J. V. Stalin

Transcaucasian Counter-revolutionaries Under a Socialist Mask

March 26 and 27, 1918

Source : Works, Vol. 4, November, 1917 - 1920
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.

Of all the border regions of the Russian Federation, Transcaucasia is presumably the most distinguished for the abundance and diversity of the nationalities it comprises. Georgians and Russians, Armenians and Azerbaijan Tatars, Turks and Lesghians, Ossetians and Abkhazians—this is a far from complete picture of the national diversity of the seven-million population of Transcaucasia.

Not one of these national groups has clearly defined national boundaries, they all live intermingled and interspersed, and not only in the towns but in the countryside as well. That, in fact, explains why the common struggle of the Transcaucasian national groups against the centre in Russia is so frequently obscured by the bitter struggle they wage among themselves. And that creates a very "convenient" opportunity to camouflage the class struggle with national flags and tinsel.

Another and no less characteristic feature of Transcaucasia is its economic backwardness. Leaving aside Baku, that industrial oasis of the region, where foreign capital provides the main impulse, Transcaucasia is an agrarian country with more or less developed commercial activity in its periphery, near the sea coast, and with still strongly rooted survivals of a purely feudal order in the centre. To this day the Tiflis, Yelizavetpol and Baku gubernias swarm with Tatar feudal beys and Georgian feudal princes, who own enormous latifundia, command special armed bands and are the arbiters of the destiny of the Tatar, Armenian and Georgian peasants. That, in fact, explains the bitter character of the agrarian "disorders" in which the discontent of the peasants frequently finds expression. It is here, too, that we must seek the reason for the weakness and uncrystallized state of the working class movement in Transcaucasia (not counting Baku), a movement which is often eclipsed by the agrarian "disorders." All this creates a favourable soil for a political coalition of the propertied classes and so-called "socialist" intellectuals, the majority of whom are of aristocratic origin, against the workers' and peasants' revolution which is now flaring up in the country.

The February revolution did not substantially alter the conditions of the labouring classes of the region. The soldiers, the most revolutionary element in the rural areas, were still away at the front. And the workers, on the whole weak as a class, owing to the economic backwardness of the region, and still not developed into a strong, organized unit, were entranced with the political liberties they had secured and apparently had no intention of going any further. The entire power remained in the hands of the propertied classes. They clung to it tightly and bided their time, gladly leaving it to the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik strategists to lull the workers and peasants with sage speeches about the bourgeois character of the Russian revolution, the un-feasibility of a socialist revolution, and so on.

The October Revolution sharply changed the situation. It upset all relationships at one stroke and raised the question of the transfer of power to the labouring classes. The cry, "All power to the workers and peasants!" reverberated like thunder through the land and roused the oppressed masses. And when this cry, launched in the North of Russia, began to be put into effect there, the propertied classes of Transcaucasia clearly perceived that the October Revolution and Soviet power spelled their inevitable doom. It therefore became a matter of life and death for them to fight the Soviet power. And the "socialist" Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary intellectuals, having already tasted of the tree of knowledge of power, now that they were faced with the prospect of losing power, automatically found themselves in alliance with the propertied classes.

Such was the origin of the anti-Soviet coalition in Transcaucasia.

The Transcaucasian Commissariat, with its Tatar beys like Khan-Khoisky and Khasmamedov, on the one hand, and Georgian aristocratic intellectuals like Jordania and Gegechkori, on the other, is the living incarnation of this anti-Soviet coalition.

For the purpose of a coalition of classes within the national groups, "National Councils"—Georgian, Tatar, Armenian—have been set up. Their moving spirit is the Menshevik Jordania.

For the purpose of a coalition of the propertied strata of all the principal Transcaucasian nationalities, a Transcaucasian Commissariat has been set up. Its leader is the Menshevik Gegechkori.

For the purpose of uniting the "whole population" of the region in the struggle against the Soviet power, a so-called "Transcaucasian Diet" has been set up, consisting of Transcaucasian Socialist-Revolutionary, Menshe-vik, Dashnak and khanite members of the Constituent Assembly. Its ornament, otherwise president, is the Menshevik Chkheidze.

