Demographic changes of Armenian population of Georgia (Javakhk, Tiflis, Borchalu)


During many decades Georgia conducted the nationalist and chauvinistic policy in relation to ethnic people living on territories controllable by her. On all extent of 20-th century this policy basically has been directed mainly against the Armenians living in Samtskhe-Javakhk, Kvemo-qartli, Kaheti, Tiflis, Sukhum, etc.


What kind of consequences brought this  policy? Was it possible for Georgian government to assimilate or to oblige the Armenian population to leave their historical native land?

At the beginning of 1918 the population of present territory of South Caucasus was 6.500.000, from which 2.450.000 Muslims, 1.650.000 Armenians, 1.600.000 Georgians and 800.000 representatives of other nationalities. [1]

Georgians basically lived in Tiflis and Kutais provinces, tatars (Azerbaijanians) in Elizavetpol and Baku provinces. What concerns to Armenians of Transcaucasia their number in former Transcaucasian provinces was following:

Yerevan province – 600.000 Armenians

Elizavetpol province – 400.000 Armenians

Baku province – 110.000 Armenians

Kars region – 110.000 Armenians

Tiflis Province (including Zakatal region) – 400.000 Armenians

The Kutaisi province (With the Batumi area and Suhum district) – 35.000 Armenians [2].

To the number of 1.650.000 native Armenians of South Caucasus it is necessary to add also more than 600.000 Armenians-refugees from the Western Armenia the majority of which has found a shelter within the limits of new established Armenian republic, and nearby 150.000-200.000 [3] have to pass over the Georgia, pursuing the purpose to make the way to Northern Caucasus.

Appropriate to statistics of 1918 a significant part of the Armenian population lived in the territory which became a part of the Georgian republic. In 1918 number of Georgians in Georgia did not exceed 50% (1.500.000) [4], and Armenians 30% (500.000-600.000) [5] their significant part lived in the city of Tiflis, consisting 46% of population of this 350.000-th city. Other part of the Armenian population lived basically on the historical native land – on a southern part which officially was a part of the Georgian Menshevist Republic.

At the beginning of 1918 in Akhalkalak region had 120,000 population, from which Armenians 89,000 (74%), turks 8000 (7%), representatives of other nationalities 23.000 (19%) [6]

During this period in Ahalkalak district there were 111 villages from which 66 were Armenian, 24 – Turkish, 9 – Russian, 10 Georgian (including former Armenian villages Vargav and Hzabavra, the population of which  had assimilated with Georgians), and one village with the Armenian-Georgian mixed population.

Thousands of Armenian families lived also in Borchalu. In 1916 the  number of Armenians  in this district exceeded 69.000 (40.5), Tatars – 50.000 (2.3), Greeks – 30.500 (17.8), Russians – 10.000 (5.8), Georgians – 7.600 (4.1) Germans – 4.000 (2.4).

At the beginning of 1918 Armenians were the comparative majority of Borchalu district.

The first successes of assimilation of Armenian population by Georgians could be easily seen in the beginning of 20-th century when the majority of Armenians-Catholics (more than 15.000) who lived in Tiflis province, were assimilated with Georgians in the period less than two decades (for example Hzabavra, Vargav, Bnel, Hetz, Shaft, Bolodjar, Asral, Abastuman, Ude, Ivlata and other villages with Armenian-Catholic  population.

In the beginning of 1917 in Tiflis and Kutais provinces have begun strong oppressions  against Armenians. In 1918 these oppressions began to get more severe character as the anti-Armenian policy was coordinated and executed by Menshevist circles of the government of Georgia. This policy has led to decrease in number of the Armenian population within the Georgia.

The fact that the Georgian authorities haven’t allowed the Armenian-refugees inside borders of Georgia to pass to North Caucasus or to return home leaved them without a roof over the head and food, doomed them to destruction. So in 1918-1920 every day on territory of the Georgian republic from a cold, famine and different illnesses were being  died more than 1000 Armenians-refugees. [7]

During the Armenian-Georgian war in December 1919 which has been provoked by a Menshevist government, tens of thousands of Armenians had been exiled in concentration camps on territory of Georgia. Majority of those Armenians never returned to their homes. Already in 1926,  on territory of the Soviet Georgia remained only 279.891 Armenians (according to census 1926). They were only 11,8% of all population of the country whereas in 1918 the number of Armenians was nearby 30%. Basically the number of Armenians was reduced due to the died refugees, the genocide of Armenians in Borchalu district and due leaving the Armenian population from Tiflis.

