Alexander Khatisian, one of the prime ministers of the first Republic of Armenia, was a remarkable public figure before and after the crucial years of 1918-1920.
He was born in Tiflis (nowadays Tbilisi), the capital of Georgia, on February 17, 1874. He belonged to a well-to-do family. His brother Kostandin Khatisian (1864-1913) was among the founding members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
After graduating from the local gymnasium (Russian high school) in 1891, Khatisian went to Russia to pursue higher education. He studied medicine at the universities of Moscow and Kharkov, and graduated in 1897. He mastered half a dozen languages, including English, French, and German.
From 1898 to 1900 he traveled abroad for specialization courses in the best clinics. He visited Italy, France, and Germany, where he also studied public hygiene, laws, and municipal work in slaughterhouses, hospitals, and water works. Later on, he would publish articles and pamphlets on cultural and health-related topics.
Upon his return to Tiflis, in 1900, Khatisian worked as a doctor, and also entered the political arena. In 1902 he was elected to the City Council, and in 1905 he became a member of the City Board. He participated in the revolutionary movements of 1905. He wanted to join the A.R.F. at that date, but he was dissuaded by Rostom, one of the party founders, and Hamo Ohanjanian, among others, who argued that he could better serve the Armenian people and the party as a non-partisan. In 1907 he became an assistant to the mayor of Tiflis, and from 1910-1917 served as mayor of Tiflis. He was president of the Caucasus branch of the Union of Cities (including a total of forty-four cities) from 1914-1917.
During World War I, Khatisian was among the organizers of assistance for Armenian refugees and genocide survivors. He collaborated with the formation of the Armenian volunteer battalions and was elected vice-president of the Armenian National Bureau of Tiflis from 1915-1917.
After the February Revolution of 1917, Khatisian entered the ranks of the A.R.F. During that decisive year, he led the National Bureau until October, presided over the Council of Armenian Political Parties (March-April), and participated in the convention of peasants of Transcaucasia (June 1917). He moved to Armenia at the end of the year and was elected mayor of Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri). In February 1918 he participated in the peace negotiations held with the Ottoman Empire in Trebizonda (Trabzon).
However, in April 1918 he went back to Tiflis, when he was designated Minister of Finances and Provisions of the short-lived Republic of Transcaucasia. In May he returned to the table of negotiations with the Turks, and was one of the three Armenian representatives who signed the Treaty of Batum on June 4, 1918, where the Ottoman Empire recognized the independence of Armenia over a stretch of territory.
He moved to Yerevan, and Prime Minister Hovhannes Kajaznuni designated him as Minister of Foreign Affairs. After Kajaznuni left Armenia in February 1919 on official mission, in April Khatisian was designated acting Prime Minister and was confirmed as Prime Minister in May, while also retaining his position in Foreign Affairs. He reshuffled his cabinet first in August 1919 and then in the spring of 1920.
After the failed May 1920 uprising engineered by Armenian Communists, Khatisian resigned from his post. He was replaced by Hamo Ohanjanian, the representative of the A.R.F. Bureau, while the Bureau members took the cabinet posts. Khatisian traveled abroad in the summer to organize a loan for the country within the Armenian communities and create a “Golden Fund.”
After his return, on the eve of the Sovietization, he signed the Treaty of Alexandropol along the representatives of Mustafa Kemal on behalf of the Republic of Armenia in the early morning of December 2-3, 1920.
After the fall of the Republic, Khatisian settled in Paris. He continued his political activities, and participated in the Lausanne Conference in 1922-1923 defending the rights of the Armenian people. He was a member of various Armenian and Russian public organizations. He published his memoirs of his time as mayor of Tiflis and the volume The Origin and Development of the Republic of Armenia (1930).
During World War II and the occupation of Paris, Khatisian moved to Portugal. However, after the liberation of the French capital, he was arrested under trumped-up charges of collaboration with the Nazis, but was soon liberated due to lack of proofs. He passed away on March 10, 1945, in Paris