Научная статья на тему 'Integration processes in the Southern Caucasus and the great power policy: a historical excursion back into the 20th century'

Integration processes in the Southern Caucasus and the great power policy: a historical excursion back into the 20th century Текст научной статьи по специальности «Социальная и экономическая география»

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Аннотация научной статьи по социальной и экономической географии, автор научной работы — Bagirova Irada

Now that each of the South Caucasian states has survived the crisis it found itself at the beginning of the 1990s and sees its independence as permanent, regional integration has once again become a pertinent topic. Strong territorial ties in our globalizing world help to guarantee regional security, on the one hand, and are vital for a smooth entry into the global political-economic expanse, on the other. The regional nations, which have been in the spheres of influence and struggle of the Persian, Ottoman, and Russian empires from time immemorial, have their own and, to some extent, unique historical experience of state-political integration, which is what this article aims to discuss.

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Текст научной работы на тему «Integration processes in the Southern Caucasus and the great power policy: a historical excursion back into the 20th century»


D.Sc. (Hist.), head of the Caucasian History Department of the Institute of History, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences

(Baku, Azerbaijan).


A b s t

Now that each of the South Caucasian states has survived the crisis it found itself at the beginning of the 1990s and sees its independence as permanent, regional integration has once again become a pertinent topic. Strong territorial ties in our globalizing world help to guarantee regional security, on the one hand, and are vital for a smooth entry into

r a c t

the global political-economic expanse, on the other. The regional nations, which have been in the spheres of influence and struggle of the Persian, Ottoman, and Russian empires from time immemorial, have their own and, to some extent, unique historical experience of state-political integration, which is what this article aims to discuss.

I n t r o d u c t i o n

The collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the appearance of the newly independent states were denoted by certain phenomena that have historical analogies, on the one hand, and introduced quite a number of innovations into the contemporary political processes, on the other. The little attention paid the

Yalta-Potsdam agreements (1945) and the Helsinki Declaration (1975), which declared the inviolability of the post-war borders, caused an increase in ethnic separatism, which logically led to the military conflicts that flared up, including in the Southern Caucasus. The natural consequence of this development of events was a complete breakdown in relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the great aggravation of economic relations among the three countries of the region due to the chaos that inevitably accompanies the collapse of any empire.

It should be emphasized that the Southern Caucasus was recognized by the West as a single region right from the beginning of the post-Soviet period, despite all the existing contradictions. In recent years, due to the increasing involvement of the U.S. and the European countries, as well as Russia, in the domestic political and economic processes in the Caucasus, the mentioned countries have adjusted their interrelations with the three South Caucasian states to some extent. The initial optimism over the integration processes in the Southern Caucasus gave way to a more pragmatic analysis of the situation and the establishment of more realistic relations with each of the countries in the region.

The creation of an integrated economic space is one of the most attractive models of South Caucasian integration, which can naturally only be carried out after the political situation is regulated, that is, the protracted interstate and ethnic conflicts are settled. The historical experience of the regional nations, which have been in the sphere of influence and struggle of the Persian, Ottoman, and Russian empires from time immemorial, knows of two precedents of state-political integration in the 20th century alone. The matter concerns the consolidated governing structures and the first Transcaucasian Federation (1917-1918), as well as the Soviet Transcaucasian Federation (1922-1936). Certain integration attempts were also made after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and after the end of the military phase of the ethnic conflicts during the second half of the 1990s.

All the pluses and minuses of this experience naturally require careful analysis by researchers and could be incorporated when drawing up future integration models. Let’s take a look below at the main historical stages in the establishment and development of the integration processes requiring more in-depth research in the next few years.

Twists and Turns in the Post-Imperial Period and the First Integration Experience

After shaking themselves loose from the Russian Empire’s control, the South Caucasian nations began promoting integration trends in 1917-1918 in the form of the Transcaucasian power bodies— the Special Transcaucasian Committee (STRACOM), the Transcaucasian Commissariat, and the Transcaucasian Sejm. The first Transcaucasian Federation, which was created under Turkey’s pressure, existed briefly from April to May 1918. At the end of May 1918, the federation (again not without the help of foreign forces) fell apart—it proved to be only a stage on the way to forming the three Transcaucasian republics—of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.

