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Ana Dabrundashvili

Let It Go: Transition Leader of Georgia Passed Away

“You Should Also Go” is a jocular version of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” played on popular Georgian cartoon series “Dardubala”, which was created to mock president Shevardnadze and the government in the late 90s. In the lyrics, even Michael Jordan, who already realized that it had been time to leave Basketball, was backed by the most respectful Tamada – who already can hardly lead the Supra through ten toasts – in encouraging the then president, Eduard Shevardnadze to leave his post. This is a good example of just how much  Georgia was fed up with its second President at the time.

Watch the video: დარდუბალა-შენც წადი(Let It Be)

USSR. Georgia. Tbilisi. Demolition. Author: Socialism Expo., source: Flickr

USSR. Georgia. Tbilisi. Demolition. Author: Socialism Expo., source: Flickr

The news of the death of the second President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze reached Georgian citizens on 7 July 2014. At first nobody took it seriously – it wasn’t the first time when overeager journalists had mistakenly announced his passing away. It was perhaps a bit strange that the guy who once had seemed to be the President forever was actually dead. So many things have happened in Georgia since – it is hard to even remember when the then most powerful man in he country ruled.

The idea of the revolution that ousted Shevardnadze in 2003 looked unrealistic till the very moment when Shevardnadze told journalists he was going ‘home’ and left Georgians with their jaws dropped. This was almost as memorable as the sight of him in one of those sleeveless white men’s T-shirts, named Shevardnadze Maikas (Shevardnadze T-shirts) after the events.

Since then Shevardnadze went public perhaps a few times, though presenting himself only in his cabinet with the same green walls, sitting on the same black leather sofa, surrounded by his photographs taken with the world leaders, speaking and emanating naivety as always, as if he didn’t know anything more than an average citizen. His speeches always left the audience to wonder whether this guy – nicknamed Fox – was actually as smart as everyone thought he was. Perhaps nobody ever knew for sure how he managed to become so successful.

Georgia: Eduard Shevardnadze’s Political Career

By the end of his last term as the President of Georgia, Shevardnadze turned from the man who broke the Berlin Wall down, who rose from a Georgian village boy to the leadership of the Soviet Union into a joke who fed the whole generation of Georgian comedians all alone, who perhaps did not even fully understand that the country slipped away and was going down.

Georgia hated him for more than a decade, but grew to forgive him as he remained in his quiet retirement.

Now some Georgians have no anger left to the ousted President and his decade-long rule of corruption, poverty and darkness; after all, the 1990s look even a bit romantic from this point. The citizens even give him credit for the first tiny but difficult steps he took towards Europe and recognize that he in fact inherited a wreck of a country to rule and made it into something a bit better.

Georgia’s current and former leaders are cautious, trying not to be too much heart-broken speaking of Shevardnadze’s death nor disrespectful of the former President. Maybe not as much loved as hated, he is highly controversial – as it suits a politician – but deserves to remain in Georgia’s memory.

Project Syndicate: The Silver Fox of Dictatorship and Democracy

The New Yorker: Postscript: Eduard Shevardnadze, 1928-2014

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Ana is from Tbilisi, Georgia, where she currently works for the Caucasus Research Resource Centers. She has an MA in International Relations and BA in Journalism. Pursues writing in free time and is interested in literature.

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