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Tengiz Kitovani (Georgian: თენგიზ კიტოვანი) (born June 9, 1938) is a retired Georgian politician and military commander with high-profile involvement in the Georgian Civil War early in the 1990s when he commanded the National Guard of Georgia and served as a Defense Minister until being gradually sidelined by Eduard Shevardnadze who had earlier been invited to lead the nation after a successful coup d'etat launched by Kitovani and his allies against President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
Born in Tbilisi, Kitovani graduated from the Tbilisi Fine Arts Academy and taught at a boarding school in the town of Tetritsqaro, and then worked as a main painter for the Tbilisi State Advertising Bureau between 1967 and 1969.
Kitovani entered the national politics early in 1990 when the independence movement reached its climax in then-Soviet Georgia. Elected to the Supreme Council of Georgia the same year, he was closely associated with Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a Soviet-era dissident who went on to become the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Council and eventually the President of Georgia in 1991. In December 1990, Gamsakhurdia decreed the creation of the National Guard of Georgia and appointed Kitovani as its head. However, the two men collided in August 1991, when Gamsakhurdia sacked him as National Guard commander. Kitovani subsequently claimed that Gamsakhurdia was intending to disband the National Guard, and had been ordered to do so by the leaders of the Moscow Putsch who had briefly taken power in the Soviet Union, but did not produce the documents he claimed to possess confirming this. Kitovani refused to accept his dismissal and left Tbilisi with most of his troops to entrench himself in the Rkoni Gorge. This was the beginning of the end for Gamsakhurdia, whose inflexible politics forced many of his former supporters into opposition.
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