THE PEOPLE

Diversity is the word to describe the population of Georgia. One-fourth of her people is made up of non-ethnic Georgians, with significant Azeri, Armenian, Russian, Greek, Kurdish, Jewish, Roma, Abkhazian, Ossete, Tatar, and Assyrian communities making their presence felt throughout the country. Even the majority ethnic Kartvelians, the native Georgian-speaking seg-ment of the population, are a heterogenous mix of Svans, Laz, and Megrelians. So ancient references to Georgia as being the “Mountain of Languages” are as apt and appropriate now as they were several thousand years ago.

As would be expected, the religious practices of Georgians are also widely diverse. Despite the fact that 97% of the population profess to be Christian Orthodox, the varying traditions throughout the country and the presence of significant Catholic, Armenian Gregorian, Islamic, and Jewish peoples attest to high levels of religious variety and tolerance. After years of Communist repression, people are returning to their religious roots once again, with numerous monasteries now being re-opened and with new churches springing up all over the country.