Category Archives: ARCHIVE


Newfound documents about the life and activity of Artashes Muradyan

Aram S. Sayiyan
In 1926-1930 in Kemalist Turkey, another Kurdish uprising broke out on Mount
Ararat. One of the key leaders of this uprising was Zilan Bey – in fact, a member of the
Armenian Revolutionary Party Dashnaktsutyun Artashes Muradyan, who, on the
instructions of the party, in the fall of 1927 became the representative of the Armenian
side in Ararat under the pseudonym Zilan Bey. In a very short period of time, he
managed to resolve all controversial issues between the Kurdish tribes and rally them
around the proclaimed Ararat Republic. Thanks to this, the Kemalist authorities did not
manage to bring feuds into the ranks of the Kurdish rebellious tribes before his arrest in
the summer of 1929 and win over at least one tribe to their side. Kurdish units inflicted
heavy defeats on the Turkish army for three years, and in the summer of 1929 they
managed to capture the city of Igdir and reach the Soviet-Turkish border. This very
seriously alarmed the Soviet military-political leadership, which saw this as a real
threat to their power in the South Caucasus. It was decided in Moscow that the Ararat
uprising was planned by the British with the aim of taking over the Baku oil. The use
of the Kurdish question against the British interested the Soviet military-political
leadership for both defensive and offensive purposes. In the expected war with Great
Britain, Iranian and Iraqi Kurdish tribes were supposed to attack British military
airfields in Iraq and destroy distant bombers, preventing them from bombing Baku. As
for the offensive goal, it was planned to send armed detachments of Kurdish tribes of
southeastern Iran to India during the war with Britain, and to send the Kurds of
northwestern Iran to Iraq by tying the hands of the British and preparing a springboard
for the offensive of Soviet troops in these areas.

Moscow believed that ARF Dashnaktsutyun was the organizer of this plan, and
the Kurds were a striking force. To destroy these plans, the OGPU decides to eliminate
Zilan Bey. They manage to lure Artashes Muradyan to the Soviet-Turkish border and
arrest him. But different versions of Muradyan’s arrest suggest that Artashes Muradyan
was recruited by the OGPU even before the uprising in Ararat, and now, when the
victories of the Kurdish detachments and the proclamation of the Ararat Republic
contradicted the interests of Moscow, he was recalled under the guise of arrest and the
uprising was left decapitated. Ruben indirectly confirms this theory, who in his letter to
the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Envoy of the USSR in Egypt N. V. Novikov
wrote that Artashes Muradyan went down to the border river in order to receive
military weapons from the Soviet. His immediate supervisor, Yeghishe Ishkhanyan,
also suspected him of treason, but the investigation into this case found A. Muradyan
absolutely innocent. Most likely, the Bolsheviks managed to lure him into a trap using
his family ties. It is likely that the OGPU threatened with reprisals against the
Muradyan family and he was forced to surrender to the Soviet punitive organs.

In Soviet times, his fate was unknown and only after the collapse of the USSR, it
became known from declassified documents that he was shot in one of the gulag camps
in the Arkhangelsk region in 1938. The place of his burial is still unknown. Together
with him, members of his family and close relatives were also repressed, most of
whom also died in places of detention. The Bolshevik punitive organs did not spare his
young children by arresting Muradyan’s wife, Margarita, or his elderly brother Levon
and father-in-law Grigor, whose graves are also unknown. Artashes Muradyan to this
day is one of the honored national heroes for most of the Kurds and an unjustly
invaluable figure for the Armenian nation.


Military operations on the Caucasus Front from July 1914 to April 26, 1916.
Notebook 11: from March 13 to April 


Ruben O. Sahakyan
We consider the publication of the 11th notebook of Tovmas Nazarbekyan’s memoirs to be the completion of the printing of a valuable memoir work presenting the military operations on the Caucasus Front of the First World War from July 1914 to April 1916. The section covering the general’s memoirs from November 1917 to July 1918 was in its time published in Russian original text in the magazine “Bulletin of Armenian Archives” (1992, N 3, pp. 34-153), edited by Academician Hrant Avetisyan. Therefore, only the part covering from April 1916 to November 1917 remained unpublished, which we did not manage to find in the National Archives of Armenia.

