Научная статья на тему 'Another look at one of the false historical postulates of the Abkhazian separatist ideology:on the question of Abkhazia''s political-state status in 1921-1931'

Another look at one of the false historical postulates of the Abkhazian separatist ideology:on the question of Abkhazia''s political-state status in 1921-1931 Текст научной статьи по специальности «Социология»

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ABKHAZIA''S POLITICAL-STATE STATUS / ABKHAZIAN S.S.R

Аннотация научной статьи по социологии, автор научной работы — Papaskiri Zurab

This is a strictly academic summary of separatist ideas about Abkhazia's political-state status in 1921-1931 and their place in the ideological arsenal of Abkhazian separatists. The author critically analyzes a vast body of highly varied documentary materials to demonstrate that what Abkhazian historians and politicians have written about the so-called Abkhazian S.S.R. as a Soviet socialist republic (allegedly abolished in early 1931 by Stalin and Beria, two omnipotent Georgians) "independent" of the Georgian S.S.R. does not hold water. This thesis is essentially the main historiographic and ideological weapon used by the separatists in their struggle against the homogenous statehood of Georgia and in favor of the creation of an independent Abkhazian state.

Текст научной работы на тему «Another look at one of the false historical postulates of the Abkhazian separatist ideology:on the question of Abkhazia''s political-state status in 1921-1931»

THE CAUCASUS & GLOBALIZATION

Zurab PAPASKIRI

D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor at Sukhumi State University

(Tbilisi, Georgia).

ANOTHER LOOK AT ONE OF THE FALSE HISTORICAL POSTULATES OF THE ABKHAZIAN SEPARATIST IDEOLOGY: ON THE QUESTION OF ABKHAZIA'S POLITICAL-STATE STATUS IN 1921-1931

Abstract

This is a strictly academic summary of separatist ideas about Abkhazia's political-state status in 1921-1931 and their place in the ideological arsenal of Abkhazian separatists. The author critically analyzes a vast body of highly varied documentary materials to demonstrate that what

Abkhazian historians and politicians have written about the so-called Abkhazian S.S.R. as a Soviet socialist republic (allegedly abolished in early 1931 by Stalin and Beria, two omnipotent Georgians) "independent" of the Georgian S.S.R. does not hold water. This thesis is essentially the main historiographic

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and ideological weapon used by the separatists in their struggle against the homogenous

statehood of Georgia and in favor of the creation of an independent Abkhazian state.

Introduction

Academic speculations around Abkhazia's political-state status of 1921-1931 date back to the 1920s when S. Basaria and S. Ashkhatsava, two prominent members of the intelligentsia and ideologists of the Abkhazian separatist movement of the time, published their definitive works on the history of Abkhazia. They intended to provide historiographic substantiation of the so-called state independence of the Abkhazian S.S.R. declared by the Abkhazian Bolsheviks in March 1921.1 Later, in the 1950s, the subject of the all but forced eradication of the "independent" Abkhazian S.S.R. due to the intrigues of "perfidious" Tbilisi came to the fore when the political situation in the Soviet Union proved conducive to the revived separatist ideology in Abkhazia. Since that time, anti-Georgian riots, encouraged by false historiographic postulates, flared up approximately once every ten years (in 1957, 1967, and 1977-1978). At first, information about the riots was suppressed; in the 1970s, however, it became common knowledge.

Recently, Georgian academics (L. Toidze, A. Menteshashvili, J. Gamakharia, and others) have provided exhaustive commentaries and shed light on "misrepresentations of the facts." However, the separatists are still determined to keep the subject alive; they insist that what they call "Abkhazian independence" was liquidated in 1931. It turned out that in other countries too, there is any number of experts on the Soviet Union's political and state order whose interpretation of Abkhazia's political-state status in 1921-1931 cannot be accepted as completely correct. For example, Prof. Angelika Nußberger, a prominent German expert in international constitutional law and Director of the Institute for European Law at the University of Cologne, who was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, wondered in one of her monographs why Stalin had made Abkhazia which was allegedly independent until 1924 an autonomous republic and joined it to Georgia: "Warum hatte Stalin Abchasien, das bis 1924 eigenständige Republik war, zu einer autonomen republik zurückgestuft und der Republik Georgien einverleibt'.?"2 (Here and elsewhere, the emphasis is mine unless otherwise stated.—Z.P.) She is not totally correct: even if we agree to treat the Abkhazian S.S.R. as "independent" from Georgia, it remained "independent" not until 1924, as the author has wrongly written, but until early 1931.

It was this monograph which forced me to return to a subject already covered in earlier publications3 in order to draw the attention of the international academic community to it and finally achieve an informational and ideological breakthrough in this sphere.

Political and State Order of Abkhazia in 1921

The state order of Abkhazia became one of the major problems to be tackled by the Bolshevik leaders of Georgia-Abkhazia after the Russian Red Army forcefully established Soviet power in

1 See: S.P. Basaria, Abkhazia v geograficheskom, etnograficheskom i ekonomicheskom otnoshenii, Sukhum-Kale, 1923; S.M. Ashkhatsava, Puti razvitia abkhazskoy istorii, Sukhum, 1925.

2 A. Nußberger, Das Volkerrecht. Geschichte. Institutionen. Perspektiven, Bonn, 2010, S. 45.

3 I have covered the problem in the following works: Z.V. Papaskiri, Essays on the History of Contemporary Abkhazia, Part II, 1917-1993, Tbilisi, 2007, pp. 80-108 (in Georgian); Z.V. Papaskiri, Abkhazia: istoria bez falsifikatsii, Second revised edition, Tbilisi, 2010, pp. 230-251.

