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About Georgia

General Information -- Geography -- Climate -- Religion -- Language -- Population and Ethnic Composition-- Government -- Administrative Division -- Time Zone -- Currency Exchange and Credit Cards -- Capital City -- Holidays -- Airports and Public Transportation -- Traditional Cuisine -- Brief History

General Information

Georgia, known officially from 1990 to 1995 as the Republic of Georgia, is a country in Eurasia (Eastern Europe/Western Asia) to the east of the Black Sea, most of which is located in the South Caucasus, while a portion of the territory lies in the North Caucasus. A former republic of the Soviet Union, it shares borders with Russia in the north and Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in the south.



In the north, Georgia has a 723km common border with Russia, specifically with the Northern Caucasus federal district. Georgia also shares borders with Azerbaijan (322 km.) to the south-east, Armenia (164 km.) to the south, and Turkey (252 km.) to the south-west.
Mountains are the dominant geographic feature of Georgia. 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. Due to a complex geographic setting, mountains also isolate the northern region of Svaneti from the rest of Georgia.


Georgia has two main climatic zones, roughly separating Eastern and Western parts of the country. Much of western Georgia lies within the humid subtropical zone with annual precipitation ranging from 1000-4000mm. The precipitation tends to be uniformly distributed throughout the year, although the rainfall can be particularly heavy during the Autumn months. The climate of the region varies significantly with elevation and while much of the lowland areas of western Georgia are relatively warm throughout the year, the foothills and mountainous areas experience cool, wet summers and snowy winters.
Eastern Georgia has a transitional climate from humid subtropical to continental. The region's weather patterns are influenced both by dry, Central Asian/Caspian air masses from the east and humid, Black Sea air masses from the west. The penetration of humid air masses from the Black Sea is often blocked by several mountain ranges that separate the eastern and western parts of the nation. Annual precipitation is considerably less than that of western Georgia and ranges from 400-1600mm. The wettest periods generally occur during spring and autumn while winter and the summer months tend to be the driest. Much of eastern Georgia experiences hot summers and relatively cold winters. The regions that lie above 2000 meters above sea level frequently experience frost even during the summer months.



Historical Georgian paganism was associated with the Moon and the highest god in the Georgian pantheon was the idol of Armazi, a soldier-figure, Moon-god, erected at the hill in Mtskheta. Other idols included Gatsi, Gaime and Zadeni. The large majority of the pagan idols were destroyed in the fourth century A.D. when Christianity became the state religion of Georgia.
Today most of the population practices Orthodox Christianity of the Georgian Orthodox Church (83.9%). The religious minorities are: Muslim (9.9%); Armenian Apostolic (3.9%); Roman Catholic (0.8%). 0.8% of those recorded in the 2002 census declared themselves to be adherents of other religions and 0.7% declared no religion at all.



Georgian is the official language of Georgia. Georgian is the primary language of about 3.9 million people in Georgia itself (83 percent of the population), and of another 200,000 abroad (chiefly in Turkey, Iran, Russia, USA and Europe). It is the literary language for all ethnographic groups of Georgian people, especially those who speak other South Caucasian languages: Svans, Megrelians, and the Laz. Other languages spoken in Georgia are Russian 9%, Armenian 7%, Azerbaijani 6%, other 7%

Population and Ethnic Composition


Georgia's current population is 4,661,473 (July 2006 est.), with ethnic Georgians forming a majority of about 83.8%. Azerbaijanis form 6.5% of the population, Armenians 5.7% and Russians 1.5% (most Russians have emigrated since Georgia declared its independence). The Abkhazians in Abkhazia and the Ossetians in South Ossetia (and across the border in North Ossetia) have tried to secede from Georgia since independence. Two other Kartvelian groups live in Georgia: the Svan and the Mingrelians, with smaller numbers of the Laz people, most of who live in Turkey. They are linguistically different but closely related ethnically and culturally to other Georgians. There are numerous smaller groups in the country, including Assyrians, Chechens, Greeks, Kabardins, Kurds, Jews, Tatars, Turks and Ukrainians.



Georgia is a multiparty republic operating under the constitution of 1995 as amended. The executive branch is headed by the president, who is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and has direct control over those governmental bodies responsible for national security; the prime minister is responsible for managing the nation’s economic policies. There is a popularly elected 235-member parliament. Some of the members are directly elected by districts; the rest are elected on a proportional basis.

