books 44









     David Marshall Lang (excerpt from the book”A Modern History of Georgia”/NY/1962)
     Maps: Andrew Andersen, Georg Egge and George Partskhaladze / 2007-2010






Continued from here


Formation of the Georgian cabinet--Trends in Georgian Socialism --The agrarian question--Financial instability--The British replace the Germans--An Armenian invasion--Denikin and the Whites--The British withdrawal--Georgia at the Paris Conference-- Collapse of the White Russians--The Russo-Georgian Treaty-- Communist propaganda in Georgia--Upheaval in Ossetia—Rise of Kemalist Turkey--Georgia and the Second International-- Krassin and Lloyd George--The Red Army invades Georgia--Death agony of independent Georgia--Lenin versus Stalin on Georgia



Formation of the Georgian cabinet

THE GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT formed by Noe Ramishvili on 26 May 1918 included several Menshevik leaders who had already held portfolios in the former Transcaucasian administration. G. Giorgadze was made War Minister, Noe Khomeriki Minister of Agriculture and Sh. Aleksishvili (Aleksiev-Meskhiev) Minister of Justice. Other members of the cabinet were G. Zhuruli (Commerce and Industry), G. Laskhishvili (Education), Ivane Lortkipanidze (Communications, also Vice-Premier) and G. Eradze (Labour and Supplies). During the ensuing weeks, a need was felt to strengthen the formal links between the government and the Menshevik party organization, whose chairman, Noe Zhordania, took over the post of Prime Minister on 24 June 1918, leaving Ramishvili with the Ministry of the Interior. At a later stage, Akaki Chkhenkeli was replaced as Foreign Minister by Evgeni Gegechkori, while Konstantine Kandelaki, leader of the Georgian Co-operative movement, was made Minister of Finance, Commerce and Industry, and R. Arsenidze, Minister of Justice.

With Georgia's declaration of independence, the Transcaucasian Diet automatically ceased to exist. There remained in being only the so-called Georgian National Council, which had never been formally elected by the people. In February 1919, elections were held for a new Georgian Constituent Assembly. Suffrage was universal, equal and secret, and the method of proportional representation was employed. In spite of heavy snow, 60 per cent of the electorate voted. It is a tribute to the broad basis of Georgian democracy that fifteen parties were able to put forward candidates. The Mensheviks were returned to power with an overwhelming majority. Out of 505,477 votes cast, they polled 409,766, giving them 109 out of the 130 seats in the Chamber. The other parties to return delegates to the Constituent Assembly were the National Democrats (30,154 votes, 8 seats), the Social-Federalists (33,721 votes, 8 seats) and the Social-Revolutionaries (21,453 votes, 5 seats). Supplementary elections held some months later in areas of south-western Georgia previously held by the Turks and the Armenians produced broadly similar results. 96 The Constituent Assembly met for the first time on 12 March 1919, and continued in being until the Bolshevik invasion two years later. Cabinet and administration were answerable to the assembly according to the normal conventions of Western parliamentary democracy.


Trends in Georgian Socialism

Few régimes have been more harshly condemned by hostile critics than the Social-Democratic government which ruled Georgia from 1918 to 1921. According to Russian Bolshevik writers, Zhordania and his colleagues were rabid reactionaries, tools of the German and later of the British imperialists, agents of the darkest obscurantism. After Georgia had fallen and her government been forced to flee into exile, the former régime was often criticized from the opposite viewpoint by Georgian patriots who alleged that the Zhordania government placed socialist class warfare before national unity and adopted social and economic policies which played into the hands of the Communists and facilitated the annexation of Georgia by Soviet Russia.

Neither assessment appears altogether just or balanced. The Georgian Mensheviks were indisputably returned to power with an overwhelming majority by popular vote on a platform in which nationalization of industry and natural resources and radical land reform bulked large. Given time and immunity from foreign interference, their economic policy would have turned Georgia into a land of prosperous yeoman farmers and craftsmen and traders. The Mensheviks confiscated the domains of the great landowners and commandeered their city mansions, while the aristocracy often assented to the inevitable with a good grace and served loyally as officers in the republican army. Zhordania believed that, as Marx taught, the transition from a feudal to a socialist society must be accomplished via an intermediate bourgeois order. Accordingly, while declaring its devotion to working-class interests, the Zhordania government refrained from overt persecution of the middle class and former nobility. There was no extermination of bourgeois and aristocratic elements until the Communist annexation in 1921.

It is in fact ironic to observe how the Georgian SocialDemocrats, whose leaders were working as late as 1918 for the triumph of democratic socialism in a Russia united and undivided, were at length transformed by the force of circumstances into nationalists of chauvinistic fervour and of an intransigence common in countries where independence has recently been regained after a long spell of alien rule. It was not long before the red banner of the revolution was replaced by an emblem depicting Saint George, the national patron and protector. Georgian was declared the sole permitted medium of official business, the use of Russian being outlawed in the Constituent Assembly, the law courts and the army. Such policies inflicted hardship upon Russian and Armenian officials and professional men, who became estranged from the new régime. They do not, however, support the allegation that the Zhordania régime was backward in fostering Georgia's cultural and linguistic self-consciousness.

It was in the realm of education that the Mensheviks scored their most notable successes. Early in 1918, Georgia's first regular university was opened in Tbilisi, thus realizing a dream cherished by generations of Georgian intellectuals but consistently frustrated by Russian obscurantism. Under such great scholars as the historian Ivane Javakhishvili and the literary historian Korneli Kekelidze, the new-born university rapidly assumed a dominant position in Georgia's educational life. From its walls there soon began to emerge hundreds of keen and well-qualified graduates who rapidly made their mark as teachers, scientific workers and members of the professions.



The agrarian question

The conflict between pure socialist ideals and bourgeois moderation was clearly manifested in the government's approach to the vital agrarian question. In December 1917, before Transcaucasia had proclaimed itself independent of Russia, the Mensheviks had brought the land issue before the Diet, which approved by an overwhelming majority the principle of limiting land holdings and confiscating without compensation all estates above a statutory maximum to be established. The Transcaucasian Commissariat published a decree stating that in order to alleviate the plight of the landless peasants, all estates belonging to the former Russian crown and to the Church would be nationalized, together with lands belonging to private individuals and exceeding certain norms to be subsequently laid down. These norms as eventually promulgated varied according to the type of land and the profitability of the crops normally grown upon it. Where highly remunerative cultures such as grapes and tobacco were produced, the maximum individual holding was fixed at 7 desyatins, or about 19 acres. For corn-growing land, the limit was raised to 15 desyatins, or about 40 acres. Persons engaged in sheep and cattle raising and other forms of stock-breeding might own up to 40 desyatins, or 108 acres. Surplus lands went into a government pool, whence peasants with sub-average holdings could lease extra land.