The 11th notebook of General T. Nazarbekyan mainly mentions the hostilities on the Caucasus Front in March 1916, when the 2nd Rifle Division led by him had serious clashes with the Turkish 5th Infantry Division and Kurdish armed formations moved from Western Gallipoli to Western Armenia. The commander states with regret that the commander of the 4th Army Corps, General V. de Witt did not take into account the specifics of the mountainous terrain, the low combat readiness of the reservists, the insecurity of the rear and the almost lack of supply in planning these operations. Meanwhile, starting from mid-March 1916, the enemy had concentrated all its forces in the direction of Bitlis, aiming to capture the city.

After analyzing the received reports, General T. Nazarbekyan asked the commander of the 4th Army Corps to send him to the 5th and 6th Rifle Regiments in the reserve, but he did not receive any response. Meanwhile, the intelligence was alerting that the enemy was continuing to accumulate additional forces, especially the Kurds acted actively. By the order of the general, punitive actions were organized against the latter, but they did not give any significant results. After the Russians left, the Kurds each time resumed their attacks.

Therefore, General T. Nazarbekyan again appealed to the corps commander for help, but was clearly refused. After some time, it turned out that V. de Witt wanted to encircle the Turkish-Kurdish forces in the Bitlis region, thereby he did not send reinforcements and pushed the enemy to continue advancing, not realizing that in such a case he posed a serious threat to the forces defending Bitlis. But the corps commander did not even inform T. Nazarbekyan of his dubious idea.

In the current situation, T. Nazarbekyan had to send his last reserve force, three rifle battalions, to Bitlis for help, weakening Mush’s defense. Fortunately, all the enemy’s attention was focused on Bitlis and he did not take any action to retake Mush. The battalions sent by the general were decisive and the Turkish-Kurdish forces were defeated and thrown back to the starting positions.

The Armenian translation of General Tovmas Nazarbekyan’s memoirs is being published for the first time without reductions. Our interventions are presented in straight brackets. The original is preserved in the National Archives of Armenia.


To the ARF External Responsible Body

Khachatur R. Stepanyan

The published documents present several letters of the ARF Central Committee of Georgia in 1922 addressed to the ARF Foreign Responsible Body. In 1922, both the motive and the conditions of the ARF underground activities in Soviet Georgia (as in the whole of the Soviet Transcaucasia), did not change. The prospect of a possible collapse of Soviet power and anarchy in Transcaucasia forced the ARF leadership to maintain its organizational presence in both Soviet Armenia and neighboring republics. At the same time, Soviet persecution forced them to operate underground and in the conditions of strict secrecy.

The letters below contain interesting information not only about the activities of the ARF in Soviet Georgia in 1922, but also about the political and socio-economic situation in that republic and throughout Transcaucasia.

Addressing regional policy issues, the letters alluded to some easing of tensions which emerged in Soviet-Turkish relations in late 1921.

The letters pay great attention to the New Economic Policy implemented in the whole Transcaucasia and especially in Georgia, revealing its negative aspects.

Several letters mention Dro’s visit to Georgia, his ban on entry to Armenia, and some of his financial problems.

The information about the demonstrations and uprisings against the presence of Soviet Russian troops in Georgia, which were suppressed only by the use of force, is quite interesting.

The letters again refer to the fate of the imprisoned and exiled ARF members, to taking care of their and their families’ needs. A separate report presents the reactivation of party-organizational life.


Military operations on the Caucasus Front from July 1914 to April 26, 1916.
Copy-book 10: from February 4 to March 14, 1916.

Ruben O. Sahakyan

The 10th notebook of Th. Nazarbekyan’s memoirs present the military operations that took place from February 4, 1916 to March 14, the most important of them was the night attack of Bitlis (Baghesh) on February 18-19 (March 2-3).

