Georgia: authoritarian transition or state capture?

Georgia: authoritarian transition or state capture?

by Ronald S. Mangum

Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia

Presented to the 4th Pan-European Conference (virtual)

13 September 2021

© Ronald S. Mangum, 2021


Huntington posited that democracy is the best form of state governance, but he recognized that often before a state could become a democracy, there would be a period in which a less-than-democratic authoritarian government was needed in order to provide the stability in which democracy could prosper. Georgia became an independent state in 1991 and almost immediately entered a period of internal strife and civil war. When the wars ended and stability returned, it was under an authoritarian Eduard Shevardnadze. In 2003, the “Rose Revolution” evicted Shevardnadze from power and introduced Mikheil Saakashvili, who entered with great hopes for increased democracy. Saakashvili’s government began by virtually eliminating corruption and promising far-reaching democratic reforms. That government, however, became increasingly authoritarian, and in 2012 it was soundly defeated by the Georgian Dream coalition under billionaire Bedzina Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili’s government has also become increasingly authoritarian, so the aim of this study is to discover if Georgia is still in an authoritarian transition, which Larry Diamond said could last for decades, or if the ruling elites are engaged in State Capture

Georgia: authoritarian transition or state capture?

This paper examines Georia’s tortured path toward independence and democracy from the events that followed the declaration of Georgian independence in April 1991 and Georgia’s subsequent march toward becoming a democracy until its current political dilemmas. After announcing Georgia’s indedpendence from the Soviet Union, President Zviad Gamsakhurdia tried deparatedly to introduce democratic principles into the country’s government, but his efforts led to his increasing authortarian movements that alienated his initially ardent supporters and led to three years of discord and civil war. Subsequently the country turned to its former leader, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze who was also the former Foreign Minister of the Sovient Union, to restore stability. Shevardnadze succeeded, with Russian assistance, in restoring peace and producing a stable government, which all acknowedged became increasingly corrupt. That corruption led to popular support for Mikhail Saakashvili to attempt institutional modernization and infrastructure-building that also became increasingly arbitrary and authoritarian and ultimately resulted in Saakashvili’s downfall and the entry of the Georgian Dream coalition of Bedzina Ivanishvili. The Georgian Dream won the 2012 Parliamentary Election with an overwhelming majority that seemed to evidence a truly democratic turn in Georgian politics. But the Georgian Dream appeared to be firmly under the thumb of one man, its founder and temporary Prime Minister. From Gamsakhurdia, through Shevardnadze, Saakashvili and Ivanishvili, it is questionable if Georgia has ever left its authoritarian transition to experience real democracy, and whether it is still waiting for democracy to emerge.

The issue: Is Georgia still undergoing an authoritarian transition?

Huntington, a strong proponent of democracy as the best of government, recognized that in developing, or as he called them, modernizing countries that were transitioning from a dictatorial system to a democracy, instability and chaos was a common event. His solution was to recognize that often an authoritarian government was necessary to establish stability for the country to progress toward democracy – an authoritarian transition. While this transition has been helpful in many countries, it has also led to high levels of corruption in which private interests in politics or commerce become so pervasive that they affect the very nature of government which then functions for the benefit of private interests. This phenomenon is known as “State Capture”.

As defined by the World Bank, state capture is derived from the concept of regulatory capture which has been established in the economics literature.

“State regulatory agencies are said to the ‘captured’ when they regulate businesses in accordance with the private interests of the regulated as opposed to the public interest for which they were established. . .. State capture . . . encompasses the formation of laws, rules and decrees by a wider range of state institutions, including the executive, ministries and state agencies, legislature and the judiciary. . . that focuses exclusively on illicit, illegitimate and non-transparent forms of influence.”[1]

Several states have been accused of being victims of state capture, with the most notable being South Africa.[2] In The Shadow State, the authors define state capture:

The aim of state capture is not to bypass rules to get away with corrupt behavior; the term ‘corruption’ obscures the politics that frequently informs these processes, treating it as a moral or cultural pathology. Yes, corruption, as is often the case in South Africa, is frequently the result of a political conviction that the formal ‘rules of the game’ are rigged against specific constituencies, and it is therefore legitimate to break them. The aim of state capture is to change the rules of the game, legitimize them and select the players who are allowed to participate.”

Georgia has arguably undergone three periods that would qualify under Huntington’s definition of an authoritarian transition, first from Gamsaxurdia to Shevardnadze and then from Shevardnadze to Saakashvili and then from Saakashvili to Ivanishvili.

But the additional question raised here is “does the corruption attendant to these transitions also rise to the level of state capture”? Gamsaxurdia’s government was so ineffective that even corruption couldn’t survive. But corruption was rampant under Shevardnadze, and it can be argued that private interests controlled the government under his regime. Saakashvili began his presidency as a reformer to eliminate corruption, and according to public opinion he succeeded at the ‘street level’ but as his presidency continued into its second term, Saakashvili became more authoritarian and arguably more corrupt at the higher levels of government, favoring friends, family, and cronies. Did this rise to the level of state capture by private interests?

One of the strongest institutions in Georgian government was its National Security Council, first established under Gamsaxurdia, but re-created as the most powerful authoritarian organ of government under Shevardnadze and contining as such through Saakashvili’s regime.

The role of the National Security Council in Georgia

In 1991, Zviad Gamsaxurdia, issued a Presidential Order creating a National Security Council. Where did he get the idea to create a National Security Council? The Soviet Union did not have a national security council and neither did the Democratic Republic of Georgia that existed in 1918-1921. Gamsaxurdia admired the United States, if for no other reason than it was the only counter-balance to a dying Soviet Union. Gamsaxurdia either knew of the U.S. National Security Council or was advised of it by some of his American visitors, such as U.S. President Richard Nixon. Therefore, conceding that the idea of the first Georgian National Security Council of 1991 originated in Amercia, and knowing that the subsequent Shevardnadze National Security Council of 1996 was supposed to be patterned on the American model[3], did Georgia imitate the U.S. model in design and operation?

In Georgia as in the United States, the NSC follows the alter-ego of the President and one indication of authoritarian control in Georgia is the operative status of the NSC from Shevardnadze to Ivanishvili. In the United States and in most European states, the NSC is an advisory body that analyzes foreign and domestic events and provides recommendations for action to the political leaders. Not so in Georgia. The NSC has, since its beginnings under Shevardnadze, been a top-secret operative body subordinate directly to the President. While the NSC was supposed to be a coordinating body among the government ministries, instead it implements the decisions of the country’s leader and closely monitors the actions of the government ministries. It remains a central object of authoritarian control in what is supposed to be an open and transparent liberal democracy.

