Area: 69,700 sq. km
Borders: Southeast – Azerbaijan, Southwest – Turkey, North – Russia, South – Armenia.
Geography: Mountain ranges and hills comprise 80% of Georgian territory. The country is situated between 40 – 47 degrees E and 41 – 44 degrees N
Capital: Tbilisi (population: 1 118.300)
Other cities: Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi, Sokhumi, Gori, Poti, Zugdidi, Telavi
Ethnic groups (2002 census): Georgians – 83.8%, Azeris – 6.5%, Armenians – 5.7%, Russians – 1.5%
State language: Georgian; Georgian and Abkhaz in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia
National currency: Georgian Lari, 1 USD = approximately 3.1298 GEL (according to the data of 09.10.2021)
1 January – New Year’s Day
7 January – Christmas
19 January – Epiphany
3 March – Mothers’ Day
8 March – Women’s Day
26 May – Independence Day
28 August – Feast of the Virgin Mary
14 October – Svetitskhovloba (Celebration of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral)
23 November – St. George’s Day
Flora and Fauna:
Despite its small territory Georgia is home to a highly diverse flora. The country’s varied geographical and climatic zones have given rise to a wide variety of plant species. The floras of western and eastern Georgia are quite distinct. The climate is dry and semi-dry in non-coniferous zones of eastern Georgia and therefore green areas and foliage are sparse there. Western Georgia, with its wet climate, is distinguished by dense forests and a diverse range of plants. Georgia’s fauna represents a mixture of Central Asian and African fauna. Hundreds of species of mammals, 330 kinds of birds, 48 types of reptiles, 11 kinds of amphibians and 160 kinds of fish are found in Georgia. Georgia is situated on the border of two continents, Europe and Asia. Both western and eastern cultures contributed to the creation and development of Georgian civilization. The land of our country is abundant in flora and fauna and has a moderate climate; fertile soil and easily cultivated natural resources have made it possible for agriculture in Georgia to thrive.
Geographically Georgia is divided into two parts: eastern and western, each of which developed its own distinct culture – Kolkhian (west) and Iberian (east). In the 4th century B.C. King Parnavaz I established the first eastern Georgian state – the Kingdom of Kartli. The Parnavazian Dynasty in Kartli lasted until 65 B.C. This period proved to be of utmost significance to Georgia. Some sources in Georgian historical chronicles date the creation of the Georgian alphabet back to King Pharnavaz I’s reign.
Christianity first reached Georgia in the 1st century A.D. The Apostles Andrew the First, Simon the Zealot and Matthias were the first to preach the teachings of Christ here. In approximately 330 AD St. Nino of Cappadocia came to Georgia in order to spread Christianity. She converted King Mirian, who then declared it the state religion. It is in this period when cultural life began to thrive in Georgia. The activities of renowned scholars and philosophers of those times Petre Iberieli and Ioane Lazi command special tribute as well.
In the 4th century AD, schools of rhetoric and philosophy based in Pazisi (modern Poti) were engaged in translating ancient books and manuscripts. Original hagiographic literature was also written in Georgian. The Martyrdom of St. Shushanik was written in the 5th century, followed by The Martyrdom of Evstate Mtskheteli in the 6th century. Kartli was once again invaded by the Persians in the 5th century, during the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali. Gorgasali is notable for moving the capital of the country from Mtskheta to Tbilisi and implementing a number of church reforms.
It was in the 11th-12th centuries when Georgia flourished the most. In 1089 King George II yielded the throne to his 16 year old son Davit. Davit IV went on to become one of the nation’s greatest monarchs. Considered as one of the greatest political figures in the nation’s history, Georgians have dubbed this reformer and unifier “Agmashenebeli” (“The Builder”). In 1103, Davit the Builder summoned the heads of the churches from all over the country to an ecclesiastical gathering later known as the Ruisi-Urbnisi Church Council. Under King Davit’s leadership a regular army was created which enabled him to defeat the Turks and expel them from the Georgian land. He brought about 40,000 Kipchaghs from the North Caucasus and settled them in Georgia in order to increase the might of the Georgian army. He also punished treacherous and wicked feudal lords and appointed people who were loyal to him and devoted to the country to positions of authority.
