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Republic of Georgia

by Georgi Kokochashvili

(Norwegian Refugee Council. Tbilisi, regional office)






Shortly about Georgia

Georgia occupies an area of about 70 000 sq km (population 5,5 million) and is thus twice the size of Belgium and nearly twice as large as Switzerland. It takes up the central and Western pairs of Transcaucasia. In the West it is open the Black sea. Georgia is a mountainous country. In the North rises the greater Caucasus system of mountain ranges and is situated at the boundary of two climatic zones - moderate and subtropical. There are many rivers and they flow into the Black and Caspian seas. Borders: in the North - Russia (Krasnodar, Stavropol, Kabardo Balkania, Northern Ossetia, Dagestan, Chehen-Ingushia); In the sourth - Armenia, Turkey; In the south-east - Azerbaijan; in the west - the Black sea. The total length of the border is 1900 km. More then 300 km is sea border the remainder is land border. Georgia is rich in mineral resources. The Republic has about 1000 mineral springs, which vary in their chemical content. The best known are the springs at Borjomi. Four hundred varieties of the grapevine cultivated in Georgia make her a land of classical wine-making.



The Georgians themselves tell the following story about how they came to possess the land they deem the most beautiful in the world. When God was distributing portions of the world to all the peoples of the Earth, the Georgians were having a party and doing some serious drinking. As a result they arrived late and were told by God that all the land had already been distributed. When they replied that they were late only because they had been lifting their glasses in praise of Him, God was pleased and gave the Georgians that part of Earth he had been reserving for himself.

Georgians do not call themselves Georgians but Kartvelebi and their land Sakartvelo. These names are derived from a pagan god called Kartlos, said to be the father of all Georgians. The foreign name Georgia, used throughout Western Europe, is mistakenly believed to come from the country’s patron saint, St George. Actually it is derived from the name s Kurj or Gurj, by which they are known to the Arabs and modern Persians. Another theory purports that the name comes from the Greek geo (earth); because when the Greeks came to Georgia they saw the Georgians working the land. The Classical world knew the inhabitants of eastern Georgia as Iberians, thus confusing the geographers of antiquity who thought this name applied only to the inhabitants of Spain. The Romans called it Iberi and the people Iberians; The Slaves called it Iveria and the peoples Ivers.

Ancient Greek myths and legends in particular those about the argounats, mentioned Georgian tribes. In the legend of the 50 Greek heroes, led by Jason, who sailed to Colkhis. In quest of the golden fleece, legendary events and historical facts are mixed. However they reflect in part the history of the kingdom of Colkhis that existed at that time.

The first state to come into being in western Georgia on the Black sea coast, was the Kingdom of Colchis, or Egrisi (6th century B.C.). In the third century B.C. the Kingdom of Kartli or Iberia was established in Eastern Georgia, with its capital in Mtskheta. It succeeded in uniting the main provinces of Eastern and Southern Georgia.

The eleventh and twelfth centuries were a Golden Age for Georgia and the medieval monarchy reached its height under the reign of the King David the Builder’s (1089-1125) great-granddaughter, Queen Tamar (1184-1212). A unique Georgian Christian culture flourished between the reigns of David the Builder and Queen Tamara; this is the era of great building projects such as Gelati and Vardzia and the flourishing of literary tradition revered to this day. It was to Queen Tamara that Shota Rustaveli dedicated his great epic poem, The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin, a poem which exemplified all the virtues of chivalry and honor that were celebrated throughout the Georgian Kingdom in her reign.

Until the eighteenth century were father and son Bagrationi ruled King Taimuraz II and Herekle II able to rebuild Georgia in its own, and not Iran’s image. Surmounting numerous obstacles in the form of rebellious Georgian princes, raiding partyes from the north Caucasus, and Moslem khans of east Caucasia, father and son ruled from 1744 to 1762 over Kartli and Kakheti respectively. Upon the death of Teimuraz, Herekle II became the ruler of a united Kartli-Kakheti from 1762 to 1798, during which time he forged the nucleus of a nascent Georgian Empire.

Convinced that his isolated Christian kingdom could not hold out infinitely against its assortmaent of Moslem enemies, Herekle II decided to attempt an alliance with Catherine the Great’s Russia. King Solomon II of Imereti, beleagured by the constant incursions of the Turks, was also set upon securing the help of his coreligionists to the north. On July 24, 1783, the Treaty of Georgievsk was signed by representatives of King Herekle and Catherine the Great which made Kartli-Kakheti a protectorate of the Russian empire. Russia did not live up to the conditions of that treaty when Catherine withdrew her troops from Georgia at the outbreak of the second Russo-Turkish War in 1787. King Herekle was forced to face a vastly superior force led by Shah Agha Mohammed Khan when the prsians invaded Kartli-Kakheti in 1795. Were it not for 300 warriors of the Aragvi, Herekle himself would have been captured. King Herekle managed to escape to Kakheti where he died in 1798. Tbilisi did not, however, manage to escape Shah Agha Mohammed Khan. He burned Tbilisi to the ground and killed more than 50 000 citizens.

