Situated at the strategically important crossroads where Europe meets Asia, Georgia has a unique and ancient cultural heritage, and is famed for its traditions of hospitality and cuisine.
Over the centuries, Georgia was the object of rivalry between Persia, Turkey and Russia, before being eventually annexed by Russia in the 19th century.
Since emerging from the collapsing Soviet Union as an independent state in 1991, Georgia has again become the arena of conflicting interests, this time between the US and a reviving Russia. Tense relations with Russia have been further exacerbated by Moscow’s support for the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Georgia’s brief interlude of independence after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia ended when it was invaded by the Soviet Red Army in 1921 and incorporated into the Soviet Union a year later.
Batumi, in the semi-autonomous region of Ajaria, lies on the Black Sea and is a major attraction for visitors.
At a glance
- Politics: The country’s president and prime minister are both seen as proteges of tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, who founded the Georgian Dream party that finally dislodged former president Mikhail Saakashvili from power after a decade in office
- Economy: Foreign investment and economic reform have driven growth. Agriculture, including wine-making, is a key sector
- International: Tense relations with Russia – exacerbated by Moscow’s support for Georgia’s separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – culminated in armed conflict in 2008
The US has a major strategic interest in the country, having invested heavily in an oil pipeline from Azerbaijan via Georgia to Turkey. The Georgian armed forces have been receiving US training and support.
Increasing US economic and political influence in the country has long been a source of concern for the Kremlin, as have Georgia’s aspirations to join NATO and the EU.
Tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi are never far from the surface and in August 2008 flared up into an armed conflict triggered by clashes between Georgian troops and South Ossetian separatist forces.
Following the collapse of communism in the USSR in 1991, Georgians voted overwhelmingly for the restoration of independence and elected nationalist leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia as president. However, Gamsakhurdia was soon overthrown by opposition militias which in 1992 installed former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze as the country’s new leader.
During his 11 years in office, the Georgian people felt increasingly at the mercy of poverty, corruption and crime. He was ousted in November 2003 following mass demonstrations over the conduct of parliamentary elections.
Once a relatively affluent part of the USSR, with independence Georgia lost the cheap energy to which it had access in the Soviet period. As relations between Georgia and Russia deteriorated, Moscow did not flinch from tightening the economic screws, and the rupturing of trading ties caused the Georgian economy to nose-dive.
Georgia was initially heavily dependent on Russia for its energy supply. Like other Soviet states, it was badly affected when the price of gas supplied by the Russian gas giant Gazprom rose sharply in 2006. Since then, it has succeeded in diversifying the sources of its energy supplies, and now receives most of its gas from Azerbaijan.
Since independence, the people of Georgia have endured periods of civil war and unrest as well as violence related to the independence aspirations of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Both regions had close ties with Russia, whose troops had operated there since the early 1990s. In 2008 Moscow formally recognized the two territories as independent states, following an armed conflict between Georgia and Russia that grew out of clashes between Georgia and Russian-backed rebels in South Ossetia.
Russia has effectively controlled the two breakaway regions since then, and both are heavily dependent on Russian aid.
Moves by Russia to formalize its ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in late 2014 and early 2015 triggered fears in Georgia that Moscow was seeking to annex the two statelets.
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Georgia is a country which is located on the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is surrounded by Black sea in the west, Russia in the north, Turkey and Armenia in the south as well as Azerbaijan in south-east. The total area covered by Georgia is 69,700 kms and is inhabited by 5 million people.
In classical era, Georgia was known to be divided into separate small independent kingdoms. It was during the reign of King David IV and Queen Tamar that unified thekingdoms of Georgia and the country gained political and economic strength. During the beginning of 19th century, Georgia came under the rule of Russian empire. With the Russian revolution which took place in year 1917, Georgia gained independece, however, it was for a very short time period. In 1921, the country was occupied by Soviet Russia, and thus Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic came into existence. After gaining independence in 1991, communist Georgia came under civil unrest and suffered economic crisis during entire 1990’S period. In year 2003, Rose Revolution took place and helped establish new government which introduced new democratic and economic reforms.
Georgia is situated between latitudes 41 degree and 44 degree north and longitudes 40 degree and 47 degree east. The country is mainly a mountainous country with Likhi range separating the country in eastern and western halves. Georgia’s highest mountain is Mount Shkhara that stands at 5068 meters.
The eastern part of Georgia witnesses hot summers and cold winters; the climate in the western part is influenced by elevation. The lowlands of western Georgia are relatively warm while the mountainous regions experience cool, wet summers and snowy winters.