Potemkin DemocracyIssue: Summer 2001
It is an old culture squeezed into a tiny new state. That is the way visitors to post-Soviet Georgia often describe the place. Resting on the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, hemmed in by the Black Sea, Turkey and its south Caucasus neighbors, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the roots of Georgia's history wind back for millennia. As ancient Colchis, Georgia was the endpoint of Jason's epic quest for the golden fleece and the homeland of Medea. Its alphabet has been around since perhaps the fifth century AD. As a country of mainly Orthodox Christians, Georgia has long been linked with the magnificent art and culture of eastern Christianity, from Byzantium to Moscow.