Western Azerbaijan in the Transcaucasian statehood system

The Russian Empire collapsed when the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917. In this situation, Transcaucasia (South Caucasus), which was formed as a geopolitical unit of Russia, entered a new era under the severe consequences of the empire’s dissolution. This period ended with the breakup of Transcaucasia and the emergence of independent states. In such a context, the process of separating Western Azerbaijan from the of Azerbaijan mainland and adding it into the geography of the Armenian state began and played an important role in the establishment of the Republic of Armenia on May 28, 1918. The transfer of Irevan to Armenia by the National Council of Azerbaijan (1918, May 29) and its official recognition by the Ottoman-Armenian Batumi Treaty (1918, June 4) continued during the period of the Republic of Armenia (1918–1920).

Creation of the first Transcaucasian government

1917, November 15/28–1918, March 26 – Fall of the Provisional Government bodies in Transcaucasia as a result of the Bolshevik coup in Russia. Establishment of a provisional coalition government – the Transcaucasian Commissariat (Zakavkom). The chairman was Y.P. Gegechkori, he was the commissioner for the Labor and Foreign Affairs at the same time. Among the members of the Commissariat were Azerbaijanis F.Khoyski (commissioner of Public Education), M.Y. Jafarov (commissioner of Trade and Industry), Kh.A. Malikaslanov (commissioner of Roads), Kh.B. Khasmammadov (Commissioner of State Control). In the first declaration of the Transcaucasian Commissariat, it was stated that “the Transcaucasian Commissariat, based on the principle of nations’ self-determination proclaimed by the Russian revolution, will take steps to solve the national question of Transcaucasia quickly and fairly.” [8, doc. No. 7, p. 9] With the establishment of this coalition government, the ethnic basis of the territorial division of Transcaucasia was also established. The union of Azerbaijan and Georgia in a coalition with Armenians was the recognition of their territorial security. This idea is relevant to the Seim and its provisional government, as well as to the Transcaucasian Republic.

1917, November – Irevan governorate, together with all its administrative-territorial units, entered the territory of the Transcaucasian government.

1917, December 2/15 – Armistice signed in Brest-Litovsk between the Central Powers and Soviet Russia. [16, No. 70.1, p. 337]

1917, December 5/18 – signing of Erzincan Peace between the Ottoman Empire and Transcaucasia Commissariat. [8, doc. No. 14, p. 18-23)] As a result of this reconciliation, the Ottoman Empire gained diplomatic and then military superiority. The Transcaucasian Commissariat was accepted as a party. With the massive withdrawal of Russian troops from the Caucasus front, measures were taken against the Armenian military forces that wanted to strengthen in the area. Together with the Russian troops, the Armenian refugees who left those territories flocked to the territories of Western Azerbaijan. Their number was at least 300 thousand people.

1917, December 29/1918, January 11 – Soviet Russia’s adoption of a decree on “Turkish Armenia” for the Armenians on the territory of Türkiye being organized. According to Article 1 of the decree, which consists of a preamble, 4 articles and a note, Soviet Russia recognized the right of Armenians in “Turkish Armenia” to self-determination until full independence. The main role in the implementation of the decree was assigned to Shaumyan, who was appointed extraordinary commissioner of the Caucasus by Lenin in December 1917. [16, No. 69.5, p. 334-335] This was a declarative decree.

1918, February 12-April 25 – Ottoman advance. Erzincan, Trabzon, Ardahan, etc. were liberated. At the end of April 1918, the 1877 border between the Ottoman-Russian Empire was restored. [2, p.553] As a result of this movement, in fact, the policy of Russia and Armenians to create an Armenian state in Ottoman territory failed. This policy was transferred to Transcaucasia, to the lands of Western Azerbaijan. During the course of World War I, Armenians who committed genocide against the Turkish-Muslim population in these areas continued to leave these areas and move to Western Azerbaijan.

Transcaucasian Seim. Organization of the Seim government

1918, February 23-May 26 – Transcaucasian Seim. Chairman N.S.Chkheidze (Georgian Social-Democrat (Menshevik)). 44 of the 125 members of the Seim were from the Muslim faction. Seim organized the Provisional Transcaucasian government (March 26 – April 22) under the leadership of Y.P. Gegechkori.

1918, March 3 – Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. [16, No. 70.2, p. 337-347] In accordance with the terms of the peace, the Ottoman Empire received Elviyey-i selaseni (“Three Liwa”), the right to restore its control over Kars, Batum and Ardahan. [8, doc. No. 48, p. 85-86] Since this issue was related to Transcaucasia, it was met with protest by the Commissariat. A territorial issue arose between the Ottoman state and the Transcaucasian commissariat. In the very first stage, territorial contradictions emerged within the Transcaucasian government. Türkiye, before the settlement of its external borders with the commissariat, started to annex the lands granted by Brest and then by military means. As a result, the territory of Transcaucasia became smaller and smaller. This made the struggle for territory in Transcaucasia more acute. Along with the determination of its borders with Transcaucasia, Türkiye began to influence the determination of internal boundaries in Transcaucasia. Thus, the territorial issue in Transcaucasia took on an international character. It was decided to convene a conference in Trabzon to resolve the controversial issues.

