“”Soviet colonialism sabotaged the foundations of a modern, liberal national state in Georgia.
|—Stephen F. Jones, American Caucasus analyst.|
Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო Sakartvelo) is a tiny (approximately half the size of the homonymous US state) country in eastern Europe. It is located in the Caucasus and borders Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Georgia was formerly part of the Soviet Union, just like most of its neighbors. Also, like those neighbors, its government is dominated by one party, the center-left (but socially conservative) Georgian Dream. It was also the birthplace of Joseph Stalin (under the name Ioseb Jughashvili/იოსებ ჯუღაშვილი). Its capital and largest city is Tbilisi.
Georgia is currently involved in a territorial dispute with the de facto independent regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which seceded from Georgia with the help of Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Georgia was possibly the birthplace of wine; the oldest wine found to date, at 8,000 years old, was found there in 2003. Interestingly, images of worshiping wine were found on the jars, and this may have been the origin of such gods as the Greek Dionysus and the Roman Bacchus. Some ancient metallurgical remnants were found in Georgia as well.
In days past, Georgia was split into two kingdoms: Colchis in the west and Iberia (not to be confused with the one in Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and Gibraltar) in the east. Colchis was an important location for Greek mythology, with the Golden Fleece being located there. Iberia became part of the Persian Empire, while Colchis was incorporated into Roman territories as Lazica for a while. Eventually, the unified Kingdom of Georgia was formed, but it fell apart circa 1466. After another few hundred years of strife, it was incorporated into the
glorious Russian Empire from 1800 to the October Revolution.
Soon after the October Revolution, the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic was formed, encompassing Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and small sections of eastern Turkey and southwestern Russia. Georgia exited one month and four days after the republic's formation, with Armenia and Azerbaijan following two days later. Georgia was then independent for less than three years as the Democratic Republic of Georgia, a Menshevik government. It was absorbed by the Soviet Union after its military forces could not repel the Russians.
When Georgia was incorporated into the USSR in 1921, it retained its borders and extended just slightly past its current boundaries (including the disputed Abkhazia and South Ossetia). As a Soviet republic, it had a pseudo-capitalist economy. It somewhat resisted the communist economic system the USSR preferred, resulting in high ownership of cars and houses and making it one of the most economically prosperous divisions of the USSR. Eventually, Georgian nationalists began to clash with the Soviets, but Georgia remained in the union until the 1991 collapse.
The Rose Revolution, or in Georgian, ვარდების რევოლუცია (lit. Revolution of Roses), was a large-scale peaceful protest occurring across Georgia, which took place between November 3 and 23, 2003. The protests resulted in the resignation of the nepotistic, corrupt Soviet-era leader Eduard Shevardnadze, whose place was briefly taken by the conservative parliamentarian Nino Burjanadze until an election could be held. In the next election, Mikheil Saakashvili (the de facto leader of the revolution) won in a landslide with 96% of the votes and a large voter turnout of 80%. The protests may have helped inspire the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Armenian Velvet Revolution of 2018.
Saakashvili wound up as president of Georgia until 2013 after this victory, although opponents accused him of electoral fraud. His administration was a mixed bag; although he had a pro-European and globalist agenda and helped eliminate rampant corruption, his presidency was plagued by human rights abuses and authoritarianism. In addition, his government failed to adequately protect protesters with unpopular ideologies like LGBT rights groups (although Georgia is better with LGBT rights than its neighbors, with the parliament having unanimously approved anti-discrimination legislation that protects LGBT citizens, and it is ranked a good deal higher by ILGA). Saakashvili tended to dismiss the arguments against him by accusing his opponents of being pro-Russia.
Eventually, Saakashvili and his party were kicked to the sidelines as the tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili and his new Georgian Dream party coasted in on a wave of popular discontent with the president. The presidential election held shortly after the parliamentary one resulted in the GD-associated candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili winning. Ivanishvili continued on essentially the same foreign policy path as Saakashvili but was considerably more corrupt and is thought by some to still be calling the shots behind the scenes due to GD's continued dominance. Saakashvili was rather bombastic and populist, while the current administration is less revolution-minded, and little of note has happened under its control.
Corruption was rampant until the Saakashvili administration of 2004 to 2013, with Soviet Georgia being considered corrupt even for a Soviet country. It decreased hugely throughout Saakashvili's presidency, but experienced a resurgence with the advent of Georgian Dream.
Although Saakashvili did a remarkable job of crushing corruption, OSCE observers assessed the 2008 presidential election as wrought with electoral fraud. However, some thought the electoral fraud wasn't widespread enough to have influenced the outcome of the election.
