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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 April 2007, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Georgia re-burial for president
Mourners take Gamsakhurdia's body from Mtskheta
Gamsakhurdia is seen as a national hero by those who mourn him
Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Georgia's first president after independence from the USSR, has been buried in the capital Tbilisi 14 years after his death.

Thousands took part in a procession taking his coffin for burial, many carrying pictures of the late leader.

Gamsakhurdia died violently in disputed circumstances after he was ousted. For many years he was buried in Chechnya where his family lived in exile.

But his remains were identified this month and returned to Georgia.

Thousands of mourners joined a convoy of cars and buses that followed the funeral cortege about 20km to Tbilisi for burial.

The coffin was carried through the streets of the capital as mourners chanted his name and was carried to the parliament building for a final public viewing.

Gamsakhurdia was buried alongside some of Georgia's most respected figures in a pantheon overlooking the city.

Suicide or murder?

Zviad Gamsakhurdia was a dissident nationalist who led the movement for independence from the Soviet Union, and was then elected as president.

He was a Georgian patriot and did good things for our nation - he made mistakes, but he was a good man
Tbilisi resident

But after he had been in office a few months, Georgia collapsed into civil war and he was overthrown by militia forces.

In 1993, he led a failed uprising against Eduard Shevardnadze, who replaced him as Georgia's leader.

According to people fighting alongside him, Gamsakhurdia then committed suicide, although his widow insists that he was murdered.

Gamsakhurdia's opponents saw him as a repressive, divisive nationalist, whose presidency led Georgia into violence and chaos, says the BBC's Matthew Collin in Tbilisi.

But the current President, Mikhail Saakashvili, has praised Gamsakhurdia as a statesman and patriot - a view echoed by some people in the Georgian capital.

"He was a Georgian patriot and did good things for our nation. Of course we're all human and we all make mistakes - he made mistakes, but he was a good man," said one woman.

Others were less enthusiastic about his political skills.

"There was an opinion poll about Zviad Gamsakhurdia on television and a lot of people did not have a positive view of him. I think he was great for the independence movement but I don't think he had enough skills to lead the country," another man said.

The Georgian government has rehabilitated Zviad Gamsakhurdia's memory, as part of its agenda of promoting national pride.

But questions remain about how he died - and about what responsibility he should bear for the conflict in the 1990s, from which Georgia has still not fully recovered, says our correspondent




SEE ALSO
Country profile: Georgia
04 Mar 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Georgia
04 Mar 07 |  Country profiles

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