Operation Abolition

The Investigation: Operation Abolition

By the slick technical standards of Hollywood, Operation Abolition is one of the least likely film hits since nickelodeons first started to charge a dime. The movie is an abrupt, badly edited 45-minute short. Its eye-jolting camera work is murky, its sound track raucous and shrill. But its impact is pure boffo. Prints of Operation Abolition are booked months in advance by Army camps, student groups, American Legion posts, political meetings, churches and corporations. Pennsylvania Democrat Francis E. Walter, chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, estimates that more than 10 million people have seen the film since its release last July.

Subpoenaed Film. Operation Abolition is a documentary report on student demonstrations against an Un-American Activities subcommittee hearing in San Francisco last May. Much of the footage concentrates on “Black Friday,” May 13, when student-provoked city police turned fire hoses on the unruly, song-chanting crowd, dragged and pushed demonstrators down the steps of city hall, arrested 68 students (mostly from the University of California, some from Stanford University, San Francisco State and the University of San Francisco) on charges of inciting a riot and resisting arrest. The House Committee subpoenaed film of the incidents from two San Francisco TV stations, turned it over to a Washington movie studio for processing. With the help of Committee Researcher Fulton Lewis III,* the studio edited the film, added new sequences of commentary by Walter and other Congressmen, peddled 750 copies of the film for $100 each (none of the $20,000 profit so far has been shared with the TV stations).

Lewis delivered the narrative, written largely by the committee staff. Its main, heavily accented points: the “riots” were a clear example of Communist crowd tactics ; the students were either Communists or “Red dupes.” As if in proof, much of the camera work zooms in on verbose Longshoreman Archie Brown, California’s No. 2 Communist, who was summoned as a witness, finally got tossed out of the hearing room for misbehavior.

Largely because of such blunt accusations, Operation Abolition stirs up some kind of trouble nearly everywhere it goes. Last week Narrator Lewis, who has spoken on behalf of the film at some 75 U.S. colleges, appeared with Operation Abolition at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn, and the University of Connecticut at Storrs. As usual, well-organized campus liberals picketed the showing, jammed the hall to heckle, boo, fire loaded questions at the narrator. Praised by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the National Review, and a number of conservative Baptist groups, Operation Abolition has come in for searching criticism by the Jesuit weekly America, the Protestant Christian Century, Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike. After making its own study of the events, the National Council of Churches urged Protestant ministers “not to exhibit the film unless a full and fair presentation” of all the facts is made.

Undisputed Stars. In defense of Operation Abolition, Committee Chairman Walter charges that much of the criticism stems from Red-led groups eager to see the committee abolished, claims that the film “has provided a great contribution in the fight against Communism.” Without defending the students’ snarling defiance of the cops, critics of the film note that even Committee Investigator William Wheeler admitted “distortions” in the editing, e.g., footage shown out of time sequence, claim that the Communist influence is exaggerated. A careful sifting of evidence by a team of San Francisco News-Call Bulletin reporters supports the critics. San Francisco’s Mayor George Christopher gives his qualified approval of the movie but acknowledges that “at least 90% of the students were not organized by the Communists.” Fact is that nobody comes off very well in Operation Abolition. Commentator Lewis reaches for smooth explanations that are not quite there. The windy interludes by committee members get in the way of the documentary itself. And the hell-raising students reflect little glory on higher education. But—as they obviously intended to be—the undisputed stars of the show are the acknowledged Communist witnesses and agitators playing themselves with chilling conviction.

*Son of Conservative Columnist and Radio Commentator Fulton Lewis Jr.

Friday, Mar. 17, 1961


Republic of Spies – How Russia’s FSB Colonized Abkhazia

Abkhazia, one of the breakaway provinces over which Russia and Georgia fought in 2008, has been colonized by Russia’s state security services. And the locals are hardly thrilled.

On a sunny afternoon earlier this summer in the garden of a freshly renovated resort overlooking the Black Sea, a group of Russian security-service and Interior Ministry officers on holiday were raising their vodka glasses. The toast: to their future summers in the separatist republic of Abkhazia, once a favorite holiday spot for Stalin’s elite and now, despite its nominal independence from Georgia, Russia’s newest colony. After a war in 2008 to help Abkhazia and South Ossetia partition themselves from Georgia, Russia is making itself right at home.

The party’s host, Alexander Tsyshba—the head of the privatization and investments department for the seaside city of Gagra—looked satisfied. After over 15 years of economic blockade by Georgia, investment in Abkhazia was almost nonexistent, the resorts were empty, and the economy was stagnant except for a trickle of business controlled by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Now, with 3,000 Russian troops stationed in the republic, Tsyshba’s old FSB friends have begun to buy up prime property across the breakaway republic. “To buy property in Abkhazia, the FSB officers use the special relationship of their long-term contacts with us,” he explains with a smile.

The Russian special services’ “special relationship” with Abkhazia began well before the region’s break from Georgia in 1991, in the days of the Soviet KGB. From Stalin’s era on, every other Abkhaz family had a KGB officer, a secret agent, or an informer among their relatives. Former agents told NEWSWEEK that Moscow gave the tiny South Caucasus republic a special status—of an autonomous republic within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic—in order for the KGB to have a pleasant headquarters in the palm-lined seaside boulevards of Sukhumi. Locals like to boast that “Abkhazia used to beat the world record on the number of secret agents per capita,” says Lavrik Mikvabia, a colonel in the Abkhaz border guard. And Vladimir Rubanov, a three-star general who ran the old KGB’s analytical department, told NEWSWEEK that “the KGB always had its special power in Abkhazia. When I came for vacation and went out for a beer with my friend, a senior Abkhaz KGB commander, we did not have to pay for our beers or a plate of crabs. We just showed our KGB IDs.”

Traditions are respected in the Caucasus. So nobody was surprised when the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, inherited the Mayak sanitarium, a former KGB rehabilitation center for agents, after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Or when officers of the Federal Protection Service, the agency guarding the president and other top officials, brought their families to spend summers at the dacha that Khrushchev once used—a strictly guarded, enormous resort covering more than 10 square kilometers of seafront property in Pitsunda. Now a rotating cast of former and current FSB officers has arrived to rent and privatize luxury hotels, sanitariums, and dachas on prestigious bits of land.

In the two years since Russia went to war to “liberate” Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Republic of Georgia, the Russification in those provinces has accelerated. Almost all the best Abkhaz architectural monuments have ended up in the hands of Russian investors: the 19th-century palace of the Prince of OldenburgOlga’s Tower; another graceful palace in the Mauritanian style in the hills overlooking the city; and Gagra’s oldest landmark, the ancient Persian Attaba Fortress, dating to the fourth and fifth centuries. Luxurious real-estate developments like the Dolfin Hotel, which opened last January, have emerged along the seafront, waking Pitsunda’s tourist industry from years of comatose postwar decay. Tsyshba, the Gagra privatization guru, proudly boasts that the city is “the best FSB resort.”

The Dolfin Hotel’s manager, Alexander Chukbar, agrees, but he adds warily that the new owners “are not the kind of people one can just go up to and chat with.” In Soviet days, the KGB was a state within a state. Now, with former KGB officer Vladimir Putin and his circle of former spooks still very much in control of the country, the FSB’s hand extends into almost every major Russian business. Former KGB officers turned businessmen are warmly welcomed in their old Abkhaz stomping grounds—and have brought billions of dollars of investment. Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company famous for its ties to the Russian security establishment, arrived this year to open an office in Sukhumi and begin a $32 million geological-research program offshore in the Black Sea, considered a prospective oil-rich region.

Other groups in the Russian elite have also followed the spooks’ lead. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has lost no time grabbing a massive piece of land outside Gagra for a $70 million resort complex the locals call “Project Moscow.” Luzhkov is also constructing a gigantic office in Sukhumi to coordinate investments from Moscow, to be called the Moscow Center. Russia’s Ministries of Defense, Agriculture, and the Interior have reclaimed state dachas in Sukhumi, Gagra, and Gudauta so that their employees can vacation there. Alexander Tkachev, the governor of Krasnodar region in southern Russia, has spent the last two summers in the dacha built by Stalin’s secret police chief; he rents it from the local government, which can’t afford to renovate it. And Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s nuclear-energy agency, owns a winery in Abkhazia, according to the local administration.

But the biggest investor of all is Prime Minister Putin, who visited Abkhazia last summer for the war’s first anniversary, and pledged $500 million in state aid to strengthen Abkhaz defense. He has also promised millions for a huge project to redevelop the town of Pitsunda, famous for its enormous old pine trees—beloved by the tsars, the Soviets, and the new Russian elites alike. The Russian government is planning to build what Astamur Ketsba, head of the regional administration, calls “Putin City”—a lavish luxury resort with a port for yachts, health clubs, and private beaches. It is expected to be ready in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi. In the meantime, Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh told NEWSWEEK that he has already received 300 million rubles of 9 billion offered, and that he has reached an agreement with Putin that will allow Russian citizens to own private property in Abkhazia. He boasted that the airport Sukhumi will open next month is better than the one in Sochi, and that soon, Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles will be stationed in his breakaway republic.

Not all the locals are happy about the invasion of Russian money, fearing an assault on their newly won independence. Tomara Lakrba, the main architect of the towns of Gagra and Pitsunda, says she was “astonished” when she saw the proposed designs for Putin City, which—with more than 10 stories (where three or four are normal)—she considered tall and ugly. “I realized that Russian security services gave us our independence in order to be able to decide what to buy and build in our cities,” she says.

Many young Abkhaz also feel concerned about the Russian elite buying up their proud, small state. “I do not think Russians understand that we are different; we do not want to be a KGB state again. We would never give our land back to Georgia, but to be independent, we mean from Russia as well,” says Akhra Smyr, a youth community activist in Sukhumi. He and other irritated young activists shared with NEWSWEEK their frustration about how Russian tanks destroyed the roads in the Gali region and how their international phone code has become +7, the same as Russia’s.

Abkhazia’s tiny military also feels steamrollered by the FSB, which has taken over controlling the border with Georgia. There are only two checkpoints (of more than a dozen) left under Abkhaz control, and some 120 Abkhaz officers have lost their jobs. Sixty were fired outright and 60 were turned into customs agents. “We are all war veterans,” says the commander of Abkhaz border troops, Col. Lavrik Mikvabia. “We spilled blood for our freedom. The FSB border officers should remember that when they treat us as if we were their colony.”

It seems too late, though, for the Abkhaz to reconsider their pact with their powerful northern neighbor. Abkhazia’s border with Georgia is secured by a full division of Russia’s border guards, who answer to the FSB. Bright orange trucks—with the double-headed-eagle logo of the Russian Federal Construction Co.—crawl along the coastal roads, carrying sand and gravel for the seven-story buildings the FSB is building for the border guards and their families in Gali, a regional center on the border with Georgia.

With so much Russian money being poured into Abkhazia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s calls for the Russian military’s immediate withdrawal ring a little hollow. Never mind the ceasefire terms that ended the war, under which Moscow promised to withdraw. “Russia has just arrived,” President Bagapsh told NEWSWEEK. The West should “stop having any illusions about what they call Russian occupiers leaving any time soon.”



David Marshall Lang

(excerpt from the book ”A Modern History of Georgia”/NY/1962)

Lenin versus Stalin on Georgia–Revival of Great Russian chauvinism–The insurrection of 1924—The Stalin Era–Industrial development–Georgian agriculture collectivized–The war against the kulaks–‘Dizziness with Success’–The rise of Beria–The Five-Year Plans–Georgia under the purges-Political reorganization and the Stalin Constitution–The Georgian émigrés–Georgia during World War II–The final terror–Death of a dictator

Lenin versus Stalin on Georgia

The unexpected mildness of the terms offered by the Georgian Communists to their defeated rivals is to be explained in part by divergent reactions to the Georgian affair within the Politbureau in Moscow. Lenin and his colleagues had only given their sanction to the Red Army’s advance when they were assured by Stalin, as Commissar of Nationalities, that a massive Bolshevik uprising had occurred in Tbilisi. According to Stalin and his man on the spot, Orjonikidze, the Mensheviks had already been virtually overthrown by the Georgian masses themselves, and the appearance of a few Red Army soldiers would simply consolidate a victory already won. Both Lenin and Trotsky were appalled when they later heard that heavy fighting was taking place and that the Mensheviks had rallied the nation to their side; they were most apprehensive of the impression which would be created among foreign socialists when it was learnt that the Russian Communists were now overthrowing other, independent socialist régimes by force of arms.

The risk taken by Stalin in simultaneously hoodwinking his own comrades and defying world opinion in this fashion is partly to be accounted for in terms of his own past career, and his impatience to settle old personal scores. Twenty years earlier, in the days of the old Mesame Dasi when Social-Democracy was first taking root in Georgia, young Jughashvili-Stalin had been the odd man out. Thrust into the background by Zhordania and the other Mensheviks, Stalin had thrown in his lot with Lenin and the Russian Communist party. In October 1917 he had the satisfaction of seeing his compatriots and rivals Karlo Chkheidze and Irakli Tsereteli, both leading figures in the Kerensky régime, turned out of Petrograd and banished to their native Georgia. But it was a standing affront to Stalin, as Soviet Commissar of Nationalities, to be defied and held up to scorn in his own native Georgia of all places, while his sway extended over most of the other territory of the old Tsarist domains. Georgia must at all costs be brought within the Soviet fold. The Soviet-Georgian treaty of May 1920 was simply a tactical manœuvre; by November, Stalin was declaring: ‘ Georgia, which has been transformed into the principal base of the imperialist operations of England and France and which therefore has entered into hostile relations with Soviet Russia, that Georgia is now living out the last days of her life.’ It was Stalin the Georgian who gave independent Georgia the coup de grâce.

In an effort to put a good face on the occupation of Georgia, Lenin wrote to Orjonikidze after the fall of Tbilisi, urging him to come to terms with the fallen Menshevik régime. ‘I must remind you that the internal and international position of Georgia requires of the Georgian Communists not the application of the Russian stereotype, but . . . an original tactic, based upon greater concessions to the petty bourgeois elements.’ When he learnt that Zhordania and his cabinet declined to enter into a coalition and had embarked for Europe, with the full intention of turning the Georgian issue into an international scandal, Lenin was greatly perturbed. However, the Politbureau was obliged to accept Georgia’s annexation as a fait accompli, and Trotsky, though highly critical of Stalin’s handling of the situation, wrote a pamphlet in defence of Russian policy towards Georgia. In accordance with Lenin’s directive, the Georgian Communist leaders tried at first to win over the people by fair words. However, they met with nation-wide passive resistance. To make things worse, famine prevailed in the towns and during the summer of 1921 an outbreak of cholera carried off thousands of victims. The desperate shortage of food and the breakdown of medical services resulted in heavy mortality, the Georgian Catholicos-Patriarch Leonid being among the dead.

Even those Tbilisi workers who were most sympathetic towards Communist doctrines remained patriots at heart. A mass meeting of 3,000 representatives of the Tbilisi workers’ associations took place on 10 April 1921 at the Opera House on Rustaveli Avenue. It passed resolutions calling upon the Revcom to defend Georgia’s rights to self-determination and independence; to hasten the formation of a national Red Army of Georgia; to secure for the working masses of Georgia the right to select their representatives by free elections; to ensure that the new Soviet order was introduced into Georgia in such a way as to respect the customs of the people; and to legalize the existence of all socialist organizations not actually engaging in activities directed against the régime. Though acceptable in the main to the local Georgian Bolsheviks, such resolutions as these were not in accordance with the policies of Stalin and his immediate associates. Far from permitting the formation of a Georgian Red Army, Stalin saw that all military formations were disbanded, and posted Russian garrisons at strategic points. Workers’ organizations and trades unions were subordinated to the Bolshevik party committees, which received their instructions from Moscow. Russian agents of the political police or Cheka were sent to Georgia to mop up the local Mensheviks, whom the Georgian Bolsheviks would rather have been left to win over or render harmless in their own way.

Stalin also began to toy with the idea of bringing Georgia into a Transcaucasian Federation of Soviet Republics, into which Armeniaand Azerbaijan would also be merged. The local Georgian Bolsheviks, on the other hand, preferred to retain the country as an autonomous Soviet Republic loosely associated with Moscow, and possessing its own political and administrative organs. In July 1921 Stalin came to Tbilisi on a personal visit of inspection and addressed a mass meeting in the working-class quarter of Tbilisi, where he had spent so many months of revolutionary activity. As soon as he appeared on the platform, surrounded by Cheka agents and guards, the crowd began to hiss. Old women in the audience, some of whom had fed and sheltered Stalin when he was hiding from the Tsarist secret police, shouted: ‘Accursed one, renegade, traitor!’ The crowd reserved its ovation for the veteran revolutionary leader Isidore Ramishvili and another of their leaders, Alexander Dgebuadze, who asked Stalin straight out: ‘Why have you destroyed Georgia? What have you to offer by way of atonement?’ Surrounded by the angry faces of his old comrades Stalin turned pale and could only stutter a few words of selfjustification, after which he left the hall cowering behind his Russian bodyguard. The next day, he stormed into Tbilisi Party Headquarters and made a furious attack on Philip Makharadze, whom he professed to hold personally responsible for his humiliation. Addressing a meeting of Tbilisi Communists on 6 July 1921, he urged them to renounce every vestige of local independence and merge into a single Transcaucasian Federation, in return for which he promised Georgia unlimited free oil from Baku and a loan of several million gold rubles from Moscow. Changing his tone, Stalin went on to attack what he called ‘local chauvinism’ among the Georgians. The most urgent task of the Georgian Communists was a ruthless struggle against the relics of nationalism. To smash ‘the hydra of nationalism’, the party must purge its ranks of local patriots and get rid of all who would not subordinate Georgia’s interests to those of the entire Soviet Union.

Revival of Great Russian chauvinism

Such language, with its unmistakable overtones of new-born Great Russian imperialism, created a deplorable impression when coming from the lips of a native-born Georgian veteran of the liberation movement. Leading Georgian Bolsheviks like Mdivani, Eliava and Makharadze were dismayed at the abyss which gaped before them and protested vigorously against Stalin’s scheme to abolish the autonomy of the non-Russian republics. Stalin was obdurate. Back in Moscow, he ordered the liquidation of all remains of the Georgian Menshevik party and went ahead with his plan for a new, centralistic constitution for the Soviet state. In the Politbureau, the protests of the Ukrainians and Georgians were upheld by Trotsky, who saw in Stalin’s proposals an abuse of power which could not fail to offend the non-Russian peoples and expose as a mere fraud the Communist doctrine of self-determination for all national groups. The grip of the Russian Cheka over Georgia was in the meantime greatly strengthened. The Russian secret police brought with them their well-tried techniques of torture and intimidation, in which some of their local recruits proved very apt pupils. The Metekhi fortress jail, which had served the Tsars as a political prison, was crammed with captives, while the most obstinate cases were ‘worked over’ in the dreaded Cheka headquarters down in the city, where hundreds of miserable prisoners languished and died in conditions of indescribable squalor. The Georgian Church was the object of special attention on the part of Stalin and his henchmen, who egged on mobs of hooligans to attack priests and loot the sanctuaries, in the course of which many historic relics and works of art were stolen or destroyed.

The moral dilemma confronting the Georgian Communists emerges clearly from a report sent by P. Makharadze, then Chairman of the Georgian Communist Party, to the Central Committee of the Party in Moscow on 6 December 1921.

‘The arrival of the Red Army and the establishment of Soviet power in Georgia,’ wrote Makharadze, ‘had the outward appearance of a foreign occupation because in the country itself there was nobody who was ready to take part in a rebellion or a revolution. And at the time of the proclamation of the Soviet régime there was, in the whole of Georgia, not even a single member of the party capable of organizing action or providing leadership and this task had been accomplished mainly by doubtful or sometimes even criminal elements. . . . We must realize that the Georgian masses had become accustomed to the idea of an independent Georgia. . . . We had to demonstrate that we based our position on the independence of Georgia, but this was simply a form of words; in actual fact we were rejecting this and did not have it as our objective at all. This was an intolerable situation, as it is impossible to deceive the masses in a political question of this nature, and especially the Georgian people, who had gone through ordeals of fire and water in recent years. . . . We were announcing that we were working towards the creation of an independent Georgia . . . while taking systematic steps to nullify our promise.’

When Mdivani and Makharadze refused to agree to Georgia’s entry into Stalin’s new Transcaucasian Federation, Stalin and Orjonikidze discredited them with trumped-up charges of selfishness and treason to the Bolshevik cause. Unable to credit that Stalin would knowingly offend the national dignity of his fellow-countrymen, Lenin upheld him, with the result that Georgia was obliged to enter the Transcaucasian Federation and Mdivani and Makharadze received a stern rebuke.

The excesses committed by the Cheka and the Russian occupation troops in Georgia led to the formation of a wellorganized resistance movement. Guerilla warfare broke out in several regions. In 1922, an underground Independence Committee was formed, consisting of representatives of most Georgian non-Communist parties and organizations. The committee set up a military centre, which was to prepare for a national insurrection. Several members of the former Menshevik government returned clandestinely from exile, including the former Minister of Agriculture, Noe Khomeriki, as well as the commander of the old National Guard, V. Jugheli; both were caught and subsequently shot. A heavy loss was sustained early in 1923 by the Georgian patriots, when fifteen members of the military centre were arrested. Among these were the principal leaders of the resistance movement, Generals Konstantine Abkhazi, Alexander Andronikashvili and Vardan Dsulukidze; they were executed on 20 May 1923. An appeal was addressed by the Georgian Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrosius to the international conference held at Genoa in 1922, in which he described the conditions under which the Georgians were living since the Red Army invasion and begged for the help of the civilized world. Ambrosius was immediately thrown into prison by the Communists and kept there until they imagined that his spirit was broken. The Bolsheviks then staged a public trial, at which the aged and venerated head of the Georgian Church demonstrated such moral fortitude that his ordeal turned into a great victory for his Church and nation. His concluding words were: ‘My soul belongs to God, my heart to my country; you, my executioners, do what you will with my body.’ The Communists did not dare to execute Ambrosius, who died in captivity in 1927.

Lenin was paralysed during the summer of 1922 by his first stroke and had to delegate much of his authority to Stalin, now General Secretary of the Party. Following a spate of rumours and complaints coming in from Tbilisi, however, an investigation commission headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky, head of the Soviet secret police, was sent to Georgia to report on the position there. Even the hardened Dzerzhinsky was horrified at the excesses committed by Orjonikidze and his associates under Stalin’s orders. Dzerzhinsky’s report contributed to Lenin’s growing distrust of Stalin and his decision to exclude him from the future leadership of the Party. He resolved also to suspend Orjonikidze from party membership. In his Testament and other documents dictated shortly before his death, Lenin wrote that he ‘felt strongly guilty before the workers of Russia for not having intervened vigorously and drastically enough in this notorious affair’. He was disgusted at the ‘swamp’ in which the Party had landed over the Georgian business. Under Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, the small nations of Russia were exposed to ‘the irruption of that truly Russian man, the Great Russian chauvinist, who is essentially a scoundrel and an oppressor, as is the typical Russian bureaucrat’. Stalin had let his personal vindictiveness run away with him, showing himself ‘not merely a genuine social chauvinist, but a coarse brutish bully acting on behalf of a Great Power’. The trouble was, Lenin shrewdly diagnosed, that Stalin the Georgian and Dzerzhinsky the Pole had gone out of their way to assume true Russian characteristics. ‘It is well known that russified people of foreign birth always overshoot themselves in the matter of the true Russian disposition.’ On 5 March 1923, Lenin broke off personal relations with Stalin, and urged Trotsky to defend the Georgian ‘deviationists’ before the Central Committee of the all-Russian Communist Party. The next day he wired a message to the leaders of the Georgian opposition, promising to take up their case at the forthcoming Party Congress: ‘I am with you in this matter with all my heart. I am outraged by the arrogance of Orjonikidze and the connivance of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky.’ Lenin also prepared to send Kamenev to Tbilisi on another commission of enquiry. In the middle of these moves, on 9 March 1923, Lenin suffered the third attack of his illness, from which he never recovered; his death took place on 21 January 1924.

The insurrection of 1924

Lenin’s illness and death saved Stalin from disgrace. In spite of Lenin’s warnings and his own fears, Trotsky came to terms with Stalin and his group. He even helped Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev to conceal from the world Lenin’s deathbed confession of shame at the intolerant treatment of the non-Russian nationalities, the text of which was not published until 1956. At the 12th Party Congress in April 1923, the Georgian Communists found themselves isolated. With Lenin’s notes suppressed, every word uttered from the platform against Georgian or Ukrainian nationalism was greeted with stormy applause, while the mildest allusion to Great Russian chauvinism was received in stony silence. Stalin bided his time before actually striking down his opponents among the Georgian Communist leadership. Budu Mdivani and his associates were not actively molested until 1929, while the real blood bath among the Georgian Old Bolsheviks did not take place until the great purge of 1936-37.

Driven beyond endurance, the Georgian people were now preparing for a last desperate effort to regain their freedom. Plans were laid for a general insurrection, scheduled for 29 August 1924. The plan miscarried. Through some misunderstanding, the mining centre of Chiatura and the surrounding district rose up in arms on August 28 instead of the appointed day. At first the insurgents achieved considerable success. A number of Red Army units were eliminated. But the Russian commander in Georgia, Mogilevsky, reinforced all strategic positions in and around Tbilisi, and repulsed the chief forces of the patriots, led by Colonel Kaikhosro Choloqashvili. Mogilevsky was later killed in a dramatic manner. A young Georgian airman who was piloting his plane crashed deliberately; all the occupants, including the pilot himself, were killed.

The unequal battle raged for three weeks. The rising was crushed and terrible reprisals took place. Conservative estimates place the number of prisoners and hostages killed by the victorious Communists at between 7,000 and 10,000. Many women and children were slain in cold blood. In the village of Ruisi, for instance, every human being carrying the name of Paniashvili was put to death. About 20,000 persons were sent to Siberia immediately after the insurrection. Many months later, foreign visitors to Tbilisi would receive smuggled notes begging them to intercede for individual prisoners held captive in the dungeons of the Cheka, while lorry-loads of prisoners being driven off into exile were a common sight on the roads.

The death of Lenin, the onset of the Stalin era, and the defeat of the 1924 insurrection mark the final establishment of Soviet rule over Georgia. Not one of the great powers which had accorded the Georgian Republic full recognition only three years previously raised a finger to help the Georgian people in their struggle. At the same time, the abominations committed by Stalin against his own people created a deplorable impression on world opinion. As Lenin rightly foresaw, the Great Russian chauvinism of that vindictive Caucasian exposed the Russian Communist party to world-wide opprobrium, and proved a great obstacle to the Soviet government’s attempts to come to an understanding with foreign socialist parties and countries abroad.


Industrial development

THE SUPPRESSION of the 1924 uprising was followed by an uneasy calm. Military pacification was soon completed and an appearance of normality returned to the country. The relative prosperity brought to Russia by Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP), with its tolerance of private enterprise in commerce and agriculture, had a beneficial effect on Georgia. Although the entire land surface had been nationalized following the Bolshevik occupation in 1921, no attempt was made as yet to enforce collectivization, so that the peasants continued for the time being to enjoy the use of the land distributed to them during the period of Georgian independence. The Communist Party of Georgia preferred for a time to use peaceful persuasion rather than armed coercion to extend their hold over the masses. Particular stress was laid on education and the spreading of literacy, while religious teaching was suppressed as far as possible. Far-reaching changes were made in the structure, curriculum and personnel of Tbilisi StateUniversity. The Rector, the noted historian Ivane Javakhishvili ( 1876-1940), was dismissed from his post and replaced by a professor more in tune with Communist aims; as it turned out, this eclipse probably saved Javakhishvili’s life, since the then Rector of the University was among the purge victims during the terror of 1936-37.

Substantial progress was made with the industrialization of Georgia even during the NEP period. The impressive ZemoAvchala hydro-electric scheme was completed during this time. A British trades union delegation which visited the Caucasus towards the end of 1924 saw the scheme under construction and reported:

‘Tiflis, like other towns in Russia, is to have a great electricity power station. Plant that will harness 36,000 horse-power from the River Kura is now being erected. . . . The distance of the power station from the city is approximately twelve miles. . . . Already the work has made such progress that the dam is nearing completion. It will form a huge basin, harnessing the surging waters, which will accumulate in prodigious numbers millions of gallons and tons of weight. . . . The machinery is already in position and a perfect plant has been gathered together. The undertaking has another twelve months to run before completion. Three busy shifts are employing approximately a thousand workers in each shift. The men are housed in the best dwelling accommodation obtainable for such undertakings. . . . The wages rise from a rouble a day to 4 roubles; the food is obtained on a co-operative basis and is cheap. Efforts are being made on a practical and effective scale for the entertainment, training, and even the education of the workers employed. The Delegation saw a most industrious and orderly set of men in full and willing co-operation. . . .’113

The Zemo-Avchala hydro-electric station named after V. I. Lenin was officially opened by M. I. Kalinin on 26 June 1927.

As was the case in England during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century, the rapid growth of the urban working population of the Soviet Union resulted in a shortage of cheap foodstuffs. The peasants, cherishing their new-found mastery of the land, refused to deliver food to the towns at government-controlled prices. Both in Georgia and in European Russia, the breaking up of the old landlords’ estates often resulted in loss of efficiency and a fall in production. Smallholdings operated on a primitive subsistence basis proved less productive than the larger, systematically cultivated estates which had existed prior to the 1917 Revolution. This emerges clearly from figures cited in a recent official history of Georgia, which notes that as late as 1925-26, the acreage under grain in Georgia amounted to only 92.8 per cent. of the pre-1914 average, while the harvest as a whole yielded only 94•4 per cent. of the pre-1914 total. It is instructive to note, however, that the return from ‘technical cultures’, i.e. sub-tropical and specialized crops such as tobacco, tea and citrus fruits, exceeded the pre-1914 figure by 26.7 per cent.114 This is to be explained by the fact that these crops were grown on lands newly reclaimed from the marshy swamps of Western Georgia, and on plantations exploited as co-operative or state enterprises and equipped with modern tools and machinery.

Georgian agriculture collectivized

The inception of the first Five-Year Plan in 1928, and the great drive towards full-scale collectivization of Soviet agriculture, marked the beginning of a new phase in Georgian as well as in Russian social and economic history. Enterprises like the Chiatura manganese mines, which had for some years been leased on a concessionary basis to the American Harriman interests, were brought under direct state management and expanded at a rapid rate. The Georgian Communist Party resolved to follow the Russian example of large-scale collectivization of agriculture and sent a thousand ‘activist’ members of the Komsomol or Communist Youth organization to Moscow to study the latest developments in Soviet economic and social theory. When these young enthusiasts returned to Georgia, a propaganda campaign was launched in order to persuade the peasantry of the benefits of the collective farm system. Groups of party workers toured the countryside, urging the people to abandon their antique methods of agriculture and embark voluntarily on the new programme. Special conferences of poor peasants and landless agricultural workers were held, at which their grievances against the more prosperous kulak class were vigorously whipped up.

This initial campaign met with scant success. The Georgian peasantry, to whom such characteristically Russian institutions as the peasant mir or commune were alien, clung with the courage of desperation to their individual small-holdings. Opposition to the new measures was by no means confined to the rich peasants or kulaks, but was met with among the majority of the middling or poorer ones also. This fact was admitted by a number of the leading Georgian Communists, who ventured to express doubt as to whether the elimination of a few socalled kulaks would suffice to bring about agricultural reform in a land which was basically one of middling and poor peasants. Holders of such views were denounced as ‘rightist opportunists’, and extensive purges of lukewarm officials and party workers took place: the Kaspi and Telavi regional committees of the Communist Party, for instance, were drastically overhauled in 1931, all their leading members being dismissed from their posts.

The war against the kulaks

The Secretary of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party, Mikheil Kakhiani, ordered a ruthless, all-out campaign to be launched to achieve full collectivization of Georgian agriculture by February 1931, the tenth anniversary of Soviet rule in Georgia. He declared: ‘The kulaks as a class must be destroyed.’ On 19 January 1930, a decree of the plenum of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party was published, containing the following provisions:

1.    All kulaks are to be removed from areas scheduled for complete collectivization.

2.    Agricultural equipment belonging to kulaks is to be turned over to the use of kolkhozes (collective farms).

3.    When wine-growing areas are subjected to general collectivization, wine cellars belonging to kulaks are to be taken from them and handed over to the collectives.

4.    Livestock and implements are to be taken from kulaks.

5.    Lands belonging to kulaks are to be confiscated and given to the kolkhozes.

6.    Economic, administrative and legal sanctions are to be applied against the kulaks, and public trials of them staged; all kulakproperty must be confiscated; kulaks agitating against collectivization are to be arrested.

7.    Kulaks are to be forced to engage in public works and compulsory labour.

Five thousand agricultural students and young Communist propagandists were recruited for the campaign. One brigade of Party workers, each with a supporting detachment of OGPU guards or Red Army troops, was assigned to each district of Georgia. They undertook lightning campaigns in selected villages, turning alleged kulaks out of their homes and

distributing their goods and chattels to the poorer peasants. No objective criterion existed as to what constituted a kulak. Those luckless families whom local Communist committees chose to brand as such were driven from their native villages with nothing but the clothes they wore, and drifted homeless and starving about the countryside. Party Secretary Kakhiani reported jubilantly toMoscow: ‘Collectivization is going full speed ahead, and the new forms of Soviet economy are meeting with a unanimous and enthusiastic welcome from the peasants.’

In reality, the whole Georgian countryside was in turmoil. In Mingrelia and Abkhazia, groups of women armed with sticks marched through the kolkhoz fields, persuading the peasants to abandon work and go home. Oxen were unharnnessed and driven into the woods. The women besieged the offices of the local authorities, demanding the release of their husbands from jail, and the abolition of the kolkhoz system. Violent and sanguinary clashes took place between NKVD detachments armed with machine-guns and angry peasant women armed with sticks and stones. Armed uprisings took place in southern Georgia in Borchalo and Lori, which had to be put down by entire battalions of Red Army troops. Partisans in mountain Svaneti declared Soviet rule at an end and set up their own administration. On the Georgian military highway, in the Dusheti district, the local militia was disarmed by peasants, who then moved south towards Tbilisi in the hope of joining forces with other insurgent groups. Fierce fighting broke out in Kakheti, where a hundred and fifty soldiers were killed. Over a thousand families were deported to Siberia from Kakheti alone. Different tactics were employed by peasants in the Gori district, who agreed to become kolkhoz members and adopted a go-slow policy and sabotagedkolkhoz property. If any Communist foreman displayed an excess of zeal, he would disappear in the night and be seen alive no more.

‘Dizziness with Success’

Chaotic as was the situation in Georgia, that prevailing in European Russia, especially in the black earth lands of the Ukraine, was far worse. The overwhelming majority of the peasantry confronted the government with desperate opposition. A veritable civil war developed as rebellious villages were surrounded by machine-guns and forced to surrender. Masses of so-called kulaks and their families were deported to remote wildernesses in Siberia and left to starve or freeze to death. Those that remained slaughtered cattle, smashed implements and burned crops. Whole regions were cordoned off by troops and NKVD detachments and starved into submission. At last Stalin himself became aware of the consequences of his impetuous drive towards complete collectivization, which threatened the very fabric of Soviet society. On 2 March 1930, he issued a statement entitled ‘Dizziness with Success’, in which he blamed all the inhuman excesses which had taken place on over-zealous local officials. Stalin admitted that many of the collective farms which had been set up by force were not viable as going concerns, and pretended that his instructions had been misunderstood. Without consulting the Politbureau and the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, that same Stalin who had for months been issuing peremptory directives ordering compulsory collectivization at all costs now declared: ‘Collective farms cannot be set up by force’, and called for a cessation of violence and a pause for peaceful consolidation.

This volte-face caused consternation in Georgian and Transcaucasian Communist circles. A temporary halt in the ‘building of socialism’ was called while heads of revolutionary committees made a tour of inspection through the villages. An emergency session of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party heard a report by the doyen of Georgian Communists, Philip Makharadze, indicting the local Party organizations for their misplaced zeal. However, the real culprit was the Central Committee itself, whose Second Secretary was forced to admit that local Party committees had been urged to collectivize everything and everybody in a day, ‘right down to the last chicken’. The Georgian Communists could not deny that many of those who had been victimized and driven from their homes were not rich kulaks at all. Philip Makharadze stated in the newspaper Komunisti (The Communist):

‘It was not only the kulaks but also the smallholders and poorer peasants who were affected by the anti-kulak campaign. A number of facts are now available which prove that a large part of the ‘dekulakized’ persons were in fact smallholders. . . . During the campaign, whole families were moved from their homes, including old people of eighty and ninety, invalids, women and children. They were moved from their homes, but where to? No one knew where they were supposed to go. Comrades, the result of these mistakes was that in many areas the peasant smallholders expressed their pity for the kulaks. Intimidated by this anti-kulakcampaign, the peasants joined the kolkhozes. We were told here that they were enthusiastic about joining the kolkhozes, but this was by no means the case. To crown it all, the cattle taken away from the peasants is being allowed to die off through lack of proper care and their equipment is being allowed to spoil.’

In Moscow, S. Eliava, head of the government of Soviet Georgia, declared at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party: ‘The situation in Georgia and Transcaucasia in general is very grave. Not one corner of the Soviet Union experiences at the moment such difficulties . . . The Georgian peasantry is only waiting for a chance. . . . Thousands of them have gone into the mountains and forests to wage battle against us.’

It was no secret that Stalin himself was personally responsible for all this misery. However, a scapegoat was found in the person of Kakhiani, who was dismissed from the post of Secretary of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party and sent off to a minor post in Turkestan. When the disturbances eventually died down, the net result of Georgia’s first collectivization drive was the creation by 1932 of some 3,400 kolkhozes, incorporating about 17,000 former peasant holdings, representing 36•4 per cent. of the national total. A score or more of Sovkhozes or state farms were also formed. There existed in the whole of Georgia only thirty-one tractor stations, and it was a long time before agricultural production recovered from the chaotic condition into which doctrinaire folly had plunged it.

The rise of Beria

The Georgian Communists could not help resenting the invidious role in which Stalin’s bungling had placed them, with the result that mutual antagonisms between him and the local Georgian Party leadership flared up afresh. In 1932, when Stalin’s popularity in theSoviet Union had sunk to a low ebb, memoranda on the need to depose him from the post of General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party began to circulate in the highest quarters. Instrumental in the campaign to oust Stalin were the leading Georgian Bolshevik, Beso Lominadze, who had been secretary of the Communist Party of the Transcaucasian Federation, and Syrtsov, premier of the Russian Federative SSR, both of whom had rendered Stalin loyal aid in defeating his Trotskyist and Bukharinite opponents in the Party. Lominadze and Syrtsov were merely urging the Central Committee to depose Stalin constitutionally by voting him down at a meeting of the Committee; however, they were charged with conspiracy, imprisoned and liquidated. Morbidly sensitive to hostility on the part of his Georgian compatriots, Stalin felt it necessary to place in charge of Caucasian affairs an individual on whose unwavering personal loyalty he could count. His choice fell upon L. P. Beria ( 1899-1953), a man who was many years later to be unmasked as an enemy of the people and condemned to die as a traitor to the Soviet fatherland.

Lavrenti Beria came of a poor Mingrelian peasant family living in the Sukhumi district of Abkhazia, near the Black Sea. He joined the Bolshevik party in 1917 while studying at a technical college in Baku, and thereafter took part in organizing an illegal underground group of Bolshevik technicians. His skill in this work led to his appointment in 1921 to a post in the Caucasian Cheka. By the time he was thirty-two, he had been Vice-president of the Cheka in Azerbaijan and Georgia, President of the Georgian GPU, and then President of the Caucasian State Police and chief representative of the OGPU in Transcaucasia. His special task was the elimination of all anti-Bolshevik groups in the Caucasus, for success in which task he was decorated with the order of the Red Banner of the Republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. In October 1931, Beria was transferred from his post in the secret police and made Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Transcaucasian Communist Party, the First Secretary of which, Kartvelishvili by name, strongly disliked Beria’s unsavoury personality and methods. Kartvelishvili, a personal friend of the influential Bolshevik leader Sergo Orjonikidze, categorically refused to Beria fabricated a series of untrue charges against Kartvelishvili, who was soon deported from the Caucasus and put to death. The vacant post of First Secretary of the Transcaucasian Party organization was then occupied by Beria himself.

The Five-Year Plans

From 1932 until 1938, Beria exercised dictatorial powers in Transcaucasia. He played a leading role in implementing the Second Five-Year Plan in Georgia between 1933 and 1937. At the cost of immense effort and sacrifice, Georgian industrial development made great strides forward. The Zestafoni ferroalloy plant went into production during this period, as did the Tbilisi machine-tool factory named after S. M. Kirov. Further progress was made in harnessing the power potential of Georgia’s rivers. The Rioni, Atcharis-dsqali and Sukhumi hydro-electric schemes were completed and a start was made with the hydro-electric station on the River Khrami. Stakhanovite labour methods were successfully applied in the Chiatura manganese mines and at the Tbilisilocomotive and railway wagon workshops named after I. V. Stalin. By the end of the Second Five-Year Plan, the Avchala cast-iron factory and the Inguri paper combine were in operation, as well as a new chemical and pharmaceutical laboratory in Tbilisi, new industrial plant at Kutaisi, and tea factories in the Black Sea districts of Western Georgia. Drainage and irrigation schemes were carried out. Private enterprise was eliminated from shopkeeping and commerce. Restaurants, hotels and shops were completely municipalized, though this was far from being an unmixed blessing for the consumer and general public.

Beria kept Stalin supplied with secret denunciations of Georgian Bolshevik leaders, officials, writers and teachers. At the 17th Party Congress in 1934 he was elected to the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party; in 1936, he served on the editorial commission for the presentation of the Stalin Constitution. The rise of Beria coincided with the downfall of one of the most distinguished Georgian Bolsheviks, Abel Enukidze, who had begun his career as early as 1904 by running the secret Bolshevik printing press at Baku, and was for years regarded as Stalin’s intimate friend. Abel Enukidze was Secretary-General of the Central Executive Committee which was, prior to the promulgation of the Stalin Constitution, the supreme legislative body of the USSR; its decrees bore Enukidze’s signature jointly with Kalinin’s. Early in 1935, Enukidze was relieved of his post, ostensibly to become Prime Minister of the Transcaucasian Federation. He was shortly afterwards disgraced and suffered death during the purges in 1937. Beria ingratiated himself further with Stalin by building up the famous ‘personality cult’. On 21-22 July 1935, he delivered to a meeting of the Tbilisi Party organization a lecture ‘On the history of the Bolshevik organizations in Transcaucasia’, in which Stalin is given almost exclusive credit for the success of the Caucasian revolutionary movement from 1900 onwards. Beria himself set out to eliminate any of the Georgian Old Bolsheviks who might have felt inclined to challenge the truth of his assertions. The lecture itself was several times republished in book form, each edition containing more adulatory praise of Stalin, and more vitriolic denunciation of Stalin’s rivals, many of whom Beria had himself tortured and shot. In the English edition of 1949, for instance, the dead Abel Enukidze is denounced as a ‘mortal enemy of the people’, while Budu Mdivani, Vice-Premier of Georgia prior to the great purges, is vilified as a supporter of the ‘arch-bandit Judas Trotsky’ and a fellow-member, with Mikha Okujava, Mikha Toroshelidze, S. Chikhladze, N. Kiknadze and other liquidated Georgian Bolsheviks, of a Trotskyite spying and wrecking terrorist centre, which Beria claimed credit for unearthing in 1936.

Georgia under the purges

Beria was in his element during the great purges of 1936-37. While the unbalanced and degenerate NKVD chiefs Yezhov and Yagoda were torturing and killing millions of high officials, army officers, intellectuals and ordinary citizens throughout Russia, Beria in the Caucasus eliminated every individual whose adherence to the Party Line could be called in question, or whose survival might conceivably challenge the myth of Stalin’s infallibility. The Georgian leaders to whom Stalin had extended effusive and hypocritical congratulations on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Soviet Georgia in February 1936 were by then already marked down as purge victims. Two separate trials of Georgian Communist leaders for ‘terrorism and high treason’ were held. The first group included Budu Mdivani and the Georgian planning chief Mikha Toroshelidze. The second group was headed by the Georgian Prime Minister, Mgaloblishvili. Among those tortured to death or shot at this time were Mikha Okujava, Mamia Orakhelashvili, Sergi Kavtaradze, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of Georgia, and Lado Dumbadze, Chairman of the first Bolshevik Soviet in Tbilisi. Only Philip Makharadze, then nearing his seventieth birthday, was spared public condemnation. Makharadze was permitted to save himself by confessing his past guilt and pleading for mercy, in return for which he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, an honorific sinecure which he held until his death in 1941.

As in Russia itself, the holocaust in Georgia was carried to diabolical lengths. Denunciations by personal enemies or the receipt of an innocent letter from some friend abroad were sufficient to bring about imprisonment, exile or death. The witch-hunt was carried to great lengths at Tbilisi University, which lost scores of its most brilliant professors and most promising students. Among those who perished was the famous classical scholar and papyrologist Grigol Tsereteli, guilty of having attended international conferences in which scholars from bourgeois countries also participated. The literary historian Vakhtang Kotetishvili vanished without trace, while the outstanding Abkhazian dramatist Samson Chanba ( 18861937) was also put to death. Universal horror was excited by the execution of two of Georgia’s greatest national writers, the novelist Mikheil Javakhishvili and the poet Titsian Tabidze, the latter a close friend of Boris Pasternak, who knew him as ‘a reserved and complicated soul, wholly attracted to the good and capable of clairvoyance and self-sacrifice’.115 A close associate of Tabidze was Paolo Iashvili, a remarkable poet of the post-symbolist period, ‘brilliant, polished, cultured, an amusing talker, European and good-looking’.116 So horrified was Iashvili at the news of Tabidze’s arrest and execution that he went straight to the headquarters of the Union of Georgian Writers, of which he was secretary, and killed himself there.

At a congress of Georgian writers held at Tbilisi in July 1954, the First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, V. P. Mzhavanadze, referred to the terrorism exercised by Beria’s agents and said:

‘Comrades, you all know what injury was done to our people by that gang of murderers and spies who now have been unmasked and done away with by our Party. That gang killed many leading and progressive scientists. . . . The Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party has found out that the outstanding masters of the Georgian language–Mikheil Javakhishvili, Titsian Tabidze and Paolo Iashvili–became victims of the intrigues and terrorism of that abominable gang of murderers. I have pleasure in declaring in the name of the competent organs that these men have been rehabilitated.’

This statement was greeted with loud acclamation, as were the pronouncements of Stalin and Beria in their time; in reality, the fair name of Georgia’s great writers does not depend on Mr. Mzhavanadze and his ‘competent organs’, but is enshrined in the hearts of the Georgian people and their friends.

The Georgian purges were not confined to the capital, but also enveloped the outlying regions, notably the Autonomous Republicsof Abkhazia and Atchara on the Black Sea coast. The Abkhazians had long been subject to colonization both by Russians and Georgians: by 1926, autonomous Abkhazia, covering 3,240 square miles, had a population of 174,000 of which the Abkhazians themselves accounted for less than onethird. Under the Second Five-Year Plan, Abkhazia was directed to step up tobacco production substantially, and more Russians, Georgians, Armenians and Greeks were brought in to work on new plantations and industrial projects. The Abkhazians, who resented these encroachments on their cherished autonomy, protested and in the end fell completely into disgrace with the Kremlin. The leading spokesman of the dissident Abkhaz Bolsheviks, Nestor Lakoba, died a natural death in 1936. In the following year, a purge trial was held at Sukhumi, the Abkhazian capital, at which forty-seven of Lakoba’s friends, relatives and associates were charged with complicity in an imaginary plot to murder Stalin. Ten of the defendants were executed. A similar mass trial was staged at Batumi, the capital of Atchara. Eleven persons, headed by Zakaria Lortkipanidze, Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of Atchara, were accused of belonging to a ‘counterrevolutionary and insurgent organization, engaging in espionage, sabotage and diversion’, maintaining contacts with émigré beksmullahs and kulaks, and destroying crops in plantations and collective farms. The Communist-controlled Georgian Press reported these trials under banner headlines such as: ‘Shoot the accused–that is our verdict!’ ‘Wipe the fascist reptiles off the face of the earth!’ ‘Death to the despised enemies of the people!’ Eight of the accused in the Batumi trial were executed: since Stalin’s death, several of them have been posthumously rehabilitated.

Before the Stalin-Beria purges, Tbilisi was famed for ‘the high level of culture of the leading section of society–an active intellectual life which, by then, was rarely to be found elsewhere.’117 The events of 1937 resulted in the elimination or demoralization of the élite among the Georgian intelligentsia. The next fifteen years or more were a period of utter stagnation in Georgian literature, in which writers eked out an existence by composing dithyrambs about life in factories or on collective farms, or sycophantic odes to Stalin the superman. It is only today that a new generation of Georgian authors is emerging unscarred by the experiences of that grim era.

A fitting climax to the Georgian purges was provided by the suicide of the eminent Georgian Bolshevik, Sergo Orjonikidze ( 1886-1937), long Stalin’s right-hand man, a member of the Politbureau and People’s Commissar for Heavy Industry for the entire Soviet Union. Vigorous and ruthless when necessary, Orjonikidze had a reputation for decency and tried to thwart Beria’s wholesale executions in Georgia. Beria denounced Orjonikidze to Stalin, who sanctioned the liquidation of Orjonikidze’s brother. According to the account given by N. S. Khrushchev, Beria and Stalin between them deliberately brought Orjonikidze to such a state of nervous collapse that he killed himself. He was then accorded a grandiose state funeral and admitted to the pantheon of the great dead Bolshevik fathers.

Political reorganization and the Stalin Constitution

Once he had set in motion the necessary machinery to eliminate all potential opposition in the Caucasus, Stalin dissolved the artificial Transcaucasian Federation into its constituent parts, the Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republics. To these was granted, in theory at least, a large measure of political devolution, including the right to secede at will from the Soviet Union. This change took place in 1936, when the Stalin Constitution was promulgated. Two years later, Beria was summoned from Tbilisi to Moscow to take over the NKVD in succession to Yezhov and Yagoda, both of whom, after destroying millions of Soviet citizens, had themselves been declared expendable and put to death. The Caucasus was left in charge of officials who owed their promotion to Stalin and Beria, and whose reliability was beyond doubt.

The Georgian émigrés

After Orjonikidze’s death and Makharadze’s recantation, there was none of Stalin’s old associates among the Georgian Bolsheviks who could question his omniscience or bring up the various unsavoury episodes in his revolutionary past. At the same time, the Georgian Menshevik government in exile in Paris continued to present a certain nuisance value. Karlo Chkheidze had died in 1926, and Noe Ramishvili, the forceful Minister of the Interior in the Zhordania government, was struck down in Paris in 1930 by a Georgian assassin reputedly in the pay of the Soviet government. Most of the émigré ministers, however, were distinguished by their longevity, one or two venerable octogenarians being alive even today. For some years after the fall of independent Georgia, until 1933, the Georgian Mensheviks were able to maintain their legation in Paris; the International Committee for Georgia, the president of which was Monsieur Jean Martin, director of the Journal de Genève, kept up a running fight against the admission of the Soviet Union to the League of Nations, which nevertheless took place in 1934. The importance which Stalin attached to the activities of the Georgian émigrés was displayed in 1938, when the Soviet embassy in Paris brought effectual pressure to bear on a pusillanimous French government to ban a celebration of the 750th anniversary of the Georgian national poet Shota Rustaveli, which was to have been held at the Sorbonne. With the rise of Nazi Germany, a number of Georgian exiles joined the Fascist movement. A Georgian Fascist Front was formed, the nucleus of which consisted of a nationalist organization called Tetri Giorgi orWhite George, after the patron saint of Georgia. The leaders of Tetri Giorgi included General Leo Kereselidze and Professor Mikhako Tsereteli, the former Kropotkinite anarchist, who had in the meantime won a high reputation in the German universities as an expert on the Sumerian and Hittite languages.

Georgia during World War II

After killing Marshal Tukhachevsky and decimating the Red Army high command during the purges, Stalin proceeded in 1939 to make war inevitable by concluding the MolotovRibbentrop pact with Nazi Germany. His inordinate selfconfidence led him to ignore repeated warnings from foreign governments and from his own agents abroad, with the result that Russia was caught largely unprepared when Hitler launched his lightning attack in June 1941. The Georgians contributed greatly to the defence of the USSRduring World War II and played an outstanding part in preventing the Germans from penetrating into Georgia from their advanced bases in North Caucasia. German parachutists were dropped at various points in Georgia, but were promptly mopped up by local military units. There were, however, manifestations of unrest within the country which gave the authorities grounds for disquiet. It is said, for instance, that a meeting was held in 1942 in the Tbilisi Opera House at which leaflets were distributed calling on the people to overthrow Russian Communist rule and proclaim Georgia’s independence. On the German side, efforts were made to form a Georgian Legion from émigrés living in Western Europe, combined with Soviet prisoners of war of Georgian extraction. This venture was greatly hampered by the intervention of Rosenberg and other exponents of Nazi racism, who wanted all Georgians sent to extermination camps as non-Aryans, along with the Jews and the Gypsies. The Georgians under Nazi domination were saved only by the intervention of Alexander Nikuradze, a Georgian scientist held in high esteem in the German official world. In 1945, a Georgian sergeant hoisted the flag of victory over the Berlin Reichstag in company with a Russian Red Army soldier. The inter-allied agreement concluded at the end of the war resulted in the forcible repatriation to Soviet Russia of thousands of Georgians who had sought asylum in the West, many of whom were shot or exiled to Siberia on their return home.

The final terror

The last years of Stalin’s life were marked by an intensification of his personal reign of terror. As N. S. Khrushchev declared in 1956, Stalin carried mistrust to the point of mania. ‘He could look at a man and say: “Why are your eyes so shifty today?” or “Why are you turning away so much today and avoiding looking me directly in the eyes?” This sickly suspicion created in him a general distrust even towards eminent party workers whom he had known for years. Everywhere and in everything he saw enemies, two-facers and spies.’ In metropolitan Russia, Stalin’s fantastic delusions manifested themselves in such sinister incidents as the 1949 Leningrad affair, involving the shooting out of hand of the State Planning Chairman Voznesensky, and the bogus ‘Doctors’ Plot’, in which leading Russian physicians narrowly escaped extermination at the hands of the secret police. In the northern Caucasus, Stalin celebrated the retreat of the Germans by ordering the deportation in 1943-44 of the entire Karachay-Balkar and Chechen-Ingush peoples as a punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazis; the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous SSR was obliterated from the map of the Soviet Union.

