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Cenubî Garbi Kafkas Hükümet-i Cumhuriyesi
South-Western Caucasian Government

1918–1919
 

 

 

Flag

Capital Kars
Language(s) Turkish
Government Republic
President Cihangiroğlu İbrahim Bey
Historical era Interwar period
 - Partition 1 December 1918
 - British Occupation 19 April 1919
Currency Kuruş, Lira

The South-Western Caucasian Government (December 1, 1918 – April 19, 1919) (Turkish: Güney-batı Kafkas Cumhuriyeti, Azerbaijani: Cənub-Qərbi Qafqaz Cümhuriyyəti) or the Kars Republic was a short-lived and nominally independent provisional government, headed by Fakhr al-Din Pirioghlu and centred in Kars and constituted after the Armistice of Mudros that ended WWI in the Middle East. It was abolished by British High Commissioner Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe. Some historians consider it to have been an Ottoman puppet state.

Its territory was to include the predominantly Muslim-inhabited regions of Kars and Batum, parts of the Erivan district in the province of the same name, and the Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki districts of the Tiflis province. However, in practical terms, the republic was confined to the Kars province. It existed alongside with the British general governorship created during the Entente's intervention in Transcaucasia.[1]

Contents

Background

Under the terms of the Armistice of Mudros (30 October 1918) the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire were required to withdraw from all territory belonging to Russia in the Caucasus and return to the west of the pre-war border with Russia. By 4 December 1918 Ottoman forces had retired as far as the old pre-1877 frontier with Russia, but delayed leaving Kars province for a further two months.

This delay allowed the time to set up a pro-Turkish provisional government to resist the expected incorporation of the historically-Armenian province into the Armenian Republic. "National Islamic Councils" were formed in the main population centres of Kars province - Oltu, Kagizman, Igdir, Sarikamis, Ardahan, and Kars itself - as well as settlements in adjoining territories where there were Turkish-speaking or Muslim populations (including Akhalkalaki, Akhaltzikhe, and Batumi).[2]

The most important was the "Kars Islamic Council", established on 5 November 1918. In December it changed its name to the "National Council", in January 1919 to the "Kars National Council", and finally in March 1919 to the "Provisional National Government of South-West Caucasia".[3] The government claimed authority over all of Kars province together with all Turkish or Muslim-populated areas between Batumi and Nakhchivan (this amounted to most of the territory, other than Azerbaijan, which had been evacuated by the Ottoman Army under the Mudros armistice).

Establishment

The majority of the people in the southwestern part of Transcaucasia were Muslims and therefore quite understandably sought to affiliate with Azerbaijan[4]. However, Georgia blocked Azerbaijan's incorporation of Muslims in the southwest, which would have extended its frontiers to Black Sea. As a result, on September 27 1918, the Muslim National Committee under the leadership of Dr. Esad Oktay Bey was formed in Kars, which advocated an autonomy or independence, similar in nature to the newly-formed republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

On December 1 1918, gathered in congress in Kars, the Muslim National Committee unilaterally declared an independent South-Western Caucasian Republic (Cenubî Garbi Kafkas Cumhuriyeti) and elected Cihangirzade Ibrahim Bey as its president. The new republic laid claims to the districts of Kars, Batum, Akhaltsikh, Akhalkalaki, Sharur and Nakhichevan, a claim supported by Azerbaijan. It extended full rights to all except Armenians and received assurances from the British about the protection against the claims by Georgia and Armenia on its territory until the question would be decided by the Paris Peace Conference[4].

On January 13, 1919, a delegation of 60 Armenians were sent to Kars by the British Command in Batum to install an Armenian politician, Korganov as the governor of Kars. The Parliament of the Republic rejected this proposal and refused to further negotiate with the Armenians. Incidents of violence between the parties increased dramatically after this event.

In the meantime, during the same month of January 1919, the Republic had seen democratic elections leading to the formation of a parliament on January 14, elected at a ratio of one deputy per 10,000 voters. The parliament consisted of 64 people, including 60 Muslims, three Greeks, and one Molokan Russian.

