“The founding fathers of the modern Georgian Nation” by Pf. Stephen F. Jones

History Worth Remembering

Professor Stephen F. Jones, Mount Holyoke College

  After the end of the Cold War, social democracy lost its global appeal. It was tarred with the same brush as communism. Like communism, it was an ideology of the left – anti-market, antiquated, and a threat to our liberties. But coupling communism with social democracy is like linking liberalism with fascism. It is misleading and manipulative.   In Georgia, neo-liberal politicians use the association to condemn any attempt at greater state involvement in the economy, such as better protection of employees’ rights or better protection of the environment.  But the manipulation goes deeper, burrowing into the country’s past. Eric Hobsbawm wrote that history is “selected, written, pictured, popularized and institutionalized by those whose function it is to do so.”  In Soviet Georgia, creating history was the function of the party and the well-behaved intelligentsia who told us, among other things, that the Georgievsk Treaty was a progressive act reflecting centuries of Russian-Georgian friendship.  Soviet ideology dictated such a historical assessment.  Today in Georgia, we see a similarly ideologically determined view of the past.  If neo-liberalism is good, then anything in the past that was on the left, from social democracy to communism, must have been bad.  That includes, of course, the Georgian Democratic Republic of 1918-1921.

Often mislabeled as Menshevik, the Georgian Democratic Republic today is either ignored (a deliberately forgotten history), or condemned as a Marxist state that betrayed Georgian national interests. Georgian Social Democrats are considered too left-wing to be patriotic; their commitment to socialist ideas is seen as both anti-national and anti-rational.  Their social democratic policies, it is argued, prevented them from creating a strong national state and from effectively resisting Bolshevik Russia.  A good example of this approach was recently displayed in the Georgian Journal  (7-13 October, 2010, p.15), which suggested that the Russian-Georgian Treaty of May 7th, 1920 was a betrayal, and possibly treasonous.  Noe Jordania is portrayed as hopelessly naïve, weak, and responsible for the fall of the First Republic.   We are told that he “turned Georgia into a haven for socialists and communists,” and “forced the French and English military units and fleet to withdraw from Georgia.”  The interview suggests that in the spring of 1920, instead of signing the Treaty, the Georgian military could have liberated the South Caucasus from Russian troops.

These are fantastic claims. After the signing of the May 1920 Treaty, despite the Communist party’s legalization, the position of the Bolsheviks worsened, in part due to Georgian government repression, in part due to the local Bolsheviks own demoralization following what they saw as capitulation to the Georgian government.  It was not a “haven” for Bolsheviks (it is unclear who is meant by “socialists”). Second, the French and English were not forced out by the Georgian government’s actions in May; they had already announced their intention to leave Georgia and hand over the mandate to the Italians, something the Georgian government supported.  Third, despite Bolshevik losses in Ukraine at this time, the Georgian Army and the National Guard did not have the resources to exploit Bolshevik weakness and expel Russian forces from the Caucasus.  Such a war would have weakened an already financially bankrupt state and inflamed Georgia’s national minority areas in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  In 1920, Jordania needed peace, and the Georgian people needed peace.

The Georgian Journal article characterizes Grigol Uratadze, who negotiated the treaty with Russia, as inexperienced and not a “political figure” in the Georgia social democratic movement.  This is inaccurate – after his leadership role in the Gurian rebellion in 1904-1905, he was a longtime party activist who played a visible role in the life of the Georgian Democratic Republic.  The treaty he negotiated with Russia was imperfect, but surely even President Saakashvili would agree that institutionalizing diplomatic relations with Russia is an important first step in securing stability at home.   The Treaty did not reflect Noe Jordania’s left-wing sympathies, but his middle of the road pragmatism.

The Soviet legacy in Georgia has been deep and prolonged. But enough time has passed (20 years) to reconsider the Georgian Democratic Republic without the emotional and negative bias associated with anything left of center.  Any fair analysis of the First Republic would acknowledge the extraordinary complexities faced by Noe Jordania’s government – compromise was inevitable for a small and weak state like Georgia, both in domestic and foreign policy.  A proper and temperate study of Georgian Social Democrats between 1918-1921 would show they were as patriotic as anyone else; many sacrificed their lives for the continued independence of Georgia.  Georgian Social Democracy was not unpatriotic and, as the Georgian Social Democrats demonstrated during their struggle with Bolshevism, had little to do with communism.

