Georgia became a kingdom in about 4 B.C. Two Georgian Kingdoms of late antiquity, known to Greece and Rome as Iberia (in the east of the country) and Colchis (in the west), were among the first nations in the region to adopt Christianity (in 337 AD, or in 319 AD as recent research suggests). Colchis is the location of the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts in the Greek myth, which may have derived from the local practice of using fleeces to sift gold dust from rivers. Known to its natives as Egrisi or Lazica, Colchis often saw battles between the rival powers of Persia and the Byzantine Empire, both of which managed to conquer Western Georgia from time to time. As a result, those Kingdoms disintegrated into various feudal regions in the early Middle Ages. This made it easy for Arabs to conquer Georgia in the 7th century. During the reign of Queen Tamara (1184–1213), Georgia’s territories included the whole of Transcaucasia. During the 13th century, Tamerlane and the Mongols decimated its population. From the 16th century on, the country was the scene of a struggle between Persia and Turkey. In the 18th century, it became a vassal to Russia in exchange for protection from the Turks and Persians.

Georgia joined Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1917 to establish the anti-Bolshevik Transcaucasia Federation and on its dissolution in 1918 proclaimed the independence. In 1922, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were annexed by the USSR and formed into the Transcaucasia Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1936, Georgia became a separate Soviet republic. Under Soviet rule it was transformed from an agrarian country to a largely industrial urban society.

Georgia proclaimed its independence from the USSR on April 9, 1991. In January 1992, the first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was sacked and later accused of dictatorial policies, the jailing of opposition leaders, human rights abuses, and clamping down on the media. A ruling military council was established by the opposition until a civilian authority could be restored. In 1992, Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Union’s foreign minister under Gorbachev, became a president.

In 1992–1993, the government engaged in armed conflict with separatists in the breakaway province of Abkhazia. In 1994, Russia and Georgia signed a cooperation treaty that authorized Russia to keep three military bases in Georgia and allowed Russians to train and equip the Georgian army. In 1996, Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia agreed to cease the hostilities in their six-year conflict. With little progress in resolving the Abkhazia situation, however, parliament in April 1997 voted overwhelmingly to threaten Russia with loss of its military bases, should it fail to extend Russian military control over the separatist region. In 1998, the U.S. and Britain began an operation to remove nuclear material from Georgia, dangerous remains from its Soviet years. A darling of the West since his days as the Soviet Union’s foreign minister, Shevardnadze was viewed far less favorably by his own people, who were frustrated by unemployment, poverty, cronyism, and rampant corruption. In the 2000 presidential elections, Shevardnadze was reelected with 80% of the vote, though international observers determined that the election was marred by irregularities.

In 2002, U.S. troops trained Georgian military in antiterrorist measures thus Georgian troops would be able to subdue Muslim rebels fighting in the country. Tensions between Georgia and Russia were strained over the Pankisi Gorge, a lawless region of Georgia that according to Russia had become a haven for Islamic militants and Chechen rebels.

In May 2003, the constructions began on the Georgian section of the enormously ambitious Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which runs from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey. The pipeline opened in July 2006.

Massive demonstrations began after the preliminary results of the November 2003 parliamentary elections. The opposition party (and international monitors) claimed that the elections were rigged in favor of Shevardnadze and the political parties who supported him. After more than three weeks of massive protests, Shevardnadze resigned on November 30. Georgians compared the turn of events to Czechoslovakia’s “velvet revolution.” In January 2004 presidential elections, Mikhail Saakashvili, the key opposition leader, won in a landslide. The 36-year-old lawyer built his reputation as a reformer committed to end the corruption. During his first two years of presidency Saakashvili made a significant progress in rooting out the country’s endemic corruption. Saakashvili’s ongoing difficulty has been to rein in Georgia’s two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which are strongly supported by neighboring Russia.


