Georgian politician, president 1992–2003 and Soviet foreign minister 1985–91. In July 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev brought Shevardnadze (who also supported economic reform) into the Soviet Politburo as foreign minister, where he worked to advance détente (improving relations with the USA) and disarmament. Fearing an imminent coup by reactionary forces, Shevardnadze resigned as foreign minister in December 1990 and left the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) in July 1991. After the collapse of the USSR in December 1991, he returned to newly independent Georgia. In March 1992 he became chair of the ruling State Council and in October 1992 was elected speaker of parliament (equivalent to president). He was directly elected executive president in November 1995 and re-elected in April 2000, after surviving assassination attempts in 1995 and 1998. During his presidency, he signed a cooperation agreement with the European Union in 1996, but faced secessionist unrest in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and corruption within his administration. He was forced to resign as president in November 2003 following a wave of demonstrations (the ‘Rose Revolution’) in Tbilisi by opponents who alleged fraud in the parliamentary elections.
On 20 December 1990 he resigned as Soviet foreign minister in protest against what he feared would be the onset of a dictatorship in the USSR by reactionary forces, particularly within the military. Following the abortive anti-Gorbachev coup in August 1991 (in which he stood alongside Boris Yeltsin) and the dissolution of the CPSU, the Democratic Reform Party which he had recently formed stood out as a key force in the ‘new politics’ of Russia and the USSR. Shevardnadze turned down an offer from President Gorbachev to join the post-coup security council, but subsequently agreed to join Gorbachev's advisory council. In March 1992, following the ousting of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, he was chosen as chair of Georgia's ruling State Council, and in the first parliamentary elections in October was elected speaker of parliament, with 90% of the vote.
Shevardnadze inherited a nation affected by a continuing civil war and secessionist movement in Abkhazia. Reluctantly, he turned to Russia for military aid to crush the insurgencies and attempted to disband private militias. He was directly elected executive president in November 1995.
Shevardnadze was born in the rural Mamati Lanchkhutsky region, near the Black Sea in Georgia. He was educated at a Communist party school in Georgia and at the Kutaisi Pedagogical Institute, and joined the GCP and the CPSU at the age of 20 as a party apparatchik. He rose to head Georgia's interior ministry 1967–72 and become first secretary and party boss in the state in 1972.