We have seen that the Social-Democratic Party of Georgia, unlike that of Poland, functioned, not as an independent party, but as a part of the Social-Democracy of Russia, as a citadel of Russian Menshevism. But it stood for the self-determination of the Georgian as of every other nationality. To achieve this object, the Party did not consider it to be necessary to separate from the Russian State. It would have been quite satisfied if Georgia had become one of the States of an allied republic of the United States of Russia. Not as Georgians, but as Menshevists, it took part in the elections to the Constituent Assembly in November 1917. In the interest of the whole of Russia, Tsereteli defended the rights of the Assembly on its opening against the threatened coup d’état of the Bolshevists. He pointed out that the dissolution of the Assembly spelt nothing loss than the ruin of industry, eternal civil war, and the disruption of the Empire. His arguments were answered by the Bolshevists by means of the force of Lettish infantry and Cronstadt sailors. This has not prevented the attitude of Tsereteli being right in the light of history.
The first consequence of the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly was the disruption of the Empire. The centrifugal tendencies obtained the upper hand in the eastern provinces, in the Ukraine, on, the Don, and in Kuban, in Siberia, and in the Caucasus.
The defection of Transcaucasia took place, not at once, but gradually.
The Transcaucasian deputies, who had been elected to the Constituent Assembly, were increased in number immediately after the elections, by such unsuccessful candidates as had received the next largest number of votes joining to, form a Transcaucasian Parliament. Previously, the revolutionary organisations of the district had appointed an executive for its administration, namely, the Transcaucasian Commissariat, which assumed the character of a local government. Both these institutions quickly achieved independence of Russia, not because they repudiated the central power, but because the latter deserted the country and left it to itself. The retreating masses of the Russian Army opened all roads to the pursuing Turks.
If Transcaucasia was not to be overwhelmed by the murderous and destroying Turk, it was obliged to help itself. Its “Commissariat” entered into negotiations with the Turks and their German allies for an armistice and peace. It felt that it had been sold and betrayed by the Bolshevist Government, and therefore declined to participate in the peace negotiations of Brest-Litovsk. It believed that it could better serve the interests of the country if it pursued its own policy, independent of Russia, and in this has been justified by the event.
After the capitulation of Russia at Brest-Litovsk, the complete separation of Transcaucasia was a question of only a few weeks. On April 22nd, 1918, the Transcaucasian Republic declared its independence.
This new combination was to remain in existence only for five weeks. Its constituent parts were too diverse.
Georgia represented the leading element but, from the commencement, it had great difficulty in holding together the other national members of the confederation, the Armenians who chiefly dwell in Armenia, and the Tartars, who for the most part live in Azerbeijan.
The Armenians have no greater enemies than the Turks, and the Kurds who are related to them, who are chiefly Mohammedans. On the other hand, the people of Azerbeijan are mostly Mohammedans. They incline towards the Turks, whereas the Armenians are disposed towards any regime which shows itself ready to free them from the Turkish danger, whether it be Czarism or the Entente. Now the Georgians demanded complete neutrality, both towards the Turks and Russia, and complete independence of both. For some time the Georgians were able to recommend this policy to the two other great races of Transcaucasia. But the Armenian-Tartar antagonism was too strong. It broke up the Transcaucasian Republic in the exciting days which followed the Peace of Brest-Litovsk.
When the Turks presented an ultimatum to Transcaucasia on May 26th, 1918, the Parliament dissolved and declared the Republic to be ended. On the same day Georgia proclaimed its independence.
Its foreign policy remained the same as it was during the Transcaucasian partnership. In the declaration of independence of May 26th, it is stated
The National Council declares
(1) Henceforth the people of Georgia exercise sovereign rights over themselves.
(2) The political constitution of independent Georgia is that of a democratic republic.
(3) Georgia will maintain an attitude of constant neutrality in any international conflicts that might arise.
Hitherto Georgia has adhered steadfastly to this policy, however difficult it has been, in view of the great struggles which have been waged on its borders, and the constant temptation on the part of one or the other of the great military powers to win or compel the allied co-operation of the Republic.
The first difficulty arose immediately after the Declaration of Independence. The Turkish ultimatum placed Georgia in a desperate position. By itself it was impotent to resist the Turkish invasion. To protect itself from this invasion, it was obliged to choose the lesser of two evils. It opened the door to the German occupation, under the agreement reached in Poti, on the 28th May, between von Lossow and Tchenkeli. [Memoires on the relation between the Transcaucasian and Georgian Republic and Turkey and Germany, p.21]
The German troops came to Tiflis as protectors from the Turks, and were, therefore, cordially welcomed.
The country was important to the Germans, as a highway to the petroleum wealth of Baku, and to Persia. They came to Georgia not as plunderers but as organisers of its productive forces, as they needed the Georgian products, especially manganese, and also its railways. Thus they brought to Georgia precisely what was most lacking in the country, and what it could only obtain speedily by foreign, assistance, namely economic organisation.
The Germans have been popular in Georgia for a long time, thanks to the Wurtemberg colonists who settled there a hundred years ago as peasants and retained their nationality until to-day, earning for themselves a good reputation. The German occupation was further raised by the achievement of troops in occupation. Georgia is one of the few countries in this war where the German Armies have done propaganda work for Germany. Nevertheless, the Georgian Government decisively rejected the, overtures of the Germans to enter into an alliance with them against Soviet Russia or the Entente.
