Bakar BerekashviliNovember 23, 2003 was a very significant day in the history of Georgia. For the first time in Georgian history a revolution took place in the old southern Caucasus state. About 100,000 people forced Shevardnadze to resign. Shevardnadze's regime failed and a new era was opened in Georgia; an era without Shevardnadze and without his politics.
Political Science Student at Tbilisi State University;
Member of International Association for Political Science Students; Member
of Youth for International Socialism;
Eduard Shevardnadze and Georgia before the "Rose Revolution"
Eduard Shevardnadze was born to a poor family in a little village in Georgia called Mamati, January 26, 1928. His father, a teacher, did not earn enough money to feed the family, including Eduard and his three brothers and one sister. Shevardadze remembered that when he was a child he did not even have shoes for the walk to school. His friends also say that Eduard was a very poor child who was always hungry. During his child hood he worked as a post man, and used to read many newspapers. Eduard's father, Ambrosi Shevardnadze always noted that Eduard would become a great man who would one day govern the country. When Eduard was about 17 years old, he decided to enroll in medicine. He was step-by step building himself a good future. He then took an important position in a communist office in Kutaisi, the second largest city in Georgia. At the same time he enrolled in the Faculty of History, his second specialty.
He then moved from Kutaisi to Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, and worked in various positions of the Communist Party. He then became the Minister of Internal Affairs, and then became the First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, becoming the number one man in Georgia. He eventually received the post of Foreign Affairs Minister of the USSR, the second in command next to Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Shevardnadze then resigned as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and on the December 21, 1991, the USSR collapsed.
During his activities in the USSR, Shevardnadze demonstrated that he needed 'Marxism-Leninism' and the Communist Party in order to create a good political career for himself. The truth of the matter was that he was not a defender of Marxism-Leninism and that he was a very ambitious politician who was involved in bribery. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia held presidential elections. Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a writer and strong anti-communist was elected president. Unfortunately, Zviad Gamskhurdia could not govern the country. There were many reasons for this, among which were his Nazism and his lack of ability to play the political game. He also appointed uneducated and people incapable of doing anything to very important positions in the government. It should be noted that Gamskhurdia himself was an intellectual, but also a person whose government caused many problems in Georgia. The situation soon became difficult. Civil war erupted in Abkhazia, an autonomous region of Georgia, which demanded independence. The civil war is a black spot on recent Georgian history. Georgians were killing one another and the level of destabilization was very high. Gamskhurdia, time and time again, lost control of state power and his government eventually collapsed. He left Tblisi and his place of living was unknown. Some thought that he was in the North Caucasus, but he had in fact died in Jikhashkari, a village in western Georgia. According to official information, he had committed suicide. After the withdrawal of Gamskhurdia, the opposition came to state power. A military council governed the state under the leadership of Jaba Ioseliani. Jaba Ioseliana and his supporters contacted Shevardnadze in Moscow, and asked him to return to Georgia to become the head of state. Shevardnadze agreed and arrived in Georgia in February 1992. In the fall he became the head of state, and at the same time a tragic war erupted in Abkhazia. Georgia lost many young citizens in the course of the war and eventually lost its territorial unity. Shevardnadze worked hard to create stability. In 1995 an assassination attempt was made on his life, but he survived. Shevardnadze arrested Jaba Ioseliani as an organizer of this act of terror. He also tried to arrest Igor Giorgadze, who was the Minister of State Security, whom Shevardnadze claimed had been involved in the assassination attempt. Giorgadze fled Georgia and was declared the number one terrorist in the country by Shevzrdnadze. Giorgadze has been sought by Interpol since 1995.
In August 1995, the parliament of Georgia approved a new constitution which was to be the Georgian model of western style democracy. Parliamentary elections were held in the same year and Shevardnadze's party, the "Citizens' Union of Georgia", took first place. Presidential elections also took place and Shevardnadze became the president for a five - year term. Shevardnadze declared that Georgia's foreign orientation would be pro-Western. He also claimed that Georgia was entering a new era - an era of democracy. Both elections were rigged but the US and its western allies did not say a thing, because Shevardnadze was the go - to - man in Georgia. The economy began to improve under Shevardnadze. The years 1996-1997 were not bad years for Georgia. During this time the budgetary system was more proper. Georgia also developed NGOs and became a strategic state for the US in the Caucasus region. The Georgian state sent out many foreign delegations and investments and grants were increased both to the state and to NGOs. However, Georgia still had many problems such as corruption and improper management. From 1997 on, the situation hadn't really improved and the level of corruption increased. Shevardnadze helped create a strong oligarchy and his family came into great wealth. There were however not many problems in foreign policy. In 1999, Georgia became a member of the Council of Europe. The population still lived in poverty and social problems were becoming quite severe. For any state it is important to feed its people and to not blatantly fill the pockets of oligarchs and officials, who in Georgia had helped Shevardnadze to come to power. The US was aware of everything that was going on but again was silent. In 1999, parliamentary elections were held and the Citizens' Union yet again gained first place. These elections were also rigged and the US still did nothing. In 2000, presidential elections were held and Shevardnadze became president for a second term. Georgia was in a state of regression from 2000-2003. Bribery became the main force in politics. Un-professionals were appointed to key posts in the government and the oligarchy became stronger. The level of poverty was becoming quite high and people began to detest Shevardnadze. From 2000-2003, Zurab Zhvania and Mikhail Saakashvili became the main force of opposition to Shevardnadze. Zhvania was the Chairman of Parliament who had resigned and Saakashvili was Shevardnadze's former supporter. Saakashvili also formed a new political party called the "National Movement", and quickly became Shevardnadze's number one enemy.
