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.
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.
The Times Sept. 17, 1924
To the Editor of The Times
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
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.
Letters to the editor
GEORGIA AND THE SOVIETS
Ministerial Verdicts Recalled
To the Editor of the Times
It is the luck of the Soviets that when to all appearance they have almost succeeded in their plan, and secured from the present British government a promise, however conditional, of money and power and another lease of life, that a crime of theirs should so inopportunely arise to confront them.
For crime it was—the murder of the little Caucasus state of Georgia; and by the irony of chance our authority for this statement is the present Prime Minister of Great Britain who, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is to-day commending to us a Treaty, and even a loan, for the same savage junta who are cynically repeating in 1924 the very brutalities which Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Phillip Snowden denounced so scathingly from 1921 to 1923.
It was in 1920 that the Georgian Government invited the whole world, and the Socialist world in particular, to come to the Caucasus and see how well she was governed. Her political independence had been recognized by the Soviet Russia in May. That autumn the Government formed by the Social Democratic Party sent out its invitations, and amongst the British delegates who responded and took the great journey were Mr. Tom Shaw, now Labour Minister, and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary.
Hear, then, from the strictest gospellers of the Socialist faith the blessings passed on the little State: “It was to the strains of “l’Internationale.” and under the gaze of portraits of Karl Marx, that we disembarked at Batum,” writes Mr. MacDonald in the Labour Leader in October, 1920. “We felt immediately at home. The B.L.P. is as well known at Tiflis as in Glasgow, and better appreciated by the Georgian government than by some of its own groups.”
This and all that follows had been obtained by the very latest constitutional methods. The elections were conducted according to the best formulae of Proportional Representation, and 102 Social Democrats had been returned in Parliament of 130
The big landowners have been dispossessed; the forests, railways, and mines nationalized… The foundations of nationalization without bureaucracy have been laid… The Socialism of Georgia is as complete as that of Russia or elsewhere.
And Mr. MacDonald ringingly concludes:–“There exist no more solid barrier against Bolshevism to-day than the Socialist Government of Georgia. (The Nation, October 16th, 1920).
And so, and so. The burden of the Press campaign delivered that autumn was to insist upon the immediate recognition of this Georgian Government as the ruler de jure of the Georgian State. And it was done. Full recognition was granted by Great Britain in January 1921. The next step claimed was the admission of Georgia into the League of Nations. But Georgia was not allowed to exist long enough. The Soviets, who today need our money so much, needed the oil of Baku more. It was in February, 1921, when the ink was scarcely dry on some of these eloquent articles, that the blow fell.
The Red Armies crossed the Georgian frontier without declaration of war, menacing the country with pillage and massacre. Denials were issued from Moscow which succeeded for the moment in sufficiently bamboozling the Internationalist Socialist Conference then sitting at Vienna (end of February, 1921) to prevent the indignant protests from that body for which the Georgians had confidently hoped. The Labour Party, however, telegraphed its “profound regret” at “the news of the invasion of the Independent Socialist State of Georgia” and later stated, at Brighton. “its conviction that elections free from all military pressure would be permitted to the Georgian people.”
The Russians, however, had got what they wanted. In June, 1921, accordingly, they abolished Georgian control of foreign trade and set up a single Foreign Trade Department for Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Even after the invasion protests did not die away all at once. In June 1921, Mr. MacDonald commented most acidly upon the situation in his weekly article in Forward.
“Georgia to-day is government by a Revolutionary Committee, nominated by the Council of Commissaries set up by the army of invasion towards the end of February last. They have destroyed every vestige of representative government, including municipal councils and trade union organizations, like the Tiflis Soviet, which I saw in working operation.
Every Socialist who is still alive is “suspect.” In Batum, Kutais and Poti there are 1,000 in goal for being Socialist or trade unionists. Freedom of Press and speech does not exist.
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 he can to undo.”
Even so recently as last year, Mr. Snowden in the House of Commons asked the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs:
“If he is aware of the executions and persecutions of the Georgian people which are being carried out by the Bolshevist Government, which has invaded Georgia and overthrown the democratic Government of that country, &c.: and whether, in view of the recognition of the independence of Georgia by the Allied Governments and the League of Nations, the British Government can take any action by diplomatic methods to influence the Moscow Government to stop its present action in Georgia.”
