For other people named Zhvania, see Zhvania.

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 remained prime minister for about a year until February 2005, when he was found naked and dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in a secret apartment with another man, Raul Usupov, who also died. Zhvania's death has been a recurring flashpoint in Georgia's political life ever since, with the late politician's bodyguards arguing that his death was a homosexual encounter gone wrong, and his family, perhaps not believing or wishing to admit he had a same-sex encounter, maintaining that it was a politically motivated murder.[1][2][3]

Early life

Zhvania was born in Tbilisi to a Georgian father and a mother of mixed Jewish-Armenian ancestry.[4] 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 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 1992, 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

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

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. Wizh 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.

Death and alleged homosexuality


Zhvania died early in the morning of 3 February 2005 from what officials claimed was carbon monoxide poisoning, due to 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.[5] 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.[6] In March 2006 interview with the Washington Post Georgia's ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze also said that he believed Zhvania was murdered.[7][8]

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.[9]

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.[10][11]

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."[12] 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.[13][14][15][16][17]

Bodyguard trials and aftermath

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".[18][19] Zhvania's family members deny allegations of homosexuality and instead insist that it was a staged murder by unspecified persons. When asked about homosexuals, Zhvania's brother Gogla stated that he finds homosexuals disgusting and that if Zhvania was one of them, it would be a disgrace to his family, though Gogla maintained that it was not the case.[20]


  1. ^ "If Zurab turned out to be a homosexual, would you consider him a disgusting person?" – Tamar Chergoleishvili to Gogla Zhvania, Georgian Journal, 13 February 2015
  2. ^ Jury Finds Late PM Zhvania’s Bodyguards Guilty of Neglect, Civil Georgia, 15 August 2015
  3. ^ Two more former officials charged in Zhvania case News Two former guards found guilty of negligence in Zurab Zhvania’s death, Democracy & Freedom Watch, 15 August 2015
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 March 2005. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 9 December 2006
  7. ^ "Shevardnadze says Georgia’s former PM Zhvania was murdered",, 20 March 2006.
  8. ^ "Shevardnadze the Survivor", The Washington Post, 17 March 2006.
  9. ^ Video on YouTube
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 March 2005. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "Prosecutors Offer Saakashvili Questioning via Skype". Civil.Ge. Civil Georgia. 27 March 2014. 
  16. ^ "State Dept. on Support for Accountability, Justice in Georgia". US Department of State. 23 March 2014. 
  17. ^ "Mikheil Saakashvili to answer questions in court". 1 Channel (Georgia). 29 March 2014. 
  18. ^ Jury Finds Late PM Zhvania’s Bodyguards Guilty of Neglect, Civil Georgia, 15 August 2015
  19. ^ Two former guards found guilty of negligence in Zurab Zhvania’s death, Democracy & Freedom Watch, 15 August 2015
  20. ^ "If Zurab turned out to be a homosexual, would you consider him a disgusting person?" – Tamar Chergoleishvili to Gogla Zhvania, Georgian Journal, 13 February 2015