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Armenian National Uprising


By  Andrew Andersen and Georg Egge





The National Uprising and the fall of the Republic of Highland Armenia,


According to the Bolsheviks who took what was left of Armenia in early December 1920, the Soviet domination in the South Caucasus was a guarantee of peace and stability. However, the Soviet Armenia had a chance to enjoy only 9 weeks of relative peace and only on a part of its territory. 


As of today, it is extremely hard to define where exactly were the borders of the Soviet Armenia between early December of 1920 and early February, 1921. All of the Kars territory and the counties of Surmala and Alexandropol were firmly in Turkish hands. Kemalist troops also remained in parts of Echmiadzin, Nakhichevan and Sharur-Daralaghez counties where they shared power with the military administration of the Soviet Russian 11th Army. Despite the declaration of Azrevkom of December 1, 1920, the so-called “Soviet Socialist Republic of Nakhichevan” proclaimed on July 21, 1920 was still not abolished and its leaders were openly leaning towards cooperation with Turkey[1]. The county of Zanghezur now formally part of the Soviet Armenia as well, was an arena of mass anti-Soviet resistance since October 10, 1920. By the end of December the rebels and irregular troops of General Njdeh chased the Soviets and Turks out of the whole of the county of Zanghezur, and on December 25, 1920 the Autonomous Republic of Syunik was declared in Tatev[2].




http://fca.narod.ru/images/nzhdeh.jpg Tess_tatev-monastery-armenia


Gareghin Njdeh and Tatev monastery (photo by Tess Hughes ) where his staff was located in 1920-21




Basing on the above one can assume that in early winter of 1920-21 the territory of Soviet Armenia encompassed basically the counties of Nor-Bayazet and Kazakh and partially, Echmiadzin and Erevan. As for the Mountainous Karabakh, it has been controlled by Soviet Russian military administration and local Soviets at least until June 1921 when an envoy of the Soviet Armenia (A. Mravyan) was finally sent to run area[3].


On February 11, 1921, the Soviets launched an attack on Georgia, the last pro-western country in the South Caucasus to be conquered by the Bolsheviks and the Kemalists. Just like the Soviet invasion of Armenia in November, 1920, the invasion of Georgia started with staging a communist “popular revolt” in a few ethnic Armenian villages of the disputed county of Borchalo where the overthrow of the legitimate government of Georgia was proclaimed on February 16, 1920, and the Soviet military help requested[4].


While the major forces of the 11th Army of the Soviet Russia assisted by some Armenian troops re-organized into “Armenian Red Army” were busy fighting the fierce battles in Georgia, the national uprising caused by the Bolshevik terror and abuse of power started in Armenia on February 13, 1921[5]. Supported by the national forces from Syunik (Zanghezur), the rebels by the end of February 16, 1921, took over Erevan, Nor-Bayazet and most of the territory that had been under de-facto jurisdiction of the Soviet Armenia in early February, except the county of Kazakh and the small area north of the Semyonovsky pass (a few miles south-east of Dilijan). The Soviet regime was overthrown, the new government formed and the Red Army started withdrawal unable to suppress the uprising and continue the war in Georgia at the same time.






Om March 18th, 1921, the government of abandoned and defeated Georgian Democratic Republic signed capitulation to the Soviets, and the Red Army became free to turn on Armenia. Ten days later the Soviet offensive started in Armenia and on April 2 Erevan was retaken by the Reds. After the fall of the capital, Armenian rebels continued desperate fight in the mountains of Daralaghez, Zanghezur and partially Karabakh. On April 15, the Republic of Highland Armenia was proclaimed by the rebels in Tatev (Zanghezur) in an attempt to save the last stronghold of Armenian independence, but overwhelmed by iteratively superior Soviet troops the defendants of the Highland Armenia were finally defeated in the battles of summer, 1921 and on the 13th of July the last rebels under General Njdeh retreated across the border into Iran[6] and the process of restoration of Armenian independence in the 20th century was interrupted for decades until the collapse of the Soviet Union.








The anticommunist uprising in Armenia was definitely one of the factors behind the decision of Kremlin to revoke the transfer of Karabakh and Nakhichevan to Soviet Armenia. However, it is generally believed that the fierce resistance of almost all social groups of Armenian population in Zanghezur prevented its incorporation into Soviet Azerbaijan. Another factor that decided the future of Zanghezur was also the re-settlement of some 30 000 Armenian refugees from Mush in Bitlis in that mountainous area after the final destruction of Western Armenia by the Turks in 1918[7]. Those refugees added to local Armenian population already residing in the county of Zanghezur, changed the ethnic makeup of the area making it predominantly Armenian not only historically but also ethnically.














[1] L. Khurshudian, V. Mikaelyan and R. Simonyan, p.59

[2] A.B. Kadishev, pp.336-344

[3] L. Khurshudian, V. Mikaelyan and R. Simonyan, p. 56

[4] Kazemzadeh, pp. 318-319

[5] Kazemzadeh, p. 320;  A.B. Kadishev, pp. 380-381

[6] Kadishev, p. 430

[7] Donald Bloxham, The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians (New York,. 2005), pp. 103-105