Is Georgia in Europe?
Georgia is an independent, democratic country located in the Caucasus region. Geographically, it is bound by the Black Sea in the west, Russia in the north, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey to the south. This makes the location of the country fall right along the natural continental divide between Europe and Asia. Georgia is, however, popularly considered to be part of the European continent. Tbilisi is the capital, the largest city, and the cultural hub of the country.
The two continents of Europe and Asia stand on a single tectonic plate, but maintain distinct historical and cultural identities. The Aegean Sea, the Ural Mountains, the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Caspian Sea are widely accepted as the natural boundaries that divide these two continents.
The continental identity of the countries (such as Turkey, Russia, and Georgia) that straddle these natural features, often remains a matter of much debate and ambiguity. Georgia is located to the east of Turkey which itself is considered to be located on the Eurasia continental divide. This should technically make Georgia an Asian country, but Georgians identify themselves as Europeans and consider their country to be an integral part of Europe. There can be many arguments in favor and against such a point of view. However, what is clear is that Georgia is not yet a member state of the European Union.
Through the Classical Era, Georgia, like other countries of the region, was part of several kingdoms. Christianity was introduced to the country in about the 4th century and religion still remains a very important aspect of life in Georgia. The Kingdom of Georgia was assimilated into the growing Ottoman Empire by the 14th century but later in the early 19th century it became part of the Russian Empire. It is with the fall of the USSR in December 1991 that Georgia finally came into its own identity and gained international recognition.
Georgia is now a member of several organizations including the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Council of Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the GAUM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. It has made repeated bids to join the European Union and NATO. This lends much strength to the European identity of the country. On the other hand, however, it has also been a member of the Asian Development Bank since 2007.
Georgia also includes two de facto independent regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These have remained under Russian occupation for over a decade and the European Union Monitoring Mission is not allowed to enter these regions. Even though, they are recognized as independent states by many Asian countries, Georgia claims them to be an integral part of the country. This territorial dispute that Georgia is embroiled in with Russia makes its European identity open to debate.
The Georgian culture is also a mix of Asian and European influences. Written Georgian language is based on a 33 character alphabet script that is believed to have its origins in the Aramaic language spoken at the time of Jesus. The spoken form of this Kartvelian language, however, sounds similar to Asian languages but is in essence quite distinct.
The food, music, architecture, values, and social culture of Georgia often reflect Asian traditions and values. Like Turkey, Georgian society too remains a glorious medley of the various influences brought in by European and Asian rulers to this land.
For all practical purposes, Georgia is considered to be a part of Europe, this unique identity of the country is one that sets it apart from other Asian and European nations.
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