Battle of Sardarapat: Wikis

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Battle of Sardarapat
Սարդարապատի ճակատամարտ
Sardarapat memorial.JPG
The memorial dedicated to the Armenian victory at the battle of Sardarapat in Armavir, Armenia.
Date May 21-29 1918
Location Sardarapat, Armenia
Result Decisive Armenian victory[1]
Belligerents
 Ottoman Empire Armenian National Council
Commanders
Yakub Shevki Pasha
Mursel Pasha
Colonel Christophor Araratov
Colonel Daniel Bek-Pirumyan
Colonel Poghos Bek-Pirumyan
General Movses Silikyan
Strength
36th Caucasus Division
Cavalry Regiment
1,500 Kurdish Cavalry
40 pieces of artillery
(10,000 men total)
Second Infantry Division
Second Cavalry Regiment
Fifth Karabakh Regiment
Third Infantry Brigade[1]
(6,000 men total)
Casualties and losses
3,500 dead alone from May 22 to May 26[1]  ?

The Battle of Sardarapat (Armenian: Սարդարապատի ճակատամարտ, Sardarapati č̣akatamart) was a battle of the Caucasus Campaign of World War I that took place near Sardarapat (modern-day Armavir), Armenia from May 21 to May 29, 1918. Sardarapat was only 40 kilometers west of the city of Yerevan (Erevan) and the battle is currently seen as not only stopping the Turkish advance into the rest of Armenia but also preventing the complete destruction of the Armenian nation.[2] In the words of historian and researcher Christopher J. Walker, had the Armenians lost this battle, "it is perfectly possible that the word Armenia would have henceforth denoted only an antique geographical term."[3]

Contents

Background

In January 1918, two months after the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, the Sovnarkom, the highest government authority under the Bolshevik system, issued a decree which called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Caucasus Front. This move threw the Armenian leadership in the Transcaucasia into a panic, since it removed from the region the only force capable of protecting the Armenian people from the Ottoman Empire, which had effectively exterminated its Armenian population through systematic massacres and deportations. The Armenians refused to recognize the authority of the Bolsheviks and attempted to form military units to defend the front as the Ottoman armies prepared to expand eastward.[4]

The Armenians attempted to stall the Ottoman advance as they created a small Armenian army to take up the positions the Russians had abandoned. General Tovmas Nazarbekian was selected as its commanding officer and Drastamat Kanayan was appointed as civilian commisar.[5] But in May 1918, just two months after the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty was concluded with the Russian SFSR, elements of the Turkish Fourth Army crossed into Eastern Armenia and attacked Alexandropol (modern-day Gyumri). The Ottoman Army intended to crush Armenia and seize what was left of Transcaucasia. The German government, the Ottoman Empire's ally, objected to this attack and refused to help the Ottoman Army in this operation.

At this time, only a small area of historical Armenian territory which used to be a part of the Russian Empire remained unconquered by the Ottoman Empire, and into that area hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees had fled after the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman Forces began a three-pronged attack in an attempt to finally overwhelm and conquer the rest of Armenia. When Alexandropol fell, the Ottoman Army moved into the Ararat Valley – the heart of Armenia.

Battle

General Movses Silikyan, commander of the Armenian forces.

The Ottoman offensive was viewed by Armenians with foreboding and they immediately began to prepare for the upcoming battle: church bells pealed for six days as Armenians from all walks of life – peasants, poets, blacksmith, and even clergymen – rallied to form organized military units.[6] Civilians aided in the war effort as well, as "Carts drawn by oxen, water buffalo, and cows jammed the roads bringing food, provisions, ammunition, and volunteers from the vicinity of Erevan."[7] On May 21, the Turks took Sardarapat and from there, their forces start advancing towards Yeghegnut.

Armenian general Movses Silikyan ordered elements of the Fifth Armenian Regiment under Poghos Bek-Pirumyan, a reserve guerrilla unit, and a special cavalry regiment to check the advance of the Turkish army.[1] An offensive was launched on May 22 and Armenian forces were successful in halting the Turks in their tracks and forcing Yakub Shevki Pasha's forces into a general rout (retreating nearly 15-20 kilometers in a westerly direction). The Turkish command, however, was able to recuperate from its losses and reorganized its forces near the mountain heights on the north-west bank of the Araks river. Repeated attempts to cross the river was met with fierce resistance by the Fifth Armenian Regiment.[1]

On May 24, several more skirmishes took place between the Armenian and Turkish forces and attempts to dislodge the Turks from their well-entrenched positions the following day by Poghos Bek-Pirumyan's and other commanders' forces were met with failure.[1] On May 27, an Armenian force commanded by K. Hasan-Pashayan performed a flanking maneuver and struck the Turkish positions from the rear while the rest of the Armenian forces pounded the main Turkish positions.[1] A Turkish force based in Talin was sent to alleviate it by attacking the Armenian rear. Suffering heavy losses, Turkish commanders ordered a general retreat as the surviving elements of the Turkish army were put to flight.[1]

