How Footage of the April 9 Tragedy Ended Up in Margaret Thatcher’s Hands
16 April, 2015
How Footage of the April 9 Tragedy Ended Up in Margaret Thatcher’s Hands
Twenty-six years have passed since the Tragedy of April 9th, also known as the Tbilisi Massacre. On the 9th of April of 1989, the Soviet army decimated a peaceful demonstration of Georgian students held in front of the House of Government, killing 20 people and injuring many more. Exactly two years later, in 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia and the Georgian Republic’s Supreme Court declared the country’s independence, based on results of a referendum held on March 31.

“Our British guest watched
the Russian tanks roll in from the balcony of her hotel.”


Ferdinand Lortkipanidze, former director general of the Cinematography Fund, tells us the story of how footage of the tragedy ended up in the hands of Margaret “Iron Lady” Thatcher:

– In the first days of 1989’s April, then-Minister of Culture Valeri Asatiani called me and said that we were to host a British guest, certain Mrs. Ripley, wifegeotv.ge of a prominent politician in London, who was coming here with a visit. We didn’t disappoint and we were gracious hosts to the lady. On April 8th, during one of the tours of Tbilisi we were giving her, we stumbled across a roadblock at Rustaveli Avenue. However, we were allowed to pass due to our driving a state vehicle. The Englishwoman asked to stop the car when we were passing by a group of blind street singers who were singing patriotic songs. She even got out and took a photo with them.
However, I was confused when there was no car waiting to take me to Mrs. Ripley the next morning. I called her and the first thing she told me was that she knows everything. Back then I didn’t realize what she was talking about. Later it turned out that our British guest had watched the Russian tanks roll in from the balcony of her hotel.

“She told me that seeing everything with her own eyes was more than enough, but she would take the photographs directly to Margaret Thatcher.”

Despite the unrest in the city, we still managed to make our way to her and take her to the funicular for breakfast. On our way back we were held up for about 20 minutes by soldiers guarding the road. While we were waiting for them to let us through, several unknown women approached me, shoved an envelope into my hand and left without saying a word. Inside there was a photographic film with stills of the massacre, obviously taken by some amateur photographer. I decided to give the film to Ripley when we were having supper together. To that, she replied that seeing everything with her own eyes was more than enough, but she would take the photographs directly to Margaret Thatcher.
She made good on her promise, delivering the footage straight to Thatcher the moment she returned to London. We all remember how hard the “Iron Lady” came down on Russia that day. Fragments of the footage were also circulated by the British media.
geotv.ge

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