David Marshall Lang (excerpt from the book”A Modern History of Georgia”/NY/1962)
     Illustrations: B.P. Willewalde /1855






Continued from here


The Murids of Daghestan--Russian reverses--Georgian feudalism and Russian serfdom--Deus ex machina--Attempts at reform--Formation of the Caucasian Viceroyalty--Industrial progress--Decline of the old aristocracy--Literature and the theatre—The Crimean War--Passing of an autocrat


The Murids of Daghestan

IT WAS a misfortune for Georgia that the Russian government, in view of the Polish uprising of 1830, had found it necessary in the following year to recall Prince Paskevich-Erivansky from the Caucasus and send him to take charge of operations in Poland. Paskevich was an exceptionally talented man, who enjoyed--a rare advantage--the confidence of his captious imperial master. To quote a British observer, Paskevich possessed an instinctive knowledge of character, and he completely trusted those whom he employed.

'In his attention to the civil administration he was indefatigable, and he put a stop to the abuses which had so long disgraced and ruined Russian affairs. Men of every rank and class had free access to him; they might bring their own interpreter, and be sure of having justice quickly administered. His loss was deeply felt in Georgia, which he was rapidly getting into order, and he had nearly succeeded in bringing the tribes of the Caucasus into pacific relations with the Russian Government by employing a portion of their troops and not interfering with their internal government--the only system of policy, as I often heard from his own lips, that he thought likely to succeed.' 37

Paskevich's successor, Baron Grigory Vladimirovich Rosen, was a run-of-the-mill general officer, with no special talent for administration, and no direct access to the emperor. He took over responsibility for both the military command and the civil administration of the Caucasus at a crucial moment; knowing little or nothing about the country, he found himself plunged immediately into a sea of difficulties. The government at St. Petersburg was at this time disturbed by the abuses revealed by the report of Senators Kutaysov and Mechnikov, extracts from which have been quoted already. Then came the abortive conspiracy of the Georgian nobles in 1832, the main victim of which was to have been Rosen himself. On top of this came intensified hostile activity among both the Muslim tribes of the eastern Caucasus, and the Circassians towards the Black Sea.

The Russian annexation of Transcaucasia in the early decades of the nineteenth century helped to excite the militant religious faith of the motley clans of Daghestan. In their Holy War against the Russian invaders, these tribes became involved in a politico-religious movement with puritanical features which, under the name of Muridism, united for a time the majority of the inhabitants of Daghestan and neighbouring Chechnya. Ermolov's ruthless policy of war and extermination helped to instil in these wild mountaineers the courage of desperation; the infidel foreigner became the alien oppressor, and the desire for spiritual reformation was heightened by the urge for temporal liberty.

The first militant leader of the Murids of Daghestan was the Imam Qazi Mullah, who issued in 1829 a general appeal in favour of a Holy War. He set Avaria alight, invaded the northeastern Caucasus by way of Tarku, and laid siege to the Russian stronghold of Vnezapnaya in Chechnya. He soon afterwards defeated a Russian army under General Emanuel. South of the mountains, Hamzat Bek, afterwards the second Imam of Daghestan, was stirring up rebellion among the Jaro-Belakanis on the borders of Georgia. The Russians under General Strekalov were severely defeated at Zakatali, and some units were seized with panic and fled for their lives. In 1831, Qazi Mullah and his followers laid siege to Derbent, and then made a daring and successful raid on the town of Kizlyar on the Lower Terek. As Rosen reported to the Russian War Minister, 'I arrived here at a time of very great disturbances. Never were the mountain tribes so insolent or so persistent in their undertakings. They are exasperated at what has taken place, and the fact that our actions either resulted in failure, or, when successful, were not followed up, has emboldened them and given scope to Qazi Mullah's false teaching.'

Taking the offensive in 1832, the Russians raided the important aul or mountain village of Dargo, on the borders of Chechnya and Daghestan. Qazi Mullah met his death in a Russian attack on the Murid stronghold of Gimri, and was succeeded as Imam by Hamzat Bek. Two years later, in 1834, the new Imam sought to extend his authority by massacring the ruling khans of Avaria and making himself master of their capital, Khunzakh. But retribution soon overtook Hamzat, who was shot down in a mosque by a party of loyal Avars intent on avenging their dead rulers. 38


Russian reverses

Hamzat was succeeded by a yet more formidable leader, the Imam Shamil, who was to keep the armies of Russia at bay for a quarter of a century. Shamil was a leader whose puritanism and insistence on obedience and sacrifice inspired his followers with fanatical courage. At the same time, the native population not numbered among the Elect often grumbled at being exposed to Russian reprisals, while Shamil's radicalism alarmed the conservative beks or tribal chiefs of Daghestan, some of whom were driven out of their estates by the Murids and forced to seek refuge with the Russians.

Shamil began his rule by strangling the boy prince of Avaria and throwing his body over a cliff. Early in 1837, his followers inflicted a severe reverse near Gimri, on a detachment under General Kluge von Klugenau. In the summer, Baron Rosen decided to send an expedition against Shamil's headquarters at Ashilta, which the Russians took in face of the Murids' desperate resistance. A truce was then concluded between the Russians and Shamil. But while the Russian commander alleged that Shamil himself begged for a respite, in reality it was the Russians who were compelled to withdraw owing to the disorganization of the expeditionary corps, the enormous loss in personnel, and the want of ammunition. However, such glowing accounts of this campaign were sent to St. Petersburg that the Emperor Nicholas, when he visited the Caucasus in the autumn of 1837, quite expected to be met by a suppliant Shamil in person. The letter which eventually arrived from the Murid leader was a rude disappointment. 'From the poor writer of this letter, Shamil , who leaves all things in the hand of God. . . . This to inform you that I have finally decided not to go to Tbilisi even though I were cut in pieces for refusing, for I have ofttimes experienced your treachery, and this all men know.' 39 The Tsar was annoyed at this fiasco, responsibility for which he laid at poor Rosen's door.