After receiving warm commendation for the successful completion of the Fourth Five-Year Plan between 1946 and 1950, Georgiatoo fell under the dictator’s scourge. In 1951, he claimed to have unearthed a nationalist organization centred on Mingrelia, the Western province of Georgia adjoining Lavrenti Beria’s homeland. N. S. Khrushchev stated in 1956: ‘As is known, resolutions by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union concerning this case were passed in November 1951 and in March 1952. These resolutions were made without prior discussion with the Politbureau. Stalin had personally dictated them. They made serious accusations against many loyal Communists. On the basis of falsified documents it was proved that there existed in Georgia a supposedly nationalistic organization whose objective was the liquidation of Soviet power in that republic with the help of imperialist powers. In this connexion, a number of responsible Party and Soviet workers were arrested in Georgia. As was later proved, this was a slander directed against the Georgian party organization. . . . There was no nationalistic organization in Georgia. Thousands of innocent people fell victim of wilfulness and lawlessness. All this happened under the “genial” leadership of Stalin, “the great son of the Georgian nation”, as the Georgians like to term Stalin.’

Concurrently with the Mingrelian affair, prominent Georgian Communists were accused of embezzling state funds, stealing automobiles and plundering state property. Two Georgian Communist Party secretaries, the Chairman of the Georgian Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice were among those removed from their posts late in 1951. These changes failed to satisfy Stalin. In April 1952, Beria, now Vice-President of the Soviet Council of Ministers, came from Moscow to attend a meeting of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party, at which he subjected the party leadership to severe criticism for failing to instil the Communist creed in Georgian youth and to tear out all traces of local nationalism. A new First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, A. I. Mgeladze, was appointed, while the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Chairman of the Presidium of the Georgian Supreme Soviet were relieved of their posts. Mgeladze set to work to purge the party and governmental apparatus from top to bottom. In six months he replaced half the members of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party who had been returned in the election of 1949, and brought about a complete upheaval in the administrative hierarchy of the Republic. Many chairmen of collective farms and officials of the Comsomol or Soviet Youth movement lost their jobs. The fact that several high officials removed by Mgeladze, notably Valerian Bakradze, Deputy Chairman of the Georgian Council of Ministers, were personal nominees of Beria was taken at the time as a symptom of Beria’s waning prestige in the inner circles of the Kremlin, where rising stars such as Malenkov and Khrushchev were supplanting him in Stalin’s favour.

Death of a dictator

At all events, Mgeladze and his deputy, the Georgian Minister of State Security, N. Rukhadze, made use of the extensive files of the Georgian MVD to accuse some of Beria’s own agents of nationalist deviation and other crimes. It is probable that these denunciations would in time have touched the person of Beria himself. N. S. Khrushchev has said that at the time of his death in March 1953, Stalin was planning the annihilation of many of the veteran Politbureau members: Marshal Voroshilov was under the extraordinary suspicion of being an English spy; Andreev had been dismissed and relegated to limbo; ‘baseless charges’ had been brought against Mikoyan and Molotov. ‘It is not excluded,’ Khrushchev told the 20th Party Congress, ‘that had Stalin remained at the helm for another few months, Comrades Molotov and Mikoyan would probably not have delivered any speeches at this Congress.’ For many leading Soviet statesmen and officials, Stalin’s demise thus came in the nick of time. Whether or not it was due to natural causes is another matter.

Stalin’s death removed from the world stage the most formidable Georgian of all time, a man who combined almost superhuman tenacity and force of character with quite subhuman cruelty and criminality. He took over a Russia backward and divided, and pitchforked it forcibly into the twentieth century. By methods which cannot be condoned by any standards of human or divine morality, he fashioned the social and industrial springboard from which the Soviet Union today is leaping irresistibly forward as one of the two dominant world powers of our generation.


Beria’s brief heyday–The Tbilisi riots–Industry and construction–Scientific advances–Growing pains of modernization—The housing crisis–Farming and plantations–Education, medicine and sport–Scholarship and science–The economic potential of Georgia–Russian nationality policy today

Beria’s brief heyday

WHEN STALIN DIED, Beria stepped into place as one of the new Soviet triumvirs, sharing power for a few weeks with Malenkov and Molotov. Beria now moved with speed to repair his political fences in Georgia. A plenary session of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party was held on 14 April 1953, which dismissed the Party Secretariat headed by A. I. Mgeladze and established a new one under an official named Mirtskhulava. Beria’s old protégé Valerian Bakradze, whom Mgeladze had dismissed from government office, now became Prime Minister of the Georgian Republic. Several prominent supporters of Beria whomMgeladze and his faction had imprisoned were released and given portfolios in the Bakradze administration. The ousted First Secretary, Mgeladze, made an abject confession, declaring that charges of nationalist deviationism which he had levelled againsthighranking Georgian Bolsheviks were based on false evidence which he had forged from motives of personal ambition. N.Rukhadze, Georgian Minister of State Security, who had aided and abetted Mgeladze, was imprisoned. Unlike some officials hostile to Beria, Rukhadze was not saved by Beria’s fall later in the year; it was announced in November 1955 that he had been executed.

Beria did not long share the sweets of power with Malenkov and Molotov. A struggle for mastery developed at the summit

of the Soviet hierarchy. In spite of his powerful position as head of the secret police, Beria fell, dragging down with him many high officials whose careers were linked with his, and whose familiarity with secrets of state made their survival dangerous to the victors. Beria was arrested in July, and his execution for high treason announced late in December 1953. Among other prominent Georgians who fell with him were V. G. Dekanozov, a former Soviet Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Internal Affairs in Georgia; B. Z. Kobulov, a former Soviet Deputy Minister of State Security and later Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs; and S. A. Goglidze, a former Commissar of Internal Affairs in Georgia. These persons and others put to death with them were accused of conspiring with Beria to liquidate the Soviet workers’ and peasants’ régime with the aim of restoring capitalism and the power of the bourgeoisie. While these charges can hardly be taken seriously, little pity need be wasted on Beria and his accomplices, whose hands had for years been dripping with innocent blood.

The elimination of the Beria group in the Georgian government and Party machine brought little joy to the Stalinists whom Beria had ousted. The post of First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party was filled in September 1953 by the election of a new man, Mr.Vasili P. Mzhavanadze, a former Lieutenant-General in the Red Army. The Second Secretary is a Russian, P. V. Kovanov. On 29 October 1953, a forty-oneyear-old engineer and geologist, Mr. Givi D. Javakhishvili, was elected Prime Minister of the GeorgianRepublic. Under the benign leadership of these gentlemen, Georgia continues to prosper up to the present day. The status ofGeorgia in the higher counsels of the USSR has been enhanced by V. P. Mzhavanadze’s election in June 1957 to candidate membership of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. The Georgian Communist, Mr. M. P.Georgadze, was in 1958 appointed Secretary of the Supreme Soviet.

The Tbilisi riots

The only major upheaval which has been reported under the present Georgian administration is the serious riot which occurred inTbilisi on 9 March 1956. This disturbance arose out of perfectly legal demonstrations held to commemorate the third anniversary of Stalin’s death. Popular sentiment was apparently inflamed by the violent denunciation of the late Georgian dictator delivered by N. S. Khrushchev at the 20th Party Congress in the preceding month. The sarcastic and bitter manner in which Khrushchev ascribed all the horrors of the purges to the ‘genial’ leader Stalin, whom, as he ironically put it, the Georgians so much enjoyed calling ‘the great son of the Georgian nation’, must have rankled with the Georgian masses, who had learnt to be proud of the stupendous role which their Soso Jughashvili had played for long in Soviet and in world affairs. During the disturbances, traffic in Tbilisi came to a halt. Trams were overturned and rioters seized private cars and raced through the streets spreading panic and provoking further incidents. Many university students took part in the disorders during which, according to the Rector of Tbilisi University, Mr. VictorKupradze, ‘illegal and forbidden nationalist slogans’ were shouted. Militia and troops soon had the situation under control. During the disorders and subsequent reprisals, one hundred and six persons are said to have been killed, over two hundred wounded, while several hundred more were subsequently deported to labour camps in Siberia.

This isolated incident led foreign observers to draw much exaggerated conclusions as to the present strength of Georgian nationalist sentiment. The Georgians, it is true, are legitimately proud of their past and present achievements in the arts, sciences and letters, and conscious of their national uniqueness among the peoples of the USSR. It is also true that they exhibit at times an unreasonably cantankerous attitude towards neighbouring peoples, including the Russians themselves, from whom they have suffered injury in the past. But this does not mean that the Georgians are forever hatching plots against the Soviet state, as some Western writers would have us believe. N. S. Khrushchev himself ridiculed this idea in 1956, when pouring scorn on Stalin’s obsession with a supposed Georgian nationalist movement planning to take Georgia out of the Soviet Union and join her to Turkey.

‘This is, of course, nonsense. It is impossible to imagine how such assumptions could enter anyone’s mind. Everyone knows howGeorgia has developed economically and culturally under Soviet rule.’ ‘The industrial production of the Georgian republic,’ Mr. Khrushchev continued, ‘is twenty-seven times greater than it was before the Revolution. . . . Illiteracy has long since been liquidated, which, in pre-revolutionary Georgia, included 78% of the population. Could the Georgians, comparing the situation in their republic with the hard situation of the working masses in Turkey, be aspiring to join Turkey? . . . According to the available 1950 census, 65% of Turkey’s total population are illiterate, and of the women, 80% are illiterate. Georgia has nineteen institutions of higher learning, which have about 39,000 students between them. The prosperity of the working people has grown tremendously inGeorgia under Soviet rule. It is clear that as the economy and culture develop, and as the Socialist consciousness of the working masses in Georgia grows, the source from which bourgeois nationalism draws its strength evaporates. . . .’

Industry and construction

The concluding phrase quoted may perhaps contain an element of wishful thinking. None the less, it is undeniable that the Georgians are now reaping the benefit of the industrial and agricultural policies so ruthlessly pursued in the Stalin era. The Soviet government has over the years invested vast sums of money in Georgia, by building factories, dams and hydroelectric stations, draining swamps, constructing airports, schools and other utilities. Between 1913 and 1957, the quantity of electricity generated rose from 20,000,000 to 2,573,000,000 kilowatt-hours. Coal production, which ammounted in 1913 to 70,000 tons, reached 2,967,000 tons in 1957. Iron production rose in the two years between 1955 and 1957 from 436,000 to 640,000 tons, and steel production, totalling only 200 tons in 1940, reached 803,000 in 1957. The total production of rolled metal, of which 20,000 tons were manufactured in 1950, amounted by 1957 to 705,000 tons. Cement production rose between 1932 and 1957 from 133,000 to 1,025,000 tons. Other branches of heavy industry in which production has been appreciably stepped up include machine tools, lorries and electric locomotives.

The reorganization of management in industry and construction works carried out in the USSR in 1957 helped to accelerate the development of the Georgian economy. The country was turned into a single economic region headed by an Economic Council in charge of more than five hundred large industrial establishments. Previously, these enterprises had been under different departments and ministries, many of them based entirely on Moscow, where all decisions had to be made. In the comparatively short period of its working, the Economic Council has demonstrated the advantages of this new form of industrial administration. Management has been brought close to the production floor, while the workers themselves are drawn increasingly into the direction of industry and construction. Workers are encouraged to make suggestions on possible improvements in work methods and techniques, and individuals showing special promise sit on technical committees which exist at the main factories.

Scientific advances

Extensive research has been carried out recently in Georgia into automation, instrument making, electrical engineering andtelemechanics. New scientific institutes have arisen such as the Institute of Applied Chemistry and Electrochemistry, the Research Institute of Automation of Production Processes, and a big electronic data-processing centre. Georgian scientists are doing advanced research in nuclear physics, and the physics of low temperatures and cosmic rays. The nuclear reactor recently installed in Tbilisi enables scientists there to carry out investigations into the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The Georgian Academy of Sciences is setting up an Institute of Semi-Conductors which will contribute to the development of computing techniques,telemechanics and automation. Scientific contacts with countries abroad are growing more regular and varied. In 1958, for example, Georgian scientists attended meetings and congresses in Edinburgh, Leyden, Berlin, Leipzig, Geneva, London, Vienna, Bucarest,Rome and Brussels. The observatory at Abastumani is studying variable stars in collaboration with observatories in the United States, Holland and Ireland.

Growing pains of modernization

This modernization is not without its growing pains. Nor has the industrial development of Georgia been achieved without sacrificing something of what we in the West regard as basic facilities and amenities. In spite of its tourist attractions, Georgia suffers from a chronic shortage of hotels and restaurants. This applies to the capital itself: the Tbilisi Intourist hotel on Rustaveli Avenue to which most visitors are directed is as sepulchral in its dusty décor as its management is friendly and civil, and most of the rival establishments which existed prior to the 1917 Revolution have long since been taken over for other uses. While Tbilisi now has its own efficient television studio and transmitter, the production and marketing of television and radio sets, as well as such consumer durables as refrigerators, washing machines and electric cookers, is far from being equal to the potential demand. In December 1959, Mr. V. P. Mzhavanadze told the 20th Congress of the Georgian Communist Party that many industrial and agricultural enterprises in the republic were not operating satisfactorily and that a shortage of consumer goods persisted. Plans for building schools and cultural and medical centres were lagging. ‘It is enough to note that during the past two years only 97 schools have been built instead of the planned total of 525; only 77 medical centres instead of 330; only 155 cultural centres instead of 735; and only 77 bath-houses instead of 555.’ If Georgia were to pull its weight in the new Seven-Year Plan for 1959-65, then severe sanctions would have to be applied against inferior standards of work and behaviour, Marxist-Leninist ideological campaigns would have to be intensified, and anti-religious propaganda vigorously pursued.

The housing crisis

The housing position in Georgia, though leaving much to be desired, is alleviated somewhat by the fact that the land was not ravaged by the Nazi Germans, as was European Russia, and also by the ease with which simple peasant houses can be run up in this temperate climate from wood, mud and other cheap materials. The rapid growth of Georgia’s urban centres since World War II has led to overcrowding and some of the picturesque quarters of old Tbilisi have degenerated into slums. Some 90,000 flats have been built since the war by state and municipal enterprise, and another 40,000 have been put up in Georgia’s towns by factory and office workers on a cooperative basis. During the current Seven-Year Plan, the rate of housing construction is to increase still faster. The state plans to build over 100,000 more dwellings by 1965, and people constructing their own homes will be assisted to erect another 60,000. A personal visit to the suburbs of Tbilisi in August 1960 showed many blocks of modern flats in the course of active construction.

Farming and plantations

Despite the growth of Georgian industry, the country remains to a large extent a land of agriculture, stock-raising and plantations. The most striking progress in recent years has been in the realm of sub-tropical crops and produce. Georgia today has 125,000 acres of flourishing tea gardens, equipped with the latest tea-picking and processing machinery. By 1965, Georgia is to deliver 170,000 tons gross of green tea leaf to the state. The citrus fruit plantations are only now recovering from the disastrous frosts of 1949-50 and 1953-54, and it will be some time before the 1949 harvest of 710 million fruit is equalled or exceeded. Vineyards are to be extended from 170,000 to 300,000 acres and should yield close on half a million tons of grapes. Personal inspection of the Tbilisibrandy factory and the wine cellars at Tsinandali in Kakheti gives a highly favourable impression of the present management and future potential of this industry, which already markets and exports high-quality wine and brandy on an international scale. The areas under tobacco, olives, sugar beet and maize are also to be greatly extended.

By 1958, there were 6,250 tractors and 1,500 combine harvesters at work in the fields of Georgia. However, the extension of tea and citrus fruit plantations has tended to divert attention away from the growing of wheat and other crops needed to feed Georgia’s expanding population. Thus, in 1950, Georgia had to import three-quarters of the bread supply from other Soviet republics and hardship was experienced by the masses. The changeover from individual husbandry to collective and state farms, though now virtually universal, is not yet fully accepted by all members of the peasant class, some of whom fail to devote the same loving care to collectivized cows and crops as they do to their own little yards and vegetable plots. It must also be remembered that peasants are drifting away from the countryside into the new urban factories or the prosperous state-run tea or wine combines. Compared with the growth of heavy industry and sub-tropical cultures, the production of basic foodstuffs in Georgia appears rather static. The supply of butcher’s meat, for instance, increased between 1950 and 1954 from 51,000 to 84,000 tons; thereafter it rose very slowly, amounting in 1957 to 86,000 tons, a negligible advance. Milk production rose between 1950 and 1956 from 293,000 to 415,000 tons, but sank in the following year to 398,000 tons. Georgia produced in 1950 156 million eggs, a figure which rose to 232 million in 1954, around which quantity annual production has since remained very steady. It is interesting to note that the marketing of eggs remains one of the chief private perquisites of individual peasants, who bring to market over 210 million of them annually, or nine-tenths of the total consumption. Sheep raising in Georgia is clearly on the decline, production of wool having sunk from 4,352 tons in 1950 to 3,894 tons in 1957. However, as the Soviet Union’s internal trading and communications system becomes further rationalized, it should be easy to supplement local food production with cheap grain and dairy products from the Ukraine and elsewhere, leaving Georgian growers free to concentrate on the more rewarding sub-tropical and specialized crops for which Georgia’s climate is uniquely suited.

Education, medicine and sport

The overall progress in Georgia’s economic position is matched by the advances which have been made in education, public hygiene, and sport. The 4,500 schools have a total enrolment of 700,000, which means that one in six of the country’s population is attending school. 181 schools have boarding facilities, of which 7,000 children at present take advantage; the boarding system is shortly to be further expanded. There are over ninety technical colleges and similar institutions, with 27,000 students. Eighteen out of every thousand of the population hold a university degree or training college diploma. The number of hospital beds in Georgia amounts to only 27,800, but the proportion of qualified medical practitioners to the comfortably exceeds the ratio for Western Europe. Spas and sanatoria at Abastumani, Borzhomi, Sukhumi and other places annually receive thousands of visitors from all parts of the Soviet Union.

Before World War II, sports facilities in Georgia were poor and sparse. Today the republic has 70 stadiums, 1,000 football fields, 4,500 volleyball and basketball courts, 270 gymnasia and 20 swimming pools. Georgia’s ten best sportsmen participated as members of Soviet teams in the 16th Olympic Games at Melbourne, eight of them returning home with Olympic medals.

Scholarship and science

Science, scholarship and higher education are in a flourishing condition, as the writer was able to verify when visiting Tbilisi as well as from regular correspondence and personal contacts with Georgian colleagues. The Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR now has forty-four specialist branches employing over 2,000 scholars and scientists. There is a separate Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Many of the academicians are also professors at the Tbilisi University and are men of international standing. The physiologist Ivane Beritashvili, for instance, was elected in 1959 an honorary member of the New York Academy of Medical Sciences, on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday.

Much attention is given to the study of Georgian language, literature and history. Since 1950, six volumes of a definitive Georgian lexicon have appeared, compiled under the direction of Professor Arnold Chikobava, whose criticism of N. Y. Mart’s ‘Japhetic’ theory led up to Stalin’s official repudiation of Marrist linguistic theory and methods. Professor Simon Qaukhchishvili has brought out a new edition of the Georgian Annals (Kartlis tskhovreba), based on all the best manuscripts. Professors Akaki Shanidze and KomeliKekelidze and their disciples continue their outstanding work on the classics of Old Georgian literature, the principal monuments of which are now assembled in a special Institute of Manuscripts under the care of Ilia Abuladze. The Institute of the History of Georgian Literature named after Shota Rustaveli and the Institute of the History of Georgian Art are only two of many foundations actively studying Georgia’s cultural heritage. The teaching of European and Oriental languages is energetically pursued. The principal second language of instruction in Georgian schools and colleges is Russian, but English, French and German are taught in the main institutions. The works of Dickens, Thackeray, Defoe and Sir Walter Scott are among the English classics available in Georgian. Since 1953, one of the main publishing houses has been issuing the works of Shakespeare in Georgian translation, several plays in renderings by Prince Ivane Machabeli ( 1854-98), the rest translated by Givi Gachechiladze and other modern scholars.

The economic potential of Georgia

It is sometimes objected that the material and cultural advances are outweighed by the loss of Georgia’s independence, and the merging of her national destinies into those of the Soviet Union as a whole. There are naturally some Georgians who would like to cast loose the leading strings of Moscow, while retaining the concrete benefits which have accrued in recent years. It is doubtful, however, whether such a development would be either feasible or beneficial, even assuming that Mr. Khrushchev suddenly encouraged Georgia to take advantage of the ‘break away’ clause in the 1936 Constitution. Economic and political integration withRussia assures Georgia a virtual monopoly of a huge market for tea, wine, citrus fruits, manganese and a score of other valuable commodities, as well as such modem amenities as a twice daily jet plane service to Moscow. There is little or no unemployment, andGeorgia is spared the ruinous outlay of maintaining a standing army and other burdens which proved so detrimental both to her kings of old, and to her independent régime of 191 8-21.

Russian nationality policy today

Friends of Georgia will naturally hope that further de-Stalinization is in store for her, as well as for the Soviet Union as a whole, and that the monolithic exclusiveness of single-party rule will give way over the generations to a more truly democratic system. There are indeed many signs that the present masters of Russia are alive to the danger which Lenin foresaw when he denounced the oppression of the smaller nations of the Soviet community by the type of person whom he termed ‘that truly Russian man, the Great Russian chauvinist, who is essentially a scoundrel and an oppressor’, and that Moscow is well aware of the need to avoid flouting the susceptibilities and traditions of the smaller peoples of the USSR.

The Stalin personality cult received a fresh setback at the time of the 22nd Party Congress held at Moscow in October 1961, at which the accusations levelled at the dead Georgian dictator in secret session in 1956 were repeated in public with added vehemence, and his embalmed body removed from the famous mausoleum in Red Square. In Georgia, Stalin’s demotion was received with mixed feelings. Relief was mingled with bewilderment, while some people suspected that abuse of Stalin was being used in certain quarters as a pretext for discrediting the Georgians generally. Stalin’s name was deleted from the official designation of Tbilisi University, and Stalinir, the capital of South Ossetia, reverted to its old name of Tskhinvali. At the congress of the GeorgianComsomol or Communist Youth organization held in Tbilisi in January 1962, delegates discussed current problems of the day with an outspoken frankness unthinkable a few years ago.

The case of Georgia illustrates the achievements, both good and less good, of the radical and drastic methods of Soviet social engineering when applied to economically backward areas. Not everyone finds the Soviet system of government sympathetic, especially when the interests of the Soviet peoples are represented by a Muscovite Big Brother trying to cow the world by mouthing nuclear menaces. The Georgians have had much to suffer from that same Big Brother in their time. But when one contrasts the dynamic economic and industrial system of Georgia with the chronic instability of some modern countries of the Middle East, or with the deplorable stagnation and effeteness of others, there is no denying the positive side of Russia’s work in Georgia. The Soviet formula for a federation of European and Asiatic peoples under the domination of Russian Communists is not a perfect one, especially as it takes absolutely no account of the personal preferences or political aspirations of each national group. But at least it ensures that when at last the day comes for Georgia and other smaller peoples of the Soviet Union to enjoy a larger measure of free speech, genuine democracy and a wider self-determination, they will do so without drifting back into a vicious circle of ignorance, poverty and disease, and be able to stand on their own feet economically and industrially in this competitive modern age.

113.      Russia: The Official Report of the British Trades Union Delegation to Russia and Caucasia, Nov. and Dec., 1924, London 1925, pp. 230-31.

114.      N. A. Berdzenishvili, edit., History of Georgia. Manual for the 8th and 9th forms, Tbilisi 1960, p. 323.

115.      Boris Pastemak, An Essay in Autobiography, London 1959, p. 114.

116.      Pastemak, An Essay in Autobiography, p. 110.

117.      Pastemak, An Essay in Autobiography, p. 111.


Material is reposted from Andrew Andersen’s website

Georgian National Committee in Berlin and German Encouragement of Georgian Separatism

Hew Strachan

(excerpt from the book” The First World War”/Oxford/2001/p. 718)

In September 1914 a Georgian nationalist committee, under the direction of Prince Georg Machabeli and Michael Tsereteli, was established inBerlin. Germany recognized a potentially independent Georgia. Matschabeli asked the Germans for 50,000 rifles and 5 million rounds, Falkenhayn offered 14,000 outmoded rifles and 1.4 million rounds, but then, owing to to the blocade of Budapest-Bucharest route, could not deliver them.

German support for Georgia was therefore nominal rather than actual. But its motivation – to create an army out of nothing but diplomacy – was one which Matschabeli kept in play. In April 1915 he would talk grandly of raising a force of 500,000 Caucasians in two or three months.*

Given the fact that Germany could not prime the pump with munitions, the Georgians had in addition to speak to Talaat and Enver. This Leo Keresselidze did in September. The Georgian aim was independence for Georgia and neutrality in the Caucasus; their kingdom, once independent, would embrace not only its Christian population but also the Muslims. Keresselidze’s objective, therefore, was an alliance withTurkey, not Turkish suzerainty. Enver could not afford to renounce Georgian manpower, but nor could he bring himself to abandon the pan-Turkish dream, If Turkey wished to have a say in the settlement of the region it would have to use its own forces and upstage its German ally.

* Bibl, Kaukasus-politik, 60-1, 63-4, 74, 234-5; Jaschke, Welt des Islams, XXIII (1941), 13-14; Zechlin, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte (1961), 354


Manana Gnolidze

The Caucasus is a region with an incredible variety of ethnic, religious and linguistic groups. The Muslim North Caucasus and Azerbaijan, Orthodox Christian Georgia, and ChristianMonophysite Armenia, together with people of different sects and denominations represent a multidimensional picture of the region.

This variety does not, by itself, lead to conflict. The variety encompasses common customs, traditions, and the ethnic and psychological individualism of the Caucasian people. If measured by diversity and integrity, the most interesting area in the Caucasus could be Georgia, where the majority Orthodox Georgian population has always lived alongside people of different ethnic and religious denominations. Religious faith has never caused war inside the country, but the Orthodox Christianity of Kartli-Kakheti (East Georgia), combined with political aspirations, determined the pro-Russian sympathies of the ruling class. This alliance with Russia in the eighteenth century defined theCaucasus. future destiny to become a part of the Russian Empire.

The Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji between the Russian Empire and Sublime Porte on 10 July 1774, in articles concerning the Caucasus, pronounced Russia to be the protector of all Orthodox Christians in the East.1 It prohibited the tribute of young girls and boys from Georgiato the Ottomans2 . a most despised obligation for Georgia. This act began to create real obstacles to slave trade from the Caucasus.

In 1783, Kartli-Kakheti signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, which continued Russia.s political advance into the Caucasus. In it, Georgia openly declared its desire for Russian protection against Turkey and Iran. In exchange for relinquishing part of its political independence, Georgiademanded that its protector help conquer and win back Georgian territories occupied by the Ottomans between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most importantly for the present analysis, the act established regulations of the two Orthodox Churches (in Russia and Georgia) that made the Patriarch of Georgia a permanent member of the Holy Synod.3 This agreement instituted a new relationship between the Georgian Catholicos-Patriarch and the Holy Synod, giving eight degrees of sanctity to the Georgian Patriarch and ranking it behind the Archbishop of Tobolsk.4 This meant that the Georgian Church lost its independence, coming under the jurisdiction of the Russian Catholicos-Patriarch. Importantly, as the Synod was supervised by a (secular) Ober-Prosecutor who answered to the Empress, the Georgian church became dependent on the Russian state.

Russia needed to articulate a sound ideological basis for extending its political rule over the newly annexed territories, and the Treaty ofGeorgievsk allowed the Orthodox faith to serve this purpose.

The beginning of missionary activity

The idea to use the Orthodox faith to create a common ideology in the Caucasus was not new. Missionary activity in the region had been pioneered in the eighteenth century by two clergymen, Joseph (Archbishop of Sameba Monastery in Georgia) and Nikolai (head of theZnamensky Monastery in Moscow). In 1743 they presented a petition to the Empress Elizabeth, asking for permission to found a missionary society to spread the Orthodox faith in Ossetia. The petition was approved and led to the establishment the Clerical Commission of Ossetia in 1745.

The Society sent its first missionaries from Moscow the next year. The centre of the mission was Mozdok. Nevertheless, despite its energetic attempts, the Commission did not achieve any significant goals. The instability of Russia.s political presence in the North Caucasus led the Empress to abolish it in 1792.

The status of the Georgian Church began to erode in reality after the kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti was joined to Russia in 1801 and lost its independence completely in 1811. The Synod then appointed Varlam Eristavi as Exarch of Georgia (the head of the Georgian Church and a Bishop, ranking below the Patriarch). The Synod obliged him to reform the Georgian church to match Russian Church organisation and also to make Georgia the centre for spreading Orthodox Christianity among the non-Christian population of the Caucasus.5

Following the reforms in the Georgian church, the erstwhile Clerical Commission of Ossetia was re-established in 1815, now centred inTbilisi. The Synod appointed Dositheos, Archbishop of Telavi and of Georgia-Caucasus, as head of the Commission.The Imperial Treasury distributed the substantial sum of 14,750 rubles annually for the Commission, as well as money for the maintenance of 100 Cossacks and 30 church peasants (the latter served as guides through the mountains). The fact that Cossacks were enlisted indicates Russia.s fear of the mountain people.s resistance to the missionary project.

In 1810, the kingdom of Imereti (West Georgia) joined Russia. Accordingly, the borders of the Georgian Exarchate expanded to the west to include Megrelia and Abkhazia. Thus, the area of the Commission.s renewed activity was already much bigger and included territory beyond the Caucasus Mountains. The main new objectives were directed against Islamic influence in Georgia, specifically in Abkhazia and Saingilo (Kakhi andZakatala districts of today.s Azerbaijan).

According to the missionaries. reports, they baptised 216 Abkhazians, as well as 2,788 Kists (Chechens and Ingush) living in Georgia, and 43,927 Ossetians between 1817 and 1825.6

In 1857, the Viceroy of the Caucasus, Alexander Ivanovich Bariatinskii, and the Exarch of Georgia, Isidor (Nikolskii), reported to the Emperor that, “The duty of the Orthodox Christian state is to create a Society for the restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus.Russia cannot remain indifferent to the problems of religious education for our younger brothers who have wandered from the Christian church due to Muslim propaganda. Muridism expresses this propaganda. Individuals must play an active role in the preservation of Christianity among the Caucasian mountain people. Orthodoxy is the main tool of Russia, and Russia is the

tool of Orthodox Christianity herself”7

The report presented by Bariatinskii and Isidor was discussed for three years in St. Petersburg. Circumstances for the main ideological attack were suitable after the Russians captured Shamil and ended his holy war against Russia (1834-1859), and the Society for the Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus was established in July 1860. The Society announced that Empress Marie Alexandrovna would be its official patron.8

The Society declared, as did Bariatinskii, that the main aim of its work was to spread Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus as a counter to extensive Muslim propaganda.

Bariatinskii wrote, in a report cited in the Survey of Activity of the Society for Restoration of OrthodoxChristianity in the Caucasus, 1860-1910, that:

“Islam for the Caucasian mountain people is the faith of patriotism. It is the symbol and flag of independence. Independence means everything for the mountain people, it is their aim in life. Both the laypeople and priests, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, accept such an evaluation of religious faith (from its political point of view).

For the entire population of the Caucasus Mountains, the Muslim mountain people are .their. people accepted with honour anywhere. The non-Muslim is a pariah, a slave, an outcast. […] For our half-Christian tribes, the prophets of Muridism embody the ideal of the man.sdignity, man.s pride and courage. He is a person who is always ready to sacrifice himself, but not to suffer. He does not understand suffering. He is ready for death with pride in the most unequal battle against the giaours (non-Muslims) for the glory of God. […] Islam attracts mountain people from all walks of life.9

As this quote makes clear, for Russian policy makers in the Caucasus, being Muslim was incompatible with being a Russian subject.

The establishment of the Society proclaimed the aim of restoring Christianity in the region where the natives had been Christians since ancient times. The main directions of the Society.s activity were:

1) To construct and restore churches, and to establish nearby housing for the clergy;

2) To establish and finance parochial schools for the education of the locals;

3) To translate and publish the Bible and other sacred books into local languages and to compile alphabets for peoples who did not have them;

4) To improve the social position of priests and to improve their training.10

Only Orthodox Christians could join the Society. The Council of the Society was the main authority for missionary activities, with the Georgian Exarch serving as

Chairman of the Council. The Society inherited the property of the Clerical Commission of Ossetia, totalling 238,174 rubles,11 and received money from the government and individuals, which by 1861 had reached 376,339 rubles. 12 The Society received lands, including the Karaiazsteppe, amounting to 100,000 square dessiatinas (approximately 275,000 acres) in all. The property of the Society as of January 1, 1864, amounted to 450,188 rubles.13 In 1862-1863, the finances of the Society were increased permanently, thanks to the attention of the Emperor and the Empress of Russia, and reached a .considerable amount..14

The zeal of the government to finance the Society shows the great importance it gave to the spread of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus.

How did the Muslim population and mullahs react to this activity? In its first report (for 1862-1863), the Society admitted that, .the mere fact of the appearance of the Society caused an awakening of religious fear and enmity towards it and presented a challenge for Muslim propaganda, which uses any means to paralyse the defensive activity of the Society.15

Muslim resistance as well as the Georgian mountaineers’ reluctance to give up their traditional customs, including some pre-Christian elements, presented some difficulties for missionary activity in the Caucasus, which the missionaries identified in a report presented to the Emperor and Ober-Prosecutor for 1862-3.

In response, the Emperor appointed the Viceroy of the Caucasus, Michael Alexandrovich Romanov, as Chairman of the Society. The Emperor also was convinced that the current and future prospects for Orthodox Christianity in the region lay in the foundation of Orthodox educational institutions and the immediate compilation of local alphabets.

The Society admitted in the same report of 1862-1863 that the compilation of alphabets in the local languages languages was intended to remedy the fact that all local education was conducted by the mullahs. They taught the Arabic language to the local children in order to teach them the Qur.an in Arabic. The Society thought that if they could provide new schools for the youth, where the teaching would be in native languages using books in the (new) local alphabets, they would win the .battle. for Christian propaganda.

According to this plan, Georgian was to be used at schools among the Georgian mountaineers and Armenian, Turkish, and Georgian would be used in south Georgia, in consideration of the ethnic structure of the region (at least for the beginning classes).

The Society was trying to make the Georgian mountaineers give up the local “pagan” traditions and change the local structure of the communities, where often the head of the community was also the elder, or khevisberi. The khevisberi was also the spiritual leader of the community, leading church service during the festival for the community saint. Regular weekly church service among the Georgian mountaineers was not observed, but they had special celebrations of Christian saints such as St. Mary, St. George, and others when they gathered at a special place called khati (in English, .icon.). A khati, which was not a large church but a small building like a basilica, was built for each saint. The khevisberi would lead the ceremony, praying for community, offering sacrifices to the saint, and switching candles.

This structure apparently seemed dangerous, as it made a single person both a spiritual and community leader and gave him great influence on the local community. At present, this institution has been weakened in Georgia, but among some North Caucasian groups it remains strong and defines the unity of community (such as among Chechens and Ingush).

The Viceroy began his work actively and created the post of Inspector of Orthodox schools in 1864, by the Order of the Society #16, and assigned two inspectors to this position. In 1873, the local government created the special position of Inspector of the Society.s schools under the administration of the Caucasian educational district.. The Inspector was also responsible for some public schools in regions located outside the authority of the Governor.s inspectors in Svaneti and Abkhazia.16 The first Inspector, Streletskii from Moscow University, was very active in arranging the Society.s schools.

Muslim priests opposed the Society.s educational activity, since they had previously maintained a monopoly on education in regions with dense Muslim populations,17 and yet they could not stop the Society.s educational activities.

In 1861, the Commission for Introduction of Literacy Among the Mountaineers was established by the Society to compile alphabets. The Society appointed Ivan Bartolomei as Chair of the Commission, with a staff made up of Pavel Uslar, Dimitry Purtseladze, Vladimir Trirogov and others.

In 1865, the Commission compiled andpublished an Abkhaz alphabet with translations of Abkhaz aphorisms and stories for children. The book was approved as the textbook for use in Abkhaz schools.18 In 1868, the Board of the Society changed this policy, admitted the “infant” position of Abkhaz language and so Abkhaz language remained undeveloped and all translation projects were ceased.19

Konstantin Davidovich Machavariani and his seventeen-year old student, Dimitry Gulia (the creator of the present Abkhaz alphabet), continued the work only later after 1892.20 The reaction of Georgian intellectuals to this act was remarkable. Jacob Gogebashvili, the creator of the Georgian textbooks (Deda EnaBunebis Kari, and others) noted:

“We Georgians must strive to develop and enrich our literature and the liturgical language. And we have to wish the same for the other nations, including the Abkhaz. […] Exarch Kirion supported efforts to compile an Abkhaz alphabet and create their literature. He demanded that I take part in creating textbooks in the Abkhaz native language.

Georgians in Sokhumi should work towards this goal, as the awakening of the Abkhaz will change their external unity with Georgians into the internal solidarity and intensive Brotherhood”.21

During 1864-1865, some of the Kists in the Pankisi gorge were converted to Orthodox Christianity, and the Society opened a school inPankisi. The Society invited two Kists to come to Tbilisi in 1867 to create textbooks in the Chechen language, using an alphabet already created by Pavel Uslar. The Commission for Literacy published the textbook the same year together with the Chechen alphabet, but soon the work stopped as Russia began mass deportations of Chechens and Ingush (together with other rebellious people from the North Caucasus) to the Ottoman Empire.

The translation of Gospel into Ossetian was finished in 1864 and published in the same year.

The changed political situation after the end of the wars prepared fertile ground for the future missionary activity. Now that it did not have to contend with Murid resistance, Russia was able to reorganize the administration of the region to better integrate the Caucasus into the imperial system, a project in which missionary work played an important role. Following the wars with Turkey, Batumi-Kobuleti pashalik was ceded to Russia in 1878.

Akhatsikhe pashalik (Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki distr.) had become part of Russia fifty years earlier, and consolidating Russian rule involved exiling part of the Georgian Muslims (Meskhs) and settling Christian Armenians in their place.

In 1864, Russia dissolved the Abkhaz Principality, and the last Prince of Abkhazia, Michael Shervashidze, was exiled to Russia where he soon died.

The new territories with compact Muslim populations created some difficulties for the Caucasian governors. Paving the way for the establishment of the new rule was resolved by forcing the native Muslims (ethnic Georgians and others) to immigrate to Turkey, a process known as Muhajirism. The first deportations occurred in 1828, while the next flood of Muhajirs went from Abkhazia to Turkey from 1864-1878 and from Adjaria (1878) as well as from the North Caucasus.

These regions became the main arenas (together with the Georgian Mountain provinces) formissionary activity.

Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki districts, 1861-1885

By 1880, the Society had three schools in Akhalkalaki and two in Akhaltsikhe district,22 and one shelter opened in 1878 at a school in theAkhalkalaki district.23 In 1880, four more parochial schools were opened in Akhaltsikhe district, in Akhaltsikhe, Vale, Safara-Muskhi, andToloshi.

Akhalkalaki district: Akhalkalaki, Kilda, Baraleti

Society schools were located in three of the four parishes in the district (the village Mushki being the only parish without a school), one school in each. The fourthschool was established in the Muslim village of Khertvisi.24

Georgian served as the language of instruction when the school first opened, but later it was replaced by Russian.

In 1880, the Assistant Commander of Civil Affairs in the Caucasus, S. N. Trubetskoy, and the Head of the Society.s Office at the GeorgianExarch, Michael Smirnov, inspected the Society.s schools in the Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki districts.25 They agreed that it was good to teach in Georgian, but that later Russian language instruction should be instituted. In order to increase the number of the students at the Society.sschools, and also to break down some barriers in teaching because of the ethnic diversity in the region, it was useful for the instructor to be fluent in Turkish, Georgian, and Armenian.26

The most remarkable development was the establishment of a school in Khertvisi in 1870 where the majority of the population was Muslim. About twenty young men graduated from the school, and in 1880 five Muslim students studied at the Caucasian Teachers Seminary. Four young Armenian men also graduated from the school.27

The attempts to use education to spread Orthodox Christianity in Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki districts did not yield the anticipated results. The report of the Society for 1885 shows the disastrous position of the newly converted Christian population in the region.28  For 1880, there were only 77 cases of baptism into Christianity among the Muslim Georgian (Meskhs),29 and this number did not increase considerably in future.

Abkhazia, 1860-1885

The situation in Abkhazia was different. The Russian Orthodox missions in this region were extremely successful. Building on the activity of the Clerical Commission of Ossetia in Abkhazia, the Society worked to strengthen and spread Orthodox Christianity in the region.

Before examining the main reasons for its success, we must first examine the form of Islam that was prevalent in Abkhazia.The establishment of Turkish supremacy over the Black Sea coast of Georgia between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries was the main impetus for the spread of Islam in the region. The rulers of Abkhazia (as well asthe rulers of Adjara and Samtskhe [Ahkaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki]) were converted to Islam, largely in response to the Muslim law that prohibited non-Muslims from owning land. Actually, in the Muslim countries the ruler of the country owned the land, and he distributed it to his servants. In practice, land ownership was hereditary but the ruler needed to approve it.

In 1810, after realizing Russia.s increasing strength in the Caucasus, the Abkhazian ruler Sapar-bei Sharvashidze declared his alliance withRussia and converted to Orthodox Christianity together with his nobles.

The Society reported that despite their conversion, Abkhazian political interests and religious sympathies still were biased towards Turkey:

“There is no sign that Christianity is preserved either among the princes or the people”.30

To expand their activity, the missions needed to have detailed descriptions of different regions and ethnic groups in the Caucasus. The Society did this work in

Abkhazia and in the other parts of Georgia and Caucasus, and reports were submitted by the Society.s missionaries.

The missionaries divided the Abkhazian Muslim population (in accordance with their devotion to Islam) into two groups: fanatics and non-fanatics.

The former, a minority, kept all the traditions of Islam strongly but were not committed to pilgrimages to the sacred Muslim sites nor to praying five times a day.

Non-fanatic Abkhazians, who formed the majority, maintained Islamic traditions by keeping Ramadan and the feast of Kurban-Bairam, and by inviting mullahs to ceremonies. They practised a more syncretic Islam, as they also celebrated Christmas, Easter, New Year, Whit Sunday, and festivities observing the Virgin Mary and St. George. In addition, they worshipped icons and lit candles when praying, dyed eggs on Easter, and poured wine on bread in memory of dead ancestors.31

The missionaries concluded that there was no religious friction in Abkhazia between Muslims and Christians. The missionaries had been disturbed by the fact that religious difference did not impede marriage between Christians and Muslims in the Caucasus, and this was most common in Abkhazia. They decided that the only difference that the Abkhazians recognised was based on social status and not on religion.32These and other facts led officials to conclude that the great majority of Abkhazians (the so-called nonfanatics) were Christians, despite the influence of Turkey in the region.

According to the missionaries’ reports, the two main centres of Islam in Abkhazia were Atsi (in the Gudauta region) and Jgerda (in theKodori region), where there were two small mosques. The Muslims in Gudauta were more devoted Muslims than their coreligionists in theKodori region. Nevertheless, the influence of Orthodox Georgians living in Samurzakano (the Gali district of today.s Abkhazia) did not outweigh the influence of Islam on the population of Kodori.

Samurzakano is a territory in Abkhazia where the great majority of the natives are Georgians (Megrelians).

The Society claimed that one outstanding result of missionary activity here was the fact that in 1910 there were not any Muslims recorded among the citizenry. In this situation the missionaries exaggerated the impact of their work, as the great majority of natives in Samurzakanowere Georgian Christians even before the missionary activity began.

The reality was that the observance of Christian traditions in the region persisted, albeit weakly, and that the missionaries had simply strengthened existing tendencies. The Society also emphasized that the population tried to preserve and restore Christianity in other parts of Abkhazia.33

The popular Georgian newspaper Droeba mentioned that about 2,875 Muslims and 876 pagans were baptised in 1867, the majority of whom were Abkhaz.34

The real success in baptising Muslim Abkhazians was achieved by Bishop Gabriel (Kikodze, 1869-1885) of Imereti. He sent DavidMachavariani (as part of the Clerical Commission of Ossetia) to carry out missionary work in Abkhazia.

Although the Commission for Ossetia no longer existed, Machavariani continued his work after 1869 under the authority of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus. In October of 1879, 700 Abkhazians were baptised. Machavariani organised the mission and divided the region into two parts, Bzipi and Kodori. Mokvi (Samurzakano) was chosen as the centre of the mission for Bzipi and according to the reports eighty percent of the population was baptised.35

Georgians contributed significantly to the success of Russian missionary work. in fact, they defined the success of the Russian Orthodox missions. Their knowledge of local languages, customs, traditions, and ethnic psychology simplified their task. Tradition also played important role. Georgians, indeed, had historically beenthe propagators of Christianity among the different ethnic groups in the Caucasus.

The Society was a pioneer of mass education in Abkhazia and in many regions of the Caucasus. Machavariani opened the first school inOkumi (Samurzakano) and as of 1885 the Society.s schools were the only educational institutions in Abkhazia.36 The Society founded the new school in 1876 at the New Athens Monastery where about twenty Abkhazian young men studied.

Reorganisation of the Society in 1885

1885 marked a turning point in the history of the Society, when the Emperor ordered its reorganisation. The Chairman of the Society became the Exarch of Georgia, and the Assistant Commander for Civil Affairs in the Caucasus was appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Society.37

The reorganisation was initiated by the Ober-Prosecutor of Holy Synod and the Commander for Civil Affairs in the Caucasus, Dondukov-Korsakov (the former Chairman of the Society). The Society was brought into accordance with the Orthodox Missionary Society and passed under the authority of the Holy Synod.38 The Society transformed its schools into parochial schools, though they still remained dependents of the Society.

The report on the state of Christianity for 1885 counted 170 churches under the auspices of the Society. There were 143 parishes in the region:

East Georgia – 64, Vladikavkaz – 26, Sokhumi (Abkhazia) – 37, Guria-Megrelia (West Georgia) – 15, Imereti (West Georgia) – 1.

The Society also had a number of churches in the regions of Georgia and North Caucasus:

Vladikavkaz bishopric – 29, Sokhumi bishopric – 54, Guria-Megrelia bishopric – 14, Imereti bishopric – 1.

In 1885, the Society spent over 281 rubles to repair the Muslim mosque in village Samovat (Karsi district).39 This flexible policy in regions where the majority of the population was Muslim guaranteed local assistance for the foundation of the missionary schools there. The priests of the Society received generous salaries of about 200-700 rubles annually. The total amount for the maintenance of the clergy increased to 64,687 rubles in 1885.40 The Society also granted scholarships to successful pupils to continue their education at the ecclesiastical schools ofTbilisi, Kutaisi, Gori, and other high educational institutions of the Russian Empire. For 1884-85 academic year, the Society granted 30 scholarships to successful students.41

The outcome of the missionary activity during the period of 1860-1885, according to the Society.s reports, was not impressive except in Abkhazia and in parts of modern-day Azerbaijan (Zakatala district). The reasonsfor failure in Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki and Pankisi were, according to the Society, the influence of Muslim culture on neighbouring Christians; the poverty of those newly converted to Christianity; and reliance on poorly qualified missionaries.42

This evaluation of immediate causes was correct, but the main reason for local resistance to Christianity was defined by resistance to Russian political rule.

Akhaltsikhe – Akhalkalaki districts, 1885-1910

The most poverty-stricken converts were the Christians in Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki. The authors of the 1885 report stated:

“The prospect of such a poor life restrains even those Muslims who sincerely wish to become Christians. … Muslims are afraid of Christian priests and try to avoid the meeting with them. Naturally, it is difficult to speak of the possibility of successful missionaryactivity, let alone of success achieved”.43

The missionary activity of the Russian Orthodox Church also focused on Georgian society, as expressed on the pages of Georgian newspapers and magazines such as Tsnobis PurtseliShromaDroebaIveria. In assessing

the Society.s activity, the press was mostly critical of the Society not only for its lethargy in spreading Orthodox Christianity but also for its passive educational work.44

The period of 1885-1910 can be considered the second stage in the history of the Society. The political tides in the Caucasus had finally turned in Russia.s favour.

The migration processes in newly acquired territories had ended. Colonization of the Black Sea coast and the Akhaltikhe-Akhalkalaki districts had finished or was being carried out successfully.

In 1888, Tsar Alexander III visited Georgia and was met by representatives of the Abkhazian nobility returning from exile in Turkey asMuhajirs. The meeting was held in Sokhumi, and the nobles presented a petition requesting the return of lands the Muhajirs owned before deportation. The Tsar approved the petition but as of 1898, the local government had not fulfilled the order.45

The missionaries and the native Muslims improved their relations by the end of the nineteenth century:

”The Muslims, who not a long time before were full of enmity towards their Christian neighbours, at present express not only religious tolerance but also allowed their children to receive education at Christian schools … In the year of this report (1896) there were five Muslim young men and one young woman at the Toloshi School (Akhaltsikhe Distr.) They make up one seventh of the total number of pupils there”.46

Beginning in 1901, the situation turned against Christianity. Muslims in the village Muskhi who had previously agreed to send their children to the Society’s school suddenly changed their minds for fear that they would be converted to Christianity. The number of mullahs was increasing. They were coming from Turkey, and had been educated in Istanbul. Turkey understood the danger posed by a restored Christianity on its borders and contradicted by Muslim propaganda.

The report of the Society for 1898-1901 shows that the missionaries were concerned with possible attempts to inspire enmity between Muslims and Christian Georgians. The situation did not encourage peace and friendship, and eventually there were signs of growing hatred because of religious differences.

The Society suggested that the government not give permission to mullahs from Turkey to come to Georgia and accordingly to appoint less fanatical, native mullahs to these positions.47

Adjaria, 1889-1910

Beginning in 1889, the Society took a step forward in the restoration of Christianity in another region of the Black Sea coast of Georgia:Adjara. Here, in Batumi, the Society established a Missionary Section, chaired by Bishop Gregory of Guria-Megrelia. The members also included the assistant to the governor-general of Kutaisi (West Georgia), and the assistant to the head of the Batumi district (Adjara).

The foundation of this Missionary Section came as a result of a report by Ambrosi, the leader of the Shemokmedi monastery (Guria, in West Georgia), who was sent as a missionary to Adjaria by the Exarch in 1888.

Ambrosi explored the current position of Islam in the region and concluded that many Christian traditions survived in Adjara. He thought that it proved that the Batumi-Artvini districts could be fertile ground for reviving the ancient faith of the natives . Orthodox Christianity.48

The Missionary Section did not produce any results, despite the active efforts of the Society. The Society itself recognized the reasons for its lack of success: the death of Bishop Gregory, who had much influence among the Muslims in Adjara, and the significant distance between the residency of the Bishop in Guria-Imereti and Batumi.

It should be recognized that these reasons were not the primary causes of their failure. The main cause was the strong influence of Islamic propaganda in the region:

“Mullahs have a great influence among Muslim Georgians. These mullahs are fervent fanatics, Adjarians constitute a tightly united body at their disposal, and each member of Muslim society is expected to work equally hard towards its preservation and prosperity. The Muslims strove to preserve the faith among their brothers… The most malicious in this field are the mullahs who arrived from Turkey. They try to erase any memory of Christianity from the soul of Adjarians”.49

The restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus became the main objective of the Orthodox Christian Empire. The Society and the Russian Emperor made this a central theme in their policy.

On October 21, 1896, the day when Tsar Nicholas II ascended to the throne, the annual assembly of the Society took place in Tbilisi and conducted a liturgy in honour of the new Tsar. The Council of the Society discussed the Tsar’s order to the Military Governor of Kutaisi(West Georgia) to support the Society.s missions in Batumi and Artvini districts, where the natives “had been converted to Islam because ofTurkey.s influence. This support would be an appropriate remedy for bringing up the natives with a love and devotion to Russian state and throne”.50

Abkhazia, 1885-1910

The next step to increase the influence of Christianity was to found libraries at the schools and the churches of the Society,51 and to open two parishes in Abkhazia in 1899.52 Special attention was given to the professional education of the youth. The pupils at the New Athens Monastery were permitted to continue study for a fifth year to study agriculture and Psalm teaching.53 The fruits (lemons) grown at the monastery were represented at the agricultural exhibition of the Caucasus. The authors of the 1898.1901 report admitted, “Favourableconditions

in Abkhazia for cultivating even tender southern plants … will no doubt bring region a significant profit. To introduce the natives to scientific methods of planting through the help of the New Athens Monastery school’s students … will result in the growth of economical prosperity in the country”.54

From 1889 to the end of the century, the Muslim population began to increase in Abkhazia: “Many Christian settlements became totally Muslim. Before 1889, not a single village in Abkhazia had a majority Muslim population. Christians lived even in the centres of Islam in Abkhazia (such as Gudauta) and, concerning the birth records, Christian Abkhazians there diligently carried out their Christian duties..55

The Bishop of Sohkumi reported that the inclination of Abkhazians towards Islam was very serious and dangerous for the influence of Christianity in the region. In order to revise and lead the missionary activity in Abkhazia, in 1899 the Society appointed the missionary TarasiIvanitskii. His main task was to draft an accurate

picture of the influence of Orthodox Christianity in Abkhazia. Ivanitskii reported that the Turks living in Sokhumi, Ochamchire, and Gudautawere the key factor for the conversion of Abkhazians to Islam. They secretly kept mosques in Jgerda, Atsi and even in Megrelia(Tskhenitskali). Ivanitskii emphasized that the reason for the weakness of Orthodox Christianity in the region was its use of Old Church Slavonic for church services instead oflocal languages, and, conversely, the requirement that the vernacular be used for teaching at schools. He paid particular attention to the method Ilminskii used in Kazan to return native Tatars to Christianity, including the use of Tatar in teaching the Bible and in the church service. The teachers and the priests were required to know the local languages.

Arseni, Bishop of Sokhumi, appealed to the Military Governor of Kutaisi to exile the mullahs from Abkhazia or at least to forbid Muslim propaganda. The Governor arrested the mullahs, but soon he had to release them.56

In 1899, the Society relocated the anti-Islamic library from Zakatala district to Abkhazia.

Zakatala district, 1885-1910

The Zakatala district was settled by Georgians of Sunni Islamic confession. The Society expended great effort to restore Orthodox Christianity in the region and

partly achieved its goal.

