From Irish Political Review: September 2008

A Russian View Of Georgian Gallantry

{Introduction: No, not quite déjà vu. As Marx once commented, history repeats itself, but the second time as farce. There are indeed some echoes to be found in the present of the past recalled below, without needing to be at all starry-eyed about Russia, either past or present. But the present US leader of Georgia is undoubtedly a farcical caricature of those Menshevik leaders of Georgia 90-odd years ago who at least previously had the stature of being among the leaders of Social Democracy in the Russian Empire as a whole, before the Imperialist World War—which Britain insisted should have Russia haemorrhaging to the bitter end—closed off the possibility of any such democratic paths of development and rendered inevitable the Bolshevik Revolution. The following excerpts from a 1922 Russian analysis begin with Lev Davidovich's own dedication, before he proceeds to deal with the role of Arthur Henderson, one of the British Labour Party's most vocal denouncers of Russian actions in Georgia, notwithstanding his own record as a member of the warmongering British Coalition Government in 1916. Manus O'Riordan}

…To the memory of the revolutionary leaders of the peasant revolts in Ossetia, Abkhazia, Ajaria, Guria, etc., shot by the Menshevik government of Georgia; THE AUTHOR DEDICATES THIS BOOK …

The Social Democrats now present in octavo what the imperialist press has previously published in folio. Of this one can easily become convinced by perusing the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Second {Social Democratic} International on the question of Georgia. The text of the resolution deserves to be examined: … "(1) The territory of Georgia has been occupied by the troops of Moscow….solely responsible for the destruction of the Georgian Republic …" … Perhaps the Executive Committee in London does not see what is going on upon the Continent? But, in that case, one might be allowed to put a polite question to Henderson—was he not a Privy Councillor during the Easter Rebellion in Ireland in 1916, when the royal troops bombarded Dublin, and executed 15 Irishmen, including the socialist Connolly already wounded previously? …

With the declaration of the independence of Trans-Caucasia (April 22, 1918), and without consulting the population, the Georgian Mensheviks, in the accepted manner, proclaimed a new era of fraternity between the various races of the republic, upon the basis of democracy. And yet, barely had this new republic been established, than it collapsed. Azerbaijan sought salvation in the Turks, Armenia feared the Turks more than fire, Georgia sought the protection of Germany. Within five weeks after its solemn proclamation, the Trans-Caucasian Republic was dissolved. The democratic declamations at its obsequies were not less fervent than at its birth. But this does not alter the fact that the petty-bourgeois democracy revealed its complete impotence to overcome national friction and to harmonize national interests. On May 26, 1919—again without consulting the population—an independent Georgia was established as a fragment of Trans-Causasia. Again there was a flood of democratic verbosity. Just five months pass, and between democratic Georgia and equally democratic Armenia, a war breaks out over a disputed bit of territory. From both sides were heard speeches on the lofty aims of civilization and about the treacherous attack of the enemy. {The German Social Democrat} Kautsky does not say a single word about this 'democratic' Armeno-Georgian war. Under the leadership of Zhordania, Tsereteli and their Armenian and Tartar doubles, Trans-Caucasia was transformed into a Balkan peninsula, where national massacres and democratic charlatanry, have reached an equally highly flourishing stage …

The whole history of Menshevik Georgia is one of peasant risings. They took place in all parts of the little country without any exception … The risings were liquidated by means of punitive expeditions and disposed of by military courts-martial, composed of officers and landowning princes. The way in which the Georgian government disposed of the revolutionary peasants is best described in the words of the report of the Abkhazian Mensheviks on the activity of Mazniev's detachments in Abkhazia:

