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Sunday, May 29, 2011

History of Georgia

Territory of modern-day Georgia has been inhabited by Homo erectus since the Paleolithic. The proto-Georgian tribes first appear in written history in the 12th century BC. Archaeological finds and references in ancient sources reveal elements of early political and state formations characterized by advanced metallurgy and goldsmith techniques that date back to the 7th century BC and beyond.

Antiquity
The classic period saw the rise of the early Georgian states Diaokhi (XIII BC) of Colchis (VIII BC), of Sper (VII BC) and of Iberia (VI BC). In the 4th century BC a unified kingdom of Georgia—an early example of advanced state organization under one king and an aristocratic hierarchy—was established.
The two early Georgian kingdoms of late antiquity, known to Greco-Roman historiography as Iberia (Georgian: იბერია) (in the east of the country) and Colchis (Georgian: კოლხეთი) (in the west), were among the first nations in the region to adopt Christianity (in AD 337, or in AD 319 as recent research suggests). In Greek Mythology, Colchis was the location of the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts in Apollonius Rhodius' epic tale Argonautica. The incorporation of the Golden Fleece into the myth 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 was also the battlefield of the Lazic War fought between Byzantine 

Empire and Persia.
"Pompey's Bridge", built by the Roman legionaries of Pompey during their conquests of Georgia in c.65 BC
After the Roman Empire completed its conquest of the Caucasus region in 66 BC, the Georgian kingdoms were Roman client states and allies for nearly 400 years. In 337 AD King Mirian III declared Christianity as the state religion, giving a great stimulus to the development of literature, arts, and ultimately playing a key role in the formation of the unified Georgian nation. King Mirian III's acceptance of Christianity effectively tied the kingdom to the neighboring Eastern Roman Empire which exerted a strong influence on Georgia for nearly a millennium, determining much of its present cultural identity.

Middle Ages
The early kingdoms disintegrated into various feudal regions by the early Middle Ages. This made it easy for Arabs to conquer parts of southeastern Georgia in the 7th century. The rebellious regions were liberated and united into a unified Georgian Kingdom at the beginning of the 11th century. Starting in the 12th century, the rule of Georgia extended over a significant part of the Southern Caucasus, including the northeastern parts and almost the entire northern coast of present-day Turkey.
Although Arabs captured the capital city of Tbilisi in AD 645, Kartli-Iberia retained considerable independence under local Arab rulers. In AD 813 the prince Ashot I - also known as Ashot Kurapalat - became the first of the Bagrationi family to rule the kingdom. Ashot's reign began a period of nearly 1,000 years during which the Bagrationi, as the house was known, ruled at least part of what is now the republic.

Bagrat III (r. 1027-72) united western and eastern Georgia. In the next century, David IV (called the Builder, r. 1089-1125) initiated the Georgian golden age by driving the Seljuk Turks from the country and expanding Georgian cultural and political influence southward into Armenia and eastward to the Caspian Sea.
The Georgian Kingdom reached its zenith in the 12th to early 13th centuries. This period has been widely termed as Georgia's Golden Age or Georgian Renaissance during the reigns of David the Builder and Queen Tamar. This early Georgian renaissance, which preceded its West European analogue, was characterized by the flourishing of romantic-chivalric tradition, breakthroughs in philosophy, and an array of political innovations in society and state organization, including religious and ethnic tolerance.
The Golden age of Georgia left a legacy of great cathedrals, romantic poetry and literature, and the epic poem "The Knight in the Panther's Skin".David the Builder is popularly considered to be the greatest and most successful Georgian ruler in history. He succeeded in driving the Seljuks out of the country, winning the major Battle of Didgori in 1121. His reforms of the army and administration enabled him to reunite the country and bring most lands of the Caucasus under Georgia's control.

King George V the Brilliant restored Georgia as a vibrant Christian culture after the expulsion of Mongols
David the Builder's granddaughter Tamar succeeded in neutralizing opposition and embarked on an energetic foreign policy aided by the downfall of the rival powers of the Seljuks and Byzantium. Supported by a powerful military élite, Tamar was able to build on the successes of her predecessors to consolidate an empire which dominated the Caucasus until its collapse under the Mongol attacks within two decades after Tamar's death.
The revival of the Georgian Kingdom was set back after Tblisi was captured and destoyed by the Khwarezmian leader Mingburnu in 1236. The Mongols were expelled by George V of Georgia, son of Demetrius II of Georgia, who was named "Brilliant" for his role in restoring the country's previous strength and Christian culture. George V was the last great king of the unified Georgian state. After his death, different local rulers fought for their independence from central Georgian rule, until the total disintegration of the Kingdom in the 15th century. Georgia was further weakened by several disastrous invasions by Tamerlane. Neighbouring kingdoms exploited the internal division of the weakened country, and beginning in the 16th century, the Persian Empire and the Ottoman Empire subjugated the eastern and western regions of Georgia, respectively.
The rulers of regions which remained partly autonomous organized rebellions on various occasions. However, subsequent Persian and Ottoman invasions further weakened local kingdoms and regions. As a result of wars the population of Georgia dwindled to 250,000 inhabitants at one point. Eastern Georgia, composed of the regions of Kartli and Kakheti, had been under Persian suzerainty since 1555. With the death of Nader Shahin 1747, both kingdoms broke free of Persian control and were reunified through a personal union under the energetic king Heraclius II in 1762.

