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The death of Zurab Zhvania five years on

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 5
Five years have passed since February 3, 2005 when then-Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Zhvania, one of the leaders of Rose Revolution, was found dead in a flat and presumed suffocated by fumes from a natural gas heater. It has become a tradition that on the anniversary of his death the Georgian media airs once again the continuing questions surrounding it and asks what might have been had he lived.

The official version of Zhvania's death, that it occurred because a problem with the gas heater, is not accepted by members of his family or some opposition members. Certainly family members doubting the official explanation is very bad for the Government as it creates lack of confidence in it and spawns many unhealthy rumours. On this 5th anniversary of the tragedy more and more rumours and suspicious are appearing. Leader of the White Movement Temur Shashiashvili, Governor of the Imereti region during President Shevardnadze's time, claims that an audio cassette which records some details of the death of Zhvania can be found somewhere in Georgia. As elections are coming up we can expect even more speculation about this issue, as there are obvious implications for the Government if its version can be shown to be false. However there is not much hope among the public that any facts will emerge which would prove anything either way. People have difficulty believing that any investigation will actually try and discover the truth. Clearly, if Zhvania was not the victim of an accident this will put a serious dent in what is left of Georgia's democratic image.

Speculating on where Zhvania would be today had he still been alive is mere fantasy, as nobody could know for sure. Zhvania was not a charismatic figure, unlike, for example, the current Georgian President. He was neither loved or hated by the population. However if we trust the opinion of people who knew him well Zhvania was a great master of political games. Since his death he has acquired almost legendary status. Some politicians and even analysts assure us that if he had been alive the Rose Revolution administration would not have committed some of its fatal errors and things would have developed better than they have done. Some analysts even claim that if he were alive Zhvania would now be in opposition, thus creating very serious problems for Saakashvili. Of the three leaders of the Rose Revolution Saakashvili, Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, only Saakashvili is left. Zhvania died and Burjanadze has now moved into the radical opposition.

Some suggest that Zhvania would have gone into opposition before Burjanadze. However people are probably treating Zhvania as a lost leader now because there is no one in politics today with sufficient skills to gain public confidence. Many of the current politicians on either side of the fence are former friends, colleagues and team members of Zhvania's, but if he has left a positive legacy they appear incapable of embracing it, and this has consequences for Georgia.

As we said at the beginning speculations appear on the anniversaries of Zurab Zhvania's death or birth. Now Georgia is preparing for elections which might be crucial for the country’s history and future development. Who is seen as the heir of Zhvania, and who his opponent, may have a significant effect on their outcome.