Trans Eurasia travel

Your virtual guide to Eurasia! Let's travel together!

First Armenian Republic

Following the Russian Revolution in November 1917, Russian forces began withdrawing from the areas of Ottoman Armenia which they had occupied: Lenin was well aware that disillusion with the war was rampant in the Russian army and that withdrawal was necessary to ensure the soldiers' loyalty. Consequently in Anatolia, Armenians were fighting the Ottomans virtually alone. There was a short respite from fighting following the formation in Moscow of a Caucasian federation on 24 April 1918 uniting Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan but ethnic and religious differences quickly led to its demise. Turkey then started a new offensive attacking Armenia from the west while Russian Menshevik and Turkish forces based in Azerbaijan attacked from the north and east. The Turks advancing from the west were initially successful, retaking the territory west of the Arax River and capturing Alexandropol (Gyumri) on 15 May. They invaded the Arax Valley, occupying the village and railway station of Sardarapat on 21 May from which they launched an offensive towards Yerevan the following day. It was to be a decisive defeat for Turkey. For three days the Turks attacked the Armenian forces under Daniel-Bek Pirumian but were repelled and on 24 May the Armenians went over to the offensive and routed the Turks. The victory at Sardarapat followed by others at Bash-Aparan and Gharakilisa between 24 and 28 May led to a declaration of independence on 28 May 1918 when the first Republic of Armenia was established under the Dashnak Party. The territories of Nakhichevan and Nagorno Karabagh were incorporated into the Armenian republic but were excluded from Armenia only a week later when Armenia and Turkey signed a peace treaty at Batum on 4 June. However, Turkey's involvement in World War I ended with its capitulation on 30 October and the question of Nakhichevan and Nagorno Karabagh was automatically reopened.

The Armenians hoped that the victorious Allies would keep their promises and enlarge the borders of the new Armenian state after the armistice in November. Eventually the Treaty of Sevres in August 1920 granted Armenia borders which were adjudicated by President Woodrow Wilson of the USA in November of that year. Meanwhile, Turkey had invaded Armenia in September and seized part of the country. In parallel to these events the Bolsheviks had invaded Armenia in April 1920 and the combined pressure of Turks and Bolsheviks caused the collapse of the Armenian government, notwithstanding the deliberations about its borders taking place far away in France. In reality, acceptance of Bolshevik rule was for the Armenians the only real defence against the Turks. Armenia was formally incorporated into the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic on 29 November 1920.

The Bolsheviks made large territorial concessions to Turkey, notably by handing over areas which had been under Russian rule even prior to 1914 including the historic Bagratid capital of Ani and the city of Kars. Soviet historians have claimed that the Bolsheviks wanted a quick agreement with Turkey because they believed that a Turkish delegation was in London where David Lloyd George, much more in favour of newly secularised Turkey under Ataturk than Bolshevik Russia under Lenin, was offering Turkey rule over the Caucasus as a protectorate. This protectorate, the Bolsheviks believed, would include Armenia but, much more important from both Russian and Western perspectives, the Baku oilfields in Azerbaijan. It is, however, more likely that Lenin's real motive was to encourage Ataturk whom he (mistakenly) believed would be an ardent supporter of the communist cause. He probably also believed that Turkey was militarily too strong for Russia to be able to win a campaign in Armenia and these two factors led to Russia's concurrence with Turkey's proposals for the border. Had any Armenians been involved in the Moscow discussions between Russia and Turkey it is inconceivable that Ani would have been relinquished. The Treaty of Sevres was formally replaced in 1923 by the Treaty of Lausanne, effectively abandoning any pretence of Western support for an independent Armenia and reconfirming the message of 1878 that the Western powers, whatever their feelings about the sufferings of the Armenian people, would relegate action to the 'too difficult' pile.

You can find all usefull information about Armenia travel here. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time and we will gladly answer your questions.