Two Basic Points in Georgian-German Relations

Master's Thesis, 2011

49 Pages, Grade: 96


Table of Contents

I Introduction

II Preliminary Guidelines and Methodological Explanations

III The Declaration of Independence
1 Preliminary Period
2 Independence as ‘the only way out’
3 After Independence

IV The Restoration of Independence
1 Way towards the Restoration of Independence
2 Reunification of Germany
3 Between Independence and Reunification

V Theoretical explanations
1 Political Realism is the Answer
2 Political Realism is not always the Answer
3 General Theoretical Explanations

VI Conclusions


I Introduction

The relations between Georgia and Germany refer to the actual and progressively ongoing process. These relations have quite significant tradition in the last century. According to the information of the German Embassy in Georgia[1] “close and trustful relations between Germany and Georgia have the tradition of nearly 200 years”[2]. Therefore the experience earned through the different historical points of German-Georgian relations can be used from nowadays as well as from the future perspective. Accordingly, the analyze of the important points in these relations and explaining certain circumstances of them should be worth of interest. Therefore the aim of our research is to clarify the certain points in the history of Georgian-German relations with the proper theoretical framework.

Although the relations between Germany and Georgia count nearly two centuries, we have to draw the line according to the characteristics of these relations. Under the term “relation” we basically mean political relations in our research[3]. In this respect, for example, the translation of Shota Rustaveli’s “Night in the Panther’s Skin” made by Arthur Leist in XIX century does not comply with the concept of ‘relations’ in its political terms as we refer to it in this research. The political relations between these two countries had not started until the First World War. The reason of this was the fact that Georgia had been part of the Russian Empire all over the XIX century and could only have cultural relations with the states like Germany. However, the outbreak of the First World War in the beginning of the next century gave the impulses to Georgian interest groups to fight for the independence (not autonomy but independence) – the objective which was no longer that far from reality.

Our research is dedicated to the two basic points of the history of German-Georgian relations. The first point is the relations connected to the declaration of independence by Georgia in 26 May 1918. The second one refers to the restoration of independence in 9 April 1991 based on the independence act of 26 May. These two dates had been the crucial points in the history of Georgia of the previous century. However, they had been the basic turning points in the history of German-Georgian relations as well. In the first case the basic motivation for starting the relations between Georgia and Germany was the issue of Georgian independence. In the second case the relations between Germany and Georgia has started after (but not immediately after) the declaration of independence as well.

However, there is a significant difference between these two periods of Georgian-German relations. First of all, the symmetry of developing relations goes differently. In the first case the relations had started several years before the declaration of independence, which was the direct result of these relations, and finished shortly (several months) after declaring independence. In the second case the relations have started some time after the restoration of independence, the relations which still go on during the last couple of decades. Another difference, which has the basic importance for our research, is the fundamentally different attitude from the German side towards the first and second cases of declaring independence of Georgia. The research tries to clarify the reasons for such difference and explain it with the proper theoretical concept.

The first actual part of our research[4] refers to the declaration of independence on 26 May 1918 as the first basic point in German-Georgian relations. This chapter is divided into three parts. The first part is dedicated to the preliminary period of the independence declaration. In this period the relations with German Foreign office had been initiated by the group of Georgian emigrants forming the Georgian Independence Committee. As a result of their activities Germany became interested and involved into ‘Georgian issue’. The second part examines the actual event of the independence declaration; namely the circumstances under which the Act of Independence was declared and the decisive role of Germany in this event. The third part discusses the period after 26 May 1918 which did not last longer than the autumn of the same year. That part clarifies the role of Germany as the guarantor and protector of Georgian independence as well as the reasons for unexpected end of these relations.

The following chapter is dedicated to the restoration of Georgian independence in 9 April 1991 as the second basic point. As mentioned above, this period seems to be similar to the first case, but in terms of German-Georgian relations it is substantially different from the first case at the same time. As there is not much to narrate about Georgian-German relations of the independence restoration period, that chapter has the different structure. The first part discusses the actual situation in Georgia in the years 1989-91, which was the period of preparation for the restoration of independence and the declaration of this finally in 1991. The second part examines the situation in Germany during the same period, which was full of dramatic events for Germany as well. The third part sums up the situation in terms of Georgian-German relations of that time and clarifies the reason why that period had been so different from the first case.

