From 12th-graders’ textbook, “History 12” by Gvantsa Abdaladze, Nata Akhmeteli, Bondo Kupatadze, Nikoloz Murgulia; Chapter 63: The Soviet Union’s Collapse and Georgia’s Independence, pgs. 324-325 (Diogene Publishing House, Tbilisi, Georgia: 2012)
On January 6, 1992, [then Georgian President -- ed] Zviad Gamsakhurdia, together with his supporters, left Tbilisi and sought refuge first in Armenia, but then in Chechnya(1). Use of military force caused the legitimate government to fall. A military council (Jaba Ioseliani, Tengiz Kitovani, Tengiz Sigua) took power.
[Illustration 5: A fight in Tbilisi’s streets]
The military coup started off a civil war in the country. Supporters of the refugee Zviad Gamsakhurdia continued to fight. The crisis only intensified, which provided favorable conditions for Abkhaz and Ossetian separatists. The Georgian intelligentsia considered that bringing back [former Georgian Communist Party First Secretary and KGB boss – ed] Eduard Shevardnadze from Moscow as the way to extract the country from the crisis. In March 1992, Eduard Shevardnadze returned to Georgia. The military council transferred power to the State Council of which Eduard Shevardnadze became the chairperson. In October 1992, parliamentary elections took place. Parliamentary Chairperson Eduard Shevardnadze was bestowed with the functions of head of state.
[Illustration 6: Abkhazia’s government headquarters in Sokhumi]
During the civil war period, Zviad Gamsakhuria’s forces controlled a part of western Georgia, separatists controlled Abkhazia(2) and Shida Kartli(3) [location of South Ossetia -- ed]. By the State Council’s decision, in August 1992 Georgian police and troops entered Abkhazia in order to defend the transportation corridor. This step proved to be a big political mistake. The troops ended up involved in military operations. The war began. Mercenaries fought on the side of the Abkhaz separatists – North Caucasians and parts of the Russian army which were located on Abkhaz territory. The separatists took Gagra, Sokhumi, Ochamchire, Gali and, on September 27, 1993, Sokhumi fell. Approximately 300,000 Georgians and other nationalities’ citizens were displaced from Abkhazia. The separatists crossed the border at the Inguri River.
The country’s civil conflict resumed. The “Zviadists” blamed Shevardnadze’s government for the loss of Abkhazia. The ex-president’s supporters were defeated. In December 1993, amid conditions that remain unclear to this day, Georgia’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia(4), died. Anarchy and disorder continued in the country . . .
Questions[Selected for relevance – ed]:
2. In your opinion, what was the role of outside forces in Georgia’s civil war?
5. In your opinion, to what extent did the civil war contribute to Georgia’s loss of territory?
6. To what extent were the military council and Eduard Shevardnadze’s post as chairperson legitimate?
7. What is a government crisis? In your opinion, by what means is it possible to overcome or regulate it?
1. Find various materials about the civil war, including the Tbilisi war, and write an essay on the topic “Civil War and State Interests.”
2. Prepare an essay on the topic “The 2003 Rose Revolution and the Transformation of Georgia’s Course.”
Translated and reprinted with permission from Diogene Publishing House, Tbilisi, Georgia
(1) Chai Khana: President Zviad Gamsakhurdia actually first entered Azerbaijan, which allowed him only safe transit, before heading to Armenia.
(2) Chai Khana: Abkhazia was not primarily under the control of forces opposing Georgian rule until September 1993.
(3) Chai Khana: Shida Kartli, the region which contains South Ossetia, was not entirely under the control of separatists during 1993. After a 1991-1992 armed conflict with Tbilisi over autonomy, parts of South Ossetia remained under Tbilisi’s control until 2008. The rest of Shida Kartli had no separatist movement.
(4) Chai Khana: This refers to the post-Soviet era. Noe Jordania served as president of the first, independent Georgian republic from 1918 to 1921 and leader of the Georgian government-in-exile until 1953.
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About the Reporter: Zura Balanchivadze is a Tbilisi-based freelance journalist who is the son of Internally Displaced Persons from Abkhazia. He has previously participated in peace-building exercises with Abkhaz youth.