Georgia in the Russian Empire
In 1783, Russia and the eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, which recognized the bond of Orthodox Christianity between Russian and Georgian people and promised eastern Georgia protection. However, despite this commitment to defend Georgia Russia rendered no assistance when the Turks and Persians invaded in 1785 and in 1795, completely devastating Tbilisi and massacring its inhabitants. This period culminated in the 1801 Russian violation of the Treaty of Georgievsk and annexation of entire Georgian lands, followed the deposing of the Bagrationi dynasty and suppression of the Georgian church.
On December 22, 1800, Tsar Paul I of Russia, at the alleged request of the Georgian King George XII, signed the proclamation on the incorporation of Georgia (Kartli-Kakheti) within the Russian Empire, which was finalized by a decree on January 8, 1801, and confirmed by Tsar Alexander I on September 12, 1801.The Georgian envoy in Saint Petersburg reacted with a note of protest that was presented to the Russian vice-chancellor Prince Kurakin. In May 1801, Russian General Carl Heinrich Knorring dethroned the Georgian heir to the throne David Batonishvili and instituted a government headed by General Ivan Petrovich Lasarev. Pyotr Bagration, a man of minor Georgian nobility, joined the Russian army aged 17 as a sergeant and rose to be a general by the Napoleonic wars.
The Georgian nobility did not accept the decree until April 1802 when General Knorring compassed the nobility in Tbilisi's Sioni Cathedral and forced them to take an oath on the Imperial Crown of Russia. Those who disagreed were arrested temporarily.
In the summer of 1805, Russian troops on the Askerani River near Zagam defeated the Persian army and saved Tbilisi from conquest now that it was officially part of the Imperial territories.
Western Georgian principalities of Mingrelia and Guria assumed the Russian protection in 19th century. Finally in 1810, after a brief war, the western Georgian kingdom of Imereti was annexed by Tsar Alexander I of Russia. The last Imeretian king and the last Georgian Bagrationi ruler Solomon II died in exile in 1815. From 1803 to 1878, as a result of numerous Russian wars against the Ottoman Empire, several of Georgia's previously lost territories - such as Adjara - were recovered. The principality of Guria was abolished in 1828, and that of Samegrelo (Mingrelia) in 1857. The region of Svaneti was gradually annexed in 1857–59.

Declaration of independence
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia declared independence on May 26, 1918 in the midst of the Russian Civil War. The parliamentary election was won by the Georgian Social-Democratic Party, considered to be pro-Mensheviks, and its leader, Noe Zhordania, became prime minister.
In 1918 a Georgian–Armenian war erupted over parts of Georgian provinces populated mostly by Armenians which ended because of British intervention. In 1918–19 Georgian general Giorgi Mazniashvili led a Georgian attack against the White Army led by Moiseev and Denikin in order to claim the Black Sea coastline from Tuapse to Sochi and Adler for independent Georgia. The country's independence did not last long. Georgia was under British protection from 1918-1920.

Name of Georgia

Georgia is sometimes thought to be named after St. George. 15th c. cloisonné enamel on gold.
Ethnic Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi (ქართველები), their land Sakartvelo (საქართველო - meaning "a place for Kartvelians"), and their language Kartuli (ქართული). According to the ancient Georgian Chronicles, the ancestor of the Kartvelian people was Kartlos, the great grandson of the Biblical Japheth. The name Sakartvelo (საქართველო) consists of two parts. Its root, kartvel-i (ქართველ-ი), specifies an inhabitant of the core central-eastern Georgian region of Kartli, or Iberia as it is known in sources of Eastern Roman Empire.Ancient Greeks (Strabo, Herodotus, Plutarch, Homer, etc.) and Romans (Titus Livius, Cornelius Tacitus, etc.) referred to early eastern Georgians as Iberians (Iberoi in some Greek sources) and western Georgians as Colchians.
Like most native Caucasian peoples, the Georgians do not fit into any of the main ethnic categories of Europe or Asia. The Georgian language, the most pervasive of the South Caucasian languages, is neither Indo-European, Turkic nor Semitic. The present day Georgian or Kartvelian nation is thought to have resulted from the fusion of aboriginal, autochthonous-inhabitants with immigrants who infiltrated into South Caucasus from the direction of Anatolia in remote antiquity. The ancient Jewish chronicle by Josephus mentions Georgians as Iberes who were also called Thobel Tubal.
The terms Georgia and Georgians appeared in Western Europe in numerous early medieval annals. The French chronicler Jacques de Vitry and the English traveler Sir John Mandeville wrote that Georgians are called Georgian because they especially revere Saint George. Notably, in January 2004 the country restored the five-cross flag, featuring the Saint George's Cross; the flag was used in Georgia from the 5th century throughout the Middle Ages

Georgia

Georgia,  is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 km² and its population is almost 4.7 million. Georgia's constitution is that of a representative democracy, organized as a unitary, semi-presidential republic. It is currently a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Community of Democratic Choice, the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, and the Asian Development Bank. The country aspires to join the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.
The history of Georgia can be traced back to the ancient kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia. It was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity, in the early 4th century. Georgia reached the peak of its political and economic strength during the reign of King David IV and Queen Tamar in the 11th - 12th centuries. At the beginning of the 19th century, Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire. After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia was annexed by Soviet Russia in 1921 and from 1922 to 1991 the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was one of the fifteen federal republics of the Soviet Union. Like many post-communist countries, Georgia suffered from civil unrest and economic crisis for most of the 1990s through the Rose Revolution of 2003, after which the new government introduced democratic and economic reforms.
Georgia contains two de facto independent regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which gained limited international recognition after the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. Georgia considers the regions to be occupied by Russia.

2008 military conflict with Russia

Georgian girl holding a poster and candles during the Russo-Georgian war in August of 2008.
2008 saw a military conflict between Georgia on one side, with Russia and the separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other. In response to the shelling of Georgian towns around South Ossetia, supposedly by South Ossetian militias well equipped with Russian military supplies, Georgia massed military forces near the region. Russia also massed larger military forces near the border with South Ossetia. On 7 August, Georgian forces began a massive artillery attack on the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, which started after months-long clashes between Georgian police and peacekeepers, and Ossetian militia and Russian peacekeepers. On early August 8, Georgian Army infantry and tanks, supported by Interior Ministry commandos, began pushing into South Ossetia, supported by artillery and multiple rocket launcher fire and Su-25 strike aircraft. After several hours of fierce fighting, Georgia had captured numerous villages throughout South Ossetia, and had captured almost all of Tskhinvali from Ossetian militia and Russian peacekeepers. A Russian peacekeepers' base stationed in South Ossetia was shelled, and personnel were killed. Units of the Russian 58th Army, supported by irregular forces, subsequently entered South Ossetia through the Russian-controlled Roki tunnel, and a three-day battle left the city of Tskhinvali heavily devastated. Georgian forces were driven out of South Ossetia, and Georgian villages were burned by Ossetian militia to prevent refugees from returning. The Russian Air Force launched a series of coordinated airstrikes against Georgian forces in South Ossetia, and multiple targets inside Georgia proper, but met heavy resistance from Georgian air defenses. The Georgian Air Force also managed to carry out air attacks on Russian troops throughout most of the battle. At the same time, the separatist Republic of Abkhazia launched an offensive against Georgian troops in the Kodori Valley with the support of Russian paratroopers, marines, and naval forces. Georgian troops offered minimal resistance and withdrew Russian paratroopers launched raids against military bases in Senaki, Georgia, from Abkhazia. The Russian Navy stationed a task force of sixteen ships off the coast of Abkhazia, and in a brief naval skirmish with Georgian missile boats and gunboats, sank a Georgian Coast Guard cutter.

