April 14, 1978, demonstrations in Tbilisi, capital of the Georgian SSR (Georgia), took place in response to an attempt by Communist party officials to change the constitutional status of the indigenous Georgian language. After a new Soviet Constitution was adopted in October 1977, the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR considered a draft constitution in which, in contrast to the Constitution of 1936, Georgian was no longer declared to be the State language. A series of indoor and outdoor actions of protest ensued and implied with the near-certainty of a clash between several thousands of demonstrators and the Soviet government, but the Georgian Communist Party chief Eduard Shevardnadze negotiated with the central authorities in Moscow and managed to obtain permission to retain the previous status of the Georgian language.
This highly unusual concession to an open expression of opposition to state policy of the Soviet Union defused popular anger in Tbilisi, but triggered tensions in the Abkhaz ASSR (Abkhazia), an autonomous republic in northwest Georgia, where Abkhaz Communist élite protested against what they saw was a capitulation to Georgian nationalism and demanded that their autonomy be transferred from Georgia to the Russian SFSR. The request was rejected but a number of political, cultural and economical concessions were made. Since 1990, April 14 has been celebrated in Georgia as the Day of the Georgian Language.
Pirosmani was born to a peasant family in the village of Mirzaani of the Kakheti province, then Russian Empire. His family owned a small vineyard. He was orphaned as a kid and put in the care of his two elder sisters. In search of a better life he moved with them to Tbilisi in 1870. In Tbilisi he was employed by a wealthy family as a servant, where he learned to read and write Russian and Georgian. In 1876 he returned to Mirzaani and worked as a herdsman for a few years.
Pirosmani gradually taught himself to paint. One of his specialties was painting directly onto black oilcloth. In 1882 he opened a workshop in Tbilisi which was unsuccessful. In 1890 he worked as a railroad conductor, and in 1895 started drawing signboards. In 1893 he co-founded a dairy farm in Tbilisi which he left in 1901. Throughout his life, Pirosmani, who was always poor, was willing to take up random odd jobs, which often included housepainting and whitewashing buildings. Despite local popularity of his paintings, of which about 200 survive to date, his relationship with professional artists had remained uneasy; therefore, making a living had been always more important to him than abstract aesthetics. In April 1918 he died of malnutrition and liver failure. He was buried at the St. Nino cemetery; the exact location is unknown as it was not registered.
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