Accessibility links

April 9, 1989: Soviet Crackdown In Tbilisi

In the spring of 1989, Georgians took to the streets to demand independence from the Soviet Union. At the peak of the demonstrations, many thousands of people -- some of them on hunger strike -- gathered in central Tbilisi. On April 9, Soviet Interior Ministry troops moved in to crush the peaceful protests, killing at least 20 people and leaving hundreds injured or poisoned by gas. The crackdown became one of the turning points in the final years of the Soviet Union. (13 PHOTOS)

Months before the peak of the protests, young people were already staging hunger strikes to demand independence for Georgia. Here, a banner states "Day 5 of the hunger strike" in front of the Georgian parliament building on November 28, 1988.
1

Months before the peak of the protests, young people were already staging hunger strikes to demand independence for Georgia. Here, a banner states "Day 5 of the hunger strike" in front of the Georgian parliament building on November 28, 1988.

By April, the protest movement had swelled. Here, pro-independence demonstrators sit on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi on April 8, 1989. A small faction protesting against separatism in the Georgian Black Sea region of Abkhazia was also present.
2

By April, the protest movement had swelled. Here, pro-independence demonstrators sit on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi on April 8, 1989. A small faction protesting against separatism in the Georgian Black Sea region of Abkhazia was also present.

On April 9, Soviet Interior Ministry troops moved in to clear out the protesters, using tanks and crowd-control gas, and wielding hand-held spades and batons. At least 20 protesters died in the violence, and hundreds more were injured or poisoned.
3

On April 9, Soviet Interior Ministry troops moved in to clear out the protesters, using tanks and crowd-control gas, and wielding hand-held spades and batons. At least 20 protesters died in the violence, and hundreds more were injured or poisoned.

Soviet soldiers patrol the streets in Tbilisi on April 9.
4

Soviet soldiers patrol the streets in Tbilisi on April 9.

Soviet tanks stand in front of the Georgian government building after troops violently broke up the pro-independence protests.
5

Soviet tanks stand in front of the Georgian government building after troops violently broke up the pro-independence protests.

A Tbilisi resident wears a ribbon in mourning for the victims on the day after the crackdown.
6

A Tbilisi resident wears a ribbon in mourning for the victims on the day after the crackdown.

Mourners lay flowers in honor of the victims of the violence. The events of April 9 helped accelerate Georgia's opposition to Soviet rule; two years later, on April 9, 1991, Georgia adopted its Declaration of Independence.
7

Mourners lay flowers in honor of the victims of the violence. The events of April 9 helped accelerate Georgia's opposition to Soviet rule; two years later, on April 9, 1991, Georgia adopted its Declaration of Independence.

People hold photographs of the slain protesters. In the days after the crackdown, hundreds of thousands rallied in protest against the violence.
8

People hold photographs of the slain protesters. In the days after the crackdown, hundreds of thousands rallied in protest against the violence.

Soviet troops stand guard on Tbilisi's Rustaveli Avenue on April 11.
9

Soviet troops stand guard on Tbilisi's Rustaveli Avenue on April 11.

Soviet tanks flank a main thoroughfare in Tbilisi on April 11.
10

Soviet tanks flank a main thoroughfare in Tbilisi on April 11.

People gather near the Georgian government building on April 12 in the aftermath of the violence.
11

People gather near the Georgian government building on April 12 in the aftermath of the violence.

Thousands gather on April 16, 1989, for the funeral of those who died during the crackdown.
12

Thousands gather on April 16, 1989, for the funeral of those who died during the crackdown.

XS
SM
MD
LG