“The Georgian society expressed its will for Georgia to continue the path to strengthen its independence, establish European democracy, and join the European family. It is clear that society will not give up the future of their children, and will not give up their European choice,” Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili stated on Friday.
In her speech delivered at the oath-taking ceremony of the newly summoned soldiers held within the framework of festive activities on Independence Day, President noted that the Georgian army is the cornerstone of the country’s independence and sovereignty and that independence entails the “protection of own citizens.”
Here is President Salome Zourabichvili’s speech in full:
“Today is May 26th, Independence Day, and with this oath, you declare unwavering loyalty and devotion to Georgia. Today, you are joining the Georgian army; an army that is the cornerstone of the country’s independence and sovereignty. You standing here today is a sign that our fights for freedom have not gone without a trace. Our army is a sure sign of our state’s endurance and stability. Abroad, in peace missions, this army has shown multiple examples of devotion and professionalism. May 26th is the day when we show our gratitude toward the Georgian army and all together pay our respects to all the heroes fallen for Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity.
Today, we cannot but mention 15 brave men led by General Kote Abkhazi who fought against the Soviet occupation and were shot 100 years ago on May 21, 1923, at 04:30 AM. 100 years have passed; however, they are yet to receive the grave and guard of honor. This is why, I introduced an initiative (on this 100th anniversary) for each of them to receive an order of national hero. Kote Abkhazi’s words have been inscribed in our memories and echo the spirit of Ilia, Vazha, Akaki, Niko, and others: “We have to be turned toward the West, we have to be turned toward the Black Sea”. Today too, this calling is extremely actual for our society.
This day cannot be taken for granted. For May 26th to be ensued, our ancestors have dedicated their lives to the cause of independence, have sacrificed themselves, and spared no effort for it! We, Georgians knew both self-defense and devotion. We knew the price of freedom and peace. We understood that they are indivisible. Georgians never adhered to living under the shadow of any country nor did they aim at conquering or being inimical toward another country. Under the pressure of the Russian empire, under the conditions of total Russification, despite our “coreligionist brother” abolishing the autocephaly of our church, destroying frescos, we have managed to maintain both the language and the faith.
70 years of Soviet occupation and even the prohibition on mentioning ‘May 26th’ could not annihilate the idea of independent Georgia. No one could by any means ever kill the thirst for independence and freedom in a Georgian. On the contrary, the more they fought us, the stronger the spirit of independence and society’s determination became. We have come to this day with this dignity, these principles, and this consciousness.
May 26th is nothing but a portrayal of this spirit. A day, when we should be taking pride in our past and preparing a better future for the next generation! A day of celebration and elevated feelings. We do have a celebration and a beautiful spectacle. At the same time, I wish our society was also celebrating in spirit, being ensured that the one responsible is really defending its citizens, is strengthening the country, is building a free, independent, democratic, and honorable Georgia, and is not sparing an effort in doing so.
Today is May 26th and it should be a day of national dignity. A day of dedication and honor. If we possess a sense of hope, it is thanks to the youth who with talent, hard work, and determination has managed and made Georgia renowned whether that be in sports, culture, or the world’s leading universities. I believe that along with free thinking and initiatives, they will ingrain knowledge and professionalism, and create new opportunities for the country.
The sense of hope is also expressed when today, we watch how Abkhazians are defending the land and the property of our country. Hope arises when we see that Georgians there are coping with all kinds of harassment and are renouncing neither the Georgian language nor the Georgianness.
The sense of pride prevails when we look at our population living at the occupation line and despite the most difficult conditions, they do not surrender to the enemy, abductions failed to scare them and failed to drive them out of their homes.
And our most important hope today – the Georgian society, that at the right time has shown the world its unity, integrity, solidarity with Ukraine, tolerance, and loyalty to the European choice and its values.
Everyone has to take into consideration the strength and determination of this society, as it is a representation of tomorrow.
But today, a mixed feeling of misunderstanding and insult has taken over this society.
It is incomprehensible and insulting to our people when the government does not think about the honor and dignity of its citizens.
It is incomprehensible and insulting when we give our police an impossible task having them face a challenge.
We all understand very well that a country with occupied territories and a Russian army on its territory must exceptionally be defending stability.
This is why, it is the duty of the government to prevent situations that will undoubtedly lead to unrest and escalation. The government is tasked with prevention, not with testing the patience of its own people. The government is responsible for protecting the territory and managing the border.
One should know who enters and leaves the country. It is hard to believe that family members of the highest political circle of the occupying country entered the state without any prior warning and security guarantees. While constantly appealing on peace and caution, has no one in the government foreseen the danger of escalation? As if we don’t have the example of Gavrilov!
The Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories and the sanctions imposed by the partners cannot be disregarded, as it will lead to protests within the country on the one hand, and disagreements with our strategic partners on the other.
It is also incomprehensible and insulting when the chairman of the ruling party accuses the Georgian people of xenophobia. Our history has no record of such an accusation. An accusation against the country that throughout the centuries has made a name for its tolerance and hospitality.
All of this is proven not only by the past with the 26-century-long coexistence of Georgians and Jews, but also by the present, with us unconditionally accepting and allowing to reside up to 80 000 immigrants from the occupying country. No serious incident has taken place throughout this entire time. This accusation also puts the country’s security in danger, as (we all know and remember that) Russia’s justification for its attacks on neighbors is the protection of the Russian-speaking population.
The independence that we celebrate today in itself entails the protection of own citizens from a state. A country being governed by laws and regulations is what constitutes statehood. This is what thinking for the state looks like and should be applicable to everyone. Therefore, it is incomprehensible why no measures and just regulations have been adopted for mass immigration from Russia and activities, especially in areas like healthcare and education, or even acquisition of the real estate and negligence to pay imposed taxes.
Our foreign policy has also become unclear, while Europe is inscribed in the Constitution. Everyday statements and actions distance us from Europe and lead us toward isolation; the question arises – where did the words “Europe is our civilized choice” disappear?
We quibble with and insult our friendly and partner countries; countries that for 30 years have landed us a helping hand, helped us in building and forming the state. Instead, we welcome and tend those who occupy our territories.
Our ancestors knew diplomacy, balanced politics, and caution well, however, it was never deprived of dignity and principles. There is no country or a man that is not afraid of war.
Only a few might know and understand the brutality of war like we do. However, igniting fear in your own society (easy in a country that remembers so many invasions and conquests) or manipulating it cannot be a formula for successful governance. For everyone to be clear about what I mean, let’s remember the fake war report on TV Imedi.
It is incomprehensible and insulting when we count today how many millions will “the gift of flights” bring. Is our dignity really sold for 200-300 million?!
And from this rostrum, I want to address the families of Giorgi Antsukhelidze and Giga Otkhozoria. I as the supreme commander-in-chief of this country apologize for the insult, which is not only yours but that of the whole country!
It is incomprehensible when you blame everything on Europe and the US: the attempt to open a second front, “Georgianness is being stripped away from us”, wickedness, and yet you send your children to Europe and the US. Yet in Georgia, you destroy the European future for the new generation.
Today is the day when we should think about all of these, look for a solution, and regain hope for the future.
Hate speech and confrontation replaced mutual understanding and respect. This weakens the state. We should also recall Vazha’s words: “When the fortress breaks from within, then the enemy wins”. This is the real threat of losing the Georgianness… with our own hands and will.
How can a nation with our history believe that Russia’s politics can depend on someone’s good or bad behavior or on anything other than its own interest? What depended on Ukraine, when Russia started the war? Anyone who thinks that Russia will return our territories in exchange for our concessions has not learned anything from our history. Or how can we believe that the occupant can care about the well-being of our compatriots? Do we forget who oppresses and abducts our citizens in Abkhazia, Tskhinvali?
We are very well today who’s trying to occupy Ukraine today and we also see that the world is changing. The myth of Russia’s impenetrability is shattered and there is no space of occupied territories in tomorrow’s world. Today is May 26th and I want to wish our Ukrainian friend victory and unification of their country.
In this wait for the new global order, today, like the government, society is at the crossroads. The society has spoken and expressed its will for Georgia to continue the path to strengthen its independence, establish European democracy, and join the European family. It’s clear that society will not give up the future of their children, will not give up their European choice. Democracies’ number one rule is that you have to fulfill the wish of the people for what you’ve been elected for.
Every government gave this promise of fulfilling this very will to the Georgian people. The current government also gave this promise to the Georgian people, and moreover, has strengthened the Euro-integration path with the constitution. Today too, the Georgian people stand on this path, and where is the government?
It is time for the government to revert to its given word, its declared purpose, and fulfill the promise given to the people. The government should think about what it can implement in the remaining time, not because someone dictates, but because this is the only way of leading the country to safety.
There is no time for hopelessness and despair. Georgian society never back down from protecting its national interests and honor, and this has been a showcase, but the recent history as well.
Now it’s essential for all of us to see and comprehend these inevitable changes, believe in ourselves, and not allow anyone to take us off the path.
I will be traveling to Brussels on May 31st for this European future and alongside you will fight to the end to protect our European future. Europe will hear the voice of the Georgian people, the voice of the people who are loyal to May 26 and who despite their different opinions are united around one idea – our independence and Europe is our future.
Happy Independence Day! Happy May 26th!