Georgia is admired for exquisite beauty and rich history, ringed by the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas. It was known by ancient Greeks as the Land of the Golden Fleece, and served as a crucial station on the Silk Road.
In addition to trade, Georgia has a strong tradition of food, hospitality and winemaking. 8,000-year-old pottery fragments from the early Neolithic period have revealed the earliest evidence of grape winemaking in the world.
Eighty percent of the 3.5 million people who live in Georgia are ethnic Georgians, while the other 20% are made up of 80 other ethnic groups.
Georgia became incorporated into the Russian Empire in December of 1800, under Tsar Paul I. On May 26, 1918, Georgia declared independence and remained so until 1921 when the Red Army invaded and Georgia became a part of the Soviet Union. As a satellite nation of the USSR, Georgia was put under pressure to conform and much of its history and culture was suppressed or outright destroyed. Thousands of historical churches and buildings were demolished and many pieces of religious art were destroyed or stolen under the 70 years of Soviet domination.
In the spring of 1989, Georgians took to the streets of Tbilisi to demand independence from the Soviet Union. On April 9,1989 Soviet troops crushed the peaceful protest, killing 21 demonstrators. On the second anniversary of the tragedy, April 9, 1991, Georgia officially declared independence from the Soviet Union, one of the first Soviet republics to do so. The US recognized Georgia’s independence on December 25, 1991 and established diplomatic relations on March 24, 1992, opening the US Embassy in Tbilisi on April 23, 1992. Since 1991, the Georgian people have worked to build a democratic country and market economy and strengthen and eradicate corruption in its public institutions. Although Georgia is currently not an EU member state, the EU is Georgia’s main economic trade partner and Georgians can travel visa-free within the Schengen area of Europe.
When the Soviets withdrew from Georgia, Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff created American Friends of Georgia to help forge ties between Americans and Georgians and send assistance as Georgian society re-grouped after years of Soviet suzerainty. Working alongside local nonprofits for over 25 years, AFG has been instrumental in introducing and supporting projects in social services, healthcare, and education and the arts all over Georgia.