Protest, polarization in ex-Soviet Georgia

A massive protest encampment erected in front of Tbilisi’s parliament building demanding the resignation of Georgia’s government promptedĀ President Georgi Margvelashvili to meet with demonstration leaders June 1, and remove hisĀ chief prosecutor. The latest round of mass protests began May 31, over accusations of a government cover-up in the slaying of two youths. But pressure had been building for weeks. The first protests broke out in mid-May to demand drug legalization after a series of police raids on nightclubs. Gay rights advocates took to the streets to mark theĀ InterĀ­naĀ­tionĀ­al Day Against HomoĀ­phoĀ­bia May 17ā€”but were confronted by organized gangs of neo-Nazis, who tried to intimidate them into dispersing,Ā giving Hitler salutes and chanting “death to the enemy!”Ā Georgiaā€™s State Security Service issued aĀ warningĀ to the group calling itselfĀ the “NationĀ­alĀ­ist Socialist Movementā€”National Unity of Georgia”Ā to abstain from using Nazi symbols in public. Public display of either Nazi or Soviet symbols is illegal in Georgia. The protest wave indicates a new generation tired of rule by ex-Soviet elites coming of ageā€”but starkly divided between more liberal and harshly reactionary currents. (RFE/RL, OC Media, June 1;Ā RFE/RL, May 30; OC Media, May 18)

Photo: OC Media

  1. Protests in ex-Soviet Georgia: round 2
    A year later, a new government (although not a new party) is in power, and again facing an outburst of angry protest. Riot police used water cannon on anti-government demonstrators outside the parliament building in Tbilisi on Nov. 25. The new protests erupted two weeks ago, when the ruling Georgian Dream party announced it had closed discussions on changing election regulations, backtracking on earlier promises made to calm anti-government protests that broke out in June. Demonstrators are demanding an immediate transition to proportional representation. (BBC News, EuroNews,, Emerging Europe)