A Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's speech in Sighnaghi on the third anniversary of his inauguration

I would like to welcome you, residents of Sighnaghi [town], Kiziqi [region], Kakheti [province]!

Today is a very important day for me.

Today we embark on an ambitious project to make Sighnaghi one of the most important historical, cultural and educational centres not only in Kakheti, but in Georgia and in the Caucasus region as a whole.

This is a most beautiful town, but during the Soviet period everything was set up so that we would forget our history and our past; all the buildings were to be ugly and uniform so that the Georgian people would never wish to live independently and separately.

Their entire machine was at work to convince us that nothing would ever come of us, that we were an inferior people and that no-one but they could take care of us.

We have put an end to all of this. Today, here, we are initiating a project to refurbish Sighnaghi and restore the town's historic centre.

The famous English researcher Oliver Wardrop wrote about Sighnaghi. He wrote that it was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and that at that time, when Georgia was part of the Russian Empire, it was one of the most interesting cities in the whole of the South Caucasus.

Later the town was left to deteriorate into the condition that it is in today.

This project aims not only to build hotels, cafes and restaurants. First and foremost, it seeks to create the best infrastructure for you - the water system will be completely replaced, roads will be fixed, as will lights and new schools will be built. You must not be ashamed to live here. The tourists who come here must see that all Georgian citizens live in good conditions.

I have charged the governor of Kakheti with implementing this project. Today is 25 January; the project must be largely completed by 1 October.

Today is also important to me because it was on this day three years ago that I took the oath of office as president of Georgia. My friends and I, together with you, have been governing Georgia for exactly three years.

On that day, 25 January 2004, when I took the oath of office outside the parliament building, I addressed a people full of hope for the future and united in the desire to overcome Georgia's past humiliation. I addressed you, the proudest people on Earth, who in front of the whole world refused to reconcile yourselves to injustice, violence, hopelessness and decay.

However, at the same time I became president of a people who had been battered and brought to its knees.

At that time Georgia no longer had a budget, the people's property had been embezzled, not one state agency or institution was functioning and in place of an army we had a large group of deserters - representatives of our society's most vulnerable layers forcibly thrown together and effectively kept as prisoners of war. Our troops were without uniforms or weapons, underfed, sick and completely demoralized.

I became president of a country which had a highly dangerous gang of criminals instead of a police force. They stood in the streets and took our money at every step, every turn. In so doing they belittled us and belittled themselves.

They were willing to sign on to any sordid behaviour just for the chance to get a few lari. Then, in the evening, they would take their loot to their supervisors. These supervisors, police chiefs, never showed up when they were needed and never called into account those who had the most to account for.

I became president of a country where laws were not enforced and where justice could not thrive, where weak and vulnerable honest people were oppressed and the most rotten scoundrels enjoyed success, where laws were written by thieves and lawmakers stole from the people.

Exactly three years ago I took an oath before you that we would turn Georgia into a strong and unified state. At that time I was becoming president of a country that had been completely broken apart and splintered into fiefdoms, vulnerable to the most dangerous and anti-state elements. They were listening to my oath in Ajaria, where my people struggled in the merciless grip of a certain midget, a man who thought it beneath him to visit Tbilisi and who razed people to the ground for openly expressing their ideas and love and loyalty towards Georgia. Ajaria was home to a militia that was armed to the teeth and was ready, if necessary, to deliver a devastating blow to Georgia, something it ultimately did try to do.

Three years ago, on 25 January, I looked out on a people whose eyes were full of hope. I became president of a country where there was no such thing as salaries or pensions, where not a single social protection mechanism functioned and where if you did not belong to a very small, select group of people you had no access to the most basic healthcare and educational services. If you could not pay money, you could not hope to get medical treatment or achieve success, you could not take your child to school and you could not get access to medical services for your family members.

The only way of doing business with the government - from the lowest-level official to the highest echelons of the country's leadership - was bribery and extortion. There was no real business in this country, there was no industry and there was no chance of development.

Despite my best efforts, many of our citizens could not listen to my oath because, on top of everything else, we were living in a country that had been plunged into complete darkness.

In our villages a whole generation was coming of age without even having seen the lights or the television turned on. For many years the approach of winter brought about an unbearably stressful period where people sat at home freezing in the dark. Many could not contain their laughter at the promise I made then to make sure that the lights in every Georgian household would be lit. But much has changed over the past three years.

When we took to the streets in November 2003, the world called it the "Rose Revolution", but the real revolution has taken place over the course of these past three years. We have destroyed and replaced the way we lived at that time.

