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საქართველო
Sakartvelo

Georgia[1]
Flag Coat of arms
MottoDzala ertobashia (ძალა ერთობაშია)
(English: "Strength is in Unity")
AnthemTavisupleba (თავისუფლება)
(English: "Freedom")
Capital
(and largest city)
Tbilisi
41°43′N 44°47′E / 41.717°N 44.783°E / 41.717; 44.783
Official language(s) Georgian[2]
Ethnic groups  83.8% Georgian, 6.5% Azeri, 5.7% Armenian, 1.5% Russian, 2.5% other [3]
Demonym Georgian
Government Unitary semi-presidential republic
 -  President Mikheil Saakashvili
 -  Prime Minister Nikoloz Gilauri
Formation
 -  Kingdom of Georgia 1008 
 -  Democratic Republic of Georgia May 26, 1918 
 -  Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic February 25, 1921 
 -  Independence from the Soviet Union Declared
Finalized


April 9, 1991
December 25, 1991 
Area
 -  Total 69,700 km2 (120th)
26,916 sq mi 
Population
 -  2009 estimate 4,385,400(Statistics Georgia) (122nd)
 -  Density 61.1/km2 (134th)
158.2/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $21.424 billion[4] (109th)
 -  Per capita $4,869[4] 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $12.864 billion[4] 
 -  Per capita $2,923[4] 
HDI (2007) 0.778 (medium) (89th)
Currency Lari (ლ) (GEL)
Time zone UTC (UTC+4)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+4)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .ge
Calling code 995
Kingdom of Georgia under Queen Thamar, 12th century
Georgian Statehood

Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო, IPA: [sɑkʰɑrtʰvɛlɔ]  ( listen); English pronunciation: /ˈdʒɔrdʒə/  ( listen)) is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Situated at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia,[5] it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the east by Azerbaijan. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 km² and its population is 4.385 million.

The history of Georgia can be traced back to the ancient kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia, and it was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity in the 4th century. Georgia reached the peak of its political and economic strength during the reign of King David and Queen Tamar in 11th and 12th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire.[6] After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia was invaded by Bolshevik armies in 1921 and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922.

The independence of Georgia was restored in 1991. Like many post-communist countries, Georgia suffered from the economic crisis and civil unrest during the 1990s. After the Rose Revolution, the new political leadership introduced democratic reforms[7] but the foreign investment and economic growth which followed initially have slackened substantially since.[3]

Georgia's constitution is that of a representative democracy (though Freedom House has stated that the country is "not an elective democracy" [8] — a claim disputed by the Georgian authorities), organized as a unitary, semi-presidential republic. It is currently a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Community of Democratic Choice, the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, and the Asian Development Bank. The country aspires to join NATO and the European Union.[9]

In August 2008, Georgia engaged in an armed conflict with Russia and separatist groups from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In the aftermath of the war, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, but at present only Nauru, Nicaragua, the de facto independent republic of Transnistria, and Venezuela have followed suit.[10][11] On August 28, 2008, the Parliament of Georgia passed a resolution declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia "Russian-occupied territories".[12][13]

Contents

Etymology and people

St George patron saint of Georgia. According to some the country is called Georgia because the Georgians especially revere Saint George. 15th century cloisonné enamel on gold. (National Art Museum of Georgia)

Ethnic Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi (ქართველები), their land Sakartvelo (საქართველო - meaning "a place for Kartvelians"), and their language Kartuli (ქართული). According to the ancient Georgian Chronicles, the ancestor of the Kartvelian people was Kartlos, the great grandson of the Biblical Japheth.

The name Sakartvelo (საქართველო) consists of two parts. Its root, kartvel-i (ქართველ-ი), specifies an inhabitant of the core central-eastern Georgian region of KartliIberia of the Classical and Byzantine sources.

Ancient Greeks (Strabo, Herodotus, Plutarch, Homer, etc.) and Romans (Titus Livius, Cornelius Tacitus, etc.) referred to early eastern Georgians as Iberians (Iberoi in some Greek sources) and western Georgians as Colchians.[14]

Like most native Caucasian peoples, the Georgians do not fit into any of the main ethnic categories of Europe and Asia. The Georgian language, the most pervasive of the South Caucasian languages, is neither Indo-European, Turkic nor Semitic. The present day Georgian or Kartvelian nation no doubt results from the fusion of aboriginal, autochthonous-inhabitants with immigrants who infiltrated into Transcaucasia from the direction of Anatolia in remote antiquity.[15] The ancient Jewish chronicle by Josephus mentions Georgians as Iberes who were also called Thobel [Tubal].[16]

The terms Georgia and Georgians appeared in Western Europe in numerous early medieval annals. The French chronicler Jacques de Vitry and the English traveler Sir John Mandeville wrote that Georgians are called Georgian because they especially revere Saint George. Notably, in January 2004 the country adopted the five-cross flag, featuring the Saint George's Cross; it has been argued that the flag was used in Georgia from the 5th century throughout the Middle Ages.[17][18]

History

Early Georgian States of Colchis and Iberia

Ancient Georgian Kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia
Ashot Kurapalates, first Bagrationi King of Georgia, 829 AD
Bedia Cup of King Bagrat III of Georgia, 999 AD

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. The proto-Georgian tribes first appear in written history in the 12th century BC.[19] Archaeological finds and references in ancient sources reveal elements of early political and state formations characterized by advanced metallurgy and goldsmith techniques that date back to the 7th century BC and beyond.[20] 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.[21]

Iberian King Mirian III established Christianity in Georgia as the official state religion in AD 327.

The 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. 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.[22]

After the Roman Empire completed its conquest of the Caucasus region in 66 BC, the kingdom was a Roman client state and ally for nearly 400 years.[22] Christianity was declared the state religion by King Mirian III as early as 327 AD, which gave a great stimulus to the development of literature, arts and the unification of the country. Being at the crossroads of Christianity and Islam, Georgia experienced the dynamic exchange between these two worlds which culminated in a cultural renaissance from 11th to 13th century.[23] In AD 330, King Mirian III's acceptance of Christianity ultimately tied the kingdom to the neighboring Byzantine Empire, which exerted a strong cultural influence for several centuries.[22]

King David the Builder, Shio-Mgvime monastery
Expansion of Georgia under King David IV, 1089-1125 AD

Known to its natives as Egrisi or Lazica, Colchis was often the battlefield and buffer-zone between the rival powers of Persia and Byzantine Empire, with the control of the region shifting hands back and forth several times. 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, 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 AD 645, Kartli-Iberia retained considerable independence under local Arab rulers.[22] In AD 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. 1089-1125) initiated the Georgian golden age by driving the Seljuk Turks from the country and expanding Georgian cultural and political influence southward into Armenia and eastward to the Caspian Sea.[22]

Middle Ages

Queen Tamar and her father King George III (restored fresco from the Betania monastery)
Kingdom of Georgia at peak of its military dominance, 1184-1225
Queen Tamar as depicted on a mural from the Vardzia monastery

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 during the reign of David the Builder and Queen Tamar.[24] This early Georgian renaissance, which preceded its European analogue, was characterized by the flourishing of romantic- chivalric tradition, breakthroughs in philosophy, and an array of political innovations in society and state organization, including religious and ethnic tolerance.[25]

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".[26] David the Builder is popularly considered to be the greatest and most successful Georgian ruler in history, he succeeded in driving the Seljuks out of the country, winning the major Battle of Didgori in 1121. His reforms of the army and administration enabled him to reunite the country and bring most Caucasian lands under Georgia’s control.

Gelati Monastery fresco of King David, 10th century

David Builder's grand daughter Tamar was successful in neutralizing this opposition and embarked on an energetic foreign policy aided by the downfall of the rival powers of the Seljuqids and Byzantium. Supported by a powerful military élite, Tamar was able to build on the successes of her predecessors to consolidate an empire which dominated the Caucasus until its collapse under the Mongol attacks within two decades after Tamar's death.

The revival of the Georgian Kingdom was short-lived however, in 1226 Tblisi was captured by Mingburnu and the Kingdom was eventually subjugated by the Mongols in 1236 (see Mongol invasions of Georgia). Thereafter, different local rulers fought for their independence from central Georgian rule, until the total disintegration of the Kingdom in the 15th century. Georgia was subjected, between 1386 and 1404, to several disastrous invasions by Timur. 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 Ottoman invasions further weakened local kingdoms and regions. As a result of wars the population of Georgia was reduced to 250,000 inhabitants at one point. Eastern Georgia, composed of the kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti, had been under the Persian suzerainty since 1555. However, with the death of Nader Shah "The Persian Napoleon" in 1747, both kingdoms broke free of the Persian control and were reunified through a personal union under the energetic king Heraclius II in 1762.

Georgia in the Russian Empire

King George XI the last Catholic King of eastern Georgia
Luarsab II, King of Eastern Georgia, martyred by Persians in 1622

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. Despite Russia's commitment to defend Georgia, it rendered no assistance when the Turks and Persians invaded in 1785 and again in 1795 completely devastated Tbilisi and massacred its inhabitants. This period culminated in the 1801 Russian violation of Treaty of Georgievsk and annexation of entire Georgian lands, followed the deposing of the Bagrationi dynasty and suppression of the Georgian church.

Prince Ilia Chavchavadze, leader of the Georgian national revival in 1860s

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,[27][28] and confirmed by Tsar Alexander I on September 12, 1801.[29][30] The Georgian envoy in Saint Petersburg reacted with a note of protest that was presented to the Russian vice-chancellor Prince Kurakin.[31] 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.[32] Pyotr Bagration, a man of minor Georgian nobility, joined the Russian army aged 17 as a sergeant and rose to be a general by the Napoleonic wars.

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.[33]

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

Western Georgian principalities of Mingrelia and Guria assumed the Russian protection in 1800s. Finally in 1810, after a brief war,[34] 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.

Declaration of independence

Democratic Republic of Georgia, 1918-1921
Declaration of independence by the Georgian parliament, 1918

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 pro-Mensheviks, and its leader, Noe Zhordania, became prime minister.

In 1918 a Georgian–Armenian war erupted over parts of Georgian provinces populated mostly by Armenians which ended because of 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.

Georgia in the Soviet Union

Soviet Invasion In Georgia (Feb. 26. - Mar. 13) 1921
Prince Kakutsa Cholokashvili, leader of the anti-Bolshevik uprising in August of 1924, venerated as national hero of Georgia
The 11th Red Army of the Russian SFSR holds military parade in Tbilisi, 25 February 1921.

In February 1921 Georgia was attacked by the Red Army. The Georgian army was defeated and the Social-Democrat government fled the country. On February 25, 1921 the Red Army entered capital Tbilisi and installed a Moscow directed communist government, led by Georgian Bolshevik Filipp Makharadze.

Nevertheless the Soviet rule was firmly established only after a 1924 revolt was brutally suppressed. Georgia was incorporated into the Transcaucasian SFSR uniting Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The TSFSR was disaggregated into its component elements in 1936 and Georgia became the Georgian SSR.

Joseph Stalin (an ethnic Georgian whose real name was Ioseb Jughashvili) was prominent among the 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 in the Red Army against Nazi Germany. (A number also fought on the German side.) About 350,000 Georgians died in the battlefields of the Eastern Front.[35]

The Dissidential movement for restoration of Georgian statehood started to gain popularity in the 1960s.[36] 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.

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. 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 with alleged support of Moscow[citation needed] (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.

