Bloodless Coup in Georgia? 11/22/03--Following Georgia.

Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2003 07:41 am
Hub is watching video of events unfolding in Georgia. He says thousands are in the streets--and commentators say a non-violent coup is in progress.

Would appreciate anyone with background information about the 'former' gov't--and current events...

It seems recently elected Scheverdnaze (OK, you know who I mean) has been run out of parliament.
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2003 01:57 pm
I kinda lost track of the Georgia story a few years ago ... but they've gone through this cycle before. The below is from memory / by heart, so if I get any details wrong please forgive me.

Georgia was the first republic that had an uprising against central Soviet control in the Gorbachev era, back in early 1989. Moscow ordered a bloody clampdown. That will have pushed the independence movement into a more radical direction that had the country vote in the famous dissident Gamsakhurdia as president. He quickly turned out to be quite a ruthless and slightly megalomaniac totalitarian leader, though, and he polarised society with his both politically and ethnically expressed 'us against them' mentality.

His nationalist centralism had the South-Ossetians (whose own autonomous republic within Georgia Gamsakhurdia sought to abolish) up in arms, literally, starting a civil war that quickly spread. The Abkhazians, who also had their own AR, spanning most of Georgia's Black Sea coast, were next, and then civil war in Georgia proper started between Gamsakhurdia's followers and opponents.

The story with Abkhazia was a bit odd, though, considering that the Abkhazians actually only constituted 18% of "their" autonomous republic's population, while Georgians made up about half. Odd, as well, was how well-armed the Abkhazians quickly got to be, helping them to win a bloody and protracted mini-war, occupy almost all of the AR's territory and chase out 10,000s of Georgians. Many then suspected Russian machinations that were meant to reestablish Russian control over its "near abroad" and force Georgia into the CIS, and referred to similar goings on in Moldova.

(Note that the Abkhaz leadership was pro-Moscow and anti-Western, and that the Abkhaz insurgency complicated plans US and Georgia were co-operating on to build a pipeline from the Caspian to the Black Sea, which would have created a first direct export line for Caspian oil/gas outside of Russia's control).

A smaller autonomous republic within Georgia, also on the coast, Adzharia, also moved away from central control over time, and took on a pro-Russian course, but in its case there was no violent escalation.

In the civil war in Georgia proper, meanwhile, Gamsakhurdia was eventually defeated and a new government was installed that was to unify and reconcile the country, and for this Shevardnadze was asked to come back home.

Shevardnadze, of course, was the Soviet Foreign Minister who ominously warned against a "return to totalitarianism" in 1990, pointing to the pull of conservative forces that seemed to be tempting Gorbachev back into hard-line communism - and in this the coup of 1991 proved him right. Its ironic, really, therefore that he now himself stands accused of having brought dictatorship back to Georgia. Like Gorbachev, though, Shevardnadze was also an apparatchik by heart himself, too. He had actually been the Soviet chief of Georgia for 15 years in the 70s and 80s, be it a notably reformist chief, especially in comparison with colleagues like Aliyev in neighbouring Azerbajjan.

He did at first succeed in bringing calm and reconciliation to the country, once Gamsakhurdia's last rebels were defeated, and he also managed to settle issues with Russia, partly probably thanks to his ties there. "Settling issues" at the time, though, involved basically accepting de facto Abkhazian independence, which made Shevardnadze unloved among nationalists (I got some Abkhazian stamp somewhere - sarcastically featuring Bill Clinton and Monica L., as a matter of fact).

Yeh ... and then - this was by the mid- or late-nineties - I kinda lost track. Georgia remained dirt-poor, and elections, though initially favourable for Shevardnadze, came to be ever less "clean". The Chechen conflict spilled over into Georgia as Chechen fighters trekked to and fro over the Caucasian mountain peaks and started using the remote Georgian [forget-its-name] Valley as operating base. Russia even threatened to invade Georgia over this, so Georgian leadership was forced to sent troops there itself to restore state order. Otherwise, I dont know what happened, not even if the pipe line was ever made (probably not, considering the Chechen war's proximity). I did notice that Shevardnadze's party's main remaining ally now is the Adzharian party.

Anyone else got a current update? Oh, and like I said, the above was all by memory, so if I messed up something please let me know.
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Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2003 08:47 pm
From CNN:State of Emergency in Georgia
Parliament Takeover Prompts Georgia Crisis

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) - The opposition seized Georgia's parliament Saturday, chasing out President Eduard Shevardnadze and declaring an interim government as tens of thousands of supporters thronged the streets of the capital. Shevardnadze, backed by his head of police, declared a state of emergency.

