The Fight of the Anti-Soviet Parties Against the Bolshevik Power in Adjara (1921)

On February 25, 1921 Georgian Revolutionary Committee issued special decree: "To grant an amnesty to all political parties, individuals, and groups who took an active part against the Soviet power and Georgian Communist Party" [Kacharava, 1958:182]. Georgian Soviet authorities addressed the government of the former Democratic Republic in the following way: "Subordinate the Georgian Soviet government that forgives its enemies for the past activities and is ready to act in the same way in relation to you" [Kacharava, 1958:191].

The same announcements were made by the Adjarian communists, but the anti-soviet parties and former government ignored this, they did not recognize the Soviet rule, did not wish to collaborate with them and went underground. They took the road of sabotage and counterrevolution. Thereafter, the Soviet power took severe measures against them. On April 29, the presidium of the communist party of Batumi district made a decision: "To remove immediately all those persons who stained Georgia and Adjara during Mensheviks rule" [ACSA, (Party Fund), f.1, rec.1, s.13, p.52]1. Special commission was created in charge of dismissing the counter-revolutionaries from the Soviet institutions, factories and plants, cultural and educational institutions, etc.

 First of all the mentioned decision was directed against democracy and multi-party system but at the same time favoured the introduction of one-party dictatorship. The commission was consisted of: the member of Adjara regional committee bureau - I.Pevtsov, member of revolutionary Committee - K.Sajaia and the representative of the presidium of central council of Adjara trade-unions. The Committee directed the work of the local party, Union of Youngsters and trade-union organizations,   dismissal of the representatives of anti-Soviet parties and groups from factories and institutions and repressions against them by the Extraordinary Commission known as the Cheka. By that time there had been several anti-soviet political organizations and groups in Adjara. Of them the most influential was considered Georgian Social-Democratic Menshevik, National-Democratic, Social-Federalist, Socialist-Revolutionary, Kemalistic and other party organizations. Besides the Kemalist organization the mentioned parties originated at the beginning of the 20th century. Apart from Communist and Kemalistic parties, almost all political organizations struggled for the independence of Georgia, restoration of statehood, bourgeois order and democratization. In conditions of antagonist class society their activities were directed to the national consolidation and establishment of universal values.  Hence, it is natural that they totally opposed the socialist ideology and waged a relentless struggle against the principles of socialism. The programs of social-federalists and national-democrats were almost similar. They were united in one social-federalist party. At first the majority of the mentioned party members did not demand the independence of Georgia; they wished to obtain national autonomy in the frames of the Russian Empire. Immediately after the party was formed radical faction appeared in it. They left the Federalist Party at the beginning of the century and formed national-democratic party which unambiguously announced that its main task is the struggle for Georgia's independence and sovereignty. The national-democratic party was actively supported by Ilia Chavchavadze who himself wrote the first program of the party. The idea of socialist-federalists about granting to Georgia the status of national autonomy was not liked by Memed Abashidze and in 1908 he left the party. His universal ideas went beyond the narrow frames of the party. His activity was directed to Georgia's independence and territorial integrity. It was due to this fact that he was elected to the bipartisan (super party) council formed on April 9, 1917 which played the role of the first Parliament in Georgia. He participated in the work of the first national Congress held on 19-24 November, 1917 as a representative of the Muslim Georgia. Memed Abashidze was elected to the national council (Parliament) and to the presidium consisted of 15 members [ACSA, (Party foundation), f.1, rec.1, p13, 104].

During the establishment of the Soviet power in its first years, the organizations of socialist-federalist and national-democratic parties in Adjara were comparatively small compared with Social-Democratic Menshevik party of Adjara. They were mainly concentrated in the administration of the Batumi institutions, factories, railway and naval ports. The socialist-federalist organization united about 300 members and national-democratic organization united around 330 members, but there was no unity among them. They split into the right and left. They issued periodicals: national-democratic newspaper - Sakartvelo, social-federalists newspaper - Social-Federalist [ACSA(Party Foundation), f.1, rec.1, p13, 104].

