Shevardnadze, Eduard Amvrosiyevich

Shevardnadze, Eduard Amvrosiyevich ĕdˈwärd shəvˈärdnädˈzyə [key], 1928–2014, Georgian politician and diplomat. Known for pragmatism rather than polemicism, Shevardnadze served as the head of the Georgian Communist party from 1972 to 1985 when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, and became known as an anticorruption and free-market reformer. In 1985 he was appointed as the Soviet Union's foreign minister, and as such helped to create new foreign-policy initiatives in the Middle East and Europe that led to the end of the cold war. His implementation of Mikhail Gorbachev's policies included withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, making overtures to Israel, supporting the U.S.-led coalition in the First Persian Gulf War, developing new strategies for arms control, and making possible the democratization of Eastern Europe. He resigned in Dec., 1990, and warned that a hardline dictatorship was imminent. In Aug., 1991, he joined Yeltsin in opposing the attempted coup against Gorbachev and then briefly served as foreign minister (Nov.–Dec., 1991) as the Soviet Union disintegrated.

After Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia's ouster in 1992, Shevardnadze became head of an interim government in Georgia, his homeland, and later that year he was elected parliament chairman (head of state). Shevardnadze won the presidency in a popular election in 1995 after surviving an assassination attempt earlier in the year; he was again a target of assassins in 1998. He was reelected in 2000 by an unexpectedly large margin, leading to charges of vote tampering. Unhappiness with his continued rule and seriously flawed parliamentary elections in 2003 led to post-election demonstrations in Nov., 2003, that forced his resignation.

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