'This detachment, by its cruelty and inhumanity', reads the report submitted to the Georgian government 'has surpassed the infamous Tsarist General Alikhanov. Thus, for instance, the Cossacks of this regiment broke into peaceful Abkhazian villages, carrying off anything that was of any value and violating the women. Another part of this detachment under the personal supervision of Citizen Tukhareli, indulged in bombing the houses of those persons who were pointed out by informers. Analogus deeds of violence were perpetrated in the Gudaut district. The chief of the Georgian detachment, Lieutenant Kupuni—a former police captain at Poti—severely ill-treated the entire rural council of the village of Azy. He compelled all the members to lie down under the fire of machine guns, and then proceeded to walk over their bodies, striking at them with the flat of his sabre; he then ordered the council together into a group, and galloping on horseback at full speed, he dashed through the crowd, dealing out whip blows right and left. Abukhva and Dzukuya, former members of the Abkhazian National Council, for protesting against such brutality and violence, were arrested and thrown into a dungeon. The Assistant Commissioner of Gadaut district, Lieutenant Grigoriardi, resorted to the flogging of rural councils, and appointed village Commissioners chosen by him and hated by the people, from among the former Tsarist village elders.'

Djugeli acted no better in suppressing the Ossetian revolt. Since we have made it our task, for educational reasons, to characterize the policy of the Georgian Mensheviks as much as possible by their own declarations and documents we will have to overcome our literary fastidiousness and quote from a book published by the prominent 'knightly' Menshevik leader, Valiko Djugeli, the former chief of the National Guard. We will quote some passages dealing with the actions of Djugeli in the peasant rising in Ossetia. {The book is published in the form of a diary}:

'Night has fallen. There are fires visible everywhere. They are the houses of the insurgents burning. But I am already used to this, and I can watch the scene almost calmly.'

In the following day we read this entry:

'Ossetian villages are burning all round us … We will be cruel. Yes, we will. I can look on with unperturbed soul and clear conscience at the fire and smoke of the burning houses. I am quite calm, quite calm indeed.'

On the following morning Djugeli writes again in his diary:

'Fires are growing … Houses are burning … With fire and sword … And the flames are still glowing, glowing … '

On the evening of the same day he writes:

'Now the fires are everywhere…They keep on burning. Ominous fires; some morbid, cruel, eerie beauty … and gazing upon these bright flames burning in the night an old comrade said to me sadly: I begin to understand Nero and the great fire of Rome … '

'And the fires are burning, burning everywhere.'

… After the evacuation of Ajaria (the region of Batumi), by the British in 1920 the Geeorgian government had to enter into possession of the region by the aid of artillery. In a word, Djugeli had continuous opportunities for displaying his Neronic mannerisms in all corners of Georgia … He burns Ossetian villages, and in the manner of a corrupted schoolboy describes in his diary his elation at the beauty of the conflagration and his kinship with Nero …

When the complete helplessness of 'independent' Georgia became increasingly evident even to the Mensheviks themselves, and when, after the defeat of Germany, they were compelled to seek the protection of the {Anglo-French} Entente, they more carefully concealed the instruments of their Special Detachment, and instead of the shoddy Djugeli-Nero mask, they put on the no less shoddy Zhordania-Tsereteli-Gladstone mask, thus associating themselves with the great herald of Liberal platitudes … When Tsereteli speaks of 'international democracy' (at Petrograd, Tbilisi, or Paris) one never knows whether he means the mythical 'family of nations', the International or the Entente. In the last resort he always addresses himself to the latter … When Zhordania, the leader of the clan, speaks of international solidarity, he at the same time makes allusion to the hospitality of the Georgian Tsars. The 'future of the International and (!) the League of Nations is assured,' announces Chkhenkeli upon his return from Europe. National prejudices and scraps of socialism, Marx and Wilson, flights of rhetoric and middle-class narrow-mindedness, pathos and buffoonery, International and League of Nations, a small dose of sincerity and a large dose of chicanery, put together with the smugness of a provincial apothecary—this mixture, 'well shaken before use' by the tossing of events, is the soul of Georgian Menshevism.

