Georgia - History, Culture and Geography

Fabled as the Land of the Golden Fleece, Georgia entered the historical record as an Ionian colony around 500 BC. Excavations of ancient tombs have revealed finely wrought pieces in bronze, gold, and silver and a rich archaeological history, testimony to ancient Hellenic, Roman, Indo-Persian, and Mongol presence. Christianity was introduced in the early 4th century, and the Persian and Byzantine empires vied for control of Georgia until the 7th century when the rise of Islam extended to the South Caucasus. Seljuk Turk control ended when the Emir was expelled in 1122 by Georgian King David II. For two centuries thereafter, Georgian influence expanded in the South Caucasus, especially under Queen Tamar, only to be again fractured by successive waves of Mongol invasions. After the Mongol withdrawal, Iranian and Ottoman Empires again sought control in the 1500s and both were eventually driven out as successive Georgian royal leaders sought assistance from Russia whose rule persisted until the Revolution of 1917-18. Still, centuries of foreign domination did not prevent Georgia from retaining a distinct culture expressed through the Georgian language and its unique Eurasian script, by various architectural styles, and through its art, exemplified by a long tradition of skilled metalwork. Georgia falls within the Asian landmass, occupying its southwest corner, with two other nations of the South Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It has a lengthy Black Sea coast and borders Russia to its north, Turkey to its south, and Armenia and Azerbaijan to its south-east. Georgia's land area is almost 70,000 square kilometers and is home to approximately five million people. Georgia is surrounded by the Great Caucasus Mountains in the North (rising to 4,500 meters and above); it shares the Lesser Caucasus Mountains (rising to 3,000 meters) in the South with Turkey and Armenia. The Kolkhida Lowland opens to the Black Sea in the west, with a Mediterranean, sub-tropical climate, while the Mtkvari River Basin in the east forms a drier, less forested valley connecting Georgia with Azerbaijan Georgia's agricultural productivity is based on the rich soils found in its river valley flood plains, and the foothills of Kolkhida Lowland, famous for tea and citrus cultivation. Its natural resources include forests, hydropower, manganese, iron ore, copper, and minor coal and oil deposits. Georgia is located on the crossroad of Europe and Asia and represents the natural corridor between the two continents. Our country is the alternative to Iran and Russia transport corridor for transit of customer goods from West to Azerbaijan and Central Asia and energy transit to the Western countries. At the same time, Georgia is the North-South Bridge between Turkey and the Russian Federation. 

Political context. 
The Soviet Period. Georgia initially became part of the USSR, as one part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, on December 31, 1922, following the Russian Civil War and the Ottoman Empire's collapse. From 1922, Georgia was completely integrated into the Soviet sphere. In 1936, the Transcaucasian federation was dissolved and, along with Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia became a Soviet Socialist Republic. Within Georgia, Moscow granted limited autonomy to the oblasts of Adjara (1921), Abkhazia (1931), and South Ossetia (1922). Independence. In the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika led Abkhazians and Ossetians in Georgia to agitate for autonomy, especially after the Georgian Supreme Soviet established Georgian as the official state language in 1989. In April 1991 the Georgian Supreme Soviet declared the republic's independence from the USSR. In May 1991 Gamsakhurdia was elected as Georgia's first president. In August the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) collapsed, and the USSR dissolved in the December of that year. 

However, independence and elections did not bring peace. The civil unrest that began in 1989 intensified. There were violent clashes between Georgians and South Ossetians, and Russian troops were deployed as peacekeepers along that border in 1992. Armed conflict in Tbilisi in late 1991 led Gamsakhurdia to flee the capital in January 1992, and Eduard Shevardnadze was elected as chairperson of the State Council (legislature) later that year. Also in 1992, Abkhazia declared independence. The Georgian militia sent to restore this territory was defeated by the Abkhazians in heavy fighting, which lasted until October 1993 resulted in 10,000 deaths and led 200,000 ethnic Georgians to leave Abkhazia as internally displaced persons. The UN sponsored a ceasefire in Abkhazia in 1994 which Russian peacekeepers were deployed to guarantee. In November 1995, and with 70% of the vote Eduard Shevardnaze was elected President. Since 1995, the Georgian state has not established control of South Ossetia or Abkhazia in spite of several attempts to negotiate terms. In November, 2003 the "Rose Revolution" ended the regime of President Shevardnadze in Georgia and the young President, Michael Saakashvili was elected with 83% of the vote. Georgia has now moved to the new phase of its development, ready to find political solutions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to fight against corruption to set up the required transparency and fairness in social, business and government activities.