Ingiloes, natives of Zakatala, lived in compact villages: Kakhi, Alibeglo, Koragani, Tasmalo, Zagami, Marsani, Lala-pasha, Musuli, Engiani, etc. Missionaries

reported that Muslim Ingiloes remembered their Christian heritage, respected Christian churches, and kept some Christian traditions. At the beginning of the 20th century,

the Society had five parishes (in Kakhi, Alibeglo, Tasmalo, Koragani and Ketuklo)  with four schools (including one for girls) in Alibeglo,Koragani and Ketuklo.

In 1899, E. Maminaishvili was appointed to the post of Inspector of the Zakatala district, replacing the aforementioned Tarasi Ivanitski, who had carried out some of the most important missionary work among the Ingiloes and was now transferred to Abkhazia.

The activity of the missionaries was met with resistance by the mullahs. Ivanitskii reported that the mullahs forbade the Ingiloes (Georgians living in Azerbaijan in Zakatala/Kakhi districts) to speak in Georgian even for everyday usage.57  The same fact was reconfirmed in 1915 byKavkazskoe Slovo.58 The newspaper mentioned that after 1860s, when the war with Shamil was over and the North Caucasus finally was joined to the Russian Empire, Ingiloes began to lose their native language. Kavkazskoe slovo linked this loss with the persistent efforts to restore the Orthodox Christianity among them. It acknowledged that, “missionary

work had almost no positive result, except for four villages which really turned back to Christianity. All others not only did not express any interest in Christianity but withdrew even further into their religious fanaticism, and hated anything Georgian as a reminder of despised Christianity”.59

The Georgian newspaper Sakartvelo stated that, “many of the villages resolved that mothers would not speak Georgian with their children. To hasten the disappearance of the Georgian language, Ingoloes began to marry women from the Nukhi and Kazakh Districts, which, as known, are settled by Tatars [that is, by Dagestanians and Azeris. The term .Tatar. was often used as a synonym of Muslim. M. G-S.]. Children whose mothers did not speak Tatar were sent to Tatar villages to learn the language and to forget their native Georgian. Ingiloesstopped visit Georgian sacred places [i.e., churches M. G-S.], which they had worshipped until now. They dug up the vineyards, accepted Tatar customs, and

voluntarily went towards total denationalization”.60

Kavkazskoe Slovo also mentioned that, in Georgian newspapers, intellectuals began to devote much attention to the restoration of the Georgian spirit among the Muslim Georgians after the last Turkish invasion of Adjara.

Georgian intellectuals supported their Muslim brothers during this hard period morally and financially, and the interest in Georgian Muslims is increasing among Georgians. The newspaper mentioned that it should immediately begin hard work in Zakatala to restore this lost region to its native culture.61

The same newspaper in October admitted a similar situation among Abkhazians and Meskhs.62 It is noted that, “in the western part of the Sokhumi district, Georgian culture is disappearing. Abkhaz culture, which for many centuries was close to Georgian culture, is today almost totally detached from the Georgian family. It isperhaps strange, but this voluntary denationalisation (as seen in the Muslim parts of Georgia .Akhaltsikhe,Batumi) took place recently, mostly during Russian rule”.

I do not think that it can be explained by a lack of interest from Georgian intellectuals in their Muslim brothers, or by the role of Orthodox missions in weakening the position of Christianity. The reality is that Islam began to serve as the flag against Russian supremacy among all independent people of the Caucasus.

Opposition to Georgians, who were joined to the Russians by a common faith and also who led the Russians to enter the Caucasus, was also a natural feeling among Muslims Georgians and non-Georgians.

Prince Alexander of Georgia allied with Muslims to fight Russians after Georgia was annexed by Russia in 1801. Of course the newspaper could not mention the true reasons. It mentioned the anti-Georgian, but not the anti-Russian reaction among Muslims.

The Society, 1885-1910

The reorganisation of the Society marked increased engagement in different fields of missionary activity and also some revision of its methods. Monies allocated for the restoration and construction of the churches was doubled, reaching 200,000 rubles.63

The Inspector of the Svaneti-Batumi-Artvini regions examined the Society.s schools and assessed the state of Christianity in Abkhazia for 1894-95. His sudden death ended the review, but in 1896 Society appointed a new missionary, Evtikhi Maminaishvili, who worked successfully under the Society.s authority in Zakatala (Azerbaijan).

The Society reported in 1896 that its schools consisted of: 21 for young men, 8 for young women and 19 coeducational institutions in different regions of Georgia.

It had forty schools in Muslim districts: four in Zakatala, four in Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki, seven in Abkhazia, eighteen in North Ossetia, six in South Ossetia, and one in Pankisi (among Chechens and Ingush).64 The number of students at the schools were:

30 boys in Pankisi (Chechens and Ingush);

72 boys and 9 girls in the Zakatala district;

237 boys and 52 girls at the schools of Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki districts;

289 boys and 13 girls in Sokhumi district schools;

1,157 boys and 367 girls in North Ossetia;

263 boys and 26 girls in South Ossetia.65

The hardest task was to improve teaching methods. Using the vernacular in teaching and preaching would assist in the victory of Orthodoxy, according to the Society.s resolutions. It was decided to use the Georgian clergy in organizing missionary work. .A Khevsuri, or Svani, or mountaineer … who is familiar with local conditions, is educated… and who is appointed to the post of priest or teacher would not hesitate [to go] and never would request to be reassigned to another location. Besides, he will be content in his native country among his countrymen, with the customs and traditions he is already familiar with. He will have a stronger influence than a priest or teacher who would need some time to study the native culture..66

To proceed with this plan, Society granted scholarships to the most successful students from the region for graduate study at the St. Petersburg and Kazan Theological Academies, the Tbilisi and Kutaisi Theological Seminaries, the Kutaisi Theological School, the Tbilisi Diocese Women.s School, and St. Nino Women.s School at the Bodbe Convent.

The Society discussed the missionaries. reports on different parts of Georgia with majority Muslim populations and concluded that the main obstacle to their conversion was the animosity towards those new converts of their relatives and neighbours. They killed them, burnt their houses, and their lands were expropriated by their family members if they did not bequeath them before converting. The Society considered it expedient to move the new converts from dense Muslim areas to regions settled by Orthodox Christians or to give them fields from fiscal (state) lands. The Chair of the Society Council and Exarch of Georgia, Flabian, petitioned the Main Commander of Civil Affairs in theCaucasus, Gregory Golitsyn, to make land available for this project. The Exarch based his request on the fact that there were free state lands in the Caucasus, as well as lands given on short-term rent.67

Why had the success of Christian education not led to the success of Orthodoxy itself in the Muslim regions of Georgia (except in Abkhazia,Ossetia and partly the Zakatala district)?

The Society reported that the difficulty was due to the multi-religious societies of the Caucasus – the huge pantheon of religions and ethnic groups:

“Nowhere else are the universal ideas of Christian enlightenment embodied … as in the church schools of the Caucasus. If it one were to ask where and in what circumstances we find Orthodox Christians are praying together with the pagans, Muslims, Jews etc., you would conclude: at the church schools of the Caucasus.

The church school has not been an unusual entity for the non-Orthodox population, even for the Muslims. The latter are the neighbours of Russians and, when given the opportunity, the Muslims send their children to church schools. … If a missionary was skilful, any missionary institution could have a great influence on the wide-scale Christianization (mostly of Muslims) at the school. Muslims are afraid of the missionary but don.t fear the mission school, and this in particular is the way to draw in Christianity without force and to bring Christian and Muslim

customs in contact”.68

The Society acknowledged that it should recognize the role of its schools as institutions of public education and assist in the conversion of the natives into Orthodox Christianity.69

The Society.s schools used the same teaching methodology as throughout the Russian Empire. The textbooks used at the schools were the best textbooks at the time, such as the .Reader in Russian Literature.(by Ushinskii), .Arithmetic. (Grubbe), .Deda Ena. (Georgian language), .Kartuli Anbani. (Georgian alphabet), and .Bunebis Kari. (Biology, Gogebashvili). Textbooks, notebooks and other necessary school things were free for the students and teachers.

By 1910, the society managed 53 parishes and 83 educational institutions in the Caucasus. The Viceroy of the Caucasus, the Emperor, and the Empress made donations that helped them flourish. A special publication, “Survey of the Activity of the Society for the Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus 1860-1910” was published in Tbilisi, and analysed the results of the Society.s activity in

the region. It stated that 2,063,795 rubles totally were spent only for the education of the natives. Correspondingly, 2,761 rubles were spent in 1860, and 75,498 rubles in 1909.70 The number of the Society.s donors varied between 30 and 158. The Society had 53 parishes and 83 schools. The number of those converted from Islam were:

North Ossetians        3,303(between 1865 – 1893)

South Ossetians        815 (1862 – 1879)

Ingiloes                       162 (1869 – 1903)

Kists                           161 (1864 – 1868)

Meskhs                       96 (1880 – 1895)

Adjarians                    23 (1888 – 1899)

Abkhazians                21,336 (1866 – 1902)

Assyrians                   3 305 (1867 – 1902)71

The Survey concluded with the statement:

“Instead of the crescent of the mosque, many of mountaintops of the Caucasus are capped with the cross of the world’s saviour. Where the wild passions rule, where the customs were created on the basis of Islam and paganism, … [n]ot everywhere do the rows of rivers meet the din and the wild cries of the crowd seeking revenge. For the voices of singing children at the temple come to meet them and the school admiring Jesus is coming with love into the soul of the sullen mountaineer instead of Mohammed or Dzuara”.72


As the result of the missionaries. activity among the Muslim natives of Caucasus, we can conclude that the methodology of cultural conquest in the Caucasus was based on the Orthodox faith. Russia regarded itself as the main bearer of this faith in the world and used it as a tool to expand the borders of the Russian Empire.

The main difference with the British missionary activities was that the British Empire expanded via the East India Company, which focused more on business than the souls of the natives. When it began, the East India Company even opposed religious activity in its territories (mostly on the Indian peninsula).

In contrast, Russia expanded into adjoining territories and promoted missionary activity so that the Russian Orthodox Church would also be supreme among the people in the newly adjoined territories.

The Orthodox Georgian priest served as the best means to accomplish this aim.

The non-Christian (Muslim) population began using Islam as their tool against Russia.s expansion. This medium was used many times in 19thand 20th centuries.

The current situation in the Caucasus, with increasingly religious shape of national struggle of the Caucasians (Chechens, Dagestanis and other Caucasian nations) is a reminder that religious and national relations remain undecided in today’s Russian Federation.


Imperial Russia: A Source Book (1700 . 1917). Ed. Basil

Dmytryshyn (Hinsdale, Ill.: Dryden Press, 1974), Chs. 7, 8, 23.

2 Ibid., Ch. 23.

3 Full Collection of Regulations and Ddecrees concerning to Orthodox Faith of the Russian Empire, v. II. (Petrograd, 1915).Reg. #1186, October 25, 1784 (in Russian).

4 Ibid., Al. Khakhanov, Anniversary of Joining of Georgia to Russia (Legislative documents), p. 116 (in Russian).

5 Report of Synod to the Emperor of Russia from 21 June, 1811, p.8 (in Russian).

Survey of Activity of the Society for Restoration of OrthodoxChristianity in the Caucasus, 1860 . 1910 (Tiflis, 1910), p. 85 (in Russian).

7 Ibid., p.92. For the full version of Bariatinski.s report, see pages 91-98;); Bishop Kirion, Short View of the History of Georgian Church andEkzarkhat for 19th Century (Tiflis, 1901), p.106 – 107 (in Russian).

8 Ibid., p. 101.

9 Ibid., pp. 92-93.

10 Report of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianityin the Caucasus for 1906-1907 (Tiflis, 1909), .Chart of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus,. p. 7 (in Russian).

11 Dudko, A. P.. From the History of Schools in Abkhazia before the Revolution, 1851-1917 (Sokhumi, 1956), p. 25 (in Russian).

12 Report of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianityin the Caucasus for 1862-1863 (Tiflis, 1864,), p. 2 (in Russian).

13 Ibid., p. 4.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid., pp. 6-7.

16 Survey., p. 194.

17 Report. for 1862-1863, p. 7.

18 Bartolomei, I. Abkhazian Alphabet (Tiflis, 1865).

19 Survey., p. 157.

20 Uslar, P. Abkhazian Language (Tiflis, 1885) (in Russian).

21 Gogebashvili, J. Selected Works, v. III (Tbilisi, 1990), p. 135 (in Georgian).

22 Report of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus for 1880 (Tiflis, 1884), p. 62 (in Russian).

23 Ibid., p. 193.

24 Ibid., p. 51.

25 Ibid., p. 69.

26 Ibid., p. 77.

27 Ibid, p. 82.

28 Report of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus for 1885 (Tiflis, 1886), pp. 30 -31 (in Russian).

29 Survey., p. 172.

30 Survey., p. 62.

31 Survey., p. 64.

32 Survey. p. 71.

33 Survey., p. 70.

34 Droeba, no.5, January 30, 1869, p. 1 (in Georgian).

35 Shroma, no.2, September 2, 1881, p. 4 (in Georgian).

36 From the History of Schools in Abkhazia., p. 25.

37 Report.for 1885, pp. 3, 10; .Chart of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus,. Ch. 2 (in Russian).

38 Report . for 1885, p. 7.

39 Ibid., p. 16.

40 Ibid., p. 17.

41 Ibid., p. 18.

42 Ibid., p. 27.

43 Ibid., pp. 31-32.

44 Droeba, no. 67, March 29, 1881, pp. 1-2; Droeba, no. 104, May

1881, pp. 1-2; Droeba, no. 35, February 15, 1881, p. 1 (in Georgian).

45 Iveria, no. 100, May 14, 1898, p. 3 (in Georgian).

46 Report of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus for 1896 (Tiflis, 1899), pp. 170-171 (in Russian).

47 Report of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianityin the Caucasus for 1898-1901 (Tiflis, 1903), p. 184 (in Russian).

48 Survey., pp. 145-146.

49 Ibid., pp. 40-41.

50 Report . for 1896, p. 15.

51 Report . for 1898-1901, p. 19.

52 Ibid., p. 48.

53 Ibid., p. 61.

54 Ibid., pp. 61-62.

55 Ibid., p. 80.

56 Ibid., p. 111.

57 Ibid., p. 147.

58 Kavkazskoe slovo, no. 210, September 18, 1915, p. 4,.Concerning the Question of Georgian-Ingiloes. (in Russian).

59 Kavkazskoe slovo, no. 210, September 18, 1915, p. 4.

60 Report . for 1989-1901, p. 147.

61 Kavkazskoe slovo, no. 210, September 18, 1915, p. 4.

62 Kavkazskoe slovo, no. 236, 1915, p. 3.

63 Report . for 1896, p. 18.

64 Report . for 1896, .Register of the Society.s Schools,. pp. 62-


65 .Statement of Inspection of the Society.s Schools for 1896,. pp.

62-102 (in Report . for 1896).

66 Report . for 1898-1901, p. 29.

67 Ibid., pp. 15-16.

68 Report of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianity

in the Caucasus for 1906-1907 (Tiflis, 1909), pp. 76-77.

69 Ibid., p. 77.

70 Survey., pp. 196-197; 199.

71 Survey ., pp. 170-174.

72 Survey., p. 201


Caucasus and Central Asia Newsletter

Issue 4 Summer 2003

Georgia under Russian Imperial Rule

David Marshall Lang

(excerpt from the book”A Modern History of Georgia”/NY/1962)


The liquidation of the old order–Prince Tsitsianov–Death of a general–Subjugation of Western Georgia–KingSolomon II and Napoleon Bonaparte–The revolt of 1812–Suppression of the Georgian Church–Economic progress and literary contacts–The conspiracy of 1832

The liquidation of the old order

WHEN TSAR ALEXANDER I published his manifesto of 12 September 1801, declaring the East Georgian kingdom of Kartlo-Kakheti irrevocably joined to the Russian empire, he also made public the outline of a new system of administration for the country. The land was now divided into five districts or uezdy on the Russian model, three in Kartli and two in Kakheti, with administrative centres atTbilisi, Gori, Dusheti, Telavi and Sighnaghi. With the Georgian royal family removed from power, the commander-in-chief onRussia’s Caucasian front was now supreme head of the central government at Tbilisi by virtue of proconsular powers conferred on him by the Tsar. Authority on the spot was vested in a council of Russian and Georgian officials headed by the commander in chief’s deputy, who received the title of pravitel or administrator of Georgia. The administration was divided into four branches or ‘expeditions’–the executive, the financial, and the criminal and civil judiciaries. Each branch was to be headed by a Russian official set over four Georgian committee members. Corresponding local administrations were to be set up in the country districts under Russian kapitan-ispravniki or district officers. The mountain clans of the Pshavs, Khevsurs and Tush, as well as the Tatar nomads dwelling in the southern borderlands, continued to be governed by Georgian mouravs or prefects. For civil litigation, the code of King Vakhtang VI remained in force, while criminal cases were to be judged according to Russian law.

The high-handed way in which Alexander had suppressed the independence of Kartlo-Kakheti did not pass without protest. The late King Giorgi’s second son, Ioane, who had come to St. Petersburg, tried to organize a nation-wide petition to be submitted to the emperor, urging him at least to maintain the royal title in the Bagratid line in accordance with the treaty of 1783 and subsequent Russian pledges. Ioane’s correspondence was seized by the Russian authorities, and his efforts frustrated. The Georgian envoys who had been sent to St. Petersburg by King Giorgi to negotiate an extension of Russian suzerainty over Georgia protested vigorously at the fashion in which the Russians had devoured their country, without any pretence of negotiation, and without even notifying the Georgian delegation of what was afoot. A number of petitions were received from Georgia, urging the claims of the Prince-Regent David or of his uncle, Prince Yulon, to be retained as titular head of the Georgian administration. It appears also that representatives of Western powers expressed, albeit discreetly, their misgivings at the way in which Georgia’s absorption had been effected. But the Tsar stuck to his decision, and refused to make any concession to the Georgians’ national pride and susceptibilities.

On 12 April 1802, the Russian commander-in-chief in the Caucasus, General Karl Knorring, published in Tbilisi the imperial proclamation of September 1801, confirming Tsar Paul’s earlier decree, and affirming Kartlo-Kakheti to be an integral part of the Russian dominions. The general then administered to the princes and notables of Georgia the oath of allegiance to the Tsar. The effect was somewhat marred by the presence of armed Russian guards around the audience hall, making it clear that any attempt to avoid due compliance would provoke reprisals. A few Georgians who voiced disapproval were taken into custody. This made a poor impression on Russia’s new subjects, deemed to have placed themselves voluntarily under the Tsar’s benevolent protection.

The new Russian administration was set up in Tbilisi in May 1802. The administrator of Georgia was a certain Kovalensky, who had served as Russian envoy at the Georgian court during the reign of the late King Giorgi XII. This Kovalensky had already made himself obnoxious to the Georgians by his haughty manner and bullying demeanour. They were not reassured to see him back among them, invested with all the authority of the Russian state.

During these first two years of Russian rule, the internal situation in Eastern Georgia left much to be desired. Russian authority was confined to only a small part of Transcaucasia, namely the area centred on Tbilisi, measuring about one hundred and ninety miles long by one hundred and forty miles wide. This bridgehead of Russian power was ringed about by Persian khans, Turkish pashas, wild mountaineers, and unsubdued Georgian princelings, most of them hostile to Russia. Marauding parties of Lezghis on their agile steeds roamed the countryside, defying the less mobile Russian garrisons. The Ossetes who dominated the Daryal Pass, Russia’s only supply line over the Caucasus range, held up travellers and convoys. Trade was virtually at a standstill, while the peasantry scarcely ventured out to plough the fields.

The widow of King Erekle II, the redoubtable Dowager Queen Darejan, continued to intrigue in favour of her eldest son, Prince Yulon, whom she wished to see installed as king under the Russian aegis. The nobles and people, while affirming their desire to remain under Russian protection, continually agitated for a prince of their own. The Russian authorities interpreted this natural aspiration as insurrection, and made a number of arrests. Seeing scant improvement in the state of the country, the Georgians lost faith in the Russian government and its local representatives.

Prince Tsitsianov

The chief administrator in Tbilisi, Kovalensky, was not the man to restore general confidence. He was busy enriching himself by disreputable speculations in the bazaar, and allotting key positions in the government to his relatives and friends. The Georgian councillors whose appointment was provided for in the manifesto of September 1801, were never nominated. Corruption and abuse went unchecked. Official documents of the time show that rape and acts of violence were commonly committed by Russian officials and soldiery. Prince Tsitsianov, who later succeeded Knorring as commander-in-chief, alludes in one of his reports to the ‘crying abuses of authority committed by the former administrator of Georgia’, which had ‘gone beyond the Georgian people’s limits of patience’. Even the official Russian historian of the Caucasus, A. P. Berzhe, remarks that ‘Kovalensky and Company did not remove, but aggravated the abuses from which the Georgian people so grievously suffered. . . . Disappointed hope for improvement turned into ill-will, discontent, and impotent resentment, in fact the very impulses from which derive rebellion and revolt against supreme authority.’20

Rumours of Kovalensky’s nefarious activities soon reached St. Petersburg. It was reported to the Tsar by one of his trusted advisers, Count Kochubey, that Knorring and Kovalensky ‘were committing great exactions; that they were maintaining discord among the peoples of the country in order to be able to pillage them with more ease; and all kinds of similar horrors’.

It can hardly be said that Tsar Alexander was much of a liberal in his dealings with his Georgian subjects. But he was determined at least to keep up appearances, and saw how much Georgia needed a governor with courage and integrity, and some direct knowledge of local conditions and of the mentality and culture of Russia’s new citizens.

Fortunately, so it seemed, the ideal man was to hand in the person of Prince P. D. Tsitsianov, a scion of the Georgian noble family of Tsitsishvili. Tsitsianov was an officer with a distinguished record in the Russian Army; he had been a disciple of the illustrious Suvorov. He was also a distant relative of the widow of King Giorgi XII of Georgia, Queen Mariam, who had been a Princess Tsitsishvili. In September 1802, Alexander appointed Tsitsianov commander-in-chief on the Caucasian Line, with viceregal powers over Georgia. He was instructed to introduce order and prosperity into the country, and to show the Georgian people that ‘it would never have cause to repent of having entrusted its destiny to Russia’. The Tsar further empowered him to take immediate steps to persuade–if necessary by physical force–the former Georgian royal family to settle in Russia, and thus put an end to all agitation for the Bagratid dynasty to be retored.

Arriving at Tbilisi on 1 February 1803, Tsitsianov’s first care was to pack off the remaining members of the old royal family. The former Prince-Regent David and his uncle, Prince Vakhtang, left Tbilisi under escort later in February. There remained the Dowager Queen Darejan, widow of Erekle II, and the widow of the late King Giorgi XII, Queen Mariam, with her seven children. In April, Tsitsianov heard that Queen Mariam was planning to flee to the mountain strongholds of Khevsureti with the aid of loyal clansmen from the hills. He therefore gave orders that the queen and her children should be sent off into exile in Russia under guard the very next morning. To impart an air of ceremony to the proceedings, it was decided that Major-General Lazarev, commander of Russian troops in Tbilisi, should proceed in full uniform to the queen’s residence, with a military band and two companies of infantry, and prevail upon her to take her departure forthwith.

Death of a general

Of the ensuing tragedy there are several contemporary accounts, based on the reports of eye-witnesses. 21 Arriving at Queen Mariam’s mansion, Lazarev found her in her private apartment, seated on a couch, and surrounded by her seven sleeping children. The general strode brusquely up to the queen and said, through his interpreter: ‘Get up, it is time to be off.’

The queen calmly replied: ‘Why this hurry to get up? Can you not see my children peacefully asleep round about me? If I wake them up abruptly it might be harmful to them. Who has given you so peremptory an order?’

The general replied that his orders were from Prince Tsitsianov himself.

‘ Tsitsianov–that mad dog!’ Queen Mariam cried out.

At this, Lazarev bent down to drag her forcibly to her feet. The queen was holding on her knees a pillow, beneath which she held concealed the dagger which had belonged to her late husband, King Giorgi. As quick as lightning, she drew the dagger and stabbed Lazarev through the body with such force that the tip of the weapon emerged through his left side. Mariam pulled the dagger from the gaping wound and threw it in the face of her prostrate tormentor, saying: ‘So dies anyone who dares add dishonour to my misfortune!’

At Lazarev’s expiring cry, his interpreter drew his sword and hacked at the queen’s left arm. Soldiers rushed in and beat at the queen with their rifle butts. They dragged her from the house all covered in blood, and hurled her with her children into a carriage. Escorted by a heavy guard of armed horsemen, the party left Tbilisi along the military road leading to Russia over the Daryal Pass.Everywhere the queen’s carriage was surrounded by devoted Georgians, who wept as they struggled to bid farewell to the family of their late sovereign. These loyal manifestations were repulsed by the Russian soldiery. When one of the children cried out that he was thirsty, a bystander brought up a jug of water, which the Russian escort hurled to the ground. On arrival in Russia, Queen Mariam was imprisoned for seven years in a convent at Voronezh. She lived to a great age, and eventually died at Moscow in 1850. She was interred at Tbilisi with regal honours.

The Queen Dowager Darejan–‘that Hydra’, as Tsitsianov delicately termed her–held out until the October of 1803, when she too was bundled off to Russia.

Subjugation of Western Georgia

Having eliminated these obstacles, Tsitsianov rapidly extended Russia’s grasp on Transcaucasia. He saw the urgency of securing as rapidly as possible the entire area between the Black Sea and the Caspian. From his headquarters in Tbilisi, he turned his attention westwards to Imereti. Western Georgia was at this time torn by a feud between King Solomon II of Imereti and his nominal vassal, the semi-independent prince-regent or Dadian Grigol of Mingrelia. One of Grigol Dadian’s predecessors had sworn fealty to the Tsar of Russia as long ago as 1638. Now, in 1803, his country was taken under direct Russian suzerainty. In contrast to the situation in Eastern Georgia, the local administration was left to the princely house, which retained control under nominal Russian supervision until the dignity of Dadian was finally abolished in 1867. With his principal vassal and foe now under Russian protection, King Solomon of Imereti felt it wise to feign submission. His dominions also were in 1804 placed beneath the imperial aegis, under guarantees similar to those given to the Dadian. However, Solomon remained at heart bitterly opposed to his foreign overlords, and his court at Kutaisi was a hot-bed of anti-Russian intrigue.

Eastwards of Tbilisi, Georgia’s internal security was still threatened by the warlike Lezghian tribesmen of Daghestan, and by the independent Muslim khans of Ganja, Shekki and Baku, allies and nominally vassals of the Shah of Persia. Tsitsianov sent several expeditions against the Lezghis, with only partial success. His bravest lieutenant, General Gulyakov, was killed in one of the bloodthirsty engagements which took place. In his dealings with the Muslim potentates of Daghestan, Tsitsianov did not mince words. ‘Shameless sultan with the soul of a Persian–so you still dare to write to me! Yours is the soul of a dog and the understanding of an ass, yet you think to deceive me with your specious phrases. Know that until you become a loyal vassal of my Emperor I shall only long to wash my boots in your blood.’ 22 With language of this kind, backed by cold steel, Tsitsianov eventually abated the Lezghian menace and improved Georgia’s internal security.

On 3 January 1804, Prince Tsitsianov took the important trading centre and fortress of Ganja by storm. Its ruler, Javat Khan, had been a bitter enemy of the Georgian kings, and had helped Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar to invade Georgia and sack Tbilisi in 1795. Javat was now slain on his own battlements. The town was renamed Elizavetpol, in honour of the Empress Elizabeth, consort of Alexander I. (It is the presentday Kirovabad.) This success enhanced Russian prestige to such an extent that for the time being, to use the historian Dubrovin’s metaphor, the rulers of neighbouring, khanates took on a demeanour of lamb-like meekness. 23

During the reign of King Erekle II, the rulers of both Ganja and the chief city of Armenia, Erivan, had been vassals of the Georgian crown. Having subjugated Ganja, Tsitsianov judged the moment ripe for an expedition to Erivan. He learnt also that the Persians were massing a large army in Azerbaijan to the south, in preparation for an onslaught on the Russian dominions in the Caucasus. Determined to nip this in the bud, Tsitsianov marched against Erivan in June 1804, defeated a Persian force under the Crown Prince, ‘ Abbas Mirza, and laid siege to the city. A wet autumn, supply difficulties, and skirmishing attacks by the Persian light cavalry, ultimately forced Tsitsianov to raise the siege and retire to Tbilisi.

A contributory cause of this fiasco was a mass uprising which broke out along the Georgian military highway over the Caucasusrange, on which the Russians depended for all reinforcements and supplies. This was the first of several spontaneous mass revolts against Russian rule. Its unmistakably popular character distinguished it from earlier movements of protest headed by the Georgian royal house and landed aristocracy.

The immediate reason for the outbreak was the severity of the Russian commandants in the Daryal Pass and Ananuri sectors. The Ossete mountaineers and the villagers of Mtiuleti were forced to toil without payment on the roads and were mercilessly flogged, some dying from their injuries. Others perished from cold in clearing away snow drifts. The peasants broke into revolt and killed the town commandant of Ananuri. The insurgents were joined by contingents of the Khevsurs and other mountain clans. They received encouraging messages from Prince Yulon, who still hoped to win the Georgian throne, and from the Shah of Persia. The rebels defeated a regiment of Don Cossacks sent from the North Caucasian Line, cut communications between Georgia and Russia, and menaced the town of Gori. The onset of autumn and the arrival of Russian reinforcements strengthened Tsitsianov’s hand. The insurgents were no match for regular troops, and the revolt was brought under control. Reprisals followed and whole families were shut up in Gori castle and left to perish of hunger and cold. Despite these difficulties, Tsitsianov did his best to put the social and economic life of Georgia on a sound footing. It had been one of the conditions of the various pacts concluded between Russia andGeorgia that the Georgian aristocracy and squirearchy should be confirmed in their traditional privileges, and placed on the same footing as the Russian nobility. Feudalism as practised in Georgia was by no means identical with the Russian system of serf proprietorship, which had reached the high point of its development during the reign of Catherine the Great, and was in many ways indistinguishable from outright slavery. However, Tsitsianov did the best he could to regularise relationships between the Georgian nobles and their vassals, though many grievances and misunderstandings arose under the new dispensation.

Tsitsianov was well aware of the urgency of improving trade and communications, with a view to feeding the Russian garrisons off the land and clothing them from local resources, increasing the customs and excise revenues, and generally making the country self-supporting. The town bourgeoisie were afforded special protection, with inducements to expand their operations. For some years to come, however, the occupation of Georgia entailed a substantial drain on the central Russian treasury. In 1811, for instance, a million silver rubles had to be sent to pay the troops and civil servants stationed in the country.

Education and public amenities were not neglected. Prince Tsitsianov founded a school in Tbilisi for sons of the aristocracy. Special scholarships, notably in medicine, were founded to enable some students to continue their studies at Moscow University. The Georgian printing press which had functioned in Tbilisi until Agha Muhammad Khan destroyed it was now reinstalled. A State-owned apothecary’s shop was opened, as well as a botanical garden, since famous throughout Russia. In 1804, a mint was opened inTbilisi, at which a distinctive Georgian silver and copper coinage was struck until 1834, when the standard Russian coinage was given exclusive currency in Georgia. Public buildings constructed on European lines began to make their appearance in the Georgian capital, while the citizens were encouraged to rebuild those quarters of the town which had been completely laid waste by the Persians in 1795.

With his Georgian ancestry, Tsitsianov fully realized the dangers inherent in over-hasty russification of Georgia’s administrative and judicial system. He recommended that the transition from the old oral system of administering justice to the bureaucratic formalism characteristic of Russian official procedure should be brought about by gradual stages. He thought that it would be best to retain the Georgian language as the medium for transacting local official business. However, Tsitsianov set his face firmly against any concession to Georgian national sentiment. Loyalty to the Russian Tsar and his own personal ambition overrode any regard which he might have had for Georgia’s glorious past and for her ancient dynasty, the Bagratids. Thus when Count Kochubey, Alexander’s liberal-minded minister of the interior, wrote in 1804 to ask whether one of the Georgian royal princes might not after all be set up as a vassal ruler in Georgia under Russian supervision, Tsitsianov at once stifled the project. 24

The successes won by Tsitsianov and the rapid expansion of Russian influence throughout Transcaucasia were a source of extreme concern to the Ottoman Porte and to the Shah of Persia, as well as to the East India Company and the British Foreign Office. The Shah was at this time in the enviable position of having rival French and British missions in Tehran vying for his favour. In 1805, profiting by Russia’s heavy commitments in the struggle against Napoleon in Europe, the Persian crown prince, ‘ Abbas Mirza, invaded the Karabagh and menaced Elizavetpol. The Russians stood firm, until finally the Shah’s forces retired discouraged and without engaging battle.

Prince Tsitsianov now judged the time ripe to extend Russia’s dominions to the shores of the Caspian Sea south of the Caucasian range. In January 1806, he marched on Baku. The khan who governed that place as a nominal vassal of the Persian shah feigned submission, and undertook to hand over the keys of the city. As Tsitsianov rode out to meet the khan and his followers, the Persians opened fire and shot him down on the spot. The artillery of the citadel started up a bombardment, and the demoralized and leaderless Russians withdrew. So ended the brief but eventful viceroyalty of this determined proconsul, a renegade to his own people, but a man who, in serving Russia, dealt many a crushing blow to Georgia’s traditional enemies.

The decade which followed Tsitsianov’s death was less spectacular than these first few years, in which Russian power had spread so rapidly through Transcaucasia. Tsitsianov’s successors were less talented than he. The element of surprise which had enabled the Russians to overcome the petty Caucasian states one by one was now lost; the Persian shah and the Turkish sultan were on the alert, and neither the British nor the French could view with approval this Russian wedge being driven down towards Mesopotamia and the Levant on the one side, and towards the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean on the other. Furthermore, the Napoleonic wars imposed an immense strain on Russia’s resources, and prevented the deployment of large forces in remoteCaucasia. Nor can one overlook the deterioration of relations between the native Georgian population and the occupying power, resulting from the exactions of the military commanders and the corrupt ways of Tsarist officialdom.

‘Up to 1812,’ wrote a staff officer serving at that time in the Russian Army of the Caucasus, ‘the Georgians, organized as irregular troops, had served in our ranks virtually as volunteers. A disastrous expedition against Akhaltsikhe, in which they felt themselves to have been sacrificed and abandoned, the resulting misfortunes, combined with requisitions and extortions, drove them to revolt. Rebellion was stifled in blood; but its spirit lived on. Only an entirely new approach can reawaken the fidelity which an odious system has almost extinguished.’ 25

Under Tsitsianov’s successors, the war against Persia and Turkey continued with varying success and great ferocity. On the Persian front, Derbent and Baku were at last annexed in 1806, though a second attack on Erivan in 1808 ended in another costly failure. In Western Georgia, the Russians kept up their pressure on the Turks, from whom they took the Black Sea port of Poti in 1909, Sukhum-Kaleh on the coast of Abkhazia in 1810, and the strategic town of Akhalkalaki (‘New Town’) in south-western Georgiain 1811.

King Solomon II and Napoleon Bonaparte

The remaining independent princes of Western Georgia hastened to accept Russian suzerainty. In 1809, Safar Bey Sharvashidze, the Lord of Abkhazia, was received under Russian protection and confirmed in his principality. Prince Mamia Gurieli, ruler of Guria, was taken under the Russian aegis in 1811, receiving insignia of investiture from the Tsar. Only King Solomon II of Imereti held out to the bitter end.

Encircled by Russian troops, the king strenuously resisted an demands for submission, in spite of the fact that he had earlier, under pressure, sworn fealty to the Tsar. In 1810, the Russians despatched an ultimatum to Solomon, demanding that he hand over the heir to his throne and other Imeretian notables as hostages, and reside permanently under Russian surveillance in his capital atKutaisi. Solomon refused, and was declared to have forfeited his throne. Hounded by Russian troops and by Georgian princes hostile to him, he sought refuge in the hills, but was soon captured and escorted to Tbilisi. A few weeks later, Solomon staged a dramatic escape from Russian custody, and took refuge with the Turkish pasha at the frontier city of Akhaltsikhe. Inspired by this daring feat, the people of Imereti rose against the Russian invaders. Ten fierce engagements were fought between the Russian forces and the guerillas of Imereti. Famine and plague broke out, and some 30,000 people perished, while hundreds of peasant families sought refuge in Eastern Georgia. Eventually the patriots were crushed by armed force. A Russian administration was set up in Kutaisi, the country placed under martial law.

King Solomon now applied for help to the Shah of Persia, to the Sultan of Turkey, and to Napoleon Bonaparte himself. To the Emperor of the French, Solomon wrote in 1811 that the Muscovite Tsar had unjustly and illegally stripped him of his royal estate, and that it behoved Napoleon, as supreme head of Christendom, to ‘take cognizance of the act of pitiless brigandage’ which the Russians had committed against him. ‘May Your Majesty add to your glorious titles that of Emperor of Asia! But may you deign to liberate me, together with a million Christian souls, from the yoke of the pitiless emperor of Moscow, either by your lofty mediation, or else by the might of your all-powerful arm, and set me beneath the protective shadow of your guardianship!” 26 Napoleon himself was, of course, quite a connoisseur of ‘pitiless brigandage’. However, this eloquent plea, which reached him shortly before he set out on his ill-fated campaign to Moscow, provided him with encouraging evidence of the unsettled condition of Russia’s Transcaucasian provinces. But as things turned out, Napoleon could not save even his own Grand Army from virtual annihilation, let alone a princeling down in the distant Caucasus. Without regaining power, Solomon died in exile in 1815, and was buried in the cathedral of Saint Gregory of Nyssa in Trebizond.

The elimination of King Solomon did not bring civil strife in Georgia to an end. No sooner was Western Georgia outwardly pacified than fresh troubles broke out in Kartli and Kakheti. Ten years of Russian occupation had greatly changed the attitude of a people who, a decade before, had welcomed the Russians as deliverers from the infidel Persians and Turks. Called upon to furnish transport, fodder and supplies to the Russian Army at artificially low rates, and regarded by their new masters as mere serfs, the Georgian peasantry looked back wistfully to the bad old days. Under the Georgian kings, though invaded and ravaged by Lezghis, Persians and Turks, their country had at least been their own. Now it was simply an insignificant province, engulfed in a vast, alien empire, whose rulers seemed lacking in sympathy for this cultivated, Christian nation which had voluntarily placed itself under the protection of its northern neighbour.

In their yearning for independence, the Georgians were encouraged by the dauntless personality of Prince Alexander Bagration, son of their great king Erekle II. Alexander, who had sought refuge with the Shah of Persia, was described by a contemporary British traveller as ‘a prince whose bold independence of spirit still resists all terms of amity with Russia’. ‘It was impossible to look on this intrepid prince, however wild and obdurate, without interest; without that sort of pity and admiration, with which a man might view the royal lion hunted from his hereditary wastes, yet still returning to hover near, and roar in proud loneliness his ceaseless threatenings to the human strangers who had disturbed his reign.’ 27

The revolt of 1812

In 1812, the Persians won some military successes against the Russians in the Karabagh region. When they heard of the Russian setback, the peasants of Kakheti broke into revolt. They wiped out the garrison of Sighnaghi and blockaded Telavi, the capital town of Kakheti. The insurgents proclaimed as king the young Bagratid prince, Grigol, son of Prince Ioane, and grandson of the late King Giorgi XII. In answer to an ultimatum addressed to them by the Russian commanderin-chief, Marquis Philip Paulucci, the rebels replied:

‘We know how few we are compared with the Russians, and have no hope of beating them. We wish rather that they would exterminate us. We sought the protection of the Russian Tsar, God gave it to us, but the injustices and cruelty of his servants have driven us to despair. We suffered long! And now, when the Lord has sent us this terrible famine, when we ourselves are eating roots and grass, you violently seize food and forage from us! We have been expelled from our homes. Our storerooms and cellars have been plundered, our stocks of wine uncovered, drunk up and wantonly polluted by the gorged soldiery. Finally our wives and daughters have been defiled before our eyes. How can our lives be dear to us after such ignominy? We are guilty before God and the Russian Tsar of steeping our hands in Christian blood, but God knows that we never plotted to betray the Russians. We were driven to this by violence, and have resolved to die on the spot. We have no hope of pardon, for who will reveal our condition to the emperor? Do we not remember that when we called on the Tsar’s name, our rulers would answer: God is on high, the emperor far away.’ 28

The rebellion spread like wildfire. Even the Russian authorities in Tbilisi felt themselves menaced. Prince Alexander Bagration arrived in Daghestan from Persia to mobilize the Lezghis, those inveterate foes of both Georgia and Russia. But Russian reinforcements were hurried to the scene. The rebels lacked cohesion, discipline, supplies. In October 1812, the Russians defeated Alexander and his motley horde at Sighnaghi. A few days later, the daring Russian commander, Kotlyarevsky, crossed the River Araxes and defeated the main Persian Army at Aslanduz, leaving 10,000 of the enemy dead upon the field of battle.

Neither the Russians nor their Persian and Turkish adversaries were in a fit state to continue the struggle. Peace with the Ottoman Empire had already been concluded at Bucarest in May 1812,whereby the Russians handed back to the Turks the Black Sea portof Poti and the strategic town of Akhalkalaki. More favourable to Russia were the terms of the Treaty of Gulistan, concluded between Tsar Alexander I and Fath’Ali Shah of Persia in 1813, largely through the mediation of the British ambassador to Persia, Sir Gore Ouseley. By this instrument, Russia was confirmed in possession of Eastern and Western Georgia, Daghestan, and the Muslim khanates of Karabagh, Ganja, Shekki, Shirvan, Derbent, Baku and Kuba.

Suppression of the Georgian Church

An event which caused the greatest resentment throughout Georgia, and contributed still further to the deterioration of Russo-Georgian relations, was the suppression in 1811 of the independent Georgian Church. It will be recalled that the Russo-Georgian treaty of 1783 had guaranteed to the Patriarch of Georgia the eighth place among the prelates of Russia and a seat in the Russian Holy Synod. Now, having abolished both the Georgian monarchies, the Russians found that the Church was becoming a focus for Georgian national solidarity. With that same scant regard for treaty rights which it had shown even earlier, the Russian government now sent the CatholicosPatriarch Antoni II into enforced retirement at St. Petersburg, replacing him by a representative of theRussian Church, the Metropolitan Varlaam, who was given the title of Exarch of Georgia. This complete suppression of a national Church by the government of a friendly Christian power must be without parallel in the modern annals of civilized nations.

Himself a Georgian of noble birth, Varlaam failed to show himself sufficiently obedient to the will of his Russian masters. He was soon replaced by a Russian cleric, Theophilact Rusanov, a man quite alien to Georgian ways. Theophilact regarded his flock as ignorant barbarians, and did his utmost to replace the Georgian liturgy with Slavonic forms of worship. In spite of the Russian bayonets which he had at his disposal, Theophilact encountered strong opposition throughout Georgia. In 1820, the Russians arrested the Archbishops of Gelati and Kutaisi, the principal ecclesiastical leaders of Western Georgia. Archbishop Dositheus ofKutaisi, stabbed and maltreated by Russian Cossacks, died soon afterwards. Spontaneous uprisings followed these Russian outrages. The insurgents planned to restore the monarchy of Imereti. The upland district of Ratcha was the scene of bitter fighting. The movement also spread into Guria and Mingrelia. An outbreak of civil war in Abkhazia in 1821 further aggravated the situation. The general unrest was not quelled until 1822.

The Russian proconsul in Georgia between 1816 and 1827 was General A. P. Ermolov, one of the heroes of the Napoleonic wars. Ermolov, who had taken part in the battles of Austerlitz, Borodino and many others, was a man of unsurpassed courage, spartan in his habits, and adored by his troops. He declared a war to the death against the Muslim tribesmen of Daghestan and North Caucasia, and his campaigns, conducted on the good old plan with fire and sword, the devastation of crops, the sacking of villages, the massacre of men and the ravishing of women, gave them a lesson which they doubtless appreciated to the full. Another Russian general said of Ermolov that ‘he was at least as cruel as the natives themselves’. He himself declared:

‘I desire that the terror of my name should guard our frontiers more potently than chains of fortresses, that my word should be for the natives a law more inevitable than death. Condescension in the eyes of Asiatics is a sign of weakness, and out of pure humanity I am inexorably severe. One execution saves hundreds of Russians from destruction, and thousands of Mussulmans from treason.’ 29

Ermolov’s administration resulted in improved public security within Georgia. A police force was founded in Tbilisi. Bands of marauding Lezghis dared no longer carry off villagers into slavery or raid trading caravans. Military and post roads were built, benefiting trade and communications. Ermolov had some of the Tbilisi streets paved, and roofed over the bazaar. The erection of European public buildings helped to modernize the city’s appearance. Similar improvements were undertaken in Kutaisi, the old capital of Imereti, until now a decayed and insignificant township.

Economic progress and literary contacts

Now that Russia controlled a stretch of territory extending from the Black Sea to the Caspian, commerce began to revive. Odessa in southern Russia was linked by sea with the little port of Redut-Kaleh in Mingrelia. By this route, manufactured goods from Russian cities and Western Europe could be transported via Tbilisi to Baku on the Caspian, or into Persia overland via Tabriz. Tsar Alexander’s edict of 1821 granted to Russian and foreign concerns operating in Georgia special customs concessions and other privileges for a space of ten years. Tbilisi merchants began to establish connexions with Marseilles, Trieste, and Germany, and to re-export European wares to Persia on a substantial scale. In 1825, Georgian and Armenian traders made purchases totalling over a million rubles at the Leipzig fair; in 1828, the figure exceeded four million. The demand for European manufactured goods was stimulated by the presence in Georgia of a large number of Russian officers and civilian functionaries, with their families. In 1830, an official of the finance department reported from Tbilisi that trade was in the most flourishing condition. British, French and Swiss commercial houses showed interest in this growing market.

Imports of Western manufactured goods, however, far outweighed Georgian exports of raw materials. In 1824, for instance, the Acting French Consul in Tbilisi reported that although Georgia produced timber, cotton, saffron, madder, wax, honey, silk and tobacco, there was little attempt as yet to market these commodities on a large scale. By Western commercial standards, Georgiacould not furnish a worthwhile cargo of goods for export at any one time, while acts of piracy by the Circassians and Abkhazians onBlack Sea shipping made sea trade hazardous. 30

General Ermolov did his best to remedy these difficulties. The French Consul, the Chevalier de Gamba, was granted a concession in Imereti to exploit the country’s vast timber resources, and to start up cotton plantations. Five hundred families of Swabian peasants from Württemberg arrived in Georgia in 1818. They were encouraged to set up model farmsteads near Tbilisi and elsewhere. They set an admirable example of diligence, thrift and sobriety, which contrasted with the fecklessness of the local inhabitants. But they remained aloof from the population at large, with whom they had nothing in common. They were respected rather than liked, and their influence on the general life and history of Georgia was small. Other branches of industry encouraged by Ermolov were the cultivation of silk in Kakheti, and the production of wine, for which that same province had always been famed. It would, however, be wrong to imagine that Russia benefited financially at this period from her colonization of Georgia. In 1825, her total revenue derived from the country amounted to 580,000 rubles, which did not even pay for the maintenance of the local Russian garrisons and administration.

During the 1820’s, the influence of the Russian Finance Minister, Count Kankrin, and the agitation of the Moscow manufacturers led to the triumph of protectionism in Russia generally and the abandonment of any attempt to promote free trade with foreign countries. Tariff walls and similar devices were imposed increasingly for the encouragement of budding home industries. Accordingly, on the expiration of the tenyear customs franchise granted for Georgia by the edict of 1821, this was not renewed; merchandise entering Transcaucasia was subject now to the same high dues as were levied at Russia’s other frontiers. Since no large-scale local factories existed, this return to protectionism simply impoverished the Tbilisi merchants and hampered the growth of Georgian trade. European goods soon began to reach Persia via Trebizond and Erzurum in Turkey, without passing through Russian territory at all. This put a stop for the time being to any increase in Georgia’s importance as a stage in the international trade route betweenEurope and the East.

In the meantime, a series of spectacular events had brought Ermolov’s Caucasian viceroyalty to an untimely close. Early in December 1825, news was brought to St. Petersburg of the death of Tsar Alexander I at Taganrog. Immediately, a nationwide crisis arose over the succession to the imperial throne. The reason for this was that the Grand Duke Constantine, who was governingPoland, had in 1822 formally renounced the succession to the Russian throne in favour of his younger brother Nicholas, though this had been kept a closely guarded state secret. For a time, neither Nicholas nor Constantine would accept the imperial succession, until finally Nicholas was prevailed upon to do so.

Clandestine revolutionary societies had for some years been active among the younger, liberal-minded officers of the Russian army. Many of the conspirators belonged to the foremost princely families in the land. The unsettled state of public opinion now provided them with what they deemed a propitious moment for their projected coup. On 26 December 1825, when called upon to take the oath of allegiance to the new emperor, Nicholas I, 2,000 soldiers of the Guard formed up outside the Senate building in St. Petersburg, shouting for ‘Constantine and Constitution (konstitutsiya)’ which latter many of the soldiers took for the name of the Grand Duke Constantine’s wife. The military governor of St. Petersburg was killed while parleying with the mutineers. Finally, loyal troops were brought up and two volleys of grapeshot cleared the square. 31 The resulting investigation revealed that the conspiracy had wide ramifications throughout Russia. Five of the ringleaders were hanged, and many others exiled to Siberia or sent to serve in the ranks of the army of the Caucasus. Among the many distinguished individuals whose names were mentioned in the course of the enquiry was General Ermolov. In the absence of specific evidence against him, he was left at his post, though under a cloud.

Ermolov was soon under fire from another quarter. In spite of the Treaty of Gulistan, which they had signed under duress in 1813, the Persians had never reconciled themselves to the loss of their Caucasian possessions. In 1825, Ermolov’s troops occupied Gokcha, a small and barren frontier district northeast of Erivan in Armenia. This precipitated a crisis. Encouraged by garbled reports of the Decembrist uprising, the Persians decided on an offensive. They were spurred on to action by Prince Alexander Bagration, the exiled Georgian royal prince, whose hatred of Russia overbore any reluctance to subject his native land once more to the horrors of war. In 1826, the Persian Army launched a surprise attack on Georgia and the Karabagh. Pambak, Shuragel and Borchalo were overrun, Elizavetpol (Ganja) captured. Tbilisi itself was menaced.

Ermolov reacted with what can only be termed masterly inactivity. To the urgings of Tsar Nicholas he responded with pleas for reinforcements. The fire seemed to have gone out of the veteran warrior.

It was not long before the dashing General Paskevich arrived to take command in the field. Ermolov was relieved of his post. Paskevich soon routed the Persians completely. The cities of Erivan, Tabriz and Ardebil fell to his victorious army. In February 1828, the Russo-Persian Treaty of Turkmanchai was signed, establishing Russia’s frontier on the River Araxes, where it has ever since remained fixed. 32

The treaty of Turkmanchai eliminated Persia as a factor in Caucasian politics. The warlike tribes of Daghestan were cut off from direct contact with their co-religionists in the Islamic world outside the borders of the Russian Empire. In future, the Muslims of theCaucasus were to look to the Turks alone for support. But the successes won by such commanders as Paskevich meant that the Ottoman Empire, once a mighty world power, was fighting a losing battle to hold the passes giving access to the inner homeland ofAnatolia. During the century following the Caspian campaign of Peter the Great, the main chain of the Caucasus mountains had lost its old importance as an impregnable bastion shielding the Middle Eastern lands against invasion from the north. Caucasia had become a base from which Russian political and military power could be directed westward across Anatolia towards the Mediterranean, southward across Persia towards the Indian Ocean, and eastward across the Caspian into the heart of Central Asia.33

The conclusion of peace with Persia set Paskevich free to concentrate on Turkish affairs. A general war between Russia and the Ottoman Porte was in prospect. The main Russian objectives were the expulsion of the Turks from the Black Sea coast, and in particular from the ports of Anapa, Poti and Batumi; the reconquest of the former Georgian province of Samtskhe, which had for centuries now been governed by the Turco-Georgian pashas of Akhaltsikhe; and the establishment of a satisfactory frontier which would round off Russia’s Transcaucasian dominions and be defensible against Turkish incursions.

The campaign opened in May 1828, with the surrender of the Turkish garrison in Anapa to a combined expedition of the Russian fleet and troops from the Caucasian Line. Relieved of anxiety on the score of his communications with Russia, Paskevich then marched on the famous fortress of Kars, which he captured by storm in June. The next month, the Georgian towns of Khertvisi and Akhalkalaki fell to the Russians, as well as the port of Poti. The key city of Akhaltsikhe was captured in August, while the Turks in Ardahan surrendered without fighting. With autumn coming on, Paskevich suspended operations and retired into winter quarters. He left garrisons in the captured Turkish strongholds, and withdrew with the bulk of his weary forces into bases within Georgia. During the winter, Paskevich visited his imperial master in St. Petersburg, and impressed upon him the potentialities of an all-out offensive in Asia Minor. The general proposed first to conquer Erzurum and overrun the Armenian highlands; next, to launch a combined operation against Trebizond, with the support of the Russian Navy; and thirdly, to advance into the heart of Anatolia by way ofSivas.

Two untoward events delayed the campaign of 1829. On 11 February, the Russian mission to Tehran, headed by the playwright Griboedov, was hacked to pieces by a frenzied mob of fanatical Persians. Only a display of unwonted moderation by the Russians prevented a fresh outbreak of war with Iran. This moment, too, was chosen by the Turks to launch a counter-offensive in the course of which they reoccupied Ardahan and laid siege to the Russians who manned the citadel of Akhaltsikhe. At the beginning of June, Paskevich resumed the offensive. His brilliant strategy and forceful leadership soon reduced the Turks to a state of demoralization. Within a month, the Russians were before the great Turkish fortress of Erzurum, which the Ottoman seraskier made haste to surrender together with the remnants of his army, one hundred and fifty fortress guns, and vast stores. The conclusion of the Treaty of Adrianople in September 1829, forestalled the complete execution of Paskevich’s ambitious plan. The terms of this treaty, dictated by wider issues of European politics, were relatively moderate in regard to the Ottoman Porte’s Caucasian dominions. The Russians gained the strongholds of Adsquri, Akhalkalaki and Akhaltsikhe. But the provinces of Erzurum, Bayazid and Kars reverted to the Turks, who also regained Batumi and parts of Guria. The Russians received the ports of Poti and Anapa. The loss of Anapa cut off the Turks from direct access to Circassia, over which the Porte formally renounced all claim to suzerainty.