Mr. Ronald McDeill, admitting the accuracy of the facts, pleaded the uselessness of attempting to influence the Soviet Government by diplomatic methods when unaccompanied by pressure, such as in this case the British Government had no means of exercising. Mr. Snowden, however, almost envisaging the present situation went on:
“Should the question of the recognition of the Soviet Government arise, will the British Government, in considering the matter, insist, in the conditions of recognition, that the independence of these States should be recognized? (My italics) (Hansard, 17/7/23.)
Words, words, words, apparently. And so, too, the uncompromising declaration of our present Foreign Secretary in the Contemporary Review of February, 1921:
“There are rumors in the Near East of a restoration of Imperial Russia, of returning Azerbaijan and Georgia to that sovereignty, of placing Armenia under that sovereignty. The stupidity of these designs, from our point of view (which is also the point of view of peace and security), is so manifest that one can adamantly believe that our Foreign Minister could do other than reject them as sons phrase.”
Only a fortnight ago at Geneva, with the renewed insurrection in the Caucasus, the unhappy problem arose again. Again it was met with words. A pious resolution recommended, we are told, to the Assembly by Mrs. MacDonald and Herriot, urging the League to “Watch” the situation, and to take any opportunity of restoring peace, was tabled. Even that promptly evoked the accustomed snarl from Moscow that this sort of thing was an intolerable interference with its internal affairs.
But—the case is altered, in that this very Government of Moscow is now knocking at our doors for capital to pursue its many enterprises, among which no doubt, the renewed subjugation of its neighbor states takes a prominent place. Is it credible, is it conceivable, that the campaign for the granting of this money is to be led by men so firmly convinced of the iniquity of the acts which it will be used to foster as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Labour, and the Prime Minister and Secretary for Foreign Affairs!
I am, &c.,
WALTER ELLIOT. (MP for Glasgow Kelvingrove)
March 21th, 1922
To the editor of The Times
Among the conditions laid down at the Cannes Conference concerning the invitation of the Government of Soviet Russia to the Conference of Genoa is one (clause 6) by virtue of which this government must abstain from any aggression against its neighboring states.
On January 21, 1921, the Supreme Council recognized the independence of Georgia de jure. Previous to this, on May 7, 1920 the Moscow Government signed a treaty with Georgia whereby they recognized complete independence and sovereignty of the GeorgianRepublic and renounced for ever the right of interference in her internal affairs. In spite of this Treaty, the armies of Soviet Russia, without any formal declaration of war or any pretext whatsoever invaded Georgia on Febryary 11-12, 1921.
Thanks to overwhelming superiority, both in number and technical equipment, and to the help of the Angora Government, the Bolshevists, defeating the Georgian Army, seized Tiflis and towards the end of March, occupied Georgia. The Georgian Government found themselves compelled to leave the territory of the Republic. From this moment, Georgia came under military occupation—a situation analogous to that of Belgium, Serbia and the Northern departments of France during the World War.
The democratic institutions of the State were annulled, the independence of Georgia and the political freedom of the population abolished. Power now is in the hands of the so called “Revolutionary Committee” appointed from Moscow, and composed of the late employees of the Moscow Soviet Government, who entered Georgia in the wake of the Russian armies.
These armies are the sole forces of the “Revolutionary Committee,” governing the country by a regime of merciless terror. This so called “Government” of Soviet Georgia remains absolutely foreign to the Georgian people, being opposed by all political parties of Georgia and all classes of society.
If conditions set forth at the Cannes Conference are not empty words, they must imply Russia’s obligation to withdraw her armies from Georgia and restore the Georgian people their right of self-determination. It should be pointed out here that the very interest of Europe and peace of the world demand the application to Georgia of Clause 6 of the Cannes Conference.
(1) If Europe bears in silence the crying injustice committed against Georgia by the Government of Soviet Russia then this will mean the sanctioning of the right of any great power to attack its neighbors and seize their territory;
(2) While the Moscow armies are in Georgia, that is, on the frontiers of Asia Minor, there will be no peace in the Near East for, possessing Georgia, the Bolsheviks are practically the masters of Angora.
(3) Until the restoration of independence of Georgia and also of the other Transcaucasian Republics, there will be anarchy in Transcaucasia, which will undoubtedly hinder the economic development of this very rich country.
These are the considerations which impel the Georgian people and their representatives abroad to hope that the Great Powers, and in particular the Great Britain, will, in accordance with Clause 6 of the Cannes Conference, demand from the Bolsheviks the withdrawal of their armies from Georgia.