Our research follows the inductive reasoning of making general theoretical explanations after the examination of concrete cases. Accordingly, the next chapter is dedicated to the explanation of the abovementioned cases from the framework of political realism – theory which happened to have most explanatory power in these concrete cases. The first part of this chapter provides the explanation of the cases discussed before through the perspective of political realism. However, there are certain aspects of the cases which can not be explained from the political realism perspective. The second part attempts to find the proper explanation for these certain aspects. The final part summarizes the general theoretical explanations made so far about both of the cases in the previous parts.

The following chapter after the introduction[5] contains the preliminary guidelines and general methodological explanations for the reader of the research. The aim of this chapter is to guide the reader across the different parts of the research. It provides the basic descriptions of the research topic and the field which it belongs. It also defines the research question and the hypothesis based on this question with the proper backgrounds, including the independent variables and dependent variable in this hypothesis. That chapter provides the explanation of methodology used in the research as well as the basic explanations referring to the case-study. Finally it provides the definition of the basic terms used in the thesis. Therefore the reader guided by this chapter will be familiar with the basic concepts and directions of the research.

II Preliminary Guidelines and Methodological Explanations

The relations between Germany and Georgia reportedly count the history of nearly two centuries[6]. However, the political relations between these countries had not been conducted until the beginning of the previous century. The reason for starting these relations was Georgian aspiration towards independence, which became achievable according to the new reality influenced by the First World War. The role of Germany in the declaration of Georgian independence by the act of 26 May 1918, as well as in the preparatory period and as a guarantor and protector of this independence, had been very significant. However, the attitude of Germany towards the very similar case of the restoration of independence in 1991 had been significantly different. While examining these two cases in the comparative way our research attempts to find the explanations for the abovementioned difference in the relevant theoretical framework. As the Georgian-German relation is the currently ongoing process, the experience of the past cases can be useful from nowadays perspective, as well as for the future.

The research belongs to the area of European Studies. According to the common definition of this field, European Studies include the social and political science curriculum containing the variety of disciplines including European history and the relations of European states with the neighboring countries of the European Union. This view is shared with Institute of European Studies at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University as well[7]. Accordingly, the topic of our research is completely in compliance with the field of the European Studies. The topic focuses on the relations between Germany and Georgia, which can be considered as the topic of the European history. The second part of the research is focused on the relations between these countries in 90s of the previous century, which is the topic for the recent history of the European Union. While the relations with Georgia has been chosen as the issue of research, it draws the attention on the relations between European and neighboring states, which is also the topic included in the field of the European Studies.

The research question our thesis attempts to answer is the following: what can be the determining factor (or factors) for the substantial change of attitude from one country (Germany) towards the similar issue (independence) developing in another country (Georgia) in two different periods of time (1918 and 1991). The country, the attitude of which had been changed substantially towards one issue in the different time periods is Germany. Another country, towards which the attitude had been changed is Georgia. More precisely, the issue of concern and the object of attitude is the independence issue. The different time periods refer to 26 May 1918 with its short backgrounds and further developments during the following month in the first case and 9 April 1991 with the similar understanding of the preparatory and following periods in the second case.

According to the research question stated above, the hypothesis based on this question should be the following: the abovementioned substantial change in the attitude from one country towards the issue of independence of another country can be determined by the national interests of both of these countries. Accordingly, while these national interests coincide the relations between the countries go on and as long as these interests do not coincide with each other any longer, the relations do not develop any further. Concretely, the case of German-Georgian relations has been taken in order to apply the hypothesis with this concrete case. The elements of this hypothesis have been already defined in the previous paragraph of the research question and do not need further explanations, as they maintain the same meanings in the hypothesis as well.

The abovementioned hypothesis contains the dependent and independent variable. In terms of this hypothesis the independent variables are the national interests. They are in plural, while they belong to the two different countries and two different time periods. The dependent variable refers to the interrelation between these countries and is singular. Expressed in the mathematical representation they should have the following form:

ax + bx = y

where a and b refers to the different countries, x implies the independent national interest and y refers to the dependent relations between the countries. We also have to mention that national interests can not be completely independent from the theoretical perspective. However, the factors determining national interests can not be independent as well. Accordingly, if we follow these causal links, it might continue infinitely. Therefore we have drawn the ending line after the national interests while choosing them as independent variables for our hypothesis.