Georgia after restoration of independence

Leaders of Georgian independence movement in late 80s, Zviad Gamsakhurdia (left) and Merab Kostava (right)
Merab Kostava, famous dissident and a leader of the independence movement of Georgia in 1988-89
Photos of the April 9, 1989 Massacre victims (mostly young women) on billboard in Tbilisi
Georgian woman at the memorial of April 9 tragedy

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. Gamsakhurdia stoked Georgian nationalism and vowed to assert Tbilisi's authority over regions such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia that had been classified as autonomous oblasts under the Soviet Union.

However, he 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" or "horsemen". 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 president of Georgia. At the same time, simmering disputes within two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, between local separatists and the majority Georgian populations, erupted into widespread inter-ethnic violence and wars. Supported by Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with the exception of some "pockets" of territory, achieved de facto independence from Georgia.

Roughly 230,000 to 250,000 Georgians[37] were expelled from Abkhazia by Abkhaz separatists and North Caucasians volunteers (including Chechens) in 1992-1993. Around 23,000 Georgians[38] fled South Ossetia as well, and many Ossetian families were forced to abandon their homes in the Borjomi region and move to Russia.

In 2003, Shevardnadze (who won reelection in 2000) was deposed by the Rose Revolution, after Georgian opposition and international monitors asserted that the November 2 parliamentary elections were marred by fraud.[39] The revolution was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, former members and leaders of Shevardnadze'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 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.

These events along with accusations of Georgian involvement in the Second Chechen War,[40] resulted in a severe deterioration of relations with Russia, fuelled also by Russia's open assistance and support to the two secessionists areas. Despite these increasingly difficult relations, in May 2005 Georgia and Russia reached a bilateral agreement [41] by which Russian military bases (dating back to the Soviet era) in Batumi and Akhalkalaki were withdrawn. Russia fulfilled the terms, withdrawing all personnel and equipment from these sites by December 2007, ahead of schedule.[42]

2008 military conflict with Russia

USA Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a joint press conference with Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili during the South Ossetian war
A burnt Georgian tank in Tskhinvali. Georgian army reported loss of circa 200 in action[43][44]

2008 saw the military conflict between Georgia on one side, and Russia, separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other. Both Georgia and Russia had amassed larger military forces near their respective borders with South Ossetia. After the Georgian bombing of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali in the late evening of August 7, Georgian armed forces began pushing into South Ossetia, supported by their artillery and multiple rocket launcher fire.[45] A three-day battle left the city of Tskhinvali heavily devastated[46][47][48] The South Ossetian and Russian officials claimed[47] the Georgian army was responsible for killing 2,100 South Ossetian civilians. However, these allegations have not been substantiated, and Human Rights Watch and European Union investigators in South Ossetia accused Russia of exaggerating the scale of such casualties.[49] Actual death toll, according to Russian Prosecutor Office, is 162[50]. Russian peacekeepers base stationed in South Ossetia was shelled and the personnel was killed[51][52].

Georgian girl holding a poster and candles during the Russian-Georgian war in August of 2008. Georgians regard this war as invasion and occupation of their country by Russian army

At dawn of August 8 forces of the Russian 58th Army entered South Ossetia through the Russian-controlled Roki tunnel, and the Russian air-force launched a series of coordinated air strikes against multiple targets within Georgian territory.[53] As Russia and Georgia both sent troops into South Ossetia, the conflict between Georgia on the one side and Russia, Ossetian, and later, Abkhazian separatists on the other quickly escalated into the full scale 2008 war. Because of the intensive fighting in South Ossetia there were many disputed reports about the number of casualties on both sides, which targets had fallen under aerial attacks, the status of troop movements, and the most current location of the front line between the Georgian and Russian-Ossetian combat units.[54]

After a few days of heavy fighting Georgian troops were driven from South Ossetia, and Russian forces advanced from South Ossetia into undisputed Georgia territory, occupying the cities of Gori and Poti. Irregulars such as Ossetians, Chechens and Cossacks followed and were reported looting, killing and burning.[55][56] By August 11, another separatist republic of Abkhazia, opened a second front and seized additional territory in Western Georgia.[57][58]

On August 12, President Medvedev announced an intent to halt further Russian military operations in Georgia.[59] Russian troops withdrew from Gori and Poti, but remained in South Ossetia and Abkhazia[60][61], which it recognizes as independent countries[62]. Georgia, on a contrary, considers them territories under Russian occupation[63][64].

Culture

Ancient Georgian Asomtavruli Alphabet in David Gareja Monastery
Medieval Georgian Processional cross, 12th century
St Luke and St John, an illumination from the title page of the Georgian Gospels, AD 897

Georgian culture evolved over thousands of years with its foundations in Iberian and Colchian civilizations,[65] 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.[66]

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.[67] 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.[67]

Architecture and arts

Wall Painting in Georgia's ancient Monastery, Shio-Mghvime

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. 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.

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.

Geography and climate

In Khazbegi mountains, Northern Georgia, Khokh Range
Svaneti region, North-Western Georgia

Georgia is in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia, straddling Western Asia and Eastern Europe.[5] Georgia's northern border with Russia roughly runs along the crest of the Greater Caucasus mountain range – a commonly reckoned boundary between Europe and Asia. In Philip Johan von Strahlenberg's 1730 definition of Europe, which was used by the Russian Tsars and which first set the Urals as the eastern border of the continent, the continental border was drawn from the Kuma-Manych Depression to the Caspian Sea, including Georgia (and the whole of the Caucasus) in Asia.

Mountains are the dominant geographic feature of Georgia. The Likhi Range divides the country into eastern and western halves. Historically, the western portion of Georgia was known as Colchis while the eastern plateau was called Iberia. Because of a complex geographic setting, mountains also isolate the northern region of Svaneti from the rest of Georgia.

The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range separates Georgia from the North Caucasian Republics of Russia. The main roads through the mountain range into Russian territory lead through the Roki Tunnel between South and North Ossetia and the Darial Gorge (in the Georgian region of Khevi). The Roki Tunnel was vital for the Russian military in the 2008 South Ossetia War.

The southern portion of the country is bounded by the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range is much higher in elevation than the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, with the highest peaks rising more than 5,000 meters (16,404 ft) above sea level.

The highest mountain in Georgia is Mount Shkhara at 5,201 meters (17,064 ft), and the second highest is Mount Janga (Jangi-Tau) at 5,051 meters (16,572 ft) above sea level. Other prominent peaks include Kazbegi (Kazbek) at 5,074 meters (16,647 ft), Tetnuldi (4,974 meters / 16,319 feet), Shota Rustaveli (4,960 meters / 16,273 feet), Mt. Ushba (4,710 meters / 15,453 feet), and Ailama (4,525 meters / 14,846 feet). Out of the abovementioned peaks, only Kazbegi is of volcanic origin. The region between Kazbegi and Shkhara (a distance of about 200 km (124 mi) along the Main Caucasus Range) is dominated by numerous glaciers. Out of the 2,100 glaciers that exist in the Caucasus today, approximately 30% are located within Georgia.

Northern Georgia, Kazbegi region.
Shatili valley in the Khevsureti region.

The term, Lesser Caucasus Mountains is often used to describe the mountainous (highland) areas of southern Georgia that are connected to the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range by the Likhi Range. The area can be split into two separate sub-regions; the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, which run parallel to the Greater Caucasus Range, and the Southern Georgia Volcanic Highland, which lies immediately to the south of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains.

The overall region can be characterized as being made up of various, interconnected mountain ranges (largely of volcanic origin) and plateaus that do not exceed 3,400 meters (11,155 ft) in elevation. Prominent features of the area include the Javakheti Volcanic Plateau, lakes, including Tabatskuri and Paravani, as well as mineral water and hot springs. The Southern Georgia Volcanic Highland is a young and unstable geologic region with high seismic activity and has experienced some of the most significant earthquakes that have been recorded in Georgia.

The Voronya Cave (aka Krubera-Voronia Cave) is the deepest known cave in the world. It is located in the Arabika Massif of the Gagra Range, in Abkhazia. In 2001, a Russian–Ukrainian team had set the world depth record for a cave at 1,710 meters (5,610 ft). In 2004, the penetrated depth was increased on each of three expeditions, when a Ukrainian team crossed the 2,000-meter (6,562 ft) mark for the first time in the history of speleology. In October 2005, an unexplored part was found by the CAVEX team, further increasing the known depth of the cave. This expedition confirmed the known depth of the cave at 2,140 meters (7,021 ft) (±9 m/29.5 ft).

Two major rivers in Georgia are the Rioni and the Mtkvari.

Topography

The Aragvi River Gorge
Alazani Valley in Kakheti region, Eastern Georgia

The landscape within the nation's boundaries is quite varied. Western Georgia's landscape ranges from low-land marsh-forests, swamps, and temperate rain forests to eternal snows and glaciers, while the eastern part of the country even contains a small segment of semi-arid plains characteristic of Central Asia. Forests cover around 40% of Georgia's territory while the alpine/subalpine zone accounts for roughly around 10% of the land.

Much of the natural habitat in the low-lying areas of Western Georgia has disappeared over the last 100 years because of the agricultural development of the land and urbanization. The large majority of the forests that covered the Colchis plain are now virtually non-existent with the exception of the regions that are included in the national parks and reserves (e.g. Paleostomi Lake area). At present, the forest cover generally remains outside of the low-lying areas and is mainly located along the foothills and the mountains. Western Georgia's forests consist mainly of deciduous trees below 600 meters (1,969 ft) above sea level and comprise of species such as oak, hornbeam, beech, elm, ash, and chestnut. Evergreen species such as box may also be found in many areas. Ca. 1000 of all 4000 higher plants of Georgia are endemic in this country.[68]

The west-central slopes of the Meskheti Range in Ajaria as well as several locations in Samegrelo and Abkhazia are covered by temperate rain forests. Between 600–1,000 meters (1,969–3,281 ft) above sea level, the deciduous forest becomes mixed with both broad-leaf and coniferous species making up the plant life. The zone is made up mainly of beech, spruce, and fir forests. From 1,500–1,800 meters (4,921–5,906 ft), the forest becomes largely coniferous. The tree line generally ends at around 1,800 meters (5,906 ft) and the alpine zone takes over, which in most areas, extends up to an elevation of 3,000 meters (9,843 ft) above sea level. The eternal snow and glacier zone lies above the 3,000 meter line.

Eastern Georgia's landscape (referring to the territory east of the Likhi Range) is considerably different from that of the west. Although, much like the Colchis plain in the west, nearly all of the low-lying areas of eastern Georgia including the Mtkvari and Alazani River plains have been deforested for agricultural purposes. In addition, because of the region's relatively drier climate, some of the low-lying plains (especially in Kartli and south-eastern Kakheti) were never covered by forests in the first place.

The general landscape of eastern Georgia comprises numerous valleys and gorges that are separated by mountains. In contrast with western Georgia, nearly 85% of the forests of the region are deciduous. Coniferous forests only dominate in the Borjomi Gorge and in the extreme western areas. Out of the deciduous species of trees, beech, oak, and hornbeam dominate. Other deciduous species include several varieties of maple, aspen, ash, and hazelnut. The Upper Alazani River Valley contains yew forests.

At higher elevations above 1,000 meters (3,281 ft) above sea level (particularly in the Tusheti, Khevsureti, and Khevi regions), pine and birch forests dominate. In general, the forests in eastern Georgia occur between 500–2,000 meters (1,640–6,562 ft) above sea level, with the alpine zone extending from 2,000–2,300 meters/6,562–7,546 feet to 3,000–3,500 meters/9,843–11,483 feet. The only remaining large, low-land forests remain in the Alazani Valley of Kakheti. The eternal snow and glacier zone lies above the 3,500-meter (11,483 ft) line in most areas of eastern Georgia.