Rosen's period of command coincided also with a marked revival of anti-Russian activity among the Circassians, in the north-western Caucasus region. Any hope that the Treaty of Adrianople had put an end to Turkish ambitions in that area were speedily dispelled. Although the British Foreign Office refrained from adopting an openly anti-Russian policy, successive British ambassadors to the Sublime Porte, such as Ponsonby ( 1833-41) and Stratford Canning ( 1842-58) were on the alert to stir up trouble for Russia all round the Black Sea and in areas adjacent. The Turks were well versed in the intricate politics of the mountain tribes and succeeded in interesting influential Englishmen in the struggle waged by the Circassians against the spread of Russian domination. The British adventurers Longworth and Bell made several trips across the Black Sea to establish contact with the Circassians, to whom they held out hopes of material help and diplomatic support from the British government. Arms and ammunition were smuggled in from Turkey under the noses of Russian gunboats, while the impetuous British diplomat David Urquhart helped to set up a Cherkess political centre in Istanbul.

The Russian governor of Western Georgia, with some 12,000 troops, joined forces in 1835 with General Velyaminov, the commander in northern Caucasia, in an expedition to subdue the Abkhazians and Circassians, and prevent the Turks from landing arms and launching pirate raids on Russian shipping. The effectiveness of the Russian Army in this sector was weakened by the presence within it of thousands of deported Poles who, abominably treated, were constantly on the verge of mutiny. In 1836, the Russians proved unable to protect Kislovodsk in North Caucasia from a raid by some eight hundred Circassians, who also attacked the town of Pyatigorsk. Foreign observers commented on the extravagant losses in blood and in money which the Russians incurred in their efforts to subdue these freedom-loving clansmen by force of arms, when better results could have been secured with time by conciliation and peaceful penetration.

Nor was Baron Rosen very successful in improving the economic and social condition of the Caucasian peoples. He was handicapped, of course, by the withdrawal of the special tariff concession granted for Georgia by the Russian government in 1821. Rosen's attempts to have this renewed met with failure. Thus, instead of being the hub of a trade network connecting Europe with Asia via the Black Sea and the Caspian, Tbilisi became for the time being a commercial backwater, and the Caucasian market served mainly as an outlet for the inferior products of Russian manufacturers. Although a Society for the Encouragement of Rural and Manufacturing Industries and Trade was set up in Tbilisi in 1833, the French Consul there calculated that the total imports of Russia's Trancaucasian provinces sank in value from 12,000,000 francs in 1830 to 5,610,000 in 1834, while exports declined from 5,000,000 francs in value to 1,150,000.40


Georgian feudalism and Russian serfdom

As Georgia was a predominantly agricultural country, the peasant question, serfdom, and problems of land tenure were always to the fore. Following the report of Senators Kutaysov and Mechnikov, and the enquiry arising from the abortive conspiracy of 1832, the Russian government tried hard to conciliate the landed proprietors, whom they regarded as the most reliable bulwark of the Russian autocratic system in Georgia.

Baron Rosen unfortunately proved incapable of implementing intelligently the measures decreed by the authorities in St. Petersburg. An example of this occurred in 1834, when the Russian Senate decided that peasants from Western Georgia (Imereti and Mingrelia) who had run away from their masters and taken refuge in Eastern Georgia should, after due investigation, be handed back to their owners. Now the majority of the Imeretian peasants in Eastern Georgia had been there for nearly thirty years. Many had come there during the famine and plague which ravaged their country in 1811-12, often with the active encouragement of their then lords, who had no means of feeding them. In spite of these factors, Rosen carried out the Senate's orders to the letter. Peasant families settled in Eastern Georgia for more than twenty years were forcibly uprooted from their homes by landlords whom they had never met in their lives, and dragged off into a country they had never seen.

'The Imeretian proprietors and the agents of the ruler of Mingrelia, taking advantage of the strict implementation of the abovementioned measures, resorted during the removal of Imeretian and Mingrelian peasants from Georgia to the most oppressive methods, reducing them to complete ruin through the loss of their property and possessions, so that the majority of these resettled peasants were without clothing or footwear, and were dragged along in winter time together with their wives, babes in arms and other offspring.' 41

In this way, the Russian authorities endeared themselves to the landed gentry of Western Georgia, though at the expense of the wretched serfs.

As a result of wars, raids and economic stagnation, Georgia was still very under-populated. To remedy this, as well as to rid Russia of troublesome sectarians, the government settled in Transcaucasia a number of dissenting communities such as the Molokans or 'drinkers of milk'. Some of these were exiled to the Black Sea area of Western Georgia, and condemned to certain death in the murderous malarial climate of Mingrelia. Later on, the Molokans were joined by several thousand of the famous sect of the Dukhobors, some of whom settled down near Akhalkalaki, in a region only lately recovered from the Turks. Until the disturbances and persecutions which afflicted the Dukhobor colonies at the end of the nineteenth century, they did sterling work in reclaiming land which had been little better than a wilderness.

In spite of the painful incidents we have cited, the life of the Georgian peasantry at this period was not one of unrelieved oppression and misery. A French observer wrote in 1835 that 'if slavery is a state contrary to nature, and in opposition to modern ideas, in Georgia at least it is fortunately mitigated by the humane character of the masters, who in general treat their men with extreme mildness'. This writer added that Georgian lords hardly ever beat their serfs, since such behaviour was condemned by public opinion; it was even rarer for a Georgian nobleman to have one of his vassals punished by the Russian police, as national pride forbade him to subject his fellowcountrymen to chastisement at the hands of foreigners. 42

At its best, indeed, the old Georgian feudal system could provide a benevolent, patriarchal way of life. The Georgian poet, Prince Akaki Tsereteli ( 1840-1915) writes in his autobiography:

'The relationships which had been introduced long ago in connexion with the system of serfdom had entered into the people's very marrow and were treated as law, the breaking of which was deemed a sin. In our country, in contrast to other lands, the feudal relationship was conditional and limited. Serfs knew what their obligations were, masters, what they could require of their serfs, and both sides carried out their duties meticulously. Not all serfs were taxed the same amount by way of quitrent. Some peasant families paid less, some more; certain ones, having paid off their quitrent, received manumission. For instance, the quitrent of one of our peasants was equivalent to half an egg. This peasant used to arrive in the courtyard at the beginning of Shrovetide, would cook his egg in the kitchen, peel off the shell, cut the egg into two equal halves with a horse hair, and hand one half to his lord as his quitrent. This half-egg quitrent so burdened the peasant that he more than once begged his lord: "Let me off the quitrent, and I will bring you a cow."

