Formation of Political Boundaries in the 20th century South Caucasus
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi state university, Faculty of social and political sciences
The process of modern state-building started in the South Caucasus after the revolutions оf 1917 in Russia. When signing the peace treaty with Central Powers in Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918) the Bolshevik government of Russia did not recognize the South Caucasus as an independent political entity in spite of existence of clear elements of statehood there and ceded parts of the latter‟s territory to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans, having clear military superiority, immediately intervened in the formation of the boundaries of the newly independent republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. The treaties with Ottoman Empire (Batumi, June 4, 1918) following the clauses of Brest-Litovsk Treaty were harsh to Georgia and Armenia. Although the Ottoman Empire recognized its defeat by Entente in WW1 on October 30, 1918 the boundary pattern of June 1918 was to be discussed again two and a half years later. The relative weakness of the neighbouring powers from the end of 1918 till the spring of 1920 when Russia was involved in civil war and the nascent new Turkey fought with different forces gave the South Caucasus states a theoretical chance to divide the territory with stable political boundaries but they failed to achieve a consensus. During the break-up of an empire different approaches are being used by the new states emerging in its place, based on the principles of “ethnic settlement”, “historical territory”, or “imperial administrative-territorial division”. The first two principles are vague and more effective only in the case of a strong external po wer exerting its will, e.g. when the territory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was divided among the emerging Central European states by the victorious Entente according to the Treaties of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919) and Trianon (1920). The principle of “imperial administrative-territorial division” had been used successfully in the cases of decolonization of Africa and dissolution of the USSR. While not considered as a just one by everybody, this principle is a certain means of avoiding boundary conflicts. The same principle was supported by the Georgian Democratic Republic in 1918-1920 and it was used as the base in Russia-Georgia Treaty of May 7, 1920. The principle was more or less acceptable to the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic and the least acceptable to the Republic of Armenia. The Soviet Russia which entered the South Caucasus in 1920-1921 encountered already formed political entities there. The boundaries of Georgia and Armenia with Turkey and a part of Armenia-Azerbaijan boundary were defined by the Moscow Treaty between Russia and Turkey (16 March, 1921). The results of Turkey-Armenia war of 1920 affected actual division as well. The administrative borders between the Union Republics of the USSR, which existed till dissolution of the latter in 1991, turned into the state boundaries.
South Caucasus, state building, political boundaries, international treaties