Georgia

Introduction The region of present-day Georgia contained the ancient kingdoms of Colchis and Kartli-Iberia. The area came under Roman influence in the first centuries A.D. and Christianity became the state religion in the 330s. Domination by Persians, Arabs, and Turks was followed by a Georgian golden age (11th-13th centuries) that was cut short by the Mongol invasion of 1236. Subsequently, the Ottoman and Persian empires competed for influence in the region. Georgia was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Independent for three years (1918-1921) following the Russian revolution, it was forcibly incorporated into the USSR until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. An attempt by the incumbent Georgian government to manipulate national legislative elections in November 2003 touched off widespread protests that led to the resignation of Eduard SHEVARDNADZE, president since 1995. New elections in early 2004 swept Mikheil SAAKASHVILI into power along with his National Movement party. Progress on market reforms and democratization has been made in the years since independence, but this progress has been complicated by two ethnic conflicts in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These two territories remain outside the control of the central government and are ruled by de facto, unrecognized governments, supported by Russia. Russian-led peacekeeping operations continue in both regions.
History

The territory of modern-day Georgia has been continuously inhabited since the early Stone Age. The classic period saw the rise of the early Georgian states of Colchis and Iberia, which laid the foundation of Georgian culture and eventual statehood. The proto-Georgian tribes first appear in written history in the 12th century BC.[14] Archaeological finds and references in ancient sources reveal advancement of early Georgian political and state formations - their urban heritage and advanced metallurgy and goldsmith techniques that date back to the 7th century BC and beyond.[15] In the 4th century BC a unified kingdom of Georgia - an early example of advanced state organization under one king and the hierarchy of aristocracy, was established.[16]

Christianity came to Georgia with its first missionaries and it was declared the state religion as early as AD 337. The conversion to Christianity provided a great stimulus to literature and the arts and helped to unify the country. Early and medieval Christian scholarship, the links with the rest of the Christian world and dynamic exchange with the Islamic world, together with the development of national literature and the political consolidation of the state in the 11th century AD culminated in a true renaissance in the 12-13th centuries AD.[17]

This early Georgian renaissance, which preceded its European analogue by several hundred years, was significant and was characterized by magnificent secular art and culture, the flourishing of a romantic- chivalric tradition, breakthroughs in philosophy, and an array of political innovations in society and state organization, including religious and ethnic tolerance. The Golden age of Georgia left a legacy of great cathedrals, romantic poetry and literature, and the epic poem "The Knight in the Panther's Skin". This Golden Age was interrupted at its peak by the Mongol Invasion in the 13th century AD Throughout the next six centuries, Georgia was conquered by repeated invasions by Persians and Turks, resulting in the disintegration of the Georgian state into several small kingdoms. Due to this national crisis, in 1783 Georgia signed the Treaty of Georgievsk with the Russian Empire, placing the eastern Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti under the Russian protectorate. Despite Russia's commitment to defend Georgia, it rendered no assistance when the Turks invaded in 1785 and again in 1795. This period culminated in the 1801 Russian annexation of remaining Georgian lands and the deposing of the Bagrationi dynasty.

A few decades later, Georgian society produced a modernist nationalistic elite which united Georgian society around the dream of the restoration of their once glorious state. In 1918, this dream was fulfilled and the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921) was established. This democratic experiment was short-lived, as in 1921 Georgia was occupied by Bolshevik Russia. Georgia was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922. Georgia gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and, after a period of civil war and severe economic crisis, Georgia was mostly stable by the late 1990s. The bloodless Rose Revolution of 2003 installed a new, pro-Western reformist government that aspired to join NATO and attempted to bring the secessionist territories back under Georgia's control. These efforts resulted in a deterioration of relations with Russia, in part because of the continued presence of Russian troops. As of 2007, most Russian military forces have been withdrawn, with the last remaining base in Batumi handed over to Georgia in 2007.[18]

Georgia in antiquity

Ancient Georgian Kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia

Two early Georgian kingdoms of late antiquity, known to ancient Greeks and Romans as Iberia (Georgian: იბერია) in the east of the country and Colchis (Georgian: კოლხეთი) in the west, were among the first nations in the region to adopt Christianity (in AD 337, or in AD 319 as recent research suggests.).

In Greek Mythology, Colchis was the location of the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts in Apollonius Rhodius' epic tale Argonautica. The incorporation of the Golden Fleece into the myth may have derived from the local practice of using fleeces to sift gold dust from rivers. Known to its natives as Egrisi or Lazica, Colchis often saw battles between the rival powers of Persia and the Byzantine Empire, both of which managed to conquer Western Georgia from time to time.

