The First Republic of Armenia: an Independent State Six Centuries Later
On May 28, an important holiday is celebrated in Armenia. In 1918 this day, the Armenian statehood — the First Republic of Armenia — was proclaimed and after a break of six centuries, the Armenians regained their independent state.
The proclamation of an independent Republic was preceded by a series of heroic battles that were to decide the fate of the Armenian people. In the extremely difficult conditions of the First World War and the Գenocide suffered, the Armenian people managed to mobilize their forces and fight back the Turkish forces.
After the victory of the October Revolution in 1917, Russian troops left Western Armenia, which they were controlling during the First World War, and the Armenians who had recently survived the Genocide left alone in the fight with the Turkish forces. Despite the truce concluded between the Turkish side and the Transcaucasian Commissariat, the Turks, nevertheless, did not miss the chance, and after the withdrawal of Russian forces began to expand to the east: they occupied the territory of Western Armenia and began invading Eastern parts, trying to take control over the wholeterritory ofTranscaucasus. Having seized Yerznka, Erzrum, Sarikamysh, Kars, on May 15, 1918, they entered Alexandropol (now Gyumri).
In December 1917, the Armenian National Council in Tiflis, which at that time was the governing body of the Armenian national movement, as well as the Armenian Military Union – the governing military body – sent Aram Manukyan to Erivan province. Aram Manukyan initiated the creation of a special committee under the Armenian National Council, which would be active until the May battles. The main slogan of the committee was to rely only on themselves. From January 1918, in three months, they managed to take the main step towards the upcoming struggle and formed the Erivan Detachment.
Alexandropol, captured by the Turks, was one of the most important cities of Eastern Armenia. The next destinations of the Turkish troops were Erivan, Tiflis and Baku, where the number of Armenians was huge.
Battle of Sardarabad
On May 19, the Turks reached the Ararat Valley, and on the same day, discussions were held in the Erivan State Duma about the retreat, which, however, were stopped by Aram Manukyan: there was nowhere to retreat. The same day, the head of the Armenian detachment Movses Silikyan called Aram Manukyan and reported him that it was impossible to control the army anymore: the soldiers were demoralized, there were no stocks of weapons and food. Aram Manukyan asked Silikyan to mobilize the army and promised to provide everything necessary within three days.
During a few days, Manukyan managed to gather more than a thousand Armenian volunteers, as well as weapons and other necessary things, and, that raised the spirit of the people and secured the rear of the troops. Thanks to this, on May 22, 1918, the Turkish forces were defeated.
The troops were commanded by an experienced Armenian commander, Major General Movses Silikyan and his deputy on the Sardarabad front, Colonel Daniel Beck-Pirumyan; Christopher Araratyan was appointed commander of the artillery.
As a result of a hard two-day battle, the Armenians managed to liberate the village of Sardarabad and advance to the Araks station, where heavy two-day battles again took place with alternate success.
It was decided to anticipate the enemy and attack first, in order to create a sense of quantitative superiority. Having developed a brilliant plan of attack, the Armenian troops with limited forces managed to defeat the 13,000strong Turkish army, leaving three and a half thousand dead Turks on the field: the enemy did not suffer such losses over the entire period of battles on the Caucasian front. The victory was shattering and unprecedented.
Thus, the victory in the Sardarabad and Bash-Aparan battles succeeded in stopping the advance of the Turkish troops to Yerevan, which allowed on May 28, 1918 to proclaim the statehood of the Armenian nation and create the First Republic.
Serious damage to the Turkish forces by Armenian troops forced the representatives of the Ottoman Empire to sit at the negotiating table in order to conclude peace as soon as possible on favorable terms. On June 4, 1918, the Republic of Armenia and the Ottoman Empire concluded the Treaty of Batumi. The clauses of the treaty for the Armenian side were extremely hard: Armenia was left with a territory of only 12 thousand square kilometers (Erivan, Echmiadzin, Alexandrapol, Sevan), and was forbidden to keep armed formations in excess of 1,500 people. Convinced that there was no potential for the further struggle, the Armenian politicians decided to take such a step.
Seventy years after the Sardarabad battle, Armenian troops won a heroic victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, which was the first large-scale victory of the Armenian nation for a long time, liberating Artsakh from Azerbaijan. In the conditions of a long Cold War, which lasts until today, Armenian politicians need to conduct a competent and balanced policy, so that this time not to lose the achievements of an Armenian soldier.