Thursday, 20 December 2007

On Human Rights

This is a foreword by Bakar Berekashvili writtent for December Issue of A Different View, IAPSS Academic Magazine.

Dear Friends,

I am writing you this letter from Georgia, from my native country where I was born in 1983 while Georgia was a part of USSR. By that time, doctrine of human rights in Soviet Union was considered as a negative European idea and political discourse giving nothing to the nations. Then Soviet Union collapsed and Georgia gained independence. But human rights still were not basic part of Georgian political agenda due to authoritarian-nationalist government which came into power in Georgia after dismantle of Soviet Union and seriosly damaged country’s reputation in international arena. Then in early 1992 this nationalistic regime was brought down as well, but still no progress for Georgia in terms of human rights protection just because of that new president Eduard Shevardnadze who was a former communist leader did not care of human rights and established hybrid regime in Georgia. Then like their incumbents Shevardnadze’s government was removed and by peaceful means, particularly by the Rose Revolution of 2003 and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili became country’s president in 2004.
On 7 November of 2007, huge peaceful demonstration was organized in Tbilisi by which people protested Saakashvili’s political regime and accused Georgian president in abusing of human rights and democratic principles in Georgia. So, still here we see again that even in case of Saakashvili who enjoys of having good international reputation, Georgia could not achieve to be formed as a democratic country. Saakashvili responded protestors with dispersal of rally and by announcing state of emergency which was canceled few days later. He also announced conduction of early presidential elections in January of 2008 and so few days ago he resigned. Georgians intend to vote in January, some shall vote for Saakashvili and some shall vote for opposition, but they shall vote with new hope, with the hope for better Georgia, but also there are significant part of Georgian society who gradually lose this hope. And this is a drama of Georgian democracy.
It turned out that this is extremely difficult for Georgia to preserve human rights and democratic principles and to take succeesful steps for democratic transformation. I have already noted above that Georgian governments of any period could not manage establishment of truly democratic regime in the country. But what I always urge to my friends and distinguished colleagues is that this is not only political authority in Georgia who makes problems for human rights and democracy in Georgia, but also this is a Georgian society who lives with double standards. Point is that on the one hand Georgian society wants to live in democratic country where protection of human rights will be guaranteed, but on the other hand this is exactly Georgian society who has nationalistic nature of thinking and snobbish character as well which are in confrontation with the protection of human rights and human dignity. However, I do not want to be a pessimist and I should say that I see progressive groups in Georgian society, not very strong and capable in decision making process of Georgia but I see them and they make me to think about possible perfect democratic future of Georgia.
Georgia is not the only country in this diverse world that has troubles with human rights protection. Just observe other countries of contemporary humanity and one would easily discover worse situations in the field of human rights protection. Let’s think about post-soviet space where we can see Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan and other countries where political authorities still consider the idea of human rights protection in soviet context and they achieved to form conformist and scared society who can not think about protection of human rights even in their inner mental world. Russia, for instance, is a clear example how authority managed to take control over the minds of individuals who acknowledge the only dominant discourse offered by the government.
The enlightenment era played crucial and decisive role in emergence of contemporary idea of human rights which is so much important and simultaneously disrespected in modern world. The ideas and conceptions developed by Lock and Kant provided clear determination of what individual rights are and why human rights are necessary for humanity. Then other philosophers of next centuries gave us more explanations in which conditions human rights are protected and how people and governments should deal with human rights protection. So, what is called for society where human rights protection is guaranteed? Karl Popper, 20th century Austrian-born British philosopher suggests that this is an open society who can provide strong basis and environment for protection of human rights and individual liberties. And the open society is the most important enemy of any totalitarian and dictatorial regimes of our world, because the open society is an idea and concept developed by 19th century French philosopher Henri Bergson who argued that within open society political authority is trasparent and tolerant and according to Popper open society itself is an enemy of closed society where the idea of human rights protection is strongly neglected by the government. Democratic countries have open societies and totalitarian countries have closed societies and where the closed space is discovered there can be also definitely discovered darkness.
On 10th December the world celebrates Human Rights Day because exaclty on 10 December of 1948 United Nations General Assembly adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we decided to dedicate this issue of A Different View to Human Rights. With this issue we would like to explain how we see human rights today and to identify who respects true ideals of human rights and fundamental liberties in this world. This issue of A Different View may serve as a small but a very smart contribution for promoting and defending human rights worldwide. This is very important that the work of IAPSS has few dimensions and among them is to support protection of human rights and democratic values and for this purpose since its establishment, IAPSS carried out numerous activities focusing to promotion of human rights and democracy, and this issue of ADV is just continuation of IAPSS work in promoting basic principles of human rights, democracy and civil society.
I am really very happy to present before you this December issue of ADV and this became possible with existing of strong, motivated and common spirit within editorial board of ADV. I would like to say many thanks for everyone who took part in preparing of this issue of ADV. Special thanks for Zia Hosszu, Editor-in-chief of ADV and brilliant intellectual who did excellent job in preparing of December issue. I would like also to say many thanks for Irma Qehajaj, Co-Editor of ADV for her contribution in promoting of magazine. I am very thankful and especially grateful for Gábor Beregszászi, Michael Teodoro G. Ting Jr., Nikolett Sebestyén, Zsanett Papp and Kamilla Németh for their excellent articles on the topic of the month.
Finally, I wish to ask our intellectual readers to provide us with their very valuable comments, remarks, and suggestions. We are always more than happy to hear about your innovative ideas for our magazine and also to accept your articles for the next issues of ADV which will be also very interesting and attractive for all of us.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Reflections on Contemporary Georgia – Vision from Czech Republic