In the last centuries of the pre-Christian era, the area, in the form of the kingdom of Kartli-Iberia, was strongly influenced by Greece to the west and Persia to the east.[19] After the Roman Empire completed its conquest of the Caucasus region in 66 B.C., the kingdom was a Roman client state and ally for nearly 400 years.[19] In A.D. 330, King Marian III's acceptance of Christianity ultimately tied the kingdom to the neighboring Byzantine Empire, which exerted a strong cultural influence for several centuries.[19]

The early kingdoms disintegrated into various feudal regions by the early Middle Ages. This made it easy for Arabs to conquer Georgia in the 7th century. The rebellious regions were liberated and united into a unified Georgian Kingdom at the beginning of the 11th century. Starting in the 12th century AD, the rule of Georgia extended over a significant part of the Southern Caucasus, including the northeastern parts and almost the entire northern coast of what is now Turkey.

Although Arabs captured the capital city of Tbilisi in A.D. 645, Kartli-Iberia retained considerable independence under local Arab rulers.[19] In A.D. 813, the prince Ashot I also known as Ashot Kurapalat became the first of the Bagrationi family to rule the kingdom: Ashot's reign began a period of nearly 1,000 years during which the Bagrationi, as the house was known, ruled at least part of what is now the republic.

Western and eastern Georgia were united under Bagrat V (r. 1027-72). In the next century, David IV (called the Builder, r. 1099-1125) initiated the Georgian golden age by driving the Turks from the country and expanding Georgian cultural and political influence southward into Armenia and eastward to the Caspian Sea.[19]

Medieval Georgia

Kingdom of Georgia at peak of its military dominance, 1184-1225

The Georgian Kingdom reached its zenith in the 12th to early 13th centuries. This period has been widely termed as Georgia's Golden Age or Georgian Renaissance. The revival of the Georgian Kingdom was short-lived however, and the Kingdom was eventually subjugated by the Mongols in 1236. Thereafter, different local rulers fought for their independence from 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 subjugated the eastern and western regions of Georgia, respectively.

The rulers of regions which remained partly autonomous organized rebellions on various occasions. Subsequent Persian and Osman invasions further weakened local kingdoms and regions. As a result of wars against neighbouring countries, the population of Georgia was reduced to 250,000 inhabitants at one point.

Within the Russian Empire

In 1783, Russia and the eastern Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, according to which Kartli-Kakheti received protection by Russia. This, however, did not prevent Tbilisi from being sacked by the Persians in 1795.

On December 22, 1800, Tsar Paul I of Russia, at the alleged request of the Georgian King George XII, signed the proclamation on the incorporation of Georgia (Kartli-Kakheti) within the Russian Empire, which was finalized by a decree on January 8, 1801,[20][21] which was confirmed by Tsar Alexander I on September 12, 1801.[22][23] The Georgian envoy in Saint Petersburg reacted with a note of protest that was presented to the Russian vice-chancellor Prince Kurakin.[24] In May 1801, Russian General Carl Heinrich Knorring dethroned the Georgian heir to the throne David Batonishvili and instituted a government headed by General Ivan Petrovich Lasarev.[25]

The Georgian nobility did not accept the decree until April 1802 when General Knorring compassed the nobility in Tbilisi's Sioni Cathedral and forced them to take an oath on the Imperial Crown of Russia. Those who disagreed were arrested temporarily.[26]

In the summer of 1805, Russian troops on the Askerani River near Zagam defeated the Persian army and saved Tbilisi from conquest.

Democratic Republic of Georgia, 1918-1921

In 1810, after a brief war,[27] the western Georgian kingdom of Imereti was annexed by Tsar Alexander I of Russia. The last Imeretian king and the last Georgian Bagrationi ruler Solomon II died in exile in 1815. From 1803 to 1878, as a result of numerous Russian wars against Turkey and Iran, several territories were annexed to Georgia. These areas (Batumi, Akhaltsikhe, Poti, and Abkhazia) now represent a large part of the territory of Georgia. The principality of Guria was abolished in 1828, and that of Samegrelo (Mingrelia) in 1857. The region of Svaneti was gradually annexed in 1857–59.

