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Last Satrap of Georgia

By Givi Gorgiladze
Georgia Online, 28 September '12

Parliamentary elections in Georgia are approaching; presidential elections are scheduled for the next year. Situation is gradually getting tense. Those forces - that had destroyed newly created, but still not so strong state in early 1990th, killed the nationally elected president Zviad Gamsakhurdia and subordinated Georgia to the interests of Russia - are back and ready to fight again.

The scenario is the same – criminal, marginal politicians, money and political support from the bordering country… but there is big difference too. Back then, the young state had no money, no army, no economics, but had 300 thousand communist party members, Russian military bases and strong network of agents from the Center, including many from the so-called [Georgian] intelligentsia. There was a president – a dissident in love with his country, who could never even imagine that Georgians could fight against each other, although as the son of his father, he was well-familiar with the examples of treason in Georgian history.

Today Georgia has new political elite, mostly raised by efforts of the current president – a man with exceptionally strong will and also in love with his country, as much as the first president. Young people from government structures got education in Europe and the US and embrace western values. Georgia marches! From the satrapy of the collapsed [Soviet] empire it turned into a proper state, one of the least corrupt, safe and liberal states in the world, with minimal taxes and minimal bureaucracy. Georgia is in constructions: new roads are built, airports, tunnels, communications, resorts, whole town districts and unique monuments are being renovated. Georgia managed to achieve the most important – "make the state friendly to its citizens."

The upcoming elections activated dark forces that try to turn Georgia to the past. Their "spiritual" leader claim to be Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of USSR, to whom Russia provided his "second coming" to Georgia. He is less known to the young generation, while Shevardnadze’s life closely intertwined with the life of the country.

For more than half a century he held the country by the throat. This is the man, who at the peak of his career, from the tribune of XXIV convention of the communist party, pronounced the words, worth of an imperial satrap: "The sun for Georgia rose from the North."

Eduard Shevardnadze was born in 1982 in the village of Mamati, Lanchkhuti district of Georgia, in the family of Russian language school teacher. After graduating from secondary school in his native village he entered the Tbilisi Medical College. At the age of 18 he became an instructor of Ordzhonikidze District Committee of Youth of Georgia, two years later he was in charge of the same organization department of the same Committee. In 1951 he graduated from the Party School of the Georgian Communist Party Central Committee and was appointed the instructor of the Republican Committee of Youth. Two years later, he was the first secretary of the City Committee of the Komsomol (Communist Youth Committee) of Kutaisi. At the age of 30 he graduated from the evening department of the Faculty of History at Kutaisi Pedagogical Institute.

His way to big politics started in 1956 after shooting of youth in Tbilisi on March 9. Then 28 years-old Shevardnadze headed Kutaisi city committee of Komsomol (Communist Party Youth Union). He made a speech condemning protestors and supporting the main line of the [Communist] Party. Many in Georgia though it was a treason.

But this kind of loyalty didn’t go unnoticed in Moscow. In 1957 he was elected as the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Komsomol of Georgia. He was then transferred to party work as First Secretary of Party Committee of Mtskheta (1961), then the first secretary of the Party Committee of Pervomaisky district in Tbilisi (1962).

In 1964 he was appointed to the post of the First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia; a year later he became the head of the same Ministry for the next 8 years. In 1972 he was elected as the first secretary of the Party Committee of Tbilisi. That same year, Shevardnadze became first man in the Republic’s party hierarchy and for 13 years headed the Communist Party of Georgia. In 1978 he became a candidate member for the Politburo. In 1985 he was appointed to the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR and the head of the Foreign Policy Association. For "praiseworthy services to the socialist fatherland" he was awarded the Star of the Hero of Socialist Labour, received four Lenin Prizes, Order of the Red October Revolution, Red Banner of Labor and the Great Patriotic War (World War II) award of first level and some others.

On April 9, 1989 the participants of the peaceful rally in Tbilisi, requesting Georgia's withdrawal from the Soviet Union and restoration of its statehood, were attacked by the Soviet Army troops – many of them were killed. This activated Georgian population extremely and turned it against communism. On December 28, 1990 - for the first time in the USSR - democratic multi-party elections were held to elect a new Supreme Council [of Georgian Soviet Republic].

