The Clash of Empires and Armenia Then the Battle of Sardarapat & the Battle of Shushi
|by Khatchatur I. Pilikian
Battles are won or lost irrespective of the wars whether they are won or lost. Hence the saying: ‘The
battle was won but the war was lost’. In fact it is a rare historical event when and where the war and its
decisive battle are both won, or lost for that matter.
Back in 1770s, the American colonies won the final battle and the war of their independence against
the British colonial rule. Britain and the USA have never lost their ‘special relationship’, practically
In WW2, Nazism lost the decisive battles and the world war. The crushing of Nazism certainly was a
great victory for anti-racism the world over.
Despite its enormous military power, the most awesome the world has ever seen, the USA lost most of
the battles and the genocidal war it pursued in Vietnam (as it was reported and unanimously condemned
in the final verdict of the first Russell Tribunal on Vietnam, of 1967, long six years before Vietnam
became a united country). The Vietnamese were struggling for independence for ca 2000 years. US
imperialism abysmally failed to take the Vietnamese ‘back to the Stone Age’. It certainly was a great
victory for self-determination and national independence against imperialist domination the world over.
The Soviet Union, the historic first internationalist union of states with socialist agenda, won most of
the battles of its survival in a world capitalist system for over 70 years. But it lost the ‘cold war’, having
emulated the worst of archaic bureaucratic despotism that nourished a military industrial complex, the
life-blood of colonial imperialist empires.
The so-called ‘coalition armies’ of the neo liberal Globalisation won the battle but lost the war in Iraq,
albeit the plunder of the country’s ‘black gold’, oil, continues non abated.
NATO forces--another synonym for the same but enlarged ‘coalition armies’--are still unable to claim
winning battles let alone the war in Afghanistan. Decades before this entanglement, the Red Army,
allured in the web, lost the battle in this same land, now the land of Poppy’s for the Global market of
During WW1, Armenians too acted as ‘canon fodder’, counting ca 600,000 strong. Thus, both the
Central Powers and the Entente, each counted ca 300 000 strong Armenian recruits. The Entente won
the decisive battles and the world war. Bishop Harold Buxton assessed the human cost. He wrote: “In
the First World War, the Armenians lost as many lives as did the whole British Empire”.
The Armenian recruits of the Ottoman army, were mostly perished not only as cannon fodder, but
were herded into amele tabourou=labour battalions, eventually to be forced to dig their own mass
graves, months before the WW1 was on. Meanwhile the soldiers’ families, the elderly, women and
children, counting more than a million and a half, living in their ancestral homes in the so called Turkish
Armenia, were wiped off their land, months before and soon after the beginning of WW1, in an act of
Genocide the world had not witnessed until then.
The American Ambassador in the Ottoman Turkey of the day, Henry Morgenthau, described the
Young Turk state terror as a witness: “I am confident that the whole history of the human race
contains no such terrible episode as this. The massacres and persecution of the past seem almost
insignificant when compared with the sufferings of the Armenians in 1915.”
One of the great poets of all time, the Nobel 1971 laureate Pablo Neruda, had grasped well the tragic
life of a conquered people trying to survive in their own land. He wrote: “For centuries, Turkish
invaders massacred the Armenians or made them their slaves. Every rock on the plateaus, every
tile in the monasteries has a drop of Armenian blood.”
In a masterpiece of a poem titled An Evening Promenade= Aksam Gesintisi, written soon after he
was released, in 1950, from prison, Neruda’s Turkish comrade, Nazim Hikmet, posthumous Nobel
laureate of 2002, remembered his Armenian friend whose father was butchered “in the Kurdish
mountains.” Hikmet versified his rage against such crimes as man’s inhumanity to man, calling it, “this
black shame brought on the Turkish people.” =bu karayý sürenleri Türk halkýnýn alnina. Kemalist
Turkey had kept its greatest poet, N. Hikmet, incarcerated for 13 years in total.
The original inhabitants in their ancestral lands being wiped off, Western or Turkish Armenia, and
parts of Eatern or Russian Armenia, became part of the Kemalist Republic of Turkey, in 1923.
