Zviad Gamsakhurdia
Zviad Gamsakhurdia was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in...

. A nationwide crackdown on human rights activists was instigated across the Soviet Union. In Georgia, the government of Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze is a former Soviet, 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 , from 1972 to 1985. Shevardnadze was responsible for many top decisions on...

 (who was then First Secretary
General Secretary
The office of general secretary is staffed by the chief officer of:*The General Secretariat for Macedonia and Thrace, a government agency for the Greek regions of Macedonia and Thrace...

 of the Georgian Communist Party
Georgian Communist party
Georgia was incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic after 25 February 1921 when the Red Army entered its capital Tbilisi and installed a communist government led by Georgian Bolshevik Filipp Makharadze. After the 1924 August Uprising in Georgia the country was...

) arrested Gamsakhurdia and his fellow dissident Merab Kostava
Merab Kostava
250px|thumb|Merab Kostava, 1988Merab Kostava was a Georgian dissident, musician and poet; one of the leaders of the National-Liberation movement in Georgia...

. The two men were sentenced to three years' hard labour plus three years' exile for "anti-Soviet activities". Their imprisonment attracted international attention, leading to members of the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 nominating Gamsakhurdia and Kostava for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 (though it went to Anwar Sadat
Anwar Sadat
Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat was the third President of Egypt, serving from 15 October 1970 until his assassination by fundamentalist army officers on 6 October 1981...

 and Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

 instead). Kostava was exiled to Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, while Gamsakhurdia was exiled to the Russian autonomous republic of Dagestan
The Republic of Dagestan is a federal subject of Russia, located in the North Caucasus region. Its capital and the largest city is Makhachkala, located at the center of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea...


At the end of June 1979, Gamsakhurdia was released from jail and pardoned in controversial circumstances after serving only two years of his sentence (Kostava remained in prison until 1987). The authorities claimed that he had confessed to the charges and recanted his beliefs; a film clip was shown on Soviet television to substantiate their claim. According to a transcript published by the Soviet news agency TASS, Gamsakhurdia spoke of "how wrong was the road I had taken when I disseminated literature hostile to the Soviet state. Bourgeois propaganda seized upon my mistakes and created a hullabaloo around me, which causes me pangs of remorse. I have realized the essence of the pharasaic campaign launched in the West, camouflaged under the slogan of 'upholding human rights.'"

His supporters, family and Merab Kostava claimed that his recantation was coerced by the KGB, and although he publicly acknowledged that certain aspects of his anti-Soviet endeavors were mistaken, he did not renounce his leadership of the dissident movement in Georgia. Perhaps more importantly, his actions ensured that the dissident leadership could remain active. Kostava and Gamsakhurdia later both independently stated that the latter's recantation had been a tactical move. In an open letter to Shevardnadze, dated April 19, 1992, Gamsakhurdia claimed that "my so-called confession was necessitated ... [because] if there was no 'confession' and my release from the prison in 1979 would not have taken place, then there would not have been a rise of the national movement."

Gamsakhurdia returned to dissident activities soon after his release, continuing to contribute to samizdat periodicals and campaigning for the release of Merab Kostava. In 1981 he became the spokesman of the students and others who protested in Tbilisi about the threats to Georgian identity and the Georgian cultural heritage. He handed a set of "Demands of the Georgian People" to Shevardnadze outside the Congress of the Georgian Writers Union at the end of March 1981, which earned him another spell in jail.

Moves towards independence

When the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 initiated his policy of glasnost
Glasnost was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s...

