Georgia is a country situated on the crossroad of Europe and Asia. From the south-east it has a border with Azerbaijan, from the south – with Armenia and Turkey, from the north – with Russia. The western part of Georgia is washed by the Black Sea. Tbilisi is a capital of Georgia founded in the fifth century.
Population of the country with total area of 69 700 square kilometers is 3 720 000 people. It is amazing but on this small land there are 26 060 rivers and over 40 protected areas. That is why the vast part of the country is occupied by untouched nature.
Amazing nature and the diversity of this country was the source of inspiration for a lot of writers and poets. Here we have everything that the traveler can only dream about: mountains of eternal snow, mountain lakes, alpine meadows, Canyon Rivers full of flowers and fruit, palm coasts, natural canyons, ancient caves, mineral waters and sulfur water pools – thus this place is indeed a heaven on Earth!
Georgia, with diverse climate zones, is all year round destination. Here, subtropical and mild climate zones replace each other. Summer is sunny, temperature fluctuates from 29 ° C to 33 ° C., and in winter – from -2 ° C to 4 ° C. It does not matter who you are and what type of vacation you like, this country will satisfy your expectations!
Georgia’s capital Tbilisi is an ancient center of Caucasus. Its history counts 16 centuries. From the IV century Tbilisi is a hub of Georgian identity and allures all Georgian within.
The Capital is spread on 720 square kilometers. Lying on the banks of the Mtkvari (Kura) River 380-600 meters above sea level, Tbilisi bounded by south foot-fills of the Saguramo Range to the north, Iori plain’s northwest segment to the east and various endings of the Trialeti Range to the west and south.
Tbilisi has mildly warm humid subtropical climate. Typically winter is mildly cold and summer is hot. Average annual temperature is 12,7 °C; temperature in January is 0,9 °C and in July 24,4 °C.
Our country’s cultural life is concentrated in Tbilisi as well. It is a multicultural city hosting rich historic-cultural heritage and vibrant modern urban sub-culture with booming nightlife and creative arts.
Geographically Georgia is divided into two parts: eastern and western, each of which developed its own distinct culture – Kolkhian (west) and Iberian (east). In the 4th century B.C. King Parnavaz I established the first eastern Georgian state – the Kingdom of Kartli. The Parnavazian Dynasty in Kartli lasted until 65 B.C. This period proved to be of utmost significance to Georgia. Some sources in Georgian historical chronicles date the creation of the Georgian alphabet back to King Pharnavaz I’s reign.
Christianity first reached Georgia in the 1st century A.D. The Apostles Andrew the First, Simon the Zealot and Matthias were the first to preach the teachings of Christ here. In approximately 330 AD St. Nino of Cappadocia came to Georgia in order to spread Christianity. She converted King Mirian, who then declared it the state religion, followed by thriving Christian scholarly and cultural life. The activities of renowned scholars and philosophers of those times Petre Iberieli and Ioane Lazi command special tribute as well.
In the 4th century AD, schools of rhetoric and philosophy based in Pazisi (modern Poti) were engaged in translating ancient books and manuscripts. Original hagiographic literature was also written in Georgian. The earliest survived until today The Martyrdom of St. Shushanik was written in the 5th century, followed by The Martyrdom of Evstate Mtskheteli in the 6th century. Kingdom of Kartli was once again invaded by the Persians in the 5th century, during the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali. Gorgasali is notable for moving the capital of the country from Mtskheta to Tbilisi and implementing a number of church reforms.
It was in the 11th-12th centuries when Georgia flourished the most. In 1089, King George II yielded the throne to his 16 year old son Davit. Davit IV went on to become one of the nation’s greatest monarchs. Considered as one of the greatest political figures in the nation’s history, Georgians have dubbed this reformer and unifier “Davit Agmashenebeli” (“Davit The Builder“). Among his biggest reforms are the unification of the Georgian church in 1103 by summoning the heads of the churches from all over the country to an ecclesiastical gathering known as the Ruisi-Urbnisi Church Council, and establishment of the regular army which enabled him to defeat and expel Turks from the Georgian lands and start the build-up of the state.
