Democratic Republic of Georgia

Democratic Republic of Georgia
Democratic Republic of Georgia
საქართველოს დემოკრატიული რესპუბლიკა

Flag Coat of arms
Dideba Zetsit Kurtheuls
("Praise Be To The Heavenly Bestower of Blessings")
Map of the Democratic Republic of Georgia, 1918-1921.
Capital Tbilisi
Language(s) Georgian
Religion Georgian Orthodox Christianity
Government Republic
 - 1918 Noe Ramishvili
 - 1918-1921 Noe Zhordania
Historical era Interwar period
 - Established May 26, 1918
 - Soviet invasion 11 February 1921
 - Soviet annexation 25 February 1921
107.600 km2 (42 sq mi)
 - 1919 est. c. 2,500,000 
Currency Georgian maneti
Today part of  Georgia

The Democratic Republic of Georgia (DRG; Georgian: საქართველოს დემოკრატიული რესპუბლიკა, Sakartvelos Demokratiuli Respublika), 1918–1921, was the first modern establishment of a Republic of Georgia.

The DRG was created after the collapse of the Russian Empire that began with the Russian Revolution of 1917. Its established borders were with Kuban People's Republic and the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus in the north, Ottoman Empire, Democratic Republic of Armenia in the south, and Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in the southeast. It had a total land area of roughly 107,600 km² (by comparison, the total area of today's Georgia is 69,700 km²), and a population of 2.5 million.

Georgia's capital is Tbilisi, and its state language was Georgian. Proclaimed on May 26, 1918, on the break-up of the Transcaucasian Federation, it was led by the Social Democratic Menshevik party. Facing permanent internal and external problems, the young state was unable to withstand the invasion by the Russian SFSR Red Armies, and collapsed between February and March 1921 to become a Soviet republic.



After the February Revolution of 1917 and collapse of the Tsarist administration in the Caucasus, most power was held by the Special Transcaucasian Committee (Ozakom, short for Osobyi Zakavkazskii Komitet) of the Provisional Government. All of the Soviets in Georgia were firmly controlled by the Mensheviks, who followed the lead of the Petrograd Soviet and supported the Provisional Government. The Bolshevist coup in October changed the situation drastically. The Caucasian soviets refused to recognize Lenin's regime. Threats from the increasingly Bolshevistic deserting soldiers of the former Caucasus army, ethnic clashes and anarchy in the region forced the Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani politicians to create a unified regional authority known as the Transcaucasian Commissariat (November 14, 1917) and later a legislature, the Sejm (January 23, 1918). On April 22, 1918, the Sejm declared the Transcaucasus an independent democratic federation.

Many Georgians, influenced by the ideas of Ilia Chavchavadze and other intellectuals from the late 19th century, insisted on national independence. A cultural national awakening was further strengthened by the restoration of the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church (12 March 1917) and establishment of a national university in Tbilisi (1918). In contrast, the Georgian Mensheviks regarded the independence from Russia as a temporary step against the Bolshevik revolution and considered the calls for Georgia's independence chauvinistic and separatist. The union of Transcaucasus was short-lived though. Undermined by increasing internal tensions and the pressure from the German and Ottoman empires, the Federation collapsed on May 26, 1918 when Georgia declared independence followed by Armenia and Azerbaijan within the next two days. The independence of the Democratic Republic of Georgia was de jure recognized by Romania, Argentina, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Japan, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Russia, among other countries.[1]


The Meeting of the National Council (May 26, 1918)

Georgia was immediately recognized by Germany and the Ottoman Empire. The young state had to place itself under German protection and to cede its largely Muslim-inhabited regions (including the cities of Batum, Ardahan, Artvin, Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki) to the Ottoman government (Treaty of Batum, June 4). However, German support enabled the Georgians to repel the Bolshevik threats from Abkhazia. The German forces were almost certainly under the command of Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein. The British-held Batum remained, however, out of Georgia's control until 1920. On December 25, 1918, a British force was deployed also in Tbilisi.

History of Georgia
Coat of Arms of Georgia
This article is part of a series
Name of Georgia
Roman Georgia
Medieval Georgia
Bagrationi dynasty
Emirate of Tbilisi
Kingdom of Abkhazeti-Egrisi
Kingdom of Imereti
Kingdom of Kartli
Kingdom of Kakheti
Classical history
Georgia Under Imperial Russia
Early independence
Democratic Republic of Georgia
Red Army invasion of Georgia
Soviet Georgia
Georgian SSR
August Uprising
1956 Georgian demonstrations
April 9 tragedy
Modern Georgia
Second Georgian Republic

