J. V. Stalin

Comrade G. Telia 1

In Memoriam

March 22, 1907

Source : Works, Vol. 2, 1907 - 1913
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

Excessive eulogy of departed comrades has become a custom in our Party circles. The hushing up of the weak sides and the exaggeration of positive sides is a characteristic feature of obituary notices today. That, of course, is an unwise custom. We do not wish to follow it. We wish to say only what is true about Comrade G. Telia; we want to present Telia to our readers as he was in reality. And reality tells us that Comrade G. Telia, an advanced working man and an active Party worker, was a man of irreproachable character and of inestimable value for the Party. All that which most of all characterises the Social-Democratic Party—thirst for knowledge, independence, undeviating progress, staunchness, industry and moral strength—all combined in the person of Comrade Telia. Telia personified the best features of the proletarian. That is not an exaggeration. The following brief biography of him will prove this.

Comrade Telia was not a "scholar." He learned to read and write by his own efforts and became class conscious. Leaving the village of Chagani (Telia was born in the village of Chagani, Kutais Uyezd), he obtained a job as a domestic servant in Tiflis. Here he learned to speak Russian and acquired a passion for reading books. He quickly grew tired of being a domestic servant and soon got a job in the carpenters' shop at the railway workshops. These workshops rendered Comrade Telia a great service. They were his school; there he became a Social-Democrat; there he was steeled and became a staunch fighter; there he came to the front as a capable and class-conscious worker.

In 1900-01 Telia already stood out among the advanced workers as an esteemed leader. He had known no rest since the demonstration in Tiflis in 1901. 2 Ardent propaganda, the formation of organisations, attendance at important meetings, persevering effort in socialist self-education—to that he devoted all his spare time. He was hunted by the police, who searched for him "with lanterns," but it only served to redouble his energy and ardour in the struggle. Comrade Telia was the inspirer of the 1903 demonstration (in Tiflis). 3 The police were hot on his heels, but, notwithstanding this, he hoisted the flag and delivered a speech. After that demonstration he passed entirely underground. In that year, on the instructions of the organisation, he began to "travel" from one town to another in Transcaucasia. In that same year, on the instructions of the organisation, he went to Batum to organise a secret printing plant, but he was arrested at the Batum station with the equipment for this printing plant in his possession and soon after he was sent to the Kutais prison. That marked the beginning of a new period in his "restless" life. The eighteen months of imprisonment were not lost on Telia. The prison became his second school. Constant study, the reading of socialist books and participation in discussions markedly increased his stock of knowledge. Here his indomitable revolutionary character, which many of his comrades envied, was definitely moulded. But the prison also left on him the impress of death, this prison infected him with a fatal disease (consumption), which carried our splendid comrade to his grave.

Telia was aware of the fatal state of his health, but this did not daunt him. The only thing that troubled him was "sitting in idleness and inaction." "How I long for the day when I shall be free and do what I want to do, see the masses again, put myself in their embrace and begin to serve them!"—that is what our comrade dreamed of during his confinement in jail. The dream came true. Eighteen months later he was transferred to the "little" Kutais prison, from which he forthwith made his escape and appeared in Tiflis. At that time a split was taking place in the Party. Comrade Telia then belonged to the Mensheviks, but he did not in the least resemble the "official" Mensheviks who regard Menshevism as their "Koran," who regard themselves as the faithful and the Bolsheviks as infidels. Nor did Telia resemble those "advanced" workers who pose as "born Social-Democrats," and being utter ignoramuses shout in their comical way: We are workers—we don't need any knowledge! The characteristic feature of Comrade Telia was precisely that he rejected factional fanaticism, that he utterly despised blind imitation and wanted to think everything out for himself. That is why, after escaping from prison, he at once pounced upon the books: Minutes of the Second Congress, Martov's State of Siege, and Lenin's What Is To Be Done? and One Step Forward. It was a sight to see Telia, his face pale and emaciated, poring over these books and to hear him say with a smile: "I can see it's not such an easy matter to decide whether to be a Bolshevik or a Menshevik; until I have studied these books my Menshevism is built on sand." And so, after studying the necessary literature, after pondering over the controversies between the Bolsheviks and the Men-sheviks, after weighing everything up, and only after that, Comrade Telia said: "Comrades, I am a Bolshevik. As it looks to me, whoever is not a Bolshevik is certainly betraying the revolutionary spirit of Marxism."

After that he became an apostle of revolutionary Marxism (Bolshevism). In 1905, on the instructions of the organisation, he went to Baku. There he set up a printing plant, improved the work of the district organisations, was an active member of the leading body and wrote articles for Proletariatis Brdzola 4 —such was the work Comrade Telia performed. During the well-known police raid he, too, was arrested, but here too he "slipped away" and again hastened to Tiflis. After working in the leading organisation of Tiflis for a short time he attended the All-Russian Conference of Bolsheviks in Tammerfors in 1905. His impressions of that conference are interesting. He viewed the Party's future with great hope and he used to say with glistening eyes: I shall not begrudge my last ounce of strength for this Party. The unfortunate thing, however, was that immediately on his return from Russia he took to his bed, never to rise from it again. Only now did he commence serious literary activity. During his illness he wrote: "What We Need" (see Akhali Tskhovreba), 5 "Old and New Corpses" (a reply to Archil Jordjadze), "Anarchism and Social-Democracy,"* "Why We Are Called Blanquists," and others.

A few days before he died he wrote to us that he was working on a pamphlet on the history of Social-Democracy in the Caucasus, but cruel death prematurely tore the pen out of the hand of our tireless comrade.

Such is the picture of Comrade Telia's short but stormy life.

Amazing capabilities, inexhaustible energy, independence, profound love for the cause, heroic determination and apostolic talent—that is what characterised Comrade Telia.

Men like Telia are met with only in the ranks of the proletariat; only the proletariat gives birth to heroes like Telia; and the proletariat will take revenge on the accursed system to which our comrade, the working man G. Telia, fell a victim.


Dro (Time), No. 10, March 22, 1907


1. G. P. Telia was born in 1880 and died in Sukhum on March 19 1907. He was buried on March 25 in the village of Chagani, Kutais Uyezd.

2. This refers to the First of May demonstration of the Tiflis workers which took place on April 22, 1901, under the direct leadership of J. V. Stalin. The demonstration was held in the Soldatsky market place, in the central part of Tiflis and about 2,000 persons took part in it. During the demonstration a clash occurred with the police and troops. Fourteen workers were injured and over 50 were arrested. Reporting the Tiflis demonstration, Lenin's Iskra stated: "The events that occurred on Sunday April 22 (Old Style) in Tiflis are of historical significance for the whole of the Caucasus: on that day the open revolutionary movement commenced in the Caucasus" (Iskra, No. 6, July 1901).

3. On February 23, 1903, in conformity with the decision adopted by the Tiflis Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., a demonstration of Tiflis workers was held. About 6,000 persons took part in the demonstration, which ended in a collision with troops; 150 persons were arrested.

4. Proletariatis Brdzola (The Proletarian Struggle)—an illegal Georgian newspaper, the organ of the Caucasian Union of the R.S.D.L.P. (see J. V. Stalin, Works, Vol . 1, p. 398, Note 21).

5. Akhali Tskhovreba (New Life)—a Georgian daily Bolshevik newspaper published in Tiflis from June 20 to July 14, 1906. Twenty issues appeared. The paper was directed by J. V. Stalin. M. Davitashvili, G. Telia, G. Kikodze and others were regular contributors.