Capital - Tbilisi
Area - 69,700 square meters; 69,700 square meters
Climate – Diverse: Humidity – little amount, air – dry
Population - 4,630,841
- Georgians – 83.8%
- Azeri – 6.5%
- Armenians – 5.7%
- Russians – 1.5 %
- Ossetians – 0.9 %
- Iezids – 0.4 %
- Greeks – 0.3 %
- Kists – 0.2 %
- Ukrainians – 0.2 %
- Abkhazians – 0.1 %
National Currency - Lari
Location - Georgia is located on the borders of Europe and Asia, specifically in the Caucasus region. It borders the Black Sea from the west, Russian Federation from the north, Azerbaijan from the south east, and Armenia and Turkey from the south.
Georgia is a country of ancient civilization. Its territory was populated by people 1.7-1.8 million years ago. This fact is proven by the results of archaeological excavations in Dmanisi, south eastern Georgia, in 1999. Archaeologists discovered a skull of Homo erectus (Standing human) and the lower jaw of Archantropus. The remains of a human were found in Dmanisi and have been acknowledged as the oldest inhabitant of Eurasia and referred to as the "First European".
A very important road known by the name of "Silk Road" crossed the territory of ancient Georgia. It connected India and mid Asia with Europe. On one hand, it assisted the social, political, and economic upturn of the country. On the other hand, its advantageous strategic location subjected Georgia to the invasion of conquerors. This resulted in some lost territories but the Georgian people always found strength to escape the rule of foreign tribes. Through history, many powerful empires have collapsed but Georgia still remains and continues to protect its interests. Even today, Georgian heroes sacrifice themselves for the protection, unity and freedom of their homeland.
King Paranvaz the First, (304-239 B.C) who administered a series of national religious reforms appeared as the first official political figure in the history of Georgia. He is mentioned as the first ruler of Iberia by historic sources. Creation of the Georgian alphabet and distribution of the first scriptures in the Kingdom of Kartli are linked to his name. According to experts on Georgia, Parnavaz created the alphabet in 285-284 B.C
Christianity – The spread of Christianity in Georgia began in the first century when the Virgin Mary asked St. Andrew "The First", Svimon Kananeli, and Matata to come to her predestined Kingdom of Iveria and preach Christianity. However, Christianity was announced as a state religion in 326. This fact is linked to the names of King Mirian and Queen Nana, who adopted Christianity after the arrival of St. Nino from Cappadocia. The Georgian church has recognized King Mirian as a Saint.
Vakhtang the First – is also known as Vakhtang "Gorgasali". The years of his rule are still not ascertained. Most historians claim that he assumed the crown in the middle of the 5th century. In the 460-470s Vakhtang Gorgasali was able to unify the eastern and western kingdoms of Georgia with the help of the Iranians. He also founded the current capital of Georgia – Tbilisi. The Georgian Church was given autonomy during his rule. Vakhtang strengthened the independence and the royal government of Georgia by establishing Catholicon. The Georgian church has recognized King Vakhtang as a saint. The day of his death is assumed to be 502.
When the fight for principalities of Georgia reached the decisive phase, Bagrat III inherited the throne. He ended the fight and became the first King of unified Georgia. According to historic sources he is mentioned as "The King of Abkhazs, Georgians, Rans and Kakhs".
Davit IV - "The Builder" (1089-1121) was one of the most distinguished and successful rulers in the history of Georgia. During the time of his rule, old enemies tried to establish cordial neighborly relations with Georgia. He was able to defeat Turk-Seljuks in the battle of Didgori (August 12, 1121) and forced them out of the country. He also administered religious and military reforms in Georgia. The Georgian church has recognized David IV as a saint.
King Tamar (1184-1213) was the first female ruler in the history of Georgia, the period of which is known as the "Golden Age". During the time of Tamar, Georgia became the most powerful country in the Caucasus. Tamar was known as "the King of Kings, the Queen of Queens of Abkhazs, Georgians, Rans, Kakhs and Armenians, Shirvans and Shahanshas and all the west and east". As a result of King Tamar's constant military campaigns, Georgia's royal government subjected the east and west trade roads of the Caucasus to its control. Tamar created the Trabzon Kingdom, populated by Lazs and Chans, at the south of the Black Sea with the Greeks. During the time of Tamar the Georgian Kingdom was trying to imitate the Byzantine Empire by assuming the role of defender of the western culture. The Georgian church has recognized Tamar as a saint.