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Georgia. At this time, known in Soviet historiography as the "triumphal march of Soviet power," the Bolshevist leaders of Russia and their Abkhazian lackeys indulged themselves in vehement anti-Georgian propaganda; the tone was set by Stalin and Orjonikidze, two "glorious sons of the Georgian people," who encouraged, in word and deed, all sorts of provocative actions in all parts of Georgia, particularly Abkhazia.

Here is what Stalin, at that time People's Commissar for National Affairs of the R.S.F.S.R., ecstatically wrote in his article, which appeared in Pravda on 23 May, 1918, about "heroic Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast, which has unanimously risen against the blackguard bands of the Tiflis 'government' and is repelling their assault on Sukhum, arms in hand."4

In their anti-Georgian propaganda, the Bolsheviks relied on the notorious slogan of the "right of nations to self-determination"; having armed themselves with this Leninist ideological perversion, the Abkhazian Bolsheviks led by E. Eshba and N. Lakoba brought up the question of declaring the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic as independent from Georgia. Early in March 1921, a so-called joint session of the Revolutionary Committee of Abkhazia, heads of the local party organizations and, sic!, representatives of the Revolutionary War Council of the 9th Red Army and the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(Bolsheviks) passed a decision to declare Abkhazia a Soviet Socialist Republic.5

Very soon, however, the Abkhazian Bolsheviks, probably under the spell of the Revolutionary War Council of the 9th Red Army, pushed aside what had been said about the national interests of the Abkhazian people and started talking about joining Abkhazia to the R.S.F.S.R. Here is a document of great importance. On 26 March, 1921, members of the Revolutionary Committee of Abkhazia (E. Eshba, N. Lakoba, P. Agniashvili, and N. Akirtava) sent a telegram to Lenin and Stalin in Moscow to find out what the party leaders thought about the state order of their republic: "Will Soviet Abkhazia be an independent republic or an administrative unit and how will general policy look..." In the same telegram they offered their own version: "Soviet Abkhazia should be part of the Russian Federation."6 No comment needed. Such were the "patriots" who headed Soviet Abkhazia in those days.

The Kremlin instructed Georgy Orjonikidze, its chief emissary in Transcaucasia and Secretary of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.), to sort things out regarding Abkhazia's state order. This was probably the first time that Orjonikidze was confronted with an echo of the unbridled anti-Georgian campaign he and his Georgian and Abkhazian party comrades launched in Abkhazia. On 27 March, 1921, he held an urgent meeting with Efrem Eshba, whom he tried to convince to retreat from his previous conviction that Abkhazia should become part of Russia. Eshba, who abandoned the earlier agreement (they met in Moscow even before Soviet power was established in Georgia-Abkhazia) under which Abkhazia should have preserved its autonomous status inside Georgia, justified his shift by saying: "We thought that Abkhazia would become part of Soviet Georgia, but when we came here and felt the atmosphere ... we unanimously decided that Abkhazia should be declared independent, at least temporarily, until the congresses of Soviets, in order to eliminate national strife."7

On 28-29 March, 1921, a meeting which gathered in Batumi to discuss the structure of Soviet power and the Communist Party in Abkhazia was attended by G. Orjonikidze, Member of the Revolutionary War Council of the Front and the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.); Sh. Eliava,

4 J.V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 4, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953, p. 97; L. Toidze, "K voprosu o politicheskom statuse Abkhazii," in: Razyskania po istorii Abkhazii/Gruzii, Tbilisi, 1999, p. 297.

5 See: B.E. Sagaria, "Sozdanie i uprochenie organov gosudarstvennoy vlasti. Obrazovanie SSR Abkhazii," in: Isto-ria Abkhazskoy ASSR, Sukhumi, 1983, p. 101.

6 B.E. Sagaria, Obrazovanie i ukreplenie sovetskoy natsionalnoy gosudarstvennosti v Abkhazii. 1921-1938 gg., Sukhumi, 1981, pp. 41-42.

7 Ibid., p. 28; A.M. Menteshashvili, Istoricheskie predposylki sovremennogo separatizma v Gruzii, Tbilisi, 1998,

p. 59.

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Member of the Revolutionary Committee, C.C., and Revolutionary War Council of the 9th Red Army and People's Commissar of the Georgian Navy; M. Toroshelidze, Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of the Batumi Region and Member of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Georgia; E. Eshba, Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee and Member of the Organizing Bureau of the R.C.P. in Abkhazia; and N. Lakoba, Member of the Organizing Bureau of the R.C.P. in Abkhazia and Military Commissar of Abkhazia. The meeting satisfied the request of the "Abkhazian comrades," albeit with certain reservations, and ruled that "until the congress of Soviets of Abkhazia, the question of the federation of Soviet Abkhazia with the R.S.F.S.R and S.S.R.G. will remain open. Abkhazia is declared a Soviet Socialist Republic. Until the conference, its party organization will be called the Organizing Bureau of the R.C.P. in Abkhazia and will work under the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. Decrees of the Revolutionary Committee of Georgia will be taken into account in order to avoid contradictory moves by both revolutionary committees."8 The Georgian side managed to register the temporary nature of Abkhazia's "independence" as a Soviet Socialist Republic, which, as a state unit, would be obliged to tie its future either to the R.S.F.S.R. or to Soviet Georgia at the next congress of Soviets. There were no other alternatives.

