Armeno-Georgian War of 1918

and Armeno-Georgian Territorial Issue in the 20th Century



By  Andrew Andersen and Georg Egge





Beginning of the Armed Conflict: October Clashes



On 18 October 1918, an Armenian military unit crossed the demarcation line from the south and entered Georgian-controlled railway station of Kober (Koberi)[1].


The German command in Tiflis that was still performing its duties in the region demanded that the Armenians evacuate Kober immediately. However, the Armenian unit refused to withdraw from the station. The situation was becoming increasingly complicated largely due to the limited amount of German personnel in the disputed area. Just like the Turks, the Germans started evacuation from the Caucasus following the Armistice of Compiegne signed on 11 November 1918, despite all the efforts of the Georgian government aimed at extending the presence of German troops at least around Vorontsovka[2]. It should be also noted here, that both German and Georgian units near the demarcation line were quite small and were supposed to perform exclusively non-combat border guard functions. For example, one mixed German-Georgian garrison in the village of Karinj consisted of only 20 Georgian and 12 German soldiers under command of one officer. Other garrisons were similar in numbers. Facing the development of confrontation Georgians and Germans were contacting Tiflis to appeal for reinforcements[3].


In response to the calls for help, the Georgian command sent to the conflict zone around Sanain two armored trains and a detachment of 250 men. In view of the significant change of the power balance, the Armenian unit evacuated Kober by the end of October 20 leaving posts on the heights to the west and east of the railroad. However, Georgian ultimatum demanding immediate withdrawal of all Armenian troops operating around Kober towards the station of Shagali to the south of the demarcation line, was rejected. Same day the government of Georgia received a coded telegram from the government of Armenia signed by the Primier Hovhannes Kachaznuni  with the following text:


To: Minister-President Zhordania. Copy: Chargé d'affaires of Armenia in Georgia Djamalian. The commander of Delijan detachment reported to me that he received an ultimatum from the Georgian army demanding to leave the station of Shagali. The Armenians received my order not to leave the station and to start a defensive battle in the case of Georgian offensive. 

In order to avoid new disasters on behalf of the suffering people of Armenia and Georgia, in the name of truth and justice, I ask you to refrain from aggressive actions and to stop Georgian forces on the existing line. We will resolve all border issues through negotiation. I remind you of your public, solemn declaration at a meeting with participation of Ramishvili, Aharonian and Hatisov, that Georgia had no claim to Lore and kept it only temporarily, in order to avoid its occupation by a third party. Waiting for your reply. Minister-President Kachaznuni.[4]


On October 23 three companies strong Armenian forces attacked German garrison in the village of Karinj and forced the Germans to retreat. To support the Germans, the Georgian command in Sanain sent to the conflict area one infantry company and an armoured train. The next day, the Georgian government declared martial law in Borchalo, and General George Tsulukidze was appointed the Governor of the troubled county.





Figure 2: Dislocation of Georgian and German garrisons to the north of the demarcation line; replacement of Turkish garrisons with Armenian ones; first armed clashes (October, 1918)



  • Double red-orange line along the river Kamenka is the demarcation line established at the insistence of Turkey in June 1918.
  • The green line is the border of the province of Tiflis that was supposed to become the national border of Georgia as per the Treaty of Batum.
  • The thin red line denotes modern national border between Armenia and Georgia that corresponds to the border between the “Soviet republics” of the USSR up until its disintegration in 1991.
  • Light yellow color marks the territory of de-facto Georgian control, as of early October 1918.
  • Black and white triangular flags denote Georgian garrisons; white triangular flags with black “iron crosses” denote German garrisons; Georgian and German headquarters are denoted with dark red rectangular flag with black and white canton and with red, white and black rectangular tricolor with black “iron cross” respectively.
  • The territory that had been under de-facto Turkish control until early October 1918 and was re-taken by the Armenians in the middle of October upon Turkish evacuation is marked with light green and pink stripes.
  • Falling red triangular flags with the crescent together with the flying red-over-yellow triangular flags denote Turkish garrisons replaced with the Armenian ones by the middle of October; red, blue and yellow rectangular tricolor denotes Armenian headquarters.
  • Armenian offensive and retreat is marked by purple color while Georgian counter-action including armoured train shelling, is marked with dark blue color.




