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February 25 – commemorating the Bolshevik occupation

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, February 24
In Soviet times Georgians celebrated two dates in February, the 23rd - Red Army Day and the 25th – the Day Georgia joined the Soviet Union.

On February 25 1921 the Bolshevik Red Army conquered Tbilisi and erected a Soviet red flag over the city. For many this was a day of tragedy and now it commemorates the Russian occupation which tragically lasted almost 70 years.

The situation then was rather similar to last year’s. The Russian Bolsheviks provoked unrest in the Borchalo district of Georgia and then invaded the territory of a sovereign country which it had recognized and concluded a treaty with some time before, on the grounds they had to “protect and rescue their brother proletarians.” In fact an occupation and annexation were swiftly carried out.

This year special exhibitions have been held in schools and elsewhere because the situation is repeating – the Russians have entered our territory and occupied almost one quarter of it under the slogan of “rescuing their citizens,” people who they themselves had placed on the sacrificial altar by giving them Russian passports. In 1921 the Russians entered Georgia on horseback. Today the most modern tanks are stationed an hour away from the capital.

Analysts are drawing many parallels. In 1921, as now, the West washed its hands and barely interfered, leaving Moscow to do what it wanted. Hopefully this time the West has realized the threat the Russian bear holds for it and this is already a positive difference. But Georgia has not seen much benefit from this so far. The occupation continues, two new “independent” and Russian–recognized entities have emerged on Georgian territory, Moscow is building several military bases on these occupied territories, Georgian statehood is undermined and civil confrontation within Georgia is a distinct possibility. Georgia’s leadership now is talking about the possibility of a new attack on Georgia. There is speculation that if the Saakashvili administration will not resign, as the Russians tried to force it to do by mounting their August 2008 assault, the possibility of a Russian attack increases.

The threat of further Russian military action is differently evaluated by the ruling party and the opposition. Officers of state say that opposition-inspired demonstrations, rallies and disorders are all masterminded by Russia and a plot against Georgia’s statehood. The opposition states that the Rose Revolution administration leaders have exhausted public confidence and now want to draw public attention to external threats to prolong their rule as far as possible. It says that labelling all undesired politicians as Russian agents is an old trick which nobody will pay attention to any more. But there are different ways the present standoff can develop however.

The opposition plans to start massive public rallies in the streets throughout the country as soon as weather conditions permit. How many people will come out into the streets, how long the demonstrations will last and how effective they will be no one can predict, but neither side wishes to compromise. The opposition demands the resignation of the defeated leadership, the President and eventually Parliament and the holding of new Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The President and his team have categorically refused to go or hold any new elections, so both sides are driving each other into a dead end.

Of course such tension in the country damages its security and safety, of course one cannot exclude that Russia will take advantage of the unrest. At the very least, it will try to restore its own image by pointing a finger at Georgia. “Look, these guys cannot resolve their own problems among themselves, how can they deal with separatists?” they will say in the best case scenario. So Georgian leaders on both sides should think very carefully before taking any decisions. The country’s interests should come first, and neither side has a monopoly on acting in the national interest.