The Parliament of the new republic assembled on January 17th and adopted the constitution, "Teskilâtı Esasiye Kanunu". With the new 18 article long constitution, women were granted voting rights, Kars was declared the capital city and Turkish proclaimed the official language. On March 27, the parliament approved the new government. The new government also applied the Imperial Government of Japan for recognition.

Dissolution

The British commitment of protection was ignored as fighting broke out between the South-Western Caucasian Republic and both Georgia and Armenia. British troops dispatched from Batum on orders from General William M. Thomson occupied Kars on April 19 1919, breaking up the meeting of the parliament and arresting 30 parliamentarians and government members. Eleven of the arrested were deported first to Batum, and then to İstanbul and on 2 June to exile in Malta. As for the Kars province, the English soon placed it under Armenia's rule. On July 7, 1920, the Georgian army entered Batum replacing British, who had controlled it since the Turkish withdrawal[4].

The eleven Malta exiles from the Republic were the following:

Malta exiles
1 Aziz Cihangiroğlu June 2, 1919 Justice Minister
2 Alibeyzade Mehmet Bey June 2 1919 27 16 Civil Governor
3 Hasan Han Cihangiroğlu June 2 1919 Defense Minister
4 İbrahim Cihangiroğlu June 2 1919 27 17 Parliament leader
5 Mehmetoğlu Muhlis Bey June 2 1919 27 27 Communication (postal-telegram-telephone) chief
6 Matroi Radjinski June 2 1919 27 25 Russian Member of the Parliament
7 Musa Salah Bey June 2 1919 27 20 Police chief
8 Pavlo Camusev June 2 1919 27 14 Greek Member of the Parliament
9 Tauchitgin Memlejeff June 2 1919 27 22 Interior Minister
10 Stefani Vafiades June 2 1919 27 26 Social help minister
11 Yusufoğlu Yusuf Bey June 2 1919 27 21 Food Minister

Aftermath

After the Turkish-Armenian War and the concluding treaties, Turkey's present-day Kars Province as well as its adjacent districts constituting the modern-day Ardahan and Iğdır provinces became part of Turkey. A BBC journalist recently on a visit to Kars recalls the brief episode of the republic in this context.[5]

A dissident history portraying the short life of the Republic via literature and on the background of a love story, "Russian girl Vasilisa", involving the principal hero Şevket, who takes up cause for the republic and Vasilisa, a young Molokan woman, was written by the scholar Erkan Karagöz. A review by the Turkish language daily that was published in Germany, on this novel, on its sequel as well as on Karagöz's earlier historical investigation on the Republic makes reference to "Anatolia’s first multicultural, democratic, and independent republic which was based on the principle of brotherhood among peoples that official history disregards".[6]

Timeline

  • On March 1878, Kars annexed by Russia from the Ottoman Empire.
  • On Mar 3 1918, Russian evacuates Kars under provisions of Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
  • On April 14 1918, Ottoman occupation of Kars region.
  • October 30 1918 The Armistice of Mudros ended the hostilities in Middle Eastern theatre of World War I
  •  ? ? 1918, departure of Ottoman Army from Caucasus.
  • December 1 1918 South-Western Caucasian Republic proclaimed with capital at Kars.
  • January 13 1919, Armenians from Democratic Republic of Armenia sent to Kars.
  • On April 10 1919, abolished by High Commissioner Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe.
  • On April 19 1919, general William M. Thomson occupied Kars region.
  • On March 16 1921, the Treaty of Kars, Batum region part of Georgia S.S.R

See also

Sources

Footnotes

  1. ^ Caucasian Knot (Moscow-based news agency)
  2. ^ W.E.D. Allen, P. Muratoff, "Caucasian Battlefields", Cambridge, 1953.
  3. ^ H. Pehlivanli, "The Post Armistice situation on South-West Caucasia" in "Kars and Eastern Anatolia in the Recent History of Turkey", Ankara, 1994.
  4. ^ a b c Sicker, Martin (2001). The Middle East in the Twentieth Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 120. ISBN 0275968936.  
  5. ^ Turkish journey by Jonny Dymond
  6. ^ Molokan web portal
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