In WW1, Armenians as conscripts in the armies of empires were not fighting for self-determination or
independence. They nevertheless had ‘promises’ from the masters of the empires for an illusive
freedom. Entente powers won the decisive battles and the war. Armenians lost most of Armenia and
more than half of its entire people, along with the disruption of their cultural heritage and the plunder of
Oh, yes, there was a battle or two won by the Armenians. The Armenian volunteers in the Entente
forces, named as Armenian or Eastern Legion, were assembled in Cyprus following the 1916, October
27 agreement signed in London by Mark Sykes of Great Britain, George Picot of France and Boghos
Nubar, President of the Armenian Delegation. Sykes and Picot promised Nubar Pasha that the Eastern
Legion will eventually take Armenian Cilicia out of the Ottoman Empire, and the French protectorate of
the region will give Armenians self-rule therein. Lo and behold, to reach that ‘promised land’ the
Armenian Legion, already counting 5000 strong, had to fight in Palestine! They did and won the Battle
of Arara, in September 19, 1918, liberating Palestine. The Armenian Legion was soon deployed in
Cilicia too. They won the battle and liberated Cilicia in November-December, 1918, but lost it, yet
again, as Armenian Cilicia, in 1920.
As Palestine became the protectorate of the British Empire, the Balfour Declaration eventually paved
its way to become a colonial Zionist state-- Israel. Similarly, the liberated Cilician Armenia, started as a
French protectorate, was handed over by the French, with no regard to their signed promise, to the
resurgent Kemalist forces, while the Armenian Legion was disbanded in August 1920.
Having lost its independence for many centuries, Armenia was the battleground for the clashing
empires. Despite the millennial upheavals, most of the Armenians lived in their ancestral homelands and
some in the Diaspora. A schematic chronology might help to sketch the fragmentation of Historical
Armenia, originally covering ca 300,000 sq. km., into Eastern and Western Armenia, later also referred
to as Turkish, Persian and Russian Armenia. On a fraction of the latter, in 1918, the first ever Republic
of Armenia was established, initially covering ca 10,000 sq. km. The second, the Armenian Soviet
Socialist Republic, emerged in 1920, already covering ca. 30,000 sq. km. It lasted seven decades of a
challenging but culturally prosperous existence. Its valiant contribution to the destruction of Nazism was
out of all proportion to its overall population and resources, counting over 300,000 perished Armenian
soldiers. After the melting away of the USSR, the third, an independent Armenian Republic came into
being in 1991, having first embarked, then chained itself to ‘free market’ economy, just like its
neighbour, the Republic of Turkey. All the three Armenian Republics cover the same so called Russian
Armenia, No wonder a historian’s cogent claim that to date only Russian Armenia has survived the clash
*AD 387 -- Eastern Armenia, known as Armenia Maggiore, ca 4/5 of the historical Armenian homeland,
was grabbed by the Persian Empire, hence Persian Armenia. The remaining 1/5, Western Armenia, also
known as Armenia Minore, was held by the Roman Empire.
*405 – The creation of the Armenian Alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots, graced the battle for Armenian
cultural and political independence with a vital and everlasting impetus. The translation into Armenian
of the Aramaic and Greek Scriptures of the Christian faith began immediately. A century earlier, in 301,
Christianity had already become the state religion of Armenia.
*451, May 26 – Battle of Avarayr, also called Vardanants. Rebellious Armenians led by Vardan
Mamikonian, battled against the Persian imperial army. Armenia lost the battle but won the war.
Armenians kept their cultural and religious independence, despite the overwhelming pagan Persian
Empire and the Christian Roman Empire. The latter was soon replaced by Byzantium.
*640 – Arab Moslem invasion of Armenia. Armenia eventually lost the battles but won the signing of
the Peace Concordia, in 652.
*706 – Armenia, Georgia and Aghvank become known as the Armenistan Viceroy under the Arab
*762 – Religious and social struggle of the Paulicians against the Khalifate policing tyranny.
*762 – Vaspurakan Armenians against the Khalifate rule.
*830 – Religious, social and egalitarian struggles of the Tondrikites against both the Khalifate and the
oppression of the Armenian medieval landlords and despots, including the religious hierarchy.
*885 – The resurgence of the Bakratouni kingdom of Ani, after numerous battles and wars being won
against the Byzantium and the Khalifate.
