•Markhulia- Dashnaktsutun 1918-1920
“Dashnaktsutun” and its politics in 1918-1920 years
The history of occurence of Armenian nationalist parties and their mettled activity for the benefit of their so-called “Armenian question”, begins purely from the 90’s of XIX century, however, their sources are presented much deeper – by their roots, they go far into previous centuries when Armenians, during hundreds of years after decline of the kingdom of Anea (1045), did not have their own statehood.
Occurence and development of the Armenian nationalist movement from the very beginning was connected with international condition and to a large extent was defined by foreign-policy factors. So, Russian-Turkish 1877-1878 war ended with the defeat of Turkey and signing of the peace treaty of San Stefano, according to which Turkey lost a large part of its possessions in the Balkans (Serbia, Romania), Bulgaria became an independent princedom and, besides, Southern Bessarabia, Batumi, Ardagan, Kars and Bayazet were parted to Russia. Exactly by this time, the Armenian movement begins. In 1878, when Russian armies moved through Anatoly, seizing Kars, Erzerum, and on the other front – released Bulgaria and approached the vicinities of Constantinople, at that moment, Armenians, deciding that their hour had punched, sent the deputation headed by Armenian Patriarch in Constantinople – Varzhapetyan, which was received by the Caucasian deputy Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich. It was simultaneously followed by the reference of Armenian Patriarch Nersess to Russian government before the conclusion of the peace treaty of San Stefano, where he, “on behalf of Armenian populace” demanded “protection from Russia”. Exactly this Armenian initiative served as a reason for including into the Treaty of San Stefano the paragraph #16, according to which Turkey should conduct reforms in the vilayets populated by Armenians, granting self-order to them.
This Armenian initiative led naturally to significant strain of relations between the Sultanese government and Armenian community in Turkey – the grains of enmity were sown.
Subsequently, on totals of the congress of Berlin which took place in 1878, Russia was deprived of a significant part of its acquisitions, in particular – Bayazet together with the Alashkert Valley was returned to Turkey. At the same time, as opposed to the contract of San Stefano, according to which check for execution of reforms should be implemented only by Russia, now these functions were laid upon six powers – the congress participants. However, powers didn’t hurry to solve the “Armenian question”. And in such atmosphere, the first Armenian nationalist party was organized, the centre of wich was in Van, its subsidiaries were created in Tiflis, Baku, Trapezund, Constantinople, as well as in Persia and the USA. In the party program it was approved that their purpose was “by a revolutionary way to acquire the right for Armenian people to supervise their life independently”. There was also indicated that the revolutionary engagement of the party should be extensive only among Armenian population, since “energy should not be wasted on development of the revolutionary movement with neighbouring peoples, for the worldviews, requirements, and the development of Armenian people substancially differ from other peoples, that can affect the raising of the revolutionary movement, or deter it.
Among armenians, other revolutionary organizations and parties were also formed, but they didn’t exist for a long time and yielded the palm to “Dashnaktsutun”.
In 1890, leaders of Armenian nationalists in Tiflis made decision of creation of Armenian national party. The leaders of Armenian nationalists were those having actively taken part in organizing of “Dashnaktsutun” – Kh.Mikaelyan, S.Zavaryan, S.Zoryan etc.
The publishing organ of the party became newspaper issued in Geneva – “Droshak” (“The Banner”). Then the title “Dashnaktsutun”, which means “Union”, was given to the party. Total title of the party meant “Union (Federation) of Dashnaktsutun’s Armenian Revolutionaries”. It is sometimes decifered as “Armenian Revolutionary Federative Party”. Already at that time, i.e. at the stage of its raising, “Dashnaktsutun” was discerned by radical extremism, of what the motto elected for the Armenian nationalist movement testifies: “Freedom or death”.
The first official congress of “Dashnaktsutun” was held in Geneva in 1892, 33 delegates took part in it. At this congress, the first program of the party was received. In it, the situation of Armenians living in Turkey was outlined with obvious exaggerations in the most tragical paints. The conclusion was drawn that “all this can be brought to an end only by means of a violent revolution and we adress to it.”
By the main purpose of “Dashnaktsutun” the program proclaimed formation of the self-governmental democratic republic, with the living forms meant by it.” The way of reaching this goal was also indicated in the program, namely – armed revolt of Armenians in Turkey. This revolt should be, according to the opinions of the authors of the program, prepared by the following ways: 1). by the way of revolutionary propaganda not only among Armenians, but also among other oppressed peoples occupying Turkey; 2). By the armament and organization of Armenians; 3). by terror; 4). by devastation and robbery of the governmental institutions.”
In such a manner, we see that already the first program document of “Dashnaktsutun” is saturated with the spirit of glaringly violent nationalism, absolute illegibility in means is approved in it, such forms and methods of stuggle are brought to the forefront as “terror”, “devastation” , “robbery”.
As it has already been mentioned above, during the first phase of its existence “Dashnaktsutun” took to armament the idea of the release of Turkish Armenians and creation of “uniform,common fatherland” on the basis of unification of Russian and Turkish Armenians.
