President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, and Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava addressed the nation from Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, the epicenter of celebrations as Georgia marks 103 years since it proclaimed itself the independent Democratic Republic on May 26, 1918. Polish President Andrzej Duda and Ukrainian Defense Minister Andrii Taran also attended the ceremony.
In her address, President Salome Zurabishvili largely focused on the memory and legacy of Giorgi Kvinitadze (Chikovani), commander-in-chief of the Democratic Republic of Georgia, whose remains are reburied from France to Tbilisi’s Mtatsminda Pantheon today, and hailed his “uncompromising fight and military devotion.”
Citing Kvinitadze’s memoirs, President Zurabishvili, the descendant of the 1921 political émigrés to France, lashed out at the 1918-1921 Republic’s Social-Democratic-led government over putting “partisan goals and ambitions” first, and “lack of professionalism” that led to Soviet Russia’s occupation in 1921.
She said the country now needs “correct [situation] assessment, realistic vision, and action plan,” especially as the country moves forward towards European integration, which the President dubbed as the goal without an alternative.
Hailing the role of the EU and U.S. in defusing Georgia’s recent political crisis, the President said Georgia needs to have its own plan, concrete vision, and unity to overcome Russian occupation, COVID-19 pandemic, polarization, and socio-economic crisis, and to achieve consensus over controversial issues, such as the fate of Namakhvani Hydropower Plant.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said May 26 is the manifestation of “our national identity, centuries-old culture and striving for freedom.” “The idea of freedom has always been the main basis, that united all patriots [of Georgia] and that enabled the independence of our country.”
The Prime Minister then hailed the “special” role of the Orthodox Church in shaping and strengthening “our identity.” “Belief and hope in God have always strengthened the Georgian nation in its fight for freedom.”
Hailing Georgian Dream government over “important progress in strengthening democratic values and shaping state institutions,” PM Garibashvili said Georgia’s cooperation with NATO and the U.S., major strategic partner, is at “an unprecedented high level.” “Georgia will apply for EU membership in 2024,” he added.
As part of Independence Day celebrations, the oath-taking of 247 recruits was held simultaneously at six locations across the country, including on Freedom Square in Tbilisi, the main ceremony marking the day.
The first Georgian Republic’s independence was extinguished by the military invasion of Soviet Russia’s Bolshevik Red Army on February 25, 1921. The country declared its independence to be restored on April 9, 1991, based on the May 26, 1918, declaration.