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Georgia Marks Centennial of the First Constitution

Georgian leaders marked on February 21 the centennial of the first Georgian Constitution, adopted by the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1921, four days before Tbilisi fell to the Soviet Russian occupation army.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili underscored today that the first Constitution was “one of the most progressive” legal documents in Europe at that time, as it guaranteed universal suffrage, the abolition of the death penalty, fully proportional parliamentary elections, balanced governance, and free development of ethnic minorities, among others.

Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze on his part highlighted that the current Constitution is based on the “historical and legal legacy” of the 1921 version. He said the Constituent Assembly of the First Republic in 1921 adopted the “progressive legal document” amid Soviet invasion and under “artillery fire.”

Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II said that the 1921 Constitution, “a greatly significant legal document,” served as the “idea” of Georgia’s national liberation during the subsequent Soviet occupation.

The 1921 Constitution, reflecting Georgia’s egalitarian spirit of that era, guaranteed equal social, political, economic, and civic rights for women and ethnic minorities, and ensured the rights of conscience, including freedom of assembly, religion, press, petition, and trade unions. The Constitution separated the state and the church, and banned state funding and preferential treatment to any of the religious groupings. Importantly, the Constitution declared labor as the foundation of the Republic, guaranteeing labor safety, minimum wage, maternity leave, maximum weekly work hours, and prohibited the employment of children under 16. The first Georgian Constitution preserved ethnic minorities’ right to education in their native languages, allowed minority MPs to deliver parliamentary addresses in their native language, as well as banned titles and corporal punishment.

To mark the date, the Georgian Parliament held a ceremonial session, attended by the President, Premier-designate Irakli Garibashvili and his ministerial picks, the Georgian Orthodox Church representatives, foreign diplomats, and lawmakers.

President Zurabishvili, Speaker Talakvadze, ruling Georgian Dream party Chair Irakli Kobakhidze, and PM-designate Garibashvili made addresses at the celebratory session.

PM-designate Garibashvili seized the opportunity to criticize the former United National Movement Government for disregarding the Constitution during its governance, as well as today. Garibashvili, alluding to the Melia case, said the opposition aims to “topple” Constitutional law.

The celebratory occasion in the Georgian Parliament went on amid pro-opposition activists’ protest outside the legislature, leading to minor clashes, as the police did not allow the protesters to set up commemorative “1921 tent.” Several activists were detained during the skirmishes, media reported. The Interior Ministry confirmed later that eight persons were detained under Article 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, involving disobedience of police orders.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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