Soviet Plan to respond to the Political Crises in the Soviet Republics
As Gorbachev’s reforms began to take hold across the Soviet Union, various Soviet Republics became hotbeds of nationalist, anti-Soviet movements The Georgian SSR was one of the centers of such acitivties with protests in Georgia reaching their peak on April 4, 1989, when tens of thousands of Georgians gathered in the city of Tbilisi. Local Soviet authorities lost control over the situation in the capital and on April 9, Soviet troops surrounded the demonstration area and advanced on the Georgian demonstrators. In the rush to escape and as a result of the Soviet attacks, 19 people were killed among them 17 women, who were crushed and trampled by the fleeing mob. The following day, the Soviet government issued the statement blaming the demonstrators for causing unrest and danger for the safety of the public. Also in the days following, the Central Committee of the Communist Party passed the following decision. Despite the promise of the Gorbachev reform movements of perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost (openness), popular protest was a clear threat against Soviet authority. In this official response, the media, the Party, and official youth organizations were instructed to work together to prevent future "ethnic strife" or other "inflammatory actions." It is important to note, however, that the language of perestroika (rooting out "bureaucratism") was used here to suppress protests. This is one sign that the Gorbachev reforms were not meant to weaken the Communist Party, but rather to reinvigorate Communism. On April 9, 1991, the second anniversary of the tragedy, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia proclaimed Georgian sovereignty and independence from the Soviet Union.
A.S. Kapto to Communist Party Central Committees, 1989, trans. Gary Goldberg, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
The aggravation of the political situation in the Georgian SSR which is noted in the [recent] report of 10 April again shows the entire importance of timely preventative measures on the part of local Party, government, and law enforcement bodies....
Party committees and primary Party organizations ought to ensure high political vigilance, not permit complacency and lack of principle in evaluating extremism and nationalism, decisively put an end to any fabrications directed at undermining the foundations of the state, and not ignore any instance of illegal actions.
It is necessary to more diligently improve mass political work in labor collectives and the population react quickly to their needs and requests, and root out bureaucratism and red tape. Pay special attention to the organization of educational work among the student population....
It is necessary to concentrate the attention of law enforcement bodies on the adoption of timely and decisive measures directed at people committing violations of socialist law, facilitating the kindling of ethnic strife with their inflammatory actions, and inciting people on the path to anarchy and disorder.
In this regard, Party committees and the leaders of law enforcement agencies, using the mass media and the entire arsenal of ideological and educational work, are to ensure the explanation and deep study of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium decrees published in the press directed at a fuller and more effective use of the means of protecting the Soviet constitutional order and ethnic equality struggle to be waged against various kinds of extremist elements.