Stalin and the Bolsheviks of Transcaucasia, part 2

How the communists led the fight against aggressive nationalism and established peace and socialism in the Caucasus.

Lalkar writers

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Insignia of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic.

Lalkar writers

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Read part one on how the Bolsheviks established themselves as the leading force against tsarist oppression in the Caucasus.


The Baku commune

In the central committee of the Bolshevik party, the right-opportunist position (expressed by Kamenev and Zinoviev) attempted sabotage of the October 1917 uprising in Petrograd. In the Caucasus, the Mensheviks played the leading role in opposing the transformation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into the proletarian revolution.

Despite this sabotage, the Bolshevik revolution had an electrifying effect across the country. Josef Stalin summarised the effect on the Caucasus in an article in Pravda:

“The Transcaucasian soldiers who have returned from the front have spread the agrarian revolution through the villages. Manors of the muslim and Georgian landlords went up in smoke. The foundations of the feudal survivals were vigorously attacked by the ‘Bolshevised’ soldier-peasants.

“Obviously, the Transcaucasian commissariat’s empty promises to give the land to the peasants could no longer satisfy peasants caught up by the agrarian wave. Action was demanded of it, but revolutionary action, not counter-revolutionary. And the workers, too, did not and could not lag behind events.

“First, the revolution which was sweeping from the north and winning many gains for the workers naturally roused the Transcaucasian workers to struggle anew. Even the workers of sleepy Tiflis, the bulwark of Menshevik counter-revolution, began to forsake the Transcaucasian commissariat …

“Secondly, after the triumph of the Soviets in the north Caucasus, which supplied grain to Tiflis during the Kaledin-Philimonov occupation, the food shortage could not but get worse, which naturally provoked a number of food ‘riots’; revolutionary north Caucasus flatly refused to feed counter-revolutionary Tiflis.

“Thirdly, the absence of currency (token money cannot serve as a substitute) disrupted economic life and, most of all, railway transport, which undoubtedly aggravated the discontent of the urban masses.

“Finally, revolutionary, proletarian Baku, which had recognised Soviet power from the very first day of the October Revolution and had fought constantly against the Transcaucasian commissariat, did not let the Transcaucasian proletariat sleep, but served as an infectious example and a living beacon illumining the path to socialism.

“All this taken together could not but lead to the revolutionisation of the whole political situation in Transcaucasia.” (1918)

The Baku Bolsheviks took the utmost advantage of the revolutionary situation at the beginning of 1918, led by S Shaumyan and A Japaridze.

In April 1918, the Baku proletariat came to armed blows with the Mussayat-Balakhan counter-revolution and established Soviet rule (the Baku commune). According to Lavrentiy Beria:

“The Tiflis opportunist leadership – Comrade Makharadze and B Mdivani, Okujaya, Toroshelidat and others – ignoring the instructions of Lenin and Stalin – categorically refused to prepare or carry out an armed struggle for power in Georgia and Transcaucasia, actually surrendered the Tiflis arsenal to the Mensheviks, refused to agitate for Soviet power among the soldiers or to use the revolutionary soldiers from the Caucasian front to fight for the overthrow of the bloc of the counter-revolutionary parties of Transcaucasia (Mensheviks, Dashnaks, Mussavatists) which had seized power after the February Revolution.”

National council of Georgia and the execution of Baku commissars

The result of the treacherous activity of the national deviationists was that a national council of Georgia was formed in November 1917, in the midst of the Bolshevik revolution elsewhere.

This organisation was dominated by the Mensheviks, who ushered in the period of social-democratic government (1918-21) and came to a speedy alliance with both German imperialism and the Second International.

The Mensheviks had long pursued a policy of ‘national cultural autonomy’ for the nationalities of the Caucasus, as against the Bolshevik policy of ‘the right of nationals to self-determination and independent political existence’. Thus, with the coming of the socialist revolution in Russia, the Mensheviks attempted to put their bourgeois-nationalist line into practice.

