Georgia and the Russian Civil War: A reply to Paul Vernadsky

Noe Zhordania, president of independent Georgia, stood firmly for Georgian neutrality in the Russian Civil War.

This letter to the editor of Solidarity was published in the 27 July 2022 issue of the newspaper.

I have not yet read Antony Beevor’s new book on the Russian revolution and civil war so I cannot comment on Paul Vernadsky’s review.  But allow me to point out one error he makes.

“Beevor’s only merit is to blurt out some truths about foreign intervention in the Russian civil war that have been downplayed in many recent histories,” he writes.  He gives an example: “The Menshevik government in Georgia ‘received help from the Germans’ in 1918 and then turned to the Allies.”

The German involvement in Georgia, which lasted for about five months, had absolutely nothing to do with the Russian Civil War. 

At the time, Germany was at peace with the Bolshevik government, having signed the Brest-Litovsk peace agreement.  Georgia declared independence in May 1918 and invited German forces to enter the country to prevent a Turkish invasion, which was imminent.  The Germans largely respected Georgian sovereignty and Karl Kautsky praised the behaviour of the German forces there.

And the Georgian Social Democratic government didn’t exactly “turn to the Allies.” With the German defeat in the war, British forces moved in uninvited, and were never friendly to the Georgian government. 

The Georgian government, meanwhile, attempted to maintain a policy of neutrality toward the Russian civil war, managing to enrage both Red and White army leaders.  At one point, the hostility of the Georgians to White general Denikin prompted British commanders in the region to request permission to engage in naval shelling of the Georgian forces.

When the British forces withdrew from Georgia in 1920, the Social Democratic government signed a peace agreement with Lenin’s government in Russia. That lasted for about nine months until the Red Army launched an unprovoked invasion of Georgia that bears an uncanny resemblance to Putin’s attack on Ukraine this year.

What any of this has to do with “foreign intervention in the Russian civil war” is beyond me.