Georgia was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Independent for three years (1918-1921) following the Russian revolution, it was forcibly incorporated into the USSR until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Ethnic separation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, poor governance, and Russian military bases deny the government effective control over the entirety of the state's internationally recognized territory. Despite myriad problems, some progress on market reforms and democratization has been made. An attempt by the government to manipulate legislative elections in November 2003 touched off widespread protests that led to the resignation of Eduard SHEVARDNADZE, president since 1995.

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Surface Area: 69,700 square km
Population: 4,693,892 (July 2004 est.)
Located in: Southwestern Asia,
Capital City: T'bilisi
Head of State: Mikheil SAAKASHVILI
Prime Minister: Mikheil SAAKASHVILI
Independent since: 9 April 1991 (from Soviet Union)
Currency: Lari (GEL)