From Berlin to Sèvres


Samvel A. Poghosyan
The Armenian Issue became a subject of discussion in international diplomacy in the international agreements adopted at the 1878 San Stefano Conference and the Congress of Berlin. Until 1918, the subject of the Armenian Issue was Western Armenia, which bore the country name “Armenia” in international diplomatic documents. This proves that before the declaration of independence of the Republic of Armenia formed in the South Caucasus in 1918, the issue of exercising the rights of the Armenian nation bearing the title of the country of Armenia already had an international political status.

Armenian aspirations were aimed at establishing Armenia’s autonomy, which would eventually lead to independence. And international diplomacy was satisfied with promises of reforms and changes. The geographical borders of Armenia (Western Armenia) were specified in the documents submitted by the Armenian delegation to the Congress of Berlin in 1878, and especially in the May 1895 reform program. The plan presented to the sultan by the great powers on May 11, 1895, clearly marked the borders of Armenia (Western Armenia) within the six vilayets that covered most of the Armenian territories of the Ottoman Empire.

On the eve of World War I, when the task of partitioning the Ottoman Empire began to be on the agenda of the great powers, their diplomatic struggle ended with the signing of a Russian-Turkish agreement on Armenian reforms. On January 26, 1914 (February 8), in Constantinople, the Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha and the Russian Chargé d’Affaires Kostandin Gulkich signed a Russian-Turkish agreement on Armenian reforms. According to that agreement, Armenia (Western Armenia) was divided into two regions: a) Sebastia, Erzurum, Trabzon and b) Bitlis, Van, Kharberd, Diyarbakir. In other words, Trabzon was added to the six vilayets of Western Armenia.

Armenia’s independence on May 28, 1918, and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I brought the vision of a United and Independent Armenia to the diplomatic agenda. At the initial stage of the Paris Peace Conference, it was discussed as a “Great Armenia” project, including Armenian Cilicia, but later, in the Treaty of Sèvres signed in 1920, it was turned into a “Little Armenia” project, including most of the provinces of Van, Bitlis and Erzurum, and a part of the province of Trabzon with access to the Black Sea.

On August 10, 1920, in Sèvres suburb of Paris, a peace treaty was signed between the allied states and the Ottoman Empire, which established Armenia’s sovereignty over the mentioned territories, and the decision to determine the final border between the Republic of Armenia and the Ottoman state was left to US President W. Wilson. The Arbitral Award issued by the latter as of November 22, 1920 is still the only legal document clarifying the Armenian-Turkish state border.