Archival and Memory Studies

Documents about Georgia preserved in the archives of the Yeltsin Center

21 July 2020


In Russia, the native Ural district of Boris Yeltsin, city of Yekaterinburg, since 2015, there has been a cultural and educational center named after him ("Yeltsin Center"). The Boris Yeltsin Museum occupies the main part of the center, as well as various departments, the most important of which is the Boris Yeltsin Archive. 11 funds of this archive are available online - it is possible to view the documents and download their copies. The funds contain personal documents of Boris Yeltsin, as well as copies and photos of official documents issued by the Office of the President of Russia. Several dozens of documents about Georgia are preserved in the funds. IDFI will provide the comprehensive analysis of the documents and make them public.


The activities of the Yeltsin Center in Russia are not unequivocally perceived. Influential public figure Nikita Mikhalkov protested against the center several times, also LDPR members organized protests in front of the center's building. In 2016, more than 6,000 activists signed a petition on change.org to shut down the Yeltsin Center because it distorted the history. The center's activities have been repeatedly hampered due to the fact that it has often given a space to liberals. Therefore, we believe that it is necessary to download documents related to Georgia and store them in another, more secure place, because it’s unclear when the center and its website will have a problem of functioning. Especially due to the reason that there have been a number of facts when the Russian archives have classified already published documents.


We offer the first part of the documents preserved in the "Yeltsin Center" with our analysis, which refers to the period of Zviad Gamsakhurdia's presidency (1991).


Five documents analyzed by the IDFI relate to Zviad Gamsakhurdia's presidency when his office was still in Tbilisi and before he was forced to leave the capital city due to the civil war. At the same time, in 1991, in Moscow, there was a very interesting form of government, which we can even call a kind of dual power. The member republics of the Union exercised their constitutional right to leave the Soviet State one after another, a process known in historiography as the "Parade of sovereignties". Among them, on June 12, 1990, the Russian Federation declared sovereignty and Boris Yeltsin was chosen as its chairman a few days earlier (May 29, 1990). Finally, the official dissolution of the Soviet Empire took place on December 26, 1991, but before this happened, the Soviet Union as well as the newly formed Russian Federation both had their own legitimacy. The Georgian government and Zviad Gamsakhurdia broke ties with the Soviet Union (officially with a referendum on March 31, 1991 and the declaration of independence on April 9) and sought to find common ground with the Boris Yeltsin administration.


In 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Boris Yeltsin held talks on the issue of the South Ossetian region, where separatist riots erupted in 1989-1990 and the Georgian government suppressed these protests. On March 23, the politicians met in Kazbegi (today the Municipality of Stephantsminda) and developed a protocol aimed at establishing joint control and stability in the region. This meeting was followed by a sharp response in the administrative center of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, where a rally was held on March 26 with the slogan - " Позор Ельцину за сговор с грузинскими фашистами!" (“Shame on Yeltsin for tying up with Georgian fascists!”)


Video footage of the ongoing meeting between Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Boris Yeltsin in Kazbegi (March 23, 1991)


In early April 1991, units of the Soviet Regular Army entered the Tskhinvali region. Georgia's independence referendum was held on March 31, 1991, and the country seceded from the Soviet Union. No referendum was held in Tskhinvali, Kornisi (Znauri) and Java districts, but the total number of voters in the region was taken into account. In Tskhinvali district, a referendum was held on the territory of seven rural councils, where the total number of voters was 11,376. 10,182 ballots were issued, two of which were annulled. 10,180 voters (99.68%) answered positively to the referendum question.


At the same time, in the territory of South Ossetia, which was not under the control of Georgia, local separatists managed to hold a referendum on March 17 on the preservation of the Soviet Union. 99% of South Ossetian voters voted in favor of maintaining and remaining in the Soviet Union. Georgia refused to take part in the referendum, and in the end, it was this case that led to the deployment of a unit of the Soviet Army in Tskhinvali, which Zviad Gamsakhurdia appeals to Boris Yeltsin in one of the telegrams.


Among the documents is a working version of the Kazbegi Protocol of March 23, 1991, when Gamsakhurdia on the Georgian side and Yeltsin on the Russian side agreed to joint control over the South Ossetian issue. Four days after the signing of the protocol, on March 27, 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia received a telegram compiled by Yeltsin in a rather harsh tone that, on the one hand, Georgian state television distorted the content of the protocol and thus transmitted it to the population, on the other hand, hostilities were still going on in the territory of South Ossetia and Georgians were using violent actions against locals by national mark.


