Formal name:Republic of Georgia.
Short name: Georgia.
Estimated population: 4,989,285 (July 2001 est.).
Date of independence: 9 April 1991.
- CIA World Factbook 2001: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/gg.html
- Library of Congress Country Studies: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/
Georgia became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. During the first years of its independence Georgia experienced rising nationalism, a civil war, a struggle for control of the government, and ethnic conflicts. During the Soviet period, and in order to accommodate the concentration of non-Georgian people, part of Georgian territory was divided into an autonomous region (South Ossetia) and two autonomous socialist republics (Abkhazia and Ajaria). The largest of these is the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic. This regional ethnic distribution is the main factor provoking conflict and responsible for the massive displacement of people in post-Soviet Georgia.
The international community identifies five areas of conflict or potential conflict in Georgia. These are: the Abkhazia region; the South Ossetia region; the Ajaria region; Javakheti province; and Pankisi Gorge. In addition there is the issue of the return of the Meskhetian Turks, an ethnic group forcibly relocated in other Soviet republics during the Stalin era. The displacement of people in Georgia is the direct result of ethnic conflicts in two of the regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The separatist wars that took place in the early 1990s in Abkhazia and South Ossetia have resulted in massive internal displacement. People from different ethnic backgrounds swapped places as the conflicts forced them to leave their homes and seek protection among their ethnic communities/regions. In 1993 Abkhazian separatists won control of the region, expelling or forcing into flight approximately 270,000 people, most of which were ethnic Georgian. The ethnic conflict in South Ossetia displaced 60,000 people. It is estimated that around 40,000 South Ossetians crossed into Russia and sought refuge in the North Ossetian Autonomous Republic of Russia. There are also around 7,000 refugees from the conflict in Chechnya that have sought refugee in Georgia. The conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain unresolved. The situation in Abkhazia is the most tense as the ceasefire in the area has been violated by sporadic incidents of violence. Today the government of Georgia has no effective control over the autonomous republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and its authority over the autonomous region of Ajaria has weakened.
Georgia is still in the early stages of transition from the Soviet system. This process of transition has been delayed and made more difficult by civil war and ethnic conflicts, as well as by the need to maintain a precarious social stability. Within the present context of Georgia, political stability is a higher priority, and has to some extent been achieved over the last nine years. At the same time, the same context has slowed down the process of transforming Georgian society into a market economy, and a democratic and pluralistic society, particularly in rural areas.