This idea was, it is possible to say, a program-minimum and as to next, then in their grandiose dreams with which Armenians parted just in 1918, they imagined huge Armenia washed by three seas – from Adan to Trabzon – and extending to Baku!”
It was possible to create such Armenian state only at the expense of territory of adjacent states, only on blood of those peoples who had once sheltered and settled them on their lands.
For the sake of achievement of their purposes, they were ready to betray at every instant and to sell their allies who constantly changed depending on political conglomerate. They made curtseys to Russian autocracy and on the spot brought imperial house to the Anathema; they appealed to “great democratic nations” – England and France, and on the spot accused them in “black treachery”; they fawned before Kaizer’s Germany, and then abused them as “teutonic barbarians” etc. Temporary allies of the Dashnaks were Bulgarians and Serbs, Macedonians and Greeks-Cypressians, Persian insurgents of Satar-Khan and the Young Turks, Russian and Georgian Mensheviks. To all of them the Dashnaks gave promising avances and betrayed them all without exception, simultaneously revealing an exquisite scent – as soon as the next risky undertaking was found on the edge of failure, the Dashnaks were first to slam to races, granting disentanglement of porridge made by them to their unlucky allies.
For familiarizing of public opinion to the goal set forth, it was necessary for the Dashnaks to extend their influence on publishing organs. On eye-witness certificate, already in the beginning of the century “total, for this time without exception, Caucasian stamp is under authority or in response to Armenians.” “Dashnaktsutun” created press designed practically for any reader: on national sign – for Armenian, Georgian, Azeri, Russian; on social status – for worker, peasant, intellectual, capitalist; on political sights – for liberal, conservator, social democrat, nationalist, internationalist and so forth. For each reader, proArmenian ideas and materials were rendered in appropriate package in accordance with the common direction of newspaper.
In tens of printed editions in direct and veiled forms Armenian authority was approved, their “merits” were extolled, scornful remarks of “impoliteness”, “savagery”, “inability to labour” of representatives of other nationalities occupying Transcaucasia were stated.
Nationalist actions of proArmenian press to a large extent promoted kindling of interethnic enmity in Transcaucasia, sowed nationalism grains which later turned to bloody outcomes.
For the sake of achievement of their purposes the Dashnaks would not mind going to agreement with their opponents. So, in 1909 between the “Young Turks” and the “Dashnaks” agreement was concluded, the first four items of which said:
- For implementation of the Constitution and strengthening of social development it is necessary to struggle jointly, not regretting forces for it.
- To act jointly with reference to recreationary movements applying methods based on law.
- Considering as ultimate objective of joint activity of two parties preservation of integrity of Osmanli Homeland, they should scatter in practice rumours inherited from despotic regime that Armenians sought independence.
- Both parties declare that they are unanimous in “expansion of the rights of vilayets”, and development and progress of the common Osmanli Homeland is supported.”
The above-stated document shows how far the Dashnaks went in their double play: they were ready on words even with weapon in hands to protect “integrity of Osmanli Homeland”, denied rumours that “Armenians sought independence”. Of “expansion of the rights of vilayets” and “wide local autonomy” it is mentioned as if by the way in this document.
Co-operating with the prevailing and powerful Osmanli party, “Dashnaktsutun” deployed again its activity in all areas of the empire populated by Armenians.
Besides, tactical manoeuvre reached the purpose in other question as well. So, the Dashnak leaders – Varamyan, Papazyan, and Kachaznuni, in 1909, were invited to Constantinople as Armenian deputies and took seats in Turkish parliament.
Many Armenian historians subsequently blamed so not-farsighted line of the Dashnaks, who ultimately outwitted themselves. “The party ‘Dashnaktsutun’… committed a rough blunder…it started to cling to the Young Turks, concluded the agreement with them hoping to win time. However, time, unfortunetely, went by in favour of neither the party “Dashnaktsutun”, nor Armenian people.
On the eve of World War I, the Young Turks tried to bias Armenians to active statement on the party of Turkey. However, Turkey’s desire to declare war to Russia, was percieved by Armenians as adventure. They (Armenians) saw rescue of Turkey in its observance of strict neutrality. Such statement of Armenians was regarded by the Young Turks as treason to interests and ideals of Turkish empire.
The Dashnak leaders perfectly realised that their goals in Turkey would never be achieved by peaceful way – for it there simply were no necessary preconditions. Therefore, in 1914, when the war began, and particularly in the spring of 1915, when the counterattack of Russian army deployed, they decided to put their tactics of the “ release of empty place” into practice. Emissionaries of “Dashnaktsutun”, standing at the head of armed bands (insurgent groups), raised uniform revolt of Armenian population in Van Vilayet, which was found just in the epicentre of the deployed fight actions. During Russia’s approach to the southern section of Turkish front, these volunteers ordained ruthless slaughter of peaceful Turkish population. Turkish villages, occupied by the Dashnak groups, were “freed” of living people and reduced into ruins full of disfigured victims. One of the Dashnak “heroes” described his “feats” in the following fashion: “ I have devastated Turkish population in Basar-Gechar, not regarding anything, – boasted the Dashnak “bandit”, – but you sometimes regret bullets. The most true facility against this dogs is that after battle to collect all escaping, to overflaw wells with them, and to sock them with heavy stones from above to quit their existence on Earth for ever. I, – continued the bandit – acted in a similar way: gathered all men and children and ended with them filling the wells with stones, wherein they had already been thrown by me.
