David Marshall Lang (excerpt from the book”A Modern History of Georgia”/NY/1962)
     Maps and Illustrations: Andrew Andersen & George Partskhaladze / 2003-2007






Continued from here



Russia and Japan--Bolsheviks and Mensheviks--Bloody Sunday-The Gurian communes--The Georgian Church Militant--Massacre at Tbilisi Town Hall--Witte and the Duma--The Tsar regains the upper hand--The Cossacks take over--Blood and fire in Georgia--The Friends of Georgia Committee


Russia and Japan

ON 5 FEBRUARY 1904, after months of mounting tension in the Far East, the Japanese had launched their famous night attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur. The war party at St. Petersburg, headed by Plehve, cherished high hopes that Russia's revolutionary fever would be speedily cured by this timely 'small, victorious war'. But events soon showed that the despised Japanese were as much a match for Nicholas II as the British, French and Turks had been for Nicolas I in the Crimean War fifty years before. Just as the humiliations of the Crimean War hastened the death of Nicholas I, exposed the weakness of autocracy, and brought about irresistible demands for the abolition of serfdom, so did the disasters of the Russo-Japanese conflict widen the rift between the Tsar, the army and the aristocracy on the one hand, and the liberal bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia and the workers on the other, heightening the already insistent demand for popular participation in the government of the nation.

During the summer of 1904, bad news from the theatre of war seriously unsettled Russian public opinion. The Russian fleet was blockaded in Port Arthur. In Manchuria, the Japanese land forces forced the Russians to retire on Mukden. After the assassination of the hated Plehve, the Tsar appointed as his chief minister a moderate man, Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky. Representatives of the provincial Zemstvos or county councils met privately in St. Petersburg in November, and worked out a petition which they submitted to Nicholas, asking for inviolability of the person, freedom of conscience, of speech, of meeting, of the Press, of association, and equal civil rights for every class of society. The majority furthermore went on to request regular popular representation in a separate elective body which should participate in legislation, in drawing up the budget and in exercising control over the administration. Professional associations of professors, lawyers, journalists, engineers and others organized a series of banquets, at which speeches were made and resolutions passed in support of the constitutional movement. This banquet campaign was particularly well supported in Georgia, where natural conviviality reinforced the universal patriotic urge to free Georgia from Russian absolutism.



Bolsheviks and Mensheviks

Further to the left were the Social-Democrats. In July-August 1903, the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party had unexpectedly found itself divided into two antagonistic factions --the Mensheviks (literally--Men of the Minority), who aimed at the establishment of a constitutional republic as a step towards socialism, and the Bolsheviks, or Men of the Majority, who stood for the overthrow of the régime by revolutionary methods and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat by a dedicated élite of professional agitators and party men. Both parties acknowledged Marx and Engels as their prophets, the Mensheviks basing their interpretation of the masters' teaching on the revised practice of the SocialDemocratic parties of Western Europe, while the Bolsheviks adhered to the uncompromising formulae of the Communist Manifesto of 1848. An ominous feature of the Bolshevik faction was its oligarchical and dictatorial character. Lenin insisted that only those who regularly participated in the underground organization could be enrolled as members of the Party and have the formal right to influence its policy. The members of the clandestine organization were to be the shock troops of revolution, obedient to the orders of the central leadership. The rank and file of the workers would do what they were told and accept the dispensation from on high. Such an ideology imparted great strength and cohesion to the Bolshevik movement, which had no need to pay undue attention to the fluctuating moods of the masses whose name it invoked.

In Georgia, the formal split of the Russian Social-Democratic movement into two camps served to underline temperamental and doctrinal differences which had been agitating the Mesame Dasi or Third Group for several years past, and had already given rise to enmity between the pioneer 'legal Marxists' like Zhordania and Chkheidze, and the militant underground headed by Ketskhoveli, Dsulukidze and Stalin. The 'legal Marxists' now became identified with the Menshevik faction, while the militants formed the nucleus of the Caucasian Bolshevik movement and faithfully executed the directives of Lenin and his adherents. In Russia, as in the Caucasus, the Bolsheviks denounced both the moderate, democratic socialists, and the liberal constitutionalists. They saw that if the Tsar granted a truly democratic, parliamentary régime to Russia, with safeguards to the rights of national minorities, then support for terrorism would wither away amid the general rejoicing, and the prospect of a Marxian millennium would recede into the distant future.



Bloody Sunday

The revolutionaries need not have worried on this score. The Tsar and his entourage again and again proved themselves their own worst enemies. In December 1904, Nicholas finally issued a decree, but did not go beyond vague and general promises, no mention being made of a representative assembly. The prospect of reaching a peaceful understanding with the liberals and constitutional reformers was fast vanishing away. The revolution of 1905 was finally rendered inevitable by the tragedy of Bloody Sunday, 9/22 January 1905, when many thousands of working men, women and children, led by the priest, Gapon, marched with icons and singing hymns towards the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to present a mass petition to their 'little father', the Tsar. Nicholas was away from the capital. The troops fired repeatedly on the defenceless and unarmed crowd, killing about a hundred and fifty people. Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky resigned in despair, and was succeeded as Minister of the Interior by Court Chamberlain Bulygin. Strikes broke out in Russia's chief cities, and the Social-Revolutionary, Kalyaev, blew up the Grand Duke Sergius in the Kremlin. In the Far East, Port Arthur fell to the Japanese.