After the liberation of Mush, the detachment led by General D. Abatsiev, which included General T. Nazarbekyan’s military unit, was instructed to capture Bitlis. On the night of February 17-18, 1916, the first attack on Bitlis failed. The Russian troops and the Armenian 1st Druzhina suffered significant losses. T. Nazarbekyan stated that at the beginning of the attack D. Abatsiev had made a mistake by not capturing the heights dominating the city, which was used by the enemy. And only after receiving the replenishment did General D. Abatsiev suddenly take over Bitlis on the night of February 18-19, 1916.

In his memoirs, T. Nazarbekyan refers to the cases of robbery and violence committed by the army after the capture of Bitlis. He notes with surprise that the Armenian volunteers were mainly blamed for this, when the Cossacks and the shooters entered the city first, and finally the volunteers. To be impartial, the commander cites a June 29, 1916 letter from military priest Ruben Bekgulyants. Bringing several examples, the friar categorically denied the rumors about the “illegalities” of the Armenians. In his turn, the general tried to prevent any clashes between the Armenian and Turkish residents of the city.

By the estimation of General N. Korsun, the capture of the city of Bitlis gave an opportunity to control the mountain pass leading to Mesopotamia. The operations in Erzrum and Bitlis significantly eased the situation of the British, who were fighting hard in the Suez Canal.

Russian units were constantly attacked by Kurds. The brigands of the infamous tribal chief Musa Bey were especially prominent. Prince B. Shakhovsky, who had great diplomatic experience, was sent to negotiate with them, even promising to grant autonomy to the Kurds. The Mush detachment under the command of T. Nazarbekyan and the Armenian refugees found themselves in a catastrophic situation, there was no supply, especially bread. The supply was almost stopped. At that difficult moment, Rostom (Stepan Zoryan), who had moved to Western Armenia as the plenipotentiary of the Caucasus branch of the Union of All-Russian Cities, offered his help to the general. He asked T. Nazarbekyan for a guard to find the wheat stored in abandoned Armenian villages. They agreed to share the found supply equally. Thanks to Rostom, the refugees and troops were provided with enough bread.

On March 8, 1916, the secret order of the commander of the 4th Caucasian Army Corps, General V. de Witt, was received, after the reading and analysis of which T. Nazarbekyan concluded that their situation was not that stable, as heavy fighting was expected, whereas his corps was occupying about 100 km front with little force. The Allies had stopped the Gallipoli operation and it was expected that the Turks would start moving regular military units toughened in battles to the Russian-Turkish front.

The preparations of the Ottoman command were evidenced by the intelligence information and the testimonies of the Armenian refugees: Turkish military units and Kurdish bandits were advancing in the direction of Bitlis. Analyzing the received order and information, T. Nazarbekyan concluded that the enemy was preparing to attack Bitlis, therefore on March 13 he sent additional forces to Bitlis.


ARF Foreign Responsible Body

Khachatur R. Stepanyan

The presented documents reflect the 1921 activities of the ARF Dashnaktsutyun in Soviet Georgia. In some cases, there is information about the general organizational and political situation of the ARF Dashnaktsutyun in Soviet Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan. The persecution policy led by the Soviet authorities forced the ARF leadership, like other non-Bolshevik parties, to operate mainly underground in Transcaucasia.

The decision to continue operating under prohibited conditions was due to fears that in the event of an imminent overthrow of the Bolshevik regime, the ARF’s organizational and political presence could be used to meet potential challenges.

The letters sent by the ARF Central Committee of Georgia to the Foreign Responsible Body contain interesting information about the Transcaucasus, the political events around it, the Kemalist Pan-Turkic plans, Soviet Georgia, the agreed discriminatory policy pursued by the Soviet authorities against Soviet Armenia, the difficult economic situation in the region, etc. In particular, they present the restraints imposed by the Soviet authorities in Georgia, the intolerable situation of the peasantry. Episodes of the epidemic, implemented severe tax and monetary policy are described.

