Oh, East is East, and West is West,
and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at
God`s great Judgement Seat;
But there is neither East nor West,
Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
Through they come from the ends of the earth!
There is a terrible mess and hullabaloo in the Parliament
assembly hall - shouting, brawling, quarreling, abuse, swearing.
Only one person is sitting quietly among this uproar, with his head resting on his right hand and looking with the eye of reason somewhere beyond the hall. The rumble in the assembly hall is not disturbing him. He is seeing the country's tomorrow and the days thereafter. The country needs a government - an elected and legitimate one. The country needs a constitution - one should put an end to living without the law. Wars and confrontations should stop. Otherwise nobody will speak to you and nobody will try to share your interests and troubles. The country must overcome its isolation. But to achieve all these things, one needs to be able to breathe calmly, settle down and get to work. Yesterday's “elder brother” continues to prevent us from this opportunity. His stock of pressure and blackmail is indeed inexhaustible. And, therefore, in order to gain time, it is better to follow than to be dragged in, as the Georgian proverb says. Thus, the decision is taken and Georgia becomes a member of the CIS...
Eduard Shevardnadze is looking sadly into space: Georgia has just made the most difficult step. It seems as if the country has made a step backwards but it knows how it is going to use the time that it has gained by doing so. Unfortunately, very few people engaged in this hall appreciate this situation and, therefore, it is very unlikely that there is going to be a multitude of fellow-fighters and like-minded people to support this move.
The first day of 1994 - the day giving a start to an absolutely new age in Georgia's history is coming to a close.
However paradoxical it may appear on the surface, it suffices to delve a bit deeper and it will become clear that it was after the accession to the CIS that Georgia started to move rapidly and irreversibly towards contemporary western democracy and liberal values. In the shortest possible time-span the country managed to get out of the abyss of isolation and provincialism, not to mention joining international organizations and establishing partnership relations with the leading countries of the world. The economic recovery of the country begins from the end of 1995 and by 1997 Georgia is considered one of the most successful states among the newly emerged democracies.
* * *
All this did not happen overnight, however. On that March evening of 1994 Eduard Shevardnadze could very well see all the complexities and dramatic events on the road that his country and his people had to follow. He could well appreciate the whole burden that he was to carry alone, because in the Georgia of that time it was extremely difficult to find someone who would lend him a helping hand. But he was prepared to bear the whole brunt of this burden and travel this path alone. What was he hoping for?
The only thing that he could rely on in a defeated, looted and devastated country was the confidence of people.
… After his return to his homeland, only once has his steadfastness failed him. This was when he made up his mind to give everything up but it was the people who stood in his way asking him to stay. This is when he came to believe that people would back him.
* * *
Doubt and sleepless nights were inevitable at the beginning of the road but this was not going to be the fear of “whether I shall manage or is it worth doing at all?” Such fear could have never sprung up in a man who in 1978 threw everything he had into the balance without any doubt whatsoever and stood next to his people to save his native tongue; a man who threw himself into the crowd of exasperated fans to avoid tragedy (in June 1978 at the “Dynamo” stadium); the Foreign Minister of the one sixth of the world who predicted the approach of dictatorship and, in an emphatic manner, made a step that was difficult to imagine in Soviet times - he resigned from his office. To be on the barricades and the front line alike was not alien to him. Therefore, there was only one thing that he was afraid of - will they allow me time to accomplish what I had conceived to do? Will they let me carry everything through?
* * *
It was as far back as 1990 that Eduard Shevardnadze, in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, brought up the issue of the restoration of the Great Silk Road at the international conference “Asia - the Countries of the Pacific: Dialogue, Peace, Cooperation” held in Vladivostok. And at that time, just as he went on to say later in his book “The Great Silk Road”, a “small homeland” - Georgia stood in front of the eyes of the Foreign Minister of the large empire.
After Georgia had declared its independence, the establishment of the ministries previously subordinated to the center, turned out to be fairly problematic. The Ministry of Transport was one among them. When Georgian specialists requested appropriate documentation from Moscow, the response was as follows: spare your effort and don't waste your time in vain. All that has happened - playing a game of independence, is very temporary. Everything will be put back in place very soon. In spite of such a “promising future”, the transport management of that time went on trying and searching for solutions. They approached Eduard Shevardnadze who lived in Moscow at that time to help them to get in touch with foreigners hoping that they might help them design a new structure for the ministry. Eduard Shevardnadze responded to this that it is a vitally important undertaking for Georgia. “We must start thinking about transporting the wealth of Azerbaijan and Central Asia to Europe,” he said.
