Prof. George Hewitt

Review of Anita L.P. Burdett (ed.) Caucasian Boundaries 1802-1946

ANITA L.P. BURDETT (ed.): Caucasian Boundaries. Documents and Maps. 1802-1946. xxiv, 904 pp., with 18 separately boxed maps. London: Archive Editions, 1996. £395.

A Review-article

The complicated patchwork of peoples, languages, and cultures threaded among the peaks and valleys of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus, the conventional demarcation of Europe and Asia, running between the Black and Caspian Sea, hardly affords ideal terrain for the setting of viable state-frontiers. Anyone who reads through the documents gathered together here will soon appreciate the problem: a line on a map, no matter how much time and argumentation might have been invested in its delineation, can be rendered totally meaningless within a matter of years (not to say months) by a shift in contingent international circumstances. This inexorably leads to an inescapable conclusion, namely that the principle of territorial integrity is an extremely sandy foundation for the construction of international relations, at least as far as parts of the former Soviet bloc are concerned. The Caucasian states (roughly as we currently define them) at different times throughout the 19th century became firstly part of the Russian Empire and subsequently, following a brief period of troubled independence in the wake of the October Revolution, of the Soviet Union. Some local frontiers were redrawn a number of times over the decades, and at the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 it was essentially the network of internal state- and sub-state-structures conceived by Stalin that obtained. By 'fiat' of the international community these purely administrative borders became set in the stone of international law, when the 15 union-republics received recognition (albeit not in one fell swoop) as independent countries. Anyone familiar with the history chronicled by the official documentation presented in these pages should have been able to predict that there would be trouble, given that the very collapse of the Soviet Union removed at a stroke whatever legitimacy some of these borders might have enjoyed during (at least the final decades of) Soviet domination.

Anita Burdett has burrowed deep into HMG's collections (160 boxes and files) on deposit at the Public Record Office to garner the contents of what is in effect a handsome 2-tome set, for the 18 maps are contained in a case designed as a companion-volume to the bound photocopies. Of course, papers not present among the sources investigated were not available for potential inclusion, and, as stated in the 2-page Preface, 'only documents directly relevant to frontier[-]issues and settlements have been selected'. There is no mention of the rather radical changes to the frontiers of North Central Caucasia after the mass-expulsions in 1943-44 of the Karachay, Balkar, Chechen and Ingush populations, when the eponymous territories disappeared from Soviet maps, with some redistribution of land to neighbouring units (e.g. Georgia, North Ossetia, Daghestan). There was no wide contemporary knowledge of these events, and this is probably reflected by absence of material in HMG'ss sources. More surprising is the non-citation of the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, which held out such promise for the reestablishment of a Greater Armenia (as indicated on maps 16, 17, and 18) in N.E. Turkey. This treaty was never implemented, which perhaps accounts for its non-appearance here, thanks to Kemal Atatürk's military success and, as noted on p. 880, 'Bolshevik support'. The 18 separate maps reproduced were selected from a total of 85 scrutinised. It would have been helpful to have had a list of those rejected for inclusion -- was, for instance, the 'coloured ethnographic and political map of the Caucasus Mountain Peoples' Republic intended for the Paris Peace Conference [...] printed in French on the orders of the Mountain Peoples' Delegation in 1919 in Lausanne', shewing 'both Abkhazia and South Ossetia [...] as within the Mountain Peoples' State' (Lakoba: 1998.117-8) among the latter, or is it just not part of HMG's archive? This map (from Bammate 1919) is appended to the present review, having kindly been made available by Abkhazia's representative in Western Europe, Dr. Vjacheslav Chirikba of The Hague. Six of the maps, marked in the list by an asterisk, have been reduced (from what size?). This at first glance might be assumed to explain why many/most place-names are illegible on the first five to have undergone this process, though a similar difficulty characterising some of those not apparently reduced suggests that the problem may lie with the originals.

The nine major divisions of the work are entitled: 1. Watersheds in the first era of Russian expansion into Turkish and Persian Caucasia, 1802-1855; 2. Russian territorial advances and conflicts to 1856 resulting in boundary[-]settlement of 1857-1858 via the Treaty of Paris and in the Turco-Russian Asiatic boundary[-]commission; 3. Aspects of the southern Transcaucasus frontiers during the period 1867-1879, with reference to the delimitations following the San Stefano Conference (1878) and Treaty of Berlin (1878) -- since the first text in this chapter specifies 'last year' as being 1860 (p.257), perhaps the chapter is meant to include the years 1860-1879; 4. Overviews and descriptions of land[-]frontiers, 1885-1907; 5. The collapse of the old empire: attempts by each Transcaucasian state to obtain independence during the turbulent period 1918-1920; 6. Regional disputes develop over attempts to define extent of control by each government, 1919-1920; 7. The effect on boundary[-]issues of the federated Transcaucasia phase and the new international agreements, 1920-1922; 8. Status of regions under Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics, 1922-1926; 9. Transcaucasia under the Stalinist constitution, 1936-1946: alterations and resurgence of regional territorial disputes. The languages of the documents are English and French; the maps are in English, French, Russian and German. There are also numerous sketch-maps embedded within the texts.

No attempt is made to outline the historical background to the treaties or other inclusions (some of which are themselves historical summaries), as it is assumed that the relevant facts will be known to readers. Where appropriate, I shall indicate below suitable references that relate to a particular topic. It might seem that a treaty is a treaty is a treaty, so that there can be little to say about a collection that draws so many (or, at least, relevant sections of them) together. However, treaties consist of words, and words sometimes lay themselves open to varying interpretations. Additionally, there are some fascinating observations in the associated documentation that provide ample scope for comment.

The first question to be asked is: 'Why is 1802 the starting-point of the book?' The editor states (p.vii) that this is when Georgia was declared to be part of Russia. This statement seems to come from the very first document to be included ('Territorial acquisitions of Russia from Turkey'), for on p.5 one reads: 'In 1800, Georgia, by a Ukase [edict] of Paul was annexed to the Russian Empire, and in 1802 this act was confirmed by Alexander'. However, on p.9 a statement in the confidential memorandum relating to the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan is more accurate: 'In 1801 the Kingdom of Georgia was incorporated with the Russian Dominions by a Russian Proclamation dated 28th January'. Compare this with the description of the event in the supplementary volume to the 11-volume Georgian Encyclopædia: 'On 18th January 1801 Paul I's manifesto [on annexation] was published in St. Petersburg, whilst it was made public in Tbilisi on 16th February. Finally, the annulment of the Kartli-K’akhetian Kingdom and its annexation to Russia was affirmed by Alexander I's manifesto of 12th September 1801'. And so, the dates in the title of this work should perhaps read '1801-1946'. But another question now rears its head -- what is meant by the term 'Georgia'?

