Following the wreath-laying ceremony in mourning of the centenary anniversary of the Day of Soviet Occupation, President Salome Zurabishvili said the arrival of the 11th Russian Army to Tbilisi on February 25, 1921 marked the beginning of “a 70-year dark period of slavery” for Georgia.
The President underscored that “the Democratic Republic of Georgia never ceased its legal existence” and “never recognized Soviet power,” and recalled Democratic Georgian leadership’s efforts to preserve “sovereignty and independence at the legal level – at U.S. congressional hearings, in international organizations and with the governments of European countries…”
“Mourning also has its time. Perhaps the time has come to end mourning as our country has come out victorious after 70 years of occupation. We believe that we will achieve our goal – the unification and union of the country,” noted the President.
Highlighting that independent Georgia was restored in April 1991 as the legal successor of the First Republic, President Zurabishvili said the establishment of an “independent, sovereign, and free state” marked a victory over Soviet occupation. “It is a victory not only over the enemy but also over time and history, tragedy and injustice,” she added.
Underscoring that Georgia “has never surrendered” to Russian occupation, the President said “perseverance is the genetic mark of our nation’s immortality and resilience.”
“From the very beginning, in the years following the occupation – in 1922, 1923, 1924 – the Georgian people, all across Georgia continued to fight for freedom and independence, until a brutal totalitarian machine suppressed the nation’s voice – albeit temporarily. 1956, 1978, 1989 are the years marking the awakening of the national energy,” President Zurabishvili said.
She said Georgia did not “succumb to the occupation” and “shifted its identity and selfhood to preservation and development of culture:”
“The free spirit of these years is enshrined in the paintings of Elene Akhvlediani, David Kakabadze, Shalva Kikodze and Ketevan Magalashvili, in the music of Evgeni Mikeladze, in the works of Petre Otskheli, in the poetry of Galaktion Tabidze and Paolo Iashvili. They are the successors of the spirit of independence and saviours of the national spirit,” the Georgian President asserted.
In this context, the President of Georgia also talked ongoing Russian occupation of Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions:
“The occupied territories are a tragedy today for all of us, but the country is independent, sovereign and stands firmly on its path of development and that is our victory. The victory is also that despite conflicts and war, we continue on our path toward Europe and on our way to building democracy,” President Zurabishvili remarked.
She reckoned that February 25 must serve as a day to recall “how a small nation can emerge victorious from wrestling with a great empire” and go on to “shape its future based on its traditions and identity,” achieving goals “unimaginable even 30 years ago,” such as the Association Agreement with the European Union and NATO partnership.
President Zurabishvili also proposed the establishment of a memorial complex honoring “those who fought for the independence and freedom of our country during these 100 years,” including “the fighters of 1921, the latter insurgents, those who were repressed and brutally persecuted, those who fought in World War II, the students of 1956, the victims of 9 April and those who died in the conflicts of Abkhazia and Samachablo (Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia) and the 2008 war.”