Committee of Independent Georgia

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The Committee of Independent Georgia (Georgian: დამოუკიდებელი საქართველოს კომიტეტი) also known as the Georgian Committee was a political organization formed in 1914 by Georgian émigrés and students in Germany during World War I. It aimed at ousting the Imperial Russian rule in Georgia and reasserting the country’s independence under the German protectorate. The Committee was chaired by Petre Surguladse; other members included Prince Georges Matchabelli, Mikheil Tsereteli (a notable scholar who had abandoned Kropotkinite Anarchism in favor of Georgian nationalism), Leo and Giorgi Kereselidze, and the Muslim Georgian Osman Bey (Meliton) Kartsivadze. The Committee also established branches in Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey.

During the Caucasus Campaign of 1916-7, the Committee was headquartered in Samsun, and later in Kerasunt. From there, the organization attempted to establish contacts with the opposition in Georgia. A leading political party, the Social Democrats (Mensheviks), maintained neutrality and did not engage in antiwar activity. Their expressed Russian orientation convinced the authorities to allow them to operate freely in the Caucasus and thus the Mensheviks were reluctant to collaborate with the Committee which advocated a break with Russia and an independent Georgian state. Landed from a German submarine SM UB-42, Mikheil Tsereteli himself made a secret trip to Georgia and met with the Menshevik leader Noe Zhordania at Kutaisi, urging him to consider a pro-German orientation, but, at that time, Zhordania considered any confrontation with the Tsarist administration political suicide and Tsereteli’s mission ended unsuccessfully. Yet, the Committee and its supporters, although not very numerous, represented quite a serious problem for the government especially after it established the Georgian volunteer unit, Georgian Legion, as part of the German Caucasus Expedition. Although the movement continued to be backed by Germany, its relations with the Ottoman government became extremely strained. As a result, the Georgian Legion was officially disbanded in April 1917. Both the Committee’s and the Legion’s members returned to Georgia after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and joined the independence movement that concluded with the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Georgia on May 26, 1918.

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