Georgia is situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and is particularly famous for its verdant valleys peppered with vineyards, medieval churches, gorgeous mountain scenery, and brilliant seaside resorts. Boasting a complex history and rich culture, this fascinating nation is also full of high-spirited people. Here are some interesting facts about Georgia.
Facts about Georgia
1. Georgia is the 119th largest country in the world.
Occupying a total area of 69,700 km² (26,900 sq mi), Georgia ranks as the world’s 119th-largest nation. Comparatively, it is marginally smaller in size than Ireland.
2. Georgia shares a land border with four countries.
3. Georgia has a total coastline of 310 km (193 mi).
All of Georgia’s 310 km (193 mi) long coastline is bounded to the west by the Black Sea.
4. The highest point in Georgia is Mount Shkhara.
Located in the central part of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range along the country’s border with Russia, Mount Shkhara is Georgia’s tallest mountain. It rises to an elevation of 5,193 m (17,000 ft) making it the third-highest peak in the Caucasus.
5. The native name of Georgia is “Sakartvelo.”
While the rest of the world calls the country Georgia, Georgians call their nation “Sakartvelo.” The name derives from the Georgian region of Kartli, also known as Iberia in Byzantine and classical sources. Sakartvelo means “land of the Kartvelians” and Georgians call themselves ‘Kartvelebi’.
6. The origin of the name “Georgia” is uncertain.
The origin of the Western name “Georgia” for the country is unknown. Contrary to popular belief, it almost certainly doesn’t come from St. George—the nation’s patron saint. It is thought that “Georgia” stems from the Persian name for Georgians – gurğān, which was picked up by medieval crusaders.
7. Throughout its long history, Georgia has been ruled by a succession of empires and dynasties.
Due to its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Georgia has long been coveted by a host of adversaries. Georgia has been ruled in turn by the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Mongols, Arabs, Turks, and Russians.
8. Georgia is considered to be the birthplace of wine.
One of the most fascinating facts about Georgia is that this tiny nation is the birthplace of wine. Georgians have been producing and drinking it for at least 8,000 years and the traditions of viticulture are entwined and inseparable from the country’s national identity.
In 2015, archaeologists traced the world’s first known wine creation uncovered ancient clay vessels (known as qvevri) dating back to 6,000 BC at an archeological dig in southeastern Georgia. Ancient Georgians discovered that if wild grape juice was buried in a pit over winter, it turned into wine.
The country enjoys a climate and terrain perfectly suited for the cultivation of grapes. Over 500 of the world’s 2,000 grape varieties are Georgian. Georgia’s most celebrated wine is the so-called “orange wine,” essentially a white wine made using the same principles and methods as red.
9. There are no uppercase letters in the Georgian alphabet.
Standard Georgian is the official language of Georgia. Modern Georgian consists of 33 letters and has its own alphabet. The peculiarity of the Georgian alphabet is its lack of capital (uppercase) letters.
The curly letters with stems are often said to represent vines, the base of viticulture which is firmly entrenched in Georgian culture.
10. Georgia was part of the Soviet Union for nearly seven decades.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia declared its independence on 26 May 1918. Nonetheless, the Bolshevik Red Army invaded in February 1921 and Georgia’s brief independence came to an end. As a result, in 1922, Georgia became a part of the Soviet Union.
The Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic was subsequently incorporated as one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1991, the year it became independent.
11. The currency of Georgia is the Georgian Lari (GEL).
The lari has been Georgia’s official currency since 1995 when it replaced the kuponi. The name lari derives from an old Georgian word meaning ‘property’, or ‘a hoard.’
12 Georgia was one of the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity as its state religion.
One of the most interesting facts about Georgia is that it became one of the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity in the 4th century when St. Nino converted King Mirian and Queen Nina of Kartli.
Today, Orthodox Christianity is the major religion in Georgia with over 80% of the population following the Georgian Orthodox Church.
13. The deepest cave in the world can be found in Georgia.
With a staggering depth of 2,212 m (7,257 ft), Veryovkina Cave is the deepest known cave in the world. Located in the Arabika Massif, of the Western Caucasus in Abkhazia, Georgia, it extends for 12.7 km (7.89 mi).