Georgia Portal
v · d · e

Georgia's relations with the neighbours were uneasy. Territorial disputes with Armenia, Denikin's White Russian government and Azerbaijan led to armed conflicts in the first two cases. A British military mission attempted to mediate these conflicts in order to consolidate all anti-Bolshevik forces in the region. To prevent White Russian army from crossing into the newly established states, the British commander in the region drew a line across the Caucasus that Denikin would not be permitted to cross, giving both Georgia and Azerbaijan a temporary relief. The threat of invasion by Denikin's forces, notwithstanding the British position, brought Georgia and Azerbaijan together in a mutual defense alliance on June 16, 1919.[2]

Noe Ramishvili became the first leader of the DRG. In 1930, he was assassinated by a Bolshevik spy in Paris

On February 14, 1919, Georgia held parliamentary elections won by the Social Democrats with 81.5% of the votes. On March 21, Noe Zhordania formed a new government, which had to deal with armed peasants' revolts, excited by the local Bolshevik activists and largely supported from Russia, and becoming more troublesome when carried out by ethnic minorities such as Abkhazians and Ossetians.

However, the land reform was finally well handled by the Menshevik government and the country established a multi-party system in sharp contrast with the "dictatorship of the proletariat" established by the Bolsheviks in Russia. In 1919, the reforms in judicial system and local self-governance were carried out. Abkhazia was granted autonomy. Yet, ethnic issues continued to trouble the country, especially on the side of the Ossetians as in May 1920. Some contemporaries observed also increasing nationalism among the Mensheviks.

The year 1920 was marked by increased threats from the Russian SFSR. With the defeat of the White movement and the Red Armies' advance toward the Caucasus frontiers, the situation around the DRG became extremely tense. In January, the Soviet leadership offered Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to form an alliance against the White armies in South Russia and the Caucasus. The Government of the DRG refused to enter any military alliance, referring to its policy of neutrality and noninterference, but suggested to start negotiations on political settlement of the relations between two countries in the hope that this would apparently lead to the recognition of Georgia's independence by Moscow. Severe criticism of the Georgian refusal by the Russian leaders was followed by several attempts of local Communists to organize mass anti-governmental protests, which ended unsuccessfully.

The leaders of the Second International visit Tbilisi, 1920

In April 1920, the 11th Red Army established a Soviet regime in Azerbaijan, and the Georgian Bolshevik Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze requested from Moscow permission to advance into Georgia. Though official consent was not given by Lenin and Sovnarkom, local Bolsheviks attempted to seize the Military School of Tbilisi as a preliminary to a coup d'état on May 3, 1920, but were successfully repulsed by General Kvinitadze. Georgian government began mobilization and appointed Kvinitadze as commander-in-chief. In the meantime, in response to Georgia's alleged assistance to the Azeri nationalist rebellion in Ganja, Soviet forces attempted to penetrate Georgian territory, but were repelled by Kvinitadze in brief border clashes at the Red Bridge. In a few days, peace talks were resumed in Moscow. By the controversial Moscow Peace Treaty of May 7, Georgian independence was recognized in return for the legalization of Bolshevik organizations and a commitment not to allow foreign troops on Georgian soil.

Refused entry into the League of Nations on December 16, 1920, Georgia gained de jure recognition from the Allies on 27 January 1921. This, however, did not prevent the country from being attacked by Soviet Russia one month later.

After Azerbaijan and Armenia had been Sovietized by the Red Army, Georgia found itself surrounded by hostile Soviet republics. In addition, as the British had already evacuated the Caucasus, the country was left without any foreign support.

The 11th Red Army occupies Tbilisi. 25 February 1921

According to Soviet sources, relations with Georgia deteriorated over alleged violations of the peace treaty, re-arrests of Georgian Bolsheviks, obstructiveness to the passage of convoys passing through to Armenia, and a strong suspicion that Georgia was aiding armed rebels in the North Caucasus. On the other hand, Georgia accused Moscow of fomenting anti-governmental riots in various regions of the country, and of provoking border incidents in Zaqatala region, disputed with the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Lorri “neutral zone” was another challenge as Soviet Armenia categorically demanded that Georgia withdraw its troops stationed in the region since the fall of the Armenian Republic.

Government and law

The Act of Independence of Georgia declared on May 26, 1918, in brief, outlined the main principles of the nation's future democracy. In accordance with it, “the Democratic Republic of Georgia equally guarantees to every citizen within her limits political rights irrespective of nationality, creed, social rank or sex". The first government formed the same day was led by Noe Ramishvili. In October 1918, the National Council of Georgia was renamed into Parliament which prepared new elections held on February 14, 1919.