The Georgian Mensheviks hailed with glee the 14 points of {US President} Wilson. They welcomed the League of Nations. First they had welcomed the entry of the Kaiser's troops into Georgia, then they welcomed their departure. They welcomed the entry of the British troops. They welcomed the friendly assurance of the French Admiral. It goes without saying that they welcomed Kautsky, Vandervelde {Belgian Socialist Party}, Mrs. Snowden {British Labour Party}. They are ready at any time to welcome the Archbishop of Canterbury, if the latter is willing to hurl a few extra curses at the Bolsheviks. By this conduct these gentry hope to prove that they are 'part and parcel of European civilisation'.

Menshevism reveals its true character in the Memorandum presented by the Georgian delegation to the League of Nations at Geneva: 'Having rallied to the banner of Western democracy' (reads the concluding part of the Memorandum), 'the Georgian people naturally views with exceptional sympathy the idea of establishing such a political system as, being the direct outcome of war, would at the same time serve as a means for paralysing the possibility of future wars. The League of Nations….embodying such a system, represents the most fruitful achievement of mankind on the road to the future unity of the race. In asking for admission into the League of Nations … the Georgian government thinks that the very principles which are to regulate international life, henceforth directed towards solidarity and collaboration, demand the acceptance into the family of free European nations of an ancient people, once the vanguard of Christianity in the East, now become the vanguard of democracy, a people which only strives to freedom and preserving labour in its home which as its legitimate and indisputable heirloom.' Nothing should be added or detracted. It is a classical document of shallowness …

It has been said that the Soviet forces must evacuate Georgia, but the Georgian coasts are washed by the Black Sea, in which the Entente warships reign supreme. The invasions of the White Guard troops which were disembarked from the British and French ships are well remembered by the population of the Caucasus. The Soviet troops are to go, but the imperialist fleet will remain. This means that the people of Georgia will have to come to an agreement at any price with real master of the situation—the Entente … Or are we to assume that there is no imperialist menace to Caucasia? Because Mrs. Snowden never heard anything about Baku oil? Perhaps she has not. May we inform her (with reference to this question) that the road to Baku is via Batumi-Tbilisi? This last point is a strategically Trans-Caucasian fact, of which the British and French generals cannot plead ignorance. There are even now secret White Guard organisations under the high-sounding title of 'Liberation Committees' (a title which does not prevent them from receiving money subsidies from British and Russian oil magnates, Italian manganese magnates, etc.) The White Guard bands are supplied with arms by sea. All this struggle is for oil and manganese. It is all the same to the oil magnates if they get at the oil via {the Tsarist Russian General} Denikin, the Moslem Musavat Party, or via the gate of national self-determination with its doorkeepers from the Second International. If Denikin has not succeeded in defeating the Red Army, perhaps {British Labour Party leader} MacDonald will succeed in removing it by peaceful means. Anyhow, the result will be the same.

But MacDonald will not succeed. Such questions cannot be settled by resolutions of the Second International even if those resolutions were not as paltry, contradictory, dishonest and indefinite as is the resolution on Georgia … When Mr. Churchill makes these demands, he makes as well a significant gesture in the direction of the long barrels of the naval guns and the barbed wire of the blockade. Upon what does Henderson rely? Is it the Holy Scriptures, or a party programme, or his own record? But the Holy Scriptures are nothing but a naïve myth, Mr. Henderson's programme is a myth, if not a naïve one, and as to his record, it is a severe indictment against him. Not so long ago, Henderson was a Minister in one of the democracies, viz of his own—the British democracy. Why then has he not insisted that his own democracy, for the defence of which he was ready to make all sacrifices, including the acceptance of a Ministerial portfolio from the Liberal Conservative Lloyd George, should begin to put into practice not our principles (heaven forbid) but his own—Mr. Henderson's? Why has he not demanded the evacuation of India and Egypt? Why did he not, at the right time, support the demands of the Irish for their complete liberation form the yoke of Britain? …

