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Cities in GEORGIA



Ancient history

Georgia was already inhabited in prehistoric times. Human remains have been found from the Plio-Pleistocene, about 1.8 million years ago. In the Stone Age, people lived all over Georgian territory. Archaeological finds dating from about 400,000 years B.C. to 100,000 years B.C. have been found in the mountainous areas, inland and on the coast of the Black Sea. About six to seven thousand years ago, people in this area started using metal objects in addition to stones.

Around 5.000 years ago, in the Bronze Age, Georgia was inhabited by tribes that maintained close ties with each other. Today's population is directly descended from these oldest inhabitants of the Caucasus. In the third millennium BCE, Georgian tribes spread across present-day Georgia and north-eastern Anatolia. In the 12th century BC, the first alliance of Georgian tribes, the Diaukh, was formed at the source of the Euphrates and Chorokhi rivers. In the 8th century BC, Diaukh was conquered and destroyed by the Pre-Asian kingdom of Urartu. Urartu also started wars against the second Georgian alliance, Colchis. Around 720 BC, Colchis, now under the name of Colchida, was destroyed by the Kimirians from the north, but they managed to revive their kingdom by developing agriculture, animal husbandry and metal industry. They also founded cities and used silver coins to trade with the Greeks, among others.

Colchida, however, weakened and was destroyed in the third century BC, and the eastern territories belonged from that time on to the eastern Georgia kingdom of Iberia (or Kartli). Iberia was already established in the fourth century BC after a struggle for leadership, won by the alliance based in the city of Mtscheta. The territory expanded under the leadership of the aristocrat Parnavazi from the Caucasus Mountains to the source of the Euphrates. Iberia was a rich, militarily strong country with highly developed agriculture and cattle breeding. Iberia lost a number of territories to Armenian kingdoms in the 2nd century BC. Colchida was annexed by King Mithridates VI of Pontus. In the 1st century BC there were several wars between Mithridates and the Romans. Iberia joined Mithridates but was immediately invaded by the Romans led by Pompey and in 65 BC the army of Artag, king of Iberia, was defeated.

A peace treaty was signed making Iberia an ally of the Romans. Colchida was also conquered by the Romans. Iberia again managed to improve its position considerably, which was advantageous to the Romans who thus had a strong ally in the east. Due to this strong position, the territory slowly expanded again. The lost areas in the south and also Armenia were conquered. In the third century, Iberia again sought closer relations with Rome to prevent attacks by the Persians. In 337, Christianity was declared the state religion, but the Georgian church developed its own identity.

Rise and fall of the Georgian Empire

In the first half of the fifth century, the threat from the Persians grew ever stronger. The neighbouring countries Armenia and Albania were conquered and East Georgia was also threatened. The Georgian-Persian wars were a fact, but under Vachtang Gorgasali the Persians managed to keep out of Georgia. At this time Tbilisi was founded as the new capital. At the end of the 5th century, an independent Georgian kingdom came into being, which was nevertheless conquered by the Persians under Chosrov I in the 6th century. At the end of the 8th century, the Bagrationi dynasty took control and held on to it for a thousand years. The territory of Georgia expanded to include part of Persia and northern Armenia. Also all the principalities of West and East Georgia were brought under one ruler. Some famous names from that time were: Aschot I, Bagrat III and Georgi III. The Georgian Empire reached its political height under Queen Tamar. It stretched from Dagestan to Azerbaijan. Some eastern Turkish provinces were also conquered. In 1235, the Huns invaded and East Georgia was conquered. West Georgia remained independent for a while. The invasion by the Mongol leader Timur Lenk proved disastrous for Georgia. Both politically and culturally, Georgia no longer represented much. From the 15th century onwards, Georgia consisted of some small, warring semi-independent kingdoms. In 1510 West Georgia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Socially, at that time, the high nobility was in charge. The low nobility or Asnauri exploited the peasant population. Georgian culture was guarded and preserved by the Church and the high nobility, especially by the women, who had an important place in culture for that time.

