Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Georgian leader and one-time Soviet foreign minister, died July 7 at the age of 86. He leaves behind a complicated political legacy.
Ousted as president of Georgia in 2003, Shevardnadze spent his last years as an outcast in Georgia, confined largely to his Tbilisi residence, while occasionally commenting publicly on current events.
In the West, Shevardnadze is best remembered for playing an influential role in bringing the Cold War to an end. In Russia, he is reviled by nationalists who believe that he, along with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, bear most of the responsibility for the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. In his native Georgia, he is mainly associated with the wars and chaos that marked his 1992-2003 tenure in power.
Shevardnadze, who ran Soviet Georgia’s Communist Party from 1972 until 1985, may simply be too familiar a face for dispassionate assessment. Some in Georgia now say that evaluating his legacy is perhaps best left to historians.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, and writes EurasiaNet.org's Tamada Tales blog.