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Map Source: Parliament of Georgia

Population: 462,000 (includes Kvemo Svaneti region)

Size: 7504.7 sq. km

Main Town: Zugdidi (pop: 68, 200)

Average salary: 128.00 GEL ($71 US) per month (2004)

Principal economic activities: Citrus fruit, hazelnuts, tea

Minorities: 98.6 percent of the administrative region is ethnic Georgian (Mengrelian and Svan). The remaining 1.5 percent are Russian, Abkhaz, Armenian, Ukranian, Ossetian, Azerbaijani, and Greek.

Birth Rate: 3.6 per 1,000

Death Rate: 4.8 per 1,000

Nutshell History: Samegrelo (formerly known as Mengrelia) was a major part of the legendary ancient kingdom of Kolkha (Colchis) in the 9th- 6th centuries B.C. Samegrelo became part of the United Georgian Kingdom in the 11th century, and fell under Russian jurisdiction in 1803, where it remained (with the exception of Georgia’s brief sovereignty from 1918-1921) until Georgian independence was declared in 1991. Inhabitants are Mengrelian, an ethnic sub-group who speak Mengrelian, part of the South Caucasian language family.

Claim to Fame: Georgia’s first elected president in 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was Mengrelian. Following the coup deposing him, Samegrelo became the epicenter of Georgia’s 1991-1993 civil war until Gamsakhurdia’s supporters, “Zviadists,” were defeated in December1993. Nonetheless, stability in the region deteriorated rapidly as some 40,000 refugees (mostly Mengrelian) from neighboring Abkhazia relocated there after the conclusion of the 1992-1994 war over the territory.

Statistics Source: Georgia State Dept. of Statistics

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