Andrew ANDERSEN, George EGGE






On May 26, 1918, the Transcaucasian Federation dissolved, and within the next 2 days later independent republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia were proclaimed. The birth of the new nations was facing economic disaster, Turkish invasion and political isolation. On June 4, 1918, a peace-treaty was signed in Batum, according to which considerable part of South Caucasus was assigned to Turkey, most of Georgia remained under German protectorate and the Armenian Republic was cut down to a tiny enclave around the cities of Yerevan and Vagarshapat (Echmiadzin) that embraced the county of New-Bayazet as well as the eastern parts of Alexandropol,Yerevan, Echmiadzin and Sharur-Daralaghez counties of the province of Yerevan[1]. Turkey was also given carte blanche to act in Azerbaijan a considerable part of which including Baku was in the hands of Bolsheviks who at that time opposed any idea of independent Azerbaijani statehood.



turskata invazija

Figure 2.2




Figure 2.2a



By the end of summer 1918, Ottoman troops supported by the mainly Tatar “Army of Islam” took over most of the territory of what could be considered the former Russian Azerbaijan (the provinces of Baku and Elizavetpol) and marched into Baku where they massacred between 10 and 30,000 Armenians still residing in the city[2]. In late September, 1918, once-cosmopolitan Baku became the capital of the new Azerbaijani state proclaimed earlier on May 28, 1918 in Tiflis.


Meanwhile, contrary to the provisions of the Treaty of Batum, some Armenian troops under general Andranik continued guerrilla operations against the Turks from the mountainous area of Zanghezur, thus having formed another de-facto independent Armenian quasi-state formation there.


At the same time, the Armenian-inhabited part of Karabakh (including its northern areas) enjoyed relative peace in August and September of 1918 administered by the People’s Government of Karabakh elected by the First Assembly of Karabakh Armenians[3]. It was only at the very end of September when Shusha, the capital of Mountainous Karabakh did submit to the Ottoman-Azerbaijani conquest[4]. As for the rural areas of Mountainous Karabakh are concerned, they formed several enclaves (Khachen, Jraberd, Varanda, Dizak and a few smaller areas of Northern Karabakh) that were kept under control of local Armenian warlords until the very end of the World War[5].




Figure 2.2b



The surrender of Ottoman Turkey on October 30, 1918, and the subsequent end of World War I in November, 1918, resulted in evacuation of regular troops of the defeated Central Powers from most of the Caucasus. However, in accordance with Clause 11 of the Mudros Armistice, the Turkish troops were allowed to occupy the territories of Batum and Kars left to the ottoman Empire by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk for an indefinite period of time until and if ”demanded by the Allies after investigation”[6]. At the same time, the Ottoman Ministry of War issued a special directive according to which thousands of Turkish officers and soldiers were unofficially left at the service of the republics of Azerbaijan and North Caucasus in order to keep them within the sphere of Turkish influence[7].


The future of the self-proclaimed republics of the South Caucasus however, still remained unclear. The treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Batum were now both null and void thus allowing Armenia and Georgia to claim the territories previously lost to the Turks but at the same time, the recognition of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan was withdrawn as well[8]. The victorious allies initially tended to consider them as temporarily breakaway Russian territories but the development of the crisis situation in and around revolutionary Russia in combination with current inability of the two fallen empires to satisfy their ambitions in the region, gave the new nations of the South Caucasus a historical chance to establish/recover[9] their statehood, and as early as in November 17 the allied command in the Middle East declared that the representatives of Britain, France and the USA were ready to establish relations with the de-facto governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia[10]. Besides the problem of diplomatic recognition accompanied by a variety of other political as well as economic problems, the period of nation-building in the South Caucasus was marked by territorial disputes and conflicting claims, that caused serious troubles for all the nations of the region not excluding Armenia.


As of late October, 1918, the Democratic Republic of Armenia claimed a considerable part of the former Russian South Caucasus that included the whole of the province of Erevan, all the four districts of Kars territory, the counties of Akhalkalaki and Borchalo in the province of Tiflis and in the province of Elizavetpol – the whole Zanghezur county as well as mountainous parts of the counties of Elizavetpol, Javanshir, Karyaghino, Shusha[11] and Kazakh (see Maps 2 and 3). The above claims were based on the principle of historical belonging of the above territories to ancient and early mediaeval Armenian states and on ethnic principle, since most of the territories in question had either Armenian majority or at least heavy presence of Armenians.

Some of the Armenian elites also considered laying claims to the territory of Batum, so that landlocked Armenia could gain access to the sea.


The Armenian territorial claims were in sharp conflict with the aspirations of Azerbaijan and Georgia, not to mention Turkey. The political elites of Azerbaijan were also basing their claims on both historical and ethnic principles. In terms of history they tended to disregard the earlier periods when the South Caucasus was dominated by Armenian and Georgian states but put an emphasis on the period that started from the late 14th century when the area was turned into the realm of Kara-Koyunlu and later of the Safavids both of whom they considered to be the fore-founders of modern Azerbaijan. Following the above principle, there was no place left for Armenia on the map at all. Even the tiny enclave left for the Armenians as per the Treaty of Batum, was according to the leadership of Azerbaijan inalienable part of their new-born country. As for the ethnic composition of the territory claimed by Armenia in the Caucasus, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that most of it was also marked by heavy or significant presence of Turco-Tatars and other Muslim groups.







Map 2. Click on the map for better resolution








Map 3. Click on the map for better resolution



Although resting on more or less equally logical foundations[12] the above mentioned territorial disputes in the South Caucasus led to a series of clashes and wars in 1918-1921. As a result, mutual dislike intensified in the area and the dragon’s teeth of a number of modern regional conflicts were sawn.





The Conflict around the South-West Caucasian Republic, 05/11/1918 – 22/04/1919


On the 11th of November, 1918 Jevad Pasha  received a communiqué from British Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean, Vice Admiral Gough-Calthorpe containing an unequivocal demand of the Supreme Allied War Council to clear completely all the occupied territories of the Caucasus including the territories of Kars and Batum where some 50 000 Turkish troops were still stationed after Mudros[13]. The Ottoman reaction was slow and the tactics of delaying was adopted in order to postpone evacuation of the above territories. After long negotiations the Turkidh 9th Army under Shevki Pasha was allowed to stay in Kars up until January 25, 1919 whereas the transfer of the Kars territory to Armenia was to begin no later than January 15[14].


While formally accepting the demands of the victorious allies the Turks took certain measures to keep Kars and some other territories around it within the sphere of Turkish dominance just like it was dome in Azerbaijan, Daghestan and other areas they had taken over by the end of summer, 1918 and were to leave after Mudros. Not only numerous Turkish officers were left behind as instruvctors but the whole units of the 9th Army were only cosmetically re-uniformed in order to look more like local militia and in order to prevent Armenian and Georgian takeover in the territories of Kars and Batum[15]. The evacuating Ottoman administration was also quite successful in the establishment of a few puppet governments in the former Russian areas of the South-Western Caucasus that would attempt to stay in close connection and possibly even alliance with Turkey.


One of the new state formations of that kind was the South-West Caucasian Republic (SWCR) created in Kars shortly after Mudros. The pro-Turkish government of Fakhreddin (Erdoghan) Pirioglu formed in Kars on November 5, 1918, claimed effective control not only over the four districts of Kars territory but also over all the former Russian territories annexed by Turkey as per the Treaty of Batum including but not limiting to Nakhichevan and Alexandropol counties of the province of Erevan, the counties of Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki in the province of Tiflis and Batum territory (former Batum district of the province of Kutais) (see Map 3)[16].


The Kars government rejected both Armenian and Georgian authority and rather effectively exploited the principle of self-determination declared by the USA, Britain and France. Indeed the SWCR enjoyed some favor on behalf of the British mission in the Caucasus[17]. The British troops even blocked the roads leading to Kars from the province of Erevan and prevented some 100 000 Armenian refugees from returning to their homes[18]. At the same time the Azerbaijani government of Khan Khoisky tried to urge British approval for at least temporary annexation of the SWCR territory by the Republic of Azerbaijan[19].


