April 9 marks in Georgia tragedy also referred to as Tbilisi Massacre, Tbilisi tragedy.
Many Georgians gathered in Tbilisi on April 9th, 1989 during an anti-Soviet demonstration, as the culmination of weeks of demonstrations, protesting against separatism in the Georgian Black Sea region of Abkhazia and in support of Georgian independence, secession from the Soviet Union. At their peak, about 10,000 people are estimated to have been present.
Merab Kostava, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Giorgi Chanturia, Irakli Bathiashvili and Irakli Tsereteli were the leaders of protesters. The First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, Jumber Pastiashvili requested to send Soviet troops. The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church made an emotional speech and asked the crowd to leave the square just hours before the attack. The crowds refused to do so and minutes before 4am on 9 April, Soviet troops under the command of Colonel General Igor Radionov were ordered to clear the square by all means available.
The Soviet army violently attacked peaceful using tanks and guns on Rustaveli Avenue, in the center of Tbilisi, resulting in 21 deaths and causing hundreds of injuries. Among the deceased were 17 females and 4 males, including many 16-year-old students as well as women of different ages. The violent attack was followed by additional death of hundreds of peaceful protesters who were poisoned by an unknown gas and many of them severely injured. The Georgian authorities asserted that more than 4,000 people eventually required some form of medical help.
The night of April 9 symbolizes one of the most tragic but at the same time heroic dates when whole country united to fight for its independence. On April 10, as a protest, inhabitants of Tbilisi and Georgia went out on strike and a 40-day of national mourning was declared.People laid flowers at the places of murder to pay respect to the deceased.
The 9 April 1989 killings in Tbilisi accelerated Georgia’s urge for independence and secession from the Soviet oppression. Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in the streets in the days after the massacre. An especially large demonstration of at least 300,000 people gathered on 26 April to mark the anniversary of the declaration of the Georgian Democratic Republic in 1918, prior to Georgia’s incorporation into the Soviet Union.
On 9 April 1990, Georgia adopted a Declaration of Independence. By this time, Georgia was under the leadership of Zviad Gamsakhurdia one of the leaders of the protesting movement. Igor Radionov who led the Soviet troops raid became a member of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, and minister of defence under President Boris Yeltsin.
On April 9, 1991, during the second anniversary of the tragedy, the Supreme Council of Georgia declared Georgian sovereignty and independence from the Soviet Union based on the results of a nationwide referendum. Zviad Gamsakhurdia one of the leaders of the protesting movement became the first democratically elected President of Georgia. A memorial to the victims of the tragedy was opened at the Rustaveli Avenue on November 23, 2004. Every year on April 9 high officials of Georgia, public figures as well as ordinary citizens bring flowers to the memorial honouring those who sacrificed themselves for the sake of their homeland’s freedom and bright future.
9 April is a national public holiday in Georgia marking the Day of National Unity.
Source: Central and Eastern Europe Center: Communications-Unlimited.nl and Georgian Journal