In 1888, Ilya Chavchavadze warned: “a nation which begins to forget its history becomes diluted, degenerates, and loses its face.”  Georgia has a rich history, a multicolored history, and the current consensus among political elites on the correctness of neo-liberalism should not blind Georgians to the constructive national policies of past social democratic leaders like Noe Jordania, Akaki Chkhenkeli, Karlo Chkheidze, and Noe Ramishvili.  They were the “founding fathers” of the modern Georgian nation and the republic, and they deserve to be remembered as patriotic Georgians too.

(2010)


Georgian Social Democracy by Leopold H. Haimson

PREFACE of Leopold HAIMSON (Columbia University) to « MY LIFE » by Noé JORDANIA – Edition translated from Georgian to Russian by Ina JORDANIA. (Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 1968)

Noah Zhordania (Jordania) embarked upon his political career in the mid‑1890’s and almost immediately became the most prominent and influential figure in Georgian Social Democracy. He was president of the independent Georgian republic from May 1918 until the republic’s conquest by Soviet troops in, 1921. With the publication of the present volume, the Menshevik Project, in cooperation with the Hoover Institution, makes available to the Russian reading public an edited and annotated version of Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) memoirs as translated into Russian by his widow, Ina Zhordania (Jordania)  . Although the manuscript was completed inFrance in 1939, it did not appear in print until after the author’s death, when it was published in the original Georgian under the title Chemo tsarslit, Mogonebani (Paris, 1953).

The inclusion in the Project’s Russian‑language series of these reminiscences, and of a companion volume by Gregory Uratadze, hardly requires justification in view of the importance of the role of the Georgian Social Democrats in the councils of the RSDRP, and especially in the development of Menshevism, from the beginning of the century through the two revolutions of 1917. Most prospective readers of this volume will already be well aware of the influence the Georgians wielded in the Social Democratic factions in all four Dumas and at the various conferences and congresses of the RSDRP. Many will also be familiar with the part played by such figures as Tsereteli and Chkheidze in steering the course followed by the moderate socialist parties in 1917 during the precarious experiments of the dvoevlastie and of the Coalition ministries.

The historical prominence of the Georgian Social Democrats in the councils of the RSDRP was partly a tribute to their individual political talents and oratorical skills. But it was also a reflection of a broader political and social phenomenon which still invites systematic scholarly investigation: of all regions of the Russian Empire, it was in Georgia that Menshevism sank the deep roots that nurtured the growth of a truly national party.

The emergence of a Menshevik government in Georgia in 1918 was no historical accident. Beginning in the spring of 1905, with the mass meetings in city and countryside at which Zhordania (Jordania) (and his followers debated with he Bolsheviks the differences that had arisen between the two factions at the Second Congress of the RSDRP, the Georgian variant of Menshevism gained a hold on the allegiance of vast strata of the Georgian working class, peasantry, and intelligentsia. This hold never really loosened until the Georgian Mensheviks officially assumed the reins of power in 1917. No true analogue can be found in the annals of the RSDRP for the success of the Georgian Social Democrats in mobilizing so broad and steady a national following. Not even the role of the Bund in the organization of Jewish workers in Poland and the Pale, nor the influence the Bolsheviks gained on the eve of the War over the workers of Petersburg province and the Central Industrial region, can be compared to the infrastructure of political and social organization and effective authority built by the Georgian Social Democrats and maintained by them through even the most difficult years of the Stolypin era.

It may be useful to mention here some of the clues Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) memoirs provide for an understanding of this extraordinary strength, and at the same time to comment more generally on the contribution these writings make to our knowledge of the history of Georgian Social Democracy. In weighing this contribution, two preliminary observations appear equally in order. One is that these reminiscences should be approached with the scholarly caution appropriate to the reading of all memoirs, particularly those recorded at an advanced age by an author whose political values crystallized fully only after the events he sought to recall. Conversely, it is equally important to emphasize that this volume provides some important corrections ‑ overcorrections, on occasion ‑ of the picture drawn of the development of Georgian Social Democracy in much of the literature, especially in Russian, published on the subject both before and after the Revolution of 1917.