Brief independence period and Soviet era

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia declared independence on May 26, 1918 in the midst of the Russian Civil War. The parliamentary election was won by the Georgian Social-Democratic Party, considered to be a party of Mensheviks, and its leader, Noe Zhordania, became the prime minister. In 1918 a Georgian–Armenian war erupted over parts of Georgian provinces populated mostly by Armenians which ended due to British intervention. In 1918–19 Georgian general Giorgi Mazniashvili led a Georgian attack against the White Army led by Moiseev and Denikin in order to claim the Black Sea coastline from Tuapse to Sochi and Adler for independent Georgia. The country's independence did not last long, however. Georgia was under British protection from 1918-1920.

In February 1921 Georgia was attacked by the Red Army. Georgian troops lost the battle and the Social-Democrat government fled the country. On February 25, 1921 the Red Army entered the capital Tbilisi and installed a puppet communist government led by Georgian Bolshevik Filipp Makharadze, but the Soviet rule was firmly established only after the 1924 revolt was brutally suppressed. Georgia was incorporated into the Transcaucasian SFSR uniting Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The TFSSR was disaggregated into its component elements in 1936 and Georgia became the Georgian SSR.

The Georgian-born communist radical Ioseb Jughashvili, better known by his nom de guerre Stalin (from the Russian word for steel: сталь) was prominent among the Russian Bolsheviks, who came to power in the Russian Empire after the October Revolution in 1917. Stalin was to rise to the highest position of the Soviet state.

From 1941 to 1945, during World War II, almost 700,000 Georgians fought as Red Army soldiers against Nazi Germany. (A number also fought with the German army). About 350,000 Georgians died in the battlefields of the Eastern Front. Also during this period the Chechen, Ingush, Karachay and the Balkarian peoples from the Northern Caucasus, were deported to Siberia for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. With their respective autonomous republics abolished, the Georgian SSR was briefly granted some of their territory, until 1957.

The Dissidential movement for restoration of Georgian statehood started to gain popularity in the 1960s.[28] Among the Georgian dissidents, two of the most prominent activists were Merab Kostava and Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Dissidents were heavily persecuted by Soviet government and their activities were harshly suppressed. Almost all Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia (the Georgian parliament).

On April 9, 1989, a peaceful demonstration in the Georgian capital Tbilisi ended in a massacre in which several people were killed by Soviet troops. This incident launched an anti-Soviet mass movement, soon shattered, however, by the in-fighting of its different political wings. Before the October 1990 elections to the national assembly, the Umaghlesi Sabcho (Supreme Council) — the first polls in the USSR held on a formal multi-party basis — the political landscape was reshaped again. While the more radical groups boycotted the elections and convened an alternative forum (National Congress), another part of the anticommunist opposition united into the Round Table—Free Georgia (RT-FG) around the former dissidents like Merab Kostava and Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The latter won the elections by a clear margin, with 155 out of 250 parliamentary seats, whereas the ruling Communist Party (CP) received only 64 seats. All other parties failed to get over the 5%-threshold and were thus allotted only some single-member constituency seats.

On April 9, 1991, shortly before the collapse of the USSR, Georgia declared independence. On May 26, 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as a first President of independent Georgia. However, Gamsakhurdia was soon deposed in a bloody coup d'état, from December 22, 1991 to January 6, 1992. The coup was instigated by part of the National Guards and a paramilitary organization called "Mkhedrioni". The country became embroiled in a bitter civil war which lasted almost until 1995. Eduard Shevardnadze returned to Georgia in 1992 and joined the leaders of the coup — Kitovani and Ioseliani — to head a triumvirate called the "State Council".

In 1995, Shevardnadze was officially elected as a president of Georgia, and reelected in 2000. At the same time, two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, quickly became embroiled in disputes with local separatists that led to widespread inter-ethnic violence and wars. Supported by Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia achieved and maintained de facto independence from Georgia. More than 250,000 Georgians were ethnically cleansed from Abkhazia by Abkhaz separatists and North Caucasians volunteers, (including Chechens) in 1992-1993. More than 25,000 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.

In 2003, Shevardnadze was deposed by the Rose Revolution, after Georgian opposition and international monitors asserted that the November 2 parliamentary elections were marred by fraud.[29] The revolution was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, former members and leaders of Shavarnadze's ruling party. Mikheil Saakashvili was elected as President of Georgia in 2004.

Following the Rose Revolution, a series of reforms was launched to strengthen the country's military and economic capabilities. The new government's efforts to reassert the Georgian authority in the southwestern autonomous republic of Ajaria led to a major crisis early in 2004. Success in Ajaria encouraged Saakashvili to intensify his efforts, but without success, in the breakaway South Ossetia.

