The imposing snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus Mountains dominate the Georgian landscape, creating a formidable natural boundary between Georgia and its northern neighbor, Russia, and serving as a symbolic geopolitical delineator between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. To the southeast, the Caucasus ranges transition into verdant hillsides dotted with grazing livestock and lush valleys where grape vines soak in sunshine and sea breezes in one of the world’s oldest wine-making regions. To the west, Georgia’s Black Sea coastline attracts vacationers with its stunning beaches and popular resorts, and its seaports provide important access to international markets. Bordering Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, southern Georgia boasts an eclectic blend of European, Asian and Middle Eastern cultural influences and serves as a trade portal between the three continents. With its diverse geography, unique language, vibrant culture and growing economy, Georgia is truly one of Eurasia’s best-kept secrets.
A scenic overlook provides a panoramic view of Sighnaghi and the Alazani Valley, Georgia’s premiere viticultural region.
The Caucasus Mountains rise in the distance behind grazing cattle in Sioni.
Traffic whizzes past Tbilisi Public Service Hall at dusk. The modernist structure is sometimes referred to as the “Mushroom Building” by locals.
A panoramic shot from the Statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasli shows Tbilisi’s historic Old City across the Mtkvari River.
Despite its beauty and cultural wealth, Georgia has remained relatively anonymous to tourists. However, the country’s strategic location has long made it a popular (and often contested) hub for commerce and trade throughout the region. After the fall of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century, Georgia briefly became an independent nation before being invaded by the Bolsheviks and spending seven decades under Soviet control. During this period of occupation, Georgia’s rich agricultural sector served as one of the primary bread baskets for the U.S.S.R. The nation regained its independence in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
A shepherd guides his flock across a roadway in Aragvi.
Georgian cuisine is one of the nation’s highlights, and includes traditional dishes like khachapuri (a type of cheese stuffed bread that sometimes has additional fillings like cooked eggs and potatoes), tomato-cucumber salad with cilantro and walnut dressing and Saperavi (one of several dry red wines originating in Kakheti).
A merchant sells fresh produce at a farmer’s market in Sighnaghi.
In 2003, the peaceful Rose Revolution brought about sweeping governmental reforms and a definitive end to Soviet-style leadership. The transition of power resulted in a democratically elected government and improved quality of life for all citizens, but also increased political tensions with Russia. The strained relationship reached a breaking point during the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, during which Russian forces occupied the two formerly autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, displacing nearly 200,000 residents and leading Georgia to sever diplomatic ties with Russia.
Children take turns swinging on a playground in Upureti, a settlement for some of the Georgians displaced by Russian occupation of South Ossetia.
A waterfall pours over a mountain pass near Mtskheta in Kazbegi National Park along the country’s northern border with Russia.
Despite its turbulent recent history, Georgia has become an outpost of stability in the Transcaucasia region. Georgians have worked with international organizations to improve the nation’s infrastructure and bolster rule of law, while developing closer economic ties with Europe as part of a broader effort to eventually join the European Union. Georgia has also established strategic partnerships with the United States and other NATO members based on shared regional security interests.
Georgian soldiers march in review as Georgian Army UH-1 helicopters fly over Liberty Square in Tbilisi at the event marking the 25th Anniversary of the nation’s restoration of independence.
U.S. Army tank crew members park an M1 Abrams main battle tank at the completion of Noble Partner 2016 training exercises with Georgian and British troops.
Check out all the high-resolution shots from my trip to Georgia in my Flickr album.