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April 9, a day of two meanings

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Thursday, April 10
April 9 is one of the most important dates in Georgia’s history.

It is deeply tied to two critical events: on April 9 in 1989, the Soviet army crushed a peaceful pro-independence rally in the center of Tbilisi. And in a defiantly-timed decree on April 9, 1991, in Georgia’s supreme council declared the renewal of Georgian independence.

April has since been commemorated both as a day of tragedy and that of Georgian restoration.

Gamsakhurdia’s supporters have said that April 9 should not be a day of mourning, but a celebration of Georgian statehood. The Conservatives, with a presence in parliament, brought up the proposal in 2007 but to little effect.

As yesterday’s ceremonies approached, the issue again held relevance for the Georgian media. The debate is earnest; if April 9 becomes independence day, the historic date of May 26 would lose its own place.

That was the date when, in 1918, the Georgian national council adopted a declaration of independence forming the Democratic Republic of Georgia. The nation’s first democratic republic was an important symbol for the next 70 years of Soviet occupation, when May 26 was a rallying cry for independence.

In 1991, Georgia’s referendum on independence asked citizens whether they wanted sovereignty to be restored on the basis of the May 26, 1918 declaration of independence.

April 9, then, was a restoration of Georgia’s true independence day. May 26 it should stay.