1917. Vladimir Lenin leads the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and replaces an autocratic monarchy (the Tsars) with a Soviet communist government. Civil war ensues.
1918. The Soviet Russian government signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which disengages Russia from WWI, but at the cost of giving up Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, Finland, Ukraine and parts of the Caucasus region. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan join together into a short-lived independent Transcaucasus Federation. Georgia declares itself to be an independent country, the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
The territory of South Ossetia is contained within Georgia’s borders at this time.
The Ossetian minority carries out a series of uprisings demanding its own independence from the new Democratic Republic of Georgia, but is crushed by Georgia’s military. Thousands of Ossetians are killed and tens of thousands displaced from their homes. Georgia accuses Russia of exacerbating, if not instigating, these uprisings in an attempt to exploit the Ossetians’ separatist desires and to re-absorb the Georgian territory into Russia’s borders.
1919-1920. Russia recognizes the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia in the Treaty of Moscow, but invades Azerbaijan and Armenia and establishes Soviet republics there.) Soviet republics are independently established in Belorussia and Ukraine. MAP
1921. Major Western powers recognize the new Democratic Republic of Georgia; however ,Soviet Russia invades the Democratic Republic of Georgia and re-incorporates it into Russian territory, this time as the Georgia Soviet Socialist Soviet Republic (SSSR). Georgian put up a strong resistance. Georgia accuses its Ossetian population of supporting Russia during the invasion.
Flag of Georgia 1918-1921
1922. Russia becomes the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Administratively, republics are administratively divided into provinces or ‘oblasts’ and some are special ‘autonomous oblasts’ reflecting distinct ethnic groups.
The Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan Republics with the USSR are merged into the one Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Moscow forces Georgia to cede some of its territory to Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The South Ossetia Autonomous Oblast is one of the administrative regions within the Georgian Republic’s boundaries. The North Ossetia Autonomous Region is part of the Russian Republic. The two Ossetian regions border each other. (As an “autonomous region,” North Ossetia has great autonomy than the South Ossetia “autonomous oblast.”) The official languages of the Georgian Republic are Russian and Georgian, but children at schools in South Ossetia are taught in the Ossetian language.
Georgia SSRC Coat of Arms 1922
1924. After two years of resistance, the Russia succeeds in crushing the Georgian independence movement; thousands have been killed or wounded in the two year struggle. Joseph Stalin, a native Georgian, becomes leader of the Soviet Union. Georgia, like other parts of the Soviet Union, is subjected to the repressive totalitarian rule of the Soviet regime, including ‘purges’ of its intelligencia and dissenting voices. For the most part, overt expressions of Georgian nationalism disappear.
1936. The Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic is divided into three separate Republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. South Ossetia remains within Georgia.
1953. Stalin dies and Nikita Krushchev becomes the leader of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev initiates a decentralisation program which is exploited by Georgian Communist Party officials to build their own regional power base. Georgia is one of the most economically successful Soviet republics.
1956. In Stalin’s native Georgia, students protest against Khruschev’s policy of de-Stalinization. Approximately 100 demonstrators are killed.
1964. Leonid Brezhnev succeeds Khrushchev as leader of the Soviet Union.
1972. In Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze is appointed First Secretary, leader of the Georgian Republic.
1977. Georgian nationalism re-emerges. The KGB (secret police) suppresses opposition and Shevardnadze’s government imprisons some prominent Georgian dissidents, including Zviad Gamsakhurdia (who later becomes President of an independent Georgia).
1978. The Soviet Government attempts to change the official language of the Georgian Republic from Georgian to Russian, resulting in mass protests. Shevardnadze wins an unprecedented concession from the central authorities in deference to the Georgian nationalist movement as the Georgian language retains its constitutional status.
1985. The Soviet Union’s new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, appoints Shevardnadze as the USSR’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Jumber Patiashvili becomes the new leader of the Georgian Republic.