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Articles > History > The Transcaucasian Armenian irredenta


“At the outset, it should be noted that the Independent Republic of Armenia which emerged from the bloody Armeno-Turkish conflicts in the spring of 1918 was not a recovery of the historic Armenia. It included none of the Armenian provinces of the Turkish Empire, although it was in the Armenian scheme of final integration that at least some of them should be incorporated, as later it was envisaged in the Sevres Treaty of 1920 and the Wilsonian Award.


The Independent Republic was formed in Caucasian Armenia, former territory of the Tsarist empire, centering around the Province of Erivan. During the two years of the Republic’s life, this territory was expanded to include almost the whole of Sharour Nakhitchevan, the Districts of Kars and Kaghzvan from the Province of Kars, a larger part of Ardahan and a small part of Olti, the District of Zangezur from the Province of Gandzak and Itchevan, as well as, factually, Mountainous Karabagh, and the greater part of Lori from the Province of Tiflis. Thus, in the summer of 1920, on the eve of the Turco-Soviet invasion of Armenia, the Republic of Armenia embraced a territory of nearly 19,305 square miles with a population of 1,200,000 inhabitants, the overwhelming majority of which were Armenians. After the Armeno-Turkish war of 1920 this area reverted back to 10,038 square miles.


The Armenia of today is a little country, snuggled around Lake Sevan, on the twin flanks of Minor Caucasus. It is largely a mountainous country with a limited area in plains. In the west it is bounded by Turkey, and autonomous District of Nakhitchevan under Azerbaijani Protectorate and Persian to the south, the autonomous District of Karabagh under Azerbaijani Protectorate and Azerbaijan to the east, and Akhalkalak and Georgia to the north.


The Soviet Armenia of today consists of the following districts: Erivan, Pambak-Lori, Daralakiaz, Etchmiadzin, Kazakh, Zangezur, Leninakan (former Alexandropol), and Nor Bayazid, with a total area of 10,078 square miles.


The Transcaucasian Armenian irredenta to which the Armenian lay ethnographic, geographic, and economic claim are the districts of Nakhitchevan, a protectorate of Azerbaijan, Karabagh, another autonomous district under the protectorate of Azerbaijan, and Akhalkalak, incorporated with Georgia, with a total area of 7,220 square miles.


The Turkish irredenta, immediately contiguous with Armenia but with an entirely different status from the Turkish Armenian provinces, includes the districts of Kars, Kaghzvan (Kagizman), Surmalu (Igdir), Ardahan and Olti, with a total area of 8,044 square miles.


The Wilsonian boundary gave to Armenia the Provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzerum and Trebizond, with a total area of 34,750 square miles.


The Turkish irredenta and the Wilsonian award were cancelled by the treaties of Brest-Litovsk, Moscow, Kars, and finally the Treaty of Lausanne, and therefore, they do not come within the perimeter of this study. This essay is primarily concerned with the Caucasian irredenta, namely, the heavily Armenian populated and Armenia’s contiguous districts of Akhalkalak, Nakhitchevan and Karabagh.


The Population Statistics

Since the Armenian claim to the above-mentioned districts is based primarily on geography and population statistics, Armenian scholars have devoted considerable time and pain to the study of the statistics, and in their solicitude for accuracy, they have explored all sources in their effort to determine the approximate number of the Armenians in the Transcaucasian area as a whole, and the three districts of the irredenta in question in particular.


Taking as his starting point the Tsarist census of 1917, Simon Vratzian places the number of the Armenians in Caucasus in 1916 at 1,786,794. The Soviet census of 1925 places the number at 1,352,250. Vratzian traces the differential of some 400,000 to the unique character of the Soviet method of assembling statistics. He takes the Tsarist earlier census as his basis and proposes to reach an approximation by collating other subsidiary sources, such as the Soviet figures, the figures of foreign institutions, national and charitable organizations, as well as information assembled by individuals.


According to the Tsarist census, the population of Akhalkalak in 1916 was 107,173, of which 77,275 were Armenians. According to the Soviet census of 1925, this figure has been reduced to 75,671 (Mardagotch, 1925, June 25), a diminution caused by the departure of Russian inhabitants, and the reduction of the Armenian number by 20,000 as result of the massacres.


Making allowance for casualties of the war, famine and epidemic, the influx of some 300,000 Armenians from Turkish Armenia, and the prolific Armenia birth rate, the Vratzian estimate raises the figure of Transcaucasian Armenians to 1,776,000, a substantial difference from the Soviet figures which he criticizes severely as unable to meet the test of critical analysis.


Starting with the Schnitzer and von Eckert comprehensive statistical reports of the Caucasian populations in the mid-19th century, Dr. Vahe Sarafian largely discounts Tsarist census figures of 1897 as woefully biased and worthless, and finds the 1917 census estimates, on the basis of Armenian birth rate, should have shown a much larger figure. Nevertheless, Dr. Sarafian finds the Harbord Mission statistics in remarkable accord with the abovementioned Tsarist census, and, for the Armenian irredenta provinces of the Caucasus he adduces the following figures as acceptable:



Armenians                                 317,000     72%

Tartars                                     120,000

Sharour Nakhitchevan

Armenians                                   60,000     33%

Turks, Tartars                            120,000     66%  


Armenians                                   90,000     76%

Turks,Tartars                                8,000


Vratzian and Sarafian reject the figures of the Transcaucasian Statistical Central Commission, January 1, 1925, for the populations of the Caucasus, finding them defrauding the Armenians to the tune of 400,000. Sarafian is very painstaking and critical in his figures, making meticulous allowance for the factors of birth rate, and casualties from massacres, the famine and the epidemic.  He maintains that the Armenian prolific birthrate has overcome the losses of the misfortunes.