Here you have both "socialism" and "national self-determination," and in addition something more real than this old tinsel, namely, a real alliance of the propertied strata against the workers' and peasants' power.

But tinsel cannot keep you going for long. An alliance demands "action." And "action" was promptly forthcoming at the first sign of real danger. We are referring to the return of the revolutionary soldiers from the Turkish Front after the peace negotiations began. These soldiers had to pass through Tiflis, the capital of the anti-Soviet coalition. In the hands of the Bolsheviks, they might have constituted a serious threat to the existence of the Transcaucasian Commissariat. A danger of a very real order. And in the face of this danger all the "socialist" tinsel was discarded. The counter-revolutionary character of the coalition became manifest. The Commissariat and the "National Councils" treacherously opened fire on and disarmed the units returning from the front, and armed savage "national" hordes. In order to lend greater firmness to the "action" and secure itself from the North, the Transcaucasian Commissariat entered into an agreement with Karaulov and Kaledin, sent the latter whole wagon-loads of cartridges, helped him to disarm those units which it had been unable to disarm by itself, and is generally supporting his fight against the Soviet power with every means at its disposal. Safeguarding the propertied classes of Transcaucasia from the revolutionary soldiers, and not shunning any means in doing so—such is the essence of this vile "policy." Inciting armed detachments of unenlightened Moslems against the Russian soldiers, luring the latter into ambushes prepared in advance and shooting and slaughtering them—such are the methods of this "policy." A consummate example of this shameful disarming "policy" was the shooting down at Shamkhor, between Yelizavetpol and Tiflis, of Russian soldiers proceeding from the Turkish Front against Kaledin.

Here is what Bakinsky Rabochy 1 reports about it:

"In the first half of January 1918, on the railway line between Tiflis and Yelizavetpol, armed bands of Moslems many thousand strong, headed by members of the Yelizavetpol Moslem National Committee and with the support of an armoured train sent by the Transcaucasian Commissariat, forcibly disarmed a number of military units leaving for Russia. Thousands of Russian soldiers were killed or mutilated; the railway line was strewn with their corpses. They were deprived of about 15,000 rifles, some 70 machine guns and a score of artillery pieces."

Such are the facts.

An alliance of the landlords and bourgeoisie against the revolutionary soldiers of Transcaucasia, operating under the official guise of Menshevism—such is the meaning of these facts.

We consider it necessary to cite some excerpts from articles in Bakinsky Rabochy dealing with the Yelizavet-pol-Shamkhor events.

"The Mensheviks are trying to conceal the truth about the Yelizavetpol events. Even Znamya Truda, the organ of their allies of yesterday, the Tiflis Socialist-Revolutionaries, notes their attempts to ‘hush up the matter' and demands a public debate on the question in the regional centre.

"We welcome this demand of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, because the future fate of the revolution in Transcaucasia will largely depend on whether or not the men responsible for the Shamkhor tragedy are officially exposed and full light is shed on the events of January 6-12.

"We declare that the man chiefly responsible for the Yelizavetpol events is the one-time leader of the Caucasian Social-Democrats and the now so-called ‘father of the Georgian nation'— Noah Nikolayevich Jordania. It was under his chairmanship that the presidium of the regional centre resolved to disarm the troop trains and arm national regiments with their weapons. It was he who signed the telegram sent to the Yelizavetpol Moslem National Committee ordering the disarmament of the troop trains held up near Shamkhor. It was he, Noah Jordania, who sent delegations from Tiflis with similar instructions to disarm the troop trains. This was officially stated by the soldier Krupko, member of a delegation, at a largely attended meeting of the Civilian Committee in Yelizavetpol. It was Noah Jordania and his always over-zealous assistant, N. Ramishvili, who sent the armoured train under the command of Abkhazava, who distributed arms to the Moslems and helped them in shooting thousands of soldiers and disarming the troop trains.

"Noah Jordania is trying to exculpate himself and affirms that he did not sign the telegram. Dozens of people, Armenians and Moslems, declare that the telegram was signed by him, and this telegram exists. Jordania says that when he learned of the complications he telephoned to Abkhazava and requested him to refrain from forcibly disarming the troop trains and to let them pass through. Abkhazava was killed, and this statement cannot be verified, but we are prepared to grant that Jordania did talk with him. . . .