These spectacular campaigns had the effect of making Georgia an important focus of international affairs. Intellectual life began to revive as Tbilisi became more and more of a cosmopolitan centre. There were frequent contacts between the Georgian aristocracy and visitors from the outside world, both Russians and travellers from Western Europe. The first Georgian newspaper, Sakartvelos gazeti or The Georgian Gazette, was published between 1819 and 1822. The Russian-language Tiflisskie vedomosti or Tiflis Newsstarted to appear in 1828, with a supplement in Georgian. Associated with this venture was the Georgian publicist Solomon Dodashvili, otherwise known as Dodaev-Magarsky ( 1805-36), who had attended the University of St. Petersburg and was now a teacher at the government school in Tbilisi. Also prominent in the intellectual life of Georgia was Prince Alexander Chavchavadze ( 1787-1846), father-in-law of the Russian dramatist Griboedov. Chavchavadze’s house in Tbilisi was a meeting place for the cream of Georgian and Russian society. He won renown as a lyric poet, as did Prince Grigol Orbeliani ( 1800-83), both of them being high-ranking officers in the Russian Army.

After the abortive Decembrist conspiracy of 1825, the Caucasus was used by the Tsar as a milder alternative to Siberia for political offenders. Many of the exiled Decembrists served in the ranks of Paskevich’s army. Several of these were poets and novelists of distinction, who found the hospitable atmosphere of Georgia highly congenial. The prevailing cult of Byronism in Russia encouraged a mood of romantic enthusiasm for the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus, and their valiant, picturesque denizens. As the Russian critic Belinsky observed, ‘The Caucasus seems to have been fated to become the cradle of our poetic talents, the inspiration and mentor of their muses, their poetic homeland.’ In one of his lyrics, Griboedov describes the charm of Kakheti, ‘where the Alazani meanders, indolence and coolness breathe, where in the gardens they collect the tribute of the purple grape.’ He started work on a romantic tragedy to be entitled Georgian Night, based on a theme from national legend. The great Pushkin was inGeorgia in 1829. He was royally feted in Tbilisi, and wrote several lyrics on Georgian subjects. His travel journal, A Journey to Erzurum, gives an account of his visit to the marchlands of Turkey in the train of the victorious Paskevich; it contains glimpses of Georgian life, music, poetry and scenic beauty. Some of the brilliant inspiration of the great romantic M. Yu. Lermontov came to him from Georgia. The poems Mtsyri and Demon have a Georgian setting, while his ballad Tamara presents a lurid if historically false image of the great queen. In another of his poetic works, Lermontov sketches a portrait of a drowsy Georgian countryman, recumbent in the shade of a plane tree, languidly sipping the mellow wine of Kakheti.

But neither the Russian romantic cult of the Caucasus, nor the hospitable welcome extended by Tbilisi society to Russian officers and poets, could efface the deep-seated antagonism which the experience of a generation of Russian rule had implanted in the Georgian nation. There were observers who saw with concern the effect which foreign misrule was having on the Georgian population. One eyewitness, Colonel Rottiers, a Belgian in the Russian service, went so far as to recommend that Russian officials be removed altogether from service in Georgia. ‘The Georgians,’ he wrote, ‘would submit to a governor from among their own nation. They would be happy to see punished, or at least recalled, the officials of whom they have had the most to complain. They ask for an administrative system which extends beyond questions of criminal, civil and commercial law, and would like to have laws based as far as possible on the code of their ancient kings. It is wrong to despise as barbarians a people whose aspirations testify at once to their love of abstract justice, and to so pronounced a sense of nationality. . . . They desire, finally, to be eligible according to merit to posts which up to now have been bestowed by favour alone, and, furthermore, they would like themselves to elect their municipal magistrates, their mouravs or justices of the peace. “But,” you may say, “these folk are as good as demanding a constitution!” And why not? Those who have seen them at close quarters deem them ripe for this privilege. When it is a question of bestowing liberty on a nation, that is the crucial point at issue.’ 34

The conspiracy of 1832

The moral climate of the 1820’s was conducive to romantic nationalism and to movements of revolt against imperial systems. Throughout Europe, the ideals typified by the Holy Alliance and the policies of Metternich and the Russian autocrats were being called in question by thinking men. The activities of the Carbonari in Naples, the liberation movement in Greece, the abortive Decembrist rising in Russia, the Paris revolution of 1830 and the general insurrection in Poland, were all symptoms of a general malaise.

The Georgians had not forgotten their chivalrous days of old, and the general mood of romantic effervescence found response in their hearts. There were also material causes of grievance. Even the higher aristocracy were discontented, especially as the Russian administration had curtailed the landlords’ feudal jurisdiction over their peasants and ousted them from participation in local government, as well as questioning the titles of nobility of some of the leading princely families. Continual wars had bled the country white. The Russian writer Griboedov commented in 1828 that ‘the recent invasion by the Persians, avenged by Count PaskevichErivansky with so much glory for Russia, and the triumphs which he is now winning in the Turkish pashaliks, have cost the Transcaucasian provinces enormous sacrifices, above all Georgia, which has borne a war burden of exceptional magnitude. It is safe to say that from the year 1826 up to the present time she has suffered in the aggregate heavier losses in cereal crops, pack animals and beasts of burden, drovers, etc., than the most flourishing Russian province could have sustained.’ 35 The prevailing mood was aptly summed up in a quatrain by Prince Ioane Bagration, son of the last king of Kartlo-Kakheti, Giorgi XII:

The Scythians [i.e., Russians] have taken from us the entire land, and not even a single serf have they given to us. Not satisfied with Kartli and Kakheti, they have added to them even Imereti. We have grown poor in misfortune, and have no advocate to whom to turn. We ask justice from above; we shall see how God decrees!

A striking portrayal of the results of a generation of Russian rule over Georgia is contained in the report submitted by two Russian senators, Counts Kutaysov and Mechnikov, who carried out an official inspection of Georgia in 1829-30. The state of affairs displayed in this document resembles that so effectively pilloried in Gogol’s comedy, Revizor, or The Inspector-General.

‘Not in a single government chancellery in Transcaucasia is there a shadow of that order in the forms and procedure of transacting business which is prescribed by law. In some chancelleries, this is because of their defective organization; in others, because of the incapacity and lack of experience of the officials posted for service there, and the complete absence of personnel capable of efficient work. . . . The quantity of unresolved lawsuits turned out to be beyond calculation. They had piled up, not because they were submitted in great quantities, but because no efforts were made to bring them to a prompt settlement.’

According to these two senators, Russian officials were volunteering to serve in Georgia simply in order to benefit by the advancement in rank automatically granted as an incentive to undertake a tour of duty in the Caucasus. On arrival there, they spent their period of service in wandering idly from one department to another, and waiting impatiently for the moment to return home. Arbitrary caprice rather than observance of official regulations governed the administration of justice. Thus, the Governor of Tbilisi, P. D. Zavaleysky, and his colleagues, had deprived some proprietors of their lands, and granted these to others, just as they saw fit. ‘In Imereti’, the senators went on, ‘we found abuses of power and acts of extortion.’ The main culprits were the head of the local administration, State Councillor Perekrestov, and his colleagues. The senators removed these persons from office and committed them for trial. The general muddle was further aggravated by the right which the Russian commanders-inchief at Tbilisi had arrogated to themselves of acting as supreme judges of appeal, and sometimes forcing local tribunals to give verdicts against the canons of Russian law, in which nobody therefore had any faith. ‘Although certain provinces have been joined to Russia for about thirty years,’ the senators continued, ‘the administration in Transcaucasia still bears the stamp of the irresponsible, capricious and vague methods of government practised by the former rulers of this country.’ This applied particularly to the basis of land tenure and the system of serfdom. ‘Some peasants exercise rights of ownership over other peasants, as if they were themselves members of the gentry class. . . . The princes there possess nobles as their vassals, and dispose of their persons as well as of their property.’ The dues and services rendered by the peasants to their proprietors were innumerable, and not defined by any law. The lot of the farmers was rendered intolerable by the behaviour of Russian quartermasters. When grain and other supplies needed for the troops were commandeered, often at artificially low prices, payment was frequently withheld and embezzled by the military commanders themselves. There were even cases where the authorities acted as receivers of stolen property, and protected the thieves from prosecution by the rightful owners.

Senators Kutaysov and Mechnikov went on to underline the backward state of the social services and public amenities in Georgia. There were no charitable foundations, orphanages, almshouses, homes for incurables, or lunatic asylums. One small, wretched hospital served the needs of the entire population. Public hygiene and the study of tropical diseases demanded urgent attention. The towns were still dirty and squalid in appearance. There were no regular travel facilities or posting stations. The income of the Georgian Exarchate was not being spent, as it should have been, in keeping the churches under its authority in good repair. The churches in both Eastern Georgia and Imereti were in a wretched and dilapidated condition. Some of these, which the senators recognized as possessing outstanding architectural merit and historical interest, were literally falling down; others had holes in the roof, through which rain poured down upon the worshippers. The senators concluded by informing the emperor that they had uncovered in the administration of Transcaucasia abuses, malpractices and oppression of the people, and had endeavoured to put an end to these once for all. They hoped that the state of Georgia would swiftly take a turn for the better. 36 This hope, as it turned out, was a trifle premature.

It was natural, given these conditions, that the Georgians should have yearned for the removal of Russian dominance and the return of the house of Bagration. The senior members of the Georgian royal family were by now dead, or else for the most part resigned to exclusion from power. An exception was Prince Alexander Bagration, who was still living among the Persians, and ever on the alert for a chance of action against the hated Russians. Within Russia, the spirit of Georgian nationalism was kept alive principally by Okropir Bagration, a younger son of King Giorgi XII and the heroic Queen Mariam, and also by his cousin, Prince Dimitri, son of Yulon. Okropir and Dimitri used to hold gatherings of Georgian students at Moscow and St. Petersburg, and attempted to inspire them with patriotic feeling. A secret society was formed in Tbilisi to work for the re-establishment of an independent kingdom under Bagratid rule. Okropir himself visited Georgia in 1830, and held talks with the principal conspirators, who included members of the princely houses of Orbeliani and Eristavi, as well as the publicist Solomon Dodashvili. They hoped to enlist the support of Western Georgian nationalists who had been active in the revolt in Imereti in 1820. The young Constantine Sharvashidze, a scion of the ruling house of Abkhazia, was also believed sympathetic.

The Georgian conspirators of 1830-32 were not liberal republicans, but rather monarchists and nationalists. Their projected plan of action was melodramatic rather than practical. It was proposed to invite Baron Rosen, who had succeeded Paskevich as commander-in-chief in Georgia, and other members of the garrison and administration, to a grand ball in Tbilisi. At a given signal, they would all be assassinated. The conspirators would then seize the Daryal Pass to prevent reinforcements from arriving fromRussia. Prince Alexander Bagration would return from Persia to be proclaimed king of Georgia. Plans for seizing the arsenal and barracks were drawn up, as was the composition of a provisional government.

This rather wild project proved unacceptable to the more moderate members of the group. Many of the Georgian nobles had, after all, friends or relatives by marriage among the Russian residents. The publicist Dodashvili quitted the conspiracy altogether, while the patriot and poet Alexander Chavchavadze refused to support a scheme which depended on the support of Prince Alexander Bagration and his infidel Persians, the murderers of his son-in-law Griboedov. These waverers refrained, however, from disclosing their knowledge to the Russian authorities.

The ball at which the Russian officers were to be assassinated was scheduled for 20 November 1832, the day of the meeting of Georgian princes and nobles at Tbilisi for the election of deputies to the Provincial Assembly of the Nobility. This session was unexpectedly postponed, first to 9 December., then to 20 December.

Early in December, the whole affair was revealed to the authorities by one of the conspirators, who turned ‘King’s Evidence’. Extensive arrests were made. Commissions of enquiry were set up at Tbilisi and in St. Petersburg. Although ten of the accused were sentenced to death, they were all reprieved. Some of them were deported for a few years to provincial centres in Russia, or enrolled in the ranks of the Russian Army. The writer Dodashvili, already a consumptive, was posted to Vyatka, the harsh climate of which place soon brought him to the grave.

The Emperor Nicholas was perturbed by the well-founded grievances revealed by the commissions of enquiry, and ordered a thorough investigation into the causes of discontent. Most of the conspirators were later allowed to resume their official careers, and one of them, Prince Grigol Orbeliani, rose to be Governor of Tbilisi. The failure of the plot of 1830-32 marks the end of an epoch in Georgian history. All hope for a restoration of the Bagratid dynasty was now lost. The Georgian aristocracy came more and more to identify their own interests with those of the Russian autocratic régime. Georgia sank gradually into a mood of torpid acquiescence, until the economic and intellectual revival which occurred during the viceroyalty of Prince Vorontsov, between 1845 and 1854, paved the way for a fresh upsurge of national consciousness.


The Murids of Daghestan–Russian reverses–Georgian feudalism and Russian serfdom–Deus ex machina–Attempts at reform–Formation of the Caucasian Viceroyalty–Industrial progress–Decline of the old aristocracy–Literature and the theatre—The Crimean War–Passing of an autocrat

The Murids of Daghestan

IT WAS a misfortune for Georgia that the Russian government, in view of the Polish uprising of 1830, had found it necessary in the following year to recall Prince Paskevich-Erivansky from the Caucasus and send him to take charge of operations in Poland. Paskevich was an exceptionally talented man, who enjoyed–a rare advantage–the confidence of his captious imperial master. To quote a British observer, Paskevich possessed an instinctive knowledge of character, and he completely trusted those whom he employed.

‘In his attention to the civil administration he was indefatigable, and he put a stop to the abuses which had so long disgraced and ruined Russian affairs. Men of every rank and class had free access to him; they might bring their own interpreter, and be sure of having justice quickly administered. His loss was deeply felt in Georgia, which he was rapidly getting into order, and he had nearly succeeded in bringing the tribes of the Caucasus into pacific relations with the Russian Government by employing a portion of their troops and not interfering with their internal government–the only system of policy, as I often heard from his own lips, that he thought likely to succeed.’ 37

Paskevich’s successor, Baron Grigory Vladimirovich Rosen, was a run-of-the-mill general officer, with no special talent for administration, and no direct access to the emperor. He took over responsibility for both the military command and the civil administration of the Caucasus at a crucial moment; knowing little or nothing about the country, he found himself plunged immediately into a sea of difficulties. The government at St. Petersburg was at this time disturbed by the abuses revealed by the report of Senators Kutaysov and Mechnikov, extracts from which have been quoted already. Then came the abortive conspiracy of the Georgian nobles in 1832, the main victim of which was to have been Rosen himself. On top of this came intensified hostile activity among both the Muslim tribes of the eastern Caucasus, and the Circassians towards the Black Sea.

The Russian annexation of Transcaucasia in the early decades of the nineteenth century helped to excite the militant religious faith of the motley clans of Daghestan. In their Holy War against the Russian invaders, these tribes became involved in a politico-religious movement with puritanical features which, under the name of Muridism, united for a time the majority of the inhabitants of Daghestan and neighbouring Chechnya. Ermolov’s ruthless policy of war and extermination helped to instil in these wild mountaineers the courage of desperation; the infidel foreigner became the alien oppressor, and the desire for spiritual reformation was heightened by the urge for temporal liberty.

The first militant leader of the Murids of Daghestan was the Imam Qazi Mullah, who issued in 1829 a general appeal in favour of a Holy War. He set Avaria alight, invaded the northeastern Caucasus by way of Tarku, and laid siege to the Russian stronghold of Vnezapnaya in Chechnya. He soon afterwards defeated a Russian army under General Emanuel. South of the mountains, Hamzat Bek, afterwards the second Imam of Daghestan, was stirring up rebellion among the Jaro-Belakanis on the borders of Georgia. The Russians under General Strekalov were severely defeated at Zakatali, and some units were seized with panic and fled for their lives. In 1831, Qazi Mullah and his followers laid siege to Derbent, and then made a daring and successful raid on the town ofKizlyar on the Lower Terek. As Rosen reported to the Russian War Minister, ‘I arrived here at a time of very great disturbances. Never were the mountain tribes so insolent or so persistent in their undertakings. They are exasperated at what has taken place, and the fact that our actions either resulted in failure, or, when successful, were not followed up, has emboldened them and given scope to Qazi Mullah’s false teaching.’

Taking the offensive in 1832, the Russians raided the important aul or mountain village of Dargo, on the borders of Chechnya and Daghestan. Qazi Mullah met his death in a Russian attack on the Murid stronghold of Gimri, and was succeeded as Imam by Hamzat Bek. Two years later, in 1834, the new Imam sought to extend his authority by massacring the ruling khans of Avaria and making himself master of their capital, Khunzakh. But retribution soon overtook Hamzat, who was shot down in a mosque by a party of loyal Avars intent on avenging their dead rulers. 38

Russian reverses

Hamzat was succeeded by a yet more formidable leader, the Imam Shamil, who was to keep the armies of Russia at bay for a quarter of a century. Shamil was a leader whose puritanism and insistence on obedience and sacrifice inspired his followers with fanatical courage. At the same time, the native population not numbered among the Elect often grumbled at being exposed to Russian reprisals, while Shamil’s radicalism alarmed the conservative beks or tribal chiefs of Daghestan, some of whom were driven out of their estates by the Murids and forced to seek refuge with the Russians.

Shamil began his rule by strangling the boy prince of Avaria and throwing his body over a cliff. Early in 1837, his followers inflicted a severe reverse near Gimri, on a detachment under General Kluge von Klugenau. In the summer, Baron Rosen decided to send an expedition against Shamil’s headquarters at Ashilta, which the Russians took in face of the Murids’ desperate resistance. A truce was then concluded between the Russians and Shamil. But while the Russian commander alleged that Shamil himself begged for a respite, in reality it was the Russians who were compelled to withdraw owing to the disorganization of the expeditionary corps, the enormous loss in personnel, and the want of ammunition. However, such glowing accounts of this campaign were sent to St. Petersburg that the Emperor Nicholas, when he visited the Caucasus in the autumn of 1837, quite expected to be met by a suppliant Shamil in person. The letter which eventually arrived from the Murid leader was a rude disappointment. ‘From the poor writer of this letter, Shamil , who leaves all things in the hand of God. . . . This to inform you that I have finally decided not to go to Tbilisi even though I were cut in pieces for refusing, for I have ofttimes experienced your treachery, and this all men know.’ 39 The Tsar was annoyed at this fiasco, responsibility for which he laid at poor Rosen’s door.

Rosen’s period of command coincided also with a marked revival of anti-Russian activity among the Circassians, in the north-western Caucasus region. Any hope that the Treaty of Adrianople had put an end to Turkish ambitions in that area were speedily dispelled. Although the British Foreign Office refrained from adopting an openly anti-Russian policy, successive British ambassadors to the Sublime Porte, such as Ponsonby ( 1833-41) and Stratford Canning ( 1842-58) were on the alert to stir up trouble for Russiaall round the Black Sea and in areas adjacent. The Turks were well versed in the intricate politics of the mountain tribes and succeeded in interesting influential Englishmen in the struggle waged by the Circassians against the spread of Russian domination. The British adventurers Longworth and Bell made several trips across the Black Sea to establish contact with the Circassians, to whom they held out hopes of material help and diplomatic support from the British government. Arms and ammunition were smuggled in from Turkey under the noses of Russian gunboats, while the impetuous British diplomat David Urquhart helped to set up a Cherkess political centre in Istanbul.

The Russian governor of Western Georgia, with some 12,000 troops, joined forces in 1835 with General Velyaminov, the commander in northern Caucasia, in an expedition to subdue the Abkhazians and Circassians, and prevent the Turks from landing arms and launching pirate raids on Russian shipping. The effectiveness of the Russian Army in this sector was weakened by the presence within it of thousands of deported Poles who, abominably treated, were constantly on the verge of mutiny. In 1836, the Russians proved unable to protect Kislovodsk in North Caucasia from a raid by some eight hundred Circassians, who also attacked the town of Pyatigorsk. Foreign observers commented on the extravagant losses in blood and in money which the Russians incurred in their efforts to subdue these freedom-loving clansmen by force of arms, when better results could have been secured with time by conciliation and peaceful penetration.

Nor was Baron Rosen very successful in improving the economic and social condition of the Caucasian peoples. He was handicapped, of course, by the withdrawal of the special tariff concession granted for Georgia by the Russian government in 1821. Rosen’s attempts to have this renewed met with failure. Thus, instead of being the hub of a trade network connecting Europe with Asia via the Black Sea and the Caspian, Tbilisi became for the time being a commercial backwater, and the Caucasian market served mainly as an outlet for the inferior products of Russian manufacturers. Although a Society for the Encouragement of Rural and Manufacturing Industries and Trade was set up in Tbilisi in 1833, the French Consul there calculated that the total imports ofRussia’s Trancaucasian provinces sank in value from 12,000,000 francs in 1830 to 5,610,000 in 1834, while exports declined from 5,000,000 francs in value to 1,150,000.40

Georgian feudalism and Russian serfdom

As Georgia was a predominantly agricultural country, the peasant question, serfdom, and problems of land tenure were always to the fore. Following the report of Senators Kutaysov and Mechnikov, and the enquiry arising from the abortive conspiracy of 1832, the Russian government tried hard to conciliate the landed proprietors, whom they regarded as the most reliable bulwark of the Russian autocratic system in Georgia.

Baron Rosen unfortunately proved incapable of implementing intelligently the measures decreed by the authorities in St. Petersburg. An example of this occurred in 1834, when the Russian Senate decided that peasants from Western Georgia (Imereti and Mingrelia) who had run away from their masters and taken refuge in Eastern Georgia should, after due investigation, be handed back to their owners. Now the majority of the Imeretian peasants in Eastern Georgia had been there for nearly thirty years. Many had come there during the famine and plague which ravaged their country in 1811-12, often with the active encouragement of their then lords, who had no means of feeding them. In spite of these factors, Rosen carried out the Senate’s orders to the letter. Peasant families settled in Eastern Georgia for more than twenty years were forcibly uprooted from their homes by landlords whom they had never met in their lives, and dragged off into a country they had never seen.

‘The Imeretian proprietors and the agents of the ruler of Mingrelia, taking advantage of the strict implementation of the abovementioned measures, resorted during the removal of Imeretian and Mingrelian peasants from Georgia to the most oppressive methods, reducing them to complete ruin through the loss of their property and possessions, so that the majority of these resettled peasants were without clothing or footwear, and were dragged along in winter time together with their wives, babes in arms and other offspring.’ 41

In this way, the Russian authorities endeared themselves to the landed gentry of Western Georgia, though at the expense of the wretched serfs.

As a result of wars, raids and economic stagnation, Georgia was still very under-populated. To remedy this, as well as to rid Russia of troublesome sectarians, the government settled in Transcaucasia a number of dissenting communities such as the Molokans or ‘drinkers of milk’. Some of these were exiled to the Black Sea area of Western Georgia, and condemned to certain death in the murderous malarial climate of Mingrelia. Later on, the Molokans were joined by several thousand of the famous sect of the Dukhobors, some of whom settled down near Akhalkalaki, in a region only lately recovered from the Turks. Until the disturbances and persecutions which afflicted the Dukhobor colonies at the end of the nineteenth century, they did sterling work in reclaiming land which had been little better than a wilderness.

In spite of the painful incidents we have cited, the life of the Georgian peasantry at this period was not one of unrelieved oppression and misery. A French observer wrote in 1835 that ‘if slavery is a state contrary to nature, and in opposition to modern ideas, inGeorgia at least it is fortunately mitigated by the humane character of the masters, who in general treat their men with extreme mildness’. This writer added that Georgian lords hardly ever beat their serfs, since such behaviour was condemned by public opinion; it was even rarer for a Georgian nobleman to have one of his vassals punished by the Russian police, as national pride forbade him to subject his fellowcountrymen to chastisement at the hands of foreigners. 42

At its best, indeed, the old Georgian feudal system could provide a benevolent, patriarchal way of life. The Georgian poet, Prince Akaki Tsereteli ( 1840-1915) writes in his autobiography:

‘The relationships which had been introduced long ago in connexion with the system of serfdom had entered into the people’s very marrow and were treated as law, the breaking of which was deemed a sin. In our country, in contrast to other lands, the feudal relationship was conditional and limited. Serfs knew what their obligations were, masters, what they could require of their serfs, and both sides carried out their duties meticulously. Not all serfs were taxed the same amount by way of quitrent. Some peasant families paid less, some more; certain ones, having paid off their quitrent, received manumission. For instance, the quitrent of one of our peasants was equivalent to half an egg. This peasant used to arrive in the courtyard at the beginning of Shrovetide, would cook his egg in the kitchen, peel off the shell, cut the egg into two equal halves with a horse hair, and hand one half to his lord as his quitrent. This half-egg quitrent so burdened the peasant that he more than once begged his lord: “Let me off the quitrent, and I will bring you a cow.”

‘But his master retorted: “The quitrent was fixed by our forefathers. I will not cancel it for the sake of a cow, or everyone will say that I was inspired by greed. . . . But if you show your devotion in some other way, perhaps I will remove this quitrent. . . .”

‘The peasants themselves firmly insisted on the precise fulfilment of mutual obligations–they were ready to die rather than pay anything extra.’ 43

Other landowners were less indulgent. Among the various dues and services which might be required of the peasant were working a stipulated number of days on the lord’s private land, helping to build the lord’s house or barns, handing over a share of the harvest or of flocks and herds, offering hospitality to the lord’s guests and their retinue, gathering and delivering firewood, and providing food for the lord’s table at weddings and church festivals. Serfs were debarred from selling property or incurring debts without their master’s permission, though this applied only to such transactions as the sale or leasing of houses, fields, and so on, and not to the marketing of farm or garden produce. Particularly irksome was the need to secure the master’s consent before a serf was allowed to marry. No journey, needless to say, could be undertaken without the master’s permission.

In spite of all this, the Georgian feudal system had its positive features, especially in times of insecurity. Every serf or vassal was to some extent a member of the lord’s family or household. When raiding and oppression were rife, this fact helped to compensate for the absence of any effective police system. In sickness or want, it was considered shameful for any landowner not to provide for the dependents of his men. In some cases, both landlords and peasants united in face of the unpopular Russian administration. Baron Rosen once urged some of the Georgian princes to free their vassals, offering them a cash indemnity as inducement. The princes, however, refused to comply, alleging the undertaking given by Tsar Alexander I to respect and preserve Georgia’s traditional institutions. They suspected, not without good grounds, that one object of this proposal was to introduce into Georgia the Russian system of conscription, which would be easy to put into effect once the liberated serfs had no lord to defend their interests. Up to that time, the Georgian peasant was called upon to take up arms only when his own village was menaced, and then solely when summoned to battle by his own prince. Faith in the Russian government’s sincerity in regard to the abolition of serfdom was somewhat impaired by the behaviour of Baron Rosen himself, who purchased negro slaves in Egypt and brought them to Tbilisi to wait on him in his palace.

Moral questions apart, a charge which could be brought against serfdom in Georgia, as indeed against serfdom generally, was that it impeded the growth of the economy. A French consular report on the commerce and agriculture of Georgia during the year 1836 stresses the continuing lack of agricultural manpower, due to wars, to raids by the Turks and the Caucasian mountaineers, and to the persistence in Western Georgia of trade in captives who were exported to Turkey. Serfdom, the consul considered, encouraged idleness and lack of enterprise, while the primitive construction of Georgian ploughs and other agricultural implements hampered the oxen and retarded improvement in farming methods. The Russian provincial governors and their subordinates were ‘vampires who sucked the blood of the peasants, and often that of the hard-pressed local princes’. Government subsidies to agriculture were squandered and misappropriated, and corruption was rife. Areas inhabited by the Caucasian Muslims were better cultivated than those belonging to the Georgian Christian population, perhaps because serfdom had never taken root in the Islamic world. 44

Observers of the time unite in characterizing Baron Rosen’s administration as a period of venality and self-indulgence. The general, a good-natured bon viveur, was powerless to check the rapacity of his subordinates. Among the greediest of these was Rosen’s own son-in-law, the Georgian prince, Alexander Dadiani, who commanded the Erivan Regiment. This officer made a fortune by hiring out his soldiers as forced labourers and pocketing their wages. In the local offices of the justice department, a regular tariff of bribes existed, nicely graduated in accordance with the value of the service required.

‘What can one expect of an administration in which the subordinate officials have no other aim but to enrich themselves, and in which besides there is never the least question of supervision? Each district or province is a satrapy destined to augment its governor’s private fortune, just as each regiment is, for its colonel, a collection of men whose various skills he exploits for his own benefit.’ 45

Deus ex machina

Rumours about this state of affairs eventually reached the central government in St. Petersburg. In 1837, the Senator Baron Paul von Hahn, a learned German who had been Governor of Courland, was sent to Georgia on a tour of inspection. In the same year, to the horror of Rosen and his associates, it was learnt that Hahn would soon be followed by his imperial master in person.

The impending arrival of Tsar Nicholas in Tbilisi had an effect similar to that produced on the corrupt mayor and officials in Gogol comedy Revizor by the visit of the Inspector-General from St. Petersburg. Houses were painted, roads hastily mended. In anticipation of the Tsar’s arrival, large buildings were swiftly run up to complete unfinished squares. The Georgian princes and notables wanted to arrange a grand ball in the emperor’s honour, but found themselves short of 18,000 rubles, which Rosen declined to lend them.

At the end of September 1837, Baron Rosen and his suite set off to meet the Tsar at the little Black Sea port of RedutKaleh. Nicholas soon showed that this visit was to be no formal parade. He was determined to see everything and go everywhere himself. So rapid were his movements that his companions found time neither to eat nor to sleep. According to a British visitor,

‘The road which leads through the marshy forests of Mingrelia being axle deep in mud, the Emperor had become impatient, and, ordering the escort of Cossacks to dismount, had mounted with his own staff, and proceeded on horseback, riding on a Cossack-saddle, and wearing the black felt yaponcha of the natives. All his suite, and the poor old Baron Rosen, had to accompany him. I heard also that the Mingrelian fleas had not respected the person of the Emperor, and had driven him, on one occasion, to take refuge for the night in his carriage.’ 46

After visiting Kutaisi, the capital of Imereti, the Tsar turned southwards towards the city of Akhaltsikhe, taken from the Turks during the war of 1828-29. Near this place, the inhabitants of an entire village were seen kneeling on the road in silence as the emperor drove past, and this circumstance recurred several times. Nicholas enquired of the people what this signified. They replied that the Russian officials had forbidden them to approach him with petitions or complaints. Nicholas told them that this ban was quite unauthorized, and that they might fearlessly present him with their petitions. Thereupon the people poured forth to meet the Tsar in such numbers that during his journey between Akhaltsikhe and Erivan alone, about 1,400 formal complaints were proffered to him.

From Erivan, the chief city in Armenia, Nicholas proceeded to Tbilisi, where he received from Baron Hahn a report highly critical of Rosen and his methods. Amid the festivities and parades arranged in his honour, the Tsar performed. an act designed to strike terror into malefactors in high places. After the dress parade held on 11/23 October 1837, Nicholas formed up all the officers in a circle, into which he summoned Rosen’s son-in-law, Prince Alexander Dadiani, colonel of the Erivan Regiment, who was an imperial aide-de-camp and one of the chief profiteers. ‘Colonel,’ exclaimed the Tsar, ‘I am acquainted with all your infamies. You have dishonoured your aide-decamp’s aiguillettes, and are henceforth unworthy to bear them.’ Turning to the military governor, Nicholas said: ‘General, tear off his aiguillettes, take his sword from him, and have him sent off within two hours to the fortress of Bobruisk.’ To the petrified company, the Tsar declared: ‘Gentlemen, mark well that this is my first act of justice in Georgia; and it will not be my last.’

Petitions from the nobility and common people continued to pour in. An extent of corruption and injustice was revealed which induced the Tsar to arrest the Tbilisi chief of police and dismiss several generals. Shortly after Nicholas’s visit, Rosen was himself relieved of his command, which was entrusted to General Golovin. Baron Hahn stayed behind in Georgia to prepare a scheme for a reorganization of the civil administration of the Caucasian provinces.

During the administrations of Rosen and Golovin, progress was made towards absorbing the remaining autonomous principalities ofWestern Georgia. In 1833, Michael (Tatarkhan) and Nicholas (Tsiokh) Dadeshkeliani, mtavars or ruling princes of Western Upper Svaneti, signed a treaty of protectorate with Russia. Seven years later, in 1840, Eastern Upper Svaneti (the so-called Free Svaneti) also became a Russian protectorate. The districts of Dsibelda and Samurzaqano, on the border between Mingrelia and Abkhazia, were also taken over in 1840. Samurzaqano had since 1758 constituted a separate principality, and its last ruling prince was Manuchar Sharvashidze. Not long afterwards, the Dadian or ruling prince of Mingrelia was deprived of his powers of criminal jurisdiction, which he had retained since becoming a vassal of the Tsar in 1803. The criminal code of Mingrelia involved the physical mutilation of offenders. All this was now abolished, and Mingrelian criminal cases were from then onwards dealt with by the Russian tribunal in Imereti at Kutaisi.

Attempts at reform

Baron Hahn returned in due course to St. Petersburg and secured imperial approval for his new scheme of government for Georgiaand adjoining provinces. In 1840, he returned to the Caucasus with a mandate to put his system into operation. He stayed for several months and did what he could to cleanse the Augean stables left behind by the previous régime. Unfortunately, Hahn’s ideas on administration were ill-adapted to the outlook of the local people. Bred in the traditions of German and Russian bureaucracy, Hahn was all for administrative uniformity and adherence to protocol and procedure. He abolished the use of the Georgian code of King Vakhtang VI as a guide for civil actions, and forced everyone to be governed by Russian laws which were unintelligible to the people. Some of Hahn’s ideas were praiseworthy in themselves, but their execution was paralysed by a lack of honest functionaries capable of putting them into effect. The rogues whom Hahn purged were replaced by still worse ones. The new commander-in-chief, General Golovin, was reputed to be an honest man, but was constantly hoodwinked by his underlings. ‘It is a state of general pillage,’ the French consul reported in despair. 47

Hahn’s attempt to regulate and standardize the amount of dues to be rendered by peasants to their feudal masters proved unpopular. Hahn tried to replace payments in kind and compulsory labour by a cash levy of some seven rubles per head. This measure helped to provoke a general uprising in the Western Georgian province of Guria. The reigning princess of Guria, Sophia, had been driven out by the Russians during the war of 1828-29, and took refuge in Turkey. The principality was annexed to Russia, but the Gurians were far from reconciled to the new order. They now rose en masse, expelled the Russian officials, and were only subdued after a violent struggle against 3,000 Russian troops. Tsar Nicholas soon became as impatient with poor Hahn as he had been with old Baron Rosen. Hahn’s system was in part abandoned, and its deviser disgraced. Hahn retired in dudgeon to his nativeGermany, while the Tsar set up in St. Petersburg a special Transcaucasian Committee, the members of which included the Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich (the future Tsar Alexander II) and the Minister of War.

During the five years of General Golovin’s command, little progress was made in the fierce struggle against the Caucasian mountaineers. In Circassia, forts were built along the coast to cut off the tribesmen from their outlets to the Black Sea. However, almost every month brought news of some Russian detachment that had been cut to pieces by these intrepid horsemen. A general insurrection flared up in 1840, and was not put down without heavy Russian casualties. Further to the east, Shamil’s struggle against the Russians continued. There were also rebellions in Kuba and the Karabagh. Between 1840 and 1842, the Russians lost about 5,000 men in numerous encounters with the fanatical Murids. General Grabbe made a successful raid on Shamil’s headquarters at Ahulgo, but the Imam made his escape and was able in 1843 to resume the initiative. By that time, General Golovin’s army in Daghestan was being depleted through casualties at the rate of 12,000 men a year, apart from the loss of scores of guns and other valuable equipment. The emperor, thoroughly vexed at the course of events, recalled Golovin in December 1842. The Caucasian command was entrusted to the Governor of Moscow, General Neidhardt, an officer who proved no more capable than his predecessor of mastering Shamil and his dogged followers.

Formation of the Caucasian Viceroyalty

Weary of all these muddling mediocrities, as the fuming Tsar regarded his long-suffering Caucasian generals, Nicholas decided at long last that the time had come to appoint a firstclass man to take over both military and civil responsibility for the entire area. His choice fell in 1844 upon Count Michael Vorontsov, who had been since 1823 Governor-General of New Russia (i.e. the Ukraine and Crimea) and Bessarabia. Vorontsov was appointed to be both commander-in-chief of the Russian armies on the Caucasian front, and Viceroy of the Tsar with overall administrative authority over the Caucasus. He was the first of Georgia’s governors to be officially invested with the viceregal title.

By his character, reputation and past record, Michael Vorontsov towered above most of his contemporaries. His father, Count Simon Vorontsov, had been for many years Russian ambassador to England, and was noted for his adherence to British Tory principles and his attachment to the younger Pitt. Brought up in London, Michael Vorontsov was a complete Westerner in outlook and education. He won his spurs as a young officer in the Caucasus under Prince Tsitsianov, and went on to distinguish himself against the Turks and in the Napoleonic wars. After Napoleon’s defeat, Vorontsov commanded the Russian occupation force in France. Later, as Governor-General of Russia’s Black Sea provinces, he was responsible for the rapid development of Odessa. His appointment was well calculated to restore the faith of the Russian public in the prospects of bringing the Circassians and Shamil’s highlanders to heel, as well as to instil much-needed confidence into the Georgians and other Caucasian peoples who had suffered under the rule of Vorontsov’s mediocre forerunners.

But first Nicholas demanded of Vorontsov some spectacular military action against the insufferable rebels of the mountains. The Tsar’s impetuosity drove the viceroy to undertake an ill-fated expedition to Shamil’s stronghold of Dargo. The Imam lured the unwieldy Russian force into the ravines and forests of southern Chechnya. Vorontsov occupied Dargo without much difficulty. But he had ventured into a trap. When, without having brought his foe to battle, he attempted to return through the beech forests ofChechnya to his base at Grozny, he found Chechen sharpshooters lurking behind every tree. Horses and baggage were abandoned, and the numbers of wounded and dead grew daily. When finally Vorontsov extricated himself and the famished and threadbare survivors of his force from enemy territory, it was with a loss of 4,000 men, including three generals and zoo other officers. However, he had punctually carried out the orders of his august sovereign, for which he was awarded the title of Prince of the Russian Empire.

Emboldened by this Russian fiasco, Shamil took the offensive himself. His idea was to invade the Kabarda and effect a junction with the Circassians in north-western Caucasia. To do this, he needed to cut the Georgian military highway which led over the CaucasusRange through the Daryal Pass and down to Tbilisi. In the spring of 1846, Shamil set out in force from his highland fastnesses, and crossed the military highway and the River Terek to the north of Vladikavkaz. The Kabardians, however, failed to respond as Shamil had hoped, and their anticipated rising en masse against the Russians did not materialize. Owing to the hostility of the local Ossete clansmen, who remained loyal to Russia, the Murids were unable to occupy the Daryal Pass itself. When Shamil and his followers had almost reached Nalchik, the arrival of a Russian force under the vigorous command of General Freitag forced him to retreat south-eastwards to his home base, though without much loss of life on the Murid side. For the next few years, both the Russians and Shamil’s men were more or less on the defensive. Shamil remained in possession of most of Daghestan, including Avaria, and of the greater part of Chechnya. Prince Vorontsov, aware that he was not strong enough to deal the Murids a mortal blow in existing conditions, contented himself by strengthening his lines on all sectors pending resumption of a more aggressive policy.

Industrial Progress

Meanwhile, he turned his great ability and energy to reforming the civil administration of the Caucasus, in which he achieved notable success. Recalling the period around 1860, it was said by one of Georgia’s foremost poets that ‘in these years the lustrous memory of Vorontsov lived on still in the hearts of the Georgians.’ ‘Until the memory of Georgia itself vanishes from the earth, the name of Vorontsov will remain alive,’ was a phrase which he had often heard repeated in conversation in the Georgia of those days.48 Members of the Georgian aristocracy would go out of their way to visit Odessa and call on Prince Vorontsov’s widow, née Countess Elizabeth Branitskaya, a gracious lady who had in her youth attracted the admiration of the poet Pushkin.

To what, it may be asked, did the Vorontsovs owe this devotion which they inspired among the Georgians, who had usually so little affection for Russian proconsuls sent to govern them in Tbilisi?

The answer is that Vorontsov was one of those few highlyplaced Russians who genuinely enjoyed being in Georgia, derived pleasure from the company of Georgians, and evinced a real interest in their language, culture and national past. ‘ Georgia,’ he said on one occasion, ‘is a garden, but one which is not like other gardens. A gardener of special talents is needed to tend the flowers which grow in this garden.’ Again, he would declare: ‘This little Georgia will become in time the most beautiful, the most durable piece of gold brocade woven into the many coloured patchwork of mighty Russia. We must simply give her the chance to develop freely as well as guiding and helping her, but without infringing her primordial customs.’ 49 He would receive deputations from the various peoples and communities dwelling under his aegis, listen patiently to their point of view, and do his best to satisfy their grievances and aspirations. All the Georgian nobility was assured of a warm welcome at the viceregal palace. In 1848, that same Georgian aristocracy which had plotted together less than two decades previously to exterminate the Russian garrison and administration was sending a loyal address to the Tsar, protesting undying attachment to the Russian fatherland.

Vorontsov was no social reformer. The iron hand of Tsar Nicholas the autocrat gave him no scope in this direction, even had he been so inclined. But more than reform, Georgia needed justice, prosperity, order, education. Here Vorontsov excelled. He instilled some efficiency into the Russian bureaucratic machine, and punished corruption. He built bridges and roads, and improved communications. He patronized schools, had a theatre built in Tbilisi, and vastly increased the output of journals, newspapers and books, both in Russian and in Georgian. He encouraged the founding of the Tbilisi Public Library and the Caucasian branch of the Russian Geographical Society.

Vorontsov devoted much attention to commerce. He persuaded the Russian Finance Ministry to restore the customs concessions facilitating transit trade through Georgia between Europe and the East. He supported the merchant and craft guilds of Tbilisi and Gori, while at the same time enabling entrepreneurs to start up several modern factories. A trading depot was established at Tbilisiin 1847 by a syndicate of Russian manufacturers, as well as warehouses and showrooms. The number of industrial organizations inGeorgia grew between 1843 and 1850 by 94 per cent., while their total output went up by 105 per cent. There thus existed inGeorgia in 1850 some 132 industrial enterprises, with a total production valued at 256,000 rubles. Growth over the next few years continued at a rapid rate, so that by 1864, when serfdom was abolished in Georgia, there existed 465 factories and industrial concerns of various kinds, with a production worth over 860,000 rubles. 50 Vorontsov also tried to improve methods of farming, viniculture, cotton planting and silk raising. A branch of the Russian Agricultural Society was founded in Tbilisi.

Decline of the old aristocracy

As usually occurs during the transition from an agricultural and pastoral to an industrial society, the landed proprietors began to feel the pinch. In 1852, Prince Vorontsov reported that ‘the nobility have constantly had to sell their estates because of inability to pay extortionate rates of interest on debts incurred with private usurers, so that many of the most ancient and honoured of the local aristocratic houses have gradually sunk into poverty’. Prince Vorontsov was himself sometimes accused of having deliberately sapped the power and prosperity of the Georgian nobility by encouraging them to attend balls, theatrical displays and public functions, and by introducing into Georgia all manner of European luxuries which they could not afford. It is doubtful, however, whether the convivial Georgians required much inducement to engage in social activities and enjoy the good things of life. In reality, the causes of their impoverishment lie far deeper, being bound up with the economic evolution of the Russian Empire, indeed ofEurope as a whole. It was during the reign of Nicholas I, which lasted from 1825 to 1855, that the industrial revolution really got under way in Russia. Landed property ceased to be the sole source of wealth and influence. In spite of the shortage of free labour, and the shackles of serfdom, Russia’s industrial production quadrupled in thirty years.

It was industrial progress as much as humanitarian considerations which made feudalism and serfdom appear burdensome relics of a vanishing age.

The landed gentry in Georgia were not equipped, either by temperament or by upbringing, to cope with the changing order of things. The traditional occupations of a gentleman were hunting and fighting. The amassing of money and attention to household or industrial management were beneath his dignity, while a rustic simplicity characterized the lives of even the most exalted families. The satirical book by Prince Ioane Bagration ( 1772-1830), called Kalmasoba or The Alms-Collecting Tour, contains an account of a visit to the Dadian or ruling prince of Mingrelia, who liked to spend the fishing season in a roofless, floorless house by the River Rioni, which afforded him shelter only from the wind. The Dadian observing that sixty days’ more rain fell in Mingrelia than in any other country, one of the characters exclaims: ‘Sir Dadian! In that case you, the ruler of this land, are excused from building any bathhouses!’ In the good old days, a Georgian noble was provided with all necessities of life by the resources of his own estates and the offerings of his vassals and serfs. Without spending a penny in hard cash, he received unlimited food, drink, clothing, footwear, arms, cattle, furniture and so on. Some landed proprietors even numbered among their followers Armenian and Jewish hawkers, who supplied them gratis with tea, sugar, coffee, rice, candles and olive oil. The possession of money was considered plebeian. Akaki Tsereteli the poet relates in his reminiscences how, as a young cadet, he once rejected out of pride a pocketful of gold ducats offered to him as a gift by Princess Vorontsov herself. It is scarcely surprising that the wealth of the country passed as time went on into the pockets of the new middle-class merchants and entrepreneurs, including many Armenians, Russians, Muslims and Jews, who were burdened by no such delicate scruples.

Symptomatic of the social and economic trends of the time is the remarkable novel Solomon Isakich Mejghanuashvili by Lavrenti Ardaziani ( 1815-70). The hero, a Caucasian Scrooge or Shylock living in the Tbilisi Armenian milieu, starts modestly as a small tradesman, and then turns to money lending. ‘Six years went by,’ he says, ‘and through all Kartli, on both banks of the Kura, there was not one village left which did not owe me money.’ Later, the aristocracy also fell into his clutches. From then on, Solomon became an honoured pillar of the establishment. Like Molière’s Monsieur Jourdain, his aim was now to become accepted in high society and have his daughter marry a prince. The story of his chequered career, with its realistic portrayal of social life in old Tbilisi, is full of satirical touches. A contrast to the character of Solomon is provided by the well-bred aristocrat, Prince Alexander Raindidze, an enlightened man who believes in treating serfs humanely, but cannot bring himself to favour freeing them altogether.

Literature and the theatre

The decline of old patriarchal and heroic patterns of life, the imposition of alien rule, and the growth of a new economic order fostered the nostalgic, elegiac mood characteristic of several of the outstanding Georgian poets of this period. The all-pervading cult of Byronism, combined with pride in Georgia’s glorious past, produced a spirit of defiant, romantic patriotism, tinged at times with morbid gloom, at others with radiant hope in a better future.

The poetic genius of the Georgian romantics shines brightest of all in the work of the young bard Nicholas Baratashvili ( 1817-45), whose verse is full of profound philosophical thought and a deep sadness, inspired both by the destiny of his country and his own unhappy life. His soul melts in tears in his poems, the vanity of life drives him almost to despair. But he is no passive fatalist, no pessimist; his faith in a better future stands out clearly in his verse. Most famous of his works, perhaps, is My SteedMerani), in which the poet’s mood of restless turmoil finds vigorous expression.

It runs; it flies; it bears me on; it heeds no trail nor spoor;
A raven black behind me croaks with ominous eyes of doom.
Speed thee on and onward fly with a gallop that knows no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts in raging darkness found.

Go onward! onward! cleaving through the roaring wind and
O’er many a mount and many a plain, short’ning my days of pain.
Seek not shelter, my flying steed, from scorching skies or storm;
Pity not thy rider sad, by self-immolation worn.

I bid farewell to parents, kin, to friends and sweet-heart dear
Whose gentle voice did soothe my hopes to a hot and bitter tear.
Where the night falls, there let it dawn, there let my country be;
Only the heavenly stars above my open heart will see.

The sighs that burn, that rend the heart to violent waves I hurl;
To thy inspired, wild maddened flight love’s waning passions
Speed thee on, and onward fly with a gallop that knows no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts, in raging darkness found.

In foreign lands thou lay me low, not where my fathers sleep,
Nor shed thou tears, nor grieve, my love, nor o’er my body weep;
Ravens grim will dig my grave and whirlwinds wind a shroud
There, on desert plains where winds will howl in wailings loud.

No lover’s tears but only dew will moist my bed of gloom;
No dirge but vultures’ shrieks will sound above my lowly tomb.
Bear me far beyond the bounds of fate, my Merani,
Fate whose slave I never was, and henceforth-ne’er shall be!

By fate repulsed, oh bury me in a dark and lonely grave.
My bloody foe, I fear thee not–thy flashing sword I brave.
Speed thee on and onward fly with a gallop that knows no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts in raging darkness found.

The yearnings of my restless soul will not in vain have glowed.
For, dashing on, my steed has paved a new untrodden road.
He who follows in our wake, a smoother path will find;
Daring all, his fateful steed shall leave dark fate behind.

It runs; it flies; it bears me on; it heeds no trail nor spoor;
A raven black behind me croaks with ominous eyes of doom.
Speed thee on and onward fly with a gallop that knows no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts, in raging darkness
found. 51

From this period also dates the birth of modern Georgian drama. In 1845, a Russian theatre with professional repertory company was opened in Tbilisi. This stimulated the Georgians to emulation. With the encouragement of Prince Vorontsov, a Georgian amateur dramatic society was formed, under the direction of the talented playwright Giorgi Eristavi. On 2 January 1850, in the great hall of the Tbilisi High School, the company made its debut in Eristavi’s comedy The Share-outGaqra), a play which gave a humorous satirical view of life among the Georgian squirearchy. This venture was greeted with great enthusiasm, so that in May, Eristavi staged another of his comedies, The Lawsuit (Dava). Eristavi then formed a professional company, which was granted a subsidy of 4,000 rubles a year, and the use of the Russian theatre building. The professional company’s first night took place on 1 January 1851. Later on, it was able to stage its performances in the fine new theatre in Erivan Square, which held seven hundred spectators. The repertoire was composed largely of original plays by Eristavi and other contemporary Georgian writers, as well as a few dramas translated from the Russian, and an adaptation of Molière Le Médecin malgré lui.

The bold satirical tone of some of the original plays put on by the young Georgian troupe annoyed diehards among both the Georgian landowners and the Russian bureaucrats. Eristavi eventually resigned. After Prince Vorontsov’s departure from Tbilisi in 1854, the company fell on evil days. Two years later, official coolness and the clamour of unpaid creditors brought this first Georgian professional theatrical company to an untimely end. But its period of activity marks an important stage in Georgian literary and social history, as well as in the reawakening of Georgian national consciousness.

Another significant trend in Georgian intellectual life at this period was the revival of scholarly interest in the country’s historical past. Among the pioneers in this movement were Prince Ioane Bagration and his brother Teimuraz, sons of the last King of Eastern Georgia, Giorgi XII. Prince Teimuraz ( 1782-1846) composed a history of Iberia (i.e. Georgia), and was elected an honorary member of the Im perial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. He was a friend and collaborator of the French scholar Marie-Félicité Brosset ( 1802-80), who worked for over forty years in Russia and placed the study of Georgian and Armenian history on a scholarly footing. Brosset translated and edited Prince Vakhushti’s classic geographical description of Georgia, as well as the entire corpus of the Georgian annals. He visited Georgia during the viceroyalty of Prince Vorontsov, who joined with local notables in encouraging his work, helping him to search out and edit ancient charters and record inscriptions on churches and ancient monuments.

Other noteworthy Georgian scholars of the time included David Chubinashvili or Chubinov ( 1814-91), Professor of Brosset in editing the Georgian annals; also Platon Ioseliani, the Tbilisi antiquary, who wrote a brief history of the Georgian Church, a life of King Giorgi XII, and studies of ancient Georgian cities. On a broader plane, interest in the history and civilization of Georgia was stimulated by the launching of the Georgian magazine Tsiskari (The Dawn), the Russian magazine Kavkaz (The Caucasus), and the invaluable annual almanach Kavkazsky Kalendar (Calendar of the Caucasus). These Tbilisi periodicals set a very high standard.

The Crimean War

In 1853, during the last months of Vorontsov’s viceroyalty, Georgia was once more involved in the alarums of battle. The inadequacies of Russia’s military machine and backward economic and social system were now to be revealed in a conflict with a rearmed Ottoman Empire supported, albeit inefficiently, by a concert of Western powers. In the Crimean War, as in other Russo-Turkish wars, events on the Caucasian front played an important, if secondary role. In anticipation of the outbreak of armed conflict, the Turks had fortified Trebizond, Erzurum and Batumi. Special attention was paid to Kars, which, commanded by Colonel Fenwick Williams of the Royal Engineers, was turned into a fortified camp of great strength. During the summer of 1853, the Turks concentrated substantial forces along their Caucasian frontier. In addition to keeping watch on this line, the Russians had large bodies of troops tied down in north-western Caucasia, to counter activity by the Circassians, and in the eastern Caucasus, in expectation of renewed forays by Shamil and his Murids against the Russian garrisons in Chechnya and Daghestan, and against the Eastern Georgian province of Kakheti.

The first important engagement was in fact an attack on Kakheti by the Imam Shamil with 10,000 or more mountaineers in August 1853, but this was beaten off by a Russian force under Prince Argutinsky-Dolgorukov. At the end of October, the Turkish offensive began in earnest. Parts of Guria were occupied, but attacks on the towns of Akhaltsikhe, Adsquri and Akhalkalaki were repulsed. On 1 December, Prince V. O. Bebutov with 10,000 men, including a large contingent of Georgian troops, signally defeated a Turkish army some 36,000 strong, and sent the survivors streaming back into Kars. This engagement occurred the day after Admiral Nakhimov destroyed the Turkish fleet at Sinope on the Black Sea, thus precipitating the entry of Britain and France into the war.

As the new year of 1854 opened, the septuagenarian viceroy felt his physical powers to be waning. In March, Vorontsov left on sick leave for Western Europe, never to return. He submitted his resignation to the emperor the following October, and died, full of honours, in 1856.

