Georgia, Ex-Soviet Union
November 22, 2003 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Political chaos grips Georgia
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has declared a state of emergency after opposition forces seized parliament. He refused to resign and said the armed forces would now take over after what he called a coup attempt.
A rough rundown on the current situation, Google News
posted by zerofoks (27 comments total)
Oh, *that* Georgia. For a second there, you had me worried like a principal on prom night.
posted by zpousman at 11:13 AM on November 22, 2003

*deftly switches hayseed from right side of mouth to left*
posted by zpousman at 11:14 AM on November 22, 2003

I saw this breaking news story on CNN this morning where they showed the crowds outside and then showed Georgia's version of CSPAN showing the opposition guys rushed into the parliament chambers. Pretty wild. One group's coup is another's view of democracy in action.

Of course it wasn't that big of deal since CNN quickly shifted back to Michael Jackson coverage and then a show about how to stop smoking.
posted by birdherder at 11:32 AM on November 22, 2003

Bloody amazing...can you imagine if a group tried this in the US? The sheer volume of casualties would be astounding.
posted by dejah420 at 12:19 PM on November 22, 2003

an increasingly unpopular president + rigged election = X

in georgia they know how to solve the equation. the USA is a bit slower to do the math.
posted by quonsar at 12:21 PM on November 22, 2003

A good friend of mine lived in Tsblisi for a year, and best I can tell, it's one retrograde, f'd up place. A shame.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:57 PM on November 22, 2003

True Paris. Even before this most recent turmoil, it has been one of the most dangerous places to travel to in the world.
posted by pitchblende at 1:28 PM on November 22, 2003

So, is the offer still on the table to Arnold for naming a mountain Mount Schwarzenegger in Georgia?
posted by graventy at 2:17 PM on November 22, 2003

Hm.. Didn't Tom Clancy predict this?
posted by hoborg at 2:25 PM on November 22, 2003

I have been covering this in my journal extensively over the past few days. All I can say is that there's a whole lotta gray here.

Schevardnadze's nemisis, Mikhail Saakashvili, is a 33-year old who holds a degree from Columbia School of Law and interned at a NYC law practice before returning to Georgia in '95 (at Schevardnadze's request!) to get involved in politics. Schevy wanted ex-pat reformers with clean hands to oppose the communists. Unfortunately for him, he got them...

Now, Saakashvili might sound like the right guy to lead Georgia, and he seems to have the right motives. What is questionable are his methods. He has, at varying times, suggested outlawing the Communist Party, and even banning the votes of the rival Labor Party, who competes with his National Party over the same constituency.

Shevardnadze views Saakashvili as a Frankenstein's monster, while Saakashvili views Shevardnadze as a failed reformer who has sold out to special interests. Certainly, there is a bit of that -- Shevardnadze has turned to the former communists and right-wing (amongst others) to form a government. What *isn't* being said is that Saakashvili has a mob of students who have helped him seize control of the government, rather than just protesting or using civil disobedience, and that this mob is apparently financed to the tune of several million dollars by none other than George Soros through his Open Society Georgia Foundation.

I thought it was kinda cool when Soros decided to fund the Democrats to get rid of Bush, but it's another thing entirely when you fund a coup d'etat -- even if that wasn't Soros' intent. If this turns into the bloodbath it could become, the blood will be on Soros' hands.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:36 PM on November 22, 2003

One thing that should be mentioned is Georgia's black market, which is approximately three times the size of the rest of its economy. Opium goes from the warlords in Afghanistan to smuggers (including Chechen refugees), to the Georgians to the West. Money and guns come back the other way and help support both the Chechen separatist movement and the warlords in Afghanistan.

It should be noted that there are both US and Russian troops inside Georgia as we speak -- the US have a few hundred special-ops "advisors" training the Georgian military -- the very same military that might soon be slaughtering Saakashvili's supporters. The Russians probably have at least several thousand troops in the country, which have been there since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russians would no doubt like to maintain their presence and influence in Georgia and may see Saakashvili as a threat too, and see what they can do to help his departure along.

We'll have to see, but I heard that the Georgian army is taking up positions around the parliament. Could get messy. Either that, or there will probably be *another* another election. Third times the charm?!
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:59 PM on November 22, 2003

insomnia_lj, thanks for the analysis...
Mark Ames in the infamous exile, has one of his trademark usual rant / insightful analysis combo about Georgia and the situation there, written quite recently.
He makes this out to be a preparation for a proxy war (a civil war at that) driven by competing US and Russian oil interests and pursued by one of the most corrupt political systems in the world.
He has, untypically, missed the Soros angle...
Things look bad right now as insomnia_lj suggests, I'm afraid, but it isn't just Soros who's to blame.
This was the richest of the Soviet republics 15 years ago BTW... it's a unique and historic nation and it's a damn shame what's been happening to the country.
posted by talos at 4:01 PM on November 22, 2003

A more useful/less Georgian link for Soros' Open Society Georgia Foundation.

