Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო Sakartvelo), known from 1991 to 1995 as the Republic of Georgia, is a country to the east of the Black Sea in the southern Caucasus. A former republic of the Soviet Union, it shares borders with Russia in the north and Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan in the south.
Main article: History of Georgia
Two Georgian Kingdoms of late antiquity, Iberia in the east of the country and Egrisi in the west, were among the first nations in the region to adopt Christianity (In 317 AD and 523 AD, respectively.) Iberia soon became a part of the Persian Empire. Egrisi often saw battles between rivals Persia and the Byzantine Empire, both of which managed to conquer Western Georgia from time to time. As a result, those Kingdoms were disintegrated into various feudal regions in the early Middle Ages. This made it easy for Arabs to occupy Georgia in the 7th century. The rebellious regions were liberated and united into the Georgian Kingdom at the beginning of the 11th century. Starting in the 12th century the rule of Georgia extended over the significant part of Southern Caucasus, including northeastern parts and almost entire northern coast of what is now Turkey.
This Georgian Kingdom, which was tolerant towards its Muslim and Jewish subjects despite the Kingdom's deeply Christian character, was subordinated by the Mongols in the 13th century. Thereafter, different local rulers fought for their independence from the central Georgian rule, until the total disintegration of the Kingdom in the 15th century. Neighbouring kingdoms exploited the situation and from the 16th century the Persian Empire and the Ottoman Empire were subordinate eastern and western regions of Georgia, respectively.
The rulers of regions, which remained partly autonomous, organised rebellions on various occasions. Subsequent Persian and Turkish invasions further weakened local kingdoms and regions. This time, Georgian weakness was exploited by the neighbouring Russian Empire. First to fall into Russian hands was the Eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti, which was almost totally devastated by Persian invasions in the last two decades of the 18th century. The annexation of eastern Georgia by the Russian Tsarist Empire took place on September 12, 1801. This conquest was officially legitimised by the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan.
All the regions in the west of the country remained fully independent until the next decade. In 1810 the Russian Empire managed to conquer and abolish the Western Georgian Kingdom of Imereti, which had a key role in the diplomatic efforts to maintain Georgian sovereignty in the west of the country and to unite Western Georgian regions. Even after this, it took the Russian Empire another 54 years to take full control of all of Western Georgia. The region of Guria was abolished in 1828, and the region of Samegrelo in 1857. The region of Svaneti was gradually annexed in 1857-1859 and the Principality of Abkhazia in 1864.
After the Russian Revolution Georgia declared independence on May 26, 1918 during the Russian Civil War. The parliamentary election was won by the Georgian Social-Democratic Party and its leader, Noe Zhordania, received the post of Prime-Minister. By February 25, 1921, this Democratic Republic of Georgia was occupied by the Red Army and was incorporated into a Transcaucasian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic uniting Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The TFSSR was disaggregated into its component elements in 1936 and Georgia became the Georgian SSR.
The Georgian born radical Ioseb Jughashvili was prominent among the Russian Bolsheviks, who came to power in the Russian Empire after the October Revolution (1917). Jughashvili was better known by his nom de guerre Stalin (from the Russian word for steel: сталь). Stalin was to rise to the highest position of the Soviet state and to rule ruthlessly.
In 1941-45, during the Second World War, almost 700,000 Georgians fought as the Red Army soldiers against Nazi Germany. More than 200,000 of them died in the battlefields of the eastern front.
During the Perestroika reforms of the late 1980s, of which one of the main architects was the USSR's Georgian minister for foreign affairs, Eduard Shevardnadze*, Georgia developed a vigorous multiparty system that strongly favoured independence. The country staged the first elections in the Soviet Union on October 28, 1990. On April 9, 1991, shortly before the collapse of the USSR, Georgia declared independence again. Two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, quickly became embroiled in disputes with local independists that led to civil wars and widespread inter-ethnic violence. Supported by Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have achieved and maitained de facto independence from Georgia. More than 200,000 Georgians have been ethnically cleansed out of Abkhazia by Abkhaz separatists and Russian volunteers. Georgians were expelled from Tskhinvali as well, and many Ossetian families were forced to abandon their homes in the Borjomi region and move to Russia. Reversing the effects of ethnic cleansing and returning refugees to their home places was one of the main pre-election promises of Saakashvili's government.
Main article: Politics of Georgia See also Foreign relations of Georgia
Following a crisis involving allegations of ballot fraud in the 2003 parliamentary elections, Eduard Shevardnadze resigned as president on November 23, 2003 in the bloodless Rose Revolution. The interim president was the speaker of the outgoing parliament (whose replacement was annulled), Nino Burjanadze. On January 4, 2004 Mikhail Saakashvili, leader of the National Movement - Democrats (NMD) (former United National Movement) won the country's presidential election and was inaugurated on January 25.
Fresh parliamentary elections were held on March 28 where NMD secured the vast majority of the seats (with ca. 75% of the votes) with only one other party reaching the 7% threshold (the Rightist Opposition with ca. 7.5%). The vote is believed to have been one of the freest ever held in independent Georgia although an upsurge of tension between the central government and the Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze affected the elections in this region.
The tension between the Georgian government and that of Ajaria grew increasingly after the elections until late April. Climaxing on May 1 when Abashidze responded to military maneuvers held by Georgia near the region with having the three bridges connecting Ajaria and the rest of Georgia over the Choloki River blown up. On May 5, Abashidze was forced to flee Georgia as mass demonstrations in Batumi called for his resignation and Russia increased their pressure by deploying Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov.