King Herekle’s son, Giorgi XII (1798-1800) wanted, under certain conditions, to have Georgia incorporated into the Russian empire. On December 18, 1800, Tsar Paul I annexed Georgia to Russia. Giorgi XII, the last of the Bagrationi Kings, conveniently died that same year. In 1801, Tsar Paul’s son and heir, Tsar Alexander I (1801-1825), simply abolished the kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti without even a pretense of consulting with Georgian representatives in St Petersburg. The act was one of national humiliation for Georgia. After securing Kartli-Kakheti, the Russians incorporated the western provinces into the empire: Samegrelo in 1803 and Imereti in 1804. King Solomon II initially signed an act of allegiance to Russia but in 1810 he was forced to abdicate his throne. During the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812, the Russians gained Poti, Sokhumi and Akhalkalaki. In 1809 Abkhazeti’s Prince Safar bey Sharvashidze left the Ottoman fold to receive Russian protection. In 1811 Guria became part of the Russian Empire.

By the end of the first half of the nineteenth century, however, Georgia had been integrated into the Russian system. In the 1890s group of Georgian intellectuals returned to their homeland, having imbibed the new doctrine of Marxism while studying abroad. One of these young men, Noe Zhordania (1868-1953), led the Georgian Social Democratic Movement throughout the years leading up to the Russian Revolution in 1917. In that year the Georgian Social Democrats, under Zhordania’s leadership, took control of the soviet Tiflis (Tbilisi), occupying the place left by the last viceroy. The coalition of Mensheviks and Bolsheviks that, among other parties, formed the Social Democrativ Movement, was unable to sustain a common platform because of their differing agendas and vision for the future of Georgia. In June of 1917, the Bolsheviks, on Lenin’s insistance, split from the Georgian Mensheviks. On May 26, 1918, the Menshevik government of Noe Zhordania raised the new national flag of Georgia over the soviet and declared Georgia an independent state. So ended Georgia’s 117-year official relationship with Russia. Menshevik Georgia followed a moderate part between 1917 and 1920.

In 1918, the Bolsheviks went underground to organize the overthrow of the Social Democratic State of Zhordania. On April 28, 1920, the Red Army marched into Baku and proclaimed the creation of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. The treaty of May 7, 1920, in which Soviet Russia and Social Democratic Georgia recognized each other’s covereignty was broken when, on February 14, 1921, the 11th Red Army crossed from Azerbaijan into Georgia. On February 25 they were in Tiflisi (Tbilisi) driving the Menshevik government of Zhordania to Batumi. Three weeks later he was forced to sail for France. The dream of a democratic, independent Georgia was short-lived. Georgia had been annexed by Bolchevik Russia. Between 1922 and 1936 Georgia was part of a single Transcaucasian republic. In 1936 it became one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union.

Into the composition of the Georgian SSR enter as its members the Ajar Autonomous Soviet Socialistic Republic, the Abkhazian Autonomous Soviet Republic and the Autonomous Region of South-Ossetia.

In a referendum held in October 1990, a large majority of the population supported independence, which was formally declared on April 9, 1991, President Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected with an 87 percent majority. Georgia was struck by a major earthquake in 1991, which caused extensive loss of life and output. The political situation deteriorated sharply in the second half of 1991, as nationalistic sentiments led to serious civil disturbances in several araeas of the country. Extensive fighting broke out in Tbilisi in late December 1991 and, following a siege of Parliament House and the destruction of part of the city center, President Gamsakhurdia departed the country a few weeks later. A military Council, later transformed into a State Council, appointed a Provisional Government in January 1992, which ruled the country, under the Council’s supervision, until general elections were held in October 1992. Mr. Shevardnadze was elected Speaker of Parliament, an office tantamount to that of Head of State.

Although Georgia remains in the ruble area, it chose not to join the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It became a member of the IMF on May 5, 1992, and is also member of the United Nations, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.



According to the sources of 1993 - 5 462 800 people live in Georgia. The main ethnic groups living in Georgia: Kartleli, Imereli, Megreli, Kakheli, Guruli, Achareli, Rachveli, Svani are united under one name Kartveli. Other nationalistic in Georgia:

Kartveli - 70,13%

Armenian - 8,10%

Russia - 6,32%

Azerbaijanian - 5,69%

Ossetian - 3,04%

Greek - 1,86%

Abkhazi - 1,77%

Ukrainians - 0,97%

Kurts - 0,62%

Jews - 0,27%

Others - 1,2%



Two minorities (the Abkhazians and the Ajarians) have their own autonomous republics within Georgian Republic.

Ajara Autonomous Republic - territory 3 000 sq. km., population - 305 000. The Ajars capital is Butane on the southern part of the Black Sea Coast bordering Turkey, are Georgians, many of whom are Moslems.

Abkazeti Autonomous Republic - territory 8 600 sq. km. The capital of Abkazeti is Sokhumi, north of Achara on the Black Sea Coast bordering to Russia.

Shida Kartli, Samachablo - (the autonomous region of South Osssetian is and has always been part of Shida Cartli (Inner Kartli). The capital is Tskinvali. (The South Ossetian Autonomous Region as a political and administrative unit formed in 1922 by the Bolsheviks. The autonomous status of this territory, South Ossetia, was revoked by the Government in late 1991.

In Georgia there are 65 regions and 61 cities; Among them of Republic Subordination - 10, Autonomous Republic Subordination - 4; Region Subordination - 46. Villages - 4 488. The main cities are: Tbilisi, Batumi, Sokhumi, Tskinvali, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Gori, Zugdidi, Tkibuli, Chiatura, Tskaltubo.