, Gamsakhurdia played a key role in organizing mass pro-independence rallies held in Georgia between 1987–1990, in which he was joined by Merab Kostava on the latter's release in 1987. In 1988, Gamsakurdia became one of the founders of
the Society of Saint Ilia the Righteous (SSIR), a combination of a religious society and a political party which became the basis for his own political movement. The following year, the brutal suppression by Soviet forces of a large peaceful demonstration held in Tbilisi on April 4–9, 1989 proved to be a pivotal event in discrediting the continuation of Soviet rule over the country. The progress of democratic reforms was accelerated and led to Georgia's first democratic multiparty elections, held on October 28, 1990. Gamsakhurdia's SSIR party and the Georgian Helsinki Union joined with other opposition groups to head a reformist coalition called "Round Table — Free Georgia" ("Mrgvali Magida — Tavisupali Sakartvelo"). The coalition won a convincing victory, with 64% of the vote, as compared with the Georgian Communist Party's 29.6%. On November 14, 1990, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected by an overwhelming majority as Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia
Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia
The Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia was the highest unicameral legislative body in Georgia elected in the first democratic, multiparty elections in the Caucasus in October 1990 while the country was still part of the Soviet Union. The Council presided over the declaration of Georgia’s...


Georgia held a referendum
Georgian independence referendum, 1991
An independence referendum was held in Georgia on 31 March 1991. It was approved by 99.5% of voters.-Background:The referendum was sanctioned by the Georgian Supreme Council which was elected in the first multi-party elections held in Soviet Georgia in October 1990, and was dominated by a...

 on restoring its pre-Soviet independence on March 31, 1991 in which 90.08% of those who voted declared in its favour. The Georgian parliament passed a declaration of independence on April 9, 1991, in effect restoring the 1918–21 Georgian state. However, it was not recognized by the Soviet Union and although a number of foreign powers granted early recognition, universal recognition did not come until the following year. Gamsakhurdia was elected President in the election of May 26 with 86.5% per cent of the vote on a turnout of over 83%.

Gamsakhurdia as President

On taking office, Gamsakhurdia was faced with major economic and political difficulties, especially regarding Georgia's relations with the Soviet Union. A key problem was the position of Georgia's many ethnic minorities (making up 30% of the population). Although minority groups had participated actively in Georgia's return to democracy, they were underrepresented in the results of the October 1990 elections with only nine of 245 deputies being non-Georgians. Even before Georgia's independence, the position of national minorities was contentious and led to outbreaks of serious inter-ethnic violence in Abkhazia during 1989.

In 1989, violent unrest broke out in South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast
South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast
The South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast was an autonomous oblast of the Soviet Union created within the Georgian SSR on April 20, 1922. Its autonomy was revoked on December 10, 1990 by the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR, leading to the First South Ossetian War...

 between the Georgian independence-minded population of the region and Ossetians loyal to the Soviet Union. South Ossetia's regional soviet announced that the region would secede from Georgia to form a "Soviet Democratic Republic
Republics of the Soviet Union
The Republics of the Soviet Union or the Union Republics of the Soviet Union were ethnically-based administrative units that were subordinated directly to the Government of the Soviet Union...

". In response, the Georgian Supreme Soviet
Supreme Soviet
The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union was the Supreme Soviet in the Soviet Union and the only one with the power to pass constitutional amendments...

 annulled the autonomy of South Ossetia in March 1990.

A three-way power struggle between Georgian, Ossetian and Soviet military forces broke out in the region, which resulted (by March 1991) in the deaths of 51 people and the eviction from their homes of 25,000 more. After his election as Chairman of the newly renamed Supreme Council, Gamsakhurdia denounced the Ossetian move as being part of a Russian ploy to undermine Georgia, declaring the Ossetian separatists to be "direct agents of the Kremlin, its tools and terrorists." In February 1991, he sent a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev demanding the withdrawal of Soviet army units and an additional contingent of interior troops of the USSR from the territory of former Authonomous District of South Ossetia.

According to George Khutsishvili, the nationalist "Georgia for the Georgians" hysteria launched by the followers of Gamsakhurdia "played a decisive role" in "bringing about Bosnia-like inter-ethnic violence."