"But apart from a dead man, on whom, as the saying goes, all blame can be thrown, there are living witnesses who deny Jordania's testimony and corroborate the address of the telegram, Jordania's signature, the sending of a delegation with instructions to disarm the soldiers, etc.

"If they are not telling the truth why does Jordania not take action against them? Why does he and his friends want to ‘hush up the matter'?

"No, citizens Jordania, Ramishvili and Co., it is upon you that lies the grim responsibility for the blood of the thousands of soldiers killed on January 7-12.

"Can you exonerate yourselves of this heinous crime? But we are not concerned with any personal exoneration.

"Jordania interests us in this case not as a person, but as the leader of the party which decides the policy in Transcaucasia, as the most authoritative and responsible representative of the Transcaucasian government.

"He perpetrated his criminal act, firstly, by decision of the presidium of the regional centre and the Inter-National Council, and, secondly, with the undoubted knowledge of the Transcauca-sian Commissariat. The charge we hurl at Jordania extends to the whole Menshevik Party, to the regional centre and the Transcaucasian Commissariat, where Messrs. Chkhenkeli and Ge-gechkori, acting in a close and open bloc with the Moslem beys and khans, are doing everything to kill the revolution. We mention Jordania and Ramishvili because their names are linked with the telegrams and orders and the dispatch of the ‘bandit' armoured train. It is with them that the investigation for the elucidation of the truth should begin.

"And there are other names which must be mentioned; there is another criminal nest that must be wiped out. This is the Moslem National Committee in Yelizavetpol, made up entirely of reactionary beys and khans, which on the evening of January 7, on the basis of Jordania's telegram, resolved to disarm the troop trains ‘at all costs,' and with incredible shamelessness and blood-thirstiness carried out its resolve on January 9-12.

"The Menshevik press is trying to represent the Yelizavetpol events as nothing more than one of the ‘bandit' raids on a railway usual in Transcaucasia. That is a most shameless lie!

"It was not bandits, but thousands of Moslem civilians, officially directed by the Moslem National Committee, lured by the prospect of rich booty and confident that they were acting on the orders of the Transcaucasian authorities, who did the criminal work at Shamkhor and Dallyar. The Moslem National Committee openly massed thousands of Moslems in Yelizavetpol, armed them, entrained them at Yelizavetpol station and sent them to Shamkhor. And when the ‘victory' was won, eye-witnesses say, ‘Socialist-Revolutionary' Safikyurdsky triumphantly rode into the town sitting astride a gun captured from the ‘enemy' and escorted by other heroes from the Moslem Committee.

"What talk then can there be of bandit raids?" (Bakinsky Rabochy, Nos. 30 and 31.)

So much for the chief heroes of this criminal adventure.

And here are documents exposing the men behind it:

Telegram to All Soviets from N. Jordania, Chairman of the Regional Centre of the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies, on the Disarming of Troop Trains

"To all the Transcaucasian Soviets.

"From Tiflis. No. 505, a. Accepted: 6.1.1918, disp. No. 56363. Received: Naumov. 59 words. Delivered: 5-28-24. Circular.

"In view of the fact that military units leaving for Russia are taking their weapons with them and that in the event of the armistice breaking down the national units may find themselves without sufficient arms to defend the front, the regional centre of the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies has resolved to request all Soviets to take measures to deprive the departing units of their weapons and to report each such action to the regional centre.

"Jordania, Chairman of Regional Centre."

Telegram From Captain Abkhasava to Magalov, Commander, Tatar Cavalry Regiment


"To Commander Magalov, Tatar Cavalry Regiment, from Dzegam. No. 42. Accepted: 7.1.1918 from Zhu No. 1857. Received: Vata. 30 words. Delivered: 7th, 15.00 hours.

"Five armed troop trains and a gun on the way. They have seized representatives of the Soviet. Am proceeding by an armoured train to give resistance. Request assistance with all arms.