Lavrentiy Beria wrote: “The programme of national cultural autonomy, borrowed – by the Mensheviks – from the Austrian social democrats (Mensheviks) and the Bund, was based upon a monarchist, liberal-constitutional solution of the national question in Russia.

“Since national cultural autonomy did not touch the foundations of the bourgeois-landlord system, it left full economic and political power in the hands of the landowners and the bourgeoisie of the ruling Great-Russian nation, and if it had been put into effect would have made Transcaucasia an arena of bloody conflicts between the nationalities.”

JV Stalin explained: “National cultural autonomy shuts up the nations within their old shells, chains them to the lower rungs of cultural development and prevents them from rising to the higher rungs of culture … in addition to retarding the development of the backward nations it transforms regional autonomy into a cause of conflict between the nations organised in the national unions.

“Thus, national cultural autonomy, which is unsuitable generally, would be a senseless reactionary escapade in the Caucasus.” (Marxism and the National and Colonial Question)

The Bolsheviks maintained that for the benefit of the Georgians, Azeris, Armenians and other peoples of the Caucasus, economic development was only possible through the economic cooperation of the region as a whole. Without such close cooperation, the economic and cultural life of the peoples would greatly suffer – one group would have no oil, one would have no food, one group would have trade access only to the east and one to the west.

It was, therefore, a question of the utmost importance for the survival of Soviet power that the development of the national economies of the Soviet republics proceed in unity and harmony with one another. However, the Mensheviks and national deviators resisted such a programme and sought to divert the revolutionary movement down a nationalist dead-end.

“The leaders of the Socialist and Labour International, Kautsky, Vandervelde, MacDonald and others, visited Georgia to establish personal contact with the Menshevik government. On their return to western Europe they published glowing accounts of this new land they had discovered, ‘the only land in which true socialist democracy reigned’.

“The Second International held up social-democratic Georgia as an example of how socialism could be attained in a truly ‘democratic’ way as opposed to the proletarian dictatorship, the method adopted by the Russian working class under the leadership of the Bolsheviks …

“On 14 May 1918, the so-called ‘Georgian National Council’, in which the influence of the social democrats predominated, decided to appeal to General Lossow, the commander-in-chief of the German army of occupation, to secure for Georgia Germany’s support in all international and internal political questions, to continue the advance of the German army to the north Caucasus, to leave the German prisoners of war and officers in Georgia and entrust them with the military organisation, so that the Georgian government might employ these troops to maintain internal order.” (GV Khachapuridze, The Struggle for the Proletarian Revolution in Georgia, p129)

According to GN Doidjashvili: “Later, on 28 May, in the presence of representatives of the German imperial authorities [and] the social-democratic prime minister Noah Jordania … the ‘independence’ of Georgia was proclaimed.

“The army of occupation was so satisfied with the activities of the ‘independent’ government that General von Kress recommended to the German chancellor that on the occasion of the official recognition of the ‘Georgian republic’ by the imperial German government, certain Georgian ‘personalities’ be decorated with high imperial orders and medals.

“Among a number of other social-democratic ministers and officials to receive these decorations were prime minister Jordania, minister of foreign affairs Chenkeli, and minister for the interior Ramishvili.

“After the collapse of Germany, a few weeks after these German decorations were received, the Georgian Mensheviks sought other protectors for their ‘independence.’

“Such was the Menshevik policy of ‘national cultural autonomy’, which in practice was the utter subservience of the Georgians to imperialism.” (GN Doidjashvili, Soviet Georgia – A living example of the Lenin-Stalin national policy)

Doidjashvili continues: “On 3 December 1918, Mr Jordan, the representative of British imperialism, was given an official reception with all due ceremony in Tiflis – in an almost empty square – for the people refused to witness the ceremony.

“The place of the German officers in the bed of the Menshevik prostitute was taken by British officers. Although the German army of occupation was replaced by the British army, the social-democratic ministers continued to crow about the independence of the country.

“‘We prefer the west to the Bolsheviks!’ This was the chief motto of the Mensheviks. They set to work to carry out their ‘programme’ by dissolving the workers’ organisations, flinging the leaders of the masses into prison and inciting the various nationalities in Transcaucasia against each other.

