Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic

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Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic

Закавказская демократическая федеративная республика
Transcaucasia immediately prior to the formation of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic
Transcaucasia immediately prior to the formation of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic
Common languagesOfficial:
GovernmentFederative republic
• President
Nikolay Chkheidze
• Prime Minister
Akaki Chkhenkeli
Historical eraRussian Revolution
• Federation proclaimed
22 April 1918
• Georgia declares independence
26 May 1918
• Independence of Armenia and Azerbaijan
28 May 28 1918
CurrencyTranscaucasian ruble (ru)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Transcaucasian Commissariat
Democratic Republic of Georgia
Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
Republic of Armenia
Today part of Armenia

The Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic (TDFR;[a] 22 April  – 28 May 1918)[b] also known as the Transcaucasian Federation, was a short-lived South Caucasian state extending across what are now the modern-day countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, plus parts of eastern Turkey as well as Russian border areas. The state only lasted for a month before Georgia declared independence, followed shortly by Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The region that formed the TDFR had been part of the Russian Empire, and the 1917 February Revolution saw the empire dissolved and a Provisional Government formed in Russia. A similar body was formed in the Caucasus, the Special Transcaucasian Committee (Ozakom), but with the October Revolution and rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia the Transcaucasian Commissariat was formed to replace the Ozakom. Peace talks with the Ottoman Empire, who were looking to further their invasion of the region, were not successful as the Ottoman refused to accept the authority of the Commissariat, so an independent state was proclaimed on 22 April, the TDFR.

However differing goals between the three major groups (Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians) ensured that the TDFR was not sustainable, and faced with a renewed Ottoman offensive in May 1918, the Georgians proclaimed their independence as the Georgian Democratic Republic on 26 May, seeking aid from the German Empire. With the Georgians no longer part of the TDFT, the Armenians and Azerbaijanis each declared themselves independent on 28 May, ending the republic.



The South Caucasus had been conquered by the Russian Empire early in the nineteenth century, with the last annexations taking place in 1828.[1] Over the next several decades the administration of the region was variously modified in order to consolidate Russian control over the region, and a Caucasian Viceroyalty was established in 1845 (similar roles had existed since 1801).[2] Tiflis (now Tbilisi) was the seat of the viceroy and the de facto capital of the region.[3] The South Caucasus was overwhelmingly rural: aside from Tiflis the only other city of significance was Baku.[4] Baku grew in the later part of the nineteenth century as oil began to be exported from the region, and became a major economic hub.[5]

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Caucasus became a major theatre, with the Russian and Ottoman Empires fighting in the region.[6] While the Russians managed to win some early battles, the authorities were concerned that the local population, which had a large portion of Muslims, would turn and join the Ottoman forces, as the Ottoman Sultan was also the caliph, the spiritual leader of Islam.[7] In a similar vein, both sides wanted to use the Armenian population to their advantage.[8] However military defeats led the Ottoman to turn against the Armenians, and by 1915 launched the Armenian Genocide, in which an estimate 0.8 to 1.5 million Armenians were killed.[9][10]

The 1917 February Revolution saw the demise of the Russian Empire and the establishment of a provisional government in Russia. Grand Duke Nicholas, the Viceroy of the Caucasus, initially expressed his support for the new government, but was forced to resign his post.[11] A new authority, the Special Transcaucasian Committee (known as Ozakom, from the Russian Особый Закавказский Комитет; Osobyy Zakavkazskiy Komitet), was established on 9 March 1917.[12] This was meant to function as a "collective viceroyalty," with members from the various ethnic groups of the region represented.[13] Much like in Petrograd, a dual power system was established, with the Ozakom competing with soviets (councils).[14] With little support from the government in Petrograd, the Ozakom had trouble establishing its authority over the soviets, most prominently the Tiflis Soviet.[15]


Nikolay Chkheidze

News of the October Revolution, which brought the Bolsheviks to power in Petrograd on 25 October 1917, reached the Caucasus the following day. The Soviet met and declared their opposition to the Bolsheviks, and three days later the idea of an autonomous local government was first expressed by the Georgian Menshevik Noe Jordania.[16] A further meeting on 15 November 1917, saw the creation of the Transcaucasian Commissariat. Composed of representatives from the four major ethnic groups in the region (Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Georgians, and Russians) it replaced the Ozakom as the government of the South Caucasus, and was set to serve in that role until the Russian Constituent Assembly could meet in January 1918. Evgeni Gegechkori, a Georgian, was named the president of the Commissariat, and was also named the Commissar of External Affairs. The other commissariats were split between Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Georgians, and Russians.[17] Formed with the express purpose of being a caretaker government, the Commissariat was not able to govern strongly, and was dependent on national councils (formed along ethnic lines) for military support and was effectively powerless to enforce any laws it passed.[18]

