Official name : Georgia
Area: 69,700 square kilometers (26,807 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Shkhara (5,201 meters/17,064 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 3 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: Not available
Land boundaries: 1,461 kilometers (906 miles) total boundary length; Armenia 164 kilometers (102 miles); Azerbaijan 322 kilometers (200 miles); Russia 723 kilometers (448 miles); Turkey 252 kilometers (156 miles)
Coastline: 310 kilometers (192 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Georgia is located in southwestern Asia, east of the Black Sea. It borders Turkey and Armenia on the south, Azerbaijan on the southeast, and Russia on the north. With a total area of about 69,700 square kilometers (26,807 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina. Georgia is divided into fifty-three rayons, nine cities, and two autonomous republics.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Georgia has no outside territories or dependencies.
The Georgian climate is notably humid, warm, and pleasant on the Black Sea coast. The Greater Caucasus Mountains to the north protect this area from truly cold weather. Even in midwinter, the average temperature is 5°C (41°F). The average summer temperature along the coast is 22°C (72°F). The plains region to the east, blocked from the sea by the Suram Mountains, is more continental in climate with hot summers and cold winters. Summer temperatures there range from 20°C (68°F) to 24°C (75°F), while in winter they range from 2°C (36°F) to 4°C (39°F). The climate becomes cooler in the mountains, with alpine conditions starting at about 2,100 meters (6,800 feet). Above 3,600 meters (12,000 feet), the mountains are covered with snow and ice year-round.
The areas along the Black Sea coast and inland through the Kolkhida Lowlands experience high humidity and heavy precipitation of 100 to 200 centimeters (40 to 80 inches) per year. The Black Sea port of Batumi receives 254 centimeters (100 inches) of rain per year. At higher elevations, humidity is lower and rainfall averages 46 to 81 centimeters (18 to 32 inches) per year.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Although it is a small country, Georgia features extremely diverse terrain, with both high mountain ranges and fertile coastal lowlands. Most of the country is mountainous, with the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the north and the Lesser Caucasus in the south. In the mountains, earthquakes and landslides frequently destroy life and property. In the west, the Kolkhida Lowland borders the Black Sea, while the terrain in the east consists of the plains of the Kura River Basin. The country is situated in the isthmus between the Caspian and Black Seas.
Included within Georgia's boundaries are two autonomous republics: Ajaria in Georgia's southwestern corner, and Abkhazia in the northwest. Another autonomous region is South Ossetia, in the north-central part of Georgia. Separatists have sought to detach these areas from Georgia, especially in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Seacoast and Undersea Features
Georgia's shoreline lies at the easternmost edge of the Black Sea. The Black Sea is a tideless, nearly landlocked body of water that lies between southeastern Europe and Asia Minor. It connects to the Sea of Marmara to the southwest through the Bosporus Strait. The principal Black Sea ports in Georgia are Pot'i and Batumi.
6 INLAND LAKES
The largest lake in Georgia is Lake Paravani, which is located in the south-central area of the country and covers an area of about 37 square kilometers (14 square miles). Lake Ritsa, located in the Caucasus Mountains in the northwest corner of the country, is the nation's deepest lake, at 116 meters (382 feet). Other major lakes include Paliastomi, Kartsakhi, and Yabatskuri. There are also several small lakes found in the mountains.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The Kura (Mtkvari) River is the largest river in Georgia. It flows 1,514 kilometers (941 miles) from its source in Turkey across the plains of eastern Georgia, through the capital, Tbilisi, and on into Azerbaijan before entering the Caspian Sea. The largest river in western Georgia, the Rioni, flows from the Greater Caucasus into the Black Sea at the port of Pot'i. The country's other rivers include the Iori, Khrami, and Inguri.
There are no desert regions in Georgia.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
With a mostly mountainous terrain, Georgia has no significantly large sections of flatland or prairie.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
About 85 percent of the total land area of Georgia consists of rugged mountains. The Greater Caucasus Mountains, stretching across the northern border with Russia, is the tallest range in the country. Mount Shkhara (5,201 meters/17,064 feet), on the Georgian-Russian border, is the highest peak. Mount Kazbek (5,037 meters/16,526 feet), also in this chain, is the tallest mountain fully within Georgia's borders. In the south, the Lesser Caucasus peaks rarely exceed 3,000 meters (10,000 feet). The Suram Mountains follow a northeast-southwest path across the center of the country, connecting the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Ranges.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
The cave towns of Georgia are considered to be among the most significant historical and cultural monuments of the nation. As the name suggests, these are ancient towns built entirely of caves that include both natural caves and those hand-carved into the mountains and hills. The mountain locations and underground structures served to protect the inhabitants from early invaders.
The ancient city of Uplistsikhe, dating from the sixth century B.C. , was inhabited well into the ninth and tenth centuries. It is located near Gori and carved into a rocky plateau that forms a bank of the Kura River. Besides living quarters, the complex includes huge banquet halls, long corridor-shaped streets, chapels for pagan worship and the remains of Georgia's oldest theater—with an auditorium, stage, and orchestra pit.
Vardzia is a cave monastery complex in southern Georgia, near the border with Armenia, that was built in the twelfth century by Queen Tamar, the daughter of King Giorgi III. The complex stretches for five hundred meters along the Kura River. It includes a large cathedral, as well as a number of smaller churches, wine cellars, feast halls, and hundreds of small cells, which served as living quarters for the monks.
The Gareji Complex is also a cave monastery system which was founded by the Syrian monk David Gareji, who lived in a natural cave that became the center of the complex. Located south of Tbilisi, it is built into a hill area near the separation of the Kura and Iori Rivers, and includes at least twelve individual cave dwellings. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the monks of the Gareji order became famous for their own school of fresco painting. A number of the walls of the cave structures are covered with such paintings.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
A high plateau known as the Kartaliniya Plain follows the eastern side of the Suram Range, along the Kura River to the border with Azerbaijan. Further east, a semiarid region called the Iori Plateau borders the Iori River.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
In Georgia's Soviet period (1921-1991), engineers turned the Rioni River lowlands into prime subtropical agricultural land by straightening and banking much of the river and building an extensive network of canals.
Numerous man-made reservoirs exist throughout the country to provide water for drinking and irrigation. They include the Khrami, Djandari, Shaori, Tbilisi, Sioni, and Zhinvali, among others.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Caucasus Region is the land area between the Black and Caspian Seas, which includes southwest Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. This area forms part of the traditional natural boundary between Europe and Asia.
14 FURTHER READING
Georgia. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1993.
Spilling, Michael. Georgia . New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1998.
Suny, Ronald G. The Making of the Georgian Nation . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
International Union: Georgia Travel Guide. http://www.travelguide.ge/georgia (accessed May, 2003).
Parliament of Georgia: State of the Environment. http://www.parliament.ge/SOEGEO/hp_soege.htm (accessed May, 2003).
United Nations Environment Programme. http://www.grida.no/enrin/htmls/georgia/soegeor/hp_soege.htm (accessed May, 2003).