Zviad Konstantinovich Gamsakhurdia

(b. 1939)

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(b. 1939; d. 31 Dec. 1993 or 1 Jan. 1994)

Georgian; President 1991–2 Gamsakhurdia was a literary scholar by profession. In 1974 he was a founding member of the Initiative Group for the Defence of Human Rights Literary, the aims of which were to defend human rights and the environment, and to expose the misdeeds of Shevardnadze's government. He was also the founder of two underground journals; in the Golden Fleece he published Georgian-language work banned by the censor, and in the Georgian Messenger he reported on human-rights violations. He was co-founder of a group monitoring observation of the Helsinki Accords of 1975. Gamsakhurdia's works were a stimulus to the Tbilisi riots of April 1978 when several thousand successfully demonstrated against a proposal to give the Russian language equal status in the republic of Georgia with Georgian itself. Gamsakhurdia was arrested in 1977 and sentenced to three years' imprisonment in May 1978. In 1979 he was released after a partial recantation.

In 1990 he was elected as Speaker of the Georgian Supreme Soviet, and the following year was elected as the newly independent Georgia's first President but his behaviour was erratic and there were doubts about his sanity. He was forcibly driven from office in 1992 amid well-founded charges of corruption, violation of human rights, and abuse of office. Gamsakhurdia and his followers fought against the new regime, led by Shevardnadze. He was killed in action.

Subjects: Politics.

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