Following their defeat in South Ossetia, Georgian forces regrouped at Gori with heavy artillery. Russian forces crossed into Georgia proper, and all Georgian forces retreated to Tbilisi, leaving some military equipment behind. Russian forces entered the city and occupied numerous villages completely unopposed. Irregulars such as Ossetians, Chechens and Cossacks followed and were reported looting, killing and burning. Russian troops removed military equipment abandoned by retreating Georgian troops in Gori, and also occupied the port city of Poti, where they sank several naval and coast guard vessesls moored in the harbor, and removed captured military equipment, including four Humvees. Georgia lost a total of 150 pieces of military equipment (including 65 tanks), 1,728 small arms, and 4 naval vessels during the war.
On August 12, President Medvedev announced an intent to halt further Russian military operations in Georgia. Russian troops withdrew from Gori and Poti, but remained in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which it recognized as independent countries. Georgia, on the contrary, considers those territories to be under Russian occupation. Russia also created temporary checkpoints in several locations inside Georgia, but gradually withdrew from them.
Because of the intensive fighting in South Ossetia there were many disputed reports about the number of casualties on both sides, which targets had fallen under aerial attacks, the status of troop movements, and the most current location of the front line between the Georgian and Russian-Ossetian combat units.South Ossetian and Russian officials claimed the Georgian Army was responsible for killing 2,000, and later 1,400 South Ossetian civilians. These allegations have not been substantiated, and Human Rights Watch and European Union investigators in South Ossetia accused Russia of exaggerating the scale of such casualties. The actual death toll, according to the Russian Prosecutor's Office, is 162. Another 150 South Ossetian militiamen were also killed.  Russian casualties totalled 67 dead or missing, and 323 wounded. Abkhaz forces lost 1 dead and 2 wounded. Georgian military casualties totaled 170 dead or missing, 1,964 wounded, and 42 taken prisoner. Georgian civilian casualties stand at 228, with a total of 12 police officers killed or missing. A Dutch journalist Stan Storimans was also killed.

Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic

February 1921 Georgia was attacked by the Red Army. The Georgian army was defeated and the Social-Democrat government fled the country. On February 25, 1921 the Red Army entered the capital Tbilisi and installed a Moscow directed communist government, led by Georgian Bolshevik Filipp Makharadze.

The 11th Red Army of the Russian SFSR holds military parade in Tbilisi, 25 February 1921.
Nevertheless the Soviet rule was firmly established only after a 1924 revolt was brutally suppressed.Georgia was incorporated into the Transcaucasian SFSR uniting Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The TSFSR was disaggregated into its component elements in 1936 and Georgia became the Georgian SSR.
Joseph Stalin (an ethnic Georgian whose real name was Ioseb Jughashvili) was prominent among the Bolsheviks, who came to power in the Russian Empire after the October Revolution in 1917. Stalin was to rise to the highest position of the Soviet state.
From 1941 to 1945, during World War II, almost 700,000 Georgians fought in the Red Army against Nazi Germany. (A number also fought on the German side.) About 350,000 Georgians died in the battlefields of the Eastern Front.
The Dissidential movement for restoration of Georgian statehood started to gain popularity in the 1960s. Among the Georgian dissidents, two of the most prominent activists were Merab Kostava and Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Dissidents were heavily persecuted by Soviet government, and their activities were harshly suppressed.
On April 9, 1989, a peaceful demonstration in the Georgian capital Tbilisi ended up with several people being killed by Soviet troops. Before the October 1990 elections to the national assembly, the Umaghlesi Sabcho (Supreme Council) — the first polls in the USSR held on a formal multi-party basis — the political landscape was reshaped again. While the more radical groups boycotted the elections and convened an alternative forum with alleged support of Moscow[citation needed] (National Congress), another part of the anticommunist opposition united into the Round Table—Free Georgia (RT-FG) around the former dissidents like Merab Kostava and Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
The latter won the elections by a clear margin, with 155 out of 250 parliamentary seats, whereas the ruling Communist Party (CP) received only 64 seats. All other parties failed to get over the 5%-threshold and were thus allotted only some single-member constituency seats.

Georgia after restoration of independence
On April 9, 1991, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia declared independence. On May 26, 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as a first President of independent Georgia. Gamsakhurdia stoked Georgian nationalism and vowed to assert Tbilisi's authority over regions such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia that had been classified as autonomous oblasts under the Soviet Union.
He was soon deposed in a bloody coup d'état, from December 22, 1991 to January 6, 1992. The coup was instigated by part of the National Guards and a paramilitary organization called "Mkhedrioni" or "horsemen". The country became embroiled in a bitter civil war which lasted almost until 1995. Eduard Shevardnadze returned to Georgia in 1992 and joined the leaders of the coup — Kitovani and Ioseliani — to head a triumvirate called the "State Council".
In 1995, Shevardnadze was officially elected as president of Georgia. At the same time, simmering disputes within two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, between local separatists and the majority Georgian populations, erupted into widespread inter-ethnic violence and wars. Supported by Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with the exception of some "pockets" of territory, achieved de facto independence from Georgia.
Roughly 230,000 to 250,000 Georgians were expelled from Abkhazia by Abkhaz separatists and North Caucasians volunteers (including Chechens) in 1992-1993. Around 23,000 Georgians fled South Ossetia as well, and many Ossetian families were forced to abandon their homes in the Borjomi region and moved to Russia.
In 2003, Shevardnadze (who won reelection in 2000) was deposed by the Rose Revolution, after Georgian opposition and international monitors asserted that the November 2 parliamentary elections were marred by fraud. The revolution was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, former members and leaders of Shevardnadze's ruling party. Mikheil Saakashvili was elected as President of Georgia in 2004.
Following the Rose Revolution, a series of reforms were launched to strengthen the country's military and economic capabilities. The new government's efforts to reassert Georgian authority in the southwestern autonomous republic of Ajaria led to a major crisis early in 2004. Success in Ajaria encouraged Saakashvili to intensify his efforts, but without success, in the breakaway South Ossetia.
These events along with accusations of Georgian involvement in the Second Chechen War, resulted in a severe deterioration of relations with Russia, fuelled also by Russia's open assistance and support to the two secessionists areas. Despite these increasingly difficult relations, in May 2005 Georgia and Russia reached a bilateral agreement by which Russian military bases (dating back to the Soviet era) in Batumi and Akhalkalaki were withdrawn. Russia withdrew all personnel and equipment from these sites by December 2007 while failing to withdraw from the Gudauta base in Abkhazia which it was required to vacate after the adoption of Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty during the 1999 Istanbul Summit.

