TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia marks Independence Day on May 26 in most of the cities and towns all over the country by organizing different events.
There is no military parade, but many military elements are visible in the capital. At 13:00, 200 recruits swore an oath on Freedom Square to become members of the Georgian army.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who is also Commander-in-Chief, accepted the oath. The ceremony was attended by the prime minister and the rest of the cabinet, the speaker of parliament, members of parliament from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition and the opposition, Patriarch Ilia II, foreign diplomats and other guests.
Among army representatives on Freedom Square were also American soldiers who are in Georgia to take part in a joint US-Georgia military exercise, which ended a few days ago.
Before the president congratulated the soldiers on their oath, the crowd observed one minute of silence to pay tribute to those who have died fighting for the Independence and sovereignty of Georgia.
“Noe Zhordania, head of the Georgian government, said: Greet May 26 and you will see what power independence has,” Margvelashvili said in his address on Freedom Square. “The first President Zviad Gamsakhurdia said that no one can take away one’s freedom. We mark May 26 of 1918 today.”
He also expressed confidence that everyone marking Independence Day today will witness future victory of the country and its reunion.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said that independence needs care.
“Independence of Georgia means Georgian statehood,” he said. PM thanked the US, EU and every state supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity and independence.
He congratulated soldiers with joining the army saying it is an honorable thing.
“We should never forget those who sacrificed their life for the homeland. It is the result of their heroism that you are able to proudly say today: I serve Georgia.”
New Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli, spoke live from Afghanistan, her message relayed on a screen to people gathered on Freedom Square. Khidasheli congratulated people on Independence Day.
“Today I also want to congratulate Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan, a spot where the world is having difficulties and where we are able to prove that we all together, all of Georgia, together with the civilized world, fight for the world’s security and independence.”
At the end of the ceremony, the Georgian Air Force flew “Iroquois” helicopters over Freedom Square leaving red and white, the colors of the Georgian flag, as markers while the helicopters threw thousands of flyers congratulating people with Independence Day. There were also L-39 type aircraft “Albatross” and Cy-25 type aircraft “Falcon”.
Government members, including the prime minister, MPs, and cabinet members, who walked through Rustaveli to say hello to people and take part in the leisure activities organized on the Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare.
“I wish we could mark the next Independence Day in a united Georgia,” said Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri during his walk on Rustaveli.
Each of the ministries in Georgia had rigged their own corners in Tbilisi today. For example in the Health Ministry corner, people could take a test for hepatitis, while the Environment Ministry had a whole area covered in green imitation grass.
The Energy Ministry had exhibited a model of a wind farm. Later Energy Minister Kakhi Kaladze explained that there will be such a wind power station built in Georgia by 2016.
Georgian-produced military equipment, vehicles, tanks, and helicopters, including unmanned units, were on a display and people were allowed to sit down inside the vehicles.
Garbage trucks, firefighter uniforms and cars, construction material were also on display. There were small dance performances, and bands playing in a number of corners all over the main street.
The Prison Ministry organized a display of handicraft and paintings made by prisoners.
Children were free to take photos of themselves together with police officers and their cars, while people could taste Georgian cheese, wine or sweets.
The Defense Ministry displayed military equipment, not only in Tbilisi but also in other cities, including Rustavi and Batumi.
There were also celebrations in other towns, like Poti, Gori and Telavi.
Many world leaders congratulated Georgia on its Independence Day. For example Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania tweeted a picture from the Lithuanian capital where a huge Georgian flag was symbolically hung on display next to a Lithuanian flag in downtown Vilnius.
“Happy Independence Day, Georgia! You’ve earned it — more than once!” was the message from NATO envoy James Appathurai, in a message posted on Facebook, later accompanied by a photo of ‘khachapuri’.
Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, US president Barack Obama and others also congratulated Georgia.
Also Google observed the day. Users who accessed the website on Tuesday were shown fireworks and congratulations.
The day ended with a gala concert and fireworks on Rustaveli Avenue.