In the polls leading up to the 2016 parliamentary election in Georgia, only 19% of respondents selected the ruling Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia party as their first choice. Despite this low approval, the party won a whopping 115 of the 150 seats (partially due to the weird representation system of Georgia). Opposition parties accused Georgian Dream of vote-rigging, which is quite plausible. Although parties and people may win elections with a low approval rating, the massive disparity between opinion polling and electoral results looks suspicious.
Abkhazia/South Ossetia territorial disputes
Abkhazia is a province in northwestern Georgia. It is primarily inhabited by ethnic Abkhazians rather than Georgians like the rest of the country, who speak an entirely unrelated language, and there are some ethnic tensions between the two. Abkhazia has attempted to secede from Georgia and has been aided by Russia (rather in the manner of Nagorno-Karabakh). Few nations recognize Abkhazia as independent, and Georgia asserts its right to the territory. Elections may be illegitimate, as ethnic Georgians have been denied the right to vote. Most Abkhazians support independence, with a smaller percentage supporting Russian annexation and a very tiny percentage supporting Georgian unification. Currently, the conflict is unresolved.
South Ossetia is not an actual province in Georgia (well, it used to be, thanks to later-reversed, Soviet-era ethnic gerrymandering), but a region encompassing parts of several. It borders Russia and, like Abkhazia, has been aided in its secession by Russia. It and Abkhazia were the cause of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, with both fighting against Georgia alongside Russia and winning. Ethnic cleansing against various ethnic groups residing in the area was conducted by Ossetians.
- Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi - Front side.jpg
Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi.
- See the Wikipedia article on Georgia.
- See the Wikipedia article on Kingdom of Georgia. (1008 CE - 1490 CE)
- See the Wikipedia article on Russo-Georgian War.
- Stephen F. Jones. Wikiquote.
- Now that's what you call a real vintage: professor unearths 8,000-year-old wine
- The Gold Mine of Sakdrisi
- Breakup of Transcaucasia
- Svante Cornell, Autonomy and Conflict: Ethnoterritoriality and Separatism in the South Caucasus – Cases in Georgia, p. 149
- Giorgi Kandelaki, Georgia's Rose Revolution - A Participant's Perspective
- The Telegraph, Eduard Shevardnadze - obituary
- Natalia Antelava, Postscript: Eduard Shevardnadze, 1928-2014
- Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Georgia, Extraordinary Presidential Election, 4 January 2004: Final Report
- Taras Kuzio, The Orange and Euromaidan Revolutions: Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives
- Tom Parfitt, Opposition claims Georgia president rigged election victory
- President (Bush) and President Saakashvili Discuss NATO, Democracy
- Saakashvili, Filat Offer Support To Pro-EU Protesters
- Matthew Collin, Georgia to double troops in Iraq
- Georgia's corruption index dramatically improved -- 2004 vs 2008.
- United Press International, OHCHR upset over Georgia prison video
- Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch's Open Letter to President Saakashvili
- Claire Bigg, Mikheil Saakashvili's Polarizing Legacy
- Claire Bigg and Daisy Sindelar, Georgia: After Crackdown On Protests, President Calls Early Polls
- HRIDC, HRIDC statement on the dispersal of LGBT organization Identoba's demonstration
- Civil.ge, Anti-Discrimination Bill Adopted
- Rainbow Europe - Country Ranking
- BBC News, Mass opposition rally in Tbilisi, Georgia
- Giorgi Lomsadze, Georgia: Political Crisis Prompts Speculation About Ivanishvili’s Political Role
- Charges of Fraud Surface in Georgian Election - "It also appears that there was also voting fraud, the head of the OSCE observer mission said Thursday, Jan. 10. [...] Saakashvili won a majority of the votes, the election commission said. [...] 'There was crass, negligent and deliberate falsification during the vote counting,' German diplomat Dieter Boden said in an interview published in the Frankfurter Runschau newspaper. [...] Not only did OSCE observers report incidents of fraud during Saturday's vote, but conditions at Georgia's Central Elections Commission were 'chaotic,' Boden said."
- Robert Parsons, Mikheil Saakashvili's bitter victory.
- Public Opinion Survey - Residents of Georgia (p. 96)
- See the Wikipedia article on 2016 Georgian parliamentary election.
- Georgia ruling party leads in parliamentary polls: Early results
- A map of the international recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, Abkhazia
- Gerard Toal and John O'Loughlin, How people in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria feel about annexation by Russia
- MPIL, [http://www.mpil.de/en/pub/publications/archive/independent_international_fact.cfm Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, vol II] (p. 94)