For many, the Russian revolution of 1917 was a symbol of hope and offered proof that another way of envisioning the world was indeed possible. But Soviet authoritarianism and the horrors of the gulags have since led to the revolution becoming synonymous with oppression, forever tainting socialism in the eyes of its critics. However, the often over-looked experience of Georgia, which declared its independence from Russia in 1918, shows there was another way. In The Experiment, historian Eric Lee brings this little-known story of Georgia’s experiment in democratic socialism to light, detailing the turbulent events of this chapter in revolutionary history.
Along the way, Lee introduces us to a remarkable set of ideas and policies, among them the men and women who strove for a vision of socialism that featured universal suffrage, a people’s militia in place of a standing army, and a civil society grounded in trade unions and cooperatives. Though the Georgian Democratic Republic lasted for just three years before it was brutally crushed on the orders of Stalin, in that short time it was able to offer a glimpse of a more humane alternative to the Communist nightmare that was to come.
The Experiment is the first authoritative English-language history of this forgotten episode, and it will appeal to those interested in Soviet history as well as those seeking inspiration for a democratic socialist alternative today.