There were no open calls for independence in the Caucasus during the time of the czarist and provisional governments. After the October coup a decision was adopted on 11 November, 1917 at a meeting of the members of the Georgian Social-Democratic Party (Mensheviks), the Musavatists (Azerbaijan), and the Dashnaktsutiun members and rightist social-revolutionaries (Armenia) in Tiflis to create an Independent Government of Transcaucasus. On 15 November, the Transcaucasian Commissariat was formed, which refused to recognize the power of the Council of People’s Commissars headed by Lenin. Its members included the following outstanding sociopolitical leaders of that time—E. Gegechkori, A. Chkhenkeli, M. Jafarov, Kh. Khasmamedov, H. Melik-Aslanov,

and G. Ter-Gazarian.1 A declaration published in Tiflis on 18 November (1 December), 1917 said: “After walking hand in hand with Russia and tying their destiny to it for more than one hundred years, the peoples of the Transcaucasus have found themselves for the first time, at this point in history, to be left to their own devices. They must undertake their own measures to prevent an imminent economic and social disaster. And the fate of the Transcaucasian peoples and their normal development will depend on whether Transcaucasian revolutionary democracy can defend itself against all kinds of encroachments and guarantee the region the most necessary foundations of revolutionary order...”2

However, there was no intention at this time of completely separating from Russia. The Southern Caucasus was waiting for the results of the elections to the Constituent Assembly, hoping that the Bolshevik government would fall any day. Preparations for the elections in the Southern Caucasus began as early as summer 1917, when the Central Transcaucasian Commission on Elections to the Constituent Assembly was created under the Special Transcaucasian Committee formed after the February Revolution and a special Resolution on Elections, which was very democratic for its time, was issued. A proportional system of voting was envisaged for most districts, and women and servicemen were also allowed to participate in the elections.3

Elections to the Constituent Assembly for the entire Transcaucasus were held on 26 November, 1917. Fifteen parties participated in them, among which the Georgian Social-Democrats (Mensheviks), the Musavatists, and the Dashnaks obtained more than 73% of the votes. The Bolsheviks won the votes of 4.4% of the electorate, most of which consisted of Baku blue-collar workers and soldiers from the Baku garrison.4 All of the Transcaucasus was represented at these elections as one electoral district with 35 deputy mandates. Since the Transcaucasian Commissariat no longer wielded any real power by this time, the deputies elected to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly formed a Transcaucasian Sejm—the representative body uniting the Southern Caucasus—in Tiflis on 23 February, 1918 (after the Bolsheviks routed the Constituent Assembly on 6 January). The number of members in the Transcaucasian Sejm reached 133.5 The Sejm’s main political factions included the Georgian Social-Democrats (Mensheviks) consisting of 32 deputies, the Armenian Dashnaktsutiun members consisting of 27 deputies, and the Azerbaijani Musavatists, as well as 30 non-party deputies who joined the last group.6 The Sejm formed the Transcaucasian government headed by E. Gegechkori.

Foreign political factors presented by the leading geopolitical players, the Entente countries with separate Russia, on the one hand, and Turkey and Germany, on the other, had a significant influence on the activity and existence of this government itself. As early as the end of 1917, after the peace talks between Russia and Germany in Brest-Litovsk failed, the Turkish troops took up the offensive and, by the beginning of January 1918, occupied the Kars, Ardahan, and Batum (now Batumi) regions. This compelled the Transcaucasian government to send a telegram to Commander-in-Chief of the Caucasian Front Vekhib Pasha expressing its willingness to begin peace talks with Turkey. The Sejm adopted an agenda for the talks, in which it demanded restoration of the interstate border of 1914. Representatives of all three South Caucasian republics were delegated at the talks.

But soon a separate peace treaty was signed in Brest-Litovsk between Russia and Germany, according to which Kars, Ardahan and Batum were given to Turkey. The Transcaucasian Sejm sent a

1 See: Dokumenty i materialy po vneshnei politike Zakavkazia i Gruzii, Tiflis, 1919, pp. 7-8.

2 “Pervaia deklaratsiia Zakavkazskogo komissariata. K narodam Zakavkazia,” in: Dokumenty i materialy po vnesh-nei politike Zakavkazia i Gruzii, p. 8.

3 See: The Azerbaijani Democratic Republic (1918-1920), Baku, 1998, p. 47 (in Azerbaijanian).

4 See: N. Agamalieva, “O vyborakh v Uchreditel’noe sobranie po Azerbaijanu,” Izvestia of the AN Azerbaidzhana, No. 4, 1990, p. 22.

5 SAPPPM (State Archives of Political Parties and Public Movements), Report to Harbord, rec. gr. 277, inv. 2, f. 45, sheets 31-32.

6 See: Address-Kalendar Azerbaidzhanskoi Respubliki na 1920 g., Baku, 1920, p. 3.

telegram to Petrograd, in which it stated that it did not recognize the Brest Treaty, since it did not recognize Soviet power. All the same, Turkey demanded that the Transcaucasian Sejm immediately be removed from all three cities. On 14 March, 1918, a peace conference opened in Trabzon (Trape-zund), in which Turkey and the Transcaucasian Sejm participated. The Turks insisted on the conditions of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and refused to recognize the Transcaucasian Sejm delegation as a legal entity at the talks, since the Transcaucasian Sejm did not declare itself a state formation independent of Russia.