Historic-Geographical Provinces , Economic Areas

(According to the map included)

I - Central-Eastern region:

Inner Kartli

Lower Kartli




II - Eastern region:



III - Southern region:



IV - Sentral-Western region:




V - Western region:



Upper Svaneti

VI - Abkhazeti

VII - Ajara

VIII- Shida Kartli, (South Ossetia)

Central-Eastern region

The Central- eastern region is the most important in the Georgia. It is inhabited by over 38% of total population of the republic.The area of the region is densely populated. The density of population even in rural districts is 70-185 per sq km.

The Central-Eastern region is largest industrial base of Georgia. Here are concentrated the ferrrous metallurgical enterprises, mechsnical engineering,shemical and building materials plants, the great part of the enterprises of food, leather and footwear, sewing and polygraphic industries. The region produces about one half of the total industrial production of the republic.

The region is also characterised by its highly specialized agriculture and its high commodity ratio. Its convenient geographical situation and favourable natural conditions, as well as the existence of such a large economic complex as Tbilisi, have determined the level of the economic development of the entire region and conditioned the production specialization of its separate parts.

In the south-eastern part of the region the Tbilisi-Rustavi industrial centre came into being. Basic to it is machine building, engineering, light and food industries in Tbilisi and ferrous metallurgy, chemical industry and production of building materials in Rustavi.

Here also is an important base of suburban market-gardening. On the Lower-Kartli plain, in the Mtkvari and Khrami valleys, vegetables that ripen earliest are grown. On majir importance also are orchards (peaches, apricots, table grapes). Dairy farming is well developed.

The eastern part of the region, including the Inner-Kartli plain, is the most important agricultural region in Georgia, predominantly specialized in fruit-and vine-growing. Good soils and climatic conditions favour the wide development of fruit-growing. Apple-orchards are spread through the whole economic region.

The Gori disrict is known for its large fruit-growing state farms.

Great attantion has of late been paid to vine-growing. Large areas of vineyards, which have replaced less intensive agricultural crops, stretch along the Tbilisi-Gori motorway. Vineyards constitute the main feature of the landscape of the Mukhrani plain, where a number of large vine-growing and wine-making state farms are situated.

The extreme south-western part, including the Borjomi valley, is an important health-resort zone, well-known for its first-class balneological sanatoria.

The northern part of the region is occupied by the Greater Caucasus and its spurs. From south to north stretches the Georgian Military Road, which connects Georgia with Northern Caucasus.

Tbilisi - one of the oldest cities of today. The earliest written records of it date from the fourth century AD. It became the capital of the East Georgian kingdom as far back as the sixth century (the ancient capital was Mtskheta). During 1500 years of its history the city was repeatedly invaded by the foreign conquerors. There are many legends associated with the birth of city. According to one legend, King Vakhtang Gorgasali, some 1500 years ago, shot down a beautiful deer while hunting in a mountain valley. The wounded animal fell into spring. Suddenly it leaped out of the water and to the kings astonishment, bounded away as swift as an arrow. The water in the spring was warm and seemed to posses a mysterious heaving power. The king ordered a town to be built there and it was named Tbilisi, from the word Tbili meaning warm. Tbilisi, like the rest of Georgia, lived through trying times. Forty times the city was overrun by foreign armies, plunded and left in ruins. Each it force from the ashes.

Now the city (population 1,5 million) stretches for more than 35 km along the bank of the river Mtkvari (Kura - in Russian). The main street of Tbilisi is Rustaveli avenue. There is in Tbilisi metro (underground), higher educational establishments, an opera and ballet theatre, many film studios, theatres, museums, stadions (the biggest is with 80 000 places). On the streep, craggy ledges of the right bank of river Mtkvari, towering over the ancient citadel of Narikala, which according to early chronic was build in 4th century AD. Among the oldest architectural monuments here are the church of Anchiskhati (6th century) and the cathedral of Sioni (6th-7th century). Tbilisi is devided in to the 10 regions: Chugureti, Didube, Gldani, Isani, Krtsanisi, Mtatsminda, Nadzaladevi, Saburtalo, Samgori, Vake.

Rustavi - a new rapidly growing town with nearly 158 500 inhabitants (25 km south-east of Tbilisi) - is the second industrial centre of the Central-Eastern region. Rustavi emerged and grew after the Great Patriotic War (1941-1944) on the site of the ancient Rustaveli fortress. In the course of two decades it has turned into the centre of the ferrous metallurgy of Transcaucasia. Of great economic importance is the complex of chemical plants producing nitrogen fertilisers synthetic fibres, caprolactam etc.

Gori - (70 100 inhabitants) is an industrial town in the Inner-Kartli plain. Here operate a large cotton mill, a cannery, a tool-producing plant, an engineering works and a number of other enterprises. The first reference to Gori in historical documents dates back to the 7th c.; its fortress, towering on the mountain in the heart of the town, was very important an the feudal period of Georgia’s history.

Among other towns mention should be made of Khashuri (pop. 68 900), a railway junction; Borjomi, a resort (pop. 19 300), famous with the mineral water springs; Kaspi (pop. 18 200), the centre of cement industry; and Mtskheta (pop. 10 000) the ancient capital of Georgia.

