JAVAKHQ: Historical Outline (Part II)


August 9, 2009

Part II: The Tragic Page of Javakhq’s History (1918-21)

As early as before World War I, the administrative division of
Trans-Caucasia became a subject of serious discussion among many
national and political circles-a matter of great importance to
Armenian, Georgian, and Tatar (Azerbaijani) activists who explained
the Czarist-implemented divisions by the failure of the latter’s
consideration of national territorial factors. These studies were
restarted after the February 1917 revolution. In the summer of 1917,
the Georgian Mensheviks believed that the territorial division of
Trans-Caucasia should be based on principles of ethnicity; that
is, wherever a given ethnic group outnumbered the others, that
area should be ceded to the administrative district assigned to
that particular ethnic group. As such, plebiscites were considered
necessary in matters of territorial disputes. This democratic stance
was acceptable to other Georgian political parties as well. And
the even-handed approach was approved by all Armenian political
entities. In the event of implementation, this principle would make
the attachment of the mostly Armenian-populated areas of the Tbilisi
Province-Borchalu (including Lori), the districts of Akhalqalaq, and
the southwestern area of Elizavetpol (Karabagh and Zangezur)-to the
Erivan Province inevitable. Added to the former Erivan Province, these
territories would constitute 54,000 sq. kilometers with a population
of 1,970,000-of which the Armenians would number 1,169,000; Muslims
546,000; Georgians 7,000, etc.

>From the spring of 1917, in Petrograd, a special commission for
the administrative redistribution of Trans-Caucasia started its
deliberations, presided by jurist Zurab Avalov. That commission passed
a resolution to make Borchalu (four fifths of the land constituting
Lori), as well as the Akhalqalaq District (then part of the Tbilisi
Province) part of the proposed Alexandropol Province. Parallel to
this, other deliberations were taking place with the participation
of Alexander Khatisian and Avetis Shahkhatunian. Later, the latter
published a work substantiating the advantages of a demographic
approach to the administrative apportionment of Trans-Caucasia.

In September/October 1917, Georgian political figures, particularly
the national democrats, stood in opposition to the separation of
the Borchalu and Akhalqalaq regions from the Tbilisi Province. In
essence, they identified the concept of the "Tbilisi Province" with
that of Georgian national statehood. Thus, in the results of the 1917
revisions, the question of administrative divisions turned into a
basic issue of national territorial boundaries.

In the post-October period of 1917, parallel to the Georgian political
inclination to come out of the Russian orbit, the ethnicity approach
was gradually forgotten. In the matter of Lori and Akhalqalaq, the
unyielding Georgian intransigence prevailed.

In early 1918, the Armenians of Akhalqalaq attempted to resolve this
problem on their own. On Jan. 21, the Regional Executive Committee
of Akhalqalaq passed a resolution to administratively unite with the
Province of Alexandropol. This step was an original way to express
their desire to become part of Armenia.

Towards the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918, encouraged
by the retreat of Russian forces from Trans-Caucasia, the Turkish
military command began activating plans for an invasion. With Turkish
instigation and support, the Meskhetians (Muslims of Akhaltskha
and Akhalqalaq) staged an attack on the city of Akhaltskha, whose
Armenian and Georgian population showed a heroic resistance under
the leadership of the city’s young and energetic mayor, Zori Zoryan.

At the close of 1917, the National Council of Akhalqalaq was formed,
headed by the mayor, Mkrtich Margarian. The Council appointed a
temporary committee in charge of the defense of the province that
exerted some effort in containing the excesses committed by the
activist elements of the Meskhetians. In both the Akhalqalaq and
Akhaltskha provinces, Armenians and Georgians acted in concert,
providing stirring examples of military cooperation. In the
south-western sector of Akhalqalaq Province, the Georgians of the
Gumburdo, Kartzakh, and Sulda villages joined the Armenians in the
fight against the Turks of the Hokam, Khavet, and Erinja villages.

However, in March/April 1918, after the attack of Vehib Pasha’s forces
and particularly following the fall of the Kars Province, the situation
of Akhalqalaq became critical. The Akhalqalaq authorities managed to
save 1,500 Armenians of the regions of Ardahan and Olti-mostly women
and children-by exchanging them for the Turkish villagers of Kokia,
Toq, and other places.

The Armenian Council of Tbilisi tried to provide military assistance to
Akhalqalaq. Colonel Arakelov was dispatched to the province, where the
work of organizing a separate company of the Armenian Corps was begun.

Unfortunately, unlike in Akhaltskha, the retreating Russian garrison
of Akhalqalaq had taken with it most of the weaponry and ammunition,
allowing the induction and arming of only 2,000 of the 5,000 available
young volunteers. The Trans-Caucasian Seim made no real effort to
protect Akhalqalaq against the Turkish invasion. The appeals to the
Seim of famous Akhalqalaq intellectuals, such as the writer Derenik
Demirdjian and social activist Poghos Abelian, to move the rich
stores of grain out of the area before the arrival of the Turks fell
on deaf ears.

