Russia's attitude towards Georgian independence (1918-1921) (Part III)
26/10/2010 13:22
Vasil Kvirikashvili
Experts' Club

(see part I)

... Against this background attention is attracted by a speech made by Noe Zhordania at the session of the Constituent Assembly of April 30th 1920: "Letting Bolshevism in our country and its reign here - said he – means us becoming Azerbaijan, domination of Bolshevik-Islamic imperialism in Georgia. Embarking on the road of Azerbaijan, accepting its political belief means to bury free and democratic Georgia for good. It means that Georgia will be detached from Europe for good and will find itself in the hands of Asian fanatics". Official announcement of the first person of the country and in such a form at that demanded passing of the relevant document by the legislative body. A hope was expressed in the approved document that at the time this trial population of the republic and armed forces would unite around the government and would defend interests of its independence.

As the situation was especially serious leaders of the Georgian state considered it important to make international organizations aware of state of the matter. According to the decree of the presidium of the central committee of the Social-Democratic Labour Party of Georgia of April 27th 1920 a special message was sent to the Second International, International Union Bureau and socialist parties of all countries. This was very important in the light that through them public and political opinion of Western Europe would once again officially confirm their opposition towards Bolskevik Russia and its support towards Georgia. All the more that the issue of de-jure recognition of Georgia was on the agenda. Despite this, with regards to problems that were forcedly foisted upon by Russia special importance was given to attitude of the country's population. The governing political party considered that one of the unconditional terms of the practical activity was taking into account the said attitude. Therefore this issue became a subject of discussion of regional party organizations. One of such examples was the third conference of the party organization of the Gori district (April 18th 1920). As it is clear from the shorthand account that its participants unanimously supported a course that the government had taken with regards to Russia and this was confirmed by a relevant resolution. "The conference calls on workers of the Gori district - said the document – to gather around the Constituent Assembly that is an exponent of supporters of democracy and the government that is accountable before it and to defend together with them borders of free Georgia from enemies".

This purpose served a united meeting of the central committee of the Social-Democratic Labour Party of Georgia, collectives of the Social-Democratic party and all social-democratic factions (April 30th 1920). Noe Zhordania's statement about the political moment, along with main reasons of the rebellion in Azerbaijan, paid special attention, to Russia's aims and tasks with regards to Georgia. Hope was expressed that the country would give the enemy a relevant response and would come out of the trial unharmed. The approved resolution supported the government. "The meeting fully endorsed the steps taken by the Constituent Assembly and the government aimed at protecting the borders of the Republic and called on all party members to carry out a vigorous and broad defence from a danger of joint Bolshevik-Islamic imperialism."

In the same period violations of Georgia's borders through Roki pass were recorded. With this regard Yevgeny Gegechkori paid special attention in a note addressed to Chicherin (April 29, 1920). At the same time, he raised the issue of peace talks between Georgia and Russia. "Future steps of Georgia towards Soviet Russia - we read in the document - will be completely determined by the attitude of Soviet Russia towards Georgia, by Russia's declared desire to recognize Georgia. I repeat... that the next step belongs to Soviet Russia ".

And though as a response Gegechkori got the copy of the order, dated May 3rd which prohibited military units of the Caucasian front to violate Georgia's borders, it remained empty piece of paper. The XI Army that violated the borders of Georgia on May 2nd and headed in the direction of Tbilisi did not stop military operations. On the contrary, its command even predicted capture of Tbilisi in advance. This is confirmed by the telegram that Ordzhonikidze sent to Moscow on May 3rd. He named May 15th as the date of seizing of Tbilisi, while the telegram that was sent the day after the first one mentioned another date - May 12th.

At a time when the command of the XI Army planned to take Tbilisi Moscow was engaged in preparation for Russian-Georgian peace treaty. We will not dwell on the procedure for the creation of this document, as quite a lot was said about this in Georgian historiography. We will only note that representative of Georgia Grigol Uratadze had a clear mandate from Noe Jordania - for Moscow, first of all, to recognize "independence and borders of Georgia" and other conditions were "secondary". If the task were solved successfully, it would provide Georgia with an opportunity to "appear before the Areopagus in Europe with this obligation" and more strongly demand recognition of independence of the country.

This fact should have undoubtedly been considered, since at that stage the Entente states were dragging with recognition of Georgia. As the country faced imminent danger and Europe was waiting for a precedent, then probably against this background negotiations with Russia might have been justified. All the more that, "far away Europe", especially England did not intend to take risks and struggle with Caucasian problems. British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon specifically pointed it out during his meeting with Irakli Tsereteli. "If you are hostile to Russia, - he said - England, not only will not help you, but cannot give you the recognition, because for us it would be compromising in such circumstances to recognize a new state if it has no future".

As you can see, one of the leaders of the British government saw the future of Georgia in good neighbourly relations with Russia. Given this he suggested for Georgian colleagues a "recipe" of formation of foreign policy of Georgia on the basis of agreement with Russia and the Caucasian peoples. "The best expert on political nerve of Europe - wrote Irakli Tsereteli, - warned us against excessive reliance on European help, since he knew how indifferent the entire Europe , and in particular British bourgeoisie, were towards the fate of distant Caucasian peoples. And truth of his warning was very soon confirmed by steps of British government. "In 1920, Britain signed a commercial agreement with the Bolsheviks. Lloyd George's Government easily yielded to Russia in the Caucasus issue and this untied the hands of the Bolsheviks in seizing Georgia.

As we know the work that started on April 28th in this direction and ended on May 7th with formalization of the Georgian-Russian peace treaty. On the Russian side the paper, with the authority of Vladimir Lenin and Chicherin, was signed by L. Karakhan while on the part of Georgia it was signed by member of the Constituent Assembly Grigol Uratadze ...

To be continued...


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