The letters also contain important information on the process of formation of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federation. There are reports of coercion from Moscow and Georgia’s attitude towards it. The Georgians were opposed to Armenia’s “alliance with Georgia” and believed that Soviet Georgia should either be independent or form a direct union with Soviet Russia.

The information about the Pan-Turkic programs implemented by the Kemalists in the Muslim-populated areas of Georgia is also unique. In Adjara, in the province of Akhaltsikhe, the Turks set up a special agent network to facilitate their further steps.

All the letters indiscriminately present the organizational situation of the ARF in Georgia, the arrests of the ARF members, the necessity to take care of the detainees and the persecuted, the need for material resources.

Some random but interesting news are also reported about the presence of Enver – one of the organizers of the Armenian Genocide, in Georgia.

Although the author of the letters is the ARF Central Committee of Georgia, the main information concerns Georgia, but the reports about Armenia are no less important. The economic and political processes conducted by the Soviet authorities in Armenia were, in fact, mainly similar to those of Georgia. Here there is special information about the activities implemented by the Soviet Armenian authorities with the Diaspora. Attempts were made to present the Soviet power in the Diaspora in positive colours.


Military operation on the Caucasus Front from July 1914 to April 26, 1916.
Copy-book 9: from January 27 to February 27, 1916

Ruben O. Sahakyan
The 9th notebook of Tovmas Nazarbekyan’s memoirs present the military operations that took place from January 27, 1916 to February 27, which brought a radical breakthrough in the battles on the Caucasus front.

In January-February 1916, the Caucasian army carried out simultaneous operations, which enabled it to gain an operative advantage over the enemy in both Taron and Upper Armenia. The Russian army continued its offensive in the direction of Erzerum, aiming to capture the main strategic stronghold of the Ottoman 3rd Army in Western Armenia. Tovmas Nazarbekyan proudly states that in difficult climatic conditions and with few losses the Russian troops managed to capture Erzerum which was considered impregnable. Commander of the 6th Caucasian Regiment, Colonel Movses Silikyan was appointed commandant of Erzerum.

Simultaneously with the capture of Erzerum, the seizure of Mush was carried out by a group of Russian troops headed by Tovmas Nazarbekyan. Immediately after that, the general visited Mush, therefore he later described the Turkish atrocities in detail. In his memoirs, he cited the written testimonies of two officers of his division about the details of the massacres of Armenians in the city and valley of Mush. At that, one of the testimonies was checked and recorded through the interrogation of Armenian and Muslim witnesses. Only a few Armenian craftsmen were left alive in the city, who were needed to meet the needs of the army.

After capturing Mush and its valley, the Russians had to constantly fight the Kurdish gangs in the rear, which disrupted the regular supply and communication of the armed forces, as a result forcing them to deploy significant forces to protect the rear and carry out punitive actions.

On February 11, 1916, the Russians tried to seize Bitlis (Baghesh) quickly, but failed. However, after receiving appropriate assistance, General Abatsiev captured Bitlis on the night of February 18-19.


Military operations on the Caucasus Front from July 1914 to April 26, 1916
Copy-book 5 and 6: from August 14, 1915 to December 31, 1915


Ruben O. Sahakyan-Doctor of Historical Sciences
In the 5th and 6th notebooks of his memoirs, General T. Nazarbekyan describes the military operations that took place on the Caucasus (Russian-Turkish) Front from August 14, 1915 to December 14.

The commander again revisits the examination of the issue of the tragic retreat of July 1915. According to him, the retreat caused great discontent among the Armenian society. News was spread that the Russian government wanted to liquidate volunteer groups, as well as refusing to give autonomy to Western Armenia. The discontent of the Armenian public and political circles was further heightened when they learned that the Russian authorities were taking effective steps to resettle the Alashkert Valley with Russians and Cossacks. This tendency became clearer under the newly appointed Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief of the Caucasus Army Nikolay Romanov-Jr. Moreover, he was taking steps to win over the Kurds fighting against the Russian army on their side. Whereas, the Kurds remained loyal to the Ottoman Empire, and more precisely, the war was a convenient occasion for them to plunder and “cleanse” the territories from the Armenians.

On November 18, 1915 the brigade of Th. Nazarbekyan was reorganized into the 2nd Caucasian Rifle Division. Th. Nazarbekyan describes the large-scale fortification works being carried out at the defense sites occupied by the Caucasian 4th Army Corps. Rumors were circulating within the troops that the units would be wintering at the locating sites, so they were thoroughly being prepared for it. Barracks, bathhouses, canteens, warehouses, etc., were being built.

In fact, Commander of the Caucasian Army, General N. Yudenich was preparing for the Erzrum (Karin) capture operation and the news of a hibernation on the spot were misinformation intended to deceive the enemy and not to reveal the offensive operation in advance. N. Yudenich was in a hurry to seize Erzurum as it became known that the Allies – the British and the French, had decided to finally halt the Gallipoli landing operation, the ultimate goal of which was was the capture of Constantinople. It was clear to N. Yudenich that the Ottoman troops stationed in the straits would be directed against the Russians in the spring of 1916, so he decided not to delay but to seize Erzrum – the last powerful Turkish stronghold in Western Armenia.

Th. Nazarbekyan notes with regret that the advancement of the division led by him was accompanied overcoming many obstacles, especially emphasizing the harsh climatic conditions and the almost non-existence of shelters, in the result of which not only humans but also pack animals suffered.


Military operation on thy Caucasus Front from July 1914 to April 26, 1916. Copy-book 7 and 8: from January 1 to February 3, 1916.


Ruben O. Sahakyan
The 7th and 8th notebooks of Th. Nazarbekyan’s memoirs present the military operations that took place from January 1916 to February 3, which brought a radical breakthrough in the battles on the Caucasus front. Notwithstanding the unbearable weather conditions, the Caucasus Army took decisive actions aiming to capture Erzrum in the first place. The servicemen had to overcome enormous difficulties, about which Th. Nazarbekyan constantly informed the command.

But when, on the eve of Khnus’ operation, he considered it his duty to report to General Vl. De Witt – the Commander of the 4th Caucasian Army Corps, by the order of the latter, Th. Nazarbekyan was temporarily deprived of the opportunity to lead his attacking division because of his “audacity”. Only some time later, after a large number of victims who died due to frostbite or lost limbs, the command realized what complications and barriers were mentioned in Th. Nazarbekyan’s report.

In the unbearable winter conditions, not having enough food, but not paying attention to the difficulties encountered, on January 13, 1916, the Cossacks, the shooters supporting them and the Armenian 2nd Squad led by Dro captured Khnus, which saved more than 1.000 Armenian women and children.

At the end of 1915 and the beginning of 1916, the desire to dissolve the Armenian volunteer groups was already maturing among the Caucasian authorities. That is why various absurd, sometimes provocative rumors were spread about Armenian volunteers. The Labinskian Cossack Regiment, under the command of Noskov – the not-so-unknown Colonel of the General Staff, had entered Khnus, sending a false report from Mush valley to Th. Nazarbekyan in July 1915, claiming that he was being attacked by 12 Turkish battalions, thus contributing to the sudden retreat of Russian troops.

And after the capture of Khnus, the Cossacks of Noskov once again spread false rumors that Armenian volunteers had committed violence against local Kurds and Turkish casualties. Being in Khnus, Th. Nazarbekyan visited the wounded and sick Turks in the hospital and talked to one of them. According to the latter, the murders were committed by the Cossacks themselves.

