Армяно-Грузинская война 1918 г.

и Армяно-Грузинский территориальный вопрос в ХХ в.


Armeno-Georgian War of 1918

and Armeno-Georgian Territorial Issue in the 20th Century



By Andrew Andersen and Georg Egge



06.1919 - 04.1920:

Attempts of Normalization and Territorial Compromise



The December war of 1918 and provisional Peace agreement of January 1919 did not result in the resolution of the territorial conflict between Armenia and Georgia. New delimitation disputes arose in February-July 1919, in the course of the two sister republics’ expansion the territories of Kars and Batum. Basing on a number of arguments of ethnic and historical character, a detailed description of which requires a separate study, Georgia claimed the entire territory of Batum (the districts of Batum and Artvin), as well as the districts of Ardahan and Oltu (Olti) of Kars territory, while the Armenian side also claimed the whole of Olti and most of Ardahan districts considering them part of the former "Russian Armenia", leaving open the question of the status of Batum.


Both Armenian and Georgian claims for the former Russian territories of Kars and Batum were unequivocally opposed by the South-West Caucasian Republic (SWCR), a puppet-state created in Kars on January18, 1919 by the Turkish military administration that ran the area between April 1918 and December 1918. The pro-Turkish SWCR government of Fakhreddin (Erdoghan) Pirioglu stationed in  Kars, 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)[1] . 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 at the beginning of its existence, the SWCR enjoyed some favor on behalf of the British mission in the Caucasus[2] . 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[3]. 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[4].


The sympathies of allies turned around in early February of the year 1919 when the paramilitary forces of SWCR under the command Server Beg started attacking British military and civil personnel and went so far as to invade Georgian administered counties of Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki  in order to expand the Kars-controlled area[5]. That action of the SWCR forced General Thomson to allow Armeno-Georgian takeover of the troublesome Kars territory during his meeting with Armenian and Georgian officials on March 14[6]. Following the Georgian counter-offensive of early April 1919, the British units that had already been stationed in the province of Erevan, entered Kars on April 6. Four days later, on April 10 1919, the SWCR leaders were arrested and deported while nine 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[7]. 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 (part of Okam sector and most of Chyldyr sector) to Armenia[8]. As for the territory of Batum, it found itself under British governorship that spread over to the parts of the districts of Oltu (part of Olor sector) and Ardahan (part of Okam sector evacuated by the Georgians)[9]. A small British garrison was also stationed in the city of Kars (See Map 5).






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As early as in the middle of March 1919, when the battles were still being fought to the north of Kars, Major General William Montgomery Thomson introduced his border proposals to Armenian and Georgian officials. Aiming at at least temporary (prior to the final decision of the Paris Peace Conference) resolution of the counter-productive border dispute between the two sister republics, Thomson proposed that the Armenian sovereignty over Kars territory would be limited  to the districts of Kars and Kaghyzman only, while Georgia would administer the northern half of the district of Ardahan. The district of Oltu and the remainder of Ardahan were to be placed under the British administration together with the whole of Batum territory. Thomson also recommended the abolition and partition of the Neutral Zone Lori: the northern part of the zone with the village and copper mines of Alaverdi was to be returned to Georgia whereas Armenia could administer the rest of it. Armenia was also expected to acknowledge the Georgian rule over Akhalkalaki and drop all further claims to that county (See Map 5)[10]. Being accepted in Tiflis as a provisional delimitation and with limited enthusiasm the Thomson plan was protested by Erevan as unfair and illogical. The government of Armenia was prepared to accept the proposed delimitation in Kars territory but it categorically opposed the idea of dropping claims for Akhalkalaki and Lori. This position of Armenia was supported by the head of the US mission in Tiflis Benjamin B. Moore and British Governor of Batum, Brigadier General William Cook-Collis[11]. As a result, the Georgian troops withdrew beyond “the Thomson Line” leaving the considerable part of the disputed Ardahan district under Armenian and British control.


General Kristaphor Araratian



During the second half of 1919 the governments of both Armenia and Georgia started looking for normalisation of bilateral relations. Exchange of delegations and talks between the two sister republics that occurred in summer and early fall of 1919, resulted in a series of agreements signed in such spheres as trade, transit and the rights of minorities. A few public speeches made by the leaders of both nations (Ramishvili, Vratzian, Zhordania, et al.) were marked with the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration[12]. Some progress was also reached in terms of possible territorial compromise by attempting to adjust the claims of the two nations in the counties of Borchalo and Akhalkalaki as well as in Kars territory. That task was far from being easy as the Armenian borders proposed by «the Delegation of Integral Armenia” at the Paris Peace Conference were only slightly modified if compared with Erevan’s territorial aspirations at the beginning of the Armeno-Georgian War in late 1918, while Georgia still insisted on her rights to the whole of the former province of Tiflis and the two districts of Kars territory (Ardahan and Olty)[13]. Nevertheless, the compromise became possible in July 1919, when Armenian Defence Minister General Kristaphor Araratian submitted a new border proposal in accordance with which Armenia was to drop claims to almost two-thirds of Akhalkalaki and the northernmost stripe of the Neutral Zone (to the north of Alaverdi) and to agree with Georgia’s possession of some 40 per cent of the district of Ardahan (Kars territory) to the north of Kura. “The Araratian Line” was to run along the Somkheti Range[14] to the south of the northern border of the Neutral Zone and after running a few miles further to the north along the Javakhi Range, it was to go west along the border of the highland part of the county of Akhalkalaki embracing the village of Bogdanovka (Ninotsminda), and further on – to the north of the lakes Khinchalo and Khozapin (Kartsakhi) but to the south of lake Toporovan until it touched Kura river at the administrative border between the province of Tiflis and the district of Ardahan. In Ardahan it was identical with already existing Armeno-Georgian demarcation line up until the border of British-administered Batum territory (see Mар 6)[15].