The Gamsaxurdia experiment

Zviad Gamsaxurdia was a member of a Georgian noble family. His father, Konstantin Gamsaxurdia, was a popular writer in Georgian, German, Russian, French, and English[4]. His son, Zviad was an avowed populist oppositionist to Soviet Rule, but “like many Third World leaders, he was a product of the imperial system. Although bitterly opposed to Soviet structures and values, he was cast in their likeness.[5] Gamsaxurdia championed democracy, but it is likely that he did not really understand it. As one source said: “was it ‘democracy or kacha puri’?[6] In his public speeches he expressed a desire for open government and free transition of leadership, but his government structure and policy continued the same closed and repressive system as under the former Soviet government, and as soon as he officially gained power, instead of planning a transition to transparent government and free elections, he began to plan how he could keep that  power himself.[7]

Gamsaxurdia desperately wanted the West, especially the United States, to officially recognize Georgia’s independence, but as he became increasingly dictatorial and removed from his own people, the likelihood that the West would support him diminished.  Georgia’s refusal to participate in the March 1991 Russian All-Union referendum or to sign a friendship agreement with Russia, further labeled Georgia as nonconformist and foreclosed the possibility of Western support. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was formed by Ukraine and Belarus on 8 December 1991. On 21 December 1991 eight additional Soviet Republics were admitted to the CIS at Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. But because of Gamsaxurdia’s rejection of compromise with Georgia’s former Russian rulers Georgia was not invited — nobody needed Gamsaxurdia.[8] CIS membership would have shown the West that Georgia was willing to play the political game of international politics and could have given a chance for Gamsaxurdia to remain in power.

 Gamsaxurdia wanted independence from the Soviet Union, but Georgia and its President were trapped by events in Moscow. The 19-21 August 1991 putsch against Gorbachev in Moscow was in power for only three days, but it played a fateful role in the development of independent Georgia and the state of its government[9]. The position of Gamsaxurdia’s government on the putsch became a crisis, which lingered for months. The Georigan opposition parties accused the government of supporting the putschists. Further, on 19 August 1991, a Russian General who was second in command of Soviet internal police, came to Georgia and demanded that Gamsaxurdia disband the Georgian National Guard or Russia would attack to defeat and disband it.[10] Gamsaxurdia immediately complied unilaterally without consultation with his cabinet and was branded by the opposition as a Russian stooge.[11] This act cost him the support of many in the country.

In order to prevent bloodshed, on 20 August 1991 a decree was issued in the name of Gamsaxurdia ‘reorganizing’ the National Guard by making it a subordinate unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and eliminating the post of guard commander. This acceptance of the putsch organizers’ demands, although made under coercion, was used by the political opposition in Georgia to crucify the Gamsaxurdia government for supporting the putsch. Gamsaxurdia tried to demonstrate that he did not support the putsch, but opposition accusations became the tinder that ignited the flames of civil war.

Before the putsch, Gamsaxurdia had good relations with Yeltsin; met with him in Kazbegi and discussed establishment of an anti-terrorism program[12]. But because of Gamsaxurdia’s unilateral authoritarian submission to the Russian demand, he was perceived as supporting the putsch and he lost his close contact with the Russian leadership and incurred increasing enmity from his supporters in Georgia[13].

After September 1991, protest marches Gamsaxurdia supporters began to distance themselves from the government. But instead of trying to bring them into the government camp, the government seemed to accept the withdrawal of its supporters. As a consequence of rising unrest in the country, Gamsaxurdia was forced to take action and on September 21, 1991, he issued a decree creating a National Security Council, But as with many of his unilateral actions it was not professional. The NSC was composed of a mixture of Gamsaxurdia’s inner circle of supporters who carried on naïve discussions focused on internal threats – of course they touched on external issues, e.g., energy discussions that involved an analysis of Azeri issues[14] but they focused on internal issues.

Up until this time, Georgia had a National Guard, but it did not have an Army. Several groups of local militias had formed even before independence, the largest of them were the Mkhedrioni (Horsemen), led by Jabba Ioseliani[15] and the Kostava Society, led by V. Adamia. Initially there was malitia support for the new government, but slowly Gamsaxurdia’s dictatorial policies and arrogation of powers turned these leaders against him. A year earlier, on December 20, 1990, the Supreme Council of Georgia had created the National Guard. Tengiz Kitovani was appointed by Gamsaxurdia as the Commander of the National Guard, which was the rough equivalent of a Georgian Army, but as dissatisfaction developed and Gamsaxurdia began to fear a military coup, he fired Kitovani, created a new National Guard and took arbitrary control of the remaining National Guard officers himself.

In September 1991, there were armed clashes in Tbilisi between the National Guard units that Gamsaxurdia had disbanded and Gamsaxurdia’s militia. Gamsaxurdia had support from the Police and the police special commando units[16], and he declared a state of emergency, which in theory gave him absolute authority. After the events of September, however, the capital of Georgia was overwhelmed by daily demonstrations, marches and other forms of actions expressing protest by the opposition and slowly the government began to unravel. Former companions-in-arms left the government side and joined the opposition. Gamsaxurdia met this dissolution with inconceivable composure and coolness and did not try to stop it. The protest movement that began in September was not homogeneous. Initially its goal was the struggle for democracy, but later it was swallowed by more negative goals. For radicals, the principal purpose was to deprive the Gamsaxurdia government of power; and for the elite intelligentsia, to regain its social status and normalization of the status quo ante through compromise with all factions.

As the country edged closer to Civil War, Gamsaxurdia began action to marshal his forces. First, on 29 October 1991, he created a Ministry of Defense and appointed officials therein[17], and secondly, on 11 November he declared that all weapons and armaments of the former Soviet troops in Georgia would henceforth belong to Georgia[18]. To further consolidate his power, on 16 November 1991 Gamsaxurdia had the Supreme Council of Georgia abolish the Georgian Ministry of State Security (KGB) and replaced it with a Department of National Security of Georgia under the direct control of the President. In a second decree Tamaz Ninua, former NSC member, was appointed as the acting Chairman of the new Department and also served as the acting head of the Committee for State Security.[19]

The most important political events during October to December 1991, however, were negotiations between the government and the now mutinous National Guard units commanded by T. Kitovani. Even though neither side wanted more bloodshed, neither party expressed a desire to yield. Simultaneously with the negotiations, the mutineers armed themselves by robbery, attacks on police departments and government structures, as well as by support from commanders of the Military District of Soviet Troops in Transcaucasia. This led many in the population to view the Guard as a band of thieves.[20]

