Treaty of Kars
The frontier established in the Treaty of Kars
|Signed||13 October 1921|
Grand National Assembly of Turkey|
|Treaty of Kars at Wikisource|
The Treaty of Kars (Armenian: Կարսի պայմանագիր, Azerbaijani: Qars müqaviləsi, Georgian: ყარსის ხელშეკრულება, Turkish: Kars Antlaşması, Russian: Карсский договор / Karskiy dogovor) was a treaty signed in Kars on October 13, 1921 and ratified in Yerevan on September 11, 1922. Signatories included representatives from the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, which in 1923 would declare the Republic of Turkey, and also from the future Soviet Armenia, Soviet Azerbaijan, and Soviet Georgia, all of which formed part of the Soviet Union after the Red Army invasion of Georgia and the December 1922 Union Treaty with the participation of Bolshevist Russia. It established the contemporary borders between Turkey and the South Caucasus states and was a successor treaty to the earlier Treaty of Moscow of March 1921, and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that marked Russia's exit from World War I. Most of the territories ceded to Turkey in the treaty were acquired by Imperial Russia from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. The only exception was the Surmali region, which had been annexed by Russia in the Treaty of Turkmenchay after the last Russo-Persian War with Iran.
The treaty was signed by the Turkish Provisional Government Representative General Kâzım Karabekir, MP and Commander of Eastern Front Veli Bey, MP Mouhtar Bey, and Ambassador Memduh Şevket Pasha, Russian Ambassador Yakov Ganetsky, Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Askanaz Mravyan and Minister of Interior Poghos Makintsyan, Azerbaijani Minister of State Control Behboud Shahtahtinsky, and Georgian Minister of Military and Naval Affairs Shalva Eliava and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Financial Affairs Alexander Svanidze.
The treaty provided for the territory of the former Russian Batumi Oblast of the Kutaisi Governorate to be divided. The northern half, with the port city of Batumi, was ceded by Turkey to the Georgian SSR. The southern half, with the city of Artvin, would be annexed by Turkey. It was agreed that the northern half would be granted autonomy within Soviet Georgia. It eventually evolved into the Adjarian ASSR (present-day Adjara). Additionally, Turkey was also guaranteed a "free transit through the port of Batum for commodities and all materials destined for, or originating in, Turkey, without customs duties and charges, and with the right for Turkey to utilize the port of Batum without special charges."
The treaty also created a new boundary between Turkey and Soviet Armenia, defined by the Akhurian (Arpachay) and the Araxes/Aras Rivers. Turkey obtained from Armenia most of the former Kars Oblast of Russian Empire, including the Surmalu Uyezd, with Mount Ararat and the cities of Iğdır and Koghb (Tuzluca), the cities of Kars, Ardahan, and Oltu, the ruins of Ani, and Lake Çıldır. Most of these areas were already under Turkish military control. The treaty required Turkish troops to withdraw from an area roughly corresponding to the western half of Armenia's present-day Shirak Province (including Alexandropol (Gyumri)).
The Treaty of Kars specified the partition of Armenia and the region of Nakhchivan (a territory comprising the Nakhchivan and Sharur part of the Sharur-Daralagez uyezds of the former Yerevan Governorate of Armenia of the Russian Empire) as an autonomous territory under the protection of Azerbaijan. In 1924, the Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was formed on this territory as an exclave subordinate to the Azerbaijan SSR, and sharing a 15-km boundary with the now Turkish district of Surmalu.
Role of Joseph Stalin
According to different participants at the Moscow Conference, Joseph Stalin's participation in the Kars Treaty was huge in the context of the large area of First Republic of Armenia's territory which was transferred to Turkey. As Kâzım Karabekir writes in his note:
Chicherin and Karakhan tried to annul Alexandropol Treaty, they openly stand on Armenian rights. That is why we decided to outwit them: Mdivani offered a new way. That way supposed direct contact with Stalin, who is the closest friend of Lenin. There two people are the most powerful in Russia. Actually he became the man who made signing of the Treaty possible. If the issue is solved by Chicherin, who was under influence of Karakhan, supporter of Armenian interests, he would have not done it.
Turkish participant Ali Fuat Cebesoy writes:
... if not the interfering of Stalin ... Moscow conference would probably last much longer; or we wouldn't get the results we reached.
As he wrote before the conference to Kâzım Karabekir:
...Stalin personally treats Armenians negatively...
