From 1917 to 1921
The Bolshevik coup in October 1917 and the ensuing Russian Civil War forced the major national forces of South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – to unite into fragile federative structures. Abkhaz leaders created, on November 8, 1917, their own post-revolutionary body, Abkhaz People’s Council (APC), but Abkhazia became embroiled into a chaos of the civil unrest. It was torn between supporters of the short-lived Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus, a pro-Bolshevik faction, a pro-Turkish nobility, and a pro-Georgian Menshevik group.
In March 1918, local Bolsheviks under the leadership of Nestor Lakoba, a close associate of Joseph Stalin, capitalized on agrarian disturbances and, supported by the revolutionary peasant militias, kiaraz, won power in Sokhumi in April 1918. The Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, which claimed the region as its part, sanctioned the suppression of the revolt and, on May 17, the National Guard of Georgia ousted the Bolshevik commune in Sokhumi.
Meanwhile, a short-lived Transcaucasian federation came to an end and the independence of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (DRG) was proclaimed on May 26, 1918. On June 8, a delegation of the Abkhaz People’s Council negotiated in Tbilisi a union with Georgia, which gave autonomy to Abkhazia. All domestic affairs were to be under the jurisdiction of the APC, while the central government established the office of Minister of Abkhazian Affairs and the post of the Governor-General of Abkhazia. Abkhaz deputies gained three of 28 seats preserved for ethnic minorities in Georgia’s parliament.
The relations between the central and autonomous authorities were soon clouded by the abortive landing, on June 27, 1918, of a Turkish force supported by the Abkhaz nobles, J. Marghan and A. Shervashidze. Georgia responded with the arrest of several Abkhaz leaders and the limitation of the autonomous powers of the APC that precipitated some sympathies from the Abkhaz to the Russian White forces which engaged in the sporadic fighting with the Georgians in the north of Abkhazia. The reaction was even harsher when the Abkhaz officers of the Georgian army, Commissar Marghania and Colonel Chkhotua, staged a failed coup in October 1918. On October 10, the APC was disbanded and Abkhazia's autonomy was abrogated for six months. A new Abkhaz People's Council, elected on March 20, 1919, adopted an act of Abkhazia's autonomy within the framework of the DRG, the status confirmed in the Constitution of Georgia adopted on February 21, 1921, on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Georgia.