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Chapter 47
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Armenia

by Vahan M. Kurkjian

published by the
Armenian General Benevolent Union of America

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 49

 p474  Chapter XLVIII
The Armenian Republic
May 28, 1918 to November 29, 1920

I. The Beginning of the Republic

1. The aftermath of the Russian Revolution

The greatest and most unexpected event of the First World War was the Russian Revolution in February 1917. From that day on the fortunes of the Armenian people were linked with Russia.

During the Provisionalº Government of Alexander Kerensky, Premier Lvov issued a proclamation putting all the Armenian provinces liberated from Turkey under the protection of Russia. This arrangement was short-lived. On the second day of the following October Revolution which overthrew the Kerensky government, the Bolsheviki issued a call to all the Russian officers and soldiers to return home. This was a great blow to the Armenians to whom the Russian army was a bulwark against the Turks. Thereupon the Turkish hordes overran the entire country and occupied the former Russian districts with all-Armenian population.

Soon after, Lenin and his communist government signed a peace treaty with the Turks (January 1, 1918), which was recognized in the treaty signed at Brest-Litovsk between Germany and Russia. Thus the Bolshevik government began to rule the country.

When finally the Entente Powers defeated Germany and her allies, Czarist soldiers and White Russians under Denikin and Wrangel — with but little outside help — fought the Bolsheviki for many years, but eventually were defeated. Nevertheless, the Bolsheviki were compelled to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918) whereby they ceded Kars, Ardahan and Batum to Turkey and permitted Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to fall under  p475 Turkish domination. The decree which recognized the right of autonomy for these three countries thus became invalid.

In an effort to maintain their freedom, the three nations united and formed a Council in Tiflis, known as Seym. This Council declared the Trans-Caucasus a Federated Republic, without severing its ties to Bolshevik Russia. The Seym protested against the cession of Kars, Ardahan and Batum to Turkey, but since the Caucasus front was much weakened by the general withdrawal of the Russian forces in November, 1917, the gates were opened for the Turkish invasion. A contributing cause was the disunity among the three nations. The Azerbaijanis were of the same race and religion as the Turks, and desired a Pan-Turanian union with them and the dismemberment of Armenia. The Georgians were unreliable. Thus the Armenians were left standing alone.

2. Armeno-Turkish relations

The Armenians, foreseeing the future trend of events, promoted a convention in Tiflis in September, 1917. Of the 203 delegates attending it, 103 belonged to the Tashnak party. The convention elected a National Council which, with the consent of the Seym, resolved to assume the defense of the Caucasus against the Turks. The Russian army had left behind a vast quantity of supplies and ammunition. When the Azerbaijani Tatars saw this step taken by the Armenians, they openly sided with the Turks and seized the communication lines, thus cutting off the Armenian National Councils in Baku and Erevan from the National Council in Tiflis.

Meanwhile, both the Ittihad (Unionist) and later the Kemalist Turks moved to win the friendship of the Bolsheviki. Mustafa Kemal sent several delegations to Moscow and the former bitter enemies became close friends — a friendship which proved disastrous for the Armenians.

The signing of the Turco-Russian friendship treaty (January 1, 1918), emboldened the Turks, under Vehib Pasha, to attack the Armenians. They tried to justify this by accusing the Armenians of "crimes" against the Turkish population in the Armenian provinces. Thus a Turko-Armenian war was started. In the name of the Seym, General T. Nazarbekian was appointed commander on the Caucasus front and General Antranig took the command in Turkish Armenia. Under heavy pressure from the combined forces of the Turkish army and the Kurdish irregulars, Armenians were forced to withdraw  p476 from Erzingan to Erzerum. After capturing Erzingan, Vehib Pasha also occupied Trebizond, where the Russians had left huge quantities of supplies. Erzerum and Sarikamish were evacuated. Roads were clogged with refugees. Further southeast, in Van, the Armenians resisted the Turkish army until April, 1918, but eventually were forced to evacuate it and withdraw to Persia. Thus all the Turkish districts liberated by the Russians were reoccupied by the Turks. During all these fights, Kurds aided the Turkish army and massacred tens of thousands of Armenians, although the Armenians did not hesitate to retaliate.

3. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

While these events were taking place in the Caucasus, the Bolsheviks at Brest-Litovsk were signing a treaty with Germany and her allies. The Turks hastening to execute the terms of the treaty, marched upon Batum and crushed the Georgians, April 1, 1918. Under such heavy pressure from the Turks, the Seym was forced on April 9th to declare Trans-Caucasus independent of Russia. Three days later, the president of the Seym, the Georgian Tchkhengeli, without the knowledge of the members, telegraphed General Nazarbekian to surrender Kars to the Turks, who thus reached the heart of Armenia. The three Caucasian nations held a meeting in Batum on April 11th to sign a treaty with the Turks, based on the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but the Turkish commander, Khalil Bey, presented demands so severe that they were unacceptable to the Georgians and the Armenians. The war broke out again while the delegates were still negotiating. One Turkish army marched against Tiflis, another against Alexandropol and severed the communication line with Julfa. Cut off from the outside world, the Armenians resisted heroically, routed the Turkish forces near Karakilissé and Sardarabad (May 22‑28) and inflicted heavy losses on them.

While the armies were fighting on two fronts, the delegates in Batum were still haggling. Of the three allies, the Azerbaijanis had identified themselves with the Turks, while the Georgians had secretly secured the protection of Germany. Once again the Armenians were left to their fate. On May 26, the Seym declared itself dissolved and the federation of the three Caucasian nations came to an end. On the same day, the Georgians declared their independence; on May 27th the Azerbaijanis followed suit. The Armenians hesitated, since it was extremely dangerous for them to resign from the mighty  p477 protection of Russia and be left to the mercy of their traditional enemy and the two unreliable neighbors. But the victorious Turks had demanded that "as a prerequisite to peace the Armenians should declare their independence." (Vratzian, "Armenian Republic," page 132)

Under pressure from the Turks, the Armenians were forced to a declaration of independence on May 28, 1918 in Tiflis. "This independence was not hailed with jubilation and applause. On the contrary, for thousands of Armenians it was a misfortune. The Armenian people was like a mother who had brought a sick child into this world." (Vratzian, "Armenian Republic," page 155)

4. The Treaty of Batum

Seven days after the declaration of independence, on June 4, 1918, a treaty consisting of 14 articles was signed between the Armenian Republic and Ottoman Turkey. Through this treaty the Turks became masters of an important section of Russian Armenia. Armenia was not allowed to have an army, and any force needed for maintaining internal security and order was to be supplied by the Turks, who also retained the right to march through Armenia at any time that "military circumstances" dictated. In eastern Armenia certain cities and provinces were left to the Turks and the Azerbaijanis.

This was the independence of May 28th which the Armenian people had declared "with apprehension." The Turks immediately occupied the delineated boundaries and held positions about 7 kilometers from Erevan and only 10 kilometers from Etchmiadzin. The muzzles of Turkish guns were turned towards the capital of Armenia. Thus the Turks had established direct communication with the Azerbaijan Tatars. They cut off all supplies from coming into Armenia, and famine followed the newly acquired independence.

The Armenian National Council at Tiflis named H. Katchaznouni as Premier, who transferred the cabinet to Erevan on July 17, 1918 with one Turkish and two German lieutenants accompanying them. Fifteen days after the treaty of Batum was signed, the delegates of the three nations were summoned to Constantinople in order to examine and confirm the treaty with the Central Powers. The Armenian delegation consisted of A. Aharonian, A. Khatisian, M. Babachanian and Colonel Ghorghanian. Here a treaty was signed containing 14 articles whereby the Turks recognized the independence of the three Caucasian republics, while the latter assumed  p478 the obligation to assist the Turks against the Entente Powers and against Antranig, who was still fighting against the Turkish forces with his Solitary Combat army, because he refused to relinquish the cause of Turkish Armenia and to accept the treaty of Batum.

5. Armenians and Turks face to face

The Turks had realized their military objectives. They wanted to avoid having common frontiers with Russia, therefore first they separated Trans-Caucasus from Russia and then the three small peoples from each other. The principal of "divide and conquer" had triumphed.