"Captain Abkhazava

"Ds. Shatirashvili."

(Bakinsky Rabochy, No. 33.)

Such are the documents.

Thus, in the course of the events the "socialist" tinsel dropped away and gave place to the counter-revolutionary "actions" of the Transcaucasian Commissariat. Chkheidze, Gegechkori and Jordania are only using their party flag to cover up the abominations of the Transcaucasian Commissariat. The logic of facts is stronger than all other logic.

In disarming the Russian soldiers arriving from the front, and thus fighting the "external" revolutionaries, the counter-revolutionary Transcaucasian Commissariat hoped to kill two birds with one stone: on the one hand, it was destroying a serious revolutionary force, a Russian revolutionary army on which, chiefly, the Bolshevik Committee of the region might rely; on the other, it was obtaining in this way the "necessary" weapons for arming the Georgian, Armenian and Moslem national regiments, which constitute the chief support of the counter-revolutionary Menshevik Commissariat. War against "external" revolutionaries was thus intended to ensure "civil peace" in Transcaucasia. And Messrs. Gegech-kori and Jordania carried out this treacherous policy the more resolutely the more secure they felt their "rear, " that is, from the direction of the North Caucasus, with its Kaledins and Filimonovs.

But the course of events upset all the calculations of the Transcaucasian counter-revolutionaries.

The fall of Rostov and Novocherkassk, which had been the refuges of Kaledin and Kornilov, thoroughly shattered the "northern rear." It was liquidated altogether when the whole North Caucasian railway was cleared all the way to Baku. The tide of Soviet revolution sweeping down from the North unceremoniously invaded the kingdom of the Transcaucasian coalition and menaced its existence.

Things developed just as "unfavourably" within Transcaucasia itself.

The Transcaucasian soldiers returning from the front spread the agrarian revolution through the countryside. The mansions of Moslem and Georgian landlords began to go up in flames. The pillars of the feudal survivals were vigorously attacked by the "Bolshevized" soldier-peasants. Evidently, the Transcaucasian Commissariat's empty promises to turn over the land to the peasants could no longer satisfy the peasants swept by the agrarian tide. Action was demanded of it—and revolutionary, not counter-revolutionary action.

Nor did the workers lag behind events; they could not. Firstly, the revolution sweeping down from the North and bringing new gains to the workers naturally roused the Transcaucasian proletariat to a new struggle. Even the workers of sleepy Tiflis, that stronghold of Menshevik counter-revolution, began to turn their backs on the Transcaucasian Commissariat and declare in favour of Soviet power. Secondly, after the triumph of the Soviets in the North Caucasus, which under Kaledin and Filimonov had supplied Tiflis with grain, the food shortage was bound to become more acute, and this naturally provoked a number of food "riots"—revolutionary North Caucasus categorically refuses to feed counter-revolutionary Tiflis. Thirdly, the shortage of currency notes (coupons are no substitute!) disrupted economic life, and primarily railway transport, which undoubtedly added to the discontent of the urban masses. Lastly, revolutionary proletarian Baku, which recognized the Soviet power from the very first days of the October Revolution and is waging an indefatigable struggle against the Transcaucasian Commissariat, kept the Transcaucasian proletariat active and served as an infectious example, as a living beacon illuminating the path to socialism.

All this, taken together, could not but revolutionize the whole political situation in Transcaucasia. So much so, that in the end even the "most reliable" national regiments began to be "disaffected" and to pass over to the Bolsheviks.

The Transcaucasian Commissariat was faced with the alternatives:

Either to side with the workers and peasants against the landlords and capitalists, which would mean the collapse of the coalition.

Or to wage a determined fight against the peasants and the working class movement in order to preserve the coalition with the landlords and capitalists.

Messrs. Jordania and Gegechkori chose the latter course.

To begin with, the Transcaucasian Commissariat branded the agrarian movement of the Georgian and Tatar peasants as "banditry" and "hooliganism," and began to arrest and shoot the "ringleaders."

For the landlords against the peasants!

Next, the Commissariat banned all the Bolshevik newspapers in Tiflis, and began to arrest and shoot workers who protested against this outrage.

