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The Massacre

Shrine for the killed protestors in front of Sioni Church 1989. Photo: Peter Nasmyth
Shrine for the killed protestors in front of Sioni Church 1989. Photo: © Peter Nasmyth

The year 1989 saw international relations go through one of their most profound transformations in modern history. Georgia played its part. While Georgians shouted louder with their desire to secede from Russia, so some other nationalities living in Georgia (i.e. Abkhazians, living on the western region of Georgia) did the same in their demand to secede from Georgia.

Strikes were taking place in the streets of Tbilisi. Georgians believed the Abkhazians had been put up to it by Moscow.  Moscow replied to these protests by sending troops and tanks. When the Soviet Army's 'special Forces" arrived on the Tbilisi streets to restrain this protest, it became another cause for protest.

The British Press reports spoke of demonstrations calling for independence, unleashed by the arrival of glasnost. A gradual escalation of marches, strikes and various non-co-operations with the Soviet system, all climaxing on April 9th when 16 Georgian women and four men on hunger strike on Government Building steps had been butchered by an angry Soviet Army militia.

[p. 15]

Nasmyth quotes his Georgian friend Marika, who was commenting on the tragic events of the 9th of April:

They [the Special Forces] advanced in through the crowd and surrounded the hunger strikers on the Government Building steps with a cordon. Then all of a sudden they threw gas in the air, and began attacking the protestors – most of whom were young women – and beating them with spades."

[p. 16]

This marked the beginning of the end of the Georgia-Russia union. The killing of the protestors and the subsequent attempts of the government to cover it up galvanized support for the protestors.

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