As we have already mentioned, in early April 1991, the Soviet Union deployed troops to the Tskhinvali region through the Roki tunnel from North Ossetia. Zviad Gamsakhurdia, in his April 7 telegram to Yeltsin, expressed his dissatisfaction with the deployment of Soviet regular troops in Tskhinvali and referred to Georgia as a "new Afghanistan."


In the archives of the Yeltsin Center, two more documents are kept in connection with 1991, which are related to the attempts of officials without authorities to restore cultural ties with Russia. One of them is a telegram from the Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II (July 11, 1991) congratulating Yeltsin on his election, and the other is a similar congratulation and offer from the President of the Football Federation, Nodar Akhalkatsi, on holding a friendly match between Georgia and Russia (24 July, 1991).


Telegram from the Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II (July 11, 1991)



We present the Georgian translation of these documents. In addition, you can see all the documents in the original, Russian language as an appendix.


  1. Fund 6, D. 1, I.57, pp. 176-177 - Chairmans of the RSFSR Supreme Council and the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia (Yeltsin B., Gamsakhurdia Z.). Protocol on the meeting and the negotiations of the Presidents of the RSFSR and the Republic of Georgia’s Supreme Councils (March 23, 1991).
    Ф. 6. Оп. 1. Д. 57. Л. 176-177 - Председатель Верховного Совета РСФСР и Республики Грузия (Ельцин Б., Гамсахурдия 3.). Протокол о встрече и переговорах Председателя Верховного Совета РСФСР и Председателя Верховного Совета Грузии (23.03.1991г.).



On the meeting and the negotiations of the Presidents of the RSFSR and the Republic of Georgia’s Supreme Councils

In April 1991, a draft agreement on inter-state relations between the RSFSR and the Republic of Georgia to be prepared for signing, for which working groups to be set up.

Agreements on joint action to stabilize the situation in the region's former South Ossetian Autonomous Region are being agreed by the parties:

1) The Ministries of Internal Affairs of the RSFSR and the Republic of Georgia shall establish a joint commission within 10 days to study the situation in the region and to assess the situation objectively by April 20.

2) The Ministries of Internal Affairs of the RSFSR and the Republic of Georgia shall form a joint militia unit by April 10 for the purpose of disarming all illegal armed formations operating in the former South Ossetian Autonomous Region. The unit is responsible for maintaining public order before the situation in the area calms down.

3) Appeal to the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union to deploy military units in the former South Ossetian Autonomous Region.

4) The Councils of Ministers of the RSFSR, the Republic of Georgia, the North Ossetian SSR shall immediately begin working on the return of refugees to their places of permanent residence. Should ensure the restoration of the legal organs of local government.

5) The Governments of the Republic of Georgia, the RSFSR and North Ossetia shall establish a Commission for the Evaluation of Damage to Refugees and provide additional material, technical and financial assistance to compensate this loss.

6) The establishment of peace and tranquility in the region should be considered as the ultimate goal of the established commission and unit.

7) To establish a permanent group to control the implementation of the protocol and to expand the current issues.


Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Council B. Yeltsin

Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia, Z. Gamsakhurdia.

Kazbegi, March 23, 1991.


2. Fund 6, D. 1, I.59, pp. 27 – Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Council Yeltsin B.N. Address of the President of the RSFSR Supreme Council Yeltsin B.N. to the Chairmen of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia Gamsakhurdia Z. to take measures to stop the bloodshed on the territory of the republic (copy) (March 27, 1991)
Ф. 6. Оп. 1. Д. 59. Л. 27 - Председатель Верховного Совета РСФСР Ельцин Б.Н. Обращение Председателя Верховного Совета РСФСР Б.Н. Ельцина в Верховный Совет Грузии к З.К.Гамсахурдиа принять меры для прекращения кровопролития на территории республики (копия телеграммы) (27.03.1991г.)




Tbilisi, Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia, Z.K. Gamsakhurdia

Dear Zviad Konstantinovich!

I consider it necessary to reaffirm the intention of the Russian Federation to develop interstate good-neighborly contacts with the Republic of Georgia, based on the common humanitarian traditions of our countries and the principles of international law.

I hope that the agreements reached between us, which are aimed at establishing peace and order in South Ossetia, will be kept intact.

At the same time, we are concerned about the inadequate interpretation of the protocol of our meeting in the mass media of the Republic of Georgia.

We are more concerned about the information received from Georgia and North Ossetia, about the ongoing hostilities and illegal formations, about national violence in Znauri district and other places.

I urge you to do everything in your power to stop the bloodshed in the Republic of Georgia and to ensure the implementation of our common decisions aimed at stabilizing the situation.

We will take certain measures.