Despite the peace treaty signed between the new republic and Turkey the fear of massacres was ever present. Therefore, the delegation of Boghos Nubar Pasha in Paris appealed to the Entente Powers to save Armenia from new massacres. This appeal was printed in the European press on January 6, 1919. Allow, while the Brest-Litovsk treaty was being discussed in the German Reichstag it was discovered that the entire Caucasus was left under the influence of Turkey. Lidebuhr, a liberal deputy, protested against the treaty, declaring that it was tantamount to the extermination of the Armenians. The Azerbaijanis and the cases would not permit any food supplies to enter Armenia and the nation was faced with famine. It is reported that from May 28th until December 1919, more than 180,000 Armenians died of starvation and epidemic.

Fortunately this crisis lasted for but a brief period. On October 30, 1918, the victorious Entente Powers forced Turkey to sign a capitulation, and the German surrender followed on November 11th. The Armenian delegates in Constantinople returned to Armenia bringing with them an abundance of gifts and new hope for the future. On November 17th several English warships anchored in the harbor of Batum, and General Stokes came on shore. The Armenians began to breathe freely again.

6. British and American Help

Soon after the defeat of Germany and the signing of a peace treaty, the Turks withdrew from the Caucasus and gathered within the boundaries outlined by the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. The Armenian army reoccupied Karakilsséº in November, Alexandropol in December and other communication lines, but the retreating Turks inflicted heavy blows upon the defenseless people and carried away a vast amount of loot. In May, 1919, the Armenians were able with the help of the British to capture  p479 Kars, Gaghzouan, Sardarabad and Nakhitchévan. But hunger and epidemics were still reaping large harvests in human lives. Soon the relations between Georgia and Armenia became strained and those between Azerbaijan and Armenia were even worse, as the former were joined by the Turks in furtherance of their scheme of trying to wipe out the Armenian people. Fortunately, through the help of the British the road between Tiflis and Erevan was opened and American help began to arrive through the Near East and European Relief Administration under Herbert Hoover. This committee sent to Armenia 13,000,000 kilos of flour and spent more than $100,000,000. Thereafter, that generous people continued to send food and medical supplies to the famine-stricken nation.

Now let us turn to the events in Baku. Here an Armenian National Council was organized which controlled the city during 1918 and was master of the situation. Armenians had fought courageously against the Turks and Azerbaijanis. This Council refused to recognize the treaty of Batum signed between the Armenians and the Turks, and proclaimed itself the supreme head of the Armenian people. First they joined the Bolsheviki, but when these withdrew from Baku, they called upon the British for help. The British could not defend the city, as their forces were not equal to the combined Turkish and Tatar armies. The Turks received more reinforcements, entered the city and for three days and nights they plundered and massacred 29,000 Armenians. Like the National Council of Baku, General Antranig also did not recognize the treaty of Batum.

7. Two Armenian Delegations in Paris

After the signing of the armistice with Germany, two delegations were organized to plead the Armenian Cause before the Peace Conference in Paris. One represented the Armenian Republic, with A. Aharonian as Chairman; the second was the National Delegation, headed by Boghos Nubar Pasha, to whom General Antranig adhered. In fact, Katholikos Kevork V wrote to Boghos Nubar, entrusting him with the defense of the Armenian Cause, since the Armenian Republic had resigned from that cause, when its representatives signed the treaties of Batum and Constantinople. These delegations did not always agree, but in the spring of 1919 they jointly presented a memorandum to the Paris Conference and demanded an Armenia with an outlet to the Mediterranean Sea.

 p480  In those days there was another political party in Armenia known as the Popular Party, which joined Nubar Pasha in suggesting to the Armenian Republic that a special committee be appointed to examine the entire question. In 1919 an All-Armenian Committee was formed for this purpose and after long deliberations rendered important decisions which, however, were never honored. But Aharonian, Armenian President, alone signed the Sèvres Treaty, thus depriving the cause of Turkish Armenia of an official defender.