These events produced immediate repercussions in Georgia. The railway workers of Tbilisi were already preparing to go on strike in solidarity with their comrades at Baku, the great oil port and revolutionary hotbed on the Caspian. News of the Bloody Sunday massacre precipitated events. The director of the Tbilisi railway department was forced to demand military protection for the city station, and trains had to be convoyed under armed guard. By 20 January, Tbilisi was in the grip of a general strike. Factories were idle and the trams had to be escorted by troops. Four thousand strikers roamed the streets and bazaars. Within a week, the strike movement reached the other main towns of Georgia, including Batumi, Poti, Kutaisi, Chiatura, Tqibuli and Shorapani. Meetings of workers were held and attempts made to send workers' deputations to the Russian authorities with statements of grievances. On 23 January 1905, the official newspaper Kavkaz (The Caucasus) reported that a crowd some three hundred strong had invaded the railway junction at Samtredia in Western Georgia, whistling, shouting and firing off rifles. The rioters dragged the station staff from their posts and forbade them to resume work under pain of death. An attempt was made to sabotage the Batumi-Tbilisi railway, and a military train was derailed. The dock labourers at Poti went on strike, bringing all harbour work to a standstill. Street demonstrations took place in Tbilisi and Kutaisi, red flags were unfurled, the Marseillaise was sung, and several policemen were seriously wounded. At Batumi, three workers burst into the house of a senior police officer, murdered him, and made off. On 25 January the Tbilisi chemists and student apothecaries joined the strike, as well as the school-teachers and many of their pupils. Cries of 'Long live unity and freedom! Down with autocracy!' were everywhere to be heard.

While many of these incidents bore a spontaneous character, feeling was continually whipped up by fiery proclamations issued by the Tbilisi committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party. 'What must we do, Comrades?' the Committee demanded in a broadsheet issued in January 1905.

'We must organize ourselves more and more efficiently, struggle constantly against the government, overthrow autocracy, loudly and insistently call for the ending of this senseless, unnecessary, cruel war, and demand the immediate convocation of a Constituent Assembly, composed of representatives of the entire nation, chosen by universal, equal, direct and secret ballot. Like a fish without water, the proletariat cannot live or breathe without political liberty. Like air or food, we need freedom of the press, of speech, of association, assembly and strike action. Only when this has been won, can we improve our economic condition, and in this struggle we must count on our own efforts alone. Certain other classes of the population, for instance the Liberals, are sick and tired of the Tsar's arbitrary rule, and are not averse to receiving political liberty. But they desire freedom for themselves alone, whereas we, the workers desire it for the entire nation, and we are therefore the only ones to call for the setting up of a democratic republic in Russia. Not the Tsar and his officials, not that band of brigands and robbers, but deputies elected from amidst the whole people without distinction of race, religion or sex--these are the ones to provide the working class with the chance effectively to further its interests. Only when the fetters of slavery fastened by autocracy on every living creature finally fall away will the working class develop its full strength, and win for itself a better life, a socialist system of society.' 77




The Gurian communes

One of the major achievements of the Georgian SocialDemocrats was the speed and success with which their agitators rallied the peasantry to the socialist cause. Within a few days of the outbreak of the strikes, reports were coming in from rural areas of Georgia of disorders and clashes between the gendarmerie and the local inhabitants. On 2 February 1905, the Procurator of the Kutaisi District Tribunal was complaining to his superior in Tbilisi about the position in Guria.

'Over the past fortnight the situation in the Ozurgeti district has begun to deteriorate so rapidly that at present virtually complete anarchy prevails there. The entire territory of the region is now completely in the hands of the Committee and its agents, and only where a substantial armed detachment of police guards or cossacks make their appearance is the influence of our government momentarily restored.'

The procurator went on to report that out of eight police officers recently detailed for duty in the Ozurgeti area, one had been killed, another wounded, four had tendered their resignation, and another scarcely dared to emerge from his quarters. Prince Nakashidze, one of the most respected landowners in the province, had been murdered. As the Social-Democrats had placed him under a boycott, not a single gravedigger would dig the prince's grave; not a coachman could be found willing to take his relatives to the funeral; of three priests summoned to conduct the funeral service, only one made his appearance, but was too much frightened of the revolutionaries to consent to officiate. The procurator had abandoned all hope of holding the forthcoming Ozurgeti Quarter Sessions, since 'several cases of political murders were due to be tried at these assizes, but the Ozurgeti police are absolutely unable to afford the Court even the most feeble protection from deeds of violence on the part of the population'. The procurator concluded his report by declaring:

'It is essential to send a strong force of troops into Guria without delay, and to place the area on a war footing for three or four months with field courts-martial, and to take the most decisive measures of a purely military character, for every day and every hour of delay in implementing these measures, inevitable as they are in the long run, only serves to diminish the prestige of the authorities to an even greater extent, and is dyed crimson with the blood of innocent and faithful servants of the government. At this very moment, I have received from Ozurgeti almost simultaneously telegrams relating to two attacks on village constables, resulting in one of them being wounded, and their arms being stolen, also two attacks on village courtrooms, two attempted murders of village headmen, and the assassination of the nobleman Urushadze.' 78

From Guria, the revolutionary fever spread with lightning rapidity into neighbouring Imereti and Mingrelia. Nor was the insurrection confined merely to the poorer peasantry. Many of the country squires and village priests, either to save their skins or from genuine sympathy with the rising against the Russian overlord, lent support to the insurgents. On 7 February 1905, Lieutenant-General Malama, who had been left in charge of the Caucasian provinces on the transfer of Prince Golitsyn, telegraphed the Minister of the Interior at St. Petersburg:

'The situation in the Ozurgeti district and the surrounding areas is assuming the character of a rebellion, finding expression in open defiance of authority, the murder of government officials, squires, priests and persons not in sympathy with the revolutionary movement. The population is repudiating the oath of allegiance to the crown and pledging fidelity to the revolutionary committee. Officers of the government are fleeing. All measures hitherto taken, including the co-operation of the army, have failed to produce any results.'