On February 3 2005, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania died of carbon monoxide poisoning in an apparent gas leak at the home of Raul Usupov, deputy governor of Kvemo Kartli region. At an emergency cabinet meeting the same day, Giorgi Baramidze was appointed acting prime minister. Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli has been appointed for the post by President Saakashvili.
Main article: Subdivisions of Georgia
Georgia is divided into 53 provinces, 11 cities, 2 autonomous republics and 1 former autonomous district.
Autonomous republics: Abkhazia, Ajaria. The status of the former autonomous administrative district, South Ossetia aka Samachablo , has being negotiated with the Russian supported separatist government there.
Cities: Batumi, Chiatura, Gori, Kutaisi, Poti, Rustavi, Sokhumi, Tbilisi, Tkibuli , Tskaltubo , Tskhinvali
Districts: Abasha , Adigeni , Akhalgora , Akhaltsikhe, Akhmeta , Ambrolauri , Aspindza , Baghdati, Bolnisi , Borjomi, Chkhorotsku , Chokhatauri , Dedoplistskaro , Dmanisi, Dusheti, Gardabani , Gurjaani , Java, Kareli , Kaspi , Kharagauli , Khashuri , Khobi , Khoni, Lagodekhi , Lanchkhuti, Lentekhi , Marneuli , Martvili, Mestia, Mtskheta, Ninotsminda , Oni, Ozurgeti, Kazbegi , Kvareli , Sachkhere, Sagarejo , Samtredia, Senaki , Sighnaghi ,Telavi, Terjola , Tetritskaro , Tianeti , Tsageri , Tsalenjikha , Tsalka , Vani, Zestaponi, Zugdidi
Origin of the name
Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi (ქართველები), their land Sakartvelo (საქართველო), and their language Kartuli (ქართული). These names are derived from a pagan chief called Kartlos , said to be the father of all Georgians. The foreign name Georgia, used throughout the world, is derived from Persian گرجی Gurji via the Arabic Jurj. Because the spelling was influenced by the Greek root geōrg- (γεωργ-, indicating farming), the word has been mistakenly supposed to have come from a cognate such as St. George (the country's patron saint), or γεωργία (geōrgía, farming).
The ancient world knew the inhabitants of eastern Georgia as Iberians, from the Caucasian kingdom of Iberia — thus confusing the geographers of antiquity, who thought this name applied only to the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar.
Gurj, the Persian designation for the Georgians, is also the source of Turkish Gürcü (pronounced "Gürdjü") and Russian Грузин Gruzin. The name of the country is Gurjestan in Persian, Gürcistan in Turkish, and Грузия Gruziya in Russian. The Persian name is probably related to the Armenian words for Georgian and Georgia, respectively Vir and Virq. (There are other instances in which a Persian word-initial gu- is derived from an earlier wi- or wa-.) Thus, both the Persian and the Armenian words appear to be related to the name Iberia, with loss of the initial i- and substitution of w or v for the b of Iberia.
There is also, in all likelihood, an etymological connection between the name Iberia and the historic province of Georgia called Imereti.
Former Georgian coat of arms
This flag was in use from 1991 to January 25, 2004. It was previously used from 1918 to 1921. For more information, see Flag of Georgia (country).
This coat of arms was used from 1918 to 1921 and from 1991 to 2004.
Main article: Geography of Georgia
In the north, Georgia has a 723km common border with Russia, specifically with the Northern Caucasus federal district. The following Russian republics/subdivisions - from west to east - border Georgia: Krasnodar Krai, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia-Alania, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan.
Mountains are the dominant geographic feature of Georgia. The Likhi Range divides the country into eastern and western halves. Historically, the western portion was known as Colchis while the eastern plateau was called Iberia. Mountains also isolate the northern region of Svaneti from the rest of Georgia.
Major rivers in Georgia include the Rioni and the Mtkvari.
Main article: Economy of Georgia
Georgia's economy has traditionally revolved around Black Sea tourism, cultivation of citrus fruits, tea and grapes; mining of manganese and copper; and output of a small industrial sector producing wine, metals, machinery, chemicals, and textiles. The country imports the bulk of its energy needs, including natural gas and oil products. Its only sizable internal energy resource is hydropower. Despite the severe damage the economy has suffered due to civil strife, Georgia, with the help of the IMF and World Bank, made substantial economic gains since 1995, increasing GDP growth and slashing inflation. The Georgian economy continues to experience large budget deficits due to a failure to collect tax revenues. Georgia also still suffers from energy shortages; it privatized the distribution network in 1998, and deliveries are steadily improving. Georgia is pinning its hopes for long-term recovery on the development of an international transportation corridor through the key Black Sea ports of P'ot'i and Batumi. The growing trade deficit, continuing problems with tax evasion and corruption, and political uncertainties cloud the short-term economic picture. However, revived investment could spur higher economic growth in 2000, perhaps up to 6%.
Main article: Demographics of Georgia
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia has suffered a serious population collapse as the rebellion in Abkhazia, the strife in Ajaria and South Ossetia, a fragile economy, and bad job opportunities led hundreds of thousands of Georgians to emigrate in search of work, especially to Russia. This is exacerbated by a very low birthrate among the people remaining; a similar problem exists in neighboring Armenia. The population is currently estimated to be a full million less than in was back in 1990, and some observers suggest the actual number is even lower.
Main article: Culture of Georgia See also Georgian language, Georgian alphabet, Music of Georgia
- Braund, David. 1994. Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia 550 BC-AD 562. Clarendon Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-814473-3.