1920 Georgian coup attempt
The Georgian coup in May 1920 was an unsuccessful attempt to take power by the Bolsheviks in the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Relying on the 11th Red Army of Revolutionary Russia operating in neighboring Azerbaijan, the Bolsheviks, attempted to take control of a military school and government offices in the Georgian capital Tiflis on May 3. The Georgian government suppressed the disorders in Tiflis and concentrated forces on successfully blocking the advance of the Russian troops on the Azerbaijani-Georgian border. The Georgian resistance combined with an uneasy war with Poland persuaded the Red leadership to deter their plans for Georgia’s sovietization and recognize Georgia as an independent nation in the May 7 treaty of Moscow.
After their failure to secure the control of government in Georgia following the Russian Revolution of 1917, most of the Bolshevik Georgian leaders relocated in Revolutionary Russia from where they guided underground activities aimed at undermining the Menshevik-dominated government in Tiflis. A series of attempts to lead a peasant revolution against the Mensheviks were rendered abortive from 1918 to 1919, but preparations for a larger-scale revolt had been set in motion.
The overthrow of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan by the Red Army in April 1920 created a precedent for the Bolsheviks in Georgia. Georgia had been in defense alliance with Azerbaijan since 1919, but the Menshevik government hesitated to get involved in the conflict. In his April 30 speech, the Georgian premier Noe Zhordania stated that his country had been prepared to come to aid to Azerbaijan provided that the latter’s own people fought for their independence. But as the Reds met minimal resistance in Baku, the Georgian government chose not to interfere, a decision that was heavily criticized by the opposition. In conclusion, Zhordania declared that Georgia, if attacked, would defend its independence.
Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze, a Bolshevik commissar with the Red Army in the Caucasus and close ally of Joseph Stalin, tried to persuade the Russian leader Lenin to allow advance into Georgia. On May 1, the Georgian government ordered mobilization and appointed General Giorgi Kvinitadze, Director of the Tiflis Military College, as commander-in-chief. The Bolsheviks in Georgia, fully confident that the Red Army would continue its march into Georgia, no longer hesitated. Following the restive May 1 International Workers' Day manifestations and unrest in Tiflis, the Bolsheviks formed and supported armed groups to take control of the government buildings. On the night of May 2 to 3, some 25 Bolshevik fighters attacked the Tiflis Military College as a preliminary to taking power. It happened that General Kvinitadze was still in residence there, and he and his cadets resisted, killing and wounding several attackers. Afterwards, the ringleaders, three Armenian Bolsheviks, were court-martialed and executed. The attempt to take power had failed and Bolsheviks were rounded up throughout Tiflis and other Georgian towns.
In the meantime, the Red Army upon reaching the Georgian-Azerbaijani frontier, continued to advance into Georgian territory apparently on Ordzhonikidze’s own initiative. Having successfully dealt with the unrest in Tiflis, the Georgian government concentrated all forces on the border with Azerbaijan and repulsed the Red Army detachments, staging a counter-offensive. The Russian government tried to maintain that this fighting was a local conflict between Georgia and Soviet Azerbaijan. Facing the renewed hostilities with Poland, the Soviets concluded that under the circumstances it would cost too much to open the second front and occupy Georgia. Lenin decided for the moment to give up the attempt and agreed on negotiations for which the Georgian delegation had been in Moscow since later April, days before the attempted invasion. On May 7, 1920, Russia and Georgia signed a treaty of mutual recognition.
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