For this little period Armenian population of Georgia was decreased by half – from 600.000 up to 300.000 person.

Can we call this phenomenon a white genocide ? A genocide of Armenians in Georgia which sometimes got severe character – similar with the Genocide of Armenians in Ottoman empire.

Today, native Armenian population  of Samtskhe-Javakhk and Tzalka somehow tries to resist against the anti-Armenian policy of Georgian government.

Let’s remind, that in the first years of Soviet system ruling in Georgia, on the territory of today’s Samtzske-Dzhavakhk region lived 200402 persons. The Region had following national structure [8].

1. Armenians – 109,748 (54.8),

2. Turk-meskhetzs (including all Moslems) – 57.079 (28.5),

3. Georgians – 18.536 (9.2),

4. Other nationalities – 15.040 (7.5):

As we see, Armenians made overwhelming majority in Samtskhe-Jaavakhk, Turk-meskhets 1/4  and Georgians – obvious minority.

In 1944 by decision of a government of the USSR the Turkish population of Samtskhe-Javakhk (already about. 100.000 person) has been exiled to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Their former residences have been populated by Georgians from Imereti [9]. From 120 villages left by Turks-meskhetzs 115 were in Adigen, Axaltzxa and Aspindza administrative areas from which 65 have been resettled by the alien Georgian population from Imereti. Other villages became basically thrown. Only 5 villages (Sagamo, Xavet, Erindja, Davnia, Karsep) were in Akhalkalak (4) and Bogdanovka (1) areas which in a consequence have been populated by Armenians. The Georgian local government forbade Armenian population to settle the thrown villages, and has agreed on it only when has seen, that the Georgian newcomers have flatly refused to settle and live there in these severe climatic conditions.

Today there are numerous debates about returning the turks-meskhetzs on former places of residing. It is necessary to note, that from those left 120 villages in 65 lives Georgians, about 50 settlements are thrown and now have already ruined, and only in 5 villages belonged turks-meskhetzs, now live Armenians.

So, becomes obvious, that the slightest attempt to return Turkic ethnic minority in edge will provocated a tension situation, first of all for the Georgian population, who occupied former turks-meskhetzs settlements. The little conflict between the local Georgian population and immigrants can strongly destabilize  the all region,  and Georgia will loss the territories which has been  ”won’’ from Armenians.

Deportation nearby 100.000 turks-meskhetzs has noticeably changed demographic picture of Samtskhe-Javakhk. According to census of 1979 the population of region had approximately 190.000 person. Armenians are 124.000 (65.3%),  – Georgians  44000 (23.2%), and others – Russians, Ukrains, Greeks, Jews, etc.

According to census of 1979, administrative area  Samtskhe-Javakhk had following national structure,

1. area Adigen – the population 20.000

Armenians – 1213 (6.1%)

Georgians – 17287 (86,4%)

Other nationalities – (7,5%)

2. area Akhaltskha – the population 50.350

Armenians – 24036 (47,7%)

Georgians – 21702 (43,1%)

Other nationalities – (9,2%)

3. area Akhalkalak – the population 69.455

Armenians – 63892 (91,9%)

Georgians – 2867 (4,2%)

Other nationalities – (3,9%)

4. area Aspindza – the population 12411

Armenians – 2686 (21,6%)

Georgians – 9725 (78,4%)

5. area Bogdanovka – the population 36632

Armenians – 32331 (88,3%)

Russian – 3830 (10,5)%

Georgians – 370 (1%)

Representatives of Other nationalities – (0,2%)

In the same 1979,  Dnamis, Bolnis and Marneul (3 from 5 areas of former Borchalu district) had 120.000 inhabitants. More than 90.000 were descendants of shiits turks  (azeries), Armenians were 20.000, and the other part of the population were the representatives of other nationalities, including Georgians. In area Tetri-Txarsk from 36.000 person nearby 6.000 were Armenians, Georgians were 25.000, the others – representatives of other nationalities. An aggregate number of the population in Tsalka area made 40.000 person, from whom Greeks were approximately 16.000, Armenians – 14.000, the others – representatives of other nationalities, including Georgians and azeris.