On May 7, 1918, Turkish forces, advancing from Chder, entered the
province of Akhalqalaq. A brief resistance was staged near Kartzakh-in
the area of Mount Giok Dagh-by the small, ill-equipped detachments
of locally recruited fighters. Col. Araqelov, instead of proceeding
to the front, continued to "command" the operations of the defense
forces from a distance of 25-30 kilometers from Akhalqalaq. Thanks to
former personnel of the Russian Army-Ludvig Demirdjian, Khoren Mnoyan,
Zarmair Khanoyan, and Poghos Abelian-recently arrived from Tbilisi,
as well as fighting groups under the command of Russian officer
Reznikov, fierce defensive battles were fought, which allowed time
to organize the evacuation of the population from the province. The
troops of the detachment under the command of the Georgian National
Council abandoned their frontline positions without firing a shot.

The population of the northern villages of the province moved to
Bakurian, while those in the south went to Tzalka, leaving most of
their possessions behind. Only the Turkish-speaking Catholics and
the Russian Dukhobors did not evacuate. Thus, by the end of May, the
majority of the population of Akhalqalaq City and the inhabitants of
61 Armenian villages had to flee.

The invading Turkish troops and the local Meskhetians plundered the
villages and massacred some of those who had remained behind. From
the remainder of the captured population, they picked hundreds of
able-bodied men and shipped them to Turkey as slave laborers, and
exiled more than one-thousand elderly and women to the refugee camp in
Bakurian. A terrible fate awaited the populations from the Khorenia
and Takhcha villages, who had not been able to leave the area: Most
of them were herded into barns and brutally murdered.

The Turkish invaders also carried out massacres in the villages of
Metz Arakeal, Gumburdo, and Abul, as well as in Akhalqalaq City and
elsewhere. These atrocities would have reached disastrous proportions
if the population of certain locations had not resorted to arms to
defend themselves. The invaders were met with stubborn resistance
around the village of Satkha. General Arjevanidze, the commander of
the Georgian troops stationed in the sector of Borzhom, not only
denied military or material assistance to the Armenian refugees,
but he proceeded to disarm the Armenian volunteers and, following
orders from the Georgian National Council, prevented refugees from
Akhalqalaq from settling in Baguria or any other part of Georgia. Only
Georgians received permission to move to the Georgian interior.

It was during the massive deportations from Akhalqalaq that the three
Trans-Caucasian republics came to being. With its May 28 Declaration,
the Armenian National Council assumed supreme power as sole authority
in the Armenian provinces. Naturally, the choice of the rather
amorphous "Armenian provinces" terminology was not without reason. With
such a formulation, the National Council, on the one hand, was trying
to avert a conflict of boundaries with the Ottoman Turks and newly
independent neighboring countries at a time of geopolitical turmoil;
on the other hand, it was making a statement on Armenian rights to
historic Armenian lands, albeit without geographic precision. Thus,
Western Armenia, Karabagh, Javakhq, and other disputed territories
remained within its scope.

Hardly one week later, however, on June 4, the Georgian Mensheviks, who
had prepared their declaration of independence under German auspices
with a peace treaty between Georgia and the Ottoman Empire signed
in Batum, reserved the right to hand over mostly Armenian-populated
provinces like Akhaltskha and Akhalqalaq to Turkey. One can presume
that such a step was not necessarily taken from an inability to
resist Turkish pressure. It pursued far-reaching purposes. First,
it created the impression that newly independent Georgia, like
Armenia, was making serious territorial concessions to a victorious
Turkey. Secondly, with its first international treaty, it put on
record its legal right to decide the fate of those provinces. In case
of an ultimate Turkish defeat, Georgia would be able to reclaim its
"legal" right to Akhaltskha and Akhalqalaq. And finally, a prospect
that was most desirable, Turkish occupation could radically change
Javakhq’s ethno-demographic picture by depriving it of its Armenian
inhabitants.. Future events came to substantiate these chauvinistic
Georgian policies.

Focusing on the issue of boundaries between the newly constituted
republics, the Georgian and Armenian National Councils began
negotiations in the beginning of June. The president of the Georgian
National Council, N. Zhordania, and Prime Minister N. Ramishvili
proposed to A. Aharonian, H. Qajaznuni, and A. Khatisian of the
Armenian National Council to follow the doctrine of demographics in
the case of Borchalu. There was no talk of Akhalqalaq, since it was
occupied by the Turks-although, as mentioned, the Georgians saw the
solution of that issue in favor of Georgia. Soon after, I. Tzereteli
announced to the members of the special commission appointed by
the Armenian National Council (Kh. Kardjikian. G. Khatisian, and
G. Ghorghanian), that, for strategic reasons, Georgia could not
give up Akhalqalaq, Lori, and the Pambak region of the Alexandropol
Province. The Georgian statesman tried to assure the Armenian
commission, that this decision was also prompted by the interests
of the Armenian populations of those specific regions, since in the
German-sponsored Georgian Republic a safer status could be secured
for the Armenians. Kh. Kardjikian protested against the Georgian
decision to disregard the accepted demographic doctrine, qualifying
this Menshevik approach as a process of dividing Armenia between
Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. The Armeno-Georgian consultations
on the issue of boundaries entered a cul-de-sac and restarted only
in the autumn, when the Turks started to evacuate the occupied areas.