Turkish government, seeing such actions of Dashnak “heroes” and knowing imperial plan of the “resolution” of Armenian question, in April 1915 makes decision of general deportation of Armenians living in Turkey.
By this means, the leaders of “Dashnaktsutun” dreaming of seizing a part of Turkey for realization of their plan of “Great Armenia from sea to sea” led to genocide of Armenian population in Turkey. The sharing of the skin of an unkilled bear turned out to be premature. By twist of fate, after revolutionary explosion of 1917, Russia left war, Russian army abandoned seized territories, together with them hundred of thousands of Armenians were overhauled to Transcaucasia and settled on Georgian and Azeri lands.
Russia, acting as the “releaser of peoples” required from Osmanli yoke, in particular, conduction of reforms in those areas of Turkey where Armenians compactly lived. In the end of World War I, pursuing the aggressor which had attacked it – Turkey, it released a large part of “Great Armenia”. According to the agreement between the countries of Antanta these territories should proceed under Russia’s protectorate.However, soon after seizing of power by the Bolsheviks on November 20 1917, the Council of People’s Commissaries of Petrograd stated: “ We declare that the contract about the section of Turkey and “taking away” Armenia from it is torn and abolished. As soon as they end military actions, Armenians will be offered the rights to define their destiny freely.
Declaration was consented with Germany. In actual practice, it meant rejection of the protection of Turkish Armenians. Such decision of the Bolsheviks was caused (as it was found out later,wrongly) by the fact that as if Turkish leader M.Kemal was going to stand in the advance guard of struggle of oppressed peoples of the East against the world imperialism. However, “under Turkish supervision, Armenians no longer believed in it.” The Bolshevik coup in Russia and their policy in attitude towards the “Armenian question” led the Dashnaks (being so close to fond purpose) to confusion, and Armenian public puzzled, how to be further: to release from Turkish yoke or to continue centurial captivity? Independence or vassality? The prospect of free development with possession of the Mediterranean coast or vegetation squeezed in mountains without exit to the sea? Reuniting of parts of historical territory or preservation of national dissociation? By the word, progress or downgrade, light or darkness, life or death?
The affair, indeed, refers to the futute of the whole people. It is possible that people occur in such sittuation when it forges its destiny only by own forces. Armenian people showed that they are capable to sacrifice people. But human victims are not sufficient. Financial victims are necessary.
The moment to which we are approaching – is critical in the history of Armenia. The question is put and determined absolutely definitely. To be or not to be to Armenia.
Chiefs of the Dashnaks each time fed Armenian people on illusions inspiring them with unrealizable hopes of formation of “Great Armenia” and assuring that “Dashnaktsutun” was supported in this business by mighty forces reffering that to Russia, then to England and France. Interests of these powers met no doubt on the “Armenian question”, but this interest meant not at all readiness yet to render true omnilateral and wide-scale assistance, without which plans of “Dashnaktsutun” were doomed to failure.
Armenians’ national interests were sacrificed by Russia for class “ideals”, therefore hopes to Russia became insignificant now, though Armenians really asked the Soviet government “to leave at least a part of Russian troops in Armenia”, independence of which had already been seen on the horizon. Concerning this question, representatives of Armenian public with bitterness wrote: “Withdrawal of Russian troops from Armenia – means returning of Armenia, won with such labour, to Turks. True decret runs of “immediate formation of Armenian national militia”. But it is really naive to think that Armenians can form the army capable of opposing German-Turks. Even if we admit that all equipment of Russian army will be transfered to Georgian national militia in Lazistan and Armenian – in Armenia, forces will still be colossally uneven. Clearing of Armenia from Russian troops will mark by itself not independence of Armenia, but its concession to Turkey. And under prevailing conditions it will be genuine treachery with reference to Armenians.
Entering Armenia cleared from Russian troops, Turks will show Armenians such “independence” which will transform the country into a huge cemetery. Therefore Russia’s aid can be expressed only in leaving of at least a part of Russian army in Armenia.
This is one thing. The other concerns boundaries. The decret says nothing about the boundaries. But the Nationalities Commissioner G.Jughashvili announced something in addition to the decret. He said that Armenia’s borders would be defined by the representatives of Armenian people in agreement with the representatives of peaceful Moslem and other areas, together with the temporary commissioner of Caucasus affairs.
Here, hence, it is a question of that territory only, which was occupied by Russian troops before the revolution of Bolsheviks. It is not the question of ethnographical boundaries of Armenia. Not of Kilikia either. It is very possible that under these conditions Armenia, even if it manages to receive independence, will not receive exit to the sea, even to the Black.