*1045 – The Bakratouni Kingdom lost the decisive battle, the war and its capital Ani, the city of
‘Thousand and One Churches’, the jewel in the crown of the Bakratounis of renaissance propriety.
*1048 – The Seljuk invasion followed by devastations of Armenia.
*1210 – Liberation movements led by Zakarian brothers unite the Armenian and Georgian forces in the
Caucasus, pushing the Seljuks into the depths of the Persian-Khorasan province.
*1187 – Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, also known as ‘La Petite Armenie’.
*1221 -- Mongol invasion of Armenia. Liberation struggles against Seljuks and Mongols continue.
*1275 – Mamlouks of Egypt invade Armenian Cilicia.
*1375 -- Fall of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia to the Egyptian Sultan.
*1387 – Liberation struggles kindle against the Lengtimur and Ottoman invaders. Lengtimur invaders
were eventually crushed in Mush and Sassoon.
*1453 – Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. The Ottomans eventually conquer Greece, Bulgaria,
Macedonia, Crimea and Armenia.
*1535 – Peace treaty between Ottoman and Sefian-Persian Empires. Eastern Armenia kept under the
Persian rule while Western Armenia was kept under the Ottoman rule, hence Turkish Armenia. The
Peace treaty notwithstanding, the Ottomans invade Eastern Armenia, Georgia and Aderpatakan.
*1635 – Ottoman-Persian Peace Treaty. Persia regained Eastern Armenia.
*1722-1728 – The establishment of a free and independent Armenian rule in Karabagh & Syunik, in
*1804-1813 and again 1826-1828 – War between Persian and Russian Empires.
*1828 – The Turkmenchia Peace Agreement between Russia and Persia. Eastern Armenia ceded to the
Russian Empire, hence the term ‘Russian Armenia’.
*1828-1829 – Russian-Ottoman war in the Balkans and Crimea, while Karin (Erzerum), Babert, Kars,
Akhalkalak, Akhaltskha, Bayazit and Alashkert were all ceded to Russia.
*1860, May 24 – Western Armenians in Constantinople publish their ‘National Constitution’. It was a
momentous event in the life of Western or Turkish Armenia.
*1862 – Rebellion in Zeitun
*1872 – The founding of a secret society in Van, named as the ‘Unity for Liberation’ = Miyoutyoun I
*1875 – New waves of rebellion in Zeitun, guarding its independence until 1878.
*1977-1978 -- Russian-Ottoman War. Russia regained Kars and Erzerum.
*1878 – Treaty of St Stefano. Article 16: Reforms to be carried by the Ottomans in the Armenian
provinces under Russian supervision.
*1878 -- Congress of Berlin, superseding the Treaty of St Stefano. Article 61: Reforms to be carried in
the provinces where Armenians live, under European supervision.
*1885 – In Marseilles, France, the formation of Armenakan Party.
*1885 – In Van, the founding of Armenakan Organisation
*1887 – In Geneva, Switzerland, the founding of the Social Democrat Henchakist Party.
*1890 – In Tiflis, Georgia, the founding of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnak Party.
*1894-1896 – At Sassun, Van, Zeitun and Diarbekir. The massacre of 300,000 Armenians, 3000 villages
were burned and “tens of thousands were forced to flee their native land into all corners of the
*1902, July 4 – In Brussels, the opening of the International Congress of Armenophiles.
*1907 –The Young Turk Congress is held in Paris.
*1909, April -- Adana massacres in Cilicia. 30,000 Armenians were literally butchered. The Adana
tragedy was indeed the ‘maiden performance’ of the Ittihadist Young Turks relishing in the prospects of
their racist Pan-Turanic vision. Adana became “a veritable inferno.”
*1914, August 3 – The beginning of WW1.
*1914, August 6 -- Secret agreement between Turkey and Germany. Caucasus (including
Eastern/Russian Armenia) promised to Turkey.
*1915, April 24 -- In Istanbul, around 300 Armenian intellectuals, of all professions, were all arrested
and deported, and soon, nearly all of them butchered. Until mid May, the Armenian civic population was
practically depleted of its intellectuals: 196 writers, 575 musicians, 336 doctors, 176 teachers and
college professors, 160 lawyers, 62 architects, 64 actors...all arrested, deported, disappeared for good...
