T.he is the road from From Tbilisi Airport to the Old Town – a web of steep cobbled streets with ornate balconies and mouth-watering scents Hinhali dumplings and Khachapuri George W. Bush was the first American president to visit the tiny Caucasian country in 2005. President Bush called Georgia “the light of liberty,” paid tribute to its democratic reforms, and thanked it for sending troops to Iraq. Mikheil Saakashvili, a youthful and restless reformist president who came to power in 2003 with the first “color” revolution, said Georgia had “a firm friend in America.”
Most recently, it was the Kremlin praising Georgia, the country it invaded in 2008. His 55-year-old Saakashvili is under surveillance in a hospital outside Tbilisi as he battles dementia and muscular atrophy. His mother, who visits him daily, says he has memory problems and needs his frame for walking. “My health is terrible,” Mr. Saakashvili wrote to your correspondent. “Besides all sorts of bad symptoms, it’s the terrible amnesia that’s driving me desperate.” said to be in a state of In December, his legal team distributed a toxicology report confirming the presence of heavy metals in his body, in which toxicologists expressed the opinion that he had been poisoned. On January 31, his associates said he was moved to the intensive care unit, although authorities denied this.
Mr. Saakashvili modernized Georgia, but at the same time embroiled in scandal and repression. After resigning after being appointed president, he succeeded in his 2013 inauguration of Bizina Ivanishvili, a reclusive businessman who made money in Russia, served briefly as prime minister and has effectively ruled Georgia ever since. Fearing arrest by hand, he fled. Although he does not hold a formal government position. Saakashvili has since been stripped of his Georgian citizenship, immigrated to Ukraine and obtained a Ukrainian passport, but has faced an outstanding arrest in October 2021 in hopes of rallying protests in his favor. returned to Georgia despite the Instead, he was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison for abusing his powers as president.
The European Parliament and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Georgia to release Saakashvili, former Odessa governor and current chairman of the advisory body, the National Reform Council of Ukraine, for treatment outside Georgia. requested. According to Amnesty International, his imprisonment and abuse were political retaliation for Vladimir Putin, who led a brief war with Georgia in 2008 and once promised to hang Mr. Saakashvili “with his ball.” It’s a favor to the president.
The Georgian Dream, a political party founded by Ivanishvili, has remained in power by stirring up chaos and fear of Saakashvili’s return to power. But while Georgians may be disillusioned with the former president’s politics, they are also repelled by the inhumanity of his treatment. ,” says Georgian sociologist Iago Kachikachishvili.
Saakashvili’s mistreatment hampers any chance of Georgia’s integration into Europe. Other violations of the rule of law include last year’s imprisonment of his Nika Gvaramia, who runs an influential private company. tv set A channel critical of the government with apparently fabricated accusations. Opposition parties are being watched. Georgia is EU It was sent back last June with a list of 12 demands, but the government seems to be in no hurry to act on it.
“Georgia used to be a popular toy in America and the West. Now the toy is broken and no one pays attention to it,” said a former government official and now a think tank in Tbilisi, Georgia Strategic International Affairs. Institute Fellow Shota Utiashvili said. The Georgian Dream now rules in parliament in coalition with some of its former members who launched a more radical and overtly anti-Western movement. Its rhetoric and policies, including a bill banning “foreign agents,” look like a carbon copy of the Kremlin’s tactics. The movement has even accused the United States of trying to overthrow the Georgian government.
Georgia is still not as authoritarian as Russia or Belarus, but it is rapidly on the Kremlin track. To appease Putin, the government refuses to participate in sanctions against Russia or to return her anti-aircraft missile systems given to Georgia by Ukraine in 2008.Former US Commander European military said on a recent visit to Tbilisi.
Many Georgians seem to disagree. The Ukrainian flag is a common sight, saying, “Georgia is Ukraine. Georgia is Ukraine. Ukraine is Georgia.” I say yes. About 1,000 Georgian volunteers are believed to be fighting on the Ukrainian side. But equally serious is the trauma and horror of the war that Ivanishvili’s party exploited. The Georgian Dream has alienated its opponents by shelving pro-Ukrainian protests and arguing it risks dragging Georgia into a war with Russia.
The situation is further complicated by the presence of some 100,000 Russian refugees who have fled to Georgia from the regime itself, which still occupies 20% of the country in two enclaves, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For the most part, these are educated youths who openly support Ukraine and oppose the war, but are not involved in Georgian politics.
Nowhere are new alliances and divisions more evident than in Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Its main tourist attraction is a museum dedicated to the Georgian-born Soviet dictator. The government had planned to remove Stalin’s colossal statue from Gori and turn his museum into a harsh condemnation of Stalinism rather than a celebration of his life. told a group of Russian-speaking tourists, the plan was put on hold, and “de-Sovietization and de-Stalinization” has been put on hold since Saakashvili left power a decade ago.
Recently, more than a dozen new statues and plaques commemorating Stalin have been erected across Georgia. The dictator who helped the Bolsheviks take Georgia in 1921 and destroyed Georgia’s democracy and independence is now being touted as a Georgian hero. ■