Fauna

Egyptian vulture flying over Shio-Mhvime Monastery in Georgia

Because of its high landscape diversity and low latitude Georgia is home to a large number of animal species, e. g. ca. 1000 species of vertebrates (330 birds, 160 fish, 48 reptiles, 11 amphibians). A number of large carnivores live in the forests, e. g. Persian leopard, Brown bear, wolf, and lynx. The species number of invertebrates is considered to be very high but data is distributed across a high number of publications. The spider checklist of Georgia, for example, includes 501 species.[69] Non-marine molluscs of Georgia also include high diversity.

Climate

The local climate is excellent for wine-making and there are 500 different kinds of wine in Georgia

The climate of Georgia is extremely diverse, considering the nation's small size. There are two main climatic zones, roughly separating Eastern and Western parts of the country. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range plays an important role in moderating Georgia's climate and protects the nation from the penetration of colder air masses from the north. The Lesser Caucasus Mountains partially protect the region from the influence of dry and hot air masses from the south as well.

Pomegranate in Georgia

Much of western Georgia lies within the northern periphery of the humid subtropical zone with annual precipitation ranging from 1,000–4,000 mm (39.4–157.5 in). The precipitation tends to be uniformly distributed throughout the year, although the rainfall can be particularly heavy during the Autumn months. The climate of the region varies significantly with elevation and while much of the lowland areas of western Georgia are relatively warm throughout the year, the foothills and mountainous areas (including both the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains) experience cool, wet summers and snowy winters (snow cover often exceeds 2 meters in many regions). Ajaria is the wettest region of the Caucasus, where the Mt. Mtirala rainforest, east of Kobuleti receives around 4,500 mm (177.2 in) of precipitation per year.

Eastern Georgia has a transitional climate from humid subtropical to continental. The region's weather patterns are influenced both by dry, Central Asian/Caspian air masses from the east and humid, Black Sea air masses from the west. The penetration of humid air masses from the Black Sea is often blocked by several mountain ranges (Likhi and Meskheti) that separate the eastern and western parts of the nation. Annual precipitation is considerably less than that of western Georgia and ranges from 400–1,600 mm (15.7–63.0 in).

The wettest periods generally occur during Spring and Autumn while Winter and the Summer months tend to be the driest. Much of eastern Georgia experiences hot summers (especially in the low-lying areas) and relatively cold winters. As in the western parts of the nation, elevation plays an important role in eastern Georgia where climatic conditions above 1,500 meters (4,921 ft) are considerably colder than in the low-lying areas. The regions that lie above 2,000 meters (6,562 ft) frequently experience frost even during the summer months.

Regions

Map of Georgia with the autonomous republics of Abkhazia (de facto independent) and Adjara, and South Ossetia (de facto independent region, officially termed Tskhinvali region by the Georgian authorities)

Georgia is divided into 9 regions and 2 autonomous republics. These in turn are subdivided into 69 districts.

Main cities

The main cities of Georgia include:

Regions

Regions of Georgia

Autonomous republics

Currently, the status of South Ossetia, an autonomous administrative district (also known as the Tskhinvali region), is being negotiated with the Russian-supported separatist government. Recently, these negotiations have broken down in light of Russia's decision to reinforce the region militarily and give Russian passports to South Ossetians. The government of Georgia has expressed that it views these moves as attempts by Russia to annex the region effectively.

The Georgian government levels the same criticism against Russian involvement in Abkhazia, another breakaway region; Abkhazia has the status of an autonomous republic, but operates as a de facto state. This condition follows the ethnic cleansing of at least 200,000 Georgians in the War in Abkhazia in 1992-1993. Adjara gained autonomy unilaterally under local strongman Aslan Abashidze with help from a Russian military brigade located on a base in Adjara. Current Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili restored the region to Georgian control after a local uprising against Abashidze's perceived corruption.

Government and politics

Official Residence and Principal Workplace of the President of Georgia
Parliament of Georgia

Georgia is a democratic semi-presidential republic, with the President as the head of state, and Prime Minister as the head of government.

The executive branch of power is made up of the President and the Cabinet of Georgia. The Cabinet is composed of ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, and appointed by the President. Notably, the ministers of defense and interior are not members of the Cabinet and are subordinated directly to the President of Georgia.

Mikheil Saakashvili is the current President of Georgia after winning 53.47% of the vote in the 2008 election. Lado Gurgenidze has been Prime Minister since November 22, 2007. On November 1, 2008, Gurgenidze was replaced by Grigol Mgaloblishvili and since February 6, 2009 Nikoloz Gilauri has been the new prime minister of Georgia.

Legislative authority is vested in the Parliament of Georgia. It is unicameral and has 150 members, known as deputies, from which 75 members are proportional representatives and 75 are elected through single-member district plurality system, representing their constituencies. Members of parliament are elected for 4 four-year term.

Five parties and electoral blocs had representatives elected to the parliament in the 2008 elections: the United National Movement (governing party), The Joint Opposition, the Christian-Democrats, the Labour Party and Republican Party.

Despite considerable progress made since the Rose revolution Georgia is still not a full-fledged democracy.[70] Political system remains in the process of transition, with frequent adjustments to the balance of power between the President and Parliament, and proposals ranging from transforming the country into parliamentary republic to re-establishing the monarchy.[71][72] Observers note the deficit of trust in relations between the Government and the opposition.[73]

Different opinions exist regarding the degree of political freedom in Georgia. President Saakashvili believes that the country is essentially free,[70] many opposition leaders claim that Georgia is a dictatorship, and Freedom House puts Georgia in the group of partly free countries, along with countries like Turkey, Venezuela and Bosnia.[74]

Foreign relations

pro-NATO poster in Tbilisi
Georgian demonstrator holds his poster during the Russian invasion of Georgia in August of 2008

Georgia maintains good relations with its direct neighbours Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey and participates actively in regional organizations, such as the Black Sea Economic Council and the GUAM.[75] Georgia also maintains political, economic and military relations with Japan,[76] South Korea,[77] Israel,[78] Ukraine and many other countries.

The growing US and European Union influence in Georgia, notably through proposed EU and NATO membership, the US Train and Equip military assistance program and the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, have frequently strained Tbilisi's relations with Moscow. Georgia's decision to boost its presence in the coalition forces in Iraq was an important initiative.[79]

Georgia is currently working to become a full member of NATO. In August 2004, the Individual Partnership Action Plan of Georgia was submitted officially to NATO. On October 29, 2004, the North Atlantic Council of NATO approved the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) of Georgia and Georgia moved on to the second stage of Euro-Atlantic Integration. In 2005, by the decision of the President of Georgia, a state commission was set up to implement the Individual Partnership Action Plan, which presents an interdepartmental group headed by the Prime Minister. The Commission was tasked with coordinating and controlling the implementation of the Individual Partnership Action Plan.

Visit of the Polish President Lech Kaczyński to Georgia. Poland and Georgia maintain close relations.

On February 14, 2005, the agreement on the appointment of Partnership for Peace (PfP) liaison officer between Georgia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization came into force, whereby a liaison officer for the South Caucasus was assigned to Georgia. On March 2, 2005, the agreement was signed on the provision of the host nation support to and transit of NATO forces and NATO personnel. On March 6–9, 2006, the IPAP implementation interim assessment team arrived in Tbilisi. On April 13, 2006, the discussion of the assessment report on implementation of the Individual Partnership Action Plan was held at NATO Headquarters, within 26+1 format.[80] In 2006, the Georgian parliament voted unanimously for the bill which calls for integration of Georgia into NATO. The majority of Georgians and politicians in Georgia support the push for NATO membership.

George W. Bush became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country.[81] The street leading to Tbilisi International Airport has since been dubbed George W. Bush Avenue.[82]

From the European commission website: President Saakashvili views membership of the EU and NATO as a long term priority. As he does not want Georgia to become an arena of Russia-US confrontation he seeks to maintain close relations with the United States and European Union, at the same time underlining his ambitions to advance co-operation with Russia.[75]

On October 2, 2006, Georgian and the European Union signed a joint statement on the agreed text of the Georgia-European Union Action Plan within the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The Action Plan was formally approved at the EU-Georgia Cooperation Council session on November 14, 2006 in Brussels.[83]

On February 2, 2007, Georgia officially became the most recent regional member of the Asian Development Bank. They currently hold 12,081 shares in the bank, 0.341 percent of the total.

Military

Georgian Special Forces

Georgia's military is organized into land, air, maritime, special forces and national guard branches. They are collectively known as the Georgian Armed Forces (GAF). The mission and functions of the GAF are based on the Constitution of Georgia, Georgia’s Law on Defense and National Military Strategy, and international agreements to which Georgia is signatory. They are performed under the guidance and authority of the Ministry of Defense.

Since coming to power in 2004, Saakashvili has boosted spending on the country's armed forces and increased its overall size to around 45,000.[citation needed] Of that figure, 12,000 have been trained in advanced techniques by U.S. military instructors, under the Georgia Train and Equip Program. 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.

Economy

Georgian twenty lari note portraying Ilia Chavchavadze, founder of the National Bank of Georgia

Archaeological research demonstrates that Georgia has been involved in commerce with many lands and empires since the ancient times, largely due its location on the Black Sea and later on the historical Silk Road. Gold, silver, copper and iron have been mined in the Caucasus Mountains. Wine making is a very old tradition.

Throughout Georgia's modern history agriculture and tourism have been principal economic sectors, because of the country's climate and topography.[84]

For much of the 20th century, Georgia's economy was within the Soviet model of command economy.

Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, Georgia embarked on a major structural reform designed to transition to a free market economy. However, as with all other post-Soviet states, Georgia faced a severe economic collapse. The civil war and military conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia aggravated the crisis. The agriculture and industry output diminished. By 1994 the gross domestic product had shrunk to a quarter of that of 1989.[85]

The first financial help from the West came in 1995, when the World Bank and International Monetary Fund granted Georgia a credit of USD 206 million and Germany granted DM 50 million.

As of 2001 54% of the population lived below the national poverty line but by 2006 poverty decreased to 34%. In 2005 average monthly income of a household was GEL 347 (about 200 USD).[86]

Rkinis Rigi (iron row) in Old Tbilisi

Since early 2000s visible positive developments have been observed in the economy of Georgia. In 2007 Georgia's real GDP growth rate reached 12%, making Georgia one of the fastest growing economies in Eastern Europe.[84] The World Bank dubbed Georgia "the number one economic reformer in the world" because it has in one year improved from rank 112th to 18th in terms of ease of doing business.[87] However, the country has high unemployment rate of 12.6% and has fairly low median income compared to European countries.

IMF 2007 estimates place Georgia's nominal GDP at US$10.3 billion. Georgia's economy is becoming more devoted to services (now representing 65% of GDP), moving away from agricultural sector ( 10.9%).[88]

The country has sizable hydropower resources.

The 2006 ban on imports of Georgian wine to Russia, one of Georgia's biggest trading partners, and break of financial links was described by the IMF Mission as an "external shock",[89] In addition, Russia increased the price of gas for Georgia. This was followed by the spike in the Georgian lari's rate of inflation.[citation needed] The National Bank of Georgia stated that the inflation was mainly triggered by external reasons, including Russia’s economic embargo.[90] The Georgian authorities expected that the current account deficit the embargo would cause in 2007 would be financed by "higher foreign exchange proceeds generated by the large inflow of foreign direct investment" and an increase in tourist revenues.[91] The country has also maintained a solid credit in international market securities.[92]

Map of the Baku-Supsa and BTC pipelines through the nation of Georgia.