18th century: chaos and war

In the early 18th century, an ongoing civil war dominated West Georgia. East Georgia was a vassal state of Iran and fought in the war between Iran and Afghan tribes. In 1709 Vachtang VI succeeded King Giorgi XI who died in Afghanistan. Georgia developed well under Giorgi. In 1716 Vachtang was appointed king by the Shah of Iran. However, he secretly made an alliance with the Russian Tsar Peter the Great to go to war with them against Iran. Vachtang indeed invaded Iran, but the Russians unexpectedly withdrew. The shah saw through Vachtang's deception and gave the throne to Constantine II, the king of Kachetia.

In 1723 Tbilisi was taken and the invasions of the Turks in the west began. Eventually Vachtang fled to Russia, Constantine was killed and the Ottomans occupied Tbilisi. The following years were periods of great chaos. There were many internal battles and the Georgians also fought against the Turks and the Persians, who controlled large parts of Georgia. Georgia was also attacked by armies from Dagestan. The great man for the Georgians at that time was Teimuraz who succeeded in making the kingdoms of Kartli and Kachetia politically independent. After the death of Shah Nadir, there was again much fighting between the kingdoms. The Georgians achieved several successes and Erekla II became king of Kartli and Kachetia.

In the kingdom of Imenetia in West Georgia, King Solomon I fought against the Turks. In the second half of the 18th century the elite of Georgia turned more and more towards Russia. They hoped for Russian help against the attacks from Dagestan. In July 1783 a treaty was signed in Georgijevsk with Catherine II of Russia and Erekle II of Kartli and Kachetia. Erekle wanted to achieve that Georgia would become a large Transcaucasian state under the auspices of the powerful Russia. The Persians did not put up with this and on 11 September 1795 Tbilisi was plundered and large parts of the population deported. The Russians were nowhere to be seen. Around 1800, Georgia was totally disorganised and the Russian annexation soon followed.

National feelings and participation in the First World War

East Georgia (Kartli-Kachetia) was declared a part of the Russian empire in 1801. Protests from the population were bloodily suppressed. Members of the royal family were exiled to Russia after armed actions and from 1811 onwards, Tbilisi was a Russian provincial city completely governed and managed by the Russians. The principalities of West Georgia were first made into protectorates and then completely annexed. Many uprisings followed, especially in Abkhazia, but they were all put down. In 1878 Batumi was conquered, the whole of Georgia was in Russian hands and in fact a Russian province.

From about 1830, things were quieter in the rest of Georgia and people could start thinking again about building up agriculture, industry and trade. The Russians also allowed a limited cultural autonomy. Many Georgian aristocrats joined the Russian army. From 1860 onwards, industry flourished, although agriculture still dominated. From 1870 onwards, various nationalist movements and a Georgian labour movement emerged. Progressives led by Ilya Chavchavadze were very critical of Russian colonialism.

In 1881, Tsar Alexander II of Russia was assassinated, and a period of repression and Russification followed for Georgia. The latter meant that all Georgian cultural expressions (language, books, newspapers) were forbidden. This, of course, strengthened the nationalist movement around Chavchavadze. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, fierce fighting broke out in Tbilisi and West Georgia. Demands for complete independence became increasingly audible in Georgia. The First World War pushed these demands somewhat into the background. Industrial production collapsed and some 200,000 workers were engaged in the war.

After Turkey's participation in the war, Georgia even became a front region. In 1917, during the February Revolution led by Lenin, the monarchy fell in Russia, but Georgia remained free of all disturbances. After the revolution, the Caucasian states, parties and organisations refused to recognise Lenin's government. In November 1917 the decision was made to secede from Russia and on 15 November the Transcaucasian Commissariat led by Georgian Chkeidze was formed and its own government proclaimed. On 9 April 1918 the Transcaucasian Federation under the leadership of N. Chkeidze was proclaimed. This Federation consisted of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. At that time there was still fighting against the Turkish army. However, the Federation was divided among itself and, moreover, was not able to stand up to the Turks. Peace negotiations were quickly started, but Georgia needed the help of Germany to prevent Georgia from being occupied by Turkey.

