was firm in his resolve to stand fast.
The resolve didn't last, nor did his control
of his country.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned
his post on Sunday, but the veteran politician
lost control of his country long before.
By the time the president had declared a state
of emergency last Saturday evening, emergencies
in Abkhazia, Southern Osetia and Adjaria had long-since
contributed to the general conditions that prompted
an uprising in Tbilisi.
Those three troublesome regions are hardly connected
to Tbilisi, as each has turned into a self-declared
One of Shevardnadze's last official acts was
to dismiss his Secretary of National Security,
Tedo Japaridze - probably in retaliation for ineffective
police enforcement that allowed the overthrow
of parliament during Shevardnadze's address Saturday.
Now the spotlight shines on the security, not
of a capital divided politically, but of a small
country split by factions.
Since the disputed parliament elections of November
2 and until his resignation three weeks later,
Shevardnadze, who is 75, showed glimpses of the
strong-willed politician that once earned Gorbachev's
Kremlin's high regard as Foreign Minister of the
But his stubborn vows to not give up his post
turned to shallow rhetoric and the man himself
seemed even confused as how it all happened. While
parliament was being overrun, Shevardnadze couldn't
stop reading out the speech of his appeal to deputies.
He was shocked so much that his bodyguards pulled
the president from the rostrum almost by force.
It was right for Shevardnadze to resign. Given
the hard conditions in Georgia, it likely would
have been in his country's best interests for
him to have stepped aside earlier.
celebrated its revolution. But will the
Still, despite his mistakes - the biggest of
which might have been his trying to hang on too
long (he was in power as president for 10 years)
- he didn't deserve to go out this way. At the
end, the "Caucasus Fox" was left to
plead for safety from the very ones whom he had
brought to power.
The past month, and especially the past week
in Georgia is a reminder that, even in the detached
world of politics and the idealized realm of democracy
anyone can become a victim. Such is Shevardnadze's
But while his reign is being chronicled as a
conclusion (even he is saying he will write about
these last days), it is far from the "dignified
ending". It is, rather, a beginning of a
new period that will begin with challenge when
the dust of revolution settles to reveal a struggling
country weakened internally and dependant on the
Watching how people are celebrating and dancing
on Rustaveli Square in Tbilisi one could think
that they had overthrown a dictator or tyrant.
However, Shevardnadze was neither. Despite his
wide experience he simply couldn't build a secure
state system providing a normal, functioning country.
He was a weakened president, who was poorly calculating
his moves both in internal and foreign policy.
In the nearest future it will become clear whether
new people will be able to institute control over
the situation or whether their powers of government
are limited only to Rustaveli Square. However,
probably the most important question is whether
they will be able to provide bloodless division
in the various spheres of power and influence.
Only then will it be evident whether this revolution
is indeed "velvet". Will there be dancing
in the square when a new conductor is orchestrating
resigned president left behind a cup of
tea. The expected next president, Saakashvili,
picked it up as a symbol of change.
For Armenia these unknowns are of primary significance.
Instability and unpredictability in Georgia could
have immediate consequences for its neighbor to
the south. For instance, with borders closed to
the east and west, Georgia becomes Armenia's land
transport gateway to the former Soviet Union and
It is not a time yet for talking about predictability
and for celebrating. It still must become clear
who won, and what was their prize in Georgia.
For the present moment we only know how it happened
and only in general terms.
Official Yerevan expressed satisfaction that
confrontation in Georgia had a peaceful ending.
"We are interested in a maximum stable and
controlled situation in Georgia," said Armenian
President Robert Kocharyan, adding "it will
happen if processes develop in a legal and constitutional
Armenian authorities expressed readiness to cooperate
with new Georgian authorities and Speaker of Armenian
Parliament Arthur Baghdasaryan has already had
telephone conversation with interim president
of the neighboring country Nino Burjanadze. During
that conversation both sides confirmed their intentions
to continue cooperation based on principles of
good-neighbor relations and mutual understanding.
Western leaders, with whom Shevardnadze says
he had brotherly relations, didn't make any attempts
to intervene on his behalf, citing concerns of
"internal affairs of a sovereign state".
From Shevardnadze's old post to the north, however,
came Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor
Ivanov. But Ivanov didn't come to rescue the man
who once held his position, but to mediate his
resignation. By delegating its foreign minister,
Russia confirmed its interest in Tbilisi and at
the same time hinted that it was not going to
save Shevardnadze's power.
The United States has expressed its willingness
"to work with the president of transition
period, Nino Burjanadze, taking part in her efforts
on preserving the integrity of Georgian democracy."
On January 4, Georgia will elect a new president.
Former Minister of Justice and protagonist of
last week's "velvet revolution" Mikhail
Saakashvili is the favored candidate.
As melodrama, events in Tbilisi have had something
for all: scandal, betrayal, lyrical episodes,
loneliness of the protagonist, who by the end
of an act wasn't a protagonist anymore, only deepened
Everyone could find in that play any episodes
according to their own moods and interests. For
instance, supporters of gender equality must have
been satisfied that a man was replaced (at least
in the interim) by a brave woman.
On the whole, oppositional leaders of Post-Soviet
territories may take Tbilisi "sketches"
as lessons of demonstrative political arithmetic.
Armenia might even see some of itself in what
has transpired in its neighborhood.
After presidential elections of 1996 the situation
here was developing as dramatically as in Georgia.
Protests and discontent festered and led to a
president's resignation - albeit two years after
In 1996 authorities could hope for the support
of security ministries. And leaders of opposition
were following people rather than heading them.
That's why Levon Ter-Petrosyan didn't resign in
1996 but only in 1998 when he realized that security
ministries were not with him anymore. There was
no need even for mass meetings and demonstrations.
As with Shevardnadze, it became clear that the
people had long before turned on their president.