|• Total||9,983 km2 (3,854 sq mi)|
|• Density||52/km2 (140/sq mi)|
|Mingrelia is not an official subdivision of the Georgia; it constitutes a historical region only.|
Mingrelia (Georgian: სამეგრელო Samegrelo; Mingrelian: სამარგალო Samargalo) is a historic province in the western part of Georgia, formerly known as Odishi. It is primarily inhabited by the Mingrelians, a subgroup of Georgians.
Geography and climate
Administratively, the historic province of Mingrelia is incorporated joined with the northern part of the neighboring mountainous province of Svaneti to form the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region, the capital of which is Mingrelia's main city, Zugdidi.
As it is the case with most Black Sea coastal areas of Georgia, Mingrelia's climate is subtropical with frequent rains. The coastal areas have many marshlands despite the Soviet Georgian authorities' efforts to dry them up. These marshlands contain many rare birds and animals not found in other parts of the country. For this reason, substantial part of the territories is protected by the Georgian law as part of the Colchetian Nature Reserve.
In ancient times Mingrelia was a major part of the kingdom of Colchis (9th-6th centuries BC) and its successor Egrisi (4th century BC-6th century AD). In the 11th-15th centuries, Mingrelia was a part of the united Kingdom of Georgia. From the 16th century to 1857, the independent Principality of Mingrelia was under the rule of the House of Dadiani.
In December 1803, the principality came under the patronage of the Russian Empire by an agreement between the Tsar and the Megrelian Prince Grigol Dadiani. The last adult Prince, David Dadiani, died in 1853, leaving his wife Ekaterine as regent for his young son, Niko. However, in 1867, the principality was abolished and absorbed into the Tsarist Russian Empire. Prince Niko Dadiani officially renounced his rights to the throne in 1868.
From 1918 to 1921, Mingrelia was part of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (DRG). In 1921, Georgia was Sovietized and later became part of the Soviet Union, as the Georgian SSR. On April 9, 1991, independence was restored to Georgia, of which Mingrelia is now part.
The first President of the post-Soviet Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was a Megrelian. After the violent coup d'etat of December 21, 1991-January 6, 1992, Mingrelia became the centre of a civil war, which ended with the defeat of Gamsakhurdia's Megrelian supporters. Even so, this region was unmanageable by the central government throughout the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze (1992–2003). Stability in the region is further deteriorated by the fact that the Georgian refugees from the Abkhazian war zone (who are considered by Georgians as victims of ethnic cleansing) are mostly Megrelians. In 2004, following the Rose Revolution of November 2003, newly elected Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, who vowed to resolve the conflict with the breakaway region of Abkhazeti solely by peaceful means, disarmed groups of Megrelians who tried to fight a guerrilla war against the Abkhazians by incursions from Mingrelia.
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