Reflections on Contemporary Georgia – Vision from Czech Republic (This article is simultaneously published for the newspaper The Georgian Times on 15 October 2007)

By Bakar Berekashvili

„There is no guarantee that the civil society is always benign. But we must take the risk. The civil society corresponds to the historical possibilities of man and history as a drama of good and evil. This is the dignity of man: the choice of good and evil.“

Merab Mamardashvili

Brief Discourse on Georgia’s Desire to become European Democratic Country

Georgia’s political and social aspirations are an open secret. These aspirations are based on country’s strong desire to build democracy and civil society in Georgia, to integrate into the European space of democratic and civic values and thus to confirm again for modern world that Georgia is a democratic European state. But definitely the task is not so simple, it is very challenging and still full with various obstacles. Georgia still has to pass a long way of democratization in order to achieve its democratic goals and finally to be formed not transitional democracy but real democracy in our own country.

In Czech Republic, where I live now, it took approximately 10 years to become democratic country. Since 1989 when communism died in this country, Czech Republic started rapid consolidation of democratic values that was doubtlessly led by Václav Havel. Currently, Czech Republic returned to its hostorical roots and enjoys to be democratic European country. However, here I mean no way that there are no problems in Czech Republic and that here we have absolute democracy. In fact, there is no absolute democracy in our universe.

It took 10 years for Czech Republic to achieve its goals and to become European democracy. And despite perfect progress which it experienced by the end of 1990s, it was possible for Czech Republic to join EU only in 2004, while it joined NATO in 1999. So, even for Czech Republic which is located in the central area of Europe and whoese political and social values always were truly European, it was still hard work to rehabiliate and to become real European democratic society.

So, now we can imagine how difficult it is for Georgia to pass sensitive way of democratization which should lead us to be formed as European democratic country. Despite some progress which Georgia achieved since Rose Revolution of November 2003 that can be seen in police and military reforms, Georgia still faces serious difficulties in building a democratic and civil society. It is still very difficult for some to say whether Georgia has opportunity to become European country and these problems and obstacles are not only related with political authority.

Weak civil society, conformist young generation, ineffective and powerless opposition, lack of critical judgjment within society – these are main problems and obstacles for building of real democracy in Georgia. This is not what Georgia gained after the Rose Revolution, but this is simply soviet legacy of Georgia, this is a sorrowful destiny of Georgia that even Rose Revolution could not change. It is hard to agree with the Georgian opposition groups who claim that Saakashvili’s administration established dictatorship after the Rose Revolution. I would say that so-called idea of „strong hand“ is a very successful model of geverning Georgian country and Saakashvili just follows this model. The only power that can stop implementation of the idea of „strong hand“ is only society or people. And the idea of „strong hand“ is not linked with the philosophy of dictatorship, it is just another phenomenon which is characterizing for former soviet countries, including Georgia.

Czech Intellectuals on Georgia’s Democratization

Despite serious defficulties and problems which Georgia faces now, here in Central Europe Georgia is still very promising country and model of democratic transformation after the Rose Revolution. Saakashvili is a popular person both in Brussels and other cities of Europe. Rose Revolution of November 2003 made good impressions for European intellectuals to think and speak abouth bright future of democracy in Georgia, some of them think that it will take long time for Georgia but still they beleive that Georgia selected good path for democratization. Petr Kratochvil, Deputy Director of the Prague Institute of International Relations said following: „There is no doubt that democracy in Georgia has improved after the Rose Revolution. However, comparing with the west, Georgian democracy is still under the way of development and not such strong as it is in west. Czech Republic also experienced demoractic reforms and it took couple of years, however we still achieved to become democratic in short period. Regarding Georgia, I think it will take much long time“. However, Petr Kratochvil also noted that there are some important steps that Georgian government should take in order to achieve its democratic goals: „Well, point is that if you want to have a real democracy this is important not only to adopt democratic laws and access democratic principles, but also to implement them. Georgia should be stronger for implementation of adopted laws and democratic principles as well. I think that the most important for Georgia is to strengthen institutional buildnig, to carry out strong anticorruption measures, to support building of autonomious capicity and etc. Also, poverty reduction should be important subject for Georgia.“

This is not only Czech think-tanks who think that democracy in Georgia improved and who believe in perfect democratic future of Georgia, but the Czech officials think also similarly. This is what Tomas Szunyog, Director of South-East and Eastern European Department at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: „We hope that Georgia can become fully democratic country and not transitional one. We have full confidence with your government and this is very clear that you made very good progress in terms of democratic development after the Rose Revolution. I would like also to note that there is a stable political landscape in Georgia, economic policy is developing and social standards of living are higher“.

