Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Some basic Facts about Georgia

For those of you who have read the book, it should suffice to say that Georgia is Molvania and Tiflis is Lutenblag. No doubt about it.

For all others, here's a short introduction - quoting from the nation's own image brochure (!):

Georgia is a former republic of the Soviet Union, sharing borders with Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The country's recent history has been extremely bloody: On April 9, 1991, Georgia declared independence. Its first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was deposed in a bloody coup d'etat shortly thereafter. The coup was instigated by parts of the National Guards and a paramilitary unit called "Mkhedrioni" which was supported by Russian soldiers stationed in Tbilisi. The country became embroiled in a bitter civil war which lasted until 1995. In 1995, Shevadnardze was elected as president. At the same time, two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, became embroiled in disputes with local separatists that led to inter-ethnic violence and wars. Supported by Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have achieved and maintained de facto independence from Georgia.

In 2003, Shevadnardze was deposed in a bloodless coup after allegations of ballot fraud in the parliamentary elections. The so-called "Rose Revolution" was led by now president Mikheil Saakashvili. His party "National Movement Democrats" reached 75 percent of votes in the following elections, with only one other party crossing the 7 percent threshold. The vote is believed to have been one of the freest ever held in independent Georgia although an upsurge of tensions between the central government and the Ajarian leader Abashidze affected the elections in this region. The tension between the Georgian government and that of Ajaria grew increasingly after the elections. On May 1, Abashidze responded to to military maneuvers held by Georgia near the region with blowing up the three bridges over the Choloki River connecting Ajaria and the rest of Georgia.

On February 3, 2005, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania died of carbon monoxide poisoning in an apparent gas leak at the home of Raul Usupov, deputy governor of the Kverno Kartli region.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia has suffered a serious populations collapse (from 5.5 Million in 1990 to 4.5 Million in 2004) as the rebellion in Abkhazia, the strife in Ajaria and South Ossetia, a fragile economy and bad job opportunities led hundreds of thousands of Georgians to emigrate in search of work, especially to Russia. This is exacerbated by a very low birthrate among the people remaining.

Another government brochure ("Georgia since the Rose Revolution - a story of democratic transformation") tells us that nevertheless there's hope:

Today Adjara is on the move, with new investments taking place every week including an array of new roads, tunnels, schools, hotels and hospitals. As Adjara returns to its historical role as a center of trade and culture, so too are foreign and domestic tourists returning in ever greater numbers. Indeed, during the busy summer season of 2005, the number of visiting tourists more than tripled to just under 150,000. These included many new visitors from Armenia, attracted to Georgia's costline following the abolition of Georgia's notorious Road Police who in the past ectracted countless bribes.

Didn't I say Georgia was Molvania?


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