'But his master retorted: "The quitrent was fixed by our forefathers. I will not cancel it for the sake of a cow, or everyone will say that I was inspired by greed. . . . But if you show your devotion in some other way, perhaps I will remove this quitrent. . . ."

'The peasants themselves firmly insisted on the precise fulfilment of mutual obligations--they were ready to die rather than pay anything extra.' 43

Other landowners were less indulgent. Among the various dues and services which might be required of the peasant were working a stipulated number of days on the lord's private land, helping to build the lord's house or barns, handing over a share of the harvest or of flocks and herds, offering hospitality to the lord's guests and their retinue, gathering and delivering firewood, and providing food for the lord's table at weddings and church festivals. Serfs were debarred from selling property or incurring debts without their master's permission, though this applied only to such transactions as the sale or leasing of houses, fields, and so on, and not to the marketing of farm or garden produce. Particularly irksome was the need to secure the master's consent before a serf was allowed to marry. No journey, needless to say, could be undertaken without the master's permission.

In spite of all this, the Georgian feudal system had its positive features, especially in times of insecurity. Every serf or vassal was to some extent a member of the lord's family or household. When raiding and oppression were rife, this fact helped to compensate for the absence of any effective police system. In sickness or want, it was considered shameful for any landowner not to provide for the dependents of his men. In some cases, both landlords and peasants united in face of the unpopular Russian administration. Baron Rosen once urged some of the Georgian princes to free their vassals, offering them a cash indemnity as inducement. The princes, however, refused to comply, alleging the undertaking given by Tsar Alexander I to respect and preserve Georgia's traditional institutions. They suspected, not without good grounds, that one object of this proposal was to introduce into Georgia the Russian system of conscription, which would be easy to put into effect once the liberated serfs had no lord to defend their interests. Up to that time, the Georgian peasant was called upon to take up arms only when his own village was menaced, and then solely when summoned to battle by his own prince. Faith in the Russian government's sincerity in regard to the abolition of serfdom was somewhat impaired by the behaviour of Baron Rosen himself, who purchased negro slaves in Egypt and brought them to Tbilisi to wait on him in his palace.

Moral questions apart, a charge which could be brought against serfdom in Georgia, as indeed against serfdom generally, was that it impeded the growth of the economy. A French consular report on the commerce and agriculture of Georgia during the year 1836 stresses the continuing lack of agricultural manpower, due to wars, to raids by the Turks and the Caucasian mountaineers, and to the persistence in Western Georgia of trade in captives who were exported to Turkey. Serfdom, the consul considered, encouraged idleness and lack of enterprise, while the primitive construction of Georgian ploughs and other agricultural implements hampered the oxen and retarded improvement in farming methods. The Russian provincial governors and their subordinates were 'vampires who sucked the blood of the peasants, and often that of the hard-pressed local princes'. Government subsidies to agriculture were squandered and misappropriated, and corruption was rife. Areas inhabited by the Caucasian Muslims were better cultivated than those belonging to the Georgian Christian population, perhaps because serfdom had never taken root in the Islamic world. 44

Observers of the time unite in characterizing Baron Rosen's administration as a period of venality and self-indulgence. The general, a good-natured bon viveur, was powerless to check the rapacity of his subordinates. Among the greediest of these was Rosen's own son-in-law, the Georgian prince, Alexander Dadiani, who commanded the Erivan Regiment. This officer made a fortune by hiring out his soldiers as forced labourers and pocketing their wages. In the local offices of the justice department, a regular tariff of bribes existed, nicely graduated in accordance with the value of the service required.

'What can one expect of an administration in which the subordinate officials have no other aim but to enrich themselves, and in which besides there is never the least question of supervision? Each district or province is a satrapy destined to augment its governor's private fortune, just as each regiment is, for its colonel, a collection of men whose various skills he exploits for his own benefit.' 45




Deus ex machina

Rumours about this state of affairs eventually reached the central government in St. Petersburg. In 1837, the Senator Baron Paul von Hahn, a learned German who had been Governor of Courland, was sent to Georgia on a tour of inspection. In the same year, to the horror of Rosen and his associates, it was learnt that Hahn would soon be followed by his imperial master in person.

The impending arrival of Tsar Nicholas in Tbilisi had an effect similar to that produced on the corrupt mayor and officials in Gogol comedy Revizor by the visit of the Inspector-General from St. Petersburg. Houses were painted, roads hastily mended. In anticipation of the Tsar's arrival, large buildings were swiftly run up to complete unfinished squares. The Georgian princes and notables wanted to arrange a grand ball in the emperor's honour, but found themselves short of 18,000 rubles, which Rosen declined to lend them.

At the end of September 1837, Baron Rosen and his suite set off to meet the Tsar at the little Black Sea port of RedutKaleh. Nicholas soon showed that this visit was to be no formal parade. He was determined to see everything and go everywhere himself. So rapid were his movements that his companions found time neither to eat nor to sleep. According to a British visitor,

'The road which leads through the marshy forests of Mingrelia being axle deep in mud, the Emperor had become impatient, and, ordering the escort of Cossacks to dismount, had mounted with his own staff, and proceeded on horseback, riding on a Cossack-saddle, and wearing the black felt yaponcha of the natives. All his suite, and the poor old Baron Rosen, had to accompany him. I heard also that the Mingrelian fleas had not respected the person of the Emperor, and had driven him, on one occasion, to take refuge for the night in his carriage.' 46

After visiting Kutaisi, the capital of Imereti, the Tsar turned southwards towards the city of Akhaltsikhe, taken from the Turks during the war of 1828-29. Near this place, the inhabitants of an entire village were seen kneeling on the road in silence as the emperor drove past, and this circumstance recurred several times. Nicholas enquired of the people what this signified. They replied that the Russian officials had forbidden them to approach him with petitions or complaints. Nicholas told them that this ban was quite unauthorized, and that they might fearlessly present him with their petitions. Thereupon the people poured forth to meet the Tsar in such numbers that during his journey between Akhaltsikhe and Erivan alone, about 1,400 formal complaints were proffered to him.

