Armenia marks 103rd anniversary of First Republic

Armenia celebrates the 103rd anniversary of the First Republic.

The 1918 Republic of Armenia barely lasted two years. It was, however, a historic political entity – the first expression of Armenian sovereignty since 1375.

Its efforts led to the establishment of a Soviet Armenian Republic, which, in turn, allowed for an independent Armenia upon the collapse of the USSR seventy years later.

In 1917 after the February Revolution Russian Provisional Government dissolved the Viceroyalty of and established the Transcaucasian Special Committee. During that period of time steps were undertaken for the Armenian refugees to return back to Western Armenia. By the end of 1917 the number of refugees was about 390 thousand. In September 1917 the Armenian National Committee was formed in Tbilisi, where the representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Party of Dashnaktsutiun had priority.

In December the Yerznka Ceasefire was signed between the newly established Transcaucasian Committee and Ottoman Army. In its turn the Soviet Government announced a Decree on Turkish Armenia, recognizing the right of Armenians from Western Armenia to the Self Determination, including even the creation of an independent state. However, Turkish troops restarted military actions, disrupting the Reconciliation Regime. Despite heroic resistance, the Armenian irregular troops and volunteer detachments began retreating to the borders of Eastern Armenia.

According to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918), under the pressure of Germany the Soviet Russia agreed to return to the borders of the former Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878. As a result of that retrograde not only Western Armenia, but the regions of Kars, Ardahan and Batumi became parts of Ottoman Empire as well.

As a consequence of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk the peace negotiations that had been conducting with Ottoman Empire in Trapizon since March 1918 by the authorities of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic (former Commissariat and then Sejm) were deadlocked and suspended. Invading Eastern Armenia, Turkish troops occupied the Province of Kars, cities of Kars and Alexandrapol () and moved towards Yerevan and Gharakilisa (nowadays Vanadzor). On their way Turks were demolishing Armenian towns and villages, slaughtering population. The situation was fatal: Eastern Armenia was under the threat of genocide then.

Day by day growing danger united Armenians and Armenian troops along with militias and led by General Moses Silikyan, Colonels Daniel Bek-Pirumov, Drastamat Kanayan and others made a decisive counterattack to the Turkish conquerors near Sardarapat, Gharakilisa and Bash-Aparan.

During those days of Heroic Battles of May 1918, the discrepancies within the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic composed of three main nationalities of the South Caucasus, were deepening.

On March 26, 1918 the Transcaucasian Sejm (Parliament) was dissolved leading to the dissolution of Transcaucasian Republic. In those conditions, on May 28, 1918 the Armenian National Council declared itself as the only and supreme authority of Armenian provinces. The Republic of Armenia was established. After the defeat of Ottoman Empire in the World War I and according to the Peace Treaty of Mudros (October 30, 1918), Turkish Troops hastily quited the Territory of Eastern Armenia.

The power of the First Republic was applied to the following areas: major part of former Kars Region, the Province of Yerevan, western parts of Province of Yelizavetpol and southern parts of the Province of Tbilisi. Kharabakh was neither included in the territory of the Republic nor subjected to Musavat Azerbaijan, it was governed by the Congresses of the National Council of local Armenians.

In April, 1920 during a regular Congress the people of Nagorno-Karabakh made a decision on unification with the Republic of Armenia.

On August 10, 1920 the victorious states of the World War I, including Armenia, signed a peace agreement with defeated Turkey in the city of Sevres (France). It was Avetis Aharonyan, the head of the Armenian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Republic of Armenia. The section “Armenia” in the Treaty of Sevres included Articles 88-93.

By this treaty Sultan Turkish Government recognized Armenia as a free and independent state. Armenia and Turkey agreed to provide America with an opportunity to decide the demarcation line between the two states in Erzrum, Van and Bitlis provinces as well as to accept the offers concerning the access of Armenia to the Black Sea and the disarmament of all Ottoman territories, adjacent to above-mentioned boundary.

The nationalist government of Turkey, headed by Mustafa Kemal, who assumed the authority, did not accept the Treaty of Sevres. In 1920 the Soviet Government, seeking to direct the Kemalist movement in Turkey against the Entente, provided Turkey with palpable military and financial aid which was used against Greece in the West and against Armenia in the East. At the end of September, 1920 Turkish army started attacking. Conquering more and more lands, the Government of Ankara was aimed at depriving Armenians of an opportunity to recreate its own state. Turkish troops occupied the Region of Kars, Surmalu and Alexandrapol.

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