General Malama ended by dasking for authority to place large areas of Western Georgia on a full-scale military footing. Pending instructions, he detailed Major-General AlikhanovAvarsky to proceed to Western Georgia with a strong detachment of troops, including artillery, and take over complete control of the affected areas. Alikhanov was given overriding authority to act independently of the civil governors of Kutaisi and Batumi, under whose jurisdiction the districts in question normally came.

In the meantime, however, the Tsar had decided to revive the Viceroyalty of the Caucasus, which had been in abeyance since the retirement of the Grand Duke Michael in 1882. As viceroy he appointed General-Adjutant Count Vorontsov-Dashkov, an elder statesman of an intelligent outlook far removed from that of the chauvinistic Golitsyn, and a kinsman of the distinguished and popular Prince Michael Vorontsov, viceroy from 1845 to 1854, whose memory was much respected throughout the Caucasus. General Alikhanov's punitive expedition was temporarily countermanded. Pending the viceroy's arrival in Tbilisi, a special representative of the viceregal council, Privy Councillor Prince N. A. Sultan Krym-Girey, was sent to Guria to carry out a first-hand enquiry into the underlying causes of the disorders and to assure the population that the viceroy would make every attempt to redress their legitimate grievances.

Sultan Krym-Girey was descended on his father's side from the former Khans of the Crimea, dispossessed of their dominions by Catherine the Great in 1783; his mother was British. He fully understood the outlook of Russia's national minorities, and made an excellent impression throughout Guria, where he received numerous popular delegations and listened patiently to their tales of woe. The peasant spokesmen for their part were efficiently coached by the local Social-Democratic committee, and put forward a series of demands which included the return to their homes of persons exiled to Siberia without trial; the withdrawal of troops recently sent to intimidate the population; abolition of censorship and establishment of freedom of Press and publication; election of peasant deputies to a Constituent Assembly by free and secret ballot; abolition of the internal passport system, and granting of freedom of movement within the whole Russian Empire; freedom of assembly and association and the right of appeal from arbitrary acts by local officials; enlargement of peasant allotments at the expense of State and Church domains; the abolition of tithes; the regularization of share-cropping and tenantry agreements, with provision for reduction of taxes and dues in the event of bad harvests; provision of schooling for all children; and the reopening of local Georgian libraries and reading rooms, shut down three years previously by the former Governor-General. Sultan Krym-Girey reported favourably on the Gurians' loyalty to Russia, emphasizing that they were in no sense attempting to break away from the Empire, but merely desired to emerge from their colonial status and enjoy the same rights and privileges as the citizens of European Russia. He recommended immediate action to alleviate economic distress, combat the corrupt practices of Russian officialdom, and raise the moral and intellectual standards of the people by improved educational facilities.

Unfortunately, the rising tide of revolution rendered abortive any such overdue attempts at conciliation. Throughout March 1905, the situation grew more and more threatening. The whole of Georgia, from Abkhazia in the north-west to Kakheti in the east was in the throes of insurrection. Peasants were rising against the gendarmes and the landlords, murdering them or turning them out, and seizing property and estates. On 9 March, the whole of Western Georgia was placed on a regular war footing. The Third Congress of the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party, which met in London that April, listened with rapt attention to the report of the Georgian revolutionary Mikha Tskhakaia ( 18651950), and declared: 'That the special conditions of social and political life in the Caucasus have favoured the creation there of the most militant of our party's organizations; that the revolutionary mood of the majority of the population of the Caucasus, both in the towns and in the villages, has already brought about a national uprising against absolutism; that the autocratic régime is already sending an army with artillery into Guria, and preparing the most merciless onslaught on all the chief centres of insurrection; that the victory of absolutism over the popular uprising in the Caucasus, which might be facilitated by the multi-racial composition of the local population, would have the most harmful consequences for the outcome of the revolt throughout Russia as a whole.' The Bolshevik Central Committee and all its branches were directed to make known to workers all over Russia the success of the revolutionary movement in the Caucasus, and prepare if necessary to lend armed support to the insurgents.


The Georgian Church Militant

While the Socialists sought to regenerate Georgia through the application of Marxist principles and the intensification of the class struggle, the Georgian Church, after a century of enforced quiescence, also sought to play an active part in the national movement. It will be recalled that the Georgian Church, whose freedom had been guaranteed by Russia by solemn treaty, had been liquidated in 1811 and absorbed by the St. Petersburg Synod. The Georgian priests and bishops were now emboldened to put forward demands for autocephaly within the Greek Orthodox Communion, as they had enjoyed previously for well over a thousand years, and the election of a Patriarch by the Georgian people. In May 1905, a meeting of Georgian priests and bishops was convened in Tbilisi to discuss this important question. At the instance of the chief Russian bishop in Georgia, troops and police invaded the premises, forcibly broke up the meeting, and beat and maltreated the assembled clergy. This unseemly incident united pious believers with revolutionary unbelievers in a resolve to cast off Muscovite domination at the first opportunity.

Throughout that summer, the revolutionary movement gathered momentum almost everywhere in Russia. The crushing annihilation of the Baltic fleet at Tsushima on 27-28 May provoked fresh demands for an end to the unpopular RussoJapanese war. At Odessa, mutineers seized the battleship Potemkin and defied the Black Sea fleet, while on shore there occurred the notorious massacre of the Odessa Steps.

