Georgia (country) facts

For the US State, please see Georgia (U.S. State)

Georgia
საქართველო
Sakartvelo
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Dzala ertobashia (ძალა ერთობაშია)
(English: "Strength is in Unity")
Anthem: Tavisupleba (თავისუფლება)
(English: "Freedom")
Capital
and largest city
Tbilisi
Official languages Georgian
Other languages
Ethnic groups (2002) 83.8% Georgian,
6.5% Azeri,
5.7% Armenian,
1.5% Russian,
2.5% others
Demonym Georgian
Government Unitary semi-presidential republic
 -  President Giorgi Margvelashvili
 -  Prime Minister TBA
Modern Statehood
 -  Independence from Russian Empire May 26, 1918 
 -  Independence from the Soviet Union Declared
Finalized
April 9, 1991
December 25, 1991 
Area
 -  69,700 km2 (120th)
26,911 sq mi
Population
 -  2010 estimate 4,636,400 (121st)
 -  Density 68.1/km2 (144th)
164.2/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $22.443 billion
 -  Per capita $5,114
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $11.665 billion
 -  Per capita $2,658
HDI (2010) Increase 0.698
medium · 74th
Currency Lari (ლ) (GEL)
Time zone UTC (UTC+4)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+4)
Drives on the right
Calling code 995
Internet TLD .ge

Georgia is a country in Eastern Europe, located on the coast of the Black Sea. During 1991-1995 its full name was the Republic of Georgia but since 1995 it is Georgia as written in the Constitution. Before, it was part of the Soviet Union, but now it is an independent republic. The capital city is Tbilisi. Its population is almost 5 million.

History

George XII of Georgia
King George XII was the last king of Kartli and Kakheti, which was annexed by Russia in 1801. The Bagrationi royal family was deported from the kingdom. The current pretenders' restoration to the throne is discussed in Georgian society in the present day.

The Georgians are an ancient people. Their Capital Tbilisi was founded around AD 400, after the end of the Roman Empire . Western Georgia was part of the Roman empire before then. The Arabs captured it in 635 AD. The culture continued and they flourished through trade. In the 900s Arabs were weaker and Georgia became their own country again. It was the major country in the region until the Mongols invaded in 1223. Georgia was part of the Mongolian empire for a century on and off until 1334, when King Giorgi V took over. In the 1500s the Persians invaded Georgia four times from 1541-1544. In 1555 the Kings of Kartli ruled through the will of the Persian Shahs.

In 1783 The treaty of Georgievsk was signed between Catherine the Great of Russia and King Heraclius II , giving Russia the power to protect Georgia. Then, in 1798 the Persians burned Tbilisi to the ground.

From 1811 to 1918 Georgia was under the Tsar of Russia. Their culture survived intact. From 1918 to 1921 Georgia was independent, and then was part of the Soviet Union.

In 1991 Georgia declared their independence and they have been their own country ever since. There was a rough patch between 1994 and 1995 when the economy was poor, but now Georgia is a country with close ties with the United States. They are currently applying to NATO.

In 2008 Georgia was involved in the 2008 South Ossetia war.

Geography and climate

Köppen climate classification map of Georgia
Köppen climate classification map of Georgia

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.

The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range forms the northern border of Georgia. The main roads through the mountain range into Russian territory lead through the Roki Tunnel between Shida Kartli and North Ossetia and the Darial Gorge (in the Georgian region of Khevi). The Roki Tunnel was vital for the Russian military in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War because it is the only direct route through the Caucasus Mountains. The southern portion of the country is bounded by the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. 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 5,068 meters (16,627 ft), and the second highest is Mount Janga (Dzhangi–Tau) at 5,059 m (16,598 ft) above sea level. Other prominent peaks include Mount Kazbek at 5,047 m (16,558 ft), Shota Rustaveli 4,860 m (15,945 ft), Tetnuldi 4,858 m (15,938 ft), Mt. Ushba 4,700 m (15,420 ft), and Ailama 4,547 m (14,918 ft). Out of the abovementioned peaks, only Kazbek is of volcanic origin. The region between Kazbek 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.

Tusheti, Georgia — Omalo area
Tusheti region in northeast Georgia

The term Lesser Caucasus Mountains is often used to describe the mountainous (highland) areas of southern Georgia that are connected to the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range by the Likhi Range. The area can be split into two separate sub-regions; the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, which run parallel to the Greater Caucasus Range, and the Southern Georgia Volcanic Highland, which lies immediately to the south of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains.

