The Commission Chairperson About the Commission
The scale of atrocities committed by Tsarist Russia, and later by Soviet Russia, during their occupation of Georgia in the 19th-20th centuries has rare precedents in world history. Yet a significant part of Georgian society has either learned little about the Russian occupation of Georgia or has forgotten it, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Part of Georgian society considers that historical time period as a time of peace and progress. One main reason is that for the past two centuries, the official Russian version of history has deliberately obscured the Russian occupation and annexation of Georgia, painting instead a picture of Russian self-sacrifice to “liberate and save” the Georgian people. Such deliberate misinformation elided imperial Russia’s systematic destruction of Georgian towns and villages, mass deportation of ethnic Georgians, and colonization of Georgia by Russians. To further this deceptive version of history, many other aspects of the Russian occupation and colonization have been obscured or falsified. This era of forced Russification has been misleadingly portrayed as a time of success for Georgian culture and education, while economic exploitation has been depicted as economic progress and material success for the Georgian people.
This systematically false version of two centuries’ worth of history has made it difficult for Georgian society to fully grasp the real essence of Russian colonialism and its negative influence on the Georgian people and the Georgian state. As citizens of Georgia, it is our duty to present a full historical account of this violent past to contemporary and future generations. This by no means suggests that we seek retribution for the violence that Georgia suffered during 187 years of Russian occupation. Knowledge of the tragic past is necessary not for the purpose of revenge, but for the purpose of bringing our nation together so we can work and strive together to avoid the repetition of our violent past in the future. We believe that increasing the knowledge of our common tragic past is the most important means of preventing its recurrence.
We believe that knowledge of our recent history will strengthen our self-awareness as a people and a civil society and help the Georgian people to build a strong, democratic, new Georgia. Besides, the knowledge and remembrance of our historical past is our sacred duty towards those hundreds of thousands of Georgians who fell victim to the Russian occupation.
Precisely for the purpose of thoroughly studying this historical period and introducing it to society, on April 9, 2010, the President of Georgia established the “State Commission for Historical Truth” (or the Georgian Truth Commission) based on Decree N288. The Commission was a temporary body, responsible to the President and the Government of Georgia. The Commission was tasked to submit to the President and the Government a 60-70 page report based on comprehensive historical-scholarly research.
The report’s mission was to describe the continuous historical violence which Georgia experienced under Tsarist and Soviet Russian occupation: all the key facts of the wars of conquest, territorial dismemberment, ethnic cleansing, cultural assimilation, economic exploitation, and religious and ethnic discrimination. On December 15, 2010 after eight months of operation, the Commission successfully completed its work and submitted the report within the given time frame to the President and the Government of Georgia. Subsequently, in December 2010, the Commission dissolved.
In the following report, the Commission presents a comprehensive account of Russian colonial politics and policies in Georgia, including those historical facts and events which were previously unknown, for the benefit of Georgian and non-Georgian readers.
This report is the first significant step towards systematic study of the almost 200-year-long history of the Russian occupation of Georgia. It is my intention for this report to galvanize future scholarly research on this historical theme and historical time period.
Vasili Rukhadze, Ph.D.
Chairperson of the State Commission for Historical Truth (The Georgian Truth Commission).