Artvin in the History of Armenia: A Melancholy Chapter of Shared Heritage

Situated in historical Armenia, the city of Artvin has a rich and multifaceted history. This article delves into the significant chapters of this shared heritage, spotlighting periods of both harmony and conflict.

Russian Annexation and Peaceful Years

In the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War between 1877 and 1878, the territorial boundaries of the region underwent significant changes. As part of the peace agreements, Artvin surrendered to the Russian Empire, subsequently becoming an integral part of the newly established Batumi Province.

For several decades, the city thrived under Russian rule, witnessing a period of relative peace. The Armenian community, which constituted a major part of the city’s demographic, established 11 churches, reflecting the deep-rooted Armenian spiritual and cultural presence.

World War I and the Shadows of Genocide

The onset of World War I in 1914 turned the tables for the region. As the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) sought to reclaim territories, it set its sights on the Batumi and Kars provinces. The seizure of these lands also marked the beginning of a dark chapter for the Armenians living there.

Artvin, along with Ardahan, became the stage for a harrowing episode of mass exterminations, often carried out under the pretext of military operations. A German journalist, bearing witness to the unfolding atrocities, articulated the horrors with a poignant exclamation, emphasizing the sheer inhumanity of the acts. The chilling events resulted in the death of approximately seven thousand Armenians in the Artvin and Ardahan regions alone.

Many of the orchestrators behind these mass killings, leaders of specialized units, would later emerge as key figures in the Turkish War of Independence, further embedding their names in history.

Changing Hands: The Dance of Politics and Power

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, orchestrated by the Bolsheviks, saw Artvin briefly occupied by Turkish forces. Though re-annexed to Turkey, this arrangement was short-lived. For almost three years, beginning from the end of 1918, Artvin came under the jurisdiction of the Democratic Republic of Georgia.

However, 1921 witnessed another shift. Georgia’s Sovietization led to a portion of the Democratic Republic being occupied by Turkish forces, headed by Kâzım Karabekir. Consequently, Artvin was, once again, reclaimed by Turkey.

Solidifying this territorial claim, the Moscow and Kars Treaties were signed between Bolshevik Russia and Turkey in the same year, ensuring that Artvin remained within Turkish borders.

Vigen Avetisyan

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