Posts Tagged ‘Treaty of Batum’

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

Treaty of Batum (June 4, 1918)

 

In the early months of 1918, two parallel processes developed in the Southern Caucasus: on the one hand, Ottoman military actions, and on the other, diplomatic efforts. The signature of the Treaty of Batum marked a temporary end to both processes.

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After the second Russian Revolution (November 7, 1917, according to the Gregorian calendar) and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks headed by Lenin, Soviet Russia took measures to sign a separate peace with the Central Powers. Russians and Ottomans signed the armistice of Erzinga on December 5, 1917, ending the armed conflicts between both sides. The armistice was followed by the Treaty of Brest Litovsk (March 3, 1918), which marked Russia’s departure from World War I. The Ottoman Empire and the delegation of the Seim (Parliament) of Transcaucasia, formed by Georgians, Armenians, and Tatars (not yet named Azerbaijanis), held the peace conference of Trebizonda between March 14 and April 5. The Ottomans offered to surrender any ambition in the Caucasus in return for the recognition of the conditions of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, which delivered Western Armenia, Kars, and Ardahan to the Ottoman Empire. Akaki Chkhenkeli, head of the Transcaucasian delegation, accepted the treaty as a basis for further negotiation. However, Armenians refused to accept the situation and hostilities resumed. The Ottoman army advanced further to the east, despite Armenian resistance.

 

A new peace conference between the Ottoman Empire and the newly-independent Republic of Trancaucasia (proclaimed on April 22) opened at Batum on May 11. The Ottomans left aside the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and increased their demands to include Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri), Surmalu (including Mount Ararat), Akhalkalak, and Akhaltskha. They also requested the construction of a railroad that connected Kars and Julfa (in Nakhichevan) with Baku. The transport corridor would run through Armenia, which was to give free right of passage. The Armenian and Georgian members of the Republic’s delegation began to stall the negotiations. The Ottoman army moved ahead and occupied Alexandropol on May 14. Between May 21 and 28, the fate of Armenia and Armenians was decided in the historic battles of Sardarabad, Gharakilise, and Bash Abaran. After the dissolution of the Republic of Transcaucasia on May 26-27 with the declaration of independence of Georgia and Azerbaijan, on May 30 the Armenian National Council of Tiflis (nowadays Tbilisi) assumed the authority of the Armenian provinces, retroactive to May 28.

 

Despite its defeat at the three battles, the Third Ottoman Army held positions 4 miles from Yerevan and 6 miles from Etchmiadzin. Armenians had exhausted their possibilities of resistance and had no choice but to make peace with Turkey and sign a treaty that, despite its humiliating conditions, would give them a minimum respite, hoping that the world war would end soon and the Allied victory would bring justice to their cause.

 

Three separate treaties were signed in Batum between the Ottoman Empire and the three Transcaucasian republics on June 4-5. The treaty of “peace and friendship” signed with the Republic of Armenia, represented by Alexander Khatisian, Hovhannes Kajaznuni, and Mikayel Babajanian, tacitly recognized its independence, ironically, three years after the genocide had started. The treaty left to Armenia Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, and the district of Nor Bayazid (now Gavar), around Lake Sevan. Parts of the districts of Sharur, Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, and Alexandropol were seized by the Ottoman Empire, as well as Akhalkalak and Akhaltskha, with a total of almost 18,000 square miles and a population of around 1,25 million people. Armenia was left with a landlocked territory of around 4,250 square miles (half of the extension of New Jersey), fifty kilometers of railway in the north and six kilometers extending west from Yerevan.

 

As historian Richard Hovannisian wrote in 1967: “Thus, the Republic was created under conditions so tragic as to defy adequate description. Yet, there was an Armenia. In mid-1918, even that was a remarkable accomplishment.” The situation would change by the end of 1918.

 

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