A poem of world importance, "The Knight in the Panther's Skin", which is a national achievement of medieval Georgia, was written during the time of Tamar. Very little is known about its author, Shota Rustaveli. "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" has always had a special meaning to Georgians and continues to be an integral part of the lives of many local families. "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" has been translated into 50 languages and is recognized as a masterpiece of world culture.
Giorgi V - "The Brilliant" (1318-1346) took charge of the politically fallen and economically weakened country. He practically restored Georgia from scratch and returned old glory to the country. He saved the Georgian nation from extinction.
At the beginning of his rule, he strengthened Georgia from within and merged it with western Georgia, after which he ceased to pay tribute to the Mongols and forced them out of the country. Giorgi V fought to strengthen the central government. He implemented legislative and financial reforms (created money, known as "Giorgauli Tetri"). He also created legislation called "the arrangement at the King's door" and "Monument-building".
Giorgi V was distinguished by his cautious politics. He had good relations with western and eastern rulers. During his rule, the international image of Georgia enhanced greatly. The Sultan of Egypt returned the "Monastery of the Cross" to Georgia. Georgians had permission to enter Jerusalem while riding horses and holding flags. In 1330, by the request of Papione XXII, the Catholic center was relocated from Smyrna to Tbilisi.
Vakhtang VI (1675-1737) His rule is distinguished by literature and intellectual development, as well as by the beginning of the renaissance period.
Vakhtang's uncle, Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani, created the special conception of raising a prince in his book "Sibrdzne-Sitsruisa," which played a large role in forming Vakhtang's personality. "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" was printed by King Vakhtang's initiative in 1712. He also created "The Commission of Educated Men" which was ordered to write the history of Georgia. The first book of chemistry, "Mixing Oils and Creating Chemistry" was published and the "Karabadini" scripture of Zaza Panaskerteli was revised under him. The astronomy work "Ziji" (knowledge of starts) and "The Book of Creation" were translated from Persian to Georgian. The first Persian-Georgian astronomy dictionary was published. "Apogtegmata", the biographies of Roman Emperors, written by Socrates, was translated from Russian to Georgian. Additionally, an Indian literature monument "Kilila and Damana" was translated from Persian to Georgian.
Erekle II (1720-1798) the King of Kartli and Kakheti was attempting to renew and strengthen the country in every way, but scheming developed around him, the rivalry of numerous feudal lords compromised the unity of the kingdom, and most importantly, the invasion of Iranians stifled his chance to do so. The King was forced to strengthen ties with the Russian Empire and sign the "Giorgievsky Treaty" (1783). The Russian Empire began violating the "Giorgievsky Treaty" soon after the death of the King and started abolishing Georgian principalities, which were weak because of the imbalance of power among them. Soon afterwards, the territory of Georgia became a province of Russia.
The Independence of Georgia – The idea of the independence of Georgia originated after the collapse of the Russian Empire, and was implemented on May 26, 1918. The coalition government of the Georgian Democratic Republic was formed; the first elected chairman was Noe Ramishvili, (Noe Jordania replaced him on July 24).
Annexation of Georgia – Three years after the formation of the independent state of Georgia, the 11th, 9th, 3rd, and 13th armies of Soviet Russia invaded and occupied the Georgian territory, followed by annexation of the country. Russia started military actions against Georgia in February. The units of the "Red Army" entered Georgia from the Azerbaijan border, Dariali Gorge, Mamison Pass, and the Black Seaside. Georgians aligned 40,000 troops against the enemy, including the Cadets (132 students and up to 15 officers). However, it was impossible to stop the Bolshevik large scale military wave. The government of independent Georgia was forced to leave Tbilisi. On February 25, 1921, the 11th Red Army of Russia entered the capital and the war ended with capitulation of the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the establishment of the Russian Occupational Regime.
The Post-Soviet Period – The Anti-Soviet movement of Georgia became active at the end of 1980s. Peaceful protests requesting to restore the independence of Georgia began in 1989 in Tbilisi. The protests were raided by the Soviet army, killing 16 civilians.
Georgia announced independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union and one of the leaders of the Georgian National Movement, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was elected as the first President of Georgia.
Zviad Gamsakhurdia was replaced by Eduard Shevardnadze, who came back to Georgia in 1992 and led the country until 2003.
Massacres and ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia and South Ossetia backed by Russia in the 1990s
The story of how Georgia's peaceful ethnic mosaic unraveled is a story of a tinderbox set alight by calculated Russian interference. What happened in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region was not unique: Russia attempted ethnic rebellions in the Baltic States (fomenting Russian speaking minorities), Ukraine (encouraging Crimean separatism), and Moldova (supporting the enclaves of Transdniester and Gagauzia), among other places.
