Georgia is celebrating Mother Language Day today, which marks Georgia's courageous victory over the Soviet repressive machine in maintaining the Georgian language as the country’s official language.
On this day 37 years ago, hundreds of Georgians took to the streets in Tbilisi in protest against the Soviet Empire’s decision to remove words in the Georgian Constitution that would guarantee Georgian as the country’s official language.
On April 14, 1978, local students, professors, teachers and citizens strictly opposed the decision so the Soviet regime was forced to step back. This was an unprecedented case when the regime withdrew and backed down to the community’s demands.
"It was a great victory. This day demonstrated that the Georgian people would never give up and accept impairing of the national values,” said Georgia’s Prime Minister in a written statement congratulating people on Mother Language Day.
"The step was equal to heroism,” Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said.
"Today, when Georgia is independent our duty is not only to respect our mother language but also take care of it, support each of our citizens to study Georgian language and thus strengthen its official status,” he said.
In a special letter issued today, Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili stressed the importance of the day.
"For me, this was one of the most unforgettable moments of my life,” he wrote.
"This was the first political rally which I joined after school together with my classmates.”
Margvelashvili thanked all those people who stood firm to protect the status of the Georgian language 37 years ago and called on future generations to always appreciate and take care of their mother language, which is one of the oldest and unique languages in the world.
Meanwhile a group of people gathered in Mother Language Park in Tbilisi to protest against the recent decision of de facto Abkhazia authorities to replace Georgian language with Russian in Gali schools.
Gali is a town 77km southeast of Sokhumi, the capital city of Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region. Latest public polls revealed 96 percent of the Gali population considered themselves Georgian citizens. Abkhazia’s de facto government intended to forbid teaching the Georgian language and replace it with Russian in all Gali schools from September 2015. This decision will see 35,000 Georgians living in Gali have their right to get an education in their native language violated.
Today’s rally participants said 37 years ago Georgians fought to maintain Georgian as a state language and today the same was needed in Gali. They demanded the Georgian Government take appropriate measures to prevent this "forceful Russification” of Georgian citizens from happening.
Georgian, once described as one of the most beautifully written languages in the world, is written in its own unique writing system and comprises of 33 characters. Recently, it was granted the national status of cultural heritage in Georgia and was officially presented at the UNESCO Intangible Heritage nomination.