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Eduard Schewardnadse


Eduard Shevardnadze 25 January 1928 – 7 July 2014) was a Georgian politician and diplomat. He served as First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party (GPC, the de facto leader of Soviet Georgia) from 1972 to 1985 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991. Shevardnadze was responsible for many key decisions on Soviet foreign policy during the Gorbachev Era. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he was President of Georgia (or in equivalent posts) from 1992 to 2003. He was forced to retire in 2003 as a consequence of the bloodless Rose Revolution.

Shevardnadze's political career started in the late 1940s as a leading member of his local Komsomol organisation. He was later appointed its Second Secretary, and then First Secretary. His rise up the Georgian Soviet hierarchy continued until 1961 when he was demoted after he insulted a senior official. After spending two years in obscurity, Shevardnadze returned as a First Secretary of a Tbilisi city district, and was able to charge the Tbilisi First Secretary at the time for corruption. His anti-corruption work quickly garnered the interest of the Soviet government, and Shevardnadze was appointed to First Deputy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Georgian SSR. He would later become the head of the internal affairs ministry and was able to charge First Secretary (leader of Soviet Georgia) Vasil Mzhavanadze with corruption.

As First Secretary, Shevardnadze started several economic reforms which would spur economic growth in the republic, an uncommon occurrence in the Soviet Union because the country was experiencing a nationwide economic stagnation. Shevardnadze's anti-corruption campaign continued until he resigned from his office as First Secretary. Mikhail Gorbachev appointed Shevardnadze to the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs. From then on, with the exception of a brief period between 1990 and 1991, only Gorbachev would outrank Shevardnadze in importance in Soviet foreign policy.

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 Shevardnadze returned to a newly independent Georgia. He became the country's head of state following the removal of the country's first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia. He was formally elected president in 1995. His presidency was marked by rampant corruption and accusations of nepotism. After allegations of apparent electoral fraud during the 2003 legislative election Shevardnadze was forced to resign following a series of public protests and demonstrations colloquially known as the Rose Revolution. He later lived in relative obscurity, but published his memoirs.

Downfall  

On 2 November 2003, Georgia held a parliamentary election that was widely denounced as unfair by international election observers.[32] The outcome sparked fury among many Georgians, leading to mass demonstrations in the capital Tbilisi and elsewhere, called the Rose Revolution. Protesters broke into Parliament on 22 November as the first session of the new Parliament was beginning, forcing President Shevardnadze to escape with his bodyguards.[32]On 23 November Shevardnadze met with the opposition leaders Mikheil Saakashvili and Zurab Zhvania to discuss the situation, in a meeting arranged by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.[32] After this meeting, the president announced his resignation, declaring that he wished to avert a bloody power struggle "so all this can end peacefully and there is no bloodshed and no casualties".[37]Shevardnadze's political career ended with his resignation.[38]

Death 

Shevardnadze spent his last years living quietly at his mansion house in the outskirts of Tbilisi. As his health deteriorated, his involvement in public life became much reduced. After a long illness, he died at the age of 86 on 7 July 2014.[39][40]Georgia's incumbent president Giorgi Margvelashvili and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili extended condolences to his family members. Margvelashvili described him as "one of the distinguished politicians of the 20th century, who participated in dismantling of the Soviet system." He added, "He was also playing a serious role in creation of new Georgia and in development of our western course." Garibashvili said that his "contribution was especially important in establishing Georgia’s geopolitical role in modern world. Eduard Shevardnadze was a politician of international significance, who made a great contribution to end the Cold War and to establish new world order."[41] Former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who overthrew him in the 2003 Rose Revolution, offered condolences and said that Shevardnadze was "a significant figure for the Soviet empire and for post-Soviet Georgia." He added that his government did not start a criminal prosecution against him, despite calls by the some politicians and a part of the society, out of "respect to the President’s institution."[42]

Among others, Russian President Vladimir Putin[43] and US State Secretary John Kerry offered condolences. Kerry credited him with playing "an instrumental role" in bringing about the end of the Cold War and reduction of "the risk of nuclear confrontation" as the Soviet Union's Foreign Minister and ensuring "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that fragile state during the 1990s" as President of Georgia and putting the country "on its irreversible trajectory toward Euro-Atlantic integration."[44]

Awards 

Soviet Union

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