The reform was carried out with great thoroughness. A special assembly of the Georgian nobility passed a resolution pledging co-operation with the government in its land reform programme. By 1 January 1920 over 4,000 landed estates had been nationalized. The Georgian Social-Democrats were at first undecided as to how to dispose of the vast holdings of land contained in the government pool, estimated at over 5 million acres of forest, a million acres of arable land, and 3 million of pasture land. The Minister of Agriculture, Khomeriki, favoured retention by the state and ultimately, collectivization. However, Georgia was now facing an economic blockade mounted by Bolshevik Russia on the one hand, and Denikin's White Russian forces on the other. There were acute food shortages, while a series of peasant uprisings also helped to force the government's hand. Grumbling at the perverse and reactionary mentality of peasants, the authorities gave in and agreed to sell land from the nationalized estates to peasant small-holders. About a million acres were soon disposed of in this way. The government also embarked on a programme of reclamation of marsh-lands, irrigation of arid steppes and other measures designed to increase fertility. The lot of the Georgian peasantry was materially improved, as is admitted by the Communist writer Elena Drabkina, who states that

"the agrarian reform, incomplete as it was, curtailed the nobility's possession of the land; . . . the entire course adopted by the SocialDemocratic government in the villages led to the formation of a strong rural bourgeoisie and the development of capitalism in agriculture, i.e. to the inevitable destruction of all the survivals of feudalism'. 97

In their labour and industrial policy, the Mensheviks were able to follow socialist principles more faithfully. Hydroelectric power, mineral springs and spas, the Tqibuli coal mines, the Chiatura manganese industry, the ports and railways, were all nationalized. Of the 70,000 full-time workers employed in Georgian industry in 1920, official statistics show that more than half were state employees, while a quarter worked for municipal and co-operative enterprises. Less than 20 per cent were privately employed. A number of labour laws were passed. An eight-hour day was established. Overtime work entitled the worker to double pay. Child labour was proscribed, as well as night work for women and adolescents. Unemployment and sickness insurance was introduced. The right to strike, withheld from the worker under Tsarism and again later under the Communists, was established by law.


Financial instability

Whereas the Georgian government's social and economic policies were basically sound and progressive, their realization was frustrated by financial instability, combined with the prevailing political chaos in Russia and the Near East. The budget was in chronic imbalance. Now that Georgia received no subsidy from the Russian central government, expenditure exceeded income to an alarming extent. For the period from November 1917 to January 1919, the income of the Georgian Treasury amounted to under 100 million rubles, while expenses came to nearly 350 million, leaving a deficit of almost 250 million. Armenian merchants and financiers, as well as their Georgian confrères headed by the millionaire A. M. Khoshtaria, a daring business man who owned concessions in North Persia, plunged into speculation and defrauded the Georgian treasury of vast sums of foreign exchange. Inflation was rife. In 1919, the Georgian government was issuing banknotes of denominations between 50 kopecks and 500 rubles. At the time of the Communist invasion of 1921, common denominations were Of 50,000 and 100,000 rubles. Under Bolshevik rule, until the currency reform of 1924, notes of up to 250 million rubles were in current use. Confidence in the currency was fatally undermined.

Such financial instability led to all kinds of hardship and social paradoxes. The salaries of officials and the savings of the middle and upper classes could become valueless in the space of a few weeks. Prince Orbeliani, head of one of Georgia's leading families, had to queue to use one of the lavatories in his requisitioned palace in Tbilisi, and the Georgian Patriarch depended for his daily bread on the private charity of Oliver Wardrop, the British Chief Commissioner. At the same time, the wily financier Khoshtaria safeguarded his own sumptuous mansion by lending it to the British Mission, whose chief could disport himself in a bath adorned with solid silver fittings, squirting water from every conceivable angle. 98 However, there is little doubt that the economic situation would gradually have reverted to normal if the Zhordania government had been left to itself and given time to put its house in order. The vicissitudes of the international situation and the activities of her predatory neighbours cut short the life of the Georgian Republic before she had even emerged from the aftermath of war and revolution.

At first, however, the weather seemed set fair for the new Georgian state. During the summer of 1918, the land was patrolled by German helmets, some actually worn by polite, well-disciplined German soldiers, others lent out to the Georgian National Army and prominently exhibited on sticks at strategic points along the Turkish frontier. The Bolsheviks and the White Russians were not yet strong enough to threaten Georgia's new-found independence. The struggle for power in Caucasia centred now on the neighbouring republic of Azerbaijan. The Baku Soviet, in strange alliance with an antiBolshevik Tsarist officer, Colonel Lazar Bicherakov, was locked in a bitter struggle against Muslim Azeri guerillas backed by Turkish troops. By 30 July 1918 the Turks were in sight of the city. The following day, Shaumian attempted to flee the city together with his Georgian lieutenant Alesha Japaridze and his other colleagues on the Baku Soviet, but their ships were intercepted and forced to return to port. Baku was taken over by a coalition government of SocialRevolutionaries and Armenian nationalists, who attempted to defend the city against the Turks with the support of a small British force under General Dunsterville. On 14 September 1918, Dunsterville had to evacuate Baku, which fell to the Turks and Azeris. The twenty-six imprisoned Baku Commissars escaped from Baku in the nick of time, but were landed at Krasnovodsk and shot by the local Russian Social-Revolutionaries. Their execution, which the local British agent failed to prevent, became a cause célèbre in the annals of the revolution; responsibility for it has usually been laid at the door of the British 'cannibals', as Stalin termed them in this connexion.



In September 1918, Niko Nikoladze, a member of the Georgian negotiating team in Berlin, returned to Tbilisi and informed Zhordania that Germany's defeat at the hands of the Allies appeared inevitable. Another member of the Berlin delegation, Zurab Avalishvili, was therefore sent to neutral Scandinavia to make contact with British and French diplomats there in an effort to secure recognition of Georgia's neutral status and pave the way for a transfer of allegiance from the German to the Allied side. This volte-face had to be accomplished with speed and agility. The armistice of Mudros, concluded on 30 October 1918, obliged Turkey to withdraw to the west of the 1914 Turco-Russian frontier, while the military collapse of Imperial Germany in November 1918 led inevitably to the evacuation of Georgia by the German garrisons there.


The British replace the Germans

The British returned to Baku on 17 November 1918 and soon entered into relations with the Georgian government in Tbilisi, which they regarded with some suspicion, as a former German puppet régime. The British commander, General Thomson, told Zhordania that British objectives included the restoration of the Caucasian viceroyalty in the name of Russian authority. Britain desired to liberate the Caucasus from the Germans and the Bolsheviks; to re-establish order without interfering in the internal affairs of the country; to restore trade with the ports of Persia and other areas not occupied by Bolshevik Russia; and to provide for the movement of Allied military personnel over the Transcaucasian railways. Such a programme, particularly the first item, was naturally unacceptable to the Georgians. In the memoirs which he wrote years later, Zhordania contrasts the 'genuinely noble, profoundly friendly and respectful' manners of the German commander Kress von Kressenstein with the behaviour of the first British representative to arrive in Tbilisi--'like a sergeantmajor, coarse, rude, imperious and masterful'. 99 At one point, the Georgians talked wildly of opposing by force the entry of British troops into their country. However, more conciliatory counsels prevailed. By the end of December 1918, Evgeni Gegechkori, who succeeded the pro-German Chkhenkeli as Foreign Minister, was assuring the British Mission in Tbilisi that 'the Georgian government, animated by the desire to work in harmony with the Allies for the realization of the principles of right and justice proclaimed by them, gives its consent to the entry of the troops'. 100