Geography Location: Southwestern Asia, bordering the Black Sea, between Turkey and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 42 00 N, 43 30 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 69,700 sq km
land: 69,700 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 1,461 km
border countries: Armenia 164 km, Azerbaijan 322 km, Russia 723 km, Turkey 252 km
Coastline: 310 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: warm and pleasant; Mediterranean-like on Black Sea coast
Terrain: largely mountainous with Great Caucasus Mountains in the north and Lesser Caucasus Mountains in the south; Kolkhet'is Dablobi (Kolkhida Lowland) opens to the Black Sea in the west; Mtkvari River Basin in the east; good soils in river valley flood plains, foothills of Kolkhida Lowland
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Black Sea 0 m
highest point: Mt'a Shkhara 5,201 m
Natural resources: forests, hydropower, manganese deposits, iron ore, copper, minor coal and oil deposits; coastal climate and soils allow for important tea and citrus growth
Land use: arable land: 11.51%
permanent crops: 3.79%
other: 84.7% (2005)
Irrigated land: 4,690 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 63.3 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3.61 cu km/yr (20%/21%/59%)
per capita: 808 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: earthquakes
Environment - current issues: air pollution, particularly in Rust'avi; heavy pollution of Mtkvari River and the Black Sea; inadequate supplies of potable water; soil pollution from toxic chemicals
Environment - international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategically located east of the Black Sea; Georgia controls much of the Caucasus Mountains and the routes through them
Politics

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 Mikheil Saakashvili, leader of the 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. Despite recognizing progress the OSCE noted the tendency to misuse state administration resources in favor of the ruling party.[8]

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 allegedly died of carbon monoxide poisoning in an apparent gas leak at the home of Raul Usupov, deputy governor of Kvemo Kartli region. Later, Zhvania's close friend and a long-time ally, Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli was appointed for the post by President Saakashvili.

Since coming to power in 2003, Saakashvili has boosted spending on the country's armed forces and increased its overall size to around 45,000. Of that figure, 12,000 have been trained in advanced techniques by U.S. military instructors.[30] Some of these troops have been stationed in Iraq as part of the international coalition in the region, serving in Baqubah and the Green Zone of Baghdad. In May 2005, the 13th "Shavnabada" Light Infantry Battalion became the first full battalion to serve outside of Georgia. This unit was responsible for two checkpoints to the Green Zone, and provided security for the Iraqi Parliament. In October 2005, the unit was replaced by the 21st Infantry Battalion. Soldiers of the 13th "Shavnabada" Light Infantry Battalion wear the "combat patches" of the American unit they served under, the Third Infantry Division.

The Georgian government claims to have restored "constitutional order" in the Upper Kodori Gorge - The sole Georgia-controlled part of breakaway region Abkhazia.

Georgia has in the past few years significantly reduced corruption. Transparency International ranked Georgia at 79th in the world in its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index, giving it a score of 2.8 (with number 10 being considered the best possible score).[32] This is a significant improvement on Georgia's 2005 and 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index, where it was rated joint 130th and joint 99th, respectively.

On November 7, 2007, during a period of mass protests, President Saakashvili declared Tbilisi to be in a state of emergency. There had been massive demonstrations and protests by the civil opposition. The opposition has been demanding the resignation of President Saakashvili. The Georgian police used teargas, batons, water cannons and high tech acoustic weapons to clear the streets of Tbilisi. Later the same day, the President declared a state of emergency in the whole country of Georgia lasting for 15 days. The Russian government denies accusations of being involved or of interfering in the situation. President Saakashvili has rejected all demands that he resign his position, but has announced early presidential elections in January 2008, effectively cutting his term in office by a year.

On November 16, 2007, Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Noghaideli announced his resignation due to poor health conditions. Noghaideli underwent heart operation in April 2007 at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, USA which was led by the leading US surgeon Dr. Charles Frazier.

President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili invited Vladimer Gurgenidze, MBA holder from Emory University, USA and former business executive, to succeed Noghaideli on the position of the PM on the same day. Lado Gurgenidze was formally approved on the position and granted the trust of the Parliament of Georgia on 22 November 2007. Gurgenidze implemented only two changes in the Cabinet of Georgia so far, replacing Alexandre Lomaia, the former Minister for Education and Science and new Secretary of National Security Council with Maia Miminoshvili, former Head of the National Assessment and Examination Centre (NAEC). Prime Minister also invited Koba Subeliani, former Head of Municipal Accomplishment Service to succeed Giorgi Kheviashvili, former Minister for Refugees and Accommodation. New Prime Minister and two Ministers Koba Subeliani and Maia Miminoshvili were approved on their positions on 22 November 2007 by a confidence vote of the Parliament of Georgia.