One important correction appears at the beginning of Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) account. Most existing treatments of the early years of Georgian Social Democracy have laid their main emphasis on the spread of industrial unrest and the organization of Social Democratic circles among the Georgian working class, especially inTiflisand Batum, and on the catalytic role played in this process by Russian Social Democrats who influenced the Georgian workers. This thread in the early development of Georgian Social Democracy ‑ as reflected, for example, in the growth of revolutionary unrest during the late 1890′s among the workers at the Tiflis railroad yard and railroad shops can hardly be ignored. But neither can the quite distinctive line of development emphasized in Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) account – the crucial role played during the same period by Mesamedasi in the conversion to Marxism of significant elements of the younger generation of the Georgian intelligentsia. To be sure, a few of the Georgian intellectuals who were drawn into the ranks of Social Democracy during this period had been directly exposed to the influence of Russian and European socialist thought during their student years at various universities of the Empire (Moscow, Petersburg, Warsaw, and especially Derpt). But most of them, including many of the students at the Georgian theological seminaries which proved such fertile recruiting grounds for the Social Democrats, were drawn into camp by the propaganda activities of Mesamedas, and especially through its spread of the Marxist word in Georgian legal journals such as Moambeal and Kvali.

Considering the role members of the intelligentsia played in the development of Social Democracy in other regions of the Russian Empire, their prominence in the early, as indeed in the later, history of Georgian Social Democracy hardly appears a singular phenomenon. What is noteworthy, however, is the remarkable ability the Georgian Social Democratic intelligentsia demonstrated ‑ especially from 1905 onward ‑ to divest itself of the halter of ideological dogmas and keep in tune with the mood and aspirations of the masses of Georgian workers and peasants.This ideological adaptability seems all the more striking if we consider that many of the most prominent figures in Mesamedas, and in the councilsof Georgian Social Democracy throughout its history, were nominally of gentry origin. This quasi‑legal definition of their status tends, however, to obscure the fact that the generally impoverished gentry families that gave them birth ‑ and with which most of them remained in close contact throughout their lives ‑ were all but indistinguishable in their economic position, their mores, their economic, social, and political aspirations from the peasant population of their native villages.

Such intimate ties to the village were even more conspicuously characteristic of the Georgian workers who, from the late 1890′s onward, were drawn in increasing numbers to Social Democracy. Especially at the beginning of the century, these were still, in the main, first‑generation workers who had been recruited into industry from the countryside and periodically returned to it. The political significance of their presence on the scene may be assessed from the fact that the impetus for organization of the peasant movement that emerged in Georgia in 1903‑1905 originated largely with industrial workers who had been deported back to their native villages by the czarist authorities for participation in revolutionary disorders. Moreover, the close psychological and social bonds that united the Georgian intelligentsia, working class, and peasantry unquestionably assisted the growth of Georgian Social Democracy into a truly national party. It enabled its leaders to recognize that one great potential appeal for the Georgian peasantry of Marxism, as against other radical doctrines, lay in the Marxian justification of the legitimacy (if only for a limited historical period, to be sure) of the principle of private ownership of the land. Above all, as Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) memoirs suggest, their closeness to the “grass roots” impelled Georgian Social Democratic leaders to perceive that another powerful point favoring acceptance of their program would be its stress on internationalism. For they knew that to a people steeped in a historical tradition of isolation and insecurity ‑ oppressed by the Russian autocracy, yet looking toRussiain for protection against hostile neighbors ‑ a vision of union with the Russian masses and a powerful European proletariat, in one common titanic struggle for freedom and social justice, would be alluring indeed.

It was at least in part because of their awareness of the strength of these sentiments among their constituents that the leaders of Georgian Social Democracy resisted so vigorously the nationalist appeals which proved so irresistible, after the turn of the century, to radical parties of other minorities of the Empire, and to certain groups in the Georgian intelligentsia as well. Until 1918, the “national” program of the Georgian Social Democrats went no farther than to advocate cultural autonomy for the Georgian people and the establishment of a degree of local self‑goverment for the Transcaucasus as a whole. In the councils of the RSDRP, the Georgians remained to the last firm opponents of the organization of national parties, especially in the Caucasus. All this is not to suggest that the history of Georgian Social Democracy was quite as unmarred by social stresses and conflicts as some official Georgian accounts of it suggest. One of the most notable developments in the early years, which the official accounts record with understandable pride, was the emergence in Georgian cities as far back as the 1890′s of independent workers’ organizations, financed by the workers’ own membership dues and run by democratically elected worker leadership. But this pattern of organization, and the spirit of self‑reliance and independence among the Georgian workers it reflected, did not become accepted in Georgian Social Democracy without travail.

