Most Georgians are Christians and members of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Religious freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution and generally respected, but small faith communities such as Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses state that they are subjected to harassment.
Christianity became a state religion in Georgia as early as the 330s. During the nearly fifty years that Georgia was part of the Soviet Union (1922-1991), the state propagated atheism. Many churches, mosques and synagogues were destroyed or converted into museums, concert venues or the like.
Through the reform policy in the second half of the 1980s, many churches were reopened and extensive restorations were carried out. For many Georgians, the Church and the Georgian language became important symbols of national identity. After the bloody upheaval in 2003, the “Revolution of the Roses” (see Modern History), the country introduced a new flag the following year, adorned with five Christian crosses.
Nowadays, the church is separate from the state and has lost the right to collect taxes.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Georgia, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
In a census conducted in 2014, 83 percent stated that they are Orthodox Christians. More than a tenth of the population, including Abkhaz, Azerbaijanis and some Ajzars, profess to Islam. 3 percent belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are also Yazidis and a small and well-integrated Jewish group, concentrated in the major cities of Tbilisi and Kutaisi.
Infants stuck in Georgia during the pandemic
At least 40 children born by surrogate mothers in Georgia have not been able to be fetched to other countries by the prospective parents, the Eurasianet reports. The reason for the children remaining in hospitals in Georgia is measures taken against the corona pandemic, including stops for air traffic. In Georgia, it is permissible to employ surrogate mothers who carry and give birth to a child for payment. A surrogate mother that the reporter talked to receives the equivalent of SEK 150,000 in compensation, which is almost as much as three ordinary annual salaries in Georgia. Georgian authorities are reported to be exempt from the corona ban on entry so that the children can be picked up by the couples who have hired surrogate mothers.
Strict, but less severe, against pandemics
Georgia eases the restrictions imposed to reduce the risk of being infected by coronavirus: hairdressers and beauty salons are allowed to open, with new guidelines. When it was at its strictest, meetings with more than three people were forbidden, now meetings with up to ten people are allowed. Normal public transport will resume at the end of May, but facial mask is mandatory. Georgia has reported twelve deaths in covid-19.
Emergency support from the IMF against the corona crisis
The Board of Directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approves a $ 200 million crisis grant to Georgia for emergency efforts related to combating the covid-19 pandemic and its financial impact on Georgia.
Saakashvili becomes adviser in Ukraine
Micheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia and then governor of Ukraine, has reappeared on the political scene. In Ukraine, President Zelenskyj proposes that Saakashvili become Deputy Prime Minister and enter into the country’s negotiations on loans from the IMF. But Ukraine’s parliament is unwilling to give him that role. Saakashvili is still disputed both in Ukraine and in his home country, where he is accused of crimes. He himself claims that the charges are politically based. On May 7, Saakashvili was appointed as a consultant in Ukraine, and the following day Georgia calls her ambassador from Kiev for consultations. During Saakashvili, Georgia turned to Western-friendly politics and managed to attract foreign investment, but Georgia also ended up at war with Russia.
EU support against the corona crisis
As part of the EU’s response to the global corona crisis, a support package is promised to the six so-called Eastern Partnership countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. The support includes a total of EUR 140 million for immediate healthcare needs, and in addition EUR 700 million is redistributed so that the money can be used to counter severe societal effects of the crisis. The planned activities are in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO).
Abkhazian pledge of allegiance to Moscow
In the Russian-backed outbreak republic of Abkhazia, a presidential election won by Aslan Bzjania is held (see September 8, 2019). In his first interview, for Russian Ria Novosti, he gives a statement of intent: In accordance with the agreement Abkhazia has with the Russian Federation, all Abkhaz foreign policy will be coordinated with Moscow. Georgia considers the elections held in Abkhazia illegal.
Virus infection from affected countries
Georgia gets its first case of the covid-19 viral disease. The patient is a man who has visited Iran. When the second case is confirmed two days later, it can also be linked to one of the worst affected countries: the woman has been in Italy. In March, WHO classifies the disease as a pandemic, spreading throughout the world.
Russia is singled out for cyberattacks
Together with the United Kingdom and the United States, Georgia accuses Russia of lagging behind the widespread cyber attack on Georgian sites that took place in October 2019. Among the thousands of sites hacked, there were those belonging to the president, courts and mass media. Georgian Foreign Ministry states that the attacks were carried out by the Russian intelligence service GRU and is supported by the British government and US Foreign Ministry. The charges are denied by Moscow.
Opposition politicians are imprisoned
The Supreme Court sentenced opposition leader Gigi Ugulava to just over three years in prison for embezzlement. Ugulava, one of the leaders of the country’s largest opposition party European Georgia, claims he is innocent and says he will be sentenced for not being able to act as a politician. Ugulava was also jailed for three years from 2014 for eco crimes which he also denies. When the verdict is handed down, Ugulava may not be in the courtroom. Instead, he is in a meeting with other opposition leaders who support him and announces that a national protest campaign will now be launched against the country’s increasingly unpopular government. According to the AFP news agency, prosecution has been brought against almost all opposition politicians and independent media owners who are not already in prison.