In order to prevent the Armenian volunteers from being unjustly accused of organizing a massacre again, Th. Nazarbekyan ordered not to allow them to enter Mush first. However, Colonel Noskov, who sent him a telegram on February 3, 1916, about the capture of Mush, did not comply with that order. It turned out that if Taron’s Armenians had been annihilated by the hands of Turks and Kurds by organizing the July 1915 retreat, and now, in January-February 1916, by killing the Turks and Kurds with their own hands, the same Armenians would be held responsible.


Military operations on the Caucasus Front from July 1914 to April 26, 1916 Copy-book 4: from July 10, 1915 to August 14, 1915


Ruben O. Sahakyan
In his 4th notebook of memoirs, General T. Nazarbekyan describes his military operations that took place from July 10 to August 14, 1915. The commander continues to describe the July retreat of 1915 from Kopa in the west and Van in the south. In his opinion, during the advancement of units of the 4th Army Corps the rear service could not ensure uninterrupted supply of the advancing units. In addition, there was no stable communication between the advancing units and therefore commanders of the unit were unable to coordinate their actions. At the same time mutually exclusive orders were given by the corps commander, General P. Oganovsky due to which operations to seize the cities of Mush and Bitlis (Bagesh) were failed.

In his memoirs T. Nazarbekyan calls the treacherous July departure from the city of Van of the Transbaikal (Trans-Baikal) Cossack Division under the command of General A. Nikolaev. According to T. Nazarbekyan, nothing threatened the city of Van. He also refutes the widespread belief that 11 unfriendly divisions attacked the part of the 4th Caucasian Army Corps. According to the general, about 4 Turkish divisions advanced in the direction of Manazkert. Due to a thoughtless and justified retreat, more than 10 thousand Armenian refugees – children, women and the elderly died. Victims could be more if they were not protected by the Armenian volunteers and Russian military personnel.


The military actions in the Caucasus front since July, 1914 up to 1916 April 26
Copy- book 3: since June 10, 1915 up to July 10


Ruben O. Sahakyan
In the 3rd copy- book of his memoirs general Nazarbekyan describes the military actions that took place since June 10, 1915 up to July 10. In May 1915 the Russian command decided to attack and occupy the main centres of supply of the Ottoman army – Erzurum and Trabzon. For that purpose, it started to transfer military units from Persia to Western Armenia: those units included the 2nd Caucasus Rifle Division of T. Nazarbekyan. On his way the General witnesses the crimes committed by Djevdet bey and his scoundrels – villages full of numerous corpses of killed Armenians. T. Nazarbekyan together with his brigade settles in the outskirts of Van. The commander makes short visit to Van. He states with regret that he had no success in meeting the governor of Van Aram Manukyan but mentions his meeting with a number of Armenia figures of Van’s Armenian Governance among whom were Paruyr Levonyan and Vicar of the Diocese Archimandrite Yeznik Nerkararyan.

In late June and early July, 1915 T. Nazarbekyan carries out the operation of Kop and entirely crushes the enemy. The commander was complaining of the supply service who being unable to organize the regular supply of the army was in some cases hampering the rapid transmission as the army had to wait for the suppliers to bring food.

The victory gave an opportunity to head for Mush, but on July 8 T. Nazarbekyan got the order to retreat. Alongside with the military units the population also left their homes. The general describes with pain the migration of women and children who were deprived of any means of transport. Many of the soldiers were carrying the children on their shoulders. T. Nazarbekyan once more states that the story of retreat of December, 1914 was repeated, and he again witnessed the torturous and suffering escape of the peaceful population. As it later turned out the cause for the retreat of T. Nazarbekyan’s the 2nd Caucasus Rifle Brigade’s military units was the false report of the commander of Labinsky Kazak regiment.

The retreat of the Russian troops had disastrous effect for the Armenians of VanVaspurakan who had to migrate to Eastern Armenia. And on the same days from the high mountains bordering the field of Mush the fires of burning villages were seen. The intentional retreat of Russian army in July 1915 resulted in the expulsion of Armenians of Van-Vaspurakan and the genocide of Armenians of Taron. Before the eyes of general T. Nazarbekyan the spine of Wes Armenia was broken.