Georgia after Stalin. Nationalism and Soviet Power
This book explores events in Georgia in the years following Stalin’s death in March 1953, especially the demonstrations of March 1956 and their brutal suppression, in order to illuminate the tensions in Georgia between veneration of the memory of Stalin, a Georgian, together with the associated respect for the Soviet system that he had created, and growing nationalism. The book considers how not just Stalin but also his wider circle of Georgians were at the heart of the Soviet system, outlines how greatly Stalin was revered in Georgia, and charts the rise of Khrushchev and his denunciation of Stalin. It goes on to examine the different strands of the rising Georgian nationalist movements, discusses the repressive measures taken against demonstrators, and concludes by showing how the repressions transformed a situation where Georgian nationalism, the honouring of Stalin’s memory and the Soviet system were all aligned together into a situation where an increasingly assertive nationalist movement was firmly at odds with the Soviet Union.
The policy of the Stalinist leadership in Georgia in the post-war period reflected both the general norms of the Stalinist ‘center-periphery’ system as well as certain specific informal political factors. This article examine the implementation in Georgia of a key principle of Stalinist regional policy: strict control over leading personnel, including the use of repression. The fullest expression of this principle was the so-called ‘Mingrelian Affair’. The emergence and course of the Mingrelian Affair was also closely linked to particular informal factors: the involvement of Stalin in Georgian affairs and the mechanisms of patronage (shevtsvo), and in the Georgian case, the patronage of Beria. The significance and concrete manifestations of these factors will also be analyzed. The ending of the mass terror following the death of Stalin could not help but have a certain effect on the regional and nomenklatura policies of the top Soviet leaders. The second half of this article consider the changes that took place in the practical interactions between the center and the Georgian leadership after the death of Stalin, and also after the arrest of the ‘boss’ of Georgia, Beria. An important component part of the center’s policy towards Georgia was a focus on Georgian nationalism. The essence of this understanding under Stalin and its modification in the post-Stalin period, as well as an examination of available materials sent to Moscow about the manifestations of Georgian nationalism, are a constant theme running throughout the article.