Georgia is becoming more integrated into the global trading network: its 2006 imports and exports account for 10% and 18% of GDP respectively.[84] Georgia's main imports are natural gas, oil products, machinery and parts, and transport equipment.

Since coming to power Saakashvili administration accomplished a series of reforms aimed at improving tax collection. Among other things a flat income tax was introduced in 2004[93] As a result budget revenues have increased fourfold and a once large budget deficit has turned into surplus.[94][95][96]

Georgia is developing into an international transport corridor through Batumi and Poti ports, an oil pipeline from Baku through Tbilisi to Ceyhan, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) and a parallel gas pipeline, the South Caucasus Pipeline.

Tourism is an increasingly significant part of the Georgian economy. About a million tourists brought US$313 million to the country in 2006.[97] According to the government, there are 103 resorts in different climatic zones in Georgia. Tourist attractions include more than 2000 mineral springs, over 12,000 historical and cultural monuments, four of which are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi and Gelati Monastery, historical monuments of Mtskheta, and Upper Svaneti).[98]

Demographics

Grapevine Cross of Saint Nino from the 4th century
Georgian youth in traditional costumes
Ethno-linguistic groups in the Caucasus region 2009.[99] (newer map)

Georgians (comprises Adjarians and another South Caucasian peoples; Mingrelians, Lazs and Svans) are about 83.8%, of Georgia's current population of 4,661,473 (July 2006 est.).[100] Other major ethnic groups include Azeris, who form 6.5% of the population, Armenians - 5.7%, Russians - 1.5%, Abkhazians, and Ossetians. Numerous smaller groups also live in the country, including Assyrians, Chechens, Chinese, Georgian Jews, Greeks, Kabardins, Kurds, Tatars, Turks and Ukrainians. Notably, Georgia's Jewish community is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.

Georgia also exhibits significant linguistic diversity. Within the South Caucasian family, Georgian, Laz, Mingrelian, and Svan are spoken.[99] South Caucasian groups other than ethnic Georgians often speak their native languages in addition to Georgian. The official languages of Georgia are Georgian and also Abkhaz within the autonomous region of Abkhazia. Georgian, the country's official language, is spoken by 80% of the population, 9% speak Russian, 7% Armenian, 6% Azeri, and 7% other languages.[84] Georgia's literacy rate is said to be 100%.[101]

In the early 1990s, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, violent separatist conflicts broke out in the autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Many Ossetians living in Georgia left the country, mainly to Russia's North Ossetia.[102] On the other hand, more than 150,000 Georgians left Abkhazia after the breakout of hostilities in 1993.[103] Of the Meskhetian Turks who were forcibly relocated in 1944 only a tiny fraction returned to Georgia as of 2008.[104]

The 1989 census recorded 341,000 ethnic Russians, or 6.3% of the population,[105] 52,000 Ukrainians and 100,000 Greeks in Georgia.[106] Since 1990, 1.5 million Georgian nationals left.[106] At least one million immigrants from Georgia legally or illegally reside in Russia.[107] Georgia's net migration rate is -4.54, excluding Georgian nationals who live abroad. Georgia has nonetheless been inhabited by immigrants from all over the world throughout its independence. According to 2006 statistics, Georgia gets most of its immigrants from Turkey and People's Republic of China.

Today most of the population practices Orthodox Christianity of the Georgian Orthodox Church (81.9%). The religious minorities are: Muslim (9.9%); Armenian Apostolic (3.9%); Russian Orthodox Church (2.0%); Roman Catholic (0.8%). 0.8% of those recorded in the 2002 census declared themselves to be adherents of other religions and 0.7% declared no religion at all.[84]

Society

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 socialising with friends and 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, Samegrelo 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.

Education

Georgia's greatest poets Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli

The education system of Georgia has undergone sweeping modernizing, albeit painful and controversial, reforms since 2004.[108][109] The adult literacy rate in Georgia is given as 100%.[110] Education in Georgia is mandatory for all children aged 6–14.[111]

The school system is divided into elementary (6 years; age level 6-12), basic (3 years; age level 12-15), and secondary (3 years; age level 15-18), or alternatively vocational studies (2 years). Students with a secondary school certificate have access to higher education. Only the students who have passed the Unified National Examinations may enroll in a state-accredited higher education institution, based on ranking of scores he/she received at the exams.

Most of these institutions offer three level studies: a Bachelor's Programme (3–4 years); a Master's Programme (2 years), and a Doctoral Programme (3 years). There is also a Certified Specialist's Programme that represents a single-level higher education programme lasting for 3–6 years.[111][112] As of 2008, 20 higher education institutions are accredited by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.[113] Gross primary enrollment ratio was 94% for the period of 2001-2006.[114]

Religion

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, one of the oldest Eastern Orthodox churches in Georgia.[115]
One of the oldest churches in the Christendom, the Jvari church in Mtskheta, Georgia’s ancient capital .[115]

The Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of the world's most ancient Christian Churches, founded in the 1st century by the Apostle Andrew the First Called. In the first half of the 4th century Christianity was adopted as the state religion. This has provided a strong sense of national identity that has helped to preserve a national Georgian identity despite repeated periods of foreign occupation and attempted assimilation.

According to the Constitution of Georgia, religious institutions are separate from government and every citizen has the right of religion. However, most of the population of Georgia (82%) practices Orthodox Christianity and the Georgian Orthodox Church is an influential institution in the country.

The Gospel was preached in Georgia by the Apostles, Andrew, Simon the Canaanite, and Matthias. Iberia was officially converted to Christianity in 326[116] by Saint Nino of Cappadocia, who is considered to be the Enlightener of Georgia and the Equal to Apostles by the Orthodox Church. The Georgian Orthodox Church, once being under the See of Antioch, gained an autocephalous status in the 4th century during the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.[116]

Religious minorities of Georgia include Russian Orthodox (2%), Armenian Christians (3.9%), Muslims (9.9%), Roman Catholics (0.8%), as well as sizeable Jewish Communities and various Protestant minorities.[84]

Despite the long history of religious harmony in Georgia,[117] there have been several instances of religious discrimination in the past decade — such as acts of violence against Jehovah's Witnesses and threats against adherents of other "nontraditional faiths" by followers of the defrocked Orthodox priest Vasil Mkalavishvili.[118]

Sports

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.[119] Wrestling remains a historically important sport of Georgia, and some historians think that the Greco-Roman style of wrestling incorporates many Georgian elements.[120] 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.

Gallery of Georgia

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Institute for Economics and Peace [10] Global Peace Index[121] 134 out of 144
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 89 out of 182
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 66 out of 180
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 90 out of 133

