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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 December, 2003, 08:10 GMT
How to stage a revolution
By Natalia Antelava
In Tbilisi, Georgia

Slobodan Djinovic watched Georgia's "rose revolution" from his home in Serbia.

"It felt almost like toppling Milosevic all over again. I was just really very happy," he remembers.

We are working with civil movements in several countries, and I don't want to name them. But Georgia is the first success story
Slobodan Djinovic
In 2001, Mr Djinovic was one of the leaders of Serbia's student movement, Otpor, that helped to oust Slobodan Milosevic.

Just a few months before the opposition stormed the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi to demand President Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation, Mr Djinovic was in the city sharing his bloodless revolution experience with the Georgian students.

"We are working with civil movements in several countries, and I don't want to name them. But Georgia is the first success story," Mr Djinovic says.

Woman wears Kmara headband
Kmara struck a chord with many Georgians
Georgians first formed links with Otpor in the spring of 2003, when several civil society activists visited Belgrade on a trip sponsored by the Soros foundation (created by billionaire financier George Soros).

Within days of their return, Tbilisi woke up to its own version of Otpor.

Graffiti reading "Kmara!" - Enough is Enough - appeared across the capital.

"We needed to find a message that everyone could relate to. Enough is Enough was just that," says Tea Tutberidze, who was in the initial group of some 20 activist students and is now one of the leaders of a 3,000-strong movement.

Our goal was to make things fun, unusual and tell people that it's they who are in charge of this country
Tea Tutberidze
Kmara activist
"Otpor was a huge source of inspiration. Our goal was to make things fun, unusual and tell people that it's they who are in charge of this country," Ms Tutberidze says.

So they cleaned rubbish from the streets, organised concerts, collected money for charity, protested against police violence and ran TV ads condemning the government.

Whatever the action, the message stayed the same: the government has failed to keep its promises and it was time for the people to hold it to account.

The government hit back by accusing the students of being spies for Russia.

Woman with poster of opposition's Mikhail Saakashvili
Many Georgians took to the streets to make their views known
They raided Kmara's office, arrested the activists, threatened to close down Rustavi 2 television channel - which was running Kmara's advertisements - and inevitably contributed to the movement's popularity.

"Our best PR was done by the government. The more they condemned us, the more popular we became and stronger we grew," Ms Tutberidze says.

In the days after the flawed parliamentary election, thousands of Georgians joined Kmara activists in the streets.

"Of course there were plenty of factors behind the success, but Kmara played a crucial role," says Kaha Lomaia, director of Georgia's branch of the Soros Foundation.

They found a non-political way of relating a message that was very close to the hearts and minds of people
Kaha Lomaia
Soros Foundation
"They found a non-political way of relating a message that was very close to the hearts and minds of people. People listened to them."

Mr Lomaia has been personally accused by Mr Shevardnadze of subversive activities against the Georgian Government.

Mr Lomaia does not hide his organisation's association with Kmara. Under a $350,000 election support programme Georgia's branch of the foundation made funds available for the student movement.

'No US money'

The US invested nearly $2.4m in the election system in Georgia, but Mr Lomaia says no US money was spent on Kmara.

Georgia's democracy is very fragile. We'll keep a very close eye on the new government, and you bet we'll be out in the streets again if they repeat Shevardnadze's mistakes
Lasha Chkhartishvili
Kmara activist
Mr Lomaia laughs that his organisation now faces an ironic dilemma - its election support programme designed to run until presidential election in 2005 has been cut short by the sudden success of Georgia's revolution.

But Kmara says its work is far from over.

"Georgia's democracy is very fragile. We'll keep a very close eye on the new government, and you bet we'll be out in the streets again if they repeat Shevardnadze's mistakes," says one activist, Lasha Chkhartishvili.

"And if things go well here, there are plenty of places around that might need help," he adds with a smile.

There have already been phone calls from across the former Soviet Union. And students from Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova have already been asking for tips and support.

Kmara students say they are ready to go international, and to challenge what has until now been Otpor's natural monopoly on bloodless revolutions.


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