Red Army soldiers enter Tiflis
The Georgian Democratic Republic was proclaimed in May 1918, after the collapse of the Transcaucasian Republic. The government was headed by the Georgian Mensheviks. Among them were prominent figures who previously played a large role in Petrograd, prominent revolutionaries such as Chkheidze, Tsereteli and Jordania. In Georgia, however, these Social Democrats began to pursue a nationalist policy.
In foreign policy, Tiflis tried to rely on external patrons: first, Georgia was occupied by German troops. And after the defeat of Germany in the world war, the Germans left the country, their place from December 1918 was taken by the Entente. In order to settle relations with the Turks, in June Tiflis gave away part of the Georgian lands, including Adjara. In 1919, Batumi and the Batumi district became the sphere of British interests. Batumi was returned to Georgia.
At the same time, Georgian nationalists tried to compensate for territorial losses on the border with Turkey in other directions. Thus, the Georgians pressed on Armenia and quickly occupied all the disputed territories, stating that the Armenians could not create a viable state, therefore, they must strengthen Georgia.
Also, Georgia “rounded” its borders at the expense of national minorities – Ossetians, Lezgins, Adjarians, Türks-Tatars, Armenians. These “minorities” made up more than 50% of the republic’s population. None of these peoples received the right to self-determination and even the right to cultural autonomy with education in schools in their native language.
The Georgian elite began to expand towards Russia. Georgian troops under the command of General Mazniev defeated the Reds and occupied Abkhazia. In the summer of 1918, the Georgians occupied Gagra, Sochi and Tuapse. The invaders plundered the Sochi District. The success of the Georgians was facilitated by the fact that the Red detachments of the Kuban-Black Sea Soviet Republic were busy fighting the White Guards.
Russophobia flourished in Georgia, hatred for everything Russian. Tens of thousands of people (including former military men, officials, employees) were left without work and without means of livelihood, were deprived of voting rights, were subjected to arrests, evictions and forced citizenship. The lands belonging to the Russians were confiscated. The Russians were driven to the ports of the Black Sea or along the Georgian Military Highway.
During negotiations with the government of the Armed Forces of South Russia, the Georgians insisted on the inclusion of the Sochi District into Georgia. White refused to concede. And at the beginning of 1919, Sochi and Gagra were recaptured. Thus, Denikin’s army saved Sochi and Tuapse for Russia (How Georgia tried to seize Sochi; How the White Guards defeated the Georgian invaders).
The 11th Red Army holds a military parade in Tiflis, February 25, 1921.
Unviability of a nationalist regime
After the defeat of the White Army in the South of Russia and the North Caucasus, the logic of events led Moscow and the South Caucasus. It was necessary to liquidate the Transcaucasian regimes hostile to Soviet Russia, “pacify” Baku, Erivan and Tiflis, and return the Caucasian strategic border to the country.
In the spring of 1920, the 11th Army carried out the Baku operation (the Baku “blitzkrieg” of the Red Army). The Azerbaijani government, which was completely bankrupt in its foreign and domestic policy, could not offer serious resistance. Azerbaijan was rapidly Sovietized, the Azerbaijan SSR was proclaimed.
In the fall of 1920, the Turkish army defeated Armenia. The Armenians lost all the main positions, their army practically ceased to exist (How Turkey attacked Armenia; Armenian defeat).
A new wave of genocide unfolded, tens of thousands of Armenians were massacred. The Turks launched an attack on Yerevan. There was a threat of the complete elimination of the Armenian statehood and the occupation of the country.
At the end of November, a Bolshevik uprising began in Armenia. The rebels called for help from the Red Army and demanded to establish Soviet power in Armenia. The 11th Soviet Army entered the territory of Armenia. On December 2, the Armenian government of Armenia accepted the ultimatum of the government of the RSFSR – Armenia was declared an independent Socialist Soviet Republic under the protectorate of the RSFSR.
On December 4, the Red Army entered Erivan. Turkey retained the territory of the Kars region, and returned Alexandropol to the Armenian SSR.
It is clear that Georgia was to be next. However, Soviet Russia was too busy fighting Poland and Wrangel’s Russian army. This postponed the Sovietization of Georgia according to the Azerbaijani scenario.
Taking into account the unfavorable political situation, Tiflis in May 1920 began peace negotiations with the RSFSR. The Georgian government pledged to sever ties with the Russian counter-revolution, withdraw foreign troops from Georgia, and legalize Bolshevik organizations. S.M. was appointed plenipotentiary. Kirov. The Communist Party of Georgia was formed in May. The Bolsheviks came out of the underground and began preparations for an uprising.
In Moscow at that time there were two points of view on the situation in Georgia.
Lenin did not rule out a compromise with the Georgian Mensheviks. Georgia was not included in the priorities of the foreign policy of the RSFSR. After the peace with Poland and the defeat of Wrangel, there was no danger from Georgia. And you could wait.
Trotsky advocated a preparatory period in the Sovietization of Georgia in order to develop the uprising and then come to his aid.
The party of “Soviet hawks” was headed by Stalin, Ordzhonikidze and Kirov. They believed that the geographic location of Georgia, its resources and communications are strategically important for strengthening Russia’s position in the Caucasus. They advocated the immediate Sovietization of Georgia.
They were opposed by Trotsky, who feared negative foreign policy consequences.
Ordzhonikidze and Kirov continued to put pressure on Lenin. According to them, Georgia has turned into a nest of counter-revolution, and is helping the enemies of the Soviet Republic.
The commander of the 11th Soviet Army, Gekker, supported the “hawks”. In January 1921, the issue of the Georgian operation was twice brought up to the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. On January 12, the issue of Sovietization of Georgia was considered premature, and on January 26, they gave the go-ahead.
