Zhordania, Noe Nikolayevich

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(18681953), Menshevik leader; president of Georgia.

The most important leader of the Georgian Social Democrats (Mensheviks), Noe Nikolayevich Zhordania was born in western Georgia to a petty noble family. Educated at the Tiflis Orthodox Seminary (just years before Josef Stalin entered that institute that bred so many revolutionaries), Zhordania went on to Warsaw for further education and there was introduced to Marxism. His writings in the Georgian progressive journal kvali (trace) in the early 1890s inspired young radicals soon to be known as the mesame dasi (third generation). Zhordania combined a Marxist critique of Russian autocracy and the Armenian-dominated capitalism of his native Georgia with a patriotism that appealed broadly to workers, students, and peasants. By 1905 he had affiliated with the more moderate wing of Russian Social Democracy, the Mensheviks, and took the bulk of Georgian Social Democrats along with him. Radicals like the young Stalin were isolated in the Georgian party and eventually made their careers outside the country.

During the first Russian Revolution in 19051906, the Mensheviks dominated Georgia, essentially routing tsarist authority in the country, but brutal repression restored the rule of the government. In 1906 Zhordania was elected to the first State Duma, the new parliament conceded by the tsar. But within a few months the tsar dissolved the duma, and Zhordania and other radicals signed the Vyborg Manifesto protesting the dissolution. Zhordania was forced into the political underground, writing for clandestine newspapers and sparring in print with Stalin over the question of non-Russian nationalities.

With the outbreak of the revolution in 1917 Zhordania became the chairman of the Tiflis Soviet. He was an opponent of the Bolshevik victory in Petrograd in October of that year and was instrumental in the declaration of an independent Georgian republic on May 26, 1918. Zhordania was elected president of the republic and served until the invasion of the Red Army in February 1921. From exile in France he planned an insurrection against the Communist government, but the revolt of August 1924 was bloodily suppressed by the Soviets. Zhordania spent his last years in exile, largely in France, writing his memoirs, conspiring with Western intelligence agencies against the Soviets in Georgia, still the acknowledged leader of a movement whose members fought bitterly one with another.

See also: caucaus; georgia and georgians; mensheviks


Jones, Stephen. (1989). "Marxism and Peasant Revolt in the Russian Empire: The Case of the Gurian Republic." Slavonic and East European Review 67 (3): 403434.

Suny, Ronald Grigor. (1994). The Making of the Georgian Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Ronald Grigor Suny