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Eduard Shevardnadze

President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia photo...
President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia photographed during his meeting with Secretary of Defense William Cohen at The Pentagon
Eduard Ambrosis dze Shevardnadze (Georgian: ედუარდ ამბროსის ძე შევარდნაძე [ɛduard ʃɛvardnad͡zɛ]; born 25 January 1928) is a former Soviet minister of foreign affairs, and later, Georgian statesman from the height to the end of the Cold War. He served as President of Georgia from 1995 to 2003, and as First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party (GPC, the de facto leader of Soviet Georgia), from 1972 to 1985. Shevardnadze was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy in the Gorbachev Era. 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 even 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's 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 for corruption charges.
 
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 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 Zviad Gamsakhurdia as President. Three years later, in 1995, Shevardnadze was elected President. His presidency was marked by rampant corruption and accusations of nepotism. After allegations of an 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 has lived in relative obscurity ever since, but has published his memoirs.
 
Early life and career
Shevardnadze was born in Mamati, Lanchkhuti, Transcaucasian SFSR, Soviet Union on 25 January 1928. Ambrose, his father, worked as a teacher and was a devoted communist and party official. He was a cousin of Georgian painter and intellectual Dimitri Shevardnadze purged during Stalinist repressions.[1] His mother however had little respect for the communist government and opposed both Shevardnadze's and his father's party career.[2] In 1937, during the Great Purge, his father, who had abandoned Menshevism for Bolshevism in the mid-1920s, was arrested but was released due to the intervention of an NKVD officer who had been his pupil.[3] The father of his wife, Nanuli Shevardnadze, was killed by the authorities at the height of the purge. At first Nanuli rejected Shevardnadze's marriage proposal, fearing that her family background would ruin Shevardnadze's party career. These fears were well justified as many other couples had lost their life for the very same reason.[4] The two married in 1951.
 
He joined the Georgian Communist Party (GCP) and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1948 at the age of twenty. He rose steadily through the ranks of the Georgian Komsomol, and eventually become its First Secretary after serving a term as Second Secretary.[5] It was during his Komsomol First Secretaryship that Shevardnadze would meet Mikhail Gorbachev for his first time.[6] Shevardnadze claims that he grew disillusioned with the Soviet political system following Nikita Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" to the 20th CPSU Congress. Like many Soviets, the crimes perpetrated by Joseph Stalin horrified Shevardnadze, and the Soviet government's response to the 1956 Georgian demonstrations shocked him even more.[7] He was demoted in 1961 by the Politburo of the Georgian Communist Party after offending a senior official.[5]
 
His demotion led him to endure several years of obscurity before returning to attention as a First Secretary of a city district in Tbilisi.[8] Shevardnadze challenged Tbilisi First Secretary Otari Lolashvili, and later charged him for corruption. Shevardnadze left party work after getting appointed to First Deputy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Georgian SSR in 1964. It was his successful attempt at putting Lolashvili behind bar's which got him promoted to the First Deputyship. In 1965 he was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs of the Georgian SSR. After initiatsing a successful anti-corruption campaign supported by the Soviet government Shevardnadze was voted-in as Second Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party.[9]
 
As Minister of Internal Affairs Shevardnadze ordered the arrest of more than 25,000 people; 17,000 of these being party members, many government ministers and 70 KGB officials[citation needed]. Several other Georgians would lose their life and/or would face torturing by the authorities[citation needed]. Shevardnadze's corruption campaign increased public enmity against him.[10] However, it was these anti-corruption campaigns which garnered the interest of the Soviet government,[11] and in turn, his promotion to the First Secretaryship after Vasil Mzhavanadze's resignation.[9]
 
Economic policy
Under Shevardnadze's rule Georgia was one of only a handful of Soviet Republics who did not experience economic stagnation, quite to the contrary Georgia experienced rapid economic growth. By 1974 industrial output had increased by 9.6 percent while agricultural output had increased by 18 percent. The shortage economy which had evolved into a prevalent problem in other parts of the Soviet Union had in Georgia nearly disappeared. This positive trend can be proven by the fact that the long Food queues in Tbilisi had been shortened while in Moscow been lengthened. Some of Shevardnadze's economic policies were adopted by the Soviet government on a national level.[17]
 
