Around 600 BC Greek (Ionian) trade colonies were founded along the Georgian Black Sea coast. The name Kolchis for the lowlands west of the Surami Mountains comes from this period, while the east was called Iberia. The area of today’s Georgia was founded in the 6th century BC. first by the Persian Achaemenids, in the 4th century BC. conquered by the troops of Alexander the Great. After his death in 323 BC. the area initially fell to his successor Seleukos, from 65 BC. it was under Roman rule. By the end of the 4th century AD Christianity had spread throughout the area.
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After the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD Kolchis came to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire, while the east (Iberia) came under Persian influence (Sassanids). From the middle of the 7th century, the Islamic Arabs conquered the territory of today’s Georgia and made it part of the Caliphate Empire. The local peoples were largely able to maintain their religion and self-government.
United Georgian Kingdom
Under the Armenian prince Ashot I, who founded the Bagratid dynasty in the 9th century, and his successors, the individual Georgian kingdoms in western and eastern Georgia united to form a kingdom recognized by the caliph. In the 12th century, the empire stretched from the Black to the Caspian Sea and included parts of Armenia and Persia.
From 1221 the kingdom was involved in battles with the Mongols, in 1242 it was defeated by the troops of the Mongol leader Batu Khan, the leader of the “Golden Horde”. In the second half of the 14th century, the country was partially devastated by the raids of the Turkic Timur-Leng.
From the end of the 15th century, the area of today’s Georgia fell into numerous smaller state entities, which became objects of controversy between the Ottomans (Turks) and the Persian Safavid dynasty. Some of the empires (eg Khartli and Kakheti) fell to the Persians, while Imeretia in the west of the country fell into the hands of the Ottomans.
In the 18th century, some of the local rulers, such as Irakli II, concluded agreements with the Tsar of Russia in 1783 to protect themselves against new attacks by the Persians. Indeed, the Safavid troops that attacked again could be driven out with Russian help, but the Russian armed forces remained in the country and exercised increasing influence. The Khartli and Kakheti empires were annexed by Russia in 1801 after the last Bagratid king died. In 1810 Imeretia also became part of the Tsarist Empire. The “Russification” of the areas of today’s Georgia and with it the suppression of local cultures and traditions (for example, the Georgian church was forced to merge with the Russian Orthodox, introducing the Russian language).Numerous uprisings by the population against the new foreign rule failed. During the First World War, almost the entire Caucasus and parts of Eastern Anatolia came under Russian rule.
Georgia in the USSR
After the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, Russian troops were withdrawn from the Caucasian countries. According to AbbreviationFinder, Georgia took advantage of this and declared itself an independent republic in May 1918. But already three years later Russian soldiers marched into Georgia again, the country was united with Armenia and Azerbaijan to form the “Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic” within the newly founded ” Union of Soviet Socialist Republics “(Soviet Union / USSR). Like the other Soviet republics, Georgia was forcibly adapted to the social and economic system of the USSR: The measures included the abolition of private property, compulsory collectivization, the establishment of a centralized planned economy, the introduction of the Soviet school system and industrialization.Countless Georgians fell victim to so-called “cleansing operations” during the Stalin era (1923-53) and disappeared in labor camps.
In 1936, the “Transcaucasian Socialist Soviet Republic” was dissolved and Georgia became an independent Soviet Republic (as were Armenia and Azerbaijan). The territories of the Ossetian, Abkhaz and Adzhara ethnic groups were declared autonomous areas. Georgia became one of the wealthiest republics within the USSR.
As part of the reforms of the Soviet head of state and party leader Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), calls for the country’s independence were raised again in Georgia. After a series of demonstrations, some of which were bloodily suppressed by the Russian military, the Supreme Soviet in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi declared its willingness to hold free elections. Under President Swiad Gamsachurdia, the Republic of Georgia declared its independence in April 1991 on the basis of the 1921 constitution. In the same year the Soviet Union was officially declared dissolved.
Georgian nationalism had already caused unrest among ethnic minorities in 1989. When the South Ossetians called for the union with the Autonomous Republic of North Ossetia, which was located in Russian territory, there was an open civil war with the government troops. The nationalist course of the head of state Gamsachurdia intensified the conflicts of the central power with the Ossetians, Abkhazians and Adjars. A unilateral declaration of independence by the South Ossetia Autonomous Region has not been recognized by the government in Tbilisi.