The united mediæval kingdom of Georgia, which reached its apogee under Queen Tamar (r. 1184-1213), fragmented during and after the various waves of Mongol invasions into the central kingdom of Kartli, the eastern kingdom of K’akheti(a) (the two being sometimes united, as in 1801), the western kingdom of Imereti(a), and such princedoms as Abkhazia, Mingrelia and Svaneti(a) in the north-west, Guria in the west, and, in the south-west (the Saatabego[1] of) Samtskhe. There was no central Georgian state as such that again incorporated (most of) these territorial units until 1918. And yet, the maps seem to imply the existence of just such a state -- the first map here is from 1769 and has the first letter of 'Géorgie' (which extends in large capitals eastwards into K’akheti(a)) to the right of the Mingrelian-Imeretian frontier; similarly, on the second (Russian) map the capitalised 'Gruzija' runs across a province south of Tiflis (officially it became Tbilisi in 1936) styled 'Somxitija' ('somxeti' is modern Georgian for 'Armenia') into K’akheti(a), and exactly the same can be said of the third (French) map from 1826, though in all cases anyone looking at the maps would read them as implying 'Georgia' included the same (north-)western regions it is recognised as encompassing today. Interestingly, the fourth (German) map of 1838 indicates no superordinate designation 'Georgien/Gruzien'! But such maps are clearly at odds with the wording of many of the documents here, where, as in Article IV of the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople's reference to 'La Géorgie, l'Iméritie, la Mingrelie, le Gouriel [Guria] et plusieurs autres provinces du Caucase' (p.22), distinct territories are being designated. This is incontrovertibly expressed in the confidential 'Memorandum respecting Georgia' (1855), where we read (p.90): 'The provinces of Mingrelia, Imeretia, and Guriel, are of the Greek Church, and were formerly governed by their Princes, who acknowledged the suzerainty of the Sultan. Georgia Proper was governed by its own Kings under the protection of Persia'. Manifestly, 'Georgia' properly referred at this time exclusively to those regions that fell under Persian influence (viz. those east of the Surami Ridge, which marks the easternmost extent of Imereti(a)). The same applies to the 'Political and military geography' of 1876 (pp.263-276), for after mentioning the Gurians, Imeretians and Mingrelians, the author goes on (p.265) to name 'the Georgians who occupy the plain of the Kura from the Suram Mountains as far down as the heights of Zakatal' -- on the first of the accompanying sketch-maps the disjunction of ethnonyms 'Grusinians or Georgians' is set firmly to the east of Imereti(a). Again in Acting Consul Harry Lyall's confidential report of 1877 Abkhazia, Mingrelia and Georgia are plainly deemed separate countries: '...the Caucasus, comprising Circassia, Abkhasia, Mingrelia, Georgia, great part of Armenia, and the ancient Media, with Daghistan and the country of the Suanetians, Assetinians [Ossetes], Abkhas, and other obscure and barbarous mountaineers' (p.279 -- are the Abaza people, close relatives of the Abkhazians but who live in the N. Caucasus region of Karachay-Cherkessia, perhaps here meant by 'Abkhas'?. And it is in the restricted sense, as the quotation from the Georgian Encyclopædia confirms, that 'Georgia' was annexed to Russia in 1801. Mingrelia came under a Russian protectorate in 1803, Imereti(a) in 1804 (stated to have occurred in 1802 on pp.435-6), and Abkhazia in 1810, though both Abkhazia and Mingrelia continued to administer their own affairs until the end of the Great Caucasian War in 1864.

The historical summary that constitutes the first text states for 1814 (actually 1813): '[B]y the Treaty of Goolistan Persia ceded to Russia the whole of Georgia' (p.5). The secret memorandum relating to this treaty subsequently states: '...Georgia; the Provinces of Schuragel, Imiritia, Guriel, Mingrelia, and Abassia [Abkhazia], and the territories included between them and the Caucasian line, on the one side, and the Caspian Sea on the other, were ceded to Russia' (p.9). And yet in a confidential military report of 1907 (pp.423-59) no mention is made of any part of Georgia in reference to the provisions of Gulistan (cf. p.427). There seems to be some misunderstanding here in the sources, for Persia certainly had no possible say over the sovereignty of these western areas, and according to the Georgian Encyclopædia (vol. 2) it was by the Treaty of Bucharest, concluded in 1812 between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, that Russia retained control of Imereti(a), Mingrelia, Guria and Abkhazia! The enduring boundary between Russia (Azerbaijan) and Persia, which split the Azerbaijani population between the two, was established by the treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkmanchay (1828), which latter is here reflected on pp.15-18.

The contentious Article IV of the Treaty of Adrianople (1829, though dated to 1830 in the first text cited -- p.4), is quoted on pp.22-23, where we see the frontier between Russia and the Sublime Porte set from the border between Guria and Ach’ara's (Adzharia's) northern area of Kobuleti at port St. Nicholas along 'la ligne qui, en suivant la limite actuelle du Gouriel depuis la Mer Noire remonte jusqu'à la limite de l'Iméritie...' -- the precise force of the adjective 'actuelle' was to give rise to much frustration in 1857, set out in chapter 2, regarding which the final advice was to leave well alone, since 'it would be most inadvisable to institute any further enquiry on the spot, on account of the spirit of animosity which exists between the Gourelians and Kobouletians, and which[,] if excited, would certainly terminate in bloodshed' (p.206). But the words that were to lead to the most appalling consequences were these: '[T]out le littoral de la Mer Noire depuis l'embouchure du Kouban jusqu'au Port de St. Nicolas inclusivement demeureront à perpetuité sous la domination de l'Empire de Russie'. According to this, Russia gained the coastal fortress of Anapa on Circassian territory and interpreted the cession as granting her right to dominion over the whole of Circassia, as in Count Nesselrode's apologia (pp.47-66), where we read in justification of Russian actions a pre-echo of Boris Yeltsin's more recent attempts to excuse unleashing bloodshed in Chechenia: 'Dans cette situation, les Circassiens, de temps immémorial, vivaient dans un état perpetuel de brigandage' (p.50), raiding neighbouring territory to carry off women and children for the slave-trade in Constantinople; the claim of legal title is made on p.64. Against a Foreign Office query as to whether the accuracy of the said Article IV could be questioned, a hand has written 'No'. The Circassians themselves, of course, have consistently argued (both during their valiant but vain military resistance upto 1864 and ever since) that, as the Turks had never owned Circassia, they were in no position to 'cede' it to anybody, with the result that Russia's pretence to title was a sham. In this connection, readers are urged to consult J.S. Bell (1840), especially Appendix XIII (pp.460-481 of vol.II), where the accuracy of Article IV is indeed questioned -- see also Longworth (1840), Spencer (1838; 1839) and the Appendix to Taitbout de Marigny (1837). Bell's Appendix additionally offers some discussion of the affair of the Vixen (mentioned here on p.77), a vessel that Bell arranged to be sailed into 'Russian' waters off Circassia in the hope that its anticipated seizure might spur Lord Palmerston to act in defence of British (and, by extension, Circassian) rights. Despite widespread sympathy in Great Britain (extending, according to the first foreign champion of Circassian rights, David Urquhart, to even King William IV) for the noble struggle of the North West Caucasian Circassians, Abkhazians and Ubykhs (as well as the Daghestanis under Shamil) against Russian imperial expansion, the Government took no action, thus condemning North Caucasian resistance to ultimate failure (in 1864). The sympathy for the North Caucasians appears in our documents on p.72 ('a brave and temperate People, preferring destruction to the loss of their independence').