Unlike the right who met the establishment of the Soviet regime with hostility and demanded the restoration of the independent democratic republic of Georgia, the left announced loyal attitude. They could make a concession with the Soviet regime if the latter recognized the independence of Georgia and democratic principles and did not allow proletariat dictatorship, repressions in relation to the landlords and capitalists and did not inspire the class struggle. The left were totally opposed to any form of alliance of the Georgian Soviet Republic with other republics of the Transcaucasia, and autonomy to Adjara, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The anarchists were not numerous and did not have any influence in Adjara. Around 50 anarchists scattered in Batumi had negative attitude to the Soviet power, proletariat dictatorship, principles of socialism and building, Transcaucasian Federation, the Soviet Union, creation of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic [ACSA(Party Foundation), f.1, rec.1, p.210, 442].

In Adjara there was comparatively large group of socialist-revolutionists (socialist revolutionary) who represented the left branch of the Russian   Left SRs. At the beginning of the century in 1902 this party both in Russia and Georgia was formed from Narodniks. That is why the SRs had populist ideas and repeated those mistakes made by the Narodniks which eventually appeared fatal for this ideology.

The denouncement of capitalism as a social-political formation, the entering into socialism without passing capitalism, declaration of peasants as revolutionary class, the arrangement of socialist revolution and building of the socialism, the denial of working class as main force, recognition of the necessity of individual territory for entering the socialism, etc. This is incomplete list of those attitudes which were shared by Left socialist-revolutionary party. The SRs together with Mensheviks in the very first days of bourgeois-democratic revolution were against assuming both central and local power in their hands.

Proceeding from their ideology, the Right SRs, met the establishment of the Soviet regime with with hostility. Left SRs were comparatively moderate in relation to the Soviet Russia and agreed to enter the government. The Georgian Bolsheviks did not wish to collaborate with SRs. They actually did nothing to be close either with SRs or any other opposition party.

In Adjara the SRs as well as other anti-soviet parties were partially in legal state. They were mainly in Batumi institutions and factories and Army units (their number reached around 400), conducted anti-soviet propaganda and totally opposed the formation of the Transcaucasian Federation and the Union of the Soviet republics, against the autonomy in Ajara. They especially criticized the dictatorship of the proletariat. During the existence of the Georgian democratic republic, the SRs together with Mensheviks made severe resistance to communists. Georgian SRs declared that Georgia's entrance into Transcaucasian Federation and the USSR meant national and political death of Georgia [ACSA (Party Foundation), f.1, rec.1, p.283, 5].

The pro-Turkish Kemalist party formed in 1919 was considered numerous and strong political organization in Adjara. It bore the name of the first president of the Republic of Turkey - Kemal Ataturk. Along with the representatives of the Turkish national bourgeoisie, this party united the representatives of Aghabegs and Muslim part of population. The Kemalist party became especially active after the establishment of the Soviet power. Unlike other political organizations, the Adjarian organization of Kemalist party with the centre in Batumi had its groups not only in the boundary village of Meris but almost in every village and its party members used all means of propaganda and bribery, distributed arms among the population. The chairman of Adjarian Cheka wrote on 21 February, 1922 that only in one village, in Dghvani, the Kemalists brought to local population 1500 rifles of Russian and Turkish production. The Kemalists were especially numerous in DidAdjara, Skhalta and in the villages of the Riketi gorge, and overall in Adjara they had over 3000 members [SUICA, f.14, rec.1, part.1, p.976, 545].

The Kemalists foretold the Adjarian peasants that Bolsheviks would expropriate all valuable things from them and close the mosque; that in the nearest future the intrusion of the Kemal army was expected which liberated the whole population from the Bolshevik oppression. They called the peasants to boycott the Soviet regime. The Adjarian organization of the Kemalist party was against the creation of the Transcaucasian Federation and the USSR, and they wanted the autonomy for Adjara but under Turkey. The representatives of this organization tried to penetrate into the village communist committees, militia and other Soviet institutions. Whether it was by agitation or threatening they achieved that a great part of the village population took their side. In 1922 as a result of emergent measures conducted by the Soviet regime against the Kemalists (the imprisonment of the leaders and activists) their organization in Adjara became weak. By 1924 the Kemalists being convinced that they had not enough power either to join Adjara to Turkey or to put end to the Soviet regime in Adjara, they ceased to exist [CAGNH 2, f.14, rec.1, part.1, p.976, 548]. The Bolsheviks convened their own congress at Prague

