[Marxism] Background on overthrow of Shevardnadze
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 24 07:16:23 MST 2003
Richard Fidler wrote:
> Washington's reaction was swift. Within weeks, U.S. President George W.
> Bush had sent senior adviser Stephen Mann to Tbilisi with a warning:
> "Georgia should not do anything that undercuts the powerful promise of
> an East-West energy corridor," he said.
This would go a long way in explaining George Soros's role in Georgia.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Ms. Burdzhanadze, the 50-year-old chairman of the outgoing parliament,
broke with Mr. Shevardnadze in August over his handling of the departure
from Georgia of U.S.-based AES Corp. The energy giant sold its
operations in the country to a Russian state energy company at a
substantial loss. The third is Zurab Zhvania, a former ecology activist
and coordinator of Mr. Shevardnadze's mid-1990s reform team.
The three politicians are backed by a raft of nongovernmental
organizations that have sprung up since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Many of the NGOs have been supported by American and other Western
foundations, spawning a class of young, English-speaking intellectuals
hungry for pro-Western reforms.
Chief among these is the Liberty Institute, which has received funds
from the U.S. government and financier George Soros. It became the
organizing juggernaut behind the move to push Mr. Shevardnadze out of
office. How the institute's 30-year-old director, Levan Ramishvili, and
its 31-year-old co-founder, Giga Bokeria, went from Shevardnadze fans to
his biggest opponents is the story of the forces behind the revolution
that took place over the weekend. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's
collapse back in 1992, Mr. Shevardnadze returned to his Georgian
homeland promising a new beginning. Compared with the paramilitary
groups and anarchy that plagued his country's first year of
independence, his Soviet record didn't look bad. He had protected
Georgia's culture and language from Russification, and Georgians were
impressed by the plaudits he won from the West for his peaceful handling
of the Soviet break-up along with former Soviet leader Mikhail
Ramishvili and Bokaria, who were working as part-time journalists while
they finished their studies, initially supported Mr. Shevardnadze's
efforts to bring back law and order. "There was this feeling that
Shevardnadze might not be a big democrat, but he was in touch with the
world, he would play according to the new rules of the game," said Mr.
Ramishvili. "We thought he would build state institutions, a democratic
and prosperous Georgia." U.S. officials also vaulted Mr. Shevardnadze,
whom they viewed as one of the few progressive officials in the former
Soviet regime, into the role of standard bearer for what they hoped
would be a gradual migration of the former republics out of the sphere
of Russian influence and into a more-Western orbit. In Georgia, though,
Shevardnadze supporters such as Messrs. Ramishvili and Bokeria were
becoming disenchanted as Mr. Shevardnadze gave up on trying to put down
a Russian-backed secession movement in the northwest of the country and
slowly moved Georgia back toward Moscow.
In 1996, Mr. Bokeria and Mr. Ramishvili were hired by a new independent
television station called Rustavi 2. After it attacked a Shevardnadze
minister, the government closed the station down. So the two men founded
the Liberty Institute, initially to organize the station's defense. But
by the time they won that battle with a court ruling in 1997, they
decided to stick with the NGO. Fueled by grants from the U.S. Agency for
International Development-backed Eurasia Foundation, George Soros's Open
Society Institute, and others, the Liberty Institute did much of the
backroom work on Mr. Saakashvili's radical legal reforms. The U.S.
Embassy also helped behind the scenes, bringing in exam papers prepared
by the American Bar Association to provide the basis of tests for
Georgia's judges. Almost 90% of Soviet-era judges failed the exam,
allowing the government to fire them. But even as reforms emerged, Mr.
Shevardnadze began to change course. In 1998, he sustained the double
blow of an assassination attempt that narrowly missed him and the
economic collapse in Russia, Georgia's main trading partner. Although
never accused of personal corruption, he became closer to his family and
friends who had grown rich on their relationship with him.
"The main problem was that Shevardnadze could never rely on an army or a
state, but only by balancing power among members of his team," Vakhtang
Abashidze, a former Shevardnadze aide and chairman of the Georgian
National Communications Commission. As the reformers distanced
themselves from him, Mr. Shevardnadze became reliant on a corrupt
clique. "Shevardnadze supported building up the NGOs. But as soon as
they voiced some dissent, for Shevardnadze they became an opposition
force," said Mr. Abashidze. Fighting Back Mr. Shevardnadze began to
fight back. In 2001, he again tried to close down the Rustavi 2
television, which had gone back on the air and was repeatedly accusing
people close to him of corruption. The Liberty Institute and others
responded with a mobilization of student demonstrations that forced him
to leave the country's most popular TV station on air. Local elections
in 2002 should have sent a clear message to Mr. Shevardnadze.
Pro-government parties lost heavily, and Mr. Saakashvili swept to power
at City Hall in the capital of Tbilisi, putting his office a few hundred
yards down the hill from Mr. Shevardnadze's chancery.
The Liberty Institute came under more pressure. In July of that year, 15
unknown men charged into their offices in a converted apartment, threw a
computer at Mr. Ramishvili and beat him up. But international support
for the Liberty Institute -- including a personal visit from the German
ambassador -- shamed Mr. Shevardnadze into sending a state minister to
pay a visit to the premises. The two sides agreed to work on three
things: civilian oversight of police, decentralization of schools and
above all work on new voter lists ahead of the November 2003
parliamentary elections. "There was delay after delay. It was just
lip-service. We withdrew from the talks in February 2003," Mr. Bokeria
said. Mr. Bokeria did more than that -- with Mr. Ramishvili, he started
planning the revolution. In late February, he took a Soros
Foundation-funded tour of Serbia to see how the Otpor, or "Resistance,"
student opposition had ousted President Slobodan Milosevic in 11 days
after he annulled the presidential election in 2000. "The biggest lesson
I learned was that it was key to create absolute moral superiority,
everywhere, including among the police," Mr. Bokeria said last week, as
the protests built up steam. During the summer, Otpor activists visited
Georgia, running three-day summer courses that trained 1,000 student
activists from all over the country in revolutionary techniques using
humor and peaceful subversion.
The students, fed up above all with corruption in their society and
universities, organized under the slogan "Kmara!" or "Enough!" The
fraudulent elections provided a greater catalyst for popular outrage
than the Liberty Institute and Kmara expected. That was largely because
of U.S.- and NGO-funded exit polls broadcast on Rustavi 2 TV, which
showed everyone exactly how pro-Shevardnadze parties had stolen the
election. Using the Liberty Institute's computer room as one of their
main action bases, and backed with a steady barrage of advertising slots
from Rustavi 2 television, Kmara's 5,000 students became the foot
soldiers of the opposition politicians. In the last push into the
parliament on Saturday, they flanked Mr. Saakashvili as he led the way
in, holding a bunch of roses. "We did it! There was a huge number of
people, nobody could stop it," Mr. Ramishvili said Sunday, watching the
new interim government spell out its program on TV. He hoped it would
really set about radical reforms, but worried that there might be
clashes with the three regions of Georgia that remain virtually outside
central control. "What makes me so happy is that it ended so peacefully.
It's a good precedent for our future."
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