Georgia is a republic in Asia. The country borders west to the Black Sea, north to Russia, south to Turkey and Armenia, and southeast to Azerbaijan. Most of the area is in the southern Caucasus. Georgia has two outbreak republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the north of the country, and the autonomous Republic of Adzaria southwest of the country. In total, these make up about 1/4 of Georgia’s area.
Georgia came under Russian control in the latter part of the 18th century, and had 1936-91 status as a Union Republic in the Soviet Union. By the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia became an independent state. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi.
Georgia (the name) is from the Persian designation of Georgians, ‘gurgan’. Georgia after St. Georg dates from the 12th century. The Georgian name Sakartvélo means ‘the land of the cartwheels’ (by Georgian kartveli, dss. ‘Georgians’).
Geography and environment
Most of Georgia has mountain terrain with partly high altitude differences which, together with poor infrastructure, insulate many villages in winter. The country’s highest mountain is Shkhara, 5193 meters above sea level. Rioni is the longest river. Centrally located in the western part of the country lies the Koklhida lowering west towards the Black Sea.
Georgia’s climate zones are defined by distances to the Black Sea and heights above sea level. The Black Sea coast and much of the inland interior has a subtropical climate up to approx. 650 meters above sea level and high rainfall (1000-2000 millimeters annually). Average temperatures here are 5 0 C in the winter months and 22 0 C in the summer months. The plains in the east have Mediterranean climates (500-800 millimeters of annual rainfall) with temperatures of 20-24 o C in the summer months and 2-3 o C in the winter months.
There is lush vegetation in the Caucasus and on the Kolkhidia lowering with species-rich deciduous forests in the lowlands and on lower mountain slopes. On the Black Sea coast, palm trees grow.
It is approx. 95 species of mammals, 361 species of birds, 53 reptile species, 13 species of amphibians and 84 species of freshwater fish.
People and society
Georgia is relatively densely populated. Most live in the lowlands and 53.6 percent of the population is urban (2015). The country’s population is declining. Ethnic Georgians make up about 83.8 percent of the population. Other ethnic groups are Azerbaijani (6.5 percent), Armenians (5.7 percent), Russians 1.5 percent, other 2.5 percent (The World Factbook 2012).
In the post-World War II period there has been a “Georgian” or ethnic homogenisation. 1989-1993, 28 percent of the Russian population emigrated. An estimated 1.5 million people have left the country following separatist conflicts in the 1990s and emigration.
Georgian is the official language and is spoken by 71 percent, Russian by 9 percent, Armenian by 7 percent and Azerbaijani by 6 percent. Abkhazian is the official language of Abkhazia.
83.9 percent of the population go to Orthodox Christianity, 9.9 percent to Islam, 3.9 percent to the Armenian-Gregorian faith while and 0.8 percent are Catholics.
Life expectancy at birth is 78.6 years for women and 70.2 years for men (2012).
State and politics
Georgia is a Democratic Republic. The president is the head of state and has supreme executive power, is elected by the people by direct election for 5 years and can be re-elected twice. The president appoints the government headed by a prime minister. The House, which consists of the two chambers of the Republican Council and Senate, has 235 members elected for four years. 150 members are elected on party lists, the others directly.
Georgia is divided into 10 provinces and 2 republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have declared independence but are not recognized internationally.
The initial service is 18 months. Defense branches include army and air defense. Marine forces are included in the Coast Guard.
Georgia is a member of the UN and most of the UN’s special organizations and the World Bank, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Partnership for Peace. A partnership agreement with the EU was signed in 1994.
People have been living in Georgia for more than 50,000 years. In the 500s and 400s, Georgia was partially under the Persians. Greek colonized parts of West Georgia in the 500s BCE. In 65 BCE Georgia was conquered by the Romans. They fought with the parties for dominion over Armenia and Georgia. In the 300s, Georgia became Christian and strengthened relations with Byzantium.
The Arabs conquered Georgia in 645 and established an emirate in Tblisi. In the 12th century, King David Aghmashenebebli gathered most of the present Georgia. After a heyday, the empire disintegrated when the Mongols invaded in the 1220s. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 isolated Georgia from Western culture. For the next three centuries, the country was subject to repeated invasions by Turks and Persians. Georgia became the Russian protectorate in 1783 and in 1801 Russia annexed the country.
