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Republic 100

Noe Jordania: What Bolshevism Means

"We prefer a glorious death to a shameful life"

Published in The Georgian Mail (in English), N41, 12 May, 1920

[The statement was delivered to the Constituent Assembly, following the Bolshevik takeover of Azerbaijan on April 21-27, 1920]

“The political clouds have again thickened around us. The nearness of Soviet Russia has gradually become a threat to our young Republic. It came near to us first of all from the North – from the direction of Sotchi – and now it comes to our boundaries from the East, through the mediation of Azerbaidjan. The first circumstance does not arouse in us any apprehensions: no advance is possible through Darial and Gagri. But the Azerbaidjan direction is quite different. The frontiers are open there, and I want today to draw your attention to this side.

“On the 27th of this month, in the morning, we received from the Azerbaidjan government a communication that the Bolshevik troops were nearing the frontiers of Azerbaidjan. The government communicated that the Azerbaidjan troops had commenced to fight against the Bolsheviks, and they asked us for military assistance. A sitting of our Government was immediately summoned and at this we put the following preliminary question: Do the Azerbaidjan people want to resist the Bolsheviks, and will they take on themselves the main gravity of the struggle?

In this event, we would have been obliged to give them support not only in virtue of the treaty of alliance between us but also on political and moral considerations. And really, we count the self-definition [self-determination – eds] of the people, their will, and their wishes as the only decisive factor in the mutual relations between the nations and the immovable base for foreign policy. “Therefore, we spoke thus: If any outer force menaces the self-definition of the Azerbaidjan nation, and if this force breaks by violence into its boundaries, this is a seditious infringement of the rights of people, and we must be with this people.

But if it is not so, if the nation itself, the people itself, sympathize with the entering into the country of exterior forces, then any proceedings against these forces would be, on our part, an infringement of the rights of this people and at the same time would lead to the perishing of the troops sent there.

“This, our opinion, we immediately communicated to Baku, and we started to define the political atmosphere there. But by one o’clock of the same day, we received news that the Bolsheviks had already neared Khatchmaz, and at four o’clock in the evening, they were at the station of Santait, near Baladjari, that is, in six hours, they had covered a distance of a hundred versts. Then it became quite clear to us what the matter was, and we said: The Bolsheviks have arrived there by express tiain, not having encountered any resistance: consequently, they have entered into the country with quite insignificant forces – with two armoured trains- by agreement with the Azerbaidjan people.

One could have thrown them back with the smallest force, and one could have seized their armoured trains, but seeing that there was no such wish, the entering of the Bolsheviks was transformed into a simple walk.

“Our doubts, as you see, have been fulfilled in full. On what were these our doubts based? They were based on two circumstances. In my opinion, the Bolshevik movement is the movement of politically undeveloped and backward people.

Where there is no democracy, where there are no democratic institutions, and, consequently, where the people do not rule themselves and where they are not involved in the political or social life, the people wait for their deliverers and governors from above – from the people gifted with a steady will and a strong hand.

If we add to this the circumstance that none of the great revolutionary gains has been realised in Azerbaidjan, that up to now none of the ground has been taken from the Khans, and that the old agrarian relations have been kept in full – then it is quite easy to understand the discontent of the people with the actual regime and their wish to change this regime even at the price of an adventure. This circumstance prepared the social base for f the Bolshevik revolution in Azerbaiadjan.

“But another factor of no less importance has been added to this- the national factor. And the actual Baku government declares this in its latest appeal. It proclaims the former Azerbaidjan government as a traitor to the people only because it was in union with the Entente – and as the Entente had defeated Turkey and divided it, it was consequently, in the eyes of the Baku communists, the enemy of Azerbaidjan also. And as the Moscow Bolsheviks are also against the Entente – because Europe has not yet recognised them – the interests of Moscow and Erzeroum are joined here, and a link has been made between the Russian communists and the Anatolian Nationalists.

“One can say with assurance that this national factor played a decisive role in the communist revolution in Azerbaidjan. This is clear from the fact that they have not included even one single non-Mussulman in their government, and, according to our information, they intend, first of all, to move to Armenia in order to join the Anatolian troops.

