Georgia in the 1990’s

Having become an independent republic in 1991, Georgia was affected by a prolonged phase of serious internal instability. Between 1991 and 1993 it was in fact the scene of a civil war that split the same nationalist alignment that had led the country to independence, pitting the supporters of Z. Gamsakhurdia, president of the Republic from April 1991 to January 1992, against a heterogeneous spectrum of opposition forces, civilian and military; these grouped together in 1992 around E. Ševardnadze, former Soviet foreign minister, who, returning to Georgia, assumed the functions of head of state. In addition, troops of the Tbilisi government were engaged in two different conflicts against the Abkhasa and Ossetian minorities who, opposed to the separation from the USSR, had in turn promoted a secessionist policy, while the demand for greater autonomy was expressed by the Ajara minority (of Georgian origin, but of Muslim religion) and inter-ethnic tensions were recorded in the areas inhabited by Armenian and Azerbaijani minorities. This complex situation frustrated, in the first years following independence, the efforts for the consolidation of new political structures and for economic reconstruction, as well as for the strengthening of the international role of the country, which suffered a strong isolation also due to the opposition policy in Moscow and the consequent refusal to join the CIS. Only from the end of 1994 Georgia entered a phase of relative pacification, characterized by the progressive but difficult reaffirmation of the central authority, which in previous years had also been threatened by clashes between the numerous existing private militias, responsible for repeated acts of terrorism. Meanwhile, entry into the CIS at the end of 1993 had effectively sanctioned Georgia’s return to the Russian sphere of influence.

According to themakeupexplorer, the relations between Georgians and the various ethnic minorities present in the country suffered a serious deterioration since the end of the 1980s with the establishment of nationalist forces in Tbilisi: South Ossetia, inhabited by an Iranian-speaking population, was affected by violent clashes since 1989 and has since claimed its integration into the Russian Federation. The ceasefire signed by Ševardnadze and B. El´cin in June 1992 allowed the start of a difficult negotiation process on the political status of the region, within which, alongside the reaffirmation of the principle of the territorial integrity of Georgia, emerged the prospect of a form of broad autonomy for South Ossetia (1997). Meanwhile, control of the autonomous republic of Abkhazia had been assumed by the secessionist forces, which after a bitter conflict had entered Sukhumi (the capital of Abkhasa) in September 1993. At the end of the year, negotiations were started for the definition of the status of Abkhasia. However, the clashes continued, despite the dispatch of a United Nations Observer Mission to Georgia (United Nations Observer Mission), joined since July 1994 by a CIS pacification force composed mostly of Russian troops. The turning point in relations with Moscow, which had made possible the intervention of Russian forces in an anti-Khasa function (after Moscow had been accused of supporting the separatists for years), had been sanctioned by various security and cooperation agreements, which provided for between the ‘other the maintenance of Russian military bases in Georgia (February 1994) and the common defense of the border with Turkey (March 1994), the latter consolidated by the Georgian participation in the Multilateral Treaty on the Defense of the External Borders of the CIS (May 1995). The situation in Abkhazia found no solution and again in the first months of 1998 there was a violent resumption of fighting, followed in May by a new ceasefire.

The various conflicts (which caused several thousand deaths) and the dramatic economic and social problems connected with them, such as the displacement of several tens of thousands of refugees, hit Georgia hard hard; as agricultural and industrial production declined drastically, the country found itself increasingly dependent on international aid. The stabilization policy, promoted by the government with the support of the IMF at the end of 1994, allowed the start of a relative improvement in the economic situation, favoring the gradual re-establishment of central authority during 1995 ; this process was accompanied by a trend towards the strengthening of presidential powers, sanctioned by the Constitution approved in August 1995(it also changed the official name of the country from that of the Republic of Georgia, assumed in 1990, to that of Georgia). In the elections for the new unicameral parliament (November 1995), the party of Ševardnadze, the Union of citizens of Georgia, obtained a majority of the seats, a result confirmed in the subsequent elections of October 1999. At the same time elected President of the Republic by direct universal suffrage, Ševardnadze deepened, in the following years, the program of structural reform of the economy. At the same time, the president worked to strengthen the country’s international role: admitted to the UN in 1992, Georgia signed (April 1996), at the same time as Armenia and Azerbaijan, a partnership and cooperation agreement with the European Union. In January 1998, Ševardnadze escaped an attack in Tbilisi in which two of his bodyguards were killed.

Georgia Country in the 1990's