The eastern region (Kakheti)

This region lies in the easternmost part of the republic. It comprises the districts of the Alazani plain, the Yori plateau, and Mta-Tusheti. Only 9 per cent of Georgia’s population lives in this area. The economic specialisation of the region is determined by vine-growing, wine-making and livestock-breeding. 38 per cent of all the vineyards of the republic are in this region; it is the main region of viticulture and winemaking. Here are produced world-famous Kakhetian and European brands of wine, as well as the best Georgian dessert wines.

The industry of the region is represented by factories of primary wine-making, canneries, enterprises for the production of building materials and woodworking plants.

Telavi (pop. 29 100) is the economic and cultural centre of the region. It lies at the foot of the Gombori ridge. The town has winery, a silk-spinning factory and number of small industrial enterprises. In the centre of the town rises the Batonis-tsikhe fortress. It has a citadel and on its premises there is a place, a bathhouse and two churches. Near the town lies the village of Iqalto, where in the 11th c. the famous Iqalto Academy was founded.

In the central part of the right-bank of the Alazani the the new town of Gurgaani has arisen (pop. 13 100). It is the centre of wine-making industry. Nearly is the mud-cure resort Akhtala.

Kvareli (pop. 12 000) lying on the left bank of the Alazani, is also a centre of wine-making. In the south of the right-bank area, on the slopes of the Tvisi-Gombori ridge, rises the loveliest town in Georgia - Signaghi (pop. 3 500).

The Central-Western (Kutaisi) region.

The Central-Western region is the next in economic importance after the Central-Eastern region. Its area is inhabited by 18 per cent of Geoirgia’s population.

The economic region is rich in useful minerals: there are manganese ore deposits at Chiatura, collieries at Tkibuli and Shaori, deposits of gumbrine, barite, molybddenum; quarries of marble and other building materials. It is the chief region of mining industry in Georgia; there also are ferroalloy, mechanical engineering, light-, food- and chemical industries.

In numerous places of the region mineral water springs gush out. On the basis of powerful reserves of "white coal", large hydroelectric power stations - Rioni HES, Gumati HES, Lajanuri HES, Tkibuli HES and others.

Agriculture is chiefly specialised in viticulture with tea-growing and market-gardening also developed. Here (especially in Upper Imereti) valuable table and champagne varieties of grapes are grown, yielding high quality material for European and champagne wines.

The northern part of the region is hilly, sparsely populated and poorly developed. The Caucasus, the Lechkhumi, the Racha spurs as well as other ridges, are covered with dense forests, and only in the Racha and Lechkhumi depressions there are small villages, where the inhabitants are engaged in the agriculture and timber felling.

Kutaisi (pop. 240 400), the second in size city in Georgia, is the economic centre of the region. It lies on both banks of the Rioni.

Kutaisi is one of the oldest Georgian towns. In the past it was the capital of the west-Georgian (Egrissi-Abkhazian) kingdom. It was repeatedly to devastation by foreign invaders. As a result of Turkish domination, it fell into decay in the 17th century and valuable cultural and material monuments were destroyed. When the Turks were driven out of the country, Kutaisi became the commercial and cultural centre of western Georgia.

The present -day Kutaisi is primarily a large industrial town. The leading branch here is engineering, but chemical, light and food industries are also well developed.

Chiatura (pop. 30 900) - the largest centre of manganese mining in our country - is situated in the narrow gorge of the river Kvirila. The town arose in the eighties of the past century in the centre of the newly discover manganese deposit.

Tkibuli (pop. 21 900) is miners’ town. Coal-mining began here in the forties of the 19th century. the Tkhibuli coal is mainly supplied to the Rustavi steel and iron works.

Zestafoni ( pop. 27 000) is known for its large Ferro-alloy plant of all-Union importance. It is also the wine-making centre of the district.

Samtredia (pop. 36 400) arose in the eighties of the 19th c. at the time of the Transcaucasian railway construction. Now it is a large railway junction. A number of enterprises of light and food industries operate in it.

Not far from Kutaisi lies the balneological resort of Tskaltubo (pop. 20 700).

The Western (Black-sea coast) region.

The western region stands out as one of the most important economic regions in Georgia. Here lives about 13 per cent of its population. The greater part of the area, in particular the Kolkheti lowlands, was a foul swamp, engendering malaria. In the course of socialist construction extensive work has been carried out the drainage of the Kolkheti swamps.

The Western region is the major base of Georgia’s subtropical agriculture. Its share is 58 per cent of the tea-plantations, 21 per cent of land under citrus-fruit trees, about 70 per cent of laurel, and over 50 per cent of tung plantations.

The northern most part of the region - Upper Svaneti - is the region of glaciers, high mountains and forests. The regional centre is Mestia (pop. 2 700). Spacious alpine and subalpine pastures facilitate the development of livestock breeding. Exceptionally beautiful nature, one of the most popular summits of the Caucasus - Mt. Ushba, and colourful Svanetian villages with their tower-fortresses attract numerous mountain-climbers and tourists.

The economic and cultural centre of the region is Poti (pop. 51 400), lying at the mouth of the river Rioni on the Black-sea coast. Poti is a very ancient Georgian town. In antiquity the town Phasis - an important centre of commerce - was situated near the present-day Poti. Through this town ran the trade route from India to Europe. In the 4th c.A.D. a rhetoric-philosophical school was founded here.