In Georgia, the agrarian conflict spread from Western Georgia into the district around Tbilisi. In one conflict with army units, forty-eight peasants were killed. The viceroy, Vorontsov-Dashkov, arrived in Tbilisi on 18 May 1905, and found the situation even worse than he had expected. Many officials joined with local Russian residents in supporting the ultra-patriotic, monarchist organization known as the Russian Patriotic League and run by the priests S. Gorodtsev and I. Vostorgov. This society was a branch of the notorious ' Union of the Russian People'. Through its Black-Hundred bands of hooligans and strong-arm gangs it organized pogroms against Jews and other racial minorities both in Russia and in the Caucasus. The Ultras also sought to stir up the fanatical Muslim Turks and Tatars of Transcaucasia against the Christian Armenians, whom many Russian officials suspected of subversive leanings. Massacres of Armenians were in fact connived at by some of the local governors, notably by Prince Nakashidze, a Georgian aristocrat who was Governor of Baku, the oil city on the Caspian. In May, Nakashidze was assassinated by Armenian nationalists. In Tbilisi, the BlackHundred bands held counter-revolutionary demonstrations in the streets and assaulted Georgian workers and their families.

Heightened tension led to yet another general strike which broke out in Tbilisi on 20 June 1905, and lasted until the end of the month. The strike was again of a largely political nature and was directed by the local Social-Democratic Committee. The city remained without lighting, running water, regular food supplies, and public transport. The strike spread like lightning to the other main Georgian cities. On 27 June, the city and province of Tbilisi were placed under martial law.

From Kutaisi in Western Georgia, the head of the Secret Police reported that the revolutionary movement resembled

'a huge cauldron filled with water and hermetically sealed and suspended above an enormous furnace. Beyond a doubt, when the sides of the cauldron can no longer withstand the pressure of the steam which is formed by the heating of the water and has no other outlet, then they will burst into splinters and fly in all directions as a result of the force of the blast.'




Massacre at Tbilisi Town Hall

The viceroy was inclined to try lowering the political temperature by a few timely concessions to the political and social aspirations of the local peoples. Many of his subordinates, on the other hand, were resolved to do a little blood-letting on their own account. For this, events soon presented them with an excellent opportunity. In August 1905, Tsar Nicholas issued a manifesto drafted by his minister, Court Chamberlain Bulygin, in which he promised to convoke a State Council or Duma. This was to be nothing more than a consultative assembly, and the franchise was limited to the middle and upper classes and to the supposedly monarchist peasantry. All parties of the opposition, from the Liberals to the Bolsheviks, condemned the edict as half-hearted and inadequate. On 29 August the Tbilisi Social-Democratic organization arranged a public meeting in the Town Hall to discuss the Bulygin project and other burning questions of the day. The police, who had received advance notice of the assembly, barred the entrances to the building. However, the organizers forced their way in and the meeting began in the presence of an audience of some 2,000, including many ordinary citizens who had come from sheer curiosity. A police officer entered the hall and ordered the meeting to disperse, but was greeted with shouts of derision. Hearing of what was going on, the acting governor of Tbilisi, General Yatskevich, hastened to the scene with several hundred Cossacks and infantry, whom he posted strategically at the exits. Shouts and hoots greeted a renewed order to disperse. Thereupon, Cossacks opened fire on the assembly through the windows, while others invaded the hall and shot down the audience from the platform. One shot killed the orator at his tribune. The mob fled from the building and were shot down indiscriminately or felled with rifle butts and sabres. A woman doctor who happened to be present was wounded, but in spite of her injuries was bandaging other casualties with strips of her own clothing; a Cossack came up and brained her with his rifle butt. Some victims were cornered in the narrow corridors and hacked to death; others were pursued into the streets and shot or cut down on the public highways. About sixty persons were killed and several hundred wounded. The relatives of the dead were refused permission to remove the bodies, which were flung into a common grave.

Journalists and other observers who visited the scene immediately after the massacre have left accounts of the shattered furniture and chandeliers, the huge pool of blood on the floor of the auditorium, and other unmistakable signs of the extreme violence used to break up the gathering. Protest meetings and strikes were held throughout Georgia. Thirty-two members of the Tbilisi Town Council resigned in disgust at the excesses committed by the Cossacks and the desecration of their hall.

'At the present moment,' they wrote, 'when we are witnessing the birth of new forms of government and the working out of fundamental problems, freedom of assembly and of speech, as well as personal security, are elementary and normal conditions without which it is impossible to bring about any measures of reform, or find any way out of the present intolerable situation. Every attempt by the representatives of the people to gather together and discuss the burning questions of the day is met with whips and bullets. All the attempts of the Tbilisi Town Council to protect the local population from every form of arbitrary act have resulted in failure. With increasing frequency, any of our enactments which have exceeded the limits of minor domestic management have been forthwith annulled and prevented from being carried into effect. At present, the public is even excluded from our deliberations; the newspapers have already been long deprived of the possibility of publishing a major part of the councillors' speeches, especially if these speeches touch on any but the most trivial issues. As a crowning outrage, the public, which peacefully and trustfully attended what it understood to be a meeting of the Town Council, has been shot down and hacked to pieces. . . . The walls of the Town Hall are crimsoned with gore and riddled with bullets, on the floor he pools of blood and traces of the savage and inhuman vengeance meted out to a peaceful crowd. Can we be expected to busy ourselves in docile fashion with the paving and lighting of the city streets when unarmed people are murdered simply because they collected for a peaceful debate? Deprived of the ability to hold our sessions in public and make the population aware of our indignation at the atrocity committed by the government and the cossacks, and considering therefore that our work has been thereby rendered ineffectual, especially within the walls of this building in which so much innocent blood has been shed, we, representatives of the Council, resigning the title of Councillor, renounce all further municipal activity, until the population is granted the elementary conditions of civilized society and until the possibility of a repetition of those bloody events which occurred on 29 August has been eliminated. Among these urgent measures, the most pressing include: the lifting of martial law and the state of emergency, freedom of assembly and the press, security of the person, and the institution of a strict enquiry into, and the committal for trial of the persons responsible for the carnage of 29 August.'

