From empires to independence – Georgia was divided between the Ottoman and Persian empires for centuries until it became part of the Russian Empire in the 19th century. It declared independence following the Russian Revolution, but was defeated by the Red Army and incorporated into the USSR in 1921. Georgia regained its independence in 1991, but maintains a complicated relationship with Russia. Tensions came to a head in 2008, in a five-day armed conflict against Russia and the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Continuing development – Emerging from the 2008 conflict with Russia, Georgia is seeking foreign investment and tourism. President Mikheil Saakashvili has struck a deal with U.S. property mogul Donald Trump, who will lend his name to a new luxury skyscraper project in the Black Sea resort of Batumi.
A Christian state – Nearly 84% of the population is Orthodox Christian. Christianity became the state religion around 330 AD. Here, religious observors celebrate Easter at the Sion Cathedral in Tbilisi.
Chiakokonoba Festival – During the Chiakokonoba folk festival, children engage in the ritual of jumping over a bonfire. Legend says this purifies the jumper's soul of evil spirits.