Human rights violations criticism

On December 27, 1991, U.S. based Helsinki Watch
Helsinki Watch
Helsinki Watch was a private American NGO devoted to monitoring Helsinki implementation throughout the Soviet bloc. It was created in 1978 to monitor compliance to the Helsinki Final Act...

 NGO issued a report on Human Rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 violations made by the government of Gamsakhurdia. The report included information on documented Freedom of Assembly
Freedom of assembly
Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests...

, Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

, Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

 violations in Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, on Political Imprisonment
Political prisoner
According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a political prisoner is ‘someone who is in prison because they have opposed or criticized the government of their own country’....

, Human Rights abuses by Georgian government and paramilitary in South Ossetia
South Ossetia
South Ossetia or Tskhinvali Region is a disputed region and partly recognized state in the South Caucasus, located in the territory of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic....

, and other human Rights violations.

The rise of the opposition

Gamsakhurdia's opponents were highly critical of what they regarded as "unacceptably dictatorial behaviour", which had already been the subject of criticism even before his election as President. Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua
Tengiz Sigua
Tengiz Sigua is a Georgian politician and former Prime Minister of the country.Sigua was an engineer by profession and entered politics on the eve of the Soviet Union’s collapse. In 1990, he headed the Rustaveli Society of All Georgia and led an expert group of the bloc “Round Table-Free Georgia”...

 and two other senior ministers resigned on August 19 in protest against Gamsakhurdia's policies. The three ministers joined the opposition, accusing him of "being a demagogue and totalitarian" and complaining about the slow pace of economic reform. In an emotional television broadcast, Gamsakhurdia claimed that his enemies were engaging in "sabotage and betrayal" within the country.

Gamsakhurdia's response to the coup against President Gorbachev was a source of further controversy. On August 19, Gamsakhurdia, the Georgian government, and the Presidium of the Supreme Council issued an appeal to the Georgian population to remain calm, stay at their workplaces, and perform their jobs without yielding to provocations or taking unauthorized actions. The following day, Gamsakhurdia appealed to international leaders to recognize the republics (including Georgia) that had declared themselves independent of the Soviet Union and to recognise all legal authorities, including the Soviet authorities deposed by the coup. He claimed publicly on August 21 that Gorbachev himself had masterminded the coup in an attempt to boost his popularity before the Soviet presidential elections, an allegation rejected as "ridiculous" by US President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...


In a particularly controversial development, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that Gamsakhurdia had agreed with the Soviet military that the Georgian National Guard would be disarmed and on August 23 he issued decrees abolishing the post of commander of the Georgian National Guard and redesignating its members as interior troops subordinate to the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs. In reality, the National Guard was already a part of the Ministry of the Interior, and Gamsakhurdia's opponents, who claimed he was seeking to abolish it, were asked to produce documents they claimed they possessed which verified their claims, but did not do so. Gamsakhurdia always maintained he had no intention of disbanding the National Guard (source: Zviad Gamsakhurdia, The Nomenklatura Revanche in Georgia, Soviet Analyst, 1993). In defiance of the alleged order of Gamskhurdia, the sacked National Guard commander Tengiz Kitovani
Tengiz Kitovani
Tengiz Kitovani is a retired Georgian politician and military commander with high-profile involvement in the Georgian Civil War early in the 1990s when he commanded the National Guard of Georgia and served as a Defense Minister until being gradually sidelined by Eduard Shevardnadze who had...

 led most of his troops out of Tbilisi on August 24. By this time, however, the coup had clearly failed and Gamsakhurdia publicly congratulated Russia's President Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

 on his victory over the putschists (Russian Journal "Russki Curier", Paris, September 1991). Georgia had survived the coup without any violence, but Gamsakhurdia's opponents accused him of not being resolute in opposing it.