The overall region can be characterized as being made up of various, interconnected mountain ranges (largely of volcanic origin) and plateaus that do not exceed 3,400 meters (11,155 ft) in elevation. Prominent features of the area include the Javakheti Volcanic Plateau, lakes, including Tabatskuri and Paravani, as well as mineral water and hot springs. Two major rivers in Georgia are the Rioni and the Mtkvari. The Southern Georgia Volcanic Highland is a young and unstable geologic region with high seismic activity and has experienced some of the most significant earthquakes that have been recorded in Georgia.

The Krubera Cave is the deepest known cave in the world. It is located in the Arabika Massif of the Gagra Range, in Abkhazia. In 2001, a Russian–Ukrainian team had set the world depth record for a cave at 1,710 meters (5,610 ft). In 2004, the penetrated depth was increased on each of three expeditions, when a Ukrainian team crossed the 2,000-meter (6,562 ft) mark for the first time in the history of speleology. In October 2005, an unexplored part was found by the CAVEX team, further increasing the known depth of the cave. This expedition confirmed the known depth of the cave at 2,140 meters (7,021 ft).

Topography

Relief Map of Georgia
Relief map of Georgia

The landscape within the nation's boundaries is quite varied. Western Georgia's landscape ranges from low-land marsh-forests, swamps, and temperate rainforests to eternal snows and glaciers, while the eastern part of the country even contains a small segment of semi-arid plains. Forests cover around 40% of Georgia's territory while the alpine/subalpine zone accounts for roughly around 10 percent of the land.

Much of the natural habitat in the low-lying areas of western Georgia has disappeared during the past 100 years because of the agricultural development of the land and urbanization. The large majority of the forests that covered the Colchis plain are now virtually non-existent with the exception of the regions that are included in the national parks and reserves (e.g. Lake Paliastomi area). At present, the forest cover generally remains outside of the low-lying areas and is mainly located along the foothills and the mountains. Western Georgia's forests consist mainly of deciduous trees below 600 meters (1,969 ft) above sea level and contain species such as oak, hornbeam, beech, elm, ash, and chestnut. Evergreen species such as box may also be found in many areas. Ca. 1000 of all 4000 higher plants of Georgia are endemic in this country.

Vardzia and Mtkvari valley, Georgia
View of the cave city of Vardzia and the valley of the Kura River below

The west-central slopes of the Meskheti Range in Ajaria as well as several locations in Samegrelo and Abkhazia are covered by temperate rain forests. Between 600–1,000 metres (1,969–3,281 ft) above sea level, the deciduous forest becomes mixed with both broad-leaf and coniferous species making up the plant life. The zone is made up mainly of beech, spruce, and fir forests. From 1,500–1,800 metres (4,921–5,906 ft), the forest becomes largely coniferous. The tree line generally ends at around 1,800 metres (5,906 ft) and the alpine zone takes over, which in most areas, extends up to an elevation of 3,000 metres (9,843 ft) above sea level. The eternal snow and glacier zone lies above the 3,000 metre line.

Eastern Georgia's landscape (referring to the territory east of the Likhi Range) is considerably different from that of the west, although, much like the Colchis plain in the west, nearly all of the low-lying areas of eastern Georgia including the Mtkvari and Alazani River plains have been deforested for agricultural purposes. In addition, because of the region's relatively drier climate, some of the low-lying plains (especially in Kartli and south-eastern Kakheti) were never covered by forests in the first place.

The general landscape of eastern Georgia comprises numerous valleys and gorges that are separated by mountains. In contrast with western Georgia, nearly 85 percent of the forests of the region are deciduous. Coniferous forests only dominate in the Borjomi Gorge and in the extreme western areas. Out of the deciduous species of trees, beech, oak, and hornbeam dominate. Other deciduous species include several varieties of maple, aspen, ash, and hazelnut. The Upper Alazani River Valley contains yew forests.

At higher elevations above 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) above sea level (particularly in the Tusheti, Khevsureti, and Khevi regions), pine and birch forests dominate. In general, the forests in eastern Georgia occur between 500–2,000 metres (1,640–6,562 ft) above sea level, with the alpine zone extending from 2,000–2,300 to 3,000–3,500 metres (6,562–7,546 to 9,843–11,483 ft). The only remaining large, low-land forests remain in the Alazani Valley of Kakheti. The eternal snow and glacier zone lies above the 3,500-metre (11,483 ft) line in most areas of eastern Georgia.

Climate

The climate of Georgia is extremely diverse, considering the nation's small size. There are two main climatic zones, roughly corresponding to the eastern and western parts of the country. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range plays an important role in moderating Georgia's climate and protects the nation from the penetration of colder air masses from the north. The Lesser Caucasus Mountains partially protect the region from the influence of dry and hot air masses from the south.

