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The life and death of Eduard Shevardnadze

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, July 10
Word of Eduard Shevardnadze’s death echoed throughout the world. Everybody stressed the importance of this political figure at the end of the 20th century. The West described Eduard Shevardnadze as one of the architects of Perestroika. Shevardnadze’s name is inextricably linked to the Cold War. However, Russians generally connect Shevardnadze’s name with the collapse of the Soviet Union together with Mikheil Gorbachov. Though Shevardnadze’s personality is assessed quite controversially in Georgia, the population also speaks on behalf of his achievements.

Shevardnadze started his political career in Georgia as one of the leaders of the young communist wing (Comsomol). He made a remarkable climb to success. Coming from a remote Georgian village he managed to become chief of the Georgian Comsomol, the interior minister of Georgia and the first secretary of the Georgian communist party. From 1972-1985 his activities became well-known as a period of combating corruption. In 1985, Soviet Union communist leader Mikhail Gorbachov promoted Shevardnadze to foreign minister of the country and since then, Shevardnadze became one of the key figures during the final period of the Soviet system.

When he became the foreign minister of the USSR, he soon gained a reputation as a democratic and liberally-thinking communist leader. He really wanted to modernize the Soviet Union. Presumably, neither Shevardnadze nor Gorbachov wanted the USSR to disappear from the map, but the Jeannie of freedom, independence, self-determination and national development was already out of the bottle, which inevitably resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The first president of independent Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia confronted Shevardnadze. However, Gamsakhurdia failed to create a strong Georgian state. His prime minister and defence minister organized a coup and ousted Gamsakhurdia who was later found dead under very strange circumstances. In March of 1992, Shevardnadze returned to Georgia and became the head of state. He contributed much in putting Georgia on the world map. Georgia became a member of the United Nations and many other international organizations. Georgia adopted a constitution and introduced the national currency-Lari during Shevardnadze’s time. He officially submitted an application to join NATO and the EU.

However, Russia promoted and supported separatist movements in Georgia under Shevardnadze, meaning Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali regions. Shevardnadze was famous for his policy of balance. He managed to stabilize the situation in the South Caucasus so much that three vast important projects were launched: the Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline. These projects included Georgia in the world’s important developments, providing a pre-Caspian energy door to Europe. Unfortunately, the country did not receive welfare. Many did not trust Shevardnadze, and remembered his role in the communist party. This mood grew and a young reformist named Saakashvili, supported and promoted by Shevardnadze himself, organized revolution known as a Rose Revolution.

Shevardnadze resigned following the bloodless revolution. There was a joke at the time: One Georgian (Stalin) created and built the Soviet empire and another Georgian (Shevardnadze) facilitated the collapse of the Soviet empire. This is the major reason for which Shevardnadze will permanently be part of world’s history.