Ajara is the only autonomous region in the South Caucasus that never fought an armed conflict with its central government. In the Georgian context, the non-violent resolution of the Ajara crisis following the Rose revolution makes a particular sense compared to the situation in South-Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The main event of this period is of course the departure of the Ajara ruler Aslan Abashidze, whose ancestors occupied the function of sandjak bay and for that reason a big role in Ajaran politics1, in May 2004 after an escalation of tensions with the new Georgian President, Mikhail Saakachvili. As a consequence, Saakachvili was given credit both in Georgia and on the international scene for this first success as President of Georgia.
But understanding Saakachvili's influence on the developments in Ajara requires much more than history of the events that led to Abashidze's departure. First of all, the rise and the revolution of the Ajaran crises are understandable only if the economical and ethno-religious specificities of Ajara are considered. Secondly, it seems necessary to analyze Abashidze's miscalculations and the regime of which they are the product. Finally, we will pay a particular attention to Saakachvili strategy in Ajara and discuss if the resolution of the Ajara crisis is really the democratic success it claims to be.
[...] The electoral pact brought Abashidze 18.84 percent of the vote nationally and enabled the Revival to be the second party in the parliament. Abashidze's interest was thus to support the elections strongly criticized by Saakachvili's supporters. During the campaign, the National Movement candidates were assaulted and the party premises vandalized in Batumi. Then, Sheverdnadze sent Abashidze as his personal envoy in Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. And on the 18th of November, Abashidze's supporters from Ajara joined several thousand pro-Shaverdnadze demonstrators in front of the Georgian parliament. [...]
[...] As far as the ethnicity and national belonging are concerned, it can be said the population, percent of [which] is composed of ethnic Georgians”, firmly consider themselves as Georgians from the beginning of the twentieth century, after the incorporation of Ajara into the Russian Empire in 1978. As a conclusion, about the question of allegiances, it can be said that despite its Muslim history, and its strong regional identity, no ethnic, national or religious belonging proved strong enough to challenge the Georgian national identity as the legitimate basis of the political power. [...]
[...] and Bahumi was built in the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1930, a refinery was built, too and Batumi played a major role in the export of the oil from Azerbaijan and in the production of refined oil products delivered in the entire Caucasus by railway. Even if Batumi lost its relative importance after the Second World War, with the rise of the Siberian oil, it has remained a key transit zone for the entire Caucasus. In of all oil products that transited through Georgia moved through the Batumi Oil Terminal. [...]
[...] The direct military threat was particularly present in the crisis after that Ajaran police and paramilitaries barred Saakachvili and his entourage from entering Ajara in March 2004. As a direct consequence, Saakachvili reiterated his readiness to use force. And in April 2004, as a response to the pledge of a Georgian brigade commander in Ajara to support Abashidze, large military exercises took place 70 kilometers north of Batumi to threaten the mutinous troops. But the most successful aspect of Saakachvili's policy is certainly that he managed to gain enough popular support to overthrow Abashidze thanks two main devices. [...]
[...] Sources Dartchiachvili, David and Urjewicz, Charles “L'Adjarie, carrefour de civilisations et d'empires”, Cahiers d'Etudes sur la Mediterranée et le Monde Turco-Iranien (CEMOTI), N°27 January-June 1999 Radvanyi, Jean and Beroutchchvili, Nicolas “L'Adjarie, atout et point sensible de la Géorgie”, Cahiers d'Etudes sur la Mediterranée et le Monde Turco-Iranien (CEMOTI), N°27 January-June 1999 “Saakashvili's Ajara success: repeatable elsewhere in Georgia?”, International Crisis Group European Report August 2004 ●Various articles and analysis on the websites of : Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty http://www.rferl.org, Institute for War and Peace Reporting http://www.iwpr.net/, Eurasianet http://www.eurasianet.org, Central Asia Caucasus Institute, http://cacianalyst.org Dartchiachvili, David and Urjewicz, Charles “L'Adjarie, carrefour de civilisations et d'empires”, Cahiers d'Etudes sur la Mediterranée et le Monde Turco-Iranien (CEMOTI), N°27 January-June 1999 Radvanyi, Jean and Beroutchchvili, Nicolas “L'Adjarie, atout et point sensible de la Géorgie”, Cahiers d'Etudes sur la Mediterranée et le Monde Turco-Iranien (CEMOTI), N°27 January-June 1999, p230 “Saakashvili's Ajara success: repeatable elsewhere in Georgia?”, International Crisis Group European Report August 2004 ICG, op . [...]
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