Here are some interesting facts about this country of warm people, incredible wine, beautiful sites, and a long, storied past. If you haven’t made your way over there yet, what are you waiting for?
Georgia Facts: The Flag
Have a look at this flag, huh (you can click on it to open it to its full-sized glory)? It looks like the banner of the victorious side in a medieval crusade, no?
The Georgian flag is also known as the “Five Cross Flag,” and was recently adopted in 2004 after its widespread use during the Rose Revolution in 2003. It was probably adapted from an earlier flag of Tbilisi, its capital, which shows a red Jerusalem cross on a white background; vexillologists (those who study flags and emblems) have found references to this Tbilisi flag from as far back as the 14th century.
Georgia Facts: The People
Georgians are a Caucasian people in the most literal sense of the word, as they hail from the Caucasus. In fact, the European term for “white” people as being “Caucasian” comes from the outdated racial classifications of centuries past. In 1795, German anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach discovered a Georgian skull with which he made all kinds of characterizations about Europeans as a whole. As the excerpt from his book shows:
I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighbourhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; and because all physiological reasons converge to this, that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place the autochthones of mankind. For in the first place, that stock displays, as we have seen, the most beautiful form of the skull, from which, as from a mean and primeval type, the others diverge by most easy gradations on both sides to the two ultimate extremes (that is, on the one side Mongolian, on the other the Ethiopian). Besides, it is white in colour, which we may fairly assume to have been the primitive colour of mankind, since, as we have shown above, it is very easy for that to degenerate into brown, but very much more difficult for dark to become white, when the secretion and precipitation of this carbonaceous pigment has once deeply struck root.
Horribly wrong in so many ways, I know, but this was unfortunately the prevailing view at the time.
Source: Anthropological Treatises of Blumenbach and Hunter, from the Publications of the Anthropological Society of London, 1865.
Georgia Facts: The Loooooooong History
History in Georgia goes way back. I mean a long way back.
Five Homo erectus skulls discovered in Dmanisi, Georgia “have revealed an extraordinary record of the earliest hominid dispersal beyond Africa (1.75 million years ago). Several hominid individuals along with abundant well-preserved remains of fossil animals and stone artefacts have been found.”
These recent finding at this site (the last skull only just found in 2005) seem to be the earliest specimens of small-brained human outside of Africa. In addition to that, the skulls at Dmanisi give scientists a clearer picture of the early human migration out of Africa and into the rest of the world.
Georgia Facts: The Geography
Georgia is a small country wedged between Russia to its north and Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to its south; it is also between the Caucasus Mountains and the Lesser Caucasus, with the Black Sea making up its western border. Its geographical position between East and West seems to translate to many other aspects of the Georgian identity, most notably in their food; its border with Turkey has just added to the Georgian flavor – and in a great way.
Georgia also has quite a range of terrains and climates; the country is so diverse that “climatic zones ranging from subtropical to high alpine to semi-desert.” Beaches to its west above Turkey are popular tourist destinations, and the mountains of the Caucasus offer some skiing that rivals the Alps.
Georgia Facts: The Wine
Georgia, more and more, is becoming known for its wine, and for good reason; they (and their Armenian neighbors) probably invented it! Evidence suggests that the earliest domestication of Vitis vinifera (the common grape vine) occurred in the area which are now the countries or Georgia and Armenia. The oldest-known winery to date was discovered in the Areni-1 cave in Vayots Dzor, Armenia, and dated to around 4100 BC.
Georgian wines come in a variety of tastes, alcoholic contents, and even production methods. Some of their wines are even unfiltered, meaning that the natural sediment from the grapes are retained in the wine – all the way through the process to your glass. An ancient Georgian winemaking process, known as Kvevri for the clay jars used, was even added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Georgia Facts: The Georgian Language & Alphabet
Before we talk about the alphabet, we need to get something straight first: it is somewhat false (to what extent, you’ll have to ask a Georgian) to call the script you may find written in Georgia as the “Georgian alphabet.” You see, there are actually three different alphabets, or scripts, used to write the Georgian language: Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri, and Mkhedruli. The latter, Mkhedruli, is the one that is taken as the standard for writing in Georgia. The Georgian Scripts are so important to the history of the Georgian people that the United Nations are even considering them for inclusion in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
As for the language, Georgian is a member of the Kartvelian languages prominent in and around the Caucasus region. The Georgian language is the largest and most-spoken of the Kartvelian language group, a group of languages unrelated to any other groups, making it one of the primary language groups in the world.