Above mentioned speech given by Mr. Szunyog is a very clear example of political symphaties provided by some influental Czech politicians and decision makers towards Georgia. And this is not only Czech Republic in Central Europe who has such political symphaties towards Saakashvili’s government, you can see such support in other countries as well.

What are the reasons of European support for current political authortity in Georgia? Another Czech intellectual, Marek Vozka who is very familiar with Georgia and currently works for influental Czech foundation „People in Need“ said: „I would say that before the collapse of Soviet Union and during the collapse of it, every member countries of USSR stayed on same political line. After collpse of USSR, some countries still remained on same old line, including Russia. But as for Georgia, it is very visible especially after the Rose Revolution that situation changed significantly. Saakashvili’s government is much more effective and the reforms which your government carried out are democratic“

Georgia’s Membership to EU and NATO – A Pessimistic Landscape

However, despite of positive point of views expressed by leading Czech experts on current political processes in Georgia, they have still sceptical view on the question of Georgia’s possible membership for EU and NATO. This is well-known that Georgia strives to join EU and NATO and declared that this is strong political will of contemporary Georgia to became full member of European family. Here, in Czech Republic, almost majority of Czech experts and academicians beleive that Georgia has less chances to join EU. „As regarding EU, here subject is much more pessimistic. And again problem comes from EU, and problem is that EU has adopted and introduced to Georgia ENP as a substitute of Georgia’s membership to EU, like it did for Ukraine and Moldova as well. I think that that question of Georgia’s membership to EU is a subject of political decision.“, said Petr Kratochvil.

So, it seems that we should not be happy to enjoy with having ENP in Georgia, however many Georgian NGOs and government itself try to make sure people that ENP is a step for EU membership. But the truth is that ENP is a substitute for Georgia to EU membership, the Georgian NGOs tend to misrepresent it, probably, due to so-called „Political Correctness“. As for NATO, here Petr Kratochvil is still sceptial, however, he noted that chances for NATO are bigger for Georgia: „Well, I understand why Georgia has such a strong desire to join NATO, but this topic for me more or less is sceptical and this not due to Georgia but due to NATO approach. Well, point is that NATO itself is very sceptical about Georgia’s membership, and this is not so much linked with the factor of Russia as many interprets it, but this is due to frozen conficts which exist in Georgia. However, if you compare with chances for EU membership, it is very clear that chances for NATO are bigger.“ he said.

Representative of Czech government also thinks that Georgia’s possible membership to EU is a very complex question, however Czech government fully supports to Georgia’s aim and aspiration to join EU but at the same time they say that this would be very long and difficult way for Georgia. This is what Tomas Szunyog said: „This is very complex question. Currently, EU is mostly focused of having negotiotions with applicant countries which are Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey. Also mention should be made that another issue is whether Georgia is ready to join EU. I think that Georgia still has many tasks to implement in this regard and it needs to pass long way“. Regarding NATO, here Mr. Szunyog strongly beleives that Georgia is a serious partner of NATO, however, here also he beleivs that this would be long way for Georgia „Georgia is a serious partner of NATO. We would also strongly support Georgia’s inclusion to MAP. This is right that you carried out positive defense reforms but joining of NATO is more demanding then only military reforms. I would say that this will be a step-by-step process for Georgia“ said Thomas Szunyog.

It is very clear that Georgian population is not aware of what NATO is. Curiously, most of the people beleive in popular political speech in Georgia that NATO is a pro-humanist, democratic union, while in fact NATO frequently broke down the basic principles of democratic values and the case Balkan region is a very clear example of it.

Why Georgia is Important for European Demoracies?

At first glance probably this question seems to be both difficult and simple. Petr Kratochvíl answered this question perfectly: „Georgia is a very important country for Europe, because we share same common values. Georgia shares European and generally western values and I would say that Georgia is a part of European community in many aspects“.
This is more then truth. But at the same time we still have to take many steps to be perfect member of European family and this is not only linked with building strong political and economic system, but this is importantly related with strengthening formation of strong free civil society in Georgia and to the promotion of basic civic and democraties values. Georgia should form effective society with creative and critical judgjment and to defeat conformism as a legacy of soviet social lifestyle.

