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Learn all about Georgia…the country!

Country of the Week: Georgia

Each week our church features a Country of the Week to pray for. We ask the Lord for laborers for the harvest in this specific country. One of the young teenage ladies in our church has begun to help us by using her writing skills to help us give you a better understanding of each featured country. Thank you Rachel Harrell, awesome teen SENDER, for using your talents to motivate others for world missions!

Basic Facts

Sakartvelo, or Georgia, has 4,636,400 people. The official language is Georgian. Tbilisi is the largest city, as well as capital. Mikheil Saakashvili is the president, and Nikoloz Gilauri is the prime minister. On December 25, 1991, Georgia gained final independence from the Soviet Union, and has been a independent country ever since.

In Georgia, 83.9 percent of the population is Orthodox Christian, making it the largest religion in the nation. Muslim is the next largest at 9.9 percent. 3.9 percent are Armenian Christians, and a small 0.8 percent are Roman Catholics.

The Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church has been around since the beginning of the fourth century. It is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. It was founded by Apostle Andrew the First Called.

There has been little persecution of religious sects in the Georgian community. Citizens have freedom of religion, and according to the Georgian constitution, religion and government are separate. Although, the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church has some influence. The rare persecution has been targeted towards Jehovah’s Witnesses and other ‘nontraditional faiths’. Most of this has been headed up by followers of Vasil Mkalavishvili, a defrocked Orthodox priest.

Georgia is an ethnically varied country. Among the groups represented, there are Greeks, Jews, Poles, Russians, and Abkhazians. There is a large amount of languages spoken. The official languages are spoken by 71 percent of the population, while 9 percent speak Russian, 7 percent speak Armenian, 6 percent speak Azeri, and another 7 percent speak other languages. Georgian and Abkhaz are the two official languages in Georgia.

The three largest cities in Georgia are Tbilisi (the capital) with 1,240,508 people. The second largest is Kutaisi with 202,443 people, and Batumi with 116,384 people as third.

Brief History

Georgia declared independence on April 26, 1918, during the Russian Civil War. Noe Zhordania, leader of the Georgian Social-Democratic Party, became prime minister of the new country.

In 1918, the country was involved in the Georgian-Armenian War. It was fought over Georgian territory mostly inhabited by Americans. The British intervened and the war was brought to an end.

In 1918-1919, Georgia attacked the White Army, in pursuit of a strip of Black Sea coast. The general leading the attack was Giorgi Mazniashvili. The country was under British protection from 1918 until 1920.

The Red Army attacked Georgia in February of 1921. The army was defeated, and the government officials fled. The Red Army penetrated the capital, and on February 25, 1921, a communist government was established in Tbilisi. The new government was handled from Moscow, and the new leader of Georgia was a Bolshevik named Filipp Makharadze.

Georgia, along with Armenia and Azerbaijan, was made part of the Transcaucasian SFSR. It was dissolved in 1936, and the country was named the Georgian SSR.

Joseph Stalin was a Georgian. He was a leading Bolshevik, and was among those who came to power in Russia after the October Revolution in 1917.

In World War two, nearly 700,000 Georgians died fighting with the Red Army against enemy Nazi Germany. Some 350,00 died on the battlefield. Some were fighting with the opposing side.

After some anti-communist opposition in the 1960s, along with small amounts of violence and revolt, Georgia declared their independence on April 9, 1991. It was not long before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was deposed not long after election. The coup lasted from December 22, 1991 to January 6, 1992. It was instigated by the National Guard and members of Mkhedrioni, the “horsemen”, a parliamentary organization.

The country was involved in a civil war until 1995. Eduard Shevardnadze came to Georgia and headed up a triumvirate known as the State Council. He was officially elected as president in 1995.

After disputes between local separatists and the majority of Georgian population turned into inter-ethnic violence wars, Abkhazia and South Ossetia claimed independence from Georgia. Russia supported their independence.

During this time, 230,000 to 250,000 Georgians were thrown out of Abkhazia and 23,000 Georgians left South Ossetia during 1992-1993.

In 2003, Shevardnadze was deposed by the Rose Revolution, despite his reelection in 200. This revolution was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, among others, who were former members and leaders under Shevardnadze.

Mikheil Saakashvili was elected president in 2004.

In 2008, Russia, along with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Georgia began a short conflict. It lasted from August seventh, through August twelfth, when Russian President Medvedev halted his advance into Georgia. There were 170 Georgian soldiers missing or dead, 1,964 wounded, and 42 taken prisoner.

Saakashvili has remained president since 2004.