Located on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, Georgia has been torn by civil war and ethnic disputes since achieving independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Geography: Kura Valley lies between Caucasus Mountains in the north and Lesser Caucasus range in south. Lowlands along the Black Sea coast.
Climate: Subtropical along the coast, changing to continental extremes at high altitudes. Rainfall is moderate.
People and Society: Paternalistic society, with strong family, cultural, and literary traditions. Georgia was converted to Christianity in 326 CE. Armenians in the south are the poorest group. Civil conflicts in the early 1990s against Abkhaz and Osset separatists displaced 300,000 people. Abkhazia and South Ossetia now effectively operate as separate states, backed up by Russian forces since the 2008 war. Russia opposes Georgian hopes of joining the EU and NATO.
The Economy: Transit revenues from pipelines taking oil to the West. Long-established and booming wine industry. Political instability. Fast pace of reforms in late 2000s, at cost of high unemployment.
Insight: Western Georgia was the land of the legendary Golden Fleece of Greek mythology
Official Name: Georgia
Date of Formation: 1991
Population: 4.26 million
Total Area: 26,911 sq. miles (69,700 sq. km)
Density: 158 people per sq. mile
Languages: Georgian*, Russian, other
Religions: Georgian Orthodox 65%, Muslim 11%, Russian Orthodox 10%, Armenian Orthodox 8%, other 6%
Ethnic Mix: Georgian 84%, Armenian 6%, Azeri 6%, Russian 2%, other 2%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Lari = 100 tetri