The 9th of April of 1989
11 November, 2011
The 9th of April of 1989

Along each parallel street, leading down to Rustaveli Avenue, where the protesters were crowded, the soviet troopers marched towards the manifestation spot. They had instructions to manipulate the crowd so that the situation was created which might instigate breaking of protesters into the government house. That was Plan A. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.

GJ – At four in the morning of April the 9th of 1989 the situ

ation in front of the government house in the Rustaveli Avenue came to a head. Nobody moved at the Patriarch’s call to disperse and to find shelter in the Kashueti Church for prayers and expressed gratitude to God for saving them. After the encouraging calls and slogans to continue the meeting in the street, the deep and strained silence overwhelmed the expectant public. The crowd of thousands of protesters was standing soundless as one person.

SM – People stood in panic. Somebody used rough language. Sobbing of women was heard. Nothing was strange in misunderstanding the Patriarchs words - the ecclesiastical terminology was just Greek to the Comsomol-brain-washed young people of that generation. Even Irakli Tsereteli, one of the youngest leaders of Georgia’s national-liberation movement who was brought up on anti-soviet ideals, did not know the entire text of the Lord’s Prayer by heart.

GJ – After the Patriarch’s call, Irakli Tsereteli applied to the crowd, telling them to kneel down and say the Lord’s Prayer. He added they could at least die in prayers if death was inevitable. The crowd was peaceful and absolutely free of any weapons. I think we would all go home if the leaders of national-liberation movement had applied to people calling them to disperse for the time being.

SM – I can’t say that! I am not sure that might have happened because, unconsciously, the leaders of national-liberation movement of Georgia had not yet formed into genuine national leaders. The actual national leaders at that time were communist party bosses. The picture was analogical all over the Soviet Union. Let’s recollect for example the fact that it was namely the party elite in the Baltic Sea republics who had headed the Perestroika process, directed against the existent style of management. We took the leaders of our national-liberation movement more as ideological leaders of our country than anything else. They possessed no levers for managing the political processes. That’s why Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Merab Kostava would have been stigmatized as cowards if they had called on people with the proposal to go home. Their word (even the Patriarch’s word) was considered in an emotional-patriotic aspect rather than in a solid political context. We all knew very well that no meaningful guarantees of safety or any other favorable consequence, following their calls could have been expected by the public. At that time in Georgia, all of them – the KGB, the Communist Party, the Army, Rodionov (commander of South Caucasian Military District and Georgia’s communist party central committee bureau member) – just all of them were subordinated only to Jumber Patiashvili, at least used to reckon with him. Patiashvili was not only the party boss in Georgia, but also, he was a lieutenant-general (according to the soviet law) of the Army, and he had every possible lever in his hands to regulate the current political processes. People would not have believed Zviad Gamsakhurdia and other leaders for one more reason – they had no official posts in the country. That was enough reason to be deprived of any specific information about ongoing matters. If we assumed that they had the relevant specific information about the situation that might mean that they were connected with authorities and thus were the traitors. None of us was an accidental straggler among the people crowded in the Rustaveli Avenue on the 9th of April. All of us joined the rally not at the call of a certain leader or because of consideration of them. We all were there under the influence of a national-liberation idea. I had personally joined the crowd of my protesting fellow Georgians because I saw tanks that morning passing under my windows.

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