An Armenian invasion

To some extent, this change of heart was forced on the Georgians by an Armenian invasion of Georgia's southern boundaries. Now free from Turkish occupation, Armenia was basking in the favour of President Wilson and confident of world support in the redressing of her millennia! wrongs. When the Turks evacuated Transcaucasia, they deliberately encouraged both the Armenians and the Georgians to move into certain border territories, notably Lori and Borchalo and the town of Akhalkalaki. They gave the Georgians two days' start, so that when the Armenians moved in, they found the Georgians already in occupation. Sporadic fighting ensued. The Armenians were at first victorious and marched on Tbilisi itself, the large Armenian colony of which was subjected to many outrages at the hands of the incensed Georgians. On 29 December 1918 the Georgians defeated the Armenians at Shulaveri and forced them to retreat. Two days later the British command was able to force peace upon these two uneasy neighbours. The consequences of this Armeno-Georgian conflict have been summed up by Kazemzadeh:

'The Armeno-Georgian war inflicted great injury on the cause of the independence of the Transcaucasian republics. The old hostilities of the Georgians toward the Armenians flared up and reached an intensity unparallelled before, making impossible united ArmenoGeorgian action at the Paris Peace Conference. The West was treated to a sad spectacle of two peoples, ruled by parties which were members of the Second International and professed peace to be their chief aim, fighting over a few strips of land in the manner of a Germany or a Russia. Those who were called upon to decide the destinies of mankind at Paris could never again trust Georgia or Armenia. The enemies of Transcaucasia's independence were provided with excellent material, on the basis of which they could, and did, argue that Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan ruled by the Dashnaks, the Mensheviks and the Musavatists, were incapable of preserving order and of guaranteeing a peaceful existence to their peoples. Even in Transcaucasia doubts were raised whether this land could stand on its own feet.' 101





Click on the above map for better resolution

Click on the mini-map to get the detailed map of Armeno-Georgian war 

Click here to read more about Armeno-Georgian war of 1918 and its consequences for both nations




Denikin and the Whites

If Georgia's relations with her southern neighbour, Armenia, were unsatisfactory, those with the forces now vying to the north for control of Russia were equally so. The main threat from the Russian side appeared at first to derive less from Lenin and Trotsky's Red Army than from the White Russian Volunteer Army of Alekseev and Denikin. General Denikin was a bigoted blockhead of the most reactionary kind, whose myopic policies wrecked all hope of overthrowing the Bolsheviks. Denikin refused to admit any less comprehensive aim than the restoration of Russia's frontiers as they were in 1914 under Tsar Nicholas II.

'Instead, therefore, of making common cause with the other enemies of Bolshevism, with Rumania, Poland, the Baltic and Caucasian States, Makhno, Petlura and the rest, he not only rejected the help but definitely provoked the enmity of these valuable, indeed indispensable, potential allies. Had he possessed the most rudimentary political acumen he would have made friends with Rumania and left the Bessarabian question to be settled after the Bolsheviks were beaten; he would have acted similarly, mutatis mutandis, with regard to Poland, the Baltic Republics, the Caucasians, the Transcaucasians and the other Russian 'Succession States' instead of antagonizing them and in some cases actually engaging in hostilities against them.' 102

In his relations with the Georgian Republic, Denikin's fatuity was matched only by the intransigent volubility of Foreign Minister Gegechkori, who spent months arguing with the White Russians about some insignificant strips of remote territory in the region of Sochi and Gagra along the Black Sea coast. Armed clashes between Denikin and the Georgians had to be quelled by the British military representatives. In November 1919 Denikin launched an economic blockade of independent Georgia and Azerbaijan. He declared: 'I cannot permit the self-styled formations of Georgia and Azerbaijan, which have sprung up to the detriment of Russian state interests and which are clearly hostile to the idea of the Russian State, to receive food supplies at the expense of the areas of Russia which are being liberated from the Bolsheviks.' Denikin further noted with satisfaction that Georgia was specially vulnerable to an economic blockade, since the harvest of 1919 had failed, which aggravated the chronic shortage of grain.103 Not until February 1920, when the Whites were being rolled back in disorder by the Red Army, did Denikin deign to acknowledge de facto the governments of Russia's border areas which were hostile to Bolshevism. By now it was too late to salvage anything from the wreck of the counter revolution.



Click on the above map for better resolution



The British withdrawal

The British military representatives in Georgia at first tended to identify themselves with Denikin's neo-imperialist fantasies. In 1919, however, the British government took the imaginative step of appointing Oliver Wardrop, the well-known scholar of Georgian literature and history, to be Chief British Commissioner to the Republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Wardrop, set up his headquarters in Tbilisi and did his best to reconcile the national interests of his beloved Georgia with those of Great Britain and the Entente. British and Indian troops, highly unpopular with the Georgians, were withdrawn to a British military district based on the port of Batumi. The purblind patriots in the Georgian government resented even this last British bridgehead as an affront to their national dignity. Gegechkori and Zhordania continually pestered Wardrop and his successor, Harry Luke, to hand the Batumi military district back to Georgia. In July 1920 when the Bolsheviks were already encircling the Georgian Republic and Mustafa Kemal and his followers sharpening their claws for an onslaught from the Turkish side, the British finally withdrew. The streets of Batumi were bedecked with flags on 7 July 1920 as the British troops marched to the port and the Georgian army under General Kvinitadze entered the city from the opposite direction. Georgia hailed the disappearance of the British imperialists as a major triumph, without giving much thought to the even more formidable foes which now ringed her about.

The Georgians' self-reliance was bolstered by the conviction that their sovereignty was guaranteed beyond all possibility of violation through the Paris Peace Conference and the new international machinery embodied in the League of Nations. Fortified by the idealistic orations of President Wilson, both the Armenians and the Georgians were pathetically certain that the victorious Entente powers meant to establish a just and durable peace in Caucasia. The Armenians for their part sent not one, but two rival delegations to Paris, who put forward the most extravagant territorial demands, including the seven eastern vilayets of Turkey, the four Cilician sanjaks, as well as large areas of the Georgian Republic itself, including Batumi and parts of Tbilisi province.

When the Paris Conference opened, the Armenians had everybody's wholehearted sympathy, while the Georgians, as former protégés of Germany, were received rather coldly. However, the truculence of the Armenians soon lost them influential friends, while the Georgians' charm and savoir-fairemade a good impression. The ground had already been ably prepared in London by Zurab Avalishvili, a former member of the Georgian delegation in Berlin, in conjunction with his compatriot David Ghambashidze, a mining engineer who was formerly Secretary of the Anglo-Russian Chamber of Commerce in London. Ghambashidze was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and in 1919 published a useful book, written in English, on the mineral resources of Georgia and Caucasia. Ghambashidze had many friends in British official circles, and was able to enlist the support of Lord Curzon, himself an expert on Near Eastern and Caucasian affairs. On 31 December 1918, Avalishvili and Ghambashidze received from the Foreign Office a note declaring that His Majesty's Government viewed with sympathy the proclamation of independence of the Georgian Republic, and were ready to urge its recognition at the Peace Conference. This good news was communicated to Tbilisi without delay.





Georgia at the Paris Conference

The Georgian delegation in Paris was a high-powered one, headed as it was by the veteran tribunes of the Russian Revolution, Nikolai (Karlo) Chkheidze and Irakli Tsereteli. Most of the year 1919 was occupied in pleading with the Allies to restrain their friends Kolchak and Denikin from attacking the Caucasian republics. It was not until November 1919 that the Allied Supreme Council realised that the Whites were hopelessly defeated, and began to think seriously of encouraging the Transcaucasian Republics as a possible barrier to the expansion of Soviet Russia. Lord Curzon himself took the initiative of proposing to the Supreme Council of the Allies the recognition de facto of the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. This proposal was adopted unanimously, with the result that France, Great Britain and Italy accorded de facto recognition to Georgia on 11 January 1920. The Georgian Republic had already been recognized de jure by the Argentine Republic on 13 September 1919. Georgia was recognized de facto by Japan and Belgium on 7 February and 26 August 1920 respectively.

