Georgian people commemorate today the victims of the April 9, 1989 massacre, which left at least 21 dead and hundreds injured after the Soviet troops attacked a crowd of anti-Soviet peaceful protesters outside then the Government Palace (now the Parliament building) in Tbilisi. Georgian officials, opposition leaders, and crowds of ordinary citizens visited the memorial site of the tragedy today.
Speaking at a wreath-laying ceremony in front of the Parliament building, President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili said “paying tribute to the April 9 heroes is not manifested by bringing tulips or just coming here, but rather by respecting the spirit of the 9th of April, that is unity, sedateness and being fully conscious of what independence means.”
Foreign Minister and Vice Prime Minister, David Zalkaliani, who visited the memorial site together with other Ministers, said April 9 is “the day that gave birth to fight for freedom and independence.” The top diplomat stated, that “unfortunately, this fight is not over yet, as Georgia is still occupied and our fight continues to make Georgia fully integrated into European and Euro-Atlantic family.”
Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze who also visited the memorial site did not engage with media but wrote commemorative posts on his social media channels earlier today. Similarly, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who is self-isolating as he battles the COVID-19 virus, also paid tributes to the April 9 victims online.
Akaki Minashvili of the United National Movement, who also visited the site, said in his press remarks that this day “is the symbol of the fight for freedom… We should remember that the fight for freedom is an endless fight.”
Giga Bokeria, leader of the opposition European Georgia party, told the press outside the Parliament that “this is, of course, a tragic day in the first place, as the machinery of repression of the evil empire, the Soviet Union, killed our citizens.” But, Bokeria noted, “this is also the day of victory for the Georgian society… This is the day when the Georgian society strongly expressed… that we will never [accept] to be under the control of the evil empire, the Soviet Union, or its successor, that is Putin’s Russia today.”
April 9 also marks the restoration of Georgia’s independence, as the Supreme Council of Georgia passed a declaration of independence on this date in 1991 based on the results of the March 31, 1991 referendum, in which an overwhelming majority of Georgians voted to secede from the Soviet Union. The April 9 Act proclaimed the independence restoration based on the Act of Independence of Georgia of 26 May 1918, which established the Democratic Republic of Georgia – occupied by the Soviets during 1921-1991.
Since 1993, April 9 is commemorated in Georgia as the day of National Unity.