History is complicated. But history in the Caucasus? Master class time.
Armenian history is so goddamn complicated that only now, after almost two years in the country, am I starting to get a handle on it. This is partly because there aren't a lot of good sources in English; partly because a lot of what there is, is a chapter in someone else's history book; partly because the few Armenian histories in English tend to be very, um, Armenian; but mostly because it's just complicated.
Here's a short history of the First Armenian Republic (1918-1921). I am not making any of this up.
In the first few months of World War One, the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia and Britain. For the next three years, the Russians proceeded to kick Ottoman ass halfway across Anatolia. (Oddly, although the Brits were more advanced and considered better fighters than the Russians, the Ottomans lost to the Russians but repeatedly humiliated the Brits. Go figure.)
Starting in 1915, the Ottomans started killing all their Armenians. For everything that follows, assume that wherever Ottoman armies went, Armenians went away -- one way or another.
In 1917, the Russian Empire collapsed, first into the short-lived Kerensky regime and then into the Russian Civil War. Early in the October Revolution (which took place in November... calendar issues), the Bolsheviks called on Russian soldiers to stop fighting and come home. The Russian army in Anatolia promptly disintegrated. As the Russians washed back into the Caucasus, the three Caucasian nations (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) decided that they didn't want to be part of this whole civil war thing and declared a Trans-Caucasus Republic. (There was also a Northern Caucasus Republic, involving Chechens and whatnot, but never mind them.) The idea was to stick together and hold off the various forces -- Allies, Ottomans, Bolsheviks -- who wanted the Caucasus. But since the three nations disliked and distrusted each other, and the Armenians were still reeling from the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turks while the Azeris wanted to join a Greater New Turk State, the Trans-Caucasus Republic thing didn't work out so well.
Meanwhile the Bolsheviks, in between rounds of the Russian Civil War, first signed a friendship treaty with the Ottomans and then signed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, giving all of Russian Anatolia back to Turkey. The Ottomans were not satisfied with this and decided to invade the Caucasus.
As the Caucasus Republic collapsed, the Armenians defeated the Turks in three brilliant battles. A few days later, they signed a treaty giving most Armenian lands to Turkey, disbanding their army, and allowing Turkish troops free passage on their way to Azerbaijan. They also reluctantly agreed to accept independence, which they didn't want. This actually does make sense, but it would take a while to explain why.
Armenia's best general, Andranik, refused to accept this. He moved his army into Zangezur -- what's now southern Armenia, down by Iran -- and began a vigorous campaign of (1) winning small battles against Turkish forces (mostly Kurdish irregulars) and (2) ethnically cleansing the local Azeris, Kurds and Turks. Which is how southern Armenia became Armenian... it was ethnically mixed before.
The new Armenian state, under heavy Turkish pressure, promptly devoted itself to hunting Andranik down. The treaty also obliged them to help the Central Powers against the Allies, but since they weren't near any Allies that was neither here nor there. The Turks also closed the new Republic's borders, causing thousands of Armenians to starve. (At this point "Armenia" was not so much a country as a geographical expression covered with refugee camps.)
Some British showed up in Baku around this time. They didn't stay long, because the Turks beat them again and chased them out. The Turks then massacred twenty or thirty thousand Armenians. Then Turkey lost the war and the British came back.
Turkey having lost the war, the six month old Republic of Armenia turned on a dime and invaded Anatolia again, with British consent and assistance.
We're now up to early 1919. Armenia sent not one but two delegations to the Paris Peace Conference... one from the official government (now nearly a year old) and one from General Andranik and his supporters, still busy running around the south shooting Kurds and expelling Turks. Both delegations were pretty much ignored. Meanwhile, Armenia and Georgia got into a brief but bitter shooting war over a border dispute.
That war was settled by the Brits, who for a few brief months in 1918-19 were the dominant power in the region. In addition to settling the Georgian-Armenian War, they also ordered General Andranik out of Nagorno- Karabakh (which he had just invaded, with the obvious intent of etnhically cleansing). This is why Karabakh, unlike the nearby territories of Zangezur (southern Armenia) stayed ethnically mixed until the 1990s.
Disappointed and weary, Andranik marched north and surrendered his small army... but not to the government in Yerevan! No, he surrendered to the Katholikos, the Armenian pontiff, at the holy city of Echmiadzin. Since the Turks were no longer in a position to demand his head, the government was willing to let him go in peace. He moved to California, dying in Fresno in 1927. Meanwhile an Armenian-Azeri war for Karabakh continued to fitfully sputter, though without Andranik and his troops neither side could do anything decisive.
The British, having sufficiently muddied the waters, marched back to Batum, got back on their boats and went home again.
Okay, the Republic only lasted thirty months, and we're just about halfway through, and it's almost midnight. Does anyone else find this stuff interesting?