In January 1920, conferences took place between the Georgian and Azerbaijani delegates and the British Imperial General Staff to discuss problems of defense in the event of an attack by Soviet Russia. On 19 January the Georgian and Azerbaijani delegates were summoned before a plenary meeting of the Supreme Council at the Quai d'Orsay, where they were confronted by Clemenceau, Lloyd George, Lord Curzon, Winston Churchill, Jules Cambon, Francesco Nitti, Marshal Foch, Admiral Beatty, Sir Henry Wilson and others, who enquired about the ability and determination of the Caucasian peoples to withstand Russian aggression, and their requirements in terms of military aid and supplies. Soon afterwards, however, it was announced that the Allies had no intention of sending any fresh troops to Transcaucasia, though the Transcaucasian republics were promised arms and ammunition. The despatch of these was delayed by the appearance of a fresh bone of contention between Georgia and Armenia--namely the possession of and access to the port of Batumi following its evacuation by the British Army. For weeks a diplomatic battle over this point raged between the Armenian and Georgian delegations. Mr. Robert Vansittart (later Lord Vansittart), the Foreign Office official dealing with Caucasian problems on Curzon's behalf, was driven to despair.




'In the circles of the Supreme Council,' he told a gathering of these rival delegates, 'many are of the opinion that the Transcaucasian Republics have no future at all, as they are unable to achieve any sort of solidarity, and are exhausting themselves in conflicts with each other. . . . Is it not clear to you that the despatch of arms and munitions for you has been delayed precisely because of your divergences, because of the fear that these arms would be used in your conflicts with each other?'104

And yet, in spite of such warnings by their well-wishers, these rival sets of politicians stood fast in their pretensions, at the very moment when Azerbaijan was actually falling into the hands of Moscow. An eye-witness has left a graphic description of one of those crucial meetings, in which Karlo Chkheidze, the chief Georgian delegate, 'stood with his head thrown back, his eyes starting from their sockets and his face purple, enraged by the French texts and formulae, the shades of meaning of which he could not quite grasp, all his coolness and self-control gone, in the pose of a minor Polish country squire vetoing an important decision of the Diet'.105 Small wonder that the patient Vansittart, 'repeating Pilate's gesture, his face expressing perplexity, weariness and boredom', was obliged to wash his hands of the matter and report to Lord Curzon, the British government and the Supreme Council of the Allies that the Transcaucasian republics, unable to agree among themselves, could not be expected to play any useful part in a defence system designed to check the advance of Bolshevik Russia. Curzon's Caucasian policy suffered a major setback, to the ill-concealed glee of Lloyd George, who was himself only too eager to jettison Churchill and Curzon's policy of intervention and come to terms with the Communist régime in Russia.




Map 6. Click on the map for better resolution


There were other factors which also helped to render untenable the position of the Allies in Transcaucasia. On 27-28 April 1920, a daring raid by Soviet armoured trains on Baku led to the overthrow of independent Azerbaijan and the proclamation of a Soviet republic. One of the major reasons justifying the British occupation of Batumi was that this port was the Black Sea terminal of the Baku-Baturni pipeline, through which Baku oil was pumped for shipment overseas by the international oil companies. With Baku in Bolshevik hands, no more oil would be flowing to Batumi, the commercial value of which was thereby impaired. On 7 May 1920 the Georgian Menshevik government felt it advisable to sign a treaty of friendship with Soviet Russia, pledging themselves among other things to work for the removal of all foreign troops from Georgian soil. On 11 May, General Sir George Milne, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Black Sea, was accidentally fired upon by Georgian artillery when on an inspection tour of the border area of the Batumi military district. In Batumi itself, Bolshevik agents were active. One of these, Gubeli (real name: S. Medzmariashvili) murdered the White Russian General Lyakhov, notorious for his suppression of the Constitutional movement in Persia and his reign of terror in the northern Caucasus under Denikin. Gubeli was arrested by the British, but such was the popular outcry that Brigadier Cooke-Collis, the British governor, was forced to release him. The special correspondent of Le Temps reported from Batumi: 'This city, as well as the entire province, has become a centre of agitation and corruption, where the Turkish nationalists and the Bolsheviks have already been able to fraternize without danger.' In such circumstances, the British decision to evacuate Batumi early in July 1920 is understandable.

During the nine months which elapsed between the Georgian occupation of Batumi and the final débâcle, the Georgian cause scored more victories and more defeats, but only on paper. On 16 December 1920 Georgia's application for membership of the League of Nations failed to secure the requisite majority, though she was admitted to participation in the League's technical sub-committees. It is interesting to note that among those who spoke most forcibly against Georgia's admission was the British Minister of Education, the historian H. A. L. Fisher. Voting with Great Britain against granting membership of the League to Georgia were Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and France. However, Georgia had one last diplomatic triumph on 27 January 1921, when France and England accorded her full de jure recognition as an independent sovereign state. On 25 February 1921, Akaki Chkhenkeli presented his credentials at the Elysée Palace as Georgia's Minister Plenipotentiary to the French Republic. That same day, the Red Army was marching on Tbilisi, forcing the government of the Georgian Republic to flee for their lives.


Collapse of the White Russians

FR0M THE TIME of the October revolution in 1917 until early in 1920, there was no regular communication between Georgia and Communist Russia. The White Russian forces of Denikin and his associates formed a physical barrier between Moscow and Tbilisi, and political mistrust inhibited any establishment of diplomatic relations between the two centres. Communist Russia, indeed, refused to recognize the existence of independent Georgia, declaring on 24 December 1918 that 'all persons who consider themselves Georgian citizens are recognized as Russian citizens, and as such are subject to all the decrees and the enactments of the Soviet authority of the RSFSR.' All manifestations of Bolshevism in Georgia were suppressed with a firm hand by the unbending Georgian Minister of the Interior, Noe Ramishvili. Two prominent Georgian Bolsheviks, Mamia Orakhelashvili and M. Okujava, sat in Kutaisi jail, while the other members of the Bolshevik Regional Committee left Tbilisi for Vladikavkaz in North Caucasia.

During the winter of 1919-20, the impending collapse of Denikin's army in North Caucasia and the Black Sea region encouraged the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Chicherin, to invite Georgia to unite with Russia against the Whites. Zhordania and Gegechkori refused, declaring that they 'preferred the imperialists of the West to the fanatics of the East'. 106 Russia reacted to this rebuff by forming a special committee for the establishment of Soviet authority in the Caucasus. The head of this committee, established by a decree of the Bolshevik Central Committee on 4 February 1920, was the Georgian Communist Sergo Orjonikidze, a friend of Stalin; the deputy chairman was S. M. Kirov, and the other members included the Georgian Bolshevik Budu Mdivani. On 8 April 1920, a North Caucasian bureau of the Central Committee of the AllRussian Communist Party was set up, its members including Orjonikidze, Smilga, Mdivani and Kirov. This bureau later formed the nucleus of an enlarged Caucasian Bureau, which came into being in May. Orjonikidze was also a member of the Revolutionary War Council of the Caucasian front and Kirov a member of that of the Eleventh Red Army.

