The Republic of Georgia is the area that was known in ancient times as Colchis. It was the land where Jason and the Argonauts went to find the Golden Fleece. It is an ancient land that many archaeologists now believe was the source of many aspects of civilization such as wine cultivation, and the advanced production of ornamental golden jewelry.
In the 1st century AD, the area came under Roman influence and control, and by the 4th century AD the area known as Kartli-Iberia became Christian.
With the fall of Rome came domination by the Persians, Arabs and Turks. However, the Georgians maintained their own culture, language, and religion. The 11th century saw the dawning of the Georgian Golden Age where the area was free of foreign domination and Georgian kings ruled an independent land. However, with the Mongol invasion of 1236, this period ended.
After the Mongol influence waned, Georgia became a battleground between Persia and the Ottoman Empire with loyalties switching and territory changing hands back and forth depending upon which force was dominant at the time.
All the while Georgians retained their identity. In the 19th century Russia came to the “rescue” of Georgia while expanding its own influence in the Caucus to the detriment of the Ottomans and the Persians. Eventually Georgia became completely absorbed into the Russian Empire.
Georgia was briefly independent after World War I, but the country was soon overrun by the Communist Red forces, and was made a part of the Soviet Union.
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 Georgia became an independent nation once again. With independence came much turmoil. For much of the 1990s, Georgia was essentially a failed state with an ineffective and corrupt government being torn apart by various ethnic and political rivalries. In 2003 widespread protests erupted, later named the “Rose Revolution”, which resulted in the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze. In 2004 Mikheil Saakashvili became President leading a program of governmental and economic reforms that dramatically reduced corruption, improved the functioning of the government, and brought about needed economic improvements.
However, the period also marked a profound downturn in relations with Russia. Russia increased its support of various separatist movements inside Georgia, and in 2008 the situation came to head with a military confrontation which resulted in the military defeat of Georgia, and Russian troops invading undisputed Georgian territory. Russia eventually pulled back to the disputed territories, and then declared Abkhazia and South Ossetia independent nations, and maintains troops in these territories to date.
Although politics inside Georgia remain complicated, democracy survived the crisis and new governments have been elected democratically.
Climate and Geography
It is difficult to define the climate of Georgia since it is one of the most varied areas in the world. The capital, Tbilisi, lies in the interior of the country surrounded by mountains, and in summer it is hot and humid while in winter it is moderately cold. The Black Sea coast to the West on the other hand is much wetter and warmer with a pronounced subtropical feel. In the north the Caucus Mountains create an Alpine atmosphere with snow-capped peaks, and lush rich valleys. East of Tbilisi are plains which are protected by the Central and Northern mountains to create a temperate climate more similar to Northern Europe.
The Georgian economy has traditionally been based upon agriculture with the primary market being Russia. There are growing business sectors in mining, tourism, food processing, textiles, and regional transit hub services for energy and other products. Georgia’s open economy has made it possible for it to become the center of a used auto trade in the region although this seems to be lessening.
Georgia is working to lessen its dependence on foreign oil and gas by developing hydro-electric projects throughout the country.
Georgia is bolstered by agreed policies of low regulations, low taxes, anti-corruption programs, free market policies, and limited government sponsored social spending.
Regional Issues and Foreign Affairs
Relations with Russia have improved lately, however they remain difficult at best. Russia continues to support the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with military and economic support. Although diplomatic ties have been restored and the economic embargo by Russia of Georgian goods has ended, relations are still tense. Russia continues to threaten Georgia regarding its pro-West policies, but the current Georgian government continues to reiterate its commitment to being the crossroads of Eurasia connecting not just East and West, but also North and South suggesting that improving relations with Russia is a top priority.
Georgia has very good relations with its other neighbors Turkey, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan. There is occasional tension with Armenia, which is politically and physically isolated due to its conflicts with Turkey and Azerbaijan and is thus supported by Russia. Armenia is dependent upon Russia for military and economic support, but is also dependent upon Georgia for access to the Black Sea and trade.