Bakar Berekashvili is intern at the Institute for European Policy in Prague

Monday, 1 October 2007

The Georgian Times interviewed Bakar Berekashvili

Why do we need this lustration law?
By Nino Edilashvili, Georgian Times
23 March 2007

The knowledge of who the spy was is power. Who knows this, he naturally can rule him. - Georgian philosopher A. Bakradze
Why do we need this law? To be tolerant with those who collaborated with the former regime, or to condemn them for their past sins against us? This was a key question raised at the meeting on lustration on March 9.
The Tbilisi-based Goethe Institute, together with funding from the Heinrich Boell Foundation, arranged a meeting with Dr. Joachim Gauck, Federal Commissioner for the Files of State Security of the former the Eastern-Germany’s ,,shtazis'' (State defense service) archives. The main aim of the meeting was to share Eastern Germany’s experience with a lustration law with the Georgian audience.
MP Nika Rurua, Giga Zedania, Associate-professor at Ilia Chavchavadze State University, and Ivliane Khaindrava, an opposition-minded MP, participated in the discussions.
Lustration- which derives from the Latin Lustrum and describes a ceremony of purification of the Roman people after every five-year census - in the current world implies exposing those who collaborated with the former communist regime. This topic is very sensitive in post-Communist countries. The meeting hall was overcrowded and, despite repeated requests of moderator Lasha Bakradze to finish the discussion, the meeting exceeded the scheduled time by several hours.
According to Joachim Gauck, who is a legendary person in Germany, society’s attitude towards a lustration law is a kind of benchmark of tolerance for its own enemy. He said that the Eastern-European countries regulated this issue in such a way that it did not provoke any kind of discord among European society. Dr. Gauck advises Georgian society to choose the same path and promises to give consultations in how to achieve that.
In the communist era the best way to climb up the carrier ladder was to apply for membership in the ruling communist party. Georgia, with 70 years of communist history, was on one of the first places with a number of communist party members. According to popular statistics, every 10th Georgian was a member of the communist party. Many of them cooperated with the regime as agents, and the communist regime could control the situation with a dense network of spies. There were very few dissidents who were against the regime and were announced the people’s enemy for several years. After the collapse of this regime the former dissidents who wanted to know the truth and be rehabilitated started active work to adopt a lustration law. But their attempts ended unsuccessfully.
An opposition-sponsored draft law on lustration which was submitted to Parliament in 2006 November is the third attempt to initiate a law on lustration since Georgia gained independence.
The draft law, which was proposed by the Democratic Front parliamentary faction, says that those who worked in ex-Soviet special services, held high positions in the Soviet Communist Party, or served as KGB agents will be banned from holding key positions in the government. But it is a kind of tolerant, because this draft law will not have to publicize the full record.
Georgia's current government demonstrated its approach to lustration law when the new government formed (2004) under the leadership of late PM Zurab Zhvania signed the “10 Steps to Independence". The authorities pledged to pass a law on lustration, but no document has been proposed so far by the government. This subject is still a very unpopular topic for the ruling party and media alike. It is very difficult to recall any kind of initiative related to lustration that the government has proposed since then. It seems that lustration law is a very sensitive topic among the members of the government. That’s why the parliament majority don’t have a unified position, and that was the main reason why this draft law was rejected in February.
Giga Bokeria, MP from the ruling National Movement party, said in an interview with Civil Georgia in mid-November that “debates within the ruling majority are not yet over.” But he added he would support an “even tougher” law on lustration.
Nika Rurua, an active figure of National Movement party and the deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security, tried to justify the parliamentary majority's careful approach to this issue at the 9 March meeting. He said: “Lustration as a process is not technically ready. 84% of the documentation is destroyed, or the main list of agents is currently in Moscow and unavailable to the Georgian side.” Rurua claimed that the very few documents in the hands of Ministry of Internal Affairs will not shed light to the issue.
The government-affiliated Liberty Institute NGO recently proposed a new and tougher vision on lustration which is kind of alternative to the parliamentary opposition's blueprint.
According to this proposal, lustration should target not only former KGB employees and Communist party functionaries, but also those who have been cooperating with Russian state structures since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The meeting on March 9 raised a key question on lustration: why do we need this law? To be tolerant with whose who collaborated with the former regime or condemn them for their past sins against us?
According to former political dissident Levan Berdzenishvili, it is important and absolutely necessary to expose the identity of the person who squealed on him to KGB, and who banned his colleagues from the university to attend his court trial.
Journalist Davit Paichadze, the Deputy Dean of Social and Political sciences of Tbilisi State University: “It would be better if Georgian society learns who, for example, Vazha Lortkipanidze [former state minister], Temur Shashiashvili [Shevardnadzes former governor], Zaza Shengelia[former director of TV broadcasting] are.”
Representatives of the young generation are opposed to the radicalism of the lustration law supporter. Bakar Berekashvili, a young independent researcher on Eastern Europe issues, told GT that the former dissidents who want to adopt the lustration law do not the follow dissident values, since tolerance was the most important idea for the communist era dissidents. “For them [the former dissidents] the main problem was the system, not individuals. They didn’t fight to bring those who squealed on them to justice."
According to the young researcher, in Georgia, which is building its democratic institutions, Georgian intellectuals should talk about how to help improve the democratization process and protect human rights rather than to adopt a lustration law. The adoption of the lustration law will only clarify who squealed on whom, but brings nothing to Georgian democracy itself.
"In my opinion, the State should begin digging into history, what happened 25-30-40 years ago, when it has finished its most important function – shaping a true democratic country." He added.
According to 35th US President John F. Kennedy, public peace does not require that that every one like his neighbor. It requires only that they live with each other with tolerance. So this lustration law will be one more test for Georgian society to verify how tolerant it is and whether it is ready or not to look back firmly at its past, neighbors.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Georgia's Rose Revolution