In spite of his declared hostility to the Kremlin 'fanatics', Zhordania found it prudent to initiate secret negotiations with them in an effort to secure formal Communist recognition of Georgia's independence. Grigol Uratadze, a veteran Menshevik, was sent clandestinely to Moscow to negotiate with Chicherin and the other People's Commissars. While these talks were proceeding, on 27 April 1920, the Red Army launched its lightning attack on Baku. The Azerbaijan government, which had a defensive alliance with Georgia, appealed to Tbilisi for help, but was overwhelmed in a few hours. Confident that the Eleventh Red Army would at once continue its victorious march into Georgia, local Bolsheviks staged an armed uprising in Tbilisi. At one a.m. on 3 May 1920, twenty-five Bolsheviks, mostly Armenians, attempted to seize the Military Academy as a preliminary to a coup d'état. It happened that General Kvinitadze, commandant of the Academy prior to his appointment as Georgian Commander-in-Chief two days previously, was still in residence. Kvinitadze and his cadets put up a fight, killing two of the attackers and capturing three others, who were sentenced to death by court martial and shot. At the same time, Georgian frontier troops repulsed Red Army detachments which had penetrated to the Georgian side of the frontier with Azerbaijan.


The Russo-Georgian Treaty

At this juncture, Uratadze reported from Moscow that the Russians were prepared to sign a treaty with Georgia and recognize her de jure, provided that the Mensheviks formally undertook not to grant asylum on Georgian territory to troops of powers hostile to the Soviet Union. Gegechkori, the Georgian Foreign Minister, regarded this clause as an infringement of Georgia's national sovereignty, and favoured rejection of the Soviet terms. Zhordania, anxious above all to secure for Georgiade jure recognition by all the great powers, overruled his Foreign Minister, and the treaty was signed in Moscow on 7 May 1920. Among other provisions, Georgia undertook to disarm and intern all military and naval units belonging to any organization purporting to constitute the government of Russia, and to surrender such detachments or groups to the Communists. In a secret supplement, not made public for the time being, Georgia made an even greater concession to the Bolsheviks. ' Georgia pledges itself to recognize the right of free existence and activity of the Communist party . . . and in particular its right to free meetings and publications, including organs of the press.' The British Chief Commissioner in Tbilisi noted in his diary on 9 June 1920:

'Text of Georgian Treaty with Soviet Russia published today. Treaty allots town and province of Batum to Georgia. It contains ambiguous clauses which could be read to mean that Georgia is obliged to evict the Allies. The frontier on the Caucasus passes is unfavourable to Georgia and public opinion in Tiflis denounces treaty as veiled subjection of Georgia to Russia. Anti-Bolshevik feeling here strong."107

Both in its provisions and in its consequences, the RussoGeorgian agreement of 1920 indeed contains striking parallels with the treaty concluded in 1783 between Catherine the Great of Russia and King Erekle II of Georgia, which proved to be the prelude to Georgia's complete annexation. That the 1920 agreement would turn out in the same way could, however, scarcely have been foreseen when it was signed.




Click on the map for better resolution




 Communist propaganda in Georgia

Unaware of the secret clause providing for toleration of the Georgian Communist Party, the hard-pressed Georgian Bolsheviks were at first stunned by the news that Moscow had officially recognized the renegade Menshevik government of Zhordania. They were soon reassured. S. M. Kirov, a member of the Caucasian Bureau of the All-Russian Communist Party, was appointed the first Soviet Ambassador to Tbilisi. The British Chief Commissioner there noted on 20 June 1920:

'The Bolshevik Diplomatic Mission to Georgia, which has been dribbling in by instalments, now almost complete with the arrival today of Head of Mission, Kyrov. Staff of Mission, including attendants and a group of seventeen persons ostensibly despatched to settle details regarding Peace Treaty, numbers about seventy. Georgian Government are alarmed at its size and have protested, but Bolsheviks continue to pour in. I understand they propose to make Tiflis headquarters of their eastern propaganda. Kyrov on arrival harangued the crowd which had collected outside his residence. Have protested strongly and, I am thankful to say, effectively against Mission being accommodated, as was desired by the Bolshevik advance guard, in the house immediately facing our Mission.' 108

The Georgian government were forced to release the local Communist party members and sympathisers from prison. Many of them promptly embarked on an overt campaign to overthrow the Mensheviks by force, with the result that Noe Ramishvili, the Minister of the Interior, clapped them back into jail. This provoked a fiery exchange of notes between Kirov and the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

On 29 June 1920, Kirov threatened that 'if the happenings mentioned by me should not be stopped, my Government would have no other choice but to retaliate against Georgian citizens in the territory of the RSFSR.' Gegechkori retorted that 'members of the Georgian Communist Party in addition to their legal work engage in active propaganda among the troops, in the ranks of the People's Guard, and among the wide masses of the peasantry, using for this purpose huge sums of money received from abroad, and aiming at the overthrow of the order existing in the country'.109 Given Moscow's provided, as the Kremlin intended, a constant irritant and an excuse for Russian propaganda against the existing Georgian government.

Conflict also arose out of Georgia's contacts with Baron Wrangel, who had succeeded the inept Denikin as head of the White Russian movement, and managed to maintain himself from April until November 1920 in the Crimea. The Georgians were in reality as hostile towards Wrangel as they had been towards Denikin. However, they were obliged to negotiate with him concerning the supply of wheat and oats for Georgia, and there were occasions when the Georgians failed to intern and hand over to the Communists certain White Russian units and ships seeking a temporary refuge on Georgian soil or in Georgian ports. Kirov and his successor, Sheinman, seized upon such incidents as a pretext for the accusation that Georgia was abetting the White Russian reactionaries.


Upheaval in Ossetia

Another hotbed of discord was the unsettled situation in South Ossetia, a part of Georgia inhabited by a people of Iranian stock, quite distinct from the Georgians in customs, language and ethnic origin. The territory of the Ossetes straddles the Daryal Pass and extends on the Russian side well into North Caucasia. A peasant uprising had already occurred in South Ossetia in 1918 and been suppressed with great severity by the Menshevik People's Guard commanded by Valiko Jugheli. In 1919, the Tbilisi régime outlawed the so-called National Soviet of South Ossetia, a Bolshevik-dominated body, and refused any grant of national self-determination for the Ossetes. In the spring of the following year, the Caucasian Bureau of the All-Russian Communist Party formed a special South Ossetian Revolutionary Committee to lead an armed revolt against the Georgian government. A Russian-sponsored Ossete force crossed the border from Vladikavkaz in June 1920 and attacked the Georgian Army and People's Guard. The Georgians reacted with vigour and defeated the insurgents and their supporters in a series of hard-fought battles. Five thousand people perished in the fighting and 20,000 Ossetes fled into Soviet Russia. The Georgian People's Guard displayed a frenzy of chauvinistic zeal during the mopping-up operations, many villages being burnt to the ground and large areas of fertile land ravaged and depopulated.


