Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ RELATIONS IN 1918-1921

World War I dramatically aggravated class and national controversies in all the countries involved in the conflict, especially the multinational Russian Empire.
Hostilities took place in Transcaucasia as well, agents smuggled into Georgia from Turkey were trying to incline Ajaria and Abkhazia to separatism. On the other hand, active steps were taken by Russian chauvinistic-minded circles, making efforts to annex Abkhazia and join it to Kuban district.That compaign had started in the 90s of the century. The civil Head Chief of Caucasia Prince Golitsyn and Exarch Alexei advised the Chief Procurator of Synod: "It would be desirable to alienate Sukhumi Eparchy with its predominantly Abkhaz and Russian population from the undesirable Georgian influence. With this in view, it would be useful to join Sukhumi Eparchy to Kuban. Kuban district is inhabited by 1,716,245 pure Russians, orthodox believers. This great mass will easily absorb the multilingual 100,000 population of the Black Sea coast." (*1)
The tsarist government impudently violated the territorial integrity of Georgia, in particular, Abkhazia, by isolating the area of Gagra climatic station from Sukhumi district and formally joining it to Sochi district of the Black Sea "gubernia", (*2) pursuant to the Emperor's order of 25 December, 1904. The new border between Sukhumi district and the Black Sea "gubernia" ran along the r. Bzyb.
As it follows from prince Golitsyn's letter of 25 May, 1904 to the minister of interior affairs, the new border was based on the interest only of the Gagra climatic station founded by Prince Alexander of Oldenburg. Meanwhile, the ministry of farming and state property was pursuing an object of inhabiting part of Gagra region with Russian settlers who would enjoy preferential rules that were in effect in the Black Sea "gubernia".
As a result of that absolutely unnatural change of the border, Sukhumi district lost over 150,000 dessiatinas of stateowned forests and summer mountain pastures employed by Gudauta area population, which were transferred to the Black Sea gubernia.
On 30 October, 1917 a special meeting of "Ozakom" (*3) presided by A. Chkhenkeli discussed an application of Sukhumi district commissariat on joining Gagra and Bzyb areas back to Sukhumi district. The main reason given for restoring the historic boundaries was a "necessity to provide the native population with mountain pastures and forests, in view of forthcoming settlement of the agrarian problem at the Constitutional Assembly." The petition was supported by the population of Old Gagra, New Gagra and Alahadzy where a referendum had been held. The petition said: "Since the main reason for changing in 1904 the boundaries between Sukhumi district and the Black Sea gubernia were based on the considerations set forth by Prince Alexander of Oldenburg, the founder of the Gagra climatic station, pursuing solely the interest of the said station and neglecting the interests of the native population of Sukhumi district, the special Transcaucasian committee admits that it is but legitimate to restore the former boundary." (*4)
Thus, the tsarist government, in pursue of far future objects, had been expanding Russian settlements on the Black-Sea shores of Abkhazia, at the same time suppressing the democratic circles of Abkhazians and Georgians who always strove to preserve brotherhood between the two peoples. This process was especially well manifested in the years of reaction and World War I.
However, all the attempts to carry out the policy of splitting the two fraternal peoples failed. The democratically-minded intelligentsia of Georgia and Abkhazia succeeded in strengthening the unity of Georgians and Abkhazians.
A deputation of Abkhaz representatives visited the Viceroy in Tbilisi in the April of 1916. The deputation (they were M. Shervashidze, M. Emukhvari, A. Inal-Ipa, P. Anchabadze, B. Ezukhbaya, A. Shukbar and others) put forward the demands of the Abkhaz people to the Caucasian authorities, namely: more attention to Abkhazia, better services and utilities for the town of Sukhumi, expansion of the school system, road- building^, teaching children in the Georgian and Abkhaz languages. (*5) Tsarism kept following its policy of Russification of the Caucasian peoples and hindered the development of local languages, such as Georgian and Abkhazian.
An official in the Viceroy's office E.G. Weidenbaum wrote in a memorandum: "The Abkhaz language which has neither writing, nor literature, is certainly doomed to extinction. The question is: Which language will replace it? Obviously, it ought to be the Russian rather than the Georgian language that will be a conductor of culture and general outlook to the population. Therefore, in my opinion, the founding of the Abkhaz written language must not be an object in itself, but a means to reduce the demand for the Georgian language through the church and school, and replace it gradually by the state language" (*6) (i. e. Russian - A. M.). And those ideas were implemented very soon indeed.
The demands of the said deputation contained a question on transforming Sukhumi district into a separate gubernia and not joining it to any other unit, such as, the Black Sea gubernia. The petition read: "If it appears impossible to change Sukhumi district into a separate gubernia and necessary to join it to any other gubernia, then Sukhumi district ought to be joined to Kutaisi gubernia. Being closely tied by blood relationship with the Georgian church in the past and present the Sukhumi eparchy can on no account be separated from it" (*7).
Arrival of the deputation in Tbilisi caused a great response among the Georgian intelligentsia and charity organizations of the town. The newspapers published reports on its stay, the demands set forth by the deputation, photographs of some of its members. The Georgian society welcomed the developing national self-consciousness of the Abkhaz people, and rejected those separatistic ideas that some reactionary-minded persons tried to sow among the Georgian and Abkhaz people (*8).
In the November of 1917 the Mensheviks organized a peasants' congress in Sukhumi, where the Abkhaz People's Council (APC) was elected. On 9 February, 1918 the right nationalists of the APS (A. Shervashidze, M. Emkhvari, N. Margania, Colonel N. Chkhotua, B. Tsaguria) met in Tbilisi with the members of the executional committee of the National Council of Georgia A. Chkhenkeli, K. Meskhi, G. Gvazava, M. Sakvarelidze, N. Kartsivadze to discuss the nearest future relationships between Georgia and Abkhazia. This meeting revealed the desire of the Abkhaz deputation to achieve political independence of Abkhazia by all means, "having but neighborly relations with Georgia as an equal neighbour" (*9).
Representatives of the Georgian National Council expressed their desire to see Abkhazia as a part of Georgia enjoying full internal autonomy. A. Chkhenkeli said, on behalf of the National Council, that Georgians support the idea of restoring territorial unity of Sukhumi district violated in 1904.
"It is our aim", Chkhenkeli noted, "to restore Sukhumi district as Abkhazia." (*10) He thought that it could be done only after Abkhazia had given up membership in the "Union of United Mountain Peoples of Caucasia" created in the Fall of 1917. A representative of Samurzakano district M. Emukhvari pointed out that the population of that district would not join the said union and therefore gave up any contacts with Abkhazia. It was also reported that the Abkhazians would not be in the majority in the joint Sukhumi district (*11).
Eventually, the representatives of Abkhazia agreed with A. Chkhenkeli's project suggesting broader internal autonomy of Abkhazia within Georgia, the latter assuming commitments to restore the old historic borders of Abkhazia. The project was to be discussed by the Abkhaz People's Council in order to draw an appropriate resolution.
Direct Turkish expansion and armed mass actions of the people lead by Bolsheviks aggravated the situation in Transcaucasia after creation of the Transcaucasian Sejm which refused to recognize the Brest peace treaty.
The Abkhazian letter of 17 June 1988 addressed to the Presidium of XIX All-Union Party Conference gave an inambiguous interpretation of the Bolshevist actions in the spring and summer of 1918 that involved various regions of Georgia, namely, as the struggle of the Abkhaz and Ossetian peoples for the Soviet power which "the Mensheviks drowned in blood". The writers of the letter deliberately ignored the fact that such actions took place in other parts of Georgia and were crushed down by the armed forces of the Georgian Democratic Republic. Therefore, the repressions of 1918-20 against the rebels of Abkhazia and South Ossetia can't be interpreted as a struggle of the government of the Georgian Democratic Republic against the Abkhaz and Ossetian peoples. Suffice it to mention only some instances of suppression of Bolshevik-lead actions of peasants in Lechkhumi, Dusheti, Zugdidi and other ouezds in the summer of 1918.
On 25 June 1918 the Georgian government met to discuss the events in Dusheti and Lechkhumi ouezds and decided to use armed forces of the regular army and national guard to crush down the uprisings there. (*12) Moreover, the rebels of Lechkhumi established the Soviet power in the February of 1918, and the ouezd was "outlawed" by the Transcaucasian Sejm.
The repressions of the uprisings of 1918 were also urged by foreign policy considerations. The Turkish aggression was threatening the whole of Transcaucasia. Meanwhile, there were some forces inside this country that were gravitating towards Turkey, for instance, the propertied classes of Abkhazia who asked Turkey for patronage hoping to choke down the Soviet power in their districts with the help of the Turkish troops. (*13) A. Chkhenkeli reported to the National Council: "The Turks decided to send troops to occupy Sukhumi and started the preparations. However, soon they were informed that our troops had seized Sukhumi and driven out the Bolsheviks.
This news was like a bolt from the blue as they had never expected such a turn in the events and had to waive their designs"(*14).
On the first anniversary of independence of Georgia, Minister of interior affairs N. Ramishvili reported to the Constitutional Assembly: "The young, not yet quite strong state of Georgia was obliged to resort to emergency measures so as to put an end to anarchy, by sending troops and regiments of the National Guard into places drawn in the anarchist actions. It was necessary to use armed forces in order to choke down the uprising in different parts of the Republic, namely, in Sachkhere and Lechkhumi ouezds and in Odishi, The situation was as bad in Abkhazia where a group of individuals, driven by their personal considerations and discontent over the basic reforms, turned for help to a foreign country while agitating the people here for an uprising." (*15) The struggle of Abkhazian Bolsheviks against the democratic government of Georgia went on in the time when "the dark Turkish force was surrounding the country and we weren't sure whether the Sun would rise for us in the morn or not, or whether we would fall preys to the Turkish aggression. It was the matter of death or life of the revolution and further existence of the whole nation. Batumi was occupied by the enemy who had crossed the Georgian frontier and was just at a few kilometers' distance from Tbilisi. Negotiations with the enemy were out of the question. Treason inside and the sword outside - such was the situation in which Georgia found itself at that time", the Ertoba newspaper reported on 26 May, 1919.
After the declaration of independence of Georgia on 26 May, 1918, a delegation of the Abkhaz People's Council consisting of R. Kakuba, G. Tumanov, V. Gurjua and G. Ajamov, arrived in Tbilisi for negotiations with the Georgian government.
The talks started early in June, 1918. This is what was recorded in the minutes of the meeting on 6 June, 1918:
"A delegate of the Abkhaz People's Council, R. I. Kakuba, greeting the government of the Georgian republic, points out the common interests of the Abkhaz and Georgian peoples, their spiritual closeness, and expresses a wish to see these relations preserved after the Abkhaz People's Council comes to full power in Abkhazia, and hopes that the government of the Georgian republic will extend friendly assistance in the organization of the state power in Abkhazia.
The Chairman, War minister G. T. Georgadze, greeting the Abkhazian delegation, emphasizes the common ideas and inspirations of the Abkhaz and Georgian peoples and expresses a wish to secure formally and practically the brotherly relations of the two peoples. Further, two documents of the Abkhaz Council are announced.
The first document of the Abkhaz People's Council informs the Georgian National Council that further to the declaration of independence of Georgia, Abkhazia lost the legislative basis of relations with Georgia and now the whole power in Abkhazia has transferred to the Abkhaz People's Council. The Abkhaz People's Council, taking into consideration the common interests of Abkhazia and Georgia, expects that the Georgian National Council will assist to organize independent statehood in Abkhazia, leaving a regiment of the Georgian Red Guard at the Council's disposal, and at the same time brings to the Georgian National Council's notice its protests against the orders given by the Government of the Georgian Republic in the territory of Abkhazia, as violating the sovereign rights of the Abkhaz People's Council. In order to clarify all those questions and carry on negotiations with the Government of the Georgian Republic, the Abkhaz People's Council delegated its representatives R. I. Kakuba, V. G. Gurjua, G. D. Ajamov arid G. D. Tumanov.