On 1 September, the Chief of Police in the Caucasus, MajorGeneral Shirinkin, telegraphed the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg:

'General strike of Tbilisi workers began this morning as protest against events of 29 August in the Town Hall. All shops closed, tramway ceased functioning. Intensified movement of youths and workers in the streets, some wearing mourning. Anticipate strike of railway workers and clerks, some of whom already out. Two sets of printed proclamations of the "Tbilisi Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party" have appeared; one set urges an organized uprising as a result of the occurrence of 29 August; the other calls for the exposure of Mayor Vermyshev and the entire body of city councillors to public ignominy and boycott, on the ground that the bloodshed on 29 August took place as a result of collusion between the Town Council and the Governor-General. Almost the entire council as well as the Mayor have resigned. The situation is tense. Suitable measures have been taken.' 79

General Yatskevich, who had directed the killing in person, was transferred to another responsible post. On the fortieth day after the tragedy, when the Panikhida or Requiem for the victims was held, nine bombs burst near the Cossack barracks. The Cossacks went berserk and shot down all passers-by, including the Chief Pastor of the German Lutheran colonies in the Caucasus. Criminal elements posing as revolutionaries took advantage of the prevailing chaos to intensify their murderous activities. Prince Amilakhori, a prominent landowner, was shot dead in a Tbilisi tramcar by unidentified assassins.

On 23 August/5 September 1905, the Russian plenipotentiary Witte signed the Treaty of Portsmouth, whereby peace was concluded with Japan on terms highly unfavourable to Russia. These terms were dictated not only by the rout sustained by Russia's naval and military forces, but also by the Tsar's urgent need to free his hands of foreign commitments and use his standing army to pacify the huge areas of Russia where his writ had ceased to run. As Stalin justly remarked:

'There was a time when the régime refrained from shedding blood inside the country. At that time it was waging war against the "external enemy" and it needed "internal tranquillity". That is why it showed a certain amount of "leniency" towards the "internal enemy" and looked "between its fingers" at the movement which was flaring up. Now times are different. Frightened at the spectre of revolution, the Tsarist government hastened to conclude peace with the "external enemy", with Japan, in order to muster its forces and "thoroughly" settle accounts with the "internal enemy". And thus reaction has set in. . . .' 80

The force of the first Russian revolution was still far from spent. The feeble concessions granted in the Bulygin project simply whetted the appetite of the nation. Seeing that the Tsar still wavered, the railwaymen went on strike at the beginning of October. Soon factories everywhere had closed down, the postal and telegraph services ceased to function, government and business offices were shut, even the primary school children stayed at home. Communications between St. Petersburg and the provinces were interrupted and the Tsar was isolated at his country palace at Peterhof. On 14/27 October the socialist parties set up a Soviet or Council of workers' delegates in St. Petersburg, which elected Trotsky as its vice-chairman and for a short time wielded effective power in the capital. The Soviets threatened to wreck any factory which did not close down of its own accord. The professional men, liberals and middleclass progressives banded themselves together in a new party called the Constitutional Democrats, commonly abridged into 'Cadets', led by Paul Milyukov.


Witte and the Duma

Count Witte saw that the only means of avoiding the overthrow of the monarchy was to rally the middle classes to the throne by conceding at least the shadow of a modern parliamentary system. On 17/30 October 1905, Nicholas was prevailed upon to issue a new manifesto, guaranteeing 'genuine' inviolability of person, freedom of faith, speech, assembly and association. No law was to be enacted without the consent of the new national assembly or Duma. It was noticeable that the word 'constitution' was not mentioned, and that Nicholas reserved to himself the title of Autocrat.

Click here   for the power structure of the Russian Empire, as of late 1905

'By providing the bourgeoisie with the semblance of participation in the government of the country, deceiving the people by promises and by liberties of which there was nothing to guarantee the maintenance, the manifesto was designed to split the revolutionary forces, to set a barrier between the liberal opposition and the revolutionary masses of the nation, and to distract the workers and peasants from the only correct outcome of the crisis--namely a revolutionary uprising, towards which the Bolshevik party was urging the people on.' 81

The Cadets, however, foolishly refused to accept portfolios in Witte's ministry, thus playing into the hands of the extremists of both Right and Left.

Whereas the Bolsheviks denounced the Tsar's manifesto as a sham and declared a boycott of the Duma, the Mensheviks and other moderate socialists were inclined at first to think that their immediate aims were attained. When the proclamation of 17/30 October was read in Tbilisi, Zhordania, Noe Ramishvili and other leaders of the Georgian Mensheviks addressed meetings and triumphantly announced: 'Henceforth there is no autocracy. Autocracy is dead. Russia is entering the ranks of the constitutional monarchies.' The workers, they believed, should renounce terrorism and lay down their arms. The Georgian Bolsheviks, on the other hand, led by Stalin and his associates, declared that the workers should be content with nothing short of the overthrow of the Russian monarchy and the setting up of a popular Constituent Assembly.