Rise of Kemalist Turkey

Fresh dangers were also beginning to threaten Georgia from another side, namely from the direction of Turkey and Armenia. In the Treaty of Sévres, signed on 10 August 1920 by plenipotentiaries of the docile Ottoman government in Istanbul, Turkey undertook to recognize Armenia as a free and independent state, within the boundaries of the so-called Wilson Line, as the Allied Powers had already done. The signature of this treaty by the Sultan led the Turkish nationalists under Mustafa Kemal to declare themselves armed opponents of the Allies. Kemal entered into friendly relations with Soviet Russia, whose hostility to the Anglo-French Entente and its protégés coincided with his own. In September 1920, the Kemalists suddenly attacked Armenia, taking Kars and then Aleksandropol. The Russians on their side despatched to the harassed Armenian Dashnaks an ultimatum demanding free passage for Soviet and Kemalist troops through Armenian territory; Armenian renunciation of the Treaty of Sèvres; and the cessation of all relations with the Allied powers. The hollowness of Allied support for Armenia became immediately apparent. Neither President Wilson nor Lloyd George raised a finger in defence of the helpless Armenian Republic which they themselves had created amid such fanfares of democratic idealism. While the Armenians were capitulating to the Kemahsts, the Bolsheviks entered their country from Baku. On "2 December 1920, a Soviet Republic was set up in Erivan. In February 1921, during the Russian invasion of Georgia, the Armenian Dashnaks staged a successful revolt against the Communist régime. Armenia's death agony was prolonged until April 1921, when Bolshevik rule was re-established and the country finally parcelled out between Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey.






Click on the map for better resolution


During the summer and autumn of 1920, when Soviet Russia and the Turkish nationalists had once again become dominant factors in Caucasian affairs, while the Western powers, particularly England, had renounced any active policy in that region, the Georgian government chose to ignore Moscow and Ankara and concentrate its efforts on the West. Three ministers--Gegechkori, Kandelaki and P. Gogichaishvili (Minister of State Control), as well as the President of the Constituent Assembly, Karlo Chkheidze, and the special emissary of the republic, Irakli Tsereteli, toured the capitals of the great powers in an attempt to win economic aid, loans and political recognition for the Georgian Republic. The mission fulfilled its task with fair success. It even succeeded in floating a loan in London, and there was talk of leasing the Batumi naval base and oil refineries to Britain. Italian industrialists were granted a concession for exploitation of the Tqvarcheli coal-fields on the Black Sea coast, in the region of Sukhumi. An agreement was concluded with a French commercial syndicate for collaboration in developing silk production in Georgia and exporting silk cocoons to France. On the political front, Gegechkori's efforts finally resulted in the de jure recognition of independent Georgia by the Allies on 27 January 1921, a few weeks before the country was overrun by the Red Army.





Georgia and the Second International

Georgia's cause was warmly espoused by the moderate Socialists of the Second International, who viewed her as an outpost of Western democratic socialism on the fringes of the domains of Bolshevist collectivism. In September 1920, a delegation of leading Western socialists visited the Georgian Republic. They included Ramsay MacDonald, Vandervelde, Mrs. E. Snowden, Renaudel, Kautsky, Huysmans and others, who were thrilled by the official honours and gracious hospitality dispensed to them by the Georgian government. In December, a French naval flotilla visited Georgian ports. A French High Commissioner made his appearance in Tbilisi, where he declared with Gallic bravado that any infringement of Georgia's integrity would be resisted to the death by France and her allies.


Krassin and Lloyd George

These comings and goings were viewed by Soviet Russia with deep suspicion. The Kremlin propaganda machine proclaimed that following Wrangel's collapse in the Crimea, Georgia was being turned into a bastion of counter-revolution. Trade talks were proceeding in London at this time between the British government and Krassin, the Soviet special envoy, who exploited Lloyd George's personal opposition to Curzon's policy of propping up the Transcaucasian republics as a bastion against Soviet Russia. Anxious to cut the losses sustained by the Churchillian policy of anti-Bolshevik intervention, Lloyd George was eager to resume normal commercial relations with Russia, from which Britain's strained post-war economy stood to benefit substantially. During Krassin's negotiations in London, he was given to understand that Baku oil--the main commodity he had to offer--lost much of its value without complete Russian control of the Transcaucasian pipe-line leading into Batumi over a section of Georgian territory. The moral of this was that to make his goods more marketable, Krassin had to persuade his masters to gain possession of the land separating Baku from Batumi, namely the Republic of Georgia. No advice could have been more palatable, and the Bolsheviks were not slow to take the hint. In view of Lloyd George's attitude, the Kremlin could discount a telegram of protest from Lord Curzon against Russian mobilization on the Georgian border. Chicherin replied to the British Foreign Secretary that 'Soviet Russia has not committed and will not commit in future any hostile acts against the Republic of Georgia', with which assurance Curzon had to rest content.

On 7 February 1921, a banquet was held in Tbilisi to celebrate the de jure recognition of Georgia by the Western Allies. The Soviet Ambassador, Mr. Sheinman, stayed away, but sent as his representative a Georgian Bolshevik, S. Kavtaradze, who made a speech in which he saluted Zhordania as his mentor, a true Socialist leader, whose health he drank 'with complete sincerity', coupled with that of the Georgian toiling people. On the next day, Sheinman declared to the Press that Russia was delighted at Georgia's recognition and desired only to live in peace and amity with her. At that moment, the Eleventh Red Army was poised ready for a full-scale attack.


The Red Army invades Georgia

During the autumn of 1920, Russia had repeatedly protested against the alleged build-up of the Georgian armed forces, which, it was claimed, constituted a threat to the Soviet Union. Soviet agents kept Moscow well informed as to the real strength of the Georgian National Army and People's Guard. Now that the substance of these secret reports has recently been published, it is possible to form an accurate idea of independent Georgia's military might.110 On 10 September 1920, the Kremlin learnt that the Georgian regular army included 9,700 infantry and 1,000 cavalry, with 52 guns and a number of mortars, a battalion of sappers, one motorized company and one signals company. The People's Guard consisted of 15,000 infantry, 1,600 cavalry, with 76 guns and a machine-gun regiment with 72 machine-guns. The army further possessed 4 or 5 armoured trains, 3 armoured cars, 2 tanks, a motorized machine-gun unit and 18 aircraft. It was estimated that full mobilization could increase the total force in the field to a maximum of 50,000 men within three days.

The Kremlin was apprised during the winter of 1920-21 of certain increases in Georgia's armed strength. On 1 February 1921 the Georgians had concentrated on their frontiers over 32,000 infantry, with 264 horsemen, 521 machine-guns, 56 light and 18 heavy guns. However, the Georgians were scarcely in a position to march on Moscow. The morale of the troops was reported low, the ranks being undermined by revolutionary propaganda; desertion was rife and mutual hostility existed between the regular army and the People's Guard. The Georgian General Staff was far from complacent about the position. General Odishelidze represented to his government in January 1921 that in the event of a Russian attack, his front line forces would be outnumbered two to one. Odishelidze proposed to increase the army to 60,000, buy war materials and munitions abroad, and prepare a careful plan of national defence. At grips with a fiscal crisis, the Zhordania government refused to sanction the outlay. When war actually broke out, Georgia had a small, poorly equipped army with an insignificant cavalry, and a few aeroplanes which remained grounded throughout the campaign through lack of high-grade petrol.111

