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Is Georgia in Europe or Asia? Georgian Culture, Geography and more

Georgia is a small country by the Black Sea, surrounded by the natural boundary of the Caucasus Mountains.  Despite its small size, Georgia surely has many unique and interesting features, and its location is one of them.

Georgia is situated in the mountainous Caucasus region, just at the border of Europe and Asia. Georgia is bordered by the Black Sea in the west, Turkey and Armenia in the south, Azerbaijan in the south and south-east, and by Russia in the north and northeast. Georgia’s entire Northern border is in the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range.

Georgian geographical location makes things complex. The Caucasus Mountain range is regarded as the easternmost boundary of Europe, and this makes Georgia both an Asian and a European country.

Here is the short answer to the question: Is Georgia in Asia or Europe?

Georgia is a country located on the border of Europe and Asia and has territory on both continents. Georgia is socially and politically closer to Europe than Asia. For this reason, Georgia is a full member of the Council of Europe and other major European institutions.

Georgia is also called a Eurasian country because the country has areas both in Asia and European continents.

Yet, Georgia is unique in many aspects. Let’s explore further.

The border between Europe and Asia

Is Georgia an Asian Country?

Most people would assume that Georgia is a European country, mainly because the name sounds European. However, the name is not European at all; at least its root is not.

As most scholars agree, the name ‘Georgia’ stemmed from ’Gorğān’, a designation given to Georgians by Persians, who conquered most of the land in the 15th century. 

To make the matter more confusing, the ethnicity and languages in Georgia don’t fit into the typical European or Asian template either. Georgians do not fit into any of the main ethnic categories in Europe.

The Georgian language is neither Asian or European. The Georgian Language does not fit into Indo-European, Turkic nor Semitic languages spoken in Asia or Europe. The Georgian language belongs to the Kartvelian language group, and Georgian is believed to be one of the oldest languages spoken today.

As you can see, it’s not that simple, is it?

Yet, Georgian is accepted as a European culture like many other ethnic groups and languages, which do not fit in the common European type either. Still, they are regarded as European without any doubt.

Georgia’s mostly European culture, its proximity to other European countries, its political alliance and structures, and its shared history and values with the rest of the are the main reasons Georgia is considered as a European Country.

Is Georgia a European Country?

If you look at the geographical side, Georgia’s continental identity has changed several times throughout history. 

In ancient times, Greek philosopher Anaximander designated the Rioni river as the boundary between two continents, making Georgia divided between Europe and Asia. Herodotus also followed the same theory.

However, in the 18th century, Kuma-Manych Depression became the de-facto boundary between Europe and Asia, placing entire Georgia in Asia. 

Other contemporary definitions made the Aras river the continental boundary, making Georgia an entirely European state. 

Despite all these varying factors, the truth is that Georgia is widely accepted as a European country by other European countries. Georgian cultural, political, and historical similarity with the rest of Europe is the main reason why Georgia is accepted as a European country.

Map Countries that are full members of the Council of Europe

Is Georgia a Member of the EU and Council of Europe ?

Georgia is not a member of the European Union. Yet, on 12 January 2002, the European Parliament stated that Armenia and Georgia could join the EU in the future because both countries are considered European. Georgia is preparing to formally apply for EU membership in 2024.

Since Georgia’s independence and secession from the Soviet Union, Georgia has been trying to establish a pro-western stance to counterbalance the century-long Russian influence on its every sector.

Georgia has maintained a steady relationship with the European Union since its independence. Almost 80% of the Georgian population welcomes the idea of Georgia becoming an EU member.

On the other hand, Georgia is a full member of many European institutions like the Council of Europe. The country is also a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Georgia is also actively working to become a full member of NATO.

Is Georgia an independent country?

Georgia has been an independent country since May 1991, when it declared independence and ceded from the Soviet Union.

Throughout history, Georgia has been under the hegemony of many empires. It emerged as a unified nation or kingdom in the middle ages under the legendary ruler David IV and then Queen Tamar.

However, the kingdom fell into chaos shortly and was fragmented into different parts when the Persian, Ottoman, and Russian empires invaded Georgia through the following centuries.

The Russian Empire was the last one to invade Georgian territories. It lasted till 1917, when the Russian revolution took place, and the empire fell into chaos. Georgians took the opportunity and declared independence.

The independence was rather short-lived since Georgia again fell under Russian control in 1921. This time, Georgia was annexed to the Soviet Union, a successor state to Imperialist Russia, ruled by Bolsheviks.

Georgia remained under Soviet control until 1991 when it declared independence after a referendum. Since then, albeit being ravaged by frequent turmoil and civil wars, Georgia managed to stay independent.

Georgia was one of the Republics in the USSR.

Was Georgia a part of Russia?

In its recent history, Georgia was annexed by the Soviet Union (former Kingdom of Russia) in 1922 and remained in the Soviet Union until May 1991. Hence, although Georgia was never a part of Modern Russia, it was a part of its predecessor state, the Soviet Union.

It was in the 18th century when Georgia or at least a part of it was annexed by the Russian Empire, which continued until 1917. After the Russian revolution in 1917, when the Bolsheviks thwarted the imperialists, Georgia emerged as an independent nation. 

