views updated May 23 2018



Republic of Georgia

Sakartveld Respublika

CAPITAL: T'bilisi (Tbilisi)

FLAG: White rectangle, in its central portion a red cross connecting all four sides of the flag; in each of the four corners is a small red bolnur-katskhuri cross; the five-cross flag appears to date back to the 14th century.

ANTHEM: National Anthem of the Republic of Georgia.

MONETARY UNIT: The lari (l) was issued in 1995 to replace government coupons that were introduced in 1993. l1 = $0.54945 (or $1 = l1.82) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in force.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 12 January; Christmas, 7 January; Independence Day, 26 May; St. George's Day, 22 November.

TIME: 3 pm = noon GMT.


Georgia is located in southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Turkey and Russia. Comparatively, the area occupied by Georgia is slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina, with a total area of 69,700 sq km (26,911 sq mi). Georgia shares boundaries with Russia on the n and e, Azerbaijan on the e and s, Armenia and Turkey on the s, and the Black Sea on the w. Georgia's land boundary totals 1,461 km (906 mi). Its coastline is 310 km (192 mi). Its capital city, T'bilisi, is located in the southeastern part of the country.


The topography of Georgia is mainly mountainous, with the great Caucasus Mountains in the north and lesser Caucasus Mountains in the south. The highest point in the nation is Mount Shkhara at a height of 5,201 m (17,064 ft) in the Greater Caucasus. The Kolkhida Lowland opens to the Black Sea in the west and the Kura River basin lies in the east. The Kura River is the nation's longest river with a length of 1,514 km (941 mi). Good soils occur in the river valley flood plains and in the foothills of the Kolkhida Lowland.


Georgia's climate along the Black Sea coast is similar to that along the Mediterranean, warm, humid, and almost subtropical. Farther inland the climate is continental, with warm summers and cold winters. July's mean temperature is 23°C (73.8°f). The mean temperature in January is -3°c (27.3°f). The annual rainfall in Georgia is 51 cm (20 in). In the mountains it is much cooler, with snow and ice all year in altitudes above 3,600 m (12,000 ft).


The country's land is composed of gently rolling plains. The Caucasus Mountains in Georgia begin a series of high mountains in Central Asia. The subtropical zone of the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus Mountains has a distinctive vegetation: woods of black alder, oak, elm, and beech with a profusion of lianas and an admixture of evergreens. Mountain goats, Caucasian goats, Caucasian antelope, European wild boar, porcupine, and the leopard inhabit the Caucasus, and reptiles and amphibious creatures abound. As of 2002, there were at least 107 species of mammals, 208 species of birds, and over 4,300 species of plants throughout the country.


Georgia suffers from pollution of its air, water, and soil. Air pollution is especially heavy in Rust'avi. In 1996, Georgia's industrial carbon dioxide emissions totaled 2.9 million metric tons; in 2000, the total was at 6.2 million metric tons. The Mtkvari River and the Black Sea are both heavily polluted. Pesticides from agricultural areas have significantly contaminated the soil.

In 2003, 2.3% of Georgia's total land area was protected. There are two Ramsar wetland sites: one in central Kolkheti and the other at the Ispani II marshes. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 11 types of mammals, 8 species of birds, 7 types of reptiles, 1 species of amphibian, 6 species of fish, and 10 species of invertebrates. Species on the endangered list include Atlantic sturgeon, slender-billed curlew, Mediterranean monk seals, Darevsky's viper, and the Armenian birch mouse.


The population of Georgia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 4,501,000, which placed it at number 116 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 13% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 19% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 90 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population growth rate for 200510 was stagnant at 0.0%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The projected population for the year 2025 was 4,178,000. The population density was 64 per sq km (167 per sq mi), with the majority of the population living near the Black Sea or in the river valleys.

The UN estimated that 52% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of -0.88%. The capital city, T'bilisi (Tbilisi), had a population of 1,064,000 in that year. Other cities and their estimated populations include Kútáisi, 268,800, and Rustavi, 181,400.


With independence in 1991 came three secessionist movements in three autonomous areas and conflicts in two of them. The conflict in South Ossetia in 1991, followed by the conflict in Abkhazia in 1992 and 1993, resulted in the mass displacement of ethnic Georgians, Ossetians, and Abkhaz, as well as other ethnic minorities. As many as 200,000 Georgians may have fled the fighting in Abkhazia in 1993. By December 1996, Georgia had 280,000 internally displaced persons. In February of 1997, a voluntary repatriation plan was agreed upon for persons to return to South Ossetia. Hostilities resumed in Gali in May 1998, displacing some 40,000 residents. Georgia's first census in 2002 detailed 4,961 stateless and 8,058 foreign citizens.

By year end 2004 there remained 237,069 internally displaced persons, mainly in urban areas, 29.6% in T'bilisi and 46.4% in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. Repatriation of Meskhetian Turks began in 2003 and was planned to continue until 2011. Transit migration, trafficked migrants (primarily women from other former Soviet states), migrants from Asia and Africa, and irregular migrants were of increasing concern in 2004 as Georgia looked to membership in the European Union (EU). In addition, in that same year there were 2,559 refugees, mainly Chechen/Kist from the Pankisi Gorge, and 11 asylum seekers.

Georgian emigration during the 1990s was estimated between 300,000 to more than 1.5 million. In 2004, some 8,934 Georgians sought asylum in over 18 countries, mainly Austria, France, Slovakia, and Sweden. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -4.62 migrants per 1,000 population, a significant change from -9.2 per 1,000 in 1990. The government views the migration levels as too high.


According to the 2002 census, 83.3% of the population are Georgian. The leading minorities are Azeris with 6.5%, Armenians with 5.7%, Russians with 1.5%, and others (including Ossetians and Abkhaz) with 2.5%.


Georgian is the official language and is spoken by about 71% of the population. Georgian is a South Caucasian language called Kartveli by its speakers. There is no article and a single declension with six cases. The alphabet is a phonetic one with 33 symbols. The literature dates from the 5th century ad.

Russian is spoken by 9% of the population, Armenian by 7%, Azeri by 6%, and various other languages are spoken by the remaining 7%. Abkhaz is the official language in Abkhazia.


In the 4th century ad Christianity briefly enjoyed the status of official religion, but successive conquests by Mongols, Turks, and Persians left Georgia with a complex and unsettled ethnic and religious heritage. According to the 2002 census, over 70% of the population are nominally Georgian Orthodox. About 13% are members of other Orthodox groups, including Russian, Armenian, and Greek. A small number of ethnic Russians belong to dissident Orthodox groups such as the Molokani, Staroveriy (Old Believers) and the Dukhoboriy. About 9.9% of the population are Muslims, most of whom are ethnic Azeris, Georgian Muslims of Ajara, and ethnic Chechen Kists. Less than 1% of the population are Roman Catholics. Smaller Christian denominations include Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the New Apostolic Church. There are also small numbers of Bahai's and Hare Krishnas. There are about 8,000 Jews in the country.

In 2002, the parliament ratified a concordat with the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) granting them special recognition; however, the constitution has established a separation of church and state and freedom of religion. Some non-Orthodox groups have complained of the privileged status granted to the GOC. For instance, the GOC is allowed to review public school textbooks and to make suggestions on content. Registration of religious organizations is not required, but many do so in order to gain the legal status necessary to rent office or worship space and import written materials.


Railroads in Georgia as of 2004, consisted of 1,612 km (1,003 mi) of broad and narrow gauge lines, all of which were electrified. Nearly all of the country's railways were broad gauge, accounting for 1,575 km (980 mi), with narrow gauge lines making up only 37 km (23 mi). Railways serve primarily as connections to the Black Sea for inland cities like T'bilisi, Chiat'ura, Jvari, and Tkvarcheli. Highways in 2003 totaled an estimated 20,247 km (12,594 mi), of which 7,973 km (4,959 mi) were paved. The maritime fleet of 175 ships (of 1,000 GRT or over) had a capacity of 855,908 GRT in 2005. Batumi and Poti are the principal Black Sea ports. As of 2004, Georgia had an estimated 30 airports, 19 of which had paved runways, and three heliports (as of 2005). Its only international airport is T'bilisi which is capable of handling 1,0001,200 passengers per hour. In 2003 there were about 2,000 aircraft departures, and around 124,000 passengers carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Georgia has existed as a state on a sporadic basis since classical times. The first Georgian state can be traced to the 4th century bc. Throughout its history Georgia has been conquered by the Romans, Iranians, the Arabs, the Turks, the Mongols and the Hordes of Tamerlane. Georgia did enjoy independence for short periods of time from the 6th to the 12th centuries ad. The Mongols invaded and conquered Georgia by 1236. Later the Ottoman and Persian empires competed for control of the region. Western Georgia became a Russian protectorate in 1783. All of Georgia was absorbed directly in the Russian empire during the 19th century.

During the tumult of the Russian revolution, Georgia declared its independence on 26 May 1918. Twenty-two countries recognized this new state, including Soviet Russia. Nonetheless, the Soviet Red Army invaded in February 1921 and Georgia's brief independence came to an end.

Many Georgians fell victim in the late 1920s and 1930s to Soviet collectivization, crash industrialization, and Stalin's purges (despite his Georgian-Ossetian ethnic origins). Nationalist riots were brutally suppressed in 1924 and 1956, and nationalist mass demonstrations occurred in 1978 and 1988. In April 1989, many Georgian demonstrators were murdered, some with shovels, by Soviet military and police forces during a peaceful protest against perceived Russian support for Abkhaz autonomy demands.

Georgia's first multiparty legislative elections, held in October 1990, resulted in a victory for the party coalition Round Table-Free Georgia, headed by academic and dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia. He was subsequently selected by the deputies to serve as chairman of the legislature. Following a March 1991 referendum, a formal declaration of independence was unanimously approved by the legislature on April 9. Gamsakhurdia was popularly elected as president in May, but still faced opposition from, among others, parties belonging to the National Congress, a national liberation body formed in October 1990. The Mkhedrioni paramilitary group, led by Jaba Ioseliani, was allied with the National Congress. During 1991, Gamsakhurdia's erratic attempts to remake Georgian society and politics caused the head of the National Guard, Tengiz Kitovani, to also join the opposition. The National Guard and Mkhedrioni spearheaded a general assault to overthrow Gamsakhurdia in December 1991, forcing him to flee the country in early January 1992.

A military council formed by Ioseliani, Kitovani, and others assumed power, suspending the Soviet-era constitution (and replacing it with one from 1921), dissolving the legislature, and declaring emergency rule. Former Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze (the Communist Party boss of Georgia from 1972 to 1985) was invited in early March 1992 to head a provisional government. He formed a civilian State Council to rule until elections could be held, and was elected head of its four-member presidium. During legislative elections in October 1992, he was elected speaker in an uncontested race. The new legislature granted Shevardnadze wide-ranging powers as head of state pending completion of a new constitution. In May 1993, Shevardnadze moved to consolidate his power by securing the resignations of Kitovani and Ioseliani from government posts. Gamsakhurdia returned from exile in September 1993 to the western Georgian region of Mingrelia and led a revolt to unseat Shevardnadze. Pro-Shevardnadze forces, assisted by the Russian military, were able to put down the revolt by early November 1993. Gamsakhurdia's death was reported in early January 1994. In further moves by Shevardnadze to consolidate power, Kitovani was arrested in January 1995 for planning an illegal paramilitary attack on Abkhazia, and he neutralized Ioseliani's Mkhedrioni.

Several of Georgia's ethnic minorities stepped up their dissident and separatist actions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. South Ossetians in 1989 called for their territory to be joined with North Ossetia in Russia, or for independence. Repressive efforts by former Georgian president Gamsakhurdia triggered conflict in 1990, reportedly leading to about 1,500 deaths and 50,000 displaced persons, mostly ethnic Georgians. In June 1992, Russian president Boris Yeltsin brokered a cease-fire, and a predominantly Russian military "peacekeeping" force numbering about 500 was stationed in South Ossetia. A coordinating commission on settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, composed of OSCE, Russian, Georgian, and North and South Ossetian emissaries, meets regularly, but rapprochement remains elusive. The November 1999 OSCE Summit Declaration urged Georgia and South Ossetia to agree on resettling displaced persons and called for international aid for the region. In his state of the nation speech on 9 February 2000, Shevardnadze praised the Russian peacekeepers and successes in reconciliation between ethnic Ossetians and Georgians.

Georgia's southern Ajaria region is to a large extent self-governing, under conditions resembling a police state. Ajaria's authorities claim that regional laws take precedence over national laws, and Shevardnadze has had to undertake extensive negotiations to establish national law in the region.

The Abkhaz conflict has resulted in about 10,000 deaths and over 200,000 refugees and displaced persons, mostly ethnic Georgians. In July 1992, the Abkhaz Supreme Soviet declared its effective independence from Georgia. This prompted Georgian national guardsmen to attack Abkhazia. In October 1992, the UN Security Council (UNSC) approved the first UN observer mission to a NIS state, termed UNOMIG, to help reach a settlement. In September 1993, Russian and North Caucasian "volunteer" troops that reportedly made up the bulk of Abkhaz separatist forces broke a cease-fire and quickly routed Georgian forces. Abkhaz-Georgian talks leading to a cease-fire were held under UN auspices, with the participation of Russia and the OSCE. In April 1994, the two sides signed framework accords on a political settlement and on the return of refugees and displaced persons. A Quadripartite Commission was set up to discuss repatriation, composed of Abkhaz and Georgian representatives and emissaries from Russia and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The next month, a cease-fire was signed by Georgia and Abkhazia, providing for Russian troops (acting as Commonwealth of Independent States or CIS peacekeepers) to be deployed in a security zone along the Enguri River, which divides Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia. The Russian Defense Ministry in 1999 reported the deployment of about 1,700 peacekeepers.

A major point of contention between the two sides is Georgia's demand that displaced persons be allowed to return to Abkhazia, after which an agreement on broad autonomy for Abkhazia may be negotiated. The Abkhazians have insisted upon recognition of their "equal status" with Georgia as a precondition to large-scale repatriation. The CIS in 19971998 endorsed Shevardnadze's call for creating a special Abkhaz-Georgian administration, with UN and OSCE participation, to first seek peace in Abkhazia's Gali area, and to expand the security zone and give Russian peacekeepers police powers. Abkhazia refused to countenance changing the peacekeeping mandate. Although Shevardnadze has criticized the failures of the Russian peacekeepers, in February 2000 he stated that he saw no alternative to their presence, since no other international forces have come forward.

After a hiatus of two years, UN-sponsored peace talks were reconvened in mid-1997. In late 1997, the sides agreed to set up a Coordinating Council to discuss cease-fire maintenance and refugee, economic, and humanitarian issues. Coordinating Council talks and those of the Quadripartite Commission have been supplemented by direct discussions between an envoy from Vladislav Ardzinba, whom Abkhazian separatists have elected as their president, and the Georgian State Secretary. Abkhaz forces in mid-1998 reportedly expelled 30,00040,000 ethnic Georgians who resided in the Gali area. In June 1999 in Istanbul, the two sides agreed to resume contacts they had cut off the year before, and a working group agreed to implement the separation of warring forces.

In November 1995, Eduard Shevardnadze was elected to the recreated post of president, receiving 74.32% of the vote in a six-person race, and a new parliament was selected. International observers termed the elections generally free and fair nationwide except in the region of Ajaria.

Seven candidates were registered to run in Georgia's 9 April 2000 presidential election. The major challengers to Shevardnadze were Jumbar Patiashvili, former first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party (who ran in the 1995 presidential race), and Aslan Abashidze, chairman of the Ajarian Supreme Council. Both challengers were leaders of the Revival Bloc that contested the 1999 legislative races. Abashidze did not actively campaign and withdrew from the race one day before the vote, alleging an unfair contest. Other speculation was that he withdrew in return for concessions from Shevardnadze on local power and finances. Voting did not take place in Abkhazia or South Ossetia. The Georgian Central Election Commission (CEC) reported that Shevardnadze received 80% of 1.87 million votes and Patiashvili received 17% (less than he received in 1995). The 150 OSCE monitors reported on April 10 that the election did not meet OSCE standards, though "fundamental freedoms were generally respected during the election campaign and candidates were able to express their views." They stressed that the government aided the incumbent, state media were biased, vote counting and tabulation procedures lacked uniformity and, at times, transparency, ballot box stuffing had taken place, and some voting protocols reportedly had been tampered with.

In March 2001, officials from Georgia and Abkhazia signed an accord stating they would not use force against one another. However, meetings between the two sides were cancelled later in the year due to continuing hostilities and hostage incidents. On 8 October 2001, a UNOMIG helicopter was shot down over Abkhazia, and all nine people on board were killed. As of February 2003, those responsible for the downing had not been identified. In August 2002, Georgia and Abkhazia failed to come to an agreement on the withdrawal of Abkhaz fighters from the Kodori Gorge, the only enclave controlled by Georgia in Abkhazia. Georgia was concerned that Russians were supporting the Abkhaz fighters. In January 2003, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared little progress had been made on talks to determine the future status of Abkhazia, and that the mandate for UNOMIG should be extended another six months, until 31 July 2003.

Upon coming into his second term in office, Shevardnadze claimed he would fight corruption and low living standards, undertake market reforms, and protect the territorial integrity of Georgia. Georgia desired NATO membership, and on 22 November 2002, Shevardnadze formally requested that Georgia be invited into the alliance. Russia did not immediately react to the announcement. In 1999, the OSCE demanded that Russia remove all of its troops from Georgia. In 2001, Russia vacated the Gudauta and Vaziani bases and the Marneuli military airfield, but did not agree to a time frame for a departure from the Akhalkalaki and Batumi military bases. One sore spot in Georgian-Russian relations remains the situation in Chechnya. Russian officials have accused Georgia of aiding Chechen rebels, especially in the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia. Russia regards the armed conflict in Chechnya as a part of the international campaign against terrorism, and has demanded Georgia cooperate in combating Chechens in the region. In September 2002, Russia warned Georgia that it would take military action if Georgia failed to deal with Chechen rebels in the Pankisi Gorge. The United States, since 11 September 2001, has claimed that members of the al-Qaeda organization are operating in the Pankisi Gorge, and has enlisted Georgia's support in undertaking antiterror operations there. In April and May 2002, US Special Forces arrived in Georgia to train and equip troops for counterterrorist operations. On 8 February 2003, Russia claimed that terrorists recently arrested in Great Britain and France had trained in the Pankisi Gorge, and used laboratories built there to produce the poisonous toxin ricin that can be used as an agent in chemical warfare.

The end of 2003 brought with it drastic changes for Georgians. The parliamentary elections that were held on 2 November 2003 were criticized by national and international organizations as being grossly rigged. Mikhail Saakashvili, who received a law degree from Columbia University and worked in the United States for a short while, denounced the election results and urged the population of Georgia to nonviolent civil disobedience against the authorities. People responded to Saakashvili's call and mounted protests in T'bilisi (the so-called "Rose Revolution"), crying for fair elections. (The "Rose Revolution" inspired similar movements in other parts of the world, most notably in Ukraine where the "Orange Revolution" brought about long awaited change.) President Shevardnadze eventually bowed down under the pressure, and on 23 November 2003 resigned from his post, leaving parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze in charge until fresh presidential elections could be staged. This move was followed by a decision of the Supreme Court to annul the parliamentary elections results.

On 4 January 2004, Saakashvili emerged victorious in the presidential electionshe received support from all the opposition parties and garnered a 96.3% of the votes. His party, the National Movement-Democratic Front, subsequently won 67.6% of the votes (and 135 out of 150 party list seats in parliament) in the re-run of the parliamentary elections; the Rightist Opposition got 7.6% (15 seats), while other parties received less than 7%. The new prime minister was Zurab Noghaideli.

This victory, however, came in a context where Georgia was very politically, socially, and economically unstable. Aslan Abashidze, the leader of the Ajarian Autonomous Republic in western Georgia, accused Saakashvili of planning to invade Ajaria and declared a state of emergency and the mobilization of armed forces. He failed to attract support from Russia though, and intense criticism from several foreign governments and international organizations forced him to resign in May 2004 and leave for Moscow. These events were followed by tensions in the other two problematic regionsSouth Ossetia and Abkhazia. Parliamentary elections in South Ossetia in May 2004, and troubled presidential elections in Abkhazia in October 2004, were not recognized by the government in T'bilisi. A proposal on autonomy for South Ossetia presented by Saakashvili was consequently refused by the South Ossetian leaders who asked for full independence.

In May 2005, George W. Bush became the first US president to visit Georgia. That same month, the Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was officially opened, with US secretary of energy Samuel Bodman joining the presidents of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey at the opening ceremony. A year later, oil began flowing through the pipeline.


Until 1995, Georgia was governed according to a constitution dating back to 1921. Shevardnadze, though, pushed for the adoption of a new constitution giving the president added powers. A new constitution was approved by the legislature in August 1995. It re-establishes a strong presidency, though affirming a balance of executive and legislative powers more equitable than those in most other new constitutions approved by former Soviet republics. The president is elected for a five-year term. The constitution establishes a unicameral, 235-member legislature elected by single-man-date constituencies (85 seats) and party lists (150 seats). Legislators serve four-year terms. Government ministers are responsible to the president, who is assisted by a state minister. Shevardnadze in December 1999 decreed enhanced powers for the state minister "equal to those of a prime minister." The speaker's only constitutional powers are to sign bills and serve as acting president in case the president is indisposed or dies. The legislature agreed that federal provisions would be added to the constitution after Georgia's territorial integrity has been assured. The breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are currently not under the control of the central government, and Ajaria is at least partly self-governing.

Voting for the new legislature took place on 5 November 1995, simultaneous with the presidential race. Only three of the 54 parties running received at least 5% of the party list vote required to win seats, though other parties won representation through constituency races; they have formed eight legislative factions. The elections were judged "consistent with democratic norms" by international observers.

Legislative elections were held in the spring of 2004. Voting was by party lists (150 seats) and single-member constituencies (73 seats; 12 sitting members representing separatist Abkhaz districts were allowed to retain their seats). Fifteen parties and blocs were registered but only two parties received at least 7% of the vote needed to gain party list seats (the new minimum was approved in July 1999). The National Movement-Democratic Front won 135 seats; the Rightist Opposition won 15.


Major political parties that won representation in the legislature elected in 1999, based on their share of the party list voting, included Shevardnadze's Georgian Citizens' Union (gaining 891,000 of 2.1 million party list votes cast), Ajarian leader Abashidze's pro-government Revival Union (537,000 votes), and Industry Will Save Georgia (151,000 votes). The Georgian Labor Party just failed to gain enough votes to win party list seats (141,000 votes). Other parties that gained more than 1% of the party list vote included the opposition National Democratic Party (NDP; it won the second-largest number of such seats in 1995), the People's Party, and the United Communist Party. Most of the minor political parties and groups characterized themselves as opposed to the government.

In November 2003, former President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned from office in a bloodless "Rose Revolution" following protests against his rule and what were seen to be fraudulent parliamentary elections. The election results were later annulled. Presidential elections were held on 4 January 2004, and Mikhail Saakashvili was elected president. His party, the National Movement-Democratic Front, won 135 seats out of the 150 that are on the party lists; the Rightist Opposition won the other 15.


Georgia's administrative subdivisions include the Abkhazian and Ajarian Autonomous Republics. The Georgian Supreme Soviet stripped South Ossetia of its autonomous status in late 1990, following its demands to secede and become a part of Russia. Abkhazia and South Ossetia consider themselves self-ruling, and Ajaria has substantial effective autonomy. There are 53 districts (rayons ) and 11 cities, whose governors or mayors are appointed by the president. Local assembly (sakrebulo ) elections were held for the first time under the new constitution in November 1998. Thirteen parties participated in the voting for more than 150,000 candidates for 10,000 municipal and district (rayon ) assemblies or councils. In small towns and villages of fewer than 2,000 voters, 654 majoritarian elections were held, while elsewhere 377 proportional elections by party lists took place. The Citizen's Union Party won the largest number of seats, followed by the Revival bloc, the National Democratic Party, and the Labor Party, though 12 of the 13 parties won some seats. Inadequate funding and the absence of legislation limited the functions of the new locally elected governments. Opposition parties accused the government and the ruling Citizens' Union Party of retaining the effective power to appoint the mayors of the largest cities and the regional leaders. There remains considerable contention between the central government and the Autonomous Ajarian Republic over the scope of local powers.

Local elections were held on 2 June 2002, and 4774 sakrebulo seats in regional Georgia were decided, along with 49 seats in T'bilisi. Independents won 2,749 of the regional seats, with the New Right Party taking 544 seats; Industry Will Save Georgia taking 478 seats; and the Revival Party/21st Century Bloc taking 195 seats. The Citizens' Union of Georgia won only 69 seats in a major defeat, faring poorly in both T'bilisi and the regions. This was attributed to a split between the two main factions of the party prior to the elections, both of which strove for the right to campaign as the CUG. The conservative faction won the right to campaign as the CUG in the week prior to the elections, and the reformist faction campaigned as the Christian Conservative Party.


Before 1995, Georgia's legal system retained traces of the pre-Soviet era, the Soviet period, the Gamsakhurdia presidency, and the State Council period. Courts included district courts, a T'bilisi city court, a supreme court in each of the two autonomous republics, and at the highest level the Supreme Court of the Republic.

The 1995 constitution provides for an independent judiciary. However, the judiciary is subject to some executive pressure and pressure from extensive family and clan networks. The Law on Common Courts, passed in 1997, establishes a three-tier court system. District courts hear petty criminal and civil cases. Regional courts of appeal have original and appellate jurisdiction. They try major criminal and civil cases, review cases, and can remand cases to the lower court for retrial. The Supreme Court was envisioned as the highest appellate court, but it also hears some capital cases and appeals from the Central Electoral Commission.

A constitutional court was set up in September 1996. It arbitrates constitutional disputes between the branches of government and rules on individual claims of human rights abuses.

Administration of the court system was transferred from the Justice Ministry to a Council of Justice in 1997, to increase the independence of the courts from budgetary and other influence. The council consists of four members from each of the three branches of government.

The constitution provides for the rights to presumption of innocence, to have a public trial, to legal counsel, and to refuse to make a statement in the absence of counsel. A criminal procedures code was approved in November 1997, and a new criminal code was passed in June 1999. The criminal procedures code aimed at reducing the dominant power of prosecutors over arrests and investigations. Under the new procedures, judges issue warrants for arrest and detention orders, and detentions must follow correct legal procedures, including informing detainees of their rights, allowing visits by family members and lawyers, and treating detainees without brutality. In mid-1999, however, some of the liberal strictures on defendants' rights were reversed at the insistence of the prosecutors, who continue to have a major influence over the courts.

Under the Law on Common Courts, Georgia has launched a system of testing judges on basic legal principles; many of those who have taken the test have failed. Georgia's accession to the Council of Europe in April 1999 led to new legislation taking jurisdiction over the prison system away from the Interior (police) Ministry and giving it to the Ministry of Justice.


Georgia had a total of 11,320 active personnel in its armed forces as of 2005, supported by 1,578 reservists in the National Guard. The Army was the largest force in terms of manpower, with 7,042 active personnel. The Navy and the Air Force each had 1,350 active members. The Army had 86 main battle tanks, 89 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 91 armored personnel carriers, and 109 artillery pieces. Major naval units included 11 patrol/coastal vessels and six amphibious landing craft. The Air Force had seven combat capable aircraft that included six fighter ground attack aircraft, plus another used in a training capacity. The service also operated three attack helicopters. Paramiltary troops numbered 11,700, including 6,300 Ministry of Interior troops and 5,400 border guards. Georgian armed forces were deployed to Iraq in a peacekeeping support role, and under NATO in Serbia and Montenegro. There are also troops from 25 countries in Georgia acting as observers and in a peacekeeping role. The nation's defense budget in 2005 totaled $44 million.


