The area of what is now Georgia was settled by people from Asia Minor in the 12th century B.C. By the 4th century B.C., two kingdoms had developed: Egrisi (called Colchis by the ancient Greeks) in the west, and Korteli (called Iberia by the Greeks) in the east. The Romans conquered the region about 65 B.C. and most of it remained under Roman control until the late 4th century.
From the late 4th century until the late 10th century western Georgia was under Byzantine control and eastern Georgia was under Persian or Arab control. A unified, independent Georgian kingdom emerged in the late 10th century. The kingdom grew in power and reached its zenith under Queen Tamar (reigned 1184–1212).
At various times from the 13th century until the early 19th century Georgia was under the control of the Mongols, the Persians, and the Turks. Russia began expanding into the area in the late 18th century, and Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire in the early 19th century. In 1918, after Czar Nicholas II of Russia was overthrown, Georgia became independent. Red Army troops from Russia invaded Georgia in 1921, and in 1922 Georgia joined the Soviet Union as a member of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. In 1936 Georgia became a separate union republic. In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia became an independent republic.
During the early 1990's Georgia experienced a series of major political and military problems, most notably violent separatist movements in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. By July, 1992, a cease-fire had been established in South Ossetia, where fighting had occurred since 1990. In 1992 fighting broke out in Abkhazia between government troops and Abkhaz separatists. Georgian forces were driven out of the region during 1993. Sporadic fighting continued until 1994, when a cease-fire agreement was signed.
Meanwhile, in January, 1992, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, president of Georgia, was overthrown and was replaced by a ruling council. Gamsakhurdia loyalists established strongholds in western Georgia. In November, 1992, Eduard Shevardnadze was elected head of the ruling council. Throughout 1992 and into 1993 pro-Gamsakhurdia forces offered stiff resistance to government troops sent to subdue them. Georgia joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in October, 1993, and, with the help of Russian troops, defeated the pro-Gamsakhurdia forces in November. Shevardnadze consolidated power during 1994 and a new constitution came into effect in October, 1995. In November, Shevardnadze was elected president.