Informal discussions by the newly created NSC were held in September through December, but the NSC only officially met for the first time in late November or early December. The meeting was attended by the “power ministries”: Defense, Interior, General Prosecutor, and the NSC Secretary N. Molodinashvili. The second, and last, formal meeting of NSC took place on 21 Dec 1991 – all present recognized the inevitable collapse of the government. They listened quietly to the discussions, but they knew its future – the ministers were paralyzed – the outcome was obvious. The Deputy Minister of Defense, B. Kutateladze, boasted that the Ministry of Defense didn’t need anyone (e.g., the Prosecutor General or the Minister of Justice) to stick their noses into Defense business because the Defense Ministry was just waiting for the opposition to come forward and the Ministry would destroy them. Molodinashvili asked with what forces this would happen. Kutateladze was embarrassed, and became silent – hung his head, looked down and apologized. He quietly told the President, “I cannot defend you” and suggested that Gamsaxurdia resign[21]. After this meeting, it was clear that Gamsaxurdia’s government would collapse and on 22 December, the civil war in Tbilisi started. During the fighting Gamsaxurdia held out in his ‘bunker’ in the Parliament cafeteria for another two weeks, but at 06:00 on 6 January 1992. Gamsaxurdia fled the capital. A caravan of three armored cars and three busses with about 50 people left Tbilisi for Azerbaijan – the Russians made sure that the road was open[22]. “A serious reason for Gamsaxurdia’s downfall was his growing authoritarianism and arrogation of political power as well as his political romanticism and a fascination with historical tales, according to which he tried to tailor the ethno-political and social realities of the country into building a modern Georgian state.”[23]

There are many reasons why democracy under Gamsaxurdia failed in Georgia – disastrous economic problems, a government that did not know how to court international approval, the collapse of its pre-eminent external source of support in the USSR, an international system that was in turmoil, and a total lack of internal experience in governing a county composed of different ethnic groups – not to mention that two significant areas of the country – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – each declared their own independence from Georgia and therefore refused to support the Georgian administration. In addition to Gamsaxurdia’s authoritarianism, which Huntington would have predicted would lead to stability, one of the key markers of a liberal democracy continued to be missing in the Gamsaxurdia administration – civilian control of a professional military – and it would be a long road to create that element of democracy.

The “Silver Fox”, returns: “Take from the past not the ashes, but the fire” [24] 

Eduard Shevardnadze, familiarly known to friends and family as “Babu”, was from the village of Mamati, in the Guria region of west Georgia. His family wanted him to study medicine, but Shevardnadze was bent on pursuing a career in the political service of his native land. He was known as a realist who was able to balance conflicting forces to produce an acceptable solution to any problem. While his family was not ‘political’ (in fact all Georgians are political), his father was an ardent Stalinist to the disappointment of Babu’s mother, so he often heard his relatives’ disputing political views. As he later admitted, “If I inclined toward one opinion, I did not reject the opposing view out of hand, because I wanted to understand what was guiding a person dear to me, and why he put things one way and not another. If you eat such bread in childhood, you will always have a taste for it.[25]”  This attitude continued to serve him well during his political life.

Journalist Michael Mercer spent time in Tbilisi and described his memories of the Georgian President with this observation, “Eduard Shevardnadze is an open and unassuming man. He is quiet and reflective, and I couldn’t find an aide who remembered the last time he had raised his voice. He always seems to be alone, even when he is not.”  And Shevardnadze confirms his openness and willingness to listen to advisors: “I never embark on anything without the advice of specialists. . .. I always carefully considered their (the staff’s) opinions. Even so, I invariably correlated what they told me with my own understanding and perception of the general strategic issue.[26]

It was hard to have a personal relationship with Babu, he wasn’t an easy person to get along with; he had an extraordinary mind, he was not dogmatic, always forward thinking, dynamic – he found a way out of any situation. He was a hard worker; went to bed at 3-4 A.M., worked 20 hours a day and demanded the same hard work from his employees. He read everything even though he had only 3-4 hours’ sleep – never wore reading glasses – he had trained one eye for near sight and one for far sight. He would come home at 04:00, and at 08:00 met his staff – everyone thought that he had just come from 2 weeks’ vacation.  Finally, however this routine began to destroy his health, and from 2000-2003, his activity decreased; he was burned out.

Even though Shevardnadze had retired as Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union and had no apparent connections with the tumultuous events occurring in Georgia immediately after independence, Gamsaxurdia’s opposition during this period often traveled to Moscow to consult with Shevardnadze. Shevardnadze repeatedly stated that he had no intention of returning to Georgia. In fact, Gamsaxurdia had asked Shevardnadze to return to Georgia and said he would give Shevardnadze all power. Shevardnadze demurred saying “I’m an old man, not interested in politics,” but despite his denial, Shevardnadze is believed to have worked behind the scenes to unseat Gamsaxurdia[27]. He said “Gamsaxurdia was negative, he should focus on the economy, and not provoke Russia – I could help.[28]” Shevardnadze was an opponent of Gamsaxurdia from the beginning – and he couldn’t resist ‘turning the knife’ to cause Gamsaxurdia trouble. But when the Civil War started in Tbilisi in December 1991, Shevardnadze consulted with his foreign friends: U.S. Secretaries of State Baker and Schultz, British Prime Minister Thatcher, and Senator John Hart about whether or not he should return to Georgia[29].   Based on subsequent events, the consensus must have been “yes”.

On 7 March 1992[30], Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Georgia and on 10 March, the ruling Military Council dissolved itself and created in its stead a State Council to govern the country. The State Council appointed Shevardnadze as its Chairman, making him the effective head of the government of Georgia. From the day of his arrival, Shevardnadze started to build his shadow structures to mobilize the people who he trusted. So sometimes the ‘official’ structures were sort of a decoration. On 10 March 1992, the ruling Military Council created the State Council of the Republic of Georgia in order to “establish civil concord, political stability, acceleration of economic reforms, and for establishment of law and observance of the laws of the Republic” and then to dissolve itself.[31]  On the same day, the newly created State Council appointed Shevardnadze as the Chairman of the State Council of the Republic with Dzaba Ioseliani as his deputy, and to create a Presidium of the State Council with the following members: Dzaba Ioseliani, Tengiz Kitovani, Tengiz Sigua and Eduard Shevardnadze[32]

After the military overthrow of the Gamsaxurdia administration in early 1992 the succeeding Shevardnadze-led government inherited the negative civil-military impediments of its predecessor.  There was no professional, or even effective, military forces in Georgia. The existing armed forces were private militias or remnants of private militias. What “military’ existed was clearly deeply involved in Georgian politics from having recently overthrown the elected Gamsaxurdia civilian government. Georgia did not have the basic elements of a liberal democracy regarding its civilian relations with the military. While Shevardnadze had the opportunity to correct the errors of his predecessors, his administration was wracked by incessant corruption, which Shevardnadze permitted in order to maintain the government’s control over (most of) the country. Gamsaxurdia was a stubborn romantic dreamer whose xenophobia for “Georgia for Georgians” alienated potential American and European allies, as well as minorities living in Georgia. Shevardnadze, on the other hand, was a conciliator who wanted everyone to get along, so he failed to curb the “thieves in law”, the mafia bosses who controlled most of the businesses in Georgia and to whom Shevardnadze gave a free hand to run the country.