The opinions of the Transcaucasian Sejm representatives were divided.7 Nor was there unanimity among the Azerbaijani delegation. For example, Kh. Khasmamedov and Sh. Rustambekov believed that Batum, to which oil was sent from Baku via pipeline, should remain in the Transcauca-sus. The pro-Turkish orientation of the Azerbaijani deputies grew after the events in Baku of 30 March-1 April, when under the pretense of repressing the supposedly Musavatist uprising, the troops of the Baku Soviet of People’s Deputies, with the help of the Dashnak armed formations, staged a mass massacre of the Azerbaijanis, as a result of which more than 12,000 people were killed.8 The Azerbaijani deputies of the Sejm demanded that military aid be sent to Baku, but this was not crowned with success. After numerous meetings, on 22 April, 1918, the Transcaucasian Sejm adopted a resolution under pressure from the Azerbaijani faction on declaring an independent Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. Gegechkori’s government resigned; a new government was approved headed by A. Chkhenkeli. Noi Zhordania expressed the position of the Georgian Mensheviks: “The Center (Moscow.—I.B.) cannot save us, we are deluding ourselves if we place our hopes on it; and until a central government is set up, a local government must be created that will resort to every means in its competence to save the Transcaucasus.”9

On 26 April, a government declaration was adopted that declared the sovereignty of the Tran-scaucasus and established the most friendly relations with all the states of the world, in particular with those sharing borders with the region. The declaration also envisaged the equality of the peoples living in the area, equality with the Russian population, fair territorial demarcation of the Transcaucasian nations, stopping the war, organizing defense of the region, and fighting the counterrevolution and anarchy.10

But the relatively independent Transcaucasus did not exist for very long. The new government asked Turkey to extend the Trabzon talks, which were renewed on 11 May (this time in Batum). The German representatives headed by General Otto von Lossow, who in turn participated in the talks with the Georgian delegation, attended the Batum conference as observers. What is more, under the command of General von Kress, the German troops landed in the Georgian port of Poti with the intention of occupying Georgian territory. The Turkish forces continued their offensive, and by mid-May took Alexandropol. The Musavatists strove for a union with Turkey, and the Georgian Mensheviks counted on Germany: there was a treaty between the latter and Turkey, according to which the areas occupied by the Germans could not be occupied by the Turks. Armenia, which remained loyal to the Entente and Russian interests, was not supported by anyone. In this situation, the Armenians were oriented toward Russia being restored and its protection.

Under pressure from the German representatives, the Georgian delegation decided to announce Georgia’s withdrawal from the Transcaucasian Federative Republic and declare its independence. On 25 May, A. Tsereteli made a statement in which he noted that the Transcaucasian nationalities had not succeeded in uniting under the slogan of “independence,” and it was obvious that the Transcaucasus was about to collapse. In so doing, the Georgians placed the blame for the federation’s downfall on

7 State Archives of the Azerbaijani Republic (SAAR), rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 7, sheet 4.

8 SAAR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 148, sheet 30.

9 D. Enukidze, Krakh imperialisticheskoi interventsii v Zakavkazie, Tbilisi, 1954, p. 41.

10 Ibid., p. 43.

the Azerbaijani faction, accusing it of being pro-Turkish. This aroused a severe reaction in the latter, which believed these accusations to be ungrounded and, in turn, accused the Georgians of striving for an “isolated political existence.”

Acquiring Independence and Interstate Contradictions

On 26 May, 1918, the Transcaucasian Sejm adopted its final decision: “In view of the fact that there are radical differences among the nations that created the Transcaucasian independent republic on the question of war and peace, and that it was impossible for one authoritarian power to talk on behalf of the Transcaucasus, the Sejm acknowledges the collapse of the Transcaucasus and lays down its powers.”11 Immediately following this, Georgia (26 May), as well as Azerbaijan and Armenia (28 May), declared their independence.

On 4 June, 1918, a peace treaty was entered in Batum among Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, which delineated the borders between these states, and on 31 July, it was ratified at a conference in Istanbul. According to the treaty, Turkey acquired possession of the Batum and Kars regions, the Akhalkalaki and Akhaltsikhe uezds of the Tiflis Gubernia, and the Surmala Uezd of the Erivan Gubernia. This situation was retained right up until Turkey’s defeat in World War I.

Azerbaijan’s position was aggravated by the struggle for Baku oil going on among the R.S.F.S.R., Germany, and Turkey. Whereas the Georgian and Armenian delegations were based in their capitals, the Azerbaijani delegation (as did the entire government of the ADR) went to Ganja since Baku was under the power of the Bolsheviks—the so-called Baku Commune. Not until mid-September 1918, after numerous bloody battles, did the Azerbaijani government move to Baku.

