My ignorance concerning world history and geography is vast. I’m the sort of person who goes off traveling, and basically just wanders about as the locals direct me — usually from to church to museum to church. If I’m going to spend at least half a year in Georgia, however, it may behoove me to learn something about the place first, so as not to go about flaunting my ignorance. So then I ask: where do I start? I am, in many ways, a poor student. I’m a good pupil, but often a poor student, because I listen well and thoroughly, but don’t continue to read dull writing unless constrained by necessity. I suspect that I’ve learned most of my history from novels and church readings. Historical and geographic writing tends, for the most part, to be drearily dull and formulaic. According to the ancient Greeks and Romans, ancient Georgia was composed of Iberians and Colchians. They became Christian around 330, and built lovely, solid-looking churches and monasteries — they’re currently about 80% Georgian Orthodox. They dance with great white feathery hats on, and eat a lot of cheese pastries. They were invaded by the USSR, and lived under communism for half a century or so; Stalin was from Georgia. Fewer people live there than in Southern Arizona (if you count the Phoenix metropolis).
The Caucasus mountains go through Georgia, and people say that they are very beautiful; they rise from the Black Sea to over 16,000 ft in the North, and a little lower in the South. The country may be named for St George, and their national flag has five St George crosses on it. One of their kings was named “King George the Brilliant” which is kind of fantastic. Why is St George such a popular national saint in so many places? I still need to find out more about him — Syria is in love with him, and Georgia, and England. Their great medieval poem is The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. It’s the location of the fabled golden fleece, sought by the argonauts. They share borders with Turkey, Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, between the Black and Caspian Seas, with coast on the Black Sea. I had never heard of Azerbaijan before just now, but it has a fantastic name. Singe George the Brilliant in the 13th century, Georgia has been conquered by the Mongols, Persians, Ottomans, and Russians (who, after signing an alliance treaty on account of shared religion, later broke their word and annexed Georgia, but did at least prevent the Persians from once again sacking Tbilisi), and later defended their borders against the Ottomans (this is in the 19th century). In the midst of the Russian civil war, Georgia regained independence for a short time, from May 1918 to February 1921, when they were defeated by the Red Army — but even that was had in the midst of a war with Armenia and British intervention. After again declaring independence from the post USSR Russia in 1991, Georgia’s most recent conflict with Russia has been in 2008 (!?!), for reasons that are obscure to me (as most reasons for most wars tend to be). They’re friendly with the EU (whom they would like to join), NATO Armenia, Azerbaijan, and America, and sent some military forces with us into Afghanistan and Iraq. Looking at a map, that makes sense — they’re less than 300 miles from Iraq.