This period of prosperity in Georgia continued during the reign of Queen Tamar as well (1184-1213). At that time, Georgia was not only able to defend itself from the Turkish invaders but the country was able to defeat and drive out infidels from other South Caucasus kingdoms as well. The victories gained in the Battles of Shamkori (1195) and Basiani (1202) are considered highlights of Georgian history. It was during the reign of Queen Tamar that Georgia became the most powerful country in Asia Minor. The 11th and 12th centuries witnessed a Golden Age in Georgia. This was the time when Shota Rustaveli penned his masterpiece “The Knight in Panther’s Skin”.
In the 1340s Georgia was conquered by the Mongol hordes. The leaders of the country were overcome by the invaders. The country’s economy was devastated and the thriving cities were reduced to ruins. In the years 1386-1403. Tamerlaine the Great raided Georgia eight times, devastating irrigation canals and laying waste to the country’s entire agriculture system. People fled to the mountains for safe harbour. Continuous invasions compelled the country to split into separate parts. Economic recession and treachery among feudal lords resulted in the division of Georgia into three separate kingdoms: Kakheti, Kartli and Imereti.
In the 18th century, King Vakhtang VI attempted to save the country from economic and political collapse. With the help of Antimoz Iverieli he established the first Georgian printing house. The first book printed there in 1712 was “The Knight in Panther’s Skin”. In the years 1723-1735 Turkish invaders occupied Georgia yet again. In 1744-1798, Erekle II (nick-named “Patara Kakhi”) occupied the royal throne in the eastern part of Georgia. He took energetic steps towards unifying and strengthening the country. As Erekle proved unable to defend Georgia from invaders with his own forces, he took the decision to appeal to Orthodox Russia for support. In 1783, the Treaty of Georgievsk was concluded between the Russian Empire and the kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti. According to this pact Georgian kings were to recognize the power of Russian Empire, thought it stipulated that Russia was not to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs. The Imeretian and Mengrelian kingdoms soon shared a similar fate.
In 1891, Georgia was all but completely annexed by the Russian Empire. The Russians ignored Georgian habits and traditions and sought to eradicate Georgian language and culture. Almost all frescos in all Georgian cathedrals were white-washed and both the status of the Patriarch and the autocephaly of the Georgian Church were abolished.
In February of 1917 the Democratic Republic of Georgia, with a provisional government, was established. In March of the same year, the Georgian church regained its autocephaly and a new patriarch, Kirion, was elected. On 1920, Russia recognized Georgia’s independence, which was followed by the de facto acknowledgement of the country by Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan. In February of 1921, Tbilisi was occupied by the Red Army and the government of Georgia was forced to flee. From 1921 to 1991 the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia was one of the 15 constituent republics of the Soviet Union.
