World War I and Independence
Because Turkey was a member of the Central Powers in World
War I, the Caucasus region became a major battleground in that
conflict. In 1915 and 1916, Russian forces pushed southwest into
eastern Turkey from bases in the Caucasus, with limited success.
As part of the Russian Empire, Georgia officially backed the
Allies, although it stood to gain little from victory by either
side. By 1916 economic conditions and mass immigration of war
refugees had raised social discontent throughout the Caucasus,
and the Russian Empire's decade-old experiment with
constitutional monarchy was judged a failure.
The revolution of 1917 in Russia intensified the struggle
between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks in Georgia. In May
1918, Georgia declared its independence under the protection of
Germany. Georgia turned toward Germany to prevent opportunistic
invasion by the Turks; the move also resulted from Georgians'
perception of Germany as the center of European culture. The
major European powers recognized Georgia's independence, and in
May 1920, Russian leader Vladimir I. Lenin officially followed
To gain peasant support, Zhordania's moderate new Menshevikdominated government redistributed much of Georgia's remaining
aristocratic landholdings to the peasants, eliminating the longtime privileged status of the nobility. The few years of postwar
independence were economically disastrous, however, because
Georgia did not establish commercial relations with the West,
Russia, or its smaller neighbors.
Data as of March 1994