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Ajaria: An autonomous republic along the southern Black Sea coast of Georgia, extending into the wooded foothills of the Caucasus. The Ajars are ethnic Georgians, who profess Islam.

Area: 3,000 sq. kilometers;
Population: 382,000 mil (1991), over 90 percent Georgian, with Russian and Armenian minorities.
Economy: Major branches of industry include petroleum processing, machinery, food products, light manufacturing, and lumber. Agricultural products include tea, citrus fruits, grapes, and corn. The two main ports are Batumi and Kobuleti.
Capital: Batumi.

History: Ajaria has been part of Georgia since the tenth century. The Seljuk Turks invaded in the eleventh century and the Mongols, in the thirteenth century. Under Ottoman rule since the seventeenth century, it was annexed by Russia in 1878. Ajaria was under Turkish military rule from 1918 to 1920, when it was occupied briefly by the British.

Back under Soviet rule in 1921, the region surrounding the port of Batumi was reorganized as the Ajar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, a constituent republic of the Georgian SSR. The reasons for this were not ethnic, since the Ajars are Georgians of a different religion. Rather, Moscow wanted to avoid giving Georgia complete control of the important Black Sea port and to bolster communist leanings among the ethnic Georgian Muslims known as Lazi, living in Turkey.

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