Georgia was admitted to the United Nations on 21 July 1992. The country is a member of several UN specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, ICAO, IFAD, ILO, IMF, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. Georgia joined the Commonwealth of Independent State (CIS) in 1993 and became a member of the WTO in 2000. The nation also belongs to the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Georgia has observer status in the OAS and is part of the NATO Partnership for Peace. In 2001, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova formed a social and economic development union known as GUAAM. Uzbekistan withdrew from the partnership in 2005.

In 1993, a UN Observer Mission (UNOMIG) was established in Georgia to monitor cease-fire agreements between the State of Georgia and the region of Abkhazia and to support ongoing CIS peacekeeping forces in that region. About 23 countries offer support for UNOMIG.

In environmental cooperation, Georgia is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


Over a decade after its emergence from the Soviet Union as an independent state, Georgia's economy has not fully recovered from the hyperinflation and economic collapse that by 1994 had reduced its GDP to 20% of its 1990 levels. In 2002 its GDP levels were still only at 40% of what they were in the 1980s. Continued civil strife and unresolved separatist struggles with Abkhazia and South Ossetia have combined with pervasive corruption, tax evasion, and a "shadow economy" larger than the legitimate one to stifle the country's economic progress. Shortfalls in revenues have caused the government to turn to external as well as domestic financing to cover chronic budget deficits. Foreign borrowing has in turn led to balance of payments problems and resort to IMF facilities. Georgia has entered into three programs with the IMF since independence. A short standby arrangement, June 1995 to February 1996, was followed on expiration by a multiyear program under the Extended Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF), which was in effect to 13 August 1999 when the IMF withdrew due to the failure of Georgia to meet budgetary targets. In January 2001, a revised program with more realistic targets was approved under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). In March 2001, having an IMF-supervised program underway, Georgia was able to reach an agreement with the Paris Club for rescheduling some of its sovereign debt owed to Paris Club members. From May to October 2001, the IMF again suspended disbursements to Georgia because of its failure to meet the program's conditionals. The 2001 PRGF program was scheduled to expire in January 2004; the government sought and was awarded a new three-year PRGF in June 2004.

Georgia's mild climate makes it an important agricultural producer, raising a growing range of subtropical crops (including tea, tobacco, citrus fruits, and flowers) in the coastal region and exporting them to the northern republics in return for manufactured goods. Georgia supplied almost all of the former Soviet Union's citrus fruits and tea, and much of its grape crop.

In 1996, the government embarked on a program for the privatization of land holdings. The country also has deposits of manganese, coal, iron ore, and lead, plus a skilled, educated work force. There were several oil refineries operating at the Black Sea port of Batumi. Since low points in 1994 and 1995, there has been sustained growth, although not in all sectors, and inflation has been brought substantially under control. Inflation fell from 163% (consumer prices) in 1995 to 39% in 1996 and 7% in 1997. The growth in GDP reached double digits, 11.2% (1996) and 10.6% (1997), stimulated in part by work on the Baku-Supsa pipeline (opened in April 1999). Since 1998, however, GDP growth slowed to about 3% a year due a combination of the effect of economic crises in Russia and Turkey (which together supply 40% of Georgia's imports and buy over 40% of its exports), an influx of refugees since 1999 from neighboring war-torn Chechnya, severe droughts affecting Georgia's agricultural output in 1998 and 2000, and, from 2001, the global economic slowdown. In 1998, overall GDP growth slowed to 3%, as agricultural production dropped 10% and industrial production dropped 2%. Growth remained at only 3% in 1999. GDP growth was even lower (2%) in 2000, despite 11% growth in industrial production, due to a recurrence of drought which caused agricultural production to fall 15% in one year.

In 2001, agriculture recovered somewhat, growing 6%, but industrial production fell back 5%, reflecting in part an 11% decrease in exports to countries outside the CIS. Exports to CIS countries, by contrast, rose 23% in 2000 and 9% in 2001. Georgia official statistics report that the GDP grew overall by 4.5% in 2001, while the US CIA estimated growth at 8.4%. Inflation, which spurted to 19% in 1999, fell to moderate levels of between 4% and 5% in 2000 and 2001.

In 2002, the economy was hampered by the necessity of importing over 90% of the petroleum products consumed due to the shutting down of its only two remaining refineries. The larger 106,000-barrels-per-day refinery at Batumi was closed for modernization and expansion under an agreement with Japan's Mitsui Corp. A small 4,000 barrels-per-day refinery, built in 1998 and idle for much of 2001, was closed permanently in 2002 by its operation company, CanArgo, in favor of a plan to replace it with a larger 30,100-barrels-per-day facility. Georgia's future economic prospects were thought to have improved greatly in December 2002 however, with the announcement of an agreement on the Georgia portion of the Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which opened in May 2005. In addition to the BTC project, which is to pipe oil from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean to supply Western European markets, Georgia and Turkey concluded another agreement to build a railway from T'bilisi to Kars, Turkey. The railway would transport oil to Turkish refineries. Plans also exist to develop Georgia into a transit center for natural gas.

The economy experienced an explosive expansion in 2003, with a GDP growth rate of 11.1%. The economy cooled down in 2004, growing by 6.2%, but was expected to pick up again in 2005, with a projected growth rate of around 8.0%. The inflation rate was stable, fluctuating between 4% and 6%. As such, inflation did not pose a problem to the overall economy, although it was expected to rise in 2005 to 8.5%. The "Rose Revolution" in 2003 brought hope that the economy would take a turn for the better by emulating a Western development pattern. The Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan oil pipe lines and the Baku-T'bilisi-Erzerum gas pipe lines have brought much needed investment into the country and helped alleviate the chronic unemployment. However, Georgia's energy sector was still dependent on imports from Russia as of 2005, and its market needed heavy restructuring before it could reach functional economy status.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Georgia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $16.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $3,400. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 10%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 8%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 16% of GDP, industry 26.8%, and services 57.2%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $246 million or about $54 per capita and accounted for approximately 6.2% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $220 million or about $43 per capita and accounted for approximately 5.5% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Georgia totaled $3.12 billion or about $684 per capita based on a GDP of $4.0 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.5%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 33% of household consumption was spent on food, 13% on fuel, 2% on health care, and 4% on education. It was estimated that in 2001 about 54% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The labor force was estimated at 2.1 million in 2001 (the latest year for which data was available). Agriculture provided work to 40% of the labor force, with another 40% engaged in services and the remaining 20% in industry. The estimated unemployment rate was 17% in 2001.

Employees have the right to form or join unions freely. A confederation of independent trade unions has emerged with the abandonment of the old centralized Soviet trade unions. Georgia's main trade union is the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Georgia. Workers are permitted to engage in collective bargaining, but this practice is not extensive.

The minimum employment age is 16 except in unusual circumstances, and this minimum employment age is generally respected. The government sets public-sector salaries dependent on the pay grade of the employee. The lowest such wage was $10.80 per month in 2002. There is no state prescribed minimum wage for the private sector. In general, wages and salaries do not provide a decent standard of living for a family. The legal standard work-week is 41 hours with a 24-hour rest period weekly.


About 15% of Georgia's total land area was considered arable in 2003. Since independence in April 1991, Georgian agriculture has become much more associated with the private sector; 99% of agricultural land is now privately held. In 2003, agriculture accounted for an estimated 20% of GDP.

During the Soviet era, Georgia produced almost the entire citrus and tea crop and most of the grape crop for the entire Soviet Union. In 2004, production levels (in thousands of tons) included corn, 410; wheat, 186; barley, 61; tea, 24; vegetables and melons, 490; and grapes, 180.


Meadows and pastures account for about 30% of the Georgian land area. In 2005, the livestock population included cattle, 1,250,000; sheep, 689,000; pigs, 484,000; buffaloes, 35,000; horses, 44,000; and chickens, 9,100,000. Beef production in 2005 totaled some 51,000 tons; pork, 35,000 tons; and chicken, 15,000 tons. About 781,000 tons of milk were produced in 2005, as were 31,500 tons of eggs.

In mid-1993, a ban was placed on the export of dairy products (including milk), cattle and poultry, meat and meat products, and leather. Georgia does not produce enough meat and dairy products to satisfy domestic demand. Meat imports in 2004 exceeded $19.7 million.


The Black Sea and Kura River are the main sources of the domestic catch. The total catch in 2003 was about 3,361 tons, with marine fishing accounting for 97%. Anchovies made up 67% of the total catch in 2003. Commercial fishing is not a significant contributor to the economy.


About 44% of Georgia is covered with forests or woodlands, but the mountainous terrain inhibits forestry production. Timber production is primarily for domestic use; exports of forestry products amounted to only $17.9 million in 2003.


Georgia had significant mineral deposits, but the future of the industry depended on a more secure climate for investment, through greater political and economic stability. Manganese was the country's foremost mineral commodity in the Soviet era, producing 5 million tons in the mid-1980s; production has since fallen precipitously, reaching 59,100 metric tons in 2000, but had increased to an estimated 80,000 metric tons in 2002. Manganese came from the Chiat'ura basin; reserves of high-grade ore were almost depleted.

The Madneuli region was a major site of barite, copper, lead-zinc, gold, and silver mining. Lead and zinc were mined at the Kvaisi deposit, and arsenic was mined from the Lukhumi and Tsansa deposits. In 1995, the Georgian State Geology Committee, Gruzgeologiya, stated that Georgia had gold reserves of 250 tons and silver reserves of 1,500 tons, with another 250 tons of prospective gold reserves.

In 1996, Georgia permitted foreign firms to manage metallurgical enterprises. The Zestafoni ferroalloy plant was signed over to the Russian-Georgian Bank for Reconstruction and Development in conjunction with a US partner, North Atlantic Research, to be managed for a period of 10 years.

Mine output of copper was 8,000 metric tons in 2002. In that same year, gold output was estimated at 2,000 kg, and for silver, an estimated 33,000 kg. Also produced in 2002 were mine lead, barite, bentonite, mine zinc, and cement.


Georgia must rely on imports for most of its energy needs. Its limited oil reserves were placed at about 30 million barrels in 2003. The country produced 2,000 barrels per day in 2004, much less than the 42,200 barrels of oil it consumed each day that same year. However, oil exploration is actively being carried out both on land and along the Black Sea coast. Most of the oil comes primarily from Azerbaijan, and Russia. Natural gas reserves in 2003 were placed at 0.3 trillion cu ft, with production and consumption at 0.6 billion cu ft and at 35.3 billion cu ft, respectively in that year.

Georgia has two oil refineries, a 106,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) facility at Batumi and a smaller refinery at Sartichala. Georgia plans on utilizing its Black Sea ports to become a significant transshipment point for oil produced by Azerbaijan (and the other republics of central Asia). On 8 March 1996, Georgia and Azerbaijan signed a 30-year agreement to pump a portion of the oil produced in the Azeri waters of the Caspian Sea to the Georgian port of Suspa. From there, the oil will be shipped across the Black Sea to western markets via Turkey. The pipeline along this route became operational in April 1999 following substantial upgrades. Additionally, improved ties with Iran will reduce dependence on energy imports from Russia, from which Georgia is trying to distance itself economically.

Deteriorating plants and equipment prevent Georgia's power sector from operating at full capacity, and power outages are common in many areas of the country. As with its imports of natural gas, Georgia is in arrears in paying for the electricity it has been obliged to import from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. The country has substantial untapped hydroelectric potential, however, and is planning to build two new hydroelectric plants on the Rioni River and a third, the 40-MW Minadze station, on the Kura River. In 2003, electricity production amounted to 6.7 billion kWh. In 2002, hydropower accounted for 83% of the electricity produced and 16.6% was from fossil fuel. Installed capacity in 2003 was 4.4 GW, with consumption at 6.8 billion kWh for that year. The two major power plants are a thermal plant at T'bilisi (with a capacity of 1,280,000 kW) and the Enguri hydroelectric plant (with a 1,325,000 kW capacity). Consumption of electricity in 2000 totaled 7.9 billion kWh.

Georgia is one of the 12 former Soviet republics to found the Intergovernmental Council on Oil and Gas (ICOG), which stresses international cooperation in the oil and natural gas industry and will entitle members to receive Russian energy resources in exchange for investment in Russia's oil and natural gas industries.


Heavy industry, based on the country's mineral resources, predominates, and includes metallurgy, construction materials, and machine building. Light industry includes food processing, beverage production, consumer durables, garments, and oil-processing. Hyperinflation in 1994 together with continuing political unrest severely affected industrial production. By 1995, industrial output of state enterprises was one-fifth of the 1990 level.

In 1996, although industrial production rose 6% for the year, less than 20% of the country's industries were operating, most at less than 15% of capacity. In 1997 another improvement of 7% was recorded, but in 1998, due mainly to the financial crisis in Russia, industrial production fell 2%. By the end of 1998, the privatization of small businesses was largely completed, with over 12,860 becoming privately owned. Among the large state enterprises, about 1,200 had been changed into joint stock companies, 910 of which have since been privatized.

Despite a model legal framework for the privatization of its enterprises, industry in Georgia had only been 15.2% privatized as of 2002, with the construction industry at about 18.5%, mainly because of a lack of buyers. The least privatized sector is energy, where, according to a recent USAID assessment, the infrastructure borders on catastrophic failure.

Growth in industrial production returned in 1999 and 2000, at 7% and 11%, respectively, but in 2001, there was a decline of 5%, due, externally, to declining export demand in non-CIS countries, and, internally, to the shutdown of most of Georgia's refinery production. Before independence, Georgia had several refineries, but by 2001, it had only two: one at the Black Sea port of Batumi with a 106,000 b/d capacity, and the other, a small 4,000 b/d refinery built in 1998 near CanArgo's Ninotsminda oil field called the Georgian-American Oil Refinery (GAOR).

In 2001, the GAOR operated only between July and September, and at less than 50% capacity. In September 2001, CanArgo shut it down, announcing plans to build a $200 million refinery in its place that would have a 30,100 b/d capacity. In 2002, the Batumi refinery was also closed, undergoing a $250 million upgrade and expansion directed by the Mitsui Corporation. As a result, Georgia has been obliged to import over 90% of its petroleum products. Mitsui has undertaken the work without Georgian government guarantees of its investment. The lack of such guarantees caused two other Japanese companies, Marubeni and JGC, to drop out of the project. Georgia's most promising industrial development came in December 2002, when agreement was announced for the construction of Georgia's part of the Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline; the pipeline was officially opened on 25 May 2005.

Industry accounted for 26.8% of overall economic output in 2005, and it was the sector with the smallest representation in the working population; agriculture and services were by far the largest employers (both with an approximate equal representation in the labor force40%), although they achieved different productivity levelsagriculture accounted for 16% of the GDP, while services came in first with 57.2%. Current important industries include steel, aircraft, machine tools, electrical appliances, mining (manganese and copper), chemicals, wood products, and wine.


The Georgian Academy of Sciences has departments of mathematics and physics, earth sciences, applied mechanics, machine building, and control processes, chemistry and chemical technology, agricultural science problems, biology, and physiology and experimental medicine. Georgia has 44 research institutes, many attached to the academy, conducting research concerning agriculture, fisheries, and veterinary science; and medicine, natural sciences, and technology. The academy's Sukhumi Botanical Garden is maintained at Chavchavadze. The Scientific and Technical Library of Georgia, with more than 10 million volumes in 1996, is located in T'bilisi. Eight colleges and universities offer degrees in basic and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 39% of university enrollment.

In 2002, research and development spending totaled $33.702 million, or 0.29% of GDP. As of that same year, high technology exports totaled $41 million, or 38% of all manufactured exports. As of 2002, there were 2,317 researchers and 241 technicians per million people actively engaged in R&D.


The war in Abkhazia severely disrupted domestic trade in 1993 and hyperinflation in 1994 led to widespread fighting in the nation and catastrophic economic decline. Economic conditions began to improve by the mid-1990s following the influx of foreign aid. Agriculture continues to be a primary basis for the domestic economy. The fastest growing segment of the economy, however, is in services, which accounted for about 55% of the GDP in 2002. Small privately owned shops are still more prevalent than supermarkets or larger retail establishments. Business hours are generally from 9 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday.


Traditionally Georgia has been heavily dependent on Russia for power, bridges, roads, and other economic essentials. In return, Georgia sends Russia fruit, wine, and other agricultural products. Georgia's current government, however, is pursuing closer links with the EU and Turkey.

In 2005, exports reached $1.4 billion (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $2.5 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Turkey (18.3%), Turkmenistan (17.8%), Russia (16.2%), Armenia

United Kingdom27.9145.6-117.7
United States15.490.8-75.4
() data not available or not significant.

(8.4%), the United Kingdom (4.9%), and Azerbaijan (3.9%). Principal exports were ferro alloys, copper and gold, ferrous waste and scrap, iron and steel, wine, and mineral water. Imports included oil, gas, electricity, tubes and pipes, and automotives, and mainly came from Russia (14%), Turkey (11%), the United Kingdom (9.3%), Azerbaijan (8.5%), Germany (8.2%), the Ukraine (7.7%), and the United States (6%).


Georgia's high level of imports, until 2000, was largely due to its capital account surplus, stemming from the inflows of investments, loans, and grants, rather than from weak export performance. Georgia's capital account subsequently fell into deficit.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Georgia's exports was $515 million

Current Account-397.1
   Balance on goods-636.0
   Balance on services52.5
   Balance on income34.3
   Current transfers152.0
Capital Account19.9
Financial Account323.0
   Direct investment abroad-3.8
   Direct investment in Georgia337.9
   Portfolio investment assets
   Portfolio investment liabilities
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets-6.1
   Other investment liabilities-5.0
Net Errors and Omissions6.6
Reserves and Related Items47.7
() data not available or not significant.

while imports totaled $750 million resulting in a trade deficit of $235 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2000 Georgia had exports of goods totaling $459 million and imports totaling $971 million. The services credit totaled $206 million and debit $216 million.

Exports of goods and services reached $1.1 billion in 2004, down from $1.3 billion in 2003. Imports decreased from $1.9 billion in 2003, to $1.8 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, reaching -$583 million in 2003 and -$637 million in 2004. The current account balance was also negative, decreasing from -$391 million in 2003, to -$430 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) decreased to $187 million in 2004, barely covering a month of imports.


The National Bank of Georgia (NBG), the state's central bank, was founded in 1991. The NBG has the functions of a central bank, namely issuing currency, managing the exchange rate, controlling monetary and credit aggregates, and regulating the activities of the banking sector.

In September 1995 Georgia introduced a new currency, the lari (l), to replace its interim currency, the coupon, at the rate of l1 = coupon1,000,000. The coupon had been introduced in May 1993 after the collapse of the ruble zone in response to a severe cash shortage in the republic. The coupon experienced one of the steepest devaluations of any currencies in the former Soviet Union, plummeting from around coupon1,000 = $1 shortly after its introduction to coupon1,550,000=$1 by December 1994. The coupon was scarcely used by the private sector, where the majority of transactions were carried out in dollars and rubles.

The government has since had more success with the lari. The new currency was introduced at l1.3 = $1, and given the dramatic success in reducing inflation, by the end of November 1996 it had appreciated slightly to trade around l1.28 = $1. However, by 2001, it had lost some value, trading at l2.07 = $1.

At the time of independence there were, in addition to the NBG, five specialized commercial banks, about 200 small domestic commercial banks, and the former Georgian branches of the Soviet Savings Bank and Vneshekonombank. During 1993 and 1994, a large number of small banks were set up, peaking at 227 by mid-1994. Several of these have since collapsed, leaving creditors bankrupt. In December 1994, the central bank stripped 28 commercial banks of their licenses on the ground that they had insufficient funds. In June 1995, the head of the central bank, Nodar Javakhishvili, moved to further stiffen capital requirements and stripped 22 more banks of the licenses. This was followed in July and August with similar measures that resulted in 58 additional banks losing their licenses. Also during 1995 was the merger of three state banks (Eximbank, Industrial Bank, and the Savings Bank) into the United Georgian Bank. State-owned banks accounted for some 75% of banking sector assets.

The first foreign bank, the Georgian-US bank, was opened in T'bilisi in early 1994. In September 1996 a joint investment bank began its operations with its founding capital contributed by the United Georgian Bank, the Commercial Bank of Greece, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Emlak Bankasi, a Turkish bank, and the Caucasus Development Bank, based in Azerbaijan, currently maintain offices in T'bilisi. In 1997, the EBRD announced that it is to lend $5 million to Absolute Bank, a US-Georgian joint venture, with 60% US ownership. The bank has $3 million in assets, making it one of the largest Georgian banks in terms of capital.

Other commercial banks include the Agricultural Bank (1991), the Bank of Industry and Construction (1991), Housing Bank of Georgia (1991), and the State Savings Bank (1989).

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $190.2 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $356.0 million. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 17.5%.

The Caucasian Exchange, a stock exchange, opened recently in Georgia.


Georgia's insurance system is largely inherited from government-controlled Soviet institutions. The civil war impairs growth of the insurance sector.


Georgia has been notorious for mismanaging its budget. In 1999, the IMF put one of its programs in the country on hold because Georgia could not meet the conditional budgetary targets the IMF set forth. A more realistic budget in the second half of 2000 paved the way for a new IMF program beginning in January 2001. Georgia's progress towards those new budgetary goals has been uneven, but it has remained on track.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Georgia's central government took in revenues of approximately $872.5 billion and had expenditures of $1 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $871.4 billion. Total external debt was $1.9 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were l933.3 million and expenditures were l1,009.8 million. The value of revenues was us$435 million and expenditures us$471 million, based on an exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = l2.1457 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 34.1%; defense, 6.0%; public order and safety, 10.7%; economic affairs, 8.8%; housing and community amenities, 0.6%; health, 1.0%; recreation, culture, and religion, 2.5%; education, 4.1%; and social protection, 32.4%.


As of 2004, Georgia has a standard corporate profits tax of 20%. Capital gains are considered part of taxable profits and are taxed at the corporate rate. Taxes on dividends, interest, and management fees are withheld at the source at a rate of 10%. Foreign entities not permanently established pay a withholding tax of 10% on dividends, interest, and royalty payments. There is also a withholding tax of 4% on insurance premiums and payments for international telecommunications and transportation services. A 1% tax on property of enterprises (TPE) is charged foreign companies that have permanent establishments in Georgia. There is also a personal

Revenue and Grants933.3100.0%
   Tax revenue602.364.5%
   Social contributions222.723.9%
   Other revenue59.96.4%
   General public services344.134.1%
   Public order and safety107.610.7%
   Economic affairs88.58.8%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities5.60.6%
   Recreational, culture, and religion252.5%
   Social protection327.332.4%
() data not available or not significant.

income tax, paid by resident and nonresident individuals, which has four brackets, the first one being a negative income tax of 12% up to an income of l200 (about $93). For l201350 (about $165), the tax is l24 ($11) plus 15%. For l351600 ($286), the tax is l46.5 ($22) plus 17%. Above l600, the tax is l98 ($42) plus 20%. Social charges are deducted from employees' salaries: 15% for the health protection fund and 1% for the social security fund. Employers' contributions are 3% for the health protection fund, 27% for social security, and 1% for unemployment. There is also a value-added tax (VAT) of 20% (reduced from 28%), in addition to various excise taxes, ranging from 1090%

Georgia has one of the worst rates of tax compliance in the world. Chronic shortfalls in revenue collection means that the state must turn to external financing and loans from the National Bank of Georgia to make up for budget deficits. External borrowing to cover budget shortfalls have been the primary reason Georgia has had to turn to the IMF and the Paris Club for stand-by credit agreements and rescheduling of sovereign debt. The high rate of tax evasion puts legitimate business at a competitive disadvantage with a large "shadow economy," estimated officially to constitute 4060% of the economy, but generally believed, according to the US State Department, to be much higher. Estimates of underpaying of taxes by enterprises have been close to 80%.


Georgia has an open trade regime, with most commodities carrying tariffs of either 5% or 12%, although automobiles have considerably higher rates. Some goods, such as grains, humanitarian goods, and aviation fuel, are exempt from carrying customs tariffs. Imported goods are also subject to a value-added tax (VAT) of 20% and an excise tax of 5100% is levied on luxury goods.


Georgia was one of the first former Soviet republics to adopt market reforms on foreign investment. However, political instability has hampered efforts to attract capital from abroad. Oil and gas pipeline projects and expanded privatization sales promised to reverse this trend. By the mid1990s both GDP and total foreign investment began to grow steadily. In September 1998 the decision was made to make all future economic regulations in full conformity with the norms of the European Community. Legislation in 2000 extended the scope of the privatization program, created a capital market, and provided for the registration of enterprise and agricultural land, all conducive to improving Georgia's investment climate. Also in 2000, the currency appeared to have stabilized. The main hindrances to foreign investment flows are not the legal framework but pervasive corruption and arbitrary and biased administration.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow swelled to $242 million in 1997 and $265.3 million in 1998 mainly due to work on the Baku-Supsa pipeline and on the Supsa terminal. FDI flows fell to an annual average of $124.3 million 1999 to 2001. Total FDI stock from 1990 to 2000 was an estimated $672 million. The United States has been the leading source of foreign investment, accounting for about 22%.

Investment levels have, as expected, soared in recent years. Mainly due to work on the Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the Shah Deniz gas pipeline, FDI levels have grown from $163 million in 2002, to $336 million in 2003, and $490 million in 2004. Preliminary data for 2005 shows that inflows of capital have reached $284 million in the first half of the year. An encouraging fact is the winding down of the effects of the pipeline projects, and the increase in foreign investments as a result of privatizations done by the government.


In late 1992, the government inaugurated its Medium-Term Program of Macroeconomic Stabilization and Systemic Change focusing on price and trade liberalization, budget constraints for public enterprises, and privatization. As part of a small enterprise privatization program, the first auction of small-scale assets was held in T'bilisi in March 1993. Practically all housing has been privatized, as well as a high percentage of agricultural land. Privatization was progressing as of 2003, and the government was developing the legal framework necessary for a good climate of investment. Nevertheless, due to a lack of enough foreign direct investment in 2003, the transportation and communication infrastructure remains in poor condition.

In spite of these reforms, political instability continues to hamper Georgian economic development. Although the Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline brings much needed foreign investment, most observers feel that the fate of the Georgian economy hinges on the ultimate fate of the Caucasus.

Corruption hampers economic development, and has undermined the credibility of the government's economic reforms. The size of the shadow economy is also a concern. The Paris Club rescheduled Georgian debt in 2001. That year, Georgia negotiated a three-year $144 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the IMF, which was due to expire in 2004. The IMF encouraged the country to implement tax reform, to improve revenue collection, strengthen the banking system, and to combat corruption and smuggling.

The construction of the Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan oil pipe lines and the Baku-T'bilisi-Erzerum gas pipe lines have been extremely beneficial for the economy of Georgia. The economy has registered impressive growth rates (11.1% in 2003, and 8% in 2005), unemployment has been alleviated, and the privatization of several national enterprises has been made easier as a result. A strong industrial sector, together with higher productivity rates in the agricultural sectors, will ensure that the impressive economic expansion will continue at similar rates for at least another couple of years. The government needs to speed up reforms however, and ensure a proper economic restructuring by developing and diversifying its manufacturing and export bases.


All employees are eligible for old age benefits, which are funded primarily by employers, who contribute 31% of payroll. Disability and death are not covered. A special social pension exists for the aged and disabled who do not qualify for the employee pension system as determined by need. Paid maternity leave is provided for up to eight weeks, although it is reported that employers frequently withhold benefits. Temporary disability is only payable if the employer is responsible for the injury, although unemployment and permanent disability benefits are provided. Medical services are provided to needy residents by government health officials. Family allowances, initiated in 2002, provide for all needy residents, and is funded by the government.