But it was in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region where the full horror of those policies ran its course.
The conflict that hit the regions was as vicious as the ones that shook Yugoslavia. Indeed, measured by its impact on the population, it was much worse. In Yugoslavia, it is estimated that one in eight of the population were forced to flee their homes. In the Abkhazia and in Tskhinvali region, it was six in eight, so fully 75% of the regions' pre-war population were either killed or banished. The world, transfixed by the Yugoslav wars, paid little notice. The savagery of the separatists rebellion backed by the Russian regular military, the massacres, the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands scarcely merited a headline. Tolerance and mutual acceptance among ethnic groups have long been hallmarks of the Georgian society. For centuries, this land peacefully hosted dozens of ethnic groups, including Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Germans, Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Ossetians, Russians, and Ukrainians. These principles, deeply rooted in the past, have remained a cornerstone of modern Georgia's development. What happened next starts the tragic story of the mid-1980s. It was then that, throughout the Soviet empire, long-suppressed voices of dissent became vocal, demanding freedoms — among which the most potent was the right for those republics occupied and forcefully incorporated into the USSR to restore their independence. Georgia was among these republics, together with the Baltic States and others. Troubled in the late 1980s by independence movements throughout its empire, the Kremlin decided to use separatism as means to thwart Georgia's secession from the Soviet Union. Moscow therefore threw its full support behind the separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In March 1989, incited by their political patrons in Moscow, the separatists submitted a petition to the Kremlin asking to secede from Georgia; they explicitly signaled their loyalty to the Communist rule of the Soviet Union. This move was part of a scenario designed to impede Georgia's independence aspirations, and prompted mass protests across the country.
In turn, the protests fed a burgeoning pro-independence movement that was gathering pace across the country. On April 9, 1989, Soviet troops violently broke up a huge peaceful rally in Tbilisi. They killed 20 civilians, mostly women.
On March 31, 1991, Georgia held a referendum on independence, following in the footsteps of other former Soviet Republics. The referendum was held throughout the entire country, including Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region. Its results were definitive: 93% expressed their preference for an independent Georgia.
In April 1991, Georgia's democratically elected multi-party parliament declared its independence from the Soviet Union. In 1992, Separatists in the Abhazia and Tskhinvali region supported by Russia proclaimed independence from Georgia.
Brutal fighting broke out in both regions; leaving an estimated 6,000 dead in Abkhazia and 1,000 dead in the Tskhinvali region, as well as up to 500,000 IDPs.
During the conflict, Russian military forces became directly involved in combat, participating directly in military operations. Numerous Georgian and international sources possess indisputable evidence of direct armed support of the rebels by Russian regular military units.
The economy of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region is moribund, their population depleted by the war and ethnic cleansing; the result is a lush landscape disfigured by dozens of ghost villages and destroyed cities, with hundreds of streets and houses left to crumble to weed-infested ruins.
Since 2002, Russia has been issuing Russian passports to the remaining residents of the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. The Russian government is using this manufactured citizenship as a smokescreen for its aggressive designs against Georgia, claiming to be motivated solely by a "desire to protect its own citizens".
On August 26, 2008, Russia proclaimed the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions to be "independent states".
Russian Aggression against Georgia
In August 2008, the Russian Federation carried out large-scale military aggression against Georgia, occupied 20 percent of its territory, and proclaimed the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali to be "independent states".
During the war, the Army, Navy and Air Force of the Russian Federation carried out military attacks all over the territory of Georgia. Out of 12 regions of Georgia, 9 were bombed over 75 times during the Russian aggression. 224 civilians and 170 military servicemen were killed, while 27,000 IDPs are still not able to return to their homes.
Today Russia continues to occupy the Georgian territories of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia, and has barred access to international observers. In December 2008, Russia blocked an extension of the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Georgia, and in June 2009 Russia vetoed the UN Observer Mission working in Abkhazia.
The Russian aggression targeted against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia did not start in August 2008. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the restoration of Georgia's independence, Russia was intent on re-establishing a 19th century style sphere of influence over its former Soviet possessions including Georgia, on a regime change in Tbilisi, and on preventing Georgia from making progress towards joining NATO. In achieving these goals, Russia made openly hostile political steps long before the military aggression began. It established official links with the proxy regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, illegally deployed Russian troops in Abkhazia, including paratroopers and railway troops, and actively used its economic and energy levers against Georgia. The embargo Russia imposed on Georgian products is still in place and the violation of human rights on ethnic grounds of the Georgians residing in Russia still continues.
