By the early 16th century the loosely knit kingdom of Georgia had disintegrated from the strong monarchy of the middle ages to a number of small states and principalities. This internal disunity made the Georgians easy victims of the power politics of the neighbouring Ottoman and Safavid empires and by the end of the century the southward drive of the Russians intensified the struggle for military and diplomatic control over the whole of the Caucasian isthmus. As a result of this struggle 17 embassies were exchanged between the Russian tsars and the Georgian kings ruling in Kakheti during the years 1564-1605. Mr Allen and Mr Mango (who undertook the translation) have selected the documents relating to the embassies of 1589-90 and 1604-05. Although the writers seem to be frequently preoccupied with questions of protocol, their observations give a clear picture of both current Russian administrative and diplomatic practice and of the life and customs of the peoples of the Caucasus and Georgia. The texts are further enlivened by dramas such as the murder of the Kakhian king Alexander II and the secret negotiations for the marriages of the son and daughter of the Tsar Boris Godunov. The documents are of considerable geographical interest as they provide the earliest extant accounts of the crossing of the main chain of the Caucasus from north to south. Mr Allen provides both a detailed background introduction and full commentary and notes on the texts. Volume II also contains some valuable genealogical tables which clarify the complicated relationships between the Caucasian royal and princely families and their connection with the Russian, Ottoman and Persian ruling families. The main pagination is continuous with the previous volume (Second series 138). This is a new print-on-demand hardback edition of the volume first published in 1970.
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