19 May 2003, 12:51
Tsereteli, Irakly Georgyevich
Politician, one of the Mensheviks' leaders.
Born in Kutais in 1881. Descendant of an impoverished ancient noble family, son of G.E. Tsereteli - a publicist and a public figure. Still in gimnasia, got familiar with Russian populists' (narodniki) and Marx's ideas. 1900, entered the Law Department of Moscow University. In 1901, was a chairman of the executive committee of student organizations of Moscow; for the participation in the student movement, was exiled to Eastern Siberia, among the others; liberated in 1903. Upon the return to the Caucasus, entered RSDRP (Russian Socialist Democrat Workers' Party), was a member of Tiflis Committee. After the Second Congress of the party (1903), became a Menshevik, was editor-in-chief of Kvali (Furrow) magazine. In spring 1904, avoiding arrests, left for Berlin and entered the university. Being severely ill with tuberculosis, returned to Kutais in 1905. In 1907, was elected a deputy of the Second State Duma, was a member of its agrarian commission and a chairman of Socialist Democrat faction. Was a delegate of the Fifth RSDRP Congress in London in 1907. In June 1907, after Duma's dissolution, as a result of the June 3 revolt, was sentenced to 5 years of penal servitude, which was substitute, due to his health, with 6 years in prison and subsequent residence in Eastern Siberia. During the early WWI, was an "internationalist".
After the February Revolution 1917, participated in creating Public Organizations' Committee, Revolutionary Democrat Council, and Military Organization of Irkutsk. On March 19, returned to Petrograd. Joined the Executive Committee of Petrograd Council. By this time, defined himself as "revolutionary defender". On March 21 and 22, participated, basing on this position, in elaborating a standpoint of Petrograd Council regarding the issue of war and peace. At the all-Russian Meeting of the Soviets (March 29 - April 3), delivered a speech in regards to the war. In the resolution adopted at his suggestion, Russian Democrats appealed to mobilize all the powers of the country to fortify the front and the back areas. Considered the joint efforts of the Socialists in the fighting countries a pledge for ending the war, for which he tried to convoke Stockholm International Conference. On April 4, at a meeting of Social Democrats (Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, and non-affiliated), supported the convocation of an all-party congress. Criticized sharply V.I. Lenin's April Theses and their central idea of Russia's transition to socialism. Was an advocate of a coalition with bourgeoisie. On May 5, 1917, by a decision of Petrograd Council of Russian Social Democrats, was appointed into Interim Government as a Minister of Post and Telegraph. On May 22, Interim Government sent M.I. Skobelev and Tsereteli on a mission to Kronstadt, because the local Council of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies announced on May 17 that it did not recognize Interim Government; the negotiations ended in an agreement.
On June 4, 1917, Tsereteli reported to the First all-Russian Congress of Councils of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies on the government activities: he denounced the possibility of separate peace and spoke about the necessity of bringing the army to combat readiness, so that it, "...in case of a necessity, were able to launch a counter-offensive" (quoted by First Congress of the Soviets, volume 1, p. 60), tried to ground the necessity of uniting all the forces, in order to avoid the country's collapse and a civil war, stating that "...there is no political party in Russia, which would say: give the power into our hands..." (quoted by: ibid, p. 65). To Lenin's remark "There is!", Tsereteli replied that the power should be strong enough, "...in order to resist to those who venture for experiments dangerous for the fate of the revolution..." (quoted by: ibid, p. 66). On June 9, objecting to L.D. Trotsky, stated that Bolsheviks' position was "... the weak link of our revolution. The counter-revolution in direct fight is not scaring now. However, it can penetrate into our fortress of revolution through this gate" (quoted by: ibid, p. 361). Was elected a member of all-Russian Central Executive Committee and a member of the Presidium of all-Russian Central Executive Committee. On June 11, during a joint meeting of the Executive Committee of Petrograd Council and the Presidium of the Soviet Congress regarding the demonstration planned for June 10, stated, "Bolsheviks must be disarmed... We cannot leave automatic guns and other arms in their hands, we cannot tolerate conspiracies" (quoted by: Revolution of 1917, volume 3, p. 57). On June 28, together with M.I. Tereschenko, arrived in Kiev (A.F. Kerensky arrived there on June 29) for the negotiations with Central Rada after the claims of a necessity for a national territorial autonomy and for the Ukrainian national army appeared besides the claims of a cultural and national autonomy had been put forward earlier; a compromise was reached. Cadet Ministers, as a sign of protest against the Interim Government's Declaration to the Ukrainian Rada (of July 2), resigned from the government.