Women remain predominantly in low-skilled, low-paying jobs, regardless of qualifications. Female participation in politics has been discouraged, and women rarely fill leadership positions in the private sector. Discrimination and harassment in the workplace are common. Violence against women is a serious problem and there are virtually no mechanisms to assist victims. Societal bias discourages the reporting of domestic abuse or sexual violence. In 2004, kidnapping of women for marriage still occurred.

Human rights abuses by the police and security forces continue, often to obtain confessions or extract money. Prison conditions are inhumane and life threatening, and corruption is endemic in the judicial and law enforcement systems. There is some discrimination against ethnic minorities.


Since 1995 there have been wide-ranging reforms to the centralized system of health care inherited from the former Soviet Union. Staffed by a disproportionate number of specialists, and supporting a relatively high number of hospital beds, the system proved too costly and inefficient to maintain. In the period immediately following independence, financial shortages led to delayed payment, or even nonpayment, of medical staff salaries; a virtual halt to investment in new medical equipment and buildings; and the emergence of a black market in pharmaceuticals. Changes in health care policy since 1995 include introduction of a health insurance system and an end to free health care outside a basic package of health benefits, as well as new systems of provider payment. The network of rural and urban primary care centers is still largely a holdover from the Soviet era, but the payment structure for services has changed. Health care expenditure was estimated at 2.8% of GDP.

In 2004, there were an estimated 391 physicians, 372 nurses, 29 midwives, and 30 dentists per 100,000 people. Immunization rates for the country in 1997 were as follows: children up to one year old were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 76%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 92%; polio, 98%; and measles, 95%.

Life expectancy in 2005 was an average of 75.88 years and the infant mortality rate was 18.59 per 1,000 live births. The total fertility rate has decreased from 2.9 children per woman of child-bearing years in 1960 to 1.1 in 2000. The under-five mortality rate was 59 per 1,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate was much lower than the average in Eastern Europe. In 1995 there were 22 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The estimated overall mortality rate as of 2002 was 14.6 per 1,000 people. There were approximately 2,000 civil war-related deaths in 1992. A diphtheria epidemic has spread through the former Soviet Union. In most affected countries, the incidence rate of reported diphtheria has increased two- to tenfold every year.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 3,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Before independence, most urban housing was regulated by the government while most rural housing was privately owned. Beginning in the mid 1990s, legislation towards privatization led to the legalization of an open real estate market. Unfortunately, the need for adequate housing is far greater than current supplies. In 1989, there were 152,033 people registered and waiting for adequate housing. Overcrowding became a problem as extended families stayed together in one household simply because of the lack of alternative housing. Natural disasters have caused trouble for an already problematic housing situation. Mudslides are common in some areas. In 1987, a mudslide destroyed 210 homes and seriously damaged 850 more. In 1991, an earthquake destroyed 46,000 homes. Civil unrest has caused a great deal of homelessness as well. As of 2001, there were about 300,000 displaced persons throughout the country.

During 1995 a total of 55,423 sq m of dwelling was built in the republic, but this represented only a 4.4% increase in new dwelling area since 1987. Building costs are high, with the price of one square meter often between $500 and $1,000. At the 2002 census, there were 1,243,158 private households, with the average size of household at 3.5 persons.

In western Georgia, a typical older home is wooden, raised off the ground slightly in areas where flooding or very damp ground is problematic. In the drier climate of eastern Georgia, stone (later brick) houses with flat roofs were constructed along roads. In urban regions, two-story brick or cement block homes are not uncommon.


Georgia's educational system was based on the Soviet model until the late 1980s, when there was a de-emphasis of Soviet educational themes in favor of Georgian history and language. Georgian students are taught in a number of languages, including Georgian, Russian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Abkhazian, and Ossetian. Education is compulsory for nine years, beginning at age seven. Elementary school covers six years of study. This is followed by either seven years of general secondary school or six years of technical school. The academic year runs from September to June.

In 2001, about 41% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 89% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 78% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 82% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 16:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 8:1.

There are 24 state institutions of higher learning in the country and 73 private accredited institutions. These include the Iran Dzhavakhiladze University of T'bilisi, Georgian Technical University, Abkhazian State University, and State University of Batumi. In 2003, about 38% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at about 99%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.2% of GDP, or 11.8% of total government expenditures.


The National Library in T'bilisi holds over six million volumes, while the Georgian State Public Library has eight million. The largest library in the country, however, is the Scientific and Technological Library of Georgia, which contains 10.1 million volumes. There are dozens of private libraries held by various scientific, cultural, and religious organizations and extensive university library holdings. Chief among the latter are T'bilisi State University (three million volumes), the Polytechnic University in T'bilisi (1.14 million volumes), and the Pedagogical Institute in T'bilisi (336,000 volumes).

Most of the country's cultural institutions are in T'bilisi, including the State Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the State Museum of Georgia, the T'bilisi Museum of History and Ethnography, and the Georgian State Museum of Oriental Art. There are local or specialty museums in Gori, Suchumi, and Kútáisi.


Georgia has international telecommunications links via landline to other former Soviet republics and Turkey. There is also a low capacity satellite earth station and connections via Moscow. In 2003, there were an estimated 133 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 138,800 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 107 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

In 2004, there were 54 independent television stations in the country, but only three provided national service. Though independently operated, most stations rely on some amount of support from the national or regional governments. There are at least 10 radio stations in operation, most of which are privately owned. Primary news agencies include the state operated Sakinform, and the privately held Prime-News, Iprinda, and Kavkasia-Press. In 2003, there were an estimated 568 radios and 357 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 12.4 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 31.6 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 31 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 11 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

In 2001, there were about 200 independent newspapers throughout the country. The most widely read was Sakartvelos Respublika, with a 1995 circulation of 40,000. In T'bilisi, the major daily is Vestnik Gruzzi (Georgian Herald ). There are also several general and special interest periodicals available.

The constitution and a 1991 press law provide for a free press, but in practice the government is said to restrict some press rights. Libel laws, as well as pressure from business and society leaders and government authorities, inhibit hard core investigative reporting.


Georgia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry promotes trade and commerce with its fellow members of the CIS. The country belongs to the International Chamber of Commerce as well. Union organizations in Georgia include the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, an umbrella organization. Important political organizations include the all-Georgian Mecrab Kostava Society and the Paramilitary group Mkhredrioni.

The Georgian Academy of Sciences, promoting research and education in all branches of science, was established in 1941. The Georgian Medical Association serves as a physician networking organization while also promoting research and education on health issues and working to establish common policies and standards in healthcare There are also associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions, such as Georgian Association of Cardiology.

Youth organizations include the National Youth Council of Georgia (through the Department of Youth and Sport), the United Nations of Youth: Georgia, YMCA/YWCA, and scouting programs. There are also several sports associations promoting amateur competition in such pastimes as baseball, track and field, badminton, and figure skating.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and Caritas.


Bounded by the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia has been known for its lucrative tourist industry, but tourism declined after independence due to political and economic turmoil. Mtskheta, the ancient capital, is home to the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, an 11th-century edifice that is the spiritual center of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and a major tourist attraction. The present-day capital, T'bilisi, is over 1,000 years old and offers historic citadels, cathedrals, and castles, as well as warm springs and dramatic mountain views. In 2002, approximately 298,469 tourists visited Georgia. There were 3,712 hotel rooms with 8,250 beds and an occupancy rate of 71%.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the average daily expenses for T'bilisi at $245. Other areas ranged from $96 to $128 per day.


Eduard A. Shevardnadze (b.1928), a key figure in the Soviet government, was president of Georgia from 1992 until 2003, when he resigned in the midst of mounting criticism following disputed elections, known as the "Rose Revolution." Mikhail Saakashvili (b.1967) was elected president in January 2004. Joseph Stalin (18791953), a key figure in the Soviet period, was born in Gori, Georgia. The medieval poet Shota Rustaveli, who was from Georgia, wrote the masterpiece Knight in the Tiger's Skin. Nineteenth-century poets include Ilia Chavchavadze (18371907), Akaki Tsereteli (18401915), and Vazha Pshwda. Writers of that century include Titsian Tabidze (18951937), Giorgi Leonidze, and Irakli Abashidze. Painters include Niko Pirosmanashvili (18621918), and Irikli Toidze. Composers include Zakhari Paliashvili (18711933) and Meliton Balanchivadze (18621937).


Georgia has no territories or colonies.


Giannakos, S.A. (ed.). Ethnic Conflict: Religion, Identity, and Politics. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002.

Nationalism and History: The Politics of Nation Building in Post-Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Centre for Russian and East European Studies, 1994.

Streissguth, Thomas. The Transcaucasus. San Diego, Calif.: Lucent Books, 2001.

Transcaucasia, Nationalism and Social Change: Essays in the History of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.


views updated May 29 2018


Basic Data
Official Country Name:Republic of Georgia
Region:East & South Asia
Language(s):Georgian, Russian, Armenian, Azeri, Abkhaz
Literacy Rate:99%
Number of Primary Schools:3,201
Compulsory Schooling:9 years
Public Expenditure on Education:5.2%
Foreign Students in National Universities:69
Educational Enrollment:Primary: 293,325
 Secondary: 444,058
 Higher: 163,345
Educational Enrollment Rate:Primary: 88%
 Secondary: 77%
 Higher: 42%
Teachers:Primary: 16,542
 Secondary: 57,963
 Higher: 25,549
Student-Teacher Ratio:Primary: 18:1
 Secondary: 8:1
Female Enrollment Rate:Primary: 88%
 Secondary: 76%
 Higher: 44%

History & Background

The Republic of Georgia has a long and difficult history that began in the Middle Ages. Georgia was an independent nation before and after its incorporation into the Russian sphere of influence, which has occurred twice in its history. It is once again a sovereign nation, a highly independent country that did not choose to join the Council of Independent States after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Like many nations that were incorporated into the Soviet Union in the twentieth century, for much of its recent history, Georgia was considered simply a region of the USSR. Before it became associated with the Soviet Union, it was taken into the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century. In 1918, at the time of the Russian Revolution, Georgia became an independent nation, and remained so until 1921. In that year, the Republic of Georgia was forced to become a part of the USSR. In the 1990s, the era of perestroika in Russia and the nations that were once called its satellites, the Republic of Georgia was one of the first countries to break away from the Soviet Union and declare its independence. It became a sovereign nation once again in 1991.

Despite its tense and complex relations with Russia, several of Russia's most important twentieth-century leaders were Georgians. Joseph Stalin, the Russian premier before, during, and after World War II, was from Georgia. So was Eduard Shevardnadze, the foreign minister of the USSR during its breakup, who later became President of Georgia shortly after it gained its independence. Lavrenty Beria, who lived from 1899 to 1953, was Stalin's head of the secret police (or KGB), and was also a Georgian. Despite his origins, he was especially brutal against Georgian dissidents. Beria was assassinated by the Russian administration that succeeded Stalin after his death.

Geography & Population: Although not well known to foreigners, Georgia has a distinctive character and significant national unity. It has its own primary language as well as several other languages that are used in special regions and by minority groups. Its culture, including its dance, music, and art, is significantly different from other formerly Soviet nations.

Georgia is a truly Caucasian nationa nation that is located in the Caucasus region of the European and Asian continents. The Caucasus mountain range is located between the Caspian and Black seas; its northern parts are in Europe and its southern regions, which border Turkey and Iran, are in Asia. The Republic of Georgia's location is in southwestern Asia, bordering the Black Sea. Geographically, it falls between Turkey and Russia and is therefore influenced by both Europe and Asia. Georgia covers 69,700 square kilometers (26,911 square miles), which is about the size of South Carolina. The climate is warm and pleasant, similar to the Mediterranean region.

There are many natural resources, including forests, iron and copper, some coal and oil, and soil that can be used to grow tea and citrus. A good portion of the nation is woodlands and permanent pastures. Air and water pollution, lack of sufficient amounts of potable water, and some soil pollution from toxic chemicals are among the environmental problems the country faces.

The people of Georgia are many and are diverse: the total population is 5.4 million. About 70 percent of the people are Georgian, but 80 other nationalities and groups make up the balance. Some 6.3 percent are Russian, 5.7 percent are Azeris, 3 percent are Ossetes, 1.9 percent are Greek, 1.8 percent are Abkhazians, and 0.5 percent are Jewish. Two of these minority groups, Azeris and Abkhazians, have their own republics within the Georgian Republic. The urban population stands at 56 percent, while 44 percent live in rural areas. Life expectancy for men is 69.43 years and 76.95 for women, with an average for the whole population of 73.1 years. About half the population, or 2.76 million people, are in the labor force. Industry and construction employ 31 percent of workers, while 25 percent are in agriculture and forestry. The unemployment rate is about 14.5 percent.

Although there are other religions, the great majority of the people of Georgia, over 80 percent, are Christians. Most of them (65 percent) are Georgian Orthodox, 10 percent are Russian Orthodox, and 8 percent Armenian Orthodox. Eleven percent are Muslim, and the nations that surround the Republic of Georgia are generally majority Muslim. This predominant Christianity is one of the bases for the close relations between the Republic of Georgia and Western nations, including the United States.

Language: Language is a central issue in any educational system and the languages of Georgia are different from those of the rest of the world. The Caucasus region is also the source of the Caucasian languages, of which there are some 40. Only Georgian, however, is considered a modern language. There is some dispute about the nature of the language. Some sources call it part of the Indo-European language group. Others, however, say that Georgian is not a part of that group or of the Finno-Ugric or Semitic language families, arguing that it is part of the Ibero-Caucasian or Kartvelian language group.

The Georgian language probably evolved around the fifth century B.C. It has 33 characters, distinctive word formations, and complex rules governing its use of verbs. Many of the Georgian words place several consonants together with few intervening vowels. The name of the capital city, Tbilisi, is an example. Although the official language of the nation is Georgian, in some regions people also use Megruli and Chanuri. All three languages derived from Old Kartvelian. Several other regional languages are also in modern use.

Georgia's multiplicity of languages dates to ancient times, when there were so many languages used in the nation that Romans needed 130 interpreters to do business there. Because of its long association with Russia, a modern visitor can typically navigate in the nation by using Russian. But those who speak neither Russian nor Georgian need to engage interpreters: few in the population speak other languages, except for specific ethnic languages.

Political, Social, & Cultural Context: Georgia is a member of the United Nations and many international compacts. It has close ties to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, both of which help the nation more fully develop its economy and, in the case of the World Bank, its educational system, as explained more fully in the summary.

Although Georgia is no longer subservient to Russia and has its own democratic government, there are Russian troops at military bases in Georgia. They serve as peacekeepers in two regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are separatist and sometimes threaten to break with the Republic of Georgia.

The United States and the Republic of Georgia have strong diplomatic relations and work closely together. Georgia receives the second largest amount of per capita assistance, among all the world's nations, from the United States. According to former Secretary of State James Baker, Georgia became important to the United States because it provided an opportunity to influence the institutions formed in the wake of the fall of the Communist Soviet Union. Moreover, Georgia was important because of Eduard Shevardnadze, Georgia's president, who was thought to be heavily involved in ending the Cold War. According to Baker, that era in world history would not have ended in a peaceful way without Shevardnadze, whom Baker considered a hero.

Post-Soviet Georgia is attempting to move the economy and the people toward a market economy that could be connected with Western institutions. Recent developments include an efficient telephone system, including cell phones, and delivery from Federal Express. Georgian food remains popular, but French, Chinese, and other national cuisines are also available in the Republic.

The Georgian economy has demonstrated annual growth rates of about 3.5 percent in recent years, although 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. A key problem is the inflation rate for consumer prices, which stands at 19 percent. Another problem has been the inability to collect all the taxes that they levy, and there are continuing problems with tax evasion and corruption. Moreover, the nation lacks sufficient energy, despite extensive hydroelectric power and the exportation of some electricity. Because they lack adequate oil and coal, they must import energy sources. Nonetheless, some hopeful projections anticipate that economic growth could nearly double in the twenty-first century.

Historical Development: With free and compulsory schooling a part of Georgia's educational tradition, the nation's population is generally well educated. The nation of Georgia has a long history of attention to higher education; according to one authority, the Georgian population was the most highly educated of all the peoples under the USSR. One indication of the careful attention and expenditure of resources on education in Georgia is the number of physicians: there are 53.7 physicians for every 10,000 people in the nation. Moreover, a third of the working population of Georgia has some form of higher education or specialized middle education. This compares favorably to the United Kingdom, in which 11.2 percent of the population have some form of specialized education, and also to Japan, where 14.2 percent of the population have higher or other specialized education.

The history of education in Georgia dates from as early as the Middle Ages. Monasteries and academies functioned as vital centers of learning, which was important to the people of the nation because they assisted in preserving their national heritage when they were occupied by other cultures. By 1915, just prior to the Russian Revolution, there were 1,648 schools of all types in Georgia. In spite of that, most Georgians were illiterate. However, the era of Soviet connection increased the quantity of mass education and illiteracy was basically eliminated. The definition of literacy used by Georgia is the proportion of the population age 15 and over who can read and write. The total population is, therefore, 99 percent literate. One hundred percent of the men, according to Georgian government estimates, are literate, and 98 percent of females are literate.

Because of changes in the government in the 1990s, the education system of Georgia also changed dramatically. For example, in the era of the Soviet Union, the government provided for free education at all stages for all people. In post-Soviet Georgia, only nine years of primary education are compulsory and free for all; higher levels of secondary schools and the universities are free only for 30 percent of students, while others pay tuition. Perhaps the most significant change has been the granting of autonomous status to higher education institutions, which occurred in 1992.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The first president of the Republic after the Soviet era was Zviad Gamsakhurdia. After a period of disorder in which Gamsakhurdia was forced to flee and ultimately died, President Shevardnadze was elected by popular vote for a five-year term and was re-elected in 2000.

The country has a legislature, referred to as Parliament, which is unicameralthat is, it has only one houseand the members serve four-year terms. There are 235 members. The judicial branch is a supreme court, which is elected by Parliament on the recommendation of the president.

With regard to education, Article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of Georgia states:

  • Each citizen has the right to education and freedom of choice in education is recognized.
  • The state guarantees that educational programs conform to international standards and rights.
  • The state guarantees preschool education. Primary education is mandatory for all, and the state provides free primary education. Citizens also have the right to free secondary, professional, and tertiary education at state institute, within the framework and by the rules established in law.
  • The state supports educational institutions by the right established in law.

Educational SystemOverview

Public education in Georgia is comprised of the following categories: kindergarten, ages 2-5; elementary school, grades 1-4; secondary school, grades 5-9; and upper secondary school, grades 10-11. The system of kindergarten has largely collapsed, however, and has become increasingly privatized. Attendance is now a sign of prestige and, according to a World Bank report (Perkins 1998), only 20 percent of eligible children attend. There are plans to introduce a grade 12, but financial constraints have prevented any progress thus far.

Education is not limited to general day schools; there are also boarding schools for children with disabilities and "Youth Palaces" for an intensive study of such subjects as art, music, drama, and dance. In 1993 the first school for internally displaced persons (IDP schools) opened for elementary, secondary, and high school education. Both the teachers and students are IDPs; 90 percent of students must be IDPs, and the remaining 10 percent are local children.

The school year officially begins in September and ends in June, but the number of official school days is close to 150 due to numerous holidays and breaks throughout the year. Principals may decide to close school altogether during part of the winter due to lack of heat and electricity, or during harvesting season in the agricultural regions. A typical school day generally lasts from seven hours in upper school to as little as three hours in primary school. Schools use a two-semester schedule.

Examinations, Promotions, & Certifications: Students progress to the next grade based on their teachers' recommendations. The decision is made according to written work and participation throughout the year. Instead of being assigned a letter grade, students are rated on a scale of one to five, with five being the best. Students rarely fail or repeat a grade.

Every student in Georgia completing secondary school takes the exit exam, comprised of both oral and written assessment on the same day at the same time. The Minister or Deputy Minister of Education announces the essay questions via radio and television to eliminate the possibility of obtaining questions or answers beforehand. Whatever precautions are used before the test to ensure equity are lost in the grading. The exams are graded by members of a panel that includes the student's teacher. Because it is the individual student's teacher who ultimately records the grades and turns them in, the process is ripe for corruption and bribery. Additionally, no school wants to fail students or provide an excuse for further faculty or staff cuts. Annual examinations can also be held after the fourth grade, and many schools use that opportunity to test and evaluate students.

Because Georgia currently lacks national assessment standards for the exit exams, college entrance exams have been instituted. Although passage of exit exams is nearly universal, the rate of students passing the college entrance exams is markedly reduced. Students who want to continue their education thus often hire tutors to prepare for the exam. A World Bank reform project, discussed in detail in the Summary, would ensure national grading standards for exit exams by impartial judges, allowing for the elimination of the unpopular entrance exams. Universal testing at the secondary level and elimination of college entrance exams would improve the quality of students, especially those with financial constraints.

Only about 70 percent of pupils are accepted to higher education institutions. Students who do not successfully move to the next stage after completing secondary or high school can attend vocational and technical schools.

Educational Style & Textbooks: As Georgia tries to distance itself from a Russian curriculum, it still holds on to Soviet educational methodology. Education is content-based and focuses on memorizing facts, lectures, and texts, rather than analyzing subjects and teaching students critical thinking, which is more common in Western educational systems. A typical class begins with the review of homework and the material covered in the previous class, after which students recite the passages read or concepts learned word-for-word from the text. The teacher then explains a new concept and goes over exercises that students will take for homework. Then the teacher may review previous material covered or use the time to talk about what was learned during class. Reading, repeating, and recalling is the standard drill.

Each class lasts about 45 minutes, though in the rural regions classes may be shorter during the winter due to the cold and the lack of fuel to heat school facilities. There is a growing argument that such a curriculum doesn't adequately prepare students for university study and should be modified. Students who go on to study at universities usually have had extensive private tutoring throughout school.

Study of even the most basic topics has become difficult, however, as many students and teachers do not have textbooks. Government policy dictates that students supply their own school texts and supplies. Textbooks are quite expensive and often out of reach for many parents, especially in rural regions. Often the costs of purchasing texts for one child exceed the family's monthly income. The textbooks that are available are often in very poor condition, as the Ministry of Education encourages printers to keep costs low by using inexpensive, poor quality material and smaller type. Students who can afford to may buy several copies of each book because they have such a short life span. Relying on secondhand books is not always an option, as they are often in Russian and do not reflect the new Georgian curriculum and ideas. The Ministry of Education estimates textbook availability to be anywhere from 40 to 75 percent for elementary schools, 40 to 60 percent for secondary, and 25 to 30 percent for upper secondary grades. Plans for textbook reform are also part of the World Bank project.

Enrollment: Accurately estimating the number and percentage of children enrolled in schools is difficult, as no recent official data has been published, and the organizations collecting information use different methods for doing so. Moreover, some poorer families don't register the births of their children until they are old enough to attend school in order to delay the cost of registration.

Estimates for the 1997-1998 school year indicate 926,000 students enrolled in all levels of the Georgia educational system. In 1997, about 87 percent of children eligible for first grade were enrolled. This marks a decline in enrollment since Georgia gained its independence in 1991. Some suggest that the decline might be as large as 20 percent for primary school. The starting age for school was lowered from seven to six years and grade nine is now compulsory, which should raise the level slightly. The dropout rate is about 4.3 to 5 percent in elementary school, 5.4 percent in incomplete secondary, and 9.9 percent at the upper secondary level.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary Education: The Georgian government works to develop the personality of children through pre-school programs. There are two types of preschool programs: nursery schools for babies age one and two, and kindergarten for children age three to six. In 1989, during the Soviet period, preschool was free, and 42 percent of eligible children attended kindergarten. In that year, there were 2,431 preschool programs with 213,396 pupils, or an average of 87 children per institution.

By 1993, there were 1,921 preschool institutions with 105,975 students, or 55 pupils per institution. By 1995 there was a further decrease to 1,272 institutions serving 79,200 pupils, or 62 pupils per institutions. Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, preschool institutions were established at factories and other organizations, and children of employees were cared for during working hours in those institutions. The economic depression following Georgia's independence made that impossible, and the number of preschools in factories and other work sites decreased from 805 to 47. In addition, during the Soviet period, food was given to preschool institutions, while after independence schools were required to pay for their own food.

Private kindergartens have developed to replace the official or governmental schools that existed prior to the change in government and the economic crises. There are also many nonregistered preschool institutions operating in private apartments. The government does not have specific data about these schools, though some estimates of the total enrollment in kindergartens of all kinds suggest that in 1997-1998, approximately 926,000 students were enrolled in public and private kindergartens. By contrast, the government reports its kindergarten enrollment for that year at 75,000. Other sources suggest that kindergarten is much less than universally available, and that it is a sign of prestige and privilege to send one's children to kindergarten.

The preschools are open from September through August. Many charitable organizations are also establishing preschools for younger children. The state-operated preschools receive some subsidy from the government, but parents are expected to pay part of the cost.

Primary Education: The Georgian government attempts to keep records on the percentage of children who enroll in school, compared to the data on births. In 1997, nearly 89 percent of children born in 1991 (and thus of school age) had enrolled in first grade. For the period from 1990 through 1998, there were 512,256 children in grades one through six. That number dropped for the 1995-1996 school year to 429,864. In 1996-1997, primary school enrollments were 435,797. In 1997-1998, the figure was 442,265.

Students in the primary grades study about 7 subjects, compared to 15 in the upper grades. Primary school subjects include native language study, math, fine arts, music, physical education, natural studies, Russian, and literature. All grades also have a free period for extracurricular activities, but the Ministry of Education plans to introduce new courses in religion and culture, which may take up this time. The school day is approximately three hours in the primary grades.

The methodological approach in all disciplines is highly teacher and textbook centered, rather than attempting to engage children through more active learning or research-oriented activities. In the fourth grade, for example, educational strategy focuses on copying, solving exercises with the teacher or individually, applying rules, and recalling.

As Georgia tries to distance itself from its Soviet legacy, the ministry is placing more emphasis on humanities, specifically Georgian history and culture, and less on math, science, and Russian. They have increased the number of hours spent studying foreign languages, humanities, the history and geography of Georgia, and Georgian language and literature. The constitution requires schools to provide education in the Georgian, Russian, Armenian, Azeri, Ossetian, and Abkhazian languages. Georgian is by far the predominant language of instruction, however, especially since many Russians have migrated back to Russia, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia have declared their separation from Georgia.

Secondary Education

In 1997-1998 there were about 275,000 students in the country's two divisions of secondary education. The lower division is called basic, or secondary. The higher level is called upper secondary, or high school. The basic level consists of grades 7 through 9, and the higher level is grades 10 and 11. There is some hope of adding a twelfth grade in the future. Education is compulsory, as mentioned earlier, through ninth grade.

An assessment of the primary teaching activities for ninth graders found that:

  • They consist of low cognitive complexity level tasks.
  • They are centered on the text and not on transferring potential to other learning activities.
  • They do not foster understanding or promote critical and independent thinking.

The typical school day in the secondary school classroom follows a pattern similar to that of the primary schools, as follows:

  • Lesson starts by calling the roll and taking note of those absent.
  • Teachers check students' homework.
  • Teachers propose more exercises or ask questions.
  • Teachers introduce a new concept or lesson.
  • Teachers make sure students learn the "right" answers.
  • Lesson ends with the indication of more homework.
  • Lesson lasts for 45 minutes.

The school day for basic, or the lower level of secondary education, is five to six hours per day; for the higher level, it is six to seven hours per day. Most students also have two or more hours of homework. History, geography, biology, physics, chemistry, and foreign languages are studied at the secondary level and, at the higher level, students choose an emphasis to study. The choices include humanities, physics and math, chemistry and biology, vocational education, or language. High school is the highest level of education before students reach eligibility for entering higher education.

