Tuesday, January 29, 2013
History of Georgia
Georgian ports were involved with trading with the Greeks. The story of Jason and the Argo in which he set out to find the Golden Fleece probably was a voyage into Georgia where it was a custom to hang sheep fleeces in rivers to catch gold dust from the river sediments. Such a system has been even observed in use in recent times in both Georgia and Romania.
The Romans conquered Georgia in 65BC under Pompey and it remained under Roman rule until AD298 when it was handed over to Persian rule. In the ensuing centuries it was an area endlessly fought over by Persian, Mongols and Turks. Highlights of their history include the state accepting Christianity in AD337 making it the second state in he world (after Armenia) to accept Christianity. In the 12th Century Tamar Mepe (queen Tamara) ruled the country and her rule has often been looked back upon as the golden age of Georgia.
In the 18th Century Russia appeared on the scene, allegedly in the interests of protecting the Eastern Orthodox religion against the Ottomans and Islam. Georgia was annexed into the Russian Empire where it remained till the end of the First World War. After a brief period of independence it was again thrown into the turmoil of the Communist Revolution and became part of the Soviet Union in 1921. One of the world's greatest tyrants, Stalin, was born in Georgia. He, in the name of communism, committed some of the worst crimes in the 20th Century. Eventually with the coming of the more liberal Gorbachev the door opened for freedom of expression. First the Georgian Communist Party declared themselves independent of the Soviet Union and shortly after a free vote resulted in a non-communist government under the nationalist university lecturer Zviad Gamsakhurdia being elected. His very Georgian oriented leadership alienated minorities and his leadership lost credibility, protests ended in street fighting in Tbilisi. His place was taken by Eduard Shevardnadze who had previously been Gorbachev's foreign minister. Although he tried to bring law and order to the country and to rebuild the economy his policies accelerated a separatist movement in Abkhazia which ended in a bloody and destructive civil war with 250,000 Georgians being displaced from Abkhazia. His period was further marked with considerable corruption and nepotism.