The second document of the Abkhaz People's Soviet informs the government of the Georgian Republic that as Abkhazia, being a rightful member of the Transcaucasian Federative Republic, bears part of the debts of the broken up Republic, the Abkhaz People's Council considers it necessary to take equal part in the work of the liquidation commission and authorizes its representatives V. G Gurjua, G. D. Ajamov and G. D. Tumanov.
R. I. Kakuba answers a number of questions set by the Georgian ministers-thus illustrating the actual situation in Abkhazia.
It follows from R. Kakuba's report that the Abkhaz People's Council is going to call a conference of representatives of all peoples inhabiting Abkhazia. The elections of the delegates of that Peoples Conference will be carried out in four stages.
At the moment there are several political trends in Abkhazia, that correspond to various orientations: thus, the propertied landowners are obviously gravitating towards Turkey hoping that it will help to restore their lost rights; there is some Bolshevist-oriented tendency; and part of the population sympathizes with the North Caucasian mountain peoples.
To fight back all these tendencies, the Abkhaz People's Council is counting on the assistance of the Georgian government and hopes that the Georgian Red Guard will be left in Abkhazia and help its government and a newly, organized international detachment in the struggle against those elements.
Being in need of money, the Abkhaz People's Council expects that Georgia will offer it financial assistance.
To settle all these questions, the Georgian government assigns Ministers Sh. Meskhishvili and N. Khomeriki to compile the text of the agreement between the two nations.
After the adoption of this resolution the delegates of the Abkhaz people's Council leave the meeting" (*16)
On 8 June 1918 the government of the Democratic Republic of Georgian and the Abkhaz People's Council signed a treaty that developed and added to the agreement of 8 June, 1918, between the National Council of Georgia and Abkhaz People's Council. The new agreement stated:
1) An office of Minister of Abkhazian affairs is to be established in the government of the Democratic Republic of Georgia by representation of the Abkhaz People's Council;
2) The internal and self-government in Abkhazia will be exercised by the Abkhaz People's Council;
3) The credits and cash required for administration of Abkhazia will be provided by the Democratic Republic of Georgia and used by the Abkhaz People's Council for the needs of Abkhazia;
4) The government sends a detachment of the Red Guard at the disposal of the Abkhaz People's Council to help the latter to set the revolutionary order and organize a strong power;
5) An international detachment will be organized in Abkhazia and be at the disposal of the Abkhaz People's Council;
6) Social reforms in Abkhazia will be carried out by the Abkhaz People's Council on the basis of general laws of Georgia and with proper consideration of local specific requirements;
7) A conference of the Abkhazian population will be culled as soon as possible on democratic principles with thr purpose to make final decisions concerning the system of Abkhazia (*17).
The treaty was signed by N. Khomeriki, minister of agriculture and Sh. Alexi- Meskhishvili, minister of law of Georgia, and R. Kakuba, G. Tumanov, V. Gurjua and G. Ajamov of Abkhazia.
By this agreement the government of Georgia granted Abkhazia an extensive autonomy and promised economic and military assistance. A detachment of the Georgian National Guard was sent to help the Abkhaz People's Council in pursue of clause 4 of the agreement of June 1918.
Meanwhile, the situation in Abkhazia was aggravated by Bolshevist - and then Turkish- oriented forces. In Sukhumi Eshba organized a military-revolutionary committee of Bolsheviks. Taking an opportunity of the hard situation in Transcaucasia, in particular, Georgia, the Sukhumi Bolsheviks decided to get Sukhumi district joined to Soviet Russia with the further purpose to draw Georgia into the sphere of Bolshevist influences. With this in view the military-revolutionary committee of Sukhumi applied to the Bolsheviks of Ekaterinodar (now Krasnodar - A. M.) asking them to join Sukhumi district to the Black Sea - Kuban Soviet Republic and to send the Red Army forces in order to continue attacking Georgia.
With the same purpose Eshba went to Sochi and suggested the Sochi Soviet (council) of worker and peasant deputies to support the Sukhumi committee in the struggle against the "counterrevolutionary" government of Georgia. (*18) The Sochi soviet declined Eshba's proposal and decided not to fight against anyone and only to fight back in case of an attack (*19).
In response to the request of the APC concerning support in the struggle against Bolsheviks and pre-Turkish elements and maintenance of order, the Georgian government sent its troops to Sukhumi. Early in July the Georgian Guard and army detachments entered the town. The Bolsheviks withdrew into Sochi district. (*20) They sent a delegation to Maikop asking for Red Army troops to attack Sukhumi. A detachment of 2000 men helped the Bolsheviks to seise the town of Gudauta and the Georgian troops had to retire to Sukhumi suffering heavy losses in bloody battles. Echelons of Georgian troops arrived in Sukhumi on 18 and 19 June; they started an offensive on 20 June and after a fierce battle occupied Novy Afon.
On 22 June the Georgian troops occupied Gudauta, and on 28 June, entered Gagra. They kept advancing towards Sochi. Meanwhile, in the night of 28 June Turkish troops (about 800 men) lead by A. Shervashidze landed near the r. Kodori, south of Sukhumi.
The Abkhaz People's Council made a vigorous protest against that operation. The Georgian government supported that protest and applied to the representative of Germany in Georgia, urging him to take all the possible measures "to eliminate such cases as they may cause quite undesirable consequences" (*21).
In the meantime General G. Mazniashvili managed to occupy favorable positions that guarded access to Sukhumi on the right bank of the Kodori. The Turks were unable to get into Sukhumi and their troops were driven out.
On 6 July the Georgian troops occupied Sochi and pushed the Bolsheviks up to the north. Twenty days later General G. Mazniashvili's detachment approached Tuapse and after a 12-hour long bitter battle occupied the town (*22).
Both the Georgian government and General Mazniashvili used to announce more than once that all the movements of the Georgian troops outside the Republic were never and by no means aimed at any expansion of its territory; they pursued purely military- strategic aims and were caused jy an urgency to secure the country against Bolshevist nliacks (*23).
As the civil war began on the Don and Kuban, the While Guard grew active and started frequent interferences In the interior affairs of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. One of its claims was to separate Gagra district from Abkhazia and join it to Kuban.
On 25 September, 1918, when representatives of the Georgian Republic, Kuban territorial government and Volunteer Army met, General Alexeev pointed out that Gagra district was "purely Russian" just like Sochi district and ought to become a part of Kuban. Then he said to E. Gegechkori, a representative of Georgia: "The borderline that was set in 1905 must be preserved, and this is the only compulsory condition that may help us to a mutual understanding." (*24) This demand was supported by the representatives of the Kuban district Bych and Vorobyov. The latter cynically announced that there are no evidences, "either ethnographic, or historic supporting belonging of Gagra district to Transcaucasia", (*25) as if there were any historic or other evidences supporting its belonging to Russia. Than Vorobyov continued: "Georgia must set its borders behind Abkhazia whose aspiration for independence can't be ignored only because several hundreds of Georgians live there." The agricultural statistics for 1917 shows that the population of Abkhazia consisted of 74,846 Georgians (42,1 %), 38,121 Abkhaz (21.4%), 20,893 Russians (11.7%), 20,673 Greeks (11.7%), 18,219 Armenians (10.2%) and 5,087 of other nationalities (2.9%) (*26).
This cynical distortion of facts was made by the White Guard politicians in the name of "united and indivisible Russia."
The very N. Vorobyov published a book of fraud in 1919; he entitled it "On the Groundless Claims of Georgians for Sukhumi District (Abkhazia)" and revealed his absolute incompetency in the matters of the Georgian and Abkhazian history. He interpreted the events of 1918-early 1919 as Georgia's attempt to "swallow up the people of Abkhazia that is absolutely no relation to the Georgians". Only complete ignorance and deliberate wish to distort the history could lead the author to such a conclusion. Unfortunately, some Abkhazian separatists of today have taken up that fraud.
Relationships between the Georgian and Abkhaz peoples are described in a memorandum of deputies of Abkhazian and Samurzakan nobility submitted on 23 March 1870 to the Chairman of Tiflis Council of social-estate affairs, adjutant-general prince Svyatopolk- Mirski. The Memorandum was written by lieutenant prince B. Emukhvari, prince M. Marshani, Lieutenant T. Margani, prince K.Inal-Ipa.
The principal goal of the Memorandum was to describe the way of life of the Abkhaz people for further correct solution of the social-estate question in the region. It explained that the ruling circles of Abkhazian enjoyed the same privileges as the Georgian nobility, therefore, the agrarian reform there ought to be carried out in the same way as in Georgia. The authors of the Memorandum referred to the historic background of the two peoples. "From time immemorial Abkhazia has been a part of the former Georgian Kingdom.
The old Pitsunda Cathedral used to be the seat of Catholicoses of Abkhazia and Georgia. The bishoprics of Dranda, Mkva and Bedi were flourishing in very recent times. The Bedi temple which was built by Bagrat, the first Georgian king of an Abkhazian dynasty, is the resting place of its majestic builder. The temple of Mokva was built by the Georgian and Abkhazian King David, the Restorer. Till nearly recent times the people of Abkhazia and Samurzakan used to exercise the same religion, customs find laws as those of Georgia, Samegrelo and Imereti. Even though Christianity was considerably weakened in Abkhazia under the influence of the Moslem yoke and various commotions, its traces have certainly been preserved In the life of the Abkhaz people, who kept celebrating main Christian holidays and, as tradition goes, used to give presents of lambs and painted eggs on the day of Blessed Insurrection. Out of a great number of Abkhazian landowners who separated from Georgia when the latter was divided into appanages, only two were Moslems: Zurab-Bei who had been expatriated to Turkey when he was a boy, and his heir Kelesh Akhmet-Bei who was born and bred in Turkey. All the others were Christians. Georgian kings never excluded Abkhazia from the Georgian family, and always, both before and after the division of the country, they bore the title of the King of Georgia, Kartli, Abkhazia, Imereti and Kakheti. When Georgian King Vakhtang VI began working out laws, he would call representatives of all the parts of the Georgian Kingdom to help him in the work, and among them, deputies of the Abkhaz people who had preserved the oldest Georgian customs. No less important witnesses than Christian temples, proving that Abkhazia belonged to Georgia are ruins of various civil and military buildings. The well-known towers over the Psyrasta Gorge are said to have been built by the glorious Georgian Queen Tamar, ...castles in the villages of Yashtuhza, Otsertsy and many others look exactly like castles of Samegrelo (Mingrelia).
We beg Your Excellency to notice that both in the past and at present the dwellings, clothing, food, farming tools, agricultural methods are absolutely alike in Abkhazia and Samegrelo.
Most of the place-names are Georgian; most of the inhabitants admit their Mingrelian or Georgian origin and have even kept their Georgian and Mingrelian family names. It is only the language that might be regarded as a proof evidencing that Abkhazia is different from Georgia; however, even there we find a half of Mingrelian and Georgian words, strongly altered, though, but clearly showing traces of original Mingrelian or Georgian roots (*).
The whole Abkhaz people was ruled by the lord of Abkhazia Shervashidze, a descendant of an old Georgian family. The lord, just as all the Georgian mtavari (heads, lords) who became independent after the division of the Kingdom, exercised the supreme, political and civil rule over the whole Abkhaz People."
In conclusion the Abkhaz deputation expressed a hope that "we shall not be excluded from the family of Georgians in the agrarian reform of Abkhazia and Samurzakani, as we have always belonged to them. We dare to expect that we shall enjoy those regulations that His Majesty the Emperor has nobly set for the other parts of the former Georgian Kingdom, and we shall not be excluded" (*27).
The deputies elected by all the social groups of the Abkhaz people (*28) considered Abkhazia as a historically inseparable part of the Georgian state. However, the authors of the Memorandum made an unfortunate mistake representating Georgians, Mingrelians and Imeretians as different nationalities which is an utmost scientific blunder.
The Kuban government and Volunteer Army representatives while reasoning why Gagra district ought to be annexed, stated that "the whole district was built owing to the efforts of Prince of Oldenburg, and about 10,000,000 roubles of the old currency were spent only on Gagra (*29).