In terms of methodology we have chosen the way of inductive reasoning, implying the move from concrete observation to the generalization and theoretical explanation[8]. Namely we have chosen the method of beginning from the concrete case examples and observations, developing the tentative hypothesis while examining the cases and finally ending up with the general theoretical explanations of the cases discussed before (so-called ‘bottom-up’ method, instead of deductive ‘top-down’). Accordingly, the research starts with the concrete observations on the case study, tentatively elaborates with the theoretical explanations on this path and finally ends up with the general theoretical explanations of the concrete cases. In terms of research of the cases, the qualitative method of comparative case-study is preferred.

In terms of case study, the case of Georgian-German relations has been chosen as the case. It might seem as the single case at the first sight. However, it contains two separated sub-cases. The first case contains the relations between Germany and Georgia during the First World War period, basically around May 1918. The second case refers to the relations between the same countries during the collapse of the Soviet Union, basically around April 1991. As we can see, these sub-cases significantly differ from each other. Therefore the case-study fluctuates between being single and double. The best possible explanation of our case-study should be the statement that it is a single case divided into two separate sub-cases.

In our research the variety of terms are used, the explanation of which would be helpful for the reader in order to give the proper meaning to each of these terms while reading in the different contexts. We have to mention that we do not aim to provide the original or commonly shared definition of these terms. The aim of defining them is only to guide the reader. Therefore the definitions of these terms are valid and refer to this concrete thesis and it might differ from the commonly shared understanding of these terms.

For the reasons of our research, the following terms have to be defined as follows (alphabetical order):

Country – the territory and population of the nation or state.

The First World War – the war centered in Europe started on 28 July 1914 and finished on 11 November 1918.

Georgia – the territory and population of Georgian nation represented by the interest groups before declaring independence in 26 May 1918 and restoring independence in 9 April 1991, and represented by their legitimate governments since the declaration and restoration of independence.

Georgian Independence Committee – (also referred as the Georgian Committee) group of Georgian emigrants in Europe collaborating with German Foreign Office in order to achieve the independence of Georgia.

Georgian National Liberation Movement – the movement of late 1980s led by dissidents Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Merab Kostava aiming the restoration of independence of Georgia.

Germany – in the first case the German Empire[9] with its status before the revolution in autumn 1918 leading to the establishment of Weimar Republic; in the second case only the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) before reunification and the reunified Germany with its current status since 3 October 1990.

Interest Group – voluntarily united group of persons seeking to influence the public policy in order to achieve their common objectives.

National Interest – the certain interest of the state or country expressed by its government or interest groups.

Perestroika – changes in the policy of the Soviet Union aiming to restructure the Soviet political and economic system, started in March 1985 and finished with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Political Realism – theory of International Relations which gives priority to national interest and security over the moral principles and ideology basically expressed in the works of Thucydides, Niccolo Machiavelli and Hans Morgenthau.

Political Relations – interactions between the governments or interest groups of the countries about the affairs of internal or external policies of these countries with the objective of achieving and establishing favorable relationship with each other.

Relations – refer to the political relations between the country governments or interest groups.

According to the development of reasoning discussed above, our research starts with the observations on the concrete cases. While discussing these cases the explanatory theories are elaborated tentatively in a simultaneous way with the discussions. The final part of the research sums up the theoretical explanations of the cases discussed before. Basically the theoretical explanation is made under the framework of the theory of political realism. More precisely, it refers to the classical realistic viewpoints expressed in the works by Thucydides, Machiavelli and, basically, the Six Principles of political realism defined by Hans Morgenthau. Together with these classical viewpoints some neorealist concepts have been used as well. More details of the theoretical explanations will be provided in the final part of our thesis.

III The Declaration of Independence

The declaration of independence in 26 May 1918 is the very important date in the history of Georgia. After 117 years of loosing independence and being part of Russian empire, this declaration gave birth to Georgian Independent Republic. Unfortunately the independent state existed in very short time period – less than three years. However, the 26 May declaration remained as a basement for the restoration of independence during the 70 years of soviet ruling and in 9 April 1991 the restoration of independence was based on the public legal and constitutional heritage of 26 May declaration.