Gamsakhurdia reacted angrily, accusing shadowy forces in Moscow of conspiring with his internal enemies against Georgia's independence movement. In a rally in early September, he told his supporters: "The infernal machinery of the Kremlin will not prevent us from becoming free.... Having defeated the traitors, Georgia will achieve its ultimate freedom." He shut down an opposition newspaper, "Molodiozh Gruzii," on the grounds that it had published open calls for a national rebellion. Giorgi Chanturia
Giorgi Chanturia
Giorgi Chanturia was a Georgian politician and the National Democratic Party leader who was murdered in Tbilisi, Georgia in December 1994....

, whose National Democratic Party was one of the most active opposition groups at that time, was arrested and imprisoned on charges of seeking help from Moscow to overthrow the legal government. It was also reported that Channel 2, a television station, was closed down after employees took part in rallies against the government.

The government's activities aroused controversy at home and strong criticism abroad. A visiting delegation of US Congressmen led by Representative Steny Hoyer
Steny Hoyer
Steny Hamilton Hoyer is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1981. The district includes a large swath of rural and suburban territory southeast of Washington, D.C.. He is a member of the Democratic Party....

 reported that there were "severe human rights problems within the present new government, which is not willing to address them or admit them or do anything about them yet." American commentators cited the human rights issue as being one of the main reasons for Georgia's inability to secure widespread international recognition. The country had already been granted recognition by a limited number of countries (including Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Canada, Finland, Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, the Baltic States
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 and others) but recognition by major countries eventually came during Christmas 1991, when the U.S., Sweden, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, India and others formally recognized Georgian independence.

The political dispute turned violent on September 2, when an anti-government demonstration in Tbilisi was dispersed by police. The most ominous development was the splintering of the Georgian National Guard into pro- and anti-government factions, with the latter setting up an armed camp outside the capital. Skirmishes between the two sides occurred across Tbilisi during October and November with occasional fatalities resulting from gunfights. Paramilitary groups — one of the largest of which was the anti-Gamsakhurdia "Mkhedrioni
The Mkhedrioni was a paramilitary group and political organisation in the Republic of Georgia, outlawed since 1995 but subsequently reconstituted as the Union of Patriots political party....

" ("Horsemen" or "Knights"), a nationalist militia with several thousand members — set up barricades around the city.

Coup d'état

On December 22, 1991, armed opposition supporters launched a violent coup d'état and attacked a number of official buildings including the Georgian parliament building, where Gamsakhurdia himself was sheltering. Heavy fighting continued in Tbilisi until January 6, 1992, leaving at least 113 people dead. On January 6, Gamsakhurdia and members of his government escaped through opposition lines and made their way to Azerbaijan where they were denied asylum. Armenia finally hosted Gamsakhurdia for a short period and rejected Georgian demand to extradite Gamsakhurdia back to Georgia. In order not to complicate tense relations with Georgia, Armenian authorities allowed Gamsakhurdia to move to the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

, where he was granted asylum by the rebellious government of General Dzhokhar Dudayev.

It was later claimed that Soviet forces had been involved in the coup against Gamsakhurdia. On December 15, 1992 the Russian newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti
Moskovskiye Novosti
Moskovskiye Novosti will be a daily newspaper in Russia to be relaunched in 2011.It was previously a long-established weekly newspaper aimed at an educated, elite audience. In 2005-2008 it was owned by Arcadi Gaydamak. It is published in the Russian language...

 printed a letter claiming that the former Vice-Commander of the Transcaucasian Military District
Transcaucasian Military District
The Transcaucasian Military District, a military district of the Soviet Armed Forces, traces its history to May 1921 and the incorporation of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia into the USSR...

, Colonel General Sufian Bepaev, had sent a "subdivision" to assist the armed opposition. If the intervention had not taken place, it was claimed, "Gamsakhurdia's supporters' victory would be guaranteed." It was also claimed that Soviet special forces had helped the opposition to attack the state television tower on December 28.

A Military Council made up of Gamsakhurdia opponents took over the government on an interim basis. One of its first actions was to formally depose Gamsakhurdia as President. It reconstituted itself as a State Council and appointed Gamsakhurdia's old rival Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze is a former Soviet, 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 , from 1972 to 1985. Shevardnadze was responsible for many top decisions on...

 as chairman in March 1992. The change in power was effected as a fait accompli, without any formal referendum or elections. He ruled as de facto president until the formal restoration of the presidency in November 1995.