Trabzon conference

1918, March 14-April 14 – Trabzon conference. The Turkish delegation was headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Huseyn Rauf Bey (Orbay), and the 40-member delegation of the Seim was headed by Minister of Internal Affairs A.Chkhenkeli. The delegation included M.H. Hajinski, Kh.B. Khasmammadov, I. Heydarov, Mir Yagub Mehdiyev, A. Sheikhulislamov from the Muslim faction. The Armenian team was led by A. Khatisov. [8, No. 54-84, p. 107–184; 9, p. 85-94]

Khatisov reminded the opinion of the Turkish media about the large number of delegation from the Seim: “If a military detachment came, it would be small in number, if it is a peace delegation, then it is quite large”. [7, c.278] Both in the Seim and in its delegation, there was a serious disagreement about the current situation. The Seim recalled the delegation on April 14 because it did not accept Brest’s conditions.

1918, March 26 – joint meeting of all Muslim factions of the Seim. After the report of Sheikhulislamov, who had just arrived from the Trabzon conference, the tactics of the Muslim parties regarding Türkiye’s ultimatum on the transfer of the territories transferred to it under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was being discussed. [14, doc. No. 3, p. 77]

1918, March 31 – joint meeting of all Muslim factions of the Seim. Discussion of the issue on how Muslim parties will act in case of the war with Türkiye. The representatives of “Hummat” united with the Georgian Mensheviks. Muslim socialist block parties viewed the continuation of the war negatively and decided to make an independent speech in the Seim. “Musavat”, a group of neutrals, and “Ittihad”, a Muslim party in Russia, said that they would take all measures for a favorable termination of the war. The voice of this resolution in the Seim was entrusted to Sh. Rustambayov. [14, doc. No. 4, p. 77-79]

1918, April 1 – Inter-factional meeting of members of the Seim. In connection with the declaration of war against Türkiye, the issue of suspending the work of the Seim for two weeks and electing a military board with extraordinary powers of 3 members was discussed at the meeting. [14, doc. No. 5, p. 79-80]

1918, April 3 – Inter-factional meeting of members of the Seim. The report of Kh.B. Khasmammadov, a member of the peace commission, was heard. Under the guise of receiving instructions from the Transcaucasian government, the delegation returned. It was clear from the discussions that the Turks were very well informed about the situation of the Muslims of Transcaucasia and have promised to help by active force to suppress the anarchy. [14, doc. No. 6, p. 81-82]

War between the Transcaucasian Seim government and the Ottoman Empire (1918, April 14-22)

1918, April 14-22 – 8-day war between the government of the Transcaucasian Seim and the Ottoman Empire. Türkiye captures Oltu, Artvin, Ardahan, Sarıgamysh, Batum, and shortly after the war, Kars. Seim surrenders. [15, c.350]

Creation of Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic (TDFR)

1918, April 22-May 26 – the independence of Transcaucasia was declared as one of the results of the 8-day war. The Transcaucasian Democratic Federal Republic (TDFR) was established. It was the shortest-lived political union of Transcaucasia. It was able to exist only for 34 days. Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs was the head of the Seim delegation in Trabzon A. I. Chkhenkeli. It included Azerbaijanis Kh.B. Malikaslanov (Minister of Roads), F.K. Khoyski (Minister of Justice), N.B. Yusifbeyov (Minister of Public Education), M.H. Hajinsky (Minister of Trade and Industry) and I. Heydarov (State Controller). [12, c.63-64] After the government was formed, the first task was to resume negotiations with Türkiye.

1918, April 23-26 – the start of new discussions between the Ottoman and Transcaucasian governments and Batum was chosen as the place of the conference, proposed by the head of the government Chkhenkeli. After the decision on the conference was made, the parties determined the delegation. The head of the Ottoman delegation was the Minister of Justice Khalil Bey, and the second most important person was Vehib Pasha, commander of the 3rd Turkish Army. The Transcaucasian delegation included: A. I. Chkhenkeli (chairman), Georgians: Nikolay Nikoladze, General Odishelidze, Noy Ramishvili, Grigori Gvazava, etc.; Azerbaijanis: M.H. Hajinski, M.A. Rasulzade and others; Armenians: A. Khatisov (Khatisyan), H. Kachaznuni, M. Papajanyan and others. The total number of delegation was 45 people. [2, p.512-523] The Batumi conference can be considered one of the rare events in the history of diplomacy. The conference started between two countries and ended with four countries. Grandmaster Talat Pasha and Deputy Commander-in-Chief Enver Pasha had a decisive role in the organization and management of the conference. The most important of them was Enver Pasha. It is no coincidence that in most of Talat Pasha’s telegrams addressed to the conference, it is mentioned that Enver Pasha is also with him. In this regard, the position of both of them, or rather the position of Talat Pasha, mainly reflects the views of Enver Pasha. According to the subordination, Talat Pasha referred more to Khalil Pasha and Enver Pasha to Vehib Pasha. One of the rare examples was that during the course of the conference, unlike Talat and Enver Pasha’s tandem, there was not only disagreement between them and the delegation, but also between Khalil Pasha and Vehib Pasha, and even non-compliance with the instructions. The Transcaucasian government and its delegation also had their own problems. Here, too, there was no unity, but for a different reason. The delegation consisted of representatives of three opposing groups. There were no guidelines or uniform approach here.