It is the commonly known fact and commonly shared view, that the declaration of independence in 1918 was strongly supported by Germany and without this support the independence could hardly be achieved, if ever. It shows that the relations between Germany and Georgian part were very special by 1918. However, these relations did not last longer and by the end of the same year things had been changed. The following chapter discusses Germany’s role in the declaration of independence in 1918 and German-Georgian relations by that certain period of time. It also attempts to provide backgrounds and explanations of these relations.

1 Preliminary Period

The intense Georgian-German relations had started several years before the question of independence came into political reality. As the First World War broke out and Germany formally declared war with Russia in 1 August 1914[10], shortly afterwards the young absolvent of the University of Geneva Leo Kereselidze contacted to the German council in Geneva Baron Gisbert von Romberg and asked him for help in „revolutionizing Georgia and whole Caucasus“[11]. The abovementioned action would be in the framework of “revolutionizing policy”, while the uprising of peripheries against empires and colonies against metropolises was considered as one of the efficient tools for defeating the enemies by Germany[12]. The offer made German part interested, as the realization of this plan could be helpful in the eastern front, and was accepted. Shortly afterwards the Georgian Independence Committee was established in September 1914[13], with Georg Machabelli, Michael Tsereteli and Peter Surguladze as the leaders together with Kereselidze.[14]

What makes these relations interesting from the perspective of political realism is that both of the parts did not have any preliminary plan for the future collaboration. Their cooperation was the coincidence of interests by chance[15] without any preparations before. The dynamically developing reality of the newly started World War made the German Foreign Affairs Agency and the group of Georgian emigrants involved in this cooperation based on the mutual interests. Despite of several disappointments in realizing the initial plans, this cooperation had been going on during nearly 4 years, until 1918 when Georgian independence was declared.

As the reality of war was the basic ground for this cooperation, the objectives of it was directed to the military matters. The policy of „revolutionizing“ contained the need of soldiers able to act in Georgia and, generally, in Caucasus and the military equipment needful for such actions. Accordingly, the idea of Georgian Legion came into being, as well as their provision with armament[16]. This legion should be composed by Georgian former prisoners of war (as the part of Russian empire, Georgia was participated in the war on the Russian side) convinced to act on the German side. „We do not want to treat you as our enemies, rather, we consider you as our guests“[17] said the newspaper „Caucasus[18] “ spread among Georgian prisoners as the leaflets. The agitation was conducted by the members of Georgian Committee and the aim of this propaganda was to win the former soldiers over, in order to make them acting on German side, or, at least, to instil the sense of sympathy towards Germany.

In the beginning the movement appeared to be successful, while the significant number of Georgian war prisoners made up their minds to join the Georgian legion. The number of the soldiers in this legion were fluctuating and changing very often. The practical use of this legion remained the problem as initially it was created in order to be the centre of revolt in Georgia and Caucasus, but that kind of uprisings did not take place and the couple of expeditions by submarines to the Georgian western border did not succeed[19]. Many of the preliminary plans, such as collecting 500000 Caucasians for „revolutionising“, or providing 50000 rifles[20] seemed to be quite fantastic even in the beginning and, accordingly, never came true. However, the propagandistic activities supported to intensify the German-Georgian relations in the semi-military and non-military affairs as well.

The Order of Queen Tamar[21], established since 1916, was the example of such semi-military activities often grown to another sort of relations. This order was provided by Georgian Independence Committee and granted to prominent figures who had performed significant service for Georgia, including military, as well as civil merit. According to Wipert von Blücher, this order „eclipsed all of the German military decorations with its magnificence and size“[22]. This order was granted to several German prominent military and public figures, including Paul von Hindenburg, Erich Ludendorff, General von Lossow and several others[23].