On 11-20 March, 1921, the Revolutionary Committee of Abkhazia officially announced that the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia had been set up. The same day, it triumphantly informed Lenin about this and praised the "great liberatory role of the (valiant) Red Army."9 On 21 May, 1921, the Revolutionary Committee of Georgia officially "recognized" and "hailed" "the foundation of the independent Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia" and expressed its conviction that "relations between the S.S.R. of Georgia and the S.S.R. of Abkhazia will be finally settled at the First Congress of the Soviets of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies of both Abkhazia and Georgia."10

The Bolshevist leaders of Georgia had to keep their promise and give greater freedom to the "fraternal peoples of Ajaria, Abkhazia, and Ossetia." As a result, on 21 May, 1921, the so-called independence of the Abkhazian S.S.R. was recognized. In fact, neither the people in the Kremlin, nor the Georgian communists, nor the Abkhazian Bolsheviks wanted to set up an independent Abkhazian state. So-called independence was nothing more than a political ruse intended to win the separatist-minded sections of the Abkhazian population over to Soviet power.

On 12 August, 1921, at a regional meeting of the Communist Party, Orjonikidze disclosed the true meaning and motives of Abkhazia's "independence": "When Abkhazia demanded independence we pointed out to the Communists of Abkhazia that a tiny state cannot be independent, but we finally agreed to its independence. We said that if the Abkhazian people mistrust the Georgians, let Abkhazia be independent; let it heal the wounds inflicted by the Mensheviks. Later the Abkhazians would admit that they needed close unity with Georgia, their Soviet neighbor."u By January 1922, Nestor Lakoba, one of the leaders of the Abkhazian Bolsheviks, had already recognized the historical need for unity with Georgia. In January 1922, speaking at the first regional party conference, he declared: "When we, the executives of Abkhazia, told our older party comrades that to preserve the idea of Soviet power among smaller nations, such as Abkhazia (which was very important), we should for one minute declare Abkhazian independence, we heard: 'You can declare independence if this helps to preserve the Soviet idea and strengthen Soviet order in this Abkhazia.' Soviet Abkhazia, having experienced independence, answered: 'Historical and economic conditions demand that Abkhazia and Georgia become a single whole.'"12

8 J. Gamakharia, B. Gogia, Abkhazia—istoricheskaia oblast Gruzii, Tbilisi, 1997, p. 469.

9 B.E. Sagaria, Sozdanie i uprochenie..., p. 102.

10 Ibidem.

11 A.M. Menteshashvili, op. cit., p. 64.

L. Toidze, op. cit., p. 302.

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These pronouncements of the latter-day leaders of Georgia-Abkhazia disclosed the falsity and cynicism of the so-called Leninist national policy they were pursuing. We all know that its main aim was not the national-state prospect of smaller peoples but setting up a new Communist empire. Prominent Abkhazian historian Stanislav Lakoba aptly pointed out that "Ilyich (Lenin.—Ed.) was obsessed with the idea of a world revolution; he thought in the categories of 'continents' and 'asias,' rather than 'georgias' or 'abkhazias'."13 It should be said, however, that the same author contradicts himself by trying, for some reason, to present Lenin as an "inspirer" of Abkhazian independence and sets him against Stalin and Orjonikidze whom he accuses of "strangling Abkhazian independence." Stanislav Lakoba told an incredible story: allegedly, Lenin promised Efrem Eshba that he would grant Abkhazia its independence in exchange for "Abkhazia's 'successful mission' in Turkey."14 The reference is to the "diplomatic mission" the Kremlin entrusted to E. Eshba and N. Lakoba: preliminary negotiations with the government of Kemal Atatürk on a Russian-Turkish treaty which was signed in Moscow on 16 March, 1921. Stanislav Lakoba writes that Lenin allegedly granted independence to Abkhazia as a token of gratitude for the agreement on Batumi under which Turkey renounced its claims on Batumi and its environs.15 This means that Lenin, having employed all the means at his disposal to acquire Batumi, "set Abkhazia free."

Stanislav Lakoba deliberately misleads the reader; he knows that Lenin was not interested in Abkhazia's independence—he himself offered an unfavorable assessment of Lenin's political ambitions, of which I have written above. The Abkhazian historian knows full well that setting up the so-called Soviet Socialist Republics (such as Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) as officially sovereign states headed by members and alternative members of the C.C. of the Russian Communist Party(Bolsheviks) and the Caucasian Bureau of the Russian Communist Party(Bolsheviks) was nothing but a political game. In this way, Soviet Russia tried to camouflage its occupation and annexation of Transcaucasia.

The Transcaucasian countries (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) were not, and could not, be independent: the final say on national-state building belonged to the Kremlin and Lenin. Lenin's notorious letter "To the Communist Comrades of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Daghestan, and the Mountaineer Republic" of 14 April, 1921 is ample evidence of this. Stanislav Lakoba knows that the supreme legislatures of this apology for "sovereign states" had no say in the most important decisions related to the state order of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan; this right belonged to the supreme party instance—the Politburo of the C.C. of the Russian Communist Party(Bolsheviks) in Moscow. The decisions were implemented by the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.).