Simultaneously, the condition of the Akhalqalaq refugees continued
to deteriorate. They had, in fact, encountered a unique sort of
confinement. To the north, the Georgian troops had closed the road
to shelter in Bakurian and Borzhom, while the Turks had interdicted
the return road to the province.

In the beginning of July 1918, the Georgian government refused to grant
the request of the Armenian National Council to allow the refugees
access to central Georgia, or to settle down in the abandoned homes of
Muslims who had fled from Borchalu. This inhuman stance was "explained"
as a preventive measure against the possible spread of epidemics in
Georgia. Yet from June to August, there was clearly no evidence of
epidemics amongst the refugees; only in autumn did such outbreaks
occur. Even with such an excuse, it is not possible to exonerate the
Georgian government of its delinquency in taking care of the needs of
its displaced citizens. It should be noted that, instead of performing
their duty, the last detachments of General Arjevanidze abandoned the
northern boundaries of the province of Akhalqalaq, allowing Turkish
irregulars to harass the refugees with renewed attacks.

With the assistance of the Armenian National Council, the Javakhq
natives of Tbilisi founded the "Akhalqalaq Compatriotic Society"
with an executive body of 10 persons-amongst whom were noted national
figures Poghos Abelian (secretary), B. Ohanjanian (president), Grigor
Baboyan (vice-president), Hovhannes Malkhasian, Jalal Ter Grigorian,
and Karapet Shahbaronian. With an appeal addressed to the Armenians
of Tbilisi, the Society managed to collect the sums needed to help
the refugees. A delegation of Akhalqalaq refugees, who had asked
the Turkish command permission to return to their native lands,
were met with immediate refusal. The Turks, without concealing their
plans to have the Akhalqalaq Province returned to the Ottoman Empire,
declared that the Armenian villages were now inhabited by Muslims from
Turkey. The Young Turks-in their zeal to ethnically cleanse Akhalqalaq
of its Armenian population and to annex the region to Turkey-on the
matter of allowing the natives of the province to return to their
homes, remained adamant in their refusal to heed the intercessions
and requests of not only Armenian and other international humanitarian
organizations, but those of General von Kress, the representative of
their ally Germany, as well.

Thus, deprived of the right to seek refuge in any direction by the
Georgian authorities and the Turkish command, the displaced Javakhq
populations were condemned to perish.

In September and early October, in response to repeated protests and
requests by the Armenian government and the Akhalqalaq Compatriots’
Society on the matter of permission to return to Akhalqalaq or to
move to Georgia, Georgian government spokesman Kuzhukhov gave his
answer, in writing, on Oct. 4, to the principal Armenian commission
on refugees. Since there is a crisis of provisions in Georgia, he
wrote, and the Turkish military command refuses to let the Akhalqalaq
Armenians to return to their homes, the Georgian authorities are
proposing to settle the refugees in the northern Caucasus or in the
Armenian Republic.

A quick meeting was initiated by Samson Harutiunian, the chairman of
the refugees’ commission and leader of the Armenian Populist Party,
with the participation of members of the Georgian-Armenian National
Assembly Presidium. Invited to represent the Akhalqalaq population,
Poghos Abelian declared that he was informed by the chairman of the
Turkish delegation, Abdul Kerim, that the Turks intended to evacuate
Akhalqalaq and were not opposed to the return of Armenians to the
province; moreover, Avetis Aharonian, the chairman of the Armenian
Delegation to Constantinople, had reached an agreement with the
Ottoman government.

Kuzhukhov was asked to submit the document of the Turkish refusal. No
answer was received. It soon became clear that the Georgian authorities
did not wish to allow the Armenians’ return and attempted to put
the blame on the Turks. Thus, a contrived famine was promoted. The
situation of the refugees turned acute; the cold season had started,
along with rain and the decrease of fodder and cattle. The Georgian
authorities allowed hundreds of bandits and speculators from Kutayisi,
Coris, and Borzhom to buy at very low prices and-in many cases,
with the help of the Georgian militia-to seize tens of thousands
of cattle and farm animals. As a result of this purposely adopted
policy, the Georgian government solved its problem of provisions for
its population.

The entire burden of the refugee problem was left on the shoulders
of the Armenian Refugee Commission, the Akhalqalaq Homeland Council,
the Armenian Benevolent Society of the Caucasus, the U.S. Mission
to Georgia and, a good part, on A. Jamalian, the representative of
Armenia. In the name of the Armenian Republic, the National Council
appointed Arshak Torosian in Bakuria and Ararat Ter Grigorian in
Tzalka, as permanent representatives in these locations. In their
turn, the refugees nominated Rev. Father Mesrop Selian as their
spokesman. Yet, the number of the refugees was so great-80,000 to
85,000 people-that the efforts never achieved much success.

