Context is everything, I know that. The story of the Soviet Union’s final years is dramatic and far more complex than anything I could ever pretend to understand. My four-week experience there in the spring of 1989 was as a guest of the State (with all the kid-gloves insulation that implies) when travel to the USSR was extremely difficult. So first, this bit of history, then later, my own story.
The Tbilisi Massacre
On April 4th, 1989 tens of thousands of Georgians gathered before the House of Government in Tbilisi—the protesters had organized peaceful demonstrations and hunger strikes with the goal of Georgian independence from the Soviet Union. Local authorities in Georgia lost control over the situation and USSR leadership was called on to send troops to ‘restore order’.
Five days later, on April 9th at 3:45 a.m., troops armed with military batons and spades surrounded the demonstration. A 16-year old girl who was trying to get away from the area was chased down and beaten to death. As her mother was attempting to drag her daughter from the area, she was also attacked and wounded. Gas bombs were used (supposedly to ‘disperse the crowd’) but most exits had been blocked. The gas caused vomiting, respiratory problems, and paralysis. 17 of the 19 people killed in the ensuing stampede were young women. The faces of these women were hard to identify due to the facial injuries and blows to the head.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The following day (April 10th) in protest against the curfew and crackdown, the city of Tbilisi and the rest of Georgia went on strike. A state of emergency was declared. Demonstrations continued. -Source: Wikipedia