Lenin Authorizes the Invasion of Georgia

Vladimir Lenin, Copy Top Secret 14/11-1921. February 14, 1921


After bringing both Azerbaijan and Armenia under Soviet control, the Bolshevik leaders turned their attention to Georgia. A strong and stable government had taken root in Georgia and enjoyed general popular support. Communist efforts to overthrow it had been unsuccessful. Soviet leaders in the Caucasus, especially Ordzhonikidze, who was effectively in charge in the region, advocated a direct invasion to support a staged Communist uprising. Lenin, however, hesitated, fearing both the degree of popular support for the Georgian government and Western opinion. Finally he relented and sent the following telegram permitting the Eleventh Army stationed in Azerbaijan and Armenia “to give active support to the uprising in Georgia.” This was transmitted with great secrecy and was acted upon immediately. The Red Army invaded Georgia on 16 February.

The Central Committee is inclined to allow the Eleventh Army to give active support to the uprising in Georgia and to occupy Tiflis provided that international norms are observed, and on condition that all members of the Military Revolutionary Council of the Eleventh Army, after a thorough review of all the information, guarantee success. We give warning that we are having to go without bread for want of transport and that we shall therefore not let you have a single locomotive or railroad truck. We are compelled to transport nothing from the Caucasus but grain and oil. We require an immediate answer by direct line signed by all members of the Military Revolutionary Council of the Eleventh Army and likewise by Smilga, Gittis, Trifonov and Frumkin. No decisive steps are to be taken before receipt of our answer to telegrams from all these persons.

On behalf of the Central Committee, Krestinskii “Sklianskii” (Typewritten, signed by Comrade Sklianskii)

Comrade Sklianskii. Have this enciphered at once ultra-carefully, in your own presence, keeping the original. Send it to Smilga, making sure that he is at the receiver in person and deciphers it himself (tell the C.-in-C. about it without showing it to him). Stalin will send it himself to Ordzhonikidze.

Triple caution and the utmost caution, then. It is on your responsibility.

Lenin (in Comrade Lenin’s handwriting)
Return all this.

(Written by Comrade Lenin)

Source: Leon Trotsky, The Trotsky Papers, 1917-1922 (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), p. 656.

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