GEORGIA 

Georgia, in Georgian Sakartvelo, the country of Transcaucasia is an ancient land with rich and unique cultural heritage, traditions of hospitality and impressive nature beauty. 

Once experienced, unforgettable memories stay with you forever. 

Based on historical records from the 9th century, the native name Sakartvelo ("land of Kartvelians") stems from the central Georgian region of Kartli, referring to the entire medieval Kingdom of Georgia by the 13th century. 

The origin of the English name “Georgia”  still remains unclear. Georgia was first mentioned in Italian on the Mappa Mundi of Pietro Vesconte, dated AD 1320. According to theory, the land used to be part of the Persian Empire in the Middle Ages. People who inhabited here, known as "Gurjis" were devotees of St George. Legend says that Christian crusaders crossed the region on their way to the Holy Land and named it Georgia. 

For ages, St George remains Georgia's patron saint and the national flag features red cross on a white background. 

Ancient Greeks and Romans used to refer to Western Georgians as Colchians and to Eastern Georgians as Iberians. Today the official name of the country is "Georgia", as specified in the Georgian constitution which reads "Georgia is the name of the state of Georgia.”

Before the 1995 constitution came into force the country's name was the Republic of Georgia. 

Georgia is an unitary parliamentary republic, with its government elected through a representative democracy. 

 

POPULATION

  • The current population of Georgia is 3,984,284 as of Friday, February 19, 2021, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.
  • Ethnic groups: Georgian 83.8%, Azeri 6.5%, Armenian 5.7%, Russian 1.5%, other 2.5% (2002 census)
  • Georgia population is equivalent to 0.05% of the total world population
  • Georgia ranks number 132 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
  • The population density in Georgia is 57 per Km2 (149 people per mi2)

 

HISTORY 

There is a theory that Homo erectus inhabited the territory of modern-day Georgia since the Paleolithic Era.  Archaeologists discovered 8,000-year old wine jars-the earliest evidence of wine and other traces of early state formations, characterized by advanced metallurgy and goldsmith techniques, that date back to the 7th century BC and beyond.   

Georgia became a kingdom in about 4 B.C. and is the second country to adopt Christian faith in early 4th century (A.D. 337) when King Mirian and Queen Nana of Kartli were converted to Christianity by St Nino. 

The Kingdom of Georgia reached zenith of its development and power in the 12th century, during the reigns of King David IV Aghmashenebeli (r.1089–1125) and his granddaughter Queen Tamar (r.1184–1213), who Georgians call King Tamar for her courage and influence. This era is considered to be Georgia's Golden Age or the Georgian Renaissance, as characterized by territorial expansion, impressive military victories and cultural renaissance in literature, philosophy, architecture.   

The revival of Georgia was set back in 1466 when the kingdom collapsed into anarchy and split in five semi-independent principalities and three independent kingdoms: Kartli and Kakheti in the east, Imereti in the northwest, and Samtskhe in the southwest. By the early 16th century, Georgia had to fight against Ottoman Turks and Persian Safavid Empire, who were trying to gain control over Transcaucasia.    

In 1783, the eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti signed the bilateral Treaty of Georgievsk, according to which Eastern Georgia would become protectorate of Russia, in exchange for protection against Muslim enemies and Russia, ensuring the territorial integrity of Georgia. 

In 1801 the Treaty of Georgievsk was violated, followed by Russian annexation and autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia proclaimed its independence from 1918 to 1921, however later was invaded by the Red Army, incorporated into the USSR (Soviet Union), and formed Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic together with Armenia, and Azerbaijan.  In 1936, Georgia became the separate Soviet Republic. The 1930s is considered as the Era of Great Terror, due to despotic leadership of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin-(Iosif Vissarionovich Jugashvili who was an ethnic Georgian from town Gori. 

After Stalin’s death in 1953, the public order, peace and high living standards improved and Georgia enjoyed relatively good quality of life in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet by the mid-1980s Mikhail Gorbachev began his policies of reform and the USSR disintegrated in just seven years.

On 9 April 1991, shortly before the dissolution of Soviet Union (on December 31, 1991) Georgia declared independence. On 26 May 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as the first President. Almost immediately, the chaos started within the country, which continued until 1995. 

Eduard Shevardnadze-Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs returned to Georgia in 1992, rising to the highest position and gaining control. His presence worked positively for Georgia’s reputation abroad, but at home, internal conflicts continued to worsen: kidnappings, terrible crime waves, gang warfare, infrastructure collapse, and rampant corruption followed by War in Abkhazia (1992–1993), during which Abkhazia and South Ossetia achieved de facto independence from Georgia. 

