The industrial crisis of the late 19th and early 20th century shook Georgian industry, weak as it was. The output of Chiatura manganese fell, as did the export of oil from Batumi. Enterprises closed down in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Poti, Chiatura and elsewhere. Thousands of people lost their jobs. Exploitation increased. Real antecedents of a revolutionary movement were at hand. At the beginning of the 20th century almost one half of the peasant population were still obliged to pay quit-rent to their landlord and/or were sharecroppers. In addition, peasants in tsarist Russia had no political rights. A revolutionary situation was ripening. In Georgia the revolutionary party Mesamé Dasi fought for the implementation of Lenin's plan for the creation of a new party.
In Georgia and throughout the Caucasus revolutionary struggle was directed by J. Jugashvili-Stalin, M. Tskhakaia, A. Tsulukidze, P.Makharadze, I.Sturua, and others.
In September 1901 the first newspaper of the Lenin "Iskra" trend came out; this paper, Brdzola ("Struggle"), proclaimed that it being the mouthpiece of revolutionary social-democracy - was raising the banner of the national and political liberation of the Georgian people. Early in 1901 several strikes were staged in Tbilisi, some of which developed into marches in the streets. In March 1902 Batumi workers organized a major political demonstration. The local authorities resorted to firearms in dispersing it, followed by reprisals. Revolutionary activity spread throughout Georgia. The rising revolutionary movement led to the amalgamation of social-democratic organizations. A congress of Caucasian social-democratic organizations of the Leninist trend was held in March, 1903. The congress set up the Caucasian Joint Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Worker's Party (RSDWP). 1he Committee established permanent contacts with V.I. Lenin.
After the 2nd congress of the RSDWP part of the Mesamé Dasi organization took the Menshevist stand; the others, more revolutionary-minded, supported the Bolsheviks. Since then the strike movement of workers assumed a more organized form. In 1903, after the general strike of the Baku workers, the working class of Georgia went on strike too. In 1904 the Russo-Japanese war broke out, giving an additional boost to the revolutionary movement.
In January 1905 a strike started in Tbilisi, assuming a general character. The 3rd Congress of the RSDWP (April, 1905) adopted, on V.I. Lenin's initiative, a resolution "Concerning the Events in the Caucasus", in which he greeted the Caucasian revolutionary working class and peasantry. The railwaymen of Tbilisi joined the general strike in Russia in October 1905. In December a general strike was organized in Tbilisi, being headed by the Central Strike Bureau. The defeat of the 1905 revolution in Moscow decided the fate of the revolution throughout the country. In Georgia the working class and the peasants carried on the revolutionary fight, at times resorting to terrorist acts. On January 16, 1906 the railway man A.Jorjiashvili threw a bomb and killed General Gryaznov. Punitive expeditions went on a rampage. The tsarist administration suppressed the revolutionary movement in Georgia. Bloody reprisals followed. Many workers and peasants were exiled to Siberia. In 1907 over three thousand Georgian revolutionaries were exiled from Georgia. The period of reaction was a hard trial for the peasants as well. It should be noted that the revolutionary movement did not wane even in the years of the reaction. In 1910 strikes began again, marking the onset of yet another revolutionary period. From April 1912 this movement gained momentum and grew in' force. 1913 saw an important strike of the workers of the Chiatura manganese mines. Workers in Zestaponi, Batumi and Poti joined them. In 1914 the whole of Tbilisi and nearly all the other industrial centers were on strike. The revolutionary movement spread among the peasantry as well. But the fresh upsurge of the revolution was halted to a certain extent by the outbreak of World War I.
The bourgeois-democratic revolution won in Russia on February 27 (March 12), 1917. The revolutionary working class and peasantry of Georgia were unable to overthrow the local administration. In order to rule the Transcaucasus the bourgeois Provisional Government set up a Special Transcaucasian Committee, made up mostly of reactionary constitutional democrats from the bourgeoisie, members of the aristocracy and gentry. The revolution did not give the workers the desired 8-hour working day, the peasants still remained landless.
On October 25 (November 7), 1917 the bourgeois Provisional Government was overthrown and the dictatorship of the proletariat was established. The victory of the socialist revolution in Russia aroused revolutionary activity in Georgia. In order to combat this movement, a new local administration was set up: the Transcaucasian Commissariat headed by E.Gegechkori, a Menshevik. The bourgeois parties convened a "Transcaucasian Sejm".
On May 26, 1918 Georgia was proclaimed an independent democratic republic, and its government formed.
History of Georgia
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