Most important, after the turn of the century the spread of Iskra’s influence, and its efforts to establish a centralized, all‑nation underground organization to direct the fight against absolutism, gave rise to a series of disputes over the emphases to be laid in the “political” as against the “economic” struggle. In Georgia, as in other regions of the Empire, the disputes came into focus largely through a conflict over party organization: were the leaders of the lower party organization to be democratically elected, or were they to be “coopted” by higher party organs to insure both the concentration on the political struggle and the degree of secrecy and centralization in its direction that were considered necessary by the advocates of Iskra’s line? Due to the democratic traditions that had become established in some of the Georgian working‑class organizations, notably in Tiflis, the conflict over Iskra’s program turned inevitably into a struggle between intelligentsia and workers. Even so, the lines were not as clearly drawn in Georgia as in some other regions of the Empire: some of the Georgian workers, especially in the oil fields, rallied to the militant tactics, if not the organizational prin­ciples, favored by the Iskra camp, while many of the Social Democratic intelligentsia who had been associated with the propaganda activities of Mesamedas recoiled, more or less vocally, from these same tactics. The conflict, marked by some early victories for advocates of “cooptation,” was not finally resolved until the sweeping victory that carried the Georgian Mensheviks into control of Georgian party organizations in 1905. It is notable that the Mensheviks won this victory largely by stressing ‑ with appropriate references to Lenin’s What Is To Be Done ‑ that the underlying issue in their conflict with the Bolsheviks was the latter’s insistence on upholding in the Party organization the indefinite tutelage of a “conscious” intelligentsia elite over the supposedly “unconscious” masses of the working class. The Menshevik argument may have incorporated oversimplifications, but, as the Bolsheviks soon discovered to their chagrin, it proved enormously effective.

In contrast to these early conflicts between intelligentsia and workers, the difficulties which the Georgian Social Democrats had to surmount in their dealings with the peasantry were rooted in some of the tenets originally absorbed from Marxist doctrine. For example, in Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) own writings of the late 1890′s, with their emphasis on the superiority of city over countryside and on the leading role of the bourgeoisie and proletariat in the modernization of contemporary Georgian life, we can find a reflection of the jaundiced view, characteristic of orthodox Marxism, of the political and social “backwardness” of the peasantry and of the “idiocy” of rural life ( For a particularly striking example of these early views, see Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) article “Economic Prosperity and Nationality,” published in the journal Moambe in 1894. The article is reprinted in the selection of Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) articles published in Georgian in 1911.)  Zhordania (Jordania) himself soon outgrew these early prejudices, and indeed he discerned the revolutionary potential of the peasant movement that had emerged in Georgia by 1905 immediately upon his return from Western Europe. Yet, despite their great personal prestige, he and Sylvester Dzhibladze ran into considerable resistance in winning other Georgian Menshevik leaders over to the view that the peasants should be treated as legitimate partners of the workers in the organization and political councils of Georgian Social Democracy ( For further details on this point, see the memoirs of Gregory Uratadze published in this series). What matters, however, is that, despite its roots in Marxist orthodoxy, this opposition was eventually overcome, and as a result the Georgian Mensheviks won, from 1905 onward, the active support of the Georgian peasantry.