Poti is one of the largest sea port on the Black Sea. The export from it include manganese ore and many other valuable industrial and agricultural goods shipped, of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov as well as abroad. Imported are metals and metal goods, machinery, grain, etc.

Zugdidi (pop. 51 100) is the next in size town in the economic region. Here the only pulp and paper mill in the republic is situated there are tea-factories, a cannery, a winery and number of there enterprises. In Zugdidi is the place ensemble with its beautiful park that belonged to the former Megrelian princes Dadiani.

Ozurgeti (pop. 23 900) is an industrial town lying on the river Natanebi. Its industries include a tea-factory, a porcelain works and others. Not far from it is village of Anaseuli - a large centre of scientific research on subtropical crops.

Senaki (pop. 29 100) is the railway junction of the region. The town has a number of food and light industries; Lanchkhuti (pop. 9 100) and Tsalenjikha (pop. 8 900) are two centres of tea-industry.

Southern region

The region occupies the southern part of the republic in the zone of South-Georgian Plateau. It is the most sparsely populated part of Georgia, for only four per cent of her population lives here. The chief occupation is agriculture, specialised in livestock-breeding, tillage and fruit-growing.

In the western part of the Akhaltsikhe depression the population is engaged in fruit-growing, market-gardening, grain production and livestock-breeding. The most intensive tillage is peculiar to the valleys of the river Mtkvari, Kvabliani and Potskhovi.

In the east, on the Javakheti plateau, the bulk of agricultural lands consists of subalpine and alpine pasture and hay-fields. Here dairy cattle-breeding and sheep-breeding are practised. Of cereals spring-wheat, barley and oats are cultivated.

Akhaltsikhe (pop. 24 400) the economic and cultural centre of the region, is one of the oldest Georgian towns, founded in the 10-11th c.

Vale (pop. 6 300) is a new industrial town, the centre of brown-coal mining.

To the west of Akhaltsikhe, at the altitude of 1 200-1 650 m a.s.l. in the gorge of the river Otshke lies Abastumani (pop. 2 500) - a mountain-climatic and balneological resort of All-Union importance.

Near the resort on Mount Kanobili, at the altitude of 1 700 m a.s.l. the Abastumani Astrophysical observatory is located.

The 12th century cave-town of Vardzia is situated on the left Bank of the Mtkvari.



Abkhazia (Abkhazeti) is situated in the north-western part of the Gerogia..Abkhazeeti is a mountainous country. The great part of its area is occupied by high and medium mountains. About 36 per cent of its surface falls to the relatively depressed zone in the littoral part of the republic. soil and climatic conditions in this part are particularly propitious for human economic activities. According to the source of 1989 - 525 061 people live in Abkhazia.

Abkhazian - 17,76%

Georgian - 45,68%

Russian - 14,27%

Armenian - 14,58%

Greek - 2,79%

Ukrainians - 2,22%

Others - 2,69%

The average density of population is 53 per sq. km, i.e., somewhat less, than in Georgia taken as a whole. in the sea-side zone, however, population density reaches 200-250 per sq. km. the mountain districts of Abkhazia are particularly thinly populated.

The meaning of the term "Abkhazian" and "Abkhazia" broadened further from the 10th century, for the title of the king of the unified Georgia began with that of "King of the Abkhazians". Bagrat, the heir-apparent to the Royal House of the Bagrationis ("The king of Kartvelians") was crowned first as "King of the Abkhazians" for he was the only legitimate successor to the Kingdom of the Abkhazians in his mother’s line. He received the title "King of the Kartvelians only at the beginning of the 11th century, on the decease of his ancestor "King of the Kartvelians". Following the incorporation of Kakheti and Hereti, Bagrat of Kakheti and Hereti, Bagrat received also the title of "King of Hers (Heretians) and the Kakhis (Kakhetians)". Thus, at this stage the title of the kings of the united medieval Georgia assumed the following form: "King of the Abkhazians, the Kartvelians, the Hers, and the Kkahis".

As a rule, in Georgian written sources of the period discussion Abkhazia and Abkhazian generally implied (Sakartvelo) and Kartveli.

As "King of the Abkhazians" came first in the title of the kings of unified Georgia, in foreign sources Abkhazian was used generally in meaning of Georgian, and Abkhazia as designating Georgia. Incidentally, the foreigners - Greeks, Arabs, Russians - were well aware that Abkhazia was the same Iberia or Georgia.

As is known, at the end of the 15th century, the unified Georgian state disintegrated into four independent states: the Kingdoms of Kartli, Kakheti, and Imereti and the Principality of Samtskhe, Abkhazia was part of the Kingdom of Imereti. The process of the feudal break up of the country deepened with the Principalities of Guria and Samegrelo (Megrelia, Mingrelia) coming into being. Abkhazian was within the Principality of Samegrelo (Odishi), and in the 17th century it (Abkhazia) constituted itself as a separate principality headed by the Shervashidzes. The Abkhazian Principality of the late feudal period was culturally and politically the same Georgia as were the Georgias. Now the land to the south-east of the Kodori formed part of Egrisi from the commencement of feudal relations (by tradition from ancient times). This land became part of Abkhazia in the 17th century. After the founding of this (Abkhazian) principality, the Georgians called its inhabitants Abkhazians proper.