This means that neither Lenin nor other leaders of the Party and the Soviet state intended to set up sovereign states independent from Moscow in the territory of the former Russian Empire when they declared Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, etc. (to say nothing of Abkhazia) Soviet Socialist Republics. This was nothing but a screen behind which the new Bolshevist leaders of Russia nurtured their imperial designs. This does not mean, however, that those who inspired and organized Abkhazia's "independence" as a socialist republic did not look too far—they wanted to detach Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia.

Independence of the Abkhazian Soviet republic was formal; even before it became part of the Georgian S.S.R. on 16 December, 1921 with the ambiguous status of a treaty republic, no one treated it as an independent state entity; this much is obvious from numerous official documents of the time. The main and most frequently quoted document is Lenin's letter "To the Comrades Communists of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Daghestan, and the Mountaineer Republic." When instructing his party cronies in the Caucasian republics, the leader of the Communist Party and the Soviet

13 S.Z. Lakoba, Otvet istorikam iz Tbilisi. Dokumenty i fakty, Sukhumi, 2001, p. 90.

14 Ibid., p. 88.

15 See: Ibidem.

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government for some reason "neglected" Abkhazia, another "independent" republic. Lenin's telegram of 5 April, 1921 (almost a month after occupation of Georgia) sent to Orjonikidze is no less eloquent: "Your reply is neither full nor clear. Please find out the details from the Georgian Revolutionary Committee. First, has the Soviet Government of Georgia confirmed concession on the Tkvarcheli mines to the Italians, when, and on what terms? Reply briefly by telegram, details by letter."16 At that time, Lenin obviously thought of Abkhazia as part of Georgia and did not deem it necessary to discuss the Tkvarcheli mines issue with the Revolutionary Committee of "independent" Abkhazia.

Later, on 28 November, 1921, Lenin presented his project of a federation of the Transcaucasian republics to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.), which was approved the next day with slight amendments. The document said in part that "the Central Committees of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan shall be instructed (through the Caucasian Bureau) to submit the federation question for broad discussion ... conduct vigorous propaganda in favor of a federation, and secure decisions to that effect by the congresses of Soviets in each of these republics."17 As we can see, for some reason Lenin never mentioned Abkhazia and planned the new unit as a federation of three socialist republics—Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

Historians have pointed out that even after the Abkhazian S.S.R. had been declared, the Revolutionary Committee of Georgia "repeatedly discussed matters related to Abkhazia at its sittings— issuing it loans, the Tkvarcheli mines, the Bzyb concession., etc."18 When writing about the latter, historians invariably deem in necessary to say that on 21 May, 1921, when the Revolutionary Committee of Georgia "recognized," so to speak, the "independent status" of the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic, the plenary session of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Georgia, after discussing the Bzyb concession, ruled: "not to object to the signing of this concession by the Government of Georgia if it is substantive and useful."19

It is invariably pointed out that Abkhazia as an independent entity was absent from the economic union of the Caucasus set up in August 1921 consisting of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, as well as Daghestan, the Mountaineer Republic, Kabarda, and Nakhchivan. It was likewise absent as an independent unit from the Economic Bureau of the Transcaucasian Republics created by the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.) on 16 August, 1921. "Representatives of Abkhazia, as well as of other autonomies, had no right to vote" at the plenary sittings of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.).20

Letters, instructions, and telegrams written by the leaders of the Communist Party and the Soviet state even before Abkhazia officially joined Georgia on 16 December, 1921 directly point to Abkhazia's autonomous status within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. Here is the most interesting document. Stalin, who at that time filled the posts of the R.S.F.S.R. People's Commissar for Nationalities and the People's Commissar for Workers' and Peasants' Inspection, clarified the situation for Avel Enukidze, Secretary of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, as follows: "Abkhazia is an autonomous part of independent Georgia, which means that it does not and should not have its own representatives in the R.S.F.S.R. For the same reason, it cannot get a credit from the R.S.F.S.R."21 In his telegram to Enukidze of 13 September, 1921, Stalin was even more outspoken: "The visa for issuing money to the Abkhazians is invalid if not approved by the People's Commissar-

16 V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 45, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, p. 115. Lenin mentioned the Tkvarcheli mines issues in his letter "To the Comrades Communists of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Daghestan, and the Mountaineer Republic" (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 16, 1965, p. 316).

17 V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 33, 1965, p. 127.

18 J. Gamakharia, B. Gogia, op. cit., p. 117.

19 Ibidem.

20 Ibid., p. 118.

21 Quoted from: A.M. Menteshashvili, op. cit., p. 67.

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iat for Finances of Georgia... It should be borne in mind that the Abkhazians sold several million poods (Russian measure of weight [1 pood = 16.38 kg].—Ed.) of tobacco to the Europeans ... without reporting either to Georgia or to the R.S.F.S.R., which has deprived them of the right to ask the R.S.F.S.R. for money."22

This means that from the very beginning the people in the Kremlin regarded Abkhazia as an autonomous part of Georgia; this was an official approach rather than the intrigues of Stalin, the "omnipotent Georgian," as Stanislav Lakoba wants to convince his readers.23 It is pointless to "rehabilitate" Stalin as a patron of his "Fatherland" (Georgia), as our Abkhazian colleague tries to do. He should have borne in mind that it was Stalin, Orjonikidze, and their cronies—the Georgian Commu-nist-internationalists—who buried Georgia as an independent state. He seems to have forgotten that it was Stalin and Orjonikidze who inspired and organized the "triumphal" march of the "valiant" Red Army on Georgia and that later they forced Georgia into the Transcaucasian Federation, after which it lost even the semblance of state sovereignty.