The party "Round Table - Free Georgia" won the elections with great advantage. Its speaker, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was elected the chairman. On April 9, 1991 the Supreme Council adopted a resolution on the restoration of Georgia's independence. On May 26, 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected the first president of the Republic of Georgia in a direct nation-wide vote.

Meanwhile Russia would not recognize Georgia as an independent state, created economic pressure, refused to remove its troops and openly supported the opposition, which called for disobedience and forceful overthrow of legitimate government. It created its own militarized units and blocked central streets in the capital of the Republic.

The opposition was funded from Moscow. They received no less than 65 million rubles – huge money by those times. In the morning of December 22, 1991 the "Guards" of Tengiz Kitovani and the militarized group "Mkhedrioni" (Riders), headed by Jaba Ioseliani, who had been just released from prison, started storming of the building of the Supreme Council and the Government.

TransCaucasian Military District (TCD) [of the Russian Army] supplied the rebels with tanks, rocket launchers, ammunition were delivered in unlimited quantities. From a military airfield "Chkalov", near Moscow, Tula and Pskov paratroopers’ divisions were quickly transferred by planes. Special Forces of the TCD also took part in fighting on the side of the rebels. Russian soldiers worked as snipers, intelligence officers, trainers, tank crews and other armored vehicles, corrected fires for howitzers and rocket launchers,. They were directly involved in seizure of the television tower.

On January 7, 1991 when the center of Tbilisi laid in ruins, and a real "hunting" was going on for supporters of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia ("Zviadists"), Shevardnadze held meetings with Jaba Ioseliani in Moscow. On January 8, he made a speech on central TV channel and congratulated people with the "victory of democratic forces." Upon arriving to Tbilisi on March 7, 1992 he addressed the public that met him at the airport: "I greet Georgian intelligentsia that took weapons in its hands". Scary words – words of Bolshevik-oppressor!

"I treat Jaba Ioseliani with special respect. I have special respect for Sigua and Kitovani. They are heroes." (Jaba Ioseliani was the initiator of Shevardnadze’s return to Georgia). All this gave reason to many in Georgia to call Ioseliani the "architect of the coup."

Few days later Shevardnadze became the Secretary of the State Council, created by himself. As one Moscow newspaper wrote those days: "Georgia turned out to be a polygon to test the returns of prodigal secretaries." Shevardnadze appointed the head of "Mkhedrioni" Jaba Ioseliani as his first deputy – the man who had spent 18 years in prison for murder, robbery and other crimes.

In 1992-1993 "Mkhedrioni" was the only support for Shevardnadze and at the same time – the only real force that could resist big number of supporters of the President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The main mission of "Mkhedrioni" and its leader was to suppress the political opponents of Shevardnadze. Jaba Ioseliani and his entourage headed the criminal redistribution of property in Georgia, took control of the country’s natural resources.

Meanwhile Shevardnadze gave "Mkhedrioni" status of a state body with the new name of "Saviors’ Corps". In violation of law, its members got permission to carry weapons. Shevardnadze granted title of Generals to five members of this criminal organization and honored them with high state awards. "My favorite children" – Shevardnadze called "Mkhedrioni" members, "I love this man" – he spoke about Jaba Ioseliani. A photo camera recorded a truly "historic" moment: Jaba Ioseliani awarding Shevardnadze with the medal of honorary member of "Mkhedrioni"; Shevardnadze awarding Ioseliani with the highest state award after [King] Vakhtang Gorgasali for "contribution into building democracy in Georgia".

Punitive military expeditions into western Georgia, shootings and beating of the participants of the demonstrations, surveillance, searches, illegal detention, torture of political prisoners, routing media and apartments of oppositional newspapers have become a way of life in Georgia. For only five months six thousand criminal acts were committed, more than 400 people disappeared. Dozens of armed bands operated in the Republic. Georgia turned into the rout for transporting drugs from Central Asia to Europe.

Introducing coupons as a currency completed the process of economic collapse. To legitimate his illegal power, Shevardnadze started a very harsh propaganda and agitation for election of a new parliament and of himself. Any actions, even just remarks against the elections were punished severely. Valeria Novodvorskaia (Russian dissident), who protested on Rustaveli Avenue with a poster in her hands calling for not participating in elections, was beaten up until she went unconscious and was thrown into a real dungeon for many days.