When Baron Wrangel's Crimean force collapsed in November 1920, the Red Army was free to send extra troops to reinforce the Caucasian front. The following month, A. I. Gekker (Hecker), commander of the Eleventh Red Army, sent to Moscow a secret appreciation of the prospects of a military conquest of Georgia. Gekker emphasized that it would first be necessary to secure the benevolent neutrality of Kazim Karabekir Pasha, the Turkish commander in Armenia. Seven infantry divisions and the Second Cavalry Army should then be assembled in Soviet Azerbaijan, while smaller Red Army detachments would operate against the Georgian frontier guards in the Sochi sector on the Black Sea, and the Vladikavkaz-Daryal Pass area in Central Caucasia. Before launching the attack, therefore, Gekker recommended that an understanding be reached with the Kemalists at Ankara, with whom the Kremlin was already friendly, and that reinforcements and stores be massed in Soviet Azerbaijan all ready for a propitious moment to invade the Georgian Republic. 'The above-mentioned points are brought to your attention not in order to demonstrate the impossibility of an attack on Georgia, but because I consider that this attack should be launched only after careful preparation, in order to finish as rapidly as possible with those Tbilisi people'.112 The Gekker plan soon became known to the Georgian Intelligence; before effective counter-measures could be taken, it had already been carried successfully into effect.




Click on the map to get high resolution image


On 11 February 1921, disorders broke out in the Lori district, south of Tbilisi. Simultaneously a revolt began in the nearby town of Shulaveri, near the Armenian and Azerbaijani frontiers. The insurgents were Armenians and Russians, who attacked local Georgian military posts. By 14 February, a regular battle was raging on the Armeno-Georgian border, near a place called Vorontsovka. The Soviet envoy in Tbilisi, Sheinman, received on the next day a secret telegram from Gekker, the Eleventh Red Army commander: 'Resolved to cross the Rubicon. Take action in the light of this decision.' When the Georgian government protested to him about the incidents which were taking place on the frontier, Sheinman played for time, declaring that Russia had no cognizance of military movements in that area; any disturbances which might be taking place must be a spontaneous uprising by the Armenian communists.




Click on the map to get high resolution image



A Communist Revolutionary Committee (Revcom) had by now been formed in Shulaveri. Its members included such prominent Georgian Bolsheviks as P. Makharadze, Mamia Orakhelashvili and S. Eliava. The Revcom proclaimed a Soviet régime and declared that only the forces of foreign reaction were keeping the Tbilisi Mensheviks in power; an appeal for help was addressed to the toiling masses of Moscow. By a happy coincidence, the Eleventh Red Army was already poised on the frontier between Georgia and Soviet Azerbaijan and crossed the border in force at dawn on 16 February. Retreating westwards, the Georgian National Army blew up railway bridges and demolished roads in an effort to delay the enemy advance. Simultaneously, Red Army units prepared to invade Georgia from the north through the Daryal and Mamison passes and along the Black Sea coast towards Sukhumi. While these events were proceeding, the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs issued a series of statements disclaiming all knowledge of warlike acts between Georgia and the Red Army, and professing willingness to mediate in any internal disputes which might have arisen between Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.


Death agony of independent Georgia

The Georgian Army put up a stubborn fight in defence of the approaches to Tbilisi, which they held for a week in the face of overwhelming odds.




Click on the map to get high resolution image


The Russian attack on Georgia produced unexpected repercussions in neighbouring Armenia, where the nationalists rose in force, marched on Erivan and overthrew the Bolshevik régime there. Any encouragement which the Georgians might have derived from this was outweighed by the actions of the Turkish commander in Armenia, Kazim Karabekir Pasha. On 23 February 1921, after prolonged consultations with his superiors in Ankara and with the Russian government in Moscow, Kazim issued an ultimatum demanding the evacuation of Ardahan and Artvin by Georgia. Stabbed in the back by the Kemalists, the Georgians were forced to comply and withdrew their forces from the Turkish frontier area. The Georgian commander-in-chief, Kvinitadze, was at length obliged to admit that Tbilisi could hold out no longer.






Click on the maps to get high resolution image


On the night of 24-25 February 1921, President Zhordania left on the last train, hoping to set up his headquarters at Kutaisi in Western Georgia and continue the struggle from there. Red Army detachments headed by Sergo Orjonikidze entered Tbilisi on 25 February. The city was given over to murder, pillage and rape. Famished and threadbare Russian soldiers swarmed over the town, invading houses, looting furniture, clothes, food and anything they could lay their hands on, including the instruments from doctors' and dentists' surgeries. After a prudent interval for mopping up operations, the Georgian Revcom headed by Orakhelashvili and Eliava ventured into the city and proclaimed the overthrow of the Menshevik régime, the dissolution of the Georgian National Army and People's Guard, and the formation of a Georgian Soviet Republic.

The Mensheviks entertained hopes of aid from a French naval squadron cruising in the Black Sea off the Georgian coast. The French tried to bombard some Bolshevik detachments operating near the shore, but made no attempt to land troops, and sheered off as soon as a Russian aeroplane hove into view. The Georgians' hope of holding out near Kutaisi was further dashed by the bold advance of a Red Army detachment from North Caucasia which traversed the difficult Mamison Pass through deep snow drifts in arctic conditions and advanced down the Rioni valley into Imereti. On 8 March the Revcom invited the Mensheviks to end military resistance, recognize the new Soviet régime in Georgia and form a coalition government with the Bolsheviks. Zhordania at first agreed to negotiate, particularly since both Bolshevik and Menshevik Georgians were united in their desire to prevent the Turks from reoccupying Batumi, which they were on the point of seizing. While the talks were proceeding, Zhordania learnt that the Red Army was at the gates of Batumi. Fearing a trap, he and his government set sail for Istanbul on 17 March 1921. A truce was signed at Kutaisi on the following day, couched in mild terms, and according a general amnesty to the defeated nationalists.




Click on the map to get high resolution image


It is interesting to note that during that same week, on 16 March 1921, the British and Soviet governments signed a trade agreement, in which Lloyd George undertook inter alia to refrain from anti-Soviet activity in all territories which had formed part of the old Tsarist empire. This effectively precluded any British intervention against the Bolsheviks in Georgia, which Great Britain had recognized as an independent sovereign state less than two months previously. Small wonder that the defeated Georgian patriots were loud in their denunciation of perfidious Albion. Simultaneously, a treaty of friendship was signed in Moscow between Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey, whereby the Georgian towns of Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe and Batumi were awarded to the Soviet Union. Broadly speaking, the agreement was extremely favourable to Turkey, the effect being to move the Turco-Soviet frontier virtually to the line existing prior to the war of 1877-78. Although Batumi and the surrounding region of Atchara were retained by the Soviet Union, large areas of territory belonging historically to Georgia were now regained by Turkey.


Lenin versus Stalin on Georgia

The unexpected mildness of the terms offered by the Georgian Communists to their defeated rivals is to be explained in part by divergent reactions to the Georgian affair within the Politbureau in Moscow. Lenin and his colleagues had only given their sanction to the Red Army's advance when they were assured by Stalin, as Commissar of Nationalities, that a massive Bolshevik uprising had occurred in Tbilisi. According to Stalin and his man on the spot, Orjonikidze, the Mensheviks had already been virtually overthrown by the Georgian masses themselves, and the appearance of a few Red Army soldiers would simply consolidate a victory already won. Both Lenin and Trotsky were appalled when they later heard that heavy fighting was taking place and that the Mensheviks had rallied the nation to their side; they were most apprehensive of the impression which would be created among foreign socialists when it was learnt that the Russian Communists were now overthrowing other, independent socialist régimes by force of arms.

