First Republic of Armenia The First Republic of Armenia
officially known at the time of its existence as the Republic of Armenia
: Հայաստանի հանրապետութիւն),[note 1]
was the first modern Armenian state since the loss of Armenian statehood in the Middle Ages
The Russian offensive during the Caucasus Campaign
of World War I, the subsequent occupation, and the creation of a provisional administrative government
gave hope for ending Ottoman Turkish
rule in Western Armenia. With the help of several battalions of Armenians recruited from the Russian Empire, the Russian army had made progress on the Caucasus Front, advancing as far as the city of Erzerum
in 1916. The Russians continued to make considerable advances even after the toppling of Tsar Nicholas II
in February 1917.
In March 1917, the spontaneous revolution that toppled Tsar Nicholas and the Romanov dynasty established a caretaker administration, known as the Provisional Government. Shortly after, the Provisional Government replaced Grand Duke Nicholas' administration in the Caucasus with the five-member Special Transcaucasian Committee
, known by the acronym Ozakom. The Ozakom included Armenian Democrat Mikayel Papadjanian
, and was set to heal wounds inflicted by the old regime. In doing so, Western Armenia was to have a general commissar and was to be subdivided into the districts of Trebizond, Erzerum, Bitlis, and Van.
The decree was a major concession to the Armenians: Western Armenia was placed under the central government and through it under immediate Armenian jurisdiction. Dr. Hakob Zavriev
would serve as the assistant for civil affairs and he in turn would see to it that most civil officials were Armenian.
In October 1917, the Bolsheviks
seized power from the Provisional Government and announced that they would be withdrawing troops from both the Western and Caucasus fronts.
The Armenians, Georgians, and Muslims of the Caucasus all rejected the Bolsheviks' legitimacy.
Armenian army 1918
On December 5, 1917, the Ottoman Empire and the Transcaucasian Commissariat signed the armistice of Erzincan
, ending armed conflict. After the Bolshevik seizure of power, a multinational congress of Transcaucasian representatives met to create a provisional regional executive body known as the Transcaucasian Seim
. The Commissariat and the Seim were heavily encumbered by the pretense that the South Caucasus formed an integral unit of a non-existent Russian democracy.
The Armenian deputies in the Seim were hopeful that the anti-Bolshevik forces in Russia would prevail in the Russian Civil War
and rejected any idea of separating from Russia. In February 1918, the Armenians, Georgians and Muslims had reluctantly joined to form the Transcaucasian Federation
, but disputes among the three groups continued as unity began to falter.
On March 3, 1918, Russia followed the armistice of Erzincan with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
and left the war. It ceded territory from March 14 to April 1918, when a conference was held
between the Ottoman Empire and the delegation of the Seim. Under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Russians allowed the Turks to retake the Western Armenian provinces, as well as to take over the provinces of Kars
, and Ardahan
In addition to these provisions, a secret clause obligated the Armenians and Russians to demobilize their forces in both western and eastern Armenia.
Having killed and deported most of Armenians of Western Armenia during the Armenian Genocide
, the Ottoman Empire intended to eliminate the Armenian population of Eastern Armenia.
Shortly after the signing of Brest-Litovsk the Turkish army began its advance, taking Erzurum in March and Kars in April, which the Transcaucasian government of Nikolay Chkheidze
had ordered soldiers to abandon. Beginning on May 21, the Ottoman army moved ahead again.
Celebration in Armenia 1918
On May 11, 1918, a new peace conference opened at Batum. At this conference, the Ottomans extended their demands to include Tiflis
, as well as Alexandropol
, which they wanted for a railroad to be built to connect Kars and Julfa with Baku. The Armenian and Georgian members of the Republic's delegation began to stall.
On May 26, 1918, Georgia declared independence; on May 28, it signed the Treaty of Poti
, and received protection from Germany.
The following day, the Muslim National Council in Tiflis announced the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan
Armenian parade 14 April 1920
In view of the dissolution of the political unity of Transcaucasia and the new situation created by the proclamation of the independence of Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Armenian National Council declares itself to be the supreme and only administration for the Armenian provinces. Because of the certain grave circumstances, the national council, deferring until the near future the formation of an Armenian National government, temporarily assumes all governmental functions, in order to take hold the political and administrative helm of the Armenian provinces.
Meanwhile, the Turks had taken Alexandropol and were intent on eliminating the center of Armenian resistance based in Yerevan. The Armenians were able to stave off total defeat and delivered crushing blows to the Turkish army in the battles of Sardarapat
The Republic of Armenia had to sue for negotiations
at the Treaty of Batum
, which was signed in Batum on June 4, 1918. It was Armenia's first treaty. After the Ottoman Empire took vast swathes of territory and imposed harsh conditions, the new republic was left with 10,000 square kilometers.
