Georgia: newest history lessons21.10.2009 | 23:02
The parliament favors deputy Jondi Bagaturia's initiative to set up a commission to investigate the death of Georgia's first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Many believe the suicide version is improbable. But is it possible to shed light on this misty story 16 years later? And does Georgia need this now? This is what GeorgiaTimes correspondent was finding out in Tbilisi.
We managed to get in touch with Jondi Bagaturia who thinks it's the right time now to rake up the past and dot all "I"s in Gamsakhurdia's mysterious death. Though Bagaturia belongs to the opposition the ruling majority backs the initiative.
-What results do you expect from the commission?
-My suggestion was not only to investigate the death of Georgia's first president but also provide legal assessment of the 1991 events (when Shevarnadze unseated his predecessor as a result of the so-called Tbilisi war. The capital was the battlefield between supporters of two politicians - ed.). I hope the commission's conclusions will be objective and will calm the society.
-16 years after Gamsakhurdia's death are people still touchy about the events of that time?
-Our future depends on the past. This is a copybook maxim. If we correct the mistakes of the past we will not make new ones.
-You speak about legal assessment of year 1991. Does that mean that the commission might acknowledge illegitimacy of Shevarnadze's government?
-I won't make any judgments beforehand. The commission was established to find all things out. As well as to answer the question whether Gamsakhurdia was murdered or committed suicide.
-This was not proved immediately after his death. Is it possible to verify details now? It is known that many times Zviad Konstantinovich's family refused to have a repeated expert examination stating that nothing would be cleared up anyway.
The commission can invite the professionals to the investigation. I personally know people who dealt with Gamsakhurdia. There is an opinion he was lured to Georgia on purpose, - our interlocutor summed up.
The personality of Georgia's first president is odious and controversial (probably like of all the firsts). He is the son of a Georgian classic, a polyglot, a dissident. His whole life is a struggle. And mistakes and repentance - as a consequence. Shameful public repentance under omnipotent KGB's pressure early in his life. It is easy to judge today. But Merab Kostava and others did not repent. And then the return to the dissident and openly anti-Soviet activities.
It was Zviad Gamsakhurdia who pioneered the nascent anti-Soviet movement in Georgia. First rallies. Ill-fated April 9 1989 and the death of the future president's young supporters. Did he repent? Hardly so. Because history rarely avoids tragic turns. Besides the commission led by Anatoly Sobchak (whose monument is still standing in the center of Tbilisi) rendered a decision in favor of Georgia. People cheered up: they were the first who challenged the system. And won the fight.
A triumphant election. According to the tradition of past years Gamsakhurdia was supported by the absolute majority. And then rallies, rallies, rallies... Because everyone in Georgia knows what the wrong way is and nobody knows the right way. There are no recipes, there's only one objective - freedom and independence. As a result - the country sinking in poverty: old treaties including those on economic partnership with other republics were terminated, and Georgia had no time to sign new ones. No light, no gas, no bread.
A few months after being elected president Gamsakhurdia abrogated the South Ossetian autonomy. The first South Ossetian war breaks out. Georgia is engulfed in nationalism. "Georgia for Georgians" slogan hits the multinational republic like a boomerang destroying its unity and territorial integrity.
History had no mercy on Zviad Gamsakhurdia. His ex supporters who made a cult of him cast him down in the end. Tbilisi war late in 1991 took 100 lives. Gamsakhurdia had to flee. On December 31 1993 he died in unclear circumstances in a village of Western Georgia. The official version is that he committed suicide. But there is a conviction in Georgia that the first president was killed.
A short time ago my acquaintance in Tbilisi told me that after Zviad Gamsakhurdia's death had been reported she met him in a street in Moscow. "It was not an illusion or a phantom, - she asserted. - just the rumors about his death were over-exaggerated". Where's the truth and where is the lie? The life of Georgia's first president is a real enigma.
There is a belief in Georgia with its reverent attitude to centuries-long Caucasian traditions that memory of Zviad Gamsakhurdia can't be committed to oblivion. He is the first president of Georgia. Regardless of the flag colors, time and political system. Before him there was no president in the country. Neither Edward Shevarnadze who ruled the republic for 25 years nor ambitious Mikheil Saakahsvili, the current leader, can claim that.