Georgia Left to Its Own Devices
04 November, 2010
Georgia Left to Its Own Devices

On the 16th of March of 1921, the last sitting of Georgia’s Founding Assembly (parliament) was held which resolved that the members leave Georgia. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.
GJ – In the duration of one week, the Russian troops which had managed to enter Tbilisi without any fight could not even move in any direction. But as soon as they started believing that they would not be faced with any organized confrontation neither in the west nor in the

south of Georgia, they decided to move deeper into the country. There must not have been left much until the time of complete occupation of Georgia by the Bolshevik Russia . . .

SM – Round about the 7th of March of 1921, the Russian and the Turkish military forces found themselves confronted in the vicinity of Akhaltsikhe in south-west Georgia. It turned out that they both had their own claims toward Georgia, and the danger of a military confrontation between them was quite realistic. This fact had seriously scared the Russian military leadership which wired the bad news to Moscow immediately. The news had a bad effect on Lenin who contacted Zhordania in Kutaisi and offered him to form a coalition government.

GJ – Does this mean that Lenin was ready to sign the armistice? 
SM – As it seems, the Russians had not entered West Georgia by that time. Sokhumi (Apkhazeti) fell on the 4th of March, but they were not able to make any further progress. The chance of turning the Russian-Turkish confrontation into a real war was becoming a stronger reality. The situation was strained in the north Caucasus too. The Region was living in the regime of a permanent tension. In this situation, neither the Azeris were terribly tolerant towards the Russians. When we say that the Russians were scared, we should take one special circumstance into account: When the Russian army withdrew from Tbilisi and moved towards west to Surami, the Bolsheviks had immediately lost control over Tbilisi. Why do I think so? On the 6th of March the burial ceremony of the Junkers who perished at Kojori (the 18-year-old sister of charity Maro Maqashvili among them) was declared in Tbilisi. The entire nation was out in the streets. The central part of the country’s capital was blocked. The dead were being buried with the honors usually bestowed to heroes. Please make note that the ceremony was taking place in the central square downtown Tbilisi, in front of today’s parliament building. The newspapers were full with memorial poems and obituaries which sounded as Russia’s condemnation and patriotic calls against her. And Russians could not do a thing to defy all that. Stalin’s classmate Soso Iremashvili recollects in his memoir that among thousands of mourners standing in the street, he saw Stalin’s mother Ekaterine Geladze. He came up to her and told her that it was her son’s fault that the country had found itself in a terrible situation like that. Ekaterine had no answer. This meant that she was not at all celebrating her son’s invasion of Georgia with the help of the Bolshevik Red Guard. Rather, she was mourning the death of those who had fought against her son in defense of Georgia against Russian Bolsheviks. This was a very serious act of protest. I have another story for you. Stalin visited Georgia soon after its occupation. He organized a meeting in the Nadzaladevi district of Tbilisi, which used to be the most worker-populated area of the capital city where he had an encounter with the railway workers. These were the people who were charged with communist and Bolshevik ideas more than any other part of Georgia’s population, but it was this same people who had interrupted Stalin’s speech. They booed him as a traitor and Judas. Stalin would never have escaped alive if the guards had not used their skills in good time. Stalin fled them, thus saving his life. That particular evening, Stalin told the Georgian Bolsheviks and his fellow occupants that Georgia had to be razed to the ground, and a little later, it should be cut open to eradicate all the weeds growing inside it. Stalin issued an order to treat Georgia as severely as possible. All I have just told you speaks volumes about the feeling of Georgia’s population for the Bolsheviks occupants.

GJ – Let’s follow up the events one by one in a chronological order: Zhordania rejected Lenin’s proposal about the creation of a coalition government. Why do you think he did that, and was it a good decision or a bad one? 
SM – There is only one explanation of his decision: he probably relied on the possibility of the Russian-Turkish confrontation in which case Russia would hardly have cared what was happening to Georgia. On the other hand, Zhodrania could have saved at least West Georgia from the Bolshevik invasion had he agreed to the creation of the coalition government and also, if he had declared the mobilization. Meanwhile, the Russian-Turkish conflict could have aggravated and the processes might have developed to the benefit of Georgia. But the fact was that Zhordania had refused to create the coalition government. On the 8th of March, Turkey gave green light to Russia for entering Achara (‘Adjaria’ as Russians want to spell and pronounce it) via the Goderdzi cross-over. It is notable that they could not manage to do the job for the entire eight days. Step by step, fell Samegrelo, Imereti, Racha. Russians were not faced with any actual confrontation whatsoever. The Georgian government moved gradually to Samtredia (west Georgia) and later to Batumi. On the 16th of March, the final Founding Assembly (parliament) sitting was held in Batumi. The meeting came up with the resolution for the government to abandon Georgia. It was exactly then – March 16 – that the alliance agreement between Russia and Turkey was signed in Moscow, in compliance with which the former regions of Batumi and Qarsi were ceded by Russia to Turkey. The same day, there were signed the armistice agreement between Russia & Britain and between Russia & Poland.
GJ – What was stipulated in the Russian-British agreement?
SM – Russia was practically returning to capitalism. Britain was regaining its economic positions. Russia would have done this anyway because of its catastrophic economic situation. And Britain was promising not to get involved into war against Russia. You see, Britain had not promised Russia to refrain from war against her until the Zhordania government made a decision to leave Georgia. Starting from the 16th of March, the world political situation was arranged so that in case of continued Russian-Georgian confrontation, Georgia would be left to its own devices.
GJ – There was not even a potential ally seen on the horizon for Georgia, right?
SM – The situation was very interesting at that time in Russia. By the end of February and beginning of March of 1921, the revolt of the Baltic Sea Fleet sailors erupted in St. Petersburg. This was a navy of many thousands of personnel, and losing Petersburg by the Bolsheviks became imminent. All the above mentioned events had started after February 25. That is to say that in the period between February 25 and March 16 Bolsheviks were under the threat of losing St. Petersburg. Russia wanted but would not dare sign the alliance agreement with Turkey: she badly needed to sign the agreement with Britain, but Britain was hesitant; Russia lost Yerevan. Do you now understand how and why it was not right to abandon Tbilisi? 

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