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, including the Safavids, Afsharids, and Qajar Persians. 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. After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia was occupied by Soviet Russia in 1921, becoming part of the Soviet Union as the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. After independence in 1991, post-communist Georgia suffered from civil unrest and economic crisis for most of the 1990s. This lasted until the Rose Revolution of 2003, after which the new government introduced democratic and economic reforms.
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.
The full, official name of the country is Georgia, as specified in the Georgian constitution. Georgia is an exonym, used in the West since the medieval period. The name was etymologized for the west in honor of Saint George, explicitly so by the end of the 12th century by Jacques de Vitry, due to the Georgians' special reverence for that saint (see Tetri Giorgi). Early modern authors such as Jean Chardin tried to link the name to the literal meaning of the Greek word γεωργός, geōrgía ("tiller of the earth; agriculturalist").
The self-designation used by ethnic Georgians is Kartvelebi; the native name of Georgia Sakartvelo land of Kartvelians, and the name of the Georgian language Kartuli. The medieval Georgian Chronicles present an eponymous ancestor of the Kartvelians, Kartlos, a great-grandson of Japheth. The name Sakartvelo consists of two parts. Its root, kartvel-i, specifies an inhabitant of the core central-eastern Georgian region of Kartli, or Iberia as it is known in sources of the Eastern Roman Empire. Ancient Greeks (Strabo, Herodotus, Plutarch, Homer, etc.) and Romans (Titus Livius, Tacitus, etc.)referred to early western Georgians as Colchians and eastern Georgians as Iberians (Iberoi in some Greek sources).
The classical period saw the rise of the early Georgian states Diauehi (13th century BC), Colchis (8th century BC), Sper (7th century BC) and Iberia (6th century BC). In the 4th century BC, a unified kingdom of Georgia – an early example of advanced state organization under one king and an aristocratic hierarchy – was established. Sargon II (722–705 BC) of the Assyrian empire conquered the Georgian state of Tabal and all of the Hittite kingdoms of the Taurus Mountains.
In Greek mythology, Colchis was the location of the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts in Apollonius Rhodius' epic tale Argonautica. The incorporation of the Golden Fleece into the myth may have derived from the local practice of using fleeces to sift gold dust from rivers. Known to its natives as Egrisi or Lazica, Colchis was also the battlefield of the Lazic War fought between the Byzantine Empire and Sassanid Persia.
After the Roman Empire completed its conquest of the Caucasus region in 66 BC, the Georgian kingdoms were Roman client states and allies for nearly 400 years. In 337 AD King Mirian III declared Christianity as the state religion, giving a great stimulus to the development of literature, arts, and ultimately playing a key role in the formation of the unified Georgian nation. King Mirian III's acceptance of Christianity effectively tied the kingdom to the neighboring Eastern Roman Empire, which exerted a strong influence on Georgia for nearly a millennium, determining much of its present cultural identity.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITISC
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.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
Georgia is situated in the South Caucasus, between latitudes 41° and 44° N, and longitudes 40° and 47° E, with an area of 67,900 km2 (26,216 sq mi). It is a very mountainous country. The Likhi Range divides the country into eastern and western halves. Historically, the western portion of Georgia was known as Colchis while the eastern plateau was called Iberia. Because of a complex geographic setting, mountains also isolate the northern region of Svaneti from the rest of Georgia.
Like most native Caucasian peoples, the Georgians do not fit into any of the main ethnic categories of Europe or Asia. The Georgian language, the most pervasive of the Kartvelian languages, is neither Indo-European, Turkic nor Semitic. The present day Georgian or Kartvelian nation is thought to have resulted from the fusion of aboriginal, autochthonous inhabitants with immigrants who moved into South Caucasus from the direction of Anatolia in remote antiquity. The ancient Jewish chronicle by Josephus mentions Georgians as Iberes who were also called Thobel Tubal.
Ethnic Georgians form about 84 percent of Georgia's current population of 4,661,473 (July 2006 est.). Other ethnic groups include Abkhazians, Ossetians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Pontic Greeks (here divided between Caucasus Greeks and Turkish repealing Urums), Jews, Russians. The Georgian Jews are one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.
Ethno-linguistic groups in the Caucasus region.
The most widespread language group is the Kartvelian family, which includes Georgian, Svan, Mingrelian and Laz. The official languages of Georgia are Georgian, with Abkhaz official within the autonomous region of Abkhazia. Georgian is the primary language of approximately 71 percent of the population, followed by 9 percent speaking Russian, 7 percent Armenian, 6 percent Azerbaijani, and 7 percent other languages.
Georgian culture evolved over thousands of years with its foundations in Iberian and Colchian civilizations, continuing into the rise of the unified Georgian Kingdom under the single monarchy of the Bagrationi. Georgian culture enjoyed a golden age and renaissance of classical literature, arts, philosophy, architecture and science in the 11th century.
The Georgian language, and the Classical Georgian literature of the poet Shota Rustaveli, were revived in the 19th century after a long period of turmoil, laying the foundations of the romantics and novelists of the modern era such as Grigol Orbeliani, Nikoloz Baratashvili, Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Vazha Pshavela, and many others. Georgian culture was influenced by Classical Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and later by the Russian Empire.
Georgians have their own unique three alphabets which according to traditional accounts was invented by King Pharnavaz I of Iberia in the 3rd century BC.
Georgia is well known for its rich folklore, unique traditional music, theatre, cinema, and art. Georgians are renowned for their love of music, dance, theatre and cinema. In the 20th century there have been notable Georgian painters such as Niko Pirosmani, Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akhvlediani; ballet choreographers such as George Balanchine, Vakhtang Chabukiani, and Nino Ananiashvili; poets such as Galaktion Tabidze, Lado Asatiani, and Mukhran Machavariani; and theatre and film directors such as Robert Sturua, Tengiz Abuladze, Giorgi Danelia and Otar Ioseliani.