Higher Education

Post-high school education is diverse in Georgia. The nation's universities used to follow the Soviet five-year program but now have a four-year bachelor's degree program. A master's degree takes two to three years. The next level is called the aspirantura, which takes another three to four years and which ends in a candidate degree, a scientific degree that focuses on independent research. The highest degree given is the doctor of science.

Universities administer their own entrance exams. Each state university offers an entrance exam during the same week in August. Students must decide beforehand which university, program, and faculty they want to apply to. Private institutions hold their exams the following week. Reports of corruption are rampant. According to some estimates, about half the students purchase a copy of the test questions beforehand. Faculties have also been implicated in purchasing tests to help their students.

The nation's total higher education system is made up of 22 institutions, including universities, institutes, technicums, and cultural academies. Before independence, the state sponsored more than 100,000 students at these schools, providing a stipend based on school performance. In 1992, approximately 24 percent of Georgians of higher-education age were enrolled in higher education.

University studies typically provide highly specialized, rigid training focusing on a single area of study. Law and medicine students do not attend regular university, but go directly to law and medical school from high school. Law school takes five years to complete and medical schools seven, plus two to three years of ordinatura, which is comparable to an internship.

Although the Soviet government ran well-equipped vocational and technical schools, the schools were not popular, and the economic depression that followed independence saw the vocational and technical education system disintegrate. Much of the equipment was stolen and school buildings were occupied by other organizations. There had been 170 vocational technical schools enrolling 70,000 students in 300 branches, but by 1996 there were only 115 schools with 20,000 students and 150 branches.

Since 1996, the government has been working to reestablish vocational and technical education for those who could not attend universities. The programs train specialists in an improved technical system and offer courses for farmers, manufacturers, and businesspersons. Centers for education and industry were established in different parts of the country in the 1990s, and unemployed workers and persons changing professions were given opportunities for retraining.

Study in vocational and technical schools is three to four years. Graduates from those schools receive certificates that permit them to work in their fields of study. Those who pass special advanced courses can continue their education. Graduates of technical schools may acquire certificates as midlevel specialists for work as nurses, teachers, computer operators, and other fields of expertise. There are 32 such schools under the Ministry of Education. There are approximately the same number of schools under other ministries, such as health, culture, and agriculture. These schools are called technicums, and their graduates are permitted to enter higher education.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Ministry of Education is the central governing body and oversees most decisions regarding education throughout the country. The ministry has 10 regions and the city of Tbilisi, which has a separate region. Each region has an education department, with 72 districts comprising the region, and there are local school administrators. The ministry is responsible for approving textbooks, courses, and curricula at all levels. It also licenses and certifies teachers, principals, and schools.

The office of the Ministry of Education experienced a fire several years ago and had insufficient funds to repair the building. Therefore, it works out of two separate buildings. Department heads are often separated from their staff and, with the energy crisis facing Tbilisi, telephones and electricity often do not work, making communication even among officials and staff difficult. The ministry has a few computers, but regional and local offices do not, nor do they have copy machines, so most still fill out forms, registrations, and records by hand.

Funding Sources: In responding to its charge of establishing budgets and overseeing financial matters, the ministry has taken zealous measures. In 1997, Parliament imposed a fee of 10 laris per month (about 8 U.S. dollars) for all but the top 30 percent of students attending public schools. The money is collected at the school level or deposited directly into a bank account set up by the ministry. However, the money does not stay at the school level. Schools are, in fact, forbidden to open their own bank accounts. Because the ministry plays such a significant role in the distribution of funds, having friends and connections at such a level can often increase a district's funding. Some schools have chosen to charge more than the required 10 laris and use the money to purchase heating fuel or pass it along in the form of a teacher's bonus.

A major cause of tight education budgets and inadequate funding for schools is the way the national education budget is spent. All money goes through the Ministry of Education and from there is dispersed to the rayons, the substructures of Georgian government. At the rayon level, the funds then go to local districts and finally to the schools. The triangular nature of the system allows for diversion of funds into noneducation functions. The Ministry of Education reportedly uses 40 percent of the national education budget for salaries, social contributions, and the "miscellaneous" category. In Tbilisi, the capital, 60 percent of the budget goes to personnel costs at the administrative level.

Other sources of budget disparity are the methods of revenue generation. While each rayon receives some funding from the national level, the rest must be generated locally through taxes and contributions. Rayons in rural areas are much poorer, and in some areas bartering and trading are more common than using money, causing real problems in generating money for schools. Consequently, schools in Tbilisi and other cities are much better equipped and in better condition. Since the Soviet period, local businesses have assisted and sponsored local schools, and some are still able to do this today, which greatly helps schools operate, especially the poorer schools in the regions. Other schools rent out space in the buildings to businesses to generate revenues.

Expenditures: Most school facilities in Georgia are fairly old and have not received much maintenance since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Ministry of Education estimates that over 80 percent of schools are in need of serious repair or reconstruction. Although schools in Tbilisi and other larger cities are in relatively good condition, many schools pose serious threats to students health, with no staircase railings; cracks in walls, ceilings, and hallways; peeling paint; broken windows; no running water; leaking roofs; and decaying, uncomfortable furniture. In rural areas, some schools do not have bathrooms. Fences have not been repaired, allowing animals to roam the schoolyards and creating unsanitary conditions. Some rural schools also lack basic teaching equipment including blackboards, desks, and books.

Lack of teaching materials has forced teachers to become creative in order to carry on their work. A number of teachers make teaching aids in their own homes or ask others to do so. For beginning grades some make alphabet letters and calendars out of cardboard. Most teachers, however, view creating their own teaching materials as something outside their defined roles and responsibilities, and consider it an extra burden forced on them by the lack of funds.

School buildings were constructed during the Soviet period, when energy was well below world price, and many buildings were not insulated. In the cities, there was an underground heating system provided free of charge to schools. In the post-Soviet era energy became scarce, and underground systems are no longer used. Each school is given funding for energy and water, but usually in name only. What money actually makes it to the individual schools is hardly adequate and not enough to install insulation or introduce new technology to conserve water. Consequently, schools are forced to find additional funds or simply close. In the cities, the school budget covers the purchase of some fuel for stoves or space heaters, and parents must provide additional money. In the rural areas, schools usually have wood-burning stoves, and students bring what wood or fuel they can contribute. During the coldest part of the winter schools often close for weeks or months due to lack of heating.

During Soviet times, a certain percentage of the government's funds was allocated for food in the education system. Three meals a day were provided in kindergarten and boarding schools. Meals in primary and vocational schools and university cafeterias were also subsidized. Even though the kindergartens can no longer afford to buy food and provide meals for their students, many still, under contracts, have to pay the kitchen staff. This redundancy of personnel, an ongoing problem at several levels, interferes with the efficiency of the educational system.

Nonformal Education

Under the Soviet system, Georgia had a strong program of adult education and nonformal education, including evening classes and study through correspondence. These systems were very popular because of the small number of people who were allowed to enter formal institutions. In 1996 these programs encountered a reduction in enrollments, largely because adults enrolled instead in private institutions.

Special Education: In Georgia, government has a public policy of providing special education for persons with disabilities as well as appropriate general education and, when it is required, therapeutic training in schools that are established for this purpose. These schools have special syllabi, lesson plans, and teaching methods. Special vocational and technical courses are aimed at enabling students to develop a profession and to be eligible for employment. There is also an effort to help special education students improve their physical and social status.

In 1996, there were 18 special boarding schools in Tbilisi and two preschools for blind children and those with speech defects. There were about 2,000 pupils in those institutions. Duration of study in special schools is based on the ability of the students to learn the subjects offered by the school. Study in special education schools is free and has a high priority in Georgia based on resolutions passed by the Cabinet of Ministers in the mid-1990s. In most cases, there is one institution to correspond with each of the following disabilities: blindness, limited eyesight, limited hearing, cerebral palsy, curvature of the spine, asthma, problems in speech development, and gastric diseases. There are two schools for deaf children, and eight auxiliary schools for children who are mentally retarded. These figures compare similarly to special education institutions in the United States, if one compares Georgia to a state with three to five million people.

Teaching Profession

Salaries: Teachers' salaries reached their lowest level in 1995, at an amount of US$4 per month. At one time teaching was the lowest paid profession in Tbilisi, a relatively high-paying city: teachers earned 21.8 laris per month, compared to the overall average salary of 61.5 laris per month. Subsequent increases have raised teachers' salaries to about 30 laris (US$24) per month. A lari is worth about 80 U.S. cents. Average teacher salaries are about 55 percent of the average wage for the total economy (54.9 laris) and about 80 percent of that for other public sector employees (37.5 laris). One reason for the low wages is overstaffing: education staffing in Georgia is atypically generous by international standards, and is twice as high per student as in Western nations. Thus already tight budgets must be spread thin over many teachers. Teachers in some rural villages have turned to farming and teach classes in their spare time. Others sell fruit or their remaining household items in Tbilisi market places in order to make ends meet.

The state still controls Georgia's most prominent higher education institutions and is unable to pay professors a living wage. As a result, scholars have been forced to emigrate or "moonlight" at jobs outside their fields. Many now teach at the private colleges and universities that have opened in the country. Although these schools pay decent salaries, the scholars have no time for research and writing, and are sometimes forced to instruct students who do not wish to learn.

An even bigger problem for many teachers, however, has been not being paid at all. Some regions have gone almost a year without paying their teachers, leading to several teacher strikes. In one instance, more than 100 teachers blocked the road in front of the of the regional administration office to demand their wages, which had not been paid for six to eight months.

Parents also complained, noting that teachers were looked at by pupils as poor people who could not even afford to buy proper clothing. This had a negative impact on teacher morale, and some believed that their authority among students was compromised. Teachers who had to work in the market during the weekend considered that shameful and said that they did not want to be seen by their students. The months without pay, combined with ill-equipped classrooms and limited teaching materials, have made many teachers feel inferior about their jobs.

Training & Qualifications: Teachers in Georgia have been hired not out of necessity, but because of the social prestige associated with teaching and a strong pressure to accommodate the growing number of graduates. The actual abilities and credentials of many candidates played a small role in the process. (An exception is the rural mountainous areas, where most schools lacked even a minimum number of teachers.) Large numbers of teachers cannot teach without a textbook; textbooks have become the main source of knowledge, not a supplement. This is in part due to the practices of the Soviet period, when teachers were compelled to rely heavily on texts; teachers have become accustomed to following them step by step.

The number of teachers has significantly declined since 1990-1991. In 1996, there were 102,073 teachers in Georgia: 69,219 (68 percent) in grades 1-11; 9,368 (9 percent) at preschool; and 18 percent in higher education. In the process of reducing the number of teachers, those teachers who received their posts by merit, as opposed to bribery and nepotism, are most likely to lose their jobs. Another factor is that male teachers were leaving teaching at rates beyond the national average, moving to find work in Russia or Armenia.

The proportion of teachers with complete higher education has increased slightly, to 87 percent in urban schools and 75 percent in rural schools. So far, the impact of low pay and poor conditions has been confined mainly to growing teacher shortages in foreign languages and computer science, where demand is strong outside the teaching profession, and in the remote rural areas, where it has become extremely difficult to replace retiring teachers. Recent measures by the government to consolidate and improve the teaching force have succeeded in raising the pupil-teacher ratio to 10.4 (from 8.3 in 1991), reducing the number of part-time teachers, increasing the full-time working load, and increasing salaries on a performance basis through a national testing and certification process.

Unions & Associations: There are two major trade unions in Georgia. The first is the Education Workers Trade Union of the Georgian Trade Unit Amalgamation, and the second is the Free Trade Union of Teachers of Georgia-Solidarity. Both unions are focused on teachers in the regions. The Education Workers Trade Union is the older organization, and is based in the northeastern region of Tianeti. Many call this union an offshoot of the old Soviet-style unions, although the leaders deny this. The Free Trade Union was established in 1998 and is based out of Kutaisi; it has 2,800 members throughout the regions. Although the trade unions do not have a good working relationship with each other and disagree over methods of change, they appear to have similar goals of improving teachers' working conditions and compensation.


Georgia faces many problems, but it is also in the process of working to reform its educational system. In that effort, it has the support and participation of the World Bank. The World Bank is working on a 12-year program that will eventually give US$60 million to the government of Georgia. The program is divided into several phases; the first phase goes until 2005 and involves US$25.9 million. If all the triggers are accomplished, the program will advance to the next phase and involve more money. The goal of this project is to realign the educational system and to make it more equitable, effective, and efficient. There are groups at the Georgian Ministry of Education specifically devoted to each component of reform.

There are seven components to the program: curriculum reform, national student assessment, professional development of teachers, development of new textbooks, strengthening policy and administration, efficient use of human resources, and increasing public awareness.

The curriculum component involves developing a national curriculum by 2005 for both primary (grades one through six) and secondary education (grades seven through nine). Students all over the country will study the exact same materials at the same levels.

A national student assessment exam and a national assessment center will be developed. As of 2001, assessment exams were administered and recorded by each local school. Thus students may score the same but be tested on different material. The old system has also been tainted by corruption: because teachers are paid so little and so rarely, some sell test scores, offer private tutoring, or change grades for a little extra money. With a national assessment, the exams will be reviewed and recorded by the national assessment center. The center will also collect and compile data and statistics nationwide for education.

The component for the professional development of teachers has several parts. One important aspect is the development of school networks for sharing information and creating a community of teachers. A program for individual school grants is also planned. The Ministry of Education will be responsible for setting up the regulations and provisions and will also provide support and instruction in grant proposal writing for those without experience in this field. Every school will receive a grant for the purpose of helping children learn. The grant cannot go to books or computers, but to projects engineered by the teachers themselves, in order to involve teachers in the reform process and allow the schools to see immediate results from the project.

The development of new textbooks includes the training of authors and those who will have to make the final decisions about what texts schools should use. Schools will buy the books and then rent them out to students. The first-year students will pay about 50 percent of the cost of the books, and then 30 percent for the next four years. Thus through book rentals the schools will accumulated enough funds to purchase new textbooks every four years and so on. This would make the project self-sustainable and would not require foreign loans or aid in order to provide books for students.

The project also includes a component to strengthen policy and administration. Regional education departments, which were established in the late 1990s, lack clear and defined roles. The Soros Foundation is helping to define the roles of the various departments. Local authorities are responsible for paying teachers' salaries, funding school maintenance and upkeep, however, the management responsibilities have not been plainly articulated.

The next component is a more efficient allocation of resources. Currently there is one teacher for every 10 students, a carryover from the Soviet system in which there was about a 1:5 teacher-student ratio. One of the program's goals is to increase this ratio to 1:14 by 2005. According to current regulations teachers are allowed to teach only certain grades and subjects. Therefore, a village school could have only 5 students but 10 teachers because secondary teachers are not allowed to teach primary classes. Because of this redundancy of teachers, about half of all teachers will have to be laid off. The Ministry of Education and the World Bank are trying to establish a severance package for pensioners. Although teaching pays very little, pensions are even less. It is against World Bank policies to pay severance for teachers, but they are revisiting the policy to look for an interpretation that would allow this. The system would have to retain the most qualified teachers and insure that those receiving severance pay would not return to the education system as consultants or in other capacities.

The Bank's project does not provide for any changes to school buildings, but it will analyze and map schools to eliminate redundancy. If there are two schools in close proximity they may be merged together. These resources will go into a database and the center will develop software and a computerized system for recording this data. Not all schools will have computersthey may still have to fill out their forms by handbut the data will be computerized. This will allow the government and others access to information about the schools throughout the country.

The final component of the project is increasing public awareness. Sustaining education reform will require the increased dissemination of information and higher levels of parent and teacher involvement in the school system.

This project will help combat corruption through its measures to increase openness, cooperation, community involvement, and organization. Hopefully the example of these reforms will encourage similar changes in higher education, which faces even greater problems of corruption. For example, with nationwide exams throughout secondary schooling, higher institutions of learning might adopt this type of assessment as well, thus minimizing unfair influence and bribery.

Georgia's educational system has a long way to go before it is as effective as its supporters hope it will be. Nonetheless, the country has a plan and the resources to help it achieve major improvements over time.


Bateman, Graham, ed. Encyclopedia of World Geography, Vol. 14, Russia and Northern Eurasia. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1994.

Ghurchumelia, Manana [Leader of the Free Trade Union of Teachers of GeorgiaSolidarity]. Interview by Sara Payne. Kutaisi, Georgia, 13 February 2001.

Grachev, A.S. Final Days: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994.

Harbor, Bernard. The Breakup of the Soviet Union. New York: New Discovery, 1992.

Imnadze, Elene [Public Sector Management Specialist, World Bank Office]. Interview by Sara Payne. Tbilisi, Georgia, 8 February 2001.

Jones, Stephen F. "Republic of Georgia." In The Encyclopedia Americana, 12: 532-537. Danbury, CT: The Grolier Society, 2000.

McGiffert, Carolyn, and Melvin A. Ekedahl. The Wars of Eduard Shevardnadze. State College: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.

Mikeladze, Mzia [Dean of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs]. Interview by Sara Payne. Tbilisi, Georgia, 14 February 2001.

Orivel, Francois. Cost and Finance of Education in Georgia. Université de Bourgogne: Irédu/CNRS, 1998.

Polazchenko, Pavel, Don Oberdorfer, and P. Polazchenko. My Years with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze: The Memoirs of a Soviet Interpreter. State College: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.

Read, Tony, Carmelle Denning, Christopher Connolly-Smith, and Kenneth Cowan. School Textbook Provision in Georgia: A Sub-Sector Study Comprising an Analysis of Current Problem Areas with Options and Recommendations for Future Strategies. London: International Book Development, 1998.

Rosen, Roger. Georgia: A Sovereign Country of the Caucasus. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1999.

Shevardnadze, Eduard A. The Future Belongs to Freedom. New York: Free Press, 1991.

Specter, Michael. "Letter from Tbilisi: Rainy Days in Georgia." The New Yorker 76 (December 18, 2000): 54-62.

Topouria, Giorgi. "Science and Education," March 1997. Available from

Leon Ginsberg


views updated May 08 2018


Republic of Georgia

Sakartveld Respublika



Georgia is located between Europe and Asia. East of the Black Sea, Georgia is separated from Russia by the Caucasus Mountains. It borders Turkey and Armenia to the south and Azerbaijan to the east. Georgia has a land area of 69,700 square kilometers (26,911 square miles) making it slightly smaller in size than the state of South Carolina. Approximately 75 percent of Georgia's territory is 500 or more meters above sea level. The country has a coastline of 315 kilometers (196 miles).


Georgia's most recent official census counted 5,400,481 in 1989. Recent state statistics, which underestimate the volume of emigration , keep the figure around 5.4 million. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, however, estimates the population in July of 2001 at 4,989,285. With estimated rates of 10.87 births and 14.52 deaths per 1,000 population and a net out-migration rate of 2.57 per 1,000 population, Georgia had an estimated growth rate of-0.62 percent in 2000.

Georgia is an ethnically diverse state. Georgians comprise only 70 percent of the population, while there are minorities of Armenians (8 percent), Azeris (6 percent), Russians (6 percent), Ossetians (3 percent), and Abkhazians (1.8 percent). These groups, while small in number, have posed problems for the T'bilisi government as they are concentrated in specific areas and some have aspirations towards independence. Georgia contains 3 autonomous republics: Abkhazia, Adjara, and South Ossetia.


It is difficult to understand the contemporary economic situation of Georgia without first understanding its tumultuous history since achieving independence from the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991. Independence exposed the extreme reliance of the Georgian economy on the Soviet Union. At the time of independence, the vast majority of Georgia's trade was conducted within the USSR. Trade with the Newly Independent States (NIS), the name given to the states that emerged from the collapse of the USSR, was disrupted by the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and by civil war. When Georgia was a part of the USSR, heavy-industrial enterprises were established throughout Georgia but fell into disuse when the country became independent. Net material product experienced an unprecedented decline in the immediate years after independence. It declined by 11.1 percent in 1990, by 20.6 percent in 1991, by 43.4 percent in 1992, and 40 percent in 1993.

Most of Georgia's recent economic problems can be attributed to the weakness of centralized authority and to an insufficiently developed civil society. The legacy of the Soviet state is a primary cause of these problems. Georgian society was ill-prepared for independence politically, economically, culturally, and psychologically. In particular, no social groups existed independent of the state and a democratic culture had not been established. Moreover, the de facto (existing whether lawful or not) federal administrative-political system imposed during the Soviet period weakened the power of Georgia's own government. Soviet control also fostered separatist tendencies in the region. Administratively, Georgia was a "little empire" that began to disintegrate in much the same way as the larger model of the USSR. The effective secession of Abkhazia, Adjara, and South Ossetia coincided with ineffective control over the Armenian and Azeri dominated regions. The war in Abkhazia was especially detrimental to national and civic integration as it occurred at a critical stage in the state-building process.

The economic path followed by the breakaway republics of Abkhazia, Adjara, and South Ossetia diverged considerably from that of the rest of the country. The Abkhazian victory in September 1993 led to an economic blockade by Georgia followed by a similar Russian blockade in 1996 as Moscow tried to improve relations with T'bilisi. The Russian ruble is the only currency in widespread use in Abkhazia and the region operates under Moscow time, 1 hour behind T'bilisi. Despite a flourishing unofficial trade with Russia, the Abkhazian people had to rely heavily on humanitarian handouts as a means of subsistence. The once dynamic tourism industry is in tatters. Despite maintaining the trappings of an independent state, lack of economic potential has forced South Ossetia to consider closer ties with the rest of Georgia. Adjara maintains the closest links with T'bilisi and has benefited accordingly.

Corruption has been a persistent feature of Georgian society for several decades and has been entrenched since the establishment of an independent state in 1991. The weakness of the central government is clear in its lack of control over its employees. Small and medium size businesses, which could provide a vital base for economic growth and employment are hindered by lack of resources to withstand persistent demands for bribes. Few citizens see the point in engaging in political protests as they perceive the members of the government as hopelessly corrupt and their situation as unavoidable.

For most of the 1990s, Georgia was torn between dependency on Russia and the West. Georgia relies heavily on Russia for fuel, and an estimated 800,000 Georgians who work in Russia repatriate a substantial sum to their families in Georgia every year. This economic lifeline was suddenly put at risk when the Russian government imposed a visa regime on Georgia. Before 5 December 2000, Georgians could travel freely to Russia but now are required to obtain permission from the Russian embassy in Georgia. An apparent punishment for alleged tolerance of Chechen guerrillas who take refuge in Georgia, the visa regime is symptomatic of a cooling of relations between Moscow and T'bilisi. Georgia has increasingly turned to the West for assistance. It has deepened relations with the European Union (EU) and declared its intention of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at some point in the future.


Georgia's political system is modeled on that of the United States with a directly elected president, parliament, and judiciary. Politics in the Caucasian republic has been dominated by Eduard Shevardnadze since 1972, the year he became First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party. Before becoming Soviet Foreign Minister under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, Shevardnadze gained a reputation for his anti-corruption policies and his economic initiatives. Shevardnadze entered into alliances with paramilitary forces when he felt it necessary and arrested them when he felt that he was strong enough to maintain power. He adopted an anti-Russian policy at the beginning of his administration, then sought and received Russian aid in putting down an internal rebellion. He even joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)a heretical act for Georgian nationalists considering the dominant role Russia plays in that organization. When it became clear that Russian economic aid would not be forthcoming, he explained that he attained concessions for his country by such devotion. As Russia adopts a hostile position towards the small republic, some suspect that the Georgian president is now saying what the West wants to hear in order to get the loans and legitimacy necessary to retain control. Shevardnadze was elected for anotherand, according to himself, final 5-year term of office in April 2000.

To consolidate his influence and further his policies, Shevardnadze founded the Citizens Union of Georgia (CUG) party in 1993. Officially dedicated to free market economics, the CUG advocates increasing the collection of taxes, fiscal rectitude, and improving social welfare provisions. The CUG emerged as the largest party after parliamentary elections in 1995 and 1999. As with society generally, politics is clannish in Georgia and many important administrative functions are handed out to family relatives and friends. Despite the more than 100 small parties in Georgia, there is little effective opposition to the Shevardnadze-led government. With the exception of the electorally insignificant communist faction, all political groups are committed to the free market, so alternative leaders provide a functional but not an ideological opposition to the status quo.

The "black hole" of tax collection is so great that tax revenues constituted only 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1997, a year in which the Georgian economy enjoyed one of the world's fastest growth rates. Insubstantial tax revenues are partially due to the narrow tax base; most of those who do pay taxes are state employees for whom tax is automatically subtracted from salaries. While those living below the poverty line might have some ethical grounds for evading tax, many of those that have the means to pay have shown no willingness to contribute their share. The situation is aggravated by the actions of underpaid tax officials who ignore hidden income in return for pocketing a portion of the total amount due. The government has done little to develop more effective means of enforcing the law and appears resigned to the situation.


There are 20,298 kilometers (12,613 miles) of roads in Georgia which consist of international motor roads (1,474 kilometers/916 miles), internal state motor roads (3,330 kilometers/2,069 miles), and local roads (15,494 kilometers/9,628 miles). The vast majority of roads are in poor condition. A Georgian railway network was established in 1872, which grew to 1,583 kilometers (984 miles) of track in 2000. T'bilisi is connected by rail to the capitals of Azerbaijan and Armenia, but due to unrest in Abkhazia, the route to Russia and Europe has not been in operation since the early 1990s. In 1988, during the last years of the Soviet regime, Georgian railways transported 36.2 million metric tons of cargo. The volume declined to 4.7 million metric tons in 1995, or only 13 percent of total railway production. Since that date, the volume of cargo has steadily increased, reaching 9.4 million metric tons in 1999.

The Georgian electricity power sector is in urgent need of modernization, refurbishment, and investment. The provision of electricity to Georgian citizens has declined every year since 1995 and the lack of power is an obstacle to economic growth. In 1998, a U.S.-based energy company (AES Corporation) bought Telasi, Georgia's bankrupt electricity distribution company. Government corruption, non-payment of bills, and a reliance on aging hydroelectric and thermal

CountryNewspapersRadiosTV Sets aCable subscribers aMobile Phones aFax Machines aPersonal Computers aInternet Hosts bInternet Users b
United States2152,146847244.325678.4458.61,508.7774,100
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

power stations have all contributed to the electricity shortage. During the winter of 2000-01, electricity supply to households was an average of 4 hours per day. These shortages have inflicted misery on an already dis-enchanted population. Widespread protests and street demonstrations during November 2000 provided a safety valve for popular frustration but aroused fears of another civil war.

The communications sector is the most stable sector of the economy and has attracted the interest of foreign investors. The modernization of ground lines is a process that will continue for some years while the mobile phone operator networks have enjoyed rapid expansion. In 1998, there were 115 telephone lines, 11 cellular phones, and 0.1 public phones per 1,000 citizens. Most of the public phones, however, were in serious disrepair. Internet service providers have also recorded increased business but access to computers remains the luxury of a privileged few (0.15 per 1,000 citizens).


In terms of volume of goods and numbers employed, agriculture plays a key role in the Georgian economy and is crucial in reducing poverty in rural areas. The liberalization of prices and the privatization of the land were important steps taken during the 1990s to improve the agricultural sector, though lack of capital has prevented the development of modern systems of management and the attraction of new markets.

The industrial sector has enjoyed modest advances in recent years. In 2000, industrial output grew by 10.8 percent, amounting to GEL1.051 million. Industry accounted for 21.5 percent of GDP in 2000. One positive trend was the increase in the number of small businesses, which totaled 2,296 in October 2000, though they only accounted for 14.5 percent of total industrial production. There is an unequal share of production among the industries43.8 percent of industrial production is produced by 52 of the 2,713 industrial companiesindicating a low level of diversification. In addition, the shadow industry, a legacy from Soviet times, continues to hinder growth. The volume of informal or shadow industrial production was estimated to be 177 percent of officially produced goods in 2000. Industry employed 20 percent of the workforce in 1999.

