|Eduard Shevardnadze, former president of Georgia|
In 1992 Georgia-which had been operating under a Soviet-era constitution from 1978-re-instated its 1921 pre-Soviet constitution. A constitutional commission was formed in 1992 to draft a new constitution, and after a protracted dispute over the extent of the authority to be accorded the executive a new document was adopted in 1995.
The head of state is the president, who is given extensive authority. A prime minister and cabinet are appointed by the president. The legislature is a 235-member Supreme Council. The judicial system includes district and city courts and a Supreme Court.
The Communist Party of Georgia, controlled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was until the 1980s the only political party. With the increase in nationalist sentiment and the reforms of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, many diverse political groups emerged.
Major political organisations now include the Citizens' Union, an alliance formed by former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze; the reformist National Democratic Party; the Georgian Popular Front, formed in 1989 to promote Georgian independence; and the Georgian Social Democratic Party, which was established in 1893 but dissolved after the Soviet takeover.
Georgia became a member of the United Nations in 1992 and joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1993.
Armed forces and security
In the early years of independence Georgia's armed forces were divided, but they were gradually becoming unified by the mid-1990s. The primary state military organisation is the National Guard; paramilitary groups also are present. A two-year period of military service is compulsory for adult men, though draft evasion is widespread. Substantial numbers of Russian troops remain on Georgian territory.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs oversees the regular police force. Crime rates in Georgia increased after independence because of the social dislocations resulting from the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a lack of civil authority in parts of the country, and regional instability caused by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The level of education is relatively high. Tbilisi University was founded in 1918; the Academy of Sciences (founded 1941) is made up of several scientific institutions, which conduct research throughout the republic. Georgia has an extensive library system.
Health and welfare
Payments from public funds provide free education, medical services, pension grants, and stipend payments and free or reduced-cost accommodation in rest homes and sanatoriums, as well as holiday pay and the maintenance of kindergartens and day nurseries.
Georgia ranks high in the level of medical services, and relative to other former Soviet republics its population has low incidences of tuberculosis and cancer. The republic is famed as a health centre, a reputation stemming from the numerous therapeutic mineral springs, the sunny climate of the Black Sea coast, the pure air of the mountain regions, and a wide range of resorts. The Tsqaltubo baths, with warm radon water treatment for arthritis sufferers, are especially noted.