Mikheil Saakashvili resigned from the position of the President on 25 November 2007 as the Constitution of Georgia requires the president stands down at least 45 days before the next election in order to be eligible for retaking part him/herself. According to Ivane Noniashvili, Head of President's Press Office President Saakashvili will re-run in Georgian presidential election, 2008.[9]. Current Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Mrs. Nino Burjanadze took over the position until 5 January 2008 when a new President of Georgia will be announced.

The registration for presidential elections was officially closed on 27 November. 22 people, including the most recent president Mikheil Saakashvili, approved candidate of the united opposition Levan Gachechiladze, influential businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili, Leader of the New Right Party David Gamkrelidze, the Leader of the Georgian Labour Party Shalva Natelashvili, the Leader of Hope Party Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia and Giorgi Maisashvili put forward themselves for forthcoming elections.

On 27 November it was announced that a NATO membership referendum and election date referendum will also be held on the election day together with presidential elections.

People Population: 4,646,003 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.7% (male 413,506/female 364,407)
15-64 years: 66.6% (male 1,489,081/female 1,605,021)
65 years and over: 16.7% (male 311,098/female 462,890) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 38 years
male: 35.5 years
female: 40.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.329% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.54 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 9.37 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -4.45 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.14 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.135 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.928 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.672 male(s)/female
total population: 0.91 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 17.36 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.42 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.01 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.3 years
male: 73 years
female: 80.07 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.42 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 3,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Georgian(s)
adjective: Georgian
Ethnic groups: Georgian 83.8%, Azeri 6.5%, Armenian 5.7%, Russian 1.5%, other 2.5% (2002 census)
Religions: Orthodox Christian 83.9%, Muslim 9.9%, Armenian-Gregorian 3.9%, Catholic 0.8%, other 0.8%, none 0.7% (2002 census)
Languages: Georgian 71% (official), Russian 9%, Armenian 7%, Azeri 6%, other 7%
note: Abkhaz is the official language in Abkhazia
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 100%
male: 100%
female: 100% (2004 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Georgia
local long form: none
local short form: Sak'art'velo
former: Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: republic
Capital: name: T'bilisi
geographic coordinates: 41 43 N, 44 47 E
time difference: UTC+4 (9 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 9 regions (mkharebi, singular - mkhare), 1 city (k'alak'i), and 2 autonomous republics (avtomnoy respubliki, singular - avtom respublika)
regions: Guria, Imereti, Kakheti, Kvemo Kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Samegrelo and Zemo Svaneti, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Shida Kartli
city: Tbilisi
autonomous republics: Abkhazia or Ap'khazet'is Avtonomiuri Respublika (Sokhumi), Ajaria or Acharis Avtonomiuri Respublika (Bat'umi)
note: the administrative centers of the two autonomous republics are shown in parentheses
Independence: 9 April 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 26 May (1918); note - 26 May 1918 was the date of independence from Soviet Russia, 9 April 1991 was the date of independence from the Soviet Union
Constitution: adopted 24 August 1995
Legal system: based on civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Mikheil SAAKASHVILI (since 25 January 2004); the president is both the chief of state and head of government for the power ministries: state security (includes interior) and defense
head of government: President Mikheil SAAKASHVILI (since 25 January 2004); Prime Minister Lado GURGENIDZE (since 19 November 2007); the president is both the chief of state and head of government for the power ministries: state security (includes interior) and defense; the prime minister is head of the remaining ministries of government
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 5 January 2008 (next to be held January 2013)
election results: Mikheil SAAKASHVILI reelected president; percent of vote - Mikheil SAAKASHVILI 53.5%, Levan GACHECHILADZE 25.7%, Badri PATARKATSISHVILI 7.1%
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Parlamenti (also known as Supreme Council or Umaghlesi Sabcho) (235 seats; 150 members elected by proportional representation, 75 from single-seat constituencies, and 10 represent displaced persons from Abkhazia; to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 28 March 2004 (next to be held in spring 2008)
election results: percent of vote by party - National Movement-Democratic Front 67.6%, Rightist Opposition 7.6%, other parties 24.8%; seats by party - National Movement-Democratic Front 135, Rightist Opposition 15
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges elected by the Supreme Council on the president's or chairman of the Supreme Court's recommendation); Constitutional Court; first and second instance courts
Political parties and leaders: Burjanadze-Democrats [Nino BURJANADZE]; Georgian People's Front [Nodar NATADZE]; Georgian United Communist Party or UCPG [Panteleimon GIORGADZE]; Georgia's Way Party [Salome ZOURABICHVILI]; Greens [Giorgi GACHECHILADZE]; Industry Will Save Georgia (Industrialists) or IWSG [Georgi TOPADZE]; Labor Party [Shalva NATELASHVILI]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Bachuki KARDAVA]; National Movement Democratic Front [Mikheil SAAKASHVILI] (bloc composed of National Movement and Burjanadze-Democrats); National Movement [Mikheil SAAKASHVILI]; New Rights [David GAMKRELIDZE]; Republican Party [David USUPASHVILI]; Rightist Opposition [David GAMKRELIDZE] (bloc composed of Industrialists and New Right Party); Socialist Party or SPG [Irakli MINDELI]; Traditionalists [Akaki ASATIANI]; Union of National Forces-Conservatives [Koba DAVITASHVILI and Zviad DZIDZIGURI]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Georgian independent deputies from Abkhaz government in exile; separatists in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia
International organization participation: ACCT (observer), ADB, BSEC, CE, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, FAO, GCTU, GUAM, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, OAS (observer), OIF (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PFP, SECI (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Vasil SIKHARULIDZE
chancery: 2209 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 387-2390
FAX: [1] (202) 393-4537
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador John F. TEFFT
embassy: 11 George Balanchine Street, T'bilisi 0131
mailing address: 7060 T'bilisi Place, Washington, DC 20521-7060
telephone: [995] (32) 27-70-00
FAX: [995] (32) 53-23-10
Flag description: white rectangle, in its central portion a red cross connecting all four sides of the flag; in each of the four corners is a small red bolnur-katskhuri cross; the five-cross flag appears to date back to the 14th century
Culture

