Georgia: 20 years of Independence
Referendum on the restoration of independence took place in Georgia on March 31, 1991. A positive answer to the question "Do you agree on the restoration of Georgian statehood on the basis of an act of independence from May 26, 1918?" was given by the majority of the population.
Politicians, experts, public figures and ordinary citizens, despite differences in political views, share the opinion that this referendum was a great historic event that reflects the will of the Georgian people for many centuries, striving for independence.
Epochal significance of the referendum
On February 28, 1991 the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia "considering the complex political situation," declared that the all-Soviet referendum, appointed by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on March 17 on the preservation of the Union would not be held on the territory of the republic. However, the Republican Supreme Council decided to schedule on March 31, 1991 the referendum on the restoration of Georgian independence.
The referendum held throughout Georgia, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia, was attended by 90% of voters. All, except some, voted for the restoration of independence.
"It was not a decision of a group of people, party, or any part of the population. It was the desire of people across the whole country. So the referendum was extremely important from this point of view. We could declare independence on the basis of multi-party elections (28 October 1990). Political force, which won those elections, has based its campaign on slogan of independence. 2/3 of the population supported us. Still, we decided to hold a referendum, "- Akaki Asatiani, at that time the first deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia, said.
That referendum was based on the Act for the restoration of independence and became the basis for Georgian acceptance to the UN family, noted Asatiani.
According to him, South Ossetia abstained from the All-Union referendum, as the 2/3 of the territory was controlled by Georgia. And the results of the referendum held on the territory of Abkhazia, sharply contrasted to data obtained as a result of the referendum on the restoration of Georgian independence.
"The number of those, who voted for the preservation of the USSR in Abkhazia, barely exceeded 50%. According to the survey we conducted after the referendum, public support of the restoration of independence, was much greater. The fact that we did not falsify the results was indicated in the conclusion of the observers, both foreign and Soviet" Asatiani recalled.
"The referendum had a great, epoch, significance. This was yet another manifestation of a longtime desire for freedom and independent development of the country, and this was announced on March 31, 1991 "- Gigi Tsereteli, Vice-Speaker of Georgian Parliament, says.
According to him, the idea of independence had a lot of support in society. It was a driving force and formed the basis of creating a new Georgian state, the main idea of which is the independence and peaceful development."
The path that took Georgia over the past 20 years, according to Tsereteli, was one of the most difficult in the centuries-old history of the country.
This way was "full of dramatic events, such as the civil war and economic difficulties, political tension, war with Russia, the occupation of the territory," - said vice speaker.
However, he noted that the theme of "independence" is relevant today.
"I think that this referendum, and in general our attitude to independence, are valuable, and this attitude has not changed in 20 years" – Tsereteli said.
Independence at a heavy cost
After the collapse of the Transcaucasian Federation (May 26, 1918) the National Council of Georgia declared independence of the state of Georgia. As an independent country the Democratic Republic of Georgia existed no longer than spring 1921.
11th Red Army invaded Tbilisi on Feb. 25, 1921 after having brutally wiped out the volunteer corps and Georgian cadets. Finally, the Soviet regime in Georgia was established in the second half of March 1921.
National liberation movement led by future president of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Merab Kostava gained public support in the late 80-ies of the 20th century. Between 1988 and 1989 there were lots of mass protests in Tbilisi, one of which turned into "Bloody Sunday". On April 9, 1989 Soviet Army soldiers killed 21 people injured dozens during the crackdown of the peaceful demonstration at the central Rustaveli Avenue.
In the Act on restoration of Georgian independence was told that "the entire period of enforced keeping of Georgia as a part of the Soviet Union was marked with the bloody terror and repressions, the latest manifestation of which was the tragedy of 9 April 1989. The Act was signed by members of the Supreme Council and the Government of the Republic.
"Big things always require sacrifice, but some countries have made it so that there were not so many victims," - Maca Lataria, the mother of Natia Bashaleishvili, a 16-years girl, killed on that day, said.
Natia Bashaleishvili, which at that time was 16 years old and was studying in grade 10, together with other schoolchildren kept coming to demonstrations, organized by the national movement.
"On the 8th we spent with my daughter at a rally the whole day. By 11 o'clock I went home and my daughter together with a friend, Nino Andghuladze went back. In the morning I heard that something horrifying had happened. My friend and I went to search our children. Her child, fortunately, was found alive, and I experienced such a tragedy. Natia was an extraordinary child, she was smart, beautiful and I’m saying this not only because it's my daughter, and it is well-known that children are always the best for their parents" Lataria said with tears.
According to her hopes that pushed people out at the streets has not been fully realized. The main tasks Lataria say are fighting poverty and improving living standards.
Georgia - an independent country, dependent on external processes
"The Georgian people have for centuries dreamed of independence, the formation of their own government," - said the director of theater and cinema Giga Lordkipanidze.
Despite the fact that 20 years ago, Georgia declared its independence and is now officially recognized as such, Lordkipanidze is not convinced that the country at this stage has already achieved "real, true independence."
"At that time, in any case, formal independence was declared. But as far as we are independent now, I can not say, because we depend much on the larger states, on their desires, their just and unjust claims against our country " Lordkipanidze claims.
Referendum and the declaration of independence were very important for Georgia, but this was followed by negative associated processes, expert on the Caucasus, Mamuka Areshidze stated.
"The referendum has brought us only independence. Other processes are far from desirable. The referendum itself was very important, because it was a form of expression of the people’s view of tomorrow, the political development of their country" Areshidze said.
Referendums held on 17 and 31 March, according to Areshidze, led to a confrontation in the society on the territory of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic.
"Declaring Independence, unfortunately, has been associated with such processes, as a struggle with the breakaway regions, tensions with its neighbors, primarily with Russia, and further alienation", Areshidze said.
According to him, Georgia "is actually an independent country, but it still depends on many factors, in particular, on processes in zones of conflict, relations with Russia and global processes."
Photo by Dinara Oganova