Georgia was one of the first Soviet republics to take steps towards independence. This process was accelerated by the events of 9 April 1989, when Soviet Soldiers brutally crushed a peaceful rally in Tbilisi, killing 21 protestors. Elections held on 28 October 1990 put an end to Soviet Georgia. The Round Table – Free Georgia party, headed by former dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia won a convincing victory. On 31 March 1991, a referendum on the restoration of the country’s independence was overwhelmingly approved. Georgia’s Declaration of Independence was adopted at a session of the Supreme Council on 9 April 1991. On 26 May 1991, the first presidential elections were held. Zviad Gamsakhurdia won 87% of the vote and became the first president of independent Georgia. The events of 9 April had a deep resonance in many republics of the Soviet Union, particularly in the Baltic countries. In 1991 protests were held against Gamsakhurdia, as a result of which a part of the intelligentsia found itself in the opposition. By the end of December 1991, civil war was in full swing in Tbilisi. On 6 January 1992, Zviad Gamsakhurdia and his supporters were expelled from Georgia. For the following two months the country was governed by a so-called “Military Council”, whose members were ex-Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua, ex-Minister of Defence Tengiz Kitovani and Jaba Ioseliani, the head of the Mkhedrioni militia. In March 1992, Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Georgia from Moscow in order to head up the Military Council. Additional conflicts arose in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia and the Autonomous Region of Southern Ossetia. With the help of certain Russian military divisions and the Confederation of the Peoples of Northern Caucasus, they defeated Georgian forces and became de facto independent. Yet since then, neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia have gained international recognition for their independence. In 1995, the Constitution of Georgia was adopted and presidential and parliamentary elections were held the same year. Eduard Shevardnadze, until then Georgia’s de facto leader was officially elected president, a post he would hold until 23 November 2003. In 1999 parliamentary elections were held again and the ruling Citizens’ Union party was declared the winner. On 2 November 2003, the next parliamentary elections took place and despite widespread falsifications, the Central Election Commission awarded victory to the pro-government bloc For New Georgia. It is for this reason that on 4 November 2003, peaceful protestors took to the streets of Tbilisi demanding that parliamentary elections be held anew. The protests were led by Zurab Zhvania, Mikheil Saakashvili and Nino Burjanadze. On 22 November, during the first sitting of the new parliament, the situation reached its climax. In the morning Freedom Square was already congested with protestors. They were addressed by Saakashvili, Burjanadze and Zhvania from the balcony of City Hall. They loudly demanded that President Shevardnadze resign and that new elections be held. Despite the people’s opposition, the country’s leaders decided to swear in the new parliament. This infuriated protesters, who burst into the State Chancellery and the Parliament of Georgia and occupied these buildings. On 23 November at the Krtsanisi Government Residence, in the presence of Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Igor Ivanov, Eduard Shevardnadze officially announced his resignation. In accordance with Georgia’s Constitution, Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze took over the duties of the president. On 4 January 2004, a presidential election was held in which Mikheil Saakashvili won 97% of votes. On 25 January 2004 he was inaugurated. On February 17, 2004, after entering amendments in the Constitution of Georgia, Zurab Zhvania became the prime minister. The parliamentary elections of March 28, 2004 were won by the ruling National Movement/Democrats bloc and Nino Burjanadze was re-elected parliament speaker.
Christianity arrived in Georgia in the thirties of the 4th century AD, through the ministry of St. Nino of Cappadocia – the enlightener of Georgia. History credits her with having healed the terminally ill Queen Nana and having later converted King Mirian to Christianity. Legend has it that one day, while King Mirian was out hunting, it suddenly became pitch dark. The King turned to the God of Nino for help and miraculously, the sun shone again! Soon afterwards, Christianity was established as the official religion in Georgia. The magnificence of the cathedral church that was later erected in Mtskheta goes beyond the limits of human thought and imagination. The Georgian orthodox cross is unique in shape. It is called St. Nino’s Cross as Nino made it from grape branches held together with her own hair. St. Nino preached the Gospel in Georgia holding the grapevine cross in her hands. Before converting to Christianity, Georgians used to worship Mazdean idols and fire. King Vakhtang Gorgasali granted the archimandrite the title of Catholicos thus laying the groundwork