By December 1918, typhoid and cholera epidemics began decimating
the refugee masses. In a "Mshak" news article of the time, written
by Poghos Abelian, one could read the following: "The annihilation
of the people of Akhalqalaq is making such swift headway, if timely
and effective steps are not taken to save them, this generation of
Akhalqalaqis will be the last one on earth."

>>From June to November 1918, over 18,000 people lost their lives
in the woods of Bakurian. Almost the same amount of victims could
be counted among the Armenians who had sought refuge in the Tzalka
and Manglis regions. By the next spring, the number of victims had
reached 40,000.

By November 1918, overcoming the difficulties created by the Georgian
military authorities, the remainder of the refugees managed to return
to their ruined and ransacked homes via seldom used, secondary
roads. To allow passage from Bakurian to Akhalqalaq, the Georgian
military demanded affidavits from the Armenian refugees attesting to
their willingness to accept Georgian citizenship and recognition of
the province as an integral part of Georgia.

Small armed groups of refugees tried to bring law and order to
Akhalqalaq after the retreat of the Turks. The region around lakes
Madatapa, Parvana, and Saghamo, adjacent to Alexandropol, was put
under military supervision.

However, on Nov. 29, the Georgian representative in Yerevan,
S. Mdivani, declared that, according to his government, the boundary
between Georgia and Armenia should be set on the southern limits of
the former Tbilisi Province, making Lori and Akhalqalaq part of the
Georgian state.

Hardly a week after this declaration, on Dec. 5, the Georgian forces
that had already occupied Lori since November, pushed their way into
Akhalqalaq under the command of Gen. Maghashvili. The local Armenian
troops were disarmed, while the small unit sent from Armenia, in order
to avoid a Georgian-Armenian armed confrontation, evacuated the area
of the Ephremovka-Troyitskoye villages, which it had occupied upon
the retreat of the Turks.

The Qajaznuni government, having been empowered by the Armenian
Parliament to deal freely with this issue, protested more than
once against the illegal occupation of Lori and Akhalqalaq. But the
Georgians remained adamant. Thus, by mid-December the Georgian-Armenian
war had started, a conflict caused mainly by Turkish designs:
Before evacuating these disputed areas, they had told each one of the
Georgian and Armenian governments, separately, that they were ceding
the regions to them.

The Armenian troops led by Dro liberated most of Lori. On Dec. 11-12,
a detachment of the Fourth Armenian Infantry Division moved from
Alexandropol towards Akhalqalaq and after a clash with the Georgian
troops, secured most of the Akhalqalaq Province. The Georgian forces
retreated towards the north.

During this war, the Georgians staged a veritable manhunt of Armenians
in Tbilisi. Thousands of Armenians were declared prisoners of war
and shipped to Qutayis.

As the war progressed, the Entente powers sought to find ways to put
an end to it. On Dec. 25, British and French high-ranking officers
signed an agreement with N. Zhordania; it proposed a cease-fire, the
positioning of Georgian troops in areas north of the Jalaloghli-Dsegh
line, and the Armenians to hold the areas south of that line. A
Georgian regime was to be imposed on Akhalqalaq under Allied
supervision, with Armenian and Muslim representatives participating
in the administration.

Designated to sign this agreement, Arshak Jamalian categorically
refused to do so, objecting to the terms concerning Akhalqalaq. The
British attached the following addendum to the document: "Mr. Jamalian
does not agree with the point that stipulates Georgian occupation of
Akhalqalaq." In essence, the Allies, discounting the opinions of the
Armenian side, tried to implement the proposed agreement.

A few days later, on Dec. 31, the Armeno-Georgian hostilities ceased
with the intercession of the British. The Jan. 9-17, 1919 peace
conference of Tbilisi decreed a status of neutrality for Lori, while
the status of Akhalqalaq remained pending. In March, both republics
recognized each other’s independence and railways were reopened for
regular travel. The tension between Armenia and Georgia gradually

By March 1919, the remaining groups of Akhalqalaq refugees regained
their homeland. The province was thoroughly sacked and the stocks
of grain were taken to Turkey. Only the Turkish-speaking villages
of Armenian Catholics and Russian Dukhobors were left relatively
unscathed. Both communities assisted the returning refugees to resettle
and to restart their lives.

Already in June, the Armenian government had managed to share the grain
received by rail with those facing starvation in Akhalqalaq. This
relief operation was put on a state level. In Tbilisi, the Armenian
Mission created a special commission under the leadership of
D. Davitkhanian. In May alone, Armenia allotted 3 million rubles to
the needy and 74 million rubles for the purchase of grain to stave
off the threat of starvation.