II. Relation with Neighbors and Great Powers

1. Fights between two neighbors

With the victory of the Entente Powers, the Armenian Republic enjoyed a brief breathing spell. As a "little ally," it even began to have high hopes. On the first anniversary of the Republic, May 28, 1919, it declared itself the "Government of United and Independent Armenia."

It soon began fighting with the Georgians, with whom its relations had never been friendly. The Georgians were more fortunate, in that their geographic position was more favorable. A frontier dispute flared into war. The supply line from Batum was cut off and the Armenians in Tiflis were subjected to all manner of persecution. Fortunately through the intervention of the British in Batum a peace was arranged between the two neighbors.

On the other hand, however, the Azerbaijan Republic was never friendly with the Armenians. There was frequent fighting between the two until the bolshevization of Azerbaijan in 1920. Its people were determined to join their co-religionists in Turkey and wanted to eliminate Armenia as a state. In July 1918, the population of Zangezur invited General Antranig to help defend them against Azerbaijani invaders. He accepted the call, drove out the enemy and began to march against Shoushi, capital of Karabagh; but the British halted him. Disgusted and disillusioned, Antranig withdrew to Etchmiadzin, surrendered his army of 4,000 men and all his ammunition and supplies to the Katholikos and left for Europe. Later he came to America.

There are those who believe that by making minor territorial concessions the Republic could have avoided these devastating wars with her two neighbors, especially with Georgia. A remark attributed to Major General Harbord,​a head of the American delegation sent by President Wilson to study the question of a mandate over  p481 Armenia gives significance to this opinion. In his report to President Wilson he said that the Armenian people are endowed with practical qualities, but don't know how to adapt themselves to emergencies; while Hovhannes Katchaznouni, the first Premier of the Republic said in his memoirs that the attitude of the Georgians in these disputes is to be condemned, but our incompetence, political immaturity and unpreparedness for political life have played no small part in them. (Katchaznouni, p35)

2. The British, President Wilson and the Armenians

During the First World War when the Turks were rapidly exterminating Armenians, the Prime Ministers of the Entente Powers — Lloyd George and Balfour in England, Briand and Clemenceau in France and Orlando in Italy — were lavish in their assurances to smaller nations of future "self-determination" and "independence," but none of these governments ever honored their pledges.

In November 1918 the British landed in Batum and in the middle of the following year they withdrew from Trans-Caucasus. During the critical period of the Armenian Republic they did not help our people, but merely sold to the Armenians some rifles and military uniforms. They tried to use the Armenians as tools in their fights against the Bolsheviks. General Stokes, in the name of the British Foreign Secretary gave the only honest advice to the leaders of the Republic. "England cannot do anything for you," he said, "Try to come to an understanding with the Bolsheviks."

The only country that dealt honestly and sincerely with the Armenians was America. There, both the Republican and Democratic parties desired the Armenians to have independence, but the Republicans opposed an American mandate over Armenia. Many Senators appealed to the President in favor of the Armenians, while President Wilson himself was working to help their cause. Under the joint signatures of Boghos Nubar Pasha and A. Aharonian, an appeal was made to Wilson to take the mandate over Armenia. But one single step taken in good faith by the American President had a disastrous result for our cause. The solution of the Armenian question was tied in with the Versailles Peace Treaty of February, 1919. Wilson asked the Conference that the examination of the Turkish question and the signing of the treaty with them be postponed to a later date. The Versailles Conference agreed to this but unfortunately, the postponement lasted 18 months. All the Great Powers were  p482 under the impression that the President wished to have Armenia and all the newly-liberated Near Eastern countries under American mandate. When in April 1919 Boghos Nubar, A. Aharonian and Prof. Der Hagopian met President Wilson in Paris, he expressed willingness to assume the mandate and define Armenia's boundaries with Turkey. In fact, in August of the same year, a mission of 26 Americans headed by Major General Harbord went to Armenia to examine and study the situation with a view to America's taking the Armenian mandate. In the same year Colonel Haskell arrived in Erevan as Commissioner for Armenia, having been appointed by the Allied Powers at the request of President Wilson.

During these inspections and the ensuing delays, time was wasted in Paris. In 1919, a Kemalist movement had started and was spreading far and wide. If the Allies had rendered the verdict on Turkey in February and meanwhile recognized the independence of Armenia, Mustafa Kemal would have neither dared nor been able to do what he accomplished in that and the following year.

