Eduard Shevardnadze died today, Monday July 7th, at the age of 86. He was the diplomatic face of late USSR policies before being elected President of Georgia in 1995.
After progressively climbing the Communist steps in his native Georgia, Shevardnadze became First Secretary of the country’s Communist Party in 1972. Becoming Soviet Foreign Minister in 1985, he was one of the key figures of Mikhail Gorbatchev’s “glasnost” and “perestroika” policies which aimed at reforming the USSR during its last years of existence. His diplomatic career was marked by the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the diminution of the arms race, the reunification of Germany, the opening of the USSR to human rights as well as the a détente period with the United States.
With the dissolution of the USSR, he focused on the political future of his newly-independent Georgia, which he presided from 1995 to 2003. However, his rule was marked by rampant corruption and nepotism, and he was obliged to resign after the Rose Revolution led by his successor, Mikheil Saakashvili.
International reactions were numerous to pay tribute: Mikhail Gorbatchev saluted his “extraordinary, talented friend”, while Vladimir Putin presented his “deep condolences to [Shevardnadze's] friends and relatives, and to the whole Georgian people”. Eventually, current Georgian President Irakli Garibashvili praised him for defining Georgia’s role in the modern World.