The confidential 'Memorandum respecting Georgia' (pp.87-92) submitted from Erzeroum by James Brant in 1855 might mutatis mutandis have been written as a prediction for post-Soviet Georgia. Georgia must be removed from Russian control and its threat to UK trade with Persia and India (read the Baku-Supsa-Ceyhan oip-pipleine and the TRACECA projects today). However, Georgia's complex ethno-religious mix will lead to problems once Russia withdraws, for inter alia the regions 'could never be united, so as to form one strong, independent State' (p.91). Thus, some protector must step forward, and Brant suggested that England take on the task of keeping order! The distinguished Georgian intellectual Bachana Bregvadze once commented to me by way of a toast that life in Georgia would have been significantly improved, had fate decreed Georgia become part of the British Empire, thereby hinting at the 'baneful contact' with Russia to which Brant had earlier alluded.

Already in 1857 a Col. J. Simmons was expressing his exasperation over the Porte's insouciance towards protecting its eastern frontier (p.185) laid down in the Treaty of Paris, which closed the Crimean War, for lack of firmness did nothing but encourage natural Russian encroachment. The Porte's further lack of attention to detail led to a great deal of correspondence consequent upon the treaties of St. Stefano and Berlin in 1878 with their cession of Ardahan, Kars and Batum(i) to Russia by Turkey. The British boundary-commissioner, F. Clarke, discovered on his arrival that the Turkish and Russian commissioners had already agreed a demarcation that was actually against the interests of Turkey herself. The matter hinged on the interpretation of the word 'droite' in the phrase 'en ligne droite' of Article LVIII of Berlin, Clarke insisting that it could have 'no other meaning than "direct", i.e., the shortest line' (p.317) -- the English wording given on p.296 is: 'The new the south of Artwin, continues in a straight line as far as the River Tchoroukh [Ch’orokh]'. The wrangling went to the very highest levels, with Clarke exhibiting a dogged tenacity in defence of Turkish interests and clearly becoming quite annoyed at Russian 'bad faith' (p.325). He generously concluded that the Pasha 'erred in not looking out sufficiently for his country's interests, not from any corrupt motive, but simply from his being unable to appreciate the meaning of words and the punctuation of sentences employed in the Treaty' (p.324)!

Important information is contained in the 1876 report on 'Political and military geography' (pp.263-276), with area- and population-figures for the administrative regions into which the Caucasus was then divided, viz. the governments of: Stavropol, Tiflis, Kutais, Elisavetpol, Erivan, and Baku; the territories of: Kuban Cossacks, Terek Cossacks, Daghestan; and the districts of: Sukhum-Kaleh (a footnote remarks on the recent incorporation of this district into the Kutaisi Gubernia), and Tschornomoria -- figures for Transcaucasia in 1884-85 are included on p.397 within another geographical report (pp. 391-400), where we learn that the coastal road from Tuapse south-eastwards had been begun, that work on constructing the harbour at Poti was underway, and that the author deems the Mingrelians to be indolent (whereas amongst the Abkhazians they have had for at least a century a reputation for being grafters!). Those who advance the ludicrous argument that Ossetes found their way into South Ossetia (Georgia) only in the footsteps of the Red Army need to note that the 1876 report describes their spread as far south as Dusheti in the Tiflis Gubernia -- an Ossetia is also clearly marked south of the mountains on Map 2 (1834); indeed, in Gen. Odishelidze's memorandum of 1919 we read the admission: 'For nearly 2000 years Dwalethi was incorporated in Georgian territory, and its inhabitants, Ossetes of the Greek-Orthodox Church, who speak the Dval or Tual dialect of the Ossetian language, i.e. the same tongue as is spoken by the Ossetes of the Gori district, have since the 2nd Century A.D. been greatly influenced by Georgian culture' (pp. 658-9). This is followed by a more revealing admission with respect to Georgia's claim to Dvaleti: '[I]f we fail by a timely and firm occupation of the Kassarskoe gorge to sever the northern Ossetes from the southern Ossetes[,] these two tribes, although of different religions, and speaking different dialects, will soon unite and so form a strong ethnographic wedge[,] which will be driven in between the Georgians and thus destroy that narrow ethnographic isthmus which at present unites the Eastern and the Western Georgians' (p. 659). The Abkhazians are correctly stated to 'occupy the Tsebelda and the coast-line from Pitsunda to the Ingur' (p.265), whilst a year later Harry Lyall observes that the only non-native peoples in Circassia and Abkhazia are Moldavians, Greeks and Germans -- the Abkhazians he unflatteringly differentiates from their close relatives, the Circassians, thus: 'The Abkhas have the credit of being the greater ruffians' (p.280)!

Col. I. Herbert's military report of 1889 notes in passing that the Karachays (p. 416) in the N. W. Caucasus held a rather privileged position for having submitted in 1828 to Russian rule (unlike their Circassian neighbours). This stands in sharp contrast to the suspicion in which they and the others who shared a similar fate have been held since their return to their Caucasian homeland in the late 1950s following their deportation by Stalin during World War II. The historical summary in another military report of 1907 (pp. 423-59) alludes to the error of Omer Pasha's Mingrelian campaign of 1855 to the rear of the Russian encampment at Kars, which then fell to the Russians (p. 444) -- what the Turks should have done is described on (p. 447). Subsequent Turkish operations in Abkhazia in 1877 failed to achieve their desired rebellion locally (p. 455) but did spark off anti-Russian activity in Chechenia and Daghestan despite the assumed final pacification of these regions in 1859 -- for the story of the 19th century Caucasian War in Chechenia and Daghestan see Gammer (1994) or the 1999 reprint of Baddeley (1908) with Gammer's new introduction; useful material is also to be found in Broxup (1992). Referring to the Daghestanian town of Gunib, the report speaks of its 'Lesghian population' -- in fact, Gunib lies in Avar territory. The (frequent) misplacement of Lezgians to the north of their actual range in S. Daghestan/N. Azerbaijan must be due to a confusion -- just as Georgians use the term 'Lek' (lek’i) to refer, somewhat disparagingly, to any native of Daghestan, so Russians tended to employ the term 'Lezgin' in the wider sense of 'Daghestanian' (Dr. V. Chirikba -- p.c.).

Sections 5 through 7 are devoted to the period of Transcaucasian independence, troubled years which followed the 1915 massacre and deportation of Armenians by Turkey and the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and which were characterised by (i) Turkish and German jockeying for position as the 1st World War drew to a close, (ii) the three Transcaucasian states' attempts to secure some modus vivendi that would prove acceptable both locally (in the face of strong mutual distrust and territorial claims) and to an international community whose own post-war struggles were being played out at the Paris Peace Conference and the founding of the League of Nations, and (iii) threats firstly from the Russian civil war being fought in part by Denikin in the North Caucasus and finally by encroachment of the victorious Red Army. For this period see Kazemzadeh (1951) and Avalov (1940).

Article 4 of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty of March 1918, by which Russia concluded peace with the Central Powers, stipulated that Russian troops should withdraw from the provinces of Batumi, Ardahan and Kars, which Turkey had ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 -- see Map 13 for the Russo-Turkish frontiers in 1839 (shewn in green), and in 1878, when the more extensive cessions at St. Stefano are indicated by the outer red line, whilst the less extensive cessions of Berlin are demarcated by the inner more orange-coloured line (unfortunately in the key it is impossible to distinguish between the red and the more orange hues, but the contours of the Stefano sketch-map on p. 294 clearly conform to the outer line on Map 13). Furthermore, 'Russia shall not interfere in the reorganisation of the constitutional and international affairs of these districts, but shall leave it to the population of these districts to carry out the reorganisation in agreement with the neighbouring States, particularly Turkey' (p. 464). This was to have to have repercussions...