Let's have a look at the official materials which prove that the independence the Bolshevist regime "bestowed" on the Abkhazian Communists as a reward for their indefatigable struggle against the Menshevist government of the Georgian Democratic Republic was merely temporary. It is a well-known fact that from the very beginning the top party leaders represented by the members of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.) insisted that the Abkhazian S.S.R. be transformed into an autonomous republic within the Georgian S.S.R. On 5 July, 1921, a plenary meeting of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.), which was attended by Stalin, discussed the Abkhazian question and ruled that party work should be geared "toward unification of Abkhazia and Georgia in the form of an autonomous republic as part of Georgia."24 It should be said that the Abkhazian leaders were not overjoyed. On 15 October, 1921, the Joint Sitting of the Organizing Bureau of the R.C.P.(B.) in Abkhazia and the Revolutionary Committee passed a resolution which spoke of the necessity to establish "close ties between the S.S.R. of Georgia and Abkhazia ... by concluding an official treaty between the two equal Union republics."25

In his letter to the Caucasian Bureau of 14 November, 1921, Efrem Eshba went even further; he wrote about "direct (bypassing Georgia) membership of Abkhazia in the Transcaucasian Federa-tion."26 Two days later, on 16 November, after discussing the question of "the relations between Abkhazia and Georgia," the Presidium of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.), attended by Eshba, passed a different decision: "1. Independent Abkhazia is economically and politically inexpedient. 2. Request Comrade Eshba to present his final conclusion on Abkhazia joining the Federation of Georgia on the principles of a treaty or the R.S.F.S.R. as an autonomous region."27

This means that the top party leaders passed their verdict: Abkhazia had to part with its illusory independence. This document is highly interesting because it allowed Abkhazia to choose one of two options: either join Georgia as a "treaty republic" or join the R.S.F.S.R. as merely an autonomous region. Prominent Georgian scholar Levan Toidze has justly pointed out that the status of an autonomous region "was two levels lower." It is commonly believed that this was a sign of "discrimination of Georgia of sorts."28

On 24 November, 1921, the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P.(B.) passed a decision under which the Organizing Bureau of the R.C.P.(B.) in Abkhazia was transferred to the C.C. C.P.(B.) of Georgia. On 16 December, 1921, the question was finally settled: "a Union Treaty between the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia" was ceremoni-

22 A.M. Menteshashvili, op. cit.

23 S.Z. Lakoba, Ocherki politicheskoy istorii Abkhazii, Sukumi, 1990, pp. 83-84.

24 A.M. Menteshashvili, op. cit., p. 65; L. Toidze, op. cit., p. 299.

25 J. Gamakharia, B. Gogia, op. cit., p. 481.

26 ]

27 J. Gamakharia, B. Gogia, op. cit., p. 482.

' L. Toidze, op. cit., p. 301. J. Gamakharia, B. L. Toidze, op. cit.

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ously signed in Tbilisi. Abkhazia became part of the Georgian S.S.R. as a so-called "treaty republic." No one questioned the fact that the treaty of 16 December made Abkhazia part of the Georgian S.S.R. in the legal sense; this was never challenged and never revised. Here is what was written in a definitive work Istoria AbkhazskoyASSR (1917-1937) (History of the Abkhazian A.S.S.R. 19171937) published in 1983: "The fact that Abkhazia joined Soviet Georgia on the strength of a treaty was undoubtedly of great importance... Formation of the S.S.R. of Abkhazia and its joining the S.S.R. of Georgia on the strength of a treaty and through it joining the T.S.F.S.R. and the U.S.S.R."29 Recently, however, some Abkhazian historians and Badzhgur Sagaria, who wrote the passage quoted above, have been denying the hitherto obvious fact that Abkhazia did join the Georgian S.S.R.; they insist that unification of Abkhazia and Georgia was registered later, in the Constitutions of Georgia of 1922 and 1927.30 Certain points of the Treaty of 16 December testify beyond a doubt to the fact that Abkhazia did join the Georgian S.S.R. under a treaty and did not unite with it as an equal member of a federation. The Treaty said that "the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia and the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia are establishing military, political, and financial-economic cooperation with each other.

"2. For the purpose of achieving the aforementioned goals, both governments declare united the following Commissariats:

a) Military;

b) Finances;

c) Public Economy;

d) Post and Telegraph;

e) Workers and Peasant Inspectorate;

f) Public Commissariat of Justice;

g) Maritime Transportation.

"Note: foreign affairs shall remain fully within the competence of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia." Under the Treaty, "every regional union, namely within the Federation of the Trans-Caucasus Republics, Abkhazia enters through Georgia, which renders one third of its seats."31

All official documents of the congresses of Soviets of both Abkhazia and Georgia confirmed that Abkhazia had joined Georgia. According to Abkhazian historian Sagaria, "the First Congress of Soviets of Abkhazia legally registered the form of Abkhazia's state-legal status within Georgia."32 The Constitution of Georgia of 1922, to which Stanislav Lakoba refers directly, stated (contrary to what our Abkhazian colleague probably wants to see) that "the Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic of Ajaria, autonomous region of South Ossetia, and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia are parts of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia, which they joined on the basis of voluntary self-determination. The Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia is united with the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia on the strength of a special treaty of unity between these republics."33 This means that all the units enumerated above belonged to a single state which was called the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia.

