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1919: Anniversary of Independence

The Georgian Messenger, N11

Tiflis, Sunday, May 25, 1919

The 26th of May, 1918 – May 26, 1919.

A year ago, after the united Transcaucasus had fallen apart into its component parts, the Georgian National Council proclaimed the independence of Georgia.

This decision it made under difficult, unendingly difficult circumstances.

From five sides Turkish forces were reaching on Tiflis ruining and destroying everything on their path. Over Georgia was lowering the threat of Turkish ultimatum, which turned the whole country into a Turkish subordinate province. Within the country were still smouldering the embers of bolshevism, scattered through the Transcaucasus by the Russian army when it left the front.

And in the hearts of the Georgian democracy as well there was no place for joy on that day when its representatives summoned the people to establish their own state.

A year has passed. The 26th of May has already become nation’s holiday – a holiday for the whole of the Georgian democracy. With the anniversary of the proclamation of independence there are inextricably fused in the conception of the minds of the Georgian democracy those ideals of freedom and justice which were brought into being in the great Russian Revolution in February 1917.

Over this matter, over this relation of the people to the 26-th of May every observer of life here in Georgia, every one who is interested in the fate of the country, must needs reflect.

It was not hatred to Russia, not enmity to their neighbors which impelled Georgian representatives to declare their independence. But the fateful force of circumstances. The whole political situation surrounding the Georgian people took on such a form that there remained no road to salvation, save to establish their own state. Waves of Asiatic barbarism, anarchy and reaction dashed against the Georgian borders. All the forces of the people were forced to unite to withstand these hostile onslaughts, and union could be only found within the frame of an organized state.

What has the first year of independence given to the Georgian people?

The year has been a hard one. Georgia has been subjected to the assaults of the Bolsheviks and the reactionaries, of the Armenians and the Turco-Tartar band. On countless fronts was shed the blood of the soldiers and of the National Guard of Georgia. And within the country as well there was not peace and quiet, for there cannot be peace and quiet in a little state which is ringed round by a food blockade, and hedged in by unquiet neighbors.

But little power of observation is needed to discover the seamy side of the present position of Georgia.

Yet none the less the 26-th of May has become a Georgian national holiday: the democracy has declared this day to be the day of its triumph. For her it is clear, that her fate would have been complete ruin and destruction, had it not been it not for the political independence, which gave her the possibility of collecting her forces to save her people. For the Georgian democracy it is clear that it was only political independence which gave her the possibility of avoiding the civil war which is devastating the North Caucasus, and the national quarrels which have drenched with the blood the eastern and southern districts of the Transcaucasus. For the Georgian democracy it is clear that it was political independence alone which enabled her to maintain productive forces of the country unimpaired, and to keep its liberty: to pass the land-reform law, and to invest the workmen’s movement in a European guise: to give the people a school in their native tongue.

If the blockade and the incursions of our enemies are the result of the independence Georgia, then Georgian democracy takes up their challenge.

We will endure hardships, we will defend with our breasts the boundaries of our free and independent republic against all its enemies – our independence we will never give up!

At the present time as political conditions are, to give up our independence would mean a capitulation to the chaos of barbarism which surrounds, to national fanaticism, to Bolshevik anarchy, to Denikin’s counter-revolution. It would mean the death of the nation.

And the people who make the 26-th of May a national holiday, in spite of all their trials, are looking ahead with confidence. It knows that the time is not long when peoples near and far, great and small will comprehend its aims for freedom and peace: they will understand that its policy has been directed towards realizing the highest ideals, and will extend to it the brotherly hand of help.

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