 The sympathies of allies turned around in early February of the year 1919 when the paramilitary forces of SWCR under the command Server Beg invaded Georgian-controlled counties of Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki in order to expand the Kars-controlled territory[20]. Following the counter-offensive of the Georgian army of early April, 1919 the British troops already stationed in the province of Erevan entered Kars on April 6-9. On April 10, 1919, the SWCR leaders were arrested and deported whilenine days later, the city of Kars was handed to the Armenian governor. By April 22, the Georgians completely crushed the resistance of Server Beg’s paramilitaries in the county of Akhaltsikhe and the district of Ardahan and put both counties under their control. The South-West Caucasian Republic was abolished, and the districts of Kars and Sarykamysh were annexed by the Democratic Republic of Armenia while the county of Ardahan was taken over by Georgia[21]. The British command in the Caucasus did not allow either Georgian or Armenian troops to enter the territory that included the district of Oltu (Olti) which was claimed by both nations and the sector of Karaqurt claimed by Armenia leaving it in the hands of local Muslim chieftains until it was once again taken over by the Turks during the Turkish-Armenian war of late 1920. A few months later Georgia conceded part of the district of Ardahan (Okam sector and most of Chyldyr sector) to Armenia[22] (see Maps 2 and 4).





Armenia versus Azerbaijan: The British Mediation Failure


Mutual territorial claims of Armenia and Azerbaijan led to the series of brutal wars accompanied by periodical massacres of civilians in the disputed area that included Kazakh-Shamshadin, Nakhichevan, Zanghezur and Karabakh. The first hostilities in the above and other areas with mixed population occurred as early as the spring of 1918, when the South Caucasus was invaded by the Ottoman armies to end in 1921 only.

As has already been mentioned above, Armenian nationalists believed that the reviving Armenian state was to include among other territories, the whole of Erevan province including the counties of Surmala, Nakhichevan and Sharur-Daralaghes, as well as the western and southern parts of Elizavetpol province (historical Armenian lands of Syuniq, Dizaq, Varanda, Khachen, Jraberd, Gyulistan and Parisos). That point of view went back to the ancient and early mediaeval periods of Armenian history when the above-mentioned territories formed parts of the greater Armenia and later smaller Armenian states. It was also supported by numerous examples of ancient Armenian architecture (mostly churches and their ruins as well as the khachkars) scattered all over the disputed area.

The above approach made absolutely no sense to the Tatar nationalists and pan-turanists of Azerbaijan. According to their views, there was absolutely no territory in the Caucasus to which Armenian people had any legal or even historical right. The politicians and the majority of the intellectual elite of the new-formed Azerbaijan Democratic Republic based their opinions on the fact that Armenian statehood in South Caucasus ceased to exist in 1081 when it was overrun by the Seljuk Turks coming from Central Asia. The mass migrations of population and numerous massacres that followed left most of the historical Armenian lands populated by Turcic-speaking and/or Muslim majority and run by Muslim/Turcic rulers. The Armenians became minority in the land they claimed theirs and with some exceptions could boast only “significant Armenian presence” in some areas of the South Caucasus and Eastern Turkey. Tatar nationalists also considered “extreme generosity” the fact that Turkey and Azerbaijan agreed in Batum in June  of 1918, to “tolerate” Armenian national homeland in Erevan and Echmiadzin counties of the former Erevan province.

As a result of the above conflicting views, neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan could be satisfied with the “temporary” border proposal made in late November 1918, by Major-General William M. Thomson, the commander of the British expeditionary forces that started the occupation of the South Caucasus on 17 November 17, 1918. According to General Thomson, the just settlement in all disputed areas of the Caucasus was to be brought by the world peace conference in Paris[23]. Meanwhile the Armenian claims against Azerbaijan were not supposed to go beyond the northern and eastern borders of the former Erevan province, while Azerbaijan was to be limited to the provinces of Baku and Elizavetpol (Gyanja) (see Maps 3 and 4 ).


The government of Armenia was not prepared to drop their claims to Kazakh-Shamshadin, Zanghezur and Karabakh while Azerbaijan was not accepting the idea of Armenian control over Surmala and Nakhichevan - Ordubad. To make things worse, the masses of population of a number of territories assigned to Armenia and Azerbaijan were not prepared to consider themselves a part of the republics to which they were assigned by Thomson. Thus the fragile peace with an unresolved territorial dispute at its background could not last for too long, and the series of Azeri-Armenian wars broke out both in the provinces of Erevan and Elizavetpol as early as at the end of 1918.


 The Situation in Karabakh/Zanghezur, 09/1918 – 08/1919


Contrary to Armenian aspirations and hopes for special treatment following their uninterrupted loyalty to the Allies throughout the whole of the Great War, the British Command in the South Caucasus decided in the late fall of 1918, to leave the Karabakh-Zanghezur area under the jurisdiction of oil-rich Azerbaijan at least until the moment when the final delimitation agreement would be reached at the Paris peace Conference[24]. That led to a fragile diarchy in the Armenian-populated parts of Karabakh where the Erevan-oriented People’s Government in Shusha that had been running the area since July 1918, was forced to share its power with the British appointee Dr. Khosrow Bek Sultanov who was given authority by Thomson to run a considerable part (4 of 8 counties) of the province of Elisavetpol including Mountaineous Karabakh and Zanghezur[25](see Map.4).


The following 8 months in Mountainous Karabakh were marked with the total failure of cooperation between consecutive Armenian Assemblies and Sultanov as well as with the non-stopping ethnic conflicts that led to armed clashes between local Armenian self-defense forces and the regular army of Azerbaijan that included some 3000 Turkish troops still stationed in the area[26] and were assisted by armed militias recruited from Tatar and Kurd nomads of western Karabakh.


At the same period of time, almost the whole county of Zanghezur was under stable control of Armenian military units and formations of general Andranik who being formally disloyal to the government in Erevan, felt quite free to act independently and crashed all attempts of the regular armies of Turkey and Azerbaijan to put Zanghezur under their control. Following the armistice of Mudros and an appeal from the Armenian-controlled part of Karabakh, Andranik sent his “Special Striking Division” out toward Shusha on November 29, 1918. After three days of fierce fighting against Azeri-Kurd irregulars for a narrow strip of land separating Armenian-controlled parts of Zanghezur and Karabakh Andranik’s men had the way to the heartland of Karabakh unobstructed. However, an urgent message from Major General Thomson received by Andranik on December 03 contained an unequivocal order to move back to Zanghezur and to refrain from taking any disputed territory by force until the decision of the peace conference[27]. Andranik submitted and stepped down as a commander of the Armenian forces in Zanghezur while Muslim militias wiped out all remaining Armenian settlements connecting Karabakh with Zanghezur[28].


Despite repeatedly expressed aspirations of the Karabakh Armenians for unification with Armenia, the government of the First Republic in Erevan was reluctant to insist on immediate annexation of Mountainous Karabakh rather leaning towards the creation of a buffer state in the areas with mixed population east of Zanghezur[29]. Finally, on August 22, 1919, after long negotiations, an agreement was reached in Shusha between the Seventh Assembly of Karabakh (Armenian-dominated) and Sultanov in accordance with which Mountainous Karabakh (but not Zanghezur) was to remain temporarily within Azerbaijan until the final resolution of the conflict at the Paris Peace Conference[30].


In the county of Zanghezur that in accordance with the initial plans of Thomson was to be included into the special governorate of Karabakh run by Khosrow Bek Sultanov, the situation was different. After disappointed with the British Major General Andranik stepped down as a commander of all Armenian forces in Zanghezur on March 22, 1919[31], local Armenian field commanders refused to submit to the British dictate. After being pressed by British representatives they expressed their preparedness to fight to the end against any power that would attempt to submit them to Azerbaijan including Britain and France, Thomson agreed to exclude Zanghezur from the list of ethnically diverse counties “temporarily” granted to Azerbaijan. The government of Azerbaijani Republic was informed on that concession on May 29, 1919[32]. By that time the Armenian militias of Zanghezur destroyed rebellious Muslim communities in the central areas of the county and expelled them to the periphery[33].


In addition to the five major historical districts of Karabakh (Gyulistan, Khachen, Jraberd, Varanda and Dizak) there is another area sometimes included into the disputed historical province. That is the mountainous part of the Elizavetpol (Gyanja) county. The smaller part of this area The smaller part of the described area south of the village of Chaykend and north of Inja river (which also served as a border between the counties of Elizavetpol and Javanshir) that embraced a group of ethnic Armenian settlements forming a triangle with apexes in the villages of Karachinar, Enghikend and Gyulistan, is the continuation of historical Gyulistan whereas the remaining part of that mountainous territory predominantly Armenian-inhabited until 1989, is referred to by various historical geographers and politicians as Northern Karabakh, North-Western Karabakh or Parisos. The Armenian communities of Parisos were not represented at the Karabakh Assemblies (unlike those of Gyulistan). Instead they were administered by the Armenian National Council of Gandzak in Gyanja that in turn, demonstrated loyalty to Turkey during Ottoman occupation and later – to Azerbaijan to the extent that two of the Council members were selected to represent the area in the Azerbaijani Parliament[34].


