The Rose Revolution: Then and Now


Exactly 12 years has passed since the evening of November 23rd, when, at 8.00 pm, President Eduard Shevardnadze announced his decision to “go home” in front of journalists and demonstrators at the Krtsanisi Governmental Residence. His resignation was preceded by the invasion of the Session Hall of Parliament by demonstrators ‘armed’ with roses, protesting rigged elections. This is how the tempestuous epoch of the former Secretary of the Central Committee and one of the architects of Perestroika ended in Georgia and how the no-less tempestuous and tense epoch of Mikheil Saakashvili began.

Today, the events associated with the Rose Revolution have more opponents than anyone could have imagined. Even the active participants of the Revolution believe that the decision, made 12 years ago on the cold evening of the St. George Holiday, was incorrect. Film director Eldar Shengelaia, officially regarded as one of the godfathers of the title - Rose Revolution - thinks that invading the Parliament building was a mistake and that it would have been better if everything had been done through elections rather than revolution. Saakashvili’s government corrected this ‘mistake’ 9 years later when the government left after losing the elections, which once again highlights the existence of progress. Hopefully, the government under the Georgian Dream will reveal not only the necessary ‘intellect’ but also the political will and responsibility to build a continuous mechanism for changes of government, in order to bring the country out of the vicious cyclical ‘from revolution to revolution’.

As for other results of the Rose Revolution, as they love saying in the former governmental party, President Saakashvili took over an African-type of Georgia and turned it into a Western-like political unit. But, did he? The main argument of his opponents is that the Western-type government should be democratic and that Georgia did not fulfill this criterion. Furthermore, the fact that the power concentrated in the hands of Saakashvili and those surrounding him was even greater than that of his predecessor Shevardnadze, which means that in terms of democracy, the Rose Revolution turned out to be a step backwards. This is what Georgian opponents from the government and also what some Western scholars say. Although Saakashvili’s Georgia was surely far from the ideals of democracy, we use relative measurements while measuring the progress and not absolute ones.

Progress in this case has a clear and measurable indicator: the difference between the Rose Revolution of 2003 and October Elections of 2012- that is the difference between the revolutionary and constitutional replacement of the government.

The question of whether present reality is much better than the one we had in 2003 can be answered simply by closing our eyes for a minute and imagining a country in which public institutions are managed by governmental representatives alongside thieves-in-law, and where corruption is flourishing to such extent that giving bribes is the only solution for an average citizen; where the economy and society is in constant crisis and there is no trustworthy supplier of electricity and gas and where power shortages last for weeks in some regions. The roads are full of potholes. And the streets and prisons are controlled by criminal gangs. Mugging, burglary, car theft and kidnapping for ransom are commonplace. Businesses operate in the shadows, illegally and under the umbrella of crime. Where more than 200 000 IDPs from the occupied territories are scattered across the country, the majority lacking shelter and all dependent practically only on financial support from the government. And where the most popular product for export is scrap-metal. This was Georgia in 2003. So, instead of talking about the past, I think everyone should now be talking about the future. While many of the objectives of the Rose Revolution are still unattained, we can freely say that moving towards them has become irrevocable – the genie is out and nobody can force him back into the bottle.

Zaza Jgarkava

26 November 2015 20:30