It is apparent that it would be advantageous to the study of the problem in all its aspects that the voice of Georgia should be heard prior to the Conference of Genoa, that is, the voice of her legal Government, elected by the people, and even in exile retaining unbroken connection with, and confidence of, their country.
President of the Georgian National Government
The Manchester Guardian (predecessor of The Guardian)
June 15, 1923
RUSSIA AND GEORGIA
To the Editor of the Manchester Guardian
Sir, — The reply of the Russian Government to Lord Curzon’s Notas is accepted by yourself and others as fairly satisfactory, and there seems a good chance that comparatively friendly relations between Russia and this country will not be resumed, so it appears a good opportunity to bring to the notice of both peoples the condition to which the State of Georgia has been reduced under Soviet rule, and to call upon the Russian Government to reconsider their policy in the territory which they claim to have latterly re-conquered and annexed.
For two reasons I am perhaps better fitted to speak on the subject than most English people, because I am very well acquainted with that beautiful and fertile country lying just south of the Caucasus, and because I was present when the troops and other agents of the late Tsar were stamping down the attempt of the Georgians to recover their ancient freedom in 1906 and 1907. Atrocious as the treatment of a singularly fine and intelligent people at the hands of the Russians then was, everything that I hear from Georgians now proves that their present treatment is more atrocious still.
The Supreme Council, or the Ambassadors who succeeded the Council, may perhaps remember that in January, 1920, they acknowledged Georgia as de facto independent, and in January, 1921, they acknowledged her as de jure independent. The memory may not trouble them, and their decisions made little difference, for in February ,1921. The Russian forces invaded the country and re-conquered it in spite of the vigorous resistance offered by ill-armed and untrained inhabitants. The Russian troops have remained in possession ever since, and the population have been reduced to apparent submission by methods partly political, partly barbarous. The Georgian Parliament has been dissolved. The Georgian Constitution, with its democratic form and universal suffrage, has been abolished. So have the rights of free speech, free press, and free association. So have the law courts, the place of which is taken by “Tchekas,” which arrest try, condemn, and execute in secret: and lately a body called the Caucasian Bureau reigns supreme in Tiflis. This Bureau and the Tchekas arrest, imprison, exile, and execute without trial. Many Georgians are sent to Russian prisons in Murmansk, Jaroslav, and the famine districts on the Volga. The prisons in Tiflis itself have been vastly increased, large public buildings known to me in old days being now transformed into goals, and in these young students are tortured to madness. In one night last February 92 prisoners were executed (they are lined up, face to wall, and shot in the back of the head). Just before the Georgian Day of May 26, 800 were arrested, and when a Georgian is arrested no one knows what comes of him or her. I hear now that another 80 are waiting in Tiflis ready to be sent to Russian prisons, where they will disappear.
All priests are persecuted. The Katholikus of the Georgian Church (which is identical with the Russian or Orthodox in doctrine) was lately arrested in his palace by agents of the Tcheka, and is reported to have answered to his persecutors: “My soul to God; my heart, to Georgia; for my body I do not care!” The famous ancient monasteries are converted into clubs, and in these clubs children are trained to act as spies. Russian troops are quartered among the Georgian villages, and the peasants are ground down by requisitions for their maintenance. One of the latest acts of bloodthirsty tyranny was reported by the “Times” special correspondent, who telegraphed from Constantinople on June 1 that among the fifteen officers shot on May 23 were General Prince Constantine Abhazi and two other General Princes of high distinction, one of whom was actually in command of a Russian division. I cannot speak for the other two, but Abhazi was a man of known honour and integrity. He organised a brigade of guns for the allies in Western Galicia during the war, and then a Georgian Legion, which joined the British in Mesopotamia. He was not a party man (the “Times” correspondent is mistaken in calling him president of the National Democratic party), but he was appointed Chief of Stores under the Russian Government in Tiflis till compelled to resign owing to the general corruption and incapacity of his Russian subordinates. Probably it was his honesty that caused his execution.
Bad as the condition of the Georgian people was under the Tsars, who by treaty were pledged to leave them independent, it is now evidently far worse, and if the Russian Government wish to retain such sympathy as they may still possess in this country I think their attention should be called to the abominations of this despotism.—Yours, &c.,
HENRY W. NEVINSON.