Georgia Table of Contents
Military forces have played a critical role in Georgian politics since 1989. In 1991 Georgia's president was overthrown by military force, and the Shevardnadze regime relied heavily on the armed forces to stay in power. Warfare in the autonomous regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as armed resistance by Gamsakhurdia supporters in western Georgia, have further emphasized the military's major role in national security.
Almost from its inception, the National Guard became directly involved in Georgian politics. By 1992 repeated human rights offenses against Gamsakhurdia supporters brought calls to change this role. At the same time, the political rivalry between Ioseliani and Kitovani, the leaders of the Mkhedrioni (horsemen) and the National Guard, respectively, became one of the key conflicts in the Georgian government hierarchy, and many political parties continued to retain private armies in the guise of armed bodyguards or security teams. Discipline problems in the ranks of both the National Guard and the Mkhedrioni and their ineffectiveness as fighting forces led the Georgian government to plan for a professional army. In April 1992, the State Council adopted a resolution to form a unified armed force of up to 20,000 soldiers.
At the time the government announced its plans for a professional army, however, neither existing military group had sufficient internal discipline to carry out major restructuring. Efforts to disband the National Guard and Mkhedrioni were delayed by continued violence in western Georgia, by an attempted coup in Tbilisi by Gamsakhurdia supporters, and by the political ambitions of Kitovani and Ioseliani. In May 1992, Kitovani was designated minister of defense in an effort to bring the National Guard under central control. Instead, during the following year Kitovani turned his position into a power center rivaling Shevardnadze's. In May 1993, Shevardnadze induced Kitovani and Ioseliani to resign from their powerful positions on the Council for National Security and Defense, depriving both men of influence over national security policy and enhancing the stature of the head of government.
Shevardnadze complained in early 1993 that a unified army had still not been created. In May the National Guard was abolished as a separate force, and individual distinguished units received guard status. In the second half of 1993, however, outside threats to national security caused Shevardnadze to rely once again on Ioseliani's paramilitary Mkhedrioni, delaying consolidation of a national military force. In September Shevardnadze's control over the military improved when parliament declared a two-month state of emergency that had the effect of weakening the Mkhedrioni.
Data as of March 1994