From Erivan, the chief city in Armenia, Nicholas proceeded to Tbilisi, where he received from Baron Hahn a report highly critical of Rosen and his methods. Amid the festivities and parades arranged in his honour, the Tsar performed. an act designed to strike terror into malefactors in high places. After the dress parade held on 11/23 October 1837, Nicholas formed up all the officers in a circle, into which he summoned Rosen's son-in-law, Prince Alexander Dadiani, colonel of the Erivan Regiment, who was an imperial aide-de-camp and one of the chief profiteers. 'Colonel,' exclaimed the Tsar, 'I am acquainted with all your infamies. You have dishonoured your aide-decamp's aiguillettes, and are henceforth unworthy to bear them.' Turning to the military governor, Nicholas said: 'General, tear off his aiguillettes, take his sword from him, and have him sent off within two hours to the fortress of Bobruisk.' To the petrified company, the Tsar declared: 'Gentlemen, mark well that this is my first act of justice in Georgia; and it will not be my last.'

Petitions from the nobility and common people continued to pour in. An extent of corruption and injustice was revealed which induced the Tsar to arrest the Tbilisi chief of police and dismiss several generals. Shortly after Nicholas's visit, Rosen was himself relieved of his command, which was entrusted to General Golovin. Baron Hahn stayed behind in Georgia to prepare a scheme for a reorganization of the civil administration of the Caucasian provinces.

During the administrations of Rosen and Golovin, progress was made towards absorbing the remaining autonomous principalities of Western Georgia. In 1833, Michael (Tatarkhan) and Nicholas (Tsiokh) Dadeshkeliani, mtavars or ruling princes of Western Upper Svaneti, signed a treaty of protectorate with Russia. Seven years later, in 1840, Eastern Upper Svaneti (the so-called Free Svaneti) also became a Russian protectorate. The districts of Dsibelda and Samurzaqano, on the border between Mingrelia and Abkhazia, were also taken over in 1840. Samurzaqano had since 1758 constituted a separate principality, and its last ruling prince was Manuchar Sharvashidze. Not long afterwards, the Dadian or ruling prince of Mingrelia was deprived of his powers of criminal jurisdiction, which he had retained since becoming a vassal of the Tsar in 1803. The criminal code of Mingrelia involved the physical mutilation of offenders. All this was now abolished, and Mingrelian criminal cases were from then onwards dealt with by the Russian tribunal in Imereti at Kutaisi.



Attempts at reform

Baron Hahn returned in due course to St. Petersburg and secured imperial approval for his new scheme of government for Georgia and adjoining provinces. In 1840, he returned to the Caucasus with a mandate to put his system into operation. He stayed for several months and did what he could to cleanse the Augean stables left behind by the previous régime. Unfortunately, Hahn's ideas on administration were ill-adapted to the outlook of the local people. Bred in the traditions of German and Russian bureaucracy, Hahn was all for administrative uniformity and adherence to protocol and procedure. He abolished the use of the Georgian code of King Vakhtang VI as a guide for civil actions, and forced everyone to be governed by Russian laws which were unintelligible to the people. Some of Hahn's ideas were praiseworthy in themselves, but their execution was paralysed by a lack of honest functionaries capable of putting them into effect. The rogues whom Hahn purged were replaced by still worse ones. The new commander-in-chief, General Golovin, was reputed to be an honest man, but was constantly hoodwinked by his underlings. 'It is a state of general pillage,' the French consul reported in despair. 47

Hahn's attempt to regulate and standardize the amount of dues to be rendered by peasants to their feudal masters proved unpopular. Hahn tried to replace payments in kind and compulsory labour by a cash levy of some seven rubles per head. This measure helped to provoke a general uprising in the Western Georgian province of Guria. The reigning princess of Guria, Sophia, had been driven out by the Russians during the war of 1828-29, and took refuge in Turkey. The principality was annexed to Russia, but the Gurians were far from reconciled to the new order. They now rose en masse, expelled the Russian officials, and were only subdued after a violent struggle against 3,000 Russian troops. Tsar Nicholas soon became as impatient with poor Hahn as he had been with old Baron Rosen. Hahn's system was in part abandoned, and its deviser disgraced. Hahn retired in dudgeon to his native Germany, while the Tsar set up in St. Petersburg a special Transcaucasian Committee, the members of which included the Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich (the future Tsar Alexander II) and the Minister of War.

During the five years of General Golovin's command, little progress was made in the fierce struggle against the Caucasian mountaineers. In Circassia, forts were built along the coast to cut off the tribesmen from their outlets to the Black Sea. However, almost every month brought news of some Russian detachment that had been cut to pieces by these intrepid horsemen. A general insurrection flared up in 1840, and was not put down without heavy Russian casualties. Further to the east, Shamil's struggle against the Russians continued. There were also rebellions in Kuba and the Karabagh. Between 1840 and 1842, the Russians lost about 5,000 men in numerous encounters with the fanatical Murids. General Grabbe made a successful raid on Shamil's headquarters at Ahulgo, but the Imam made his escape and was able in 1843 to resume the initiative. By that time, General Golovin's army in Daghestan was being depleted through casualties at the rate of 12,000 men a year, apart from the loss of scores of guns and other valuable equipment. The emperor, thoroughly vexed at the course of events, recalled Golovin in December 1842. The Caucasian command was entrusted to the Governor of Moscow, General Neidhardt, an officer who proved no more capable than his predecessor of mastering Shamil and his dogged followers.