In 1918-1920, the national elites of all the South Caucasian states made unsuccessful attempts to create a confederation—this time to carry out the proposals of the Entente nations that won the world war (in particular England). At first, the Entente countries, which retained their alliance with the White Guard troops, had no desire to recognize the South Caucasian republics as independent state formations. On 2 December, General Thomson, the commander of the British armed forces in the Caucasus, made a statement, in which he said: “The allied nations, like the new Russian government in Ufa, with which they are acting in unison, do not recognize any of the independent formations that have arisen in Russia. Their task includes restoring the former vicegerency in the Caucasus, on behalf of the Russian government, in order to ease restoration of the area’s political and economic life.”12

In compliance with the Armistice of Mudros, the British occupied Batum and the entire Transcaucasian railroad from the Black to the Caspian seas, which, according to William Churchill, meant owning “one of the most important strategic routes in the world.”13 These statements make it possible to say that the Entente nations were interested in a united Transcaucasus not so much out of solidarity with the Ufa Directory and Denikin, or out of considerations for Russia’s integrity, as due to their own geostrategic and geo-economic interests. But nor did the British manage to achieve unification of the South Caucasian republics: the territorial disputes were the main obstacle here. The land-surveying commission founded in Georgia under the chairmanship of I. Tsereteli suggested designating the borders of the Georgian republic from the south along the Lesser Caucasus Mountain Range to the northern shores of Lake Gokcha (Sevan) and then to the north along the Akstafa River to Dzegam

11 S. Arkomed, Materialy po istorii otpadeniia Zakavkazia ot Rossii, Tiflis, 1931, p. 100.

12 Quoted from: Dni gospodstva men’shevikov v Gruzii, Tiflis, 1931, p. 39.

13 Quoted from: D. Enukudze, op. cit., p. 136.

station (including the Zakataly District). Naturally, the Azerbaijani and Armenian delegations protested, and the talks were interrupted. What is more, after the Turkish and German troops were evacuated from the territory between Georgia and Armenia, border clashes began in the Lori Region, which escalated into combat action at the beginning of December.

The war between Georgia and Armenia lasted until the end of December 1918 and ended only under pressure from the British and French missions on 31 December.14 Ongoing military clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued in Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the fact that a general governorship was founded there in 1919 headed by Hosrof bek Sultanov and the region was joined to the ADR. Nor did Georgia drop its claims to the Zakataly District, the National Council of which voted in 1918 for joining Azerbaijan, and to which Gashimbekov was appointed governor. However, things did not go as far as combat action this time—economic interests took the upper hand, since all of Azerbaijan’s export-import passed through Georgia. When Denikin’s army occupied Daghestan and there was a real threat of the Southern Caucasus being conquered by it, a military treaty was signed between Azerbaijan and Georgia on 27 June, 1919 on the joint defense of their state borders. The Ararat (Armenian) Republic, which did not want to join any kind of anti-Russian bloc, did not sign the agreement. In this way, the multi-vector orientation of the foreign policy of the three South Caucasian republics prevented them again from integrating into a single military-political and economic space.

The Soviet Experiment

In April 1920, the Red Army entered Azerbaijan, in November of the same year, it entered Armenia, and in February 1921, Georgia. But even after establishment of Soviet power, it was decided at the Kars Conference (1921) that a trade agreement with Turkey would not be entered by the republics of the Transcaucasus individually, but by the united Ministry of Foreign Trade.15

The main task Moscow assigned the new government in the first days of the Caucasus’ Soviet-ization was unification into “one common Communist family” at the regional level, followed by the whole of its territory joining the U.S.S.R., which was formed in 1922. Lenin especially insisted on this. The question arose of where to begin. A decision was put forward at a plenary session of the Baku Soviet on uniting the Transcaucasian railroads. Ordzhonikidze explained the need to adopt this measure as follows: “Everyone knows that the Main Railroad Workshops are in Tiflis, everything necessary for industry is in Baku, in particular the fuel needed for transport, while Armenia, which is standing on the sidelines, has neither one nor the other. The question should be raised differently; the main thing to be remembered is that the Tiflis workshops cannot exist without Baku oil, Baku cannot streamline its transport without the Tiflis workshops, and Armenia cannot exist without the help of Azerbaijan and Georgia.”16

The scheme for managing the Transcaucasian railroads between Baku and Tiflis was based, both before the revolution and during independence, on the same principle, but by the end of World War I and as a result of the combat action on the borders, these supply lines fell into disuse. Due to the disastrous situation in the economy and deterioration of the state of the railroads, the only salvation for the new government was to consolidate the management of all the Caucasian main transportation routes in order to save resources and use them more economically. It managed to do this until the end of 1921.