Climate of Georgia

Climate of Georgia is extremely diverse, considering the nation's small size. There are two main climatic zones, roughly separating Eastern and Western parts of the country. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range plays an important role in moderating Georgia's climate and protects the nation from the penetration of colder air masses from the north. The Lesser Caucasus Mountains partially protect the region from the influence of dry and hot air masses from the south as well.
Much of western Georgia lies within the northern periphery of the humid subtropical zone with annual precipitation ranging from 1,000–4,000 mm (39.4–157.5 in). The precipitation tends to be uniformly distributed throughout the year, although the rainfall can be particularly heavy during the Autumn months. The climate of the region varies significantly with elevation and while much of the lowland areas of western Georgia are relatively warm throughout the year, the foothills and mountainous areas (including both the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains) experience cool, wet summers and snowy winters (snow cover often exceeds 2 meters in many regions). Ajaria is the wettest region of the Caucasus, where the Mt. Mtirala rainforest, east of Kobuleti receives around 4,500 mm (177.2 in) of precipitation per year.
Eastern Georgia has a transitional climate from humid subtropical to continental. The region's weather patterns are influenced both by dry, Caspian air masses from the east and humid, Black Sea air masses from the west. The penetration of humid air masses from the Black Sea is often blocked by several mountain ranges (Likhi and Meskheti) that separate the eastern and western parts of the nation. Annual precipitation is considerably less than that of western Georgia and ranges from 400–1,600 mm (15.7–63.0 in).
The wettest periods generally occur during Spring and Autumn while Winter and the Summer months tend to be the driest. Much of eastern Georgia experiences hot summers (especially in the low-lying areas) and relatively cold winters. As in the western parts of the nation, elevation plays an important role in eastern Georgia where climatic conditions above 1,500 metres (4,921 ft) are considerably colder than in the low-lying areas. The regions that lie above 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) frequently experience frost even during the summer months. Because of its high landscape diversity and low latitude Georgia is home to a large number of animal species, e.g., about 1000 species of vertebrates (330 birds, 160 fish, 48 reptiles, 11 amphibians). A number of large carnivores live in the forests, e.g., Persian leopard, Brown bear, wolf, and lynx. The species number of invertebrates is considered to be very high but data is distributed across a high number of publications. The spider checklist of Georgia, for example, includes 501 species. Non-marine molluscs of Georgia also include high diversity.

Landscape of Georgia

Landscape within the nation's boundaries is quite varied. Western Georgia's landscape ranges from low-land marsh-forests, swamps, and temperate rain forests to eternal snows and glaciers, while the eastern part of the country even contains a small segment of semi-arid plains. Forests cover around 40% of Georgia's territory while the alpine/subalpine zone accounts for roughly around 10% of the land.
Much of the natural habitat in the low-lying areas of Western Georgia has disappeared over the last 100 years because of the agricultural development of the land and urbanization. The large majority of the forests that covered the Colchis plain are now virtually non-existent with the exception of the regions that are included in the national parks and reserves (e.g. Lake Paliastomi area). At present, the forest cover generally remains outside of the low-lying areas and is mainly located along the foothills and the mountains. Western Georgia's forests consist mainly of deciduous trees below 600 meters (1,969 ft) above sea level and comprise of species such as oak, hornbeam, beech, elm, ash, and chestnut. Evergreen species such as box may also be found in many areas. Ca. 1000 of all 4000 higher plants of Georgia are endemic in this country.
The west-central slopes of the Meskheti Range in Ajaria as well as several locations in Samegrelo and Abkhazia are covered by temperate rain forests. Between 600–1,000 metres (1,969–3,281 ft) above sea level, the deciduous forest becomes mixed with both broad-leaf and coniferous species making up the plant life. The zone is made up mainly of beech, spruce, and fir forests. From 1,500–1,800 metres (4,921–5,906 ft), the forest becomes largely coniferous. The tree line generally ends at around 1,800 metres (5,906 ft) and the alpine zone takes over, which in most areas, extends up to an elevation of 3,000 metres (9,843 ft) above sea level. The eternal snow and glacier zone lies above the 3,000 metre line.
Eastern Georgia's landscape (referring to the territory east of the Likhi Range) is considerably different from that of the west, although, much like the Colchis plain in the west, nearly all of the low-lying areas of eastern Georgia including the Mtkvari and Alazani River plains have been deforested for agricultural purposes. In addition, because of the region's relatively drier climate, some of the low-lying plains (especially in Kartli and south-eastern Kakheti) were never covered by forests in the first place.
The general landscape of eastern Georgia comprises numerous valleys and gorges that are separated by mountains. In contrast with western Georgia, nearly 85% of the forests of the region are deciduous. Coniferous forests only dominate in the Borjomi Gorge and in the extreme western areas. Out of the deciduous species of trees, beech, oak, and hornbeam dominate. Other deciduous species include several varieties of maple, aspen, ash, and hazelnut. The Upper Alazani River Valley contains yew forests.
At higher elevations above 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) above sea level (particularly in the Tusheti, Khevsureti, and Khevi regions), pine and birch forests dominate. In general, the forests in eastern Georgia occur between 500–2,000 metres (1,640–6,562 ft) above sea level, with the alpine zone extending from 2,000–2,300 metres/6,562–7,546 feet to 3,000–3,500 meters/9,843–11,483 feet. The only remaining large, low-land forests remain in the Alazani Valley of Kakheti. The eternal snow and glacier zone lies above the 3,500-metre (11,483 ft) line in most areas of eastern Georgia.

