Friday, November 6, 2009

A Tragic Anniversary in Georgia

by Paul Goble

Vienna, November 6 – Tomorrow, in various ways and with various feelings in their hearts, many people across the former Soviet space will commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Bolshevik coup d’état. But in Georgia, many will mark the 2nd anniversary of what they see as the dashing of the hopes of the Rose Revolution by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
The full text of Paul Gobles article can be read on.

On that date, two years ago, Saakashvili first ordered his security services to use tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who were demanding his resignation and then closed down two of the independent television networks in order to prevent the opposition from communicating with the rest of the country,

In the wake of those actions, the Georgian president called a snap election, the result of which he invoked as justification for his course of action, a course that not only has alienated many of those who first supported him in the 2002 rising which overthrew Eduard Shevardnadze but set the stage for the conflict with Moscow that led to the Russian invasion in August 2008.

Sergey Markedonov, one of Moscow’s most thoughtful commentators on the Caucasus, says that it is unlikely that the opposition will be able to mount as large a protest on this date as it has in the past, but he insists those events are nonetheless going to echo in Georgia and across the former Soviet space for a long time to come (

The Moscow analyst gives three reasons for thinking that the opposition is unlikely to be able to organize a serious protest on this anniversary. First, he points out, Saakashvili’s opponents remain divided, even as one or another of their leaders continues to come up with projects for new political parties and movements.
(The most recent of these – the creation of a Social Democratic Movement for the Development of Georgia – was announced only three days ago. As Markedonov notes, “from a purely theoretical point of view,” such a movement is “interesting” because it was the Social Democrats (Mensheviks) who led Georgia during the years of the Russian Civil War.)

Second, Markedonov points out, Western governments have grown tired of “illegitimate changes of power in a country pretending to the title of the ‘advance post of democracy in the Caucasus” and very much want that “the departure of the third president of Georgia be according to the constitution” rather than as a result of street protests.

And third – and this is no small thing, Markedonov suggests – the Saakashvili regime “however much people in the Kremlin talk about its unpopularity and loss of trust among the population as before retains definite resources of influence in society,” both through its control of the media and through its control of the force structures.

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