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Print version. Published on site Rusnet.NL 8 December 2003

Encyclopedia :: G :: Georgia

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Updated: 14.11.2003

Officially Republic of Georgia, Georgian Sakartvelo, or Sakartvelo Respublikis, country of Transcaucasia located at the eastern end of the Black Sea on the southern flanks of the main crest of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. It covers an area of about 26,900 square miles (69,700 square kilometres) and is bounded on the north and northeast by Russia, on the east and southeast by Azerbaijan, on the south by Armenia and Turkey, and on the west by the Black Sea.

Georgia includes three ethnic enclaves: Abkhazia, in the northwest (principal city Sukhumi); Adjaria, in the southwest (principal city Batumi); and South Ossetia, in the north (principal city Tskhinvali). The capital of Georgia is Tbilisi (former Tiflis).

The roots of the Georgian people extend deep in history; their cultural heritage is equally ancient and rich. During the medieval period a powerful Georgian kingdom existed, reaching its height between the 10th and 13th centuries.

After a long period of Turkish and Persian domination, Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire in the 19th century. An independent Georgian state existed from 1918 to 1921, when it was incorporated into the Soviet Union. In 1936 Georgia became a constituent (union) republic and continued as such until the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the Soviet period the Georgian economy was modernised and diversified.

One of the most independence-minded republics, Georgia declared sovereignty on Nov. 19, 1989, and independence on April 9, 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.

On November 23, 2003, Eduard Shevardnadze has resigned amid massive protests over disputed parliamentary election results. He announced the move after opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili gave him an ultimatum to quit at talks mediated by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Once a relatively affluent part of the Soviet Union, the loss of cheap Soviet energy and the rupturing of trading ties caused the economy to nose-dive. Despite a recent improvement, the republic remains among the poorest countries of the former USSR and is still dependent on Russia for its energy supply.

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. Although diplomatic efforts have brought relative stability in recent years, tensions over both regions persist.

Population: 5 million
Capital: Tbilisi
Major languages: Georgian, Russian
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 69 years (men), 76 years (women)
Monetary unit: 1 lari = 100 tetri
Main exports: Scrap metal, wine, fruit
Average annual income: US $590
Internet domain: .ge
International dialling code: +995