Shortly after its independence, Georgia signed the Treaty of Poti, under which it achieved both recognition and protection from the German Empire.

The Bolshevik Red Army in Tbilisi on 25 February 1921, which effectively destroyed the democratic government formed in 1918. Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

However, the Germans were defeated in 1918, and there was no protection for Georgia anymore. As a result, when the Red Army invaded Georgia in 1921 to thwart the social-democratic government in Georgia and establish the Bolshevik regime, Georgia had to give in and became a part of the Soviet Union.

Throughout the occupation, Georgians conducted many uprisings and revolts, but none of them were significant or universally participated. After 1986, Georgians were finally ready to regain independence, mostly because of Perestroika, which only intensified the existing discontent among Georgians towards the Soviet Authority.

Ultimately in April 1991, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia declared independence. Although the post-independence era was full of turmoil due to civil war, rebellion, and Russian intervention, Georgia has remained a sovereign state since then.

Is Georgia a state of the USA?

Georgia is not only the name of the sovereign country located in the Caucasus Mountains in Europe, but it is also the name of a southeastern state of the USA. Many people, especially those in North America, confuse the sovereign country of Georgia with the state of Georgia.

The similarity in their names may suggest some common history, but there is none. The state of Georgia in the USA started as a royal colony of Great Britain in 1732. It was named after George II of Great Britain.

On the other hand, Georgia, the country in the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia, is a sovereign state. Its name stemmed from the term ’Gorğān’, which was a designation given by Persians to Georgian people.

Hence, although both of these geographic entities share the same name, they don’t have any common history.

Tbilisi, a city with a mix of medieval, neoclassical, Beaux-Arts, Art Nouveau, Stalinist, and Modern structures. Photo by Unsplash

What’s the capital of Georgia?

The capital of Georgia is Tbilisi, and it is the largest city in Georgia, home to approximately 1.5 million people. It is situated in South Caucasia, on both banks of the Kura River. Tbilisi is surrounded by mountains on three sides.

Tbilisi was founded during the 5th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasili, according to local legend. This city has always been the center of Georgia throughout its history.

Tbilisi has been destroyed and rebuilt 29 times so far, which bears witness to its rich but tumultuous history.

Tbilisi is a city of beautiful, awe-inspiring contrast. With maze-like cobblestone streets, steaming bathhouses, hipster hotels, eclectic architecture, and ancient forts and ruins- there are not many European cities like Tbilisi.

A map of Georgian and Kartvelian languages. Source: Wikipedia

What languages do they speak in Georgia?

The main language spoken in Georgia is Georgian, natively known as ‘Kartuli Ena’. An overwhelming majority, almost 90% of people in Georgia natively speak Georgian.

Georgian belongs to the Kartvelian language family, which is an isolated group. There is no linguistic resemblance between the Kartvelian family and other language families.

The Georgian language has many dialects, usually divided into Eastern Georgian and Western Georgian groups. There are also related languages spoken in Georgia like Mingrelian, Laz, and Svan which have some mutual intelligibility with Georgian dialects.

Azerbaijani and Russian languages are also spoken in Georgia by the respective minority ethnic groups. 

Recently the Russian language has been less and less spoken because of the negative impression attached to Russia in Georgia.

Where did Georgia get its name?

Like many other countries in the world, the root of Georgia’s name has been always contested. Georgia is a western exonym, which became its official name in course of time. But Georgia is natively known as Sakartvelo.

The endonym or native name Sakartvelo came from the central region of Kartli, which was known to the world as Iberia.

As for the western exonym Georgia, there are several theories. Most agree that the name came from the word ‘Gorğān’, which was a Persian designation for the Georgians. 

The Russian exonym Gruziya is also derived from the Persian designation Gorjestan, which again stemmed from the word ‘Gorğān’.

Are Georgians similar to Russians?

Georgia was under the occupation of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union for a long time. However, ethnic Georgians, who comprise 87% of Georgia’s current population, have no relation or similarity with Ethnic Russians, who are ethno-linguistically Slavs.

In fact, Ethnic Georgians do not belong to any main ethnic groups in Europe and hence have no ethnic connection to Russians either. However, because of its long history with Russia, it has a minority of ethnic Russians in Georgia.

Figure: The Rose Revolution, which ended Russian influence in Georgia and truly liberated them. Source: Wikipedia

Is Georgia a communist state?

At present, Georgia is a democratic republic. Since the inception of modern, sovereign Georgia in 1991, they mostly maintained a democratic government. Even back in 1917, when the  Russian Empire was its suzerain, Georgia joined the Transcaucasian Democratic Federation with Armenia and Azerbaijan. They declared independence from the Russian Empire shortly after that, in 1918.

Although their first bout of independence was short-lived, they maintained a democratically elected Government throughout that time. The Menshevik Social Democratic Party of Georgia, who won the election, was also recognized by France, the UK, Belgium, and Poland.

From 1922 to 1991, Georgia was a republic of the Soviet Union, which was a communist state itself. However, it was communism and its negative effect on Georgians that united Georgians against the communist Soviet Union and led to its declaration of independence in 1991.

Immediately after independence, Georgia resorted back to democracy and elected its first president after 1918. Although there were coups, long, bitter civil wars, and Russian influence in Georgian politics, Georgia always leaned towards democracy in essence.