Batumi Botanical Garden. Black Sea
The Black Sea coast of Batumi, western Georgia

Much of western Georgia lies within the northern periphery of the humid subtropical zone with annual precipitation ranging from 1,000–4,000 mm (39.4–157.5 in). 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 (including both the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains) experience cool, wet summers and snowy winters (snow cover often exceeds 2 meters in many regions). Ajaria is the wettest region of the Caucasus, where the Mt. Mtirala rainforest, east of Kobuleti, receives around 4,500 mm (177.2 in) of precipitation per year.

Eastern Georgia has a transitional climate from humid subtropical to continental. The region's weather patterns are influenced both by dry 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 mountain ranges (Likhi and Meskheti) that separate the eastern and western parts of the nation. Annual precipitation is considerably less than that of western Georgia and ranges from 400–1,600 mm (15.7–63.0 in).

The wettest periods generally occur during spring and autumn, while winter and summer months tend to be the driest. Much of eastern Georgia experiences hot summers (especially in the low-lying areas) and relatively cold winters. As in the western parts of the nation, elevation plays an important role in eastern Georgia where climatic conditions above 1,500 metres (4,921 ft) are considerably colder than in the low-lying areas. The regions that lie above 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) frequently experience frost even during the summer months.

Biodiversity

CaucasianOvcharka-Julius
Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Because of its high landscape diversity and low latitude, Georgia is home to about 5,601 species of animals, including 648 species of vertebrates (more than 1% of the species found worldwide) and many of these species are endemics. A number of large carnivores live in the forests, namely Brown bears, wolves, lynxes and Caucasian Leopards. The common pheasant (also known as the Colchian Pheasant) is an endemic bird of Georgia which has been widely introduced throughout the rest of the world as an important game bird. The species number of invertebrates is considered to be very high but data is distributed across a high number of publications. The spider checklist of Georgia, for example, includes 501 species.

Slightly more than 6,500 species of fungi, including lichen-forming species, have been recorded from Georgia, but this number is far from complete. The true total number of fungal species occurring in Georgia, including species not yet recorded, is likely to be far higher, given the generally accepted estimate that only about seven percent of all fungi worldwide have so far been discovered. Although the amount of available information is still very small, a first effort has been made to estimate the number of fungal species endemic to Georgia, and 2,595 species have been tentatively identified as possible endemics of the country. 1,729 species of plants have been recorded from Georgia in association with fungi. The true number of plant species occurring in Georgia is likely to be substantially higher.

Economy

Stadler KISS for Georgian Railways (cropped)
The Georgian Railways represent a vital artery linking the Black Sea and Caspian Sea – the shortest route between Europe and Central Asia.

Archaeological research demonstrates that Georgia has been involved in commerce with many lands and empires since ancient times, largely due its location on the Black Sea and later on the historical Silk Road. Gold, silver, copper and iron have been mined in the Caucasus Mountains. Georgian wine making is a very old tradition and a key branch of the country's economy. The country has sizable hydropower resources. Throughout Georgia's modern history agriculture and tourism have been principal economic sectors, because of the country's climate and topography.

For much of the 20th century, Georgia's economy was within the Soviet model of command economy. Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, Georgia embarked on a major structural reform designed to transition to a free market economy. As with all other post-Soviet states, Georgia faced a severe economic collapse. The civil war and military conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia aggravated the crisis. The agriculture and industry output diminished. By 1994 the gross domestic product had shrunk to a quarter of that of 1989. The first financial help from the West came in 1995, when the World Bank and International Monetary Fund granted Georgia a credit of USD 206 million and Germany granted DM 50 million.

Georgian wine and spirits factory in Telavi, Georgia
The production of wine is a traditional component of the Georgian economy.

Since the early 21st century visible positive developments have been observed in the economy of Georgia. In 2007, Georgia's real GDP growth rate reached 12 percent making Georgia one of the fastest growing economies in Eastern Europe. The World Bank dubbed Georgia "the number one economic reformer in the world" because it has in one year improved from rank 112th to 18th in terms of ease of doing business. The country has a high unemployment rate of 12.6% and has fairly low median income compared to European countries.

Georgia is becoming more integrated into the global trading network: its 2015 imports and exports account for 50% and 21% of GDP respectively. Georgia's main imports are fuels, vehicles, machinery and parts, grain and other foods, pharmaceuticals. Main exports are vehicles, ferro-alloys, fertilizers, nuts, scrap metal, gold, copper ores.

Demographics

Qartvelebi poloneti
Georgian youth in the Chokha, a traditional costume

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.

