Treaty of Moscow (1920)

Treaty of Moscow (1920)

The Treaty of Moscow (Russian: Московский договор, Moskovskiy dogovor, Georgian: მოსკოვის ხელშეკრულება, moskovis khelshekruleba), signed between Soviet Russia (RSFSR) and the Democratic Republic of Georgia (DRG) in Moscow on May 7, 1920, granted Georgia de jure recognition of independence in exchange of the promise not to grant asylum on Georgian soil to troops of powers hostile to Bolshevik Russia.



The Democratic Republic of Georgia, led by the Social Democratic (Menshevik) party, declared its independence from Russia on May 26, 1918. It was not formally recognized by the Soviets at that time, but the Georgian government eventually managed to obtain de facto recognition from the White leaders and the Allies.

Following an abortive Bolshevik coup in Tbilisi, and a failed attempt by the Red Army units to penetrate Georgia in early May 1920, Lenin's government agreed to sign a treaty with Georgia and recognize its independence de jure, provided that the Mensheviks formally undertook not to grant shelter on Georgian territory to any force hostile to Soviet Russia. Many Georgian politicians, including the Foreign Minister, Evgeni Gegechkori, regarded this clause as an infringement of Georgia’s sovereignty, and favored rejection of the Russian terms. However, Prime Minister, Noe Zhordania, anxious above all to secure for Georgia international recognition, agreed to these terms. The treaty was finally signed by Grigol Uratadze for Georgia and Lev Karakhan for Russia, in Moscow on May 7, 1920.


In the first two articles of the Treaty, Russia unconditionally recognized the independence of Georgia and renounced all interference in the country’s internal affairs:

Article I: Proceeding from the right, proclaimed by the RSFSR, of all peoples to free self-determination up to and including separation from the State of which they constitute a part, Russia unreservedly recognizes the independence and sovereignty of the Georgian State and voluntarily renounces all the sovereign rights which had appertained to Russia with regard to the People and Territory of Georgia. Article II: Proceeding from the principles proclaimed in Article I above of the present Treaty, Russia undertakes to refrain from any kind of interference in the affairs of Georgia.[1]

Georgia, in its turn, undertook to disarm and intern all armed units belonging to any organization purported to have constituted a threat to the Soviet government, and to surrender such detachments or groups to Moscow. In a secret supplement, not made public for the time being, the Mensheviks made an even greater concession, allowing a local branch of the Russian Bolshevik party to function freely in Georgia.

Georgia pledges itself to recognize the right of free existence and activity of the Communist party … and in particular its right to free meetings and publications, including organs of the press.[2]


In spite of brief Menshevik euphoria of the declared diplomatic success, public opinion in Georgia denounced the treaty as "veiled subjection of Georgia to Russia", as it was reported by the British Chief Commissioner Sir Oliver Wardrop.[2] The government was subjected to harsh criticism over the concessions made to Moscow from parliamentary opposition, particularly from the National Democratic Party. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Moscow had a short-term benefit to Tbilisi as it encouraged hitherto reluctant Allied Supreme Council and some other governments to de jure recognize Georgia on January 27, 1921.

The Treaty of Moscow did not resolve the conflict between Russia and Georgia, however. Although Soviet Russia had recognized Georgia’s independence, an eventual overthrow of the Menshevik government was both intended and planned,[3] and the treaty was merely a delaying tactic on the part of the Bolsheviks[4] who, at that time, were preoccupied with an uneasy war against Poland.[5]

Pursuant to the agreement, the Georgian government released most of the Bolsheviks from prison. They quickly established a nominally autonomous Communist Party of Georgia which, under the coordination of Caucasus Bureau of the Russian Communist Party, immediately activated their overt campaign against the Menshevik government, and hence were re-arrested by energetic Interior Minister Noe Ramishvili. This caused protests from the newly appointed Russian Ambassador Plenipotentiary Sergey Kirov, who exchanged fiery notes with Evgeni Gegechkori. This conflict, never finally resolved, was subsequently used in Soviet propaganda against the Menshevik government, which was accused by Moscow of harassing the communists, obstructing the passage of convoys passing through to Armenia, and supporting an anti-Soviet rebellion in the North Caucasus. On the other hand, Georgia accused Russia of fomenting anti-governmental riots in various regions of the country, especially among ethnic minorities such as Abkhazians and Ossetians, and provoking border incidents along the frontier with the Azerbaijan SSR.

After the nine months of fragile peace, in February 1921, the Soviet Red Army launched a final offensive against Georgia, on the pretext of supporting the peasants and workers rebellion in the country, and put an end to the Democratic Republic of Georgia, establishing the Georgian SSR for the following seven decades.

Parallels have been drawn in modern Georgia between the Georgian-Russian diplomacy in 1920 and in the 2000s. In response to indications by several senior Russian diplomats that Moscow wanted to see Georgia "a sovereign, neutral and friendly country" rather than a member of military alliances such as NATO, President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili said, on October 25, 2007, neutrality was not an option for Georgia because "Georgia signed an agreement on its neutrality in 1920 with Bolshevik Russia and after six months Georgia was occupied."[6]


  1. ^ Beichman, A. (1991). The Long Pretense: Soviet Treaty Diplomacy from Lenin to Gorbachev, p. 165. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0-88738-360-2.
  2. ^ a b Lang, DM (1962). A Modern History of Georgia, p. 226. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  3. ^ Erickson, J., editor (2001). The Soviet High Command: A Military-Political History, 1918-1941, p. 123. Routledge (UK). ISBN 0-7146-5178-8.
  4. ^ Sicker, M. (2001). The Middle East in the Twentieth Century, p. 124. Martin Sicker. ISBN 0-275-96893-6.
  5. ^ Debo, R. (1992). Survival and Consolidation: The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, 1918-1921, p. 182. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 0-7735-0828-7.
  6. ^ Saakashvili Rules Out Georgian Neutrality. Civil Georgia. 2007-10-25. Retrieved on 2008-06-15.

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