Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of Georgia is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 km² and its population is almost 4.7 million. Georgia is a unitary, semi-presidential republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.
During the classical era independent kingdoms became established in what is now Georgia. The kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia adopted Christianity in the early 4th century. A unified Georgia reached the peak of its political and economic strength during the reign of King David IV and Queen Tamar in the 11th–12th centuries. At the beginning of the 19th century, Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire. After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia was occupied by Soviet Russia in 1921, becoming the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and part of the Soviet Union. After independence in 1991, post-communist Georgia suffered from civil unrest and economic crisis for most of the 1990s. This lasted until the Rose Revolution of 2003, after which the new government introduced democratic and economic reforms.
Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe and the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. It contains two de facto independent regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which gained limited international recognition after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Georgia considers the regions to be part of its sovereign territory under Russian military occupation.
Ethnic Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi (ქართველები), their land Sakartvelo (საქართველო – meaning "a land of Kartvelians"), and their language Kartuli (ქართული). According to the ancient Georgian Chronicles, the ancestor of the Kartvelians was Kartlos, the great grandson of the Biblical Japheth. The name Sakartvelo (საქართველო) consists of two parts. Its root, kartvel-i (ქართველ-ი), specifies an inhabitant of the core central-eastern Georgian region of Kartli, or Iberia as it is known in sources of Eastern Roman Empire. Ancient Greeks (Strabo, Herodotus, Plutarch, Homer, etc.) and Romans (Titus Livius, Tacitus, etc.) referred to early eastern Georgians as Iberians (Iberoi in some Greek sources) and western Georgians as Colchians.
The terms "Georgia" and "Georgian" appeared in Western Europe in numerous early medieval annals. At the time, the name was folk etymologized – for instance, by the French chronicler Jacques de Vitry and the compiler John Mandeville – from Georgians' especial reverence of Saint George. Another theory, popularized by the likes of Jean Chardin, semantically linked "Georgia" to Greek and Latin roots, respectively, γεωργός ("tiller of the land") and georgicus ("agricultural"). The supporters of this explanation sometimes referred to classical authors, in particular Pliny and Pomponius Mela, who wrote of "Georgi" tribes, which were named so to distinguish them from their unsettled and pastoral neighbors. According to some scholars, "Georgia" could have been borrowed in the 11th or 12th century from the Syriac gurz-ān or -iyān and Arabic ĵurĵan or ĵurzan, derived from the New Persian gurğ or gurğān.
Geography and climate
Georgia is situated in the South Caucasus, between latitudes 41° and 44° N, and longitudes 40° and 47° E, with an area of 67,900 km2 (26,216 sq mi). It is a very mountainous country. The Likhi Range divides the country into eastern and western halves. Historically, the western portion of Georgia was known as Colchis while the eastern plateau was called Iberia. Because of a complex geographic setting, mountains also isolate the northern region of Svaneti from the rest of Georgia.
The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range forms the northern border of Georgia.The main roads through the mountain range into Russian territory lead through the Roki Tunnel between South and North Ossetia and the Darial Gorge (in the Georgian region of Khevi). The Roki Tunnel was vital for the Russian military in the 2008 South Ossetia war because it is the only direct route through the Caucasus Mountains. The southern portion of the country is bounded by the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range is much higher in elevation than the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, with the highest peaks rising more than 5,000 meters (16,404 ft) above sea level.
The highest mountain in Georgia is Mount Shkhara at 5,068 meters (16,627 ft), and the second highest is Mount Janga (Dzhangi-Tau) at 5,059 m (16,598 ft) above sea level. Other prominent peaks include Mount Kazbek) at 5,047 m (16,558 ft), Shota Rustaveli (4,860 m (15,945 ft)), Tetnuldi (4,858 m (15,938 ft)), Mt. Ushba (4,700 m (15,420 ft)), and Ailama (4,547 m (14,918 ft)). Out of the abovementioned peaks, only Kazbek is of volcanic origin. The region between Kazbek and Shkhara (a distance of about 200 km (124 mi) along the Main Caucasus Range) is dominated by numerous glaciers. Out of the 2,100 glaciers that exist in the Caucasus today, approximately 30% are located within Georgia.