I have already referred to the pragmatic spirit that marked, from this point, the Georgian Social Democrats’ handling of the agrarian question. Fully aware of the importance the Georgian peasants attached to the ownership of their land in full title, they generally omitted in their agrarian appeals any qualifications to the principle of peasant ownership, ignoring without a qualm the plank calling for “municipalization” of the land that had been adopted at the Stockholm Congress as official Menshevik doctrine. Such pragmatism distinguished the approach of the Georgian Mensheviks to the various tactical and organizational issues that so gravely beset, and divided, other groups in the RSDRP during the prewar years. One of the striking features of Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) memoirs, which may come as a surprise to many readers, is the severity of his indictment of the political judgment and stature of the Menshevik leadership in Russia and in the emigration. It is obviously difficult to assess to what extent the tone of these criticisms reflects attitudes that Zhordania (Jordania’s) had already come to entertain during the prewar period as against the antagonisms that emerged between Georgian and Russian Mensheviks only after the Revolution, as the result of the Georgian declaration of independence. What may be safely stated, however, is that even in the prewar years certain differences in political style, in approach to political problems, indeed in the very conception of the responsibilities of political leadership, had already developed between the Georgian and Russian Menshevik leaders. Surely these differences go far to explain the character, if not the sharpness of tone, of Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) criticisms.

Most of the Russian Menshevik leaders during these years – including many of those who became involved in the effort to organize an open labor movement ‑ were first and foremost ideologues, men whose approach to political problems was dictated largely by broad, abstracted, and relatively rigid conceptions of Russia’s development. The long periods of exile many of these men had to endure, and their ideological disputes with Bolshevik opponents after 1905, tended to accentuate these natural proclivities. By contrast, the Georgian Mensheviks, as the leaders of a national party in close contact with the mood of its constituents, developed during precisely these view political issues and choices largely in terms of their practical consequences, their eyes focusing on the advantages or circumstances of any particular course of action.

From the very outset, the Georgians manifested none of the reluctance that characterized the early response of the Russian Bolsheviks and even Mensheviks to the opportunity of participating in the new representative institutions. (Indeed, they were the only group in the RSDRP to endorse, in the summer of 1905, participation in the so‑called Bulygin Duma despite the severe restrictions within which this institution was to operate under terms of the Imperial Rescript that announced this abortive project.) Broad visions of the “perspectives” ofRussia’s revolutionary development, not to speak of analogies with the history of Western Europe, carried little weight with the Georgian Social Democrats in reaching decisions on issues of this kind. They considered it obvious that they should participate in representative or even pseudo representative institutions, not only because of the platform such institutions would provide for political agitation, but also because they saw it as their duty to promote, to represent wherever they could, the interests of their constituents, and by same token the interests of their party.

The examples I have offered of the practical spirit with which the Georgian Social Democrats approached political problems are not meant to suggest that they refrained from looking for guidance toward broad diag­noses of the political situation. They, too, sought periodically to peer into the future, but they did so with a psychological readiness to revise their judgments, and alter their course, when the winds they detected in the political atmosphere appeared to gather momentum or change direction.

Some examples from Zhordania’s ((Jordania’s) own political career may serve to illustrate this point. In 1908, at the height of the Stolypin “reaction” and the disintegration of the revolutionary movement, we find him calling on the Social Democrats to repudiate without qualification their earlier conception of “proletarian hegemony in the bourgeois revolution” now that the Russian bourgeoisie had clearly emerged as an independent political actor. This new political fact, Zhordania (Jordania) concluded, suggested not only that the Social Democrats should concentrate their efforts on the economic and political organization of the working class, but also that they should their political strategy and tactics to the proposition that the bourgeoisie would be the chief political actor in the making of its own revolution (3).

At this point, Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) tactical and organizational views seemed closely in accord with those of the Menshevik “Liquidators” in Russia. By 1914, however, with the apparently accelerating spread of revolutionary unrest among the masses of the Russian working class ‑ against the back­ground of a growing political crisis within and outside the Duma ‑ we see Zhordania (Jordania) joining with Trotsky in criticizing the Menshevik “Liquidators” for the excessive moderation of their tactics, and for their failure to appre­ciate the revolutionary potential of the workers’ movement (4).

