Eduard Ambrosiyevich Shevardnadze (Georgian: ედუარდ ამბროსის ძე შევარდნაძე, Eduard Ambrosis dze Ševardnadze; 25 January 1928 – 7 July 2014) was a Georgian politician and diplomat. He served as First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party (GPC), the de facto leader of Soviet Georgia from 1972 to 1985 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991. Shevardnadze was responsible for many key decisions in Soviet foreign policy during the Gorbachev Era including reunification of Germany. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he was President of Georgia (or in equivalent posts) from 1992 to 2003. He was forced to retire in 2003 as a consequence of the bloodless Rose Revolution.
Shevardnadze started his political career in the late 1940s as a leading member of his local Komsomol organisation. He was later appointed its Second Secretary, then its First Secretary. His rise in the Georgian Soviet hierarchy continued until 1961 when he was demoted after he insulted a senior official. After spending two years in obscurity, Shevardnadze returned as a First Secretary of a Tbilisi city district, and was able to charge the Tbilisi First Secretary at the time with corruption. His anti-corruption work quickly garnered the interest of the Soviet government and Shevardnadze was appointed as First Deputy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Georgian SSR. He would later become the head of the internal affairs ministry and was able to charge First Secretary (leader of Soviet Georgia) Vasil Mzhavanadze with corruption.
As First Secretary, Shevardnadze started several economic reforms, which would spur economic growth in the republic—an uncommon occurrence in the Soviet Union because the country was experiencing a nationwide economic stagnation. Shevardnadze’s anti-corruption campaign continued until he resigned from his office as First Secretary. Mikhail Gorbachev appointed Shevardnadze to the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs. From then on, with the exception of a brief period between 1990 and 1991, only Gorbachev would outrank Shevardnadze in importance in Soviet foreign policy.
In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Shevardnadze returned to the newly independent Georgia. He became the country’s head of state following the removal of the country’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Shevardnadze was formally elected president in 1995. His presidency was marked by rampant corruption and accusations of nepotism. After allegations of electoral fraud during the 2003 legislative election that led to a series of public protests and demonstrations colloquially known as the Rose Revolution, Shevardnadze was forced to resign. He later lived in relative obscurity and published his memoirs.