Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometers (26,911 sq mi), and its 2015 population is about 3.75 million. Georgia is a unitary, semi-presidential republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.
During the classical era, several independent kingdoms became established in what is now Georgia. The kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia adopted Christianity in the early 4th century. A unified Kingdom of Georgia reached the peak of its political and economic strength during the reign of King David IV and Queen Tamar in the 11th–12th centuries. Thereafter the area was dominated by various large empires for centuries, including the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire, and successive dynasties of Iran. In the late 18th century, the kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti forged an alliance with the Russian Empire, and the area was annexed by Russia in 1801. The latter’s rule over Georgia was confirmed in 1813 through the Treaty of Gulistan with Qajar Iran. Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, Georgia obtained independence, though only briefly, and established its first-ever republic under German and British protection, only to be invaded by Soviet Russia in 1921 and subsequently absorbed into the Soviet Union as the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.
After restoring its independence once again in 1991, post-communist Georgia suffered from civil and economic crisis for most of the 1990s. This lasted until the peaceful Rose Revolution, when Georgia pursued a strongly pro-Western foreign policy, introducing a series of democratic and economic reforms aimed at NATO andEuropean integration. The country’s Western orientation soon led to the worsening of relations with Russia, culminating in the brief Russo-Georgian War.
Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe and the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. It contains two de facto independent regions,Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which gained limited international recognition after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Georgia and a major part of the international community consider the regions to be part of Georgia’s sovereign territory under Russian military occupation.
Religion in Georgia (Country)
Main religions (2014)
Orthodox Christian (83.4%)
Armenian Apostolic (2.9%)
Roman Catholic (1%)
Today 83.4 percent of the population practices Eastern Orthodox Christiniaty, with the majority of these adhering to the national Georgian Orthodox Church.[a] The Georgian Orthodox Church is one of the world’s most ancient Christian Churches, and claims apostolic foundation by Saint Andrew. In the first half of the 4th century, Christianity was adopted as the state religion of Iberia (present-day Kartli, or eastern Georgia), following the missionary work of Saint Nino of Cappadocia. The Church gained autocephalyduring the early Middle Ages; it was abolished during the Russian domination of the country, restored in 1917 and fully recognised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1990.
The special status of the Georgian Orthodox Church is officially recognised in the Constitution of Georgia and the Concordat of 2002, although religious institutions are separate from the state, and every citizen has the right of religion.
Religious minorities of Georgia include Muslims (10.7 percent), Armenian Christians (2.9 percent) and Roman Catholics (0.5 percent).[a] 0.7 percent of those recorded in the 2014 census declared themselves to be adherents of other religions, 1.2 percent refused or not stated their religion and 0.5 percent declared no religion at all.[a]
Islam is represented by both Azerbaijani Shia Muslims (in the south-east) ethnic Georgian Sunni Muslims in Adjara, and Laz-speaking Sunni Muslims as well as Sunni Meskhetian Turks along the border with Turkey. There are also smaller communities of Greek Muslims (of Pontic Greek origin) and Armenian Muslims, both of whom are descended from Ottoman-era converts to Turkish Islam from Eastern Anatolia who settled in Georgia following the Lala Mustafa Pasha’s Caucasian campaign that led to the Ottoman conquest of the country in 1578. Georgian Jews trace the history of their community to the 6th century BC; their numbers have dwindled in the last decades due to high levels of immigration toIsrael.
Despite the long history of religious harmony in Georgia, there have been instances of religious discrimination and violence against “nontraditional faiths”, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, by followers of the defrocked Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili.
In addition to traditional religious organizations, Georgia retains secular and irreligious segments of society (0.5 percent), as well as a significant portion of religiously affiliated individuals who do not actively practice their faith.
Government and politics
Main article: Politics of Georgia (country)
Georgia is a representative democratic semi-presidential republic, with the President as the head of state, and Prime Minister as the head of government. The executive branch of power is made up of the President and the Cabinet of Georgia. The Cabinet is composed of ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, and appointed by the President. Notably, the ministers of defense and interior are not members of the Cabinet and are subordinated directly to the President of Georgia. Giorgi Margvelashvili is the current President of Georgia after winning 62.12% of the vote in the 2013 election. Since 2013, Irakli Garibashvili has been the prime minister of Georgia.
Legislative authority is vested in the Parliament of Georgia. It is unicameral and has 150 members, known as deputies, of whom 75 are elected by plurality to represent single-member district, and 75 are chosen to represent parties by proportional representation. Members of parliament are elected for four-year terms. Five parties and electoral blocs had representatives elected to the parliament in the 2008 elections: the United National Movement (governing party), The Joint Opposition, the Christian-Democrats, the Labour Party and Republican Party. On 26 May 2012, Saakashvili inaugurated a new Parliament building in the western city of Kutaisi, in an effort to decentralise power and shift some political control closer to Abkhazia. The elections in October 2012 resulted in the victory for the opposition “Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia” coalition, which President Saakashvili acknowledged on the following day.
Although considerable progress was made since the Rose revolution, former President Mikheil Saakashvili stated in 2008 that Georgia is still not a “full-fledged, very well-formed, crystallized society.” The political system remains in the process of transition, with frequent adjustments to the balance of power between the President and Parliament, and opposition proposals ranging from transforming the country into parliamentary republic to re-establishing the monarchy. Observers note the deficit of trust in relations between the Government and the opposition.
Different opinions exist regarding the degree of political freedom in Georgia. Saakashvili believed in 2008 that the country is “on the road to becoming a European democracy.” Freedom House lists Georgia as a partly free country.
In preparation for 2012 parliamentary elections, Parliament adopted a new electoral code on 27 December 2011 that incorporated many recommendations from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Venice Commission. However, the new code failed to address the Venice Commission’s primary recommendation to strengthen the equality of the vote by reconstituting single-mandate election districts to be comparable in size. On December 28, Parliament amended the Law on Political Unions to regulate campaign and political party financing. Local and international observers raised concerns about several amendments, including the vagueness of the criteria for determining political bribery and which individuals and organizations would be subject to the law. As of March 2012, Parliament was discussing further amendments to address these concerns.