Eyre Crowe composed a short memorandum in November 1918 on a possible territorial policy for the Caucasus (pp. 469-72), in the course of which he summarises in single paragraphs the situation obtaining in each of the four regions: Georgia, (Russian) Armenia, (Russian) Azerbaijan, and Daghestan. He sees the difficulties in establishing a viable federation, recommending that a foreign power, specifically France, adopt an advisory mandate for the states. He observes that Georgia could be recognised, but recognition should depend on it breaking the close ties it was fostering with Germany, with which the UK was still at war. In reference to the Laz population resident along the Black Sea coast from Sarpi almost upto Rize (whose incorporation into Georgia was then still a possibility), he calls them Georgian-speaking (cf. also a similar statement on p. 577, which accounted for Lazistan not being considered appropriate to be awarded to Armenia in the post-World War I settlement) -- since many in Georgia still mistakenly refer to Laz and its close sister Mingrelian as 'dialects' of Georgian, it is likely that this misconception emanated from Georgia. In truth, neither Laz and Georgian nor Mingrelian and Georgian are mutually intelligible, but to argue that Laz and Mingrelian (which some regard as co-dialects of the so-called Zan language) are Georgian dialects would be to add greater weight to the claim that the territories inhabited by their speakers should be included within the frontiers of Georgia, and one suspects that this is not only why the argument was originally advanced but also why it has become so firmly fixed in the Georgian national consciousness. On the accompanying map of Turkey in Asia (pp. 474-5) a hand has delineated the 4 states of: Georgia, Armenia (in its lesser and greater boundaries), Azerbaijan, and Daghestan PLUS the two territories of Abkhazia and Zakatala. Beneath the printed map someone has added an intriguing note, of which, frustratingly, only the first line is (barely) legible: 'Possible new frontiers/Abkhasia and Zakhatali being...' -- what was on the second line?! Included in this volume (pp. 528-37) is a letter by Abkhazian representative Lieut. Khasaia of June 1919 setting out Abkhazian objections to the machinations whereby Georgia occupied this region in 1918. For further details on this topic see Lakoba (1998a). For an understanding of the deep-seated resentment amongst the Abkhazians at their having been subordinated to Georgia earlier this century, see the remaining articles in that same collection of essays (Hewitt 1998). This extra reading is essential because a proper evaluation of the nature of the ongoing Georgian-Abkhazian conflict cannot be gained without an appreciation of the events that unfolded in the region from the moment when the bulk of the Abkhazians (along with most of the Circassians and all the Ubykhs) felt compelled to migrate to Turkey in the 1860s-1870s, leaving behind a mere rump N.W. Caucasian population in the Caucasian homeland(s). Distressing eye-witness accounts of the chaos of departure of these N.W. Caucasians are available in 'Papers respecting the Settlement of Circassian Emigrants in Turkey' (Presented to the House of Commons, 1864). For official documents relating to the Union of United Mountain Peoples of the North Caucasus, founded in 1917 with Abkhazia as a member and which existed from 1918 to 1920 as the Mountain Republic, see Kakagasanov et al. (1994).

A 2-page War Office document of August 1918 pertinently reminds us that at the time of the Russian Revolution Georgian leaders would have been satisfied to enter a Transcaucasian Federation within a Federal Russian Republic -- however, in December 1917 a Transcaucasian Federal Government was created, and this declared Transcaucasia independent on 19th April 1918 (p. 591). As related in the memorandum on Georgia's declaration of independence (pp. 482-86), it was because of Turkish insistence in talks at Trebizond (see pp. 499-508) and Batumi (pp. 511-19) on the fulfilment of Article 4 of Brest-Litovsk that Georgia felt compelled to declare independence on 26 May 1918 -- the Caucasians at Trebizond argued that the conditions of Brest-Litovsk could not apply to the Transcaucasus, which was then independent of Russia, to which the Turks responded that independence had been improperly declared. Both Turkey and Germany recognised Georgia, even though its frontiers were poorly defined. No doubt in recognition of the embarrassment caused by being supported by the Central Powers when it needed the backing of the wider international community, Georgian delegate to Paris, Zurab Avalov (Avalishvili), stated on 25th September 1918 (p. 481) that geo-political circumstances had forced Georgia's rapprochement with Germany and Turkey. The government of newly independent Georgia did, however, declare that, should circumstances again prove favourable, the Transcaucasian Federation ought to be reconstituted, though in the meantime independence had to be strengthened. For this reason Georgia was keen to secure full recognition. Notes of a discussion with Avalov (pp. 491-6) touch on his view that the Entente Allies should substitute for Germany as partner for the export of Georgian manganese. Regarding the frontier, Avalov acknowledged a basis only to Azerbaijan's claims on Zakatala; on Abkhazia, it is illuminating to note (vis-à-vis the earlier observation about how Laz was/is portrayed as a Georgian dialect) Avalov's entirely baseless assertion that the Abkhazians 'are distantly related to the Georgians' (p. 493). He goes on to maintain that the majority-population of Abkhazia, following the mass-migrations to Ottoman lands of the 1860s-1870s, is 'Georgian, speaking a Mingrelian dialect' -- the Mingrelian spoken in Abkhazia's southernmost Gal District is a special dialect known as Samurzaq’anian, and very few of these Mingrelians will have had any knowledge of Georgian itself at the time -- for specific confirmation of this from a Georgian source see Beridze (1920.20). Avalov tries to blame agitation from Abkhazian officers serving in the Turkish army for anti-Georgian sentiment amongst Abkhazians in Abkhazia at this period -- see Bechhofer (1921) to appreciate why it is unnecessary to look to Turkey for the explanation. Avalov stated that the Adjarians (around Batumi) were anti-Turkish, whilst he admitted that the allegiance of the Laz was less clear. On Akhalkalaki, Avalov accepted that the majority was Armenian, remarking that, had Armenia been awarded the expected territories in E. Turkey, the Armenians would have evacuated the town, leaving it to the Georgians; as to the neighbouring region of Borchalo, whilst many Georgians might have been willing to let Armenia have it, others opposed this. Both localities were to remain within Georgia (cf. an alternative proposal on p. 577), leaving post-Soviet Georgia with another potential ethno-territorial problem in the still Armenian dominated south-western provinces of Meskhet-Dzhavakheti.

In April 1919 the Foreign Office proposed that Petrovsk (today's Makhachkala) should, like Grozny in Chechenia, be open to Gen. Denikin, as his forces needed a port on the Caspian (p. 524). At this period Georgia was claiming the Black Sea coast upto Sochi. However, it was felt that the Georgian president would settle for Gagra (in northern Abkhazia) as his north-western border, but the R. Mzymta was suggested as a compromise Russo-Georgian frontier -- it finally became established slightly to the south-east along the R. Psou -- on the alleged grounds that 'some' amongst the coastal population desired to be part of Georgia (ibid.)!