In January 1992, Edward Shevardnadze, former Soviet foreign minister under Gorbachev, became the new head of state in Georgia after his predecessor Gamsachurdia was deposed. In July 1992, the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia in northwest Georgia declared independence. As a result, the bloody civil war broke out between the Muslim Abkhazians and the Christian Georgians, who at the time made up around half of the population living in Abkhazia, with the Abkhazian militias receiving massive support from Moscow. By 1994 most of the Christian Georgians fled this region.
The ongoing conflict with Abkhazia and South Ossetia caused the Georgian economy – which was already weakened by the collapse of the Eastern Bloc markets – to suffer further losses. In October 1993 Georgia joined the CIS (“Commonwealth of Independent States”), an association of former Soviet republics that had existed since December 1991. The CIS brokered a peace agreement between Abkhazia and the government in Tbilisi in 1994. Abkhazia has been under strong Russian influence since the civil war; the common currency was the Russian ruble, not the Georgian lari. A ceasefire was only agreed with South Ossetia in 2004 after the conflict escalated again in the middle of the year.
In 1995 Georgia received a new constitution that expanded the powers of the head of state and government. In the presidential election in November 1995, Edward Shevardnadze was confirmed with a clear majority in the office of head of state and government (also in April 2000). His ruling party “Citizens Union” was again able to win the majority of seats in the parliamentary elections in October 1999. In October 2001, several thousand demonstrators in Tbilisi demanded the President’s resignation. Opposition politicians, but also young voices from within the ranks demanded that the powers of the president be curtailed in favor of the parliament. Shevardnadze then dismissed the entire government cabinet. In November 2003, Shevardnadze was forced to resign,after being accused of electoral fraud as a result of the general election. Opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili clearly prevailed and succeeded Shevardnadze in January 2004.
In November 2007 there were mass protests, the citizens accused the head of state of not fighting poverty and corruption adequately. Saakashvili, who was increasingly authoritarian, had the protests broken up by force, imposed a state of emergency for a week and ordered early presidential elections for January 2008. On January 5, 2008, tens of thousands of opposition supporters led by Lewan Gatchchiladze protested the official election result, which Saakashvili confirmed in office. OSCE observers also criticized violations of the law, but declared the election to be democratic overall. Saakashvili officially took up his second and last term on January 20, 2008.
In response to protests from the opposition, Parliament passed a constitutional amendment in March 2008 that, among other things, reduced the number of MPs from 235 to 150. Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement won 120 seats in the early parliamentary elections in May 2008. After the opposition failed to recognize the election result, mass protests broke out again.
On August 8, 2008, Georgia launched a military offensive in the Russian-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia to regain control of the area. Russia answered this question by invading its own troops into a buffer zone in the Georgian heartland and in Abkhazia. Four days after the invasion, Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia – based on EU mediation – agreed on a six-point plan to pacify the situation. In late August, despite all warnings from the United States and numerous European countries, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. According to official figures, around 850 people died during the war, and the number of internally displaced persons has increased to a total of 270,000 since the conflict began in 1989. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are to be peacefully reintegrated into the Georgian association of states. According to the government, violent reconquest is not to be feared.
Georgia was transformed from a presidential republic to a parliamentary democracy by the constitutional changes that came into force when President Margewelashvili took office in November 2013. The constitution is committed to fundamental and human rights, including freedom of expression and the press. Despite reforms, doubts remain about the independence of the judiciary. Other judicial and penal reforms are among the priorities of the Georgian Dream alliance government elected in office in October 2012. The country’s territorial division (central or federal state) remains open until reintegration and free elections are held in the breakaway conflict areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Georgian parliament passed a resolution in March 2013 confirming Georgia’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures as the country’s goal. The government has made improving relations with Russia one of its foreign policy priorities, while reaffirming its commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity. The Russian-Georgian rapprochement is made more difficult by Russia’s unchanged position in relation to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which it has recognized as independent. This, the presence of Russian military in the regions and the expansion of border facilities is an unacceptable situation for Georgia. The goal of Georgian foreign policy is to strengthen relations with the European Union and also with the Council of Europe, to which it has belonged since 1999.