Shevardnadze, with the assistance of his two quasi-military council members, Kitovani and Ioseliani[33], had successfully cobbled together a new government for the country of Georgia. In name, but hardly in substance, the government went from a military government to a civilian controlled government, but in reality, the country still did not have a professional military force and there remained no significant separation between the military and the civilian leaders (warlords) of the country. Likewise, Russia was still the major player in Georgian political decisions, not only because of its extensive border with Georgia, but also because the Georgian government was laced with former Russian officials.

The new “civilian” State Council controlled the country with an iron fist. Although the government had created a somewhat western style National Security and Defense Council, that institution functioned as an authoritarian control mechanism for the government, not as an advisory body like its counterparts in the West. Using Huntington’s criteria, Georgia sill lacked a professional military, and in fact the civilians, untrained in military affairs, had taken over the functions traditionally assigned to the military. There was little civilian control of the military – the civilians were the military. More troubling, the economy was in shambles, but more trouble was brewing in West Georgia and in the ethnic regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Civil war would occupy Shevardnadze’s attention for the next two years.

After Russia helped end the Georgian civil war, Georgia’s price for that support was not only to join the CIS; Russia also covertly advised appointments of the Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Defense, and Minister of State Security.  Shevardnadze was forced to agree to a treaty with Russia that gave Russia long-term basing rights on Georgian soil and provided that Russia would arm and train a Georgian army and provide heavy equipment – which it didn’t.

The treaty was never ratified by Georgia, so in light of Russia’s failure to perform its agreements, in 1994 and 1995 Shevardnadze turned to the west. From that time on, political decisions in Georgia were still influenced, but no longer controlled, by Russia. Shevardnadze dismissed the Russian ministers in his government and used the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) troop/arms limitations to oust Russian bases in GE. Shevardnadze’s victories included OSCE membership, international support for the removal of Russian bases at the Istanbul Summit, and agreement to field the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline.[34]

Shevardnadze’s government was consistently authoritarian in the best tradition of the Soviet Union. Decisions were made personally by Shevardnadze to benefit his closest supporters. The country quickly became controlled by private interests and “thieves in law” who Shevardnadze permitted to run all aspects of the economy. Shevardnadze was the great compromiser and letting the thieves in law run the country prevented internal disputes and conflicts. Shevardnadze was content with that system, but the population slowly began to chafe under continued requirements to bribe officials at every level in order to transact any business. For example, it was common practice for local police, called ‘gaiya’, to randomly stop motorists for imagined traffic violations for which tickets could be avoided by paying a small bribe.[35] After ten years in office, Shevardnadze was tired. He considered himself an “old man” and his wife was ill. Shevardnadze had achieved miraculous results in saving Georgia from disintegrating, but his results were at a high cost of corruption in society and personal exhaustion. It was time for a change.

The end of an era: the Rose Revolution

Parliamentary elections were held on Tuesday, 2 November 2003, and by 6 November it became clear that something was wrong. The elections were filled with irregularities: ballot boxes destroyed and so on. The National Security Council, which was supposed to monitor the electoral process was paralyzed. Its chairman, Tedo Japaridze, was a great diplomat[36], but he had less success running the NSC. President Shevardnadze always held the top security issues – like elections – close to his chest, and when the irregularities surfaced, Japaridze had to admit publicly on Television that he had no possibility to meet with the President. The die was cast.

Since 6 November, busloads of oppositionists descended on Tbilisi to protest the election results. Shevardnadze considered using the Army for protection and asked the Minister of Defense if he would deploy the Army to protect him and the Parliament building. General Davit Tevzadze refused – he asked Shevardnadze “How many deaths are you planning?” The Minister of Defense and his Chiefs of Service refused to use the military against their own people, consequently the military refused to be involved in a political situation and sat out the developing events.

Shevardnadze was trapped in the Parliament building by crowds led by a triumvirate of Mikhail “Misha” Saakashvili, former Minister of Justice, Zurab Zhvania, Former Speaker of the Parliament, and Nino Burjanadze, Speaker of the Parliament. Shevardnadze said, “I’m going home;” these words marked the success of the opposition’s project of “Georgia without Shevardnadze,” and he left for his residence in Krtsinisi. Later, Shevardnadze explained “I realized that it was better to go and stop all of this peacefully, without blood and sacrifice. Confrontation would not be without blood. I never betrayed my people.”[37]

Shevardnadze was tired and had been saying since 1999 that he wanted to resign – the work and his age were catching up with him and his desire to retire from politics took hold. But both the triumvirate of revolutionaries and Moscow did not want Shevardnadze to resign, they wanted him to stay in office to lend legitimacy to the transfer of power – but Shevardnadze would not play that game.

Reporting from Kiev, the online newspaper, Planet, assessed the revolution:

“At the same time, many in Georgia and abroad fear that the coming to power of the nationalists, foremost of which is Mikhail Saakashvili, who can equally be called as a charismatic and populist leader, will have the most negative consequences. Before the new Georgian leader today is a much more serious problem than the ousting of Shevardnadze, whom they consulted. The first step is to guarantee absolute stability in the country – on the part of its territory, which is still controlled by Tbilisi. And then, if the predictions come true optimists, the new Georgian parliament, government and president, which came to power on a wave of “friendship against Shevardnadze”, on popular discontent with living conditions, will have to prove that they are able to cooperate effectively and after his victory, actually able to change people’s lives for the better. Only then will the project “Georgia without Shevardnadze” succeed. Otherwise, it really turns into a disaster “Georgia without Georgia.[38]

The New Government

The first task of the new government, as in any unplanned transfter of power, was to provide stability for the transition to take effect. After Saakashvili was sworn in on 25 January 2004, he moved aggressively to develop a National Security Concept (approved in 2005), National Military Strategy (2006) and a Strategic Defense Review (2007). While all of these documents fulfilled an urgent national need, they were also designed with a view to demonstrating to European nations and especially NATO, that Georgia was progessing rapidly toward becoming a stable society. Likewise, in 2005 Georgia sent a batallion of its Army to fight along side NATO forces in Iraq primarily to portray Georgia as a provider, rather than a consumer, of international security.[39]

