Aznauri (Georgian: აზნაური; pl. aznaurni, აზნაურნი, or aznaurebi, აზნაურები) was a class of Georgian nobility; the term that was first applied to all nobles, but in the later Middle Ages narrowed to designate the petty nobles.
The term is related to Pahlavi āzāt-ān, free or noble, who are listed as the lowest class of the free nobility in the Hajjiabad inscription of King Shapur I (241-272?), and parallels to the azat of Armenia.
It first appears in "The Martyrdom of Saint Shushanik", a 5th-century work of Georgian hagiographic literature.
A later chronicle, that of Leonti Mroveli, derives aznauri from the semi-legendary ruler Azon (Georgian –uri is a common adjectival suffix), whose 1,000 soldiers defected him and were subsequently named aznauri by Azon’s victorious rival P’arnavaz.
This etymology is patently false.
According to Hrachia Acharian the word was borrowed into Georgian from Armenian azn “nation, generation, race”.
The stratification within the feudal aristocracy of Georgia, generically known as aznauri, already became apparent in the 9th-10th century.
A higher substratum began to be distinguished by adding the title of didebuli, i.e. , the aznauri who held dideba, an especially high courtier office.
Later in the Middle Ages, a clearer distinction was made between an aznauri (now dependent noble), and a tavadi and mtavari (dynastic prince); from the 15th century, the aznauri was considered a qma (literally, slave) of his lord, either secular or ecclesiastic.
This form of dependence was later subjected to a formal regulation under Vakhtang VI’s Code of Laws which was codified between 1705 and 1708, and loosely governed a Georgian version of feudalism (batonq’moba) even after the Russian annexation of Georgia early in the 19th century.
Subsequently, in the 1820s, the status of aznauri was equated to that of the (untitled) dvoryanstvo of Russia.