Even more strikingly, in the spring of 1917, Zhordania (Jordania) and the Menshevik leaders in Georgia would be among the first in the councils of the Menshevik party to oppose the experiment at coalition with the representatives of “bourgeois” parties and to demand the establishment of an “odnoradnoe sotsialisticheskoe pravitel’stvo” ‑ a government in which the socialist parties would assume all the prerogatives and responsibilities of power. Only such a government, Zhordania (Jordania) would then insist, could carry out, in time, the decisive social and economic reforms ‑ particularly on the land question ‑ without which “Revolutionary Democracy” would inevitably lose the support of the masses of the working class and peasantry, and run into political catastrophe. These precepts, which Zhordania (Jordania) sought to apply in Georgia with the support of local Social Democratic organizations, brought him into conflict with the leaders of the Menshevik party in Russia, including his own compatriot, Irakli Tsereteli. It may be argued that the criticisms of Tsereteli offered in these memoirs, like Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) indictment of the Russian Mensheviks, reflect in part antagonisms that fully emerged only after the October Revolution. The undeniable element of truth in this observation should not be allowed to obscure the significance of the differences that had already arisen between the two men during the decisive months of the spring and summer of 1917.

While these sketchy introductory remarks are no substitute for the close examination of other available sources that any serious student of the history of Georgian Social Democracy will have to make in checking the impressions he may draw from this volume, I hope they may suggest to the more casual reader some of the points of special interest that Zhordania’s (Jordania’s) reminiscences present, as well as the care that should be observed in interpreting them.  (…)

3. See writings of that year entitled “Urgent Questions of the Day” in the collection of his articles published in 1911.

4. Cf. the articles published by Zhordania in Borba in 1914, under the pseudonym An.

(Note: In brackets, added by us, the usual European spelling of Jordania)


People’s Guard – National Guard – Georgia

IMG_0550 Etat major de La Garde les 3 Noé  et V Djougheli

The staff of the National Guard – 1st row: at the center Noe Jordania, to his left Valiko Jugheli and Noe Ramichvili; 2nd to his right, Noe Homeriki

The People’s Guard set up at the initiative of the Georgian social democratic party before the independence was renamed the “National Guard” when the Republic of Georgia proclaimed its independence

The 12 of december 1917, the people’s Guard seized the Arsenal of Tiflis and its weapons in order to defend  the homeland. this day became a National Day during the independence, the second to be celebrated, after the 26 of May.

At the very difficult times when the Democratic State of Georgia was shaped, and the young Republic had still neither regular army nor organized militia, the People’s Guard was the only effective force that the founders of the Georgian Republic could oppose to the anarchical and anti-statist elements.

The leaders and organizers of the “armed forces of the proletariat” were “Valiko JUGHELI, Chief of staff, one of the few intellectuals included in the squad; Alexander DGUEBOULADZE, Socialist worker, Valiko CHARACHIDZE, soldier, he had earned four crosses of St. George and had refused to be promoted officer to remain with his fellow soldiers. He created the artillery of the People’s Guard and was killed by the Tatars. Sandro MAISSOURADZE, worker locksmith, he died during the Armenian-Georgian war, on the battlefield of Ekaterinfeld, when he tried to take back a battery”. W. Woytinski in” La Démocratie Géorgienne” –  Edition Alcan Levy – Paris 1921.

GP2

Noe Jordania (in the middle, with a white beard)


Noe Jordania

January 15th 1868, Lantchkhouti, Georgia – January 11th 1953, Vanves, France.

Seminary student in Tbilisi, Noe Jordania distinguished himself very early by a critical manner of thinking. He devoted his time to the study of natural sciences and sociology, while leading a clandestine student group.

In 1891, he is a student at the Veterinary Institute in Warsaw. He studies also the European socialist and revolutionary theories and movements.

Back in Tbilisi in 1893, he presides over the birth of the Georgian Social Democratic party, and then leaves in a study tour to Switzerland, France, Germany, England. From there, he sends articles to his country’s press: about Georgia’s national past, European workers movement, rural organization, etc. So, when he returned in Georgia, four years after, he was recognized by all as a highly talented journalist and writer.

A year later, he takes the directorship of the newspaper “Kvali” (The Furrow), which become the rallying point of the young generation in revolt against the Tsarist regime. He was arrested   and imprisoned. In 1902, he launched the idea of a confederation of the peoples of the Caucasus.

State Duma of_the Russian Empire. 1906 He is elected to the first Russian empire State Duma (1906) where he chaired the Socialists’ parliamentary group. Signatory of the Viborg call, he is sentenced to detention.

In 1917, after the Russian defeat, he is the President of all the revolutionary organizations of the Caucasus and of the Georgian National Council.