The question of Armenia's western boundary is naturally reflected here. The short document on 'The New Armenia' (pp. 541-3) contains the revelation that the Armenians apparently blamed the Georgians for letting the 'Turk' into the Caucasus! As to the southern frontier, it was noted in 1919 (p. 573) that: 'In the Mediterranean-Euphrates Section the object is to make the frontier coincide as nearly as possible with the linguistic boundary between Turkish and Armenian on the one hand and Arabic on the other', though the water- and road-systems create problems here. The ethnographic principle as basis for drawing frontiers is mentioned again on p. 723 with reference to the Armenian-Georgian dispute over Armenia's northern limit. Written in 1920, the French document describes events in the region for 1918: 'In the spring of 1918, when the Armenians were alone in resisting the Turkish incursion, the Georgians, with the help of German military forces, profited from Armenian disarray and occupied the southern part of the Borchalo district called Lori, which was inhabited exclusively by Armenians. The Armenian Government protested on 22nd October about this encroachment. The response of the Georgian Government was that the occupation would have only a provisional character, a definitive decision through mutual consent based on the ethnographic principle being anticipated. But the Georgian Government, despite its formal commitments, had recourse to vexatious measures and to a systematic persecution aimed at depopulating these provinces of the Armenian element. [...] Irritated, outraged, and pushed to the limit, the Armenian population of Lori rose in revolt against the Georgian Government' -- see also pp. 698-699 for Georgia's occupation of Lori and Akhalkalaki. The document ended with a warning that the cession of Akhalkalaki to Georgia would remain a permanent threat to good relations.

For the Armeno-Azerbaijani border the 1919 document suggested that the simplest solution to a difficult situation was to continue the former Russian division between the gubernias of Erivan and Elizavetpol, but the Armenians objected that this would leave Nagorno-Karabagh in Azerbaijan, their main representative in Paris, Aharonian, stating a preference for giving up Nakhichevan in return for control over Nagorno-Karabagh (p. 578). In a hand-written comment on a short minute about the position of Daghestan there is a hint at Foreign Office havering (one suspects not the only occasion!) when we read that the UK has 'an excellent opportunity for clearing the air if we can only make up our own minds as to what our policy in the Caucasus is to be' (p. 582), though it was clear that all decisions on the Transcausus were to be left to the Peace Conference. Two sets of minutes of meetings with Armenian representatives and the appended hand-written observations (pp. 671-6) indicate the obvious sympathy of the British diplomats for the view that Nagorno-Karabagh should be part of Armenia -- the editor's amplification in the Contents 'with comments that Armenian claim is less substantial' (p. xix) are puzzling and can only be explained by limiting their reference to the reservations expressed by a Mr. Malcolm, Boghos Nubar Pasha's representative, on p. 671. In defence of Armenian claims to Nagorno-Karabagh the 4-page document (pp. 705-708) questions the need of Azerbaijani shepherds to use precisely Karabagh's summer-pastures for their flocks, given the abundance of such pasturage elsewhere; the population-balance is given as 350,000 Armenians to 122,000 'Tatars' -- in a minute of 27 June 1919 one J. Simpson reported an Azerbaijani assertion that data on Muslim populations in all Russian censuses were questionable, the same source putting Armenian intransigence in negotiations down to the fact that they regarded themselves as 'special pets' of America.

Various submissions by Azerbaijan's Paris representative, Topchibachev, are included. His long memorandum (pp. 584-612) sketched the situation, past and present, obtaining in his home-state, which had declared independence on 28th May 1918, two days after Georgia. A provisional capital had been established in Elizavetpol, as Baku was in Bolshevik hands. An uprising in March 1919 was savagely repressed when local Armenian supporters of the Dashnak nationalist party acted in concert with the Bolsheviks, causing 6,000 victims (p. 605), though in another submission Topchibachev put the figure for the same period at 12,000 Muslims (p. 617). An appeal to Turkey for help led to the fall of Baku after a 2-month siege. This coincided with the attempted intervention of British Gen. L. Dunsterville's 'Dunsterforce', of which the memorandum makes no mention, though Topchibachev is reported (p. 614) to have regretted the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force to the Caucasus under Gen. Thomson. In this same letter Louis Mallet relates how he informed Topchibachev that the UK was not willing to undertake a mandate for Azerbaijan, whose recognition was also to be a matter for the Peace Conference alone.

General UK policy as of December 1918 seems to have been a desire for a strong Caucasus (p. 635), no doubt in the hope that this would keep Bolshevik Russia at bay. This statement encompassed Daghestan, indeed in another document despatched from Turkey it is acknowledged: 'The inhabitants of Daghestan or the North Caucasus Republic have as much claim to our consideration as the Georgians, and certainly more than the Tartars' (p. 637). This hope must explain the UK's stance on Georgia, depicted on pp. 630-1, where, despite agreement with Denikin's objection to Georgia's annexation of Sochi in 1917 as being totally devoid of historical justification, we read: '[T]he Georgians were in possession of the Sochi District to which I consider they have no legal or historical right[,] but to turn them out will cause complications in Georgia properly so called' (p. 630). There is further agreement with Denikin's characterisation of Georgia's treatment of Russians as 'tyrannical', the report closing with the words: 'I have nothing good to say of the Georgian Govt. as my written report will show and they are of tendency to Menshevist ideas and two days ago arrested Russian subject who was travelling under British protection'. However, the official instruction was that there was to be no interference with the policy of the Georgian Government, so that it was deemed preferable for Denikin to concentrate his efforts on the greater good of fighting the Bolsheviks rather than upset Georgia at that particular moment.

In the covering letter (pp. 649-50) sent in February 1920 by the UK's man in Menshevik Georgia, (later Sir) Oliver Wardrop, who together with his sister, Marjory, had laid the foundation for Georgian studies in Great Britain at the end of the 19th century, he stated his general approval of Gen. Odishelidze's ideas on extending Georgia's frontiers, though he had reservations about Ardahan and Olti -- the 5 illustrative maps mentioned therein are not in the present volume. Britain at this time was thinking of convening a trilateral conference of the Transcaucasian states to resolve their mutually contradictory claims and counter-claims (p. 735). Reference has already been made to the Odishelidze document, and a further point arises from the following words: '[A]ll those who believe that we are guided by "Imperialistic tendencies" and "desire for annexation" in our claim to the strongholds of our ancient culture(,) may deduce convincing inferences' (p. 660), namely that charges of imperialism and/or aggression were then manifestly being levelled at Georgia (cf. Bechhofer 1921) -- Andrei Sakharov was to do the same in the summer of 1989 when he referred to Georgia as one of the USSR's 'mini-empires', sparking off a torrent of abuse from those stung by comments that were manifestly too close to the truth for comfort. Batumi was one of the areas named by Odishelidze, and Georgian troops were soon introduced, causing a telegram to be sent to Wardrop (21st March) asking that he urge their withdrawal, for attempts like this and a similar one by Azerbaijan in Zangezur to force the hand of the Paris Peace Conference 'can only alienate British sympathy to which they owe so much' (p. 667).

