Gov’t pays tribute to country’s first president

Georgia’s first late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia., 31 Mar 2014 - 11:46, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s Prime Minister and other officials are at the Mtatsminda Pantheon in Tbilisi to pay tribute to Georgia’s first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who would have celebrated his 75th birthday today.

Gamsakhurdia was a dissident, scientist and writer and became Georgia’s first democratically elected president in the post-Soviet era in 1992.

Current Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili laid a wreath on the grave of the late president and said he contributed immensely to the national-liberation movement of Georgia and to the country’s achievement of independence.

"Zviad Gamsakhurdia did a great service to his country by [ordering the] referendum on March 31, 1991, in which the entire population, including Abkhaz and Ossetian compatriots, voted in favor of the independence of Georgia,” Garibashvili said.

"On the basis of which, on April 9, 1991, Georgia declared the restoration of its independence under the leadership of Gamsakhurdia.”

Garibashvili believed Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s name would be always be connected with the national idea, restoration of independence of Georgia and the start of a new era in the history of our country.

Gamsakhurdia personified and led the national forces, which enjoyed a victory over the 70-year Soviet rule in the first multiparty democratic elections.

He relentlessly pursued a nationalist line: Georgia could only flourish when it was independent and free.

He was speaker of the Georgian Supreme Soviet in 1990-91, and after Georgia voted for independence in March 1991, Gamsakhurdia was the country’s first democratically elected President, with over 87 percent of votes.

The cause of his 1993 death remains unsolved and controversial, as a number of reasons have been attributed to his passing. On December 31, 1993, Gamsakhurdia died after recently returning from exile in a failed attempt to regain power.

Some say he committed suicide while other say he died in the village of Khibula in the Samegrelo region of western Georgia and later was re-buried in the village Jikhashkari (also in the Samegrelo region).

Gamsakhurdia was buried in Grozny, Chechnya (in the Russian Federation). In 2007, 13 years after his death, his remains were returned to Georgia and reinterred in the pantheon at Mtatsminda alongside many other prominent Georgian public figures.