Georgia was one of the first Soviet republics to take steps towards independence. This process was accelerated by the events of 9 April 1989, when Soviet Soldiers brutally crushed a peaceful rally in Tbilisi, killing 21 protestors. Elections held on 28 October 1990 put an end to Soviet Georgia. The Round Table – Free Georgia party, headed by former dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia won a convincing victory. On 31 March 1991, a referendum on the restoration of the country’s independence was overwhelmingly approved. Georgia’s Declaration of Independence was adopted at a session of the Supreme Council on 9 April 1991. On 26 May 1991, the first presidential elections were held. Zviad Gamsakhurdia won 87% of the vote and became the first president of independent Georgia. The events of 9 April had a deep resonance in many republics of the Soviet Union, particularly in the Baltic countries. In 1991 protests were held against Gamsakhurdia, as a result of which a part of the intelligentsia found itself in the opposition. By the end of December 1991, civil war was in full swing in Tbilisi. On 6 January 1992, Zviad Gamsakhurdia and his supporters were expelled from Georgia. For the following two months the country was governed by a so-called ‘Military Council’, whose members were ex-Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua, ex-Minister of Defence Tengiz Kitovani and Jaba Ioseliani, and the head of the Mkhedrioni militia. In March 1992, Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Georgia from Moscow in order to head up the Military Council. Additional conflicts arose in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia and the Autonomous Region of Southern Ossetia. With the help of certain Russian military divisions and the Confederation of the Peoples of Northern Caucasus, they defeated Georgian forces and became de facto independent. In 1995, the Constitution of Georgia was adopted and presidential and parliamentary elections were held the same year. Eduard Shevardnadze, until then Georgia’s de facto leader was officially elected president, a post he would hold until 23 November 2003. In 1999 parliamentary elections were held again and the ruling Citizens’ Union party was declared the winner. On 2 November 2003, the next parliamentary elections took place and despite widespread falsifications, the Central Election Commission awarded victory to the pro-government bloc For New Georgia. It is for this reason that on 4 November 2003, peaceful protestors took to the streets of Tbilisi demanding that parliamentary elections be held anew. The protests were led by Zurab Zhvania, Mikheil Saakashvili and Nino Burjanadze. On 22 November, during the first sitting of the new parliament, the situation reached its climax. In the morning Freedom Square was already congested with protestors. In the aftermath of that popular movement, which became known as the “Rose Revolution,” new elections in early 2004 swept Mikheil SAAKASHVILI into power along with his United National Movement (UNM) party. Progress on market reforms and democratization has been made in the years since independence, but this progress has been complicated by Russian assistance and support to the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Periodic flare-ups in tension and violence culminated in a five-day conflict in August 2008 between Russia and Georgia, including the invasion of large portions of undisputed Georgian territory. Russian troops pledged to pull back from most occupied Georgian territory, but in late August 2008 Russia unilaterally recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Russian military forces remain in those regions. Billionaire philanthropist Bidzina IVANISHVILI’s unexpected entry into politics in October 2011 brought the divided opposition together under his Georgian Dream coalition, which won a majority of seats in the October 2012 legislative election and removed UNM from power. A new constitution shifting many powers from the president to the prime minister and parliament, including the power to name the prime minister and government ministers, does not go into effect until after a new president is elected in the fall of 2013. Conceding defeat, SAAKASHVILI named IVANISHVILI as prime minister and allowed Georgian Dream to create a new government. Tensions remain high as IVANISHVILI and SAAKASHVILI and their supporters struggle to co-exist until the end of the president’s term.

Presidential elections were held in Georgia on 27 October 2013. The last elections in January 2008 resulted in the re-election of Mikheil Saakashvili for his second and final presidential term. The elections were held under a two-round system. Giorgi Margvelashvili was elected with a majority of votes in the first round.

Following the presidential elections, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who had declared his intention to quit the government, named Irakli Garibashvili as his successor. He and his cabinet won majority of votes in the Parliament of Georgia. Irakli Garibashvili remains Prime minister of Georgia since November, 2013.


In November 2011, Georgia and Russia agreed to a Swiss-mediated proposal that allowed for the monitoring of trade flow between the two countries. The agreement would allow Russia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) by December. Membership to the WTO is based on a consensus; therefore, Russia needed to gain the consent of Georgia. Hostilities between the two countries, including a war in 2008, have kept the two countries from an agreement before now. In return for its consent, Georgia asked for direct trading on its border with Russia.