Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 10

President Eduard Shevardnadze, who is 72, announced on January 10 that he has decided to seek another term of office in the presidential election scheduled for April 9. The decision, while not unexpected, has had a long and difficult gestation. His advanced age, his narrow escape from assassination on three occasions–in 1993 in Abkhazia and in 1995 and 1998 in Tbilisi–as well as Georgia’s precarious economic situation and the recent, open threats from Russia made Shevardnadze’s decision none the easier. He finally made that decision public in an address to the country upon returning from a visit to the Holy Land on the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ. The terms of that address seem to reflect a transforming religious experience which this former top Soviet official has undergone in recent times, as was also manifest during Pope John Paul II’s recent visit to Georgia at Shevardnadze’s initiative.

Religious conviction seems to buttress Shevardnadze’s sense of mission as a statesman. During the Pope’s visit, he and the pontiff paid homage to each other for their respective roles in the demise of the Soviet empire. Alluding to that in his January 10 address, Shevardnadze told the nation that it must “make the most of this opportunity” in order to consolidate “Georgia’s independent statehood, freedom and democracy.” Obviously still much moved by his Jerusalem visit, he warned that national failure would “make many generations of Georgians shed their tears at the wailing wall of the destroyed temple of Georgian statehood.”

A follow-up statement by Zurab Zhvania, chairman of parliament and head of Shevardnadze’s electoral headquarters, commented on the external context of the Georgian presidential election. Citing the support of the United States, Western Europe and neighboring Turkey to Georgia’s independence, Zhvania compared the current situation of Georgia to that of the Baltic states under extreme pressure in 1990-91. He stated, moreover, that “Russia’s reactionary forces had not expected Shevardnadze to make this announcement. It has been said in Russia, even at the government level, that Shevardnadze’s re-election would mean that Russia has lost Georgia. That is indeed true. Of course Russia will not lose Georgia if it wants good-neighborly relations and partnership with her, but will lose her as a satellite or vassal state.” For these reasons, Zhvania expressed concern–as did Internal Affairs Minister Kakha Targamadze in a parallel statement–that the country faces the risk of military intervention or renewed terrorist acts which can be orchestrated in order to remove Shevardnadze and derail Georgia from her present course (Prime-News, Georgian Television, Tbilisi Radio, January 10-13).

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions