National Referendum in Georgia
24 November, 2011
National Referendum in Georgia

The putsch was abortive, but the processes that had a potential to be developing in the soviet empire became clearly visible. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.

GJ – There was a clear impression that the revolutionary events started developing in the entire Soviet Union at a faster pace, following the tragedy which took place in the capital of Georgia Tbilisi on the 9th of April of 1989. Powerful wave of national-liberation movement overwhelmed each and every soviet republic. Saying that Georgia

and the Baltic Sea republics were the leaders of national-liberation movement in the USSR in general is no exaggeration.  Would this statement be true?

SM – Certainly! Georgia and the Baltic Sea republics make a special case in terms of revolutionary changes of the soviet regime. The revolutionary mood, expressed in political protests during numerous manifestations in Georgia, especially on April the 9th, gave impetus to anti-soviet-regime demands, which eventuated into multi-party elections in Georgia in October of 1990. The ‘Round Table’ national-liberation movement, headed by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, having won the majority of popular votes, came to power in the country. In Russia, it was Boris Yeltsin – the leader of the so called democratic movement, whose outstanding popularity was growing day by day. Unfortunately, as it becomes clear now, Yeltsin’s revolutionary entourage as well as the national-libration movement in Georgia was just infested with the KGB agents. On March 31 of 1991, national referendum took place in Georgia, as a result of which Georgia’s entire population, including none-Georgian minorities unanimously supported Georgia’s national independence, although Georgia was still considered in the eyes of the rest of the world as part of still standing, but already shattered monolith, called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

GJ – Right after the national referendum, presidential elections took place in Georgia on May 26, 1991, as a result of which Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected president of Georgia by 87 % of popular vote. Thus Georgia received a new, noncommunist leader – the famous soviet dissident, leader of Georgia’s national liberation movement, the son of the eminent Georgian writer Constantine Gamsakhurdia. Zviad’s popularity was comparable to the greatest sons of this nation. What was happening at that euphoric time for Georgia in its biggest and one of the closest of neighbors – Russia?

SM – In August of 1991, in Moscow, certain group of Soviet Army generals made an attempt to organize putsch (coup d’etat). Boris Yeltsin was already Russia’s leader at that time. Accompanied by his supporters, Yeltsin came up to the building of the Russian parliament, but the Army, which was complete with young new recruits (they liked the idea of personal freedom in general) did not attack them. Members of the state committee for handling extraordinary situations, which was in actual power for about three days, were apprehended. The putsch was abortive, but the processes that had a potential to be developing in the soviet empire became clearly visible.

GJ – Soon after the putsch attempt, almost every soviet republic declared independence. What was the reaction like to the abortive coup in Moscow and in Georgia?

SM – Legion of foreign diplomats, political scientists and journalists arrived in Moscow in the wake of the aborted coup d’etat. As a delinquent organization, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was officially declared out of law. The process of recognition of the Baltic Sea republics was on its way. Tbilisi was at that very moment faced with the danger of plunging into gory developments. The state committee for handling extraordinary situations demanded from Zviad Gamsakhurdia to dismiss Georgia’s National Guard.

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