From the 15th-16th centuries complex processes were in evidence in Georgia. Nomadic tribes from the Northern Caucasus began to settle in Georgia. this immigration process - timed to the gravest situation obtaining in Georgia - resulted in the settlement of Daghestanian tribes in Kakheti, of Ossetes in Inner Kartli and of people of Circassian-Adyghe stock in Western Georgia.

At the end of the 17th century, the Abkhaziaan princes seized the part of Samegrelo lying between the Kodori and the Inguri rivers, annexing it to the Principality of Abkhazia. This is the region known under the name of Samurzaqano. From that time began the Abkhazianization of Samegrelo. This process of Abkhazianization is well reflected in Georgian - chiefly documentary and foreign written sources.

An Abkhazian (Apsua) alphabet was first created on the basis of Russian writing by the well-known scholar P. Uslar. As it proved very difficult to render Abkhazian sounds through the medium of Russian letters several attempts were made later to simplify this alphabet. Thus in 1892, the educationist Machavariani and his pupil, Dimitri Gulia - subsequent founder and classic of Abkhazian literature - attempted to simplify and refine the alphabet. Then, N. Marr tried to create an Abkhazian alphabet on the basis of Latin script; however, neither did this attempt yield the desired result. In 1938, the same Dimitri Gulia, assisted by the Georgian scholars Akaki Shanidze and Simon Janashia, complited a new Abkhazian alphabet on the basis of Georgian letters. But in 1954, a new Abkhazian alphabet was developed on the basis of the Russian script. The first book in the language of the Apsua came in Tbilisi in 1992 (a collection of Dimitry Gulia’s poems).

Along with social and cultural division, political division also took place. In the 19th century, this division was promoted by every means by the Russian administration. In 1810, the Prince of Abkhazia Georgi (Sapar Beg) Shervashidze adopted Russian citizenship, and in 1864, Russian administration was established here; The Prinsipality of Abkahazia was called the Sukhumi Militarity Department, and from 1883 it was Sukhumi District, under the Governer - General of Kutaisi.

the Russian administaration and its colonial policy actively directed and supported the process of the seperation of Abkhazia from Georgia. However, the administrartion was well aware that Abkhazia was a natureal, inalienable part of Georgia, hence the asssignment of the Sukhumi District to the Kutaisi Gubernia and its placement under the Kutaisi Governon. Notwithstanding the policy of tsarist Russia, when the Georgian Democratic Republic was established in 1918, Abkhazia formed its integral part, which was recognazed by the government of the Russian Federation.

In the years of the existence of the Georgian Democratic Republic, Georgian Bolsheviks, backed by the government to the government of the Russian Federative Republic, tried by every means available to weaken the Georgian Democratic Republic. This was aim set to itself by the Georgian Communist Party whiah was accorded the rights of a legal party by the Treaty of 7 May 1920 concluded between Russia and Georgia. The enemies of Democratic Georgia were most active in the country’s peripheral areas. the risings in Abkhazia aginst the Georgian Democratic Republic were the result of the action of these forces.

The processes occurring in Abkhazia following the annexation of Georgia by the Russian SFR and the establishment of Soviet power on 25 February 1921 are reflected widely in the speeches and letters of Nestor Lakoba, leader of Abkhazian Bolsheviks. On 21 March, 1921, Georgia’s Revolutionary Commmittee issued a declaration on Abkhazia, and on 29 March, at a meeting of Transcaucasian leading figures it was decided to set up an Abkhazian SSR. It is worth noting that the Abkhazian Bolsheviks: Lakoba and Eshba, while demanding independence on behalf of Abkhazia, completely ignored the interests of the Georgian population of Abkhazia. At the 4th Congress of the Georgian Communist Party, Lakoba noted the question of setting up an independent republic of Abkhazia had been raised by himself and E. Eshba at the Barumi meeting on 29 March 1921. Lakoba and Eshba argued their damand by the necessity of eliminating inter-ethnic strife and establishment of genuine Soviet power in Abkhazia.

However, it is probably not disputable that historically and culturally the Abkhazians were Georgians. There mmay exist two models regarding those who call themselves Apsua. If the Abazgoi-Apsilae were of Kartvelian stock, the Apsua that came later occupied theit habitat (sattled down alongside the Abazgoi-Apsilae), and the Georgians called the newcomers, too Abkhazians. But if the Abazgoi-Apsilae were not descent, their kinder Apsua, who arrived later, strengthened the properly Abkhazian (in the narow meaning of the word) element, bringing eith their own langiage and customs.

Today those who call themselves Apsua, and whom we call Abkhazians, as already said constitute a nation that has other homeland than Georgia.

The Abkhazians (Apsua) and the Georgiana from an equally indigenous population of Western Georgia, with equal right to the land. Neither the Georgians nor the Abkhazianz are conquerors of this land. this is today’s reality. The foregoing was its history. The Georgians have settled this land ffrom ancient time, and the Abkhazians, either from ancient timeas or from the 17th century, or else both from ancient times and from the 17th century.