During this time the Ottoman forces were still looking to move into the Caucasus. While this position was supported by the Azerbaijanis, who felt a kin On 5 December 1917, a temporary ceasefire, the Armistice of Erzincan, was signed with the Ottoman Third Army.[19] This lasted until 30 January 1918, when the Ottoman launched a new offensive into the Caucasus.[20]

The Constituent Assembly only met once, on 5 January 1918 before it was ended by the Bolsheviks, an act that effectively consolidated their power in Russia.[21] This confirmed for the Commissariat that they would not be able to work with the Bolsheviks in any serious capacity, and so began to form a more formal government.[22] Thus on 10 February 1918 the Commissariat created an legislature, known as the "Seim".[23] No election was held for the deputies, but rather those elected to represent the Caucasus at the Constituent Assembly were named, with the voting threshold lowered to one-third in order to allow more members to join.[24] Nikolai Chkheidze, a Georgian, was named the chairman.[23] Immediately talks began of initiating peace talks with the Ottoman.[25]


On 18 February 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk marked the end of Russia's involvement in the First World War. The Ottoman Empire regained Batum, Kars and Ardahan. Starting on 14 March, the Trabzon peace conference was held between the Ottoman Empire and a delegation from the Seim. By 5 April, the head of the Transcaucasian delegation, Akaki Chkhenkeli, accepted the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk as a basis for more negotiations and urged the Transcaucasian governments to accept this position.[26] The mood in Tiflis, however, was very different. Instead of being bound by the terms of Brest-Litovsk, the Sejm gathered and made the decision to establish independence. On 22 April 1918, it proclaimed the establishment of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. A state of war between the Republic and the Ottoman Empire was confirmed and, shortly afterwards, the Ottoman Third Army took Erzerum and Kars.[26]

A new peace conference was convened at Batum on 11 May.[27] The Ottoman Empire extended its demands to include Tiflis as well as Alexandropol and Echmiadzin, where their leaders wanted to build a railroad to connect Kars and Julfa with Baku. No agreement was reached and, on 21 May, the Ottoman forces resumed their advance. The battles of Bash Abarn (21 May –24), Sardarapat (21 May –29) and Kara Killisse (24 May –28) followed.[28]


The TDFR never had a strong foundation. With the ongoing Ottoman invasion, despite recognizing the republic's invasion, as well as disunity between the Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians, it was impossible to keep it together. The Georgians were the first group to cast doubt on the long-term prospects of the federation: in a letter to Noe Ramishvili, the Georgian Commissar of the Interior, sent during the Batumi peace conference on 12 May, Chkhenkeli stated that changes had to be made, and that "Georgia will go its own separate way."[29] He further noted to Ramishvili that in late 1917 "official notes were exchanged between Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, stating that they are obliged to recognize Georgia’s independence."[29] A speech by Irakli Tsereteli to the Sejm on 26 May confirmed the latter, in which he told the body that the republic from the start had been unable to operate due to the people not being unified.[30] In response to this the Georgian leadership declared an independent state, the Democratic Republic of Georgia, on May 26, 1918.[31] This was followed two days later by both the Democratic Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.[32]


Following the Russian Revolution, the breakup of the Russian Caucasus Army left the Caucasus virtually undefended against the advancing Ottoman Third Army. In response, the Armenians, Georgians and Azerbaijanis attempted to establish a unified military, placing their forces under the command of a "Military Council of Nationalities". These forces consisted of Armenian volunteer units formed during the course of the First World War; Georgian forces raised by their Provisional Government; and Azerbaijani troops raised independently.

The Military Council of Nationalities was short-lived. On May 28, 1918, Georgia signed the Treaty of Poti with Germany and welcomed the German Caucasus Expedition as protection against post-Revolution instability and the Ottoman military advance.[33] Azerbaijan, on the other hand, chose to ally itself with the Ottoman Empire.[34]


As the TDFR only lasted a month, it did not leave much of a legacy. Historians Adrian Brisku and Timothy K. Blauvelt have noted that it "seemed both to the actors at the time and to later scholars of the region to be unique, contingent, and certainly unrepeatable."[35] Stephen F. Jones stated it was "the first and last attempt at an independent Transcaucasian union."[36] While the three successor states would be reunited within the Soviet Union as the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, this would only exist between 1922 and 1936 before again being broken up into three union republics.[37] Within the modern states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, the TDFR is largely ignored in their respective national historiography, only given consideration as the first stage towards their own independent states.[38]


Akaki Chkhenkeli served both as prime minister and foreign affairs minister for the republic


Portfolio Minister
Prime Minister Akaki Chkhenkeli
Minister of Foreign Affairs Akaki Chkhenkeli
Minister of the Interior Noe Ramishvili
Minister of Finance Alexander Khatisian
Minister of Transportation Khudadat bey Malik-Aslanov
Minister of Justice Fatali Khan Khoyski
Minister of War Grigol Giorgadze
Minister of Agriculture Noe Khomeriki
Minister of Education Nasib Yusifbeyli
Minister of Commerce and Industry Mammad Hasan Hajinski
Minister of Supplies Avetik Saakian
Minister of Social Welfare Hovhannes Kajaznuni
Minister of Labour Aramayis Erzinkian
Minister State Control Ibrahim Haidarov



See also[edit]



  1. ^ Russian: Закавказская демократическая Федеративная Республика (ЗДФР), Zakavkazskaya Demokraticheskaya Federativnaya Respublika (ZDFR)
  2. ^ The Russian Empire, and the TDFR, used the Julian calendar, which was 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar used by most of Europe at that time. Dates throughout the article are given according to the Julian calendar as a result.


