AKHALKALAK DISTRICT IN THE LAST DECADES OF THE 19TH CENTURY AND IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY
The Demographic Movements Observed in the Akhalkalak District – In the prculiar of the demographic development of Transcaucasia and the districts of Akhaltskha and Akhalkalak was the drastic increase in the number of the Armenian population in the cities. This was primarily due to the rise and development of market relations. Gradually more and more Armenian merchants, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs moved to the cities, where great opportunities awaited them. This was particularly obvious in the provinces of Tiflis, Yelizavetpol, and Baku. With this regard, the Caucasian Calendar states, “The Armenians constitute a majority in all the cities of Tiflis Province. In Tiflis city they comprise almost half of the population (45%), the other half being Georgians (26%), Russians (24%) and Tatars (5%). In the other cities, the Armenians outnumber the Georgians. In Akhaltskha, for example, the Armenians make up 93% of the population.
As for the peasantry of Tiflis Province, the Armenians constituted an overwhelming majority in Historical Javakhk, Samtskhe, and Lori, as well as in the districts of Akhalkalak, Akhaltskha, and Borchalu.
Akhalkalak District covered an area of 2723.12 kilometres.
Before World War I, the different nationalities inhabiting the district represented the following demographical picture.
Javakhk under the control of Russian Empire – The Russian Empire implemented a classical imperial policy in Transcaucasus. Javakhk as well as all Caucasus was the colony of Russian Empire. In 1840, Javakhk was incorporated in the department of Georgia-Imeretia, then in 1846 in the Region of Tiflis, along with some other Armenian provinces as the Lori, the Dachir, etc…
In 1874, Javakhk is organized as a Province within this same Region.
During this Imperial period, Javakhk reemerges from its ashes, and a big socio-economical, as well as a cultural revival is noted.
As early as 1830, the GARABEDIAN school is founded in Akhaltzkha and the MESROPIAN school in Akhalkalak.
Thus, on the first of January 1916, in the Verin Javakhk only, 110 villages were accounted with a total 107 000 inhabitants, of which 82 800 were Armenians.
The Russo-Turkish war of 1878, and the echo of the persecutions suffered by their brothers in the Western Armenia, mobilized the Javakhetian youth. Detachments of Fedais were created. Funds were raised, etc …
After the war, the regions of Kars, Ardahan and Artvin passed to the Russian Empire.
The project of ‘Alexandrapol Region’, myth or reality ? – The armeno-tatar struggle of 1905-07 is felt as a shock in Javakhk too. The Javakhktzis realize then the importance of ethnic boundaries. They feel the necessity to be regrouped within a purely Armenian Region. This will become the question of ‘Alexandrapol Region’, conceived by A. Chahkhatouni.
The aim of the Alexandrapol project was to create a new Armenian administrative region, along those of Kars and Erevan, centered by the city of Alexandrapol (Gumri). This new region had to include the provinces of Dashir (Tashir), Javakhk, Chirag (Shirak), Lori and Pambak, all of them inhabited by Armenians.
This project was widely debated, and finally the main Armenian and Georgian nationalist parties ended by adopting it. The Georgians, represented by Jordania and Ramishvili, leaders of the Menchevic nationalist party, adopted the project in 1917. Their main aim was to get rid of overdue Armenian provinces, in order to gain their independence in best conditions.
In fact, their major problem resided in the ethnic composition of Tiflis, a city they aspired to have as capital, but almost 50% of its inhabitants were Armenians. In these conditions, they had no particular wish to add the burden of more than 300 000 additional Armenians in their boundaries.
The project of ‘Alexandrapol Region’ was finally adopted in 1917 by the Russian Government in St Petersbourg. The Prime Minister Kerenski signed the decree in presence of Menchevic leaders, Georgian nationalists Dzereteli and Tchkheitze.
Unfortunately the October Revolution and the coming to power of the Bolchevics, followed by the Turkish invasion of Javakhk in 1918, did not allow the application of this decision.