Location of Georgia at crossroads determined its historic development as well as characteristics of the Georgian nation. Much of its time Georgia was divided into two main parts : the West and the East. In the first centuries the East as well as the West befell Romans. Short dependence took a turn for alliance, formulated as a "brotherhood and alliance”.
At other times the East was controlled by Persians, Arabs, Turk-Seljuks, Mongols. The West was frequently controlled and influenced by Rome, Byzantium, Ottomans.
Christianity spread to Georgia in the first century AD. Kartli declared Christianity as the state religion in 326 and about that time the same was done in Egrisi (Lazica). This decision for Georgia, situated at the crossroads between the West and the East, implied taking political orientation towards the West. The decision determined Georgia’s further fate and strongly tied the Georgian people and the Georgian culture to Western civilization (culture, law...), even if after that Eastern Georgia much of the time was controlled by Persians or for a shorter time by Arabs. Georgians were involved in the creation of the Christian creed. Bishop Stratophilus of Bichvinta (Pitiunt) and the Bishop of Kartli Pantophilus attended the first Ecumenical Council held in Nicea (325) and the second Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople (381). Splitting up into Catholic and Orthodox churches was not immediately recognized by Georgians and despite the schism of Christendom in 1054 AD, the Georgian Church retained contacts with the Catholic Church. The early Georgian document where one can’t see the Pope alongside with the other patriarchs is dated back to 1545.
In 1318, Catholic bishopric was founded in Sukhumi. In 1328, bishopric, placed in Smirna before, was transferred to Tbilisi, and a decision was made about constructing the temple, church for bishop. From that time Georgia was visited by European Catholic missionaries and envoys who contributed greatly to the survival of Georgia throughout the Middle Ages. Contacts with the missionaries were attractive for the Georgian side as a means for establishing trade and cultural links between Georgia and Christian Europe. The missionaries strongly supported the idea of the unification of the state, built churches, founded schools disseminated education, rendered medical aid, bridged Georgia to the rest of Europe, fulfilled diplomatic functions, exposed the slave trade, wrote the books, extolling Georgia, and unlike some other foreigners, took the time to learn Georgian and the local culture, in every possible way contributed to its continued development.
Since the mid-7th century Islam came to Georgia and confrontation between Christianity and Islam lasted for centuries. However religious confrontation rarely grew into ethnic and any type of conflict within Georgia thanks to longstanding traditions of intercultural dialogue. Despite frequent political tensions between the Christian and Moslem worlds there were many examples of political alliance with the Moslems, cultural and social interactions, adoptions and influences from the East. Georgia’s location at crossroads was revealed in different ways: coins with mixed symbols, the titles of the king with mixed characteristics. Georgian civilization is combination of the western and oriental cultures. One can trace state institutions, coinage system, urban traditions ,historiography and literary traditions in Georgia adopted from the East.
On the other hand Georgian law originated from Roman-Byzantine traditions was based on liberal, democratic and tolerant principles; it defended private property on land which unlike the East was a dominant system in Georgia throughout the centuries. Georgian law protected women’s rights and emphasized their significance.
The Georgian territory was crossed by the shortest road connecting the Black and Caspian Seas which was as the most efficient trade connection since the ancient times. Later Georgians established contacts with the world trade via Iran and with the European market via the Ottoman lands. In 1991 Georgia once again restored political independence and its function as a bridge connecting East and West. Its top priority is Euro-Atlantic integration. However Georgia retains active relations with the East. The presentation will focus on the current situation in this regard.