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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 14:05 GMT
Shevardnadze political career at end

By Stephen Dalziel
BBC Russian affairs analyst

The resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze as Georgian President brings to an end one of the most extraordinary political careers of recent times.

Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze was close to Mikhail Gorbachev
Mr Shevardnadze was heavily involved in the Soviet system in Georgia when it was a part of the USSR. He then came to the world's attention as Soviet foreign minister.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he returned to Georgia, where he has led the country for the past decade.

Eduard Shevardnadze's time as Georgian President has ended largely because of accusations of corruption among his inner circle.

How ironic it is that he came to the attention of the Communist Party elite in Moscow when, as Georgian interior minister, he earned a reputation for fighting corruption in his native republic.

In 1972, he was made the Georgian Communist Party leader. In the late 1970s, he became close to another rising star in the Soviet Party, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Despite having no experience in foreign affairs, Mr Shevardnadze came to be trusted around the globe

They realised that they shared views on how to reform the system, and shortly after Mr Gorbachev became general secretary of the Party - and Soviet leader - in 1985, he made Mr Shevardnadze his foreign minister.

Despite having no experience in foreign affairs, Mr Shevardnadze came to be trusted around the globe.

The Communist systems in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989, and the Soviet leadership did not attempt to interfere.

At the end of 1990, Mr Shevardnadze dropped a political bombshell, publicly resigning his post, warning that, "dictatorship was coming". The attempted coup of August 1991 seemed to bear out his fears.

Going back to Georgia

After the Soviet Union collapsed later that year, Mr Shevardnadze decided to return to his native Georgia, to try to tackle the chaos that followed the ousting of the first post-Soviet president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

He was elected speaker of parliament, and became President in 1995.

But the high hopes that had accompanied Mr Shevardnadze's election soon evaporated.

When two political blocs close to the President were declared victorious in parliamentary elections on the second of November, the people's patience snapped.

Mr Shevardnadze will now hope that he's allowed a peaceful retirement in his native country.





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