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Georgia: Language
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Language, Religion, and Culture > Language


Even more than religion, the issue of language was deeply entwined with political struggles in Georgia under communist rule. As elsewhere, language became a key factor in ethnic selfidentification under the uniformity of the communist system. Written in a unique alphabet that began to exhibit distinctions from the Greek alphabet in the fifth century A.D., Georgian is linguistically distant from Turkic and Indo-European languages. In the Soviet period, Georgians fought relentlessly to prevent what they perceived as the encroachment of Russian on their native language. Even the republic's Soviet-era constitutions specified Georgian as the state language. In 1978 Moscow failed to impose a constitutional change giving Russian equal status with Georgian as an official language when Shevardnadze yielded to mass demonstrations against the amendment. Nevertheless, the Russian language predominated in official documents and communications from the central government. In 1991 the Gamsakhurdia government reestablished the primacy of Georgian, to the dismay of minorities that did not use the language. In 1993 some 71 percent of the population used Georgian as their first language. Russian was the first languages of 9 percent, Armenian of 7 percent, and Azerbaijani of 6 percent.

Data as of March 1994

Last Updated: March 1994

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Georgia was first published in 1994. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Georgia Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 38 of 102


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