14 See: W. Churchill, Mirovoi krizis, Moscow, 1932, p. 105.

15 See: G.K. Ordzhonikidze, Statiy i rechi, Erevan, 1956, p. 274.

16 Doklad na Kavkazskom soveshchanii Kommunisticheskogo soiuza molodiozhi, Tiflis, 15 July, 1921.

The next just as important question concerned foreign trade operations, which until 1921 were carried out by each republic independently on a competitive basis. This situation did not suit the Soviets striving to monopolize this extremely important area of the economy. By mid-1921, the foreign trade ministries of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia were joined into the Union of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia for Foreign Trade—the regional foreign trade department. Its headquarters were in Tiflis and governed by a special board appointed according to an agreement among the governments of the three republics.

An economic commission was also formed, which began working on the full economic unification of the Transcaucasian republics.

In response to society’s dissatisfaction caused by rumors that the old gubernias were to be restored within the borders of czarist Russia, the newly formed republics were declared fully independent. This is what Joseph Stalin said at a meeting of the Tiflis organization of the Georgian Communist Party on 6 July, 1921: “In order to dispel the atmosphere of mutual mistrust and restore the fraternal ties among the workers of the nationalities of the Transcaucasus and Russia. Georgia, as well as Azerbaijan and Armenia, must retain their independence. This does not exclude, but, on the contrary, presupposes the need for mutual economic and other support, as well as the need for joining the economic efforts of the independent Soviet republics on the basis of a voluntary agreement, on the basis of a convention.”17

But Stalin illustrated in an extremely Bolshevik spirit the means by which the “independence” of the three republics was to be carried out: “.I found out that Georgia and Armenia are receiving petroleum products from Azerbaijan free of charge, something that is inconceivable in the life of bourgeois states, even those tied by the notorious ‘cordial agreement’ (Entente cordiale—this implies the Entente.—I.B.). There is no need to prove that these and similar acts do not weaken, but strengthen the independence of these states.”18

The thoughts that Stalin voiced while in Georgia in no way correlated with the well-known conception of “autonomization” he elaborated in Moscow, according to which the national republics were supposed to join a single Soviet state in the form of autonomous formations with direct subordination to the center. Many contemporary Russian historians—so-called etatists—believe that Stalin was right when he protested against the liberalism shown by Lenin, “which was lobbied by the national-communists of the peripheries,” and spoke out against that “useless and unwieldy model of national-state structures,” which Lenin invented for Russia. What is more, in their opinion, implementation of the idea of autonomization would have been a way to prevent national “atomization”—Russia’s dismemberment to the detriment of its political and economic unity.19

In December 1921, the Plenary Session of the Caucasian Bureau of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) Central Committee, and then the First Congress of Communist Organizations of the Transcaucasus (February 1922) resolved to accelerate the creation of a general political united center of the Transcaucasus, without which successful work to revive its economic might would have been impossible. The congress approved the draft of a Union Treaty of Soviet Socialist Republics of the Transcaucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia), as well as Provisions on the Higher Economic Council. The Transcaucasian Territory Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) was elected at the same time.20

On 12 March, 1922, the conference of Central Executive Committee representatives of all three republics adopted a Union Treaty on the Formation of a Federative Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of the Transcaucasus (FUSSRT). The document noted that the Socialist Soviet Republics (Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia) should act among themselves in close military, political, and eco-

17 Pravda Gruzii, No. 108, 13 July, 1921.

18 Ibidem.

19 See: Politicheskaia istoria. Rossia, RSFSR, Rossiiskaia Federatsiia, Vol. 2, Moscow, 1996, p. 295.

20 See: Perviy zakavkazskii s’yezd kommunisticheskikh organizatsii, Verbatim report, Tiflis, 1923, p. 100.

nomic alliance. Army and financial affairs, questions of foreign policy, foreign trade, supply lines, communications, the conducting of economic policy and the fight against the counterrevolution were transferred to the competence of the Union Council. The Union Council organized united Transcaucasian national commissariats, and settled border disputes and questions relating to the use of forests, water, and pastures.

