Adjara marks eighth anniversary of Revolution
Batumi celebrates the eighth anniversary of the Adjara revolution. The revolution in 2004 ended with the liberation of Adjarians from the governance of Aslan Abashidze. The renegade leader fled Batumi on 6 May 2004 after several day mass demonstrations and since then he has been living in Russia together with his family.
The Adjara crisis refers to a political crisis in Georgia’s Adjaran Autonomous Republic, then led by Aslan Abashidze, who refused to obey the central authorities after President Eduard Shevardnadze’s ousting during the Rose Revolution of November 2003. The crisis threatened to develop into military confrontation as both sides mobilized their forces at the internal border. However, Georgia’s post-revolutionary government of President Mikheil Saakashvili managed to avoid bloodshed and with the help of Adjaran opposition reasserted its supremacy. Abashidze left the region in exile in May 2004 and was succeeded by Levan Varshalomidze.
On May 4, a large opposition protest rally was attacked by the local security forces in Batumi. Dozens of protesters were reportedly injured. However, the violent break up of peaceful demonstration proved a catalyst for even larger protests later on the same day. Tens of thousands from all Adjara headed to Batumi demanding Abashidze’s resignation. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze crossed the Choloki River on May 5 and held talks with Adjaran Interior Minister Jemal Gogitidze. The latter agreed to withdraw his forces and paramilitary groups from the administrative border provided he would be guaranteed with security. Abashidze`s position became untenable when local protesters took control of the central part of the city of Batumi and Georgian Special Forces entered the region and started to disarm pro-Abashizde militants. Later on the same day, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Igor Ivanov arrived in the Adjaran capital Batumi. Abashidze stepped down after overnight talks with Ivanov and left for Moscow.
“Aslan has fled, Adjara is free,” President Saakashvili announced at the dawn of St George’s Day on May 6 and congratulated Georgians with what he described as “a second bloodless revolution” in Georgia.