Facing a possible confrontation with the army and security forces, the opposition appealed to its supporters in the streets to defend the parliament building.

Opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze, the speaker of the outgoing parliament, proclaimed herself acting president until early elections that the opposition called to take place in 45 days. She warned Shevardnadze's government to avoid bloodshed.

``The fate of our country is being decided now,'' said protest leader Mikhail Saakashvili. ``We give guarantees to Shevardnadze that he will not be harmed, but let him know that if there is at least one shot fired at people, he will face justice.''

The parliament takeover was an exuberant moment for protesters who for days have been demanding the president's removal over elections that the opposition says were rigged. Just as Shevardnadze began speaking in parliament, Saakashvili and hundreds of supporters swarmed through the chamber doors, pushing and shoving lawmakers.

The protesters knocked over tables and chairs. One leaped up on the speaker's podium, waving a red rose, while another banged the gavel. Later, protesters took over Shevardnadze's office and burned his chair.

Pro-government lawmakers were thrown out of parliament - and Shevardnadze was hustled out of the chamber by bodyguards. ``I will not resign,'' he vowed outside the building as he boarded a vehicle and was driven off, escorted by troops in riot gear.

He later went on national television, surrounded by uniformed officers of the internal security forces and declaring a 30-day state of emergency. ``Order will be restored and the criminals will be punished,'' he vowed.

While the interior minister - who is in charge of police - vowed loyalty, the military did not make clear its stance.

This poverty-stricken ex-Soviet republic slid into its biggest political crisis in years after the Nov. 2 parliamentary elections, which the United States criticized for ``massive fraud'' after it showed a victor for pro-Shevardnadze parties.

Georgia, a country of nearly 5 million people strategically located on the Black Sea neighboring Russia and Turkey, lies on the path of an important pipeline to ship oil from the Caspian Sea to Turkey beginning in 2005. U.S. troops are in Georgia training its troop against Islamic extremists who have used Georgia as a jumping-off point for attacks in neighboring Chechnya.

The roots of the turmoil lie in the deep economic misery of most of the population and the rampant corruption that has characterized Shevardnadze's 10-year reign. Respected outside of Georgia for his role in helping to end the Cold War as foreign minister under Mikhail Gorbachev, the 75-year-old Shevardnadze is considered a disappointing relic at home.

The United States, which Shevardnadze has tried to court for closer ties, took a neutral stance, urging all sides to ``refrain from the use of force or violence.''

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington calls for a ``dialogue with a view to restoring calm and reaching a compromise solution acceptable to all.''

Russia, which remains a key power in the region, dispatched Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Tbilisi, the Kremlin said.

Shevardnadze's office called the opposition's actions an ``armed state coup.''

``I can step down only within the framework of the constitution,'' Shevardnadze said. ``It will depend on the parliament and the population, but everything has to happen within the constitutional framework.''

In his television appearance, he sat on a bench outdoors at a government residence on the outskirts of Tbilisi, with the interior minister - in charge of police and internal security - and officers around him. The state of emergency he signed gave the interior and defense ministries the task of restoring order.

Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili said that he would obey all the president's orders.

Saturday had been seen as a decisive day, because Shevardnadze had said that he would open the parliament no matter what and the opposition vowed to prevent that.

All morning, with the president due to open parliament, tens of thousands of protesters marched in Tbilisi, waving flags and chanting ``Leave'' and ``Enough.'' Protesters kicked effigies of the president.

After protesters took over the parliament chamber, Saakashvili exulted, ``The 'Velvet Revolution' has taken place in Georgia'' - a reference to the practically bloodless 1989 uprising that ousted the Communists from Czechoslovakia.

Shevardnadze has long claimed that he is key to maintaining stability in the turbulent nation, which has been riven by a civil war and the secession of two provinces since the 1991 Soviet collapse. He has carefully cultivated Western support and interest in his nation, which lies in the energy-rich Caspian region.

With protests building over the past two weeks, Shevardnadze's grip on the government seemed to be loosening. Even his top security aide acknowledged the election had been fraudulent.

Some armored personnel carriers were shown on Georgian television taking up positions in front of Shevardnadze's residence, but authorities emphasized that they were not going to be used against the demonstrators.

``I am appealing to all police officers not to let Shevardnadze spill blood,'' Saakashvili said in televised comments. ``There are your brothers and sisters here.''

