Cities & Towns & Places
The towns in Georgia are very small because they must support small agricultural and mining communities. Tbilisi, located in the southeast portion of the country, is the capital. It has about 1.3 million people. Only four other cities—Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi, and Sukhumi—have more than 100,000 people. These cities are distributed throughout the regions of the country and serve as gathering places for the many farmers and small industrialists to bring their goods for transport within the country or to other countries.
Georgia contains two official autonomous regions, of which one has declared independence. In addition, another territory not officially autonomous has also declared independence. Officially autonomous within Georgia, the de facto independent region of Abkhazia declared independence in 1999. The de facto independent South Ossetia is officially known within Georgia as the Tskinvali region to separate it from the Russian North Ossetia. It was autonomous under the Soviet Union, and when it was renamed to Tskinvali in 1995 its autonomy was removed. De facto separate since Georgian independence, offers were made to give South Ossetia autonomy again, but in 2006 an unrecognised referendum in the area resulted in a vote for independence.
In both territories large numbers of people had been given Russian passports, some through a process of forced passportization by Russian authorities. This was used as a justification for Russian invasion of Georgia during the 2008 South Ossetia war after which Russia recognised the region's independence. Independence is denied by Georgia, which considers the regions as occupied by Russia. Both republics have received minimal international recognition.
Adjara gained autonomy unilaterally under local strongman Aslan Abashidze, who maintained close ties with Russia and allowed a Russian military base to be built in Batumi. Upon the election of Mikheil Saakashvili in 2004 tensions rose between Adjara and the Georgian government, leading to demonstrations in Adjara and the resignation and fleeing of Abashidze. The region retains autonomy.