Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine and this inhuman war have once again shown the free world that freedom often comes at the cost of blood. The struggle for independence is even more painful for countries that have experienced Russian terror and its endless evil.
This day 33 years ago forever became part of the history of Georgia as a day of self-sacrifice of activists fighting for the freedom of the country. The fight for independence and freedom on Rustaveli Avenue has the names of those 21 people that were brutally murdered by the Russian army. 2 years later, this same day acquired a new meaning as it became the day of the adoption of the Act of Restoration of Independence of Georgia. April 9 is simultaneously the history of pride and pain, struggle and sacrifice, victory and freedom for Georgia.
On April 9, 1991, at 12:30, the Supreme Council of Georgia adopted the Act of State Independence of Georgia.
Breaking away from the Soviet Union and the restoration of independence were preceded by difficult and tragic events. April 9, 1989 – civil activists fighting for freedom, their brutal crackdown, and human sacrifice are part of our memory today.
It all started much earlier. Over the years, the anti-Soviet sentiments that developed in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia turned into a civil movement. The movement has been particularly active since 1988. Frequent strikes and demonstrations were organized in Tbilisi. The situation was aggravated in 1989:
- On April 4, tens of thousands of people gather in front of the Government Administration. Some protestants begin a hunger strike.
- On April 5, the number of protesters increases, Tbilisi is practically paralyzed, workers go on strike and educational institutions stop working.
- On April 7, Soviet authorities appealed to Moscow to send auxiliary forces to Tbilisi. At a meeting of the Defense Council, General Konstantin Kochetov warned Tbilisi protesters that bloodshed would be imminent if they did not disperse. Moscow is sending the 4th Regiment of the Special Motorized Rifle Division and special militia units to Tbilisi.
- On April 8, the curfew is announced in Tbilisi from 11 pm. People find out about this 45 minutes earlier. The military commander-in-chief is Colonel-General of the Soviet Army Igor Rodionov, who has a commanding order from Moscow to carry out a punitive operation.
- On the morning of April 9, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were dispersed by the Russian army, armored personnel carriers, shields, and locks on Rustaveli Avenue. The Soviet army uses chemical substances, firearms, barracks, armored personnel carriers, and tanks against the protesters.
The raid killed 20 people, including 17 women. Another man was killed during the curfew. According to various sources, up to 2,000 people were poisoned, although the exact number of victims is still unknown.
On this bloody morning, the Soviet army washed away the streets of Tbilisi and named crushing and asphyxia as the reason for the deaths of 21 people.
This fight of Georgia for freedom gave basis to the movement against the repressive Soviet regime. Reports of casualties by the Georgian people soon spread to other Soviet republics. In 1989, resistance movements erupted in various countries, eventually leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union:
- Poland, June 1989 – Free elections are held in Poland, where the Communist Party failed to win a majority for the first time in many years.
- Baltic Countries, August 1989 – Two million people from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania unite and form a 600-kilometer live chain to demand freedom.
- East Germany, November 1989 – Along with the Berlin Wall, collapses the communist regime’s influence in East Germany and the process of Germany’s unification begins.
- Czechoslovakia, November 1989 – In Prague, student rallies were dispersed brutally, which lead to mass demonstrations in December of that year and ended with the Velvet Revolution.
- Romania, December 1989 – Anti-communist revolutions resulted in a large number of casualties and the resignation of the ruling regime.
- Azerbaijan, January 1990 – Soviet Army disperses civilian demonstrations, killing 130 people.
- Russia, December 26, 1991 – The Soviet Union officially falls apart.
On March 31, 1991, the citizens of Georgia answered only one question in the referendum – “Do you agree to the restoration of the state independence of Georgia on the basis of the Act of May 26, 1918?”. 98% of the population answered “yes” to the question. On April 9 of the same year, an extraordinary session of the Supreme Council began with a tribute to the memory of the victims of the tragedy, after which Georgia declared its independence. In 1995, the text of the Constitution of Georgia once again repeated what the heroes of April 9 had achieved: “Georgia is an independent, united, and indivisible state.”
The path from the Russian Empire to the First Independent Republic, and from losing this independence in 1921 and then to its restoration, was difficult and painful. The sacrifice of freedom fighters on April 9, like many other acts of sacrifice in Georgia and abroad, have different years, historical context, and emotions, but unite around one goal and are caused by one reason.
The reason is the same after 33 years from that April 9 – today free Ukraine has been forced to defend itself from the endless evil. For the 47th day in a row, we are watching the fight of the Ukrainian people for freedom, sovereignty, and progress. Till Ukraine celebrates its final victory against Russian imperialism, this year’s April 9 has an even greater emotional meaning for us. What is happening in Ukraine is exacerbating old wounds and reminding us of the sacrifice of 1989, 1991-93, and 2008 years. The enemy is mutual and the spirit is the same. April 9, Georgia’s recent history and Ukraine’s struggle are part of one big war – a war between freedom and invasion, sovereignty and imperialism, good and evil.
April 9 is the day of victory in this war – the victory of united, free people. Victory eventually always rests with the people who fight for good and freedom, and hopefully, we will very soon witness what is already certain – the end to the endless evil and the triumph of the people who have repeatedly declared to the whole world: „Душу й тіло ми положим за нашу свободу.“