Presently, the Volunteer Army began to act, Early in 1918 they instigated a coup in Abkhazia under the guidance of the district Commissar Margania and Colonel Chkhotua, Minister of Abkhazian affairs. The attempt failed; six members of the Abkhaz People's Council who "acted in the interests of landowners, Turkey and General Alexeev" (*30), were arrested.
On 1; October 1918 N. Zhordania, head of the Georgian government made a report on the events in Abkhazia, and the governments adopted the following resolution:
"Taking into consideration that 1) some of the members of the Abkhaz People's Council, mainly of the landowners class, having taken the path of treachery of the Abkhaz people and the whole population of Sukhumi district in (heir personal estate interests, always let foreign powers, first Turks, then Alexeev's forces, interfere with the affairs of the Abkhaz people and the whole state and have now surrounded the residence of the People's Council; 2) the Abkhaz People's Council being threatened by the traitors is deprived of the possibility to work for the people's welfare; 3) the members of the Abkhaz People's Council hadn't been elected by regulations that secured true expression of the Sukhumi district population, the Government resolves:
1) To declare the current Abkhaz People's Council dissolved and assign new elections based on general suffrage;
2) To assign the Central Election Committee consisting of Varlam Shervashidze, Isidor Ramishvili, Vasili Gurjua .. (name illegible - A. M.) and Giorgi Shanshiev and Authorize the Committee to elect a Chairman and co-opt the necessary people;
3) To assign Benia Chkhikvishvili Commissar of Sukhumi district until the People's Council is elected; before he arrives, Chief of Staff of the Sukhumi detachment Tukhareli will exorcise the supreme military and civil power;
4) To consider the authority of Colonel Chkhotua, Minister of Affairs of Abkhazia, as exhausted due to the dismissal of the Abkhaz People's Council" (*31).
Majority of the Abkhaz People's Council were landowners, (*32) and it was but natural, that their attitude towards the social-democratic government of Georgia was far from "friendly", since the social and political reforms effected the interests of the propertied class, in particular, of pro-Turkish landowners.
The destabilization in the region caused social tension. The measures aimed at protection of order and territorial integrity of Georgia called for undesirable requisitions among the population giving rise to general discontent. The Abkhaz People's Council addressed the government of Georgia, and on 3 September 1918 a session of the Georgian government discussed the actions of the Georgian troops in Abkhazia. The government made the following decision: in addition to the measures taken by the war minister (a) to send immediately a special emergency commission of representatives from the Ministries of war, justice and interior affairs; (b) to authorize the Commission (1) to investigate with three representatives of the People's Council all the points mentioned in the Abkhazian complaint about the actions of our troops; (2) to assess the losses incurred by the local population. To bring this resolution urgently to the Abkhaz People's Council's knowledge" (*33).
Great damages in the Kodori area were incurred there by the Turkish troops supported by the propertied classes. A general meeting of the Kodori area population gathered in the village of Mokva to viscuss the problems concerning the Turkish expedition and named those who were involved in those events. They were Tatish Marshania, Alexander Shervashidze, Sv. Tumanov, Titush Marshania, Mikhail Anchabadze, Constantin Anchabadze, Colonel M. Shervashidze, Hadij Ashvibaya and others. The meeting demanded to expel them from Sukhumi district (*34).
On 17 December, 1918, Minister of Abkhazian affairs made a report to the government, which was followed by the following resolution:
a) To adopt draft regulations of elections to the Abkhaz People's Council, amended subject to government's resolution of 10 December, and present it to the Parliament; to carry out elections of local councils "zemstvo" based on the same regulations; to allot 75,000 out of 10,000,000 fund for the elections;
b) To publish a government address pointing out that Abkhazia is granted the right of public representation and, consequently, settlement of internal problems on autonomous principle;
c) To return to the self-government of Sukhumi the horses and supplies that had been reqcisited by various staffs and detachments as a debt of 100,000 roubles, all the other matters to be investigated by an emergency commission;
d) To allot 100,000 roubles from the Ministry's credit on repair roads and bridges in Sukhumi;
e) to present the investigation results on the damage caused by our troops in the Kodori area to the Ministry of Justice for study" (*35).
In this way the government of Georgia confirmed once more Abkhazia's right of internal self-government and made certain steps towards compensation of the damage incurred by the civil population as a result of military actions carried out against the Turkish askers and Bolshevist troops of Krasnodar.
The authorities of the Volunteer Army turned to the English for assistance in setting, their supporters free. The English troops entered Baku in the November of 1918, and on 5 December Commander of the allied troops General Thomson wrote a letter to the Georgian Representative in Baku, Alshibaya, demanding immediate release of the arrested members of the Abkhaz People's Council who, as he put it, had been arrested unlawfully without any charge (*36).
Alshibaya answered Thomson that "the arrested have been in prison for 6 weeks and not 7 months and on the ground of a full and comprehensive investigation that has proved them to be state criminals belonging either to Bolsheviks or Turkophiles. Subject to an agreement with Abkhazia the latter is granted the right of full internal self-government and the Abkhaz People's Council is granted full power. The Abkhaz People's Council would have protected those people if they had not deserved the punishment. But not a single protest of complaint has been yet submitted to the Georgian government." (*37) On 6 December, Colonel Stocks, head of political department of the allied mission, Alshibaya and Colonel Marganidze had a talk part of which is cited below:
"Alshibaya: Your demand of 5 December concerning an immediate release of the members of the Abkhaz People's Council was telegraphed to our government. I consider it my duty to explain to you Colonel, that those men were arrested by the Georgian government on the state treason charges.
Stocks: You can't let people languish in prison for 5 months without charges.
Alshibaya: Colonel, they were arrested only 6 weeks ago and they are still under investigation.
Stocks: Six weeks were enough to finish the investigation.
Alshibaya: They are charged for state treason, organization of an upraise. The investigation is complicated: it is not easy to collect and check the evidence.
Stocks: Where are they kept?
Alshibaya: In Tiflis, in the Metekhi Castle, a political prison.
Stocks: Why so severe?
Alshibaya: Colonel, they are accused of state treason. The government couldn't help punishing them severely. One of those men belongs to the Bolsheviks, another is one of Abkhazian Turkophiles who tried to organize the landing of Turkish troops in Abkhazia 4 months ago.
Stocks: You are keeping Abkhazians in prison without any charges against them, and we can't tolerate it.
Alshibaya: We have the best possible relations with Abkhazia, Colonel Marganadze can confirm it, he is our military representative at the diplomatic representation.
Marganadze: I am an Abkhaz and serve the Georgian government. I assure you that there are no bad feelings between Georgia and Abkhazia. According to an agreement, Georgia has granted full internal self-government to Abkhazia. The Abkhaz People's Council controls all the interior affairs of .Abkhazia. It is never the Abkhaz people but only some individuals that may oppose the Georgian government.
Alshibaya: You are turning against those who aren't worth your protection. The fate of the prisoners should worry the Abkhaz People's Council more than anyone else, but the Council hasn't made any statements defending the prisoners because they don't deserve it.
Stocks: I think they ought to be released from prison, and held in Tiflis until our representative arrives to investigate into the matter.
Alshibaya: Sir, it is impossible. Such a demand of yours will decrease the prestige of our government. This will be known to the public. People will learn that you have interfered, made us release persons accused of state treason.
Stocks: No one will know it. We will not tell anyone about it and you should keep it secret.
Alshibaya: No, Colonel, it is impermissible.
Stocks: Can't they, at least, be held under domiciliary arrest, until our delegation arrives in Tiflis?
Alshibaya: This is impermissible too, Colonel. If you care fur order and quietness in Georgia, you mustn't decrease the prestige of our rule by such an interference. It is only six mouth that Georgia has declared its independence, but we have managed to organize and adjust the state control mechanism. We have complete order; our people are enjoying all the civil rights. We are sure we will manage to maintain this order and strengthen our statehood by ourselves. We hope that the allies will help us in this.
Stocks: All right. I'll give a report on our talk to General Thomson, maybe he will cancel his proposal..." (*38)
The above material evidences that Denikin and his supporters supplied the British command with false, one-sided Information on the actions of the Georgian government wild its relations with Abkhazia trying to prove Georgia's aggressiveness and, consequently, to start realizing their plans of annexation of Abkhazia and Georgia in order to restore "united and indivisible Russia". The Volunteer Army command were trying to take an opportunity of the British "hostility" towards the Georgian government which has asked Germans, the enemies of British, to come to this country in the May of 1918. In this way the Volunteer Army's representatives tried to intensity its intervention in the Internal affairs of Georgia, using the opportunity of the British force entry in Caucasian late in 1918.
Early in 1918 General Denikin's troops began advancing in the district of Gagra, trying to push the Georgians back to the Bzyb. His plans of seizing, the whole of Abkhazia and annex it from Georgia are clearly visible from the following minutes of a conference of E. Gegechkori, N, Ramishvili and British General Briggs who met on May 23, 1919.
"E. Gegechkori: You are welcome, General, as a representative of the British command, and your arrival is particularly encouraging as its purpose is to help us in settling our misunderstanding with the Volunteer Army.
I am to remind you that last year we had a meeting with General Alexeev. The Volunteer Army was weak then, nevertheless our attitude to it hasn't changed. The Georgian government, having no intentions to interfere with the purely Russian affairs, finds no reason for armed conflicts with the Volunteer Army. The only question of importance that has caused the misunderstanding between us, is the question of the strategic state border which could guarantee us against any infringements. This border is the r. Mekhadyr. Solution of this question would be very important for Denikin as well, because it would make his army's rear safe from this side. Such was our standpoint last year, such is it now, and our attitude towards the Volunteer Army hasn't changed. This was clear from our negotiations with Alexeev last year, and I insist that there are no other divergences with the Volunteer Army, and if we leave aside our personal feelings and take a realistic stand, this boundary problem could be solved in a way beneficial for both sides.
General Briggs: Yesterday I gave you a detailed report, on General Denikin's viewpoints; as far as I understand now, you insist on remaining on the Mekhadyr. I have already told you why Denikin insists on restoring the former position: it is the evil behavior of the Georgian troops in Sochi and Sukhumi population's discontent with the Georgian rule; complaints are numerous. Abkhazians are displeased with the Georgian rule and even declare that should they be given arms, they would clear the district of-the Georgian troops. Denikin could not remain indifferent to those complaints, and if you still insist on remaining on the Mekhadyr, I'm afraid, my visit here seems to be pointless.
E. Gegechkori: Both the British Headquarters and we receive as many complaints about the Volunteers in Sochi. Of course, if one believes everything that is told about us one can't help feeling indignant; but I think one can't trust all those complaints without checking them. I insist that the Georgian government never took away a smallest piece of land from anyone in Sochi, never carried on either socialization or nationalization. These rumours are spread by our enemies and not to be trusted.
As far as Sukhumi district is concerned, we'd rather avoid mentioning this subject, as it may cause misunderstanding in our talks. But, as soon as you have touched upon this question, sir, allow me to say that Abkhazia is being governed quite independently by the Abkhaz People's Council elected by general suffrage; and if the information on the Abkhaz people's discontent is supplied by such persons as Alexander Shervashidze who let the Turkish troops landing in Sukhumi district last year and is residing in Ekaterinodar now, how can one believe anything what those persons tell?
