Armeno-Georgian War of 1918

and Armeno-Georgian Territorial Issue in the 20th Century



By  Andrew Andersen and Georg Egge








The current situation at Georgian-Armenian border is relatively calm and free of hostilities. The border line itself remained unchanged in principle since the agreement signed on November 6, 1921. As for the territory of the former two disputed counties, it can be roughly divided into the following three zones:


A) Zone "A" - the former Lori sector of the county of Borchalo with small increments of territory as described above, which is now a part of Armenia (as of today, it lies within three Armenian provinces: most of it – within the province of Lori, and two smaller parts – within Shirak and Tavush). This territory is not claimed by Georgia, as modern Georgia has no territorial claims to neighbouring countries, including Armenia, either at the official level, or at the level of mass consciousness. The ethnic composition of the zone "A" has changed since the war of December 1918. Due to various circumstances beyond the scope of this study, this territory became practically mono-ethnic: almost one hundred percent of its population are Armenians. There are also small Greek and Russian residual communities there.


(B) Zone "B" - the former northern sectors of the county of Borchalo (Borchalo, Ekaterinenfeld and Trialeti), located within Georgia where they are now organized into four out of seven districts of the land Kvemo-Kartli: Tsalka, Dmanisi, Bolnisi and Marneuli. The district of Tsalka, is inhabited predominantly by ethnic Greeks (61%) and Armenians (28.5%), in 1918-1920 was the only part of the county of Borchalo, on which Armenia laid no official claim. As for the other three modern districts that belong to Zone “B” and in 1918 were claimed by Armenia, but remained Georgian, as per the Agreement of January 17, 1919, their ethnic composition also changed significantly over the past 90 years, and as of today, the dominant ethnic group there is the Azeris (see Table 3). That fact possibly explains why there are no claims on this territory coming from the contemporary leadership of Armenia.



Contemporary district

Dominant ethnic group

%  to the total population of the district














Table 3: Dominant ethnic groups of the former northern sectors of the former Borchalo county, as of the end of the 20th century.

Source: General Census of the USSR for the year 1989



(C) Area "C" – the former county of Akhalkalaki district (two of the six districts of the land Javakheti (Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda). As can be seen from Table 4, no significant changes occurred in its ethnic composition since the beginning of the twentieth century.




Contemporary district

Dominant ethnic group

%  to the total population of the district








Таble 4: Dominant ethnic groups of the former Akhalkalaki county, as of the end of the 20th century.

Source: General Census of the USSR for the year 1989[1]



At the official level, there are no Armenian claims on this territory at the moment, but at the level of mass consciousness it has been Zone “C” that during to decades since the restoration of Armenian and Georgian independence became the subject of active propaganda in Russian and partially, Armenian media aimed at destabilization of bilateral relations between the two nations, revival of an old border strife going back to 1918 and, finally, creation of “the second Karabakh” in the Armenian-populated Georgian land of Javakheti. the Armeno-Georgian border area. As of today the propaganda campaign aimed at the creation of a new conflict in the South Caucasus has been supported not only by the media and some “analysts” but also by numerous online resources, claiming to represent the interests of the Armenian people. We do not possess detailed information regarding the degree of success in manipulating the public opinion both in Armenia and in Armenian diasporas worldwide, but the ideologeme of “the Armenian Javakh illegally annexed by Georgia” has been successfully planted in mass consciousness since the late 80's, and it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that it is largely due to the balanced and restrained position on both the Armenian and Georgian leadership that the issue of Javakheti so far has not degraded into inter-ethnic violence and hatred as well as into the military involvement of Russian Federation in this part of Georgia that could be similar to the operations in already destabilized Abkhazia and Tskhinvali-“South Ossetia”. Some positive momentum for the improvement of political situation in Javakheti was the evacuation of the Russian military base that occurred in 2006, as well as a number of economic and infrastructure programs of the central Georgian government.


Given the number of economic and social problems that trouble the present-day Javakheti, as well as the experience of Armeno-Georgian relations since 1918, it seems possible to give the following recommendations aimed at neutralization of a number of conflict-provoking factors in this area:


  • Promote more active integration of the population of Zone "C" into economic and social processes of the rest of Georgia
  • Encourage the coaching of local administrative staff in training centers of the rest of Georgia
  • Promote the study of Georgian language among the local population while preserving their Armenian identity
  • Work on the creation of investment-friendly environment in Zone “C” (keeping in mind that such an environment can be productive only subject to the fulfillment of other recommendations above and below, otherwise it may become counterproductive)
  • Develop local self-government, at the same time distancing from the creation of quasi-state territorial formations similar to the Soviet-style autonomies in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali-South Ossetia  the development of which led to the recent wars and ethnic cleansings
  • Pay special attention to the objective teaching of history in the schools of Zone “C” in both Georgian and Armenian languages thus impeding the historical myths, implanted into mass consciousness by various destructive forces
  • Conduct outreach to the public of Zone "C", which would promote understanding that national boundaries should not necessarily coincide with ethnic ones, as well as understanding of the fact that the transfer of a territory under the jurisdiction of a neighbouring state may have a negative impact that may significantly outweigh benefits of territorial acquisition. Within such programs the examples could be provided of how such changes turned into big troubles for the local population
  • Study and implement constructive experience of other countries and regions that had similar problems


The gradual smoothing of the objective and subjective contradictions existing in the area of ​​the Armeno-Georgian border, could contribute to regional stability and serve as a positive example for the successful resolution of other conflicts in the region, currently in a more dangerous stage.









[1] Stephen F. Jones, “Georgia: the trauma of statehood” in Jan Bremmer and Ray Taras (eds.), New States New politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations (Cambridge, 1997), p. 506