Useful Notes: Georgia

Georgia on My Mind...

Not that Georgia note — Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო Sakartvelo) is the former Soviet state, known to the locals as with its capital at Tbilisi. Formerly the Georgian SSR, it became independent with the collapse of the USSR. But the history of country goes much further back. It was mentioned in Greek myths as "Kolkhis" and since then it has always been a target of many empires due to its strategic location. It has been invaded by Romans, Byzantians, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Seljuks, Ottomans, Russians and basically every major forces of nearby regions. Mostly it was Muslim countries though, because Georgia served as a "Gatekeeper of Christianity" throughout the history, leading to the fact that Christianity was associated with nationality, it was the main difference between invaders and Georgians. Most of the time, rather than being attacked directly, enemies found more clever, indirect ways for conquest.

Georgia produced a lot of aircraft for the Soviet Union, ending up with some left in the factory when it gained independence, but little else. It had an Su-25 fleet undergoing upgrades. What's left of it is unclear. It was also a major supplier of electric locomotives, and still exports them to Ukraine.

The country underwent a peaceful revolution in 2003, deposing Eduard Shevardnadze, former Soviet foreign minister. Russian forces have now been withdrawn. Georgia is a pro-American state, with plans to join NATO soon and has a street in Tbilisi named after George W. Bush. It was a member of the Multinational Coalition in Iraq, and sent 4,000 troops to aid in the Iraq War.

There are two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both backed by Moscow. During the Soviet period, both regions enjoyed autonomous status, which meant among other things, their own language media (such as an Abkhazian newspaper and language institute), and different representation in the Supreme Soviet. When Georgia departed from the Soviet Union, it became clear that both regions would lose their prior arrangement. A war in the early 1990s in the latter led to the mass expulsion of ethnic Georgians from that area and a lot of deaths, with atrocities on both sides. This has led to tension between the two neighbours, culminating in Georgian troops invading South Ossetia to "restore peace and order" in August 2008. However, due to the indiscriminate shelling by Georgian forces, they ended up killing several Russian peacekeepers in the area, as well as dozens of South Ossetian civilians. This was considered an act of war by Moscow, and led to a massive and disproportionate Russian retaliation against Georgia, also claiming Georgian atrocities against ethnic Russians in South Ossetia. Russia (and Nicaragua) have officially recognized South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence, with the West generally lining up in Georgia's corner. As a final poignant cap to this, in 2010, a major Georgian television news network broadcasted an Orson Wells-style hoax stating Russia had invaded Georgia, and that the political opposition had killed the President. In October 2012, the newly elected Prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili pledged to try to mend Georgia's severely damaged relations with Russia.

A third region just north of Armenia known as Samtskhe-Javakheti, populated largely by ethnic Armenians, has also been pushing for autonomy (since the region has been subject to severe neglect, forced ethnic integration, and kept in poverty by an apathetic Georgian government), leading to some instability, ethnic clashes and shaky relations with Armenia as a result. Though Armenia has shown concern for the plight of the people of Javakh, a repeat of the war those two countries had over the region back in 1918 isn't too likely as landlocked Armenia needs Georgia for importing and exporting, and it already has its hands full with Turkey and an increasingly threatening Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, the province of Ajaria, with it's large Turkish population, has had radicals wanting it to become part of Turkey. Georgia otherwise has fairly stable relations with all three countries, aside from Armenia and Azerbaijan often trying to convince it to take sides in their conflicts.

Georgian uses a different alphabet to Russian and a VERY different language. It is (as far as we know) completely unrelated to any of the major language families, instead being part of a "South Caucasian" family more or less consisting of itself and a couple of close relatives.

Georgia is known as the Homeland of wine. First traces of winemaking were found there. Today, there are over 500 sorts of winegrapes known in Georgia. Another cultural characteristic is that Georgia is (one of the) earliest country to develop polyphony, with 3 vocal parts. Yet another important characteristic is the importance of guests. An old saying is that a guest comes from God and was considered sacred. Even today, foreign guest are amazed by the love and respect the strange people show them. Due to importance of Christianity, it's elements are everywhere, most notably almost all of the old architecture consists of churches. All in all, the Georgian culture was always western-oriented, but with big eastern influences, creating an unique culture.

Georgia (West Georgia, to be precise) is also the place Jason and the Argonauts went to get the Golden Fleece, although it was named Colchis at that time and later for quite a while.

The Patron Saint of the country is St. George, as for Serbia, Russia, England, Greece, Montenegro and Canada, among other territories. However it is not named after St. George, at least not directly; the name comes from the Ancient Greek word "geōrgos", which means "land-worker". The Greeks named the country "geōrgos", because they were the only people working on land in the region as they first met them. However, the name George has the same origin; it was a personal name meaning "land-worker", i.e. farmer. (The Georgians reciprocated by calling Greece "Saberdzneti", based on the root word "berdz", which means "wisdom". Georgian is one of two languages that doesn't refer to Greece using derivatives of "Greece", "Ionia", or "Hellas", the other being Chechen, and likely the only one that refers to Greece as "land of wisdom".)

One interesting thing about Georgia is that it's not clear on which continent it is. According some sources, it's Europe, according to others - Asia (German Post, for example, considers it to be in Asia, as it costs more to send things to Asia than to Europe, But Organizations for European cooperation etc. considers it to be in Europe).

Famous Georgians
  • Katie Melua, a singer.
  • Iosef Besiarionis dze Jugashvili,(which, by the way, means Iosef Besarion's son Jugashvili and was a common way to name oneself in Soviet Union) aka Josef Stalin.
  • Lavrenti Pavles dze Beria, Stalin's right-hand man and the head of the NKVD State Sec. His brutal methods are only second to Stalin's own.
  • Meliton Kantaria, the Great Patriotic War soldier who raised the Victory Banner over the Reichstag in 1945.
  • John M. Shalikashvili, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1993-1997; the only foreign-born general to hold America's top military post.
  • Eduard Shevardnadze (not to be confused with Edward Scissorhands), Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union known for helping bring about an end to the Cold War in the late 1980s. When The Great Politics Mess-Up happened, he ran for (and won) the post of President of Georgia, a job he lost in 2004 during the "Rose Revolution" protests.
  • Nodar Kumaritashvili, a luge specialist who was killed in a training accident just before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. His teammates considered withdrawing before dedicating their performances to him. They also wore black arm bands and tied a black ribbon around the Georgian flag during the parade of nations.
  • George Balanchine, famous Georgian-Russian-American ballet choreographer and founder of the New York City Ballet. His family's original surname is Balanchivadze.

Georgia provides examples of:

  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: resulted due to all the wars through history and proud mountain-folks nature. Even the word "Hello" in Georgian means something along the lines "may you win", while instead of "good morning" Georgians wish each other "a morning of peace".

The Georgian flag
The flag is based on the Saint George's Cross, in honor of its patron saint. Its main differentiation from other flags of its type are four Bolnisi Crosses on each quarter, representing Christianity in Georgia. The flag was adopted in 2003 to replace the original flag of a maroon field with a black-and-white canton, which had been associated with Georgia's post-Soviet troubles.

Alternative Title(s):

Republic Of Georgia