On February 6, 1921, the commander of the Caucasian Front, Gittis, gave an order to create a group of forces of the Tiflis direction under the command of Velikanov (20th and 9th rifle divisions, 12th cavalry divisions, 54th rifle and Armenian cavalry brigades, special forces, etc.) etc.). On February 11, an uprising against the Jordania regime, organized by local Bolsheviks, began in the Armenian and Russian settlements of the Borchali district. It spread to the Lori region, which was declared neutral after the Armenian-Georgian war. This was the reason for the intervention of the Red Army.
On February 12, Soviet troops began to move from the Sochi region, from Azerbaijan and Armenia.
On February 15, 1921, the Revolutionary Committee of Georgia, headed by Makharadze, appealed to the Soviet government with a request for armed assistance.
Lenin sent a directive to the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasian Front to provide assistance to the rebels,
“Without stopping before the capture of Tiflis.”
The idea of the operation was that concentric strikes by the troops of the 11th Army of Gekker and rebel detachments on Tiflis from the south and southeast, the Terka group on Kobi and Kutais from the north, with the support of units of the 9th Army going from the Gagra area to Sukhum , defeat the main forces of the Georgian army and take Tiflis.
The troops of the 9th Army were also supposed to cut off Georgia from possible aid from the sea by the forces of the Entente.
However, the Terek group was detained at the passes due to heavy snowfalls. And the 9th Army advanced slowly due to the stubborn resistance of the enemy, relying on well-equipped defensive lines.
Therefore, the main role in the operation was played by the forces of the 11th Army: about 40 thousand bayonets and sabers, about 200 guns and over 1,000 machine guns, 7 armored trains, 8 tanks and armored vehicles, 50 aircraft. Plus detachments of red rebels.
The Georgian army under the command of General Kvinitadze (a former colonel of the Russian tsarist army), formed with the help of the Germans, Russian military experts and the Entente, numbered about 50 thousand soldiers, 122 guns and more than 1200 machine guns, 4 armored trains, 16 tanks and armored vehicles, 56 aircraft.
On February 16, Soviet troops crossed the Georgian border and occupied the village of Shulavery and the Red Bridge on the river. Temples.
In the early days of the offensive of the Tiflis main group (9th, 18th, 20th, 32nd and 12th cavalry divisions, Armenian cavalry brigade, rebels) and an auxiliary group (18th cavalry division of Zhloba, marching through the Kodori pass) , developed slowly.
Weather conditions (heavy snowfalls) interfered, heavy weapons lagged behind. The Georgians destroyed the Poilinsky railway bridge on the river. Algeti, not allowing the red armored trains to break through, and tried to counterattack with the support of armored trains and aviation.
After the restoration of the bridge (22nd), regrouping of troops and the entry into battle on the right flank of the 12th Cavalry Division (to bypass the Georgian capital from the east and northeast), the offensive began to develop rapidly.
The massive use of cavalry (two divisions) in the main direction proved to be successful. The troops advanced mainly along the roads and used the active support of the local population.
On February 19–20, the Georgian army counterattacked in the Kodzhar and Saganluga area south of Tbilisi. On the 20th, the 11th Army’s left flank occupied Manglis (30 km west of the Georgian capital), threatening the rear of the Tiflis group of Georgians.
By February 23, in stubborn battles, the enemy’s resistance on the Kodzhorsky and Yaguldzhinsky positions was broken. On February 24, the troops of the 11th Army created a threat to encircle the Tiflis group of Georgians.
The Jordania government fled to Kutaisi.
On February 25, the Red Army entered the Georgian capital abandoned by the enemy. The Georgian Revolutionary Committee was transformed into the Council of People’s Commissars of the Georgian SSR. After the surrender of the capital, the Menshevik forces were completely demoralized, the organized resistance of the enemy was broken. Soviet power was proclaimed everywhere.
Meanwhile, the troops of the 9th Soviet Army were advancing in Abkhazia.
On February 18, the Revolutionary Committee of Abkhazia was created in Sukhumi (Zhvania, Tsaguria, Sverdlov).
On February 23, the Reds took the city of Gagra, on the 25th – Lykhny, on the 26th – Gudauta.
On February 28, Georgian troops, supported by the ships of the Entente, recaptured Gagra.
On March 1, the Reds again occupied Gagra.
On March 3, Soviet troops and Abkhaz rebels defeated the Georgians near Novy Afon.
On March 4, Sukhum was taken, the Abkhaz SSR was proclaimed.
On March 5, Soviet troops, with the support of Ossetian rebels, occupied Tskhinvali. Soviet power has been established in South Ossetia.
The remnants of the Menshevik troops fled to hard-to-reach places or were evacuated by sea. Hopes for active aid from France and England did not materialize.
The government fled to France.
As a result of the subsequent Kutaisi and Batumi operations, the Red Army liberated the entire territory of Georgia by the end of March 1921.
Turkey became a certain problem, which on February 23 presented an ultimatum to Georgia and demanded that Ardahan and Artvin be handed over to it. The Georgian government was forced to yield and the Turks entered the border areas. Then the Turks occupied Batum, to which the 18th Cavalry Division of the Redneck was advancing.
On March 16, 1921, the Moscow Treaty was signed between the RSFSR and Turkey (the government of Kemal Ataturk).
Batum and the northern part of the Batumi region became part of the Georgian SSR.
The southern part of the Batumi region (Artvin) remained with the Turks.
The commanders of the Red Army in Batum. Sitting from left to right: division commander of the 18th division D.P. Redneck, military commissar of the 9th rifle division M.I. Lisovsky, People’s Commissar of the Military-Revolutionary Committee of Georgia Shalva Eliava and chief of the 9th division N.V. Kuibyshev. March 1921