On the Russo-Turkish border, the campaign of 1854 was largely indecisive, except for a defeat inflicted by the Russians on the Turks at the village of Kurudere, between Kars and Alexandropol. At the eastern end of the Caucasus, Shamil and his Murids were emboldened to launch another assault on Kakheti. They descended into the Alazani valley, but failed to capture any of the Russian posts guarding the Lezghian line. On 16 July, Prince David Chavchavadze routed the Murid horde at Shilda. Shamil’s only success in this operation was his raid on Prince Chavchavadze’s mansion at Tsinandali, whence he abducted the prince’s wife and her sister, Princess Orbeliani, as well as slaughtering or kidnapping other members of their family and entourage. A few months later, the surviving captives were handed back in exchange for Shamil’s own son Jamal-al-Din, who had been taken prisoner by the Russians in 1839 and brought up at St. Petersburg with honour and distinction. The young man had been made colonel of a regiment and aide-de-camp to the Tsar; restored reluctantly to the savage life of his primitive compatriots, he soon pined away and died.

Under the new viceroy, Count N. N. Muraviev, military operations on the Caucasian front in 1855 took on a more active look. After bloody and desperate fighting, the great fortress of Kars capitulated to the Russians in November. But meanwhile the Russians had been taken in the rear by Turkish forces under Omar Pasha, who landed at Sukhumi in Abkhazia and occupied a strip of Western Georgia’s Black Sea littoral. Omar Pasha occupied the Mingrelian capital of Zugdidi and prepared to advance on the main city of Western Georgia, Kutaisi. But he had reckoned without the torrential rain and pestilential vapours typical of the Mingrelian climate. Soon his troops were without bread and his animals without forage, and his army was bogged down in the Mingrelian quagmire. The local princes and their predominantly Christian peasantry showed no inclination to rise in revolt against the Russians and join the Turks, from whom they had suffered much tyranny in earlier periods. In spite of the incompetence of the local Russian commander, who was the Georgian prince Ivane Bagration-Mukhransky, Omar’s campaign gradually petered out. The signing of the Treaty of Paris, which concluded the Crimean War in 1856, prevented Muraviev from following up his success at Kars, and redeeming the disgrace inflicted on Russia by the fall of Sebastopol in the Crimea.

Passing of an autocrat

Nicholas I, martinet that he was, claimed to have given Russia prosperity and good order at home, power and prestige abroad, and predominance in the affairs of Europe and the world. The disasters of the Crimean War dissipated these fond illusions. ‘War,’ a contemporary remarked, ‘opened our eyes, and things appeared to us in their true guise.’ In February 1855, the autocrat caught a chill; on March 2, he was dead. As Nicholas admitted on his death-bed, he was handing over command to his successor in a pretty bad state.

Thanks largely to Prince Vorontsov, the closing years of the reign had, for Georgia at least, their brighter side. Now that most of the country had been thoroughly subjugated from a military viewpoint, it could be peacefully assimilated into the Tsarist system, and the old arbitrary methods of military government replaced by more civilized methods of administration. These years, viewed in historical perspective, mark a turning point in the country’s economic and social life. The decay of the old feudal system became daily more apparent. The growth of capitalism, combined with changes in public opinion produced by contact with European ideas, showed that traditional forms of agrarian and manorial economy, based on serf labour and the individual craftsman, were doomed. The spread of education combined with resurgence of national pride to produce a new and vigorous Georgian intellectual life which was to manifest itself increasingly during the second half of the century.


Alexander II and the liberation of the serfs–Shamil capitulates-The integration of Western Georgia–The peasant question in Georgia–The rise of the Georgian intelligentsia–Land hunger and peasant discontent–The edicts of 1864–The War of 1877-78 –Commerce and industry–Russian Pan-Slavism and the lesser breeds–Ilia Chavchavadze and Georgia’s re-awakening–Alexander III and Russian reaction–Great Georgian writers of the late nineteenth century

Alexander II and the liberation of the serfs

RUSSIA’S NEW SOVEREIGN, Alexander II, was at heart an honest conservative, forced by the logic of events to place in the forefront of his programme the liberation of the serfs. The humiliations of the Crimean War had exposed the bankruptcy of the old order, while the growth of industry in Russia underlined the chronic shortage of free labour. Enlightened public opinion, both at home and abroad, clamoured for the abolition of a system which reduced the bulk of the population of a European state to a condition similar to that of the mediaeval villein, or even to that of negro slaves on the American plantations. In 1856, on announcing the conclusion of peace, Alexander directed all thoughts to reform.

‘May Russia’s internal welfare be established and perfected; may justice and mercy reign in her law courts; may the desire for instruction and all useful work grow everywhere with new strength; and may everyone enjoy in peace the fruits of honest labourunder the shelter of laws equally just to all, equally protecting all.’

To the Governor-General of Moscow, who expressed alarm at the implications of these amiable generalities, the Tsar replied: ‘Better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait till it begins to abolish itself from below.’ 52 For the next five years, both government and public opinion in Russia were occupied with preparations for the peasant reform of 1861 which, after some delay, was to be applied also to Russia’s dominions beyond the Caucasus.

Shamil capitulates

In the meantime, there remained in the Caucasus defiant tribes who preferred their own native brand of liberty to any which the Russian Tsar might graciously provide. The termination of the Crimean War set free the Russian military command to terminate once for all the menace of the warrior Shamil and his Murids. Prince Baryatinsky, who succeeded Count Muraviev as viceroy of theCaucasus in 1856, worked out a systematic plan for the reduction of Daghestan. Its rapid success took the Russians themselves by surprise. Shamil’s authority had for some time been waning, so that the Russians, who had greatly improved their communications system, were able to cut off the Murids from their sources of supply and gradually to squeeze them out of one redoubt after another. In August 1859, after a quarter of a century’s desperate resistance, the terrible Imam was brought to bay. Surrounded on the rocky brow of Gunib, the surviving five hundred Murids put up a determined fight until, seeing the situation to be hopeless, Shamilsurrendered to the Russian viceroy in person, and was sent into honourable exile at Kaluga in Russia. Simultaneously, the Russians were actively extending their grip over those areas of western Caucasia which still retained some vestige of independence.

The integration of Western Georgia

It was at this period that Mingrelia, the Colchis of the ancients, finally lost its autonomy. It will be recalled that the Dadian or ruling prince of Mingrelia had been placed under a Russian protectorate in 1803, but had retained a large measure of authority as a vassal of the cause, and organized a militia to help drive out the intruders. This invasion imposed a severe strain on the Mingrelianeconomy, and particularly on the peasants. When the Turks withdrew, the landowners attempted to reimpose their authority on their serfs, but were met with defiance. A peasant revolt broke out, led by a blacksmith named Utu Mikava. Most of Mingrelia was reduced to a state of turmoil. In the end, both parties welcomed Russian intervention–the landowners to safeguard their lives and property, the serfs in the hope of being guaranteed a status approximating to that enjoyed by crown peasants in Russia. Fate thus played into the hands of the Russian authorities, who sent in 1857 a commission to Mingrelia, and removed the Regent Catherine from office. A Russian-dominated Council of Regency was set up, nominally in the interests of the youthful heir, Nicholas Dadiani. In 1867, when Nicholas attained his majority, he was compelled to cede all his sovereign rights to the Tsar in exchange for 1,000,000 rubles, a grant of estates in Russia, and the title of Prince Dadian-Mingrelsky. The principality of Mingrelia thus became an integral part of the Russian empire.

A like fate soon overtook the free mountaineers of Upper Svaneti, high up in the Caucasus range looking down over Imereti andMingrelia. The Russians had long been irked by the rebellious attitude of the Svanian princes, who spent their ample leisure in prosecuting blood feuds against one another, and in intrigues with Omar Pasha’s invading Turks. In 1857, Prince Baryatinskyordered Svaneti to be subdued by armed force, despite the existence of the treaties of 1833 and 1840, which established a protectorate over the principality of Western Upper Svaneti and the self-governing tribal area of Free (Eastern Upper) Svaneti. The ruling prince of Western Upper Svaneti was exiled to Erivan in Armenia. On his way to banishment, this Svanian prince, ConstantineDadeshkeliani by name, came to Kutaisi for a farewell audience with the Governor-General of Western Georgia, Prince Alexander Gagarin, a jovial man and a good administrator, who had built a boulevard and two bridges over the Rioni at Kutaisi and embellished the town with a public garden. At this interview, Constantine Dadeshkeliani suddenly drew his dagger and stabbed to death the Russian general and three of his staff.

When captured, he was summarily tried by court martial and shot. In 1858, the whole of Upper Svaneti was annexed to the Russian viceroyalty of the Caucasus. Thus ended the independent existence of this renowned nation of fighters and hunters, mentioned with respect by Strabo and the ancients, but sunk in more recent times into squalor and ignorance from which contact with European ways has only lately begun to redeem them.

The Russians were now able to subjugate Abkhazia, the autonomous principality situated immediately north-west of Mingrelia along the Black Sea coastline. It will be recalled that the Lord of Abkhazia, Safar Bey or Giorgi Sharvashidze, had been received under Russian protection as long ago as 1809, and confirmed in perpetual possession of his domains. In the intervening period, Abkhazia had been frequently involved in the Russian campaigns against the Circassians, with whom the Abkhaz, many of them Muslims, had cultural, ethnic and linguistic connexions. During the Crimean War, the Turks stirred up the Abkhaz against Russia at the time of null Omar Pasha’s invasion of Mingrelia. Turkish envoys who arrived at the Abkhazian capital, Sukhumi, found the ruling dynasty of theSharvashidzes divided: the Christian princes adhered to the Russian interest, but Iskander (Alexander), a Muslim, was prepared to help the Turks in return for permission to annex the neighbouring Mingrelian district of Samurzaqano. Omar Pasha had subsequently landed at Sukhumi, from which he advanced south-eastwards into Mingrelia. After the Crimean War was over, the Russians looked for a chance of extending their direct rule to Abkhazia. In 1864, they deposed the ruling prince, MichaelSharvashidze, and annexed his country by force of arms. Two years later, the Abkhaz staged a general revolt against their new masters, and recaptured their capital, Sukhumi. The Russians had to send 8,000 troops to quell this rising, which was suppressed with heavy loss of life.

The subjugation of Abkhazia coincided with Russia’s annihilation of the national existence of the Circassians, that valiant North Caucasian people who had for a century been a thorn in the side of Tsarist colonialism. Cut off since the Crimean War from contact with Turkey and the Western European powers, the Circassians were no match for Russia’s military might, especially after the surrender of Shamil and the Murids of Daghestan. In Chechnya and Daghestan, the Russians were satisfied with the submission of the local population to Russian law. But on the Black Sea coast, their plans involved the seizure of the wide and fertile Cherkesslands to provide for a part of the wave of Russian peasant migration which resulted from the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. The Russian government conceived the drastic project of enforcing the mass migration of the Circassians to other regions of the empire or, if they preferred, to Ottoman Turkey. The last shots in the long series of Russo-Circassian conflicts were fired in 1864. Rather than remain under infidel rule, some 600,000 Circassian Muslims emigrated to various regions of the Ottoman Empire, where their descendants may be found to this day. Many of the Russian, German, Greek and Bulgarian colonists who were endowed with the tribal lands of the Circassians near the Black Sea coast proved unable to endure the sub-tropical climate, and the wilderness invaded the orchards and gardens once cultivated by prosperous and highly civilized Circassian communities.

The peasant question in Georgia

While the emancipation of the serfs in European Russia did not for the time being affect conditions in Georgia and other regions of Caucasia, its application there was seen to be only a matter of time. We have already spoken of the economic and social changes which took place in Georgia towards the middle of the nineteenth century, and which gathered momentum under the viceroyalty of Prince Vorontsov. Patriarchal customs unchallenged over the centuries were breaking down as the Georgian people came into contact with European ways and acquired new tastes and habits. In 1858, the port of Poti was opened for Black Sea shipping, replacing the inferior anchorage of Redut-Kaleh. Agricultural exhibitions were held with increasing frequency, and silk, tobacco and cotton produced in substantial quantities. More corn had to be brought in to feed the growing population, while maize and wine were exported in bulk. From the 1840’s onwards, the Georgians grew potatoes, cabbages and tea–the latter being introduced from Chinain 1845. Foreign capital was put into silk farms in Western Georgia. Iron foundries, brick works, glass works, a steam sawmill, helped to provide new occupations for the townsfolk. Landowners often loaned out their serfs to factories and plantations on a seasonal basis, in return for a cash payment. Many peasants were able to save up and purchase their freedom. There was an increasing tendency for feudal dues in labour or in kind to be commuted into a money payment. The basis of the old manorial economy was correspondingly weakened, while the improvidence of the Georgian gentry resulted in the forced sale or mortgaging of a large portion of their estates.

The steady increase in the population of Georgia meant that by the 1850’s, land hunger was becoming acute. It is reckoned that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the average peasant holding amounted to from ten to twenty desyatins (one desyatin = 2.7 acres); by the time the Georgian serfs were freed, in 1864, the average holding had sunk to between five and six desyatins. The position was made worse by the seizure of communal lands, forests and pastures by the State and by powerful landowners. A class of rich peasants or kulaks was starting to emerge, with the inevitable concomitant of a poverty-stricken rustic proletariat. The so-called ‘class struggle’ in the Georgian countryside resulted in sporadic revolts and deeds of violence. Peasant unrest broke into disorders in Imereti in 1857, in Guria in 1862, in the Ksani valley and around Surami in Kartli in 1863, and near Tbilisi itself in 1864.

The rise of the Georgian intelligentsia

The Georgian peasant had vigorous champions among the younger generation of intellectuals, many of whom belonged to leading aristocratic families. The freer access to Russian universities which was one of the beneficial consequences of the educational policy of Alexander II in his early years made it possible for Georgian students to study at Moscow and St. Petersburg. Contact with the writings of such pioneer radicals as Belinsky and Herzen, and the personal influence of the fearless progressivesChernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov, soon produced in these Georgian students a state of mind highly critical towards Tsarist autocracy, the institution of serfdom, and the patriarchal ways which they had taken for granted in their native Georgia. These young Georgian intellectuals were known as ‘Tergdaleulis’, signifying ‘those who had drunk from the River Terek’, i.e., had crossed the Terek and gone for their education to Russia; among them were Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Niko Nikoladze, RaphaelEristavi, Iakob Gogebashvili–in fact, almost all the young men who were to lead Georgia’s literary, political and scholarly life during the following half century. Several of them joined with the Russian students at St. Petersburg University in the political demonstrations of 1861, and paid for their audacity with a few painful months in Kronstadt fortress.

The first notable production of the new school in Georgian literature was the short novel Suramis tsikhe (Surami Castle) by DanielChonkadze ( 1830-60), who was the son of a poor priest who had himself begun life as a serf. For censorship reasons, this remarkable tale was given a mediaeval setting. Its message was none the less clearly understood by contemporaries. Serfdom aspractised in Georgia is depicted by Chonkadze, not without a measure of exaggeration, as the rule of darkness and superstition, brutal violence and unchecked wickedness. The princes refuse to recognize peasants as human beings. ‘They imagine that we are incapable of loving or hating, they deem us without hearts or the faculty of thought.’ In one chapter, a prince seizes a poor woman who has tried to escape from his clutches, drags her home, yokes her to a plough with the oxen, and then forces her to drag along a heavy threshing board, flogging her the while until she falls dead to the ground. The poignancy of this vividly written tale is more effective than any social moralizing. Chonkadze’s story may be compared in this respect with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or with TurgenevHuntsman’s Sketches or Mumu.

After Chonkadze’s early death, his message was taken up by several other brilliant poets and writers of the young generation. Prince Raphael Eristavi, who had witnessed the Mingrelian peasants’ revolt in 1857, composed a poem called The Suppliant to his Judge, in which justice was demanded for the peasant class. Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli, both offspring of leading princely families, published in the journals Tsiskari (The Dawn) and Sakartvelos moambe (The GeoqianMessenger Messenger) a number of remarkable articles and essays on social themes. Several of Akaki early poems, such as Glekhis aghsareba (The peasant’s confession), showed indignation at the lot of the serfs. Indeed, Akaki was denounced as a traitor to his class, and on one occasion an enraged diehard, Prince Mikeladze, made a violent physical assault on the young poet.

Ilia Chavchavadze devastating novel Katsia adamiani? (Do you call this a man?), published in 1863, was another important literary expression of the crisis in Georgian society. The motto of the book–‘Criticize your friend to his face, your foe behind his back’–shows the author’s intention of depicting the seamy side of Georgian life in the hope of stirring his countrymen to mend their ways.Ilia’s novel may be compared with Gogol Dead Souls or with the savage rustic satires of Saltykov-Shchedrin. The writer shares Gogol’s disgust with the poshlost–the triviality and sordidness of life in the dim backwaters of the Tsarist Empire, and his description of the domain of Prince Luarsab Tatkaridze, a feudal lord of Kakheti, is one of the most picturesque pages of Georgian literature. Dirt, indolence, dilapidation are the prevailing features of the princely economy. ‘The yard was as dirty as the soul of a superannuated bureaucrat. To reach the proprietor without getting filthy or collecting some kind of choice odour in the process was a great achievement.’ The aristocratic interior was equally squalid, His Highness’s sitting room being furnished with sofas spread with carpets kept in such a condition that every excellent movement of Their Excellencies’ excellent limbs sent clouds of dust into the air, thus mercifully obscuring other sordid features of the apartment. Chavchavadze pokes fun at all kinds of hallowed features of Georgian life. His account of how the slow-witted Luarsab is tricked into marriage with the ugly Darejan, daughter of the most noble Prince Moses, son of Noshrevan, provides a hilarious commentary on the activity of the village match-maker. Little wonder that Luarsab and Darejan Tatkaridze became proverbial figures of fun, or that many a Georgian squire should have cursed Ilia and his clever young friends as harbingers of ruin and destroyers of traditional values. Indeed, at a meeting where Ilia was advocating the prompt emancipation of the peasants with their land, an outraged proprietor armed with a kinzhal–the deadly Caucasian dagger–hurled himself at the orator shouting: ‘Let me get at him! I’ll kill him on the spot!’

Land hunger and peasant discontent

In spite of much opposition, the Georgian nobility were eventually prevailed upon to accept a scheme for the liberation of the peasantry with an allotment of land to former serfs. The manifesto of 1864 proclaimed the emancipation of serfs in the Tbilisi area, while those of Imereti ( Western Georgia) were freed the following year. The Mingrelian peasants were liberated in 1867, those of Abkhazia in 1870, and those of Svaneti in 1871. In Georgia, as in Russia, the peasantry were saddled with redemption payments of fantastic magnitude to be paid off by instalments to their former owners, pending which they remained in an equivocal status known as ‘temporary obligation’. In addition, about a third of each peasant plot was detached from the holding and handed back to the landowner by way of additional compensation. The peasantry lost their free access to forests and communal pasture lands. Former landless serfs, domestic bond serfs, and an important category of migrant agricultural labourers known as khizani were excluded from the settlement, and were condemned to an impoverished existence. Even after the reforms of 1864, the lot of the Georgian peasant could be summed up only too often in the poignant lines of Raphael Eristavi poem, Sesia’s Thoughts:

Dust am I, to dust I cling;
A rustic born, my life is one
Eternal strife and endless toil,
And endless woe . . . till life is gone.
I plough, I sow, I labour on,
With muscles strained, in sun and rain.
I scarce can live on what I earn,
And tired and hungry I remain.
The owner of the land torments me;
Even the tiny ant’s my foe.
For townsfolk, priests and native country
In blood-like sweat I plough and sow . . .
How long, O God, this endless grind,
This life of sorrow and of toil?
Alas! I fear that death alone
Will bring me rest within this soil!53

The land settlement imposed on the newly conquered Abkhaz proved particularly onerous. The Russian authorities failed to distinguish adequately between the various categories of free, semi-free and serf peasants which had existed in that somewhat primitive tribal society. Under the arrangements imposed in 1870, the landowners received up to two hundred and fifty desyatinsapiece, while the peasants got only from three to seven per household, much of this being unfit for cultivation. Contemporary Russian officials admitted that the Abkhaz peasantry were left with little more than rocky mountain slopes and low-lying bogs. It is only fair to add that the Abkhaz peasantry had shown little disposition to co-operate with the Russian land commission sent to work out the details of the new arrangements, finally waylaying the commissioners and exterminating them. After a series of insurrections, many of the Abkhaz eventually joined the Circassians in exile in Turkey.

The edicts of 1864

Whereas the freeing of the peasantry marked a decided, if belated step forward in the evolution of Georgian society, the country still lagged behind metropolitan Russia in the matter of civil rights and local government reform. Georgia reaped no benefit from theZemstvo law of 1864, which laid the basis of voluntary local government throughout European Russia. Instead, the peasant communities had village councils headed by a rural bailiff who was responsible to the Russian district authority for collecting taxes and carrying out compulsory work assignments. These village councils had little in the way of status, and were at the beck and call of the local Russian military commanders and police. The Georgians were likewise refused the benefit of the jury system as adopted in Russia in 1864. Legal business continued to be transacted exclusively in Russian and judgement enforced by administrators sent from St. Petersburg.

The Viceroy of the Caucasus from 1862 until 1882 was the Grand Duke Michael, brother of Tsar Alexander II. The future Russian Prime Minister Sergius Witte, who in his boyhood knew the Grand Duke personally, described Michael as a broad-minded and dignified man with gentlemanly instincts. He made himself extremely popular throughout the Caucasus, being a complete stranger to the narrow-minded chauvinism which developed in Russia towards the end of the nineteenth century and found expression in pan-Slavonic jingoism, anti-Jewish pogroms and other unlovely manifestations. The Grand Duke considered rather that since many of the Caucasian peoples had entered the Russian empire voluntarily and were serving with loyalty in Russia’s army and civil service, there was no distinction to be made between them and the inhabitants of European Russia.54 The viceregal palace was always open to the Georgian aristocracy, while marriages between Russian noblemen serving in the Caucasus and Georgian princesses were of frequent occurrence.

The War of 1877-78

An important event of the Grand Duke Michael’s viceroyalty was the recovery during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 of substantial areas of former Georgian territory which had been under Ottoman sway since the sixteenth century. With their Georgian and Armenian auxiliaries, the Russians had gained brilliant successes on this front during Paskevich’s campaign of 1828-29, and had acquitted themselves very creditably here during the Crimean War. Each time, however, the complications of great power politics had wrested the fruits of success from the Russians’ grasp during the subsequent peace settlements. This time, however, the Russians were able to turn their victory on this front into a territorial gain which they held until the collapse of the Tsarist Empire in 1917. While the main Russian and Turkish forces were locked in their usual massive combat on the Balkan front, the Grand Duke Michael captured Kars in November 1877, and blockaded Erzurum. The Congress of Berlin confirmed Russia in possession of extensive tracts of territory which had centuries before formed part of the mediaeval Georgian kingdom: Atchara-Kobuleti, with the port of Batumi, Shavsheti, Klarjeti, Kola-Ardahan, and the northern portion of Tao, comprising the district of Oltisi. From the military viewpoint, great importance attached to Russia’s acquisition of the fortresses of Kars and Ardahan, controlling the approaches into Turkish Anatolia.

Commerce and industry

The last thirty years of the nineteenth century saw the beginnings of a minor industrial revolution in Georgia. This was accelerated by improved communications. Roads were built, and the main towns of Transcaucasia connected by the telegraph in 1870. Two years later, a regular service was inaugurated on the new Poti-Tbilisi railway. A branch line to Kutaisi was opened in 1877. Following the Russian annexation of the Black Sea port of Batumi after the war of 1877-78, a line between Batumi and Samtrediawas opened in 1883, while Tbilisi was simultaneously connected by rail with the great Caspian oil town of Baku. The whole of Russian Transcaucasia was now spanned by rail from the Caspian to the Black Sea coast. In 1886, a further rail extension was built to link Kutaisi with the rapidly expanding coal-mining town of Tqibuli in upper Imereti. The manganese industry set up at Chiatura in 1879 soon attained international importance. By 1892, Chiatura manganese represented 38 per cent. of the entire world production of this essential mineral. Baku being on the land-locked Caspian, Batumi became the main outlet for Baku oil. In 1888, 21 per cent.of the world supply of oil passed through that port on its way to Russia and other consumer countries.

The population of Georgia continued to increase. In 1866, it totalled 1,300,400, in 1886, 1,731,500, in 1897, 2,034,700. There was a constant drift from the countryside to the towns. Between 1865 and 1897, the population of Tbilisi more than doubled –from 71,051 to 159 590. The capital of Georgia became more and more of a cosmopolitan city, complete with European amenities such as hotels, a horse tramway, new bridges, paved streets, a piped water supply, schools, and other municipal and government institutions, housed in imposing stone buildings.

Economic change brought with it changes in social relationships and habits of mind. Many Georgian intellectuals greeted these readjustments with approval, and were glad to see the old ruling class stirred from its torpor into fruitful enterprise. In 1874, the liberal journalist Sergei Meskhi noted ‘a new and general trend and impulse’ throughout Georgia, manifested as a craze for business activity and money-making.

‘So long as the feudal system persisted in our land, everyone relied on the peasants’ unpaid labour and concentrated on living in a carefree way. The landlord proudly declared: “What do I want with business, what do I want with money? My peasants’ labour is my money!” Since the abolition of serfdom, our circumstances have altered: the erstwhile feudal lord has been deprived of his unpaidlabour force and with it, of his effortless income and the means of living a carefree life. The smaller proprietors have come to feel with special acuteness, on their own hide, the impact of the fact that those days have passed away for ever when what they termed “business” consisted in hunting and revelry, and when they had need of cash only to gratify their desires in the direction of superfluous luxuries. Everyone has come to feel that the era when it was possible to live an insouciant, idle existence at the expense of other people’s efforts has vanished completely, or is at least on the way out. . . . Times have changed indeed!’

Latterly, Meskhi went on, everyone has been engaged in a mad rush to think up some lucrative enterprise which will enrich him in a few years. One man is building a wine warehouse to supply the city with drink, another is trying to make a fortune out of milk–there is no limit to these bright ideas, and all their promoters are naturally keen to secure financial backing from the bank! In the wake of this mad bustle, there must be many disappointments, many false starts. But in the end, this burst of feverish activity may have the good effect of teaching the Georgians that there is no substitute for diligent learning, steady work and the careful thinking out of feasible projects and undertakings. 55

If the 1870’s were, for Russia as for Georgia, a time of new ideas and new possibilities, they were also a period of frustration and disillusionment. The reign of Alexander II was drawing to its tragic end. The emperor whose accession and early reforms had aroused the most sanguine hopes, who had freed the peasants from servitude and carried through so many promising reforms, was spending his last years hunted like a beast by revolutionaries, and hiding in his palaces in a vain effort to ward off their bombs and guns. The landlords had never forgiven him the reform of 1861, while the peasants found that the yoke of serfdom had been replaced by the burden of poverty and debt. The intelligentsia, whose evolution Alexander’s early reforms had done much to foster,were seething with resentment at the dead weight of autocracy which excluded them from participation in government, and deprived public opinion of all influence on the course of affairs. Symptomatic of this frustration was the Narodnik or Populist movement of the 1870’s, in the course of which thousands of idealistic students and intellectuals abandoned homes and professions and tried to settle as peasants among the country folk to enter into communion with them and prepare them for the coming of the revolutionary utopia. But the muzhik refused to respond to the advances of these town-bred zealots, most of whom were rounded up and imprisoned or deported to Siberia. The hard core of the revolutionary intelligentsia turned to terrorism and conspiracy. One group of the Land and Freedom party broke away and formed a new body, known as The People’s Will. In 1879, a rapid succession of spectacular acts of violence took place, in which the Governor of Kharkov was shot dead, and the Tsar narrowly escaped two attempts on his life. Neither arrests, executions, deportations, nor the prospect of constitutional concessions could save the emperor from his fate. In 1880, a workman blew up the imperial dining room at the Winter Palace. The following year, on 1 March, the bombs of the Nihilists reached their targets and Alexander II, the Emancipator, died a ghastly death.

Thinking people in Georgia could not avoid being affected by the general tension and malaise affecting Russia. ‘What has come over us, what has happened to us?’ asked the veteran poet and administrator Prince Grigol Orbeliani on the morrow of the war of 1877-78.

‘What invisible agency has been exercising so lamentable an effect upon us, so that we are all heading for general ruin precisely at that moment when the external enemy no longer exists for us? From every side, from every household is heard nothing but the sound of weeping and wailing. Misery has stricken everyone, down to the lowest class of society. Where are we to look for a deliverer? This terrible thought keeps sorrowing me and adding to my weight of years.’ 56

Russian Pan-Slavism and the lesser breeds

Particularly ominous for Russia’s minority peoples was the alarming growth of official chauvinism, which came at a time when the intensification of self-conscious and articulate nationalism among the subject nations of the great multiracial empires–Austro-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey and Russia –confronted governments with new problems and demands. The liberation of Italy from Austrian rule had been a great fillip to this movement, while increasing restiveness was shown by the Hungarians as well as by the Czechs, Poles and other Slavonic peoples under Hapsburg rule. The Ottoman Empire, long in decline, faced continual trouble in the Balkans, where nationalist sentiment was inflamed by agents of imperial Russia spreading the sacred message of Orthodoxy andPanSlavism. Within Russia itself, the authorities lent their support to a sort of mystical Messianism, designed to enhance the prestige of the imperial dynasty and of ‘Holy Russia’ as champions of Christendom, and to stifle heresy and dissent at home and abroad. Pan-Slavism inside Russia was an ugly growth. Poles, Ukrainians and other Slavonic lesser breeds were coerced into conformity with Muscovite ways and ideas, while every attempt was made to assimilate Russia’s Asiatic subjects and bring them into line. These efforts, needless to say, had scant success in the long run. The pride of the minority peoples was offended by official refusal to countenance use of local languages as the media for education or state business, and by the scorn poured by the dominant race on the cultural heritage of the smaller brethren.

Such resentment was especially keen in Georgia which had, after all, formed an independent and highly civilized kingdom within the Greco-Roman world when the ancestors of the Russians were still nomads wandering about the draughty steppes. The Georgians had accepted Christianity more than six centuries before the Russians, had been a bulwark of Christendom in the East for a millennium and a half, and had entered voluntarily under the Russian sceptre–only to be treated now as if they were barbarians. Thus, from 1871 the study of Georgian language and literature in State Schools was replaced by compulsory Latin and Greek. Admittedly, Georgian could be studied as a voluntary extra, but it was deprived of its place on the official time-table. In 1872, an inspector arrived from St. Petersburg and banned the use of Georgian as medium of instruction in the Tbilisi Theological Seminary, the main training college for the Georgian priesthood. The seminary thereafter became more and more a centre for nationalist resistance to Russian rule. It gained nation-wide notoriety in 1886, when an expelled student named Laghiashvili assassinated the rector, Chudetsky, a bigoted Russian who described Georgian as ‘a language for dogs’. In his rage at this incident, the RussianExarch of Georgia cursed the Georgian nation with a wholesale anathema. A venerable Georgian writer, Prince Dimitri Qipiani, who ventured a protest against the prelate’s intemperate mouthings, was deported to Stavropol in the North Caucasus, where he was soon afterwards murdered in mysterious circumstances.

Ilia Chavchavadze and Georgia’s re-awakening

Georgian patriotic resistance at this period was headed by Ilia Chavchavadze ( 1837-1907), the poet, novelist and orator, who had gained prominence as a firebrand at the time of the liberation of the serfs. With growing maturity, Ilia’s stature as a responsible public figure rapidly increased. In 1875, he was elected Chairman of the newly founded Land Bank of the Nobility in Tbilisi, an institution designed to put the impoverished landed gentry on their feet by providing credit and capital, as well as fulfilling ordinary day to day banking functions. From then onwards, Ilia’s life was devoted to practical activities of all kinds. In 1879, he helped to found the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among the Georgians. He financed new schools and supported the Georgian national theatre. In 1877 he launched the newspaper Iveria, an organ which played an outstanding part in reviving Georgian national consciousness. The Tbilisi gendarmerie could report with truth that

‘the principal leader of the movement which aims at the intensifying of nationalistic trends is Prince Ilia Chavchavadze, Chairman of the Tbilisi Bank of the Nobility. . . . Prince Chavchavadze is a man of exceptional intellect and standing, and enjoys great ascendancy over the Georgians in general, and over free-thinking elements in particular.’ 57

Ilia Chavchavadze and his associates were known as the Pirveli Dasi or First Group, to distinguish them from the more radicalMeore Dasi or Second Group, founded in 1869 by GiorgiTsereteli Tsereteli and Niko Nikoladze. Both these early Georgian social and literary movements were, however, far more moderate in their aims than the young Marxists who later banded themselves together as the Mesame Dasi or Third Group, and formed the basis of the Georgian revolutionary Social-Democratic Party.

Chavchavadze’s ideology at this stage of his career could justly be described as bourgeois-nationalist. One of his objects, which aroused criticism in radical circles, was to reconcile the various classes of Georgian society in the interests of national solidarity. In a series of articles which appeared between 1877 and 1881 under the title Life and Law, Ilia preached that the antagonisms which existed in other countries between rich and poor, high and low, either did not exist in Georgia, or could be easily dispelled thanks, apparently, to some superior, moral qualities vouchsafed to the Georgian nation. There was, Ilia taught, no real obstacle to a complete understanding between the different social classes. After Ilia’s vigorous campaign on behalf of the serfs against their feudal masters not two decades previously, this doctrine appeared to many as novel and disconcerting. As one contemporary put it,Chavchavadze’s aim was apparently to turn prince and peasant into brothers and inspire them both with a single common purpose–the peasant to ministering to the prince’s stomach, the prince to ministering to his own stomach. This happy consummation would indeed remove all conflict of interest between them. 58 Such an interpretation of Chavchavadze’s ideas does them less than justice.Ilia’s real aim, which under the Tsarist censorship could not be proclaimed in print, was to unite his fellow countrymen, regardless of social status, into a closely knit national community capable one day of winning independence from the Russian overlord.

The efforts of publicists and authors like Ilia Chavchavadze were powerfully seconded by the new generation of Georgian school teachers and pedagogues. While forced to instruct their flock in the uncongenial idiom of Russian, the teachers drummed into theirpupils contempt for alien ways and pride in their native Georgian heritage.

The most remarkable of these teachers was Iakob Gogebashvili ( 1840-1912), who studied at Kiev University and became familiar with Darwin’s evolutionary theory and the political ideas of Russian radicals such as Herzen, Belinsky and Chernyshevsky. Returning to Tbilisi, Gogebashvili taught arithmetic and geography in the ecclesiastical school and later in the seminary. In 1868, he was appointed inspector of the ecclesiastical school, but was dismissed a few years later on orders from the Synod in St. Petersburg.

From then onwards Gogebashvili became a free-lance and devoted his energies to spreading education and enlightenment among his fellow-countrymen and their children. He played a prominent part in the work of the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among the Georgians. He was intensely proud of Georgia’s language and literature, and wrote essays in which he urged people to show themselves true patriots in the educational sphere. He contrasted Georgian patriotism with the chauvinism of the great powers, and particularly with the Russian reactionary Pan-Slavists, whose ideal Russian patriot was a man who would crush all the smaller nations which Russia had annexed, and enslave all countries of Europe situated outside the frontiers of the Tsar’s domains.

‘Our patriotism is of course of an entirely different kind: it consists solely in a sacred feeling towards our mother land; . . . in it there is no hate for other nations, no desire to enslave anybody, no urge to impoverish anybody. Our patriots desire to restore Georgia’s right to self-government and their own civic rights, to preserve their national characteristics and culture, without which no people can exist as a society of human beings.’

For Gogebashvili, there could be no revival of self-respect among his fellow-countrymen without a revival of interest in the Georgian language. ‘The status of the Georgian tongue in Georgian scholastic institutions may be compared with that of a wretched foundling, deprived of all care and protection. Georgia’s native language is treated just as a spiteful stepmother treats her stepchild.’ 59Throughout his life, Gogebashvili spared no effort in remedying this situation. His masterly introduction to Georgian for children,Deda Ena (Mother Tongue) has been republished several dozen times since its first appearance in 1876, and in modified form serves to this day as a manual in Georgian schools.

Alexander III and Russian reaction

After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II and the accession of Alexander III ( 1881-94), relations between the Russians and their Georgian subjects continued to be strained. A feature of Alexander III’s reign was an increased persecution of everything which diverged from the officially accepted national type. Dissenting sects, the Uniat Church and the Lutherans in the western provinces,Lamaist Kalmuks, Buryat Mongols, and especially all Jews, suffered a systematic campaign of persecution and denigration. Under the influence of reactionaries like Katkov and Pobedonostsev, the Russian Press was effectively muzzled. Every effort was made to stifle the growing revolutionary movement and destroy the remnants of the revolutionary organizations. All manifestations of independent public opinion were treated as signs of sedition.

The intensification of Russian reaction had unpleasant repercussions in Georgia. Added obstacles were placed in the way of the Georgians’ progress towards full civic rights. The government in St. Petersburg habitually sent to Georgia the dregs of the Russian civil service. Oliver Wardrop, one of the English pioneers of Georgian studies, visited the Caucasus in 1887. Most Georgians, he noted, knew Russia only as a foreign power that sent them tax-collectors, justices of the peace and other bureaucrats, many of them obnoxious. Russian magistrates, according to this observer, were arrogant when sober and odious when drunk. Wardrop himself once witnessed the reception accorded to a fine, tall mountaineer who came humbly to present a petition to a puny, besotted Russian magistrate. ‘The representative of law and order was drunk, hopelessly drunk, and treated the suppliant in such a manner that I blushed to be in his company.’ 60

In Western Europe at least there were signs of growing sympathy with Georgia and her people. Arthur Leist in Germany and Professor Morfill at Oxford were influential advocates of Georgian literature and culture. A special place in the affections of the Georgians is occupied by Oliver Wardrop’s sister Marjory, who translated into English one of the most nobly conceived of IliaChavchavadze’s poems, The Hermit, and later, Shota Rustaveli’s classic epic, The Manin the Panther’s Skin in the Panther’s Skin. In 1894 we find Ilia writing to Marjory Wardrop:

‘The renowned land of England knows little enough about our unfortunate country and orphaned people, which at one time had its own heroes, scholars, writers and poets, and through their endeavours steadfastly resisted the barbarian enemies of enlightenment.

Every Georgian will feel gratified that you and your respected brother have conceived a love for our universally forgotten land, ands desire to convey to your countrymen its bad and good sides, with all that affection and sympathy which so adorn a human being and are the priceless consolation of those who are oppressed by fate. It is to be wished that the noble and powerful people of England should know that even in our little country, the mind functions and the heart beats in a human way; that even here, men have their longings and their hopes; that even here, there exists faith and painful striving towards better days; and that this people of ours feels nothing human to be alien to it.

‘All this has permeated our little literature, in so far as our burdensome situation permits . . .’ 61

Great Georgian writers of the late nineteenth century

Despite official discouragement, the last decades of the nineteenth century witnessed a Georgian literary revival in which there emerged writers of a stature unequalled since the Golden Age of Rustaveli seven hundred years before. Ilia Chavchavadze himself excelled alike in lyric and ballad poetry, in the novel, the short story and the essay. Apart from Ilia, the most universal literary genius of the age was Akaki Tsereteli. Known as ‘the immortal nightingale of the Georgian people’, he was as versatile as Ilia, and also a prominent public figure. Many of his lyrics have been adopted as folk ballads and popular drinking songs. In his historical layTornike Eristavi, he conjured up the heroic days when Georgian arms played a part in the mighty wars of Byzantium. Akaki lost no occasion of expressing his contempt for Tsarist autocracy. In 1871, Ilia Chavchavadze devoted one of his most fiery poems to the downfall of the Paris Commune, which he mourned as a victory for tyrants and oppressors of the people. Ten years later, AkakiTsereteli greeted with enthusiasm the news of the assassination of Alexander II, whom the Georgians by now regarded as among the chief tyrants of the age. ‘Today a swallow brushed with its wings against my window. Spring! Spring! its bird-like chatter seemed to say, and hope sprang up afresh within my heart.’ These verses were part of a poem entitled Spring which appeared in a Tbilisipaper, and within a few days was being recited all over Georgia. The Russian authorities, waking up too late to the true significance of the verses, threatened to send the audacious bard to Siberia. Later on, Akaki translated into Georgian The Internationale, the revolutionary hymn of the proletarians, and greeted the 1905 uprising with militant poems and slogans.

Another important poet of the period was Vazha-Pshavela ( 1861-1915), a true child of nature, who spent the greater part of his life in a small village in the Georgian highlands. The majestic mountain scenery, the ways and customs of the hill folk, their virile, jealous and combative spirit, and their rich folk-traditions, were important elements in Vazha-Pshavela’s artistic inspiration. In his epics and heroic lays, Vazha-Pshavela depicts human characters of titanic power, locked in elemental struggle with supernatural forces, and torn by profound psychological conflicts. With unerring and often sublime touch, he transmuted the popular idiom of folk poetry into artistic form. In different vein, he excelled as author of nature stories, many of which have become children’s classics.

The development of the Georgian romantic novel received powerful stimulus from the work of Alexander Qazbegi ( 1848-93).Qazbegi was a scion of the princely family which for centuries held sway over the upland region near the Daryal Pass and Mount Kazbek, where the Russian military road passes over the Caucasus range. Sent to complete his education in Moscow, he fell into bad company, and returned disillusioned and broken in health to his native mountains. There he sought refuge from worldly temptations by taking to the life of a simple shepherd, in which condition he passed seven years. Then followed a period of success and literary renown in Tbilisi, after which Qazbegi took to acting and travelled round Georgia as a strolling player. Overtaken in the end by poverty, he went out of his mind, and died after four sad years in Tbilisi asylum. Among his best-known novels are Elgujaand Khevisberi Gocha. The setting of the former is the Georgian peasant uprising of 1804, in which the hill clansmen wreaked vengeance on their Russian oppressors. Khevisberi Gocha is an historical novel set in seventeenth-century Georgia; it exalts the concepts of liberty, patriotism and moral duty. Gocha, a patriarchal figure of heroic stature, slays his own son rather than forgive a betrayal of the national cause, even though that betrayal arose from weakness and not from any traitorous intent. In his descriptions of the wild and grandiose scenes of the Caucasus mountains, Qazbegi evokes with masterly power the inner conflict of the human soul. This tormented genius created many characters which live on in the minds of the Georgian people, as symbols of the days when free men and women loved and died among the eagles and the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus. He also wrote several fine dramas. Like virtually every important Georgian man of letters of those days, he was constantly harried by the Russian censorship, which prevented some of his best works from being published during his life time.

Between 1855 and 1894, during the reigns of Alexander II and III, the revival of Georgian national consciousness proceeded with rapid strides. The emancipation of the serfs dealt a massive blow to the decaying feudal order. The growth of capitalism, the spread of education, and the emergence of a vocal intelligentsia focused attention on the inadequacies of Tsarist rule, and heightened popular dislike for alien domination. The appearance of magnificently gifted writers gave the Georgians a new intellectual self-confidence. All this helped to pave the way for active participation by the Georgians in the revolutionary struggle which culminated in the events of 1917.


Tsarism under pressure–Accession of Nicholas II–‘Gri-Gri’ Golitsyn–A Georgian anarchist–Populists and Marxists-The Third Group–Sweated labour–Stalin’s revolutionary youth–‘Legal Marxism’ and the fighting underground–‘Down with autocracy!’–Plehve and the Black Hundreds

Tsarism under pressure

ALEXANDER III died in 1894. By sheer strength of character and by refusal to make any concession to the new social forces and political trends stirring in the Russian empire, Alexander had succeeded in maintaining some semblance of order and stability. At the same time, he left a legacy of resentment among both the masses and the élite which was finally to bring down in ruins autocracy itself. The government had seemed to take pleasure in humiliating the educated classes. In 1884, the University Statute of Alexander II had been replaced by another which robbed the universities of their autonomy. Student clubs and fraternities were banned, on pain of conscription into the ranks of the army. Political trustworthiness was made a criterion for the granting of bursaries, while the children of the ‘lower orders’ were excluded from secondary schools. The censorship brooded over the Press, and the law courts fell more and more under government control.

In rural Russia, the growth of the population resulted in acute land hunger among the peasantry. Particularly vexatious to the mass of the peasants was the law of 1889 instituting the land captains. These officials were appointed by the Minister of the Interior from among the poorer gentry, and charged with supervising every detail of peasant life and activity. The land captains were justly regarded as agents of a new system of serfdom. They took over the functions of justices of the peace and controlled the decisions of the peasant judges and village elders, who ruled their fellows not by common law, but by communal custom. To deal with rural unrest, the government evolved a code of ‘exceptional’ or ‘abnormal’ law. There were three grades: ‘exceptional protection’, ‘increased protection’ and martial law. Scarcely ever was there not some province of Russia under one or other of these states of emergency.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Russia’s retarded industrial revolution gathered pace. The growth of industry created a factory class, the nucleus of a true urban proletariat. Conditions in the factories run by Russian and foreign entrepreneurs were bad. The industrialists of Moscow, where hordes of workpeople poured in from the surrounding countryside, paid low wages. The workmen were ignorant and clumsy, so that productivity was low; in fact, it often took three or more persons to carry out tasks which a trained Western worker could perform single-handed. Between 1882 and 1886, the enlightened Finance Minister, N. Kh. Bunge, enacted a series of factory laws designed to suppress the more scandalous forms of exploitation, restrict the hours worked by children and progressively remove causes of unrest and discontent. Under pressure from the employers, Bunge was driven from office on the charge of promoting ‘socialism’, and there was a return to full-scale laissez-faire. Children of ten to twelve years of age could now be employed on night work, while the manufacturers could resort to abuses such as substituting payments in kind for wages in cash, imposing arbitrary fines, and forcing workers to buy their supplies from the factory shop.

Such conditions provided a natural breeding ground for radical agitation. The world of the factory, where masses of men and women are herded together, and the spirit of disaffection can spread with lightning speed to produce strikes and civil commotion, is more congenial to revolutionaries than the rustic environment of the village community. The Populists of the 1870’s had discovered to their cost how difficult it was for the town-bred intellectual to win the confidence of the muzhik, whose main aim in life was to turn himself into a petty-bourgeois proprietor rather than contribute to the consummation of any socialist utopia. The concentration in urban centres of hosts of underfed and disgruntled factory workers provided a hotbed, in which the seeds of sedition were not slow to take root.

Accession of Nicholas II

On succeeding to the Russian throne in November 1894, Nicholas II took over no comfortable heritage. Not devoid of courage and integrity, Nicholas had been overshadowed all his life by his domineering father, and had become in many respects vacillating and easily influenced. He had the fatal knack of following wrong-headed or biased counsel and would sometimes dismiss loyal ministers in obedience to some whim of his foolish consort, the Empress Alexandra. In January 1895, he received from the Zemstvo or provincial assembly of Tver a congratulatory address on his marriage, in which the hope was expressed that the voice of the people would be listened to, and that the rule of law would stand above the changing views of the individual instruments of the supreme power. Under the influence of his mentor Pobedonostsev, Nicholas in his reply denounced ‘senseless dreams as to the participation of the Zemstvos in the internal affairs of the State’, and reaffirmed his unswerving adherence to the principle of absolute rule.

Pronouncements such as these, far from intimidating the Russian public, merely exacerbated opinion. Liberals, moderate socialists and clandestine revolutionaries alike set to work with a will to undermine the Russian leviathan and topple it from its throne.

The development of a revolutionary situation in metropolitan Russia necessarily affected Georgia and the Caucasus generally. Unrest when it arrived was bound to assume an acute form in this imperfectly pacified area, where Orthodox Georgian, Gregorian Armenian and Muslim Tatar had a long tradition of mutual dislike, though sharing for the most part a common animosity towards the alien overlord. In Georgia, of course, there had been many sporadic rebellions against Russian rule, as well as peasant insurrections against the landed proprietors. At the close of the nineteenth century, there were many who had witnessed or heard tell of the conspiracy of 1832, the Gurian uprising of 1841, and the Mikava revolt in Mingrelia in 1857. Several leading Georgian writers had been imprisoned for their part in the student demonstrations at St. Petersburg in 1861. The movement of national revival headed by Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Niko Nikoladze and others naturally fostered an attitude of mind highly critical of Russian autocracy.

‘Gri-Gri’ Golitsyn

Nicholas II and his advisers brought trouble upon themselves by a particularly inept choice of Governor-General for the Caucasus. When the Grand Duke Michael retired from the viceroyalty in 1882, Alexander III down-graded the post and appointed Prince A. M. Dondukov-Korsakov to be merely Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in the Caucasus. Dondukov-Korsakov was succeeded in 1890 by General S. A. Sheremetev, whose governorship continued until 1896. Both these administrators were well acquainted with the spirit of the Caucasian peoples and made themselves popular in Tbilisi by gracious behaviour and lavish entertainments. Prince Grigory Golitsyn, who was appointed governor-general in December 1896, was an individual of very different stamp: nicknamed ‘Gri-Gri’ in St. Petersburg society, he was a man of the narrowest upbringing and outlook, owing his appointment to the personal patronage of a member of the imperial family. He had no understanding of the multiracial structure of Caucasian society and of the flexible tactics needed to maintain peace and harmony. His one idea was to russify the Caucasus politically and culturally, not by persuasion and example, but by the crudest police methods. Within a few years Golitsyn was as much loathed as his forerunners had been respected, and the basis of Russian rule in the Caucasus was fatally undermined.

By the time Golitsyn was appointed, the roots of the Georgian revolutionary movement were already strong.

A Georgian anarchist

One of the first Georgian professional revolutionaries was the anarchist Varlam Cherkesov or Cherkezishvili 62 ( 1846-1925), a native of Kakheti. As a student at St. Petersburg, he associated with Karakozov, who made an abortive attempt on the life of Tsar Alexander II in 1866. Later he joined the Nechaev group, who planned a nation-wide plot against the government. Tried with eighty-six others, Cherkesov was sentenced to forced labour in Siberia. Escaping in 1876, he made his way to Switzerland and joined in the literary and conspiratorial work of the Russian émigrés there. However, he parted company with his Russian associates over the issue of Georgian independence. He became a great friend and disciple of Prince Kropotkin the anarchist. Cherkesov favoured the anarchist creed because it promised greater freedom to small nations than did Marxist dictatorship and centralist rule. From 1903, he and Kropotkin assisted another Georgian revolutionary, Kamando or Giorgi Gogelia, alias ‘K. Orgeiani’, to edit one of the first Russian anarchist papers, Khleb i Volya or Bread and Liberty. Smuggled into Russia, this paper had an influential following. Its open advocacy of terrorism later alarmed Kropotkin, who had relapsed in his old age into a more abstract and contemplative approach to the revolutionary question. In 1907, Cherkesov helped to organize a mass petition of the Georgian people against Tsarist oppression, which was presented, though with scant result, to the International Peace Conference at The Hague. Cherkesov and his Dutch wife, Freda, had many friends in English society and in European political circles. An uncompromising critic of the doctrines of Marx and Engels, he is excluded today from the Russian revolutionary pantheon. He died in London at an advanced age.

Populists and Marxists

During the 1870’s, the Russian Populist or Narodnik movement made considerable progress in Georgia, where the Populist dream of social progress via the destruction of the Tsar’s government and the realisation of the moral and economic potentialities of the peasant class seemed highly attractive. The Tbilisi Narodnik group held meetings in 1872 which were attended by students and others, who studied forbidden political tracts, particularly the writings of the Russian Populists. By 1874, the group counted about a hundred members; they had a small secret printing press on the bank of the River Liakhvi, in the quarters of a priest named Samadashvili, who had learnt type-setting at the Tbilisi Theological Seminary. In 1876, the Georgian Narodniks held a conference at which, according to police reports of the time, speakers proclaimed the impending destruction of the autocratic régime, following which everyone would be equal, and all property would be shared out equally.–Why, the Narodniks demanded, should the famished masses bow down to kings, and themselves groan in poverty and squalor? They should get rid of the Tsar and his agents and laws, and then no one would extort taxes from them any more. Nor should the priests be believed when they asserted that the Tsar was a protector set over the people by God. This was a monkish lie inspired by the priests’ desire to curry favour with the government. In furtherance of their programme, emissaries of the Tbilisi Narodniks visited outlying districts, particularly in Mingrelia and adjoining areas, and urged the peasantry to hold themselves in readiness for a general uprising. This movement was, however, soon nipped in the bud. At the end of 1876, the government arrested over fifty of the Georgian Narodniks, and many were exiled to Siberia.

Those Narodniks who escaped exile turned from radical agitation and conspiratorial plotting to more peaceful methods of furthering their ideals. They briefed advocates to defend peasants who were oppressed by their squires, and campaigned actively against individual perpetrators of injustice. In 1881, the Georgian Narodniks started to publish a journal under the title Imedi (Hope), in which they inveighed against the liberal bourgeois intelligentsia headed by Ilia Chavchavadze, whose ideas they regarded as outmoded. The advance of Russia and Georgia along the path towards modern capitalism and an industrial society eventually rendered obsolete the ideology of the Narodniks themselves, who were increasingly thrust into the background by the more sophisticated adepts of Marxism. However, many of the Narodnik ideas were subsequently revived by the Russian and Georgian Socialist-Revolutionary parties. The ‘S.-R.s’, as they were called, to distinguish them from the Marxist Social-Democrats or ‘S.-D.s’, were later to feature prominently as champions of peasant ownership of the land, and opponents of the townbred Marxists and their schemes of forced industrialization.

The Third Group

The first systematic Georgian Marxists were a band of young intellectuals known as the Mesame Dasi (Third Group), which set out to supersede both the so-called First Group, the movement headed by Ilia Chavchavadze and his contemporaries, who had led the crusade against serfdom a generation before, and the liberal Second Group of Giorgi Tsereteli and Niko Nikoladze. Among the leaders of the Mesame Dasi were Silibistro (Sylvester) Jibladze, an erstwhile pupil at the Tbilisi Theological Seminary, expelled for assaulting the Russian rector of that institution; Nikolai (‘Karlo’) Chkheidze, who was to become the Menshevik President of the Petrograd Soviet in 1917; and Noe Zhordania, the future President of independent Georgia.

In later years, Zhordania published informative memoirs, which provide a wealth of insight into the mental evolution of Georgian radical youth of that period. 63 Born in 1868 near Ozurgeti (now Makharadze) in the south-western Georgian province of Guria, Zhordania came of a well-known local family of petty gentry. Like Stalin after him, he received his education at the Tbilisi Theological Seminary; but although destined for the priesthood, he early lost faith in Christianity and found himself drawn step by step into the role of a political agitator and reformer. He recalls how, at the age of sixteen, he chanced on a Russian treatise on natural philosophy, which convinced him that

‘God is Nature herself; as for a white-bearded deity, seated upon a throne, such a personage simply does not exist’. ‘I thought to myself: If Nature’s lord and master is Nature herself, then who is the rightful lord and master of mankind? The general opinion was that the Tsar was lord over the people, and that the Tsar was himself appointed by God. But if God did not exist any more, the Tsar could not be His representative. I was therefore at a loss to understand by whose command and authority he sat upon his throne.’

