Greetings and controversy on Independence Day in Tbilisi

This year only the colors of Georgia were seen on the streets, and not the flags of the European Union as last year. The president of the republic, Salomé Zurabishvili, did not miss the opportunity to stoke tensions, accusing the Georgian Dream government of pro-Russian sympathies. Messages from the Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan and the Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Tbilisi () – Georgia celebrated Independence Day throughout the weekend, in memory of May 26, 1918, when the democratic government headed by Noe Zhordania proclaimed Georgia’s independence from the Russian Empire. The official motto unfurled throughout the country, along with the flags in the white and red national colors, was “With love of freedom!”. Public demonstrations took place across the country, especially in the capital, Tbilisi.

Georgia’s first democratic republic lasted only two years, joining the Soviet Union at the end of the Red-White civil war in 1920. With the dissolution of the USSR, Georgia re-claimed its independence in 1991, on the same day and with the same solemn Declaration of 1918, thus adding another 32 years to the 2 at the beginning of the 20th century.

This year only Georgian colors were seen on the streets, and not the European Union flags like last year, when Georgia hoped to gain EU candidate status. The entire last year has passed in the midst of controversies in favor of Europe or Russia, and the president of the republic, Salomé Zurabishvili, did not miss the opportunity to revive them, accusing the government of pro-Russian sympathies. Despite everything, the opposition unfurled European flags along the Rustaveli prospekt, the central street of Tbilisi closed to traffic for the celebrations.

Zurabishvili said that “it cannot be understood and it is offensive to our people, when the government does not think about the honor and dignity of its citizens.” He considered that the Georgian Dream government should do much more to “work out a reasonable policy together with its international partners and seize the historic moment to bring Georgia into the European family.” His speech was constantly interrupted by protests coming from the authorities’ box and not by the crowd.

Despite the controversies, the Rustaveli prospekt became, as always, the stage for popular dances and songs, with exhibitions and concerts to animate the “popular walk” that so closely resembles Tbilisi with southern European cities, such as Italy, Spain or Greece. Acrobatic planes flew over the center of the city forming with their trails of smoke the colors of the Georgian flag. The celebration concluded with a great concert in the Republic Square and a fireworks display.

The party spread to the whole country, and groups of theater casts and musical groups left from Tbilisi, so that everyone felt like one big family. The Armenian cousins, with whom there has always been an intense love-hate relationship, also congratulated the Georgians: Yerevan Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sent a message stating that “deepening mutually supportive and beneficial relations with Georgia it is one of the foreign policy priorities of the Armenian government.”

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, also sent greetings to the Georgian neighbors with a message to President Zurabishvili in which he recalled that “relations between our peoples are based on mutual respect and support, which is particularly important in the situation of the devastating armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine… we will always support the sovereignty of Georgia and its territorial integrity, within internationally recognized borders.” Zelensky also stated that “our peoples will be able to vacate their territories, restoring, both in Georgia as in Ukraine, a just peace and strong security in the entire Black Sea region.”

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Written by Editor TLN

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