On May 26, 1918, Noe Jordania, leader of the Social Democratic party, in behalf of the National Council proclaims the independence of Georgia.

Jordania portrait

The independent Georgia made Noe Jordania its head of State. Under his enlightened leadership the State of Georgia revives. At the head of the government, he undertook the national reconstruction, the reforms which must bring Georgia to prosperity.

Social and educational action, defense of democratic freedoms, agrarian reform, a foreign policy carried out for building alliances, for obtaining the recognition of the independence of Georgia and the recovery of  the provinces ceded by Russia to Turkey by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1917) had developed in the Georgian population a strong sense of national ownership.

However, Soviet Russia armies invaded Georgia, in violation of the Treaty of May 7, 1920 and without declaring war. After a valiant resistance, Georgia, also attacked by Turkey, fells to the Russians. On March 17, 1921, the legal Georgian Government, Noe Jordania at his head, is charged with the mission to defend the sovereign interest of Georgia before foreign powers and public opinion.

Acting on the decision of the Constituent Assembly, they sailed for France which officially welcomed the Government in exile. They defended with unflagging energy the rights of Georgia to the official representatives of the nations, Socialist parties, public opinion.

Up until the end of his life, Noe Jordania kept clandestine personal contacts with Georgia for he is convinced that in Georgian people’s heart must be preserved the national flame in order that, when the time comes, Georgia restores its independence.

xxx

Stephen F. Jones – “Socialism in Georgian colors” . Harvard University Press- 2005:

“There was Jordania’s authority and leadership. Wladimir Woytinski, a prominent Menshevik who fled with Irakli Tsereteli on the perilous journey to Georgia from Petrograd in 1918 and who edited “Bor’ba”, the Georgian Social Democrats’ Russian-language newspaper from 1918-1919, remarked :

“In Georgia, he (Jordania), looked taller, his voice was stronger, and a slight stammer added weight to words. There seemed to be the halo of the tribal prophet around his majestic head with its thin gray hair and full beard. indeed he was more than the head of a political party. He was the uncountested leader of his small nation, surrounded by love and devotion, and the remarkable unity of the Georgian people stemmed largely from his influence.” ( W. Woytinski in ” La Démocratie Géorgienne” –  Edition Alcan Levy – Paris 1921.)


O. and M. Wardrop – British friends of Georgia

Oliver Wardrop

Sir (John) Oliver Wardrop (10 October 1864 – 19 October 1948) was a British diplomat, traveller and Georgian scholar, primarily known as the United Kingdom’s first Chief Commissioner of Transcaucasus in Georgia (1919-21), and also as the founder and benefactor of Kartvelian studies at Oxford University.

After traveling to Georgia, then part of Russian empire in 1887, O. Wardrop wrote his study The Kingdom of Georgia, published in 1888. In 1894 during his second journey to Georgia he mastered the Georgian language and published a series of books on Georgia, including his translation of Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s The Book of Wisdom and Lies.

In July 1919, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon offered O. Wardrop the post of the first British Chief Commissioner of Transcaucasus in Tbilisi. The government of independent Georgia and its head Noe Jordania welcomed Sir Oliver’s return to Georgia. O. Wardrop tried to promote Georgian culture and gather all the support from the west for the newly formed country under the threat of Bolshevik aggression.

After Soviet Russia’s Red Army’s invasion of Georgia in 1921, O. Wardrop organized the set-up of the Georgian Society and the Georgian Committee in London. In 1930, along with William Edward David Allen, politician and historian of South Caucasus who published in 1932 A history of the Georgian people, he formed the Georgian Historical Society which published its own journal Georgica.

O. Wardrop also catalogued the Georgian manuscripts at the British Museum and continued to add to the Wardrop Collection of Georgian books and manuscripts at the Bodleian Library.

Marjory Wardrop in the costume of a Tbilisian lady   -    Photo Alexander Roinashvili

Marjory Wardrop in the costume of a Tbilisian lady – Photo Alexander Roinashvili

 

His sister Marjory Wardrop (1869–1909) was an English scholar. Fluent in seven foreign languages, she also learned Georgian and traveled to Georgia in 1894, 1895 and 1896. She translated into English prose the 12th-century Georgian epic poem by Shota Rustaveli, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, published after her death by Oliver Wardrop in London (1912). She translated and published Georgian Folk Tales (London, 1894), The Hermit by Ilia Chavchavadze (London, 1895), The Life of St. Nino (Oxford, 1900), etc.

