Hailed in the West, Controversial at Home Shevardnadze passes at age 86
Shevardnadze rose to political prominence in 1985 when Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev appointed him as foreign minister. The two proved to be a formidable team who skillfully thawed frosty relations between the West and Russia during the Cold War.
"If you were to ask Shevardnaze what his greatest accomplishments were as I did late in his life," Lincoln Mitchell, a research scholar at the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies said, the former Russian foreign minister would list two achievements; ending the Cold War and "bringing stability to Georgia in the early post-Soviet period."
That view, Mitchell admits, might be surprising to Georgians.
"He believed he was the person that kept Georgia from falling into an Abyss," Mitchell explained, saying that it is a "reasonably controversial assertion."
Historically, After abruptly resigning in 1990, Shevardnadze returned to Georgia. In 1995, he was formally elected as president. Despite enormous success as Russia’s foreign minister, Shevardnadze was unable to escape allegations of corruption during his two presidential terms.
Shevardnadze’s name became synonymous with “perestroika”, the Russian term for “restructuring,” that is largely credited as ushering in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He is also credited for helping to broker the deal that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s easy to see why Shevardnadze was well-liked in the West.
He was eventually ousted during the 2003 Rose Revolution after protestors claimed he had rigged election results to secure his second term.
Still, Lincoln remembers the former President as a giant with an Achilles heel.
"In 1988 or 1990, Shevardnadze was a giant on the world stage and his place in history seemed much different," Lincoln Mitchell, a research scholar at the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies said, "you would think that when Eduard Shevardnzdze died it would be a huge deal in the United States. No one's talking about it here."