The Creation and Activities of the student movement "KMARA" ("ENOUGH")
"KMARA" was created by the students of the Tbilisi State University and was the Georgian version of the Serbian "OTPOR". On April 14, 2003, KMARA announced its formation and held a demonstration of 300 students. The demonstration began at the State university and continued to the President's office. KMARA activists carried Georgia's former Soviet flags in their hands and burned them near the President's office. There were also pictures of Shevardnadze and his supporters on these flags. KMARA was sponsored by the infamous financier George Soros. His foundation in Georgia was called the "Open Society - Georgia Foundation"
and was anti-Shevardnadze. This organization financed KMARA. The main goal of KMARA was the removal of Shevardnadze by peaceful means. This movement held a number of demonstrations against Shevardnadze's government. KMARA had many posters which exclaimed "ENOUGH". KMARA did have its problems though, and it was a problem of neutrality. A very well-known anti-Shevardnadze NGO in Georgia was the "Liberty Institute", and activists of KMARA were subordinated to this institution. In turn, the Liberty Institute was subordinated to Georgia's two main opposition parties: the National Movement and the united Democrats. The Liberty Institute was the founder of KMARA and controlled its finances. The movement was initially progressive but it became very ugly and many anti-intellectuals became part of the movement by the middle and end periods of its activity. KMARA was also supported by other non-politicians. There were various groups of singers and writers who supported it, for example. This decision to support KMARA was a wrong one. KMARA was also the strongest pro-American movement. It was greatly influenced by American organizations and pro-Western NGOs in Georgia. During the electoral campaign KMARA urged the population to vote in the elections. Its leading activists believed that Shevardnadze would rig the elections and that KMARA and the opposition parties, along with the people, could go through with a revolution to oust Shevardnadze - they wanted a repeat of Serbian events in Georgia.
The Georgian Opposition Parties
There were many opposition parties in Georgia before the Rose Revolution. These included the National Movement, the United Democrats, the New Rightists, the Labour Party, and Unity. There were also two other so-called opposition parties: The Union of Democratic Revival of Georgia, which was lead by Aslan Abashidze, the head of the autonomous republic of Ajara. He had formerly been in opposition to Shevardnadze but was in reality one of his biggest supporters. The second was called Industry Will Save Georgia". Leaders of this party were businessmen who claimed to be in opposition to Shevardnazde but in reality they supported him. The US and its allies greatly supported two real opposition parties: the National Movement and the United Democrats. The leader of the National Movement, today a candidate for the presidency of Georgia, was Mikhail Saakashvili. Saakashvili, who is a very young politician, received his education in the US as well as in some European countries, and as great of a name both in Georgia and abroad. Saakashvili was a member of the Georgian parliament some years ago. He was also at one time the head of the parliamentary faction of the Citizens' Union of Georgia. He was a Shevardnadze supporter, and was appointed the minister of Justice in Shevardnadze's administration. Eventually, as a mark of protest against Shevardnadze, he resigned and became a Member of Parliament from Vake (Tbilisi). Saakashvili created a political movement called the "National Movement"
which formed a faction in parliament. From 2002 on, Saakashvili increased his detestation of Shevardnadze. He always noted in his public speeches that Shevardnadze was a symbol of evil and that he had helped some attain wealth while the levels of poverty were rising greatly in Georgia. Saakashvili also confronted many other high officials involved in bribery that supported Shevardnadze. He promised society that he would arrest all individuals that were destroying Georgia. In 2002 Georgia held elections of local self-governmental bodies and Saakashvili along with his party won. Saakashvili, who had promised Tbilisi that he would develop the economy and would increase the level of well being in the area, left parliament and became the Chairman of the Tbilisi City Assembly. He increasingly criticized Shevardnadze and his popularity with the people was improving greatly. The United Democrats was the second largest opposition party in Georgia, the