Formation of the Caucasian Viceroyalty

Weary of all these muddling mediocrities, as the fuming Tsar regarded his long-suffering Caucasian generals, Nicholas decided at long last that the time had come to appoint a firstclass man to take over both military and civil responsibility for the entire area. His choice fell in 1844 upon Count Michael Vorontsov, who had been since 1823 Governor-General of New Russia (i.e. the Ukraine and Crimea) and Bessarabia. Vorontsov was appointed to be both commander-in-chief of the Russian armies on the Caucasian front, and Viceroy of the Tsar with overall administrative authority over the Caucasus. He was the first of Georgia's governors to be officially invested with the viceregal title.

By his character, reputation and past record, Michael Vorontsov towered above most of his contemporaries. His father, Count Simon Vorontsov, had been for many years Russian ambassador to England, and was noted for his adherence to British Tory principles and his attachment to the younger Pitt. Brought up in London, Michael Vorontsov was a complete Westerner in outlook and education. He won his spurs as a young officer in the Caucasus under Prince Tsitsianov, and went on to distinguish himself against the Turks and in the Napoleonic wars. After Napoleon's defeat, Vorontsov commanded the Russian occupation force in France. Later, as Governor-General of Russia's Black Sea provinces, he was responsible for the rapid development of Odessa. His appointment was well calculated to restore the faith of the Russian public in the prospects of bringing the Circassians and Shamil's highlanders to heel, as well as to instil much-needed confidence into the Georgians and other Caucasian peoples who had suffered under the rule of Vorontsov's mediocre forerunners.

But first Nicholas demanded of Vorontsov some spectacular military action against the insufferable rebels of the mountains. The Tsar's impetuosity drove the viceroy to undertake an ill-fated expedition to Shamil's stronghold of Dargo. The Imam lured the unwieldy Russian force into the ravines and forests of southern Chechnya. Vorontsov occupied Dargo without much difficulty. But he had ventured into a trap. When, without having brought his foe to battle, he attempted to return through the beech forests of Chechnya to his base at Grozny, he found Chechen sharpshooters lurking behind every tree. Horses and baggage were abandoned, and the numbers of wounded and dead grew daily. When finally Vorontsov extricated himself and the famished and threadbare survivors of his force from enemy territory, it was with a loss of 4,000 men, including three generals and zoo other officers. However, he had punctually carried out the orders of his august sovereign, for which he was awarded the title of Prince of the Russian Empire.

Emboldened by this Russian fiasco, Shamil took the offensive himself. His idea was to invade the Kabarda and effect a junction with the Circassians in north-western Caucasia. To do this, he needed to cut the Georgian military highway which led over the Caucasus Range through the Daryal Pass and down to Tbilisi. In the spring of 1846, Shamil set out in force from his highland fastnesses, and crossed the military highway and the River Terek to the north of Vladikavkaz. The Kabardians, however, failed to respond as Shamil had hoped, and their anticipated rising en masse against the Russians did not materialize. Owing to the hostility of the local Ossete clansmen, who remained loyal to Russia, the Murids were unable to occupy the Daryal Pass itself. When Shamil and his followers had almost reached Nalchik, the arrival of a Russian force under the vigorous command of General Freitag forced him to retreat south-eastwards to his home base, though without much loss of life on the Murid side. For the next few years, both the Russians and Shamil's men were more or less on the defensive. Shamil remained in possession of most of Daghestan, including Avaria, and of the greater part of Chechnya. Prince Vorontsov, aware that he was not strong enough to deal the Murids a mortal blow in existing conditions, contented himself by strengthening his lines on all sectors pending resumption of a more aggressive policy.

Герб царства  Грузинского

Arms of Georgia (in fact, the Caucasus) in the Big Arms of Russia

Большой герб Российской империи


Industrial Progress

Meanwhile, he turned his great ability and energy to reforming the civil administration of the Caucasus, in which he achieved notable success. Recalling the period around 1860, it was said by one of Georgia's foremost poets that 'in these years the lustrous memory of Vorontsov lived on still in the hearts of the Georgians.' 'Until the memory of Georgia itself vanishes from the earth, the name of Vorontsov will remain alive,' was a phrase which he had often heard repeated in conversation in the Georgia of those days.48 Members of the Georgian aristocracy would go out of their way to visit Odessa and call on Prince Vorontsov's widow, née Countess Elizabeth Branitskaya, a gracious lady who had in her youth attracted the admiration of the poet Pushkin.

To what, it may be asked, did the Vorontsovs owe this devotion which they inspired among the Georgians, who had usually so little affection for Russian proconsuls sent to govern them in Tbilisi?

The answer is that Vorontsov was one of those few highlyplaced Russians who genuinely enjoyed being in Georgia, derived pleasure from the company of Georgians, and evinced a real interest in their language, culture and national past. ' Georgia,' he said on one occasion, 'is a garden, but one which is not like other gardens. A gardener of special talents is needed to tend the flowers which grow in this garden.' Again, he would declare: 'This little Georgia will become in time the most beautiful, the most durable piece of gold brocade woven into the many coloured patchwork of mighty Russia. We must simply give her the chance to develop freely as well as guiding and helping her, but without infringing her primordial customs.' 49 He would receive deputations from the various peoples and communities dwelling under his aegis, listen patiently to their point of view, and do his best to satisfy their grievances and aspirations. All the Georgian nobility was assured of a warm welcome at the viceregal palace. In 1848, that same Georgian aristocracy which had plotted together less than two decades previously to exterminate the Russian garrison and administration was sending a loyal address to the Tsar, protesting undying attachment to the Russian fatherland.

Vorontsov was no social reformer. The iron hand of Tsar Nicholas the autocrat gave him no scope in this direction, even had he been so inclined. But more than reform, Georgia needed justice, prosperity, order, education. Here Vorontsov excelled. He instilled some efficiency into the Russian bureaucratic machine, and punished corruption. He built bridges and roads, and improved communications. He patronized schools, had a theatre built in Tbilisi, and vastly increased the output of journals, newspapers and books, both in Russian and in Georgian. He encouraged the founding of the Tbilisi Public Library and the Caucasian branch of the Russian Geographical Society.

