Georgians arose from the ancient Colchian and Iberian civilizations. After Christianization of Iberia by Saint Nino they became one of the first who embraced the faith of Jesus in the early 4th century and now the majority of Georgians are Eastern Orthodox Christians and most follow their national autocephalous Georgian Orthodox Church. There are also small Georgian Catholic and Muslim communities in Tbilisi and Adjara, as well as a significant number of irreligious Georgians.
A complex process of nation formation has resulted in a diverse set of geographic subgroups of Georgians, each with its characteristic traditions, manners, dialects and, in the case of Svans and Mingrelians, own regional languages. The Georgian language, with its own unique writing system and extensive written tradition, which goes back to the 5th century, is the official language of Georgia as well as the language of education of all Georgians living in the country.
Located in the Caucasus, on the crossroads of predominantly Christian Europe and Muslim Western Asia, Georgian people have maintained their Christian identity in the face of great pressure from neighboring Muslim empires. By the early 11th century they formed a unified Kingdom of Georgia and inaugurated the Georgian Golden Age, a height of political and cultural power of the nation. This lasted until being weakened by Mongol invasions, as well as internal divisions following the death of George V the Brilliant, the last of the great kings of Georgia. Thereafter and throughout the early modern period, Georgians became politically fractured and were dominated by the Ottoman Empire and successive dynasties of Iran. To ensure the survival of his polity, in 1783, Heraclius II of the eastern Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti forged an alliance with the Russian Empire. The Russo-Georgian alliance, however, backfired as Russia was unwilling to fulfill the terms of the treaty, proceeding to annex the troubled kingdom in 1801, as well as the western Georgian kingdom of Imereti in 1810. Russian rule over Georgia was eventually acknowledged in various peace treaties with Iran and the Ottomans, and the remaining Georgian territories were absorbed by the Russian Empire in a piecemeal fashion in the course of the 19th century. Georgians briefly reasserted their independence from Russia under the First Georgian Republic from 1918 to 1921, and finally, in 1991 from the Soviet Union.
Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi (ქართველები), their land Sakartvelo (საქართველო), and their language Kartuli (ქართული). According to The Georgian Chronicles, the ancestor of the Kartvelian people was Kartlos, the great-grandson of the Biblical Japheth. However, scholars agree that the word is derived from the Karts, the latter being one of the proto-Georgian tribes that emerged as a dominant group in ancient times. Ancient Greeks (Homer, Herodotus, Strabo, Plutarch etc.) and Romans (Titus Livius, Cornelius Tacitus, etc.) referred to western Georgians as Colchians and eastern Georgians as Iberians.
The term "Georgians" is derived from the country of Georgia. In the past, lore based theories were given by the traveller Jacques de Vitry, who explained the name's origin by the popularity of St. George amongst Georgians, while traveller Jean Chardin thought that "Georgia" came from Greek γεωργός ("tiller of the land"), as when the Greeks came into the region (in Colchis) they encountered a developed agricultural society.