Several finds of early individuals of the genus Homohas
been made in Georgia. The Paleolithic (older Stone Age) is
well known through numerous surveys of cave settlements and
open settlements. The Late Paleolithic (c. 40,000-9000 BC)
is particularly well represented in the western part of the
country. Mesolithic settlement can also be occupied in caves
as well as in open places. The Neolithic apparently began
early, perhaps in the 7th century BC; finds of stone
implements indicate that the local population played a
significant role in the growth of an agricultural economy.
As in Armenia, metal objects existed before 4000 BC. During
the late copper age and the beginning of the Bronze Age (c.
3500-2000 BC), the Caucasian Kura-Arax culture predominated
in Georgia. During its final phase, monumental burial mounds
were built with rich trenches (among others in Trialeti and
Samtavro); influence from the Middle East is evident in the
Fortified settlements became a typical feature of Georgia
from the middle of the second millennium BC. In Abkhazia,
the so-called Colchian culture, which bears great
resemblance to the Coban culture, arose during the Late
Bronze Age and the Iron Age (c. 1200-800 BC). At the same
time, eastern Caucasus dominated the Central Caucasian
culture. During the 500s BC Greek colonial cities were built
on the eastern Black Sea coast. At about the same time, an
independent kingdom, Kolchis, was established in western
Georgia. Shortly thereafter, Georgia may for a time have
come under the dominion of the Akemenid Persian Empire, but
it came to an end in the last 300 BC.
For further developments in Georgia during antiquity, see
Iberians and Kolchis. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Georgia.
Georgian identity was confirmed by Christianity in the
300s. However, the final unification did not take place
until the 12th century, when strong Georgian rulers, such as
David the Builder and Queen Tamar, succeeded in subduing the
surrounding Muslim rulers. In the 15th century, the empire
split and fell under Turkish and Persian supremacy. In the
18th century, Georgians approached the Christian Russian
Empire with the intention of escaping increased repression
in the Ottoman Empire, but when the eastern of the two
Georgian kingdoms in 1801 was incorporated in Russia, this
was done without Georgian consent. During the period
1803-64, Russia also gradually occupied the western kingdom
and its four fairly independent vassals, including Abkhazia,
which was partially controlled by Turkey.
The new political affiliation transformed Georgian
society. The church was subordinated to the Russian
Orthodox, and a rigorous refreshment policy was implemented.
The Georgian royal family Bagrationi was expelled, and the
previously ruling aristocracy became an independent seat of
office. An Armenian trader class took over Georgia's
political and economic life, while many lifelong peasants,
in the course of increasing industrialization, turned into a
poor Tbilisi working class. In the latter part of the 19th
century, when the crackdown began again, Georgian
dissatisfaction increased, leading to both nationalism and
socialism winning ground. The Social Democratic Mensheviks
in particular achieved success.
Part of the Soviet Union
Between May 1918 and February 1921, Georgia was an
independent republic, ruled by the Menshevik Party. The
political situation was difficult, due to conflicts both
with neighboring republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan and
with the Bolsheviks in Russia and within Georgia. The
constitution gave some autonomy to Abkhazia, Adzjaria (part
of the Georgian-speaking area where many converted to Islam
under Turkish supremacy from the 1600s to the 1800s) and an
Azerbaijani-dominated area to the east. The Menshevik
government became increasingly nationalistic, which weakened
relations with minority groups in the Georgian territory.
After the Bolsheviks occupied Turkey with Turkish aid and
the Mensheviks fled, the area was transformed in 1921 into
part of a Transcaucasian Soviet republic. The following
refreshment campaign included purges of Georgians with
alleged nationalist sympathies. Ironically, the campaign was
staged by Georgians Josef Stalin, Lavrentij Berija and
Grigorij Ordzjonikidze. In 1936, the same year that Georgia
gained the status of the Soviet Republic, the same troika
initiated new and more extensive purging operations, which
resulted in the disappearance of large parts of the Georgian
party elite. At the same time, the Georgian social structure
was reshaped through Stalin's agricultural collectivization
and accelerated industrialization, which certainly gave rise
to a relatively high standard of living, but also to social
and ecological problems. Even within the Soviet Republic of
Georgia, Abkhazia and Adzharia gained a special position
called autonomous republics.
Since the 1970s, nationalism has again grown strong.
Attempts to curtail the role of the Georgian language led to
widespread protests. During Gorbachev's reign, non-communist
groups ran a fierce campaign for exile from the Soviet
In April 1991, Georgia declared its independence from the
Soviet Union, and a month later, nationalist Zviad
Gamsachurdia was elected president. The nationalists' strong
mobilization in Georgia led to military clashes with ethnic
minorities such as Abkhaz and South Ossetia. As early as
January 1991, a declaration of sovereignty from the region
of South Ossetia had resulted in armed conflict with
Georgian volunteer forces that resulted in 2,000 deaths and
that 3/4 of the region's 100,000 residents fled to other
parts of Georgia or to the Russian Federation.
Gamsachurdia's government soon provoked an open political
conflict with the opposition, which in December 1991 turned
into open revolt. Gamsachurdia fled to Armenia in January
1992 and then Chechnya. In 1993, he died under unclear
circumstances in his hometown of western Georgia.
A newly-appointed military council took over power and
invited former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze
to become formal head of state in his capacity as President
of Parliament. Without Shevardnadze's approval, the military
council launched an invasion of Abkhazia, which, after
initial successes, was fought back with the help of
volunteers from the Russian Federation. 13,000 people were
killed and about half of Abkhazia's 500,000 residents who
were ethnic Georgians or megelars became internal refugees
in Georgia. When the presidential post was re-established in
1995, Shevardnadze was elected by an overwhelming majority.
Georgia initially chose to stand outside the Commonwealth
of Independent States (CIS). During Eduard Shevardnadze's
presidential term, the country approached the Russian
Federation despite contradictions and also joined the CIS.
Under Shevardnadze's successor Micheil Saakashvili
(2004-13), Georgia left the organization again after South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, with Russian support, declared
Relations with the Russian Federation have since been
Georgia's biggest foreign policy problems and Russian
support for the two outbreak regions has been perceived by
Tbilisi as a threat to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial
integrity. President Saakashvili's main priority was to
restore the central power's control over the outbreak
regions, which in 2008 resulted in a brief war with the
Russian Federation, which intervened militarily in support
of the outbreak.
Saakashvili's successor Giorgi Margvelajsvili (born 1969;
President 2013-18) and the governments that have ruled the
country since 2012 have pursued a less activist policy in
relation to South Ossetia and Abkhazia and have also chosen
a more pragmatic line in relation to the Russian Federation
focused on economy, trade and other common interests.
Georgia has developed good relations with all its neighbors
in the Caucasus region.
Domestic politics is dominated by the Georgian Dream
- Democratic Georgia (DG) party, founded in 2011 on the
initiative of the wealthy businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili
(born 1956). Salome Zurabishvili, who in 2018 became the
country's first female president, admittedly stood as an
independent candidate but was supported by DG.