1918, April 26 – recognition of the TDFR by the Ottoman state. [2, p.501-503] It is also very interesting that Türkiye played a decisive role in the creation and recognition of the Transcaucasian Republic as well as in its collapse.

1918, May 1 – joint meeting of all Muslim factions of the Seim. Discussion of the report of M.H. Hacinski, a member of the Trabzon peace conference delegation. Hajinski notes that one of the most significant events was Enver Pasha’s arrival in Trabzon and Batum. Hajinski reports on Enver Pasha’s views, as the main leader of Türkiye’s policy, on the political structure of Transcaucasia, most importantly on the future mutual relations between Azerbaijanis and Ottomans. If it is not possible to create a unified Transcaucasia, an alliance like of Austria-Hungary could be created between independent Azerbaijan and the Ottoman Empire. Regarding the independence of Armenia, Enver Pasha replied that if the Armenian people stop their intrigues under the influence of Anglo-Russian policy against the Turks, Türkiye is not against the establishment of an independent Armenian state. At the end of his report, Hajinski showed that the attitude of Vehib Pasha and Rauf Bey to this issue differed from that of Enver Pasha. They were in favor of not interfering in the internal affairs of Transcaucasia for the sake of maintaining peace there. [14, doc. No. 13, p. 97-100] Based on this information, some judgments can be made: 1) the creation of Armenian state had became a matter of discussion; 2) Enver Pasha put forward an alternative idea in a way typical of politicians, and did not deny its creation; 3) There was a difference of opinion in Turkish judicial circles on this issue; 4) Hajinski, who was a member of the delegation at the Batumi conference, as well as the members of all Muslim factions of the Seim, got acquainted with the position of Enver Pasha, one of the leaders of the Ottoman state, etc. Unfortunately, there is no mention of the attitude of the members of the Seim’s Muslim faction to this issue.

1918, May 1-6 – On May 1, a large delegation including Talat Pasha and Enver Pasha left Istanbul to take the Turkish delegation, including the German representatives led by General Lossov, to Batumi. On May 1, they arrived in Batumi. The Transcaucasian delegation also arrived in Batumi on the same day.

1918, May 2-10 – Enver Pasha sent instructions to Vehib Pasha, commander of the Third Army of the Ottoman Empire, about the Batum Conference, consisting of 11 articles. [1, document No. 33, pp. 121-122] Fulfillment of this instruction actually meant that Transcaucasia would became dependent on the Ottoman state. Keeping the important articles of the manual, new instructions were also addressed on May 4 and 5.

1918, May 6 – a joint meeting of all Muslim factions of the Seim and the Central Muslim Council of Transcaucasia. The member of the Seim, F.K. Khoyski, made a statement that Dashnak party’s Seim Faction claimed to undertake the cancellation of the Baku events on the condition that the future government in Baku is not exclusively Muslim, but international, and that the Armenian units remain there. F.Khoysky added that he did not reject such a brazen offer at that moment due to tactical consideration. Seim member Yusifbeyov categorically stated that he refused such a service, because it was not a sincere desire to live in peaceful conditions, but due to the approach of the Turkish army. Seim member Khasmammadov also made a sharp speech about this. In the end, Khoyski proposed the Dashnaks to put forward the following conditions: the transfer of power to Muslims in Baku, the entry of Muslim military units into the city, and the withdrawal of disarmed military units. According to tactical and political considerations, it is decided to extend these negotiations and instruct the head of the government not to give official information about it either in Baku or in the newspapers. [14, doc. No. 15, p. 103-104]

1918, May 7 – Khalil Bey’s telegram to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He said that at seven o’clock Chkhenkeli came to him and met him. During the meeting, Khalil bey expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation in the Caucasus, especially with the activities of the Armenians. It is brought to attention that Armenians expelled the population from Muslim villages in Irevan and replaced them with Armenians. Khalil Bey later wrote that they went to visit Jamal Pasha (one of the leaders of the Young Turks) together. At dinner, Vehib Pasha said that he received orders from Enver Pasha to move on Irevan. [2, p.553-554] According to Khalil Pasha, the capture of the Caucasus can complicate the situation and this situation will not be in favor of the Ottoman state. He also expressed his concern that this movement can unite Georgians and Armenians closely. [1, No. 34, pp. 123-124] It was clear that Türkiye’s policy on the Caucasus was being pursued both diplomatically and militarily.

