Georgia. At the beginning of the year came signals of thawing of the frosty relationship between Georgia and the Russian Federation, almost four years after the war between the two countries. President Micheil Saakashvili proposed visa-free travel for Russians, and Russian Foreign Ministry responded that Moscow was ready to resume diplomatic relations with Georgia.
At the same time, Saakashvili’s political problems at home increased after the environmentalist Bidzina Ivanishvili decided to challenge Saakashvili’s party the United National Alliance in the autumn parliamentary elections. Ivanishvili had become popular with many by financing the renovation of cultural buildings and the construction of the country’s largest church. The regime sought to stop Ivanishvili in various ways. He had been deprived of his Georgian passport, and in March an investigation into the financing of Ivanishvili’s opposition alliance’s Georgian dream began.
In the poor Guri region in the west, residents stated that the audit authority controlling campaign finance warned them of contact with the Georgian dream. Transparency International reported how prisoners of Ivanishvili were threatened with imprisonment and that their children would become orphans.
- AbbreviationFinder.org: Provides most commonly used acronyms and abbreviations for Georgia. Also includes location map, major cities, and country overview.
President Saakashvili tried to take the initiative in the election campaign in May when he inaugurated the country’s new parliament building in the city of Kutaisi, taking over from Tbilisi. But the event was followed by a mass rally in protest against the regime and in support of Ivanishvili’s opposition alliance. One of the most Saakashvili-critical speakers at the meeting was the popular football star Kacha Kaladze, who was a clubmate with Zlatan Ibrahimović in Italian Milan. Kaladze soon had his bank accounts frozen in connection with an investigation into money laundering, and both Kaladze and Ivanishvili were sentenced to high fines accused of illegally funding the Georgian dream’s election campaign.
In September, the minister in charge of prison care resigned after a video was released showing guards brutally abusing and raping prisoners. The interior minister was also allowed to leave his post; he had previously been a prison minister. The scandal became a severe hardship for the regime in the electoral movement, and the government accused the opposition of planning and directing the film with bribes to the prison leadership. Saakashvili also portrayed Ivanishvili as corrupt and allied with the Russian Federation.
But the October 1 election turned out to be a major victory for the opposition, with the Georgian dream taking close to 55% of the vote and receiving a clear majority in parliament, 85 out of 150 seats. The ruling United National Alliance stopped just over 40% of the vote, lost half of its mandate and ended up at 65. According to the OSCE, the election was free despite some cheating and shortcomings and a fierce election campaign. Saakashvili acknowledged defeat, Ivanishvili regained his Georgian citizenship and was given the task of forming a new government.
The Georgian dream was a motley alliance dominated by Ivanishvili’s own party, the Georgian dream – Democratic Georgia. Five smaller groups were included, with everything from Western-friendly market liberals to xenophobic nationalists.
When the new Prime Minister Ivanishvili presented his government at the end of October, Kacha Kaladze became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure. The new Foreign Minister Maja Pandzhikidze declared that Georgia would continue to strive for NATO membership and have the United States as a strategic partner. But the country would also work for a new line of improved relations with the Russian Federation. According to Pandzhikidze, peaceful control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared itself independent after Georgia’s war against the Russian Federation in 2008, would be restored peacefully.
During the year, presidential elections were held in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, where former KGB chief Leonid Tibilov won. The election was held since the ordinary election before the New Year was rejected by the court after the opposition candidate won.
In December, the Georgia and Russian Federations held their first direct talks since the 2008 war. This took place in Switzerland, where the parties agreed on regular meetings, including on trade.
Tamada sets the pace for wine drinking
Born on the banks of the Mtkvarijoki River by hot springs more than 1,500 years ago, Tbilisi is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the Caucasus. Located along narrow alleys, two-storey houses with ornate balconies are typical of the old part of Tbilisi. The modern city of millions, on the other hand, presents itself along the main street named after national writer Rustavel. The oldest church buildings, such as Zion Cathedral and the Anichat Basilica, date back to the 5th century. Their most precious medieval objects, church treasures adorned with gold and intricate enamel patterns, can be seen in the museums of Tbilisi.
The birthplace of the nation, as well as the Independent Church of Georgia, is an hour’s drive from Tbilisi, a small UNESCO-protected town in Mtskheta. Its churches commemorate the country’s own patron saint, Nino. Along the Georgian military highway from Mtskheta, built by the Russians, you can admire the northern border region and the snow-capped Kazbek, the highest mountain in the country, guarding it. Historic stops along the soldiers include the ancient Silk Road marketplace Uplistsikhe and the Stalin Museum in Gori, which presents a slightly more recent history. “Father Sunny” was the son of a Gori shoemaker and a priest seminary rusting sensitive natural poems. However, while in power, Stalin did not favor the homeland of his childhood, but the persecution of the 1930s punished Georgia as severely as other parts of the Soviet Union. However, his love for red Georgian Mukuzani wine remained throughout life. Georgians are convinced that it was their ancestors who were the first wine growers in the world. Wine can be tasted on large, export-specialized farms, but also in home cellars that are hundreds of years old, where the host draws a noble drink from underground stone vats with a pitcher. Cheese, saslik and local “burgers”, khachapuri, are suitable for picking up wine. However, no cup is raised and no speech is given without the permission of the master of ceremonies, the Tamada, chosen for each gathering.
According to countryaah, the population of Georgia in 2012 was 4,024,072, ranking number 130 in the world. The population growth rate was -0.370% yearly, and the population density was 57.9102 people per km2.