Democratic Republic of Armenia
Հայաստանի Հանրապետութիւն
1918–1920
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem
Mer Hayrenik
"Our Fatherland"
Territory held by Armenia and the Karabakh Council.
Capital Yerevan
Languages Armenian
Religion Armenian Apostolic
Government Parliamentary republic
Prime Minister
 •  1918–1919 Hovhannes Kajaznuni (first)
 •  1920 Simon Vratsian (last)
Legislature Khorhurd
History
 •  Declaration of Independence 28 May 1918
 •  Treaty of Batum 4 June 1918
 •  Sovietization 18 December 1920
Currency Ruble (руб)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic
Republic of Mountainous Armenia
Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic

The First Republic of Armenia, officially known at the time of its existence as the Democratic Republic of Armenia (classical Armenian: Հայաստանի Հանրապետութիւն), referred to by some as the Araratian Republic (Armenian: Արարատեան Հանրապետութիւն), was the first modern Armenian state since the loss of Armenian statehood in the Middle Ages.

The republic was established in the Armenian-populated territories of the disintegrated Russian Empire, known as Eastern Armenia or Russian Armenia. The leaders of the government came mostly from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF or Dashnaktsutyun). The First Republic of Armenia bordered the Democratic Republic of Georgia to the north, the Ottoman Empire to the west, Persia to the south, and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic to the east.

The Armenian National Council declared the independence of Armenia on 28 May 1918. From the very onset, Armenia was plagued with a variety of domestic and foreign problems. A humanitarian crisis emerged from the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide as tens of thousands of Armenian refugees from the Ottoman Empire settled there. The republic lasted for over two years, during which time it was involved in several armed conflicts caused by territorial disputes. By late 1920, the nation was conquered by the Soviet Red Army. The First Republic, along with the Republic of Mountainous Armenia which repelled the Soviet invasion until July 1921, ceased to exist as an independent state, superseded by the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic that became part of the Soviet Union in 1922.

Background[edit | edit source]

The Russian offensive during the Caucasus Campaign of the World War and 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.

Towards independence[edit | edit source]

File:Armenian army 1918թ.jpg

Armenian army 1918

On 5 December 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 3 March 1918, Russia followed the armistice of Erzincan with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and left the war. It ceded territory from 14 March 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, Batum, 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 21 May, the Ottoman army moved ahead again.

File:062 may 28 1919 Armenia celebration.jpg

Celebration in Armenia 1918

On 11 May 1918, a new peace conference opened at Batum. At this conference, the Ottomans extended their demands to include Tiflis, as well as Alexandropol and Echmiadzin, 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 26 May, 1918, Georgia declared independence; on 28 May, 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.

Having been abandoned by its regional allies, the Armenian National Council, based in Tiflis and led by Russian Armenian intellectuals who represented Armenian interests in the Caucasus, declared its independence on May 28. It dispatched Hovhannes Kajaznuni and Alexander Khatisyan, both members of the ARF, to Yerevan to take over power and issued the following statement on 30 May (retroactive to 28 May):

File:Armenian parade 14 April 1920.jpg

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, Karakilisa and Abaran.

The Republic of Armenia had to sue for negotiations at the Treaty of Batum, which was signed in Batum on 4 June, 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.

Administration[edit | edit source]

Military[edit | edit source]

Population[edit | edit source]

Foreign relations[edit | edit source]

File:Armenian parade 14 April 1920.jpg

A delegation of five hundred Armenian World War I veterans in Washington, D.C., April 1920

In 1920, the Republic of Armenia administered an area that covered most of present-day Armenia, while the regions of Nakhichevan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Zangezur, 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 Lausanne in 1919, 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, Greece, Iran, Japan and Africa.

Georgian-Armenian war[edit | edit source]


In December 1918, Armenia and Georgia engaged in a brief military conflict over disputed border areas in the largely Armenian-populated Lori and Akhalkalak 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 25 December Armenian troops had reached positions 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Tiflis (which had a plurality of Armenian population back then), when the German representatives in the city intervened. On 1 January 1919, military operations of both sides ceased and peace talks began supervised by the Germans, which ended in Tbilisi a few days later. The draft German plan established that Georgian troops would remain in Akhalkalak and northern Borchalu, whereas Armenian forces would settle in southern Borchalu, and the Germans would take positions between the two opponents. This forced Armenians to relinquish their gains during the war. Georgia accepted the plan and the Central Powers decided to impose it with or without the approval of the government of Armenia. Finally, hostilities stopped on 31 December when the parties agreed to the German-brokered ceasefire. German 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, Samshvilde, Bolnis-Khachen and Shulaver 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, Aristide Briand, as France's representative of the Lausanne Conference, issued a protest letter on 18 July, 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.

Armenian-Azerbaijan War[edit | edit source]


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, Tiflis, Yerevan, Kars and Batum. As diplomacy failed to accomplish a compromise territorial clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place throughout 1919 and 1920, most notably in the regions of Nakhichevan, Karabakh and Syunik (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.

Soviet invasion[edit | edit source]

File:11thRedArmyYerevan.jpg

Members of the Soviet 11th Red Army marching down Yerevan's Abovyan Boulevard, effectively ending Armenian self-rule.

Fearful of possible Entente 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 29 November 1920. The actual transfer of power took place on 2 December 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 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.

See also[edit | edit source]

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