For the capitalists against the workers!

Lastly, things have gone so far that Messrs. Jor-dania and Gegechkori are encouraging Armenian-Tatar massacres, evidently as a "lightning conductor"—a disgrace to which even the Cadets have not yet sunk!

The Transcaucasian Commissariat, the Transcau-casian Diet and the "National Councils" against the workers and peasants—that is the meaning of the "new" course.

Thus, the Transcaucasian counter-revolutionaries are furthering and supplementing their fight against the "external" revolutionaries, the Russian soldiers, with a fight against the internal revolutionaries, "their own" workers and peasants.

A very interesting illustration of this "change of front" in the policy of the Transcaucasian coalitionists is to be found in a letter received the other day by the Council of People's Commissars from a comrade in the Caucasus, an eye-witness of the counter-revolutionary excesses of Messrs. Gegechkori and Jordania. I shall reproduce it in full and without alteration. Here it is:

"Further incidents have occurred here in the past few days, and the situation is now very serious. On the morning of February 9 four of our comrades were arrested, among them a member of the now Bolshevik Committee, F. Kalandadze. Warrants were issued for the arrest of other comrades: Filipp Makharadze, Nazaretyan, Shaverdov and other members of the regional committee. Only Mikha Tskhakaya was spared, presumably because of his illness. All have gone underground. This was accompanied by the banning of our newspapers, Kavkazsky Rabochy, Brdzola (Georgian), and Banvori Kriv (Armenian), and the sealing up of our printing plant.

"This aroused the indignation of the workers. That same day, the 9th, a meeting was held in the railway shops, attended by some three thousand workers. They decided unanimously, with only four abstentions, to declare a strike in support of the demand for the release of the comrades and the removal of the ban on the newspapers. It was decided to stay out until the demands were met. But the strike was only partial. The out-and-out Menshevik gang, who did not raise objections at the meeting and did not vote against, went on working. That same day there was a meeting of compositors and printers, who decided by 226 votes to 190 to hold a one-day protest strike in support of the same demands. More unanimous were the strike decisions of the electricians, leather workers, tailors, the arsenal shops, and the Tolle, Zarga-ryants and other factories.

"The indignation was shared by the townsfolk. But the next day, February 10, an incident occurred which caused the arrests and the newspapers to be forgotten.

"The strike committee of the railway and other workers had appointed a protest meeting for that day, on the 10th, in the morning, to be held in the Alexander Gardens. Despite the measures taken to prevent the meeting, more than 3,000 workers and soldiers turned out (there were not many soldiers because the troop trains are located 15 versts from the city). Kavtaradze, Makhara-dze, Nazaretyan and other comrades who had gone into hiding also appeared at the meeting. While the meeting was in progress militiamen and ‘Red Guards' (about two companies strong) entered the gardens. Carrying red banners, and making reassuring gestures, they stole up to the gathering.

"Part of the public who were already intending to disperse decided to stay on, taking the newcomers for sympathizers, and even greeted them with cheers. Chairman Kavtaradze was about to stop the speaker on the platform in order to welcome the newcomers, when the latter suddenly formed a cordon, surrounded the meeting and opened fierce fire with rifles and machine guns. They aimed chiefly at the presidium on the platform. Eight persons were killed and more than twenty wounded. A comrade who resembled Kav-taradze and was dressed like him received ten bullets and was killed, and the ‘Red Guards' shouted to one another that Kavtaradze was killed. Part of the public dispersed, the rest dropped to the ground. The firing continued about a quarter of an hour.

"At this very moment the first session of the enlarged Trans-caucasian Diet had just opened, and Chkheidze was addressing it to the accompaniment of the rifles and machine guns which were blazing away right near the palace.

"This massacre, started so treacherously and without warning, has aroused fresh indignation among the workers, and I think that it has finally and definitely estranged them from the Men-sheviks.