Administrative Division


Georgia is divided into 9 regions, 2 autonomous republics, and 1 city. The regions are further subdivided into 69 districts.
There two Autonomous republics are Abkhazia, and Ajaria.

Time Zone


Georgia Time Standard Time is 4 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+4).
Georgia Time does not operate Daylight-Saving Time

Currency Exchange and Credit Cards


The lari (GEL) is the national currency of Georgia. It is divided into 100 tetri. Notes are in denominations of GEL500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 50, 20, 10 and 5 tetri. Credit cards are accepted in certain hotels. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Capital City


Tbilisi is the capital city of the country of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Kura river. Tbilisi is still sometimes known by its former Turkish name of Tiflis. The city covers an area of 350 km² and has more than 1.345 million inhabitants.
Tbilisi is a significant industrial, social, and a cultural center and is emerging as a major transit route for global energy/trade projects. The city is located along one of the historic Silk Road routes and plays an important role as a trade/transit center due to its strategic location at the crossroads between Russia's North Caucasus, Turkey, and the Transcaucasian republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. In recent times, Tbilisi is known for the peaceful Rose Revolution which took place around the city's Freedom Square and nearby locations, after falsified parliamentary elections of 2003 led to the resignation of the Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Since 2003, Tbilisi has experienced considerably more stability, decreasing crime rates, improving economy, and a booming tourist industry similar to what the city experienced during the Soviet times.
Tbilisi has a number of important landmarks and sightseeing locations. The parliament and the government (State Chancellery) buildings of Georgia, as well as the Supreme Court of Georgia, are all located in Tbilisi. The city also has important cultural landmarks such as the Tbilisi State Conservatoire, Tbilisi State Opera Theatre, Shota Rustaveli State Academic Theatre, Marjanishvili State Academic Theatre, the Sameba Cathedral, the Vorontsov's Palace, many state museums, the National Public Library of the Parliament of Georgia, the National Bank of Georgia and other important institutions. During the Soviet times, Tbilisi continuously ranked in the top 4 cities in the Soviet Union for the number of museums.
Out of the city's historic landmarks, the most notable locations are the Narikala fortress (4th century-17th century AD), Anchiskhati Church (6th century, built up in the 16th century), Sioni Cathedral (8th century, later rebuilt), Church of Metekhi (13th century), etc.




Airports and Public Transportation


Tbilisi International Airport (TIA) Lochini is located 20 km of the centre of the capital of Georgia.
There are different types of transport in Tbilisi, the most popular of which are the yellow buses, that were transported from the Dutch Republic by the new government of Georgia. Tbilisi also has Tbilisi Metro, that has been functioning since 1966. There used to be Tram Lines in Tbilisi, that were built in the Soviet Period, but you will only see them today in Sanzona, a district in Gldani-Nadzaladevi Borough.

Traditional Cuisine


Georgian national cuisine is notable for a great variety of meat, fish and vegetable hors d’oeuvres, various cheeses, pickles and unique seasonings.
A guest invited to the Georgian table is first of all offered to eat the golden-brown khachapuri which is a thin pie filled with mildly salted cheese; then he is asked to try lobio (kidney bean), chicken stewed in a garlic sauce, small river fish tsotskhali, lori, a sort of ham; muzhuzhi, pig’s legs boiled and soaked in vinegar; sulguni cheese roasted in butter, pickled eggplants and green tomatoes which are filled with the walnut paste seasoned with vinegar, pomegranate grains and aromatic herbs; the vegetable dish pkhali made of finely chopped beet leaves or of spinach mixed with the walnut paste, pomegranate grains and various spices. In East Georgia you will be offered wheaten bread baked on the walls of tone, which is a large cylinder-like clay oven, while in West Georgia you will be treated to hot maize scones Mchadi baked on clay frying-pans.
Soup lovers will be delighted with the fiery rice and mutton soup kharcho, the tender chicken soup chikhirtma with eggs whipped in vinegar and the transparent light meat broth flavoured with garlic, parsley and fennel.
Even the most experienced gourmand will not be able to resist the savoury chizhi-pizhi, pieces of liver and spleen roasted in butter and whipped eggs; crisp chicken tabaka served with the pungent sour sauce satsivi. The famous dishes include the melting-in-the-mouth sturgeon on a spit and sauce; the chicken sauce chakhokhbili in a hot tomato and dressing; the Kakhetian dish chakapuli made of young lamb in a slightly sour juice of damson, herds and onion; roasted small sausages kupati stuffed with finely chopped pork, beef and mutton mixed with red pepper and barberries.
Everyone in Georgia is fond of Khashi, a broth cooked from beef entrails (legs, stomach, udder, pieces of head, bones) and lavishly seasoned with garlic.
Admirers of Khinkali-a sort of strongly peppered mutton dumplings, a favourite dish with the mountain dwellers of Georgia-keep growing in number. Like everywhere in the Caucasus, mcvadi (barbequed meat) is very popular in Georgia. Depending on a season, it is made of pork, mutton or spits eggplants stuffed with fat of tail and tomatoes.
The splendour of Georgia cuisine is backed up by famous white and red dry wines, among which anyone choose wine to one’s own taste: Mukhuzani with a pleasant bitter taste, golden cool Tetra, light straw-coloured Tsinandali with a crystal sour touch, dark amber-coloured slightly astrigent Teliani, rubycoloured Ojaleshi with a mildly sweet, emerald-like sparkling Manavi, garnet-red honey-tasting Kindzmarauli, and dark ruby-coloured velvety Khvanchkara, light-green Gurjaani dark golden fruity Tibaani and many others.