By Bakar Berekashvili (First published on 25 December 2003 for the webpage of the Youth for International Socialism)
November 23, 2003 was a very significant day in the history of Georgia. For the first time in Georgian history a revolution took place in the old southern Caucasus state. About 100,000 people forced Shevardnadze to resign. Shevardnadze's regime failed and a new era was opened in Georgia; an era without Shevardnadze and without his politics.
Eduard Shevardnadze and Georgia before the "Rose Revolution"
Eduard Shevardnadze was born to a poor family in a little village in Georgia called Mamati, January 26, 1928. His father, a teacher, did not earn enough money to feed the family, including Eduard and his three brothers and one sister. Shevardadze remembered that when he was a child he did not even have shoes for the walk to school. His friends also say that Eduard was a very poor child who was always hungry. During his child hood he worked as a post man, and used to read many newspapers. Eduard's father, Ambrosi Shevardnadze always noted that Eduard would become a great man who would one day govern the country. When Eduard was about 17 years old, he decided to enroll in medicine. He was step-by step building himself a good future. He then took an important position in a communist office in Kutaisi, the second largest city in Georgia. At the same time he enrolled in the Faculty of History, his second specialty.
He then moved from Kutaisi to Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, and worked in various positions of the Communist Party. He then became the Minister of Internal Affairs, and then became the First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, becoming the number one man in Georgia. He eventually received the post of Foreign Affairs Minister of the USSR, the second in command next to Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Shevardnadze then resigned as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and on the December 21, 1991, the USSR collapsed.
During his activities in the USSR, Shevardnadze demonstrated that he needed 'Marxism-Leninism' and the Communist Party in order to create a good political career for himself. The truth of the matter was that he was not a defender of Marxism-Leninism and that he was a very ambitious politician who was involved in bribery. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia held presidential elections. Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a writer and strong anti-communist was elected president. Unfortunately, Zviad Gamskhurdia could not govern the country. There were many reasons for this, among which were his Nazism and his lack of ability to play the political game. He also appointed uneducated and people incapable of doing anything to very important positions in the government. It should be noted that Gamskhurdia himself was an intellectual, but also a person whose government caused many problems in Georgia. The situation soon became difficult. Civil war erupted in Abkhazia, an autonomous region of Georgia, which demanded independence. The civil war is a black spot on recent Georgian history. Georgians were killing one another and the level of destabilization was very high. Gamskhurdia, time and time again, lost control of state power and his government eventually collapsed. He left Tblisi and his place of living was unknown. Some thought that he was in the North Caucasus, but he had in fact died in Jikhashkari, a village in western Georgia. According to official information, he had committed suicide. After the withdrawal of Gamskhurdia, the opposition came to state power. A military council governed the state under the leadership of Jaba Ioseliani. Jaba Ioseliana and his supporters contacted Shevardnadze in Moscow, and asked him to return to Georgia to become the head of state. Shevardnadze agreed and arrived in Georgia in February 1992. In the fall he became the head of state, and at the same time a tragic war erupted in Abkhazia. Georgia lost many young citizens in the course of the war and eventually lost its territorial unity. Shevardnadze worked hard to create stability. In 1995 an assassination attempt was made on his life, but he survived. Shevardnadze arrested Jaba Ioseliani as an organizer of this act of terror. He also tried to arrest Igor Giorgadze, who was the Minister of State Security, whom Shevardnadze claimed had been involved in the assassination attempt. Giorgadze fled Georgia and was declared the number one terrorist in the country by Shevzrdnadze. Giorgadze has been sought by Interpol since 1995.
In August 1995, the parliament of Georgia approved a new constitution which was to be the Georgian model of western style democracy. Parliamentary elections were held in the same year and Shevardnadze's party, the "Citizens' Union of Georgia", took first place. Presidential elections also took place and Shevardnadze became the president for a five - year term. Shevardnadze declared that Georgia's foreign orientation would be pro-Western. He also claimed that Georgia was entering a new era - an era of democracy. Both elections were rigged but the US and its western allies did not say a thing, because Shevardnadze was the go - to - man in Georgia. The economy began to improve under Shevardnadze. The years 1996-1997 were not bad years for Georgia. During this time the budgetary system was more proper. Georgia also developed NGOs and became a strategic state for the US in the Caucasus region. The Georgian state sent out many foreign delegations and investments and grants were increased both to the state and to NGOs. However, Georgia still had many problems such as corruption and improper management. From 1997 on, the situation hadn't really improved and the level of corruption increased. Shevardnadze