{Lev Davidovich Trotsky, Soviet Commissar for War: "Social Democracy and the Wars of Intervention, Russia 1918-1921", 20th February 1922.}


… Of course, if there were no Great Russian chauvinism—which is aggressive because it is strong, because it always has been strong, and which has retained the habit of oppressing and humiliating—if there were no Great Russian chauvinism, local chauvinism, as a reaction to Great Russian chauvinism, might perhaps have existed, so to speak, only in the smallest way, in miniature, because anti-Russian nationalism is in the long run a defence, a rather ugly form of defence against Russian nationalism, against Russian chauvinism. If this nationalism were only defensive, it might not be worth making a fuss about. We could concentrate our entire weight of action, the entire weight of struggle, on Great-Russian chauvinism … But the trouble is that in some republics this defensive nationalism becomes converted into aggressive nationalism. Take Georgia. Over 30 percent of its population are non-Georgians. They include Armenians, Abkhazians, Ajarians, Ossets and Tartars. The Georgians dominate. And among a certain section of the Georgian Communists the idea has been developing that there is no particular need to reckon with these small nationalities; they are less cultured, less developed, and there is therefore no need to reckon with them. This is chauvinism—a harmful and dangerous chauvinism; for it may turn, and has already turned, the small republic of Georgia into an arena of discord …

Sometimes this chauvinism begins to undergo a very interesting evolution. I have in mind Transcaucasia. You know that Transcaucasia consists of three republics embracing ten nationalities. From very early times Transcaucasia has been the scene of massacre and strife and under the Mensheviks and Nationalists, the scene of warfare. You know of the Georgian-Armenian War. You also know of the massacres which took place at the beginning of 1904 and the end of 1905. I could name several districts where the Armenian majority massacred the entire remaining part of the population, which consisted of Tartars. Zangesur, for instance: in this region the majority of the population are Armenians, and they massacred all the Tartars. I could name another province—Nakhichevan. There the Tartars predominated, and they massacred all the Armenians. That was just before the liberation of Armenia and Georgia from the yoke of imperialism. (Voice: that was their way of solving the national problem.) This also, of course, was a way of solving the national problem. But it is not the Soviet way …

Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, but the Georgians there are not more that 25 per cent, the Armenians not less that 35 per cent, and the rest belong to other nationalities. There's a capital of Georgia for you! If Georgia were a separate republic, a certain transplantation of population might be effected—for instance the Armenian population might be removed from Tbilisi. Was there not such a decree, of which Comrade Makharadze said that it was directed against the Armenians? A certain transplantation might be effected so as to diminish the proportion of Armenians to Georgians in Tbilisi from year to year, and thus convert Tbilisi into a genuinely Georgian capital. I grant that they have abandoned the decree on eviction. But they possess a vast number of possibilities, a vast number of flexible forms—such as "relieving" the town—by which it would be possible, while maintaining the semblance of internationalism, to arrange matters in such a way that there would be fewer Armenians in Tbilisi. It is these geographical advantages, which the deviators do not want to lose, and the disadvantages of the Georgians in Tbilisi, where the number of Georgians is less than that of the Armenians, that are causing our deviators to be opposed to the federation. The Mensheviks simply evicted Armenians and Tartars from Tibilisi. Now, under Soviet rule, eviction is impossible …

{Josef Dzhugashvili of Gori, Georgia, aka J.V. Stalin, Soviet Commissar for Nationalities}: "Report on National Factors in Party and State Development", 23rd April 1923.}

Go To Secure Sales Area

Articles And Editorials From Athol Books Magazines ATHOL BOOKS HOMEPAGE
Free Downloads Of Athol Books Magazines Aubane Historical Society
Free Downloads Of Athol Books Pamphlets, etc The Heresiarch
Archive Of Articles From Church & State Archive Of Editorials From Church & State
Archive Of Articles From Irish Political Review Archive Of Editorials From Irish Political Review
Athol Books Secure Online Sales Belfast Historical & Educational Society