The messenger logo

Commemorating April 9th with politics

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, April 12
On April 9, 1989 the Soviet army brutally dispersed a peaceful crowd in front of the Georgian Parliament building. As a result, 20 people died, 17 of who were young women. This event inflamed nationalist and separatist sentiments across the former Soviet Union, giving impulse to the processes that eventually led to its collapse and the rebirth of 15 independent states. Just two years after this event, Georgia declared its independence and regained its sovereignty for the second time in the 20th century.

Apart from commemorating the date this year, Georgia's politicians have used it to comment on their positions in society. With the parliamentary elections coming up in October, statements from parties gave this date further significance.

The administration used this occasion to try to discredit its major rival, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian tycoon who made his fortune in Russia. Member of Parliament from the United National Movement, Koba Khabazi, accused Ivanishvili of financing the 1996 Russian presidential campaign of Alexander Lebed, a notorious military figure who earned a reputation during the Soviet expedition in Afghanistan, and who participated in the massacre of Georgian citizens on April 9. In response, Ivanishvili maintained that he was a supporter of Boris Yeltsin, who opposed the Communists, and any aid he gave Lebed was in an attempt to pull votes from the Communist candidate and secure Yeltsin's victory. Indirectly, Ivanishvili was supporting the independence of Georgia and all the other Soviet Republics; therefore, his actions were in the interest of protecting Georgia. Some members of the UNM still believe that supporting Yeltsin nevertheless meant supporting Russian aggression in Georgia, too.

President Mikheil Saakashvili, in his April 9-related appearances, did not mention Ivanishvili by name, but continued the theme of linking certain members of the opposition to Russia, in an effort to capitalize on public sentiment on the anniversary, and turn them against his rival.