Former Soviet Socialist Republic of Transcaucasia, Georgia has been an independent republic since 1991 (Republic of Georgia); in March 1992 it did not join the Community of States born from the dissolution of the USSR. Covering an area of 69,700 km 2, Georgia counted, as of January 1, 1990, a population of 5,456,000 residents (of which 70.1% Georgians, 9.1% Armenians, 6.3% Russians, 5.7% Azerbaijanis, 3% Ossetians, 1.9% Greeks, 1.8% % Abkhazians and 1% Ukrainians, according to the 1989 census). The capital, Tbilisi, counted 1,260,000 residents in 1989. Other cities, with population as of 1989: Kutaisi (235,000 residents), Rustavi (159,000 residents), Batumi (136,000 residents), Sukhumi (121,000 residents) and Chinvali (34,000 residents). These last three centers are the capitals, respectively, of two former autonomous republics (Agiaristan and Abkhazia) and of a former autonomous province (South Ossetia) of the USSR, whose territories are an integral part of Georgia.
According to PRINTERHALL, agriculture (cultivated area: 4.6 million ha in 1986, of which 389,000 irrigated) still occupies an important position in the economy of Georgia, renowned above all for tropical and subtropical crops: citrus fruits (439,000 t in 1988, equal to 98% of the entire Soviet production at that date), cultivated in the plain, once marshy and now reclaimed, of the Colchis and on the hilly slopes overlooking the Black Sea; tea (501,700 t in 1990, 95% of Soviet production), whose plantations cover vast tracts of the same foothills; grapes (631,400 t). Tobacco is the most important industrial crop. The intensification of mining activities (1.3 million t of manganese and 1.4 million t of coal were extracted in 1990,
Heavy industry emerged in 1950 with the creation of the Rustavi steel plant, specializing in the production of steel pipes (499,000 tons of pipes in 1990) for the Baku oil complex in Azerbaijan. The availability of abundant electricity of hydraulic origin represents another important factor of industrialization (production of ferroalloys in Zestafoni near Čjatura). The picture of the main industrial activities is completed by the presence of chemical industries (130,000 t of fertilizers and 32,300 t of synthetic fibers) in Batumi, Tbilisi and Rustavi, by mechanical construction industries (in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Poti), by industries textiles, food and wood (the latter fueled by the presence of massive forest resources).
The main communication axis of the Georgia is the railway line that runs along the Black Sea coast from Tuapse to Sukhumi, points to the mainland in the direction of Tbilisi and continues to Baku on the Caspian Sea. The overall development of the railway network is 1570 km; the road network has 35,100 km of asphalted roads (1990).
History. – On April 9, 1991 the Supreme Soviet of the Georgia declared the independence of the country and the detachment from the USSR. The referendum held on 31 March was thus implemented, as opposed to the one promoted by the Soviet central government for the maintenance of the Union (17 March). Pushes for independence had emerged in the last months of 1988, here as elsewhere, as a result of the political mobilization induced by Gorbachev’s perestroika, a mobilization that soon took on a nationalistic color. The massive demonstrations of April 1989 were violently repressed by the security forces and 16 demonstrators were killed. At the same time, leadership was asserting itself by Z. Gamsakhurdia, a member of the opposition since the 1970s. On April 14, 1991, Gamsakhurdia was appointed by the Georgian Supreme Soviet as president of the Georgia, until the direct presidential elections, which took place on May 26, and which confirmed him in office with an overwhelming majority. Despite the broad consensus aroused by the economic and political liberalization program, the antidemocratic methods of the new president and the repression of all forms of dissent favored the emergence of strong opposition which was expressed in the autumn of 1991 in large street demonstrations. The absolute insensitivity of Gamsakhurdia to any request precipitated the situation and between December 1991 and January 1992 there were armed clashes with more than a hundred dead. On January 6, Gamsakhurdia left Georgia and was replaced by a military council which gradually regained control of the situation. In March, the Military Council transferred its powers to a Council of State chaired by E. Shevardnadze, former Foreign Minister of the USSR and a leading figure in the perestroika. Serious problems aroused the autonomist claims of the Abkhazians and Ossetians. With these, after the choice for independence and accession to the Russian Federation (referendum of January 1992), an armed conflict began which ended with the agreements (March-June) between El’zin and Shevardnadze. On the other hand, in Abkhazia, despite the mediation of the Russian president (early September 1992), the situation remained critical.