(b. 25 Jan. 1928).
President of Georgia 1992–2003
Born in Mamati, he joined the Communist Party in 1948 and became a leading member of the Communist Youth League, whose Georgian leader (first secretary) he became in 1957. He then worked in the Communist party machine and became Deputy Minister (1964–5), and then First Minister (1965–72) of the Georgian Ministry of Public Order. There, he worked assiduously to reduce the influence of the local Mafia, and in 1972 took his case against the Mafia activities of his local party boss, V. P. Mzhavanadze, to Brezhnev. He was appointed first secretary of the Communist Party of Georgia in Mzhavanadze's stead, and became the most reform-oriented leader of a Soviet republic, within the limits tolerated by Brezhnev. A candidate member of the Politburo from 1978, he supported Gorbachev, whom he had known since the 1960s, in his rise to power.
Soviet Foreign Minister (1985–90, 1991)
His appointment to replace the grim and dreary Andrei Andreevich Gromyko (b. 1909, d. 1989) as Foreign Minister was the first indication of Gorbachev's earnest will to reform. His charm, efficiency, and imagination contributed greatly to the success of the country's more relaxed foreign policy and the establishment of a genuine working relationship with US Presidents Reagan and Bush. He resigned to general surprise on 20 December 1990, apparently in protest against Gorbachev's increasingly unpopular policies. In November 1991, he returned to his office after the August coup against Gorbachev until the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 31 December 1991.
Shevardnadze became President of the newly founded Republic of Georgia on 10 March 1992, and subsequently used his energy again to fight against Mafia corruption, to end his country's civil war, and to prevent the breakaway of Abkhazia. Although he was relatively unsuccessful in realizing any of these goals, he did manage to achieve some degree of economic and political stabilization. Russian soldiers began to withdraw from Georgian territory in 2000, and in 1999 he inaugurated an oil pipeline from Azerbaijan. As his popularity waned, Shevardnadze lacked the political strength to carry out domestic reform. After rigging the 2003 elections, he was deposed in the ‘rose revolution’.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).