One should add to the above that there was a considerable no-man’s land between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the upper flow of the river Terter and around the mountains of Omar, Gyamysh, Jinaldagh, Delidagh, Klyshdagh and Sarychly. It embraced south-western part of the county of Gyanja, eastern part of Javanshir county and northernmost Zanghezur. Having no infrastructure that mountainous area had almost no population except a few nomadic tribes (predominantly Kurds relatively loyal to Azerbaijan) that used to be present in the area in summer only and moved down to the lower Karabakh in winter together with their livestock. During the period between the fall of 1918 and the spring of 1920, the above-described area was claimed by both Azerbaijan and Armenia but hardly any of the conflicting parties could boast an effective control over it until the Soviet takeover in May, 1920.






Map 4. Click on the map for better resolution



Sharur, Nakhichevan and Goghtan, 01/1919 - 06/1919.

Following the decision of British occupational authorities to secure provisional Armenian rule in the southern areas of the Erevan province (Sharur and the county of Nakhichevan) the government of the First Republic was prepared to take over those rich lands the importance of which was increased by their geographic position that would secure Armenian access to Persia (Iran). Those Armenian plans were in sharp conflict with the aspirations of the local Muslim (predominantly Turco-Tatar) population that was forming absolute majority in the disputed area since the ethnic cleansings of 1918. Nevertheless, in mid-December of 1918, there were enough Armenian troops stationed south of Erevan to take over Sharur and Nakhichevan while local Tatar militias despite some Turkish support were not prepared to resist Armenian expansion. However, the takeover of the southern areas of the Erevan province was put on hold by Armenian command due to the eruption of Georgian-Armenian war (see above) up until January, 1919[35].


The delay proved crucial. By that moment the pan-Turanist “Arasdayan Republic” was proclaimed in the disputed area[36] and local anti-Armenian forces were armed and organized well enough to repel or at least slow down possible Armenian expansion. The eruption of a new war was this time prevented through Allied mediation and establishment of a special British governorship on January 26, 1919[37]. The new British protectorate embraced most of the county of Nakhichevan (excluding the mountainous area) all of Sharur and even some 30% of the county of Erevan up till the river of Vedichay[38]. Although the area was excluded from the Armenian republic, the British governorship put an end to the “Arasdayan Republic”[39] leaving most of the real administrative power to Japhar-Kouli Khan of Nakhichevan with the police functions performed by a small British contingent.


The spring of 1919 saw the reversal of British sympathies for Muslim aspirations in the some areas of the South Caucasus. The analysis of the reasons of such a reversal would go far beyond the framework of this article. Here we can only mention that after a series of talks performed by British emissaries in Tiflis, Erevan, Baku and Nakhichevan the allied governorship was abolished and the British units stationed in the area were to be replaced Armenian troops under General Dro (Drastamat Kanayan). On May 16, 1919, the whole of Sharur, Nakhichevan and Goghtan were put under formal Armenian control and By June 7 the last British units left the disputed area.


Thus by the beginning of the summer of 1919, the First Armenian Republic managed to put under her formal control most o the territory that could be called “the former Russian Armenia” with the exception of the Mountainous Karabakh (see Map 5). The temporary borders of Armenia were reflected on the map prepared for presentation at the Peace Conference in Paris by British Brigadier General William Henry Beach. According to that map Armenia included most of the Kars territory as well as all of the province of Erevan (including Sharur, Nakhichevan and Goghtan) and the county of Zanghezur[40]. The map of Beach is a document of specially interest keeping in mind that until April, 1919, its author (the head of the British military intelligence in the Caucasus) was known as a strong advocate of the inclusion of the counties of Zanghezur and Nakhichevan into Azerbaijan[41].


Nevertheless, in the early summer of 1919 neither Armenian, nor Azerbaijani governments and elites believed that the territorial dispute was over. The events that followed confirmed that the status quo in the South Caucasus was quite fragile.



Muslim Uprisings in Kars and Sharur-Nakhichevan and the failure of American Mediation, 07/1919 – 10/1919


The fragile status quo followed by the abolition of South-West Caucasian Republic (SWCR) and Arasdayan Republic as well as the establishment of Armenian administration in Kars territory and Nakhichevan county in April-May, 1919, did not last long. Extensive anti-Armenian campaign based on pan-Islamic and pan-Turanic agenda launched by numerous emissaries of Turkish nationalists and Azerbaijani government in combination with massive arms deliveries to the areas of Muslim majority from Erzurum through Barduz and from Baku via Northern Persia, triggered a series of well-organized uprisings against Armenian rule in July, 1919, in the province of Erevan (in the counties of Surmala, Sharur, Nakhichevan and Erevan[42]) and all over the Kars territory[43].  By the beginning of August, Armenian administration was expelled from the Araxes valley between Ordubad and Davalu in the province of Erevan[44], and most of Nakhichevan county was lost except the eastern foothills. The area of Sharur-Nakhichevan taken over by the Muslim rebels commanded by Samed Bey Jamalinsky was hoisting Azerbaijani and Turkish flags, and the majority of local Armenians, who still resided there in June, 1919, were either wiped out or forced to flee[45].


In Kars territory fierce fighting that occurred throughout July and August around Karaurghan, Karakurt and Bashkey west of Kaghyzman[46] and in the area of Merdenek - Novo-Selim - Beghli Akhmed west of Kars, resulted in a series of Armenian successes against Kurdish and Turco-Tatar tribes enforced by regular Turkish troops and often commanded by Turkish officers[47]. By September, 1919, the Armenian control was re-established in most of the Kars territory excluding the Georgian-controlled northern sector of Ardahan district and the British-protected district of Olti still controlled by the Muslim militiamen of Ayyub-Khan and Server Beg[48]. At the same time, in Surmala Armenian control remained limited to the plain of Ararat while the strategic heights dominating the areas around Kulp, Orgov and Aralikh remained firmly in the hands of Kurdo-Tatars[49].


All the above events occurred against the background of British withdrawal from the South Caucasus that started with the evacuation of Baku between August 15 and 23, 1919, and by September 11, there was only a small British contingent remaining in Batum still administered by the United Kingdom[50].  Meanwhile, a US Colonel William Haskell who arrived to the Caucasus as an Allied High Commissioner for Armenia in August, 1919, made an attempt to arrange a truce between the conflicting parties. After having met with Armenian and Azerbaijani officials, Haskell proposed a creation of a Neutral Zone between the two “sister republics” that would encompass the counties of Nakhichevan and Sharur-Daralaghez and be administered by a US governor. The American proposal was met with reserved satisfaction in Azerbaijan and indignation in Armenia due to the fact that both governments clearly understood that the fulfillment of Haskell’s proposal would be another step towards absorption by Azerbaijan of the territory that was considered to be inalienable part of Armenia in Erevan and was referred to as “South-Western Azerbaijan” in Baku[51]. The proposed Neutral Zone would also cut Zanghezur off the rest of Armenia thus making it more vulnerable to the Azerbaijani expansion. By the end of October, 1919, it became clear that all efforts of Haskell’s mission ended up in vain. No agreement was reached on the disputed territory most of which remained under de-facto control of Azerbaijan and Turkey until March, 1920.




 Azerbaijani invasion of Zanghezur, the Truce and the Fall of Goghtan, 11-12/1919

Three months after pro-Azerbaijani and pro-Turkish forces secured their positions in Nakhichevan-Sharur two-and-a-half months after the submission of Mountainous Karabakh and seven weeks after the British evacuation from most of the South Caucasus, the leaders of Azerbaijani Republic decided to take over Zanghezur that seemed to be the last remaining barrier between Azerbaijan and Nationalist Turkey, the two forces that were clearly gravitating to each other. The carefully planned attack at the recalcitrant mountainous county started on November 4, 1919 simultaneously from Karabakh where regular Azerbaijani army units had been concentrating contrary to the Shusha Agreement of August 22, 1919, and from Nakhichevan where local Muslim militias launched offensive against Sisian while two Turkish platoons aimed to reach the remaining Muslim strongholds in central Zanghezur[52]. The first day of the invasion were marked by a few local defeats of the defenders of Zanghezur. However on November 6 a few successful counterattacks by Armenian militias in Goris sector under Colonel Arsen Shakhmazian pushed Azerbaijani troops and Kurd irregulars back to Minkend-Tegh line, while at the same time, the Turks and Nakhichevani partisans were repelled in Sisian and Ghapan sectors by the Armenian troops commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Garegin Njdeh (Harutiunian). By November 09 the Azerbaijanis retreated to Zabugh and northern mountain passes to Karabakh[53].


Within a week and a half after the invasion began, Armenian forces under Njdeh took action against the armed Muslim villages that reportedly supported the invaders in Meghri and Ghapan cantons in the very the centre of Zanghezur. That operation resulted in the capture of Kajaran, Shabadin, Okhchi, Piroudan and a few other Muslim villages its defendants wiped out and inhabitants expelled, and in re-opening the mountain pass to the still fighting northern Goghtan in the foothills of Ordubad sector of Nakhichevan county.


In the middle of November US and British representatives in the Caucasus Sir Oliver Wardrop (British Chief Commissioner since July, 1919) and Colonel James Rhea addressed the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia and demanded that the undeclared war between the two republics should be stopped immediately. The Armenian-Azerbaijani talks started on November 20 in Tiflis (Georgia) and came to an end three days later with no breakthrough.  On November 23, 1919 the Prime Ministers of the two countries (Alexandre Khatisian and Nasib Bek Usubbekov) signed an agreement that was in fact nothing more but a declaration of intent[54]. Meanwhile, military operations and ethnic cleansing went on in Zanghezur and Goghtan.


Goghtan, a very small Armenian historical province with its centre in Akulis in size and location roughly corresponding to Ordubad sector, managed to withstand the Ottoman invasion of 1918 and attempted to survive the Muslim uprising of July-August of 1919 through the declaration of its loyalty to the de-facto authorities in Nakhichevan and Ordubad. Nevertheless, most of the southern villages of Goghtan were devastated by the rebels. Facing the massacre, the northern villages took up arms to defend themselves and asked Erevan for help. The Armenian government could sent only a small relief detachment that reached Goghtan only in October to help local militiamen to hold against the offensive of Ordubad militiamen and regular Turkish troops. In November Lieutenant Colonel Njdeh was planning to lift the siege of Akulis and launch an offensive in the direction of Ordubad in order to secure the flank of Zanghezur. However he was ordered to postpone the Goghtan operation until his troops would finish the pacification of the last Muslim communities in the Barkushat mountains. The hero of Zanghezur had to obey orders but by the time when the last Muslim village of Ajibaj in the heart of Zanghezur was put to sword and fire it was too late to save what was left of Goghtan. By December 18, 1919 the resistance of Goghtan was crushed and a week later the last surviving Armenians left the area for Zanghezur. That marked the completion of ethnic cleansing both in Zanghezur and in the southernmost sector of Nakhichevan[55].






Map 5. Click on the map for better resolution




The Rising of Karabakh, 03/1920 – 04/1920

Relative peace and stability in Karabakh achieved in August 1919, did not last for too long. Local Armenian population complained of violations of the August 22 Agreement including unauthorized military buildup in connection with the abortive Azerbaijani invasion of Zanghezur in November 1919[56]. In late January 1920, sporadic inter-ethnic clashes resumed in Karabakh, and a month later, additional Azerbaijani forces under the command of governor Sultanov entered the region accompanied by some Turkish troops of General Halil-Pasha[57]. On February 18, 1920, Governor-General Sultanov demanded from the Armenian National Council to recognize unconditional sovereignty of Azerbaijan over Mountainous Karabakh and requested a new Karabakh Assembly to adopt a corresponding resolution[58]. The Eighth Assembly of Karabakh Armenians that started its work on February 28, 1920, happened to turn into quite an unusual event as it convened in two different places simultaneously due to the total absence of consensus between the delegates. The smaller amount of delegates representing mostly the city of Shusha and the historical district of Dizaq came together in Shushi in accordance with Sultanov’s plan, while the majority of the delegates (mostly from Varanda, Khachen, Jraberd and Gulistan) proceeded to the village of Shosh a few miles away from Shusha[59]. The delegates in Shusha unable to act as a representative Karabakh Assembly declared their meeting to be a “consultative forum” adopting a resolution that acknowledged close economic bond between Karabakh and Azerbaijan but refrained from any declarations of formal unification with Azerbaijani republic. At the same time, the more radical majority in Shosh declared themselves the Eighth Assembly of Mountainous Karabakh and in their resolution of March 4, 1920, rejected any form of union with Baku[60].


The Shosh resolution signaled the escalation of tension in Mountainous Karabakh. Less than a week after its adoption, additional units of the Azerbaijani Army prepared to enter the region while in the villages of Varanda, Dizaq, Khachen, Jraberd and Gyulistan Armenian self-defense units were preparing for an armed uprising encouraged by the envoys from Armenia[61].


The Armenian uprising in Karabakh that started on March 23, 1920, was rather a failure due to its poor organization and even poorer coordination with Erevan and Zanghezur. Initial success that took place in Askeran where the rebels sealed the Askeran pass making it impossible for Azerbaijani reinforcements to advance to Shusha and in Dizaq where the stable access to Zanghezur was secured came to naught after the fiasco of the rebels in the cities of Shusha and Khankendy. At the same time, no expected relief forces came from Zanghezur due to the physical absence of General Dro (the commander of regular Armenian expeditionary forces that had been prepared to advance into Karabakh) and because the fighters of the Zanghezur warlord Gareghin Njdeh got stuck in their abortive attempt to re-conquer Goghtan (March 21-25, 1920) and later (March 25-30) in the repel of Azerbaijani invasion from Jabrail[62].


Until April 03 badly outnumbered Armenian defenders of the Askeran pass were repelling non-stopping attacks of the Azerbaijani army under the command of General Samed Bek Mekhmandarov. However, the insufficiency of the Armenian forces combined with the lack of ammunition and artillery on their side, made the fall of Askeran inevitable, and on April 4 thousands of Azerbaijani troops decimated the last rebels blocking their way into the heart of Karabakh and poured into the area down the road towards Khankendy and Shusha where most of the local Armenians had been already massacred by the victorious Azerbaijani garrisons and armed Muslim mobs. The Christian part of Shusha (de-facto capital of Mountainous Karabakh) was completely destroyed and burnt down and so were dozens of Armenian villages around it[63]. Five days later the rebels counter-attacked forcing Azerbaijani forces to draw back. However hankendy and the ruins of Shusha still remained in Azerbaijani hands thus cutting the rebel-controlled area into two isolated enclaves (see Map 6),


Simultaneously, armed clashes involving regular units of Armenian and Azerbaijani armies also resumed in Kazakh and Nakhichevan counties thus allowing some researchers to define the Karabakh uprising as a full-scale Armeno-Azerbaijani war.


It was not until April 13, 1920 when regular Armenian troops under General Dro (Drastamat Kanayan) finally entered Karabakh through Zanghezur and put Dizaq and rural Varanda under stable Armenian control (see Map 6). In the Armenian-dominated parts of Karabakh the Directorate was formed that became de-facto government of the region. On April 22 the Ninth Assembly of Mountainous Karabakh[64] was summoned in Taghavard to reaffirm the union of Mountainous Karabakh with Armenia and authorize Dro   to take “whatever action necessary to liberate the district”[65]. Meanwhile, keeping most of its armed forces in the areas disputed with Armenia, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was left defenseless against the Red army that concentrated on her northern frontier[66]. On April 27, 1920, Soviet Russian 11th Army invaded Azerbaijan. Less than 24 hours the First Azerbaijani Republic collapsed as a result of a bloodless coup in Baku, and on April 29 Soviet occupants and local communists proclaimed Azerbaijani Soviet Republic thus signalling the beginning of the Soviet era in the South Caucasus. The atmosphere of political vacuum that lasted another two weeks till the moment when the first units of the 11th Army stated their advance into Mountainous Karabakh[67], was quite favorable for Dro to take over Shusha, Khankendy and Askeran and secure the unification of the region with the Armenian republic. However, Armenian commander did not issue the order to attack, and the last chance for complete liberation of the Mountainous Karabakh was lost.


The war between Armenia  and Azerbaijan in the spring of 1920 ended up with at least partial Armenian victory. However, it completely destroyed the reputation of both nations in the West as well as the confidence of their ability to live in peace with each other and their neighbors[68].






Map 6. Click on the map for better resolution




North-Western Karabakh/Parisos: “the Forgotten Armenia”?