As examplified by presented material, the myth about “Great Armenia”, warmed up by the Dashnaks, became national idea of all Armenian people. However,deficiency of real opportunities in their grandiose plans, forced Armenians to turn their looks now to Soviet Russia. The Soviet government didn’t support the Dashnaks remaining faithfull to the allied debt before Antanta and their interests.
Meanwhile, Turkey, occupying a significant part of the territory of Georgia and Armenia, aspired now to grab of all Southern and Northern Caucasus. And in the Diet of Transcaucasian Federative Republic, at this time, between the Mensheviks, Dashnaks and Mussavats – was no unity, what resulted in its disintegration and declaration of Independence of Georgia on May 26 1918.
Declaration of independence of Georgia caused explosion of discontent among the Dashnaks, Armenian Bolsheviks and entire Armenian public. It was considered as betrayal of Armenian people’s interests. So, Bolshevik Shaumyan regarded the declaration of independence of Georgia as follows: “Declaration of independence of Georgia testifies of new crime of the Mensheviks. It is a new attempt of treachery with reference to the adjacent to Georgia Armenian people, the most incredible, the most unscrupulous treachery.
Such attitude of Armenian parties and public to declaration of independence of Georgia is due to Turkish ultimatum of May 26 1918 and the attitude of presented in Transcaucasian Diet parties towards them.
In Turkish ultimatum of May 26 1918, for the benefit of Ottoman empire immediate rejection of Nakhichevan district failing Ordubad, a half of Sharuro-Daralagyaz district, the whole Surmali district, Echmiadzin distict, a half of Erivan district, greater part of Aleksandropol district and Akhalkalaki area was required.
In the Diet a sharp stuggle on the issue about attitude to the ultimatum flamed up. Mussavats stood for its unconditional acceptance, the Dashnaks partially rejected Turkish requirements, Georgian Mensheviks at the expense of concession of determined Georgian territories (which the Dashnaks considered as their own) sought profitable for themselves terms for peace with Turkey. Exactly these disageements on “war and peace” between the parties presented in the Diet resulted in disintegration of Transcaucasian republic, after which Georgian national council proclaimed Georgia an independent republic.
According to the opinion of the Dashnaks, Georgian Mensheviks declared Georgia a separate republic only in order to begin separate negotiations with Turkey and get rid of Turkish aggresors by returning all Armenia to them. However, it is well-known that Tirkish aggressors not at all wished to be satisfied by only Armenia, their plans included conquering of whole Caucasus, not failing Georgia.
Declaration of independence of Georgia, percieved so negatively by the Dashnaks, forced Turkish government to introduce substancial corrections in its plans with reference to Armenia. So, while signing Batumi agreement, the head of Turkish delegation Halil-Bey declared: “Imperial government of the Ottoman empire has contolled its feelings with great equanimity and has entrusted me to sign the document acknowledging existence of Armenian government”. The leaders of Dashnak, who had long before dreamt of becoming the owners of independent Armenian state, came to admiration from generosity of the Young Turks. On May 28 1918 the central Armenian national council in Tiflis, declared Armenia an independent republic, and on June 18 the Dashnak government reluctantly left for Erivan, the capital city of new state.
The territory of independent Armenia accounted for only 9 thousand sq. km. of high ground and desolate district. The plan of creation of “Great Armenia” failed, though after defeat of Germany in the world war, Armenia as Antanta’s faithful ally in Caucasus counted on specific favour of England, France and the USA, and requred the promise of expansion of the limits of Armenia from them. Exactly for this purpose, in I.Javakhishvili’s words, in Stanbul was printed: “ A fantastic map of Armenia on which it is stretched from the Black to the Caspian Sea, and starting from the spot a bit to the north from Selevkia, proceeding along the line of the city of Ardgebil, the boundary of this uniform Armenia ends at the Caspian Sea. On this map Batumi, Akhaltsikhe, Mtskheta, and even Tbilisi were found within the limits of Armenia, and Georgia got just a small, narrow line.
Armenia, stopping its political existence in 1045, had never had such limits before. However, post-war atmosphere and situation of Turkey allowed the Dashnaks to require the expansion of Armenia up to the borders represented on the map.
In such a manner, the Dashnaks put forward definite territorial claims to Georgia as well. After the restoration of independence between two countries was not conducted the state border, for demacration of which in June of 1918, the governments of Georgia and Armenia formed the commission which commenced its work on June10.
At the first board meeting on behalf of national council of Georgia I. Tsereteli declared to the representatives of Armenia ( K.Karchikyan, G.Khatisov, G.Kharakhanov) that Akhalkalaki, Kazakhs, Borchalo and Aleksandropol district should enter totally into the composition of Georgia. In connection with that, N. Karchikyan announced that in the proposal of I.Tsereteli he saw an old plan of section, to it he added that Lore and Akhalkalaki undoubtedly belonged to Armenia.
At board meeting of June 11, P.Ingorokva’s report was heard.The main conclusions of the report of the scientist are such: “ From the south boundary streches on the ridge of Small Caucasus, passes beside the southern boundary of Borchalo district, farther to the south, beside Karaklis, reaches the northern coast of Lake Gogcha, turns to the north along the river Akstaf, reaches Dzegam, embodies area of Zakatal and ends by Silovat Mountain.” Ethnical boundary was fairly rejected by P.Ingorokva as inadequate to the statehood needs.