In this way, the Baku Bolshevik revolution has for its task, first of all, the banishment of the European Powers from Turkey. That which took place in 1918 is being repeated now. At that time, the Russian Bolsheviks (Brest-Litovsk) and the Mussavat introduced Turkey to Trans-Caucasia and now the Azerbaidjan communists are taking on themselves the role of Turkey.

But they have forgotten one thing: the Mussavat introduced a victorious Turkey, but they, the communists, are introducing a van quished and torn Turkey – and, at that, not the real government of Turkey but the Erzeroum Nationalists. Under such conditions, the play of the Baku communists is condemned beforehand to failure, and instead of the restoration of Turkey, they may, alas, ruin Azerbaidjan also forever.

“As you see, the fate of Azerbaidjan is at present connected with Bolshevik Russia and the Turkey of Kemal Pasha. This communist-Pashist covering characterizes the present Baku leaders, and they have in themselves their own defeat. We are sorry that our neighbouring republic has thrown itself away in an -adventure and that it is heading for the precipice. By this, it has gone away from us, and we have remained alone.

But, Gentlemen, solitude does not ts always mean impotence. On the contrary, solitude often gives force. In 1918 we saved ourselves thanks to the fact that we separated ourselves in time from Azerbaidjan – that is to say, that solitude saved us then from the Turkish yoke and now also only isolation from the same Azerbaidjan, keeping away from her adventure and defending our own way and our own policy will save our Republic and our democracy.

“The entering of the Bolsheviks into our country and their domination over us would mean our transformation into Azerbaidjan and would mean the reign of Bolshevik-Turkish imperialism in Georgia. To stand on the way of Azerbaidjan and to accept her political credo would mean to bury forever free and democratic Georgia, to tear ourselves forever away from Europe, and to fall into the claws of the fanatics of Asia.

The Bolshevik invasion of our country would mean the entering of a backward order into a liberal country – and the reign of tyranny instead of the domination of the democracy in people. Bolshevism will do here the same as it has done in Russia – will abolish the country administrations and the town self-governments; will abolish all the institutions of self-government and civilian and political liberties and will enthrone in their place the terrorists and the Red Army.

The place of free creativeness and movement will be occupied by the bayonet. Bolshevism will abolish the agrarian reform, will abolish the private ownership of land, which will provoke collisions and bloodshed amongst the peasants and by this will throw the whole nation into civil war, will disperse the Constituent Assembly and in its place will settle several persons as is now the case in Baku. In a word, Bolshevism will deprive Georgia of the creativeness of spirit, will tear from her all that she has created, all that in which she has displayed her creative political talent, will take possession of her soulless dead body and lastly, will throw her either to Moscow reaction or to the Turkish Pashas.

“Gentlemen, we will not permit this. We cannot permit this. We cannot transform ourselves into the traitors of our own people. We will remain immovably and steadily at our glorious post. We are not alone.

“The whole of Europe – without difference of parties and directions – is with us. Europe or Asia?… This question is being put before us now concretely, and I repeat today what I said from this tribune on January 14: We choose Europe – the democracy of Europe.

“Gentlemen, the Government has already started the organisation of self-defense. It has established a special council of Defence, proclaimed mobilisation, appointed the Commander-in-Chief, proclaimed Eastern Georgia under martial law, asked for a fund for self-defense, and taken all preliminary measures. We are ready for the struggle. Our army, [national] guard, and democracy are with us. We will show to the world what self-defense means – the defense of one’s frontiers, one’s regime, one’s liberty.

“The Bolsheviks have become accustomed to easy victories. Here, on our frontiers, they will understand for the first time what heavy defeat is. We are not against negotiations with them and the establishment of good-neighbourly relations, but if they do not wish this, if they touch our holy of holies, if they menace our frontiers, then the democracy of Georgia will prove to the whole world that it can not only build a state but that it can also defend it: that it has the talent not only of political creativeness but also of the struggle for liberty. Then the moment will come when we all, and you all and the whole nation will say decisively what our people for centuries have said: ‘We prefer a glorious death to a shameful life’ “.

Jordania’s great speech was frequently interrupted by loud cheering, and at its close, the President was accorded an enthusiastic ovation.


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