Saakashvili was impatient because he knew that his political capital was highest immediately after the change in government – and that this capital diminished as it was spent. Therefore, anything that was necessary was possible. Saakashvili used his authority to arbitrarily accomplish infrastructure improvements because he found that political reform is like walking through a graveyard, no one is there to help.[40] But Saakashvili basically had no feeling for institutionalization. He was a fast reformer who wanted to move ahead, often without an assessment of the costs. Institutionalization, however, is more than creating structures, it is about filling those structures with trained personnel who remain in office long enough to create an institutional culture and long enough to create continuity of actions and policies. Although Saakashvili began to create some institutions in his second term, Georgia was still a new democracy and Saakashvili’s attitude was that there was not enough time to institutionalize. The Rose Revolution was a classic example of non-institutionalization.[41] Saakashvili’s advice to reformers was to strike fast and make reform “a continuous process uninterrupted by pauses.” Every reformer “should know that the race for the future is won by the swift.”[42]

Stephen Jones quotes Adam Michnik, a leader of the Solidarity movement in Poland as saying that “if Georgia wants security, it needs democracy,” because as Jones puts it “democracy, if it works, encourages debate, holds its leaders responsible, and secures legitimacy.”[43] And further, Georgia “will always be vulnerable to external influence. But if [its] economy works, [its] government institutions function, corruption and crime is stemmed, and citizens are engaged, they can reduce those vulnerablities.”[44]

When he was sworn in as President, Saakashvili  inherited the structure and personnel of the Shevardnadze administration, but as is typical of Georgian politics, when the leader (“Uprossi”) changes, so do all of the subordinates.[45] In Georgia the pool of workers with any government savvy is severely limited and often people who worked in a previous administration are re-hired, not because of their experience, and usually not to a positon or in an agency in which they had worked, but because they are perceived as loyal to the new leader.

Saakashvili wasted no time in creating his own administration. One week after he took office he created his own National Security Council, but the general provisions, purposes and structure of the NSC were strikingly similair to the Shevardnadze NSC, and like Shevardnadze’s NSC the Saakashvili NSC was given the authority and was expected to “do”, not just advise. It continued the authoritarian process of an operational NSC.

Saakashvili was routinely not interested in planning and arbitrarily made most major decisions himself after informal conversations with his close friends. He only called the NSC Secretary when he wanted to “talk”. This was good because Saakashvili didn’t interfere in the development of the NSC process and let the NSC coordinate government activity. The NSC was still an authoritarian body; its staff could call ministries at any time – this ability was not enshrined in law, but the authority developed slowly.[46] The Council was supposed to be an advisory body to the President. However, in Georgia, the NSC was an authoritarian executive body, not judicial or legislative, and not created under a Western-style separation of branches.

In 2005, under the supervision of the NSC, and ten years after the first NSC law directed the drafting of a National Security Concept, the government published its first National Security Concept. Efforts to create a National Security Concept began in 1996 but progressed agonizingly slowly because Shevardnadze was skeptical that Georgia had the apparatus or resources to implement a National Security Concept. A draft was finally ‘accepted’ in 2000, but not officially[47]. The 2005 document was not unlike the Shevardnadze “Georgia and the World,” and it continued to downplay tensions with Russia. The draft listed territorial integrity as the primary national interest and after much debate, the NSC convinced Saakashvili to remove territorial integrity from the number one spot because Georgia clearly needed to develop democratic institutions and eliminate corruption.[48] The introduction to the National Security Concept stated:

“The people of Georgia have made an unequivocal decision to build a democratic and free state that ensures the rule of law, human rights, security, prosperity of its citizens and a free-market economy. . ..

The Concept highlighted:

Lack of a democratic tradition of governance and mechanisms of checks and balances has led to an increase in corruption. During recent years, corruption has penetrated the public sector and become so systemic and dramatic that it jeopardizes the security of the state by draining its resources, undermining people’s confidence in democratic values and institutions and hampering economic development, thus negatively affecting civic cohesion and social balance.

Since the Rose Revolution of 2003, Georgia had made steady movement toward becoming a liberal democracy. But early days of the Saakashvili government continued to face many of the challenges of the Shevardnadze period and failed to fully implement or mature principles that would demonstrate the stability necessary to accomplish its integration into a liberal democracy.

One of the key indicators of a ‘liberal democracy’ according to Larry Diamond[49] is the ability of peoples to have a significant say in their future. Without free elections, the people don’t control their future – only the government does. Elections were held in Georgia at least from its existence as a free state in the Democratic Republic of Georgia, 1918-1921. Elections were also held during Soviet times, but they were never determined to be ‘free’, but instead always supported the sitting leaders’ decisions and policies. Even when Georgia declared its independence on 9 April 1991 and subsequently elected Gamsaxurdia as President. His election in a moment of national euphoria over independence was predictable. Elections results under Shevardnadze were accepted, but the final Shevardnadze period election of November 2003 was widely believed to have been ‘rigged,[50]’ which led directly to the Rose Revolution. Saakashvili’s first election in 2004 was determined as likely to have been relatively ‘free’, but it was also held in the euphoria of revolution – again, a predictable result. But as Saakashvili noted, one’s political capital is greatest after winning an election and it begins to decline as it is spent in making tough, often unpopular, decisions while in office. Therefore, ‘liberal democracy’ did not really come to Georgia. The seed had been planted at least as early as 1918, but it did not blossom under its first two post-independence Presidents and although cultivated by a reforming Saakashvili, still did not blossom under his authoritarian government.

By 2007, Saakashvili’s political capital was in danger of being exhausted. Many praised him for the reduction in corruption and the tremendous infrastructure improvements that he had fathered, but many criticized Saakashvili’s authoritarian tendencies at ‘cronyism’ and often strong-armed actions in allowing his family and friends to prosper from Georgia’s progress.

Much of Saakashvili’s challenges arose from his lack of communication with the Georgian population. For example, the government in 2006-2007 built a new airport in Tbilisi at a cost of nearly 3 million USD at a time when most Georgians’ income was near the poverty level.  Saakashvili was severely criticized for spending desperately needed funds on such a “frivolous” venture. Saakashvili could have explained to the Georgian people that the airport is the first venue that visitors to Georgia see and a modern, spacious airport, replacing its dingy Soviet style predecessor would encourage visitors to increase foreign investments in a seemingly modern state. But he never made such explanations, choosing instead to use his authority to make the decision himself and awarding the project to his family and associates. Likewise, other similar infrastructure decisions created discontent, but Saakashvili seemingly didn’t care about public opinion. Wanting to increase public investment outside of the capitol, Saakashvili arbitrarily moved the Parliament from Tbilisi to the second largest city in Georgia, Kutaisi, 80 miles west of the capitol which required officials, agencies and Parliamentarians to relocate. Political dissent followed most of these actions and eventually boiled over.