See also

Notes

  1. ^ According to Article 1.3 of the Constitution of Georgia.
  2. ^ According to Article 8 of the Constitution of Georgia. In Abkhazia, also Abkhazian.
  3. ^ a b CIA Factbook Georgia
  4. ^ a b c d "Georgia". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2009/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2006&ey=2009&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=915&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=&pr.x=58&pr.y=17. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  5. ^ a b Georgia may be considered to be in Asia and/or Europe. The UN classification of world regions places Georgia in Western Asia; the CIA World Factbook [1], National Geographic, and Encyclopædia Britannica also place Georgia in Asia. Conversely, numerous sources place Georgia in Europe such as the BBC [2], Oxford Reference Online [3], Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, and www.worldatlas.com.
  6. ^ David M.Lang, A Modern History of Georgia, p. 109
  7. ^ Parsons, Robert (2008-01-11), "Mikheil Saakashvili’s bitter victory", openDemocracy.net. Retrieved on 2008-05-21.
  8. ^ Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2010
  9. ^ Foreign Policy Strategy 2006-2009, pp. 9-10. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. Retrieved on 2006-06-27.
  10. ^ "World | Europe | West condemns Russia over Georgia". BBC News. 2008-08-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7583164.stm. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  11. ^ http://lenta.ru/news/2009/09/10/recognize/
  12. ^ Resolution of the Parliament of Georgia declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia occupied territories, August 28, 2008.
  13. ^ Abkhazia, S.Ossetia Formally Declared Occupied Territory. Civil Georgia. 2008-08-28.
  14. ^ Braund, David. Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC-AD 562, pp. 17-18
  15. ^ History of Modern Georgia, David Marshal Lang, p 18
  16. ^ The Complete Works, Jewish Antiquities, Josephus, Book 1, p 57
  17. ^ David Marshall Lang, The Georgians, (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1966), 17-18.
  18. ^ "St. Nino And The Conversion Of Georgia". Georgianweb.com. http://www.georgianweb.com/religion/stnino.html. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  19. ^ Phoenix: The Peoples of the Hills: Ancient Ararat and Caucasus by Charles Burney , David Marshall Lang, Phoenix Press; New Ed edition (December 31, 2001)
  20. ^ Phoenix: The Peoples of the Hills: Ancient Ararat and Caucasus by Charles Burney, David Marshall Lang, Phoenix Press; New Ed edition (December 31, 2001)
  21. ^ Lives and Legends of the Georgian Saints, St Vladimirs Seminary Pr; N.e.of 2r.e. edition (March 1997) by David Marshall Lang
  22. ^ a b c d e "Christianity and the Georgian Empire" (early history) Library of Congress, March 1994, webpage:LCweb2-ge0015.
  23. ^ Sketches of Georgian Church History by Theodore Edward Dowling
  24. ^ History of Modern Georgia, by David Marshal Lang, p 29
  25. ^ The Georgian Feast, by Darra Goldstein, p 35
  26. ^ Georgian Literature and Culture, by Howard Aronson and Dodona Kiziria, p 119
  27. ^ Gvosdev (2000), p. 85
  28. ^ Avalov (1906), p. 186
  29. ^ Gvosdev (2000), p. 86
  30. ^ Lang (1957), p. 249
  31. ^ Lang (1957), p. 251
  32. ^ Lang (1957), p. 247
  33. ^ Lang (1957), p. 252
  34. ^ Anchabadze (2005), p. 29
  35. ^ "Georgia blows up Soviet memorial, two people killed". The Washington Post. December 19, 2009.
  36. ^ Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy, 1883-1917 by Stephen F. Jones
  37. ^ [4] Georgia/Abchasia: Violations of the laws of war and Russia's role in the conflict, March 1995
  38. ^ Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, [5] Russia. The Ingush-Ossetian conflict in the Prigorodnyi region, May 1996.
  39. ^ "EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Georgia’s Rose Revolution: Momentum and Consolidation". Eurasianet.org. http://eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav112204a.shtml. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  40. ^ Gorshkov, Nikolai (September 19, 2002). "Duma prepares for Georgia strike". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/2269057.stm. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  41. ^ "Russia, Georgia strike deal on bases". Civil Georgia, Tbilisi. May 30, 2005. http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=10007. 
  42. ^ "Russia Hands Over Batumi Military Base to Georgia". Civil Georgia, Tbilisi. November 13, 2007. http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=16321. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  43. ^ List of Casualties among the Georgian Military Servicemen
  44. ^ Georgia: Conflict Toll Confusion, IWPR, 25-Sep-08
  45. ^ [6] Heavy fighting in South Ossetia (Georgian MLRS launched rockets on Tskhinvali - video), BBC News, August 8, 2008
  46. ^ Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook 2009: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security Oxford University Press, 2009 ISBN 0199566062, 9780199566068.
  47. ^ a b "Ground zero in the Georgia-Russia war:South Ossetia city's residents are certain Russia is in the right. By Peter Finn,". Washington Post. August 18, 2008. http://articles.sfgate.com/2008-08-18/news/17123137_1_georgian-forces-south-ossetian-tskhinvali. 
  48. ^ [http://exiledonline.com/how-to-screw-up-a-war-story-the-new-york-times-at-work/2/ How To Screw Up A War Story: The New York Times At Work By Mark Ames]
  49. ^ "Russia exaggerating South Ossetian death toll to provoke revenge against Georgians, says human rights group | World news | guardian.co.uk". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/13/georgia. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  50. ^ Conclusion of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Prosecutor's Office, 3 July 2009
  51. ^ C. J. Chivers and Ellen Barry (6 November 2008). "Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/world/europe/07georgia.html. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  52. ^ The West Begins to doubt Georgian leader Der Spiegel, 15 September 2008
  53. ^ [7] Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question, NY Times
  54. ^ "Russia sends forces into Georgian rebel conflict". Reuters. August 8, 2008. http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL768040420080808. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  55. ^ "Georgian villages burned and looted as Russian tanks advance". Guardian. 2008-08-13. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/13/georgia.russia6. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  56. ^ "Russia's cruel intention". Guardian. 2008-08-13. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/01/russia.georgia. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  57. ^ http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=a6z1.HFQFr4E
  58. ^ "Russian military pushes into Georgia". CNN. 2008-08-11. http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/08/11/georgia.russia/index.html. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  59. ^ "Russian President Orders Halt To Military Operations In Georgia". GlobalSecurity.org. 2008-08-12. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2008/08/mil-080812-rferl01.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  60. ^ "Russia hands over control of Georgian buffer zones to EU". RIA Novosti. 9 October 2008. http://en.rian.ru/world/20081009/117637460.html. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  61. ^ 00:52. "RIA Novosti — Russia — Russia fully staffs bases in Abkhazia, S.Ossetia". En.rian.ru. http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081119/118400373.html. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  62. ^ Russia recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia, Azerbaijan Business Centre, 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  63. ^ Resolution of the Parliament of Georgia declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia occupied territories, 28 August 2008.
  64. ^ Abkhazia, S.Ossetia Formally Declared Occupied Territory. Civil Georgia. 2008-08-28
  65. ^ Georgia : in the mountains of poetry 3rd rev. ed., Nasmyth, Peter
  66. ^ Studies in medieval Georgian historiography: early texts and European contexts, Rapp, Stephen
  67. ^ a b Lang David, Georgians
  68. ^ January 7th 2009 (2009-01-07). "Endemic Species of the Caucasus". Endemic-species-caucasus.info. http://www.endemic-species-caucasus.info/. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  69. ^ "Caucasian Spiders » CHECKLISTS & MAPS". Caucasus-spiders.info. http://caucasus-spiders.info/introduction/checklists/. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  70. ^ a b "Georgia Leader: Country on Right Track". Fox News. 2008-01-07. http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2008Jan07/0,4670,GeorgiaPresidentialElection,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  71. ^ Zaza Jgharkava (October 18, 2007). Will a Constitutional Monarchy Be Restored in Georgia?. Georgia Today, Issue #379.
  72. ^ Giorgi Lomsadze (December 18, 2007). Time for a King for Georgia?. EurasiaNet Civil Society.
  73. ^ "Western observers offer varied judgments on the conduct of the Georgian presidential election and its consequences". Armenian Reporter. 2008-08-01. http://yandunts.blogspot.com/2008/08/western-observers-offer-varied.html. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  74. ^ "Freedom in the World 2008". Freedom House. http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/fiw08launch/FIW08Tables.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  75. ^ a b http://ec.europa.eu/comm/external_relations/georgia/intro/index.htm
  76. ^ "Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia - Oriental Republic of Uruguay". Mfa.gov.ge. http://www.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?sec_id=371&lang_id=ENG. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  77. ^ "Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia - Visa Information for Foreign Citizens". Mfa.gov.ge. 2009-04-30. http://www.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?sec_id=386&lang_id=ENG. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  78. ^ "Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka". Mfa.gov.ge. http://www.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?sec_id=379&lang_id=ENG. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  79. ^ "U.S. Announces New Military Assistance Program for Georgia". Civil.Ge. 2001-07-01. http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=8271. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  80. ^ Georgia's way to NATO
  81. ^ "Europe | Bush praises Georgian democracy". BBC News. 2005-05-10. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4531273.stm. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  82. ^ Bush Heads to Europe for G - 8 Summit, The New York Times
  83. ^ EU, Georgia Sign ENP Action Plan, Civil Georgia, October 2, 2006.
  84. ^ a b c d e f Georgia, from CIA World Factbook
  85. ^ The EBDR country factsheet - [8].
  86. ^ The World Bank's Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Program progress report - [9].
  87. ^ World Bank Economy Rankings.
  88. ^ World Development Indicators 2008, The World Bank. Data on composition of GDP is available at worldbank.org
  89. ^ IMF Mission Press Statement at the Conclusion of a Staff Visit to Georgia. June 1, 2007.
  90. ^ Central Bank Chief Reports on Inflation. Civil Georgia, Tbilisi. 2007-05-10.
  91. ^ Statement by IMF Staff Mission to Georgia, Press Release No. 06/276. December 15, 2006.
  92. ^ Sweet Georgia. The Financial Times -
  93. ^ The Financial Times - Flat taxes could be a flash in the pan, IMF research says
  94. ^ World Bank, World Development Indicators 2008
  95. ^ CIA - The World Factbook -- Georgia
  96. ^ Frequently Asked Questions: I.Macroeconomic Environment, investingeorgia.org
  97. ^ UNTWO (June 2007). "UNTWO World Tourism Barometer, Vol.5 No.2" (PDF). http://unwto.org/facts/eng/pdf/barometer/unwto_barom07_2_en.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  98. ^ Invest in Georgia: Tourism
  99. ^ a b Ethnographic map of the Caucasus
  100. ^ This figure includes the territories currently out of the Georgian government's control – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – whose total population, as of 2005, is estimated by the State Department of Statistics of Georgia at 227,200 (178,000 in Abkhazia plus 49,200 in South Ossetia). Statistical Yearbook of Georgia 2005: Population, Table 2.1, p. 33, Department for Statistics, Tbilisi (2005)
  101. ^ Literacy statistics for Georgia from UNDP
  102. ^ Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, Russia: The Ingush-Ossetian Conflict in the Prigorodnyi Region, May 1996.
  103. ^ Statistical Yearbook of Georgia 2005: Population, Table 2.1, p. 33, Department for Statistics, Tbilisi (2005)
  104. ^ World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Uzbekistan : Meskhetian Turks. Minority Rights Group International.
  105. ^ Georgia: Ethnic Russians Say, "There’s No Place Like Home". EurasiaNet.org. April 30, 2009.
  106. ^ a b Ethnic minorities in Georgia (PDF). Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme.
  107. ^ Georgians deported as row deepens. BBC News. October 6, 2006.
  108. ^ Georgia purges education system. The BBC News. July 29, 2005.
  109. ^ Molly Corso (2005-05-13) Education reform rocks Georgia. Eurasianet.
  110. ^ Human Development Report, 2007/2008: Georgia. United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved on 2008-09-02.
  111. ^ a b Education system in Georgia. National Tempus Office Georgia. Retrieved on 2008-09-02.
  112. ^ Education institutions. Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia. Retrieved on 2008-09-02.
  113. ^ High education institutions. National Tempus Office Georgia. Retrieved on 2008-09-02.
  114. ^ Georgia at a glance. World Bank. 2007-07-28.
  115. ^ a b The Early Church, Henry Chadwick, p. 34
  116. ^ a b Riassophore, Adrian monk. "A brief history of Orthodox Christian Georgia." Orthodox Word, 2006: p. 11.
  117. ^ Spilling, Michael. Georgia (Cultures of the world). 1997
  118. ^ "Memorandum to the U.S. Government on Religious Violence in the Republic of Georgia (Human Rights Watch August 2001)". Hrw.org. http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/georgia/georgia_memo_full.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  119. ^ Romans erected the statue of the Iberian King Pharsman after he demonstrated Georgian training methods during his visit to Rome; Cassius Dio, Roman History, LXIX, 15.3
  120. ^ Williams, Douglas. Georgia in my Heart, 1999.
  121. ^ "Vision of Humanity". Vision of Humanity. http://www.visionofhumanity.org/gpi/home.php. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 

References

  • Anchabadze, George: History of Georgia: A Short Sketch, Tbilisi 2005 ISBN 99928-71-59-8
  • Avalov, Zurab: Prisoedinenie Gruzii k Rossii, Montvid, S.-Peterburg 1906
  • Gvosdev, Nikolas K.: Imperial policies and perspectives towards Georgia: 1760-1819, Macmillan, Basingstoke 2000, ISBN 0-312-22990-9
  • Lang, David M.: The last years of the Georgian Monarchy: 1658-1832, Columbia University Press, New York 1957
  • Suny, Ronald Grigor: The Making of the Georgian Nation, (2nd Edition), Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1994, ISBN 0-253-35579-6
  • Rapp, Stephen H. (2003), Studies In Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts And Eurasian Contexts. Peeters Publishers, ISBN 90-429-1318-5

Further reading

  • Braund, David (1994) Georgia in Antiquity: a History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia 550 BC – AD 562 Clarendon Press, Oxford ISBN 0-19-814473-3
  • Brook, Stephen Claws of the Crab: Georgia and Armenia in Crisis
  • Burford, Tim Bradt Guide: Georgia
  • Goldstein, Darra The Georgian Feast: the Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia
  • Karumidze, Zurab & Wertshtor, James V. Enough!: The Rose Revolution in the Republic of Georgia 2003
  • Kurtsikidze, Shorena & Chikovani, Vakhtang, Ethnography and Folklore of the Georgia-Chechnya Border: Images, Customs, Myths & Folk Tales of the Peripheries, Munich: Lincom Europa, 2008
  • Lonely Planet World Guide: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan
  • Nasmyth, Peter Georgia: In the Mountains of Poetry
  • Rosen, Roger Georgia: A Sovereign Country in the Caucasus
  • Russell, Mary Please Don't Call It Soviet Georgia: a Journey Through a Troubled Paradise
  • Shelley, Louise; Scott, Erik & Latta, Anthony, eds. Organized Crime and Corruption in Georgia Routledge, Oxford.
  • Steavenson, Wendell Stories I Stole

External links

Government
General information
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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Caucasus : Georgia
North-Western Georgia
Location
noframe
Flag
Image:Gg-flag.png
Quick Facts
Capital Tbilisi
Government Republic
Currency Lari (GEL)
Area 69,700 km2
Population 4,677,401 (July 2006 est.)
Language Georgian, other
Religion Georgian Orthodox 83.9%, Roman Catholic 1.2%, Muslim 9,9%, other 0.8%, none 0.7%.
Electricity 220V/50Hz (European plug)
Calling Code +995
Internet TLD .ge
Time Zone UTC +4

Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო, Sakartvelo) [1] is a country in the Caucasus. It lies at the eastern end of the Black Sea, with Turkey and Armenia to the south, Azerbaijan to the east, and Russia to the north, over the Caucasus Mountains.

Understand

Georgia is a land filled with magnificent history and unparalleled natural beauty. Archaeologists found the oldest traces of wine production (7000-5000 BC) in Georgia. For those of us in the West, we unfortunately get precious little exposure to this stretch of land between the Black and Caspian seas. However, this is changing drastically.

Georgians are not Russians, Turks or Persians, nor do they have any ethnic connection with other people. However, there are theories which link Georgians to Basque, Corsican and North Caucasian people. Georgia is a multi-ethnic state, the dominant ethnic group are the Kartveli, but other significant Georgian ethnic groups include the Mingreli, Laz, and Svan (all of whom speak Georgian languages distinct from the national language, Kartuli). Georgian language is in its own language group, completely unrelated to Indo-European or Semitic languages. Georgians have been embroiled in struggles against the world’s biggest empires ( Mongol, Persian, Ottoman, Russian, etc) for centuries. This little country was invaded many times and destroyed as many. However, Georgians have managed to preserve their cultural and traditional identity for 2,000 years. The countryside is covered with ancient towered fortifications, many of which house ancient churches (including one of the oldest in Christendom) and monasteries.

