Part 1 can be found here.
We were up to the summer of 1919, but let's backtrack a little and look at how the Republic evolved.
First off, it wasn't very big. According to the Treaty of Batum, forced on Armenia by the Turks in May 1918, Armenia was a tiny state consisting basically of Yerevan, the holy city of Echmiadzin, and some rocky land around Lake Sevan. It was about 2/3 the size of modern Armenia (which isn't that big anyhow). The Turks took everything west of the Araxes River -- including Mount Ararat, which had been Armenian since forever, and the fertile plain around Kars -- snipped off the rail line that ran north towards Russia, and claimed Armenia's only industrial region (around Alexandropol, modern Gyumri).
Second, it was in a hell of a mess. In very round numbers, Armenia in 1918 had about 700,000 people... 300,000 native Armenians, 100,000 non-Armenians (Azeris, Kurds, some Russians and Greeks), and 300,000 refugees from the genocide. Starving, penniless refugees were everywhere. Since Armenia had no large towns except Yerevan, the countryside was full of beggars.
And corpses. The Spanish influenza swept through in 1918, as it did everywhere else. Then a major typhus epidemic followed it... typhus, spread by lice, moved with particular ease among the ragged, ill-clothed refugees. Meanwhile the winter of 1918-19 was one of the coldest on record. The Turks closed the borders so no trade went out (not that there was anything to trade) and no outside aid got in.
So in the first year of the Republic's existence, between 120,000 and 150,000 of its people -- roughly 20% of the population -- died.
Third, there were still a lot of Armenians outside the Republic's borders. Putting aside the distant populations of the Diaspora, there were plenty of Armenians in the southern districts of Nakhichevan, Zangezur, and Karabakh; tens of thousands in Tblisi and Baku (even after the pogrom); and some number still hanging on in the debatable lands across the Araxes, in what's now Turkey. This complicated the Republic's foreign policy considerably.
(To jump ahead a bit, those three southern districts would end up splitting three ways. Zangezur would get ethnically cleansed of most non-Armenians, as described in the last post, and would end up becoming the southern part of modern Armenia. Nakhichevan would be exactly the opposite; most Armenians would be driven out, and it would end up as that funny sliver of Azerbaijan that's on the wrong side of Armenia, wedged in next to Turkey and Iran. And Karabakh would remain ethnically mixed, though with an Armenian majority, until the 1990s.)
Also, the Republican leadership didn't command the loyalty of everyone in the Republic. The most obvious case was General Andranik and his army, who either ignored the leaders in Yerevan or actually opposed them. Andranik closed up shop in 1919, but there were also plenty of Armenian Bolsheviks (who were plotting against the Republic pretty much from day one) some Hunchaks (Marxist nationalists who thought the Dashnaks were tools of bourgeois imperialism) and a lot of non-Armenians who weren't delighted about being under Armenian rule.
Fourth, the Republic was at war almost continously throughout its two-and-a-half years of existence. War with the Turks in 1918 and again in 1919-20; war with the Georgians in 1918; irregular war with the Kurds in the south; almost continous war with the Azeris, especially in Karabakh.
So, what with one thing and another, modern Armenians don't look back at the Republic with a lot of nostalgia. It was a complicated and depressing period of chaos -- war, massacre, famine and plague.
On the other hand, it could have been even worse. The Republican leadership did manage to keep the Turks out of at least a corner of Armenian land, and even pushed them back a little.
...the Republican leadership. Okay, the Republic was dominated by a group called the Dashnaks (pron. dosh - nocks) who were originally a nationalist guerrilla-terrorist movement. In the years before WWI, they were sort of like the Irish Republican Army: they went around killing Ottoman officials, blowing stuff up, and trying to organize the Armenians. Organize the ones inside the Ottoman Empire for revolt against the Turks; organize the ones outside (in Russia) for greater autonomy. (The Russians didn't like the Dashnaks much, but considered them useful tools against the Ottomans.)
You can question whether the Dashnaks were the best possible leadership for any new nation, never mind this one, but they were the only ones organized enough to take over. So they did. A lot of them had been killed in the war and the genocide, but they were pretty disciplined and the party organization had survived. (In many ways they resembled their contemporaries, the Bolsheviks. Although they weren't Marxists... there were Marxist Armenian revolutionaries, but they formed a different group, the Hunchaks. Who were Marxist, but not Bolsheviks. Although there were also Armenian Bolsheviks.)
The administrative core of what would be the Republic was created by two guys named Aram Manukian and Drastamat Kanayan, both Dashnaks. I know I'm billing this as a "brief" history, but Manukian and Kanayan are interesting enough to deserve a paragraph's digression. Manukian, 39, had organized the Armenians around Lake Van to successful resistance in 1915, so he was a pretty huge national hero. Kanayan, 34, had fought for the Russians, then been one of the commanders at the battle of Bash Abaran (one of the three battles against the Turks in May 1918). These two ran a "popular dictatorship" in the Yerevan region for several months in early 1918; the Russian administration had left pretty much nothing behind, but Kanayan and Manukian managed to set up a functional government that the Republican leadership could take over.
Manukian died of typhus a few months later, in the nightmare winter of 1918-1919; he didn't live to his fortieth birthday. Kanayan lived to see the end of the Republic and eventually left Armenia for Europe. In WWII he would cooperate with the Nazis, commanding a battalion of ethnic Armenians for the Germans. The Americans captured Kanayan in 1945 and kept him imprisoned for a little while, but eventually let him go; he died in Boston in 1956, at the age of 72. The Dashnaks still claim Manukian as the founder of the Republic and the father of modern Armenia; while not everyone agrees, he's a revered figure. Kanayan... doesn't get discussed as much.
Anyway. The Dashnaks did make one attempt to hold elections, and tried (how hard is hotly disputed) to bring other parties into the tent. The legacy of the First Republic is still something of a political football today, but from what I can see it looks like the Dashnaks could have done better, could also have done worse, and in general tried to do their best in a pretty difficult situation.
Okay, so. Back to the summer of 1919. Things are picking up a little for the young Republic. The horrible winter is a fading memory and aid -- millions of tons of grain -- is flowing in from the Allies. The Turks are in disarray, the Russians are totally preoccupied with their civil war.
Part 3 in a bit. -- N.B., comments are welcome from people who know more than I do... I'm writing this in part because I'm trying to make sense of it.