Vorontsov devoted much attention to commerce. He persuaded the Russian Finance Ministry to restore the customs concessions facilitating transit trade through Georgia between Europe and the East. He supported the merchant and craft guilds of Tbilisi and Gori, while at the same time enabling entrepreneurs to start up several modern factories. A trading depot was established at Tbilisi in 1847 by a syndicate of Russian manufacturers, as well as warehouses and showrooms. The number of industrial organizations in Georgia grew between 1843 and 1850 by 94 per cent., while their total output went up by 105 per cent. There thus existed in Georgia in 1850 some 132 industrial enterprises, with a total production valued at 256,000 rubles. Growth over the next few years continued at a rapid rate, so that by 1864, when serfdom was abolished in Georgia, there existed 465 factories and industrial concerns of various kinds, with a production worth over 860,000 rubles. 50 Vorontsov also tried to improve methods of farming, viniculture, cotton planting and silk raising. A branch of the Russian Agricultural Society was founded in Tbilisi.



Decline of the old aristocracy

As usually occurs during the transition from an agricultural and pastoral to an industrial society, the landed proprietors began to feel the pinch. In 1852, Prince Vorontsov reported that 'the nobility have constantly had to sell their estates because of inability to pay extortionate rates of interest on debts incurred with private usurers, so that many of the most ancient and honoured of the local aristocratic houses have gradually sunk into poverty'. Prince Vorontsov was himself sometimes accused of having deliberately sapped the power and prosperity of the Georgian nobility by encouraging them to attend balls, theatrical displays and public functions, and by introducing into Georgia all manner of European luxuries which they could not afford. It is doubtful, however, whether the convivial Georgians required much inducement to engage in social activities and enjoy the good things of life. In reality, the causes of their impoverishment lie far deeper, being bound up with the economic evolution of the Russian Empire, indeed of Europe as a whole. It was during the reign of Nicholas I, which lasted from 1825 to 1855, that the industrial revolution really got under way in Russia. Landed property ceased to be the sole source of wealth and influence. In spite of the shortage of free labour, and the shackles of serfdom, Russia's industrial production quadrupled in thirty years.

It was industrial progress as much as humanitarian considerations which made feudalism and serfdom appear burdensome relics of a vanishing age.

The landed gentry in Georgia were not equipped, either by temperament or by upbringing, to cope with the changing order of things. The traditional occupations of a gentleman were hunting and fighting. The amassing of money and attention to household or industrial management were beneath his dignity, while a rustic simplicity characterized the lives of even the most exalted families. The satirical book by Prince Ioane Bagration ( 1772-1830), called Kalmasoba or The Alms-Collecting Tour, contains an account of a visit to the Dadian or ruling prince of Mingrelia, who liked to spend the fishing season in a roofless, floorless house by the River Rioni, which afforded him shelter only from the wind. The Dadian observing that sixty days' more rain fell in Mingrelia than in any other country, one of the characters exclaims: 'Sir Dadian! In that case you, the ruler of this land, are excused from building any bathhouses!' In the good old days, a Georgian noble was provided with all necessities of life by the resources of his own estates and the offerings of his vassals and serfs. Without spending a penny in hard cash, he received unlimited food, drink, clothing, footwear, arms, cattle, furniture and so on. Some landed proprietors even numbered among their followers Armenian and Jewish hawkers, who supplied them gratis with tea, sugar, coffee, rice, candles and olive oil. The possession of money was considered plebeian. Akaki Tsereteli the poet relates in his reminiscences how, as a young cadet, he once rejected out of pride a pocketful of gold ducats offered to him as a gift by Princess Vorontsov herself. It is scarcely surprising that the wealth of the country passed as time went on into the pockets of the new middle-class merchants and entrepreneurs, including many Armenians, Russians, Muslims and Jews, who were burdened by no such delicate scruples.

Symptomatic of the social and economic trends of the time is the remarkable novel Solomon Isakich Mejghanuashvili by Lavrenti Ardaziani ( 1815-70). The hero, a Caucasian Scrooge or Shylock living in the Tbilisi Armenian milieu, starts modestly as a small tradesman, and then turns to money lending. 'Six years went by,' he says, 'and through all Kartli, on both banks of the Kura, there was not one village left which did not owe me money.' Later, the aristocracy also fell into his clutches. From then on, Solomon became an honoured pillar of the establishment. Like Molière's Monsieur Jourdain, his aim was now to become accepted in high society and have his daughter marry a prince. The story of his chequered career, with its realistic portrayal of social life in old Tbilisi, is full of satirical touches. A contrast to the character of Solomon is provided by the well-bred aristocrat, Prince Alexander Raindidze, an enlightened man who believes in treating serfs humanely, but cannot bring himself to favour freeing them altogether.



Literature and the theatre

The decline of old patriarchal and heroic patterns of life, the imposition of alien rule, and the growth of a new economic order fostered the nostalgic, elegiac mood characteristic of several of the outstanding Georgian poets of this period. The all-pervading cult of Byronism, combined with pride in Georgia's glorious past, produced a spirit of defiant, romantic patriotism, tinged at times with morbid gloom, at others with radiant hope in a better future.

The poetic genius of the Georgian romantics shines brightest of all in the work of the young bard Nicholas Baratashvili ( 1817-45), whose verse is full of profound philosophical thought and a deep sadness, inspired both by the destiny of his country and his own unhappy life. His soul melts in tears in his poems, the vanity of life drives him almost to despair. But he is no passive fatalist, no pessimist; his faith in a better future stands out clearly in his verse. Most famous of his works, perhaps, is My Steed ( Merani), in which the poet's mood of restless turmoil finds vigorous expression.

It runs; it flies; it bears me on; it heeds no trail nor spoor;
A raven black behind me croaks with ominous eyes of doom.
Speed thee on and onward fly with a gallop that knows no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts in raging darkness found.

