At the beginning of the 19th century the Russians advanced into the Caucasus. In 1813 the Persians were obliged to acknowledge Russia's authority over Georgia, northern Azerbaijan, and Karabakh, and in 1828 they ceded Yerevan and Nakhichevan. Contact with liberal thought in Russia and western Europe was a factor in the Armenian cultural renaissance of the 19th century. In Turkey, the Armenians benefited with the rest of the population from the measures of reform known as the Tanzimat, and in 1863 a special Armenian constitution was recognized by the Ottoman government.
After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, in which Russian Armenians had taken part, Russia insisted in the Treaty of San Stefano that reforms be carried out among the sultan's Armenian subjects and that their protection against the Kurds be guaranteed or Russia would continue to occupy Turkish Armenia.
There were about 2.5 million Christian Armenians within the Ottoman Empire by the late 1880s. The Armenians in the eastern provinces, encouraged by Russia, began promoting Armenian territorial autonomy. As the movement grew, various political groups were organized, culminating in the formation of two revolutionary parties called Hënchak ("The Bell") and Dashnaktsutyun ("Union") in 1887 and 1890, respectively.
In 1896, following the desperate occupation of the Ottoman Bank by 26 young Dashnaks, more massacres broke out in the capital. In Russia both Tsar Alexander III and his son Nicholas II closed hundreds of Armenian schools, libraries, and newspaper offices, and in 1903 Nicholas confiscated the property of the Armenian church.
The greatest single disaster in the history of the Armenians came with the outbreak of World War I.). Armenians from the Caucasus region formed volunteer battalions to help the Russian army against the Turks. Early in 1915 these battalions organized the recruiting of Turkish Armenians from behind the Turkish lines.
In 1915 the Young Turk government resolved to deport the whole Armenian population of about 1,750,000 to Syria and Mesopotamia. It regarded the Turkish Armenians--despite pledges of loyalty by many--as a dangerous foreign element bent on conspiring with the pro-Christian tsarist enemy to upset the Ottoman campaign in the east. In what would later be known as the "first genocide" of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were driven from their homes, massacred, or marched until they died. The death toll of Armenians in Turkey is estimated to have been between 600,000 and 1,500,000 in the years from 1915 to 1923. Tens of thousands emigrated to Russia, Lebanon, Syria, France, and the United States, and the western part of the historical homeland of the Armenian people was emptied of Armenians.
In 1916 the Turkish Armenian regions fell to the Russian army, but in March 1918 Russia was forced by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to cede all of Turkish Armenia and part of Russian Armenia to Turkey, though some Armenians continued to hold out against the advancing Turks. On April 22, 1918, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan formed the Transcaucasian Federal Republic, but their basic diversity soon caused them to split into separate republics;
On Jan. 15, 1920, the Allies recognized the de facto existence of the three Transcaucasian republics. President Woodrow Wilson hoped to persuade the United States to accept a mandate for an independent Armenia, but the Senate refused the responsibility (June 1, 1920). On August 10, Armenia, now recognized de jure, signed the Treaty of Sèvres, by which Turkey recognized Armenia as a free and independent state.
The Turkish government of Ankara, under Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), had repudiated Constantinople's treaties with Armenia. In September 1920 the Turks had attacked, seizing Kars and Alexandropol by November 7; by the Treaty of Alexandropol on Dec. 2, 1920, Armenia renounced all pre-1914 Turkish territories and Kars and Ardahan, recognized that there were no Armenian minorities in Turkey, and accepted that the region of Nakhichevan should form an autonomous Turkish state.