An Eventful Process: The Georgian Case of Democratisation

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Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the three Caucasian countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia underwent an eventful process of democratization. Of the three, Georgia’s journey to Western-style democracy has witnessed civil uprisings, revolution, corruption, judicial reforms, and military occupation....

Zeki AYDIN

Abstract

Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the three Caucasian countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia underwent an eventful process of democratization. Of the three, Georgia’s journey to Western-style democracy has witnessed civil uprisings, revolution, corruption, judicial reforms, and military occupation. The rather cyclical nature of the Georgian process of democratization essentially begins with the transformation of a pro-Russian government to a pro-Western one, following the forceful resignation of president Shevardnadze from office in 2003 due to the bloodless Rose Revolution. The next two decades of Georgian politics essentially witness closer ties with the West, as well as aggression from Russia, unsuccessful judicial reforms, increasing corruption, civil unrest, diminishing freedoms, and finally, a promising constitutional amendment. This paper aims to demonstrate the underlying causes of the scarcity of democracy in Georgia after 1991, as well as project the possible changes in the near future. To what extent this constitutional amendment will suffice for the establishment of democracy in Georgia is a matter of to what extent it is intended to be implied and enforced.

Introduction

A Caucasian country with a population of just over three million, Georgia has been undergoing a period of democratization since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The country in question has been a part of the Eastern Bloc since 1922, playing a fundamental role in the Caucasus alongside two other ex-Soviet states, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 initiated a massive period of transformation in these three countries, especially in terms of the political system, economics, and state-building. Georgia’s democratization process has had various checkpoints during the last three decades, which are the main points discussed throughout the following pages. Regardless, understanding the political scope of Georgia necessitates an introduction to the geopolitics of the region.

The Caucasus also referred to as Caucasia, is a mountainous region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, with a total population of over seventeen million people as of 2021, consisting of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, alongside parts of southern Russia and north-eastern part of Turkey. The region is geographically depicted in Figure 1. According to statistics from The World Bank, the GDP of these three Caucasian countries is 18.7 billion USD$, 13.9 billion USD$, and 54.6 billion USD$, respectively. Politically, the histories of all three countries share similar elements, as between 1922 and 1991 they all experienced Soviet dominance to different extents and forms.

A New Era: Fall of the Soviet Union

The fall of the Soviet Union triggered major political changes in the Caucasus, especially in terms of international relations. The driving force behind this change is essentially the intervention of the US into the region politically, economically, and militarily (Nichol, 2014). All three countries, especially since the beginning of the 21st century, have been influenced by the US in one way or another. The dissolution of the USSR ultimately ignited a change in the bipolar world order, with the US taking the upper hand. Regardless, in the first decade of the fall of the USSR, the US managed to maintain a relatively positive and cooperative relationship with the USSR's successor state, Russia. Due to unsuccessful interventionist foreign policies in the 1970s and 1980s, especially after the Vietnam War, the US abandoned its interventionist policies. This relatively passive foreign policy approach of the US fundamentally eased the relation-building process with Russia, for whom organizations such as NATO and the EU constituted tension in previous decades. Thus, the two rivals of the bipolar world order made a good start to the new unipolar world.

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