President Saakashvili addresses nation ahead of Rose Revolution anniversary


[Saakashvili, standing outside Dadiani Palace] Today I am in Zugdidi, in the heart of Samegrelo, in front of historic Dadiani Palace. This is the place from where people left on buses for Tbilisi two years ago on a march to defend national pride, their own freedom and their country's freedom. [Passage omitted: recalls events preceding the Rose Revolution]

At the time we did not know that this would not only be a historic march for our country but would also affect and continue in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Leaders of the Ukrainian revolution say that it would not have happened without the Rose Revolution. There was talk about our revolution on every continent, in countries such as Lebanon, Belarus and many others.

In many political research papers our great movement has been described as the second wave of Europe's liberation, the first one being the velvet revolutions in Prague and Warsaw. President Bush has described it as one of the most powerful moments in world history.

Yesterday the UN secretary-general congratulated us on the second anniversary of our revolution. On the 22nd and 23rd many well-known international figures will gather in Tbilisi, including heads of state from some friendly countries, because what we are celebrating is the birthday of our state. It can be said without exaggeration - if you think about it well, you will realize that it is so - that our country has two birthdays. One is on 26 May when Georgia regained its independence, when Georgia formally regained freedom. The other is on 23 November, the Rose Revolution, as a result of which we have gained genuine statehood, as a result of which the whole world has got to know Georgia.

In the past Georgia had a president who was well known in many places as a statesman and official of another country. But almost no-one in the world had heard of Georgia. Today Georgia is known almost everywhere and by almost everyone. Everyone knows Georgia as the country of the Rose Revolution. The world's three main symbols are associated with our country. Of course, the main symbol is the struggle for freedom. But there are also others: the cross depicted on our historical five-cross flag, which is truly the most beautiful flag in the world; St George, which is closely linked to the name of our country; and the most beautiful flower, the rose, because everyone in the world knows that the Rose Revolution and Georgia are the same.

Four days ago on a visit to Mukhuri village I saw a group of children wearing beautiful uniforms in the village centre. I got out of the car to ask where these uniforms came from. I was told that these were the uniforms of the historic secondary school in Mukhuri. Kalbatoni [polite way of referring to a woman] Medea Khubulava, the school's head teacher, was there to talk to me. I asked her, Kalbatono [polite way of addressing a woman] Medea, who made these uniforms for you? We did it ourselves, she said. I asked her where they got the money from? It turned out that they collected the money themselves. There is hardship in the village, but we saw others' uniforms and we also wanted our children to be well dressed, she said. And they were indeed dressed more beautifully than children, for example, in Scotland or somewhere in America where they also wear uniforms.

You cannot imagine a better display of national pride than the one demonstrated recently by the people of Napareuli village in Kakheti. A group of pseudo film-makers arrived from Moscow to shoot a film - naturally, on someone's orders - insulting to the dignity not only of the country's president but also of the country itself. As always, they paid money in Tbilisi and hired a person eager to help them, even though they are elements hostile to us. This person from Tbilisi told them they would go together to Napareuli and give money to the village head, so that they would get a good reception and film Georgians welcoming how their national pride was being trampled upon, so that the whole of Russia could see it on television and laugh. But what the whole of Georgia and Russia saw was the response of the people of Napareuli, who, by the way, are well known for their hospitality. The people who sent them there from Tbilisi have no such sense of pride, but the people of Napareuli do.

Our police reform is historic not only for Georgia but for the whole of the post-Communist area. At present, 75 per cent of the people trust Georgian police, according to a survey conducted by the Americans. Only in Scandinavian countries do police have such high ratings. Nothing like that is happening anywhere else in Europe. That is a well-deserved rating.

We have a polite, well-organized, clean and motivated police force. This is a police force that, for example, carried out a unique operation yesterday securing the release of two political prisoners from Tskhinvali prison. This is a police force that detained two dangerous terrorists in Tskhinvali in the summer and has also made many other dangerous criminals answer for their crimes. This is a police force that has combated organized crime in Georgia. Not a single serious crime boss is at large in Georgia any longer. There has been no such achievement in any other former Soviet republic and I am not planning to turn away from this road. Whatever they say, the fight against crime will continue to the end. It will be done within the law, but it will be a merciless and uncompromising fight.