Before the parliament session, Shevardnadze appeared to soften his position Saturday. He acknowledged that there had been some breaches in the election, which the pro-Shevardnadze party won according to official results.

``About 8 percent to 10 percent of the ballots were invalid,'' he said, but added that this should be dealt with in the courts.

According to final results, the pro-Shevardnadze For a New Georgia bloc came in first with 21 percent of the vote, while the Revival party, which sided with Shevardnadze in the present crisis, finished second with nearly 19 percent.

Saakashvili's National Movement came in a very close third with 18 percent of the vote, while the Democrats who allied with Saakashvili got 8.8 percent.

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Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2003 09:55 pm
Had to make one correction in the text above already - Shevardnadze's main remaining ally now is the party of the Adzharian, not the Abkhazian leader - Adzharia being yet another (smaller) autonomous region within Georgia led by pro-Russian forces.

Meanwhile, this article (from the insufficiently praised TOL (Transitions Online) - CER (Central European Review) site, gives some interesting background analysis. The first 2/3rds are a run-of-the-mill account of last week's events, but the last bit gives some more background info, see below. At the bottom of the page you'll also find links to more articles.


Part of Shevardnadze’s battle plan has been to seek support from an old rival, the head of the Autonomous Republic of Ajaria, Aslan Abashidze.

His visit to the Ajarian capital, Batumi, on 10 November, roused fears among the opposition that he is seeking a deal with Abashidze. They worry that Shevardnadze might promise to hand over the reins of power to Abashidze in 2005, in the same way that his Azeri counterpart Heidar Aliev did this year. Aliev’s son Ilham was elected to the presidency on 15 October in polls seen as deeply undemocratic.

An autocratic figure who refused to allow observers in to monitor his 95-percent “victory” on 2 November, Abashidze is pro-Russian in his policy and the presence of a Russian military base in Batumi has bolstered his very independent relationship with Tbilisi.

In the past seven days, Abashidze has visited Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia in an apparent effort to drum up support for Shevardnadze. He remains in Moscow.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has expressed support for Shevardnadze on several occasions, and Moscow has offered to lead an attempt to mediate in the political clash. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin says that Russia "cannot be indifferent" to events in Georgia.

"The idea is that democratic forces [in Georgia] should listen to the voice of their nearest neighbors...and their worries and concern about what is happening in Georgia," Loshchinin said in a comment that suggests that the possible mediation effort would involve Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

Shevardnadze’s turn towards Moscow is not adding to his popularity. Most Georgians believe that Russia’s policy since 1991 has been to weaken central authority in Georgia, and to extend its influence where possible. In the past six months, it has gained control of the country’s gas and electricity systems. It already supplied most of the country’s electricity, oil, and gas.

The deeper involvement of Russia in the crisis could also be cause for concern for Western governments, who are investing heavily in the construction of an oil pipeline that will run from Azerbaijan to Turkey, via Georgia. A gas pipeline could be built later.

In the summer, U.S. officials were critical of Tbilisi’s energy deals with Moscow, and high-profile U.S. delegations visited the country in the run-up to the elections. Since the vote, the U.S. State Department has urged the Georgian government and the Central Election Committee to rapidly resolve questions about the election and to prevent a delay in the announcement of final results.

Under the Georgian constitution, final figures should be released by 18 November. However, the chairwoman of the Central Election Committee, Nana Devdariani, has said she will not state the results until the courts rule on legal complaints about alleged fraud. Devdariani was given her post on the recommendation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The chairman of the OSCE, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has said that "the irregularities and delays in the voting process on polling day, and in the subsequent counting and tabulation process, reflected a lack of political will and administrative capacity for the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections."


Shevardnadze has also opened up a new political front, designed to convince the public that the opposition is causing the currency, the lari, to weaken, imports to fall, and the economy head towards a crisis.

However, the head of parliament’s Budgetary Office, Roman Gotsiridze, believes that economic problems long predated the elections--and that the authorities are to blame, for failing to collect taxes.

Just a few weeks before the elections, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund cut their support to the state budget of Georgia, because of Tbilisi’s failure to deliver on promises that it had made.

Shevardnadze appears to be playing for time. However, the Georgian public--once used to some of the best living standards in the Soviet Union--has seen its living standards slip steadily since independence. Unemployment is rife, pensions and salaries frequently go unpaid, the country ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world, blackouts are common, and the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain unsettled. Judging by the latest protests, their patience may be closer to snapping than it has been for 12 years.
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Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2003 10:39 pm
Well, here goes ...
more good and interesting current background info on Georgia than you ever wanted to have <grins>
... for if you want to go beyond CNN and BBC.

