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20 years after

By Messenger Staff
Friday, April 10
20 years have passed since April 9, 1989. On that simultaneously tragic and glorious day the Soviet Army massacred 19 peaceful demonstrators, mainly women, in front of the current Parliament building. The Soviets used shovels, poison gas and bullets against Georgians demanding separation from the USSR.

In fact this was the beginning of the end of the Empire of Evil. One very popular slogan then was “Down with the Rotten Russian Empire.” Demonstrations demanding such things were absolutely unacceptable for the Soviet leadership and therefore they did not propose or hold dialogue, which presumably would have been possible in those circumstances.

The Kremlin decided to punish disobedient Georgians and let this serve as a lesson for others. Red Army regiments, some of which had returned from Afghanistan just a few days before, fulfilled their bloody mission of trying to suppress the patriotic feelings of the population, killing innocent people, but in vain. The end result was just the opposite. The Soviet system, its Army and its ideology were discredited once and for all.

April 9 became a symbolic date for all the Soviet nations struggling for their independence. No negotiations or dialogue with the Soviets had become possible. That is why the current opposition symbolically and deliberately chose this date for their demonstrations, saying the same situation now exists in Georgia.

The radicalism of the non-Parliamentary opposition has been very much determined by the radicalism of the authorities themselves. Until recently the Rose Revolution administration ignored the possibility of conducting dialogue or cheated and manipulated any discussions that were held, say the opposition. Therefore there is now no trust between the sides, and trust is a prerequisite of holding dialogue.

Radicalism, when once introduced into politics, is very difficult to remove. One of the Rose Revolutionaries, a former MP, once said that “today we are in power and we do what we want, when you come into power you will do what you want.” This formula was supported by another: “we don’t want opposition,” a phrase of President Saakashvili.

The past 20 years have been pretty hard for Georgia. It has had to meet many challenges, most of them presented by Russia’s neo-imperialistic policy. The biggest of these were the August 2008 Russian attack and its occupation of 1/5 of our territory. However Russia’s ambitions are not limited to occupation only. It wants its ‘sphere of interest’ to spread over the entire South Caucasus although US President Obama has stated his opposition to this idea.

One of the most significant events in these past 20 years was the Rose Revolution, which by many within and outside Georgia was understood as a big impulse towards further democratic development. However unfortunately, as history has proven, nothing good has ever resulted from any revolution in any country whatsoever. The Saakashvili administration has disappointed its supporters and frustrated their hopes. Whatever excuses can be made for it, 1/5 of Georgia’s territory is occupied by the enemy. There have been many anti-democratic moves by the administration, such as using riot police against peaceful demonstrators, raiding independent Imedi TV, abusing human rights, conducting very controversial elections with lots of shortcomings, and so on. We can safely say that the overall situation in the country is not a fulfillment of the rosy promises of the revolutionaries.

Many former key Saakashvili allies, who conducted the revolution with him, are now in opposition. But there are lots of problems with the opposition as well. They are united only by the negative slogan “Saakashvili must resign.” They don’t have a clear cut, constructive, united programme. The opposition does insist on institutional change, such as reforming the election code and court system, and this is a positive thing, but what they will do about everything else remains obscure, for the opposition themselves as well as the voting public.

The country is in confrontation, and the only way forward from here, it seems to us, is for both sides to step back and dream a little. If Saakashvili calls snap Parliamentary elections and conducts them in a genuinely really fair and democratic way, and if the opposition agrees to drop its demand for the immediate resignation of Saakashvili and snap Presidential elections to follow, the country might not be the loser. Otherwise there is great possibility it will be.