Under Russian and Soviet Boots

Soviet Army in Tbilisi, 1925

At the turn of the 19th century, as Napoleon Bonaparte gained strength in Revolutionary France and Tsarina Catherine the Great’s death shook up the establishment in St. Petersburg, Russian troops entered Georgia.  Tsar Paul I took the opportunity to unilaterally abolish the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti, absorbing it into the Russian Empire.  As 1800 became 1801, a manifesto was published in St. Petersburg and Moscow announcing the absorption of Kartli-Kakheti and the transformation of the Kingdom into a gubernia of the Russian Empire.  On February 16, 1801, the manifesto was published in Tbilisi and finally made official by Tsar Alexander I on September 12, 1801.

The Tsarist regime established itself in Georgia, dividing the country along traditional Imperial Russian districts.  Each uezd (district) had a Russian military officer who was responsible for maintaining law and order. As Georgia found herself increasing under Russia’s military-political administration, Russian became the official language. Though the annexation had initially been fairly kind to the Georgian royalty and nobility, with their incorporation into the Russian elite, the peasantry suffered under double oppression: feudal and national. Simmering unrest broke out into uprisings against the social and political tyranny of Russia in 1804 in Mtiuleti, spreading to Samachablo, Pshavi, Khevsureti, some lowland districts, and parts of Kakheti. Detachments of Russian troops carried out heavy reprisals, sacking and burning villages. In 1812, Kakhetian peasants rose and captured Telavi, Sighnaghi, Dusheti, and Pasanauri, blocking the Georgian Military Highway. The uprising was quelled only a year later. In 1819-1820 there was a general revolt in Guria and Imereti. Eventually even the Georgian nobility chaffed under Russian rule, but the 1832 conspiracy of the nobility was also thwarted. “Mother Russia” was simply too big and too strong for populist uprisings to topple it…
Soviet Flag of GeorgiaNearly 100 years later on October 25 (November 7 under the old calendar), 1917, following a wave of populist uprisings, the radical Bolshevik party staged a coup in Russia and established Soviet power. The leading political elites of Trans-Caucasia refused to recognize the new power and in April 1918 set up a local administration, the Trans-Caucasian Federation, a political unification of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Internecine squabbling soon shattered the Federation and on May 26, 1918, the National Council of Georgia declared Georgia’s independence. After 117 years of Russian subjugation, Georgia had regained its independence. The Georgian Democratic Republic was recognized by many states around the world and on May 7 1920, as the Russian Civil War still raged, the Georgian government signed a peace treaty with Bolshevik Russia. The Red Army violated the peace treaty on February 25, 1921, when it invaded, occupied, and sovietized Georgia. Georgia was formally annexed to the budding Soviet Union one year later and remained a part of the USSR as the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic until 1991 when Georgia once again declared independence from a trouble Russia.