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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 17:26 GMT
Profile: Eduard Shevardnadze
Opposition supporters
Protesters stayed on the streets throughout the night
Eduard Shevardnadze lived many lives - as a KGB and Communist Party official, as Soviet foreign minister, but his final role - as president of his native Georgia - ended in ignominy.

He had led his country out of instability and civil war in the early 1990s, but his successes and popularity of the past turned sour.

Massive public discontent finally put paid to his career.

Pressure from daily demonstrations on the streets of the capital Tbilisi mounted after allegations of vote rigging and irregularities in the parliamentary elections of 2 November.

Mr Shevardnadze, one of the world's longest-standing political survivors, had seen off previous episodes of unrest.

In 2001 protesters took to the streets, following the irregularities that tainted Mr Shevardnadze's re-election in April 2000, and his failure to tackle rampant corruption or clear the cronies from his government.

But this time around, the opposition seized parliament, and he never regained control of his capital from the thousands of protesters demanding his resignation.

Soviet role

Mr Shevardnadze joined the Communist Party in 1946 and rose through party ranks to become Georgia's Communist leader in 1972.

As Soviet foreign minister between 1985 and 1990 when the Cold War began to thaw, he oversaw a transformation in Soviet foreign policy.

Eduard Shevardnadze
Born 1928
1972-1985: Georgian Party boss
1985-1990 and 1991: Soviet foreign minister
1992 onwards: Georgian head of state
He resigned in December 1990, giving a stark warning of imminent dictatorship - and his predictions appeared well-founded when hardliners attempted a coup the following summer.

After this he returned briefly as foreign minister of a now doomed Soviet Union.

Mr Shevardnadze put a halt to the anarchy that threatened to engulf Georgia when he returned from Moscow and took over as leader in 1992.

He won huge respect for his bravery under fire during the conflict in the breakaway region of Abkhazia the following year, and came within a hair's breadth of being killed or captured.

He was elected president in 1995 and re-elected in 2000.

Georgia has the potential to offer a positive contrast to some of its southern or eastern neighbours.

It is seen as pro-Western and broadly democratic, with a parliament that does more than rubber stamp executive decisions, and the beginnings of a genuine civil society.

Attacks

But the country is still poor and divided and pervasive corruption remains the biggest problem - one that Mr Shevardnadze was unable to tackle.

The 75-year-old - who claims with some justification to have ended the Cold War, liberated central Europe, reunified Germany and democratised the USSR - once looked likely to die a martyr's death after two armed attempts on his life: one bomb, and one assault on his motorcade.

He had said he would not stand for a third term, in the next round of presidential elections due in 2005.

In the end, he never got the chance of a dignified exit.




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