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Near East Kingdoms

Anatolia

 

Eastern Armenia (Russian / Soviet Armenia)
AD 1828 - 1991
Incorporating the First Republic of Armenia (1918-1991) & Republic of Mountainous Armenia (1918-1991)

Historically, Armenia has generally been regarded as being two regions which lie at the connection between Europe and the Near East: 'Greater Armenia' lay to the east of the Euphrates, and 'Little Armenia', or Lesser Armenia, to the west of the river. Overall, Armenia is usually understood to have included what is now north-eastern Turkey, plus the area which is covered by the modern republic of Armenia, and also parts of Iranian Azerbaijan. Modern Armenia is the easternmost remnants of the former state(s) barring certain districts which now lie inside Azerbaijan's borders (principally Nagorno-Karabakh).

Eastern Armenia was only a section of Armenian territory, the easternmost remnants of the ancient Armenian kingdom which was fragmented in AD 590 and which was subsequently controlled by various regional powers. Armenia gradually lost direct rule, whether by its own princes or by foreign governors, and became submerged within other states such as Timurid Persia from the late fourteenth century, the Ak Qoyunlu emirate in the fifteenth century, and the Ottomans from the sixteenth century onwards.

No nobility survived from the years of independence to be able to claim an hereditary kingship, having been dispersed and dissolved over several centuries of occupation. The eastern section fell (or remained) under the control of Iran - formally from 1502 - until the Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828 showed just how the balance of power in the region was changing. Russian military might was too much for the Iranians so, although they started the war, Russia ended it by invading Eastern Armenia and holding onto it.

The Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828 was the last major military conflict between the Russian empire and Iran, as well as being the first time the two had fought each other since the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813. The imperial Russians, and in their later Soviet identity, now managed to hold onto Armenia (in the form of the 'First Republic') until the Soviet empire dissolved at the end of the twentieth century.

The term 'Eastern Armenia' had long been used by Armenians themselves to denote the Armenian Highlands, their traditional homeland into which they had settled upon arriving in the region from the eighth century BC onwards. There has never been established an official dividing line between this and western Armenia, but the borders of the modern Armenian state can be used as a rough guide.

Western Armenia in this period consisted of six provinces, all of which were firmly part of the Ottoman empire and subsequent republic of Turkey. Under Timurid control, the Armenians of Eastern Armenia had become a Christian minority in their lands. The Russians reversed this enforced trend, so that ethnic Armenians could again form a majority in their core lands for the first time in four hundred years. Armenians were encouraged to resettle Eastern Armenia from Iran and Ottoman-controlled Armenia.

Dargavs necropolis, Ossetia

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information by Brigitta Davidjants, from Historical Dictionary of Armenia, Rouben Paul Adalian (Scarecrow Press, 2010), from The Population of Persian Armenia Prior to and Immediately Following its Annexation to the Russian Empire: 1826-1832, George A Bournoutian (The Wilson Center, Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, 1980), from Ethnocide in Artsakh: The Mechanisms of Azerbaijan's Usurpation of Indigenous Armenian Cultural Heritage, Hamlet L Petrosyan, from Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers, Touraj Atabaki (I B Tauris, 2006), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Armenia (World Statesmen.org).)

1828

With Iranian control of Eastern Armenia replaced by that of imperial Russia, Armenian patriots are hoping for some form of semi-autonomous control over their lands. Unfortunately the centralist-minded Czar Nicholas I has other ideas.

Siege of Yerevan Fortress, 1827, Franz Roubaud
The Russian capture of Erivan in 1828 ended four centuries of Persian rule of Eastern Armenia, allowing its people to leave the Islamic sphere of influence and join the contemporarily more progressive European sphere of influence (the painting is by Franz Roubaud, showing the 1827 siege of Yerevan Fortress)

The outspoken Bishop Nerses is soon shipped off to Bessarabia (modern Moldova) for complaining too loudly (although he is allowed to return in 1843). However, the Armenian Church retains its autonomy. It is also allowed to control the opening of new schools which greatly benefit the population, along with printing houses which results in a flourishing of Armenian newspapers.

