Georgia marks independence from Soviets

Georgians on Friday marked the 15th anniversary of this Caucasus nation gaining independence from the Soviet Union with warplanes buzzing over the capital and President Mikhail Saakashvili inaugurating a museum devoted to Soviet repression. More than 18,000 troops and 40 jet fighters took part in the country's biggest military parade in the past decade which was meant to showcase the country's military capability.

"We did everything possible to create military forces that the entire Georgia could be proud of," Saakashvili said. Saakashvili also reiterated his pledges to reunite his poor nation by bringing two separatist provinces that broke away in bloody separatist wars in the early 1990s back into the fold.

"We must not repeat the mistakes that have been taking place for centuries, when internal fighting led to our loosing to our adversaries and put our freedom and our future at risk," he said. "Soon there will come time, when Abkhazia and (South) Ossetia will celebrate this day as all Georgian citizens are celebrating it today." Saakashvili also inaugurated the Museum of Soviet Occupation in Tbilisi, which chronicles the fate of thousands of Georgians purged and killed by Soviet secret services.

After becoming part of the Russian empire in the 18th century, Georgia gained brief independence in 1918 following the Bolshevik revolution, only to be invaded by the Russian army in 1921 and made part of the Soviet union. Georgia declared independence in 1991 amid the collapse of the Soviet Union. Several opposition parties, which have become increasingly vocal in recent months, used the Independence Day to stage anti-government rallies protesting what they call the government's unfulfilled promises to reform the nation and bring it out of poverty.

N.U.