On August 10, 1920 the Allied Powers signed the treaty of Sèvres, by which Turkey, among others, recognized the independence of Armenia. A. Aharonian signed on behalf of the Armenian Republic. The question of drawing the boundaries of the new state was left to President Wilson. The state covered 68,500 square kilometers, extending from Russian Armenia to Van, Bitlis and Erzerum. Trebizond was made an Armenian seaport. This map was published on November 22, 1920, just about the day Kars, Ardahan and Alexandropol fell to the Turks. Four days earlier, the Armenian Republic surrendered unconditionally to Kiazim Karabakir, commander-in‑chief of the Turkish forces. Seven days later the Armenian Republic collapsed.

3. New factors unfavorable to Armenians — 1919‑1920

During the 18 months' postponement of the Turkish question, new factors appeared on the political arena of the East, which proved disastrous for the Armenians in Cilicia as well. First, the victorious Allies allowed the Kemalist forces to establish direct contact with the Bolsheviks. Second, the city of Smyrna was, by the Sèvres Treaty, handed over to the Greeks, who, with the aid of the British, occupied it soon after the Armistice. France, Italy and Bolshevik Russia thought they saw here a British plot to approach the Dardanelles and Constantinople. Motivated by this suspicion the three powers  p483 supplied money and munitions to the Turks, theoretically to fight against the Greeks; but the Turks used them against the Armenians in Caucasus and Cilicia. Thirdly, the attitude of the Russians towards Armenia, which had been friendly, now changed. The leaders of the Republic could not come to an understanding with the Russians, but the Turks became close friends with them, because Russia believed that the Kemalists were in opposition to the Imperialist powers of the West. The Bolsheviks steadily grew stronger. They inflicted a crushing defeat on the "White Russian" forces of Denikin and Wrangel, who were notoriously friendly with the Imperialist allies.

It was also during this period that an event took place in America which had serious effect on the entire world, especially for the Armenians. In the Presidential elections in 1920, the opponents of Wilson were the victors. The American Senate now refused to have any part in European or Asiatic affairs, which meant total abandonment of Wilson's plans. The Americans declared that Armenia was Russia's concern; which in turn gave the green light for the Kemalist army to march against Armenia.

Fall of Kars and Alexandropol (Leninakan)

In the middle part of 1920, the Turks were fighting to drive the French out of Cilicia and the Greeks out of Anatolia. The leaders of the Armenian Republic, hoping to take advantage of these circumstances, captured Olti with its coal mines in June 1920, whereupon the Turks left the fight against the Greeks and turned against the Armenians. Shortly thereafter, Karabekir appeared on the Armenian frontier. The Republic was taken unawares; Olti fell, followed by Kars, and other strongholds were threatened. According to arrangements between the British and the Tashnak government, a considerable number of the guns of Kars had been sent to Denikin for use against the Bolsheviks. The Armenian soldiers made no serious effort to defend the city, despite the fact that they had ample war material, including 10,000 rifles supplied by the Greek government. Several commanding officers and about 4,000 soldiers were taken prisoners. The Turks looted and massacred the defenseless population. Karabekir had such an easy conquest of the fortified city that Alexandropol was the next victim. The district of Surmalu had also fallen, and Erevan was in danger.

The Republic reeled under these crushing blows. Khatisian was  p484 sent to Tiflis to beg the British for help. But no one was willing to help. The British representative, General Stokes, still insisted that Armenia's only course was to make terms with the Russians.

But the leaders refused to heed his advice. Instead, Prime Minister Ohanchanian sent S. Kulkhantarian, Alexander Khatsian and Colonel Ghorghanian to Karabekir to ask for armistice terms. The Prime Minister, like the Minister of War, was unaware of the situation of the Armenian army and the disposition of the soldiers who wanted the protection of Russia. More tragic still, the leaders were not in harmony as to what steps to take. The capital did not know what was going on at the front. Vratzian in his book says "We did not do anything to avoid this war; on the contrary, we were the immediate cause of it. The most unfavorable point was that we were ignorant of the actual strength of the Turks and we could not evaluate our own forces."