Georgian culture evolved over thousands of years with its foundations in Iberian and Colchian civilizations,[57] continuing into the rise of the unified Georgian Kingdom under the single monarchy of the Bagrationi. Georgian culture enjoyed a golden age and renaissance of classical literature, arts, philosophy, architecture and science in the 11th century.[58] The Georgian language, and the Classical Georgian literature of the poet Shota Rustaveli, were revived in the 19th century after a long period of turmoil, laying the foundations of the romantics and novelists of the modern era such as Grigol Orbeliani, Nikoloz Baratashvili, Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Vazha Pshavela, and many others.[59] Georgian culture was influenced by Classical Greece, the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire, and later by the Russian Empire which contributed to the European elements of Georgian culture.

Georgia is well known for its rich folklore, unique traditional music, theatre, cinema, and art. Georgians are renowned for their love of music, dance, theatre and cinema. In the 20th century there have been notable Georgian painters such as Niko Pirosmani, Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akhvlediani; ballet choreographers such as George Balanchine, Vakhtang Chabukiani, and Nino Ananiashvili; poets such as Galaktion Tabidze, Lado Asatiani, and Mukhran Machavariani; and theatre and film directors such as Robert Sturua, Tengiz Abuladze, Giorgi Danelia and Otar Ioseliani.[60]

Architecture

Georgian architecture has been influenced by many civilizations. There are several different architectural styles for castles, towers, fortifications and churches. The Upper Svaneti fortifications, and the castle town of Shatili in Khevsureti, are some of the finest examples of medieval Georgian castle architecture.

Georgian ecclesiastic art is one of the most fascinating aspects of Georgian Christian architecture, which combines classical dome style with original basilica style forming what is known as the Georgian cross-dome style. Cross-dome architecture developed in Georgia during the 9th century; before that, most Georgian churches were basilicas. Georgian culture strongly emphasizes individualism, and this is expressed through the allocation of interior space in Georgian churches. Other examples of Georgian ecclesiastic architecture can be found outside Georgia: Bachkovo Monastery in Bulgaria (built in 1083 by the Georgian military commander Grigorii Bakuriani), Iviron monastery in Greece (built by Georgians in the 10th century), and the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem (built by Georgians in the 9th century).

Akaki Khorava State Theatre in Senaki, an example of neoclassicism style with elements of barocco in Georgia. Architect Vakhtang Gogoladze.

Other architectural aspects of Georgia include Rustaveli avenue in Tbilisi in the Hausmann style, and the Old Town District.

Art

The art of Georgia spans the prehistoric, the ancient Greek, Roman, medieval, ecclesiastic, iconic and modern visual arts. One of the most famous late nineteenth/early twentieth century Georgian artists is the primitivist painter Niko Pirosmani. Pirosmani's works can also been seen as early impressionistic, due to the fact that his work inspired Lado Gudiashvili and Elene Akhvlediani, who represent the more mainstream impressionism of the twentieth century.