During the period preceding the Karabakh uprising the Armenian communities of North-Western Karabakh/Parisos subordinate to the Armenian National Council of Gandzak (see Map 6 and pp. 15-16 for the description of the area) were consistent in keeping their loyalty towards Azerbaijani republic. The rural Armenian communities scattered in the mountainous area of the county of Elizavetpol (Gyanja) from Chaykend to Chardakhly were mostly well-armed but tended to avoid any forms of inter- racial or inter-religious violence were armed for self-defence. In January 1920 they expelled and labeled as instigators the envoys from Armenia who came to the area in an attempt to organize an anti-Azerbaijani uprising[69], and as soon as the first armed clashes occurred in Karabakh, both the Council of Gandzak and all the villages of the county except those south of Chaykend (Northern Gyulistan) vocally distanced themselves from the Karabakh rebels[70].


The loyalty to Azerbaijan, however, did not spare the Armenians of Gandzak/Parisos from paying for their brethren’s revolt in Karabakh. The rural Armenian enclaves were surrounded by Azerbaijani militia and gendarmerie and ordered to disarm. Most of the villages that complied were looted and burned while those that did not found themselves under siege. Some of the villages were forced to pay “protection taxes”. The spillover of the Karabakh violence into North-Western Karabakh/Parisos resulted in thousands of deaths and in exodus of many rural Armenian communities into the Armenian quarter of Elizavetpol (Gyanja/Gandzak) and the German colony of Elenendorf[71].



The Evacuation of the British troops from the South Caucasus that started in summer of 1919 and finished in the middle of summer of the year 1920[72] and the Soviet blitzkrieg  of April, 1920, against Azerbaijan followed by the rapid Sovietisation of that country performed with the help of Turkish Nationalists[73] signalled the beginning of an undeclared Soviet-Armenian war that lasted more than FIVE months and resulted in the loss of most of the disputed territories[74].


The first decade of May 1920 was marked by the Soviet 11th Army advance toward Karabakh, Gandzak and Kazakh (see Map 7). In view of the approaching Soviet troops most of the units of the Azerbaijani army as well as the members of the Azerbaijani administration quickly transformed into the Red Army and Soviet bureaucracy swearing allegiance to the new dominant power of the region[75]. Most of the Turkish officers stationed in Azerbaijan also went to Soviet service including Nuri Pasha[76]. On May 12 the first Soviet detachments reached Shusha having the directive to take over the whole of Mountainous Karabakh, Zanghezur and Sharur-Nakhichevan[77]. A week later after a few skirmishes Armenian General Draw whose troops still controlled Dizaq and most of Varanda was given an ultimatum to withdraw. By that time most of the Armenian militias in Jraberd, Khachen and Gyulistan became rather pro-Soviet under the influence of Bolshevik propaganda. As a result, all the Armenian officers and instructors there who refused to surrender to the Soviets were killed, arrested or expelled and the whole Armenian-controlled part of Karabakh to the north of Soviet-dominated Shusha-Khankendy-Askeran corridor was lost to the Soviets. In view of the loss of the above territory, as well as the change in sentiment even among Varanda and Dizaq Armenians and bad communication with Erevan, General Dro and his Staff decided to comply with the Soviet demands, and on May 25-26 all regular Armenian forces still in Karabakh withdrew to Zanghezur. After the evacuation the evacuation of the Armenian troops of Dro and Njdeh, only few isolated groups of Armenian fighters kept conducting guerilla operations in the mountains of Karabakh[78].  However, since the end of May 1920, Mountainous Karabakh now united under the Soviet red banners was administered by the two Revkoms: Muslim-dominated one in Shusha and Armenian-dominatred in the village of Taghavard[79].






Map 7. Click on the map for better resolution




The situation in the north-western section of Armeno-Azerbaijani frontier was even more complicated (see Map 7).  The county of Kazakh faced open Red Army incursions into Armenian-controlled territory in attempts to support the abortive communist uprising of May 1920[80]. The attempted communist coup in Armenia (May 10-30, 1920) was unsuccessful. Although Armenian communists managed to take over the towns of Alexandropol, Kars, Sarakykamysh, as well as several villages in disputed Kazakh-Shamshadin area, the uprising was put down by the government troops and militias in less than a month. However, it undermined the efforts of Armenia to withstand Soviet invasion and led to the series of military defeats in Kazakh-Shamshadin and Karabakh[81].


At the same period of time quite confusing was the development of events in the county of Elizavetpol (Gyanja/Gandzak). According to Kadishev, facing little resistance on behalf of disorganized and demoralized Azerbaijani army Armenian troops and guerillas took over all of the mountainous sector of the county reaching the outskirts of Gyanja[82]. The situation was further complicated by some facts of joint Soviet-Armenian operations against Azerbaijani rebels during an abortive anti-Soviet uprising that occurred in and around Gyanja at the end of May 1920[83]. As of today, it is not very easy to define where exactly stretched the limits of de-facto Armenian control in Kazakh-Shamshadin and Gandzak-Parisos in late spring of 1920. Some official documents of that period of time, define some portions of that border quite clearly making modern researchers quite confused. As an example, one can adduce an excerpt from the text of the Soviet-Georgian Treaty of Moscow signed on May 07, 1920, according to which the border between Georgia and Soviet Azerbaijan “…goes along the eastern border of Zakatala district to the south until it touches the border of Armenia”[84]. The above excerpt clearly states that Armenian territory near the city of Gyanja at least for a while could have stretched until the river of Kura.





Soviet-Armenian Negotiations in Moscow and the Summer Campaigns in Armenia, 05/1920 - 08/1920

Immediately after the fall of Baku to the Soviets the leadership of the Armenian republic found it necessary to start negotiations with Moscow in order to secure the recognition of Armenian independence and to resolve territorial issues. However it was not until the end of May when the Armenian delegation headed by Levon Shant (Seghbosian) made its way to Moscow to start direct talks with the Soviet Foreign Affairs Commissar Grigory Chicherin and his deputy Leo Karakhan[85]. By that time the Soviets had already firmly established not only in Azerbaijan proper but also in Mountainous Karabakh and Armenian troops were either withdrawn from the area, or switched their loyalty to the red army which was often mistakenly considered to be “the real Russian army” that had a traditional I mage of the liberator of the Armenians.


The first sessions of negotiations seemed to be moderately favorable to the Armenians. Chicherin assured Shant that the Soviet Russia had no plans to invade Armenia or to establish a Soviet regime in that country.  Chicherin even offered that Soviet Russia  would take a role of a mediator in Armenian territorial dispute with the Turks keeping in mind close cooperation between Moscow and Turkish Nationalist de-facto government of Kemal Ataturk. The Armenians were promised a part of Western (Turkish) Armenia roughly corresponding with the initial proposal by Berthelot (see above)[86]. As for the border conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan the initial Soviet proposal was to leave Zanghezur and Sharur-Nakhichevan with Armenia while declaring Karabakh a disputed territory the future of which would be defined by plebiscite[87]. One should keep in mind here that Chicherin "graciously" offered the Armenians to keep only those territories that were not yet sovietized. As will be mentioned below, the format of Soviet proposals kept changing while the Red Army was taking over new Armenian-claimed territories.


The Armenian delegation was also deeply impressed by the map of a projected Armenian state that was unofficially demonstrated to them by Karakhan. The map presented by the Bolshevik diplomat was offering the Armenians not only all the territories disputed with Azerbaijan (including Mountainous Karabakh) but also most of Borchalo, the counties of Akhalkalaki and Akhaltsikhe (the latter never claimed by Armenia) and the Chorokh-Imerkhevi corridor to the Black sea (see Map 7), i.e., the territories that the Soviets recognized unequivocally Georgian by signing the Soviet-Georgian treaty in early May 1920. After being reminded of that Karakhan replied that the question of Georgian territorial integrity was “still open”[88], and significant concession could be given to Armenia if only the Armenians dropped all or at least most of their aspirations against Turkish territory.


During the first phase of Soviet-Armenian negotiations in Moscow, the 11th Army was busy putting down anti-Soviet Azerbaijani rebellions in Gyanja, Zakatala and Agdam-Shusha while Armenian forces were similarly busy with crushing Bolshevik uprisings in Kars, Sarikamysh, Alexandropol, Nor-Bayazet and Delizhan and later pacifying rebellious Muslim enclaves in Zenghibazar, Vedibazar and Peniak[89] (see Map 8).

