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Memories of Russia’s war loom over Gori foreign agent law protest

10 May 2024
Protesters preparing to march from the memorial of Georgian heroes to the streets of Gori. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

In the central Georgian town of Gori, memories of Russia’s 2008 attack continue to linger. At a small demonstration in the town against the foreign agent bill — dubbed the Russian law — such memories came to the fore.

On 8 May, several dozen people gathered in the centre of Gori. The town is around an hour's drive West of Tbilisi. It is also around 10 km from South Ossetia.

During the 2008 August war, Russia repeatedly bombed Gori. During, and for a brief period after the war, Russian troops occupied the town of 46,000 people, looting homes.

‘They [Russia] killed my son, who was raised by four families; how can I sit home right now, we will never go back to Russia, we will sacrifice ourselves first’, one of the protesters says.

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Such messages were prevalent when protesters gathered in front of the memorial of Georgian heroes near the Gori Castle in the evening. 

Protesters brought EU, Georgian and Ukrainian flags, as well as posters, some of which referenced Russia’s bombing of the city. 

Georgia’s foreign agent law would label civil society or media organisations that receive funding from abroad ‘organisations carrying out the interests of a foreign power’,  as well as forcing them to hand over internal documents to the Ministry of Justice. 


It has also been widely compared to legislation used by Russia to crush independent media and civil society.

While the protests against the legislation and accompanying crackdown on dissent have predominantly been held in Tbilisi, Gori’s protest was one of a number held outside the capital, with others taking place in Zugdidi, Borjomi, Kutaisi, Batumi and other towns and cities. 

Mariam Maghradze, another of the participants of the demonstration on 8 May, said that Gori had experienced force from Russia many times before. 

Mariam Magradze. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

‘If not from here, from where else should you be hearing these words: No to the Russian law!’, she said.

‘In 2008 there were bombs flying in Gori. No, we do not want Russia, Russian occupation, we don’t need this law, which is Russia, and only Russia likes, why should we like it?” She said. 

Many of the speeches were sentimental. For many of those protesting, the fight against the foreign agent bill was part of a larger fight against Russian imperialism, with people wearing Ukrainian flags and chanting: Slava Ukraine, Russia is an occupier, and Glory to Georgia. 

Addressing protesters, Tamar Edisherashvili spoke about how older generations had lacked unity,  leading to many hardships. 

Tamar Edisherashvili. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

‘Power is indeed in unity and the victory will be with you’, she said addressing the younger protesters. 

‘Today, I stand here in the name of my generation, who failed to hand you a proper country, we handed you faux state, where Prime Ministers learn the day before that they must resign the next day; where no institution works. I feel obliged to stand with you. Glory to Ukraine, Glory to Georgia, glory to justice’, she added. 

Ana Trapaidze, one of the demonstration’s organisers, said that the draft of the foreign agent law was not for transparency, as the government claims. She drew attention to the recently adopted tax code amendments about property in offshores.

Ana Trapaidze. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

‘We saw the law they just passed. You can move your assets here in Georgia from offshores without anyone asking any questions’, she said.

[Read more: Georgian Dream eliminates taxes on offshore assets brought to Georgia]

‘Meanwhile they want us to put photos of others on a board and call them agents, we’ve been there before, we will not go back to that’, she said, adding that Georgia should follow a European path, as is mandated in the Georgian constitution and is the choice of the Georgian people. 

Protesters marched from the memorial through the central streets of Gori. At one point, police officers unsuccessfully attempted to prevent them from blocking roads. 

It concluded outside Gori Dramatic Theatre. Protesters said that some of them plan to come to Tbilisi on 11 May, when a large demonstration is planned. 

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.