At the same time, the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party, where the majority was made up of so-called national-deviationists headed by Mdivani, adopted a resolution stating that autonomization was premature and all the attributes of independence should be retained. All the same, a commission of the Organizing Bureau of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) Central Committee adopted Stalin’s draft as a basis, after rejecting the resolution of the Georgian Central Committee. The commission’s documents were sent to Lenin, who immediately after reading them met with Stalin, Ordzhonikidze, Mdivani, Dumbadze, Tsintsadze, and others. The very next day (26 September), Lenin wrote a letter to the members of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) Central Committee Politburo, in which, after criticizing the autonomization project, suggested an essentially new basis for creating a Union state—voluntary membership of all the independent Union republics, including the R.S.F.S.R., in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (on the basis of their full equality and sovereignty). Keeping in mind Lenin’s suggestions, Joseph Stalin reworded the resolution of the Central Committee Organizing Bureau commission. On 6 October, 1922, the Plenary Session of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) Central Committee adopted Lenin’s plan to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In this way, it is not difficult to trace the indirect influence of the Georgian Central Committee’s position on the final edition of the Union agreement draft.

But the Georgian Bolsheviks were not happy this time either with the fact that the Transcauca-sus would become part of the U.S.S.R. as a federation. Mdivani’s group insisted that each republic become part of the Union independently and be granted real independence, speaking out against the actual monopolization of all economic resources by the federal center and considering the existence of the Transcaucasian Union Council superfluous, as well as the introduction of Transcaucasian currency units.21

In the end, the disagreements led to a group of members of the Communist Party of Georgia Central Committee retiring; their position was qualified as “nationalist deviation.” At the same time, note was taken of the Transcaucasian Territory Committee’s mistakes, which were expressed in excessive centralization of several branches of the economy- and state-building of the Transcaucasian republics.22 In this way, the main obstacles to forming a Transcaucasian Federation were removed in pure Bolshevik style—by the willful decision of the center.

On 10 December, 1922, the First Transcaucasian Congress of Soviets, which declared the creation of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (T.S.F.S.R.), opened in Baku with an introductory speech by N. Narimanov. It unanimously adopted the T.S.F.S.R. Constitution, and elected a Transcaucasian Central Executive Committee of 150 members and 50 candidates. At its first session held in January 1923, the Transcaucasian Central Executive Committee formed the Council of People’s Commissars of the T.S.F.S.R., under which the Supreme Economic Council (SEC) was set up.23 At the First Congress, the Constitution of the T.S.F.S.R. was adopted, according to the resolutions of which the three republics united voluntarily, whereby each of them remained a sovereign state with its own Fundamental Law, corresponding to the Constitutions of the T.S.F.S.R. and U.S.S.R., and also retained the right to withdraw from the T.S.F.S.R.

This was a new type of interrelations among the Soviet republics. In contrast to the R.S.F.S.R, it was not built on the basis of autonomy, but on contractual relations among three equal and sov-

21 Archives of the Georgian President, rec. gr. 14, inv. 1, f. 2, sheet 180.

22 See: Ocherki istorii kommunisticheskikh organizatsii Zakavkazia, Part 2, Baku, 1971, p. 50.

23 See: Perviy Zakavkazskii s’yezd Sovetov, Verbatim report, Tiflis, 1923, p. 2.

ereign republics. Essentially the T.S.F.S.R. was the first stage on the way to establishing the U.S.S.R.

On 30 December, 1922, at the 10th All-Russian Congress of Soviets held in the Kremlin, the authorized delegations of the Soviet republics signed a Declaration and Treaty on the Formation of the U.S.S.R. On the evening of the same day, the First All-Union Congress of Soviets opened, which elected the Central Executive Committee of the U.S.S.R. M. Kalinin, G. Petrovskiy, N. Narimanov, and A. Cherviakov were elected chairmen of the U.S.S.R. Central Executive Committee.24 The independence of the republics was officially declared—right down to the possibility of secession.

The monetary reform, which resulted in all the Transcaucasian republics having the same unit of currency, greatly helped to simplify regional economic relations. On 10 January, 1923, a decree was issued on the circulation of a single Transcaucasian unit of currency (the bon), but a year later one more monetary reform was carried out. In April 1924, a decree of the Transcaucasian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars was issued on introducing national hard currency throughout the federation; the minting and circulation of Transcaucasian money


For almost the entire restoration period, the T.S.F.S.R. budget was in deficit, and the difference was covered by the Union budget. For example, in January 1925, according to a decision of the U.S.S.R. Council of People’s Commissars, an additional 900,000 rubles was assigned for building a Transcaucasian thermal power plant and the Ajaristskhai hydropower plant, 1 million rubles for financing the work of the Alaverdi mine, etc.26 This meant that most of the oil revenue coming into the Union budget was essentially redistributed in favor of the Armenian and Georgian economies.