Aftermath

With the Ottoman forces in a full rout, General Silikyan wished to press on his advantage with the hope of dislodging the Turkish forces at Alexandropol and Kars. But almost immediately, he was informed of the ongoing negotiations between the Ottoman leadership and the members of the Armenian National Council and was told by Corps Commander Tovmas Nazarbekian to cease military operations in the region.[8] The Ottoman defeats at Sardarapat, Abaran, and Karakilisa staved off the annihilation of the Armenian nation, and the victories here were instrumental in allowing the Armenian National Council in Tiflis to declare the independence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia.[9]

Worried by the Ottoman invasion of Armenia, the newly established Democratic Republic of Georgia to the north asked for, and gained, German protection. The Democratic Republic of Armenia was forced to sign the Treaty of Batum on June 4, 1918, since the Ottoman Army of Islam held positions seven kilometers from Yerevan and only ten kilometers from Echmiadzin. Ultimately, however, the little republic was able to hold out, as the Ottomans were forced to withdraw from the region with the end of the world war in the autumn of 1918.

Legacy and memory

The battle of Sardarapat holds a special place in Armenian historical memory and is often compared to the 451 A.D. battle of Avarayr.[10] Notable Armenian literary figures such as Hovhannes Shiraz and Paruyr Sevak, whose work "Sardarapat" was turned into a popular song, wrote songs and poems that lionized and praised the Armenian fighters.[11] Hovhannes Bagramyan, Marshal of the Soviet Union and himself a participant of the battle, described its importance in the following manner:

The significance of the battle of Sardarapat is great....If they [the Armenians] did not defeat the Turks there, they would have gone to Echmiadzin and Yerevan – nothing would have remained of Armenia, nothing would have been saved....The Armenians won and, thanks to them, our people preserved their physical existence within the current borders of Armenia.[12]

After the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide's 50th anniversary in 1965, Soviet authorities agreed to the construction of a monument dedicated to the Armenian victory near the site of the battle. Architect Rafayel Israyelian was commissioned to design the monument, which was completed in 1968.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h (Armenian) Harutunyan, Ashot H. «Սարդարապատի ճակատամարտ 1918» (The Battle of Sardarapat, 1918). Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. vol. x. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1984, pp. 227-228.
  2. ^ Balakian, Peter (2003). The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: HarperCollins. p. 321. ISBN 0-0605-5870-9. 
  3. ^ Walker, Christopher J. (1980). Armenia The Survival of a Nation. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 254–255. ISBN 0-7099-0210-7. 
  4. ^ Hovanissian, Richard G. (1997). "Armenia's Road to Independence" in The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume II: Foreign Dominion to Statehood: The Fifteenth Century to the Twentieth Century. Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.) New York: St. Martin's Press, pp. 287-289. ISBN 0-3121-0168-6
  5. ^ Hovanissian. "Armenia's Road to Independence", p. 290.
  6. ^ Bobelian, Michael (2009). Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 34. ISBN 1-4165-5725-3. 
  7. ^ Hovannisian, Richard G. (1967). Armenia on the Road to Independence, 1918. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 193. ISBN 0-5200-0574-0. 
  8. ^ Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, pp. 193-194.
  9. ^ Hovanissian. "Armenia's Road to Independence", p. 299.
  10. ^ (Armenian) Karapetyan, Armen. "Ավարայր և Սարդարապատ" ("Avarayr and Sardarapat"). Hamaynapatker. № 46, 2008, p. 4.
  11. ^ (Armenian) See Hamaynapatker. № 46, 2008, p. 2.
  12. ^ (Armenian) Mnatsakanyan, Aramyis N (1978). Մարշալ Բաղրամյան, Կյանքի և Գործունեության Ուրվագիծ (Marshal Baghramyan: An Outline of His Life and Work). Yerevan: Hayastan Publishing. p. 32. 

Further reading

  • (Armenian) Afansyan, Serzh. Սարդարապատի հաղթանակը, Հայաստան, Մայիս 1918 (The Victory at Sardarapat, Armenia, May 1918). Yerevan: Iravabanakan Grakanutyan Publishing, 1991.
  • (Armenian) Aghayan, Tsatur P. Հոկտեմբերը և Հայ Ժողովրդի Ազատագրական Պայքարը (October and the Liberation Struggle of the Armenian People). Yerevan: Yerevan State University Press, 1982.
  • Kayaloff, Jacques. The Battle of Sardarabad. The Hague: Mouton, 1973.
  • Hovannisian, Richard G. Armenia on the Road to Independence, 1918. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.
  • (French) Poidebard, Antoine. "Rôle militaire des Arméniens sur le front du Caucase après la defection de l'armée russe (décembre 1917-novembre 1918)." Revue des Études Arméniennes, I (pt. 2, 1920).
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