1918, May 9-10 – Enver Pasha, in an instruction sent on May 9, demanded a speedy conclusion to the negotiations. Among these arguments, the immediate cessation of the aggression of the Armenians against the Muslims was mentioned based on the telegrams sent by the people of Igdir and Irevan. [2, p.526-531] In Enver Pasha’s border project, the external borders of the Ottoman state and the TDFR were determined. This border line was drawn on a 1:400,000 scale map and sent to Khalil Bey on May 10. [1, document No. 36, pp. 138-139]

Batumi conference

1918, May 11-June 4 – Batumi Conference. Only one opening meeting of the conference was held, then relations were conducted by exchanging notes, finally, with the dissolution of the TDFR, the work of the conference was continued with separate delegations. From this point of view, the activities of the conference could be divided into two parts: until May 26, 1918 (dissolution of the Seim) and aftermath. The modern political geography of the South Caucasus, with some exceptions, was designed at the Batumi conference.

1918, May 11 – the first session of the Batumi conference. The meeting started at 16:00 in the wooden building of the Batum (Georgian) club under the chairmanship of Khalil Bey and ended at 18:35. The meeting was attended by the Ottoman government, the Transcaucasian government, the North Caucasian delegation based on the agreement of the conference, and the German delegation led by von Lossow. It should be noted that the German factor also played an important role in the course of the conference. They took the Georgians under protection, and by strengthening their position accelerated the collapse of the federation. Chkhenkeli wanted to achieve negotiations based on the Brest Treaty and the involvement of the Union states. Khalil Bey stated that after the Trabzon conference, new conditions were created, that is, because Türkiye acquired the territories in the Brest Treaty through war, blood was shed, and accordingly, new territorial demands were necessary. He rejected the acceptance of the Brest Treaty as the basis of negotiations, and at the same time the participation of the Union states. The Ottoman state wanted to conclude an agreement only with the Transcaucasian government. With that, the activities of the Batum conference went in a different direction. This general meeting was the first and last. [8, No. 131, p. 312-316; 1, document No. 37, pp. 140-141; 2, p.545-550] The Batumi conference was a stage, and what took place here were sometimes meaningful, sometimes meaningless diplomatic games. As a result, the main issue was the June 4 agreement. Considering this, it is necessary to pay more attention to those contracts. It is also noted that the Batum sub-system was created in the system of international relations of that period, albeit for a short time. [13, p.5-22]

1918, May 12 – meeting of representatives of Transcaucasia. Discussions were held around Türkiye’s demands, but a single opinion could not be reached. In the end, it was decided to issue a note to the Turkish government. [2, p. 551-553; 5, p. 45 ]

1918, May 13 – note of the Transcaucasian delegation. In documents and materials, it is called the 1st memorandum. This note was written by Avalov. [8, p. 268-269) ] Here, the main goal was a political maneuver to involve Germany in discussions. [2, p. 553]

– Khalil Bey’s telegram to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this telegram, it is stated that the movement in the direction of Irevan was against the Brest Treaty. [1, document No. 38, p. 142] Khalil Bey was trying to prevent the movement on Irevan by all means.

– Separate meetings of Khalil Bey with Georgian, Armenian and Muslim representatives. This meant the emergence of a new format during the conference. Georgian (Chkhenkeli), Armenian and Azerbaijani (Rasulzadeh) representatives express their opinions about the border. He wrote about this in Talat Pasha’s report: Chkhenkeli noted that the Transcaucasia government and the Seim will collapse as a result of the territorial demands of the Ottomans. Khalil Bey said that there will be no concessions. It was written about the meeting with the Armenian delegation that they united with Russia, regretted their participation in the war against Türkiye, and now want to take refuge in it, etc. The territorial issue was also discussed in the meeting with Rasulzadeh. [1, document No. 41, pp. 147-149 ]

– Joint meeting of all Muslim factions of the Seim. Acceleration of the demarcation of the territory of the three main nations of Transcaucasia was also mentioned among the adopted measures. [14, doc. №16, с.106] As it can be seen, along with the borders between the Ottoman state and the Transcaucasian republic, the discussion of internal borders also became an important factor.

1918, May 13-14 – appeals of representatives of Ganja and Irevan to Talat Pasha. This appeal mentioned Armenian oppression in Nakhchivan, Ordubad, Karabakh and Irevan. Here, the results of the destruction of 130 villages in Irevan province in recent months, the displacement of their population and settlement of Armenians, and the siege of Irevan city, along with other places, were noted and assistance was requested. [1, p.143-144] Thus, the territory of Western Azerbaijan became the center of political processes. Armenian armed groups, which played an active role in World War I, carried out genocide against the Azerbaijani population here, and the local population was deported in order to settle Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. The number of Azerbaijani refugees from Western Azerbaijan increased.

