Cities in GEORGIA
Georgia is a country of various religions that has enjoyed freedom of religion since 1991. For example, Tbilisi has a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim mosque, a Georgian basilica, an Armenian church and a Zoroastrian temple. The Georgians were Christianised from Armenia as early as 330 and the Church of Georgia is considered one of the oldest on the territory of the former Soviet Union. In West Georgia, Christianity replaced a belief based on the world of Greek gods. In East Georgia, Christianity replaced an Iranian Zoroastrian religion.
In the 5th century the church became autonomous and appointed its own leader, the Catholics of Mtskheta. During the Middle Ages, the Georgian Church was an enormous political and economic power and a source of inspiration for art, architecture and literature. Under Tsarist rule, the Georgian Orthodox Church lost its independence and became part of the Russian Orthodox Church. Independent status was restored in the Stalin era (himself a Georgian). Despite this, many of the 2 000 churches closed, which have only been reopened and restored in the last 15 years.
Most Georgians (about 65%) belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church. This church is part of the Christian Eastern Orthodox Church, mainly adhered to in Eastern Europe and Greece. The Eastern Orthodox Churches split from Western Christianity in the 11th century and therefore do not recognise the Pope as their leader. The Orthodox churches have never had a central leader. In Georgia, 10% of the population belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church, which became the religion of all Russians from the 10th century. In the 19th century it was brought to Georgia by Russians and Ukrainians from Tsarist Russia. Russian Orthodox churches are mainly found along the Black Sea coast and in large cities such as Tbilisi and Kutaisi.
The Christian Armenian Apostolic Church is slightly older (late 3rd century) than the Georgian Orthodox Church. The Armenian Church separated itself from the other Eastern European churches in the 6th century and is currently autonomous. The first Armenians came to Georgia in the 14th and 15th centuries as a result of persecution by Turkish Muslims and Arabs.
Islam is an important religion in the Caucasus. The Azerbaijanis, Ossetians and most ethnic Georgians in Adjara are majority Sunni Muslims. The Abkhazians are partly Sunni Muslims, partly Christians.
Anti-Semitism is an unknown phenomenon in Georgia, and Jewish communities have lived in the country since the Middle Ages. The largest groups of Jews live in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. Smaller groups live in the mountainous regions. Over the last decade, more and more Jews have emigrated to Israel. There are also small groups of Georgian Catholics and followers of the Russian sects Dukhobor and Molokan. Most Kurds in Georgia follow the old Yezid religion.
Burford, T. / Georgia
Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan
Rosen, R. / Georgia
Spilling, M. / Georgia
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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