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21 years since April 9, 1989

By Messenger Staff
Friday, April 9
21 years have passed since the tragic day when the Soviet armed forces came into the centre of Tbilisi early in the morning of April 9, 1989 and murdered peaceful demonstrators. Tragic though it was however this event accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union. Over the past 21 years different evaluations have been made of this event but its importance cannot be diminished.

April 9, 1989 was the last attempt by the Soviet leadership to use force to stop democratic developments taking place in the country. The Kremlin leaders were talking about new approaches, perestroika, democracy but their methods on that day were pure Soviet, and this move finally demonstrated that the Soviet system was inherently rotten and no new approaches could disguise that. Just two years later the Soviet Union was dissolved.

Most analysts think that April 9, 1989 prompted the radicalisation of society in Georgia. Even those who had previously hesitated and still had sympathy for the Soviet regime realised that this was the end. This radicalisation in fact made moderately thinking people more aggressive and it became more and more evident that no compromises would work. On March 31, 1991 a referendum was held and on the second anniversary of the 9 April massacre Georgia’s independence and withdrawal from the Soviet Union was officially declared.

Of course the process of radicalisation cannot be appreciated, particularly given current developments in the country, when Georgia is in the process of holding elections which could be crucial for its future. One should not ignore the importance of these elections and the developments which may follow them, which could trigger serious problems in the country. But coming back to April 9, 1989, many analysts have asked whether the death of 20 people was inevitable. Could it have been it possible to avoid casualties and an acute confrontation with Moscow? Many think that The Kremlin's present aggressiveness was very much determined by the steps taken by the Georgian leadership at the first stage of regaining independence, so this is an important question.

It is obvious that regulating relations with Russia is on the agenda as Georgia’s future largely depends on its relations with its aggressive, unpredictable but globally influential northern neighbour. Despite the fact 21 years have passed there are still many details about the events of that night the leaderships then and now prefer not to comment on. Many of the current political figures, for instance former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze who in 1989 was a member of the politburo and Foreign Minister, could have said more but did not. 9 April 1989 needs further analysis, and of course time will add extra elements to this tragic but very crucial event.