Although NEP had been declared, the Union leadership had its sights set on gradually ousting the private sector from the country’s economy. For this purpose, agricultural cooperatives began to be introduced everywhere in rural areas. The cooperative movement among the peasantry in the T.S.F.S.R. mainly encompassed the most marketable industries—cotton growing, wine growing, fruit growing, market gardening, tobacco cultivation, silkworm breeding, and so on. The main tasks of the cooperative societies were to provide loans to and supply their members with agricultural production equipment, as well as gradually unite individual farms into large cooperative as-sociations—prototypes of the future collective farms. The same went for wholesale trade. In literally two years (from 1923 to 1925), the percentage of the private sector in the overall goods circulation of the Southern Caucasus decreased from 54.6% to 24.2%, and the circulation of the public sector increased three-fold.27

The most complicated tasks were restoring and nationalizing the oil industry. The enormous efforts of the workers and the unmerciful exploitation of Baku’s hydrocarbon resources, which from then on guaranteed the supply of the entire Union, promoted a rise in oil production to 4.6 million tons by 1925, which amounted to 63.4% of the prewar level, and to 8.6 million tons by 1927-1928, thus topping the production level in 1913 of 7.25 million tons. Oil processing enterprises put out increasing amounts of gasoline, kerosene, and lubricants.28

Railroad transport also was of enormous importance. In a short space of time, the Julfa, Ozur-geti, and Black Sea railroad branches were built. Great efforts were exerted to restore the Caspian oil-loading fleet. The increase in amount of oil exported made it necessary to lay a high-capacity Baku-Batumi pipeline, which made it possible to reduce the load on the Transcaucasian railroad to a great extent. Construction of the oil pipeline was entirely completed by 1930; its total length amounted to 822 km.

24 See: Ocherki istorii kommunisticheskikh organizatsii Zakavkazia, p. 55.

25 See: ZSFSR. Obzor deiatel’nosti pravitelstva, Tiflis, 1929, p. 113.

26 See: Ocherki istorii kommunisticheskikh organizatsii Zakavkazia, p. 80.

27 See: 40 let SSSR i Zakavkazskoi Federatsii, Baku, 1962, p. 189.

28 See: Ocherki istorii kommunisticheskikh organizatsii Zakavkazia, p. 78.

According to Soviet statistics, the reliability of which was seriously disputed as early as the end of the 1980s (in particular, the first five-year plans were only executed on paper), in 1925, the national economy of the Transcaucasus reached the prewar level in essentially every branch of industry, and in some even exceeded it.

As for national peace, this issue was settled by resolutions of the Caucasian Bureau and the Congresses of Republican Soviets on the formation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (1923) and the Nakhchyvan Autonomous Republic (1921) as part of Azerbaijan; of the Abkhazian S.S.R. (from 1921 to 1931), and then the A.S.S.R., and of the Ajarian A.S.S.R. (1921) and the South Ossetian Autonomous Region (1922) as part of Georgia. All the ups and downs encountered while dealing with these arduous problems are the topic of a separate study, so here we will limit ourselves to saying that this question was frozen for a long time. If outbreaks of ethnic separatism occurred, they were not mass in nature and, of course, were not publicized by Soviet officialdom.

The Transcaucasian Federation existed until 1936, and was then abolished due to the adoption of the new U.S.S.R. Constitution. The documents of that time said that it had played its historical role: it helped to eradicate ethnic strife and strengthen friendship among the peoples of the Transcaucasus. Now each of the South Caucasian republics independently became part of the Union. All the same, the united railroad administration, which was of priority importance, as well as the united Transcaucasian energy system functioned right up until the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

The second Transcaucasian Federation, which existed, in contrast to the first, for an entire 14 years, was a union with precise functions, which it largely carried out. Created on the initiative of the new Soviet imperial center, the Transcaucasian Federation essentially evened out, at the expense of Azerbaijan, the previously incomparable economic indices of the three republics. To a certain extent, it also marginalized local nationalism and no matter how much the true purpose of this union was camouflaged under the banner of fraternal friendship among nations, which was possible only under the Soviet system, the federation essentially restored the regional system of economic and partially political activity that existed in czarist Russia on a new basis. At the same time, there were also significant differences manifested in a certain increase in the educational level of the population, the formation of political elites, the strengthening of national self-consciousness, and the adoption in the future of the national language as a second state language.

Post-Soviet Ethnic Separatism and the New Integration Trends

The abrupt rise in national movements expressed in ethnic and interstate conflicts was one of the main catalysts in the collapse of the Soviet empire. The appearance of several hotbeds of tension in the Southern Caucasus made not only regional political unions essentially impossible, but also trilateral economic interrelations.

All the same, beginning in the first half of the 1990s, the idea of a Common Caucasian Home gained momentum, which, following the example of the North Caucasus nations, Eduard Shevardnadze, leader of the Georgian state, put forward in 1992. During President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliev’s visit to Georgia in March 1996, one of the bilateral documents signed was the Manifesto on Peace, Security, and Cooperation in the Caucasian Region, which is also called the Tbilisi declara-tion.29 This was followed by the Kislovodsk meeting among the heads of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Arme-

29 See: D. Malysheva, “Security Problems in the Caucasus,” Central Asia and the Caucasus, No. 1 (7), 2001, pp. 37-49.

nia, and Russia in 1997 and the signing of the declaration “For Peace, Economic and Cultural Cooperation in the Caucasus.” The Pact on Regional Cooperation was also discussed at the Istanbul summit in November 1999.