By mid-June the Soviet tone at negotiation changed drastically. If earlier the Red Army was unable to invade Zanghezur-Nakhichevan being tied up with Azerbaijani uprisings but after the fall of Shusha on June 15, the way to Nakhichevan via Gerusy (Goris) was open.[90] Gerusy was taken by the Reds on July 5, and on July 17 the 11th Army started advance towards Nakhichevan while at the same time the detachments of Turkish Bayazet division in the amount of 9000 trespassed Iranian territory north of Khoy and concentrated in Maku. Those Turkish forces under the command of Jevad Bek were preparing to cross Aras river and enter Nakhichevan, Julfa and Ordubad from the south-west in order to block further re-conquest of the Nakhichevan county by Shelkovnikov’s Armenian troops who had already reached Shakhtakhty by July 25 (see Map 8)[91].


Reflecting rapidly changing military situation at Soviet-Armenian frontier, Chicherin now proposed that the new boundary would run along the administrative border between the old provinces of Erevan and Elizavetpol thus leaving Nakhichevan to Armenia, Karabakh to Azerbaijan and Zanghezur under "temporary" Soviet administration as a disputed territory. At some point Influenced by Sergo Orjonikidze (at that time the Chairman of Kavburo of Russian Communist Party), Chicherin and Karakhan even proposed to include Sharur-Daralaghez county into the list of disputed lands. The Armenian delegation was not prepared to accept permanent loss of Karabakh not to mention the questioning of the status of Sharur-Daralaghez, and after some fruitless discussions the talks were suspended[92]. The Red Army was meanwhile fighting Armenian militias in Zanghezur in order to capture Gerusy[93]. It may be important to mention here that immediately after the Soviet - Armenian negotiations were interrupted Chicherin started the talks with Foreign Affairs Commissar of the Turkish Nationalist government in Angora Sami Bey who arrived in Moscow to arrange joint Soviet - Turkish operations in Nakhichevan aimed at opening a stable land corridor between Soviet Russia and Nationalist Turkey[94]. One of the few results of the interrupted Soviet-Armenian negotiations was the appointment of the lawyer Boris Legran a Soviet plenipotentiary in Armenia who was supposed according to Chicherin, to finish the negotiations with the Armenian government directly in Erevan.


While Legran’s mission was slowly making his way to Erevan with prolonged stops at Baku and Tiflis marked with the exchange of proposals with the Armenian government, the Soviet-Armenian warfare escalated in Zanghezur. After having taken over Gerusy in early July 1920, the Soviets established the red terror regime in the north of Zanghezur and in the middle of the month tried to expand southwards in an attempt to sovietise the whole county (see Map 8). However, the first Soviet expedition into the heart of Zanghezur ended up in fiasco by the beginning of August. Defeated by the militias of Njdeh near Kapan and attacked by the regulars of Dro in the rear from Angelaut the components of the 11th Army rapidly evacuated Northern Zanghezur and retreated into Varanda[95]. Following Dro’s ultimatum to clear “all occupied Armenian territories” including Karabakh, the Soviets started counter-offensive on August 05, and two days later Gerusy was lost by the Armenians for the second time. The Shusha-Gerusy-Nakhichevan corridor vbetween Nationalist Turkey and Soviet Azerbaijan was re-opened, and both Turkish and Soviet officers celebrated that victory as partners[96].


Meanwhile, in the county of Nakhichevan Soviet-Turkish and Armenian troops facing each other halfway between Nakhichevan and Shakhtakhty tried to abstain from open hostilities following verbal “Gentlmen’s agreement” between Armenian General Shelkovnikov and “the commander of the united troops of RSFSR and Red Turkey”, Colonel Tarkhov[97]. On July 28 “Soviet Socialist Republic of Nakhichevan” was proclaimed, and its “Revolutionary Committee” offered Erevan to recognize the  new “independent state”.






Map 8. Click on the map for better resolution



On August 10 1920, the cease-fire agreement was signed in Erevan by the representatives of Soviet and Armenian governments leaving Armenia without most of the disputed territories but temporarily ending major hostilities along Soviet-Armenian front-lines. As per the agreement, the temporary south-eastern border of Armenia was defined as follows:


“Shakhtakhty-Khok-Aznaburt-Sultanbek and further the line northward from Kyuki and westward from Bazarchai (Bazarkend). And in the county of Kazakh – the line they hjeld on 30 July of this year. The troops of RSFSR will occupy the disputed districts: Karabakh, Zanghrzur and Nakhichevan, with the exception of the zone determined by this treaty for the disposition of the troops of the Republic of Armenia… The occupation of the disputed territories by the Soviet troops does not predispose the question about the rights to those territories of the Republic of Armenia or the Azerbaijan Socialist Soviet Republic. By this temporary occupation, the RSFSR has in view the creation of favorable conditions for the peaceful resolution of the disputed territories between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the principles to be laid down in the peace treaty to be concluded between the RSFSR and the Republic of Armenia as soon as possible” [98] (see Maps 8 and 9). 


Thus the Soviet negotiators assured their Armenian counterparts that the occupation of the disputed territories by the Red army did not necessary mean their annexation by Soviet Azerbaijan but was of a temporary character and would not last only until the future peace treaty is concluded by all the involved parties to resolve all the border disputes. Armenia was also given ex-territorial rights for the Shakhtakhty-Julfa section of Erevan-Julfa railway[99]. According to Hovannisian, the preliminary treaty between Soviet Russia and Armenia was a result of Soviet bogging down in the war against Poland and the anti-Soviet government of Baron Wrangel as well as the dangerous anti-soviet uprising in Kuban[100]. In any case, that treaty gave Armenia 22 days of peace interrupted only by sporadic attacks on Sadarak-Karabaglar section of Erevan-Julfa railway performed by Muslim irregulars from Persian territory (see Map 9).


After August 10, some fighting also continued in Zanghezur where the Armenian forces under Lieutenant Colonel Garegin Njdeh refused to evacuate and the mountainous area of southern Zanghezur between Gerusy (Goris) and Meghri which they kept under stable control even after the August counter-offensive of Soviet General Nesterovsky[101]. The guerillas of Njdeh kept their formal loyalty to the Republic of Armenia and were getting some support from Erevan but that support was of rather private than official nature.






Map 9. Click on the map for better resolution



The First Phase of the Turkish-Armenian War and the Soviet-Turkish Invasion of Zanghezur 09/1920 – 10/1920


It would be beyond the framework of this essay to provide a detailed analysis of the Turkish-Armenian War that broke out in early September, 1920, when the Turkish army under Karabekir enforced by local Muslim militiamen, launched a full-scale offensive along the whole perimeter of Turkish-Armenian border. We would only take the liberty to mention that the leadership of the First Republic definitely under-estimated both military and ideological strength of Turkish nationalists overestimating, at the same time, their own resources and forces as well as the possible support on behalf of their Western Allies. On September 24 the war was officially declared. Within the following week, the defense lines of Armenian forces collapsed and the Turks took over the towns of Sarykamysh, Kaghyzman, Ighdyr and Merdenik (see Map 9). The advancing Turkish armies were devastating the area and wiping out the civil Armenian population that did not have time or willingness to flee. Simultaneously, some of Armenian regiments reportedly started performing ethnic cleansing in Kars and Erevan counties that still remained under Armenian control.


While Armenia was busy trying to withstandthe new Turkish aggression, the Soviets made one more attempt to “pasify” Zanghezur.  On September 3 the components of the 11th red Army under General Nesterovsky launched an offensive against Njdeh pressing his fighters southwards beyond Kapan and Katar. Three weeks later the combined Soviet-Turkish and Soviet-Azerbaijani forces started incursion from Nakhichevan and Jabrail in the direction of Meghri. Despite such dramatic development the militias of Zanghezur succeeded in defeating the enemy groupings one after another and by the end of the second week of October they re-conquered Kapan and Katar from Nesterovsky and chased the Soviet-Turkish corps under the cpmmand of Veysel Bey back to Nakhichevan[102] (see Map 9).


Meanwhile, during the two-week lull that followed after the loss of Penyak, Sarykamysh, Peniak and Merdenek, Georgia attempted to take over the remaining part of the disputed Ardahan (see Map 9). On October 1 1920, Georgian troops occupied the small area near Chyldyr lake and entered  the village of Okam (Gyole) on the ”Armenian side” of Kura.

