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 Federative Republic 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 Empire, 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 governorate (gubernija|губерния), 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 [1].

A compromise solution was reached when the Council voted for a resolution (26 May 1918) claiming that it temporarily assumes governmental functions over the Armenian provinces [1]. 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 agreed to send a delegation for negotiating a peace treaty (28 May 1918) [2].

Still stopping short of a formal declaration of independence, the Armenian National Council issued a proclamation to the Armenian people (30 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 [3].

The new style 'Republic of Armenia' (Hayastani Hanrapetoutʻyoun|Հայաստանի Հանրապետություն) appeared in the title of the Batum Treaty (4 Jun 1918) which provided for the 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. The Council also appointed a committee to draft the declaration of independence which was submitted for consideration and returned to the committee on 8 Jun 1918 [4]. It was discussed again on 12 Jun 1918, but was never adopted [5].

Pending the arrival of the members of the National Council and government, the Yerevan Provincial Armenian National Council (Erewani Nahangakan Hayoc’ Azgayin Xorhourd | Երևանի Նահանգական Հայոց Ազգային Խորհուրդ) elected a board (varčout’youn|վարչություն) to exercise the functions of government and dissolved the Yerevan Provincial Commissariat (Erewani nahangakan komisariat | Երևանի նահանգական կոմիսարիատ) and the Provincial Executive Committee (Nahangakan gorçadir komite | նահանգական գործադիր կոմիտե) on 15 Jun 1918 [6].

The National Council remained divided about the move to Yerevan: the Dashnaktsutyun 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 the Yerevan Council threatened to convene a Constituent Assembly unless the nation's legislative and executive bodies assumed their duties in the capital. The Council and government left for Yerevan on 17 Jul 1918, arriving to the capital on 19 Jul 1918. The first anniversary of the Republic of Armenia was celebrated on 28 May 1919, and May 28 was chosen as the founding date of the Republic for official purposes.

  1. Armenia Independence Documents, pp. 14-22.
  2. ibid., pp. 14-22.
  3. ibid., pp. 30-34.
  4. ibid., pp. 65-68.
  5. Armenian National Council Minutes 28-30 May 1918, p. 217.
  6. Armenia Independence Documents, pp. 78-79.