Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

State

Capital

Georgia

Tbilisi

Sakartvelo, Gruziya

Currency unit

Lari

Connections

 Abkhasia

 Borders

Caucasus

Democracy

Euskadi

Lawless

 Ossetia

Russia

USSR

Wars

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

An ancient nation, until 1991 part of the Soviet Union. It is believed to have been the land of the Golden Fleece, Colchis, of ancient legend in the Greek tale of Jason and the Argonauts. (The sheepskins were laid in streams and the gold stuck to the wool, a technique still known in Afghanistan.)

The Georgians are a people whose language is unrelated to the other languages of Eurasia, except for two others in its own South Caucasian Group. The Caucasus is a mountainous island of peoples who have remained apart from the waves of emigration to the west from the east.

There was a kingdom called Iberia from about the 3rd century BC. Is there a connection with the Iberia of the west - Spain and Portugal? Probably not, but there may be some connection between the Basque and Sakartvelan languages (7% overlap of vocabularies, though linguistics students now don't think there is any real connection).

It came under Roman control from 65 BC. The people were converted to Christianity in 330 AD. It was conquered by the Sassanian empire under Khosrow (531-579); then in 654 by the Arabs who created the Emirate of Tbilisi. The country became independent again in the 9th century. It reached its greatest power under Queen Tamara (1184-1213) who ruled a Pan-Caucasian empire. The Mongols came in 1220 and destroyed many of the villages and people. In 1510 the Ottoman Turks conquered the western part and the Iranian Shahs the eastern part. The whole country was under Muslim overlordship (either Ottoman or Iranian) until the 18th century. The king agreed to a treaty with Catherine the Great in 1783 to be protected, as an Orthodox country, by Russia from the Muslim powers. In 1801 the Georgian lands were absorbed into the Russian empire after being fought over by Iranians again. The Russians then conquered other parts of Georgia from the Turks in campaigns ending in 1878. Until 1991 it was wholly under Russian control as a Republic of the Soviet Union. During the Russian revolution there was an independent state in 1918, then occupied by the British 1919-20 as part of the anti-Bolshevik intervention force. In 1920 a Communist regime was set up and the country re-absorbed into the USSR. Stalin (Josip Vissarionavich Djugashvili) was a Georgian. So was Lavrenti Beria, Stalin's chief of the Political Police. It was Stalin who incorporated Avkasia and South Ossetia into the Soviet Republic of Georgia.

In 1990 a peaceful demonstration in favor of independence was attacked by the Soviet army and several civilians were killed by soldiers wielding spades and others poisoned by gas. This increased the desire for complete independence and a nationalist coalition won the election.

Minority groups
The Georgian Republic within the Soviet Union had a number of other peoples within its borders. In the overall context of the Soviet Union, where each linguistic people was guaranteed the use of its language and culture, it didn't matter much that there were different national areas - usually in Autonomous Oblasts. (Probably the best situation for areas of this kind - such as the Balkans is to be in a multi-national empire. The trouble begins when the empire breaks up, as the Habsburgs did in 1918 and Yugoslavia in 1990 and indeed the British Empire).

South Ossetians, a minority Iranic-speaking group of about 60,000, are agitating for independence from Georgia (declared independence in 1993) and possibly for union with North Ossetia, the other side of the Caucasus in Russia (assisted by Russia). The Georgian nationalists would like to expel them and claim their "true home" is in North Ossetia, an autonomous republic within Russia. There are other minorities including the Abkhazians who are fighting to be independent of Georgia. Georgian nationalists claim that the Ossetians are occupying national territory - but they have been doing so since 1213.

In April 1991 the Georgian Parliament declared the country independent and agreed to set up its own currency. But the Soviet army was still in the country.

The government of Zviad Gamzakhurdia, a militant nationalist, refused to sign the new Union Treaty reconstituting the Soviet Union. Conflict between supporters of President Gamzakhurdia and those of his former Prime Minister erupted into civil war at the end of 1991 when Gamzakhurdia was overthrown by a military revolt against his dictatorial behavior. Georgia is a good example of the bad effects of militant nationalism which excludes the rights of other nationalities. Gamzakhurdia also refused to join the CIS.

The isolation of the state ended when Edward Shevardnadze (former Soviet Foreign Minister under Gorbachov) became president in February 1992. New wars then broke out when the Avkhazians, a Muslim minority aided by other Caucasian minorities, announced they wished to secede.

The Abkhazians seem to have the support of Russia and other Caucasian minority peoples. Abkhazia includes a part of the Black Sea coast and some of the favorite vacation beach resorts of the former Soviet Union.

The interesting history of the Sakartvelans is alas not ended. Is it now going to be once again a Russian protectorate? Or indeed is it now within the American sphere of influence?