Thus, Abkazian is collective name, not possesing a single meaning. From Abazgian-Abkhazian it broadened to the concept of Western Georgia (8th cent.), from Western Georgian to generally Georgian (10th cent.); after the foundation of the Principality of Abkhazia, Abkhazian implied an inhabitant of this Principality.

After the foundation of the Abkhazian Autonimous Republic, Abkhazia generally refers to that automous entity, but Abkhazian refers only to the part of its population whose self-designation is Apsua.

Sokhumi (pop. 111 700) the capital of Abkhazeti - lies at a large picturesque bay. In antiquity there was a trading town, Dioscuria, on the site. Sokhumi is an important transport junction of the republic; through it pass the Black-Sea railway and an asphalt motor-way, connecting the town with districts of the Georgia and North Caucasus. The Sokhumi port handles a considerable traffic of goods and passengers.

Tkvarcheli (pop. 20 600) lying in the valley of the river Galidza, is an important industrial town of the republic. The Tkvarcheli coking coal is mainly supplied to the Rustavi Metallurgical Integrated Works.

Ochamchire (pop. 20 800) and Gali (pop. 16 000) are the centres of tea-growing districts.

A vast popularity is enjoyed by Gagra (pop. 26 900), a beautiful health-resort, as well as by Gudauta (pop. 14 700), Bichvinta (Pitsunda) (pop.11 100).


The Ajara Autonomic Republic lies in the south-western prt of Georgia. It has an area of 3 thousend sq. Km. Ajara is a mountainous country and its economy also is chiefly concentrated on the sea-coast strip. Population in Ajara Region of 1992 was 384 400. According to the sources of 1989, there are:

Gergians 82,77%

Russia - 7,66%

Armenian - 4,04%

Greek - 1,88%

Ukrainians - 1,51%

Others - 2,14%

Particulary iportant among the branches of subtropical agriculture are: citrus-fruit growing (with its share of about 60 per cent of Georgia’s total citrus plantations) and tea-growing (12 per cent of the tea-plantations of the republic). The principal zone of subtropical crops lies in sea-side Ajara. The leading branch in the agriculture of Inner Ajaria is tobacco-growing, involving about 13 per cent of all tobacco-plantations in Georgia. Vine-growing is also practised here and valuable brands of white and red table wines are produced.

Vastly popular are the health-resorts of the republic. There are here spas, balneological and mountain-climatic resorts.

Batumi (pop. 136 900) - capital of the AAR is the third town in Georgia as to size. It is situated on the southern shore of a deep bay. The present-day Batumi is a large sea-port importance, oil-exports predominating in its freight turnover. Owing to its ocvenient geographical position it is closely connected with most important economic regions with many foreign countries.

Kobuleti (pop. 21 100) is a popular sea-side resort. Between Batumi and Kobuleti are situated the resorts of Tsikhisdziri, Makhingauri, Mtsvane Kkontskhi.

Shida Kartli (South Ossetia)

Shida Lartli, Samachblo lies between the Main Caucasus range and the Inner-Kartli plain. The region has an area of 3,9 sq. km. About two-thirds of the area is occupied by medium and high-mountain region, and only part of its area belongs to the foothill zone, where the population anad economy of the Region are largely centred. According to the sources of 1989 - 98 527 people live in

The natural conditions in the foothill zone are favourable for the cultivation of fruit-growing, cereals and other crops. In themountain districts, on subalpine and alpine pasture, transhumance sheep-breeding is practised. the earth is rich in polymetallic ores, barite and mineral water springs.

Tskhinvali (pop.41 600) is situated in the valley of the river Didi Liakhvi..

The urban-type settlement of Kvaisa ia a mining industry centre. In thepicturesque valley of the Didi Liakhvi lies Java a balneological and mountain-climatic resort.



The Georgian language belongs to the Kartvelian group of Iberian-Caucasian languages. It is one of the oldest of the living languages. The Assyrian manuscript "A book of peoples and countries", written in the fifth century, contains a note that of 73 peoples then known only 14 had a written language. Among these Georgians are mentioned (Latin, Slavic-Cyrillic, Arabian, Indian, Chines, Japanese, Korean, Ethiopian, Greek, Georgian, Armenian, Jewish, Mongolian and Syrian). The Georgians have their alphabet, the number of letters being the same of sounds, thus spelling and pronunciation are identical. Handwriting and printing are similar. This makes Georgian orthography one of the simplest and most perfect in the world. The Georgian written language was created under the king Parnavaz (III century AD).

(You need
GeoDumba.ttf font to read this section)

1. a (A) Drum

2. b (B) Brian

3. g (G) Leg

4. d (D) Deacon

5. e (E) Mercury

6. v (V) Visit

7. z (Z) Zero

8. T (T) Steel

9. i (I) Family

10. k (K) Knob

11. l (L) Michael

12. m (M) Merethe

13. n (N) John

14. o (O) Oslo

15. p (P) Peter

16. J (Z) Bourgeois

17. r (R) Robert

18. s (S) Sting

19. t (T) Timothy

20. u (O) Scooter

21. p (P) Peter

22. q (K) Queen

23. R (GH) Paris (like a French R)

24. y (KN) Kink

25. S (SH) Shine

26. C (TCH) Chair

27. w (TS) Tsusima

28. Z (ZD) Dzenga

29. c (TC) Tceli (in Georgian means-year)