This period of prosperity in Georgia continued and reached its peak during the reign of Queen Tamar (1184-1213). At that time, Georgia was not only able to defend itself from the Turkish invaders but also to drive invaders out from other South Caucasus kingdoms. The victories gained in the Battles of Shamkori (1195) and Basiani (1202) are considered highlights of the Georgian military history. During the reign of Queen Tamar, Georgia became the most powerful country in Asia Minor. Therefore, the 11-12th centuries witnessed “Golden Age of Georgia”, which also produced one of the masterpieces of the Georgian culture – epic poem- “The Knight in Panther’s Skin” by Shota Rustaveli.
From early 14th century, Georgia suffers from numerous invasions of Mongol hordes. Solely Tamerlane the Great raided Georgia eight times in 1386-1403, devastating country’s economy and reducing the thriving cities to ruins. Economic recession from continuous invasions and treachery among ruling feudals resulted in the division of Georgia into three separate kingdoms: Kakheti, Kartli and Imereti.
In 18th century, King Vakhtang VI introduced a number of reforms in attempt to save the country from economic and political collapse. His reign is also noteworthy with the establishment of the first Georgian printing house that published the first print book “The Knight in Panther’s Skin” in 1712.
From 1720ies, Turkish invaders occupied Georgia again. King Erekle II (nick-named “Patara Kakhi”) ruling in 1744-1798 took energetic steps towards unifying the eastern parts of Georgia – kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti, and simultaneously fighting for sovereignty from Ottoman and Persian Empires. As Erekle proved unable to defend Georgia from invaders solely with his own forces, he took the decision to appeal to Orthodox Russia for support. Bilateral Treaty of Georgievsk was concluded between the Russian Empire and east Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti In 1783. The treaty established eastern Georgia as a protectorate of Russia, which guaranteed its territorial integrity and the continuation of Georgian Royal Bagrationi dynasty reign in return for prerogatives in the conduct of Georgian foreign affairs.
In 1891, Georgia was all but completely annexed by the Russian Empire. The Russians ignored Georgian habits and traditions and sought to eradicate Georgian language and culture. Almost all frescos in all Georgian cathedrals were white-washed and both the status of the Patriarch of Georgia and the autocephaly of the Georgian Church were abolished.
Georgia gained short-lived independence from czarist Russia in 1917 when the Democratic Republic of Georgia, with a provisional government, was established. In March of the same year, the Georgian church regained its autocephaly and a new patriarch Kirion was elected. On 1920, Russia recognized independence of Georgia, followed by the de facto acknowledgement of the sovereign state by the Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan. However, in February of 1921, Tbilisi was occupied by the Red Army of the Soviet Russia and the democratic government of Georgia was forced to flee. From 1921 to 1991 the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia was one of the 15 constituent republics of the Soviet Union until the breakup of USSR.
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Georgia was one of the first republics to take steps towards independence from USSR. This process was accelerated by the events of April 9 of 1989, when Soviet soldiers brutally crushed a peaceful rally in Tbilisi, killing 21 protesters. The demonstration crackdown of April 9 gained a deep resonance in many republics of the Soviet Union, particularly in the Baltic countries.
Elections held on 28 October 1990 put an end to Soviet Georgia. The Round Table-Free Georgia party, headed by former political dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia won a convincing victory. On 31 March 1991, a referendum on the restoration of the country’s independence was overwhelmingly approved by Georgian citizens. Symbolically, Georgia’s Declaration of Independence was adopted at a session of the Supreme Council on 9 April 1991. On 26 May 1991, the first presidential elections were held which saw the victory of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first president of independent Georgia.
In 1991, protests against President Gamsakhurdia grew into civil war and resulted in the ousting of Zviad Gamsakhurdia and his supporters from Georgia in January 1992. For the following two months the country was governed by a so-called Military Council. In March 1992, Georgian native former Foreign Affairs Minister of USSR, Eduard Shevardnadze returned to Georgia from Moscow to lead the Military Council.
