The Beleaguered Georgian President
01 December, 2011

Zviad Gamsakhurdia was confronted by former agents of KGB and Georgia’s communist party elite who were going to forfeit considerable fringe benefits and privileges inherited by them from the soviet regime and now threatened to be taken away by the newly-elected noncommunist government of Georgia. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.

GJ – In the beginning of December of 1991 there started the reduction of state-funded scholarships in colleges and universities of Georgia. Demanding the increase of scholarships, certain part of the

Tbilisi State University student body, who did not very well know what was going on in reality, had started manifestations in front of the University building. What was the general sentiment among the students? Were they using false reasons for starting the demonstration?

SM – Right at the beginning, those manifestations carried anti-Gamsakhurdia character which eventually turned into political demands, and finally moved from the University yard to the street in front of the Parliament House where they found gathered President Gamsakhurdia supporters from various districts of Georgia. Those two groups of people were separated by the partition made from the busses parked in line. The situation became even tauter when the audiocassette with recently recorded comments by an American congressman was furnished to Tengiz Kitovani and his grouping at the Tbilisi Sea territory. The congressman was saying that he had traced certain autocratic tendency in the Gamsakhurdia rule. Frankly speaking, there was nothing overly strange and awful in the American congressman’s comment – why was it surprising that in the American Congress there could have been a member who suffered from the Russian influence to a certain extent, thus making negative comments about Georgia and its president?

GJ – But the problem is that in the hands of Kitovani and certain part of the opposition – quite limited in number – the fact was turned into a big deal, wasn’t it?

SM – Kitovani grabbed a chance immediately to work up a tempest in a tea-cup. ‘You see, he said, what Gamsakhurdia is in reality? He is not just another dictator but an autocrat too’. Generally speaking, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was confronted by former agents of KGB and Georgia’s communist party elite who were going to forfeit considerable fringe benefits and privileges, inherited by them from the soviet regime and now threatened to be taken away by the newly-elected noncommunist government of Georgia. Even part of the National Guard joined the opposition against President Gamsakhurdia, saying nothing about the strong military formation ‘Mkhedrioni’ which became even a fiercer adversary to the President than others.  On the other hand, ‘Mkhedrioni’ was practically incapacitated, and was not so effective any more because their founder and actual leader Jaba Ioseliani was then doing time in prison. Certainly, President Gamsakhurdia possessed bigger military power than anybody in his opposition. It was not at all difficult for him to apprehend the rebellious Kitovani and his limited entourage as well as the renegade National Guard, but Zviad was not ready to spill his own people’s blood. The breakup of the Soviet Union was almost an actual fact. On the 22nd of December of 1991, the leaders of the Ukraine and Belarus had an official encounter on the subject, during which they promulgated the alternative to the USSR – the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

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