The Government building in Yerevan
On May 30, 1918 the Armenian Revolutionary Federation had decided that Armenia should be a republic under a provisional coalition government. The declaration stated that the Republic of Armenia was to be a self-governing state, endowed with a constitution, the supremacy of state authority, independence, sovereignty, and plenipotentiary power. Kajaznuni became the country's first Prime Minister and Aram Manukian
was the first minister of Interior.
Armenia established a Ministry of Interior
and created a police force. The Armenian parliament passed a law on the police on April 21, 1920, specifying its structure, jurisdiction, and responsibilities. The Interior Ministry was also responsible for communications and telegraph, railroad, and the public school system, in addition to enforcing law and order. The reforms came soon and each of these departments became ministries.
In 1919, the leaders of the Republic had to deal with issues on three fronts: domestic, regional, and international. The Armenian Congress of Eastern Armenians
that took control in 1918 fell apart and in June 1919, the first national elections
would be held. During the 1920s, which began under the premiership of Hovhannes Kajaznuni, Armenians from within the former Russian Empire
and the United States
would assist in developing the fledgling Republic's judicial system. In January 1919 another important milestone was completed by the Armenian Parliament, which was the opening of the country's first state university, Yerevan State University
Speakers of the Parliament of Republic of Armenia
- Serop Zakaryan (30 June 1918 - 1 August 1918)
- Avetik Sahakyan (1 August 1918 - 1 August 1919)
- Avetis Aharonian (1 August 1919 - 4 November 1920)
- Hovhannes Kajaznuni (4 November 1920 - 2 December 1920)
Prime Ministers in the Republic of Armenia
- Hovhannes Kajaznuni (30 June 1918 – 28 May 1919) (in Tbilisi, Georgia until 19 July 1918)
- Alexander Khatisian (28 May 1919 – 5 May 1920)
- Hamazasp "Hamo" Ohanjanian (5 May 1920 – 25 November 1920)
- Simon Vratsian (25 November 1920 – 2 December 1920)
Thanks to the efforts of Armenian National Council of Tiflis
, the Armenian National Corps was established to fight against the Ottoman offensive of late 1917 and early 1918. On December 13, 1917, the Armenian National Corps was established, with General Tovmas Nazarbekian
was appointed commander and Drastamat Kanayan became the defence minister. Nazarbekian used his experience in the Russian Caucasus Army
to aid in the creation of the regular army.
Units of this corps formed the basis of the Armenian army. Armenian conscripts and volunteers from the Russian Army later established the core of the armed forces of the First Republic. In accordance with the harsh terms of the Treaty of Batum
signed on June 4, 1918 the Ottoman Empire demobilized most of the Armenian army. They were allowed only a limited force and were severely restricted in where their troops could operate.
The Armenian National Corps had the following military units
- 2 divisions
- one cavalry brigade
- Armenian Division, which included:
- 1st Brigade (Erzurum Regiment and the Yerznka Regiment)
- 2nd Brigade (Khnus Regiment, Gharakilisa Regiment, Van Regiment and the Zeytun Regiment)
- Local army units:
- Lori Regiment
- Shushi Regiment
- Akhalkalaki Regiment
- Kazakh Regiment
- Nukhi Detachment
- Akhaltsikhe Detachment
- Igdir Detachment
- Khanasor Detachment
Total number of military personnel
Before World War I, in 1914, the territory was part of Russian Armenia
; among the total Armenian population of 2,800,000, about 1,500,000 lived in the Ottoman Empire, and the remainder were in Russian Armenia.
An estimate in 1918, during the new Armenian Republic's first year, indicated that there were 800,000 Armenians and more than 100,000 Muslims, mostly Ottoman Turks, and Azerbaijani Turks
everywhere else. Of the 800,000 Armenians, about 500,000 were native Russian Armenians and 300,000 were destitute and starving refugees fleeing from the massacres that took place in the Ottoman Empire.
The surviving Armenian population in 1919 was 2,500,000, two million of whom were distributed in the Caucasus.
Of these 2,000,000 in the Caucasus, 1,300,000 were to be found within the boundaries of the new Republic of Armenia, which included 300,000 to 350,000 refugees who had escaped from the Ottoman Empire.
There were 1,650,000 Armenians in the new Republic.