Geography of Georgia

Georgia is situated in the Caucasus, between latitudes 41° and 44° N, and longitudes 40° and 47° E, with an area of 67,900 km2 (26,216 sq mi). It is a very mountainous country. The Likhi Range divides the country into eastern and western halves. Historically, the western portion of Georgia was known as Colchis while the eastern plateau was called Iberia. Because of a complex geographic setting, mountains also isolate the northern region of Svaneti from the rest of Georgia.
The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range forms the northern border of Georgia. The main roads through the mountain range into Russian territory lead through the Roki Tunnel between South and North Ossetia and the Darial Gorge (in the Georgian region of Khevi). The Roki Tunnel was vital for the Russian military in the 2008 South Ossetia War. The southern portion of the country is bounded by the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range is much higher in elevation than the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, with the highest peaks rising more than 5,000 meters (16,404 ft) above sea level.
The highest mountain in Georgia is Mount Shkhara at 5,068 meters (16,627 ft), and the second highest is Mount Janga (Jangi-Tau) at 5,059 m (16,598 ft) above sea level. Other prominent peaks include Kazbegi (Kazbek) at 5,047 m (16,558 ft), Shota Rustaveli (4,860 m (15,945 ft)), Tetnuldi (4,858 m (15,938 ft)), Mt. Ushba (4,700 m (15,420 ft)), and Ailama (4,547 m (14,918 ft)) Out of the abovementioned peaks, only Kazbegi is of volcanic origin. The region between Kazbegi and Shkhara (a distance of about 200 km (124 mi) along the Main Caucasus Range) is dominated by numerous glaciers. Out of the 2,100 glaciers that exist in the Caucasus today, approximately 30% are located within Georgia.

The term, Lesser Caucasus Mountains is often used to describe the mountainous (highland) areas of southern Georgia that are connected to the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range by the Likhi Range. The area can be split into two separate sub-regions; the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, which run parallel to the Greater Caucasus Range, and the Southern Georgia Volcanic Highland, which lies immediately to the south of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains.
The overall region can be characterized as being made up of various, interconnected mountain ranges (largely of volcanic origin) and plateaus that do not exceed 3,400 meters (11,155 ft) in elevation. Prominent features of the area include the Javakheti Volcanic Plateau, lakes, including Tabatskuri and Paravani, as well as mineral water and hot springs. Two major rivers in Georgia are the Rioni and the Mtkvari. The Southern Georgia Volcanic Highland is a young and unstable geologic region with high seismic activity and has experienced some of the most significant earthquakes that have been recorded in Georgia.
The Voronya Cave (aka Krubera-Voronia Cave) is the deepest known cave in the world. It is located in the Arabika Massif of the Gagra Range, in Abkhazia. In 2001, a Russian–Ukrainian team had set the world depth record for a cave at 1,710 meters (5,610 ft). In 2004, the penetrated depth was increased on each of three expeditions, when a Ukrainian team crossed the 2,000-meter (6,562 ft) mark for the first time in the history of speleology. In October 2005, an unexplored part was found by the CAVEX team, further increasing the known depth of the cave. This expedition confirmed the known depth of the cave at 2,140 meters (7,021 ft) (±9 m/29.5 ft).

Demographics of Georgia

Ethnic Georgians form about 83.8% of Georgia's current population of 4,661,473 (July 2006 est.). Other ethnic groups include Abkhazians, Armenians, Azeris, Belorussians, Bulgarians, Chechens, Estonians, Germans, Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Moldovans, Ossetians, Poles, Russians, Tatars, Turks and Ukrainians. Notably, Georgia's Jewish community is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. Georgia also exhibits significant linguistic diversity. Within the Kartvelian family, Georgian, Laz, Megrelian, and Svan are spoken. The official languages of Georgia are Georgian and also Abkhaz within the autonomous region of Abkhazia. Georgian, the country's official language, is a primary language of approximately 71% of the population, with 9% speaking Russian, 7% Armenian, 6% Azeri, and 7% other languages.
In the early 1990s, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, violent separatist conflicts broke out in the autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Many Ossetians living in Georgia left the country, mainly to Russia's North Ossetia On the other hand, more than 150,000 Georgians left Abkhazia after the breakout of hostilities in 1993. Of the Meskhetian Turks who were forcibly relocated in 1944 only a tiny fraction returned to Georgia as of 2008.
The 1989 census recorded 341,000 ethnic Russians, or 6.3% of the population, 52,000 Ukrainians and 100,000 Greeks in Georgia. Since 1990, 1.5 million Georgian nationals have left. At least one million immigrants from Georgia legally or illegally reside in Russia. Georgia's net migration rate is -4.54, excluding Georgian nationals who live abroad. Georgia has nonetheless been inhabited by immigrants from all over the world throughout its independence. According to 2006 statistics, Georgia gets most of its immigrants from Turkey and People's Republic of China.
Today most of the population practices Eastern Orthodox Christianity with 83.9% of the population adhering to the national Georgian Orthodox Church. Religious minorities include Muslims (9.9%); Armenian Apostolic (3.9%); Roman Catholic (0.8%). 0.8% of those recorded in the 2002 census declared themselves to be adherents of other religions and 0.7% declared no religion at all.

Georgian cuisine

Georgian cuisine and wine have evolved through the centuries, adapting traditions in each era. One of the most unusual traditions of dining is Supra, or Georgian table, which is also a way of socialising with friends and family. The head of Supra is known as Tamada. He also conducts the highly philosophical toasts, and makes sure that everyone is enjoying themselves. Various historical regions of Georgia are known for their particular dishes: for example, Khinkali (meat dumplings), from eastern mountainous Georgia, and Khachapuri, mainly from Imereti, Samegrelo and Adjara. In addition to traditional Georgian dishes, the foods of other countries have been brought to Georgia by immigrants from Russia, Greece, and recently China.