Gamsakhurdia in exile

After his overthrow, Gamsakhurdia continued to promote himself as the legitimate president of Georgia. He was still recognized as such by some governments and international organizations, although as a matter of pragmatic politics the insurrectionist Military Council was quickly accepted as the governing authority in the country. Gamsakhurdia himself refused to accept his ouster, not least because he had been elected to the post with an overwhelming majority of the popular vote (in conspicuous contrast to the undemocratically appointed Shevardnadze). In November–December 1992, he was invited to Finland (by the Georgia Friendship Group of the Parliament of Finland) and Austria (by the International Society for Human Rights). In both countries, he held press conferences and meetings with parliamentarians and government officials (source: Georgian newspaper Iberia-Spektri, Tbilisi, December 15–21, 1992).

Clashes between pro- and anti-Gamsakhurdia forces continued throughout 1992 and 1993 with Gamsakhurdia supporters taking captive government officials and government forces retaliating with reprisal raids. One of the most serious incidents occurred in Tbilisi on June 24, 1992, when armed Gamsakhurdia supporters seized the state television center. They managed to broadcast a radio message declaring that "The legitimate government has been reinstated. The red junta is nearing its end." However, they were driven out within a few hours by the National Guard. They may have intended to prompt a mass uprising against the Shevardnadze government, but this did not materialize.

Shevardnadze's government imposed a harshly repressive regime throughout Georgia to suppress "Zviadism", with security forces and the pro-government Mkhedrioni
The Mkhedrioni was a paramilitary group and political organisation in the Republic of Georgia, outlawed since 1995 but subsequently reconstituted as the Union of Patriots political party....

 militia carrying out widespread arrests and harassment of Gamsakhurdia supporters. Although Georgia's poor human rights record was strongly criticized by the international community, Shevardnadze's personal prestige appears to have convinced them to swallow their doubts and grant the country formal recognition. Government troops moved into Abkhazia in September 1992 in an effort to root out Gamsakhurdia's supporters among the Georgian population of the region, but well-publicized human rights abuses succeeded only in worsening already poor ethnic relations. Later, in September 1993, a full-scale war broke out between Georgian forces and Abkhazian separatists. This ended in a decisive defeat for the government, with government forces and 300,000 Georgians being driven out of Abkhazia and an estimated 10,000 people being killed in the fighting.

The 1993 civil war

Gamsakhurdia soon took up the apparent opportunity to bring down Shevardnadze. He returned to Georgia on September 24, 1993, establishing what amounted to a "government in exile" in the western Georgian city of Zugdidi
Zugdidi is a city in the Western Georgian historical province of Samegrelo . It is situated in the north-west of that province. The city is located 318 kilometres west of Tbilisi, 30 km. from Black sea coast and 30 km. from Egrisi range. 100-110 metres above sea level. As of 2007, it had a...

. He announced that he would continue "the peaceful struggle against an illegal military junta" and concentrated on building an anti-Shevardnadze coalition drawing on the support of the regions of Samegrelo
Samegrelo/Samargalo or Megrelia, Mingrelia is a historic province in the western part of Georgia, formerly also known as Odishi.It is inhabited by the Megrelians, an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians.-Geography and Climate:...

 (Mingrelia) and Abkhazia
Abkhazia is a disputed political entity on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus.Abkhazia considers itself an independent state, called the Republic of Abkhazia or Apsny...

. He also built up a substantial military force that was able to operate relatively freely in the face of the weak state security forces. After initially demanding immediate elections, Gamsakhurdia took advantage of the Georgian army's rout to seize large quantities of weapons abandoned by the retreating government forces. A civil war engulfed western Georgia in October 1993 as Gamsakhurdia's forces succeeded in capturing several key towns and transport hubs. Government forces fell back in disarray, leaving few obstacles between Gamsakhurdia's forces and Tbilisi.

