CATHOLICISM IN GEORGIA AT THE INITIAL STAGE OF RUSSIAN RULE (FIRST HALF OF THE XIX CENTURY)
From the 60s of the 17th century, members of the Capuchin Catholic Order came to Georgia periodically. At the end of the 18th century, with the support of the kings of Kartli-Kakheti (eastern Georgia) - Irakli II (1762-1798), George XII (1798-1800) and the king of Imereti (western Georgia) Solomon II (1789-1810), was given them a good arena for the propaganda and dissemination of Catholicism. The Catholic mission in the Akhaltsikhe region (southern Georgia), which was under the influence of the Ottoman Empire, was in an unfavorable situation.
The establishment of Russia in eastern Georgia deprived the missionaries of the opportunity to freely spread their faith. Back in 1722, the Russian Emperor Peter the Great issued an order considering the conversion from Orthodoxy to another religion illegal. The Russian authorities considered missionaries to be spies of European countries and controlled their every step.
Governor-General of Caucasus P. Tsitsyanov (1802-1806) sought to subjugate European Catholic missionaries to Russian clerical rule. Indeed, new Catholic churches were solemnly opened in Tbilisi and Gori in 1807 and 1819, but at the same time, the number of missionaries in Georgia decreased. As for the Georgian Catholics of southern Georgia, one part of them, because of the great study of the Armenians (they were in a privileged position in both the Ottoman and Russian empires), had already been Armenianized, while the other part was facing the same danger, which was directly or indirectly facilitated by Shahkuliani (Chilimuzashvili), a Georgian, who was seeking episcopacy.
In 1845, due to the unacceptability of certain conditions, the Russian authorities expelled the Catholic missionaries from Georgia. However, as a result of centuries of missionary work in Georgia, one (perhaps not so important) part of the population (including Georgian Orthodox), for religious, political, economic, or other reasons, converted to the Catholic faith and, like others, played a certain role in the socio-political or socio-economic life of a polyethnic and polyconfessional country.
Keywords: Catholicism, Erekle II, Georgia, Russian Rule, Rome, Shahkuliani, Armenianization.