29 B.E. Sagaria, Sozdanie i uprochenie..., p. 106.

30 See: B.E. Sagaria, "Abkhazia v perekhodny period ot kapitalizma k sotsializmu. Postroenie osnov sotsialis-ticheskogo obshchestva (1921-1941)," in: Istoria Abkhazii. Uchebnoeposobie, ed. by S.Z. Lakoba, Sukhumi, 1991, pp. 332333; O.Kh. Bgazhba, S.Z. Lakoba, Istoria Abkhazii s drevneyshikh vremen do nashikh dney, Textbook for 10-11 years of secondary schools, Sukhumi, 2006, p. 342.

31 [http://abkhazworld.com/articles/reports/189-union-treaty-between-december-1921.html].

32 B.E. Sagaria, Sozdanie i uprochenie..., p. 106.

33 J. Gamakharia, B. Gogia, op. cit., p. 485.

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Political Speculations of Separatist "Historiography" on the Political-State Status of Abkhazia in 1921-1931

I have already written that separatist "historiography" refuses to admit the fact that on 16 December, 1921, the Abkhazian S.S.R. joined the Georgian S.S.R. on the strength of a treaty. Moreover, since the 1970s, this subject has been a target of political-ideological speculations by the separatist leaders. If the Abkhazian S.S.R. united with the rest of Georgia on an equal footing and created a sort of two-constituent federation or, according to the latest fashion, a new "allied state," this would have been reflected in the name of the state. We all know that at that time so-called "allied states" were formed by uniting Soviet socialist republics on an equal footing; the new states were given new names.

At first, it was the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (T.S.F.S.R.) which signed agreements as a constituent with other Soviet socialist republics—Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia—on the creation of a single allied state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the U.S.S.R.). It should be said that the Treaty on the creation of the U.S.S.R. specified that the T.S.F.S.R. consisted of three Soviet socialist republics (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan). Abkhazia was not mentioned as a constituent which formed the U.S.S.R. (even Georgia was not a constituent); it was mentioned among the autonomous republics. Moreover, under Art 15 of Chapter 4 of the Union Treaty, "the autonomous republics of Ajaria and Abkhazia (as written in the text.—Z.P.) were de facto put on the same footing as the autonomous regions of the R.S.F.S.R. As distinct from the autonomous republics of the R.S.F.S.R. (which had 5 representatives each in the Soviet of Nationalities, the Union's highest legislature—the same number as the Union republics), Ajaria and Abkhazia had 1 representative each (the same number as the autonomous regions of the R.S.F.S.R.), as well as the "autonomous regions South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Nakhchivan."34

As an autonomous republic, Abkhazia was mentioned in the Soviet Constitution of 1924, which confirmed Art 15 of the Union Treaty: "The autonomous republics of Ajaria and Abkhazia and the South Ossetian, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Nakhchivan autonomous regions send 1 representative each to the Soviet of Nationalities."35 From the very beginning, the Abkhazian S.S.R. was de facto an autonomous unit of Georgia; this is substantiated by the fact that its budget was part of the budget of Georgia, while its government and Communist Party structures were accountable to Georgia's executive and legislative power and the C.C. of the Communist Party of Georgia.36 This was corroborated by the First Regional Conference of the Abkhazian Organization of the R.C.P.(B.) held on 7-12 January, 1922. It renamed the party the Abkhazian organization of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Georgia and elected its delegates to the First Congress of the C.P.G.37 Later, on 12-18 February, 1922, the First Congress of Soviets of Abkhazia elected delegates to the First Congress of Soviets of Georgia.38 The Abkhazian S.S.R. operated within the legal framework of the Georgian S.S.R. In February 1923, the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars of Abkhazia passed a joint decision "on applying

34 Istoria Sovetskoy Konstitutsii. Sbornik Dokumentov. 1917-1957, Moscow, 1957, p. 229; J. Gamakharia, B. Go-gia, op. cit., p. 489.

35 L. Toidze, op. cit., p. 303.

36 See: Ibidem.

37 See: A.E. Kuprava, "Abkhazia v nachale vosstanovitelnogo perioda. Pervye meropriiatiia Sovetskoy vlasti," in: Istoria Abkhazskoy ASSR, pp. 92-93.

38 See: Ibid., p. 93.

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the Criminal Code of the Georgian S.S.R. approved by the All-Georgia Central Executive Committee in November 1922 to the entire territory of Abkhazia."39

The above testifies beyond a doubt to the fact that in March 1921 the S.S.R. of Abkhazia was formally declared independent; its later "unification" with the Georgian S.S.R. was a formal act: from the very beginning Abkhazia was regarded as an autonomous part of Georgia. Those forces in Abkhazia which stirred up the separatist-minded popular masses with demagogic unfounded promises that under Soviet power Abkhazia would become independent could not reconcile themselves to reality. They tried to revise the state-legal relations between Tbilisi and Sukhumi that had taken shape by 1925 by drafting the first Constitution of Soviet Abkhazia.

The Third Congress of Soviets of Abkhazia held on 26 February-3 March, 1925 in Sukhumi endorsed the Constitution of the S.S.R. of Abkhazia; today, the ideologists of Abkhazian separatism treat it as a "Constitution of Sovereign Abkhazia"40 and present it as such to the people. Early in the 1990s, the separatists brandished it as a "constitutional-legal weapon": on 23 July, 1992, the separatist wing of the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia, in gross violation of the rules which demanded constitutional majority, revived the 1925 Constitution and endorsed it as a Fundamental Law. By violating constitutional order, the separatists tried to remove Abkhazia from the constitutional field of Georgia and declare what they called the Republic of Abkhazia as a state independent of Georgia. We all know that this was the last drop in the bucket; the patience of the Georgian population of Abkhazia snapped. Several days later a conflict began to unfold.

