Story of Jeans Boys
05 December, 2013
Thirty years ago, on 18 November 1983, a group of seven friends, six boys and a girl, citizens of Soviet Georgia, hijacked a plane with over 58 passengers. The plane was scheduled to fly the Tbilisi-Batumi-Kiev-Leningrad route. The kidnappers’ dream was to escape from socialist Georgia to the United States of America, where they hoped to feel free of communist restrictions. This story opens to a tragic page in the history of Georgia, about which unanswered questions abound.
Like millions
of other young people, they were mastering different professions: music, foreign languages, art, literature, acting and medicine. Somehow the group managed to get weapons through the security checkpoint in Tbilisi Airport.
Most of the kidnappers were members of well-known families. Among them was Gega Kobakhidze, 22. He grew up in a family of famous artists. His father, Mikheil Kobakhidze, is a filmmaker who was a victim of the Soviet regime. His films were banned and he was forbidden to shoot new movies. Kobakhidze’s mother, Natela Machavariani, is an actress.
Kobakhidze studied at the University of Theater and Film, and was one of the most well-known and popular child actors due to his roles in the movies. When Georgian film director Tengiz Abuladze shot “Repentance,” Kobakhidze played one of the leading roles, but after the aircraft tragedy, scenes in which he appeared were almost completely destroyed, and later were performed by Merab Ninidze. The film gained worldwide fame.
The goal of the young people was to leave the Soviet Union, and to make a protest. The plane was not allowed to take off, and the kidnappers were arrested within a few hours. A trial was held after nine months. After the verdict was announced, the young Georgians were put to death in a month’s time.
The attitude towards their action remains ambiguous. Some people view them as terrorists, others as heroes. However, a lot has been written about this dramatic episode, about which many young Georgians have learned from a book by contemporary writer Dato Turashvili called “The Jeans Generation,” and the play based upon the book.
I have nothing new to say about this tragedy, but readers should be reminded of the terrible story, even if it is painful for the Georgian public, and will remain so, especially if the many questions about what actually happened do not get the answers the public deserves to hear.