Independence and Russian occupation

The Transcaucasian Federation was dissolved on 26 May 1918, and at the same time Georgia's independence was proclaimed. After 117 years of Russian domination, the Georgian state was revived. The leader of the Social Democrats, Noe Zhordania, became the leader of the first coalition government. The Georgian state began with many economic problems and food shortages. In 1920 Georgia was also recognised internationally by Germany, of course, but also by England, Italy and France. On 7 May 1920 the Russians recognised Georgian independence.

Only the Mensheviks in Russia did not recognise Georgia, because they were in favour of a 'one and indivisible Russia'. There were also border problems with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Invading Armenian troops were defeated and by the end of 1920, with the help of the British, everything was under control again; economically and culturally, Georgia began to flourish. In January 1921, Georgia was admitted to the League of Nations.

In the meantime, Russia had begun to reannex lost territories. In mid-February 1921, the Second Soviet Army invaded Georgia and on 25 February 1921, Tbilisi fell into Russian hands. On 4 March the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia was proclaimed and all official Georgian institutions such as the army were dissolved. Banks, railways and industry were put under state control. Under Ordzhonikidze's leadership began a massive repression, especially of the nobility and officers of the disbanded Georgian army. The Georgian church was also heavily pressured, as atheism was introduced throughout the Soviet Union. Stalin's autonomy project was refused by the Georgian Communist Party in 1922, but after a revision of the constitution in 1936 it was instituted anyway.

The building up of industry and the large-scale reorganisation of agriculture were tackled with vigour. Factories, power plants and mining were developed and monoculture was introduced in agriculture, especially tea and citrus fruits for the large Soviet market. Education, science and art were also developed according to socialist principles, so individualism was out of the question. In the years 1937-1938 alone, many thousands of Georgians, including many from the intelligentsia and cultural circles, were executed. More Georgians disappeared into the gulags, Stalin's concentration camps. There was no fighting on Georgian territory in the Second World War, but over 300,000 Georgians died as soldiers in the Soviet army. The industry was used entirely as war industry and therefore made a major contribution to the Soviet victory over the Germans.

After the Second World War: on the road to independence

After the war, Georgia's economy grew as prosperous, but the Stalinist terror continued. This only diminished after Stalin's death in 1953. His successor Khrushchev even condemned the Stalinist past of the Soviet Union. This met with opposition in Georgia because Stalin was originally from Georgia and led to major riots in Tbilisi on 9 March 1956 with more than 100 deaths. From then on there were regular demonstrations for independence.

In 1978 there was a small victory when not Russian but Georgian was kept as the state language. Gorbachev's perestroika had no influence on the Georgians for a long time. It was only from 1987 that the nationalist movement came to the fore, with Zviad Gamsachoerdia and Merab Kostava (who died in a mysterious car accident in 1989) providing the leadership. Internally, a lot happened around that time as well. The autonomous republic of Abkhazia wanted to secede from Georgia. Members of the National Democratic Party opposed this and also demanded Georgia's withdrawal from the Soviet Union. Many joined in this protest, which was crushed on 9 April 1989 with poison gas, among other things: the result was 19 dead and many hundreds wounded. This, of course, meant that nationalistic and anti-Russian feelings became stronger and stronger. On 19 November 1989, the Supreme Soviet of Georgia decided that all land, water, mineral resources and the most important means of production would become the property of the Georgian Republic. It also confirmed the right to secede from the Soviet Union and condemned the annexation of 1921.

On 2 February 1990 the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party gave up its leading role and on 9 March 1990 the Supreme Soviet of Georgia demanded negotiations for an independent Georgian government. The 1990 elections were won by Zviad Gamsachoerdia's coalition party Round Table/Free Georgia. In addition to demands for independence and democratic achievements, he also wanted to introduce several strict nationalist demands, such as stricter immigration rules and strict requirements for Georgian citizenship. Gamsachoerdia's coalition won 155 of the 250 seats in the Supreme Soviet. The only opposition party was the Communist Party with 64 seats. A transitional law towards independence was adopted and, among other things, the laws of the Soviet Union were declared invalid and the flag and the anthem of the Soviet Union were replaced everywhere.