  1. ^ Saparov 2015, p. 20
  2. ^ Saparov 2015, pp. 21–23
  3. ^ Marshall 2010, p. 38
  4. ^ King 2008, p. 146
  5. ^ King 2008, p. 150
  6. ^ King 2008, p. 154
  7. ^ Marshall 2010, pp. 48–49
  8. ^ Suny 2015, p. 228
  9. ^ de Waal 2015, p. 31
  10. ^ King 2008, pp. 157–158
  11. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, pp. 32–33
  12. ^ Hasanli 2016, p. 10
  13. ^ Swietochowski 1985, pp. 84–85
  14. ^ Suny 1994, p. 186
  15. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, p. 35
  16. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, pp. 54–55
  17. ^ Swietochowski 1985, p. 106
  18. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, p. 58
  19. ^ Mamoulia 2020, p. 23
  20. ^ Engelstein 2018, p. 334
  21. ^ Swietochowski 1985, p. 108
  22. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, p. 85
  23. ^ a b Bakradze 2020, p. 60
  24. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, p. 87
  25. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, pp. 88–89
  26. ^ a b Hovhannisian 1997, pp. 292–293
  27. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, p. 109
  28. ^ Hovhannisian 1997, p. 299
  29. ^ a b Bakradze 2020, p. 59
  30. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, p. 120
  31. ^ Suny 1994, pp. 191–192
  32. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, pp. 123–124
  33. ^ Lang 1962, pp. 207–208
  34. ^ Swietochowski 1985, p. 130
  35. ^ Brisku & Blauvelt 2020, p. 1
  36. ^ Jones 2005, p. 279
  37. ^ King 2008, p. 187
  38. ^ Brisku & Blauvelt 2020, p. 4
  39. ^ Kazemzadeh 1951, p. 107


  • Bakradze, Lasha (2020), "The German perspective on the Transcaucasian Federation and the influence of the Committee for Georgia's Independence", Caucasus Survey, 8 (1): 59–68, doi:10.1080/23761199.2020.1714877
  • Brisku, Adrian; Blauvelt, Timothy K. (2020), "Who wanted the TDFR? The making and the breaking of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic", Caucasus Survey, 8 (1): 1–8, doi:10.1080/23761199.2020.1712897
  • de Waal, Thomas (2015), Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-935069-8
  • Engelstein, Laura (2018), Russia in Flames: War, Revolutio, Civil War 1914–1921, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-093150-6
  • Hasanli, Jamil (2016), Foreign Policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan: The difficult road to Western integration, 1918–1920, New York City: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-7656-4049-9
  • Hovhannisian, Richard G. (2012), "Armenia's Road to Independence", in Hovhannisian, Richard G. (ed.), The Armenian People From Ancient Times to Modern Times, Volume II: Foreign Dominion to Statehood: The Fifteenth Century to the Twentieth Century, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: MacMillan, pp. 275–302, ISBN 978-0-333-61974-2
  • Jones, Stephen F. (2005), Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy 1883–1917, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-67-401902-7
  • Kazemzadeh, Firuz (1951), The Struggle for Transcaucasia (1917–1921), New York City: Philosophical Library, ISBN 978-0-95-600040-8
  • King, Charles (2008), The Ghost of Freedom:A History of the Caucasus, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-539239-5
  • Lang, David Marshall (1962), A Modern History of Soviet Georgia, New York City: Grove Press
  • Mamoulia, Georges (2020), "Azerbaijan and the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic: historical reality and possibility", Caucasus Survey, 8 (1): 21–30, doi:10.1080/23761199.2020.1712901
  • Marshall, Alex (2010), The Caucasus Under Soviet Rule, New York City: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-41-541012-0
  • Saparov, Arsène (2015), From Conflict to Autonomy in the Caucasus: The Soviet Union and the making of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh, New York City: Routledge, ISBN 978-1-138-47615-8
  • Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994), The Making of the Georgian Nation (Second ed.), Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, ISBN 978-0-25-320915-3
  • Suny, Ronald Grigor (2015), "They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-14730-7
  • Swietochowski, Tadeusz (1985), Russian Azerbaijan, 1905–1920: The Shaping of National Identity in a Muslim Community, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521522-45-5
  • Zürcher, Christoph (2007), The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict, and Nationhood in the Caucasus, New York City: New York University Press, ISBN 978-0-81-479709-9

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 41°43′N 44°47′E / 41.717°N 44.783°E / 41.717; 44.783