Cuisine

Georgian cuisine and wine have evolved through the centuries, adapting traditions in each era. One of the most unusual traditions of dining is Supra, or Georgian table, which is also a way of socializing with friends and extended family. The head of Supra is known as Tamada. He also conducts the highly philosophical toasts, and makes sure that everyone is enjoying themselves. Various historical regions of Georgia are known for their particular dishes: for example, Khinkali (meat dumplings), from eastern mountainous Georgia, and Khachapuri, mainly from Imereti, Mingrelia and Adjara.

In addition to traditional Georgian dishes, the foods of other countries have been brought to Georgia by immigrants from Russia, Greece, and recently China.

Sport

Among the most popular sports in Georgia are football, basketball, rugby union, wrestling, hockey and weightlifting. Historically, Georgia has been famous for its physical education; it is known that the Romans were fascinated with Georgians' physical qualities after seeing the training techniques of ancient Iberia.[61] Wrestling remains a historically important sport of Georgia, and some historians think that the Greco-Roman style of wrestling incorporates many Georgian elements.[62] Within Georgia, one of the most popularized styles of wrestling is the Kakhetian style. However, there were a number of other styles in the past that are not as widely used today. For example, the Khevsureti region of Georgia has three different styles of wrestling. Other popular sports in 19th century Georgia were polo, and lelo, a traditional Georgian game later replaced by rugby union.