Without going too far into the numerous legal inconsistencies of the 1925 "Constitution," it can be said that this "masterpiece" of legal thought removed Abkhazia from the legal field of the Georgian S.S.R. The higher Communist Party authorities of Georgia and Transcaucasia inevitably paid attention to the "shortcomings" of the Constitution of the Abkhazian S.S.R. Very soon, probably after a great deal of brainwashing, the leaders of the Communist Party and the government of Abkhazia "saw the light" and promised to readjust the republic's Fundamental Law. On 26 November, 1925, speaking at the Seventh Conference of the Abkhazian Regional Organization of the C.P.G., Nestor Lakoba said that "the Constitution was written in the silliest manner."41 An eloquent admission, indeed! Several days later, on 2 December, at the Fourth Congress of the Communist Party of Georgia, he was even more outspoken: "Comrade Kakhiani (head of the Communist Party of Georgia.—Z.P.) was quite right when he said that some of the executives had vague ideas that Abkhazia might directly join the Transcaucasian Federation, etc. I myself and many other executives entertained this idea. We have abandoned it once and for all, not because Comrade Kakhiani threatened us with this vagrant thought. In Abkhazia the problem is that if it really wants to become independent and move away from Georgia, it will tumble down like a house of cards built by a mischievous boy."42

Nestor Lakoba was consistently repentant. His speech at the Third Session of the All-Georgia Central Executive Committee, the supreme legislature of Georgia, held in Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia, on 13 June, 1926 is the best example of Lakoba's metamorphosis. "From the very beginning of Soviet power," said he, "some people who failed to understand how things stood and some of our enemies have been trying to undermine power in the Republic of Abkhazia by saying that Abkhazia can leave Georgia or can remain with it. Is this so? To avoid misunderstandings we should say in so many words that Abkhazia cannot leave Georgia; it has no such intention and does not want to. Soviet Abkhazia has no intention of leaving Soviet Georgia; it is prepared to go anywhere with Soviet Georgia, as part of Soviet Georgia, even to the next world, if you will. Abkhazia and Georgia have one common destiny. Abkhazia joined Georgia of its own free will. Long

' B.E. Sagaria, "Priniatie Kostitutsii SSR Abkhazii," in: Istoria Abkhazskoy ASSR, p. 193.

39

40 S.Z. Lakoba, Otvet istorikam iz Tbilisi., p. 93.

41 Quoted from: J. Gamakharia, B. Gogiia, op. cit., p. 491.

42 Ibidem.

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live Soviet Georgia and the working masses of Abkhazia, which are 100 percent loyal to it despite all the rumors!"43

This was what one of the ideologists of the seditious 1925 Constitution of Abkhazia said on different occasions. This means that by that time the political situation in the country and the Communist Party had changed, probably because Trotsky and his cronies had lost their positions in Abkhazia, while Stalin, on the other hand, was gaining power and consolidating his grip on the party and the state. This is what Abkhazian historian Stanislav Lakoba says.44 On 27 October, 1926, the results of the "educational efforts of the higher Communist Party and Soviet authorities (the C.C. C.P.G. and All-Georgia Central Executive Committee in particular) were summed up. The Third Session of the Central Executive Committee of Abkhazia, in fulfillment of the instructions issued by the Third Session of the All-Georgia Central Executive Committee, which pointed out that the Constitution of the S.S.R. of Abkhazia should be brought into harmony with the Constitution of the Georgian S.S.R., adopted an amended version of the Constitution. It was finally endorsed in March 1927 by the Fourth Congress of Soviets of Abkhazia.

The new version differed radically from the previous one. Chapter I of the Fundamental Law said: "The Republic of Abkhazia is a socialist state of workers and peasants (not a "sovereign" state, as it was described in the 1925 Constitution.—Z.P.) united on the basis of the Union Treaty with the Georgian S.S.R. and entering the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic through the Georgian S.S.R." The same chapter said that "the citizens of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia, while retaining their citizenship of the Republic, are also citizens of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia." This was absent from the previous version.45 The article on the state language was corrected. In the 1925 Constitution only Russian was granted the status of the state language. In the new version, Art 8 of Chapter I said that "the languages of state institutions on the territory of the Abkhazian S.S.R. are: Abkhazian, Georgian, and Russian."46 Under Art 16 of the same chapter, the S.S.R. of Georgia was one of the constituents (the U.S.S.R., T.S.F.S.R., and S.S.R. of Abkhazia) which within the competence "determined by their constitutions" had the right to exploit the state resources (land, forests, water, subsoil, etc.) of Abkhazia.47

The Constitution established the level and order of involvement of the people of Abkhazia in governing the Georgian state. Art 18 of Chapter II said that "the representatives of Soviets of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia shall take part in the All-Georgia Congress of Soviets on the basis of the following quota: one deputy per 10,000 inhabitants."48 Art 19 of the same chapter said that "the All-Georgia Congress of Soviets shall elect representatives of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia to the Central Executive Committee of All-Georgia; the number of representatives shall be determined by the All-Georgia Congress of Soviets."49 This means that in the supreme legislature of the Georgian state (and not a mythical "allied" state), Abkhazia had no quota established by parity; the number of its representatives was established by the All-Georgia Congress of Soviets.