(That's to say, I looked up some of my favourite old bookmarks ;-)

Institute for War and Peace Reporting - Caucasus Reporting Service

Current news from Georgia, Azerbajjan etc from the famously locally sourced and pluralistic/independent "hotspot" reporting services of IWPR.

You can subscribe to their e-mail Cacasus news service for free - see the button in the top right corner.

Eurasianet - Choice 2003: Elections in Azerbaijan and Georgia

Elections special from Eurasianet.org, the Open Society Institute-funded providers of independent-minded news from Central Asia, the Caucasus and surroundings.

The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review

NIS stands for Newly Independent States - i.e., the countries that became independent when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. NIS Observed compiles all the media reporting about these states into biweekly updates. Click "Caucasus" to find news about Georgia.

Same folks also compile Perspective, which provides more in-depth analysis of current events, but its last item on Georgia already sounds slightly 'old'.

You can subscribe to these e-mail news services for free, too, by the way.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Caucasus Report and RFE/RL Newsline

Radio Free Europe probably still has a bad name among some Europeans, but since '89/'91 its Newsline has simply been one of the best ways to keep in touch with events in the former Eastern Bloc on a day-to-day basis. Click Transcaucasia & Central Asia to skip to items about Georgia and neighbours.

More pertinently, its Caucasus Report has much longer, in-depth analyses of political developments in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbajjan and the Russian Northern Caucasus.

Again, you can subscribe for free to both.
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Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2003 06:32 pm

NRC Handelsblad -- 1 December 2003 - translated from Dutch

Moscow practices "liberal imperialism"

Russia is stirring in murky waters in the Caucasus - Georgia foremost. Unrest in former Soviet republics is a good opportunity to expand Russian influence.

By our correspondent
Coen van Zwol

Threatening sounds in Tblisi. Saturday a bomb explodes in the morning dusk at the head quearters of the Labour Party, a rival of the troika of opposition politicians which recently toppled president SHevardnadze. "There is no doubt that the junta of Saakashvili, Burdzhanadze and Zhvania has started a terror campaign against our party", the Labour Party submits.

Michail Saakashvili, the hot favourite for becoming the new president, warns the same day for a 'contra-revolution'. "We have information about the forming of certain armed brotherhoods." He is referring to Igor Georgadze, ex-chief of the secret services, which committed an assassination attempt against Shevardnadze in 1995. Georgadze agitated against the wicked Shevardnadfze regime from the safe Moscow. The present transfer of power in his eyes merely is an exchange of generations within the family branch.

While the oppositional troika is purging the Georgian government, the Russian press views the change of power mostly as an American coup. Washington had looked upon with sorrow as the weak and impopular Shevardnadze had gotten ever more dependent on energysupplier Russia and its local vassals - in particular the regional leader Aslan Abyazhidze, who, thanks to the presence of a Russian army base, can rule his southern enclave Adzharia almost autocratically. Washington invested 2.4 million dollar in the Georgian elections of 2 November. To guarantee honest proceedings, it claimed. In order to prove the unavoidable voting booth fraud by Shevardnadze afterwards, and then use that to subsequently topple him, Russian commentators are speculating. Shevardnadze himself today speaks of a "Soros plan": the American multimillionaire and benefactor was the evil genius behind his fall, he claimed. He praised Russia, which according to him had stabilised the explosive situation.

The role of the Russian minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov in the 'revolution of roses' was indeed striking. Moscow had seemed to back Shevardnadze, but once he arrived in Tblisi Ivanov had himself filmed with the opposition on the steps of the stormed parliament building, and negotiated in the process of forcing Shevardnadze to step down. "Ivanov smelled a corpse", says a Western diplomat in Tblisi. "He saw that the situation was hopeless and acted pragmatically. This way at least Russia shows itself a trustworthy partner."

The troika that is now in power in Tblisi has since then sounded off conciliatory notes towards Moscow. In Moscow, meanwhile, the fear is that Saaakashvili will speed up the pro-western course of Shevardnadze and steer an aggressive, nationalist course against the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia. With Saakashvili as president, the conservative Izvestia notes gloomily, a new war will be inevitable. Saakashvili in his turn denies that he is pro-American. "In Georgia they call me a Russian spy, in Moscow they call me a CIA-man", he says in the newspaper Kommersant. Saakashvili wants just to negotiate in a normal mode in the future, without the complexes that Shevardnadze nursed towards Moscow. "Because he drifted between passionate love and deep dread like an old woman."

