The Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs will welcome Giorgi Margvelashvili, the former president of the Republic of Georgia, to deliver the 2023 Nanovic Forum Lecture: “Russian Aggression in Ukraine and Eastern Europe: Post-Soviet Bloc Politics and Consequences.” The event will take place at 5 p.m. Feb. 8 (Wednesday) in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium and is free and open to all. No tickets are required.
Margvelashvili will share his perspective as both a philosopher and as the former president of an ex-Soviet bloc country that, since declaring independence in 1991, has been in an almost constant state of tension or conflict with Russia. Margvelashvili has been outspoken in his support for the people of Ukraine and his admiration for their resilience in the face of Russian aggression. In May 2022, he spoke to members of the Catholic Universities Partnership (CUP), an initiative facilitated by the Nanovic Institute, who met at Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University, Tbilisi, to discuss the role of universities in resilience and recovery.
Rev. Robert A. Dowd, C.S.C., vice president and associate provost for interdisciplinary initiatives and associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, was among the representatives from Notre Dame who met Margvelashvili at the CUP conference and will introduce the Nanovic Forum lecture.
“We are honored to host Mr. Margvelashvili at Notre Dame,” Father Dowd said. “He has demonstrated great courage in championing democracy and human rights in the Republic of Georgia and beyond. We need such champions now more than ever.”
Clemens Sedmak, director of the Nanovic Institute and professor of social ethics in the Keough School of Global Affairs, said those who met Margvelashvili in Tbilisi were impressed by his depth of knowledge and clarity of analysis, and he is delighted to welcome him to Notre Dame.
“As we approach the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Margvelashvili’s perspective as the leader of a former Soviet bloc republic and an eyewitness to Russian aggression in that region in recent decades will be invaluable,” Sedmak said.
After meeting young Ukrainians during a recent trip to their country, Margvelashvili described them as being equipped with a deep sense of confidence in their cause. “Being on the right side,” he said, “translates other feelings into something you would call a positive and an emotional drive. [Resilience] lies not only in emotional thoughts but in this feeling of being on the right side of the good.”
Margvelashvili, an academic and politician, served as the fourth president from 2013 to 2018. Born in Tbilisi in 1969, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy from Tbilisi State University in 1998. As an academic, he has been primarily affiliated with the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) where he served two terms as rector in 2000-06 and 2010-12. By 2012, Margvelashvili had become known in Georgia as a frequent commentator on the country’s politics and society and a critic of then-president Mikheil Saakashvili. After the Georgian Dream coalition won the October 2012 parliamentary election, the new prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, appointed Margvelashvili as minister of education and science and, in February 2013, first deputy prime minister.
In October 2013, Margvelashvili won Georgia’s presidential election as the candidate from the Georgian Dream coalition with 62 percent of the vote. As president, he focused on foreign policy, Georgia’s integration into NATO and the EU, and grassroots campaigns engaging youth and students in discussions on constitutional and electoral reform. He was also vocal in his support for minority and LGBTQ+ rights. When his first term ended in December 2018, Margvelashvili did not seek re-election and returned to GIPA to teach politics.
The Nanovic Forum deepens Notre Dame’s rich tradition of making connections to Europe by bringing European leaders from a variety of academic, cultural and professional fields to campus to discuss important issues. Past speakers have included Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, former president of Croatia; Horst Koehler, former president of Germany; and Hanna Suchocka, former prime minister of Poland, as well as other prominent leaders in education, law, government and the arts. Established in 2011, the forum is made possible through the continued generosity of Robert and Elizabeth Nanovic.
The Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame is an interdisciplinary home for students and faculty to explore the evolving ideas, cultures, beliefs, histories and institutions that shape Europe today. As part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, the institute is helping to advance integral human development through research, policy and practice.
A complete list of the Nanovic Forum series and a video archive of the past lectures are available on the Nanovic Institute website.
Originally published by Gráinne McEvoy at nanovic.nd.edu on Feb. 1.