Armenia: Notes - Archontology

Armenia: Notes

Independence of Armenia (1918)

The official date of the proclamation of independence of Armenia and creation of the First Republic is usually quoted as 28 May 1918 in historical literature and elsewhere. The origin of this date, however, does not correspond to the formal passing of a declaration of independence in traditional sense.

Following the dissolution of the Transcaucasian Federation and declarations of independence by Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Armenian National Council, a representative body of the Armenians residing on the territories of the former Russian and Ottoman empires, opened deliberations on the future of Armenian state in Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia). Aware of the impossibility of creation of a new state at the expense of parts of the Ottoman Empire and rejecting the idea of establishing a republic on the territory of the economically backward Yerevan gubernija, the Council refused to approve a motion for proclaiming independence on 26 May 1918. The motion for proclaiming the Armenian National Council a provisional government also failed.

A compromise solution was reached when the Council voted for a resolution (26 May 1918) claiming that it "temporarily assumes all governmental functions, in order to take hold of the political and administrative helm of the Armenian provinces." Facing an ultimatum dispatched by the Ottoman government which demanded territorial concessions in exchange for cease-fire and resumption of peace negotiations in Batum, the Armenian National Council authorized its delegation to negotiate a peace on behalf of the Armenian people or, depending on the circumstances, in the name of the independent 'Republic of Armenia' (resolutions of 28 May 1918).

Still stopping short of a formal declaration of independence, the Armenian National Council issued a proclamation (30 May 1918) to the Armenian people (backdated to 28 May 1918) based on the resolution of 26 May 1918. The proclamation publicly declared that the Council becomes the sole highest authority for the Armenian regions, but omitted any reference to geographic borders of an Armenian state.

The new style 'Republic of Armenia' (Հայաստանի Հանրապետություն, Hayastani Hanrapetoutʻyoun) appeared in the title of the Batum Treaty (4 Jun 1918) which provided for creation of independent Armenian state, although on humiliating terms. Only after the news of Armenian military successes against the Turks near Yerevan had been confirmed and peace had been concluded at Batum did the Armenian National Council begin to use publicly the style 'Republic of Armenia'. The Council then proceeded with formation of the government, but hesitated to move to Yerevan, where its authority was maintained by one of the Council members, Aram Manoukyan, who had organized a committee which served as an unofficial administration.

The Council remained divided about the move to Yerevan: Dashnaktsutiun members consistently called for transfer of both government and Council, but others argued that, because the overwhelming majority of Russian Armenians lived beyond the limits of the Republic, it was imperative that the National Council remain in Tiflis to serve as a type of supergovernment. This unusual situation, where the highest state authorities voluntarily remained outside national borders, came to an end in mid-July as Manoukyan threatened to resign his post unless the nation's legal administrative bodies assumed their duties in the capital. The Council and government left for Yerevan on 17 Jul 1918, arriving to the capital 19 Jul 1918. The first anniversary of the Republic of Armenia was celebrated 28 May 1919, and May 28 was chosen as the founding date of the Republic for official purposes. Sources: [1][2][3]

[1] "Armenia on the Road to Independence, 1918", by Richard G. Hovannisian (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967).
[2] "The Republic of Armenia", by Richard G. Hovannisian (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 4 vols.
[3] Киракосян Дж. Младотурки перед судом истории. Ереван: «Айастан», 1986.
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