Armeno-Georgian War of 1918

and Armeno-Georgian Territorial Issue in the 20th Century



By  Andrew Andersen and Georg Egge






Interference and Mediation of the Allies



As early as in the middle of December, an Allied mission following the instructions of the above mentioned Major-General William M. Thomson, who at that moment, was the most powerful British representative in the Caucasus. The mission headed by the Deputy Quartermaster General of the British Army of Thessaloniki, Major General Sir William Henry Rycroft, also included British Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Price Jordan and French Colonel Pierre-Auguste Chardigny[1]. The Allied officers had a long list of tasks to accomplish including but not limited to the inspection of Tiflis-Baku and Tiflis-Alexandropol railways, as well as preparatory work for the arrival of British headquarters with the elements of British 27th Division[2]. In view of the war between Armenia and Georgia, the group of Sir William Rycroft offered their mediation to the government of Georgia in order to stop the war as soon as possible. That proposal was made when the Georgian army was retreating, and official Tiflis readily started the talks. The initial idea of the Allied representatives was to create a vast neutral zone that would embrace the whole of the county of Akhalkalaki together with the considerable part of Borchalo and place it under British protectorate until the final delimitation decision was made at the Paris Peace Conference. The government of Georgia rejected that idea and, in its turn, proposed that the troops of both Georgia and Armenia be moved back to where they had been before the beginning of the hostilities (i.e., return to the preliminary border along Kamenka). Georgia also insisted on defining “the aggressor-country” that could be forced to compensate the damage caused by the war[3].


On December 25 (1918) after a few days of debate, compromise and work on the text, the following telegram was finally sent to Erevan:


«To: Erevan. Attention: the Chairman of the Armenian Republic Kachaznuni. British Major General Rycroft who is now in Tiflis and Colonel Shardigny who is the head of French mission, made a decision at the conference held together with the Chairman of the Government of Georgian Republic Mr Jordania in presence of Mr. Djamalian, to stop all military actions immediately. Despite the protestes expressed by Mr. Djamalian General Rycroft, Colonel Shardigny and the Chairman of the Government of Georgian Republic Mr. Zhordania decided that:


The Joint Commission, which would include English, French, Georgian and Armenian representatives, will go to the frontline as soon as possible, to enforce following conditions achieved by the Agreement:


The Commission shall determine the strength of the garrisons, which must be left by the Georgians in the northern part of the county of Borchalo and by the Armenians in the southern part of the above county, as well as by the Georgians in the county of Akhalkalaki. The garrisons should be small. Georgian troops will stay on the line, they occupy at the present time, the Armenian troops must withdraw to the Turkish line DisikhJelal-Ogly. British pickets will be stationed on the railroad in the space between the Georgian and Armenian force, administration in the disputed part will be mixed. Georgian administration in the county of Akhalkalaki is to be monitored by the Allied commission, which includes representatives from the local Armenian and Muslim populations. Representatives of both countries, Georgia and Armenia, will soon be sent to Europe, where the whole border-related issue will be resolved of the Great Powers. Signed by: General Rycroft, N. Zhordania»[4].


At the same time, the mission that included British Captain Wipers, French Captain Gasfield  and Georgian Colonel Japaridze left for Karaklis, to the headquarters of the Commander of the Armenian forces, Major General Movses Silikov (Silikian).






Major General Movses Silikov (Silikian)

Sirakan F.Tigranian, Foreign Minister of Armenia



Against the background of the Georgian counter-offensive that started at the end of December (see below), the Armenian government, initially opposed the conditions of the above-mentioned proposal, agreed to accept them in view of the rapidly changing military situation, and on December 30, Captain Wipers sent the following radiogram from Karaklis:


«To: Tiflis. Attention: British Mission. Copies: Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of War.


The Armenian government agrees to cease the hostilities immediately and withdraw its troops, as per the decision of General Rycroft. Military action must cease, with the consent of the representatives of the warring countries, on the 31st of December 1918 at 24:00. The decision regarding the day of the withdrawal of Armenian troops to the new line will be made in Tiflis. The Armenian government is not entirely clear in regards with some of the proposals by Gen. Rycroft, but it agreed, in principle, with the terms and signed them. It would like to get a more precise explanation, and therefore commissioned two delegates, one civilian, the other - military, who are to accompany me to Tiflis for the final clarification of these issues by the Allies. After examining these issues, I completely agree with the Armenian government, that some of the detail related to these issues need to be more accurately explained for the sake of satisfactory and peaceful work on the terms proposed by General Rycroft. The Armenian government expressed the deepest generosity and sincere desire for peace. Sent from: The Allied Commission, Karaklis. Signed by: Captain Douglas Wipers, the Chairman of the Allied Commission. December 20, 1918»[5].


On December 31, 1918, all the Georgian commanders at the Armenian front received the following directive signed by the Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces of Georgia, Major General Alexander Gedevanov (Gedevanishvili) under the registration number 01384:


«Following the decision of the Government I hereby order you to stop military actions tonight, December 31, at 24:00. The troops must stay where that moment finds them. The commanders of the vanguards must get in touch with the Armenian command to notify them of the decision of our Government, and the Armenian commanders must be informed that the Armenian army must withdraw back to the line, which they occupied before the outbreak of hostilities. By the time specified above, the order to stop our military operations must be carried out at all costs. The receipt of this order must be confirmed immediately»[6].


In addition to a series of successful military operations of the Georgian army in Borchalo, there is another explanation for the unexpected change in the attitude of the Armenian leadership to the conflict with Georgia in late December 1918 and their willingness to make peace. In his memoirs, General Anton Denikin, who led at the time the anti-Bolshevik Armed Forces of the South of Russia (AFSR), refers to an open threat of Major General Sir George T. Forestier-Walker to use military force against Armenia. According to the above memoirs, Gen. Walker informed both Denikin and the Foreign Minister of Armenia Tigranian that he was aware of a secret agreement between the Armenian government and the AFSR command regarding a possible joint attack on Georgia that would be followed by her territorial dismemberment. Gen.Walker also warned that if such an attack on Georgia ever occurred, Britain would stand on the Georgian side and send her troops against Armenia[7]. Gen. Denikin himself flatly denied the existence of such an agreement between the Armenians and the command of the Volunteer Army (AFSR). However, the escalation of the conflict between Georgian forces and Denikin’s Volunteer Army that took place in the Sukhumi-Tuapse sector of the Black Sea coast in summer and late fall of 1918, suggests the existence of at least some common interests between AFSR and Armenia.


It should be noted here that despite the fact that at the end of 1918 Britain did not have any significant military contingents disposed in the Caucasus and around it, the emergence of an Armenian-British conflict would put an end to any possible support of Armenian territorial ambitions in Azerbaijan and Turkey on behalf of the Allies. That was a serious challenge for Armenia keeping in mind that her leaders counted on such territorial acquisitions at the expense of the Muslim neighbours that could hardly be compared with the small stripe of territory in the contested county in Georgia.










[1] Подполковника Джордана, бывшего вплоть до начала его миссии в Тифлисе командиром 7-го батальона Глочестерширского полка, впоследствии назначили командиром расквартированной в Баку британской 39-й пехотной бригады, а Шардиньи был начальником французской военной миссии на Южном Кавказе (Авт.).

[2] Hovannisian, Vol. I, р. 114

[3] Там же, р. 115

[4] Из истории армяно-грузинских взаимоотноошений,, стр. 131

[5] Там же, стр. 132

[6] Там же, стр. 132

    F. Kazemzadeh, p. 181

[7] А.И. Деникин, Очерки русской смуты, Т. IV (Берлин, 1924), стр. 154