Capital : Tbilisi (Tiflis)
Abkhaz Republic (Abkhazia), Adzhar Republic (Adzari), South Ossetia
Size: 26 900 sq m Popn: 5 471 000
Georgia was Christianized in the C4th and as the Persian and Byzantine empires weakened during the C7th, it became an independent kingdom. It was at its most powerful under the Bagration Dynasty from the C11th to C13th but then came under the control of a series of imperial powers - Persia, the Mongols and Ottoman Turkey - before it was annexed by Tsarist Russia in 1801. Tbilisi became an important centre of commerce but the Georgian language and church were gradually suppressed.
In 1918, during the confusion of the Bolshevik Revolution, Georgia declared itself independent but did not gain Western support and the rebellion was put down by the Red Army in 1921. Georgia joined the USSR as part of the Transcaucasian Federation with its southern neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan and became a full republic in 1936. It was largely industrialised by the 1950s but there was resistance to the rural collectives and the 1930s saw purges ordered by police chief Lavrenti Beria. During the Second World War, the Soviet dictator, Stalin, had 200 000 Meskhetians, a people of Turkish descent, deported to Central Asia. They are still campaigning to be allowed to return to their homeland of Meskhetia on the border with Turkey.
The Georgian administration became increasingly corrupt and lax during the 1950s and 60s. Edward Shevardnadze, leader of the Georgian Communist Party, led a campaign against this from 1972-85 and the process of Russification was intensified, leading to mass demonstrations. In 1974, university lecturer Zviad Gamsakhurdia, founded the Initiative Group for the Defence of Human Rights in Georgia and nationalist feeling grew. It was given further strength when the policy of glasnost began in the late 1980s and a Georgian Popular Front and a separatist group, the National Democratic Party of Georgia, were founded in 1988, encouraging anti-Georgian feeling amongst the republic's minority groups in Abkhazia and Ossetia. In April 1989, the killing of peaceful pro-independence demonstrators by Soviet troops in Tbilisi fuelled the nationalist movement and in 1989-90, the GCP purged its old leadership and joined the secessionists. In Georgia's Supreme Soviet elections of October 1990, the Round Table-Free Georgia coalition of seven nationalist parties won easily and Gamsakhurdia was elected state president. In 1991, parliament voted to form a republican National Guard, ending conscription to the Soviet Army.
Georgia boycotted the all-USSR referendum on the constitution in 1991, holding its own plebiscite on independence, of which 99% of the voters were in favour. Independence was declared in April and a campaign of civil disobedience against Soviet interests began. Gamsakhurdia was the first republic president in the USSR to be directly elected in 1991, defeating five rivals and gaining 87% of the vote but his failure to strongly denounce the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August led to the resignation of prime minister Tengiz Sigua. The GCP was banned but Gamsakhurdia grew increasingly dictatorial, arresting opponents and closing pro-opposition newspapers. After protests in which government troops fired on the crowds a state of emergency was imposed in September by which time most of Giorgi Chanturia's National Democratic Party had been arrested. As the power struggle intensified, Gamsakhurdia fled to Armenia in January 1992. These distractions may explain why Georgia did not join the Commonwealth of Independent States, formed in December 1991 to replace the USSR but it was admitted to the Conference of Security and Co-operation in Europe and joined the UN in July 1992. A military council led by prime minister Sigua crushed a rebellion in support of Gamsakhurdia but gave way to a new parliament elected in October and chaired by Shevardnadze. The -multi-party system became fragmented with over 100 different groups struggling for power and there was unrest in South Ossetia and Abkhazia which wanted autonomy.
Russian influence upon personal names and customs has been strong.
Those ending in '-ov' or '-ev' are Russian forms.
|Bagrat III||c 1008-11|
|Basil II||c 1021|
|George II||c 1089|
|David III the Builder||c 1089-1125||son of George II|
|Demetrius I||1125-55||son of David III|
|Thamar||1184-1212||daughter of George III|
|George IV||1212-23||son of Thamar|
|Rusadan||1223-||sister of George IV|
|Bagrat V||c 1386|
|Alexander I the Great||-1442|
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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