Religion figured prominently in the Georgian chronicles: According to Orthodox tradition, the country is considered chosen by the Mother of God, who is known as Georgia’s patroness. Charged with spreading the doctrine of Christ in new lands, the Mother of God adhered to the Savior’s will and stayed in Jerusalem, while St. Andrew the Apostle went to Georgia in her stead, spreading the Gospel with fellow Apostle Simon in the first century. Christianity was officially adopted in the fourth century (becoming the second country to officially do so, after Armenia, with Ethiopia’s unofficial adoption around that time) thanks to St. Nino; she was related to St. George – the patron saint of Georgia.(Another notable George? King Vakhtang Gorgasali, who legend says went hunting in the mid-fifth century and was so taken by the area’s hot springs, he declared a city be built there – today’s Tbilisi.) The unified Kingdom of Georgia, heavily shaped by the church, reached its Golden Age during the reign of King David the Builder and Queen Tamar the Great (those names!) in the 12th and early 13th centuries. Medieval Georgian architecture, painting and poetry flourished, particularly in the development of ecclesiastic art and the first major works of secular literature.Thereafter, it was conquered by a hodgepodge of regional powers of the day: among them the Khazars, Mongols, Ottoman Empire and successive dynasties of Iran, with Russia finally annexing the eastern Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti in 1801. In the early 1920s, it joined the new Transcaucasian Federation, then became a founding republic of the Soviet Union, finally seceding in April 1991. After the bloodless Rose Revolution in 2003, which saw a peaceful change of power, Georgia introduced a pro-Western series of democratic and economic reforms. But all was not quiet: this led to worsening relations with Russia, resulting in the brief Russo-Georgian War in August 2008. Tensions continue today, with Vladmir Putin’s long arm of the law extending into Abkhazia, regarded by Georgia and most UN member states as Russian-occupied territory. Georgians are now sadly barred from visiting Abkhazia, once a top resort celebrated for its fine-sand beaches, subtropical flora and misty mountain towns, and much tourism has shifted to the southwestern port city of Batumi. A developing country, it ranks 70th on the Human Development Index. As noted by the Advantour website, despite the huge impact of Christianity, modern Georgia is very diverse and religiously tolerant: Some Abkhazians and Georgians from the southern and southwestern parts of the country (like Adjara) are Sunni Muslims, as are Azerbaijanis. Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks and Russians have their own Orthodox churches, coexisting with a small number of Catholics.