Gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, in 2004 Georgia remains a democratizing state made up of competing regions possessing greater historical and geographical cohesiveness than the country as a whole. Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Georgia’s first elected president, was overthrown in a military revolt in 1991-1992 and replaced by Eduard Shevardnadze, a former First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party and Soviet Foreign Minister. During that period, conflicts in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were causing significant national instability. Shevardnadze succeeded in cracking down on paramilitaries, some of whom had assisted in his rise to power, and, by the end of 1995, consolidated most coercive powers under the interior, security, and defence ministries.

Georgia: A Risk Assessment Brief