Georgian history dates back more than 2,500 years, and Georgian is one of the oldest living languages in the world. Tbilisi, located in a picturesque valley divided by the Mtkvari River, is more than 1,500 years old. Much of Georgia's territory was besieged by its Persian and Turkish neighbors along with Arabs and Mongols over the course of the 7th to the 18th centuries. After 11 centuries of mixed fortunes of various Georgian kingdoms, including a golden age from the 11th to 12th centuries, Georgia turned to Russia for protection. Russia essentially annexed Georgia and exiled the royalty in 1801. Pockets of Georgian resistance to foreign rule continued, and the first Republic of Georgia was established on May 26, 1918 after the collapse of Tsarist Russia. By March 1921, the Red army had reoccupied the country and Georgia became part of the Soviet Union. On April 9, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia declared independence from the U.S.S.R.
Beset by ethnic and civil strife from independence in 1991, Georgia began to stabilize in 1995. However, more than 230,000 internally displaced persons present an enormous strain on local politics. Peace in the separatist areas of Abkhazia and south Ossetia, overseen by Russian peacekeepers and international organizations, will continue to be fragile, requiring years of economic development and negotiation to overcome local enmities. Considerable progress has been made in negotiations on the Ossetian-Georgian conflict, and negotiations are continuing in the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict.
The Georgian Government is committed to economic reform in cooperation with the IMF and World Bank, and stakes much of its future on the revival of the ancient Silk Road as the Eurasian corridor, using Georgia's geography as a bridge for transit of goods between Europe and Asia.
Georgians are renowned for their hospitality and artistry in dance, theater, music, and design.