Among other political parties and organizations in Georgia the most numerous and organized was the Menshevik Social-Democratic Party. It is known that the history of this party and its Georgian organization similar to the Russian Social Democratic Bolsheviks party and its Georgian organization started from the II Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in the summer of 1903. Thus, up to 1912 before the Bolsheviks convened their own congress at Prague, two factions of one party were in one organization - Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, among them - Georgian organizations. If Georgian organization (including Adjara) of the Bolshevik party in spite of formal creation of Georgian Communist party in May of 1920 remained one of the branches of Russian Communist party up to the end, Georgian Mensheviks together with the national-democratic, social-federalist and other parties struggled for Georgia's independence. After the October Revolution Georgian Mensheviks left Russian Social Democratic Menshevik party once and for all. They created an independent Georgian Social Democratic Menshevik party which united ten times more members than Bolsheviks party.

 In May, 1924 the Third Congress of Georgian Communist party (Bolsheviks) was held. In the report of one of the leaders of this party  B.Lominadze it is written: "Before the establishment of the Soviet power, the Menshevik Party involved around 130.000 members according to one source and according to another - 80.000, the other - 60.000" [CAGNH , f.14, rec.1, part.1, p.976, 562].

At the same time Georgian Social Democratic Menshevik Party had such strong, theoretically well grounded political leaders as: Karlo Chkheidze - the chairman of Petrograd council of labour deputes created in the days of February bourgeois-democratic revolution; Akaki Tsereteli - Minister of the Provisional Government; Evgeni Gegechkori - the chairman of Transcaucasia Commissariat; the head of the independent Georgia - Noe Zhordania, as well as Noe Ramishvili, Akaki Chkhenkeli and many others.

On  March17, 1921 the prominent public and political figures of the Menshevik party, generals, scientists, the government of Democratic Republic of Georgia, members of the Constituent Assembly, other leaders of anti-soviet apparatus set off at night from Batumi by 16 uploaded ships. New leaders placed themselves at the head of the national parties and acted according to the orders and directives from the leaders gone abroad in exile. The national parties pursued a policy of "undermining" the Soviet regime from within. In the last issue of the Menshevik newspaper Ertoba (The Unity) the members of the party got instructions to stay in Georgia, return to their work places, try to penetrate into all Soviet institutions, Red Army of Georgia and prepare the "explosion" during the return of the government of Democratic Republic of Georgia.

The leader of the Social-Democratic Menshevik party, Noe Zhordania when he announced that his government had been forced to flee into exile, appealed to all Georgians not to recognize the new Bolshevik government, disobey it and consider that the real government was temporally absent from Georgia.

The Mensheviks' attitude to the establishment of the Soviet regime in Georgia was extremely hostile from the very onset. Under the slogan for Georgia's independence, Mensheviks strived for the united fight with anti-soviet parties by forming the coalition against Bolsheviks. In July, 1921 N.Zhordania wrote to his companions from abroad: "Forget all disagreements which differ us from other parties. Bolsheviks must be driven away, as to the party disagreement, we can speak about it later" [Tskvitaria, 1963:25]. In accordance with the instructions given by their leader N.Zhordania, Georgian Mensheviks at the beginning of 1922 started negotiations with the rest anti-soviet parties on the creation of such body which would coordinate the activity of separate parties, moreover that all these parties had one and the same goal -restoration of bourgeois Georgia's independence. In August, 1922 all anti-soviet parties except the Kemalists, worked up the Agreement consisted of 5 items:

1.                      The parties are united for the purpose of fighting for Georgia's independence with joint efforts.

2.                       In the event that Georgia's independence is restored, the Constituent Assembly will be held and both the government in exile and the one formed in the transitory period report on their activity.

3.                      At the meeting of the Constituent Assembly new government will be formed based on coalition principle and none of the party will have a right to occupy more than 1/3 seats.

4.                      To examine the activity of the previous government which has brought the country to collapse, equal representation committee is to be formed.


5.                      "The Committee of Independence of Georgia" will be elected on equal representation base after signing the mentioned Agreement [ACSA (Party Archive), f.1, rec.1, p.210, 498].

