The Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA; Armenian: Դեմոկրատական Հայաստանի Հանրապետություն, Demokratakan Hayastani Hanrapetutyun; also known as the First Republic of Armenia), 1918–1920, was the first modern establishment of an Armenian republic. The collapse of the Russian Tsarist empire with the Russian Revolution of 1917 gave chance to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation to create the new republic which the leadership and the 103 of delegates from former Romanov realm (total 203) belonged to the party.. When it was established borders were with the Democratic Republic of Georgia in the north, the Ottoman Empire to the west, the Persian Empire to the south, and Azerbaijan Democratic Republic to the east.
In 1920, the DRA administered an area that covered most of present-day Armenia, and Kars, Iğdır, Çıldır and Göle districts of Ardahan, while the regions of Nakhchivan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Zangezur (today the Armenian province of Syunik), and Qazakh were disputed and fought over with Azerbaijan. The Oltu region (shortly administered by Georgia in 1920) was also claimed by the DRA. The majority-Armenian area of Lori was disputed with and administered by Georgia. The Armenian Army managed to control the regions except for Karabakh which came under stable but temporary Armenian control, though Azerbaijan continued to assert its claims over the areas.
The Russian offense during the Caucasus Campaign and subsequent occupation and establishment of Administration for Western Armenia flourished the visions of liberation from "foreign rule". The foreign rule of Armenians began between the 4th and 19th centuries with the traditional area of Armenia was conquered and ruled by Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, among others. The main reason Armenians in of the provinces of Van, Bitlis, and Erzurum, and of coastal regions of the Black Sea including Trabzon, were helping the Russian army was to escape from the Ottoman Empire's rootless rule. Russians sought to mobilise Armenian patriotic sentiment and Count Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov consulted with the Mayor of Tbilisi Alexandre Khatsian, the primate of Tbilisi, Bishop Mesrop, and the prominent civic leader Dr. Hakob Zavriev about the creation of Armenian volunteer detachments in the summer of 1914. These units would be employed on the Caucasus Campaign. Many of them were living in the Caucasus and many were impatient to take up arms to liberate their homeland. The Armenian volunteer regiments were disbanded from their formations as soon as the Russian Imperial army reached its goals. Russian Imperial army prevented regrouping of the Armenians who were migrating to the deep Russian Armenia. At the turn of 1916, the Russian government raised barriers in prevention for the Armenian refugees who returned to their homes. The Armenians who managed to return to their homelands, newly freed from the Ottoman Empire, found devastated country side. The Armenians remaining in the Caucasus were faced with Russian censorship and tyranny. The Armenian Plateau was never intended to be Armenian.
Armenians learned the logic of all these activities after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The agricultural possibilities located off the Black Sea coastal districts and the upper reaches of the Euphrates were considered suitable for Russian colonists. The tsarist regime had had secret wartime agreements with the Triple Entente on the partition of the Ottoman Empire. While the tsarist regime was giving consent to the splitting of the Middle East, Western Anatolia, and Cilicia, they also wanted to replace the Muslim residents of the Northern Anatolia and Istanbul with more reliable Cossack settlers. These documents were made public by the February/March revolution of 1917 to gain the support of the Armenian public. Armenians hailed the end of the Romanov dynasty.
Armenians recognized that they have to build their own system. Bolshevik slogan of the time ‘peace without annexations and indemnities’ was turning into ‘land, peace, and bread’ . The Armenians devised a national congress at October 1917. Armenian National Councils (Karabagh, Baku, and Tiflis) established during this period send delegates. The Armenian Congress of Eastern Armenians meet with 203 delegates from the former Romanov realm meet at Tiflis in September 1917. This congress included 103 members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
"The land of Ottoman Armenia" transferred to a civilian rule under Hakob Zavriev in 1917 by Ozakom of Russian Provisional Government, which Zavriev began to oversight of districts Trebizon, Erzurum, Bitlis, and vilâyet of Van. Armenians learned more about the promise of helping Armenians to move back to their homeland from Caucasus refugee camps was left on cold by, specifically, Grand Duke Nicholas along with the Special Transcaucasian Committee. The thousands who had moved back to their hometowns with their own resources found out that Russian soldiers left their posts and had return their own hometowns.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation selected Rostom Zorian, Mikael Hovhannisian, Hamo Ohandjanian, Hakob Zavriev, Kostia Hambartsoumian, Avetik Shahkhatouni, Hovhannes Kachaznouni, Sirakan Tigranian and Koriun Ghazarian as delegates to Special Transcaucasian Committee (Ozakom) of Russian Provisional Government on January 18, 1918. The delegates included two premiers and a foreign minister of the future Armenian Republic. Armenian Revolutionary Federation had an anti-Communist disposition. This establishment was a "grand illusion" of the provisional Government, the moderate socialist and liberal parties, as well as of most nationality groups, could not stay under one institution. After the October Revolution it was replaced by the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic (TCDFR).
