Georgia Celebrates Independence Day

Today, Georgia celebrates the 105th anniversary of the declaration of the first independent democratic republic. Ceremonial events are taking place in 15 other municipalities along with Tbilisi. The President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, addressed the citizens at the ceremony in Tbilisi’s Freedom Square; Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, Speaker of Parliament Shalva Papuashvili and Minister of Defence Juansher Burchuladze gave speeches and congratulated the citizens on Independence Day. After that, recruits in 10 regions of Georgia and Tbilisi simultaneously took the military oath.

Since, unlike last year, the European flag was not used at the official Independence Day events, a group of civil activists, opposition politicians and ordinary citizens organized a “flag march” under the slogan “Georgia chooses Europe” from the Rustaveli monument to the parliament today. The participants marched holding European flags in their hands. They told the media that the police did not allow them to move to Freedom Square, where the official ceremonial part of the event took place, and one of the citizens told the publication “Netgazeti” that the law enforcement officers did not allow them to enter the square under the pretext that they were holding a rally at the same time as the event. “I am an ordinary citizen, the reason was probably that I am holding a [European] flag,” one of the march participants said. According to media reports, police arrested one participant in the march.

President’s Address to the Nation

The President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, began her speech by paying tribute to the Georgian Defence Forces, saying that they were “the cornerstone of the country’s independence and sovereignty” and that they had shown many examples of dedication and professionalism in peacekeeping missions abroad. “We all pay our respects to all the heroes who have fallen for Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity,” the President said.

She stressed that Georgians have always known the price of freedom and peace and have managed to preserve their language. She devoted a large part of her speech to the past experience of Georgians fighting for their freedom and independence, including during the Russian Empire and Soviet occupation, and the sacrifices made in this struggle. Zurabishvili stressed this “national day of dignity” cannot be taken for granted and that no one could ever annihilate the thirst for independence and freedom in a Georgian.

Stressed the importance of hope, the President noted that hope is born when we see that Georgians in the occupied territories “cope with all kinds of harassment and are renounce neither the Georgian language nor the Georgianness.” She also said that what strengthens the hope is the Georgian society, “which at the right time has shown the world its unity, integrity, solidarity with Ukraine, tolerance, and loyalty to the European choice and its values.

However, she noted that “today a mixed feeling of misunderstanding and insult has gripped this society” and said that “it is incomprehensible and insulting to our people if the government does not think about the honor and dignity of its citizens”. She stressed that “it is the duty of the government to prevent situations that will undoubtedly lead to unrest and escalation, noting that “the government’s duty is to prevent, not to test the patience of its own people”.

She then spoke of the government’s responsibility to protect the territory and manage the borders, in an apparent reference to recent developments when Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s sanctioned daughter and family members entered Georgia. She said: “It is hard to believe that family members of the highest political circle of the occupying country entered the state without any prior warning and security guarantees.”

The President stressed: “Georgia’s law on occupied territories and sanctions imposed by partners cannot be ignored, as it will lead to protests in the country on the one hand and disagreements with our strategic partners on the other.”

She also said it is “incomprehensible and insulting when the chairman of the ruling party accuses the Georgian people of xenophobia,” saying:” Our history has no record of such an accusation. An accusation against the country that has made a name for its tolerance and hospitality throughout the centuries.”      

She stressed that this accusation was not only factually incorrect but also “endangers security of the country, because we all know and remember that Russia’s justification for its attacks on its neighbors is protecting the Russian-speaking population.”

In her speech, the President spoke about Georgia’s foreign policy. She said: “Our foreign policy has also become unclear,” noting that while European integration is enshrined in the Constitution, “everyday statements and actions distance us from Europe and lead us towards isolation; the question arises – where have the words ‘Europe is our civilizational choice’ gone?”

She added: “We are arguing with and insulting our friends and partners, countries that for 30 years have lent us a helping hand, helped us build and shape the state. Instead, we welcome and take care of those who occupy our territories”.

Zurabishvili criticized the government for its rhetoric on the second front, saying that “igniting fear in one’s own society (easy in a country that remembers so many invasions and conquests) or manipulating it cannot be a formula for successful governance.”

She also criticized the government for opening direct flights with Russia noting: “It is incomprehensible and insulting when we count today how many millions will “the gift of flights” bring. Is our dignity really being sold for 200-300 million?!” 

