Armenian National Council (1917–18)
The Armenian National Council (Armenian: Հայոց Ազգային Խորհուրդ) was a permanent executive body formed by the Armenian National Congress in Tbilisi (then in the Russian Empire) in October 1917. The Council was responsible for creating the First Republic of Armenia in May 1918, the first independent Armenian state since the Middle Ages.
The Council consisted of 15 members, under the chairmanship of Avetis Aharonian. Although the Armenian National Congress was dominated by the Dashnak Party, to compromise with other political groups, the Dashnaks only took six of the available seats on the council.
The original 15 members were as follows:
- Avetis Aharonyan (Dashnak Party), chairman
- Aram Manukian (Dashnak Party)
- Nikol Aghbalian (Dashnak Party)
- Ruben Ter-Minasian (Dashnak Party)
- Khachatur Karjikian (Dashnak Party)
- Artashes Babalian (Dashnak Party)
- Samson Harutiunian (Populist Party)
- Mikayel Papadjanian (Populist Party)
- Misha (Mikayel) Gharabekian (Social Democrat Party)
- Ghazar Ter-Ghazarian (Social Democrat Party)
- Haik Ter-Ohanian (Social Revolutionary Party)
- Anushavan Stamboltsian (Social Revolutionary Party)
- Stepan Mamikonian (Nonpartisan)
- Tigran Bekzadian (Nonpartisan)
- Petros Zakarian (Nonpartisan)
In May 1918, the Transcaucasian Federative Republic disintegrated. It had governed the peoples of former Russian-ruled Transcaucasia, including the Armenians, Georgians and Azerbaijanis. On 26 May, the Georgian National Council proclaimed the independence of Georgia and the Muslim National Council in Tbilisi followed by proclaiming the independence of Azerbaijan on 28 May. Since Armenians were at war with Turkey, the Armenian National Council was reluctant to proclaim Armenian independence, but decided it had no other option given the dissolution of the Trancaucasian Federative Republic, and the decision was announced on 30 May. This led to the creation of the Democratic Republic of Armenia.
Peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire
The National Council now sent representatives to Batumi to negotiate a peace settlement with the Ottoman Empire, which was fighting the Armenians in the area near Yerevan. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed on 4 June 1918. The treaty meant accepting territorial losses, especially in the provinces of Kars and Yerevan; a reduction of the Armenian army; liberties for Muslims in the new state; and the right of the Ottoman Army to cross Armenian territory.
Formation of a cabinet
On 9 June, the Armenian National Council asked the Dashnak politician Hovhannes Kachaznuni to form a government. The Dashnaks wanted it to be a coalition with other parties, feeling they were too inexperienced to rule alone. However, no other party enjoyed anything like the same degree of popular support. The Populists, Socialist Revolutionaries and Social Democrats also quarrelled among themselves, making a coalition impossible, so on 30 June Kachaznuni was forced to nominate a cabinet composed solely of Dashnaks plus one non-partisan minister.
Move to Yerevan
On 17 July, the Armenian National Council moved from Tbilisi to Yerevan. This was a controversial action as almost one million Russian Armenians did not live in Armenia proper but in Georgia, Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus. However, relations between the Council and the new Democratic Republic of Georgia had deteriorated to such a point that the Council no longer felt able to remain in Tbilisi. Georgian officials snubbed the Armenian politicians as they left. The Armenian National Council and the Cabinet travelled to Yerevan via Azerbaijan, to avoid the Ottoman army. In contrast to the Georgian response, Azerbaijani officials gave the Armenians a warm welcome.
The Council becomes the Khorhurd
Elections were impossible given the situation in Yerevan, so the Dashnaks, Populists, Socialist Revolutionaries and Social Democrats decided to transform the Armenian National Council into a legislature ("Khorhurd") for the new state by tripling its membership. As well as members of the four parties, it also included non-partisan Armenian politicians and representatives of minorities in the republic: six Muslims, one Yezidi and one Russian. The Khorhurd first met on 1 August 1918.
- Hovannisian p.18
- Hovannisian p.18, footnote
- Hovannisian pp.30-33
- Hovannisian, pp.33-38
- Hovannisian, pp.39-41
- Hovannisian pp.41-42
- Hovannisian, p.42
- Richard G. Hovanissian The Republic of Armenia: The First Year 1918-19 (University of California, 1971)
- Rouben Paul Adalian Historical Dictionary of Armenia (Scarecrow Press, 2010)
- Michael A. Reynolds Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires 1908-1918 (Cambridge University Press, 2011)