head of which was Zurab Zhvania, who was the Chairman of Parliament from 1995 until 2001, and was during this time a Shevardnadze supporter. Zhvania left his post as Chairman in 2001 and moved into opposition. Like the National Movement, the United Democrats was pro-American in orientation and was strongly supported by the US and Geroge Soros. Zhvania did not have as great of a name as Saakashvili, but he knew how to play the political game and won support from the White House. Zhvania criticized Shevardnadze but was not quite as radical as Saakashvili. He was in favour of being constructive and has close relations with strong figures in Georgia. After Zhvania, Mrs. Nino Burdjanadze became the Chairman of Parliament. She was a member of Zhvania's political team and the daughter of a famous Georgian businessman and the wife of a Georgian high official. In the months leading up to the parliamentary elections in 2003, Burdjanadze officially declared that she supported Zhvania and became on e of the leaders of the United Democrats. During the pre-election campaign the United Democrats were renamed and became a block called the "Burdjanadze-Democrats. Burdjanadze became a top figure in the party. Zhvania played very cleverly. He was not formally the leader but was in fact deciding everything. He was used to controlling not only his own party but also many pro-American organization in Georgia. The other opposition parties such as the Labour Party, the New Rightists, and Unity turned out not to be a strong opposition and also found themselves in opposition to the National Movement and the United Democrats. Shevardnadze had his own political block in the parliamentary elections which was called the "Block for New Georgia". The leaders of the new block were very horrible high state officials and included those members of parliament whose hatred of the population was demonstrated by their dirty political and financial activities. Shevardnadze also found support in the Union of Democratic Revival, Abashidze's party, which was a formal opposition party only to become Shevardnadze supporter during the revolutionary days. This regime was also supported by Industry Will Save Georgia.
It is important that there were not and still are not any real leftist, centrist, or right - wing parties in Georgia. The Labour Party is formally leftist but in reality is not, because it includes many oligarchs and anti-intellectuals. The New Rightists do not also represent a genuine right-wing party.
The Media and NGOs before the Rose Revolution
Anti-Shevardnadze TV stations, the press, and NGOs were very active before the Rose Revolution. The TV station "Rustavi2, which was strongly pro-American, had struggled against Shevardnadze for many years. The newspaper "24 hours" was anti-Shevardnadze because the owner of the newspaper, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, is also the owner of "Rustavi2". Along with truthful information "Rustavi2" also disseminated lies for many years. It is a commercial organization sponsored by the US and is carrying out Western interests in Georgia. It can be said that the TV station did not search for the truth. Shevardnadze's media support came from the television station "Channel 1". It was very ugly TV because it served Shevardnadze and was reporting on how good he was. This of course is a great lie.
There were many NGOs that struggled against Shevardnadze; all of which were sponsored by the Soros Foundation, UNDP, USAID and other Western foundations and organizations. Leaders of such NGOs were the Liberty Insti tute, whose leaders were very popular figures but most people could not stand them. The Liberty Institute was a very ugly NGO. It was developing a strongly anti-Marxist campaign in Georgia and it compared Shevardnadze with Karl Marx. This of course points to the anti-intellectualism in the Liberty Institute. It also prepared many reports for the US, providing improper information regarding the rights of national minoritie s and religious rights in Georgia. They did this for money. In the pre-revolutionary processes the Soros Foundation played the greatest role with support of the NGOs. The NGOs struggled minute by minute against Shevardnadze, but unfortunately this was not a struggle for a better life in Georgia. I am afraid that it was a struggle to gain a lot of money.
Parliamentary Elections in Georgia
On November 2, 2003, Georgia held parliamentary elections. The Central Election Commission was controlled by Shevardnadze. This election was of great political importance for the political situation in Georgia. On November 2, the NGO "Fair Elections" began a parallel counting of votes.