Brief History


Georgia became a kingdom about 4 B.C. and Christianity was introduced in A.D. 337. During the reign of Queen Tamara (1184–1213), its territory included the whole of Transcaucasia. During the 13th century, Tamerlane and the Mongols decimated its population. From the 16th century on, the country was the scene of a struggle between Persia and Turkey. In the 18th century it became a vassal to Russia in exchange for protection from the Turks and Persians.
Georgia joined Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1917 to establish the anti-Bolshevik Transcaucasian Federation and on its dissolution in 1918 proclaimed its independence. In 1922, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were annexed by the USSR and formed the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1936, Georgia became a separate Soviet republic. Under Soviet rule it was transformed from an agrarian country to a largely industrial urban society.
Georgia proclaimed its independence from the USSR on April 6, 1991. In Jan. 1992, its leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was sacked and later accused of dictatorial policies, the jailing of opposition leaders, human rights abuses, and clamping down on the media. A ruling military council was established by the opposition until a civilian authority could be restored. In 1992, Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Union's foreign minister under Gorbachev, became president.
In 1992–1993, the government engaged in armed conflict with separatists in the breakaway province of Abkhazia. In 1994, Russia and Georgia signed a cooperation treaty that authorized Russia to keep three military bases in Georgia and allowed Russians to train and equip the Georgian army. In 1996, Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia agreed to a cessation of hostilities in their six-year conflict. With little progress in resolving the Abkhazia situation, however, Parliament in April 1997 voted overwhelmingly to threaten Russia with loss of its military bases should it fail to extend Russian military control over the separatist region. In 1998, the U.S. and Britain began an operation to remove nuclear material from Georgia, dangerous remains from its Soviet years. A darling of the West since his days as the Soviet Union's foreign minister, Shevardnadze was viewed far less favorably by his own people, who were frustrated by unemployment, poverty, cronyism, and rampant corruption. In the 2000 presidential elections, Shevardnadze was reelected with 80% of the vote, though international observers determined the election was marred by irregularities.
In 2002, U.S. troops trained Georgia's military in antiterrorism measures in the hopes that Georgian troops would subdue Muslim rebels fighting in the country. Tensions between Georgia and Russia were strained over the Pankisi Gorge, a lawless region of Georgia that Russia said had become a haven for Islamic militants and Chechen rebels.
In May 2003, work began on the Georgian section of the enormously ambitious Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which runs from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey.
Massive demonstrations began after the preliminary results of the Nov. 2, 2003, parliamentary elections. The opposition party (and international monitors) claimed that the elections were rigged in favor of Shevardnadze and the political parties who supported him. After more than three weeks of massive protests, Shevardnadze resigned on Nov. 30. Georgians compared the turn of events to Czechoslovakia’s velvet revolution. In Jan. 2004 presidential elections, Mikhail Saakashvili, the key opposition leader, won in a landslide. The 36-year-old lawyer built his reputation as a reformer committed to ending corruption.