In spite of the measures taken, the economy of Javakhq did not
improve. The Georgian authorities imposed heavy duties not only on
grain being exported to Armenia, but also on grain being shipped to
Akhalqalaq, to be shared by both Armenian and Georgian refugees. The
number of animal stock had dwindled sharply. Because of the freezing
weather begun at the close of 1918, the Turks had not been able to
take all of the animals and movable goods from the province. Poghos
Abelian approached Makaev, the newly appointed governor general of
Akhalqalaq, requesting that the remaining goods be turned over to
the refugees. Makaev flatly refused the request. With regret, the
Georgian-Armenian Council that, especially since the Armeno-Georgian
war, had become quite ineffective, failed to support Abelian’s,
and numerous other concerned activists’, efforts.

Makaev disarmed the Armenian population and, utilizing the Georgian
militia brought from Imeretia and Tbilisi, established an oppressive
regime, under which Georgians and Meskhet Turks retained their right
to bear arms. Only Armenians "volunteers," forcibly conscripted into
the Georgian army to fight against rebellious Abkhazian and Ajarian
regions, were given arms.

The policy of colonizing Javakhq with ethnic Georgians had started. By
the end of 1920, a few hundred Imeretian families were relocated in
Akhalqalaq under the supervision of the Georgian government. The
local Georgian authorities confiscated from the Armenians large
areas of grazing land in the north and east, and handed them to
the newcomers. By various machinations, certain villages were left
without tillable land. There was considerable misfeasance concerning
the administration of lands belonging to the Akhaltskha’s Holy
Savior Church in Kartzakh, Dadesh, Sulda, and other locations. The
Georgian government did not hesitate to implement a policy of ethnic
assimilation with a campaign of "Georgianizing" all Catholic Armenians.

Naturally, the chauvinistic policies implemented in Javakhq by the
Menshevik government did not go unnoticed in Armenia. But in 1919, the
Armenian government, for a variety of reasons, deemed it necessary to
be satisfied by just sharing its grain with Akhalqalaq and delaying
its boundary discussions with Georgia until a satisfactory agreement
could be reached at the coming Paris Conference. Writing about
this subject, Ruben Ter Minassian states: "Georgia’s intentions
concerning Armenia were unjust, considering that she had seized a
purely Armenian-populated region like Akhalqalaq from us, in spite of
the fact that, both geographically and demographically, that province
belongs to Armenia. Georgia was unjust also in coveting Lori… In
spite of these disturbing facts, the Bureau was of the opinion that it
was necessary to be patient and to yield to the Georgians to the limits
of feasibility." But Ruben and the other leaders of the Republic had
to consider that the more the Armenian side showed willingness to be
accommodating, the more the Georgian side became intractable on the
issues of Akhalqalaq and Lori.

On Sept. 17, 1919, a new Armeno-Georgian conference convened
in Tbilisi. Georgia was represented by N. Ramishvili and
S. Mdivani; the Armenian representatives were S. Mamikonian
and S. Khachatrian. Apprehensive over the possibility of renewed
Armeno-Georgian confrontation following the British withdrawal from
Lori, the Georgians proposed an approach of "mutual concessions" on
the issue of boundaries, leaving to the Armenians the areas south of
the village of Sqori and the plain of Lori (Jalaloghli-Vorontsovka),
while Georgia would keep all lands north of that line, as well as the
province of Akhalqalaq. They considered this "concession" temporary,
until the granting of Western Armenian provinces to Armenia by the
Paris Conference.

The Armenian delegation announced that it was authorized by its
government to cede to Georgia the Khrami (Tzalka) area, and the
northern and central regions of Akhalqalaq Province. The southern
Javakhq lakes region, along with the villages of Heshtia, Satkha,
Hokam, and Azmana, up to the River Kur, was to be attached to
Armenia. Based on the Armenian plan, the boundary would extend to
the north of Koghb, along Lalvar. Although either side was less than
satisfied by the plans presented and no written agreement followed,
because the Armenian side had shown a willingness to cede the major
part of Akhalqalaq, Georgia agreed to grant Armenia transit rights,
telegraphic communication, and other facilities. It is noteworthy
that Georgia took "readiness to yield" as an actual concession and
assumed freedom to make final dispositions in regards to Javakhq. "The
Georgians took advantage of our weakness," wrote Ruben, "and utilized
their geographic advantage in a brutal fashion, to trample our people’s
integrity and legitimate rights."

The boundary discussions continued in Tbilisi. S. Mamikonian and
S. Khachatrian remained there and, as they used to say in those days,
continued to haggle over boundaries in "a fruitless bazaar"-a situation
that left both Georgian and Armenian circles dissatisfied. Convinced,
since 1919, that it was meaningless to continue asking the Georgians
to make mutual concessions on the matter of boundaries, the Armenian
side strived to put this issue on the Paris Conference agenda.

As one positive outcome of the negotiations, one can perhaps mention
the Nov. 14, 1919 Armeno-Georgian agreement, according to which all
present and future matters of contention between the parties would
be resolved through political means or arbitration.