On October 25-27, fighting continued around the village Karindzh which changed hands several times. The sudden appearance of Georgian armoured train critically changed the military situation in Georgian favour, and on October 26 the Georgian government received a telegram sent from Erevan on behalf of the Armenian Prime Minister Hovhannes Kachaznuni. The telegram confirmed the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Tsater and Karinj, and the recent capture of the two above villages was described as a misunderstanding. The telegram also contained a proposal to convene a conference to resolve the border issue. On October 27 all the hostilities between the Armenians and Georgians have been temporarily suspended.





German and Georgian officers near the demarcation line in Borchalo



According to Georgian researcher Archil Chachkhiani, the October incident was provoked by the Armenian government with the intention to demonstrate loyalty to the Entente at the eve of the surrender of the Central powers by launching combat operations against “pro-German” Georgia, as well as against the German troops stationed on Georgian territory[5]. As it will be noted below, the second phase of the war - in December 1918 - began immediately after British landing in Baku, and that may not be a coincidence.


On the other hand, Professor Richard G. Hovannisian assumes that the October incident was just a probe of Georgian defence in an attempt to explore the chances for a successful annexation of the disputed counties by military force.[6]


Finally, one should also mention here the role of Turkey in the outbreak of the Armeno-Georgian conflict. It was as early as October 5th  as the Ottoman Empire was just getting ready to surrender and evacuate her troops from the Caucasus when Turkish General Khalil Pasha a few officers to arrange for the transfer to Armenia not only the Turkish-occupied part of the Echmiadzin County (Bambak) but also the buffer zone in Lori to the south of Kamenka[7]. At the very same time Abdul-Kerim Pasha, Turkish representative in Georgia, made a similar proposal to the Georgians [8].


Three days after the end of the first round of hostilities in the Lori, Ottoman Turkey capitulated and signed the Armistice of Mudros. Over the next eleven days Austro-Hungary and Germany surrendered as well thus putting the First World War to an end. By agreement between the Entente powers the South Caucasus fell into the British sphere of influence.


Sir William Montgomerie Thomson




In early November 1918, the Commander-in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in Persia, Major-General Sir William Montgomerie Thomson, who was at that moment in the Iranian port of Anzali on the Caspian Sea preparing for the expedition to the Caucasus, made ​​a series of well-known proclamations, which inter alia contained the following political instructions:


  1. No later than 10:00 a.m., November 17, 1918 all the Turkish and German troops must leave the Russian Caucasus within the limits of the Viceroyalty of the Caucasus, as of 1914[9].
  2. Both the city and the oil fields of Baku as well as the port of Batum (Batumi) are to be occupied by British troops to maintain order, and no other military units will be admitted in the British occupation zone.
  3. Britain considers the Caucasus as part of her ally, Russia, and therefore the recognition of any new governments is not considered; however, certain degree of cooperation with the de facto existing local authorities is not ruled out.
  4. Britain will monitor the international trade and law enforcement in the Caucasus through her authorized representatives, not interfering into other internal affairs of the region[10].


On November 17 the first British expeditionary force arrived in Baku, and on December 15 followed the occupation of the port of Batum with the territory around it. British commanders in the Eastern Mediterranean also reserved the right to send troops to other strategically important cities of the Caucasus and to have their garrisons there.


This dramatic change in the military and political situation in the region was met with restraint by Azerbaijan and the Mountain Republic (North Caucasus) and with cautious optimism by Georgia. In Armenia, the arrival of the British led to a surge of optimism if not euphory accompanied by the new hopes for a "bright future" that had been multiple times promised the Armenian people by various representatives of the Entente during the Great War[11].












[1] Hovannisian, Vol. I, p. 75

[2]А.Чачхиани, Борьба за территориальную целостность Грузии в 1918-1919 годах (Армяно-Грузинская война). Диссертация на соискание научной степени канд. исторических наук (Тбилиси, 2006), стр. 82

[3] Там же, стр. 84

[4] Там же, стр. 85-86

[5] Там же, стр. 93

[6] Hovannisian, Vol. I, p. 75

[7] Там же, p. 58

[8] R. Hovannisian, Armenia on the Road toIndependence (Berkley and Los Angeles, 1969), p. 233.

[9] In fact, after long negotiations the Turkish 9th Army was allowed to occupy the territory of  Kars up until January  

   25, 1919

[10] F. Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Transcaucasia (Oxford, 1951), pp.167-170

[11] Ibid., p.25