Also added to this Armenian population were 350,000 to 400,000 people of other nationalities, and a total population of about 2,000,000 within the Armenian Republic.
The surviving Armenian population in 1921 was 1,200,000 in the republic, 400,000 in Georgia, 340,000 in Azerbaijan and those in the other regions of the Caucasus brought the total to 2,195,000.
There was also an Armenian settlement problem that brought conflict with other ethnic residents. In all, there were over 300,000 embittered and impatient Armenian refugees escaping from the Armenian Genocide
in the Ottoman Empire who were now the government's responsibility. This proved an insurmountable humanitarian issue. Typhus was a major sickness, because of its effect on children. Conditions in the outlying regions, not necessarily consisting of refugees, weren't any better. The Ottoman governing structure and Russian army had already withdrawn from the region. The Armenian government had neither time nor resources to rebuild the infrastructure. The 393,700 refugees were under their jurisdiction as follows:
Starving children on the street in the Armenian Republic
The government of Hovhannes Kajaznuni
was faced with a most sobering reality in the winter of 1918-19. The newly formed government was responsible for over half a million Armenian refugees in the Caucasus. It was a long and harsh winter.
The homeless masses, lacking food, clothing and medicine, had to endure the elements. Many who survived the exposure and famine succumbed to the ravaging diseases. By the spring of 1919, the typhus epidemic had run its course, the weather improved and the first American Committee for Relief in the Near East
shipment of wheat reached Batum
. The British army transported the aid to Yerevan. Yet by that time some 150,000 of the refugees had perished. Vratsian
puts this figure at around 180,000, or nearly 20% of the entire nascent Republic. A report[by whom?]
in early 1919 noted that 65% of the population of Sardarabad, 40% of the population of eight villages near Etchmiadzin
and 25% of the population of Ashtarak
had died.
A delegation of five hundred Armenian World War I veterans in Washington, D.C.
, April 1920
On January 19, 1920 League of Nations
recognized the Armenian Government as Armenia's de facto government.
In 1920, the Republic of Armenia administered an area that covered most of present-day Armenia
, and the Chuldur
districts of Ardahan
, while the regions of Nakhichevan
(today the Armenian province of Syunik
), and Qazakh
were disputed and fought over with Azerbaijan. The Oltu
region (briefly administered by Georgia in 1920) was also claimed by Armenia. The majority-Armenian area of Lori
was disputed with and administered by Georgia. Some areas south of Yerevan which were populated by Muslims did not acknowledge Armenian authority and resisted attempts by the Armenian government to assert its control over those regions.
Nevertheless, after the signing of the Treaty of Sèvres
in 1920, Armenia was granted formal international recognition.
The United States, as well as some South American countries, officially opened diplomatic channels with the government. Numerous Armenian missions were also established in Great Britain, Italy, Germany, Serbia, Romania,
Greece, Iran, Japan and Africa.
In December 1918, Armenia and Georgia engaged in a brief military conflict over disputed border areas in the largely Armenian-populated Lori
districts along with some other neighboring regions. Both nations claimed the districts, which Georgia had occupied after the Ottomans evacuated the area. Inconclusive fighting continued for two weeks. An Armenian offensive under Drastamat Kanayan
(Dro) made substantial gains in the first ten days. By December 25 Armenian troops had reached positions 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Tiflis
(which had a plurality of Armenian population back then), when the Allied representatives in the city intervened.
On 1 January 1919, military operations of both sides ceased and peace talks began supervised by the British and French, which ended in Tbilisi a few days later.
The draft British plan established that Georgian troops would remain in Akhalkalak and northern Borchalu, whereas Armenian forces would settle in southern Borchalu, and the British would take positions between the two opponents. This forced Armenians to relinquish their gains during the war. Georgia accepted the plan and the Allies decided to impose it with or without the approval of the government of Armenia. Finally, hostilities stopped on December 31 when the parties agreed to the British-brokered ceasefire. British mediation facilitated the end of the war, and resulted in the establishment of a joint Armeno-Georgian civil administration in the "Lori neutral zone" or the "Shulavera Condominium".
Along the newly created border numerous Armenian settlements like Akhalkalak
remained under Georgian control since then, while there were no Georgian settlements under Armenian control.
Relations between Armenia and Georgia, however, remained tense.
In the spring of 1919, American relief agency officials began to complain that Georgian officials, who demanded a share of the provisions, were holding up railway traffic carrying vital supplies of flour and other foodstuffs to Armenia.