On May 7, 1920, a mutual recognition agreement was signed between
Russia and Georgia. With this agreement, Russia recognized Georgia’s
claims on Lori, Akhalqalaq, and Zaqatala. In that connection,
Prime Minister Hamo Ohanjanian sent telegrams of protest to the
governments of the Soviet Russian Federation and Georgia, stating that
by considering Lori and Akhalqalaq their own, the Georgian authorities
were countermanding the 1919 Armeno-Georgian agreement to consider
the ownership of these territories undecided.

The 1920 law on Armenian citizenship, which in essence guaranteed
citizenship rights to Armenians residing abroad, displeased the
Georgians and prompted them to take demagogic positions during the
Armeno-Georgian discussions taking place over the months of July and
August. They were opposed to the granting of Armenian citizenship to
the Armenians of Georgia; they argued that, in that case, they should
be moved to Armenia. At these same meetings, the Georgian delegation
demanded from the Armenians the entire Akhalqalaq Province, along
with the lakes region, Lori, up to the Sanahin station, and a major
portion of the provinces of Ardahan and Olti. The Armenian side
rejected these demands.

Faced with an impasse, the Armenian and Georgian sides asked the
Entente powers to help resolve the dispute. It was no accident that
a special clause was introduced into the Aug. 10, 1920 Sevres Treaty,
stipulating that the question of boundaries between the Trans-Caucasian
countries be resolved by a commission formed of representatives of the
interested parties and, in the case of failure to reach an agreement,
that it be left to the adjudication of the Allied powers.

In the autumn of 1920, during the days of the Armeno-Turkish war,
the Armenian government, aware of the secret ties between the Turks
and the Georgians, found itself compelled to make concessions to
Georgia on the matter of boundaries. On Nov. 13, the Georgians sent
troops to the neutral zone of Lori and to Ardahan.

Towards the end of February and the beginning of March 1921, the
province of Akhalqalaq was subjected to a new attack by the Kemalist
Turks. Invading Javakhq (considered Georgian territory at the time),
the Turks acted against the secret Turkish-Georgian agreement not to
move into Georgian territory. There are grounds to believe that, just
before the fall of independent Georgia’s government, for political
reasons, permission was given to the Turks to enter the province of
Akhalqalaq after disarming, once more, the Armenian population.

The troops of Ghumantar Pasha and the Turkish mob, along with Jamal
Agha and Molla Bairam of the Turkish-populated village of Hokam,
moved towards the province’s southern villages of Kartzakh, Sulda,
Dadesh, and Gumbordo. Many inhabitants of Gumbordo, amongst them
women, fell in an unequal battle, and the Turks took hundreds of men
as prisoners, killing some of them at the Kuri gorge, and drowning the
rest in wells. There were also massacres at other villages. This time,
the population of the province did not migrate. The Turks encountered
a stiff resistance at the approaches of Alastan, Molit, Tabatzghuri,
and other villages.

As a result of the Turkish aggressions of 1918 and 1921, the Akhalqalaq
region lost 42-45 percent of its Armenian population through armed
conflict, famine, and epidemics. Thus, while the city of Akhalqalaq
had a population of 5,070 in 1917, it had only 2,737 in 1922.

In the second half of March 1921, the troops of the 11th Red Army
entered Akhalqalaq. While the Red Army entered Lori from Armenia, it
entered Akhalqalaq from Georgia, via the Borzhom-Akhaltskha railroad-a
fact that would later play an important role, in the adjudication
process of its ownership.

After the retreat of the Turkish forces, the petitions of the
Javakhq population to the RevComs of Soviet Armenia and Georgia,
the leadership of the Red Army, as well as other pertinent courts,
to attach the province to Soviet Armenia or Russia became more
frequent. In one of them, written on April 23, representatives of
the Sulda, Mragoval, Dadesh, Vachian, and Karzakh villages told the
Armenian representative in Georgia: "We request that our province,
where of the 80,000 inhabitants more than 60,000 are Armenian…be
attached to the Republic of Armenia… If our homeland does not become
part of Armenia, which would protect us against massacres…oppression,
furthermore, if our homeland does not become part of Soviet Russia,
and the Turkish scimitar is not removed from above our heads, we
can no longer stay in our fatherland which, over the last years, has
turned into hell, and we will be forced to migrate to the hinterlands
of Russia…."

>From spring 1921, the problem of many disputed territories between the
Trans-Caucasian republics, including those of the Akhalqalaq and its
adjacent Khram (Tzalka) regions, were discussed by the newly created
Soviet republics of Trans-Caucasia. A special commission created on
May 1921 by the Caucasian Bureau of the Communist Party of Russia had
its very first meeting in June 25-27 in Tbilisi under the chairmanship
of S. Kirov.