“For this purpose they advocated the restoration of Georgia within its ancient historical frontiers, and directed the spearhead of their activities against the national minorities. They robbed these nationalities not only of the right to autonomy, but even of the right to use their own languages in the schools, in the courts, and in dealings with government officials.

“At an annual meeting of shareholders of a certain oil trust, Herbert Ellen, the English chairman of a Baku oil company, said:

“‘Never in the history of the British Isles has there been such a favourable opportunity for the peaceful penetration of British influence, and for the creation of a second India, or second Egypt, for British trade … The Russian oil industry … will, in itself, be a valuable asset to the empire.’

“Thus, the real object of the British and American imperialists was to convert Georgia, and Transcaucasia, into a second India or Egypt. In pursuit of this object the British imperialists ruthlessly strode over mountains of corpses.

“In September 1918, they … occupied Baku, overthrew the Soviet government that had been established by the workers, and set up a puppet, social-democratic government, the so-called ‘Trans-Caspian dictatorship’.

“The best leaders of the Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian people, the twenty-six people’s commissars of Baku, were tried by court-martial, set up by the wretched ‘government’, and shot.”

As mentioned above, reputedly the only man to survive was Anastas Mikoyan.

“Thus, with the aid of the social-democratic leaders, the Transcaucasian republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were transformed into British colonies, like India or Malaya. The largest industrial establishments in Georgia, and the whole of Transcaucasia, passed into the hands of British, French and American concessionaires.

“They had no intention whatever of investing capital for the modernisation and technical improvement of these undertakings; their object was to exploit them to the very utmost and then abandon them. The result was that many of the factories, oil wells, manganese works, and so forth, were quickly reduced to utter ruin.

“At the eighteenth congress of the Georgian Social-Democratic Party, Ramishvili, one of the social-democratic leaders, ‘justified’ the preservation of capitalist and feudal private property in Georgia on the following ‘grounds’:

“‘The objective conditions for the realisation of our programme are lacking. We have been compelled to serve the cause of bourgeois democracy … A government which loses sight of the objective conditions serves the cause of reaction; that is why our object has been moderate and restrained; we are no longer intensifying the revolution.’” (Khachapuridze, op cit, p138)

The Mensheviks wished to cling onto power at all costs, and to do so meant a perpetual alliance with imperialism, be it of the German or British variety. As history has proven time and again, doing deals with imperialism only benefits imperialism, for the only law which it recognises is the jungle law of capitalism – the strong will take from the weak.

Thus the British demanded all the riches of the country, not only oil and manganese, but also corn and wine, vegetables and fruit. The Georgian landowners, to whom the social-democratic government allowed a free hand, immediately began to sell for export all the agricultural produce of the country.

In the ports of Batum and Poti foreign ships, protected by British troops and the social-democratic ‘Defence Corps’, were loaded with grain, cheese, tea, wine, fruit, vegetables, and so forth, while crowds of starving people saw the food going out of the country.

Doidjashvili said: “The economy of the country went to rack and ruin. Coal output dropped by no less than 85 percent; it took weeks for freight trains to travel between Tiflis and Batum. Wages were reduced nearly every month, so that in the third year of the reign of the social-democratic government the average wages of the Georgian workers amounted to only 20 percent of the pre-war level.”

Stalin, Ordzhonikidze and the Bolshevik counterattack

In April 1920, after the defeat of the counter-revolutionary General Anton Denikin, the Red Army found itself at the borders of Azerbaijan, where the Bolshevik underground organisation was preparing an insurrection against the Mussavatist nationalists.

Working in the underground were Mikoyan and Beria, while Sergey Kirov and Sergo Ordzhonikidze were commanding the Red Army. With the assistance of the Red Army, Daghestan was liberated and, shortly after, the insurgent Baku workers were assisted by the Eleventh Red Army in defeating the Mussavatists.