If we take 1918 – 1979 interval, we shall see, that the Armenian population in Samtskhe-Javakhk has increased only for some thousand person. It proves the fact that it is impossible to trust data of census unequivocally on 100%. However the facts beat in a bell,  and to escape from them isn’t probably. For last 60 years the Georgian leaders excellent managed not only a policy of not admitting a natural increase of the Armenian population on all territory of the Georgian Soviet republic, but also organize the maximal outflow and assimilation. In particular, number of Armenians in territory of former district Borchalu for last 60 years was decrease almost by half, and in a percentage parity of the general number of the population at least in 4 times.

Only for last 40-50 years more than 200,000 Armenians have been compelled to change the Armenian termination of their surnames “ian” on Georgian “dze” and “shvili”.

The statistics shows, that for 70 years the Armenian population of Georgia was reduced at least in 2 times from 600,000 up to 300,000-250.000, and in a percentage parity from the general number of the population at least in 5 times hole 30% up to 6%.

Despite of these horrifying numbers, nevertheless it is obvious, that the Georgian policy of nationalism or a white genocide of Armenians has not crowned desirable success for them. This fact is proved with materials of census 1989 and 2002. We shall compare them:

According with 1989 census in Georgia, Armenians were 360.000 according to 2002 census this number has decreased up to 250.000. It is necessary to note, when in 1989 in Georgia  was spent the population census, in this period Abkhazia and South Ossetia were been in structure of Georgian SSR. In this states lived nearby 85.000 Armenians. Thus, excepting independent formations from structure of Georgian Republic we shall receive about 290.000 Armenians in republic.

Considering the fact, that for last 15 years Georgia has left more than one and a half million person it is possible to tell with confidence, that the Armenian population even if we trust 2002 statistics  in a percentage parity has decreased slightly in comparison with the Georgian population of the country. However it doesn’t mean that the situation of Armenians in Georgia became better than 20 years ago, even on the contrary, the anti-Armenian moods in the country lately have noticeably risen, and government of Saakashvili conducts a policy with more dangerous methods.

This analysis showed with what persistence the Georgian government tried and try to supersede, kill and assimilate in every possible way the Armenian population, finally, having reduced it up to symbolical number.

 Wondering, that for last 60 years the Georgian leaders never thought that replacement of the Armenian ethno cultural element can lead to significant changes of ethno religious shape of the Georgian statehood. As we see, on a place of Armenian-Christians which during centuries peacefully coexisted on the native ground, in the neighborhood with Georgians,  are coming shiit turk-meskhets (read azeris) which proceeding from an ethno cultural and religious structure, completely can’t be integrated into the Georgian reality and a way of their life. More likely the contrary, the history shows, that this ethnic element of Georgia is adjusted by aggressive passion on all “not Azerbaijan”.

In days of the USSR demographic parameters of ethnic Azerbaijanians were high enough. On statistical data of 1989, on one thousand Georgian about 16 children, the same parameter in relation to the Azerbaijan minority of the country had about 29 children on 1000 Azerbaijanians.

For last thirty years of the Soviet authority (1959-1989) number of ethnic Azerbaijanians in Georgia has increased twice. The peak of a population explosion has fallen on 80th years. Parameters of demographic growth among Azerbaijanians of Georgia exceeded even similar parameters in the Azerbaijan Soviet republic. It was promoted by set of factors, including social and economic, and also the fact, that living in Kvemo-Kartli Azerbaijanians felt comfortably enough that it was impossible to tell about Armenians of Samtskhe-Javakhk.