On 1st December 1920 Azerbaijan'a request to be admitted to the League of Nations was rejected (pp. 714-5) -- it had been invaded by Bolshevik Russia on 28th April 1920 (pp. 716-7). In a letter to Georgia's (Mingrelian) Foreign Minister E. Gegech’k’ori (President Noë Zhordania was also Mingrelian) on 7th January 1921 Lancelot Oliphant repeated UK objections to recognising Georgia (p. 791). But then in the document 'Admission de Nouveaux Membres dans la Société des Nations' of 10th December 1920 (pp. 795-6) we read under the heading 'Reconnaissance': 'Georgia was recognised de facto by the governments of France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan (11th January 1920), and de iure by the Republic of Argentina (13th September 1920), by the Soviet Government of Russia and by Germany' -- Bolshevik Russia and Menshevik Georgia had signed a treaty on 7/17 May 1920. Nothing further on recognition appears in these documents, but see Kandelaki (1953). Reasons for the failure of Transcaucasian independence and Denikin's operations in the N. Caucasus are offered on pp. 820-38 in a document from 1926. Are there here, perhaps, lessons that are valid today? -- 'Nobody in Transcaucasia was thinking any more about the organization of a sound defence. They all thought that the "European piece of paper" of recognition was as it were a talisman and would put a limit to the advance of Russia to the South of the Caucasus' (p. 833). A Georgian politician, P’aat’a Zakareishvili, has recently had the courage to state in the newspaper 'Akhali Shvidi Dghe' (New 7 Days): 'I strongly believe that the Government has been keeping its usual position; watching the outer world with expectations', so that, apart from mouthing the slogans 'Preserve Georgian territorial integrity!' and 'Return the refugees!', the Georgian government has no policy towards Abkhazia, investing all its hopes in the power of external forces to compel (e.g. UN resolutions, NATO, and membership of the Council of Europe). Again from 1926 we have recognition of the importance of local unity: '[T]he more permanent economical and political interests of the nations of Caucasia call for the adoption by those nations of the principle of a confederation of Caucasia as the program of their political object' (p. 834).

On 28th April 1920 the Red Army established Soviet dominion over Azerbaijan. Though victorious in Armenia, the Red Army had to turn its attentions to Georgia at the beginning of 1921. After the fall of Adjaria (Ach’ara) on 18th March, the Menshevik leaders fled for exile (chiefly) in France, and the Red Army finally reestablished control over Armenia on 2nd April 1921. On 21st December 1920 a Russo-Persian treaty fixed Soviet-Persian borders (pp. 739-40). According to the Russo-Turkish treaty signed in Moscow on 16th March 1921 (pp. 743-53), Sarpi, a Laz village to the south of Batumi, was to see the frontier pass through the middle of it, so that Kars and Ardahan went to Turkey, whilst Batumi and the surrounding region of Adjaria were ceded to Georgia on certain conditions (p. 745), and Nakhichevan was to be an autonomous province under the control of Azerbaijan. These provisions were confirmed by the Treaty of Kars (13th October 1921 -- pp. 779-84). Caucasian representatives (particularly Aharonian for Armenia) in Paris complained about various aspects of these agreements, but the realities were unshakeable. Reporting to Lord Curzon on 22nd November 1921, High Commissioner Horace Rumbold made the following observation on the ease with which Russia granted Turkey control of Kars: 'Nothing is more remarkable than the accommodating and even subservient attitude of the Russians in the whole business. It is a fresh proof of the value which they attach to the Kemalist alliance' (p. 778). This matter was to resurface over 20 years later.

On 10th March 1922 an agreement was reached in Tiflis on forming a (Soviet) Caucasian Federation (p. 799), which was ratified two days later (p. 804). The de iure recognition of Armenia envisaged in the Treaty of Sèvres was never implemented because of the Soviet takeover there, and the UK offered the Soviet Union (incorporating the Transcaucasian states) de iure recognition on 2nd February 1924 (pp. 841-2). Abkhazia's 1925 Constitution, which established its status from 1921 to 1931 as a Soviet Republic in special treaty-alliance with Georgia, with which it entered the Transcaucasian Federation on 13th December 1922, was published by the Abkhazians as a separate brochure in 1992 -- in 1931 Abkhazia was reduced to an autonomous republic within Soviet Georgia. The territorial units of the USSR as established under Stalin's 1936 constitution are given on pp. 845-6.

In a memorandum submitted to the UN meeting in London on 10th January 1946 (pp. 863-9) the Armenian National Council (Alexandria) raised again the loss of territory in E. Turkey once occupied by Armenians, requesting that the historical wrong be righted basically by annexing to Soviet Armenia the 6 vilayets that had been so much discussed in connection with Pres. W. Wilson's proposals 26 years earlier. The refrain was taken up by The Soviet Monitor on 6th February (pp. 871-4), repeating the inadmissibility of 'wholesale massacre as justification for occupation'. The matter was raised by Tom Driberg MP in a letter to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin on 15th March, the reply to which came on 23rd March (p. 875). In it we read: 'I consider that the claim put forward by the Soviet Government on the grounds of Armenian nationalism is a flimsy one in present conditions'. The 1921 treaties of Moscow and Kars, which ratified Turkish control of Ardahan and Kars, were signed by two independent countries under no international pressure, and Stalin (as then Commissar for Nationalities) was even rumoured to have participated in the relevant negotiations. '[S]tatements were made in Soviet official publications of the period to the effect that Soviet Russia could have no justification on the score of Armenian nationalism for attempting to regain the two provinces from Turkey'.