The service industry constituted 51 percent of Georgia's GDP in 2000. Trade and transport both play a major role in the service industry and each accounted for more than 10 percent of the sector, respectively, by 2000. Tourism remains one of Georgia's great unfulfilled potentials, but the loss of Abkhazia and poor infrastructure continue to hamper development in this area. The banking sector has consolidated greatly since 1994 but there are still too many banking groups relative to both the population and the resources of the Georgian people. Approximately 40 percent of the workforce was employed in the service industry in 1999. The remaining 5.9 percent of the GDP was accounted for by net taxes.


During the Soviet period, agriculture and food processing were major activities in Georgia and the country continues to be a significant producer of wine, tea, fruit, and vegetables. Land use in Georgia varies with local climatic and soil patterns. The cultivation of citrus is concentrated along the Black Sea, particularly in Abkhazia and Ajara. Georgian wine has a reputation for excellence, though the industry has suffered in recent years from the manufacture of fake Georgian wine. The cultivation of nuts and tea are also of fundamental importance. Overall, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries accounted for 21.5 percent of GDP in 2000 and employed 40 percent of the workforce in 1999.

Adverse weather conditions contributed to a substantial fall in agricultural production during the year 2000. The volume of agricultural produce fell by 18.5 percent compared with 1999 and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food estimated losses at US$225 million. A prolonged drought throughout the country was particularly devastating for the agricultural heartland of eastern Georgia; almost 400,000 hectares of agricultural lands were damaged. The damage included 155,000 hectares of grain fields causing the annual grain yields to average 900-1,000 kilos per hectare, half of normal production. The effect on sunflower plantations was even greater with 58,600 hectares of the crop suffering damage and the harvest being almost entirely destroyed in some regions.

Forty-three percent of the country's territory is forested. About 97 percent are located on the slopes of the main and small Caucasus Mountain systems, the remainder are to be found in the valleys of East Georgia and the Colkheti lowlands. As a result of the energy shortage, large forest areas have been cut down, leading to soil erosion, the reduction of underground and surface water, and the formation of land and snow slides. Collectively, these processes have caused soil salination and a decrease in soil fertility in many areas. Reliance on manual labor, out-dated techniques, and poorly maintained irrigation systems also lead to decreased productivity.



Georgia used to possess one of the world's richest manganese deposits in the Tchiatura and Sachkhere regions: present-day resources are estimated at about 200 million metric tons. Significant deposits of high quality mineral and drinking water exist in Georgia. Two-thirds of estimated resources (amounting to 17-18 cubic kilometers/4-4.3 cubic miles) are located in western Georgia at 10 to 15 meters depth while the remaining third in eastern Georgia is also accessible at a depth of 250 to 300 meters. A thriving industry during the Soviet period, bottled water production declined sharply after independence and by 1993 was down to 5 percent of pre-independence levels. In recent years, however, the mineral water industry has revived with the "Borjormi" label leading the way.


Georgia's manufacturing base is so weak that many of its most important enterprises can only operate without paying for electricity. The government, afraid of the potential redundancies, has refused to take decisive action. The metallurgy and chemical sectors are commodities of most importance to the Georgian economy, specifically manganese ore, ferromanganese, mineral fertilizers, and synthetic ammonia.

Other industrial activities include domestic processing of agricultural products, which accounted for 4.7 percent of overall GDP in 2000, and construction, which accounted for 3.5 percent. While construction has been increasing relatively rapidly (4 percent in 2000), much of this activity is part of the shadow economy .



Georgia was once the tourism center of the Soviet Union with 3 million visitors annually, 250,000 of whom came from outside of the USSR. As Georgia descended into civil war in the early 1990s, its tourism industry ground to a halt. According to Georgia's State Department of Tourism and Resorts, about 383,000 people visited Georgia in 1999, of which 219,000 came from the CIS and 164,000 from other countries. Many of the hotels and health resorts that had catered to tourists were used to house the thousands of internally displaced people who fled to the capital after the defeat of Georgian forces in Abkhazia. Tourism is also hindered by a cumbersome visa regime that requires letters of invitation and submission of passports to embassies prior to departure. Visas can be obtained upon arrival at the airport but only at very high prices.

The attractions for travelers in Georgia include the beautiful coastal regions along the Black Sea, though the 2 autonomous republics of Abkhazia and Adjara dominate most of the coastline. With its large mountain ranges (the highest peak is 5,150 meters/16,897 feet), Georgia is ideal for skiing, and the Bakuriani and Gudauri ski resorts were very popular among Russian tourists in the Soviet era. Revival of this tourist attraction will, however, require heavy investment and continued political stability. Though tourism could become one of the country's leading industries, hotels and restaurants contributed only 2.2 percent of GDP in 2000.


The textile industry is also one that should witness significant development in the coming years. A legislative framework for investment and close proximity to EU markets complements the availability of raw materials and a cheap skilled workforce. Eighty-five percent of textile companies have been privatized, either as joint stock companies or companies with limited liability.


The legacy of communism and the reality of corruption ensured that the creation of a strong banking system in Georgia would be troubled. The absence of an effective banking sector made it difficult for entrepreneurs to get the capital needed to invest in private enterprises, while government interference forced banks to give loans to dubious projects and individuals, further debilitating the development of financial services. Hundreds of banks were established in the early 1990s with capital of US$500 or less. Between 1998 and 2000 the number of banks fell from 294 to 33 and more closures are expected as a result of bankruptcy, closure, or merger.


As an integral part of the Soviet Union, Georgian trade was conducted almost exclusively within the USSR. On the eve of the country's independence, 95.7 percent of Georgia's exports and 72.3 percent of its imports were from trade with other Soviet Republics. In the decade following independence, Georgia had to seek out new trading partners because most of the former Soviet republics were poor and the new government did not wish to rely on Russia. In 1997, Russia accounted for 27.4 percent of exports and 15.2 percent of imports; 2 years later these figures had been further reduced to 12.4 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively.

Trade with the EU and Turkey has replaced much of the trade with Russia. In 2000, Georgia exported US$68.3 million to the EU and imported goods to the value of US$167.1 million. Though this meant that Georgia had a trade deficit of US$95.8 million, the figure represented a dramatic improvement on the 1998 figure when the trade imbalance was US$273.8 million. Germany has emerged as Georgia's largest trading partner among the EU member states. In 1999, Georgian exports to Germany amounted to US$24.5 million while it imported US$44.2 million of German produce. Despite improving the trade balance in 1999, Georgia still had a trade deficit with all EU member states except Spain.

At the beginning of 2000, Georgia had a trade deficit with 70 trading partners and enjoyed a trade surplus with 18 countries, the most significant of which were Turkey and Syria. Reducing the trade deficit is one of the key priorities of the Georgian government but its efforts are hampered by the conflict in Abkhazia and the de facto independence of South Ossetia and Adjara. The defeat of Georgian forces in Abkhazia resulted in the loss of the rail route to Russia and Europe. The independent regions are popular smuggling routes, depriving the government of revenues and hindering its regulation of trade.


Like many former Soviet republics, Georgia used the Russian ruble as a unit of currency after achieving independence. In April 1993, however, the Georgian National Bank introduced a coupon currency to alleviate the shortage of Russian rubles, which was hampering payment of government salaries. Priced on a par with the Russian ruble, the currency was supposed to circulate with the ruble but by August 1993 it had become the sole legal tender. The value of the currency was expected to be maintained by the proceeds from privatization, but when these failed to materialize, a large quantity of unsecured credits were issued with the predictable consequence of rampant inflation . By 1994 US$1 was worth 2 million Georgian coupons and inflation was at 100 percent per month. Not surprisingly, most transactions were carried out in U.S. dollars or Russian rubles.

Exchange rates: Georgia
lari per US$1
Dec 20001.9798
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

The government introduced a new currencythe larion 25 September 1995, which became the only legal tender a week later. Coupons were exchanged at the rate of 1 million per Georgian lari (GEL). Due to the economic reforms that had already begun to take effect and the absence of war, the lari proved to be far more successful than its predecessor. Introduced at the rate of 1.23 Lari per U.S. dollar, the currency has remained relatively stable, declining to 1.35 lari by August 1998 and to 1.97 lari by September 2000. The rate of exchange dipped in the early months of 2001, reaching 2.11 by the middle of February, a decline that was attributed to economic crises in Turkey.

Only the Russian ruble is used in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Though the lari is accepted as legal tender in the Armenian-populated region of Javaketi, the Armenian dram and the Russian ruble are the dominant currencies, the latter due to the presence of Russian troops. The relative stability of the lari since 1995 contributed to the reduction of inflation. With the ruble in circulation in 1992, inflation had stood at 913.1 percent for the year but war, the failure of economic reforms, and the introduction of the coupon saw this figure rocket to 7,380 percent in 1994. The rate of inflation dropped to 57.4 percent in 1995, 13.8 percent in 1996, 7.2 percent in 1997 and 4.6 percent in 2000.


Before the collapse of the USSR, poverty was relatively unknown in Georgia. Since then, the standard of living has declined. In June 2000, 53 percent of the population was below the national poverty line, which meant that average spending was less than US$2 per day per person. Georgia's tradition of an extended-family support system has acted as a buffer against the worst privations of severe poverty, however.

Access to land has alleviated some of the hardships for the rural population. In 1997, the poverty gap and squared poverty gap index were 40 and 60 percent higher

GDP per Capita (US$)
United States19,36421,52923,20025,36329,683
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

in urban areas, respectively, than those in rural areas. There are also significant differences in poverty rates and poverty gaps among the geographic regions, with poverty rates in the richest areas (Samegrelo/Poti, Adjara/Batumi) being half those of the poorest ones (Imereti, Guria). The people of the most impoverished region, Imereti, live in remote, mountainous areas that are almost inaccessible during winter partly due to lack of infrastructure maintenance. The former centers of Soviet heavy industry were most adversely affected while those that possessed diversified agricultural and agro-industrial sectors proved less vulnerable to the dramatic upheavals of the 1990s.

The minimum subsistence levels established by the U.S. State Department for Statistics (SDS) were GEL113.2 a month for a working man, GEL99.3 for an average consumer, and GEL197 (US$100) for a family of 4. In 2001, the country's 800,000 pensioners received payments of GEL14 (US$7) with GEL2 deducted for electricity. This represents only 12 percent of the SDS's suggested minimum subsistence income level. Pensioners, therefore, invariably rely on family, neighbors, street trading, or begging. The dependency ratio is 1:1.2, which is dangerously high compared to the suggested 1 dependent per 3 people. The large proportion of workers not paying taxes worsens the government's ability to introduce an adequate pension scheme. The pension system also suffers from a large number of "ghost" recipients: the 1999 registration revealed payments to 37,743

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
CountryAll FoodClothing and footwearFuel and power aHealth care bEducation bTransport & CommunicationsOther
United States139946851
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

deceased pensioners. This unusual situation is partially explained by the high cost of funerals, which force many people to bury their relatives without registering their deaths. Postal workers, however, earn bonuses for withholding the delivery of pensions to unreported, deceased pensioners.

While the Soviet health-care system had imperfections, it was far superior to that of independent Georgia. In 1999, government spending on health care constituted 0.59 percent of GDP, a figure that compares unfavorably with Latin America (2.6 percent), eastern Europe (3.9 percent), and high-income nations of the western world (6 percent). Georgians are expected to pay for their own health care, but surveys indicate that almost 80 percent of Georgians spend less than US$5 a month on it. Because of the strong sense of family obligation that is a fundamental part of the Georgian culture, financial support for ailing and aging citizens often becomes the responsibility of family. This family contribution is one of the factors that allows Georgians to enjoy an average life expectancy of 73 years.

The Georgian educational system was one of the few institutions that did not collapse during the wars of the early 1990s, but the standard of education has diminished since the Soviet period. The university system is notoriously corrupt. Teachers are rarely paid. There is an acute lack of resources at all levels. Once renowned for their educational achievements, Georgians face an education crisis that may ultimately undermine one of the main attractions for potential investorsan educated workforce.


As the year 2000 came to an end, government statistics indicated that Georgia had a labor force of 2.06 million people, 8.4 percent of whom were unemployed. Official unemployment figures are deceptively low and do not accurately reflect economic realities. Most Georgians consider their chances of securing a job by registering themselves with the authorities as low, and they are not attracted by unemployment compensation. To qualify for standard monthly unemployment benefits, an applicant must have worked in the official sector and, even then, would only be entitled to receive benefits for the first 6 months of unemployment. The payments are fixed at GEL14 for the first 2 months, GEL12 for the third and fourth months, and GEL11 for the final period. On average, 2 percent of registered unemployed workers qualify for benefits.

Government labor force survey results for the last quarter of 2000 suggested that urban unemployment stood at 24.7 percent compared to a rural unemployment rate of 4.6 percent. The capital, T'bilisi, accounted for 41 percent of the country's unemployed. While the rural rate might seem encouraging, 65 percent of those in the countryside were self-employed. Indeed, agricultural self-employment comprised 86.5 percent of those described as self-employed and most lived below the poverty line.

The role of trade unions in Georgia is exceptionally weak, largely due to the poor state of key economic sectors. Strikes and other forms of industrial protest are meaningless against a backdrop of idle and bankrupt firms that are often unable to pay employees. Many employees continue to work in the hope that one day their salary arrears will be paid, a hope that evaporates if they cease working.

While there is no official discrimination against women, Georgia is a patriarchal society and in many menial jobs women are paid as little as half of what their male counterparts earn. Mass unemployment, however, has affected males disproportionately and upset traditional gender relations. Women have proved more successful at securing high-paid jobs with international organizations, which usually require proficiency in foreign languages.


1099-1125. David IV (the Builder) establishes the Georgian empire. Beginning of Georgian Golden Age.

1184-1213. Georgia's favorite monarch, Queen Tamara, defeats Turks and extends Georgian rule from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.

1220. Georgian Golden Age ends with the invasion of the Mongols under Genghis Khan.

1553. Ottoman Turks and Persians divide Georgia between themselves.

1801. Russian annexation of Georgia.

1811. Georgian Orthodox Church is stripped of its self-governing status as part of the Russification process.

1918. Georgia gains independence.

1921. Red Army invades Georgia and drives out the democratically elected government. Georgia is annexed and becomes part of the new USSR.

1972. Eduard Shevardnadze becomes First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party and begins anti-corruption campaign.

1989. On 9 April, Soviet troops kill 20 civilians mainly womenwho were involved in a nationalist protest outside the parliament in T'bilisi. From this point on, Soviet rule is totally discredited in Georgia.

1990. In the country's first multi-party elections, a nationalist coalition is victorious and appoints Zviad Gamsakhurdia as president.

1991. On the anniversary of the T'bilisi massacre (9 April), Georgian parliament declares Georgia independent of the Soviet Union.

1991-1992. Gamsakhurdia is elected president by popular vote in May 1991 but is deposed in a coup in January 1992. Shevardnadze is invited by coup leaders to head the transitional government.

1992-1993. Georgian armed forces are defeated in Abkhazia. Abkhazia becomes a de facto independent republic, although it remains part of Georgia's national territory under international law.

1995. Shevardnadze is elected president. His Citizens Union of Georgia party emerges as the largest parliamentary grouping.

2000. Shevardnadze is re-elected president amid many voting irregularities. On 14 June, Georgia becomes the 137th member of the World Trade Organization.


Georgia is a country of great economic potential but until it regularizes the supply of power to industry and to its citizenry, economic progress will be limited. The aging Shevardnadze, despite many imperfections, has played a pivotal role in securing stability. The question of who or what will follow his departure from the political scene remains unresolved. Political institutions and civic values are not yet rooted enough in Georgian society to permit total confidence in a smooth transition to a younger generation of politicians. The country will endure great difficulties in meeting external financial obligations. The shortfall in public spendingprimarily on health, education, and welfarewill continue to bear hardest on the nation's poor. Georgia's greatest potential in the short-to medium-term lies in its geographical location. The government is committed to providing a trans-Georgian transportation infrastructure connecting Europe with central Asia to cater to an anticipated oil bonanza in the coming decades. The implementation of this so-called "Silk Route" project should enhance Georgia's international credentials, but this opportunity will be squandered if the endemic corruption that has plagued Georgia for decades is not seriously addressed.


Georgia has no territories or colonies.


Gachechildze, Revaz. The New Georgia: Space, Society, Politics. London: UCL Press, 1995.

Georgia Development Gateway. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Georgian-European Policy and Legal Advice Centre (GEPLAC). Georgian Economic Trends. T'bilisi: GEPLAC, 2000.

Herzig, Edmund. The New Caucasus. London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1999.

Rosen, Roger. Georgia: A Sovereign Country of the Caucasus. Hong Kong: Odyssey, 1999.

Suny, Ronald. The Making of the Georgian Nation. 2nd Edition. London: Indiana University Press, 1994.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. "World Factbook 2000." <>. Accessed July 2001.

Wright, John. The Georgians: A Handbook. London: Curzon Press, 1998.

Donnacha Ó Beacháin




Georgian lari (GEL). One GEL equals 100 tetri. Introduced in September 1995, the Georgian lari comes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 tetri.


Scrap metal, ferro-alloys, nuts, tea, and wine.


Oil, natural gas, cigarettes, electricity, and pharmaceuticals.


US$11.7 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$329.9 million (2000 est.). Imports: US$700.2 million (2000 est.). The CIA World Factbook lists exports as US$372 million (2000 est.) and imports as US$898 million (2000 est.).


views updated Jun 11 2018


Basic Data

Official Country Name:Republic of Georgia
Region (Map name):East & South Asia
Language(s):Georgian (official), Russian, Armenian, Azeri, other
Literacy rate:99.0%
Area:69,700 sq km
GDP:3,029 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations:12
Number of Television Sets:2,570,000
Television Sets per 1,000:515.1
Number of Cable Subscribers:13,500
Cable Subscribers per 1,000:2.7
Number of Radio Stations:23
Number of Radio Receivers:3,020,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000:605.3
Number of Individuals with Internet Access:23,000
Internet Access per 1,000:4.6

Background & General Characteristics

Georgia is situated at a crossroads between Europe and Asia. The country borders on Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It covers 26,911 square miles (about the size of Ireland) and has a population of nearly 5.5 million. The country includes two autonomous republics Abkhazia and Ajara, as well as the autonomous region of south Ossetia. Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia) do not recognize Georgia's jurisdiction, even though no international organization recognizes the territories' independence.

Georgian history dates back more than 2,500 years, and Georgian is one of the oldest living languages in the world with its own internationally recognized alphabet, one of only thirteen recognized alphabets in the world. Although Russian is still universally spoken (except in the case of the very young), street names and most of the local press is in Georgian. Tbilisi, located in a picturesque valley divided by the Mtkvari River, is more than 1,500 years old. Much of Georgia's territory has been besieged by its Persian, Turkish and Russian neighbors along with Arabs and Mongols over the course of the seventh to the eighteenth centuries. After 11 centuries of mixed fortunes of various Georgian kingdoms, including a golden age from the eleventh to twelfth centuries, Georgia turned to Russia for protection. Russia annexed Georgia in 1801, but the first Republic of Georgia was established on May 26, 1918 after the collapse of Tsarist Russia. By March 1921, the Red army had reoccupied the country and Georgia became part of the Soviet Union. On April 9, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia declared independence from the USSR.

Historically Georgia has always been a multinational country, serving as the crossroads of major trade links. Competition for such a strategic geopolitical location has been consistent. There are representatives of about 100 nationalities in Georgia. Armenians with a population of 437,2118 percent of Georgian populationis one of the largest ethnic minorities in Georgia. Turkish-speaking Azerians, 307,5566 percent of Georgian populationinhabit the regions of Rustavi and Azerbaijan are Shiite Moslems. Russians 341,1726 percent of Georgian populationhave no region of concentration. Today many Russians are migrating back to Moscow and the central regions of Russia. Ossetians156,055 (3 percent), have settled in the Ossetian Autonomy Region, Gori, Khashuri, and Borjomi regions. According to the Georgian Constitution, Georgian and Abkhazians consist of North-Caucasian people related to the Adigean tribes and number 95,8532 percent of the Georgian population. They are groups including Greeks100,324, 2 percent; Jews, 24,795; and Kurds. At present, there are large numbers of Georgian refugees from Abkhazia living in Tbilisi with government support. These 230,000 internally displaced persons present an enormous strain on the economy. Peace in the separatist areas of Abkhazia and south Ossetia, overseen by Russian peacekeepers and international organizations, continues to be fragile, and will probably require years of economic development and negotiation.

Although Georgia has a long and close relationship with Russia, it is reaching out to its other neighbors and looking to the West in search of alternatives and opportunities. It signed a partnership and cooperation agreement with the European Union (EU), participates in the Partnership for Peace, and encourages foreign investment. France, Germany, and the U.K. all have embassies in Tbilisi, and Germany is a significant donor. There are large numbers of United States citizens and organizations contributing tens of millions of dollars per year.

History of the Press

An excellent history of the press in Georgia was published in 1997 by the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD) with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The first Georgian newspaper, Sakartvelos Gazeti, was published in 1819. By 1897 the average daily circulation of Georgian publications reached 3,000, the same figure as that estimated today although the population and literacy rates have both increased substantially. In soviet days, publications were run by the Communist Party and were produced on typewriters and photocopiers. In 1981, 141 newspapers were published: 12 national, 7 regional, 9 town, 66 district and 47 village, for a total circulation of 4.04 million copies.

It should be noted that during Communist rule the highest circulation was the Comunisti newspaper, at 700,000 copies a day. Soplis Tshkovreba (Rural Life) followed with 240,000, then Tbilisi at 145,000, Zaria Vostoka (The Dawn of the Orient) at 140,000, the Armenian language Sovetakan Vrastan (Soviet Georgia) at 33,000, and the Azerbaijani Sovetan Gurjistani (Soviet Georgia) at 35,000. The Lelo sports newspaper had a circulation of 120,000 while Akhalgazrda Comunisti (Young Communists) published 240,000 copies three days a week.

The first offset newspaper was Tavisupleba (Liberty), published illegally in 1989 by the National Independence Party. The second issue was seized in the printing house by the KGB. When President Gamsakhurdia was replaced by Eduard Schvernadze in 1992, press restrictions eased although active suppression of the Gamsakhurdia press did not cease until 1994. Following soviet and European models, most early post-perestroika newspapers were organs of political parties. The first non-party paper, 7 Dghe (7 Days) was founded in 1990, sponsored by the Journalists' Association. Only now is an independent comprehensive press beginning to emerge. Of the thirty-six registered party publications, only ten still publish.

The Press

As in many changing societies, definite numerical information is difficult to come by in Georgia, in large part because all of society and the press in particular is in a state of flux.

The Georgian press is probably the most free press of all the nations of the former Soviet Union. The Georgian Parliament has enacted the strongest Freedom of Information Law in the former Soviet states which is stronger even than the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Further, Georgian journalists have learned what the law means and how to go into court to use this law. By mid 2002 three court cases under this provision of the Administrative Code have been taken to court and three decisions have been obtained in journalists' favor. Further, the government of Georgia, although exerting pressure from time to time, is relatively tolerant of a free press. For example, Rustavi 2, the independent television station which is trying to build a quality media organization, has regularly run a nightly cartoon lampooning President Schvernadze, apparently with impunity.

Government pressure tends to come through selective enforcement of complex and ever changing administrative and tax code provisions. Otherwise, the complex regulatory provisions are seldom enforced.

Infrastructure of the Media

Although a subscription system does function, it plays only a small role. Distribution of periodicals is only in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. The biggest heirs of the former Soyuzpechat are Matsne andSakpresa, the former serving Tbilisi and the latter supplying the regions. Their service is so ineffective, however, that independent publications do not use either of them. Soyuzpechat was transformed into a joint stock company in 1993, but newspapers were discouraged from buying shared by the Ministry of Communication. This led Alia, Rezonansi, Akhali Tacoba and 7 Dghe to found the Association of Free Press in 1995, which fostered professional solidarity and created a network of newsstands to bypass the distribution bottleneck. The new but already popular Dilis Gazeta (Morning Paper) established its own system of regional distribution using automobiles, which allows it to make speedy deliveries across the country. For instance, a car which heads for Batumi at 5 a.m. reaches the destination by 1 p.m. As a result, Dilis Gazeta is the only Tbilisi paper read in Batumi on the same day.

TV and radio stations use their own reporters to cover local stories and news agencies to cover stories affecting larger areas. There is little information appearing about the provinces.

The size of a newspaper's staff generally ranges from twenty-five to thirty, including technical personnel. The professional level of journalists is not satisfactory.

Many papers have their own computers at their disposal, but usually they do not have enough, and the ones they have are not the most up-to-date models. Machines fit for computer graphics are in especially short supply. Furthermore, most newspaper journalists themselves do not have access to computers, and thus are not experienced in their use.

Economic Framework

Georgia's economic recovery has been hampered by the separatist disputes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a persistently weak economic infrastructure, and resistance to reform on the part of some corrupt and reactionary factions. However, the government has qualified for economic structural adjustment facility credit status, introducing a stable national currency (the lari), preparing for the second stage of accession to the World Trade Organization (the first stage has already been met), signing agreements that allow for development of a pipeline to transport Caspian oil across Georgia to the Black Sea, and passing laws on commercial banking, land, and tax reform. However, Georgia has been unable to meet International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions recently and the new laws have yet to be implemented.

Inflation, however, ran to 300 percent in 1997, a phenomenon that steadily decreased to the 25 percent inflation rate in 1999. Tax revenues have risen somewhat, and recent tax reform encouraged by the IMF, should lead to further increases. However, Georgia needs to implement its tax legislation and take concrete steps to meet IMF programs. Although total revenue increased from 1996 to 1997, these increases were lower than expected. International financial institutions continue to play a critical role in Georgia's budgetary calculations. Multilateral and bilateral grants and loans totaled 116.4 million lari in 1997 and are expected to total 182.8 million lari in 1998 (lari were about two to the dollar).

The government says there has been some progress on structural reform. All prices and most trade have been liberalized, legal-framework reform is on schedule, and massive government downsizing is underway. More than 10,500 small enterprises have been privatized, and privatization of medium and large firms has been slow.

Georgia's transportation and communication infrastructure remains in very poor condition. Parliament has set an agenda to start the privatization of the telecommunications industry, although there is still resistance to the plan. Georgia's electrical energy sector continues to have great difficulties.

Described by the international financial press as the most corrupt country in a corrupt region, Georgia needs a stable and uncorrupt legal and financial system if it is to achieve economic progress. The IMF estimates that 70 percent of the Georgian economy is in the "shadow" or extralegal economy.

Press Economics

A major problem for the Georgian press is that hardly any Georgians understand the business side of the newspaper business and few Georgian businesses can see the need to advertise especially in the countryside where businessmen tend to feel that everyone already knows what they do, and that advertising may just attract the unwelcome attentions of the tax authorities. The lack of financial stability leads sometimes to sloppy sensationalism in reporting in an attempt to expand circulation. It has also lead to hidden financial support by influential members of society such as government officials, members of prominent families and provincial government officials. These sponsorships are fairly obvious to the sophisticated reader as the sponsors' requirements are that the publication being supported defend the sponsor and attack his/her enemies; so, the positions taken by the paper make the sponsorship apparent.

At present, the Georgian press is in flux with news organizations forming and reforming for political, philosophical, financial and policy reasons. Thus, an excellent circulation survey done in 2001 is no longer valid in 2002 because many of the publications surveyed in 2001 no longer exist in 2002.