The Armenian Congress of Eastern Armenians devised policies to direct the war efforts, and the relief and repatriation of refugees. The council passed a law to organize the defense of the Caucasus against the Turks using the vast quantity of supplies and ammunition left over from the departure of the Russian army. The congress specifically devised a local control and administrative structure of the Transcaucasia. Even if the Congress did not devise specific solutions for the soldiers left in Baku, Tiflis, Kars, and other militias in eastern Anatolia, they did not resist the ongoing reality of these soldiers serving for the other forces. The Congress also selected a fifteen member permanent executive committee, known as the Armenian National Council. The leader was Avetis Aharonyan.
The permanent executive committee selected by Armenian Congress of Eastern Armenians set the stage and then declare the Democratic Republic of Armenia. On May 30, 1918 the Armenian Revolutionary Federation gathered for a special session and decided to declare the Armenia. They decided that Armenia should be a republic under a provisional coalition government. The declaration stated:
The Republic of Armenia became a self-governing state, endowed with the supremacy of state authority, independence, sovereignty, and plenipotentiary power. It had the constitution and laws. The first Prime Minister was Hovhannes Katchaznouni. Aram Manougian was the first minister of Interior. All the Prime Ministers were elected from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Independent Armenia established the Ministry of Interior, of which the Police was an integral part. However, the Armenian Police was created early in 1918 before the declaration of the state. The Interior Ministry was also responsible for communications and telegraph, railroad, and the public school system, in addition to enforcing law and order. The reforms come soon and each of these departments became ministries and the Armenian parliament passed a law on the police on April 21, 1920, specifying its structure, jurisdiction, and responsibilities.
To consider emergency measures, the Western Armenian Administration sponsored a conference which adopted plans to form a twenty-thousand-man militia under Andranik in December, 1917. Andranik, who was the best choice, was also the commander of one of the volunteer units in 1914-1915. The 1st brigade of Andranik's division was composed of the Erzinjan and Erzurum regiments; the 2nd, of the Khnus and Alashkert regiments; and the 3rd, of the Van and mounted Zeytoun regiments. Civilian commissioner Dr. Hakob Zavriev promoted Adrianik to Major General. At the same time the Eastern Armenian leaders at the Erivan established Armenian Army Corps. General Nazarbekov was selected as the Commanding Officer. Erivan assigned 1th Division under General Christophor Araratov into 1st (Erzurum-Erzinjan), 2nd (Khnus), 3rd (Yerevan), and 4th (Erzinjan and Yerevan) regiments. Erivan also assigned Colonel Movses Silikyan to 2nd Division with 5th (Van), 6th (Yerevan), 7th and 8th Regiments to Alexandropol. The Chief of Staff of the Armenian Crops was General Vickinski. The divisions which comprise four regiments each, had also three regular and one depot regiment. Their total strength is 32,000 enlisted men. Besides these regular structures enabled man was also armed. A 40 to 50 thousand strong force formed from this armed civilian population. Infantry weapons were Russian rifles. A few auxiliary, quartermaster, medical, and garrison units completed the structure of the new armed force.
In December 1917, the Special Transcaucasian Committee negotiated with the 3th Army the "Erzincan Cease-fire Agreement" which froze the conflicts till February 7 1918. Between December to February 7 the regiments of the Armenian Corps were immediately hustled off to the front. They created a spectacle en route, for, to the amazement of the homeward-bound Russian soldiers, they were moving toward, not away from, the forward lines. By the end of January, 1918, Nazarbekian's divisions occupied the major posts from Yerevan to Van and Erzinjan.
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. When the Azerbaijanis 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.
The Treaty of Sèvres was signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres, France on August 10, 1920. The treaty had a clause on Armenia. It made all parties signing the treaty to recognize Armenia as a free and independent State. The borders drawn for the Republic on the treaty reflected the efforts given by Armenians upon the defeat of the Ottoman Empire on the Caucasus Campaign. This treaty was signed by the Ottoman Government, but Sultan Mehmed VI never signed the treaty; hence the treaty had never come into effect. Turkish Revolutionaries began a Turkish National Movement which, in turn, confronted with the new Republic.
The Ottoman Empire advances against the new Republic ended with the Treaty of Batum. Treaty of Batum did not give any freedom to the government of Hovhannes Katchaznouni. The Ottoman Empire signed the Armistice of Mudros on 30 October 1918. With the Armistice of Mudros, British forces came ashore at Batum and Baku and occupied the Transcaucasian railway. The new state found a solution to the Ottoman Empire problem with the help of British forces after the Armstice. The Ottoman Armies left the Transcaucasia, including Baku, Elizavetpol, Tiflis, Batum and Yerevan. Than later in early 1919 they were pulled back from Kars and Ardahan. This gave a chance to the Armenian Republic to triple its size.
