Not that Georgia note —Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო Sakartvelo, Russian: Грузия Gruziya) is a former Soviet state located right smack in between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is situated in The Caucasus, and its national capital is 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 at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. It has been invaded by Romans, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Seljuks, Ottomans, Russians and basically every major forces of nearby regions. Because many of these invaders happened to be Muslim, Christianity became tightly associated with nationality, and Georgia gained the nickname "Gatekeeper of Christianity".
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 Russian forces have now been withdrawn.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 many 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. However, the Russian-backed separatists have also committed atrocities, which led to around 200K-250k Georgians to flee their homes in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia (and Nauru, Nicaragua, and Venezuela) 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. Georgia also has a small border dispute with Azerbaijan over the David-Gareja monastery complex, but this has never evolved into a serious issue. Otherwise, Georgia 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 from 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 "Kartvelian" family more or less consisting of itself and a couple of close relatives.note
Georgia is known as the homeland of wine. The 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 countries to develop polyphonic music, with three 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 guests are amazed by the love and respect the strange people show them. Due to the importance of Christianity, its elements are everywhere, most notably almost all of the old architecture consists of churches, and the flag too contains five crosses; that said, Georgia has long had a large minority of Muslims who remain to this day, although many of their number have spread across the Muslim world and assimilated there (a good number in the 19th century joined the armies of the neighboring Circassians and ended up in high places across the Arab world). All in all, the Georgian culture was always Western-oriented, but with big Eastern influences, creating a 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 to 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). Actually, the problem plagues the entire Caucasus; ordinary folks would have problems dictating which continent that neighbors Azerbaijan and Armenia (the latter of which, geographically-speaking, is located wholly in Asia, but is sometimes classified as a part of Europe due to its Christian heritage) belong to. The three countries, after all, are the crossroad of the two continents and are the definitive examples of "East meets West", sharing this distinction with Turkey, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Russia.note
- Katie Melua, a singer.
- Ioseb 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. You read that right, the most "influential" figure in symbolizing the evils of the Russian communists wasn't a Russian at all, but instead from a little country that's (ironically) bullied by the bear today. He actually kind of hated himself for being a Georgian (despite treating it favorably in comparison to the other republics), and refused to speak his native Georgian except with his mother (who didn't know any other languages). The Russian he spoke, he spoke with a thick Georgian accent for all of his life. By the way, while Stalin is universally hated everywhere else, never try to speak ill of him in his homeland (especially in his hometown, Gori).
- 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. However, his family was actually Mingrelian, an ethnic minority in Georgia that is a distinct subgroup among the Georgian majority. The Soviet government classified them as a part of the Georgian ethnicity beginning in the 1930s, and they have a different language, although it's close to Georgian (most of the Mingrelians know both languages).
- Giorgi Kvinitadze, commander-in-chief of the short-lived Democratic Republic of Georgia. He went into exile in France when the Red Army invaded the country and made it a Soviet republic. Actress Maryam d'Abo is one of his grandchildren.
- 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 Cold War ended, 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.
- Elena Satine, although she started on a variety show at the age of 6 in Georgia, she later emigrated to the US and is much better known for her role in Revenge.
Georgia provides examples of:
- David Versus Goliath: Short summary of most of its history
- The Determinator: Like Armenia. It's been conquered by empires innumerable and manages to retain its distinctive Kartvelian culture and language, two things that are very hard to keep when someone invaded you. And unlike Armenia, the invasion continues to this day (courtesy of Russia), which Georgia responds by amping up the country's de-Russification.
- Gratuitous Russian: Well, it's an ex-Soviet republic. The leaders have tried to prevent this (with varying degrees of success), though.
- Our Elves Are Different: It's sort of a gag that "Georgians are Elves" due to having a unique alphabet that strongly resembles Tengwar and other LoTR Elvish scripts and exotic language note . Bonus points for being an old civilization and most of the country being covered in forests... and being quite arrogant, looking down upon their neighbors.note
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: This 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 Unpronouncable: Its language permits you to stack up a ridiculous number of consonants, producing such teeth-breakers as mts'vane ("green"), ts'q'ali (water) and since Georgian is an agglutinative language (meaning that it massively uses suffixes and prefixes) it ends up creating abominations such as gvp'rtskvni ("you peal us"). In the context of Caucasian languages, though, it isn't particularly strange or unpronounceable (especially compared to the horror that is Adyghe); Caucasus is just that weird.