1828 - 1830

Aleksandr G Chavchavadze

Russian administrator (Nachal'nik).

1830 - 1838

Vasiliy Osipovich Bebutov

Russian administrator (Nachal'nik).

1838 - 1839

Andrey Grigoryevich Patsovskiy

Russian administrator (Nachal'nik).

1840 - 1849

Having treated Eastern Armenia as a military zone until now - it faces outwards towards the Ottoman empire and Iran, both perpetual opponents of Russian expansion - Armenia is now (in 1840) merged into the other Transcaucasian provinces with scant regard to ethnic boundaries or national identity, remaining part of the Georgia-Imeretia governorate until 1849.

Despite this, Armenians still retain a good deal of cultural and religious autonomy, aided in this period by a Russian high commissioner to the Caucasus who is sympathetic to them.

Askeran Fortress
Askeran Fortress (also known as Mayraberd) - located on the banks of the River Qajar in what today is the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh - was built by the rulers of the Karabakh khanate, Agha Mohammad's Qajar homeland

1849 - 1858

Ivan Ivanovich Nazorov

Military governor & administrator of Yerevan.

1858 - 1860

Nikolay Petrovich Kolyubakin

Military governor & administrator of Yerevan.

1861 - 1864

Osip Antonovich S Nefedovich

Military governor & administrator of Yerevan.

1864 - 1869

Mikhail Ivanovich Astafyev

Military governor & administrator of Yerevan.

1869 - 1873

Nikolay Nikolayevich Karmalin

Governor of Yerevan governate (20 May-26 Jun).

1873 - 1880

Mikhail Ivanovich Roslavlev

Governor of Yerevan governate (26 Jun on).

1878

Parts of Western Armenia are taken by Russia from the Ottomans following the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Another influx of ethnic Armenians into Eastern Armenia takes place from Ottoman-held Western Armenia. For the first time since the fourteenth century, ethnic Armenians now form a majority population within their own (remaining) lands.

1880 - 1891

Mikhail Yakovlevich Shalikov

Governor of Yerevan governate (3 Apr-3 Jan).

1891 - 1895

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Freze

Governor of Yerevan governate (14 Feb-28 Nov).

1894

An attempted extermination of the Armenians within the Ottoman empire is put into action under Sultan Abd al-Hamid II. Sporadic attempts to continue this are undertaken in the following years.

Russian Revolution of 1905
The Russian Revolution of 1905 brought suffering and around 1,500 Armenian dead, but its aftermath saw a reversal in the imperial policy of 'Russification' and greater freedoms for Armenians in general

1896 - 1916

Graf Vladimir F fon Tizengauzen

Governor of Yerevan governate (3 Mar on).

1905

Russian troops fire on protestors in St Petersburg (an event dubbed 'Bloody Sunday'), sparking the 1905 Russian Revolution. Baku, which is dominated by an Armenian middle class and an Azeri working class, sees violent conflict erupt along ethnic lines. It quickly spreads into the surrounding countryside, with calculations showing around 1,500 Armenian dead against around seven hundred Azeris.

The fighting is symptomatic of increasing ethnic tensions in the region which will only increase throughout the twentieth century. One benefit of this round of violence, though, is a change of strategy by the Russians which sees people gain considerably more freedoms.

1915

The attempted genocide of Armenians within the Ottoman empire is resumed from 24 April 1915, when Armenians are accused of aiding the Russian invaders of Ottoman territories during the First World War.

Over 600,000 Armenians are killed by Turkish soldiers or die of starvation during their forced deportation to Ottoman-controlled Syria and Iraq. The Armenians rise in revolt at Lake Van (traditional location at which the Armenian state had been founded), which they hold until they are relieved by Russian troops.

