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Republic of Georgia

From Grolier Online, The New Book of Knowledge

August 8 , 2008
(Image: ©Jim McMahon)
(Image: ©Jim McMahon)

Georgia is a country in western Transcaucasia, a region that separates Europe and Asia. It is bordered by Russia on the north and Turkey on the south. Armenia and Azerbaijan are on the southeast. The Black Sea lies to the west. Georgia is a land of great natural beauty. It has majestic forest-covered mountains, deep valleys, and many mineral and hot springs. It also has warm, sunny beaches on the Black Sea coast.

In ancient times, western Georgia was called Colchis. It was famed as the site of the legendary Golden Fleece, the prize sought after by the Greek hero Jason and the Argonauts. The Romans named the country Georgia. However, the native people call their land Sakartvelo. Long fought over by competing empires, Georgia was conquered by Russia in the 1800's. It was briefly independent (1918-21) before being absorbed into the Soviet Union. Georgia regained its independence when the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991.

People

The Georgians call themselves Kartveli. They trace their roots back some 3,000 years. The Georgian language belongs to the Caucasian language family.

Georgia adopted Christianity in the A.D. 300's. It has its own national church (Georgian Orthodox) within the Eastern Orthodox Church. A small but important community of Muslims (followers of Islam) resides mainly in the region of Adjaria in the southwest. Georgia also has a notable community of Russian Orthodox Christians.

Georgians make up about 70 percent of the population. Other nationalities include Abkhazians, Armenians, Russians, Azeri Turks, Greeks, and South Ossetians.

Land

Georgia lies between the Greater Caucasus mountain range on the north and the Lesser Caucasus range in the south. Mount Shkhara is Georgia's highest peak. It rises 17,063 feet (5,201 meters) on the Russian border. In the west the mountains widen, giving way to the Kolkhida Lowland. The major rivers are the Kura and Rioni.

The high wall of the Greater Caucasus shields Georgia from the cold winds of the north. In the west the country is open to the warm air of the Black Sea.

Economy

Georgia's diverse industries include the manufacture of steel, aircraft, and electrical appliances. Its chief mineral resources are manganese and copper. It has some of the world's richest deposits of manganese.

Georgia has limited farmland. It produces citrus fruits, tea, hazelnuts, and vegetables. Grapes are grown, chiefly in the Black Sea region. They are used to make local wines and brandies. Livestock is also raised.

The cities of Poti and Batumi are Black Sea ports. They make Georgia an important transit point for goods and resources from Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Tourism has failed to develop. This is largely because the country's primary resort area lies in the politically unstable region of Abkhazia.

Major Cities

More than half the people of Georgia live in urban areas (cities and towns).

Tbilisi (pronounced teh-beh-LEE-see) is the nation's capital and largest city. It is in east central Georgia on the banks of the Kura River. Founded in the A.D. 400's, it has long been the national center of culture and education. Tbilisi has a population of about 1.1 million.

History and Government

The first Caucasian kingdoms arose in Georgia in the 500's B.C. The region was the site of early Greek settlement. Later it became a part of the Roman Empire. Georgia was divided between the Persian and Byzantine empires in A.D. 562. After the Byzantine decline, Georgian monarchs created an independent state. It reached its height between the 1000's and early 1200's.

Between the 1500's and 1700's, Georgia was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. It was again divided, this time between the Turks and Persians. A third power, Russia, joined in the struggle for Georgia and the rest of Transcaucasia. It annexed eastern Georgia in 1801 and gradually took over the rest.

After Bolshevik revolutions took place in Russia in 1917, Georgia declared its independence on May 26, 1918. However, in 1921, Bolshevik (Soviet) troops occupied the country. It then became part of the Soviet Union. A native Georgian, Iosif Dzhugashvili, who took the name Joseph Stalin, ruled the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953.

Georgia proclaimed its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This was followed by civil war between rival political factions. As a result, President Zviad Gamsakhurdia was ousted in 1992. He was replaced by Eduard Shevardnadze. Meanwhile, great internal conflicts broke out. Separatist movements arose in Georgia's two autonomous republics, Adjaria and Abkhazia. South Ossetia, another breakaway region, sought to reunite with North Ossetia, a part of Russia.

Georgia's constitution was adopted in 1995. It provides for a president, who is elected to serve a 5-year term as head of both state and government. The one-house legislature is the Supreme Council, or parliament. Its members are elected to 5-year terms.

Shevardnadze was elected president under the new constitution in 1995 and re-elected in 2000. But in 2003, a weak economy and accusations of political corruption led to a popular uprising. Shevardnadze was forced to resign. The parliamentary speaker, Nino Burjanadze, briefly served as acting president. Mikhail Saakashvili was elected by popular vote in 2004. Shortly thereafter, in an effort to regain control over the entire country, he forced Adjaria's leader from power and imposed his authority in the region. Saakashvili considered this the first step toward reuniting Georgia.

In a 2006 referendum, South Ossetians voted to become independent. Georgia's refusal to recognize the outcome led to increased tensions with Russia.

Saakashvili was re-elected president in 2008.

Alec Rasizade
The W. Averell Harriman Institute
Columbia University

How to cite this article:
MLA (Modern Language Association) style:

Rasizade, Alec. "Georgia, Republic of." The New Book of Knowledge®. 2008. Grolier Online. 8 Aug. 2008 <http://nbk.grolier.com/cgi-bin/article?assetid=a2011613-h>.
Chicago Manual of Style:

Rasizade, Alec. "Georgia, Republic of." The New Book of Knowledge®. Grolier Online http://nbk.grolier.com/cgi-bin/article?assetid=a2011613-h (accessed August 8, 2008).
APA (American Psychological Association) style:

Rasizade, A. (2008). Georgia, Republic of. The New Book of Knowledge®. Retrieved August 8, 2008, from Grolier Online http://nbk.grolier.com/cgi-bin/article?assetid=a2011613-h

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