With the involvement of British forces the Bolsheviks clashed with Armenian Revolutionary Federation. On July 26 1918, Bolsheviks were clearly outvoted in the Baku Soviet and were forced out of power. A new government, known as Central Caspian Dictatorship (Diktatura Tsentrokaspiya) was formed with the Armenian representation, and British forces under General Thompson occupied Baku the same day. The Baku Commissar Stepan Shahumyan was executed by British troops in September 1918. While the problem at Baku was developing, South West Caucasian Republic was a new state headed by Fakhr al-Din Pirioghlu and centered in Kars. Its territory was to include the regions of Kars and Batum, parts of the Erivan district in the province of the same name, and the Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki districts of the Tiflis province. It existed alongside with the British general governorship created during the Entente's intervention in Transcaucasia. It was abolished by British High Commissioner Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe and the region was assigned to ADR.
During 1920's, which began under the premiership of Hovannes Kachaznuni, Armenians from the former Russian Empire and United States developed the judicial system. January 1919 was an important milestone as the first University was founded.
There was also an Armenian settlement problem that brought conflict with other ethnic residents. In all, there were 300,000 embittered and impatient refugees escaping from the Ottoman Empire which were now the government's responsibility; this proved an insurmountable humanitarian issue for it.
The second winter after the declaration of the state, winter of the government of Hovhannes Kachaznuni had come face to face with a most sobering reality. The newly formed government was responsible for over half a million Armenian refugees in the Caucasus. The 393,700 refugees were under their jurisdiction as follows:
|Number of refugees||75,000||30,000||22,000||15,000||38,000||36,000||35,000||70,000||16,000||13,000|
It was a long and harsh winter. The homeless masses, lacking food, clothing, and medicine had to endure the elements. Many who survived the exposure and famine, succumbed to the ravaging diseases (note: Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918). Typhus was also a major sickness, because of its effect on children.
Conditions in the outlying regions, not necessarily consisting of refugees, weren't any better. The Ottoman governing structure and Russian army had already withdrawn from the region. Armenian government had neither time, nor resources, to rebuild the infrastructure. A report in early 1919 noted that the lives had been claimed of: 65% of the population of Sardarabad, 40% of the population of eight villages near Etchmiadzin, 25% of the population of Ashtarak, and this continues...
By the spring of 1919, the typhus epidemic had run its course, the weather improved and the first American shipment of wheat reached Batum, with the British army transporting the aid to Yerevan. Yet by that time some 150,000 of the refugees had perished. (Vratsian, Hanrapetium put this figure at around 180,000) That was nearly 20% of the entire nascent Republic.
At this point, Turkish Revolutionaries claimed that the Turks inside DRA were being mistreated and oppressed by the Armenians. On September 20, 1920, Turkish General Kazım Karabekir moved his forces into Wilsonian Armenia and near the pre-Sèvres Armenian-Turkish frontier. In response, the DRA declared war on Turkey in September 24 and the Turkish-Armenian War began. In the regions of Oltu, Sarikamis, Kars, Alexandropol (Gyumri) Armenian forces clashed with those of Turkish General Kazım Karabekir. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk then sent several delegations to Moscow in search of an alliance. This proved disastrous for the Armenians.
Armenia gave way to communist power in late 1920. In September 1920, the Turkish revolutionaries moved in on the capital. First an armistice was concluded, on November 18, and then a full peace treaty - Treaty of Alexandropol on 2nd and/or 3rd of December 1920.
During that time, the Soviet 11th Red Army invasion started on the 29th of November 1920. The actual transfer of power took place on December 2 in Yerevan. Armenian leadership approved an ultimatum, presented to it by the Soviet plenipotentiary Boris Legran - who was at work as one of major Russian diplomats on Caucasus at that time. Armenia decided to join the Soviet sphere, while the Soviet Russia agreed to protect its remaining territory from the advancing Turkish army. Soviets also pledged to take steps to rebuild the army, protect the Armenians, not to pursue non-communist Armenians, etc.
When on December 4, 1920, the Red Army entered Yerevan, the government of Armenian Republic effectively stopped working. On December 5, the Armenian Revolutionary Committee (Revkom; made up of mostly Armenians from Azerbaijan) also entered the city. Finally, on the following day, December 6, Felix Dzerzhinsky's dreaded secret police, the Cheka, entered Yerevan, thus effectively ending the existence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia. At that point what was left of Armenia was under the control of a communist government. The part occupied by Turkey remained for the most part theirs - by the subsequent Treaty of Kars. Soon, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed, under the leadership of Aleksandr Miasnikyan. It was to be included into the newly created Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.