The question remains... did Soros inadvertently fund a coup, or is that just what someone wants us to believe?! If I were Bush, I couldn't think of a person who I would rather frame...
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:26 PM on November 22, 2003

I heard from Maia Uturgaury in Tbilisi, Georgia. Although her journal is in Russian, she replied to me in English. (If anyone wants to take a stab at translating her most recent post, it would be appreciated.)

"Things are definitely confusing in Georgia as of now. Nobody knows who is the authority right now and that's awful because people don't know who to obey.

I'm not sure about Soros, they do say that he's the one who has supported the whole opposition side but nobody says it's for sure. But if it's not Soros than it would have to be someone else, as the opposition has to have money from somewhere.

Saakashvili definitely has to leave parliament, and they should not have done what they have. They keep on saying -- actually he keeps on saying -- that it was a peaceful demonstration. Well throwing bottles with gas and breaking everything doesn't look peaceful to me for some reason.

If anybody in this country would have enough brains, they would arrest Saakashvili in a moment when he was alone with a few people and not the whole crowd. And as we know when there's no leader, the crowd has no one to follow. But that's only my humble opinion."

posted by insomnia_lj at 4:48 PM on November 22, 2003

in georgia they know how to solve the equation. the USA is a bit slower to do the math

And once again, quonsar comes up with the best one-liner of the thread. Damn you and your rapier-wit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:00 PM on November 22, 2003

Now, Saakashvili might sound like the right guy to lead Georgia...

Why must there be a "right guy to lead Georgia"? This is how the US has screwed half the world up, picking a "right guy" who turns out not to be so great after all. Frankly, I doubt at this point there is a right guy, any more than there is for Iraq. Like many countries, they'll have to struggle along with one wrong guy after another until they get lucky. Or not.

And I wouldn't be so quick to accept rumors about Soros. Not that he's a saint, but in a place like Georgia, everybody's the subject of nasty suspicions. I imagine there are people who confidently assert that Shevardnadze's a Jew who takes his orders from the Mossad and/or the Masons.

All that aside, many thanks to insomnia_lj and talos for the information and links. As recompense, I'll translate Maia's latest post:
So... the day the opposition has been waiting for is here. The hour has come when they can show their knowledge of crowd management, and the crowd has followed an insufficiently educated culprit, the one who broke up the session of Parliament, just because he, she, and again he, I think the names are known to everyone, threw to the winds some promises whose words don't signify much.

I never really delved into politics, I don't get it and don't want to get it, because it's its own scene where everything goes according to a well-worked-out scenario.

But, but... today I just can't stand the ignorance of the crowd. I understand that Shevardnadze isn't the best leader for our poor country, I agree that he long ago wore a hole in his armchair, but this doesn't give some guy, some greenhorn, the right to holler to the world that the President should beat it and quit his job. (In Georgian it sounds too rude.)

The Georgian "Steel Lady" for some reason decided to take on herself the duties of president just because she wanted to, although the old parliament with the old speaker at its head (who somehow functioned as speaker and opposition simultaneously) hadn't worked for a long time.

But let's leave politics in peace, those are games for people who play games. The sad thing is that whoever runs the country, Georgia won't be the better for it. Each new president coming to power will try to get as much money as possible before he has to leave his warm spot.

So as we say in Georgian, "Sakartvelos araperi eshveleba." [Sorry, I've packed up my Georgian books and can't translate this, except that Sakartvelo is Georgia and I think araperi is 'nothing.'] Retired people's pensions will remain 14 lari, on which it's impossible to get by [?] in the course of a month. Professors will all be standing on the street selling things for 5 lari. Most people will stay unemployed, continue to exist on the money their relatives send them from abroad.

Seems like my thoughts have exhausted themselves. Although I could develop this theme and say more and more, and anyway there would be only one conclusion in the end, the people who at a given time fight their way to power don't think about the people or about the poor peasants who don't have anything to live on, but about their own hide, about what they need and want to get. And we should pity those who don't understand that they are no more than tools in the hands of the well-schooled opposition.
posted by languagehat at 7:06 PM on November 22, 2003

tell her to stay safe, sounds very messed up (i wonder if the russians will get more involved?)
posted by amberglow at 7:12 PM on November 22, 2003

"Why must there be a "right guy to lead Georgia"? This is how the US has screwed half the world up, picking a "right guy" who turns out not to be so great after all."

I don't disagree with you. My only point here is that Saakashvili is not a saint. He's a real person with complex motives who faces a serious ethical dilemma. No matter how noble his intentions may be, the question remains whether the ends justify the means. Something tells me that the means could get pretty ugly before all this is resolved.

"And I wouldn't be so quick to accept rumors about Soros."

And I'm not, however, there *ARE* published stories out there that should be discussed in the West. Certainly, someone is bankrolling the opposition, and that money does appear likely to be from the West. Is it Soros? Is it the US government? Someone else, perhaps? Unknown. Still, it's worth mentioning. There are only 4 million Georgians in a poor country, so a few million dollars used correctly can buy quite a bit... perhaps a government.

