Zurab Zhvania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Zurab Zhvania
ზურაბ ჟვანია
Zurab zhavnia senate.JPG
4th Prime Minister of Georgia
In office
17 February 2004 – 3 February 2005
PresidentMikheil Saakashvili
Preceded byOffice established; Himself as the State Minister of Georgia
Succeeded byMikheil Saakashvili (Acting)
State Minister of Georgia
In office
23 November 2003 – 17 February 2004
PresidentMikheil Saakashvili
Preceded byAvtandil Jorbenadze
Succeeded byOffice abolished; himself as the Prime Minister of Georgia
2nd Chairman of the Parliament
In office
25 November 1995 – 1 November 2001
PresidentEduard Shevardnadze
Preceded byEduard Shevardnadze
Succeeded byNino Burjanadze
Member of the Parliament of Georgia
In office
25 November 1995 – 5 February 2004
General Secretary of the Union of Citizens of Georgia
Personal details
Born9 December 1963 (1963-12-09)
Tbilisi, Georgian SSR, USSR (now Georgia)
Died3 February 2005 (2005-02-04) (aged 41)
Tbilisi, Georgia
Political partyUnited National Movement (2003-2005)
United Democrats (2002-2003)
Union of Citizens of Georgia (1995-2002)
Green Party of Georgia (1992-1995)
Alma materTbilisi State University

Zurab Zhvania (Georgian: ზურაბ ჟვანია; 9 December 1963 – 3 February 2005) was a Georgian politician, who served as Prime Minister of Georgia and Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia.

Zhvania began his political career at young age, making his first political steps as a member of Green Party, in the beginning of 90s. In 1992 Zhvania was elected chairman of Eastern European Green's and was first Eastern European to serve at the post. In 1993 Zhvania made first serious steps in Georgian politics as he was elected as General Secretary of Citizen's Union. From that point Zhvania served important role in Georgian politics until his death in 2005. 1995 he became the chairman of parliament and maintained the post until his resignation in 1999, which was followed with discharge of other ministers, whom Zhvania suspected in Corruption. From 1993 till 2003 Zhvania remained in opposition fighting against Shevardandze's government. In 2003, Zhvania united with other opposition leaders, mainly Burdjanadze and Saakashvili, held non-violent protests against the government. Protests ended with resignation of Shevardnadze and election of Saakashvili as the president. Zhvania became prime minister and served the post until his death in 2005.

Early life[edit]

Zhvania was born in Tbilisi into the family of Besarion Zhvania, an ethnic Georgian, and Rema Antonova, of mixed Jewish and Armenian ancestry, both physicists working at the Tbilisi Institute of Physics.[1] In 1985 he graduated from the Faculty of Biology of the Tbilisi State University. He worked at the university through 1992. In 1993 he married Nino Kadagidze, who owned a book store with English language books in Tbilisi. They had a son and two daughters: Elisabeth, Besarion and Anna. Zhvania spoke Georgian, English, German and Russian.


Zhvania entered national politics in 1988. Between 1988 and 1990, Georgia's Green Party, which Zhvania co-chaired, was one of a number of opposition groups that took part in the country's drive to regain its independence. In September 1991 his party joined the opposition to the government of the first post-Soviet President of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Gamsakhurdia's violent overthrow in January 1992 resulted in Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister, coming to power a few months later.

Shevardnadze established the Union of Citizens of Georgia to provide a moderate centre-right grouping for reformist democrats. Zhvania joined the UGC in 1995, entering the Georgian parliament in the same year, and recruited other reformists to the party, notably Mikheil Saakashvili. In 1993, Zhvania became general secretary of Shevardnadze's party. On 25 November 1995, after the party's victory at the election, he was elected as chairman of the Georgian parliament.

However, Zhvania fell out with Shevardnadze over a corruption scandal and resigned as speaker on 1 November 2001. He and Saakashvili also left Shevardnadze's party. In 2002, he established and chaired a new party, called the United Democrats.

Zhvania had a wife and three children, and in addition to his native Georgian, he spoke Armenian, Hebrew, English, German, and Russian. Zurab Zhvania is the only Georgian Prime Minister to have died while in office.

November elections[edit]

Zhvania addresses an opposition rally during the Rose Revolution, November 2003.

The parliamentary elections of 2 November 2003 were widely condemned by local and international observers as being grossly rigged by the government. In response, Zhvania and other opposition figures called for mass protests against Shevardnadze. Two weeks of massive popular protests followed, forcing Shevardnadze's resignation on 23 November. He was replaced on an interim basis by Zhvania's successor as parliamentary speaker, Nino Burjanadze. Zhvania himself became a minister in the transitional government prior to fresh presidential elections held on 4 January 2004, which were won by Saakashvili.