Additional conflicts arose in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia and the Autonomous Region of South Ossetia. Separatist forces, with the assistance from Russian military divisions and mercenaries of the Confederation of the Peoples from the Northern Caucasus, defeated Georgian army and broke away from Georgian control in 1993.
In 1995, the Constitution of Georgia was adopted followed by presidential and parliamentary elections. As a result of presidential elections, Eduard Shevardnadze, until then Georgia’s de-facto leader, was officially elected president, a post he would hold until 23 November 2003. Parliamentary elections of 1999 brought the Citizens’ Union party in majority.
On 2 November 2003, next parliamentary elections took place, and despite widespread election falsifications, the Central Election Commission awarded victory to the pro-government bloc For New Georgia. For that reason, peaceful protesters took the matter to the streets of Tbilisi, often called ‘Rose Revolution‘, demanding new parliamentary elections. On 23 November, in the presence of opposition leaders Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Igor Ivanov, President Eduard Shevardnadze officially announced his resignation. In accordance with Georgia’s Constitution, Speaker of the Parliament Nino Burjanadze took over the duties of the president for slightly over a month.
On 4 January 2004, Mikheil Saakashvili won presidential elections with 97% of votes. On February 17, 2004, after entering amendments in the Constitution of Georgia, Zurab Zhvania became the prime minister. The parliamentary elections of 28 March 2004 brought the National Movement/Democrats bloc in majority with Nino Burjanadze re-elected speaker of the parliament.
On 7 August 2008, Russian military forces invasion into Georgia resulted into brief war, after which Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an order recognizing the independence of two regions of Georgia – South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Besides Russian federation, independence of occupied Georgian territories is recognized only by Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Nauru. Regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are considered integral parts of Georgia by the rest of the international community. However, since August war, Russian Federation had increased its permanent military presence in the occupied regions, including areas which were under Georgian-government control before the war that constituted a direct violation of the EU-brokered ceasefire agreement of August 12, 2008. Till this day, South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain occupied territories with over 10,000 active duty military personnel of the Russian Federation on the ground.
Parliamentary elections of 2012 is recognized as the first peaceful transition of power from Mikheil Saakashvili’s party United National Movement to the Coalition Georgian Dream, led by Bidzina Ivanishvili who assumed the position of the Prime Minister following the party victory. 2012 parliamentary elections led since to the continuous tradition of free and fair elections enhancing a true democratic development of Georgia into the regional leader.
On the following year, at the presidential elections of November 2013, President Saakashvili was replaced by the Georgian Dream coalition candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili, who assumed a less influential presidential role due to the constitutional changes, which were enacted with his inauguration, transferring key powers from the president to the prime minister.
In 2013, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili stepped down in compliance with his election promise to stay in the position for the transitional one year. Ruling coalition named Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili as the new Prime Minister. The current leader of the Georgian government Giorgi Kvirikashvili serves as a Prime Minister since December 2015.
The Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of the world’s most ancient Christian Churches. Christianity first reached Georgia in the 1st century A.D. The Apostles Andrew the First Called, Simon the Zealot and Matthias were the first to preach the teachings of Christ here.
The conversion of one of the central Georgian kingdoms – the Kingdom of Kartli (Iberia) to Christianity is credited to St. Nino of Cappadocia who came to Georgia in approximately 330 AD. St. Nino preached the Gospel holding the grapevine cross in her hands. Therefore, the Georgian Orthodox cross is named after St. Nino who made it from grape branches knotted by her own hair. Before St. Nino’s arrival, Georgians used to worship pagan Mazdean idols. History credits St. Nino with having healed the mortally ill Queen Nana and later converting King Mirian who announced the Christianity as the official religion of Georgian Kingdom of Kartli in the begging of the 4th century.
Georgia’s conversion to Christianity led to the creation of autocephaly (self-rule) of Georgian/Iberian Church. Until the 5th century, the Georgian Orthodox Church was hierarchically subordinate first to the Constantinople and then to the Antioch patriarchates. During the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali from 466 to 468 AD, first Episcopal Chair was established in Mtskheta, the capital of the Kingdom of Kartli. The King granted the head of the Kartli regional church the title of Catholicos thus laying the groundwork for the autocephaly of the Georgian/Iberian church. In the 6th century, the Assyrian Brothers made a tremendous contribution to strengthening the Christian faith in Georgia.
