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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 02:49 GMT
Rose sales bloom after revolution
By Natalia Antelava
In Tbilisi, Georgia

Some revolutions are bloody. Some are velvet. Georgia's November revolution was that of roses.

Now, in the run-up to Sunday's fresh presidential elections - sparked by the revolution - the results can still be seen.

In the flower market in downtown Tbilisi sales are booming. And the undisputed favourite here is a red rose.

The flower seller, Vakhtan Kucitshvili has been selling roses for the past six years. For the last few weeks, he says, he's been selling symbols.

Protester with rose
Protesters with roses faced the armed police and military
"It's the most special flower now," he said. "It's become a symbol of justice and victory."

In November, a revolution took place in Georgia. A revolution of the kind, that this turbulent and volatile region has never seen before.

Not one person was injured, not a drop of blood was spilled. And the only weapons used were red roses.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the flawed results of a parliamentary election.

Rose revolt

The demonstrators demanded the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze, a man who had ruled Georgia for more then 30 years, first as its Soviet, Communist boss then as president of the country after independence.

Mr Shevardnadze told protesters they risked civil war and he deployed hundreds of soldiers onto the streets of Tbilisi.

People were kissing the police and military, it was really spectacular
Giorgi Kandelaki, student
It was then that the students first decided to give red roses to the soldiers.

Many soldiers laid down their guns.

"People were kissing the police and military, it was really spectacular," said Giorgi Kandelaki, a 21-year-old student.

"And the roses of course which people had with them, which Misha carried with him into the parliament hall, that was the moment when people said that it was a rose revolution."

Misha is Mikhail Saakashvili, the US-educated 35-year-old firebrand who led the demonstrators to the parliament building and is now front-runner in Sunday's election.

Along with thousands of his supporters he forced his way through the thick wooden doors of the parliament chamber where Mr Shevardnadze was inside, giving a speech.

Misha's rose

Mr Saakashvili held a long-stemmed red rose above his head and shouted "Resign!"

He waved the rose in the face of Georgia's 75-year-old president.

Mr Shevardnadze's bodyguards rushed him out of the parliament building by a back door.

Georgia's acting president Nino Burjanadze
Red roses are now found on government desks, including that of acting president Nino Burjanadze
That was the moment that power changed hands in Georgia and soon the protests turned into celebrations of a scale Georgians had never seen before.

Since then, things have been getting back to normal. And normal in Georgia means kidnappings, small explosions and armed robberies. Yet the optimism has lingered, and so have the roses.

The flower sellers in the market says that the long stemmed burgundy variety that used to be called Georgian has been renamed the Saakashvili rose.

Bunches of them sit in vases in almost every government office.

People who occupy these offices today must be well aware of the thorns. Ahead of them is a tough task of delivering the country out of widespread poverty and unemployment.

But as voters prepare to go to the polls on Sunday, hopes are high.

And for some, or at least those who are selling flowers in Tbilisi market, things are already getting better.

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