The above demarche caused indignation and protests on behalf of the Armenian Foreign Affairs ministry especially keeping in mind that the capture of disputed area was taken place during the negotiations Tiflis regarding the possible Armeno-Georgian alliance aimed against Soviet and Turkish expansion. The talks ended up with no result partially due to the efforts of Turkish diplomats in Tiflis who in fact encouraged the government of Georgia to take over the disputed territories to the south of Ardahan.


A few days after the Georgian incursion south of Kura, the Armenian command ordered the West Armenian regiment of Sebough to move into Okam. In order to avoid military confrontation, the Georgian troops evacuated Okam on October 6 and retreated back to Ardahan. The Chyldyr sector with the town of Zurzuna remained under Georgian control, and on October 13 it was ceremonially declared Georgian[103]. The very same day the lull at the Turkish front was broken, and the Republic of Armenia  was in no position to re-take Chyldyr from Georgia. Ironically, just four months later that was taken over by the Turks as a result of the Soviet-Turkish conquest of Georgia.






Map 9. Click on the map for better resolution





The Second Phase of the Turkish-Armenian War and the Fall of the First Republic 10/1920 – 11/1920


In early October 1920, Armenian Republic addressed the governments of Great Britain, France, Italy and other Allied powers asking them to force the Turks to stop their offensive, but all the desperate pleas for help seemed to fall upon deaf ears. Great Britain had to concentrate most of her forces available in the Middle East to crush the tribal uprisings in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). France and Italy had similar problems in Syria, Cilicia and Adalia. The only country who provided some support through active operations at the Turkish western front was Greece. But Greek military support was not sufficient to ease Turkish pressure on Armenia.

On October 30, the Armenians left Kars to the Turks[104]. Five days later Turkish Army approached the Arpachay river threatening Alexandropol. At that moment the government of Armenia requested for cease-fire that was granted under the condition of Armenian withdrawal from strategically important city of Alexandropol. On November 7 the Turks entered the city upon the Armenian acceptance of Turkish conditions, and the peace negotiations between Turkish Nationalists and the Armenian republic started[105]. However, the harshness of Turkish demands the acceptance of which would virtually turn Armenia into a Turkish protectorate resulted in the interruption of negotiations, and the warfare resumed on November 10[106].


As a result of the new Turkish offensive the strategic town of Agin south of Alexandropol fell to the Turks on November 12, and the Armenian troops were in retreat to the east along Alexandropol – Karaklis railroad. The same day Armenian troops and population started evacuation from Surmala crossing Aras river near Echmiadzin[107] (see Map 10).  At this point the Turkis were getting ready for the final spurt on Erevan. Ironically enough, it was the beginning of November when US President Wilson was done with the final sketches of the Sevres-based Turkish-Armenian borders[108] (see Figure 3.4). 


In the middle of November the new Turkish offensive started in the direction of Erevan from Nakhichevan. In breach of the Soviet-Armenian Treaty of August 10, the Nakhichevan expeditionary corps contained the components of the Soviet 11th Army. Between November15 and 16 demoralized Armenian troops left Shakhtakhty and all of Sharur with little or no fight and stopped Soviet-Turkish offensive only at Davalu on November 17 1920[109] (see Map 10).


The only war theater where Armenians had significant success was Zanghezur. In that mountainous county Armenian forces of Colonel Njdeh successfully repelled another Soviet-Azerbaijani invasion from Jabrail in early November and on November 09 started counter-advance towards Goris (Gerusy). By November 22 the Armenians of Zanghezur assisted by an expeditionary corps from Daralaghez completely defeated the Soviet forces of General Pyotr Kuryshko (who replased Nesterovsky in late October, 1920) and re-took the towns of Goris, Tatev, Darabas and Angelaut expelling the reds out of the county as far as Abdalar near the old administrative border of Karabakh[110] (see Map 10).







Map 10. Click on the map for better resolution


Facing total collapse of the First Republic, the leadership of Armenia requested an armistice for the second time during the war, and on November 18 1920, a cease-fire agreement was concluded[111]. A week later, on November 24, Armenian and Turkish representatives started peace negotiations in Alexandropol.


As a precondition for any talks, the Armenian delegation headed by Alexander Khatisov was forced to renounce the Treaty of Sevres[112]. After having complied with that demand under pressure the Armenians presented their border proposal. Giving up most of the former Turkish Armenia including the cities of Bitlis, Erzurum and the coastal city of Trebizond granted at Sevres the the delegation of the Armenian Republic asked for the small parts of the vilayats of Van and Bitlis with the cities of Van, Bayazet, Mush and Khnys as well as for the narrow corridor in Lazistan with the town of Rize. As for the former Russian Armenia, the Armenians hoped to keep the whole of the province of Erevan and the territory of Kars[113] The Armenian proposal was flatly rejected by the Turkish delegation presided by General Nizam Karabekir Pasha as absolutely non-realistic and even insulting. Instead, the Armenian delegation was to accept unconditionally the Turkish provisions that were quite severe. Armenia was to disarm most of her military forces and cede more than a half of her pre-war territory. All of the Kars territory with the districts of Sarykamysh, Kars, Kaghyzman, Olti and the Armenian sector of Ardahan district was to be ceded to Turkey, as well as the county of Surmala in the province of Erevan with the city of Ighdyr and Mount Ararat. The county of Nakhichevan combined with the Sharur sector of the county of Sharur-Daralaghez were to be placed under Turkish protectorate (see Figure 3.5). Self-explanatory, Armenia was not receiving any parts of the Turkish Armenia that was now referred to as “Eastern Anatolia” by the Turks. The Armenian Republic was also supposed to limit her relations with the Allied Powers[114]. According to Karabekir, the Turkish-drafted border between Turkey and Armenia was based on “ethnical principle” that could not justify incorporation into Armenia of any territories where Armenians had not formed majority before the outbreak of the First World War[115].




The Final Soviet takeover, 11/1920 – 02/1921

While the Armenian government was trying to terminate the lost war against the Kemalists begging the enemy for peace no matter how harsh and humiliating its conditions could be, the Soviets were taking over what was left of the First Republic.


As early as on November 19 1920, the Soviet plenipotentiary in Erevan Boris Legran and his staff started the arrangement of the bloodless Sovietization of Armenia following the instructions from the Kremlin. The Dashnakist leadership of Armenia were to be persuaded that that would be the only way to save Armenian people as well as some form of the Armenian statehood[116].


At the same time, the Kavburo in Baku dominated by Orjonikidze and Stalin was more impatient about the rapid conquest of exhausted Armenia than Lenin and Chicherin in Moscow. Contrary to the instructions coming from their communist party bosses from the Central Committee in the Kremlin, the Caucasian Bolsheviks formed the Armenian Revkom (Military Revolutionary Committee) in Baku on November 22, 1920, that was designed to become the new communist government of Armenia. Three days later the Revkom departed for Kazakh were the units of the Soviet 11th Army under General Kuryshko (just recently defeated in Zanghezur) were preparing for the invasion of Armenia. Same day the “Special Armenian Rifle Regiment” previously stationed in Kedabek was re-deployed to Kazakh as well. The invasion started o the night of November 28-29 by crossing the demarcation line between Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan south-east of Kazakh in the direction of Karavansaray and Sevkar (Karadash). The two towns fell into the hands of the Reds after some resistance on behalf of Armenian border guards and militias was crushed by the end of November 29. The attempts of Armenian General Seboukh (Arshak Nersisian) to organize counter-offensive from Dilijan failed due to the unwillingness of the Armenian soldiers to fight one more war against superior enemy, and on November 30 the Red Army was already in Dilijan from where the Sovietization of Armenia and the overthrow of the Dashnakist government was proclaimed[117]. Later, the soviet historians portrayed that military operation as a “communist uprising of November 28 in the district of Kazakh”[118] (see Map 11).


The Soviet invasion from Kazakh not only shocked the Armenian government but greatly confused Boris Legran who had not been informed on those plans of the Kavburo. Nevertheless the reaction of the Soviet envoy was quick and effective. By December 2, Legran successfully pressured the Parliament and the Cabinet of Simon Vratsian to step down and officially transfer the whole power to General Dro pending the arrival of Revkom to Erevan. Two days later, on December 4, Dro left Erevan for the lake Sevan area where he welcomed the Revkom and, in turn, gave up his power to the new Bolshevik administration. Two more days later, the first units of the red Army entered the Armenian capital[119]. Thus the first Armenian republic shared the fate of the first republic of Azerbaijan, and independent statehood of both nations was interrupted for more than 70 years until August 1991.











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[1] Hovannisian, p. 37

[2] F.Kazemzadeh, p.144.