Serious protests against the government began in Tbilisi in 2007. Troops from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) used what opponents described as excessive force to quell these demonstrations in November 2007. Probably to prevent time for a growing opposition to fully develop, Saakashvili called snap presidential elections for January 2008. Once again, Nino Burjanadze became the interim President, allowing Saakashvili to resign and run for the office of President. The strategy worked. The opposition did not have sufficient time to form a united front against Saakashvili’s United National Movement, and Saakashvili won with more than approximately 53% of the vote.

The War with Russia

The “greatest tragedy” in modern Georgian history was yet to happen. In August 2008, allegedly in response to the advance of Russian forces through the Roki tunnel into northern Georgia, the Georgian Armed Forces invaded both the Autonomous Region of South Ossetia and the Province of Abkhazia. There were numerous ‘provocations’ by Russia in 2007 and 2008, ranging from the mysterious shelling of a Georgian radar site to several violations of Georgian airspace by Russian military aircraft[51]. August always seemed to be a month for tensions between Georgia and Russia to flare, and 2008 was no different. Artillery shelling began in early August, from Ossetian militias against Georgian villages in the Tskhinvali district and corresponding shelling from Georgian artillery against Ossetian villages in response. The shelling was not especially new – it flared from time to time – but this appeared to be more than a flare up. Consequently, on 7 August 2008, Georgian troops were ordered to move into Tskhinvali to counter Russian forces that were entering Georgia through the Roki Tunnel.

The cause of the invasion, whether it was provoked by Russian aggression or whether it was an impetuous move by Saakashvili’s government with military concurrence, will be argued for years to come, but the upshot of the war was that Georgia permanently lost more than 20 percent of its territory to Russian supported dissidents. These two formerly “breakaway” regions that the international community recognized as parts of sovereign Georgia, became recognized by Russia and a handful of other states, as independent nations. Discussion of the war is beyond the scope of this paper except to say that the entire episode further tarnished Saakashvili’s stature in Georgia and the sober reality for the Georgian people was that although the international community could sympathize with Georgia and its democratic aspirations, it was not ready to provide defensive aid to Georgia and risk a confrontation with Russia. Consequently, Georgia must act around the edges of international relations to rebuild the trust of the international community. It is unclear to this day if the invasion of Tskhinvali by the Georgian military was under the advice of the Saakashvili government, or whether the hubris and rashness of that young over-confident government simply overestimated the capability of its military.

After the War with Russia, it was apparent that the country needed to revise its National Security Concept. The previous concept had downplayed the probability of an armed confrontation with Russia, and clearly that was no longer the case. A Swedish Army assessment of Defense Reform in Georgia observed that the new National Security Concept contained too much political messaging that overpowered its strategic analysis of Georgia’s National Security and “it also contains many weaknesses, including disregard of important risks, misunderstanding of threats and generation of unrealistic expectations, which leads to overlooking real obstacles and creation of unnecessary friction with other states.” However, a major strength of the Concept was “the recognition that security is not only about military and diplomatic affairs but also about the wider context of economic development and interdependence, energy vulnerability, and modes of domestic governance.”[52] After the war, Saakashvili continued to rule, but more under a cloud of absolutist arbitrary governing, than as a vibrant reforming President.

Apart from the war, Georgia continued its painfully slow progress toward liberal democracy, and If free and open elections are a hallmark of a liberal democracy, the overwhelming victory of the Georgian Dream coalition, led by ex-patriate billionaire Bedzina Ivanishvili, in the parliamentary elections of October 2012 should have been proof that the concept could work in Georgia. But the Georgian Dream faced its own challenges. Ivanishvili, although an authoritarian, did not prove to be either a Shevardnadze who pasted over the corruption of his subordinates, nor a Saakashvili who impatiently dragged his country into progress and into the future.

Enter the Georgian Dream coalition: The Parliamentary Election of 2012

The parliamentary election of 2012 was a watershed in Georgian Politics. Even though the Saakashvili administration had many critics, it was widely assumed that his party, the United National Movement (UNM), would retain its majority in the Parliament. Amendments to the Georgian Constitution had been passed by Parliament in 2010 with the intent of creating a Parliamentary form of government in which most power lay with the Prime Minister[53]. Cynics claimed that these changes were made so that no matter who became President, Saakashvili would be named Prime Minister and would continue to rule for at least another five years.

During the election campaign, however, a new figure emerged – Bidzina Ivanishvili – a Georgian businessman who had moved to Russia in 1982 to study and who remained to amass a huge fortune. In April 2012, Ivanishvili announced his intention to enter Georgian politics and he formed the Georgian Dream coalition of parties to oppose Saakashvili’s United National Movement. In a bitterly contested campaign, the Saakashvili government tried several ways to bar Ivanishvili from participating in the election, including imposing massive monetary fines for alleged campaign violations, and removing Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship. Because of international disapprobation of Saakashvili’s methods and because the Georgian legal and political system had perhaps achieved an acceptable level of democratic processes, Saakashvili’s methods failed and on 1 October 2012 the Georgian Dream coalition won an upset victory with almost 55% of the vote. On 25 October 2012, the Georgian Parliament, firmly controlled by the winning Georgian Dream coalition, confirmed Ivanishvili as Georgia’s Prime minister.[54]

The 2012 election demonstrated what appeared to be a free and open election process that is inherent in liberal democracies, and notably it was the first peaceful transition of national power through a reasonably free and fair democratic popular election in Georgia since its independence. As head of the winning political party, Ivanishvili served as Prime Minister only from 25 October 2012 to 20 November 2013, when he “retired” to his villa overlooking Tbilisi. It is still the common perception, however, that he never left politics and continues to influence – if not direct – Georgian politics as its “Grey Cardinal.[55]” The parliamentary elections of 2012 brought a sea change to Georgia and could have been the impetus for a complete shift to liberal democracy. The reality, however, is that Georgia traded one authoritarian autocrat[56], Saakashvili for another, Ivanishvili, who remains the “Grey Cardinal” controlling nearly every aspect of Georgian government.

The Ivanishvili election victory was a strong public rebuke of the authoritarianism under Saakashvili, but it simply replaced one autocrat by another. For example, in the 2016 election, Ivanishvili promised to use his personal fortune to forgive up to 600 lari (about USD$200 at the time) of debt of every Georgian citizen[57] – a clear attempt to purchase votes! More recently, Ivanishvili, as chairman of the Georgian Dream coalition, promised to support a constitutional change to establish proportionate voting in the country to level the political playing field between the ruling party and oppositionists. He apparently reneged on his promise when his tightly controlled parliament voted against the change, causing massive public protests in the streets of Tbilisi and other cities.