The Armenian claims were actually predated by parallel Georgian claims made first in the Georgian paper 'K’omunist’i' (Communist) on 14th December 1945. The letter 'Our Lawful Demands on Turkey' from the well-known historians N. Berdzenishvili and (the Mingrelian) Simon Dzhanashia was then republished in all Georgian papers on 20th December, from which an English translation (by whom?) was prepared (pp. 893-7). The authors charge inter alia that the Turks were the worst of all the nationalities to occupy Georgian lands and that the 'most bestial and inhuman persecution was applied to the Georgian nation's most sacred possession -- its language, laws, traditions, culture and ancestral faith. Islam and the Turkish language were everywhere installed by fire and sword. [...] At present, the Turkish authorities are energetically abolishing Georgian geographical names and destroying Georgian historical monuments and architectural works of art' (pp. 896-7) -- ironically, the Georgian authorities were themselves then enthusiastically engaged in the 8th year of an entirely parallel policy in Abkhazia! The resulting paper drawn up at the Foreign Office to contextualise these claims is reproduced on pp. 876-83. It mentions in passing that in 1919 a mandate for Armenia was rejected by the Americans, whilst one for the entire Transcaucasus was also rejected by Italy; it concludes: 'At present it seems both wrong and inexpedient to allow a historic[al] claim of the Armenians and an even more shadowy claim of the Georgians to be exploited for the strategic advantage of the Soviet Union. In any case, if the Soviet Union demands that the Georgians should have the territory they claim, it can hardly insist that this same territory should go to the Armenians'. The document contains interesting census-information for Turkey, where in 1935 there were allegedly 57,325 Georgian speakers, described as 'Turkish refugees from Tsarist Russia'; the same census gave a total of 63,253 Laz speakers for Turkey, and the report stresses: 'In any case there is not the least political connexion between the Lazes and Georgians, and the two peoples are hardly conscious of being akin' (p. 880). It is also good to see the following admission: 'In spite of decades of protests to the Porte and of promises such as that made by Mr. Lloyd George in 1916 "to secure the liberation of this ancient people", the Western Powers, and particularly Great Britain, failed to do anything effective for the Armenians when the moment came in 1918' (p. 883). The Georgian claims themselves were treated with utter disdain -- consider these expressions of incredulity: '[T]here was a tendency to treat the claim of the Georgian professors, overstepping as it did the bounds of all historical and ethnographical logic, as something too fantastic to be considered even by the Russians' (p. 890), or: 'I considered that press should be encouraged from now on to ridicule the sort of nonsense that Moscow is putting out. In particular absurdities of Moscow radio ought not to be allowed to pass unnoticed' (p. 892). Bevin's despatch to Sir. M. Peterson in Ankara (11th January 1946) noted that Georgia's claims were based on ethnicity, and it does have to be admitted that there must have been a substantial ethnic Georgian (quite separate, of course, from the Laz) population in Turkey at the time, given the reported size of that population today -- the provinces of Shavsheti, K’lardzheti and T’ao, which were the heartland of Georgian culture during the years of the Arab emirate in Tbilisi (7th-12th centuries), together with Lazistan were then and are now part of Turkey. If the Kremlin wanted only to curry favour with Atatürk in 1921 (and later in the 1920s), the situation was different in the mid-1940s; as observed by Lieven (1998.316), it is difficult to divorce these moves to acquire slices of Turkish territory from the deportations in 1943-4 of various ethnic groups from the Caucasus who might oppose any Soviet military move against Turkey at some future (but imminent) date -- from the N. Caucasus the Turkic speaking Karachays and Balkars were shipped off along with the generally troublesome Chechens and their close relatives, the Ingush, whilst from the border-region itself the Muslim Meskh(et)ians (usually called 'Meskhetian Turks') and the Hemshinli (Islamicised Armenians) were also expelled -- whilst the Abkhazians expected deportation in the late 1940s, it seems that the authorities felt enough had been done to 'georgianise' (?mingrelianise) them within a couple of generations and so (just) avoided this fate, though Greeks, Turks and Laz were deported to Central Asia from this republic. Georgia has thus far refused to allow the Meskh(et)ians home, though, as a condition of its entry to the Council of Europe, it is now required to resolve this issue within two years. It will be interesting to see how it manages to fulfil this requirement!

The volume closes with a 2-page paper on the validity of the Georgian claims by W.E.D. Allen, who in 1932 had published 'A History of the Georgian the Russian Conquest'; in 1953, in collaboration with Paul Muratoff, he produced 'Caucasian Battlefields. A History of Wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border, 1828-1921', sadly long out of print.

This leaves the maps for consideration. They cover the period from 1769 to 1946. The first one (published in France) actually reproduced the Georgian terms for 'Chechen' (Tchatchani), 'Abkhazians' (Apxazebi), and 'Lazistan' (Tsch[’]aneti), though for 'Mingrelian' the form 'Mingreli' appears, whereas in Georgian this would be 'Megreli' -- reference to 'Glighvi' between the Kabardians and the Chechens may be an attempt to render the Ingush self-designation 'Ghalghai'; no Ossetias appear, though the term 'Alani' (Ossetians claim descent from the ancient Alans) stands to the north-west of Svaneti(a). Map 2 (in Russian from 1817) shews both Ossetias but still places an 'Alanety' way to the north-west in what must at this date have been Circassian land, though there is little detail for 'Dzhikheti', as the Ubykh-Circassian area north-west of Abkhazia was known in Georgian. On Map 3 (seemingly from St. Petersburg but in French from 1826) the Ubykhs are depicted where expected, albeit somewhat in land; the Chechens are here styled 'Mitsdszighi', after a local river, and the term 'Lezghi' sprawls across the area of N.W. Daghestan where one finds the Avar-Andi-Dido/Tsez speakers -- in other words, as noted above, we have this ethnonym displaced too far to the north. On Map 4 (from Berlin, 1838) we note 'Tschetschenzen' for the Chechens, much greater detail for Circassia, and no specific title 'Georgien' for the Georgian provinces. Map 5 is in English from 1840. Map 6 is from Paris and also from 1840. Map 7 is something of an anomaly, purporting to represent 'La Géorgie Primitive avant l'invasion des Scythes (Khazares). Sixième Siècle avant J.C.'. It reproduces plate VIIIa from 'Voyage au Caucase chez les Tcherkesses & les Abkhases en Colchide, en Géorgie, en Arménie et en Crimée par Frédéric Dubois de Monpéreux: Atlas, Neuchâtel, 1843'. However, on the map itself it is further indicated that the picture given is according to that of King Vakht’ang V of the central kingdom of Kartli as published by J. Klaproth -- in other words, we have a purely mythological reconstruction whereby the various sons of Thargamos, descendant of Noah, are pictured as having established dynasties in various regions of the Caucasus (the 'Lesghians' this time are depicted as ecompassing the whole of Daghestan and Chechenia, being supposedly descended from one 'Lekos' -- recall the Georgian term 'lek’i'); needless to say, the map has no historical validity whatsoever. Exactly the same has to be said of Map 8 (dated to 1835), for it is 'Plate XVa from Atlas cited for map 7'. It is based on a map of the Arab al-Mas‘udi of 943, but the colourings, which supposedly represent ethnic affiliations, presumably are to be ascribed to Klaproth (?Vakht’ang), and, while the assigning of the 'Royaume des Abkhaz' to the 'Famille Géorgienne' will please the Georgians, much ink has been consumed over the last decade in Abkhazia to present an alternative affiliation! Map 9 is a rather sparse route-map in Russian depicting the gubernias of Kutaisi and Tiflis. Map 10 is in English and was produced in 1857, though it represents the state of affairs in 1847, and well shews the North West Caucasian tribes, with the Ubykhs placed on the coast (around modern Sochi). Map 11 (in Russian) is of Central Asia in 1865. Map 12 (in English, c.1877) indicates hours of marching required between various places in N.E. Turkey, Georgia and Armenia. Allusion has already been made to the rather indistinct colouring for the Stefano and Berlin boundary-lines on this English map of c.1878 -- 'Nariman' is spelled 'Naximan', and 'Karaurgan' appears as 'Karaougan'. Map 14 (in English, 1885) marks the administrative divisions of Caucasia. Map 15 is from The Ordnance Survey Office (Southampton, 1906) and is rather difficult to decipher. Map 16 is a permanent reminder for Armenians of what might have been, as we have here on an English map of 1920 indications of Turkish territory prior to the Great War plus the various suggestions for the different boundaries of (Greater) Armenia. Map 17 (in English, 1931) again shews the various disputed territories for the period between the Great War and the affirmation of Soviet power. Map 18 (London, 1946) pertains to the claims against Turkey being then made by the Soviet republics of Armenia and Georgia, obviously at the behest of the Georgian Iosep Dzhughashvili (a.k.a. Stalin).