The quality of news reporting is poor, both because most newspapers pay so poorly that journalists must have additional jobs to survive financially, and because so few journalists have any professional training or experience. The excellent Journalism School sponsored by the International Center for Journalism out of Washington, D.C., is helping to change this situation. An attempt to establish a high quality newspaper called "24 Hours " is being undertaken by the television station Rustavi 2, and this effort includes the payment of higher salaries to the journalists involved.

Press Laws

The Georgian Constitution and the 1991 Press Law guarantee freedom of speech and the press. At present, the Law on Press and Other Media, adopted in August of 1991 and based on the analogous Soviet law, is still in effect. The Law is acknowledged by journalists to be exemplary, but there exists no official independent watch-dog body authorized to monitor its implementation and review, alleged violations and charges of non-compliance. Most journalists consider the duality of some articles of the law its main shortcoming. The Law states "the press and other mass media in the Republic of Georgia are Free". The principal of freedom of the mass media is similarly written into the Georgian Constitution adopted in August, 1995. This states, specifically, that "the mass media are free; censorship is impermissible" (Article 24.2) and that "the state or separate individuals do not have the right to monopolize the mass media or the means of disseminating information" (Article 24.3). Citizens of the Republic of Georgia have the right to express, distribute, and defend their opinions via any media, and to receive information on questions of social and state life. Censorship of the press and other media is not permitted.

Restrictions on the free flow of information via the media are enumerated in Article 4 of the law, which stipulated that "The mass media are forbidden to disclose state secrets; to call for the overthrow or change of the existing state and social system; to propagate war, cruelty, racial, national or religious intolerance; to publish information that could contribute to the committing of crimes; to interfere with the private lives of citizens or to infringe on their honor and dignity." Article 21 of the law established the rights of journalists to gather information. At the same time, the law made clear the subordination to, and responsibilities of, the state controlled media vis-a-vis the government. Article 18 stipulates that government controlled media outlets are obliged to do so only in "exceptional circumstances," such as the outbreak of war or natural disasters.

Despite the introduction of amendments and additions, the Law on Press is almost never applied in law enforcement practice. In Georgia, the Law on State Secrets, which determines the types of information that are not freely accessible due to the necessity of protecting the state security, is in force. The Law on State Secrets, adopted by parliament in September 1996, demands that the Council on National Security develop criteria of secret information to be approved by the president.

The Law on Press and Other Mass Media states that, "activities of a mass media outlet may be banned or suspended if it repeatedly violates the law thus contributing to crime, endangering national security, territorial integrity, or public order."


During the early rule of ultra-nationalist Zvia Gamsakhurdia, political debate flourished in the pages of the Georgian press. However, as of early 1991, media freedom was systematically eroded. In October 1991, a group of TV journalists was dismissed and the majority of the personnel went on strike. Between December 1991 and January 1992, armed supporters of the regime detained several TV journalists and kept them in the basement of the presidential residence. They were freed after Gamsakhurdia's flight.

The situation altered after Eduard Shevardnadze's return to Georgia, although not immediately. While representatives of moderate opposition parties had greater access to the governmental media, certain high-ranking officials were irritated by the pro-Zviadist, as they stated it, orientation of several outlets. Independent journalists were subjected to systematic harassment and opposition newspapers were closed on the flimsiest of pretexts. However, in the case of, for instance, Iberia-Spectri, Eduard Shevardnadze intervened personally and ensured that publication of the paper was allowed. In 1994, a gradual relaxation of political control of the press got underway and in November 1995, several journalists confirmed that the media enjoyed greater freedom than one year earlier.

In 1996, the Independent Federation of Georgian Journalists recorded no obvious violations of the freedom of the speech. In one case, an article contradicted the criminal code. The newspaper Noy was closed down following the publication of anti-Semitic material. The editor (responsible for the piece) was charged with "inducing hostilities between nations" by the Office for Public Prosecution. The rather monopolistic position of the Information and Publishing Corporation Sakinform has also raised some concern, in particular regarding the provision of information. According to one observer, the "tame media always appear to be the first to receive information."

The law and the Constitution cannot always safeguard the protection of media outlets, as is illustrated by the Rustavi 2 case.

The agency Gamma Plus registered with the Ministry of Justice in 1994. The regulations of the agency envisaged the right for broadcasting and on these grounds a license allowing exploitation of the 11m-television channel was given by the Ministry of Communications. The TV channel adopted the name Rustavi 2 and soon became very popular both in Rustavi (located about 21.75 miles from Tbilisi) and in the capital. However, only several months after it went on the air, Rustavi 2 transmission was stopped. The Rustavi municipality applied to the Ministry of Communications, demanding to deprive Rustavi 2 of its right for broadcasting and to transfer its channels to an independent telecompany, Kldekari, that was set up by the municipality itself. The Ministry of Communications annulled its decision and blamed the Ministry of Justice for leading them astray. The latter also altered their position and the broadcasting of Rustavi 2 resumed. However, in July 1996 the Ministry of Communication reconsidered its verdict and once again deprived Rustavi 2 of its license on the same grounds ("invalid"). A rival company was granted permission to broadcast on the available frequency. This time, the management of Rustavi 2 decided to launch a court appeal and ultimately prevailed.

In 1992, the country's new administrative code was approved. A significant portion of the code deals with the regulation of access to information.

Religious Censorship

The Georgian Orthodox Church is especially aggressive in hindering the spread of information regarding religious problems, corruption in its staff, or violations of the constitutional principle of separation of church from the school system. The church also does not want other sects or religions to receive any type of publicity. The media acquiesces in this matter, and covering of other churches is nonexistent or superficial. For example, in 1993 when an article was published on the growth of fundamentalism, the secretary of the Patriarch threatened the authors and editorial board of the paper with excommunication, along with a pair of TV announcers who had mentioned the article in their newscasts.

In 1997, an aggressive campaign against a history of religion textbook authored by Nugzar Papuashvili was carried out. Orthodox fundamentalists staged a public burning of that and other books they considered offensive. Representatives of the church said the reporting on the book burning fanned anticlerical hysteria.

State-Press Relations

The Ministry of Justice registers media outlets, while the Ministry of Communications grants (or revokes) licenses for broadcasters, manages the state printing house, the distribution of newspapers and the "subsidies" to state-owned media. The Ministry for Press and Information is, besides providing official information, responsible for the accreditation of journalists. The ministers are appointed by the president and the parliament or its president do not, de jure, have direct influence. The only exception is the appointment of the chairpersons of the State TV and Radio Corporation and the official Information and Publishing Corporation Sakinform, who should be approved by parliament. In addition, the parliamentary subcommittee on mass media drafts laws that concern mass media and reviews laws drafted by other bodies in view of their correlation with the current legislation on mass media.

The 1991 press law requires that journalists "respect the dignity and honor" of the president and that they do not undermine the state. The law provides penalties for publications that convey "false information" or "malevolently use the freedom of the press." There are state-owned as well as private television and radio stations. Many independent newspapers reflect different political views and suffer from varying degrees of harassment. State-owned newspapers follow the government line. While media became more independent of government control, they are not editorially independent of financial supporters.

Currently, there is a pervasive tendency toward self-censorship by Georgian editors. Journalists in state-run media fear offending government officials, while their independent counterparts worry about insulting other influential structures in society. This tendency is generally more visible among older journalists and is a residue of the Soviet era.

In June 2000, Georgian authorities tried to force "rebel" broadcast journalist Akaki Gogichaisvili out of the country, Gogichaisvili, anchor of the popular Rustavi-2 television show, "60 Minutes," had been under constant attacks from the prosecutor's office. Vasil Silagadze, a reporter for the Eco Digest daily newspaper in Georgia, was attacked in July 2000 by local police officers after publishing an article detailing police corruption. His attackers slashed fingers on his right hand so he "wouldn't be able to write for a while," and threatened further retAliation if he continued his investigations.

More recently, the murder of popular television anchor Giori Sanaia has triggered charges that he was assassinated in retAliation for his pursuit of government corruption on the Rustavi 2-channel talk show. The 26-year-old anchorman of Georgia's "Night Courier" program was shot dead in his apartment with a single bullet to the back on July 26, 2001. The assassination precipitated national mourning. Facing public suspicion about the role of the security ministries, the government swiftly invited the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to give forensic assistance to the investigation. The police quickly arrested a man previously detained on a fraud charge, yet at this writing prosecutors had not presented sufficient evidence to indict him for Sanaia's murder. Some commentators linked Sanaia's shooting, which appeared to be expertly planned and executed, to purported knowledge or video material he had obtained, allegedly demonstrating links between law enforcement officials with criminals in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge who engaged in kidnappings and the narcotics trade.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

The U.S. Department describes Georgia's foreign relations as "excellent" and makes no remarks concerning danger to foreign journalists in Georgia while detailing its need to create opportunities for development through international and non-governmental organization (NGO) contacts. No incidents concerning the mistreatment of foreign correspondents have been noted.

Georgian media have few if any foreign correspondents and rely on contacts with news organizations in Azerbaijan, Arania and Russia. Many papers subscribe to news agencies, but basic sources are internet and foreign broadcasts.

Broadcast Media


The first unsuccessful attempt at independent television came when a group of staff left the State Radio-TV Company in 1990 to start their own venture. After several months of pressure from the authorities, the private TV station Mermisi (Future) was closed. The next major event was the establishment of (state-owned) Channel 2 in 1992.

Ibervisia, which joined the scene in 1992, also played an important but short-lived role in the development of independent television. Ibervisia was a joint venture of the former Komsomol leaders and the so-called Borotebi (Evils), a branch of the paramilitary Mkhedrioni organization. The controversial images of the partners paralyzed the work of the channel, which was finally closed after the weakening of the Mkhedrioni's political influence.

According to CIDD altogether 40 TV stations, including municipal channels, broadcast in Georgia today. The professional skill of their staff, together with the quality of programs, is low. Such types of stations were founded mostly by self-taught enthusiasts, who even constructed the transmission devices themselves. A primitive montage set made out of two VHS recorders is regarded as a great achievement, almost a luxury.

The Georgian television network (TNG) started its work in 1996, bringing together 15 stations not owned by the state that covered 15 cities and towns. Eighty percent of the TNG members' broadcast time consists of licensed video productions. The purchase of these programs is the main goal of the network.

In May 1996, the independent television stations started broadcasting a joint weekly program, exchanging materials with the US Internews Network. The "Kvira" (Week) program still presents the sole attempt at reviewing the events of the whole country.

Broadcast media continues to be the main source of information for the vast majority of Georgia's population. Television sets number around 2,570,000, while there are approximately 3 million radio receivers in the country. Over the past two years, however, there has been growing competition from independent TV companies, forcing state TV to make its programming more objective and balanced, yet it remains far from editorially independent.

The government's monopoly on television news was broken when Rustavi-2, a member of the independent television network TNG, emerged in 1998 as an important alternative to state television, after successfully resisting two years of government attempts to shut it down. It is now considered the only station other than the state-run channel with a national audience. In addition to Rustavi-2, there are seven independent television stations in Tbilisi. An international NGO that works with the press estimated that there are more than forty-five regional television stations, seventeen of which offer daily news. While these stations are ostensibly independent, a lack of advertising revenue often forces them to depend on local government officials for support. Some regions, such as Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kutaisi, have relatively independent media. Rustavi-2 has a network of fifteen stations, five of which broadcast Rustavi-2's evening news program daily. Independent newspapers and television stations continue to be harassed by state tax authorities. Stations desiring benefits and better working relations with authorities, practice self-censorship.

Since Rustavi-2, the first powerful independent TV station, survived government attempts to close it down in 1997, viewers in Tbilisi have enjoyed a much greater choice of available programming. Rustavi-2 currently attracts higher ratings than official TV and, according to 2001 data, carries about 55 to 65 percent of the national advertising market. Seven other independent TV stations compete for the TV market in the capital, but unless they receive support from powerful business or political interests, they suffer from severe financial problems. Iberia TV, supported by the Batumi-based Omega, cigarette distribution network, and Skartvelos Khma are seen to represent the views of Asian Abash, an Ajarian regional leader. Stations outside of Tbilisi struggle to maintain their independence as they continue to suffer financially. In January 2000, a 10-member United Television Network (UTN) was created to pool-advertising revenues from small regional stations.

Channel 25 is the only independent television station broadcasting in Ajara, and has been operating since 1998. On February 14, 2000, it broadcast its first uncensored news coverage. On February 19, three of the four owners of the station alleged that they were coerced by Ajaran regional government officials and Mikhail Gagoshidze, chairman of Ajaran Television and Radio, to cede 75 percent of the company's shares to Gagoshidze. The owners stated that in return they were forced to take $50,000 (100,000 laris) in cash. The same day, Batumi mayor Aslan Smirba physically assaulted Avtandil Gvas Alia, the station's commercial director. Smirba claimed that he had a right to own the station, as he had helped the company get permission to broadcast. The owners brought suit against Gagoshidze, but lost their case in Ajara regional court.

Another formidable obstacle for the Georgian media industry is the registration and licensing requirements detailed in Article 7 of the Media Law. Article 10 of that law authorizes the state of deny registration to a media outlet whose goals are considered contradictory to Georgian law.

The lack of legal definition regarding the activity of media and journalists is leading to an increase in the use of force. Georgia has many cases of violence against media professionals. One example is the case of the beating of a correspondent for the newspaper Eco Digest, Vasily Silagadze. On July 25, an unknown group of people approached him on the street, identified themselves as policemen, took the journalist to a park and beat him up, advising that he "write less about the police." The journalist also said that after his critical articles about high-ranking officials in the Ministry of the Interior, he received telephone threats. On July 28, the Tbilisi Prosecutor's Office brought criminal charges in the case of the beating. However, on September 7, Vasily Silagadze was again beaten by unknown individuals. According to Silagadze, the people who beat him were, again, police. Membership in the Council of Europe, which Georgia attained in April 1998, required Georgia to adhere to the principles of the European Convention of Human Rights, including Article 10, which guaranteed freedom of expression and information. In reality, however, certain aspects of the media landscape limit the freedom of Georgian journalism.


Radio listenership varies. The Soviets did not use radio widely and a consistent listenership was not established, but many Georgians had formed the habit of listening to the Voice of America and Radio Liberty and these habits persist despite the technical difficulties in the mountainous regions. Reports differ as to whether Georgians, especially in Tbilisi, rely more on the press or TV for daily news. The Rustavi 2 nightly news program appears to reach many people.

A number of independent radio stations broadcast on AM and FM frequencies, but most of their programming consists of music. State radio continues to dominate the regions outside Tbilisi. Radio Fortuna, a privately owned, 24-hour FM station that covers the entire area of Georgia, has the largest audience with more than 620,000 listeners while the combined audience of the two Georgia state radio stations number at 580,000.

In Tbilisi the FM waves are used by one state-owned radio station and six private ones. Most stations play music and are paying less and less attention to the news. Some stations rebroadcast news in Georgian from Voice of America and Radio Liberty. One of the stations, Audientsia, broadcasts in Russian. Private FM stations operate in Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Samtredia and Batumi (although the latter actually appears to be owned by the local ruling party). Most of the FM broadcasters provide only superficial news coverage, as they find other ways to compete for the attention of teenagers, the basic listeners of private radio stations.

Electronic News Media

Only a small fraction of the Georgian population has access to the Internet. Experts estimate that the country has between 10,000 and 12,000 Internet users in a population of 5.4 million. Although this represents a significantly low percentage of the people, there has been an increase of 3,000 users since 1999.

Competition among Internet service providers is extremely high, with Sanet, ICN, and the new Georgian Online, owned by Rustavi-2, dominating the market. Some Georgian newspapers and news agencies have also launched on-line editions. Among the more popular: The Georgian Times ; Svobodnaya Gruziya (Liberated Georgia), Agency Starke Information; Prime-News; The 1st channel of Georgian TV; and Virtual Georgia.

Education & TRAINING

Academic freedom is respected in Georgia and outside support has contributed to limited improvements in Georgian media. The largest western foundations, such as United States Information Agency (now a part of the State Department), Eurasia Foundation, and TACIS have been working in the country to improve the quality of journalism. They organize various workshops, training course seminars and conferences for local media professionals. An excellent American run master's degree program in journalism, for example, has recently been initiated under the auspices of the International Center for Journalism. The Caucasus Institute of Journalism and Media Management in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State and various NGOs is dedicated to the improvement of international journalism. Other institutions that have journalism programs include the Tbilisi Institute for Asia and Africa.


While the government or local authorities continue to use administrative levers to curb freedom of the press, the trend in the past years has been towards greater freedom for the independent media, and freedom of information. The successful use of the courts by journalists to obtain information is especially heartening. Economic and organizational problems are profound as is the need for better trained professionals. So many factors and issues are in flux that a clear picture has not yet emerged.


Assoc. of Georgian Independent TV and Radio Companies (Open Society-Georgia). "Georgia Media Guide 2000-2001," Tbilisi 2001.

BBC News. "Country Profiles: Georgia"

European Institute for the Media. "Media in the CIS: Georgia" by Yasha Lange.

Freedom House. "Survey of Press Freedom 1999"

. "Georgia." Nations in Transit 2001.

"Internews Guide to Georgian Non-Governmental Broadcasters," Tbilisi 2002 (USAID, Eurasia Foundation).

International Journalists' Network (IJET). "Murder of Popular TV Anchor Exacerbates Political Tensions in Georgia," August 2, 2001.

. ICGF, GIPA Launch New Western-Style Journalism Programs in Tbilisi.

"Media Marketing Study," ICFS/Pro Media II, October, 2001, Tbilisi.

Parliament of Georgia. Committee for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities of the Parliament of Georgia. [email protected]

Press Freedom Overview.

"Report of the Public Defender of Georgia On the Situation of Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms inGeorgia," Tbilisi, 2001.

Telemedia. "Georgia Media and Market Overview."

United Nations Development Program (UNDP). "Today's Technological TransformationsCreating the Network Age."

. Bokeria G., Targamadze, G. and Ramshivili, L. "Georgian Media in the 90's: A Step to Liberty," Tbilisi, 1997.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 1999. UNESCO Data Base.

United Nations Online Network in Public Administration and Finance (UNPAN). "Country Profiles in Europe."

U.S. Department of State. "Background Notes: Georgia."

U.S. Department of State. "1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices." www.state.govrights/

World Bank. "Country Profiles,"

Virginia Davis Nordin


views updated May 14 2018


Culture Name



Identification. The term "Georgian" does not derive from Saint George but from the ancient Persian Gurg or Gorg, meaning wolf, "supposedly a totemic symbol, or from the Greek georgios ("farmer," "cultivator of land").

Self-identification is based mainly on linguistic tradition, and population groups that belong to different ethno-linguistic groups, such as Ossetians, Abkhazians, Armenians, Greeks, and Kurds, are not considered Georgian. There are some exceptions, such as Jews, who speak Georgian as a native language and have surnames with Georgian endings, but historically have had a distinct cultural identity. Georgians are subdivided into smaller regional ethno-cultural entities. All that have specific traditions and customs, folklore, cuisine, and dress and may speak a different language. Ajarans, unlike the Eastern Orthodox majority, are mostly Sunni Muslims. All these groups preserve and share a common identity, literary language, and basic system of values.

Location and Geography. Georgia is on the southern slopes of the Caucasus mountains, forming a natural border with the north Caucasian republics of the Russian Federation. The country, occupying approximately 27,000 square miles (69,900 square kilometers), stretches along the Greater Caucasus ridge, bordered by the Black Sea to the west, the Armenian and Turkish highlands to the South, and Azerbaijan to the east. The topography is varied. The northern region is characterized by high mountains, and the central and southern parts, while mountainous, are much lower and are covered with alpine fields and forests. In the east, the rivers all join the Mtkvari (Kura), forming the Caspian basin, while in the west, the rivers, of which the Rioni and Enguri are the largest, run into the Black Sea.

The climate is temperate and is more mild and humid along the western marine coast. Mountains create temperature zones that vary with elevation. The eastern plains and highlands, which are isolated from the sea, have a continental climate, while year-round snow and glaciers are found in the highest mountains. Climatic zones range from moderately humid Mediterranean, to dry-continental Arab-Caspian, and to cooler mountainous regions. Almost half the land is in agricultural use, with much of the remainder consisting of forests and high mountains. Land use varies with local climatic and soil patterns.

Tbilisi, the capital, was founded by King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the fifth century, and continues to be the most important political and cultural center of the country. Tbilisi is located in the culturally dominant eastern region, Kartli, on the banks of the Mtkvari (Kura), on the ancient crossroads of one of the great silk roads between Europe and Asia.

Demography. In the 1990s, the population was estimated to be from five to five and a half million, but reliable figures are not available because of extensive uncounted emigration. Just over half the population lives in urban areas, including 1.6 million in Tbilisi. Ethnic Georgians form the great majority of the population in most regions, though there are settlements of Armenians and Azeris in the south and the south-east, respectively; Ossetians in the north-central area; Abkhaz and Armenians in the northwest; Greeks in the southeast; and small numbers of Batsbi, Chechens, Ingushes, and Lezghs in the northeast. Russians and smaller ethnic minorities such as Kurds, Ukrainians, Jews, and Assyrians are concentrated mostly in urban areas. In the 1989 census, ethnic Georgians accounted for seventy percent of the population; Armenians 8 percent; Russians 6 percent, Azeris 6 percent, Ossetians 3 percent, and Abkhazians, under 2 percent.

This proportion has changed as a result of emigration among ethnic minorities, especially Russians, Jews, Greeks, and Armenians. Most ethnic Georgians were distributed throughout the country, while Abkhazians moved mostly to Russian cities and Ossetians took refuge in Northern Ossetia.

Linguistic Affiliation. The majority language is Georgian, which belongs to the Kartvelian (South Caucasian) language group. However, some subgroups speak other languages in the same linguistic group. The literary language comes from the Kartlian dialect spoken in the historically dominant eastern kingdom of Kartli. Georgian is the only Kartvelian language that is written and taught, and is the literary language used by all Georgians.

The principal minority languages are Abkhazian, Armenian, Azeri, Ossetian, and Russian. Abkhazian is, along with Georgian, the state language in Abkhazia. Most ethnic minorities in urban areas speak Russian rather than Georgian as a second language, but bilingualism and trilingualism are common, and Russian continues to be understood in most of the country. Russian, Armenian, and Azeri are used in schools and as official languages locally.

Symbolism. The competing impact of Asian and western cultures is most prominently expressed in Byzantine and Persian influences. Another overlap is between Christian and pagan, with a much weaker influence from neighboring Muslim patterns. Today, much cultural symbolism reflects a mythologized interpretation of tradition that is influenced by self-perception as belonging to European, Christian contemporary society.

Mythical symbols include the Golden Fleece of the Greek myth of the Argonauts' journey to Colchis and the mythical ancestor of Georgians, Kartlos. Other important mythical figures include Saint George, and Amirani, a noble hero analogous to Prometheus. Mythical symbols of the Abkhazians and Ossetians are both dominated by a mythical cycle dealing with the semidivine people of Narts.

The numbers seven and nine have symbolic meaning, as does the number three, which reflects the Trinity. The snow leopard and lion symbolize noble valor and vigor. The vine symbolizes fertility and the Dionysian spirit, and dominates medieval architectural ornamentation. A very important ornamental symbol is the fire-wheel swastika, a solar symbol traditionally used both as an architectural ornament and in wood carving as well as on the passport and currency. The Cross plays an equally significant role.

The hymn "Thou Art the True Vine" is the most important sacred song. National symbols often refer to language, motherland (national territory), and Confession (Christian Orthodoxy). The ideas of loyalty to kin, honor, and hospitality are held in high esteem. The characteristic metaphor is that of a mother. Other metaphors are linked to the sun, which is interpreted as a source of beauty and light, brotherhood, supreme loyalty, and victory.

State symbolism dates back to the Democratic Republic of Georgia (19181921). The most respected national festival (26 May) is linked to the declaration of independence in 1918. The national flag of black and white stripes against a dark crimson background and the state emblem, White George on horseback framed by a septagonal star, repeat the imagery of that period.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Cultural unity was influenced by political unification and fragmentation. In the southern and eastern regions, the state of Kartli (Iberia) united tribes that spoke the Kartvelian language. The first attempt to unite the country occurred under King Parnavaz of Kartli at the beginning of the third century b.c.e. Georgia adopted Christianity in 334, when King Mirian III of Kartli-Iberia, following the instructions of Saint Nino of Cappadocia, declared it the state religion. The alphabet probably was created soon afterward to translate holy texts, replacing Aramaic and Greek scripts and producing both the hieratic script and the contemporary secular alphabet. The first Georgian inscriptions appeared in Jerusalem in the fifth century, followed by the first known literary text, the Martyrdom of Saint Shushanik. At about that time, King Vakhtang briefly united eastern and western Georgia. Several centuries later, the new dynasty of the Bagrations took control of the Inner Kartli and the city of Uplistsikhe, and in 978, King Bagrat III Bagration became the first king of both Kartli and Abkhazia. In 1314, Giorgi V the Brilliant reunited Georgia after a long period of decline under the Mongols, but Tamerlain's invasions broke the nation's strength and unity. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Georgia became the only Christian stronghold in a region of Muslim kingdoms. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Georgia was united by the Russian Empire, when the tsars Pavel and Alexander annexed the eastern region, abolishing the kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia declared independence in 1918, but the democratic Republic of Georgia, ruled by a social-democratic government, was invaded by the Red Army in 1921, a few days after it was recognized by European states. The Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia retained formal sovereignty but was a puppet member of the Soviet Empire until its dissolution in 1991, when Zviad Gamsakhurduia proclaimed independence. By the end of that same year, Gamsakhurdia fell victim to a military coup. The military government, unable to cope with international isolation and an economic crisis, invited the former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze to become the chairman of the State Council, keeping real power in its own hands. After two years of civil war and secessionist conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Shevardnadze took over the government. A new parliament was elected in 1995, a new constitution was adopted, and Shevardnadze was elected president. The self-proclaimed republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia continue to be source of conflict, but negotiations on their status is ongoing and virtually no military action has taken place since 1993.

National Identity. The development of the nation is linked to the attempt to unite Georgia by King Parnavaz. However, at that time different parts of the country spoke different languages and had little in common. Western Georgia was inhabited by Colchian, proto-Abkhazian and proto-Svan tribes, with Greek settlements along the Black Sea shore, while in the eastern and southern regions the language was closer to contemporary Georgian, although part of the territory was inhabited by Turkic, Armenian, Alan, and Albanian tribes. Migration of eastern Georgian tribes to the west and the gradual assimilation of other ethnic groups in the east were accompanied by religious unity and unification under the Bagratid dynasty at the end of tenth century. During several centuries of common statehood, the Abkhaz, Armenians, Turks, and Ossetians partly preserved their cultural identities, while Albanians were fully assimilated.

Ethnic Relations. Sub-groups with common cultural identities experienced little conflict, although the medieval feudal system often caused internecine wars and warfare among ethnic kin. Today, despite mass migrations of Svans to southeastern Georgia and Megrel refugees from secessionist Abkhazia to other parts of the country, tensions have calmed. However, among the Abkhaz and Ossetians, tension and radical nationalism after the disintegration of the Soviet Union led to civil wars. There are some tensions with Armenians and between Azeris and Armenians in the rural southeast.

There are significant numbers of predominantly Muslim ethnic Georgians in Iran and Turkey. 100,000 Georgians have preserved their cultural identity in the small Fereydan region near Isfahan. Turkey controls a large territory with a traditionally Georgian population and numerous cultural monuments. These groups of Gürji, as they are called in Turkey, and Laz acknowledge their Georgian origin but have a strong sense of Turkish national identity.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Settlements tend to be dominated by a church built on a hill nearby if not in the center. However, in the Soviet period, many churches were destroyed or turned into storehouses. Newly built churches are mostly poor replicas of older examples, primitive expressions of a declining tradition. Little is left of the medieval structure of small urban settlements surrounded by a citadel wall.