Appetizers

Muzhuzhi
Khachapuri- The most popular variety, Imeruli khachapuri or Imeretian khachapuri, is basically bread stuffed with cheese.
Lobiani– "Bean khachapuri", bread baked with a seasoned bean stuffing. Especially eaten on the Georgian holiday of Barbaroba, or St. Barbara's Day (December 17).
Kutchmatchi
Pkhaleuli- Vegetarian dishes from a variety of plants, similar to spinach but each having a unique taste and seasoning. Among these are: Jijilaka, Moloqa, and Ekala. Pkhaleuli is widespread in the Imereti region.
Abkhazura
Tsotskhali- A freshly prepared fish from a freshwater source.
Satsivi- Chicken or Turkey in a walnut sauce.
Lobio- Beans prepared with ground walnuts, various spices, vinegar and/or olive oil.
Nadughi- A dairy product similar to cottage cheese, but with a softer taste.
Matsoni- A dairy product similar to plain yogurt, but somewhat more sour.
Badrijani Nigvzit- Eggplants seasoned with ground walnuts, vinegar (or pomegranate juice), pomegranates and spices.
Ajapsandali- A vegetarian dish consisting of eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and seasoning.
Kupati-
Soko- Mushrooms prepared in various ways, seasoned with spices and herbs.
Ispanakhi- Spinach with ground walnut seasoning, spices and herbs.
Jonjoli
Mtchadi- Cornbread. Can be small and thick fried in oil, or thin and wide with crunchy surface
Tarti
Khizilala- Caviar.

Sport in Georgia

Among the most popular sports in Georgia are football, basketball, rugby union, wrestling, and weightlifting. Historically, Georgia has been famous for its physical education; it is known that the Romans were fascinated with Georgians' physical qualities after seeing the training techniques of ancient Iberia. Wrestling remains a historically important sport of Georgia, and some historians think that the Greco-Roman style of wrestling incorporates many Georgian elements.
Within Georgia, one of the most popularized styles of wrestling is the Kakhetian style. There were a number of other styles in the past that are not as widely used today. For example, the Khevsureti region of Georgia has three different styles of wrestling. Other popular sports in 19th century Georgia were polo, and Lelo, a traditional Georgian game later replaced by rugby union.

Wrestling
Wrestling remains a historically important sport of Georgia and some historians think that the Greco-Roman style of wrestling incorporates many Georgian elements. Within Georgia, one of the most popularized styles of wrestling is the Kakhetian style. However, there have been a number of other styles that are not as widely used today. For example, the Khevsureti region of Georgia has three different styles of wrestling.

Rugby union
Rugby union is a popular team sport played in Georgia. Rugby union is considered the second most popular sport in Georgia, after association football.

Lelo burti

Winter sports
Nodar Kumaritashvili (Georgian: ნოდარ ქუმარიტაშვილი; November 25, 1988 – February 12, 2010) suffered a fatal crash during a training run prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics competition in Vancouver, Canada. He was the fourth athlete to die during Winter Olympics preparations in history, and the first in 18 years. The opening ceremonies of the Games, led by IOC President Jacques Rogge, which took place later on the fateful day, were dedicated to the 21-year-old.

Education in Georgia

Education system of Georgia has undergone sweeping modernizing, although controversial, reforms since 2004. Education in Georgia is mandatory for all children aged 6–14. The school system is divided into elementary (6 years; age level 6-12), basic (3 years; age level 12-15), and secondary (3 years; age level 15-18), or alternatively vocational studies (2 years). Students with a secondary school certificate have access to higher education. Only the students who have passed the Unified National Examinations may enroll in a state-accredited higher education institution, based on ranking of scores he/she received at the exams.
Most of these institutions offer three level studies: a Bachelor's Programme (3–4 years); a Master's Programme (2 years), and a Doctoral Programme (3 years). There is also a Certified Specialist's Programme that represents a single-level higher education programme lasting for 3–6 years. As of 2008, 20 higher education institutions are accredited by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia. Gross primary enrollment ratio was 94% for the period of 2001-2006.

Religion in Georgia

Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of the world's most ancient Christian Churches, founded in the 1st century by the Apostle Andrew the First Called. In the first half of the 4th century Christianity was adopted as the state religion. This has provided a strong sense of national identity that has helped to preserve a national Georgian identity despite repeated periods of foreign occupation and attempted assimilation.

One of the oldest churches in Christendom, the Jvari church in Mtskheta, Georgia’s ancient capital.
According to the Constitution of Georgia, religious institutions are separate from government and every citizen has the right of religion. Most of the population of Georgia (83.9%) practices Orthodox Christianity and the Georgian Orthodox Church is an influential institution in the country.
The Gospel was preached in Georgia by the Apostles, Andrew, Simon the Canaanite, and Matthias. Iberia was officially converted to Christianity in 326 by Saint Nino of Cappadocia, who is considered to be the Enlightener of Georgia and the Equal to Apostles by the Orthodox Church. The Georgian Orthodox Church, once being under the See of Antioch, gained an autocephalous status in the 4th century during the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.
Religious minorities of Georgia include Russian Orthodox (2%), Armenian Christians (3.9%), Muslims (9.9%), Roman Catholics (0.8%), as well as sizeable Jewish communities and various Protestant minorities.
Despite the long history of religious harmony in Georgia, there have been several instances of religious discrimination in the past decade — such as acts of violence against Jehovah's Witnesses and threats against adherents of other "nontraditional faiths" by followers of the defrocked Orthodox priest Vasil Mkalavishvili.

Economy of Georgia

Archaeological research demonstrates that Georgia has been involved in commerce with many lands and empires since the ancient times, largely due its location on the Black Sea and later on the historical Silk Road. Gold, silver, copper and iron have been mined in the Caucasus Mountains. Wine making is a very old tradition. The country has sizable hydropower resources. Throughout Georgia's modern history agriculture and tourism have been principal economic sectors, because of the country's climate and topography.
For much of the 20th century, Georgia's economy was within the Soviet model of command economy. Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, Georgia embarked on a major structural reform designed to transition to a free market economy. As with all other post-Soviet states, Georgia faced a severe economic collapse. The civil war and military conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia aggravated the crisis. The agriculture and industry output diminished. By 1994 the gross domestic product had shrunk to a quarter of that of 1989. The first financial help from the West came in 1995, when the World Bank and International Monetary Fund granted Georgia a credit of USD 206 million and Germany granted DM 50 million.

