29 years after April 9 massacre – Georgians’ struggle for gaining back independence from USSR
09 April, 2018
29 years after April 9 massacre – Georgians’ struggle for gaining back independence from USSR
April 9 marks the 29th anniversary of the April 9 tragedy also referred to as Tbilisi Massacre, Tbilisi tragedy. On this date in 1989 an anti-Soviet peaceful demonstration demanding secession from the Soviet Union was violently dispersed by the Russian Army using tanks and guns on Rustaveli Avenue, in the center of Tbilisi, resulting in 21 deaths. It is noteworthy, that among the deceased were 17 females and 4 males, including many 16-year-old students as well as women of different ages.
In the aftermath of the brutal raid hundreds of peaceful protesters were poisoned by an unknown gas and many of them severely injured.

Watch video below

Peaceful protesters. Photo courtesy : Badri Vadachkoria.

The events of 9 April 1989 were the culmination of weeks of demonstrations for Georgian independence and against separatism in the Georgian Black Sea region of Abkhazia. The demonstrations included hunger strikes, but were overwhelmingly peaceful. At their peak, about 10,000 people are estimated to have been present.The request to send Soviet interior ministry troops came from the First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, Jumber Pastiashvili.The troops were commanded by Colonel General Igor Radionov. In the hours before the attack, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church made an impassioned address to the crowd, beseeching the demonstrators to leave the square. They refused. Minutes before 4am on 9 April, Gen Radionov told his troops to clear the square by all means available.

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Photo courtesy : Badri Vadachkoria

The protesters were led by the Independence Committee of Merab Kostava, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Giorgi Chanturia, Irakli Bathiashvili and Irakli Tsereteli demanding the punishment of Abkhaz secessionists and restoration of Georgian independence. When the Local Soviet authorities lost control over the situation in the capital and were unable to contain the protests, the First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party Jumber Patiashvili asked USSR leadership to send troops to restore order and impose curfew. The night of April 9 remained in the history of Georgia as one of the most tragic but at the same time heroic dates when whole country united to fight for its independence.

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Photo courtesy : Badri Vadachkoria

On April 10, in protest against the onslaught, Tbilisi and the rest of Georgia went out on strike and a 40-day of national mourning was declared. People brought large quantity of flowers to the place of the killings to pay respect to the deceased. Eventually on April 9, 1991, the second anniversary of the tragedy, the Supreme Council of Georgia declared Georgian sovereignty and independence from the Soviet Union based on the results of a nationwide referendum.  In the same year one of the leaders of the protesting movement Zviad Gamsakhurdia became the first democratically elected President of Georgia. A memorial to the victims of the tragedy was opened at the location of the crackdown on Rustaveli Avenue on November 23, 2004. Every year on April 9 high officials of Georgia, public figures as well as ordinary citizens bring flowers to the memorial honoring those who sacrificed themselves for the sake of their homeland’s freedom and bright future.

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Photo courtesy : Badri Vadachkoria

Following photos credit: Giorgi Nakhutsrishvili

First President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia together with the protesters

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The Georgian authorities asserted that more than 4,000 people eventually required some form of medical help. Mr Sobchak's exhaustive report, published several months later, confirmed the army had used gas, spades and clubs to disperse the demonstration.It characterised this as "a severe violation of official instructions", and labelled the Soviet army's actions "a violent reprisal against civilians".
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Indeed, the 9 April 1989 killings in Tbilisi greatly accelerated Georgia's push for independence and for an end to Soviet domination. Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in the streets in the days after the massacre. An especially large demonstration of at least 300,000 people gathered on 26 April to mark the anniversary of the declaration of the Georgian Democratic Republic in 1918, prior to Georgia's incorporation into the Soviet Union.



A year later, on 9 April 1990, Georgia adopted a Declaration of Independence. By this time, Georgia was under the leadership of the nationalist president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Igor Radionov went on to become a member of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, and minister of defence under President Boris Yeltsin. A conservative man, fundamentally anti-Western in his attitudes, he remained unrepentant about his actions in Tbilisi. Georgians now take a public holiday on 9 April to mark their Day of National Unity.
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The victims of April 9
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Related Stories:

How Footage of the April 9 Tragedy Ended Up in Margaret Thatcher’s Hands


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