The compulsory schooling applies from the age of six. The
school is 11 years old, of which 9 years are compulsory.
Admission to universities and other higher education
requires 11-year school or 9-year compulsory school combined
with secondary education. Georgian is the dominant language
of instruction with the exception of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia (82% of Georgia schools had the 1996/97 academic
year as Georgian language); In addition, there are schools
with teaching on e.g. Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian.
New elements in the education system after the Soviet
period are private schools and colleges, as well as the
existence of fee-based education.
Higher education was already established in the
1000s-1100s in Georgia with the academies of Iqalto and
Gelati. The first modern university, Dzjavachisvili
University, was founded in Tbilisi in 1918. Colleges are now
(1998) also in Suchumi, Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Batumi, Telavi,
Gori and Achaltsiche.
Tensions with Russia rose again in late 1999 and early
2000, which was linked to the war activity in Chechnya.
Moscow accused Tibilisi of supporting and giving asylum to
the Chechen separatists. An allegation Shevardnadze's
government vigorously rejected.
The private channel Rustavi-2 was closed in October 2001
after reporting corruption in the government. The closure
triggered demonstrations demanding the departure of
Shevardnadze and his ministers. His tenure was seen as the
cause of the corruption, the civil war and poverty.
Shevardnadze responded by firing his government. In November
2001, acting Foreign Minister Nino Burjanadze was elected
President of Parliament at an extraordinary session.
In February 2002, military advisers from the United
States arrived in Georgia, sparking protests from Russia.
Washington responded that the purpose was to fight a group
of Muslims linked to the al-Qaeda network. The group's base
was allegedly located at the border with Chechnya. Still,
various media estimates that the United States was planning
to build a military base. During the United States invasion
of Iraq in March 2003, these plans were confirmed.
2003 Exit Shevardnadze
In November 2003, parliamentary elections were held.
Initially, the official results confirmed Shevardnadze's
party's victory, but thousands of people questioned the
outcome and demonstrated in the streets. Opposition leaders
broke into parliament and international observers could
report many irregularities. The Supreme Court had to cancel
the election result. Shevardnadze was forced to resign and
go into exile. Georgia had undergone a relatively bloodless
revolution. Nino Burjanadze was inaugurated as interim
president. The United States benefits greatly from the power
shift and will now be able to more directly control the flow
of oil to Europe, through the pipeline being built through
Georgia from the oil fields in Azerbadjan.
Immediately after the change of power, a number of
opposition parties agreed to support Mikhail Saakashvili's
candidacy for the presidential post. He was 37, a lawyer,
educated in the United States, a member of the National
Party, and had begun his political career under
Shevardnadze's protection, though he ended up leading the
revolution that overthrew his mentor. Although he was one of
the ministers fired in 2001, Saakashvili became popular for
his criticism of the corruption and pledge to fight poverty.
He won the presidential election in January 2004 by an
overwhelming majority - 96% of the vote, declaring that he
would use "special funds" to "get rid of organized crime and
In March, tension with Aslan Abashidze, the leader of the
semi-autonomous region of Asaria, increased in southwestern
Georgia. Abashidze refused to acknowledge Saakashvili's
government, and Tblisi therefore imposed a partial economic
blockade on Azaria. The border was closed - including ports,
airports and airspace. Tblisi demanded from Asia that the
constitution be respected - including freedom of speech, the
conduct of political campaigns and the right to vote. In the
Georgia election that month, Saakashvili won the majority of
seats in parliament.
In May, Abashidze threatened to invade and blow up the
bridges in the air that connected Azaria with the rest of
the country. Saakashvili warned the separatist leader that
if he did not disarm his troops, the army would strike
against them. The consequence was that Abashidze went into
exile in Moscow. Also in May, South Ossetia held elections
not recognized by Tblisi.