After World War II, the Soviet Union attempted to annul the Kars treaty and regain its lost territory. On June 7, 1945, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov told the Turkish ambassador in Moscow that the provinces of Kars, Ardahan and Artvin should be returned to the USSR, in the name of both the Georgian and Armenian republics. Turkey found itself in a difficult position: it wanted good relations with the Soviet Union but at the same time they refused to give up the territories. Some British diplomats noted that as early as 1939, Soviet politicians might reopen the question of possibly annulling the Kars treaty. Turkey itself was in no condition to fight a war with the Soviet Union, which had emerged as a superpower after the Second World War. By the autumn of 1945, Soviet troops in the Caucasus were already assembling for a possible invasion of Turkey. Soviet territorial claims to Turkey were supported by all shades of the Armenian diaspora, including the anti-Soviet Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Soviet claims were put forth by the Armenians to the leaders of the Allies of World War II; however, opposition stemmed from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who objected to these territorial claims as additional areas where the Soviet government could exert its influence while US President Harry S. Truman, felt that the matter should not concern other parties. Ultimately, the USSR gave up its claims against Turkey.
During the crisis, the USSR also asked Turkey for a military base on the Bosphorus. Turkish politicians worked hard, with the help of the British Government, to secure the help of the United States. During this period, the Turkish ambassador to Washington D.C. died and the United States sent his coffin to Istanbul on board the USS Missouri. This was the first large scale American military visit to Turkey and also a symbolic gesture. Only after this event did the USSR back down.
The questioned validity of the treaty
The validity of the treaty is under question according to some politologists and scholars. In fact the authorities of the sides that have their signatories under the treaty are questioned. The Grand National Assembly of Turkey had been founded in Ankara on 23 April 1920, in the midst of the Turkish War of Independence, through the efforts of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, with the aim of finding a new state out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I. It had no legal authority to sign international treaties according to the Constitution of the Ottoman Empire. Article 7 of this Constitution (1876) read:
Among the sovereign rights of His Majesty the Sultan are the following prerogatives: – [among all others] ………he concludes treaties with the powers; he declares war and makes peace;... [etc].
When the Constitution was revised in August 1909, the same Article 7 stated:
Among the sacred prerogatives of the Sultan are the following: – [among all others] ……… and the conclusion of Treaties in general. Only, the consent of Parliament is required for the conclusion of Treaties which concern peace, commerce, the abandonment or annexation of territory, or the fundamental or personal rights of Ottoman subjects, or which involve expenditure on the part of the State.
The Republic of Turkey was proclaimed by the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1923 and the Ottoman Constitution was replaced by a new one in 1924. There is also a view among researchers that, since the Soviet republics were under strict control of Moscow, the consent and independence of the parties is questionable. In addition, the USSR itself was established on December 29, 1922. This implies that the local Communist governments in the Soviet republics were legitimate from the same date.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the governments of Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan accepted the Treaty of Kars. The Armenian position is different, as per the announcements of Armenian Government officials, as well as the absence of any such ratification or decision. On February 3, 2005, Armenian MP Levon Mkrtchyan (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) declared that the issue of recognizing or not recognizing the treaty was not on Armenia's foreign political agenda. He noted that the treaty was signed with gross violations of the international law, as it was imposed by the Turkish-Russian Treaty of Moscow, which stipulated that all the South Caucasian republics should later sign similar separate treaties with Turkey. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan noted that Turkey itself does not put a number of articles of the treaty into practice. For instance, the treaty called for Turkey to open a consulate in each of the three Transcaucasian republics. Due to tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey has closed the land border with Armenia and severed diplomatic ties with it, thus allegedly violating this article. Oskanyan states that by this action, Turkey is putting the validity of the treaty into doubt.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Treaty of Kars.|
- (Russian) Text of the Treaty of Kars
- English translation of the Treaty of Kars
- Ю. Г. Барсегов. «Геноцид армян. Ответственность Турции и обязательства мирового сообщества». М., 2005, т. 2, часть 2, с. 515–518.
- Richard G. Hovannisian The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times: Foreign dominion to statehood: the fifteenth century to the twentieth century. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. P. 417
- Turkish Daily News: "Armenian MP: Kars Treaty was Violation of International Law", Friday, 4 February 2005
- http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/english/about_tgna.htm FOUNDING OF THE TURKISH GRAND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
- The Constitucion of the Ottoman Empire
- http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/english/about_tgna.htm#THE_CONSTITUTION_OF_1924 THE CONSTITUTION OF 1924
- http://www.conflicts.rem33.com/images/Armenia/kars.htm ETHNIC CONFLICTS BORDER DISPUTES IDEOLOGICAL CLASHES TERRORISM
- Richard Sakwa The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, 1917–1991: 1917–1991. Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0-415-12290-2, ISBN 978-0-415-12290-0. pp. 140–143.
- "In Vartan Oskanian's Words, Turkey Casts Doubt On The Treaty Of Kars With Its Actions". Armenians Today. Istanbul: All Armenian Mass Media Association. Noyan Tapan. 13 December 2006. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2007.