Population:4615807 (July 2010 est.)
About: Georgia's history is in some respects similar to Armenia's: in both cases small nations have successfully maintained their ancient cultures against successive invaders and regional overlords.... read more Georgia's history is in some respects similar to Armenia's: in both cases small nations have successfully maintained their ancient cultures against successive invaders and regional overlords. Georgia has its own Orthodox Christian Church which has been autocephalous for much of its history and played an important role in preserving the nation's identity, culture and traditions. The Georgian group of languages is unique and does not belong to any of the major language families. From the 18th century to the present day, Georgia has from time to time turned to Russia for protection and help: Russia's response over the years has varied according to her interests. Towards the end of the Soviet period, the strong Georgian sense of national identity became translated into a desire for political independence, especially after Soviet military intervention in April 1989. In November 1990, the radical nationalist Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected Chairman of the Georgian parliament following the landslide election victory of his Round Table/Free Georgia coalition. In March 1991 Georgians voted overwhelmingly (89.3%) for independence and the parliament unanimously adopted a declaration restoring Georgian independence as it existed in 1918. Gamsakhurdia (deceased in 1994) was subsequently elected President with 86.5% of the vote. However, he was deposed in 1992 and Eduard Shevardnadze, the former head of the Georgian Communist Party (1972-85) and ex-Soviet Foreign Minister (1985-89), was invited to head a new State Council. Shevardnadze pressed ahead with parliamentary elections in October 1992. International observers confirmed that the elections were free and fair. In November 1992 the new Georgian Parliament elected Shevardnadze as Head of State. Parliamentary and Presidential elections took place on 5 November 1995. Shevardnadze gained 73% of the vote and his party, the Citizens' Union of Georgia (CUG) won a majority in the Parliament. Shevardnadze was inaugurated as President under the new constitution in November 1995. Following President Shevardnadze's resignation in November 2003, a snap Presidential election was held on 4 January 2004. Mikhail Saakashvili was inaugurated as Georgia's third President since modern independence on 25 January 2004 after securing a landslide majority. The elections were widely seen as free and fair. Political violence blighted Georgia's early years after independence, with murders of both opposition figures and former President Shevardnadze's aides. Shevardnadze survived assassination attempts in August 1995 and February 1998. However, in recent years Georgia has experienced a relative stabilisation of the political situation and the restoration of law and order. The new Government of President Saakashvili has said it is committed to a restoration of law and order and respect for human rights.