Among the many problems that shape dialogue and daily living in the South Caucasus, there are also issues that may seem less immediate, but are nonetheless crucial to the development of statehood.
An issue that has been dormant for nearly a century,
but is of significance for wo countries is the
matter of a formal border between Georgia and
nearly a century, the border question has
not been solved
The axiom that good fences make good neighbors is being tested between the friendly republics, where, for 206 kilometers, there is no legal demarcation saying what belongs to whom.
Since 1995, officials have to lesser and greater degree addressed the matter, but without a concrete result.
While the theoretical borderlines have mostly
been sufficient, debate occasionally flares, most
recently addressed by a Tbilisi University historian
who in editorials, press releases and in a letter
to the President of Georgia wrote:
“Within the past 14 years in the area of border village Akhkerpi, the Armenian side moved frontier posts deep into the territory of Georgia by 10 kilometers,” said Berdo Goishvili. “It is obvious that the government of Georgia must conduct demarcation and delimitation of its borders at the earliest possible date by taking into account the above-mentioned circumstance and proceeding from the interests of its own nation and international law.”
The village of Akhkerpi is located in the Marneuli Region of Georgia, is populated by Armenians, and has a rich political history. At the time of the Russian Empire it was one of the populated areas of Borchalin county of Tiflis province which also included some parts of Lori and Tavush provinces of modern Armenia.
“Territorial and administrative division of the Empire, especially in the Caucasus, practically didn’t reckon with the ethnographic and historical factors and was done in accordance with chronology of annexation of one or another region by Russia,” says historian Garegin Gabrielyan.
The name of Akhkerpi village is mentioned in officer reports of 1918 as the place of hot battles between Armenian and Turkish military troops. During that period of time there were three independent states in the Caucasus – Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, which also couldn't complete the process of demarcation and delimitation of their borders.
The last prime-minister of the Armenian Republic
in 1918-1920, Simon Vratsyan, who was a Tiflis
city administrator, recalled: “On the 20
th of November 1918 the plenipotentiary representative
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia
S. Mdivani visited the capital of independent
Armenia with the purpose of getting a sanction
of Armenian authorities to delimitation of the
Armenian-Georgian border. On November 29 he sent
in written form an ultimatum to Yerevan demanding
to draw a border line a little bit north of Alexandropol
(now Gyumri) with integration of Akhalkalak and
Borchalin counties into Georgia. Armenia declined
The issue was dropped with the Sovietization of both countries, and has not been seen as a matter of great concern since.
“Those days the painful process of delimitation of borders was interrupted by the Bolshevik intervention, whose national policy didn’t assume any special scrupulousness with the view to drawing new political contours,” says Gabrielyan. “The map of the Caucasus was personally edited by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and on that map Armenia received territory almost three times smaller than Azerbaijan and more than two times smaller than the territory of Georgia.
“In 1927 the village Akhkerpi was included into Georgia. What is happening now is the logical continuation of pre-Soviet developments and it reflects the plank of Armenian-Georgian relations for the moment of 1918-1920.”
Discussions on the border issue intensified with the rise to power of Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia and they are perceived in the context of national policy preached by him.
A recent editorial in the Tbilisi-based English newspaper Georgian Times addressed the matter.
“Despite the fact that today Armenia is our friend, it has conquered and appropriated the historical Georgian county Lori-Tashiri (now the region of Stepanavan) or the county Gugarats (Ijevan, Alaverdi, Noemberian), part of Kvemo-Kartli – a Georgian territory with total area of 3,812 square kilometers.”
And a well-known Georgian researcher and author of “Borders of Georgia”, Alexander Manvelashvili has recently talked about the necessity for Georgia to realize “the real contours of our country, which reach Gyumri in the south.”
Official Yerevan still doesn't respond to statements of Georgian scientific-social elite, which became more frequent and are weekly published on pages of influential Tbilisi publications.
Last summer Armenian and Georgian presidents, Robert Kocharyan and Eduard Shevardnadze talked about the border question and promised a settlement of the matter “within a few months”.
A committee on demarcation and delimitation was formed in 1995 in Stepanavan on the basis of a bilateral agreement between Georgia and Armenia.
Though the border issue has generated new debate, the committee has not met in 2004. Levon Khachatryan, Ambassador-At-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and chief foreign policy officer says the Armenian-Georgian Committee will schedule meetings “after appointment of the new Armenian co-chairman in the nearest future.”