Provisional National Government of the Southwestern Caucasus

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Provisional National Government of the Southwestern Caucasus
Cenûb-i Garbî Kafkas Hükûmet-i Muvakkate-i Millîyesi
Güneybatı Kafkas Geçici Milli Hükûmeti

1918–1919
 

 

 


Flag

Capital Kars
Languages Ottoman Turkish
Government Republic
President Cihangiroğlu İbrahim Bey
Historical era World War I
 -  Partition 1 December 1918
 -  British occupation 19 April 1919
Currency Kuruş
Lira

The Provisional National Government of the Southwestern Caucasus,[1] Provisional National Government of South West Caucasia (Modern Turkish: Güneybatı Kafkas Geçici Milli Hükûmeti; Ottoman Turkish: Cenub-ı Garbi Kafkas Hükûmet-i Muvakkate-i Milliyesi [2] Azerbaijani: Cənub-Qərbi Qafqaz Cümhuriyyəti[citation needed]) or Kars Republic was a short-lived nominally-independent provisional government based in Kars, northeastern Turkey. Born in the wake of the Armistice of Mudros that ended World War I in the Middle East, it existed from December 1, 1918 until April 19, 1919, when it was abolished by British High Commissioner Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe. Some historians consider it to have been an puppet state of the Ottoman Empire[citation needed].

The government, headed by Fakhr al-Din Pirioghlu, considered its territory to be the predominantly Muslim-inhabited regions of Kars and Batum, parts of Yerevan province and the Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki districts of Tiflis province. In practical terms, however, the government was confined to Kars province and existed alongside the British governorship created during the Entente's intervention in Transcaucasia.[3]

Background[edit]

Under the terms of the Armistice of Mudros signed on 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 Oblast 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 centers 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).[4]

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

Establishment[edit]

The majority of the people in the southwestern part of Transcaucasia were Muslims and sought affiliation with Azerbaijan.[6] Georgia, however, blocked Azerbaijan's incorporation of Muslims in the southwest, which would have extended its frontiers to the Black Sea. As a result, on September 27, 1918, the Muslim National Committee under the leadership of Esad Oktay Bey was formed in Kars, which advocated an autonomy or independence similar to that of the newly formed republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

On December 1, 1918, 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.[6]

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

Also during 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 members, including 60 Muslims, three Greeks and one Molokan Russian.[citation needed]

The Parliament of the new republic assembled on January 17 and adopted an eighteen-article constitution (Teskilâtı Esasiye Kanunu). Women were granted voting rights, Kars was declared the capital city and Turkish proclaimed the official language.[citation needed] On March 27, the parliament approved the new government. The new government also applied the Imperial Government of Japan for recognition.[citation needed]

Dissolution[edit]

See also: Malta exiles

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, broke up a parliamentary meeting and arrested thirty parliamentarians and government members. Eleven of the arrested were deported to Batum and then İstanbul, before being exiled to Malta on 2 June. Kars province was placed under Armenian rule and, on July 7, 1920, the Georgian army replaced the British in Batum, who had controlled it since the Turkish withdrawal.[6]

The eleven Malta exiles from the Republic were:

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[edit]

After the treaties concluding the Turkish-Armenian War, the present-day Kars Province and adjacent districts constituting the modern-day Ardahan and Iğdır provinces became part of Turkey.[7]

Timeline[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Rus Kızı Vasilisa ("Russian girl Vasilia"), a dissident history by Erkan Karagöz published in 2002, portrays the short life of the Republic in the context of a love story.[8]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Erik Jan Zürcher, The Unionist factor: the rôle of the Committee of Union and Progress in the Turkish national movement, 1905-1926, Brill, 1984, ISBN 978-90-04-07262-6, p. 90.
  2. ^ Mustafa Budak, İdealden Gerçeğe: Misâk-ı Millî'den Lozan'a Dış Politika, Küre Yayınları, ISBN 975-6614-05-6, pp. 31-32.
  3. ^ Caucasian Knot (Moscow-based news agency)
  4. ^ W.E.D. Allen, P. Muratoff, "Caucasian Battlefields", Cambridge, 1953.
  5. ^ H. Pehlivanli, "The Post Armistice situation on South-West Caucasia" in "Kars and Eastern Anatolia in the Recent History of Turkey", Ankara, 1994.
  6. ^ a b c Sicker, Martin (2001). The Middle East in the Twentieth Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 120. ISBN 0-275-96893-6. 
  7. ^ Recollection while journeying in Turkey by BBC journalist Jonny Dymond.
  8. ^ (Turkish) 2002 Russian Girl Vasilisa