“I am Georgian, therefore, I am European”

On April 9, 1989, a peaceful demonstration in the Georgian capital Tbilisi ended in a massacre in which several people were killed by Soviet troops. In October 1990, with elections of the national assembly, the Supreme Soviet — the first polls in the USSR held on a formal multi-party basis — the political landscape was reshaped again. While more radical groups boycotted the elections and convened an alternative forum (the National Congress), another part of the anticommunist opposition united into the Round Table—Free Georgia (RT-FG) around the former dissidents like Merab Kostava and Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Gamsakhurdia won the elections by a clear margin, with his party receiving 155 out of the 250 parliamentary seats, whereas the ruling Communist Party (CP) received only 64 seats. All other parties failed to clear the 5%-threshold and were thus allotted only a handful of single-member constituency seats.

On April 9 1991, mere months before the collapse of the USSR, Georgia declared independence. On May 26, 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as the first President of independent Georgia. However, he was soon deposed in a bloody coup d'état, which lasted from December 22, 1991 to January 6, 1992. The coup was instigated by a faction of the National Guards and a paramilitary organization called "Mkhedrioni." The country became embroiled in a bitter civil war which lasted almost until 1995. The former Soviet Foreign Ministry Eduard Shevardnadze returned to Georgia in 1992 and joined the leaders of the coup — Tengiz Kitovani and Jaba Ioseliani — to head a triumvirate called the "State Council."

In 1995, Shevardnadze was officially elected as a president of Georgia. At the same time, two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, quickly became embroiled in disputes with local separatists that led to widespread inter-ethnic violence and war. Supported by Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia achieved de facto independence from Georgia. More than 250,000 Georgians were removed from Abkhazia by Abkhaz separatists and North Caucasian volunteers, (including Chechens) in 1992-1993. More than 25,000 Georgians were expelled from the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali as well, and many Ossetian families were forced to abandon their homes in the Borjomi region and move to Russia.

In 2003, Shevardnadze (who won re-election in 2000) was deposed by the Rose Revolution, after Georgian opposition and international monitors asserted that the November 2 parliamentary elections were marred by fraud. The revolution was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, former members and leaders of Shevardnadze's ruling party. Mikheil Saakashvili was elected as President of Georgia in 2004. Following the Rose Revolution, a series of reforms was launched to strengthen the country's military and economic capabilities, to eradicate corruption, and to create a prosperous country. Georgia finally returned to the path of European values with its establishment of a democratic society.

This progress has been complicated by Russian assistance to and support for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On August 8, 2008, Russian troops invaded Georgia in order to seize and “protect” Samachablo (South Ossetia) and Moscow formally recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states within Georgian borders. Russian troops still remain in sizable numbers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, who, with significant assistance from the Russia, continue to take actions asserting their independence from Georgia.

The Georgian people look forward to EU integration, as we consider ourselves a part of the European culture. Our late Prime Minister, Mr. Zurab Zhvania, once said, “I am Georgian, therefore I am European” echoing strong desire of the Georgian people to move toward a better, brighter future—a goal that many consider to hinge upon accession to NATO and Europe.