1918, May 14 – Khalil Bey’s telegrams to the central government. In one of these telegrams, the situation of Georgians and Armenians was discussed, and the importance of the independence of the Caucasus rather than its occupation was mentioned. In another telegram, Soviet Russia’s interference in Caucasian affairs was considered harmful. Another telegram of the same day mentioned the issue of borders. [1, document No. 40, pp. 145-146; No. 41, pp. 147-149; No. 42, pp. 150-151; No. 43, pp. 152-153).]

1918, May 14, around midnight – Khalil Bey’s note from the Turkish side about the departure of the Turkish army to Julfa (Iran) via Alexandropol (Gumru). [8, pp. 269-270; 10, p. 111-112] Here, the main goal was the acceptance of Turkish demands by the Transcaucasian delegation.

Military operations of the Ottoman state in Western Azerbaijan. “Armenian-Ottoman war (1918)”

1918, May 15 – Chkhenkeli protested the start of hostilities in a reply letter. [8, doc. No. 134, p. 271; 2, p. 555]

– Reply note of the Ottoman delegation. It consisted of 4 articles. Negotiations on the basis of the Brest Treaty were not accepted. [8, No. 136, p. 272-273; 2, p. 557-558]

1918, May 15 at 6:00 p.m. – Armenian withdrawal from Alexandropol. [2, p.574] This event is considered as the beginning of the “Armenian-Ottoman war”. In the course of this war, the Ottoman army liberated a large part of the Western Azerbaijani lands from the Armenians. Armenian armed forces continued to remain in other parts of Western Azerbaijan. The territories occupied by the Ottoman state remained within it until the Treaty of Mudros on October 30, 1918. Administration system was created, etc. Armenians were carrying out the policy of deportation and genocide in the Western Azerbaijan lands. After the return of Western Azerbaijan lands according to the Mudros Treaty the Ottoman army left these territories, Armenians continued to massacre Azerbaijanis in these lands. Regarding the liberation of Alexandropol, 1) this event brought Armenians and Georgians closer together; 2) territorial issue for the establishment of the Armenian state was mentioned.

1918, May 16 – the second note of the delegation of Transcaucasian government. In this note, it was suggested that the negotiations should be conducted on the basis of the Brest Treaty. [8, No. 137, p. 273-277]

– Telegram of Chief Minister Talat Pasha to Khalil Bey. The telegram recommended cooperation with the Georgians in order to isolate the Armenians. [1, document No. 45, p. 157]

1918, May 17 – additional note to the 2nd memorandum (May 16) of the Transcaucasian delegation. Again, the Brest Treaty was insisted upon. [8, doc. No. 140, p. 281-282]

– Reply note of Khalil Bey. In response to the May 15 protest, it is reported that at the May 13 meeting, the Ottoman army mentioned the need for strategic action, but no response was received. Regarding the note of May 17, it is noted that it is necessary to review the facts with the army commander. At the end of the note, he mentioned readiness to conclude a friendly agreement to end the struggle and prevent unpleasant complications. [8, doc. #141, p. 282-283]

1918, May 18 – Khalil Bey’s reply to the telegram (May 16) of Chief Minister Talat Pasha about cooperation with Georgians. Khalil Bey wrote in his answer: “In order to win the Georgians, I advised the Muslim murahhas (representatives – K.S.) to satisfy the Georgians by giving them some concessions.” I hope that if we give them something from Ahılkelek Kazâsı, we will completely win over the Georgians and leave the Armenians alone, and we will do our work easily. What are the orders?” [1, document No. 45, p. 157] Thus, at the Batumi conference, apart from the borders between the Ottoman state and the Republic of Transcaucasia, the internal borders of Transcaucasia also began to be interfered with. The fact that the Ottoman delegation took on such a mission complicated the situation. In the early period, it was presumed that only the external borders were being discussed.

– Telegram of the head of the Dashnak fraction of the Seim, Karchikyan, to representatives Khatisov and Kachaznuni in Batumi. In the telegram, it is mentioned that the Turkish army was allowed to go to Julfa without hindrance, and it was suggested that the roads be handed over to the Germans. Otherwise, it was mentioned that an Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict would arise in the Irevan governorate. [8, doc. No. 142, p. 283-284; 2, p. 562 ]

– Chkhenkeli’s answer to Khalil Bey’s May 17 note. Here, ordering Turkish troops to advance along the Aleksandropol-Julfa railway was considered as a violation of Transcaucasia’s sovereignty, and Türkiye was blamed for the events. [8, doc. No. 143, p. 284-285; 2, p. 563]

– The Transcaucasian Republic’s declaration on the occupation of Alexandropol. [8, doc. No. 144, p. 287-288]

– Khalil Bey’s response to the Transcaucasian government’s note dated May 16. [8, doc. No. 145, p. 288-290; 2, pp. 563-566]

1918, May 19, Sunday – the head of the German delegation, von Lossow, took advantage of the tense situation between Türkiye and representatives of the Transcaucasian government, and appealed to Chkhenkeli for mediation. [8, doc. No. 147, p. 293; 2, p. 566]

– 8:30 p.m. – discussion of von Lossow’s mediation proposal at the Transcaucasian government delegation meeting. Reply to von Lossow on acceptance of mediation. With this, the roads between Germany and Türkiye begin to diverge. [8, doc. No. 148, p. 293-301, No. 149, v. 301-302; 2, pp. 566-567]

1918, May 20 – Initiation of a new forward march to influence the Transcaucasian government due to the deadlock in negotiations. Occupation of Jalaloglu and Igdir, north of Karakilsa. [2, p. 575]

– Arrival of Armenian National Council members A. Ohanjanyan and A. Zohrabyan in Batumi.

