|Transcaucasian Ruble, 1918, with|
Armenian, Georgian and Azeri text, 917
The last two years of World War I and the several years following it were a time of the breaking of empires. The first of the transnational empires was that of Tsarist Russia, beginning March 8, 1917, the "February Revolution" (Russia was on the Julian calendar).
The Provisional Government in Petrograd soon appointed a "Special Transcaucasian Committee," responsible for the areas south of the ridgeline of the Caucasus, comprising the modern states of Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan.
At the time of the February Revolution, bear in mind that Russian forces were actively engaged against the Ottomans on the Armenian front, as well as operating in northwestern Persia.With the Revolution, there were widespread desertions on all fronts.
|Areas occupied Sept. 1917|
The Special Transcaucasian Committee took over administration in Transcaucasia and in Turkish territory that had been occupied during the war, This occupied zone was governed by local Armenian councils and referred to as Western Armenia and other terms.
The representatives on the Transcaucasus Committee were Mensheviks, members of the non-Leninist wing of the Social Democratic Party, who dominated the Provisional Government.
In January 1918, in an attempt to strengthen the tentative union, it was decided to create a Sejm or Parliament. In December, the Armistice of Erzincan with Turkey was endorsed by the Commissariat.
On March 3, 1918, the Russian Government signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This called for the return to Turkey of its conquered territories. In negotiations in Trabzon, a delegation from the Sejm agreed to accept Brest-Litovsk as a basis for settlement, but this was rejected by the main Sejm in Tbilisi. Instead, on April 22, 1918, they declared the full independence of the Democratic Federative Republic of Transcaucasia, and also declared that it remained in a state of war with the Ottoman Empire.
Remember, too, that in April-May 1918, World War I was very much still under way, and Germany and the Ottomans were very much still allies.
As the Ottoman Third Army advanced against Armenia and began to demand Tbilisi, Georgia negotiated a treaty with Germany, promising protection. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, chose to ally with its Turkic cousins in the Ottoman Empire.
On May 26, Georgia declared independence as the Democratic Republic of Georgia and proceeded to sign its treaty with Germany. Two days later, Armenia followed suit (the First Armenian Republic) and so did Azerbaijan. The Democratic Federative Republic had lasted from April 22 to May 28, 1918. Except for imposed entities under Soviet rule, the only real attempt at a Transcaucasian federation was virtually stillborn. Soon the three nationalities would be fighting each other, and the Bolsheviks, and Armenia would be fighting the Turks. There would be British intervention as well. But that is another story.