The son of a teacher, Eduard Amvroslyevich Shevardnadze was born on 25 January 1928 in the village of Mamati in the Lanchkhuti region of western Georgia. His elder brother, Ippokrat, became a powerful Communist Party functionary and served as the younger Eduard's mentor. Shevardnadze's education was largely devoted to preparing him to assume a role in the Communist Party apparatus. He graduated from the Higher Communist Party School in Georgia in 1951; in 1959, he received a history degree from Kutaisi State Pedagogical Institute's correspondence school. His wife, Nanuli, is a journalist and serves as president of Georgian Women for Peace and Life. The Shevardnadzes have two children. Their son, Paata, is a physicist who heads a mission operated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Their daughter, Monana, is director of a television and film studio in Georgia. The Shevardnadzes have four grandchildren. Shevardnadze speaks Georgian and Russian. In 1992, Eduard was christened in the Georgian Orthodox Church, taking the Christian name of George.
People who have met Shevardnadze describe him as friendly, unpretentious, and often charming—yet meticulously polite and formal in public gatherings. Shevardnadze has also demonstrated ruthlessness in dealing with opponents, particularly when he was party chief in Georgia. He has written a number of books, the best-known of which is the memoir, My Choice, which has been translated into several languages.
Shevardnadze has received a number of international awards, including the Onassis Prize for International Understanding and Social Achievement (1997) and the highest honor from the New York-based Institute for East-West Security Studies (now known as the East-West Institute) "for his contribution to the of relations between the East and West."