The Constitution kept Abkhazia within the Georgian state-legal expanse. Art 22 of Chapter II said that "the Codes, Decrees, and Decisions adopted by the Central Executive Committee of AllGeorgia applied to the entire territory of the Georgian S.S.R. shall be binding in the territory of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia."50 Art 24 of the same chapter specified that "the All-Georgia Congress of Soviets and the Central Executive Committee of All-Georgia shall have the right to re-

43 J. Gamakharia, B. Gogiia, op. cit., pp. 494-495.

44 See: S.Z. Lakoba, Otvet istorikam iz Tbilisi..., pp. 93-94.

45 J. Gamakharia, B. Gogia, op. cit., p. 497.

46 [http://abkhazworld.com/articles/reports/338-basic-law-constitution-ssr-abkhazia-1926.html].

47 See: J. Gamakharia, B. Gogia, op. cit., p. 498.

48 [http://abkhazworld.com/articles/reports/338-basic-law-constitution-ssr-abkhazia-1926.html].

49 Ibidem.

50 Ibidem.

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voke the Resolutions of the Congress of Soviets, Central Executive Committee, and the Council of People's Commissars of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia that contravene the provisions specified in Chapter II of this Constitution."51

Art 92 of Chapter IV of the Abkhazian Constitution proved beyond a doubt that the S.S.R. of Abkhazia was not a Soviet republic independent of Georgia: "The state budget of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Abkhazia is a part of the budget of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia and it shall be approved by the Central Executive Committee of All-Georgia as a constituent part of the all-state budget of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia."52

The articles of the Abkhazian Constitution adopted by the Fourth Congress of Soviets of Abkhazia in March 1927 prove that all the allegations that the S.S.R. of Abkhazia was supposedly a sovereign Soviet republic which had established "equal federative state-legal relations" with Georgia are totally unfounded. At his time, well-known member of the Abkhazian separatist-minded intelligentsia S. Basaria fervently supported these allegations.53 Today, the ideological leaders of the separatists have not yet parted with this illusion.

In fact, there is no doubt that from the very beginning (at least from 16 December, 1921 when it joined the Georgian S.S.R. as a treaty republic) the S.S.R. of Abkhazia was regarded as an inalienable part of a single Georgian state.

By the late 1920s, it became clear, writes prominent Abkhazian historian Badzhgur Sagaria, that "the decade of change in the political, economic, and cultural life of Abkhazia and Georgia as a whole called for different forms of state constitutional relations between them."54 A special document of the Council of People's Commissars of Abkhazia pointed out that "the treaty of16 December, 1921 ... no longer relates to reality" since "the real . relations between these republics have been specified by their Constitutions." On the strength of this, the Council of People's Commissars of Abkhazia concluded that "the term 'treaty republic' applied to the S.S.R. of Abkhazia had lost its meaning."55 In April 1930, the Third Session of the Central Executive Committee of Abkhazia passed a decision, on the strength of a report delivered by Nestor Lakoba, to remove the term "treaty republic" from the Abkhazian Constitution. In February 1931, the Sixth Congress of Soviets of Abkhazia approved this decision and amended the Constitution. From that time on Abkhazia became an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Georgian S.S.R.

This dealt a heavy blow to the separatist forces of Abkhazia, which for nearly a decade had been keeping the nation under ideological pressure. This act revealed the falsity and demagoguery of the so-called Leninist national policy that had allegedly liberated the Abkhazian nation subjugated by what was described as the "bourgeois-nationalist" government of democratic Georgia and granted it national-state "independence." In fact, this apology for independence granted to the Abkhazian people was nothing more than a token of gratitude for the "heroism" they had shown when fighting the Georgian Democratic Republic; it was an illusion from the very beginning. In 1931, the relations that had taken shape after 16 December, 1921 when the so-called Union treaty between Abkhazia and Georgia was signed, which made Abkhazia a "treaty republic" within Georgia, were officially confirmed and nothing more.

It should be said that in the 1920s-1930s the changed political-state status of Abkhazia was nothing out of the ordinary: it was part of the policy pursued by the leaders of the Communist Party and the state and had nothing to do with Stalin's nationality. Here are several examples: in July 1920, Nakhchivan became an "independent" Soviet Socialist Republic only to be transformed in February

51 Ibidem.

52 Ibidem.

53 .

54 B.E. Sagaria, "Preobrazovanie dogovornoy SSR Abkhazia v avtonomnuiu respubliku," in: Istroia Abkhazskoy

See: J. Gamakharia, B. Gogia, op. cit., p. 125.

ASSR, p. 249.

55 Ibid., p. 250.

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1923 into an autonomous territory (later an autonomous republic) within the Azerbaijan S.S.R. In 1918, the Stavropol, Kuban, and Black Sea socialist republics appeared, which later became administrative regions and territories of the R.S.F.S.R.

This is the whole truth about the allegedly independent Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia in 1921-1931.

Conclusion

The above suggests that in 1921-1931 the so-called sovereign Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia was officially part of Georgia; that is, it was Georgia's autonomous unit both de facto and de jure. Allegations that the S.S.R. of Abkhazia was a state unit independent of Georgia and that it lost this status in 1931 due to the intrigues of Stalin, "an omnipotent Georgian," and the Communist leaders in Tbilisi are nothing more than political insinuations of the ideologists of Abkhazian separatism determined to exploit this "historical argument" to fan anti-Georgian sentiments among the Abkhazians.