Democratic Republic of Armenia

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Map of the Democratic Republic of Armenia from March 1919 to March 1920. Consult the legend for further information. (Atlas of Conflicts)

The Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA; Դեմոկրատական Հայաստանի Հանրապետություն, Demokratakan Hayastani Hanrapetutyun; also known as the First Republic of Armenia) was declared on May 28, 1918 after the dissolution of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. Its army continued to fight on the Allied side south of the Caucasus until the Ottoman Empire surrendered in October 1918. The independent republic endured from May 1918 to December 1920. In the new government, ARF leaders R.I. Kachazuni and A.I. Khatisian became prime minister and foreign minister, respectively.

The Democratic Republic of Armenia included the northeastern part of present-day eastern Turkey, and the League of Nations forsaw mandated it continue west along the Black Sea coast past Trabzon and southwest past Lake Van. But Armenia's precarious independence was threatened from within by the terrible economic conditions that followed the war in the former Ottoman Empire and, by 1920, by the territorial ambitions of Soviet Russia and the nationalist Turks under Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk had rehabilitated Turkey rapidly under a new democratic system, but the ruling party still hoped to create a larger state by taking territory in western Armenia from which Armenians had been driven. In defending its independence, the Republic of Armenia waited in vain, however, for the material and military aid promised at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The Allies' memories of the 1915 massacre faded as war weariness and isolationism dominated their foreign policy.

In agreeing to the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, the World War I Allies and Turkey recognized Armenian independence; as part of the treaty, Armenia received some disputed territory in what had been the Ottoman Empire. However, most of western Armenia remained in Turkish hands. Eastern Armenia, ravaged by warfare, migration, and disease, had an Armenian population of only 720,000 by 1920. Caught between the advancing Turks and the Red Army, which had already occupied neighboring Azerbaijan, in November 1920 the ARF government made a political agreement with the communists to enter a coalition government. The Treaty of Aleksandropol', signed by this government with Turkey, returned Armenia's northern Kars District to Russia? and repudiated the existence of Armenian populations in newly expanded Turkey.