This was sponsored by the West. Exit polls were also applied. Rustavi2 contracted the Global Strategic Group USA to take the exit poll results. The government was against the use of exit polls by any organization and tried to break down, in vain, this decision of Rustavi2. In contrast, the government contacted the PR group Nikolo M., who contracted the Austrian sociological group Sora with taking exit poll results. By the evening the exit poll results were different from one another. Global Strategic Group said that the winner was the National Movement and Sora claimed that the government block had won. After two weeks the Central election Commission published the results of the elections from first place to last: the government block, the Union of Democratic Revival, the National Movement, the Labour Party, the Burdjanadze Democrats, and the New Rightists. Fair Elections also published the results of parallel counting: the National Movement, the government block, the Labour Party, the United Democrats, the Union of Democratic Revival. The opposition was angry and they warned Shevardnadze to change the results and to recognize the results of Fair Elections and the victory of the National Movement. Saakashvili, Burdjanadze, and Zhvania met with Shevardnadze, but nothing came from this meeting. Shevardnadze said that he didn't know what had happened and that his party had won. Opposition parties held a number of demonstrations as a warning to Shevardnadze and denounced the results of the Central Election Commission. Then the opposition and KMARA halted all demonstrations for three days. The opposition was gathering people from all parts of Georgia. The demonstrations were then renewed on November 20, 21, 22 where about 100,000 people were demanding the resignation of Shevardnadze. Mikhail Saakashvili declared that all negotiations with the president had been stopped and that they now had only one demand: 100,000 people cried "Resign; Go Home!" The streets of Tbilisi were filled by the largest number of people - people who were fed up with Shevardnadze and his regime. The government ordered the Armed Forces and the police to defend constitutional order. The streets of Tbilisi were also gulled by thousands of armed soldiers. Shevardnadze tried to stay at his post, but it was too late - the Revolution was over.
November 23: the Birthday of the Rose Revolution and the Death of the Shevardnadze Regime
On the morning of November 23 the demonstrations became larger. Students, professors/teachers, workers, and many other youngsters as well as older people were demanding the resignation of Shevardnadze. The opposition and KMARA were of course active, but KMARA was just a little group of protesters. There were many people and it was they who were the force of the Revolution and not the opposition parties and KMARA. An emergency situation was declared in Georgia. The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs met with protesters and supported them. Mikhail Saakashvili and other leaders of the opposition parties stressed that Shevardnadze was finished and that he would resign in a few hours. By the afternoon the situation was out of control. People moved to the President's office and soldiers could not provide any resistance. Tbilisi was visited by many foreign journalists and the situation in Georgia was covered by CNN, the BBC, and other well known TV stations. Saakashvili gave an interview to CNN. The US supported the opposition. By the afternoon Saakashvili entered parliament where the new parliament was in session and spoke to Shevardnadze. Saakashvili and some people entered parliament and told Shevardnadze to go home. Shevardnadze left the building under guard. Some members of parliament were beaten by people. By the evening Saakashvili said that if Shevardnadze would not resign, the people would go to his residence. The process was really uncontrolled. The streets of Tbilisi were paralyzed. Not even God could stop the people. Soldiers and policemen stood aside. Shevardnadze stayed alone and the many governmental supporters left Tbilisi. Saakashvili visited Shevardnadze and after speaking with him,Saakashvili said that the President of Georgia had resigned and that a Rose Revolution had taken place in Georgia. People were very happy. The streets of Tbilisi were filled with many happy people. Everyone was drinking, singing and dancing. Georgia celebrated the withdrawal of Shevardnadze who had governed Georgia for many years, and who could also not build a democratic state.
Georgia after the Rose Revolution
On November 24 the world was informed that a Rose Revolution had taken place in Georgia and that Shevardnadze had resigned. According to the Constitution of Georgia, the Chairman of Parliament, Nino Burdjanadze, was to become the head of state. Burdjanadze is now the interim President of Georgia. Many events have taken place since November 23 and many things have changed. The Opposition came to power, Zurab Zhvania became the Minister of State, and a member of the United Democrats became the Minister of Internal Affairs. Shevardnadze stayed in Georgia and began to write his memoirs. Several state officials left their posts and have left Tbilisi. Some people were arrested. The US expressed its support for the Opposition and it is now clear that the US supported the Rose Revolution. It is very good that corrupt officials have left their posts. All government bodies, executive, legislative, and judicial are now subordinate to the government. There are still problems such as the fact that the Liberty Institute along with the Soros Foundation and the US embassy are actually governing the country. Some people who are well known as being corrupt have been appointed to important positions. Georgia's coffers are empty and the government cannot pay its salaries. Many young ambitious, anti-intellectual, and pro-American people have become high officials.
On January 4, Georgia will hold new presidential elections. The candidate of the Opposition is Mikhail Saakashvili. Saakashvili is saying that a new era will begin in Georgia - an era of prosperity. But does Georgia stand a chance of achieving it? I don't think there is an answer, and if we look at the current situation, I think that the promises of the Rose Revolution will stay just that - promises. So I think that prosperity and the well being of the people lies in their own hands and with Saakashvili. People must not allow him to be a governer such as Shevardnadze was. The majority are going to vote for Saakashvili, but they must know the words of John Lennon who said that we must create our life our selves, and not rely on presidents. Let's see what will happen.