Vol. 5, No. 20 (October 15, 2012)

Armenian over-reaching has cost Yerevan its foreign "protectors"

Paul Goble
Publications Advisor
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy

In the years immediately following the collapse of stardom, Armenia acquired numerous foreign protectors but then lost them as a result of its own over-reaching and what would now be called the public diplomacy of Azerbaijan, a pattern the latest article in the Day.az “Historical Prism” series documents and one that many Azerbaijanis are certain is being repeated at the present time. [1] 

Entitled “How the Armenians Lost Their Protectors in the West,” the article suggests that this cycle began in May 1918 when shortly after declaring independence, Yerevan made territorial demands against Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia in its pursuit of being “a ‘great’ expansionist nation.”  The Armenians were especially furious at Turkey, because the Brest-Litovsk Treaty of March 1918 eliminated any chance for them to create a “Turkish Armenia” as that accord required that “Soviet Russia withdraw its forces from Kars and Ardagan.

When Turkey surrendered at the end of World War I and withdrew its forces from the South Caucasus, Armenian leaders again began to demand the creation of “’a Great Armenia,’ extending from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and from the Black Sea to the Caspian.”  By the spring of 1919 and with the help of the English, “Armenia established military control over Kars,” and in order to assure that the great powers would support Yerevan in this, the Armenian government sent “not one, but two delegations” to the Paris Peace Conference.

The first of these was the Armenian National Delegation, which was headed by Nubar pasha and explicitly represented “the interests of Turkish Armenians and the Armenian diaspora.”  The second was a delegation of the Armenian Republic itself.  It was headed by Avetis Agaronyan.  In addition, Armenian General Andranik Ozanyan showed up at the conference as well.

The behavior of all three of these delegations is significant, the Day.az article suggests.  The Armenians “did not participate” in the meetings of representatives of the other South Caucasus states.  Instead, “they considered that the Paris Conference itself would put all of them in their places.”  To that end, “the Armenian delegates followed around the leaders of the great powers, daily reminding them about what they owed Armenia.”

But “the extraordinary demands of the Armenians and the tone they made them in soon began to have the opposite effect” of what Yerevan expected.  “In the end,” the Day.az article notes, these Armenian demands “deprived them of the good will of many political leaders of the West.  British Prime Minister Lloyd George, for example, told the House of Commons that the Armenians were making “clearly excessive demands” for “an enormous territory in which the Armenians would form a very small percentage” of the population.

This shift was assisted by the active public diplomacy of Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry and its missions abroad.  The Azerbaijani diplomatic representative in Armenia itself documented Yerevan’s mistreatment of its Muslims, something few in the West knew about.  And Baku disseminated more such reports in the papers of the “Azerbaijani Information Bulletin,” which began to appear in Paris in September 1919.
When English forces withdrew from the South Caucasus in August 1919, Armenians recognized that they had been thus “deprived of the shield which could cover the achievement of their aggressive plans against their neighbors.”  That led Yerevan to take two steps: greater repression against the Muslim populations under its control and the search for “a new protector” of the Armenians among Western governments.

After London, Paris and Rome turned the Armenians down, and the League of Nations, lacking a budget and a military refused to help them, the Armenians focused on Washington, because there support for Armenia had long been promoted by “Protestant missionaries and Armenian immigrants.”  President Woodrow Wilson was prepared to make Armenia a US mandate territory, but in June 1920, the US Senate “adopted a resolution which denied” Wilson the power to do so.

The Sovietization of Azerbaijan at the end of April 1920 gave Armenia a chance to look to Moscow for support, and an agreement between Yerevan and Soviet Russia “gave Armenia the hope that in the future it would be the master of Zangazur, Nakhchivan and Karabakh.  On the same day that treaty was signed, the Entente and Ottoman Turkey signed the Sevres Treaty, which called for expanding Armenian control in four Turkish vilayets in eastern Anatolia and the recognition of Armenia by Turkey itself.

Those provisions, among others, were so offensive to many Turks that the treaty was never ratified.  That led Armenia in September 1920 to launch military attacks against Turkey, but the Armenian forces were soon defeated, and the Gumri peace treaty annulled all of the provisions of the Sevres Treaty.  That agreement, in turn, was reinforced by the Soviet-Turkish Treaty of Moscow on 16 March, 1921.

In June 1921, however, Soviet Russia, having become the new protector of Armenia, “compensated” Armenia for its “losses” in Turkey by giving the Armenians autonomy within Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh and allowing Soviet Armenia to “establish its control over western Zangazur,” even though this cut Azerbaijan in two and cut the larger part of Azerbaijan off from direct access to Turkey.

As Day.az notes in conclusion, “after the inclusion of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Trans-Caucasus Federation in 1922, the borders between the republics, which already had a purely formal significance, under the pretext of economic necessity were subjected to new changes.”  As a result, Armenia acquired “significant portions of land from the Nakhchivan ASSR, Karabakh and Gazakh,” acquisitions that “almost doubled” the size of Armenia from what it had been in 1918 and ones that could have been achieved only because Yerevan at least for a time had yet another outside “protector.”


[1] See http://news.day.az/politics/359170.html (accessed 14 October 2012).