The agreement was signed and "The Committee of Independence of Georgia" was trying to throw down the Soviet regime for two years and with the same purpose the members of the former government, ministers and leaders of the anti-soviet parties continued their struggle abroad. Mensheviks in Paris, London, Geneva and other cities formed the aid committees for Georgia. Their leaders delivered reports on the situation in Georgia in various countries of Europe. One of the leaders of Menshevik party K.Chkheidze while delivering speech in Geneva he appealed to the government of the Great Britain not to give the Bolsheviks a loan. One of the leaders of Rightist faction of French socialist party, director of the newspaper Humanite in 1915-1918 Pier Renodel wrote to one of the prominent leaders of Mensheviks A.Tsereteli that French Socialists would try to be involved in Georgia's issues and support Georgian Social Democrats for better for worse [Tskitaria, 1963:32].

In Adjara as well as in the whole Georgia among other anti-soviet organizations the most numerous was the Adjarian organization of the Georgian Social Democratic Menshevik party which united about 5000 members. Only in June-July, 1921 over 700 Mensheviks were revealed by Adjarian Emergency Commission. All of them were employed in the Soviet institutions and carried anti-soviet activity (agitation, sabotage, provocation). These people had connection with the Mensheviks underground and fulfilled their orders. The Mensheviks were almost in every plant, factory and institution. Most of them worked in the Batumi naval trade port, post and telegraph, customs, Soviet and its local bodies of national economy. Mensheviks were in militia and some district revkom (revolutionary committee). In Adjara their central office was located in Batumi railway depot. There were well organized Menshevik organizations in Chaobi, Souksuz, Bartskhana as well as some other villages (Makhinjauri, Mtsvane Kontskhi, Chakvi, Tsikhisdziri, Kobuleti).

The Mensheviks called the workers from factories and plants to fight against the Soviet regime. They demoralized the workers and called to rebel. For such propaganda on November 14, 1921 the vice-chairman of the regional committee of the Kintrishi district and the head of the home department of the same district were arrested, but managed to hide with accompanying militiaman [Tskitaria, 1963-46].

The greater part of Mensheviks was concentrated in Turkish town of Trabzon that was 250 km from Batumi. Georgian Mensheviks in Turkey had every day communication with Adjara Mensheviks, helped them in conduction of anti-soviet work. Mensheviks tried to make Adjara a meeting point for the former Menshevik government being abroad in exile and the Mensheviks remained in Georgia, but there was no unity in their party either. Long before the establishment of the Soviet Union, one part of the Social Democrats left the Menshevik party and announced opposition which in 1920 at the Conference of Social Democratic Party declared itself as an independent Social Democratic party. The oppositionists named themselves Skhivisti, and their printing periodical "Skhivi". The Skhivists also had their own organization in Adjara as well as in other regions of Georgia. With the purpose of mutual struggle against the Soviet regime, the Skhivists reunited with the Mensheviks again. Together with the Mensheviks they were totally opposed to the Transcaucasian Federation and Soviet regime but they did not opposed to the formation of the autonomy for Adjara and Abkhazia [ACSA (Party Foundation), f.1, rec.1, p.168, 68-71].

The Mensheviks and other anti-soviet parties chosen the road of counterrevolution in April-may of 1921 continued the anti-soviet activity. On their side the Bolsheviks also continued their struggle against them. First of all they decided to ban all underground organizations. The Presidium of the Batumi District Committee of the Georgian Communist Party devoted more than one meeting to the mentioned issue and concrete measured were elaborated. In December of the same year the Adjara District Committee adopted a decision on launching a wide scale company against the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks banned Menshevik and other anti-soviet organizations in factories and plants, military points, institutions, etc.

On  February 11, 1922 the Mensheviks called demonstration of Batumi students. In connection with this the Bolsheviks held meetings among workers, peasants, employees and the Red Army soldiers and warned the Mensheviks and other anti-soviet parties that they would not allow any actions against the Soviet authorities. In spite of this, in May the Mensheviks still made an attempt to organize the demonstration of workers and employees in Batumi. The decision of Adjara Bolsheviks concerning the conduction of repressions against Mensheviks and other anti-soviet parties who took the road of counterrevolution was not backed by the so-called "National Uklonists" (deviationists) faction of the Georgian CP/B/CC. Only since March, 1923 after the II Congress of the Georgian Communist Party of Bolsheviks when new Central Committee had been elected, the uncompromised fight against the anti-soviet parties started. At II Congress of Georgian Communist Party the following resolution was adopted: "It is necessary to lead ferocious struggle against counterrevolutionary parties, namely the Menshevik Party" [Tskitaria, 1963: 67]. In its turn the central Committee elected by the Congress issued the following directive: "The repressions in relation to Mensheviks and other anti-soviet parties are to be intensified if they won't stop their propaganda against our party on national issues" [Tskitaria, 1963: 68].