Go onward! onward! cleaving through the roaring wind and
O'er many a mount and many a plain, short'ning my days of pain.
Seek not shelter, my flying steed, from scorching skies or storm;
Pity not thy rider sad, by self-immolation worn.

I bid farewell to parents, kin, to friends and sweet-heart dear
Whose gentle voice did soothe my hopes to a hot and bitter tear.
Where the night falls, there let it dawn, there let my country be;
Only the heavenly stars above my open heart will see.

The sighs that burn, that rend the heart to violent waves I hurl;
To thy inspired, wild maddened flight love's waning passions
Speed thee on, and onward fly with a gallop that knows no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts, in raging darkness found.

In foreign lands thou lay me low, not where my fathers sleep,
Nor shed thou tears, nor grieve, my love, nor o'er my body weep;
Ravens grim will dig my grave and whirlwinds wind a shroud
There, on desert plains where winds will howl in wailings loud.

No lover's tears but only dew will moist my bed of gloom;
No dirge but vultures' shrieks will sound above my lowly tomb.
Bear me far beyond the bounds of fate, my Merani,
Fate whose slave I never was, and henceforth-ne'er shall be!

By fate repulsed, oh bury me in a dark and lonely grave.
My bloody foe, I fear thee not--thy flashing sword I brave.
Speed thee on and onward fly with a gallop that knows no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts in raging darkness found.

The yearnings of my restless soul will not in vain have glowed.
For, dashing on, my steed has paved a new untrodden road.
He who follows in our wake, a smoother path will find;
Daring all, his fateful steed shall leave dark fate behind.

It runs; it flies; it bears me on; it heeds no trail nor spoor;
A raven black behind me croaks with ominous eyes of doom.
Speed thee on and onward fly with a gallop that knows no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts, in raging darkness
found. 51

From this period also dates the birth of modern Georgian drama. In 1845, a Russian theatre with professional repertory company was opened in Tbilisi. This stimulated the Georgians to emulation. With the encouragement of Prince Vorontsov, a Georgian amateur dramatic society was formed, under the direction of the talented playwright Giorgi Eristavi. On 2 January 1850, in the great hall of the Tbilisi High School, the company made its debut in Eristavi's comedy The Share-out ( Gaqra), a play which gave a humorous satirical view of life among the Georgian squirearchy. This venture was greeted with great enthusiasm, so that in May, Eristavi staged another of his comedies, The Lawsuit (Dava). Eristavi then formed a professional company, which was granted a subsidy of 4,000 rubles a year, and the use of the Russian theatre building. The professional company's first night took place on 1 January 1851. Later on, it was able to stage its performances in the fine new theatre in Erivan Square, which held seven hundred spectators. The repertoire was composed largely of original plays by Eristavi and other contemporary Georgian writers, as well as a few dramas translated from the Russian, and an adaptation of Molière Le Médecin malgré lui.

The bold satirical tone of some of the original plays put on by the young Georgian troupe annoyed diehards among both the Georgian landowners and the Russian bureaucrats. Eristavi eventually resigned. After Prince Vorontsov's departure from Tbilisi in 1854, the company fell on evil days. Two years later, official coolness and the clamour of unpaid creditors brought this first Georgian professional theatrical company to an untimely end. But its period of activity marks an important stage in Georgian literary and social history, as well as in the reawakening of Georgian national consciousness.

Another significant trend in Georgian intellectual life at this period was the revival of scholarly interest in the country's historical past. Among the pioneers in this movement were Prince Ioane Bagration and his brother Teimuraz, sons of the last King of Eastern Georgia, Giorgi XII. Prince Teimuraz ( 1782-1846) composed a history of Iberia (i.e. Georgia), and was elected an honorary member of the Im perial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. He was a friend and collaborator of the French scholar Marie-Félicité Brosset ( 1802-80), who worked for over forty years in Russia and placed the study of Georgian and Armenian history on a scholarly footing. Brosset translated and edited Prince Vakhushti's classic geographical description of Georgia, as well as the entire corpus of the Georgian annals. He visited Georgia during the viceroyalty of Prince Vorontsov, who joined with local notables in encouraging his work, helping him to search out and edit ancient charters and record inscriptions on churches and ancient monuments.

Other noteworthy Georgian scholars of the time included David Chubinashvili or Chubinov ( 1814-91), Professor of Brosset in editing the Georgian annals; also Platon Ioseliani, the Tbilisi antiquary, who wrote a brief history of the Georgian Church, a life of King Giorgi XII, and studies of ancient Georgian cities. On a broader plane, interest in the history and civilization of Georgia was stimulated by the launching of the Georgian magazine Tsiskari (The Dawn), the Russian magazine Kavkaz (The Caucasus), and the invaluable annual almanach Kavkazsky Kalendar (Calendar of the Caucasus). These Tbilisi periodicals set a very high standard.



The Crimean War

In 1853, during the last months of Vorontsov's viceroyalty, Georgia was once more involved in the alarums of battle. The inadequacies of Russia's military machine and backward economic and social system were now to be revealed in a conflict with a rearmed Ottoman Empire supported, albeit inefficiently, by a concert of Western powers. In the Crimean War, as in other Russo-Turkish wars, events on the Caucasian front played an important, if secondary role. In anticipation of the outbreak of armed conflict, the Turks had fortified Trebizond, Erzurum and Batumi. Special attention was paid to Kars, which, commanded by Colonel Fenwick Williams of the Royal Engineers, was turned into a fortified camp of great strength. During the summer of 1853, the Turks concentrated substantial forces along their Caucasian frontier. In addition to keeping watch on this line, the Russians had large bodies of troops tied down in north-western Caucasia, to counter activity by the Circassians, and in the eastern Caucasus, in expectation of renewed forays by Shamil and his Murids against the Russian garrisons in Chechnya and Daghestan, and against the Eastern Georgian province of Kakheti.