After her death, Sir Oliver created the Marjory Wardrop Fund at Oxford University “for the encouragement of the study of the language, literature, and history of Georgia, in Transcaucasia.” In 2003, based on the legacy left by Sir John Oliver Wardrop and his sister Marjory, the Oxford University Georgian Society was founded.

 

 


Georgian Social Democratic Party’s individuality

Stephen F. Jones “Socialism in Georgian Colors” – Harvard University Press – 2005

Chapter 5: « The split at home »

Excerpt from “Conclusion” P. 127-128

« At this time, Niko Nikoladze, in a letter to Jordania, told him that Georgians regarded him “as a messiah”*. Grigol Uratadze recalls his impressive bearing. Jordania used both his charisma and theoretical status to keep Georgian social democracy out from under Russian ideological hegemony. After the split, Jordania helped create a pluralistic party organization, which in many ways resembled the Gramscian “intellectual collective”. Its aim was to unite small businessmen, poor peasants, and professionals behind the workers’ party. In a sense the Georgian policy was more Menshevik than the Mensheviks’ own-it was what Axelrod, the doyen of Russian Menshevism called “the going of the proletariat into all classes”. But for most Mensheviks and Russian Bolsheviks, the Georgian policies took on a heretic tinge because they led to a workers’ party diluted with peasants and meshchane.  (…).

The source of Georgian Social Democratic individuality was, paradoxically, its pursuit of Russian Marxist orthodoxy. It followed Axelrod’s idea that the party should consist of and be run by the working people themselves and Plekhanov’s idea – written into the program of the RSDLP- that the party should represent “all strata of the laboring and exploited population”. Both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks generally ignored these principles. But the Georgians’ political environment was the vital factor. The event that contributed the most significantly to the Georgian Social Democrats’ ideological distinctiveness and practice was the peasant rebellion in the west Georgian countryside between 1902 and 1906. It reinforced the Georgian Social democrats’ conviction that they had different problems and opportunities than those in Russia. The peasant movement in western Georgia did two things: first it transformed the Georgian section of the RSDLP into a mass party, and, second, it moved the Georgian organization closer toward a party of national unity rather than international working-class solidarity. »

*See: Georgian State Historical Archive¸ F153, doss. 1, no. 585, 181

 


Wilden Hart’s article in The Times, Sept. 17th, 1924

The Times Sept. 17, 1924

To the Editor of The Times

Sir,

With regard to the report received by the League of Nations Council at Geneva that a national rising is taking place in Georgia against the Bolshevist rule of tyranny and oppression there, may I quote from an article written in the Glasgow Labour weekly, Forward, by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in 1921, before he became Prime Minister and after his visit to that ancient and Socialist Christian country:

“I see that the campaign of calumny and untruthfulness designed to cover up the iniquity of the Bolshevist tyranny in Georgia is being continued, a further installment having appeared in a Labour paper within the last few days. My readers can take it without a tremor of hesitancy that Georgia was overrun by an army while it was too weak to fight successfully, and it is to-day being held down by force, and by committees of directors, backed by the Eleventh Army of the Moscow Republic … It is estimated that 100,000 Russian troops are now required to hold down the country. Freedom of press and speech does not exist. Sir Basil Thomson, Mr. Shott, and Sir Archibald Bodkin are angels compared with their Third international duplicates in Georgia. These are facts. This is the kind of crime that finds both apologists and defenders amongst our Left in this country. To the Socialist it must be a crime, a wanton piece of military aggression, something which he must do everything to undo.”

The world is now expectantly watching how Mr. MacDonald will use his present position of influence and power at Downing Street and Geneva in remedying that great injustice done to Georgia, which his soul yearned so ardently to redress when he had neither their means nor the power to do so.

I am, Sir, &c.,

B. J. WILDEN-HART

Overseas Club, Park-Place, St. James’s, S.W.1

xxxx

Note : Bernard John WILDEN-HART was Master of Arts, of Keble College, Oxford, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Royal Historical Society. Professor of Economics.