The terms of the armistice imposed by the Turkish army were severe. "To accept them would have been tantamount to ceding more than half of the Armenian territory to the enemy and to disarming our army." However, resorting to arms again would have been suicidal, therefore the government was forced to accept Karabekir's harsh terms. Onº November 18, 1920, they not only ceded much territory, but also surrendered 2,000 rifles, 20 heavy and 40 light cannon, 4,000 mules, 1,000 cases of shells, 6,000 grenades, two steam locomotives and 50 railroad cars.

While the situation on the Turkish front was so critical there was a second antagonist beyond. This was the Bolshevik movement at the frontier of Azerbaijan, spreading toward the southeast, a serious menace to the tottering Republic. In fact, the Bolsheviks were actually at the northern shore of Lake Sevan. In the districts of Ghazakh and Karavanserai, the Armenian peasants had risen in arms and were playing an important role in the downfall of the government. A mixed Bolshevik army entered Armenia through the mountain passes of Aghstafa, were reinforced in November, and marched into Itchévan, Shamshatin and Dilijan; on the 28th, Karavanserai fell; on the 29th the rebels declared Armenia a Soviet Republic while they had not yet captured Erevan. The news was telegraphed immediately to Lenin. The leaders of the Red Army were Anastas Mikoyan and Kirov; Hovhannes Bagramyan, a young cavalry officer was accompanying them.

[image ALT: An engraving of a countryside scene: in the foreground a lake with a wide swath of reeds by the shore; behind it a low gradual hill within a building on it. It is a view of the island and monastery of Lake Sevan, in Armenia.]
The Island and Monastery of Lake Sevan

 p485  III. The Final Period

The last days of the Republic

There were 203 delegates in the Armenian National Council assembled in Tiflis, of which 103 belonged to the Tashnak party. This group held the reins of the country and the government. The second group was the Popular party, which although not great in numbers included many intellectuals. From the day of independence, May 28th 1918, this group demanded that they be given an equal voice in the government, but they were ignored.

The third party was that of the Bolsheviks, who, noting the victory of the peasants and workers in Russia, wanted a similar regime in Armenia. Many of the leaders of this group were Russian Bolsheviks who did not wish to see Trans-Caucasus separated from Russia. The Bolsheviks were shouting that the Mensheviks in Georgia, the Mussavatists in Azerbaijan and the Tashnaks in Armenia were being used as the tools of the western Imperialist countries and were exploiting the workers.

The first serious Bolshevik movement in Armenia started in May, 1920. Then the rebellion spread to Alexandropol, Kars, Sarikamish and Nor Bayazit. Workers and a great number of the soldiers favored the new order. The Prime Minister Khatisian resigned and Hamo Ohanchanian succeeded him, but the real control of the government was in the Tashnak Bureau, which took over the job of crushing the rebellion. In that month the Armenian Republic sent a delegation to Moscow with Levon Shant as chairman. It was his  p486 duty to see Tchicherin, the Foreign Minister, with the aim of establishing friendly relations with the Bolsheviks and to win recognition of the Armenian Republic. These negotiations were long-drawn out and fruitless.

In October, Lenin and Tchicherin sent one LeGrand to Armenia with a delegation consisting of forty high-ranking officials, among them Sahak Der Kalousidan and Ashot Hovhannessian. This delegation continued the negotiations initiated by Levon Shant. LeGrand suggested that Armenians accept the Soviet regime and join the Russians in order to regain the Armenian boundaries of 1914 from Turkey. Boghos Nubar Pasha in Paris was also advising the Armenian government to come to an understanding with the Russians. These suggestions were flatly refused by the ruling clique.

Many days passed and the negotiations with LeGrand finally ended in futility. The Russian communist party was following the events in Armenia with apprehension, as the Turks were spreading havoc and terror all around and were approaching the Armenian capital. Stalin wired Kirov and Mikoyan in Baku to rescue Armenia; "It is urgent to save Armenia at any cost; Armenia should be liberated as promptly as possible," he said. Upon this order, the Bolshevist movement was intensified while the Turks had reached the gates of Erevan.