– Khalil Bey’s telegram to Talat Pasha. Discussions with Georgian, Armenian, Muslim and North Caucasus representatives were discussed. He wrote about his meeting with Chkhenkeli that if the Armenians did not cooperate, he advised them to protect the confederation together with the Muslims, but he replied that it was impossible. From this, it turns out that Georgians insist on creating a state for Armenians. It is clear from the meeting with the Armenian representatives that the Armenians were also informed that Türkiye would give them an ultimatum, and the Armenian representatives left, noting that they needed time because they had just arrived. From the meeting with the Muslims, that is, Azerbaijani representatives, it is known that Khalil Bey tried to pressure them. He wrote: “I also met with Muslim murahhas. They are very afraid that, hundreds of thousands of armed and homeless Armenians will run away from the army, and they will make havoc in the Muslim villages. Georgians have soldiers and cannons and rifles. They can protect themselves. I said that if peace settlement with them is advised, the army will immediately rush to their support, and if not, it will try to fulfill this duty by war. As I told the Muslims, I told Chkhenkeli that if some space can be allocated to the Armenians on the other side of the land that we will receive, they would not resist.” In the end, he expresses his opinion as follows: “I am busy trying not to destroy the confederation and to make them accept our proposal, otherwise, I need to separate Armenians and Georgians. Make sure to do everything for our benefit. I will be very happy if we can finish the work with the current government without renewing hostility. A movement that will intensify (increase) the existing anarchy will greatly increase our difficulties and will be a pity for Muslims.” [1, document No. 47, pp. 159-160]

Attitude towards the establishment of the Armenian state: different views of the Azerbaijani elite. The position of the Ottoman state.

1918, May 21 – The arrival of the Turks to Sardarabad from the west.

– Agreement on Alexandropol – Julfa railway line. [1, document No. 48, p. 161; 2, p. 576-577]

– in the afternoon – meeting of Azerbaijanis and Georgians. Georgians: Nikoladze, Jordan, Surguladze, Avalov; Azerbaijanis: Khoyski, Khasmammadov, Safikurdski, Pepinov, Yusifbeyov, Jafarov. Azerbaijanis accepted the establishment of an Armenian state in the South Caucasus in exchange for Armenians giving up Karabakh. This state was to be created around Alexandropol, which was controlled by Türkiye. The Armenians accepted the establishment of two foreign states – Azerbaijani and Georgian states. Georgians went against this and announced that they will leave the federation. [5, p. 57; 2, p.579-580] Among the representatives of Azerbaijan, the idea of establishing the Armenian state around Etchmiadzin prevailed in the first period. [17, pp. 72-74] From here it is clear that this idea turned towards Alexandropol. Later, the Irevan area came to the agenda. In any case, the main target was the lands of Western Azerbaijan.

1918, May 22 – meeting of the Georgian delegation in Batumi. Georgians officially resolve the issue of independence during the discussion. Appeal to von Lossow for German protection. [2, p. 581]

– Khalil Bey’s answer to the “Addendum to the note dated May 16” presented by the Transcaucasian delegation on May 17. Here, too, the insistence on the Brest Treaty was not accepted, on the other hand, it was suggested that the treaty would be concluded only with the Transcaucasian government. [8, No. 153, p. 303-304; 2, pp. 565-566, 575]

– Capture of Hamamli (Spitak) station in the north-west by the Ottoman army.

– Ahmet Agaoglu and Ali Bey Huseynzade’s letter to Talat Pasha and Enver Pasha about their opinions on the establishment of the Armenian state. The creation of an Armenian state is not recommended here, the protection of the confederation is suggested. [1, document No. 50, pp. 165-166] Thus, there is a difference of opinion among the Azerbaijani political elite on the issue of creating an Armenian state. Khalil Bey begins to base his activities on the group that supports the establishment of the Armenian state, and for this he tries to discredit Ahmet Agaoglu and Ali Bey Huseynzade. This is also evident from Talat Pasha’s telegrams.

