Review: Tsereteli – a Democrat in the Russian Revolution, by W.H. Roobol

If the Bolsheviks had never seized power a century ago this month, probably the most famous Georgian of the twentieth century would have been Irakli Tsereteli.

Tsereteli was one of the leading figures in the Russian Social Democratic Party, and like his fellow Georgian Karlo Chkheidze, he wound up spending 1917 in Petrograd rather than Tiflis. Appointed to the provisional government led by Alexander Kerensky as one of handful of socialist ministers, where he first served as minister of posts and telegraphs, Tsereteli struggled to sustain the revolution under the pressure of the world war.

After the Bolsheviks staged their coup d’etat, he returned to Georgia and played a key role in their diplomacy, especially in keeping up contact with the leaders of the Second International.

He survived long enough in exile to see the death of Stalin and the beginning of the “thaw” in the Soviet Union, though not the renewal of Georgian independence. Sadly, this biography of him, the only one in English, has been out of print for decades.