Prime minister[edit]

In February 2004 according to the proposal of President Saakashvili Zhvania was elected as Prime Minister by the Parliament of Georgia. He led a young reformist cabinet with 15 members with an average age of 35 years. With his cabinet Zhvania was seen as a moderate counterweight to the "radical" attitudes of President Saakashvili. He also was a key figure in the talks on the separatist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Controversial was Zhvania's role during the privatisations in Georgia, when he took over all final decisions, while the competent ministers of economy had to be changed three times within two years. Experts also criticized his role in the sale of the port of Batumi and of 16 ships of the Georgian Black Sea fleet.



Zhvania died early in the morning of 3 February 2005 from what officials claimed was carbon monoxide poisoning caused by an inadequately ventilated gas heater. He was in a rented apartment with Raul Usupov, deputy governor of Georgia's Kvemo Kartli region, at the time. Usupov also died. Guards entered the house after there was no word from Zhvania for several hours to find him in an armchair and Usupov in the kitchen. Details of the incident are still limited, although officials have said there was a gas-powered heating stove in the main room of the house, where a table was set up with a backgammon set lying open upon it.

Immediately after the incident, live on Rustavi-2 television, Georgia's Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said there was no reason to suspect foul play.[2] Bodies were taken to the coroner's office, where a preliminary examination showed both died from carbon monoxide poisoning. There were reports of serious technical violations when the gas heaters were installed, with officials saying there was no ventilation in the apartment.

However, Zhvania's family members have questioned the official version of the death, with Goga Zhvania having said that he was sure that his brother was assassinated.[3] In March 2006 interview with the Washington Post Georgia's ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze also said that he believed Zhvania was murdered.[4][5]

In addition, Irakli Okruashvili has also stated in his scandalous speech in Imedi TV, that Zhvania's corpse was moved to the house, but who actually moved the corpse he said he was not going to talk about that any longer that day.[6]

According to some reports Mikheil Machavariani, Deputy Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, was one of the last people who spoke with Zurab Zhvania the night before his death.[7][8]

President Mikheil Saakashvili, at an emergency Cabinet meeting, said, "In Zurab Zhvania, Georgia has lost a great patriot, who devoted his entire life to serving the motherland. Zurab's death is a great blow to Georgia and to me personally. I lost a very close friend, a reliable adviser and a great ally. I want to call on you all to be strong, because there is no greater responsibility than loyal service to our country and our people." Rabbi Mikhailashvili stated, "The Jewish community mourns the sudden loss of Zurab Zhvania. As a Jew, he had a close relationship to the Jewish community in Georgia."[1] As of March 2014 Mikheil Saakashvili was wanted by the Georgian Prosecutor's office for questioning in an investigation carried out for the purpose of establishing circumstances surrounding Zhvania's death.[9][10][11][12][13]

Bodyguard trials and aftermath[edit]

Years after the incident, Zhvania's death remains at the center of Georgia's political life. In 2015, several of Zhvania's bodyguards were convicted of neglect after they admitted that on the day of Zhvania's death they had left him alone, at his own request. According to the bodyguards, Zhvania maintained a secret apartment and went to unspecified meetings there, sometimes disguised in a beard. When the security personnel entered the apartment to check on Zhvania, they found his body naked along with the naked Raul Usupov. The bodyguards admitted to tampering with the scene in order to erase any traces that the two men have had sex, so as to "keep his [Zhvania’s] name clean".[14][15] Zhvania's family members deny allegations of homosexuality and instead insist that it was a staged murder by unspecified persons.


  1. ^ a b "Jewish Community Mourns Sudden Loss of Georgian Prime Minister". Archived from the original on 24 March 2005. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  2. ^ "MSN | Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing, Breaking News, and Latest Videos". www.msn.com. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  3. ^ http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=14269 Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 9 December 2006
  4. ^ "Shevardnadze says Georgia’s former PM Zhvania was murdered", caucaz.com, 20 March 2006.
  5. ^ "Shevardnadze the Survivor", The Washington Post, 17 March 2006.
  6. ^ Video on YouTube
  7. ^ "I have never betrayed Zurab Zhvania - MP Mikheil Machavariani - News Agency InterpressNews". 4 March 2016. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Заместитель председателя парламента Грузии Михаил Мачавариани". Радио Свобода. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  9. ^ "Prosecutors Offer Saakashvili Questioning via Skype". Civil.Ge. Civil Georgia. 27 March 2014.
  12. ^ "State Dept. on Support for Accountability, Justice in Georgia". US Department of State. 23 March 2014. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Mikheil Saakashvili to answer questions in court". 1 Channel (Georgia). 29 March 2014.
  14. ^ Jury Finds Late PM Zhvania’s Bodyguards Guilty of Neglect, Civil Georgia, 15 August 2015
  15. ^ Two former guards found guilty of negligence in Zurab Zhvania’s death, Democracy & Freedom Watch, 15 August 2015


Political offices
Preceded by State Minister of Georgia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Prime Minister of Georgia
Succeeded by