However, Gamsakhurdia's capture of the economically vital Georgian Black Sea port of Poti
Poti is a port city in Georgia, located on the eastern Black Sea coast in the region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti in the west of the country. Built near the site of the ancient Greek colony of Phasis, the city has become a major port city and industrial center since the early 20th century. It is also...

 threatened the interests of Russia, Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 (totally landlocked and dependent on Georgia's ports) and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

. In an apparent and very controversial quid pro quo, all three countries expressed their support for Shevardnadze's government, which in turn agreed to join the Commonwealth of Independent States
Commonwealth of Independent States
The Commonwealth of Independent States is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics, formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union....

. While the support from Armenia and Azerbaijan was purely political, Russia quickly mobilized troops to aid the Georgian government. On October 20, around 2,000 Russian troops moved to protect Georgian railroads and provided logistical support and weapons to the poorly armed government forces. The uprising quickly collapsed and Zugdidi fell on November 6.

Gamsakhurdia's death

On December 31, 1993, Zviad Gamsakhurdia died in circumstances that are still unclear. It is known that he died in the village of Khibula in the Samegrelo
Samegrelo/Samargalo or Megrelia, Mingrelia is a historic province in the western part of Georgia, formerly also known as Odishi.It is inhabited by the Megrelians, an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians.-Geography and Climate:...

 region of western Georgia and later was re-buried in the village Jikhashkari (in the Samegrelo region also). According to British press reports, the body was found with a single bullet wound to the head. A variety of reasons have been given for his death, which is still controversial and remains unresolved:


Gamsakhurdia's widow later told the Interfax news agency that her husband shot himself on December 31 when he and a group of colleagues found the building where he was sheltering surrounded by forces of the pro-Shevardnadze Mkhedrioni militia. The Russian media reported that his bodyguards heard a muffled shot in the next room and found that Gamsakhurdia had killed himself with a shot to the head from a Stechkin pistol. The Chechen authorities published what they claimed was Gamsakhurdia's suicide note: "Being in clear conscience, I commit this act in token of protest against the ruling regime in Georgia and because I am deprived of the possibility, acting as the president, to normalize the situation, to restore law and order". Most observers outside Georgia accept the view that his death was self-inflicted.

Died in infighting

The Georgian Interior Ministry under Shevardnadze's regime suggested that he had either been deliberately killed by his own supporters, or had died following a quarrel with his former chief commander, Loti Kobalia
Loti Kobalia
Vakhtang "Loti" Kobalia is a retired Georgian colonel involved in the civil war of the early 1990s in which he commanded forces loyal to the ousted President Zviad Gamsakhurdia....


Gamsakhurdia's death was announced by the Georgian government on January 5, 1994. Some refused to believe that Gamsakhurdia had died at all but this question was eventually settled when his body was recovered on February 15, 1994. Zviad Gamsakhurdia's remains were re-buried in the Chechen capital Grozny
Grozny is the capital city of the Chechen Republic, Russia. The city lies on the Sunzha River. According to the preliminary results of the 2010 Census, the city had a population of 271,596; up from 210,720 recorded in the 2002 Census. but still only about two-thirds of 399,688 recorded in the 1989...

 on February 24, 1994. On March 3, 2007, the newly appointed pro-Russian president of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov
Ramzan Kadyrov
Ramzan Akhmadovich Kadyrov is the President of Chechnya and a former Chechen rebel.Ramzan is a son of former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, assassinated in May 2004. In February 2007 Kadyrov replaced Alu Alkhanov as President, shortly after he had turned 30, which is the minimum age for the post...

 announced that Gamsakhurdia's grave – lost in the debris and chaos of a war-ravaged Grozny – had been found in the center of the city. Gamsakhurdia's remains were identified by Russian experts in Rostov-on-Don
-History:The mouth of the Don River has been of great commercial and cultural importance since the ancient times. It was the site of the Greek colony Tanais, of the Genoese fort Tana, and of the Turkish fortress Azak...

, and arrived in Georgia on March 28, 2007, for reburial. He was interred alongside other prominent Georgians at the Mtatsminda Pantheon
Mtatsminda Pantheon
The Mtatsminda Pantheon of Writers and Public Figures is a necropolis in Tbilisi, Georgia, where some of the most prominent writers, artists, scholars, and national heroes of Georgia are buried. It is located in the churchyard around St. David’s Church "Mamadaviti" on the slope of Mount Mtatsminda...

 on April 1, 2007. Thousands of people throughout Georgia had arrived in Mtskheta's medieval cathedral to pay tribute to Gamsakhurdia. "We are implementing the decision which was [taken] in 2004 – to bury President Gamsakhurdia on his native soil. This is a fair and absolutely correct decision," President Mikheil Saakashvili
Mikheil Saakashvili
Mikheil Saakashvili is a Georgian politician, the third and current President of Georgia and leader of the United National Movement Party.Involved in the national politics since 1995, Saakashvili became president on 25 January 2004 after President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned in a November 2003...

 told reporters, the Civil Georgia internet news website reported on March 31.

He and his second wife Manana had two sons.


On January 26, 2004, in a ceremony held at the Kashueti Church of Saint George in Tbilisi, the newly elected President Mikhail Saakashvili officially rehabilitated Gamsakhurdia to resolve the lingering political effects of his overthrow in an effort to "put an end to disunity in our society", as Saakashvili put it. He praised Gamsakhurdia's role as a "great statesman and patriot" and promulgated a decree granting permission for Gamsakhurdia's body to be reburied in the Georgian capital, declaring that the "abandon[ment of] the Georgian president's grave in a war zone ... is a shame and disrespectful of one's own self and disrespectful of one's own nation". He also renamed a major road in Tbilisi after Gamsakhurdia and released 32 Gamsakhurdia supporters imprisoned by Shevardnadze's government in 1993–1994, who were regarded by many Georgians and some international human rights organizations as being political prisoners.

Gamsakhurdia's supporters continue to promote his ideas through a number of public societies. In 1996, a public, cultural and educational non-governmental organization called the Zviad Gamsakhurdia Society in the Netherlands was founded in the Dutch city of 's-Hertogenbosch. It now has members in a number of European countries.

On September 3, 2008 his son Tsotne Gamsakhurdia was arrested at Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mt'k'vari River. The name is derived from an early Georgian form T'pilisi and it was officially known as Tiflis until 1936...

 airport for alleged espionage for Russia. He is currently accused of espionage, conspiracy against the Government and inflicting bodily harm on a person

Selected works

  • 20th century American Poetry (a monograph). Ganatleba, Tbilisi, 1972
  • The Man in the Panther's Skin" in English, a monograph, Metsniereba, Tbilisi, 1984, 222 pp. (In Georgian, English summary).
  • "Goethe's Weltanschauung from the Anthroposophic point of view.", Tsiskari, Tbilisi, No 5, 1985
  • Tropology (Image Language) of "The Man in the Panther's Skin", monograph). Metsniereba, Tbilisi, 1991
  • Collected articles and Essays. Khelovneba, Tbilisi, 1991
  • The Spiritual mission of Georgia (1990)
  • The Spiritual Ideals of the Gelati Academy (1989)
  • "Dilemma for Humanity", Nezavisimaia Gazeta, Moscow, May 21, 1992
  • "Between deserts" (about the creative works of L. N. Tolstoy), Literaturnaia Gazeta, Moscow, No 15, 1993
  • Fables and Tales. Nakaduli, Tbilisi, 1987
  • The Betrothal of the Moon (Poems). Merani, Tbilisi, 1989