30. W (CH) Choki ( - " - pole)

31. q (KH) Khan

32. j (DZ) Georgia

33. h (H) Hit

For ex. Norwey - norvegia, Merethe -merete, Oslo - oslo

Tbilisi - Tbilisi


Norwegian Refugee council - norvegiis ltolvilTa sabWo

The first work in the Georgian language that have come to us were written in the 5th century AD. To this period belongs the first Georgian narrative "The Martyrdom of St Shushanik", by Jakob Tsurtaveli. The twelfth century was the classical period of Georgian medieval literature. One of the first masterpieces of this period is Amiran-Darejaniani, ascribed to Mose Koneli, an adventure of derring-do and chivalrous acts that has its roots in the early folk tales surrounding Amirani. Many of the best writers of the twelfth century belonged to the courts of the Georgian kings, notably Shota Rustaveli, the most celebrated figure of Georgian culture. His major work, "The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin", is regarded as the national epic.



Tradition has it that Christianity came to Georgia in AD 330 when St Nino, a holy slave women from Cappadocia, cured the Iberian Queen Nana of a strange illness, thus gaining her confidence. Nana’s husband, King Mirian, was subsequently converted during a hunter trip when suddenly enveloped in darkness, he called upon the Christian God who restored the light. Numerous other legends surround this period. One concerns the erection of a church in the city of Mtskheta where the central pillar of the church, too large to be raised by any human means, was suddenly lifted into the air and set in place by divine intervention. The distinctive shape of the Georgian Orthodox cross is also ascribed to St Nino, who upon entering Georgia took two vine branches and tied them into a cross with strands of her own hair.

The history of Georgian church architecture has been completed and distinctive. The early christian temples such as those at Bolnisi and Urbnisi (both 5th century), are magnificent basilicas. Georgian architectural monuments of the 11th-13th centuries can still be seen today.

Georgians have always had the reputation of being highly tolerant of other peoples and religions. Tbilisi boasts a Christian cathedral, a mosque and a synagogue all within walking distance of each other. A number of Jewish communities exist throughout Georgia. The cities of Kutaisi and Tbilisi have large communities and synagogues.

Islam is widely practiced throughout Georgia. Communities of Azerbaijanis have lived in Georgia for centuries. In the autonomous republics of Ajara and Abkhazia many people follow Islam, having absorbed it from the Turks during their dominion over these territories.

Armenians too comparise part of the ethnic make-up of Georgia. Their church is also autocephalous and varies in points of doctrine and ritual from Orthodox Church.


The Georgian Character

The Georgians are said to be the most hospitality people on Earth, with strong traditions of chivalry and codes of personal honor. They believe that guests come from God. Friendship is prized highest among all the virtues. It is celebrated in the great national epic in the, The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin, by Shota Rustaveli and which provides an insight into daily life, in which a person’s worth is judged not by how much money he or she has in his pocket but how many friends he has. The Georgians are proud, passionate and fiercely individualistic, yet deeply connected with each other through a shared sense of belonging to a greater Georgian family. Women are highly esteemed in the society and are accorded a respect endowed with great courtliness. The statue of Mother Georgia (Kartlis Deda) that stands in the hills above Tbilisi perhaps best symbolizes the national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine with which she greets her friends and in her right is a sword to draw against her enemies.



Georgian life remains rooted in the Bacchic tradition, in which reverence for the grape influences everything from Christian iconography to the oral traditions embedded in toast-making. While some more of the more important toasts require drinking your glass to the bottom as a sign of respect (bolomde in Georgian), the traditions of the Georgian table space the drinking out over the course of the meal. Here are the rules. You cannot drink until the tamada (toastmaster) has made his toast and drinks. Only then, and usually in order around the table, can other revelers repeat the toast and drink. Never propose a different toast unless you are given permission: that is an offense to the tamada. If the toast is made to you as a visitor, to America or England, to the President or the Queen, or in any way bears directlly upon your presence, you must wait to drink until everyone else has gone before you. Your toast in response should be one of thanks. Occasionally you will hear the tamada say Alaverdi to someone. This means that one guest has been chosen to elaborate the tamada’s toast. All other present then drink to this same theme.

Toasting is not taken lightly in Georgia! In addition of the time-honored forms are time-honored subjects. Here, in order are the subjects to which you will most likely be drinking: to peace, to the reason for the gathering, to the hostess, to parents and ancestors, to Georgia as motherland, to friends, to the memory of those who have died (this is usually accompanied by pouring wine onto bread before you drink), to life, to children, to the mandilosani (in honor of women), to each guest present, sometimes individually, sometimes combined. After this the tamada usually allows anyone who so desires to make a toast. A closing toast is made in honor of the tamada, and the very last toast is to a safe journey home and to future meetings. Most Georgian homes have a large ram’s or goat’s horn called a khantsi. This will invariably be brought out at some point during the meal, filled with wine and handed to an honored guest. Usually you must drink this to the bottom.




1. Roger Rosen. The Georgian Republic., 1991.
2. Population Republic of Georgia. Statistic collections. Tbilisi. 1993.
3. Nodar Nachkebia. Georgian SSR. Tbilisi. 1968.
4. International Monetary Fund. Economic Reviews. Georgia. 1993.
5. Mariam Lortdkipanidze. The Abkhazians and Abkhazia. Tbilisi. 1990.

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