With Azerbaijan liberated, the Red Army proceeded through the territory of Azerbaijan to Armenia, where an uprising was being directed by the Armenian revolutionary committee. After some months, at the appeal of this committee, the Red Army helped the Armenian workers overthrow the Dashnak nationalists and, on 29 November 1920, Armenia was declared a Soviet republic.

The nationalists of Georgia, represented by Georgian menshevism, were sitting firm, with the backing of British imperialism and its ‘left’ wing, the Second International social democrats. Bogus ‘reforms’ by the Mensheviks had led to the transfer of surplus land to the kulaks and privateers, enraging the peasantry and causing widespread revolt.

But brutal reprisals and the treacherous activity of the national deviators in the ranks of the Bolsheviks had added to Georgia’s woes. With Soviet power established in Baku and Yerevan by November 1920, the Georgian Mensheviks pressed for peace with Soviet Russia.

Members of the Bolshevik underground like Lavrentiy Beria were sent to Tblisi to prepare the Bolshevik underground organisations, and Sergey Kirov was sent as Soviet plenipotentiary. Kirov exposed the dishonest practices of the Mensheviks, which must have had an enormous propagandist effect.

In January 1921, Armenians in territory seized by Georgian Menshevik nationalists rose in revolt. By February, a Georgian revolutionary committee was directing an uprising across the entire country. Ordzhonikidze arrived in Georgia with the Eleventh Red Army to aid the Bolshevik insurgents.

On 25 February 1921, he telegrammed Lenin and Stalin to declare: “The red flag of Soviet power is flying over Tiflis. Long live Soviet Georgia!”

The Mensheviks, in hasty retreat, boarded a French torpedo boat in Batumi harbour and fled Georgia, taking with them many treasures, which they used to fund their anti-Soviet work in the west.

Jordania, who settled in France, wrote numerous books attacking the Soviet Union. He founded a Menshevik newspaper, Our Flag, which was published until the 1990s (having been taken over by his son-in-law) and had a hand in organising a Menshevik uprising in Georgia in 1924.

That affair was referred to by Stalin thus: “Our newspapers write about the comic opera events in Georgia. This is correct, for, on the whole, the insurrection in Georgia was staged, and not a popular insurrection.”

So it was that Jordania, who first allied with the Mensheviks at the second congress of the RSDLP in 1903, came to find himself in the camp of counter-revolution.

Lavrentiy Beria remarked: “The dregs of the fascist counter-revolutionary Menshevik party, headed by N Jordania, sold themselves outright to the imperialists and interventionists, placing all their hopes on counter-revolutionary war and intervention by the imperialist powers against the Soviet Union.

“They became common spies and scouts of the general staffs and intelligence services of the imperialist states, direct agents of fascism and imperialism.”

Soviet power – Transcaucasia federation

Now that the republics were under Soviet power, the challenge was to accomplish the economic development of each as part of a harmonious whole.

Though the Mensheviks were overthrown, the Bolshevik national deviators were still in existence. In his report on the national question at the twelfth party congress, Stalin described Georgian national deviationism as follows:

“There is still a third factor hindering the amalgamation of the republics into a single union: it is the existence of nationalism in the individual republics. The New Economic Policy affects not only the Russian, but also the non-Russian population. The New Economic Policy is fostering private trade and industry not only in the centre of Russia, but also in the individual republics.

“And this New Economic Policy, and private capital, which is associated with it, nourish and foster Georgian, Azerbaijan, Uzbek and other nationalism …

“If this nationalism were only defensive, it might not be worth making a fuss about. We could concentrate our entire action, our entire struggle, on Great-Russian chauvinism in the hope that if this powerful enemy were overcome, anti-Russian nationalism would be overcome with it; for, I repeat, this nationalism is in the long run a reaction to Great-Russian nationalism, a reply to it, a definite form of defence.

“Yes, that would be so if anti-Russian nationalism in the localities were nothing more than a reaction to Russian nationalism. But the trouble is that in some republics this defensive nationalism becomes converted into aggressive nationalism.