Arab Revolt
With the Ottoman empire fading in power and prestige, the time was ripe for the Arab Revolt, led by the Hashemites and T E Lawrence

1916 - 1917

Arkadiy Yevgenyevich Strel'bitskiy

Governor of Yerevan governate (to Mar 1917).

1917 - 1920

Following the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, in November 1917 the Caucasus is permitted the right to form an independent state. The 'Federative Democratic Republic' is proclaimed in April 1918, with the 'Armenian First Republic' a part of this. But this arrangement lasts all of a month as old tensions between Georgians, Armenians, and Turkic-speaking Azeris resurface. Each forms its own republic, with the independent 'Armenia First Republic' being created in May 1918.

The Armenian general, Andranik Ozanian, is not satisfied with Armenia's borders, especially while he is busy fighting off Ottoman attempts to invade the southern Caucasus. He goes further in 1918 by forming the 'Republic of Mountainous Armenia' around Karabakh, Nakhichevan, and Zanghezur. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 formally recognises the collective Armenian territories as being part of the first republic.

In the meantime, British forces occupy Baku in support of the Armenians, helping to defend it during the Battle of Baku in 1918. However, Baku falls to an Azeri-Ottoman army on 15 September 1918, forcing British and Armenian forces and much of the city's Armenian population to flee.

The Armistice of Mudros of 30 November 1918 briefly restores British control to the city. As the Russian Civil War draws to a conclusion, Soviet Russia invades Armenia and the new Azerbaijan state, incorporating both of them into the USSR.

Lenin and the October Revolution
Vladimir Lenin was the figurehead of the October Revolution and also its key instigator and controller, but the revolution plunged Russia into three years of bitter civil war

1918

Sahak Torosyan

Commissar of Yerevan governate (about Feb 1918).

1917 - 1918

Avetis Arakeli Aharonyan

Chairman of the Armenian national council (ANC).

1917 - 1918

Aram Haroutyouni Manoukyan

Chairman of the Armenian national council (ANC).

1918 - 1919

Avetik Hovhannesi Sahakyan

Chairman of the 'Council of Armenia' (to 4 Jun).

1919

Avetik Hovhannesi Sahakyan

Acting president of the Armenian parliament (from 1 Aug).

1919 - 1920

Avetis Arakeli Aharonyan

President of the Armenian parliament.

1919

Sarkis Shahnazari Araratyan

Vice-president while Avetis Aharonyan was abroad.

1919

Levon Seghbosi Shant

Vice-president while Avetis Aharonyan was abroad.

1919

Hovsep Hovhannesi Arghutyan

Acting vice-president for Avetis Aharonyan.

1919

Sirakan Fadeyi Tigranyan

Vice-president while Avetis Aharonyan was abroad.

1919 - 1920

Avetik Hovhannesi Sahakyan

Vice-president while Avetis Aharonyan was abroad.

1920

Hovhannes Roubeni Kajaznuni

President of the Armenian parliament.

1920

Avetis / Akop Sogomonovich

Chairman of the military revolutionary committee (MRC).

1920

Drastamat 'Dro' Martirosi Kanayan

Commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

1921

Simeon Nazari Vratsyan

Committee chairman, 'Salvation of the Fatherland'.

1921

Simeon Nazari Vratsyan

Chairman of the government of Armenia. In Zangezur.

1921 - 1922

Russia and the Ottomans establish their respective borders with one another and the remaining independent Armenian lands fall forcibly under Russian control. This formation of territories is still known as Eastern Armenia, now the only surviving fragment of the ancient state of Armenia. In 1922, Armenia is formally incorporated into the USSR.

1932 - 1933

Less than a decade of Stalin's economic changes, plus the imprisonment of millions of people in correctional labour camps, and a brutal reorganisation of agricultural practices, results in a catastrophic famine throughout the Soviet empire. The breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine, is especially badly hit, with the famine being known as the Holodomor, 'extermination by hunger'. Other Soviet states also suffer, such as Armenia, but perhaps not quite as badly.

Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin, who was born in Georgia, led the Soviet Union away from its initial idealistic concept of equal citizenship for all and instead instituted a brutal regime of fear

1940 - 1945

The Soviets invade Poland from the east on 17 September 1940. As part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact they annexe western Ukraine, west Byelorussia, and also Bessarabia on 28 September (the last of which is formed with Ukraine's Trans-Dniester region into the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic). Armenians send hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the various fronts to help defend the 'motherland' and the various freedoms they have under it.

1988

Encouraged by the new Soviet policy of openness ('glasnost'), Armenians begin to campaign for Nagorno-Karabakh to be united with Armenia (having been formed in 1918). This is a region with a predominantly Armenian population which is located inside the borders of the neighbouring Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

In December of the same year an earthquake strikes northern Armenia, killing 25,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. The relief effort is slow and chaotic. The Metsamor nuclear plant is closed down after the earthquake highlights safety concerns.

1990 - 1991

Armenia declares its independence from the crumbling Soviet Union on 23 August 1990. Thanks to behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by the newly-elected president of the Russian republic, Boris Yeltsin, on Christmas Day 1991 the USSR's President Gorbachev announces the termination of the Soviet communist state.

Belarussian independence in 1990
The Chernobyl disaster and the subsequent attempted cover-up by the Soviet authorities was the spark which brought down the already-fragile USSR, allowing Belarus amongst many other subject territories to gain its independence

Upon the final collapse of communist Russia, the Soviet republics become independent sovereign states (if they had not already become so since 1989). The Armenian state becomes the independent 'Republic of Armenia', and remains Christian.

1990 - 1991

Levon Hakobi Ter-Petrosyan

Supreme council chairman (then president of Armenia).

It adopts a democratically-elected presidential system of government with multi-party elections. Its first president elects to join the Russian-dominated 'Commonwealth of Independent States'. The Nagorno-Karabakh region soon becomes involved in a war against its Azerbaijan neighbours to ensure its independence.

Modern Armenia
AD 1991 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1991-2023)

The modern republic of Armenia is the surviving easternmost remnants of the much greater ancient state of Armenia. Its capital is Yerevan, which was founded in 782 BC as the citadel of Erebuni by the Urartuan King Argishti I. Landlocked, Armenia is bordered to the west by Turkey, to the north by Georgia, to the east by Azerbaijan, and at its southern tip by Iran along the River Araks.

Armenia also has an Azerbaijani exclave between that southern tip and the rest of the Iranian border up to the Turkish border, following the course of the River Araz (the 'Araks' again). This is the 'Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic' (Naxçıvan in Azerbaijani). Armenia itself claims the Nagorno-Karabakh region which lies well inside the main Azerbaijani border, although until 2024 this was governed by its own unrecognised breakaway government.

Armenia's history is long and complicated. Its people first formed an independent state in the second century BC, although they had occupied areas of territory around Lake Van since their migration there in the eighth century BC. The subsequent Armenian kingdom was formed of two main regions: 'Greater Armenia' which lay to the east of the Euphrates, and 'Little Armenia', or Lesser Armenia, to the west of the river.

This survived through fluctuating fortunes until the eleventh century, after which it became a trophy of the Eastern Roman empire, the Seljuq Turks, Persia, and the Ottomans. In 1828, Russia acquired Eastern Armenia from Iran and turned it into a province, while the Ottomans held onto the larger western section (the empire's modern Turkish successor still holds much of it). The creation of Russian-controlled Armenia formed the basis for the modern state.

The conflict over the predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh overshadowed Armenia's return to independence in 1991. The first war against Azerbaijan was relatively short and bloody, and successful for Armenia, but it stored up problems for the future. Armenia itself remained the subject of a trade blockade which was imposed by neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Relations with Turkey remain virtually non-existent anyway, until it recognises that the killing by the Ottoman empire of Armenians between 1915 and 1917 amounted to genocide, which Turkey strongly disputes. Armenia is also not entirely happy with its equally small neighbour to the north, Georgia, as it blames this state for being loyal to Turkey in the fairly recent past.