While still a prey to doubt, Zhordania made the acquaintance of the Tbilisi publisher Zakaria Chichinadze, who lent him two numbers of Herzen Kolokol (The Bell). The fiery utterances of that stormy petrel of Russian radicalism dispelled the Georgian student’s last misgivings. ‘The Tsar, I now realised, was just as much a faked-up authority as God, and I looked upon them both with the same sceptical eyes. Atheism and republicanism commended themselves to me as twin doctrines of equal validity.’ 64

While continuing with his classes at the Tbilisi Seminary, Zhordania joined various clandestine discussion groups and took a leading part, together with the future Bolshevik leader Philip Makharadze ( 1868-1941), in student strikes and demonstrations against the Russian management. To begin with, he and his friends came under the influence of the agrarian socialism of the Narodniks. He read with avidity such books as Chernyshevsky famous revolutionary novel Chto delat’? (What is to be done?). But somehow the doctrine of the Narodniks failed to satisfy him. In Russia, as Zhordania saw it, rural life revolved round the peasant commune of themir or obshchina; in Georgia, all the emphasis among the peasantry was on individual private proprietorship of the land. The Narodniks’ mission was to preach the gospel of peasant revolt against the established hierarchy. But the peasant himself was nearly always a monarchist at heart, a petty bourgeois in mentality, incapable of response to the revolutionary vision of a new, socialist society. In short, the achievement of democratic socialism through the agency of a mass of benighted muzhiks seemed to the young Zhordania a highly dubious undertaking.

A like dilemma had already helped to produce a split within the revolutionary movement in metropolitan Russia. In 1879, a secret conference of the Narodniks held at Voronezh divided into two factions. One stuck to the time-honoured agrarian programme; the other, led by G. V. Plekhanov, set out to graft on to the Russian revolutionary movement the ideas of Western industrial socialism. Plekhanov soon established himself as the foremost exponent of Marxist philosophy and sociology in Russia. He became the teacher of Lenin and of a whole generation of Russian, as well as of Georgian revolutionaries. Plekhanov foretold that capitalist industrialism was about to invade Russia and destroy the patriarchal-feudal attitudes and relationships and the primitive rustic communes on which the Populists desired to base their socialism. An urban proletariat would arise in Russia, which would embark on a struggle for industrial socialism very much on the Western European pattern. The vision of a peculiarly Slavonic rural socialism springing straight from pure feudalism and serfdom Plekhanov dismissed as utopian. The revolutionaries, he urged, must prepare themselves without delay to organize the urban working class of the future.

These ideas soon spread to the outlying regions of Russia, especially to Georgia. During the 1880’s. the Georgian intelligentsia began to study Marx Das Kapital. The book was read even by Georgian political prisoners exiled to Siberia. In 1886, the Georgian journal Teatri (The Theatre) published a favourable review of the second volume of Marx’s great book. Plekhanov’s own writings also became known in Tbilisi, where they provoked lively discussion among the young intellectuals.

Meanwhile Noe Zhordania ended his studies at the seminary. Refusing to enter the priesthood, he went instead to Warsaw to attend the veterinary institute there. One of his fellow students introduced him to the writings of Karl Kautsky, the German socialist. Kautsky’s writings helped to produce a radical change in Zhordania’s outlook. ‘I now realized for the first time that Russian socialism was a thoroughly utopian and reactionary movement, and that if it should ever be put into operation anywhere, we should be plunged back into barbarism.’ In Tbilisi, there existed only the rudiments of a working class, its habits and outlook still coloured by the traditions of the Oriental bazaar world. In Warsaw, on the other hand, Zhordania found himself in a Western environment, where he could see with his own eyes something of the life and manners of the industrial working class of which Marx and Engels had written. Again, the Poles’ deep-rooted antagonism to Russian ways, language and religious dogma, more intense than anything Zhordania had seen in Georgia, made him see that ‘in subjugated countries there must first of all take place a political revolution; democracy must be established first, and only afterwards, by the furtherance of economic progress and by extensive organizational work, can we proceed towards social revolution’. The failure of the Narodniks to reach any form of understanding with the inherently passive and bourgeois-minded peasantry made it imperative to operate first on the more receptive mind of the factory worker. Once the town worker was indoctrinated with the new ideas, he could himself propagate them among his rustic cousins in terms they could understand. 65

From Warsaw, Zhordania kept up a clandestine correspondence with friends in Georgia, such as Sylvester Jibladze and the proletarian writer Egnate Ninoshvili (Ingoroqva), whom he also kept supplied with Russian subversive political literature. With Philip Makharadze, Zhordania formed a socialist group among the young Georgians living and studying in Warsaw. Other Georgian student groups operated in the various Russian university centres. In 1892, a conference of Georgian students was held at Kutaisiin Western Georgia. In the following year, they founded a League for the Liberation of Georgia, whose programme sought to reconcile the ‘bourgeois-nationalist’ and the Marxian ‘class-struggle’ trends in Georgian progressive thought.

Zhordania returned to Tbilisi in August 1892. After what he had seen in Poland, he brought with him the conviction that the Georgians must make common cause with their Russian and Polish brethren and work towards revolution on an allRussian scale. By herself, Georgia could never vanquish the Russian dragon. There was no sense in struggling in isolation against the common foe–the Tsarist imperial régime.

In December 1892, there took place at Zestafoni in Western Georgia the first meeting of the so-called Third Group, out of which was to grow the Georgian Social-Democratic Party. The main organizer of the conference was Egnate Ninoshvili, the young Georgian radical novelist. Ninoshvili, whose real name was Egnate Ingoroqva, occupies an important place in Georgian literature and social thought, as the first truly ‘working-class’ writer, in which respect he may be compared with Maxim Gorky in Russia. Born in 1859 of a poor Gurian peasant family, Ninoshvili worked for a time as a village schoolmaster. He then moved to Tbilisi and became a type-setter in a printing house. After many setbacks, he left Tbilisi for Batumi on the Black Sea, where he worked as a dock-labourer and then in the Rothschild oil-drum factory. A contemporary who saw him at work there was shocked to see this frail young intellectual dragging great planks about the factory, with blood dripping from his torn fingers. Later on, Ninoshvili was employed as a clerk at the manganese works at Zestafoni, where the fumes and dust finally undermined his health. Meanwhile, Ninoshvili had been working at his remarkable stories, which he used to read aloud to his fellow-workers. Their publication won him fame, and permitted him at last to enjoy a little relief from manual labour. But it was too late to save his life. In 1894, he returned desperately ill to his native village in Guria, where he died in the same year from tuberculosis.

Ninoshvili’s stories give a vivid picture of the life of the Georgian workers and peasants of that time and of their struggle against bailiffs, landlords and officials. His historical novel, The Revolt in Guria, brings to life the events of the Gurian peasant uprising in 1841 directed against the feudal magnates and the Russian occupying power. The story, Gogia Uishvili, tells of a poor peasant flogged for defending his wife and children from insult at the hands of the police, and then committing suicide rather than survive such shameful punishment. Other tales treat of such themes as a peasant knocked down and run over by a train while engaged on forced labour on the railway, and of boatmen drowned while shipping timber over a lake during a storm. The story, A Hero of Our Land, tells of a parasitical debauchee squire, by name Tariel Mklavadze, who finally meets his just deserts at the hands of a poor village school-teacher for whose wife’s death this Mklavadze is responsible. It is hard to read Ninoshvili’s stories without a feeling of indignation against the system which produced such abuses and injustices. There is no doubt that they helped to produce in public opinion a state of mind receptive to the socialist ideas which Zhordania and his associates, with the active encouragement of Ninoshvili himself, were preparing to propagate in Georgia.

At that first gathering of the Mesame Dasi at Zestafoni in December 1892, the Narodnik element gained the upper hand. The majority of the group felt unable to share Zhordania’s confidence in the possibility of effecting revolution through the medium of the yet immature Georgian proletariat, and stuck to the old Populist formula of socialism via the peasant commune. Undeterred by this, and encouraged by the support of Ninoshvili and Jibladze, Zhordania wrote a comprehensive exposé of Marxist economic doctrine, as applied to specifically Georgian conditions. This document, entitled Economic Progress and the National Question, was presented to the next meeting of the group at Tbilisi in February 1893, and met this time with unanimous approval.

‘The current evolution of Georgia,’ Zhordania wrote, ‘involves two aspects, both of them fundamental, and closely interdependent –namely the economic and industrial development of the various regions of Georgia, together with a growing inequality in the material living standards of the Georgian people. Both of these trends arise from the stimulus of commercial and capitalistic enterprise. In the early stages, a nation achieves unity on the basis of the ideology of self-conscious nationalism; subsequently, however, that same nation is bound to find itself divided through self-conscious economic sectional interest. These two trends are born the one from the other; the first summons the second into being, while the second contributes to the development of the first. . . . The core of our present-day life consists in economic growth, which in its turn has given birth to national unity as well as to social cleavage. Georgiais one and indivisible; nevertheless, she is divided into two sections in regard to wealth and to poverty. If on the first point we are united, on the second we are divided. If on questions relating to our internal way of life we are at loggerheads, nevertheless we stand united against the external foe. . . . Capitalism has changed the customs and manners of nations, destroyed the ancient juridical and political framework, overturned idyllic patriarchal relationships, united each individual nation as a separate entity, and brought the nations into contact with one another. On the other hand, that same capitalism has divided the nation into two factions-rich and poor, landowner and landless peasant, bourgeois and worker–and implanted social friction, given birth to the class struggle and summoned the working class into the political arena.’

Zhordania went on to stress that in the new conditions created by capitalism, it was the town and not the village which led the way towards economic progress and social change. Once new ideas took root in the towns, they would soon spread out into the villages of their own accord. Georgia, he foresaw, was entering on the age of urban capitalism. This did not mean that the peasant and the village community had no part to play. But it had to be recognized that even village life was becoming to some extent coloured by urban influences. The life of the Georgian people generally was being Europeanized.

This meant that Georgians must think increasingly in terms of new social philosophies–such as Marxist socialism–which had been born in the economically more advanced West, but were becoming steadily more relevant to Georgian conditions.

No sooner had Zhordania’s programme been adopted as an ideological basis for the new revolutionary school in Georgia than its author was forced to flee the country. The Warsaw police rounded up many Georgian and Polish students there on suspicion of subversive activity. Zhordania received warning in time, and sailed from Batumi to Europe in May 1893, some weeks before a warrant arrived for his own arrest. He remained abroad for over four years, until his return to Georgia in October 1897. He visitedSwitzerland, one of the main refuges for Russian revolutionaries, and met Plekhanov and the redoubtable Vera Zasulich in Geneva. In 1895, he went to Paris and worked at the Bibliothèque Nationale, as well as making the acquaintance of Jules Guesde, Paul Lafargue and other French socialists. Later he went to Stuttgart to visit Karl Kautsky, who became an enthusiastic supporter of the Georgian socialist movement. ‘ Kautsky,’ Zhordania recalls, ‘made a deep impression on me by his modesty, simplicity, clarity of thought and great knowledge.’ Zhordania also made the acquaintance of the political adventurer and financier Alexander Helphand, known as Parvus, who was to play a leading part in international politics during the World War and the revolutionary period. Early in 1897, Zhordania left Germany for London, where he met the Georgian revolutionary Varlam Cherkesov, whose anarchist views did not entirely coincide with his own; he also frequented the British Museum. He sent back to Georgia favourable reports on the British way of life, some of which were printed in the Tbilisi journals, and contrasted the benevolent British policemen with their less kindly counterparts in Russia.

Wherever he went on his travels, Zhordania was seeking for solutions to Georgia’s many political and social problems, such as the national question, land tenure, the political role of the urban proletariat and so on. Much of what he saw was irrelevant to Georgian conditions. The countries of Western Europe (apart from special instances like that of AlsaceLorraine) were free from foreign domination and the handicap of a colonial régime. Individual liberty and national independence were, broadly speaking, assured. Like other visitors before and since, Zhordania found the structure of English society particularly baffling. Where were the peasants? He found dukes and aristocratic grands seigneurs, middle-class farmers who looked and behaved like members of the bourgeoisie, and hordes of farm-labourers who were merely rustic proletarians. But of true peasants on the Russian or Georgian model, no sign was to be seen. However, Zhordania’s years in Western Europe had considerable significance for the future development of socialism in Georgia. The personal contacts which he made enabled the Georgians to drink direct from the wellsprings of European socialism, rather than simply imbibing the muddy puddles of Russian revolutionary ideology. He brought back with him the conviction that Georgia’s political and economic progress could not be assured without direct contacts with Western European culture, and a break with the mingled Persian, Turkish and Russian influences in which the people and even the intelligentsia had for so long stagnated.

Within Georgia, the young Marxist intellectuals were in the meantime gaining strength and adherents. They embarked both upon open literary work of a more or less innocuous nature, and upon the formation of clandestine Marxist study circles and revolutionary societies among workers and students. When Egnate Ninoshvili died in 1894, his funeral was turned into a public demonstration at which Sylvester Jibladze and other leaders of the movement boldly expounded their social and economic theories and set forth the remedies they proposed for the ills of Georgia. The liberal writer Giorgi Tsereteli, prominent as leader of the so-called Meore Dasi (‘Second Group’), declared that a new epoch in Georgian social and intellectual life had begun, and hailed the birth of this new school of economic and political thought–the Mesame Dasi or ‘Third Group’. Within a decade, this group was to occupy a dominant position in the country’s whole political and social evolution.

Sweated labour

It may seem strange at first sight that a people so largely made up of peasants and mountain clansmen, with a small industry and a comparatively negligible and uneducated proletariat, should be attracted to Marxian socialism. However, there were several factors which contributed to this leaning. Following the abolition of serfdom and the break-up of feudal and patriarchal forms of social organization, Georgia, along with other regions of the Caucasus, was undergoing commercial development on an increasing scale. As Lenin put it, ‘The country, sparsely populated in the years after the Reform, inhabited by highlanders and staying aloof from the development of world economy, aloof even from history, was becoming a country of oil industrialists, wine merchants, grain and tobacco manufacturers.’ 66 The rich manganese ore deposits of Chiatura and the oil industry of Baku and Batumi were being developed, largely by foreign capital. Whereas in 1886-87, the total value of industrial production in the regions of Tbilisi and Kutaisiamounted to little more than 10,000,000 rubles, by 1891-92 the figure had risen to 32,000,000. In the same short period the number of full-time industrial workers rose from 12,000 to 23,000, in addition to those employed on the railway. By 1900, the number of Georgian industrial workers was reckoned at about 35,000, or up to 50,000 if one includes the railwaymen. It may be reckoned therefore that industrial workers with their families formed scarcely a tenth part of the population. But the fact that the workers were concentrated at key centres of transport and communications gave them an importance out of all proportion to their numerical strength. Tbilisi was the main junction on the railway connecting the Caspian coast with the Black Sea. The railway yards of Tbilisiand the oil-fields of Baku were the birthplace of the militant proletariat of Transcaucasia. As Tbilisi and Baku were also the leading cities of the land, strategic hubs of administration, education, journalism, publishing and commerce, they were places from which industrial unrest could be stirred up and socialist propaganda diffused in a most effective manner.

The conditions of work in the mines and factories of Georgia themselves fostered dissatisfaction and discontent. A twelve-hour working day was common. Workers were often forced to clean and repair their machines and tools in their own time and without extra payment. Many workshops were situated in ill-ventilated, noisome cellars or overcrowded sheds, without adequate lighting or heating. Canteen and restroom facilities were non-existent, and the workers ate and rested beside their machines. All the classic abuses of old-style capitalism flourished unchecked. Arbitrary fines were imposed by the management for minor misdemeanours; the factory hooter was sounded half an hour before the official time in the morning, an hour late at closing time in the evening; vouchers for monopoly-owned factory shops were issued in lieu of wages in cash. Pitiable was the lot of the manganese miners of Chiatura, who worked their seams with primitive instruments down narrow shafts, in the light of open, unguarded kerosene lamps, and on a diet of bread and water and maize porridge. Many observers commented on the squalor prevalent in the Tbilisi match and cigarette factories, the dye works, tanneries, and weaving mills, where frequent epidemics undermined the workers’ health. With unguarded and ill-maintained machinery and overtired, underfed workers, accidents were common. The Batumi correspondent of Ilia Chavchavadze’s paper, Iveria, reported in 1890 that ‘not a day goes by without one or two workers being maimed and losing an arm or a foot. The crippled victim is mercilessly kicked out into the street, like a piece of useless old rubbish. . . .’ 67 The active working life of a Georgian industrial labourer averaged little more than fifteen years. Trade unions were proscribed, strikes forbidden and suppressed by the police and militia. The appeal of the ‘class struggle’ was reinforced by feelings of national solidarity. Few of the Caucasian industrial magnates were Georgians. It was therefore all the easier to whip up hatred of the Armenian merchants and money-lenders, the British, French and Jewish capitalists, and the Russian officials who, so it was represented, formed an unholy alliance to exploit the Georgian workers and peasants, and draw fat dividends from their sweat and tears.

It is true that industrialization affected as yet only a relatively small proportion of the population and that Georgia was still a predominantly agricultural and pastoral land. But the agrarian problem itself had revolutionary potentialities. The reforms of the 1860’s, while abolishing serfdom as an institution, did virtually nothing to improve the peasant’s economic lot. A striking proof of this is the fact that the system of ‘temporary obligation’–a form of servitude to which a peasant was subject pending final settlement of redemption dues in respect of land acquired from his former lord–was not abolished until as late as 1912, many years later than in metropolitan Russia. In 1891, the peasants of Eastern Georgia possessed 134,796 desyatins of land (1 desyatin = 2.7 acres), whereas the landowners had 961,502; the peasants of Western Georgia owned 210,779 desyatins, the landowners 815,321. This was at a time when the peasantry formed 85 per cent. of the population of Eastern Georgia and 86 per cent. of that of Western Georgia. The landowning gentry, on the other hand, made up only 2.89 per cent. and 6.78 per cent. of the populations of Eastern and Western Georgia respectively.

However, the largest landlord of all in Georgia was the Russian crown. In 1900, after just a century of occupation, the Russian government had swallowed up more than half the landed estates in the country. Statistics of the time reckoned Georgia to contain some 6,120,000 desyatins of exploitable land, or about 16,524,000 acres. This was distributed as follows:

Russian government:                                                      3,535,544 des.

Landowners:                                                                    1,914,214 des.

Peasants:                                                                         382,697 des.

Merchants and others:                                                     148,885 des.

Russian imperial family:                                                  116,299 des.

Church domains:                                                             22,361 des.

6,120,000 des.

These figures show that the Russian imperial government owned some 58 per cent. of the land, the landed proprietors 31 per cent.; of the remaining 11 per cent., a substantial slice, as will be seen, belonged personally to individual members of the Russian imperial family. The peasants, forming some 85 per cent. of the population, had to content themselves with just over 6 per cent. of the land, and were weighed down into the bargain by redemption payments, tithes and sundry taxes. They were in fact caught in a vicious circle. For the most part, they could afford neither to increase their holdings nor to introduce improved methods of cultivation. Pauperization of the villages was accompanied by a drift of dispossessed peasants into the slums of the towns, where they lent a ready ear to socialist agitators. Nor did the attitude of the Georgian landed gentry do much to alleviate the position. To quote a presentday Georgian writer by no means friendly to Communist ideas:

‘If our princes and country squires had renounced their sectional interests in time, and risen to the occasion by making some genuine response to the general interests of the nation, Marxist ideas could never have taken root. Our aristocracy prepared the ground for socialism by its own policy. Its many oppressive acts cleared the way for Socialist propagandists. In the end, the impoverished squirearchy itself became the backbone of this movement, in the person of its most eminent representative, N. Zhordania.’ 68

Like many middle-class socialists, however, Zhordania and his associates failed to realise that the ‘class struggle’, for the intensification of which they enthusiastically campaigned, would result in a holocaust of which they themselves would be among the victims.

Under the promise of an amnesty, Zhordania had returned to Georgia from Western Europe in 1897. He and his friends soon gained control of the liberal newspaper Kvali (The Furrow), which became the regular organ of Georgian ‘legal Marxism’. In this paper Zhordania and his disciples proclaimed that bourgeois capitalism had already taken root in Georgia, and that the country was thus in the intermediate stage between feudalism and socialism. They criticized the older generation of Georgian patriots who concentrated their efforts on a revival of the use of the Georgian language, on cultivating Georgian literature, and on supporting the Georgian national Church as a focus for the country’s moral and spiritual life. The young socialist zealots depicted even the great Ilia Chavchavadze as a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary and criticized the management of such institutions as the Land Bank of the Nobility, the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among the Georgians, the National Theatre and the independent, voluntary Georgian schools as ‘bourgeois’ or ‘aristocratic’. In Zhordania’s view, the idea of a Georgian national revival within the framework of Russian tsardom was absurd. The salvation of Georgia lay, he believed, in solidarity between the Georgian and the Russian and international working classes. Implicit in Zhordania’s reasoning– though such ideas could not be expressed openly in print–was the conclusion that only after the overthrow of the Russian imperial system could Georgia hope to achieve national fulfilment through democratic socialism, in which ‘effete elements’ such as princes, priests and capitalists would have no share.

Such views were anathema to Ilia Chavchavadze and the other leading Georgian nationalists, who were not slow in taking up Zhordania’s challenge. In a series of outspoken articles, published pseudonymously in 1900, Ilia roundly castigated Zhordania and his followers, whom he declared to be ignorant, illiterate, conceited and infantile. Zhordania, in Ilia’s view, was nothing but a charlatan, a man claiming to be ‘sent into the world to alter the axis on which the globe revolves, and make heaven and earth turn according to his will and pleasure’. 69 It is ironic therefore to note that while reeling under Ilia’s thunderbolts, Zhordania, Chkheidze and the other ‘legal Marxists’ who formed the majority of the Mesame Dasi group were simultaneously being assailed by the extremist wing of their own party as lukewarm intellectuals, unable and unwilling to lead the nation in an active revolutionary campaign against Tsardom. They were wrong, it was said, to bide their time while limiting themselves to the peaceful propagation of Marxist ideas, and to ignore the need for setting up illegal, revolutionary printing presses, instigating violence, and organizing a massive political upheaval of the working classes against the Tsar and the bourgeoisie.

Stalin’s revolutionary youth

Prominent among the left-wing, extremist minority of the Mesame Dasi was Lado Ketskhoveli, the future friend and mentor of Stalin. Expelled with more than eighty other students from the Tbilisi Theological Seminary in 1894, Ketskhoveli went to Kiev, where he made contact with clandestine groups of Russian socialists and became initiated into the underground revolutionary movement. Arrested in 1896, he was sent back to his birthplace to be kept under police surveillance. He came back to the Caucasus eager to free the revolutionary movement in his homeland out of its provincial swaddling clothes by setting up a secret printing press and embarking on terroristic campaigns. In 1898, another former student from the Tbilisi Theological Seminary joined the militant wing of the group. His name was Joseph Jughashvili-the future Stalin. The nineteen-year-old novice was immediately taken in hand by Ketskhoveli and another thorough-going revolutionary, Alexander Dsulukidze, and set to work on running Marxist study circles for the Tbilisi industrial workers. His task was to lecture on socialism to the tobacco workers, masons, shoemakers, weavers, printers and the conductors of the local horse trams. The workers met in small groups, a dozen or a score in each, in some obscure slumdwelling, while one member watched outside to make sure that the police had not got wind of what was afoot. In those days, education was the privilege of the few, so that the young student volunteers were treated with respect by the workers, often older men, and accepted as mentors and guides.

It was not long before Ketskhoveli, Dsulukidze and Stalin constituted a well-organized ‘action’ group within the Tbilisi Social-Democratic organization, parting company more and more with Zhordania and the other moderates. A positive impetus to their movement was provided by a series of well planned strikes which broke out from 1898 onwards in various sectors of Georgian industry. In December 1898, the main Tbilisi railway depot came out on strike in protest against a reduction in wages, the abolition of free railway passes for railwaymen and their families, and other vexatious measures. The strike was directed by both the local Georgian socialists and by workers of revolutionary sympathies who had been deported from Russia; it lasted a week and led to the arrest of forty-one ringleaders. The following year was marked by strikes in a Tbilisi tobacco factory, at the horse tram depot, at the Adelkhanov shoe factory, at the Sharadze printing works, as well as in Batumi at the Rothschild oil refinery. The first of May 1899, was celebrated by the first May Day demonstration to be held in the Caucasus. Between seventy and eighty railway and industrial workers and socialist agitators assembled at a spot called Ghrma-Ghele (Deep Ravine) on the outskirts of Tbilisi. They were addressed by Lado Ketskhoveli and other orators, who stressed the significance of May Day as a symbol of the international solidarity of the toiling masses. The participants took a solemn vow beneath a red flag to close their ranks and fight with all their strength in the death struggle against Tsarism and capitalist exploitation.

‘Legal Marxism’ and the fighting underground

The only leading member of the Mesame Dasi who was equally at home in the militant underground and in the more respectable world of ‘legal Marxism’ was Sylvester Jibladze. The other legal Marxists, such as Zhordania and Chkheidze, took no direct part in the strikes and other incidents. Their aloofness provoked accusations of ‘opportunism’ and faint-heartedness on the part of the revolutionary agitators, and signs of an impending breach between the moderate wing, the future Mensheviks, and the militant revolutionary wing, the future Bolsheviks, were already apparent. The Russian authorities, curiously enough, showed an amazing degree of toleration towards Zhordania and his group, who were now in control of the newspaper Kvali, in the columns of which they preached the forthcoming collapse of capitalism and the intensification of the class struggle. The Russian Governor-General of the Caucasus, Prince Golitsyn, was more concerned with combating Georgian nationalism and ‘separatism’ than with preventing the spread of economic doctrines, however potentially explosive. It is known, indeed, that the Tbilisi censors received a special circular from St. Petersburg, directing them to pay exclusive attention to manifestations of local nationalism. They devoted their attention to harassing patriotic citizens like Prince Ilia Chavchavadze, men of substance and respectable liberals, whose demands amounted to little more than home rule for Georgia, education in the national language, civic rights, trial by jury, and so on, within the general pattern of the existing imperial system. The authorities failed to see that the revolutionary ferment spreading all over Russia was a greater danger to the régime than any such symptoms of local pride. ‘It was clear that the Censorship Committee was far more afraid of patriotic verses than of discussions on economics.’ 70 This situation, with its paradoxical features, was aptly summed up by a contemporary foreign observer who wrote:

‘We find in Georgia the same tendency to encourage Socialism as an antidote to middle-class Constitutionalism and Liberalism as in Russia itself, where the famous Zubatoff movement of the Moscow workmen was actually organized under the auspices of the secret police. Prince Golitsyn and the bureaucrats of the Plehve school were less afraid of Social Democracy than of the Nationalism of the Georgian nobles and intellectuals, whose aims were in the direction of constitutional government, and therefore incompatible with autocracy, of national autonomy which might lead to separatism and the break-up of the Empire, and of an autocephalous Church, which naturally aroused the fears of M. Pobiedonostzeff. . . . 71 Prince Golitsyn hoped to create a breach between the Georgian Nationalist upper classes and the peasantry, and to introduce a mild milk-and-water Socialism, sufficient to weaken the autonomists, but docile and friendly to the authorities.’ 72

This strange and uneasy alliance between the Tsarist gendarmes and the Georgian leaders of the labour movement could not last. Whenever it came to a clash, it was the workers and not the nobles or capitalists whom the Cossacks attacked with their guns and whips. From 1900 onwards, Georgia, like the rest of Russia, was caught up in the backwash of a worldwide economic depression. This had a catastrophic effect on Georgia’s budding industrial enterprises. The output of manganese at Chiatura was drastically curtailed. The export of petroleum products from Batumi was reduced and the workers put on to short-time working. Many factories in Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti and Chiatura had to close down. In the Tbilisi province alone there were over 4,000 unemployed. To make things worse, the harvest in 1901 was bad. Starving peasants invaded the towns in search of work, adding to the chaos and misery.

The manufacturers cut wages and laid off staff, which in turn provoked a wave of strikes and boycotts. In March 1901, the police rounded up and imprisoned the leaders of the militant socialist wing in Tbilisi, including Lenin’s disciple Victor Kurnatovsky. Among the few who escaped arrest was young Jughashvili-Stalin, then a clerk at the Tbilisi Observatory, who now went into hiding. From the ‘underground’, he played a prominent part in organizing opposition to the authorities. Many of his comrades being under arrest, it fell to him to carry through the plans which had been made for a May Day demonstration far more audacious than the inoffensive gatherings of 1899 and 1900.

‘The workers of the whole of Russia,’ declared a revolutionary broadsheet of the time, ‘have decided to celebrate the First of May openly–in the best thoroughfares of the city. They have proudly declared to the authorities that Cossack whips and sabres, torture by the police and the gendarmerie hold no terror for them! Friends, let us too join our Russian comrades! Let us join hands, Georgians, Russians, Armenians; let us gather, raise the scarlet banner and celebrate our only holiday–the First of May!’ 73

The demonstration was fixed for 22 April 1901 (Old Style). At midday, the sounding of the noon cannon shot from the Tbilisi arsenal gave the signal for action. The red flag was unfurled on the Soldatsky Bazaar (the present-day Kolkhoz Square), near the Alexander Garden. The fiery words of revolutionary orators were acclaimed by some 2,000 workers with cries of ‘Down with Autocracy! Up the Republic! Long live Liberty!’ Before the demonstrators could march on the main boulevards, they were set upon by police and Cossacks. A savage battle ensued. The Governor of Tbilisi hastened to the scene. Reinforcements were called in. At the end, fourteen workers lay dead on the square. Fifty arrests were made. Abortive though it was, this demonstration was of great significance. Lenin commented in his paper Iskra (The Spark): ‘The event which took place on Sunday 22 April, in Tiflis is of historic import for the entire Caucasus: this day marks the beginnings of an open revolutionary movement in the Caucasus.’ Following the disturbance, the police rounded up many leading socialist intellectuals whom they had previously treated with tolerance, including Noe Zhordania, who spent several months in the Metekhi fortress jail in Tbilisi.

Despite all repressions, the Georgian revolutionary movement continued to gather momentum. Lado Ketskhoveli proceeded toBaku, the great oil-producing centre in Azerbaijan on the Caspian, and set up an illegal printing press on which he produced the first issues of Brdzola (The Struggle), the organ of the Tbilisi Social-Democratic organization. Ketskhoveli also made Brdzola into a local mouthpiece of the all-Russian SocialDemocratic movement, adopting the programme of Lenin’s Iskra, with its emphasis on the creation of united all-Russian party to co-ordinate political agitation and work for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Ketskhoveli and his assistants printed broadsheets addressed to the army, inciting the troops to mutiny–‘which manifestoes,’ according to a gendarmerie report of the time, ‘were very widely circulated among the troops’. 74 Ketskhoveli soon afterwards handed over theBaku secret press to another Georgian revolutionary, T. T. Enukidze who passed it on in 1904 to his namesake, Abel Enukidze. This Abel Enukidze later became a close friend of Stalin, who betrayed him and had him shot during the purges of 1936-37.

On 11 November 1901, the first conference of the Georgian branch of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party took place inTbilisi. The personnel of the branch was virtually identical with that of the Georgian Mesame Dasi or Third Group, though some members had reservations about joining any organization with an all-Russian label. The committee of nine elected at this conference included Stalin and Sylvester Jibladze, though the latter was soon afterwards arrested and exiled to Siberia. Stalin was sent to Batumi to stir up revolutionary activity among the workers at the important Black Sea port and oil-refinery. It was a promising assignment. The oil pipe-line between Baku and Batumi had recently been completed. Batumi counted over ten large industrial enterprises, including the petroleum container factories of Rothschild, Mantashev, Nobel and others, two tobacco factories, an iron foundry, a nail works, a mineral water bottling depot and several oil loading stations. There were some 11,000 industrial workers, a motley, polyglot mixture of Christians and Muslims, with some of the riffraff always to be found in ports and dockyards. Conditions of life were generally poor. The working day averaged fourteen hours, compulsory overtime bringing it at times up to sixteen hours. Wages were from sixty kopecks to one ruble per day. There was obvious scope for socialist agitation. In fact, a small Russian Social-Democratic committee had functioned in Batumi for a time, until broken up by the police in 1898. The promotion of the workers’ interests was then taken over by two founder members of Zhordania’s Mesame Dasi party, Karlo Chkheidze and Isidore Ramishvili, ‘legal Marxists’ who abstained from violent measures and engaged for the most part in work of an educational nature and in practical welfare.

When Stalin arrived in Batumi, he was welcomed coldly by Chkheidze and Ramishvili, who were opposed to clandestine conspiracies and acts of terrorism. Nothing daunted, Stalin convened a meeting of militant elements among the local workers and intellectuals, who assembled on New Year’s Eve, 1901. A Batumi Social-Democratic organization was formally constituted on the Leninist model, and eleven workers’ circles set up in the principal factories. Stalin set to work writing leaflets and printing them off on a primitive hand press in his lodgings. His efforts soon produced results. In January 1902, a strike at Mantashev’s ended in victory for the workers, the management being forced into important concessions.

In the following month, a strike broke out at Rothschild’s over the dismissal of nearly four hundred workers suspected of subversive activities. The Military Governor of Kutaisi arrived on the spot and ordered the arrest of thirty-two ringleaders. Stalin and his associates organized a mass demonstration of workers, who paraded through the streets on 8 March 1902, demanding the release of their comrades. Three hundred arrests were made. When it was learnt that all the detainees were to be deported from Batumi, an even larger crowd of demonstrators, including workers from the Rothschild and Mantashev factories, the docks and the railway yards, in all about 6,000, set out for the barracks where the prisoners were held. The military commandant refused to hand over his charges and ordered the workers to disperse. A company of the 7th Caucasian Rifles were called out to clear the square, but were met with jeers and stones. Then the prisoners inside managed to break out and join their comrades outside the barracks. Finally, the troops opened fire, killing fourteen workers and wounding many others. The incident was widely reported in the Russian and foreign press.

The Tsarist secret police or Okhrana redoubled its efforts to track down the leaders of the Batumi revolutionary cell. In the end, they succeeded in discovering and raiding a meeting of the Batumi revolutionary committee. Stalin and others were arrested. After spending eighteen months in various Caucasian jails, Stalin was deported for three years to the Irkutsk province in eastern Siberia. However, he promptly made his escape and was back in Tbilisi early in 1904, ready to play his part in the upheavals which shook the Caucasus during the revolution of 1905. In the meantime, his comrade Lado Ketskhoveli, who had been seized and confined in the Metekhi prison at Tbilisi, was shot dead in his cell by the Tsarist police. Another leading Georgian Bolshevik and friend of Stalin, Alexander Dsulukidze, died of consumption in June 1905, at the age of twenty-nine. At the same time, daring and determined young men were continually reinforcing the revolutionary wing of the Social-Democratic party in the Caucasus. Particularly militant were some of the Armenian revolutionaries, who formed several secret societies, some of a nationalist and others of a socialist hue. The animosity of the Armenian community, normally reserved for the Turks, was vented on the Russian government also after 1903, when Prince Golitsyn confiscated the property of the Armenian national Church and perpetrated other discriminatory measures against the Armenians, who were very numerous in Tbilisi itself. The ineptitude of Tsarist policy in Caucasia was strikingly exemplified by this decree of confiscation, which was signed by Tsar Nicholas II at the insistence of Golitsyn and the minister Plehve, but against the vote of a majority of the imperial council of ministers, who justly regarded the proposal as iniquitous and fraught with political danger. The result of this measure was that Stalin’s group was reinforced by several daring Armenian terrorists, including the celebrated TerPetrossian, known as Kamo. In 1903, Kamo caused a public sensation by scattering socialist leaflets among the audience at the Tbilisi Armenian theatre. He led the hold-up of the Tbilisi State Bank in 1907, and followed this up by a series of escapades which won him an international reputation. 75

Side by side with the revolutionary movement among the industrial workers, a spontaneous and concerted resistance campaign was gathering momentum among the villagers. Losing hope in a solution from above to the problems of land tenure and the general impoverishment of the countryside, the peasants began to impose their own solution from below. They would make life unbearable for the local squire by various forms of boycott and provocation, until he left of his own accord for the nearest city. In some cases, they would politely escort their former feudal master to the railway station and bundle him on to the next train for Tbilisi. The movement was particularly strong in the south-western province of Guria, where the small size of the peasant allotments gave rise to an often quoted saying: ‘If I tie up a cow on my bit of land, her tail will be in someone else’s!’ To keep themselves and their families, 80 per cent of the Gurian peasantry were forced to look for permanent or seasonal jobs in the towns, in search of which they travelled as far afield as Odessa and Rostov in southern Russia. Guria was directly affected by the strikes and socialist agitation which were convulsing nearby Batumi. It was not mere coincidence that Guria produced the first Georgian proletarian writer, Egnate Ninoshvili, and the founder of Georgian Marxism, Noe Zhordania.

In 1902, matters came to a head with a direct challenge thrown down by the Gurian peasantry to the Russian authorities and to their own landed proprietors. The Gurian movement began with a series of demands for reduction of rent, and with protests against the usurpation of peasant land by the state. The peasants refused to pay taxes to the government or tithes to the priests. They boycotted unpopular squires as well as all organs and representatives of the Russian administration. The village headmen were powerless to keep order, and were in any case overwhelmingly in sympathy with their stubborn compatriots. The Russians reacted at first with mass arrests and repressions. They sent troops to round up the ringleaders, who included the majority of the local village schoolmasters and a number of socialist agitators who had arrived from the towns. Noe Zhordania, who had just been released from custody and returned to his native Guria, was rearrested; Noe Khomeriki the agronomist, future Minister of Agriculture of independent Georgia, was also taken into custody. The fortresses were filled with captives and many were sent into Siberian exile.

‘Down with autocracy!’

The Cossacks and gendarmes could not be everywhere at once. The ferment spread throughout the province and into neighbouring regions as well. Mansions were burnt down. Demonstrations took place, red flags were waved, and the cry of ‘Down with autocracy!’ was repeatedly to be heard. The priests were forbidden by their flock to repeat in church the prayer for the imperial family, and portraits of Tsar Nicholas II were torn down and burnt. Bodies of murdered policemen and soldiers were refused church burial and had to be discreetly interred by the police themselves. In those centres where the district governor, chief of police, magistrates and other paraphernalia of Muscovite bureaucracy managed to survive at all, they were paralysed and ineffective. The people set up their own popular tribunals, which dealt with all forms of crime and immorality in an effective if rudimentary fashion. They worked in shifts to maintain the roads and bridges. Nobles, priests, peasants and shopkeepers all manfully did their turn of work.

The success of this peasant communism in Guria gave a sudden stimulus to those Georgian revolutionaries who harked back in their outlook to the old Narodniks or Populists, and whose programme was based on agrarian socialism of a utopian variety, with emphasis on peasant ownership of the land. These agrarian revolutionaries formed the Georgian Socialist-Federalist Revolutionary Party, allied to the Russian Social-Revolutionaries or ‘S.-R.s’. The leading spirit in this party was Archil Jorjadze, who convened its first conference at Geneva in 1904 and brought out a newspaper Sakartvelo or La Géorgie which appeared at Paris in Georgian and French. Proscribed in Georgia itself, the fiery pamphlets of the Social-Revolutionaries were smuggled in, and contributed to exacerbate the growing tension in the Georgian countryside.

Plehve and the Black Hundreds

All these local developments in Georgia must, of course, be viewed against the general background of Russia’s general political state. Throughout the empire, the situation was deteriorating under the vacillating yet oppressive rule of Nicholas II. A key factor in the situation was the rivalry between the able Minister of Finance, Count Sergius Witte, and the sinister Von Plehve, Minister of the Interior. Plehve’s recipe for maintaining authority was compounded of pogroms against the Jews and the forced russification of other national minorities, floggings and shootings of unruly peasants and factory workers, combined with a programme of chauvinistic militarism in the Far East, whereby patriotic zeal would be rallied to the Tsar and attention diverted from troubles at home. In July 1903, a general strike broke out in the southern provinces of Russia, beginning at the great oil city of Baku.

Soon the provinces of Kiev, Ekaterinoslav, Odessa and Nikolaev were largely strike-bound, as well as the Georgian governorates ofTbilisi and Kutaisi. The Tsar sent the Governor-General of the Caucasus, Prince Golitsyn, a personal telegram, demanding ‘the most energetic action’ to put an end to the disorders. In several Georgian towns, strikers engaged in violent combat with Cossacks and gendarmes, casualties being heavy.

These outbreaks helped to bring about Witte’s dismissal from the Ministry of Finance in August 1903. Plehve’s influence now became dominant. All criticism of the government was suppressed. Students were forbidden to gather or converse in the streets. Espionage was rampant in universities and schools, and agents provocateurs were active in industry and in society. Before any social gathering could be held, permission had to be sought from the police. Witte declared that such policies would one day bring about Plehve’s assassination. To this, the all-powerful minister retorted that the country was now on the verge of revolution, and that the one way to avert it was ‘a small victorious war’. In the meantime, he kept up the pressure on Russia’s minority peoples. By persecuting the Georgian Church and ignoring the warnings and representations of the moderates among the Georgian aristocracy, Plehve and Prince Golitsyn between them effectively rallied all classes of Georgian society against the régime.

When war broke out between Russia and Japan in February 1904, the Georgian Social-Democrats immediately set to work to exploit the new situation. Leaflets were distributed wholesale, denouncing Tsarist militarism and calling on the workers to rally against the chauvinistic and ultra-patriotic Russian movement of the ‘Black Hundreds’, which the local authorities frequently incited to acts of violence against the minority communities of the empire.

‘During the entire month of February,’ we read in a document of the time, ‘there was evidence of the growth of the revolutionary activity of the Social-Democratic organization, political meetings were held with increasing frequency, broadsheets with various titles in Russian, Georgian and Armenian have been scattered about not only in the streets, in factories, schools, and in the main workshops of the Transcaucasian railways, but even in churchyards and inside the churches themselves. . . . The local Social-Democratic organization has renewed its criminal activity among the workers of the main railway depot, the printing works in the city of Tbilisi, among the salesmen of various shops, in the Adelkhanov tannery and other factories. Propaganda is carried on, as before, at gatherings in which people debate from every angle the burning question of today–Russia’s war against Japan; in the same spirit, the Russian government is condemned in all the printed manifestoes. The immediate aim of this propaganda is the desire at all costs to hold an anti-government demonstration on or about 18 April (Old Style: i.e. the First of May), to show that the workers censure the government for pursuing an unnecessary war with Japan, and that they have only one aim: “Down with autocracy!”‘ 76

By placing the city under martial law, the authorities in Tbilisi nipped in the bud the projected May Day procession there. Numerous incidents and strikes took place in other Georgian centres, leading to clashes with the police and the military in which a number of workers and peasants lost their lives.

In July 1904, Governor-General Golitsyn, who had been wounded in a terrorist attack, left the Caucasus on leave, never to return. On the 28th of that same month, the minister, Plehve, was assassinated in St. Petersburg by the SocialRevolutionary, Sazonov. Russia and Caucasia alike were sliding fast down the slope leading to revolution.


Russia and Japan–Bolsheviks and Mensheviks–Bloody Sunday-The Gurian communes–The Georgian Church Militant–Massacre at Tbilisi Town Hall–Witte and the Duma–The Tsar regains the upper hand–The Cossacks take over–Blood and fire in Georgia–The Friends of Georgia Committee

Russia and Japan

ON 5 FEBRUARY 1904, after months of mounting tension in the Far East, the Japanese had launched their famous night attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur. The war party at St. Petersburg, headed by Plehve, cherished high hopes that Russia’s revolutionary fever would be speedily cured by this timely ‘small, victorious war’. But events soon showed that the despised Japanese were as much a match for Nicholas II as the British, French and Turks had been for Nicolas I in the Crimean War fifty years before. Just as the humiliations of the Crimean War hastened the death of Nicholas I, exposed the weakness of autocracy, and brought about irresistible demands for the abolition of serfdom, so did the disasters of the Russo-Japanese conflict widen the rift between the Tsar, the army and the aristocracy on the one hand, and the liberal bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia and the workers on the other, heightening the already insistent demand for popular participation in the government of the nation.

During the summer of 1904, bad news from the theatre of war seriously unsettled Russian public opinion. The Russian fleet was blockaded in Port Arthur. In Manchuria, the Japanese land forces forced the Russians to retire on Mukden. After the assassination of the hated Plehve, the Tsar appointed as his chief minister a moderate man, Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky. Representatives of the provincial Zemstvos or county councils met privately in St. Petersburg in November, and worked out a petition which they submitted to Nicholas, asking for inviolability of the person, freedom of conscience, of speech, of meeting, of the Press, of association, and equal civil rights for every class of society. The majority furthermore went on to request regular popular representation in a separate elective body which should participate in legislation, in drawing up the budget and in exercising control over the administration. Professional associations of professors, lawyers, journalists, engineers and others organized a series of banquets, at which speeches were made and resolutions passed in support of the constitutional movement. This banquet campaign was particularly well supported in Georgia, where natural conviviality reinforced the universal patriotic urge to free Georgia from Russian absolutism.

Bolsheviks and Mensheviks

Further to the left were the Social-Democrats. In July-August 1903, the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party had unexpectedly found itself divided into two antagonistic factions –the Mensheviks (literally–Men of the Minority), who aimed at the establishment of a constitutional republic as a step towards socialism, and the Bolsheviks, or Men of the Majority, who stood for the overthrow of the régime by revolutionary methods and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat by a dedicated élite of professional agitators and party men. Both parties acknowledged Marx and Engels as their prophets, the Mensheviks basing their interpretation of the masters’ teaching on the revised practice of the SocialDemocratic parties of Western Europe, while the Bolsheviks adhered to the uncompromising formulae of the Communist Manifesto of 1848. An ominous feature of the Bolshevik faction was its oligarchicaland dictatorial character. Lenin insisted that only those who regularly participated in the underground organization could be enrolled as members of the Party and have the formal right to influence its policy. The members of the clandestine organization were to be the shock troops of revolution, obedient to the orders of the central leadership. The rank and file of the workers would do what they were told and accept the dispensation from on high. Such an ideology imparted great strength and cohesion to the Bolshevik movement, which had no need to pay undue attention to the fluctuating moods of the masses whose name it invoked.

In Georgia, the formal split of the Russian Social-Democratic movement into two camps served to underline temperamental and doctrinal differences which had been agitating the Mesame Dasi or Third Group for several years past, and had already given rise to enmity between the pioneer ‘legal Marxists’ like Zhordania and Chkheidze, and the militant underground headed by Ketskhoveli,Dsulukidze and Stalin. The ‘legal Marxists’ now became identified with the Menshevik faction, while the militants formed the nucleus of the Caucasian Bolshevik movement and faithfully executed the directives of Lenin and his adherents. In Russia, as in theCaucasus, the Bolsheviks denounced both the moderate, democratic socialists, and the liberal constitutionalists. They saw that if the Tsar granted a truly democratic, parliamentary régime to Russia, with safeguards to the rights of national minorities, then support for terrorism would wither away amid the general rejoicing, and the prospect of a Marxian millennium would recede into the distant future.

Bloody Sunday

The revolutionaries need not have worried on this score. The Tsar and his entourage again and again proved themselves their own worst enemies. In December 1904, Nicholas finally issued a decree, but did not go beyond vague and general promises, no mention being made of a representative assembly. The prospect of reaching a peaceful understanding with the liberals and constitutional reformers was fast vanishing away. The revolution of 1905 was finally rendered inevitable by the tragedy of Bloody Sunday, 9/22 January 1905, when many thousands of working men, women and children, led by the priest, Gapon, marched with icons and singing hymns towards the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to present a mass petition to their ‘little father’, the Tsar. Nicholas was away from the capital. The troops fired repeatedly on the defenceless and unarmed crowd, killing about a hundred and fifty people. Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky resigned in despair, and was succeeded as Minister of the Interior by Court Chamberlain Bulygin. Strikes broke out in Russia’s chief cities, and the Social-Revolutionary, Kalyaev, blew up the Grand Duke Sergius in the Kremlin. In the Far East, Port Arthur fell to the Japanese.

These events produced immediate repercussions in Georgia. The railway workers of Tbilisi were already preparing to go on strike in solidarity with their comrades at Baku, the great oil port and revolutionary hotbed on the Caspian. News of the Bloody Sunday massacre precipitated events. The director of the Tbilisi railway department was forced to demand military protection for the city station, and trains had to be convoyed under armed guard. By 20 January, Tbilisi was in the grip of a general strike. Factories were idle and the trams had to be escorted by troops. Four thousand strikers roamed the streets and bazaars. Within a week, the strike movement reached the other main towns of Georgia, including Batumi, Poti, Kutaisi, Chiatura, Tqibuli and Shorapani. Meetings of workers were held and attempts made to send workers’ deputations to the Russian authorities with statements of grievances. On 23 January 1905, the official newspaper Kavkaz (The Caucasus) reported that a crowd some three hundred strong had invaded the railway junction at Samtredia in Western Georgia, whistling, shouting and firing off rifles. The rioters dragged the station staff from their posts and forbade them to resume work under pain of death. An attempt was made to sabotage the Batumi-Tbilisi railway, and a military train was derailed. The dock labourers at Poti went on strike, bringing all harbour work to a standstill. Street demonstrations took place in Tbilisi and Kutaisi, red flags were unfurled, the Marseillaise was sung, and several policemen were seriously wounded. At Batumi, three workers burst into the house of a senior police officer, murdered him, and made off. On 25 January the Tbilisi chemists and student apothecaries joined the strike, as well as the school-teachers and many of their pupils. Cries of ‘Long live unity and freedom! Down with autocracy!’ were everywhere to be heard.

While many of these incidents bore a spontaneous character, feeling was continually whipped up by fiery proclamations issued by the Tbilisi committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. ‘What must we do, Comrades?’ the Committee demanded in a broadsheet issued in January 1905.

‘We must organize ourselves more and more efficiently, struggle constantly against the government, overthrow autocracy, loudly and insistently call for the ending of this senseless, unnecessary, cruel war, and demand the immediate convocation of a Constituent Assembly, composed of representatives of the entire nation, chosen by universal, equal, direct and secret ballot. Like a fish without water, the proletariat cannot live or breathe without political liberty. Like air or food, we need freedom of the press, of speech, of association, assembly and strike action. Only when this has been won, can we improve our economic condition, and in this struggle we must count on our own efforts alone. Certain other classes of the population, for instance the Liberals, are sick and tired of the Tsar’s arbitrary rule, and are not averse to receiving political liberty. But they desire freedom for themselves alone, whereas we, the workers desire it for the entire nation, and we are therefore the only ones to call for the setting up of a democratic republic in Russia. Not the Tsar and his officials, not that band of brigands and robbers, but deputies elected from amidst the whole people without distinction of race, religion or sex–these are the ones to provide the working class with the chance effectively to further its interests. Only when the fetters of slavery fastened by autocracy on every living creature finally fall away will the working class develop its full strength, and win for itself a better life, a socialist system of society.’ 77

The Gurian communes

One of the major achievements of the Georgian SocialDemocrats was the speed and success with which their agitators rallied the peasantry to the socialist cause. Within a few days of the outbreak of the strikes, reports were coming in from rural areas of Georgiaof disorders and clashes between the gendarmerie and the local inhabitants. On 2 February 1905, the Procurator of the Kutaisi District Tribunal was complaining to his superior in Tbilisi about the position in Guria.

‘Over the past fortnight the situation in the Ozurgeti district has begun to deteriorate so rapidly that at present virtually complete anarchy prevails there. The entire territory of the region is now completely in the hands of the Committee and its agents, and only where a substantial armed detachment of police guards or cossacks make their appearance is the influence of our government momentarily restored.’

The procurator went on to report that out of eight police officers recently detailed for duty in the Ozurgeti area, one had been killed, another wounded, four had tendered their resignation, and another scarcely dared to emerge from his quarters. Prince Nakashidze, one of the most respected landowners in the province, had been murdered. As the Social-Democrats had placed him under a boycott, not a single gravedigger would dig the prince’s grave; not a coachman could be found willing to take his relatives to the funeral; of three priests summoned to conduct the funeral service, only one made his appearance, but was too much frightened of the revolutionaries to consent to officiate. The procurator had abandoned all hope of holding the forthcoming Ozurgeti Quarter Sessions, since ‘several cases of political murders were due to be tried at these assizes, but the Ozurgeti police are absolutely unable to afford the Court even the most feeble protection from deeds of violence on the part of the population’. The procurator concluded his report by declaring:

‘It is essential to send a strong force of troops into Guria without delay, and to place the area on a war footing for three or four months with field courts-martial, and to take the most decisive measures of a purely military character, for every day and every hour of delay in implementing these measures, inevitable as they are in the long run, only serves to diminish the prestige of the authorities to an even greater extent, and is dyed crimson with the blood of innocent and faithful servants of the government. At this very moment, I have received from Ozurgeti almost simultaneously telegrams relating to two attacks on village constables, resulting in one of them being wounded, and their arms being stolen, also two attacks on village courtrooms, two attempted murders of village headmen, and the assassination of the nobleman Urushadze.’ 78

From Guria, the revolutionary fever spread with lightning rapidity into neighbouring Imereti and Mingrelia. Nor was the insurrection confined merely to the poorer peasantry. Many of the country squires and village priests, either to save their skins or from genuine sympathy with the rising against the Russian overlord, lent support to the insurgents. On 7 February 1905, Lieutenant-GeneralMalama, who had been left in charge of the Caucasian provinces on the transfer of Prince Golitsyn, telegraphed the Minister of the Interior at St. Petersburg:

‘The situation in the Ozurgeti district and the surrounding areas is assuming the character of a rebellion, finding expression in open defiance of authority, the murder of government officials, squires, priests and persons not in sympathy with the revolutionary movement. The population is repudiating the oath of allegiance to the crown and pledging fidelity to the revolutionary committee. Officers of the government are fleeing. All measures hitherto taken, including the co-operation of the army, have failed to produce any results.’

