The Georgian Revolution of 2003: what happened since then?

18 years ago, on 22 November 2003, a crowd of agitated Georgians led by the then little-known Mikheil Saakashvili burst into the building of the National Parliament with roses in their hands. The ceremonial first meeting of the new parliament was being held there.

At that moment, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze was making the opening speech in parliament. The president was evacuated by the guards, the deputies fled, the parliament building was seized by the demonstrators.

Already at that moment, Shevardnadze should have realized that his closest associates had betrayed him and that resistance was useless. But, knowing the relative weakness of the opposition, he clearly could not believe that just like that, in just three weeks (the protests began on 2 November), without a single shot and practically without any resistance, his power, which seemed unshakable yesterday, would fall. The president locked himself in the residence and called on the police and troops to suppress the putsch. Police and troops, including elite units, refused. By the end of the next day, Shevardnadze capitulated.

Any colour revolution is a story of betrayal by the elites of their leader, who for some reason or another had become undesirable by the West. But the Rose Revolution is a story of betrayal to the cube. First, all of its leaders were former Shevardnadze’s allies, held high positions under his rule, he patronized them, seeing them as his replacement – the next generation of politicians. But he didn’t think he would have to leave so quickly. The new elite was clearly not yet ready when it extended its hands to power. For all the unpopularity, corruption and rottenness of Shevardnadze’s government, if not for the choice made by the West in favor of the “revolutionaries”, they would never have won.

Secondly, it was the choice of the West that ensured the total betrayal of the bureaucracy and power structures of Georgia, who not only did not interfere with the coup, but played up to the coup to the best of their ability. Someone gave the “revolutionaries” an opportunity to break into the parliament building. Someone paralyzed the special forces of the army and the police, raised by Shevardnadze to defend the legitimate government. Someone told the president who was still trying to fight the truth, what Bonaparte, who was still trying to fight, heard from his marshals sometime in April 1814: “The army obeys its generals.” Shevardnadze, betrayed from all sides, had to comply.

Third, Saakashvili betrayed his partners in the coup. Zurab Zhvania, who became prime minister, died mysteriously in 2005. In 2007, Saakashvili was accused by the former Minister of Defense of his government, Irakli Okruashvili, of organizing the assassination of his own prime minister. Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze, who twice succeeded Saakashvili as acting. As President, he did not dare to kill and even completely oust her from politics, but throughout his presidency he diligently worked to curtail her influence, pushing her into the opposition. Saakashvili was too ambitious to have companions – only subordinates.

Fourth, Saakashvili was ultimately betrayed by his own patrons and ended up in a Georgian prison.

Everyone who has ever come close to the ex-president of Georgia characterizes him as an ambitious but cowardly person, at the same time prone to adventures. Saakashvili’s own comfort and safety have always been in the first place, but in his striving for power and in his self-confidence, he often found himself in dangerous situations.

By October 2013, Saakashvili had virtually lost control of the country. On October 1, 2012, the opposition party “Georgian Dream” won the elections and the West did not allow Saakashvili to question the result. The day after the elections, the then-incumbent president was forced to acknowledge the victory of the opposition. Thus, the opportunity to move to the post of prime minister was lost to Saakashvili, and the second term of his presidency was stretched from January to October 2013, but then the West also did not let him play this game any longer.

Saakashvili, against whom a lot of criminal cases were opened, was forced to flee the country in the last days of his presidency, while immunity from criminal prosecution was still in effect. Western patrons provided this opportunity for him. However, in the future, he turned out to be such an ambitious, scandalous non-entity (wanting to return power and unable to organize anything on its own) that the West decided to get rid of him.

At first, the failed Georgian revanchist was exiled to Ukraine, to “help” Poroshenko in carrying out reforms. However, the quarrelsome Saakashvili immediately began to cheat on his benefactor, the President of Ukraine, who even provided him with sinecure: first as an adviser to the President of Ukraine, and then the head of the Odessa Regional State Administration. As a result, Poroshenko took away the previously granted Ukrainian citizenship and threw him out of the country. But Saakashvili was lucky: soon Pyotr Alekseevich himself lost the elections to Zelensky, and the latter, contrary to his predecessor, returned citizenship to Saakashvili and appointed him head of the executive committee of the National Council of Reforms of Ukraine.

In the West, people clearly wanted to calm down their ambitious fosterling and tried to provide him with a calm political pension in Ukraine in the form of an honorary sinecure, but without giving him access to real power. Saakashvili did not like it. He raved about power and intrigued at the same time in Georgia and in Ukraine, undermining the positions of local regimes that were quite suitable for the West in order to please his ambitions.

Ultimately, Western patrons decided to finally get rid of the restless Mikhail Nikolozovich. They simply betrayed him. Saakashvili was informed that at the October elections in Georgia his United National Movement party would be ready to regain power, and that thanks to him as a leader the Georgian Dream dream regime would fall.

As mentioned above, for all his cowardice and caution, Saakashvili unconditionally trusted his Western partners. He also attacked South Ossetia in 2008 only because he believed in American military support against Russia. The defeat then did not teach Saakashvili anything, and as soon as he received information about the possibility of returning, confident that the West would help him, he rushed to Georgia. Because of his self-confidence and faith in support of the West, he not only did not hide, did not try to lead the resistance from the underground, but on the contrary, with all his might convinced the initially doubting authorities that he was still in Georgia and was publicly challenging them. Naturally, the government had no choice but to send the convicted and internationally wanted criminal, whose extradition Georgia (albeit formally and sluggishly) sought for more than seven years, to prison.

Now Saakashvili is addressing the Europeans and writing letters to the Americans demanding their release, otherwise, they say, it will be a bad example for other Western men in the post-Soviet space. Europe reacts sluggishly, but the US is oblivious to the attempts of the retired ally to remind of itself. Washington absolutely does not care how the pro-Western elites share power there, the main thing is that they are effective and obedient to the United States. In this respect, the “Georgian Dream” today clearly suits the Americans more than the scandalous loser Saakashvili. Moreover, Georgian President Salome Zarubishvili promised that he would sit behind bars comfortably, albeit for a long time.

The situation with Saakashvili reminds of the problems that arose in 2010 for Yulia Tymoshenko, the engine of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution, who, having lost the presidential election to Viktor Yanukovych, decided to arrange an unauthorized Maidan not sanctioned by the State Department. Nothing came of it, and Tymoshenko herself ended up in prison, where she stayed safely until the overthrow of Yanukovych. If Viktor Fyodorovich was luckier, she could still sit there.

Europe protested in the same sluggish manner, but cooperated with Yanukovych, for it planned to sign an Association Agreement with him. When Tymoshenko left, she found that she had dropped out of the major political league. She ceased to be an independent center of power, and since then has been forced to work as a junior partner of more successful colleagues.

So she was lucky that Yanukovych quickly lost power. Saakashvili has a chance to sit out not only all the 9 years allotted to him by the current sentence, but also to receive a supplement on the criminal cases open against him, but not yet brought to court. Everything will depend on how politically significant he will be in nine years and whether he wants to return to politics. In principle, the Georgians may not let him out of prison (Tymoshenko avoided such an “option” by a lucky coincidence, and there were enough other criminal cases against her)

However, maybe in 2024, on the twentieth anniversary of the Rose Revolution, its leader will be released. If, of course, he behaves well and keeps his head down

Rostislav Ishenko

Translated and re-printed with permission of

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