The risk taken by Stalin in simultaneously hoodwinking his own comrades and defying world opinion in this fashion is partly to be accounted for in terms of his own past career, and his impatience to settle old personal scores. Twenty years earlier, in the days of the old Mesame Dasi when Social-Democracy was first taking root in Georgia, young Jughashvili-Stalin had been the odd man out. Thrust into the background by Zhordania and the other Mensheviks, Stalin had thrown in his lot with Lenin and the Russian Communist party. In October 1917 he had the satisfaction of seeing his compatriots and rivals Karlo Chkheidze and Irakli Tsereteli, both leading figures in the Kerensky régime, turned out of Petrograd and banished to their native Georgia. But it was a standing affront to Stalin, as Soviet Commissar of Nationalities, to be defied and held up to scorn in his own native Georgia of all places, while his sway extended over most of the other territory of the old Tsarist domains. Georgia must at all costs be brought within the Soviet fold. The Soviet-Georgian treaty of May 1920 was simply a tactical manœuvre; by November, Stalin was declaring: ' Georgia, which has been transformed into the principal base of the imperialist operations of England and France and which therefore has entered into hostile relations with Soviet Russia, that Georgia is now living out the last days of her life.' It was Stalin the Georgian who gave independent Georgia the coup de grâce.

In an effort to put a good face on the occupation of Georgia, Lenin wrote to Orjonikidze after the fall of Tbilisi, urging him to come to terms with the fallen Menshevik régime. 'I must remind you that the internal and international position of Georgia requires of the Georgian Communists not the application of the Russian stereotype, but . . . an original tactic, based upon greater concessions to the petty bourgeois elements.' When he learnt that Zhordania and his cabinet declined to enter into a coalition and had embarked for Europe, with the full intention of turning the Georgian issue into an international scandal, Lenin was greatly perturbed. However, the Politbureau was obliged to accept Georgia's annexation as a fait accompli, and Trotsky, though highly critical of Stalin's handling of the situation, wrote a pamphlet in defence of Russian policy towards Georgia. In accordance with Lenin's directive, the Georgian Communist leaders tried at first to win over the people by fair words. However, they met with nation-wide passive resistance. To make things worse, famine prevailed in the towns and during the summer of 1921 an outbreak of cholera carried off thousands of victims. The desperate shortage of food and the breakdown of medical services resulted in heavy mortality, the Georgian Catholicos-Patriarch Leonid being among the dead.

Even those Tbilisi workers who were most sympathetic towards Communist doctrines remained patriots at heart. A mass meeting of 3,000 representatives of the Tbilisi workers' associations took place on 10 April 1921 at the Opera House on Rustaveli Avenue. It passed resolutions calling upon the Revcom to defend Georgia's rights to self-determination and independence; to hasten the formation of a national Red Army of Georgia; to secure for the working masses of Georgia the right to select their representatives by free elections; to ensure that the new Soviet order was introduced into Georgia in such a way as to respect the customs of the people; and to legalize the existence of all socialist organizations not actually engaging in activities directed against the régime. Though acceptable in the main to the local Georgian Bolsheviks, such resolutions as these were not in accordance with the policies of Stalin and his immediate associates. Far from permitting the formation of a Georgian Red Army, Stalin saw that all military formations were disbanded, and posted Russian garrisons at strategic points. Workers' organizations and trades unions were subordinated to the Bolshevik party committees, which received their instructions from Moscow. Russian agents of the political police or Cheka were sent to Georgia to mop up the local Mensheviks, whom the Georgian Bolsheviks would rather have been left to win over or render harmless in their own way.

Stalin also began to toy with the idea of bringing Georgia into a Transcaucasian Federation of Soviet Republics, into which Armenia and Azerbaijan would also be merged. The local Georgian Bolsheviks, on the other hand, preferred to retain the country as an autonomous Soviet Republic loosely associated with Moscow, and possessing its own political and administrative organs. In July 1921 Stalin came to Tbilisi on a personal visit of inspection and addressed a mass meeting in the working-class quarter of Tbilisi, where he had spent so many months of revolutionary activity. As soon as he appeared on the platform, surrounded by Cheka agents and guards, the crowd began to hiss. Old women in the audience, some of whom had fed and sheltered Stalin when he was hiding from the Tsarist secret police, shouted: 'Accursed one, renegade, traitor!' The crowd reserved its ovation for the veteran revolutionary leader Isidore Ramishvili and another of their leaders, Alexander Dgebuadze, who asked Stalin straight out: 'Why have you destroyed Georgia? What have you to offer by way of atonement?' Surrounded by the angry faces of his old comrades Stalin turned pale and could only stutter a few words of selfjustification, after which he left the hall cowering behind his Russian bodyguard. The next day, he stormed into Tbilisi Party Headquarters and made a furious attack on Philip Makharadze, whom he professed to hold personally responsible for his humiliation. Addressing a meeting of Tbilisi Communists on 6 July 1921, he urged them to renounce every vestige of local independence and merge into a single Transcaucasian Federation, in return for which he promised Georgia unlimited free oil from Baku and a loan of several million gold rubles from Moscow. Changing his tone, Stalin went on to attack what he called 'local chauvinism' among the Georgians. The most urgent task of the Georgian Communists was a ruthless struggle against the relics of nationalism. To smash 'the hydra of nationalism', the party must purge its ranks of local patriots and get rid of all who would not subordinate Georgia's interests to those of the entire Soviet Union.


96.   Figures taken from Gr. Uratadze, Sazogadoebrivi modzraoba Sakartveloshi 1821-1921 dr. (The Social Movement in Georgia 1821-1921), Paris 1939, pp. 145-46.

97.   E. Drabkina, Gruzinskaya kontrrevolyutsiya (The Georgian Counter-revolution), Leningrad 1928, as cited by Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Transcaucada, p. 189.

98.   Sir Harry, Luke, Cities and Men. An Autobiography, Vol. II, London 1953, pp. 218-19, 147, 198-9.

99.   N. Zhordania, Reminiscences, pp. 133-34.

100.      F. Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Tramcaucada, p. 171.

101.      The Struggle for Transcaucasia, pp. 182-3.

102.      Luke, Cities and Men, Vol. II, p. 88.

103.      A.I. Denikin, Ocherki russkoy smut] (Sketches of Russia in Turmoil), Vol. V, Berlin 1926, p. 246.

104.      Z. Avalov (Avalishvili), Nezavidmost' Gruzii v megzdunarodnoi politike (The Independence of Georgia in International Politics), Paris 1924, pp. 265, 268.

105.      Avalov, p. 276.

106.      Quoted by Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Tramcaucasia, p. 295.

107.      Lake, Cities and Men, Vol. II, p. 153.

109.      See the texts in Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Transraucasia, p. 308.

110.      See A. B. Kadishev, Interventsiya i grazhdanskaya voyna v Zakavkaz'e (The Intervention and Civil War in Transcaucasia), Moscow 1960, p. 363.

111.      Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Transcaucasia, pp. 318-19.

112.      Documents relatifs à la question de la Géorgie devant la Société des Nations, Paris 1925, P. 67. Professor B. Lewis kindly informs me that the first volume of Kazim Karabekir Pasha's memoirs was published in Turkey in 1960.