Provocation – Tiny Spark to Start Big Fire
27 October, 2011
Provocation – Tiny Spark to Start Big Fire

The state security servicemen could easily have kept Gamsakhurdia away from the stadium if they wanted to. They could just as well have denied him access to microphone. Instead, he was admitted to the stadium, he received access to microphone and was given a chance to make appearance. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.

GJ – In 1989 the situation in Apkhazeti (Abkhazia) became utterly strained. In the village of Likhni, the so called public assembly of the Apkhaz elders came forward

with nationalistically charged slogans, which seriously irritated the leaders of Georgia’s national-liberation movement. Those were the leaders who enjoyed support across the board in the country. The slightest provocation was enough to let the situation go explosive. Is this an accurate description?

SM – I would say so! Again, provoked by the KGB agent, a small Apkhaz youngster picked up a rock and threw it right into the bus which was making a trip from Tbilisi to Sochi. The stone smashed the windowpane, some passenger’s head was broken and somebody got scared . . . The incident was momentarily reported to Tbilisi. The date was the 4th of April of 1989 – just five days shy of the tragic April 9. As soon as the information about the incident reached Georgia’s capital city, we the students of Tbilisi State University organized a rally at the University to express our protest in this connection. At the same time, the Tbilisi National Stadium was hosting a football match between the ‘Zenith’ of Leningrad and Tbilisi ‘Dynamo’. There were 30 thousand viewers at the stadium then.

GJ – I remember the day very well. We the students of Tbilisi State were rallied in the University yard, waiting for the decisions, made by the leaders of national-liberation movement. But this must have been not the only politically-charged crowd that day in Tbilisi . . .

SM – True! Part of the Georgian intelligentsia (intellectual part of the society) started moving towards the Cinema-House downtown Tbilisi. One of the leaders of national-liberation movement Zurab Chavchavadze went into an individual hunger-strike in front of the government building. At that moment Zviad Gamsakhurdia approached the crowd of the University yard and said he was ready to bring the 30 thousand people from the national stadium to join them if he was given the support of the entire national-liberation movement. Akaki (Kako) Bakradze, one of the leaders of the intelligentsia had a national flag of Georgia stored in his private office. He went in, brought out the flag and handed it over to Gamsakhurdia. It has to be noted that the state security servicemen could easily have kept Gamsakhurdia away from the stadium if they wanted to. They could just as well have denied him access to microphone. Instead, he was admitted to the stadium, he received access to microphone and was given a chance to make appearance. Gamsakhurdia applied to the people at the Stadium to move together towards the government building (today’s house of parliament) in the Rustaveli Avenue and suggested that they all sit in protest in front of the building.

GJ – The protest was voiced most loudly when the crowd heard that Apkhazeti (Abkhazia) was demanding secession from Georgia. This was so painful for Georgians to hear that the protesting crowd became furious . . .

SM – That the Apkhaz wanted to secede from Georgia was said many times before, so this was not unexpected news for Georgians. The protesting demonstration and the excitement of the public were instigated by the incident of the 4th of April of 1989 in Apkhazeti. Having succumbed to Gamsakhurdia’s call, the huge crowd of people started moving without any delay from the Stadium towards downtown. Unwittingly but united with a magic power of unity, people were poised to defend what they knew was part of a deeply national interest of Georgia.

GJ – On its way to destination, the crowd was getting even stronger. People in the street were spontaneously joining in to make the protest even louder. A totally new political mindset was in making, wasn’t it?

SM – Not as much new as it was revived, woken and refreshed . . . Finally, all of us were rallied in the Rustaveli Avenue, the famous place for all public events. The leaders of the national-liberation movement were gathered in the Cinema-House where hot discussions became even hotter. Further steps were worked out and planned.

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