Holding the 1939 Soviet census as the crux of his reasoning process, and through a series of deductions based on periodic population comparisons and allowances for population growth, Haik Sarkisian arrived at the unique conclusion that the population of any region of the Soviet Union can at any time be determined by merely doubling the number of voters at any given Soviet election. This conclusion is arrived at by the universally known fact that Soviet elections invariably are 99% and more unanimous.


In the light of this interpretation, speaking of the populations of the Armenian irredenta of the Caucasus, Sarkisian advances the following observations.


According to the tables of the first Soviet census the Georgians in Georgia constituted 68% of the population; in Azerbaijan 64.2%. These two countries have a considerable Armenian population, formerly 12.6% in Georgia, and 13% in Azerbaijan. And while the Armenians are known for their comparatively high birth rate, a very conservative allowance of 11% will give these countries an Armenian population of 850,000. Of this mass population 80% is settled in the immediate vicinity of the Armenian Republic – Karabagh (159,768) the City of Gandzak and the mountain villages, the region of Shulavar, the Province of Akhalkalak (purely Armenian), and the autonomous Republic of Nakhitchevan the precise figures of which we lack, but safe to say, an Armenian population of at least 550,000 to 600,000.


As late as 1953, Hrand Ermoian, real name A. Khondkarian, for years a political analyst of the Armenian language Hairenik Monthly of Boston, having drawn his information from Georgian and Azerbaijani SSR republics at 800,000, almost equally distributed at 400,000 each.


Allowing for population displacements and the casualties sustained in the wars of 1918 and 1920, Professor Abegian, after a lengthy analysis, concludes that out of a total population of 200 – 220,000 of Mountainous Karabagh and Gandzak, 140 – 160,000 are Armenians. He places the figure of the Armenians in Nakhitchevan at 53,000.


L’Armenie Transcaucasienne, official publication of the Delegation of the Armenian Republic to the Paris Peace Conference, breaks down the figures as follows: Akhalkalak, 146,000 Armenians, Nakhitchevan, 54,209, and Karabagh including Zangezur, 200,782.


The Origins of the Boundary Feuds

When in the spring of 1918 the Transcaucasian Confederation (Seym) was dissolved and the three constituent nations  -  the Armenians, Georgians and Azerbaijani  -  proclaimed their independence, the Caucasus was in a chaotic condition. After disastrous and counteroffensives, Turkish troops still occupied certain regions which, by the terms of the treaties, were to be evacuated. Their evacuation and the withdrawal of the Russian armies at the behest of the Soviets created a vacuum which instantly provoked a general scramble among the three Caucasian nations to fill the void. These conflicts centered around the mixed populated and in some instances heavily Armenian populated regions of Lori, Borchalu, Akhalkalak, Nakhitchevan, Zangezur, Gandzak and Karabagh.


There were endless insurrections, local fights, international negotiations conferences, Allied interventions, and, finally, open wars among the three major nationalities of the Caucasus which eventually ended in the despoliation of Armenia among the Turks, the Soviets, and their Caucasian neighbours. Zangezur, a purely Armenian inhabited region was incorporated in Armenia, and so was Lori with a population of 60,000 Armenians. Akhalkalak, with a population of 80,000 Armenians, was annexed to Georgia, and the regions of Nakhitchevan and Karabagh were given the status of autonomous districts under the protectorate of Azerbaijan.


It is difficult to determine precisely when the sparks began to fly, between Georgia and Armenia, or Armenia and Azerbaijan. The brief period of two years in the life of the Independent Armenian Republic was so crowded with intraracial problems and conflicts, to say nothing of desperate effort of restoring order out of chaos, that the Government of Armenia did not know where to begin and where to stop. One of the most painful developments of 1919 in Armenia, writes Vratzian, was the emergence of rebellious movements on the part of Mohammedan elements within the domain of the Republic, instigated largely by Turkey and Azerbaijan with the intention of destroying the independence of the new-born Republic.


From the first day of the creation of the Independent Republic, and Mohammedan element of Turkey and Azerbaijan living in the interior of the country took a hostile attitude toward the Government of Armenia, desirous of joining their kinsmen of the south and east. The latter two countries, in turn, were trying to effect a juncture via Armenia, comprehending the Karabagh Zangezur-Nakhitchevan strip.


The principal actor of this espionage-subversive activity was an Azerbaijani agent named Khan Tekinski who was appointed in March of 1919 Azerbaijani representative in Erivan, a fanatical Pan-Turanian who was charged with the responsibility of fomenting insurrections in Armenia.


Tekinski apparently did his job so well that by June the entire Moslem element in Armenia were up in arms against the Government, demanding union with their Turkish kinsmen while the Mohammedans of the Caucasus, under the influence of the then newly-rising Kemalist movement, were bombarding the Paris Peace Conference with their petitions and demands for union with their neighbouring Turkish coreligionists.



James G. Mandalian  -  The Armenian Review, June 1961

Added: Thursday, October 26, 2006
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Posted by Tawny on Friday, August 05, 2011

Haha, shouldn't you be charging for that kind of knowledge?!
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