When Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected Georgia's president Sunday, he was given the power to declare war, to institute martial law and presidential rule and to revoke or grant citizenship. These powers illustrate that the republic bordering Turkey is dead-serious in its attempt to secede from the Soviet Union. They also suggest that, unlike the calm and orderly Baltic republics, Georgia fully expects violence in its rebellion against the Kremlin.
Bloodshed is a foregone conclusion with a leader like Mr. Gamsakhurdia. He may have translated Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to Georgian, but in his political ideas and tactics he sounds like an ultra-nationalist tyrant.
He and his chauvinist supporters have declared a veritable war against all ethnic non-Georgians, who total about 30 percent of the republic's population of four million. Thus, citizenship and land ownership are likely to be restricted to those families whose ancestors lived in Georgia before its 1801 annexation by Czarist Russia. Such a move would be a particularly heavy blow to the republic's substantial Armenian and Azerbaijani minorities, whom Mr. Gamsakhurdia classifies as "enemies" of Georgia. "Moscow has been artificially increasing other nationalities, bringing them here and helping immigration -- everything against the Georgian nation," the president claims.