Georgia is located on the crossroad of Europe and Asia. It lays 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. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi. Georgia’s total territory covers 69,700 square kilometers.
Population in Georgia is almost 5 million. Official language is Georgian. Country is unitary semi-presidential republic. Georgian currency is Georgian Lari () (GEL). The native name of Georgia is “Sakartvelo”.
The climate of Georgia is extremely diverse, considering the nation’s small size. The highest mountain in Georgia is Mount Shkhara at 5,068 meters.
A large majority of Georgia’s population (83.9% in 2002) practices Orthodox Christianity.
Largest cities and towns of Georgia are: Tbilisi; Kutaisi; Batumi; Rustavi; Zugdidi; Gori; Poti; Khashuri; Samtredia.
Georgia has the dubious distinction of being one of the most invaded nations on Earth. As a nation at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it has been marked by war for ages. From the I century BC to the XVIII century AD the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottomans and Russians have all attempted to possess this beautiful land, but none have ever conquered it completely or permanently. As a result, our history became one of the skilled survivals – preserving our culture against overwhelming odds again and again. To protect against invaders an elaborate system of watchtowers (many of which still exist) alerted the people to an attack, and precious religious icons and relics would disappear into caves and hidden mountain fortresses. Villages in the most remote mountain valleys would escape the invaders attention entirely, thus some of the oldest and most superlative frescoes are found in the highlands.
In Greek mythology, western coasts of Georgia were home to the famous Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts. Incorporation of the Golden Fleece into Greek mythology was influenced by an ancient Georgian practice of using fleeces to sift gold dust from the mountain rivers. In addition to ties to ancient Greeks, various early Georgian kingdoms were client states and allies of the Roman Empire for centuries.
Georgia was the second country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. According to the legend, Saint Nino of Cappadocia introduced Christianity to the Georgian people in 330 AD, although parts of the country around the Black Sea had already converted to Christianity two centuries before. As the legend goes, Saint Nino bound a cross from grape vines with her own hair; Saint Nino’s cross has remained as a symbol of the Georgian Church (and can still be seen in Sioni Cathedral, Tbilisi). Georgia’s early adoption of Christianity had huge implications on how the future would have developed for Georgians, as it permanently oriented the country to the West, to Rome, and later to Europe as a whole.
By the 10th century, various Georgian-speaking states converged to form the Kingdom of Georgia, which became a potent regional power in the 12th and 13th centuries, also known as the Georgian Golden Age. This period of revival was inaugurated by King David IV the Builder (1089-1125), who was Georgia’s most prominent king, he succeeded in driving the Turks out and almost single-handedly initiated the country’s Golden Age. Georgia reached its zenith during the rule of Queen Tamar (she was referred as King because of her incredible power). She was the grand-daughter of David the Builder, and during her reign Georgians enjoyed a cultural renaissance, evidenced by monastery building and a fresco and ornamental design art movements. Richly appointed churches sprang up across the newly formed empire, many atop mountains and still in place today. Georgian culture grew exponentially in this Golden Age. Schools, bridges and monasteries were built and a literary tradition began.
Like it’s ally Greece, Georgia was in some sense Europe’s gatekeeper throughout the Middle Ages – being a peripheral country, much of the Islamic invasions hit Georgia first.
By the end of the Middle Ages, Georgia began to gradually decline and fracture due to persistent incursions of Mongols and other nomadic peoples. The Mongols were expelled by George V the Brilliant, but various Muslim conquerors followed, not giving the realm enough time to fully recover. Georgia’s geopolitical situation further worsened after the Fall of Constantinople, which meant that Georgia was now an isolated enclave, surrounded by hostile Turco-Iranic neighbors with whom it had nothing in common. Under pressure, Georgia soon disintegrated, allowing Ottoman Turkey and Persia to subjugate western and eastern regions of Georgia, respectively. For the next 250 years Georgia was unable to regain the independence.
Since the mid-15th century, rulers in both western and eastern Georgian kingdoms repeatedly sought aid from major European powers but to no avail. King Vakhtang VI of Eastern Georgia sent his emissary to France and the Papal States in order to secure assistance for Georgia, but nothing tangible could be secured. Lack of Western assistance left Georgia exposed – pushed by the invading Ottoman Army.
Left with no good options, in 1783 Eastern Georgia signed the controversial Treaty of Georgievsk with the Russian Empire. Recognizing the bond of Orthodox Christianity between the two nations, the treaty established Georgia as a protectorate of Russia, while guaranteeing Georgia’s territorial integrity and the continuation of its reigning dynasty. Despite the promises, however, Russia did not hold it’s end of the bargain: it failed to immediately render assistance against foreign incursions and instead began to absorb Georgia piece by piece against the spirit of the original agreement. Russia downgraded the Georgian Orthodox Church to the status of a local Russian archdiocese, while also downgrading the Georgian Royalty to the level of Russian nobility. The country quickly turned into a resort for the Russian Imperial Family, some members of which had respiratory problems and cherished Georgia’s clean, alpine climate.
