Post-Stalin Politics

Georgia Table of Contents

Upon Stalin's death in 1953, Georgian nationalism revived and resumed its struggle against dictates from the central government in Moscow. In the 1950s, reforms under Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev included the shifting of economic authority from Moscow to republic-level officials, but the Russian Khrushchev's repudiation of Stalin set off a backlash in Georgia. In 1956 hundreds of Georgians were killed when they demonstrated against Khrushchev's policy of de-Stalinization. Long afterward many Stalin monuments and place-names--as well as the museum constructed at Stalin's birthplace in the town of Gori, northwest of Tbilisi--were maintained. Only with Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policy of glasnost in the late 1980s did criticism of Stalin become acceptable and a full account of Stalin's crimes against his fellow Georgians become known in Georgia.

Between 1955 and 1972, Georgian communists used decentralization to become entrenched in political posts and to reduce further the influence of other ethnic groups in Georgia. In addition, enterprising Georgians created factories whose entire output was "off the books". In 1972 the long-standing corruption and economic inefficiency of Georgia's leaders led Moscow to sponsor Eduard Shevardnadze as first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party. Shevardnadze had risen through the ranks of the Communist Youth League (Komsomol) to become a party first secretary at the district level in 1961. From 1964 until 1972, Shevardnadze oversaw the Georgian police from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where he made a reputation as a competent and incorruptible official.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress