While celebrating its Independence Day today, Georgia also marks the 83rd anniversary of the birth of Merab Kostava, the late National Hero of Georgia and one of the leaders of the national liberation movement in the country during the late Soviet years.
In his message marking the date, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said it was “symbolic” to have the national independence date coincide with the birthday of Kostava, whom he called “the best example of the morality of our nation, loyalty to the supreme ideals and the inner freedom of the Georgian people."
Born in 1939 in Tbilisi, Kostava graduated from the State Conservatoire in 1962 and worked as a teacher at a local music school between 1962-1977. In 1954, together with Zviad Gamsakhurdia - the eventual first President of Georgia - he founded the Georgian youth underground organisation Gorgasliani.
Their activities as part of the group led to their jailing by the Soviet KGB in 1956 for “anti-Soviet activity”, with charges against Kostava and Gamsakhurdia including dissemination of anti-communist literature and proclamations.
In 1973, Kostava and Gamsakhurdia established a group for the defence of human rights, with the former arrested again in 1977 and charged with dissemination of “anti-Soviet propaganda”.
Deported to Siberia to serve his sentence, following his return Kostava co-founded the Society of Saint Ilia the Righteous and was one of the leaders of the pro-independence political organisation.
In addition to these activities, Kostava was also a co-publisher of the Georgian underground periodical journal Okros Satsmisi, which featured works by writers and poets banned by the Communist censorship.
On October 13, 1989, two years before Georgia’s proclamation of the restoration of independence from the crumbling Soviet Union, Kostava died in a car accident under unclear circumstances. He was posthumously awarded the title and order of the National Hero of Georgia in 2013.