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Armenian Question

The Armenian Genocide (1915–1921)

In 1915, the Ottoman Empire systematically carried out the Armenian Genocide. This was preceded by a wave of massacres in the years 1894 to 1896, and another one in 1909 in Adana. In 1915, with World War I in progress, the Ottoman Turks accused the (Christian) Armenians as liable to ally with Russia, and treated the entire Armenian population as an enemy within their empire.

The events of 1915-23 are regarded by Armenians and the vast majority of Western historians to have been state-sponsored mass killings. Turkish authorities, however, maintain that the deaths were the result of a civil war coupled with disease and famine, with casualties incurred by both sides. The exact number of deaths is hard to establish. It is estimated by many sources that close to a million and a half Armenians perished in camps, which excludes Armenians who may have died in other ways. Most estimates place the total number of deaths between 600,000 (by Turkish authorities) and 1,500,000 (by Western academics). These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on 24 April, the Armenian Christian martyr day.

First Republic of Armenia and Transcaucasian Federation.

Between the 4th and 19th centuries, the traditional area of Armenia was conquered and ruled by Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, among others. Parts of historical Armenia gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire after the collapse of these two empires in the wake of the First World War.

During the Russian Revolution, the provinces of the Caucasus seceded and formed their own federal state called theTranscaucasian Federation. Competing national interests and war with Turkey led to the dissolution of the republic half a year later, in April 1918.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the takeover of the Bolsheviks, Stepan Shaumyan was placed in charge of Russian Armenia. In September 1917, the convention in Tiflis elected the Armenian National Council, the first sovereign political body of Armenians since the collapse of Lesser Armenia in 1375. Meanwhile, both the Ittihad (Unionist) and the Nationalists moved to win the friendship of the Bolsheviks.

Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) sent several delegations to Moscow in an attempt to win some support for his own post-Ottoman movement in what he saw as a modernised ethno-nationalist Turkey. This alliance proved disastrous for the Armenians. The signing of the Ottoman-Russian friendship treaty (1 January 1918), helped Vehib Pasha to attack the new Republic. Under heavy pressure from the combined forces of the Ottoman army and the Kurdish irregulars, the Republic was forced to withdraw from Erzincan to Erzurum. In the end, the Republic had to evacuate Erzurum as well.

Further southeast, in Van, the Armenians resisted the Turkish army until April 1918, but eventually were forced to evacuate it and withdraw to Persia. Conditions deteriorated when Azerbaijani Tatars sided with the Turks and seized the Armenian's lines of communication, thus cutting off the Armenian National Councils in Baku and Yerevan from the National Council in Tiflis. The First Republic of Armenia was established on 28 May 1918.

Georgian-Armenian War (1918)

During the final stages of World War I, the Armenians and Georgians had been defending against the advance of the Ottoman Empire. In June 1918, in order to forestall an Ottoman advance on Tiflis, the Georgian troops had occupied the Lori Province which at the time had a 75% Armenian majority.[71]

After the Armistice of Mudros and the withdrawal of the Ottomans, the Georgian forces remained. The Georgian Menshevik parliamentarian Irakli Tsereteli suggested that the Armenians would be safer from the Turks as Georgian citizens. The Georgians offered a quadripartite conference comprising Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus in order to resolve the issue. The Armenians rejected this proposal. In December 1918, the Georgians were confronting a rebellion chiefly in the village of Uzunlar in the Lori region. Within days, hostilities commenced between the two republics.[71]

The Georgian-Armenian War was a border war fought in 1918 between the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the First Republic of Armenia over the then disputed provinces of Lori and Javakheti which had been historically bi-cultural Armenian-Georgian territories, but were largely populated by Armenians in the 19th century.

Armenian-Azerbaijan War

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 toBaku 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 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, 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.

Treaty of Sèvres

The Treaty of Sèvres was signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres, France on 10 August 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 22 November 1920. 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.

The Treaty of Sèvres was signed by the Ottoman Government, but Sultan Mehmed VI never signed it and thus never came into effect. The Turkish Revolutionaries, led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, began the Turkish National Movement which, in opposing any territorial concessions to either the Greeks or the Armenians, moved forward with their plans to crush the Armenian republic.

Turkish and Soviet Invasion

On 20 September 1920, Turkish nationalist militants invaded the region of Sarikamish. In response, Armenia declared war on Turkey on 24 September and the Turkish invasion of Armenia (1920) began. In the regions of Oltu, Sarikamish, Kars,Alexandropol (Gyumri) Armenian forces clashed with those of the Turkish armies. Mustafa Kemal Pasha had sent several delegations to Moscow in search of an alliance, where he had found a receptive response by the Soviet government, which started sending gold and weapons to the Turkish revolutionaries, which would prove disastrous for the Armenians.

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 cease fire was concluded on November 18. Negotiations were then carried out between Kâzım 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 signed on 3 December 1920, although the Armenian government had already fallen to the Soviets the day before.

As the terms of defeat were being negotiated, Bolshevik Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze invaded from Azerbaijan the First Republic of Armenia in order to establish a new pro-Bolshevik government in the country. The 11th Red Army began its virtually unopposed advance into Armenia on 29 November 1920 at Ijevan. The actual transfer of power took place on 2 December 1920 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, although the final condition of this pledge was reneged when the Dashnaks were forced out of the country.

On 5 December, the Armenian Revolutionary Committee (Revkom, made up of mostly Armenians from Azerbaijan) also entered the city. Finally, on the following day, 6 December, Felix Dzerzhinsky's Cheka, entered Yerevan, thus effectively ending the existence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia. At that point what was left of Armenia was under the influence of the Bolsheviks.

Although the Bolsheviks succeeded in ousting the Turks from their positions in Armenia, they decided to establish peace with Turkey. In 1921, the Bolsheviks and the Turks signed the Treaty of Kars, in which Turkey ceded Adjara to the USSR in exchange for the Kars territory (today the Turkish provinces of Kars, Surmalu, andArdahan). The land given to Turkey included the ancient city of Ani and Mount Ararat, the spiritual Armenian homeland. In 1922, the newly proclaimed Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, under the leadership of Alexander Miasnikyan, became part of the Soviet Union as one of three republics comprising the Transcaucasian SFSR.