Explore Georgia



Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო, sak’art’velo) is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Situated at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by the Russian Federation, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 km² (26,910 sq. miles), slightly larger than West Virginia and has a population of 4.6 million people. Approximately 84% of the population are native Georgians, with Azeri and Armenians accounting for about 14% of the population. The major religions of Georgia are Orthodox Christian (84%), Muslim (10%), and Armenian-Georgian (4%). The Georgian language is one of the world’s oldest living languages and has its own distinctive alphabet. 
Georgia lies between latitudes 41° and 44°N, and longitudes 40° and 47°E. It's approximately the same latitude as the state of Massachusetts. Mountains are the dominant geographic feature of Georgia; the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range separates Georgia from the Russian Federation and the southern portion of the country is bounded by the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. 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. The main roads through the mountain range into Russian territory lead through the Roki Tunnel between South and North Ossetia and the Darial Gorge (in the Georgian region of Khevi). The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range is much higher in elevation than the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, with the highest peaks rising more than 5,000 meters (16,404 ft) above sea level. The highest mountain in Georgia is Mount Shkhara at 5,201 meters (17,064 ft). The third highest mountain in Georgia is Mt. Kazbegi, at 5033 meters (16,512 ft) is the only one of volcanic origin. The region between Kazbegi and Shkhara (a distance of about 200 km (124 mi) along the Main Caucasus Range) is dominated by numerous glaciers. Out of the 2,100 glaciers that exist in the Caucasus today, approximately 30% are located within Georgia. The two major rivers in Georgia are the Rioni and the Mtkvari.
Georgia's constitution is that of a representative democracy, organized as a unitary, semi-presidential republic. It is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Community of Democratic Choice, the Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova (GUAM) Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, and the Asian Development Bank. The country aspires to join NATO and the European Union. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens.
The history of Georgia can be traced back to the ancient kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia. In the early 4th century, it was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity. 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 the great Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli dedicated his 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 during her reign. Notably, in January 2004, the country adopted the five-cross flag, featuring the Saint George's Cross; this flag was used in Georgia from the 5th century throughout the Middle Ages. 
At the beginning of the 19th century, Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire. After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia was invaded by the Soviet Red Army in 1921; in 1922 Georgia was forcefully incorporated into the Soviet Union. This lasted until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Like many post-communist countries, Georgia suffered from the economic crisis and civil unrest during the 1990s. After 2004, new political leadership introduced democratic reforms which fostered foreign investment and economic growth. This initial advance was somewhat stunted in August 2008 when Georgia and Russia fought over two de facto independent regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Georgia considers to be occupied by Russia. The situation is now stable; foreign investment is increasing and Georgia and Russia engaged in dialog concerning a future political resolution.
Georgians do not call themselves Georgians. They refer to each other as “Kartvelebi” (ქართველები) and their land “Sakartvelo” (საქართველო). 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. In fact it is derived from the names “Kurj” or “Gurj”, by which Georgians are known to the Arabs and modern Persians. Another theory purports the name comes from the Greek “geo” (earth) because when 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. Romans referred to Georgia as Iberi and the people Iberians; the Slaves called Georgia Iveria and the people Ivers.

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