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Georgia celebrates coming of age2009-04-01 15:26
On March 31 Georgia celebrates 18th anniversary of the referendum on "restoration of independence of Georgia". The first post-Soviet referendum coincided with the birthday of Georgia's first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. He would have been 70 today. 18 years later the country is again facing a choice. Today oppositional Alliance for Georgia must announce plebiscite results for resignation of current president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Georgia Independence Day is not celebrated today, but on May 26. On that day in 1918 the government of Georgia led by Noe Jordania proclaimed independence. This status maintained till 1921. And 70 years later on March 31 by a good Soviet tradition the majority of the population - 98 per cent - said "yes" to the referendum question "Do you agree that in compliance with May 26 1918 Act the state independence of Georgia should be restored?"
Naturally by the age of majority Georgia has seen a lot - ups and downs, hopes and disillusionment, cultism and overthrow of idols. Has the republic acquired self-confidence and responsibility by its coming of age? The test is to be passed on April 9 when the opposition will take its supporters to the anti-government rally.
Coming of age is also a time of dreams and hopes for positive changes. Everyone in Georgia has such hopes. Like 18 years ago. Then on March 31 1991 young people were yelling "Sakartvelos gaumardzhos" (viva Georgia!). Georgians had a lot to bear afterwards - wars, riots, revolutions. But in March 1991 everyone believed: independence and freedom mean peace, happiness and well-being... 18 years later it must be acknowledged that the referendum on independence was the last one when Georgia was united within former borders. After a while Abkhazians and Ossetians who voted for Georgia's independence called for their own sovereignty.
Today is the 70th anniversary of Georgia's president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. He died 16 years ago. By tradition the deceased are not criticized or not discussed at all. 16 years is a too short term for history and only history will reveal genuine heroes of remote 1990s that can only be called Georgia's "bloody years". A few months following his election as president the ex-dissident, a son of a Georgian classic writer Zviad Gamsakhurdia abolished autonomy of South Ossetia. The first South Ossetian war began. Georgia was taken in the wave of nationalism. Slogan "Georgia for Georgians" hit the multinational republic like a boomerang destroying unity and territorial integrity.