. Orbeliani seemed the perfect choice to petition the French monarch and the pope, the power brokers of the time, for help. His eloquence and erudition, according to historical records, charmed Louis XIV. Orbeliani made the case that as a Christian nation Georgia was a natural pro-Western ally and a gateway to the Caucasus and farther east. But in the end, he failed.

Although the Turks, the Persians, and the Russians were France’s rivals as well, Louis the Great was consumed by problems closer to home and had no appetite for intervening in the Caucasus. For Georgia, it

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