Ethnic Conflict Grows in Soviet Georgia, Estonia
Two bombs exploded and thousands of people demonstrated in ethnically troubled Soviet Georgia, Tass said Wednesday. Strikes inspired by ethnic legislation were reported at 19 factories in Estonia.
In Latvia, thousands of people demonstrated to press demands for the republic’s sovereignty from Moscow, a journalist in the Baltic republic said.
As ethnic conflict increased, a nationwide coal strike that had threatened to cripple Soviet industry drew to a close.
Tass, the official news agency, said all but 24 mines were operating in the Donets basin, the Soviet Union’s richest coal area and the focus of a strike that lasted more than two weeks.
In a report on ethnic violence in the Abkhazia region of western Georgia, the official news agency said someone threw a bomb Tuesday into the yard of a teacher’s home in Sukhumi, capital of the Black Sea resort area, and an explosion at a repair shop damaged a truck. It said no one was injured.
At least 21 people have been killed in western Georgia since July 15, when fighting began between Abkhazians and Georgians.
“The situation in Abkhazia and western Georgia is still tense,” Tass said.
“Unsanctioned meetings, involving 300 to 3,000 people, were held in Tbilisi, Chiatura and Akhaltsykha in the past 24 hours.”
It said that 70 people were detained for curfew violations Tuesday and Wednesday and that four were arrested for taking part in illegal demonstrations.
Abkhazians, a minority in their own region, want more economic independence and cultural rights. Georgians insist the fertile enclave, with its seaside resorts, remain part of the Caucasus republic.
Some Georgians also want independence from the Soviet Union, and thousands have demonstrated daily in Tbilisi, the capital.
In the Estonian capital of Tallinn, strike leader Yevgeny Kolekhnik said that about 25,000 people had walked out at 19 plants in Estonia.
Non-Estonians are protesting a proposed election law that would limit the vote to people with two years of residency in Estonia and require a candidate to have lived in his electoral district for five years or in the republic for 10.
Estonia has led the campaign among the Soviet Union’s 15 republics for greater economic and political autonomy, and Estonians complain about the large number of Russian and other non-Estonian workers brought in to operate major factories.
Native Estonians make up 65% of the republic’s 1.6 million people. Many accuse the Russians of destroying Estonia’s culture.
In Riga, the capital of the Baltic republic of Latvia, an estimated 16,000 people demonstrated Wednesday night to demand that the local legislature declare the republic’s sovereignty, journalist Alex Grigoriev said.