helped create a strong oligarchy and his family came into great wealth. There were however not many problems in foreign policy. In 1999, Georgia became a member of the Council of Europe. The population still lived in poverty and social problems were becoming quite severe. For any state it is important to feed its people and to not blatantly fill the pockets of oligarchs and officials, who in Georgia had helped Shevardnadze to come to power. The US was aware of everything that was going on but again was silent. In 1999, parliamentary elections were held and the Citizens' Union yet again gained first place. These elections were also rigged and the US still did nothing. In 2000, presidential elections were held and Shevardnadze became president for a second term. Georgia was in a state of regression from 2000-2003. Bribery became the main force in politics. Un-professionals were appointed to key posts in the government and the oligarchy became stronger. The level of poverty was becoming quite high and people began to detest Shevardnadze. From 2000-2003, Zurab Zhvania and Mikhail Saakashvili became the main force of opposition to Shevardnadze. Zhvania was the Chairman of Parliament who had resigned and Saakashvili was Shevardnadze's former supporter. Saakashvili also formed a new political party called the "National Movement", and quickly became Shevardnadze's number one enemy.
The Creation and Activities of the student movement "KMARA" ("ENOUGH")
"KMARA" was created by the students of the Tbilisi State University and was the Georgian version of the Serbian "OTPOR". On April 14, 2003, KMARA announced its formation and held a demonstration of 300 students. The demonstration began at the State university and continued to the President's office. KMARA activists carried Georgia's former Soviet flags in their hands and burned them near the President's office. There were also pictures of Shevardnadze and his supporters on these flags. KMARA was sponsored by the infamous financier George Soros. His foundation in Georgia was called the "Open Society - Georgia Foundation"and was anti-Shevardnadze. This organization financed KMARA. The main goal of KMARA was the removal of Shevardnadze by peaceful means. This movement held a number of demonstrations against Shevardnadze's government. KMARA had many posters which exclaimed "ENOUGH". KMARA did have its problems though, and it was a problem of neutrality. A very well-known anti-Shevardnadze NGO in Georgia was the "Liberty Institute", and activists of KMARA were subordinated to this institution. In turn, the Liberty Institute was subordinated to Georgia's two main opposition parties: the National Movement and the united Democrats. The Liberty Institute was the founder of KMARA and controlled its finances. The movement was initially progressive but it became very ugly and many anti-intellectuals became part of the movement by the middle and end periods of its activity. KMARA was also supported by other non-politicians. There were various groups of singers and writers who supported it, for example. This decision to support KMARA was a wrong one. KMARA was also the strongest pro-American movement. It was greatly influenced by American organizations and pro-Western NGOs in Georgia. During the electoral campaign KMARA urged the population to vote in the elections. Its leading activists believed that Shevardnadze would rig the elections and that KMARA and the opposition parties, along with the people, could go through with a revolution to oust Shevardnadze - they wanted a repeat of Serbian events in Georgia.
The Georgian Opposition Parties
There were many opposition parties in Georgia before the Rose Revolution. These included the National Movement, the United Democrats, the New Rightists, the Labour Party, and Unity. There were also two other so-called opposition parties: The Union of Democratic Revival of Georgia, which was lead by Aslan Abashidze, the head of the autonomous republic of Ajara. He had formerly been in opposition to Shevardnadze but was in reality one of his biggest supporters. The second was called Industry Will Save Georgia". Leaders of this party were businessmen who claimed to be in opposition to Shevardnazde but in reality they supported him. The US and its allies greatly supported two real opposition parties: the National Movement and the United Democrats. The leader of the National Movement, today a candidate for the presidency of Georgia, was Mikhail Saakashvili. Saakashvili, who is a very young politician, received his education in the US as well as in some European countries, and as great of a name both in Georgia and abroad. Saakashvili was a member of the Georgian parliament some years ago. He was also at one time the head of the parliamentary faction of the Citizens' Union of Georgia. He was a Shevardnadze supporter, and was appointed the minister of Justice in Shevardnadze's administration. Eventually, as a mark of protest against Shevardnadze, he resigned and became a Member of Parliament from Vake (Tbilisi). Saakashvili created a political movement called the "National Movement"which formed a faction in parliament. From 2002 on, Saakashvili increased his detestation of Shevardnadze. He always noted in his public speeches that Shevardnadze was a symbol of evil and that he had helped some attain wealth while the levels of poverty were rising greatly in Georgia. Saakashvili also confronted many other high officials involved in bribery that supported Shevardnadze. He promised society that he would arrest all individuals that were destroying Georgia. In 2002 Georgia held elections of local self-governmental bodies and Saakashvili along with his party won. Saakashvili, who had promised Tbilisi that he would develop the economy and would increase the level of well being in the