Noe Zhordania, the Menshevik leader and the second Head of the Government of the DRG

During its two-year history (1919–1921), the newly elected Constituent Assembly of Georgia adopted 126 laws. Notably, the laws on citizenship, local elections, the country's defence, official language, agriculture, legal system, political and administrative arrangements for ethnic minorities (including an act about the People's Council of Abkhazia), a national system of public education, and some other laws and regulations on fiscal/monetary policy, the Georgian railways, trade and domestic production, etc. On February 21, 1921, facing the onset of Soviet aggression, the Constituent Assembly adopted a constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia, the first modern fundamental law in the nation's history.

Chairman of the Government was the chief executive post approved by the parliament for one-year terms of office (the post could not be held more than two times running). The chairman assigned ministers, and was responsible for governing the country and represented Georgia in foreign relations. The Government of the Democratic Republic of Georgia in Exile continued to be recognized by Europe as the only legal government of Georgia for some time. The 1919 Government of Georgia adopted law on jury trials. The right to jury trials was later incorporated into Constitution of Democratic Republic of Georgia of 1921.

Political geography

Georgia's 1918–1921 borders were formed through the border conflicts with its neighbours and ensuing treaties and conventions.

In the north, Georgia was bordered by various Russian Civil War polities until the Bolshevik power was established in North Caucasus in the spring of 1920. The international border between Soviet Russia and Georgia was regulated by the 1920 Moscow Treaty. During the Sochi conflict with the Russian White movement, Georgia briefly controlled the Sochi district (1918).

In the southwest, the DRG's border with Ottoman Empire changed with the course of the World War I and was modified after the Ottoman defeat in the hostilities. Georgia regained control over Artvin, Ardahan, part of Batum province, Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki. Batum was finally incorporated into the republic after the British evacuated the area in 1920. The Treaty of Sèvres of 1920 granted Georgia control over eastern Lazistan including Rize and Hopa. However, the Georgian government, unwilling to be involved in a new war with Turkish Revolutionaries, did nothing to take control of these areas.

The border disputes with Democratic Republic of Armenia over a part of Borchalo district led to a brief war between the two countries in December 1918, see: Georgian-Armenian War 1918. With the British intervention the Lori "neutral zone" was created only to be reoccupied by Georgia after the fall of the Armenian republic at the end of 1920.

In the southeast, Georgia was bordered by Azerbaijan which claimed the control of Zaqatala district. The dispute, however, never led to hostilities and the relations between the two countries were generally peaceful until the Sovietization of Azerbaijan.

The 1919 projects and 1921 constitution of Georgia granted Abkhazia, Ajaria and Zaqatala a degree of autonomy.

The territory of the Democratic Republic of Georgia included some territories that today belong to other countries. It was circa 107 600 km2, compared to 69 700 km2 in modern Georgia. The Soviet occupation of the DRG led to significant territorial rearrangements by which Georgia lost almost 1/3 of its territories. Artvin, Ardahan and part of Batumi provinces were ceded to Turkey; Armenia gained control of Lorri, and Azerbaijan obtained Zaqatala district. A portion of the Georgian marches along the Greater Caucasus Mountains was taken by Russia.


People's Guard of Georgia.
Georgian cavalry in 1918.

The National Guard was the privileged military force in the country. Founded on September 5, 1917 as the Worker's Guard it was later renamed into the Red Guard, and finally into the People's Guard. It was a highly politicized military structure placed directly under the control of the Parliament rather than the Ministry of War. Throughout its existence (1917–1921), the Guard was commanded by the Menshevik activist Valiko Jugheli.

The DRG formed also its own regular army. Only a part of them were armed in peacetime, the majority being on furlough and following their callings. If the Republic had been in danger, they would have been called up by the General Staff, supplied with arms, and allotted to their places.

From March 1919 to October 1920, Georgian army was reorganized. It consisted of 3 infantry divisions (later coalesced into one), 2 fortress regiments, 3 artillery brigades, a sapper battalion, a telegraph platoon, a motor squadron with an armored car detachment, a cavalry regiment, and a Military School. A People’s Guard consisted of 4 regular battalions. It can further mobilize 18 battalions, i.e., one division. Thus, in 1920, the Georgian army and People’s Guard together comprised 16 infantry battalions (1 army division and a NG regiment), 1 sapper battalion, 5 field artillery divisions, 2 cavalry legions, 2 motor squadrons with 2 armored car detachments, air detachment and 4 armored trains. Beyond staffs and fortress regiments, the army totaled 27,000. Mobilization was to increase this number up to 87,000. The Georgian navy possessed 1 destroyer, 4 fighter aircraft, 4 torpedo boats, and 10 steamboats.[3]

Although Georgia had almost 200,000 veterans of World War I with skilled generals and officers, the government failed to build up an effective defense system, a factor that greatly contributed to the fall of the first Georgian republic.


Agriculture was a mainstay of the local economy of Georgia, a typical agrarian country with long wine-making traditions. Land reform well managed by the government contributed to a degree of stability in this field.