Thanks for the translation. Very nicely written too. Maybe she'll become the Georgian Riverbend. ;->
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:35 PM on November 22, 2003

Not to be overlooked
Oil and Gas Transportation
Georgia is positioned to become an important corridor for oil and gas transportation betweenthe Caspian Sea basin and Western markets. At least four pipelines are either operational or being planned/under construction:
posted by thedailygrowl at 11:24 PM on November 22, 2003

I left a comment suggesting that if she described the Georgian situation in English she might pick up some more readers. (I wonder why she calls it "die Ziege's journal"? A Ziege is a female goat, and 'goat' is quite insulting in Russian!)

Incidentally, I presume the "she" in her entry is Nino Burdzhanadze, who's now effectively running things. At least there doesn't seem to have been violence so far...

And I think it's infinitely more likely that the sub rosa money financing the opposition comes from the CIA or comparable secret-government sources (who have done this sort of thing all over -- notably, as Ames points out in the piece talos links, in Serbia) than that it comes from the pro-democracy Soros.
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on November 23, 2003

Georgian Leader Signs Resignation Papers

Georgi Baramadize, an opposition leader, cited protest leader Mikhail Saakashvili as telling him by telephone from Shevardnadze's residence that the Georgian leader was at that moment signing his resignation.

from The Agonist
posted by y2karl at 9:50 AM on November 23, 2003

languagehat: "Not that he's a saint, but in a place like Georgia, everybody's the subject of nasty suspicions. I imagine there are people who confidently assert that Shevardnadze's a Jew who takes his orders from the Mossad and/or the Masons."
No, languagehat, the actual conspiracy is an anti-orthodox one and rather than involving Eduard Shevardnadze it involves (the rather deviously suspect anyway) Richard Miles, who is a pawn of the Masons, yes, but also of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Jews have no role in this plot apparently... If you don't believe me, check out the Batumi news (based in Russian controlled Georgian autonomous republic of Ajaria) which reports on the views of MP Guram Sharadze - 'one of the leaders of the Govt. bloc “For New Georgia”, leader of the movement “Language, Patria, Confession"':

The Govt. bloc member notes the US Ambassador as an enemy of the Orthodox Church, saying Masons could not safeguide the plans by means of George Soros and Jehovah’s Witnesses and here emerged Mr. Richard Miles to carry it through.

Sharadze, meanwhile, accused the US Ambassador in Georgia in cooperation with the financier George Soros, “who is enemy of Georgia” Mr. Richard Miles is actively mediating in the talks of the Govt. and the opposition.

But, seriously, when Miles is sent to a country, somehow some sort of trouble materializes shortly thereafter...
posted by talos at 11:34 AM on November 23, 2003

Oops... here's the Batumi News link...
posted by talos at 11:35 AM on November 23, 2003

well, he stepped down now.
wow, that seemed bloodless and right.
maybe we now know what should have happened a couple of years ago...
posted by Busithoth at 2:37 PM on November 23, 2003

Wait a little before you decide it was right. Remember, the Baath Party looked like a good solution for Iraq a few decades ago, and Chechnya looked like it was doing pretty well circa 1993. I think Georgia's fucked for a while; it's just a question of how much how many people get fucked.

talos: I believe you, I believe you! But how could the Masons abandon their traditional Israelite alliance and go with those upstart Witnesses?
*shakes head sadly*
posted by languagehat at 5:21 PM on November 23, 2003

power to the people
posted by memnock at 7:20 PM on November 23, 2003

Maia has updated her journal with an entry in English; here's the first part:
So today at 8:50pm President of Georgia has resigned. He resigned not b/c he wanted to but b/c he had no other outcome. If he would've declared an Emergency Situation in the country while there were only a few thousands standing in front of the Parliament House than the situation could've been on his side. But Mr Shevardnadze had some vague hope and that hope has dissapeared when around 50000 people have gathered and didn't let the Parliament sitting to take place. That's when the "old fox" didn't know anymore what to do. He needed help and the help came from in the form of Mr Ivanov the Minister of External Affairs of Russia. It was probably him who preposed to leave the post of President with dignity. A very smart action of the Russian Minister was to go out and talk to the people. Not only the words mattered in this case but the very fact that he did it.

Our ex-president with his nickname "the old fox" definitely wasn't a saint but he has done some good deeds for the best of Georgia and that shouldn't be forgotten. As the tv was showing the last minutes of Eddi's reign something deep inside me turned over. I was never for Shevardnadze, I was never against him, the life of the mass and my life won't be changed, but it just clicked in me that that's not the way a president is to leave his chair. At least it's not pleasant to watch a 76 year old person to leave his residence with disgrace, when you know that he has done at least some good for your country. But at least it was warmhearting to hear that he will stay in Georgia and won't leave it running away with Mr. Ivanov.
Thanks again for the link, insomnia_lj. It's great to have this view from inside.

Oh, and she says the Georgian in the entry I translated above means 'nothing will cure/help Georgia.'
posted by languagehat at 8:42 PM on November 23, 2003

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