Georgia was represented by two, Azerbaijan by three, and Armenia by one
(A. Bekzadian) commission member. At the very first meeting, Bekzadian,
mentioning the unjust territorial adjudications imposed by the Czarist
regime, and the dire straits Soviet Armenia found itself in, asked
the commission members to concede the mainly Armenian-populated
(72 percent) province of Akhalqalaq, Lori, and Nogorno Karabagh
(94 percent) to Armenia. But, he remained a minority faced with the
Georgian and Azeri representatives, who also enjoyed the support
of Kirov, arguing that such territorial changes would encourage
anti-revolutionary activity in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Bekzadian’s
proposal was rejected. The latter demanded that the final decision
be left to the Central Committee’s Caucasian Bureau.

The leadership of Armenia asked specialists and people of knowledge in
the matter to prepare documentation on the disputed territories. With
the recommendation of Armenia’s foreign minister, A. Mravian, in July
1921, Poghos Abelian presented a detailed document on Akhalqalaq,
containing the historical, geographic, demographic, and economic
foundations for the valid Armenian claims on that province. "The
Armenians of Javakhq," wrote Abelian in his report, "consider the
Menshevik government worse than Turkey. They are so apprehensive,
that they will not accede to any Georgian rule… This is the
truth. The inhabitant of Akhalqalaq wants the region to be Russian,
forever immune to Turkish aggression; short of that, he wants his
fate tied to that of Armenia and, at this time, he wants to join
Soviet Armenia." Abelian ruled out any form of autonomy.

As a last resort, he was ready to consider an autonomous Javakhq-along
with Tzalka-under Armenian supervision.

On July 7, 1921, the plenary meeting of the Caucasian Bureau,
with the participation of J. Stalin, examined the matter of the
disputed Lori and Akhalqalaq provinces claimed by both Armenia and
Georgia. With six votes for and one undecided, it was decided to
attach the neutral zone of Lori to Armenia, and to refer the matter
of ceding the regions of Akhalqalaq and Khram (Tzalka) to Armenia
to the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party, and to
submit the latter’s decision to the scrutiny and evaluation of the
Caucasian Bureau’s plenary meeting. It is not hard to guess that,
left to the whims of the Georgian Bolsheviks, the Armenian claims
would be rejected. And sure enough, on July 16, the Politbureau of
the Georgian Communist Party CC considered the claim unacceptable,
basing its decision on concocted economic "ties" with the regions
and other "political considerations." By a strange "coincidence,"
with similar "arguments" in its July 5 plenary meeting, the Caucasian
Bureau decided to detach another

Armenian region, Nagorno-Karabagh, from Armenia and attach it
to Azerbaijan. In July 1921, a Georgian-Azeri concord was quite
obvious. Thus, the historically Armenian Javakhq was given to Georgia.

During 1918-21, the matter of Javakhq’s reunification with the mother
country remained unresolved for the following fundamental reasons: The
Republic of Armenia, considering the acquisition of Western Armenia
paramount, did not demonstrate the necessary zeal in the matter of
Georgian- and Azeri-occupied Armenian territories. Because of the
1918 and 1921 Turkish incursions, nearly half (40,000 Armenians)
of the population was killed, while the province was near total
economic collapse-conditions that prevented the Armenian population
from effectively pursuing the cause of reunification with Armenia.

Informed of the decisions of the Caucasian Bureau and the Georgian
Communist Party, the Armenians of Javakhq in July 1921 sent several
letters of protest to Moscow, Tbilisi, and Yerevan. The Georgian
RevCom seemed bent on exacerbating the problem. Arustamov, a well-known
Bolshevik and Red Army member, enjoying the respect and trust of the
Akhalqalaq population, was summarily dismissed from the chairmanship
of the RevCom. All the petitions of the people remained unheeded,
and Comrade Arustamov had to leave Akhalqalaq in the midst of popular
demonstrations of sympathy and support. Soon after, a man intensely
disliked by the people, S. Nadiradze, a leader of special punitive
units of the former Menshevik regime, was appointed military commander
of the province. When, under popular pressure, the RevCom dismissed
him from his post, the Georgian Bolsheviks of Tbilisi returned him to
Akhalqalaq, with wider prerogatives and authority. Renewed protests by
the people were followed by the arrival of a special commission. By the
commission’s orders, several people were arrested, including Mnoyan,
a well-known Armenian Bolshevik member of the RevCom. They were taken
to Tbilisi and handed over to the Cheka (Extraordinary Commission). A
month later, a new special commission arrived in Akhalqalaq and,
on charges of "chauvinistic" activities, arrested longtime Bolshevik
activist Karapet Ghazanjian, one of the founders of the Akhalqalaq
RevCom. (Having been a commander of one of the companies of the 11th
Red Army, Ghazanjian had distinguished himself in February 1921 during
the battles waged against Georgian Menshevik forces for the liberation
of Lori.)

Along with the liquidation of Armenian Communist cadres, between April
and July 1921, the confiscation of Armenian peasants’ possessions
was completed. The local Turkish population, which had taken part in
the robbery and murder of the Armenians, amassing a fortune at the
Armenians’ expense during the two Turkish incursions, was now being
catered to in all possible ways.

