CIA Documents

News | Memory and Disinformation Studies | Publications | Article 11 May 2017


In 2010, at the request of IDFI, its American partner the National Security Archive asked for declassification of the documents presented below. The analytical materials are prepared by CIA and discuss the first President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The documents contain biographical information, as well as description of political situation in Georgia. Unfortunately, the significant parts of the documents are still redacted. For the first time, IDFI publishes these documents, allows general audience and scholars, interested in studying modern Georgian history to access CIA documents from June-September 1991.


June25, 1991    


In May, for the first time in direct elections, Gamsakhurdia, the most popular politician in republic was elected as president. On a press conference, after being elected president, Gamsakhurdia declared that his priorities will be strengthening Georgian independence, and achieving international recognition, deepening relations with those republics [1] the did not sign 9+1 agreement, and intensifying relations with West.


Born 1939, Zviad Gamsakhurdia is a son of the most beloved modern Georgian novelist Konstantine Gamsakhurdia. He graduated from Tbilisi State University and worked in the Institute for Georgian Literature. From 1950’s Gamsakhurdia was involved in dissident movement, and as 17-year-old sentenced to 5 years (suspended). According to the document many Georgian nationalists calls Gamsakhurdia, along with Merab Ksotava, “godfather of Georgian nationalism”. In 60’s and 70’s he was arrested several times, fired from work and expelled from the Georgian Writers Union for nationalist activities. In 1976, participated in formation of the Georgian Helsinki group Gamakhurdia’s arrest, and following public repudiation, made a lot of Georgian nationalist suspicious about him; however, Gamsakhurdia said that he did it “for the sake of the nationalist movement”. After April 9, 1989 he was arrested for 40 days.  


Gamsakhurdia is married and has three sons. A philologist, Gamsakhurdia specializes in American poetry, and cites Robert Frost as his favorite poet. He speaks German, French and prefect English.


July 12, 1991


Gamsakhurdia hopes to meet Gorbachev to discuss Georgian issue; moreover, he expects to visit Washington, meet President Bush and ask to support Georgian independence. 


In April, Georgian legislature created post of the president, at the insistence of Gamsakhurdia, who claimed that center was collaborating with his enemies to undermine the government.  The Supreme Soviet elected Gamsakhurdia unanimously as president, and Akaki Asatiani as Chairman of the Soviet. At the time when Gamsakhurdia’s supporters celebrate his election, the opponents warn about risks of return to authoritarianism. They blame president for creating Stalin-like cult of personality. One of his opponents worried that Gamsahurdia will end up with civil war, compared him to the hero of Chinese legend, who kills a dragon only to become a dragon himself.


According to the opposition, after assuming power Gamsakhurdia:


- Displayed intolerance toward political opponents, especially the National Congress, and ethnic minorities;


- Subjected mass media to government control;


- Took control of local self-government by appointing prefects;


- Attempted, although backtracked after criticism, to pass law granting citizenship and property rights only those whose ancestors lived in Georgia before 1801.


On the first press conference after election, Gamakhurdia declared a journalist of Radio Liberty along with the Wall Street Journal as instruments of Kremlin, called him provocateur and ordered him to leave the gathering.


The most concern for Gamsakhurdia’s chauvinism is among the republic’s non-Georgian population. Gamsakhurdia called South Ossetia “Bolshevik invention” and labeled Ossetians and their leaders as “criminals and traitors”. According to Gamsakhurdia, he is forced to enact harsh measures because they collaborate with Soviet government. To improve his bad name on the international arena, Gamsakhurdia tries to soften his position. On April 23, he suggested to hold referendum among Ossetians living in Georgia on the issue of autonomy.


Gamsakhurdia repeatedly stated that if Center tries to halt Georgian drive for independence forcefully, as it did in Latvia and Lithuania, he would call for a popular uprising. Gamsakhurdia thinks that negotiations between Tbilisi and the Center should be conducted as between equal partners not between subordinate and union government. He categorically refuses the possibility that Georgia will sign union treaty. Gamsakhurdia blames Gorbachev for continuation of imperialist policies of Lenin and Stalin, and thanked the United States for Perestroika.


To achieve peace in Caucasus, Gamsakhurdia offered mediation between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the Karabagh issue.


The opponents of Gamsakhurdia are concerned that his visit to U.S. might be interpreted as sign of support to his government by American Administration.


Gamsakhurdia thinks that economic situation will improve after the Soviet isolation will end. He supports rapid transition to market economy, and understands that in order to get Western investment restructuring of Georgian economy is needed. 


September 8, 1991


According to the document, contrary to the opponents’ claim, Gamsakhurdia did not support Moscow coup attempt, but was silent in condemning it. His silence was most likely, in order not to provoke the Emergency Committee into taking forceful actions against Georgian government.


Despite the fact that Georgia is gaining independence, the internal political instability is mounting. The confrontation with Ossetian seriously damaged Georgian government’s public image. Gamsakhurdia’s standoff with Moscow exacerbated economic situation in Georgia: rising unemployment, deficit of food and energy, and increase of prices.


Gamsakhurdia divorced his first wife after accusing her of conspiring with KGB in order to kill him and his father. His second wife is a pediatrician. Gamsakhurdia denies rumor that he wants to appoint her as minister.   In recent interview, Gamsakhurdia expressed his admiration for Ronald Reagan, and referred to Charles de Gaulle as the ideal modern politician.


[1] Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova, Armenia



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