The Germans did not succeed in persuading Georgia to form an alliance with the Central Powers. The attempts of German diplomacy to involve Georgia in the Russian civil war were equally unsuccessful.
When in the autumn of 1918 a group of Russian reactionaries attempted to form an ‘Astrakhan Army’ the German Command proposed to the Georgian Government to permit the enrolment of volunteers for this army in its territory.
The Government of the Republic answered with a categorical refusal. [Woytinsky. Una vera democrazia]
The policy of Georgia underwent no change when, after the collapse of the German Army and its Allies, the Entente invaded Transcaucasia. Now it was the Entente, which sought to entangle Georgia in, the Russian Civil War, and to draw it into an alliance with Denikin against the Bolshevists. These overtures too were definitely rejected by the Georgian Government, which continued to maintain the strictest neutrality. That was not easy, as the conflicting classes in Russia adopted the attitude of who is not for us is against us.
The democratic country, which had expropriated the ground landlords, was a thorn in the side of the Generals of the counter revolution. The Republic seemed to be not less inconvenient to the men of the Soviet Republic, if for other reasons. They hated Georgian Menshevism right heartily.
Both the dictator’s who aimed at restoring Czardom, and the People’s Commissaries could not bear to think that within their orbit was a free and independent community, which would not obey the dictates of Moscow. A great part of the fighting between the Bolshevists and the white troops took place on the northern borders of Georgia. Sometimes the one and sometimes. the other side, whichever happened to be victorious, attempted to subdue the free mountain peoples of the Caucasus, and occasionally invaded Georgia, in order either to set up the re-action, or to provoke a Communist rebellion which would lead to submission to the Moscow regime.
At first it was the Bolshevists who, without any declaration of war, invaded the coastline of Georgia, in the autumn of 1918 and captured Sukhum. Georgian forces pressed them back. The Bolshevists were soon followed by Denikin’s forces, who seized the territory which had been wrested from Georgia by the former. Georgia endeavoured to negotiate, but Denikin was not disposed to do so. He advanced, but was at length thrown back, like the Bolshevists. The intervention of the English succeeded in restoring peace.
In the following year the white troops tried to subdue the mountain peoples in the northern Caucasus, who had won their independence. Georgia remained neutral, but its sympathies lay with those who had been attacked and were struggling for their freedom. It protested repeatedly against the violence of the counter-revolutionaries, and numerous Georgian volunteers fought in the ranks of the Caucasians.
A rapproachment between the Soviet Republic and Georgia began, to take place at the commencement of 1920. The People’s Commissaries proposed to the Georgian. Republic an alliance for common action against the white volunteer army. This alliance was refused, albeit the Georgian Government considered that any foreign intervention in Russia and any participation of a foreign power in the Russian civil war to be wrong and disastrous.
The Government of the Georgian Republic remained true to this attitude, and whenever an opportunity arose, opposition was offered to foreign intervention.
Although an alliance for military purposes was refused, a friendly approach to Russia was welcomed. Eventually a definite treaty of peace was made with Soviet Russia (7th May 1920) whereby both powers mutually recognised each other, and promised to live in peace and harmony.
Georgia has faithfully observed this peace, but not so the Soviet Republic. Scarcely had the latter concluded peace than its troops invaded Georgia from the side of Azerbaijan, which Soviet Russia had seized shortly before by a coup d’état. Once more the Georgians succeeded in throwing back the invading enemy, and again offered peace as soon as the beaten foe was ready for it. Scarcely had peaceful conditions been re-established than the Bolshevists organised new military invasions from the north, in order to provoke insurrections in northern Georgia. Almost at the same time (July) a Communist conspiracy was discovered in Abkhasia, having relations with the Russian Military Command, and implicating two officials belonging to the Russian Mission in Tiflis.
But all these deceits and treacheries had attained no success worthy of mention till February of 1921. This fact demonstrated the firmness as well as the circumspection and energy of the Georgian Government. It also showed the shamelessness of the Communists who were never tired of waxing indignant over the terrorism in Georgia, because a few Communist conspirators had sometimes been arrested and condemned to imprisonment, or some Communist newspaper which spread false news had been suspended for a few days.
In the few months prior to February of this year, a new storm broke over the small, but undaunted Republic. At the end of September 1920 the Turkish Nationalists invaded Armenia.
Soon Russian troops from Azerbeijan proceeded to Armenia, in order to seize the country and transform it into a vassal of Russia. Both in Armenia and Azerbaijan Russian troops assembled in a threatening guise, on the borders of Georgia. This fact compelled the latter to mobilise also.
The language of the Russian Representative in Tiflis became increasingly threatening. In the middle of December, a conspiracy was discovered in Tiflis, the object of which was to provoke street-fighting in that town, which would furnish a pretext for the invasion of Georgia by the Russian troops watching on the border, 60 kilometres from Tiflis. Among the conspirators, officials of the Russian Embassy were again discovered.
This would have justified the Georgian Government in giving Herr Scheimann, the Russian ambassador in Tiflis, his passports, but it contented itself with asking Lenin to recall Scheimann and replace him by another person, because his activities disturbed the good relations between the two States.
But Scheimann remained.
Thus at the beginning of January, the situation of the small Republic had become very troubled.
The Bolshevist invasion which threatened in the spring if the Moscow Dictators had not themselves been checked, bas now come sooner than was expected. The fate of Georgia only depended on the strength of her arms.
Last updated on 21.1.2004