*1915, May 2 – The Triple Entente (Great Britain, Russian, France) warn the Young Turks that: “In
view of these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the Allied Governments
announce publicly… to the Sublime Porte that they will hold personally responsible for these
crimes all members of the Ottoman Government, as well as those of their agents who are
implicated in such massacres.”
*1915, June 15 -- Twenty prominent members of the Armenian Social Democratic Henchakist Party
were hanged in Bayazit Square in Istanbul. The Henchakist stood in opposition to the Ittihadists. That
was a mortal sin! The culminating act of the genocidal scheme was thus set into motion. Nearly the
entire Armenian population of Western/Turkish Armenia was ordered out, southward towards the
deserts of Northern Syria. Vandalism, rape, extortion, sadistic torture, starvation, murder raids and all ad
infinitum. The rest is...the scream of humanity at its most infernal.
*1916 – Russian army regained Erzerum, Mush, Bitlis, Mamakhatun,, Trebizon, Babit and Yerzinkan.
*1917, February 27, then October 25– Russian Revolutions. End of Tzarism.
*1917, April – Conference of Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party. It contained resolutions
pertaining to: Self Determination of Armenians; Creation of an Independent State in the whole Eastern
and Western Armenia.
*1917, May 2-11 – In Yerevan. Western Armenians’ First Congress, presided by General Andranik,
with 59 delegates and ca 400 participants.
*1917, November – In Tiflis, the founding of the Communist Party of Armenia. Persecuted in the
Georgian and Armenian Republics of 1918. Survivors eliminated during the Stalinist purges of 1930s.
*1917, December 5, Armistice of Yerzinka, between Ottoman Turkey and the Revolutionary
Commissars of the Caucasus.
*1917, December 29 – Council of The People’s Commissar of Soviet Russia’s Decree of ‘Turkish
Armenia’, declaring: Self Determination of Armenians; Formation of an Armenian Militia; Return of
Refugees; Creation of Administrative Boards in the Provinces; Withdrawal of the Caucasian army,
counting ca 500 thousand strong, from Ardahan, Batum and Kars. The withdrawal resulted in dire
consequences for the Armenians, making it impossible the attainment of the aims of the Decree. The
withdrawal item of the Decree was courageously criticised by the great revolutionaries Stepan Shaumian
and Vahan Terian, but blatently supported by Stalin. As the poet Terian was himself tasked to prepare
the draft for the Decree, his original manuscript testifies to his criticism of that item. So does
Shaumian’s article of 1917, December 20, warning that “a sudden withdrawal of Russian troops will
create an extremely painful situation in the Turkish Armenia.”
*1918, February – Breaking the agreement of the Armistice of Yerzinka of 1917, the Turkish army
attacks and conquers Yerzinka, Karin, Sareghamish and Kars. On that occasion, Enver, one of the
triumvirate top organisers of the Genocide of the Armenians in 1915, still acting as a Minister on
military affairs, issued an instruction on February 27, 1918, to the commanders of the Turkish military
units, directing them to the following: “Today, owing to lucky circumstances His Majesty the
Emperor ordered to exterminate the whole Armenian nation”. The plan was to continue with the
genocidal policies in the Eastern provinces of Armenia too, so named Russian Armenia.
*1918, March 3 – Brest Litovsk Peace Treaty, between Germany and Soviet Russia. The boundaries of
Transcaucasia ceded to Turkey as before the Russian-Turkish war of 1977/78.
*1918, May 15 – The Ottoman Turkish army invaded and occupied Alexandropole, then moved towards
*1918, May 21 – The Turkish army attacked and occupied the Sardarapat train station.
*1918, May 22 – The start of counter attack of the Armenian forces from Igdir, Korpalu in Etchmiatzin,
Durdughul (Armavir), Yerzinka, Maku, Khnous, Mush and Zeitun.
*1918, May 28 – Declared the first Republic of Armenia.
*1918, May 29 – Turkish forces retreated towards Alexandropole.
Thus the Armenian liberation forces secured their final victory with the active support of all political
parties, artisans, peasants, intellectuals, artists and writers, religious and professional military leaders.
