THE situation in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi remained tense yesterday. Contacted briefly by telephone Wednesday a member of the secretariat of the writers' union said that writers planned to present Politburo member Eduard Shevardnadze with a petition calling for the lifting of the nighttime curfew in the city.
Mr. Shevardnadze, a former Georgia party chief and now Soviet foreign minister, has been in Tbilisi since Monday. The Soviet foreign minister is accompanied by another senior Soviet leader, Georgy Razumovsky. The curfew was imposed on Sunday after 18 people were killed when Soviet troops moved in to disperse a demonstration.
Requesting anonymity, the writers' union official repeated allegations that troops had attacked Sunday's crowd with shovels.
He admitted that he had not witnessed Sunday's demonstration, but he claimed to have seen a video of the events.
The deaths are now being investigated by an official commission headed by the republic's prime minister.
The writers' union official said, however, that his organization and other groups were calling for the commission's members to be replaced. Government officials included in the commission were directly or indirectly responsible for Sunday's bloodshed, he claimed.
Unrest started in Tbilisi several days before Sunday's demonstration. Like the year-old conflict between Georgia's neighbors, Azerbaijan and Armenia, over the province of Nagorno-Karabakh, the present unrest seems to have been sparked by demands for secession by a local minority.
In this case the group in question were Abkhazians, inhabitants of the Abkhazian autonomous republic in northwestern Georgia. Abkhazians are ethnically and linguistically distinct from Georgians, but are already only a small minority in the Abkhazian republic.
The Abkhaz-Georgian relationship has long been an emotional and explosive one for both ethnic groups. Abkhazians have been calling for their autonomous republic to be removed from Georgia and incorporated into the Russian republic. The establishment of Moscow's direct rule over Nagorno-Karabakh - effectively removing the disputed enclave from Azerbaijan's jurisdiction - may have encouraged the latest round of Abkhazian agitation.