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  • Andrew Andersen

One of the Lessons of the Soviet-Georgian War of 1921

Victoria / February 25, 2021

100 years ago, in February of 1921, the Soviet Red Army invaded Georgian Democratic Republic in breach of the peace treaty that had been signed between Russia and Georgia on May 7/1920 (alas, neither Communist, nor post-Communist Russia never honored itself as well as the treaties it signed with its neighbors). On march 14, 1921, after 32 days of fierce fighting, most of Georgia was taken over by the Reds to become another “Soviet republic”.

One of the gloomy lessons of the Soviet-Georgian war of February-March 1921 is that small nations cannot and should not completely rely on those whom they believe to be their allies and neither should they unequivocally trust them.

According to Georgian diplomat and lawyer Prince Zurab Avalov, one of the reasons behind the Soviet invasion of Georgia could be found in the verbal agreement reached in London during negotiations that lasted from 31 May to 7 July 1920 between Soviet Commissar (Minister) of Foreign Trade Leonid Krasin and a group of high-ranking British officials which included Prime Minister Lloyd George, Sir Robert Horne and Philip Kerrand. In the course of negotiations, the British side made it clear that it could consider signing a trade agreement with the Soviet Russia only if the Soviets gained entire control of the Transcaucasian pipeline and over the port of Batum with its oil refinery. However, as can be seen on the attached map, at the time of the London talks, half of the pipeline in question and the Batumi terminal were outside the zone of Soviet control, as they were lying within the borders of of independent Georgia. Thus, it turns out that the leaders of Great Britain deliberately pushed the Kremlin towards attacking the last independent Transcaucasian country.

Of course, the correctness of Avalov’s point of view is hard to verify without a special research. However, it is interesting to note that the Russo-British Trade Agreement, which was the first bilateral treaty concluded between the Soviet Russia and one of the major Allied powers, was signed in London by Leonid Krasin and Sir Robert Horne on the 16th of March, 1921, two days after the official surrender of Georgia and on the same day when in Moscow the Russian-Turkish treaty was signed the provisions of which finally secured the Soviet control over the port of Batum.

Self-explanatory, Great Britain was never an official ally of Georgian Republic. Nevertheless, the inexperienced Georgian leadership believed that great power to be the natural patroness and ally of all countries that had separated from the fallen Russian Empire and embarked on the path of free democratic development. Alas, that naive belief was deceived.

Today, 100 years after the above-described event, one might ask a question whether that gloomy lesson has been learnt by the Georgian nation and its leaders?

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