International Research Institute CEVRO Published IDFI's Articles about Transition from Soviet Totalitarian System to Democracy

News | Soviet Studies | Publications | Analysis 28 February 2019

 

In 2018, Executive Director of IDFI Giorgi Kldiashvili, Programs Director Levan Avalishvili and Archives and Soviet Studies Direction Head Anton Vatcharadze participated in an international project of the Policy Studies Institute CEVRO which included the publishing of a collection of articles on the steps taken to establish a democracy from the Soviet authoritarian regime in Georgia.

 

The CEVRO institute was founded in Prague in 1999 as a public policy initiative think-thank and is implementing a variety of projects in education. The institute has accredited undergraduate and master programs for local and international students as well. CEVRO is involved in strengthening democracy not only in the Czech Republic but in other countries of the transitional democracy.

The publishing project of the magazine - Memory of Nations: Democratic Transition Guide was originally launched in several countries of the post-Soviet space including Czech Republic, Russia, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Egypt and Romania. The institute has published a separate number of journals in which the experts reviewed the opening of archives, the reorganization of security services, the lustration, the lawmaking aspects, and other similar processes for democratization after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Georgia was involved in 2018 in the second stage of the project with Cambodia and Argentina. In order to write articles, CEVRO together with other organizations and private experts addressed IDFI. Finally, the two institutions agreed on 3 articles: Anton Vacharadze - “Regime Archives”, Giorgi Kldiashvili - “Lustration” and Levan Avalishvili - “Rehabilitation of Political Victims”. All three articles are interdependent and review the Soviet archives as the main source of restoration of justice and lustration, the lustration process itself and one of its most important outcomes - rehabilitation of political victims. In addition to the members of IDFI, researchers from the Soviet Past Research Laboratory: Irakli Khvadagiani and David Jishkariani and the Director of the International School of Caucasus Studies at the Ilia State University, Gia Nodia have written articles for the Journal.

 

IDFI’s articles

 

Anton Vatcharadze - Regime Archives. The article reviews the destruction of the archive of the former State Security Committee (KGB) in Georgia, which made it impossible to conclude the lustration process in Georgia. According to the official version from the MIA, about 80% of the entire collection of the KGB archive was destroyed by a fire during the Tbilisi War. In general, this archive is subject to theories and speculations about the links of different persons with the secret services and denial or confirmation of the information is impossible. There are different opinions in Georgian society about the real destruction of the material: According to the alleged witnesses and participants of the process: some of the important documents from the archive were transferred to a special KGB depository in Smolensk, Russia. Considering this theory, the intelligence records are kept in the archives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Russia, which will allow the special services of this country to have an influence former agents or their descendants who are still active in Georgia. Unfortunately, Georgia couldn’t avoid the tragic turnover of the situation during the period of transition and the majority of the archives were destroyed. Allegedly copies of the documents fell into the hands of the successor of the USSR, the Russian Federation. Since 2003, there have been frequent talks about the return of archival documents (or their copies) from Russia to Georgia, but this never happened. Since 2008 countries broke diplomatic relations and according to today’s political conjuncture, documents couldn’t be transferred to Georgia in near future.

The article reviews the documents of the MIA archive of Georgia, access to them and their public importance. The research carried out by IDFI in 2018 showed that the archive of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia is one of the leading similar institutions among post-Soviet countries in terms of openness. But also the study revealed a number of problems: including the improvement of the technical base of the MIA archive and the adoption of legislation in the country that will cover all archival institutions in Georgia and leave less space for the management of individual archives or their supervisor ministries to introduce regulations that will violate citizen’s rights and the free access to information.

By the author’s opinion, the process of lustrationin Georgia should be finished and the relevant legislative framework is necessary. If the Russian Federation will disclose the archival materials or transmit their copies to Georgia, the law will be instrument for a relevant decision.

 

Giorgi Kldiashvili – Lustration. Refers to the lustration process that has started and partially implemented in Georgia. The article focuses on the main goals and importance of lustration for the modern society as well as the experience of the countries where the lustration process was successful. The article highlights public discussions about lustration in Georgia and the actions taken in different periods: the public opinion during the national movement and the presidency of Zviad Gamsakhurdia; The Tbilisi war and destruction of the archive, which in fact made impossible to end the lustration process; The change of power in 2003 through the velvet revolution and reinstatement of lustration issue; The near past, when the theme loses its actuality from time to time, or again becomes a subject of public discourse.
In his article, Giorgi Kldiashvili discusses the Law of Georgia “Freedom Charter” adopted on 31st May, 2011. The Freedom Charter has three main tenets: strengthening national security, prohibiting Soviet and Fascist ideologies and removing any associated symbols, and creating a special commission to maintain a black-list for anyone suspected of collusion with foreign special forces. The law prohibits persons who were employed within the KGB of the USSR or were at the senior management level in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from holding key positions in the state. The commission on lustration, established in accordance with this law, dealt with the issues of the eradication of communist symbols in Georgia, including the names of streets and squares, as well as the elimination of monuments, symbolizing the totalitarian past. After enactment of the law, instead of making effective steps in the process of lustration, in Georgia primarily began to eradicate the symbols and memorial sites, including removing Stalin's monument from the Gori city center. The process was conducted without a broader public discussion, and the opinions of historians, culture researchers, artists, architects and other specialists were not considered, and such massive destruction of monuments followed the dissatisfaction of a large part of Georgian society. The state did not elaborate policy on how to behave with the monuments, despite European experience in the same issue when the post-Soviet countries used Soviet culture objects for tourism goals.
The law also affected individuals. Several persons who wanted to hold public position were refused, according to the Article 9 of the Charter of Freedom: Constitutional suit, Nodar Mumlauri vs. Georgia is also highlighted in the article.
The Freedom Charter provides for setting up of a Commission inside the State Security Service of Georgia, which also includes members nominated by parliamentary factions. Essentially, the charter implements its regulations through this commission. The lustration process in Georgia generally failed and there are objective and subjective reasons: the lack of relevant documents, the delay in time, and the lack of a strong political will. Despite this, the law on lustration is still a very important step forward and a statement the country made in favor of eradicating totalitarian values and the recognition of the Soviet Union as a criminal regime. All of this is clearly necessary to re-evaluate modern history and the recent past.