But all the above-mentioned documents did not change much on the regional scale, apart from streamlining bilateral contacts (Azerbaijan-Georgia, Georgia-Armenia). The idea of regional cooperation was enthusiastically taken up by the West, which was striving to minimize Russia’s role in the region. The topic of regional security of the Southern Caucasus, which the European Union countries and the United States put on the agenda, became a new phenomenon of post-Soviet reality. International forums are discussing the prospects of a South Caucasian community within the framework of a federative state, which could in the future become a member of the European Union. According to both Western and several local political scientists, such a community, which presupposes mutual restriction of the sovereignty of its member states, coordination, as well as joint maintenance of security, will help compromises to be reached and, in the final analysis, the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

In contrast to their foreign colleagues, many Azerbaijani researchers are very pessimistic about the prospects for this integration, motivating this pessimism by the fact that the peoples of the Southern Caucasus are currently undergoing an awakening in their national self-consciousness that was characteristic of the Western European countries in the 19th century, and so are still a long way from the integration processes typical of Western European states from the end of the 20th century. There can be no doubt that one of the main factors objectively hindering this process are the ethno-political and interstate conflicts in the Southern Caucasus, the oldest and most acute of which is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Active participation by the world community and the laws governing globalization could of course accelerate this process, but at the moment the closest economic cooperation has only developed between Georgia and Azerbaijan, which are involved in transnational projects. Armenia, on the other hand, due to its irreconcilable stance in the Nagorno-Karabakh question, essentially remains on the sidelines of the global regional programs. The CIS, which formed from the fragments of the former U.S.S.R., among the participants of which separate political and military blocs have already appeared—GUAM, EurAsEC, CSTO, and so on—has not been a good example of an integrated community.

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Nor have foreign policy orientations undergone any significant changes for an entire century, unless we count the fact that the emphasis was switched from Great Britain, France, and Germany to the U.S. and the European Union. Joint military exercises within the NATO Partnership for Peace program are giving rise to a tense internal reaction in the conflicting countries. With respect to public relations, the most significant results are so far only being yielded by humanitarian projects, many of which are based on a coalition of nongovernmental organizations.

C o n c l u s i o n

An analysis of the present-day reality that is developing in the Caucasian Region shows that the ethno-political problems of the region are gradually changing—they can essentially be resolved on the basis of the legal regulations accepted in today’s world. This requires compromises, which the sides in the conflict are still unwilling to make. This concerns not only the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but also the Abkhazian, as well as the South Ossetian, which have recently brought Georgia to the brink of a Cold War with Russia.

In a situation where the feeling of ethnocultural identity is becoming aggravated, the national ideas of the South Caucasian republics—provided they are socialized, that is, the socioeconomic rights of citizens are ensured—can fulfill integrative functions. But as historical practice shows, any

union created under pressure from the outside is sooner or later doomed to collapse. Only a clear understanding by the South Caucasian states themselves of the expediency of this integration (no matter how it occurs) can be of vital potential and have sustainable development.


MA, Ph.D. candidate, Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany Institute for Central and Eastern Europe

(Eichstätt, Germany).


A b s t

From the historical viewpoint, Azerbai-jani-Georgian relations resemble the Hungarian-Polish relations in Central Europe. The Germans call it Schicksalsgemeinschaft, which means a community of destinies. Although totally different linguistically and ethnically, the Azerbaijanis and Georgians have lived for centuries in one region and partially shared a similar experience. The religious difference between these two nations in the Southern Caucasus shows the heterogeneity and particular cultural richness of the region. For two centu-

r a c t

ries, both Azerbaijan and Georgia were parts of the Russian Tsarist Empire and later on, they were republics of the Soviet Union. In 1918-1921, Baku and Tbilisi were the capitals of independent states. This article deals with the emergence of Azerbaijan and Georgia as states in 1918 and their subsequent cooperation in army-building and security. It shows the military cooperation between the two new-born states located between regional powers such as Russia and Turkey, which were competing for dominance in the Southern Caucasus.

Historiographic Notes

Until 1991, the period of South Caucasian independence was mostly explored in Western countries. Publications by F. Kazemzadeh, T. Swietochowski,1 A. Altstadt, R. Pipes, R. Suny,

1 See: T. Swietochowski, Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920. The Shaping of National Identity in a Muslim Community, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985.

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