Thus, the Armenians of Akhalqalaq, oppressed and abused under Georgian
rule, whose casualties numbered in the tens of thousands during the
two Turkish invasions, found themselves-in the spring and summer
of 1921-left to the tender mercies of chauvinistic and predatory
Georgian Bolsheviks. It is not by accident that representatives of
certain villages (particularly Catholic ones) were in those days
assisting their fellow villagers to migrate to Russia. Many villagers
had already left on their own. The government of Soviet Georgia,
apprehensive of an eventual depopulation of the region, forbade the
exodus of the Armenians by special decree.

It is also significant that in many letters addressed to the Soviet
Armenian authorities-petitions that one cannot read without empathy and
emotion-the Armenians of Akhalqalaq described the local nightmarish
conditions and expressed the conviction that the only solution to
the predicament was the reunification of the region with Soviet
Armenia. "…in order to lift the blockade on Javakhetia," read
one letter, "…to put an end to the visits of special commissars,
to stop all kinds of juvenile eccentricities and institutionalized
pilfering, there is only one way, a solution that is the profound
wish of the Armenians of the province, constituting 75 percent of
the entire population, which is to return the province to its ethnic
Soviet Republic."

Even after the July 7 Caucasian Bureau and July 16 Georgian CC
decisions, certain Armenian Bolsheviks representing the national wing
took various steps to rectify the foreign subordination problem of
both Javakhq and Nagorno-Karabagh. ArmRevCom chairman, A. Miasnikian,
visited the province of Akhalqalaq to defuse the rising popular
unrest, stem the exodus of the population, and seek ways to solve
the problem. With his initiation, in 1922, a group of field workers
prepared a proposal to set up an autonomous Armenian area within the
Georgian state that would include the province of Akhalqalaq and the
Armenian-inhabited areas of Borchalu.

But the Georgian ruling circles and certain intellectuals, particularly
the historian I. Javakhashvili, rejected the concept, regarding it as a
step to dismember Georgia. In 1923, the proposal was officially killed.

Outnumbered and outmaneuvered by the Georgian and Azeri Bolsheviks,
who also enjoyed the backing of the Center, the weakened Armenian
leadership finally gave in. By means of oppressive measures, the Soviet
regime succeeded in silencing the Armenians of Javakhq by demolishing
their dream to see their homeland returned to its legitimate owners,
as an integral part of Armenia.

*** A new administrative region was formed from large areas of the
Akhalqalaq province using the same name. Of the northern villages,
Tabatzghuri, Molit, and Chkharola were attached to the Borzhomi
region, while Damalan was integrated into the more recently formed
region of Aspindza. In 1930, the southeastern sector of Akhalqalaq
was detached and reconstituted as the region of Bogdanovka (later
renamed Ninotzminda).

During the years of the Soviet regime, as a result of the prevailing
difficult socio-political conditions, the population’s exodus from
Javakhq became an endemic demographic phenomenon. In that context,
it was not by chance that during World War II, more than other
Armenian-populated regions, Akhalqalaq had an extensive loss of
inhabitants. Of the 12,684 wartime recruits, Akhalqalaq suffered
7,788 (61.4 percent) casualties, partly missing in action. The
Meskhet Turks were also victims of "ethnic cleansing" after Stalin,
in the summer of 1944, accused them of treason; they were gathered
from Akhaltskha, Adigeni, Aspindza, and other areas of Akhalqalaq
and deported to Central Asia. Local Armenians were not allowed to
inhabit the vacated villages; instead, large numbers of Georgians
were moved in from Imeretia by the government and given title to
the properties left behind by the Meskhetians. As a result of these
government-sponsored demographic redistributions, a Georgian-inhabited
entity called Aspindza emerged between the Armenian inhabited regions
of Akhaltskha and Akhalqalaq. At the same time, between 1946 and
1949, Armenians from various regions of the Georgian SSR-including
Javakhq-were deported to the Alta region and to Siberia.

>From 1950-70, the migration of the Armenians to the Armenian SSR,
north Caucasus, and other republics of the USSR, caused by economic and
political factors, accelerated noticeably. That is why regions with
high reproductive rates like Akhalqalaq and Bogdanovka (constituting
the historic Upper Javakhq Province) in 1989 showed the same number
of inhabitants (105,000) as in 1917.

In the aftermath of the 1989 earthquake in Ajaria, the Georgian
government wasted no time in relocating the homeless and others
affected by the disaster to the Akhalqalaq villages of Kotelia, Hokam,
Gogashen Chunchkha, and others, building for them two-story homes in
the villages of the Russian Dukhobors. Throughout the seven decades
of Soviet rule, Akhalqalaq and Bogdanovka had never seen residential
construction on such a large scale. However, even this periodic
attempt to change the demographic picture proved ineffective. The
harsh climate of the region forced most of them to return home.

Today, historic Javakhq, with its two regions, its Armenian populated
100 villages and a population of more than 100,000 (95 percent
Armenian), constitutes the most homogenous Armenian territory outside
the borders of the Armenian Republic that continues to exist as a
living entity of Armenian language, culture, and customs.