 

Levan Avalishvili – Rehabilitation of Victims. Refers to the rehabilitation process of victims of political repressions during the Soviet totalitarian regime. There were several stages of Soviet repressions in Georgia: In February–March of 1921, Bolshevik Russia invaded the country, overthrew the democratically elected government and took control over whole territory. The members of the government and the parliament of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918–21) immediately became victims of repression. Only some members of the government have emigrated to Europe and survived. After the occupation of Georgia, the most extensive attempt to restore independence was the August Uprising of 1924. Members of the Committee for the Independence of Georgia, which was established in Europe, initiated the uprising, but the operation didn’t succeed. This failure caused the imprisonment and mass executions of members of the uprising. Estimates of the numbers of deaths, of both rebels and their opponents (including executions) range from 630 to 4,000. Some members of the Georgian government in exile were among the repressed that had emigrated to Europe in 1921, but had later returned to Georgia to took part in the uprising. The years 1937 and 1938, the period of the Great Terror, was the time of the largest repressions in the Soviet Union, and Georgian SSR was not an exception. In Georgia more than 29,000 people were convicted and almost half were executed by the so-called “Troikas”. Among them, 3,621 people were convicted by direct order by Joseph Stalin (so called “Stalin’s Lists”). Repressions continued in the later stages, from 1941 to 1951. In this period representatives of various national, ethnic and religious minorities also became subjects to the mass repressions. Two separate events, which have deeply affected the Georgian memory, and still leave scars for Georgian society are the events of the 9th of March 1956, and the 9th of April 1989. On both occasions, Soviet authorities rapidly dispersed peaceful demonstrators in the center of the capital city, Tbilisi.
The mentioned events have created social class of victims of political repressions in Georgia. After independence, it was necessary to restore the legal rights of these people. Georgia adopted first relevant law on December 11, 1997 – “On the Acknowledgment of Citizens of Georgia as Victims of Political Repression and Social Protection of Repressed Persons”. According to the law, the victims of political repressions are people, who have suffered political repression on the territory of the former USSR from February 1921 until 28 October 1990, from the intervention of the Soviet Red Army until the first free and multi-party elections in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia and later on the territory of independent Georgia. A court case about the recognition of two Georgian nationals, Klaus and Yuri Kiladzes who became victims of Soviet repressions, to receive the compensation they were entitled to, became a precedent for the other similar cases in Georgia. The case began when the appeal wasn’t satisfied by the Georgian Court system, and the case was sent to the European Court of Human Rights on 22nd February, 2006. After about 4 years of examination, the ECHR declared by six votes to one, that there has been a violation of the Article 1 of the Protocol no. 1 and obliged Georgia to pay a compensation. This suit was found to be a precedent, after which Georgia accelerated the process of recognition as a victims of political repression. According to the changes in the Law made in 2014, victims of repression were granted with an indemnity: no less than GEL 1,000 and no more than GEL 2,000 (approximately 600–1,200$ with regard to the official exchange rates in Georgia). From January 2011 to May 2017, Tbilisi City Court received 13,525 appeals in total, reviewed 11,539, affirmed 11,511 and declined only 28 appeals. Kutaisi City Court from January 2015 to May 2017 received 5,517 appeals and affirmed 4,957 of them.

One more important issue is defined by the article 8 of the Law “On the Acknowledgment of Citizens of Georgia as Victims of Political Repression and Social Protection of Repressed Persons”.  Although the article mentions a separate law that determines the procedures for the revival of property rights of the rehabilitated person, this law has not been enacted until now. This is likely to avoid problems, because the restoration of property rights of repressed and subsequent rehabilitated persons is associated with big financial expenses.

 

Conclusion

IDFI has reviewed all previous experiences and international examples to answer the three important questions still unsolved for Georgian society. The authors have observed all the progressive decisions that Georgian State has received in openness of archives, lustration and rehabilitation of political victims during the independence period and underlined the challenges that the country still faces.

The collection of articles is recommendatory in nature and once again reminds us about the existence of the problem. Examples of other countries developed by the CEVRO Institute's partners show how much Georgia has to undertake. Memory of Nations: Democratic Transition Guide, Georgian Experience is important source for interested students, researchers and the general public. Articles in English are edited by the International Expert Group.

 

The journal Memory of Nations: Democratic Transition Guide Georgian Experience is available here

Other Publications on This Issue