Formerly the holiday haunt of the privileged elite of the Soviet Union, Georgia is blessed with stunning scenery, a balmy climate and a rich variety of flora and fauna. Enclosed high valleys, wide basins, health spas with famous mineral waters, caves and waterfalls combine in this land of varied landscapes and striking beauty.
With its stone houses built around vine-draped courtyards, and winding streets, the capital, Tbilisi, has a lively, Mediterranean atmosphere. Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia in the far northwest of Georgia, was a relaxed, sunny port/resort, renowned for its beaches fringed with palms and eucalyptus trees, lively open-air cafés and cosmopolitan population, until civil unrest began. Georgia became independent from the Soviet Union after an overwhelming majority voted in favour of independence in a referendum held in April 1991.
Apart from the dire state of the Georgian economy, the country's main problems have been the secessionist revolts in the outlying Georgian provinces of Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast (where Gamsakhurdia was located) and South Ossetia in the north.