The manganese industry at Chiatura had very great importance in the field of European metallurgy, providing about 70% of the manganese supply of the world early in the 20th century. Traditionally, Georgia served also as an international transportation corridor through the key Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti.

However, the lack of international recognition and the government's not completely successful policy in the field hindered the economic development of the DRG and the country suffered an economic crisis. Some signs of improvement were observed towards 1920–1921.

Education, science and culture

The most important event in the country's cultural life during this turbulent period was indeed the foundation of a national university in Tbilisi (now known as the Tbilisi State University) (1918), a long-time dream of Georgians thwarted by the Imperial Russian authorities for several decades. Other educational centers included gymnasiums in Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Poti and Gori, Tbilisi Military School, Gori Pedagogical Seminary, the Pedagogical Seminary for Women, etc. Georgia had also a number of schools for ethnic minorities.

The National Museum of Georgia, theaters in Tbilisi and Kutaisi, Tbilisi National Opera House, the National Academy of Art were in the vanguard of cultural life.

The newspapers — Sakartvelos Respublika (“Republic of Georgia”), Sakartvelo (“Georgia”), Ertoba (“Unity”), Samshoblo (“Motherland”), Sakhalkho Sakme (“Public Affair”), The Georgian Messenger and The Georgian Mail (both published in English) — led the national press.


Bilingual plaque: On May 26, 1918, in this hall the National Assembly of Georgia adopted the act of independence, thereby restoring the statehood of Georgia

The 1918–1921 independence of Georgia, though short-lived, was of particular importance for the development of national feeling among the Georgians, a major factor that made the country one of the most active independent forces within the Soviet Union. Leaders of the national movement of the late 1980s frequently referred to the DRG as a victory in the struggle against the Russian Empire and made parallels with the contemporary political situation creating somewhat an idealized image of the Georgian First Republic.

On April 9, 1991 the independence of Georgia was restored when the Act of the Restoration of State Independence of Georgia was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia. The national symbols used by the DRG were reestablished as those of the newly independent nation and were in use until 2004. May 26, the day of the establishment of the DRG, is still celebrated as a national holiday — the Independence Day of Georgia.

See also


  • "Legal Acts of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918–1921)", Tbilisi, 1990 (in Georgian)
  • I. Tseretelli, "Separation de la Transcaucasie et de la Russie et Independence de la Georgie", Paris, Imprimerie Chaix, 1919 (in French)
  • P. Surguladze, "The international importance of the independence of Georgia", Istanbul, 1918 (in Georgian)
  • P. Surguladze, "Georgia as the independent country", Istanbul, 1918 (in Georgian)
  • D. Ghambashidze, "Mineral resources of Georgia and Caucasia. Manganese industry of Georgia", London, 1919
  • K. Salia, "The History of Georgian Nation", Paris, 1983
  • Al. Manvelichvili, "Histoire de la Georgie", Paris, 1951 (in French)
  • Z. Avalishvili, "The Independence of Georgia in the International Politics of 1918-1921", Paris, 1923 (in Russian)
  • Karl Kautsky: Georgien. Eine sozialdemokratische Bauernrepublik. Eindrücke und Beobachtungen. Wiener Volksbuchhandlung, Wien 1921
  • K. Kandelaki, "The Georgian Question Before the Free World", Paris, 1951
  • G. Kvinitadze, "My answer", Paris, 1954 (in Georgian)
  • Jan V. Nanuashvili, "What everyone in the Free World should know about Russia", Vantage Press, New York - Washington - Hollywood, 1973
  • V. Tevzadze, "The memoirs of the Georgian Officer". J. "Iveria", No 32, Paris, 1988 (in Georgian)
  • N. Matikashvili, M. Kvaliashvili, "Cadets". J. "Iveria", No 32, Paris, 1988 (in Georgian)
  • O. Janelidze, "From May 26 to February 25", Tbilisi, 1990 (in Georgian)
  • G. Mazniashvili, "The Memoirs", Batumi, 1990 (in Georgian)
  • L. Urushadze, "Bolshevism-Menshevism and the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918–1921)", 2nd edition, Publishing House "Ena da Kultura", Tbilisi, 2005, ISBN 99940-23-56-X (in Georgian, English summary)
  • R. Tsukhishvili, "The English-Georgian Relations (1918–1921)", Tbilisi, 1995 (in Georgian, English summary)
  1. ^
  2. ^ Sicker, Martin (2001). The Middle East in the Twentieth Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 120. ISBN 0275968936. 
  3. ^ (Russian) А. Дерябин, Р. Паласиос-Фернандес (2000), Гражданская война в России 1917-1922. Национальные армии. ACT, ISBN 5-237-01084-9.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”