'The proletariat will not demand petty concessions from the government, it will not call upon it to rescind martial law and flogging in several towns and villages--the proletariat will not sink to such trifles. . . . It presents only one demand to the Tsarist autocracy: Down with it! Death to it! . . . Only on the bones of the oppressors can the people's freedom be erected, only with the blood of the oppressors can the soil be fertilized for the autocracy of the people! Only when the armed people come out headed by the proletariat and raise the banner of general insurrection can the Tsarist government, which rests on bayonets, be overthrown." 82

Many workers' meetings in Georgia adopted the Bolshevik line, and resolutions were passed calling for an intensification of the death struggle against the régime.

Russia's ruling classes, and such diehard elements as the officials, police, priests, and Cossacks, were furious at what they regarded as the Tsar's weakness in face of the revolutionary menace. With police connivance, Black-Hundred bands of the Society of Patriots run by the priests Gorodtsev and Vostorgov launched a wave of pogroms against Jews all over the country, including Odessa, Rostov and other large towns. In Georgia, the local organization of the league held a monarchist demonstration on the Golovinsky (now Rustaveli) Avenue, after which they invaded the Tbilisi Boys' Secondary School and beat up some of the pupils. On the following day, 22 October 1905, the 'Russian Patriots' gathered in much increased strength. Holding aloft the Tsar's portrait, headed by a detachment of dragoons, and escorted by Cossacks, they once more paraded up the Golovinsky Avenue, and again burst into the Boys' Secondary School, where they tried to bully the pupils into singing Russian patriotic anthems. The students refused and were savagely set upon. The soldiery joined in and the school buildings were soon riddled with bullets. The 'Patriots' also attacked nearby houses, clubs and newspaper offices. Similar incidents occurred all over Tbilisi. About forty people lost their lives, including schoolboys, students and teachers. A day of mourning was declared for the fallen; all shops were closed and tram drivers and even policemen stayed at home.

The following month witnessed further chaos and lawlessness in the capital of Caucasia. Internecine fighting and slaughter had been going on for months in Baku and other parts of Transcaucasia inhabited jointly by Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijani Turks. Until the autumn, these conflicts had been mainly confined to the present-day Soviet Azerbaijan and Armenia. Towards the end of November, inter-communal strife spread to Tbilisi itself, where large Armenian and Azerbaijani communities also lived side by side. The Caucasian Social-Democratic organizations, which stood by the principle of the international solidarity of the working class and the peasantry, sent 20,000 of their men carrying white flags to pacify the rioters. The Tbilisi police chief, at his wits' end, appealed to local political parties of every shade to co-operate with the Russian authorities in maintaining order. The viceroy, who had completely lost his head, agreed to issue five hundred rifles to a People's Militia directed by the Georgian Social-Democrats, on the understanding that the weapons would be returned at the conclusion of the emergency. Led by Isidore Ramishvili, the Georgian Mensheviks conscientiously fulfilled their part of the bargain, several of their number being killed while trying to restrain the Azerbaijan Turkish mobs. The Russian colonists were furious at what they regarded as a treasonable alliance between Count Vorontsov-Dashkov and these local socialists. The league of 'Russian Patriots'held a protest meeting, called on the Viceroy to withdraw the rifles from the Social-Democrats without delay, and sent Cossacks into the working-class quarters of Tbilisi to retrieve them by force.

No less anarchic was the situation in Western Georgia. In an effort to appease the local population, the viceroy had appointed as Governor of Kutaisi V. A. Staroselsky, an agricultural expert of liberal views. Staroselsky was held in the highest esteem by the Georgians, with whose national aspirations he was in sympathy. When he had occasion to go to Tbilisi on official business, the local revolutionary committee would escort him to the station, put down the red carpet, and see him off with cheers and flag-waving. Staroselsky recommended that martial law should be lifted from Western Georgia, and extensive concessions made to the local population. He was constantly at odds with Russian military commanders like the ferocious General Alikhanov, whose troops were harried by Georgian guerillas and were panting to go into action. As Vorontsov-Dashkov wrote of Staroselsky in a subsequent report:

'He exerted influence only in those cases when it suited the revolutionary organizations, and was so trusting that when the insurgent bands started forcibly removing weapons from members of government units who had been issued with them for their official duties, he failed to perceive that this was in open preparation for an armed uprising in the event of a victory of the proletariat in metropolitan Russia, on which the revolutionaries counted. His entire activity, or rather inactivity, merely succeeded in arousing against him all peace-loving elements of society, who as a result of his attitude even finished by numbering him among the revolutionaries.' 83

In November 1905, the Cossacks took the law into their own hands. At Kutaisi, Batumi and Akhal-Senaki they broke out of their barracks, terrorized the local inhabitants and massacred a number of them. Fighting was heavy in Batumi, where barricades were erected in the streets and many lives were lost. Staroselsky's life was made so intolerable that he was eventually driven to ask the viceroy for protection not against the Georgian insurgents, but against his own outraged Russian compatriots.

During November and December 1905, the fate of the Russian administration in Transcaucasia hung in the balance. On 10/23 December, General Shirinkin, head of the Caucasian police department, reported to St. Petersburg that the posts and telegraphs had ceased to function; the law courts were paralysed; the newspapers were full of inflammatory appeals to the population. Azerbaijani-Armenian clashes continued around Erivan and Elizavetpol (the modern Kirovabad), though Baku was relatively quiet. The Military Governor of Batumi had threatened to shell the town, which had temporarily quelled the rebels.