Already in 1995, after the visit of the President of Georgia to Great Britain, representatives of the largest oil companies started to frequent Georgia. The press wrote about the pompous reception given at Her Majesty's Court in President Shevardnadze's honor, meetings at the House of Lords and the higher educational institutions and also the President's speeches. This was, of course, an important part of the visit but the main purpose was holding business negotiations with the heads of oil companies, which were kept low key due to the confidential nature of the subject and, therefore, coverage was extremely limited. Later it became clear that this visit was crucial for the identification of the transportation route for the crude oil from Azerbaijan. It is difficult to say what kind of argumentation and rationale the President of Georgia used to make the oil giants change their minds and turn their plans by 180 degrees towards Georgia. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline has become a reality - we have witnessed the kick-off of the three billion USD Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project. And, most importantly, Georgia has acquired an absolutely concrete function on the economic and political map of the world and its security guarantees have grown immensely.
And yet, had Shevardnadze made such projections back in 1990 in Vladivostok, nobody would have taken him seriously. Meanwhile, he could vividly view such a future for his country. That is why he has spearheaded one of the largest projects of globalization - the Restoration of the Great Silk Road.
* * *
They say that in ancient China if someone wanted to damn a person, he must have wished him to live in the age of changes. It is indeed difficult to survive when the storm of reorganization breaks up the established system of values in a flash, irrevocably implementing a new one, which often turns out to be the contrary of the old system. The inner world of many personalities collapses, the criteria of evaluating good and evil diminish, falsehood becomes truth, an enemy becomes a friend and one should not be taken by surprise if a good-wisher turns into a foe.
Living in the age of reformation is far from easy, but the fate of the creators living in this époque is 100 times harder. Their contemporaries do not understand them, as a rule. They fight against them, abuse and even kill them. And if there is an exception to this rule, it only stresses regularity and it is only the descendants who can clearly see (and often after centuries elapse) the greatness of the people that have in their time broken the walls of conformism and dared to swim against the current towards the future for the sake of rescuing those who have been their opponents.
And Shevardnadze appreciated this very well.
He felt that his every step forward along this incredibly difficult road was blocked by hatred, treachery, dissociation and turpitude, ignorance and intolerance of reason. He was probably aware that an attempt on his life would be made but…
But it was at this very point in time that his homeland needed him very badly, it needed him more than ever.
* * *
After the first terrorist act, regardless of the dramatic effect of this event (the terrorist act took place a few minutes before the new constitution was adopted and prior to the critically important visit of a state delegation from Turkey), it was obvious that the country had taken the right course towards the future, to a future from where there was no way back to dictatorship and to the marshy steppes of colonialism. Having no available means at their disposal, the rulers of these swamps and their apostles tried to get rid of the leader. They repeated this attempt four years later when Georgia dared to declare its critically important function.
“It is God's hand that has rescued me,” Eduard Shevardnadze said after he was helped out of his car blasted by a tank mine. Indeed, it was God that saved Georgia. The mere thought of what could have followed if the first or the second attempt had been successful and the intentions of Georgia's enemies could have materialized is frightening. It was also by the grace of God that the President of Georgia remained unshaken and has not questioned even for a split of a second the “customary march of events” of his native land.
Tortured and suffering, Georgia is still pursuing stubbornly the chosen road.
The road is still covered with stones and obstacles. The foes have not died out, neither have the abusers and offenders given up their trade. Many followers have left Eduard Shevardnadze on this road: strength has failed some of them while faith has abandoned others.
“Shevardnadze's condition reminds me of the fate of a producer, who is staging a performance. An actor comes to a rehearsal. He does not know what the final idea of the play is about but he still keeps resisting the producer, fighting and rejecting everything. The producer has enough nerves and patience, however, to accomplish his idea” - these words belong to Robert Sturua.
The President of Georgia has indeed been endowed with immense patience and the secret of this forbearance is very simple: distrust and animosity are not worth even noticing when truth is the goal and the leader advances his country along the true road at the expense of tremendous struggle with inner or outer opponents.
* * *
Again mess and hullabaloo - a vitally important project for the country is at the verge of collapse and again President Shevardnadze's farsighted eye sees farther and better. “I am the decision-maker” - the President is adamant as before and as before he is loyal to the chosen course. Meanwhile Georgia is standing on the brink of a new history.
P.S. Magti GSM, Neostudio and “The World of Constant Connection” magazine cordially extend their congratulations to President Shevardnadze on the occasion of his 75th birthday and wish him many happy returns of the day, good health and inexhaustible happiness to the prosperity of our small homeland - our Georgia.