After disintegration of the USSR Azeris in Georgia stand in the face of big problems. Nationalistic government of president Gamsahurdia considered, that fast rates of growth of the Azerbaijan ethnic element in the country can lead to the ethnic conflict. In the beginning 1990 replacement of azers in Marnelul, Bolnis and Dmanissk areas, was reflected of ethnic structure of these areas. In 1989 in Georgia lived 307.600 azers, according to official statistical data, they had 5.7% from an aggregate number of the population of Georgia.

According to 2002 the number of Azerbaijanians was reduced (it is possible to tell about all population of the country), however they became the second ethnic group after the Georgians. According to 2002 their number were 284.761. But in difference from Armenians of Samtskhe-Javakhk, the birth rate of Azeirs are incomparably high, and the percent left the country considerably is low in comparison with Georgians.

According to informal Azerbaijan statistics, number of Azerbaijanians in Georgia vacillate from 350 thousand up to half million. According to some Azerbaijans analysts and demographers number of Azerbaijanians in Georgia makes from 500.000 up to 600 thousand.

According to the most conservative estimates, today the Azerbaijan population almost in 2 times more than number of Armenians in Georgia, 3 times more than population of Abkhazia and in 6 times more than population of South Ossetia.

If Baku and Tiflis has convergence with their national interests it can bring with him a big conflict between Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Being based on the above-stated facts, it is possible to note with confidence, that the policy of the countries of Caucasus under the attitude to each other proceeds in 1918, practically right after declarations of their independence.

The 1918 year became the beginning of territorial claims of three republics that has led to conflicts in Samtskhe-Javakhk, Borchalu, Artzax and in Zakatal district. Conflicts have been actually frozen of Sovietization of Caucasus, however it has not solved the reason and an essence of conflicts.

Within the next years as well as Armenians, the Azerbaijan population of Georgia on a regular basis addressed to the central authorities with complaints to an arbitrariness of the Georgian officials, but each time spontaneous discontent of representatives of the largest in the country ethnic minority skilfully disappeared and neutralized by official Tbilisi.

Edward Shevardnadze has approached to itself the most authoritative leaders of Diaspora and has entered Azerbaijanians into structure of parliament, and its friend and adherent Gejdar Aliev actively convinced fellow countrymen of necessity of display of loyalty to authorities of the country which citizens they are.

The conflict which has abated only for a while has renewed at once after a victory over Tbilisi of ” pink revolution “. In searches of the political decision of an obvious problem new authorities have preferred the effective special actions lead in region under aegis of struggle against corruption and contraband and directed as it has appeared, exclusively against representatives of the Azerbaijan Diaspora. The law and order in region has not guided by special troops, but has caused discontent  of national minority, and only  Bakus’ “connection” has allowed to avoid a new aggravation of a situation.

But lately conditions in areas of Georgia where lives azeri population has not changed. In the summer-autumn Georgian army have lead in Marneul and Gardaban areas the whole series of special operations as a result of which have been detained 200 arrested azeris.

Having under “nose” such threat, the Georgian government is continue the anti-Armenian policy, thus, creating the strained situation in Samtskhe-Javakhk instead of giving Armenians of this region  these rights which must has the people living on its historical native land within the borders of other state.


  1. National archive of Russian Federation F. 5351, list 1, file 45, also look National Archive of Armenian Republic F200 list 1
  2. The Caucasian calendar for 1914year at110-141, the Caucasian calendar for 1917y, Tiflis, 191б at180-221, also look National Archive of Republic of Armenia F. 200 list 1
  3. Borba newspaper № 138, on August, 8th, 1918y
  4. Shambarov V.E. “BELOGVARDEYSHINA” – MOSCOW.: Publishing house ” eksmo-press “, 2002, .139
  5. National Archive of Armenian Republic F200 list 1, also look Ertoba newspaper, 1918г
  6. National Archive of Armenian Republic F200 list 1
  7. The newspaper Borba № 138, on August, 8th, 1918г
  8. Tigran Sahakian, Political and spiritually-cultural destiny of Gugark-Goderdzakan region of Great Armenia, from the beginning till 1980 years, Yerevan 2004, with-362
  9. A.V.Dmitriev, Migration disputed measurement, Moscow 2006, with-333

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