Moved by their complaints and the debilitating food crisis in Armenia, Georges Clemenceau
, as president of the Versailles Conference, issued a protest letter on July 18, calling on Georgia to cease further interference. Georgia issued its own protest to this communiqué, but by 25 July American officials were already reporting that rail traffic had begun to pick up.
In autumn 1919, the two countries began negotiations for a new transit treaty.
A considerable degree of hostility existed between Armenia and its new neighbor to the east, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan
, stemming largely from racial, religious, cultural and societal differences. The Azeris had close ethnic and religious ties to the Turks and had provided material support for them in their drive to Baku
in 1918. Although the borders of the two countries were still undefined, Azerbaijan claimed most of the territory Armenia was sitting on, demanding all or most parts of the former Russian provinces of Elizavetpol
As diplomacy failed to accomplish compromise, even with the mediation of the commanders of a British expeditionary force that had installed itself in the Caucasus, territorial clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place throughout 1919 and 1920, most notably in the regions of Nakhichevan
(Zangezur). Repeated attempts to bring these provinces under Azerbaijani jurisdiction were met with fierce resistance by their Armenian inhabitants. In May 1919, Dro
led an expeditionary unit that was successful in establishing Armenian administrative control in Nakhichevan.
While problems with Azerbaijan continued, a new self-proclaimed and unrecognized state headed by Fakhr al-Din Pirioghlu and centered in Kars
, the South West Caucasian Republic
was established. It claimed the territory around the regions of Kars and Batum
, the Nakhichevan and Sharur
districts of the Yerevan province and the Akhaltsikhe
districts of the Tiflis
province. It existed alongside the British general governorship created during the Entente's intervention in Transcaucasia.
It was abolished by British High Commissioner Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe
in April 1919 and the region was assigned to the Armenian Republic.
The Treaty of Sèvres
was signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire
on August 10, 1920. The treaty included a clause on Armenia: it made all parties signing the treaty recognize Armenia
as a free and independent state. The drawing of definite borders was, however, left to President Woodrow Wilson
and the United States State Department, and was only presented to Armenia on November 22. The new borders gave Armenia access to the Black Sea and awarded large portions of the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire to the republic.
Turkish and Soviet invasions
Members of the Soviet 11th Red Army
marching down Yerevan's Abovyan Boulevard, effectively ending Armenian self-rule.
On September 20, 1920, the Turkish General Kazım Karabekir
invaded the region of Sarikamish
, in an effort to retake land lost in the Treaty of Sèvres.
In response, Armenia declared war on Turkey on September 24 and the Turkish–Armenian War
began. In the regions of Oltu
, Sarikamish, Kars
(Gyumri) Armenian forces clashed with those of Karabekir's XV Corps. Fearful of possible Russian support for Armenia, Mustafa Kemal Pasha
had earlier sent several delegations to Moscow in search of an alliance, finding a receptive response from the Soviet government, which started sending gold and weapons to the Turkish revolutionaries
. This proved disastrous for the Armenians.
The 11th Red Army
began its virtually unopposed advance into Armenia on November 29, 1920. The actual transfer of power took place on December 2 in Yerevan. The Armenian leadership approved an ultimatum, presented to it by the Soviet plenipotentiary Boris Legran
. Armenia decided to join the Soviet sphere, while Soviet Russia agreed to protect its remaining territory from the advancing Turkish army. The Soviets also pledged to take steps to rebuild the army, protect the Armenians and to not pursue non-communist Armenians. The final condition of this pledge was reneged on when the Dashnaks were forced out of the country following an attempted uprising.
Armenia gave way to communist
power in late 1920. In November 1920, the Turkish revolutionaries
captured Alexandropol and were poised to move in on the capital. A ceasefire was concluded on November 18. Negotiations were then carried out between Karabekir and a peace delegation led by Alexander Khatisian in Alexandropol; although Karabekir's terms were extremely harsh the Armenian delegation had little recourse but to agree to them. The Treaty of Alexandropol
was thus signed on December 3, 1920.
The Sardarapat Memorial
at the site of the Battle of Sardarabad
is the symbol of the First Republic. Every year on May 28, Armenia's political leadership and thousands of ordinary people visit the memorial to celebrate the foundation of Armenian statehood.
In his Antranik of Armenia
short story, Armenian-American writer William Saroyan
writes about the First Republic of Armenia. "It was a small nation of course, a very unimportant nation, surrounded on all sides by enemies, but for two years Armenia was Armenia, and the capital was Erivan. For the first time in thousands of years Armenia was Armenia."