Another consequence of our people's victory is that we have established a proper, strong army in Georgia. Yesterday in Senaki, I opened the first large military unit built in Samegrelo since independence. I was very pleased that speaking in Copenhagen a day earlier the NATO secretary-general for the first time named Georgia as a candidate for NATO membership. Never before had this been said in public in such a way. For Georgia, joining NATO, which can happen in the next few years - I will not hide that two years ago even I thought that this was an impossible dream, but now we are confident that we can achieve that in the next few years - will mean that the most powerful military bloc has confirmed the inviolability of Georgia's borders.

There are cynics who constantly belittle and pour scorn on our victories. I know that there are constant television debates, most of which are very critical. However, during such debates I often remember the words of great Ilia Chavchavadze [19th-century Georgian literary figure]. There is only one clever way of dealing with fools. Do not talk to them and carry on with your business. Everyone has a tongue but few have a brain. Avoid getting drawn into argument with big mouths.

That is the advice I give all my colleagues. Our answer to these people and those in other countries who do not wish us well should be to enable our grandchildren to say about the generation that lived during and after the Rose Revolution that this is the generation during which Georgia became a proper state.

We have a unique chance, but we will waste it unless we are extremely patient. The main thing I promise you is that the benefits of the current economic growth will be distributed fairly. All the money will be invested in infrastructure, our children's education and better conditions for the elderly. However, we should all work extremely hard to ensure that Georgia really becomes a developed country, 1.5m of our fellow citizens return to Georgia and the country again becomes united, which is our main goal and our cherished dream. That is precisely the purpose of our state and its real essence.

I have been to many places in Samegrelo in recent days. You know there is constant speculation about what the president is going to do next. My journalist friends have expressed the view that I will probably go to Zugdidi and then travel by bus to Tbilisi to repeat what my comrades-in-arms and I did two years ago. I think that we should leave such theatrical gestures to other politicians. There are many people who would be keen to do that.

We have already gone from Zugdidi to Tbilisi once and liberated the Georgian capital. Without the liberation of Tbilisi, Batumi would not have been liberated. But today, here, we have a different route. Next time we will set out from Samegrelo to liberate our third big city, Sukhumi, and our Abkhazia, which is my most cherished goal.

Our promised land starts merely a few kilometres from here. It is called Abkhazia. The purpose of our state is to reclaim Abkhazia and reunite with the Abkhaz. In order to achieve that, we must spare no effort and mobilize all our internal resources. It is a very difficult task because a major force is against that, a most powerful force will oppose that. But you must remember that we, Georgians, have performed miracles on a few occasions in recent years. I mean representatives of all nationalities who live in Georgia because Georgia belongs to all of them. We have already performed miracles on several occasions. Led by St George and our five-cross flag, we will certainly spread this wave of freedom and success to the whole of Georgian territory, just as we have already spread it to a significant part of Europe. We will do it because our promised land, our Abkhazia, is pleading for our help, because Georgia will never be happy without Abkhazia being part of it and Abkhazia will never be successful without it being a full and equal constituent part of Georgia.

Today we have many people in Tbilisi and elsewhere for whom everyday squabbles, smears and their own welfare are a hundred times more important than Abkhazia. However, such people are in an absolute minority despite the fact that it is perhaps they who appear on television most of the time. We, Georgian patriots, people who love their motherland, people who have a special sense of pride and dignity - we will certainly achieve our cherished goal. The wave of freedom and democracy which started two years in Zugdidi and then spread to Tbilisi and Batumi will most certainly reach Sukhumi. Georgia will certainly be a unified, happy, free and successful country.

Thank you very much.

This translation is published with permission from BBC Monitoring, Reading UK

Communications Office
of the President of Georgia