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National Forum Urges Rediscovery of Nationhood for March on Day of Remembrance

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, September 15
The opposition party the National Forum (NF), plans to hold a rally straightforwardly called “The March of the Georgians” on September 27. So far this is the first demonstration planned by the opposition for the autumn. The leader of the NF, Gubaz Sanikidze, stated that the march will be a form of protest and an attempt to find the right rallying cry to consolidate Georgian society and confront the governing administration.

September 27 is one of the most tragic days in modern Georgian history. It marks the fall of Sokhumi and has been commemorated since 1993. The date is usually commemorated in different ways and this year remembrance will be combined with what the National Forum hopes will be a revival of Georgian independence and sovereignty. According to Sanikidze, this revival should aim at establishing a just, democratic form of governance in the country. As well as this high ideal, any nationwide movement should protect the country from the threats that have grown under the current leadership. The NF highlights three major aspects: the first is the security of the country, the second is the status of the Georgian language and the third is the current state of property ownership in Georgia. The NF's views on these issues are worth exploring one by one.

Firstly, according to the NF, Georgia does not have any viable guarantees for its security. This was confirmed by the August war of 2008. Georgia has bad relations with Russia but there is a possibility that relations with other neighboring countries could deteriorate as well. National borders are determined with Turkey but not with Armenia or Azerbaijan, states Sanikidze. Secondly, the NF also argues that the Georgian language has lost its status as the state language. They point to attempts to establish the English language as a second state language and open declarations by state officials that anybody who does not speak English will not find work in the public sector. For the NF, this is tantamount to establishing English as the state language albeit unofficially. The NF sees a future Georgia in which Georgians and the ethnic Armenians of Javakheti or the Azerbaijanis of Marneuli are forced to communicate in English with each other. Thirdly, the NF highlights the issue of property ownership. According to the NF, too much property is owned by foreigners or members of the ruling party. Often owners of the property are registered abroad in obscure places disguising who owns what in Georgia. Sanikidze says that Georgians are no longer hosts or guests in their own country. Instead, Georgians are like lodgers – always ready to ship off somewhere else.

For these reasons Sanikidze and the NF accuse the current government as undermining the Georgian nation and going against Georgian values. In articulating its grievances and goals, the NF has attempted to formulate the main contours of a renewed sense of modern Georgian nationhood that they hope will strike a chord with the Georgian people.

September 27 will pilot this project. On that day of remembering the past, the future will also be in the balance. A lot will depend of course on how many people come out into the streets. Obviously this march will be openly and fervently against the ruling government. A strong showing on the march will be seen as a sign of growing Georgian nationalism of an anti-western bent, given that the current authorities enjoy so much support from the West. A weak showing on the march will be seen as confirmation of the fact that there is still plenty of mileage left in the government's orientation toward the global markets that the NF see as looming over an embattled Georgian nation-state.