100 th anniversary of Georgian Constitution

Personal Blog by Dato Turashvili

Owing to the fact that I was born in Soviet Georgia, February for me has always been associated with sadness. This happened in spite of not being taught about what really took place on February 25, 1921. Naturally, we were not told that in February 1921, Soviet Russia began occupation of independent Georgia, but I suppose we intuitively felt that the month was marked by the massive tragedy that befell us. 

Plenary sitting 1921 year. Photo Credit: National Archives of Georgia

Later, as an adult I started to read books that had been carefully hidden and discovered that February was not only a sad time, but also a festive month for Georgia, since this was the time when its first constitution was adopted. 

Georgian Constitution - 1921 year

Georgian Constitution - 1921 year

A century ago on February 21, 1921, the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic adopted the constitution, which together with the Georgian state as a whole at that time can be considered something to be very proud of. 

Plenary Sitting 1921 year. Photo Credit: National Archives of Georgia

100 years later it became even more obvious that notwithstanding its numerous mistakes, then Georgian government was progressive and successful to the extent that even simple facts associated with its work became the subject of admiration. For example, during those three incomplete years, in parallel to the wars Georgia was involved in against hostile neighbors, the country managed to initiate and even implement reforms in the legislative, educational and agricultural domains. 

Georgian Constitution - 1921 year

Of course, Georgia had friends among its neighbors as well, although its main ally at that time was far-off Germany, which remained strong until its defeat in WWI. 

The main creator of the Democratic Republic of Georgia was the Georgian people, who became the main source of inspiration for the authorities. Through free and open elections, Georgians voted the Social-Democrats into parliament, in this way becoming the first country in the world where this party won the elections: – an event that occurred a little later in other countries, and in some parts of Europe only after WWII.

Plenary sitting 1921 year. Photo Credit: National Archives of Georgia

The main accomplishment of the Georgian politicians at that time was related to the adoption of the constitution on February 21, 1921. Discussion of individual paragraphs lasted for so long that in the meantime the Bolsheviks Army had attacked the country from four sides. When this happened, the government decided unanimously to adopt the document, despite the fact that parliament united under one umbrella different parties that had never before been able to agree on anything. However, the sole adoption of the constitution was not sufficient for its legitimization. It needed to be presented as a printed edition and also made public through the publication of its text, which at that time was impossible in an already occupied Tbilisi. Accordingly, the constitution was printed in Batumi at Khvingia printing house in Oklobjio Street (the name used by Batumi’s inhabitants to refer to Oglobjinski Street), which is currently known as Merab Kostava Street. This was the first official constitution to be adopted by Georgia after the unofficial version that had operated in the country for centuries. Naturally I refer here to “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” – a book used for generations to educate based on the values proclaimed in the text.  

Dato Turashvili