Following the instructions of the 12 Conference of the Russia's Communist Party, before carrying the repressions, Georgian Bolsheviks including Adjarian Bolshevik, decided to suggest them self-liquidation of party organizations and those who wish could enter the Communist Party. The publication of group applications started on leaving the anti-soviet parties. In the application published by the Mensheviks on April 13, 1923 in the newspaper Trudovoy Batumi we read: "We, the undersigned, the members of the Georgian Menshevik Party consider that this party is the only one that protects the interest of the working people that the Menshevik Party won't deviate from the principles of socialism. After the establishment of the Soviet power in Georgia we have convinced that the Bolshevik Party is the only one that protects the working people. As to the Menshevik Party it proved during being at the head that it protected the interests of the exploiter classes. Therefore, we ultimately cease the link with Menshevik Party". The application was signed by the former Mensheviks: A.Tsotsonava, A.Topuria, S.Chkheidze, N.Tavartkiladze, K.Moistsrapishvili, A.Kinkladze, B.Zomorov, etc. [ACSA (Party Foundation), f.1, rec.1, p.168, 121-128].

Such letters and applications were frequently published in the newspapers and of course, from the part of Communists it was done as a result of pressure but neither Mensheviks nor other anti-soviet parties made fool of themselves. They did these applications formally in order to escape the Bolsheviks repressions. In reality they went underground and prepared for armed revolt against the Soviet regime.

In August, 1923 under the Bolsheviks pressure a meeting of the former Mensheviks was held and a resolution on the dismissal of the Menshevik Party (including the Adjara organization) was adopted. The Adjara Menshevik organization the Union of Youngsters - Young Marxists was also proclaimed dismissed. In 1923 other anti-soviet parties and their local young organizations announced about the dismissal both in the whole Georgia and Adjara.

The leaders of the Committee of Independence of Georgia and anti-soviet parties gone underground acted in accordance with the instructions got from the emigrant government of Democratic Republic of Georgia and foreign organizations of the political parties.  From them they got money, plans, recommendations and directives concerning the preparation of the uprising. Meanwhile the III Congress of the Georgian communist party held in May of 1924 stated: "In the period under report the most vivid achievement of the Communist party must be considered that total liquidation of the anti-soviet frontier took place. The Mensheviks have been eventually overthrown. As to the former members of the Menshevik party, petty bourgeois intelligentsia the Menshevik underground tried to have at their back, stopped the membership with illegal organization and a wide-front turn to the Soviets occurs" [CAGNH, f.14, rec.1, part. 1,.976, p.584].

Proceeding from such false and superficial vision, the Congress pointed out to the Central Committee of the Party and all local party organizations: "Now that major political issues have been solved successfully all efforts must be directed to the revival of the economy" [SUICA, rec.1, part. 1, 976, p.586]. Three months later after the Congress under the leadership of the Mensheviks and other anti-soviet parties the uprising occurred in Georgia. Along with noblemen, former officers, traders, representatives of the church the peasants struggled too. This fact was recognized by I.V.Stalin himself. In October 1924 at the meeting of secretaries of the communist party rural nuclei he said that "some local Mensheviks because of the poor connection with masses managed to involve the peasants in the uprising" [Stalin, 1951: 308].

Due to the fact that in Adjara the Bolsheviks launched repressions two months earlier, imprisoned the leaders and activists of anti-soviet parties, the executives of the Batumi Military organization, the anti-soviet parties failed to organize the uprising in Adjara.

In August 1924 after the anti-soviet uprising which had been stifled in blood in Georgia including Adjara, all anti-soviet parties and organizations were eliminated by the Bolsheviks.

1Adjarian Central State Archive

CAGNH -Central Archive of Georgian New History


Soviet Georgia during in the period of revival the economy (1921-1925), Tbilisi. (in Georgian).
Collection. Vol.6. Tbilisi. (in Georgian).
Tskvitaria P.
Sketches on the history of revolutionary movement in Adjara, part II, Batumi. (in Georgian).
(ACSA) Adjara Central State Archive
(CAGNH) Central Archive of the Georgia’s New History