General Malama ended by dasking for authority to place large areas of Western Georgia on a full-scale military footing. Pending instructions, he detailed Major-General AlikhanovAvarsky to proceed to Western Georgia with a strong detachment of troops, including artillery, and take over complete control of the affected areas. Alikhanov was given overriding authority to act independently of the civil governors of Kutaisi and Batumi, under whose jurisdiction the districts in question normally came.

In the meantime, however, the Tsar had decided to revive the Viceroyalty of the Caucasus, which had been in abeyance since the retirement of the Grand Duke Michael in 1882. As viceroy he appointed General-Adjutant Count Vorontsov-Dashkov, an elder statesman of an intelligent outlook far removed from that of the chauvinistic Golitsyn, and a kinsman of the distinguished and popular Prince Michael Vorontsov, viceroy from 1845 to 1854, whose memory was much respected throughout the Caucasus. General Alikhanov’s punitive expedition was temporarily countermanded. Pending the viceroy’s arrival in Tbilisi, a special representative of the viceregal council, Privy Councillor Prince N. A. Sultan Krym-Girey, was sent to Guria to carry out a first-hand enquiry into the underlying causes of the disorders and to assure the population that the viceroy would make every attempt to redress their legitimate grievances.

Sultan Krym-Girey was descended on his father’s side from the former Khans of the Crimea, dispossessed of their dominions by Catherine the Great in 1783; his mother was British. He fully understood the outlook of Russia’s national minorities, and made an excellent impression throughout Guria, where he received numerous popular delegations and listened patiently to their tales of woe. The peasant spokesmen for their part were efficiently coached by the local Social-Democratic committee, and put forward a series of demands which included the return to their homes of persons exiled to Siberia without trial; the withdrawal of troops recently sent to intimidate the population; abolition of censorship and establishment of freedom of Press and publication; election of peasant deputies to a Constituent Assembly by free and secret ballot; abolition of the internal passport system, and granting of freedom of movement within the whole Russian Empire; freedom of assembly and association and the right of appeal from arbitrary acts by local officials; enlargement of peasant allotments at the expense of State and Church domains; the abolition of tithes; the regularization of share-cropping and tenantry agreements, with provision for reduction of taxes and dues in the event of bad harvests; provision of schooling for all children; and the reopening of local Georgian libraries and reading rooms, shut down three years previously by the former Governor-General. Sultan Krym-Girey reported favourably on the Gurians’ loyalty to Russia, emphasizing that they were in no sense attempting to break away from the Empire, but merely desired to emerge from their colonial status and enjoy the same rights and privileges as the citizens of European Russia. He recommended immediate action to alleviate economic distress, combat the corrupt practices of Russian officialdom, and raise the moral and intellectual standards of the people by improved educational facilities.

Unfortunately, the rising tide of revolution rendered abortive any such overdue attempts at conciliation. Throughout March 1905, the situation grew more and more threatening. The whole of Georgia, from Abkhazia in the north-west to Kakheti in the east was in the throes of insurrection. Peasants were rising against the gendarmes and the landlords, murdering them or turning them out, and seizing property and estates. On 9 March, the whole of Western Georgia was placed on a regular war footing. The Third Congress of the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which met in London that April, listened with rapt attention to the report of the Georgian revolutionary Mikha Tskhakaia ( 18651950), and declared: ‘That the special conditions of social and political life in the Caucasus have favoured the creation there of the most militant of our party’s organizations; that the revolutionary mood of the majority of the population of the Caucasus, both in the towns and in the villages, has already brought about a national uprising against absolutism; that the autocratic régime is already sending an army with artillery into Guria, and preparing the most merciless onslaught on all the chief centres of insurrection; that the victory of absolutism over the popular uprising in the Caucasus, which might be facilitated by the multi-racial composition of the local population, would have the most harmful consequences for the outcome of the revolt throughout Russia as a whole.’ The Bolshevik Central Committee and all its branches were directed to make known to workers all over Russia the success of the revolutionary movement in the Caucasus, and prepare if necessary to lend armed support to the insurgents.

The Georgian Church Militant

While the Socialists sought to regenerate Georgia through the application of Marxist principles and the intensification of the class struggle, the Georgian Church, after a century of enforced quiescence, also sought to play an active part in the national movement. It will be recalled that the Georgian Church, whose freedom had been guaranteed by Russia by solemn treaty, had been liquidated in 1811 and absorbed by the St. Petersburg Synod. The Georgian priests and bishops were now emboldened to put forward demands for autocephaly within the Greek Orthodox Communion, as they had enjoyed previously for well over a thousand years, and the election of a Patriarch by the Georgian people. In May 1905, a meeting of Georgian priests and bishops was convened inTbilisi to discuss this important question. At the instance of the chief Russian bishop in Georgia, troops and police invaded the premises, forcibly broke up the meeting, and beat and maltreated the assembled clergy. This unseemly incident united pious believers with revolutionary unbelievers in a resolve to cast off Muscovite domination at the first opportunity.

Throughout that summer, the revolutionary movement gathered momentum almost everywhere in Russia. The crushing annihilation of the Baltic fleet at Tsushima on 27-28 May provoked fresh demands for an end to the unpopular RussoJapanese war. At Odessa, mutineers seized the battleship Potemkin and defied the Black Sea fleet, while on shore there occurred the notorious massacre of the Odessa Steps.

In Georgia, the agrarian conflict spread from Western Georgia into the district around Tbilisi. In one conflict with army units, forty-eight peasants were killed. The viceroy, Vorontsov-Dashkov, arrived in Tbilisi on 18 May 1905, and found the situation even worse than he had expected. Many officials joined with local Russian residents in supporting the ultra-patriotic, monarchist organization known as the Russian Patriotic League and run by the priests S. Gorodtsev and I. Vostorgov. This society was a branch of the notorious ‘ Union of the Russian People’. Through its Black-Hundred bands of hooligans and strong-arm gangs it organized pogroms against Jews and other racial minorities both in Russia and in the Caucasus. The Ultras also sought to stir up the fanatical Muslim Turks and Tatars of Transcaucasia against the Christian Armenians, whom many Russian officials suspected of subversive leanings. Massacres of Armenians were in fact connived at by some of the local governors, notably by Prince Nakashidze, a Georgian aristocrat who was Governor of Baku, the oil city on the Caspian. In May, Nakashidze was assassinated by Armenian nationalists. In Tbilisi, the BlackHundred bands held counter-revolutionary demonstrations in the streets and assaulted Georgian workers and their families.

Heightened tension led to yet another general strike which broke out in Tbilisi on 20 June 1905, and lasted until the end of the month. The strike was again of a largely political nature and was directed by the local Social-Democratic Committee. The city remained without lighting, running water, regular food supplies, and public transport. The strike spread like lightning to the other main Georgian cities. On 27 June, the city and province of Tbilisi were placed under martial law.

From Kutaisi in Western Georgia, the head of the Secret Police reported that the revolutionary movement resembled

‘a huge cauldron filled with water and hermetically sealed and suspended above an enormous furnace. Beyond a doubt, when the sides of the cauldron can no longer withstand the pressure of the steam which is formed by the heating of the water and has no other outlet, then they will burst into splinters and fly in all directions as a result of the force of the blast.’

Massacre at Tbilisi Town Hall

The viceroy was inclined to try lowering the political temperature by a few timely concessions to the political and social aspirations of the local peoples. Many of his subordinates, on the other hand, were resolved to do a little blood-letting on their own account. For this, events soon presented them with an excellent opportunity. In August 1905, Tsar Nicholas issued a manifesto drafted by his minister, Court Chamberlain Bulygin, in which he promised to convoke a State Council or Duma. This was to be nothing more than a consultative assembly, and the franchise was limited to the middle and upper classes and to the supposedly monarchist peasantry. All parties of the opposition, from the Liberals to the Bolsheviks, condemned the edict as half-hearted and inadequate. On 29 August the Tbilisi Social-Democratic organization arranged a public meeting in the Town Hall to discuss the Bulygin project and other burning questions of the day. The police, who had received advance notice of the assembly, barred the entrances to the building. However, the organizers forced their way in and the meeting began in the presence of an audience of some 2,000, including many ordinary citizens who had come from sheer curiosity. A police officer entered the hall and ordered the meeting to disperse, but was greeted with shouts of derision. Hearing of what was going on, the acting governor of Tbilisi, General Yatskevich, hastened to the scene with several hundred Cossacks and infantry, whom he posted strategically at the exits. Shouts and hoots greeted a renewed order to disperse. Thereupon, Cossacks opened fire on the assembly through the windows, while others invaded the hall and shot down the audience from the platform. One shot killed the orator at his tribune. The mob fled from the building and were shot down indiscriminately or felled with rifle butts and sabres. A woman doctor who happened to be present was wounded, but in spite of her injuries was bandaging other casualties with strips of her own clothing; a Cossack came up and brained her with his rifle butt. Some victims were cornered in the narrow corridors and hacked to death; others were pursued into the streets and shot or cut down on the public highways. About sixty persons were killed and several hundred wounded. The relatives of the dead were refused permission to remove the bodies, which were flung into a common grave.

Journalists and other observers who visited the scene immediately after the massacre have left accounts of the shattered furniture and chandeliers, the huge pool of blood on the floor of the auditorium, and other unmistakable signs of the extreme violence used to break up the gathering. Protest meetings and strikes were held throughout Georgia. Thirty-two members of the Tbilisi Town Council resigned in disgust at the excesses committed by the Cossacks and the desecration of their hall.

‘At the present moment,’ they wrote, ‘when we are witnessing the birth of new forms of government and the working out of fundamental problems, freedom of assembly and of speech, as well as personal security, are elementary and normal conditions without which it is impossible to bring about any measures of reform, or find any way out of the present intolerable situation. Every attempt by the representatives of the people to gather together and discuss the burning questions of the day is met with whips and bullets. All the attempts of the Tbilisi Town Council to protect the local population from every form of arbitrary act have resulted in failure. With increasing frequency, any of our enactments which have exceeded the limits of minor domestic management have been forthwith annulled and prevented from being carried into effect. At present, the public is even excluded from our deliberations; the newspapers have already been long deprived of the possibility of publishing a major part of the councillors’ speeches, especially if these speeches touch on any but the most trivial issues. As a crowning outrage, the public, which peacefully and trustfully attended what it understood to be a meeting of the Town Council, has been shot down and hacked to pieces. . . . The walls of the Town Hall are crimsoned with gore and riddled with bullets, on the floor he pools of blood and traces of the savage and inhuman vengeance meted out to a peaceful crowd. Can we be expected to busy ourselves in docile fashion with the paving and lighting of the city streets when unarmed people are murdered simply because they collected for a peaceful debate? Deprived of the ability to hold our sessions in public and make the population aware of our indignation at the atrocity committed by the government and the cossacks, and considering therefore that our work has been thereby rendered ineffectual, especially within the walls of this building in which so much innocent blood has been shed, we, representatives of the Council, resigning the title of Councillor, renounce all further municipal activity, until the population is granted the elementary conditions of civilized society and until the possibility of a repetition of those bloody events which occurred on 29 August has been eliminated. Among these urgent measures, the most pressing include: the lifting of martial law and the state of emergency, freedom of assembly and the press, security of the person, and the institution of a strict enquiry into, and the committal for trial of the persons responsible for the carnage of 29 August.’

On 1 September, the Chief of Police in the Caucasus, MajorGeneral Shirinkin, telegraphed the Ministry of the Interior in St. Petersburg:

‘General strike of Tbilisi workers began this morning as protest against events of 29 August in the Town Hall. All shops closed, tramway ceased functioning. Intensified movement of youths and workers in the streets, some wearing mourning. Anticipate strike of railway workers and clerks, some of whom already out. Two sets of printed proclamations of the “Tbilisi Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party” have appeared; one set urges an organized uprising as a result of the occurrence of 29 August; the other calls for the exposure of Mayor Vermyshev and the entire body of city councillors to public ignominy and boycott, on the ground that the bloodshed on 29 August took place as a result of collusion between the Town Council and the Governor-General. Almost the entire council as well as the Mayor have resigned. The situation is tense. Suitable measures have been taken.’ 79

General Yatskevich, who had directed the killing in person, was transferred to another responsible post. On the fortieth day after the tragedy, when the Panikhida or Requiem for the victims was held, nine bombs burst near the Cossack barracks. The Cossacks went berserk and shot down all passers-by, including the Chief Pastor of the German Lutheran colonies in the Caucasus. Criminal elements posing as revolutionaries took advantage of the prevailing chaos to intensify their murderous activities. Prince Amilakhori, a prominent landowner, was shot dead in a Tbilisi tramcar by unidentified assassins.

On 23 August/5 September 1905, the Russian plenipotentiary Witte signed the Treaty of Portsmouth, whereby peace was concluded with Japan on terms highly unfavourable to Russia. These terms were dictated not only by the rout sustained by Russia’s naval and military forces, but also by the Tsar’s urgent need to free his hands of foreign commitments and use his standing army to pacify the huge areas of Russia where his writ had ceased to run. As Stalin justly remarked:

‘There was a time when the régime refrained from shedding blood inside the country. At that time it was waging war against the “external enemy” and it needed “internal tranquillity”. That is why it showed a certain amount of “leniency” towards the “internal enemy” and looked “between its fingers” at the movement which was flaring up. Now times are different. Frightened at the spectre of revolution, the Tsarist government hastened to conclude peace with the “external enemy”, with Japan, in order to muster its forces and “thoroughly” settle accounts with the “internal enemy”. And thus reaction has set in. . . .’ 80

The force of the first Russian revolution was still far from spent. The feeble concessions granted in the Bulygin project simply whetted the appetite of the nation. Seeing that the Tsar still wavered, the railwaymen went on strike at the beginning of October. Soon factories everywhere had closed down, the postal and telegraph services ceased to function, government and business offices were shut, even the primary school children stayed at home. Communications between St. Petersburg and the provinces were interrupted and the Tsar was isolated at his country palace at Peterhof. On 14/27 October the socialist parties set up a Soviet or Council of workers’ delegates in St. Petersburg, which elected Trotsky as its vice-chairman and for a short time wielded effective power in the capital. The Soviets threatened to wreck any factory which did not close down of its own accord. The professional men, liberals and middleclass progressives banded themselves together in a new party called the Constitutional Democrats, commonly abridged into ‘Cadets’, led by Paul Milyukov.

Witte and the Duma

Count Witte saw that the only means of avoiding the overthrow of the monarchy was to rally the middle classes to the throne by conceding at least the shadow of a modern parliamentary system. On 17/30 October 1905, Nicholas was prevailed upon to issue a new manifesto, guaranteeing ‘genuine’ inviolability of person, freedom of faith, speech, assembly and association. No law was to be enacted without the consent of the new national assembly or Duma. It was noticeable that the word ‘constitution’ was not mentioned, and that Nicholas reserved to himself the title of Autocrat.

‘By providing the bourgeoisie with the semblance of participation in the government of the country, deceiving the people by promises and by liberties of which there was nothing to guarantee the maintenance, the manifesto was designed to split the revolutionary forces, to set a barrier between the liberal opposition and the revolutionary masses of the nation, and to distract the workers and peasants from the only correct outcome of the crisis–namely a revolutionary uprising, towards which the Bolshevik party was urging the people on.’ 81

The Cadets, however, foolishly refused to accept portfolios in Witte’s ministry, thus playing into the hands of the extremists of both Right and Left.

Whereas the Bolsheviks denounced the Tsar’s manifesto as a sham and declared a boycott of the Duma, the Mensheviks and other moderate socialists were inclined at first to think that their immediate aims were attained. When the proclamation of 17/30 October was read in Tbilisi, Zhordania, Noe Ramishvili and other leaders of the Georgian Mensheviks addressed meetings and triumphantly announced: ‘Henceforth there is no autocracy. Autocracy is dead. Russia is entering the ranks of the constitutional monarchies.’ The workers, they believed, should renounce terrorism and lay down their arms. The Georgian Bolsheviks, on the other hand, led by Stalin and his associates, declared that the workers should be content with nothing short of the overthrow of the Russian monarchy and the setting up of a popular Constituent Assembly.

‘The proletariat will not demand petty concessions from the government, it will not call upon it to rescind martial law and flogging in several towns and villages–the proletariat will not sink to such trifles. . . . It presents only one demand to the Tsarist autocracy: Down with it! Death to it! . . . Only on the bones of the oppressors can the people’s freedom be erected, only with the blood of the oppressors can the soil be fertilized for the autocracy of the people! Only when the armed people come out headed by the proletariat and raise the banner of general insurrection can the Tsarist government, which rests on bayonets, be overthrown.” 82

Many workers’ meetings in Georgia adopted the Bolshevik line, and resolutions were passed calling for an intensification of the death struggle against the régime.

Russia’s ruling classes, and such diehard elements as the officials, police, priests, and Cossacks, were furious at what they regarded as the Tsar’s weakness in face of the revolutionary menace. With police connivance, Black-Hundred bands of the Society of Patriots run by the priests Gorodtsev and Vostorgov launched a wave of pogroms against Jews all over the country, including Odessa, Rostov and other large towns. In Georgia, the local organization of the league held a monarchist demonstration on theGolovinsky (now Rustaveli) Avenue, after which they invaded the Tbilisi Boys’ Secondary School and beat up some of the pupils. On the following day, 22 October 1905, the ‘Russian Patriots’ gathered in much increased strength. Holding aloft the Tsar’s portrait, headed by a detachment of dragoons, and escorted by Cossacks, they once more paraded up the Golovinsky Avenue, and again burst into the Boys’ Secondary School, where they tried to bully the pupils into singing Russian patriotic anthems. The students refused and were savagely set upon. The soldiery joined in and the school buildings were soon riddled with bullets. The ‘Patriots’ also attacked nearby houses, clubs and newspaper offices. Similar incidents occurred all over Tbilisi. About forty people lost their lives, including schoolboys, students and teachers. A day of mourning was declared for the fallen; all shops were closed and tram drivers and even policemen stayed at home.

The following month witnessed further chaos and lawlessness in the capital of Caucasia. Internecine fighting and slaughter had been going on for months in Baku and other parts of Transcaucasia inhabited jointly by Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijani Turks. Until the autumn, these conflicts had been mainly confined to the present-day Soviet Azerbaijan and Armenia. Towards the end of November, inter-communal strife spread to Tbilisi itself, where large Armenian and Azerbaijani communities also lived side by side. The Caucasian Social-Democratic organizations, which stood by the principle of the international solidarity of the working class and the peasantry, sent 20,000 of their men carrying white flags to pacify the rioters. The Tbilisi police chief, at his wits’ end, appealed to local political parties of every shade to co-operate with the Russian authorities in maintaining order. The viceroy, who had completely lost his head, agreed to issue five hundred rifles to a People’s Militia directed by the Georgian Social-Democrats, on the understanding that the weapons would be returned at the conclusion of the emergency. Led by Isidore Ramishvili, the Georgian Mensheviks conscientiously fulfilled their part of the bargain, several of their number being killed while trying to restrain the Azerbaijan Turkish mobs. The Russian colonists were furious at what they regarded as a treasonable alliance between CountVorontsov-Dashkov and these local socialists. The league of ‘Russian Patriots’held a protest meeting, called on the Viceroy to withdraw the rifles from the Social-Democrats without delay, and sent Cossacks into the working-class quarters of Tbilisi to retrieve them by force.

No less anarchic was the situation in Western Georgia. In an effort to appease the local population, the viceroy had appointed as Governor of Kutaisi V. A. Staroselsky, an agricultural expert of liberal views. Staroselsky was held in the highest esteem by the Georgians, with whose national aspirations he was in sympathy. When he had occasion to go to Tbilisi on official business, the local revolutionary committee would escort him to the station, put down the red carpet, and see him off with cheers and flag-waving.Staroselsky recommended that martial law should be lifted from Western Georgia, and extensive concessions made to the local population. He was constantly at odds with Russian military commanders like the ferocious General Alikhanov, whose troops wereharried by Georgian guerillas and were panting to go into action. As Vorontsov-Dashkov wrote of Staroselsky in a subsequent report:

‘He exerted influence only in those cases when it suited the revolutionary organizations, and was so trusting that when the insurgent bands started forcibly removing weapons from members of government units who had been issued with them for their official duties, he failed to perceive that this was in open preparation for an armed uprising in the event of a victory of the proletariat in metropolitan Russia, on which the revolutionaries counted. His entire activity, or rather inactivity, merely succeeded in arousing against him all peace-loving elements of society, who as a result of his attitude even finished by numbering him among the revolutionaries.’ 83

In November 1905, the Cossacks took the law into their own hands. At Kutaisi, Batumi and Akhal-Senaki they broke out of their barracks, terrorized the local inhabitants and massacred a number of them. Fighting was heavy in Batumi, where barricades were erected in the streets and many lives were lost. Staroselsky’s life was made so intolerable that he was eventually driven to ask the viceroy for protection not against the Georgian insurgents, but against his own outraged Russian compatriots.

During November and December 1905, the fate of the Russian administration in Transcaucasia hung in the balance. On 10/23 December, General Shirinkin, head of the Caucasian police department, reported to St. Petersburg that the posts and telegraphs had ceased to function; the law courts were paralysed; the newspapers were full of inflammatory appeals to the population. Azerbaijani-Armenian clashes continued around Erivan and Elizavetpol (the modern Kirovabad), though Baku was relatively quiet. The Military Governor of Batumi had threatened to shell the town, which had temporarily quelled the rebels.

‘A state of emergency prevails in the Kutaisi province; apart from Governor Staroselsky, no officials are being obeyed. The insurgents have disarmed the gendarmes, seized control of the western sector of the railway line and are themselves selling tickets and maintaining order. On his visit to Tbilisi, the governor, who himself adheres to the revolutionary organization, reported that during the clash between the local people and the cossacks, the Procurator of the local court helped to erect barricades in the streets. I am getting no reports from Kutaisi. The gendarmes have been withdrawn from the firing line and concentrated in Tbilisi. Couriers sent out with reports are searched by revolutionaries and their papers seized; the situation there is quite beyond control. The army units are undoubtedly reliable, but so limited in number that no active operations can be undertaken. . . . The Viceroy has had a nervous breakdown but his condition is not yet hopeless. The Count is attending to reports of major importance but is very weak. I will send details by post or, if that is not possible, by messenger.’ 84

The Tsar regains the upper hand

Throughout Russia the political parties had emerged from the underground. Socialist papers were published and sold openly. While Litvinov and Krassin in St. Petersburg edited Novaya Zhizn (The New Life), and Trotsky published his brilliant Nachalo (The Start), down in Tbilisi Stalin and his Armenian fellow-Bolshevik Shaumian brought out a Bolshevik daily with the more prosaic title, The Caucasian Workers’ News-sheet. These halcyon days were short-lived. Now that the war with Japan was at an end and troops were returning from the Far East in their thousands, the Tsar’s government set seriously to work to tame the rebels. At the end of November, the minister Witte ordered the arrest of the chairman of the St. Petersburg Soviet. Martial law was declared in the capital. This touched off a fresh wave of strikes. On 3/16 December, the government arrested the bulk of the Soviet–one hundred and ninety members. Defeated in St. Petersburg, the revolutionaries transferred their headquarters to Moscow. ThroughoutmidDecember, battles raged between the insurgents and government troops, who were finally victorious. Other armed conflicts occurred in Sormovo, Perm, the Donbass, at Novorossiysk, Krasnoyarsk, Kiev, Ekaterinoslav, Samara, Rostov, and in the Baltic provinces. In a desperate move to conciliate public opinion, Witte issued a fresh decree, making the Duma franchise virtually universal. Gradually the government regained the ascendency. People became tired of anarchy and hardship, and hopeful of political evolution towards parliamentary democracy. The general weariness, coinciding with the army’s return from Manchuria, enabled the régime to embark very soon on a movement of reprisal and counterrevolutionary terror.

The Cossacks take over

In solidarity with their comrades in Moscow, the Tbilisi Bolsheviks called a general strike for 12/25 December 1905. The strikers seized the railway station and the head offices of the railway administration. The Social-Democratic committee emulated the St. Petersburg Soviet by forming a regular system of municipal administration and taking over the functions of the paralysed Town Council. However, the revolutionaries succeeded only in gaining control of the working-class quarters of Nadzaladevi and Didube, the greater part of Tbilisi remaining in the hands of the Russian authorities. On 14/27 December, the viceroy declared a state of emergency in the Georgian capital. Within less than a week, the forces of counter-revolution gained the upper hand. Cossacks with armed volunteers of the Russian Patriotic League invaded the Nadzaladevi district and overwhelmed the insurgents there. On 23 December 1905/ 5 January 1906, a force of Cossacks and gendarmes advanced on the last revolutionary stronghold of Tbilisi, theDidube suburb. The workers fired on the attackers from roofs, windows and cellars. Home-made bombs were thrown, with deadly though indiscriminate effect. The Cossacks suffered heavy losses. The Viceroy called up regular troops and bombarded the area with field guns, until the entire city was brought under control.

The Bolsheviks saw that the day was lost. At a meeting of workers’ representatives in Tbilisi, Stalin, Shaumian and the other local leaders recommended that the Tbilisi SocialDemocratic organization should be wound up, its members go underground, and await better days before attempting to renew the death struggle against Tsarism. The workers, they said, should boycott the elections to the bourgeois Duma. The Menshevik delegates present strongly opposed this counsel of despair. They stood for continuance of the Georgian people’s campaign against Tsarist absolutism, by every means, fair or foul, legal or illegal, revolutionary or parliamentary. Denouncing the ‘opportunism’ of the Mensheviks, Stalin and his associates were defeated in the debate and left Georgia in disgust to carry on their revolutionary plotting in the more congenial atmosphere of the Baku oil-wells.

Headed by Zhordania, Chkheidze, Isidore and Noe Ramishvili and others, the Mensheviks were left in a dominant position in the Georgian political field. They planned to make the most of the forthcoming convention of the Russian Duma, send to St. Petersburgtheir best orators, and proclaim Georgia’s cause from the housetops, to the confusion of their country’s oppressors. In this, they were at one with the great Lenin himself. At the Tammerfors conference of the Russian SocialDemocratic Party held in 1905, the Master argued against the barren tactics of boycotting the Duma: he saw no reason why revolution should not be furthered from the parliamentary tribune. Revolution, said Lenin, could be preached even from a dungheap or a pigsty. Why not preach it in the ‘pigsty’ of the Tsarist Duma? 85 On this occasion, Lenin was outvoted by the militant extremists–Stalin among them–who refused to aim for any objective short of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and would have nothing to do with effete middle-class parliamentary democracy.

This does not imply that the Georgian Mensheviks were content from now on with a passive or submissive role. Nor, when occasion demanded, did they renounce the weapon of terrorism. As Zhordania writes in his memoirs: ‘We abandoned terrorism as a method of overthrowing autocracy, in the fashion conceived by the Narodniks, but did not reject it as a weapon for self-preservation and for the sowing of panic among the political authorities.’ In January 1906, the Tbilisi Social-Democrats decided to eliminate the chief of the Caucasian army’s general staff, General Gryaznov, who had taken a leading part in bombarding the workers’ suburb. The execution of the plot was entrusted to ‘Silva’–the hardened conspirator Sylvester Jibladze–who enlisted the services of an expert bomb-thrower named Arsena Jorjiashvili. Silva stationed Arsena and his assistant in front of General Gryaznov’s residence, while himself taking up a position on the Golovinsky Avenue whence he could signal the general’s approach to his alert accomplices. At length Gryaznov hove into view, riding home in an open carriage. But Silva remained motionless and gave no signal. Arsena, whose bomb was all ready for hurling, was in a fever of amazement and irritation, until he, like Silva, caught sight of a girl riding by the general’s side. In those days, no Georgian gentleman would willingly harm a woman, so the general was spared for that day. But the terrorists, who had made a mental note of his face and appearance, resolved that he would get no second chance. The next day they stationed themselves at the same spot. But no general appeared. In despair, Silva walked into Zhordania’s house nearby and threw himself down in a chair. ‘We have missed our chance, it was all my fault!’ Before he had finished the sentence, a tremendous roar was heard outside. Silva leapt up and rushed into the road shouting: ‘I am lost, they have done it without me!’ Gryaznov lay dead, and Arsena Jorjiashvili had been seized by the general’s escort. Tried and condemned to death, he died like a man, without saying a word that might compromise Silva or his other accomplices.

Blood and fire in Georgia

Such isolated successes were unavailing in face of the military might which Russia was now free to deploy against the Georgian insurgents. Resistance in and around Tbilisi crumpled rapidly. It remained to subdue the more formidable uprising in Western Georgia which, as the authorities admitted, had taken on the aspect not so much of anarchy as of an independent state made up of self-governing communes which recognized no authority but that of the revolutionary committees. ‘The events taking place in the Kutaisi province are so amazing when witnessed against the general background of the political structure of the Empire that foreigners are making special trips to the Caucasus with the aim of observing on the spot this new manifestation of Russian political organization.’ 86 Recovering at length from his nervous breakdown, VorontsovDashkov pulled himself together sufficiently to dismissStaroselsky, the over-indulgent Governor of Kutaisi, who was arrested and discharged with ignominy from the imperial service. In January 1906, the ruthless General AlikhanovAvarsky was appointed Military Governor of Western Georgia, with virtually unlimited power. The insurgents retaliated by blocking a tunnel on the main railway line, so that reinforcements from Tbilisi were held up. Pitched battles between Georgian guerillas and Russian troops and Cossacks occurred in many places. Even where the Cossacks met no resistance, they amused themselves by burning down shops and houses, slaughtering a few inhabitants and raping any women who took their fancy. About 13,000 persons were arrested in various parts of Georgia, many of whom were deported toSiberia. The natives were taught a lesson they would not forget.

The Friends of Georgia Committee

The excesses of the Russian troops and Cossacks in Georgia were extensively reported in Russian and foreign newspapers, and brought considerable odium on the régime. In England, Oliver Wardrop and his sister Marjory, both of them pioneer scholars of Georgian and authors of many contributions to Georgian studies, formed a Georgian Relief Committee, later renamed the Friends of Georgia Committee. The outrages committed against women resulted in the launching of an ‘Appeal from the Women of Georgia’ directed to public opinion all over the world, and Mrs. N. F. Dryhurst and others constituted a ‘ Hampstead Committee formed in response to the Georgian Women’s Appeal’. The text of this appeal, together with a protest signed by many representatives of the women of England, appeared in The Women’s Tribune of 6 July 1906. Vigorous representations were made to the government atSt. Petersburg by various British humanitarians, but without any visible result. It seemed that the sacrifices made by the Georgian people during the revolution of 1905 were all in vain. In retrospect, however, it is clear that the débâcle of the Russo-Japanese War and the internal upheavals of that year of crisis caused irreparable damage to the absolutist system. The wounded leviathan, it is true, had plenty of fight left in it. But the events of 1905 showed up the weakness of the régime and made both the Russian masses and the minority peoples of the empire aware of their potential strength. Tsardom had been reprieved. But sooner or later, the struggle would be resumed and autocracy would not be given another chance.


The Georgians in the Duma–The Viborg Declaration–Social-Democrats and Anarchists–Stolypin and the Second Duma–Murder of Ilia Chavehavadze–The Georgian Church in crisis–Plight of the Georgian peasantry–Industrial unrest—War declared, 1914–Mussolini and the Georgian Socialists—The Georgian Legion–Caucasian battlefields–The Turks on the defensive–Breakdown of Tsarist Russia–Literature, art and intellectual life up to 1917

The Georgians in the Duma

THE EVENTS of 1905 showed that the absolutist régime of Nicholas II had lost the confidence of large sections of the Russian nation and its subject peoples. By agreeing to convoke the Duma, the Tsar staved off disaster in the nick of time. Once the emergency was past, the autocrat and his entourage did their best to annul the concessions which had been wrested from them. The promised admission of the nation to participation in government was reduced to a farce. The few able men who might have steered Russia towards modern constitutional statehood–notably Witte and Stolypin–were betrayed or undermined by palace intrigue. The course of policy was influenced disproportionately by grand dukes, second-rate courtiers and disreputable adventurers like Rasputin. In spite of undeniable economic progress during the few years which preceded the outbreak of World War I, the régime was living on borrowed time.

The year 1906 was marked on the one hand by reprisals against the demoralized remnants of the revolutionary movement, on the other, by preparations for the convocation of the First Duma. Count Witte had in a moment of desperation extended the franchise to virtually all classes and conditions of the people. This would normally have been expected to produce increased representation for the extreme left-wing parties. However, the Russian Social-Democrats decided to boycott the Duma. In metropolitan Russia, therefore, the Constitutional Democrats or Cadets under P. N. Milyukov had the upper hand, and only a handful of Russian socialist delegates were returned, under a variety of party tickets.

The one Social-Democratic regional party to ignore the boycott and enter wholeheartedly into the election campaign was that ofGeorgia, where the native Mensheviks had ousted Lenin’s local henchmen from control of the party machine. In spite of intimidation and obstruction by the Russian authorities, the Georgian Social-Democratic candidates were returned almost everywhere with massive majorities. In the city of Tbilisi, 8,078 electoral votes were cast for the Social-Democrats, against 4,173 for all other parties combined. Consequently, 72 out of the 80 members of the Tbilisi electoral college were Social-Democrats, and they in their turn elected Noe Zhordania to represent them in the Duma. In the town of Batumi, the Social-Democrats secured 2,477 votes, against 1,031 for all other parties, while in Kutaisi city, the SocialDemocrats got 983 votes against 639 for all others together. All the peasant electors of Kutaisi province turned out to be Social-Democrats, with the result that the provincial assembly returned as its three nominees three Social-Democrats-Isidore Ramishvili, Dr. Gomarteli and the advocate Japaridze.

When the First Duma assembled on 27 April/10 May 1906 at the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg, the well-organized Georgian Social-Democratic faction under Zhordania’s leadership immediately assumed a dominant role in the left-wing opposition. In the Upper House of the Duma, known as the Council of State, a prominent part was played by the famous writer and public figure Prince Ilia Chavchavadze, who had been elected by the Georgian gentry and aristocracy. On his arrival at the Russian capital, Ilia declared that he intended to be not a defender of sectional interests, but a champion of the Georgian national cause. ‘The life of our people,’ he told the newspaper reporters, ‘has been turned into a hell. . . . I shall consistently endeavour while I am here to give a frank, complete and true picture of the misery of our country.’ This promise he fulfilled on every possible occasion, denouncing what he called ‘the loathsome principles of a narrow-minded, bureaucratic régime, which believes not that officials and government departments exist for the people’s sake, but rather that the people exist for the sake of the government departments’. In spite of political differences, Ilia kept in touch with the Georgian deputies in the main Duma, and joined them in giving voice to strong criticism of the Tsarist administration in Georgia.

The Viborg Declaration

The radical temper of the First Duma brought it into constant conflict with the Tsar’s government, at the head of which the vigorous Count Witte had been succeeded by the aged Goremykin, a quavering but wily veteran of political manoeuvre. Goremykin declared to the Duma that most of its projected reforms were ‘inadmissible’, whereupon the Duma passed a unanimous vote of censure on the ministers. In a Western democracy, the government would have fallen. Since the Russian Duma’s rights did not extend to ousting the Tsar’s ministers, a deadlock ensued, which the Duma tried to solve by an appeal to the country. The Tsar retaliated by dissolving the Duma on 8/21 July 1906.

That night, some two hundred members of the Duma, comprising virtually all the Cadet and Labour members, proceeded over the border into the autonomous Grand-Duchy of Finland and assembled at the town of Viborg. With the active participation of Zhordania, the Georgian leader of the Menshevik faction, the famous Viborg Declaration was drawn up, in which the country was urged to embark on a campaign of passive resistance to the government, and refuse to pay taxes, or send recruits to the army, until the Tsar reconvened the Duma. Nothing had been done to organize any response from the nation as a whole, and the appeal fell flat. The signatories of the Declaration were later proscribed by the régime, forbidden to stand for election to subsequent Dumas, and sentenced when caught to terms of imprisonment. Zhordania and Isidore Ramishvili, who were outstanding among the Georgian Social-Democrats, had to go into hiding and were debarred from active participation in public life.

Social-Democrats and Anarchists

Another interesting political development of the year 1906 was a determined but short-lived attempt by Kropotkinite Anarchists to win control of the revolutionary movement in Georgia. From 25 March to 2 July 1906, there appeared at Tbilisi a ‘legal Anarchist’ weekly called NobatiThe Tocsin), edited and in large part written by M. G. (Mikhako) Tsereteli (b. 1878), who used the pseudonym Bâton. Among the journal’s contributors were Prince Kropotkin himself, Kamando Gogelia, and the veteran Georgian revolutionary Varlam Cherkesov (Cherkezishvili). The Georgian Anarchists launched a vigorous critique of Marxism and the ideological basis of SocialDemocracy; they declared their opposition to state socialism and government monopoly of the means of production. ‘The State and the People,’ they wrote, ‘are two perpetual and untiring foes.’ 87 They assailed the notion of dictatorship of the proletariat. In fact, they would have nothing to do with dictatorship of any political colour, identifying it with slavery. They preached renunciation of private property, and the ideals of ‘voluntary co-operation’ in both urban industry and rural life. In one of the last numbers of the paper, Mikhako Tsereteli condemned the Marxists in strong terms, saying:

‘For them, the social revolution must be brought about by the agency of the State, within the frontiers of the State and with the aid of the State; but for us, it must be brought about outside the State, in opposition to the State, with the aid of completely new social forces and principles. We shall see which doctrine is the truer and the more effectual.’ 88

The Georgian Anarchists lacked a broadly based popular organization, and could not compete with the dominant SocialDemocrats. Before the Kropotkinite movement faded out, however, leading Georgian Marxists spent much energy in combating the Anarchist ideology, which they considered especially pernicious. Stalin himself wrote at the time:

‘Marxism and Anarchism are built up on entirely different principles, in spite of the fact that both come into the arena of the struggle under the flag of Socialism. The cornerstone of Anarchism is the individual, whose emancipation, according to its tenets, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the masses, the collective body. According to the tenets of Anarchism the emancipation of the masses is impossible until the individual is emancipated. Accordingly its slogan is: “Everything for the individual.” The cornerstone of Marxism, however, is the masses, whose emancipation, according to the Marxist view, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the individual. That is to say, according to the tenets of Marxism, the emancipation of the individual is impossible until the masses are emancipated. Accordingly, its slogan is: “Everything for the masses.”‘ 89

Stolypin and the Second Duma

Meanwhile, preparations were going on for the convocation of the Second Duma. The venerable Goremykin was succeeded as Prime Minister by the vigorous and ruthless Peter Stolypin. The new premier set himself on the one hand to crush revolution throughout the Russian Empire, and on the other, to carry through economic reforms which he regarded as overdue. Stolypin’s field courts-martial shot or strung up unruly peasants by the score. At the same time, he launched a determined attack on the archaic system of collective ownership of land by village communes, and did everything possible to favour the emergence of a class of yeoman farmer composed of ‘the sober and the strong’. Stolypin soon found himself between two fires. The Court considered his ideas too radical, while the Social-Democrats and Social-Revolutionaries belaboured Stolypin for encouraging the loathsome kulaks(in Russian, literally ‘fists’), as the wealthier peasant farmers were nicknamed.

Stolypin did everything possible to influence the Duma elections. Large categories of voters were arbitrarily struck off the register, while the police held up ballot papers, fixed impossible dates for polling, and did all they could to discourage unreliable elements like Jews and Socialists from voting. The result of this was the opposite from that intended by the régime. The exclusion of the liberals and radicals who had signed the Viborg Declaration simply brought about the election of downright revolutionaries, many of them former political prisoners. The Social-Democrats withdrew their boycott of the Duma, with the result that the Labour group in the Second Duma outnumbered the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) who had dominated the First. The Social-Democrats alone won fifty-four seats. In Georgia, this party was even more victorious in the elections to the Second Duma than in those for the First. The Tbilisi province returned Archil Japaridze, Katsiashvili, and Jugheli; Kutaisi province elected Irakli Tsereteli, Lomtatidze and Gerasime Makharadze; the Batumi district returned Konstantine Kandelaki, subsequently Minister of Finance in the Georgian Republic; the city of Tbilisi elected Zurabishvili (Zurabov).

The second Duma met in St. Petersburg on 20 February/5 March 1907. The new Georgian deputies worthily filled the places of their proscribed comrades of the First Duma. Irakli Tsereteli proved himself an accomplished orator and parliamentary tactician, and was elected leader of the Duma’s Social-Democratic faction, Russian and Georgian deputies alike acknowledging his leadership.

While the Second Duma was in session, the Fifth Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Party took place in London in May 1907. The Russian delegates were mainly Bolsheviks, but the Georgian representatives, headed by Noe Zhordania (under the pseudonym Castro), were solidly Menshevik. The only exception was Stalin who arrived, as he had done at the previous Congress, with forged credentials from a nonexistent Social-Democratic branch in southern Georgia. After some dispute, he was admitted to the Congress as an observer, but without vote. The Menshevik block vote of the Georgian delegation was a sore trial to Lenin and his followers, who had great difficulty in getting their resolutions carried. Zhordania relates in his memoirs that after one meeting, Lenin came up to him in the street and said:

‘Look here, Castro–Why don’t you Georgians cease meddling in Russia’s affairs? You don’t understand our people, their psychology, their ways and customs. If only you would leave us alone to sort out our affairs in our own way, we could soon get them straight. Just agree to accept autonomy for yourselves, and do what and how you like in Georgia. We shall not bother you so long as you do not bother us.’

Such a suggestion, coming from the leading champion of international working-class solidarity, surprised Zhordania greatly. 90 In 1921, when the Russian comrades felt themselves secure, they were to prove less eager to tolerate the independent ideas of their little brothers in Georgia.

Back in St. Petersburg, the Tsar’s government was finding the Second Duma as intractable as the First. Unable to silence the tribunes of the people, Stolypin staged a political coup. The Social-Democrats were accused of plotting against the régime, evidence of ‘armed conspiracy’ being fabricated by agents provocateurs. Stolypin demanded the exclusion of the Social-Democrats from the Duma and the surrender of twelve deputies to the police. The Duma refused, whereupon the government dissolved it in the early morning of 16 June 1907. All those Social-Democratic deputies who could be tracked down were arrested. Thirty-one of them were sentenced to four or five years’ exile or hard labour in Siberia. Two of the Georgian deputies, Archil Japaridze and Lomtatidze, died in prison, though their comrade Irakli Tsereteli survived to play an outstanding role in the events of 1917. An imperial manifesto was issued, decreeing sweeping changes in the electoral law. The lists of ‘electors’ whose duty it was to select the actual members of the Duma were so manipulated that the country gentry exercised complete predominance in rural areas. Central Asia was disfranchized entirely. The representation of Poland was reduced from thirty-six to fourteen seats. In other parts of the Empire where a non-Russian population was in the majority, similar measures were taken to secure the return of Cossacks or Russian colonists. The number of deputies allotted to Georgia was reduced to three.

While the First and Second Dumas were in session, General Alikhanov and his punitive expeditions reduced the Georgian countryside to some semblance of obedience, although strikes and sporadic unrest continued throughout 1906 and 1907. The Caucasian revolutionary organizations were forced underground. The Russians resumed their old campaign against Georgian middle-class nationalism and upper-class ‘separatism’. This campaign was not without its lighter side. Thus, in February 1907, the poet Akaki Tsereteli was arrested and conducted to the Metekhi Prison in Tbilisi for publishing a lampoon making fun of the governor, Rausch von Traubenberg. Within hours, news of the incident reached every corner of Georgia. A unanimous outcry arose from all classes of society. The next day, the viceroy was compelled to set the poet free.

Murder of Ilia Chavchavadze

Far more serious and tragic was the fate of Georgia’s other great man of letters, Ilia Chavchavadze. After his service in the Upper House of the first two Russian Dumas, Ilia returned to Georgia in the summer of 1907. On 28 August, he was waylaid and murdered by a gang of assassins close to his country home at Saguramo, near Mtskheta. His funeral was a national event. Huge crowds followed the cortège from Saguramo to Tbilisi. Akaki Tsereteli, a lifelong friend of Ilia, rose from a bed of sickness to pronounce a sincere and touching funeral oration in which he underlined Ilia’s inestimable contribution to the revival of the Georgian nation, and held him up as an example to all future generations. The Tsarist authorities hushed up the affair as much as they could. It was never established whether the motive for Ilia’s murder was robbery, political feud or police provocation. At the time, it was often held that the crime was the work of Georgian revolutionaries, whose methods Ilia had condemned. During World War II, some wretched old man is said to have confessed to being employed by the Russian gendarmerie chiefs to lead the attack on Ilia. A belated official investigation was conducted by the Soviet authorities and the blame laid at the door of the Tsarist administration. A handsome obelisk now marks the spot where Ilia fell.

Whatever the truth concerning Ilia’s murder, the summer of 1907 was marked by a revival of Bolshevik terrorism in the Caucasus. Lenin was determined not to let his organization fade away for lack of funds, and found banditry a useful adjunct to revolutionary campaigning. On 23 June 1907, there took place the famous raid on the Tbilisi State Bank, led by the resourceful Armenian Kamo (Ter-Petrossian). The Tbilisi adventure yielded a quarter of a million rubles, which were duly conveyed to Bolshevik headquarters inWestern Europe. The notes were in large denominations, and their numbers were circulated to banks all over the world. As a result, several leading Bolsheviks, including Litvinov, the future Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs, were arrested while trying to change the money. A great uproar ensued among the various Social-Democratic factions. Trotsky, then a Menshevik, joined with other rivals of Lenin in accusing the Master of reducing socialism to the level of brigandage and highway robbery. Many of Lenin’s critics later became Bolshevik Commissars, and forgot the scruples which they evinced in these early days. The Master’s real fault lay in his possessing greater realism and less cant than most of his disciples.

The Georgian Church in crisis

While the Russian police were busy protecting their banks and convoys from Bolshevik bandits, fresh trouble arose from a different quarter. The Georgian Church, which had long been brooding over its wrongs, became more and more vociferous in demanding restoration of its ancient free or ‘autocephalous’ status, of which it had been arbitrarily deprived by the Russian government in 1811. The Georgian bishops pointed out that under the Russian exarchs sent down from St. Petersburg to run Georgia’s ecclesiastical affairs, the Georgian Church had been robbed of some 140 million rubles’ worth of property and estates; ancient icons had been stripped of precious gems, sold to line the pockets of Russian governors and army commanders; unique Gospel manuscripts had been ripped from their jewelled bindings and left to decay; Church schools had been closed down, and the use of Georgian in the liturgy discouraged; twenty episcopal sees lay vacant and seven hundred and forty parishes were without pastors. The conference of Georgian clergy which met at Tbilisi in 1905 had been broken up by police and troops. Later, many leading spiritual leaders who protested against the dictates of the St. Petersburg Synod were subjected to disciplinary action and downright persecution. Bishop Kyrion was removed from his diocese, stripped of his episcopal title and deported to Russia, where he was shut up in a cell inTambov province. Another eminent churchman, Archimandrite Ambrosius, was banned from celebrating the liturgy and confined in the Troitsky Monastery at Ryazan.

Matters reached a head in 1908, when the Russian Exarch of Georgia, Archbishop Nikon, was murdered on 28 May at his residence in Tbilisi by unidentified assassins. Nikon was said to sympathize with the cause of the Georgian Church, and his murderers were alleged to be hooligans from the Russian extremist Black-Hundred gangs who feared that Nikon would intercede for the Georgian Church with the authorities in St. Petersburg. On the other hand, the chauvinists of the Russian Patriotic League, led by the fanatical Fathers I. Vostorgov and S. Gorodtsev, accused Georgian clerics of being behind the crime, and great bitterness was engendered on all sides.

These events aroused world-wide comment among churchmen of all denominations, who were virtually unanimous in championing the Georgians against their Russian persecutors. The British Bishop of Gibraltar intervened with the Russian Synod on behalf of theGeorgian Church. The Papacy, which had established a Roman Catholic bishopric at Tbilisi as early as 1329 and counted many Georgian Catholic converts, also lent support to the Georgians. In 1910, Father Michael Tamarati (Tamarashvili), a Georgian Catholic priest, brought out in Rome a detailed and well documented history of the Georgian Church, written in French, in which he showed how this important branch of Christendom, which neither Arabs, Mongols, Turks nor Persians could exterminate, had finally been subjugated and crushed by Russian fellow-Christians of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Russian Embassy in Rome bought up and destroyed as many copies of this important and revealing work as it could. The dispute dragged on indecisively for years, until the outbreak of World War I relegated it temporarily to the background.

The dissolution of the Second Duma in 1907 evoked a general mood of lassitude and gloom in Russian political circles. The elections to the Third Duma were rigged by agents of the government and produced a gratifying swing to the Right. This time,Georgia was permitted to return three deputies only. The nobility elected Prince Sharvashidze, while the popular vote returned Nikolai (Karlo) Chkheidze (d. 1926), the future leader of the Petrograd Soviet, and the young lawyer Evgeni Gegechkori ( 1882-1954), future Foreign Minister of the independent Georgian Republic. The witty and jovial Chkheidze soon became the main spokesman of the twenty Social-Democrats in the Third Duma. The polished but vain Gegechkori also made his mark, once inviting the Tsar’s ministers from the floor of the Duma to change the police spy stationed within the building ‘because he had got tired of the man’s face’. The Fourth Duma, which sat from 1912 until the Revolution of 1917, was of a similar complexion to the Third. Gegechkori was replaced by Akaki Chkhenkeli, another Menshevik who was head of the Transcaucasian government of 1918 and later Georgian Minister in Paris; Prince Sharvashidze was succeeded by Prince V. Gelovani, a member of the Georgian Federalist party, who perished on the Caucasian Front in 1915.

Plight of the Georgian peasantry

One of the few issues on which the Georgian Social-Democrats and the Russian Viceroy of the Caucasus were agreed was the need to alleviate the agrarian problem and relieve the depressed state of the Georgian peasantry. Particularly unfortunate was the lot of a category of peasant known as khizani, originally free migrant peasants who settled on a lord’s estates for a period and entered into share-cropping and other contractual relationships with the local squire. The liberation of the peasantry had beeneffected in 1864 without sufficient regard for the interests of the khizani, who were passed over in the general scramble for land. Unable to find enough work in Georgia’s nascent industry, the khizani together with the former domestic serf class were reduced in course of time to a pitiable condition. The situation of the remainder of the peasantry was, as has previously been noted, far from enviable. Lack of capital and of education prevented any improvement in farming techniques. Too often, the agricultural worker would be seen year after year turning the same shallow furrow in dry and stony ground with a primitive wooden hand-plough. Many were still vainly trying to pay off the redemption dues with which they had been saddled by the Russian government nearly half a century earlier, in consideration for the land which they or their fathers had acquired from their former feudal lords.

In 1912, after agitation by the Georgian deputies in the Duma and much discussion between Count VorontsovDashkov and the government at St. Petersburg, the residual redemption payments were at last written off. The status of ‘temporary obligation’, or semi-serfdom, in which peasants had remained pending full payment of these instalments, was formally abolished. This long overdue reform could not, however, solve the land hunger of the Georgian peasantry. So long as the Russian Crown, the grand dukes, various foreign concessionnaires, Russian and German colonists, together with the native aristocracy, clung to the lion’s share of the land, the grievances of the Georgian peasantry were bound to remain alive. It must be admitted that the estates cultivated by the more enterprising landowners and foreign colonists were precisely those which yielded the best crops and gave the best promise for the country’s future prosperity. It was difficult for any responsible government lightly to hand over well-run plantations, vineyards and arable land to an impoverished and backward peasantry whose methods of farming did not rise above bare subsistence level and provided no surplus for export or for the provisioning of urban centres. Such was the unresolved dilemma which faced Georgian society and the Russian administration until 1917, when revolution imposed its own radical solutions.

Industrial unrest

The period under review was also marked by renewed unrest in Georgian industry. A number of strikes and demonstrations took place in Georgia in 1912, in protest at the massacre of workers on the Lena goldfields in Siberia. In Georgian mining centres, justifiable agitation for better working conditions was rife. In 1913, strikes at Chiatura brought the output of manganese to a standstill for weeks at a time, and provoked armed intervention by the Russian authorities. The port workers at Poti and Batumi came out in sympathy. This massive demonstration of working-class solidarity forced the proprietors of the mines to make substantial concessions.

War declared, 1914

On 1 August 1914, Imperial Germany declared war on Russia. The people of the Caucasus, who realized that sooner or later Ottoman Turkey would become embroiled in the struggle, greeted the news with markedly divergent emotions. Russia’s Muslim subjects, exempt as they were from military service, remained passive, though many hoped for Russia’s defeat by the Central Powers. The Armenians on the other hand looked forward eagerly to the annihilation of the hated Turk and the establishment of an independent Greater Armenia carved out of the Ottoman Empire and Russian Transcaucasia. The Tsar and his government did everything possible to encourage the Armenians in their wishful thinking. In response to an appeal from the Armenian Catholicos-Patriarch, Nicholas II replied: ‘Tell your flock, Holy Father, that a most brilliant future awaits the Armenians.’ In the event, as we know, World War I turned out to be catastrophic for the Armenian people, whose fate became a disgrace to the conscience of theworld.

The reaction of the Georgians to the outbreak of war was mixed. As Christians, many shared the Armenians’ fear and loathing of the Turk and were happy to support the Russian war effort. Others, including extremists both on the nationalist wing and among the revolutionary groups, hoped for a Russian defeat at the hands of Germany and Austria, to be followed eventually by a new order for the peoples of the Tsarist empire.

Mussolini and the Georgian Socialists

The Georgian Menshevik leader Noe Zhordania was in Western Europe at the outbreak of war. Hastening back to Russia, he stopped at Milan where he had an interview with Benito Mussolini, then editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti and a militant foe of Austro-German imperialism. The two socialist leaders had a frank exchange of views on the likely outcome of the war and the correct policy for Social-Democrats to adopt towards it. Zhordania told Mussolini that most of his colleagues prayed for a repetition of the military débâcle which had precipitated the Russian revolution of 1905, and doubted whether the Tsarist régime, undermined by revolutionary agitation among the masses, the opposition of liberals in the Duma and the corruption and effeteness of the Court, could stand up to the might of the Kaiser and the Austrian emperor. Mussolini listened for a time and then burst out: ‘We shall not permit Germany to crush France!’ The Italian socialist made it clear to Zhordania that however much Germany might appear to the Tsar’s subjects in the guise of a liberator, many socialists of Western Europe could not reconcile themselves to the prospect of republican France and democratic Belgium and Britain being trampled underfoot by the Prussian jackboot.