14. Joseph Stalin was an ethnic Georgian and was born in Georgia.
Joseph Stalin, infamous for his campaigns of terror, was the totalitarian dictator of the USSR from 1927 until his death in 1953. Stalin was born Ioseb Besarionis dzе Jughashvili, in the Georgian province of Tiflis (Tbilisi) in Gori, a small village in the southern reaches of the vast Russian Empire.
He was the third child born to Besarion Jugashvili, a poor cobbler, and his wife Ekaterina, both ethnic Georgians. After he rose to power, Stalin never showed any partiality to Georgia politically – he generally treated it, in his own words, as merely a “little piece of Soviet territory called Georgia.” Indeed, during the Great Terror unleashed by Stalin in the 1930s, scores of Georgians suffered in the Gulags.
Today, Stalin remains a divisive figure among Georgians, venerated by some and loathed by others. There is a Stalin Museum in the town of Gori in Georgia.
15. Georgia is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Georgia are the Mtskheta Historical Monuments, Upper Svaneti region, and the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery.
16. The oldest hominin fossils known outside of Africa were found in Georgia.
Archaeological excavations at the paleolithic site of Dmanisi in Georgia unearthed the oldest hominin fossils known outside of Africa. The 1.8 million-year-old Dmanisi hominins are among the oldest specimens of Homo erectus yet recovered.
The Dmanisi hominins have thrust open the debate about the first human dispersal from Africa. Before the Dmanisi discoveries, the notion was that the first migrants should have been quite tall, big-brained, and having well-developed stone tools. However, the Dmanisi hominins contradicted these assumptions as they were physically small, and had small brains.
17. All but two of Georgia’s 32 medals at the Olympics have come from judo, weightlifting, and wrestling.
Georgians are famous for their physical prowess and it shows! One of the most astonishing facts about Georgia is that all but two of the 32 medals the country has won at the Olympics have come from wrestling, judo, and weightlifting.
18. Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia was formerly known as “Tiflis.”
Until the mid-1930s, Tbilisi, the Georgian capital was known in English and most other languages as “Tiflis” after the Persian pronunciation for the city. The name Tbilisi means “a warm place” and was given to the city because of its magnificent sulfuric hot springs.
19. Khachapuri is the national dish of Georgia.
The difficult-to-pronounce Georgian national dish of Khachapuri is a style of leavened flatbread formed into various shapes and topped with melted cheese. The yummy dish gets its name from the Georgian words khacho, meaning cheese curds, and puri, meaning bread.
There are several distinctive regional variations of this cheesy bread appetizer. Khachapuri is so ubiquitous that Georgian economists have even created a Khachapuri Index—using its cost of ingredients to gauge inflation and the strength of the economy!
20. Georgia is home to two breakaway regions or de facto independent republics.
Georgia is home to two breakaway regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia (officially the Republic of South Ossetia – the State of Alania). While both these regions are officially considered Georgian territory, Georgia lacks control over both.
Both the Abkhaz and Ossetians are linguistically distinct from the Georgians. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have historically been autonomous regions of Georgia, even during the Soviet Union. Simmering ethnic tensions, rising nationalism, and the collapse of the Soviet Union proved to be the catalyst in South Ossetia and Abkhazia declaring independence from Georgia in 1991 and 1992 respectively.
So far, both separatist polities have won limited international recognition. Only Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, and Syria recognize the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Vanuatu recognizes only Abkhazia but not South Ossetia. All other UN member states consider Abkhazia and South Ossetia legally part of Georgia.
Russian influence and intervention, as well as the relations between Russia and the West have no doubt conditioned the outcome of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops are on the ground in both these regions today, and Russian financial support is crucial to their survival.
21. The national rugby team of Georgia is nicknamed “The Lelos.”
After football, rugby union is the second-most popular sport in Georgia. The sport’s popularity in the country has often been explained by its similarity to the traditional Georgian game of Lelo or Lelo Burti (meaning Field Ball). Indeed, the Georgia national rugby team is nicknamed “Lelos”, and the word has been adopted as the Georgian word for try.
22. In Georgia, Christmas is celebrated on 7 January.
It’s interesting to know that in Georgia, Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January. This is because the Georgian Orthodox Church (like the Orthodox Churches in Russia and Serbia) uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar for their festivals.
23. Georgia doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Clocks do not change in Georgia and daylight-saving hasn’t been observed in the country since 2005.