Having lived more than a century under the Russian Empire, in 1918 Georgia established its first-ever modern republic with German and British military support. Russia, however, soon invaded and forcibly incorporated Georgia into the Soviet Union. Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia reclaimed its independence but at a heavy price. Pro-Russian separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia waged secessionist wars, descending the country into chaos for most of the 1990s.
Georgia’s turbulent period started to come to an end following the peaceful Rose Revolution of 2003, when the country implemented a series of major democratic and economic reforms aimed at integration with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and various European institutions. According to Transparency International, Georgia is the least corrupt country in the Black Sea region, including all of its immediate neighbors, as well as nearby European Union States states.
In June 2014, the EU and Georgia signed an Association Agreement, which entered into force on July 1, 2016. On 13 December 2016, EU and Georgia reached the agreement on visa liberalization for Georgian citizens. On 27 February 2017, the Council adopted a regulation on visa liberalization for Georgians travelling to the EU for a period of stay of 90 days in any 180-day period.
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. Forests cover around 40% of Georgia’s territory while the alpine/subalpine zone accounts for roughly around 10 percent of the land.
The climate of Georgia is extremely diverse, considering the nation’s small size. There are two main climatic zones, roughly corresponding to the 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. The region’s weather patterns are influenced both by dry 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 mountain ranges (Likhi and Meskheti) that separate the eastern and western parts of the nation.
Georgia, this mountainous country, is home to some of Europe’s highest mountain peaks. It also presents a large mix of other landscapes and micro-climates, ranging from dry wine-growing valleys in the east, to lush Black Sea resorts in the west.
The Georgian literary language is Kartuli, it forms an isolated group of languages unrelated to anything else. It is known as the South Caucasian Group. Caucasian languages tend to be hard, having extensive phonetic ranges and elaborate grammars that make them a rich but tiresome subject to study.
Of all the indigenous Caucasian nations only the Georgians have developed their own alphabet. It is strictly phonetic, every distinctive sound having its own character. The origins of this alphabet are obscure.
UNESCO has added the Georgian alphabet to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion of Georgia. Christianity was adopted very early by the Georgians and by 350 a.D. it had become the religion of the state.
The Georgian church is autokephalos, having its own patriarch and being subject to no foreign religious authority. Though kin to Russian Orthodoxy in spirit, the two are only indirectly linked via Greek Orthodoxy and there is much resentment against Russian influence. The time of Russian dominance has brought no less destruction to the Georgian church than has the rule of non Christian Turks, Arabs and Persians.
Religious minorities of Georgia include Muslims, Armenian Christians and Roman Catholics
There is also an ancient Jewish community, centered mainly in the west of the country.
Georgian culture evolved over thousands of years from its foundations in the Iberian and Colchian civilizations.Georgian culture enjoyed a renaissance and golden age of classical literature, arts, philosophy, architecture and science in the 11th century. Georgian culture was influenced by Classical Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the various Iranian empires (notably the Achaemenid, Parthian, Sassanian, Safavid and Qajar empires), and later, from the 19th century, by the Russian Empire.
Georgia is known for its folklore, traditional music, dances, theatre, cinema, and art.
Music and poetry are favorite pastime of the Georgians. Besides being of outstanding beauty, the elaborate polyphone character of Georgian music has been of much interested to music scientist. In the past it was equally important for a man to excel in singing as it was to excel in battle.
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. Other architectural aspects of Georgia include Rustaveli avenue in Tbilisi in the Haussmann style, and the Old Town District.
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 Georgia, wine drinking and toasting is the backbone of an elaborate social conduct of almost religious proportions. To drink wine means to sit for many hours and to let the conversation follow, each one introduced in due order by the Tamada , the head of the table. Whenever it is the time to proceed to the next theme the Tamada raises the glass and starts a speech to honor, praise or otherwise benefit the subject of the theme, it being the faith, the children, the family, the memory of the deceased or whatever is dear to the heart of the people. After he has finished others take over and add details, which might lead to a lengthy discussion on the subject, with people occasionally lifting the glass and showing the intention to drink, what finally everyone will do, toasting to the benefit of the theme and loudly saying Gaumadjos! In this way each drinker might consume several liters of wine during the banquet. But there is no urge to drink. It is completely fine to just take a nib and join in the toast.