I have heard a reproach that we behave worse than Bolsheviks. I can't see what may the reason of such a statement be, but I can assure you that Russian officers found security here, in Georgia, in the time of wild mob laws and savage reprisals over officers throughout the whole of Russia. It was only here, in Georgia, that not a single Russian officer suffered from violence, only here they were able to survive and escape from persecutions to which they were subject over former Russia. I feel proud to say that history will record this services of Georgia for Russia.
Gen. Briggs: General Denikin is a temporary head of the Army restoring Russia and is unable to permit immediate solution of the boundary problems. This is up to the Russian People's Assembly. As for Sukhumi district, I have heard that the desire to join Georgia is not an expression of the population's will. If the Abkhaz representatives in the Russian People's Assembly declare that they wish to remain with Georgia, the will of the people shall have to be fulfilled now that democracy has triumphed, and democratically minded Denikin won't object to it. However, now Denikin wants to secure his rear and will agree to have Sukhumi district made a neutral zone, but he will not talk until the Georgians have withdrawn beyond the Bzyb.
E. Gegechkori: Last year our talks with Gen. Alexeev in Ekaterinodar, concerned only Sochi district, and now, judging from your report, the Volunteer's claims have extended into Sukhumi district. I have already mentioned the will of the Abkhaz people expressed by the Abkhaz People's Council elected by 99% of the voters, and I can't see why you would believe some source and wouldn't believe others.
Gen. Briggs: I am a stranger here and a disinterested one and I suppose that a neutral commission should investigate the matter and confirm the real wish of the people.
N. Ramishvili: The democratic principles you've mentioned, general, are the very guidelines that the Georgian government is following in all its deeds. Our advance in Sukhumi district was aimed at the struggle against Bolshevism. In the 200,000 population of the district Georgians (60,000) and Abkhazians constitute majority. And this population announced its will through the elections of the People's Council which proved that the people wish to get autonomous government with independent Georgia. And the autonomous government is in effect there now maintained by the whole of the population; therefore, we insist on preserving the strategic borderline along the r. Makhadyr which is the historic border of Abkhazia. This is the only reasonable treatment of the border question, until its final solution at Paris Conference. And it must be the Conference but not the Russian Constitutional Assembly.
Gen. Briggs: Since the majority of the Sukhumi district populations are Georgians you should not worry about any investigations by an Allied Commission. If the latter finds that the population is for Georgia, Denikin will not oppose to it provided that the Russian property are secured and his conditions concerning the borders are observed. Soon Kolchak and Denikin will join together to have the All-Russian Government formed, and is a matter of some weeks. The British and Italians are sure to leave but Russia will stay, so you'd better be friendly with it, and I'd advise you, if only you would accept my advice, to forget your pride and offer Denikin a hand and say "We are with you", Small countries are too weak to survive in hostility; they must join. A separate financial system leads to bankruptcy, as you may see, same everything else does.
N. Ramishvili: Sovereignty and independence are the wish of our Government as well as of all Georgian people, and we are sure that all the great powers will support us. Britain has formally promised to support us in the cause of recognition of our independence.
Gen. Briggs: You mean independence from Russia, don't you?
N. Ramishvili: Yes, I do. We are not going to get isolated. On the contrary, we wish to cooperate with the Great Powers, join to their culture, and if the democratic intentions of Kolchak and Denikin are really honest ones, they can't neglect the wish of the Georgian people; however, the question of the borders has to be solved at the Peace Conference.
Gen. Briggs: This question won't be set at Paris Conference altogether. It is subject to solution by the Russian Government. A small nation like Georgia shouldn't aspire for independence, since small states suffer from commercial wars and I think you are preparing not very pleasant old days for yourself.
E. Gegechkori: We are grateful to you for your advice but no one knows what awaits us in future. I'm still saying earnestly and honestly, that we wish to see Russia a great and powerful country: this is our sincere desire, but we also wish every people could settle its own life. Our right for Independence can't possibly depend on the Volunteer Army command, and we hope this question shall be solved favorably for us in Paris. As far as our future relations with Russia are concerned, we believe that should real democracy triumph there, it would never act against wishes of smaller nations, because it would be an act of violence. Besides, we are stunned to hear that a British General should express such an attitude to our rights; it is completely different from what we have from our allies. We wonder whether those statements of yours reflect the standpoint of the British command and government or General Denikin's?
Gen. Briggs: I'm speaking as a representative of General Denikin and not the British government. You were talking about the future of Georgia, and I have to inform you that Denikin is for autonomy of small nations and far reunion of Russia, since this means power.
E. Gegechkori: And who is supposed to settle this problem in case we think differently? To our mind, it should be the Paris Conference. Our international status isn't quite clear yet and we are awaiting for settlement of the problem.
Gen. Briggs: But Russia is going to be formed up soon, and you shouldn't have declared independence so hurriedly.
E. Gegechkori: Allow me to ask you, sir: Do we have the right to declare our wishes in the cause of settling our own destiny?
Gen. Briggs: I can see that all our talk is being recorded on two sides.
E. Gegechkori: We are talking frankly and there's nothing to conceal, so I ask you if we have the right to utter our wishes. Gen. Briggs: You certainly have.
E. Gegechkori: That's what we did, and now we are waiting for the Conference to make a decision. Now, speaking of an agreement with Denikin, I have to set forth our conditions: 1) We remain on the Mekhadyr; there may be a neutral zone between us; 2) We guarantee safety of the Russian property and revive trade relations; 3) The question of the border is to be solved at the Conference in Paris. That's all. And what would Denikin offer?
Gen. Briggs: General Denikin's conditions are as follows: 1. You must withdraw beyond the Bzyb; 2. Sukhumi district may temporarily remain under the Georgian rule, provided you guarantee safety of the Russian property both in Sukhumi district and all over Georgia; 3. Land can; be taken away if the population wishes so, but for fair; payment.
N. Ramishvili: I suppose, General, you are not quite; well informed on Denikin's intentions. He would object to the independence of Poland and Finland, but our case is much clearer: Georgia had existed as an independent country for 2,000 years.
Gen. Briggs: - As an independent country?
N. Ramishvili: Yes, indeed. In 1801 it voluntarily joined Russia on terms of autonomy and protectorate. But Russia did not observe the terms causing a protest of the (18) 56 Congress, and Britain was among those who protested. This is our past story in a nutshell. As far as our attitude to Russia, I declare that we are not against Great Russia, but then the Volunteer Army ought not to be against us. Speaking of recognition of our independence, we are waiting for the Conference and rightfully hope it will fulfill our desires. We'd like to come to a peaceful agreement with the Volunteers and assume responsibility for any consequences of a different solution of the question.
Gen. Briggs: And still, Denikin does not think he has any right to settle the question of the borders.
E. Gegechkori: Isn't Denikin's proclamation and interference into matters subject to consideration at the Peace Conference?
Gen. Briggs: You also have advanced without waiting for the settlement of the question of the borders.
E. Gegechkori: And do you know, General, that we have advanced with a consent of the British command who were aware of the reasons of our advance. And do you know that the British command suggested Denikin long ago to mop-up Sochi and the British command has formally secured our safety and inviolability against the Volunteers?
Gen. Briggs: I see that we are back again to where we started and suppose that my mission hasn't succeeded. I believe, I've wasted my efforts and my time.
E. Gegechkori: I must say frankly that we most sincerely wished to come to a peaceful solution and express my utmost regret that we have failed to come to an agreement"(*39).
The reasons why the Georgian government was trying to establish the state boundary along the r. Mekhadyr were clarified at the Paris Conference by General I. Odishelidze, a military expert in the Georgian delegation, I. Odishelidze and I. Javakhishvili, an outstanding Georgian historian, had been charged to compile historic, ethnographic and military-strategic provisions for the future boundaries of Georgia with the purpose to present them at the Peace Conference in Paris. On May 1, 1919 General I. Odishelidze made a report on the boundaries of Georgia on the Black Sea northern shores.
"Nature itself has outlined the boundaries of Georgia and history has confirmed them. The Northern border ran along the Main Caucasian Range beyond which the Georgian population rarely crossed. Almost throughout the whole 3-4 thousand-year old history of the state of Georgia, up to its voluntary joining to Russia, the Main Caucasian Range with its peaks Chura, Donguz-Orun-Bashi (south of Elbrus) , Adai-Hoh, Arhon, Kazbek, Kamatsana-Dag, has been a natural barrier which had never been crossed from either side. It was so only along that part of the Range which is still wild and inaccessible; however, near the Black Sea shore where it didn't stand in the way, Georgian lands spread north-westward where the Main Range .is getting less inaccessible and gradually vanishes northward. In the age of integration and prosperity of Georgia in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, the Georgian boundaries near the Black Sea were stretching beyond Anapa and reaching the r. Kuban mouth. Later, in the 14th century the boundary shifted back to the r. Makopse, and from the 15th to the 19th centuries, i.e. up to the joining of this part of Georgia to Russia, the boundary went along the r. Makopse (south of Tuapse), It is quite unambiguously shown in the book of geography written by Prince Vakhushti, the son of King Vakhtang VI, and moreover, in a map of Georgia drawn by an impartial witness, the Russian envoy Burnashev. And we must stop at this river too because it is right here that the Main Caucasian Range is still inaccessible protecting Georgia in the North and because it is here that the Range comes close to the Black Sea providing Georgia with a narrow coastal defile that can be used for easier and safer protection of Georgia from enemies from the north-west moving along the coast. This is supported by numerous facts from the long history of Georgia and the most recent struggle against Bolsheviks.
These geographical and military considerations indicating the rightfulness of setting the boundary along the r. Makopse, are supported by Georgia's historic rights: Abkhazia had always been within Georgia leading common state life, with common past history since these nations are closely related; in the course of 600 years, from the 9th to 15th century the titles of the Georgian kings began with the title of the "King of Abkhazia"; from the 15th till 19th century that title belonged to one of the Georgian kings, mainly, Imeretian King. This closeness and integrity of the two countries was so natural that foreign historians and generally foreigners used to refer to the Georgian Kings as Abkhazian kings, to make it shorter, as it was done, for instance, by Arab historians Tabari, Masudi and others. Finally, the people of Abkhazia so much mixed now with Georgians, have confirmed, through the latest resolution of its National Assembly, its determination to keep forever more than millennium-old connections and integrity with Georgia. And the boundary of Abkhazia stretched as far as the Kuban mouth for 300 years, and for 200 years it ran far north-west of the r. Makopse with Tuapse being in Georgia; then, for over 300 years, from the 15th till 19th century, the r. Makopse served as the north-west borderline. Thus, the whole band of land between the Black Sea and the Main Caucasian Range from Gagra defile to the Makopse mouth (i.e. Sochi district), has always been within Georgia joined Russia voluntarily due to the historic circumstances.
It is therefore clear that the future boundary of Georgia must follow the 15-19th century line beginning at the r. Makopse mouth up to its source to the peak named Greater Psheushe, then run along to divide between the rr. Tuapse and Ashe up to the Main Caucasian Range (up to the point at 20 verstas distance south-east of Goitkhe pass). From this point the boundary will follow the north border of the former Black-Sea district, i.e. along the Main Caucasian Range up to mountain 9889. The whole area delimited by this boundary will make up the present Sochi district for which Georgia has a right from the ethnic viewpoint: according to a Russian explorer, General A. N. Kuzmin-Karavayev, the Russian population of Sochi district composed only 1/7 part of the total population.
The following data are quoted from Kuzmin-Karavayev's book:

Place

Total Number

Nationalities

  RussiansGeorgiansShapsugsOther Nationalities
Town Sochi

460

11

440

--

9

Sochi district

5811

805

836

731

3439

It follows then that Sochi which was and still is a purely Georgian town, had only 11 Russian inhabitants, and they were greatly outnumbered in the district by Georgians Shapsugs [related to Abkhazians), i.e. nationalities who could be considered as the hosts and the only rightful claimants for Sochi district. The rest of the population is made up from 11 nationalities - strangers in these places: Germans, Letts, Ests, Armenians, Greeks and Others. One should expect that they can't have any right to play the hosts and managers in the district...
The number of Russians in Sochi district went up after 1894; nevertheless, 22% were Georgians. The growth of the Russian population was due to an inhuman policy of the Russian government which the very General Kuzmin-Karavayev described in his book "The Black Sea District", page 2: "Our struggle with the inhabitants of Western Caucasian has acquired an extreme unprecedented character: the decision was not only to conquer the country but to subdue its inhabitants and to drive them away". The writer compared that behavior of the Russians with the most ancient people, "when whole nations used to be enslaved, just as it happened to the Jews, for instance..." These words could be confirmed by a Russian law issued in the time of Minister of agriculture Ermolov and prohibiting Georgians to settle in that ancient Georgian land and buy plots there. The selfsame law granted free land lots to Russian officials and generals who are now demanding from Denikin not to return those truly Georgian lands to the Georgians who have fought Sochi district back from Bolsheviks and who still constitute 22% in the district (not to mention their related Abkhazians and Shapsugs).
Before these fair demands are satisfied by the Paris Conference and in order to avoid further bloodshed with the Volunteer Army which is kept back by Georgians beyond the r. Mekhadyr, temporary state boundary of Georgia ought to be drawn along that river, from the mouth up to the source, then along the divide between the rr. Mekhadyr, Khashupsa and Gega (in the South) and r. Psou in the North), following along the Katsyrkha Range through peaks 8498 (South of Ah-ag), 7077 and 8470, Mount Apesta (0.699) past the Apesta glacier and Lake Mzi, across Ahuk-Dara or Sukhumi Pass and up to peak 9889 in the Main Caucasian Range.
In this way Georgians will justly have the area of Gagra which had been part of Kutaisi Gubernia, i.e. Georgia, until 1904 and the prohibiting laws. But a certain temporary fixation of the boundary is mainly due to the military and political considerations: Georgians will control the Gagra Defile and Gagra Range which is, as Kuzmin- Karavayev put it, "a serious defense line, a strong wall". And it should be added, that the Gagra Range is wild, inaccessible, almost without any passes, butting against the .sea, as at the Mekhadyr mouth. And here is the Gagra fortress closing the Gagra Defile from the north, that Defile being the only accessible passage suitable for movement of military forces for Georgia. Since there is no one who could predict the result of struggle between the Volunteer Army of General Denikin and Bolsheviks who may soon become Georgian's neighbors, it is in the vital interests of the Georgian Republic to have the Gagra Defile and the Gagra Range with all their north and south slopes. On the other hand, it is equally dangerous to have the Volunteer Army as neighbors because of their reactionary, integratory and aggressive ideals which do not agree with the democratic and defensive ideals of Georgians: they may soon have to start a defensive struggle for their territory and freedom. For this case, the position on the r. Mekhadyr, the Gagra Range and the Gagra Defile will do an invaluable favor to Georgia" (*40).
Owing to the complicated political and military and strategic situation at the north-west borders of the Republic resulting from the Volunteer's aggressive actions, the Georgian government and General Headquarters found it strategically necessary that the state border of Georgia should go along the r. Mekhadyr before the question was solved by the Conference in Paris.
General Denikin's aggressive actions against Georgia continued; the menace of seizure of Transcaucasia by the Volunteer Army remained real. With this in view, the government of Georgia concluded a military-defensive alliance with Azerbaijan on June 16, 1919. Some measures were taken on the international arena aimed at drawing the attention of Europe to Denikin's aggression against Georgia. On June 14, 1919, Head of the Georgian delegation at the Paris Conference N. Chkhenkeli addressed the Chairman and the delegations of the USA, Great British, Italy and Japan with a letter in which he wrote "that the attitude of the Russian Volunteer Army led by General Denikin to the Georgian Republic is growing more threatening. This General who is encouraged, supported and supplied by the allied powers in his struggle against Bolsheviks, provokes a border conflict with Georgia, demanding that the Georgian troops should evacuate the space between the rr. Mekhadyr and Bzyb on the Black Sea shore.
The territory claimed by him is a part of Abkhazia which was joined to Georgia by popular vote and is governed by the People's Council of Abkhazia elected by popular vote too.
Under these circumstances General Denikins actions with arms and amunition suppled to him by the Great Powers are an obvious divergence from the goal for which the Great Powers are helping the Volunteer Army".
In conclusion N. Chkhenkeli asked the government of the Great Powers "to order the Russian Volunteer Army to show respect to the borders which Georgia actually held between the Caucasian Range and the Black Sea, subject to its rights and its people's will and consent of the Allied command" (*41).
In June representatives of Estonia, Latvia, North Caucasian Republic, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania and Poland sent a note of protest against Denikin's aggressive actions. It said: "All the representatives of the states in the outlying district of Russia protest unanimously together with representatives of Georgia and North-Caucasian Republic and other Caucasian states against that invasion. They wish to point out herewith that they are clearly conscious of the solidarity uniting all the nations from the outlying districts of Russia and each of them is well aware of any threat directed against the independence of any other of them as if it were directed against his own independence...
Therefore, the undersigned representatives bring this protest to the knowledge of the governments of the Allied and friendly powers. They are asking the latter to make General Denikin immediately cease his aggression against the Georgian and Azerbaijan Republic... They are asking for all the necessary measures to be taken to oblige General Denikin to observe all the laws of international justice" (*42). It is obvious that the Georgian government made active steps at an international level to stop Denikin's aggression.
The notes of the Georgian government more than once emphasized the fact of autonomy of Abkhazia within Georgia and the inviolability of the historical borders of Georgia. By protecting the territorial integrity of Georgia its government defended Abkhazia against the encroachments of the White Guard generals.
It should be noted that the problems of Transcaucasional borders were not the only ones submitted to the Supreme Council of the Entente.
In 1920 in Abkhazia arose a question of free, so-called, "fund lands " (*43). According to G. Dzidzaria, an Abkhaz historian, "the Menshevik government intended to use them at their own discretion", while representative of opposition in the People's Council of Abkhazia proposed to assign these lauds to the mahajirs. Debates started" (*44).
In June of 1920 the Abkhaz intelligentsia called a meeting and created "Sukhumi Central Committee on the Affairs of Abkhaz-Mahajirs". The meeting concluded that the Abkhaz- Mahajirs who lived in Turkey had been expatriated from Abkhazia against their will during the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-78.
The Committee published a letter to the people of Abkhazia telling them that the Abkhaz- Mahajirs had applied to the Georgian government for the permission to return to their mother-land, Abkhazia, but, as G. Dzidzaria put it, "the petition of the Mahajirs vanished in Tiflis " (*45).
Representatives of the Abkhaz Mahajirs did apply to the head of the Georgian mission in Turkey, G. Rtskhiladze, on February 16, 1920, for the permission to be repatriated to Abkhazia. G. Rtskhiladze forwarded that petition to Paris, to N. Chkheidze. The matter concerned not only the Mahajirs but also other Moslems who wished to be repatriated. Here is G. Rtskhiladze's letter to N. Chkheidze, head of the Georgian delegation at the Conference in Paris:
"On February 16 I was visited by representatives of Abkhazians expatriated to Turkey, Marshania and Margania. They congratulated us with the recognition of Georgia's independence {in the January of 1920 Georgia was recognized de-facto by the Entente - - A. M.) on their own behalf and on behalf of the Abkhaz expatriates and sent their congratulations to the Georgian government.
They said that they are, as well as all the Abkhaz people, supporters of unity with Georgia and will work for it in future. They inquired about the possible ways to repatriate the Abkhaz Mahajirs. According to them, there are about 150, 000 Mahajirs in the Ismit district of Turkey. I should point out, however, that the Mahajirs expatriated from all parts of Georgia are the subject of Turkey and their repatriation will take quite a few obstacles to overcome if the matter is not appropriately handled at the Conference. Therefore, I ask you to keep this in mind and put forth a demand that a special resolution should be adopted in the peace treaty with Turkey ensuring the right to be repatriated for those Mahajirs, who had been exiled to Turkey from the Caucasus during the Russian rule. To put those rights in effect a period of several years can be assigned and a special commission representing both the parties ought to be formed to determine the requirements of those who can enjoy that right. This condition will be effective of only for the Abkhaz, but also for Mohammedan Georgians wishing to return home. I made no promises to the Abkhazians; only notified them that I would bring their wish to your knowledge. A duplicate of the Abkhaz letter is enclosed" (*46).
The affair was set going, and on April 7, 1920 N. Chkheidze sent a letter to Chairman of the Allie's Supreme Council: "Very many Mohammedans of Georgia and Abkhazia who had been compelled to leave their homeland in different times, settled down within Ottoman Empire, particularly, after the signing of Berlin Treaty (1878), due to the anti- Moslem policy conducted by the Russian government then and later on in Georgia. The Georgian and Abkhaz Mohammedans, particularly those who came from Batumi and Sukhumi districts and named "Mahajirs", as they were exiled for religious reasons, quite often expressed their wish to return, but their repatriation was impossible during the Russian rule.
