Georgian Democratic Republic & Russian White Movement
10 September, 2010
Georgian Democratic Republic & Russian White Movement

In 1918, 1919 and 1920 the Georgian military units were compelled to confront the Russian general Denikin's forces on the one hand and the Bollshevik forces on the other. Those forces alternated with each other. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more  to say.



GJ - May 26 of 1918 is stipulated in history as the birthday of the Georgian independent democratic republic although the Georgian independent state had lasted only three years, and even those three years were politically very strained.

In addition to that, Georgia was permanently fighting the military forces of various countries. And the Menshevik government made plenty of mistakes in the process of building a new country, which resulted in the dramatic events finalized by the annexation of Georgia by the Bolshevik Russia. What was the actual situation like? What were the first steps made by the independent state of Georgia? 

SM - As I said, the national Council elected Noah Ramishvili a chairman of the Georgian government on May 26 of 1918. He was the most nationalist-minded politician among the Georgian Mensheviks. This fact must have seriously irritated most of the Georgian partocracy.

GJ - Which partocracy do you mean?

SM - I mean the social-democrats who came to power and grabbed the reigns of ruling the country. Just in a month's time after the election, commander-in-chief of the people's guard Valiko Jugeli sent a message to chairman Noah Ramishvili to immediately retire or else his guard would enter Tbilisi and depose him by force. At least, this is what the legend has, but the story has a very realistic sounding. Valiko Jugeli was not subordinated to the ministry of defense of Georgia. He represented the force which the Menshvik party of Georgia was relying on and the orders of which he would obey unquestionably. Noah Ramishvili had retired indeed and was substituted by the former chairman of the Georgian National Council Noah Zhordania. He was more loyal to Russia than his predecessor, giving preference to socialist ideals compared to nationalist ones. Very soon in the summer of 1918, the situation became strained at the Russia-Georgian border, namely in Abkhazeti (Abkhazia). Russians made an attempt to invade Abkhazeti. In 1918, 1919 and 1920 the Georgian military units were compelled to confront the Russian general Denikin's forces on the one hand and the Bolshevik forces on the other.

GJ - When you say Denikin's forces you probably mean the Russian White Guard. Can you briefly explain what the White Guard means?

SM - That was the politico-military force of the Russian White Movement which unsuccessfully fought the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. When Kerenski's provisional government was ousted in St. Petersburg in Russia, the power went to Bolsheviks, alias communists. But this happened only in St. Petersburg, the Capital of Russia. 75% of the territory of what is now the Russian federation was found in the hands of the Bolsheviks' opponents, but that was not exactly a unified force. Somewhere the Mensheviks and the SR's (Socialist Revolutionary Party) took over - they were the winners in the elections of the Founding Assembly of the first Russian parliament although they lasted only one day - they were kicked out from St. Petersburg by the Bolsheviks. In some corners of Russia the Cossack atamans were the leaders. In other places the monarchists had the power, and still somewhere else - the Cadets (Constitutional Democrats). Those were the dispersed and isolated forces. Centralization of the anticommunist movement in Russia took place only in November of 1918 when Germany was defeated in the First World War and England, France and America got involved more actively in the Russian internal affairs. In other words, until the Triple Entente member countries (United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) were engaged in the war with Germany, Russia so to speak, was left to her own devices, and the international powers had not much of an influence on her, excluding Germany, with which the Bolshevik Russia arranged truce in Brest on March 3 of 1918.

GJ - What did the truce envisage?

SM - With that truce, Russia ceded the entire Baltic Sea coast countries, Belarus, Bessarabia and Ukraine to Germany. There were many other issues though, which Russia was at that moment induced to handle in favor of Germany.

GJ - How are these two phenomena connected - the consolidation of anti-Bolshevik movement and the international influence on Russia?

SM - These two things are directly associated. There was no power looming in Russia which could have consolidated anti-Bolshevik movement there. That's why this role was supposed to be played by an external power - another country. For the White Russian General Denikin and the selfsame Russian Founding Assembly members, the Bolshevik-made Brest Truce with Germany was not acceptable. Had they won the confrontation with Bolsheviks, they would have cancelled the Brest Truce, thus declaring the act of ceding the Russian Empire territories to Germany null and void. This would have certainly been against the German will. This is why between March and November of 1918 the Bolsheviks were the most acceptable force for the Germans. The Triple Entente member countries had no time to deal with Russia at that moment. Hence there was lack of readiness for consolidating the anti-Bolshevik forces. In November of 1918, Britain and France brought to Tomsk of Siberia Admiral Kolchak, the former scientist.

They assisted him in every possible way to let him establish his dictatorship there. Kolchak declared himself a supreme ruler of Russia, and he was recognized by every member of the Triple Entente as a de jure ruler of Russia. Thus the White Movement leaders, Generals Kolchak and Vrangel were considered by the West as de jure heads of state of Russia between November of 1918 and March of 1921 - until signing the trade agreement between the Russia's Bolshevik government and England. And the agreement itself meant the actual recognition of the Russian Bolshevik government on part of Britain.

GJ - You said that the government of the independent Georgia and its military units were compelled to fight at the Russian-Georgian border with the White Guard as well as with Bolsheviks . . .

SM - In being against Georgia, both the White Movement and the Bolsheviks were unanimous.

GJ - What they were unanimous about? About keeping Georgia part of the Russian Empire?

SM - Just as Poland, Baltic Sea coast countries, Finland, Ukraine and Belarus! In 1920, the West which was helping Denikin and Kolchak against Bolsheviks, suggested to Poland and Finland to strengthen the help to the Russian White Guard generals in exchange of the independence those countries had acquired with the help of the West. Poland and Finland had categorically refused to do so. In consequence, the West had finally lost the desire and readiness to provide any help to the Russian White Guard because if they defeated the Bolsheviks, they would again raise the issue of restoring the Russian Empire.

GJ - Which was very much beyond the plans of the West, wasn't it?

SM - Of course!

 

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