Georgia, known from 1990 to 1995 as the Republic of Georgia, is a country to the east of the Black Sea in the southern Caucasus. A former republic of the Soviet Union, it shares borders with Russia in the north and Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan in the south.
Two Georgian Kingdoms of late antiquity, Iberia in the east of the country and Egrisi in the west, were among the first nations in the region to adopt Christianity (In 317 AD and 523 AD, respectively.) Iberia soon became a part of the Persian Empire. Egrisi often saw battles between rivals Persia and the Byzantine Empire, both of which managed to conquer Western Georgia from time to time. As a result, those Kingdoms were disintegrated into various feudal regions in the early Middle Ages. This made it easy for Arabs to occupy Georgia in the 7th century. The rebellious regions were liberated and united into the Georgian Kingdom at the beginning of the 11th century. Starting in the 12th century the rule of Georgia extended over the significant part of Southern Caucasus, including northeastern parts and almost entire northern coast of what is now Turkey.
This Georgian Kingdom, which was tolerant towards its Muslim and Jewish subjects despite the Kingdom's deeply Christian character, was subordinated by the Mongols in the 13th century. Thereafter, different local rulers fought for their independence from the central Georgian rule, until the total disintegration of the Kingdom in the 15th century. Neighbouring kingdoms exploited the situation and from the 16th century the Persian Empire and the Ottoman Empire subordinated the eastern and western regions of Georgia, respectively.
All the regions in the west of the country remained fully independent until the next decade. In 1810 the Russian Empire managed to conquer and abolish the Western Georgian Kingdom of Imereti, which had a key role in the diplomatic efforts to maintain Georgian sovereignty in the west of the country and to unite Western Georgian regions. Even after this, it took the Russian Empire another 54 years to take full control of all of Western Georgia. The region of Guria was abolished in 1828, and the region of Samegrelo in 1857. The region of Svaneti was gradually annexed in 1857-1859 and the Principality of Abkhazia in 1864.
After the Russian Revolution 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 and its leader, Noe Zhordania, became a Prime-Minister. The country's independence did not last long, however. In February 1921 Georgia was attacked by the Red Army. Georgian troops lost the battle and the Social-Democrat government fled the country. On February 25, 1921 the Red Army entered the capital Tbilisi and installed a puppet communist government led by Georgian Bolshevik Philippe Makharadze. Georgia was incorporated into a Transcaucasian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic uniting Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The TFSSR was disaggregated into its component elements in 1936 and Georgia became the Georgian SSR.
During the Perestroika reforms of the late 1980s, of which one of the main architects was the USSR's Georgian minister for foreign affairs, Eduard Shevardnadze, Georgia developed a vigorous multiparty system that strongly favoured independence. The country staged the first democratic, multiparty parliamentary elections in the Soviet Union on October 28, 1990. On April 9, 1991, shortly before the collapse of the USSR, Georgia declared a state independence again. On May 26, 1991 Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as a first President of independent Georgia. However, in December 22, 1991 - January 6, 1992 Gamsakhurdia was deposed in a bloody coup d'etat by part of the National Guards and a paramilitary organization "Mkhedrioni" allegedly supported by Russian military units stationed in Tbilisi. The country got embroiled in a bitter civil war which lasted almost until 1995. Shevardnadze returned to Georgia in 1992 and joined the leaders of the coup – Kitovani and Ioseliani - to head a triumvirate – “State Council”. In 1995 Shevardnadze was officially elected as a president of Georgia. At the same time, two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, quickly became embroiled in disputes with local separatists that led to widespread inter-ethnic violence and wars. Supported by Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have achieved and maitained de facto independence from Georgia. More than 250,000 Georgians have been ethnically cleansed out of Abkhazia by Abkhaz separatists and Russian volunteers. More than 25,000 Georgians were expelled from Tskhinvali as well, and many Ossetian families were forced to abandon their homes in the Borjomi region and move to Russia. In 2003 Shevardnadze himself was deposed in a bloodles coup, also known as 'Rose Revolution', led by Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze - the former members and leaders of his ruling party. Mikheil Saakashvili was elected as a president of Georgia in 2004. Restoring Georgia's territorial integrity, reversing the effects of ethnic cleansing and returning refugees to their home places were the main pre-election promises of Saakashvili's government.