A critical view from a centennial distance
Ararat M. Hakobyan
The period of 1920-1921 appeared to be fateful for Armenia and the Armenians. During these two years, the Republic of Armenia suffered a defeat from Kemalist Turkey and lost its independence. One part of the republic was occupied by Turkey and the Soviet power was established in another part. It was in this period that the Armenian-Turkish border-territorial issues appeared under consideration and were later stipulated in the Treaty of Alexandropol on December 3, 1920, in the Treaty of Moscow on March 16 (18), 1921, and in the Treaty of Kars on October 13 of the same year. Though the mentioned treaties are viewed as a whole, as far as their legal succession and contents are concerned, the Treaties of Moscow and Kars are quite similar.
The Treaty of Alexandropol appeared to be the outcome of Armenia’s severe defeat and the aggression carried out by Kemalist Turks. The Treaty of Moscow was the result of the Soviet-Turkish rapprochement and the Treaty of Kars actually was the repetition of the Treaty of Moscow, signed by the delegations of three Transcaucasian Republics on the directive issued by the Central Bolshevist authorities.
Since the Armenian-Turkish Treaty of Alexandropol was not legally valid from the stand-point of the international law, it could not impose any legal obligations on the government of Soviet Armenia (Armenian Revolutionary Committee) and was not implemented for the following reasons: 1. At the moment when the treaty was signed, a change of power had taken place in Armenia. 2. The treaty was ratified neither by Armenia, nor by Turkey.
On March 16, 1921, without Armenia’s knowledge and involvement, Soviet Russia and Turkey signed a treaty in Moscow which in its territorial-border terms actually repeated the Treaty of Alexandropol. On October 13 of the same year, the Soviet Armenian delegation was compelled to sign a treaty in Kars, which ratified and legalized the terms of the Treaty of Moscow. Thus, the Treaties of Moscow and Kars secured the Turkish claims regarding their intrusion into Armenian territory, as it was claimed by their “National Oath” in January 1920. Furthermore, Russia ceded Surmalu District to Turkey, which had never been under the Ottoman Empire before and had not been claimed by the “National Oath”.
The Treaties of Moscow and Kars led Armenia to lose more than a half of its genuine eastern Armenian territories. In consequence of the mentioned treaties, Turkey incorporated Kars Province with its 17,250 square kilometers, and Surmalu District covering 3,450 sq. km, making 20,700 sq. km of the Eastern Armenian lands, in total. Besides, Turkey demanded that the region of Nakhichevan covering 5,500 sq. km should be placed under the protection of its kin Azerbaijan. If we consider, that Mountainous Karabakh, which covers 4,160 sq. km also had to be annexed to
Azerbaijan on the resolution by the Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of Russian Communist (Bolshevik) Party made on July 5, 1921, then almost 10,000 sq. km of Armenian territories had been granted to Azerbaijan. To sum up, one can conclude that in 1920-1921, Armenia was deprived of more than the half of its actual territory (20,700+9,660=30,360 sq. km). As we can see, this area is even larger than that of Soviet Armenia and its legal successor Republic of Armenia.
The main clue to the Soviet Russian Government making such allowances for Turkey should not be sought in the susceptibility of the Soviet state of those times, but in the essence of its Eastern policy. As far as the Bolshevik Government considered Turkey to be the centre of world revolution in the East, and tried to implement this futile plan, it urged and encouraged the Kemalists by all possible means, including gold allotments, arms and ammunitions supply, as well as meeting their territorial claims. Unfortunately, the territories had been ceded to Turkey mostly to the detriment of Armenia and vital interests of the Armenian people. At the same time, Soviet Russia made advances to Turkey for it not to join the Entente. However, we are of opinion, that Soviet Russia had not nurtured any deliberate anti-Armenian policy. Armenia just appeared to be at the crossroads of big political game and trying to preserve independence in the environment, where there was no room for independence, it had to suffer huge losses.
On the other hand, the Treaty of Moscow reasonably marked a deal. From the stand-point of the international law, the Treaty of Moscow in its part that concerns Armenia, abuses the law, as Moscow had met the territorial claims of the Kemalists at the expense of the Armenian territories in order to prevent them from joining the Entente. Besides, both parties had resolved the issues of the Armenian borders without the knowledge and participation of the Armenian representatives.
Thus, Turkey that had lost World War I and had committed one of the most severe crimes against humanity – the Armenian Genocide, by taking advantage of the discrepancies among the powerful states and pretending to be both revolutionary and comrade of the Bolshevist Russia, instead of being liable before the International Court, got away with the crime it had committed. Not only did it not return Armenia the Western Armenian provinces stipulated by the Treaty of Sèvres but, thanks to the Treaty of Moscow, Turkey also received a significant part of Eastern Armenian territories as a reward.
The policy of false amiability with Russia, conducted by Kemalists, led the Western states consider that they should recognize “New Turkey” and settle their relations with it. That is what actually took place at the Lausanne Conference in 1922-1923.
And as far as the principles and norms of international law are concerned, the Treaty of Moscow and its successor Treaty of Kars, in their parts that concern Armenia are predatory, illegal and not compulsory, and thus they can be regarded as invalid. The boundary delimitations, specified in the mentioned treaties and their appendices are disputable and unacceptable.
The treaties are not eternal. They exist as long as the conditions that bore them do.
At present, the Republic of Armenia and the whole Armenian nation possess sufficient historical, political and legal proofs and arguments to discuss the issue at the state offices, and to take the matter of the legitimacy of the Treaty of Moscow and its successor Treaty of Kars, as far as Armenia is concerned, to the international courts in order to undermine their legitimacy and to denounce them, as well as to restore violated rights and annexed territories.