Georgia Facts: Notable People & Products
Georgians have had many contributions to offer the world. A few we could have done without (you’ll see that later), but most are quite great.
- Joseph Stalin – Let me get this one out of the way first. Stalin was Georgian, born as Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili in Gori of the Russian Empire, which is now eastern Georgia.
- Nona Gaprindashvili – Women’s World Champion of Chess from 1962–1978.
- Maia Chiburdanidze – Then this one became the Women’s World Champion of Chess from 1978–1991!
- Giorgi Dvali – Professor at New York University born in Tbilisi and best known for contributing the ADD Model to string theory.
- Alexander Kartveli – Also born in Tbilisi and relocating to New York, he is considered one of America’s most important aircraft designers in history; many of his creations were firsts of their kind.
- David Lordkipanidze – Discovered the hominin fossil, Homo erectus georgicus.
- Did you forget that Georgians (and Armenians) brought us wine? There can’t be too many more useful inventions than that!
Source: Google them 😉
Georgia Facts: Why “Georgia”?
The name of the country seems quite Western for a people whose main alphabet looks more similar to the beautiful scripts of Asia, like Malayalam or Arabic; after all, “George” is quite an English name, and the U.S. state of the same name (which is 3 times more populous and twice as large in area) was named after the English king of the same name.
“Georgia” is actually an exonym (outside name) for the country. Georgians actually call their country (an endonym) Sakartvelo (საქართველო). See, before Iberia was known for the peninsula which Spain occupies, it was the name for the region of Kartli in Georgia. Sakartvelo is derived from Kartli. According to Wikipedia, “the Georgian circumfix sa-X-o is a standard geographic construction designating “the area where X dwell”, where X is an ethnonym.”
The European designation of Georgia is probably derived from the Persian designation for the people: gurğān. Later, it seems, the name was likened more to the name of St. George, especially during the times when the Crusaders made their way over.
Georgia Facts: The Scenery
Imagine in November being able to go the seaside in Georgia and swim in it, while mere hours away people are skiing through the snow-capped mountains. There’s even a city from almost one thousand years ago built into the rocks and caves in Southern Georgia, at Vardzia.
Georgia’s beauty abounds, wherever you look. One of my most memorable instances when I visited Tbilisi was at its Botanical Gardens; at Tbilisi’s Botanical Gardens, you are immersed in a pristine, wooded environment, full of trees and plants and even a waterfall (see that picture over there), just steps away from the beautiful architecture of the Old Town Tbilisi.
Georgia Facts: Disputed Parts of Georgia
There are two breakaway states in the Georgian area that are disputed: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Internationally, most countries around the world recognize these two states as part of Georgia, including Georgia itself. However, each has claimed its independence from Georgia, and several countries, including Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Nauru, recognize their independence.
Additionally, Russia seems to control these two semi-autonomous states, as their military presence is quite present. Russia does not allow the European Union Monitoring Mission access to either of these two states.
Source: CIA World Factbook
Related Read: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: In Asia or Europe?
Want More of Georgia?
These facts are merely a quick glimpse into a beautiful country and its colorful people, history, traditions, cuisine, and culture. If you haven’t been there yet, you really must go to Georgia and see it for yourself.
What do you think of these Georgia facts? Got any more to add to this list? If you do, leave a comment below, and if it checks out, we’ll gladly add it to the list!
Also, if you’re interested in further learning about Georgia, have a look at our Georgia travel guide on our site for stories, photos, information, and more facts.