- Vestigial Empire: During the Middle Ages, Georgia was a strong regional power and controlled the entire area from Sinope to Ardabil. Georgian kings even fashioned themselves as "Autocrats of all the East and the West", being Byzantine wannabes.note Even the Mongols couldn't manage to break it, only partially subordinating its eastern and southern areas as tributaries. However, things got bad after eight invasions by Tamerlane that ruined the kingdom. And things went from bad to worse after the fall of Constantinople, which meant that they lost their natural ally and organically connected nation, Byzantium, resulting in them being surrounded by hostile Muslim hordes. After nearly 300 years of bloodbath and misery, it was annexed by Russia, briefly regained independence, was annexed by communistic Russia,note and again regained independence in 1991. Nowadays they are slowly regaining their regional power status, though having lands occupied by a foreign power doesn't really help.
Georgia in fiction
- Classical Mythology features Georgia, known as "Colchis", as one of the foreign kingdoms that the the ancient Greeks sometimes visited as part of their voyages. Colchis is featured notably in Jason and the Argonauts, as the location of the Golden Fleece, the goal of Jason's quest. His lover (whom he eventually dumped), Medea, was a Colchian, too.
- The Caucasian Chalk Circle is set in the medieval Kingdom of Georgia, with frame story in modern (that is, given when it was written in 1940s Soviet-era) Georgia.
- Splinter Cell concerns a President Evil from Georgia invading neighboring countries and launching cyberattacks (and planning some even worse things) against the USA. The first and last mission take place in Tbilisi.
- The five first missions of the first game in the Ghost Recon series (released in 2001) take place in Georgia (and the rest takes place in other former Soviet Republics). The country has been invaded by Russian ultranationalists and Ossetian separatists backed by them, and the Ghosts are sent to help liberate it. A Georgian specialist, machine-gunner Guram Osadze, joins the Ghosts after said missions are completed. The most disturbing thing about the game is the date of its events... 2008, the very same year as the Real Life war with Russia out of yet another Ossetian crisis. There's also a blatant case of Artistic License regarding the apparently Russian signs in the war-torn streets of Tbilisi.
- Will be featured as the main setting of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3.
- Abkhazia is featured in the first chapter of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, with a terrorist coup trying to decrease Russian influence in the region.
- The Abkhazian war is dramatized in Estonian film Tangerines.
- 1964 Soviet film Father of a Soldier was a Georgian production about an elderly Georgian farmer who leaves his village to find his son, a tankist serving with the Red Army on the Eastern Front of World War II.
- The very first episode of Saturday Night Live featured an Albert Brooks comedy short film in which the United States and the Soviet Union traded Georgias.
- Nelly Virsaladze from Saki is from Georgia (sometimes referred to as Sakartvelo), having won the junior high world Mahjong championship she becomes the captain for the Mahjong team of a Tokyo high school.
- Fiction might not be the right word, but the Trio take a trip to Georgia (and neighbouring Azerbaijan) as part of their road trip from the shores of the Black Sea to the shores of the Caspian in season three of The Grand Tour. Apart from getting up to their usual antics in Stalin's home town of Gori pronounced the country to be a "hidden gem".
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) ends in eastern Georgia with an assault on General Barkov's hidden gas factory.
- Do Not Grieve is a 1969 comedy film made during the Soviet era, but in the Georgian language with an all-Georgian cast.
The Georgian flag
The Georgian national anthem
- Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
- President: Salome Zurabishvili
- Chairperson of the Parliament: Archil Talakvadze
- Prime Minister: Irakli Garibashvili
- Capital and largest city: Tbilisi
- Population: 3,716,858 (excluding Abkhazia and North Ossetia) or 4,012,104 (including Abkhazia and North Ossetia)
- Area: 69,700 km² (26,900 sq mi) (119th)
- Currency: Georgian lari (₾) (GEL)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: GE
- Country calling code: 995
- Highest point: Shkhara (5201 m/17,064 ft) (22nd)
- Lowest point: Black Sea (2,212 m/7,257 ft) (-)