Flawed parliamentary elections in November 2003, led to twenty days of protests “Rose Revolution” during 3-23 November 2003. Eventually, Shevardnadze was deposed by the leader of Georgian National Movement-Mikheil Saakashvili, who got elected as the President of Georgia in 2004. Saakashvili pursued pro-Western foreign policy and launched series of reforms strengthening the country's military and economic capabilities, at the same time contributing to Georgia's tensions with Russia, which continue to this day. 

In the following 4 years, Georgia enjoyed relative stability. In late 2007 new political crisis erupted, as opposition parties started organizing street protests in Tbilisi, against authoritarianism and alleged corruption of Saakashvili government, rising prices, and massive poverty.  President Saakashvili used military force to clear peaceful protesters, shut down oppositional Tv Station Imedi, and declared a temporary state of emergency, thus disappointing Georgians and alarming his friends in the West. Despite his plummeting popularity Saakashvili called the presidential election for January 2008 and won with 53% of the votes. 

In August 2008 South Ossetia war took place leading to the 2008–2010 Georgia–Russia crisis. 

In October 2012, Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia, established by Georgian billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, won 2012 parliamentary elections with majority of the total votes.  Saakashvili admitted defeat in parliamentary elections. This represented the first democratic transition of power in Georgia's post-Soviet history. 

On 17 November 2013, Giorgi Margvelashvili became the President of Georgia. With him in power, a new constitution came into force, limiting the president's powers in favor of the Prime Minister and the Parliament. 

Shortly after, the relationship between Margvelashvili and Ivanishvili soured to the point that the President openly criticized Georgian Dream's consolidation of power and Ivanishvili said he was disappointed in Margvelashvili. 

Giorgi Margvelashvili became the first president in Georgia's history, not to seek reelection for a second term. 

In December 2018 a Georgian politician and former French diplomat  Salome Zourabichvili became the 5th President. She is the first woman in Georgia to hold this position, which she will occupy for a term of six years. As a result of constitutional changes coming into effect in 2024, Zourabichvili is expected to be Georgia's last popularly elected president. All future heads of state after her will be elected indirectly by an electoral college.

 

GEOGRAPHY

Georgia covers an area of 69,700 square kilometers (26,911 sq mi), with its population estimated at about 3,984,284, as of Friday, February 19, 2021, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data. The great part of Georgia is situated in the South Caucasus, while a portion of the territory lies in the North Caucasus. Being at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, Georgia is bordered by the Black Sea to the West, by Russia to the North, by Turkey and Armenia to the South, and by Azerbaijan to the Southeast. The republic also includes Ajara Autonomous Republic in the Southwest (principal city Batumi) and South Ossetia in the North (principal city Tskhinvali). 

Georgia is separated from the North Caucasian Republic of Russia by Greater Caucasus Range-with the highest peaks rising more than 5,000 meters (16,400 ft) above sea level. The southern part of the country is bounded by the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. 

Administrative division: Georgia is divided into 9 regions and 2 autonomous republics. The regions are further subdivided into 73 districts.

Major cities: Tbilisi-capital city, Kutaisi, Batumi, Gori, Rustavi, Poti, Sokhumi, Gagra, Chiatura, Tkibuli, Tskaltubo, Tskhinvali. 

Major rivers: Mtkvari - 1515 km; Tergi-623 km; Chorokhi-438 km; Alazani-391 km; Rioni-327km and Enguri-213 km. 

The landscape within the country is diverse, comprising mountains and high peaks (Kazbegi, Ushba, Shkhara, etc.), hills, low-lying lands and mountain ranges. Western Georgia’s scenery varies from lowland rain-forests and swamps to permanent snows and glaciers, whereas the Eastern part includes a small portion of semi-arid plains. Forests cover approximately 40 percent of the country’s territory, and only 10 percent of the land is the alpine zone. 

Georgia is distinguished by its breathtaking nature and natural landmarks that are definitely worth visiting. 

For those who love trekking, hiking, camping and spending time in the countryside, Georgia is Paradise on earth. Visitors will discover here national parks, green valleys, gorgeous lakes, canyons, limestone formations, etc. Numerous cultural monuments, ancient churches and monasteries hiding in dense forests surrounded by Caucasian Mountains, are silent witnesses of rich history. 

 

CLIMATE

Western Georgia has humid subtropical climate, while it is more continental and arid in Central and Eastern inland areas.  

Two main climatic zones correspond with Eastern and Western parts of the country. The barrier of Greater Caucasus Mountain Range moderates Georgia's climate and protects the nation from colder air masses on the north, whereas the country is open to the constant influence of warm, moist air from the Black Sea. The Lesser Caucasus Mountains partially protect the region from dry and hot air masses on the south as well.

