Armenia celebrates the 100th anniversary of the First Republic.
The 1918 Republic of Armenia barely lasted two years. It was, however, a historic political entity – the first expression of Armenian sovereignty since 1375.
Its efforts led to the establishment of a Soviet Armenian republic, which, in turn, allowed for an independent Armenia upon the collapse of the USSR seventy years later.
The triumph of Bolsheviks in 1917 put an end to the Russian Empire. In winter 1918, the Armenian, Georgian and Moslem leaders of Transcaucasia united to convene the Transcaucasian Federation, which proclaimed the secession of Transcaucasia from Russia.
In late May 1918, under the threat of a new Turkish offensive on the Caucasus, the Transcaucasian Federation collapsed after only 3 months of existence. In fact, the Federation was a still-born creature from the very beginning. Insuperable divergences existed between the Armenian, Georgian and Moslem deputations. The Georgians were oriented to Germany, and the Moslems to Turkey, whereas the Armenians, though loyal to the Entente, were supported by nobody.
On May 26 the independence of Georgia was declared. At the same time, the Moslems proclaimed a “Musavat Republic of Azerbaijan”. This new Turkish state, created in the historical lands of the eastern Armenia, immediately and shamelessly laid claims on the Armenian territories in Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan.
Left alone, Armenians faced the total annihilation as the 100 thousandth Turkish army crossed the pre-war Russian frontier, annexed the city of Kars and approached the Armenian capital of Yerevan. After having depopulated the Western Armenia, the Turkish military were now about to destroy the rest of Armenia and achieve their goal of eliminating the Armenian nation.
The Armenians raised an army of 40,000 men, including soldiers, officers, volunteers and mass levies. At first the Dashnak leaders wanted to evacuate the population and to surrender Yerevan, but the Military Council headed by the Colonel Pirumian finally decided to do battle.
The two armies met on May 28, 1918 near Sardarapat. The battle was crowned with an outstanding Armenian victory. Some 30 thousand of Turkish soldiers were killed; the Turks were flung out. Vahib-Pasha, the defeated Turkish commander, termed the Armenian soldiers as “the best fighters in the world”. The Armenians also held defenses at Karaklis and at Abaran.
On the same day of May 28, 1918 Armenia was proclaimed an independent republic.