The heart of liberal democracy is the ability to establish compromise between opposing factions, but Ivanishvili’s nominee to be Prime Minister, publicly stated that instead of working to end the political disputes between the government and its opposition, the governing party will allow no compromise: “we will finish you,” he said.[58] This attitude is mark of a one-party political system, and the Georgian Dream, relying on its massive election victories, is treating Georgia as a one-party state.[59]

The period between the Parliamentary elections of 2012 and the Presidential election of 2013, should have been a harmonious transition period, especially because the country was in the process of changing from a Presidential system to a Parliamentary system. But the intense hostility between Saakashvili, who tried several questionable maneuvers to prevent Ivanishvili from participating in the election created an unworkable transition period in which many laws and structures that needed to be harmonized were left in place leaving many questions as to which leader – President or Prime Minister – had what authority in running the country.

The normal process of “co-habitation” during a transition of administrations stopped, as did forward progress and planning on harmonizing the roles of the two top officers as well as harmonizing the laws. Normally the NSC could function as an effective platform for political transition between UNM and GD,[60] but the bitter personal rivalry between Saakashvili and Ivanishvili prevented this type of cooperation. Partisan politics trumped the state’s need for clearly defined security planning.

After George Margvelashvili, won the 2013 Presidential election, Ivanishvili appointed a new Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili. In the realm of national security planning, the Ivanishvili/Margvelashvili period began with much confusion, apparent animosity, and mixed messages to the Georgian people and to the international community. It would be expected in a liberal democracy that the elements of confusion of powers should be worked out in an orderly manner. Instead, in Georgia’s typically confrontational politics, the Parliament created two National Security Councils – one for the President and one for the Prime Minister with ill-defined and often over lapping duties and powers. For several months the country had no security organ and after much haggling the result is that one council – a National Security Council – under the Prime Minister, as head of the government, is responsible to plan the nation’s security.

In April 2019, the law on National Security Policy Planning and Coordination was amended to create a new National Security Council of Georgia under the Prime Minister. The new National Security Council was established four months after the former President-led National Security Council ceased functioning following entry into force of the new constitution.[61]

The changes in the Constitution that increased the power of the Prime Minister at the expense of the power of the President failed to clearly define the separate roles of each official and this lack of clarity created inherent tension between the President and the Prime Minister. Each thought that his role – the President as the head of the country and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the Prime Minister as the head of the government — warranted its own NSC, so a Security and Crisis Management Council was formed under the Prime Minister that operated in the Soviet model of an operational NSC – controlling all agencies, budgets, personnel appointments, etc. The government exhibited a serious lack of coordination, as the Security and Crisis Management Council began to parcel out work to separate Ministries without coordinating with the NSC.[62]

Furthermore, relations between the President and Ivanishvili began to deterioate soon after Margvelashvili’s landslide election victory over the UNM. Allegedly the rift developed because Ivanishvili felt the the President was not a “strong” enough leader,[63] and likely not obedient enough to Ivanishvili’s wishes. When President Salome Zourabichvili was inaugurated in December 2018, her inauguration marked entry into force of the new constitution, which completed the country’s evolution from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system of governance. Under the new constitution, the National Security Council, which “organizes the military development and defense of the country and was led by the President under the previous constitution no longer existed.[64]

In the realm of national security planning, the Ivanishvili/Margvelashvili period began with much confusion, apparent animosity and mixed messages to the Georgian people and to the international community fostered mainly by the creation of competing councils for national security planning. The current result is that one council – a National Security Council – under the Prime Minister, as head of the government, is responsible to plan the nation’s security. It remains, as were its predecessors, an authoritarian, rather than an advisory agency.


Based on the authoritarian personalities of its four Presidents since independence, Georgia has not moved out of its period of authoritarian transition, and because of what this author perceives as the political immaturity of the Georgian people, it will not soon shed itself of authoritarian leaders. The 2012 election could have been a sign to the Georgian people of the power of the ballot box, but instead of developing a system of government that holds its elected leaders subject to the rule of law, Georgia simply slipped back into the comfortable position of submitting to authoritarianism.

Saakashvili eliminated corruption at the street level of the ordinary citizens of Georgia, but despite his best efforts to modernize the Georgian state and its economy, in 2012 his party was resoundingly defeated by the Georgian Dream Coalition under Bedzina Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili, after serving as Prime Minister, resigned from government but in popular belief continues to control the government as its “Grey Cardinal”.

This research found that Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream are clearly authoritarian, but the research was not able to determine if Georgia is a victim of stare capture because so much of the internal workings of the Georgian government are “top secret” and not open to public examination. It is the clear perception of much of the Georgian population that Ivanishvili, referred to simply as “the man on the hill” because his elaborate villa overlooks Tbilisi, continues to control the country and the actions of President Zourabichvili.

This conclusion begs the question of whether or not authoritarian control or corruption amounts to state capture, but it raises the issue for further research and future examination. By definition, an authoritarian leader makes decisions and takes action unilaterally without consultation with the organs of government.[65] In Georgia, most actions are not taken transparently after public discussion and records or archives of government actions are highly classified[66] and not open to public examination, thus preventing a clear conclusion on whether the authoritarian government actions or corruption benefits private interests and therefore amount to state capture. That conclusion is a subject for further research.


[1] From concentrated power to state capture: Georgia’s backsliding anti-corruption reforms- Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 in focus, Transparency International, 14 Feb 2019,

[2]  Camaren Peter and Hannah Friedenstein; Shadow State: The Politics of State Capture, WITS University Press, 1 October 2018,

[3] Shevardnadze named his Ambassador to the U.S., Tedo Japaridze, as Secretary of the Georgian NSC with the specific understanding that based on his relationships with Condaleeza Rice and Secretary of State James Baker, Japaridze  could recreate an American-style NSC in Georgia.

[4] Donald Rayfield, The Literature of Georgia: A History”. Routledge, New York, 2000, p.246.

[5] Jones, 53

[6] Kacha puri is traditional Georgian bread with cheese. Quotation is from former Georgian diplomat, July 24, 2014

[7] Giorgadze, idem.

[8] Interview with Georgian Member of Parliament, 5 June 2014

[9] Interview with N. Molodinashvili, 9/16/14; An interesting description of the coup and its plotters is contained in the New York Times Sunday Review:  The K.G.B.’s Bathhouse Plot, August 21, 2011, p SR4

[10] Interview with Georgian professor and historian, 5/24/14. The USSR Constitution provided that in case of ‘national emergency’ up to 40,000 Soviet troops could be stationed on the territory of any republic.

[11] Interview with former Shevardnadze Chief of Staff, 24 October 2015.

[12] Interview with former member of Gamsaxurdia’s military guard, 16 May 2014.