On July 8, was temporarily appointed Minister of Interior as well. On July 13, signed an order on the prohibition of all manifestations and street meetings in Petrograd. On July 18, together with V.M. Chernov, reached a positive decision on introducing an amendment into the Constituent Assembly Law depriving the Romanov family members of the electoral rights. On July 24, 1917, resigned from the Interim Government in order to focus on the work in the Council. In August, was a delegate of unification Congress of RSDRP, was elected a member of the Central Committee of the reunited RSDRP.
After the adoption by Petrograd Council on August 31, 1917, of a Bolshevik resolution On Power, Tsereteli resigned on September 6, as a sign of protest, together with all the Social Revolutionists and Menshevik Presidium of Petrograd Council. On September 24, 1917, the meeting of the representatives of revolutionary democrats and bourgeoisie adopted Tsereteli's suggestion to name the Pre-Parliament a Interim Council of Russian Republic. Supported the passing of the land to the peasants, but only at Constituent Assembly's decision, convocation of which, at his viewpoint, was inexcusably procrastinated by the democratic forces.
Opposed the October Revolution with hostility. On November 10, at the meeting of the Local and Cities' Governments Assembly, mentioned in his report On the Current Moment, "...paying with our own popularity, we tried to prevent the masses from this bloody teaching..." (quoted by: ibid, vol. 6, p. 117); in the resolution adopted at his suggestion, there was a statement on the necessity to start "creating a democratic center, which must counterweight the power's usurpers..." (quoted by: ibid, p. 124). On November 12, at the meeting of Central Executive Committee Bureau of the first convocation, which did not acknowledge the Soviet power, Tsereteli encouraged to rely on the Caucasus, Siberia, and the Ukraine, where there were "healthy elements not recognizing the Bolsheviks' power and capable of recreating a state life" (quoted by: ibid, p. 132). On December 7, at the congress of reunited RSDRP, was elected into the Central Committee.
On January 5, 1918, at the meeting of the Constituent Assembly, spoke, "There is only one Revolution in Russia; it started in the days of February, and it has survived hard tests, but the hardest tests is what it is going through at the present moment. A burden is put onto its shoulders, which can crush it for a long time. Division of Russia into two irreconcilable camps... the line of the civil war has passed through the heart of democracy" (quoted by Constituent Assembly, p. 47). In spite of the irreconcilability and harshness in the polemics on the political issues, the contemporaries noted Tsereteli's nobility and personal charm, which caused respect for him in wide circles of the community. V.I. Lenin, after the assassinations of Interim Government Ministers F.F. Kokoshkin and A.I. Shingaryov on January 7, 1918, advised Tsereteli, through some intermediaries, to leave for Georgia (see: Denike Y.P. I.G. Tsereteli // Novy Zhurnal (New Magazine), 1959, No. 57, p. 284). Upon return to Tiflis, Tsereteli continued to actively participate in the political life, struggled against the conclusion of Brest Peace Treaty. Considered Georgia incapable of opposing alone the Bolshevik Russia and supported the reunification of the Transcaucasian nations: "...if the inner unity of the nations of Transcaucasia is destroyed, we will be smashed" (quoted by: Speeches, vol. 2, pp. 100-101). After the collapse of Transcaucasian Federation, Tsereteli saw the only hope for the defense of minor nations in the international democracy (quoted by: ibid, p.121). Was a member of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Georgia, which was named a Parliament since May 25, 1918, at his suggestion; on May 26, participated in the adoption of the decision on proclaiming independent Georgian Democratic Republic.
In February 1919 thru April 1920, was a member of Georgia's delegation at Versailles and San Remi Conferences. Since 1921, lived in emigration in France; since 1940, lived in the USA. Was a representative of Georgian Social Democrats at the International Socialist Bureau, was a member of the Executive Committee of the Second International, opponent of Bolshevism; authored works on the participants and issues of the Social Democrat movement.
Deceased in New York City on May 21, 1959.
Speeches. Volumes 1 & 2. Petrograd - Tiflis, 1917-1918.
Memoirs of February Revolution. Volumes 1 & 2. Paris, 1963.