The Rose Revolution – In November 2003, Georgian citizens peacefully protested the rigged parliamentary elections on the main avenue of the capital for several weeks. They were headed by the opposition leader of the time, Mikheil Saakashvili. November 23, 2003 entered Georgian history with the name "Rose Revolution" as a result of which Eduard Shevarnadze resigned his post and left the country to a young team of reformers. Early Presidential elections were held on January 4, 2004 leaving Mikheil Saakashvili with 96% of the popular votes across the country.
The fact that Georgia is an ancient country full of rich, multi-century culture is manifested in the abundance of monuments and artifacts that were created in the B.C. epoch. During that time gold-smiths and architects were exceptionally sophisticated in the Georgian kingdoms of Iberia and Kolkheti (Vani, Uplistsikhe.) Evidence has proven that Georgian tribes produced metals during the Neolithic period and according to Greek sources and myths, the Kingdom of Kolkheti contained large gold reserves.
During different periods in history, cultures of various countries blended with their Georgian counterpart, which resulted in further enrichment of the local culture.
Georgia is distinguished by its diverse architectural structures, which have become a treasure to the country. There are unique churches in large and small cities and villages with complex architectural details and extraordinary frescos. Buildings now exist that were erected in the first millennium giving credence to the fact that construction technology was very sophisticated at that time.
Modernization of European culture in the 19th century had an influence on Georgian architecture. The streets of Tbilisi and Batumi were being designed in a similar fashion. Some impressive buildings were constructed during the Soviet era that blended well with these streets.
Western and eastern civilizations have played a large role in the formation of Georgian culture. By combining the experiences of these two civilizations, Georgia has developed a unique national culture including drawing icons, painting, and enamel art. The art of decorative enameling, Cloisonné, originated in Georgia and our country is considered its homeland.
Georgian painters of 19th and 20th centuries were being educated in Paris and Saint Petersburg. They created the new phase in Georgian art. Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, and Davit Kikabidze enriched Georgian painting with Cubist and Impressionist styles. The work of the world class Primitive painter, Niko Pirosmani, must be noted as well.
Folk Music is a fundamental element of the Georgian culture and Georgian Folk Music is unique and famous all over the world. Polyphony, which represents the peak of musical thinking, is typical of Georgian Folklore. It is possible to encounter some elements of ancient ideas in Georgian Folk Music.
It is not a coincidence that UNESCO recognized Georgian Polyphonic Music as the monument of world non-material culture in 2001. This once again proves the intercultural importance of Georgian traditional polyphony.
Interest in Georgian polyphony is gradually becoming more intense: a Traditional Polyphony Research Center was founded at the State Conservatory named after Vano Sarajishvili in 2003. It holds international symposiums every two years.
Prominent scientists, folklorists, ethno musicians, composers and musicians acknowledge that such polyphony exists nowhere else in the world.
An American folklorist, Alan Lomax recognized Georgia as the capital of world folk music. Based on his recommendation, the Americans sent "Chakrulo" of Ilia Zakaidze and Rostom Saginashvili into outer space alongside Beethoven's 9th Symphony, in order to familiarize the galaxy with civilization on our planet.
A Russian Music expert, Boris Asafiev noted: "Georgian polyphonic folk culture has long been recognized as a part of the huge intercultural music treasury. It amazes us and makes us bow to the musical genius of the Georgian nation"
Georgian musical folklore includes vocal, as well as instrumental music. The instrumental music is produced from string, drumbeat and wind instruments. In addition to the traditional three-voice harmonies, - one, two and four voice songs - are also common in the country. Four-voice songs can be encountered in the western part of Georgia, as part of Gurian and Adjarian musical folklore.
Diverse dialects make Georgian musical folklore very special. Each dialect is unique because of its musical language; however, it is based on the principals of universal Georgian musical thought.
Georgian musical folklore is also distinguished by its diverse genres. Namely: round-dance, cult, daily life, labor, lyrical and etc.
According to scientists, Georgia is one of the countries that not only in the Orthodox Church but also in all Christian churches, founded polyphonic church chanting.
In the beginning, Georgian ecclesiastic music was based on Byzantine traditions. Greek chanting was performed in one voice, and three voices were a perfect match for Georgian musical thought. Right after the adoption of Christianity, Georgians began chanting in churches in three voices in order to help the parish perceive the message being given. The three voices made chanting original.
