Armeno-Georgian War of 1918

and Armeno-Georgian Territorial Issue in the 20th Century



By  Andrew Andersen and Georg Egge





Brief History of the Disputed Territory


The official status of the territory that formed the counties of Akhalkalaki and Borchalo, can be traced back to ancient times (See Map 1). Both the results of archaeological excavations and the texts of such ancient authors as Herodotus, Xenophon, Hecataeus, Ptolemy, and others, provide enough evidence to believe that starting at least with the 5th century BC, most of the territory in question was part of the the early state formations of Iverians and Moskhians. After the establishment of the Kingdom of Iveria at the turn of the 4th and the 3d centuries BC on the basis of the above state formations, the territory of the two future counties for more than a hundred years stayed within the borders of that ancient Georgian state. As a result of major political changes and upheavals that occurred in East Mediterranean area during the 1st and 2nd centuries BC, early Georgian states suffered heavy territorial losses. According to Strabo, a considerable part of modern south-eastern Georgia including the two counties the history of which being traced here, became incorporated into Armenia and stayed for almost 300 years either within ancient Armenian state or the two empires, namely, Rome and Parthia, that to a greater or less degree controlled Armenian territory during the described period of time.






The beginning of the 2d century AD, was marked by certain consolidation of the early Georgian states and recovering previously lost territories by Iveria. The Kingdom of Iveria managed to keep the territory of the future counties Akhalkalaki and Borchalo for nearly half a millennium until most of the whole region was conquered by the Arabs in 656 AD. The century of Arab-Byzantine wars and the decline of the Arab Caliphate were followed by the gradual recovery of both Georgian and Armenian statehood in the form of a patchwork of small kingdoms[1] and principalities.


In this context we should mention the Kingdom of Lore and Tashir that was formed at the end of the 10th century in the territory re-conquered by the Christians from the Emirate of Tiflis (one of the fragments of the former Arab Caliphate), as well as in the territories that ceded from the Kingdom of Tao-Klarjeti and the Principalities of Kakheti and Shirak (the first two states were the Georgian ones while the last one was Armenian). The Kingdom of Lore-Tashir whose borders embraced the whole territory of the future county of Borchalo as well as considerable parts of the future counties of Alexandropol and Kazakh, is referred to by many Armenian historians as an Armenian state. At the same time, the majority of Georgian and until recently, Russian historians tended to characterise that state as a mixed Armeno-Georgian formation. Here it would be important to mention that during the Mediaeval period of history to which the Kingdom of Lore-Tashir belonged, neither Europe, nor the adjacent Caucasus were under influence of ethno-linguistic ideologies known today as nationalism. At that time, the states were formed primarily on the basis of the loyalty of the majority of the population to a ruling house (in the case of Lore-Tashir it was the Kvirikid house) and on the front lines of fighting faiths, one of which passed through the South Caucasus, - on commitment to a certain religion or one of the competing churches. According to the chronicle by Matheos Uraetsi and recent studies by Arutyunova-Fidanyan, the Kingdom of Lore-Tashir was dominated by Chalcedonism (i.e., Oriental Orthodoxy) and belonged to the realm of the Georgian Apostolic Church, while all of its neighbours, including the Byzantines, determined the population of that kingdom either as the Romaioi (Byzantine Greeks), or Iviroi (Georgians).





The wars and turmoil of the period between the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 12th century resulted in the incorporation of Lore-Tashir together with the entire Northern Armenia from the river Aras to the Karabakh mountains into the united Georgian Kingdom. During the "golden age of Georgia," which lasted from 1118 until 1220 It should be noted here that during the described period of time, the province of Tashir (Tashiri), which included most of the future county of Borchalo without Trialeti (the current Tsalka district), was under hereditary governance of the princely family of Zaxarian (also known as Mxargrdzeli) that ruled the lands of northern Armenia on behalf of the Georgian kings. As for the province of Javakheti (the future county of Akhalkalaki) was not included into the domain of the Zaxarids and remained among the crown lands of Georgia proper.







During the following 580 years up until the annexation of East Georgian (Kartli-Kahetian) Kingdom by the Russian Empire in 1801, the territory of the future Borchalo County did not leave the limits of Georgia (Kartli). As for the future county of Akhalkalaki (Javakheti), this province also stayed within Georgia until the collapse of the centralized kingdom into several states in the middle of the fifteenth century. Starting from the 1460s, Javakheti was part of a fairly strong Principality of Samtskhe in southern Georgia up until the elimination and of the principality and complete absorption of its territory into the Ottoman Empire in 1590. After two hundred and forty years of being part of ottoman Turkey, Javakheti was invaded and annexed by the Russian Empire in 1829 to be reorganized into the county of Akhalkalaki within the imperial province of Tiflis.


Based on the above facts which were well known to the Georgian leaders as well as to vast majority of educated Georgians, both the Government and the public of Georgia shared strong belief that the counties of Akhalkalaki and Borchalo were integral and undeniable parts of their country[2].












[1] Здесь и далее мы избегаем распространенного в российских исторических исследованиях термина царства по отношению к небольшим христианским государствам Южного Кавказа. Здесь нам представляется более правильным употребление слова королевства (Авт.)

[2] Этот аргумент не ставится под сомнение наиболее компетентными исследователями вопроса, в частности профессором Ричардом Ованисьяном (см. R. Hovannisian, The Republic of Armenia (Los Angeles, 1982), Vol. I, p. 72 )