In the meantime a "Shevardnadze-effect" flows through the former Soviet Union: his fall gives new hope to the opposition elsewhere. In the Ukraine the protest against president Kutchma is gaining in force again. In Moldava the opposition yesterday rallied 30,000 demonstrators against a Russian peace plan for Transdnistria.

Russia has recently used the weakness of neighbouring rulers to expand its economical influence on the former Soviet republics. "Liberal imperialism" is what the politician Chubais calls it. This way the Russian electricity monopoly UES acquired control over the Georgian electricity grid last summer, while Gazprom signed a contract for gas deliveries and innovation of the Georgian mains system. This economic expansion is put at risk if pro-Western, nationalist politicians get back into power.

And thus the Kremlin now fires some shots across the bows. Moscow kept the Georgian ambitions in check this past decade by supporting the regions that had split off from it - Abkhazia, South-Ossetia. When the tension rises, Russia stirs up separatism. Thus in 2001 it imposed visum requirements for Georgians, but not for Abkhazians and South-Ossetians [though neither of their countries is recognized by any world state]. The latter were also allowed last year to register as Russian citizens. Annexation of these regions is then only one step away for Russia.

Last Thursday Russia welcomed the leaders of the separated and near-separated enclaves in Moscow. "We will only talk of economic matters", said president Kokoity of South-Ossetia, but nobody believes that. The Russian Duma on Friday rejected a proposal of the ultra-nationalists to annex Abkhazia and South-Ossetia, but Prime Minister Kashanov emphasized that Russia will continue its "humanitariuan support" for these regions. Furthermore Russia now is considering to also free the southern region of Adzharia from visum requirements. "It is hard to say what is Georgia and what is not", submits potentate Abashidze of Adzharia. The new leaders in Tbilisi have been warned. If the Kremlin wants it, their country can still fall apart in chaos.

Damn, van Zwol is a very insightful journalist, but he uses a lot of colourful and anachronistic language, a hard task to translate!

(Hi Sofia - <waves> - I dont really do PMs of over three lines on weekdays (simply not up to it) but I'll reply to you soon! I promise ;-) )
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Brand X
Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2003 07:02 pm

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Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2003 09:03 pm
At the weekend's OSCE meeting, US Secretary of State Colin Powell was "delighted" to welcome the new Georgian acting President, praising the peacable "Revolution of the Roses" that took place there.

In his remarks he reprimanded Russia in unusally sharp terms for refusing to withdraw its troops from Georgian and Moldovan territory as it had pledged to do, and reasserted that "no support should be given to breakaway elements seeking to weaken Georgia's territorial integrity" - i.e., Abkhazia, South-Ossetia and Abashidze's Adzharia.

His admonishments about the need for a continuing OSCE role and "a genuinely international stabilization force" for Moldova come at a time when the Russian government has demonstratively rejected requirements of the OSCE-negotiated transition process there and insisted on keeping its own 'stabilisation force' in place in Transnistria instead.

Powell warned that the Russian refusal to pull back the troops it had pledged to withdraw from Georgia and Moldova would be reason enough for the US to suspend the ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty.


Remarks of Colin Powell on Georgia and Moldova to OSCE ministerial, Dec. 2

[..] I am delighted that we have been joined here in Maastricht by the acting President of Georgia.

[..] Last week, we witnessed the "Revolution of the Roses" in Georgia. Tens of thousands of citizens protested peacefully in the streets, demanding their democratic rights and a legitimate, representative government free of corruption. My government looks forward to working with the interim Georgian government to ensure that new elections take place in accordance with the constitution. The international community should do everything possible to support Georgia's territorial integrity throughout and beyond the election process. No support should be given to breakaway elements seeking to weaken Georgia's territorial integrity.

[..] In some OSCE regions, long-standing disputes have yet to be resolved. In the days prior to our meeting, many parties intensified their efforts to encourage a political settlement to the Transnistria problem.

[..] Whatever the current status of various mediation efforts, it is the people of Moldova who must ultimately choose the constitutional and other arrangements best suited for their country. The OSCE must stay fully engaged to ensure that the process of making that choice is democratic and transparent to the citizens of Moldova. OSCE also must play a vital role in creating a genuinely international stabilization force, which is essential to a lasting settlement. The internationally mandated force should be multilateral in character and limited in scope and duration.