"Nazaretyan and Tsintsadze were overtaken after the meeting and led away to be shot, but they were saved by Merkhalev, a Socialist-Revolutionary. The Socialist-Revolutionaries are ‘indignant,' are protesting and so on. The Dashnaktsakans are indignant too, and so is the whole town. But nothing can be done. They have brought in from the country districts armed ‘'Red Guards' and a Moslem Savage Division and are running riot. They are publicly threatening to shoot all our leading comrades. The day the meeting was fired on, many officers appeared in the town wearing white armlets. They were whiteguards who began to scour the city looking for Bolsheviks. They took one man who looked like Shaumyan off a tram car and shot him point blank. They shouted out that it was Shaumyan, but they were disappointed.

"Yesterday, the 11th, a meeting was held at the troop trains at which some of our comrades were present. There are about 6,000 soldiers there, but without artillery. They decided to demand the release of the arrested comrades, the removal of the ban on our newspapers and an investigation of the incident of the 10th (the firing on the meeting, at which, incidentally, one of the soldiers from these troop trains was killed). Yesterday they sent a delegation with an ultimatum, and gave 24 hours for a reply.

"The time limit expires today. It is reported that the Commissariat is massing forces for resistance. I have no details yet. The responsible comrades are not returning from the troop trains yet, because they fear that they may be arrested on the way; they have been elected to the Revolutionary Military Committee of the troop trains there. I am awaiting more detailed information.

"A meeting of the City Duma has been appointed for tomorrow. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Dashnaks will make a protest; we shall have our representatives there too. The city is in a state of deep alarm. Women demonstrated today outside the Duma in connection with the food shortage which has begun to make itself felt. Lightning meetings are being held everywhere in the city. A peasant movement is breaking out all over Georgia under the influence of the Georgian soldiers returning from Russia, who are all either Bolsheviks or pro-Bolsheviks. The Menshe-viks say it is a movement of rioters and bandits, and are sending ‘Red Guards' to suppress it. Some of our comrades in Gori have been arrested. It is reported today that our soldiers there have been disarmed and that shootings have already begun. There is information from Kutais that the town is in the hands of the Bolsheviks, headed by Budu Mdivani. The Mensheviks have massed forces there from all parts. I have had no reply yet from the messengers we sent; I expect it any minute. Yesterday a Bolshevik, the old Tsertsvadze, was arrested in Mukhrani; he had gone there in connection with the peasant action which was expected yesterday against the Mukhrani princes and the crown estates.

"Nine men have been arrested and are at present imprisoned in the Metekhi. Because of these arrests, the Socialist-Revolutionary Red Guards who guarded this prison have refused to do so any longer and have offered us their services.

"Yesterday the strike committee of representatives from the enterprises I enumerated at the beginning of this letter issued an appeal for a general strike. Today it is being discussed everywhere. We shall see what stuff the Tiflis proletariat is made of.

"At the opening of the Diet on February 10 only the Men-sheviks (there are 37 of them) and one Moslem were present—and nobody else. The Moslem deputy asked for the sitting to be adjourned to the 13th, which was done. The Dashnaks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries will probably also send their deputies."

That is the "picture."

It is hard to say whether this counter-revolutionary Commissariat, on which history has already passed sentence of death, can go on existing much longer. This, at any rate, the very near future will show. One thing, however, is certain: the recent events have definitely torn the socialist mask from the faces of the Menshevik social-counter-revolutionaries, and the whole revolutionary world can now clearly see that in the Transcau-casian Commissariat and its appendages, the "Diet" and "National Councils," we are faced with a most vicious counter-revolutionary bloc directed against the workers and peasants of Transcaucasia.

Such are the facts.

Well, and everyone knows that talk and tinsel are short-lived, but facts and deeds live on. . . .

Signed : J. Stalin

Pravda, Nos. 55 and 56, March 26 and 27, 1918


1.Bakinsky Rabochy (Baku Worker) — organ of the Baku Bolshevik organization. Issues appeared in 1906, in September and October 1908, and from April 1917 to August 1918. On July 25, 1920, after the victory of Soviet power in Azerbaijan, the newspaper resumed publication under the name Azerbaijanskaya Bednota (Azerbaijan Poor), but resumed its former name on November 7, 1920. It is now the organ of the Central Committee and Baku Committee of the Azerbaijan Communist Party (Bolsheviks).