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Georgia's former president Eduard Shevardnadze dies aged 86 Featured

Georgia's former president Eduard Shevardnadze dies aged 86

Soviet minister who was the diplomatic face of Gorbachev's policies during the cold war has died after a long illness

 

Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Union's last foreign minister and later the president of Georgia, has died aged 86 after a long battle with illness. His death was confirmed by a spokesperson on Monday.

The politician had an extraordinary career, rising through the ranks of the communist hierarchy in his native Georgia, before springing onto the international scene as the Soviet Union was in its death throes, helping bring down the Berlin Wall, reunite Germany and bring an end to the cold war.

Shevardnadze was born in 1928, and had a long career in the Georgian branch of the Communist party before becoming first secretary in 1972, making him the de facto leader of Georgia. During his rule there was some economic growth in the republic, and attempts at modest reform and innovation were made.
Then in 1985 he was called to Moscow by Mikhail Gorbachev to add to his circle of reformers, and become foreign minister.

He made a large contribution to the foreign affairs policy of perestroika, and he was a true supporter of new thinking in global affairs," Gorbachev told Monday.


Shevardnadze became Georgian president in 1995, in a troubled period for the country, which was on the verge of being a failed state. Wars in South Ossetia and Abkhazia had stripped the country of a major part of its territory, while two assassination attempts were made on Shevardnadze's life, in one case using anti-tank weapons against his motorcade.

Under Shevardnadze, Georgia became a testing ground for economic reforms. He introduced productivity-related pay in some agricultural regions; within two years grain productivity had tripled. He attracted foreign capital to build resorts and allowed private restaurants to open. By the early 1980s Georgia was one of the most prosperous Soviet republics, protected by its reputation as a playground for the Moscow elite.


He was toppled in the country's 2003 Rose Revolution led by Mikheil Saakashvili, Shevarnadze agreed to resign as president and in return was given guarantees over his safety.
"History will judge him kindly," said Saakashvili at the time.

Since then, he has lived quietly in his mansion on the outskirts of Tbilisi, rarely interfering in public life.

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