Independent Georgia is eager, on the contrary, to make it as easy as possible for her scattered children to come back home. And to make it sure that Turkey or any Other country, which is a heir of Ottoman Empire, should not object to repatriation of Georgian emigrants, it would be very important to include in the future treaty with Turkey a clause that would guarantee free return to Georgia of all who had left it because of political and religious considerations and would wish to return now.
I have the honour to ask you, Your Excellency, to present the above petition of the people and government of Georgia to the Supreme Council" (*47).
This all implies that the Mahajir's petition did not "vanish in Tiflis" as G: Dzidzaria put it; the government of Georgia submitted the question of the Mahajirs repatriation, which worried the Abkhaz people so much, to the Supreme Council of the Entente for discussion. The government of the Georgian Democratic Republic consistently defended the interests of the Georgian as well as Abkhaz people on the international arena.
At the same time the Russian clerical circles enhanced straggle against the Georgian Orthodox Church in Abkhazia in connection with the autocephality of the Georgian church and declaration of independence of Georgia.
Sir Oliver Wordrop, Supreme Commissar of Great Britain in Transcaucasia asked E. Gegechkori, the Georgian minister of foreign affairs, to tell him how much substantiated were the statements of the Russian authorities that "in Sukhumi Russian clergymen Golubtsov and Protopopov and a parish secretary Avtonomov had been exiled for an attempt to prevent Georgians from seizing a local orthodox church (*48).
The selfsame note cited some extracts from a report of Denikin's representative at the Peace Conference, S. Sazonov, the Tsar's ex-minister of foreign affairs, to Lord Curson, in which he said that the " Georgian authorities seem to attempt sequestration of Russian churches not only in Georgia, but also in place, like Sukhumi, which have nothing in common with Georgia".(*49) As that note showed, A. Denikin and his government would not recognize Abkhazia as a part of Georgia, and hence came the attitude of the Russian clerical circles in Abkhazia.
As for accusation of "seizing" the local orthodox church (it was Sukhumi Cathedral - A. M.), it should be noted that Sukhumi (Takumo - Bedi) eparchy used to be within the Georgian church for many centuries. When in 1917 the Georgian church became autocephal, Sukhumi eparchy included Samurzakano, Abkhazia and part of the Black Sea gubernia and the eparchy was headed by Right Reverend Sergii, a Russian bishop (*50).
The Russian clerical and civil authorities made a decision to exclude all the Georgian parishes from the eparchy in 1917. Over 50 of them went to the Georgian catholicosate, and the Black Sea Russian parishes joined a newly formed Black Sea — Novorossiisk eparchy. The other parishes: 30 Abkhazians, 11 Greek and 6 Russian ones located in the territory of Georgia and Georgian catholicosate, remained under the authority of Sukhumi bishop Sergii, against all the church regulations (*51).
In the March of 1919 the Right Rev. Sergii left Sukhumi in connection with some new assignment. On September 1st the Commissariat of Abkhazia issued a degree concerning the orthodox churches of Abkhazia which read: "a) to consider the Sukhumi Bishop Chair vacant and to take urgent measures for its occupation as soon as possible by a permanent and independent bishop; b) to declare the Cathedral of Sukhumi with the house of the clergy, the bishop's house and the building of the former school to be the- national property of Abkhazia" (*52).
The Commissariat of Abkhazia applied to the Georgian Catholicosate Council to charge Metropolitan of Chkondidi Ambrosi with temporary management of Sukhumi eparchy. The Metropolitan suggested the member of the cathedral clergy to continue their services... But some of the members, that were Russian by origin turned down that proposal. Archpriest Golubtsov, priest Protopopov and Secretary Avtonomov refused in written form to follow the directions of Metropolitan Ambrosi "in view of the prohibition to communicate with representatives of the Georgian church issued by the Provisional Highest Ecclesiastical Authority" (*53).
On October 7, 1919, Metropolitan Ambrosi called a special meeting of the Sukhumi eparchy clergy "to settle the church affairs and... elect the bishop". (*54) That special council of Sukhumi eparchy, which consisted of the deans and representatives of all Abkhaz, Greek, Georgian and Russian parishes (one from each) took into account both the cultural and historic relations of Abkhazia and Georgia, and the fact that "as Abkhazia has joined the Georgian Democratic Republic as its autonomous part, it is inadmissible to have a foreign church authority here, and drew the following resolution:
1) An independent eparchy of the Georgia catholicosate is to be restored on the territory of autonomous Abkhazia, and named Sukhumi-Abkhaz eparchy;
2) The eparchy is to be headed by an independent bishop who will have a Chair and residence in the town of Sukhumi;
3) The Sukhumi-Abkhaz eparchy is to include all the parishes, monasteries and church offices for different nationalities between the rr. Inguri and Mekhadyr" (*55).
In this way Sukhumi Cathedral and the church property were given back to their legitimate owners and were not to be returned or taken outside Georgia as the Russian clericals insisted. An application of the Georgian Catholicosate Council to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Georgian Republic said that "Archpriest Golubtsov, priest Pratopopov and Secretary Avtonomov were driven out of Sukhumi for anti-government propaganda and an attempt to incite one part of the population against another" (*56).
In the Spring of 1919 a newly elected People's Council of Abkhazia (instead of the Abkhaz People's Council) submitted an Act of Abkhazia's Autonomy signed by Chairman Emukhvari to the Constitutional Assembly of Georgia. The Act reads: At the meeting of 20 March, 1919, the first People's Council of Abkhazia elected by popular, direct, equal and secret ballot ordered, on behalf of all peoples of Abkhazia: 1) Abkhazia is a part of the Democratic Republic of Georgia as an autonomous unit, and this fact is to be brought to knowledge of the government of the Republic of Georgia and its Constitutional Assembly; 2) in order to compile a constitution of autonomous Abkhazia and establish relationships between the control and autonomous authorities, a commission consisting of equal number of members from the Constitutional Assembly of Georgia and People's Council of Abkhazia is to be elected, in order to elaborate provisions which will be included in the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia after being adopted at the Constitutional Assembly of Georgia and People's Council of Abkhazia" (*57). The Constitutional Assembly of Georgia accepted that Act and sent back a greeting to the People's Council of Abkhazia.
The government of Georgia more than once announced its wish to grant a wide autonomy to Abkhazia. This was confirmed in N. Zhordania's talk with a British general on February 23, 1919 (*58).
The government of Georgia thought that it was up to the Constitution to define the form of political structure of Abkhazia. The discussion of the draft constitution of Georgia slowed down. The constitutional commission elaborated the draft and submitted it to the Constitutional Assembly on June 14, 1920 (*59). And it was only on February 21, 1921, when the government of Georgia was actually being overturned, that the constitution was adopted and put into effect.
The People's Council of Abkhazia was not quite unanimous in respect of the question of Abkhazia's autonomy. The Council had 7 fractions: 27 Socialist Democrats (Mensheviks), 3 Socialist Revolutionaries, 1 Social Federalist, 1 National Democrat, 1 Colonist group, 4 Independent Socialists (supporters of independent Abkhazia, 3 extreme Right elements.
In the July of 1919 the People's Council of Abkhazia was discussing the draft Constitution of autonomous Abkhazia but it was not adopted as the independence-minded deputies managed to block it. Even a compromise version offered by the Commissariate failed (the Commissariat created on May 13, 1919, was an executive body on the territory of Abkhazia, which introduced zemstvo self-governed bodies there) (*60). The attitude of the Georgian government to the order of elaboration and adoption of the Constitution" of Abkhazia slightly changed later. An application of members of the constitutional committee of the People's Council of December 5, 1920, stated: ..Subject to the Act of Abkhazian's Autonomy of 20.03.1919, adopted by the People's Council, the Constitution of Abkhazia is previously elaborated by a commission consisting of equal members of representatives of the People's Council of Abkhazia and the Constitutive Assembly of Georgia and adopted by both of the legislative bodies.
With this in view, the Peoples Council of Abkhazia sent its representatives to Tiflis to apply to the Presidium of the Constitutional Assembly with a suggestion of assigning a plenipotentiary commission for the above said purpose. In the reply the Presidium of the Constitutional Assembly put forward a new provision on Abkhazia's autonomy which implied that this issue was exclusively under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Assembly of Georgia, with the delegation's function in the process of elaboration being only informative ones, and the People's Council of Abkhazia being completely kept away from any participation in the adoption of the Constitution.
Due to such fundamental disagreement in the outlook between the People's Council of Abkhazia and central authority concerning the order of elaboration and adoption of Abkhazia's Constitution, the delegation is leaving for home (*61).
Minister of Interior Affairs of Georgia N. Ramishvili many times confirmed the inviolability of Abkhazia's autonomy leaflets with his speech were distributed all over Abkhazia, even in the most distant villages and settlements (*62).
Another application of the delegation of the People's Council of Abkhazia to the Georgian government pointed out that the People's Council was sending a delegation to the Constitutional Assembly to establish finally the relationships between Georgia and Abkhazia, with the Georgian Extraordinary Envoy taking part in the preparatory work of the People's Council. However, the desired results were not achieved.
"The relations between Georgia and Abkhazia aren't yet made formal and, consequently, not compulsory legally for both sides. Therefore it is necessary for welfare of both the nations to enhance the legislative settlement of the relations...
The people of Abkhazia have been waiting for this Constitution for three years, and the present delegation, guided exclusively by the interests of the whole nation, finds no valid reasons for new delays, for which the People's Council will not take responsibility any longer, bringing this to the knowledge of the whole population of Abkhazia", said the address of the People's Council of Abkhazia (*63).
On December 29, 1920 a minor constitutional commission produced draft "Provision of autonomous governing of Abkhazia" which was approved on February 21, 1921, by the Constitutional Assembly of Georgia alongside with the Constitution of Georgia.
The first clause of the Provision stated that Abkhazia, from the r. Mekhadyr to the r. Inguri, from the Black Sea shores to the Caucasioni is an integral part of the Georgian Republic and governs autonomously its internal affairs (*64).
