“Wherever we had been in Russia…the magical name of Georgia came up constantly... Indeed, we began to believe that most Russians hope that if they live very good and virtuous lives, they will not go to heaven, but to Georgia, when they die.”
John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal (1946)
Georgia is a small country with 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 declared independence from Russia on May 26, 1918 and remained so until 1921, when the Red Army invaded Georgia and Georgia was forced to become a part of the Soviet Union for another 70 years before being truly independent in the 1990s. As a satellite nation of the USSR, Georgia was put under incredible pressure to conform, while much of its history and culture were suppressed or outright destroyed. Thousands of historical churches and buildings were demolished and many pieces of religious art were destroyed or stolen in these years.
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 in a brutal fashion, killing 21 demonstrators. On April 9, 1991, the second anniversary of the tragedy, Georgia became one of the first Soviet republics to officially declare independence from the Soviet Union. 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 courageously 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.
Today, Georgians are facing a number of problems, including homelessness, hunger, and inequality as well as threats and military actions from Russia to the north. Working alongside local nonprofits for over 25 years, AFG has been instrumental in introducing and continuing a number of projects all over Georgia.