Eduard Shevardnadze
28 July, 2011

The Roki Tunnel directly connects Russia with Georgia. It has no economic value for Georgia, but it has a huge political weight. It became the main political asset for the secessionist Ossetia to proceed with its cause in the 1990’s, and for the Russians to facilitate the occupation of Georgia in 2008. The construction of the tunnel was completed by the Soviet authorities during the Shevardnadze rule in Georgia when the disintegration of the Soviet Union had practically begun. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.

GJ – In 1972, a new government came to power in Georgia. Vasili Mzhavanadze was substituted by Eduard Shevardnadze on the political arena who was the Kremlin favorite and a faithful yes-man of Moscow. The new government significantly changed the way of life in Georgia which had been established here for years by previous authorities. Georgians were on their way to get used to something drastically different. How truthful would this statement could be?

SM – It cannot be truer. Personal initiative and the private sector which were developed in the period of Mzhavanadze’s rule were embraced by the Georgian society as more or less positive phenomena. The Shevardnadze administration quickly changed all that, having simply eliminated  them: restaurants stopped functioning one after another, various entertainment spots were closed down, even the tradition of meetings and promenades of the youth in the famous Rustaveli avenue were not done as often as before. The animated and vigorous life-style was no longer thought to be a positive thing. What came instead were austere and ugly forms of human relationships in the society. Unfortunately, this new way of life was not meant to introduce any positive novelty in life but served to eliminate everything helpful, liberal and encouraging that was formed in the 1960’s. The difference – in terms of our society’s behavior – between the old and the new times was significant. Before, the intelligentsia (intellectual part of the society) had very close friendly relationships with the shadow business owners. They even built apartments and country houses together; they bought cars together and helped each other in many other things. In the new Shevardnadze era, one would have to go ahead and beseech the new ‘number one’ of the country or his corrupt administration to acquire a car or an apartment, or to be granted the access to a state-owned country house. So a regular human happiness started depending on how well you were connected with the authorities. This meant to completely lose one’s self-respect.

GJ – This was the time when the Georgian scientists massively refused from genuinely objective scientific research and tried to make their scientific work as compatible with the Kremlin ideology as possible in order for them to mollify Moscow’s latent anger towards Georgia, and by this, to add certain amount of sugar to their relations with their contemporary Georgian authorities. This was the time when Georgia’s history, especially certain specific historical facts was egregiously falsified. Some of the issues were simply tabooed. As a reward for this kind of service, the falsifiers of history would receive from the state high scientific and academic titles, comfortable apartments, access to state-owned country houses and various fringes at universities. This was all a fact, wasn’t it?

SM – You cannot be more right. The truth is that this was a very usual situation in the former Soviet Union in general, including Georgia, but in the pre-perestroika (1970’s and 80’s) period this was more painfully felt than ever before. There were published certain scientific papers which were worth of nothing in which the Georgians were declared not the people of the direct Ibero-Caucasian origin but a separate ethnic group, alien to the area. Works like that were not simply bad samples of scientific endeavor but a real subversion against the Georgian national thinking and the Caucasus Region as a whole.

GJ – The diversionist scientists like them were much more dangerous for Georgia than the Roki Tunnel and the policy which was being formed in Apkhazeti (Abkhazia) in that period of time. The erroneous historical approach like this to our past has played a huge role in instigating the ethnic conflicts in the Region . . . (Continued in the next article on the same page)a