In April 1989, Soviet troops broke up a peaceful
demonstration at the government building in Tbilisi. Under
unclear circumstances, twenty Georgians, mostly women and
children, were killed. The military authorities and the official
media blamed the demonstrators, and opposition leaders were
arrested. The Georgian public was outraged. What was afterwards
referred to as the April Tragedy fundamentally radicalized
political life in the republic. Shevardnadze was sent to Georgia
to restore calm. He arranged for the replacement of Patiashvili
by Givi Gumbaridze, head of the Georgian branch of the Committee
for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti--KGB).
In an atmosphere of renewed nationalist fervor, public
opinion surveys indicated that the vast majority of the
population was committed to immediate independence from Moscow.
Although the communist party was discredited, it continued to
control the formal instruments of power. In the months following
the April Tragedy, the opposition used strikes and other forms of
pressure to undermine communist power and set the stage for de
facto separation from the Soviet Union.
Data as of March 1994