Elections were held on October 11, 1992. As it was expected, supporters of Shevardnadze "won". International observes reported many serious violations of law on elections. Whole regions of Georgia didn’t take part in those elections. In many polling stations number of votes exceeded the number of voters. Candidates, who didn’t win in the elections, still received mandates of deputies through so-called "compensational lists". Shevardnadze himself participated as the only candidate for the post of the Chairman of Parliament and then the parliament elected him the Head of the State. No country had ever had that kind of experience!

Before that, in August of 1992, forces of the State Council entered Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia. The official purpose was protecting transport roads from terrorists. But the real reason was Shevardnadze’s desire, on the eve of elections, to subordinate 280 thousand Georgians of Abkhazia, which almost entirely supported the ousted president [Gamsakhurdia] and demanded his return. At the same time resistance in Abkhazia turned into a real war, where the resisting side was not Abkhazians.

Long before Georgian military appeared in Abkhazia, an extensive preparation for a war was going on there. Russian military arrived in large numbers, Cossacks, militants of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, military equipment was brought in. In reality this was a war between Russia and Georgia, in fact it was a continuation of state coup in Georgia. And it had several goals – to subordinate Georgia to Russian interests, to maintain control over the Black Sea (mostly lost by Russia because of loss of Crimea), not to allow alliance between Georgia and the North Caucasus.

On September 16, 1993 an assault on Sokhumi started. The Commander-in-Chief and the Head of the state - Shevardnadze ("if Abkhaz come into the town, I will commit suicide") and his surroundings left the town in a hurry, leaving unprotected unarmed citizens behind. Tens of thousands of Georgians were killed, their houses were burnt, and those who stayed alive were driven away from Abkhazia.

On September 24, 1993 Zviad Gamsakhurdia returned to Georgia and was met by exited population. On October 8 Shevardnadze arrived to Moscow and quickly announced that Georgia was entering Commonwealth of Independent States ("Georgia cannot live without Russia") and at the same time he asked Russia for military aid.

On November 2-4 large troops and armored vehicles transported by the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet landed on the coast in Western Georgia. Positions of supporters of Zviad Gamsakhurdia were shelled from the ships, the Russian air force planes bombed settlements in western Georgia. That operation involved two airborne regiments, two battalions of Dzerzhinsky division and armored regiment. At the dawn of November 6, Russian tanks entered Zugdidi - the center of the resistance – followed by Russian marines shooting with machine guns.

In fact, Shevardnadze organized military intervention into his own country, and otherwise his defeat would be inevitable. "Thanks to Russian support Shevardnadze won", the US newspapers wrote about those events. On December 20, 1993 devastated and humiliated Georgia "voluntarily" joined the CIS. Few days later, on the New Year night Zviad Gamsakhurdia died. Many blame Shevardnadze for his death.

In October 1995 Shevardnadze became the President of Georgia. The main concern for him during these years was to strengthen his own power, as it was in Soviet times. In his own manner, Shevardnadze got rid of his existing and potential opponents, got puppet parliament and concentrated all power in his hands, but he didn’t manage to preserve the core principle of Georgian state – its territorial integrity.

Unprecedented raging of criminals, catastrophic impoverishment of the population, who didn’t receive salaries and pensions for months, and blatant wealth of "new Georgians" (including millions and billions obtained by his family members), whole army of refugees (Internally Displace People) from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, massive corruption, embezzlement of state property and despotism of officials, lack of political elite, capable of leading the country out of the severe crisis – that was the reality in the country. Shevardnadze used communist methods of leadership, long being proven to be ineffective and incapable.

In November 2003, after another falsified parliamentary elections, the opponents of Shevardnadze, led by Mikheil Saakashvili, brought tens of thousands of their supports into the streets of Tbilisi and seized the parliament building. Shevardnadze announced the state of emergency, however, law enforcements refused to obey and he had to resign. Now he lives in Tbilisi in his former residency, which became his property.

With upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections on October 1, 2012, this 85 years-old man, who almost reached the end of his life circle, is ready for "the last and decisive" fight. He openly supports opposition, that 20 years ago with his active participation destroyed the first signs of freedom for Georgia. He blames the president of Georgia for preparing bloodshed and calls the population for violent actions. Like the Russian government, he is not happy with the word "occupation" in regards with the territories taken away from Georgia.

This is the portrait of Eduard Shevardnadze – provincial, poorly educated man, who reached the highest pick of power, faithfully serving to the violent ideology of Bolsheviks. Shevardnadze became an anti-hero in his own country during his lifetime.

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