The country of Georgia is located in the Caucasus region at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The country encompasses an area of 69,700 square km. The population of the nation is about 3.718 million people.
About 86.8% of the population of Georgia comprises of ethnic Georgians. There are also several minority communities in the country including Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Jews, Russians, Yezidis, and others.
The Religious Composition Of Georgia
The ethnic diversity of Georgia also leads to diversity in religious beliefs. According to the CIA World Factbook, 83.4% of the population of Georgia adheres to Orthodox Christianity. 10.7% of the population comprises of Muslims. 2.9% of the population is affiliated to the Armenian Apostolic Church. Followers of other religions including Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others account for 1.2% of the population of Georgia. Only a small percentage of the population (0.5%) are not affiliated to any religion.
The Official Religion In Georgia
Orthodox Christianity is officially recognized by the Constitution of the country. According to tradition, it is believed that the Apostles Simon and Andrew first preached Christianity in Georgia in the 1st century. Between the 5th and the 10th centuries, the Georgian Orthodox Church grew and earned its autocephaly. The Georgian alphabet was also developed during this time to translate the Bible into the local language. Gradually, Christianity gained hold in Georgia and most other religions started losing importance. Being at the crossroads of Christian and Islamic cultures, Georgia was under great pressure. Although there were many Islamic invasions over the years, they failed to convert the Georgians to Islam. In 1811, the Russian Orthodox Church took over the church of Georgia following the annexation of Georgian territory by the Russian Empire. Only after the end of the Russian rule in 1917 did the native church once more become an autonomous institution. However, during the Communist rule under the Soviet Union, the Georgian church was highly repressed but once more gained power after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the freedom of Georgia.
Islam In Georgia
Islam claims the second highest number of adherents in Georgia after Christianity. The religion first arrived in the country during the rule of the Uthman, third Caliph of Islam in 645 AD. Tbilisi in Georgia soon developed into a major trade hub between the Islamic world in the east and northern Europe. Over the centuries, Georgia witnessed several Islamic invasions including that by Timur, the Iranians, and the Ottomans. Today, Georgia is home to two major Muslim groups, the Sunni Hanafis who are mostly ethnic Georgian Muslims and the Ithna Ashariyah who are mainly from the ethnic Azerbaijani community of the country.
Religious Freedom And Tolerance In Georgia
The society in Georgia is usually religiously tolerant. The Constitution of Georgia provides for the freedom of religion. The government of the country also generally protects the right of the people to practice their own religions as long as it does not violate public order. However, some reports of conflicts and discrimination on the basis of religion do exist. Most of these complaints have been received from the nontraditional religious groups.