The representatives of the national council of Armenia in their turn required Lore, Akhalkalaki and 2/3 of Borchalo district, these areas should be entered into the limits of Armenia. Such announcement of the representatives of Armenia caused a sharp indignation among the members of Georgian commission, the meeting was interrupted and hereinafter works of the commission were not continued.
Soon after, Turkish government submitted requirement to the administration of Georgia: “To admit deviation from article II of the treaty from June 4 1918, and to allow Turkish troops to occupy temporally a part of Borchalo distict along the river Kamenka and the line of railway to the south of the bridge between the Kober Fork and the Kalageran Station (117 versts).
Requirements of Turkish command were supported by the representative of German military mission in Tbilisi. Therefore, the government of Georgia was forced to satisfy their requests. To Turkish troops the right of occupying of the line on the right bank of the Kameka River was given, and namely: settlements in Novo-Pakrovka, Jelal-Ogly, Nikolaevka, Gergera, Vantanlur, Kurtan, Dar-Kend, and farther line from the bridge by 117 versts of Aleksandropol branch of the former Transcaucasian railways up to the stations of Kober and Kalageran, and to the settlements of Marts and Lorut. More northern from this line territories, which were occupied by Georgian troops, were managed to be protected from Turkish occupation. Areas of arrangement of Georgian troops were settlements – Vorontsovka, Aleksandrovka, Aiderbel, Mgart, Kober, Korinj,and Tsater.
The above-stated relative positioning of the troops – from one side Georgian and from the other – Turkish, proceeded till October 18, 1918. In such a manner, Georgian republic was not provided with the direct contact with the territory of Armania. Georgia was separated from Armenia with the band actually occupied by Turks. But on October 18 1918, gradual evacuation of this band by the Turkish troops was begun. Exactly this circumstance served as the beginning of the war between Armenia and Georgia. Moreover, on October 5 1918, in Yerevan a secret agreement was concluded between Armenia and Turkey, according to which, after withdrawal of Turkish troops from indicated areas, these territories should be occupied by Armenian troops.
On October 18 1918, a brief announcement from Sanain Kyasov, about Kober being occupied by Armenian troops on the same October 18, was received by Georgian government
On October 19 this announcement was confirmed by a series of telegrams from Sanain to the representatives of Georgian authority. As a result, by October 21, 1918, such situation was created that Armenian troops took the line, which had earlier been taken by Turkish troops and on this line Armenian command decided to fortify.
Such development of events forced a military administration of Georgia to submit (October 21) ultimatum to Armenian armed forces about clearing of all territory of Borchalo district and to retreat behind the station. The government of Armenia tried to maintain the gains by the way of diplomacy. So, the leader of the Dashnaks O. Kachaznuni, on October 23 1918, adressed the head of Georgian government with the follofing words: “ For avoidance of complications that could be followed by new disasters, in the name of right and justice, I ask to obstain from aggressive actions, to keep Georgian troops in the line of their present standing and to solve the question of limits by the way of peaceful agreement.”
Georgian government, being itself the initiator of peaceful resolution of all questions existing between two states, definitely excepted the proposal of O.Kachaznuni. For this purpose the member of Georgian parliament S.G.Mdivani was sent to Armenia on a specific mission.
Moreover, it was decided to convene a peaceful conference of Transcaucasian states in Tbilisi. However, Armenian government was entirely justified in being afraid that territorial questions delivered on agenda of the conference would be resolved not for the benefit of Armenia, therefore the Dashnaks did not take part in its work. The conference practically failed.
Neither did the negotiations in Yerevan with the plenipotentiary of Georgia in Armenia produce positive results.
As it is revealed from archive materials, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia declared to the diplomatic representative of Georgia in Armenia, that Armenia could concede Akhalkalaki and Borchalo districts to Georgia, if it supported the government of Armenia in its intention to join to the latter Karabakh and a part of the plateau of Kazakh district. S. Mdivani could, definitely, give no promise to S.Tigranyan and immediately eliminated the possibility of Georgia’s taking part in a scheduled aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan.
Hereinafter, as the documents testify, S.Tigranyan touched this question for several times during the conversation with S.Mdivani, but never got his support. Then the idea of joint (Georgian-Armenian) declaring against Turkey was put forward by S.Tigranyan. However, the target of this declaring should be joining of Georgian territories occupied by Turks (Ardagan, Akhaltsikhe, Kars etc.) to Armenia. It should be thought that exactly therefore the idea of S.Tigranyan did not find support among Georgian governmental circles.
On November 19 1918, during the meeting of S.Mdivani with the Prime Minister O.Kachaznuni, it was declared last that Armenian government cannot decline claim on Akhalkalaki and Borchalo districts. Moreover, O.Kachaznuni expressed bewilderment about Georgia’s laying claim to these areas.
