Salome Zourabichvili

Salome Zourabichvili
სალომე ზურაბიშვილი
Victory Day - Europe Day 2020 Address Photo of Salome Zourabichvili (cropped).jpg
5th President of Georgia
Assumed office
16 December 2018
Prime MinisterMamuka Bakhtadze
Giorgi Gakharia
Irakli Garibashvili
Preceded byGiorgi Margvelashvili
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
20 March 2004 – 18 October 2005
PresidentMikheil Saakashvili
Preceded byTedo Japaridze
Succeeded byGela Bezhuashvili
Leader of The Way of Georgia
In office
11 March 2006 – 12 November 2010
Preceded byParty established
Succeeded byKakha Seturidze
Member of the Parliament of Georgia
In office
18 November 2016 – 22 December 2018
Preceded byZaza Papuashvili
Succeeded byLado Kakhadze
Personal details
Born (1952-03-18) 18 March 1952 (age 69)
Paris, France
Political partyWay of Georgia (2006–2011)[1]
Independent (2011–present)
  • Nicolas Gorjestani
    (m. 1981; div. 1992)
  • Janri Kashia
    (m. 1993; died 2012)
ResidenceTbilisi, Georgia
EducationSciences Po
Columbia University

Salome Zourabichvili[a] (Georgian: სალომე ზურაბიშვილი, [sɑlɔˈmɛ zurɑbiʃˈvili]; born 18 March 1952) is a French–Georgian politician and former diplomat who currently serves as the fifth President of Georgia, in office since December 2018. She is the first woman to be elected as Georgia's president,[2] a position she will occupy for a term of six years. As a result of constitutional changes coming into effect in 2024, Zourabichvili is expected to be Georgia's last popularly elected president; all future heads of state are to be elected indirectly by a parliamentary college of electors.

Zourabichvili was born in Paris into a family of Georgian immigrants. She joined the French diplomatic service in the 1970s and went on to occupy a variety of senior diplomatic positions for three decades. From 2003 to 2004, she served as the Ambassador of France to Georgia. In 2004, by mutual agreement between France and Georgia, she accepted Georgian nationality and became the Foreign Minister of Georgia. During her tenure at the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), she negotiated a treaty that led to the withdrawal of Russian forces from the undisputed parts of the Georgian mainland. She has also served at the UN Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee as the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts.

After a falling out with Georgia's then President Mikheil Saakashvili, in 2006 Zourabichvili founded The Way of Georgia political party, which she led until 2010. Ultimately, she was elected to the Georgian Parliament in 2016 as an independent; she vacated her parliamentary seat after being sworn in as President. During the 2018 Georgian presidential election, Zourabichvili ran as an independent candidate and was supported by the governing Georgian Dream party. She prevailed in a run-off vote against Grigol Vashadze.

Early life and education

Zourabichvili was born in Paris into a family of Georgian political emigrants. Her father, Levan (1906–1975), was an engineer and served as a chairman of the Georgian Diaspora in Paris. He was the grandson of Niko Nikoladze, a prominent Georgian social democrat from the late nineteenth century, scion of noble Nikoladze family and a member of meore dasi, a collection of Georgian liberal intelligentsia.[3] Her mother, Zeinab Kedia (1921–2016), was related by marriage to Noe Ramishvili, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Georgia.[4] Zourabichvili has one brother, Otar.[4] She attended some of the most prestigious French schools, such as Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), and began a master's program at Columbia University in New York in the academic year of 1972–1973, taking courses with Zbigniew Brzezinski. Zourabichvili is a cousin of Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, a distinguished Franco-Georgian historian who serves as the head of the Académie française.


Salome Zourabichvili in June 2004.

Career in diplomacy

Zourabichvili abandoned her studies and joined the French foreign service in 1974, becoming a career diplomat with postings to Rome, the United Nations, Brussels, Washington, etc. The first time Zourabichvili visited Georgia was in 1986 during a break from her job at the French Embassy in Washington.

Salomé Zourabichvili was Head of the Division of International and Strategic Issues of National Defence General Secretariat of France in 2001–2003.[5] She was appointed the Ambassador of France to Georgia in 2003.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2004–2005

Zourabichvili with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004

President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia nominated her as Minister of Foreign Affairs in his new government. Zourabichvili became the first woman to be appointed to this post in Georgia on 18 March 2004.[6]

Zourabichvili was the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts assisting the UN Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee.[7]

As foreign minister of Georgia, Zourabichvili was the main negotiator of the agreement for the withdrawal of Russian military bases from the territory of Georgia, which was signed with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov on 19 May 2005.[8] During her tenure as Foreign Minister, the "New Group of Friends of Georgia" was created, bringing together Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Poland to help Georgia's aspirations towards NATO and foster European integration.

Zourabichvili was sacked by Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli late on 19 October 2005 after a series of disputes with members of Parliament.[9] She had also been heavily criticized by a number of Georgian ambassadors. Shortly before her dismissal was announced, Zourabichvili resigned from the French foreign service, which had continued to pay her a salary while she was minister, and announced that she would remain in Georgia to go into politics.