Not surprisingly, many Caucasian ethnonyms and toponyms have been/are spelled differently (amply demonstrated in the texts) at different times or by different authors. However, I would have expected the standard modern variant to have been used in the editor's own contributions (Preface, Contents, and titles). So, for example, read 'Elizavetpol' for the strange looking 'Elisapetopol', 'Abkhazia' for 'Abkhasia', 'Kuban' for 'Kouban' (on p. 633 a mysterious 'l' has been generated in 'Koublan'), 'Karaurgan' for 'Karourgan'; simple typographical slips are: (p. x) 'Nesselroade' for 'Nesselrode', 'Abkiska' for 'Akhiska' (as appears on p.91); (p. xii) 'Stavrapol' for 'Stavropol', 'Schornomoria' for 'Tschornomoria' (= Chernomor'e), 'Soukhum, Kateh' for 'Sukhum-Kaleh' (= today's Sukhum); (p. xv) 'Kutai' for 'Kutais(i)'; (p. xvii) 'Narabag' for 'Karabag(h)'; (p. xviii) 'Odisshelidze' for 'Odishelidze', 'Ardagan' for 'Ardahan', 'Dwalethu' for 'Dvaleti'; (p. 797) '1924' for '1922'; map 5 has the reference [FO 925/1928] on the map itself, but this is given as [FO 925/1982] in the map-lists in each volume. Since the Treaty of Gulistan (1813) set the border between Russia and Persia, I wonder whether the second document of the collection should not be more properly sub-titled 'extracts relevant to Russo-Persian boundary' (rather than 'Russo-Turkish' as given in the Contents, p. ix, and on p. 7). I personally would write 'historical' (not 'historic') on p. vii (line 5), p. xv (line 3 up) and p. xviii (line 3 up). The heading given to section 6.1 on pp. xviii and 641 ('Azerbaijan claims to Batoum and Kars, 1920') is, I think, misleading -- though the document was penned by Azerbaijan's representative, Topchibachev, he was arguing in favour of these provinces forming an autonomous unit to be governed by the Transcaucasian republics acting together. A further presentational point relates to the xeroxing-process: occasionally a page seems not to have been quite fully photocopied (e.g. the top of p. 63), whilst darkening of the toner might here and there have rendered not only parts of the basic text but also some of the (revealing) annotated comments of the reader(s) more legible -- indeed, some of the latter are, sadly, quite unreconstructible.

It is interesting to discover how often in diplomatic correspondence from the 19th century the American spelling 'honor' is attested. There are some slips in the xeroxed originals, such as 'last' for 'land' (p. 183), 'Anjari' for 'Adjarian' (p. 845), whilst the misue of the apostrophe ('it's' for 'its' twice [sic] on p. 246) reveals this to be an older phenomenon than usually suspected, but, since most are obvious, they are not otherwise noted here. Georgia was converted to Christianity in the 4th (not 5th) century, and the consolidating Georgian king at the end of the 11th century was Davit IV (not III) -- see p. 479.

Anita Burdett's labours in the archives have led to a valuable (in every sense of the word) publication that demands the attention of all Caucasologists, who will surely wish to have it on (or close to) their book-shelves for the easy access it affords to the wealth of official papers that sealed the fate over the course of almost 150 critical years of the region they study. Perhaps these volumes will spur another enterprising editor to rummage through the Ottoman archives for information on the centuries of the Porte's most intense involvement in the Caucasus and produce a parallel volume (with English translation!) of the Turkish government's holdings.

Reading through these papers one can hardly avoid musing that, had the Great Powers of the day acted in defence of the undeniably just rights of the North Caucasians in the mid-19th century, the slaughter of the Caucasian War would have been drastically reduced (on BOTH sides), the North West Caucasian peoples would today still be masters of their ancestral territories, and their languages would not be faced with extinction -- indeed, the whole Caucasus might have been saved from 'baneful contact' with Russia (and thus the Soviet Union, wherein a vicious dictator from the balmy Transcaucasian foothills could hardly have found a role to play). Had those Powers acted, as was envisaged in the wake of the Treaty of Berlin, to protect the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, the slaughter of 1896, 1909 and 1915-16 there too might have been avoided, the earnest debate of 1919-20 over how to right a historical wrong (which was only to lead to further betrayal) would have been rendered redundant, and Hitler would not have had that particular precedent for his 'Final Solution'. Anyone committed, as one suspects policy-makers and the diplomatic corps have traditionally tended to be, to the strictly utilitarian philosophy which poses the question 'Why should we have done anything?' would probably react coldly to the response 'Because it would have been right to do so'. However, the main lesson of this collection is perhaps that foreign policy, where appropriate, needs to be inspired much more than heretofore by considerations of human rights. Had that lesson been learnt, more might have been done to help avoid the horrors of the various post-Soviet conflicts in the Caucasus. Let us hope that ways will eventually be found to accommodate the rights of those Caucasian (and, of course, other) minorities in justifiable need of assistance but unable to benefit from it because the accidents of history have left them deprived of the main means of attracting it, namely statehood, an attribute in which the 'international community' invests such excessive importance. In the final analysis, however, states are often mere arbitrary constructs, whose borders, enshrined in the sort of treaties brought together in this collection, remain valid and viable just as long as the relevant citizenry is in its entirety happy to be confined within them, regardless of what this or that piece of paper, dignified with the title 'treaty', may say.


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Baddeley, John. 1908. The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus. London. Reprinted 1999 by Curzon Press.

Bammate, Haidar. 1919. Le Problème du Caucase. La Revue Politique Internationale. Lausanne.

Bechhofer [Roberts], Carl. 1921. In Denikin's Russia and the Caucasus, 1919-1921. London.

Bell, James S. 1840. Journal of a Residence in Circassia during the years 1837, 1838 and 1839. 2 vols. London: Moxon.

Beridze, Shota. 1920. megruli (iveruli) ena. shesavali da masalebi [The Mingrelian (Iberian) Language. Introduction and Materials']. Tbilisi.

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Kakagasanov, G.I. et al (eds.). 1994. Sojuz ob"edinennyx gortsev severnogo kavkaza i dagestana (1917-1918), Gorskaja Respublika (1918-1920) (dokumenty i

materialy) [The Union of United Mountaineers of the North Caucasus and Daghestan (1917-1918), The Mountain Republic (1918-1920) (documents and materials)]. Maxachkala: Institut Istorii, Arxeologii i Ètnografii DNTs PAN.

Kandelaki, Constantin. 1953. The Georgian Question Before the Free World (Acts -- Documents -- Evidence). Paris.

Kazemzadeh, Firuz. 1951. The Struggle for Transcaucasia (1917-1921). New York: Philosophical Library.

Lakoba, Stanislav. 1998. Abkhazia, Georgia and the Caucasus Confederation, in Bruno Coppieters, Ghia Nodia, Yuri Anchabadze (eds.) Georgians and Abkhazians. The Search for a Peace Settlement, 113-121. Bundesinstitut für

Ostwissenschaftliche und Internationale Studien.

Lakoba, Stanislav. 1998a. History: 1917-1989, in Hewitt (1998. 89-101).

Lieven, Anatol. 1998. Chechnya. Tombstone of Russian Power. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Longworth, J.A. 1840. A Year among the Circassians. 2 vols. London: Colburn.

Spencer, Edmund. 1838. Travels in the Western Caucasus. 2 vols. London: Colburn.

Spencer, Edmund. 1839. Travels in Circassia, Krim Tartary, etc.... 2 vols, 3rd ed. London: Colburn.

Taitbout de Marigny, Jacques V. E. 1837. Three Voyages in the Black Sea to the Coast of Circassia. 2 vols. London: Colburn.

George Hewitt


[1]The area under the control of an Atabey/Atabek, Turkish title of a princeling or local governor.

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