Official Name:The Republic of Georgia

Official Name:The Republic of Georgia

LocationSouth of the Caucasus, squashed with other small countries into the gap between the Black and Caspian Seas.

SizeAbout 70,000sq km, twice the size of Belgium.

Population:About 5 million

LanguageThe official language is Georgian, although almost everybody speaks Russian. Other languages that may come in handy are Armenian, Azeri, Ossetian and Abkhazian.

National Dish Georgia was once known as the Italy of the USSR - Russians came here for fresh produce and wine. Virtually every meal is served with khachapuri (unleavened dough wrapped round cheese); the best wine is from Kvanchkara.

Best Monument The 11th-century cathedral of Sveti-Tskhoveli in the holy town of Mtskheta.

Most Famous Citizen One Josef Jughashvili, better known as Stalin. Few Georgians see anything embarrassing about their association with him. Gori - Stalin's birthplace - still maintains not only a museum but also the last remaining public statue of him in the whole of the former USSR.

Best Moment In HistoryThe reign of the inspirational Queen Tamar, who ruled from 1184 to 1213. Then Georgia included much of what is now Armenia and Turkey; all the great movements in Georgian culture stem from this time.

Worst Moment In History The 20th century. If the 1921-91 Soviet experiment wasn't already bad enough, independence was to prove even worse for Georgia. The declarations of secession by South Ossetia (in 1991) and independence by Abkhazia (in 1992) led to civil war and to the reoccupation of parts of the country by Russian soldiers.

Essential AccessoryOily fish and ale. Take them to the public baths and enjoy them after a violent massage, as all Georgians do.

What Not To DoAt a Georgian banquet, do not attempt to ignore the commands of the tamada, or toastmaker. Stalin was said to have honed the art of dictatorship in his younger days by practising as one.