“Take Georgia. Over 30 percent of its population are non-Georgians. They include Armenians, Abkhazians, Ajarians, Ossetians and Tatars. The Georgians dominate. And among a certain section of the Georgian communists the idea has sprung up and been developing that there is no particular need to reckon with these small nationalities: they are less cultured, less developed, and there is therefore no need to reckon with them.

“This is chauvinism – a, harmful and dangerous chauvinism; for it may turn, and has already turned, the small republic of Georgia into an arena of discord.”

In a number of questions of the general policy of the party the Georgian deviationists assumed an openly opportunist position, lapsing into Menshevism.

In the agrarian and peasant question, the deviationists entered upon a Menshevik, kulak land policy. They stubbornly resisted carrying out the Bolshevik agrarian reform, ostensibly on the ground that there was no landlordism in Georgia, but actually out of solicitude for the Georgian princes and nobles.

The central committee and the revolutionary committee of Georgia, in which the national deviationists predominated, hindered and delayed the carrying out of the land reform, and, although Soviet rule had existed for two years, the land remained in the hands of the landowners, princes and other noblemen.

On 25 January 1923, Comrade Ordzhonikidze, in summing up the results of the kulak land policy of the deviationists, wrote:

“In its two years’ existence the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture has had no clear idea of what is going on in our countryside. Otherwise, how is it that the biggest landholdings in the counties are still untouched and that the former princes and noblemen are still sitting tight …

“The landlords are living on their old estates, the estates of their grandfathers, while the peasants are completely dependent economically on their good old overlords and princes, as of old …

“According to the report of Comrade Shabanov, chairman of the executive committee of Borchalin county, matters are no better there. The old tsarist generals, the former Abkhazian princes, the Tumanovs, the Counts Kuchenbakh are still in possession of their estates and do not even allow the peasants to make roads through ‘their’ property.

“To our shame, nearly every one of these gentlemen has a special certificate, given him by some Soviet official in the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture, guaranteeing him immunity and undisturbed possession.

“An equally depressing picture is presented by Signakhi and Dushet counties, where the most illustrious princes of Abkhazia, the Muldiranskys, Androniko and Cholokayevs are living in clover in their fine mansions, jeering at the peasants and the Soviet power.” (We must drastically put an end to the outrages in the countryside by S Ordzhonikidze, Dawn of the East, 1923)

By the end of 1921, the Bolsheviks began the struggle for the political union of the Transcaucasian republics, as the best method of ensuring economic and political collaboration. This struggle was led by Ordzhonikidze as head of the Caucasian bureau, and he was assisted firstly by Sergey Kirov, who at that time occupied the post of secretary of the Azerbaijan Communist Party.

The Georgian Communist Party (Bolshevik) (as it was now known), was in the hands of Mdviani and the deviators. Viacheslav Molotov, a close collaborator with JV Stalin at that time as a secretary of the central committee, attended a plenum of the CC of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) on 3 November 1921 to discuss the Georgian question.

This meeting adopted a resolution in favour of political unity, noting: “The isolated political existence of the Transcaucasian republics enfeebles them in the face of the capitalist and bourgeois countries … political amalgamation will enable the republics really to establish a close economic alliance.”

This position was shared by VI Lenin, although the timing and methods for bringing it into being were hotly debated by all involved, including amongst the Leninists. The resolution also had the effect of bringing the Bolshevik deviators into the open, as Mdviani, Mkharadze and others openly opposed it.

The Georgian deviationists advocated a right-opportunist position on questions of foreign trade. The deviationists demanded that the Batum oil installations be denationalised and leased as a concession to the Standard Oil Company.

The national deviationists looked to the west in economic matters, with an eye to cheap goods from Istanbul, which was the first port of call made by Jordania aboard his French torpedo boat when he fled Menshevik Georgia.

Other rightist policies pursued by the Bolshevik national deviators included strongly urging that a private bank be opened in Tiflis or Batum and that this bank be a branch of the Ottoman Bank, which in actual fact was a subsidiary of Anglo-French capital.

At the beginning of the Sovietisation of Georgia, an amnesty was declared for the Mensheviks, who promptly took advantage of it in order to organise an underground and semi-underground struggle against Soviet rule.