Political career

Zourabichvili with opposition leader Goga Khaindrava in 2009

In November 2005, Zourabichvili set up the organization 'Salomé Zourabichvili’s Movement'. In January 2006 she announced the establishment of a new political party Georgia's Way, criticizing the country's "de facto one-party system."[10] Although Zourabichvili enjoyed some degree of reputation in Georgia she was long unable to establish herself in the political field. At the city council elections in Tbilisi on 5 October 2006, only 2.77% of the constituency voted for her party. Six months before, an opinion poll conducted by the Georgian weekly Kviris Palitra suggested that she would garner 23.1% of the votes at presidential elections. Since October 2007, her party was part of the United Opposition alliance which nominated Zourabichvili as a Prospective Prime Minister in case of their candidate Levan Gachechiladze's victory in the January 2008 presidential election.

As part of a 2009 campaign of the Georgian opposition to force President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign, Zourabichvili led a protest march together with three other prominent opposition figures – Nino Burjanadze, David Gamkrelidze and Eka Beselia – in Tbilisi on 26 March 2009.[11]

On 12 November 2010, Zourabichvili announced her withdrawal from the leadership of Georgia's Way. She was succeeded by Kakha Seturidze.[12] After a two-year leave from politics, she publicly endorsed Georgian Dream ahead of the 2013 presidential elections.[13] Shortly after, Georgia's Central Election Commission refused to register her as a presidential candidate due to her dual Georgian-French citizenship.[14]

In the 8 October 2016 parliamentary elections Zourabichvili won a seat as an independent, representing the Mtatsminda district of Tbilisi. She became MP on 18 November. During her term as MP, She was Deputy chairwoman of parliamentary committee on Diaspora and Caucasus Issues. [15]


Zourabichvili addressing the nation on the anniversary of the April 9 tragedy, when Soviet troops crushed demonstrators demanding independence

In August 2018, Zourabichvili announced that she would participate in Georgian presidential elections. While she was officially independent, her campaign was heavily supported by Georgian Dream.[16] Her main opponent in the election, Grigol Vashadze, was backed by Mikheil Saakashvili.[6] The pre-election campaign was marred by a highly polarized political environment. International observers assessed the elections as competitive and free, stressing that "one side enjoyed an undue advantage and the negative character of the campaign on both sides undermined the process", while the misuse of administrative resources "blurred the line between party and state."[17]

In the first round, final results showed Zourabichvili with just 38.7 percent of the vote, one percentage point ahead of Vashadze, forcing a run-off.[18] Zourabichvili won the 2nd round of the 2018 Georgian presidential election, becoming President-elect. She was inaugurated as President of Georgia on 16 December 2018, with the ceremony performed in Telavi.[19]

As President, Zourabichvili inherited a new Constitution that entered into force the day of her inauguration and which significantly removed several powers from the Presidency, concentrating them within Parliament and the Prime Minister's Office. However, this did not stop her from using her position to call for historically-important decisions, including a new investigation into the controversial death of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the country's first President, in 1993.

Residence and funding

Official presidential residence at the Orbeliani Palace in Tbilisi

Salomé Zourabichvili announced during the presidential campaign that if elected, she would not work from the Avlabari Presidential Palace opened in 2009, with Mikheil Saakashvili in office. She met with the fourth President after elections in the Avlabari Palace, but her administration has been moved into the Orbeliani Palace on Atoneli street in Central Tbilisi.[20] On December 18, 2018 she visited the Atoneli residence for the first time. Media met her at the entrance, emphasising the fact that she walked to the office.[21]

Besides moving to the smaller residence, Zourabichvili's office faced a significant budgetary cutback. According to the 2019 budget, funding for the presidential administration is being reduced by just over ₾ 3.5 million. As a result, the vast majority of former employees were fired with only 60 of them remaining in administration.[22]

Changes have also led to abolishing the presidential fund which amounted ₾5 million and funded scholarships, educational programs and various other projects. This decision has been widely criticized with Giorgi Margvelashvili and Maka Chichua campaigning for it to remain.[23]

Political positions

Women's rights and equality

As the first popularly elected woman president of Georgia, Zourabichvili has advocated for women's rights and equality through social media and from political tribunes. She has organised a number of meetings and attended conferences aiming for the empowerment of women and young girls. On October 5th 2019, she hosted a meeting of women leaders from Georgia, Belgium and France, later saying on Twitter: "The role of women in our society is crucial and their contribution to our political, cultural, entrepreneurial and educational circles is key to our development."[24]

LGBTQ rights

Amid the controversy around the 2019 Tbilisi Pride Parade, Zourabichvili said: “I am everyone’s president, regardless of sexual orientation or religious affiliation. No human should be discriminated against. I must also emphasize that our country is dealing with enough controversies and doesn’t need any further provocation from any side of the LGBTQ debate." This comment was met with criticism by LGBTQ organizations across the country, as well as some members of the civil society. Tbilisi Pride co-founder Tamaz Sozashvili wrote: "How can she consider peaceful citizens and aggressive fundamentalists as equal sides?" She made no response to the criticism.[25]