Pondering on this paradox, Zhordania returned to Russia. He found the Social-Democrats, Bolsheviks and Mensheviks alike, strongly Germanophile in mood and quite uninterested in the fate of the Western democracies. Some Russian and Georgian socialists genuinely regarded Imperial Germany as more ‘progressive’ than France, pointing to the superior state of German industry, the excellent organization of the German Trade Union movement and the strength of the German SocialDemocratic party, compared with all of which France appeared a stagnant preserve of backward bourgeoisie. Zhordania, who had lived for some years in France and England, parted company on this issue with some of his Menshevik colleagues, notably Noe Ramishvili and Noe Khomeriki, and lively arguments in Georgian socialist circles continued for some time. The Russian Bolshevik party and its Georgian adherents adopted from the first a strongly anti-war line. Under Lenin’s direction, the small band of Georgian Bolsheviks carried on an active policy of propaganda and sabotage in the Caucasus. In 1915, a leading Georgian Bolshevik, Prokopi (Alesha) Japaridze ( 1880-1918), was arrested and exiled to Siberia. However, other Georgian Bolsheviks carried on the struggle, fomenting mutinies among the Russian troops on the Caucasus front and strikes on the railways and in the factories.

The Georgian Legion

Many Georgian émigrés and students in Western Europe also seized the chance to strike a blow against the Tsarist régime. In 1914, a Governing Committee of Independent Georgia was formed under the patronage of the German government, with branches in Austro-Hungary and in Turkey. The chairman of this committee was Petre Surguladze; other members included Prince Giorgi Machabeli, Mikhako Tsereteli (who had given up Kropotkinite Anarchism in favour of extreme Georgian nationalism), Leo and Giorgi Kereselidze, and the Muslim Georgian Kartsivadze (otherwise known as Meliton or Osman Bey). In 1915, a German Caucasus expedition was formed, incorporating a body of Georgian volunteers, some seven hundred strong, known as the Georgian Legion. The Legion’s first commander was Lieutenant Horst Schliephack, later succeeded by Count F. W. von der Schulenburg, a former German Vice-Consul at Tbilisi and an expert on Georgian affairs, who also acted as German liaison officer with the Turkish Third Army. In January 1916, a star-shaped badge, the Order of Queen Tamar, was introduced for issue to military men and civilians who distinguished themselves on behalf of the independence of Georgia. During the RussoTurkish campaign of 1916-17, the Georgian Legion was stationed in the mountains east of Tirebolu, on the banks of the Harshit river not far from the Black Sea. The headquarters of the Georgian Committee at that time were in Samsun, and later in Kerasunt. The legion was officially disbanded in April 1917, after relations between the German-backed Georgian Committee and the Turkish government had become strained. Earlier, Mikhako Tsereteli had been landed in Georgia from a German submarine with instructions to make contact with the leaders of the Georgian Social-Democratic movement and to foment unrest and rebellion within the country. A secret meeting between Mikhako Tsereteli and Noe Zhordania took place in Kutaisi, but Zhordania refused to have anything to do with a movement which he foresaw might have disastrous effects for the Georgian people.

Caucasian battlefields

Though secondary to the main battlefields on Russia’s western frontier, the Caucasus front played an important role in World War I, as it had in the earlier Russo-Turkish wars of 1828-29, of 1853-55 and of 1877-78. Far greater bodies of manpower were deployed than on those earlier occasions. Poor communications combined with a severe climate made large-scale operations highly arduous, especially as neither the Russian nor the Turkish Army was up to date in its technical organization. In 1914, railway communications on the Russian side of the frontier ended at Sari-Kamish, some forty miles southwest of Kars and fifteen from the Turkish border. On the Ottoman side, six hundred miles of rough roads and tracks separated the armies operating in the Erzurum area from the nearest railhead at Ankara or the nearest station on the Baghdad railway north-west of Adana. During September and October 1914, the Turkish Third Army, 100,000 strong, assembled in the vicinity of Erzurum. Hostilities began late in October, when Turkey opened the campaign by a naval bombardment of Russian ports on the Black Sea. Liman von Sanders, head of the German military mission in Turkey, proposed landing a Turkish force at Odessa. The Turks, however, preferred to concentrate on regaining the territory lost to Russia in 1877-78, notably the great fortresses of Kars and Ardahan.

The Turkish supreme commander and War Minister was Enver Pasha, who conceived a grand strategy which would, he believed, open the way to the expulsion of Russia from the entire Caucasus. His first objective was the Russian railhead at Sari-Kamish. In spite of the lateness of the season and the remonstrances of his advisers, Enver insisted on launching the attack without delay. The routes by which his army was to advance were snow-covered mountain tracks, and the bulk of the Turkish transport and artillery had to be left behind. Yet such was the endurance and courage of the ill-fed and badly equipped Turkish soldiers that they almost achieved the impossible. While the main Russian force defending SariKamish was engaged with the Turkish 11th Corps, the 10th Corps further to the north made to cut the railway between Sari-Kamish and Kars. At the northern end of the front, a Turkish detachment from Trebizond drove the Russians out of Ardahan.

The Turks on the defensive

The Russian commander, Myshlaevsky, was in a panic and talked wildly of evacuating Transcaucasia altogether and withdrawing the Russian Army north of the Caucasus range. His Chief of Staff, General Yudenich, saved the situation. He mustered his forces for a counter-attack, defeated and virtually destroyed the Turkish 9th and 10th Corps and then repulsed the 11th Corps from its advanced position. The losses of the Turkish Third Army are said to have amounted to 85 per cent of its strength. In spite of Yudenich’s brilliant victory, this Turkish incursion into Caucasia caused great alarm in St. Petersburg and led to agitation for Anglo-French intervention against Turkey. This in turn helped to bring about the illstarred Gallipoli expedition.

During the following year, the Caucasian front reverted to secondary importance in the global strategy of World War I. While the Turks’ attention was centred on the Dardanelles, they also built up their shattered Third Army facing the Russian border. On the other side, fresh units were recruited to strengthen the Russian front line. In April 1915, Turkish units supported by Muslim Georgian Laz and Atchar irregulars attempted a raid on the Black Sea port of Batumi, but were repulsed. To the south, the Russians advanced their left into Turkish Armenia and occupied the historic town of Van. The Russians were enthusiastically seconded by detachments of Armenian irregulars, while the Turks wreaked terrible vengeance on the Armenians dwelling within the Ottoman borders. The same year, Vorontsov-Dashkov sent General Lyakhov to slaughter the Muslim Georgian Laz and Atchars as a punishment for their pro-Turkish attitude. Lyakhov ravaged and depopulated the entire Chorokhi valley up to Artvin, in the vicinity of which only 7,000 out of a previous population of 52,000 Georgian Muslims were left alive.

Count Vorontsov-Dashkov, who had reached the age of seventy-eight, was succeeded as viceroy in September 1915 by the former commander-in-chief on Russia’s western front, the Grand Duke Nicholas. The arrival of the new viceroy soon brought spectacular results. In February 1916 the Russians captured the great citadel and supply base of Erzurum, from which the Turks retreated in disorder with heavy losses in men and material. Two months later, the Russians occupied the Turkish port of Trebizond (Trabzon) on the Black Sea. The Turkish High Command were just preparing for a counteroffensive when Nicholas launched another massive blow at the remains of their Third Army, which was completely routed. In July 1916 the Russians occupied Erzinjan–about the furthest point within the Turkish dominions in Anatolia ever captured by a Russian army. A new Turkish force, the Second Army, attacked the Russians from the south-west in the Lake Van sector, but was firmly held. This in turn helped to bring about the illstarred Gallipoli expedition.

During the winter of 1916-17 no fresh developments of note occurred. The appalling climatic conditions in those windswept and snowbound uplands of Armenia and eastern Anatolia caused terrible suffering to both sides. The transport of troops and supplies was attended by grave difficulties. The Russians strove to extend their railway from Sari-Kamish to Erzurum, but their railhead was still some distance short of that city on the outbreak of the March Revolution. On the southern flank, they hoped to link up with the British in Mesopotamia. Plans were worked out for a Russian thrust on Mosul to coincide with the anticipated British capture ofBaghdad, which took place at length in March 1917. All hope of energetic action on the Russian side was by now gone.

Breakdown of Tsarist Russia

It is not necessary to trace here the events which led up to the March Revolution and the ignominious collapse of the titanic structure of Tsarist absolutism. Under the vacillating but obstinate Tsar Nicholas II, Russia had been an autocracy without a real autocrat, while the Rasputin scandal had discredited the imperial court in the eyes of the nation and of the world. In the end, a scramble for bread in the streets of Petrograd was the signal for the downfall of the régime, which fell amid the jubilation of millions who saw its passing as the dawn of a better era.

Even before the news of the fall of the Romanovs reached Georgia, the morale of the local population had sunk to a low ebb. As a result of poor communications with European Russia, and the intolerable strains which World War I imposed on Russia’s relatively immature economy, the peoples of Transcaucasia themselves had to bear much of the burden of supplying and provisioning Russia’s large forces engaged on the Turkish front. A severe shortage of grain made itself felt by 1916 throughout the country. In January 1917, the town of Kutaisi went without bread for a fortnight owing to the breakdown of the Transcaucasian railway system. Prices of all commodities rose steeply in the bazaars, where the merchants and stall-keepers reverted to the primitive system of trade by barter. Inflation ensued and the value of money depreciated rapidly. Hunger was rife in Tbilisi and other cities, and deaths from famine occurred in country districts. The Caucasian revolutionary societies resumed their clandestine plotting. To counter the revolutionary menace, the Russian Minister of the Interior sent to Tbilisi a special emissary empowered to deport from Georgia any individual suspected of defeatism or subversive activities, with the sole exception of the viceroy himself. In March 1917, the Russian secret police planned a wholesale round-up of Georgian political leaders of all shades, including the chief of the Georgian Social-Democrats, Noe Zhordania. Before this plan could be carried into effect, the news reached Tbilisi on 15 March 1917 that the imperial régime had ceased to exist.

Literature, art and intellectual life up to 1917

Before finally turning our back on the Tsarist period of Georgian history, it is worth while pausing to survey developments in literature and the arts, where the picture is far less sombre than one might have expected.

A number of outstanding Georgian writers came to maturity in the early years of the twentieth century. Among these may be mentioned Vasil Barnovi ( 1856-1934), author of historical novels, tales of old Tbilisi, and realistic stories based on contemporary Georgian life, and Shio Aragvispireli ( 18671926), revolutionary agitator, veterinary surgeon and author of powerful short stories in which he exposed the social evils of his time. Even better known was David Kldiashvili ( 18621931), a writer whose forebears belonged to the squirearchy and who served as an officer in the Russian Army before his outspoken sympathy with the Georgian national cause led to his disgrace and dismissal. Endowed with a sharp and observant eye for character and situation, and profound insight into human psychology, Kldiashvili is acclaimed as one of the great masters of Georgian realism, and the authentic chronicler of a vanished era in Georgian society; he also wrote several successful plays. Other important literary figures were the essayist and dramatist Shalva Dadiani ( 1874-1959), and the novelist Leo Kiacheli, born in 1884, whose novel Tariel Golua gives a vivid picture of the impact of the 1905 Revolution on a typical Georgian village.

In poetry, the revolutionary tradition was maintained by Irodion Evdoshvili ( 1873-1916). From 1910 onwards, however, a reaction against patriotic and civic modes in poetry set in, under the leadership of a group of youthful poets and novelists whose début took place under the fashionable banners of Symbolism and Decadence. They formed a coterie known as the Company of the Blue Drinking Horn (Tsisperi Qandsebi), which included such talented young men as Titsian Tabidze, Paolo Iashvili, Valerian Gaprindashvili, S. Kldiashvili, Razhden Gvetadze, Shalva Apkhaidze, Giorgi Leonidze and others. Their early, and now seldom republished works were characterized, according to a Soviet literary manual, by ‘mysticism, lack of political content, absence of ideas, extreme individualism, the cult of Bohemian life, the aesthetics of deformity and preciosity’. ‘Later on,’ the manual tells us, ‘thanks to the stimulating influence of the mighty successes of Socialist industrial progress, the best representatives of the Blue Drinking Horn school, liberated from decadence, played a significant role in the evolution of Georgian Soviet literature.’ 91 Several of the group, however, perished in the Stalin purges of 1936-37.

From the 1890’s onwards, a great revival took place in the Georgian theatrical world. Both in Kutaisi and in Tbilisi, the Georgian stage was in a flourishing condition and often served as a tribune for the symbolical expression of the nation’s suppressed political yearnings. Georgian music also revived under the inspiration of Zakaria Paliashvili, whose melodious opera Abesalom and Eteri ( 1913), based on an ancient Georgian poetic legend, is universally beloved and frequently performed throughout Georgia to this day. In painting, a refreshing reaction against the historical realism of the Russian Repin school was launched almost single-handed by the inimitable primitive painter Pirosmani (Niko Pirosmanashvili, 18601918). Unappreciated during his lifetime, Pirosmani eked out a life of misery, painting panels for inns and executing chance commissions for any who would employ him. He died in squalor at the height of the Revolution. Only posthumously did fame come his way. His compositions now occupy an honoured place in the Tbilisi Museum of Arts, which is housed in the premises of the old Theological Seminary where Stalin studied; they evoke with their naïve and colourful humour and vivid portrayal of costume and manners a bygone era in Georgian society.

Education and scholarship also made considerable strides during the early years of the twentieth century. Alongside the official Russian network of schools and seminaries, there grew up an unofficial system of independent, purely Georgian scholastic institutions. The Society for the Spreading of Literacy, founded by Ilia Chavchavadze, Gogebashvili and others, continued its useful work. Despite the Russian government’s refusal to set up a university in the Caucasus, a number of local pedagogues banded together and organized an unofficial People’s University of their own. The tireless archaeologist Ekvtime Taqaishvili ( 1863-1953) began his regular expeditions throughout Georgia, in which he collected countless ancient inscriptions and registered and described hundreds of ancient buildings and monuments. In 1907, Taqaishvili and others founded the Georgian Historical and Ethnographical Society, whose publications attained a high scholarly standard, and included editions of historical charters, folklore and dialect studies and other valuable material. Not less important was the academic work carried on by Georgians in the universities ofRussia, notably at Moscow and St. Petersburg. The most brilliant of these Georgian professors was the late Academician Nicholas Marr ( 1864-1934). Before embarking on his controversial Japhetic Theory and other speculative linguistic hypotheses, Marr gained a solid and world wide reputation as editor of ancient Georgian texts, and as a brilliant philologist and archaeologist. Among his disciples were Ivane Javakhishvili, the first volumes of whose monumental but unfinished History of the Georgian People appeared at Tbilisi in 1913-14, and Akaki Shanidze, the leading grammarian and expert on the history of the Georgian language.

It would be unjust to belittle the support given by the Russian government and by Russian learned societies to the study of Georgian and Caucasian antiquities. During the latter years of the nineteenth century, the Caucasian Museum in Tbilisi (now the State Museum of Georgia) made great strides under its energetic and talented German director, Dr. Radde. Particularly fruitful was the help given to Georgian antiquarian and ethnographical studies by Countess Praskovya Uvarova ( 1840-1924), who succeeded her husband, Alexey Uvarov, as President of the Imperial Moscow Archaeological Society in 1884. She sponsored a magnificently produced serial publication called Materials for the Archaeology of the Caucasus. She financed this and other valuable works both out of her own pocket and by means of subsidies which she obtained from members of the imperial family. The manuscript of Countess Uvarova’s own important treatise on the miniatures in mediaeval Georgian Gospel manuscripts was unfortunately destroyed during the 1917 revolution, and she herself died in exile in Serbia.

In spite of the repressive features of the Stolypin era in Russian history, the Tsarist government could not annul all the concessions which had been wrung from it during the revolution of 1905. Among these were freedom of publication, assembly and association. Consequently, the decade before 1917 witnessed a great growth of journals of all shades of opinion and a proliferation of clubs and voluntary philanthropic societies. A new type of journalist and intellectual began to flourish in the cafés and on the boulevards ofTbilisi, Kutaisi and other large towns. This new class was recruited in large part from scions of the old Georgian aristocracy. The latter were no match for the growing class of kulaks or wealthy peasant farmers and rural entrepreneurs. These shrewd and hardened individuals usually outclassed in business ability their former feudal lords, who tended to drift into the cities where they felt more at home than in the dilapidated châteaux of the remote countryside.

The rise of the Georgian kulak, the life of the Georgian aristocratic intellectual and dilettante, and the impact on them both of the revolutionary upheavals of 1917 and 1921 have never been more successfully depicted than in the masterly novel by Mikheil Javakhishvili ( 1881-1937), Jaqos khiznebi (Jaqo’s Guests), first published in 1924-25. With devastating realism and many humorous touches, Javakhishvili contrasts the swashbuckling Jaqo, swindler, seducer and false bonhomme, with his victim, Prince Teimuraz Khevistavi, the amiable and ineffectual philanthropist whom Jaqo robs of his fortune, his wife, and even of his sanity. In the person of Teimuraz Khevistavi we follow the decline and fall of the old nobility. Abandoning his tenants to the good offices of the grasping Jaqo, Teimuraz spends his time in Tbilisi, immersed in the affairs of his journal–a journal, needless to say, published in a very limited edition–of the modest co-operative society with which he concerns himself, in the shaky literary society to which he belongs, in the folk theatre, in free evening classes for working men, and a dozen other good causes. This sprig of the nobility is a radical of advanced social views. His lively pen is always in demand for the drafting of political memoranda, his advice sought on the burning questions of the day.

‘Whatever turn the conversation took–the irrigation of the Sudan, British policy in regard to Devil’s Island, German colonies in Africa, the disputes concerning the port of Jibuti, the death of the Sultan of Zanzibar, the Chartist movement, the electoral rights of the women of New Zealand, the discovery of a new planet, some fresh scientific invention, the policies of Combes or Lloyd George, or the significance of any oration pronounced by any public figure in any country–then Teimuraz was regularly consulted for his authoritative and final opinion.’

While the worthy Jaqo falsified the estate accounts and plotted the ruin of his trustful lord:

‘ Teimuraz was writing a treatise in three volumes on the history of Georgian civilization, composing dozens of leading articles, reports, judgements, researches and memoranda; at the same time, he used to attend secret political meetings and, in company with so many of his contemporaries, he went on gnawing and sawing away busily day by day at the mighty branch upon which he nonchalantly dozed and cheerfully fluttered about.’

That mighty branch, of course, was the Tsarist Empire itself. For all its faults, it was a régime towards which a few years hence, under Communist dictatorship, many of its erstwhile opponents would look back with a certain nostalgic affection.


20.   See Russian sources cited in D. M. Lang, The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, p. 254.

21.   We follow the version given by Colonel B. E. A. Rottiers, in his Itinéraire de Tiflis à Constantinople, Brussels 1829, pp. 73-83.

22.   J.F. Baddeley, The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, London 1908, p. 68.

23.   Cited in D. M. Lang, The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, p. 257.

24.   D. M. Lang, The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, p. 259.

25.   Rotfiers, Itiéraire de Tiflis à Constantinople, pp. 94-95.

26.   French diplomatic archives, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, as quoted in M. Lang, The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, pp. 263-65.

27.   Sir Robert Ker Porter, Travels in Georgia, Persia, etc., Vol. II, London 1821-22, p. 521.

28.   D. M. Lang, The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, pp. 267-68.

29.   Quoted in Baddeley, The Russian Conquest of the Caucasm, p. 97.

30.   Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, Correspondance Commerdale, Tiflis, Vol. I, pp. 107-8.

31.   See Sir Bernard Pares, A History of Russia, revised edition, London 1947, p. 365; D. M. Lang, “The Decembrist Conspiracy through British Eyes”, in American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. VIII, No. 4, December 1949, pp. 262-74.

32.   D. M. Lang, “Griboedov’s Last Years in Persia”, in American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. VII, No. 4, December 1948, pp. 317-39.

33.   W.E. D. Allen and P. Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields: A History of the Wars on the Turco-Caucadan Border, 1928-1921, Cambridge 1953, p. 21.

34.   Rottiers, Itinéraire de Tifiis à Constantinople, p. 95.

35.   Text in D. M. Lang, The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, pp. 275-76.

36.   See the text of the report in the Akty or Collected Documents of the Caucasian Archaeographical Commission (in Russian), Vol. VIII, Tbilisi 1881, pp. 1-13.

37.   Lieutenant-General William Monteith, Kars and Erzeroum, London 1856, p. 301.

38.   On Hamzat Bek, see Lieutenant-General A. A. Neverovsky’s short book, The slaughter of the Avar khans in 1834, St. Petersburg 1848.

39.   Quoted from Baddeley. The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, pp. 310-11.

40.   Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris, Correspondance Commerdale, Tiflis, Vol. II, pp. 84-85.

41.   Report of General Golovin to Russian Minister of War, 8 October 1838, in Akty, Vol. IX, Tbilisi 1884, pp. 6-10.

42.   Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris, Correspondance Commerciale, Tiflis, Vol. II, p. 109.

43.   Akaki Tsereteli, Perezhitoe (Reminiscences), trans, into Russian by E. Ghoghoberidze, and edition, Moscow 1950, pp. 47-49.

44.   Correspondance Commerciale, Tiflis, Vol. II, pp. 291-302.

45.   Report of the Comte de Ratti-Menton, French Consul in Tbilisi, dated 7/19 February 1834.

46.   R. Wilbraham, Travels in the Trans-Causian Provinces of Russia, London 1839, p. 223.

47.   Correspondance Commerciale, Tiflis, Vol. II, pp. 517-18.

48.   Tsereteli, Perezhitoe, pp. 87-88.

49.   Tsereteli, Perezhitoe, pp. 89, 94.

50.   G. K. Bakradze, Vozniknovenie i razvitie kapitalisticheskoy promyshlennosti v Gruzii v XIX veke (The rise and development of capitalist industry in Georgia in the 19th century), Tbilisi 1958, pp. 25-26.

51.   Quoted in the English rendering by Venera Urushadze, from Anthology of Georgian Poetry, 2nd edition, Tbilisi 1958, pp. 50-51.

52.   Sir Bernard Pares, A History of Russia, revised edition, London 1947, p. 396.

53.   Quoted in the translation by Venera Urushadze, in Anthology of Georgian Poetry, 2nd edition, Tbilisi 1958, p. 99.

54.   S. Yu. Witte, Vospominaniya (Reminiscences), Vol. I, New edition, Moscow 1960, pp. 38-41.

55.   S. S. Meskhi, Nadserebi (Collected essays), tom. I, Tbilisi 1903, pp. 211-14.

56.   Quoted by V. I. Kotetishvili, Kartuli literaturis istoria, XIX s. (History of Georgian Bterature in the 19th century), Tbilisi 1959, p. 405.

57.   Quoted by V. Gol’tsev, Stat’i i ocherki (Essays and sketches), Moscow 1958, pp. 258-59.

58.   Gr. Uratadze, Sazogadoebrivi modzraoba Sakartveloshi 1821-1921 ds. (The Social Movement in Georgia 1821 to 1921), Paris 1939, P. 19.

59.   Ia. S. Gogebashvili, Izbrannye pedagogicheskie sochineniya (Selected pedagogical writings), Moscow 1954, pp. 13, 18.

60.   J.O. Wardrop, The Kingdom of Georgia, London 1888, pp. 162-63.

61.   Translated and cited by D. M. Lang, in Georgian Studies in Oxford, Oxford Slavonic Papers, Vol. VI, 1955, p. 126.

62.   It was fashionable in the nineteenth century to replace the Georgian name endings in -shvili and -dze (both meaning ‘son of’) with the Russian termination in -ov, e.g. Baratashvili into Baratov, Tsitsishvili into Tsitsianov, and many others.

63.   Noe Zhordania, Chemi dsarsuli. Mogonebani (My Past. Reminiscences), Paris 1953.

64.   Zhordania, Reminiscences, pp. 11-12.

65.   Zhordania, Reminiscences, p. 26.

66.   Quoted by I. Deutscher, Stalin. A Political Biography, Oxford 1949, P. 20.

67.   Quoted by I. A. Chakhvashvili, The Working-class Movement in Georgia 1870-1904, Tbilisi 1958, p. 63.

68.   A. Manvelishvili, Sakutreba; Midsis sakitkhi Sakartveloshi (Property; The Land Question in Georgia), Paris 1956, P. 42.

69.   Ilia Chavchavadze, Tkhzulebata sruli krebuli (Complete Works), tom. VI, Tbilisi 1956, p. 242.

70.   Zhordania, Reminiscences, p. 48.

71.   K. P. Pobedonostsev ( 1827-1907), Head Procurator of the Russian Holy Synod; a well-known obscurantist.

72.   L. Villari, Fire and Sword in the Caucasus, London 1906, pp. 75-74.

73.   Quoted by L. P. Beria, On the history of the Bolshevik organigations in Transcaucasia (English edition), Moscow 1949, p. 33.

74.   Beria, On the history of the Bolshevik organizations in Transcaucasia, p. 60.

75.   See David Shub, “Kamo–the Legendary Old Bolshevik of the Caucasus”, in Russian Review, Vol. XIX, No. 3, July 1960, pp. 227-47.

76.        Chakhvashvili, Rabochee dvizhenie v Gruzii p. 303.

77.   S. Maghlakelidze and A. Iovidze, edit.The 1905-7 Revolution in Georgia. A Collection of Documents, Tbilisi 1956, pp. 88-89.

78.   Revolyutsiya 1905-1907 gg. v Gruzii, pp. 89-91.

79.   Original texts in Revolyutsiya 1905-1907 gg. v Grugzii, pp. 278-79, 283.

80.   Quoted by Beria, On the history of the Bolshevik organigations in Transcaucada, p. 120.

81.   Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya. Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik (Large Soviet Encyclopedia. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), special volume, Moscow 1947, p. 591.

82.   Beria, On the history of the Bolshevik organigations in Transcaucasia, pp. 128-29.

83.   Revotyutsiya 1905-1907 gg. v Gruzii, p. 751.

84.   Text taken partly from Revolyutsiya 1905-1907 gg. v Gruzii, p. 502, partly from Beria, On the history of the Bolshevik organizations inTranscaucasia, p. 137.

85.   I. Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography, Oxford 1949, p. 80.

86.   Revolyutsiya 1907-1907 gg. v Gruzii, p. 347.

87.   Nobati, No. 2, 2 April 1906.

88.   Nobati, No. 12, 18 June 1906.

89.   Quoted in Bern, On the history of the Bolshevik organizations in Transcaucada, pp. 166-67.

90.   Zhordania, Reminiscences, pp. 78-79.

91.   A. Baramidze, Sh. Radiant and V. Zhghenti, Istoriya gruzinskoy literatury (History of Georgian Literature), Moscow 1952, p. 234.

Description of Georgia By Marco Polo

Near the Georgian border there is a spring from which gushes a stream of oil in such abundance that a hundred ships may load there at once.

This for burning oil is not good to eat but it is good for burning and as a salve for men and camels infected with itch or scab. Men come, from a long to fetch this oil and in all theneighborhood no oil is burnt but this. In Georgia there is the King who always bears the name of David Malik, that is to say King David. He is subject to the Tartars.

In former times all the kings of this country were born with the sign of an eagle on the right shoulder. The Georgians are a handsome race of daughty warriors, good archers, and good fighters on the battlefield. They are Christians and observe the rule of the Greek church.They  wear hair cropped in clerical fashion.

This is the country through which Alexander could not pass when he wanted to go to the north, because the way is narrow and dangerous. On one side is the sea. On the other are high mountains and forests impassable on horseback. This narrow pass between the mountains and the sea runs for more than four leagues, so that a few men could hold against all comers. This is why Alexander could not pass. And I should le you know that Alexander had a tower and fortress built here, so that the natives could not sally out to attack him. This was called the Iron Gates It is the place where Alexander Book relates that he shut in the Tartars between two mountains. In fact they were not Tartars, but people called Comaniansand various other races besides, because there were no Tartars at that time.

The country has villages and towns in plenty. Silk is produced here in abundance , and silken fabrics and cloth of gold woven here are the finest ever seen. There are also the best goshawks in the world. There are ample supplies of everything, and commerce and industry flourish. The whole country is full of high mountains and narrow passes which are easily defensible, so that I can assure you that the Tartars have never been able to achieve complete dominion over it. Among these mountains are woods in which the only trees are box-trees.

There is a monastery here called St. Leonard’s, notable for the following miraculous occurrence. You must know that there isa great lake formed of whater that issues from a mountain just beside the church of St. Leonard. And in this water no fish is found, big or little, at any season of the year, except that they begin to appear on the first day of Lent and continue every day throughout Lent till HolySaturday, that is the eve of Easter. During all this period there are fish in plenty; best at every other season there is not one to be found.

This country looks out over two seas. To the north lies the Black Sea, to the east that called the sea of Baku or the Ghel or Ghelan, which is some 2,800 miles in circumference and is strictly speaking a lake, because it is completely surrounded by mountains and land and has no connection with the main sea – which lies in fact twelve days’ journey away. It contains many inhabited islands, with fine cities built on them. The inhabitants are refugees from the power of the Great Tartar, when re rode as a conqueror through the he kingdom or province of Persia, whose cities and districts then had a system of government by the  commonalty; they sought refuge in these islands and among the mountains in the hope of finding safety there…

In this country is a fine city of great size named Tiflis, surrounded by subordinate towns and townships. The inhabitants are Christians (that is, Armenians and Georgians) besides a few Saracens and Jews, but not many. Silk and mony othr fabrics are woven here. The inhabitants live by their industry and are subject to the Great Khan of the Tartars.

You must know that we mention only the two or three principal cities of each province. There are many others which it would be tedious to enumerate, unless they are remarkable for some special curiosity. But  some that we have omitted, which are situated in the places above mentioned, will be dealt with more fully below.

So much for what lies north of Armenia.

Useful Idiots

The phrase ‘useful idiots’, supposedly Lenin’s, refers to Westerners duped into saying good things about bad regimes.

In political jargon it was used to describe Soviet sympathisers in Western countries and the attitude of the Soviet government towards them.

Useful idiots, in a broader sense, refers to Western journalists, travellers and intellectuals who gave their blessing – often with evangelistic fervour – to tyrannies and tyrants, thereby convincing politicians and public that utopias rather than Belsens thrived.

In part one John Sweeney looks at Stalin’s Western apologists.

In 1952 Doris Lessing, a British writer who has since won the Nobel Prize for Literature, was part of a delegation visiting the Soviet Union.

Her memories of the trip are clear and unforgiving:

“I was taken around and shown things as a ‘useful idiot’… that’s what my role was. I can’t understand why I was so gullible.”

She was not the only one. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and American journalist Walter Duranty were some of those people who also visited the Soviet Union.

They mingled with political leaders, were escorted into the countryside by Joseph Stalin’s secret police, and returned home to speak and write of ‘a land of hope’ with ‘evils retreating before the spread of communism’.

However as stories mounted of mass murder and starvation in parts of Russia and the Ukraine, reporters such as Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge investigated and reported on ‘the creation of one enormous Belsen’.

Duranty responded with an article in the New York Times headed ‘Story of the famine is bunk’, and got an exclusive interview with Stalin.

Soon after, Jones died and Muggeridge’s career nose-dived. Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer.

How can intellectual curiosity transform into active promotion of a dangerous lie? Why so many ‘useful idiots’?

In part two he explores how present day stories of human rights abuses across the world are still rewritten.

Useful Idiots: Captive Minds, Empty Heads by Michael Weiss

The BBC World Service recently broadcast a two-part investigative documentary, hosted by John Sweeney, on the useful idiot, a concept that Lenin didn’t invent so much as expropriate to denote the semi-witting accomplices of Western imperialism.  Although more frequently employed in the service of deriding apologists of the totalitarian system Lenin created, the phenomenon to which useful idiocy alludes is transferable to any and all modern tyrannies.  (The closely related concept of ‘fellow traveler’ is not nearly as fungible because it still retains the definition Trotsky intended in Literature and Revolution—that of being a halfway-there Bolshevik whose political future was as yet undecided by historical circumstances.)  The Sweeney documentary examines the Soviet Union, Red China, apartheid South Africa, and Ba’athist Iraq, and while all interviewees and case studies are well chosen, one is still left feeling unenlightened as to the etiology of this troubling condition. What causes useful idiocy, and how is it that so many sufferers are eventually cured?

A common precipitant is a broad ideological sympathy with the long-term goals of a tyrannical state matched by an incuriosity about measuring its touted claims with tangible reality. Very often this isn’t entirely the sympathizer’s fault as the state makes every effort to mask its deformities and keep the fantasy in tact. “I was taken around and shown things,” a very candid Doris Lessing tells Sweeney. “I can’t understand why I was so gullible.” The Potemkin dupe may have begun with Catherine the Great, but it is a more rampant species in the twentieth century. None has grimly excelled or exceeded the category better than Maxim Gorky.

Lenin’s favorite novelist had spent the formative early years of the Soviet Union on the isle of Capri and thus counts as something of a Westernized observer to his native Russia. After being welcomed home by an ingratiating Stalin, then badly in need of writers who hadn’t been arrested or shot, Gorky paid a visit to the notorious penal colony at Solovki in order to see how counter-revolutionaries were being rehabilitated by the state. The wretched reality of the place been masked in advance—with well-fed guards dressed up as prisoners—save for one minor oversight. Within three hundred yards of where Gorky and his retinue had alighted, a ship docked at Popov Island was being loaded up by a visibly bedraggled gang of real inmates. Of this infamous episode in useful idiocy, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn writes:

Where can this disgraceful spectacle—these men dressed in sacks—be hidden?  The entire journey of the great Humanist will have been for naught if he sees them now. Well, of course, he will try hard not to notice them, but help him! Drown them in the sea? They will wail and flounder. Bury them in the earth? There’s no time. No, only a worthy son of the Archipelago could find a way out of this one. The work assigner ordered, “Stop work! Close ranks! Still closer! Sit down on the ground! Sit still!” And a tarpaulin was thrown over them. “Anyone who moves will be shot!”

This crude deception may have gone unnoticed by Gorky (though it’d be good to know what he thought those human-shaped objects under the tarpaulin were), but the unscripted encounter that followed left little to the airbrushed imagination. While touring the children’s quarters, he was cornered by a fourteen year-old prisoner who proceeded to tell him of the day-to-day horrors of Solovki being kept from view. Gorky, writes Solzhenitsyn, left in tears, only then to register in the visitor’s book his ecstatic praise for the “vigilant and tireless sentinels of the Revolution.” (The boy was later shot.)  Gorky had managed to work himself out and then back into a fantasy within the space of minutes or hours. How?  We can see the self-preservation instinct easily enough in his decision: He knew that popularizing what he’d been told would result in his own imprisonment or death. But, like all artists in a patronage system, Gorky probably also felt that his reputation rested on catering to certain level of expectation. The very fact of his celebrity under Stalinism was proof enough against his possessing the courage needed to put that celebrity to good use. Gorky went on to author a famously bad book about the White Sea-Baltic Canal, built wholly by slave labor and to little economic benefit to the state, that argued in favor of the rehabilitation of enemies of the people, a claim, needless to say, never borne out by Soviet parole statistics.

Gorky is an extreme case since he was granted relatively unrestricted access to the Soviet Union. Yet for most Western comrades eager to see exactly what they’d come to see in the workers’ paradise, their powers of deduction seldom make it through customs. And for those who did return unimpressed or horrified, posterity owes them a great deal of credit for peering beyond an illusion or cretinous euphemism to provide much needed evidence against interest. “All right, I see all the broken eggs,” the Romanian fellow traveler Panait Istrati was given to remark to his minders in tour of Russia in 1927. “Now where’s this omelet of yours?”  The resentment that accrues in a certain type of personality that senses it is being flattered or taken advantage of, as if by a conjurer’s trick, is an indispensable expedient in curing useful idiocy.  Not by coincidence, the greatest example of a dupe turned skeptic of Communism was himself an amateur magician.

Edmund Wilson toured the Soviet Union in 1936 for the purpose of writing a book whose problematic premise advertised itself in the very title, Travels in Two Democracies. The first half was devoted to the United States, the second half to its imminent wartime ally. Wilson, who during the Depression had advocated the state ownership of the means of production—“tak[ing] Communism away from the Communists,” as he put it in Herbert Croly’s New Republic—described Moscow as “the moral top of the world where the light never really goes out.” By that he did not refer to the interrogation lamps in the Lubyanka.  Such progressive fever was followed and enabled by a literal one. Having taken ill on his sojourn, Wilson spent some time in a hospital, which experience led him to write favorably about the Soviet health care system. Still, the great critic was capable of some lucidity. Wilson spotted the early contours of Stalin’s personality cult, at one point joking to the photographer Paul Strand at a Moscow travel agency that “Comrade Stalin has just stepped out of the toilet,” “Comrade Stalin is at home with a severe headache.” A professional apprehension of bad writing also gave him the ability to see what an orchestrated deceit the Moscow Show Trials were and to guess correctly that Stalin was behind the murder of state functionary Sergey Kirov, whose assassination curtain-raised the Great Terror.  Though Wilson would go on to write To the Finland Station, a brilliant intellectual survey of socialist thought that hewed closely to a determinist conception of history, his overall impressions of the Soviet Union were sufficiently cold that the authorities informed him that he needn’t apply for a visa again.  (He still admired Lenin, however, earning him a stern rebuke from his friend and correspondent Vladimir Nabokov, who described the founding Bolshevik as “a pail of the milk of human kindness with a dead rat floating at the bottom.”)  After Travels in Two Democracies came out, Wilson repudiated Communism tout court, spending the remainder of the thirties persuading—or failing to persuade—the New York smart set that Russia hadn’t “even the beginnings of democratic institutions” and was instead subject to “totalitarian domination by a political machine.”  He took his rejection of state power so far that he ineptly applied the moral lessons of Stalinism to the American Civil War, comparing the Kremlin mountaineer to another perceived dictator working on behalf of a better tomorrow: Abraham Lincoln.

Of course, domination by a political machine, or a single politician, is precisely what some people liked about Stalinism. Another mutation of the useful idiot gene, found especially among members of the left-wing intelligentsia, evinces a secret lust for gangsterism or brutality.  Malcolm Muggeridge’s friend and biographer Richard Ingrams tells Sweeney of how the famous journalist made an abortive attempt to emigrate to Russia in 1932 only to realize upon arrival that he was far off the mark of utopia. When Muggeridge complained that people were being arrested and killed willy-nilly in Moscow, this vice was swiftly transmuted into a virtue by his relative, Beatrice Webb, co-author with her husband Sidney of Soviet Communism: A new civilisation?, whose subsequent editions dropped that tremulous question mark.  According to Ingrams, “Malcolm thought that actually she was quite keen about that because she would like to have the same power…. The idea that if people disagreed with you or made a lot of trouble, they could disappear – from her point of view, that was quite nice.”  And of the myriad ways in which Alger Hiss disappointed Whittaker Chambers during their common stint as Soviet spies was to say about all those “liquidations” in the motherland, “Joe Stalin certainly plays for keeps.” This not only underscored Hiss’s raw ignorance of the Marxist diminution of the role of the individual in history, it also indicated a wolfish satisfaction with how opponents were dispensed with in undemocratic regimes.

“If only I could do that!” is the most sadistic motive in a useful idiot’s tool-kit.  However, masochism can also play a part, particularly in the age of sacred terror. Those who want to hurt themselves are very more likely to want to hurt others like themselves. Is it a coincidence that the British journalist Yvonne Ridley converted to Islam after being taken hostage by the Taliban, and then wrote enviously of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s terrorist-murders of fellow Jordanians who were ‘collaborating’ with the West?  Now, as if to embody the truest marriage between the captive mind and the empty head, Ridley presents on the Iranian state-controlled Press TV, the mullahs’ answer to CNN, which forces all women presenters and guests to don a hijab. This channel, which has a bureau in London, once featured excerpts of an interview with Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek journalist who was jailed and tortured in Tehran for 118 days for doing his job—covering the June 2009 presidential “election.” Bahari explained to Sweeney that he was under severe duress, blindfolded and on his knees, when this charade of journalism took place and that many of the questions his interviewer asked in fact came from his interrogator. As for the Green Revolution, Press TV considered the democratic protesters who were bludgeoned and shot and arrested the true instigators of violence.

By nice coincidence, one of the surest psychological safeguards against useful idiocy is the ability to diagnose oneself with just this sort of latent predisposition toward violence and to find a healthier outlet for it. George Orwell once told Arthur Koestler that when he lay in the bath in the morning he thought of tortures for his enemies, which is about what one would expect to hear of the inventor of Room 101’s paralyzing torments. Yet Koestler’s reply was more revealing still coming from the creator of Nicholas Salmanovich Rubashov: “That’s funny, because when I’m lying in my bath I think of tortures for myself.”

Finally, there is simply the matter of a mendacious or mercenary character, which judges lying as more expedient or profitable than telling the truth. Mendacious ideologues won’t ‘break’ simply because evidence and argument don’t matter to them; theirs is a metaphysical politics that typically worsens with age. In this category we find Jean-Paul Sartre once saying that even if all the worst disclosures about the gulag could be verified, they should be shut up because knowledge of them would drive the French proletariat into a state of despair.  More recently, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, has described Gaza as a ‘concentration camp’ where there currently exists ‘a humanitarian crisis on the scale of Darfur’, doing so just back from a trip to the Hamas-run littoral where she was photographed patronising a well-stocked food shop.

As for the mercenary tendency of the useful idiot, it is perhaps worth recalling that paid agents were considered the lowest form of “illegals” by even the unscrupulous theorists of Russian intelligence. The NKVD and the GPU preferred their spies to be romantic radicals, New Dealers and antifascists needing that extra little push to become accomplices of the Kremlin. One such case was that of Laurence Duggan, a State Department official who began passing sensitive documents to his Russian handler in 1936 after a much belaboured ‘recruitment’ effort. But when the purges of so many ‘Trotskyite-fascist’ elements who yesterday were considered great heroes of the Revolution stirred Duggan’s conscience, he decided to quit the double life altogether. A cynic might conclude that buying him off would have been easier, but in fact he took grave offense at the insinuated offer to do so.  Cultivating principled useful idiots has always been a higher priority for tyrannies than investing in hirelings, not just because the former don’t charge for their services but because they’re not going to take their business to a higher bidder or provide bogus material to keep a nice sinecure going. Moscow Centre discovered to its chagrin a few months ago the risk that accompanies such compensation. The use value was negligible while the only real idiot was Russia herself.


Landslide – interviews with descendants of Titsian Tabidze

The Soviets were a menace to Georgian poet Titsian Tabidze’s generation. As his daughter and granddaughter recount, the legacy continues.


I do not know what to expect when I climb the dark stairs to the former home of Georgian poet Titsian Tabidze on a cold March afternoon. The building is situated on an elegant street in downtown Tbilisi, Georgia, not far from Freedom Square, scene of multiple revolutions. As I climb, I wonder whether the walls resemble the prison in which Titsian had been confined before his execution during the 1937 purge of Georgian intellectuals.

Child of the fin d’siècle, Titsian and his friends (Paolo Iashvili and Galaktion Tabidze) were inspired by literary modernist movements across the world, and formed their own in the years following the 1917 Revolution. They called themselves the Blue Horns. The name signaled a love of feasting and life, as imbibing from horns was a custom at Georgian feasts. For a few brief years, Titsian played a leading role in making the ambition of the Georgian avant-garde to transform the poetics and politics of their time appear within reach.
Titsian’s generation of poets saw its most brilliant representatives die, almost without exception, before full maturity. Already in 1925, Titsian prophesied his own death in an elegy to his friend and fellow poet Sergei Esenin:

My friends, if our heads roll
somewhere into a deep pit, may
the world know: among the poets,
Esenin was the brother of us all.

Like every poet with a conscience in Russia at that time, Esenin had been infected with enthusiasm for the revolution. Propelled to despair, Esenin had killed himself shortly after returning to Moscow from a sojourn in the Caucasus. Although they died twelve years apart, the reasons for Esenin’s and Titsian’s deaths are hardly unrelated. Titsian could not have known for certain that his head was destined to roll “into a deep pit,” as were those of his fellow poets, Paolo Iashvili and novelist Mikhail Javaxishvili. But already in 1925 he could detect signs boding disaster.
Luckily for us, fear did not keep Titsian from writing. If anything, fear emboldened him with greater clarity and courage. If he was going to die anyway, Titsian knew he had little to lose by honesty.

In the poem “Gunib,” Titsian protested a double treachery: first the Russian colonization of the Caucasus, which resulted in the brutal subjection of Chechens, Daghestanis, and other indigenous mountain peoples, the effects of which are still felt today. Titsian and his people were directly implicated in the second, the aid that Georgians, including poets such as Grigol Orbeliani, provided by serving in the Tsarist army, participating in conquest, and helping subdue the mountaineers. “Gunib,” named after the site where the colonial war was officially decided in Russia’s favor, reads, in part:

But this battle moves even me to ecstasy.
I don’t want to be a poet drunk on blood.
Let this day be my penitence.
Let my poems wash away your treachery.

Georgian literary modernity was liquidated by the Soviet state from the nineteen thirties onwards. The first casualty was Titsian’s close friend Paolo Iashvili. Knowing he was doomed to be executed, Paolo brought a hunting gun with him to a meeting in the Writer’s Union in downtown Tbilisi and shot himself. Even more than Esenin’s, Paolo’s suicide was a statement. If he had to die, Paolo decided, let it not be silently, in forced labor camps or prison, cursed by the state.

Those who survived Stalin’s regime, like Titsian’s cousin Galaktion Tabidze, were no less wracked by despair; Galaktion ended his life at the age of sixty-nine by jumping out the window of a Tbilisi psychiatric hospital. Only one Georgian fully escaped the despair that enveloped the times: novelist Konstantin Gamsakhurdia, Titsian’s one-time rival for the love of his wife Nina. Gamsakhurdia, however, had to write novels glorifying Stalin, never producing poetry comparable to the other modernists.

Russia’s Nobel laureate Boris Pasternak had been so taken by Titsian’s poems that he translated many into Russian, garnering fame for his friend. One of the poems Pasternak helped make famous in Russian runs:

I don’t write poems; poetry writes me.
This poem walks with my life.
A poem is a landslide which carries me away
and buries me alive.

At the top of the stairwell, I knock; the woman who opens the door has a question in her eyes. Who am I? Has she forgotten she lives in a museum? It turns out they have not had a visitor for years. As museums go, Titsian Tabidze Museum is unconventional in that it is the private residence of Titsian’s descendants, home of his daughter Nitka, now eighty-four, and his granddaughter, Nina (named after his late wife). The Titsian Tabidze Museum is more shrine to this legacy than institution.

Nitka and Nina sit across from me at a large mahogany table in the center of the room. Despite three decades that divide them, the resemblance between mother and daughter is striking, and the fact that they are both wearing blue silk only heightens it. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Tbilisi was a cultural capital, and Titsian’s home was its epicenter. Luminaries flocked from all over the world to pay their homage to the poets of Tbilisi’s avant-garde. This was the table, Nina explains, behind which Osip Mandelstam and Boris Pasternak sat with their wives when they came for visits. Almost every major Georgian and Russian of the twentieth century has sat at this table, Nina announces, proud of her grandfather’s literary connections. So I begin with these.

Guernica: Can you talk about Titsian’s friendship with Boris Pasternak?

Nina Tabidze: In 1931, Pasternak came to Georgia to stay with Paolo Iashvili. He had met him in Moscow. When Titsian saw him, he knew at once that they would be friends for life. When Titsian was taken away by the KGB to be shot, Pasternak sent a telegram to the Tabidze family. He wrote: “My heart is torn in two by this news. I wouldn’t be able to endure it, if I didn’t have a family of my own.” Pasternak supported Tabidze’s wife, Nina and her daughter Nitka, when they were in financial straits, by sending all the royalties from his translations of Georgian poets to Nina, who had helped him in his translations of Baratashvili when he was in Tbilisi. He also dedicated Ne ia pishu stikhi [I don’t write poetry], his book of translations from Titsian and other poets, to Nina.
Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize you know, in 1958, and though he was forced to refuse it at the time, his son Evgeny accepted the prize thirty years later. So they had money from this prize and used it to help us survive.

In 1945, Pasternak came to Tbilisi for the jubilee of Baratashvili’s birth. When he arrived at the airport, he said that he would not go anywhere unless he was taken directly to Titsian’s house to see Nina. The officials assented to his request. It was through Pasternak’s influence, partly through his insistence on reading his translations of Titsian’s poems in public, that Titsian was gradually rehabilitated. Pasternak traveled to Georgia for the last time in 1959. At the train station when he was saying goodbye to Nina he said to her, “Nina, find me a home in the Caucasus. I want to stay there for the rest of my life.” That was the last time Pasternak saw Georgia. He died one year later.

Nina also visited him many times in Peredelkino. Pasternak died in the arms of Nina and of his own wife, Zinaida. The friendship between the Pasternak and Tabidze families continues even to this day. When times were hard for us, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Pasternak family sent us money. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize you know, in 1958, and though he was forced to refuse it at the time, his son Evgeny accepted the prize thirty years later. So they had money from this prize and used it to help us survive.

Titsian was also close friends with the Russian writers Andrei Bely, Konstantine Balmont, Osip Mandelstam, and Sergei Esenin, all of whom visited him here in Tbilisi, and who sat at the table we are now sitting at.

Guernica: What was his friendship with Esenin like?
Nina Tabidze: He had a very special friendship with Esenin, who came to Georgia for the first time in 1921. In 1924, he wrote a poem called “To the Poets of Georgia” in his own blood. In this poem, he called upon his readers to remember him and the Blue Horns together. Esenin was a blond-haired, pale-faced man, and when Nitka saw him, she immediately called him “Zolotaya Monet” [gold coin] because his hair was like gold. The nickname stuck. Even to this day, there is a framed gold coin hanging in the Esenin Museum in Ryazan [Esenin’s native city], in honor of Nitka’s epithet.

Titsian wrote a poem about Esenin as well. Usually, when Titsian wrote poems, he would tuck them away inside his books and wait a few months, after which he would return to them and revise them. The Esenin poem, however was published right away.

Titsian went to his daughter’s bedside one night and whispered in her ear: “Something bad may happen to me soon. I want you to know, Nitka, that your father never did anything to make his daughter ashamed.”

Guernica: It is said that even to this day no one knows where Titsian was buried.

Nina Tabidze: That is the truth. I hope some day we will find his grave, but at this point it’s a mystery. He was shot in a trench, three days after his arrest. The only thing he has which resembled a grave is a plaque on Nina Tabidze’s grave. The plaque gives her husband’s name. Nina is buried in Didube cemetery.

Guernica: What do you know about the circumstances of Titsian’s arrest?

Nina Tabidze: It happened after his best friend Paolo Iashvili was taken into custody. Nitka received a phone call from Paolo soon after he disappeared forever. He begged her not to leave his daughter without someone to look after her. Nitka was young at the time, only sixteen. She did not fully understand what Paolo meant, but it is clear now that he knew he was going to die.

Titisan was summoned to an interrogation with Beria, who told him to sign a document denouncing his friend as an American spy. Tabidze refused. They let him go home, but Titsian knew that he would not be let off as easily as that. During those days, Titsian went to his daughter’s bedside one night and whispered in her ear: “Something bad may happen to me soon. I want you to know, Nitka, that your father never did anything to make his daughter ashamed. Always remember, Nitka, that your parents behaved with dignity and refused to betray their friends.”

Then at 3 A.M. on October 10, 1937, Titsian was arrested. None of his family ever saw him again. In the room next door, a clock is frozen on the hour that he was taken away.

As soon as the museum was opened, the sparrows returned again.

Guernica: So could it be said that, strictly speaking, Titsian did not die for his poetry, but rather for his loyalty to his friends?

Nina Tabidze: Yes, he was a very brave man. He was taken away and killed in 1937, but we only learned about the circumstances of his death—that he was tortured and that he died so soon after being arrested—many years later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, and after the archives were opened. At the time, all they said was that he had been sent to a gulag “without the right of correspondence.” For over ten years they maintained this lie. Both Nina and Nitka continued to believe that Titsian was alive somewhere far away in Siberia. When Nitka entered the university here in Tbilisi, she chose the Russian department, because she hoped this would enable her to search for her father in Russia.

Nitka Tabidze: [who had been listening quietly until this point]: All my teachers gave me 5’s [A’s] because they knew whose daughter I was and they wanted to help me find my father. It didn’t matter whether I studied or not, they all gave me the highest grades possible.

Nina Tabidze: [smiling at her mother] After Titsian was taken away, this apartment was turned into a communal apartment. Every family was allotted one room. But the people living here were Georgians. They respected Titsian’s memory. No one ever took anything that belonged to him from these rooms.

Until Titsian was taken away, sparrows used to live on the roof of this building. They made a nest which Nitka gathered. It is preserved in the room next door. After Titsian was arrested, the sparrows stopped coming. Nina once discovered a poem Titsian wrote soon before his death. In the poem he writes that the sparrows will stop coming to the window. It seems that he foresaw the fate that awaited him. This museum was finally opened on April 9, 1985, exactly one week and ninety years after his birth. As soon as the museum was opened, the sparrows returned again.

April was a significant month for the Tabidze family. You know the poem “I Don’t Write Poems. Poetry Writes Me”?

Guernica: [nodding]

Nina Tabidze: Well then you know that he wrote in that poem, “I was born in the month of April.” His niece also died in the massacre of the Georgian people on April 9, 1989.

When father was taken away, mother did not show her grief. Without her strength, I might have given up.

Guernica: How did he meet Nina?

Nina Tabidze: Nina had been reading Titsian’s poems a long time before she met him. She used to read the journals published by the Blue Horns everywhere she went, even when she went to the dentist. However, they did not meet until Titsian moved to Tbilisi. One day, he was walking down Rustaveli Avenue with the Russian poet Konstantin Balmont. Titsian had helped Balmont translate Shota Rustaveli’s [epic classic] “The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin” into Russian for the first time. Balmont passed by an attractive young girl who happened to be Nina. He went up to her and asked her if he could read a poem to her. That was their first acquaintance. After that, they met in a local café. Konstantine Gamsakhurdia was courting Nina at the time. He had given Nina a bouquet of roses. One day someone walked up and snatched the roses from Nina’s hands. Titsian saw this, and as he never went anywhere without a rose in his breast pocket, he went up to Nina, took the rose from his jacket, and placed it on her breast. Then, one day, Nina got sick with tuberculosis. She was sent to a sanatorium to recover. Titsian sent her telegrams every day, and sometimes even more than once a day. That was how they fell in love.
Nitka Tabidze: When father was taken away, mother did not show her grief. She refused to despair and showed no signs of fear. Without her strength, I might have given up. Mother kept us strong.


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