Georgia (the country) fails to escape its past

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For the people of Georgia, any optimism about the future has been suddenly displaced by uncertainty and worries from the past, as its conflict with Russia ends in swift defeat and humiliation.

Grand buildings of the Soviet era do not decay with dignity; the cheap materials mean they just moulder.

The concrete walls of the former presidential palace which is Eduard Shevardnadze's Tbilisi home are streaked with water stains, the formal gardens as scruffy as the gaggle of soldiers guarding the gate.

He sits in a gloomy salon, surrounded by paintings in the socialist-realist style, and a wall full of photographs from his time as Soviet foreign minister, with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl and all the other big-wigs of those heady days, when he helped manage an end to the Cold War.

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