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Historical Introduction

Georgian communists leader and World War Two veteran Panteleimon Giogadze adresses people during a Victory Day celebration in Tbilisi May 9, 2007. REUTERS

Georgia, one of Europe's oldest Christian nations, lost independence and was eventually annexed to the Russian Empire in 19th century after centuries of geopolitical turbulence, but the Georgian people remained independence-minded. When the Russian empire crumbled in 1918, Georgia took the opportunity to declare independence and fought back against the Red, White and Ottoman armies. All Communist attempts to retake Georgia by coups were crushed as well. In 1920, Soviet Russia was forced to sign a peace treaty with the Republic of Georgia and recognize its independence. Despite this, the Communists continued to undermine the newly independent Georgian state. In 1921, Communist Russia launched a fresh military campaign against Georgia and conquered the country in fierce battles, annexing it to the Soviet Union. The Georgian government fled to France where it operated until early 1930s. Meanwhile in Georgia, the Communists terrorized dissidents, abolished democratic freedoms and persecuted the Church. Georgian resistance launched an anti-Communist rebellion in 1924 but were defeated with heavy loss: war tribunals ordered 7000-9000 executions and more than 20 000 were arrested and deported to Siberia. When Soviet forced collectivization rolled out in 1929, armed resistance broke out in several areas. Collectivization destroyed the Georgians' traditional way of life, leading to a decline in agriculture. Another purge was carried out in 1937-1938, this time aimed at the intelligentsia and local Communist elite. Terror continued after World War II. Georgia managed to restore its independence in 1991, but still needs time to overcome the Communist legacy.