Christianity was introduced into Georgia in the first century, and became the official national state religion in the mid fourth century (Georgia was the second nation to adopt Christianity, after Armenia) with the evangelism of St Nino of Capadoccia. The Georgian cross is recognizable, for it was forged by St Nino with grape vines and her own hair. The grape and the vine thus hold important places in Georgian symbolism.

The conversion to Christianity meant that Georgians would have a historical cultural leaning to the West instead of the with the Muslims in the region (Turkey and Persia to the South). Nonetheless, Georgian culture stands at the cross-roads of civilizations. Its culture and traditions are the product of the influence of its neighbors and of its own unique civilization.

During the Soviet era, Georgia was the "Riviera of the Soviet Union" and was renowned for its cuisine and wine. Russians may love vodka, but the Georgian wines were favoured by the Soviet elite. During Soviet era, Georgia flooded Russian markets with high quality tea, wine and fruits. The Georgian Black Sea coast, in particular (Abkhazia and Adjaria), enjoys sub-tropical conditions and beautiful beaches (imagine pine trees and mountains covering the coast line).

Georgia, on the periphery of the Soviet Union, also contributed greatly to the dissolution of the Soviet Union with nationalist calls for independence (and the Georgians have catalyzed the dissolution of empires before). Georgia stood on one of the key routes of the Silk Road and now plays a significant geopolitical role, being located at the crossroads of Central Asia, Russia, Europe, and the Middle East, and currently contains important oil pipelines leading from Azerbaijan to the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

This proud nation is still in transition after the fall of the Soviet Union. Tense relations with Russia (and deepening friendship with the USA and the EU) has led Russia to close its markets to Georgian exports, devastating the Georgian economy.

Imagine cities with narrow side streets filled with leaning houses, overstretched balconies, mangled and twisted stairways, majestic old churches, heavenly food and warm and welcoming people. All of this with a backdrop of magnificent snow peaked mountains, and the best beaches of the Black Sea.

People

The Georgians have exceptionally strong traditions of hospitality, chivalry, and codes of personal honour. They believe that guests come from God. Friendship is prized highest among all the virtues. It is celebrated in Shota Rustaveli's 12th century national epic, The Knight in the Tiger's Skin ("ვეფხისტყაოსანი" or "Vepkhistqaosani"), in which a person's worth is judged the depth of his friendships. The Georgians are proud, passionate, and fiercely individualistic, yet deeply connected with each other by a shared sense of belonging to a greater Georgian family. Women are highly esteemed in society and are accorded a chivalric respect. The statue of Mother of Georgia (kartlis deda) that stands in the hills above Tbilisi perhaps best symbolizes the national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine with which she greets her friends and in her right is a sword drawn against her enemies.

Regions of Georgia
Regions of Georgia
Kartli
The Georgian heartland, center of East Georgian culture, and the national economic, cultural, and political center; home to the most visited destinations of Tbilisi, Mtskheta, Gori, and Kazbegi
Rioni Region
The center of West Georgia and the ancient kingdom of Colchis, land of the Golden Fleece; today home to magnificent UNESCO sites, and fantastical mountainous scenery in both Racha and Imereti
Kakheti
Georgia's fertile wine region, full of beautiful churches, monasteries, and wineries
Southwestern Georgia
The subtropical section of the country, with a large Muslim population, and a few great pebble beaches
Northwestern Georgia
Magnificently beautiful, rather dangerous, and politically unstable, but worth the risk of a visit to see the once-in-a-lifetime fantasy of Upper Svaneti
Samtskhe-Javakheti
Home to much of Georgia's Armenian population, Vardzia, and the enchanting Sapara Monastery
Disputed Territories (Abkhazia, South Ossetia)
Georgia's breakaway regions, in a state of civil war with the national government; Abkhazia is a beautiful subtropical beach and volcano destination, while South Ossetia is high in the Greater Caucasus Mountains, with little to offer a traveler beyond constant danger and mountain vistas

The exclusion of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the regional hierarchy proper is not an endorsement of any side in the conflict, it is merely a practical distinction, since travel conditions in these two regions differ radically from those in the rest of Georgia.


Shardeni Avenue in Old Tbilisi
Shardeni Avenue in Old Tbilisi
  • Tbilisi — the beautiful and interesting capital, Georgia's largest and most cosmopolitan city
  • Akhaltsikhe — the small capital of Samtskhe-Javakheti is near two fabulously beautful tourist destinations: Vardzia and the Sapara Monastery
  • Batumi — the palm tree lined capital city of Ajara on the Black Sea, near some good swimming
  • Borjomi — a picturesque small city with famous mineral water, a national park, and a summer palace of the Russian Romanov dynasty
  • Gori — Stalin's hometown, located next to yet another cave city
  • Kutaisi — Georgia's second city and the historic capital of ancient Colchis, home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • Mtskheta — the historic former capital of Georgia, the center of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and another UNESCO World Heritage site is an easy day trip from Tbilisi
  • Sukhumi — the capital of Abkhazia is a beautiful beach resort up against the mountains, but has suffered from the war and economic embargo
  • Telavi — the capital of Kakheti is a good jumping off point for nearby wineries, castles, and monasteries
Tsminda Sameba church, 2200m high, and mighty Caucasus mountains in the back, raising more than 4000m above the sea level
Tsminda Sameba church, 2200m high, and mighty Caucasus mountains in the back, raising more than 4000m above the sea level
  • Bakuriani ski slopes — one time Winter Olympics bid and the major ski resort in the south of the country
  • The Georgian Military Highway — running through unbelievable high mountain scenery along dangerously steep curves, from Tbilisi to Vladikavkaz, Russia. Only the section from Tbilisi to Gori is safe for travel.
  • Kakheti wineries — especially the Tsinandali Estate, home to an old Romanov palace, beautiful grounds, and some delicious wines
  • Mount Kazbeg — one of the highest mountains in Europe is also home to Tsminda Sameba, one of the most spectacularly situated monasteries in the world
  • Davit Gareja — a 6th century cave monastery on a mountain overlooking the Azerbaijani desert, with beautiful frescoes
  • Pasanauri ski slopes — the main ski resort in the Georgian Greater Caucasus Mountains, along the Georgian Military Highway to Kazbegi
  • Upper Svaneti — the highest inhabited region of Europe, centered around Mestia, is home to the mysterious Svans and is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Vardzia — a 12th century cave monastery and city overlooking a large river gorge
  • Uplistsikhe — a 3,600 year old Silk Road cave city that was a major regional center of Caucasian pagan religion

Get in

Passports, Visas, and other documents

For citizens of Ukraine, the US, UK, Canada, EU, Japan, Turkey and Israel, a visa will not be required upon entry, A valid passport is sufficient.

Citizens of some other countries can apply for an "urgent entry visa" upon arrival at Tbilisi airport (35 USD cash).

See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website [2] for more information.

By plane

There are flights to Tbilisi from a number of European, North American and Asian cities, including London (bmi [3]), Paris (Georgian Airlines), Vienna (Austrian Airlines), Kiev (Georgian Airlines), Koln/Bonn (GermaniaExpress [4]), Munich (Lufthansa), Athens (Georgian Airlines), Riga (airBaltic, [5]), Istanbul (Turkish Air). Flights from Prague by Czech Airlines were canceled; however you can still fly from/to Prague via Georgian Airlines. Just recently, KLM also canceled their flights to Tbilisi but just as in Prague case you can fly with Georgian Airlines from/to Amsterdam. Belavia (Belarusian National Airlines [6]) is now offering direct flights from Minsk to Tbilisi at great rates. Please note that Georgian Airlines (AirZena) [7] has many flights from many different cities. See also airBaltic for cheap flights to many European destinations.

May 26, 2007 saw the reopening of the airport in Batumi. Turkish Airlines [8] flights run every day between Batumi and Istanbul. Other destinations serviced by the Batumi airport include Kharkov and Kiev. The Batumi airport is located about 10km south of the city center and is accessible by marshrutka and taxi.

Georgian Airways resumed flights to Moscow. The flights will be operated daily (at 18:30). (Besides Moscow regular flights will be launched to Saint Petersburg and Sochi).

By bus

There are direct bus services from Istanbul, Turkey, which stop at various places on the route and terminate in Tbilisi. There are also several non-stop bus services between Tbilisi and Baku, Azerbaijan.

By minibus

There are many minibuses (sing. marshrutka; pl. marshrutki) that operate international routes to and from cities and large towns in Georgia. Minibuses run between Georgia and Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iran, and Iraq. In Tbilisi, these routes usually originate and terminate at bus stations and the Didube market. Outside Tbilisi, minibus routes may stop at either bus stations or central locations (town squares).

By car

Entering with a car is no major problem. It is recommended to carry a power of attorney with you if you are not the car owner. A sticker containing the car plate number will be affixed to your passport in connection with the entry stamp. As the International Insurance Card is not yet valid for Georgia, purchasing insurance at the entry point is necessary and may be controlled (even though the amount covered may be ridiculously low). Note that only the driver may enter the control area with the car, anyone else in the car has to use the pedestrians' lane.

Traffic laws are not enforced—one of Saakashvili's first steps as president was to disband the uncorruptably corrupt traffic police. Norms are, however, strictly observed, particularly on the two lane highways throughout the country. The most important norm to be aware of is that passing occurs in the middle of the road, and cars on both lanes are expected to move to the outside of their own lane to make this as safe as possible. The other thing to expect are awful road conditions; the government here is very poor, and potholes go unrepaired. Nonetheless, driving here is surprisingly unstressful, and is a great way to tour the country, provided your car isn't flashy enough to attract attention from criminal interest.

By train

There are train services from Baku, Azerbaijan which stop at various places on the route and terminate in Tbilisi. Note that the "BP train" has been canceled. Construction of railroad linking the Turkish town of Kars to Baku, Azerbaijan-including both a new line and modernization of existing lines-is underway and will be finished sometime between 2010-2012. This will establish a direct link from Tbilisi to Istanbul and farther to Europe as well as a faster, more comfortable ride into Azerbaijan.

By boat

There are boat services to Batumi and Poti from Istanbul and Odessa. At the time of writing the Turkish Black Sea port of Trabzon was closed to passenger services. Be also aware that Georgian port of Sukhumi is closed for any cargo or passenger boats apart from those with humanitarian purposes. All vessels going to Sukhumi must undergo border check with Georgian coast guard in nearby port of Poti.

National Theater of Georgia in Tbilisi
National Theater of Georgia in Tbilisi

Taxis in Georgia are the most convenient method of travel, and they are very cheap. Trips within Tbilisi range from 3 to 5 lari, depending on distance, but you can always negotiate a price with the cab driver. The vast majority of taxis in Georgia are unofficial "gypsy cabs," driven by anyone looking to make some money. Unmarked taxi service in Georgia is exceptionally safe and widely used by foreigners living and visiting the country. Drivers will, however, exaggerate the price for foreigners -- it is best to establish your destination and price before getting in the cab.

Minibus

Minibuses are locally called marshrutki, and they operate on established routes. After finding out the number of your route, flag down a marshrutka on the street.

There are also minibus lines from city to city. Their routes end usually at bus stations and city markets. Their destination is written in Georgian, on a sign in the front window. Ask marshrutka drivers if you can't find the minibus you are looking for.