Economy Economy - overview: Georgia's economy has sustained robust GDP growth of close to 10% in 2006 and 12% in 2007, based on strong inflows of foreign investment and robust government spending. However, a widening trade deficit and higher inflation are emerging risks to the economy. Areas of recent improvement include increasing foreign direct investment as well as growth in the construction, banking services and mining sectors. Georgia's main economic activities include the cultivation of agricultural products such as grapes, citrus fruits, and hazelnuts; mining of manganese and copper; and output of a small industrial sector producing alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, metals, machinery, aircraft and chemicals. The country imports nearly all its needed supplies of natural gas and oil products. It has sizeable hydropower capacity, a growing component of its energy supplies. Despite the severe damage the economy suffered due to civil strife in the 1990s, Georgia, with the help of the IMF and World Bank, has made substantial economic gains since 2000, achieving positive GDP growth and curtailing inflation. Georgia's GDP growth neared 10% in 2006 and 2007 despite restrictions on commerce with Russia. Areas of recent improvement include increased foreign direct investment as well as growth in the construction, banking services, and mining sectors. In addition, the reinvigorated privatization process has met with success. However, a widening trade deficit and higher inflation are emerging risks to the economy. Georgia has suffered from a chronic failure to collect tax revenues; however, the new government is making progress and has reformed the tax code, improved tax administration, increased tax enforcement, and cracked down on corruption. Government revenues have increased nearly four fold since 2003. Due to improvements in customs and financial (tax) enforcement, smuggling is a declining problem. Georgia has overcome the chronic energy shortages of the past by renovating hydropower plants and by bringing newly available natural gas supplies from Azerbaijan. It also has an increased ability to pay for more expensive gas imports from Russia. The country is pinning its hopes for long-term growth on a determined effort to reduce regulation, taxes and corruption in order to attract foreign investment. The construction on the Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Baku-T'bilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline, and the Kars-Akhalkalaki Railroad are part of a strategy to capitalize on Georgia's strategic location between Europe and Asia and develop its role as a transit point for gas, oil and other goods.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $19.65 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $9.553 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 12% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $4,200 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 12.3%
industry: 29.7%
services: 58% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 2.02 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 55.6%
industry: 8.9%
services: 35.5% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate: 13.6% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line: 31% (2006)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.4%
highest 10%: 27% (2005)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 40.4 (2003)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 26.7% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $3.68 billion
expenditures: $3.006 billion (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: citrus, grapes, tea, hazelnuts, vegetables; livestock
Industries: steel, aircraft, machine tools, electrical appliances, mining (manganese and copper), chemicals, wood products, wine
Industrial production growth rate: 12% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 8.338 billion kWh (2007)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 19.7%
hydro: 80.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 8.146 billion kWh (2007)
Electricity - exports: 625 million kWh (2007)
Electricity - imports: 433 million kWh (2007)
Oil - production: 1,979 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - consumption: 13,400 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 2,400 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 13,530 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 35 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 14.39 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 1.8 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - imports: 1.264 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 8.147 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$1.582 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $1.24 billion (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: scrap metal, wine, mineral water, ores, vehicles, fruits and nuts
Exports - partners: Turkey 12.7%, Azerbaijan 9.4%, Russia 7.7%, Armenia 7.5%, Turkmenistan 7.3%, Bulgaria 6.4%, US 6%, Ukraine 5.8%, Canada 5%, Germany 4.6% (2006)
Imports: $5.2 billion (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: fuels, vehicles, machinery and parts, grain and other foods, pharmaceuticals
Imports - partners: Russia 15.2%, Turkey 14.2%, Germany 9.5%, Ukraine 8.7%, Azerbaijan 8.7% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: ODA, $309.8 million (2005 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $1.3 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $4.5 billion (2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $1.39 billion (2007)
Currency (code): lari (GEL)
Currency code: GEL
Exchange rates: lari per US dollar - 1.7 (2007), 1.78 (2006), 1.8127 (2005), 1.9167 (2004), 2.1457 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 544,000 (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 2.4 million (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: fixed-line telecommunications network has only limited coverage outside Tbilisi; multiple mobile-cellular providers provide services to an increasing subscribership throughout the country
domestic: cellular telephone networks now cover the entire country; urban telephone density is about 20 per 100 people; rural telephone density is about 4 per 100 people; intercity facilities include a fiber-optic line between T'bilisi and K'ut'aisi; nationwide pager service is available
international: country code - 995; the Georgia-Russia fiber optic submarine cable provides connectivity to Russia; international service is available by microwave, landline, and satellite through the Moscow switch; international electronic mail and telex service are available
Radio broadcast stations: AM 7, FM 12, shortwave 4 (1998)
Radios: 3.02 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 12 (plus repeaters) (1998)
Televisions: 2.57 million (1997)
Internet country code: .ge
Internet hosts: 30,193 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 6 (2000)
Internet users: 332,000 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 23 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 19
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 2 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Heliports: 3 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 1,591 km; oil 1,253 km (2007)
Railways: total: 1,612 km
broad gauge: 1,575 km 1.520-m gauge (1,575 electrified)
narrow gauge: 37 km 0.912-m gauge (37 electrified) (2006)
Roadways: total: 20,247 km
paved: 7,973 km
unpaved: 12,274 km (2004)
Merchant marine: total: 209 ships (1000 GRT or over) 958,504 GRT/1,408,540 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 25, cargo 159, carrier 2, chemical tanker 1, container 5, liquefied gas 2, passenger/cargo 3, petroleum tanker 4, refrigerated cargo 4, roll on/roll off 3, vehicle carrier 1
foreign-owned: 180 (Albania 2, Azerbaijan 1, China 4, Cyprus 1, Egypt 14, Germany 2, Greece 7, Lebanon 3, Monaco 10, Romania 15, Russia 17, Slovenia 2, Syria 54, Turkey 23, Ukraine 24, UAE 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Bat'umi, P'ot'i
Transportation - note: large parts of transportation network are in poor condition because of lack of maintenance and repair
Military Military branches: Georgian Armed Forces: Land Forces, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces, National Guard (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 to 34 years of age for compulsory and voluntary active duty military service; conscript service obligation - 18 months (2005)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 1,038,736
females age 18-49: 1,105,910 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 827,281
females age 18-49: 903,791 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 38,857
females age 18-49: 38,238 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 0.59% (2005 est.)
Military - note: a CIS peacekeeping force of Russian troops is deployed in the Abkhazia region of Georgia together with a UN military observer group; a Russian peacekeeping battalion is deployed in South Ossetia
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Russia and Georgia agree on delimiting 80% of their common border, leaving certain small, strategic segments and the maritime boundary unresolved; OSCE observers monitor volatile areas such as the Pankisi Gorge in the Akhmeti region and the Argun Gorge in Abkhazia; UN Observer Mission in Georgia has maintained a peacekeeping force in Georgia since 1993; Meshkheti Turks scattered throughout the former Soviet Union seek to return to Georgia; boundary with Armenia remains undemarcated; ethnic Armenian groups in Javakheti region of Georgia seek greater autonomy from the Georgian government; Azerbaijan and Georgia continue to discuss the alignment of their boundary at certain crossing areas
Refugees and internally displaced persons: IDPs: 220,000-240,000 (displaced from Abkhazia and South Ossetia) (2006)
Illicit drugs: limited cultivation of cannabis and opium poppy, mostly for domestic consumption; used as transshipment point for opiates via Central Asia to Western Europe and Russia