Armeno-Georgian War of 1918

and Armeno-Georgian Territorial Issue in the 20th Century



By  Andrew Andersen and Georg Egge



Results and Consequences of Armeno-Georgian War of 1918



The four-week military conflict, cost Armenia and Georgia thousands of human lives, caused severe material damage and added serious complication to the bilateral relations between the two nations born out of the Great War and the Russian turmoil, whose international status had been questionable even before the beginning of the hostilities. None of the parties of the conflict that signed the provisional peace agreement on January 17, 1919, was satisfied with its terms. Georgia not only failed to establish the border line, which they considered fare and indisputable, but even lost a small section of prewar-controlled land that was reorganized into the Neutral Zone. The territorial gains of Armenia (a tiny strip of land in the county of Borchalo) were negligible, compared with what Armenian leaders expected to achieve as a result of the war. In addition, having concentrated almost all their forces against Georgia, the Armenians lost their opportunity to gain a stable control over much larger and strategically important territory in the south of Erivan Province (Nakhichevan and Sharur)[1].


The military leadership of both Armenia and Georgia – strongly believed that the war was actually won by them and blamed the Entente Powers for their interference and "snatching victory from the winners’ hands". In the societies of both countries emerged alienation, bitterness, and some old prejudices against the neighbour nations revived. One of the clear results of the war was the destabilization of the transport connection between Georgia and Armenia, which added further complication to the already miserable economic situation in Armenia, putting the republic in almost complete isolation from the outside world[2].


In addition to the above mentioned consequences of the war on the regional level, the Armenian-Georgian conflict also had a negative impact for both countries on international level. As of today, the vast majority of historians who have seriously studied the described conflict agree on the fact that the December 1918 war caused severe damage to the reputation of the two newly independent countries and substantially reduced their chances for success at the Paris Peace Conference, including the recognition of their independence[3].



Here we would like to take a liberty of expressing an alternative opinion. Not in any way questioning the axiom that piece is better than war, it should be noted that the politics of Georgia and Armenia during their first years after regaining independence did not differ much from the politics of both new and old nations of Europe of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Here it would suffice to recall the bloody conflicts between the Balkan states during the two Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and later - the territorial conflicts between the countries that emerged from the wreckage of the collapsed Austro-Hungarian Empire (conflicts between Poland and Czechoslovakia, Poland and western Ukraine, or the conflicts of Hungary with all her neighbours, etc.). And would it be easy to figure out the major differences between Armeno-Georgian strife over Borchalo-Akhalkalaki and much older conflict between France and Germany over Alsace-Lorraine? We find it difficult to explain why the territorial claims of Armenia and Georgia in 1918-20 could be considered more immoral than “land-collecting projects” of other countries that took place during the same historical period. Therefore, reading the harsh criticism of the South Caucasian states on behalf of the European politicians of the early 20s as well as a number of historians, who accuse the entire population of the region of "inability to live in peace" and "the struggle for a few dozens of square miles of territory with a few villages", inevitably brings to mind such terms as "double standards".


Summing up the events of Armenian-Georgian war of 1918, it is also important to note that, despite the number of incidents that are inevitable in any military conflict, that military conflict was not accompanied by mass killings and ethnic cleansing, which distinguishes it from other wars that took place in the South Caucasus in 1918-1920.








[1] Hovannisian, Vol. I, р. 1229-230

[2] J.G. Harbord, “American Military Mission to Armenia”, International Conciliation, No. 151, June 1920

    (New York, 1920), pp.13-54

[3] Kazemzadeh, pp. 182-183

      Hovannisian, Vol. I, р. 93