City Bus

There are new Dutch buses operating in Tbilisi. More or less comfortable (they have no air conditioning), they are the cheapest way to go around (for 40 tetri). However, the buses are old and slow in the Georgian countryside and outside Tbilisi.

Medieval tower near Ghergeti
Medieval tower near Ghergeti

To get to the more remote regions of Georgia (e.g., Dusheti, Khevsureti, etc.) without a tour company, buses and taxis will only take you so far. At some point it will become necessary to hike, catch a ride on a goods-transporting truck, or hire a jeep. Catching a lorry requires that you are flexible in your travel plans. Hiring a jeep can actually be quite expensive because of the high cost of gas caused by scarcity in the remote regions. To find out about either option, ask around at the bus station or central market of the last town on the bus or marshrutka line.

Languages 
Georgian 71% (official), Russian 9%, Armenian 7%, Azeri 6%, other 7%
note: Abkhaz is the official language in Abkhazia
Alphabet 
Georgian uses the Mkhedruli alphabet, which is unrelated to both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets.

For language fans, Georgian and its related languages are a real treat. For everyone else, they could be a nightmare. Georgian is a Caucasian language which is not in any way related to any languages spoken outside of Georgia. The combination of its formidable consonant clusters and its original alphabet make Georgian a hard language to acquire.

While everyone who visits should attempt to learn at least a few Georgian words, it is possible to get by in most areas with Russian. People most likely to understand Russian include: older generations, non-Georgian citizens (Russians, Armenians, Ossetes, Azeris, etc.), members of the elite (who likely also speak English), and taxi drivers. In rural areas, however, it is often more difficult to find Russian speakers (look for the oldest person around!). The younger generation, largely due to hostility towards Russia, now prefers to study English, but because access to good quality English instruction in province is so low, it is generally not possible to use English to communicate outside of major cities. When in Tbilisi and in need for help, look for younger people; they are more likely to know some English. Finally, signs in Georgia are rarely bilingual (apart from Tbilisi metro) or some stores; however, most road signs are in both the georgian and latin alphabets. Basic knowledge of the Georgian alphabet is very useful to understand road signs, store/restaurant names, and bus destinations. Those traveling without knowledge of Russian or Georgian may have an easier time with a guide.

  • Gold & Other Jewelry - Gold, silver, handmade & other misc. jewelry, precious stones are very cheap in Georgia and quality of the precious stones, gold and silver is superb. Many foreigners visit Georgia to buy jewelry, because of its cost and quality.
  • Art & Paintings – Georgian artists, such as Pirosmani, Gigo Gabashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili, Korneli Sanadze, Elene Akhvlediani, Sergo Kobuladze, Simon Virsaladze, Ekaterine Baghdavadze and others, are famous for their work. In Georgia you will find many various art shops, paintings and painters who sell their works on the streets. Their work is high quality and are often very good values.
  • Antiques & Other Misc. Gifts – in Georgia you will able to find many antiques not only from Georgia, but Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Russian and European as well.
  • Georgian wine, as much as you can. Georgia is the cradle of wine making, and with 521 original varieties of grape you will be sure to find excellent wines.
  • Cognac. Georgian cognac is unique as it's made from Georgian wine. Try Saradjishvili 'Tbilisi' cognac.
  • When heading outside the cities, you might find an original hand-made carpet for sale.
  • Georgians love to drink, so the country has an seemingly infinite amount of beers, wines, liquors and distilled drinks. To take home, buy a bottle of chacha, a potent grape vodka somewhat similar to Lebanese Arak.

Georgian export commodities (especially wine and mineral water) are widely counterfeited in the domestic and CIS market. For example, the Borjomi bottling plant produces roughly one million bottles of Borjomi per year, but there were three million bottles sold in Russia only! To be sure that you are getting the real thing, you will need to buy from the source.

Recent update (Dec 2007): government together with business circles has initiated a wide-scale fight with counterfeit wine and mineral water so the percentage of counterfeit products have almost been eliminated. However when stocking with bottled wine it is best to buy it at large supermarkets which have better control of their procurement compared to smaller stores. Such supermarkets are Goodwill, Big Ben or Populi. Same applies to mineral water.

Costs

Currency: Lari, 100 tetri=1 lari
Currency code GEL
Exchange rates:
1 USD = 1.66 GEL (June 2009, interbank rate)
1 EUR = 2.32 GEL (June 2009, interbank rate)
1 GBP = 2.65 GEL (June 2009, interbank rate)

When exchanging money in banks be sure to present your ID. With small exchange cabines available almost anywhere in the country this is not necessarry. These cabins may also have slightly better exchange rates. When traveling out of Tbilisi and in need of Georgian laris, be sure to exchange money before the trip as exchange rates are more discriminative in rural areas. The Georgian Lari is a closed currency, so be sure to change the remainder of your money back before leaving the country. Most importantly, be aware that some ATMs in Georgia may not accept foreign cards (though this is not usually a problem in Tbilisi). This can be a potentially serious problem if you are caught without cash during non-business hours or on weekends, so have plenty of cash. Also, while prices are generally very reasonable in Georgia, a side effect is that many small establishments and taxis will not have change for large lari notes (especially 50 or higher), so travelers are advised to carry plenty of smaller notes and coins.

If you visit Georgia for one week, you would have a great time if you bring $700-$800 USD with you. With this amount you will be able to stay in a good hotel, have wonderful sightseeing tours and eat good food. All other items such as gifts & jewellery might require more. For more details try searching and contacting travel & tourist agencies.

A budget traveler would have little difficulty getting by (and staying very well fed) on less than 150-200$ per week, even in the capital. Allow another 30-50$ for travel and sightseeing. (November 2008)

A famous Georgian dish, khinkali. A must try if you visit a Georgian restaurant.
A famous Georgian dish, khinkali. A must try if you visit a Georgian restaurant.

Eating khinkali like a local

Eating khinkali is not like what you're used to doing with dumplings. First of all, you use only your hands. (There's a real reason for this, because cutting the large dumpling would spill the juice and ruin the taste.) Locals will begin by seasoning the dumplings with pepper. Then grab the dumpling however you like, from the top "handle" if it pleases you, and take a small bite out of the side to slurp up the juice. Don't let any juice fall on your plate, or the Georgians watching you will start chuckling, and you'll get your chin messy. Then, still holding the khinkali, eat around the top, finishing the dumpling and then placing the twisted top on your plate—it's considered an extreme mark of poverty in finances and taste to eat the doughy top. It's also nice to look with pride upon all your tops once, with practice, you get into the double digits with these dumplings. Wash them down with a Kazbegi beer, or a "limonati" of whichever flavor you prefer (most common flavors are lemon, pear, and tarragon--which is quite refreshing).

The cuisine of Georgia is justly famous throughout the region (visitors to Moscow will have noticed the amount of Georgian restaurants). The two "national" dishes are "khachapuri" (A cheese filled bread, it more resembles cheese pie) and khinkali (minced, spiced meat in a dumpling, served in enormous quantities). While the khachapuri comes with every meal (and it's very possible to get tired of this), khinkali is usually reserved for its own separate meal, where Georgian men will down 15 huge dumplings like it's no big deal.

Shashlik, a tasty grilled kebab with onions, is another staple. But this is by no means the end of the list of wonderful dishes, usually flavored with garlic, coriander, walnuts, and dill. A traditional Georgian feast (supra) is truly a sight to behold, with a spread that no group could finish, accompanied by at least 20 toasts set to wine or brandy.

For a quick snack you can try all variety of "pirozhki," pastry stuffed with meat, potatoes, cheese, or other ingredients, usually sold by babushkas in markets and on the side of the street. Be aware of western-style dishes (pizzas, hamburgers etc) though, which are usually a pale copy of their true selves. It is much better to try local food.

The fruit and vegetables here will spoil your taste buds forever—you may not be able to stomach the produce you get at home forever. Whatever it is here—the lack of any processed foods, a special quality to the soil, the fabled tale of God tripping on the Greater Caucasus mountains and dropping his lunch here—the produce is bursting at the seams with flavor. And it's very cheap. Even if you only speak English and stand out as a foreigner like a slug in a spotlight, you can get fruit and vegetables in the market for a mere fraction of what you would pay in, say, Western Europe. Grabbing a quick meal of tomatoes, fresh cheese, puri (bread), and fruit is perhaps the most rewarding meal to be had in the country—and that's saying a lot.

If you can, try and get yourself invited to dinner at someone's home (this is not too difficult in Georgia, owing to their hospitality and general desire to stuff foreign visitors full of all the food they can afford). The food in restaurants is an odd set piece of the same dishes over and over. But Georgian cuisine is far richer, and has an untold number of dishes to try, prepared from scratch with fresh, locally grown products (supermarkets have barely touched this country). Try and get your hands on ajabsandali, a sort of vegetable ratatouille, made differently according to each family's recipe, and which is wonderful.

Drink

ChaCha

Chacha is a clear fruit homebrew, which is sometimes called “vine vodka”, “grape vodka” or “Georgian vodka”. ChaCha is made of grape pomace (grape residual left after making wine). It can also be produced from non-ripe or non-cultured grapes and in some cases fig, tangerine, orange, or mulberry. Since ChaCha is not really commercially made, it is not regulated or sold in real stores. It is usually packaged in used soda bottles {normally Fanta}. It can be purchased in Mom and Pop corner markets, Farmers Markets, back alleys and basements throughout Georgia. Generally a bottle {450ml}costs around 2 Lari {$1}. The term "ChaCha" is used in Georgia to refer to any type of moonshine made of fruits.

One of the best dry wines of Georgia, Mukuzani
One of the best dry wines of Georgia, Mukuzani

Georgia has one of the oldest wine-making traditions in the world and has been called the birthplace of wine (also as "Cradle of Wine"), due to archaeological findings which indicate wine production back to 5000 BC. Due to this fact, Georgians have some of the best wines in the world. Thanks to the ancient tradition of wine production and amazing climate, Georgian wine holds its strong competition with French and Italian. Definitely try out Georgian wine. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to export home-bottled wine, which is often the best kind. Georgian wines are actually quite famous. It may be true that they are little known in the West, but this definitely does not include some 280 million people in the former Soviet Union where Georgian wines remain a welcomed drink at any dining table.

Red

  • Saperavi (საფერავი sah-peh-rah-vee)
  • Mukuzani (მუკუზანი moo-k'oo-zah-nee)
  • Khvanchkara (ხვანჭკარა khvahnch-k'ah-rah) - semi-sweet
  • Kindzmarauli (კინძმარაული keendz-mah-rah-oo-lee) - semi-sweet

White

  • Tsinandali (წინანდალი ts'ee-nahn-dah-lee)
  • Kakheti (კახეთი k'ah-kheh-tee)
  • Tbilisuri (თბილისური tbee-lee-soo-ree)

Imports of Georgian wine and mineral water have been suspended by the Russian government, because of the political tension between the two counties.

Beer

Georgia produces a number of local beers. A beer tradition has existed in Georgia since ancient times in the mountainous regions of Khevsureti and Tusheti. After independence from the Soviet Union, Georgia revived its beer production and introduced its high quality beers to the market. The first and most popular of Georgian beer was Kazbegi. As of today, beer production in Georgia is still growing, offering high quality beers (thanks to the high quality mountain spring waters in Georgia and to German designed beer factories). There are also many foreign beers like Heineken, Bitburger, Lowenbrau, Guinness, etc.