In 1990, the Supreme Soviet was replaced by the National Congress. Opposition parties dominated the Congress and organised demonstrations and hunger strikes against government policy. They also demanded the withdrawal of the Red Army and a faster secession process. South Ossetia (Georgian: Samachablo) was occupied by Soviet troops with the approval of Gamsachoerdia. On 14 November 1990, Gamsachoerdia was elected president of the parliament. Criminal groups (mkhedrioni) opened the counter-attack by committing acts of violence throughout Georgia. In February 1991, these criminal groups were forced to disband. After a referendum on 31 March 1991, 90% of the population voted for independence. Independence was declared on 9 April 1991, and after the first free presidential elections on 26 May, Gamsachoerdia was elected as the first president of an independent Georgia. The Soviet Union tried to undermine the government by an economic and political blockade and to keep it within its sphere of influence. The Soviet Union was even supported in this by the West, including US President George Bush, who did not want to support the authoritarian regime.

Encouraged by this, and with money from the Soviet Union, a coup was prepared. Meanwhile, tensions rose between Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In September, the autonomous South Ossetians sought affiliation with North Ossetia, which was still Russian. Elections were even called and in September the regional Soviet declared the area a democratic republic within the Soviet Union. Georgia's Supreme Soviet reacted by declaring the elections illegal and revoking the autonomous status. This was followed by fighting in which hundreds died and many fled. Because of these problems, President Gamsachoerdia seized more and more power. The opposition did not accept this and in August 1991 there was a real coup. Gamsachoerdua disbanded the National Guard. Its leader, who was also a confidant of Gamsachoerdia and Prime Minister, Kitovani Sigua, turned against the President.

Disgruntled soldiers, intellectuals, parliamentarians and ministers founded Charta '91. This movement would eventually lead to the coup in 1992. On 2 September 1991, the National Democrats demonstrated near the government building, injuring several people. This demonstration was followed by numerous others in Tbilisi that same month. A television building became the centre of the growing opposition. The main demand was the resignation of Gamsachoerdia as President of the Republic. On 21 September 1991, Gamsachoerdia called on his followers to defend the government building. Towards the end of 1991, Gamsachoerdia found himself increasingly alone as more and more ministers joined the opposition. The situation escalated when Gamsachoerdia refused to join the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The opposition gave him an ultimatum to resign. Gamsachoerdia then entrenched himself in the government building, which was besieged for a fortnight. In early January 1992, Gamsakhurdia fled via Armenia to the Chechen capital Grozny and went into exile there.

The coup eventually cost the lives of more than 200 people. A three-man government was formed with Tengiz Sigua (former prime minister), Tengiz Kitova (former National Guard commander) and Djaba Ioseliani (criminal?). Two months later, ex-Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze appeared on the scene. From October 1992 he took part in the government. The war in Abkhazia caused great tension between Georgia and Russia. Energy supplies to Georgia were cut off and the economy stagnated. In July 1993 there was an Abkhazian offensive to take the city of Sukhumi. This failed, but on 27 July 1993 a ceasefire was agreed and Georgian troops slowly withdrew from the area. Among the Georgian population and in the parliament it was seen as a defeat and they refused to agree to a peace deal. Shevardnadze was forced to take the decision alone. Because of this, but also because of the bad economic situation, Shevardnadze's popularity decreased.

In May 1993 he dismissed Kitovani and Ioseliani to restore his authority. The only 26 year old Giorgi Karkarashvili became the Minister of Defence. On 20 August 1993 Shevardnadze appointed a new Prime Minister, Otar Patsatsia. All these attempts to keep his grip on the situation did not really help. Eventually the parliament agreed to his request to declare a state of emergency. Further disaster descended on Georgia with the Abkhazian troops' offensive against the retreating Georgians. The Georgian troops were defeated and on 27 September 1993 Sukhumi fell into the hands of the Abkhazians. Shevardnadze accused the Russians of supporting Abkhazia. Meanwhile Gamsakhurdia returned to West Georgia and his supporters immediately started an uprising in that area.

