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Shevardnadze: Last Soviet FM with important role in ending Cold War dies age 86

Shevardnadze: Last Soviet FM with important role in ending Cold War dies age 86
Former President of Georgia and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze has died at the age of 86 in Tbilisi. Shevardnadze’s family and personal press service have officially confirmed the news.

President Vladimir Putin has expressed “deep condolences” to the Shevardnadze family and all the Georgian people on the occasion of death of the politician, informed presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

The first and only Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said he’s devastated by the death of a man he believed to be his friend, “a bright character with truly Georgian temper.”

“Shevardnadze used to be big-league politician. He made a great contribution to perestroika policies, a devout supporter of new ways of thinking in international relations”, Gorbachev added according to Interfax.

As the last foreign minister of the Soviet Union, Eduard Shevardnadze was one of the major figures who prepared and set in motion the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Shevardnadze was Georgian president from 1995 till 2003 and was ousted from office as a result of the Rose Revolution that ended in electing Mikhail Saakashvili Georgia’s new leader.

Georgian President Eduard Shevarnadze walks surrounded by bodyguards outside Parliament building in Tbilisi, 09 November 2003. (AFP Photo/Victor Drachev)

Eduard Shevardnadze was born in the village of Mamati in the Soviet Republic of Georgia January 25, 1928.

In 1959 he graduated from Kutaisi Pedagogical Institute with a history degree.

Shevardnadze joined the Communist Party early and passed all stages of party functionary and in 1972 became the Number 1 apparatchik in Georgia and headed the republic.

After Mikhail Gorbachev announced a campaign for changes (‘perestroika’) in the Soviet Union, he appointed Shevardnadze foreign minister of the USSR.

November 21, 1990. U.S.S.R. President Mikhail Gorbachev (left) talking with U.S.S.R. Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze (right) at the first plenary sitting of an all-European top-level meeting.

With Eduard Shevardnadze in ministerial chair, the Soviet Union normalized relations with the US, ended the Cold War, agreed on reunification of Germany and dismissed the Warsaw Pact military union.

"I am not sure that the Cold War could have ended peacefully without him. He changed all our lives.... The man's a hero," former US Secretary of State James Baker, who spent long hours at the negotiating table with Shevardnadze, said in 2000.

Shevardnadze, dubbed ‘Shevy’ by American politicians, played a key role in nuclear arms reduction negotiations with the United States.

He was among the first Soviet leaders to recognize the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eduard Shevardnadze returned to Georgia, which had lost its first President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who was ousted and murdered in a bloody internal conflict.

Shevardnadze managed to stop the civil war at home, serving the chairman of the parliament and heading the country starting from October 1992.

In November 1995 he was elected president with 82 percent of votes.

During Shevardnadze’s years as head of state, two conflicts with separatist regions within Georgia took place. The conflict with Abkhazia (1992-1994) and South Ossetia (1991-1992) were both ended with the help of Russia, which provided peacekeepers for the region.

Georgian opposition supporters wave national flags as they celebrate outside the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi, November 22, 2003. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

In November 2003, opposition leaders accused Eduard Shevardnadze of falsifying the results of parliamentary elections and commenced the protest later dubbed the Rose Revolution. As a result Shevardnadze resigned on November 23, 2003.

After his resignation, Shevardnadze lived in Moscow for several years, working on his memoirs.