Links and literature

Media articles and references

  • "Soviets Release Penitent Dissident" — The Washington Post, June 30, 1979
  • "New Leaders Show Their Old Habits; Georgia, Some Other Soviet Republics Cling to Authoritarian Ways" — The Washington Post, September 18, 1991 "Russki Curier", Paris, September 1991. Aila Niinimaa-Keppo. "Shevardnadzen valhe" ("The Lie of Shevardnadze"), Helsinki, 1992. Johann-Michael Ginther, "About the Putch in Georgia" — Zeitgeschehen – Der Pressespiegel (Sammatz, Germany), No 14, 1992.
  • "Repression Follows Putsch in Georgia!" — "Human Rights Worldwide", Frankfurt/M., No 2 (Vol. 2), 1992. "Purges, tortures, arson, murders..." — Iltalehti (Finland), April 2, 1992. "Entinen Neuvostoliito". Edited by Antero Leitzinger. Publishing House "Painosampo", Helsinki, 1992, pp. 114–115. ISBN 952-9752-00-8.
  • "Attempted Coup Blitzed in Georgia; Two Killed" — Chicago Sun-Times, June 25, 1992.
  • "Moskovskie Novosti" ("The Moscow News"), December 15, 1992. "Iberia-Spektri", Tbilisi, December 15–21, 1992.
  • J. "Soviet Analyst". Vol. 21, No: 9-10, London, 1993, pp. 15–31.
  • Otto von Habsburg.- ABC (Spain). November 24, 1993.
  • Robert W. Lee. "Dubious Reforms in Former USSR".- The New American, Vol. 9, No 2, 1993./ "Gushagi" (Journal of Georgian political émigrés), Paris, No 1/31, 1994. , .
  • Mark Almond. "The West Underwrites Russian Imperialism" — The Wall Street Journal, European Edition, February 7, 1994.
  • "Schwer verletzte Menschenrechte in Georgien" — Neue Zürcher Zeitung. August 19, 1994.
  • "Intrigue Marks Alleged Death Of Georgia's Deposed Leader" — The Wall Street Journal. January 6, 1994
  • "Georgians dispute reports of rebel leader's suicide" — The Guardian (UK). January 6, 1994
  • "Ousted Georgia Leader a Suicide, His Wife Says" — Los Angeles Times. January 6, 1994
  • "Eyewitness: Gamsakhurdia's body tells of bitter end" — The Guardian (UK). February 18, 1994. Konstantin Gamsachurdia: "Swiad Gamsachurdia: Dissident — Präsident — Märtyrer", Perseus-Verlag, Basel, 1995, 150 pp. ISBN 3-907564-19-7.
  • Robert W. Lee. "The "Former" Soviet Bloc." — The New American, Vol. 11, No 19, 1995.
  • "CAUCASUS and unholy alliance." Edited by Antero Leitzinger. ISBN 952-9752-16-4. Publishing House "Kirja-Leitzinger" (Leitzinger Books), Vantaa (Finland), 1997, 348 pp. "GEORGIE — 1997" (Report of the Netherlands Helsinki Union/NHU), s-Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands), 1997, 64 pp.
  • "Insider Report" — The New American, Vol. 13, No 4, 1997.
  • Levan Urushadze. "The role of Russia in the Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus."- CAUCASUS: War and Peace. Edited by Mehmet Tutuncu, Haarlem (The Netherlands), 1998, 224 pp. ISBN 90-901112-5-5.
  • "Insider Report" — The New American, Vol. 15, No 20, 1999.
  • "Gushagi", Paris, No 2/32, 1999. . Bas van der Plas. "GEORGIE: Traditie en tragedie in de Kaukasus." Publishing House "Papieren Tijger", Nijmegen (The Netherlands), 2000, 114 pp. ISBN 90-6728-114-X. Levan Urushadze. "About the history of Russian policy in the Caucasus."- IACERHRG's Yearbook — 2000, Tbilisi, 2001, pp. 64–73.
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