[13] Interview with Georgian foreign office official, 24 July 2014

[14] Interview with Georgian politician and member of Parliament, 6 June 2014.

[15] Ioseliani was twice convicted in Russia, first for bank robbery and the second time for manslaughter. “Dzhaba Ioseliani, 76; Oft-Imprisoned Leader of Georgian Paramilitary Force”, The Los Angeles Times, 5 March 2003, From Associated Press,

[16] Private correspondence of the author with Georgian historian.

[17] Appointed the following positions in the Ministry of Defence:

  1. Lauria, deputy defense minister of Georgia
    Colonel Shota Banadze – Head of training.
    Major General Panteleimon Giorgadze – Chief of the Border Guard.

Colonel Alexander Javakhishvili – Chief of the Navy.
Signed: Zviad Gamsaxurdia. Tbilisi, October 29, 1991.

[18] Decree no. 793, published in “Sakartvelos Respublica,” on 11 November 1991.

[19] Private correspondence of the author with Georgian Historian.

[20] Natadze, 19 November 2014.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Interview with former head of Gamsaxurdia’s guard, 26 May 2014.

[23] David Darchaisvili,  “Georgia – The Search for State Security,” Caucasus Working Papers, December 1997, p.1

[24] Edward Amvrosievich Shevardnadze, “The Future belongs to freedom” (Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, Trans.), MacMillan, Inc., New York, NY 1991, Page 160. Shevardnadze quotes French Socialist Jean Jaures thusly, but the original quotation by Jaures is “take from the altars of the past the fire — not the ashes”., accessed 2/4/15.

[25] Shevardnadze, p. 8

[26] Shevardnadze, p. 100

[27] Interview with Georgian Lawyer, 19 May 2014.

[28] Interview with Georgian Politician, Member of Parliament, 5 June 2014.

[29] Interview with Georgia diplomat, member of parliament, 6 May 2015.

[30] Coincidentally, the day of his wife’s birthday

[31] Sakartvelos Respublica,” 3 November1992, p. 1

[32] “Sakartvelos Respublica,” 3 November 1992, p.10

[33] Although Kitovani and Ioseliani held commanding positions in the armed forces in Georgia, they were what could be termed “galvanized” civilians. They did not have formal military training nor an understanding of the profession of arms.

[34] Interview with former Georgian government official, 23 May 2014.

[35] This ‘system’ was in place when the author was living in Armenia in 2011-2013. On the winding country roads police would sit and watch for a driver who was lawfully navigating the many curves to cross, even briefly over the center line on an otherwise empty road, and flag them down to ‘give them a ticket’ which could be avoided by paying a small on-the-spot “fine”.

[36] Former Georgian Ambassador to the United States.

[37] Varvara Zhluktenko, “Day” Topic: Day of the Planet Newspaper: № 213, 25 November 2003,, accessed 10 February 2014

[38] Zhluktenko, loc cit.

[39] The troop rotations to Iraq, and later Afghanistan, were also intended to give combat experience to Georgian soldiers. Troops were trained by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps before deployment, but the training focused on peacekeeping in counter-insurgency environments in those two countries, and provided little training in conventional military tactics. The emphasis on counter-insurgency training provided little useful military skills when it came to engaging in combat with Russian troops in 2008.

[40] Interview with former Georgian official, 23 July 2014.

[41] Interview with former NSC official, 23 May 2014.

[42] Jones, 226

[43] Jones, 268

[44] Jones, 263

[45] This practice tends to create a complete lack of continuity in government. Georgia does not have a recognized civil service to provide an ‘institutional memory’, so in almost all cases, everything starts over with little or no record of what preceded the change. Another challenge to the government personnel system is that most people are hired on the recommendation of someone known to the person who is doing the hiring. In addition, there are few instances where a new hire is given a job description or even on the job training. Very often they are simply told, ‘figure out your duties by yourself and talk to your supervisor.” Again, a great disincentive for any continuity.

[46] Interview with NSC official, 23 May 2014.

[47] Shevardnadze was cautious of making official public pronouncements that might irritate Russia.

[48] Interview with former Georgian government official, June 3 2014.

[49] Diamond, “Elections without Democracy: Thinking about hybrid regimes.” Journal of Democracy Volume 13, Number 2 April 2007.

[50] The joke is that after the election results were tabulated, an aide congratulated Shevardnadze on winning the election; “the good news is that you won the election, that bad news is that nobody voted for you.”.

[51] These comments on the Russia-Georgia war are based on the personal observation of the author who spent the duration of the conflict in Tbilisi watching the anti-Russian demonstrations as well as bombs falling on the communications center near the Tbilisi Sea.

[52] S. Neil McFarlane, “Georgia: National Security Concept versus National Security” Chatham House (in association with Center for Social Sciences, Tbilisi), London, 2012, P.2.

[53] Civil Georgia, 15 October 2010,, accessed 4/18/2015

[54] Civli Georgia, Ivanishvili Confirmed as Prime Minister, 25 October 2012,, accessed 18 April 2015.

[55] Lomsadze, Giorgi (13 November 2014). “Georgia: Political Crisis Prompts Speculation About Ivanishvili’s Political Role”. Open Society Institute.

[56] Zalmayev, Peter and Lincoln Mitchell, “The rise and fall of Mikheil Saakashvili”, Al Jazeera, 20 Feb 2018, see also POLITICO, Brussels, 12 February 2018,

[57] Debts of 600,000 Georgian citizens to be cleared just before second round of presidential elections, JAM News, 18 November 2018

[58] Margarita Antidze, Georgian parliament approves new prime minister Giorgi Gakharia, Civil society • 16 October 2018,

[59] Antidze, U.S. urges Georgia to reinforce democracy, rule of law, Reuters world news, December 24, 2019,; Dato Parulava, The Caucasus Digest: Georgian Dream refuses to enforce the law. Dec 10, 2019, › cis › center-for-securities-studies › pdfs › CAD89




[60] Interview with former Secretary, National Security Council,

[61] New Security Council Convenes Inaugural Session 5 January 2019.

[62] Letter to author from Georgia NSC Department Head

[63] Ex-PM Ivanishvili ‘Disappointed’ in Margvelashvili, Civil Georgia, Tbilisi, 18 March 2014


[65] A most recent example of this authoritarian behavior is the pre-emptive refusal of the Georgian government, through its Georgian Dream Prime Minister, to accept a 75million Euro loan offered by the European Union. This unexpected refusal flies in the face of high unemployment and poverty living conditions for many Georgians. Civil Georgia, September 9, 2021.

[66] When the author worked at the Ministry of Defense of Georgia and prepared documents given to the government and would occasionally ask to retrieve those documents from the Ministry’s files, he was denied access because the files were ‘classified’ even though he authored them.

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