PM Irakli Garibashvili at the 9 April monument in Tbilisi. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia today marks the restoration of independence in 1991. It is also a day of commemoration of an independence rally two years prior which was violently dispersed, resulting in twenty deaths.

After becoming independent in 1918, Georgia was governed by the popular Menshevik party under Noe Jordania, but independence was quashed when the Red Army invaded in 1921 during the tumultuous power struggle following the Russian Revolution.

There existed a dissident movement during the next nearly seventy years as part of the Soviet Union, but it wasn’t until the ‘Perestroika’ period during Gorbachev that the nationalist movement became strong and active here. Large rallies were held, beginning in late 1988.

These peaked on April 4, 1989, when tens of thousands of people turned out for a demonstration in front of the government building, where is used as parliament today, to demand independence.

The local Soviet government lost control of the situation, and the demonstrations grew. Some of the protesters were on a hunger strike. In the morning of April 9, the Soviet Army dispersed the rally and around twenty people died, while hundreds were injured.

After this, the local Soviet government agreed to have a multi-party election, which was unprecedented thing for the Soviet Union. As a result of the election, representatives of the National Movement (Erovnuli Modzraoba) came into government.

A referendum was held March 31, 1991, which showed almost unanimous support for independence. April 9, 1991, the restoration of independence was announced.

As a tradition, the government, public officials, parliamentarians, ancestors of the victims of the tragedy, ordinary citizens use to come at the memorial every year on April 9 in front of the parliament building. This year Prime Minister, President and political party representatives also came bringing flowers to the memorial.

“Innocent blood which was spilled here in 1989 of the patriots turned into the independence of Georgia two years later,” president Giorgi Margvelashvili said at the memorial. He thanked the victims for their sacrifice.