Jumber Patiashvili, a nondescript party loyalist, succeeded Shevardnadze as head of the Georgian Communist Party. Under Patiashvili, most of Shevardnadze's initiatives atrophied, and no new policy innovations were undertaken. Patiashvili removed some of Shevardnadze's key appointees, although he could not dismiss his predecessor's many middle-echelon appointees without seriously damaging the party apparatus.
In dealing with dissent, Patiashvili, who distrusted radical and unofficial groups, returned to the usual confrontational strategy of Soviet regional party officials. The party head met major resistance when he backed a plan for a new Transcaucasian railroad that would cut a swath parallel to the Georgian Military Highway in a historic, scenic, and environmentally significant region. In a televised speech, Patiashvili called opponents of the project "enemies of the people"--a phrase used in the 1930s to justify liquidation of Stalin's real and imagined opponents. By isolating opposition groups, Patiashvili forced reformist leaders into underground organizations and confrontational behavior.
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