“And from this rostrum, I want to address the families of Giorgi Antsukhelidze and Giga Otkhozoria. I, as the supreme commander-in-chief of this country, apologize for the insult, which is not only yours but that of the whole country!” -she said.

Addressing the government, she said: “It is incomprehensible when you blame everything on Europe and the US: the attempt to open a second front, [that] “Georgianness is being stripped away from us… and yet you send your children to Europe and the US. Yet in Georgia, you are destroying the European future for the new generation.”  

She emphasized: “Anyone who thinks that Russia will return our territories in exchange for our concessions has not learned anything from our history. Or how can we believe that the occupant can care about the well-being of our compatriots? Have we forgotten who is oppressing and abducting our citizens in Abkhazia, in Tskhinvali?”

Zurabishvili said: “The myth of Russia’s impenetrability has been shattered, and there is no place for occupied territories in the world of tomorrow. Today is May 26, and I would like to wish our Ukrainian friends victory and the unification of their country”.

She stressed that “Georgian society has spoken and expressed its will that Georgia continues on the path of strengthening its independence, establishing European democracy, and joining the European family.” She recalled that the current government had also promised the Georgian people: “Today, the Georgian people are still on this path, and where is the government?” She called on the government “to return to its word, its declared purpose, and to fulfill the promise it made to the people. The government should think about what it can do in the remaining time, not because someone is telling it to, but because this is the only way to bring the country to safety”.

Zurabishvili concluded by saying that she will be traveling to Brussels on May 31 “to fight to the end to protect our European future” alongside all Georgia citizens. “Europe will hear the voice of the Georgian people, the voice of the people loyal to the ideals of May 26 and who, despite their different opinions, are united around one idea – our independence and Europe is our future.

Prime Minister’s Address to the Nation

Addressing citizens at home and abroad, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili acknowledged the historical importance of the day, which marks 105 years since Georgia declared its independence as a Democratic Republic.

Prime Minister Garibashvili congratulated those who associate this day with national pride, personal dignity, and happiness. He warmly greeted “our brothers and sisters living in the temporarily occupied territories – our Abkhazian and Ossetian compatriots.”

He thanked the foreign friends and strategic partners celebrating Independence Day with Georgia today and acknowledged their invaluable support.

Prime Minister Garibashvili emphasized the memory of those who passed on the love of freedom through generations and paid tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for the country.

Garibashvili noted that in the short period of independence, the Georgian people and their government laid the foundations of a democratic, European state based on Western values. He emphasized the progressive nature of the spirit and constitution of that era, even by today’s European standards, saying: “in our time, we renewed the movement towards the supreme goal of all generations – towards the freedom of each citizen, the Georgian people as a whole, Georgia as a country.”

Garibashvili emphasized the importance of forging a “national, unique, and independent” path. He described freedom as a state where domestic and foreign policies are implemented in the people’s best interest, with guaranteed political and social rights. The Prime Minister also emphasized the role of strong families in maintaining the strength of the state, saying: “Freedom implies an environment where the strength of each family… is the basis of the state’s strength.”

Referring to Georgia as a country of heroes, he emphasized the special value attached to freedom, quoting Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli: “It is way better to die in search of freedom, rather than achieve high station in slavery.”

Addressing the challenges to freedom, the Prime Minister identified war as the primary enemy. He expressed solidarity and support for Ukraine’s pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and freedom, adding: “As a result of the Peace Policy pursued by the Government of Georgia and irrespective of the many destructive attempts of ill-wishers, internal and external enemies, Georgia remains an oasis of peace and stability in the region.”

“Even today, even though Georgia is a politically independent country, our freedom and sovereignty, unfortunately, have many internal and external, visible or hidden enemies,” said Garibashvili.

The Prime Minister emphasized the value of unity in achieving true freedom, including the unity of Georgians, Abkhazians, Ossetians, and all citizens living on Georgian land, saying:” It is our wish that each citizen, including the population living in the territories currently occupied by Russia, should equally benefit from the progress and development achieved by Georgia.”

Prime Minister Garibashvili emphasized the journey from independence to freedom, highlighting the importance of eradicating poverty and unemployment. He also noted the need to combat deception and disinformation: “The truth remains our only tool to strengthen freedom.”

Garibashvili expressed pride in Georgia’s achievements on the path to European integration. He highlighted signing the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, which facilitated free trade and visa-free travel arrangements with the European Union. He expressed hope for Georgia’s recognition as an EU candidate country and emphasized the country’s commitment to European values.

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


Back to top button