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Georgia Country Profile

Georgia (Sakartvelo in Georgian), is a country of 69,700 km2, approximately the size of Ireland, bordering Russia, the Black Sea, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Population:

In 2002, according to census data, there were 4.4 million people living in Georgia. Compared to World Bank data collected in 1992, which state that there were 5.4 million people, Georgia lost a fifth of its population within one decade. We have to note that the 2002 census did not cover regions which did not fall under direct control of Tbilisi: namely Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Recent estimations put today's population of Abkhazia at around 180,000 and of South Ossetia (before the recent fighting) at slightly above 60,000.

Even taking this into account, we conclude that in 10 years the total population of Georgia decreased by more than 750,000 people.

Most of this marked decrease is due to massive emigration from Georgia during the mentioned period. According to the World Bank Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008, Georgia's population decrease is the second highest in the world at -1.1 (after Moldova which is at -1.2). A low birth rate of 1.3 children per woman contributes to this alarming trend.

Ethnic Diversity:

Georgia is the least homogenous of the states of the South Caucasus. In a population of 4.4 million (without Abkhazia and South Ossetia), Georgians make up some 84 percent.

The 2002 census identified the following ethnic groups: Georgian, Abkhazian, Ossetian, Azerbaijanis, Armenian, Russian, Greek, Ukrainian and Jewish.

According to the last Soviet census in 1989, the picture was as follows:
                                  
                                               70.1 percent Georgians (a total of 3.7 million)
                                                 8.1 percent Armenians
                                                 6.3 percent Russians
                                                 5.7 percent Azerbaijanis
                                                 3.2 percent Ossetians
                                                 1.8 percent Abhazian
                                                 1.8 percent Greeks
                                    
In addition there were also 95,000 Kurds, 52,000 Ukrainians, 24,600 Jews, 8,600 Belorussians, 6,000 Assyrians and 4,000 Tatars. Note that among the total population in 1989 the number of Greeks and Abkhazians in Georgia was the same.

This diversity has also been described well by Thoman Goltz, in 'Georgia Diary':

"The list of distinctive Georgian subregions (and thus subpeoples) was long. In addition to the main east-west split among Georgians themselves and the dual, breakaway entities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, there were the Armenian borderlands called Javakheti to the south, the almost insanely rugged mountain region along the Russian frontier known as Svanetia, as well as the self styled neo-Crusader mountain-men known as Khevsurs living around the extraordinary mountain fortress called Shatili on the upper Argun River, the latter two being sub-Georgian groups. And did I forget the Turkish speaking Greeks dwelling mainly in the Armenian zone of Tralka, just south of Tbilisi, or the Azerbaijani-speaking Zoroastrian Kurds of Marneuli, or the ethnic Chechens called 'Kists' who lived in and around Pankisi Gorge on the Chechen/Dagestani frontier?" (p.106).

Georgia is also religiously very diverse. The biggest religious group in Georgia are Orthodox Georgians: 3.7 million people according to the 2002 population census.

The second biggest group are Muslims with about 434,000 people, some of whom live in the region of Adjara – informally referred to in the past as 'Muslim Georgia.'

However, contrary to popular belief, most Muslims in Georgia (over 70% of the population) do not live in Adjara but in the south-eastern region of Kvemo Kartli – and around Tbilisi.

Armenian-Georgians, Catholics and Jews also make up a considerable part of the Georgian population.

This religious diversity is alive today in the cities and towns of Georgia. Taking a walk in old Tbilisi – among the old two storey houses and through the meandering streets – one passes by the city Synagogue, the Armenian Church, one of many Georgian Orthodox churches and the Mosque, all within 5 minutes of each other.

October 2008

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29 October 2008, 00:00