However, Armenia does have a free market economy and has benefited during the twenty-first century from trade links with the rest of Europe, the CIS, and also its southern neighbours. With a population of about three million, Armenia's history of territorial loss means that it has a diaspora of up to eight million people across the world, greatly outnumbering those Armenians who remain in modern Armenia.

Dargavs necropolis, Ossetia

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information by Brigitta Davidjants, and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Armenia (World Statesmen.org), and Bloody clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia over disputed territory (The Guardian), and The Economist (dead link), and Armenia leader orders end to fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh (Sutton & Croydon Guardian), and Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal brokered by Moscow prompts anger in Armenia (The Guardian), and Azerbaijan launches 'anti-terrorist' attack (The Guardian), and Breakaway government says it will dissolve itself (The Guardian).)

1991 - 1998

Levon Hakobi Ter-Petrosyan

Former chairman. President (11 Nov-4 Feb). Non-party.

1991 - 1994

Although conflict had begun in 1989, full-scale war now breaks out. Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh fight for independence from Azerbaijan, supported by troops and resources from Armenia proper.

On the ground the Nagorno-Karabakh War (or the Artsakh Liberation War to Armenians) is largely a success for Armenia, with Nagorno-Karabakh secured and a total of sixteen percent of Azerbaijani territory captured overall.

Nagorno-Karabakh War
The war over Nagorno-Karabakh lasted for just three years, but constant flare-ups and a marked increase in 2014 of border skirmishes signified that the problem was then far from being resolved

In 1994 a Russian-brokered ceasefire is put in place to end outright hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, but it fails to deliver any lasting solution. For the time being, the region is left as a self-proclaimed republic, with ethnic Armenian forces in control of Azerbaijani territory which surrounds Karabakh.

1997

Robert Kocharian leaves Nagorno-Karabakh which is surrounded entirely by the territory of Azerbaijan to become prime minister in Armenia. Foreign Minister Arkadiy Gukasian is elected as the new president of Karabakh.

President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and his Armenian counterpart, Levon Ter-Petrosian, agree to an OSCE proposal for a staged Karabakh solution. The Armenian leader is criticised at home for making too many concessions and he subsequently resigns.

1998 - 2008

Robert Sedraki Kocharyan

President (4 Feb-9 Apr, acting to 9 Apr 1998). Non-party.

2008

Presidential elections in Armenia have become increasingly bitter affairs, with allegations of corruption and vote-rigging a staple of every election. The results from this election show Serzh Sargsyan winning easily, but the opposition under Ter-Petrosyan raises fresh accusations of election-rigging.

Jugha Cemetery
Jugha Cemetery dated back to the ninth century, when the kingdom of Greater Armenia ruled over the Nakhchivan region in which it lay, before being completely destroyed by Azerbaijan in 2005 and turned into a military zone

Protests by tens of thousands of supporters in Yerevan force the police and then the army to become involved. A state of emergency is declared and eight protestors die in confrontations, along with casualties being suffered by the army. Sargsyan is subsequently recognised as the legitimate president.

In March of the same year the worst fighting in recent years breaks out in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia accuse each other of starting the clashes which leave several dead on each side. Further clashes in 2012, 2016, and 2017 leave more dead on both sides.

2008 - 2018

Serzh Azati Sargsyan

President (9 Apr-9 Apr). HHK.

2009

The governments of Armenia and Turkey agree to normalise relations in October 2009, but ratification is stalled by new demands on both sides. Turkey continues to refuse to recognise the attempted Armenian genocide event of 1915.

2015

In February, President Serge Sarkisian withdraws from parliament the landmark 2009 agreement with Turkey to restore diplomatic ties, citing citing the absence of political will on the Turkish side. Turkey has insisted that Armenia resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh situation first, while also refusing to admit that the mass killings of Armenians in the First World War had been anything other than an inevitable tragedy of war. It is also under pressure from its oil-rich Azeri allies not to aid Armenia in any way.

Serzh Sargsyan
Serzh Sargsyan was declared the winner of the 2008 presidential elections in Armenia, but only after accusations of vote-rigging by the opposition and the declaration of a state of emergency

2016

The controversy continues surrounding Turkey's role in the killing of ethnic Armenians during 1915. The German parliament approves a resolution declaring that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during the First World War is classed as genocide. Turkey bitterly opposes the Bundestag (lower house) resolution, and warns that it could hurt ties.

Armenians continue to uphold the claim that up to 1.5 million of their people had been killed in the atrocities of 1915. Turkey says the toll had been much lower and rejects the term 'genocide'. The timing is awkward, as the European Union needs Turkey to help stem the migrant influx from Syria.

2018 - 2022

Armen Vardani Sargsyan

President (9 Apr-1 Feb). Non-party.

2020

In the midst of the year's Covid-19 pandemic, with Armenia seemingly harder hit than Azerbaijan, the six-week Nagorno-Karabakh War of 2020 war is sparked. Following minor clashes along the border on 27 September both sides declare martial law.

Azerbaijan then launches its largest offensive in a generation to retake Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding regions which have been under Armenian control since 1991. Thousands are killed and more than 100,000 displaced in the worst fighting since that time.

Nagorno-Karabakh War of 2020
The Moscow-brokered ceasefire saw Russian troops interposed between Armenians and Azerbaijanis to keep them apart, but considerable territory had been surrendered by Armenia, with thousands of Armenians fleeing the region and burning their houses to leave nothing for their enemy

Azerbaijan this time is backed and supplied by a far more militaristic Turkey, while Russia's traditional support of Armenia seems to be somewhat lacking. In the end Russian peacekeepers are deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh after Moscow brokers a peace deal which grants Azerbaijan significant territorial concessions.

The southern half of Nagorno-Karabakh has already been captured by Azerbaijan while the Azeri territory between the enclave and Armenia has to be handed over to the Azeris by 1 December, with the truncated Armenian-held remnant being heavily policed by Russian peacekeepers.

2022

Alen Roberti Simonyan

Acting president (1 Feb-13 Mar). KP.

2022

On Monday 22 February, President Putin recognising as independent states the Russian-created breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. Almost immediately afterwards, Putin orders Russian troops to enter Ukraine in a desperate attempt to seize the entire country. The resultant war of attrition which favours the Ukrainian side will have grave repercussions for Armenia.

A Russian tank burns in Ukraine in 2022
Despite outnumbering the more lightly-armed Ukrainian forces by at least three-to-one, Russian forces continued to suffer far heavier casualties, with tank losses surprisingly high as Ukrainian units undertook ambushes against them

2022 - On

Vahagn Garrniki Khachaturyan

President (13 Mar-on). Non-party.

2023

On 19 September, Azerbaijan launches attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh, with bombing raids hitting the regional capital of Stepanakert. The Azeris label the attack an 'anti-terrorist' campaign, but the bombardment also hits civilian targets and appears to be aimed at forcing the weakened Armenian breakaway government into a full surrender (Russian intervention is entirely lacking).

More than half of the region's Armenian population has no option but to flee into Armenia proper across the next week: around 70,000 out of a total of about 120,000 in just that week alone. The Armenian prime minister's spokesman labels the campaign 'ethnic cleansing'. Anyone who remains will be forced to integrate into Azeri society to be able to benefit from Azeri rebuilding and consolidation efforts.

On 28 September, recognising the totality of its defeat, Nagorno-Karabakh's ethnic Armenian government signs a decree to dissolve all state institutions by 1 January 2024. The republic ceases to exist from that day.

Armenians evacuate from Nagorno-Karabakh in 2023
Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh arrive in Kornidzor, Armenia, on Wednesday 27 September, having fled their homes for, many of them say, the last time

 
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