I had hoped today to welcome Russia's fulfillment of its 1999 Istanbul commitments to completely withdraw its forces from Moldova. It appears that Russia will not meet the already extended December 31 deadline. This is a setback, though some progress has been made. I also urge Russia and Georgia to resolve the remaining issues relating to the Russian military presence in Georgia. I call once again for the earliest possible fulfillment of the Istanbul commitments on Moldova and Georgia. [..] The United States stands by the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Russia's fulfillment of the Istanbul commitments is a prerequisite for us to move forward on ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty, which all of us want to see enter into force.

This year, in a number of OSCE states in the Caucasus and elsewhere, key elections were seriously flawed. And today, in some member countries, human rights and democratic freedoms are under siege.

[..] Credible reports of abuses by government as well as rebel forces in Chechnya remind us that Russia must ensure respect for human rights even as it combats terrorism and upholds its territorial integrity.

See for the full transcript this US government page on the remarks.
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Reply Tue 2 Dec, 2003 10:14 pm
Brand X wrote:
Georgia: Soros, Stalin, And a Gallon of Wine
by Roman Bessonov

Heh. Interesting take, that, Brand X - thanks. Curious stuff.

The "Executive Intelligence Review", from which it was taken, is a Lyndon LaRouche vehicle I gather? I never really got who that guy is - he's stood as a Dem presidential candidate a number of times, no? What does he represent? From the TOC's from the Review all that immediately becomes clear is that he really dislikes George Soros. That would explain the link with this article ...

The article presents more or less the, say, post-Soviet, Russian-friendly establishment perspective. Which is cool to go through, too. You can see the praise for "stable factors" like "93% of the vote"-apparatchik Abashidze and you can see the suspicion of the "Anglo-American" machine, which is supposedly subverting the people through those so-called "independent" media, sponsored of course by that demon of all conspiracy theorists, former speculator George Soros. You can also see the professed rejection of the "nationalist" fervour of such rebellious nations as the Georgians, in name of minorities that suffer it - in this case, Armenians, Adzharians; yet at the same time there's the implied sympathy for the agenda of the nationalisms of the bigger nations (Russians, Romanians).

I.e., there's a political take here on which are the 'good' and the 'bad' nationalisms - a take which oddly presents the mirror-image of how these are usually defined in the West. For example, the insurgency of the Abkhaz minority is justified by blaming the Georgian leadership for having triggered it, but when it comes to Hungarian minority activism in Romania, Soros is gloomily said to have spurred "the movement for separation of Transylvania from Romania". In the West, of course, it's the Romanian Hungarians who are usually seen as a democratic-minded movement mostly acting in self-defence (and in the main aiming merely at emancipation), and the Abkhaz as the violent separatist obscurantists.

The curious bit here is that I've started to see this stuff reflected in news reporting of some American right-wing journals. I'm only just beginning to pick up on this burgeoning new coalition of interests, but it seems to somehow bring together US conservatives - enraged by Soros' pledge to financially support the Democrats - and post-Soviet ex-communist autocrats - enraged by pretty much anything that Soros, that vile Jewish capitalist sponsor of dissidents, does.

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Luckily, the US government does, after a bit of post-September 11 silence, seem to be getting back to a more assertive promotion of a democratic, western agenda in countries like Georgia. Call me inconsistent but in this case I have no problem with accusations of "meddling".

Anyway - I'm gonna mull over that article, cause its long and I need to go sleep - but a few passages already strike me as particularly curious. Take, for example, where the author deadpans:

the Ukrainian intelligence Major Mykola Melnychenko, whose peddling of audiotapes of President Leonid Kuchma's private conversation launched a political crisis in Ukraine in 2001.

That wouldnt be those tapes on which Kuchma was heard ordering the murder of a critical journalist, would it? Funny that the author shouldn't mention any of that, not even along the lines of "purportedly" or anything.

The journalist - Georgy Gongadze - was found in a forest, decapitated, after having gone missing for quite a while - and Ukrainian government agencies intervened to obstruct inquiries into the matter. He had been researching corruption in high circles. The government did its utmost best to repress the tapes in question. The whole affair (and Gongadze hadnt been the first) added to the resentment that brought demonstrators on the street for weeks on end to call for the resignation of Kuchma.

Kuchma had been voted in as the left-wing's alternative to Kravchuk (who had in turn originally been voted in as the left-wing's alternative to the democratic Ukrainian nationalist Chornovil, but over time had crossed to the right), but has become increasingly impopular because of relentless poverty, endemic corruption and his clampdown on critical opinion. He's thus far held on to his position through a policy of co-opt and marginalise, divide and rule, however, playing his right-wing and left-wing critics against each other.

