Review of Jonathan Wheatley 'Georgia from National Awakening to Rose Revolution'

Review of Jonathan Wheatley 'Georgia from National Awakening to Rose Revolution', in Slavonic & East European Review, 2010.

FINDING not a single Georgian-language source listed in the Bibliography, I approached this work with some apprehension, but the text is reassuringly comprehensive in its account of the period under review and (mostly) judicious in its judgements. However, some explanation of the transcription employed would have been useful and might have helped the author avoid some inconsistencies. For instance, Georgia's south-western province of Ach’ara (the apostrophe marking glottalisation) becomes  Adjara, but the surname Ch’ant’uria appears simply as Chanturia; the movement Ch’q’ondideli is rendered  Chkhondideli, though the surname Q’arq’arashvili emerges as  Karkarashvili. Naturally, such linguistic infelicities will not trouble most readers, who will probably be absorbed in what is virtually a manual on how not to build a functioning state, following the steps by which Georgia's three successive leaders (the late Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze, Mikheil Saak’ashvili) have managed in the space of twenty years to ruin what was probably the most prosperous and vibrant of the USSR's fifteen union-republics. The book was apparently completed in early 2005, when Saak’ashvili was only a year into his first term, well before his mismangement brought disaster on his people (not to mention South Ossetia) in August 2008 and caused plaintive calls from oppositionists about the country's continuing lack of democracy. This explains why the final assessment is less damning than would be anticipated today, even allowing for his high-profile crackdown on corruption and reigning in the notorious bribe -taking traffic-police: '[T]he development of democracy...depends to a large extent on society's own capacity to define its own interests and to act in their defence — a capacity which, as we have observed, remained weak in Georgia. On whether progress is being made in this direction, the jury is still out' (p.226).

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