Autonomous Abkhazia had its local legislative body, i.e. the People's Council elected by popular, direct, equal, secret and proportional ballot, and consisting of 30 deputies. (*65) The commissariat of Abkhazia elected by the People's Council was Abkhazia's executive organ. The 7th clause declared the Georgian language to be state language of Abkhazia. But the People's Council was unable to introduce local language in schools, offices (*66).
It would be interesting to look into the respective standpoint of the political parties present at the Georgian Constitutional Assembly. On August 2, 1919, debates started at the Constitutional Assembly concerning an application of the National Democrats on the events and situation in Sukhumi district. In the course of the debates it was pointed out that owing to a particular complexity of the situation (with the struggle inside the country and Denikin's intervention from outside) the government should exercise a sane and cautious policy. One of the speakers, Minister of interior affairs Ramishvili, said: "Leftwing elements, namely, independent socialists, are against our statehood... But majority of the People's Soviet of Abkhazia as well as of the population of Abkhazia do not support secession of the country from Georgia and think that it must exercise the rights of autonomy within Georgia" (*67).
V. Gurjua, a Socialist Democrat of Abkhazia said that the interests of Abkhazia are closely connected with the Georgian Republic, that the Abkhazians consider themselves as its rightful citizens. He appealed the Constitutional Assembly to adopt the constitution made up by the Abkhaz People's Council, emphasizing that Abkhazia would be independent only in the internal affairs (*68).
Another speaker, B. Chkhikvishvili, a Social Democrat, reminded the meeting of Georgia's services to Abkhazia in defending its integrity against Denikin and anarchy, in assisting the People's Council to carry out organizational measures, agrarian reforms, etc. The speaker said that more half of the People's Council are supporters of Abkhazia's autonomy within Georgia.
Touching upon the question of hostile feelings of the Abkhazians towards Georgians the speaker explained it as a result of tsarism's policy "divide et impera" founded on strife and hatred between nations; besides, it was necessary to keep in mind the smaller number and cultural backwardness of the Abkhaz population, as compared to the others - Georgians, Russians, Armenians, Greeks - inhabiting the land, which had certainly affected the people's psychology. "With this in view it is necessary to encourage development of culture and formation of Abkhaz intelligentsia (*69).
The hostile feelings were also to the economic inferiority the Abkhazians, since the economy in the towns was managed mainly by Armenians, Georgians or others.
A Social Revolutionary Leo Shengelia spoke of the indefinite situation in Sukhumi with Denikin's supporters on ''one side and Georgia-oriented elements on the other. The nationalistically minded intelligentsia, though small in number, was aspiring for independence. Shengelia blamed the Georgian government for this latter tendency which he thought had resulted from the agrarian reform. The peasants demanded for the land being turned over to them and not purchased and sold. Even the first step of the reform was not completed: the land of the landowners was not confiscated; the zemstva had been introduced only a month before that. Speaking on the national policy the speaker added that they should not ignore the reality, namely, that "majority of the Abkhaz population speak Russian not only in Abkhazia proper, but in Samurzakano too where most of the inhabitants are Mingrelians. Therefore, we think that nationalization carried out as "a swoop, tip-and-run attack" would incur grave damage upon us... In our opinion nationalization should be carried on from below with the heaviest burden on the zemstva which must introduce Georgian schools.
Independent Abkhazia is absurd. On the very next day it will support Denikin. There shouldn't be any separate government. Abkhazia must have broad internal autonomy" (*70).
A National Democrat S. Kedia criticized the government's policy in Abkhazia as it didn't manage to take into account properly the specific features of that outlying region of Georgia and the anti-Georgian tendencies implanted by the tsarism and the Russian clerical circles. He called for restoration of the close historic friendly relations between the Georgian and Abckhaz peoples (*71).
Those debates revealed that all the political parties supported autonomy for Abkhazia; nevertheless, legalization of that act was delayed till February 21, 1921.
After the establishment of the Soviet power in Georgia, the Communist party made the First actual steps toward Soviet based national-state construction. Even before that the leaders of Abkhaz and Georgian Communists had agreed that "the Sukhumi party organization must be a part of the Georgian one, and Abkhazia must become a part of the Georgian SSR with the rights of an autonomy."
However, two sessions of the responsible officials of Abkhazia that took place in the early March of 1921 made a decision to declare Abkhazia as an independent republic and to form the Communist Party of Abkhazia (*72).
On March 27, 1921, E. Eshba applied to S. Orjonikidze on behalf of Abkhazian Revcom for sanction to declare Abkhazia an independent socialist republic or an autonomous republic federated directly in the RSFSR (*73). He explained that the Menshevik policy had "caused a tendency to national self-determination among Abkhazians." As we can see, that national self-determination was to be realized at the expense of destruction of the integral Georgian state.
"The Abkhazians constitute 80% of the Sukhumi district population," - Eshba continued, - "and they do not wish to be part of Georgia." The question is: When could the Communist of of Abkhazia manage to carry out a referendum among the Abkhazians? And then, the Abkhazians could not constitute 80% as their total number was 36000 at that time (*74), and they were a minority with respect to the Georgians. From his viewpoint, declaration of independence would confirm the liberation mission of the Red Army and make a favorable impression abroad. Eshba's demand was firm, otherwise he would not bear any responsibility.
The proposal made by Abkhazian Revcom was somehow unexpected to E. Eshba. He said: "We thought that Abkhazia would exist as a part of Soviet Georgia but when we arrived here and realized the actual situation... we decided unanimously that in order to get rid of the national strife it is necessary, at least temporarily, before the Congress of the Soviets, to declare Abkhazia's independence" (*75).
S. Orjonikidze was surprised to hear such formulation of the question. As for the federation with the RSFSR, as he said, in the West it would be interpreted as annexation of Abkhazia by Moscow. Consequently, he agreed to declare Abkhazia and independent Soviet republic until the question of its federation with RSFSR of Georgia was settled by the center (*76).
Thus the attitude of the Abkhaz Communist Party leaders changed radically after the establishment of the Soviet power, because, as it was mentioned above, there had been an idea previously that Abkhazia would be an autonomous republic of Georgia. What was the reason? On February 21, 1921, i.e. a few days before Georgia became Soviet, the Constitutional Assembly had adopted the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia, wherein article 107 declared the autonomy of Abkhazia, of Mohammedan Georgia (Batumi district) and Zakatala district, as inseparable part of the Georgian Republic.
Obviously, the Abkhaz leaders decided that if the Constitution of the Democratic Republic had legalized Abkhazia's autonomy, the Soviet power had to go farther and proclaim its independence, demonstrating its "progressive" attitude to the national problem. And none realized that it was an outrageous violation of the integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and historic rights of the Georgia people. That approach was not a novelty for the Bolsheviks, since they had set forth the proposal of joining Sukhumi district to the Black Sea - Kuban Soviet Republic back in 1918.
Besides, the Abkhaz Bolsheviks had been influenced and pressed by the independent- minded elements of the People's Council of Abkhazia. By the way, a reference on E. Eshba in the report of an agent of outdoors surveillance submitted on April 5, 1921, to the head of secret operations department of Cheka (Security service) of Soviet Socialist Abkhazia and entitled "On the drawbacks in the work on Soviet construction by leaders of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia", stated: "Chairman of Revcom of Abkhazia comrade E. Eshba is a very humane man... and readily yields to the influence of the comrades round him... He is not very communistic in his approach to the cause of Soviet construction and basis of Communism" (*77).
The conversation between Secretary of Caucasian Bureau of the Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) S, Orjonikidze and leader of the Abkhaz Communists E, Eshba demonstrates how "simply and casually" were solved such important issues as sovereignty and territorial integrity of a Republic, whereas in the treaty signed between RSFSR and Georgia on May 7,1920, Soviet Russia admitted the Sukhumi district, i.e. Abkhazia, to be "unconditionally a part of the Georgian state" (*78).
It was still back in the May of 1918 that Germany, in its agreement with Democratic Georgia, also had admitted Sukhumi district to be a part of Georgia (*79).
When the countries of the Entente and Turkey recognized Georgia de facto and de jure in 1920-1921, it implied recognition of Abkhazia as its integral part.
Therefore, the entry of Abkhazia into Georgia was based on international laws and representatives of RSFSR S. Orjonikidze had no right to settle that essential matter in such a haste.
On March 28, 1921, Bolshevik party leaders of Abkhazia and Georgia met in Batumi to discuss the issue on the structure of the Soviet rule and Communist Party of Abkhazia. They came to a decision subject to which Abkhazia was proclaimed a Soviet socialist republic while its federation with Soviet Russia or Soviet Georgia was open until the next coming congress of Abkhazia's Soviets.
On May 21, 1921, the Georgian Revcom adopted a declaration of independence of the Abkhaz Soviet Socialist Republic which slated that the final solution of the question of Abkhazia and Georgia relations would be solved by the congresses of the Abkhazia and Georgian Soviets (*80).
The first congress of Abkhazian laborers representative that took place on May 28, 1921, approved of the Georgian Revcom's declaration of Abkhazia's independence and expressed their firm will to establish "close ties and brotherhood with all the Soviet republics and, in the first place, with the most closely related, culturally, economically and geographically, workers and peasants of Soviet Georgia" (*81).
The declaration of the Georgian Revcom, however, ignored the interests of the Georgians and other nationalities inhabiting Abkhazia and composing majority of the population.