S.Mdivani held negotiations in Yerevan with the representatives of Armenian government for solving the problems existing between two states while the Dashnaks were freely and intensively preparing for the war. For this reason, General Kvinikadze wrote: “ Armenians knew it and, having already been ready for the war, they intended to seize at once areas sought by them truly supposing that the representatives of Antanta would stop the war, and maybe they even had already had their consent to it.”
Thus, Armenia was getting ready for the war, and the government of Georgia, in General Mazniashvili’s words, “was convinced that Armenia wouldn’t dare to write against Georgia and they sent them diplomatic notes, but no steps were undertaken for the protection of the state.
On December 7 1918 Armenia attacked Georgia unexpectedly, without declaration of war. By such action Armenian Dashnak chiefs entered one of the most black pages into the history of Georgian-Armenian relations.
As a result of approach of Armenian troops on December 15-16, direct threat to the capital of Georgia was created. Under these conditions, on December 17 1918 extraordinary session of Georgian parliament was held in Tbilisi. In his statement, N.N.Jordania noted: “Happened what shouldn’t have happened …Responsibility for this historical crime entirely lies with the government of Kachaznuni.” On the same December 17, mobilization was declared, General Mazniashvili was appointed the commander of Georgian army acting against Armenian troops, and General Kvinikadze– the chief of the staff. Reshufflings were conducted both in national army and in the guards.
The main task of Georgian command after announcement of mobilization was to suspend the approach of Armenian troops. In his memoirs, N.Jordania conserning this question wrote: “ As soon as I received the announcement from Shulaveri about an unexpected attack of Armenian troops, the state of affairs became clear to me at once. The purpose of their unexpected assault was to take possession of routes to Tbilisi, Armenian population of the city was ready to rebel, so, Armenian troops would take the city with no effort. “Therefore, I told Jugheli and Maisuradze to cut off the road in the area of Bolnis-Khacheni immediately, as it is direct way to Tbilisi”. Indeed, this assumption turned out to be right, the main forces of the opponent were concentrated exactly in Bolnisi area, and exactly here the main forces of two armies met.
Soon English troops which had been in Baku already since November 17 1918, expressed their intention to enter into the territory of Georgia to support its inner order. For this reason, on December 19 1918 Georgian Foreign Minister E.Gegechkori adressed a note to the representative of English mission , Colonel Jordan, in which it was stated: 1). Georgian government does not consider the entrance of foreign troops into Georgian territory necessary for the maintenance of order, as the government itself possesses sufficient force for it. 2). If the entrance of these troops has any other purpose, Georgian government resolutely declares that this entrance cannot take place without the consent of Georgian government. 3). Union forces that enter according to the second item, can interfere by no means in domestic affairs of Georgia.
In responsive note of Colonel Jordan it was said : “We will not interfere in your internal policy, nor will we infringe the freedom of your people. As a result, on December 22 1918, Batumi was occupied by them, and on December 25 English troops entered Tbilisi, making it the residence of High Commissioner of the allies in Transcaucasia. The Dashnaks didn’t slow to invite Englishmen either, Armenia, as Antanta’s faithful ally in Caucasus, counted on special favour of England, without its support it was impossible to define new limits of Armenia as well as of other Transcaucasian republics.
Meanwhile, warefares proceeded. Using the fact that the main forces of the Dashnaks concentrated on the direction towards Shulaveri, Georgian troops’ guardian group of Ekaterinenfeld launched an attack and assaulted positions of the opponent in the area of Bolnisi-Khachini, Armenian troops could not withstand the pressure of Georgian troops and started a hasty retreat, Georgian national regiments eliminated their contenders in all directions from their positions and began common attack on the whole front. However, decisive battle of the armies of two states was still ahead.
All collisions before the battle of Shulaveri can be attributed to the class of small boundary collisions. Only the battle of Shulaveri is the collision of armed forces of both states, here almost all armed forces of Armenia confronted a part of Georgian armed forces.
On December 28 1918, after sanguinary battle of Shulaveri, Georgian troops deployed common approach on the whole front, the main forces of the opponent were crushed, Armenian troops departed in panic, The road to Yerevan was open. However, at this time, the English military mission submitted an ultimatum of immediate stoppage of the warfares to Georgian administration.
On this reason, the government of Georgia during two days held negotiations with the representatives of the English military mission and ultimetely was forced to agree “to stop the war on the spot where the troops will be standing at 12 p.m. of December 31, 1918”, and Armenians should act in the same way.
Meanwhile Georgian troops continued to assail, Armenian army was broken-down and actually did not offer resistance to Georgian armed forces. Englishmen tried to stop the attack of Georgian army, but G.Mazniashvili answered: “I have the order to stop only at 12.00”
At 12 o’clock of December 31 1918, the warefares ended. Armenian troops were rejected to earlier occupied positions, the opponent was defeated.
In this manner, the plans of Armenian authority to cut off significant territories from Georgia failed. By its action reffering to Georgia, Armenian Dashnak government destroyed a multicenturial good-neighbourhood mutual relations of Georgian and Armenian peoples.
The Dashnaks by their politics with regard to Georgia infringed the tradition of joint, centuries-old struggle against conquerors, and that resulted in the fact that Georgia and Armenia failed to unite forces against common hostage – Turkey.
