Garbled History & Protesting Society
28 July, 2011

In 1978 when the new constitution of Georgia was being adopted, the Georgian language was no longer stipulated in the text of the constitution as the state language of the country. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.

 

SM – Both among the Georgian and the Apkhaz scientists there were found the pseudo ones who were widening the gap between Georgians and the Apkhaz and added fire to ethnic conflicts which were of course deliberately inspired by Russia. In a word, distortions, misguided

steps, garbled information and blunders were ubiquitous. I cannot say for sure whether it was a temporal coincidence or not, but it was exactly during the Shevardnadze’s political rule that the confrontation between the Georgians and the Apkhaz was exacerbated. There are other specific examples that characterize the Shevardnadze administration period. Take for example the Roki Tunnel. The tunnel directly connects Russia with Georgia. It has no economic value for Georgia whatsoever, but it has a huge political weight in general. It became the main political asset for the secessionist Ossetia to proceed with its cause in the 1990’s, and for the Russians to facilitate the occupation of Georgia in 2008. The construction of the tunnel was completed by Soviet authorities during the Shevardnadze rule in Georgia when the disintegration of the Soviet Union had practically begun. The Kremlin had always been very smart and resourceful about planting such ‘tunnels’ and other motives for inter-ethnic exaltations in the region, but interestingly enough, all that was avoided in the Stalinist era (there were good enough people among the Georgian scientists and experts who would say that the construction of the Roki Tunnel was geologically and otherwise hampered and unjustified) but came to fruition in the Shevardnadze time. It was his initiative to construct the damned Tunnel. It is understandable that he had won the Kremlin’s favor because he could manage to present himself as the most faithful friend and servant to it. And his loyalty was duly appreciated – during Gorbachev’s rule in the Soviet Union he was appointed minister of foreign affairs of the USSR and, most importantly, member of the famous politburo. Meanwhile, the Georgian national body was already considerably damaged.

GJ – Accordingly, the national-liberation movement started to awaken from its hibernation, didn’t it?

SM – Yes! Leaders of the movement Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Merab Kostava became active again. They were joined by patriotic forces of the younger generation, but were no longer treated as liberally as they were during Mzhavanadze’s rule. The dissidents were harassed and persecuted. They got arrested and heavily convicted, serious efforts were made to discredit and denigrate them, which very often ended in family tragedies.

GJ – As soon as this tyrannical administration started functioning, the reaction to their style of running the country was immediate and acute, wasn’t it?

SM – Yes, it was! One of the examples of the Georgian people’s reaction to it was the big protest of the youth concerning the Georgian language. In 1978 when the new constitution of Georgia was being adopted, the Georgian language was no longer stipulated in the text of the constitution as the state language of the country. The massive protest of the society was a signal for Shevardnadze that the history and the Georgian people would never forgive him this act. And he played a patriot’s role in this process.

GJ – Well, Shevardnadze has always been known as a skillful manipulator, wasn’t he?

SM – The Georgian people protested vehemently once again in 1983 when the government wanted to pompously celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Georgievsk which established Georgia as a protectorate of Russia, which guaranteed Georgia's territorial integrity.

GJ – I remember that time very well. It should be fair to note that the bigger part of our society could not realize why Georgia should not celebrate that ill-fated day. The major part of the Georgian society could not understand why the efforts of Georgia’s youth, especially the pains taken by the students who found themselves in prisons as a result of their protests and demonstrations against celebrating the anniversary in question. At the same time, there were bright moments of popularizing the Georgian culture in various foreign countries for which the credit should go to Shevardnadze. What would you say about this?

SM – Yes, there were bright moments like this, for example the regular trips of the Rustaveli Theater abroad, but I don’t think that things like this were taking place too often . . .

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