An irresponsible attitude characterized also the approach of Georgian and Transcaucasional governments to the problems of ethnic borders and national questions. Their hastily made decisions are affecting us adversely even now. That very haste, and also a wish to gain support of Abkhaz Communists made S. Orjonikidze give his consent to declare independence of the Abkhaz SSR. As far as the federation of Abkhazia with the RSFSR in concerned, this would have destroyed all the centuries-old economic, political and cultural relationships with the Georgian people and was therefore absolutely inapplicable, And then it reminded too much of tsarism's policy of annexation, exercised, as well by the Russian clergy and White Guard generals.
That standpoint of the Abkhaz leaders reflected the interests of the local right separatist elements, on the one hand, and those officials in Moscow for whom the question of national sovereignty was of an as-a-matter-of-fact significance as compared with the "world revolution."
On August 12, 1921, S. Orjonikidze reported to the district party meeting: "In the matter of outlying district we fully adhere to a policy of granting them the broadest sovereignty, even independence.
When Abkhazia demanded independence we told the Communists of Abkhazia that independence of such a tiny state is hardly possible, but in the long run, we agreed. We said that if the Abkhaz people does not trust Georgians, let Abkhazia be independent, let it heal the wounds inflicted by Mensheviks; they will soon see themselves the necessity of the closest union with their neighbor Georgia" (*82).
Nevertheless, the very first steps taken toward realization of the idea of independent Abkhazia demonstrated its economic and political inapplicability. For instance, a report on the Party work in Abkhazia in July-August, 1921, tells of a failure of the working plan of the Party and Soviet organizations for those months. Secretary of the Org-bureau of the Party Larionov suggested the following reasons: a small number of members in the Orgbureau and Revcom, with the same people working in both the organization, restricted activity of those people, "full lack of control and of responsibility to higher Party and Soviet bodies (i.e. independence of Abkhazia), fundamental differences in the standpoints between Chairman of Revcom Eshba and his assistant Lakoba that made it impossible for them to set up any direction in the work of Revcom and Orgbureau (as they were heads of both of those bodies). Various groups were formed causing damage to the work" (*83).
The report concluded that the structure of the Revcom bodies (narcornats) did not meet any requirements of life and territorial size of Abkhazia.
The question of forms of relations between Abkhazia and Georgia were discussed at the highest Party levels many times. At a plenary meeting of the Caucasian Bureau of the Communist Party it was decided to "direct the Party work towards integration of Abkhazia and Georgia with autonomous Abkhazia within Georgia" (*84). The question was discussed later at a broader plenary meeting of Party Orgbureau and Revcom of Abkhazia. The declaration of Abkhazia's independence was approved but it was agreed to set up the closest contacts between Abkhazia and Georgia. However, the procedure for the conclusion of a treaty was delayed by the objections of local separatists, who were against any agreements with Georgia and would not realize that Abkhazia could not exist apart from Georgia. Besides, some of the officials had another idea: direct integration of Abkhazia with the Transcaucasican Federation ("Zakfederatsia"), by-passing Georgia (*85).
On November 16, 1921, Presidium of the Caucasian Party Bureau concluded that "economic and political independence of Abkhazia is to be considered inapplicable" (*86). That resolution once more confirmed the incompetence of the artificial independence. And despite the formal declaration of independence, the Soviet and Party bodies of the republics and the center treated Abkhazia as an autonomous part of Georgia. This latter attitude was expressed in a letter of the Party Orgbureau secretary of Abkhazia to the Caucasian Bureau, where Abkhazia was referred to as "an independent republic from formal standpoint" {emphasis added) (*87).
There are some more facts that the declaration of independence was formal. In the May of 1921 RSFSR and Georgia signed an agreement of military-political and economic cooperation in the cause of Socialist construction. (*88) Such agreements were signed in 1920-21 between Soviet Russia and all the other Soviet republics, but there was no special agreement with Abkhazia. Then on 13 September, 1921, at an international conference in Kars a friendly agreement was signed by Turkey, as one party and Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, as the other one. Thus, the Transcaucasian republics acted as independent legal subjects (with RSFSR participating), Abkhazia never being mentioned.
V. I. Lenin's attitude to the matter can be judged from his letter of April 14, 1921, to the Communists of Caucasia, which he entitled as an address to the Communists of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Daghestan, Mountain Republic, Abkhazia was not mentioned (*89).
When V. I. Lenin's draft project of organization of the Transcaucasian Republics Federation was adopted at the Politbureau of the Bolsheviks Party Central Committee with minor alterations (on November 29, 1921), it stated: "To recognize the Federation of the Transcaucasian Republics as principally absolutely right one and unconditionally applicable, however, premature, i.e. not to be realized immediately, as it will take a certain period of time for consideration, propaganda and realization through Soviets, from below; 2. To propose to the Central Committees of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan (through the Cavbureau) to set forth the question of federation more broadly to be discussed by workers and peasants and Party organizations; to conduct active propaganda for federation and take it through meetings of Soviets in each of the republics; to inform the Politbureau of CC of the Party, exactly and timely, in case of a strong opposition" (*90).
It was suggested to unite three republics - Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Abkhazia was not mentioned as a member of the Federation.
On September 1, 1921, People's Commissar on national affairs I. V. Stalin informed Secretary of All-Union Central Executive Committee A. Enukidze that "Abkhazia is an autonomous part of independent Georgia, consequently, it does not and must not have any independent representatives in the RSFSR and, therefore, cannot receive any credit from the RSFSR" (*91).
On December 16, 1921, Georgia and Abkhazia singed the union agreement which was adopted by the first Congress of the Soviets of Abkhazia and Georgia in 1922.
It is noteworthy that it was somehow customary to declare small territories as Soviet Socialist Republics and, later, to reduce their status to regions, districts, autonomous republics. For instance, in the June of 1920 the Nakhichevan Soviet Socialist Republic- was created in close economic contact with Azerbaijan. In 1923 it was turned into Auto- nomous District of the Azerbaijan SSR, and a year later into Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In the same way, the Socialist Republics of Stavropol, Kuban, Black Sea created in 1918, soon become districts of the RSFSR.
On June 13, 1926, at the 3 rd session of the All-Georgian Central Executive Committee in Sukhumi N. Lakoba made a report for the government of Abkhazia, in which he refer- red to the relationships between Georgia and Abkhazia: "From the onest, when the republic of Abkhazia was formed, certain persons who are not quite aware of the reality and who are our opponents, have been scheming the slackening of the republican power in Abkhazia, complicating the process of creative work in Abkhazia and Georgia, on the following basis: if Abkhazia wishes to leave Georgia, it will, if it does not, it will not. Such ideas are uttered even by those responsible officials who ought not even to think in that way. These ideas are spread among the population, particularly, the Abkhazians. Is it reasonable? In order to avoid any future misunderstanding, it ought to be definitely stated that Abkhazia cannot leave Georgia; it is neither going, nor wishing to do it. Abkhazia did not include itself in Georgia, but Georgia shall do everything it can to raise the cu- ltural and economic standards in Abkhazia. Georgia cannot oppress Abkhazia" (*92). The treaty relations between the Abkhaz SSR and Georgia continued till February 1931, when the 6th Congress of Soviets of Abkhazia and then 6th Congress of Soviets of Georgia made a decision to turn Abkhazia into an autonomous republic within the Georgian SSR.
It is curious enough to note that USSR Constitution of 1924 mentioned "the Autonomous Republics of Ajaria and Abkhazia" as well as "Autonomous Districts of South Ossetia, Mountain Karabakh and Nakhichevan" which were to send "one representative each to the Council of Nationalties…"(*93).
A similar reference to the "Autonomous Republics of Abkhazia, Ajaristan (Ajaria) and South Ossetia" was made in a resolution of 27 February, 1922, of the CC Presidium of CP of Georgia concerning the "number of seats in the Central Executive Committee allotted by the Center to autonomous republics, army..." (*94).
It can be thus concluded from the above facts and sources that:
1. The progressive representatives of the Abkhaz people led by D. Gulia traditionally presented Abkhazia as an integral and inseparable part of Georgia and spared no efforts to strengthen and develop the historic friendship and cooperation of the Georgian and Abkhazian peoples.
2. A tendency to seize Abkhazian territories was strong among the most powerful circles of tsarist Russia, as well as the Russian clergy, who were trying to include the Sukhumi eparchy in the Black Sea gubernia with the purpose of future colonization of the Black Sea shores by Russian and dissolving the Abkhaz population among the Russians, i.e. its actual assimilation.
3. In the years of World War I, particularly in February-March, 1918, the Turkish ruling circles became active and, by promising the properties classes of Abkhazia some of their old privileges, they incited the latter to secession of Abkhazia from Georgia and its involvement into the Turkish sphere of influence.
4. The essence of Gen. Denikin's policy in 1918-1919 was seizure of Abkhazia and its annexation as a part of integral and indivisible Russia", which found support among some propertied representatives of the Abkhaz people.
5. The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia adopted on February 21, 1921 by the Constitutional Assembly, gave a just solution to the Abkhaz problem, granting Abkhazia a status of autonomy within Georgia. This satisfied the interests of the Georgian and Abkhaz peoples, corresponded to their historic and cultural relationships. Moreover, in the treaty of 7 May, 1920, signed between Georgia and the RSFSR, Sukhumi district was recognized as an integral part of the Georgian Democratic Republic.
6. Granting of the status of a Soviet socialist republic to Abkhazia in 1921 which later became agreement-based, was a demonstration of the irresponsible attitude of Georgia's Revcom and Cavbureau of the Bolshevik Party Central Committee to the settlement of national-territorial issues as those organizations ignored the interests of the Georgian people. Such an approach to the relationships between the Georgian and Abkhaz peoples created prerequisites for breaking up their brotherly historic relationships.

 

 

See also related topic:
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE 1920 UPRISING IN SOUTH OSSETIA

 

HOME