The need for anti-Russian propaganda among Georgian war prisoners led to the idea of publishing Georgian newspaper in German and Georgian, the organizer of which was the Georgian Committee. Initially the name of this newspaper was „Caucasus“, which transformed into „Georgian Newspaper“[24] in 1916. Together with pro-German agitation, this newspaper provided the propaganda of the idea of independent Georgia Europe-wide, which moved already from military to political affairs. As the publication of the newspaper was coordinated by Nachrichtenstelle für den Orient[25] - the foreign institution oriented on the eastern countries[26], the relations entered into cultural fields as well. Therefore the newspaper made progress in terms of approaching Georgian issue into German concern. Young Georgian student Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, famous Georgian writer and public figure later on, also worked in this newspaper as an assistant-publisher.

The fate of Konstantine Gamsakhurdia shows that working in Georgian Independence Committee could be highly risky. Nearly twenty years later, after returning back into Georgia, Gamsakhurdia was arrested in 1926 with the charge of espionage, one of the basic argument of which was his participation in the activities of Georgian Committee 20 years ago, basically publishing the „Georgian Newspaper“. With this charge he was convicted without trial and sentenced with 10 years in the concentration camp to the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea[27]. This fact indicates the high risk for Georgians working in the Committee, because of which the leader of the Committee Michael Tseretheli stated in 1915 „the members of Georgian Committee are despaired. Russians know everything about us step by step. We have families and properties in Georgia. We involved in this movement with the strong belief that Germany would support us by armament“[28].

Georgian Committee really received such guarantees with military support, together with supporting the declaration of independence by Georgia. Although the military part of Georgian-German plan did not succeed, the intense relations between the Committee and German Foreign Affairs Agency[29] create the basis for successful Georgian-German relations in the future. The mostly important was that Georgian Committee caused the interest towards the idea of Georgian independence from German side. Moreover, the idea of independent Georgia entered the European level and, accordingly, became the issue for the international concern. The example of such internationalization is the third conference of the Union of Nations[30] in Lausanne in June 1916, where Michael Tsereteli represented the Georgian part and delivered an impressive speech about the independence of Georgia. Interestingly enough, the only one protesting against Tseretheli’s speech was another Georgian participant of this conference from the Social-Democratic party[31].

Another interesting fact is that Georgian Independent Committee was not well-known in Georgia. Maybe the slow delivery of information, especially during the war period, was the reason for being not informed and, sometimes, misinformed. According to the memoirs of Zurab Avalishvili - Georgian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1918; he “was introduced with the group of Georgian emigrants staying in Germany since the beginning of war and expecting the liberation of Georgia from by some circumstances of war. Some considered them being crazy… But their activities and their propaganda prepared lot of things for the future”[32]. By that time the Committee was less active and the leaders declared the liquidation of the Committee couple of months later[33].

The activities conducted by Georgian Independence Committee certainly prepared lot of things for the following successful relations between Germany and newly independent Georgia. First of all it prepared the situation for declaring independence by Georgia and its special relations with Germany. On the other hand, Germany was also depended on the Georgian Committee to the extent of realizing their policy in Georgia and, generally, in Caucasus (Kaukasus-Politik),[34] while Georgian Committee played quite significant role in conducting the abovementioned policy.



[2] All of the translations (from Georgian, German and Russian sources) are made by author.

[3] See p.10.

[4] Chapter III.

[5] Chapter II.




[9] Deutsches Reich.


[11] ბაქრაძე გვ. 34.

[12] ბაქრაძე გვ. 31.

[13] Strachan p. 718

[14] Bihl s.32

[15] ბაქრაძე გვ. 283.

[16] Strachan p. 718

[17] ბაქრაძე გვ. 91.

[18] “კავკასია” – Georgian name of the newspaper

[19] ბაქრაძე გვ. 235.

[20] Strachan p. 718

[21] Der Orden der Königin Tamar

[22] ბაქრაძე გვ. 163.

[23] გამსახურდია გვ. 252.

[24] “ქართული გაზეთი” in Georgian

[25] News Agency about the East

[26] Schwanitz, war by revolution

[27] სიგუა გვ. 113.

[28] ბაქრაძე გვ. 139.

[29] Auswärtiges Amt

[30] Union des nationalitės

[31] ბაქრაძე გვ. 128.

[32] ავალიშვილი გვ. 106.

[33] 21 July 1918

[34] Bihl s. 232.

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Two Basic Points in Georgian-German Relations
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George Meskhi (Author), 2011, Two Basic Points in Georgian-German Relations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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