Making comments on Armenia’s treacherous attack on Georgia, I.A.Javakhishvili wrote: “Notwithstanding the bitter lessons of history, governors of Armenia were not ashamed to intrude into the limits of Georgia and take our capital city by force, it is not difficult to imagine to what extent their appetine will grow, when they forget bitter days of history again. Therefore, Georgian people and its government… is obliged to pay proper attention to the state borders and to protect them stricly. It will prevent neither brotherhood – unity, nor good-neighbourhood relations of those who really think of brotherhood and good-neighbourhood.
On January 1 1919 English troops occupied the territory from Ayrum up to Shagali (i.e. the territory which had been occupied by Turks) and declared this band of Georgian territory as “neutral”. From this “neutral” territory Georgian troops were gradually removed, and on January 10, the staff of Georgian army returned to Tbilisi.
The termination of the war, removing Georgian troops from warefare theatre and declaring determined part of historical territory of Georgia as “neutral”, caused the explosion of indignation and anger in social and political circles of Georgia. So, on January 3, at the meeting of parliament S.Kedia in his statement noted: “ The conditions of peace are awful to us. The government didn’t defend the honour of our nation and gave us the peace not of a winner, but of defeated.” Discontent expressed by the factions at the meeting of state parliament definitely had its basis. However, the leaders of the country considered this agreement in different ways. In his statement N.N.Jordania noted on this reason: “When the war didn’t solve territorial problems and when problem solving perspectives by political way emerged, continuation of the war would mean then not war, but revenge…”
On January 9 1919, Armenian-Georgian conference opened in Tbilisi, the boundaries of “neutral” zone were defined. Concerning the question of the control of “neutral” zone, parties decided: 1). “Neutral” zone is controlled by mixed commission under authority and and control of the representatives of union powers. 2). Definitely, “neutral” zone is controlled by the board consisting of one representative of Georgia and one representative of Armenia. At final meeting of the conference N.V. Ramishvili noted: “All our concessions are maximum and we hope that Armenian government will come to agreement with us”. Though the Dashnaks required joining to armenia of the whole Lore and a part of Borchalo districts, this harassment was not supported by Englishmen, they adhered more to the requirements of Georgian delegation than to Armenian.
Frightened by it, the Dashnaks decided to publish newspaper in English and via this to solve problem of “natural” zone in their favour. In the first edition of this weekly newspaper it was said: “Today, for the first time, we have opportunity to address great people of Britain in English. Our first words are the words of our people’s greeting to allied powers. Throughout many centuries political and social course of Armenia had been Western. During the war our slogan became the words: “For Great Britain, France and Amerika, for justice and freedom…” We believe that via its representatives in Caucasus Great Britain will inform us about long-expected freedom and peace acquired by us. Small, but faithful ally of Britain – Armenia – in the most hearty manner welcomes great British nation.”
Newspaper globally tried to acquaint English reader with the history and the culture of Armenia. On its pages a series of articles by A.Magdasyan “Armenia: Its Culture and Expectations”, were printed, in which along with the history of Armenian people, the selection of quotations from the statements of political and cultural personalities of the West was given, where Armenians were opposed to other peoples of Caucasus and the Middle East.
“Armenians, – wrote A.Magdasyan, – belong to the Indo-European race of the mankind. According to the opinion of objective observers, they intellectuelly, morally and phisically precede the most of the nationalities that surround them, “Anglo-Saxons” of the East.
Describing a heavy condition of Armenia, newspaper fixed all hopes of the prospering of the country on England, only they are capable of building a new life on our desolate land, wrote “The Trans-Caucasian Post”. So, the Dashnaks fawned before England hoping that they would establish new boundaries to Armenia. However, interests in Azerbaijan connected with opportunity of the control over Baku oil, were presented to Englishmen by far more significant than a mad expansion of the limits of Armenia. They even were more interested in Georgia, on the territory of which 30 thousands of English expeditional guards defended the oil pipeline route of Baku-Batumi. In this manner, hopes of the Dashnaks to expand Armenia’s boundaries via England failed, though England had really declared definite territory of Georgia as “neutral”, but it couldn’t make a decision of attaching it to Armenia. The future of this “neutral” zone should be defined by the Paris Peace Conference.
In Paris, Armenian delegation printed Armenia’s new map, according to this map, into the limits of Armenia entered: Akhalkalaki district, Akhaltsikhe district, Borchalo district, Tbilisi, Mtskheta, Gori, Batumi, and a part of Batumi area, on this map within the limits of Armenia were also found Trapezund, Kars and Ardagan areas. Armenian governmental delegation introduced this map to the global conference to approve Armenian limits presented on the map and declared: “Armenians, deceived and abandoned by Georgians and betrayed by Tatars united with Turks, after the rout of Russia and Brest-Lithuanian contract, protected the front by their military units during 7 months resisting Turkish attacks.
Losing Kilikia, losing its natural harbours, Mersina and Ais, Armenian people would be doomed to withering in its mountains, without relation to the Mediterranean Sea and with no opportunities to breath Armenia would be deprived of its lungs.
