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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gamsakhurdia Laid to Rest in Georgia

APAn honor guard carrying the coffin of Zviad Gamsakhurdia during his funeral procession through Tbilisi on Sunday.
TBILISI, Georgia -- The body of Georgia's first post-Soviet president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who was driven out in a violent uprising more than a decade ago and later died in an armed attempt to regain power, was laid to rest Sunday at one of Georgia's most revered burial sites.

Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Tbilisi as Gamsakhurdia's body was carried through the capital and brought to the Mtatsminda Pantheon, where prominent Georgian authors and other figures are buried.

Many of the mourners were unable to crowd into the narrow road leading to the mountaintop burial site and gathered instead around a church at the foot of the mountain, where a service was conducted by Catholicos Ilya II, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Gamsakhurdia was a noted author and a scholar of the iconic Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli. He also was an active dissident in Soviet times.

As the Soviet Union deteriorated, he rose to political prominence and was elected president in June 1991. But he quickly came under criticism for autocratic decisions and for cracking down on opponents. An armed uprising against him broke out in late December of that year.

He fled Georgia on Jan. 6, 1992, less than two weeks after Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Soviet Union out of existence. He returned in September 1993 to lead an uprising in western Georgia, but the fighting was quickly put down and Gamsakhurdia was surrounded. He died on New Year's Eve under mysterious circumstances. Some say he committed suicide, while others say he was shot in a dispute with his own supporters.

His body was then taken to Chechnya, where his widow was then living, and buried. But Chechnya's war against federal forces broke out later that year and the grave site was lost. It was found in the center of Grozny early this month, and his body was exhumed.