'A state of emergency prevails in the Kutaisi province; apart from Governor Staroselsky, no officials are being obeyed. The insurgents have disarmed the gendarmes, seized control of the western sector of the railway line and are themselves selling tickets and maintaining order. On his visit to Tbilisi, the governor, who himself adheres to the revolutionary organization, reported that during the clash between the local people and the cossacks, the Procurator of the local court helped to erect barricades in the streets. I am getting no reports from Kutaisi. The gendarmes have been withdrawn from the firing line and concentrated in Tbilisi. Couriers sent out with reports are searched by revolutionaries and their papers seized; the situation there is quite beyond control. The army units are undoubtedly reliable, but so limited in number that no active operations can be undertaken. . . . The Viceroy has had a nervous breakdown but his condition is not yet hopeless. The Count is attending to reports of major importance but is very weak. I will send details by post or, if that is not possible, by messenger.' 84


The Tsar regains the upper hand

Throughout Russia the political parties had emerged from the underground. Socialist papers were published and sold openly. While Litvinov and Krassin in St. Petersburg edited Novaya Zhizn (The New Life), and Trotsky published his brilliant Nachalo (The Start), down in Tbilisi Stalin and his Armenian fellow-Bolshevik Shaumian brought out a Bolshevik daily with the more prosaic title, The Caucasian Workers' News-sheet. These halcyon days were short-lived. Now that the war with Japan was at an end and troops were returning from the Far East in their thousands, the Tsar's government set seriously to work to tame the rebels. At the end of November, the minister Witte ordered the arrest of the chairman of the St. Petersburg Soviet. Martial law was declared in the capital. This touched off a fresh wave of strikes. On 3/16 December, the government arrested the bulk of the Soviet--one hundred and ninety members. Defeated in St. Petersburg, the revolutionaries transferred their headquarters to Moscow. Throughout midDecember, battles raged between the insurgents and government troops, who were finally victorious. Other armed conflicts occurred in Sormovo, Perm, the Donbass, at Novorossiysk, Krasnoyarsk, Kiev, Ekaterinoslav, Samara, Rostov, and in the Baltic provinces. In a desperate move to conciliate public opinion, Witte issued a fresh decree, making the Duma franchise virtually universal. Gradually the government regained the ascendency. People became tired of anarchy and hardship, and hopeful of political evolution towards parliamentary democracy. The general weariness, coinciding with the army's return from Manchuria, enabled the régime to embark very soon on a movement of reprisal and counterrevolutionary terror.


The Cossacks take over

In solidarity with their comrades in Moscow, the Tbilisi Bolsheviks called a general strike for 12/25 December 1905. The strikers seized the railway station and the head offices of the railway administration. The Social-Democratic committee emulated the St. Petersburg Soviet by forming a regular system of municipal administration and taking over the functions of the paralysed Town Council. However, the revolutionaries succeeded only in gaining control of the working-class quarters of Nadzaladevi and Didube, the greater part of Tbilisi remaining in the hands of the Russian authorities. On 14/27 December, the viceroy declared a state of emergency in the Georgian capital. Within less than a week, the forces of counter-revolution gained the upper hand. Cossacks with armed volunteers of the Russian Patriotic League invaded the Nadzaladevi district and overwhelmed the insurgents there. On 23 December 1905/ 5 January 1906, a force of Cossacks and gendarmes advanced on the last revolutionary stronghold of Tbilisi, the Didube suburb. The workers fired on the attackers from roofs, windows and cellars. Home-made bombs were thrown, with deadly though indiscriminate effect. The Cossacks suffered heavy losses. The Viceroy called up regular troops and bombarded the area with field guns, until the entire city was brought under control.

The Bolsheviks saw that the day was lost. At a meeting of workers' representatives in Tbilisi, Stalin, Shaumian and the other local leaders recommended that the Tbilisi SocialDemocratic organization should be wound up, its members go underground, and await better days before attempting to renew the death struggle against Tsarism. The workers, they said, should boycott the elections to the bourgeois Duma. The Menshevik delegates present strongly opposed this counsel of despair. They stood for continuance of the Georgian people's campaign against Tsarist absolutism, by every means, fair or foul, legal or illegal, revolutionary or parliamentary. Denouncing the 'opportunism' of the Mensheviks, Stalin and his associates were defeated in the debate and left Georgia in disgust to carry on their revolutionary plotting in the more congenial atmosphere of the Baku oil-wells.

Headed by Zhordania, Chkheidze, Isidore and Noe Ramishvili and others, the Mensheviks were left in a dominant position in the Georgian political field. They planned to make the most of the forthcoming convention of the Russian Duma, send to St. Petersburg their best orators, and proclaim Georgia's cause from the housetops, to the confusion of their country's oppressors. In this, they were at one with the great Lenin himself. At the Tammerfors conference of the Russian SocialDemocratic Party held in 1905, the Master argued against the barren tactics of boycotting the Duma: he saw no reason why revolution should not be furthered from the parliamentary tribune. Revolution, said Lenin, could be preached even from a dungheap or a pigsty. Why not preach it in the 'pigsty' of the Tsarist Duma? 85 On this occasion, Lenin was outvoted by the militant extremists--Stalin among them--who refused to aim for any objective short of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and would have nothing to do with effete middle-class parliamentary democracy.