area, left parliament and became the Chairman of the Tbilisi City Assembly. He increasingly criticized Shevardnadze and his popularity with the people was improving greatly. The United Democrats was the second largest opposition party in Georgia, the head of which was Zurab Zhvania, who was the Chairman of Parliament from 1995 until 2001, and was during this time a Shevardnadze supporter. Zhvania left his post as Chairman in 2001 and moved into opposition. Like the National Movement, the United Democrats was pro-American in orientation and was strongly supported by the US and Geroge Soros. Zhvania did not have as great of a name as Saakashvili, but he knew how to play the political game and won support from the White House. Zhvania criticized Shevardnadze but was not quite as radical as Saakashvili. He was in favour of being constructive and has close relations with strong figures in Georgia. After Zhvania, Mrs. Nino Burdjanadze became the Chairman of Parliament. She was a member of Zhvania's political team and the daughter of a famous Georgian businessman and the wife of a Georgian high official. In the months leading up to the parliamentary elections in 2003, Burdjanadze officially declared that she supported Zhvania and became on e of the leaders of the United Democrats. During the pre-election campaign the United Democrats were renamed and became a block called the "Burdjanadze-Democrats. Burdjanadze became a top figure in the party. Zhvania played very cleverly. He was not formally the leader but was in fact deciding everything. He was used to controlling not only his own party but also many pro-American organization in Georgia. The other opposition parties such as the Labour Party, the New Rightists, and Unity turned out not to be a strong opposition and also found themselves in opposition to the National Movement and the United Democrats. Shevardnadze had his own political block in the parliamentary elections which was called the "Block for New Georgia". The leaders of the new block were very horrible high state officials and included those members of parliament whose hatred of the population was demonstrated by their dirty political and financial activities. Shevardnadze also found support in the Union of Democratic Revival, Abashidze's party, which was a formal opposition party only to become Shevardnadze supporter during the revolutionary days. This regime was also supported by Industry Will Save Georgia.It is important that there were not and still are not any real leftist, centrist, or right - wing parties in Georgia. The Labour Party is formally leftist but in reality is not, because it includes many oligarchs and anti-intellectuals. The New Rightists do not also represent a genuine right-wing party.
The Media and NGOs before the Rose Revolution
Anti-Shevardnadze TV stations, the press, and NGOs were very active before the Rose Revolution. The TV station "Rustavi2, which was strongly pro-American, had struggled against Shevardnadze for many years. The newspaper "24 hours" was anti-Shevardnadze because the owner of the newspaper, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, is also the owner of "Rustavi2". Along with truthful information "Rustavi2" also disseminated lies for many years. It is a commercial organization sponsored by the US and is carrying out Western interests in Georgia. It can be said that the TV station did not search for the truth. Shevardnadze's media support came from the television station "Channel 1". It was very ugly TV because it served Shevardnadze and was reporting on how good he was. This of course is a great lie.There were many NGOs that struggled against Shevardnadze; all of which were sponsored by the Soros Foundation, UNDP, USAID and other Western foundations and organizations. Leaders of such NGOs were the Liberty Insti tute, whose leaders were very popular figures but most people could not stand them. The Liberty Institute was a very ugly NGO. It was developing a strongly anti-Marxist campaign in Georgia and it compared Shevardnadze with Karl Marx. This of course points to the anti-intellectualism in the Liberty Institute. It also prepared many reports for the US, providing improper information regarding the rights of national minoritie s and religious rights in Georgia. They did this for money. In the pre-revolutionary processes the Soros Foundation played the greatest role with support of the NGOs. The NGOs struggled minute by minute against Shevardnadze, but unfortunately this was not a struggle for a better life in Georgia. I am afraid that it was a struggle to gain a lot of money. Parliamentary Elections in Georgia On November 2, 2003, Georgia held parliamentary elections. The Central Election Commission was controlled by Shevardnadze. This election was of great political importance for the political situation in Georgia. On November 2, the NGO "Fair Elections" began a parallel counting of votes.This was sponsored by the West. Exit polls were also applied. Rustavi2 contracted the Global Strategic Group USA to take the exit poll results. The government was against the use of exit polls by any organization and tried to break down, in vain, this decision of Rustavi2. In contrast, the government contacted the PR group Nikolo M., who contracted the Austrian sociological group Sora with taking exit poll results. By the evening the exit poll results were different from one another. Global Strategic Group said that the winner was the National Movement and Sora claimed that the government block had won. After two weeks the Central election Commission published the results of the elections from first place to last: the government block, the Union of Democratic Revival, the National Movement, the Labour Party, the Burdjanadze Democrats, and the New Rightists. Fair Elections also