The Patriarchate of the united all Georgia, established in the 11th century, was the sixth one in the world. Under the reign of Davit IV the Builder the Georgian church was brought under the state control and Giorgi Chkondideli Mtsignobartukhutsesi was appointed as supervisor.
The Orthodox Church played a significant role in developing literacy in Georgia. Schools and academies kept functioning within monasteries and churches (in Iqalto and Gelati) where priests and monks pursued relentlessly their scholarly activities, creating important hagiographic and liturgical works.
Following the Russian Empire’s annexation of Georgia in the 19th century, the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the office of Catholicos-Patriarch were abolished. The Georgian Church was incorporated into the Russian Synod as its exarchate. In the years from 1852 to 1869, the church property was transferred to the state treasury and the clergy started to receive regular salaries.
In March 1917, following the independence declaration of Georgia from the Russian Empire, the Georgian church restored its autocephaly and elected a new Catholicos-Patriarch.
With the invasion of the Red Army and occupation of Georgia by the Soviet Union in 1921, the condition of the Georgian Church much aggravated with persecutions of religious leaders and closure of churches by the Soviet establishment.
Current leader of the Georgian Church, Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II was enthroned in 1978. Since his accession to the office of patriarch and especially after the regaining of independence in 1991, numerous churches and cathedrals have been built and restored in Georgia.
Today 83.4 percent of the population practices Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with the majority of these adhering to the national Georgian Orthodox Church. Other religious groups of Georgia include Muslims, Armenian Christians and Roman Catholics.
Georgian is the official language of Georgia. In the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, Abkhazian is co-official language, along with Georgian. Georgian language is spoken by circa seven million people worldwide. The Georgian language belongs to the Kartvelian branch falling within the family of Ibero-Caucasian languages. Some other varieties of Kartvelian language are Megrelian, Laz and Svan. They have retained many archaic features of the Georgian language. A thorough study of Karvelian languages and dialects enables to track down historical peculiarities of the development of the Georgian language. The modern Georgian language distinguishes seven cases of nouns and has a very complicated system of verb conjugations.
Each region of Georgia has a variety of dialects including, Kartlian, Kakhetian, Pshavian, Tushetian, Khevsurian, Mtiulian, Mokhevian, Ingiloian, Imeretian, Gurian, Ajarian, Lechkhumian, Rachvelian, Meskhetian, Javakhian, Imerkhian and Fereidanian. The history of the Georgian language is divided into two periods – the ancient one (from the archaic era to the late 11th century) which is marked by a series of phonetic, morphological and lexical differences and variations. However, the ancient Georgian literary language represents a strictly regular system of linguistic norms. The modern Georgian literary language was formed in the 12th century, based largely on Kartlian and Kakhetian dialects. Georgian writers, Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Jakob Gogebashvili, Silovan Khundadze and other outstanding Georgian figures made a valuable contribution to the establishment of norms of the modern Georgian literary language.
Modern Georgian is written in an alphabet called Mkhedruli, which evolved from the Nuskhuri script, which in turn derives its origin from Asomtavruli (round-shaped letters). The currently used script Mkhedruli consists of 33 letters and fully corresponds to the standard script for modern Georgian consisting of 28 consonants and 5 vowels. The Asomtavruli inscriptions found on Davit’s stele (the 4th century AD) and on the walls of the Bolnisi Sioni Church (492-493 AD) are considered to be the earliest found examples of Georgian writing. Archaeological excavations at the Nekresi Monastery (Kakheti), conducted in the 1990s and in 2002-03 by the late Georgian archaeologist and academic Levan Chilashvili, have proved that the Georgian alphabet was created long before the spread of Christianity in Georgia. The excavations have brought to daylight the remains of a pagan temple. A ceramic vine vessel and a vine press found there feature inscriptions dating back to the 1st and the 2nd centuries AD.