“”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
epohomonymous US state) country in the South Caucasus, bordering Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. 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 centre-left (but socially conservative) Georgian Dream. It was also the birthplace of Josef 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.
- 1 History
- 2 Corruption and authoritarianism
- 3 Abkhazia/South Ossetia territorial disputes
- 4 Gallery
- 5 See also
- 6 References
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 very old 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 ended up becoming 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 formation of the republic, with Armenia and Azerbaijan following two days later. Georgia was then independent for a bit less than three years as the Democratic Republic of Georgia, interestingly enough a Menshevik government. It was absorbed by the Soviet Union after their military forces were unable to 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 and 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 it remained in the union until its 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 following 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 to inspire the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Armenian Velvet Revolution of 2018.
Saakashvili wound up as president of Georgia all the way to 2013 after this victory, although opponents accused him of electoral fraud. His administration was a mixed bag; although he had a rather 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, 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 up until the Saakashvili administration, with Soviet Georgia being considered corrupt even for a Soviet country. It was hugely decreased throughout Saakashvili's presidency, but it's experienced a resurgence with the advent of Georgian Dream.
Although Saakashvili did a remarkable job of crushing corruption, the 2008 presidential election was considered by European observers to have been wrought with electoral fraud. Some thought the electoral fraud wasn't widespread enough to have influenced the outcome of the election, however.
In the polls leading up to the 2016 parliamentary election in Georgia, the ruling Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia party was selected by only 19% of respondents as their first choice. Despite the low approval, the party got a whopping 115/150 seats (partially due to the weird representation system of Georgia). Georgian Dream was accused of vote rigging by opposition parties, which is quite plausible—although parties and people may win elections with a low approval rating, the massive disparity between opinion and results here is 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, 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 there may be illegitimate, as ethnic Georgians have been denied the right to vote. The vast majority of 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.
- 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
- Robert Parsons, Mikheil Saakashvili’s bitter victory
- Public Opinion Survey - Residents of Georgia (p. 96)
- 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)