In course of the 2008 Georgian presidential election, Zourabichvili and many other opposition politicians voiced support for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy under the Bagrationi dynasty, which the Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, had advocated.[26]

Personal life

Salomé Zourabichvili was married to the Georgian journalist Janri Kashia (1939–2012). She has two children, Kethevane and Teimuraz,[27] from her first marriage to Iranian-American economist Nicolas Gorjestani. Zourabichvili is the cousin of French historian Hélène Carrère d'Encausse. Besides Georgian and French, she is also fluent in English, and is conversational in German and Italian.[28]


  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2006). Une femme pour deux pays. Grasset, ISBN 2-246-69561-9
  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2007). Fermer Yalta, Cahiers de Chaillot, Institut de sécurité de l'Union européenne
  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2008). Les cicatrices des Nations : L'Europe malade de ses frontières. Bourin, ISBN 978-2-84941-075-2
  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2009). La tragédie géorgienne. Grasset
  • Salomé Zourabichvili (2011). l'exigence démocratique. Bourin éditeur


  1. ^ Zourabichvili uses the French transliteration of her surname; English transliteration is Zurabishvili


  1. ^ "Presidential Candidate Apologizes for Unethical Address to Reporters". Georgia Today on the Web.
  2. ^ In her capacity as Speaker of Parliament, Nino Burjanadze briefly served as acting president on two occasions
  3. ^ Mchedlishvili, David A. (2012). "ლევან ზურაბიშვილი (Levan Zurabishvili)" (in Georgian). National Parliamentary Library of Georgia. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b "პირველი ქართული ემიგრაციის წარმომადგენელი ზეინაბ კედია გარდაიცვალა (Zeinab Kedia, the first Georgian emigration representative, died)" (in Georgian). Newposts.ge. 20 February 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  5. ^ Alexander Mikaberidze (6 February 2015). Historical Dictionary of Georgia. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 695–. ISBN 978-1-4422-4146-6.
  6. ^ a b Henry Foy (25 October 2018), Frenchwoman frontrunner to become Georgia’s next president Financial Times.
  7. ^ Biographical dictionary
  8. ^ A Georgian victory as Russia will quit 2 bases New York Times, 31 May 2005.
  9. ^ Georgia, Civil. "Civil.Ge - Foreign Minister Zourabichvili Sacked". www.civil.ge.
  10. ^ Quentin Peel and Isabel Gorst (31 October 2007), Liberal laboratory at Russia’s door Financial Times.
  11. ^ Georgian Opposition Mulls More Radical Forms Of Protest Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 27 May 2009.
  12. ^ "The Messenger - Opposition Leader takes UN Security Council job". www.messenger.com.ge.
  13. ^ Former Georgian Foreign Minister Zurabishvili Endorses Saakashvili Rival Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 July 2012.
  14. ^ Georgia Election Board Rejects Former Foreign Minister Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3 September 2013.
  15. ^ Liz Fuller (1 November 2016), Will Georgia's Ruling Party Use Super-Majority For Common Good Or To Further Own Interests? Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3 September 2013.
  16. ^ "Georgian Dream to support Salome Zurabishvili in 2018 presidential elections". 1TV.
  17. ^ "Georgia's First Woman President Sworn In Amid Opposition Protests". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 17 December 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  18. ^ Margarita Antidze (28 October 2018), Georgia presidential vote heads for runoff in setback for ruling party Reuters.
  19. ^ "Salome Zurabishvili confirms that inauguration will be held in Telavi". Interpressnews.ge. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  20. ^ "Where Will Georgia's New President Live?". Georgiatoday.ge. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  21. ^ "Salome Zurabishvili arrives at Atoneli Presidential Palace". 1tv.ge. 18 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  22. ^ "New Georgian president will have less funding: details on the inauguration and new residence". jam-news.net. 4 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  23. ^ "Margvelashvili Calls on Gov't Not to Abolish Presidential Fund". Georgiatoday.ge. 10 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  24. ^ @Zourabichvili_S (5 October 2019). "Today, I had the pleasure to host women leaders from Georgia, Belgium, and France at the @GeorgiaPres Palace" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  25. ^ Alex Cooper (19 June 2019). "Organizers of Georgia's first Pride defiant amid threats of violence". washingtonblade.com.
  26. ^ Civil Georgia (8 October 2007). "Civil.Ge - Politicians Comment on Constitutional Monarchy Proposal". www.civil.ge.
  27. ^ "Son of Georgian presidential candidate Salome Zourabichvili calls rival to debate". English Jamnews. 22 November 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  28. ^ "Official web site of the President of Georgia". president.gov.ge. Retrieved 14 March 2021.

External links

Media related to Salome Zurabishvili at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by
Tedo Japaridze
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Gela Bezhuashvili
Preceded by
Giorgi Margvelashvili
President of Georgia

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