Georgians took to the streets to oppose a bill on "foreign agents", a sign for them of a "Russification" of their government. Faced with a strong mobilization, the government backed down. A look back at three eventful nights in a country divided between East and West.
Every night, protesters tirelessly sing the name of their country in Georgian, a language banned by the Soviet regime. Among them,Tamar Tolordava, twenty years old: “Rich MPs are trying to take our country from us. So we tell them this country is not theirs, it is ours. »
On Tuesday, deputies from the "Georgian Dream" party voted in first reading a law on "foreign agents" inspired by Russian legislation enacted in 2012. It obliges, under the pretext of transparency, any organization financed by foreign funds with 20% or more. to register as "foreign agents". Tamar did not like this Russian method: "over the years this law became tougher, NGOs and media were forced to stop working, and international organizations left the country. We know how it turned out in Russia and we don't want to go down the same path."
On the poster of a young woman, a fat Russian man is breastfeeding most of the Georgian parliamentarians. For many, these MPs are paid by oligarchy Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia in the 90s.
At the foot of the parliament are the charred pages of a constitutional law textbook signed by Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party. His head, adorned with pig ears, is displayed on the surrounding walls. Protesters marched against the columns of the Parliament, a building built under the Soviet regime, while a sound system played Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the 1985 European anthem.
In this country occupied by the USSR until the fall of the wall, the fear of the "old Russian brother" is palpable. The government refused to apply economic sanctions against Moscow to ensure "peace" with its neighbor.This demonstration goes beyond the fight against this bill, it is a resistance against Russian imperialism," explains Giorgi.Khizanishvili, who came to demonstrate with his friends.
Some even shows anti-communism just as primitive that a middle-aged man who boldly held his banner: "I listen to Lennon, you listen to Lenin. 80-year-old Rusudan Kutateladze wanted to come to this market, where in April 1989 he suffered a bloody crackdown that left about twenty dead. While she herself had to continue her higher education in Russian, these grandchildren now refuse to speak the language of the "oppressor".
In 2008, Russia invaded part of Georgian territory, killing between 160 and 1,600 people. Troops still occupy 20% of the territory. "fuckRussia" tags flourish in Tbilisi. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, academic Tamar Koridze estimates that between 100,000 and 150,000 Russians have settled in the capital. His arrival caused an increase in rental prices, which exacerbated tensions.
Ivan Melgunov he took refuge in a park near the parliament to escape the tear gas. He fled Russia in November and vowed to support Georgian citizens: "Four years ago I was arrested for a few days just for demonstrating to defend Putin's opponent, Alexei Navalny. Russia is no longer my country, it is Putin's". With his tiny half-moon glasses, shoulder-length hair and denim jacket, he is indistinguishable from Georgiansfrom people who post on social media.
With whistle, mask and helmet, they did not hesitate to challenge the police until dawn. Neither tear gas, nor water cannons, nor arrests intimidated these young people who were waving Georgian and European flags. Rusudan Dzhugashvili, project manager, has worked on many missions funded by the European Union and Western countries: "Before, foreign investments were more important. Nowadays, we have less and less budgets. With this law it would be even more difficult. But this is not the will of the Georgian people! Our aspiration is Europe. »
Condemned by all European heads of state, this bill threatens to further distance the Georgian dream of joining the EU, a dream shared by Rusudan: “The EU is about protecting human rights, defending freedom and education. We are Europeans. The memory of last June is still painful. The European Commission accepted Ukraine's and Moldova's applications for EU membership, but rejected Georgia's.
Faced with the determination of young opponents who, instead of fleeing from police sirens, danced the night away like a rave party, the government caved. But we will have to wait for the next parliamentary session tobury definitely the bill. ForGeorgi Qalishvili, the situation is clear: “If the government magically passes this law, it will be a revolution in Georgia. »