Bribe-taking is no longer a part of our way of life. We no longer have state corruption. We do still have some bribe-takers, as all countries do, but they will all end up in prison.

We have forgotten what it is like to live by light of sooty lanterns. It now seems funny to even think about going to some crime boss from Gldani, Temka [Tbilisi suburbs], Kutaisi or Zugdidi [cities in western Georgia] to resolve one's problems.

(Incidentally, television stations reported the sentencing by a Georgian court of Aslan Abashidze to 15 years in prison as a tenth-rate story.)

Young people are entering university now who before had no chance of getting into certain departments. Before, only the children of wealthy, privileged families could get in. Today the very children from villages who went for years without electricity are studying better than those who had generators in their homes and grew up with all sorts of other comforts.

This is the new, just order that has been established.

True, pensions in the country are still small, but the situation where elderly people were not even given their pensions at all has become a thing of the past. The time when police would stop people on the streets in broad daylight and take their money is also a thing of the past.

We are even surprised that we used to live in a country where no-one knew the national anthem or respected their own flag.

Now we have a new way of life.

According to our way of life, laws are enforced and criminals are punished accordingly. No matter how much they may resist us or call us names, we will not turn back. Corrupt officials, gangs and thieves are punished and crime bosses can no longer so much as stick their noses into Georgia. Gone are the days when anything could be achieved by money. There is no more political lobby in our country.

Our new way of life is to be proud of being Georgians. Everyone considers serving in the army to be a prestigious and respectable pursuit. Our new way of life is to be patriotic, work together to keep our country clean and protect our interests together. Our new way of life is that if we have problems we can call 03 to receive free medical assistance or call 022 to get help from the police. Our new way of life is that the whole world respects us and stands behind us.

Georgians and people of other ethnicities are no longer leaving Georgia. Now they are returning. Even foreigners are asking for Georgian citizenship.

Our way of life is to stand together as a people in times of trouble.

No-one can speak to us using the language of blackmail and threats.

This year all of Kakheti came together to save the grape harvest. People said that if we would not stand a chance if we could not sell our wines on the Russian market. New wineries have been built; we have found new markets for our wines and increased exports of Georgian wines threefold. Next year we will sell much more wine on the Russian market than we used to. We showed them that such methods do not work against us. We showed our solidarity and resolve in the face of problems that would have overwhelmed most other nations.

Our way of life is building, progress and development.

This is the real revolution - renewal and revival.

In historical terms, three years is a short time, but for me, as the president accountable to all of you, every day is extremely important. A truly successful government is not one that takes pride in its own successes, but one that thinks day and night about how to overcome the problems facing the country and about how to eliminate poverty in Georgia.

Over the past three years we achieved much more than many people - including team-mates of mine - thought possible, but much less than we need. A truly successful government does not think about how much it has accomplished, but rather about what it has left to accomplish and about the mammoth tasks that Georgia continues to face, tasks that seem almost insurmountable. But we will overcome them because many people could not have imagined that we would be able to overcome what we already have.

A real government thinks about the fact that the people of our Tskhinvali, this pretty Georgian town, are still being held hostage by a gang of criminals, as are our citizens who reside in the surrounding villages.

A real government thinks about the fact that the most beautiful, most breathtaking place in our country - of course we are in a very beautiful and breathtaking place right now - and one of the most important places for us is our Abkhazia. In our Abkhazia eight out of ten people who should be living there no longer live there. Eighty per cent of houses have been burnt or destroyed in our Abkhazia. Our Abkhazia is in the hands of people who impudently and for the whole world to hear declare that they will never let in the people whose great grandparents and ancestors' ancestors are buried there and who were unconscionably expelled from there. Georgia will never reconcile itself to that.

Georgia will also never reconcile itself to the fact that, even today, in the streets of our neighbouring country, people who had been kicked out of Abkhazia are being killed and deprived of life only because they dare to speak Georgian. All of this will come back to haunt the people who did this tenfold and a hundredfold while we will be victorious.

Three years ago, we inherited a Georgia that had been battered and brought to its knees. We spoke of restoring Georgia's territorial integrity, but this was impossible for a country in such a condition. We needed progress.

In order to take the final step towards reunifying our country we needed to get on our feet and stand tall. Today we are standing firmly on our feet, so firmly that no one will be able to topple us. We have summoned our strengths as never before. The time has come for us to resolutely move forward! We must go forward, towards the final reunification of our country.

Our generation has been given a unique chance to be a generation of unity and strength, a generation like the one that prevailed at the Battle of Didgori [in the 12th century], a generation that will be remembered with gratitude for the next thousand and two thousand years.

Nothing can stop us on this path.

Includes material translated by BBC Monitoring

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