Georgia

4,486,000
Tbilisi
Europe
Parallel

Early traders and conquerors of Georgia were the Greeks and Romans, but the Kingdom of Georgia first came into existence in the 9th Century under the Bagrationi Dynasty.

Georgia prospered and was doing well when it fell to the Mongols in 1243 and then became part of the Timurid Empire in the 1380s.

By the mid-1400s political and economic decline had led to a fracturing of the region into a number of Kingdoms and Principalities. This more fractured environment left the region open to invasion and in the late 15th Century the Ottomans encroached from the West whilst the Safavid Persians attacked from the East. The result left Georgia a battleground for several centuries.

It was only after the emergence of a Christian Russia to the north that Georgia saw some recovery in the early 18th Century. It was to be short lived as the Russians suffered a number of defeats and in 1795 the Persian Shah invaded and burnt Tbilisi to the ground.

Nevertheless the Russians returned and by 1801 Russia’s Tsar Paul I signed a decree incorporating the Kingdom of Georgia into the Russian Empire. The Persians attacked once more but this time were beaten back and the Russians gained old territory of Georgia which saw much of the original kingdom re-unified but not independent.

Stability came and Christianity was restored as the main religion. However a nationalist movement was building and in 1905 a large scale peasant revolt forced political reforms.

Around this time a Georgian Bolshevik, Joseph Stalin (born as Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili), became leader of the revolutionary movement in Georgia (and subsequent ruler of the Soviet Union). But it was the Russian Revolution of October 1917 which led Georgia to declare independence. On 26th May 1918 the Democratic Republic of Georgia was declared and a multi-party democratic system was introduced.

The fledgling democracy lasted until February 1921 when the Red Army invaded Georgia and the country was forcibly incorporated into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (TSFSR). In 1936 the TSFSR was dissolved and Georgia became the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Georgia remained part of the Soviet Union until 1991. Earlier, pressure on the Communist government had forced multi-party democratic elections to take place on 28th October 1990. The Round Table/Free Georgia bloc won 155 of the 250 seats whilst the Communists won 65 seats. Zviad Gamsakhurdia became the first president of Georgia and called a referendum on independence for 31st March 1991; this was won with 98.9% voting in favour.

9th April 1991 saw the formal declaration of Independence and Georgia subsequently declined to become part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Gamsakhurdia was soon perceived as too authoritarian and on 22nd December 1991 a coup d’état deposed him and he fled to Chechnya.

Eduard Shevardnadze was asked to head up the government, but a separatist uprising in Abkhazia led to destabilisation and the return of Gamsakhurdia was only stopped by the intervention of Russian forces.

Shevardnadze went on to win the 1995 and 2000 presidential elections with 77% and 82% respectively. During this period Georgia grew closer to the United States and signed a strategic partnership with NATO all to the annoyance of the Russians.

By 2002 the Shevardnadze government was becoming known for its corruption and a group of reformists led by Mikheil Saakashvili and Zurab Zhvania opposed the government in 2003 elections. Although Shevardnadze was deemed to have won, widespread demonstrations known as the Rose Revolution forced him to resign and he was replaced by Speaker of the Parliament, Nino Burjanadze, until fresh elections could be called.

Mikheil Saakashvili won those fresh elections on 4th January 2004 with 96% of the vote. Saakashvili’s party, the National Movement – Democrats (NMD), won the general election overwhelmingly. Constitutional amendments were introduced in 2004 which established the role of Prime Minister and Cabinet but also gave increased powers to the president.

In 2007 there were fresh demonstrations, this time against the Saakashvili government which was perceived as highly corrupt. They led to the bringing forward of new elections which Mikheil Saakashvili won with 53.4% of the vote and his United National Movement (UNM) won 119 of 150 seats.

In 2008 unrest in South Ossetia led to the 2008 South Ossetian War between Georgia and Russia with Russian forces entering the territory of South Ossetia. Currently tensions between the two sides still run high over the two separatist states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the Russian Federation maintains around 8,000 troops in the two breakaway regions.

In 2011 there were further demonstrations against the government and in April 2012 a new party led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili called Georgian Dream–Democratic Georgia was launched. Since then it has formed a four party bloc to fight against the incumbent government in the 2012 elections.

The President is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and may serve a second term.

The unicameral Parliament has 150 seats with 75 members elected by proportional representation and 75 from single-seat constituencies. Members serve five year terms.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Georgia at joint 44th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 57 (where 100 is least corrupt).