This does not imply that the Georgian Mensheviks were content from now on with a passive or submissive role. Nor, when occasion demanded, did they renounce the weapon of terrorism. As Zhordania writes in his memoirs: 'We abandoned terrorism as a method of overthrowing autocracy, in the fashion conceived by the Narodniks, but did not reject it as a weapon for self-preservation and for the sowing of panic among the political authorities.' In January 1906, the Tbilisi Social-Democrats decided to eliminate the chief of the Caucasian army's general staff, General Gryaznov, who had taken a leading part in bombarding the workers' suburb. The execution of the plot was entrusted to 'Silva'--the hardened conspirator Sylvester Jibladze--who enlisted the services of an expert bomb-thrower named Arsena Jorjiashvili. Silva stationed Arsena and his assistant in front of General Gryaznov's residence, while himself taking up a position on the Golovinsky Avenue whence he could signal the general's approach to his alert accomplices. At length Gryaznov hove into view, riding home in an open carriage. But Silva remained motionless and gave no signal. Arsena, whose bomb was all ready for hurling, was in a fever of amazement and irritation, until he, like Silva, caught sight of a girl riding by the general's side. In those days, no Georgian gentleman would willingly harm a woman, so the general was spared for that day. But the terrorists, who had made a mental note of his face and appearance, resolved that he would get no second chance. The next day they stationed themselves at the same spot. But no general appeared. In despair, Silva walked into Zhordania's house nearby and threw himself down in a chair. 'We have missed our chance, it was all my fault!' Before he had finished the sentence, a tremendous roar was heard outside. Silva leapt up and rushed into the road shouting: 'I am lost, they have done it without me!' Gryaznov lay dead, and Arsena Jorjiashvili had been seized by the general's escort. Tried and condemned to death, he died like a man, without saying a word that might compromise Silva or his other accomplices.


Blood and fire in Georgia

Such isolated successes were unavailing in face of the military might which Russia was now free to deploy against the Georgian insurgents. Resistance in and around Tbilisi crumpled rapidly. It remained to subdue the more formidable uprising in Western Georgia which, as the authorities admitted, had taken on the aspect not so much of anarchy as of an independent state made up of self-governing communes which recognized no authority but that of the revolutionary committees. 'The events taking place in the Kutaisi province are so amazing when witnessed against the general background of the political structure of the Empire that foreigners are making special trips to the Caucasus with the aim of observing on the spot this new manifestation of Russian political organization.' 86 Recovering at length from his nervous breakdown, VorontsovDashkov pulled himself together sufficiently to dismiss Staroselsky, the over-indulgent Governor of Kutaisi, who was arrested and discharged with ignominy from the imperial service. In January 1906, the ruthless General AlikhanovAvarsky was appointed Military Governor of Western Georgia, with virtually unlimited power. The insurgents retaliated by blocking a tunnel on the main railway line, so that reinforcements from Tbilisi were held up. Pitched battles between Georgian guerillas and Russian troops and Cossacks occurred in many places. Even where the Cossacks met no resistance, they amused themselves by burning down shops and houses, slaughtering a few inhabitants and raping any women who took their fancy. About 13,000 persons were arrested in various parts of Georgia, many of whom were deported to Siberia. The natives were taught a lesson they would not forget.


The Friends of Georgia Committee

The excesses of the Russian troops and Cossacks in Georgia were extensively reported in Russian and foreign newspapers, and brought considerable odium on the régime. In England, Oliver Wardrop and his sister Marjory, both of them pioneer scholars of Georgian and authors of many contributions to Georgian studies, formed a Georgian Relief Committee, later renamed the Friends of Georgia Committee. The outrages committed against women resulted in the launching of an 'Appeal from the Women of Georgia' directed to public opinion all over the world, and Mrs. N. F. Dryhurst and others constituted a ' Hampstead Committee formed in response to the Georgian Women's Appeal'. The text of this appeal, together with a protest signed by many representatives of the women of England, appeared in The Women's Tribune of 6 July 1906. Vigorous representations were made to the government at St. Petersburg by various British humanitarians, but without any visible result. It seemed that the sacrifices made by the Georgian people during the revolution of 1905 were all in vain. In retrospect, however, it is clear that the débâcle of the Russo-Japanese War and the internal upheavals of that year of crisis caused irreparable damage to the absolutist system. The wounded leviathan, it is true, had plenty of fight left in it. But the events of 1905 showed up the weakness of the régime and made both the Russian masses and the minority peoples of the empire aware of their potential strength. Tsardom had been reprieved. But sooner or later, the struggle would be resumed and autocracy would not be given another chance.



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77.   S. Maghlakelidze and A. Iovidze, edit.The 1905-7 Revolution in Georgia. A Collection of Documents, Tbilisi 1956, pp. 88-89.

78.   Revolyutsiya 1905-1907 gg. v Gruzii, pp. 89-91.

79.   Original texts in Revolyutsiya 1905-1907 gg. v Grugzii, pp. 278-79, 283.

80.   Quoted by Beria, On the history of the Bolshevik organigations in Transcaucada, p. 120.

81.   Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya. Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik (Large Soviet Encyclopedia. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), special volume, Moscow 1947, p. 591.

82.   Beria, On the history of the Bolshevik organigations in Transcaucasia, pp. 128-29.

83.   Revotyutsiya 1905-1907 gg. v Gruzii, p. 751.

84.   Text taken partly from Revolyutsiya 1905-1907 gg. v Gruzii, p. 502, partly from Beria, On the history of the Bolshevik organizations in Transcaucasia, p. 137.

85.   I. Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography, Oxford 1949, p. 80.

86.   Revolyutsiya 1907-1907 gg. v Gruzii, p. 347.