Georgia commemorates its national hero Zhiuli Shartava

  • The first National Hero of Independent Georgia, Zhiuli Shartava; Photo from, 7 Mar 2016 - 11:37, Tbilisi,Georgia

The first national hero of independent Georgia is being remembered today 23 years after his death.

Zhiuli Shartava, who chaired the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia during the Georgia-Abkhazia war in 1993, would have celebrated his 72nd birthday today.

Shartava was killed later in 1993 by Abkhaz militants during the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia – one of Georgia’s breakaway regions.

When the city of Sokhumi in Abkhazia fell to Russian-supported separatist forces on September 27, 1993, Shartava and other members of the Abkhaz government refused to flee and were captured by the Abkhaz militants.

Initially they were promised safety however Shartava and the other officials were killed by the rebels.

A United Nations report revealed Shartava had been "excessively tortured”.

Malcolm Linton's Photo gallery in Tbilisi where Shartava's body was identified among the piles of corpses on the photograph; Photo by T. Chirikba

In 2005 American journalist Malcolm Linton displayed numerous photographs taken during the war in Abkhazia in Tbilisi’s art gallery. In one image Shartavas body was clearly identified lying among the pile of corpses.

Video material taken during the time Sokhumi was captured by militants, Shartava was seen being carried out from the government building and physically assaulted. He was forced into a van and taken to the outskirts of Sokhumi where he was killed with other Georgian and Abkhaz government officials and staff.

During the 1992-93 conflict in Abkhazia, tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers lost their lives and about 300,000 people were displaced.

The war was waged mainly between Georgian government forces on one side and Abkhaz separatist forces on the other, who fought for independence of Abkhazia from Georgia. The separatists were supported by the Russian armed forces and North Caucasian hired fighters.

The war in Abkhazia ended with the area becoming a breakaway region of Georgia.