By Paul Goble
The young people who now dominate politics and economics in Georgia are the representatives of the Brezhnev-era “golden youth,’ who themselves the children of the Soviet nomenklatura nonetheless grew up hating the falsehood, social demagogy and limitations of that era, according to a Tbilisi analyst.
In “Vestnik Kavkaza”, Georgy Kalatozishvili notes that Georgia has one of the youngest political, bureaucratic, and economic elites of any country in the world, a pattern that reflects Georgian history and one that helps to explain the behavior of that elite, including its leader Mikhail Saakashvili (www.vestikavkaza.ru/analytics/obshestvo/31735.html).
According to a recent study, he says, the average age of Georgian bureaucrats is now 28, thsat of ministers and members of parliament 32, and that “among successful businessmen, managers, university heads, experts and journalists [in the Georgian republic] there are today almost no people older than 40.”
Most analysts, Kalatozishvili says, date this process to the Rose Revolution of 2003 which brought to power Saakashvili who was 36 and thus the youngest president in the world. And they note that his coming to power resulted in the reduction of the age of cadres “in all spheres” because the young leaders found it easier to work with people of their own generation.
“As often happens” in such circumstances, the Tbilisi analyst says, the results have been mixed. On the one hand, the youthful leaders “increased the budget by eight times … and implemented the most complex reforms in all directions. On the other, their radicalism meant that they often gave little thought to “’costs’ and consequences.”
Not only has it led to crises like the social explosion of November 2007 when Saakashvili was forced to impose martial law, but it has meant that some of these younger people, precisely because they lack the experience of the more senior people they have displaced, have made decisions that Tbilisi has sometimes been forced to reverse.
This extraordinarily youthful face of today’s Georgia has sparked many questions, Kalatozishvili says, including most often the following: How can it be that in a Caucasus country, historically patriarchal with “the unqualified priority that is given to family values,” that such a youth revolution could happen.
The answer, the Tbilisi analyst says, is “simple: family values did not disappear at all. The family, which consists of three generations, is up to now indestructible. But it turns out that family values need not be extrapolated to social political life, and given a certain combination of factors, they generally are losing the possibility of influencing social processes.”
Another reason for that conclusion, Kalatozishvili argues, is that the rise of young people in the Georgian elite did not begin in 2004 but in fact had started under Eduard Shevardnadze. After he came to power in 1992, the former president promoted “in all institutions precisely that social group which could guarantee him legitimacy in the new post-communist period.”
That was the young, but more than that, these new people were examples of something more than just youth. They were examples of “a particular social stratu8m which was formed in the second half of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s … the capital ‘golden youth’ who grew up in families of the Soviet nomenklatura.”
Saakashvili himself, Kalatozishvili says, “is a typical representative of [this] generation which hated the communist regime. These young people entered life at a time when audio-video machines or Levi jeans were considered a mark of social superiority” by members of a group that by most standards had everything the system could provide but “wanted a lot more.”
Such people, the Tbilisi analyst points out, travelled to the border with Turkey in order to watch on Turkish television the European Cup matches, they hijacked planes to the West … and at night they listened to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd,” all things that contributed to their view that everything Soviet was bad.
Their self-confidence and instinctive dislike of Russia “as the inheritor of the hated USSR” are among the chief characteristics of the mindset of these people. And because of that it is clear that “no other social group would have been capable of doing what the Saakashvili command has done, changing Georgia beyond recognition.”
Today, Kalatozishvili concludes, “this group is neither better nor worse” than those around who formed it. “It is simply different,” and that difference, given the age of the members of this group and their current dominance, promises to characterize Georgian actions for a long time into the future.