Georgian chanting is only performed in three voices. A Georgian philosopher of XI-XII centuries, a servant of God, Ioane Petritsi used Georgian three-voice polyphony in order to define the essence of the trinity to the parish –three voices that bond in a harmonic way, are indivisible from the three parts of the trinity.
According to studies of Ivane Javakhishvili, musical scriptures existed in Georgia even in the 10th century. However, unfortunately, they have been lost. The collection of chants of Michael Modrekili, in which the texts are coupled with musical signs, is the only remaining sample similar to the musical scriptures that existed in the 10th century.
Beginning at the end of the XIX century intensive recording of chants started in Georgia; hundreds of unique samples have been preserved and are currently kept in the archives of the Tbilisi State Conservatory.
Through the centuries, Georgian chanting has reached such a high level of development that many studies specify that it is a professional art.
The Tbilisi State Conservatory named after Vano Sarajishvili has been functioning since 1917 and it gained the status of State Conservatory in 1924. The students of List, Veniavski, Marmontel, Tchaikovsky, Mosheles, Kulaus, the founders of Julliard School, were among the fist instructors at the Conservatory.
The Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Academic Theater named after Zakaria Paliashvili, opened with a grandiose ball in 1851 and became a multi-century symbol of the distinct culture of Georgia. During that time, the first Opera Theater in the Caucasus region with a capacity to host 800 guests was distinguished from its' contemporary European Theaters by the design of the façade and interior. Since the theater was opened it has hosted opera and ballet casts and crews of Western European and other countries. The most notable of the visiting artists are: Montserrat Caballe, Ferucho Furlatino, Jose Carreras, Manuel Beltran, Barry Anderson, Elena Obraztsova; Dancers: Andrey Uvarov, Sergei Pilin, Igor Zelenski, Angel Corella, Maria Aleksandrova, Sebastian Kloborg among others.
Since 2004, the world renowned Prima-Ballerina, Nino Ananiashvili, took charge of the Tbilisi Ballet crew, while enriching the local classical choreography with several new styles and directions.
The Kutaisi branch of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater was founded in 1960. It became an independent opera theater in 1990 and was named after the legendary Georgian composer, Meliton Balanchivadze. The façade and the interior of the building were completely redesigned during the renovation in 2010. The Kutaisi Opera State Theater named after the Balanchivadzes as well as the Musical Hall are now small scale analogues of the Vienna State Opera.
The Batumi Art Center, which was opened on August 15, 2011, is distinguished by its special architectural style. The seven fountains, which decorate the interior and exterior of the building, create an enchanting impression. The design of the building belongs to a Georgian architect, Lado Khmaladze.
The State Music and Drama Theater named after Vaso Abashidze has been in existence for 85 years. Presently a very popular theater, founded in 1926– it is a participant of the Edinburgh and Jerusalem festivals and was also invited to Munich. At the 2010 International Festival in Croatia it received awards in nine nomination categories of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth." Two years from now the theater will be relocated to a building near "Rike Park" and will become one of the most distinguished and endearing places for the local population as well as guests of the capital. An Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas, is the designer of the Music and Drama Theater building.
The State Drama Theater named after Shota Rustaveli, located on the main avenue of the capital, was founded in 1878. The Theater is unique from architectural and historical points of view. Many rococo style elements have been used to decorate the façade and the interior. The plays performed on its stage are renowned throughout the world. The Rustaveli Theater participated in the festivals of Edinburgh, Avignon, Servantino, Athens, Berlin, Milan, Jerusalem, Adelaide, Istanbul, Reykjavík, Bratislava, Chekhov, Shakespeare XI and others.
National dance is an equally important part of Georgian culture. Every region of Georgia has its own dances, distinctive of its traditions and local character. Georgian folk dances represent a standardized show, with swords in the air, flying warriors, coquettish girls, extraordinary costumes and a unique rhythm – the audience is never bored. Georgian dance ensembles are famous around the world and the Georgian national ballet ensemble "Sukhishvilebi" has been in existence for 100 years. The ensembles of "Erisioni," "Rustavi", "Nabadi" and many others are also famous worldwide.
The extraordinary costumes worn during the performance of Georgian folk dances represent various ancient national fabrics. Veils are also an integral part of such clothing of the past. Traditional Georgian clothing was distinguished by elements typical of all regions of Georgia. Every sample is different and is created through various techniques. Ethnographic life, geographic location and climate conditions of the specific region are taken into consideration while creating each article. Archaeological findings verify that Georgians used flax, hemp and wool fibers in ancient times in the making of clothing and for tying and decorating they used buttons, pins, buckles, tarragon and others found items.