Since early 21st century visible positive developments have been observed in the economy of Georgia. In 2007 Georgia's real GDP growth rate reached 12%, making Georgia one of the fastest growing economies in Eastern Europe.The World Bank dubbed Georgia "the number one economic reformer in the world" because it has in one year improved from rank 112th to 18th in terms of ease of doing business., The country has a high unemployment rate of 12.6% and has fairly low median income compared to European countries.
The 2006 ban on imports of Georgian wine to Russia, one of Georgia's biggest trading partners, and break of financial links was described by the IMF Mission as an "external shock.   In addition, Russia increased the price of gas for Georgia. This was followed by the spike in the Georgian lari's rate of inflation.  The National Bank of Georgia stated that the inflation was mainly triggered by external reasons, including Russia’s economic embargo. The Georgian authorities expected that the current account deficit due to the embargo in 2007 would be financed by "higher foreign exchange proceeds generated by the large inflow of foreign direct investment" and an increase in tourist revenues.The country has also maintained a solid credit in international market securities. Georgia is becoming more integrated into the global trading network: its 2006 imports and exports account for 10% and 18% of GDP respectively. Georgia's main imports are natural gas, oil products, machinery and parts, and transport equipment.

Since coming to power Saakashvili administration accomplished a series of reforms aimed at improving tax collection. Among other things a flat income tax was introduced in 2004 As a result budget revenues have increased fourfold and a once large budget deficit has turned into surplus.
Georgia is developing into an international transport corridor through Batumi and Poti ports, an oil pipeline from Baku through Tbilisi to Ceyhan, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) and a parallel gas pipeline, the South Caucasus Pipeline.
Tourism is an increasingly significant part of the Georgian economy. About a million tourists brought US$313 million to the country in 2006. According to the government, there are 103 resorts in different climatic zones in Georgia. Tourist attractions include more than 2000 mineral springs, over 12,000 historical and cultural monuments, four of which are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi and Gelati Monastery, historical monuments of Mtskheta, and Upper Svaneti).
As of 2001 54% of the population lived below the national poverty line but by 2006 poverty decreased to 34%. In 2005 average monthly income of a household was GEL 347 (about 200 USD). IMF 2007 estimates place Georgia's nominal GDP at US$10.3 billion. Georgia's economy is becoming more devoted to services (now representing 65% of GDP), moving away from agricultural sector ( 10.9%).
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Architecture and arts of Georgia

Senaki State Theater in Senaki, is an example of neoclassical style with elements of baroque in Georgia. Architect Vakhtang Gogoladze.
Georgian architecture has been influenced by many civilizations. There are several different architectural styles for castles, towers, fortifications and churches. The Upper Svaneti fortifications, and the castle town of Shatili in Khevsureti, are some of the finest examples of medieval Georgian castle architecture. Other architectural aspects of Georgia include Rustaveli avenue in Tbilisi in the Hausmann style, and the Old Town District.
Georgian ecclesiastic art is one of the most fascinating aspects of Georgian Christian architecture, which combines classical dome style with original basilica style forming what is known as the Georgian cross-dome style. Cross-dome architecture developed in Georgia during the 9th century; before that, most Georgian churches were basilicas. Other examples of Georgian ecclesiastic architecture can be found outside Georgia: Bachkovo Monastery in Bulgaria (built in 1083 by the Georgian military commander Grigorii Bakuriani), Iviron monastery in Greece (built by Georgians in the 10th century), and the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem (built by Georgians in the 9th century).
The art of Georgia spans the prehistoric, the ancient Greek, Roman, medieval, ecclesiastic, iconic and modern visual arts. One of the most famous late 19th/early 20th century Georgian artists is the primitivist painter Niko Pirosmani.

Culture of Georgia

Georgian culture evolved over thousands of years with its foundations in Iberian and Colchian civilizations, continuing into the rise of the unified Georgian Kingdom under the single monarchy of the Bagrationi. Georgian culture enjoyed a golden age and renaissance of classical literature, arts, philosophy, architecture and science in the 11th century.
The Georgian language, and the Classical Georgian literature of the poet Shota Rustaveli, were revived in the 19th century after a long period of turmoil, laying the foundations of the romantics and novelists of the modern era such as Grigol Orbeliani, Nikoloz Baratashvili, Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Vazha Pshavela, and many others. Georgian culture was influenced by Classical Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and later by the Russian Empire.
Georgia is well known for its rich folklore, unique traditional music, theatre, cinema, and art. Georgians are renowned for their love of music, dance, theatre and cinema. In the 20th century there have been notable Georgian painters such as Niko Pirosmani, Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akhvlediani; ballet choreographers such as George Balanchine, Vakhtang Chabukiani, and Nino Ananiashvili; poets such as Galaktion Tabidze, Lado Asatiani, and Mukhran Machavariani; and theatre and film directors such as Robert Sturua, Tengiz Abuladze, Giorgi Danelia and Otar Ioseliani.

Moscow Encourages Turmoil in Georgia

EU / BRUSSELS - Georgia's ambassador to the EU has said the European Commission made misleading statements about street clashes in Tbilisi that left almost 40 people in hospital and two dead.

Speaking to EUobserver on Thursday (26 May) in Brussels, Salome Samadashvili said EU institutions and member states have not delivered any form of official complaint to Georgia about the events despite commission claims.

No one has communicaed these kinds of comments to us about what happened - not any representative of the commission nor any EU member state either here or in Tbilisi. So we were very surprised to hear this line," she explained. "Up till now I have not heard anything, anything. The commission spokesperson's statement is not in line with the truth."

Earlier the same day commission spokeswoman Natasha Butler told press that Brussels is "concerned" about the "regrettable" events and warned Georgia "not to use violence as a means for political ends."

"We urge the need to maintain law and order but as we have already told the Georgian government this needs to be done in an appropriate way and the EU therefore urges the Georgian government to investigate all allegations of excessive use of violence."

Riot police on Thursday attacked anti-government protesters on Rustali Avenue in Tbilisi with water cannon, tear gas and rubber batons fifteen minutes after their permit to hold the demonstration expired at midnight. The protesters fought back with sticks and flag poles. Two people died after being hit by a car.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili described the events as a Russian plot to weaken his rule on the day of the 20th anniversary of Georgia's declaration of independence.

Moscow equates a violence-prone militant fringe with “the people,” but the people have actually disappointed their radical leaders. By May 22, the size of the protest rally in Tbilisi had shrunk to 2,000 by day and several hundred at night (AFP, Reuters, May 22, 23), when Georgian Party standard-bearer, Levan Gachechiladze, addressed potential Tbilisi supporters in the following terms: “We are preparing for the decisive selfless acts. My friends, residents of the Vakhe, Saburtalo, Vera, Gldani [Tbilisi neighborhoods], I am urging all of you to gather and resort to decisive selfless acts” (Kavkas-Press, May 22).