published the results of parallel counting: the National Movement, the government block, the Labour Party, the United Democrats, the Union of Democratic Revival. The opposition was angry and they warned Shevardnadze to change the results and to recognize the results of Fair Elections and the victory of the National Movement. Saakashvili, Burdjanadze, and Zhvania met with Shevardnadze, but nothing came from this meeting. Shevardnadze said that he didn't know what had happened and that his party had won. Opposition parties held a number of demonstrations as a warning to Shevardnadze and denounced the results of the Central Election Commission. Then the opposition and KMARA halted all demonstrations for three days. The opposition was gathering people from all parts of Georgia. The demonstrations were then renewed on November 20, 21, 22 where about 100,000 people were demanding the resignation of Shevardnadze. Mikhail Saakashvili declared that all negotiations with the president had been stopped and that they now had only one demand: 100,000 people cried "Resign; Go Home!" The streets of Tbilisi were filled by the largest number of people - people who were fed up with Shevardnadze and his regime. The government ordered the Armed Forces and the police to defend constitutional order. The streets of Tbilisi were also gulled by thousands of armed soldiers. Shevardnadze tried to stay at his post, but it was too late - the Revolution was over.
November 23: the Birthday of the Rose Revolution and the Death of the Shevardnadze Regime
On the morning of November 23 the demonstrations became larger. Students, professors/teachers, workers, and many other youngsters as well as older people were demanding the resignation of Shevardnadze. The opposition and KMARA were of course active, but KMARA was just a little group of protesters. There were many people and it was they who were the force of the Revolution and not the opposition parties and KMARA. An emergency situation was declared in Georgia. The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs met with protesters and supported them. Mikhail Saakashvili and other leaders of the opposition parties stressed that Shevardnadze was finished and that he would resign in a few hours. By the afternoon the situation was out of control. People moved to the President's office and soldiers could not provide any resistance. Tbilisi was visited by many foreign journalists and the situation in Georgia was covered by CNN, the BBC, and other well known TV stations. Saakashvili gave an interview to CNN. The US supported the opposition. By the afternoon Saakashvili entered parliament where the new parliament was in session and spoke to Shevardnadze. Saakashvili and some people entered parliament and told Shevardnadze to go home. Shevardnadze left the building under guard. Some members of parliament were beaten by people. By the evening Saakashvili said that if Shevardnadze would not resign, the people would go to his residence. The process was really uncontrolled. The streets of Tbilisi were paralyzed. Not even God could stop the people. Soldiers and policemen stood aside. Shevardnadze stayed alone and the many governmental supporters left Tbilisi. Saakashvili visited Shevardnadze and after speaking with him,Saakashvili said that the President of Georgia had resigned and that a Rose Revolution had taken place in Georgia. People were very happy. The streets of Tbilisi were filled with many happy people. Everyone was drinking, singing and dancing. Georgia celebrated the withdrawal of Shevardnadze who had governed Georgia for many years, and who could also not build a democratic state. Georgia after the Rose RevolutionOn November 24 the world was informed that a Rose Revolution had taken place in Georgia and that Shevardnadze had resigned. According to the Constitution of Georgia, the Chairman of Parliament, Nino Burdjanadze, was to become the head of state. Burdjanadze is now the interim President of Georgia. Many events have taken place since November 23 and many things have changed. The Opposition came to power, Zurab Zhvania became the Minister of State, and a member of the United Democrats became the Minister of Internal Affairs. Shevardnadze stayed in Georgia and began to write his memoirs. Several state officials left their posts and have left Tbilisi. Some people were arrested. The US expressed its support for the Opposition and it is now clear that the US supported the Rose Revolution. It is very good that corrupt officials have left their posts. All government bodies, executive, legislative, and judicial are now subordinate to the government. There are still problems such as the fact that the Liberty Institute along with the Soros Foundation and the US embassy are actually governing the country. Some people who are well known as being corrupt have been appointed to important positions. Georgia's coffers are empty and the government cannot pay its salaries. Many young ambitious, anti-intellectual, and pro-American people have become high officials.On January 4, Georgia will hold new presidential elections. The candidate of the Opposition is Mikhail Saakashvili. Saakashvili is saying that a new era will begin in Georgia - an era of prosperity. But does Georgia stand a chance of achieving it? I don't think there is an answer, and if we look at the current situation, I think that the promises of the Rose Revolution will stay just that - promises. So I think that prosperity and the well being of the people lies in their own hands and with Saakashvili. People must not allow him to be a governer such as Shevardnadze was. The majority are going to vote for Saakashvili, but they must know the words of John Lennon who said that we must create our life our selves, and not rely on presidents. Let's see what will happen.