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Uneasy victory day celebration in Tbilisi

by | May 10, 2015
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(DFWatch.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–It was 70 years since Nazi-Germany was defeated Saturday, but in Tbilisi, people had difficulty to decide whether or how to celebrate it.

In the end of the day, seven people were detained for hooliganism and resisting the police.

Like in most post-Soviet countries, Georgia observers May 9 as the day of victory over fascism. In Soviet times, the day was celebrated with parades but today there are only small memorial events with flowers being laid on monuments.

This year, a few days before May 9 there was a scandal when Russian bikers arrived in Georgia wearing Saint George’s ribbons , which by some is seen as a symbol of Russian imperialism. Georgian bikers in response held a small protest on Roses Square in Tbilisi, where Russian bikers also came saying that ‘it was inconvenience and promised to foresee the request of Georgian bikers.’

Even though they said that they love Georgia and have friends here, claiming that there was no aggression, Georgian bikers announced that they were going to come at Vake Park, where there is a memorial of unknown soldier of WWII and won’t let Russian bikers or anyone with this ribbon inside.

The park was surrounded and filled with police patrolling the area the whole day, while veterans in their military clothing came bringing flowers to the memorial and chatting with each other. Their sons and daughters brought grandchildren, and they told them stories from the war and explained the importance of the day.

In the morning of May 9, someone posted photos and video on Facebook showing motorcycles with Russian number plates being paint-bombed in Tbilisi, but later it turned out that the motorcycles belonged to a completely different gang of bikers going to Russia from Azerbaijan.

Although Russian bikers didn’t appear at Vake Park on Saturday, there were other people who came wearing Saint George’s ribbons, which was followed by a scuffle and detention of seven people. Tbilisi City Court fined five of them 100 laris (about USD 50) while two were released after receiving a warning. Among the detainees there were Gia Chanturia, former director of the Public Broadcaster.

Chanturia tore down a ribbon from one man. Other detainees were charged for the same action, but the detainees claim that Georgian legislation prohibits the promotion of Soviet symbols and police had to detain those people wearing the ribbon instead of them.

Victory Day was marked in several large cities and towns in Georgia, mostly by meeting with war veterans and visiting World War II memorials. As a tradition, government officials visited the memorial in Tbilisi bringing flowers. They included the prime minister, president and speaker of parliament, parliamentarians and cabinet members. The president later hosted war veterans at his palace and granted twelve of them the award of honor.

Meanwhile, hundreds of  mostly elderly people marched through the streets of Gori, the hometown of Joseph Stalin, carrying photos of him and red Soviet flags. Saint George’s ribbons were also visible among the crowd.

Elderly people demanded that the local government allows putting up the Stalin statue where it stood for many years. A few years ago, the statue was taken down.

For May 9, supporters of Stalin put up a bust of the dictator in front of city hall in Gori. The local government said they would allow it just for one day.

A group also put up a Stalin bust in the park in the village Akura, near Telavi, where it has been erected a number of times in recent year and demolished several times.



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