On 8 October 1993 Shevardnadze announced that Georgia would join the CIS. The treaty was very much in favour of the Russians, who effectively regained control of Georgia. After heavy fighting between Gamsakhoerdia's troops and Georgian troops from West Georgia, the latter retook some parts of West Georgia. In November tensions rose again in West Georgia, and Shevardnadze even introduced the death penalty for robbers and plunderers. Gamsachoerdia fled again to Abkhazia and tried to get military support there. Russia came to Shevardnadze's aid and on 11 November 1993 Shevardnadze declared victory, thanks to the Russians. On 1 December a memorandum was signed between Georgia and Abkhazia. In mid-December many of Gamsachoerdia's supporters in western Georgia were arrested by the internal armed forces. The situation in Georgia deteriorated after high-ranking conflicts between the ministries of defence and security. Georgian paramilitary units, the Mkhedroni, also played a role in this conflict.

n 31 December, Gamsachoerdia committed suicide. The true reasons and circumstances have never been revealed.

On 3 February 1994, President Yeltsin of Russia paid a state visit to Georgia. A number of treaties were signed, including an agreement on the presence of Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia. The strength of Russian troops on Georgian territory was increased from 8 000 to 18 000. On the same day, the Secretary of State for Defence was killed in a bomb attack and Minister Karkarashvili was wounded. In March, Georgia also received aid from the United States, about 70 million dollars. In March 1994 Georgia joined the NATO project Partnership for Peace. In the meantime demonstrations increased demanding the resignation of Shevardnadze. The parliamentary opposition called for new elections.

The demonstration of 9 July 1994 was violently broken up by government troops. Violence against independent journalists was also the order of the day, and the economy was in decline with an inflation rate of 62%, the highest of any CIS republic. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank refused to provide the promised USD 100 million in loans and credit. On 26 November the Republic of Abkhazia was declared a sovereign state. In July 1995, the paramilitary Mkhedrioni was officially banned and the movement immediately reorganised into a political party, the Sakartvelos Party led by Ioseliani. In August, a new constitution was approved, including extended presidential powers and an expansion of the parliament to 235 members. The status of Abkhazia and Samachablo (South Ossetia) was still not settled.

On 29 August 1995, Shevardnadze was attacked. In response, he fired the Minister of National Security, Igor Giorgadze, and supporters of Gamsachoerdia and members of the Mkhedrioni were arrested. Presidential elections were held on 5 November, which Shevardnadze won by a large margin. The parliamentary elections were won by the Civic Union, Shevardnadze's party, with a large majority in parliament. On 1 April 1996 an agreement was signed on further military cooperation between Georgia and Russia, and in July Georgia applied for membership of the Council of Europe. The issue of Abkhazia returned to the political agendas many times, but a solution would never be found. In February 1997, a report by the International Helsinki Federation strongly criticised the human rights situation in Georgia. Amnesty International also strongly criticised the many cases of ill-treatment and torture. June and July 1997 were again months of armed conflict in Abkhazia. At the end of July there was an agreement on the mandate for peacekeeping forces in the region. In a conversation with US President Clinton, Shevardnadze was praised for his market reform programme and his attempts to promote democracy. The real political and humanitarian emergency was completely ignored. Economic oil interests suddenly started to count for a lot.

On 9 February 1998, there was another attack on Shevardnadze; the circumstances were highly questionable. First the Russians were accused, then the former Minister of Finance, Guram Absandze, was arrested; he was supposed to have financed the attack. In May 1998 fighting resumed in Abkhazia between Abkhazians and the Tetri Legioni (White Army), a Georgian paramilitary organisation. Shevardnadze's government ran into further problems when the ministers of energy and defence resigned. Shevardnadze developed plans for a federal structure to end the problems in Abkhazia, among other places. However, negotiations failed again and a meeting between Shevardnadze and the Abkhazian leader Vladislav Ardzinba was not even held. In particular, the issue of the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia could not be resolved. On the contrary, the fighting continued and the situation remains very tense.