- ^ Other names of the country include Araratian Republic (Արարատյան հանրապետություն, Republic of Ararat or Ararat Republic) and Republic of Erivan/Yerevan or Erivan/Yerevan Republic. These terms were often used by Ottoman Armenians because the country "was only a dusty province without Ottoman Armenia whose salvation Armenians had been seeking for 40 years." It has also been known as the Dashnak Republic due to the fact that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, better known as Dashnaktsutyun or simply Dashnak was the dominant political force in the country. During the Soviet era, the Communist-influenced Armenian academic circles, namely the Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia, referred to it as the Bourgeois Republic of Armenia (Հայաստանի Բուրժուական Հանրապետություն). Since Armenia's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the most commonly used term in Armenia is the First Republic of Armenia (Հայաստանի Առաջին Հանրապետություն), or the First Republic for short.
- ^ Sources vary on when Armenian statehood was lost. The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in ceased to exist in 1375. However, others suggest that Armenian statehood was lost in 1045 with the fall of Bagratid Armenia, because Cilician Armenia was outside of the traditional Armenian homeland, while Bagratid Armenia was the last major Armenian state in the Armenian Highlands.
- ^ Hewsen, Robert (2001). Armenia: A Historical Atlas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 235. ISBN 0-226-33228-4.
- ^ Walker, Christopher J. (1990). Armenia: The Survival of a Nation (revised second ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 257. ISBN 9780312042301.
- ^ a b c d e f Maintenance of Peace in Armenia. United States Congress. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. USA: Govt. print. off. 1919. p. 119. Retrieved 2011-02-14.
- ^ Chiclet, Christophe (2005). "The Armenian Genocide" in Turkey Today: A European Country? Olivier Roy (ed.) London: Anthem Press. p. 167. ISBN 1-84331-173-9.
- ^ Hakobyan, Tatul (9 August 2015). "Sèvres: The Unfulfilled Armenian Dream". ANI Armenian Research Center. If the Treaty of Sèvres had been realised, the Republic of Armenia would have covered a territory of over 160 thousand square kilometres.
- "Division of Armenology and Social Sciences". Armenian National Academy of Sciences. ...the political history of the First Republic of Armenia...
- Libaridian, Gerald J. (2007). Modern Armenia: people, nation, state. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p. 266. ISBN 978-1-4128-0648-0. ...two most important and consequential events for Armenians in the twentieth century: the Genocide and the experience of the First Republic of Armenia, 1918-1920.
- Avakian, Arra S. (1998). "The First Republic of Armenia (1918-1920)". Armenia: A Journey Through History: Van. Electric Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-916919-24-5.
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- Mirzoyan, Alla (2010). Armenia, the Regional Powers, and the West: Between History and Geopolitics. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 13. ISBN 9780230106352. For instance, the contemporary celebration of the independence day of the First Republic of Armenia on May 28 accomplishes the mental integration of 1918 and 1991 into an uninterrupted experience of independence...
- de Waal, Thomas (2003). Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-8147-1945-9. From 1918 to 1920, Yerevan was the capital of the briefly independent first republic of Armenia...
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- ^ Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, pp. 75-80.
- ^ Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, p. 104.
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- ^ Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, pp. 186-201.
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- ^ See the US State Department values given here.
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- ^ a b "iveria".
- ^ Hovannisian. Republic of Armenia, Vol. I, p. 120-125.
- ^ "iveria".
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- ^ Hovannisian. Republic of Armenia, Vol. II, p. 145.
- ^ See Hovannisian. Republic of Armenia, Vol. II, p. 192, map 4.
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- ^ Hovannisian. Republic of Armenia, Vol. I, pp. 205-214.
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- ^ Hovannisian. Republic of Armenia, Vol. IV, pp. 394-396.
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- (in Russian) Makhmourian, Gayane G. The Policy of Great Britain in Armenia and Transcaucasia in 1918-1920. White Man's Burden (Политика Великобритании в Армении и Закавказье в 1918-1920 гг. Бремя белого человека). Yerevan: Institute of History, National Academy of Sciences, Lousakn Publishing, 2002.
- (in Russian) Makhmourian, Gayane G. The League of Nations, the Armenian Question and the Republic of Armenia (Лига Наций, Армянский вопрос и Республика Армения). Yerevan: Institute of History, National Academy of Sciences, Artagers Publishing, 1999.
- (in Russian) Armenia in Documents of the U.S. Department of State 1917-1920 (Армения в документах Государственного департамента США 1917-1920 гг.). comp. and trans. from English by Gayane Makhmourian. Yerevan: Institute of History, National Academy of Sciences, 2012.
Last edited on 27 April 2021, at 13:33
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