The Caucasian bureau of the central committee of the RCP(B), headed by Comrade Sergo Ordzhonikidze, set the aim of ruthlessly combating the Mensheviks, both by intensifying ideological and political work against Menshevik influence, and by taking repressive measures against the Menshevik counter-revolutionaries.

Unfortunately, the resolute work conducted by Ordzhonikidze brought him into conflict with the majority of the central committee of the Georgian party, who struggled against Ordzhonikidze and attempted to enlist Lenin on their side. Lenin at that time sympathised with the Mdviani group, as he worked to bring into existence the USSR through unity of many other Soviet republics which had arisen throughout the civil war – eg, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Turkestan, etc.

In this context, Lenin advocated treating national deviators as leniently as possible, giving rise to the famous telegram of VI Lenin criticising Felix Dzerzhinsky, Ordzhonikidze and, ultimately, Stalin (as general secretary of the CC) for their handling of Mdviani and the national deviators.

Time was to prove that Mdviani and his group were not honest comrades set off on the wrong path, as Lenin clearly hoped, but were in fact firm opponents of Soviet power and the building of socialism.

Mdviani and his group frustrated attempts to grant autonomy to Ossetia, Abkazia and Ajaristan, and these decisions had to be forced through against the will of the deviationists. The national deviationists attempted to pass absurd laws which demanded that any Georgian woman who married a non-Georgian man should be stripped of her Georgian citizenship.

Furthermore, they wished to expel Armenians from Tblisi and shut off Georgia from the other republics. As Lavrentiy Beria remarked:

“National deviationism wanted to make use of Georgia’s geographical and economic advantages, which were due to her possession of such central points as Tiflis and Batum. On this basis the national deviationists, in demanding withdrawal from the federation, wanted to create and to develop privileges for the Georgians at the expense of the national minorities – the Abkhavians, Ajarians, Ossetians, Armenians, and others.

“Thus national deviationism represented openly expressed, aggressive Georgian chauvinism, which might have transformed Transcaucasia into an arena of inter-national conflicts, which might have restored the situation that existed under Menshevik rule, when people resorted to the firebrand and internecine slaughter in fits of chauvinistic fury.”

The work of the national deviators assisted the struggle of the Menshevik counter-revolutionaries and encouraged their abortive ‘comic opera’ insurrection in 1924. In 1927-35 national deviationism merged with counter-revolutionary Trotskyism and became a hired agency for fascism.

“Mdviani and a number of nationalist deviators (Okujava, Toroshelidze, Chikhladze and others) were exposed in 1936 as a Trotskyite spying and terrorist centre working under the leadership of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite centre.

Convinced of the inevitable fall of the USSR in the forthcoming war with German fascism, they hoped to break Georgia away from the USSR and establish an independent capitalist Georgia.

Mdviani and his group had pursued this aim in collaboration with Trotsky and in alliance with exiled Mensheviks like Jordania based in Paris, which was itself a meeting ground for former tsarists, anticommunists, Nazis and Mensheviks, and was a base for many anti-Soviet, counter-revolutionary and imperialist intelligence and interventionist organisations such as the TorgProm and Comité Franco-Allemand, the latter founded with the assistance of Nazi agent Otto Abetz with the aim of spreading Nazi and anti-Soviet propaganda in France and Europe.

Soviet power – the Stalin Constitution

The heritage left to the workers by the Menshevik government was indeed a terrible one: industry and agriculture in a state of utter ruin; an impoverished people; a devastated culture, and national strife.

This national strife was the main obstacle to the socialist reconstruction of the Transcaucasian republic. In a speech he delivered at a meeting of the Tiflis party organisation on 6 June 1921, Stalin said:

“Obviously the three years’ existence of nationalist governments in Georgia (Mensheviks), in Azerbaijan (Mussavatists) and in Armenia (Dashnaks) did not pass without effect.