Saakashvili's government would like to join NATO, and even the EU (despite being beyond the borders of "Europe").

August 2008: Russia seemed to be attacking the country with bombers over the disputed territory of South Ossetia and a land invasion with tanks. Russians claim that they acted because the Saakashvili government had invaded South Ossetia to regain control over the territory, despite the presence of Russian troops there. It would seem likely that Georgia will not regain the territories of Avkhasia and South Ossetia. Both of them will probably continue to be, at least informally, part of Russia (Ossetians already carry Russian passports, along with Avkhasians).

Neal Ascherson on post-Soviet mini-states

The President of Russia has announced formal recognition of Abkhasia and South Ossetia as independent states.

Languages

Kartvelan (Gruziyan)

Ossetian

Avkhazian

Ajarian

Russian

 

Georgian (Kartuli), Megrelian, Svan, Laz (Chan)

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

In November 1990 a free election was held for parliament and the Communists lost power - the first non-communist victory. Zviad Gamzakhurdia was elected president of the parliament. He was elected president by the people in May 1991 with 85% of the vote. However, his regime was criticized for being dictatorial, showing that democracy is not easy to acquire after decades of dictatorship. There were demonstrations against his government which responded with Soviet methods, according to the opposition. He suppressed opposition newspapers, refused to allow elections to fill the seats of the former communists he had excluded from the parliament and in general behaved as a dictator rather than as a democratic leader so that the new regime was little better than the old. He did nothing about the economic problem. He was overthrown in January 1992 and a military government formed.

This is a classic case of the problems of the post-Communist countries where people find it difficult to adopt the tolerances of different points of view necessary for the peaceful working of a democratic system. Moreover, it shows that those who were good at leading opposition to the communist dictatorship are not always the best people to work the new system. The condition of near civil war is preventing international recognition and the development of a free market economy with assistance from outside.

The appointment of Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet Foreign Minister and associate of Gorbachov, and also a former Communist Party leader in Georgia, as president in February 1992, brought to an end the isolation of the republic and at first seemed likely to lead to democracy. Elections were held in October 1992. But the state of war with Avkhazians and the followers of Gamzakhurdia in Mengrelia led to political and economic paralysis. The state continued to be heavily influenced by the Russians and joined the CIS. However, in recent years American influence has been gaining. Shevardnadze had been an important man in the Soviet Union but he did not adapt to the new conditions in independent Georgia where subtle politicking is a vital skill.

Corruption is a serious problem. Although it can be regarded as being in Asia, it may also be counted as an outlier of Europe.

In October 2003 results of elections for the Parliament were widely considered to have been manipulated, leading to demonstrations demanding the resignation of Shevardnadze, whose party was declared to have won. He resigned on 22 Nov 2003, after demonstrators occupied Parliament.

In January 2004 a new president, Mikhail Saakashvili, educated in the US and with a Dutch wife, was elected. He promised to fight the universal corruption left by the previous regime. Can he succeed? He also hopes for membership of the EU. This cannot occur soon, if at all.

In October 2007 riots broke out directed against his government. He promised a free market regime would improve people's lives but many don't think it has. Russia is clearly stirring the pot with the aim of bringing the country back under control.

The August 2008 war, possibly provoked by Saakashvili's attempt to reassert Georgian control over South Ossetia, may lead to his downfall. This does seem to be a war aim of the Russians.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

Economics

Georgians like Armenians were reputed to be good at business and likely to benefit from the introduction of a market economy. It is said they used to sell fruit and vegetables in Moscow despite the inefficiencies of the Soviet economic system. Within the Soviet Union its advantage was in a climate which favored grapes and other Mediterranean produce.

However, the economy has suffered both from the breakdown of the Soviet system and the civil war. Shortage of electricity and many basic materials imported from the rest of the former Soviet Union.

Privatization is occurring slowly but is hindered by the high level of corruption. The state is economically weak and hardly able to protect the honesty of businesses.

Russia has blocked the exports of wine and fruit on the spurious grounds of "public health" - in reality to bring pressure on the government to make it come into line. At the same time Russia blocked the gas pipeline in winter.

A western-owned pipeline to bring Caspian oil to the west runs through the country. This means that the war with Russia also has something to do with controlling this pipeline, originally built to avoid Russia's control of much of the Caspian oil. If Russia succeeds in getting a puppet regime the pipeline will come under Russian control.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

The Gamzakhurdia regime put political opponents into prison. So did its successor - Shevardnadze. The current regime may be better - but its opponents say the president is closing down opposition media and attempting to make a one-party state..

Armed militia - the Mkedrioni (Knights) - are being disarmed, suggesting order is being restored.

Climate effects

Last revised 27/01/09


Caucasus


Asia


World Info


Home

Return to the top

eXTReMe Tracker