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Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and US President George Bush. Photo: NATO

In 2005, US president George W Bush described Georgia as a "beacon of liberty" during a visit to its capital Tbilisi. He informed an enthusiastic crowd: "As you build freedom in this country, you must know that the seeds of liberty you are planting in Georgian soil are flowering across the globe."[13] In the annual address to the parliament in 2006 Saakashvili also told Georgians:

"[Georgia has become] a country … whose revolution was followed by other revolutions. Flags of the Georgian revolution were raised in Kiev, Beirut and Kyrgyzstan. They are being raised today in Belarus and many other countries … The Georgian flag and freedom have become identical notions."[14]

At the time, it appeared that a wave of "electoral revolutions" was sweeping aside corrupt or semi-authoritarian regimes in former communist countries: events in Bulgaria in 1996, Slovakia in 1998, Croatia in 2000, Serbia in 2000 and now Georgia in 2003 all suggested a pattern of "velvet" (i.e., non-violent) revolutions.[15] In April 2008 in Bucharest, Mikheil Saakashvili asserted that Georgia had already become a global model by demonstrating that: "No country is unfit for democracy. No people is unfit for dramatic development. And there is no cultural relativism when it comes to freedom."[16]

To re-brand Georgia as a global model after the Rose Revolution was, by any measure, remarkably ambitious. A few years before, Georgia had been regarded as one of the most corrupt countries on earth. At that time, USAID staff informally referred to Georgia, one of the biggest per capita recipients of US aid in the world, as "white Africa."[17] In 2001, following a visit to the country, Caucasus expert Charles King had concluded that "in a region of only minimally successful countries, however, the Georgian case is particularly dire … [I]t is worth asking whether a state called

Suggested readings

President Bush's Tbilisi speech can be read here: "Text: Bush's Speech in Georgia," BBC, 10 May 2005.

In "Georgians Embrace Bush, but Expectations Vary for the Presidential Visit to Tbilisi," a EurasiaNet piece published 9 May 2005, Molly Corso captured the sentiment in the streets of Tbilisi

April 2010

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