In July there was a rigorous reorganisation of the government, widely seen as the ultimate attempt to strengthen its governing Civic Union before the parliamentary elections of 31 October 1999. The election campaign was accompanied by much violence and intimidation, also aimed at getting people to vote for Shevardnadze's party. Of the 20 parties that registered, only three achieved the 7% electoral threshold. Shevardnadze's party won more than 40% of the votes, and despite accusations of fraud and manipulation, including by OSCE observers, the results were approved and the new parliament was installed.

On 9 April 2000, presidential elections were held again. The most important opponent of Shevardnadze was Aslan Abashidze, governor of the autonomous republic of Adjara. Adjara is in a reasonable economic position and Abashidze is therefore quite popular, also because he does not take much notice of the policies that are implemented in Tbilisi. For example, income from trade is not paid to the central government but invested in the region. A call for a boycott of the elections was unsuccessful and one day before the elections Abashidze withdrew as a candidate. The background to this remarkable step has never been fully clarified. It was suspected that a deal had been made between Shevardnadze and Abashidze to divide the power in the country between Tbilisi and the capital of Adjara, Batumi. Adjara would then also start paying taxes to the central government of Georgia.

Shevardnadze won with a large majority of almost 80% of the votes. Abashidze's replacement, Djumber Patiashvili got about 16% of the votes. Shevardnadze will need the next five years to solve the separatist conflicts in Abkhazia and Samachablo (South Ossetia). Hundreds of thousands of refugees from those areas are still in Georgia, and most businesses have been shut down for several years. In addition, corruption is rampant and the human rights situation is under severe pressure, and it remains to be seen whether Shevardnadze or anyone else can solve these problems once and for all. In addition, freedom of the press and freedom of speech exist only on paper, so it is difficult to get an accurate impression of the situation in the country.

21th century

In April 2000, the presidential elections were again won by Eduard Shevardnadze. In Abkhazia in October 2001, a helicopter carrying UN observers was shot down. All nine people on board, including five UN observers, were killed.

The parliamentary elections in early November 2003 were marked by fraud and other incidents. The elections were expected to result in defeat for the government of President Shevardnadze. Many voters blamed the President and his cabinet for poverty and corruption in the Caucasian Republic. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had sent 400 observers to Georgia, reported that the elections were marred by 'shocking' irregularities.

A few days later, the opposition National Movement party of former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili was surprisingly declared the winner of the parliamentary elections. By then, some 20,000 opposition supporters had gathered in the capital Tbilisi to protest against the fraud at the ballot box. After the results were announced, jubilation broke out among the crowd, and Saakashvili called on Shevardnadze to acknowledge his defeat.

On Thursday 13 November, Saakashvili demanded the resignation of Shevardnadze, and refused to talk to him to find a solution to the conflict. Saakashvili also said that he wanted to collect one million signatures on a petition demanding Shevardnadze's resignation.

A day later, Shevardnadze warned of a civil war in his country and urged the population to calm down on television. Again, however, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Tbilisi.

On Friday, Georgian President Shevardnadze warned of a civil war in his country. He again ruled out a resignation demanded by the opposition due to electoral fraud. During a speech on television, Shevardnadze called on the population to calm down. He also advised supporters of the opposition to stay away from a demonstration that evening in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Finally, people went to the office of the Central Election Commission demanding that the elections be declared invalid. On Tuesday 18 November some 10 000 supporters of Shevardnadze showed their support for the President. The day before, Shevardnadze said that a special commission would be set up to investigate whether fraud had indeed taken place.

On Thursday 20 November the Central Election Commission declared President Shevardnadze's party, 'For a New Georgia', the winner of the elections. In response to the results, the President's opponents again announced peaceful mass demonstrations in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. According to the electoral commission, the President's party garnered over 21% of the votes. In second place, with almost 19%, was the party that had expressed support for the criticised Shevardnadze. In third place was the National Movement party of main opposition leader Saakashvili with over 18%.