The first important engagement was in fact an attack on Kakheti by the Imam Shamil with 10,000 or more mountaineers in August 1853, but this was beaten off by a Russian force under Prince Argutinsky-Dolgorukov. At the end of October, the Turkish offensive began in earnest. Parts of Guria were occupied, but attacks on the towns of Akhaltsikhe, Adsquri and Akhalkalaki were repulsed. On 1 December, Prince V. O. Bebutov with 10,000 men, including a large contingent of Georgian troops, signally defeated a Turkish army some 36,000 strong, and sent the survivors streaming back into Kars. This engagement occurred the day after Admiral Nakhimov destroyed the Turkish fleet at Sinope on the Black Sea, thus precipitating the entry of Britain and France into the war.


Сражение у Башкадыклара 19 ноября 1853 г. Худ. Б.П. Виллевальде, 1855 г.


As the new year of 1854 opened, the septuagenarian viceroy felt his physical powers to be waning. In March, Vorontsov left on sick leave for Western Europe, never to return. He submitted his resignation to the emperor the following October, and died, full of honours, in 1856.

On the Russo-Turkish border, the campaign of 1854 was largely indecisive, except for a defeat inflicted by the Russians on the Turks at the village of Kurudere, between Kars and Alexandropol. At the eastern end of the Caucasus, Shamil and his Murids were emboldened to launch another assault on Kakheti. They descended into the Alazani valley, but failed to capture any of the Russian posts guarding the Lezghian line. On 16 July, Prince David Chavchavadze routed the Murid horde at Shilda. Shamil's only success in this operation was his raid on Prince Chavchavadze's mansion at Tsinandali, whence he abducted the prince's wife and her sister, Princess Orbeliani, as well as slaughtering or kidnapping other members of their family and entourage. A few months later, the surviving captives were handed back in exchange for Shamil's own son Jamal-al-Din, who had been taken prisoner by the Russians in 1839 and brought up at St. Petersburg with honour and distinction. The young man had been made colonel of a regiment and aide-de-camp to the Tsar; restored reluctantly to the savage life of his primitive compatriots, he soon pined away and died.

Under the new viceroy, Count N. N. Muraviev, military operations on the Caucasian front in 1855 took on a more active look. After bloody and desperate fighting, the great fortress of Kars capitulated to the Russians in November. But meanwhile the Russians had been taken in the rear by Turkish forces under Omar Pasha, who landed at Sukhumi in Abkhazia and occupied a strip of Western Georgia's Black Sea littoral. Omar Pasha occupied the Mingrelian capital of Zugdidi and prepared to advance on the main city of Western Georgia, Kutaisi. But he had reckoned without the torrential rain and pestilential vapours typical of the Mingrelian climate. Soon his troops were without bread and his animals without forage, and his army was bogged down in the Mingrelian quagmire. The local princes and their predominantly Christian peasantry showed no inclination to rise in revolt against the Russians and join the Turks, from whom they had suffered much tyranny in earlier periods. In spite of the incompetence of the local Russian commander, who was the Georgian prince Ivane Bagration-Mukhransky, Omar's campaign gradually petered out. The signing of the Treaty of Paris, which concluded the Crimean War in 1856, prevented Muraviev from following up his success at Kars, and redeeming the disgrace inflicted on Russia by the fall of Sebastopol in the Crimea.



Passing of an autocrat

Nicholas I, martinet that he was, claimed to have given Russia prosperity and good order at home, power and prestige abroad, and predominance in the affairs of Europe and the world. The disasters of the Crimean War dissipated these fond illusions. 'War,' a contemporary remarked, 'opened our eyes, and things appeared to us in their true guise.' In February 1855, the autocrat caught a chill; on March 2, he was dead. As Nicholas admitted on his death-bed, he was handing over command to his successor in a pretty bad state.

Thanks largely to Prince Vorontsov, the closing years of the reign had, for Georgia at least, their brighter side. Now that most of the country had been thoroughly subjugated from a military viewpoint, it could be peacefully assimilated into the Tsarist system, and the old arbitrary methods of military government replaced by more civilized methods of administration. These years, viewed in historical perspective, mark a turning point in the country's economic and social life. The decay of the old feudal system became daily more apparent. The growth of capitalism, combined with changes in public opinion produced by contact with European ideas, showed that traditional forms of agrarian and manorial economy, based on serf labour and the individual craftsman, were doomed. The spread of education combined with resurgence of national pride to produce a new and vigorous Georgian intellectual life which was to manifest itself increasingly during the second half of the century.


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37.   Lieutenant-General William Monteith, Kars and Erzeroum, London 1856, p. 301.

38.   On Hamzat Bek, see Lieutenant-General A. A. Neverovsky's short book, The slaughter of the Avar khans in 1834, St. Petersburg 1848.

39.   Quoted from Baddeley. The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, pp. 310-11.

40.   Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris, Correspondance Commerdale, Tiflis, Vol. II, pp. 84-85.

41.   Report of General Golovin to Russian Minister of War, 8 October 1838, in Akty, Vol. IX, Tbilisi 1884, pp. 6-10.

42.   Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris, Correspondance Commerciale, Tiflis, Vol. II, p. 109.

43.   Akaki Tsereteli, Perezhitoe (Reminiscences), trans, into Russian by E. Ghoghoberidze, and edition, Moscow 1950, pp. 47-49.

44.   Correspondance Commerciale, Tiflis, Vol. II, pp. 291-302.

45.   Report of the Comte de Ratti-Menton, French Consul in Tbilisi, dated 7/19 February 1834.

46.   R. Wilbraham, Travels in the Trans-Causian Provinces of Russia, London 1839, p. 223.

47.   Correspondance Commerciale, Tiflis, Vol. II, pp. 517-18.

48.   Tsereteli, Perezhitoe, pp. 87-88.

49.   Tsereteli, Perezhitoe, pp. 89, 94.

50.   G. K. Bakradze, Vozniknovenie i razvitie kapitalisticheskoy promyshlennosti v Gruzii v XIX veke (The rise and development of capitalist industry in Georgia in the 19th century), Tbilisi 1958, pp. 25-26.

51.   Quoted in the English rendering by Venera Urushadze, from Anthology of Georgian Poetry, 2nd edition, Tbilisi 1958, pp. 50-51.