Apart from the heroic pose, the statement references quite concretely a possible social base for anti-government protests. Those neighborhoods are home to specific social groups whose livelihoods had variously depended on the Soviet system, the 1990s’ shadow economy system and the Eduard Shevardnadze presidency’s patronage system. These three overlapping systems and their remnants were all removed after 2003 by fast-paced reforms. This resulted in a social base for anti-government—in fact, anti-reform—protests, concentrated in Tbilisi (much less elsewhere). The extra-parliamentary opposition activated that base from 2007 onward, with a constantly diminishing rate of success. Those neighborhoods used to be Gachechiladze’s and his allies’ strongholds, but the appeal to them has now fallen flat.

Thus, popular support was nowhere in sight on the eve of the “Day of Rage” and the “final reckoning,” announced by Gachechiladze’s Georgian Party and Nino Burjanadze’s People’s Assembly for May 25 and 26 (National Independence Day), respectively.

People’s Assembly and Georgian Party leaders have not announced any programs or alternative ideas for governing, and have no expert teams to back them. Their only demand is the immediate resignation of President Saakashvili and the government, to be followed by new parliamentary and presidential elections in a “revolutionary” mode. Meanwhile, these groups and their leaders have practically dropped out of regular electoral processes due to their low ratings. They declined to take up their few parliamentary seats in 2008, and declined to run in the 2010 local elections, given their ratings in the low single digits. Although enjoying unimpeded access to state television, their popularity has not risen from that level.

By contrast, the constitutional opposition parties—Christian-Democrats and Our Georgia-Free Democrats—plan to compete in the 2012 and 2013 parliamentary and presidential elections. Led by Giorgi Targamadze and Irakli Alasania, respectively, these parties have distanced themselves from “revolutionary” street politics. They seek legislative changes through the parliamentary process (no longer through pressures outside the parliament); they prepare for elections in accordance with the constitutional timetable (not pre-term); and they cooperate to lay a basis for legal alternation of political parties in power in Georgia in the future (instead of street-driven change). Moreover, the constitutional opposition fully supports Georgia’s Western orientation.

Thus, Moscow lacks credible or effective candidates for a pro-Russia political movement in Georgia. The Kremlin can only hope to utilize small, outer-fringe groups for instigating street trouble, or—in a worst-case scenario—trigger a political explosion by furnishing some casualties amid turmoil and blaming everything on the government.

Protesters Call for the Resignation of Georgia’s President

Around 5,000 Georgian opposition supporters marched through the capital on Wednesday, the fifth day of non-stop protests aimed at ousting pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili.

They blocked Tbilisi's main street outside parliament, where the authorities had planned to hold a military parade to mark the Georgian Independence Day on Thursday.

Chanting protesters held placards reading "Misha (Saakashvili) must go", many of them also carrying sticks and hiding their faces with scarves.

"We are preparing for a decisive struggle," opposition party leader Nino Burjanadze told the crowd, although turnout has been small since the demonstrations began on Saturday.

Amid bitter divisions within the opposition, several other parties have not sent their supporters onto the streets and one of them cancelled plans to hold what it called an Arab-style "Day of Rage" on Wednesday.

Though the demonstration was largely peaceful, about a dozen protesters attacked a police cruiser with sticks early Sunday morning, prompting the police to retaliate, said Shota Utiashvili, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

“Police had to use a small amount of tear gas and rubber bullets against a small number of demonstrators,” Mr. Utiashvili said. He said two people were arrested, and five people, including the three police officers in the car, suffered minor injuries.

In another episode, demonstrators armed with sticks battled in the streets against unidentified men thought to be plainclothes police officers, according to local news reports.

Sunday’s violence, though relatively minor, revived memories of a brutal police crackdown on protesters in 2007. About 500 people were wounded then, when police officers used rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas to disperse thousands of antigovernment protesters.

The violence prompted strong international condemnation and undermined Mr. Saakashvili’s popularity at home, and the government has since sought to avoid such clashes.

So far police officers have largely stayed out of sight, clearly keen to avoid clashes.

In 2007, about 500 people were injured when police reacted heavy-handedly during a protest. The incident undermined the government's credibility and the authorities are keen to avoid the same thing happening again.

Rates of poverty may be high. But many Georgians do not trust the opposition, seen as divided and lacking credibility, and the president remains relatively popular.

Most people do not want a return to the crime and corruption which plagued the country before Mr Saakashvili came to power in 2003. So previous anti-government demonstrations have fizzled out.

Opposition leaders, though, say this time is different. They have called for a "day of rage" on Wednesday.

And further protests are expected on Thursday, when the government will stage the anniversary celebrations of Georgian independence.

Bodies Found Near Site of Protests in Georgia

MOSCOW — Georgia’s Interior Ministry reported the discovery of two bodies on a roof near the site of the past week’s antigovernment demonstrations, and said that the police were studying whether the deaths could have been related to the protests.

Georgian riot police grappled with demonstrators on Thursday in Tbilisi, the capital.
The ministry said the bodies were found on Friday atop a store near a subway station. The preliminary cause of death was said to be electrocution, possibly from touching an electric cable, officials said.

The deaths of two people had already been attributed to the protests — a policeman and a demonstrator who were hit by vehicles leaving the scene as demonstrators scattered under pressure from the police.

A group of several thousand demonstrators gathered Saturday to protest the use of force against protesters. The State Department and Britain’s minister for European affairs have both called on Georgia to investigate the violence.

“I was saddened to hear of violence on the streets of Tbilisi,” David Lidington , the British minister, said in a statement. “Whilst there is a place for legal protest and demonstrations in any democracy, there can be no place for violence.” President Mikheil Saakashvili has said that he believes that the protesters were backed by Russia and that they provoked the violence.

Amnesty said that during a May 26 demonstration Georgian police clubbed unarmed and peaceful demonstrators and fired rubber bullets and tear gas at bystanders and journalists. Some 90 people have been detained.

An OSCE statement says at least 10 reporters were verbally and physically abused by police officers. Some were detained for questioning; others had their press cards taken away, and their equipment damaged or confiscated.

In a letter to Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, said: "The fact that the police would abuse, detain and question reporters engaged in their professional duties is worrisome."

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on May 26 that the demonstrators were possibly financed by Russia and had aimed to destabilize the country.

The British government also called on Georgian authorities to investigate the violence.