Urban architecture bears strong traces of Soviet influence. Government buildings and sculptures from the Soviet era are gloomy and pompous. These buildings have flat surfaces and enormous waste spaces in the form of colonnades or halls. In the 1970s and 1980s a new tradition emerged with more light and better use of space but was depersonalized and lacked creativity. Since independence, economic crises have precluded the construction of new government buildings. The older quarters in some cities are elegant and demonstrate an attractive mixture of European and Asian architecture. The majority of smaller towns are overgrown villages that show little effort to organize space or create an urban environment.

Rural architecture is typified by two-story stone buildings with large verandas. In the mountains, villages often are dominated by picturesque towers. Stone houses may surround a family tower or be organized in terraces with small gardens or yards. Traditional dwellings in the southern volcanic highlands were set deep in the ground and had no windows, with polygonal narrowing ceilings with a central opening for light and the exit of smoke. Internal space was organized around the fireplace below the roof opening, and a richly engraved central column played both a functional and a sacral role.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The greatest culinary divide is between the western and eastern region. In the west, there is a greater emphasis on vegetarian food, predominantly prepared with walnuts. Herbs and spices, especially tarragon, basil, coriander, feuille Grec, and pepper make western Georgian food hot and spicy. Cheese usually is made from cow's milk and is eaten with either corn bread or a corn and flour porridge. Khachapuri, a kind of cheese pizza, is common.

In the eastern area, the food is heavier, with more of an accent on mutton and pork. Wheat bread is preferred to corn, and sheep's cheese from Tusheti is popular. Among people in the mountains, the most popular food is khinkali, a cooked meat dumpling that usually is accompanied by beer. The most popular vegetables are tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, pumpkins, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, and cabbage. The most popular sauce, tkemali, is made of wild plums; other sauces are based on walnuts with spices, or pomegranate juice. Wine is drunk everywhere, and stronger alcoholic beverages include araki, which is made of grapes and other fruit with honey. Fish, especially trout, is eaten universally. A wide variety of locally grown fruit is supplemented by wild and cultured berries, watermelons and other melons. Dried fruit and nuts covered with a mixture of grape juice and wheat or corn flour are eaten in the winter. Jams are prepared from fruit, unripe walnuts, watermelon, eggplant, and green tomatoes.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At the New Year's festivity, ground walnuts boiled in honey are served, along with a turkey or chicken in walnut sauce. An Easter meal includes hard-boiled eggs dyed red and other bright colors, roasted piglet and lamb, and special cakes with vanilla and spices. Special dishes are served at a wake: rice with mutton in the east, and meat with sweet rice and raisins in the west. Special wheat porridge with walnuts and honey is served forty days after a person's death.

Basic Economy. Georgians were basically rural people until the beginning of this century, when industrialization caused a mass rural-to-urban migration, especially to the capital. Most families are still linked through kinship relations with the countryside and preserve some traditions of their native localities.

Industrialization and the urban economy have had a limited influence on the national culture. Today, most of the population is urbanized and works in services or industrial production. Industry has been slow in recovering from the economic crisis of the early 1990s. Agriculture has been quicker to recover and accounts for almost 30 percent of the gross domestic product. A significant portion of exports consists of processed or raw agricultural produce such as hazelnuts, tea and wine. However, the country is not self-sufficient in producing grain as a result of the limited arable land.

Land Tenure and Property. After independence, much of land owned by the state was privatized. Over half the cultivated land was privatized by 1994, and that proportion continues to grow. However, in the highlands, where there is little cultivated land, privatization may entail restitution, as families respect traditional ownership. The state continues to control almost all uncultivated land, forests, and pastures; further privatization is expected in these areas.

Commercial Activities. Apart from agricultural goods, mineral water, soft drinks, and beverages, few goods are produced locally for the retail market. Cheaper goods from Turkey, Russia, China, and Bulgaria are sold in the shops. Some locally produced building materials, chemicals, and textiles are sold.

Major Industries. Major industries include metallurgy, metal and chemical works, mining (manganese, arsenic, copper, gold, oil, and raw materials for chemical production such as barite and mineral water), electronic devices, and machinery. A larger role is being played by transportation and especially transhipment because of the development of pipeline routes and transportation projects.

Trade. The principle exports are food, drink, tobacco, metals, and chemicals. The major imports are energy and fuel, mineral products, machinery, and food, drink and tobacco. There is a significant trade deficit. The main trading partners are Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Bulgaria, the European Union, and the United States.

Division of Labor. High-paying jobs are available for those with a good command of English and advanced computer skills, while older people remain in poorly paid occupations. However, workers in their forties and fifties continue to occupy leading positions in ownership and management, as result of their advantage in starting capital and business connections from the Soviet era.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The systems of social stratification changed significantly because of the increasing income gap between the impoverished masses and former white-collar workers, and the new rich, who have used financial and social capital to accumulate capital through privatization or trade, or have taken advantage of corruption in the state bureaucracy. Another change is linked to the restructuring of the political and economic system from the Soviet centralized type to a free market, although frequently the same Soviet bureaucrats and Communist officials have become capitalists and advocates of a liberal economy. Much of the new capital is concentrated in Tbilisi, Batumi, and the Black Sea port of Poti and thus is dominated by ethnic Georgians. The Armenian and Jewish economic elite that once played an important role, especially in Tbilisi, has lost its position because of emigration or because they maintain a lower profile.

Symbols of Social Stratification. An advanced position is expressed by a Westernized lifestyle. A Mercedes car symbolizes success, as do an apartment or house in a prestigious district, summering in France, and sending one's children to private European or American schools. Visiting casinos is another sign of upward social mobility.

Political Life

Government. Georgia is a presidential republic. The president is also the head of the executive branch, although the ministers are formally headed by the state minister. The single-chamber (225 members strong) parliament is elected in a mixed majoritarian-proportional system. The last parliamentary elections were won by the president's Citizens' Union of Georgia. The other two parties in the parliament are the Union of Industrialists and the Union of Georgia's Revival. The judicial branch, which was weak in the communist era, is in the process of being reformed. Local governments are partly elected and partly appointed from Tbilisi and have little formal power and small budgets. Depending on personal authority and local conditions, they may be fairly independent in their policies.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political parties, apart from the Union of Georgia's Revival, have little unity and lack well-defined political agendas. They mostly serve as instruments for pursuing a political career. Most parties tend to be social-democratic or moderately nationalistic. Personalities and personal connections play a decisive role in a political career, and the need to balance political issues and personal loyalty makes personnel appointments far from meritocractic. Many politicians are involved in economic activities, and this often creates conflicts of interest.

Social Problems and Control. Since the increase in crime during the civil wars and turmoil of the early 1990s, there has been a significant reduction in law violations and major crimes such as murder and burglary. The most socially dangerous crime is drug trafficking, which has increased the number of young drug addicts. Organized crime is another important concern. Corruption and incompetence in overstaffed law enforcement bodies along with a weak judiciary system have made it difficult to fight crime. The general public is dissatisfied with the existing situation and with the system of law. Sometimes, especially in rural areas with a strong tradition of customary law, the community itself or a victim's relatives will take the law into their own hands and punish the perpetrator of a particularly shocking crime.

Military Activity. There has been little military action since the end of the civil war and the suspension of the conflict in Abkhazia, but the development of the nation's military potential attracts great attention from both the public and the government. Georgia participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace program and aspires to achieve closer cooperation, and even integration, with NATO. There still are four Russian military bases in the country, although their gradual withdrawal is under way.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The state welfare system is inefficient, and has few resources. Pensions provide only a fifth of the minimum sustenance level, are poorly targeted, and cover too many beneficiaries. Much of the assistance goes to internally displaced persons from Abkhazia. A number of international and intergovernmental organizations are attempting to improve the welfare system.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

There are thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but few of them are active and successful. NGOs participate in defending human rights and freedom of expression as well as environmental protection. However, as virtually all NGOs are funded by western sources, they have to adapt to the preferences and style of foreign funders, which often have only a vague understanding of the real needs of the country.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. There is no explicit division of labor by gender except in the areas of hard physical labor such as mining. The national culture places women in both the role of breadwinner and housewife. Most urban women work when they have the opportunity, although few have positions in the military and law enforcement. Top-level political and business jobs are less accessible for women, and only a few are in the government. No women can become a priest in the Orthodox church or a mullah among Muslims.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The national culture strongly values respect for women. Legislation provides for a woman's right to take the children after a divorce. Women receive pregnancy leaves and earlier retirements and are not subject to military conscription. Although men dominate both public and family life, most housework is done by women. With many young educated women getting better paid jobs than their fathers or husbands, traditional stereotypes of gender-defined social roles are changing.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage is based on the free will of the partners and rarely is prearranged, although that sometimes happens in rural areas, especially in the Muslim population. Mutual attraction is the most common reason for marriage, although for older couples, economic benefits or comfort may be more important. In Muslim areas, unofficial polygamy exists in rare cases. There is a significant incidence of early marriage, but there is a general tendency for later marriage. Married persons who maintain a joint household have equal rights to their possessions.

Domestic Unit. The basic household in cities is the nuclear family, but frequently, grandparents live together with the family and help to bring up the children. In rural and mountainous areas, a few extended families exist, usually including several brothers with their parents and children. In this case the father of the family may control the resources, and assign tasks on the farm, while the mother is responsible for keeping the household. Younger members gradually split off, building a separate house in the neighborhood.

Inheritance. If there is no will after a person's death, the property is divided among all the children, including daughters, or among the closest relatives if there are no children.

Kin Groups. People ascribe great importance to kinship. Relatives up to the third or even fourth generation are considered close, and are expected to share both happy events and grievances. They meet regularly at important social events such as weddings and funerals, and neglecting the social duty to attend is disapproved. The kinship system played an important role in cushioning the effects of economic crisis when the social welfare system was disrupted. Extended kinship relations may create clientelism and protectionism as well as organized crime.


Infant Care. Customary practices in the care of infants have been abandoned, such as the practice of rearing young infants in a special type of cradle that restricted the movement of a child. Children are the focal point of the family, and much attention is paid to their education and development, especially in the educated classes. Because kindergartens are less available today, retired grandparents often care for the children.

Child Rearing and Education. The early intellectual development of infants is valued, and parents love to show their children's achievements. The values inculcated and the skills taught differ by gender. Boys are taught to be strong and courageous and deal with cars or tools. Girls are supposed to be modest and skilled in housekeeping, sewing, and cooking; play with dolls rather than war toys; and are more often taught to play musical instruments. Although many parents believe in genetically transmitted qualities and talents, education is valued.

Higher Education. Higher education and a university diploma are highly valued even when the quality of education is unsatisfactory. It is almost impossible to have a career without a diploma, although higher education is not always correlated with a higher income.


Both men and women may kiss one another on the cheek in public places. Kissing on the lips and intimate hugging in public are not approved. Shaking hands is common, but women shake hands less often than men do. Either the person with higher social status or the woman is supposed to initiate greeting and define its form. In the countryside, it is common to greet strangers. Men may embrace while walking in the street. In general, the closer the relationship, the smaller the distance at which people stand. Women are not supposed to gaze at a stranger or smoke on the street.


Religious Beliefs. The great majority of the population belongs to the Georgian Orthodox Church, an Eastern (Greek) Orthodox church. Confessional identity is a strong cultural factor that defines the prevailing system of social values. The majority of Georgians in Ajara are Sunni Muslims, as are a few inhabitants of the Meskheti region. There are also Shiite Muslims among the Turkic inhabitants in the southeast (Azeris) and Sunni Muslims among the Abkhaz, Ossetians, and Greeks. Several Protestant churches are active, with the Baptists being the most successful. Most ethnic Armenians belong to the Gregorian Christian Church. There are small groups of Yezid Kurds, Russian Molokans and Dukhobors, and Jews; the population of the latter two groups has diminished because of emigration. New emerging cults and sects, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, meet with hostility and aggression from the established churches and the population.

Rituals and Holy Places. The great majority of Orthodox religious ceremonies are carried out by priests in churches. The most important ceremonies, especially those celebrating Easter and Christmas, are carried out by the Patriarch in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in the ancient town of Mtskheta, or in the Zion Cathedral in Tbilisi. Daily services are held in churches, as well as weddings and baptisms. In some cases priests are invited to other places to bless new initiatives, buildings or organizations. Many people claim to be religious but seldom attend religious ceremonies. In mountainous regions, people who self-identify as Christian continue to follow rituals of pagan origin.

Death and the Afterlife. Many of popular beliefs and rituals regarding death and afterlife stem from a mixture of Christian and pagan concepts, with many superstitions and cultural borrowings. Respecting the deceased is a very important part of social life, and much time is spent attending funerals and wakes and caring for graves. Although people believe in an eternal afterlife, there is no clear understanding of its nature; people observe rules and try to reduce their grief by ritualizing the mourning process.

Secular Celebrations

The most widely observed holiday still is the New Year. Among national holidays, Independence Day is the most respected, and people like to attend even newly invented festivities such as Tbilisoba in October, a holiday invented by the Communist authorities.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Although the state is supposed to support arts through the Ministry of Culture, there are few funds that rarely find the proper application. Some professional unions, once controlled by the government, continue to claim state support despite contributing little to cultural life. Artists whose work depends less on linguistic restrictions, such as painters and craftsmen, look for financial support and markets abroad. Many writers and artists work in politics or business or try to couple them with their art; it is not uncommon for film makers and writers to have a position in the parliament or other agencies of the government.

Literature. Literature is in a dire condition because of the political and economic crisis that started long before independence. There are only a few young talented writers and poets and almost none from the older generation. The literary market is dominated by translations of bestsellers, detective stories, and erotica.

Graphic Arts. Graphic arts are popular, and many young artists are demonstrating high levels of creativity and skill. Many artists sell their work in the West.

Performance Arts. The performance arts are in a crisis because limitations imposed by language hinder the art from finding a wider audience. Several ballet dancers, opera singers, and theater directors have achieved success in other countries. However, in Tbilisi, performance art and dramatic art are alive and rich.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Physical and natural sciences, along with engineering, were highly developed in the Soviet period because of their application to defense. Today there is next to no funding in these areas, as most Western aid goes to the social sciences. This has caused many scientists to emigrate, and the brain drain has helped maintain relations with leading scientific institutions. The social sciences were underdeveloped in the communist era and have not reached international standards in teaching and research.


Allen, W. E. D. A History of the Georgian People from the Beginning Down to the Roman Conquest in the Nineteenth Century, 1932, 1971.

Alpago, Novello. Art and Architecture in Medieval Georgia, 1980.

Aronson, Howard I. Georgian: A Reading Grammar, 1982, 1991.

Ascherson, Neal. Black Sea: The Birthplace of Civilisation, 1996.

Avalov (Avalishvili), Zurab. The Annexation of Georgia to Russia, 1982.

. The Independence of Georgia in International Politics: 19181921, 1940, 1982.

Aves, Jonathan. Georgia: From Chaos to Stability, 1996.

Braund, David. Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 1994, 1996.

Charachidzé, Géorges. Prométhée ou le Caucase: Essai de Mythologie Contrastive, 1986.

Chatwin, Mary Ellen. Socio-Cultural Transformation and Foodways in the Republic of Georgia, 1996.

Chervonnaya, S. Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia and the Russian Shadow, 1995.

Crego, Paul. "Religion and Nationalism in Georgia." Religion in Eastern Europe 14 (3): 19, 1994.

Curtis, Glen E., ed. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia: Country Studies, 1995.

Gachechiladze, R. The New Georgia: Space, Society, Politics, 1995.

Gamkrelidse Thomas V. Alphabetic Writing and the Old Georgian Script: A Typology and Provenience of Alphabetic Writing Systems, 1994.

Georgia: A Travel Reference Map of the Republic of Georgia, 1997.

Grigolia, A. Custom and Justice in Caucasus: Georgian Highlanders, 1936, 1939, 1977.

Herzig, Edmund. The New Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, 1999.

Kazemzadeh, Firuz. The Struggle for Transcaucasia (1917 1921), 1951, 1981.

Lang, D. M. The Georgians, 1966.

MacFarlane, S. Neil. "Democratization, Nationalism and Regional Security in the Southern Caucasus." Government and Opposition 32 (3): 399420, 1997.

Melikidze, V., and G. Tarkhan-Mouravi. Human Development Report: Georgia 1997, 1997.

Mepisashvili, Rusudan, and Tsintsadze Vakhtang. The Arts of Ancient Georgia, 1979.

Nasmyth, Peter. Georgia: Mountains and Honour, 1997.

Rayfield, Donald. The Literature of Georgia: A History, 1994.

Rosen, Roger. The Georgian Republic, 1995.

Schrade, Brigitta, ed. The Art of Svanetia: Medieval Treasures from the Caucasus, 2000.

Suny, R. G. The Making of the Georgian Nation, 1989, 1996.

Toumanoff C. Studies in Christian Caucasian History, 1963.

Toumanoff, Cyril. "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature (VIIIXV Centuries)." Traditio 1: 139182, 1943.

George Tarkham-Mouravi


views updated May 14 2018


Republic of Georgia

Major City:

Other Cities:
Batumi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Sukhumi


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Georgia. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Georgia is an ancient land, rich in history. It is the site of Colchis where, legend has it, Jason found the Golden Fleece. A Christian country since the fourth century, Georgia has been a crossroads and, at times, a battlefield for Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Turks, Russians, and others.

A new Georgia has emerged from the collapsed Soviet Empire. In today's Georgia, Western engineers are building oil pipelines where the Silk Road once ran. Fully occupied with nation building, Georgians are anxious to draw on the American experience to build a viable democracy and free market economy.

Tbilisi lies along the Kura River across a series of steep hills; its winding, tree shaded streets are at the heart of a charm that made Tbilisi one of the most livable cities in the former Soviet Union. Although it is just the size of West Virginia, Georgia enjoys some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the world. Mountain, desert, vineyards, sub-tropical groves and the fabled Black Sea Coast are within a few hours of each other. A visit to Georgia is a ticket into the very eye of history.



In 458 AD, the capital of Georgia was moved from the small, nearby town of Mtskheta to its present location, Tbilisi. The founder of Tbilisi, King Vakhtang Gorgasali, named the city Tbilisi (from the Georgian word "tbili," meaning warm) after discovering hot sulfur springs. Many hot sulfur baths are still in use today.

Tbilisi has a population of approximately 1,400,000 and is spread out over 135 square miles. Adding to Tbilisi's natural beauty is the Mtkvari River (also called the Kura in Russian) which flows through the city center. Tbilisi is neither European nor Asian but an exotic mixture of both, as illustrated by the architecture, houses of worship, open-air markets, sulfur baths, and different nationalities living together in common courtyards.


The electrical current in Tbilisi is 220 volt/50 Hz.

Personal computer users should bring a high quality surge suppressor and an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).


While many fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products, and spices are seasonally available, supply, selection, and quality also vary seasonally. Generally, pork, beef, veal, lamb, imported whole chicken and leg quarters, and fish (freshness is not guaranteed) are available in the local open markets. The art of carving is not practiced by local meat vendors: meat is cut off the carcass and not trimmed to Western standards. Cutting utensils, storage bags, and a meat grinder are essential in preparing meat for cooking or freezing. Likewise, those interested in freezing or canning fruits or vegetables should bring all supplies required.

Yogurt, sour cream, eggs (bring egg cartons), butter, and local cheeses are available but textures and tastes vary. The joint venture stores have imported dairy products but the supply is unreliable.

A variety of fresh and dried spices is available year-round. Raisins, apricots, figs, and dried beans are also available but must be cleaned well before use.


At present only a few small private shops offer a limited supply of Western-style clothing. It is advisable to bring all clothing and shoes to post as well as a supply of mail order catalogs. The climate in Tbilisi is similar to that in Boston or Washington; thus, clothing for a full range of seasons is needed.

Washable, lightweight cotton fabrics are appropriate for the late spring and summer months. Winter clothing is required for the cold months of November through March.

Locally available shoes are mostly imported from Turkey and Italy. Many Western-style shoes can be found but at unusually high prices. Sizes are generally erratic. To have clothing made locally, personnel should bring all fabric and sewing notions.

Supplies and Services

Although Tbilisi has several new supermarkets, items can be quite expensive and inventory is erratic. Bring a good supply of toiletries, cosmetics, hair care products, sanitary supplies, tobacco, home medicines, common household needs, household repair items, candles, cleaning equipment and products, laundry detergents, napkins, and postage stamps. In addition to all clothing and baby supplies, bring children's art supplies, books, and toys. A durable stroller is a must because the roads and sidewalks are extremely bumpy. Disposable diapers, available only in small sizes, are obtainable but at somewhat higher prices than in the U.S. Other items to consider are clothes hangers, European plug converters, photographic supplies, flashlights (large and pocket-sized), batteries, computer supplies, battery operated lights, stationery supplies, pet supplies, and hobby supplies.

Tailoring, dress making, shoe repair, dry cleaning, beauty shops, and barber shops are available locally. It is advisable to take all beauty supplies to the barber or hairdresser because most of the shops do not exercise Western hygiene standards. The joint venture dry-cleaners do a fine job and shoe repair service is good. Tailoring and dress making are also done with care, and prices are reasonable.

Domestic Help

Reasonably priced domestic help, English-speaking nannies, and drivers are available. Few Georgians have had any exposure to Western cleaning techniques and products and thus require training.

Religious Activities

Places of worship for various faiths conduct services in Hebrew, Russian, Georgian, and Armenian. Additionally, the Salvation Army offers English-language Protestant worship services for the international community. Also, some Americans have opened their homes to sponsor church services, Sunday school, and Bible study.


Quality Schools International (QSI), a non-profit institution which opened in September of 1995. QSI offers high quality education in English for elementary students from ages four through thirteen. Several Embassy families currently have children attending this school. The school's curriculum includes English (reading, grammar, composition, keyboarding, and spelling), mathematics, cultural studies (history, geography, economics, etc.), science, computer literacy, art, music, physical education, and Russian or Georgian language. In the 1997-98 school year, the school had an enrollment of approximately thirty-one students. QSI also offers extension courses for older children through the University of Nebraska.

School-age children and adults may take private or group lessons in tennis, art, dance, music, horseback riding, gymnastics, and ice skating. One should, however, have some background in Russian or Georgian or make arrangements for an English-speaking instructor.


Small groups do get together with the international and local community to play softball, volleyball, or tennis, to run or hike, to practice aerobics or gymnastics, and to ice skate or fish at Tbilisi Sea, Bazaleti, or Jinvali Lakes. Staff interested in any of these activities should bring proper equipment and attire. For spectators, the most commonly held international competitions in Georgia are wrestling, chess, and soccer.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The city of Tbilisi possesses many interesting historic sites. The Old City has preserved its intricate maze of its narrow meandering streets and lanes. Steep cobblestone streets often end in stairs leading up the mountain; courtyards are encircled by wooden balconies; domes of ancient churches and bath-houses catch the eye. Nearby is the 13th century Metekhi Church and the monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali, the founder of Tbilisi. Dominating Old Tbilisi are the ruins of the Narikala Fortress and the gleaming statue of Mother Georgia.

One of the greatest benefits of living in Tbilisi is the proximity to the Caucasus Mountains. Opportunities to ski in winter and hike in summer are found only two hours away by car in Gudauri, which offers a four-star hotel. The seaside of Batumi on the Black Sea is a drive of 6-7 hours.

Hotel accommodations are generally still of the Soviet style. Camping is possible throughout the country, even near the capital city.


Excellent operas, ballets, recitals, concerts, dramatic plays, pantomime, and marionette
theater are popular forms of entertainment during various seasons. Tickets are generally inexpensive. Quality movie theaters do not exist, but the Embassy shows movies on select Friday nights. Restaurants now in operation offer Italian, German, Chinese, Mexican and Georgian food. The Western standard, five-star Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel offers a cafe, restaurant, piano bar, and discotheque. Nightclub entertainment is limited but small, informal, gatherings at home with friends from the active international and local communities occur often.

The International Women's Association offers numerous activities and opportunities for women from many nations to get acquainted. The Club meets once a month at the Sakartvelo Restaurant and offers many social and volunteer activities


The city of BATUMI is in the extreme southwestern corner of Georgia. Batumi's location on the Black Sea coast has led to its development as a major Georgian seaport and shipyard. The city is home to a major oil refinery, which receives oil via a pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan. Several industries are located in Batumi. These industries produce furniture, machinery, and zinc-plating. Batumi is situated in a rich agricultural region where citrus fruits and tea are grown. Many popular resorts are located on the outskirts of the city. Batumi's major tourist attraction is the Batumi Botanical Gardens, which feature a wide array of flora and fauna. Batumi has an estimated population of 137,000.

KUTAISI is situated on the Rioni River in western Georgia. It is one of Georgia's largest industrial cities. Industries in Kutaisi manufacture furniture, textiles, clothing, processed foods, mining machinery, trucks, and consumer goods. Notable tourist attractions near Kutaisi include the remains of a first-century A.D. Bagrat church and fortress and the Sataplia Nature Reserve, which offers informative displays of dinosaur fossils and tours of several limestone caverns. With an estimated population of 240,000 in 1997, it is Georgia's second largest city.

The city of RUSTAVI is situated on the Kura River approximately 16 miles (26 km) southeast of Tbilisi. Rustavi is primarily an industrial center and is the home of large steel and iron works. Synthetic fibers and fertilizers are produced by a major chemical factory in the city. In 1995, Rustavi had an estimated population of 160,000.

SUKHUMI is a major resort city. Tourists from Georgia and other former Soviet republics flock to Sukhumi for its warm weather and sandy beaches. Several small industries are located in the city. These industries are involved in wine-making and canning the fruit grown near Sukhumi. The city has a population of approximately 122,000.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Georgia is situated on the eastern bank of the Black Sea and bordered by the Caucasus Mountains to the north. Its neighbor to the east is Azerbaijan, and to the south are Turkey and Armenia. Georgia is at a crossroads of European and Asian commerce, culture, and religion.

Georgia is 69,900 sq. km., slightly larger than West Virginia. Starting in the east, Georgia's landscape is largely semi-desert. In the western portion lie the permanently snow-covered peaks and glaciers of the Caucasian Mountains, with summits as high as 5,000 meters. The subtropical climate near the Black Sea coast nourishes citrus fruits. Numerous rivers, including the Kura and the Rioni, wind through Georgia's mountains and valleys. Many of these rivers are used for hydroelectric power generation.

Protected by the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains, Georgia's climate is relatively mild. Seasonal temperatures range from winter daytime highs of 32°F-35°F to summer daytime highs of 86°F-93°F Summers have relatively low humidity. Spring daytime highs average in the high 60°F to the mid 70°F.


Georgia's population, according to the 1989 Soviet census, is 5.5 million, of which some two-thirds are ethnic Georgians. Over 80 other nationalities reside in Georgia, including Armenians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, Ossetians, Greeks, Abkhazians, Ukrainians, Jews and Kurds.

Within Georgia are two autonomous republics, Abkhazia and Adjara. During the Soviet period, the region settled by Ossetians was also granted autonomous status.

Georgian is a proto-Caucasian language of the Iberian-Caucasian family and is spoken throughout the country. Most urban Georgians speak Russian; it is somewhat less common in the country-side.

Christianity was spread throughout Georgia in the 4th century. Today, the majority of Georgians identify themselves as Georgian Orthodox, an autocephalous church (i.e. one with its own patriarch) similar to Greek and Russian orthodox churches. The unusual Georgian Orthodox cross, with its downward-bowed crosspiece, is ascribed to Saint Nino of Cappadocia, who introduced Christianity to Georgia. According to legend, upon entering Georgia she took two vine branches and, with strands of her own hair, bound them together in the form of a cross.

