Southern Asia 1917: Transcaucasian Commissariat

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 18 Dec 1917 (The Fall of the Ottoman Empire: Transcaucasian Commissariat), showing the following events: Transcaucasian Commissariat; Battle of Jerusalem; Bolshevik Nullification of Anglo-Russian Entente; Brest-Litovsk Armistice; Armistice of Erzincan.

Despite widespread success, the Bolshevik takeover was rejected in many parts of Russia. One of the most important of these regions was Transcaucasia, the hub of the Russian war effort in Anatolia and Persia. Dominated by anti-Bolshevik Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, Transcaucasia continued to recognize the old Russian Republic, declaring itself a commissariat and signing a separate armistice with the Ottoman Empire.


Changes to the map 7 November 1917–18 December 1917

Russia is in a state of disintegration as the Bolsheviks seize control, with their opponents heavily divided. On the southern edges of the former Empire, the Transcaucasian Commissariat, Bukhara, and Kokand are effectively independent. The Tashkent Soviet supports the Bolshevik cause but is currently isolated from the core centers of Moscow and Petrograd.

In Persia, the withdrawing Russians - now largely under the Transcaucasian Commissariat - have left Urmia to the Assyrian militia. These militias had been formed by the Russians from local Christian Assyrians in 1915 in response to persecution by the Ottomans. The Bolshevik denouncement of the Anglo-Russian division of Persia has encouraged the Persian government to ask Britain to follow suit and dismiss the South Persia Rifles.

In Palestine, the British have secured Jaffa and the holy city of Jersualem.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India’s influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or ‘princely states’. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

11 Nov 1917 Transcaucasian Commissariat

The Transcaucasian Commissariat, headed by Georgian pro-Menshevik Social Democrat Nikolay Chkheidze, is established at Tblisi in response to what it considers the illegal seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in Petrograd. Still considering itself part of the now-defunct Russian Republic, the Commissariat temporarily unites Armenians, Georgians, and Azerbaijanis in one wikipedia

17 Nov–9 Dec 1917 Battle of Jerusalem

British Imperial forces under General Edmund Allenby advance on Jerusalem, in Ottoman Palestine, fighting a number of battles in and around the neighboring Judean Hills. The Ottomans withdraw on the 8th, with the city surrendering to the British the following day. Two days later Allenby respectfully enters the Old City on foot through the Jaffa Gate, the first Christian to control Jerusalem since the time of the wikipedia

11–14 Dec 1917 Bolshevik Nullification of Anglo-Russian Entente

In a number of broadcasts, the new Bolshevik government of Russia nullifies some of the treaties imposed on Persia in the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907, ending the Russian sphere of influence in northern Persia and recognizing Persian wikipedia

15 Dec 1917 Brest-Litovsk Armistice

The Russian Soviet Republic, under the Bolsheviks, signs an armistice at Brest-Litovsk with Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire, ending operations on the Eastern Front. The armistice takes effect two days later, on 17 wikipedia

18 Dec 1917 Armistice of Erzincan

The Ottoman Empire and the Transcaucasian Commissariat sign an armistice at Erzincan, temporarily bringing peace to the Anatolian and Persian Fronts. Upon signing, the Russian Caucasus Army begins its withdrawal from the wikipedia