1918, May 23 – Chkhenkeli’s protest against the attack of the Turks in the direction of Karakilsa. [8, p. 304-305; 2, p. 577]

– Georgian and German meetings. The Germans acquire the ports of Batumi and additional privileges. [2, p. 581]

– Talat Pasha’s telegram to Khalil Bey. It is mentioned here that “Our army will ensure the union of Georgians and Muslims after entering the Caucasus. As for the Armenians, they can also be established in the canton part of Iravan. After all, I see it as useless (harmful) to prolong the issue.” [1, document No. 51, p. 167] Here, a different point of view emerges between the Ottoman state and the Azerbaijani delegation on the question of where to establish the Armenian state. While the Azerbaijani delegation is considering Alexandropol and its surroundings, the Ottoman state is focusing on Irevan. The latter prevailed. In contrast, what would history be like if the former prevailed? If viewed from the modern era, it seems that it will be more efficient, but this remains a matter of judgment.

– Khalil Bey’s telegram to Talat Pasha. It noted that Armenians could create a state in and around Irevan. Since Armenians mostly lived in the territories annexed to the Ottoman Empire, Muslims were dominant in the surrounding lands. In this regard, it is noted that Muslims did not like the creation of an Armenian state in those areas. [1, document No. 52, pp. 168-169; No. 53, pp. 170-173]

– Letter of Muslim representatives in Batumi, National Council and Seim members to Enver Pasha. [1, document No. 53, pp. 170-173] Although the establishment of an Armenian canton was accepted, the letter persisted in the territories controlled by Türkiye.

– A new meeting between Germans and Georgians. It was an important step towards the dissolution of the Federation. [2, p. 582]

– Decision to issue a definitive ultimatum to the Transcaucasian delegation. Vehib Pasha, who was in Alexandropol, was informed about it. He also tried to report the situation. It is clear that the main issue was not to allow the formation of the Georgian-Armenian union. [2, pp. 588-589]

– Vehib Pasha’s telegram to Khalil Bey. As a result of the capture of Jalaloglu and the capture of Garakilsa, the establishment of a relationship with the Muslims of Ganja-Karabakh would affect the separation of Georgians from Armenians. [1, document No. 54, p. 174; 2, p. 200]

– Ultimatum to the Transcaucasian delegation intensified telegraphic communication between the Central authorities and the head of the delegation in Batumi, Khalil Bey. On the same day, Talat Pasha’s telegram was received, Khalil Bey responded with four telegrams. Talat Pasha’s telegram mentioned the organization of Armenians into a government. In this regard, it is said: “I am not in favor of Armenians forming a government. After five years, a small Armenian autonomy will become an Armenian state with a population of five million and will dominate the entire Caucasus. All the Armenians in Iran and America will live there and, as you said, they will be supported by the British-Americans and the French in every way, and in the future they will act against us with the Christian Georgians and the Ajems with great ease. In this case, if possible, it is best to eliminate the problem explicitly. Since it is not possible, it is necessary to form this state in such a way that it is weak and unsustainable. I am of the opinion that we are in the same opinion and that separation is an obstacle to this. Otherwise, we would definitely convince each other.” At the end of Talat Pasha’s telegram, he mentioned Ahmet Bey Agaoglu and wrote: “I think Agaoglu Ahmed Bey does not have great confidence, so it is appropriate not to intervene him in the discussion.” [1, document No. 55, p. 175] As it is clear from here, Talat Pasha had an alternative approach to the creation of the Armenian state, similar to Anvar Pasha’s opinion on May 1, 1918. Mr. Khalil also used it skillfully.

1918, May 24 – Telegrams of Khalil Pasha to Talat Pasha. [1, document No. 56, pp. 176-177; document No. 57, pp. 178-179; No. 58, p. 180; No. 59, pp. 181–182] In these telegrams, the idea of creating an Armenian state is consistently defended. Not accepting this idea, he mentioned Ağaoğlu Ahmed Bey in the telegram: “It is natural that I will not interfere with Agaoğlu Ahmed Bey. He should not have been sent here. After arriving, I could not prevent him from having relations with his Caucasian compatriots. As he was sent by His Highness Enver Pasha, he was informed about the discussion by meeting with Muslim murahhas and delegations and expressed his desire to write his feelings.” [1, document No. 56, p. 177] In return, he quotes widely from the May 23 appeal of the representatives of Azerbaijan to Enver Pasha. [1, document No. 57, p. 179; No. 58, p. 180; No. 59, pp. 181–182]

1918, May 24-25 – The Georgian National Council accepts Germany’s offer of protection.

