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Map Source: Parliament of Georgia

Population: 309,900

Size: 4,808 sq. km

Main Town: Gori (pop: 48,900)

Average salary: 85 GEL ($47) per month

Principal economic activities: Officially, subsistence agriculture ranks as the prime wage earner, though, unofficially, contraband trade with South Ossetia still plays a large role in the region's economy.

Minorities: Georgians make up 92 percent of the population, Ossetians some 4 percent of the population. Other sizeable minorities include Azerbaijanis, Armenians and Russians

Birth Rate: 4.5 per 1,000

Death Rate: 3.7 per 1,000

Nutshell History: Roman general Pompey's military campaign to Kartli (now divided between Shida Kartli, or Upper Kartli, and Kvemo Kartli, or Lower Kartli) in 66 BC established a pattern for years to come. Foreign invasions and suzerainty to outside powers, particularly Persia, would frustrate Kartli's attempts to build a unified Georgia. In 1795, Persian leader Shah Mohmmad nearly destroyed Tbilisi, capital of the Kartli-Kakheti kingdom. Within six years, the kingdom was gone, annexed by Russia. In 1991, Shida Kartli again became a chip in regional power plays when war broke out with South Ossetia. Thirteen years after the 1992 ceasefire, the situation remains tense.

Claim to Fame: In a word -- Stalin. Shida Kartli's administrative center, Gori, was Joseph Stalin's birthplace, and the town contains the only statue left standing to the Soviet dictator. More recently, Shida Kartli's proximity to South Ossetia has put it on the map as the Saakashvili administration uses the region as the base for its anti-contraband activities against the breakaway territory.

Statistics Source: State Department for Statistics of Georgia

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