They won the battle of Sardarapat, but, alas, after loosing most of the Russian occupied Armenia too.
*1918, June 4 – Signing of the Batum Convention by the governments of the Ottoman Empire and the
first Republic of Armenia. The Armenian party had already consented to agree to the Turkish proposal
to found an Armenian Republic in the remaining provinces of Russian Armenia (covering ca 10,000 sq.
km.) as a buffer state securing the total disengagement of Armenia and Armenians with the
revolutionary Soviet Russia. It had 14 articles, agreeing, among others, the following: Turkey assures
military aid to Armenia; No anti-Turkey military activity in Armenia; All Armenian forces engaged in
revolutionary activity in Baku, should be disbanded and brought back to Armenia; Turkey to have the
right to secure the presence of its military commissars in Armenia, to facilitate the freedom of its
military transports wherever it decides. On the same date, Turkey signed an agreement with Georgia,
assuring Turkey’s repossession of Kars, Artahan, Batum, Ardvin, Akhalkalak and Akhaltskhah.
*1918, October 30 – The Mudros Armistice. The end of the First World War. The defeat of Ottoman
Turkey brought also to an end the legality of the Batum Convention.
*1918, December – Turkish army forced out of Transcaucasia.
*1920, August 10 – Treaty of Sevres. Turkey acknowledged the Republic of Armenia as a “Free and
Independent State”. The final demarcation of the boundaries left to the USA (later: The Wilsonian B).
*1920, November 8 – The Pan-Turanic racism of the Young Turks was still alive and kicking among
the Kemalist elite. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kemalist Turkey, Ahmed Mukhtar Pasha,
despatched the following instruction to Karabekir Pasha, the commander of the Eastern Army:
“Armenia is situated on one very extensive Moslem territory, therefore it must be annihilated both
politically and physically.”
*1920, November 29 – Declared the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic-- the 2nd Republic of Armenia.
*1920, Dec 2 – Treaty of Alexandropole, between Karabekir of Turkey and Khatisian, the representative
of the superseded Dashnak government of the first Republic of Armenia. It claimed: Armenia to cover
yet again only 10,000 sq. km.; Armenian armed forces to have maximum 1500 soldiers with 8 canons
and 20 machine guns; Armenians to abdicate the Treaty of Sevres…
*1921, February 13 – ‘February Uprising’: An adventurous uprising of the Dashnaks against the
government of Soviet Armenia, claiming allegiance to the illegal Treaty of Alexandropole. Lasting
nearly two months, the fratricidal adventure claimed not only 20 thousand Armenian deaths (mostly
Communists and Dashnaks) but re-established in Yerevan, on February 18, the old guards of the first
*1921, March 16 – Treaty of Moscow. The late Gersam Aharonian, one of the most prominent Liberal
Democrat politicians of the Armenian Diaspora, was right to conclude about this treaty, signed by Soviet
Raussia and Kemalist Turkey, saying: “As a result of the political immaturity of the Leaders of the
February Uprising […] the Turks secured a fait accompli”. And that “fait accompli” was to be
ratified in Kars on Oct. 13, 1921, with the added signatures of the representatives of Soviet Armenia,
Soviet Georgia, and, lo and behold, Soviet Azerbaijan.
*1921, April 2 –- Soviet Armenia restored, after the defeat of the tragic ‘February Uprising’.
*1921, October 1-- In Constantinopole/Istanbul, the founding of the Armenian Liberal Democratic
*1922, November 20 – 1923, July 24 – The Treaty of Lausanne. It undid the Treaty of Sevres.
And finally, approaching the 21st century
*1988, February, the genocidal massacres of Sumgait Armenians in Azerbaijan SSR initiated the ’final
solution’ of trying to eliminate the Armenian population of Azerbeijan and The Autonomous Region of
Mountanous Karabagh , hence the ensuing invasion of Mountanous Karabagh by Azerbaijan army
*1991, September 21 – Declared the 3rd Republic of Armenia.
*1992, May 9 – The Battle for Shushi, in Karabagh. The Karabagh Armenians finally won both the
battle and the war of their independence. Hence the consolidation of the Republic of Mountainous
Karabagh of 1921, September 1, was heroically accomplished, albeit with enormous sacrifices.
May 27, 2009 London