1918, May 25– a meeting of all Muslim factions of the Seim. As soon as the Azerbaijani faction in the Seim learned about the Georgians’ actions, it held two meetings in the morning and evening. In the morning meeting, it was decided that if Georgians leave the federation, Azerbaijanis should also declare their independence. Discussions were continued in the evening session. The leader of the meeting, F.Khoyski, went to the Chairman of the Seim, Chkheidze, and wanted to find out the agenda of the May 26 meeting. After some time, Chkheidze returned with Sereteli and Gegechkori. Sereteli and Chkheidze ruled out the possibility of a federation. F.Khoyski also made a speech and stated that if Georgians declare their independence, they would also declare Azerbaijan’s independence. After the Georgians left, F.Khoyski informed that from his conversation with the member of the Seim and the government, Karchikyan, the Armenian section of the Seim was preparing to declare the independence of Armenia in the event of Georgia’s secession. [14, doc. No. 20, p. 11-114; 2, pp. 583-584]

– Enver Pasha’s instructions to Vehib Pasha. Here it was requested to send the free forces to Baku under the agreement to be concluded after the definitive ultimatum. [2, p. 590 ]

– Von Lossow left Batumi, stating that the Transcaucasian republic will collapse. Although he said he would go to Berlin, he arrived in Poti. [2, pp. 569, 582]

– Talat Pasha’s telegram to Khalil Bey. It was mentioned that “If Georgians organize a separate and independent government, we will negotiate with them separately. The organization of a separate independent government of the Muslims of the North and South Caucasus is being considered, knowing the degree of independence and the determination of their relations. There is a possibility for Georgians and Muslims to unite after the Armenian issue is resolved. Your Highness can already start to work on this aspect.” [1, document No. 61, p. 184]

in the evening – the delegation at the conference received a letter that the next morning, May 26, Georgia would be declared independent. [2, pp. 569-570]

1918, May 26 – Khalil Bey’s ultimatum to Chkhenkeli regarding the territorial claims of the Ottoman state. Chkhenkeli was given 72 hours to respond to the ultimatum. [1, p. 134-135; 10, c. 115]

– Khalil Bey’s telegram to Talat Pasha. It was mentioned that “Muslim murahhas came to me this morning. They are very worried about the situation in Baku. Because the said city is in the hands of Armenians. For this, they wanted to allocate a canton for Armenians the beyond the territory that will be left to us. Today the head of another Armenian faction, apart from the Dashnaks, came to me in Tiflis. He also appeared to be a supporter of this proposal. I stated that the Ottoman Government is not opposed to the division of such a canton. He asked for a few days for this, and if the ultimatum is to be given, he requested that it be given for at least three days duration. If such agreement is realized, it is requested that a delegation be sent to Istanbul to present it to the Government of the Sublime State, with the addition that some kindness and leniency be shown to our side. The manifestation of this event in favor of the Armenians will have a very positive impact in Europe and America. [1, document No. 64, pp. 188–189]

1918, May 26-28 – Capture of Garakilsa. The second most important station of the Gyumri-Tbilisi railway was captured. [2, p. 576]

Release of Transcaucasian Seim

1918, May 26, Sunday at 15:00 – Adoption of the decision to dissolve the Seim.

Short bibliography

1.Azerbaycan Cümhuriyyeti. 1918–1920 (Osmanlı arşıv belgeleri). Önsöz: Kerim Şükürov. Neşre hazırlayanlar: Qiyas Şükürov, Vasif Qafarov. İstanbul, 2018

2.Enis Şahin. Trabzon ve Batum konferansları ve antlaşmaları (1917–1918). Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2002

3.Enis Şahin. Kafkasyada rus-ermeni-türk ilişkileri (1914–1918)//Sevk ve iskanın 100.yılında türk-ermeni ilişkileri. İstanbul, 2014

 4.Hovannisian R.G. The Republic of Armenia. vol. I. The First Year, 1918–1919. Los Angeles. London, 1971

5.Авалов З. Независимость Грузии в международной политике. 1918–1921. Париж, 1924

6.Азербайджанская Демократическая Республика (1918–1920. Внешняя политика. Баку, 1998

7.Амбарцумян К.Р., Величко Л.Н. События Трапезундской конференции в воспоминаниях А.И. Хатисова//Вопросы истории, 2021, №9 (12), с. 277-287

8.Документы и материалы по внешненй политике Закавказья и Грузии. Тифлис, 1919

9.Из истории иностранной интервенции в Армении в 1918 году. (Документы и материалы). Ереван, 1970

10.Каземзаде Ф. Борьба за Закавказье (1917–1921). Баку, 2010

11.Качазнуни О. Дашнакцутюун больше ничего делать! Баку: Элм, 1990

12.Мархулия Г. Армяно-грузинские взаимоотношения в 1918–1920-х годах. Тбилиси, 2007

13.Мирзеханов В.С., Ланник Л.В. Батумская подсистема как пространство Османской гегомонии в Закавказье в 1918 году: к постановке вопроса //Новая и новейшая история, 2021, №3, с.5-22

14.Протоколы заседаний мусульманских фракций Закавказского Сейма и Азербайджанского Национального совета 1918 г. Баку, 2006

15.Саркисян Е.К. Экспансионистская политика Османской империи в Закавказье. Ереван, 1962

16.Шукюров К.К. Азербайджан в системе международных отношений. 1648–1991. Документы и материалы. Баку, 2020

17.Xatisov A. Ermənistan Respublikasının yaranması və inkişafı. Beyrut, 1968 (in Armenian).

Karim Shukurov
Doctor of historical sciences, professor