Jaba Ioseliani

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Jaba Ioseliani
ჯაბა იოსელიანი
Member of The Military Council of Georgia
In office
6 January 1992 – 10 March 1992
Serving with Tengiz Kitovani
Preceded byZviad Gamsakhurdia (as President of Georgia)
Succeeded byEduard Shevardnadze (as Chairman Of The State Council of Georgia)
Leader Of Mkhedrioni
In office
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Member of the Parliament of Georgia
In office
Personal details
Born(1926-07-10)10 July 1926
Khashuri, Georgian SSR, Transcaucasian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died4 March 2003(2003-03-04) (aged 76)
Tbilisi, Georgia
NationalitySoviet (1926–1991) Georgian (1991–2003)
Height1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)

Jaba Ioseliani (Georgian ჯაბა იოსელიანი; 10 July 1926 – 4 March 2003) was a Georgian politician, member of Parliament of Georgia, writer, thief-in-law and leader of the paramilitary organisation Mkhedrioni.

Born in Khashuri, Georgia, Ioseliani majored in Oriental studies at Leningrad University but did not graduate. He staged a bank robbery in Leningrad in 1948, for which he served 17 years in a Soviet jail. Released in 1965, he later served another sentence for manslaughter. He eventually returned to his native Georgia and graduated from the Georgian Institute of Theater Arts, where he became a professor. He wrote a number of popular plays.

Ioseliani rose to prominence as the leader of the Mkhedrioni, a heavily armed paramilitary group which he founded in 1989. He attempted to take control of large areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with the goal of defeating regional separatist elements. In February 1991, his organisation was outlawed by President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and he was imprisoned along with other Mkhedrioni members. In response, Ioseliani accused Gamsakhurdia of trying to take control of state media and silence rivals.

In December 1991, Ioseliani escaped from prison and joined forces with rebel members of the Georgian National Guard to launch a violent coup d'état that forced President Zviad Gamsakhurdia out of office in January 1992. He was one of the three leaders of the "Military Council" that ruled Georgia from January–March 1992. He subsequently became a powerful figure in the government of President Eduard Shevardnadze, who was forced to rely heavily on Mkhedrioni militiamen because of the weakness of the state security forces. Ioseliani made it clear who he thought was the senior partner: his office in the Georgian Parliament building was located directly above Shevardnadze's and he was constantly surrounded with armed followers wherever he went.[1]

Ioseliani played a major role in the disastrous attempt to enforce Georgian rule in the separatist province of Abkhazia, which ended in a crushing defeat for government and Mkhedrioni forces in August–September 1993. Despite this, he was given a formal government position in September 1993 to enforce a national state of emergency. This gave him almost unlimited powers to detain people. He used these powers enthusiastically, imposing a severely repressive regime that was widely criticised by international human rights organisations. Supporters of the ousted Gamsakhurdia were vigorously targeted, especially in the pro-Gamsakhurdia region of Samegrelo in western Georgia, where the Mkhedrioni were accused of carrying out a number of extrajudicial killings. There were also widespread allegations that Ioseliani and his supporters were systematically "taxing" businesses and individuals in areas under their control.

On 29 August 1995, Shevardnadze narrowly escaped assassination in a bomb attack. The attack was blamed on a shadowy coalition of "mafia forces" including Ioseliani and others. Ioseliani was detained on 15 November 1995 and held for three years pending trial, then on 10 November 1998 sentenced to 11 years for banditry, terrorism, and conspiring to kill Shevardnadze. He denied the charges and was eventually released in the spring of 2000 in a general amnesty of convicts. He suffered a heart attack on 26 February 2003 and died in a Tbilisi hospital a week later. He is buried in the Pantheon of Didube, Tbilisi.[2]


  1. ^ Bonner, Raymond (16 November 1993). "Georgian Fighter Wields Guns, Money and Charm". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Dzhaba Ioseliani, 76; Oft-Imprisoned Leader of Georgian Paramilitary Force". Los Angeles Times. 5 March 2003.

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