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Georgian Independence Day

Americans, especially those of us who have lived in the wide-open expanses of the West, have a much larger sense of personal space than many people are used to in the rest of the world.

That fact was apparent to Corie and me as we attended one of Georgia’s Independence Day observances in Tbilisi last Friday.

Tbilisi is a city of approximately 1.5 million people, and I would suspect a substantial percentage of that number could be found that day around Liberty Square, the epicenter of the day’s activities.

When Corie and I boarded the subway stop near our apartment, we thought we were in luck. The station and train were both considerably less crowded than we thought they would be, especially for a Friday morning.

That changed when we arrived at Station Square, the transfer point to the subway’s First Line, which would take us to Liberty Square.

If a group of talking sardines were standing next to us on the platform, I’m certain that they would have agreed that the number of people packed into the trains would have felt right at home.

Fortunately, Liberty Square is only three subway stops from Station Square, so we were able to trade our sardine-like surroundings below ground with sardine-like surroundings above ground.

May 26 marks Georgia’s declaration from independence from Russia in 1918. The newly formed democratic republic lasted two and a half years, becoming a part of the USSR in 1922. When Georgia once again became an independent country in 1991, the government declared the Independence Act of 1918 and the country’s 1921 constitution valid.

To mark the occasion, Georgians from all walks of life (and many of us expats) flood the streets feeding into Liberty Square to watch a swearing-in ceremony for new army recruits, listen to patriotic music, and witness a flyover of helicopters and fighter jets.

The square itself, from what I could tell, was blocked off except for dignitaries and participants. Even the aforementioned sardines wouldn’t have tried to get close to the square with a people-to-square-foot ratio far greater than any tin can the little fishes might be used to.

There was so much more to see along Rustaveli Avenue from musical performances, wine tasting stands (Georgia, I might remind you, is the oldest known wine producing region in the world), arts and crafts, and enough choices of food to keep everyone full. There were also games set up for children, and places where Georgian writers and poets could do readings and meet with their fans.

When Corie and I got back to the subway station, we were tired and hot, but glad we were able to experience a celebration that Georgians are rightfully proud of.

This coming week, I'll be doing my first photo walk with people here in Tbilisi, introducing people to why I love wandering the city's streets with a camera. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and sharing some of my images with you next week.


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