Anyway, that on an aside. I thought it odd that of the entire notorious Gongadze affair all the journalist had picked up was a dubious attempt to slander the president, or something.
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Reply Sun 7 Dec, 2003 06:47 pm
Two more resources, but of relatively limited use compared to the ones above:

Central Asia and the Caucasus - Journal of Social and Political Studies
Last issue featured::

Problem: online you can only access the beginning of the article - for a full version you have to order the issue - for 30 US $!
They havent gotten round to article-by-article billing, I guess ...

E-journal: Army & Society in Georgia

Problem: it ran only from 1998-2001. Perhaps it's still being published as an e-mail newsletter, its got an e-addy.
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Reply Sun 4 Apr, 2004 12:57 pm
Some information I was emailed about last week's, post-Rose Revolution Georgian elections:

The election block led by the new Georgian president Michail Saakasjvili gained a large victory in the March 28 parliamentary elections. Nevertheless it looks like he will be just a few seats short of the 2/3rds parliamentary majority needed to change the constitution.

The March elections were for 150 of the 235 seats in parliament. These are elected through proportional representation, with national party lists. The results for these seats from the previous November 2 elections were cancelled because of the enormous election fraud under Shevardnadze.

Saakashvili's bloc "National Movement/United Democrats" received 67.0% of the votes, which is expected to translate into 135 seats. Only one other bloc has surpassed the 7% election threshold - "New Right/Industrial Bloc" received 7,6 %, or 15 seats.

As for the remaining 85 seats, they are elected by majority vote per dictrict (the US/UK system). Most of them had already been elected on 2 November. The main winners were Shevardnadze's now-dissolved Movement for a New Georgia, with 19 seats, and the National Movement/United Democrats, with 17 seats.

That makes the preliminary distribution of seats as follows:
Code:National Movement/United Democrats 152
New Right/Industrial Bloc 23
Independent candidates 20
Movement for a New Georgia 19
Seats for Abkhazia 10
Revival Union (Abashidze's Adzharian party) 6
Labor Party 4
Unknown 1

Although the government bloc's 152 seats is nominally not enough to amend the constitution, the bloc will probably be able to count on the support of the Independent candidates. The parliamentarians that were elected as representatives of Shevardnadze's party will probably be loyal to the new rulers too (the party doesnt exist anymore in any case). Parliamentarians who were voted in by district traditionally support the government.

The above numbers (date: 1 April) might still change. The results in some districts of Adzharia and Kvemo Kartli might be annulled, which might have consequences for the number of seats of the New Right. In any case it is practically sure that president Saakasjvili will have total control over both government (he appointed the ministers) and parliament. Last week the Georgian journalist Revaz Sakevarisjvili wrote:

"The irony of the situation is that the culmination of a democratic revolution may leave Georgia being governed by one all-powerful political party, the government bloc recently formed from Saakashvili's own party and the Buryanadze-Democrats of parliament speaker Nino Buryanadze. Other parties are either tainted by association with the Shevardnadze government, or are too small to put up a strong showing."

Saakashvili himself said on 24 March that he doesn't need opposition parties. The Council of Europe had called on the government to lower the election threshold several times, on the argument that pluralism is an important element of any democracy.
0 Replies
Reply Sun 4 Apr, 2004 01:41 pm
The information also had descriptions of the main parties, taken from "Civil Georgia" at www.civil.ge . Most pertinent to note here is a) the ruling bloc's internal division and b) the situation in Adzharia, where violent conflict might well break out:

1. The ruling bloc "National Movement/United Democrats" is in fact a sometimes fraught coalition of different groups, primarily Saakashvili's National Movement, Prime-Minister Zurab Zhvania's United Democrats and the supporters of Parliamentary Chair Nino Buryanadze. Also represented in the bloc are the Republican Party and part of former President Gamsakhurdia's supporters, united in the Union of National Forces.

There were some disagreements between the three main leaders in the run-up to the elections since among them, Buryanadze had the least supporters candidated on the party list, while Saakashvili's candidates dominated.

2. The Right-wing opposition is a coalition of two parties: the New Right and "Industry will Save Georgia". It is led by some of the country's major businessmen, like beer magnate Gogi Topadze and David Gamkrelidze, the founder of an insurance company that is one of Georgia's biggest businesses.