In 1973 Shevardnadze launched an agricultural reform in Abasha, popularly referred to as the "Abasha experiment". This reform was inspired by János Kádár's agricultural policy in the People's Republic of Hungary which returned the agricultural decision-making to the local level of governance. Shevardnadze merged all Abasha agricultural institutions in one single entity and established a new remuneration system. If a farmer fulfilled the five-year plan early he would be awarded a share of the crops. The policy had a positive effect on the Georgian economy, and because of the large increase of agricultural output in Abasha, the reform was introduced elsewhere in the republic. The agricultural reform in Georgia became the model of the nationwide Agricultural-Industrial Organisations established by a decree in 1982.[18]
 
Shevardnadze has taken much of the credit for Georgia's economic performance under his rule. Seven months before his promotion to the Soviet Foreign Affairs Ministership Shevardnadze claimed that there were thirty, or more, economic experiments operating in Georgia which he claimed would further democratise the economic management.[19]

  Political experimentation and nationalism

Shevardnadze was a strong supporter of political reform in the Georgian SSR. Under his rule he created agencies attached to the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party whose main task was studying, analysing and molding public opinion. These agencies worked closely with Georgia's communications networks, such as television, and government ministers and Shevardnadze himself were regularly interviewed live on television.[15] Shevardnadze criticised flattery in Georgia, and felt that he along with his government's activities, needed to get criticised more often, especially during party congresses.[20] He also proved himself, even before Mikhail Gorbachev's rise to power, to be a firm supporter of people's democracy (e.g. power from below).[21]
 
The previous Soviet Georgian rulers had given away to nationalist favoritism to the Georgians, Shevardnadze was however, against this policy of favoritism. Therefore his nationalistic policy is seen as highly controversial in today's Georgia.[22] At the 25th Congress of the Georgian Communist Party Shevardnadze told the congress; "for Georgians, the sun rises not in the east, but in the north—in Russia".[23] Shevardnadze saw "extreme nationalism", coupled with corruption and inefficiencies within the system, as one of the main obstacles to economic growth. During his rule he condemned what he saw as "national narrow-mindedness and isolation" and writers who published works with nationalistic overtones.
 
The 1970s saw an increase in nationalistic tendencies in Georgian society. When the 1978 Georgian demonstrations were sparked when the Soviet government decided to amend the Georgian constitution and removing the Georgian language as the sole state language in the republic. While at first standing at the same side as the Soviet government Shevardnadze quickly reiterated his position and was able to make a compromise with the Soviet government and the demonstrators. The Georgian language was kept as the sole official language of the republic, however, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union passed a legislation which called for an increasing the level of Russian language training in the non-Russian republics.[24]
 
There was another problem facing Shevardnadze during the 1978 demonstrations, some leading Abkhaz intellectuals were writing to Leonid Brezhnev in the hope that he would let the Abkhaz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic secede from Georgia and merge into the Russian SFSR. To halt this development the Georgian government gave away to concessions made by the secessionists. These concessions includes establishing an Abhkaz university, the expansion of Abkhaz publications and creating an Abkhaz television station. Shevardnadze would prove however to be an active supporter of defending minority interest.[25]

  National politics and resignation

At the 25th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1976 Shevardnadze held a speech in which he called General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev "vozhd" (leader), a term previously reserved for Joseph Stalin. His adulation was only surpassed by those of Andrei Kirilenko and Heydar Aliyev. As Yegor Ligachev later noted, Shevardnadze never contradicted a General Secretary.[26] During Brezhnev's last days Shevardnadze had publicly endorsed Konstantin Chernenko's candidacy for the General Secretaryship and called him a "great theoretician". However, when it became clear that the secretaryship would not go to Chernenko, but instead Yuri Andropov, Shevardnadze swiftly reiterated his position and gave his support for Andropov. Shevardnadze's became the first Soviet republican head to offer his gratitude to the newly elected leader, in turn, Andropov quickly signaled his appreciation and his support for some of the reforms launched by Shevardnadze. According to Andropov's biographers the anti-corruption campaigned launched by him was inspired by Shervardnadze's Georgian anti-corruption campaign. When Andropov died Shevardnadze became yet again an avid supporter for Chernenko's candidacy for the General Secretaryship.[27] When Chernenko died Shevardnadze's had become a strong supporter Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership candidacy.[28]
 
 He became a member of the Central Committee (CC) of the CPSU in 1976 and in 1978 was promoted to the rank of non-voting candidate member of the Soviet Political Bureau (Politburo).[29] His chance came in 1985 when the veteran Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Gromyko, left that post for the largely ceremonial position of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The de facto leader, Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, appointed Shevardnadze to replace Gromyko as Minister of Foreign Affairs, thus consolidating Gorbachev's circle of relatively young reformers.[6]
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