For the most part, Western Georgia is located within the humid subtropical zone, where annual precipitation ranges from 1000-4000 mm (39-157 inches). In Adjara region, it rains the most, as Mt. Mtirala rainforest on the east of Kobuleti receives around 4500 mm (177 inches) of precipitation per year. The precipitation usually distributes throughout the year, with heavy rainfall totaling 40 to 100 inches (1,000 to 2,500 mm) and reaching its maximum in autumn and winter. The climate of the region is elevation-dependent and while much of the lowlands in western Georgia stay relatively warm throughout the year, both Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountainous areas and foothills experience cool, wet summers and snowy, mild, and warm winters, with snow cover often exceeding 2 meters in many regions. January temperature never falls below 32 °F (0 °C). Warm, sunny winter weather lasts long in the coastal regions, where the temperature reaches about 41 °F (5 °C). Summer temperature averages about 71 °F (22 °C).

Weather patterns in Eastern Georgia are generally affected both by dry, Central Asian/Caspian air masses from the East and humid, Black Sea air masses from the West. Likhi and Meskheti mountain range block penetration of humid air from the Black Sea. Annual precipitation ranges from 400-1600 mm. (16-63 inches). The wettest periods are spring and autumn, while winter and summer months tend to be the driest. Most of Eastern Georgia, especially the low-lying areas experience hot summers and relatively cold winters. Elevation plays an important role here as well, hence climatic conditions 1500 meters (4920 ft.) above the sea level are considerably cooler. The regions that are situated 2000 meters (6560 ft.) above the sea level frequently experience frost even during the summer months. The rainfall usually happens at the end of spring. The highest lowland temperatures occur in July (about 77 °F [25 °C]), while average January temperatures through the region range from 32 to 37 °F (0 to 3 °C).

 

LANGUAGE & SCRIPT

Georgian (ქართული ენა, kartuli ena) is the official language spoken in Georgia and one of the oldest in the world. The language belongs to the Iberian-Caucasian group and has three dialects: Georgian, Svan, and Mengrelo - Laz dialects. 

The modern Georgian alphabet, called \"Mkhedruli\" has been used since the 11th century A.D.  It derives from the ecclesiastic script-Nuskha Khutsuri, which itself stems from Asomtavruli-a capital script found in the monasteries in the 4th-5th centuries. Originally having 38 letters, Georgian alphabet consists of 33 letters: 5 Vowels, 28 Consonants, and is one of the 14 existing ancient alphabets in the world. Scientists link its derivation to the Ancient Greek and Semitic alphabets, such as Aramaic, 6th - 5th centuries BC. 

Georgian language uses three systems for writing: Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri, and Mkhedruli scripts. Although different in appearance, all three of them are unicase, their letters have the same names, alphabetical order, and are written horizontally from left to right.  

Asomtavruli- the oldest Georgian script dating back to the 5th century. The name Asomtavruli means "capital letters", from aso (ასო) "letter" and mtavari (მთავარი) "principal/head". It is also known as Mrgvlovani (Georgian: მრგვლოვანი) "rounded", from mrgvali (მრგვალი) "round", so named because of its round shaped letters. It was first used by monks in Georgia and Palestine to translate the Bible and other Christian literature into Georgian.  

The oldest Asomtavruli inscriptions are found on Bolnisi Sioni Cathedral, dated 494 AD and Bir el Qutt inscriptions-written on an Old Georgian Byzantine mosaic, two of them dated AD 430 and the third one AD 532. 

Nuskhuri- the name stems from nuskha (ნუსხა), meaning "inventory" or "schedule". The combination is called Khutsuri (Georgian: ხუცური, "clerical", from khutsesi (ხუცესი "cleric"). From the 10th century, Nuskhuri script became dominant in hagiography, and the role of Asomtavruli reduced to being more decorative, it was used for titles and the first letters of chapters. However, epigraphic monuments of the 10th to 18th centuries continued to be written in Asomtavruli script. 

The oldest Nuskhuri inscriptions are found in the Ateni Sioni Church, which dates to 835 AD. The oldest surviving Nuskhuri manuscripts dated to 864 AD. 

Khutsuri (Nuskhuri with Asomtavruli) was used until the 19th century.

Mkhedruli-(Georgian: მხედრული) current modern Georgian script, which derives from mkhedari-horseman. 

Mkhedruli is bicameral, with capital letters that are called Mkhedruli Mtavruli or simply Mtavruli. It first appeared in the 10th century and unlike two previous scripts, represented the "civil", "royal" and "secular" script being used for non-religious purposes only. Mkhedruli soon became a universal writing system in the 19th century, used for historical documents, manuscripts and inscriptions.  Nowadays, Georgians use Mtavruli in all-caps text for titles or to emphasize a word. 

The oldest Mkhedruli inscription is found in Ateni Sioni Church, dating back to 982 AD. The second oldest Mkhedruli-written text is found in the 11th-century royal charters of King Bagrat IV of Georgia. 

