and the Conflict in Georgia

by Jill Snoddy
February 08, 1998



Although the reign of Zviad Gamsakhurdia was less than a year in length, he managed to leave a lasting impression on the Georgian people. Gamsakhurdia's rule through authoritarian oppression lead to the quickest outsting of a president and left the people with a strong distrust of leadership and a large ethnic divide. Gamsakhurdia started his climb to power as a pro-independence and human rights activist in the 1970s as a teenager in Georgia. He then went on to serve for the Round Table party, and in May of 1991 he was elected president with majority favor in Parliament.

At the time of his election, interethnic conflict in Gerogia was at an all-time high. The native Georgians were in constant conflict with the Abkhazians, who were--and still are--an autonomous country withing the borders of Georgia. Gamsakhurdia was very much a pro-Georgian ruler, and made no peacekeeping efforts during his short reign. "With no incentive to seek a peaceful settlement in any ethnic dispute, Gamsakhurdia's administration tended to define a maximal pro-Georgian position, thus ensuring a continuation of the deadlock"(Diuk, 153). Gamsakhurdia's dictator-like style was opposed in the new state of Georgia. He ruled with little emotion and drew much disagreement from groups all over the state.

This president also made some bad decisions during his term in office, one of which was to disband the national guard. The guard, refusing to agree to his demands, took their weapons and formed an alliance and protest. This would spell the beginning of the end for Gamsakhurdia. On September 2, 1991, a political demonstration ended in disaster as police opened fire and injured several people. Deciding they'd had enough oppression, Gamsakhurdia's political opponents all decided to work together to overthrow the government. Lead by the national guard, the opposition gained the support of the masses, and even recruited members of his own government. Even when his political staff left for the opposition, he showed no signs of surrendering his position as president. In fact, he showed "himself completely unable to cope with protests from many sides"(Diuk, 154).

In the face of such opposition, Gamsakhurdia became more strict. His laws were oppressive and the masses viewed him as a violent tyrant. Georgia's first democratically elected president was run out of office in January of 1992, only eight months after he was elected.

This left a lasting impression on the Georgians seeking freedom and democracy. They became untrusting of government, and the image of this iron-fisted ruler became a haunting reminder of their first try at freedom. Also, to this day there are ethnic struggles that are perhaps even more prevelant than ever before. Gamsakhurdia did nothing to help the volatile situation, and instead made things worse by his close-minded, pro-state Georgia.




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