Caucasus-ethnic en
Ethno-linguistic groups in the Caucasus region

Ethnic Georgians form about 86.8 percent of Georgia's current population of 3,713,804 (2014 census). Other ethnic groups include Abkhazians, Armenians, Assyrians, Azerbaijanis, Greeks, Jews, Kists, Ossetians, Russians, Ukrainians, Yezidis and others. The Georgian Jews are one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. Once Georgia was also home to significant ethnic German communities, but most Germans were deported during World War II. 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 having official status within the autonomous region of Abkhazia. Georgian is the primary language of 87.7 percent of the population, followed by 6.2 percent speaking Azerbaijani, 3.9 percent Armenian, 1.2 percent Russian, and 1 percent other languages.

Culture

Colchis riders pendants - pair
Ancient Colchian riders pendants, Georgian National Museum

Georgian culture evolved over thousands of years from its foundations in the Iberian and Colchian civilizations. Georgian culture enjoyed a renaissance and golden age of classical literature, arts, philosophy, architecture and science in the 11th century. Georgian culture was influenced by Classical Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the various Iranian empires (notably the Achaemenid, Parthian, Sassanian, Safavid and Qajar empires), and later, from the 19th century, by the Russian Empire.

The Sukhishvili Georgian National Ballet - Khorumi
Georgian traditional war dance Khorumi

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. The Georgian language is written in three unique scripts, which according to traditional accounts were invented by King Pharnavaz I of Iberia in the 3rd century BC.

Georgia is known for its folklore, traditional music, dances, theatre, cinema, and art. Notable painters from the 20th century include Niko Pirosmani, Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akhvlediani; notable ballet choreographers include George Balanchine, Vakhtang Chabukiani, and Nino Ananiashvili; notable poets include Galaktion Tabidze, Lado Asatiani, and Mukhran Machavariani; and notable theatre and film directors include Robert Sturua, Tengiz Abuladze, Giorgi Danelia and Otar Ioseliani.

Architecture and arts

Hpim3433
Old Tbilisi – Architecture in Georgia is in many ways a fusion of European and Asian.

Georgian architecture has been influenced by many civilizations. There are several different architectural styles for castles, towers, fortifications and churches. The Upper Svaneti fortifications, and the castle town of Shatili in Khevsureti, are some of the finest examples of medieval Georgian castle architecture. Other architectural aspects of Georgia include Rustaveli avenue in Tbilisi in the Haussmann style, and the Old Town District.

Georgian ecclesiastic art is one of the most notable aspects of Georgian Christian architecture, which combines the classical dome style with the original basilica style, forming what is known as the Georgian cross-dome style. Cross-dome architecture developed in Georgia during the 9th century; before that, most Georgian churches were basilicas. Other examples of Georgian ecclesiastic architecture can be found outside Georgia: Bachkovo Monastery in Bulgaria (built in 1083 by the Georgian military commander Grigorii Bakuriani), Iviron monastery in Greece (built by Georgians in the 10th century), and the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem (built by Georgians in the 9th century). One of the most famous late 19th/early 20th century Georgian artists was primitivist painter Niko Pirosmani.

Music

Batumi - Georgian Folk Singers (5024684289)
Georgian Folk Singers

Georgia has an ancient musical tradition, which is primarily known for its early development of polyphony. Georgian polyphony is based on three vocal parts, a unique tuning system based on perfect fifths, and a harmonic structure rich in parallel fifths and dissonances. Three types of polyphony have developed in Georgia: a complex version in Svaneti, a dialogue over a bass background in the Kakheti region, and a three-part partially-improvised version in western Georgia. The Georgian folk song "Chakrulo" was one of 27 musical compositions included on the Voyager Golden Records that were sent into space on Voyager 2 on 20 August 1977.

Cuisine

Georgian Cuisine Collage
From the top right to the left and below: Adjarian Khachapuri, Mtsvadi, Khinkali, Imeretian Khachapuri, Pkhali, Churchkhela, Shotis puri, Elarji, Mchadi, Satsivi

Georgian cuisine and wine have evolved through the centuries, adapting traditions in each era. One of the most unusual traditions of dining is supra, or Georgian table, which is also a way of socialising with friends and family. The head of supra is known as tamada. He also conducts the highly philosophical toasts, and makes sure that everyone is enjoying themselves. Various historical regions of Georgia are known for their particular dishes: for example, khinkali (meat dumplings), from eastern mountainous Georgia, and khachapuri, mainly from Imereti, Samegrelo and Adjara. In addition to traditional Georgian dishes, the foods of other countries have been brought to Georgia by immigrants from Russia, Greece, and recently China.

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