Less than a day later, the head of Georgia's National Security Council, Tedo Japaridze, admitted that the parliamentary elections of 2 November had been unfair. "The decisions by the Central Election Commission have once again shown that the parliamentary elections were accompanied by major irregularities," Japaridze said at a press conference. He warned that protests against the electoral fraud could lead to bloodshed. ''There are alarming signs that have been increasing recently,'' Japaridze said. ''When the confrontation begins, it will be all-encompassing and much more dangerous than ten years ago,'' when civil war raged in Georgia immediately after its secession from the Soviet Union and hundreds of people died.

The Georgian opposition leader Saakashvili called for a peaceful revolution at a press conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Friday evening 21 November. On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan also called on Georgia's political leaders to do their utmost to resolve the tensions in the country peacefully.

On Saturday, 22 November, things finally got out of hand. Opposition supporters stormed the Presidential Palace in Georgia and, despite police surveillance, thousands of demonstrators entered the building. They were on their way to President Shevardnadze's office on the thirteenth floor, according to Georgian TV. President Shevardnadze then declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile, the Georgian opposition appointed parliamentary speaker Nino Boerdjanadze as interim president. The cornered Georgian President Edoeard Shevardnadze did not rule out his resignation in principle. Eight people were injured in clashes between supporters and opponents of Shevardnadze in Tbilisi, and two police officers were seriously injured. Mikhail Saakashvili spoke of a velvet revolution.

On Sunday 23 November 2003, Shevardnadze resigned. The opposition guaranteed that he would not be prosecuted. Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze temporarily succeeded Shevardnadze as President and had to ensure that presidential elections would be held within 45 days.

On 26 November it was announced that Mikhail Saakashvili, the driving force behind the protest movement that forced President Shevardnadze to resign, had been put forward as a candidate for the presidency by Georgia's opposition parties. Nino Boerdzjanadze, acting president after Shevardnadze's resignation, thus gave way to the popular Saakashvili.

The presidential elections of 4 January 2004 were won by Saakashvili with a very large majority of 85%. Saakashvili is married to the Dutch Sandra Roelofs.

On 6 January 2008, Mikhail Saakashvili won the presidential election with 52.8% of the votes. Saakashvili thus averted an expected second round of voting. In August, tensions flared up between troops from Georgia and breakaway South Ossetia, supported by Russia. This resulted in a military conflict. After a week of hostilities, the parties signed a peace agreement. Russia recognises the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which is a thorn in the flesh of Georgia and the Western world. In February 2009, Nika Gilauri was appointed prime minister. In April 2009, the opposition called for a "national disobedience campaign". In May 2009 NATO exercises took place on Georgian territory under strong protests from Russia. In September 2009, a European Union report on the 2008 conflict with Russia was published, in which Georgia was blamed for a large part of the conflict. In July 2010, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Georgia. She assured that the US would guard the territorial integrity of Georgia. Putin responds by saying that Georgia and South Ossetia should solve their conflicts without involving third parties.

In October 2012, Bibina Ivanishvilli won the parliamentary elections and became the new prime minister, with Saakashvili given a secondary role. In October 2013, Giorgi Margvelashvili wins the presidential election. In June 2014, a trade agreement with the EU is signed. In December 2015, Prime Minister Garibashvili resigns due to tensions with President Margvelashvili. In October, the ruling coalition wins the parliamentary elections by large margins. In April 2017, the renegade province of South Ossetia holds a referendum and presidential election with the aim of becoming a member of the Russian Federation.

In June 2018, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigns over disagreements with Bidzina Ivanishvili, who returned to a leading position in the Georgian Dream Party earlier in the year. He is succeeded by Finance Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze.

In October 2020, the opposition refuses to recognise the victory of the Georgian Dream Party in the parliamentary elections, which heralds a months-long political crisis.

In February 2021, Defence Minister Irakli Garibashvili is nominated to form a government after the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia following the attempted arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia.



Burford, T. / Georgia
Bradt Publications

Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan
Lonely Planet

Rosen, R. / Georgia
Odyssey Publications

Spilling, M. / Georgia
Marshall Cavendish

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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