for the autocephaly of the Iberian church. Tradition has it that the first people to preach Christianity in Georgia were Apostle Andrew the First Called, Simon Kananaios and Bartholomew. The Georgian Orthodox Church was founded in Georgia in the 330s AD when Christianity was declared to be the official religion of the country. The first Episcopal Chair was established in Mtskheta, the capital of the Kingdom of Kartli. The head of the Kartli regional church held the title of Archbishop. Until the 5th century, the Georgian Orthodox Church was hierarchically subordinate first to the Constantinople and then to the Antioch patriarchates. During the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali from 466 to 468 AD, 12 Episcopal Chairs were established in the Kartli Region, and the head of the church was given the title of Catholicos. It was then that the Georgian Church became autocephalous. In the 6th century, the Assyrian Brothers made a tremendous contribution to strengthening the Christian faith in Georgia. The Patriarchate established in Georgia in the 11th century was the sixth one in the world. Under the reign of Davit IV the Builder, however, the Georgian church was brought under the state control and Giorgi Chkondideli Mtsignobartukhutsesi was appointed its supervisor. The Orthodox Church played a significant role in developing literacy in Georgia; schools and academies kept functioning within monasteries and churches (in Iqalto and Gelati) where priests and monks pursued relentlessly their scholarly activities, creating important hagiographic works. Following the Russian Empire’s annexation of Georgia, the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the office of Catholicos-Patriarch were abolished. The Georgian Church was incorporated into the Russian Synod as its exarchate. In the years from 1852 to 1869, the church property was transferred to the state treasury and the clergy started to receive regular salaries. On 12 (25) March 1917, the Georgian church restored its autocephaly and in September of the same year a new Catholicos-Patriarch was elected. In 1978 Ilia II was enthroned as Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia. Since his accession to the office of patriarch, numerous churches and cathedrals have been built and restored in Georgia. Worthy of special mention is the Holy Trinity (Sameba) Cathedral, which is one of the largest monastic compounds in the world, which will comprise 12 churches and chapels in its territory. The Cathedral is 83 meters in height.
Georgian is the official language of Georgia. In the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia Abkhazian is co-official language, along with Georgian. Georgian is spoken by around seven million people worldwide. The Georgian language belongs to the Kartvelian branch falling within the family of Ibero-Caucasian languages. Megrelian, Laz and Svan are also Kartvelian varieties, and they have retained many archaic features of the Georgian language. A thorough study of Karvelian languages and dialects makes it possible to track down historical peculiarities of the development of the Georgian language. The modern Georgian language distinguishes seven cases of nouns and has a very complicated system of verb conjugations. Modern Georgian is written in an alphabet called Mkhedruli, which evolved from the Nuskhuri script, which in turn derives its origin from Asomtavruli (round-shaped letters). The Mkhedruli script consists of 33 letters and fully corresponds to the standard script for modern Georgian consisting of 28 consonants and 5 vowels. The Asomtavruli inscriptions found on Davit’s stele (the 4th century AD) and on the walls of the Bolnisi Sioni Church (492-493 AD) are considered to be the oldest examples of Georgian writing. Archaeological excavations at the Nekresi Monastery (Kakheti) conducted in the 1990s and during the period from 2000 to 2003 by the late Georgian archaeologist and academician Levan Chilashvili have proved that the Georgian alphabet was created long before the spread of Christianity in Georgia. The excavations have brought to daylight the remains of a pagan temple. A ceramic vine vessel and a vine press found there feature inscriptions dating back to the 1st and the 2nd centuries AD. The following are dialects of the Georgian language: Kartlian, Kakhetian, Pshavian, Tushetian, Khevsurian, Mtiulian, Mokhevian, Ingiloian, Imeretian, Gurian, Ajarian, Lechkhumian, Rachvelian, Meskhetian, Javakhian, Imerkhian and Fereidanian. The history of the Georgian language is divided into two periods – the ancient one (from the archaic era to the late 11th century) which is marked by a series of phonetic, morphological and lexical differences and variations. However, the ancient Georgian literary language represents a strictly regular system of linguistic norms. The modern Georgian literary language was formed in the 12th century, based largely on Kartlian and Kakhetian dialects. Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Jakob Gogebashvili, Silovan Khundadze and other outstanding Georgian figures made a valuable contribution to the establishment of norms of the modern literary Georgian language.