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Key Economic Data
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 3,937 3,324 3,100 126
GNI per capita
 US $ 830 650 590 145
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Georgia


Update No: 357 - (26/09/10)

A population adrift
About 6% of Georgia's population (about 246,000 people) are displaced, according to a recent report by Amnesty International. About 220,000 left their homes during conflicts in the early 1990s. Some 128,000 people fled South Ossetia and Abkhazia during and after the August 2008 war. The majority of them has since returned to their homes, but close to 26,000 people are still unable to return.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states two weeks after a five-day war with Georgia in August 2008, which began when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to bring it back under central control. Since then, Russia has deployed thousands of troops and border guards to the two regions, which Georgia considers part of its sovereign territory.

A war too many
President Mikhail Saakashvili made a gross mistake in his August war in 2008 with Russia. It lasted five days, with a totally predictable consequence. Saakashvili was doubtless banking on Western support. He seems not to have taken on board that the US, bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Islamic fundamentalists as its foes, would hardly want to be embroiled in the Caucasus too, with Russia as its foe.

The war saw Russian forces pour into Georgia after fighting broke out between Georgian and separatist forces in the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia. Moscow has said it was protecting residents in South Ossetia from a Georgian attempt to retake the rebel region by force while Tbilisi insists it deployed its forces in response to a Russian invasion.

After five days of fighting that saw Russian forces rout Georgia's small army and push deep into Georgian territory, a European Union-brokered ceasefire brought an end to the conflict.

Saakashvili recidivus
Nevertheless, two years after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin famously vowed to "make him hang by the balls" during the Georgia-Russia war, Saakashvili remains defiantly in power and is gradually rebuilding ties with the West.

The brief but brutal war, which broke out on the night of August 7, 2008, left many wondering if the flamboyant Saakashvili could stay in power and keep his tiny ex-Soviet republic from political and economic collapse. Experts said Saakashvili is a long way from repairing all the damage done to his reputation and continues to be seen by many in the West as an emotional and unpredictable leader.

But after weathering large-scale opposition protests at home and constant Russian antagonism, Saakashvili has begun to slowly rebuild his image and get his country's pro-Western aspirations back on track.

"After the war there was a general sense that he made a huge blunder that was very likely to cost him his job," said Svante Cornell, the research director of the Stockholm-based Central Asia Caucasus Institute. "But that didn't happen and he's actually in a much stronger position than anyone expected after the war."

The government has been boosted by a series of high-profile visits by Western diplomats including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. "Before we were in a constant crisis, pre-crisis or post-crisis mood, and that's over.... It's clearly the best atmosphere we've had in years," a senior advisor to Saakashvili, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told a reporter.

A war too few
While the Georgian people have set their minds on peace, their leadership is more concerned with war and has spent over thirty times more on its military budget than economic development.

Saakashvili is up in arms over his country’s deficient defence capabilities. “Each village should be able to defend itself. There should be small trained units in each village and each settlement, which have a certain number of arms, so that everyone can defend their own land”, Saakashvili said at the end of July.

Ever since the 2008 war in South Ossetia, the Georgian president appears to hold the belief that Russia is his country’s top enemy, claiming that Moscow still plans to attack Georgia and calling for full-scale militarisation.

A small step to ultimate victory
There are those in Georgia who have not given up on the idea of getting back Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite the Russians having secured the independence of them both. Foremost amongst them is the president himself.

The UN resolution recognizing the rights of refugees from Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to return to their homes is a diplomatic victory for the country, President Saakashvili said on September 8. "This is a little diplomatic victory. The final victory will come when the occupiers leave our territory and our people get back their homes and their motherland in full," he said in thinly veiled reference to Russia. "To do that, we will have to win many small diplomatic battles with the resources that we have."

On September 7, the UN General Assembly approved the resolution "Status of the Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia," by a 50-17 vote. 

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