Georgian Beer

  • Kazbegi (ყაზბეგი q'ahz-beh-gee)
  • Aluda
  • Natakhtari
  • Lomisi
  • Bavariis Herzogi
  • Argo
  • Khevsuruli
  • Tushuri

Mineral Waters

Georgian mineral waters have exceptional and interesting tastes - very different from French and Italian varieties. The most famous Georgian mineral waters are Borjomi (ბორჯომი bohr-joh-mee) and Nabeglavi (ნაბეღლავი nah-beh-ghlah-vee). But there is a plethora of less well-known springs located in small towns and alongside roads throughout the country that is worth sampling.

Lagidze Waters (Soft Drink)

Mitrofan Lagidze (ლაღიძე lah-ghee-dzeh) is a surname of a very famous Georgian businessman of the 19th century who produced very popular soft drinks in Georgia. Nowadays these waters are called “the Lagidze Waters.” Lagidze soft drinks are made only with natural fruit components, without any chemical, artificial sugars or other additives. The most popular flavors are tarragon and cream&chocolate. You can find them bottled in stores.

Sleep

Outside of Tbilisi (where there are numerous options for 3 star plus accommodation thanks to the NGO presence in the country) western-style hotels have not made much inroads and crumbling Soviet infrastructure remains the mainstays of most hotels. Accordingly, outside the capital private homes are always the cheapest and most enjoyable option. If you can master a little basic Russian, going to the central square or market will probably land you a lovely big bed and some amazingly fresh home-made food for an agreed price.

Update 2008: A number of high-quality luxury hotels have been opened in Batumi. Additionally a popular skiing resort - Gudauri offers trendy accommodation in a Marco Polo hotel.

Learn

There are a handful of universities in Georgia which offer degrees or exchange programs taught in English:

  • University of Georgia [9]
  • Grigol Robakidze University [10]
  • International Black Sea University (English exclusively) [11]
  • Caucasus University [12]
  • Georgian American University (English exclusively) [13]
  • European School of Management-Tbilisi [14]
  • Kutaisi University of Law and Economics [15]

and a few others...

Work

Georgians are hard-working people in general, but they also like to have enough free time to enjoy life. Work can start at 10AM or 11AM and end at 6-7PM. Georgians like to take an hour lunch break and enjoy their food while socializing with their co-workers. People often take two weeks or a whole month off work to enjoy vacationing with family. It is an attitude in many ways similar to southern Europe and Mediterranean ones. Approaches to punctuality are very relaxed - don't be surprised or offended if your Georgian companions don't show up right on time!

Stay safe

Most of Georgia is safe for travelers. Scammers and thieves do not usually single out tourists, maybe because there are usually not that many tourists in Georgia. Within cities, usual street-smart caution applies.

Corruption, once a big hassle for tourists, has become far less visible since the Rose Revolution. It is now safe and reasonable to trust the Georgian police, as the infamous and corrupt traffic police have been disbanded. (Currently there is no traffic police in Georgia.)

The greatest danger to visitors of Georgia by far is the road traffic. Georgian norms of driving are dominated by a macho, chivalric code that disregards the use of seatbelts and, after dark, headlights. Drivers do not give way to pedestrians, so be very careful when crossing the street.

Georgian King Gorgasali overlooking Tbilisi
Georgian King Gorgasali overlooking Tbilisi

Things in Tbilisi and the surrounding countryside have calmed down a lot in the last 2 years or so. Although Tbilisi sometimes has been singled out for its (not always deserved) reputation for street crime, mugging is rather a rare phenomenon. However, in the past few years there has been an increase in muggings targeting Westerners in Tbilisi. Usual urban caution should apply -- avoid walking alone after dark while being aware of your surroundings. The safest way to travel around the city after dark is by taxi, which is very affordable. Locals insist that muggings are likely to happen in the suburban, mountainous areas of Tbilisi.

Other crime-related hazards in Tbilisi are the apartment break-ins and carjacking. There is no evidence indicating these crimes would target travelers, but carjackers certainly do target good looking and expensive cars. Pickpocketing and purse-snatching are also a local nuisance that can be avoided by keeping an eye on one's belongings. This type of crime is especially common on the crowded public transportation.

Kutaisi

The available evidence indicates that Kutaisi, the second largest city in Georgia, suffers from crime rates significantly higher than the national average. It is very important to exercise caution in Kutaisi after dark.

city of Batumi
city of Batumi

The separatist conflict between Adjara and the central government has ended with little violence, and it is now perfectly safe to travel throughout the region. The once rampant corruption should now be a rarity for travelers. Passing through customs at the Sarpi-Hopa border crossing is now routine and uneventful for most tourists.

On the 2200m high plateau of beautiful Tsminda Sameda church, above the town of Kazbegi, northern Georgia
On the 2200m high plateau of beautiful Tsminda Sameda church, above the town of Kazbegi, northern Georgia

The mountainous areas of Georgia are remote and lightly policed. The safest and most easily to visit regions of the Georgian Upper Caucasus are Kazbegi and Racha. The biggest security hazard in these regions is altitude sickness.

Previous worries of instability in the Georgian northeast, near the border with Chechnya, have subsided, and the Pankisi Gorge is certainly not considered as dangerous a region to visit as Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

Svaneti is perhaps the most romantic and mysterious of all Georgian regions, but its inhabitants, the Svans, have a reputation for fierce independence and distrust of outsiders (as well as legendary hospitality for accepted guests). Travelers should exercise special caution when visiting Svaneti, which is best to see with a local guide.

Tusheti is the most secluded part of the Caucasus range in Georgia. The access is only possible from June to October because of the big quantity of snow. Only few families live there all the year. It remains the most authentic place in Georgia.

Separatist Regions

It is not safe to travel to Abkhazia or South Ossetia. These regions are not under the control of the national government and are marked by violence between the Georgian military and separatist militant groups, who since Summer 2008 are backed up by Russian troops who are considered to be occupiers by the Tblisi government. The area's high rate of crime/lawlessness is facilitated by the absence of the central government's police and legal jurisdiction. Foreign tourists are known to have been kidnapped in the 2 separatist regions, where you'll have no recourse in case your passport is stolen. If traveling to these areas, it is advisable to bring an armed escort.

Stay healthy

In Georgia, especially in Tbilisi you will be able to find many gyms and fitness centers with swimming pools and brand new training equipment, where you will be able to work out. Facilities include:

  • Vake Fitness, Chavchavadzis Gamziri 49b. It is a large, modern place with a big swimming pool.
  • Tbilisi Marriott Hotel, Rustavelis Gamziri 13.

Giardia is a common threat to foreign visitors. Contraction is most likely via:

  • tap water
  • swallowed water from lakes, rivers, pools, or jacuzzis
  • raw fruits & vegetables
  • unpasteurized milk or other dairy products

Respect

Georgians are hospitable to a fault (and beyond). If a Georgian invites you somewhere it will be almost impossible to pay for anything and even raising the subject of who will cover the bill can be embarrassing for your host. If invited to a private home for dinner, make sure you arrive amply stocked with wine or sweets because your hosts may well be bankrupting themselves on your behalf.

If traveling in small towns (and in the quieter parts of Tbilisi) it is customary to greet almost everyone who passes you with a friendly "Gamarjobat" (Hello). After years of isolation followed by war and economic turmoil foreigners are still regarded with undisguised curiosity and a casual greeting in the street could land you in the middle of the best dinner party of your life.

It is a very ingrained and idiosyncratic characteristic of Georgian hospitality that Georgians wish nothing more than to hear that foreigners are enjoying their experience in Georgia. Expect to be asked whether you enjoy Georgia and its cuisine. And it is expected that you respectfully reply in the affirmative. Otherwise your "hosts" will look terribly dejected as if expressing a feeling of collective failure to show visitors enough hospitality.

Dress conservatively when visiting churches. Shorts are not recommended. For women, head covering and dress or skirt are usually required; in some places, these are provided.

Contact

By phone

Georgia uses GSM (900 MHz and 1800 MHz) for mobile phones and there are three providers, Geocell [16] (pre-paid LaiLai card), Magti [17] (two prepaid brands "Bali" and "Mono"). Coverage [18] and BeeLine. Service provided by the first two is exceptionally good and you should be able to use your phone in most non-mountainous areas provided is supports the afore-mentioned technologies. Check with your mobile provider to ensure that they have roaming agreements with at least one of the Georgian operators. Both, Geocell and Magti have UMTS/3G service including video call and high speed data. Roaming is possible if you own a UMTS capable mobile phone. Geocell has cheapest mobile internet solution over its network.

Internet

DSL is available in Georgia.

  • Caucasus Network
  • Georgia Online

By net

In major hotels WLAN service is available.

Internet cafés are common and cheap. Internet is also available at Café Nikala on Rustavelis Gamziris, the Fashion TV Bar, and Rustaveli. Some places offer free WLAN to their customers.

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Simple English

საქართველო
Sakartvelo
Georgia
Official flag
National information
National motto: "Strength is in Unity."
(Georgian: "ძალა ერთობაშია")
National anthem: თავისუფლება ("Freedom")
About the people
Official languages: Georgian
Population: (# of people)
  - Total: 4,661,473 (ranked 117)
  - Density: 64 per km²
Geography / Places
Here is the country on a map.
Capital city: Tbilisi
Largest city: Tbilisi
Area
  - Total: 69,700 km2 (26,911.3 sq mi) (ranked 121)
Politics / Government
Leaders: President Mikhail Saakashvili
Prime Minister Nika Gilauri
Economy / Money
Currency:
(Name of money)
Georgian lari (ლ)
International information
Time zone: +04:00
Telephone dialing code: 995
Internet domain: .ge

Georgia is a country in the Caucasus on the edge of the Black Sea. During 1991-1995 its full name was the Republic of Georgia but since 1995 it is Georgia as written in the Constitution. It used to be part of the Soviet Union, but now it is an independent republic.

Contents

Geography

[[File:|left|thumb|300px|A map of Georgia]] Georgia is next to the countries of Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It also has a coast on the Black Sea. It lies at the edge of Europe and Asia.

Georgia has many mountains. Its highest point is 5,048 m above sea level. The mountains running through Georgia are called the Caucasus Mountains.

The capital of Georgia is called Tbilisi.

Culture

The population of Georgia is about 4.5 million. About 1.3 million of these live in Tbilisi. People from Georgia are called Georgians. Most of them speak Georgian as their first language, though some people also speak Armenian, Russian or other languages. The most famous person to have come from Georgia is Josef Stalin.

Most Georgians are Christians, but there are some Muslims and Jews as well.

The currency of Georgia is called the lari.

History

The Georgians are an ancient people. Their Capital Tbilisi was founded around AD 400, after the end of the Roman Empire . Western Georgia was part of the Roman empire before then. The Arabs captured it in 635 AD. The culture continued and they flourished through trade. In the 900s Arabs were weaker and the Georgians became their own country again. It was the major country in the region until the Mongols invaded in 1223. Georgia was part of the Mongolian empire for a century on and off until 1334, when King Giorgi V took over. In the 1500s the Persians invaded Georgia four times from 1541-1544. In 1555 the Kings of Kartli ruled through the will of the will of the Persian shahs. In 1783 The treaty of Georgievsk was signed between Catherine the Great of Russia and King Herekle, giving Russia the power to protect Georgia. Then, in 1798 the Persians burned Tbilisi to the ground. From 1811 to 1918 Georgia was under the Tsar of Russia. Their culture survived intact. From 1918 to 1921 Georgia was independent, and then was part of the Soviet Union. In 1991 Georgia declared their independence and they have been their own country ever since. There was a rough patch between 1994 and 1995 when the economy was poor, but now Georgia is a country with close ties with the United States. They are currently applying to NATO.

Other websites

Major statue of dicator joseph stalin removed for good on june 25 2010!

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