The life and the future of Armenians on the Mediterranean Sea.
However, the untrueness of the map and the statistical information presented by Armenians became clear to everybody at once and deprived fantastic plans of Armenian delegation of any trust in the eyes of French, English and American representatives. The plan of great Armenia, – wrote I.A.Javakhishvili, – broke up and disappeared like a soap bubble.
In the period of the Paris Peace Conference, Armenia did not get expected support from Englishmen. The hope on the USA emerged. President W.Wilson promised to lend assistance, on his direction Colonel Haskel was sent to Armenia, to whom the preparation of the whole Transcaucasia for mandatory board was entrusted. But the senate calculated possible charges and decided that support of Armenia would cost American tax payers a pretty penny: 151,2 million pounds sterling for 5 years. To Wilson’s appeals, to recall about humanism, senators answered: “We do not wish to interfere in European affairs, even if humanism considerations require it.”
In September 1919 the Dashnak newspaper “Ashkhatavor” published the article with critics of English policy in Transcaucasia. In connection with the leaving of British troops, a threat of Turkish intrusion hung over Armenia. In response, Scotland Liddel sharply criticized inner and foreign policy of the Dashnaks. He wrote: “Instead of convincing its compatriots to live in peace with the neighbours – and waiting for the time, when peaceful conference (The Paris Peace Conference) settles many questions at issue, many Armenian leaders, the Dashnaks etc., bias people against Muslims.
“Armenian leaders are imbued with a silly idea that where there are Armenians, there should be only Armenian laws and no other. And their dreams of future Armenia reached the idea of Armenia with the exit to three seas – The Black, Mediterranean, and Caspian Seas. If such Armenia could be created, than among its population Armenians would make only 3%.
…And at last, we can believe in no way that the Dashnak party is a true representative of ideas and expectations of Armenian people and a devoted defender of its necessities.”
Such sharp critics of the Dashnaks was connected definitely with the project of establishing American protectorate over Armenia and certified the sharpening not only of Armenian-English, but also Anglo-American attitude.
In the summer 1919 British troops left Baku, English troops were as well removed from Tbilisi, meanwhile the General A.I.Denikin, under the slogan of “unified and great Russia”, continued his assail southwards. In such atmosphere, on June 16 1919 Azerbaijan and Georgia signed a military-political contract. According to the 10th article of this contract, Armenia had the right to join in this contract. However, the Dashnaks chose other way, they concluded a secret military union with Denikin. This union was directed definitely against both Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Soon after that, on September 19 1919 Denikin declared an economical blockade of Georgia and Azerbaijan: “I cannot admit that illegal formations of Georgia and Azerbaijan, related plainly hostilely to Russian statehood and arisen to harm to Russian state interests, received positions at the expense of Russian districts released from the Bolsheviks.
In 1918 Armenia really was supported only by volunteer army. From his poor reserves, Denikin sent some armament to Yerevan. Armenians didn’t abandon hope of reconstruction of uniform Russia and, in its turn, the Dashnak government assisted Denikin’s army as much as it could. The position of Dashnaks was approved by the whole populace of the republic, in 1919 elections the party of Dashnaktsutun received 90% of Armenian residents’ voices.
In 1920, after the defeat of main forces of Denikin, a new war with Turkey was approaching Armenia. Turkey required from Armenia to decline the contract of Sevr, and thus, its determined territories too.
In autumn 1920 warefares began between Turkey and Armenia. The Bolshevik administration felt for Turkey as far as Armenia was considered as Ananta’s advanced post. Antanta countries, in their turn, couldn’t decide to help Armenia.
Antanta countries’ indifference to Armenia astonished Russian emigration. P.N. Milyukov wrote at that time in “New Russia”: “…Russia, even Bolshevik, is a better protection to Armenia against Turkey, than the official patrons from Antanta.
Meanwhile Armenia, in the war with Turkey, lost more and more territories. In such atmosphere the Dashnaks had to forget temporally their ambitions with regard to Georgia and, according to the contract of November 13 1920, passed the control of “neutral” zone of Georgia.
In September-November 1920 during the war with Turkey no less than 60 000 of peacefull residents were slain. At the end of November 1920, Turks insisted on Armenia’s declaration of rejection of the Sevr Contract. Hope remained to Soviet Russia. On November 29 1920 Soviet authority was established in Armenia, Turkey was satisfied with such development of events.
Thus, politics of Armenian nationalist party “Dashnaktsutun” failed. Seeking to creation of “Great Armenia from sea to sea” brought countless disasters firstly to Armenian people itself. The Dashnaks’ historical crime was the intrusion to Georgia – by this shameful war the Dashnaks entered the black page into the latest history of two states.
Creation of the party of “Dashnaktsutun”, no doubt, was the event which designated determined limit in the development of Armenian nationalist aspirations and played a significant and, it must be noted, tragical role in Transcaucasian history and, first off, in the history of Armenian people itself.
Exactly such historical lessons can be extracted from the history of the occurence of Armenian nationalist party “Dashnaktsutun” and its politics with regard to Georgia in 1918-1920.
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