In 1844, Georgia became the governor of the Caucasus. Resistance to Russification increased throughout the 19th century. In 1917, Mensheviks and social revolutionaries took power in Georgia, and in 1918 the three territories declared an independent Transcaucasian Federal Republic. It was anti-Soviet and collapsed due to internal conflicts. A peace treaty with Russia in 1920 recognized Georgia’s independence. The following year, a Bolshevik Revolutionary War Council requested Russia for armed intervention and a Soviet republic was declared in 1921. A Georgian Soviet Republic was established in 1936. In the 1930s and 1940s, many Georgians became victims of Soviet annihilation campaigns.
Antirussian uprisings in 1956 and 1978 were defeated by the government’s security forces. In 1989, these 21 protesters killed Tbilisi, increasing anti-Soviet sentiment and internal strife. A referendum in 1991 provided a majority for full independence from the Soviet Union and on April 9 of that year Georgia’s independence was declared.
Internal conflicts characterized the 1990s. In 1991, fighting broke out between Ossetians and Georgian forces in South Ossetia, which declared independence from Georgia. North Ossetia in Russia supported the neighbor to the south, where there was civil war.
In 1991, President Sviad Gamsakhurdia fled and the following year a military council was established to govern Georgia. In 1994, Abkhazia proclaimed itself an independent state and by 1996, more than 6,000 people lost their lives during the civil war that led to economic collapse for Georgia. Eduard Shevardnadse was appointed head of state (elected president in 1995 and re-elected in 2000). In 2003, Shevardnadse was overthrown by a popular uprising (the “Velvet Revolution”). After the change of power, the state of Adjara cut off the border with Georgia and achieved a high degree of independence. During the 2004 presidential election, Mikhail Saakashvili prevailed.
In the summer of 2008, open military conflict broke out between Georgia and Russia following a Georgian attack on separatist forces in South Ossetia. Russian forces invaded parts of Georgia and recognized the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia withdrew forces from Georgia in the fall of 2008, but retained forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. After the election defeat in 2012, Saakashvili resigned. Giorgi Garibashvili became president after a peaceful change of power in 2013, and he postponed his presidency for 2018.
Salomé Zourabichvili was elected Georgia’s first female president in December 2018.
There is great support from the people and government for stronger integration with the West in Georgia. NATO and EU membership are priority foreign policy goals.
Economy and business
Agriculture contributed 9.2 per cent of GDP (2015). A lot of corn and wheat are grown as well as citrus fruits, grapes, teas, vegetables and hazelnuts. Animal husbandry includes cattle, sheep and goats.
The industry accounted for 22.1 per cent of GDP (2015). It was mining on manganese, copper and gold and it produced, among other things, steel, machine tools, electrical equipment, textiles, wine and wood products. In Batumi there is petroleum refining and chemical industry.
Georgia has been transporting oil and gas to neighboring countries since the 1990s through pipelines.
There is increasing emphasis on cultural tourism, including recreation and health resorts along the Black Sea coast.
Knowledge and culture
There is a 6-year primary school followed by a 3-year secondary school and a 3-year high school. There are more than 200 private educational institutions and 17 universities and colleges as well as several private educational institutions.
In 2010, there were 502 registered newspapers, 376 national and 126 regional, in Georgia. There were 36 radio stations and 25 television stations in 2011. (Source: Georgia: Media Landscape).
The oldest Georgian texts are religious after the introduction of Christianity in the 300s. From the country’s heyday in the 1100s and 1200s there is, among other things, Sjota Rustavelis epic “The Man in the Tiger Skin”. The modern breakthrough stood among several poet Ilia Chavchavadse (1837-1907), lyricists Akaki Tsereteli (1840-1915) and Vasja Psjavela (1861-1915). The interwar period was characterized by writers such as the lyricist Galaktian Tabidse (1881-1959) and the novelist Mikheil Dsjavakisjvili (1880-1937).
Great writers in the post-war era are lyricist Ana Kalandadze (1924-2008) and novelists Otar Tsjiladse (1933-2009), Nodar Dumbadze (1928-1984). Well-known recent authors are the novelists Aka Morchiladze (1966-), Ana Kordzaia-Samadashvili (1968-) and the poet Gaja Nakhutsjrishvili (1971-).
A famous painter was the naivist / primitivist Niko Pirosmani (1862-1918). Songs and folk dances promote old Georgian culture. Vakhtang Chaboukiani (1910-1992) was of great importance to Georgian ballet.