    A.B. Kadishev, Interventsia I Grazhdanskaja Vojna v Zakavkazje (Moscow, 1961), p.153.

[3] Hovannisian, p. 83

[4] Ibid., p.85

[5] Ibid., p. 86

[6] Ibid., pp. 56, 199

[7] Ibid., p. 58

[8] F. Kazemzadeh, p.161.


[9] Depending on the reader’s concept of history, one may say that the statehood of Armenia and Georgia was recovered after a period of foreign domination whereas Azerbaijan was definitely a new nation whose statehood was just established (Auth.)

[10] F. Kazemzadeh, p. 164

[11] The combined mountainous parts of the countys of Elizavtpol, Javanshir and Shusha form historical

     mountainous Karabakh/Artsakh  (Auth.)


[12] Hovannisian, p. 73.

    R.G. Suny, TheMaking of the Georgian Nation (Indianopolis, 1994), p. 202

[13] Hovannisian, p.200

[14] Ibid. 202

[15] T.Z. Tunaya, Turkiyede siyasi partiler, 1859-1952 (Istanbul, 1952), pp.486-487

[16] Hovannisian, pp. 205-206

    Kazemzadeh, p. 199

[17] Kazemzadeh, pp. 199-200

[18] A.S. Lukomsky, , “Denikin I Antanta” in Revolyucija I grazhdanskaja vojna v opisaniyah

                belogvardejcev: Denikin-Yudenich-Wrangel (Moscow, 1927), p. 92.

[19] Hovannisian, p. 211

[20] Hovannisian, pp. 210-211

[21] Ibid., pp. 220-221

[22] Ibid., p.221

[23] Ibid., pp. 156-157

[24] F. Kazemzadeh, p. 215

[25] Tadeusz  Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition (NY, 1995), p.76.

    Hovannisian, p. 162

[26] T. Swietochowski, p.85.


[27] Hovannisian, pp. 88-89

[28] Ibid., p. 89

[29] Nagorny Karabakh 1918—1923 gg.: Sbornik dokumentov i materialov. (Erevan, 1992), p. 390,

    Document Nr. 267

[30]  Ibid., pp. 323—326, document Nr. 214

[31] Hovannisian, pp. 190-191.

[32] Ibid., p. 195

[33] Ibid., p. 194

[34] Richard Hovannisian,. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. II: From Versailles to London, 1919- 1920, 

    (Berkeley, 1982), p. 89

[35] Richard Hovannisian,. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. I: The First Year, 1918- 1919, 

    (Berkeley, 1971) pp.229-230

[36] Hamza Jafarov, “Arazsko-Turkskaya respublika v politicheskoy zhizni regiona”, Irs-Nasledie (Moscow),    

    Vol. 3 (2007), pp. 46-48.

[37] Hovannisian, pp.230-231

[38] Ibid., pp. 231 and 234.

[39] That quazi-state formation proclaimed in December,1918, was closely connected with Turkey, claimed not only the county of Nakhichevan, but also Sharur-Daralaghez, Surmala and south-western parts of the counties of Erevan and Echmiadzin that had been annexed by the Ottoman Empire in June, 1918 (Auth).

[40] Hovannisian, p.237

[41] Artie H. Arslanian, “Britain and the Question of Mountainous Karabakh”, Middle Eastern Studies

    (London), Vol. 16 (January, 1980), p.97

[42] In fact, the first uprising started on July1, 1919 in a big Tatar village of Baouk Vedi in the county of

    Erevan less than 30 miles away from the Armenian capital (Auth.)

[43] Richard Hovannisian,. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. II: From Versailles to London, 1919- 1920, 

    (Berkeley, 1982) pp 62-108

[44] Ibid., p.77.

[45] Ibid., pp. 105 and 195.

[46] Ibid., p.79.

[47] Ibid., p. 85.

[48] Ibid., p. 104.

[49] Ibid., p. 105.

[50] Ibid., pp. 128-131

[51] Ibid., pp. 195-206.

[52] Hovannisian, p. 217.

[53] Ibid., p. 218.

[54] Ibid., p. 223.

[55] Ibid., pp. 226-238.

[56] Ibid., pp. 132-133.

[57] Nagorny Karabakh 1918—1923 gg.: Sbornik dokumentov i materialov. (Erevan, 1992),, pp. 380,

    document Nr. 257

[58] Hovannisian, p. 143.

[59] Ibid., pp. 143-144.

[60] Ibid., p. 145.

[61] Ibid., pp. 134-142 and 147-150.

[62] Ibid., pp.149-150.

[63] Hovannisian, pp.152-157.

[64] The delegates of the Ninth Assembly in fact, represented only Varanda and Dizaq because there was noo connection between the area controlled by Dro’s corps and the Armenian enclave to the north of Shusha-Khankendy-Askeran road (Auth.)

[65] Hovannisian, pp.158-159.

[66] Charles van der Leeuw, Azerbaijan: A Quest for Identity (Surrey, 2000) p. 120

    F. Kаzemzadeh, p. 284

[67] Ibid., p. 195.

[68] Kazemzadeh, p. 274.

[69] Hovannisian, p.137.

[70] Ibid., p.160.

[71] Ibid., p. 161.

[72] Kadishev, p. 470

[73] Godovoy otchet NKID k VIII S’ezdu Sovetov / 1919—1920  (Moscow., 1921)

[74] Kazemzadeh, p. 309.

[75] Hovannisian, pp.183-185 and  194

[76] Z. Melik-Shakhnazarov, Zapiski karabahskogo soldata (Moscow, 1995) p. 73.

[77] Hovannisian, p.195.

[78] Kadishev, pp. 288-289 and  301-304

[79] Ibid., pp.196-200.

[80] Ibid., pp. 244-247

[81] Hovannisian, pp. 209-253.

     Kadishev, pp.280-289.

[82] Kadishev, pp. 290 and 303,

     Melik-Shakhnazarov, p. 74.

[83] Melik-Shakhnazarov, pp. 74-77

[84] Ju. Klyuchnikov and A. Sobanine, Mezhdunarodnaja statistika novejshego vremeni v dogovorah, notah i deklaratsiyah (Moscow, 1928) Part 3, Iss.1, pp. 22-23


[85] Richard G. Hovannisian. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. IV: Between Crescent and Sickle: Partition and Sovietization,  (Berkeley, 1996), pp.48-49.

[86] Hovannisian, pp.50-52

[87] Ibid., p.52.

[88] Ibid., p.53

[89] Richard G. Hovannisian. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. III: From London to Sèvres, February-August

    1920,  (Berkeley, 1996), pp.290-302;

    Kadishev, p.289-302.

[90] Kadishev, pp. 293-302.

[91] Kadishev, p. 305

[92] Richard G. Hovannisian. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. IV: Between Crescent and Sickle: Partition and Sovietization,  (Berkeley, 1996), p. 55.

[93] Kadishev, pp. 303-304.

[94] Hovannisian, pp. 58-59

[95] That operation of Dro and Njdeh resulted not only in the liberation of Goris but also in seizure of some 500 kilograms of gold that the Soviet government was planning to deliver to Nationalist Turkey

[96] Hovannisian, pp. 88-89.

[97] Richard G. Hovannisian. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. III: From London to Sèvres, February-August

    1920,  (Berkeley, 1996), pp.318.

[98] Richard G. Hovannisian. The Republic of Armenia, Vol. IV: Between Crescent and Sickle: Partition and   

     Sovietization,  (Berkeley, 1996), p. 95;

     Kadishev, p. 309

[99] Hovannisian, p. 95.

[100] Hovannisian, pp. 101, 182.

[101] Hovannisian, p. 109.

[102] Ibid., pp.108-118

[103] Hovannisian, рp. 222-226.

[104] Hovannisian, pp.253-261; Kadishev, p.325.

[105] Hovannisian, pp. 268-277

[106] Hovannisian, pp. 276-278

[107] Ibid, p.284.

[108] Kazemzadeh, p. 265

[109] Hovannisian, p. 285.

[110] Hovannisian, pp.119-122

[111] Ibid., pp. 289-292.

[112] Hovannisian, pp. 363-364; Kadishev, pp. 327-328

[113] Hovannisian, pp.362 and 368.

[114] Hovannisian, pp. 369-370 and 390-398; Kadishev, p. 328

[115] Hovannisian, p. 370.

[116] Hovannisian, pp.350-352.

[117] Hovannisian, pp. 374-379.

[118] Kadishev, pp. 329-330.

[119] Hovannisian, pp. 386-390.