Chairman of the Supreme Council of the RSFSR, B. Yeltsin

March 27, 1991


  1. Fund 6, D. 1, I.57, pp. 178-179 – Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia, Z.K. Gamsakhurdia. On the entering of Soviet regular units in Tskhinvali (April 7, 1991).
    Ф. 6. Оп. 1. Д. 57. Л. 178-179 - Председатель Верховного Совета республики Грузия З.Гамсахурдия. О вводе в г.Цхинвали советских регулярных частей (07.04.1991г.) (копия).



BN had a telephone conversation with ZG about this on Saturday 07.04.1991.


Statement of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia


A limited contingent of Soviet regular troops patrolling Georgia's sovereignty entered the town of Tskhinvali. The day before the rally, we hoped that the USSR government would refrain from further destabilizing the region.

The Soviet and world societies are well aware of the tragic consequences of the introduction of a "limited contingent" into Afghanistan, and we have experience in using military personnel against the people.

For decades, the dictatorial-totalitarian regime that led the country to material and spiritual impoverishment has blamed all the troubles of Soviet society on the "foreign enemy." Recently, in conditions of economic destruction, the face of the "internal enemy" is being cultivated within nations that are on the path to realizing the right to self-determination.

Georgia's novice, democratic government has not announced its immediate withdrawal from the Soviet Union although under the USSR Constitution, the country had the right to do so, he took upon himself the need not to damage the economic and internal ties with other republics during the period of transition necessary for us.

Moreover, we have made it clear that in the future, when we gain full governmental independence, we intend to maintain close economic and cultural ties with Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan - our direct neighbors, as well as other republics.

We hope that the Soviet government would understand our constructive position, but it has recently become increasingly inclined to resolve political, economic, social and national problems through violence. There is an impression that certain circles have aimed to divert the attention of the Soviet authorities from the empty shelves of shops, mass demonstrations and strikes that have engulfed the country by setting up a new Afghanistan on Georgian soil.

We hope that the USSR government will express a healthy opinion at this critical moment and will not take the initiative of a new intervention against Georgia, as the initiator of the civil war in its own country.

Tbilisi, April 7, 91.

Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia

Z. Gamsakhurdia, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia


4. Fund 6, D. 1, I.237, pp. 176 – Catholicos of All Georgia Ilia II. Congratulations on election as President of Russia (July 11, 1991).
Ф. 6. Оп. 1. Д. 237. Л. 176 - Каталикос всея Грузии Илия II. Поздравление по случаю избрания на пост Президента России (11 июля 1991 г.).

Moscow, the Kremlin, His Excellency Boris Nikoloaevich Yeltsin, President of the RSFSR.

Your Excellency, deeply respected President. On behalf of the Georgian Orthodox Church and myself, I cordially congratulate you on your election as President of the Russian Federation and your inauguration. Georgian Orthodox Christians welcomed this historic event with joy and hope. We hope that the fraternal relationship between our single-minded nations and sovereign states will deepen in the future. I wish you health, success and prosperity in your highest and most responsible work.

May God, love and peace be with you and us.

With deep respect, Ilia II, Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia.


5.Fund 6, D. 1, I.235, pp. 1-2 – President of the Football Federation of the Republic of Georgia, Akhalkatsi N. Proposal on holding a friendly match between Russian and Georgian national football teams and inviting president to attend the match (June 24, 1991).
Ф. 6. Оп. 1. Д. 235. Л. 1-2 -  Президент Федерации футбола Республики Грузия Ахалкаци Н. Предложение о проведении товарищеского матча между сборными командами по футболу России и Грузии и приглашение на матч (24 июня 1991 г.).

To V.N. Machuga

Resolve this issue through your channels, based on the overall concept of relationship development.

V. Iliushin

July 26, 1991


Georgian Football Federation

June 24, 1991

Son of Boris Nikoloz, who is deeply respected!

Let us, on behalf of the Georgian Football Federation, which includes 110 football clubs, warmly and cordially congratulate you on your election to the highest position in the Russian Federation.

June 12, 1991 will go down in history as the day of the greatest celebration not only for the democratic forces of Russia, but for the whole progressive society.

With your political wisdom you have run the presidential campaign in a measured, confident manner, and because of your love of progress, benevolence, restraint, humility, and order, you have earned heartful love and deep respect.

To commemorate this great event and to strengthen and deepen future cooperation, let us consider a proposal to hold a friendly match between the Russian and Georgian national football teams.

With deep respect

President of the Georgian Football Federation

N. Akhalkatsi








This material has been financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. Responsibility for the content rests entirely with the creator. Sida does not necessarily share the expressed views and interpretations.