Islam is practiced among sectors of the population of Tbilisi, in villages near the Azeri and north Caucasus borders, and in the autonomous republic of Adjara in the southwest. The Jewish population in Georgia dates back twenty-five centuries. Roman Catholicism is practiced by some Georgians, mostly in the west. Reflecting Georgia's religious diversity, one small area in Old Town Tbilisi has five different places of worship: a Georgian Orthodox Church, a Roman Catholic Church, a mosque, a synagogue, and an Armenian Orthodox Church. Hospitality is one of the most notable characteristics of the Georgian people. Georgians receive guests as a "gift from God." The hospitality is particularly well represented by the "Georgian Table." The table is stacked with many traditional dishes, such as Georgian flat bread; "khachapuri" (a cheese pie); lamb, pork or beef shishkebab; roast pig; chicken or turkey in a walnut sauce; and accompanying "tkemali," a spicy plum sauce. The traditional drink of Georgia is wine; grapes are grown throughout the country, especially in the region of Kakheti. "Churchkhela" is a special dessert made with walnuts or hazelnuts dipped into a paste made from boiled grape skins. A unique feature of the Georgian table is the "tamada," or toastmaster. Chosen by the male members of the table, the tamada offers a series of traditional toasts for the guests during the meal.

The family unit is important for Georgians. Many nuclear families live together with parents or grandchildren, often because of the housing shortage. Tradition has passed down a strong sense of obligation for family members to look after one another.

Public Institutions

Georgia became one of the fifteen republics of the Soviet Union in 1921. The Communist Party dominated the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic for over seventy years.

As the Soviet Union began to disintegrate, Georgia became one of the first republics to declare its independence. The first post-Soviet government, headed by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was strongly nationalistic. Although democratically elected, Gamsakhurdia did not observe democratic norms. Following a coup, the Gamsakhurdia government was replaced in March 1992 by a State Council headed by former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. After an initial period of political turmoil, Georgia held elections for Parliament in October 1992. Mr. Shevardnadze was elected Head of Parliament and Head of State.

Georgia adopted a new constitution in August 1995. The constitution provides for three branches of government: the Executive (President), Legislative (Parliament), and Judicial (Supreme Court). In November of that year, Presidential and parliamentary elections were held. International monitors described them as "generally free and fair." Eduard Shevardnadze was elected to a 5 year term. The unicameral Parliament has four political parties: the Citizens' Union of Georgia which holds 110 seats and is the governing party; the Adjara-based Revival Union Party; the National Democratic Party; and the People's National Democratic Party.

Arts, Science, and Education

Georgians are proud of their centuries-long cultural and academic traditions, many of which continue to the present day. Georgians are particularly talented musicians. The Georgian folk song continues an age-old polyphonic style, and even singers who have never met each other can create complex harmonies. A traditional dinner always includes Georgian folk songs.

In three handsome state theaters in Tbilisi, one can see opera, symphony concerts, ballet, and drama. Tbilisi's most famous theater company, the Rustaveli Theater, has performed throughout Europe and took its performance of King Lear to the 1996 Edinburgh Festival. There are also several other theaters, including a marionette and children's theater, where all performances are in Georgian.

Tbilisi is home to several of Georgia's finest history museums and art galleries.

The Fine Arts Museum contains remarkable examples of ancient textiles and jewelry, and the Ethno-graphic Museum is an unusual open air exhibit depicting life at various times in all the regions of Georgia. In Tbilisi and throughout the country, travelers encounter marvelous examples of Georgian ecclesiastical and secular architecture.

Georgia's educational system is currently faced with both pressures to reform to meet contemporary needs and with extremely difficult financial problems. Georgian students attend school from age six and continue through graduation from high school. Georgians are highly educated and place great value on education. Literacy rates approach 100%, with almost all Georgians bilingual in Georgian and Russian and many speaking a third and fourth language. English is increasingly widely spoken in Tbilisi, and Georgians are usually eager to practice English with Americans.

Commerce and Industry

The Georgian economy is primarily agricultural. Immediately after independence in 1991, the Georgian economy contracted dramatically, due in large part to the sudden requirement to obtain energy supplies at world prices. By 1994, economic output stood at about one-third of its level in 1990 and hyper-inflation raged. In late 1994, with the assistance of the IMF, the Government of Georgia introduced an economic reform program aimed at curtailing inflation and creating conditions for economic growth. This economic recovery continued in 1996. However, much of the country's Soviet-era industry is either closed or operating below capacity. The country needs substantial productive investment to modernize its industry and infrastructure.

Successful economic reform relies heavily on technical assistance and funding provided by the international community, including the United States. The character of assistance programs to Georgia has shifted from humanitarian food and medicines to longer-term support for economic restructuring, especially in the critical energy sector.

Georgia's international trade is increasing, albeit from a very low base. The current account deficit is financed by significant lending. Georgia is preparing its application to join the World Trade Organization and has chosen a relatively open trading regime. The government also welcomes foreign investment. A variety of mid-size joint ventures have sprung up that include U.S. and German partners, and Tbilisi receives frequent visits from investors interested in Georgia's business potential. Georgia's principal trading partners are Turkey, Russia, and Western Europe.

Small enterprises have now been almost completely privatized, as has housing. Georgia is engaging in the difficult task of privatizing large, residual state holdings and hopes to find foreign investors interested in some of these enterprises. Considering the distance the economy has come since introducing economic reforms in 1994, Georgia's economic



Travelers should consider the following factors when selecting a vehicle for local use: the fuel quality is inconsistent, parts for non-Russian vehicles are largely unavailable, and vehicle servicing is well below Western standards. A few dealerships, such as Mitsubishi, operate in Tbilisi but do not stock spare or replacement parts. Roads inside and outside the capital are not well maintained. Some staff prefer four-wheel drive vehicles that allow more ground clearance. Russian-made and used German vehicles are available locally. Prices are competitive but quality is inconsistent. Cars and drivers can be privately rented for outings. Some long term visitors hire a personal car and driver at rates significantly lower than the cost of owning and operating a personal vehicle.


In Tbilisi, an inexpensive underground metro system connects outlying districts to the city. However, power outages can strand metro riders between stops, hundreds of feet underground. Overcrowded buses and trolley buses serve the inner city, and taxis can be hailed throughout the city. The best mode of transportation is often by foot because Tbilisi is relatively small.


Two train stations provide service to other regions of the country and to the countries of the former Soviet Union. The trains do not meet Western standards, and schedules are not dependable.

Tbilisi opened a new airport in 1996. Commuter airplanes fly on an unpredictable schedule between Tbilisi and four of Georgia's main cities. International flights ferry passengers to cities outside of Georgia. The airlines serving Georgia which reflect Western standards are Turkish Air, British Airways, Austrian Air and Swissair. Aeroflot provides regular flights between Tbilisi and other cities within the former Soviet Union.



Most people in the city have private telephones. Service sometimes is problematic but costs are reasonable. Domestic telegraph, fax, and wireless services are available with reasonable prices. Cellular telephone service is also available in Tbilisi. Most public telephones in the city are not in working order.


Georgian international mail service is very slow. Federal Express and DHL are available in Tbilisi but can be very expensive.

Radio & TV

Cable television is available in Tbilisi for a reasonable monthly fee. English-speaking programming includes CNN, Cartoon Network, TNT, ESPN, SKYNEWS, and NBC SUPER CHANNEL. Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Russian programs are also available on cable. Georgia uses the PAL format for all television broadcasts.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Medical facilities in Tbilisi are government operated and include specialized hospitals, medical institutes, and outpatient polyclinics. One of the largest hospitals, Republican Hospital, serves not only Tbilisi but also outlying areas of the country. None of the facilities practices Western standards. There is a shortage of medicines, but the situation is improving slowly with supplies coming in from Turkey and Germany.

Under the Soviet system, everyone was immunized. At present, however, a shortage of vaccines has caused epidemics of diphtheria, measles and mumps. Also due to the lack of vaccines for animals, rabies has been on the increase. Last year there were over 25 human cases of rabies in Georgia.

Several private medical emergency/referral services are available which provide twenty-four hour ambulance service and direct referral to specialists.

In the past year, a private medical clinic, OMS, has opened. It is staffed by a western trained doctor and medic.

Community Health

The most common health problems encountered with Embassy personnel are the usual health problems found in the United States, mainly those causing upper respiratory distress. Those with allergies have increased problems during the spring when the trees are flowering.

The most common intestinal problems are giardia and food poisoning. Post provides water filters which attach to the water source in the kitchen and supply potable water. Many people also purchase Brita filters to filter out the large amount of sediment in the water. Care should be taken in eating raw fruits and vegetables. As in most overseas posts, it is recommended that fruits and vegetables not peeled or cooked be washed and then soaked in a chlorine solution. Purchasing meat and dairy products in the open market can be risky in the summer due to lack of refrigeration. Meat should always be well cooked.

Preventive Measures

Update immunizations before coming and bring at least a three to six month supply of prescription and frequently used over-the-counter drugs. Limited emergency dental care is available but it is very important to get a dental checkup and complete all dental work before leaving the U.S.

Prescription glasses are not available locally so it is helpful to bring an extra pair or make arrangements to have glasses sent if necessary. Bring a copy of your prescription with you.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 7 Christmas (Orthodox)

Jan. 19 Epiphany

Mar. 3 Mother's Day

Apr. 9 Memorial Day

Aprl. 16 Recollection of Deceased

May 26 Independence Day

Aug. 15 Mariamoba (Assumption)

Aug. 24 Constitution Day

Aug. 28 Day of the Virgin

Oct. 14 Svetitskhovloba

Nov. 23 St. George of Iberia Day



Passage, Customs & Duties

A passport and visa are required. U.S. citizens may receive a visa upon arrival at Tbilisi Airport, the Port of Poti, and the Red Bridge ("Tsiteli Khidi") crossing on Georgia's border with Azerbaijan. Americans intending to enter Georgia at other points-of-entry must obtain a visa beforehand at a Georgian embassy or consulate abroad. Armenian and Azerbaijani visas are no longer valid for transit through Georgia. Travelers to Georgia must fill out a customs declaration upon arrival that is to be presented to customs officials when departing the country. (Please see also the section on Georgian Customs regulations.) For further information, please contact the Embassy of Georgia at 1615 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20009, tel. (202) 387-2390, fax: (202) 393-4537; Internet:

Travelers to Georgia must fill out a customs declaration upon arrival that is to be presented to customs officials when departing the country. Travelers are advised to declare all items of value on the customs form. Failure to declare currency and items of value can result in fines or other penalties. If your customs form is lost or stolen, please report the loss to the police to obtain a certificate to show to customs officials when you depart the country.

Traveler's should be aware that Georgia's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary importation into or export from Georgia of items such as alcohol, tobacco, jewelry, religious materials, art or artifacts, antiquities, and business equipment. Only personal medicines with a doctor's statement can be imported without the permission of the Georgian Department of Healthcare.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Georgia are strongly encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, where they may obtain updated information on travel and security within Georgia. The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi is located at 25 Atoneli Street, tel. (995)(32)98-99-67 or (995)(32)98-99-68, fax: (995)(32)93-37-59. The Embassy web site address is located at:

Complex visa requirements in Russia make it more desirable to fly to Tbilisi from Western Europe, usually from London, Zurich, Frankfurt, Vienna, or Istanbul.

Air travel connections to Tbilisi are difficult to arrange outside of Georgia. A number of charter flights serve Tbilisi each week, but it is difficult to get information on these flights outside of Georgia.


In compliance with the World Health Organization (WHO), Georgian authorities require that pets entering or departing Georgia must have a health certificate stating the pet is in good health, is free from infectious disease, and has had a rabies inoculation not less than 10 days and not more than 30 days before departure. The certificate must be validated by the appropriate medical authority in the country where travel begins.

U.S. airlines require that animals must be in a kennel and transported in the reserved animal area in the hold. Note that the few veterinarians in Tbilisi have a shortage of supplies and vaccines. Boarding kennels are unavailable. All pet vaccinations should be up-to-date. Pet owners should bring all pet supplies that may be required.

Firearms & Ammunition

U.S. citizens may not import firearms into Georgia; however, hunting weapons may be brought into the country for a two-week period based on valid Georgian hunting licenses. Membership in the Georgian Society for Hunting is also required.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The Lari is Georgia's official currency. Only Lari-based transactions are legal. Georgia has several reliable banking facilities which can transfer currency into and out of Georgia.

The Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel is the only business venture that accepts travelers checks and major credit cards for dining and lodging. The Guest House "Betsy" also accepts credit cards.


These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on Georgia.

Allen, W.E.D. A History of the Georgian People. Barnes & Noble, 1971.

Burney, Charles, and David Marshall Lang. The Peoples of the Hills: Ancient Ararat and Caucasus. Praeger, 1972.

Dumas, Alexandre. Adventures in Caucasia. Chilton Books, 1962.

Kazemzadeh, Firuz. The Struggle for Transcaucasia, 1917-1921. Philosophical Library, 1951.

Rosen, Roger. The Georgian Republic. Guidebook Co. Ltd., 1991.

Shevardnadze, Eduard. The Future Belongs to Freedom. The Free Press, 1991.

Ulam, Adam. Stalin: The Man and His Era. Viking Press, 1973.


views updated May 17 2018


Official name : Georgia

Area: 69,700 square kilometers (26,807 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Shkhara (5,201 meters/17,064 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 3 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Not available

Land boundaries: 1,461 kilometers (906 miles) total boundary length; Armenia 164 kilometers (102 miles); Azerbaijan 322 kilometers (200 miles); Russia 723 kilometers (448 miles); Turkey 252 kilometers (156 miles)

Coastline: 310 kilometers (192 miles)

Territorial sea limits: None


Georgia is located in southwestern Asia, east of the Black Sea. It borders Turkey and Armenia on the south, Azerbaijan on the southeast, and Russia on the north. With a total area of about 69,700 square kilometers (26,807 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina. Georgia is divided into fifty-three rayons, nine cities, and two autonomous republics.


Georgia has no outside territories or dependencies.


The Georgian climate is notably humid, warm, and pleasant on the Black Sea coast. The Greater Caucasus Mountains to the north protect this area from truly cold weather. Even in midwinter, the average temperature is 5°C (41°F). The average summer temperature along the coast is 22°C (72°F). The plains region to the east, blocked from the sea by the Suram Mountains, is more continental in climate with hot summers and cold winters. Summer temperatures there range from 20°C (68°F) to 24°C (75°F), while in winter they range from 2°C (36°F) to 4°C (39°F). The climate becomes cooler in the mountains, with alpine conditions starting at about 2,100 meters (6,800 feet). Above 3,600 meters (12,000 feet), the mountains are covered with snow and ice year-round.

The areas along the Black Sea coast and inland through the Kolkhida Lowlands experience high humidity and heavy precipitation of 100 to 200 centimeters (40 to 80 inches) per year. The Black Sea port of Batumi receives 254 centimeters (100 inches) of rain per year. At higher elevations, humidity is lower and rainfall averages 46 to 81 centimeters (18 to 32 inches) per year.


Although it is a small country, Georgia features extremely diverse terrain, with both high mountain ranges and fertile coastal lowlands. Most of the country is mountainous, with the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the north and the Lesser Caucasus in the south. In the mountains, earthquakes and landslides frequently destroy life and property. In the west, the Kolkhida Lowland borders the Black Sea, while the terrain in the east consists of the plains of the Kura River Basin. The country is situated in the isthmus between the Caspian and Black Seas.

Included within Georgia's boundaries are two autonomous republics: Ajaria in Georgia's southwestern corner, and Abkhazia in the northwest. Another autonomous region is South Ossetia, in the north-central part of Georgia. Separatists have sought to detach these areas from Georgia, especially in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Georgia's shoreline lies at the easternmost edge of the Black Sea. The Black Sea is a tideless, nearly landlocked body of water that lies between southeastern Europe and Asia Minor. It connects to the Sea of Marmara to the southwest through the Bosporus Strait. The principal Black Sea ports in Georgia are Pot'i and Batumi.


The largest lake in Georgia is Lake Paravani, which is located in the south-central area of the country and covers an area of about 37 square kilometers (14 square miles). Lake Ritsa, located in the Caucasus Mountains in the northwest corner of the country, is the nation's deepest lake, at 116 meters (382 feet). Other major lakes include Paliastomi, Kartsakhi, and Yabatskuri. There are also several small lakes found in the mountains.


The Kura (Mtkvari) River is the largest river in Georgia. It flows 1,514 kilometers (941 miles) from its source in Turkey across the plains of eastern Georgia, through the capital, Tbilisi, and on into Azerbaijan before entering the Caspian Sea. The largest river in western Georgia, the Rioni, flows from the Greater Caucasus into the Black Sea at the port of Pot'i. The country's other rivers include the Iori, Khrami, and Inguri.


There are no desert regions in Georgia.


With a mostly mountainous terrain, Georgia has no significantly large sections of flatland or prairie.


About 85 percent of the total land area of Georgia consists of rugged mountains. The Greater Caucasus Mountains, stretching across the northern border with Russia, is the tallest range in the country. Mount Shkhara (5,201 meters/17,064 feet), on the Georgian-Russian border, is the highest peak. Mount Kazbek (5,037 meters/16,526 feet), also in this chain, is the tallest mountain fully within Georgia's borders. In the south, the Lesser Caucasus peaks rarely exceed 3,000 meters (10,000 feet). The Suram Mountains follow a northeast-southwest path across the center of the country, connecting the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Ranges.


The cave towns of Georgia are considered to be among the most significant historical and cultural monuments of the nation. As the name suggests, these are ancient towns built entirely of caves that include both natural caves and those hand-carved into the mountains and hills. The mountain locations and underground structures served to protect the inhabitants from early invaders.

The ancient city of Uplistsikhe, dating from the sixth century b.c., was inhabited well into the ninth and tenth centuries. It is located near Gori and carved into a rocky plateau that forms a bank of the Kura River. Besides living quarters, the complex includes huge banquet halls, long corridor-shaped streets, chapels for pagan worship and the remains of Georgia's oldest theaterwith an auditorium, stage, and orchestra pit.

Vardzia is a cave monastery complex in southern Georgia, near the border with Armenia, that was built in the twelfth century by Queen Tamar, the daughter of King Giorgi III. The complex stretches for five hundred meters along the Kura River. It includes a large cathedral, as well as a number of smaller churches, wine cellars, feast halls, and hundreds of small cells, which served as living quarters for the monks.

The Gareji Complex is also a cave monastery system which was founded by the Syrian monk David Gareji, who lived in a natural cave that became the center of the complex. Located south of Tbilisi, it is built into a hill area near the separation of the Kura and Iori Rivers, and includes at least twelve individual cave dwellings. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the monks of the Gareji order became famous for their own school of fresco painting. A number of the walls of the cave structures are covered with such paintings.


A high plateau known as the Kartaliniya Plain follows the eastern side of the Suram Range, along the Kura River to the border with Azerbaijan. Further east, a semiarid region called the Iori Plateau borders the Iori River.


In Georgia's Soviet period (1921-1991), engineers turned the Rioni River lowlands into prime subtropical agricultural land by straightening and banking much of the river and building an extensive network of canals.

Numerous man-made reservoirs exist throughout the country to provide water for drinking and irrigation. They include the Khrami, Djandari, Shaori, Tbilisi, Sioni, and Zhinvali, among others.


The Caucasus Region is the land area between the Black and Caspian Seas, which includes southwest Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. This area forms part of the traditional natural boundary between Europe and Asia.



Georgia. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1993.

Spilling, Michael. Georgia. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1998.

Suny, Ronald G. The Making of the Georgian Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

Web Sites

International Union: Georgia Travel Guide. (accessed May, 2003).

Parliament of Georgia: State of the Environment. (accessed May, 2003).

United Nations Environment Programme. (accessed May, 2003).


views updated Jun 27 2018


Country statistics


69,700sq km (26,910sq mi) 5,402,800

capital (population):

Tbilisi (1,382,900)


Multi-party republic

ethnic groups:

Georgian 70%, Armenian 8%, Russian 6%, Azerbaijani 5%, Ossetian 3%, Greek 2%, Abkhazian 2%, others 3%


Georgian (official)


Georgian Orthodox 65%, Sunni Muslim 11%, Russian Orthodox 10%


Lari = 100 tetri

Republic in central Europe. The Transcaucasian republic of Georgia contains the two autonomous republics of Abkhazia and Ajaria, and the province of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia). It has four geographical areas: the Caucasus Mountains form its n border with Russia, and include its highest peak, Mount Kazbek, at 5042m (16,541ft); the fertile Black Sea coastal plain in the w; the e end of the Pontine Mountains form its s borders with Turkey and Armenia; and a low plateau to the e extends into Azerbaijan. Between the mountains lies the Kura valley and the capital Tbilisi.


The climate varies from subtropical in the Black Sea lowlands to the permanent snow-covered, alpine Caucasus. Tbilisi has moderate rainfall, hot summers and cold winters.


Forest and shrub cover c.50% of Georgia. Alpine meadows lie above the tree line. The coastal plain has apple orchards and orange groves.


The land of the legendary Golden Fleece, Georgia has a strong national culture and a long literary tradition based on their own language and alphabet. From the 6th century bc, the two Black sea kingdoms of Iberia and Colchis developed in eastern and western Georgia respectively. In 66 bc, the Roman Empire conquered both kingdoms. The Persian Sassanids ruled during the 3rd and 4th centuries ad. Christianity arrived in ad 330, and the established Church is independent Eastern Orthodox. In the 11th century, it acquired independence from the Turkish Seljuk Empire. The 12th century was Georgia's greatest period of cultural, economic, and military expansion. Thereafter it split, finding itself in the centre of a power struggle between the rival Persian and Turkish empires. In 1555, Georgia divided between Persia (w) and Turkey (e). In the early 19th century, the Russian Empire absorbed the whole of Georgia.

Despite a brief period of independence after the Russian Revolution (1917), in 1921 Georgia became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Russia combined Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan into a single republic of Transcaucasia. This federation dissolved in 1936, and Georgia became a separate Soviet republic.

After violent demonstrations in 1989, Georgia declared independence (May 1991). By the end of 1991, President Gamsakhurdia's authoritarian regime brought civil war to Tbilisi. In 1992, Gamsakhurdia was deposed and Eduard Shevardnadze emerged as the leading figure. Faced by conflict from Gamsakhurdia's supporters and secessionist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Shevardnadze called in Russian troops to defeat the rebellion.

In return for Russian support, Georgia joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 1993. Shevardnadze was elected president in 1995, and re-elected in 2000. Minority demands for secession continued, and in 1995 South Ossetia was renamed Tskhinvali, and Abkhazia granted autonomous status. In 2001, Georgia and Abkhazia signed a peace accord and agreed to the safe return of refugees. CIS peace-keeping forces deployed in the region. In 2002, US military instructors arrived in Georgia to train special forces against Chechen and al-Qaeda fighters in the remote Pankisi Gorge region. In 2003, Shevardnadze was deposed in a peaceful revolution following accusations of vote-rigging. In 2004, Mikhail Saakashvili won presidential elections.


Georgia is a developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$4600), its economy devastated by civil war and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Agriculture engages 58% of the workforce, although the rugged terrain makes farming difficult. The e region is famous for its grapes, used to make wine. The coastal lowlands produce tea and tropical fruit, and are a tourist destination. Georgia is rich in minerals, such as barite, coal, and copper. These remain largely unexploited, although manganese mining is relatively extensively. Georgia has huge potential for generating hydroelectric power, but depends on Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Russia for oil.

Political map

Physical map



views updated May 23 2018


Country statistics


69,700sq km (26,910sq mi) 5,402,800

capital (population):

Tbilisi (1,382,900)


Multi-party republic

ethnic groups:

Georgian 70%, Armenian 8%, Russian 6%, Azerbaijani 5%, Ossetian 3%, Greek 2%, Abkhazian 2%, others 3%


Georgian (official)


Georgian Orthodox 65%, Sunni Muslim 11%, Russian Orthodox 10%


Lari = 100 tetri

Republic in central Europe. The Transcaucasian republic of Georgia contains the two autonomous republics of Abkhazia and Ajaria, and the province of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia). It has four geographical areas: the Caucasus Mountains form its n border with Russia, and include its highest peak, Mount Kazbek, at 5042m (16,541ft); the fertile Black Sea coastal plain in the w; the e end of the Pontine Mountains form its s borders with Turkey and Armenia; and a low plateau to the e extends into Azerbaijan. Between the mountains lies the Kura valley and the capital Tbilisi.


The climate varies from subtropical in the Black Sea lowlands to the permanent snow-covered, alpine Caucasus. Tbilisi has moderate rainfall, hot summers and cold winters.


Forest and shrub cover c.50% of Georgia. Alpine meadows lie above the tree line. The coastal plain has apple orchards and orange groves.


The land of the legendary Golden Fleece, Georgia has a strong national culture and a long literary tradition based on their own language and alphabet. From the 6th century bc, the two Black sea kingdoms of Iberia and Colchis developed in eastern and western Georgia respectively. In 66 bc, the Roman Empire conquered both kingdoms. The Persian Sassanids ruled during the 3rd and 4th centuries ad. Christianity arrived in ad 330, and the established Church is independent Eastern Orthodox. In the 11th century, it acquired independence from the Turkish Seljuk Empire. The 12th century was Georgia's greatest period of cultural, economic, and military expansion. Thereafter it split, finding itself in the centre of a power struggle between the rival Persian and Turkish empires. In 1555, Georgia divided between Persia (w) and Turkey (e). In the early 19th century, the Russian Empire absorbed the whole of Georgia.

Despite a brief period of independence after the Russian Revolution (1917), in 1921 Georgia became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Russia combined Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan into a single republic of Transcaucasia. This federation dissolved in 1936, and Georgia became a separate Soviet republic.

After violent demonstrations in 1989, Georgia declared independence (May 1991). By the end of 1991, President Gamsakhurdia's authoritarian regime brought civil war to Tbilisi. In 1992, Gamsakhurdia was deposed and Eduard Shevardnadze emerged as the leading figure. Faced by conflict from Gamsakhurdia's supporters and secessionist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Shevardnadze called in Russian troops to defeat the rebellion.

In return for Russian support, Georgia joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 1993. Shevardnadze was elected president in 1995, and re-elected in 2000. Minority demands for secession continued, and in 1995 South Ossetia was renamed Tskhinvali, and Abkhazia granted autonomous status. In 2001, Georgia and Abkhazia signed a peace accord and agreed to the safe return of refugees. CIS peace-keeping forces deployed in the region. In 2002, US military instructors arrived in Georgia to train special forces against Chechen and al-Qaeda fighters in the remote Pankisi Gorge region. In 2003, Shevardnadze was deposed in a peaceful revolution following accusations of vote-rigging. In 2004, Mikhail Saakashvili won presidential elections.


Georgia is a developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$4600), its economy devastated by civil war and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Agriculture engages 58% of the workforce, although the rugged terrain makes farming difficult. The e region is famous for its grapes, used to make wine. The coastal lowlands produce tea and tropical fruit, and are a tourist destination. Georgia is rich in minerals, such as barite, coal, and copper. These remain largely unexploited, although manganese mining is relatively extensively. Georgia has huge potential for generating hydroelectric power, but depends on Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Russia for oil.

Political map

Physical map



views updated Jun 08 2018



The people of Georgia are called Georgians; about 70 percent of the population trace their ancestry to Georgia. Minorities include Armenians, 8 percent; Russians, 6 percent; Azerbaijanis, 6 percent; Ossetians, 3 percent; and Greeks, 2 percent. This chapter includes an overview article on the Georgians, and articles on two of Georgia's smaller ethnic groupsAbkhazians and Adjarians.

About this article


All Sources -
Updated Aug 24 2016 About content Print Topic