Beka KOBAKHIDZE, PhD*
Just before the Great War the idea of political independence was distant from the Georgian political elite. It was an era of the Great Powers. International law of that time did not leave the space for self-determination and sovereignty of smaller nationalities. Even on the formal ground conquest of weaker by stronger was legal. Unlike today, there were missing practical tools like United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, various peacekeeping and monitoring missions etc. Hence Georgia sandwiched between the Empires of Ottomans and Russia, located in the center of a turbulent region of the Caucasus, could hardly dream of the independence. Most of the political elites were varying in between political autonomy and cultural self-governance in their maximalist national claims.
The only chance to secure long lasting independence was to find a protector great power, but who would risk to counter the Russians and the Ottomans in the distant region of Caucasus? The Great War unexpectedly provided such opportunity: the Germans were targeting to facilitate an internal turmoil in Russia and force it to put down the arms. This would eventually allow the Germans to concentrate their troops on the western frontiers against the Allies and, moreover, to drive their march all the way to India, thus menacing there the British Orient. Thus, at the very beginning of the war the German Foreign Office and the Supreme Army Command ”Oberste Heeresleitung” sponsored national committees of the Baltic peoples, Finland, Georgians etc. These committees were forming paramilitary groups, preparing uprisings against the Russian Empire, recruiting prisoners of war of relevant origin etc. The German Empire was committed to grant independence to Georgia after the victorious war. Nevertheless the most popular party in Georgia of the Social-Democrats stayed loyal to the Russian cause and declared their defensist position; they hoped for the democratic transformation of Russia and enhancement of national rights in the Caucasus. Pro-German Georgian Committee comprised of the Georgian rightists who later on shaped National Democratic Party. But those two made a deal that they would not go against each other and in the end one of their sponsors was to be a victor, thus they agreed that the both were working for the national interests.
The Russian Empire was unable to handle years of intensive warfare and first the
Tsar was toppled in February 1917 and in October German sponsored Lenin overthrew the provisional government, thus inaugurating dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party. The Soviets withdrew Russia from the war, deserted Caucasus frontier and, moreover, according to the Brest-Litovsk Treaty of 3rd of March 1918 handed over Batumi and Kars provinces to the Ottoman Empire.
Bolshevik’s seizure of power triggered political secession of Transcaucasia from Russia. Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis did not recognize the Soviet Government and first declared Transcaucasian Commissariat and then Transcaucasian Federative Republic. The Georgians and the Armenians, in frames of aforementioned stillborn entities, went in a war against the Ottomans in order to defend their territories from the conquest. Military power of the sides was dramatically unequal, hence Transcaucasia was menaced not only to lose Batumi and Kars, but also to be conquered in total by the Ottomans. That is where political connections with Germans, established by the Georgian Committee, were activated.
In the Great War Germany was an ally to the Ottoman Empire and was unable to afford ignoring Turkish interests. The Ottomans first of all were targeting the Armenian territories in order to materialize pan-Turkic ideas and drive the road to their Azerbaijani kinsmen; on the other hand the Germans were interested in Georgian manganese mines, Baku-Batumi railway and Baku oil industry. Consequently they were least interested in Armenia. German military attaché in Constantinople – General Otto Von Lossow, who was mediating between the Transcaucasians and the Ottomans, advised Georgians that the German Empire was unable to protect whole Transcaucasia and if Georgia wished to secure German protection it was expected to declare independence.
* PhD degree at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University in 2015, Associated Professor at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA), Invited Lecturer at the University of Georgia and Caucasus University, Visiting Fellow at Russian and East European Studies of the University of Oxford
 See more details in: W. Bihl – Die Kaukasus-Politik der Mittelmachte. T. 1, Wien-Koln-Graz 1975; Lasha Bakradze – germanul-kartuli urtiertobebi pirveli msoflio omis dros (German-Georgian Relations During the First World War), Tbilisi 2010
 Noe Jordania – chemi tsarsuli (My Past), pp. 71-72, Tbilisi 2010; Revaz Gabashvili – rats makhsovs (What I remember), pp. 149-150, Tbilisi 1992.
Jordania was a leader of the Georgian Social-Democratic Party and Prime-Minister of Georgia during the independence years (1918-1921). Gabashvili was one of the leaders of the National Democratic Party.
 More on this topic see in: dokumenti i materiali po vneshnei politiki zakavkazya i gruzii (Documents and materials on foreign policy of the Transcaucasia and Georgia), Tiflis 1919; Baron Friedrich Von Kressenstein – chemi misia kavkasiashi (My Mission in the Caucasus), Kutaisi 2002. Kressenstain was a commander of the German troops in the Caucasus.