Georgian and foreign scholars still can’t agree on the origins of the alphabet or who designed the script. The most ancient Georgian inscriptions date back to the 4th-5th centuries, however, evidences reveal that the written Georgian alphabet existed a long time before. Georgian historical sources associate the invention of the alphabet with pre-Christian period.  

According to the 11th-century Georgian chronicler and ecclesiastic-Leonti Mroveli (the author of manuscripts The Georgian Chronicles-Kartlis Tskhovreba), King Parnavaz (3rd century B.C.)-the great ancestor of Georgian or Kartvelian nation, was the one who created the Georgian script and then extended it throughout Georgia. 

The mosaic inscription in the Judaean Desert in Palestine dates back to 433 AD and is known as the oldest Georgian inscription ever found. It. The oldest manuscript of 864 AD is kept in St. Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula

Georgian literature has an ancient and remarkable history. The oldest known literary works include:

Pr-Christian period:

Amiraniani, ancient Georgian folk epos.

Notable Georgian written works from the medieval period:

Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik by Iakob Tsurtaveli (the oldest surviving work of the Georgian literature written between 476 and 483)

Corpus Areopagiticum, a philosophical and theological work attributed by some to Peter the Iberian (5th century)

The Life of Saint Nino (8th century) (anon)

The Martyrdom of Abo Tbileli by Ioane Sabanisdze (8th century)

The Life of Grigol Khandzteli by Giorgi Merchule (10th century)

A History of the Georgian Kings ("Tskhovreba Kartvelta Mepeta") by Leonti Mroveli-11th century

A History of the Royal House of Bagrationi by Sumbat Davitisdze-11th century

Eteriani, a folk epic-11th century

Life of the King Farnavaz (anon)-11th century

Ustsoro Karabadini (Peerless Karabadini)-11th century

Tamariani by Ioane Chakhrukhadze-12th century

Shen Khar Venakhi ("Thou Art a Vineyard"), the famous Georgian hymn by the King Demetre I Bagrationi-12th century

Vepkhistkaosani (The Knight in the Panther's Skin), a national epic poem by Shota Rustaveli-12th century

Abdulmesiani by Ioane Shavteli-13th century

Kartlis Tskhovreba (History of Georgia), a collection of old Georgian chronicles-from ancient times to the 14th century

 

RELIGION

People in Georgia are raised with strong religious values dominating the public. The predominant religion is Christianity and the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is among the world's most ancient Christian Churches, founded in the 1st century by the Apostle Andrew. The conversion of Georgians to Christianity in 337 AD ranked them among the first to accept Christianity.

Nowadays majority of the Georgians practice Orthodox Christianity of the Georgian Orthodox Church. 

The structure of the population by religion according to the 2014 census shows the following (2014 population census): 83.4% were identified as Eastern Orthodox Christian, 10.7% Muslim, 3.9% Armenian Apostolic, and 0.5% Catholic. 

Georgia is one of the oldest Christian countries, considered to be an appendage of the Holy Virgin. Here Christianity was first preached by the Apostles Andrew and Simon Canaanite. The tomb of the latter is in Western Georgia, by the Black Sea, at the ancient site of Nicopsia. At the beginning of the 4th century AD, St. Nino of Cappadocia, later honored as 'Equal to the Apostles', was given the task of baptizing the country by virtuous enlightenment.  In 337 AD, during the reign of King Mirian Paganism was renounced and Christianity was declared as the official religion. St. Nino is acclaimed as the enlightener and patron of Georgia. 

Georgian Orthodox Church gained its autocephaly in the 5th century during the reign of Vakhtang Gorgasali. The Bible was also translated in Georgian in the same period. From around the 6th century, the Church of Egrisi (Lasika) was headed by a metropolitan, who was a hierarch subordinated to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

In the second half of the 9th century, West Georgian Church split from Constantinople and placed itself under the Catholicon with the Holy See in Mtskheta. The Catholicon of Kartli was proclaimed the head of the Georgian Church, ranking as the sixth patriarch in the world’s pentarchy.

Georgian church always remains faithful to the Orthodox traditions, but also has a long history of tolerance to other confessions: Catholic, Muslim, Armenian-Gregorian, German-Lutheran and Judean congregations, despite several historical conflicts. Different religious minorities have lived in Georgia for thousands of years with almost no instances of religious discrimination. 

 

Religion and Church have always played an important role in strengthening the national consciousness of the people. The vast majority of Orthodox religious ceremonies are performed by priests in Churches. The most essential ceremonies, those that observe Easter and Christmas holidays, are performed by the Patriarch in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.  Daily services are scheduled and mostly held in Church buildings, especially weddings and baptisms. In some instances, priests receive invitations to various locations for the purpose of bestowing a blessing on new projects, building, organizations, etc.