On November 25th, Ohanchanian and the Tashnak Bureau relinquished their powers and Simeon Vratsian, the chief of the Bureau was elected Premier. To halt the Turkish army, he sent Khatisian to Alexandropol to meet Karabekir and arrange an armistice. In the meanwhile he called an extraordinary council (Nov. 30‑Dec. 1) with government and party officials dominating it, to decide whether Armenia should adopt Russian or Turkish orientation. The majority voted for the Russian tie. Immediately following the decision, Vratzian informed LeGrand that Armenia had now become an "Independent Socialist Republic." The next day, December 2nd, 1920 an agreement was signed with LeGrand, according to which Armenia should have a Soviet regime; the Republican army should not be held responsible for its past opposition, the members of the Tashnak party should not be persecuted; on the contrary, two members of the party would be admitted to the ministerial cabinet and Dro, another member, would be appointed military governor of Erevan. Thereupon, Vratsian and his government withdrew from office, after serving only seven days. The Turks remained  p487 static for the moment, waiting watchfully. On December 6th, the Revolutionary Committee arrived in Erevan under the presidency of Gassian, to whom Dro surrendered the reins of government.

Treaty of Alexandropol; February revolution

It was at Alexandropol that the Turks and the Armenian delegation under Khatisian first heard of the bolshevization of Armenia. Karabekir was urging the delegation to sign the armistice the same day. It is rumored that Khatisian telephoned Erevan, asking whether he should sign the armistice, and received an answer, attributed to Vratsian, that he was authorized to do so. It is a known fact that sixteen hours after the bolshevization of Armenia, toward midnight on December 2nd, Khatisian signed the Alexandropol treaty, which can be summarized as follows:

"Turkey recognizes the independence of Armenia; the Armenians yield their rights in the Sèvres Treaty (that is to say the cause of Turkish Armenia); the Akhourian river will be the boundary between the two countries; the Armenian army will not have more than 1,500 soldiers; military service will not be compulsory; the gendarmerie will be responsible for internal security; Turkey will defend Armenia against attack; Sharour and Nakhitchevan will be autonomous territories under Turkish protection," etc.

Scarcely three months later, there occurred a civil war in Armenia known as the February revolt, which claimed thousands of new sacrifices from a bleeding people. The opposing sides have different versions of this ghastly event. The Armenian Bolsheviks accuse the Tashnak party of inciting the people to rebellion, that Vratsian organized a "Liberation Committee" whose sole aim was to overthrow the communist regime. His immediate colleagues were Rupen "Pasha" and commander Nezhteh, who was in Zangezur. On the other hand, the Tashnaks accuse the Bolsheviki of persecuting their members, beating and shooting their former opponents, thus forcing the people to defend themselves.

The Tashnak revolt lasted about 45 days — from February 18th to April 2nd, 1921. It is reported that this fratricidal war cost the unhappy nation more than 20,000 lives. Through an unfortunate twist of fate, there was simultaneously a conference in Moscow between the Russians and the Turks, and another in London between British  p488 and Turks. To both of these conferences Vratsian who had again become the Armenian Premier, sent telegrams confirming the treaty of Alexandropol. But while Vratsian was dispatching these messages, A. Aharonian, the delegate of the Armenian Republic declared before the Allied Supreme Council on February 26th that he and the government he represented "do absolutely reject the treaty of Alexandropol."

This dissension had a disastrous effect on the cause of Turkish Armenia.

However, when the Bolshevik army reached Erevan, the Tashnak revolt was crushed, and Vratsian fled to the mountains of Sewnik carrying with him the treasury of the Republic. After a futile attempt to set up an independent government in Zangezur, he and his followers moved on to the city of Tabriz in Persia.

Lenin thereupon sent Alexander Miasnikian to pacify Armenia and establish a stable government there, on the Soviet pattern.

Thayer's Note:

a For a summary of his life and career (if omitting his Armenian mission), with a photo, see this page at the Kansas Historical Society; the complete text of his report is online at ArmenianHouse.org.

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Page updated: 25 Apr 05