3. Abashidze's Revival Union, polling only 6,1%, failed the treshold. This is significant since Abashidze, the autonomous region Adzharia's autocratic ruler, normally always polls some 95% of the votes in "his" region, which should have guaranteed the Union's entry into national parliament. He did so last November as well. This time however, the Revival Union polled only 52%, while some 40% of Adzharians voted for Saakashvili's National Movement/United Democrats.

Apparently the opposition in Adzharia, "Our Adjara", succesfully managed to undermine Abashidze's monopoly this time. The Adzharian opposition works together with Saakashvili's government, which maintains extremely tense relations with Abashidze. Saakashvili himself has been barred from entering the region by Abashidze, who has set up special Adzharian paramilitary forces. "Our Adjara" is now calling for early elections in Adzharia itself too.

Some of the Adzharian results are contested, and international observers from the OSCE, Council of Europe and European Parliament remarked on the continued intimidation and physical abuse against opposition supporters and journalists in the region. Abashidze is a powerful man, however, and is supported by Russia.

Basically, expect any possible new violence to be erupting here.

4. The left-wing Labor Party is led by Shalva Natelashvili, who was one of the most popular politicians in Georgia before the Rose Revolution. The party's support dropped strongly, however, after Natelashvili condemned the revolution and criticized Saakashvili c.s.

I'm going to a meeting about Georgia in A'dam tomorrow ... if I have time, I'll report back here.
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Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2004 04:54 pm
Intigueing photo from last November's "Rose Revolution", as it's being called ...


That's from this photo essay at Eurasianet.org
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Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 12:29 pm

An overview: The Not-So-Velvet Revolution. A good perspective.
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Reply Sun 30 May, 2004 12:38 pm
Does this Misha have what it takes, or is he too tough?

The article alludes to Schevardnadze being the right man at the right time--but also that he was dispatched at the right time. Does it take an idealistic tuffy to cut through the chaff and get things moving--or will he cause a disaster, and take Georgia backwards in Human Rights, and such?
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Reply Fri 10 Jun, 2005 09:38 am
EurasiaNet Launches Special Feature on Georgia's Rose Revolution

June 7, 2005

EurasiaNet, a program of OSI's Central Eurasia Project, has launched a special multimedia feature, Georgia: Revolution in the Regions. Using text, photographs, and audio, the feature examines the impact of the 2003 Rose Revolution in nine Georgian regions.

Topics include integration, social welfare, urban renewal, agriculture, transportation, energy, ethnic minorities, and smuggling.

Georgia: Revolution in the Regions can be viewed at http://www.eurasianet.org/georgia/index.html.
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Reply Sat 11 Jun, 2005 05:29 pm
That was an informative link--but, I've never seen so many complaining people. Certainly, there are challenges, but they (the consensus that I saw) complained about everything.

The smattering I saw say "They promised this, but it hasn't happened... or more telling, "They said prosperity would come to us..."

"Come to us?"

But, knowing the horrible history of these people, I guess I should be more understanding. They have had it as hard as any group in any region. I guess when you are a product of generations of misery, you lose sight of the reality that you have a voice in your own destiny. They wait for success and good fortune to 'come to them'.

They are increasingly gaining the power to 'go get success.'

They haven't realized it.

Saakashvili needs to bring in the economic advisors and develop plans for each of those beautiful segments of Georgia, or the people need to elect someone who will.

They have power. They just don't know what to do with it yet.

They can be successful.

Very useful link.
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Reply Sun 12 Jun, 2005 09:47 am
Lash wrote:
That was an informative link--but, I've never seen so many complaining people.

Welcome to Eastern Europe ... Twisted Evil

Lash wrote:
Very useful link.

Thanks! I was checking the Soros.org homepage, saw it profiled.
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Reply Sun 12 Jun, 2005 11:21 am
LOL!! ...and don't Soros me!

<washing brain of Soros' benefaction>
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Reply Sun 12 Jun, 2005 11:32 am
Hehheheh ...

I tend to actually deliberately leave out the Soros link when I bring stuff he's funded or facilitated (and it sometimes seems to me he's funded/facilitated about every single independent media / human rights / minority rights / democracy / anti-corruption initiative, NGO or movement in all of Central and Eastern Europe this past decade, so that takes some effort ;-)) - simply because I know that any news or link I'll provide will instantly be ignored or discredited by US conservatives if it turns out to be Soros-funded. East-European communists and nationalists would react the same way, but (luckily?) we dont have too many of those here.

But then ever so often, I am tempted, when someone actually ackowledges the worth of a link or initiative, to slip out that, you know, this too is Soros ... call me evil <grins>

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