“By carrying out their national policies, by working among the toilers in a spirit of aggressive nationalism, these nationalist governments finally brought matters to the point where each of these small countries found itself surrounded by a hostile nationalist atmosphere which deprived Georgia and Armenia of Russian grain and Azerbaijani oil, and Azerbaijan and Russia of goods going through Batum – not to speak of armed clashes (Georgian-Armenian war) and massacres (Armenian-Tatar), the natural result of the nationalist policy.

“It was no easy task to clear the atmosphere, to imbue the working people of all nationalities as speedily as possible with feelings of true, fraternal friendship for each other. The enormous importance that Lenin attached to this task can be seen from the letter he sent to the communists in the Caucasus, dated 14 April 1921. In this letter Lenin wrote:

“‘I permit myself to express the hope that their close alliance [of the Soviet republics of the Caucasus] will serve as a model of national peace, unprecedented under the bourgeoisie and impossible under the bourgeois system.’”

GN Doidjashvili, writing in the socialist period, remarked: “Under the Soviet regime there is no strife over territory among the peoples of Transcaucasia, nor can there be any such strife. And this is due not only to the fact that the Soviet government has found a correct solution for the problem, but also to the fact that all the nationalities enjoy the same conditions of life.

“The conditions enjoyed by Armenians living in Georgia, or in Azerbaijan, say, are equally as good as those they would enjoy in their republic. Under the Soviet regime, Armenians in Georgia, or Georgians in Armenia, have opportunities of receiving their education in their native languages.

“They have their own national theatres. They can conduct any business they need in government offices in their own languages. They have the right to vote and be elected to all legislative, administrative, public and political organisations. They have their own newspapers, pamphlets and books printed in their own language. They can freely follow their religious customs, etc, etc.

“Among the peoples of the Caucasus, as indeed among the peoples throughout the USSR, there can be no strife over land, for the peasants of any nationality, irrespective of where they live, in their own national republic or in some other, everywhere enjoy the same right to land.

“There is no strife over the factories, mines, etc, nor can there be, for all are public property. The oil that is obtained in Baku, the tractors that are built in Kharkov, or the shoes made in Moscow, belong equally to the working people of Georgia, Armenia, Turkmenia, the Ukraine, etc. Hence, in the Soviet Union the causes of strife between nations have been completely eradicated.

“In the USSR, friendship among the nations rests on the firm and unshakeable foundation of socialism. And an example of this Lenin-Stalin friendship and fraternity among nations is provided by the Caucasus, where formerly national hatred and strife prevailed, and where now all the nationalities are united by bonds of fraternity, mutual aid, mutual achievement and mutual joy.” (Soviet Georgia – A Living Example of the Lenin-Stalin National Policy, 1939)

In 1936, with the adoption of the Stalin Constitution of the USSR, the Transcaucasian federation was dissolved, and the republics of Transcaucasia – Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia – entered the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics directly, as union republics with sovereign rights.

The abolition of the Transcaucasian federation was a direct result of the achievements and victories of the general line, and in particular of the national policy, of the Bolsheviks.

The Transcaucasian federation had performed a historical role, completely solving the tasks set before it. The republics of Transcaucasia became industrial-agrarian republics. The collective farm system prevailed in the agriculture of Transcaucasia. Enormous progress was made in developing national culture.

Having broadened the economic and cultural ties of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia with the other republics, territories and regions of the Soviet Union, the victories of socialist construction prepared the conditions for the abolition of the Transcaucasian federation and the direct entrance of the Transcaucasian republics into the Soviet Union.

The new republics were the most complete negation of all previous political systems in Transcaucasia. This negation, far from being a rejection of the Transcaucasian federation and the changing forms of Soviet power, was the fullest continuity of this power, the reforming of this power and its unification in a new and higher synthesis.

This was proof of the correctness of the national policy pursued by Stalin and the Soviet communists. And it is the reason a cursory appraisal of the history of the Bolsheviks in struggle in Transcaucasia is of such use for us today, in a world suffering the effects of imperialist interference in the rights of nations to self-determination, and in our appraisals of the incorrect and disastrous national policies pursued by many who claim to be communist.