Military


Soviet Abkhazia

With the destruction of the Russian Empire in 1917, Georgia declared independence in 1918. That same year the Georgian military moved into Abkhazia and successfully overthrew the Bolshevik government. In 1918 21.4 percent of the Abkhazian population were ethnic Abkhazians, while nearly double that, 42 percent were ethnically Georgian. The Georgian government officially respected the autonomous nature of the Abkhaz region, but in practice disregarded it.

The revolution of 1917 in Russia intensified the struggle between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks in Georgia. In May 1918, Georgia declared its independence under the protection of Germany. Georgia turned toward Germany to prevent opportunistic invasion by the Turks; the move also resulted from Georgians' perception of Germany as the center of European culture.

Abkhaz political actors attempted to form an alliance with Mensheviks in the Soviet Union Georgian authorities discovered this and put a stop to Abkhaz aspirations for unification with the Soviet Union. The Georgian government dissolved and elected a new Abkhazian National Council in 1919. The first meeting of the ANC confirmed that Abkhazia remained autonomous, but still a part of Georgia itself. After independence was declared in 1918, the Georgian Bolsheviks had campaigned to undermine the Menshevik leader Zhordania, and in 1921 the Red Army invaded Georgia and forced him to flee.

The major European powers recognized Georgia's independence, and in May 1920, Russian leader Vladimir I. Lenin officially followed suit. To gain peasant support, Zhordania's moderate new Menshevikdominated government redistributed much of Georgia's remaining aristocratic landholdings to the peasants, eliminating the longtime privileged status of the nobility. The few years of postwar independence were economically disastrous, however, because Georgia did not establish commercial relations with the West, Russia, or its smaller neighbors.

The Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia was established on 4 March 1921. On 16 December 1921 there was established a kind of alliance with the SSR of Georgia. Abkhazia was included in Georgia, just Georgia was a member when the Transcaucasian SFSR was established and later when the formation of the USSR. Unification of Georgia eventually occured in 1921 when Bolshevik allied political groups supported the Red Army invasion. From 1922 until 1936, Georgia was part of a united Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (TSFSR) within the Soviet Union. In 1936 the federated republic was split up as Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, which remained separate Soviet socialist republics of the Soviet Union until the end of 1991.

The first Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia Constitution was proclaimed on 1 April 1925. Abkhazia was a separate Soviet republic from 1921 until 1930, after which it was incorporated into Georgia as an autonomous republic, the Abkhazian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Abkhazian ASSR). Hope that this status would protect the Abkhaz was fleeting as Soviet Authorities under the direction of Joseph Stalin, himself an ethnic Georgian originally named Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, and his head of the KGB, Lavrenty Beria (who was also ethnically Georgian), took measures to suppress the Abkhazians by killing a large number of their intelligentsia, forcing their children to learn and use only Georgia in their schools, he also changed the demographics of the area to make it more Georgian.

In November 1937 Stalin felt strong enough to permit the bringing to light in court of two attempts to assassinate him years ago. Both were made by natives of Georgia, the part of Russia in which the Dictator was born. The first of these attempts to put Stalin out of the way was in 1933, the second in 1935. The largest building at Sukhum on the Black Sea, the State Theatre, was the scene of a propaganda trial of 47 accused which filled columns in all Caucasian newsorgans. According to the State prosecutor, President Nestor Lakoba of the Abkhaz Soviet Republic originated the conspiracy to assassinate Joseph Stalin in 1933 and the would-be assassins were disgruntled agents of the Dictator's own dread secret police. They opened fire too soon on a launch carrying Stalin across Pitsunda Bay and it was able to veer away from shore to safety. The other attempt to assassinate Stalin, according to the State, was made near Gagry, in 1935, by a group of prominent local Communist officials who were armed with an automatic rifle, a German carbine and a revolver. They failed.

Between 1955 and 1972, Georgian communists used decentralization to become entrenched in political posts and to reduce further the influence of other ethnic groups in Georgia. In addition, enterprising Georgians created factories whose entire output was "off the books". In 1972 the long-standing corruption and economic inefficiency of Georgia's leaders led Moscow to sponsor Eduard Shevardnadze as first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party. Shevardnadze had risen through the ranks of the Communist Youth League (Komsomol) to become a party first secretary at the district level in 1961. From 1964 until 1972, Shevardnadze oversaw the Georgian police from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where he made a reputation as a competent and incorruptible official.

A long history of ill will between the Abkhaz and the Georgians was complicated by the minority status of the Abkhaz within the autonomous republic and by periodic Georgianization campaigns, first by the Soviet and later by the Georgian government. On the other hand, the Georgian majority in Abkhazia resented disproportionate distribution of political and administrative positions to the Abkhaz. Beginning in 1978, Moscow had sought to head off Abkhazian demands for independence by allocating as much as 67 percent of party and government positions to the Abkhaz, although, according to the 1989 census, 2.5 times as many Georgians as Abkhaz lived in Abkhazia.




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