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Being presented to the Georgian Delegation in Paris this project was, nevertheless, not accepted as the basis for the future state border between he two nations. The Georgians failed to see any major concession in the above proposal largely due to the fact that most of the disputed territory “granted” to Georgia by Araratian was already under firm Georgian control. Nevertheless, the official Tiflis came out with a counter-proposal reflected in a foreign ministry memorandum stating that Georgia could be satisfied with the northern half of the Neutral Zone (with Alaverdi copper plants) along “the Thomson Line” (see above) and was prepared to drop her claims to the district of Olti (Kars territ.), especially keeping in mind that the above district was de facto controlled by the Muslim militias of Japhar-Bey[16]. Georgia was, however, not prepared to cede any part of Akhalkalaki to Armenia and claimed not just the northern part of Ardahan district but the whole of it[17]. The Georgian compromise proposal was, in turn, rejected by Armenia. Despite the above disagreement, the leaders of the two sister republics of the South Caucasus facing numerous internal and external problems kept looking for some settlement. An Armeno-Georgian conference that took place in Tiflis in September, 1919, was marked by the spirit of reconciliation and resulted in signing of a number of new agreements vital to both countries in November, 1919. However, the two nations failed to achieve territorial settlement that would be mutually satisfactory despite the fact that at the very last moment Armenian delegation agreed to drop all claims to Akhalkalaki in exchange for Alaverdi copper mines[18].


Half a year later, an additional territorial dispute arose between Armenia and Georgia, this time regarding the future status of the Turkish Lazistan east of Trebizond and British-administered Batum territory and Armenian claims for a part of the port of Batum with the left bank of Chorokh River (the so-called “Chorokh-Imerkhavi Corridor”) and the full exterritorial control over the Georgian part of the railway branch from Alexandropol to Batum (see Mар 6a)[19]. The prospective incorporation of Chorokh-Imerkhevi corridor and Lazistan into Armenia caused protests on behalf of Georgian delegation and in Georgia proper where the whole territory of Batum was considered unequivocally Georgian province of Achara (Ajaria) and Lazistan was referred to as historically Georgian province of Chaneti. As a result, Georgian troops were sent in late March of 1920 across the administrative border between the district of Ardahan and the territory of Batum to occupy eastern half of the territory up to Khulo-Ardanuch line[20]. Meanwhile the Allied Comission dismissed Georgian claims to Lazistan asserting that despite some Georgian origins of the Laz people they never express any willingness to be incorporated into Georgian state[21].





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The San-Remo Conference that held from 19 to 26 of April, 1920 and saw the new territorial strife between Armenia and Georgia, signalled the divestiture of the Allied leadership away from most of their obligations in regards with both nations of the South Caucasus including the refusal to provide and use a military force necessary to guarantee their safety and integrity. The conflict over the “Chorokh-Imerkhavi Corridor” and the projected ex-territorial railway in San-Remo, resulted in another destructive blow to the reputation of both Armenia and Georgia at the Peace Conference. The disputed area was finally annexed by Georgia in July, 1920, but that conflict significantly undermined the future Western support of both Armenian and Georgian cases[22], and the diplomatic representatives of the two nations were asked to refrain from appealing to the Allied Powers until they resolved all the disputes bilaterally[23].


As of today, it would hardly be an exaggeration to state that of both the December war of 1918 and the new territorial disputes between Armenia and Georgia that remained unresolved until the fall of 1920, not only severely damaged the reputation of the two South Caucasian republics but also gave the leading Entente Powers grounds to withdraw their support of the two new democracies and delay even de-facto recognition of their independence (Armenia, for example, was granted de-facto recognition only in January 1920, less than a year before her fall, whereas de-jure recognition of Georgia occurred less than a month before her capital fell to the Soviets on February 25, 1921). 








[1] Hovannisian, pp. 205-206

    Kazemzadeh, p. 199

[2] Kazemzadeh, pp. 199-200

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

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

[4] Hovannisian, p. 211

[5] Hovannisian, pp. 210-211

[6] Ibid., p. 213

[7] Ibid., pp. 220-221

[8] Ibid., p.221

[9] Ibid., p.221

[10] Hovannisian, Vol. I, р. 213

[11] Там же, рр. 218-220

[12] Hovannisian, Vol. II, рр. 159-167

[13] Там же, р. 193

[14] Согласно Ованнисьяну граница проходила по «Борчалинскому хребту», однако геогорафическая литература и топографические карты не дают никакой информации о хребте с таким названием, в то же вемя на описываемой линии предлагаемой границы имеется Сомхетский хребет (Авт.)

[15] Hovannisian, p.154 and

    Robert Hewsen, Armenia: A Historical Atlas (Chicago, 2001), p.235.

[16] Там же, р.154-155

[17] Hovannisian, p.154.

[18] Ibid., p.162

[19] Hovannisian, Vol. III, р. 114

[20] Ibid., p.54.

[21] Ibid., p.34.

[22] Ibid, p. 266

[23] З. Авалов, Независимость Грузии в международной политике; 1918-1921 гг. (Париж, 1924),

      стр. 270-276